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CHAPTER XII.

HOW CRAB SOLD HIS SHEEP—THE EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES—CRABB'S MISADVENTURES—HE RESOLVES TO LEAVE THE COLONY.

“IT'S all owing to that bit of land at Cherry-tree Bottom," said Crab, striking the table with his horny hand, to give greater emphasis to his position, and causing all the tea-things to give a simultaneous jump at the concussion. "It's all owing to hankering after that land which I had no business with, and it sarves me right, and it's a judgment on me! What have I to do with land in this outlandish place? If I hadn't let 'em give me that land, I shouldn't have wanted to build a house on it; and if I hadn't wanted to build a house on it, I shouldn't have wanted to sell the sheep, and then I shouldn't have been plagued with those confounded dollars! But


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I'll go by the next ship! Betsey, my dear, write a letter for me, there's a good gal.”

“With pleasure,” said Betsey, who was the old man's favourite. “Who to?”

“To the storekeeper at Hobart-Town— Mr. Stikitinem.”

“What an odd name!”

“He's a sort of Dutchman, my dear, that supplies me with my things. I'd write myself, but living in this wretched country has hurt my eyes, and I never could see to read writing easy. I can make out big print very well, when I know what it's about, as a chapter in the Bible or so. But I never did write much, because my hand is hard with holding the plough, and a little thing like a pen comes unnatural to it.”

“What are you going to do with this handkerchief full of dollars?” interrupted my wife. “I hope, Mr. Crab, you are not going to keep them here; it's a dangerous temptation in the bush.”

“That's just what I don't know,” observed Crab, sorrowfully; “ever since I've had 'em, that's the very question that every body has asked me, and the very one I never could answer. But trouble enough have I had to get


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'em, and I do believe they're the last dollars left in the colony!”

“You have sold some sheep, I suppose,” said I; “what did you get for 'em?”

“Nothing but mortification—and those dollars. One chap wanted three years' credit, and he offered thirty shillings a head—and then he offered forty shillings a head; but I said, ‘Money down, that's my way of dealing; that's the way I bought 'em, and that's the way I'll sell 'em.’ Then another Launceston chap, he offered to give me I don't know how many head of cattle for 'em; and, says I, ‘What are they, wild cattle?’ ‘Of course,’ says he. ‘And where may they be?’ says I. ‘They're somewhere near Circular Head,’ says he. 'Then,' says I, 'they may stay at Circular Head till their heads grow where their tails are; I'll have nothing to do with wild cattle, that go scampering about all over the island, and you never know where to find 'em when you want 'em. At last a new settler that had heard mine were fine-woolled sheep, came and said he'd buy four hundred of 'em.”

“‘How do you mean to pay ?’ said I.”


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“‘Bank notes,’ said he, ‘of the Bank of Diemen's Land.’

“I don't know how it was—I was over-persuaded, for he was a terrible talking chap, and if ever any one had the gift of the gab, it was he. And so we went to my sheep-run at the back of Norfolk Plains, and then the dispute began. He wanted to pick the ewes, all the young 'uns, and the best, though, for the matter of that, they're all good; but I said ‘No! that's a thing I won't anyways permit. Take 'em as they run out of the yard.’ Then he talked at me I suppose for half an hour, to convince me that the buyer had a right to pick 'em; but I wasn't going to be convinced by the likes of him, and so I said, ‘Take 'em or leave 'em, a pound a head's my price, money down, as they run out of the yard.’ Then he proposed that we should each pick one till he had taken his four hundred. Well, I thought that was reasonable, and so we managed it that way. When he had pitch-marked 'em with his brand, and was going to drive 'em away, says I —

“‘Where's the money?’


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“‘Give me a pen and ink,’ said he, in an off-hand way, ‘and I'll give you a cheque.’

“‘A cheque,’ says I, ‘I want none of your cheques—it's the money I want.’

“‘Then,’ says he, ‘you must come with me to Launceston, for I'm not such a fool as to carry money about with me, and there I'll get you the cash.’

“‘That's all very well,’ said I, ‘but in this country we never let the sheep go without the money. So, if you please, the four hundred sheep that you've marked must stay here till I'm paid for 'em.’

“‘Very well,’ said he.

“And he gave you the money at Launceston, I suppose?” said I.

“You shall see. Give me another cup of tea. Let me tell my story my own way, or else I shall never ha' done. So I went with him to Launceston, and we had a quart of port out of the cask at the inn there—it wasn't bad stuff, but nothing like the beer one gets at a public-house at home; and then he wrote a cheque as he called it, and told the landlord to take it to a merchant of the town, and sure enough he brought back four hundred bank-notes of four dollars each, as he


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said, but I couldn't make out the writing on them, the letters were so flourished about, but I thought it must be all right as the landlord was there witnessing it. He wrote an order for the sheep to my shepherd and I signed it; he asked me what my christian name was, and I said Samuel, and he said he shouldn't have guessed it, but he dared say my shepherd would understand it, and so there I sat with the four hundred bits of paper before me.

“The landlord came in and sat down by me, and talked of the news, and says he, ‘Have you heard of the great failure in Hobart Town? That flashy cove that was flying his paper kites hasn't been able to raise the wind any longer ?’

“‘Flying paper kites!’ said I; ‘what on earth can a man want to fly kites for? I used to fly a kite when I was a boy.....’

“‘I see,’ said he, ‘you don't take. Flying kites means issuing these things,’ pointing to the dollar-notes, ‘and that when it comes to paying them, its ‘no effects!’”

“What the landlord said had a terrible effect on me, for all of a sudden it struck me I had


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parted with my four hundred prime ewes for four hundred bits of paper that wasn't good enough to light pipes with. I broke out into a cold sweat directly.

“‘Landlord,’ said I, ‘can you take me to the merchant that gave you these notes?’

“‘To be sure I can,’ said he, ‘it's only a step.’

“Says I to the merchant, ‘I have a particular reason for wanting silver instead of paper just now. Couldn't you give me dollars instead of these notes?’

“‘Certainly,’ said he, very polite-like; ‘but I should have thought,’ said he, ‘you would find dollars very inconvenient to carry about.’

“‘Not the least in the world,’ said I; so he counted 'em out and put 'em in an old gunny-bag, and then I put the gunny-bag in my handkerchief, so as to look like a change of clothes, and hoisting them on a stick over my shoulder I marched back to the inn.

“‘That's a large sum of money, said the landlord, to have in cash; and it's a great temptation to servants; I hope you're not a-going to


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keep it at my inn.’ This was the first of my troubles.

“‘No,’ said I, ‘I'm going to take myself off home—dollars and all.’

“‘I should advise you,’ said he, ‘not to let anybody know you have that sum of money about you; it might bring you to mischief.’

“‘Never fear,’ said I, ‘I know how to take care of myself.’

“After I had had some dinner, I set out, but I found the dollars a greater weight than I thought for, so I stopped at a settler's hut about ten miles from Launceston, and sat down, intending to stay the night there.

“‘What have you got here?’ said he, trying to lift up my load, and wondering at the weight of it. ‘Why, they can't be dollars? and yet they feel like 'em!’

“‘Dollars,’ said his wife, ‘Oh, Lord! we shall all be murdered in our beds. Pray, Mr. Crab, don't let them be here! You're sure to have been watched, and the prisoners will try to get 'em, and murder as all.How could you think of bringing 'em here?’


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“‘If I have brought 'em here,’ said I, a little hurt-like, ‘I can take them away again. I'll go on to Old Simon's, and he'll give me lodging for the night, I dare say.’

“The husband didn't want me to go, and said it was nonsense; but I saw his wife wished me to be off, so I shouldered up my dollars and went on to old Simon's, which wasn't above two miles off by the road side.

“‘ Can you give me a night's lodging ?’ said I.

“‘With all my heart’ said he; ‘Jem, put on some mutton-chops.’

“‘What have you got here?’ said he.

“‘I'll tell you at once,’ said I, ‘because I know I can trust you; I've been selling some sheep, and these are the dollars I got for 'em.’

“‘Dollars!’ said he; ‘how could you think of going about with such a heap of dollars? You'll be robbed and murdered before you get home. But let's put 'em out of sight.’

“With that he clapped an empty tripod over 'em, just in time, for his man came in a moment after with the meat.

“I had hardly finished eating a few chops, when who should come in but three strange men;


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one was a ticket-of-leave man and the other two were Government men just arrived, and they were going on to Launceston to the master that they had been assigned to. Simon gave me a look as much as to say ‘here's a mess!’ but there was no help for it; he couldn't well refuse shelter to travellers on a winter night; so they looked about to sit themselves down, and says one,

“‘Any harm in moving this tripod, master, to let this seat come nearer the fire?’

“Simon gave me another look, and I saw he didn't like it; so I got up and said, ‘Take my chair, I've been sitting by the fire all the evening, and I'm warm enough;’ so I sat myself down on the tripod. It wasn't an easy seat, for the three prongs stuck up very awkward, let alone its being so low; but I thought that was the best thing to do; so I sat there very uncomfortable, but trying to look easy.

“‘You seem to have rather a hard seat, master’ said one of the prisoners kind-like.

“‘Not a bit,’ said I, for a thought came across me that he had a suspicion of what I sat there for; ‘not a bit;—I had rather stay where I am.’


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“Then the others offered me their seats, but the more they wanted me to get up, the more I wouldn't. ‘No—no,’ thought I; ‘here I'll stick, my fine fellows, till I've seen you safe out of the house.’

“Old Simon was very fidgety; he had only one spare bed, which the prisoners offered to me, seeing that I was respectable-looking; but I wouldn't move from my tripod, although the ends grieved me sorely; and there I was obliged to stay all night, for I didn't dare to move, like a hen sitting on eggs, and a more miserable night I never passed.”

We all burst out a-laughing at this narrative, which made Crab very indignant.

“It's all very well to laugh," said he; "but how would you like to sit on a tripod all night yourself?”

“Well," said I, "and how did it end?”

“End! I thought it never would end! But every thing ends at last. In the morning the men went away; and then old Simon said directly,

“‘For heaven's sake, Mr. Crab, make haste home. I haven't had a wink of sleep all night.’

“Says I, ‘I won't trouble you long, you may


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depend on it;’ and I tried to get up, but I couldn't. I was so cramped with sitting, that I was quite stiff, and the tripod seemed to have grown to me.”

“No wonder," said I, "but how did you manage to get on?”

“Old Simon was so wishful to get rid of me and my load of dollars, that he lent me his bullock-cart to forward me on a bit, and we put the bag of dollars in the tripod, and covered it over with siftings, to make it look natural-like. He helped me to lift it into the cart, and his man drove the bullocks for about a dozen miles, and then he stopped and looked at me and then at the bullocks. I took that as a hint to get out, but I was sadly puzzled to know what to do with my money, and the tripod plagued me almost as bad. He took hold of one side of the tripod and I of the other, and we set it down by the road-side.

“‘Bless me,’ said he, ‘how heavy the old pot has got! It can't be the siftings; it's like a pot of dollars.’

“This made me quake, and I looked in his face; but I saw he said it quite innocent-like, and gave it no more thought, and so he drove back, and I stood there for some time, by the side


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of my money, musing a bit, for I didn't well know what to do.

“Presently I heard a precious noise of whips cracking, and I saw a lot of cattle a-scampering down the road, that the stock-keepers were driving to the Government Store at Launceston. There were thirty of 'em or more. On they came helter-skelter, the stock-keepers after them, cracking their whips and halloing to them to keep them on the road. My first thought was to sit on my tripod to guard my dollars, but before I could well know what to do, on they came, and as I sat crouched up, they didn't see me till they were close upon me, and the hindmost cattle pushing on the foremost, and the men urging them on behind with their whips and shouts, before I could avoid them they were on me, and one heifer, giving a snort at me with her nose, and a nuzzle with her head, tumbled me over and over, tripod and all, and the stock-keepers damned me as they dashed by for putting their cattle out of the road, and there I lay!”

“Upon my word,” said my wife, at this pause—all of us keeping very grave faces, for we did not dare to laugh at the mishaps which he told with


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so much seriousness—“you have been very unfortunate, Mr. Crab; but how could you think of carrying such a load of dollars across the country?”

“How could I help it?” said Crab, angrily; “I never had to do so at home; but in this wretched country there's no way to carry anything when you want it.”

“But why didn't you take the bank-notes? they would have been lighter to carry.”

“Catch me taking their bank-notes, as they call 'em,” replied Crab; “do you think I never saw a bank-note before? Why, they're no more like real bank-notes than chalk is like cheese! No, no, nothing like the silver dollars.”

“They seem to have been a sad inconvenience to you on this occasion,” said I, “these same dollars. But I am anxious to know how you managed at last.”

“I couldn't manage 'em any how. So I was obliged to take 'em out of the tripod and put 'em over my shoulder again, and then I didn't know what to do with the tripod. While I was thinking, I saw a gentleman and lady coming along the road in a gig, with a roof to it, and two horses, one before the other, the same as we used


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to put 'em in a cart in Shropshire; but they came spanking along at a precious rate. When I called out to them to stop, the gentleman pulled up Sharp at this, and says he,

“‘What's the matter, my man?’

“Says I, ‘May I make so bold as to ask you, as you've got two horses to your shay, and one to pull along the other, just to leave this tripod at old Simon's, about a dozen mile from here?’

“‘D —— n your tripod,’ says he, ‘and you too;’ he did, upon my word, although he was a gentleman; and the lady laughed and said,

“‘Upon my lap, I suppose!’ and then the gentleman laughed louder, and he gave the fore-horse a twitch with his whip, and the horse stood on his hind-legs just for a moment, turning round-like, and the lady gave a little scream, and off they went.

“‘Good luck to ye, and better manners,’ said I, and I took up the tripod with one hand, and with my bag of dollars on my other shoulder, I walked on, but it was a weary job, and before I had gone a couple of mile I was quite knocked up. I sat down again by the road-side, and I was so tired that I was almost tempted to leave


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the dollars where they were, or to bury them in the bush. While I was looking about for a convenient place, I saw a lot of people coming along the road, and I soon perceived it was a road-gang of yellow jackets, going to work. I was terribly troubled at this, for I thought they might be tempted to make an attack on me, so I clapped my bag into the tripod again, and sat down upon it careless-like, till they should pass by. But they stopped on the road just where I was; and the overseer set them to work round about me. They laughed and jeered at me for sitting that fashion on the iron pot, but I sat firm; and then the overseer came up and asked me if I was ill, but I didn't care to tell him my secret; when, luckily, there came up a bullock-cart, drawn by four bullocks, and in it was a fine buxom gal a-going to be married for a fancy in the church at Hobart-Town; and the young man was with her in the cart holding her, to keep her steady, because the road was rough; and fine and merry they were. There was her father and mother in another cart behind, and seeing me sitting on my tripod, they stopped to look at me, and the young gal laughed fit to split herself, though what there was to laugh at I can't make out, for I was miserable enough, not


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knowing what to do with those confounded dollars, and the convicts all round me, suspecting something, I'm sure. Well, seeing them so jolly-like, I called out to them to give me a lift.

“‘I won't have that tripod in my cart,’ screamed the gal, and then she laughed louder than ever. ‘Whatever have you got in it?’ said she.

“‘Hush,’ said I, ‘I'll tell you by-and-by.’

“‘How heavy it is!’ said the bullock-driver.

“‘It's heavy with the damp,’ said I, not knowing what to say; ‘from being on the ground;’ and then there was more laughing; and the young man said I was a wag!”

“And how did you get on with your new party?” said Betsey, with her handkerchief over her mouth.

“I'll tell ye, but don't hurry me.”

“I didn't like that such good-natured folks should suppose I carried that tripod about for nothing; so after we had got about a dozen miles on our way, I told 'em that I had been selling some sheep, and that I was carrying home the dollars.

“‘ Dollars!’—shrieked the gal. ‘Oh—heavenly


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gracious! we shall all be murdered, and that road-gang of prisoners will be after us to get the money. Do, pray,’ said she, ‘get out of our cart, and get into the other one;’ but the old lady was as afeard as the young one, and so I was cast adrift again with my dollars and my tripod, and with a very heavy heart I saw the carts drive out of sight!

“At last I was obliged to leave old Simon's tripod behind, and I set out again till I reached a settler's house just before you come to Elizabeth River. I had much ado to prevail on 'em to let me and my dollars rest there for the night, and the man's wife was so frightened, that we all three sat up all night watching the money, she declaring every minute that she heard the sounds of men's feet coming to break into the house.

“They started me off in their bullock-cart next morning, glad to get rid of me, and that took me twenty miles, and I walked the remainder, and got into Jericho just at dark. There's a serjeant's party at that place, and I went into the guard-room, and asked 'em to let me sit there all night. And so there I sat, with my bag in my lap, just nodding, and afraid to sleep, and


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almost killed by the weight of the dollars all the long night. Next morning I started again at daybreak. I thought I never should get up the Den Hill; but here I am at last, and there are those confounded dollars. But they'll serve to pay my passage home, for in this abominable place I'll stay no longer. Now, Betsey, my dear, have you got your pen ready?”

“I've been waiting for you all the time,” replied Betsey, “what shall I say?”

“Do you write what I tell you,” said Crab.

“MR. STICKITINEM.

“SIR,

“This comes, hoping you are well, as I am at this present writing.”

“But you are not well,” said Betsey, “I never saw you look so ill in my life.”

“It's the way, my dear,” said Crab, waving his hand; “a letter must be begun some way, and that's the way I always begin mine:—it's like the coulter that's in front of the plough.—Now go on and say,

“This wretched country has been the death


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of me—and I mean to go home by the next ship. So please to take a place for me, and tell the captain to be sure to let it be somewhere near the axle-tree, where there's no motion.

“Because I remember I was qualmish coming over,” added Crab, “but you needn't put that in the letter.”

“And what else shall I say?” said Betsey.

“You've said it all thank'ee, my dear; but you may just say that the last bag of sugar was wetted out of all conscience, and as gritty as a gravel-cart. And tell him, that I'll give forty shillings a bushel for all the grass seed he's got left; and to try to get me some strawberry plants from the nursery garden at Pitt-Water; and to be sure to see that my bed-place on board the vessel is long enough, for I lost two inches in height coming over, cramped up in the steerage; and ask him to see if he can't get a couple of brick-makers lent from Government; I should like to see a tidy house put up in the bottom yonder; nothing looks neater than a nice red brick house, with a fish-pond in front, and an arbour at the bottom of the garden. And that reminds me that I shall want a shingle hammer


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and a cask of shingle nails; and (this rum-and-water makes one very sleepy)—and to see if the ship can take home my last year's wool, and what's the price of lamb's wool; and I want a couple of sawyers and a carpenter—to saw the ship into planks—that is, the logs—and—this journey has so knocked me up that I can't write any more—my dear, write the rest yourself—you know what I want to say—I'll just finish this tumbler and then I'll go to bed.”

“But what will you do with these dollars?” said my wife.

“The dollars,” said Crab, his intellects worn out by the fatigue of his journey, and confused with the three tumblers of rum-and-water which he had unconsciously indulged in,—“put 'em—put 'em —in the tripod.”

The next day Crab got up with the early light, and to get rid of the anxiety of having these unfortunate dollars in the house, he buried them with great care and secrecy in the bush; but the very same day, the prisoner whom I have before mentioned as having been sentenced to one hundred lashes and pardoned, pitched upon the plant, and observing that the ground had lately


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been disturbed in an out-of-the-way place, he dug up the loose earth with a stake, and finding the gunny-bag containing the dollars, he carried it, just as it was, to the magistrate's house. An inquiry having been made, which set the whole district a-talking, the news reached us, and the bag of dollars was duly restored to Crab, who found the number of the dollars correct.

For this act of honesty, the magistrate recommended the prisoner for a free pardon, which in due course he received, and he is now a flourishing settler. But the bag of dollars still remained to perplex the distracted Crab; and as the existence of this amount of silver bullion was now the talk of the whole district, we were obliged to send it to Hobart-Town, escorted by Crab and two constables.

“Silver dollars,” said Crab, “are a very fine thing to talk about, and to wish for, but they're very troublesome to carry about, and still more dangerous to keep by you. If one could only trust those fellows at the Bank," said he, "there's nothing like bank-notes after all.”

Things now went on as usual for some time, but I received a letter from an old friend in England,


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who had written to me to ask my advice as to the prudence of his emigrating to Van Diemen's Land with his family, which troubled me to reply to. I was sadly perplexed what to do in the matter, whether to advise him to come out or not, seeing that it is a very serious thing to be the means of causing a family to leave their old home and associates in England to traverse half the globe in search of a place of rest. After giving the matter my very serious thought for some days, I at last made up my mind that I ought not to refuse to do a serviceable act because it was a responsible one, and I determined to state my opinion without reserve, and to give him as good an idea of the colony, and of the advantages which it held forth for emigration, as my ability would enable me, and as could be contained in the compass of a letter. With these feelings I wrote to him as follows.

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