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38 o A Miner’s Diary A Party of Gold Diggers—Céleste, What Have You Driven Me To?— The Most Honest Are the Aborigines, Who Disdain Property— He Sends His Four Crumbs of Gold to the One for Whom He Ruined Himself    at eight in the morning with a Frenchman, M. Malfil âtre, who, like me, is going to the mines. The road to Paramatta is charming. Lunch in Paramatta at an inn full of drunken natives. We start off again and after ten miles of road we arrive at the Peurith ferry. The road climbs and goes along extremely deep canyons. We enter a forest of gigantic trees unlike any I have ever seen in Europe. Each time my imagination soars, my heart and my thoughts return to Céleste. I picked a little twig of sweet heatheralong thewayand promised myself I would send it to her with my first letter. At six in the evening rain and nightfall took us by surprise. Over the four and a half hours we met a landau pulled by four horses on its way back from Bathurst. It was escorted; it is the one containing the gold. We also met some miners returning on horseback, and we ran across a large number of them camping out with huge fires all around their carriages and their horses.      In a secluded canyon, by a little creek, five miners were gathered. They had just had tea. The appearance and the clothes of these individuals were most extraor-  A Miner’s Diary dinary. Never did Schiller dream up more tawny faces, more hairy beards, and more unkempt hair for his bandits. Each one wore a complete arsenal—pistols, revolvers, knives, daggers —all there on their belts. If they had appeared on the stage of a theater on the boulevards decked out in this way, they would have looked utterly grotesque. In an Australian forest, they were terrifying. Theirconversation was loud and their gestures rapid and jerky. A bottle of brandy made the rounds from one hand to the next, from one mouth to the next. Each time a bottle was empty it was refilled from a keg located on a small knoll fifty feet away. Once theirdrunkenness reached its peak, theycontinued chanting, yelling , and gesturing until, exhausted, they all fell down. The miners’ laughter was still echoing when suddenlya shrill and nasal voice was heard, and a tall, skinny, and lanky man of about fifty years of age appeared and stood near the fire. ‘‘Per Bacco! We are having fun here; buona sera, signori, do not let me disturb you.’’ A kind of grunt was the only reply he got. The newcomer scanned his surroundings with the look of an investigator. ‘‘Hum!’’ he said. ‘‘A party, and there is gold.’’ This man’s features were angular. From a sack hewas carrying he pulled out a worn violin whose lacquer was peeling off and whose strings had been restrung and were full of knots. ‘‘Oh, what a wreck! Hey, there, old man, your squeaky fiddle has seen a few wars!’’ ‘‘No, can you not see that it is yawning because it is bored in his company !’’ ‘‘Pazienza!’’ said the stranger as he was applying rosin to his frayed bow. ‘‘Pazienza, figli miei,’’ and he began to tune it. Without replying to the questions, the stranger started to play a sort of rondo; he was terrific. It was almost impossible to follow the movement of his bow; under his steel fingers the instrument laughed, cried, squeaked, whistled. The energetic rondo sounded clear and precise amid all these modulations . The miners were shrieking, shouting obscene songs, and the frenzied violin speeded up. All of a sudden their shrieks stopped, their legs gave way, and our three companions fell into a motionless heap.1 The stranger put his violin back in his green broadcloth sack, looked around, took a swallow of brandy, and quietly examined the sleeping men.  A Miner’s Diary We left, thinking therewas nothing more to see, but we had barely taken a few steps when he started to pile pine branches on the fire to revive it. The next day, just when we were about to depart, we learned that some miners had burned to death by accident. They had fallen asleep near a fire that ignited a brandy keg. The burning alcohol had them surrounded before they could wake up. I wanted to see for myself, and I became convinced that...


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