THE ROMANCE OF A PRO-CONSUL
BEING THE PERSONAL LIFE AND MEMOIRS OF THE RIGHT HON. SIR GEORGE GREY, K.C.B.
BY JAMES MILNE
AUTHOR OF "THE EPISTLES OF ATKINS" "MY SUMMER IN LONDON," ETC.
THOMAS NELSON & SONS LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN AND NEW YORK
A WORD TO THE READER
When Sir George Grey died, twelve years ago, he left a message as well as a name to the English-speaking people. It was that their future rested in the Federal Idea of communion and government. He saw, vision-like, the form of this new age arise, because changed needs called it. As Pro- Consul he laboured for it unceasingly in our over-sea Commonwealths, and South Africa has most lately given answer. Now, at a historic turning in British Institutions, we hear of "Federal Home-Rule," and that may be a signpost to far travel along the road which Sir George Grey "blazed." Certainly it sends us to the spacious life and high thoughts of the "Father of Federation," whom Time in its just goodness will also call the Walter Raleigh of the Victorians. Hence this people's edition of a book wherein, "he, being dead, yet speaketh."
LONDON, March 1911.
A guide to Sir George Grey's career as soldier, explorer, administrator, statesman, thinker, and dreamer.
1812 Born at Lisbon April 14, during the Peninsular War.
1829 Gazetted from Sandhurst to the 83rd Regiment Foot, and served to a captaincy.
1837 Sailed from Plymouth June 20, on the ship 'Beagle,' as leader of a Government expedition to explore North-West Australia. Engaged in this work, and as Resident at King George's Sound, until 1840.
1841 Named to the Governorship of South Australia, aged 29; held it until 1845, and during that period rescued the Colony from a state of chaos, getting it on the high road to prosperity.
1845 Appointed Governor of New Zealand, when the first Maori War was raging. Established peace and authority, and continued in office until 1854. Refused to proclaim the constitution first designed by the British Government and Parliament for New Zealand, and was given power to draw up another.
1854 First Governorship of Cape Colony, to 1859. Two dramatic events of it were the rising of the Kaffirs, at the call of a girl regarded as a Messiah; and the deflection to India, where the Mutiny had broken out, of the troops on their way to Lord Elgin in China.
1859 Re-called from the Cape, because the Government at home disapproved of his action in endeavouring to federate South Africa. Reinstated, but with orders to drop his federation plans; and remained at Cape Town until 1861.
1861 Second Governorship of New Zealand, to 1867. Second Maori War.
1868 Active in English public life to 1890; and in Australasian affairs from 1870 to 1894.
1877 Was Premier of New Zealand to 1879 so achieving the unique distinction of ruling, in that capacity, a country of which he had twice been Governor.
1898 Died London, September 19. Buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, September 26.
I, PERSONAL AND PARTICULAR
II. HOME IS THE WARRIOR
The return to England, 1894, with incidents of the Queen, the Earl of Rosebery, and James Anthony Froude; a memory of Lord Robert Cecil, and some notes on London.
III. YOUTH THE BIOGRAPHER
Or how the child was father to the man. Olive Schreiner's greeting; an orangestall eloquent; a flight from school; a surpassing encounter at South Kensington; and a glimpse of Archbishop Whately.
IV. SAXON AND CELT
A young soldier in the Old Ireland of the Thirties; varying scenes of Irish life and character; and stories of Dean Swift, Daniel O'Connell, and Sir Hussey Vivian.
V. SOUTHWARD HO!
The call to the New World; musings of the voyage and the sea; and, by contrast, the London perils of Thomas Carlyle and Babbage, Sir Charles Lyell's spear-head being also mentioned.
VI. MAN AND NATURE ABORIGINAL
A battle with the blacks, wherein, unhappily, their leader fell, the white chief being seriously wounded; and later, a valiant march across the blistered Australian country.
VII. PLANTING THE BRITON
First principles of nation making; a harvest in South Australia; the witchcraft of Turner's wig; the vanity of riches; keeping the Anglo-Saxon ring; strange human documents; and a reference to Sir John Franklin.
VIII. PICTURES IN BLACK AND WHITE
Food, as man's leading motive; curing a witch doctor; a problem of Kaffir women's ornaments; elevating the native; a Tasmanian study; a new Sabine story; the Aborigine and his surroundings; lastly, McFarland's elopement.
IX. OVER-LORD OF OVER-SEAS
Lamech's slogan and the task of stilling it in New Zealand; with, arising therefrom, martial chronicles of Hongi, Heke, and Kawiti, Maori chiefs, and of the taking of the 'Bat's Nest' stronghold.
X. 'TWIXT NIGHT AND MORN
An Easter scene and earlier; on tramp with Selwyn; the kidnapping of Rauparaha; Rangihaeta cajoled into road making; how the Maoris rubbed noses; and the boycott as peace-maker.
XI. THE THRILL OF GOVERNING
Knight and esquires; a secret of empire; the tragedy of the naval lieutenant; Patoune's fallen-out tooth; to the hills for New Zealand's constitution; playing 'cock-fight'; and repulsing the Ngatipoa.
XII. IN THE QUEEN'S NAME
Showing the management of another danger spot of the realm, to which picture there come in, details of the winning of the African natives to the Queen, a comedy of witchcraft and widows, and a German Legion difficulty.
XIII. OCEANA AND A PROPHETESS From the plight of Sir John Herschel in London, to the stir made in South Africa by Nongkause, a Kaffir girl turned Messiah; and between pages Sandilli, Moselekatsi, Bishop Colenso, and Bishop Wilberforce.
XIV. A SAVIOUR OF INDIA
The activities of a hunter, prelude to a narrative of how a British military force, under orders for one theatre of war, was boldly diverted to another; incidentally the bearding of Moshesh; and a queer Pax Britannica.
XV. AYE DREAMING AND DOING
The effort to federate South Africa; the gathering in of the Pacific, involving visits to New Caledonia and Norfolk Island; the Irish girl as empire builder; a meeting with Macaulay; and Prince Alfred at the Cape.
XVI THE FAR-FLUNG BATTLE-LINE
Two Kings of Maoriland, Te-Whero-Whero and Tawhiao; Sir John Gorst and the newspaper battle, 'Lonely Sparrow on the House-Top' v. 'Giant Eagle Flying Aloft'; the storming of Wereroa Pa; and an escape from an ambush.
XVII. FOR ENGLAND'S SAKE
Keeping the painter from being cut; an election contest at Newark; a visit from Mr. Mundella; the pacifying of the tribes; and finally the golden legend of Hine-Moa the Maori maiden.
XVIII. A FATHER OF FEDERATION
A word on Mr. Gladstone, and many words on Anglo-Saxon federation, the ideas underlying it, elements making for it, and the benefits which would follow in its train.
XIX. WAITING TO GO
Backward and forward, being farther memories, one telling of a tryst with Dean Stanley; then, an exposition of simple faith and the romance of death, as leading to the Hereafter.
THE ROMANCE OF A PRO-CONSUL
I PERSONAL AND PARTICULAR
'Perhaps there is something in old age that likes to have a young mind clinging to it.' Sir George Grey was speaking of the famous people he had known in his youth long, long before. He struck an inner note of nature which is surely equally valid the other way? Whenever I think of the remark, I am inclined to discover one reason why I came to know Sir George so well.
I met him, as I have met other characters of English story in our own day. You go into these great waters, seeking that all who care may know. You cry across them, answer comes back or it does not, and there endeth the lesson, until the next time.
It was different with Sir George Grey. He hauled me straight in-board, saying, 'Now, call upon me often, and we'll talk mankind over. Going by myself, no two people can meet without being a means of instruction to each other, to say nothing else. You are where the swing of events must be felt, and I am in the back-water of retirement. It may entertain us both, to study new subjects under old lights.'
Thus flew many an hour, and many an evening, and the memory of them is green and grateful to me. Here was an incident, there a reflection, and always it was Sir George Grey intimate, whether in a frame large or small. It is the rivulets, babbling to the big stream, that really tell its tale, for without them it would not be; and so with the river of life. Beside me, a scarred veteran looked back upon himself, hailing some venture from the mist of years. Again, it might be an event on the wing; or the future, and him bending eagerly forward into its sunshine.
We wrote things, he inspiring, I setting down, and by and by I exclaimed: 'Why, I am getting, to be quite a depository of your memories and ideas.' At that he smiled, 'And who, do you fancy, would thank you for them?' Thus a portrait of Sir George grew with me, and I was for stroking it down somehow. 'Oh well,' quoth he, 'let's try and gather together what may be fresh, or suggestive, in my experiences, and yours be the blame. Whatever you do must have a certain spirit of action—you know what I mean!—or nobody will look at it. You'll need to whisk along.'
In Froude's phrase, the life of Sir George Grey had been a romance, and that was the road which caught me. No wonder, for it was a broad road, in the sense that his whole being was a romance. He saw things beneath a radiant light, and he saw many which to others would have been invisible. Nor, was his grasp of them less accurate, because he strained his eye most earnestly for what was most beautiful. The romantic element in his outlook gave colour, vividness, meaning to the unconsidered trifles—in fine, you had a chronicle and a seer.
On the one hand, then, I sought for the texts with a likely stir in them; on the other for those of personality, streaked by affairs. The references were consulted, or Sir George's own words of old delved among; and from his discourse there sprang a regular series of notes. 'It's a kind of task,' he remarked once, 'that might easily enough lend itself to vain-glory. We must avoid that.'
If there is anything that could so be read, I alone am the sinner; for with his memories there go my interpretation and appreciation of him. What should I do but write of Sir George Grey as I beheld him, of his career as one captured by it? His nature, like every rich nature, had folds, but I only knew their warmth. With that, I step round the mountain side.
II HOME IS THE WARRIOR
Things call to each other after the great silence has fallen, scenes come together, and that is how it seems here.
A ship, bound on a far voyage, lay in Plymouth waters the day that the Queen succeeded to the throne. It was laden with an expedition for the new wonderland of the Australias, whither it duly sailed. As leader, the expedition had a young lieutenant of the 83rd Foot Regiment, George Grey.
On a spring afternoon, fifty-seven years later, there landed at the same port, from a New Zealand liner, an aged man who received marked attention. He was as a gnarled oak of the wide-ranged British forest, and the younger trees bent in salute to him. It was Sir George Grey, returned finally to the Motherland, which had sent him forth to build nations.
He had gone in a tubby wooden craft, the winds his carrier, across oceans that were pathless, except to the venturer. He returned by steam, through seas which it had tamed to the churn and rumble of the screw. What thought in the contrasting pictures of the world! The two Englands might have met each other in the street, and passed, strangers.
'From the windows of my hotel at Plymouth,' Sir George recalled, 'I watched the citizens proclaim the young Queen. Who among them could have imagined the glorious reign hers was to be? It was to surpass in bounty of achievement all foretelling.'
Now, he would meet, for the last time, the Sovereign who, like himself, had tended the rise of Oceana. This was at Windsor, to which he had summons soon after he reached England. He had been exalted a member of the Privy Council, and must be sworn in by the Queen. The tribute was cheerful to him, since the very nature of it set seal upon his services to the Empire. The longing for some word of England's remembrance had assuredly been in his heart, which had often been left desolate. It was all rapture to England, like a child's to its mother.
'For mere honours themselves,' was his broad attitude thereon, 'I entertain no special regard. A title to one's name, a red ribbon, or something else, what are they but baubles, unless there is more? What more? Why, they hand down a record of the public work that a person may have endeavoured to perform. In that respect they should have esteem, being the recognition of efforts to serve Queen and people.
'Nothing could be more unfortunate than that a country should neglect services rendered to it. The loss is its own, because, apart from justice to the individual, his example is not kept alive to encourage others coming after. In so far, then, as that reasoning may apply to myself—not very far, perhaps—I do sincerely value any honours I have received. Not otherwise; and it is easy to understand that a distinction, granted without adequate cause, might exercise a really pernicious effect upon the tone of a nation.'
While Sir George awaited the Queen's commands at Windsor, she sent him them. He was not to go on his knees, a usual part of the ceremony of swearing in a Privy Councillor. She had remembered, with a woman's feeling, that here was a patriarch, nimble no longer.
The meeting between Queen and servant was stately, in that they were the two people who linked most intimately Great and Greater Britain. To them Oceana was a living, sentient thing, not merely a glorious name and expanse. It had squalled in their ears. They could go back to the beginnings, could witness the whole panorama of the Colonies unroll itself. They stood for the history of a high endeavour, which had been nobly crowned. Oft, there had been weary clouds across the sky, not seldom heavy darkness. But the sun was kept shining, and finally all had become light. Oceana was grown up, and she gathered the four corners of her robe into that Windsor audience chamber.
Of the Queen's order Sir George had the simple deliverance, 'It showed how careful Her Majesty is to manifest a strong consideration for all those who come in contact with her, a most taking quality in a Sovereign.' Yet, for the first time in his life, he was to disobey that Sovereign. Nothing, not even her protest of 'No, no,' could stop him from getting down on his knees, as if he had been a younger subject. The infirmities were conquered by his desire to pay to the Queen that reverence and loyalty which had always been hers. The bonds of age were burst, although his quaint complaint about himself that very evening was, 'You know I want a minute or two to get in motion.'
Despite bowed shoulders and rusty joints, he still had something of the lithe, strenuous carriage of his youth. In his dignity of manner, there almost seemed to you a glimpse of the gallant age when forbears had gone whistling to the headsman. He was of a line which counted in English history, which among its women had a Lady Jane Grey. His mother, with the mother's wistful love and pride, had traced that line for him. He was not deeply moved, unless by the romance and the tragedy that gathered about it.
But the aristocrat abode in the democrat, nature's doing. He was of the people in being whole-souled for them; he was not by them. Verily, he had been through the winters in their interest. The ripe harvest was in his hair, which had become thin above a face, rugged with intellect; over a broad, decisive brow, strewn with furrows. It was a head of uncommon shape, with bumps and a poise, indicating at once the idealist and the man of action. There it spoke truly, for Sir George was both; the two were one in him.
The chief secret of his personality seemed to rest in his eyes, and it was in them you met the dreamer of dreams. 'So I was often called,' he would mention, 'and the answer is to hand. Many of the dreams which I dreamt have been realised; that knowledge has been permitted me. Whether it is any comfort I'm not sure, because, after all, my dreams are not nearly exhausted.
'Dreaming dreams! I trust that Englishmen will never cease to do that, for otherwise we should be falling away from ourselves. To dream is to have faith, and faith is strength, whether in the individual or in the nation. Sentiment! Yes, only sentiment must remain, probably, the greatest of human forces governing the world.'
The store, reflected in Sir George's eyes, was what gave him his control over men. In those depths, blue as a summer sky, were many lights, which caught Robert Louis Stevenson and were comprehended of him. The return observation was, 'I never met anybody with such a bright, at moments almost weird, genius-gifted eye, as that of Stevenson.' Sir George could fire imagination in the most ordinary mortal, carrying him off into enchanted realms. He sailed to strange skies, a knight-errant of a star, and he could tow the masses with him. He lifted them out of themselves, and put a label on their vague yearnings. They had imagination, the instinct upward, and were grateful to have it discovered.
The poetry of Sir George's nature flavoured his language, alike in manner of delivery and turn of phrase. It had a quaint old-world style; it fell slowly, in a low, soothing voice. He might have spent his, days in the cloister, rather than in the din of hammering up hearths for the Anglo- Saxon. Perhaps it was that he had talked so long to the hills of Oceana, catching their simplicity and music. You were reminded of the measured English of an old and lovable book, just as you grew used to read in his face what he was to say, before the words had begun to flow. Never was there a face more quick to reflect the mind, more pliable to humour, more luminous at some stirring idea or deed, more indignant at the bare notion of a wrong inflicted, softer at the call of sympathy.
Sir George had travelled to Windsor with the Earl of Rosebery, then Prime Minister, and that was an agreeable memory. Being asked what characteristics he noted as most prominent in the Premier, he replied: 'Oh, his extraordinary readiness at seeing the humorous side of anything, his almost boyish love of fun. He seems to have a power of dismissing the weight of public affairs, of diverting himself with the playfulness of youth.' Sir George was living in Park Place, St. James's, and on returning from Windsor the Premier drove him there. His rooms were at Number 7, and here the street ended in a sharp incline, with somebody's yard beyond.
Sir George suggested that the coachman should stop, and let him down at a point where the horses could readily turn. 'Not at all,' Lord Rosebery insisted, 'I'll drive you to the door and we'll manage to turn somehow.' A trifle anxious, Sir George waited on his door-step to see how this was to be done.
'Quick of eye,' he related, 'the coachman discerned the possibilities of the yard at the top of the incline. Accordingly, he whipped into it, wheeled round, and trotted gently away past me. There sat the Premier in the carriage, waving his hat in a triumph, the fun of which quite infected me.'
Sir George appreciated kindly attentions the more, in that he was himself a king in courtesy, with his heart ever on the latch. He estimated the side of Lord Rosebery's character, thus manifested, to be among the best ornaments he could have. 'It seems clear to me,' were his words, 'that he is a man of sincerity and simple nobility, one who wishes with all his heart to do what he can for his fellow men.' That was Sir George's test of all public effort, as it had been what he applied to himself. There could be none higher.
Mere weight of years could not quench the ardour and hope which had always burned so brightly in Sir George Grey. As well expect him to forget that chivalrous manner of his, bewitcher of the veriest stranger. He would, find his tall hat, search out his staunch umbrella, and convoy the visitor forth, when the hour of parting had arrived. Nothing less would suffice him, and as to his company, it was a delight for ever. Another veteran might have been lonely with a younger generation knocking at the door, indeed in full possession. He was not; he strode in the van with the youngest.
Yet he felt, perhaps, the void time had wrought in the circle of his friends. He held the fort silently, while the long scythe cut another swathe very near him. He heard that his friend, James Anthony Froude, who had been lying ill in Devonshire, was steadily losing strength.
'I have made inquiries about him, poor fellow,' he murmured, 'but now I must telegraph for the latest particulars. He and I are old companions, and I have liking and admiration for him. When he visited me at my island of Kawau, off the New Zealand coast, we had a capital while together. He wanted to ask me, if I approved the manner in which he had written Carlyle's life, a subject that brought him a good deal of criticism. My reply was that I believed Carlyle would have wished to be presented just as he was; not a half picture, but complete, for that would ultimately make him appear all the greater.'
Somewhat before his illness, Froude published a book, and the London daily paper which Sir George Grey took in, had a handsome review of it. 'I'll send the cutting to Froude,' he declared; 'it will do him good to know that his latest writings are thoroughly appreciated.' Within a few days, he had news from Devonshire that Froude had been able to have part of the article read to him, and that he was gratified by it. Sir George was happy at his little service having carried so well, and mentioned a larger one which Froude had wished to render him.
'Hardly was I in England this time,' the history of it ran, 'than I had a letter from Froude, intimating how glad he would be to put my name forward for that high distinction, the Oxford honorary degree. This gave me a grand chance to rally him, since I was already in possession of the honours of Oxford and Cambridge. Those of the former I received after my first administration of New Zealand, those of the latter when I was re- called from South Africa. At Oxford, the students, with riotous zest, sang the "King of the Cannibal Isles," which, more or less, I had been. Froude had forgotten all that, but he agreed that no man could hope to have such a treat twice in a lifetime.'
It would have been curious if Sir George, a maker of British Parliaments, had not found his way to their cradle at Westminster. He had himself been a candidate for membership, but the House of Commons was only to know him as a visitor. 'Why,' he said, 'I met Adderley, now in the Lords, who once wanted to impeach me. Perhaps I deserved to be impeached—I don't remember!—but anyhow we had a very agreeable chat about old days.' Sir George, as a Privy Councillor, had been escorted to the steps of the throne in the House of Lords. There he met again the Marquis of Salisbury, who, as Lord Robert Cecil, had stood up for him, years and years before, in the Commons, even to the extent of criticising the English of Bulwer Lytton's despatches. When he went to Australasia, to fortify his health and study the New World, he was the guest, for a period, of Sir George in New Zealand.
'Some of his friends,' said the latter, 'were great friends of mine; for example, Beresford Hope, who founded the "Saturday Review," and Cook, who edited it. Lord Robert was tall and slight, and, when he came to New Zealand, not at all strong. While he was with me, he saw a good deal of the manner in which a Colony was conducted, and of the relationships between it and the Mother Country. He would read the despatches that I wrote and received, and generally made a study which may have proved useful to him in his subsequent career.
'As I recollect Lord Robert Cecil in New Zealand, he was not more fond of exercise than Lord Salisbury appears to be to-day, always being studious. He did not care to take long walks, but once I persuaded him, with another young Englishman, to go and see the beautiful Wairarapa Valley. They walked there and back, and on the last evening, while returning, were caught in a terrific rain-storm. They sought the shelter of some rocks, contrived to make a fire, and over it dried their shirts.'
Nothing afforded Sir George more genial occupation than a talk about books or politics, the latter always on the lofty ground to which, somehow, he could at once lift them. He had a knack of taking a question and shaking it on to your lap. You had it, as you never quite had it before, and to your fascinated ear the version seemed the only possible one. The secret was that Sir George laid hold of the kernel of a subject, and worked outwards—an expositor, not a controversialist. When evening waned he would turn to Epictetus, and then to a well-thumbed New Testament. It was the hour of meditation.
'I have studied the New Testament in various languages,' he said, 'thus getting more insight of it than I could have got through a single language. Never, during my early exploring work, was I without my New Testament to comfort and sustain me. The Sermon on the Mount is the great charter of mankind, its teachings the highest wisdom for all times and all climes. It and other pieces, which I might select, are of exceeding beauty and full of guidance and counsel. They inculcate in the human heart a love of one's fellows, irrespective of colour.'
He read that teaching into the happier London which greeted him, after an absence of more than twenty-five years. At last, the museums and art galleries were really open to the people, who thronged them, drinking in knowledge. He noted the children playing in the parks, and they were better dressed, the parks themselves better kept. You can judge a nation by the state of its children's boots, and these had fewer holes. The poor London had, and ever would have, but she was not the callous mother of other years. She felt for those who were down.
Sir George would ride by 'bus, except, indeed, when in pursuit of some volume for that beloved library at Auckland. Then, nothing would satisfy his eagerness but hot foot and back with the trophy, scanning its pages in his scholar's joy. But a-top the 'bus was the working man, homeward bound, and he was getting more out of life. Manhood was in him, he evidently had at last a free, firm seat in the saddle of which Providence had always held the stirrup.
The feeling of human brotherhood was wider, deeper, the benefits springing therefrom apparent all round. Penny fares were bringing classes into contact with each other, who were formerly as far divided as if they had lived in different planets. The London policeman's upheld hand, was an eloquent speech on the sacred meaning of law to a free people. Youth helped age to a seat in a public vehicle, and the bricklayer quenched the fire of his pipe because the smoke annoyed a lady sitting behind him.
Sir George would have built a bricklayer's statue on the best site that London could provide. Not that he was fond of statues, unless they happened likewise to be art; but that such a one would have carried its meaning. There was already a statue of himself at Cape Town, and his Auckland admirers had a scheme for another.
'No doubt they'll take care it does you justice,' he was joked.
'Well, I don't know,' he answered, a smile puckering his face, 'but perhaps they should wait until I'm gone. They might want to pull it down again, if I did not behave all right. Now, that would hurt my feelings.'
III YOUTH THE BIOGRAPHER
One to whom the beyond is near, who has the kindled vision, probably best sees the life he has lived, in the beginnings—child, boy, and youth. There are no smudges on that mirror.
The stage of being which we call childhood had an endless charm for Sir George Grey, and often that drew him back to his own early years. The little child, a bundle of prattling innocence, still on the banks of the world's highway, like a daisy nodding into the flying stream, was in his sight almost a divinity. Here was the most beautiful, the most perfect manifestation of the Creator; an atmosphere where the wisest felt themselves the babes.
'You are the one Englishman living,' Olive Schreiner, when in England, wrote to Sir George before calling upon him, 'of whom I should like to say that I had shaken his hand.'
But it would not, she continued, be the first time they had met, for, during his rule of Cape Colony, he had visited the mission station where her parents dwelt. She thought this was while Prince Alfred was on his tour in South Africa; anyhow, when she was an infant, a few months old, ailing, hardly expected to live. The Governor took her in his arms, saying, as her mother related to her, 'Poor little baby! is it so ill?'
'When the other children teased me,'—Olive Schreiner had her triumph from the incident—'I could say to them, "Ah, but you were not held in the arms of Sir George Grey;" and that was safe to bring about an increased respect on their part towards me.'
Taking his walks in Kensington Gardens, Sir George would make friendships among the small people whose nursery coaches are there the swell of a thoroughfare. On the second occasion of meeting he might be expected, with a fine show of mystery, to produce a toy from his pocket. 'It's so easy,' he remarked, 'to convert these gardens into a fairy-land for some child whose name you only know because the nurse told it you.' Then, a favourite would not be met one day, or the next, and Sir George would feel a blank in his walk.
At his own fireside, a girlie with rosy, dimpled cheeks, straightway made him her subject, by the simple trust with which she took his out- stretched hand, cuddled on to his knee, and sat enthroned. She confirmed a victory, that he regarded as all his, in a most faithful treatment of tea-cakes, protesting at every mouthful, 'Oh, no, I sha'n't be ill; I won't be ill!'
It had been the same when Sir George was among the Aborigines of Australia, for the children promptly made friends with him. The grown natives, never having seen a white before, had sense to be scared. Their bairns merely had intuition, and it took them to Sir George's side, which, again, brought in the parents.
Studying a portrait of his own father he mused: 'The child that has never known both parents, must be conscious of having missed part of its inheritance in the world.' He had been thus robbed, a few days before his birth, by the slaughter at Badajoz, where Colonel Grey fell, a gallant soldier, scarce past thirty.
To a problem which the youngest child carries lightly, Sir George had given much thought, namely, 'Of what does human life consist? what are its elements?' Thereon he had the deliverance:
'Quite early in my own life, I formed the opinion that we had neglected to consider an element of existence; that besides the solids and the fluids there was ether. It seemed to me that ether played a very important part, alike in the creation and the maintenance of life. That was the everlasting ingredient, the something which never perished, but went on and on, the soul in the body of flesh and blood. Brought into contact with various eminent men, I was happily able to discuss such vital questions with them.'
Sir George's mother first set him thinking, and he had a recollection of learning the Lord's Prayer from her. Indeed, his earliest mental problem arose from the opening words, 'Our Father, which art in Heaven.'
'I took the "which art in" to be all one word, and puzzled over its possible meaning. The circumstance was a light to the obstacles that beset a child's mind, and a lamp to parents in training that mind. Never was there a mother more fitted than mine, for the glorious responsibilities of motherhood. Very highly educated, she added Latin to her other accomplishments, in order that she might teach the language to me. She had married a second time, and my step-father, a wise and large- hearted man, one of the best men I have ever known, also bestowed much care on my upbringing.'
As a little fellow he had lived a good deal in London with relations, a family of whom had a house near Hyde Park. He could call up, from the farthest caverns of his memory, a Sunday forenoon on which he was carried off to church, because there was nobody at home, except the servants, to look after him.
'What West End church it may have been I cannot tell,' Sir George said, 'but I imagine the one the household usually attended. The other detail that a fire burned in our pew, did impress itself definitely upon my mind. I was at least big enough to lift a poker, and what must I do but seize that instrument, and set to scraping the fire, to the confusion of those with me. Perhaps the idea of a fire in a church pew may be deemed curious at this date, so much later. But why not? It was really a great boon to those worshippers whom delicacy of health might otherwise have kept at home. For, of course, there was then no better means of warming a church.
'The house of another London relative was in Lombard Street, looking on to Old Change Alley, and there, likewise, I was a pet. A store of books filled one of the rooms, and it was my delight, having already learned to read, to pick out diverting volumes. There were accounts of the travels of Captain Cook and other explorers, and these quite caught my fancy. I felt I should like to travel, when I grew up, and this glimmering idea was advanced by the contemplation of a fruit stall that did business in Change Alley. I marvelled from whence came the oranges and bananas, and I whispered to myself, "I'll go where they grow."
Some afternoon, Sir George journeyed down to Lombard Street, in order to revisit his ancient shrine. He returned triumphant with the news, 'Would you believe it? I have found many of those old books just where they were, so very long ago. Dear me! the discovery almost took my breath away, and a sort of lump was in my throat.' And the orange stall? Aye, even it lingered; at least there was still a stall in Change Alley. London had not rolled over it.
The romance of war descended to Sir George Grey on his mother's side, as well as from his father. She was daughter to a military officer, whose exploit at the siege of Gibraltar she recited to her boy. It was that of a derring-do soldier.
He happened to be on leave, from his duties at the fortress, when the famous siege began. He hurried to the neighbourhood, laid hold of a boat, and actually rowed through the Spanish fleet. The British garrison gave him a tremendous reception, and the officers marked his feat by the gift of a gold snuff-box. He was thrice welcome: for himself, for the coolness with which he had broken the blockade, and for the news he brought from the outside.
The precious snuff-box descended to Sir George Grey, an heirloom that suggested an adventure of his own. He was sent to a school at Guildford in Surrey, and he ran away from it. He found the teaching all towards the classics, making for Oxford or Cambridge, and afterwards for a learned profession. His real nature, as modelled chiefly by his mother, was in the direction of public service, with, he hoped, some stir in it. The escape from the school he always related, as if the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson were open in his hand at the flight of Alan Breck among the heather.
'I was determined to get home and tell my folks what I wanted to do. Moreover, the walled playgrounds, the being shut in from nature, the walking in line at exercise—these things were insupportable to me. It was like keeping a boy's spirit and imagination in prison, instead of allowing them free communion with the world around. Farther, I was angry at boys having been put over me, for their knowledge of classics, who were perfectly ignorant of the higher branches of knowledge at which I had been working. "Clever but idle" was usually the character I got at school. They didn't understand me, for I studied one subject while they wanted to test me by others.
'Well, accompanied by a boy friend, I climbed over the wall of the school at Guildford, and made for home. My step-father's place was at Bodiam, about twelve miles from Hastings, and between Bodiam and my London relatives I had lived before going to Guildford. But at this time, if my memory does not mislead me, the family were at Eastbourne. In that case my destination would have been Eastbourne, and I know the route taken was by Brighton. We had left as darkness was falling, and I'm afraid we hadn't much money for the journey. That scarcely mattered, however, since we were walking, therefore having no outlay unless for food. We slept a night under the cliffs at Brighton, and I don't doubt we slept very soundly. Boys do, anywhere. People were kind to us, and when asked, we made no secret of the fact that we were fleeing from school.
'It had been arranged, between my companion and myself, that I should take him into our house. At Eastbourne, which we reached sorely tired, our insurgent spirits somewhat calmed, we had quite a lively reception. There appeared to be, on the part of the younger members of the family, a fear lest we should be instantly executed. Nothing so dreadful happened. The other boy was put into communication with his friends, and I had a long holiday. By and by, under the charge of a friend, I returned to Guildford to make explanation and excuse. That done, I went visiting more relations at Cheltenham—I had a lot altogether, you see!—and there I was brought under the influence of Whately, later the renowned Archbishop of Dublin.'
The boyish spirit kept alive in Sir George, and in that respect he had a surpassing encounter. He spent holiday hours in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, near which he resided after leaving St. James's. There was hardly an animal, or bird, that he could not instruct you upon; but his delight was to watch the streams of happy visitors. As he sat thus of an afternoon, half a dozen boys gathered round a specimen from animal-land placed near by.
Boys have few doubts, but these lads had theirs as to the identity of the beast. They noticed Sir George, and a delegate approached him with the request, 'Please, sir, can you tell us the name of this creature?' He turned in the direction indicated, and found, strangely enough, that the specimen was one which he had sent home from the far south, during his naturalist's work there. He named it, and the lad followed up, 'Where did it come from?'; getting the answer.
Next, 'Who killed it?' A pucker gathered upon Sir George's face, and he hesitated, arguing with himself, 'If I tell them, they'll think me an impostor, and even discount the information I have given them.'
But the inquisitor waited, and Sir George could do no better than 'Frankly, you know, I believe I killed it myself.'
'Here, you fellows!' the merry voice rang out; 'he says he killed the beast! Did you ever?'
The other boys left the animal to stare at what they felt to be a greater curiosity.
'Oh, yes,' Sir George addressed them, as they formed a half-circle before him, 'what I have told you is quite true. But if you will listen, I'll relate the whole story, and then you can decide for yourselves.'
He began the tale, the amused incredulity of the boys quickly vanished, and he never had a more attentive audience. When he had finished, his auditors raised their hats and caps with a hearty and convinced 'Thank you, sir.'
He gravely saluted them, as was his custom towards young and old, high and low, and then he fell a-dreaming. He was out walking in the pleasant English woods with Whately, learning from him the manner in which the ancient Britons lived, and how they dug for pig-nuts; or Whately rubbed dry sticks against each other, the primeval manner of making fire. More, he concentrated, with a glass, the rays of the sun upon a handful of dry twigs, which at the bidding went ablaze. Still another picture!
'While I was at Cheltenham, Whately was courting a connexion of mine, who later became his wife. She put me through my tasks, and Whately would help her in that, I sitting between them. Did ever a boy at his lessons occupy a seat of such influence? I suppose I could have commanded my own terms in reference to them, and perhaps I did. They were most pleasant for all concerned. My education altogether, as a boy, was not very systematic, but it was broad and useful.'
Finally to Sandhurst, where Sir George did so well that the authorities had quite a special word for him; and where one of the teachers, a Scotsman, gave him Bacon to read.
With his military studies he combined others, working even to elucidate the Surrey remains of the Romans, whose glamour as rulers hit him.
IV SAXON AND CELT
Ireland, which has sent so many of her own sons across the sea, was to exercise a real influence upon the going of Sir George Grey.
He was, perhaps, in a special degree, kindly of thought and act towards Irishmen, fancying that as a race they had suffered, and liking their humour, buoyant against all odds. Several Irish political prisoners were released, after serving long sentences, and Sir George read an account, given by one of them, of the gaol experiences. Herein, complaint was made—of the distress caused by the flash-flash of the turn-key's lantern, into the cells, all through the night. He went his rounds, and as he came to a cell door he flared his lantern inward by its little opening, making sure of the inmate. It was to the mind and nerves, what a red-hot wire would have been, driven into the body.
Next morning Sir George said, 'I could not sleep for thinking of that light, jab-jabbing the poor fellow in his cell. Nay, it appeared to be in my own bedroom, searching for my face and challenging me, "Are you there? Ha, ha, are you there?" What an eerie torture, to a slumbering soul, in that recurrent flame from the prison darkness! The thing stings and shocks me.'
It gnawed. His heart was full, and perhaps also his mind with the idea, 'Is it ours to impale the soul as well as the body of a fellow-creature? Surely that is reserved for a higher tribunal!'
The up-come of Ireland would provoke a story affecting Sir George Grey in a family sense. An ancestor, Ram by name, of his step-father had figured in a somewhat sudden meeting with Dean Swift. This was Sir George's telling of it:
Dean Swift, in a modest phaeton, happened to be jogging past Gorey, the residence of Ram. At that moment, out of the gate drove the more imposing carriage of the latter, and there was a collision. The Dean and his phaeton were thrown into the ditch, but neither, by good luck, suffered hurt. Instead of uttering words, which even the cloth might not have suppressed in some, the witty Dean shot these lines at Ram's apologetic confusion:
Here's Ireland's pride and England's glory Upset by the great Ram of Gorey.
The Ireland, to which Sir George's military duties introduced him, might have driven laughter from all but Irishmen. Turmoil and discontent gripped the land; naked want was among the people.
The green island smiled winsomely in the Atlantic, only to belie itself as an abode of happiness. Its plaintive atmosphere wisped round Sir George Grey, as a mist enwraps two walkers on a Scottish hill-side, sending them silent. He was young, sensitive, sympathetic, and environment moulded him, as already it had done in the larger island, also with its suffering masses. Sir George had extracts of memory which afforded a vivid idea of Ireland in the early Thirties.
'I was'—he picked out this incident—'a guest at a dinner where I heard the toast "The Protestant King and confusion to Roman Catholicism." Just reflect on what that meant! Think of the injustice, the intolerance, the lack of ordinary human feeling thus put into a sentiment! A Roman Catholic gentleman was present, and, knowing what was coming, he good- naturedly rose and left the room, observing that he would join the ladies. Yes, that was an Irish gentleman!
'Again, my heart was wrung at what I witnessed, while in command of a party of soldiers, under orders to protect a tithe-collecting expedition. To me it appeared wrong, shameful, un-Christian, that money for a Church which preached the love of God and His Son towards mankind, should be wrung from the people by armed soldiers. More, it seemed to me nothing less than blasphemy, a mockery of all true religion, and I thought it terrible to have to bear a part in the business.'
Yet, as ever among Celts, these shadows had edges of the lightsome. The tithe-gatherers would be out to distrain in a particular parish, and find loads of the humble chattels, which they meant to seize, already carted over the boundary into the next parish. That, Sir George explained, was a familiar trick to play upon the tithe-gatherer, who could not budge beyond the phrasing of his warrant. It was a beating of the parish bounds, such as he could not always be prepared for. The peasants would stand in sanctuary, with quick, mocking tongues, pointing the finger of scorn. It was trying work for the soldiers of the people, since they had to forget that relationship.
On such an affair Sir George, then a subaltern, made a report to his commanding officer, and it went wider than routine. He offered a frank account of the events attending the tithe-collecting, including the attitude of the peasantry, and the lessons that occurred to himself. These, the commanding officer did not desire, and he returned the report to the writer, desiring it to be made formal. 'Sir,' was the subaltern's reply, 'I have stated just what happened, and I should wish, with your permission, to abide by my report.' He awaited results with a mixed interest, but the farther history of that temerarious despatch he never learned. It may, or may not, have reached all concerned.
Of the Irish race Sir George conceived the warmest opinion, holding them to be the owners of many virtues. Especially they were brotherly of nature, truly generous of heart, and chivalrous of action. He had one proof of the last quality in a curious falling-in with some Mayo smugglers. What better evidence of the innate chivalry of a race, than to find them instinctively expect it in a stranger?
'There were,' he narrated, 'very stringent regulations in Ireland, in regard to the illicit distilling of spirits. It was another disagreeable duty for soldiers that they had to accompany revenue officers in the search for stills. Now, I was very fond of shooting, and when the opportunity arose I would start off with my gun. The country folk might always be applied to for information as to the spots most likely to furnish a shot. They were perfect hosts to the Saxon as an individual, though otherwise to the Saxon engine of government.
'Being abroad one day with my gun, I noticed a group of peasants at work in a field. Anxious for their counsel towards a bag, I jumped the wall into the field where they were. What was my astonishment to discover that I was in the midst of an illicit still! You can imagine my position! I, an officer holding the King's commission, had, as a private person, become aware of an offence against the law. My worry was so keen, over the awkward relationship in which I stood towards the party, that I expressed it.
'"It is," I said, "frequently my duty to protect preventive men, and if that duty were ever to bring me this way, you would feel that I had informed upon you." "No, no," was the answer in chorus, "you only protect the excise men, that forming part of your duty; you are not an informer but a protector, and we know you won't tell." They were good enough to emphasise this vote of confidence with an invitation that I should try their poteen. Naturally I declined, but in a manner, I hope, calculated not to wound their feelings.'
This demeanour Sir George Grey carried into his office as a centurion of soldiers, at a date when the lash still plied viciously in the British army. He sat on a court-martial which had to try a private soldier for habitual drunkenness. As the youngest officer present, he was the first to be asked what the sentence ought to be. He suggested a light punishment, one that was not perhaps in harmony with ideas then prevalent as to the best manner of preserving military discipline. To him flogging was abhorrent, and entertaining that view, he had fallen into debate with brother officers. The sentence which he proposed caused a roar of laughter among some of the members of the court-martial. 'Gentlemen,' interjected the general at the head of the table, 'mercy is a very becoming characteristic of youth, and I do not understand this laughter.' That cut it short.
Daniel O'Connell was at the height of his influence in Ireland, and Sir George could look back on the military duties which once or twice brought him into the precincts of the Tribune.
'Agitate, agitate, agitate,' a sympathetic Viceroy had written to O'Connell, upon the subject of Catholic emancipation, and an official stir followed. The Marquis of Anglesey, who led the cavalry at Waterloo, and lost a leg there, had not hesitated to utter his mind about Ireland. O'Connell unthinkingly read the letter at a meeting, and the Viceroy found himself in trouble with his Government. That was within Sir George's memory; but take, as touching O'Connell more intimately, an election meeting at Limerick, where the regiment was paraded to keep order.
'With a bitter satire, O'Connell introduced into his speech,' said Sir George, 'the story of the siege of Limerick. He eloquently told how the women of Limerick beat back the soldiers of William III. This was his shrewd method of getting at us soldiers, and he implied that, if necessary, the women of Limerick could beat back the soldiers of another English king. All we could do was to stand there, stiff as starch, while the stings fell from his caustic tongue. O'Connell was a splendid speaker, and he had a most inviting presence, an attractive personality altogether. Looking at him, you decided, "That's a capital fellow, a merry fellow to be with; why, I should like to be a friend of his!"'
The Irish peasant then, and of subsequent black years, was to Sir George a figure of pathos hard to match in history. When in England, just after his work as Pro-Consul had closed, he drew that figure, and its seeming doom, in tender words. Nay, he was feeling for all men so placed that no ray of hope dawned upon them from the cradle to the grave. The Irish peasant could not press his children to his breast, with the knowledge of being able to leave them the very humblest heritage won from his toil. Fathers and children, they could merely hope to obtain the temporary use of a spot of land on which to exercise their industry.
And what was the reward of all this labour? Hardly enough could be retained, from the proceeds, to procure the meanest food, the most ragged of clothes. Denied all power of legislation, and of considering and providing for his own necessities, as a citizen, the Irish peasant had lost the citizen's faculty, had become paralysed. He succumbed, almost without a struggle, to the fate brought him by famine, bred of evil days. He died on the mountain glens, along the sea coast, in the fields, in his cabin, after shutting the door. He died of starvation, though sometimes food was near, for he had even lost the hunger sense of the wild beast.
It was a keen project with Sir George, in his last years, to re-issue from London his proposals on the problem of Ireland. He had not lost belief in the pamphlet, as a channel for spreading ideas. He liked it, as he liked a well-thumbed book which, being opened at a page, so remained, instead of shutting with a snap. And of his venture, which never came off, he meditated, 'Might it not do good? They don't seem, even now, to understand all these matters—the real human nature of them. You hear talk of politics when it isn't politics at all, but men and women and children. Proceed on that principle and difficulties will quickly disappear.' He sought to brush aside any veil of words, of terms, which might confuse and darken problems.
His study-story of some Irish estate, granted by Queen Elizabeth to an English nobleman, showed how language might determine history. He noted there, a force at work that tended to cloud the mind and influence the imagination, in considering such affairs. The estate was called 'a princely property,' and the new holder was the 'aristocratic owner of the soil.' He had 'extensive lands in England;' perhaps he had 'the most beautiful demesne' and 'the finest mansion' in that country. If the Elizabethan landlord, planted in Ireland, drove along the high road, he was described as the 'noble occupant of the carriage.' Did he spend, on the improvement of his property, a little of the wealth won by the toil, privation, and suffering of others, why, he was credited with 'unbounded liberality.'
So, down the centuries, the effect being that sympathy was involuntarily drawn to all this rank, wealth, and ease. Similarly, by an unconscious process of mind, there disappeared from the public eye the gaunt faces, the bent bodies, of those who gave to rank the means of wealth and ease. Contemplating the plight, to which the people of Ireland had fallen in his soldiering days, Sir George Grey exclaimed, 'What intellect and power were lost to the nation! What must have been the yearnings and agonies undergone by many noble minds, feeling capable of great things, perhaps even of rescuing their country from the misery in which it was sunk!'
Remove such people to a new atmosphere in the Colonies, where their natural attainments could have just scope, and behold a fairy change! They would yield leaders of citizenship, men capable of shaping nations and legislatures, the laws of which the Old World would be glad to copy. Sir George could place the fruit of history, what had come about, in the remote basket of his hopes.
From it there dated a reminiscence of Sir Hussey Vivian, his Commander- in-Chief in Dublin. Sir Hussey, who, with his dragoons, covered Moore's retreat on Corunna, knew Sir George's father in the Spanish Peninsula. Viewing the troublous Irish times, he had ordered that military officers should wear their uniform, whether on duty or not. Handsome, genial, popular with everybody, a born soldier; this was Sir George's appreciation of the man with whom he had the following adventure:
'Accompanied by a brother officer I was strolling along in Dublin, neither of us in uniform, notwithstanding Sir Hussey's order. We were walking arm in arm when, on turning a corner, we espied him and his staff. What was to be done? We did not relish the notion of being caught in mufti, and looked round for a door of escape. There was none, except flight, and we took to our heels.
'The same night we each had a message from Sir Hussey, begging us to call upon him at eleven o'clock next morning. We knew what that meant. Sir Hussey had been too quick for our flight. A trifle shamefaced, we duly presented ourselves at his quarters, and he talked to us for being abroad in plain clothes.
'Our aspect of penitence won upon Sir Hussey. "If you had not bolted," he added after the lecture, "I'm not sure that I should have felt it necessary to summon you before me. But, frankly, I could not stand the notion that any of my officers should run away from me." There the matter amiably closed, and it was not till afterwards that I had an idea, which might have appealed to Sir Hussey's gift of humour.
'I should have advanced to him the plea that, at least, we ran away alone, not in better company. A twinkle would have shone in his eyes, for he eloped with the young lady who became his wife. He got her out of her home at Bath, through a window, and they were happy ever after.' To end a day happily was a maxim with Sir George, since it meant wisdom for the morrow.
V SOUTHWARD HO!
Now, the morrow called Sir George Grey, as it calls most, whether they hear it or no.
In him, boyish meditation had ever been braided by melancholy, a legacy of the shock with which his father's death burst upon his mother. As he grew up, this became a deep-seated pity for the suffering, wide and bitter, among the common people. His mother's care, his step-father's converse, fostered that feeling, and the service in Ireland, with its lurid emphasis of the misery he had seen in England, determined him in quite a definite way. A valley of despair moaned in his ear.
'Can nothing,' he reflected with himself, 'be done for this canker, this wretchedness? Not much, from the inside, it may be, for the evil has too firm a grip. But down there, in the far south, is a new world! Surely it has the secret of sweeter, freer homes; surely in those new countries lie better possibilities? Yes, there the future has its supreme chance, there is the field for a happier state of existence! All can be given a chance, and in the spacious view, it will be planting posts of an Anglo-Saxon fence which shall prevent the development of the New World from being interfered with by the Old World.'
It was an abounding moment at which to be taken into partnership for the carrying forward of the universe. Half the globe, as we are intimate with it to-day, was then unknown, and North-West Australia was a no-man's land, saving to the Aborigines. It was believed by geographers that a big river, artery to an immense area of Australia, must here drain into the sea. A Government expedition, as head of which Sir George Grey was selected, should determine this, and familiarise the Aborigines with the British name and character.
'It's odd,' Sir George said, 'to reflect that in the latitudes, for which we were bound, human beings were everywhere eating one another. There was a patch of settled civilisation at the Cape, a lighthouse beaming into those seas, and that was about all, The full glow had to arrive from the north, seeing that south of a line, drawn from the Cape to Australia and New Zealand, there was only the Antarctic wilderness.
'You had ice in such parts as the savage could not inhabit; bleakness eternal, with no promise of help in raising him to a higher life. Mostly, in the history of mankind, civilisation has grown in upon a country from several quarters. The contrary should be noted in respect to the lands, which, as we left Plymouth, seemed to us so attractive, so full of promise for generations yet unborn. We were to test that promise, and Darwin's "Beagle," having brought him home from a voyage, was to bear us on another.'
Sir George already knew Darwin enough to be a frequent caller on him in London. They discussed evolution, and a host of subjects in which Darwin manifested an interest. Sir George's vignette of him was that he was one of the most amiable men it were possible to conceive. He was closely occupied with his own work, but that did not prevent him from being an informed observer of other things.
'Of the advantages of association with master intellects,' Sir George would say, 'I sought to make the best use. The three men who exercised most influence on me were Archbishop Whately, Sir James Stephen, and Thomas Carlyle, names which I revere. They denote characters who adorned the nation, and as for Carlyle, I can only describe him as a profoundly great figure. When I think of him, I immediately fly to Babbage, the inventor of the famous calculating machine. And I'm afraid I smile.'
The link lay in certain experiences which befell Carlyle and Babbage in the streets of London. The coincidence was notable, and, farther, Sir George thought it strange that each great man should have made him confidant. But he had delighted in receiving the confidences, proofs of their friendship, and with a mixture of gravity and amusement he had consoled the martyrs.
'Being,' he entered upon the tale, 'once introduced to Carlyle's company, I think by Sir Richard Owen, it was my delight, during any spell in London, to visit him at Chelsea. Perhaps, as the matter has been long under review, I may remark that, to an outsider, no want of harmony was apparent, in the relations between Carlyle and his wife. You were not conscious of any element of that description; assuredly I was not, and I prefer to cling to that impression. Carlyle would sit at the right side of the fire, through an evening, I on his left, and we would talk on all manner of topics. I should most accurately describe our talk by saying that we philosophised. Or, we might read a little; he was a loving reader.
'Carlyle believed, with truth, that I had been influenced by his teachings, and if only for that reason he may have been rather fond of me. We lift our hats, to ourselves, as reflected in somebody else. I had a regard for him as a man, I gladly looked up to him, though that did not block out differences of opinion; and altogether we got on admirably. During one of those fireside talks, he detailed to me an incident, which quite hurt his feelings.
'He had a horse then, and was in the habit of riding out for exercise, almost every afternoon. He was never very artistic in his manner of dressing, and for horseback he had a long and singular fur coat, which enfolded his legs. Between Chelsea and Maida Vale, some boys were attracted by this quaint figure astride a horse. Not knowing in the least, who it was, they shouted at Carlyle; he spoke something to them in reproof and passed on.
'But next day, at the same place, there were the boys again, and not content with mocking Carlyle, they threw pebbles at him. He did not sustain any injury, but he mentioned the matter to me with a sore heart, as indicative of the condition of the youth of the country, for want of the better educational opportunities, of which he was so earnest an advocate.
'As to Babbage, also a very gifted mind, he had Saturday evenings at home, and a person invited to one, was welcome ever after. His warfare against street musicians is history, and what I have to tell is one campaign of it. A German band was in the habit of annexing a position before his house, and treating him to its music. He might be deeply immersed in his work, when up would come this band, a trying disturbance to him. To be quit of the musicians he gave them money, with the inevitable thanks that they returned, seeking to be paid again, in order to depart once more.
'Babbage got tired of that sort of thing, refused to fee the Germans any longer, and ordered them to go and play somewhere else. They refused, and he, worn out by their music, left his study to seek a policeman and have them moved on. Like Carlyle, he dressed quaintly, and, moreover, at the moment, he was bare-headed. Not seeing a policeman, from his door-step, he walked into the street to search for one.
'Babbage's dispute with the band soon collected a small crowd, eager to witness the fun. It is impossible for me, to say if those forming it, knew the mathematician or not. That would depend on the elements of the gathering, whether local or casual, and who can determine the point in a city like London? A crowd gathers and disperses here, as the wind plays with a volume of dust on a March day. But, anyhow, the onlookers favoured the band against Babbage, and they let their views be understood, by pelting him with mud. Still, he held to his purpose, routed out a policeman, and had the band driven off. That time, at all events, he was able to resume his calculations without molestation.'
It was a far cry, from these home-keeping transactions, to that outermost fringe of British dominion for which Sir George Grey found himself sailing:
What time with hand and heart aglow The sower goeth forth to sow.
The cabin Darwin had occupied on the clumsy "Beagle," was his home from Plymouth to the Cape. Instead of sleeping in a bunk he swung a hammock, which he regarded as the better sea-going bed. Though no yacht in heels, the "Beagle" had her own qualities for rough weather, and she behaved loyally towards her passengers. All the water supply had to be carried in casks, with the effect, under a blazing sun, that it soon grew bad. The ship called at South America, where Sir George had his first revelation of nature, as she blooms in the gorgeous tropics. The colour, richness, luxuriance, dazzled him; the more so that he had not read any description of the tropics, which adequately conveyed the sentiments they inspired.
He walked on shore of an evening, and the feelings engendered in him by the scene were wild, of a truth indescribable. He turned from the luxuriant foliage, to the stars aflame above, and he followed the fireflies as they danced. The woods were vocal with the hum of insect life, and balm loaded the breezes as they blew softly. These things at first oppressed his senses as so novel, so strange, that his mind almost hovered between the realms of fact and fancy.
'And you ask me of the sea,' he chatted; 'to which I answer that it has always made an impression on me, best described as a mixture of awe and gladness. I was very conscious, during that long voyage by sail, of the presence and majesty of the Maker. I felt, standing on the deck of the "Beagle," as if I were surrounded by some awful but beneficent power. The grandeur of the sea must make a reflective man religious, as its weirdness might breed superstition in the youthful, or the credulous.'
What wonder, he reasoned as he sailed, that a sailor should be superstitious? He was separated in boyhood from his home, before he had forgotten the ghost stories of childhood. While the simple heart still loved to dwell upon the marvellous, he was placed amid all the marvels of the sea. In the dark, out of the howl of wind and din of waves, he would hear strange shrieks piercing the air. By him would float huge forms, dim and mysterious, from which fancy was prone to build strange phantoms. Ships might come and ships might go; the sea must ever hold sway over the sailor man, a mistress to be loved and feared.
'Sailors,' he added, 'are not a religious class, so called, but I believe they are sincerely religious in their own manner. Poor Jack has faith that he is being guarded by some supreme power suited to the protection of the sailor. He does not seek to analyse that power; he simply believes that it will attend him in the hour of peril. And that is how all nature's giant works affect you, when once you are clear of the help of man. You have a perfect reliance upon the unseen, and there follows a calm, sweet solace, which you cannot express. No doubts enter, when you are confronted with the great spirit, which seems to preside over virgin nature.
'But my emotions on the "Beagle" were as a flood. Here I was sailing to a quarter of the world which the Creator, in His goodness, had provided for the support and happiness of men. Yet they did not know actually what it was like; the inheritance was still unexplored. And that land of North-West Australia was to be all my own, to designate as I wished. My feeling might be compared to that of a child waiting for a new toy. It gave rise to an ardent expectation.
'Behind was the despair of thousands, without the necessaries of life or the prospect of them; a nightmare of darkness that haunted me. But in front, as I trusted, lay hands which should afford mankind another start. Why, the busy brains of England were already unconsciously preparing every device and implement, that could be useful to the rise of the New World. We make ready in the dark for the light.'
At Cape Town, the halfway house to Australia, Sir George chartered a schooner for detailed exploring work. In it, a trifle on the water, he completed a voyage which never lost its charm to him, notwithstanding the rude hardships. He wished to make all kind of inquiries into natural history, and when the weather fell calm he would go off in a boat and shoot sea birds. Not the airy albatross, perhaps, for in it he realised the melody of motion, and it was not rare to naturalists. To shoot, from a boat, needed practice.
'You were,' he laid down the conditions, 'at issue with a heavy roll of the sea, even in glorious weather. Fortunately, I had always been an expert shot, and I quickly suited myself to the motion. You found your chances when the skiff sank into the trough of the waves, and a bird flew screaming over their tops; or, again, when you rose on the surge and had a wider target.' Thus at sea, and subsequently on land, he bagged many a fresh fact of natural history, and sent it home to enrich the British Museum. His word on that point was crisp. 'You had only to walk or row a little, and you secured a new living thing. The cry of the outlook was something discovered. The child waiting for the toy, of whom I spoke, was not half so happily situate as we. It was all surprises.'
His heart fell somewhat when he espied the land at Hanover Bay—the Promised Land, but naked and unkindly. What a contrast to the bouquet of Brazil! Still, why should there not be acres rich and worthy, behind those dull grey rocks? The idea of an incorrigible country was not to be entertained, for overcrowded England stood, with her hand for ear- trumpet, and the question on her tongue, 'What is the message?' Adventure followed adventure in the effort to secure it.
'Somehow,' quoth Sir George, 'we didn't seem to mind the risks, and I imagine that is the experience of everybody who has encountered any. A man is zealous upon some task, it quite occupies him, and the dangers are just details. Afterwards, his friends make him out to be a bit of a hero, and he has leisure to fancy so himself, which is all entirely harmless. Now, I had to swim across an arm of the sea, where a violent tide ran, and where alligators and sharks had their haunts. The latter, I believed from observations made when we bathed off the schooner, could smell a human body in the water from a long distance. But the plain necessity was that, for the succour of certain members of the expedition, I must swim the lagoon.'
A nearer hazard furnished Sir George with a knowledge, which a call from his friend Sir Charles Lyell, the geologist, enabled him to use in fun. Lyell walked in on him, in London, with a spear-head and the curiosity, 'How old do you judge that would be?' The weapon was of stone, uncouth, barbarous. 'A thousand years, eh?' Lyell pursued. Sir George let him go on for a while, then broke in, 'If that's a thousand years old, I likewise am a thousand years old, because one has been taken out of me.' 'What do you mean?' was Lyell's ejaculation. 'Oh,' said Sir George, 'a head almost similar was on the spear which an Australian native drove into my thigh.'
Whereupon laughter, and tale of the fight.
VI MAN AND NATURE ABORIGINAL
There never had been such a drama in that forest of North-West Australia. The noise of the white man's war fell upon the primeval silence, breaking it.
This battle dwelt acutely with Sir George Grey as the single occasion, amid all his adventures, on which he had been the instrument of taking human life. He carried his own wounds to the grave, but only sorrowed for the bullet he sped, though sheer necessity drove it. The sacred light might burn in a savage, ignorant of its nobler gleams, yet it was the gift of the Creator. Moreover, Sir George's whole dealing, towards native races, was guided by a pole-star principle. The duty civilisation owed them, he affirmed, was the larger in proportion to their state of darkness. He held this to be the simple rule for the Christian.
The natives of the Australian North-West were a fine race physically, and, he judged, had an ingrain of Malay blood. 'To see one for the first time,' said Sir George, 'produced a great effect upon you. These people were hardly known then.' They coloured themselves in fearsome style, red being the favourite daub. No matter, the strangers from over sea would have greeted them gladly, being anxious to cultivate friendship. The wild men responded not; but hovered in the distance of the bush, or peered curiously from some covering of the rocks.
'I did everything I could,' Sir George remarked in that relation, 'to get acquainted with them, but at this period they would have nothing to do with me. Their fires might still be smoking, as we beat up a camping place, but they had left, suspicious of us. When travelling, I frequently had grave cause to be anxious lest we should be attacked, especially at night. Therefore, I made my men sleep a little apart from each other, in order that, if assailed, we might at least have some warning.'
It was full day when the assault did take place; otherwise Sir George would hardly have lived to describe it. He went back with spirit on the details, more armour of youth to be placed in the scabbard of age. One item held a small essay on the influences which determine human action in a crisis of life or death. He was speaking of the feeling that seized him when spear after spear cut into his flesh. Here was a struggle between mind and body, each determined to conquer—a study in the inner sanctuary; but how began the fight?
With two of his men, Sir George was on the march, notching trees by the way, so that the rest of the party could follow. At a turn they found themselves beset by a swarm of blacks, who had gathered in strength, determined to act against so small a force. Not many of the warriors could be seen at the outset, the rough ground sheltering them. But there they were, and in a most warlike humour.
A spear clove the air, singing their menace, as they yelled it in a hundred raucous voices. Scare shots, fired by Sir George, had no effect, not even when an incautious warrior was winged as an object-lesson. The Aborigines grew bolder, leaping hither and thither in the attack—evil spirits of the bush. The sight they made, all pigments, was expressed in the shout of one of Sir George's men, 'Good God, sir! Look at them!'
The cry rose from behind a rack, where Sir George had ordered the man and his comrade to seek shelter. Fortunately, a series of rocks made a natural parapet to the right, and in a degree in front. Sir George, his gun empty at the moment, placed himself on the exposed left position. The spears rained round him, as if they were falling from the clouds. Things could not go on thus for long, and the natives planned to end them.
A superbly built fellow, lighter of skin than his companions, arrogant of air, showed to the front, evidently a general in command. He clambered, shouting the lust of battle, on to the summit of a rock, not more than thirty yards from the spot where Sir George lay. Then he swung a spear, with agile trick, and it grazed the hem of the white captain's coat. It would have done more, had not Sir George by instinct, which is ever alert, jerked himself free of its path. Another spear, from the same supple hand, just missed his breast, striking the stock of his gun. This was too near for comfort and the future well-being of the expedition.
Sir George passed his empty gun to the Englishman handiest, with the direction 'Please re-load it.' He had tried to do that himself, but his cramped position made it difficult to ram home the powder and ball. For his own gun, he snatched an unshot one which the man was struggling to release from its cover. In the hurry, piece and cover got entangled, but, with a wrench, Sir George tore the two apart. His plan of campaign was settled; he advanced to the rock where the light-coloured native had head-quarters. In bold initiative, there remained the only hope for Sir George and his following, against imminent massacre. Would it be a moral victory, won by a simple advance on the rock, or would it be necessary to strike? He had hesitated, as yet, to shoot straight; and he trusted still to avoid that extreme measure.
Three strides in the open, and three spears had him square and fair, a rent archery target. The first struck his watch, denting it, the second caught the fleshy part of his arm, the third tore into his thigh. The Aborigines were skilled spear-men, and proving it by Sir George's impalement, they shouted triumph. The shook of the weapons drove him to his knees, but what stung him was the crow of the blacks.
'That,' he said, 'produced in me a heated anger, and I was in the fight as I had not been till then. Stung by their mockery, I pulled myself together and was on my feet again in a trice. A spear was still sticking in my thigh, and blood flowed freely from the wound. I dragged out the spear, covered the wound with my haversack, so that neither enemy nor friend might be aware of it, and once more advanced.'
The chief grew alarmed at this steady investment of himself, and showed it by brandishing a club, as if to convey, 'Just you come nearer and this will drum on your head.'
Sir George's faculties were so keenly edged that he noted, in this bravado, a common link of mankind, high and low, civilised and barbarian. As long as the chieftain had been sure of his skin, he flung spears and sang valiantly; but when alarm entered him, those deadly measures were replaced by a mighty show. On the surface there was vast play of battle, but inwardly quaking. And Sir George marched forward, his right hand gripping the gun hard, his lip quivering, his eye burning.
The injured physical man was triumphant over the peace-loving soul, and anyhow there must now be a lesson. Of all those lines of thought Sir George was not, perhaps, conscious in his peril, yet, fetching back, he could trace them as they had worked. Seeking a solution by measures not violent, he had been given sore spears, whereon his finger tightened at the trigger, and he was a wound automaton; fixed, stern, a fate on feet, bearing down upon the chief in the shelter of the rock.
The brandished club was no stop; no more did the skirmishing support of the clan bring pause to the oncomer. The black general bobbed quite behind his rock, considering the necessity of absolute retreat. Next, he snapped off quickly, dodging here and there, as the aboriginal plan was, to avoid a cast of spears. It was not suited to avoid lead.
Everything had occurred within the space of a few minutes; for such crises do, otherwise the tension would kill. The chief ran; a tall dark body, with many other bodies watching it. Sir George raised his gun and pointed it at the warrior, struggling to a shelter from which the attack could be renewed. Snap went the trigger. With a bullet, the marksman could shoot a greater seabird, by the head, at a range of a hundred yards. This bullet caught the black between the shoulders, and he fell with a thud and a groan. In Sir George, the physical being surrendered itself again to the intellect. The situation was saved, his wounds stung him no more to vindication—he was sorrowful, a-weary.
There was no sound after the echoes of the shot had died away, a spluttering funeral knell. Other natives, laying their spears aside, sprang from behind trees and rocks to the help of their fallen chief. Nobody would harm them; the magic had ceased. They raised him with the greatest solicitude, and bore him off. His head hung on his breast; he could just stagger.
Faint from loss of blood, Sir George watched the serpent-like procession twine itself into the inner depths of the forest. Having conquered; he had to console himself on the victory and bind up his own hurts. These made him so weak that he must send to the camp for assistance, and he awaited its coming, a loaded gun on his knee. The blacks assailed no more; instead, the birds sang in the sun, and he asked himself, 'Is it all a dream?'
'Why,' declared one of his men, helping him towards the camp, 'should you worry yourself over having shot that black fellow? If you hadn't, where should we all have been? and anyhow there are plenty more like him in the country.' This comforter was himself to need comfort, by and by, on a less sombre subject. He dashed in upon Sir George, crying, 'Sir, I have seen the Old Gentleman,' and with his frame shaking as if he had. It was the Australian bat on midnight circuit, a strange serenade to the European. Another of nature's creatures was to figure amid circumstances which did hold cause for terror.
'It's curious,' Sir George mused, 'how we remember trifles of the long ago with preciseness, when often bigger events are blurred. I recollect, very well, a slight incident of the scene on the island of Dorre, off the north-west coast of Australia, when a storm caught us. In turn, I caught an old cormorant by the neck, and the bird was all we had for breakfast next morning. A most sedate character he was, trying hard to maintain a dignified attitude in face of a very tempest of wind. He wished to fly, but could not, the violence of the gale pinning him to the ground. That was his death, which we all regretted; and I'm sorry to add that we were grudging enough to call him tough in the eating.'
This gale was preface to the great adventure of the second stage of Sir George Grey's Australian explorations. He was to have plenty of opportunity for the study of the Australian Aborigine, who, by and by, received him in better wise than at the point of a spear. Somewhere, an old crone felt inspired to hug and kiss him, in the belief that he was her own dead son, spun white, and back on earth. Having recruited from his earlier sufferings, he had gone by Perth, up the coast to Shark's Bay in an American whaler. He arranged to make a depot of Bernier Island, in the region of Shark's Bay, and there, on a lovely day, he landed his stores, burying them for safety in the soil. Up blew this storm, three nights later, when the explorers laid hands upon the solitary cormorant of Dorre. Had they been on Bernier, instead, the spoil might have been a kangaroo, for it owned a special breed of that family.
But to Bernier Island, the larder, Sir George returned, having completed a section of exploration. He had a dread lest the gale might have ravished his stores during his absence. Accordingly, he took only one or two of his people with him when he went, full of anxiety, to the spot where the provisions had been buried. He did not desire to alarm the others, should affairs turn out ill, as indeed they did.
'O God, we are all lost!' This was the wail for Sir George's ears, as the spade made it clear that the food-stuffs, with a trifling salvage, had been uprooted and scattered by the storm. It was almost the pronouncing of a sentence of death upon the party, having regard to the desert country which surrounded them, and their distance from civilisation.
'I hadn't an hour to lose,' Sir George realised, 'so back we hurried to the main camp and I delivered the news, counselling calmness and courage. I added my decision that we must endeavour to make Perth in the whale boats we had with us. It was a forlorn chance.'
The boats strained in a boisterous sea, and ultimately flung the voyagers ashore, three hundred miles, in a direct line, from Perth. Never were men given a harder tramp than across those miles, so parched and barren that they hardly echoed the koo-ee of a native. Yet there was no succour, no hostel, unless they could be covered.
For a little while fair progress was made, then strength declined through want of food and water. Sir George Grey sought courage and consolation in the dog-eared New Testament which he had in his knapsack. The hymns his mother had taught him came back into his head and heart, true comforters. The land where she dwelt swam dim before his eyes, but his courage found strength anew. He pushed on, with a small company, in order to send back relief for those unequal to a sally. It was the perishing to the rescue. A bird shot, was welcome as manna from heaven, and a muddy water-hole the sweetest of discoveries. The dew was eagerly licked from shrubs and reeds while the sun lingered a-bed. Lips grew black, tongues swollen, eyes wild, and the hopeless cry was: 'Water, or we die.'
The native guide schemed to lead Sir George from the others, begging, when discovered, 'Yes, we two may be saved if we go on; the others are so weak that they can't walk.' The master cocked his gun until the guide had carried him back to the party. They moved Perth-ward, a stricken line of famished men, wondering dumbly what was to happen. Did they really care?
If the leader had cheering and example, what were these set against this final ordeal: a blistering thirst of three days and two nights? Happily a water-hole, not bereft of all moisture, was found in the nick of time. A few birds flew about it in the evening, but Sir George Grey's hand shook so that he could take no aim. He headed a last desperate spurt for Perth; the reaching of succour, or the arrival of death. Which would it be?
How attractive to lie down and rest for ever on the parched grass, with some thin bush to keep off the sun. In the other extreme a shepherd of the hills, caught in a snowstorm, folds him in his plaid and goes to the sound sleep. Life in those wrestlers for it had sunk low; better die than hang on to a mere tether of living. Yet the better instinct asserted itself. And the second half of the expedition, far in the rear, cried for relief. On, on!
Sir George staggered across the miles until, in the goodness of fortune, he met natives who gave him food and water. He crawled into Perth, black with the sun, bones from want; he was not recognised by friends. A Malay, daft but harmless, led a vagrant life at Perth, getting bit and sup from the open tables of the colonists. The good wife of the outermost settlement, where Sir George Grey knocked, seeking refreshment, took him for 'Magic.'
'When I spoke to her in English,' he said, 'she looked so surprised that I feared she might run away, leaving me without the food and drink I needed. However, she merely exclaimed, "Well if you're not 'Magic,' who are you?" Being told, and in time convinced, she brewed Sir George the most delicious cup of tea he ever drank. Soon, relief to the expedition was scurrying across the plains.
At the start of the journey Sir George had his sextant, but, having to walk hungry and thirsty, he needed to walk light. Therefore he hid the sextant in a tree, where many a year later it was found, a rustic relic, by some settlers. Death raced him so hard that he eased the burden of keeping in front of it by tearing the boards from his New Testament. To the Word itself he clung impregnably.
The perils of Sir George Grey, as an Australian explorer, match some of those experienced by Captain Sturt. That brought up the name of the latter, and Sir George passed the eulogy: 'Australia owes to Sturt a greater debt, perhaps, than to any other of her explorers. His discoveries, apart from their own stir and colour; were of the first importance in the successful settlement of the country. I knew him well; a man who would do anything for anybody, and never think of his own interests.'
Admiring Sturt so heartily, Sir George, with others, had urged that the honour of a title should be conferred upon him. He died in England before actually receiving it, 'Whereupon,' said Sir George, 'I next suggested that his widow should have the rank which otherwise would have been hers, and from that, I judge, sprang the very proper rule now obtaining in such a case.'
VII PLANTING THE BRITON
'I always got what I wanted in life,' Sir George Grey made arch comment on himself, 'and many things, also, that I did not want.'
His appointment as Governor of South Australia, with the steps leading up to it, he could group under the first head. His explorations had shown that no great river, no second Murray, drained the North-West area of Australia. This was information for geographers, and he had more, since, to quote his own words, 'We learned as much about the region, in a general way, as was necessary.' Next, he acted for a while as Government Resident at King George's Sound, and he investigated the country thereabout.
'The settlement of King George's Sound,' he said, 'was quite small, and I discharged all the duties of the State. I don't remember that I fined anybody; just decreeing: "Oh, you must make up your disputes yourselves." Perth, now so grown, was at that date a mere townlet. It had few people, ships called rarely, and practically it was shut off from the world.'
This was the brand-new Australia. Beside it, there is a glimpse of olden England, in the manner Sir George Grey was bid to be Pro-Consul. A special messenger pelted down to Bodiam, where, after his return to England, he had been staying for a month, the hero of his relatives. The messenger brought the other London, news that the guns of the Tower had been firing, to announce the birth of the Queen's first child, the Princess Royal. Therefore his arrival caused a double commotion in the family circle, two notes of joy and gratulation. Sir George posted express to London, changing horses at short stages in order to make the better speed.
It was his supreme wish to serve the Colonies, and he had a glimmering notion that the chance would come. Still, he was at one of the crossings in a young man's life, when it is hard to know what the road is to be. He had always his commission in the army, but was that his definite signpost? He sighed for a wider door of usefulness, and behold it opened! That it should be open so soon, was, perhaps, remarkable, only the word was to be his constant accomplice.
'I had never met Lord John Russell, who made me the offer,' Sir George explained. 'He was going upon what little I had done, in regard to Australian affairs, especially a kind of despatch by me on native administration. After adequate thought, and acting upon good advice, I confirmed my first resolve to accept the Governor-ship of South Australia. It was, apparently, to be an onerous post.'
To Adelaide went this Queen's Governor, not yet thirty, his mission the undoing of a tangle; for South Australia was on the verge of bankruptcy, almost before it had entered into business. Hardly an acre of land was in cultivation, and most of the people were in Adelaide with nothing to do, clamouring for food. Sir George perceived at once that they must be got on to the land. To have the settlers securely there, from the first, meant that they were to grow into a nation, not to amass temporary riches, and then return to an already overcrowded world.
Again, in South Australia, as elsewhere, he endeavoured to carry out what he regarded as a cardinal principle in the making of a new country. This was to draw capital direct from the soil, not by the raising of too heavy loans. How to rear a nation? Keep its conditions of life natural, even simple; make it self-creative and self-reliant, train it as if it were an individual. Let it build its national homestead, as a man might lay out his own little stance of ground. Then, the community would have the parents' love and pride towards all that had been created. Sir George put his shoulder to the wheel of the settlers' cart in South Australia, and shoved until the harvest drove home.
'I ascertained,' he spoke of those efforts, 'that the soil was very suitable for wheat, and we sowed widely. The crop, vital to the Colony; depended upon the weather. Would there be enough rain? I often crawled out of bed in the morning, while it was half-dawn, to ascertain if there was any promise of rain for that day. The wheat was at the critical stage, and if I had made the weather, it could not have proved more suited in its conditions.
'It was the first extensive wheat crop of South Australia; the first harvest-home of the bunch of people, who had there been shaken on to the sea-beach. When the wheat had ripened, everybody—including, I am glad to say, the Governor—turned to the harvesting of it. Riots had threatened earlier, the result of the state of affairs in the Colony, and the measures which I deemed it necessary to introduce. As a precaution, I had some soldiers, about a hundred and fifty, I think, sent to me from New South Wales. That was a step on which I was entitled to congratulate myself. At the pruning hook, in getting in that harvest, they were of vast assistance, and not often have soldiers been more nobly occupied.'
Yet the pruning hook, which Sir George associated with the historic harvest, and with Ridley, an early Australian colonist, was hardly of the Scriptural pattern. It was a subtle machine, invented for a harvest where the wheat-ears were needed, not the straw. The former were chopped off, collected in a sort of trough; and the straw was burned for manure. Here was waste, only there was no avoiding it, and, moreover, the meaning of 'waste' is defined by circumstances. The South Australian soil was so fruitful that it only needed to be thrown seed. Sir George satisfied himself that it contained gypsum, such as belongs to the fertile parts of Egypt. Thus gypsum reared wheat, under the foot-print of the black man, who shod his spear in obsidian. Things that began before history, were meeting from very different sides. Nature extended one hand to the inflow of civilisation, another to the rude holding of it back. There was a point of contact in the adventure of a settler, Turner by name, whom Sir George Grey met near the Murray River. It fell out comedy, but might have been tragedy; and how often those two flirt with each other round a corner!
The fact, upon which the affair hinged, was that Turner wore a wig, no doubt for sufficient reason. He was making a journey across country, and with him were a few natives, guides and packmen. Perhaps his head grew hot; anyhow, at some stage he took a penknife from his pocket, and ran the blade under the edge of the wig. The native nearest to him, suspicious of witchcraft, stared at this act, terror written on every feature. With a deft lift of the knife, Turner had the wig clear of his head. The native stayed no longer to consider 'Is this a sorcerer?' He whipped off, to what he considered a safe distance. The innocent Turner followed his retreat with laughing eye, amused at the effect produced. For acknowledgment, a spear cracked through the satchel on his back, and wounded him slightly. His load had saved his life, and he warily resumed the wig.
The quality of the early settlers in South Australia, gave Sir George Grey great trust in the new Anglo-Saxondom to be built up in the south. Many of them were Nonconformists, which suggested to him the Puritan founding of New England. As a body they had a worth, a sincerity, a true ring which could not fail of fine records. That knowledge helped him, in the difficult task of setting South Australia on its feet. His policy of severe economy made shoes pinch, but he held on, ever ready with the courteous word for those who most assailed him.
He could contrast Adelaide, when town sites went at auction for about five pounds an acre, with the Adelaide of our day. 'If you had yourself,' somebody put it to him, 'invested in a few of these sites, you would be rich instead of poor?' The remark bore partly upon the enormously enhanced value of city lands all over Australia, partly upon Sir George's simple unconcern for wealth, his disregard of mere money. He was almost inclined to pity millionaires, as being among the afflicted. The tinkle of gold was never in his golden dreams.
'Yes,' he answered, 'the land which sold for five pounds in Adelaide, might, at the present moment, be worth nearer five thousand. Throughout my career, I followed a very strict rule in those matters. I never had any dealings in land, or other property, except as Governor, charged with the interests of the whole community. My despatches were my sole title- deeds.'
'There is no virtue,' he laid down, 'in honest duty, such as we claim from every public servant. Our lofty ideal in that regard is true British wisdom. Moreover, need a man, estimating wealth on its merits, care to be rich? What private means I inherited, I have spent largely on public ends. I mean, in particular, those libraries at Cape Town and Auckland, which I was enabled to help. Why, the bargain is all mine; I am the debtor for the opportunity.'
To Sir George Grey, Oceana had seemed a fertile land, crying across the depths, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' His mission was to pass that invitation freely to the shores of the Old World, and to be vigilant on the spot, keeping a clear ring. He did not want folks to come, only to find a path strewn with the obstacles and ills they thought to have left behind. His purpose was to make life as generous, as unfettered as possible. Keep the Old World out of the New! It became a passion with him; and he counted on making the New World an influence towards regenerating the Old. The line, in respect of both aims, was to retain the control of the New World for the Anglo- Saxon. That meant freedom, because the non-intrusion of arrayed nations, which would hinder it.
When Greece needed a king, Sir George Grey was mentioned as one with likely parts for the post. 'I should think,' wrote Freeman the historian, 'he would be just the man to deal with any unruly elements in the country.' The absolute offer of the crown of Greece would not have tempted Sir George for an hour.
As he said seriously, while joking on the point, 'In the far south there was literally nobody to lead, whereas Greece had men sufficient to mould her destinies. Anyhow, one given the administration of Greece, would not have had a work more honourable than the development of Australasia, a larger business altogether. 'Here was a region where several kingdoms were in the raising, where the pattern could take something from yourself. What drew me to the far south, as a fairy-tale might, was that charm, "Yes, it's all new. Hardly anything has yet been done. It's mine to do with as I will."'
There was the white man's history to fashion, and the black man's history to discover. Sir George did not neglect the second inquiry, because the other was the more important. His explorations had given him the idea that Australia was of a volcanic origin. He judged it to have been, at some period, a series of islands, each with its own volcano. These islands had risen from the sea, been licked into shape probably by earthquakes, and coming gradually together, had formed a continent. During his Governorship of South Australia, Sir George fell upon a piece of evidence which materially supported this belief. The skeleton of a whale, as Sir Richard Owen certified the specimen, was discovered quite inland, beyond the first mountain range. If Sir George had arrived at some view, after long deliberation, he liked it to be accepted, as we all do. Therefore he welcomed the discovery of that whale.