Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/12

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10
MELBOURNE AND MARS.

I was twelve years old when we landed. There were four of us. Mother had been persuaded to let my younger brother and sister remain at least for a few years. She was rather sorry for this, for my sisters, about fourteen and sixteen years of age respectively, got situations immediately, and I got temporary employment in a store. This left mother at liberty to follow father upcountry, where he had been hired out by the system then in vogue.

Mother was not long in completing her preparations. Her intention was to get work in the same neighborhood as father, possibly on the same station, so that she might be near him and help him to work into a condition of relative freedom as many convicts had done. Indeed, some wives had managed to get their husbands assigned to them as servants, and were getting on well in business.

Father had been assigned to a squatter some one hundred and twenty miles inland. There were no roads and no regular means of conveyance. Those who travelled at this time generally walked and carried their swag. Some rode, but horses were scarce and very high priced. Mother could not buy nor hire a horse, nor could she have ridden had there been a horse available, and a walk of one hundred and twenty miles across a trackless country was not to be thought of.

Bullock drays went up now and then, performing the journey in a week or ten days, according to the state of the country. No other mode of travel being available, my mother secured a passage on one of these.


CHAPTER II.


Mother's Journey.

EARLY one morning my two sisters and I had the painful experience of parting with our dear mother. We carried her trunk to a store in George-street, where a clumsy broad-wheeled dray stood laden with flour, tea, sugar, and other merchandise. The driver found a place for her amongst bags and boxes, where she might sit or even lie in tolerable comfort. The bullocks were attached, kisses were exchanged, tears freely shed by all of us, until the driver cut a painful scene short by a crack of the long whip and some mystic words that the bullocks evidently understood though we did not. Need I say that I followed that dray several miles, that I hugged mother till she must have been weary, and that with lingering feet and tear-dimmed eyes I walked back to Sydney too late for any work that day.

Four uneventful days passed after mother's departure. Sydney was at that time a very sleepy little town. The various movements of a few semi-military men, the changes amongst convicts, and the arrival or departure of a ship; these were events. On the fifth day a mail boat arrived, bringing with it a FREE PARDON for my father.

For six weary days the bullock dray toiled on with its freight. Six days