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Edward Dyson.

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Shortly after, Done, who was watching developments with keen interest,
saw a Scandinavian seaman named Jorgensen steal over the side, and slip
into the sea like a porpoise. Jorgensen struck out for the shore,
swimming under water for the most part, till he had covered a distance of
about two hundred yards from the ship. Others, including the armed
sailors, had witnessed Jorgensen's escape, but no one spoke.

Nearly an hour passed, and then Jim saw that two boats were coming
towards them from a distant point. At the sight of these there was a rush
of sailors. No orders had been given, but a score of men busied
themselves lowering the Francis Cadman's boats, laughing at their work
and joking uproariously. Others came singing and yelling from the
forecastle and up through the hatchways, with bundles which they piled on
the deck. All order was abolished; the jubilant cries of the sailors were
echoed back from the shores over the placid sea.

Captain Evan stood upon the deck, pale with passion, gesticulating
furiously, shouting orders that no one heard. Every time he opened his
lips the sailors responded with louder yells of cheerful derision. Evan
rushed at one of the armed sailors, cursing heroically.

'Fire on them! Fire, I tell you!' he cried.

The man paid not the slightest heed, and Captain Evan, snatching the gun
from his hands, levelled it at the boatswain.

'Down on your knees, you mutinous dog!' he thundered.

The boatswain grinned amiably, and thrust his finger into the barrel of
the piece.

'By the holy, we've spiked your gun, Captain!' he said.

Evan pulled the trigger. The cap snapped and nothing more, and now,
worked into an ungovernable passion, he clubbed his gun, and bringing the
stock down upon the boatswain's head, stretched him upon the deck with a
cracked skull. Swinging his weapon, the Captain dashed at the men, but a
dozen pair of hands were on him, and he was dragged down. Bently, the
first mate, who went to his assistance, was served similarly. In a few
moments they lay helpless, trussed like turkeys ready for the roasting.
The cabin passengers gathered about, white-faced, full of terror,
thinking of piracy and all its attendant horrors. Some of the women were
screaming. The sailors lifted Evan and Bently; and Done, who was watching
the turn of events, greatly agitated, was startled into a new train of
thought by a woman who had thrown herself at his feet, clinging to his
knees, crying:

'Help him! help him! They are going to do murder!'

It was Mrs. Macdougal. Done started forward, and half a dozen sailors
moved to intercept him.

'You don't mean mischief?' he said.

'Devil a bit!' replied a big Irishman. 'We'll stow them out of harm's way
till we're safe on shore, an' never a mischief will be done to annywon at
all. Come along, Captain darlin',' he added. 'Ye'll rist aisier in yer
cabin. We're goin' diggin' fer the gould, an' not all the fiends out iv
Connaught could shtop us.'

Captain and mate were bestowed under lock and key, and, like a band of
schoolboys at breaking-up, the men continued their mutinous work. One
section had started a quaint chanty; the rest caught it up presently, and
with the rhythm of the song came something like order among the
mutineers. Singing lustily, they piled their baggage into the boats, and
Done, who had recovered the feeling of annoyance his impulsive
interference had occasioned him, watched them, rejoicing in sympathy. He
had brought no particular respect for law and order from the Old Land,
and this happy revolt delighted him. He would have loved to join the
merry adventurers in their defiance of authority. It was grand! Lustily
he sang the chanty, and as the boats, loaded down with sailors and their
traps, and towing astern in the warm sea strings of deserters for whom
there was no room aboard, moved off, he leaned over the bulwarks waving
his hat, and shouted with all the power of his lungs:

'Good luck to you, boys!'

They answered with a cheer, forgetting all differences in their present
robust animal spirits. Ryan sprang up in one of the boats.

'Come wid us, man; why don't you?' he cried.

Jim had a strong impulse to follow, but a small hand seized his.

'No, no - please, no!' whispered Lucy at his side.

He shook his head at the men. After all, there was no occasion for him to
run away; he was bound to no man.

The sailors had taken the key of the Captain's cabin with them, and by
the time Evan and the mate were liberated the crew of the Francis Cadman
and all the sailors under contract to the distracted owners of vessels
riding idle and helpless on Corio Bay and Hobson's Bay had disappeared
amongst the ti-tree fringing the shore, leaving the ship's boats afloat.
Five sailors remained aboard - one, the boatswain, was temporarily
disabled; two of the others were sick and bedridden. Captain Evan stood
on the main hatchway and reviewed the situation, and in his manner of
expressing himself there remained no trace whatever of the suave autocrat
of the cabins. In less than an hour his voyage had been converted into an
utter and ignominious failure.

The journey from the Heads to the river mouth in the wake of the tug-boat
Platypus, slow and toil some, set Jim in an itch of impatience. He was
longing to feel land under his feet once more, and was leaning over the
side, his awkwardly-packed canvas bag of belongings at his feet, watching
the line of Liardit Beach, with its few dingy buildings standing back
from the sea, apprehensive lest this, after all, should prove to be
Melbourne, his brave city of refuge, when Lucy Woodrow approached him to
say farewell.

'They tell me we are very near our journey's end,' she said. 'I wish to
ask you a favour before you go.'

She looked strong and confident, and he was grateful there were to be no
tears, having anticipated something like a scene. She had prepared to
land, too, and wore a dark dress he had not seen before, and a quaint
little hat that became her well. He thought her beautiful. The idea of
parting with her hurt now, and his pulse stirred impatiently. The
admiration in his eyes caused a flush to relieve the pale olive of her
cheeks.

'I'll do anything you ask,' he said,

'It is a very little thing. This is Mrs. Macdougal's address. I want you
to promise to write to me.'

'I will.'

'Your life in this new land will be active and adventurous, I'm sure, but
some day, in one month, or two, or perhaps a year, you will find time to
send me a letter to say how you are, and how the strange country pleases
you?'

'You are the only human creature I have met in friendship,' he said,
betrayed into warmth by her unaffected concern. 'I can never forget you,
Lucy.' He used her Christian name for the first time.

'Thank you, James,' she answered simply.

'No, no - Jim! Jim!' He had been called James only by the parson and the
magistrates of Chisley, and he despised the unctuousness that seemed to
cling to the name.

'Thank you, Jim,' she said, smiling. 'You see,' she continued gravely,
'what you have done for me makes it impossible that I can ever be
careless about your welfare. I shall always want to know where you are,
and if you are well and happy.'

'I'm not used to this sort of thing,' he stammered.

I bear it badly.' And, indeed, he had a most amazing disposition to lapse
into tears The disposition was never near to mastering him, but there it
was.

She saw his agitation, and it warmed the mothering feeling which, though
still a child in heart and years his junior, she had long felt for the
big, strong, friendless youngster.

'You will take this, won't you? I intend it as a little keepsake.'

She proffered a small gold locket somewhat shyly, and blushed deeply when
he opened it and discovered a tiny miniature of herself. He was pleased
to have it, and told her so in a graceless way.

'Do you mean to go ashore at once?' she asked presently.

'Yes; just as soon as I can.'

'Mrs. Macdougal is ready, and I suppose we leave the ship immediately.'

He took her small hand in his. 'Good-bye,' he said. He longed to hold her
in his arms again.

'Good-bye,' she whispered.

'I hope you'll find things easy for you out there, and that you will be
happy.'

'I think I shall. I am going to try hard for happiness - to be as happy as
I once was. Say you will try too.'

He looked at the wide sweep of blue sky, and the new land swathed in a
golden atmosphere of glorious sunshine and more glorious hopes, and did
not smile at her idea of happiness recoverable by distraint.

Mrs. Macdougal bustled up. She had brought dresses from Europe with the
object of prostrating what little feminine society there was in the
neighbourhood of Boobyalla, and wore one of them now. If her colour was
not all natural, it was a very excellent imitation. She looked charming.

'Sure you are quite ready, my dear?' she said. 'Macdougal will be
waiting. Macdougal of Boobyalla, you know.' This to Jim: 'And he's a most
impatient wretch. Saying au revoir?' she queried archly, after a pause.

'I was bidding Mr. Done good-bye,' said Lucy.

'It is very sad, parting with old friends,' murmured Mrs. Macdougal, with
veiled eyes.

'Sadder parting with new ones,' replied Jim, glancing towards Lucy.

'Oh yes, it is, is it not? But you will come and visit us some time at
Boobyalla. We are shipmates, and that's a sort of relationship in
Australia.'

Done thanked her, but equivocated. He could not see himself as the guest
of the great Donald Macdougal, J.P., of Boobyalla. The lady experienced a
glow of impatience. Only a hobbledehoy could prefer Lucy Woodrow's
immature charms to the ripe perfections of a woman of her years.

VI

JIM was the first off the Francis Cadman on the Monday afternoon when she
drew alongside the rough Yarra wharf just under Bateman's Hill, and when
he set his foot on Australian soil he planted one tendril of his heart
there. He let fall his bag, and looked about him. The arrival of the ship
had occasioned no interest that he could discover. Perhaps the news was
not yet common property. A dusty road along the banks of the river on his
right led to the town; there were a few scattered houses of dark stone
and primitive design on the hill before him, beside which the lawless
gum-trees flourished. The day was intensely hot; a wind that might have
breathed o'er the infernal regions whipped up clouds of dust, and spun
them into fantastic shapes, filling eyes and lungs, but no discomfort
could dull the joy he felt on coming into his kingdom. He had turned his
back to the wind to wait the passing of a sirocco of sand, when a
double-seated American waggon, drawn by two steaming horses, flashed on
him out of the storm, driving him headlong to the ground, and coming to a
standstill within a few feet. The bag had served as a buffer, and the
deeply-ploughed roadway made a soft bed, so that no bones were broken;
but Done arose with all his fighting instincts aflame, and turned upon
the driver.

'You murderous ruffian!' he cried. 'I've a mind to break - '

He stopped short, one foot upon the step, one hand grasping the ironwork
of the seat, staring at the driver, suddenly disarmed. The man on the
seat was a grizzled, malformed creature of about fifty, with a
deeply-wrinkled small face, burnt a dark tan, and almost covered with a
tangle of short, crisp, iron-gray whiskers. The suggestion of a
rough-haired terrier was so strong that Done expected the brute to bark
at him. The small eyes in the protecting shade of tufted brows, like
miniature overhanging horns, were keen and shrewd This extraordinary head
was supported by a small and shapeless body, the legs of which were much
too long and extremely thin, as were the arms also; but the wrists and
hands, strained to hold the restive horses, were hard, corded, and hairy,
suggesting a gorilla-like vitality in the curious man. Done let himself
down to the roadway again. One could not fight with so miserable a
cripple.

'You drive like a madman, mister,' he said in a milder tone.

'Maybe yer off the ship just now?' said the ape like driver, quite
ignoring Done's grievance and his words. 'So bein', you can tell we if
there's a Mistress Macdougal aboard her.'

The man kept his eyes on his horses; his heels were firmly set on the
footboard. It. needed all the strength of his iron wrists to restrain the
beasts - tall, lean bays, with a certain piratical rakishness about them,
long-maned and long-tailed, effective weapons against the voracious flies
that swarmed over their rumps. Their powerful frames showed through
clean, healthy hides, and their blood in the proud carriage of their
heads and their hot impatience under restraint. A half-caste aboriginal
boy, dressed apparently in his master's old clothes - and the master's own
clothes were none too new - sprawled on the bottom of the vehicle, and
grinned at Done in a friendly way over the tailboard. Jim resented the
cripple's contempt for his wrongs, and ignored the question put to him.
He was taking up his belongings again, when Mrs. Macdougal herself
fluttered by.

'Why, Mack!' she cried.

The driver's eyes left his horses' ears for a moment, and rested on the
lady. They displayed no particular feeling.

'Hello, missus!' he said casually, adding, after a pause: 'Best jump up.
Nags a bit fresh.'

Jim walked on. So this was Donald Macdougal, J.P., of Boobyalla. The
young man's annoyance fell from him. He thought of the devoted husband's
greeting after their long parting, and laughed aloud. Macdougal of
Boobyalla was no demonstrative lover. A few minutes later the waggon
dashed past Done; the bays were being driven at a gallop, and the vehicle
fairly jumped on the broken road. The young man caught a glimpse of Lucy
clinging desperately to her seat, and then waggon and horses were buried
in a dust-cloud of their own making, which was whirled away at a terrific
pace, and spun out of his view round a distant corner.

Done plodded along with his bag upon his shoulder. He had no definite
plan of action. He thought now of looking about him for a day or two
before leaving for the fields. No doubt it would be an easy matter to get
accommodation at some hotel or lodging-house. After that he would move
with the throng, and his future actions would depend upon such knowledge
as he might be able to gather from the experienced people with whom he
came in contact. He presently had ample proof that the driving of
Macdougal of Boobyalla was nothing extraordinary here. Three horsemen
passed him at a racing speed, and with much shouting and cracking of
whips, and a wild, bewhiskered Bushman, driving two horses in a light,
giglike vehicle, charged through the dust at a pace implying some
business of life or death; but a little further on Jim came upon the
steaming pair tethered to a post outside a rough structure labelled the
'Miner's Rest,' and at the bar stood the driver toying lazily with a
nobbler of brandy. He passed groups of men lounging against the building
and sitting in the street, all smoking, none showing particular concern
about anything. Their lethargy surprised him. He had expected to find the
town mad with excitement, to behold here the gold fever blazing without
restraint; but wherever there was a post to lean against a man was
leaning against it, exactly as if there were nothing doing, and the world
had not just run demented over the richness of their Victorian fields. It
remained for him to learn that this very excitement provoked a
corresponding lassitude, and that when the Australian diggers were not
indulging in the extreme of frenzied exertion or boisterous recreation
their inertia surpassed that of their own koala, the native sloth.

Ere he reached the busier part of the town, Jim made the disconcerting
discovery that he was a marked man, an object of public contumely. He had
heard calls of derision at various points along the road, and was
convinced now that for some reason or another he was exciting the
laughter and badinage of the men. This was a painful shock to Done's
happiness. The situation recalled Chisley, and something of the old
Ishmael stirred within him. He set his teeth and hurried on.
'Pea-souper!' was the epithet most in favour amongst his tormentors. Why
'Pea-souper!' Jim could not understand. He could see no aptness in its
application to him, and yet it was certainly a term of mockery.
'Pea-souper!' The taunt had an ignominious flavour. It hurt because it
recalled so much of what he had travelled halfway round the world to
escape.

He plunged into Elizabeth Street as if seeking cover. Here the crowd was
thick, and one man might pass unheeded. Elizabeth Street was the busiest
thoroughfare of Melbourne - a miserable, unformed street, the buildings of
which were perched on either side of a gully. Pedestrians who were not
sober ran serious risks of falling from the footpaths into the roadway
below, a rather serious fall in places. Plunged is the right word; the
road was churned into a dust-pit, on the footpath the dust lay
ankle-deep, and people on foot had the appearance of wading through
shallow water. Occasional gusts of the hot north wind seemed to lift the
Street like a blanket, and shake its yellow, insinuating dust in the
faces of the people.

Here Done found the characteristic lassitude of the unemployed digger and
the surging life of a town suddenly thronged with the adventurous men of
the earth blended in a strange medley. Men were lounging everywhere,
talking and smoking, or merely sunk in a state of abstraction. The talk
was all of digging. The miners were exchanging news, rumour and opinions,
and lying about their past takings, or the fabulous patches they had just
missed - lying patiently and pertinaciously. Many faces were marked and
discoloured from recent debauches. Lowly inebriates slept peacefully in
the dust, one with his head affectionately pillowed on a dog that snarled
and snapped at anyone coming within three feet of its master.

There was little variety in the dress worn. Even the man who had not been
two miles from Melbourne affected the manner of the digger, and donned
his uniform. Cabbage-tree hats or billycocks were on every head, and for
the rest a gray or blue jumper tucked into Clay-stained trousers and
Wellington boots satisfied the majority. A few swells and 'flash' diggers
exhibited a lively fancy in puggaries and silk sashes and velvet
corduroys and natty patent-leather leggings, but anything more
pretentious was received with unmistakable manifestations of popular
disfavour. A large bullock-team hauling a waggon load of bales blundered
slowly along the road, the weary cattle swinging from side to side under
the lash of the bullocky, who yelled hoarse profanity with the volubility
of an auctioneer and the vocabulary of a Yankee skipper unchecked by
authority. A little further on another team, drawn up before a hotel, lay
sprawling, half buried, the patient bullocks twisted into painful angles
by reason of their yokes, quietly chewing the cud. Riders and drivers
conformed to no rule of the road, and maintained a headlong pace implying
a great contempt for horseflesh, and no more respect for their own limbs
than for the neck of the merest stranger. From the bars, which were
frequent, came a babel of laughter and shouting. To the 'Pea-souper'
every thing was new and wonderful.

A squalid aboriginal swathed in an old tablecloth fresh from some
breakfast started from a corner, pointing a long, dirty finger at Done,
and grinning a wide grin.

'Yah! dam new chum!' he said. Then he laughed as only an Australian black
can, with a glitter of seemingly endless white teeth, and a strident roar
that might have been heard a mile off.

'New chum!' This appellation had been thrown at Done a dozen times.

'Pea-souper!' trumpeted a horseman through his hands. There were
sarcastic references to 'limejuice,' and Jim was asked by several
strangers, with a show of much concern, if his mother knew he was out.
'Does your mother know you're out?' was then a new and popular street
gag, and the query implied a childlike incapability of taking care of
himself on the part of the person addressed, and was generally accepted
as a choice piece of humour. Jim heard so many references to the 'new
chum's bundle' that he was presently satisfied he owed all these
unpleasant little attentions to the burden he carried, and he determined
to rid himself of it at the first opportunity. Turning into Bourke
Street, he eventually found a hotel where there was comparative peace.
Entering, he called for a drink.

'New chum?' queried the barman, after serving him.

'I suppose I am,' replied Jim. 'Look here, would you mind telling me what
in the devil's name a new chum is?'

'A new chum is a man fresh from home.'

'From England?'

'Scotland, Ireland, anywhere else, if he's green and inexperienced.
Miners from the Californian fields don't rank as new chums.'

'And how am I known as a new chum?'

The barman grinned. 'That'll tell on you all over the place,' he said,
indicating the bag. 'That's a true new chum's bundle. No Australian would
expatriate himself by carrying his goods in that fashion. He makes them
up in a roll, straps them, and carries them in a sling on his back. His
bundle is then a swag. The swag is the Australian's national badge.'

'Well, I'm hanged if that isn't a little thing to make a row about. Do
you reckon it shameful to be a new chum, then?'

'Not exactly. No offence is intended; the men jeer out of mere harmless
devilment. The new churn's got so much to learn here, he can't help
looking a born fool as a general thing.'

'And pea-souper and lime-juicer?'

'They've been hazing you properly, mate. Pea-soupers and lime-juicers are
strangers off shipboard. They'd never have spotted you, though, without
the bundle. There's no raw-meat tint about you; you're tanned like a
native. Buy a blue jumper and get a cabbage-tree up in place of that cap,
and you'd pass muster as a Sydney-sider born and bred.'

'A cabbage-tree?'

'Hat - straw. Get a second-hand one if you can: they're more appreciated.
Usually a man likes to colour his own hat as he colours his own pipe; but
you're eager to meet the Australian prejudice against newness. Another
bit of advice,' continued the bar-man, who was glad of the chance to turn
his vast antipodean experience to some account. 'If you happen to be
anybody in particular, as you love your peace of mind and your bodily
comfort, don't speak of it.'

'Luckily, I'm nobody in particular.'

'That's all right. I was idiot enough to let it be known that I was
afflicted with an aristocratic name, and I had to hold this job against
banter enough to drive a cow daft. Now my name's Smith.'

'Are you a new chum, then?'

'Lord no! I've been out seven weeks.'

It was Jim's turn to laugh. 'Well,' he said, 'if a man can qualify as a
representative Australian in seven weeks, I'm not going to complain.'

The barman provided much more valuable information. Bed and board could
not be had at that establishment for love or money, and, furthermore, it
was unlikely Jim would be able to find lodgings anywhere in Melbourne.

'I suppose you can take care of yourself - you look a likely man,' he
said. 'Well, the nights are so warm no man needs a dwelling. When you're
tired of knocking round to-night, take your traps down by the river, roll
yourself in your blanket in the lee of a gum-tree, and sleep there. Did
it myself for a week, and only had to put up one fight all the time.
Sleeping out's no hardship here. Meanwhile, in exchange for the latest
news from down under, I'll dump your swag, and keep an eye on her till
you call again.'

The young fellow's ready friendship was most grateful to Done, and he
remained in the bar till a run of business rendered further conversation
impossible, picking up useful knowledge by the way, and presently
discovering the barman to be a gentleman with an expensive polish, whose
most earnest desire was to hide his gentility and disguise the contingent
gloss under a brave assumption of the manners and speech peculiar to the
people of the rough young democracy.

Tea that evening was the most expensive meal Jim Done had ever eaten, and
far from being the best; but his appetite was equal to anything, and the
fare on the Francis Cadman had not been so dainty as to give him any
epicurean prejudices. It was night when Jim came from the primitive
restaurant, darkness having come down with a suddenness surprising to a
new chum accustomed to long twilights. Jim had taken tea in a tent near


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Online LibraryEdward DysonIn the Roaring Fifties → online text (page 4 of 21)