Excerpt 2

from Chapter 5


Patrick waited impatiently, feeling as though he was about to burst with excitement, while Fergus carried another bucket of dirt down to the cradle. He had just finished washing the previous load, and there, caught in the ridges of the cradle was the very thing that had lured him all the way from Moreton Bay to this small patch of dirt at the bottom of the world. Gold. And not just the tiny flecks that had occasionally shown up over the last six weeks, giv¬ing them enough hope to keep working their initial claim. No, here in his hand he held two actual pieces of gold, each about the size of a pinhead.

“Anything in that last load?” Fergus asked.

“Not a lot,” Patrick responded evenly. “Just a couple of ounces, I reckon.”

For a moment Fergus didn’t react. Then Patrick’s words came to him and the find slowly dawned on him. He looked at Patrick, who now wore a huge grin on his face, and saw the two small gleaming particles in his outstretched hand.

“Oh Lord be praised,” he whispered, awestruck. “We’ve found it, Lad.”

“We’ll be able to buy a second pick and a decent wheelbarrow, so we won’t have to lug it down here in buckets all the time.”

“And we can buy some decent food, and have a break from that damn damper of yours.” Fergus paused. “And we can pay next month’s licence fees, as well as Jack’s licence and get him back from the Traps. Poor Joel’s been beside himself these last two days.”

The constabulary had taken Jack during a licence hunt. The broth¬ers had not been as fortunate Patrick and Fergus, and had only been able to find enough flakes of gold to purchase one licence for the month. They had decided to give that licence to Joel, being the young¬est, in the hope that Jack could avoid the authorities long enough to find some gold and purchase his own licence. He wasn’t successful.