I knew nothing whatever of Australia when I rashly consented to marry a young man who had irrevocably bound himself to go and live there, and, moreover, to go within three months of the day on which the wild idea occurred to me. During the seven weeks or thereabouts of a bewildering engagement, the while I got together my modest trousseau, we hunted for information in local libraries, and from more or less instructed friends. The books were mostly old ones, the tales the same. Geoffrey Hamlyn was my sheet anchor, but did not seem to be supported by the scraps of prosaic history obtainable; we could not verify those charming homes and social customs. On the other hand, cannibal blacks and convict bushrangers appeared to be grim facts. As for the physical characteristics of the country, there were but the scentless flowers, the songless birds, the cherries with their stones outside (none of which, actually, is the rule, and I have found nothing to resemble the description of the latter), and the kangaroo that carries its family in a breast-pocket, which we felt able to take for granted. These things we did believe in, because all our authorities mentioned them. G. had a letter from a college friend who had preceded him to Australia, reporting the place not wild at all, but quite like home. He instanced an episcopal dinner-party that he had attended, and a church dignitary's "three sweetly pretty daughters," who had come in the evening, and with whom he had sung duets. But at time of writing he had got no further than Melbourne--knew no more than we of the mysterious Bush, which I thought of as a vast shrubbery, with occasional spears hurtling through it. When we had assimilated all the information available, our theory of the life before us was still shapeless. However, we were young and trusting, and prepared to take things as they came.
G. was an English curate for a few weeks, and an English rector for a few more. It was just enough to give us an everlasting regret that the conditions could not have remained permanent. Doubtless, if we had settled in an English parish, we should have bewailed our narrow lot, should have had everlasting regrets for missing the chance of breaking away into the wide world; but since we did exile ourselves, and could not help it, we have been homesick practically all the time--good as Australia has been to us. At any moment of these thirty odd years we would have made for our native land like homing pigeons, could we have found the means; it was only the lack of the necessary "sinews" that prevented us. Such a severe form of nostalgia is, however, uncommon here, and would be cured, I am told, by a twelve months' trip. Certainly, in nine cases out of ten, where I have known the remedy tried, it has seemed infallible. The home-goers come back perfectly satisfied to come back. It is when they stay at home for more than twelve months that they want to stay altogether.
|Publisher:||Library of Alexandria|
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