LEAF FROM A BANKER’S DIARY

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Post  Guest on Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:25 am

LEAF FROM A BANKER’S DIARY

About a quarter of a century ago I was a gold buyer for the British Bank at Eldorado, in the colony of Victoria, and used to have plenty of work to do. Those were indeed prosperous days, when it paid well to purchase the precious metal, and our monthly escort to Melbourne was often as much as 10,000 ounces. They were good times money was plentiful, and we had liberal pay ; very different from now a-days, when Bank clerks get starvation salaries.
I was sitting in my office calculating the value of 302 ozs gold assaying 232f carats at 76s per ounce, when I heard a knock upon the counter of my gold office, which I at once responded to by going in and there finding myself face to face with a man who looked like a miner, though dressed in his store clothes, as the Yankees say. I waited for him to speak, and he did so at once, asking the question,
" What price do you give for gold?”
I replied, " Please let me see what you have got,"
Without further words he produced from his pocket a paper parcel, and opening it, he placed two clean and handsome nuggets into the tin-dish which I gave him. I examined the gold and found them solid and beautiful specimens of nature's handiwork.
" Where did you get these?” I asked.
"What's that to do with you?"
The man sulkily answered? " 
Will you buy the gold or will you not?”
I was not much disconcerted at this reply because miners often refuse to disclose the locality of their lucky finds for obvious reasons. So I said no more on the subject; but carefully appraising the gold, and ascertaining its weight to be 198 ounces 3 penny weights. I offered 80s per ounce for it; this the man accepted, and I there upon paid him the tidy sum of £792 10s, being the purchase value of the gold. Of this amount he lodged £700 with the bank on fixed deposit at interest in the name of Jacob Robinson, and took away the balance in cash.
I had been so much accustomed to buying gold from all sorts and conditions of men that I should in ordinary circumstances have given little heed to the transaction beyond the consideration that I had made a profitable purchase, But the man's reticent and sullen demeanour puzzled me, for lucky diggers, as a rule, although they wont confide in you, are a jolly lot, and the gold buyer nearly always has to come out with him for a drink after their business is concluded. If he does not join them he is viewed as a snob, and the bank's business suffers. A gold buyer in those days required to have an unconquerable digestion, for fluids especially. I put him down as a hatter, i.e., a man who works by himself, and concluded that he had dropped across the gold either in a shallow lead or some deserted claim; and I remembered the celebrated " Mohaeul " nugget weighing over 2500 ounces and bought by us for over £10,000. This was found by two men Oates and Deason, both very poor and suddenly made rich. I therefore went on with my work and thought no more of Jacob Robinson, solacing myself with the reflection that " fools and their money are soon parted," for Jacob Robinson seemed to me the kind of man who would adapt himself to the proverb. 

In the front room of a small cottage sat ' Bessie, the wife of Jacob Robinson, a miner, in the employment of the " Great Rebellion" Gold Mining Company, at Bewick, fifteen miles from the city of Eldorado.
She waited for her husband's return a patient woman of about 25 winters. Her face showed signs of care and trouble, as if indeed life's seasons had lacked a summer time.
She waited with a feeling of hope and dread. It was his pay day, and she was in want of to many things that a woman needs for herself and household, and she feared his coming because of the grog shanty near the mine, where so much of his earnings were wasted. They had been married some five years and were comparatively happy until her husband's unfortunate propensity for drink had upset everything and turned her from happiness to constant worry and anxiety. Listen-a steady footfall is heard approaching: it is her husband. She runs to the door and opens it, and he enters hurriedly, hardly noticing his wife, who gazes at him with wonder and distress.
""What is the matter, Jacob?" she exclaimed, as the object of her solicitude sank exhaustlessly into a chair by the fireside. " Why do you not speak to me? What is the matter? And why are you dressed in your miner's clothes?"
He answered somewhat wearily: " Wait till I get my breath, and 1 will tell you all; but, first, let me have something to eat and drink, for I am famished."
She had everything in readiness for his homecoming, so in a few minutes he had sufficient refreshment laid before him. After satisfying those inward cravings that cannot be denied to every man who worked hard, whether manually or mentally, Jacob filled his pipe, and lighted up, Baying to his wife:
"Bessie, my girl, pull down the blinds close, and lock the doors; for I have some- thing to tell you that no one but ourselves must hear."
Bessie, hardly knowing what she did, carried out her husband's instructions, while he sat in his chair, calmly puffing at his pipe There was a mystery, and she longed to have it cleared up. " Sit down," he said, " and I will tell you everything."
She did what he told her to do, and sat down at the table. Jacob sat down beside her, and drew from his pocket two golden nuggets which he placed before her, saying, " These, Bessie dear, I have earned to-day."
She looked at the riches in front of her, and cried almost hysterically, "Oh, Jacob, how did you come by these?"
To this question he calmly replied, " If you will listen to me patiently I will tell you, but you must promise me not to reveal a word of what I am going to confide to you, not only for my sake, but for your own."
Bessie, who truly loved her husband, with all his faults, readily bound herself to secrecy, so Jacob proceeded to say: " Well, when I left here this morning, I was full of despondent thoughts over our poverty, caused, I am sorry to have to admit, to a large degree by my own thoughtlessness, and I felt ready to do almost anything to relieve our wretched condition, but I could hit upon nothing. Full of these gloomy reflections, I went down the shaft and to my work in the mine, which was in one of the slopes of wash dirt. As I steadily shovelled the stuff down into the tracks in the drive below, I for the time forgot my troubles, and used both pick and shovel with my accustomed vigour. The wash dirt from the Great, Rebellion mine is very rich, and; often the returns for the fortnight exceed 2000 ounces of gold, both coarse and fine. I was working alone in the stope, when suddenly to my surprise I struck something metallic with my pick, and bending down to ascertain what it was, I found embedded in the pipe-clay these two beautiful specimens you see before you, which are worth fully £800."
"But, Jacob, dear," Bessie cried, "you will not keep the gold; it would be wrong."
" Silence!" replied Jacob sternly, and listen. " When I got the gold, I examined it by the light of my solitary candle, and debated in my mind as to whether I should keep it or not. Eventually I decided to keep it. Luck had thrown it in my way at a critical time, and I felt it would be foolish Quixotism not to take advantage of it."
"But you cannot keep the gold," exclaimed Bessie, "it would be theft!"
"Theft! What do you call theft?" said Jacob, sinisterly. " Is it theft to take what belongs to no one? I found it with my own hands and labour, and why should I give it up to be shared by a lot of loafers, who probably never did a day's work in their lives. No fear! We want the money more than they do. Besides, it's quite a common thing for men in the mine and other mines to profit by their finds if they can escape the vigilance of the searcher."
Bessie softened by Jacob's sophistry, gazed, as if fascinated, at the dead gold on the table. Even as Eve was tempted by the Serpent, so now was Bessie by the mass of wealth in front of her-wealth, beyond her most avaricious dreams. She yielded, and tacitly agreed to join her husband in the possession of his ill-gotten find. Taming to him, she asked, " How did you escape the searcher, Jacob?”
It may be explained that this important functionary is appointed to examine the clothing of every miner as he comes from the workings, direct into the search room, where the mining clothes are changed, this being done to prevent robberies. In answer to Bessie's question Jacob replied, somewhat relieved at his wife's change of tone:
" Well, my dear, when I found the gold and decided to keep it, I thought of that. It was about half-past five, and under ordinary circumstances my shift would be over at six o'clock, when we would go to the surface as usual. I knew the searcher went to his tea at five. I determined, therefore, to chance it so, putting the nuggets inside my coat) which I carried under my arm. I shammed to be sick, and was put into the cage by my mates and hauled up the shaft. There was no one in the search-room, so without changing my clothes, I called out that I was feeling bad and hurried home with my prize."
Bessie bad listened attentively to her husband's story about the nuggets, and now all qualms of conscience were she asked Jacob what he was now going to do.
He answered, " Give me a bit of newspaper and I will wrap up the gold, and hide it under the mattress of the bed. Tomorrow morning I will go into Eldorado to see. The doctor, but really to sell the gold, after which I will return home with the money, and we can make arrangements to leave this place."
After secreting the gold, Jacob and his now equally guilty partner discussed their plans for the future.
"I think," said Bessie, "that we bad better go first to Melbourne, and after a time we could take a shop."
'. Bight you are," answered Jacob in a joyful tone; " we shall have a good time, old J girl, you bet."
" Whatever you do, Jacob," said his wife, " don't take any drink to-morrow."
" No fear," replied he; "I have got too much at stake. Besides, I mean to turn over a new leaf."
Bessie, however, shook her head somewhat sadly, as if she had grave doubts about his good intentions.

The nugget mentioned 
" Mohagul " nugget


While having my breakfast at my comfortable bachelor quarters in Blount street, I glanced as is my wont at the morning paper, when my attention was attracted by the following :
A Moneyed D. D. Senior-constable Finnigan arrested a man in Marmaduke street for being drunk and disorderly. At the lock-up it was elicited that his name was Jacob Robinson, and on being searched he was found to have 90 pound in bank notes and a deposit receipt for 700 pounds in his pockets.
" By Jove !" I exclaimed, to the utter astonishment of my friend who lived with me, " why, that is the man who sold me the nuggets I told you of yesterday. What a fool he was to get drunk and run the risk of being robbed. But its just what these fellows always do when they get a windfall."
I shortly afterwards went down to the bank, and did not think of Jacob Robinson further, until a little after ten o'clock, when a smart-looking man sauntered into my office, whom I recognised as Detective Euston. I knew him very well, as we had met often in the way of business.
" What can I do for you, Mr. Euston ?"
I asked.
" Well, Mr. Fortescue, I want you to give me some information, the fact is," he said, " we have this morning arrested a man named Jacob Robinson on suspicion of having stolen some gold from the ' Great Rebellion' mine at Berwick, and I believe the gold was sold to your bank. The man was picked up drunk in the street last night, and the money found on him he confessed was the proceeds of gold sold by him, and the manager of the company telegraphs to say that the gold must have come from his employer’s mine. If you did buy the gold, as I suppose, from the fact of the deposit receipt found on the man being signed by you, will you kindly show it to me ?"
" It is quite true," I answered. " I did buy some gold from Jacob Robinson, and I have no objection to show it to you." So going into the strong room, I brought out the two nuggets I had purchased, and exhibited them to the detective, asking him rather sarcastically if he or anyone else could identify them as stolen .property, Robinson excepted. The detective. only laughed, and replied " I don't know anything about the identification of the gold, but you, will get a subpoena to produce it in due course. However, good morning" He cheerily said, '" and thank you."
" It's all very well/" I thought, " to laugh about the identification and production of the gold. . If I produce it, it will be in , pounded by the court, and goodness knows when I'll get it back, or what trouble I will have; besides loss of-interest perhaps for , several months, it would eat up all our profit."
I posted off to our solicitor and saw the senior partner, whose advice I asked as to what I should do. The result of our deliberations was that I went back to the bank and got the gold and some other parcels I had purchased, aggregating about 300 ounces, taking the lot down to the smelting house, where I melted the whole into one bar, which was forwarded to Melbourne that night for immediate shipment to London.
Next day I got my subpoena and attended the police court, creating some sensation when I said I could not produce the nuggets, as they were melted into a bar with other gold and shipped to London. The magistrate was furious, and talked about contempt of court, with other threats of a frightful character ; but I was quite unmoved by his severe animadversions on the bank's reprehensible conduct, as I knew the law could not touch me or the bank in any way. I felt quite certain that the man had stolen the gold, and it was clear to me that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove it, the production of the gold being in- material. The police, magistrate, who was a very haughty gentleman, after hearing the witnesses, who testified to facts which the reader has already been made acquainted with, committed the accused for trial.
The trial came off in due time before a county court judge and jury. When I entered the witness box and was duly sworn, the Grown Prosecutor asked me to produce the gold. Of course I could only give the same answer as I did at the police court. The Judge, whom I knew personally, then turned to me, and emptied the vials of his wrath upon me and the bank for conspiring, as he said, to defeat the ends of justice, and in his indignation he turned to the jury and directed them to acquit the prisoner, as with- out the gold they could not proceed further with the charge. In this, of course, he was all wrong, as in several similar subsequent cases convictions were sustained without the production of the stolen property. He was a very irritable man, and on this occasion completely lost his temper, much to the advantage of the prisoner, who would undoubtedly have been convicted had the jury heard the evidence. Thanks, however, to the judge's irascible disposition, he got off scatheless instead of getting seven years hard labour.
I walked out of court, and down the street, ruminating with some feeling of annoyance at the miscarriage of justice I had just witnessed, when a man came up to me and said, "thank you Mr. Fortescue for saving me from prison. Will you come and have a glass of wine with me ?" I looked at the man-it was Jacob Robinson. " You infernal scoundrel," I thundered. " How dare you speak to me. Go and ask the judge to drink with you." He slunk away shamefaced, and I proceeded to my office pondering over the fact that virtue is not always so paying, as it is said to be, vice in this case having the beat of it.
What became of Jacob Robinson and his wife I cannot say, but will leave their fate to my readers' imagination. He probably took a public house and ultimately drank himself
to death.

The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 1893
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/

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Post  Hoffs Gold on Sun Nov 27, 2011 10:26 pm

Beers good lol!
I like a drink but thats just stupid!
Cheers Hoff
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Post  Guest on Sun Nov 27, 2011 10:40 pm

Hoffs Gold wrote:Beers good lol! I like a drink but thats just stupid!
Cheers Hoff

How true Very Happy Very Happy

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