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Chapter XII. Anthony Vandyke Jenkins.

“OH, sanctimonious, centuries behind the times Sydney. Ah, city of Sadducees and—Jenkinses.”

“Here, I say, you Wallace, what the Dickens do you mean by Sadducees, and coupling my name with such a lot?”

“By Sadducees, Anthony Vandyke, I mean people who do their utmost to ignore the traditions of the past, yet slavishly adhere to the written word, and by Jenkinses I mean touchy little mining experts like you.”

The scene where this playful badinage took place was in a Hessian drinking shanty in Canvas Town, Kalgourlie. Outside the moon was shining almost as bright as sunlight in England, while on the roads crouched the camels, making night hideous with their demoniac shricks. Between the tents stalked the majestic Afghan drivers of the camels, giving the Australian landscape a strangely picturesque appearance, in spite of its familiar bareness, dust and heat.

Inside the canvas shanty, men clad in flannel shirts, dilapidated trousers and battered hats, sat playing cards or drinking champagne, for this was one of the crack shanties of the place, and these were all successful speculators and mine proprietors,


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many of them gentlemen accustomed to the West End clubs of London, others a mingling of all nationalities gathered here on the one common game, gold hunting.

Bob Wallace, a tall, jovial man of about thirty-five, had floated his mine and made his pile already, yet he could not keep long from the field, as few gold-seekers can who have once tasted of the excitement. He was at present on a flying visit, looking the place up a bit, in the interests of his shareholders and extending his speculations.

He was known to all there present as one of the sure and lucky ones, also for some other social qualities which made him always welcome. He was the Bret Harte, or story-teller of the diggings, and had likewise made a reputation for his sincere and candid abhorrence of everything that smacked of Sydney. He had been there as he had been over the greater portion of the colonies, and while he extolled Victoria, Queensland, South and West Australia, he never veiled his utter contempt for the institutions of New South Wales.

Anthony Vandyke Jenkins was a little withered man who hailed from the obnoxious city, so that whenever the two came together there was sure to be some diversion.

On the present occasion Anthony looked ready for war. He was the only dressy man in the shanty, and as he passed his well-ringed hand through his long tresses he looked wrathfully at the giant before him, and with pretended coolness took a fresh cigar from his silver case, which he lit carelessly


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with the half of a bank-note, the other half he pitched on to the floor.

“Well, I see nothing wrong either in the one or the other. Only a fool would boast about traditions, while as for booming, I fancy we all know that business; but what's got your dander up this evening, Wallace, to make you abuse the city of my birth, eh?”

“I told you some time ago, about that asinine piece of legislature which had been passed respecting expectorating in the streets?”

“And I said then that I didn't believe it,” replied Jenkins hotly. “It is all a made-up gag by some enemy. I have not been many months away from Sydney, and you bet no one dared to stop me from spitting when and where I liked.”

“Oh, no, you couldn't, Anthony, my son,” observed Bob Wallace sadly. “You forget Mrs. Jenkins.”

“Oh, dash you and Mrs. Jenkins. Here give us a fresh bottle of pop.”

“What is this you are talking about?” asked another member of the company. “I have only just arrived and haven't heard anything about this singular regulation.”

“The law I could have forgiven, only that it has been the death of an old friend of mine, by name Soapy Sam.”

“Spin us the yarn, Wallace,” shouted out several, as they closed round the speaker, leaving Jenkins in a high state of disgust in the background.

Bob Wallace cleared his throat and began:




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“The law I refer to was announced in this fashion:

“ ‘The City of Sydney has imposed a fine of one pound upon any person convicted of spitting upon the street, or on floors of public buildings.’ ”

This most admirable bye-law was not carried through the House of Representatives without a considerable deal of angry and personal dispute amongst the opposition, and even amongst the friends of the Government, for many of them were heavy smokers or chewers, and it did appear to be the last straw in the matter of curtailing liberty, which had been laid on the back of that already loaded animal, the public.

But as old Spikehead, the framer of the law, wisely pointed out — supported, as he was, by medical authority—that besides the objectionable sight presented to the sensitive eyes of the refined citizenesses on their fair and sunny streets, the danger of infectious diseases being spread broadcast by this filthy habit, he silenced all opposition and carried his point.

Now Spikehead did not waste tobacco by burning or chewing it, besides, as he pointedly remarked:

“Pocket handkerchiefs are cheap enough, and gentlemen are expected to carry them.”

That clenched the business with the “House,” for Sydney members of Parliament pride themselves on their gentlemanly instincts and behaviour,


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as all can testify who have listened to or read their debates.

Bob Wallace was evidently reciting from some newspaper article.

It caused wild excitement as well as consternation in the city and suburbs, however, for everyone did not use handkerchiefs, while many who did indulge in this extravagance, often forgot them when changing their coats in a hurry to go into town. There were epidemics of influenza and whooping-cough in the air at the time, which artful Spikehead was aware of, asthma was quite a common complaint during that damp season, while chewing tobacco was almost universal. People also, who had never acquired the habit of spitting, no sooner read the announcement than pure nervous dread at once gave them a plethora of saliva, with the almost irresistible desire to get rid of it in the very way which was prohibited.

Spikehead was a wily old politician, who had turned over a good deal of profit by several of his former Parliamentary dodges, and here he saw the chance of making another pile, therefore he promptly took time by the forelock.

He knew, of course, that it was impossible to restrain people from spitting, by fines or imprisonment, and he had up his sleeve a nice little patent of his own in the way of public spittoons. When the people could stand no more, and rose in their fury, then he would present his model and get


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carte blanche from the Government to put the patent up at every corner, on every lamp-post, at the end of every church pew, in theatre seats—in fact the city would be forced to use spittoons both indoors and out in unlimited numbers.

His idea was to force the public to the verge of rebellion first, and then introduce his remedy; therefore, in order to keep the interest up, he employed an old pal of his and mine called Soapy Sam, who had fallen in the world and become a confirmed and homeless loafer. He concocted with Soapy to go about and spit right and left.

He could depend upon the secrecy of Soapy Sam, and as that aged loafer was supplied freely with his favourite negro-head, and was an inveterate chewer, besides caring no more for prison than he did for boots, he took to the job in the kindest manner possible.

His first offence against the law happened within half an hour of his engagement, and having no money to pay the fine, he got off with fourteen days and a caution.

“Wot's a man to do as han't got a wiper?” he asked the magistrate, and that worthy told him to spit in his pocket for want of a better place.

Now Soapy didn't own a pocket free enough from holes to carry this kind of luggage, but the kindly hint gave him an idea, the humour of which tickled him so highly that he spent his fortnight of prison in alternative fits of uproarious laughter.

No sooner was he set at liberty than he hastened


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to put his idea into practice. He marched into one of the principal streets, and going up to a policeman, said:

“See yer, mate, I want to spit; where can I do it?”

The policeman looked at the tatterdemalion with contempt, and while he was doing so, Soapy deliberately seized the coat tails and shifted his masticated quid into the policeman's pocket.

He got a broken head for that feat and two months' hard, but he was no sooner out than he repeated the offence. Sometimes, he would take out a gentleman's handkerchief, and after using it, return it to the owner with an ironical bow, sometimes he would favour a lady's reticule.

At last in the wantonness of his humour, he committed a capital offence, according to the law of this enlightened land. He rang at the frontdoor bell of the offices of Judge Jeffreys, that terror of all evil-doers.

When his summons was answered, Soapy Sam informed the attendant that he had some particular information to give to the judge, and on being introduced to that gentleman, he deliberately expectorated on his white vest. That did for the humorist, for this gentleman had no appreciation of this kind of new humour. Soapy was arrested, tried for treason and outrage against the sacred majesty of the State, and sentenced to be hanged.

And, gentlemen, poor Soapy has died game to his principles, for he spat on the scaffold into the clergyman's hat. He also remained faithful to his


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employer, which was more, I daresay, than old Spikehead would have done by him.

The latest news I have to give you all is that the free and happy city of Sydney is blessed with compulsory spittoons with Government officials to empty them; let us drop, therefore, a tear over the martyrdom of Soapy Sam.

“Bah! as if any one could swallow that beastly tommy-rot,” shouted Anthony, as he crammed his hat over his eyes and prepared to leave the tent.

“It's a quotation from your favourite periodical—the last edition of the Guillotine, Anthony. Of course I cannot therefore vouch for its accuracy, but you have it as I read it,” answered Wallace gently to the departing visitor.

“It's much too washy for Puffadder. I don't believe a word of it,” and the little man disappeared.

“Who is this Jenkins?” asked the new arrival.

“Oh, one of our successes here,” answered Wallace. “He has had a wonderful career of his own.”

“Oh, give us the ‘Rise and Fall of Jenkins, Wallace.”

“That is a historical tale, therefore a long one, for with Jenkins, the whole land boom of Australia is inseparably linked. In fact Jenkins is the Land Boom.”

“Let us have it, old fellow, the night is young, and we have nothing else to do.”

“Well, boys, you have seen how Jenkins comes


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out in the way of costume here — ah, that is nothing to what he was five years ago. I'll spin you the yarn, but to do so properly, I must describe Jenkins before his first rise, next when, like King Solomon, he was in all his glory, and afterwards, before he came out west.”

“Drive ahead in your own way,” shouted the company.

It is difficult to trace the exact and original causes of the great and disastrous Australian land boom, which ruined so many, and plunged the colonies into such a depth of despair, from which they are now only beginning to emerge. It may have been a wave of contagion spreading from the Liberator building fever in England, that touched the brains, and made men go mad on this other side, or the passion for gambling engendered by the turfite and predestinating proclivities of the colonials. Whatever the original causes were, the Australians went as furiously demented over the buying and selling of land as did the people of England, during the reign of Queen Anne, over the South Sea Bubble, and with as disastrous effect.

There are as level-headed and shrewd men in the colonies as in any other part of the world, that is, outside the excitements attending horse-racing, for when the great national sports are on, there is but small chance of getting calm reason or common sense from either man, woman or child. In the ordinary course of business, however, if the


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colonial is swindled at all, it must be either by an impostor sporting a bogus title, or making a display of wealth on expectation, or else the Australian is taken advantage of by his own fancied cleverness, or desire for speedy gain. He is seldom fleeced through an appeal to his benevolence or generosity, as English gulls so frequently are.

This is more particularly observable in New South Wales than throughout any of the sister colonies, for here they support such peculiar institutions, are so positive about their own superior wisdom, knowledge and shrewdness, and devote themselves so exclusively to the worship of the great god Ego, and yet withal are so easily led by the nose if adroitly managed, that this portion of the colonies has always been regarded as a kind of paradise for the genteel rogue and swindler.

The land boom had been fairly set afloat, and legitimate business was looked upon with contempt by all except a few of the oldest colonists, and those who had neither property to sell, nor credit to trade upon. The others who could command even the most limited trust, became speculators and went stark, staring mad.

They rushed to the original owners of the land, purchasing, with bills, when they had not cash enough, the most swampy, unprofitable and unlikely plots of ground. They formed companies, subdivided the ground, put it up to auction, and sold it over and over again at exorbitant prices. They raised what cash they could, at compound interest, from the banks, to pay the preliminary


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expenses, and realised fortunes on paper, as fast as they could sign, purchase and sell. As long as a man had enough to pay for the stamp, his bond was taken, and he became the owner, without a consideration being given to title deeds. Within half an hour he had sold his bargain to some other speculator at twenty times his purchase price, who again transferred it to some one else, at the same rate of profit.

So the ball kept rolling from hand to hand, getting bigger as it went on, while the excited speculators flourished their paper fortunes in the faces of those friends who were inclined to stick quietly to what they had earned by honest toil, until they also caught the infection and rushed blindly into the market. Talk of kite-flying in China or Japan, the whole of the azure atmosphere of Australia was so crammed with kites that it was impossible to see blue sky or daylight anywhere.

Our friend, Anthony Vandyke Jenkins, was a sign writer and grainer by profession at this time, and he practised his art in the historic city of Sydney. Now, as I suppose everyone here may have noticed, house painters and paperhangers are great dandies as a rule, and aim at being very genteel and artistic in their habits. They like to curl and anoint their long tresses, and are careful about the cut of their moustaches and beards. They wear very tight and dressy boots, with high heels, and are generally a swaggering and cavalier set of beings, who are apt to fill the policemen's


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hearts with envy and despair when they take possession of the kitchens and maid-servants of big houses. At such times the policeman has to keep to his own beat, or transfer his guardianship to some other house, where the family are still at home, and leave those fascinators a clear field.

The grainer and sign-painter is a kind of superior officer of this gallant army of invaders, and gives himself accordingly greater airs, but if he chances also to dabble in pictures at his leisure times, then the largest mansion built is hardly grand or large enough to hold his proud and lofty spirit.

A. V. Jenkins had a fair reputation as a grainer and writer, that is, he passed muster in his own town, and as did the other natives of this delectable city, he considered that what he did not know, no other man in the wide world need attempt to learn. He painted pictures also, or what he called pictures, and therefore was the most condescending and insufferably affable of artistic prigs.

He was then a thin, little, withered man of about thirty, with a pot-hook nose, wearied-looking, crow-blue eyes, long auburn tresses and a highly-cultivated moustache which curled over his wan cheeks like a pair of corkscrews. He always wore elastic-sided and exceedingly high-heeled boots, a size, if not more, too tight for his small feet, a Byronic shirt and collar, with a flowing necktie, brown velveteen jacket with light tweed trousers, a crimson or blue sash round his waist instead of a vest, and a broad-brimmed Alpine felt hat with


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puggerie attached, cocked jauntily on the side of his frizzled hair. If the weather chanced to be cool enough, he added to this picturesque costume a Spanish-shaped cloak, which, dangling carelessly from his narrow shoulders by a chain and hook, gave him, in his own estimation, that distinguished appearance which characterized the Dutch painter after whom he has condescended to name himself.

As might be supposed from this description, he was not a married man at this date; wives generally soon take this kind of vanity out of a man, although while sweethearts, the class of girls which dashing gentlemen of this sort patronize, are captivated with it. In principles, he shared the atheistic ideas of a vast number of the rising race of cornstalks, took in the Sydney Guillotine and the Sunday Verity, and retailed the enlightened and refined opinions and delicate humour of these journalistic Titans. In his amours he was a disciple of Rochester and the cavaliers of Charles the Second's period, yet being prudent, as well as somewhat weak in his digestive organs, he saved his wages and sipped moderately from the bowl, enjoying himself, when he could do so, gratis.

Being of an economical nature, he had managed to bank a little money, as well as invest in some leasehold land about the suburbs, before the boom came to upset his equilibrium, as it did most other people's. He also had entertained serious thoughts about ranging himself and marrying a dressmaker, who carried on a paying business in the city.

But this was in the industrious and steady


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period of his life, before he became the director of several land companies and realized the foundation of a colossal fortune on paper; then, of course, he broke promptly with the dressmaker, discarded legitimate art, and laid himself out to capture something infinitely more substantial.

His two or three plots of ground, which, by the way, he had been purchasing by instalments, gave him a position of influence at once. By subdividing these into minute portions, and aided by a number of experienced gentlemen and flaming prospectuses, the shares were rushed at, and with the first instalments, an army of builders began operations and flung up houses almost like magic. As I have said, a little money went a long way in those flourishing fever-days. The builders were paid by shares and bills. The materials were paid for by the builders also with notes of hand. The banks advanced cash on the buildings to cover current expenses and wages that had to be paid. The company sold the leaseholds and buildings to other speculators, who paid so much down and the rest in bills at three, six, and twelve months' date. The speculators transferred at enormous profits their purchases to other speculators, and then, when the property reached the extreme limit, it was sold to people who wished to hold on, and who borrowed and cheated to get money to meet their liabilities as they fell due.

There was no limit to the game, while it was being played by the reasonless or swindling mob. A man would buy an estate at auction, without a


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shilling in his pocket to settle the discount of the auctioneer, put it up again without leaving the Mart and sell it for five times its price, to some other adventurer who had just enough to pay for the transfer, then the needy speculator settled his first claim and gave bills for the remainder, and went out to enjoy himself with the surplus cash won in that gamble.

Trust was unbounded and money poured into the tills of hotel-keepers and bookmakers, for there were men, who had money, so infatuated, that they paid on the nail in order to get a discount. These were generally the last purchasers, or if they sold again for a large profit, they got paper promises for what they had paid cash, and also went their way happy and confident that they had done a splendid stroke of business.

As pure love of lucre was the order of the day, our pity must be qualified for these victims when the crash came. The speculator who for a thousand pounds expects to get twenty thousand, merely by signing a cheque and taking a bill, cannot expect much sympathy if he loses his thousand.

The needy kite-fliers were the men who flourished during this period like green bay trees. Substantial bank depositors rushed into the nets, and hungrily snapped up the shares, thereby making themselves responsible for the rotten companies. There was hardly a man who was not bitten by the land-boom Tarantula, who did not spin round recklessly and consider himself a millionaire. It


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was splendid, a hundred times better than gold-digging. Fathers who had been saving and prudent in the old days, now frantically wrote home to England, where their sons were, imploring them to throw up their businesses there, borrow all they could, and come out at once and make their fortunes. It was the wildest stampede after spoil that had ever been witnessed by humanity, and although the feeblest intelligence might easily have foreseen the end, the goddess of Reason had departed from Australia, and blind and deaf Chance alone guided these besotted victims.

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