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Coming Across
by [?]

We were delayed for an hour or so inside Sydney Heads, taking passengers from the Oroya, which had just arrived from England and anchored off Watson’s Bay. An Adelaide boat went alongside the ocean liner, while we dropped anchor at a respectable distance. This puzzled some of us until one of the passengers stopped an ancient mariner and inquired. The sailor jerked his thumb upwards, and left. The passengers stared aloft till some of them got the lockjaw in the back of their necks, and then another sailor suggested that we had yards to our masts, while the Adelaide boat had not.

It seemed a pity that the new chums for New Zealand didn’t have a chance to see Sydney after coming so far and getting so near. It struck them that way too. They saw Melbourne, which seemed another injustice to the old city. However, nothing matters much nowadays, and they might see Sydney in happier times.

They looked like new chums, especially the “furst clarsters,” and there were two or three Scotsmen among them who looked like Scots, and talked like it too; also an Irishman. Great Britain and Ireland do not seem to be learning anything fresh about Australia. We had a yarn with one of these new arrivals, and got talking about the banks. It turned out that he was a radical. He spat over the side and said:

“It’s a something shame the way things is carried on! Now, look here, a banker can rob hundreds of wimmin and children an’ widders and orfuns, and nothin’ is done to him; but if a poor man only embezzles a shilling he gets transported to the colonies for life.” The italics are ours, but the words were his.

We explained to this new chum that transportation was done away with long ago, as far as Australia was concerned, that no more convicts were sent out here–only men who ought to be; and he seemed surprised. He did not call us a liar, but he looked as if he thought that we were prevaricating. We were glad that he didn’t say so, for he was a bigger man. New chums are generally more robust than Australians.

When we got through the Heads someone pointed to the wrong part of the cliff and said:

“That’s where the Dunbar was wrecked.”

Shortly afterwards another man pointed to another wrong part of the cliffs and observed incidentally:

“That’s where the Dunbar was wrecked.”

Pretty soon a third man came along and pointed to a third wrong part of the cliff, and remarked casually:

“That’s where the Dunbar was wrecked.”

We moved aft and met the fourth mate, who jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the cliffs in general, and muttered condescendingly:

“That’s where the Dunbar was wrecked.”

It was not long before a woman turned round and asked “Was that the place where the Dunbar was wrecked, please?”

We said “Yes,” and she said “Lor,” and beckoned to a friend.

We went for’ard and met an old sailor, who glared at us, jerked his thumb at the coast and growled:

“That’s where the Dunbar went down.”

Then we went below; but we felt a slight relief when he said “went down” instead of “was wrecked.”

It is doubtful whether a passenger boat ever cleared Sydney Heads since the wild night of that famous wreck without someone pointing to the wrong part of the cliffs, and remarking:

“That’s where the Dunbar was wrecked.”

The Dunbar fiend is inseparable from Australian coasting steamers.

We travelled second-class in the interests of journalism. You get more points for copy in the steerage. It was a sacrifice; but we hope to profit by it some day.

There were about fifty male passengers, including half a dozen New Zealand shearers, two of whom came on board drunk–their remarks for the first night mainly consisted of “gory.” “Gory” is part of the Australian language now–a big part.

The others were chiefly tradesmen, labourers, clerks and bagmen, driven out of Australia by the hard times there, and glad, no doubt, to get away. There was a jeweller on board, of course, and his name was Moses or Cohen. If it wasn’t it should have been–or Isaacs. His christian name was probably Benjamin. We called him Jacobs. He passed away most of his time on board in swopping watch lies with the other passengers and good-naturedly spoiling their Waterburys.