| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
VICTORIA—UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS
"Let no one think much of a trifling expense;
Who knows what may happen a hundred years hence?
The loss of America what can repay?
New colonies seek for in Botany Bay."
 IN the days of King George III. there was a great sailor
called Captain Cook. He made many voyages into unknown seas
and discovered new lands. Among these lands were the islands
of Australia and New Zealand.
It was in April 1770 A.D. that Captain Cook first landed in
Australia, in a bay which he called Botany Bay, because
there were so many plants of all kinds there. At that time
the island was inhabited only by wild, black savages, and
Captain Cook took possession of the whole eastern coast in
the name of King George, calling it New South Wales.
While America was a British colony, wicked people, instead
of being sent to prison for punishment, as they are now,
were sent to work on the cotton plantations or farms there.
After America was lost, convicts, as these wicked people are
called, could no longer be sent there, and British statesmen
began to look round for some other country to which they
could be sent.
 Then it was that Australia was thought of. It was decided to
form a convict colony there. It was hoped that free people
would go too, and that soon Australia would become as great
a colony as America had been.
So there sailed out from England a little fleet of ships,
carrying Captain Philip as the Governor of the new colony,
and nearly a thousand people, of whom more than seven
hundred were prisoners; the rest were officers and marines
to guard the prisoners. They took with them food and clothes
enough to last two years, also tools for building houses,
and ploughs and everything needed for farm work.
As the ships passed the Cape of Good Hope, they stopped
there to take in more food, and also animals with which to
stock the farms which the British hoped to make in
Australia. They took so many animals on board that the ships
looked more like Noah's arks than anything else.
When the ships reached Australia, Captain Philip landed, a
flagstaff was planted, and soon the Union Jack floated out
to the sound of British cheers. The health of the King was
drunk, and then Captain Philip made a speech to the
convicts. He told them that now, in this new country, they
had another chance to forget their wicked ways, and to
become again good British subjects. It was the first speech
which had ever been made in the English language in that far
land, and, when he had finished, the silence of the lonely
shore was again broken by the sound of British cheers. So
the town of Sydney was founded.
Governor Philip and his strange company of rough, bad men
soon set to work. Everything had to be done. Trees had to be
felled, and stones quarried and broken
 for the building of
houses, and the making of roads and harbours. There was so
much to do that little time was left for farm work, and the
settlers in this new colony nearly starved. It seemed as if
the people at home had forgotten them, for the food which
they had promised to send never came.
Day by day eager eyes looked out vainly over the blue sea,
straining for the sight of a white sail. But no ship came.
Prisoners and warders alike grew gaunt and pale. Nearly all
their food was gone. The Governor even gave up some sacks of
flour which were his own. "I do not wish," he said, "to have
anything which others cannot have. If any convict complains,
he may come and see that at Government House we are no
better off than he is."
Still no help came. Little work could be done by men who
were starving, and the weary days dragged slowly past for
the handful of white people who, utterly cut off from all
others, were ignorant of what was happening in the great
world, which lay beyond the blue waves.
But even in the darkest hour, they never forgot that they
were Britons. "Our distress did not make us forget that this
was the birthday of our beloved King," wrote one. "In the
morning flags were displayed, and at noon three volleys of
musketry were fired as an acknowledgment that we were
Britons, who, however distant and distressed, revered their
King, and loved their country."
At last, after three years, a sail was seen. Oh, what joy!
Help at last, and news at last from home! But alas! the new
ship brought little food, and many more convicts. It
brought, however, the assurance that the little colony was
not forgotten. Other ships
 had been sent with food, but they
had been wrecked on the way.
A fortnight later another ship arrived, then another and
another. The colony was saved for the time at least,
although famine threatened them again more than once. At one
time things were so bad that when any
one was asked to dine
at Government House, he was requested to bring his own bread
In a few years, free settlers began to come to Australia.
They were farmers, and soon corn was grown in such
quantities that the colony was freed from all fear of
famine. Later still, a gentleman brought wool-bearing sheep
to Australia, that is, sheep which have fine fleeces, and
now the rearing of sheep for their wool is one of the chief
industries of Australia.
As the free settlers increased in number, they objected to
having convicts sent among them, for, because of these wild,
bad men, the colony began to have an evil name. When gold
was discovered in Australia, many more people flocked there.
Then Queen Victoria and her government decided at last that
it was not a good thing to send convicts to the colonies,
and so in 1867 A.D. the last convict ship set out for
Australia. After that the British shut up those who did
wrong in strong prisons at home.
Australia has grown quickly into a great and wealthy
country. I cannot tell you the history of it here, but
although it is now called the Commonwealth of Australia, and
has a Parliament of its own, it is still part of the Empire
of Greater Britain.
Australia lies quite at the other side of the world from
Britain, and when it is day in the one it is
 night in the
other. And when Australians look up to the sky at night they
see the stars of the Southern Cross, instead of the Pole
Star and the Plough which the British see. Yet the people in
the two islands are friends and brothers, and ties of love
draw them together across the ocean waves.
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