He's sailed around the globe, a fact not borne by his humble appearance and mining-calloused hands. Born of an English diplomat in Japan he is a man of two cultures and two languages although never called Japan his home. A citizen of the world he has become. After finishing his education in England, he boarded the Commodore Perry and made the journey to the Antipodes with a myriad of hopefuls, all in search of gold. He's been at the Hill End tailings now for almost six months panning for the glittering prize and with some degree of success. Like his father before him, he's an avid writer on his travels and a keen observer of life in the goldfields always with a moleskin underneath his arm, he documents the sights and sketches snippets of colonial life. Drawing is his passion and his etchings are more than good, as he pictorially records the events of each day before the darkness closes in.
He writes a letter to his mother,
"The strangest thing I did observe. I removed to the Hill End diggings a few months since, the bastion of men with few women other than wives and those who vend or entertain. In a few days after staking my claim and paying the license, my attention was attracted by the strokes of an axe, plied incessantly from morning until night and the fall of River Oak on a claim adjacent to my own. On observation, much to my surprise, I perceived the indefatigable wood-chopper to be a woman, despite the wearing of masculine attire.
At first, however, as the stately titans of the forest, one by one, came down with a groan and a crash, I naturally supposed that the limbs of the fallen were merely designed to supply the wood yard of a provident neighbour, but not so. After the completion of this work, the conqueror next appeared in the field armed with maul and wedge, and with the utmost apparent good-will and determination, attacked the knotted trunks of the fallen trees. Immediately in front of her tent, or bark hut rather, is a low piece of ground where she staked off the area of an acre and erected the fence (which, by the way, is a substantial one), as heretofore, unassisted by anyone, she very deliberately set about excavation of a drain several hundred feet in length for the vegetable garden. I may further add, that she keeps a dairy cow, a lot of poultry, and a a couple of pigs. Her reputation has become quite a prodigy in these parts and everyone in the neighbourhood should be able to point out the garden made and cultivated by a woman. A beautiful woman. I shall endeavour to make her acquaintance.
He has seen Maeve. Hard at work. She's, unafraid of labour and hopeful as the others of success. Unlike the few women who've ventured to the Gold Fields, she has 'settled'. Established her quarters, made provisions and now with her farmlet set, makes way to the stream, pan in hand and seeks her fortune. Tiny specks of gold or that elusive nugget. Never will she see the poorhouse again. Never will she bear the brunt of any man's rage. Never will she be dependent. At 44 years of age she is an oddity among the diggers but Jeremy finds her mesmerising.
True to his word, the young prospector makes his acquaintance. Her labours are exhausting and having such a friend will help around the place. Her chest is feeling tight and she fears the onset of a cough, tiredness strikes her sporadically and the assistance of a younger, stronger man is an attractive proposition. She offers him lodgings and he is keen for the warmth of her wattle and daub hut rather than the dampness of his tent. More friend than suitor Jeremy becomes the calm against her storm, the reason against her wildness and she finds him good company where before there was little. After the labours of the day, he regales tales of his travels and she of her misfortunes. Or each sit on the verandah, her sewing and he sketching nary a word spoken between them just a comfortable silence. They are good for each other and she counts her blessings that he's there.
"Jeremy," she ponders whilst he finishes the broth she's made, "What will you do when you finish up here?" Her inquisitiveness motivated slightly by a desire move on but not alone. "Maeve, I think it's time to put down roots. Perhaps a holding of my own down south. I've travelled most of my life and now? Time to settle down, take a wife perhaps, have a family." Maeve too would like to wander south into the lushness of the country away from the dusty tailings and brown interior western ranges. "Would you like some company on your journey?" Although he wonders how she can afford to move such a distance, he entertains the thought that she would be a fine companion. "It's a long way you know? We'll have to walk to Bathurst then try to take a coach?" He knows the coach isn't cheap and the distance they wish to travel overwhelming. Unbeknown to him, Maeve has resources of her own but enough to move so far? She walks towards the hand hewn dresser and opens the top drawer. Within a kerchief she reveals a treasure. "I found it yesterday and kept it quiet." The nugget, rough yet clearly solid and of substantial weight should bring a tidy sum. He smiles and delves into his jacket, "Then we're set my sweet friend, I have this one in my pocket!"
Their leases up and stock dispensed with, the oddest of companions begin the walk to Bathurst, two days at the most before they can present their cache to the Surveyors office. Both excited about the prospect of new climes and surroundings save for his concern over the greyness of her palour, the persistence of her cough and the heaviness of her breath.
Posted on The Tenth Daughter of Memory for the River of Mnemosyne Challenge