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The Chinaman’s Ghost
by [?]

‘Simple as striking matches,’ said Dave Regan, Bushman; ‘but it gave me the biggest scare I ever had–except, perhaps, the time I stumbled in the dark into a six-feet digger’s hole, which might have been eighty feet deep for all I knew when I was falling. (There was an eighty-feet shaft left open close by.)

‘It was the night of the day after the Queen’s birthday. I was sinking a shaft with Jim Bently and Andy Page on the old Redclay goldfield, and we camped in a tent on the creek. Jim and me went to some races that was held at Peter Anderson’s pub., about four miles across the ridges, on Queen’s birthday. Andy was a quiet sort of chap, a teetotaller, and we’d disgusted him the last time he was out for a holiday with us, so he stayed at home and washed and mended his clothes, and read an arithmetic book. (He used to keep the accounts, and it took him most of his spare time.)

‘Jim and me had a pretty high time. We all got pretty tight after the races, and I wanted to fight Jim, or Jim wanted to fight me–I don’t remember which. We were old chums, and we nearly always wanted to fight each other when we got a bit on, and we’d fight if we weren’t stopped. I remember once Jim got maudlin drunk and begged and prayed of me to fight him, as if he was praying for his life. Tom Tarrant, the coach-driver, used to say that Jim and me must be related, else we wouldn’t hate each other so much when we were tight and truthful.

‘Anyway, this day, Jim got the sulks, and caught his horse and went home early in the evening. My dog went home with him too; I must have been carrying on pretty bad to disgust the dog.

‘Next evening I got disgusted with myself, and started to walk home. I’d lost my hat, so Peter Anderson lent me an old one of his, that he’d worn on Ballarat he said: it was a hard, straw, flat, broad-brimmed affair, and fitted my headache pretty tight. Peter gave me a small flask of whisky to help me home. I had to go across some flats and up a long dark gully called Murderer’s Gully, and over a gap called Dead Man’s Gap, and down the ridge and gullies to Redclay Creek. The lonely flats were covered with blue-grey gum bush, and looked ghostly enough in the moonlight, and I was pretty shaky, but I had a pull at the flask and a mouthful of water at a creek and felt right enough. I began to whistle, and then to sing: I never used to sing unless I thought I was a couple of miles out of earshot of any one.

‘Murderer’s Gully was deep and pretty dark most times, and of course it was haunted. Women and children wouldn’t go through it after dark; and even me, when I’d grown up, I’d hold my back pretty holler, and whistle, and walk quick going along there at night-time. We’re all afraid of ghosts, but we won’t let on.

‘Some one had skinned a dead calf during the day and left it on the track, and it gave me a jump, I promise you. It looked like two corpses laid out naked. I finished the whisky and started up over the gap. All of a sudden a great ‘old man’ kangaroo went across the track with a thud-thud, and up the siding, and that startled me. Then the naked, white glistening trunk of a stringy-bark tree, where some one had stripped off a sheet of bark, started out from a bend in the track in a shaft of moonlight, and that gave me a jerk. I was pretty shaky before I started. There was a Chinaman’s grave close by the track on the top of the gap. An old chow had lived in a hut there for many years, and fossicked on the old diggings, and one day he was found dead in the hut, and the Government gave some one a pound to bury him. When I was a nipper we reckoned that his ghost haunted the gap, and cursed in Chinese because the bones hadn’t been sent home to China. It was a lonely, ghostly place enough.