he seemed to have a plurality of fathers


Our route lay via Dalrymple, Eumara, Nulla Nulla Station, Craigie, and across the Razor Back, or Great Dividing Range, to the Newcastle River, then skirting Mount Rous to Gilberton, a distance, in and out, of little short of two hundred miles. Leaving Gilberton (which, by the way, is one of the most promising, though least developed, goldfields of Queensland), we headed through terrible country towards Georgetown, nearly a hundred miles due north. By this time we were getting accustomed to the monotony of the bush and also to the existence of ‘the Only.’ Among other disadvantages he was an accomplished though melancholy liar. At times he was past all rousing, took no interest in anything, preferred letting us do all the work, cook, wash, run up the horses in the morning, and on occasion even saddle and pack them, unassisted. There was no pride about ‘the Only,’ not enough to cover a button with, but he made up for it all by the brilliance of his imagination. When the stars were shining, and nothing but his voice, the crackling of the camp fire, or the drowsy tinkling of distant horse bells, broke the quiet, he came out of his shell. Then, in a voice that never changed, he’d wander half round the world, inventing visits to the uttermost parts, and lying with a consistency that would have been truly admirable, in any other cause. It was his custom to commence the evening with a jovial hail-fellow-well-met sort of air, giving one the impression that he’d been every where, seen everything, and was indeed a desperate dog.

By-and-by he would remember circumstances connected with the time he was on the African diamond fields, or may be piloting cotton boats up and down the Mississippi; which would bring him to the days when he was starving in San Francisco, or recklessly bloodthirsty with Balmaceda, in Chili, conducting native states in Rajputana, or resisting Russian tyranny in the salt mines of Siberia. It was all the same to him; he was brilliantly mendacious all over the known universe. It may be interesting to mention here that he was a Sydney Side native, and had never been out of the Colonies in his life.

Towards the end of the evening he would usually become sympathetic and repentant, would regret his fall from high estate, and lament that one of his birth and education should ‘come down’ to such a position in the world. Then in the hush of night, with the wind sighing softly through the trees overhead, he would whisper the fact that he was none other than the eldest son of the Duke of, unlawfully kept out of his property by designing relatives; next night it would probably be the Duke of; the next, the Marquis of, or perhaps the Earl of . It did not matter a farthing who it was;  and at least he was consistent in one thing: he never chose any but the highest members of the aristocracy to be the authors of his being. We began to weary of ‘the Only’ and his parents; if he’d had a little less pedigree and a little more energy we should have been a great deal better satisfied. But I am wandering off the track again.

Georgetown, the centre of the Etheridge Gold Fields, is a strange little township, built on the usual Queensland bush pattern, wooden houses with galvanised iron roofs, streets knee deep in dust, abundant public-houses, and a rough and ready population of 1,484 souls, made up of 1,310 Europeans and 146 Chinese. In spite of the severe droughts and other troubles it has had to contend with, Georgetown is a wealthy little place. In 1891, 17,061 tons of stone were crushed there, yielding 17,567 ounces of gold. The gold occurs in quartz veins, and is not unfrequently allied with mundic (pyrites).

 

he seemed to have a plurality of fathers