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For Auld Lang Syne
by [?]

These were ten of us there on the wharf when our first mate left for Maoriland, he having been forced to leave Sydney because he could not get anything like regular work, nor anything like wages for the work he could get. He was a carpenter and joiner, a good tradesman and a rough diamond. He had got married and had made a hard fight for it during the last two years or so, but the result only petrified his conviction that “a lovely man could get no blessed show in this condemned country,” as he expressed it; so he gave it best at last–“chucked it up,” as he said–left his wife with her people and four pounds ten, until such time as he could send for her–and left himself with his box of tools, a pair of hands that could use them, a steerage ticket, and thirty shillings.

We turned up to see him off. There were ten of us all told and about twice as many shillings all counted. He was the first of the old push to go–we use the word push in its general sense, and we called ourselves the mountain push because we had worked in the tourist towns a good deal–he was the first of the mountain push to go; and we felt somehow, and with a vague kind of sadness or uneasiness, that this was the beginning of the end of old times and old things. We were plasterers, bricklayers, painters, a carpenter, a labourer, and a plumber, and were all suffering more or less–mostly more–and pretty equally, because of the dearth of regular graft, and the consequent frequency of the occasions on which we didn’t hold it–the “it” being the price of one or more long beers. We had worked together on jobs in the city and up-country, especially in the country, and had had good times together when things were locomotive, as Jack put it; and we always managed to worry along cheerfully when things were “stationary.” On more than one big job up the country our fortnightly spree was a local institution while it lasted, a thing that was looked forward to by all parties, whether immediately concerned or otherwise (and all were concerned more or less), a thing to be looked back to and talked over until next pay-day came. It was a matter for anxiety and regret to the local business people and publicans, and loafers and spielers, when our jobs were finished and we left.

There were between us the bonds of graft, of old times, of poverty, of vagabondage and sin, and in spite of all the right-thinking person may think, say or write, there was between us that sympathy which in our times and conditions is the strongest and perhaps the truest of all human qualities, the sympathy of drink. We were drinking mates together. We were wrong-thinking persons too, and that was another bond of sympathy between us.

There were cakes of tobacco, and books, and papers, and several flasks of “rye-buck”–our push being distantly related to a publican who wasn’t half a bad sort–to cheer and comfort our departing mate on his uncertain way; and these tokens of mateship and the sake of auld lang syne were placed casually in his bunk or slipped unostentatiously into his hand or pockets, and received by him in short eloquent silence (sort of an aside silence), and partly as a matter of course. Every now and then there would be a surreptitious consultation between two of us and a hurried review of finances, and then one would slip quietly ashore and presently return supremely unconscious of a book, magazine, or parcel of fruit bulging out of his pocket.

You may battle round with mates for many years, and share and share alike, good times or hard, and find the said mates true and straight through it all; but it is their little thoughtful attentions when you are going away, that go right down to the bottom of your heart, and lift it up and make you feel inclined–as you stand alone by the rail when the sun goes down on the sea–to write or recite poetry and otherwise make a fool of yourself.