Part 2 out of 3
digging was quite forgotten.
About noon I contrived to have a damper and a large joint of baked
mutton ready for the "day labourers," as they styled themselves. The
mutton was baked in a large camp oven suspended from three iron bars,
which were fixed in the ground in the form of a triangle, about a yard
apart, and were joined together at the top, at which part the oven was
hung over a wood fire. This grand cooking machine was, of course,
outside the tent. Sometimes I have seen a joint of meat catch fire in
one of these ovens, and it is difficult to extinguish it before the fat
has burnt itself away, when the meat looks like a cinder.
Our butcher would not let us have less than half a sheep at a time, for
which we paid 8s. I was not good housekeeper enough to know how much it
weighed, but the meat was very good. Flour was then a shilling a pound,
or two hundred pounds weight for nine pounds in money. Sugar was 1s.
6d., and tea 3s. 6d. Fortunately we were Well provided with these three
The hungry diggers did ample justice to the dinner I had provided for
them. They brought home a tin-dish full of surface soil, which in
the course of the afternoon I attempted to wash.
Tin-dish-washing is difflcult to describe. It requires a watchful eye
and a skilful hand; it is the most mysterious department of the
gold-digging business. The tin dish (which, of course, is round) is
generally about eighteen inches across the top, and twelve across the
bottom, with sloping sides of three or four inches deep. The one I used
was rather smaller. Into it I placed about half the "dirt"--digger's
technical term for earth, or soil--that they had brought, filled the
dish up with water, and then with a thick stick commenced making it
into a batter; this was a most necessary commencement, as the soil was
of a very stiff clay. I then let this batter--I know no name more
appropriate for it--settle, and carefully poured off the water at the
top. I now added some clean water, and repeated the operation of mixing
it up; and after doing this several times, the "dirt," of course,
gradually diminishing, I was overjoyed to see a few bright specks, which
I carefully picked out, and with renewed energy continued this by no
means elegant work. Before the party returned to tea I had washed out all
the stuff, and procured from it nearly two pennyweights of gold-dust,
worth about 6s. or 7s.
Tin-dish-washing is generally done beside a stream, and it is
astonishing how large a quantity of "dirt" those who have the knack of
doing it well and quickly can knock off in the course of the day. To do
this, however, requires great manual dexterity, and much gold is lost
by careless washing. A man once extracted ten pounds weight of the
precious metal from a heap of soil which his mate had washed too
In the evening Joe made his re-appearance, carrying another sack on his
shoulders, which contained a number of empty bottles, and now for the
first time we became initiated into the BRAN mystery which had often
puzzled us on the road--it seemed so strange a thing to carry up to the
diggings. Joe laughed at our innocence, and denied having told us
anything approaching a falsehood; a slight suppression of the truth was
all he would plead guilty to. I verily believe William had put him up
to this dodge, to make us smile when we should have felt annoyed. Being
taxed with deceit, said he: "I told you two-thirds truth; there
wanted but two more letters to make it BRANDY," and with the greatest
SANG-FROID he drew out a small keg of brandy from the first sack and
half-filled the bottles with the spirit, after which he filled them all
up to the neck with water. The bottles were then corked, and any or all
of them politely offered to us at the rate of 30s a piece. We declined
purchasing, but he sold them all during the evening, for which we were
rather glad, as, had they been discovered by the officials in our tent,
a fine of 50 pounds would have been the consequence of our foolish
comrades good-nature and joke-loving propensities.
We afterwards found that Master Joe had played the same trick with our
shipmates and with the two doctors, who had bought a tent and settled
themselves near our old place by Montgomery's store.
SATURDAY, 25.--The two holes were "bottomed" before noon with no paying
result. It had been hard work, and they were rather low-spirited about
it. The rest of the day they spent in washing some surface-soil, and
altogether collected about I ounce and a half of gold-dust,
counting the little I had washed out on the Friday. In the evening it
was all dried by being placed in a spade over a quick fire. We had
before determined to square accounts and divide the gold every Saturday
night, but this small quantity was not worth the trouble, so it was
laid by in the digger's usual treasury, a German match-box. These round
boxes hold on an average eight ounces of gold.
These two unproductive holes had not been very deep. The top, or
surface soil, for which a spade or shovel is used, was of clay. This
was succeeded by a strata almost as hard as iron--technically called
"burnt stuff,"--which robbed the pick of its points nearly as soon as the
blacksmith had steeled them at a charge of 2s. 6d. a point. Luckily for
their arms, this strata was but thin, and the yellow or blue clay which
followed was comparatively easy work--here and there an awkward lump of
quartz required the use of the. pick. Suddenly they came to some
glittering particles of yellow, which, with heartfelt delight they
hailed as gold. It WAS MICA. Many are at first deceived by it, but it
is soon distinguished by its weight, as the mica will blow away with
the slightest puff. After a little useless digging among the
clay, they reached the solid rock, and thus having fairly "bottomed,"
the holes to no purpose, they abandoned them.
SUNDAY, 26.--Although impossible at the diggings to keep this day with
those outward observances which are customary in civilized life, we
attempted to make as much difference as possible between the day of
rest and that of work. Frank performed the office of chaplain, and read
the morning service in the calm and serious manner which we expected
I was rather amused to see the alacrity with which, when this slight
service was over, they all prepared to assist me in the formation of a
huge plum-pudding for the Sunday's dinner. Stoning plums and chopping
suet seemed to afford them immense pleasure--I suppose it was a
novelty; and, contrary to the fact implied in the old adage, "too many
cooks spoil the broth" our pudding turned out A1.
In the afternoon we strolled about, and paid a visit to our shipmates.
I was certainly most agreeably surprised by the quiet and order that
MONDAY, 27.--Today our party commenced "sinking" in a new spot at some
little distance. The first layer of black soil was removed, and on some
being washed in a tin dish, it was found to contain a tolerable portion
of gold, and was pronounced to be worth transporting to the tent to be
regularly cradled. My first official notice of this fact was from
Richard, who entered the tent humming "Suona la tromba," with a bucket
full of this heavy soil in each hand. He broke off in the middle of his
song to ask for some water to drink, and grumbled most energetically at
such dirty work. He then gave me an account of the morning's doings.
After a thin layer of the black surface soil, it appeared they had come
to a strata of thick yellow clay, in which gold was often very
abundant. This soil, from being so stiff, would require "puddling," a
work of which he did not seem to relish the anticipation. Before the
day was over, a great number of buckets full of both soils were brought
up and deposited in heaps near the tents. All, with the exception of
the "operatic" Richard, seemed in good spirits, and were well satisfied
with what had been done in so short a time.
In the evening the other party of our shipmates arrived, and were busy
fixing their tent at a distance of about forty yards from us. Frank and
the other four, though pretty tired with the days labour, lent a
helping hand, the united efforts of nine speedily accomplished this
business, after which an immense quantity of cold mutton, damper, and
tea made a rapid disappearance, almost emptying my larder, which, by
the bye, was an old tea-chest.
We asked our friends their motive for leaving the old spot, and they
declared they could stand the "amiable female" no longer; she grew
worse and worse. "Her tongue was sich" observed the Scotchman, "as wad
drive ony puir beastie wild." She had regularly quarrelled with the two
doctors because they would not give her a written certificate, that the
state of her health required the constant use of spirits. She offered them
two guineas for it, which they indignantly refused, and she then declared
her intention of injuring their pracitce as much as possible, which she
had power to do, as her tent was of an evening quite the centre of
attraction and her influence proportionably great. Pity 'tis that such a
woman should be able to mar or make the fortunes of her fellow
TUESDAY, 28.--The holes commenced yeserday were duly "bottomed," but no
nice pocket-full of gold was the result; our shipmates, however, met
with better success, having found three small nuggets weighing two to
four ounces each at a depth of not quite five feet from the surface.
WEDNESDAY, 29.--To-day was spent in puddling and cradling.
Puddling is on the same principle as tin-dish-washing, only on a much
larger scale. Great wooden tubs are filled with the dirt and fresh
water, and the former is chopped about in all directions with a spade,
so as to set the metal free from the adhesive soil and pipe-clay.
Sometimes I have seen energetic diggers tuck up their trowsers, off
with their boots, step into the tub, and crush it about with their feet
in the same manner as tradition affirms that the London bakers knead
their bread. Every now and again the dirtied water is poured off
gently, and with a fresh supply, which is furnished by a mate with a
long-handled dipper from the stream or pool, you puddle away. The
great thing is, not to be afraid Of over-work, for the better
the puddling is, so much the more easy and profitable is the cradling.
After having been well beaten in the tubs, the "dirt" is put into the
hopper of the cradle, which is then rocked gently, whilst another party
keeps up a constant supply of fresh water. In the right hand of the
cradler is held a thick stick, ready to break up any clods which may be
in the hopper, but which a good puddler would not have sent there.
There was plenty of water near us, for a heavy rain during the night
had filled several vacated holes, and as there were five pair of hands,
we hoped, before evening, greatly to diminish our mud-heaps.
Now for an account of our proceedings.
Two large wooden tubs were firmly secured in the ground and four set to
work puddling, whilst Frank busied himself in fixing the cradle. He
drove two blocks into the ground; they were grooved for the rockers of
the cradle to rest in, so as to let it rock with ease and regularity.
The ground was lowered so as to give the cradle a slight slant, and
thus enable the water to run off more quickly. If a cradle dips
too much, a little gold may wash off with the light sand. The cradling
machine, though simple in itself, is rather difficult to describe. In
shape and size it resembles an infant's cradle, and over that portion
of it where, if for a baby, a hood would be, is a perforated plate with
wooden sides, a few inches high all round, forming a sort of box with
the perforated plate for a bottom; this box is called the hopper. The
dirt is here placed, and the constant supply of water, after well
washing the stuff, runs out through a hole made at the foot of the
cradle. The gold generally rests on a wooden shelf under the hopper,
though sometimes a good deal will run down with the water and dirt into
one of the compartments at the bottom, and to separate it from the sand
or mud, tin-dish-washing is employed.
As soon as sufficient earth was ready, one began to rock, and another
to fill the hopper with water. Richard continued puddling, William,
enacted Aquarius for him, whilst a fifth was fully occupied in
conveying fresh dirt to the tubs, and taking the puddled stuff from
them to the hopper of the cradle. Every now and then a, change of hands
was made, and thus passed the day. In the evening, the products
were found to be one small nugget weighing a quarter of an ounce, and
in gold-dust eight pennyweights, ten grains, being worth, at the
digging price for gold, about thirty-five shillings. This was rather
less than we hard less calculated upon, and Richard signified his
intention of returning to Melbourne, "He could no longer put up with
such ungentlemanly work in so very unintellectual a neighbourhood, with
bad living into the bargain." These last words, which were pronounced
SOTTO VOCE, gave us a slight clue to the real cause of his dislike to
the diggings, though we, did not thoroughly understand it till next
morning. It originated in some bottles of mixed pickles which he had in
vain wanted Frank, who this week was caterer for the party, to purchase
at four shillings a bottle, which sum, as we were all on economical
thoughts intent, Frank refused to expend on any unnecessary article of
food. This we learnt next morning at breakfast, when Richard
congratulated himself on that being the last meal he should make of
tea, damper and muton, without the latter having something to render it
eatable. The puddling and cradling work had, I fancy, given the
finishing stroke to his disgust. Poor Dick! he met with little
commiseration: we could not but remember the thousands in the old
country who would have rejoiced at the simple fare he so much despised.
William, in his laughing way, observed, "that he was too great a pickle
himself, without buying fresh ones."
Richard left us on Thursday morning, and with him went one of the other
party, the house-painter and decorator, who also found gold-digging not
so Pleasant as he had expected. We afterwards learnt that before
reaching Kilmore they separated. Richard arrived safely in Melbourne,
and entered a goldbroker's office at a salary of three pounds a week,
which situation I believe he now fills; and as "the governor," to use
Richard's own expression, "has not yet come to his senses," he must
greatly regret having allowed his temper to be the cause of his leaving
the comforts of home. His companion, who parted with Richard at
Kilmore, was robbed of what little gold he had, and otherwise
maltreated, whilst passing through the Black Forest. On reaching
Melbourne, he sold everything he possessed, and that not being
sufficient, he borrowed enough to pay his passage back to
England, where, doubtless, he will swell the number of those whose lack
of success in the colonies, and vituperations against them, are only
equalled by their unfitness ever to have gone there.
Thursday was past in puddling and cradling, with rather better results
than on the first day, still it was not to our satisfaction, and on
Friday two pits were sunk. one was shallow, and the bottom reached
without a speck of gold making its appearance. The other was left over
till the next morning. This was altogether very disheartening work,
particularly as the expenses of living were not small. There were many,
however, much worse off than ourselves, though here and there a lucky
digger excited the envy of all around him. Many were the tricks
resorted to in order to deceive new-comers. Holes were offered for
sale, in which the few grains that were carefully placed in sight was
all that the buyer gained by his purchase.
A scene of this description was enacted this Friday evening, at a
little distance from us. The principal actors in it were two in number.
One sat a little way from his hole with a heap of soil by his
side, and a large tin dish nearly full of dirt in his hand. As he
swayed the dish to and fro in the process of washing, an immense
number of small nuggets displayed themselves, which fact in a loud tone
he announced to his "mate", at the same time swearing at him for
keeping at work so late in the evening. This digger, who was shovelling
up more dirt from the hole, answered in the same elegant language,
calling him an "idle good-for-nought." Every now and then he threw a
small nugget to the tin-dish-washer, loudly declaring, "he'd not leave
off while them bright bits were growing thick as taters underground."
"Then be d----d if I don't!" shouted the other;" and I'll sell the hole
for two hundred yeller boys down."
This created a great sensation among the bystanders, who during the
time had collected round, and among whom was a party of three,
evidently "new chums."
"It shall go for a hundred and fifty!" again shouted the washer, giving
a glance in the direction in which they stood.
"Going for a hundred, tin-dish as well!" letting some of the
water run off, and displaying the gold.
This decided the matter, and one of the three stepped forward and
offered the required sum.
"Money down," said the seller; "these here fellers 'll witness it's all
The money was paid in notes, and the purchasers were about to commence
possession by taking the tin-dish out of his hand.
"Wait till he's emptied. I promised yer the dish, but not the stuff in
it," and turning out the dirt into a small tub the two worthies
departed, carrying the tub away with them.
Not a grain of gold did the buyers find in the pit next morning.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2.--This day found the four hard at work at an early
hour, and words will not describe our delight when they hit upon a
"pocket" full of the precious metal. The "pocket was situated in a dark
corner of the hole, and William was the one whose fossicking-knife
first brought its hidden beauties to light. Nugget after nugget did
that dirty soil give up; by evening they had taken out five
pounds weight of gold. Foolish Richard! we all regretted his absence at
As the next day was the Sabbath, thirty-six hours of suspense must
elapse before we could know whether this was but a passing kindness
from the fickle goddess, or the herald of continued good fortune.
This night, for the first time, we were really in dread of an attack,
though we had kept our success quite secret, not even mentioning it to
our shipmates; nor did we intend to do so until Monday morning, when
our first business would be to mark out three more claims round the
lucky spot, and send our gold down to the escort-office for security.
For the present we were obliged to content ourselves with "planting"
it--that is, burying it in the ground; and not a footstep passed in our
neighbourhood without our imagining ourselves robbed of the precious
treasure, and as it was Saturday night--the noisiest and most riotous at
the diggings--our panics were neither few nor far between. So true it is
that riches entail trouble and anxiety on their possessor.
SUNDAY 3.--A fine morning. After our usual service Frank, my brother,
and myself, determined on an exploring expedition, and off we went,
leaving the dinner in the charge of the others. We left the busy throng
of the diggers far behind us, and wandered into spots where the sound
of the pick and shovel, or the noise of human traffic, had never
penetrated. The scene and the day were in unison; all was harmonious,
majestic, and serene. Those mighty forests, hushed in a sombre and
awful silence; those ranges of undulating hill and dale never yet
trodden by the foot of man; the soft still air, so still that
it left every leaf unruffled, flung an intensity of awe over our
feelings, and led us from the contemplation of nature to worship
We sat in silence for some while deeply impressed by all around us,
and, whilst still sitting and gazing there, a change almost
imperceptibly came over the face of both earth and sky. The forest
swayed to and fro, a sighing moaning sound was borne upon the wind, and
a noise as of the rush of waters, dark massive clouds rolled over the
sky till the bright blue heavens were completely hidden, and then, ere
we had recovered from our first alarm and bewilderment, the storm in
its unmitigated fury burst upon us. The rain fell in torrents, and we
knew not where to turn.
Taking me between them, they succeeded in reaching an immense shea-oak,
under which we hoped to find some shelter till the violence of the rain
had diminished; nor where we disappointed, though it was long before we
could venture to leave our place of refuge. At length however, we did
so, and endeavoured to find our way back to Eagle Hawk Gully. Hopeless
task! The ground was so slippery, it was as much as we could do
to walk without falling; the mud and dirt clung to our boots, and a
heavy rain beat against our faces and nearly blinded us.
"It is clearing up to windward," observed Frank; "another half-hour and
the rain will be all but over; let us return to our tree again."
We did so. Frank was correct; in less than the time he had specified a
slight drizzling rain was all of the storm that remained.
With much less difficulty we again attempted to return home, but before
very long we made the startling discovery that we had completely lost
our way, and to add to our misfortune the small pocket-compass, which
Frank had brought with him, and which would have now so greatly
assisted us, was missing, most probably dropped from his pocket during
the skirmish to get under shelter. We still wandered along till stopped
by the shades of evening, which came upon us--there is little or no
twilight in Australia.
We seated ourselves upon the trunk of a fallen tree, wet, hungry, and,
worst of all, ignorant of where we were. Shivering with cold,
and our wet garments hanging most uncomfortably around us, we
endeavoured to console one another by reflecting that the next morning
we could not fail to reach our tents. The rain had entirely ceased, and
providentially for us the night was pitch dark--I say providentially,
because after having remained for two hours in this wretched plight a
small light in the distance became suddenly visible to us all, so
distant, that but for the intensity of the darkness it might have
passed unnoticed. "Thank God!" simultaneously burst from our lips.
"Let us hasten there," cried Frank, "a whole night like this may be
your sister's death and would ruin the constitution of a giant."
To this we gladly acceded, and were greatly encouraged by perceiving
that the light remained stationary. But it was a perilous undertaking.
Luckily my brother had managed to get hold of a long stick with which
he sounded the way, for either large stones or water-holes would have
been awkward customers in the dark; wonderful to relate we escaped
both, and when within hailing distance of the light, which we perceived
came from a torch hold by some one, we shouted with all our
remaining strength, but without diminishing our exertions to reach it.
Soon--with feelings that only those who have encountered similar dangers
can understand--answering voices fell upon our ears. Eagerly we pressed
forward, and in the excitement of the moment we relinquished all hold
of one another, and attempted to wade through the mud singly.
"Stop! halt!" shouted more than one stentorian voice; but the warning
came too late. My feet slipped--a sharp pain succeeded by a sudden
chill--a feeling of suffocation--of my head being ready to burst--and I
remembered no more.
When I recovered consciousness it was late in the morning, for the
bright sun shone upon the ground through the crevices of a sail cloth
tent, and so different was all that met my eyes to the dismal scene
through which I had so lately passed, and which yet haunted my memory,
that I felt that sweet feeling of relief which we experience when,
waking from some horrid vision, we become convinced how unsubstantial
are its terrors, and are ready to smile at the pain they excited.
That I was in a strange place became quickly evident, and among the
distant hum of voices which ever and anon broke the silence not one
familiar tone could I recognize. I endeavoured to raise myself so as to
hear more distinctly, and then it was that an acute pain in the ankle
of the right foot, gave me pretty strong evidence as to the reality of
the last night's adventures. I was forced to lie down again, but not
before I had espied a hand-bell which lay within reach on a small
barrel near my bed. Determined as far as possible to fathom the
mystery, I rang a loud peal with it, not doubting but what it would
bring my brother to me. My surprise and delight may be easier imagined
than described, when, as though in obedience to my summons, I saw a
small white hand push aside the canvas at one corner of the tent, and
one of my own sex entered.
She was young and fair; her step was soft and her voice most musically
gentle. Her eyes were a deep blue, and a rich brown was the colour of
her hair, which she wore in very short curls all round her head and
parted on one side, which almost gave her the appearance of a pretty
These little particulars I noticed afterwards; at that time I only felt
that her gentle voice and kind friendliness of manner inexpressibly
After having bathed my ankle, which I found to be badly sprained and
cut, she related, as far as she was acquainted with them, the events
the previous evening. I learnt that these tents belonged to a party
from England, of one of whom she was the wife, and the tent in which I
lay was her apartment. They had not been long at the diggings, and
preferred the spot where they were to the more frequented parts.
The storm of yesterday had passed over them without doing much damage,
and as their tents were well painted over the tops, they managed to
keep themselves tolerably dry; but later in the evening, owing to the
softness of the ground, one of the side-posts partly gave way, which
aroused them all, and torches were lit, and every one busied in trying
to prop it up till morning. Whilst thus engaged they heard our voices
calling for help. They answered, at the same time getting ready some
more torches before, advancing to meet us, as there were
several pit-holes between us and them. Their call for us to remain
stationary came too late to save me from slipping into one of their
pits, thereby spraining my ankle and otherwise hurting myself, besides
being buried to my forehead in mud and water. The pit was not quite
five feet deep, but, unfortunately for myself in this instance, I
belong to the pocket edition of the feminine sex. They soon extricated
me from this perilous situation, and carried me to their tents, where,
by the assistance of my new friend, I was divested of the mud that
still clung to me, and placed into bed.
Before morning the storm, which we all thought had passed over, burst
forth with redoubled fury; the flashes of lightning were succeeded by
loud peals of thunder, and the rain came splashing down. Their tents
were situated on a slight rise, or they would have run great risk of
being washed away; every hole was filled with water, and the shea-oak,
of whose friendly shelter we had availed ourselves the evening before,
was struck by lightning, shivered into a thousand pieces. After a while
the storm abated, and the warm sun and a drying wind were quickly
removing all traces of it.
Frank and my brother, after an early breakfast, had set out for Eagle
Hawk Gully under the guidance of my fair friend's husband, who knew the
road thither very well; it was only three miles distant. He was to
bring back with him a change of clothing for me, as his wife had
persuaded my brother to leave me in her charge until I had quite
recovered from the effects of the accident, "which he more readily
promised," she observed, "as we are not quite strangers, having met
This awakened my curiosity, and I would not rest satisfied till fully
acquainted with the how, when, and where. Subsequently she related to
me some portion of the history of her life, which it will be no breach
of confidence to repeat here.
Short as it is, however, it is deserving of another chapter.
Harriette Walters had been a wife but twelve months, when the sudden
failure of the house in which her husband was a junior partner involved
them in irretrievable ruin, and threw them almost penniless upon the
world. At this time the commercial advantages of Australia, the opening
it afforded for all classes of men, and above all, its immense mineral
wealth, were the subject of universal attention. Mr. Walters' friends
advised him to emigrate, and the small sum saved from the wreck of
their fortune served to defray the expenses of the journey. Harriette,
sorely against her wishes, remained behind with an old maiden
aunt, until her husband could obtain a home for her in the colonies.
The day of parting arrived; the ship which bore him away disappeared
from her sight, and almost heart-broken she returned to the humble
residence of her sole remaining relative.
Ere she had recovered from the shock occasioned by her husband's
departure, her aged relation died from a sudden attack of illness, and
Harriette was left alone to struggle with her poverty and her grief.
The whole of her aunt's income had been derived from an annuity, which
of course died with her; and her personal property, when sold, realized
not much more than sufficient to pay a few debts and the funeral
expenses; so that when these last sad duties were performed, Harriette
found herself with a few pounds in her pocket, homeless, friendless,
Her thoughts turned to the distant land, her husband's home, and every
hope was centred in the one intense desire to join him there. The means
were wanting, she had none from whom she could solicit assistance, but
her determination did not fail. She advertized for a situation
as companion to an invalid, or nurse to young children, during the
voyage to Port Philip, provided her passage-money was paid by her
employer. This she soon obtained. The ship was a fast sailer, the winds
were favourable, and by a strange chance she arrived in Melbourne three
weeks before her husband. This time was a great trial to her. Alone and
unprotected in that strange, rough city, without money, without
friends, she felt truly wretched. It was not a place for a female to be
without a protector, and she knew it, yet protector she had none; even
the family with whom she had come out, had gone many miles up the
country. She possessed little money, lodgings and food were at an awful
price, and employment for a female, except of a rough sort, was not
In this dilemma she took the singular notion into her head of
disguising her sex, and thereby avoiding much of the insult and
annoyance to which an unprotected female would have been liable. Being
of a slight figure, and taking the usual colonial costume--loose
trowsers, a full, blue serge shirt, fastened round the waist by
a leather belt, and a wide-awake--Harriette passed very well for what
she assumed to be--a young lad just arrived from England. She
immediately obtained a light situation near the wharf, where for about
three weeks she worked hard enough at a salary of a pound a week,
board, and permission to sleep in an old tumbledown shed beside the
At last the long looked-for vessel arrived. That must have been a
moment of intense happiness which restored her to her husband's
arms--for him not unmingled with surprise; he could not at first
recognize her in her new garb. She would hear of no further separation,
and when she learnt he had joined a party for the Bendigo diggings, she
positively refused to remain in Melbourne, and she retained her boyish
dress until their arrival at Bendigo. The party her husband belonged to
had two tents, one of which they readily gave up to the married couple,
as they were only too glad to have the company and in-door assistance
of a sensible, active woman during their spell at the diggings. For the
sake of economy, during the time that elapsed before they could
commence their journey up, all of them lived in the tents which
they pitched on a small rise on the south side of the Yarra. Here it
was that our acquaintance first took place; doubtless, my readers will,
long ere this, have recognized in the hospitable gentleman I
encountered there, my friend's husband, and, in the delicate-looking
youth who had so attracted my attention, the fair Harriette herself.
* * * * *
But--REVENONS A NOS MOUTONS.
On the third day of my visit I was pronounced convalescent, and that
evening my brother and William came to conduct me back to Eagle Hawk
Gully. It was with no little regret that I bade farewell to my new
friend, and I must confess that the pleasure of her society had for the
time made me quite careless as to the quantity of gold our party might
be taking up during my absence. Whilst walking towards our tents, I
heard the full particulars of their work, which I subjoin, so as to
resume the thread of my DIGGING narrative in a proper manner.
MONDAY.--Much upset by their anxiety occasioned by the non-appearance
the previous evening of Frank, my brother, and myself. The two
former did not reach home till nearly noon, the roads were so heavy.
After dinner all set to work in better spirits; came to the end of the
gold--took out nearly four Pounds weight.
TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY.--Digging various holes in the vicinity of the
lucky spot, but without success. The other party did the same with no
Such were the tidings that I heard after my three days' absence.
THURSDAY.--To-day was spent in prospecting--that is, searching for a
spot whose geological formation gives some promise of the precious
metal. In the evening, William and Octavius returned with the news that
they had found a place at some, distance from the gully, which they
thought would prove "paying," as they had washed some of the surface
soil, which yielded well. It was arranged that the party be divided
into two, and take alternate days to dig there.
FRIDAY.--In pursuance of the foregoing plan William and Octavius set
off, carrying a good quantity of dinner and their tools along with
them. They worked hard enough during the day, but only brought
back three pennyweights of gold-dust with them. My brother and Frank
gained a deal more by surface washing at home.
SATURDAY.--Changed hands. Frank and my brother to the new spot, digging.
Octavius and William surface washing. There results were much the same
as the day before.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10--We took advantage of the fine weather to pay a visit
to Harriette and her party. We found them in excellent spirits, for at
last they had hit upon a rich vein, which had for three days been
yielding an average of four pounds weight a day, and was not yet
exhausted. I say AT LAST, for I have not before mentioned that they had
never obtained more than an ounce of gold altogether, up to the day I
left them. We were sincerely pleased with their good fortune. Harriette
hoped that soon they might be able to leave this wild sort of life, and
purchase a small farm, and once again have a home of their own. This
could not be done near Melbourne, so they meant to go to South
Australia, where any quantity of land may be bought. In THIS colony no
smaller quantity than a square mile--640 acres--is sold by the
Government in one lot; consequently, those whose capital is unequal to
purchase this, go to some other colony, and there invest the wealth
they have acquired in Victoria.
As we had some idea of leaving Eagle Hawk Gully, I bade Harriette
farewell. We never expected to meet again. It chanced otherwise; but I
must not anticipate.
Monday and Tuesday were most unprofitably passed in digging holes; and
on Tuesday night we determined to leave the Eagle Hawk, and try our
fortune in some of the neighbouring gullies.
Wednesday was a bustling day. We sold our tent, tools, cradle, &c., as
we knew plenty were always to be bought of those who, like ourselves,
were changing their place. Had we known what we were about, we should
never have burdened ourselves by bringing so many goods and chattels a
hundred and twenty miles or more up the country; but "experience
teaches." Having parted with all encumbrances, myself excepted, we
started for the Iron Bark Gully. All the gold had been transmitted by
the escort to Melbourne, and one fine nugget, weighing nearly five
ounces, had been sent to Richard. We could not resist the
pleasure of presenting him with it, although by our rules not entitled
to any of the proceeds.
The following are the rules by which our affairs were regulated. They
were drawn up before leaving Melbourne, and signed by all. Though crude
and imperfect, they were sufficient to preserve complete harmony and
good fellowship between five young men of different character, taste,
and education--a harmony and good fellowship which even Richard's
withdrawal did not interrupt.
The rules were these:
1. No one party to be ruler; but every week by turn, one to buy, sell,
take charge of gold, and transact all business matters.
2. The gold to be divided, and accounts settled every Saturday night.
3. Any one voluntarily leaving the party, to have one-third of his
original share in the expense of purchasing tent and tools returned to
him, but to have no further claim upon them or upon the gold that may
be found after his withdrawal. Any one dismissed the party for
misconduct, to forfeit all claim upon the joint property.
4. The party agree to stand by one another in all danger, difficulty,
5. Swearing, gambling, and drinking spirits to be strictly avoided.
6. Morning service to be read every Sunday morning.
7. All disputes or appeals from the foregoing rules to be settled by a
I have said little in description of the Eagle Hawk, for all gullies or
valleys at the diggings bear a strong external resemblance one to
another. This one differed from others only in being much longer and
wider; the sides, as is usually the case in the richest gullies, were
not precipitous, but very gradual; a few mountains closed the
background. The digging was in many places very shallow, and the soil
was sometimes of a clayey description, sometimes very gravelly with
slate bottom, sometimes gravelly with pipeclay bottom, sometimes quite
sandy; in fact, the earth was of all sorts and depths.
At one time there were eight thousand diggers together in Eagle Hawk
Gully. This was some months before we visited it. During the period of
our stay at Bendigo there were not more than a thousand, and fewer
still in the Iron Bark. The reasons for this apparent desertion were
The weather continued wet and uncertain, so that many who had gone down
to Melbourne remained there, not yet considering the ground
sufficiently recovered from the effects of the prolonged wet season,
they had no desire to run the risk of being buried alive in their
holes. Many had gone to the Adelaide diggings, of which further
particulars hereafter, and many more had gone across the country to the
Ovens, or, farther still, to the Sydney diggings themselves. According
to digging parlance, "the Turon was looking up," and Bendigo, Mount
Alexander, and Forest Creek were thinned accordingly. But perhaps the
real cause of their desertion arose from the altered state of the
diggings. Some time since one party netted 900 pounds in three weeks;
100 pounds a week was thought nothing wonderful. Four men found one day
seventy-five pounds weight; another party took from the foot of a tree
gold to the value of 2000 pounds. A friend of mine once met a man whom he
knew returning to Melbourne, walking in dusty rags and dirt behind a dray,
yet carrying with him 1,500 pounds worth of gold. In Peg Leg Gully, fifty
and even eighty pounds weight had been taken from holes only three or four
feet deep. At Forest Creek a hole produced sixty pounds weight in one
day, and forty more the day after. From one of the golden gullies a
party took up the incredible quantity of one hundred and ninety-eight
pounds weight in six weeks. These are but two or three instances out of
the many that occurred to prove the richness of this truly auriferous
spot. The consequence may be easily imagined; thousands flocked to
Bendigo. The "lucky bits" were still as numerous, but being
disseminated among a greater number of diggers, it followed that there
were many more blanks than prizes, and the disappointed multitude were
ready to be off to the first new discovery. Small gains were beneath
their notice. I have often heard the miners say that they would rather
spend their last farthing digging fifty holes, even if they found
nothing in them, than "tamely" earn an ounce a day by washing
the surface soil; on the same principle, I suppose, that a gambler
would throw up a small but certain income to be earned by his own
industry, for the uncertain profits of the cue or dice.
For ourselves, we had nothing to complain about. During the short space
of time that we had been at Eagle Hawk Gully, we had done as well as
one in fifty, and might therefore be classed among the lucky diggers;
but "the more people have, the more they want;" and although the many
pounds weight of the precious metal that our party had "taken up" gave,
when divided, a good round sum a-piece, the avaricious creatures bore
the want of success that followed more unphilosophically than they had
done before the rich "pocketful" of gold had made its appearance. They
would dig none but shallow holes, and a sort of gambling manner of
setting to work replaced the active perseverance they had at first
Some days before we left, Eagle Hawk Gully had been condemned as a
"worthless place," and a change decided on. The when and the
where were fixed much in the following manner:
"I say, mates," observed William on the evening of the Sunday on which
I had paid my last visit to Harriette, "I say, mates, nice pickings a
man got last week in the Iron Bark--only twenty pounds weight out of one
hole; that's all."
"Think it's true?" said Octavius, quietly.
"Of course; likely enough. I propose we pack up our traps, and honour
this said gully with our presence forthwith."
"Let's inquire first," put in Frank; "it's foolish to change good
quarters on such slight grounds."
"Good quarters! slight grounds!" cried William; "what next? what would
you have? Good quarters! yes, as far as diggings concerned--whether you
find anything for your digging is another matter. Slight grounds,
indeed! twenty pounds weight in one day! Yes, we ought to inquire;
you're right there, old boy, and the proper place to commence our
inquiries is at the gully itself. Let's be off tomorrow."
"Wait two days longer," said Octavius "and I am agreeable."
And this, after a little chaffing between the impatient William and his
more business-like comrades, was satisfactorily arranged.
Behold us then, on Wednesday the 13th, after having sold all our goods
that were saleable, making our way to the Iron Bark Gully. William
enacted the part of auctioneer, which he did in a manner most
satisfactory to himself, and amusing to his audience; but the things
sold very badly, so many were doing the same. The tents fetched only a
few shillings each, and the tools, cradles, &c., EN MASSE, were knocked
down for half a sovereign.
The morning was rather cloudy, which made our pedestrian mode of
travelling not so fatiguing as it might have been, had the sun in true
colonial strength been shining upon us. This was very fortunately not
the case, for we more than once mistook our way, and made a long walk
out of a short one--quite a work of supererogation--for the roads were
heavy and tiring enough without adding an extra quantity of them.
We passed in the close neighbourhood of Sailor's, Californian,
American, Long, and Piccaninny Gullies before reaching our destination.
Most of these gullies are considered ransacked, but a very fair amount
of gold-dust may be obtained in either by the new comer by tin-dish
fossicking in deserted holes. These deserted gullies, as they are
called, contained in each no trifling population, and looked full
enough for comfortable working. What must they have resembled the
summer previous, when some hundreds of people leaving a flat or gully
was but as a handful of sand from the sea-shore!
Before evening we arrived at the Iron Bark. This gully takes its name
from the splendid trees with which it abounds; and their immense
height, their fluted trunks and massive branches gave them a most
majestic appearance. We paused beneath one in a more secluded part, and
there determined to fix our quarters for the night. The heavy "swags"
were flung upon the ground, and the construction of something
resembling a tent gave them plenty to do; the tomahawks, which they
carried in their belts, were put into immediate requisition, and some
branches of the trees were soon formed into rough tent-poles. The tent,
however, though perhaps as good as could be expected, was
nothing very wonderful after all, being made only of some of the
blankets which our party had brought in their swags. Beneath it I
reposed very comfortably; and, thanks to my fatiguing walk, slept as
soundly as I could possibly have done beneath the roof of a palace. The
four gentlemen wrapped themselves in their blankets, and laid down to
rest upon the ground beside the fire; their only shelter was the
foliage of the friendly tree which spread its branches high above our
Next morning William was for settling ourselves in the gully. He wanted
tents, tools, &c., purchased, but by dint of much talking and
reasoning, we persuaded him first to look well about, and judge from
the success of others whether we were likely to do any good by stopping
there. We soon heard the history of the "twenty-pound weight" story. As
Frank and Octavius had at once surmised, it originated in a party who
were desirous to sell their claims and baggage before starting for
Melbourne. I believe they succeeded--there are always plenty of "new
chums" to be caught and taken in--and the report had caused a slight
rush of diggers, old and new, to the gully. Many of these
diggers had again departed, others stayed to give the place a trial; we
were not among the latter. The statements of those who were still
working were anything but satisfactory, and we were all inclined to
push on to Forest Creek.
Meanwhile, it is Thursday afternoon. All but Frank appear disposed for
a siesta; he alone seems determined on a walk. I offer myself and am
accepted as a companion, and off we go together to explore this new
We proceeded up the gully. Deserted holes there were in numbers, many a
great depth, and must have cost a vast amount of manual labour. In some
places the diggers were hard at work, and the blows of the pick, the
splash of water, and the rocking of the cradle made the diggings seem
themselves again. There were several women about, who appeared to take
as active an interest in the work as their "better halves." They may
often be seen cradling with an infant in their arms. A man and a cart
preceeded us up the gully. Every now and again he shouted out in a
stentorian voice that made the welkin ring; and the burden of his cry
"'Ere's happles, happles, Vandemonian happles, and them as dislikes the
hiland needn't heat them."
The admirers of the fertile island must have been very numerous, for
his customers soon made his pippins disappear.
We passed a butcher's shop, or rather tent, which formed a curious
spectacle. The animals, cut into halves or quarters, were hung round;
no small joints there--half a sheep or none; heads, feet, and skins were
lying about for any one to have for the trouble of picking up, and a
quantity of goods of all sorts and sizes, gridirons, saucepans,
cradles, empty tea-chests, were lying scattered around in all
directions ticketed "for sale." We quickly went on, for it was not a
particularly pleasant sight, and at some distance perceived a quiet
little nook rather out of the road, in which was one solitary tent. We
hastened our steps, and advanced nearer, when we perceived that the
tent was made of a large blanket suspended over a rope, which was tied
from one tree to another. The blanket was fastened into the ground by
large wooden pegs. Near to the opening of the tent, upon a piece of
rock, sat a little girl of about ten years old. By her side was
a quantity of the coarse green gauze of which the diggers' veils are
made. She was working at this so industriously, and her little head was
bent so fixedly over her fingers that she did not notice our approach.
We stood for some minutes silently watching her, till Frank, wishing to
see more of her countenance, clapped his hands noisily together for the
purpose of rousing her.
She started, and looked up. What a volume of sorrow and of suffering
did those pale features speak!
Suddenly a look of pleasure flashed over her countenance. She sprang
from her seat, and advancing towards Frank, exclaimed:
"Maybe you'll be wanting a veil, Sir. I've plenty nice ones, stronger,
better, and cheaper than you'll get at the store. Summer dust's coming,
Sir. You'll want one, won't you? I havn't sold one this week," she
added, almost imploringly, perceiving what she fancied a "no-customer"
look in his face.
"I'll have one, little girl," he answered in a kindly tone, "and what
price is it to be?"
"Eighteen pence, Sir, if you'd please be so good."
Frank put the money into her hand, but returned the veil. This action
seemed not quite to satisfy her; either she did not comprehend what he
meant, or it hurt her self-pride, for she said quickly:
"I havn't only green veils--p'raps you'd like some candles better--I
makes them too."
"YOU make them?" said Frank, laughing as he glanced at the little hands
that were still holding the veil for his acceptance. "YOU make them?
Your mother makes the candles, you mean."
"I have no mother now," said she, with an expression of real melancholy
in her countenance and voice. "I makes the candles and the veils, and
the diggers they buys them of me, cos grandfather's ill, and got nobody
to work for him but me."
"Where do you and your grandfather live?" I asked. "In there?" pointing
to the blanket tent.
She nodded her head, adding in a lower tone:
"He's asleep now. He sleeps more than he did. He's killed hisself
digging for the gold, and he never got none, and he says 'he'll
dig till he dies.'"
"Dig till he dies." Fit motto of many a disappointed gold-seeker, the
finale of many a broken up, desolated home, the last dying words of
many a husband, far away from wife or kindred, with no loved ones near
to soothe his departing moments--no better burial--place than the very
hole, perchance, in which his last earthly labours were spent. These
were some of the thoughts that rapidly chased one another in my mind as
the sad words and still sadder tone fell upon my ear.
I was roused by hearing Frank's voice in inquiry as to how she made her
candles, and she answered all our questions with a child-like NAIVETE,
peculiarly her own. She told us how she boiled down the fat--how once it
had caught fire and burnt her severely, and there was the scar still
showing on her brown little arm--then how she poured the hot fat into,
the tin mould, first fastening in the wicks, then shut up the mould and
left it to grow cold as quickly as it would; all this, and many other
particulars which I have long since forgotten, she told us; and
little by little we learnt too her own history.
Father, mother, grandfather, and herself had all come to the diggings
the summer before. Her father met with a severe accident in digging,
and returned to Melbourne. He returned only to die, and his wife soon
followed him to the grave. Having no other friend or relative in the
colonies, the child had been left with her aged grandfather, who
appeared as infatuated with the gold-fields as a more hale and younger
man. His strength and health were rapidly failing, yet he still dug on.
"We shall be rich, and Jessie a fine lady before I die," was ever his
promise to her, and that at times when they were almost wanting food.
It was with no idle curiosity that we listened to her; none could help
feeling deeply interested in the energetic, unselfish, orphan girl. She
was not beautiful, nor was she fair--she had none of those childish
graces which usually attract so much attention to children of her age;
her eyes were heavy and bloodshot (with work, weeping, cold, and
hunger) except when she spoke of her sick grandfather, and then they
disclosed a world of tenderness; her hair hung matted round her
head; her cheek was wan and sallow; her dress was ill-made and
threadbare; yet even thus, few that had once looked at her but would
wish to look again. There was an indescribable sweetness about the
mouth; the voice was low and musical; the well-shaped head was firmly
set upon her shoulders; a fine open forehead surmounted those drooping
eyes; there was almost a dash of independence; a "little woman" manner
about her that made one imperceptibly forget how young she was in
A slight noise in the tent--a gentle moan.
"He's waked; I must go to him, and," in a lower, almost a deprecating
tone, "he doesn't like to hear stranger folks about."
We cheerfully complied with the hint and departed, Frank first putting
some money into her hand, and promising to call again for the candles
and veils she seemed quite anxious we should take in return.
Our thoughts were as busy as our tongues were silent, during the time
that elapsed before we reached home. When we entered, we found a
discussion going on, and words were running high. My brother and
Octavius were for going somewhere to work, not idle about as
they were doing now; William. wanted to go for a "pleasure trip" to
Forest Creek, and then return to Melbourne for a change. Frank listened
to it all for some minutes, and then made a speech, the longest I ever
heard from him, of which I will repeat portions, as it will explain our
"This morning, when going down the gully, I met the person whom we
bought the dray-horses of in Melbourne. I asked him how he was doing,
and he answered, 'badly enough; but a friend's just received accounts
of some new diggings out Albury way, and there I mean to go.' He showed
me also a letter he had received from a party in Melbourne, who were
going there. From these accounts, gold is very plentiful at this spot,
and I for one think we may as well try our fortune in this new place,
as anywhere else. The route is partly along the Sydney road, which is
good, but it is altogether a journey of two hundred miles. I would
therefore propose (turning to my brother), that we proceed first to
Melbourne, where you can leave your sister, and we can then start for
the Ovens; and as provisions are at an exorbitant price there,
we might risk a little money in taking up a dray-full of goods as
before. And as we may never chance to be in this part of Victoria
again, I vote that we take William's 'pleasure trip' to Forest Creek,
stop there a few days, and then to Melbourne."
This plan was adopted.
FRIDAY MORNING.--Frank stole out early after breakfast, for a visit to
little Jessie. I learnt the full particulars afterwards, and therefore
will relate them as they occurred, as though myself present. He did not
find her sitting outside the tent as before, and hesitated whether to
remain or go away, when a low moaning inside determined him to enter.
He pushed aside the blanket, and saw her lying upon an old mattress on
the ground; beside her was a dark object, which he could not at first
distinguish plainly. It was her grandfather, and he was dead. The
moaning came from the living orphan, and piteous it was to hear her. It
took Frank but a few minutes to ascertain all this, and then he gently
let down the blanket, and hastened to the butcher's shop I have already
mentioned. He learnt all that there was to know: that she had no
friends, no relatives, and that nothing but her own labour, and
the kindness of others, had kept them from starvation through the
winter. Frank left a small sum in the butcher's hands, to have the old
man buried, as best could be, in so wild and unnatural a place, and
then returned to the mourning child. When he looked in, she was lying
silent and senseless beside the corpse. A gentle breathing--a slight
heaving of the chest, was all that distinguished the living from the
dead. Carefully taking her in his arms, he carried her to our tent. As
I saw him thus approaching, an idea of the truth flashed across me.
Frank brought her inside, and laid her upon the ground--the only
resting-place we had for her. She soon opened her eyes, the quick
transition through the air had assisted in reviving her, and then I
could tell that the whole sad truth returned fresh to her recollection.
She sat up, resting her head upon her open hands, whilst her eyes were
fixed sullenly, almost doggedly, upon the ground. Our attempts at
consolation seemed useless. Frank and I glanced at one another. "Tell
us how it happened," said he gently.
Jessie made no answer. She seemed like one who heard not.
"It must have been through some great carelessness--some neglect,"
pursued Frank, laying a strong emphasis on the last word.
This effectually roused her.
"I NEVER left him--I NEVER neglected him. When I waked in the morning I
thought him asleep. I made my fire. I crept softly about to make his
gruel for breakfast, and I took it him, and found him dead--dead," and
she burst into a passion of tears.
Frank's pretended insinuation had done her good; and now that her grief
found its natural vent, her mind became calmer, and exhausted with
sorrow, she fell into a soothing slumber.
We had prepared to start before noon, but this incident delayed us a
little. When Jessie awoke, she seemed to feel intuitively that Frank
was her best friend, for she kept beside him during our hasty dinner,
and retained his hand during the walk. There was a pleasant breeze, and
we did not feel over fatigued when, after having walked about eight
miles, we sat down beneath a most magnificent gum tree, more
than a hundred feet high. Frank very wisely made Jessie bestir herself,
and assist in our preparations. She collected dry sticks for a fire,
went with him to a small creek near for a supply of water; and so well
did he succeed, that for a while she nearly forgot her troubles, and
could almost smile at some of William's gay sallies.
Next morning, very early, breakfast rapidly disappeared, and we were
marching onwards. An empty cart, drawn by a stout horse, passed us.
Frank glanced at the pale little child beside him. "Where to?" cried
"Take us for what?"
"A canary a-piece."
"Agreed." And we gladly sprung in. For the sake of the uninitiated, I
must explain that, in digger's slang, a "canary" and half-a-sovereign
We passed the "Porcupine Inn." We halted at noon, dined, and about two
hours after sighted the Commissioners' tent. In a few minutes the cart
"Can't take yer not no further. If the master seed yer, I'd cotch it
for taking yer at all."
We paid him and alighted.
In my last chapter we were left standing not far from the
Commissioners' tent, Forest Creek, at about three o'clock in the
afternoon of Saturday, the 16th. An air of quiet prevailed, and made
the scene unlike any other we had as yet viewed at the diggings. It was
the middle of the month; here and there a stray applicant for a licence
might make his appearance, but the body of the diggers had done so long
before, and were disseminated over the creek digging, washing, or
cradling, as the case might be, but here at least was quiet. To the
right of the Licensing Commissioners' tent was a large one
appropriated to receiving the gold to be forwarded to Melbourne by the
Government escort. There were a number of police and pensioners about.
Not many months ago, the scarcity of these at the diggings had
prevented the better class of diggers from carrying on their operations
with any degree of comfort, or feeling that their lives and property
were secure. But this was now altered; large bodies of police were
placed on duty, and wooden buildings erected in various parts of the
diggings for their accommodation. Assistant Commissioners (who were
also magistrates) had been appointed, and large bodies of pensioners
enrolled as police, and acting under their orders. Roads were also
being made in all directions, thereby greatly facilitating
But I must not forget that we are standing looking about us without
exactly knowing where to turn. Suddenly William started off like a shot
in pursuit of a man a little way from us. We could not at first guess
who it was, for in the diggers' dress all men look like so many
brothers; but as we approached nearer we recognised our late captain,
"Well, old fellow, and where did you spring from?" was Frank's
salutation. "I thought you were stuck fast in the Eagle Hawk."
"I may say the same," said Gregory, smiling. "How got you here?"
This was soon told, and our present dilemma was not left unmentioned.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," says the proverb, and William
echoed it, as Gregory very complaisantly informed us that, having just
entered upon a store not far distant, he would be delighted to give us
a shelter for a few nights. This we gladly accepted, and were soon
comfortably domiciled beneath a bark and canvas tent adjoining his
store. Here we supped, after which Gregoryy left us, and returned with
mattresses, blankets, &c., which he placed on the ground, whilst he
coolly ordered the gentlemen to prepare to take their departure, he
himself presently setting them the example.
"I'm certain sure the young leddy's tired," said he; "and that little
lassie there (pointing to Jessie) looks as pale and as wizened as an
old woman of seventy--the sooner they gets to sleep the better."
We followed the kindly hint, and Jessie and myself were soon fast
asleep in spite of the din close beside us. It was Saturday night, and
the store was full; but the Babel-like sounds disturbed us not, and we
neither of us woke till morning.
It was Sunday. The day was fine, and we strolled here and there,
wandering a good way from Gregory's store. As we returned, we passed
near the scene of the monster meeting of 1851. The following account of
it is so correct, that I cannot do better than transcribe it.
"The exceeding richness of the Mount Alexander diggings, and
extraordinary success of many of the miners, led the Government to
issue a proclamation, raising the licence from thirty shillings to
three pounds. As soon as these intentions became known, a public
meeting of all the miners was convened, and took place on the 15th of
December, 1851. This resolve of the Governor and Executive Council was
injudicious, since, in New South Wales, the Government proposed to
reduce the fee to 15s.; and among the miners in Victoria,
dissatisfaction was rife, on account of the apparent disregard by the
Government of the wants and wishes of the people engaged in the
gold diggings, and because of the absence of all police protection,
while there appeared to be no effort made to remedy this defect.
Indignation was, therefore, unequivocally expressed at the several
diggings' meetings which were held, and at which it was resolved to
hold a monster meeting. The 'Old Shepherd's Hut,' an out station of Dr.
Barker's, and very near the Commissioners' tent, was the scene chosen
for this display. For miles around work ceased, cradles were hushed,
and, the diggers, anxious to show their determination, assembled in
crowds, swarming from every creek, gully, hill, and dale, even from the
distant Bendigo, twenty miles away. They felt that if they tamely
allowed the Government to charge 3 pounds one month, the licensing fee
might be increased to 6 pounds the next; and by such a system of
oppression, the diggers' vocation would be suspended.
"It has been computed that from fifteen to twenty thousand persons were
on the ground during the time of the meeting. Hundreds, who came and
heard, gave place to the coming multitude, satisfied with having
attended to countenance the proceedings. The meeting ultimately
dispersed quietly, thereby disappointing the anticipations of those who
expected, perhaps even desired, a turbulent termination. The majority
determined to resist any attempt to enforce this measure, and to pay
NOTHING; but, happily, they were not reduced to this extremity, since
his Excellency wisely gave notice that no change would be made in the
amount demanded for licence."
The trees up which the diggers had climbed during the meeting are still
The "Old Shepherd's Hut" was standing. It seemed a most commodious
little building compared to the insecure shelter of' a digger's tent.
The sides of the hut were formed of slabs, which were made mostly from
the stringy bark,--a tree that splits easily--the roof was composed of
the bark from the same tree; the chimney was of stones mortared
together with mud. This is the general style of building for shepherds'
huts in the bush. As we passed it I could not but mentally contrast the
scene that took place there on the important day of the monster
meeting, to the deep tranquillity that must have reigned around
the spot for centuries before the discovery of gold drew multitudes to
The trees in this neighbourhood are mostly stringy bark; almost all are
peeled of their covering, as many diggers, particularly those who have
their families with them, keep much to one part, and think it,
therefore, no waste of time or labour to erect a hut, instead of living
in a comfortless tent.
On Monday morning we determined to pursue our travels, and meant that
day to pay a flying, visit to Fryer's Creek. It was a lovely morning,
and we set out in high spirits. A heavy rain during the night had well
laid the dust. On our way we took a peep at several flats and gullies,
many of which looked very picturesque, particularly one called Specimen
Gully, which was but thinly inhabited.
We had hardly reached Fryer's Creek itself when we saw a vast concourse
of people gathered together. Frank and my brother remained with me at a
little distance, whilst Octavius and William went to learn the occasion
of this commotion. It arose from an awful accident which had just
Three brothers were working in a claim beside the stream, some way
apart from the other diggers. The heavy rain during the night had
raised the water, and the ground between the hole where they were
working and the Creek, had given way imperceptibly UNDERNEATH. One
brother, who was early in the hole at work, fancied that the water at
the bottom was gradually rising above his knees; he shouted to his
comrades, but unfortunately they had gone, one, one way, one, another,
in quest of something, and it was some minutes ere they returned.
Meanwhile the water in the hole was slowly but surely rising, and the
slippery sides which were several feet high defied him to extricate
himself. His cries for help became louder--he was heard, and his
brothers and some neighbours hastened to his assistance. Ropes were
procured after some further delay, and thrown to the unhappy man--but
it was too late. None dared approach very near, for the ground was like
a bog, and might at any moment give way beneath their feet; the water
was nearly level with the top of the hole, and all hope of saving him
was gone. The brothers had often been warned of the danger they
Shuddering at the thoughts of this awful death we turned away, but no
change of scene could dissipate it from our minds--the remembrance of
it haunted me for many a night.
Jessie seemed pleased to see us on our return--we had left her behind
with Gregory to his great delight--we abstained from mentioning before
her the fearful accident we had but witnessed.
That evening we wandered about Forest Creek. We had not gone far before
a digger with a pistol in his hand shot by us; he was followed by an
immense mob, hooting, yelling, and screaming, as only a mob at the
diggings can. It was in full pursuit, and we turned aside only in time
to prevent ourselves from being knocked down in the confusion.
"Stop him--stop him," was the cry. He was captured, and the cry changed
to, "String him up--string him up--it's useless taking him to the
"What has he done?" asked my brother of a quiet by-stander.
"Shot a man in a quarrel at a grogshop."
"String him up--string him up--confront him with the body," vociferated
At this moment the firmly-secured and well-guarded culprit passed by, to
be confronted with the dead body of his adversary. No sooner did he
come into his presence than the CI-DEVANT corpse found his feet,
"showed fight," and roared out, "Come on," with a most unghostlike
vehemence. The fury of the mob cooled down; the people thought the man
had been murdered, whereas the shot, fortunately for both, had glanced
over the forehead without doing any serious injury. Taking advantage of
this lull, the fugitive declared that the wounded man had been robbing
him. This turned the tables, and, inspired by the hootings of the now
indignant mob, the "dead man" took to his heels and disappeared.
The diggers in Pennyweight Flat, Nicholson's Gully, Lever Flat, Dirty
Dick's Gully, Gibson's Flat, at the mouth of Dingley Dell, and in
Dingley Dell itself, were tolerably contented with their gains,
although in many instances, the parties who were digging in the
centre of the gullies, or what is called "the slip," experienced
considerable trouble in bailing the water out of their holes.
Some of the names given to the spots about Forest Creek are anything
but euphonious. Dingley Dell is, however, an exception, and sounds
quite musical compared to Dirty Dick's Gully. The former name was given
to the place by a gentleman from Adelaide, and was suggested by the
perpetual tinkling of the bullock's bells, it being a favourite camping
place for bullock drivers, offering, as it did, an excellent supply of
both wood, water, and food for their cattle. From whom the latter
inelegant name originated I cannot precisely tell--but there are plenty
of "dirty Dicks" all over the diggings.
The current prices of this date at Forest Creek were as follows:
flour, 9 to 10 pounds per hundred-weight; sugar, 1s. 6d. a pound,
very scarce; tea, 3s.; rice, 1s.; coffee, 3s.; tobacco, 8s.; cheese,
3s.; butter, 4s.; honey, 3s. 6d.; candles, 1s. 6d; currants, 1s. 6d.,
very scarce; raisins, 1s. 6d.; figs, 2s. 6d.; salt, 1s. 6d. Picks, spades,
and tin dishes, 10s. each. Gold 64s. per ounce.
TUESDAY, 19.--Before breakfast we were busily employed in packing the
"swags" when Octavius suddenly dropped the strap he held in his hand
for that purpose, and darted into the store. Thinking that we had
omitted something which he went to fetch, we continued our work. When
everything was ready and the last strap in its place, we again thought
of our absent comrade, making all sorts of surmises regarding his
disappearance, when, just as Frank was going after him, in he walked,
accompanied by a stranger whom he introduced as his uncle. This
surprised us, as we were ignorant of his having any relatives in the
colonies. He then explained that a younger brother of his father's had
about eight years ago gone to South Australia, and that never having
heard of him for some years they had mourned him as dead. After many
adventures he had taken a fancy to the diggings, and had just come from
Melbourne with a dray full of goods. He went to Gregory's store to
dispose of them. Octavius had heard them in conversation
together, and had mistaken his uncle's for his father's voice. Hence
the precipitation of his exit. The uncle was a tall sunburnt man, who
looked well-inured to hardship and fatigue. He stayed and took
breakfast with us, and then having satisfactorily arranged his business
with Gregory, and emptied his dray, he obligingly offered to convey
Jessie and myself to Melbourne in it. Accordingly after dinner we all
Our new companion was a most agreeable person, and his knowledge of the
colonies was extensive. With anecdotes of the bush, the mines, and the
town, he made the journey pass most pleasantly. Before evening we
reached the Golden Point near Mount Alexander. This term of "Golden"
has been applied to a great many spots where the deposits have been
richer than, usual. There was a Golden Point at Ballarat, and when the
report of the Alexander diggings drew the people from there, they
carried the name with them, and applied it to this portion of the
mount. To the left of the Point, which was still full of labourers, was
the store of Mr. Black, with the Union-Jack flying above it. It is a
most noted store, and at one time when certain delicacies were
not to be had in Melbourne they were comparatively cheap here.
We passed by this busy spot and encamped at sunset at the foot of Mount
Alexander. It was a lovely evening and our eyes were feasted by a Most
glorious sight. All the trees of the forest gradually faded away in the
darkness, but beyond them, and through them were glimpses of the
granite-like walls of the mount, brilliantly shining in and reflecting
the last glowing rays of the setting sun. Some of the gorgeous scenes
of fairy-land seemed before us--we could have imagined that we were
approaching by night some illuminated, some enchanted castle.
That evening we sat late round our fire listening to the history which
the uncle of Octavius related of some of his adventures in South
Australia. The posts he had filled formed a curious medley of
occupations, and I almost forget the routine in which they followed one
another, but I will endeavour to relate his story as much as possible
in his own words.
"When I started from England, after having paid passage-money, &c., I
found myself with about 200 pounds ready money in my purse--it was all
I had to expect, and I determined to be very careful of it; but by a
young man of five-and-twenty these resolutions, like lady's promises,
are made to be broken. When I landed in Adelaide with my money in my
pocket--minus a few pounds I had lost at whist and cribbage on board
ship--I made my way to the best inn, where I stayed some days, and ran
up rather a longish bill. Then I wanted to see the country, which I
found impossible without a horse, so bought one, and rode about to the
various stations, where I was generally hospitably received, and thus
passed a few months very pleasantly, only my purse was running low. I
sold the horse, then my watch, and spent the money. When that was gone,
I thought of the letters of introduction I possessed. The first that
came to hand was directed to a Wesleyan minister. I called there,
looking as sanctimonious as I could. He heard my story, advised me to
go to chapel regularly, 'And for your temporal wants,' said he, 'the
Lord will provide.' I thanked him, and bowed myself off.
"My first act was to burn my packet of introductory letters, my
next was to engage myself to a stock-holder at 15s. a week and my
rations. He was going up to his station at once, and I accompanied him.
We travelled for about two hundred miles through a most beautiful
country before we reached his home. His house was, in my ideas, a
comical-looking affair--made of split logs of wood, with a bark roof,
and a barrel stuck on the top of the roof at one end by way of a
chimney-pot. His wife, a pale sickly little woman, seemed pleased to
see us, for she had been much alarmed by the natives, who were rather
numerous about the neighbourhood. There was only a young lad, and an
old shepherd and his wife upon the station, besides herself. Before I
had been there six weeks she died, and her new-born little baby died
too; there was not a doctor for miles, and the shepherd's wife was
worse than useless. I believe this often happens in the bush--it's not a
place for woman-folks.
"I was here eighteen months--it was a wild sort of life, and just suited
my fancy; but when I found I had some money to receive, I thought a
spree in town would be a nice change, so off I marched. My spree lasted
as long as my money, and then I went as barman to a
public-house at Clare, some way up the country--here I got better wages
and better board, and stopped about half-a-year. Then I turned brewer's
drayman, and delivered casks of good Australian ale about Adelaide for
30s. a week. The brewer failed, and I joined in a speculation with an
apple dealer to cart a lot up to the Kapunda copper mines. That paid
well. I stopped up there as overseer over four-and-twenty
bullock-drays. Well, winter came, and I had little to do, though I drew
my 30s. a week regularly enough, when the directors wanted a contract
for putting the small copper-dust into bags, and sewing them up. I
offered to do the job at 2d. a bag, and could get through a hundred and
fifty a day. How much is that? Oh! 12s. 6d. a-piece. I forgot to tell
you I'd a mate at the work. That was good earnings in those days; and
me and my mate, who was quite a lad, were making a pretty penny, when
some others offered to do them a halfpenny a bag cheaper. I did the
same, and we kept it to ourselves for about four weeks longer, when a
penny a bag was offered. There was competition for you! This roused
my bile--I threw it up altogether--and off to Adelaide again.
Soon spent all my cash, and went into a ship-chandler's office till
they failed; then was clerk to a butcher, and lost my situation for
throwing a quarter of his own mutton at him in a rage; and then I again
turned brewer's man. Whilst there I heard of the diggings--left the
brewer and his casks to look after themselves, and off on foot to
"Here I found the holes averaging some thirty feet--which was a style of
hard work I didn't quite admire; so hearing of the greater facility of
the Alexander diggings, I went through Bully Rook Forest, and tried my
luck in the Jim Crow Ranges. This paid well; and I bought a dray, and
bring up goods to the stores, which I find easier work, and twice as
profitable as digging. There's my story; and little I thought when I
went into Gregory's store to-day, that I should find my curly-pated
nephew ready to hear it."
Next day we travelled on, and halted near Saw-pit Gully; it was early
in the afternoon, and we took a walk about this most interesting
locality. The earth was torn up everywhere--a few lucky hits
had sufficed to re-collect a good many diggers there, and they were
working vigorously. At dusk the labour ceased--the men returned to
their tents, and for the last time our ears were assailed by the
diggers' usual serenade. Imagine some hundreds of revolvers almost
instantaneously fired--the sound reverberating through the mighty
forests, and echoed far and near--again and again till the last faint
echo died away in the distance. Then a hundred blazing fires burst upon
the sight--around them gathered the rough miners themselves--their
sun-burnt, hair-covered faces illumined by the ruddy glare. Wild songs,
and still wilder bursts of laughter are heard; gradually the flames
sink and disappear, and an oppressive stillness follows (sleep rarely
refuses to visit the diggers' lowly couch), broken only by some
midnight carouser, as he vainly endeavours to find his tent. No fear of
a "peeler" taking him off to a police-station, or of being brought
before a magistrate next morning, and "fined five shillings for being
Early on Tuesday morning I gave a parting look to the diggings--our dray
went slowly onwards--a slight turn in the road, and the last
tent has vanished from my sight. "Never," thought I, "shall I look on
such a scene again!"
RETURN TO MELBOURNE
Before the evening of Wednesday the 20th, we passed through Kyneton,
and found ourselves in the little village of Carlshrue, where we passed
the night. Here is a police-station, a blacksmith's, a few stores and
some cottages, in one of which we obtained a comfortable supper and
beds. A lovely view greeted us at sunrise. Behind us were still
towering the lofty ranges of Mount Alexander, before us was Mount
Macedon and the Black Forest. This mountain, which forms one of what is
called the Macedon range, is to be seen many miles distant, and on a
clear, sunny day, the purple sides of Mount Macedon, which
stands aloof as it were, from the range itself, are distinctly visible
from the flag-staff at Melbourne.
We had intended to have stopped for the night in Kyneton, but the
charges there were so enormous that we preferred pushing on and taking
our chance as to the accommodation Carlshrue could afford, nor did we
repent the so doing.
The following are the Kyneton prices. A meal or bed--both bad--4s; a
night's stabling, one pound ten shillings per horse; hay at the rate of
9d. a pound; this is the most exorbitant charge of all.
Hay was somewhere about 20 pounds a ton in Melbourne. The carriage of it
to Kyneton, now that the fine weather was setting in, would not exceed 8
pounds a ton at the outside, which would come to 28 pounds. The purchaser,
by selling it at Kyneton at the rate of 9d. a pound, or 75 pounds per ton,
cleared a profit of 47 pounds--NOT QUITE 200 PER CENT. If THIS is not
fortune-making, I should like to know what is. It beats the diggings
Next morning we looked our last at "sweet Carlshrue," and
having crossed the Five Mile Creek, camped for our mid-day meal beside
the Black Forest. Here a slight discussion arose, as to whether it
would be more advisable to proceed on our journey and camp in the Black
Forest that night, or whether we should remain where we were outside,
and recommence our journey in good time the next morning so as to get
through this most uncomfortable portion of our travels in one day.
Frank and Octavius were for the latter plan, as the best and safest,
but the rest (thinking that, having once travelled through it without
encountering any thing resembling a bushranger, they might safely do so
again) protested against wasting time, and were for entering those dark
shades without further delay. The uncle of Octavius whom, in future,
for the sake of convenience, I shall call Mr. L----, was also of this
mind, and as he was in some sort our leader during the journey, his
advice decided the matter. Danger to him was only a necessary
excitement. He was naturally fearless, and his merry laugh and gay joke
at the expense of the bushranger fearing party gradually dissipated the
unaccountable presentiment of danger which I for one had in no
small degree experienced.
On we went, up hill and down dale, sometimes coming to a more open
piece of ground, but more generally threading our way amid a very maze
of trees, with trunks all black as the ground itself, whilst the dingy
foliage and the few rays of sunshine that lit up those dark, deep
glades served only to heighten the gloominess around.
After walking for about six miles--I preferred that mode of getting
along to the joltings of the dray--we all felt disposed to rest
ourselves. We selected a spot where the trees were less thickly
clustered, and taking the horses out of the dray, tethered them by
strong ropes to some trees near. The dray itself was turned up, and a
blanket thrown over the up-raised shafts formed a most complete and
cosy little tent.
A fire was next kindled, and a kettle full of water (with the tea in
it!) was placed on to boil, some home-made bread, brought from
Carlshrue, was placed upon the ground, and some chops were toasted on
the ends of sticks, which are usually the impromptu
toasting-forks of the bush. The old tin plates and pannicans, not quite
so bright as once upon a time, but showing, despite sundry bruises and
scratches, that they had seen better days, were placed upon the
tea-table, which of course was the ground. Two or three knives and
forks were on general service, and wandered about from hand to hand as
occasion required. Altogether it was a merry, sociable party, and I
think I enjoyed that supper better than any I ever tasted before or
"CHACUN A SON GOUT," many a one will say.
The pleasantest moments must come to an end, and so did these. After
having sat up later than usual, Jessie and I retired to our gipsy tent,
leaving our guardian diggers smoking round the fire. They meant to keep
watches during the night to prevent a surprise.
FRIDAY.--We were comfortably seated at our breakfast, discussing a
hundred subjects besides the food before us, when a shrill "coo-ey"
burst through the air; "coo-ey"--"coo-ey" again and again, till the very
trees seemed to echo back the sound. We started to our feet, and,
as if wondering what would come next, looked blankly at each
other, and again the "coo-ey," more energetic still, rang in our ears.
This is the call of the bush, it requires some little skill and
practice, and when given well can be heard a great way off. In such a
place as the Black Forest it could only proceed from some one who had
lost their way, or be a signal of distress from some party in absolute
danger. We again looked from one to the other--it bewildered us; and
again the cry, only more plaintive than before, came to us.
Simultaneously they seized their pistols, and started in the direction
whence the sounds proceeded. They were all too true Englishmen to hear
a fellow-creature in peril and not hasten to their succour.
Jessie and myself could not remain behind alone--it was impossible; we
followed at a little distance, just keeping our comrades in sight. At
last they came to a halt, not knowing where to turn, and we joined
them. Frank gave a "coo-ey," and in about the space of a minute the
words "help, help,--come, come," in scarcely, audible sounds, answered
to the call. We penetrated about thirty yards farther, and a few low
groans directed us to a spot more obscure, if possible, than
the rest. There, firmly bound to two trees close together, were two
men. A thick cord was passed round and round their bodies, arms, and
legs, so as to leave no limb at liberty. They seemed faint and
exhausted at having called so long for help.
It was the work of a moment for our party to fling down their pistols,
take out knives and tomahawks, and commence the work of releasing them
from their bonds. But the cords were knotted and thick, and there
seemed no little labour in accomplishing it. They were also retarded by
the small quantity of light, for, as I said before, it was a dark and
secluded spot. At length one man was released, and so faint and
exhausted was he, from the effects of whatever ill-usage he had
suffered, that, being a tall, powerfully made man, it required the
united strength of both Frank and Mr. L---- to prevent his falling to
Jessie and myself were standing a little apart in the shade; we seemed
as if spell-bound by the incident, and incapable of rendering any
The second was soon set at liberty, and no sooner did he feel
his hands and feet free from the cords than he gave a loud, shrill
A shriek burst from Jessie's lips as, immediately the cry was uttered,
and before any one could, recover from the bewilderment it occasioned,
four well-armed men sprang upon our startled party.
Taken thus at disadvantage, unarmed, their very knives flung down in
their eagerness to untwist the cords, they were soon overpowered. The
wretch who had been reclining in Frank's arms quickly found his feet,
and, ere Frank could recover from his surprise, one heavy blow flung
him to the ground; whilst the other twined his powerful arms round Mr.
L----, and, after a short but sharp struggle, in which he was assisted
by a fellow-villain, succeeded in mastering him.
It was a fearful sight, and I can hardly describe my feelings as I
witnessed it. My brain seemed on fire, the trees appeared to reel
around me, when a cold touch acted as a sudden restorative, and almost
forced a scream from my lips. It was Jessie's hand, cold as marble,
touching mine. We spoke together in a low whisper, and both
seemed inspired by the same thoughts, the same hope.
"I saw a little hill as we came here," said Jessie; "let's try and find
it and look out for help."
I instinctively followed her, and stealthily creeping along, we gained
a small rise of ground which commanded a more extended view than most
places in the Black Forest, and, but for the thickness of the trees, we
could have seen our own camping-place and the part where the ambuscade
had been laid. From sounds of the voices, we could tell that the
ruffians were leading their prisoners to the spot where we had passed
the night, and the most fearful oaths and imprecations could ever and
anon be heard. Well might our hearts beat with apprehension, for it was
known that when disappointed in obtaining the gold they expected, they
vented their rage in torturing their unfortunate victims.
Meanwhile Jessie seemed listening intently. The time she had spent in
the bush and at the diggings had wonderfully refined her sense of
hearing. Suddenly she gave a shrill "coo-ey." The moment after a shot
was fired in the direction of our late camp. Jessie turned even
paler, but recovering herself, "coo-ey" after "coo-ey" made the echoes
ring. I joined my feeble, efforts to hers; but she was evidently well
used to this peculiar call. On a fine still day, this cry will reach
for full three miles, and we counted upon this fact for obtaining some
"Help is coming," said Jessie, in a low voice, and once more with
increasing strength she gave the call.
Footsteps approached nearer and nearer. I looked up, almost expecting
to see those villainous countenances again.
"Women in danger!" shouted a manly voice, and several stalwart figures
bounded to our side.
"Follow, follow!" cried Jessie, rushing forwards. I scarcely remember
everything that occurred, for I was dizzy with excess of pleasure.
There was a short scuffle, shots were fired at retreating bushrangers,
and we saw our friends safe and free.
The whole, matter was then related to our preservers--for such they
were--and I then learnt that when the bushrangers had marched
off our party to the camping-place, they proceeded to overhaul their
pockets, and then bound them securely to some trees, whilst one stood
ready with a pistol to shoot the first that should call for help, and
the others looked over the plunder. This was little enough, for our
travelling money, which was notes, was kept--strange treasury--in the
lining of the body of my dress, and here too were the gold receipts
from the Escort Office. Every night I took out about sufficient to
defray the day's expenses, and this was generally given into Frank's
Enraged and disappointed, the villains used most frightful language,
accompanied by threats of violence; and the one on guard, irritated
beyond his powers of endurance, fired the pistol in the direction of
William's head. At this moment Jessie's first "coo-ey" was heard: this
startled him, and the shot, from the aim of the pistol being
disarranged, left him unhurt.
"It's that d----d child," muttered one, with a few, additional oaths;
"we'll wring her neck when we've secured the plunder."
One of the ruffians now attempted more persuasive measures, and
addressing Mr. L----, whom I suppose he considered the leader, expended
his powers of persuasion much in the following manner.
"You sees, mate, we risks our lives to get your gold, and have it we
will. Some you've got somewhere or another, for you havn't none on you
got no paper from the Escort--you planted it last night, eh? Jist show
us where, and you shan't be touched at all, nor that little wretch
yonder, what keeps screeching so; but if you don't--" and here his
natural ferocity mastered him, and he wound up with a volley of curses,
in the midst of which our rescuers rushed upon them.
When we came to talk the whole matter over calmly and quietly, no doubt
was left upon our minds, as to the premeditation of the whole affair.
But for the watch kept, the attack would most probably have been made
during the night.
Our timely friends were a party of successful diggers returning, from
work. They too had passed the night in the Black Forest--providently
not very far from us. They accepted our thanks in an off-hand sort of
way, only replying--which was certainly true--"that we would have
done the same for them." It was in endeavouring to assist assumed
sufferers that our party fell into the ambuscade laid for them.
They waited whilst we got the dray and horses ready, and we all
journeyed on together, till the Black Forest was far behind us. We saw
no more of the bushrangers, and encamped that night a few miles beyond
the "Bush Inn." At this inn we parted with our gallant friends. They
were of the jovial sort, and having plenty of gold, were determined on
a spree. We never met them again.
On Saturday we travelled as far as the "Deep Creek Inn." Some distance
before reaching that place, we passed two rival coffee-shops on the
road. We stopped at the first, to know if they had any uncooked or cold
meat to sell, for our provisions were running low.
"Havn't none," said the woman, shaking her head. Then looking hard at
William, and judging from his good-humoured face, that he was a likely
one to do what she wanted, she said to him. "Now, Sir, I'm agoing to ax
a favour of you, and that is to go a little farther down the
road, to the other coffee-tent, and buy for me as much meat as they'll
let you have. They's got plenty, and I've none; and they knows I'll
lose custom by it, so you'll not get it if they twigs (ANGLICE guesses)
you comes from me. You understand, Sir," and she put sovereign into his
hand to pay for it.
Laughing at the comicality of the request, and the thoroughly colonial
coolness of making it, William set off, and presently returned with
nearly half a sheep hanging over his shoulders, and a large joint in
"Bless me, what luck!" exclaimed the delighted woman, and loud and
profuse were her thanks. She wanted to cook us a good dinner off the
meat gratis; but this we steadily refused and purchasing enough for the
present, we put our drays again into motion, and a little while after
kindled a fire, and were our own cooks as usual. That night we camped
beside the Deep Creek, about a mile from the "Deep Creek Inn." The
route we were now taking was different to the one we had travelled
going up--it was much more direct.
We remained all Sunday beside the creek, and the day passed quietly and
On Monday the 25th we were again in motion. We passed the well known
inn of Tulip Wright's. How great a change those few weeks had made!
Winter had given place to summer, for Australia knows no spring. We
walked along the beautiful road to Flemington, gave a look at the
flagstaff and cemetery, turned into Great Bourke Street, halted at the
Post-office, found several letters, and finally stopped opposite the
"Duke of York Hotel," where we dined.
I shall leave myself most comfortably located here, whilst I devote a
chapter or two to other diggings.
Ballarat is situated about forty-five miles from Geelong, and
seventy-five nearly west of Melbourne. This was the first discovered
goldfield of any extent in Victoria, and was made known on the 8th of
September, 1851. The rush from Geelong was immense. Shops, stores,
trades, all and everything was deserted; and the press very truly
declared that "Geelong was mad--stark, staring gold-mad." During the
month of September five hundred and thirty-two licences were taken out;
in the month following the number increased to two thousand two hundred
and sixty one!
The usual road to Ballarat is by the Adelaide overland route on the
Gambier Road; but the most preferable is per Geelong. The former route
leads over the Keilor Plains, and through Bacchus Marsh, crossing the
Werribee River in two places. Mount Buninyong then appears in sight of
the well-pleased traveller, and Ballarat is soon reached.
The route VIA Geelong is much quicker, as part of the way is generally
performed by steam at the rate of one pound a-piece. Those who wish to
save their money go to Geelong by land. After leaving Flemington, and
passing the Benevolent Asylum, the Deep Creek is crossed by means of a
punt, and you then come to a dreary waste of land, called Iett's Flat.
Beyond is a steep rise and a barren plain, hardly fit to graze sheep
upon, and at about twenty miles from Melbourne you come to the first
halting house. Some narrow but rapid creeks must be got over, and for
seven miles further you wander along over a dreary sheep-run till
stopped by the Broken River, which derives its name partly from the
nature of its rocky bed, and partly from the native name which has a
This creek is the most steep, rapid, and dangerous on the road, having
no bridge and no properly defined crossing-place or ford, except the
natural rocks about. The bottom is of red sand-stone and rocks of the
same description abut from the sides of the creek, and appear to abound
in the neighbourhood; and all along the plains here and there are
large fragments of sand and lime-stone rocks. Two hundred yards from
the creek is a neat inn after the English style, with a large
sitting-room, a tap, a bar, and a coffee-room. The bed-rooms are so
arranged as to separate nobs from snobs--an arrangement rather
inconsistent in a democratic colony. The inn also affords good stabling
and high charges. Up to this distance on our road there is a scarcity
of wood and springs of water.
We now pass two or three huts, and for twenty miles see nothing to
please the eye, for it is a dead, flat sheep-walk. About seven miles on
the Melbourne side of Geelong, the country assumes a more cheering
appearance--homesteads, gardens, and farms spring up--the roads improve,
and the timber is plentiful and large, consisting of shea-oaks, wattle,
stringy bark, and peppermints. Many of the houses are of a good
size, and chiefly built of stone, some are of wood, and very few of
Geelong, which is divided into north and south, is bounded by the
Barwin, a river navigable from the bay to the town, and might be
extended further; beautiful valleys well wooded lie beyond. Between the
two townships a park has been reserved, though not yet enclosed; the
timber in it, which is large--consisting principally of white gum and
stringy bark--is not allowed to be cut or injured. There are several
good inns, a court-house, police-station, and corporation offices.
There is also a neat church in the early pointed style, with a
parsonage and schools in the Elizabethan; all are of dark lime-stone,
having a very gloomy appearance, the stones being unworked, except near
the windows; the porches alone slightly ornamented. The road and
pavement are good in the chief streets; there is a large square with a
conduit, which is supplied by an engine from the Barwin. The shops are
large and well furnished, a great many houses are three stories high,
most are two, and very few one. The best part of town is about one
hundred feet above the river. A large timber bridge over the
Ballarat road was washed down last winter. The town is governed by a
mayor and corporation. There is a city and mounted police force, and a
neat police-court. A large and good race-course is situated about
three miles from the town.
As regards scenery, Geelong is far superior to Melbourne, the streets
are better, and so is the society of the place; none of the ruffian
gangs and drunken mobs as seen in Victoria's chief city. There are
various, chapels, schools, markets, banks, and a small gaol. The
harbour is sheltered, but not safe for strangers, as the shoals are
numerous. Geelong is surrounded by little townships. Irish Town, Little
Scotland, and Little London are the principal and to show how
completely the diggings drained both towns and villages of their male
inhabitants, I need only mention that six days after the discovery of
Ballarat, there was only one man left in Little Scotland, and he was a
cripple, compelled NOLENS VOLENS to remain behind.
The road from Geelong to Ballarat is well marked out, so often has it
been trodden; and there are some good inns on the way-side for
the comfort of travellers. On horseback you can go from the town to the
diggings in six or eight hours.
Ballarat is a barren place, the ground is interspersed with rocky
fragments, the creek is small, and good water is rather scarce. In
summer it almost amounts to a drought, and what there is then is
generally brackish or stagnatic. It is necessary never to drink
stagnant water, or that found in holes, without boiling, unless there
are frogs in it, then the water is good; but the diggers usually boil
the water, and a drop of brandy, if they can get it. In passing through
the plains you are sure of finding water near the surface (or by
seeking a few inches) wherever the tea tree grows.
The chief object at the Ballarat diggings is the Commissioners' tent,
which includes the Post-office. There are good police quarters now. The
old lock-up was rather of the primitive order, being the stump of an
old tree, to which the the prisoners were attached by sundry chains,
the handcuff being round one wrist and through a link of the chain. I
believe there is a tent for their accommodation. There are
several doctors about, who, as usual, drive a rare trade.
It is almost impossible to describe accurately the geological features
of the gold diggings at Ballarat. Some of the surface-washing is good,
and sometimes it is only requisite to sink a few feet, perhaps only a
few inches, before finding the ochre-coloured earth (impregnated with
mica and mixed with quartzy fragments), which, when washed, pays
exceedingly well. But more frequently a deep shaft has to be sunk.
Of course the depth of the shafts varies considerably; some are sixty
or even eighty, and some are only ten feet deep. Sometimes after heavy
rains, when the surface soil has been washed from the sides of the
hills, the mica layer is similarly washed down to the valleys and lies
on the original surface-soil. This constitutes the true washing stuff
of the diggings. Often when a man has--to use a digger's
phrase--"bottomed his hole," (that is, cut through the rocky strata, and
arrived at the gold layer), he will find stray indications, but nothing
remunerative, and perchance the very next hole may be the most
profitable on the diggings. Whether there is any geological
rule to be guided by has yet to be proved, at present no old digger
will ever sink below the mica soil, or leave his hole until be arrives
at it, even if he sinks to forty feet. So, therefore, it may be taken
as a general rule, wherever the diggings may be, either in Victoria,
New South Wales, or South Australia, that gold in "working" quantities
lies only where there is found quartz or mica.
Ballarat has had the honour of producing the largest masses of gold yet
discovered. These masses were all excavated from one part of the diggings,
known as Canadian Gully, and were taken out of a bed of quartz, at the
depths of from fifty to sixty-five feet below the surface. The deep
indentures of the nuggets were filled with the quartz. The largest of
these masses weighed one hundred and thirty-four pounds, of which it
was calculated that fully one hundred and twenty-six pounds consisted
of solid gold!
About seven miles to the north of Ballarat, some new diggings called
the Eureka have been discovered, where it appears that, although there
are no immense prizes, there are few blanks, and every one doing well!
In describing the road from Melbourne to Geelong, I have made
mention of the Broken River. A few weeks after my arrival in the
colonies this river was the scene of a sad tragedy.
I give the tale, much in the same words as it was given to me, because
it was one out of many somewhat similar, and may serve to show the
state of morality in Melbourne.
The names of the parties are, of course, entirely fictitious.
* * * * *
Prettiest among the pretty girls that stood upon the deck as the anchor
of the Government immigrant ship 'Downshire' fell into Hobson's Bay, in
August, 1851, was Mary H----, the heroine of my story. No regret
mingled with the satisfaction that beamed from her large dark eyes, as
their gaze fell on the shores of her new country, for her orphan
brother, the only relative she had left in their own dear Emerald Isle,
was even then preparing to follow her. Nor could she feel sad and
lonely whilst the rich Irish brogue, from a subdued but manly and
well-loved voice, fell softly on her ear, and the gentle
pressure of her hand continually reminded her that she was not alone.
Shipboard is a rare place for match-making, and, somehow or another,
Henry Stephens had contrived to steal away the heart of the 'Downshire'
belle. Prudence, however, compelled our young people to postpone their
marriage, and whilst the good housewife qualities of the one readily
procured her a situation in a highly respectable family in Melbourne,
Henry obtained an appointment in the police force of the same town.
Their united savings soon mounted up, and in a few months the banns
were published, and Christmas-Day fixed on for the wedding. Mary, at
her lover's express desire, quitted her mistress's family to reside
with a widow, a distant relative of his own, from whose house she was
to be married. Delightful to the young people was this short period of
leisure and uninterrupted intercourse, for the gold mania was now
beginning to tell upon the excited imaginations of all, and Henry had
already thrown up his situation; and it was settled their wedding trip
should be to the golden gullies round Mount Buninyong.
And now let me hasten over this portion of my narrative. It is sad to
dwell upon the history of human frailty, or to relate the oft-told tale
of passion and villainy triumphant over virtue. A few days before
Christmas, when the marriage ceremony was to be performed, they
unfortunately spent one evening together alone, and he left her--ruined.
Repentance followed sin, and the intervening time was passed by Mary in
a state of the greatest mental anguish. With what trembling eagerness
did she now look forward to the day which should make her his lawful
It arrived. Mary and the friends of both stood beside the altar, whilst
he, who should have been there to redeem his pledge and save his victim
from open ruin and disgrace, was far away on the road to Ballarat.
To describe her agony would be impossible. Day after day, week after
week, and no tidings from him came; conscience too acutely accounting
to her for his faithlessness. Then the horrible truth forced itself
upon her, that its consequences would soon too plainly declare her sin
before the world; that upon her innocent offspring would fall a portion
of its mother's shame.
Thus six months stole sorrowfully away, and as yet none had even
conjectured the deep cause she had for misery. Her brother's
non-arrival was also an unceasing source of anxiety, and almost daily
might she have been seen at the Melbourne Post-office, each time to
return more disappointed than before. At length the oft-repeated
inquiry was answered in the affirmative, and eagerly she tore open the
long-anticipated letter. It told her of an unexpected sum of money that
had come into his hands--to them a small fortune--which had detained him
in Ireland. This was read and almost immediately forgotten, as she
learnt that he was arrived in Melbourne, and that only a few streets
now separated them.
She raised her face, flushed and radiant with joyful excitement--her
eyes fell upon him who had so cruelly injured her. The scream that
burst from her lips brought him involuntarily to her side. What will
not a woman forgive where once her heart has been touched--in the double
joy of the moment the past was almost forgotten--together they re-read
the welcome letter, and again he wooed her for his bride. She
consented, and he himself led her to her brother, confessed
their mutual fault, and second preparations for an immediate marriage
were hurriedly made.