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"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!"
Prov. xvi. 16.
ROBINSON CRUSOE, whilst busy with the construction of his big canoe, was frequently disturbed by the question arising in his mind, by what means should he ever launch so weighty a concern? However, he put the difficulty from his thoughts by the foolish answer, "Let me first make it; I warrant I shall find some way or other to get it along when it is done."
Seth and I had been following a somewhat similar method of reasoning. We had worked our reef, and had collected much gold, but had not, as yet, hit upon any plan by which we could privately turn it into cash; although all along we had flattered ourselves that this would be a matter of easy accomplishment.
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I have lately thought, on the reperusal of 'The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,' that Defoe overrated the difficulty in the way of getting this pirogue or canoe afloat.
In the first place he makes the original log to be only twenty-two feet long by between five and six feet in diameter--no great matter for one man, give him time, to move up a slight incline for a hundred yards, as will be readily conceded by any bushman; and when materially reduced in bulk by hewing and dubbing the outside into shape, and digging out the inside, would certainly not exceed two tons in weight, a mass he might have got along by placing a glut or fulcrum at both extremities of the canoe, when, by using a lever eighteen feet long, he would have easily "cut" first one end which he would "chock," and then the other, carrying the canoe by each operation over two feet of ground.
And equally, perhaps, many of my readers may think it a very simple thing to sell 14,349 ozs. 8 dwt. 13 grs. of gold, which was the total weight won by us from the leader at Golden Falls.
All along as I have wandered in my narrative up to this point, it had been my intention to relate with exactness all particulars connected with our
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disposal of the gold, but now being, as it were, face to face with this period in the story of my life, I incline, for reasons I leave to the imagination of my kind unknown reader, to abridge my original plan.
At this time it was arranged between Seth and myself that I should take a voyage to Sydney, and then sell a small portion of our gold; this I managed without much trouble, and, after four weeks' absence, returned with £768 clear of all my expenses.
Sydney and Melbourne were, at this period, in a chronic state of excitement by reason of the gold-diggings. The latter place, more particularly, having rich alluvial, or poor men's diggings, was a very bank with an ever-ready balance in favour of the clever and the muscular. The population had increased and was increasing by thousands, of the able men of all countries; men who, finding no opening for their talents or energies in old worn-out parts of the world, flew to Melbourne, and there lit upon their legs. The pick of the world's basket rushed to Victoria.
After Seth had been located five months in his little house near the Fall, he began to find the difficulties of mining continually on the increase. The rock about the leader had always been hard to work, and the quantity of quartz to be got out in the course
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of a day only small, but that was of minor consequence whilst the return was fifty ounces to the ton of stone; but, as we proceeded, the stuff became less and less rich, indeed, it often now happened that, for days together, we never saw the "colour;" at the same time, as a culmination of our present ill-luck, the leader began to dip in its course, necessitating an amount of labour to follow it quite beyond our powers. At length we who had been spoilt by such marvellous rich stone as that we had had at first to deal with, were now tired and disgusted with the poor return our crushings at this time yielded, and therefore determined to abandon the mine.
Before doing so, however, we burnt all the woodwork appertaining to our machine, or that by axe-marks might betoken the former presence of man. Also we put a couple of shots, each containing a pound of powder into the face of the Fall, which to some extent obliterated and naturalized the appearance of our recent excavations. After this, finding a suitable rata-tree of great size, we hid away up aloft in its branches our ironwork and tools. Some may wonder we did not dig a hole and bury all our gear in preference to "planting" them forty feet from the earth in the fork of a big tree.
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The fact is I never had any faith in a ground "cache" in a forest, where the soil having been once disturbed retains its unwonted appearance for months, whereas the fork of a big tree is a capital hiding-place; seeing nothing from below, who is going to escalade, at the risk of breaking his neck, a tree five or six feet in diameter, and forty feet without a limb?
The bark of our rata-tree was not sufficiently soft to allow of our driving in wooden pins or trenails, and so forming a way aloft, as we had done when climbing the kauri on the Great Barrier Island, and consequently we had to invent some other plan for climbing the tree, or give it up. After a careful examination of the advantages of the locality, we concluded that it would be possible to swing into the top of the big tree. The rata grew near to the bottom of the gully, and it happened that about fifteen yards off and up the steep hill-side there stood a tall rewa-rewa, a tree with many small branches, and, in this case, easy to climb; it also had a considerable lean out of the perpendicular to the left hand, looking down hill.
Seth mounted up this tree, and when at an elevation of fifteen feet from the ground, was on the same level as the fork of the big rata, such was the rise in
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the ground from one tree to the other. He had carried up with him a rope we had contrived by tightly twisting several supple-jacks together, and after mounting nearly fifty feet up the rewa-rewa, he made it fast, the other end reaching to within a couple of feet of the ground: coming down, he seated himself in a loop we had made at the lower end of our rope; I then made fast to the swing a line of plaited flax, with the aid of which I proceeded to swing my companion, getting up the steam, as it were, by degrees, and guiding his course as he was launched with great rapidity backwards and forwards, every recurring oscillation making him describe a more and more extended arc, until at last he fairly landed in the fork of the rata, and retained his hold by grasping a great tuft of whara-whara. I then climbed up the rewa-rewa and cut away the swing; Seth, retaining the other end of the rope, which when secured, would give him the means of coming safely from his giddy height to the ground. The line of plaited flax I had used to impel my companion on his aerial flight now came in handy to hoist up our gear into the tree, where he stowed the ironwork and tools, fixing all securely by driving a few big nails into the tree, and lashing the articles thereto.
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A valuable boat-load.
It is my belief that they are there to this day.
Gold-bearing quartz has not, to my knowledge, been found in the precise locality I have indicated; although very successful claims have been worked within ten miles of this place, where, twenty years ago, on that memorable Sunday, I lighted upon this marvellously rich leader.
Without any very great expenditure of labour the leader could be followed, and in my opinion, a fabulous amount of the precious metal would reward the enterprize.
Perhaps some smart Victorian, after reading my narrative, and from my description of the waterfall, with its miniature canon below, may discover the spot, and even find the rata-tree with our ironwork all corroded in its top. Gazing up aloft at this giant of the forest, and guessing the secret there hidden, will he have pluck and skill to swing into its top?
The last work of destruction and obliteration, namely, the burning down of his house, was left for Seth to complete the following day, whilst I returning to the mill, had the whale-boat got ready, and setting sail by myself down the river, I landed at a spot about eight miles from the mill.
Here I was presently joined by Seth, with a
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heavy swag of gold on his back, being the surplus or remaining portion that we had not previously conveyed to Auckland.
On our voyage up to town, we, having a considerable part of our gold in the boat, and knowing exactly what we had elsewhere, made a fair and equal division of the property. I guess there never was a whale-boat having so valuable a cargo on board.
Arriving in town, I quietly stored my share at a friend's house, packing the little yellow bars in several large tin cash-boxes and then stowing these away in two great wooden chests and a portmanteau that I had brought from England with me, and in which I kept such clothes as I had no present occasion to use, amongst which was a suit I had brought from England--that most senseless and ugly of costumes which with little alteration in cut and colour, the males of civilization have, for the past fifty years, combined together to consider "dress."
Because the fashion is unbecoming and uncomfortable, it has stood the mark so long--mankind, white, brown, or black, having the proclivity to apparel themselves so as to appear funny, enduring mild tortures in head, feet, and body covering.
"Papa," said a little fellow aged four years,
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seeing his paternal parent in full dress, "are you going to wait?"
His son, from a healthful habit of going early to bed, had only heretofore seen the man-servant in such a rig.
In the course of the next few days I obtained for Seth some good letters of introduction to two merchants in Melbourne, and he, taking his passage in a fine fore-and-aft schooner called The Staghound, set sail with the determination of entering the Melbourne College upon his arrival and doing his best by constant application to retrieve the neglected education of his boyhood.
Before leaving Auckland he left with me a sum of money to use for Jael's advantage, consequently I made an arrangement with a lady lately arrived from England to undertake the education of my friend's sister. And truth to say, I do not know which party reaped the greater advantage, for if Jael learned daily lessons from books, Mr. and Mrs. Loverock and their family acquired such useful practical knowledge from the new inmate of their house, such every-day colonial guidance in their dealings with men and things, as resulted in the eventual success of the Loverock family in New Zealand.
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Mr. and Mrs. Loverock, with their two daughters and three sons, belonged to that much-to-be-pitied class known as decayed gentlefolk. They were possessed of little money, and could do nothing. Mrs. Loverock would vent herself in a fit of crying over the labour and trouble of washing her husband's shirts; nor was she in her element when in the kitchen, every substance she attempted to cook having, when dished up under her auspices, the same taste. Her bread, poor woman, was only fit to be eaten by men possessing an appetite and digestion equal to those whose daily toil is in a brickyard. Mr. Loverock was equally wanting, having no notion of chopping a bit of firewood, nor could he use a spade or drive a nail. Not one of the family could milk a cow. Yet these very good but useless people had left England to farm in the New Zealand bush!
Jael saved this family from penury and all the sad train attendant.
When first I placed Jael in this family Mr. Loverock was about the purchase of a farm--sad misnomer--from the Government. It was situated at the Wahu, six miles from Auckland, and it happened that Mrs. Loverock, accompanied by Jael, went to see the place before the completion of the intended pur-
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chase. The price of the land was 10s. per acre, and would have taken a third of Mr. Loverock's small capital, and being a bad soil and fit for no farming purpose, indeed, good for nothing except perhaps to convert into bricks, which cannot be considered a farmer's crop, would have proved the poor man's ruin.
I had told Mrs. Loverock that Jael would have money, knowing the immense respect paid to the possessor of this desideratum. Perhaps had Jael been at this time a poor girl under her charge she would have paid no attention to her opinion, but having money, Jael's advice was of value, such is the way of the world, and luckily for this Loverock family they were not exempt from the popular prejudice.
Jael told Mrs. Loverock that the farm was not worth having as a gift, that not growing fern or tea-tree except in a very dwarfed condition, it would certainly not grow grass, potatoes, corn, or pumpkins. If the fern had been seven feet and the tea-tree double that height, the soil would not be bad; but the first was only a foot above the ground, and the other plant not much better.
Taking Jael's advice, Mr. Loverock eventually bought 150 acres of land near Otahuhu, and started
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farming. He certainly was without an iota of knowledge of the pursuit he was undertaking.
Jael was their factotum, their forewoman. She taught them to milk the cows and feed the calves, to make the butter, to manage the fowls, to make bread, to cook, and to wash. She was also interpreter when they had any dealings with the natives. There never was such a clever little woman as Jael, at least that is my opinion.
No fear of the Loverocks making new chums' mistakes with her in the house. Nay, she also drew the plan of their house, with a specification of the timber, bricks, windows, doors, shingles, house-blocks, paint, nails, scrim and paper-hangings required. It was quickly and cheaply built, and when finished, found to be very convenient and comfortable.
Do not conclude, dear young ladies, that the above-named practical accomplishments tend to obliterate the feelings of caste or make the worker look vulgar. Much doubtless may be said in favour of leaving work to the servant class in cold, wet, sunless England, but at the Antipodes many circumstances combine to make things different. There ladies often enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they are usefully employed.
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At this period, finding myself possessed of a little spare capital in ready money, I invested £150 in five acres of suburban land, on which property I subsequently built two houses. I also purchased 200 acres of land up the country at a place called Mongatawiri, at a cost on the average of 30s. an acre, and also a town lot in Beresford Street.
I once heard a preacher from a pulpit in York Minster observe that those men who are always roaming about the world are intellectually inferior to the stay-at-homes. I declare I think the other way.
Who, I might ask, peopled America and the Australian Colonies in modern times, and how came it to pass that these countries should produce men often surpassing those of the Old World in so many ways?
Even in English specialities as taught at such seats of learning as Oxford or Cambridge, or as politicians and orators in the "House," they are frequently to the fore.
For the last hundred years the best samples of British humanity have migrated to most parts of the world. Notably younger sons and clever mechanics making America and other countries their abodes
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"did well;" whereas in old worn-out England they had stagnated. Even in country places if there was a smart fellow in a village he rarely could bear the stupid monotony of ways and words in his neighbours, and would seek his fortune in "foreign parts."
At this period, namely, after I had seen my friend Seth off to Melbourne and his sister Jael fairly settled with Mr. and Mrs. Loverock, I took a trip to Taranaki, sailing from the Manukau in a smart little schooner called The Eclair. Setting sail from the village of Onehunga, we only got as far as the Heads the first day, and here we were detained well nigh a week by the setting in of a tremendous gale from the west, which, tumbling in such a sea on the bar, rendered our farther voyage for the present impossible. So great was the force of the wind that even in our sheltered position, under the lee of the land and in smooth water with both anchors down, whenever a concentrated squall would rush against us it was a toss up whether or no the chains, as they rose out of the water far ahead, straight and rigid, could bear the strain.
Our detention at the Manukau Heads was doubtless highly disgusting to the owners, as we were eating
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up all profit accruing out of our passage-money. And, indeed, it was aggravating to us all, making our voyage take more than double the usual length of time.
It was on the Manukau Bar on the 7th of February, 1863, H.M.S. Orpheus was lost and the greater part of the crew drowned. There was no officer on board having a correct knowledge of the channel, and trusting to the survey and soundings made some years before on a constantly shifting bar by Captain Drury of H.M.S. Pandora, a bar whose deepest water was at one time in the south channel and a few years after farther over to the north, a bar whose tide ran over shoal or channel straight for the harbour, whose way in was winding, but whose tide flowed direct. No wonder they touched the bottom. It was said at the time that one of the men on board who knew the place told the officer of the watch that they were going wrong. As might be expected, he was not listened to, and presently all was lost.
A good sailor--a coaster, can find his way in over a bar by a kind of instinct. What matters it to him not having been there before? My friend Janson was a good example of this cleverness. P. Marks,
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the skipper of The Eclair, was another--a better pair of seafaring men I have never met.
The darkest night was as daylight to them, nor did they ever run their craft ashore in awkward places, or wreck their vessels, or otherwise make a mess of things in any of their many voyagings.
We were a jolly party on board The Eclair. First, I may mention our skipper, pleasant and obliging, and as good a sailor as ever felt his way into a harbour on a dark night.
Then there was an officer of one of Her Majesty's regiments going to Taranaki on some Governmental business.
A daguerreotypist, who offered to sell me his camera and all appliances for taking sun-pictures by that bygone process for £20.
One of the passengers was an eccentric fellow, who had been whisked and blown about during a hurricane in the island of Jamaica. He was in a house, he averred, when it was lifted from its foundations and bowled along before the gale for many miles, until at length it brought up against a gigantic cotton-wood tree. Here he lay for many days prone upon the ground, with a great beam across his back, until discovered by his faithful
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negroes, who succeeded eventually in dragging him from amongst the debris, leaving, we fancied, the greater portion of his wits behind.
Taranaki has no harbour; and, indeed, to speak of the locality where ships do come to an anchor off the town as a roadstead would be to pay a compliment to the place.
A great portion of the land in this province is good, and the country pretty, but altogether it is the last place I should pitch upon for my home. The beach is anything but "yellow sand," being black as coal dust with titaniferous iron ore.
Mount Egmont overlooks the town, and, white with perpetual snow, is as perfect a sugar-loaf cone as could be imagined.
Whilst at Taranaki I renewed my acquaintance with a young fellow whom I had formerly met in England. I had some knowledge of his friends, who, having acquired, on payment at the rate of £3 per acre in London, the right to select land from a certain block in this province, had sent the young gentleman to the Antipodes, giving him an outfit of things supposed necessary for the proper management of bush-farming in New Zealand, and with some little money in his pocket, starting him in the
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world. Amongst other things he carried out with him quite a library of big volumed encyclopaedias, a kind of property for which I have a great respect, and certainly have nothing to say against any one--who can afford it--becoming the happy possessor of big books. But an emigrant was hardly likely to cull say £25 worth of pleasure or information from works of reference, and the above guess amount at their cost price, that horsy and betting men have combined to call a pony, would have proved a tidy and more handy property if appearing on the right hand page of his banking-book.
My young friend's farm was in the forest, and five miles from the town, and at the time of my visit he had a good boarded house and six acres of land cleared, that is, the trees cut down two or three feet above the ground, logged into short lengths left to dry during the summer months, and then burnt. Indeed, in the case of my friend, he had calcined all so thoroughly as to include his house and effects amongst the ashes--the encyclopedias just mentioned, not escaping the conflagration, the messuage I saw being his second effort at bush architecture.
It was an agreeable surprise to meet at this house a man and his wife who were from a village near my
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home in the old country. I am sure the pleasure was mutual, and great by its rarity, your humble servant being the only person who had any knowledge of their native parish that they had met in New Zealand. Should Mrs. Quickly happen by chance to read this narrative, will she remember regaling us with pumpkin-pie? The circumstance is indelibly impressed in my recollection, being at the time very hungry, whilst the vegetable tart was as near perfection in its manufacture as was possible with so coarse a constituent in its composition.
After dinner we rode along a bush track through the forest to call upon Mr. Page, who was erecting a sawmill, to be driven by steam, a most insane project, there not being a sufficient "stand" of big trees handy to the place, perhaps, on the average four remu to the acre, that being the timber most in demand in this province. After a stay of ten days at Taranaki, during which time I seemed to become acquainted with every one in the place, I set off, per Eclair, on my return to Auckland.
I do not remember much of my voyage home, excepting that we were not so jolly a party as when outward bound. There was a gentleman on board, the austereness of whose visage made the skipper
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and myself so low spirited as to impel us frequently to "make it 12 o'clock."
These drinks at imaginary "eight bells," at odd times during the course of the day, the skipper and I always accomplished in a furtive manner when there were no others in the cabin. Knowing the above-mentioned gentleman's tongue was hanging out "for a glass of grog," we had great fun in keeping him without that stimulant, as some return for the boredom and pharisaical attempt of "coming over us" a moral superiority.
The world, in my opinion, has grown much wiser during the last twenty years; the rising generation having more moral pluck and sense than we had, not permitting obtrusive dogmatists to sit upon them as yieldingly as we of the passing generation were weak enough to do, and the result is that the quasi professional Guide aloft, now admits as facts, and even promulgates things, to speak of which, in my young days, would have turned all the hearers' eyes in virtuous horror to the whitewash of the ceiling.
I may instance in the by-going as a mild example how all novels were condemned as trash, or as improper reading for the young, whereas now-a-days one
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may hear half a dozen times a year from the pulpit--if a good church-goer--that there is no harm in a perusal of the best works of fiction.
Our fore-elders, and many of us yet think the Book we have got into the habit of swearing by and on, proper reading for the young, and surely it is a work of fiction in many parts, a work by the way that, to suit the delicacy and refinement of these times, really wants the trenchant hand of a Bowdler.
I hate the narrow censorious dogmatism of mere pietists. Men of learning are tolerant because they are faithful, and strive to understand what they are talking about, but the dogmatism of a dunce is not to be endured. "Mother reads and I 'spounds," said a snivelling youth, unable himself to read the Bible, in answer to his clergyman's inquiry, when the poor gentleman was perfectly "flabbergasted" by the pious opinionatedness of the not very-pleasing young man. He was quite a representative pietist, was that "'spounder." There are too many solemn-faced, cold-hearted, selfish dogmatists, whose acquaintance is with the mere English translation, and whose right to expound the same is quite as questionable. Granted that that translation is pretty fair on the whole, considering all things, yet still the Greek or
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the Hebrew is of necessity rendered by English words derived from dissimilar roots, and the extremely delicate shades of meaning implied in the original are no more conveyed in the English, than the mobility of men's thoughts and emotions, as figured in the face, are interpreted in Mrs. Jarley's wax-work. A translation, therefore, can, at the best, present but a distorted image of that which the old writers intended to convey. It is true that a man, making allowance for these little matters, reads his English Bible, and it makes him a good-hearted fellow, for he perceives therein a divinity who is so truly divine, benignly meeting a humanity which is so thoroughly human; but when the mere reader of the English goes beyond this, and dogmatises upon the recondite meaning of this or that text, he is like a man demonstrating the subtle intricacies of the human anatomy from the distorted image of a person's face as reflected in the bowl of a bright silver spoon.
St. Thomas Aquinas was, perhaps, the greatest intellectual swell in the Church some 600 years ago, and I think he was a man of the right sort;--not because he reduced the doctrine of his own Church to a system, and presented in one work all that had
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St. Thomas Aquinas.
been written, conjectured, speculated upon, taught, said, thought, dreamed, supposed, surmised, or spoken by Fathers, councils, or schools; but he was one of the right sort, because, at the conclusion of his Augaeo-Herculean labours, instead of growing "bumptious," and talking about the "inferior clergy" like a modern prebendary, he uttered this memorable sentiment, viz.: "That, after all, truth and simplicity of heart are the greatest of possessions, and love to mankind the most authentic note of religion."
Upon my return to Auckland I gradually wound up my affairs, disposing of the mill and my schooner. The latter I sold to a hapu of natives hailing from Kororarika--Bay of Islands. My boat I hauled up ashore, and having hired six men, at 2s. 6d. each, I had her carried to my friend Dr. Avon's house, he kindly allowing me to stow her away under his veranda, which being built on puriri blocks, and the floor being three and a half feet from the ground, made it a capital place to preserve the boat from both sun and rain.
I could not bear to sell Te Ngaru, although I had settled in my own mind to return to England; still I thought I might possibly become, in the course of a few years, sick and tired of the November fogs, all
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the year round more or less, of the old country, and would like again, if ever I got back to Maoriland, to have another turn in my old boat.
So I left her, chocking her securely under the doctor's house, and stowing away in her the oars, masts, sails, and all her other gear.
Determining to see Sydney before leaving the Antipodes, I took my passage there in the brig Moa, having with me, besides my ordinary luggage and a case of curiosities, my two big chests with the gold. I also had a bill of exchange on a bank in London for £1000, and £50 in ready money.
We had a moderately good passage up to Sydney, sailing into Port Jackson the ninth day after seeing the last of Cape Maria, Van Diemen.
I was a month in Sydney and the neighbourhood, and in that short space of time jumped to the conclusion that it was a better place for an emigrant in which to make his home than New Zealand. That there was more money and more life in the place, and the surface of the country, too, was more readily available for sheep, cattle, or other farming. The land, indeed, was acre for acre worth more money, and the climate, barring the extreme heat now and again, during a "brickfielder"--I speak from hear-
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say, none of these northerners blowing whilst I was there--was, I thought, equal to that of New Zealand.
Whilst in Sydney I sold to one of the banks a small portion of my gold for the sum of £500, which I received in sovereigns, and carried away in two small bags.
Hardly daring to venture upon the sale of a greater quantity, I determined upon taking the remainder to England.
Had it leaked out that I had brought so much gold from Auckland, a "rush" might have set in to that province, and possibly a detention of myself and an investigation, all of which would have been most unpleasant, if no worse, as many will allow and understand who have witnessed the fate of those who have been the cause of a "rush"; for I felt quite confident (as has since been proved) that no great finds of gold would take place within a radius of ten miles of the Golden Falls, though I am still very sure that under that particular spot of rock lies a fabulous amount of the precious metal.
Most diggers have a theory as to the first formation of the thing we call gold. I do not mean that every possessor of a "miner's right" has his separate
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and particular notion, but that there are some dozen theories--guesses all--how in nature's great laboratory gold was, and perhaps is, made. I, like my mates (I have since been on other diggings than the Golden Falls) have a theory, but as my readers have been so kind and patient as to wade through the narrative of my life up to the year 1855, shall I bore them with a disquisition geological with which I might easily fill twenty written pages? Oh, no! Only one word, the cream of my experience; under the earth at Golden Falls lie lumps of gold as big as--as lumps of chalk.
The bearings of the place and full directions I have fairly written out. The manuscript is inclosed in a sealed packet, and bequeathed, in my will, to my next of kin.
It is no prophecy, though the world hereafter may take it as such. Gold will be rediscovered there--at Golden Falls, and perhaps in other places--in masses that will utterly upset the value of coined money.
LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.