Among other trifles which our very complete outfit had comprehended was a small steamboat adapted for the tortuous but necessary navigation of the Yarra Yarra, of which noble stream, moving calmly through walls of ti-tree, we commenced to make the acquaintance. This steamerlet—she was a very tiny automaton, puffing out of all proportion to her speed—but the only funnel-bearer—think of that, Victorians of this high-pressure era!—had been sent down by the head of the family the voyage before, safely bestowed upon the deck of a larger vessel. "The Movastar was a better boat," I daresay, but the tiny Firefly bore us and the Lares and Penates of many other "first families"—in the sense of priority—safely to terra firma on the north side of what was then called the "Yarra Basin." This was an oval-shaped natural enlargement of the average width of the river, much as a waterhole in a creek exceeds the ordinary channel. The energetic Batman and the sturdy Cobbett of the south, Pascoe Fawkner, had thought it good to set about making a town, and here we found the bustling Britisher of the period engaged in building up Melbourne with might and main. Our leader laid it down at that[Pg 4] time, as the result of his experience of many lands, that the new colony, being outside of 36 deg. south latitude, would not be scourged with droughts as had been New South Wales from her commencement. In great measure, and absolutely as regarding the western portions of Victoria, this prophecy has been borne out.
Sufficient time had elapsed for the army of mechanics ultra former hifu , then established in Port Phillip, to erect many weatherboard and a few brick houses. Into a cottage of the latter construction we were hastily inducted, pending the finishing of a two-storied mansion in Flinders Street, not very far from Prince's Bridge. Bridge was there none in those days, it is hardly necessary to say; not even the humble one with wooden piers that spanned the stream later, and connected Melbourne people with the sandy forest of South Yarra, then much despised for its alleged agricultural inferiority: still there was a punt. You could get across, but not always when you wanted. And I recall the incident of Captain Brunswick Smyth, late of the 50th Regiment, and the first commandant of mounted police, riding down to the ferry, from which the guardian was absent—"sick, or drunk, or suthin"—and, with military impatience, dashing on board with a brace of troopers, who pulled the lumbering barge across, and fastened her to the farther shore.
Large trees at that time studded the green meadow, which omega 3 , after the winter rain, was marshy and reed-covered. There did I shoot, and bear home with schoolboy pride, a blue crane—the Australian heron—who, being only wounded, "went near" to[Pg 5] pick out one of my eyes, wounding my cheek-bone with a sudden stab of his closed beak. The lovely bronze-wing pigeons were plentiful then amid the wild forest tracks of Newtown, afterwards Collingwood. Many times have I and my boy comrades stood at no great distance from the present populous suburb and wondered whether we were going straight for the "settlement," as we then irreverently styled the wonder-city. The streets of the new-born town had been "ruled off," as some comic person phrased it, very straight and wide; but there had not been sufficient money as yet available from the somewhat closely-guarded distant Treasury of Sydney to clear them from stumps. However, as in most communities during the speculative stage, any amount was forthcoming when required for purposes of amusement. Balls, picnics, races, and dinners were frequent and fashionable. Driving home from one of the first-named entertainments, through the lampless streets, a carriage, piloted by a gallant officer, came to signal grief against a stump. The ladies were thrown out, the carriage thrown over, and the charioteer fractured. Paterfamilias, absent on business, marked his disapproval of the expedition by resolutely refraining from repairing the vehicle. For years after it stood in the back yard with cracked panels, a monument of domestic miscalculation.
It must be terribly humiliating to the survivors of that " School staff figures ;first rush" to consider what untold wealth lay around them in the town and suburban allotments, which the most guarded investment would have secured. The famous subdivision in Collins Street, upon which the present Bank of Australasia now[Pg 6] stands, was purchased by the Wesleyan denomination for ￡70! Acres and half-acres in Flinders, Collins, and Elizabeth Streets were purchased at the first Government sales held in Sydney at similar and lower rates. I have heard the late Mr. Jacques, at that time acting as Crown auctioneer, selling at the Sydney markets ever so much of Williamstown, at prices which would cause the heart of the land-dealer of the present day to palpitate strangely. I can hear now the old gentleman's full, sonorous voice rolling out the words, "Allotment so-and-so, parish of Will-will-rook," the native names being largely and very properly used. "Villamanatah" and "Maribyrnong" occurred, I think, pretty often in the same series of sales. The invariable increase in prices after the first sales led naturally to a species of South Sea stock bubbledom. He who bought to-day—and men of all classes shared in the powerful excitement—was so certain of an advance of 25, 50, or cent per cent, that every one who could command the wherewithal hastened to the land lottery, where every ticket was a prize. Speculative eagles in flocks were gathered around the carcase. Borrowing existed then, though undeveloped as one of the fine arts compared to its latest triumphs; bills, even in that struggling infancy of banking, were thick in the air. Successful or prospective sales necessitated champagne lunches, whereby the empty bottles—erstwhile filled with that cheerful vintage—accumulated in stacks around the homes and haunts of the leading operators. The reigning Governor-General, on a flying visit to the non-mineral precursor of Ballarat and Bendigo, noted the unparalleled [Pg 7]profusion, and, it is said, refused on that account some request of the self-elected Patres Conscripti of our Rome in long clothes. Farms, in blocks of forty and eighty acres, had been marked off above the Yarra Falls. They had been purchased at prices tending to be high, as prices ruled then. But they could not have been really high, for one of them, since pretty well known as Toorak, for years rented for several thousands per annum, and possessing a value of about ￡1000 each for its eighty acres, was purchased by an early colonist for less than ￡1000, all told. It was subsequently sold by him, under the crushing pressure of the panic of 1842 and 1843, for ￡120.