This is the largest island in the world. It is as large as Europe (which is not an island, but a continent). But how different is Australia from Europe! Instead of containing, as Europe does, a number of grand kingdoms, it has not one single king. Instead of being filled with people, the greater part of Australia is a desert, or a forest, where a few half naked savages are wandering.
A hundred years ago, there was not a town in the whole island; but now there are a few large towns near the sea-coast, but only a very few. It is the English who built these large towns, and who live in them.
Australia is not so fine a land as Europe, because it has not so many fine rivers; and it is fine rivers that make a fine land. Most of the rivers in Australia do not deserve the name of rivers; they are more like a number of water-holes, and are often dried up in the summer; but there is one very fine, broad, long, deep river, called the Murray. It flows for twelve hundred miles. Were there several such rivers us the Murray, then Australia would be a fine land indeed.
Why is there so little water? Because there is so little rain. Sometimes for two years together, there are no heavy showers, and the grass withers, and the trees turn brown, and the air is filled with dust. I believe the reason of the want of rain is—that the mountains are not high; for high mountains draw the clouds together. There are no mountains as high as the Alps of Europe; the highest are only half as high.
THE NATIVES.—The savages of Australia have neither god, nor king. Some heathen countries are full of idols, but there are no idols in the wilds of Australia. No,—like the beasts which perish, these savages live from day to day without prayer, or praise, delighting only in eating and drinking, hunting and dancing.
Most men build some kind of houses; but these savages are satisfied with putting a few boughs together, as a shelter from the storm. There is just room in one of these shelters for a man to creep into it, and lie down to sleep. They do not wish to learn to build better huts, for as they are always running about from place to place, they do not think it worth while to build better.
A native was once sitting in the corner of a white man’s hut, and looking as if he enjoyed the warmth. The white men began to laugh at him, for not building a good hut for himself. For some time the black man said nothing, at last he muttered, “Ay, ay, white fellow think it best that-a-way. Black fellow think it best that-a-way.” A white man rudely answered, “Then black fellow is a fool.” Upon hearing this, the black fellow, quite affronted, got up, and folding his blanket round him, walked out of the hut. How much pride there is in the heart of man! Even a savage thinks a great deal of his own wisdom, and cannot bear to be called a fool.