Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

Business is successfully prosecuted. He builds a small suburban villa—suburb and villa long since swallowed up in city and forgotten—and at twenty-four becomes a benedict, marrying a woman who for more than forty years proves a true help-meet and faithful companion. We have not done with her. We meet her again many times, and do not part, with her until the diary and the story comes to an end.

Business fluctuates, and Jacobs grows impatient. He hears of the rapid growth of Melbourne. He goes to Melbourne to establish a branch of his business, and the branch rapidly becomes the leading house, so much so that he removes to the new city in the earlier part of 1842. Before the end of the year, however, there is a grand collapse in commercial and financial circles. A land boom, which has been leading to some artificial successes and giving a fictitious value to every thing, suddenly bursts up, and a kind of universal bankruptcy sets in.

Jacobs is involved like many others, and declares himself bankrupt on the same day that Melbourne declares itself to be a city and claims municipal rights.

For nine years more the diaries record little but the struggles of a business man trying to earn an honest living without much capital to back him up. He has to give credit and to take produce instead of cash, the coin of the realm being a scarce article everywhere. However, he and his wife work together in their store and make their position tolerable again.

And now comes the gold find in Bathurst, and Jacobs, hearing of the rapid acquisition of wealth by lucky diggers, must try his luck. His wife keeps the business going in the almost empty city, and Jacobs searches for gold and finds a rheumatic fever, of which he nearly dies, and comes home a sad wreck to be nursed into health again.

He has barely recovered when gold is found near Melbourne, and the rushes to Ballarat and Mount Alexander take place. Ten thousand miners are washing out gold within sixty miles of Melbourne. This time our diarist follows the rush to supply provisions to the diggers, and finds that pay better than digging.

Some of his records about this time are full of adventure. He gets his drays bogged, and the bullocks sink into the ground until only their heads are visible. He tells of the roads becoming so bad that a pound of flour has to be sold for two shillings in order that the cost of its carriage may be defrayed. He does not speak of the miners as a lawless set of men at all. They seem to be anxious to wash out plenty of dust, and indeed they have to in order to live, when they are fed but poorly at a cost of about a sovereign a day.

Of course there was a contingent of roughs, but these were kept in check by the stern rough and ready justice dealt out by the more orderly members of the community. There was a mixture of all classes—sailors, soldier,