Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/The deserted diggings

THE DESERTED DIGGINGS.

BY AN OLD CHUM.

 

 

It was about an hour before sunset, on a beautiful day in early spring, that I rode slowly amongst the solitary heath-clad ranges of the once famous Kajunga diggings. For miles and miles the bed of every gully, the crest of every hill, and the broad surface of every flat, were thickly dotted with hillocks of pipe-clay heaped up near some fallen-in shaft, over the mouths of many of which windlass-legs, with here and there a windlass-barrel, were still standing. Three years before, every hill and gully in the district was thickly peopled. The site of tents and stores might still be easily traced on the ground, which, where they had stood, was hard and grassless, while on every side sod or log-chimneys—the latter, for the most part, entire, the former in various stages of decay—gave abundant proof how numerous had once been the dwelling-places of the digger. The country through which I had for some hours been travelling is in general barren and desolate in the extreme, badly watered and seldom affording even the scantiest feed, so that, once robbed of its gold, it had speedily relapsed into its former uninhabited state. The past winter, however, had been a remarkably rainy one, and, under the genial influence of the spring sun, the landscape had assumed the most beautiful appearance. The flats were emerald-green with young grass, while the ranges presented all the hues of the rainbow from the many-coloured heaths through which my horse made his way breast-deep. Thousands of wild flowers sprang up on every side, whilst overhead the wattle-blossoms, gleaming like gold amongst the delicate foliage, filled the air with perfume. The timber had been sadly thinned in old times by the axe of the digger, and by frequent bush-fires, but still many a noble white-gum stood in the flats, and the summits of the hills were clothed with the stringy bark and peppermint. Pausing on the top of a range a little higher than its neighbours to contemplate the beauty of the scene, my eye caught sight of something bright glancing amongst the trees to the north, which I at once guessed to be the Kajunga Creek, on the banks of which I meant to camp for the night. Giving my nag his head, he settled at once into that curious shambling gallop which an old stock-horse will keep up for hours, and in a few minutes I reached the creek on whose banks I found, as I had expected, very tolerable feed.

Dismounting, I took off the saddle and bridle, and placing them on the ground beside my blanket and cooking utensils, I hobbled my horse, and left him to go where he would; then, after a plunge in the creek, I kindled a fire, made my tea, toasted my chops on the end of a stick, and, having thoroughly satisfied my appetite, mixed myself a good stiff pannikin of brandy and water from my capacious flask, and, seating myself cozily on a log before the fire, lighted my pipe and began to smoke. The sun had now gone down some time, and the stillness of the starlit night was unbroken save by the rattle of my horse’s hobbles as he changed his feeding-ground, and occasionally by the plaintive notes of the curlew, or the cry of the more-pork, the night-cuckoo of Australia.

Yielding to the potency of the grog and the soothing influences of the honey-dew, I had fallen into a semi-dozing state, when I was suddenly aroused by the sound of voices, and almost immediately afterwards three men stepped out of the gloom into the bright fire-light, and, with a hearty “What cheer, mate!” commenced making themselves comfortable for the night, much after the same fashion I myself had pursued an hour or so before. They were evidently all diggers, for I noticed the marks of the pipe-clay on their moleskins, and as they had only their blankets with them and no tools, I guessed, as was the case, that they must be on their road down to town. After they had supped, I produced the brandy-flask, and, as may be imagined, we fraternised at once. We talked upon various subjects; of the good old times, when gold was plentiful and diggers few—of the bad new times, when diggers abounded, but gold was, alas! scarce; of Eaglehawk; of the Balaarat riots, in which one of my companions had lost a couple of fingers; of dodging the police in the old licence-hunting days, and of a hundred other kindred subjects which, to an old gold-seeker, furnish an endless fund of amusement. I myself had handled the pick and rocked the cradle for many a long day, so that I was fully qualified to bear my part in the conversation. After some time, however, the current of talk slackened gradually, and at last we had remained silently smoking for several minutes, when one of my companions, addressing himself to another, a short but enormously powerful man, who was extended at full length before the fire, and whose face was so completely buried in hair that only the tip of his nose and his sharply twinkling eyes were visible, said:

“Bill, my boy! didn’t you work somewhere hereabouts, once upon a time?”

“Yes,” replied Bill; “about a matter of three years and a-half ago I worked on the old Kajunga, more by token, I had the best hole in Murder-will-out Gully that ever fell to my share since I first handled a pick.”

“Murder-will-out Gully!” I exclaimed; “well, I have heard some queer names given to gullies and flats in my time, what with Dead-horse, Lucky-woman, Peg-leg, Nip-cheese, Pinch-gut, and such like, but that beats them all. Pray, why was it so called?”

“Well, you see, mate,” said Bill, “I am not much of a hand at pitching a tale, but, as you seem the right sort, I’ll try for once. It will be four years on the third of next month since first I came on to Kajunga. I had been working at Friar’s Creek, in tucker-holes,[1] for some time previously, for my mate had been bad with the dysentery, and, of course, I couldn’t leave him. At last, however, he died, and having been told that there were some old shipmates of mine up here, I determined to come up and try my luck. Well, I soon picked up with a fresh mate, and a pretty tidy hole, too, for there was gold galore in these parts then. There was a rare rough lot about here, though. You see, it was a goodish way from the old established gold-fields, and the diggings were scattered over such a deal of ground, that what few troopers we had up here went pretty nigh for nothing, so that every man of us used to sleep with his loaded revolver under his head, as in the old times on Golden Point. I was camped a few miles higher up the creek, and in the next tent to us were a couple of chaps who had been working there some time; but, partly through want of luck, and partly through blowing all they earned in the grog-shanties, they were pretty well always down on their luck. The name of the youngest of them was Charley Smart—Smart Charley we used to call him, though; for of a Sunday he used to come out in a grey shirt all worked with scarlet silk, a great red sash round his waist, a real Panama hat, breeches, and knee-boots, all which swell dunnage he had brought with him from California, where he and his brother, who was then away at McIvor, had worked for some time. He was a very good-looking young chap, though he was as white in the face as a parsnip, but he was uncommon strong and hearty, and an out-and-out good workman. His mate Alick—or Black Alick, as we used to call him, on account of the darkness of his skin—was a chap of about fifty years of age, and as ill-looking a customer as you could well meet with on a day’s march, even in this country. I have heard since that he was tried in the old country for robbery and murder. There wasn’t quite evidence enough to bring the hanging matter home to him, though there wasn’t much doubt of his guilt; so he saved his neck, and came out to the colonies at government expense instead. He was a gloomy, morose kind of fellow, very quarrelsome when in drink, and as unsociable as a bear, for when he was out of cash to knock down in grog he used always to turn in as soon os ever he had swallowed his supper, never coming out to sit by the fire and smoke and yarn like the rest of us used to do. Smart Charley was quite another guess sort of chap. He would sit up half the night as long as any one was left to talk to, and seemed to dislike the blankets as much as Black Alick loved them.

“Now, a short distance from where we were camped, there was a grog-shanty—not one of your new-fangled, weather-boarded hotels, with a grand bar all set out with swell decanters full of bad liquor, but a jolly great tent, well put up, with a good fly over it, lined throughout with green baize, and a sod chimney to it that would hold an eight-foot log—as comfortable a crib as a man could wish to set foot in who was content to pour good stuff out of a black bottle, and drink it out of a pannikin. It was kept by a Yankee—a very fair specimen of one he was, too, and an uncommon good hand at drinks, to be sure. The way he could mix a julep was a caution. Well, a whole lot of us chaps used to frequent this shanty more or less, and, though I never was much of a one for drink, I used to go up pretty regular of a Saturday night, and have a hand at yuker or cribbage, and a glass or two of hot whiskey-and-water, real Scotch, and first-rate at that. The Yankee boys who came there said it was nothing to Monongohela; but Charley, who had been some time in America, said that that was all gas. However, as I never tasted the liquor in question, I can’t say. Among the fellows who used the shanty—the ‘Stars and Stripes, ’ as we called it—was one who dropped in occasionally, who went by the name of Indian Hepe, though he was no more an Indian than you are, for his father was a Scotchman and his mother a Mexican woman of Sonora; but he had been stolen away when a lad by the Indians who live on horseback—Comanchees, I think, they call them—and had passed pretty nigh twenty years of his life among them. I have heard that he became a chief, and had raised a deal of hair in his time; but whether this was true or not I can’t say, for he was a silent sort of chap, and never said much about his past life. He had come on to the California diggings soon after they broke out, and afterwards came over to Sydney, and from there to Victoria. We used to think him a bit mad, for he would go away with his gun all alone for weeks, living upon what he could shoot, and when he came back to work he used to prefer spending half the night by himself in the bush, stretched out on his back, staring up at the stars, to sitting comfortably by the fire and smoking his pipe like a Christian. There were queer tales afloat about his having told some fellows’ fortunes up on Eaglehawk, and how all he said had come true. Well, one Saturday night—I remember it well, for we had nuggeted pretty nigh thirty ounces that day—we were all of us up at the Stars and Stripes. Alick and Charley had been pretty well in luck that week, and they insisted on shouting[2] all round, time after time, till we all, I fancy, had taken a little more than was good for us, and even Hepe began to talk a bit. Charley seeing this began gammoning and chaffing him about his powers of fortune-telling. The Indian took it very quietly at first; but, when Charley went on too much at him, he got riled, and said he:

‘Charley, I can tell you something that will happen to you, as sure as you are sitting before that fire.’

‘What is it, Indian?’ says Charley; ‘speak up!’

‘Well, the best hole of the best rush that ever was or ever will be on Kajunga shall be found by you, and yet you will never handle an ounce of the gold, and, what’s more, those that work it will never profit by it.’

“At this we all laughed heartily, and says Charley:

‘If it’s ever my luck to come across a bit of good ground, I should like to see the chap living that would jump[3] it, and I’d not only handle the gold but spend it, too. As to profiting by it, why that’s another thing altogether; but if I didn’t, the Stars and Stripes would, at any rate.’

“Hepe didn’t make any reply, but sat quietly smoking his pipe for a bit, and then got up and went away. By this time Alick had begun to get nasty, and wanted to fight everybody in the shanty, one down the other come on, so I thought it time to make tracks for my tent and turn in.

“It seems that soon after I left, Alick and Charley had a bit of a barney, which ended in a regular stand-up fight, and when old Stars and Stripes attempted to separate them, they both went into him like mad, and beat him pretty nigh into a jelly before the other boys could get him away. He was precious savage at this, as you may think, and swore that neither of them should ever have another nobbler from him, either for love or money.

“A few days after this shindy the rush to the White Hills took place, and Alick and Charley got a capital claim, dead on the gutter. It was so good a one that they couldn’t have knocked down all they made, even if they had had every night to do it in; but old Stars and Stripes wouldn’t have them at any price, and, though there were lots of grog-tents in the neighbourhood, there wasn’t a drop of decent stuff to be got nearer than the township, which was pretty well three miles off, with a rare rough road to it, bad enough to travel even by daylight—so they were obliged to lay by their gold, whether they would or not.

“For the first few Sundays they used to start off for Kajunga as soon as day broke, drink all day, and come reeling back just before sunset. But there had been ill-blood between them ever since the night of the row, and on the third Sunday they had another fight, and Charley drew his revolver on Alick—a bad habit he had learned over in California. There wasn’t any harm done, for some of the boys who were present interfered; but there was no love lost between them from that day, and, though they still worked and lived together, they seldom or never spoke, and used to grub separate. Alick still kept up his Sunday journeys to Kajunga, but Charley never went down any more, turned quite steady, and saved up a heap of gold. This sort of game went on for three months or more, till one Wednesday evening, as we were sitting round the fire after supper, Charley says to me:

‘We shall have washed up by Saturday afternoon, Bill, and as I and Alick don’t hit it any longer I shall start away on Sunday morning for Melbourne, and have a spree. I expect my brother Jack will get down there in a couple of weeks or so, and then we will either come up here again to prospect for the claim the Indian told me of, or try some fresh diggings. I rather think, however, I shall do the latter.’

“On Saturday night Charley came and had his supper with us.

‘It’s my last night on the old Kajunga,’ says he, ‘I wish you would get old Stars and Stripes to let me in, I should like to shout for the boys once more before I go.’

“I went up to the shanty, and, after a deal of trouble, I made it all right for Charley, but Alick he wouldn’t have, do what I would, and I tried pretty hard, too. However, I might have saved myself all bother on his account, for it seems while I was away he came out of the tent, and Charley, who was as good-hearted a fellow as ever breathed, asked him to shake hands and have a nobbler, but Alick only swore at him and went in again. Well, we had a right down jolly night of it, to be sure. Stars and Stripes brewed us some stunning rum punch, and we had lots of singing and plenty of good yarns, and were very merry, without any of us getting much over the mark. Rather late Indian came in, for, like the rest of us, he liked Charley, and would have been sorry to let him go away without wishing him luck. Charley shook him by the hand.

‘Indian,’ says he, ‘I hav’n’t found this grand hole yet, though I have had a pretty fair one, and can’t complain.’

‘Wait a bit,’ says Hepe, ‘you’ll find it, no fear.’

“Charley laughed, and was going to make some reply; but just then one of the boys began a song with a chorus as long as from here to the top of Mount Lofty, and we all joined in of course, and so the subject was dropped. We knocked off soon after midnight, and I walked down to the tent with Charley.

‘Good bye, old fellow,’ says he, ‘I sha’n’t see you in the morning, for I shall be off by daybreak, and I know that you can do with a tidy amount of sleep on a Sunday. I sha’n’t be long making town, for I mean to take nothing with me but the things I stand up in and my gold. The tent is Alick’s, and if he leaves before I return, I have told him to let you have my tub and cradle and tools, and if I am not back in three months, why you are quite welcome to them. Good night, old chap, and good luck to you.’ With that we went into our tents, and in a few minutes I was wrapped in my blankets and sound asleep. Just about dawn I was woke up by Charley, who was whistling away most vigorously as he made his fire and boiled the water for his tea. He wasn’t long in finishing his breakfast, and then away he went on his journey as brisk as a bee. Instead of taking the main road which led to Kajunga, he passed right by our tent, and struck at once into the bush, intending, no doubt, to give the township a wide berth, which was a very sensible notion of his, as there were a deal of old hands and roughs loafing about it, and he carried a large amount of gold about him. As I was dropping off to sleep again, I thought I heard a slight noise as if some one was passing our tent on tip-toe, but as I was too sleepy to give much heed, and the dog which lay stretched out at the entrance of the tent didn’t bark, I just gave myself an extra coil in the blankets, and was soon in the land of Nod. I seldom got up of a Sunday much before ten, but as my mate and I had agreed to go out on the plains that day after some turkey that had been seen about, and it being my week to cook, I roused out pretty early, lighted the fire, and set to work to get breakfast ready. I was busy frying the chops, when, looking up, I saw Alick coming along the road from the township. He had his gun under his arm and a brace of snipe in one hand.

‘Why, Alick,’ said I, ‘you have been out after the birds pretty early.’

‘Oh,’ says he, ‘Charley made such a cursed row this morning, that he woke me up, and, as I couldn’t get to sleep again, I thought I would try if there was anything to be got along the creek. I have been pretty well all the way to the township, and this is all I’ve lighted on.’

‘Well,’ says I, ‘I hope we shall have better sport, at any rate.’

‘I hope you will,’ says he; and into his tent he goes.

“Well, things went on pretty much in the old way with us for the next few weeks—the only thing in any way remarkable was the change that had come over Alick. Since Charley’s departure he never shut himself up of a night as he used to do, but came out regularly and sat with the rest of us till the very last man went off,—and then even he did not seem much inclined to turn in himself. Not that he was a bit more pleasant than before, for formerly he used to speak now and then, but now he never so much as opened his mouth, but sat smoking and staring into the fire, and looking altogether as miserable as a bandicoot. Nobody cared about him for a mate—and indeed he never looked after one himself, but went and worked as a hatter[4] at some surfacing which had just been struck on the side of Iron-bark Gully. The stuff wasn’t very rich, but as there was a considerable depth of it, and it was very easy washing, being quite free from clay, and not requiring above two waters, he did pretty well at it. He had taken to save his money, too, for his Sunday journeys to the township were entirely dropped, and the Stars and Stripes wouldn’t have him at any price, though he begged hard to be let in. Well, it may have been a couple of months or thereabouts after Charley left us that me and my mate were sitting one fine night in front of our tent doing our pipes. It was full moon, and pretty nigh as light as day. Alick had been working late, and was busy in his tent getting his supper ready, to cook which he had lighted a big fire not very far from where we were seated. I had just been talking to my mate about Charley, and was wondering whether he meant to come back for his things or to leave them for me, when who should I see come out of the bush just behind Alick’s tent but Charley himself. He was dressed just the same as usual—gray shirt, red sash and all, but looked, if possible, a trifle more bloodless than ever. To my surprise he passed by the tent, and though I shouted out to him he took no notice, but walked straight over to the fire and sat down on a log which lay beside it, with his back towards us. Well, I was just going up to ask him what he meant by cutting a couple of old pals in that style, when out came Alick, carrying a billy full of soup in his hand, which he was going to warm up, and as he kept stirring it round while he walked, he did not notice Charley, who sat quite still, looking at the fire, without ever saying a word. Alick stooped down, settled the logs so as to make a firm place on which to set his pot, and as he lifted up his head after placing it on the fire, he caught sight of Charley. Never shall I forget his face, if I were to live a thousand years. For about half a minute he stood as still as if he were turned into stone—his mouth wide open, his eyes starting out of his head, and his cheeks as white as pipe-clay; then, with a horrible yell, he fell head foremost in the fire. My mate and I rushed up, dragged him from amongst the blazing logs, and when we had done so, and turned round to look for Charley, he was gone. Well, I can tell you, I began to feel pretty scared, and no mistake.

‘Ned,’ says I, to my mate, ‘there’s something wrong here. If that wasn’t Charley himself it was his ghost, and I am sure if he had been living he would never have gone off like that, without having a talk with us and the rest of the boys.’

‘Nonsense,’ says he, ‘there ain’t any such thing as ghosts.’

But though he pretended to laugh at the whole affair, and said that Charley was only having a game with us, I could see by his looks that he was more inclined after all to be of my opinion than of his own. However, we didn’t have much time for talking, for all the while we were holding up Alick, who, though not very badly burned, was quite insensible. We carried him into his tent, and tried everything we could think of to bring him round, but as it was all of no use, my mate proposed that he should sit up with him one half the night, and I the other. Well, it might have been about midnight when my mate came and woke me up. ‘Why,’ says I, ‘what’s the matter with you? you look as white as a ghost?’ ‘Get up,’ said he, ‘and come along with me. Poor Charley, I am afraid it’s all over with him.’ As I couldn’t get anything more out of him, I hurried on my clothes and went with him to Alick’s tent. By the light of the candle, which stood on the table near the head of the bunk, I could see Alick’s features plainly. He was asleep, but his face was perfectly livid, and the perspiration was rolling in huge drops down his forehead. For about a quarter of an hour he lay like this quite still, my mate and I watching him in silence. Suddenly, however, he raised himself up, and screamed out:

‘Keep him off! keep him off! he has come to drag me down to hell. His grave cannot hold him, and yet I buried him deep down, deep down. Mercy, my God, mercy, mercy, mercy!’

“His screams gradually grew fainter, and at last he fell back perfectly exhausted.

‘Has he been taken like that before to-night?’ says I.

‘Yes, just before I came and woke you up.’

‘Well, you go and turn in now, and I will stay with him till morning, and then we’ll think what is best to be done.’

“It might have been about daylight when Alick roused up all of a sudden. He sat up, looked round the tent, and seeing me seated on the opposite bunk, he exclaimed:

‘Why, what’s all this? I must have been ill.’

“I didn’t make him any answer, so he laid himself down again, and turning himself so that I couldn’t see his face, he said, after a bit:

‘Where’s Charley? Didn’t Charley come back last night?’

‘Where Charley is, Alick,’ said I, ‘you best know.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ says he, savagely, starting up, and facing me.

‘I mean,’ says I, ‘that you said things in your sleep last night that want explaining.’

‘What did I say?’ says he.

‘Never mind the exact words,’ says I; ‘but I may just as well tell you that before my mate and me you said as much as that you had murdered Charley Smart.’

With that he dropped back on his bunk again, as if he had been shot. He lay a long time without speaking. At last he raised himself up on one arm, and, says he:

‘Bill, it’s no use my keeping the matter to myself any longer. Charley’s ghost came for me last night, and though I escaped him that time, it’s all up with me I feel. I did murder him. I followed him that Sunday morning, and shot him down in a gully a few miles from here. I hid his body in the scrub, and in the evening I went down and buried him, but his grave was not deep enough—his grave was not deep enough.’

‘Well, Alick,’ says I, ‘I didn’t ask you to tell me all this, but now you have done so, I must do my duty.’

‘I know—I know,’ says he. ‘Let me go down with you, and show you where the body is buried, and then you may hand me over to the traps as soon as you like. I have been sick of my life this long time.’

The Deserted Diggings - Frederick Walker.png

“Well, I called my mate, and sent him up to the Stars and Stripes, where he found some of the boys who had come in for their morning-drink, and told them all about it, and a pretty row there was at once, as you may well think. Some of the Yankees were for lynching him right away, but the rest of us wouldn’t agree to it, and at last it was settled that Alick should go down with us, and show us the grave; and that in order not to attract the attention of those whom we might meet on the road, he should not be bound. It was necessary to take the greatest care in order to get him safe into the hands of the troopers, for if the news of the murder had once got noised about the township, he wouldn’t have had many minutes to say his prayers in, I can tell you. However, we put our revolvers in our pockets, and gave him notice that if he offered to escape we would shoot him down like a dog. He led us right through the bush, without ever speaking, till he came to a very long gully with steep sides, and about the middle of it he stopped, and pointing to a great half-charred log, said:

‘Underneath that.’

“We rolled away the log and began to dig, taking it in turns. It was a lightish soil, and easy sinking; so that working with a will, as we did, it wasn’t very long before we reached the body.

“It was in a horrible state of decay, but still it wasn’t so far gone, but what we could swear to it. We left some of our party with it, and then we started with Alick to take him to the police camp at Kajunga. Now, the creek, about a mile above Kajunga runs at the bottom of a tremendous precipice 300 or 400 feet in height, and along the top of this precipice lay our road. The scrub is very thick about there, and comes pretty well up to the edge of the cliff, so that there is but a narrow pathway of a few feet in width. Well, we had got almost within sight of the township, when who should come out of the bush about a hundred yards a head of us, but Charley. It was broad daylight, so that there was no mistaking him. Well, I can tell you, my heart beat double-quick, and I don’t think that any one of us felt quite at his ease. Alick was walking by my side when he caught sight of Charley advancing towards him. With a yell of terror he rushed across the narrow path and flung himself headlong over the precipice. He did it so suddenly that none of us could even offer to prevent him. I sprang to the edge of the cliff just in time to see him strike heavily against a projecting granite boulder, and fall with a dull splash into the dark waters of the creek, which closed over him for ever. When I looked round I saw the supposed ghost gazing over the precipice with an expression of horror and amazement in his face.

“This can’t be anything but a man, after all, thinks I, so I marched straight up to him, and I then saw at once that it was not Charley, though the likeness was so striking that at a short distance it would have deceived any one. The mystery was soon explained. He was Charley’s brother, Jack Smart, who not finding him in Melbourne, as he had expected, had come up to Kajunga to look after him. The evening before, he had missed his way, and got up to our tents. He had not replied to my welcome, because, being very deaf, he had not heard it. Alick’s extraordinary behaviour upon seeing him, had led him to believe that he was amongst a lot of candidates for the Yarra Bend,[5] so that while we were lugging Alick out of the fire, he quietly sloped into the bush again. Having worked for several years along with his brother in California, he had taken to dress exactly in the same style, which made the resemblance between them almost perfect. Well, you may be sure, when the news of all this reached the township, there was the devil to pay. Everybody knocked off work, and started off to see the place where the murdered man had been buried. There had been a pretty smart shower since we dug the body up, and as a Scotchman of the name of Campbell was looking at the grave, he saw something bright among the dirt that had been thrown up. He stooped down and picked it up, and what should it be but a nugget of pretty nigh three ounces, a small piece of which had been washed clean by the rain. Well, he jumped straight into the grave, and drove his pick in at once, and Rush Oh! was the order of the day. Claims were marked out on every side, the corpse was left to the care of Jack Smart and the police, who had just come up, and the gully was soon alive with the whole population of Kajunga, mad with excitement. I had marked out a claim about fifty yards from the grave claim as it was called, and was hard at work sinking for my bare life, when some one touched me on the shoulder. It was Hepe.

‘Well,’ says he, ‘what I said has come true. He found the claim, but he never handled the gold.’

“Well, whether it was chance or not, I cannot say, but everything Hepe told us, that night came to pass; for that was the best rush ever known on Kajunga, and the grave claim was allowed on all hands to be the best hole on it; and yet those who worked it never benefited by it, for the two Campbells who had it, after working it right out, all except one pillar, attempted to take that away without putting in proper props, so the roof of the drive fell in on them, and they were both killed. What became of the gold they took out of it was never known. No government receipts were found either on their bodies or among their things, nor could an ounce of gold be discovered though search was made wherever it was thought they might have stowed it away. My belief is that they planted it somewhere in the bush, but where, no one will ever know, for it ain’t likely that pick or spade will ever be plied upon the old Kajunga again.

‘And what amount of gold do you think they took out of their claim?’ said I.

‘Well, me and my mate cleared nearly 2000l. a man after all expenses paid. The American hole, which was the best after Campbell’s, turned out, I know, upwards of 5000l, so that I should think there must be between 5000l. and 6000l. lying somewhere handy if one only knew where to drop upon it; but prospecting for that lot amongst all these wild gullies would be but a poor spec, I reckon. And now, mates, my yarn is clean spun out, and as we must be up with the sun in the morning, I shall say good night.’

“So saying, he knocked the ashes from his pipe, rolled himself in his blanket, and in a few minutes was sound asleep, an example we were none of us slow to follow.”

An Old Chum.

 

  1. A tucker-hole is one that affords a bare subsistence.
  2. Shouting is Australian for standing treat.
  3. To jump a hole means to take possession of it under the pretence that it has not been worked for 24 hours, or that its owner possesses another claim.
  4. A digger who works alone is so called.
  5. The Yarra Bend is the Melbourne Madhouse.