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On his reaching the township, near the head of the navigation, this agent found horses waiting for him :-he was addressed by a well-appointed groom -our old friend Thompson—who touched his hat respectfully, and mentioned the name, he was already prepared for by his Sydney advices.
Suffice it, that Sir Henry was no longer the Baronet, and that the name of Delmé was a strange one in his household.
Their route skirted the banks of one of those rivers, which, diverging from that mine of wealth, the Hunter, wind into the bowels of the land, like a vein of gold.
That emissary will not soon forget his lovely ride. His eye, wearied with gazing on the wide expanse of ocean, feasted on the rich and novel landscape. They rode alternately, through cleared lands, studded with rich farms, waving with luxuriant crops of wheat and rye; and again, through regions, where the axe had never resounded, but where eucalypti, and bastard box, and forest oak with its rough acorn, towered above beauteous wild flowers, whose forms and varieties were associated
in the mind of the stranger, with some of the most precious and valued flowers which adorn British conservatories.
The russet Certhia, with outspread fluttering wing, pecked at the smooth bark, and preying on some destructive insect, really preserved what it seemed to injure. The larger parrots, travelling in pairs, screamed their passing salutation, as they displayed their bright plumage to the sun ; while hundreds, of a smaller kind, with crimson shoulder, were concealed amid the green leaves; and, as they rode beneath them, babbled—like frolicsome children of the forest-a rude, but to themselves a not unmeaning dialogue.
The superb warblers, ornaments alike to the bush or the garden, flitted cheerily from bough to bough. Strangely mated are they! The male, in suit of black velvet, trimmed with sky blue, looks like a knight, attired for a palace festival :—while his lady-love-she resembles some peasant girl, silent and grateful, clothed in modest kirtle of sober brown.
As he reined in his horse, to examine these at leisure, how melodiously came on his ear, the clear, ceaseless, silver tinkle of the bell-bird; this sound ever and anon chequered by the bold chock-eechock! of the bald-headed friar. They had proceeded very leisurely, and the sun was already declining, when Thompson, pointing to an abrupt path, motioned him to descend, and at the same time, gave the peculiar cry, known in the colony as the cooï; a cry which was as promptly answered. It was not until he was close to the edge of the river, that the stranger understood its purport.
A punt was rapidly approaching from the opposite bank. An athletic aboriginal native, in an attitude that seemed studiedly graceful, was bending to the stout rope, which, attached to either side of the river, served to propel the punt. He had been spearing fish; for his wife, or gin, or queen-for she was born such, and contradicted in her person the old adage,
“ There's a difference between
A beggar and a queen"
was drawing the barb of a spear from the bleeding side of a struggling mullet. She sat at the bottom
of the boat, with a blanket closely wound round her. She was young, and her looks were not unpleasing. Her thickly-matted hair was ornamented with kangaroo teeth ; and to her shoulder, closely clung a native tailless bear, whose appearance could not do otherwise than excite a smile. With convex staring eyes—hairless nose—and white ruff of fur round his face-he very closely resembled in physiognomy, some grey-whiskered guzzling citizen. The well-trained horses gave no trouble, as they entered the punt; and the smiling boatman, displaying his teeth to Thompson, but without speaking, commenced warping the punt to the opposite side of the river. They were half way across, ere the guest observed the mansion of the friend he sought. It stood on the summit of the hill, on the left; beneath which the river made a very abrupt bend. The house itself resembled the common weather-boarded cottage of the early settler, a wide verandah was over the front entrance,--and two small rooms, the exact width of this, jutted out on either side of it.
Its site however was commanding. The house
stood on an eminence, and from the windows, 2 long reach of the river was visible. At the top of the brow of the hill, extended a range of English rose trees, in full flower. The bank, which might be about thirty yards in front of these, was clothed with foliage to the water's edge.
There might be seen the fragrant mimosa—the abundant acacia—the swamp oak, which would have been styled a fir, had not the first exiles to Australia found twined round its boughs, the misletoe, with its many home associations—the elegant cedar-the close-growing mangrove-and strange parasitical plants, pushing through huge fungi, and clasping with the remorseless strength of the wrestler, and with the round crunching folds of the boa, the trees they were gradually to supplant and destroy.
Suddenly, the quick finger of the black pointed to an object close beside the punt. A bill, as of a bird, and apparently of the duck tribe, protruded above the surface of the water. For an instant, small, black, piercing eyes peered towards them : but as the quadruped, for such it was, prepared to