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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Mr. Connell Tells a Story

Mr. Connell Tells a Story.

Now, I will diverge here a little from my subject, and tell you a story about gum-diggers. As you have asked about gum-digging. (Laughter and applause.) You know, gentlemen, that I committed myself at the Opera House to the statement that it is a most unfortunate fact that a considerable number of old colonials have given way to drink. (Laughter.) Now, gentlemen, that is a statement which is absolutely true. (Cries of "No.") Wait a little. I say with sorrow that it is a fact, because I speak of my own class. (Interruption.) Now, I will tell you a story about gum-diggers, but you must not make a row. (Derisive calls of "Hush, hush.") Well, I was going to Waiwera on Saturday for a spell, and I reached a point on the road where I thought I would enter a house and get tea. That was at the Wade. I went into a public-house there. (Loud laughter and cries of "Oh, oh!") I say again, gentlemen, I went into the public-house. (Renewed laughter.) They were going to show me into a nice little parlour in the front, where there were muslin curtains and a mahogany table. It was very cold, and seeing two men in a room by themselves with tea on the table, I said, "No, I am going in here." The men were two gum-diggers, (A voice: "Old colonials?") Yes, page 7 they were both old colonials. They had been old soldiers. One of them was what I call three-quarter seas over, the other was not quite so bad. (Laughter.) We entered into conversation and managed to shake down well together. I said to the one who was furthest gone, "Look here, you are a pretty kind of fellow to be like this now. You are an old colonial. (Yells of laughter.) It is drink that is keeping you a poor man. Why should not a man like you who has been so long here—for they had told me that they had both been about 30 years in the colony—be in a comfortable position by this time? Why is it that after making so much money you have not got a good farm instead of sitting here in a hotel under the influence of liquor?" "Well," he says, that's a fact. I remember coming down here one day with £17 10s in my pocket and leaving again in about a week £4 in debt."I said, "Yes, that is the way they do. You had better join the Blue Ribbon." He said he would not, because he could keep from the drink if he liked. I said, "Well, you had better like now." I also told them that I had got into a row at the Opera House, because I said that if old colonials got out of work it was nearly always through drink. (Cries of "No "and "Yes.") Listen, and I will tell you what the two gumdiggers said - and they were both old colonials "Well," they both said, "that's a fact." (Cries of "Oh" and laughter.) That is just what they said. And therefore, much as I respect the old colonial—and I am one myself—I say that a great number of these old colonial hands have not had the same educational advantages, and have [not had the same moral training in the form that you young colonials have, and the consequence is that a large number have developed drinking habits and other things rendering them not so good as the young colonials.