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Edward Dyson.

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'I am going, Joy,' he whispered later.

'Not here,' she said, taking his arm. 'Outside.'

They passed out together, and stood by the big tree in which Mrs. Ben's
stock was hidden.

'Good-bye!' he said.

'It's hard!' She put her hands upon his shoulders, and her voice
trembled. 'I've been pretty badly in love, Jimmy. Remember that in
kindness, Won't you? It seems to excuse a good deal. It might even excuse
a poor colleen makin' the fool an' all iv herself.' The brogue sounded
deeply pathetic. 'A kiss,' she whispered quickly. 'One of the old kisses,
dear.'

As he bent down to her his cheek crushed a tear on hers, and he was
touched deeply. The kiss was long and tender; as the kiss of a man for
whom there was only one woman in the world, and she not the one being
kissed, it was emphatically successful. It drew a deep sigh from poor
Aurora, and thrilled Jim with not a little of the old rapture.

'Good-bye!' she said; but her fingers clung to him.

'Good-bye!' he repeated, taking her hands in his.

'Have you the little heart of gold?' she asked.

'It's here.' He drew it from his pocket.

'Give it back to me.'

He pressed it into her hand, kissed her cheek, and hurried away. Aurora
stood for some minutes turning the nugget over and over in her fingers;
then she moved to the shanty door and looked in, but turned away with a
muttered exclamation, and went to the entrance of the back tent.

'You'll have to attend to those brutes in there,' she said to Mary Kyley.
'I've had as much as I can stand for one night.' She threw herself upon
her bed, and hid her face in the pillow.

'Has he gone, dear?' asked Mrs. Kyley, laying a big but gentle hand upon
the girl.

Aurora nodded her bead in the pillow, and after looking at her in silence
for a moment, Mary went in to attend to her customers, shaking her head
sadly as she went. When she peeped into the back tent again an hour later
Aurora still lay face downwards upon the bed.

'Are you asleep, Aurora?' whispered Mrs. Ben. 'No!' answered the girl
fiercely. 'For God's sake, don't bother me!'

Mrs. Ben went away again, sadder than before.

'Oh, the men, the men!' murmured the wise woman. 'To think of the good
women wasted on them, and the chits they're often wasted on!'

Jim Done enjoyed the tramp to Simpson's Ranges. The weather was fine, the
country was picturesque, and the company highly congenial. He liked the
Peetrees better in his present mood, and his interest in the popular
movement that was to culminate at Eureka was deepening daily. He had even
addressed a small meeting of miners on the subject of the rights of the
people, and he was no pusillanimous reformer. He declared the diggers had
reached that point at which toleration meant meanness of spirit. The
thought of civil war was appalling, but not so much so as the degradation
of a nation in which the manhood plodded meekly under the whip, like
driven cattle yoked to their load.

The men carried small swags, having entrusted their tools and tents to
teamsters, and, travelled quietly, taking four days to accomplish the
journey. The route lay through trackless country. As yet few parties from
Forest Creek had set out for Simpson's Ranges, and Jim and his friends
encountered no other travellers until they were approaching the new rush,
and then the road assumed the familiar characteristics, and the noisy,
boisterous troops went gaily by. These might have been the identical men
who tramped to Diamond Gully through the Black Forest, so much did they
resemble the former in their joyousness and their wild exuberance of word
and action, and in their manner of conveying their belongings too, and in
their frank good-fellowship. But by this time Jim was an experienced
Antipodean, and knew that in such circumstances men always behave much in
the same way, and that dignity is the first oppressive observance to be
abandoned immediately man breaks loose from the restraints of society.
The novelty had gone from the rushes, but not the charm. The sight of the
courageous, healthy, happy gold-seekers swinging by struck sympathetic
chords in his own heart. He had kindred impulses, and was by far the most
jubilant of his party, the Bush-bred Australians being the least
demonstrative of all the men on the track.

On the morning of the fourth day Jim encountered a face he knew amongst a
party of five travelling with a waggon.

'Hullo, Phil Ryan!' he said.

Phil advanced with a puzzled expression on his face, that presently gave
way to a broad grin.

'The Hermit!' he cried, and, seizing Jim's hand, he shook it with
effusive heartiness. One might think he had occasion to remember Done for
many kindnesses, whereas the ignominious beating the Hermit had given him
on the Francis Cadman was all he had to be grateful for.

'I've given up trying to be a hermit,' said Jim. 'There was nothing in
it.'

'Begor, I'm that glad!' said Phil, and he certainly looked radiant. 'But
you're th' changed man, Done. I hardly knew you wid th' amiable shmile.
Have things been goin' rare an' good?'

'They have, Ryan. I'm a made man.' Jim meant the expression to be taken
in a spiritual rather than a pecuniary sense.

It's hearin',' said Phil. 'My soul, but it's th' great land, man! I've had
more gold through me hands these twelve munts than I iver dramed iv
before. But it don't shtick,' he added ruefully, glancing at his horny
palms.

'And the others - have you heard of them?'

'We broke up into twos an' twos whin we come near Geelong, fer fear iv
being nailed by th' police fer disertion. Jorgensen's made his pile over
be Buniyong; an' Tommy th' Tit - him what seconded me in th' bit iv a
contention we had aboard - have been rootin' out nuggets be th' tubful at
Ballarat, an' talkin' fight and devilment t' th' min iv nights in th'
intherests iv peace an' humanity an' good gover'mint. Be th' same token,
there's goin' t' be no ind iv sin an' throuble down there, an' I'd be
sorry to be missin' it.'

'He's no true digger who'll stand out when the time comes, Ryan.'

'Thrue fer you, man. Och! it's a lovely land fer a gravyince, an' I'll
niver lave it.' He looked Jim up and down again. 'It's put th' good heart
in you, Done.' Jim nodded smilingly. 'D'ye be hearin' iv th' little lady
from off the ship?' continued Phil, as if following a natural sequence.

'Yes,' answered Jim, his cheeks warming a little. 'She is with Mrs.
Macdougal at Boobyalla, just beyond Jim Crow, and is well and cheerful.'

'Good agin!' Ryan sighed heavily as he resumed his swag. 'It's th' on'y
thing I'm lamentin' here, th' mighty scarcity iv fine wimmin,' he said.

'They'll be bringing them out by the ship-load presently, old man.'

'Th' sooner th' quicker. Manewhoile I haven't seen th' taste iv one fer
sivin munts. So long to you! We'll be meetin' on the new rush?'

'Yes. So long and good luck!'

Phil hastened on to overtake his mates, and Jim, looking after him,
wondered that he had ever been anything but good friends with this man,
whose lovable, ugly face radiated geniality as a diamond reflects light.

Simpson's Ranges at first sight was a repetition of the other fields Jim
had seen. The scene was one of intense excitement. No experience prepared
the ordinary miner to take the possibilities of a new field in a
philosophical spirit. The impetuosity, the bustling hurry, and the
clamour that had so impressed him at Forest Creek were repeated here.
Everywhere over a space of some fifty acres tents were being unfurled and
carts and waggons unloaded in the midst of chaotic disorder. The feverish
eagerness of new arrivals to peg out their claims on a rich lead
accounted for much of the tumult. Those already in possession of golden
holes were working like fiends to exhaust their present claims, and
secure others before the land was pegged out all along the lead and the
whizzing of windlasses and the monotonous cries of the workers added the
usual character to the prevailing clamour.

Storekeepers who had dumped their stocks down in the open air were
desperately busy, serving profane customers, or running up hasty
structures over their goods. Newcomers were pouring in like visitors to a
fair, shouting as they came, and of all the people Jim could see, Mike
Burton and the Peetrees alone were prepared to take things calmly. For
his own part, he had again proof of his susceptibility to the humours of
the crowd; the excitement of the scene communicated itself to him; he
wanted to add to the noise and the movement without acknowledging any
sensible reason for doing so.

'Me an' Mike 'll get up the lead an' spike a claim while you boys rig the
tent,' said Josh.

The mates had brought one tent to serve them, pending the arrival of
their other belongings. It had been resolved that the five men should
work on shares during their stay at Simpson's Ranges, and Mike and
Peetree senior secured the land to which the party was entitled under its
licenses.

'She's well in on the lead all right,' said Josh, commenting on their
claim that evening after tea, 'an' if we don't hit it rich I'm a
Dutchman.'

Josh's opinion proved correct in the main. Mike cut the wash-dirt on the
following evening, and after sinking in it to the depth of two feet,
washed a prospect that promised the party an excellent return for their
labour. So far Jim Done had every reason to be grateful for his luck; and
the diggers were nearly all implicit believers in luck; a faith they held
to be justified by the scores of instances recited of good fortune
following individuals through extraordinary conditions, when less
favoured men all around them were not earning enough to satisfy the
storekeepers.

Although the various Victorian rushes were much alike in general
character, some peculiarity attached to each of them. Jim Crow was famous
for its vigorous and varied rascality; Simpson's Ranges became notorious
as the most reckless gambling-field in the country. Card-playing was the
recreation the diggers most indulged in here, if we except a decided
penchant for Chow-baiting. Done found that already the gambling
propensity had impressed itself on the lead, and the luckiest man on
Simpson's was a short, fat, complacent Yankee, who refused to handle pick
or shovel because, as he said to Done, it might spoil his hand. Jim did
not doubt that hands so slick in the manipulation of cards were worth all
the care Mr. Levi Long devoted to them. Jim became rather interested in
Long. The man was an amusing blackguard, and took the 'gruellings' that
occasional manual lapses led him into with a placidity that amounted
almost to quiet enjoyment, and tickled Done's sense of humour immensely.

'Man who drifts down the stream o' life in a painted barge on the broad
of his back among the Persian rugs, with a fat cigar in his teeth, an'
all his favourite drinks within reach, has gotter strike a snag now 'n
agin,' said Long. 'The question's just this - is it wuth it?'

'I can't understand why a tired man like you takes the trouble to shave,'
Jim said to him one night.

'Ever been tarred 'n feathered in your busy career, Mr. Done?' answered
Long.

Never.'

'If you had you'd realize that the onpleasantest thing that kin happen to
a man this side o' the great hot finish is to get his chin whiskers full
o' tar. In my native town tarring the man you disagreed with was a
favourite amusement.'

'But there is no tar here.'

'Well, no; but I guess this has become instinctive.' He passed a hand
over his fat, smooth face.

Chow-baiting was a later development. The Chinese and Mongolians came
early to Victorian rushes, and remained long. They were never
discoverers, never pioneers, but, following quickly upon the heels of the
white prospectors, they frequently succeeded in securing the richest
claims in the alluvial beds, and from the first they were hated with an
instinctive racial hatred, that became inveterate when the whites found
in Sin Fat a rival antagonistic in all his tastes and views, in most of
his virtues, and in all his pet vices, bar one. The Chows were
industrious diggers; they worked with ant-like assiduity from daylight to
dark, and often long after that were to be seen at their holes, toiling
by the light of lanterns.

They had vices of their own, and not nice ones, but they gave way to only
one of the amiable little social weaknesses in which the Europeans
indulged, and displayed the overpowering passion for gambling that has
since become characteristic of the China-men in all their Australian
camps. They had no other amusement, and desired no leisure; they were
squalid in their habits, and herded like animals; they were barren of
aspirations, and their industry was brutish (though of a kind still
belauded), since it left no leisure for humanizing exercises, no room for
sweetness and light. They were law-abiding, but that was not a virtue to
commend itself to the Victorian diggers at this date, and they were only
law-abiding because of their slavish instincts and their lack of
courageous attributes. The antipathy bred then survives in the third
generation of Australians, but is less demonstrative now that laws have
been enacted in accordance with the racial instinct.

The Pagans had secured a big stretch of the field close to the claim
pegged out by Mike and Josh Peetree, and they were thought to have
possession of the most profitable part of the alluvial deposit, but
worked their claims with great caution, and were as secretive as so many
mopokes, so that the whites really had no idea what their ground was
like, excepting such as the experienced miners could gather from the
general trend of the richer wash dirt. Extraordinary stories of the
success of the Chinese were in circulation, and provoked strenuous
profanity and exceeding bitterness in the Europeans, Particularly in
those whose luck was not good. There was already talk of a white rising
to drive the heathen from the field, and Done found his mates entirely in
sympathy with the common sentiment; to him; also the Celestials became
exceedingly repellent as he grew more familiar with their habits and
manners, although he was opposed to making differences of race an excuse
for wholesale robbery.

The Chinese camp was strictly apart from that of the whites, and there
was no intercourse between the two parties, Levi Long being the only man
who seemed attracted to the squalid huts into which the Mongolians packed
themselves by some process mysterious to the Caucasian understanding. Men
in whom gambling was an absorbing passion could never be wholly
objectionable to a man of his peculiar principles; but he came back from
his third visit to their camp with his hands sunk to the bottoms of his
pockets and a troubled look on his smooth countenance.

'They've sprung a new game on me down there,' he said to a crowd in the
shanty, nodding his head back. 'I thought I'd picked up something about
it, an' it's cost me every bit o' glitter I had on me to demonstrate to
my entire satisfaction that I was quite wrong. I haven't got a scale
left. I'm feelin' like a little boy who's been tryin' to teach his gran'
mother all about eggs.'

'Fantan?' said Burton.

'Somethin' o' that character an' complexion. Boys, I begin to think that
p'r'aps after all we're doin' wrong in submittin' to the encroachments o'
the alien.'

Hear, hear!' shouted half a dozen voices.

'It strikes me that the inferior race that can skin Levi Long to his pelt
in a gamble is providin' no fit associates for guileless an' confidin'
children o' the Occident, like yourselves, f'r instance.'

Long's professional pride was hurt; the idea of being beaten at his own
business by a pack of unlettered Asiatics made him sad. 'It kinder
destroys a man's faith in himself he said. As a result of his eloquence
the miners knotted windlass-ropes together, and stole down upon the
Chinese camp in the small and early hours of morning. There were twenty
men on each cable, and one lot kept to the right of the camp, the other
to the left, and, going noiselessly, they dragged the ropes through the
frail huts and kennels in which the Mongols were sleeping, mowing them
down as if they had been houses of cards, and towing an occasional
screaming Chow out of the ruins, rolled in his filthy bedding. The whole
camp of huddled shanties was razed to the ground in about two minutes,
and the diggers drew off, without having given any clue to the cause of
the disaster, leaving the heathen raging in the darkness.

At about six o'clock Jim Done and his mates were awakened and brought
pell-mell from their bunks by the sound of a great commotion coming from
the direction of the Chinese camp. They saw the Chinamen gathered near
the ruins of their dwellings, evidently in a state of tremendous
excitement. A number of them were jumping about, gesticulating wildly,
and uttering shrill cries, while half a dozen or so, armed with stout
sticks, were energetically beating an object that lay upon the ground.

'By thunder! it's a man they're murdering!' cried Jim.

Mike and the Peetrees laughed aloud. 'Not a bit of it,' said Burton.
'They're only bastin' their Joss!'

'What's that?'

'They're beatin' their god. They keep a few of them little pottery or
wooden gods round, an' if things don't go quite as well as they think
they ought to go, they up an' take it out o' the god just then on the
job, by knocking splinters off him.'

'They argue that Joss ain't been attendin' to his part o' the contract,'
said Harry Peetree, 'an' they belt him for neglectin' his business. Saw a
lot o' them blow up a big Joss at Bendigo 'cause their dirt was pannin'
out badly.'

By this time the Europeans were all up and out, enjoying the spectacle,
and Simpson's Ranges echoed their laughter, it being assumed that the
Celestials' gods were being punished for the sins of those diggers who
had wrecked the camp. Jim and Con joined a few curious men sauntering
down to take a nearer view of the ceremony.

'Wha' for?' Con asked one grave Chow who was looking on.

'Welly much bad Joss!' answered the Celestial composedly. 'Let um earth
shake-shake, all sem this, knockum poo' Chinaman's house down.'

A favourite way of tormenting the Chows was to rob them of their
pigtails. A Mongolian's pride in his pigtail is very great, and his grief
over the loss of it seems to be tinged with a superstitious fear. As soon
as the diggers were made aware of this they vied with each other in
reaving Sin Fat and hi brethren of their cherished adornments, and the
rape of the lock was a daily occurrence at Simpson Ranges. No Red Indian
was ever prouder of his trophy of scalps than the diggers were of their
collection of tails, and the woe that fell upon the de spoiled Asiatics
was most profound, but touched no sympathetic chords in the callous
hearts of the miners.

It is not to be assumed that the Chows bore all their afflictions like
lambs. They had methods of their own of getting even, and were efficient
tent thieves, and peculiarly expert in the art of rifling tips, although
this was not proved against them until the eleventh hour. They fought
back on occasions, and one morning a big Californian was found near their
claims, beaten almost to death. Evidently the digger had deserved his
fate, and had been caught stealing wash-dirt from Sin Fat's tips; but his
denials were readily and gladly accepted by the whites, and another
excellent reason for demolishing the Chows was registered in the minds of
the men.

Being up just after daybreak one morning, or not yet having gone to bunk,
Levi Long was the unsuspected witness of acts of Chinese iniquity that
brought about the climax of the anti-Chinese agitation. There was no
water-supply at Simpson's Ranges, and the wash-dirt had to be carted four
miles to the river at Carisbrook, to be puddled and washed. This morning
the Chinamen were busy bright and early, carting their wash away; but the
Celestials, always frugal, to save as much as possible the expense of
drays, each carried two hide-bags of dirt suspended on a bamboo, and
followed the loaded carts through the diggings with the peculiar trot
they always adopted when bearing burdens. What Long noticed was that
every now and again, when passing the tips on the claims of the
Europeans, the sly Celestials dug their shovels into the wash-dirt, and
threw a few shovelfuls on to their own loads or into the bags they
carried. Keeping himself in concealment, Levi quietly awakened a few of
the diggers, and drew their attention to what was going on. The Chinamen
chattered noisily as they passed, and the movements of the crowd were
evidently artfully designed to cover the depredations of the thieves.

Within a quarter of an hour every white man on the field knew what had
been going on, and now the miners thought they understood the motive of
the Chows in always carting their dirt away in the gray hours of morning,
before the too-confiding Europeans were up and about. This was the last
straw. A meeting was held very quietly, and, to Done's astonishment, his
mate took an active part in the proceedings.

'The lepers have got to change their spots, I guess,' said Long. 'Is that
understood, men?'

'You bet!' answered a prominent digger, and the crowd uttered a unanimous
'Hear, hear!' that left no room for doubt.

'Then, get ready!' cried Mike. 'Every man get a pick-handle. There's to
be no killin'. We'll drive 'em out like sheep. If the troopers interfere,
unhorse them, an' bolt the nags. Meet here again as quick's you can.'

The miners scattered, and within half an hour the whole body of the white
diggers marched upon the Chinamen remaining on the claims.

XVIII

THE Chinese, most of whom were on the surface, viewed the approach of the
enemy with great uneasiness, but did not anticipate the worst Evidently
they trembled only for their tails, and a few took to their claims like
startled rabbits. The others stood watching the advance, jabbering
excitedly, with the volubility of so many monkeys.

'Wha' for? wha' for?' cried the foremost, when confronted by the
Europeans.

'This here's an eviction, I reckon,' drawled Long.

'Go!' said Burton, pointing threateningly.

'Away with the lepers!' yelled the men.

The Chows understood monosyllables, and began to expostulate in pigeon
English.

'Charge!' cried Long, and the drive commenced in earnest.

Keeping a solid front, the whites drove the yellow men before them along
the lead. Those below were dragged to the surface, and their movements
were accelerated by prods from the pick and presently the whole mass was
going at a run across the field, the Chinese in front, flying, as they
thought, for their lives, the whites following, and the howls of the
pursued and the yells of the pursuers united to make an uproar
unprecedented on Simpson's Ranges.

'The troopers!' The warning voices came from the left, and the full
strength of the force on Simpson's came riding gallantly from that
direction, between white men and yellow.

'Pull 'em down!' cried Mike, 'but do no damage.'

'Halt there!' ordered the sergeant, rising in his stirrups, but the crowd
took little account of him and his four gallant followers. It swarmed
round them for a moment, plucked the five men from their saddles, and
passed on, leaving the troopers sprawling on the ground, and driving
their horses before them with the terrified Celestials.

The chase continued all the way to Carisbrook, and for a mile or so
beyond; but at the river, where the main body of Chinese was overtaken,
there was a brief but vigorous fight. The Chinese used their shovels and
sticks and stones, and what other weapons presented themselves, in
defence of their property, and for about five minutes the hand-to-hand
conflict raged with a rattle of pick-handles, a thud, thud, thud of busy
clubs, oaths in good round English, and a squeaking and yelling in shrill
Chinese, and then the Chows, overborne by numbers, backed, broke, and
fled, and the hunt was continued. In two hours' time there was not a
Chinaman in sight, and virtuous Europeans were busy washing the golden
gravel left near the river, satisfying their consciences when they
pinched that only even handed justice had been done in robbing the
robbers.

Five weeks passed before the Chinese went creeping back to Simpson's
Ranges, and by this time the diggers were engrossed in more important
affairs, and offered no serious opposition. It seemed that the trouble
was rapidly coming to a head at Ballarat. Wearying of the effort to
secure reform by peaceful agitation, the men were arming themselves as
best they could. The lawful endeavours of the miners had resulted only in


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Online LibraryEdward DysonIn the Roaring Fifties → online text (page 15 of 21)