I arrive in Australia. Join my two Sons at their Sheep-station. Return to Melbourne and Remove to Ballaarat. Visit to Mr. Skene. My son studies Surveying. His rapid proficiency. Appointed to take charge of a Party. Letters on various Subjects to his Mother and Brother at Home.
IN the month of August, 1853, I reached Melbourne, after a good voyage, having obtained an appointment as superintending surgeon of a government emigrant ship, commanded by Captain Young, a perfect sailor, and a gentleman I shall always remember with pleasurable feelings. More than two months elapsed before I could discover where my sons were. Having, at length, ascertained their locality, I purchased a horse and performed the journey in four days, resting one day on the road, at the station of Mr. Jefferies, on the Campaspe. I started at daylight, and made my fifty miles before halting, as I generally did about two P.M. I arrived at the shepherds' hut at five o'clock on a beautiful summer's evening, having remained two hours at the hotel at Deniliquin to refresh.
Robberies on the road - stickings up as they are called - were rife at this period. Thefts also were common at the resting-houses. A gentleman who arrived at this hotel, not long before I was there, took the saddle off his horse, and placed it under the verandah: when he returned, after leading his animal to a paddock hard by, he missed the saddle, which he supposed had been removed by some person belonging to the house, and threw down his bridle on the same place. After taking something to drink with the landlord he said, "You have got my saddle." - " No." "I left it under the verandah, where I have just placed my bridle." On going out to show the spot, the bridle also had disappeared: both stolen. A good saddle and bridle at that time would fetch twenty pounds readily.
At the station I took a native black for my guide. He brought me to a place where my horse had nearly to swim across the creek, pointed to a dry path, exclaimed, "There," then turned his own animal and rode off. I followed the track for about three miles, and found myself in front of the hut. My sons were both at home. Tom called the attention of his brother to my approach. They appeared as much astonished as he describes the blacks near the Gulf of Carpentaria to have been at sight of himself and companions. Presently came the recognition, a shout of joy, and a greeting such as may readily be imagined, on the part of two boys on seeing the father they had not long before supposed to be separated from them by some sixteen thousand miles.
A few days after, we all left Deniliquin, each mounted on a horse, my sons having first disinterred their money, buried at the foot of a gum tree on a hillock which they considered as a safe bank of deposit. It was their intention to have made a present of the greatest part, 100 pounds, to their mother, on the first eligible opportunity of forwarding it. On our way back we paid a visit to the Bendigo diggings. William here evinced his skill as an explorer by leading us, with the aid of his compass, through a trackless bush, by which we saved a circuit of several miles. At Matthison's hotel, on the Campaspe river, where we halted for the night, an amusing conversation occurred. In the evening there was a great gathering of all nations in the parlour. I undertook to tell the different parties of English, by their dialect, from what particular quarter they came. A person present, who articulated with much difficulty from having nearly lost the roof of his mouth, declared that he would defy any one to identify him by his speech. We all agreed that it exceeded our powers, when he informed us with a great effort that he was "a Kashman," meaning Scotchman.
On our return to Melbourne, we made preparations for a removal to Ballaarat. William remained with me at the latter place for twelve months, attending to any patient that might come in my absence. He also opened a gold office adjoining my tent and did very well. Here he perfected a plan of his own for weighing specimens containing quartz and gold, in water, so as to find the quantity of each component. But he was ever pining for the bush. The "busy haunts of men" had no attraction for him. He preferred the society of a few to that of many, but the study of nature was his passion. His love was fixed on animals, plants, and the starry firmament. With regard to medicine, he used to say that it was not clear and defined in practice. He wanted to measure the scope of a disease, and to supply the remedies by mathematical rule. He saw, too, that medical men were less valued for their real worth than for their tact in winning confidence through the credulity of the public. This was particularly exemplified in a gold-field, where the greatest impostors obtained credit for a time. His thoughts and conversation also constantly reverted to the interior, and to the hope that he would one day undertake the journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria. He was anxiously looking out for a movement in that direction, then often talked of.