Patty, growing quite fat and rosy; and William is glad enough to have a mouth less to feed at home, I warrant.'

And, Uncle Harry, I'm getting on with the ironing. Isn't it true, grandmother ? and soon I shall be able to iron a shirt,' said little Patty.

'I'll tell your mother so,' said Harry, 'for I promised to go down, and have a chat with William to-night. I shan't be late, mother.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


It was no great pleasure to Harry to exchange his mother's cheerful fireside and clean house for William's, which was seldom to be found comfortable. However, he was expected, and things looked better than usual. The children were away to bed. Matty, William's wife, was mending clothes ; and the two brothers sat down for

a chat.

'I wish I'd your chances, Harry,' said William. I often

say to Matty, if once we were out in the backwoods, we should have room to breathe and turn ourselves, which is more than we have in the old country.'

Well, I don't know,' said Harry; there is not so much difference, perhaps, as you think. It's hard work here, and hard work there-only pleasant enough for those that don't mind hard work.'

Ah,' said William, who was apt to be grumbling at his lot, because he could not understand that it was his own want of skill that kept him low in his trade, and so always thought it was what he called “his luck;' "ah, it is not hard work I mind, but your earnings are your earnings out there; while here, they are ate up on all sides.'

• As how?' asked Harry."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• Well, first, there's rent; and then there's taxes; and if

you want to better your home, to turn on water, and have a bit of gas to look cheerful-like, there's gas-rates and water-rates.'

As for rent,' said Harry, there is no place I ever saw worth living in, that you hadn't to pay rent formore here than in a clearing where you 'd cut down trees and build a log-hut for yourself certainly; but you might want to improve, and have money enough for gas and water, but it's little you 'd get of either, I can tell you.'

'Is water so scarce in those parts, Harry?' asked Matty.

It is, indeed,' said Harry ; want of water is the great difficulty in Australia. Then, as to taxes, Bill, if you want to find out the blessing of a regular government, just go and spend a month there. I won't ask any more. Go, and spend a month at the diggings.'

All very well,' said William ; ' but it's hard for a poor man, who works all day, to have to pay taxes, and his children, perhaps, wanting food or shoes.'

. It would be harder to have to dig with a loaded rifle beside you, Bill, and not even to feel safe with that; harder to lie down at night, and wonder if you would rise alive in the morning. To say nothing of the fact, that when you had made money—what with hiding it, and defending it, and the difficulty of carrying it away-you would be worried out of your life. Ah, you'd be glad enough to pay heavy taxes to feel as secure there as you do here.'

'Ah, William,' said Matty, “it's not so bad but it might be worse, you see.'

• But there are some come home with fortunes,' said William.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



• Yes; but how many have died out there, or never succeeded, or been robbed after they have succeeded ?' said Harry. 'Do you remember Bob Wilkins of Dartfield ? Well, I met him one day at the diggings, and he told me he was off for Melbourne the next day. “I've a good escort,” he said ; " and I have that to take that requires a. good escort;" and he nodded.

“I'm glad to hear it,” said I.

“Any message for the old country?" he asked, and went off as gay as a lark.

"Well, the next day he started. But he and his escort were attacked by a band of rascals who had been on the watch for Bob. Some of the party escaped, but Bob was shot through the head, and every farthing of gold was carried off. One of the robber-gang was taken not long after in the act of robbing a man's tent; and before he was hung, he said how they had dodged and watched Bob for months before he left.'

* He was hung, was he?' said William. “Then you have got some law out there too, and police, I suppose, or who took him up ?'

· Police and judges and executioners all in one, Bill the gallows, the nearest tree. No taxes to pay for keeping up prisons-no pause—no inquiry—no chance for the innocent to prove his innocence—that is your law and police out there, my boy.'

William,' said Matty, you don't catch me going out with my children.'

'But you need not go to the diggings, Matty,' said Harry.

“There are lawless people in other places beside the diggings,' said Matty; there are the natives come down on you sometimes, and didn't we hear that dreadful story


[ocr errors]



last year of a poor girl riding out to meet her brother, as she had often done before, and being found brutally murdered ? And her brother, and all the young men in those parts rode off after the blacks, vowing to kill one for every tooth in the poor girl's head. Ah, and they kept their vow, too.'

Harry was grave and silent for a few minutes, then he said : “These things will happen in countries where there is no regular government, where the population is so scattered, and where might makes right. Every man takes the law into his own hands, and does what he will or what he can. Happy those, say I, that have a regular government, and whose greatest enemy is the tax-gatherer.'

And yet you are going out again, Harry ?' said his brother.

“Yes, William, there must be some to live through these early times in a colony, and who so fit as the young strong men who have not formed household-ties, and risk less than others ? Australia is a fine country, too, and when it is opened up, and its government strong enough to keep order and deal justice everywhere, I hope there may be a nation there as great and glorious as Old England. "Well, if I were younger,' said William.

You'd just stay where you are,' said Matty. Don't be too hard on the new country, Matty,' said Harry ; remember it takes away extra mouths from the old country, and leaves more work and more pay for those who stay behind. Besides, one of my errands to-night was to ask if you would let me have that eldest lad of yours to take back with me. He's a nice likely boy, and would do well there. The master told me

[ocr errors]


to look out for such an one, and I think he would be the very thing.'


Matty refused that night, and for many nights after.

'It would not be a bad thing,' said William ; "the lad's chances here are not very bright, and with him and Patty off our hands, we might take that smaller house of Brown's, and with fewer to feed, and less rent, we might get on better, Matty'

We can go to Brown's as it is,' said Matty.

“Do you mean that cottage mother talked of taking ?? asked Harry.

• Yes, the rent is lower than this; there are only two bedrooms, but the boys might have a turn-up bed down stairs.'

If you'll excuse my saying so,' said Harry, 'I think you will lose more than you gain.'

• Two shillings a week is a great saving,' said Matty.

Not if you have to take it out in doctor's bills,' said Harry.

• You don't think it healthy?' said William.

'I am sure it is not; there is an open drain not a hundred yards from the door, there are no back windows, so that you can't air the house thoroughly; the windows don't open if there were any, and the lower room is as damp as half stone flags, and half a mud floor can make it.'

"I didn't observe all that,' said William. 'I never heard of anything very bad there—I mean in the way of illness. To be sure they had fever last year, and two or three children died along that row, but then we had fever here too.'


[ocr errors]


« 前へ次へ »