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3-043 (Original)

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addressee author,male,Mereweather, John Davies,27
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Hale, 1950
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Jan. 15, 1852. - To-day I asked a black fellow, called Peacock, if he had ever eaten 'black fellow'? As I said it laughingly, he was thrown off his guard, and acknowledged that he had; and from his look, the reminiscences of the fact seemed to be rather pleasurable to him than otherwise. 'What is the taste like?' I asked. 'Like pig,' he unhesitatingly replied. Then I changed my manner, and asked him how he could dare to do so horrible a thing? On this he declared that what he had just said was in jest, and that he had never eaten man. This is the first time I could ever get a confession of cannibalism out of a native. I have been told that the blacks cannot endure a white man's flesh. They say that it tastes very salt, and is highly flavoured with tobacco.
Jan. 21. - Rode through the Black Forest. The road resembled one of the great thoroughfares out of London, so full was it of waggons, drays, carts, gigs, equestrians and pedestrians, proceeding to the diggings. And no wonder; for a very common-looking person, who begged leave to ride by my side, thinking, perhaps, that my calling might be a protection to him, told me that he and three others had dug up sixteen hundred pounds worth of gold in nine weeks. He had a hundred and fifty pounds worth about his person then. He told me, that previous to leaving England he had been a helper in a stable in Yorkshire. There was immense confusion and drunkenness at the Bush Inn at Gisborne, where I slept. [191] At night the chambermaid advised me to lock and barricade the door of my bed-room, otherwise she thought I may be intruded upon by drunken people; and it was well I did so, for during the night two men practised upon the panels of the door for at least an hour, and though they split them they could not get in.
Jan. 22. - Stopping to bait at a roadside inn near Melbourne, I spoke with a common labouring man, who had just dug up 800£ of gold.
Jan. 26. - The gold excitement is fast increasing. Seeing a crowd of people around a shop-door, I found that there was on show inside a lump of solid, purest gold, weighing twenty-seven pounds eleven ounces. The men who found it - four ill-looking persons - were in attendance, waiting to be paid for it. I heard that they had sold it for 1200£. The mass of gold had a very bizarre form, looking something like a Hindoo god.
March 11. - Gold is selling in Melbourne at 3£ the ounce.
March 18. - Took my first stage out of Melbourne towards my district. At night the landlord and his wife, both very drunk, fought so furiously, that I was obliged to separate them by force. During the fray, all the little children came clustering round the mother, taking her part. One sturdy urchin boldly attacked his father, by kicking his shins and the calves of his legs.
March 19. - Gave some serious advice to the landlord about the scene of last night, and afterwards rode to Kilmore to breakfast. Slept at the Mac Ivor Inn, where I heard from one of the diggers that the goings on there are lamentably immoral.
March 21 (Sunday). - Arrived at Maiden's Punt on the Murray, after a ride of thirty-two miles, in four hours and a half. Held Service immediately, and then rode on ten miles farther to another inn, lower down the Murray, and held a second Service.
April 10. - Went with two magistrates and the head constable of the district to examine the corpse of a man, which had just been discovered on the banks of the Edward River. [192] As we approached the spot, we came upon a dog, who, on seeing us, slunk into some bushes, frightened. Immediately afterwards we saw the body lying prone, with the head partially submerged in a little pool of water. As it had been dragged from a place some yards off, where two or three people had been camping, I suggested that it was possible there might have been foul play, although the corpse was so placed as to give a first impression that the man had, in the last state of exhaustion from want of food, dragged himself down to the water-side to drink, and there had died. On closely examining the body, we found that part had been devoured - probably by his glare-eyed, guilty-hooking dog; and on turning round the head, which was resting on the arm, we discovered a tremendous fracture of the right parietal bone of the skull. Thus it is certain that a murder has been enacted here.
April 12. - Rode with a magistrate into Moolamon, to hold an inquiry with regard to the murdered man. We elicited the fact that, about ten days ago, three men from the diggings had passed the night here, and talked about having a quantity of gold about them. In the morning they went away together, accompanied by a dog, in the direction in which the body was found. We likewise were informed that the second day afterwards two men on horseback, heading a third horse, and having no dog with them, were seen going at full speed across the spacious plain, which extends to the Murrumbidgee. Thus it is pretty evident that the three must have camped by the side of the Edward; and during the night, the two murdered the one for his share of the gold. They then arranged his body in a studied attitude, to make it appear that he had died of exhaustion; and placed his head to rest on his arm, so as to conceal the fracture. And this deceit would have succeeded, if I had not particularly requested that the head should be lifted up. The murderers have, however, got clean off; and in such wild, unsettled country as this, all researches will be useless.
April 20. - Hear that a hut-keeper, going from one hut to another on this run, has lost his way, and not been heard of. [193] He started the day before yesterday in the morning.
April 22. - As I was mounting a horse, lately bought, he suddenly put his head between his legs, so as almost to meet his tail, and bucked his back up, so that I was shot off like an arrow from a bow. Luckily, I broke no bones. I believe that an inveterate buck-jumper can be cured by slinging up one of the four legs, and lunging him about severely in heavy ground on the three legs. It is called here 'turning a horse inside out.' No treatment can be too severe for a horse addicted to this abominable and incomprehensible vice.
April 26. - Went out with my friend to poison his run. It is thus done. When a beast is killed, a quantity of small bits are cut off the carcass. By means of a sharp penknife little holes are cut in these morsels, and into these little holes pinches of strichnia are introduced. These bits are put into a small bag and taken out on the run. The acting person then, as he rides or drives along, throws to the right and left this meat. At night the wild dogs come, eat it all up greedily, and ere long die. But the strichnia has not yet done its work. Wild dogs eat one another, and begin their repast with the entrails of their brothers. Now the entrails of the dead dogs contain the strichnia, which is so strong, that after passing into the second dog it will kill him too, and, as I have been informed, even a third. Thus the poor sheep call poison to their aid against their terrible enemies.
May 19. - The rain has fallen in torrents all day, and my condition is wretched enough in such a country, for there is no pastoral duty to attend to, and study and privacy in a poor little wooden hut is next to impossible.
May 20. - Rode to Mr. L - 's station, and there I heard of a shocking murder which has quite lately taken place in this neighbourhood. The actors in this horrible tragedy were Edward River blacks; the victim a man of colour from the United States, settled for some years as a pastrycook in Sydney. This poor fellow gave up a remunerative business that he might go to the Port Phillip gold diggings, and was travelling this way with a white comrade. [194] He was unfortunately seen by some members of a tribe of blacks belonging to this neighbourhood, who followed him, chased him, and drove several spears jagged with bits of glass through his back, working them up and down in his body as he lay on the ground. His comrade, insane with terror, ran, or rather flew, to the nearest station, the blacks at first following him with his bundle which he had dropped, and begging him to take it, as they did not wish to hurt him. They then cut up the corpse of their victim into three or four pieces, buried them, and taking up his bundle, as well as the bundle of his comrade, walked very unconcernedly into the store at the Company's station, and gave them up to the storekeeper, saying that they had found them on the road. Now this dreadful crime has arisen from a most lamentable blunder. As I believe I have said before, all the tribes or families of the indigenes which are scattered over the whole face of the country, are in a state of natural warfare with one another. Sometimes alliances are concluded between them; but without such an alliance, every black who ventures into another territory is liable to be assassinated. Now these stupid blacks mistook this poor American black for one of themselves, and thus considered his life lawfully forfeited. They disdained to touch his property. A black expressed to me to-day great indignation at their stupidity, saying, that they ought to have known the difference between 'black fellow' and 'white man's black fellow.' It may be supposed that the whole country is much excited about this occurrence. The mounted police have been galloping about shooting the wrong people, and letting the guilty authors of the outrage escape. They have shot a lame old woman, I believe.
May 23. - Hold Divine Service at the Doctor's hut at Maiden's Punt. Ten adults and fifteen children attended - quite a refreshing number, in comparison with the very few which usually attend my ministrations.
May 27. - After three or four days of heavy travelling over boggy ground, the horses having scarce anything to eat, I arrived at a station on the Barratta Creek, where I had a fine black swan served up for dinner, stewed. It ate very like rather tough fricasseed rabbit. [195]
May 28. - After crossing the Edward River in a frail canoe of bark, and swimming my horse over two or three deep creeks, I arrived at the hospitable and superior head-station of Mr. G - .
June 1. - My horses have strayed away, so that I am doomed to remain here in a state of inactivity. In the evening I attended a native corrobery; or what would be called by the whites, a soirée dansante. The old men sat and smoked, the women drummed on skins, and the young men enacted pantomimic dances, These ballets were of diverse character; some were joyous, others warlike, others licentious, whilst one was funereal. According to their character, so the women chanted. Naked and painted as the dancers were, they looked like demons as they flitted to and fro among the watchfires.
June 15. - My horses came back of their own accord, so that I was able to get on; but the weather is atrocious, and the roads of melted caoutchouc. The longer I stay in this country the more hopeless does my position seem The floods in winter and the droughts in summer render the life of a clergyman one of great difficulty and self-denial. It must be recollected, that riding a horse and leading another over boggy ground for twenty-five miles, is quite as fatiguing as walking ten. And the sole refreshment after such a day's exercise consists of poisonous green tea without milk, lean beef without vegetables, and heavy damper.
June 20. - Hear of some bushrangers on the Sydney side who robbed a gentleman, stripped him naked, and tied him across a nest of huge black ants, which ate all the flesh off his bones. He was their old master, who, by his severity, had caused them to take to the bosh.
June 21. - It having been always the object of my wishes to visit the confluence of the Darling and the Murray, not only from being informed that the visit of a Minister would be very acceptable to the people of that district, but also on account of various objects of interest to be seen there, I started this morning at half-past nine from my head-quarters on the Edward River for the sheep-station of Canally, on the Murrumbidgee. [196] Yet at the outset some difficulties occurred which might have affected a sensitive mind. My stipend is paid by a certain number of subscribers, among whom the names of the Darling squatters do not figure. My people then seem not altogether well pleased that I should venture a hundred miles away from the limits of the subscription list, although they know that there must he people to be married, children to be baptized, women to be churched, and, above all, a population growing up in a most far-off district, totally destitute of clerical visiting or of religious ministrations. But as I know that my health will not allow me to remain much longer in this extraordinary country, and that after me no one probably will dare to come for a long time, I have thought fit to set at defiance the half-smothered remonstrances of the subscription list, and to do the best I can for my neglected fellow-Christians during the remainder of my stay here.
Aug. 23. - Rode to Maiden's Punt, hoping to cross my horses; but the proprietor of the ferry absolutely refuses to attempt it. I baptized three children belonging to a man who is just starting for the diggings. He insisted on paying me. I said that our Church did not sell the Sacraments. He said that the clerk must be paid. I answered, that there was no clerk. He then said, roughly, that he did not wish anything from anybody, not even the Church, without payment. I told him that, in the present case, there was no alternative. He then went away in a rude manner.
Aug. 25. - Find that the man, whose children I baptized yesterday, has gone away at daybreak, and left a packet for me. On opening a very dirty bit of white-brown paper, tightly twisted, I found at least three ounces of small nuggets of pure gold in it. So he gained his point after all. [197]
Sept. 18. - After sleeping at the inn called Vinges, and paying a pound sterling for a night's lodging for my two horses, I started for Melbourne, a distance of twelve miles. To describe this state of the road accurately would be impossible. Let us imagine four feet of pitch half cooled, and we should arrive at some idea of this dozen miles of black loam trampled into a deep mud by the hoofs of innumerable beasts. Woe to the rider who lets his horse stand still a moment with his forelegs together in this glutinous mass. It would be difficult to get him out, even with dismounting. And what dismounting! I met twenty-four bullocks drawing a dray, and with difficulty they slowly progressed. And quite pitiable it was to see poor families on their way to the diggings in a cart drawn by one horse. There were the children extended on the bedding, screaming, while the lean horse stood still in the mud, motionless as a statue, and the father and mother, bogged up to the knees themselves, were vainly pushing behind. Every now and then came showers of rain to damp the little remaining ardour of these searchers for gold. At times suspicious-looking characters passed me, armed to the teeth, who looked with a covetous eye on the quantity of baggage I had on my spare horse. This colony was the most desirable of all which the Crown possesses. How changed now! No more tranquillity and good-fellowship between the grades of society. All is confusion, selfishness, licence, and subversion of all respect for worth, talent, and education. Brawn and muscle are now the aristocracy, and insolently bear their newly-assumed honours. In fact, we have here the French Revolution without the guillotine. When I arrived in Melbourne, I found the streets full of a dirty, disorderly mob of people, many of them tipsy, who seemed to take a delight in setting the laws of decent behaviour at defiance.
Oct. 2. - Met in Collins Street a coarse-looking young woman, very gaily dressed, with a fine baby in her arms, who, to my surprise, recognised me with a loud voice, as the Minister who had baptized her child in the bush. She wore a French bonnet of a delicate lemon colour, with a white lace veil; a common cotton coloured handkerchief tied round her red neck; a new green silk dress, sufficiently short to show coarse, puffy legs and ankles, clothed with dirty socks, and thick winter boots laced up in front. [198] She had a short and stocky figure, and from the redness of her complexion seemed to have just risen from dinner. When she found that I rather shrank from the warmth of her greeting, she said, 'Don't you recollect me as hut-keeper at the head-station of - , and that you christened my baby, and wouldn't take anything for doing it? And now I have got plenty of money and wish to make you a present.' I interrupted her by asking her what she meant by walking about town without her husband, dressed in that way? 'Oh!' she answered, 'my husband knows all about it; he is gone to the diggings for the second time, to get some more gold.' 'Did he do pretty well on his first visit to the diggings?' I asked. 'Well, thank God, he did very fairly; he got 700£, and he has given it all to me to take charge of till he comes down again. This young woman, six months before, was a raw, red-haired, savage Scotch maid-of-all-work, at a sheep-station 200 miles in the interior, married to one of the shepherds. Her husband and she had left service, gone to the diggings, and found this great prize. She was now roaming about Melbourne, amusing herself, and rendering herself entirely unfit for the only thing nature ever intended her for - hard labour. She finished a very voluble harangue in answer to some advice I gave her, by praying me to pay her a visit next morning, that she might give me a handful of nuggets. But this is one only of a thousand strange things which are occurring. A lady told me yesterday that she had just lost an excellent maidservant, who one day was followed about by a digger, who proposed himself off-hand to her, and backed his arguments so opportunely by a heavy bag of gold which weighed down his pocket, that the girl when also came back, showing her mistress the gold which the lover had given her to keep, confessed that she was engaged to be married so soon as a licence could be procured. And this marriage ceremony goes off thus. After the ceremony is over, and the officiating minister has received generous proofs of the prodigality of the contracting parties, the couple and their friends drive to St. Kilda or Brighton, with a suite of fortuitous applauding acquaintance. The toilette of the ladies is something preposterously extravagant. [199] Their blue satin bonnets and white ostrich feathers oppress their heads; their crimson satin dresses blaze upon squat bodies, which have been submitted for this first, and probably the last time, to the screwing-in process of powerful stays. Next to the dress come the heavy boots laced up in front. The coachman wears blue and white ribbons; so do the horses; so even does the whip, nay, even the spokes of the wheels. During the journey, which takes half an hour to an hour, English porter, beer, and champagne are drunk by the driven and the drivers. On their reaching the inn, an expensive banquet is served, and the most expensive liquors which the colony affords are circulated in profusion. Evening comes on, and everybody accumulates drunkenness on himself. Night arrives, and the whole party gallop back to Melbourne in the most hopeless state of intoxication, having squandered a sum which I dare not here name, for fear of encountering incredulity. A week is spent by the married pair in all these delicate outpourings of first love, and then satiety having intervened, and the gold-bag having diminished, the new bride awakes one morning without her partner at her side and discovers that he has bolted to the diggings. She suffers great misery, and ultimately discovers that her partner having got more gold has married again in some other place, and that, in fact, he has had two or three consorts before herself. So she too, partly not of spite, partly from destitution, resolves to marry again. And thus the lower classes go on setting the marriage laws at defiance, to the utter despair of the clergymen, who see the inextricable social confusion prevailing around them, without the power to remedy it. It may be supposed that the publicans reap a rich harvest from so much social disorganisation. So fast are immigrants arriving, that this class of people have their houses crowded to suffocation, and sell their poisoned, adulterated liquors at fabulous prices. In the midst of all this social turmoil, the Colonial Government, although a little taken aback, acts, on the whole, with that firmness and good sense which British gentlemen always show in cases of emergency. And the press, too, setting apart a little too much party violence, nobly seconds the cause of order. The difficulty now is to get a sufficient police force on foot to check the disorder which prevails, for men who come to dig gold will not act as policemen unless very well remunerated. [200] A horse patrol has been established, the privates of which receive 8s. per diem, exclusive of rations and lodgings.
Oct. 11. - Embarked in a steamer for Sydney, and paid 12£ for a passage of three days. As we steamed down the bay, we passed three vessels full of immigrants sailing up into the land of promise.