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  ― 12 ―

In Australian Wilds.

WE were in the bush, Lilly Trot and I. Lilly Trott was my squire. Business of a particular nature had rendered it necessary that I should travel some distance into the interior of Victoria, one of the two greatest of all the Australasian colonies. Travelling by oneself was not a very safe undertaking in those days, for the bushrangers were about, and when they meant mischief a man or two more or less in a party they intended to attack was not of much consequence to them. I knew that well enough; and the reason that I chose Lilly Trot for a companion was not because I thought he would be an additional protection from danger, but because I did not like the idea of travelling by myself through the dreary solitudes of Victorian forests.

There is no disguising the fact that Lilly Trot was a convict. He did not disguise it himself; nor did he seem to have any particular delicacy


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with respect to its being known. He had his ticket-of-leave, and he was not backward in the showing of it. Perhaps his state of feeling arose from the circumstance that he was not alone in his misfortune. There were many hundreds of men in the Australian colonies whose journey to the Antipodes did not cost them as much as a ride to Chelsea would cost you or me, and who walked about with as independent an air as you or I would assume in walking through the Strand.

We were on horseback, with blankets before us on our saddles, to provide for our getting bushed. We were prepared for rough times. I carried my revolver, and Lilly Trot had a villainous-looking black life-preserver up his sleeve, ready at a moment's notice for any emergency. He professed a contempt for guns and pistols, and held his black guttapercha stick, with its heavy leaden knob, to be more than a match for the best revolver ever made. He had the reputation of nursing carefully in his body two or three bullets, which did not seem to cause him the slightest inconvenience, and this may account for his contempt for anything that contained a bullet.

We trotted along a melancholy track, thinly lined on each side with miserable half-starved trees. The lynx eyes of Lilly Trot were busy in all directions, and every now and then he pointed to some gully or hill-sideling as a likely place to find gold, if a man searched for it. It


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may be supposed that these last six words are unnecessary, on the assumption that gold could not be found unless it were searched for. But it was a very common thing, in the early days of the gold-diggings, for gold to be found on the surface of the soil; perhaps on a track where auriferous stones had been worn smooth by the tread of many feet and the roll of many wheels, until the dust upon them had been rubbed off, and their treasures revealed to the next passers-by; or perhaps on a hill crown after a storm, when the loose earth had been washed away by a heavy rain, leaving the bright little nuggets glistening in the sunshine that smiled when the rain-pour ceased.

Said Lilly Trot: “Some day there will be a rush here” (meaning a rush of gold-diggers to the spot indicated), “and perhaps the discovery of a new gold-field;” or, “Some day I shall come here with my pick, and look for gold;” or, “If gold is ever found hereabouts, I should select that piece of ground, where the hill is like a saddle; that's where the heaviest bits will have settled.” Some gold-diggers have a kind of second sight with respect to where the heaviest gold will be found.

The remarks of Lilly Trot served in a small measure to beguile the tedium of the journey. It was a sad-hearted track over which we were trotting, and it grew more despondent-looking and more gloomy every hundred yards. The


  ― 15 ―
occasional barking of a dog, the appearance of a stray hut, and the coming suddenly upon a party of sun-burnt men sawing timber, had been the only breaks in the monotonous solitude of the dismal woods. And now it was afternoon, and the unceasing cawing of thousands of ugly black crows jarred distressingly upon my ears. For three wearisome hours we rode along without meeting with the shadow of a human being. For three dull hours we rode through the almost trackless forest, and for all the signs of human life we saw, we might have been the last representatives of the human race existing upon the earth. For three seemingly interminable hours we rode past the same trees, over the same black stumps and branches, and under the same white staring sky. For three long hours we saw, as far as sight could reach, the same grand arch of timber, in the solitudes of which imagination built many an airy mansion, and the same leaden-looking hills and ranges that loomed upon us in the early morning. It was a dull, melancholy scene. We might have been riding through the Forest of the Dead, everything about us was so still and quiet; we might have been riding through the Forest of Despair, everything about us was so sad and gloomy; we might have been riding in the regions of Dreamland, everything about us was so strange and unreal.

I had fallen into a kind of listless dejection, when I suddenly found myself listening delightedly


  ― 16 ―
to a gush of the sweetest melody that ever flowed from mortal lips. It was simply Lilly Trot whistling, but whistling divinely, if such a term may be applied to what is usually considered a vulgar accomplishment. As I gazed at Lilly Trot, and heard him breathe beautiful melody from a pair of the coarsest lips that ever deformed a human mouth, my amazement grew very strong. He was whistling the principal airs from “La Sonnambula,” and I never heard them more artistically rendered. The softest-toned flute could not have produced sweeter music, and, as I listened, the skill of the whistler raised about me the village where Elvino and Amina lived and loved, the mill, the stream, and the thousand pleasurable traditional associations by which all such simple love stories are surrounded. The pleasant effect remained long after Lilly Trot ceased whistling, but when the rusty cawing of the crows forced itself again upon my attention, I noticed that the sun was sinking behind the distant ranges.

“We shall have to bush it, mate,” I said.

“That's so,” said Lilly Trot, unconcernedly; but looking about him sharply, despite his apparent carelessness, for a suitable spot to camp on.

There is but little twilight in Victoria, and the shadows were deepening around us when “Spell O!” sang out Lilly Trot suddenly, and at the magic cry we rolled off our horses, and began to gather dry leaves and dead wood for a fire to


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boil the tea. This was soon accomplished, the water being fetched from a water-hole which my inexperienced eyes would never have discovered, but Lilly Trot pointed it out. While the tea was boiling we hobbled our horses, and took the saddles and blankets from their backs. Then we rolled to the fire a tree that had been blown down, and soon it was in a blaze. All this was done neatly and expeditiously; and in a few minutes we were sitting by the fire, drinking tea and eating sandwiches with an appetite which only bushmen can possess. Then we filled our short cutty pipes and lighted them, and our happiness was complete. Not a word passed between us during the smoking of our first pipe; but when we had filled and re-lighted I said to myself, “Now is the time for a story, and there is the man who can tell it.” And then I said aloud:

“Lilly, yours must have been a queer sort of life.”

He smoked on in silence, and merely replied by a smile. I saw it in the flicker of light that blazed up as I spoke. His manner was encouraging, and I knew he would speak presently, as he did.

“Why, yes,” he said; “it has been a queer life, mine. I know you want to draw me out, matey, and I don't see much objection. What sort of story would you like? I can tell you lots of them, about all sorts of people, from pickpockets to murderers. I suppose you don't much care which? Just hold on a bit and I'll give you one.”




  ― 18 ―

He paused, as if considering which theme to choose; and having made up his mind, proceeded:

“It's about a match box, so we'll call it ‘The Story of a Match Box.’ ”

In the first few months of the gold-digging mania—when men scarcely knew if they stood on their heads or their heels, and when the whole country was so mad that it ought to have been put into a strait waistcoat—there were all sorts of strange things occurring, and all sorts of bad things done. Not a few men started for the gold-diggings, who were never more heard of and never will be. They were hardly missed. Many of them had no friends or families; their very names were often fictitious, and if anything was whispered about in connection with them it soon died away, and no efforts were made to discover if they were dead or alive; everybody was too busy, and nobody cared. Two mates would go on a prospecting tour; months would elapse, and one of them would be working in one of the gullies of Castlemaine or Ballarat; of the other nothing was ever heard, and nobody asked any questions. What business was it of anybody's if a man ran away from his wife, and shaved himself or let his hair grow, so that neither she nor his friends could know him again? A good many men were glad to run away and commence a new life and take a new name, and perhaps a new wife. I had a mate once who was married five times; it didn't


  ― 19 ―
matter to him. When he left his wives they got married again themselves. On one gold-diggings he lived in the next tent to an old wife of his, who had married a few weeks after he left her, and, do you know, they got quite friendly again. My mate and his old wife's husband used to go out regularly on the drink together. A nice kind of family arrangement, I thought it, when he told me the story, and we used to laugh at it rarely. He was a sinner, and I wasn't a saint, mind you; not a bit of it, mate.

You see, it was so easy for a man to lose himself. Take a clerk out of a city office, sprucely dressed, and with a nicely trimmed moustache; send him on to the gold-fields, and let him grow his beard and dress himself in moleskin trousers and Scotch twill shirt; let him work for a few weeks at the bottom of a twenty-foot shaft, or stand at the windlass all the day with his sleeves tucked up to his shoulders, with a black cutty pipe in his mouth and an old billycock on his head, and the sun blazing down upon him and browning every bit of flesh it could get at—why, in six months his own wife wouldn't know him! Perhaps the case was different. Perhaps he was knocked on the head, or tumbled into a hole, or was lost in the bush. It isn't at all an uncommon thing for diggers to find human bones at the bottom of deserted shafts; shafts that haven't been touched for twelve months perhaps. Sometimes a short-handled shovel will be found, with


  ― 20 ―
blood and hair sticking to it. They might have belonged to a man, or they might have belonged to a goat—it didn't matter which. In the old country they would kick up a regular row at such a discovery. All the doctors would be quarrelling whether it was a man's hair or a goat's, or a man's blood or a bullock's. The newspapers would be full of it; they wouldn't let it rest, you may take your oath on it. But here we don't kick up a row about such a trifle; we are not so squeamish.

I remember, continued Lilly Trot, nursing his knees and looking as much like a hedgehog as possible,—I remember the first time I heard of the gold-diggings. We were camping near the Porcupine—Sandy Jim, German Alf, and me. The country was ragged enough at that time, I can tell you. No tobacco or tea to be bought for love or money. We had neither love nor money, so we were forced to help ourselves from the nearest sheep-station. We tied up the overseer and an old woman, slaughtered a sheep, made up a little assortment of flour, tea, and sugar, pocketed all the tobacco we could lay hands on, took out of the paddock three of the best horses—not forgetting the saddles and bridles—and then made tracks as fast as we could with the booty. German Alf wanted to ill-use the old woman, who must have been nearer sixty years of age than fifty, and I had to threaten to shoot him before he would desist. Sandy Jim, too, swore he would rip him open if he wasn't quiet; and the pair of us got


  ― 21 ―
him away without any mischief being done. He was a tarnation thief, was German Alf; as black-hearted a thief as ever drew breath. The devil's got tight hold of him now, that's one consolation.

I'll tell you something. That old woman called to me just as I was going out of the room. She was tied up, and couldn't move, so I had to go back to her to know what she wanted. “You're a bad wicked man,” she said; “but you're not as bad as your mate, jerking her head as if she would have liked to jerk it at German Alf. “You have a little good left in you. Have you got a mother?”

Do you know, mate, that question struck me all of a heap. Something got into my throat which prevented me from answering her, and I went out of the hut dazed like.

When we were well away from the station we got off our horses, and sat down to our mutton and damper. We were at the end of our meal when a horseman rushed through the bush, and almost sent us flying. We were up in a moment, and in a twinkling the flying horseman was on the ground, roaring for mercy. We only did this in self-defence, you know; and in self-defence we thought it necessary to search him, for fear he should have loaded weapons about him. Sure enough we did find a neat little revolver, a bowie knife, and a small chamois leather bag full of yellow metal, which looked like brass.




  ― 22 ―

“Hallo, mate!” exclaimed Sandy Jim, “what the devil do you carry brass about you for?”

“Brass!” screamed the simpleton; “it's as much brass as you are! It's gold, that's what it is! It's gold!”

Simpleton or not—and he must have been mad, or something very near it, to let out the secret to such a rough lot as we were—he would have been a dead man in a very short time if it hadn't been for me; for German Alf had thrown himself on the fool at the mention of gold, and was pressing the life out of him. He was a devil, was German Alf; you were never safe with him. He would come behind you and throttle you without a word of warning, and smoke his pipe afterwards as cool as you like. I had to hug him pretty tight before I could get him off; and when he did let go he was almost as black in the face as the man he was trying to choke. I'm not over particular myself; but the flying horseman had never done me any harm, and, besides, I wanted to get out of him where he had found the gold. We had heard of gold being discovered, and didn't know whether to believe it or not; but now it seemed as if we were on the track of it. Upon our promising the flying horseman that we wouldn't hurt him, he told us that he had found the gold at Bendigo, that there were a hundred men there digging up as much as they could carry, and that we could get a ton of it if we liked.




  ― 23 ―

You may guess how excited we were. We determined to start off at once, and we made our new friend go with us. He refused at first, but when we threatened to kill him, and indeed had a rope round his neck, he changed his mind, and led the way. We went a little off the track to borrow tools from a station, and we succeeded in getting two shovels and a double-headed pick.

We got to Bendigo all right, and set to work at once. We couldn't get any ground in Golden Gully, where the diggers were making twenty ounces a day, so we crossed a hill into the next valley, where we began to work with a will. Three feet down we came to the gold. We called the gully Dead-dog Gully, because we found two or three dead dogs there. We worked there a fortnight; then we shifted our tent to Murdering Flat, where the gold wasn't found in such large pieces as in Dead-dog Gully, but there was more of it. Then we went to Jackass Gully, where we came upon a nugget that weighed seventy ounces. Altogether we did very well, and as there were not too many diggers on the gold-field for the first few weeks, there wasn't much squabbling about the ground. There was more than room enough for all of us who were there. We washed a hundred and twenty ounces out of one bucket of earth, and we might have made big fortunes if we hadn't been fools. But we took to drinking and knocking our money about, and laying silly wagers. We got the gold so


  ― 24 ―
easily, and thought so little of it, that when we went to a grog shop to drink, we'd give the storekeeper a big pinch of it for three glasses of whisky. If we wanted new shirts or boots, we'd go into a store and fit them on. We were mighty particular about our water-tight boots; we liked them to fit well and to look smart, and never asked the price. When we'd bought the things we did want, and plenty of things we didn't want, we used to throw a wooden match box filled with gold on the counter, and say to the storekeeper, “Take it out of that, mate.” And the storekeeper did take it out of that. We never knew how much was in the match box, and we never cared to know how much the storekeeper took. He would pretend to be very particular about it; would open the box carefully, and put a few pinches of gold into the scale, and put a little back, and take a little more, and look at the scales just as they balanced, and then look at us, as much as to say, “See what an honest fellow I am!” Or as much as to say, “How wrong it is of you to be so careless with your gold! But if you don't take care of it yourself, I must take care of it for you.” I've heard diggers lots of times, when the boxes were handed back to them, say to the storekeeper, “Here, take another pinch, mate,” as if it was snuff. And the storekeeper would take another pinch—not a small one—and then ask his customers if they'd have a drop of grog. That


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was a thing they never refused. And after that perhaps they'd buy something else they didn't want, and throw the match box to the storekeeper, that he might help himself again. The storekeepers on the gold-diggings made a fine thing out of the folly of reckless gold-diggers.

Every night we used to assemble at a shanty called the Go-a-head Restaurant, and there we used to drink ourselves blind, often winding up with a fight, in which knives would be used and some ugly wounds given. Lucky diggers would play cribbage, or brag, or euchre, for ounces or nuggets of gold, and hundreds of pounds would be lost and won in an hour. There was one gambling digger we called Double-or-Quits, because when he lost the game he would cry, “Double or quits!” and losing that, would cry, “Double or quits!” again; and then, “Double or quits!” and “Double or quits!” again and again, until he had nothing left to double with. He was one of the luckiest of all the diggers round about; wherever he stuck his pick, gold seemed to spring up, and beg of him to take it. He worked like a nigger all day, and when he had made forty or fifty ounces, he would get rid of it at “Double or quits.” He had a drop of drink in him once—it wasn't the only time he had it, mate—and he kissed a barmaid. When she boxed his ears for it—which wasn't what they always did—he caught her round the neck, and cried, “Double or quits!” and kissed her again. He came to a queer end.


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He had a quarrel with a digger, and they agreed to fight it out. They staked money on the fight—I forget how much—and Double-or-Quits licked his man, and won. “I'll fight you again to-morrow,” said the man who was licked. “All right,” said Double-or-Quits, “we'll fight to-morrow for the same amount—double or quits.” They fought the next day. Double-or-Quits came with a rush. “Double!” he cried, as he delivered a stinging blow. “Quits!” cried the other man, and he hit Double-or-Quits a tremendous blow, and knocked him senseless. Double-or-Quits never recovered from that blow. He took to his bed, and died a week afterwards. He was crazed all the time he was ill, and didn't know any one about him. But all the week he was playing cards with shadows, and crying out, “Come along—cut again! Double or quits!” A minute before he died he jumped clean out of bed, and looked before him in a fright, thinking that Old Nick was by his side, and had come to fetch him. “No, no!” he screamed. “Keep off—keep off! Double or quits!” And then, as if he had played and lost, he threw up his arms, and dropped down dead.

One night, when we were at the Go-a-head Restaurant, a digger related a story about an aboriginal, who had told him that great lumps of gold were lying on the surface a hundred miles away. When the digger asked in which direction the wonderful land lay, the aboriginal pointed in


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the direction of the Murray River, and said, “White man find plenty yellow stone there.” The diggers' tongues were very busy over the story, and nothing else was talked of all the night. As we walked home to our tent, Sandy Jim and German Alf, who were tremendously excited, did all they could to persuade me to start with them on a prospecting tour to find out the place. But I had led a hard life of it in the bush for a good many years, and I had made up my mind to go down to Melbourne for a spree. I proposed instead that the three of us should make tracks for Melbourne, spend a fortnight there and have a jolly spree, and then start for the interior. No, they wouldn't listen to it. They were mad to get to the new country, though they had no idea where it was. German Alf was determined not to stop in Bendigo another day; Sandy Jim sided with him. They were resolved, so was I, and that night we parted.

The next morning I was off to Melbourne, with my gold in a belt fastened round my waist, and my life-preserver slung handily on my wrist. German Alf and Sandy Jim started for the country where the gold was lying in big lumps on the surface; they started in the dead of night, for fear that they should be followed. I wasn't sorry to part from German Alf, he was too treacherous for me; but I did regret parting from old Sandy Jim. We had shared dangers and hardships in each other's company, and he had


  ― 28 ―
always stood by me like a man. We were once pretty nearly starved, too, in the bush; another hour would have cooked us, I believe. That sort of thing binds fellows to each other, you know. Sandy Jim and I didn't whimper when we separated. I gave him a match box—a metal one—that I had had for a dozen years, and he gave me a knife, a first-rate Dover, and we bade each other good-night, as if we were going to meet the next morning. I never saw him again alive.

I wonder if there ever will be another such a city as Melbourne was in the first year or two after the discovery of gold. I don't think it. All the world was there, Spaniards and Parleyvoos, Greeks and Malays, Russians and Indians. John Chinaman wasn't there; but he came afterwards, worse luck! Such drinking and squandering of money were never seen before, and will never be seen again. We were all mad. I had heaps of money in the shape of nuggets, so I put up at the biggest hotel in Melbourne, and drank champagne at two pound a bottle—Number Two we called it—for breakfast, dinner, and tea. I was just as bad as the rest of them. I was drinking phiz at the Criterion bar, when a mate I had known on the diggings came in and clapped me on the shoulder. “Hallo, Trot!” said he. “Hallo, mate!” said I. And I called for another bottle of Number Two, and knocked the neck off, and poured the champagne into pewter pots.


  ― 29 ―
When we had drunk it we exchanged news, which only consisted of the intelligence that we had both come to Melbourne on a spree, and were jolly glad to see each other. Little as that was to say, we took a long time saying it, and we might have stood there I don't know how long, if a voice that sounded three parts like a man's and one part like a woman's hadn't screamed out, “Now then, Tom; how much longer are you going to be?”

Tom dropped the pewter pot, and said, “Hang me if I wasn't forgetting; that's my wife!”

“Didn't know you were married, mate,” I said.

“More I was,” he said, scratching his head, “till an hour ago. Come out and see her.”

I went with him to the hotel door, and there in a coach was his wife, dressed in pink silk, a great red-faced Irishwoman, ten years older than Tom. A younger woman, but almost as big, was sitting next to her.

“Only met her yesterday, Trot,” whispered Tom, “and married her to-day. That's the proper thing to do.”

“Plenty of her,” I whispered back.

“Isn't there?” he answered, exultingly. “Can't get such a woman as that every day in the year.”

“Very sudden marriage, mate,” I said.

“Not at all,” he said; “it's the fashion. Barney


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the butcher was married yesterday, and Fighting Phil the day before.”

“Were they, though!” I said; “I knew both of them well.”

“And it's the proper thing to do, eh, mate?”

“No good coming to Melbourne without doing it,” he said.

“Who is that bouncing girl in the coach, mate?” I asked.

“That's Rattling Bet,” he said. “Jump in, and stick up to her. Show her your nuggets, and she'll have you.”

In I jumped by the side of Rattling Bet, and before the day was over we arranged to get married.

She was a stunner, was Rattling Bet. She wouldn't get married in anything but white satin, and she stipulated that on the day we were married we should drive through Melbourne in a carriage and six, and treat all the diggers we knew. She got blind drunk on the wedding day; but as I got blind drunk as well, I hadn't much to grumble at.

Of course I didn't know it at the time, but I believe that girl had gone through the ceremony of marriage twenty times. The only thing I did know about her was that she was a stunning big girl, with eyes as black as cherries, and hair down to her waist. If she'd been born in a tiptop family, she'd have been thought a regular beauty. She pretended to be in love with my


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whistling, and I believed her, like the fool I was. She'd say, “Whistle, Trot!” and I'd sit before her, like a great donkey, whistling away for my life; and I daresay she was laughing at me all the time she was pretending to admire me. It wasn't my whistling she was in love with; it was my nuggets. She had made up her mind to have them, and have them she did. There was nothing namby-pamby about her. We'd been married just three weeks when I was brought to my sober senses by the discovery that Rattling Bet had rattled off with another lucky digger. She had rattled off with my nuggets as well; but I had a few ounces of gold on deposit in a Melbourne bank, and I drew it out and spent it in following her. Without success, though, for she had sloped off to the Sydney side, and I had my own particular reasons for not showing myself there just then. I soon gave up the hunt, and went back to Jackass Gully; but I found when I got there that the best of the gold had been dug out. I went from one gully to another, and from one diggings to another; but although I always got gold, I never got much of it. I heard nothing of Sandy Jim and German Alf; and I used to wonder if they ever reached the diggings they'd started for. I inquired for them wherever I went, but nobody could tell me anything about them; and it wasn't till fifteen months afterwards that I came plump upon German Alf at a New Rush thirty miles from Bendigo.




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“Hallo, Alf!” I exclaimed. “How are you getting along?”

“Mein Gott, Leely!” he cried, making as though he was ready to jump out of his skin in his delight at seeing me, although I knew at once from his face that he was far from being pleased at my coming across him.

But we did the first thing that old mates always do when they meet—we went and had a drink. When I asked him about Sandy Jim, he told me, in a way that I thought was a bit flurried, that they had not been able to agree, and had parted. I was not surprised to hear that; but I was surprised to hear that Sandy Jim had gone home to the old country. Because Sandy Jim had told me, half-a-dozen times, that if he had the choice, and had a thousand a year, he wouldn't go back to the old country, but would prefer to live and die in Australia. If he had the choice, I say—because he didn't have the choice. He would have found it too hot for him in the old country, for the reason that he was sent out for life, the same as I was. That is why I was so surprised to hear that Sandy Jim had gone home. German Alf told me about himself; he was doing well, had a good claim on the New Rush, and intended soon to give up gold-digging. We didn't get along very well together in our talk, and in the middle of a silence German Alf pulled out his pipe for the purpose of having a smoke.




  ― 33 ―

It is wonderful what a great deal sometimes comes out of a very little. If German Alf hadn't pulled out his pipe, I shouldn't be telling you this story now. For if you want to smoke a pipe you must light it; and to light it, if you haven't a log fire, a match is necessary, and matches are usually kept in a match box; and the match box that German Alf pulled out of his pocket when he was going to light his pipe was the very one I had given to Sandy Jim fifteen months ago.

The sight of that match box gave me a shock. I'm not a nervous man, and I don't take shocks easily; but I did get then a most awful turn. “For,” says I to myself, “if Sandy Jim is the man I take him to be, he wouldn't have parted with that box willingly.” I knew it by my own feelings. I wouldn't part with the knife he gave me for a hundred pounds. “And then,” says I to myself again, “if Sandy Jim didn't part with that match box willingly, he parted with it unwillingly; and if he parted with it unwillingly, what then?” All this ran through my mind while German Alf was lighting his pipe, and I determined, come what might, to find out if my old mate Sandy Jim really had gone home or not; and if he hadn't gone home, to find out what had become of him. When I asked German Alf how they had got on when they went prospecting for the big nuggets, he told me a rum sort of a story about their travelling a hundred miles


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through the bush, and that then they had quarrelled as to which was the proper track to follow, and had parted, one going one way, one the other. When I asked him how he knew that Sandy Jim had gone home, he said he had it from a mate who came up from Melbourne, and who said that he saw Sandy Jim on board ship an hour before it sailed. “That is all I know about it, Leely,” said German Alf. I nodded, and said I supposed that Jim had really gone home, and that I was sorry I hadn't seen him before he left. I never said a word about the match box. “Can you give me a shake down to-night, Alf?” I asked. No, he said, he couldn't. He was so sorry, almost ready to cry; but his tent was only eight feet by ten, and two of his mates slept in it besides himself. “O-ho,” thought I. “You've got something in that tent you don't want me to see.” With that, I wished him goodnight. But I didn't lose sight of him. Not I. I tracked him to his tent that evening. It wasn't an eight by ten, the lying thief! It was double that size. And what do you think was chained to the side of the tent? Why, Sandy Jim's dog! My old mate's dog Lion, that he wouldn't have parted with for his life! Directly I cast eyes on that dog I said to myself, “Lilly Trot, there's been foul play with your old mate, and you've got to find out what has become of him.”

(And here Lilly Trot, having worked up his story dramatically, dropped the curtain of silence


  ― 35 ―
upon the act, and paused awhile. The night by this time was somewhat advanced, and a distant rolling of thunder betokened the approach of a storm. I could only see my companion's face when it was lighted up by the glare from the blazing tree, and then it looked strangely weird. The shadows that were created by the flickering fire seemed to be imbued with life, and to mock the element that shaped them. Lilly Trot dug his heel into the blazing trunk, and a shower of sparks flew upwards, and a thousand fantastic shades tore at the bosom of the earth; then, as the bright sparks died in the gloomy night, and fell to earth, the dark shadows ran up the trees and leapt from branch to branch, from trunk to trunk, until they were lost in the black depths of the surrounding forest. I could imagine them creeping on us, when the fire was extinguished, like stealthy devils, gliding towards us from tree to tree, until they came upon us while we slept, and struck us dead. The scene was drear enough for the creation of these and other fancies as strange, and I was glad when Lilly Trot resumed his story.)

The sight of that dog, he continued, did give me a turn. I felt as if a flash of lightning had lighted up my brain. I had fifty pictures in my mind in a moment; but the ugliest of them all was the picture of dear old Sandy Jim lying dead upon the ground, and German Alf grinning over him. Lion was the most faithful creature


  ― 36 ―
I ever knew. I often heard Sandy Jim say he would rather be a poor beggar all his life with Lion for a companion, than a rich cove without him. He was a brave dog, too. It was a difficult matter getting out of his clutches once you were in them, if his blood was up. He would hold on like grim death, and in former times had been the terror of every low-bred cur in his neighbourhood. He was cut and bitten all over from the battles he had fought. How the dickens German Alf managed to get hold of him and kept him was more than I was ever able to discover. The best part of all this came into my head while I was having my tea in a grog shanty near German Alf's tent. For after I caught sight of Lion I crept quietly away; it wasn't dark enough yet for me to do anything, and I didn't want German Alf to see me skulking about his tent. I made inquiries about him, and I found out that he was generally disliked, that he didn't associate with any of the gold-diggers, and that he was spoken of by nearly everybody as a miserly, rich, surly German thief. One thing I made up my mind to, and that was to have Sandy Jim's dog that very night.

So when it got dark I watched German Alf out of his tent,—where he was living all by himself, and not with two mates, as he had told me,—and when he was well out of sight I crept near to the dog's chain. Not near enough for him to get hold of me; I knew his nature too well for that.


  ― 37 ―
Lion's chain rattled as I approached, and I knew by that and by a low kind of a growl he used to give, that he was aware some person was near him who, perhaps, had no right to be. There was an old tune that Sandy Jim used to whistle, a tune I never heard from any other man; he called it. “The Ploughman's Delight.” So, while the dog was growling, I commenced to whistle this tune in exact imitation of my old mate. As I whistled, Lion's growling became fainter and fainter, until it stopped altogether; and then I knew he was puzzled, and was considering; for Lion and I had always been good friends, and he had heard me whistle a good many times. I whistled the tune right through, and then I called softly, “Lion! Lion!” In a moment the dog came towards me, as far as the chain would allow him and then I took courage to creep closer, and to put out my hand. He knew me directly. He licked my hand, and I crept quite close to him. He jumped about me with such delight that I thought he'd break his chain; and sure enough he did break it, wrenching it clean away from the stake. I couldn't have wished for anything better. German Alf, when he found that Lion was gone, wouldn't suspect I had made off with him; and I didn't want to arouse Alf's suspicions.

I walked off at once into the bush, the rattle of the chain along the ground telling me that the dog was close on my heels; and when we got to what I considered a safe distance I knelt down


  ― 38 ―
and twisted the collar from Lion's neck, and threw it away.

“Now, Lion,” I said, placing his forepaws against my shoulders, and looking into his eyes—it was dark, but I could see them blazing—“now, Lion, I want to find out what has become of Sandy Jim, your old master. I don't believe he's been rightly dealt with; and if anything foul has happened to him, I'll find it out, so help me God! and you shall assist me to do it.”

Upon my word, the faithful old rip knew what I was saying as well as I did myself; and I do believe he swore an oath as strong as mine that he would assist me to discover what had become of his old master.

In a week from that time I was in Jackass Gully, on the very spot where I had last seen German Alf and Sandy Jim together. The old tent was there, very ragged and dirty; but the man who lived in it didn't know anything of my mate. I was precious hard up at the time, and I fossicked about Jackass Gully in some of the old spots, which weren't rich enough for us when we first went there. I went down the shaft we sunk, in which we had got so much gold, and as luck would have it I found a little bit of the golden gutter which we had neglected to take away; and out of that bit of earth—not four bucketsful altogether—I washed ten ounces of gold. That was enough for me just then, and,


  ― 39 ―
blessing my stars, I started off the next morning in the direction that German Alf and Sandy Jim had taken when they went to hunt for the surface gold a hundred miles away.

It was on the afternoon of the first day that I stood at the opening of the two tracks—one to the right, one to the left—puzzled which to take. I had made up my mind to take the one which was the most trodden, and had walked along it a dozen yards, when I felt Lion pulling at the chain which I had put round his neck. I didn't take much notice of him at first; but when his tugging got inconvenient, and when I heard him whining as if he was in trouble, I turned to see what was the matter. I had no sooner done so than Lion jerked the chain clean out of my hand, and ran to the other track, where he stood looking towards me, and wagging his old tail. Now, that made me consider what could be the reason of Lion's anxiety, and why he didn't seem inclined to follow me in the way I was going.

And strike me dead! exclaimed Lilly Trot, so excitedly that he made my blood jump through my veins, if it didn't come upon me like sudden daylight, that the dog knew the road his master and Alf had taken, knew that I wanted to take the same track, and wanted to lead me to a place where I should get some clue to the mystery. There's more in dogs than we know of, mate. They can't speak our language; but they've got


  ― 40 ―
senses of their own equal to ours. They are better than us, too, for they never forget.

“And they're worse than us, Lilly,” said I, speaking for the first time, “for they never forgive.”

That's true enough; though how Lion ever let German Alf come near without snapping at him is a puzzler. When that dog stood upon the track I had left, and looked towards me, begging of me almost, I made up my mind that he could take me to the very spot Sandy Jim and German Alf had passed in their prospecting expedition; and I made up my mind, too, to let him lead me where he choose. So, walking up to him, I stooped and patted the faithful beast's head, and holding the chain loosely followed at his heels. He was wiser than any human creature could have been, for he never hesitated a moment. Sometimes we came upon three or four tracks, leading different ways, but Lion always took one of them without hesitation. On the second day we came to a large tent, with a few bottles of gingerbeer upon a bench outside. There Lion made a dead stand. I didn't lug at his chain, but, going into the tent, asked the owner if he had anything stronger than gingerbeer.

After looking at me a moment to see if I was a detective—for it was a sly grog shanty, and the detectives are down upon these stores for selling grog without a license—he seemed satisfied that I wasn't an informer, and he served me a nobbler


  ― 41 ―
of whisky, and took one himself upon my invitation. When I paid for the drinks, he came to the door and saw Lion.

“I've seen that dog before, mate,” he said.

“Long ago?” I asked, in an easy tone, though my heart was beating quick.

“A matter of more than a year ago, I daresay,” he answered.

“There were two men with him then, mate,” I ventured to say, pretending to be busy with the dog's collar.

“Yes,” he said; “but you weren't one of 'em.”

“No, I wasn't,” I said. “So long, mate.” And I walked away. Only for a dozen yards, though, for turning back to the man I said, “Did you see them when they returned this way?”

“I saw one of 'em,” he said.

“Which one?”

He laughed, and gave me a queer look, as if he thought I had a tile loose.

“How should I know which one?” he answered.

“The dog was with him,” I remarked.

“Yes,” he said, “the dog was with him, all bloody. Looked as if he'd been badly beaten and cut about.”

That was enough for me. I bade him good-bye again, and walked away. When we were out of sight of the tent I threw myself upon the ground, and Lion stretched himself before me, watching me with his bloodshot eyes.




  ― 42 ―

“Two of them went this way, Lion,” I said, “and only one of them came back. Which one, good dog? Sandy Jim or German Alf?”

Lion wagged his tail in the dust, as much as to say, “I'd tell you if I could speak; but you should know without my telling.”

“I do know,” I said, just as if Lion had spoken the words. “If it had been Sandy Jim you wouldn't have been all bloody and cut about. Your old master never gave you a blow; he had no need to. You knew every note in his voice, didn't you, Lion? and you were only too glad to obey him. It was German Alf who brought you back, and who beat you into submission. Then, where did you leave your master and my dear old mate? tell me that, Lion.”

The dog rose—never tell me that dogs don't understand what you say—and said in a sorrowful bark, “Come along; I'll show you where we left him.”

I solemnly swear that I had nothing to do with it. I was like a man in a dream, waiting for something which Lion was going to show me. That dog picked out the places where he camped for the night; picked out the grog shanties on the road, and made me stop and drink; picked out the creeks where I got water to boil for dinner and tea; and led me through thick and thin, till we came to a wooden hut, a dozen miles away from the nearest tent on the road. It was noon when we came to this hut. The dog had behaved


  ― 43 ―
very strangely all the morning; he wouldn't let me have a moment's rest. He was whining and jumping about the whole of the time, and running before me, as if I wasn't quick enough for him. We had been out five days, and had walked a matter of a hundred and forty miles. Within the last mile or two I had noticed a few shallow shafts sunk a long while since, and I thought it likely that they had been sunk by Sandy Jim and German Alf. But with the exception of my notion that there had been foul play, and my faith in Lion, and my belief that he was leading me to a spot where I should make a discovery, I had nothing to guide me. When we came to the wooden hut, Lion behaved as if he was really going mad. He barked and whined to such a degree that he set two other dogs at the back of the hut barking and whining in chorus. The noise brought a man to the door, who asked what the hot place I wanted hanging about his tent for, and whether I saw anything that didn't belong to me that I'd taken a fancy to.

“Do you take me for a thief?” I asked, in a pretty quarrelsome tone, for my blood was up.

“Yes, I do,” he said, “and that's flat. I suppose your two mates are close behind you?”

“What two mates?” I asked.

“What two mates?” he shouted, in a furious passion. “I'm not a greenhorn, you skulking thief! Do you think I don't know that dog there? The last time I saw him, the two skunks


  ― 44 ―
that were with him stole my tea, stole my sugar, and stole my axe, curse them! They wouldn't have stole much more, I can tell you, if I'd caught them. I'd have shot them down, as lief as I would a dingo.”

I was civil in a minute. “That was more than a year ago, mate,” I said.

“Yes, it was more than a year ago, mate,” he repeated, in a sneering tone that made my blood boil again. “And you pretend not to know anything about it! Look here, now. I'm going to fetch my gun, and if you're not off when I come back I'll put a bullet into your thieving carcase!”

With that he ran into his tent to fetch his gun.

He meant what he said, I knew, and as I didn't want to quarrel just then I walked away. I was so confused with passion and doubt that I didn't for a few minutes discover that we were off the track; but when I did notice it I wasn't troubled, for Lion was scudding along in front of me, with his chain trailing loose, and his nose close to the ground.

We must have gone about six miles from the hut, and were in the middle of thick bush, when Lion made a sudden stop, about fifty yards ahead of me, and commenced to scratch at the earth furiously, and toss it wildly about. When I saw that, I was prepared for anything.

I went away from the spot where Lion was tearing at the earth, and the dog looked at me wistfully, as if he thought I was going to give


  ― 45 ―
up the search at the last moment. But I didn't intend to do that. I was going farther into the bush to see if I could discover something—I did not know what; perhaps a button off Sandy Jim's clothes, perhaps a cap, handkerchief, any article that I might be able to identify. And I did make a discovery. Soddened down into the earth by rain, buried beneath fallen twigs and branches, with its handle worm-eaten and rotten, and its steel black with rust, I found—an axe. The very axe, perhaps, that German Alf had stolen from the hut. I took it up very carefully, for I thought that some of the rust upon it might be the rust of poor Jim's blood. I went back to the dog. He was standing in the middle of a hole he had scratched out, and he was whining in a most distressful manner over some charred bones. As the dog raised his head, the tears were running down his face, and his whining sounded like a lamentation for the dead and an appeal for justice. I thought, how strangely things come about. Here was a foul murder discovered all through a little match box not worth twopence. I knew how the murder had been committed as well as if I had seen it done. Here was my poor old mate asleep. Above him stood German Alf with the axe, ripe for murder and robbery—for Jim had gold. Down comes the axe, once, twice—aye, and again and again, to make sure. Good-bye, poor Jim! You've got your ticket-of-leave in real earnest, and nobody


  ― 46 ―
can cancel it now. Then German Alf had lifted the body on to a log fire, and, impatient to get away, had buried what he couldn't get rid of.

I hadn't had anything to eat all the day, but I didn't feel a bit hungry; I was filled with something else. I talked to Lion, and he whined and lamented as I told him the story; and when I finished his face was as stern as mine—he had resolved to avenge his master's murder.

I was no time making my way back to the hut, and making friends with the hut-keeper; I was no time getting a sack, and placing in it everything I could find that would bring the guilt home to the murderer, including the remains of poor old Jim. I was as little time as possible getting back to the New Rush, where German Alf was working. I walked all the way, with my swag on my back, and the sack safely secured in the middle. It was night when I got in. I don't know how it was that I didn't think of taking anybody with me—I was too excited, I suppose. I walked straight to German Alf's tent. There was a light inside, and I kicked at the door. German Alf, who was undressing, came and asked, with an oath, who was there.

“Lilly Trot,” I answered, and I gave another kick.

He opened the door, and I pushed my way in, with Lion at my heels.

“Got dam, Leely!” he cried. “What the devil bring you here? My dog, too!”




  ― 47 ―

I suppose there was an expression on my face which made him pull up short. He was about to say something else, but instead of saying it he began to swear. I waited till he was quiet, and then I said:

“Do you see this sack?”

He nodded, “Yes.”

“Do you know what there is in it?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Can't you guess?”

“No,” again, with the blood deserting his lips.

“You cursed villain!” I said, almost choking with passion. “Sandy Jim's bones are in it. I've been home for them. You murdered him, you infernal scoundrel; and you shall swing for it, as sure as there's a God in heaven!”

I had scarcely finished when he levelled a revolver at me. I wrenched it from his hand. He turned, caught up a short-handled shovel, and was swinging it down upon my head when Lion sprang upon him, and, bearing him to the ground, tore away at his throat. I went to the door, and fired the revolver in the air. A score of diggers rushed to the tent, and I told them the story in a few words; and they took the dog away, all bloody about his mouth, and tied German Alf hand and foot.

Of course the black-hearted villain was hanged for it; the evidence was too strong for him. I've got the match box to this day, concluded Lilly Trot, pulling it out of his pocket, and holding it


  ― 48 ―
in the bright glare of the blazing tree; and I often think of poor old Jim when I strike a match. It's strange, isn't it, that such a little thing as this should have been the means of bringing to light one of the coldest-blooded murders that were ever committed?

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