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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 20
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    Pity is for the living, Envy is for the dead.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    The successor of the sheet-iron hamlet of the mangrove marshes has that
    other Australian specialty, the Botanical Gardens. We cannot have these
    paradises. The best we could do would be to cover a vast acreage under
    glass and apply steam heat. But it would be inadequate, the lacks would
    still be so great: the confined sense, the sense of suffocation, the
    atmospheric dimness, the sweaty heat--these would all be there, in place
    of the Australian openness to the sky, the sunshine and the breeze.
    Whatever will grow under glass with us will flourish rampantly out of
    doors in Australia.--[The greatest heat in Victoria, that there is an
    authoritative record of, was at Sandhurst, in January, 1862. The
    thermometer then registered 117 degrees in the shade. In January, 1880,
    the heat at Adelaide, South Australia, was 172 degrees in the sun.]

    When the white man came the continent was nearly as poor, in variety of
    vegetation, as the desert of Sahara; now it has everything that grows on
    the earth. In fact, not Australia only, but all Australasia has levied
    tribute upon the flora of the rest of the world; and wherever one goes
    the results appear, in gardens private and public, in the woodsy walls of
    the highways, and in even the forests. If you see a curious or beautiful
    tree or bush or flower, and ask about it, the people, answering, usually
    name a foreign country as the place of its origin--India, Africa, Japan,
    China, England, America, Java, Sumatra, New Guinea, Polynesia, and so on.

    In the Zoological Gardens of Adelaide I saw the only laughing jackass
    that ever showed any disposition to be courteous to me. This one opened
    his head wide and laughed like a demon; or like a maniac who was consumed
    with humorous scorn over a cheap and degraded pun. It was a very human
    laugh. If he had been out of sight I could have believed that the
    laughter came from a man. It is an odd-looking bird, with a head and
    beak that are much too large for its body. In time man will exterminate
    the rest of the wild creatures of Australia, but this one will probably
    survive, for man is his friend and lets him alone. Man always has a good
    reason for his charities towards wild things, human or animal when he has
    any. In this case the bird is spared because he kills snakes. If L. J.
    he will not kill all of them.

    In that garden I also saw the wild Australian dog--the dingo. He was a
    beautiful creature--shapely, graceful, a little wolfish in some of his
    aspects, but with a most friendly eye and sociable disposition. The
    dingo is not an importation; he was present in great force when the
    whites first came to the continent. It may be that he is the oldest dog
    in the universe; his origin, his descent, the place where his ancestors
    first appeared, are as unknown and as untraceable as are the camel's.
    He is the most precious dog in the world, for he does not bark. But in
    an evil hour he got to raiding the sheep-runs to appease his hunger, and
    that sealed his doom. He is hunted, now, just as if he were a wolf.
    He has been sentenced to extermination, and the sentence will be carried
    out. This is all right, and not objectionable. The world was made for
    man--the white man.

    South Australia is confusingly named. All of the colonies have a
    southern exposure except one--Queensland. Properly speaking, South
    Australia is middle Australia. It extends straight up through the center
    of the continent like the middle board in a center-table. It is 2,000
    miles high, from south to north, and about a third as wide. A wee little
    spot down in its southeastern corner contains eight or nine-tenths of its
    population; the other one or two-tenths are elsewhere--as elsewhere as
    they could be in the United States with all the country between Denver
    and Chicago, and Canada and the Gulf of Mexico to scatter over. There is
    plenty of room.

    A telegraph line stretches straight up north through that 2,000 miles of
    wilderness and desert from Adelaide to Port Darwin on the edge of the
    upper ocean. South Australia built the line; and did it in 1871-2 when
    her population numbered only 185,000. It was a great work; for there
    were no roads, no paths; 1,300 miles of the route had been traversed but
    once before by white men; provisions, wire, and poles had to be carried
    over immense stretches of desert; wells had to be dug along the route to
    supply the men and cattle with water.

    A cable had been previously laid from Port Darwin to Java and thence to
    India, and there was telegraphic communication with England from India.
    And so, if Adelaide could make connection with Port Darwin it meant
    connection with the whole world. The enterprise succeeded. One could
    watch the London markets daily, now; the profit to the wool-growers of
    Australia was instant and enormous.

    A telegram from Melbourne to San Francisco covers approximately 20,000
    miles--the equivalent of five-sixths of the way around the globe. It has
    to halt along the way a good many times and be repeated; still, but
    little time is lost. These halts, and the distances between them, are
    here tabulated.--[From "Round the Empire." (George R. Parkin), all but
    the last two.]


    Melbourne-Mount Gambier,.......300
    Mount Gambier-Adelaide,........270
    Adelaide-Port Augusta,.........200
    Port Augusta-Alice Springs...1,036
    Alice Springs-Port Darwin,.....898
    Port Darwin-Banjoewangie,... 1,150
    London-New York,.............2,500
    New York-San Francisco,......3,500

    I was in Adelaide again, some months later, and saw the multitudes gather
    in the neighboring city of Glenelg to commemorate the Reading of the
    Proclamation--in 1836--which founded the Province. If I have at any time
    called it a Colony, I withdraw the discourtesy. It is not a Colony, it
    is a Province; and officially so. Moreover, it is the only one so named
    in Australasia. There was great enthusiasm; it was the Province's
    national holiday, its Fourth of July, so to speak. It is the pre-eminent
    holiday; and that is saying much, in a country where they seem to have a
    most un-English mania for holidays. Mainly they are workingmen's
    holidays; for in South Australia the workingman is sovereign; his vote is
    the desire of the politician--indeed, it is the very breath of the
    politician's being; the parliament exists to deliver the will of the
    workingman, and the government exists to execute it. The workingman is a
    great power everywhere in Australia, but South Australia is his paradise.
    He has had a hard time in this world, and has earned a paradise. I am
    glad he has found it. The holidays there are frequent enough to be
    bewildering to the stranger. I tried to get the hang of the system, but
    was not able to do it.

    You have seen that the Province is tolerant, religious-wise. It is so
    politically, also. One of the speakers at the Commemoration banquet--the
    Minister of Public Works-was an American, born and reared in New England.
    There is nothing narrow about the Province, politically, or in any other
    way that I know of. Sixty-four religions and a Yankee cabinet minister.
    No amount of horse-racing can damn this community.

    The mean temperature of the Province is 62 deg. The death-rate is 13 in
    the 1,000--about half what it is in the city of New York, I should think,
    and New York is a healthy city. Thirteen is the death-rate for the
    average citizen of the Province, but there seems to be no death-rate for
    the old people. There were people at the Commemoration banquet who could
    remember Cromwell. There were six of them. These Old Settlers had all
    been present at the original Reading of the Proclamation, in 1536. They
    showed signs of the blightings and blastings of time, in their outward
    aspect, but they were young within; young and cheerful, and ready to
    talk; ready to talk, and talk all you wanted; in their turn, and out of
    it. They were down for six speeches, and they made 42. The governor and
    the cabinet and the mayor were down for 42 speeches, and they made 6.
    They have splendid grit, the Old Settlers, splendid staying power. But
    they do not hear well, and when they see the mayor going through motions
    which they recognize as the introducing of a speaker, they think they are
    the one, and they all get up together, and begin to respond, in the most
    animated way; and the more the mayor gesticulates, and shouts "Sit down!
    Sit down!" the more they take it for applause, and the more excited and
    reminiscent and enthusiastic they get; and next, when they see the whole
    house laughing and crying, three of them think it is about the bitter
    old-time hardships they are describing, and the other three think the
    laughter is caused by the jokes they have been uncorking--jokes of the
    vintage of 1836--and then the way they do go on! And finally when ushers
    come and plead, and beg, and gently and reverently crowd them down into
    their seats, they say, "Oh, I'm not tired--I could bang along a week!"
    and they sit there looking simple and childlike, and gentle, and proud of
    their oratory, and wholly unconscious of what is going on at the other
    end of the room. And so one of the great dignitaries gets a chance, and
    begins his carefully prepared speech, impressively and with solemnity--

    "When we, now great and prosperous and powerful, bow our heads in
    reverent wonder in the contemplation of those sublimities of energy,
    of wisdom, of forethought, of----"

    Up come the immortal six again, in a body, with a joyous "Hey, I've
    thought of another one!" and at it they go, with might and main, hearing
    not a whisper of the pandemonium that salutes them, but taking all the
    visible violences for applause, as before, and hammering joyously away
    till the imploring ushers pray them into their seats again. And a pity,
    too; for those lovely old boys did so enjoy living their heroic youth
    over, in these days of their honored antiquity; and certainly the things
    they had to tell were usually worth the telling and the hearing.

    It was a stirring spectacle; stirring in more ways than one, for it was
    amazingly funny, and at the same time deeply pathetic; for they had seen
    so much, these time-worn veterans, end had suffered so much; and had
    built so strongly and well, and laid the foundations of their
    commonwealth so deep, in liberty and tolerance; and had lived to see the
    structure rise to such state and dignity and hear themselves so praised
    for honorable work.

    One of these old gentlemen told me some things of interest afterward;
    things about the aboriginals, mainly. He thought them intelligent
    --remarkably so in some directions--and he said that along with their
    unpleasant qualities they had some exceedingly good ones; and he
    considered it a great pity that the race had died out. He instanced
    their invention of the boomerang and the "weet-weet" as evidences of
    their brightness; and as another evidence of it he said he had never seen
    a white man who had cleverness enough to learn to do the miracles with
    those two toys that the aboriginals achieved. He said that even the
    smartest whites had been obliged to confess that they could not learn the
    trick of the boomerang in perfection; that it had possibilities which
    they could not master. The white man could not control its motions,
    could not make it obey him; but the aboriginal could. He told me some
    wonderful things--some almost incredible things--which he had seen the
    blacks do with the boomerang and the weet-weet. They have been confirmed
    to me since by other early settlers and by trustworthy books.

    It is contended--and may be said to be conceded--that the boomerang was
    known to certain savage tribes in Europe in Roman times. In support of
    this, Virgil and two other Roman poets are quoted. It is also contended
    that it was known to the ancient Egyptians.

    One of two things either some one with is then apparent: a boomerang
    arrived in Australia in the days of antiquity before European knowledge
    of the thing had been lost, or the Australian aboriginal reinvented it.
    It will take some time to find out which of these two propositions is the
    fact. But there is no hurry.
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