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- The Eureka Stockade - 2/34 -
The search for licences, or "the traps are out to-day"--their name at the time--happened once a month. The strong population now on this gold-field had perhaps rendered it necessary twice a month. Only in October, I recollect they had come out three times. Yet, "the traps are out" was annoying, but not exasperating. Not exasperating, because John Bull, 'ab initio et ante secula', was born for law, order, and safe money-making on land and sea. They were annoying, because, said John, not that he likes his money more than his belly, but he hates the bayonet: I mean, of course, he does not want to be bullied with the bayonet. To this honest grumbling of John, the drunkard, that is the lazy, which make the incapables, joined their cant, and the Vandemonians pulled up with wonted audacity. In a word, the thirty shillings a month for the gold licence became a nuisance.
A public meeting was announced on Bakery-hill. It was in November, 1853. Four hundred diggers were present. I recollect I heard a "Doctor Carr" poking about among the heaps of empty bottles all round the Camp, and asked who paid for the good stuff that was in them, and whither was it gone. Of course, Doctor Carr did not mention, that one of those bottles, corked and sealed with the "Crown," was forced open with Mr. Hetherington's corkscrew; and that said Dr. Carr had then to confess that the bottle aforesaid contained a nobbler some 250 pounds worth for himself. Great works already at Toorak. 'Tout cela soit dit en passant.' Mr. Hetherington, then a storekeeper on the Ballaarat Flat, and now of the Cladendon Hotel, Ballaarat Township, is a living witness. For the fun of the thing, I spoke a few words which merited me a compliment from the practitioner, who also honoured me with a private precious piece of information--"'Nous allons bientot avoir la Republique Australienne! Signore.'" "'Quelle farce! repondis je.'" The specimen of man before me impressed me with such a decided opinion of his ability for destroying sugarsticks, that at once I gave him credit as the founder of a republic for babies to suck their thumbs.
In short, here dates the Victorian system of 'memorialising.' The diggers of Ballaarat sympathised with those of Bendigo in their common grievances, and prayed the governor that the gold licence be reduced to thirty shillings a month. There was further a great waste of yabber-yabber about the diggers not being represented in the Legislative Council, and a deal of fustian was spun against the squatters. I understood very little of those matters at the time: the shoe had not pinched my toe yet.
Every one returned to his work; some perhaps not very peacefully, on account of a nobbler or two over the usual allowance.
Risum Teneatis Amici.
I recollect towards this time I followed the mob to Magpie Gully. It was a digger's life. Hard work by day, blazing fire in the evening, and sound sleep by night at the music of drunken quarrels all around, far and near. I had marked my claim in accordance with the run of the ranges, and safe as the Bank of England I bottomed on gold. No search for licence ever took place. What's the matter? Oh, the diggers of Bendigo, by sheer moral force, in the shape of some ten thousand in a mob, had inspired with better sense the red-tape there and somewhere else, so I took out my licence at the reasonable rate of two pounds for three months, my contribution for the support of gold-lace. So far so good. I had no fault to find with our governor Joseph Latrobe, Esquire; nor do I believe that the diggers cared about anything else from him. Was it then his being an esquire that brought his administration into contempt? The fact is, a clap of "The Thunder" from Printing House-square boomed on the tympanum of my ear. We diggers got the gracious title of "vagabonds," and our massa "Joe," for his pains to keep friends with us, was put down "an incapable;" all for the honour of British rule, of course.
"Wanted a Governor," was now no longer a dummy in 'The Argus'; but, unhappily, no application was made to the people of Victoria.
Give a dog a bad name--and the old proverb holds good even at the antipodes. My trampings are now transcribed from my diary.
With the hot winds whirled in the Vandemonian rush to the Ballaarat Flat. My hole was next to the one which was jumped by the Eureka mob, and where one man was murdered in the row. At sixty-five feet we got on a blasted log of a gum-tree that had been mouldering there under a curse, since the times of Noah! The whole flat turned out an imperial shicer. (You do not sink deep enough, Signore Editor.) Slabs that had cost us some eight pounds a hundred would not fetch, afterwards, one pound. We left them to sweat freely in the hole; and all the mob got on the fuddle. My mate and myself thought we had been long enough together, and got asunder for a change. I was soon on the tramp again. Bryant's Ranges was the go of the day, and I started thither accordingly. December, 1853. Oh, Lord! what a pack of ragamuffins over that way! I got acquainted with the German party who found out the Tarrangower den; shaped my hole like a bathing tub, and dropped "on it" right smart. Paid two pounds to cart one load down the Loddon, and left two more loads of washing stuff, snug and wet with the sweat of my brow over the hole. Got twenty-eight pennyweights out of the load. Went back the third day, brisk and healthy, to cart down the other two loads. Washing stuff! gone: hole! gone: the gully itself! gone: the whole face of it had been clean shaved. Never mind, go ahead again. Got another claim on the surface-hill. No search for licence: thank God, had none. Nasty, sneaky, cheeky little things of flies got into my eyes: could see no more, no ways. Mud water one shilling a bucket! Got the dysentery; very bad. Thought, one night, to reef the yards and drop the anchor. Got on a better tack though. Promenaded up to the famous Bendigo. Had no particular objection to Celestials there, but had no particular taste for their tartaric water. Made up my mind to remember my days of innocence, and turned shepherd. Fine landscape this run on the Loddon: almost a match for Bella Italia, but there are too many mosquitoes. Dreamt, one day, I was drinking a tumbler of Loddon wine; and asserted that Providence was the same also in the south. It was a dream. The lands lay waste and desolate: not by nature; oh no; by hand of man. Bathing in these Loddon water-holes, superb. Tea out of this Loddon water magnificent. In spite of these horrible hot winds, this water is always fresh and delicious: how kind is Providence! One night lost the whole blessed lot of my flock. Myself, the shepherd, did not know, in the name of heavens, which way to turn. Got among the blacks, the whole Tarrang tribe in corrobory. Lord, what a rum sight for an old European traveller. Found natives very humane, though. My sheep right again, only the wild dogs had given them a good shake. Was satisfied that the Messiah the Jews are looking for will not be born in this bullock-drivers' land; any how, the angels won't announce the happy event of his birth to the shepherds. No more truck with sheep, and went to live with the blacks for a variation. Picked up, pretty soon, bits of their yabber-yabber. For a couple of years had tasted no fish; now I pounced on a couple of frogs, every couple of minutes. Thought their 'lubras' ugly enough; not so, however, the slender arms and small hands of their young girls, though the fingers be rather too long.
That will do now, in as much as the end of the story is this: That portion in my brains called "acquisitiveness" got the gold-fever again, and I started for old Ballaarat.
Sua Cuique Voluntas.
I was really delighted to see the old spot once more; Easter, 1854. I do not mean any offence to my fellow-diggers elsewhere; it struck me very forcibly, however, that our Ballaarat men look by far more decent, and our storekeepers, or grog-sellers if you like, undoubtedly more respectable.
Of a constitution not necessarily savage, I did not fail to observe that the fair ones had ventured now on a large scale to trust their virtue among us vagabonds, and on a hot-wind day, I patronized of course some refreshment room.
I met my old mate, and we determined to try the old game; but this time on the old principle of 'labor omnia vincit'--I pitched my tent right in the bush, and prophesied, that from my door I would see the golden hole in the gully below.
I spoke the truth, and such is the case this very day. Feast of the Assumption, 1855:--What sad events, however, were destined to pass exactly before the very door of my tent! Who could have told me on that Easter Sunday, that the unknown hill which I had chosen for my rest, would soon be called the Massacre Hill! That next Christmas, my mate would lie in the grave, somewhere forgotten: and I in the gaol! the rope round my neck!!
Let us keep in good spirits, good reader, we shall soon have to weep together enough.
Gravel Pits, famous for its strong muster of golden holes, and blasting shicers, was too deep for me. The old Eureka was itself again. The jewellers shops, which threatened to exhaust themselves in Canadian Gully, were again the talk of the day: and the Eureka gold dust was finer, purer, brighter, immensely darling. The unfaithful truants who had rushed to Bryant's Ranges, to knock their heads against blocks of granite, now hastened for the third time to the old spot, Ballaarat, determined to stick to it for life or death. English, German, and Scotch diggers, worked generally on the Gravel Pits, the Irish had their stronghold on the Eureka. The Americans fraternised with all the wide-awake, 'ubi caro ibi vultures.'
Here begins as a profession the precious game of 'shepherding,' or keeping claims in reserve; that is the digger turning squatter. And, as this happened under the reign of a gracious gold commissioner, so I am brought to speak of the gold licence again. First I will place the man before my reader, though.
Get a tolerable young pig, make it stand on his hind legs, put on its head a cap trimmed with gold-lace, whitewash its snout, and there you have the ass in the form of a pig; I mean to say a "man," with this privilege, that he possesses in his head the brains of both the above-mentioned brutes.
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