The Golden Shanty

The Golden Shanty

by Edward Dyson

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About ten years ago, not a day's tramp from Ballarat, set well back from
a dusty track that started nowhere in particular and had no destination
worth mentioning, stood the Shamrock Hotel. It was a low, rambling,
disjointed structure, and bore strong evidence of having been designed by
an amateur artist in a moment of vinous frenzy. It reached out in several
well-defined angles, and had a lean-to building stuck on here and there;
numerous outhouses were dropped down about it promiscuously; its walls
were propped up in places with logs, and its moss-covered shingle roof,
bowed down with the weight of years and a great accumulation of stones,
hoop-iron, jam-tins, broken glassware, and dried 'possum skins, bulged
threateningly, on the verge of utter collapse. The Shamrock was built of
sun-dried bricks, of an unhealthy, bilious tint. Its dirty, shattered
windows were plugged in places with old hats and discarded female
apparel, and draped with green blinds, many of which had broken their
moorings, and hung despondently by one corner. Groups of ungainly fowls
coursed the succulent grasshopper before the bar door; a moody,
distempered goat rubbed her ribs against a shattered trough roughly hewn
from the butt of a tree, and a matronly old sow of spare proportions
wallowed complacently in the dust of the road, surrounded by her
squealing brood.

A battered sign hung out over the door of the Shamrock, informing people
that Michael Doyle was licensed to sell fermented and spirituous liquors,
and that good accommodation could be afforded to both man and beast at
the lowest current rates. But that sign was most unreliable; the man who
applied to be accommodated with anything beyond ardent beverages--liquors
so fiery that they "bit all the way down"--evoked the astonishment of the
proprietor. Bed and board were quite out of the province of the Shamrock.
There was, in fact, only one couch professedly at the disposal of the
weary wayfarer, and this, according to the statement of the few persons
who had ever ventured to try it, seemed stuffed with old boots and
stubble; it was located immediately beneath a hen-roost, which was the
resting-place of a maternal fowl, addicted on occasion to nursing her
chickens upon the tired sleeper's chest. The "turnover" at the Shamrock
was not at all extensive, for, saving an occasional agricultural labourer
who came from "beyant"--which was the versatile host's way of designating
any part within a radius of five miles--to revel in an occasional
"spree," the trade was confined to the passing "cockatoo" farmer, who
invariably arrived on a bony, drooping prad, took a drink, and shuffled
away amid clouds of dust.

The only other dwellings within sight of the Shamrock were a cluster of
frail, ramshackle huts, compiled of slabs, scraps of matting, zinc, and
gunny-bag. These were the habitations of a colony of squalid, gibbering
Chinese fossickers, who herded together like hogs in a crowded pen, as if
they had been restricted to that spot on pain of death, or its
equivalent, a washing.

About a quarter of a mile behind the Shamrock ran, or rather crawled, the
sluggish waters of the Yellow Creek. Once upon a time, when the Shamrock
was first built, the creek was a beautiful limpid rivulet, running
between verdant banks; but an enterprising prospector wandering that way,
and liking the indications, put down a shaft, and bottomed on "the wash"
at twenty feet, getting half an ounce to the dish. A rush set in, and
within twelve months the banks of the creek, for a distance of two miles,
were denuded of their timber, torn up, and covered with unsightly heaps.
The creek had been diverted from its natural course half a dozen times,
and hundreds of diggers, like busy ants, delved into the earth and
covered its surface with red, white, and yellow tips. Then the miners
left almost as suddenly as they had come; the Shamrock, which had
resounded with wild revelry, became as silent as a morgue, and desolation
brooded on the face of the country. When Mr. Michael Doyle, whose
greatest ambition in life had been to become lord of a "pub.," invested
in that lucrative country property, saplings were growing between the
deserted holes of the diggings, and agriculture had superseded the mining
industry in those parts.

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940013775329
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/13/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 210 KB

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