Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/225

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198
THE LAST OF THE TASMANIANS.

was some seven years only after the departure of Mr. Batman for residence in Port Phillip.

I started from near Kingston, under the guidance of a convict shepherd, who carried the swag, and led the way. He entertained me with narratives of bushranging and native hunting, to lighten my toilsome march. After travelling for about ten hours over very rough ground, the sun was setting before the welcome sound of a dog broke the silence of the mountain solitude, and guided us to the lonely hut of old Boco, the one-eyed tenant of Ben Lomond. He was lord of the wastes, the supposed shepherd of a flock feeding on the sparse vegetation of the rocky slopes.

He received me heartily, and proclaimed his ample store of mutton, damper, and tea, for my entertainment, objecting to the opening of the haversack which my companion carried. The hut was of slabs of unhewn timber, rudely plastered with clay. The floor was of mother earth. The huge fireplace opened into the hut; and, being unprovided with a chimney, furnished the inmates with a sight of the stars, or a sensation of rain, according to the weather. The billy was swung, the tea was made, the chops were fried, the damper was brought, and the weary wanderers were soon at ease.

But the company—it is time they were introduced. Old Boco, who had passed through some singular passages of history, and whose hut was, perhaps slanderously, supposed the receptacle of curiosities, surreptitiously conveyed there from the regions below, was of most forbidding aspect, torn and rent by years and usage, like the mountain of which he seemed the genius. He was not alone. A number of friends had dropped in. Two shepherds were seeking lost animals. Three men were out kangarooing. Three were servants sent to cut posts and rails for fencing. Two were constables on the search. All were of the convict class. Even these were not unattended. Every man seemed to have a dog; and the noise these creatures made through the night would have disturbed the rest of any but Bushmen. A new-comer, when informed of the character of his associates, might have felt uncomfortable.

The supper over, the chat commenced vigorously. An unnecessary apology was made to the gentleman for the absence of grog. It had been all drunk, and Boco had nothing but good