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by [?]

There is an old custom prevalent in Australasia–and other parts, too, perhaps, for that matter–which, we think, deserves to be written up. It might not be an “honoured” custom from a newspaper manager’s or proprietor’s point of view, or from the point of view (if any) occupied by the shareholders on the subject; but, nevertheless, it is a time-honoured and a good old custom. Perhaps, for several reasons, it was more prevalent among diggers than with the comparatively settled bushmen of to-day–the poor, hopeless, wandering swaggy doesn’t count in the matter, for he has neither the wherewithal nor the opportunity to honour the old custom; also his movements are too sadly uncertain to permit of his being honoured by it. We refer to the remailing of newspapers and journals from one mate to another.

Bill gets his paper and reads it through conscientiously from beginning to end by candle or slush-lamp as he lies on his back in the hut or tent with his pipe in his mouth; or, better still, on a Sunday afternoon as he reclines on the grass in the shade, in all the glory and comfort of a clean pair of moleskins and socks and a clean shirt. And when he has finished reading the paper–if it is not immediately bespoke–he turns it right side out, folds it, and puts it away where he’ll know where to find it. The paper is generally bespoke in the following manner:

“Let’s have a look at that paper after you, Bill, when yer done with it,” says Jack.

And Bill says:

“I just promised it to Bob. You can get it after him.”

And, when it is finally lent, Bill says:

“Don’t forget to give that paper back to me when yer done with it. Don’t let any of those other blanks get holt of it, or the chances are I won’t set eyes on it again.”

But the other blanks get it in their turn after being referred to Bill. “You must ask Bill,” says Jack to the next blank, “I got it from him.” And when Bill gets his paper back finally–which is often only after much bush grumbling, accusation, recrimination, and denial–he severely and carefully re-arranges theme pages, folds the paper, and sticks it away up over a rafter, or behind a post or batten, or under his pillow where it will safe. He wants that paper to send to Jim.

Bill is but an indifferent hand at folding, and knows little or nothing about wrappers. He folds and re-folds the paper several times and in various ways, but the first result is often the best, and is finally adopted. The parcel looks more ugly than neat; but Bill puts a weight upon it so that it won’t fly open, and looks round for a piece of string to tie it with. Sometimes he ties it firmly round the middle, sometimes at both ends; at other times he runs the string down inside the folds and ties it that way, or both ways, or all the ways, so as to be sure it won’t come undone–which it doesn’t as a rule. If he can’t find a piece of string long enough, he ties two bits together, and submits the result to a rather severe test; and if the string is too thin, or he has to use thread, he doubles it. Then he worries round to find out who has got the ink, or whether anyone has seen anything of the pen; and when he gets them, he writes the address with painful exactitude on the margin of the paper, sometimes in two or three places. He has to think a moment before he writes; and perhaps he’ll scratch the back of his head afterwards with an inky finger, and regard the address with a sort of mild, passive surprise. His old mate Jim was always plain Jim to him, and nothing else; but, in order to reach Jim, this paper has to be addressed to–