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Title: Triangles of Life and Other Stories (1907)
Author: Henry Lawson
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Language: English
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Triangles of Life and Other Stories (1907)
Henry Lawson


Triangles of Life
 I. The Reason
 II. Chawlton
 III. The Little Man with the Smile 
Letters to Jack Cornstalk from an Australian in London
 I. London
 II. London
 III. A Midland Village 
A Long Way to Cork
The Ridiculous Family
His Mistake
A Child in the Dark, and a Foreign Father
A Romance of Three Huts
Drifting Apart
James and Maggie
The Hairy Man
The Strangers' Friend


I. The Reason

ALL Australia. All of the best you have seen or read, or remember of
it; of what has been written about it by its own sons and in
Australia. And a timber-cutter's camp just within the blazing,
blinding, humming, waving, shimmering and pulsating great dusty and
gritty heart of it. Tents about, seeming only not to blaze off like so
much paper, and bough cook's-shed at the junction of two lanes of
piled cut scrub. A sky darkened and dusky and lowering with drought
haze and a boiled sun steaming in the centre of it. A heat that blinds
to darkness with perspiration and chills momentarily and frightens

"God Forgive Billy" was in a bad way. He had a touch of the "dry
'orrers," as One-Eyed-Bogan said, who had had great experience with
the "Horrors," both with his own and his mates', and dry and
otherwise. When the men came they found no dinner ready, and they
found Billy sitting in the dust and ashes of his "floor," his back
propped against an upright of the shed, a bucket half full of potatoes
between his legs, and a butcher's knife held loosely in his helpless
nerveless hand, lying knuckles down in the dust, and rocking a little
like a broken live thing--and his greasy kerosene tins round him.
Great, shiny black crows were flopping round indignantly, interrupted
in a premature grace; a great repulsive-looking goanna skurried and
sidled off, turning his head evilly, and went up the baked, ashen bark
of a tree; and a close inspection might have revealed the fact that
the black ants had already suspended hostilities in their slow, sure
and bloodthirsty and merciless war of extermination against a colony
of red ants on the bank of the creek (with its one yellow dam or
waterhole), and their lines were drawing back towards their base--the
shed. He said the Devil had taken the boiling corned beef out of the
pot, and so it was no use going on with the potatoes. He described the
devil, and supposed it must have been a French one, because it
"certingly wearn't a English one." One-Eyed-Bogan took a stick and
looked and poked in the kerosene tin hanging over the fire, and the
meat was gone all right, or rather all wrong. He was a man who liked
to see for himself, and he always looked twice at least--on account of
his one eye, perhaps.

The meat had really been taken by the mangy, hairless, hide-covered
skeleton of a starved Kangaroo dog, "belonging to King Billy," that
was known to be hanging about. There was "any God's quantity of
rabbits," but dogs starve on rabbits. Billy himself, the royal one,
afterwards admitted the fact, and Billy was a truthful potentate. He
had seen his dog do it--take the meat out of the boiling water by a
corner that stuck up, and from over the lee of the blazing fire, just
as described as a lie once by one of the Bulletin's contributors, and
just as I saw it done when a boy, and describe it here as a fact.

Billy said that the other Billy sat down along a prop when he saw the
dog do that. Billy (the royal one) said he believed his dog belong-it
the devil, and he bin borrow poison along-a rabbit poisoner's camp,
and bin kill-it. He showed the scalp, for like all truthful men, black
or white, he believed truth to be no good at all without undoubted
material or written evidence behind it.

They carried Billy under the patchy "shade" of some gidgea, and laid
him down and watered him till the grateful ground ceased to steam, and
was much darker than the shade.

Billy sat up and told them that this was what they call the Four
Lanes, and yonder straight ahead was Shepperton-on-Tems, and over
there was Halliford and Sunbury-on-Tems, and that was a backwater of
the Tems, with the willers an' watercress an' ole mill and rustic
bridge, an', twisting himself round, "there was Shawlton (Charlton)
jest round the corner, with Bob Howe's farm first, and the Farmers'
Arms, and then the village, with Shawlton House opposite, where yer
see them poplers over the hedge, and then Harry Leonard's farm, with
Upper Sunbury further on, an' the London Road leadin' to Stains an'
Windser Castle an' Hampton Court--an'--an' London and everywheere else
for all he know'd." Blue smoke crawled along the ground from the
burning off, and he said "that was the ground mist comin' up, an' it
was gettin' chilly," and he proposed that they'd all go to the
Farmers' Arms, where he'd fill up the pewter.

Little "God Forgive Billy," the greenest of New Chum Jackeroos, had
been sent up by the Government, or Labour Bureau--that is he was given
a pass and some rations, and sent away almost from the ship into the
disc of Australia, of which he knew absolutely nothing except the
awful blaze and dust of it--the blasting reason-shaking contrast from
the green lanes of England--which was driving him mad. He had learned
potato-peeling and rough cooking aboard the ship, and was liked here
because of his fresh innocence, mild and obliging disposition, his
gentle nursing and attention to Bogan when he had a touch o' the sun,
and his smile, which was dimples deepened and lengthened a bit,
hardened and fixed. Besides, he could play both mouth-organ and tin
whistle. And he had one surprising gift altogether out of keeping with
his appearance and character or nature. A gift that astonished all who
saw an exhibition of it for the first time--and startled some. He
could act the drunken man. That is a certain type of him. And the type
was Australian, and not English. He was a perfect face-maker in this
respect--for it was a silent part. He'd half turn away and damp his
hair and moustache swiftly, by a quick pass or sleight of hand, and
his hair would be dank, his moustache slobbered, and his hand would
pass drunkenly over it to fling the surplus beers away, and his limbs
would go, and his left eyelid keep dropping, like a lid, and--and he'd
be Billy very drunk, who had never been drunk in his life.

Was it the Billy of previous incarnation come out again for the

They never grew tired of seeing Billy do it, and "Come and see Bill
the cook drunk" was a common invitation to strangers and new-comers.
They intended to use him for practical jokes on the boss, etc., but it
wasn't in Billy's nature to agree to anything like that.

One-Eyed Bogan was left in camp that afternoon to mutual satisfaction,
to look after poor Little Billy and his dry horrors, because Bogan was
the most casual, easy-going, and pipe-lighting, and water-bag-seeking
worker in that hell's vineyard--as well as the strongest and least
nervous man in camp. Besides, he said he had experience with lunatics,
and (besides) he owed a debt of gratitude to Billy, and they reckoned
he would be kinder to the little fellow on that account.

"And you never know how snake-quick an' cunning an' strong them little
fellers is when they're drunk or ratty. But I'm cunnin' enough, I
reckon, 'n' strong enough too for pore little Billy."

One-Eyed Bogan had a naturally sinister expression, and had been
otherwise damaged about the face in many gambling and drinking rows,
and his green patch and glaring eye must have been very soothing
indeed to a mild little new chum going mad through heat, trouble and
loneliness in a strange and fearful land.

Bogan said at tea that he'd fixed Billy with his eye all right, which
was very apparent, for Billy was much worse, and had to be kept
sitting on the rough stool between two of them--who humoured and
watched him as a little child--because he only wanted to go down that
lane and have a dip in the Thames backwater now it was dusk, and no
one was about.

Bogan reckoned he was safe enough for the night, with any one to watch
him, turn about, and quite harmless. But he saw the thing in another
light, later on, when Billy confessed tearfully to Jack Moonlight that
he thought he was going mad, because he kept craving to peel Bogan's
head with the chopper, like a big pumpkin, and quarter it. He said the
Voices were urging him all the time to do it--he could hear them all
the time he was speaking. And he wanted to be tied up.

Just before dark a solitary swagman, or "traveller," came along--on
his way from a shearing shed to the coach-road, he said--and seeing
and hearing how things stood, he volunteered to look after Billy first
part of the night, as he'd only made a short stage, and rest over next
day, if they liked, with an eye to Billy and the cooking. He said he'd
had to do with such cases before, and understood. He was a likely
looking chap for the job--tall, with saddish brown eyes--so they
washed a tin plate, knife and fork, and pint pot for him, with an
audible breath of relief. But afterwards One-Eyed Bogan carefully
collected the chopper, knives and forks, and all edged tools about
camp and lashed them together in a bundle with bagging, a spare tent
fly, and bits of clothes-line and wire--for general safety, he said.
He said, "Yer couldn't be too careful in these here cases." He made
his bed in the open, on some boughs, under the saplings, and laid the
bundle beside it, and tied a cord to it and to his arm when he laid
him down to rest. But he was seen, when they all were down, save Billy
and his new warder, sitting up against the rising moon, and not like a
"Queen of Night palm" either, and passing his hand nervously over his
"pumpkin" and glancing, apprehensively, it seemed, from Billy and his
new mate to the wood-heap--perhaps he was thinking of mashed raw

Bogan gets a fright here through Jack Moonlight stumbling over him.

Then he was seen no more, and in the morning, just as they were
reckoning that he'd "gone off too," and worse calamity of all! had
taken the tools, he came out of the scrub from another direction with
his bundle and blankets on his shoulder, and looking as if he'd passed
a bad night. He said, "Yer could never be too careful in these here
cases. They was so--cunnin', and allers turned agin them as was
nearest an' dearest to 'em. That was a sure sign." Which reminds me
that I could never see why it should be considered a sure, or even
extra, or even one sign of insanity that patients turn against friends
and relatives first, and cleave to strangers. Look more like a sign of
returning, or temporary, sanity, the more I think of it.

Next evening Billy was better, though he feared it coming on with the
night. He had taken a great liking to the new man, whom he persisted
in recognizing as a long-lost village school-mate. The swagman said he
had been taken to England as a child, but remembered very little of
it, and nothing of Billy. Billy showed no inclination to peel his
potatoes, however, and during the evening, the It and the Voices not
coming on, he told him all about it. How he had left home and run to
London first, because it was gloomy at home, and there was always
trouble. There was big trouble, not his, but he should 'a'stayed an'
shared it. He had a right in it. He hoped, with a momentary loss of
himself and a fluttering raising of uncertain fingers to his temples,
that "Bob," the new man, wouldn't mention a word of it in Shepparton
or anywheres. He was sick an' weak, or he wouldn't have talked on
it..."And his poor old mother!--Poor mother!" He shed tears and his
voice broke into the whine that no man likes to hear. "He'd left
trouble that he had as much right in as any o' them. Left poor mother
dyin' broken-hearted on it, and Tom t' fight it out. Poor old Tom!
Good old Tom as he was allers havin' 'dry' words with--an' all his own

The stranger, who treated him as a perfectly rational being, listened
with seeming interest, sympathized, soothed, and assured Billy over
and over again, with astonishing patience, that it was all going to be
mended and fixed up, and that Billy was going home almost directly the
job was done.

About here there came what some writers call a "diversion." It
certainly diverted Bogan's dreams, if he dreamed. It diverted Jack
Moonlight in his quiet way, and was probably a relief to the new--
comer. He heard some one, or something, coming through the scrub, then
a silence (he heard that too), as if the man or animal had stopped, or
was moving quietly. Then he fancied a shadow was bending over Bogan,
but before he was sure there was a yell, and sounds like the sudden
getting up of a dray horse that has been stumbled over in his sleep by
a blundering old working bullock, and badly frightened. The shadows
blended and went down; then one rose, and then the other, and there
was bad language, then presently one shadow settled down again, and
the language grumbled out on the night breeze. Bob was just going
across with Billy to see, when he met Jack Moonlight, who seemed to
have a "hiccup," or a catch, in his stomach.

"What's up?" asked Bob, with the adjectives necessary in new

"Oh, it's only Bogan," said Moonlight; "I dunno what the hell he
wanted to play up like that for. I was coming from the fires, and I
only bent over him and rubbed his head with my pipe bowl, to see if he
was awake, and I told him to keep an eye out for God Forgive Billy."

Billy had a strong objection, connected with the earth's 'lectricity,
to sleeping on his usual bed of boughs and blanket on the ground, and
he had a horror of the tent. He said he'd got too much 'lectricity
coming round the world, and that was what was the matter with him. He
said he should never have come halfway round the world, which was
correct, and having come so far he should have gone the other half and
finished it--which was sane enough. So Bob made Bill's bed on the
rough sapling bench or table, under the dead-bough shed, and persuaded
him to lie down. The posts had been "puddled," or clay rammed, down
hard round them, and the cavities kept filled with water, to keep the
ants off the table, so Billy was isolated from them, if not from the
earth's electricity. His friend told him he was, that the water and
clay acted as perfect world insulator, and he seemed satisfied.

Almost before Bob was aware, he had commenced that long, quiet, calm,
deceptive sleep, which so often cruelly raises hopes in the hearts of
relatives and friends of such "cases" in the earliest stages, but
which never deceives mental doctors or nurses. Bob sat on the sapling
seat bench with his back against a corner upright, and commenced his
watch of Billy--and of other things--

I. Childhood: Rows and scenes and scenes and rows, violent rows that
frightened; father and mother separated; home a hell. Boy slavery and

II. Cheap boarding house, pretty, but hysterical, daughter; mother,
step-father, and sisters; rows and scenes more violent than at home.
Tale of ill-treatment. Last big row. Cab, box, and hurried, mad
marriage at a "matrimonial bureau." Seven years of it.

III. Police court. Desertion. "Judicial separation." Maintenance
order. Reconciliation--court--reconciliation--court. Summons for
desertion, and maintenance. Summons, summons, summons, Darlinghurst.
And the full knowledge of what sort of woman she was.

He shook it off, or lifted his mind from under it. He had gone through
so much that he had this power: that he could do this at will almost.
The moon rose over the scrub, and all things softened. It was cool,
and even growing chilly, as drought nights do grow, and he drew the
blanket up over Billy, who never stirred. Then he leaned back against
the corner sapling, when he heard his voice called; the close, yet far
away call, very distinct. "Robert!" His elbows jumped to his sides as
he straightened, but he'd heard that voice before. Then, clear and
distinct: "Read, Robert--read!"

At the first start he thrust out his hand towards Billy, and his hand
touched Billy's hand, which lay, palm up, on the saplings; he was
drawing back with a momentary sense of shame at his fear when Billy's
fingers closed over his, as a sleeping child's might. Then he looked
up, and across, and set his mind to read. Then gradually the "Four
Lanes" took shape, and he saw the cool green, peaceful English scene,
as Billy had. The ground mist was "coming up," and dusk coming on--
dusking the moonlight at first--and he saw two figures coming, or
seeming more to float toward him from the direction of Shepperton-on-
Thames--as in a picture from the dawn of memory. Then suddenly the
figures were close to him and plain--save the faces. The girl wore a
dark jacket, such as worn in England five or six years ago, and a dark
hat with much forward brim, held down to hide the face, which always
gives a girl a more hang-dog and guilty look than any slouch hat worn
any way can give a man. And to Bob it seemed his wife, as he last saw
her--under cross-examination. And who was the man? He seemed to have
had both arms round the woman--or girl--in the first part of the
vision, now he had only one, the left, and the right was risen as
though to hide his face, shut out of sight, or ward off a blow. The
attitude chilled Bob with a strange fear. Who was the man? What was
Bob to do? What would Bob do? He seemed to be lying against the
outside of a ditch with eyes just above the grass. Should he attack
the man as "all the world" would expect him to do, or slip down and
along the bottom of the ditch quietly? There was no "world" to see, so
he was just sinking down, with that strange, calm, easy "will power,"
or whatever it is, which makes all the difference between hypnotic
influence and "nightmare" when, with a sudden upheaval, as of a wave,
he was beside the girl. He was the man with one arm round her and the
other up to ward off. He was struggling and grappling with Billy, the
little scrub cutter's lunatic cook, while watching whom he had fallen
asleep, and--with the sudden, violent, half dislocating jerk of all
the limbs and body that often accompanies an awakening from hypnotic
trance, he was awake, and standing up, in his proper senses, cool and
collected. It was as though nightmare, with its violent awakening, had
come to the rescue from hypnotism. And Billy lay as he had fallen
asleep, still sleeping peacefully. The awful hot, ghostly daylight was
over the scrub, looking the same as drought nightfall.

Billy woke at his usual time, and in his usual manner, save for saying
cheerily, "Oh! I'm all right now, mates!" Then with a fearful pause,
he flung his wavering fingers up hopelessly to his head and said,
"Oh--oh, them Voices, Bob!"

Next day, the last of the job, Billy was worse, and they had to run
him down or round him up several times, but the drays came out and the
men cleared up without loss of time, and went into the station for
their cheques, taking Billy with them. And leaving the King Billy
monarch of all he surveyed--just think of it, for hundreds of miles--
and sixteen dogs and two gins. They took Billy with them--and a
trusted, sober, station hand, sent by the super--to the coach road,
where Poisonous Jimmy kept a pub-store and post office, and there was
a "police camp" (a brick and iron one) handy. Billy had a pleasant
ride--through English lanes--to Poisonous Jimmy's--though he rode and
walked with devils most of the time. He pointed out all the features
of the imaginary panorama--to propitiate them perhaps. Poisonous
Jimmy's was like a deserted and dried-up slaughter yard, with the
offal shed only left and cleaned up a bit, and set in big dust and
sand patch in the blazing scrub desert. Here the stranger got a packet
of dusty letters and a lot of copies of a Sydney paper. Then he began
to act peculiar. He got the loan of the private parlour from the
landlady, and, after much hunting, borrowed some scraps of brown
paper. Then he got on the right side of the girl to make him some
paste. Then he went through his bundle of papers and marked many
paragraphs, some verse, and other matter with the stump of a blue
pencil. Then he cut out all the marked pieces carefully with his
penknife, and pasted them on strips of brown paper; then he borrowed a
carpenter's rule, measured the strips carefully, and entered the
result in a pocket-book!

The girl noticed first, of course. Then she whispered to the landlady,
who went and had an indifferent look, as also had Poisonous Jimmy.
They'd seen too many drink and drought "looneys" to take much notice.
Then One-Eyed Bogan went to see for himself, and glared in quite
awhile with his one eye.

"--! Blowed if he ain't took it from Billy!" he said. "I told yer yer
couldn't be too careful in them cases! Lunatic-doctors an' lunatic-
nurses all get it more or less themselves if they stick to the game
long enough. Who the blazes next, I wonder?"

Then the new lunatic wanted a piece of white paper, and the landlady
humoured him--as she had done the others--to "save trouble and for the
sake of peace and quietness." She found it at the bottom of a "band-
box" (where did that term come from to Australia?). Then he wrapped
the brown paper with the slips pasted on, folded it, tied it neatly
with twine, addressed, stamped--and posted it to a newspaper!

"And I'll have to send it, because it's stamped," said Poisonous
Jimmy. "Couldn't keep it back without a doctor's certificate. You
chaps had better give the policeman a hint--what goes in the coach
with your mate. T'other looney's goin' too."

But just a little rite had to be performed that belongs to the
Bushman's Creed in another man's trouble--be he Bushman or--or
Chinaman--and which is usually performed on the quiet, mysteriously,
furtively, and looks more like a low class conspiracy, or better class
robbery being planned than anything else. But in Billy's case it
didn't matter. Bogan collected the men in the bar, and took off his
old black slouch calico crowned straw hat. But Jack Moonlight objected
jocularly that there were edges of straw inside under which coins
might slip in a hat held by experienced hands (he was a noted
gambler--and so was One-Eyed Bogan).

So One-Eyed Bogan borrowed Moonlight's hat, "chucked" "half-a-caser"
in it for a send-off, and passed it round. In a shearing shed in full
swing in a good season it would have been quids, half-quids, casers,
and at the lowest half-casers permitted. But scrub-cutting is low down
and "red hot" in a bad season. "Anyways," Bogan said, "there was
enough to get a clean shirt and socks and a handkerchief and boot
laces for Billy." When Bogan got his last shearing cheque he went to
Sydney and ended up, or rather began a new life in the Darlinghurst
Receiving House, with a pair of torn trousers, a shirt, the best part
of a waistcoat, a new elastic side-boot, and one sock. He sang "Home,
Sweet Home!" all the first night in the padded cell--"an' that'll show
how bad I was!" he said.

And at the last moment, Bogan told the policeman in charge of Billy,
for his comfort on a thirty-mile dry stretch, that "he'd better keep
his eye on the other fellow too!" And the driver was a noted
eccentric, and there were no other passengers--but--well, all men are
mad more or less--and more Out Back in drought time. So perhaps the
inspector thought himself lucky to have no more than three looneys on
hand--and one of them he knew. Better the lunatic you know than the
one you don't.

Then they went their various ways through their common hells to their
private ones, sober, drunken and domestic.

"But," said Bob to the policeman, casually, as they plunged into a
fifty-mile bank of dust, "that's a hard case, that one-eyed chap they
call the Bogan. What lark was he up to when he took your lug?"

Which satisfied the constable at once that it was only another little
practical joke attempted on the police, whereas Bob might have talked
to him till Sydney, and never convinced him that his new and previous
mates had been in earnest, but mistaken.

Bob now became Billy's brother Tom, and was told all about it again--
about Billy's troubles in Australia--and so on through all the freaks
of a disordered brain to Redfern Terminus.

Billy was taken to the Receiving House, where Bob went to see him, and
they saved him from Callan Park.

Some weeks later a boat of the Bright Star Line wanted a fourth or
fifth cook (and as many shillings a month firemen as they could get),
and Billy went as cook, and the other lunatic saw him off with a
supply of tobacco and a parcel of clean things.

And there was one little man with a smile in England who never talked
of Australia.

In 1901 Robert Cleaves went to London with great hopes--and deep
fears--as a writer, and struck a period of "mental dismay," as I heard
it called by another who went to London with great hopes as a young
poet, and came back grey. But it was more than "mental dismay" with
Bob, it was mental horror--or horrors--most of the time, for he had
heavy private trouble on him, and no funds, relatives or friends. In
the lowest depth of the dismay, and on the verge of rags and
starvation, he thought of "Shawlton" and "God Forgive Billy."

II. Chawlton

TAKE the steamer from Circular Quay or Woolloo-mooloo Bay, or
Dalgety's Wharf, or from any other port you may in Australia--the
White Star Line--all one class--or the Orient, or any other line that
suits your condition, circumstances or convenience (or is it Fate?),
and you'll cross the Pacific, Canada, or the everlasting eternal
States and the Atlantic--or go round by the other side of Africa and
see the peak (of Teneriffe), if it isn't too cloudy. Or by Colombo and
the Red Sea and up Suez Lane, and by Italy--Genoa--(and the Street of
Stars, you know)--where there'll be more to see--and you'll come
eventually to Plymouth or Prince Alfred's Docks--anyway to London.

I arrived on Saturday, and started out exploring on Monday morning
from No. 4 Windsor Terrace, City Road--where Micawber lived--and
struck across country, and got bushed, of course. London has more
sameness and monotony, for its size, than the Bush. Somewhere in the
wilds between St. Pancras (a rather dirty, dusty and immoral Saint)
and High Holborn, I inquired of a tall man leaning comfortably against
a post outside a tavern--a beerhouse--for the way to Waterloo Station.
He thought, rubbed well behind his ear with the ball of his palm, and
asked, as an afterthought, or last chance--

"Does it matter much?"

"Beg pardon," I said.

"Is it particular?" he said.

"Well," I said, "the last train leaves before midnight, I believe, and
I want to be there before then."

"O--o--oh!" he said. "Why that's--let's see--that's--that's--why,
you've got eight or ten hours yet." Then, confidently, "Tell you what
to do! They sell good ale here: an' a comfortable parlour. You might
drop in for awhile an' have a rest, and by that time me or some one
might be able to direct yer. No, I don't want any. I'll jest watch
here in case a likely director comes along. Or, wait a minute, I could
direct where you'll find a policeman! There's one on point just round
the corner."

I looked at him hard, but could make nothing of him. He was a Bushman
in disguise, I think.

However, I found High Holborn. Or, rather, it found me, and swung me
in, and there I bumped against a buck youth with a vacantly inquiring
expression, prominent pale eyes, and very large and prominent buck
teeth. Otherwise he was just the kind of new chum we set grubbing
about the Homestead until we can trust him alone beyond the first
fence. He was examining and picking his teeth with great attention in
a grotesque mirror on one side of a shop window--a fat woman with a
shawl was fixing her hair and hat in the other, which was concave--
hairpins and hatpins between her teeth. I passed behind them, and
before the reflections several times, but not the ghost of a ghost of
a sign of a smile on either of their screamingly distorted features--
their sweet counterfeits. So I concluded there was no frivolity here
(though I wondered if these were of the people for whom my agent
advised me to write humorous stuff), and I tapped the youth and
inquired the way to the Strand.

"The Strained? Oh, yes--the Strained. Take the first turn round that
there half-corner, where you see them green buses going round. That
Chawnchery Lane. Foller them green buses--they'll take yer right into
the Strained. Don't take no notice of them there courts."

I thanked him and went on, but felt that he had hesitated. Then he was
at my shoulders again, rather vaguely in the rush and rattle, but with
the air of a man who had, on second thought, decided to tell me of
something, of no particular importance, but which might be worth my
while to know, which had happened, or occurred to him, since we last

"That's right. Go on as I tell yer. Foller them green buses, and don't
take no notice of them bloody courts."

As if there was a deadly feud of long standing between his tribe and
the courts. It must have been deadly, and of considerable
previousness, for they don't, as a rule, hint of private or family
quarrels to outsiders in England. They say that such and such is "no
class" in North London--and that's about all. And, by the way, it was
the "Strained" at that time--before the widening; and I may remark
that Pall Mall is "Paul Mawl," "Pell Mell," or "Pal Mal," to those who
know it best. Also there were many tram and bus routes, and different
colours to each one, and different shades for each section and branch,
and they were covered with advertisements with "grounds" of all
colour, so the wanderer might just as well be colour blind.

Cross Waterloo Bridge and take train from a big grimy station there on
the right-hand side--up the river by train to Shepperton-on-"Tems."
You might stroll round--they are pleasant lanes between deep ditches
and blackberry hedges on autumn afternoons. You might stroll round by
pleasant brooks, within sound of the river; and by some brickfields,
that cannot spoil the scene, and come into the story towards the end,
and little unsuspected "hamlets"--that's the word--lying in wait,
half-hidden in side pockets, nooks and corners of the hedges--like shy
children who want to give you a pleasant surprise--and you'll come to
either Halliford, Sunbury, Upper Sunbury, or Sunbury-on-Thames. But I
want to get you to Charlton, and you'll be lost in English lanes. But
you'll be directed. You'll meet a fresh, peachy-bloomed-faced, clear-
eyed youth, with the bulk limbs and plod of an English farm labourer,
a detached and shelving underlip, which might do if it were trimmed
and shored or braced up--were it not for a vague chin, which is
hopeless--and a general expression like a blank note of
interrogation--if such a thing could be. But he'll direct you
according to the best of his lights.

"Chawlton, sir? Oh, yes, sir! Chawlton. You take that lane wot yer see
there, sir, and foller it till yer come to a bridge goin' across the
water, sir. No, sir, that's not the 'Tems,' sir--that's only a
backwater runnin' inter the Tems, sir. Git through the fence to the
right jest before yer come to the bridge, sir; don't cross the bridge.
Don't cross the bridge, sir. Git through a panel jist at the foot of
the bridge where yer see a path worn, sir. (Don't take no notice of
that lane on the other side, sir.) When yer git through yer'll see
medder in front of yer, sir--yer'll be in the medder, in fact, sir. Go
right across the medder till yer comes to a gate with a turnstile and
another stile on either side, sir. Yer can take whichever yer like,
sir." (I looked at him for a sign of a bucolic humour, but none was
there.) "Go through there an' yer in Harry Leonard's farm, sir. Go
right through by the house, and it'll bring yer right inter the road
agenst Chawlton, sir. (Mind and don't take no notice of that there
lane I told yer of, sir.)"

The farmhouse stands, or rather squats, low, in dark, damp-looking
greenery, just inside the orchard--this is on low-lying Tems gravel
flats--with a heavy roof of red tiles--stained like iron rust, and
some of them glass--that comes down so low behind that you could
scratch your shoulders against the eaves. But there are rooms in the
roof that hid the mysteries of the births of great, great
grandfathers. The old farmhouse, as is the case of many others, looks
as if it were taller at one time--higher and lighter at one time, but
had settled down, like a big rusty old hen, over ceaseless generations
of chickens. Stable, barn, and one big outhouse of wide--12-inch--
weather-boards, tarred. Big trees along the lane to the road--
"hellums," or beeches, or something--it doesn't matter--and "hashes"
at the hend of it, "agenst the road." Also big, mossy logs that were
never cut up for firewood. The short lane runs from the back of the
house into the road, and from the road to the kitchen door, or, to be
precise, to the outer kitchen, or slush-house, door. As seems the case
with most farmhouses round here. The front approach and front door is
either a mystery or a legend--a vague bucolic superstition. Maybe
there was a front entrance, and visitors, and light--in other days.

Farmer's wife dead--the village people never talk of her to new-
comers--perhaps not amongst themselves. Leonard took another woman,
with a baby girl--his or some one else's--as housekeeper. Baby grown
to fresh, pretty little English village beauty--"fresh" as a half-
broken filly--"Miss Leonard." Her girl friend, adopted sister, or
something, as companion.

Leonard, who has a little to do with the story, stands smoking--hand
to pipe, casually--in the front back-side, or whatever it is, gateway,
leading into the road. He is a stoutish man, calm, contented in the
gloaming, with a calmness and content that he has made for himself, or
rather has made his farm hands make for him (for he owns them body and
soul)--with a smile that is watch-dog like, and not altogether bland
at any time. Something suggestive of the mastiff with nothing on his
mind and stroked by passers-by--or a dog of lesser degree succeeding
in being, or seeming, unconscious under certain circumstances.
Something saturnine. Two youths in their Sunday clothes, crouched
behind a heap of metal a bit along to the right, and whom the
blackberry overgrowth had prevented from diving into the ditch in
time. They have been coming to see the girls, up at the house, under
the impression that Mr. Leonard was gone to Shepperton on club
business. Another young fellow, who was up at the house, slips down
and out desperately--out past Leonard, bending obsequiously, and an
apologetic and propitiatory hat held vertically, parallel to his ear--
as if Leonard were a stationary funeral and the boy were forced by
haste, and much against his will, to disobey the last injunction of
the deceased, and pass the corpse.

A little man, who has been busy about the stable, passes out. A little
man in corduroys, and that heavily seamed, double-fronted, calico-
lined, monkey-jacket sort of coat they wear. A little man with pale
blue eyes and a smile--a fixed smile. I've seen big men with it. It is
as though there were deep merry dimples once, and they extended into
the care and age lines, down the cheeks and into a fixed smile. I've
wondered how such men manage at a funeral. But sudden and deep sorrow
affects such expressions painfully; more so than in ordinary or seldom
smiling men. You've seen the ghastly attempt at a smile of the
smileless. But the reverse--well, in ordinary circumstances, liken it
to a big goodnatured dog, sitting smiling his twelve-inch smile, and
his master putting on a severe or mocking expression and persisting in
catching his eye.

Mr. Leonard said, "Well, Billy!--as the sayin' is."

And Billy said, "Good evenin', Mr. Leonard."

And Mr. Leonard says, "Good evenin', Billy (as the sayin' is)," and
something about the morning's work, perhaps. "Don't forget them there,
etc., in the morning, Billy." And Billy says, "Alright, sir," and
turns towards the village.

And Billy's corduroys flicker away in the dusk.

He passes and is passed by a tall, oldish man (oldish is the word)
with a bend--or--stay--by an elderly man--an elderly labouring man,
who would be tall but for the bend. An elderly labouring man with a
squarish face--oblong, but features square, rather. Gladstonian face
without the politics, and a dirty-looking grey frill beard, like the
hair of a white Scotch terrier that's been in the ashes and wants
washing. We don't notice that they nod or speak to each other in
passing, but something makes us feel that it's just the same as if
they did. The old man is bent from the hips up, and carries his arms
with his hands clasped behind--on a lower rear gable as it were--or
the end of the rain slope. He wears no coat, of course, but generally
a calico-backed waistcoat hanging open in front, and a red speckled
handkerchief round his neck, knotted under his frill. One fancies that
his running (on some improbable village occasion) would be a question
of his legs keeping up, perforce, indignantly, and with breathless
difficulty, with the forward top-heavy weight of his body. He is the
farm and village handy man, "Jack-of-all-trades," but wait a minute--
"Jack" doesn't fit him--say Old-George-of-all-trades. And his name is
George, too. Old George Higgins; and he is, or, rather was, father-in-
law to the little man with a smile.

Mr. Leonard says, "Well, George (as the sayin' is), ain't yer fixed
them pipes at the Bow Winders yet?"

And old George says, "Not yet, sir. I'm jist going up for somethin'
fer a bit more 'roddin'." And he plods up the lane. "Roddin'" is a
sewer pipe-cleaning arrangement of his, composed of stout wire, old
clothes-line, pliable poles, sticks, etc.--and more of the Bow Winders

Charlton is a name on a big grained and varnished gate in a high brick
wall, much higher in one place, where there is a tennis ground or
something behind it. Glimpses through the gate, when it opens to the
carriage--opens reluctantly and shuts quickly--jealously and
indignantly behind it--reveal an oblong two-storied house, partly end
on, very fresh and clean, painted in light colour with French grey
about the windows, and splashed and sprayed with ivy.

"Chawlton" is the farm labourers' village opposite, on the frontage of
the farm. Six square, two storied cottages, or rather hutches, of
dirty, smoky-looking brown brick, with dirty, smoky-looking tiles, but
why I don't know, for this is far from London's smoke and grit.
Perhaps it was soiled or inferior material from the kilns. Gable roofs
all running the same way, and the houses in a straight row and exactly
alike. Two or three-foot hawthorn hedge in front, and no division
whatever, save an old batten here and there--and the footpaths running
up to the back fence--between the vegetable gardens behind. The
cottages are double, yet square; four pigeon-hole rooms aside;
kitchen-dining-and-general-living-room, with the narrowest and
steepest of little stairs running up through it--sort of dirty little
ladder with the rungs boxed in. Inevitable dark little parlour in
front, with the pitiful little useless toy "suite" on time payment,
which is never used. They draw the blind and open the front door
sometimes, like the dusty lid of a chest on end, to let some one see
the suite, who hasn't seen it before. Two bedrooms upstairs. I haven't
seen them, so I don't know what they're like. There must be a spare
room for Granny, or Aunt Emma, when she comes for her annual holiday.
Some of the family, if there is one, sleep on made-up beds downstairs
on such occasions.

But opposite the gate with "Charlton" on it is a double cottage of a
much better class, with bow or bay windows--"fitted up like London."
This is the Bow Winders that Leonard speaks of. Five rooms; one
extended above the wash-house, coal-house and convenience. Sewage runs
into a mysterious hole somewhere at the bottom of the orchard. The
sewage of the labourers' cottages is buried at the back of the
gardens, mostly by moonlight or lantern light. The people of Charlton
paid the farmer the difference in the expense of building a better
class cottage opposite their gate, so that a square brick hutch
wouldn't blink in, with its little sore eyes, as it were, when the
carriage came out. Hence the Bow Winders.

English village owners and builders seem to have a fixed idea that
English families--each of its own class--are born in couples, or twos,
or twins, to live together as twins, and grow up, and down, together
as twins, for in modern villages round London the hutches or houses
are twins, with, even in the better class, or week-end village, seldom
a dividing hedge or fence more than breast high. Perhaps this was to
save extra walls and space. Maybe it is conducive to morality, and
mitigates curiosity, speculation, gossiping and mischief making, where
people see pretty well what's going on and what the next door people
are doing, all the time. But it helps build up those awful things
called "respectability" and "keeping up appearances," and the awful
better-class English Silence. The 3s. per week hutch-twins are kept
apart, of course, and the 25, 30, 45 and 50 to 100, and so on--
pounds a year twin villas clan together in clannish silence, so class
distinctions cannot clash. And the common people pull their forelock
harder and squirm lower the higher the rent a man pays per quarter for
his house. This twin-villaed, paling-fenceless style does very well in
conservative, cast-iron-customed, own-business-minding and necessarily
polite, trades-entranced English better class villages, as also in
twin-hutched, spiritless, farm slave villages, where all the women
have to go out and take their chance at the butcher's cart; but it
would never do in wide, free, democratic Australia, where your
neighbour, if so built and constituted, is free to loom up over the
shrubbery and curse and criticize, and tradespeople and carters to
fling things on the front verandah and smoke in their fellow-
countrymen's or women's faces--whether they smoke or not, as many
union barbers do now in Sydney, where Mrs. Liberty-Freedom is free to
forget, as painfully, frequently, and freely as she dares, that she is
a lady--or ought to be one.

I had my fences raised three or four feet in Harpenden, a day-end
village, but that was nothing. We were Australians, and therefore
unconventional. Also we were used to living alone and privately in the
Bush. I only had one suit at a time, but that was nothing. I was an
Australian, and therefore had money. I fled to London for the first
winter, where there were lights, privacy and humanity.

Fate sent a friend and an Australian to me in a high flat in Clovelly
Mansions in Gray's Inn Road (where an "old maid" once "lived a life of
woe" ), in London. And, in order to escape from London and high rent
for the second summer I sent my friend scouting. Fate sent him, in a
circle almost, to Chawlton, at a time when one of the "Winders" was
vacant. And I took it and got some blinds and things from Stains, and
we were accepted at once as writin' gents or something from London,
who wanted to have a lark or somethin', and do as they liked. Had we
gone in bags and barefoot it would have been the same. We didn't work
and therefore we were gents.

Leonard had "some things" on the beams in the tarred shed. A double
bedstead, washstand, etc., and some chairs, also a mattress,
palliasse, quilt and pillows, almost new, and tied up in a light, but
good, reddish carpet, like a gigantic man-o'-warsman's bundle. The
things were good, much better than was generally found in the
cottages, and I took them, and started to get the Winder ready for the
family. Higgins was told off to carry the things down and fix them up
for me, for "being gents" we were supposed to be incapable. Higgins
carried them all down on his head, and, looking at it now in an
Australian Bush, and not from an English farm-labouring-village light,
I think it was one of the cruellest loads that a man ever was called
upon to carry.

There was, next the Bow Winders, on the outside, an old house of brick
set in criss-cross beams, with rooms in the steep tiled roof, of
course, and let to a painter, which house was older than the oldest
inhabitant knew, and had been occupied by the Higginses in other and
far better days. Before the Higginses were labourers to the Leonards.
Days that have long gone out of England for ever. Along towards
Shepperton, some hundred yards or so from the end hutch of the
village, was the village beerhouse--"beer-shop" they call it in London
(they call things by their names)--with a low door that you stumbled
in through, on to sanded floors, and under a low dark old ceiling,
with the inevitable great beam, anywhere but in the centre. I stood
outside that door late one night, after returning from London, and
rapped at family bedroom window above--in the roof--and scared them
all, and shook hands with the landlord afterwards--when he put his
head out--to soothe him, and said I only wanted to borrow some
matches. But that was nothing, for was not I a gent?

I still see the Gypsies dropping in, calling to each other on fine
days, and calling for their ale, the hags demanding the funnel-shaped
warmer from over the bar, pouring their half-pint into it, and
sticking it down amongst the coals. And then hurrying out and on after
the caravans.

And old Higgins in the cold sunlight standing outside the door, his
bend rather more pronounced than usual, and hands held half hanging,
well out and forward--in the attitude of an exhausted pelican, and
asking for arf-a-pint to be brought out to him. "Hiff you please,
missus." For he's bin fixin' them thundrin' drain pipes at they
"Winders" agen, and ain't fit to come in.

And also, on Sunday morning, the brightest time, between church and
dinner, a memory glimpse of a bright fair-haired little maid in charge
of her jolly, good-natured and rather irresponsible young dad, and her
extremely neat and clean but rather "fresh" and equally irresponsible
old grandfather.

"Now then, grandfather, if--you--don't--come--home--to--dinner--at--
once--I'll tell mother you've been drinking more beer agen--so there!
There's two bottles at home." Then that quick, inimitable, unexpected,
startling little-woman comment, "You're old enough to have more sense
if father ain't."

Chorus: "That's a good 'un."

The parlour with a long table piano at one end and a small-paned
window at the other--like one of our narrower ones laid on its side to
fit the inn. A model of a ship over the mantel and above it a portrait
of the landlord's own ship. For he was a youngish man-o'-warsman,
retired on rheumatism, and his wife a youngish woman with reddish
hair, the last and only surviving child of a long line of village
publicans. They were childless, and during his rheumatic attacks she
referred to him to gentlemen customers as "her baby." There was a hole
into the bar, opposite the piano, through which the landlord might
serve drinks--and keep an eye on his wife. Clients, for whom the
landlord refused to "slate it" further until settled with, made
grumbling and nasty comments about babies.

The long side parlour, sacred to Leonard and his equals and one or two
of the elders, and doubly sacred on Club or meeting nights when
births, deaths, accidents and widows and orphans were provided
against, or arranged for, or disposed of. Then the solemn conclave
would relax.

Leonard, who always said "As the sayin' is," and would be indicated,
particularized and disposed of right off and at once and for ever in
the Bush by some variation of his habitual expression. "The Sayin'
Ass," for instance.

He would like to say a few words, as the sayin' is. He had heard, as
the sayin' is, all as had been said, as the sayin' is, here this
afternoon, as the sayin' is. Now, gentlemen, as the sayin'--He started
to tell me a yarn once (as the sayin' is), and after about half an
hour, introductory, mostly "as the sayin' is," an' so to make it
short, as the sayin' is, he went to Australia, as the sayin' is, and
kept an hotel, as the sayin' is, but, anyhows, as the sayin' is--
Another as the sayin' is--or whatever you call them places, as the
sayin' is--I was never up in geography, as the sayin' is, but,
anyhows, as the sayin' is--Another tall good-natured sawney arose
occasionally to say he "'ad a happy thought." Who would he be in the
Bush but "Happy Thought"? or some pleasant variation of it, say Happy
Squeak, Happy Yell, Happy Shriek, Happy Streak, Happy Smell--or Happy

This was in the House of Lords--with a gentleman or two--walking
tourists or cyclists, occasionally at the lower side table by the
window, when the lords of the village would edge further along the
table and lower their voices in respect to strangers who were or might
be gents. Or a motor would break down, and the folk come in out of the
rain. Then the lords of the village would sidle out and home with all
expedition, despite a polite protest from one of the gents, and a
footman or two would drop in for a glass in the bar, amongst the
British commons, who'd make room, but were never so impressed as the

The British commons sat round on narrowest of stools, and by narrowest
of tables, boxed in with narrowest of settees, with the window, by the
fireplace, in the little, low, saw-dusted bar-room: one generally in
front of the fire in a position favourable for holding forth on
opportunities, or leaning against the mantel, hooked on to it with one
elbow, the other arm hanging loosely, and hanging himself, rather
forward seemingly--either somewhat exhausted with the last effort, or
in half unconscious acknowledgment of applause or approbation,
imaginary on his part or otherwise. They passed the big pewter on
Saturday nights, and the old homely, good-humoured greeting jokes
about, or at the old changeless, good-humoured butts, and the sly
three-cornered, homely digs at each other. And discussed interesting
and important little trivial events of their work day. And joked about
the ever convenient scandal about Bob So-and-so and Mrs.--, or
Lizzie--, etc., etc. Men talk goodhumoredly and leniently about these
things--and bigger scandals, be they social or political, because they
recognize that they are sinners themselves--which women never do--and
are mute, inglorious and inactive swindlers, by necessity or the dead
hopeless weight of circumstances.

And they'd talk of old yarns, and men who told them--"Bill Stubbins,
wot used to tell that there yarn about, etc., etc.," or "Tom
Scroggin'--he could tell that yarn. I've never heard no one as could
tell it like him, poor Bill"; or "That chap as come to work in the
brickfields one year; I never could remember that man's name--as used
t' sing that song about, etc., etc." But this is more like the Bush.
And they'd talk of men who left their village and went to London or
"abroad"--which is everywhere else--and more of men who went abroad
and wrote back, and still more of men who came back, and, which was
equally frequent in such cases, went abroad again. And of men of whose
deaths, fortunes, entrance into high society, or the gaol, or
accessions to fame--or the gallows--they had heard rumours of. In
undoubted cases (the fireplace ornament):--

"--An' he wos a stannin' here on this very spot where I'm a stannin'
now, a-talking to you--" In a loud impressive, not to say aggressive
tone, and with a forward sling of the arm and forefinger, that sounded
and looked, from the other side of the road, and through the door or
window, like one-half of a domestic row.

But old Higgins was a refreshing change--for the first time at least--
when they could get him past a certain point in drinking, which happy
circumstance had to be brought about very delicately, with much guile,
great circumspection and carefully veiled diplomacy. If there happened
to be a strange, unobtrusive face or two present, it was so much the
easier. They feigned to be careless of his presence, and greatly and
warmly interested in a conversation or argument amongst themselves,
which was full of carefully "blinded" little traps for Higgins. Long
association and practice, and many tacitly understood mental
rehearsals had made them perfect. They'd pass the pewter to him, out
of his turn, and leave it longer in his hand, in an absent-minded way.
Then, presently, he'd begin to get uneasy, and edge and shuffle on his
seat, and move his bend towards the fireplace--and one would nudge me

Higgins had possessed and studied from boyhood an old elementary book
of Euclid--the only thing he ever read, except an occasional
newspaper, which he studied for the same reason that "free thinkers"
study the Bible.

"Life," he'd say, after some preliminary shuffles, coughs and grunts,
"is wot I call made up of triangles--ekal hatteral triangles. Circles
is made up of triangles, and made with triangles, if you consider the
legs of the compass the sides, and the lines between the points the
bases. Squares is double triangles when you run a line to opposite
corners. Oblongs, the same way, is hobtuse or haycute angles--an'
both. An' a right hangle is a right hangle, no matter which side you
might lay it on. It's a right angle if you lay it flat, but all sorts
of angles if you run lines from the corners to the bases--which yer
can't in wot I call the equell try hangles of life.

"Now this is my case" (this was before the trouble with his daughter),
"there's that there Lizzie o' mine at the happix, and me and the
missus at the hextremities of the base. We can't come no nearer for a
right hangle try-hangle is rigid. We might change corners, but that
would make no difference between me and the missus, but one of us, if
we could agree about it, or to take turn 'en turn about, might change
corners with Lizzie--which might do her some good--but we'd be just as
far from each other as ever. And if we laid the triangle flat we'd be
just as far off as ever, and it would do none of us any good. An' if
we was to put hinges on it it wouldn't make no difference.

"Now, if I was to go out and another man--say, a younger an' more
experienced one--was t' take my place I--I--well, I don't know who'd
be at the happix pretty soon, but one on 'em would."

(A Voice: "Mrs. Higgins is jest out the door listnin' all the time!")

"She's gone to Shepperd's for starch--an' an eye out for a likely
second, maybe. My ole woman is fore-seein'."

"But what about Billy here?"

"Well, if I died, an' Billy an' Lizzie gets married. I know where
Billy would be--where I left--for a while at least. And anyways,
supposin' I didn't die. I know who'd be at the happix, especially if
it was a girl. An' so on with the triangles of life; children, and
more children, allus crowdin' the happexes, an' the old people bustin'
themselves to death shorin' up the legs or bases of the ekel try
hangles of life, till they give out of old age, and then summon comes
down as often as not."

"Life is a triangle," once said Brennan, the silent semi-foreman (a
Reynold's Newspaper reader), to the surprise of all, who had dropped
in, in the absence of his wife and her mother from the village, to get
his bottle filled. "Life is a tryangle. You're right there, Higgins,
and you and me and the rest of us in hundreds of English villages are
shoring up the props. And they're comin' down, Higgins!" and he went

They stared at one another, and "Wot's come over Brennan to-night,"
they grumbled. "He must be gettin' speerits from somewhere."

Poor old Higgins! Pausing for wind in the dusty field in a sweltering
mid-afternoon, with a hoe, or other handy implement--or a piece of
"roddin'" of suitable length, at the Winders--one end planted between
his hob-nailed boots, and his hands resting on or grasping the other
end--and his frilled chin on the uppermost hand--he formed an eloquent
triangle of life, that only needed the last life blow to knock
sideways, backways, frontways, or anyways, and have it over.

Who would he be but "Old Tryangles" in the Bush?

The village had its stale mysteries--two of them. When the old cottage
had been some time empty, on account of the Higginses being unable to
pay the rent charged for the home of their ancestors, there came an
unknown but respectable looking woman in black to Leonard, who said
she was an invalid with an only daughter, and needed country air, and
she persuaded Leonard to let her have the place at the ordinary
rental. By and by a man came round, a short stout man, like a cross
between an old Maori chief and an English labourer. Leonard spoke to
her about it, and she said he was her husband. He became the village
and roundabouts house-painter. They had lots of books, bound volumes
of old magazines, London journals, etc., that looked as if they had
belonged to a library. I talked to the girl, who seemed peculiar, and
was a bit deaf, and we exchanged books. They were from Hindia, she
said. She told me some of her history, and wrote the rest. It seemed
she was entitled to estates in Scotland from a dead uncle, but there
had been a lot of trouble, and she had lost them but there was a big
law-suit coming on between her lawyers and the others. The painter and
his wife were faithful old servants of her uncle's estates, who had
thrown in their lot with her, and were sticking to her. Her poor
faithful servants! she hoped to reward them in the near future. She
was hengaged to a hofficer in Hindia, but had given him up when she
came home and found she'd been robbed of her fortune. He wrote frantic
letters, but she had made up her mind for his sake, and he would never
find her, not until she came into her hown. If never, then never.

She was a curious lunatic, but hardly to be wondered at, being the
only girl in that village, alone and apart, with some common mystery
or disgrace over her, and some tons of London Journal literature. He
might have been a librarian, book-worm, book-dealer, thief, receiver
of stolen property, fugitive from India--or anything.

She went to Shepperton three nights a week with an old fiddle case
(which she called her violin), and--and came back again; as thousands
of sane girls do from other towns. She said she was taking lessons--as
thousands of other girls do.

The other mystery was a Scotchman, who lived alone in a barred and
barricaded house, that looked as if it had been built for a bakery (I
don't know why I thought so), along about the middle of the big
cabbage field, and kept about twenty extremely optimistic and friendly
dogs. Some said he had to keep them or lose a legacy. Others said that
he had a big fortune and estates in the north, and preferred to live
alone, but was bound by the will to keep up five carriages, and so
many pairs of horses, and so many coachmen, butlers, stewards,
footmen, maid servants, gardeners, etc., etc., etc., which he did.
With a man with a likely eye to look after them, too, I should think.
'Twas also said that his wife came in a carriage to see him "every
once in two years," but never went inside, or even left the carriage.
No one had been inside. He was a pleasant man; had been a gentleman;
was certainly educated and intelligent, and seemed well read, and he
never washed so far as I could see--save perhaps when he sweated and
used his handkerchief. But he was never seen to sweat, and no one had
ever "seed no handkercher." I made inquiries. He used to run round and
across fields with his dogs, early mornings. He paid cash, and
publican and tradespeople were scandalized when I called him "Scotty."
They called him Mr. Morton, and all treated him with respect. He might
have been a lunatic, a coiner, or forger, a ruined author--or
publisher--or an ordinary dirty eccentric refugee from society. So the
Scotch hermits seem to be settling in England, as well as Scotch
doctors, publishers and general imposters. It was a sad day for the
English when England was annexed by Scotland. The English people have
been against the alleged union from the very first, I believe.

Have you noticed that our hatters, or hermits, are, as a rule,
scrupulously clean about their persons, tents and caves? as well as
clean mouthed? Perhaps they are hermits to be clean and fresh, while
the others are to be dirty.

I never saw the parson at or near the village, though he had a bike,
and was a well knit, active man, quite young--an athlete, in fact, and
a keen sportsman. He had a tombstone in the churchyard, sacred to the
memory of his third wife--or was it his fourth?--and they said that
"parson was keep'n company again." He wore tourist jacket, cap,
knickerbockers, and a bike--the last mostly between his legs--whenever
I saw him. He seemed an improvement on "The Private Secretary." But I
can't think exactly in which way. He might have been more useful out
here in an English eleven.

The Shepperton doctor was Scottish--and a friend of mine. So I won't
write about him.

There was that something of the "sullen, silent" atmosphere--without
the "half-devil and half-child" business about the village which had
struck me forcibly while school teaching a pair of low-class Maories
at the other side of the world a year or two before. Men and women
worked in the fields for, the men from fifteen shillings to a pound a
week, and the women seven to eleven shillings. I used to hear them
calling each other in the dark, on bitter cold mornings. Those who had
children, and no old granny capable of looking after them, used to
club together and pay one of their number to look after the children
while they were in the fields. Some had to pay to have old granny
looked after, too. The children who were old enough to do so worked in
the fields. The woman with the hoe was there, plenty of her--not
twenty miles from London--bag aprons and the hoes. There was an old
solitary couple I noticed often in the big cabbage field. They lived
in one hole in the end of an old hovel, but were clean on Sundays.
I've often seen them plod home, bent, in the rain, with sacks tied on
and their hoes on their shoulders--bags heavy with wet, and hobnailed
boots--they both wore them--heavy with clay. End of a "good" week
they'd come into the beerhouse for their pints, or half-pints. Their
philosophy was grim--practical--they talked--or drivelled, or doted,
or cackled, about "them as 'as it," sometimes: not resentfully,
discontentedly, enviously, or covetously, but from habit, as other old
couples had done before them for generations. She treated him as a
rather useless overgrown child with whom she "had no patience," and he
defended himself, or rather took it all with grumbling humour or
sarcasm--as other old couples have done for generations. It seemed as
though they had been only children of old couples right back to the
beginning of 'em, and it had ended, or was ending, without a child. In
bad weeks they sometimes "wished as they 'ad it"--but you couldn't
conceive them as being in earnest about it. If they had "it" suddenly
and survived the shock, there would probably be no old couple on
earth--or young couple either--who would know less what to do with it.
The fear of "they lawyers," and "they banks," and "they thieves" would
probably drive them to bury it, and sleep on it, and fight about it,
and shift it to a new place every night, and sleep on it there, and
end by not sleeping at all, because of watching each other all night.
And it might end by one poisoning--or hoeing--the other. Or they'd
turn misers and die in dirt and starvation.

There were no village beauties, nor dancing on the village green in
that village. (I wonder if there ever had been in England.) Because
there was no green, and an utter absence of girls. They had to go to
service before they were old enough. Or to a factory. Girls prefer the
factory in England, both in this and "better-class" villages. Because,
after factory hours, long as they be, the girl's time is her own. And
because English middle class mistresses are seldom human beings where
"maids" are concerned, and "keeping up appearances" is a fetish, a
religion--very life to them.

The farm hands on Saturday nights sometimes went home three or four
arm-in-arm, singing "Comrades--comrades--since the days where we were
boys--sharin'--each other's--sorrers--sharin'--each other's joys."
Never anything else. They shared their joys on a bank outside the
Winders one night, and I complained on the grounds of the sleeping
children. I never heard them share each other's joys after that, and
have always been remorseful and sorry about it.

The men--as I mentioned before--got from fifteen shillings to twenty
shillings per week, and the women from seven shillings to eleven
shillings in the season. They paid three shillings for their hutches--
deducted from their wages--twopence a pint for their ale, and anything
from threepence to one shilling per week on the suites that were never
used. Besides club fees for births, illness and burials (which seemed
the only things that ever happened there). I don't pretend to know how
they did it, but they grew their own vegetables, and got seed
potatoes, etc., free, I think. Some worked at the brickfields and
other places when not wanted on the farm. They were slaves, and
treated as slaves, and seemed invulnerable in their position as
willing slaves. I'd often fill the pewter, and be just getting
comfortable with them and getting copy when one would spoil it with,
"We 'ope we ain't intrudin', sir? We 'ope we ain't makin' too free,
sir?" They'd carry a "gent" home beastly drunk and call him "sir" all
the time. "Excuse us, sir, but you're bein' sick, sir! Hadn't we
better stand yer up agen the wall, sir? Till yer right, sir? Once I
said, "For Heaven's sake don't call me sir," which only embarrassed
and struck them dumb! It was no use trying to treat them as equals.
"He's a gent, and Gol darn it! Why don't he let us treat him like a
gent?" And the servants, or "maids," well, if I treated one as I'd
treat an Australian girl, she'd reckon I was "no class," and she'd
lose cast by being in my service. It's easier to get up amongst the
upper class in England. But don't be proud. It's coming in Australia
every day.

One Brennan, who lives in the nearest hutch to the Winders, was sort
of upper hand on the farm. Sort of super, whose position was not
recognized in any way by the farmer, but who was made to feel his
responsibility all the same, and who, therefore, seemed sullenly apart
from his fellows. He was the trusted man to go to London with the
wagon or wagons of fruit and produce in season. Started at four in the
morning, got back at any time at night--or next morning in the fog--
was probably allowed eighteenpence for travelling expenses, and was
secretly known by the whole village to get twentytwo shillings a week,
instead of a pound, which was secretly held by his wife and the whole
village to be a secret between him and her and the boss. She set out
the bread and cheese on the table and the black bottle of ale, late in
foggy "Lunnon night," and went out to the front with something over
her head, now and then, to look for her chap.

She had a holiday once every two years to a married sister's at
Margate, but told me she was going to have on' this ye'. "We ain't
going to do this work all me life for nothin'. My chap give it to me
this year." She used to sit outside in the sun and sew calico--well,
combinations--with an offhandedness that set even me at my ease, and I
was a shy man.

One day I heard him ask her to wash his trousers, and he added "only
wash the linin'." Which gave me a poor opinion of his intelligence.
But I've thought since that the linin' was probably put in so that it
could be undone and drawn out at the bottom of the pants. (I've a
vague impression of seeing some so.) For on Sunday morning he sat at
the back and read Reynold's Newspaper. He lent it to his wife's father
afterwards, who lived with granny next door in the other half of the
dog-kennel; but I don't know who he lent it to.

This is no democratic touch, because I'm supposed to be a democrat in
a democratic country. It is no literary trick. This was five years
ago, and a sign on the face of it of the great change that was coming
and is coming to English politics. That the white world never dreamed
would come to England. Was it only one sign of the silent, sullen
seeming undercurrent of thought, that was going on in that and
hundreds of other English villages.

And to such a village had come, some three or four years ago, little
Billy with his smile. And while Billy is getting used to conditions
which are strangely new to him after exile to London and a nightmare
"abroad," and while men and women are getting used to Billy, who has
never changed, I'll tell you of something else.

I have neither stage-room nor time to describe the villages, fairs and
gipsies connected with them, though I've seen fairs, from one at
Little Hilliford (where Sykes and Oliver Twist passed that morning) to
Islington Fair, which is a surprisingly small and cramped affair for
its name and fame--as indeed are most other famous things in London,
from St. Paul's, which seems a dirty old toy at first Australian
sight, to the Angel at Islington, or The Cheshire Cheese, in Wine
Court Ally, Strand, where, in the little cramped, sawdusted dining-
room The Immortal British Bore sat in a corner (where a marble plate
on the wall now records the fact) before he got up and made that most
original and world-famous proposal of his.

The memories of old Paddy's Market and Paddy's Market Square of twenty
years ago will give old Sydneyites a very good idea of the real thing.

Some gipsy caravans are models in woodwork, with polished brasswork
inside, and fitted like a ship's cabin. But most of the travelling
ones are rough and dirty enough. I shall always remember the gipsies
as hurrying on, camping at a fire left by a caravan ahead, probably,
for a few minutes it seemed, and hurrying on. Caravan hurrying on
after caravan, and gipsies on foot hurrying on after gipsies on foot,
talking their own "outlandish," and calling to each other. Running in
and out of line to the beerhouse (generally in a pocket of the hedges
out of sight of the road till you see it), and hurrying out and on
again. But they camped, sometimes by Charlton, where, as in most other
places, they were outcast and unappreciated, and were hurried on as
soon as possible. Between Charlton and its Four Lanes was a triangular
piece of ground, hedged in and known as the "Three Corner Medder," or
"Three Corner Loosen," or something, and this the Gipsies sometimes
hired from Leonard as a camp for themselves and horses. It was a
perfect triangle, and the side lanes, both went to church and the post
office, or rather to a stile and a path that ran across a sort of
waste or common to the church or the post office, which latter seemed
a pretty vine-covered, flower-fronted English village-drama cottage
and nothing else. Across the open space ran a big, old avenue from
nowhere to where a court, castle, keep, or stately home of England
formerly stood.

The gipsy tents are very low, and rounded--exactly like the round
tilts on spring carts and drays, that went out with my childhood, only
brown. Exactly as staged in "Romany Rye."

I well remember one day passing two lone caravans camped in one of the
lanes, and two sullen, resentful-looking men grazing their horses,
with ropes attached, along the roadside. And as we passed I saw the
old crone hurrying up and down the steps of one of the caravans. When
we returned, an hour or so later, she was poking round the fire like a
witch in daylight--and the daylight didn't make any difference--she

"Come on, my pretty young gents, and see what you shall see,"
beckoning me in particular, and she climbed the steps, shutting the
lower half of the door.

"Come on, my pretty young gent," she said, "and see the Gipsy child!"

I stood on the lower step and looked in. It was very neat and clean,
with a bunk like a ship's bunk in front end of it, and in it lay a
young woman with the clearest, freshest olive complexion I ever saw,
with the red through it like a blush--it may have been a blush--and
great brown eyes, half wild, half laughing, if I might put it so--
turned to us, and from her side the crone lifted a fine brown baby,
naked, as far as I could see in the flash, and she held it up over the
door for a moment for my friend to see too. She spoke of broth or
something, and I gave her a shilling, and later on sent down some
broth, or, to be exact, not liking to ask any of the villagers to
carry broth to a common gipsy, I carried it down myself, Australian
fashion, and gave it to one of the sullen men, who rubbed off his hat
in a surprised manner. Perhaps he thought it was beer. I didn't look
back to see. Just round the corner of the hedge I came on Leonard
talking to the other man with very little as the sayin' is about it.

"I was jest shiftin' of 'em on, as the sayin' is," he said to me.
"They're worse than no class, as the sayin' is, and I can't trust my
turnips, as the sayin' is."

"But, Mr. Leonard," I said, "one of the young women's just had a
child, and she surely could never stand the jolting on in that
caravan. It would kill her, man!"

"Don't you be afraid of that, as the sayin' is," he said; "they're
only animals, as the sayin' is--an'--"

And so on.

But I persisted, and he said, "Ah, well, as the sayin' is, since you
wish it, as the sayin' is, I'll give them another night, as the sayin'
is." And he stepped back to the man to tell him that as the gent, as
the sayin' is, and, etc. And if they behaved themselves as the sayin'
is, etc.

I passed the Three Corner Medder at nightfall next evening, curious to
see if the gipsies were gone yet, and the old crone by the fire called
to me.

"Come, my pretty young gent, and I'll tell you your fortune true."

I thought it rather mercenary, but, having spent an hour or so at the
Farmers' Arms, I went and sat on my heel in front of her, since she
didn't rise. She took my wrist in her bony hand, which seemed
startlingly white, like a skeleton one, but it may have been a play of
moonlight or daylight through a hole in the hedge. Her hair was grey
under the hood, a dirty grey, her face was hollow, but the lower half
squarish, in thin lines, like her mouth. But her eyes! I hadn't
noticed them so much in daylight--perhaps they had contracted like a
cat's--but now they seemed the blackest and most piercing I had ever
seen. Piercing, but like a shining black wall when you tried to look
into them. And they were fastened on mine. I thought of cheap
mesmerism or hypnotism, and all the old tricks and patter, as she
repeated in a harsh, cracking voice--

My pretty young gent, you may laugh your last.
  And laugh till your laugh is through.
But I'll tell you the tale of your dead, dead past.
  And I'll tell you all too true.

"Oh, I've heard that before," I said; "tell me something new, granny?"

"The old before the new," she said; "the old before the new." Then,
after a pause that seemed no pause, and with a distant humming in my
ears and a sudden feeling of helplessness and heaviness, came a voice,
or voices--they didn't seem hers--as of a hundred imps singing round
in a great mile wide circle--

Wrap me up in my stockwhip and blanket.
  And bury me deep down below.
Where the dingoes and crows won't molest me.
  In the land where the coolibars grow.

I had fingers and toe to the dust to start up, but she held me as a
vice, and I felt a great heaviness and a weight on my shoulders, as if
Sampson's hands were there, and I went down again. Heaviness and
weight vanished. But I had laughed my last, as far as she was
concerned. I had had my laugh through, and was done with--had no
further use for it for the time being. The last time I had heard those
lines sung it was by a young woman, a girl of eighteen, in a fourth
rate pub in Sydney, and she was recklessly drunk--and she had been a
schoolmate of mine. It brought as much of the tale of the dead, dead
past back to me as I wanted just then, and I let the old gipsy know
that without speaking. "Ah!" she said. "You have brown eyes, and your
people may have been of our people once. But you fear the black eyes!
You fear the black eyes!"

That was a fact anyway.

Then she, she was sitting on a black box of some kind, folded her
skeleton hands on her lap, and turned a little to face the full moon
that was just looking over the hedge, and which can look with more
expression over an English hedge than over any sea, mountain, plain,
bush or scrub in Australia. Then, taking my hand again, and holding it
on her bony knee, she began to sing--and in another voice, but low and
sweet, as of an old woman who could sing once, before her voice went
(tragically, and before a crowded audience, maybe), patting my hand
with her bony one the time--as far as I can remember or reconstruct--

You have come, by bush and town.
From where blue-eyed men are brown.
Drought and rain and sun and shade--
Gipsies born and gipsies made.
Follow still the gipsy trade.
Children pray in Sunday school
For princes who shall never rule.
Folk do many foolish things
For the kings who are not kings;
Men and women bow and crawl
Where no tyrant reigns at all.
And the worst of all things be.
In the light of Liberty.

You have come in strife and pain.
You shall go but come again.
One that's sane shall drive you mad.
One that's mad shall drive you sane.
He whose wealth you helped to make.
Make you rich for your own sake.
You shall sink but rise again.
With the strength of ten times ten.
And shall be a king of men.
Those whose names you write and call
Make you famous over all.
One who's deaf shall make you hear.
One who's blind shall make you see.
Absent ones be ever near.
Nearer still in pain and fear;
One who never dreamed a dream
Shall reveal the mystery--
Raise your eyes and you shall see.
    [I saw hypnotic visions and illusions here.]
Yesternight in Land o' Scorn.
Was a gipsy baby born.

In the Country of the Blind
Was a sighted stranger kind.
Go you calm, or go you wild.
You have helped a gipsy child;
He shall grow with courage grim.
Strength of sight and strength of limb--
All you lack shall be in him.
Go you far or go you near.
Take no guards, and take no fear.
Where you walk, there he shall run.
In the snow or in the sun.
Shield your daughter and your son.
Lined your face and grey your hair.
Under home or strangest skies.
Sunk in seeming dark despair.
Death or madness everywhere.
Be your friends however fair.
Let your enemies beware
Of dark eyes and of dark hair.

And she hitched round and fixed her own on me, with a jerk, so to
speak. I got up in a hurry while I could, and, as she still continued
to regard me with that intent night-cat look of hers, I got out half a
crown, awkwardly enough, and, as she never moved a finger, I laid it
down on the edge of the ashes. She never looked at it, but at me, so I
shuffled off, and round the corner I made good time to the Farmers'

But a strange thing was to happen. I worked all that night, and went
out at daybreak with my pipe, and seemed to be swung round in my
eccentric strolling past the Three Corners. I thought I'd see how the
gipsy camp looked asleep, but it was gone. It was, save for a circular
patch of white ashes, as if it had never been. The grass was clean.
Even the signs of horses had vanished. I walked over to the place
where the fire had been, and there, on the very rim of the circle of
white wood ash, lay my new half-crown. It flashed in my mind then that
she had been in a kind of trance when I laid it down and had seen
nothing. But when I picked it up I saw that it was marked. Marked
deeply round the rim, as I have seen others marked, and with lines and
tiny little partly sunk drill holes in many places. Whenever I look at
it now I seem to see new marks and combinations. I have never found
anybody who could, or would, read it for me.

Some day I may.

III. The Little Man with the Smile

BILLY was a child of, and not with a gloomy family, with dimples as a
boy, very grey eyes, and a roguish smile, which changed as he grew to
a good-humoured one, and finally to the fixed smile of acquiescence. A
tolerant smile he wore, even when his fiendish little elder sister
tore at him and struck him. There was nothing but gloom at home, gloom
and quarrels, shot occasionally with lurid rows. It must have taken a
lot to drive a lad of Billy's nature from home, but driven he was--
after his father had been driven to drink, and drank himself away from
sordidly, hopeless earthly things. Billy took refuge with an aunt in
London, and when she died his smile had found him friends with an old
Crimean warman's family--a plasterer, who had a friend or patron, who
had friends, who had a friend who helped Billy to a passage to
Australia. He and his box got separated at Fenchurch station, and came
together unexpectedly at Gibraltar, and that was as far as Billy ever
went in confidence, or took his chosen friends on his voyage to
Australia. Something was supposed to have happened to him out there,
for he returned within six months. Many came and come here who got
frightened and "run" before they get their second wind. During the
awful heat wave of '96 hundreds came no further than the harbour. In
fact, all who could do it, went back by the same boat, or never left
it, and went to other places. But Billy came further than that, I

I would never dream of trying to make a "character" of Lizzie Higgins.
Had she been a character, nothing in particular might have happened--
certainly nothing in particular would have been known to have
happened. "Nothing in particular." That was her character, and facial
expression, if she had one at all; that was the complexion of every
case she was connected with--except the last. And that is nothing in
particular now, either to her or the village. Except, perhaps, to poor
old Higgins with his bend.

Lizzie was "above medium height," which is commonplace in itself; had
the characterless English apple bloom, which dulls and reddens and
withers and cracks, but never dies out, and the ingratiating smile,
not for men, but for any woman, a rung above her in life--a little

When anything was to be "got up" in a hurry for Charlton it was
slipped through the gate after dusk, per servant, to Mrs. Higgins'
cottage, with impressive low-voiced instructions--like a mystic rite
connected with a better class birth or funeral. Mrs. Higgins' front
room--the suite had gone--I'll tell about that later on--was an
atmosphere of warmth on cold nights, or rather a punctuation in an
atmosphere of fog, sleet, mist, rain or hail. A full stop, as it were,
with a ring or halo round it, as some writers put round a period to
make it plain for the printer. An atmosphere of warmth and clean fat
arms, and the unreproducable smell of clean linen, honestly washed,
and clear starching and hot ironing that comes to or from no laundry
with its cheating, its flagrantly, brazen dishonesty, and its dirt-
hiding, shirt and collar ruining gloss composition. There was the
smell of a drop of gin hot there sometimes, they said, but I never
noticed it. It couldn't have done otherwise than do Mrs. Higgins and
the clothes good. She had all the atmosphere of a model widow washer-
woman, though Higgins was a hard-working, steady live man. He never
changed. He was never seen in the ironing room. He always came in and
went out in a disconnected or detached way through "the back door at
the side," whether there were clients' servants or not in the ironing
room. His bend came in there too in the other sense, for the door was
low, though wide, but it came in at a rather more acute angle, just
for all the world (he having his arms behind him) as if he were
carrying in a sheet of bark with him on his back (to make an extra
bunk with).

Mothers stick to daughters in those villages, and help them in "their
trouble," and keep it from the old man till the last moment. Longer if
they can. Send her to Aunt Martha, or some one at a distance, for a
holiday, or on some pretext. It would hinder the old man's work to
know. He must "take his meat, and have his sleep"--or they all might
starve--and that wouldn't mend matters. And--well. "She ain't the
first and she won't be the last." And sometimes, if the old man proves
unreasonably obstinate and for an unreasonable length of time they add
again, more decidedly, and somewhat impatiently, "She ain't the first
and she won't be the last," and, maybe, "And, well, if it comes to
that, he ought to know, or ought to remember, when he was young, or
when he was courtin', is meant, I suppose. They say that old Higgins
was as straight as any of 'em in his time, though I cannot believe it
to look at him now. And that there was a Lizzie at his wedding. And
she was Mrs. Higgins."

Lizzie went early to service, in Shepperton, and was trained under a
trained servant or maid. They call them all maids. Book-keeping is
included in the training, and that, with the mistress, tends to make
them what they are. Their very tears seem stony, whether of vexation,
sorrow, or love. And Lizzie was less sentimental than the average
village girl of her class, to begin with. You've seen the girl who
would sit bolt upright, hands down, while the tears of chagrin or
disappointment start from eyes set in a face of stone? They are as
hopeless as the dark-skinned "white" men, whose faces go grey in

Lizzie kept company with a young man in Shepperton, who was "on the
line, on a trine" (as Barry Pain puts it)--or "on the railway," as
we'd say, and there was some talk. 'Twas said also that Lizzie's
mother helped her. But Lizzie didn't mind "talk." She rather liked it.
She went to London afterwards, with the same family. Mistress died,
and master went to London with Lizzie to look after the children--or
mistress died there, and Lizzie was kept or stayed on...There's such
a thing (unwritten yet) as "masters'" rights in England. Certainly in
the case of young housekeepers to middle-aged widowers--or husbands
whose wives are not wives. "It's only natural," and no one need be any
the wiser if master acts all right, in event of "trouble."...But
anyway, the young railwayman went to London, by the "trine" I presume,
one holiday to see Lizzie, and he never went again. Perhaps he got a
practical, common sensible dismissal. Or may be he heard "talk."
Lizzie never "talked" herself--whether of past mistresses (or masters)
to present ones, or about present ones, outside. This seems a good
point in the training. Pity mistresses weren't trained in return.

Lizzie's situation was in a flat in Clovelly Mansions in Grey's Inn
Road, where no one knoweth the people next door across the landing
(say, seven or eight stories up), and masters and mistresses needn't
be married unless they like. Here she made the acquaintance of a young
man--a mere boy--in a milk-walk, who served many flats--and had a few
of them in his walk of life. His brother had an interest in the firm
he worked for, so he was above the ordinary run of milk-walkers--he
was some class. And Lizzie kept company, or walked out with him,
though I don't know how she did it, unless he never slept, or took her
on the milk-walk before daylight. He got the sack for lateness and
missing clients. He lingered too long at the servant's entrance of
Lizzie's flat, planning for the future--a room and a bit for
furniture. They have no time to talk of love and such nonsense.

But before that Lizzie took him, one holiday, to Chawlton to see her
folks. Which was right, and good, and natural, and is a pleasing
feature of young English pre-marital life. But Lizzie's mistress was
young and something human, and had a sense of humour, unusual for
young mistresses in flats, where they needn't be married to their
husbands unless they like. And Lizzie confided to her, in all
seriousness, but in her nothing-in-particular tone, that she was
taking Mr. Jinkins (that was young Jenkins, the milk-walker) home, in
order to see whether it would "make some talk in Shepperton," where
Lizzie had some friends amongst maids and others. Now, as Shepperton
was a better-class village, this would seem to give some idea of
Lizzie's intelligence and the height of her social ambition, but it
doesn't, unless you know that, even in upper-class villages,
mistresses drive round and make calls solely to talk about their
servants, old or new. I knew one lady, who ordered her carriage and
drove a distance to tell her friend that she believed her maid was,
etc., etc., etc., etc.

But Lizzie and her young man from London certainly did make some talk
in Chawlton, where a little talk goes a long way--with additions and
repetitions, reiteration, correction, and denial--and lasts a long
time. For a generation sometimes.

But Mr. Jenkins got the vulgar Australian sack, and Lizzie gave him
her savings to buy cans, get cards printed, and start in business on
his own, independent of his brother, whom she disliked, and to rent a
room--or a couple--which shows the practical constancy of many English
maids and servants. God help some of them! 'Twas even said she left
her situation in the flat and lived in the rooms--or one of them--to
assist him with her business ability. I know enough of the character
of British servantgalism to believe that she might have done so, and
yet have married him in the end, a "bride" in every way.

Anyway, it would have been nothing in particular, and Chawlton would
have been none the wiser, save for a rumour. Lizzie mightn't have
minded much if it had. It would have given it something to talk about.

But "Jenkins & Co., Milk Vendors, Pure Country Milk," speaking by the
card, went as vulgarly bung as any bank, but without hurting any one
in particular, and with no hope of reconstruction, and young Jenkins
returned to the home of his brother, or rather his sister-in-law, and
Lizzie went home to Chawlton for a rest (which made a little talk),
and the two speculators never met again in this world, that I know of.
Which was nothing in particular in English maid-serving and milk-
walking circles. They say that Lizzie made up for awhile, first, to an
old married, exservant she knew, whose son was a clerk and "some
class," but we don't want him.

Little Billy and his smile were liked in the village, and popular with
the children. He had left home early in life, and had been in various
places in and around London. In the north and east, I fancied
sometimes, and had worked at many things, and no doubt had often been
trusted as caretaker or odd hand because of his smile alone. He worked
at the brickyards now, and lived with his married brother Tom, over at
Little-Sumpthin-on-the-Mud--(a little up the river from Chawlton, on
this side). He was the only young man left who was after Lizzie's time
at Chawlton, and was therefore new to her, as she pervaded him at the
village, and walked home with him from Shepperton one night. His smile
was acquiescent. Perhaps she only wanted to see if it would make some
talk. It did, and female necks craned over the little quickset front
hedge (common to the whole village) to wait for them at dusk--and
after it.

Then it appeared to Lizzie that Billy, who was a first-class brick
hand, had put together a few pounds, and was thinking of a decent
furnished little place of his own, and some 'un to take care of it. He
wasn't comfortable with his sister-in-law at Little-Sumpthin-on-the-
Mud. He wasn't "warm" there, she had too many "dry words" for Tom and
the children, and some on 'em was meant for him. So Lizzie began to
pervade him in a practical manner, and it made a good deal of talk.

It made more at Little Sumpthin, which was about half the size of
Chawlton, for Tom was obstinately opposed to Elizabeth Higgins. And in
this his wife agreed with him--she agreed with him in nothing else--
not even the weather. But Billy set it all down to her.

The announcement of the engagement made casually, in a nothing-in-
particular tone, by Lizzie, made but little talk in the village,
either amongst the women--who knew very well what it was worth (the
extra nothing-in-particularness in the tone might have warned any one
with intelligence, who understood Lizzie), or amongst the men, who
bucoliced good-humoredly about it. But the announcement of the date of
the wedding (made in a cheerful nothing-in-particular tone by Lizzie)
did make a lot of talk. However, the village agreed that "they had
time to think better on it," as old Adams and his young cracked and
twisted wooden-judy-doll-wife--the most recent couple there--three
years married--put it. But "why"? the village didn't say. Probably
because they didn't know. You see there was nothing else to talk or
speculate about at Chawlton at the time. Mrs. Adams hadn't had her
proposed twins yet. Young Bob Wheeler hadn't even come to board with
the Adamses at that time.

Little Billy rented one of the half-hutches, the one next the Bow
Winders, and got the furniture from Staines, partly for cash and
partly on time payment, to give himself plenty of time, and provide
for unforeseen expenses. He would have taken one of the Winders, which
was also vacant, and risked it, but popular opinion overbore him.
Besides, Leonard was cautious and far-seeing for both their sakes.
Lizzie had aimed at the Winder, but took its loss as nothing in

Now the Higginses had a little old-fashioned suite (I'd describe it if
I had time, though it wasn't called a "suite," but a "set of cheers
an' sofy," or something, when they got it) that had been sewn up in
covers and stowed away in the spare room--to make room for the
ironing--and regularly unsewn, dusted, and cleaned every spring for
ten years or more, and sewn up and stowed again, and was little the
worse for its twenty years or so of want of air and human society. It
was bought before Lizzie was born. Now Lizzie had told Billy not to
buy a suite just yet, so one night, while Billy was away, and with the
connivance of one or two neighbour cronies, the new old furniture was
carried down, and set out in the freshly-cleaned front parlour of
Billy's cottage, where it was discovered by Billy early in the
morning, greatly to his surprise, and to his eternal gratitude
thereafter, in spite of what came later. But to Lizzie it was nothing
in particular, for she had known it all along.

"They be just like startin' as Higgins an' me started, an' meant to
keep on," old Mrs. Higgins was heard to say, with a momentary
evanishment of the twinkle, I should think. I wonder if she and the
old man talked it over that night, and by a dying fire, and by their
lonely old selves. I wonder. Yes, I wonder. As they started, and meant
to keep on.

They went across the fields to the little grey old composite church--
whose repairs looked older than itself, with their filled-in and
mended and shored-up cracks--and got married. Or, Lizzie married
Billy. "In the spring-time, Joe the ostler and sweet Annie Smith were
wed." Old Higgins went round apart and by a way of his own. It was a
way of his own, and they knew him, "let 'un bide.' They do so in
England. I wish they'd do so more in Australia. His figure was seen at
times over the hedges, or gaps in them, in his Sunday best, which made
small difference in his appearance, and none in his gait or manner;
and he steered his bend through the narrow hedges and round unexpected
corners like a man with the nose-ring of fate in his nose and his
hands tied behind. And so another triangle of life was set up.

And his wife and friends. Well, see the average English melodrama with
a village wedding and breakfast--say "Hoodman Blind." It ain't so very
far out. And we all rehearse, whether before a wedding or a funeral,
though not one speak a word nor make a sign to each other at the
rehearsal. And most of us know it.

They gave a breakfast at the beerhouse (I'm beginning to feel brutal),
mostly as a tribute to little Billy's goodness and his smile. His
brother Tom was not there, and they never spoke again till the end of
his world came to Billy.

Leonard dropped in, which was affable of Mr. Leonard, and spoke a few
words, which nearly all consisted of "as the sayin' is"--his habitual
expression in times of peace, sociality, or festivity.

"He had great pleasure, as the sayin' is, in gettin' up, as the sayin'
is, to say a few words, as the sayin' is. I have known the Higginses,
as the sayin' is, since ever they was Higginses, as the sayin' is. And
I've known Lizzie Higgins, as the sayin' is, since the first day she
was an Iggins, as the sayin' is." (Great applause at this unexpected
"point," most unexpected by Leonard himself.) "I've--I've nursed her
on me knee, as the sayin' is. An' as for Billy there, as the sayin'
is--as the sayin' is--has the sayin' is. Here, Snike, as the sayin'
is, help the missus an' the girl to clear out all them pewters to the
bar, as the sayin' is, an' tell Coxgrave (the landlord) to fill 'em
all up, as the sayin' is--and--and--All the pewters in the house, as
the sayin' is. I'm winded." He must have stage-fright himself to
"shout" like that.

I don't know how the couple put in the time after breakfast, but
suppose Lizzie took Billy for a practical stroll, and the others went
to work, as the sayin' is.

Lizzie was a model housekeeper.

There came to Chawlton an old chum of Billy's. He couldn't have been a
very old chum, but Billy said he was. Anyway, a chap as Billy knowed
in London turned up, hard up, but that was between him and Billy.

Bob Cleaves was tall, slight, and quiet, with a good face, brown eyes,
and no smile. He is the Man Without a Smile of the story. There's a
legend or superstition in the nations that all brown eyes are, or once
were, true and kind. Perhaps they were, before they were taught, in
love, war, ambition, and commerce, by the hazel, grey, green, and all
the evil shades of blue. Bob Cleaves was put up in the spare room for
the night after Billy had exhausted the evening and a couple of
neighbour cronies telling them all how he and Bob at first met in
London, and the times, up and down, and the larks they had had
together. One of the cronies listened in silence for an hour or so,
and then clinched it--the silence--by saying, "Oh, well, what about
havin' a half-pint afore bed?" Bob had been a school child with some
of them, but none remembered him favourably, if at all. At the
beerhouse Bob was introduced all round; and Billy had a quiet talk
with him on the way back, and under the hedge, during which Bob kept
saying, "Don't you bother, Billy," "I can put up anywheres," "You
always were bothering about me," "I tell you I'll be alright," etc.,

That night there was a whispered consultation between Billy and Lizzie
in bed. "A lot o' whisperin' goin' on," as guests say under similar
and other circumstances. "A hell of a lot er whisperin' goin' on," as
our Bill or Jim might say. And next morning Billy had another quiet
talk with Bob, and Bob stayed on till Billy got him a job at the
brickfields. And Bob stayed on as a boarder. It was a practical
proposal, and Lizzie agreed to it; it was as easy to do for two as
one, she said. Perhaps it occurred to her vaguely that the thing might
make a little talk. It did. Paying boarders didn't come to the hutches
every season. The women were indifferent to Bob, but viciously
envious--keen on the subject. The men were not interested. And the men
were always very conservative with regard to things which were likely
to make talk in the village. They got too much of it at meal times and
in bed. It was talk that drove one of them to drink and the dogs after
twenty years of sober married life. He was the hopeless village sot.
But they were a steady class, and not easily driven, as a rule--except
in the case of two husbands who were last heard of in Tasmania and New
Zealand. The survivors were adverse to others being driven abroad,
because, although it eased the labour market, it made more talk. They
preferred extra hardship to extra talk.

Bob didn't talk at all, but was none the more popular for that; you
see he "wasn't a woman"--jest a labourer like themselves, and "no
better than none of 'em." Bob had been "parculiar" from the little
that they remembered of him at school. He was supposed to "have
notions." He was supposed to be a come-by-chance, "found under a
gooseberry bush"--his father unknown, and his "mother" or "aunt"
doubtful in both cases. He was supposed to be the son of--some one. He
was supposed to be related to--. He was supposed to be somebody-of-
importance's brother, nephew, or something. But, as far as I could
hear, he was never supposed to be a shy, sensitive, self--and village-
tortured child, of higher inherited intelligence than the rest.

Anyway, he was sent or taken to London by his mother, or whatever she
was, and forgotten.

Poor little Billy was bursting with secrets, several big, astounding
ones, which comforted and held him up, no doubt, at periods when Bob
seemed slighted or extra unpopular. Big secrets about Bob takin' him
into a London newspaper buildin', and showing him round the basement.
Astounding secret about Bob slipping him in behind the scenes of a
theayter one morning. Bob had been probably lumper or messenger, or
one of a legion of imps and devils, in one place, and super, or
possibly call boy, in another. The secret that Bob had been married
was a secret that Billy didn't want, and had no use for. All he knew
was that the marriage had been a mess, a bad job all round, and that
was sufficient for Billy. Bob had his big, honest sympathy, and it
would have been the same had the wife been an angel and Bob a fiend in
married life, and Billy had known it. Billy didn't know anything about
married life, and never offered an opinion concerning it either one
way or the other.

He was bound to keep the other's secrets, because, once out, they
would have led to many questions and speculations, and may have made
one or two fiendships. And Bob didn't want either talk or
appreciation. Billy's was too much, but Bob bore with him, when he
couldn't get away from it. Billy was "too good to be hurt or put

His leisure life seemed almost a clause of appreciation and attendance
round Bob Cleaves, and the others forebore unkind or sarcastic
comments for Billy's sake. Besides, they went in fear of Bob's grammar
and pronunciation.

Lizzie admitted to Billy, in a nothing-of-consequence tone, that she
didn't like Bob at first--couldn't stand him, in fact. But she didn't
mind him now. When Billy, puzzled, asked why, she said, "Oh, nothing
in particular." Bob had done nothing to her. Billy confided to Bob,
seizing a favourable moment, "It's alright, Bob, she's beginning t'
like yer now."

The talk went on amongst the women, lowering and resentful, also
impatient, because "nothing seemed to come of it."

There was a woman, in as near the centre of the row of brick dog
kennels as possible, who had a hunchbacked daughter, which daughter
seemed physically and mentally more a birth of her mother's warped,
twisted and evil mind than of her body, which was straight and healthy
enough. But she had given her her face. These two were the guardians
of the village morality, or immorality, when there was a sign of it,
and they kept watch and ward by turns day and night. It was seldom,
after dark, but one or the other evil neck was craned over the front
hedge, with the pinched and twisted face turning this way and that, to
the discomfiture of chance passersby strolling along pipe in mouth in
the dusk, and unaware of the existence of such sinister creatures

A newly-made widow in the other half of their hutch, whose sweet went
out of her life with her husband, started a lolly and tobacco shop in
the front parlour. And the evil ones never rested nor let their man
rest until they started their evil window in opposition. But they
couldn't get a boarder like Lizzie. "Just fancy the likes o' her
'avin' a boarder--an' Billy not seein' what that was for."

The husband and father was an elderly labouring man, solid and heavy,
such as often drive tip-drays, in moleskins, Crimean shirt, with belts
and "bowyang," out here on waterworks, with pipe and handkerchief
stuck in belt behind, like a small pistol, to shoot out a boil in his
mouth, and a rag to wipe his mouth afterwards. (Any labouring face
will do him, so long as the mouth is a nasty one.)

A month or so went by, or some say weeks, and then one beautiful
moonlight evening Brennan, the silent man, with Reynolds' Newspaper,
after listening to Billy and Bob for some minutes, steadied his pipe
with his hand and said--

"Look here, Billy, if I was you I wouldn't have Bob stayin' with yer."

"W-why?" gasped Billy, taken too suddenly to gain time by asking,
"What's that?"

"Never mind, Billy, it ain't right. I know more'n you do. Take my

"But, man alive, what 'arm 'as Bob--"

"It ain't the 'arm as is done, but the 'arm made on it, and," he
added, half mumbling his pipe, "the 'arm as might come of it."

"What?" said Billy, promptly and sharply for him, but perhaps
unconsciously so.

"Now, look here, Billy. I know more of the world 'n you do. You've
been knocking around London for years, and been abroad, if the truth
is known"--(Billy blushed and started) "an' me ain't more'n once or
twist a week for an hour or so in ther fruit 'n crop season. But I
know more'n you do about men an' women. If you took an' knocked about
the world for a lifetime, an' me rooted here, I'd know more about the
world an' you do, Billy. Take my advice, an' talk to Bob quietly, an'
tell him there's talk. There's other places where he'll do--where he'd
be comfortable, I mean." And Brennan jerked impatiently and stood up
at the same time. Billy began--

"Why, who the--has been--a--?"

"It's no use, Billy," said the silent man, with the clamp still on.
"It's for your own good--an' some one else's. Now I've said it all."

"Do you mean--?"

"I don't mean--to say--one--more--word, Billy, You know me, Billy. I'm
your friend in this." Billy left, rubbing his head, bothered and
worried on Bob's account, without yet understanding, and he concluded
by wondering what on earth had come over Arthur Brennan. But Brennan
was always a rum card.

But, strange to relate, that very week, and within such short times of
each other that it fairly twirled poor little Billy's head, three of
the other men gave or hinted or blurted out the same advice, according
to their different "ways."

And on top of it all, and, of all men, Leonard, standing as described
at his side-back-front gate (there was another leading out towards
Halliford), called the passing Billy back, and, after an unwonted
pause, said, with a preface, almost the same things, in the same
words, and in the same manner--save for the watch-dog smile and the
"sayin' is"--and with the same pipe play, as had Brennan.

"Look here, Billy, as the sayin' is, I don't want to interfere with
the village, as the sayin' is--nor anybody's private affairs, as the
sayin' is--but I know more about the world 'n you do, Billy, as the
sayin' is, though you have knocked about London, as the sayin' is, an'
been abroad, as the sayin' is--as the sayin' is. But I'd advise you to
get rid of that there Bob, as the sayin' is. No!--now I've got nothing
against him, as the sayin' is, but there's talk, as the sayin' is, and
I don't like smash-ups in the village, as the sayin' is. It--it will
interfere with the rents, as the sayin' is, and leads to intruptions
with farm work at an awkward time, as the sayin' is. And I can't build
and keep up village for nothing, as the sayin' is. Besides, you're a
good tenant, and so is the Higgins, as the sayin' is. Take my advice,
as the sayin' is, an' let Bob go and get married, an' settle down like
the rest of 'em, as the sayin' is. There'll be boys wanted for the
farm yet, as the sayin' is, and girls too. A--a kick's as good as a
wink to a blind horse, as the sayin' is."

Even then poor little Billy felt a "catch" of triumph for his friend
in the knowledge that Bob had been married, and drew a breath of
relief before he knew it, "as the sayin' is."

Then, when little Billy pulled himself together, he set to work at
once to get to the root of the matter; and did, after several
whispered and determined interviews, that very night.

"So it's that--old bitch an' her henchbeck daughter. I might a-known
it wi'out askin'. God forgive Billy! but I've heerd Bob hisself say,
'Never trust a dwarf, or a hunchback, or a cripple.'" Then he went in
to Lizzie.

He started to broach the subject delicately, and found great
difficulty, but presently he got at it, without knowing it. He was
somewhat surprised to find that she had known about the talk all
along, but had considered it less than nothing in particular, and
didn't want to be bothered listening about it. But Billy forgot his
surprise in his anger on Bob's account, and he warmed up to the thing.

"God forgive Billy! but I'll show'm I ain't agoin' to have that--old
woman an' her henchback daughter acomin' atween Bob an' you an' me.
Bob was my chum arter I broke wi' Tom an' all on 'em first time. We
was chums and pals in London. Bob came arter I broke wi' Tom last
time--or--at--least arter that--sister-in-law o' mine broke it for
us." Then with more loss of control. "We was warm, we was--me an' Tom.
We never had a dry word afore that--sister-in-law o' mine came atween
us. She'd a come atween me an' you. She tried hard. She set Tom agin
you, Lizzie. An' she visits that--old slut with the henchbeck
daughter. God forgive Billy! An' now they'd set me agin Bob. An' me
an' Bob never had a dry word yet. God forgive Billy! But I'll show
'm." Then with a change of the weather and a return to calmness.
"Don't you take no notice, Lizzie, me girl. It was all because you
walked home from Shepperton wi' Bob that night. Now, I'll show 'm.
(Impressively.) You walk home from Shepperton with Bob as often as
he's goin' that way, when I'm not at home to walk to Shepperton wi'
yer. You take a walk out with Bob if yer want a walk an' he's willin',
an' I'm at ther bricks an' not able to take a stroll with yer. Jest to
show'm, Lizzie. Bob's talk won't do yer no 'arm, Lizzie. There's
gipsies and tramps, an'--I was obliged to Bob that night, Lizzie, I
was. Jest to show'm. I've never been mixed with no talk in my life
before like this, an' I won't. But we'll show'm, Lizzie, an' look
here, Lizzie, me lass, you can let 'em know I told yer, if yer like,
just to let 'em know what I think on it."

Lizzie said she wouldn't be bothered. "But we must be bothered about
things like this, Lizzie. But don't you forgit. We'll show'm. Don't
you worry. You jest do as I tell yer."

Lizzie said she wouldn't worry.

"God forgive Billy," he said, rendered desperate by her utter
indifference towards the man he really worshipped, "God forgive Billy!
but Bob--Bob saved my life with the feaver in--in Australia, as I
never talk about--an' pulled me through, an'--an' help me home--an'--
an' God forgive Billy! Bob's married, an' had trouble, an'--an'--
Lizzie--has got a kid--a little girl--with some people in Australia,
as he's slavin' for, an'--breakin' his heart for. Who'd think any harm
o' Bob. But we'll show'm, Lizzie."

It was a mistake. There were no signs of a little baby with a smile

"Well, why did he come away for?" asked Lizzie.

"She left him," said Billy.

"Well, wasn't he rid of her?"

"No," said Billy, "she took him to court for desertin' her, and made
him pay to keep 'er, an' when 'e couldn't pay she put him in gaol. An'
if he goes back without all the money he didn't send 'er, she'll put
'im in gaol again."

"But how could she do that if she ran away from him?" asked Lizzie.
"Y' talkin' nonsense."

"God forgive Billy! It's the way the law is out there," said Billy.
"Now, don't you understand?"

But Lizzie said she didn't understand it at all.

"His talk won't do you no harm," said little Billy with resentful
pride in his friend. The tall man without the smile, who didn't talk,
could speak earnestly on occasion. Maybe he had once been earnest. He
could speak sincerely and sympathetically and kindly of the troubles
of others--no doubt he had been sincere, sympathetic and practically
kind. Such a man could talk love and seem true, even to a self-loving
and vanity-blinded woman. Perhaps he had once been true. He could
speak quietly, strongly and very decisively in a misunderstanding, no
matter on whose side, and be very impressive. Maybe he had once been a
dangerous man in anger. He could make it appear, without saying so,
that he had been through more trouble than most men, and in this he
was a great relief to the man or woman who cannot be content to be met
halfway by the trouble of others, so to speak, but charge, and dodge,
and try every way which a rapid tongue can do to break through,
outflank and take in the rear the others' defences--and for what good?
But anyway, he was a dangerous man with any woman (perhaps
unconsciously or half consciously dangerous), the more so because he
was incapable, no matter how hard he tried, of constancy. But he may
once, and for years, have been domesticated, affectionate, a kind
husband and father, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He may
once have believed in himself. Mrs. Coxgrave, the woman with the red
hair rheumatic husband, and no child, was on several occasions
interrupted, and once by the maternal snake, too, talking earnestly to
him in the bar when her husband was laid up above stairs. And it made
no talk--"They was only talkin' about rheumatism." I wonder now if--

The evil neck and faces craned over the little quick-set hedges,
looking both ways in vain, till one bright afternoon Bob, who avoided
the house during Billy's absence, came out of the Farmers' Arms from a
silent half-pint, just as Lizzie was passing on her way to Shepperton
for a piece of silk for a belt that a new blouse was "waitin' on," and
Bob being going there too, as Defoe would put it, for a pair of
working boots, and being already turned in that direction, and the
eyes of both hags being on them, there was nothing for it but to walk
to Shepperton together. Then one evil neck and head was seen over
hedges and through gaps going in the direction of Sumpthin-on-Mud,
like a swimming snake's head showing out of green water at times, and
the other was left on watch. Later on, at dusk, both necks and heads
were over the fence, turning, turtle-like, and seeming also curiously
turtle-like, as if the creatures were in torture.

But it was Billy who returned with Her Nothing-in-particularness,
having joined her where the Four Lanes met, on his happy strolling way
home from the bricks. And his smile came too.

The necks and heads retired to their back hole to confer. She (Lizzie)
was carryin' it off well--they'd say that much for her. Or it had all
come out, and Bob was gone, and they was hidin' it. Or Billy was
actin', though no one would have dreamed it of Billy, of all men in
the world. "But," said the elder and more experienced snake, "you
could never tell them sort of men. There was that there little Wells
when his missus was carrying on with, etc., etc. Anyway, if Billy
warn't actin' it was a cryin' shame; some of the chaps ought to--She'd
do it herself in a minit if they thought Billy'd bleave a word
agenst--But there, there was no thanks or credit in being mixed up
with sich dirty affairs."

So a couple of months went by, or say some weeks, and Billy coming
home very tired one evening found no tea ready, for the first time;
but Lizzie came in shortly afterwards, having walked home with Bob,
who dropped into the Farmers' Arms--which were never stretched out for
him, by the way--for his silent half-pint. There seemed something
savagely defiant in his manner that evening. A week or so later the
same thing occurred again, and it occurred to Billy that Lizzie was
"carrying the thing on."

Then one evening Billy went to the kilns to watch the fires all night,
and a lump of shale fell on his foot, hurting it badly, and he came
limping home with a mate an hour or so later. The house was in
darkness, and Lizzie was not upstairs with one of her occasional
nothing-in-particular headaches. The men and women conferred, and he
was told that she had gone to Shepperton.

"Well, where's Bob, then?" said Billy.

After hesitating, shuffling, a little bluffing, and a hustling of
Billy into bed by the women, it was admitted that Bob had gone too.

But the news of Billy's accident went clod-hopping to Shepperton
shortly afterwards, with the farm hand that went for the doctor, and
got to Lizzie's ears, and she came hurrying home. And Billy, being in
pain, they had dry words after the doctor had gone, and, as poor Mrs.
Higgins put it afterwards, they "said things to each other as they
couldn't forget," which, summed up, with the sad warning added
thereto, will go further, I hope, than poor Mrs. Higgins ever dreamed
of it going.

But to Billy the worst result of the dry words was that Bob
overheard--or was told--probably by one of the necks and heads over
the fence, the only seeming signs of human being in sight when he came
home, rather hurriedly, and of whom he inquired the particulars of
Billy's accident. Bob went to Halliford that night, and arranged to
board and lodge with a silent old couple of whom he'd heard--or,
rather, not heard, so to speak. Billy did his best when he recovered,
but Bob was never the same to him, and Billy's sorrow for it was deep
and sincere.

"They was warm, they was. They never had a dry word until d--d
cacklin', kack-kak-kakin' ole hags came atween 'em."

And they'd come atween him and Lizzie too, it seemed. She was more
careful of the home and Billy than ever--in that damnedly pointed way
that open-hearted little Billy couldn't understand. And his heart
began to break with sorrow and anxiety. He was no match for her. Her
manner led from "Now, Lizzie, me lass" to dry words; so in the end she
wouldn't even tell him that there wasn't nothing in particular the
matter with her, and it frightened him as much as when she had told
him so, and obstinately refused to enter into details, saying she
couldn't be bothered.

Then things began to be hinted to him about Bob's character, and at
last plainly, things that he "oughter been told," about Bob and
Coxgrave's wife having been seen together in an out-of-the-way place
and an out-of-the-way time. And his heart began to change towards Bob.
But, God forgive Billy! never a doubt of Lizzie.

Lizzie had never been able to get on with her mother, so there was no
hope for poor Billy in that quarter. They'd have to fight it out
between themselves, as she and Higgins had to do, arter they'd started
and meant to go on in the same way.

Then the drifting hopelessly apart, as it seems to the husband, of a
couple that had ever been hopelessly apart. The sickening suspicion
(how long and cruelly it takes to become a settled, serviceable,
useful, fruit-bearing certainty) that his wife doesn't love him any
longer, the wife who never loved him at all; that she doesn't want
him, she who never did, and only married him on impulse, or for
vanity, or caprice, or to be her own mistress in a home of her own, or
because of rows at home, or because somebody else wanted him or her,
or didn't want her, or through disappointment, chagrin, or spite. What
fools men are! Or because, only, of his looks, money, position, name,
or fame. The soulsickening suspicion and fright of the good, kind,
generous, or "soft" husband, that his wife wants to get rid of him--
the wife who had an eye to that contingency from the first, and had
started wanting to get rid of him early. The blindness, the pitiful,
unmanly pleading of the husband whose wife is not, and never was, fit
to blacken his boots, who never had a sincerely kind thought or
considerate moment for him. When the only cure is separation to a
distance, a year or two to recover, and a stern and life-long
adherence to the creed or philosophy of unforgiveness.

Then the paltry, useless, wasting quarrels. "I didn't want to marry
you,"..."Better men than you," and so on, and wearyingly so on, to the
exasperating, maddening and sickening and ruining unending of it all.

Billy was a little man who used to run out of the house, and through a
gap in the back hedge, and round through brooks, over stiles and
gates, across lanes, and so in a circle home, when very much upset.
Lizzie's persistent silence used to make him do this. Some men have
wives who nag eternally; others will wait on them for days in
obstinate, idiotic silence.

Lizzie considered in a practical, nothing-in-particular way that she
might have to see a doctor about Billy's head if he went on like that,
and that the doctor might have to put him in the mad-house if he got
too bad. They call a spade a spade amongst Lizzie's class in England.

Some wives "never quarrel," but can drive any husband mad, all the
same; so one day Billy suddenly felt his arm stiffen and hand
clench!...He wrenched himself out of the kitchen in time, and from
the verge of "It," and half ran all the way to Shepperton, having
stumbled into the Farmers' Arms to borrow a cap, which the Farmers'
Arms hastened to lend him without question, and with a rough show of
understanding. But neither the Farmers' Arms nor Billy understood yet,
though the Arms thought it did. Billy was soon to understand. He
caught the train for London with a wild idea of going to some people
he'd been "warm" with--but never so warm as he'd been with Bob.

Then the reaction came, and Billy began to think, wildly at first, but
he began to think, and the elastic reins of Fate to draw him back, and
the more he thought, the stronger they drew, and the more the home he
was warm in seemed to ward him off and repel him. He had never yet
carried his troubles outside his own home--his father's, brother's, or
his own--and his head and limbs gave an impatient jerk of shame at the
sharp, sudden thought of having contemplated doing so now.

Then "Lizzie." Then "poor Lizzie!" Then the swift review of his
married life, which had been happy compared with past homes and life.
Then the horror of "It" (the stiffened arm and clenched fist) struck
him with full force in all its sickening, stomach chilling
hideousness. The horror that It might happen; but he would see to

He got out of the train at Waterloo, but would not go back the same
way. He hurried across to the Staines line platform, and caught a
train there. That would give him time to think, and calm down. Glimpse
of slanting lights on sinister dark water somewhere. He had been a
lunatic, a brute, etc. He could see it all now. Lizzie was the best
little wife in the world. All her good points were remembered, or
imagined, and his bad qualities loomed and ran before him on the same
line...Then the thought that perhaps he'd lost her affections for
good and all. But--God forgive Billy!--he'd win her back...Then the
thought--the black, tormenting, devilish one...The thought of the
Thing sent him sick to the stomach.

And it was only natural--"A woman must have summon." He took hurried,
insane comfort in finding all excuses for Something he feared might
happen. Perhaps he had been driving her to summon else's arms all the
time in his cursed blindness and obstinacy. If he only had Bob to talk
to! But then he had driven Bob away from him too...It was only
natural; a woman would go to summon sooner or later. But he--He got up
and leaned out of the window, and looked ahead with wild nervousness.
Then he sat down determinedly, and glanced round quietly, ashamed of
his foolishness. The carriage was full, but it was not that; Billy was
alone. You can be more alone in an English railway carriage than in
any other place in the world. He filled his pipe and lit it as
stolidly as the rest, but it was not "acting." Then It all came over
again. And the wheels: "Too late--too--late--too late--God forgive
Billy! God forgive Billy! God forgive Billy!" Bricks and bricks, and
lights and streets, and "circuses" swinging. Suburbs and bridges and
houses and gardens, and "grounds" and a village, and the London road,
and avenues, hedges and fields and lights and river. He took his hand
from his pipe, clamping it decisively. Flashes of reason and comfort--
"Too late--too late--too late--God forgive Billy--God forgive Billy,
God forgive Billy."

.   .   .   .   .

The long walk from Staines in the moonlight seemed as nothing, though
he walked for all in the world. It was a dream till he neared Sunbury,
where he started and went cold and sick again with a new unexpected
sensation or apprehension. He was in that state when a man sees his
wife everywhere, in the impossible places and times, with the
impossible other man, and whose first instinct is to hide and get
away, and next, when it is too late, to follow. I wonder how many
mistakes have been made through these states of minds. Just as he
reached "Chawlton" the strain snapped, leaving him oh so gratefully
tired! It was all over now. He'd go in and go to bed like a sensible
man, and--.

The house was shut up and dark, and Lizzie not upstairs, but the signs
of having changed her dress hurriedly were in the room. Its very
cleanliness rebuked him. This was the first time he'd run out so long,
and she'd got anxious and gone to Shepperton to look for him, of
course. Her mother's home was shut up, so she wasn't there. But Lizzie
was not the one to go to her mother with her troubles, and Billy felt
a pang of shame that he had with his. She'd hear in Shepperton that
he'd gone in the London train, of course, and was waiting there for
him, at a friend's place no doubt. He walked sanely on towards
Shepperton. Just before he reached the Four Lanes he saw some one
ahead, coming towards him, and in a sudden wave of shame he slipped
into the ditch--he had often done that as a lad, but when in mischief.
The couple came close, and a feeling of curiosity and mischief came to
Billy. It was a happy relief. He drew himself up and laid against the
grassy bank of the six-foot ditch. The blurred couple came nearer.
"Danged if it ain't that skangtimonious painter's daughter with her
fiddle lesson," thought Billy. "I'd 'a took her for Lizzie in a
minute. An' who's him? An' who'd 'a thought it? I wonder what the
henchbeck and her daughter's bin doin' with their time?"

They came closer, hip to hip, the girl walking haltingly and
awkwardly, as girls do when held tightly in such a position. They
paused nearly opposite Billy's eyes in the grass, and the man seemed
trying to draw the girl aside to the shadow of the opposite hedge,
where there was a gate--and some words were spoken. Then Billy was out
and at him, and Lizzie, in her new hat, walking rapidly towards
"Chawlton." She had dropped the cardboard box as if it were nothing in
particular--a holly spray, perhaps.

There was another man in the ditch who crept and ran along the bottom
of it. The taller of the two went down, of course, in the
unexpectedness of the attack. He got up, threw out his hands blindly
and went down again; he was slow this time and started to get up
"gropin' like," the watcher said. "When the little 'un laid 'olt on
'im, tryin' to lift 'im an' workin' an' bustin' hisself like a loon-
antic." No doubt Bob was stricken and handicapped with the swift
consciousness of his own guiltiness, and it flashed through his mind,
at the first blow, that it was vengeance and not footpads that had

"God forgive Billy? Get up, you--? Get up, you--? God forgive--.
Are you hurt, you--? Are you hurt, you--? Say it--or--I'll--
I'll--" Bob said "No." A "naw" was sorter jerked out in 'im, the
watcher said. Billy slipped round behind him, got his hands under his
armpits and strove to lift him.

Then suddenly, Billy let him down on his back and started to run. "He
run like a lunatic, towards 'Sumpthin-on-the-Mud.'" "An' it was well
he did," said the watcher. "There were a stake layin' alongst 'andy
'an I saw the little 'un glare at it sideways as if it was a snake--or
a peeler's helmet over the hedge--" (he was a poacher) "'n then the
'orrors seemed to come on him an' he runned. I never seed a man run
like 'im. He runned tords Sumpthin-on-Mud."

Bob got up, groped for his hat, turned to all Four Lanes, hesitated a
moment, and then started to walk swiftly towards "Chawlton."

Little Billy, panting, stumbled into the gutter of Sumpthin-on-Mud,
scrambled up, and knocked at his brother's door. There was a light in
the "top front winder."

"Who's there?"


Tom came down and let Billy in without a word, and closed the door
behind him.

"'Old me, Tom! 'old me!--All this night!"

Tom struck another match, keeping one hand on Billy's shoulder. Then
he lit the lamp--and, the oldsideboard, the old armchair, the old
prints, and all the old things that were the old folks' started out in
the darkness in the close little room.

Rose came down in an old chintz wrapper, uncovered the fire, put some
kindling wood and the kettle on, set out bread and cheese, and, at a
jerk of Tom's head, went upstairs again. Then Billy got up restlessly.

"I--I must go out 'n walk up an' down in the yard a bit, Tom," he

"All right, Billy--I'll go out with you."

"I ain't going away, Tom."

"It's all right, Billy, I'll go out with yer. I'll take me pipe an'
have a smoke in the open."

Tom sat down on the old stump outside, and Billy walked to and fro

He raved, maudlingly, at first. "I tries to be a good husband t'her,
Tom!--I did try--" Then incoherently and insanely. Strange to say he
never mentioned Bob's name. It was as though Bob were a detail--a
forgotten accident, or the unknown man or men in Billy's great life
trouble. Tom smoked in silence until the first likely interval.

"Billy, where's your pipe?" he said, smoking his.

"I--I can't smoke, Tom!--Tom--I did try--"

"You can smoke while you're walkin' up an' down. Gimme your pipe." Tom
filled the pipe.

"Now light up."

Presently Billy sat down on the wash-stool and said: "You go into bed
now, Tom, you've got to go to work in the morning. I'm all right. I'll
be in presently."

"And what about you?" said Tom. "You've let your pipe go out--here,
catch the matches."

"I'll go in now, Tom, I'm only keeping you up."

Billy sat down in the armchair. Tom on another, smoking and thinking.
Presently Billy lifted his head, and his eyes went wide and wild, like
a grief-stricken woman's, round the room, and his hands rested loosely
on the arms of the chair.

"To think I'm sittin' here in mother's chair like this t'night, Tom!--
like this t'night--"

Tom puffed once or twice.

"Poor mother," he muttered, "she didn't last long arter you went,
Billy--she didn't lay long, she warn't one of that sort. An' we didn't
keep her long, not more'n two days. Work slack, wages low, an' Rose
down with little Tommy. Poor mother! all her thoughts were o' you,

Billy's hopeless eyes went round the room again. Sideboard, china
shepherd and shepherdess, crochet-work, shells, coral, model of Dover
under glass (very like the real Dover, with toy houses and white and
vivid green), chairs with antimacassars, and holland covers, and
father on the wall to the left of fireplace, and mother on the wall to
right. Billy as a baby, Billy as a boy. Tom as a boy, Billy and Tom
together as boys. Jane as a baby, Jane as a girl, Jane and Willie and
Tom as children. Aunt Caroline, Uncle Will, and the rest about.
Billy's head went slowly down. Tom stood by the chair, laid his hand
on his head and ruffled it, as he'd done in his best moods when a boy.
The head went right down on the hollow of the arm, as it had done in
grief when a boy--the hand stuck up in mute appeal. Tom laid his pipe
on the table, hurriedly for him, and took that hand in his own great
hard one.

Billy was quiet in the morning. Tom stood over him at breakfast and
made him eat--much the same as he'd made him do most things when they
were boys. Then he said, "Now fill your pipe and get your hat, Billy,
an' come along."

Tom had been out early, or had got what we call a bush telegraphy or
mulga wire, for when they reached the Four Lanes he said--

"Now, Billy, she's gone, and taken her things. You go and make the
best you can with Leonard about the rent and the furniture, and come
back to my place to-night. Rose will take care of yer. And look here,
Billy, if you want to go away, I'll help you, and one or two others.
To Australia again, if you like. Say the word."

"No," says Billy, "I run away once in a family mess, an' left it all
to you an' mother--to the other end of the world. An' God forgive
Billy! I'll see it out this time, Tom."

"Gi' me y'hand, Billy," said Tom. "That's the way to talk. I ain't
felt so proud of you since you stood up to young Scroggins at school.
Now I must git to work." And he turned Billy towards Chawlton, and
started him off with a slap on the back.

Leonard took the furniture from Billy, in return for the loss of rent
and a tenant.

"Well, Billy, as the sayin' is, all I've got to say, as the sayin' is,
is that I told you so, as the sayin' is. I knew it all along, as the
sayin' is, and saw it comin', as the sayin' is. But you wouldn't take
my advice, as the sayin' is, and--and you've only got yourself to
blame, as the sayin' is. But I'll say no more about it, as the sayin'
is, an' as the fruit season's on, as the sayin' is, I'll take yer on
with Brennan and the horses and the wagons, as the sayin' is, and--and
you can sleep in the house if you like till I get a tenant, as the
sayin' is."

Think of the last favour!

There are unwritten laws amongst men in English lanes as well as in
the Bush. Bob had a woman to keep now, and Billy none, so there was no
reason why he should leave his job or be displaced in favour of Billy,
even if Billy had wished it. It was all otherwise.

But the brick-makers, becoming used to Bob's grammar and punctuation,
chaffed him about Lizzie until the heavy labouring man, who made nasty
remarks, tried them on Bob once. Bob knocked him down without a word,
glance, or gesture of warning.

"Lie there, you--!" he said through his teeth. "You--! If it had
not have been for your wife and daughter, I'd not have been living
with another man's wife to-day!"

When Lizzie left Bob, which she did as if it was nothing in particular
to do, she went to housekeep for a widower in Staines, where, I
believe, she was some class, and respected by tradespeople, and looked
up to by upper maids.

I heard some more of the story in Nineteen Three, coming along down by
Italy, which looks like our own coast, on board the N.D.L. Gera. Billy
was aboard--no matter how. I had had chats with him, and a little talk
with Tom. Tom and I understood each other without asking questions.
Bob, I knew, by one of the merest accidents that always happen in
London (or on the road past Suez), was aboard the Karlshruhe, a
fortnight ahead. There was another man aboard the Gera--the old
suspected Chawlton poacher, George Bowels. Yes, there were poachers at
Chawlton. I know, because I have been accessory both before and after
the fact, and only lack of experience prevented me from aiding and
abetting. However, I've been sort of volunteer, or anauthorised scout,
once or twice, sort of noncommissioned spy. The silent language of
wrong-doing is learnt and understood like lightning. Wonderful, isn't
it? They reckoned I was a gent, and would never give them away: the
first time I felt proud of being a gent in England.

George, or Jarge, Bowels was going to Australia as William Southern,
an alias that prepossessed me in his favour. Billy and he were
shipmates comfortably enough, and neither spoke of the Chawlton in the
other's presence, that I could hear. But I got Bowels in a
confidential mood one beautiful evening on the fo'c'le head, while
Billy was playing cards.

Jarge came to the subject promptly and cheerfully.

"Yes, I was in the ditch, an' see it all. Yes, we as 'as to 'ide in
ditches at nights sees many things. We often sees what bigger folk 'ud
lose. That Lizzie wasn't no good, she wasn't, and 'ad a child in
Lunnen afore ever she seed 'Smilin' Billy.' I knowed it all, though I
was never class enough for any on 'em. Me own sisternlaw took care on
the child in Lunnen; it died er the measles. Summon Billy's wadges
wenter pay, I guess. But Lizzie hadden' done nawthin' with Bob Cleaves
that night--not yit. I seed 'em meet at the Four Lanes--'e comin' from
the bricks an' she from Shepperton. He gin 'er a start, an' then when
he stooped t' speak she up an' kissed 'im like it warn't nothing in
particular. Then he grabbed 'er an' seemed to lose 'is 'ed. But they
'addin' done nawthin' yit; I heered all the talk. Then she seemed a
bit scared o' 'im, but kep' 'er 'ed. She allers kep' it. An' she
pulled in towards Chawlton, an' pulled 'im on with 'er, tellin' 'im to
be sensible like a good feller. Oh, but 'e was warm, 'e was. Nattrel;
bin away from women a long time, I believe. An' then Billy outs o' his
ditch an' at 'em...But wot d'ye want to bother about either on 'em
for. 'E was a 'ot 'un, an' she no good, an' Billy a fool--as bigger
fool as Coxgrave. Why, I seed 'er--Mrs. Coxgrave an' Bob Cleaves--but
I could 'a talked, I could. We as 'as to 'ide in ditches sees rum
things sometimes. But wot d'ye wanter bother about the like 'er them?
I could give yer boggins t' write on, ony day in the week, if that's
wot yer want. We as 'ide in ditches--Why, I could tell y'r--"

Some one got up from the other side of the stanchion, and went down on
deck. It was Billy, who had come up from cards feeling squeamish, and
sat there.

At Suez we heard that the Karlshruhe had lost a blade on a sandbank,
and we'd probably catch up to her on the voyage. And Bob aboard. What
would it be--fight or silent handshake?



London, September, 1900.

DEAR JACK,--You know I always had a great idea of the value of first
impressions--an exaggerated idea, you used to say. I have it stronger
than ever--indeed, I sometimes fear that the eagerness to seize first
impressions, and write them down before they become blurred and lost,
is becoming a mania with me. If I had to write up a big city I'd
rather be there a month than a year. We Australians seem to adapt
ourselves so quickly to strange places and upside-down conditions.
Already London walls seem less dark and dirty to me--London streets
less narrow, crowded and sordid, the whole city less like a big
squalid village. The houses are growing every day, and I suppose as I
go on the lives of the bulk of London humanity, and of two classes of
London society especially--that of fashionable West End and that of
Spitalfields, for instance--will seem less and less hopelessly useless
and unnecessary to the existence of the world. As I make friends, and
find halfway houses, so to speak, to drop into in my wanderings about
the city, the awful monotony of London ceases to oppress me. For the
first few days I thought it more dreadful than the monotony of the
Bush, and more utterly hopeless, seeing that the Bush becomes settled
and humanized, while London can only change with the changes of the

I suppose I'll make some blunders, in detail, with my first
impressions, but they will be the blunders of hundreds, maybe
thousands, who come to London, get the same impressions, and take 'em
away and never lose 'em. So my writings will still hold true as of
first impressions. I want to drive all this into your thick head,
because I intend to write to you pretty regularly, and I know that you
will regard some parts of my letters as cheap copy for that old
democratic rag of yours, the Come-by-Chance Boomerang. I don't mind--
it will save me writing at length to all the boys, as I promised.

I am writing under a disadvantage, for which I never bargained when I
left Australia. I have heard Australians say that you cannot get round
the real size of the difference between Sydney or Melbourne and London
until you return to Australia, and I feel now that that is true. A
returned Australian once said to me: "When you go to London you don't
think much of it, but when you come back to Sydney the houses seem
about a foot high." This was before they began to build sky-scrapers
in Australia. My present impression is that in Sydney city the houses
in general are higher than in London--but that is probably because of
the few really tall buildings in Sydney. You see, they don't allow
high buildings in London.

You do not so quickly realize the contrast between a big thing and a
small thing of the same kind, seen previously, as between a greater
thing, seen some time ago, and a lesser thing seen now. See? Well,
look here! St. Pancras Railway Station covers, under the unbroken arch
of roof (260 feet at the base), five long, comfortable platforms, a
wide carriage-way, and ten lines of rail; Redfern Station, Sydney--the
largest we have--has only two little platforms and a double line of
rail under the main roof. But the general idea is the same, and to
me--with three months and some fifteen thousand miles of ocean between
the two stations--St. Pancras is only Redfern blown out, or magnified,
but enlarged to an extent which I shall not be able to realize until I
strike Redfern again. St. Pancras is about--how many times bigger than
Redfern? but this doesn't strike you until you begin to study it out;
and I suppose few Australians who visit London would take that
trouble. This is scarcely a first impression, but let it pass. I have
an idea that when I go back, Sydney--where I spent the greatest part
of my life--will surprise me a deal more than London did at first.
Then for some first impressions of Sydney. And (this might sound like
a ridiculous paradox) I have an impression that Australians, who come
to London and stay awhile, never realize the size of their
disappointment--they keep on expecting to be surprised presently, and
having a vague idea that the street they're in must lead toward the
city proper--that London begins to grow on them and surprise 'em

There are many things I want to tell you about. We expect to find
English people cold, reserved and inhospitable, and are not
disappointed; but we seldom study the reasons. No need to come to
England for that. They are reserved and inhospitable, because they
have to be--they are so hopelessly bound by the same customs (or
superstitions) and cast-iron conditions, which are surely, and not too
slowly, gaining ground in Australian cities, and which papers like the
old Boomerang have been slogging at for years. The English do not
seem, to Australian city people, more cold-blooded than the people of
Australian cities themselves appear from a bushman's point of view.

I think, after all, the best thing I can do is to write straight on
and describe the things which I have up to date seen and experienced,
and the impressions I got from them; and I hope the reason for the
real (or apparent) inhospitality of English people, for the vague,
irritating feeling of disappointment we have on first visiting London,
and for many other things, will appear plain to you as I write.

By the way, they call wheat "corn" in England, so in speaking of you
to English friends I've had to explain that you were nicknamed after
the stalk of the Indian corn (maize), else they'd think you were a
very slender reed indeed to lean on or run against, instead of the
tough old stalk you are; but I suppose you are pretty slender after
the shearing season Out-Back--unless you've managed to hang on to the
editorial chair of the Boomerang. I think of old Come-by-Chance
sometimes; I suppose things are just as dull as ever in that dead-and-
alive township.

I'll tell you all about the voyage some other time. We had fog, thick,
heavy and wet as one of old "Curry-and--Rice's" dampers, from Spain,
past Plymouth, and nearly to Dover. Syren going the whole time, and
other syrens all round through the night. All the officers on the
bridge and the lookout men for'ard. "Light on the port bow, sir!"
"Light on the starboard bow, sir!" "Vessel on the port bow, sir!" all
the time. Somewhere coming out of the Bay of Biscay we just shaved a
big four-masted sailing ship that suddenly developed out of a smudge
in the fog. That's nothing in these waters. The ship's people kept
winding up mud and seaweed from the bottom to see where we were--
prospecting the bottom of the Channel. It wasn't what we'd call
"payable dirt" on the goldfields; this submarine prospecting delayed
us considerably, but it probably saved our lives. We saw Dover on a
fine, bright morning. You remember a picture in a glass case at home,
half picture, half modelled, with a cliff like a piece of scraped
chalk painted a bright green on top, and little Noah's ark houses with
dabs of colour for windows and doors, and trees--like those in a cheap
box of toys--stuck about the top of the cliff. Cliff too white, we
thought, and trees and grass altogether too green for anything of the
kind on earth--outside a picture. Well, Dover from the distance looked
just like that--like a bright little dollhousey picture. And Margate
from a distance reminded me of one of New Zealand's miniature cities
in wood--the open sea-front of Napier, for instance.

The Thames is the Melbourne Yarra on a larger scale, and without the

From the time the fog lifted there was no escape from a confounded
bore, who'd been there before, and wanted to point out things. He
lived part of the year in Australia and the rest in England. He was
not an Englishman, as far as I could see, and not an Australian--nor
yet what is next best to it, an Englishman Australianized. He'd been
all over the world--he was simply a type of the born-and-bred idiots,
who travel to see things, so that they will be able to say that they
have seen 'em, and who couldn't describe them any more than they could
fly. He hadn't the brains to be a liar--he had no brains at all--he
hadn't even any politics.

Every now and again he'd come up and say: "Well, we're in the Thames
now--what do you think of it?"

I was leaning over the rail, taking in things quietly, and looking at
some old warships cut down to a hulk, when he took a pinch of my arm
and stuck his finger out in another direction from that in which I was
looking. He paused a moment, as if he was going to say something very
impressive, then he said--

"See that boat there?"

I saw a boat like one of our Manly steamers, crowded with holiday

"Yes, I see it. What's wrong with it?"

"There's nothing wrong with it. It's an excursion steamer taking a
holiday crowd from London down to Margate, or some of them places."

If the holiday crowd had been naked, and painted in red and blue
stripes, there might have been something to look at. As it was, I
couldn't see any difference between them and an ordinary Manly beach
crowd. And the pointing-out friend seemed to expect me to stare and be
astonished. "You'll open your eyes when you see the docks," he said;
but I saw nothing in the docks to open my eyes any wider than usual.
The docks are simply big dam arrangements of masonry, one leading into
another, built in the river bank, and ships are floated in, and the
water-gate closed behind them, to keep up the floating depth of water
when the tide goes out of the river.

This explains why captains are anxious to catch a tide. Australian
boats are timed to arrive on Saturday, and if they miss a tide and get
in on Sunday it's awkward for all parties.

I suppose that when the tide goes out of the river you could row
outside on a level with the keels of the vessels in dock. And if the
water-gates were to break things would get mixed, I fancy; there'd be
a lot of running round and swearing.

The Buster's father met us at the docks. You remember the day I took
you to the Buster's studio in Sydney, and he showed you how he made
men out of mud?

We settled to stay at the Buster's Dad's place, in City Road, for a
day or two, until we had time to look round.

We hadn't been allowed to land at Teneriffe, on account of the plague
in Australia, so the custom officers weren't strict. I got on with
them all right. You get tobacco cheap at Teneriffe.

We took the train from the Albert Docks to Fenchurch Street, third
class, and the worst accommodation I ever experienced. We came over
London East, but I was too knocked out to take much notice of it. A
wilderness of houses, where you might easily get bushed. The first
difference that struck me was the absence of awnings and verandahs.

At Fenchurch Street I said good-bye to my chum of the voyage. He was a
lanky Victorian, from West Australia last. He must have been near
seven feet. I thought I was the tallest man on board until a couple of
days after King George's Sound (he'd been down sea-sick), when I came
on deck one morning and saw him standing by the rail. By way of
introduction I went and stood back-to-back with him. He grinned.
"That's nothing," he said, "there's some terribly tall fellows where I
come from." He came from Bendigo way, in Victoria. He was of a type of
bushman that I always liked--the sort that seem to get more good-
natured the longer they grow; yet are hard-knuckled, and would
accommodate a man who wanted to fight, or thrash a bully, in a good-
natured way. He wore a good-humoured grin at all times, and was nearly
always carrying somebody's baby about, or making tea at the galley for
some of the women, or cadging extras for them. He'd been "doin' a bit
of diggin' in West Australia." "The West was dead," he said, and there
was nothing doing in the Eastern colonies, so far as he could hear;
he'd made a "few quid," and had made up his mind to take a run across
to South Africa and have a look round. I was glad to see him still on
board after Cape Town. "I was just beginning to feel at home on the
ship," he explained, "so I thought I might just as well go right on
and have a look at London and the Paris Exhibition. You see I booked
right through, and I mightn't get the chance again. I can have a look
round South Africa just as well coming back; and things will be more
settled there then."

The fare from Australia to England by the Cape was the same as by
Suez, because of competition, but the fare to the Cape was only a
pound less; so many booked right through who'd only intended to go to
the Cape. This led to trouble over selling and transferring tickets in
South Africa.

When I ran against the Victorian at Fenchurch Street he looked the
same as ever, and grinned his broadest grin of good nature. He'd stuck
to his soft felt hat, and wore a comfortable sac suit of grey saddle
tweed--such as you, Jack, wear on Sundays. He had on a white shirt,
though it was a hot day, and, out of respect for a strange country, he
had buttoned his waistcoat. He had sewn a pocket inside that waistcoat
for his money.

"I've just heard of a cheap boardin'-house," he said, "where they
don't pop it on too stiff, and a man can get a square feed. I'll stay
and knock round London for a few days, and see what's to be seen; and
then I'll take a run over and have a look at the Frenchmen. I reckon
I'd better take a cab, or I'll get bushed. Well, so long, old man, and
good luck! We're pretty sure to run against each other again, knockin'
round the world." He gave my fingers a squeeze that glued them
together with pain; and so I parted with the last of the Australians
for a while. Outside the station I saw him grinning good-naturedly
down on a very short, fat cabman.

We took a four-wheeler from Fenchurch Street. Looking at things from
the outside, the principal business streets of Australian capitals,
narrower, without the verandahs, and with a little more traffic, would
do for London; and streets like Pitt Street, Sydney, or Collins
Street, Melbourne, would ornament the old city. The dirty, gritty,
blackened walls are very striking, after the yellow-tinted freestone,
clean brick and painted cement of Sydney. The walls of old Newgate are
coated like the inside of a neglected chimney. When I first saw the
blackened walls I had a vague sort of notion that there had been a big
fire round there lately, and for days I had a kind of idea that the
terraces had been painted black, or some dark colour, so as not to
show the dirt.

Just as we were turning out of the streets which I thought, by the
look of them, must run down towards the City, the Buster's Dad pointed
to a dingy black wall, and said: "There's the Bank." It was low and
very dirty, and not particularly solid looking. I thought it would be
all the better for a scrape down and a couple of coats of stone-
colour. I would have expected to see a better rear wall to the
backyard of the Bank of England, for, of course, I thought the front
of the building must be round in a main street. I asked the Buster's
Dad if we'd go round by the front?

"That's the front," he said.

The Buster's Dad lived in a terrace built in a half-circle, back from
the street, the space in front filled by a half-moon of stone or
cement, with posts round it, and seats on it. The Buster's Dad says he
remembers when trees grew there. On the opposite side of the street
was a big hoarding covered with advertisements. After tea, when we had
told them all about the Buster's family in Australia, I sat by the
window (it was Saturday evening) and watched the 'buses and horse-
trams go by, painted pink and blue and yellow, according to their
routes, and covered with advertisements; and I watched the people who
drifted round and rested on the dusty seats of the dusty little stone
half-moon. It was a hot day, and dust and straw and bits of paper
drifted round.

There were draggled girls with rag babies--at least the babies were
mostly rags--who came from back courts; there were shapeless, rusty
black bundles, tied round the middle, with dingy shawls three-corner-
wise over the shoulders, and knobs on top, in the shape of black
bonnets: old women who met on their way from the pubs, with jugs half
under their shawls, and who rested a while on a seat and helped, no
doubt, to blacken a dirty, mean street with their tongues. It would
surprise a Sydneysider to see how many respectable working women go
into pubs as a matter of course; but you soon get used to these
things. There was the drunk who hooked his elbow on to the back of a
seat and half hung, half sat, and talked to himself, until he felt
able to get up and stagger to the pub.

There was one man, or the shadow of a man, who drifted on to that
space with a human eddy from the street, and rested on a seat for a
while. He wore a white shirt and a high collar, and his boots were
pathetically well polished; his clothes seemed decent and whole,
though the cloth rather dull and the linen cloudy; his face was white
and worn sharp--a dead white, with something bluish about it, I
fancied. He drew in his shoulders, as if he were cold, and, as he sat
down he bent forward and hitched up the knee of his trousers. The
"dicky," or false shirt-front, worked up and buckled outwards, and I
could see through between it and his bare bony breast. And when he got
up and moved away I saw that he was walking on his bare feet. Things
hadn't changed much since Dickens' time. I had seen something like
this in Sydney, and I felt that I would live to see the same scene
from a Sydney or Melbourne window. I began to feel pretty dismal.

On Sunday morning the Buster's Dad and a couple of friends took me
round to show me the city, and point out places which were as familiar
to me as the face of the old Boomerang cashier--or as mine should be
to him--because I had seen those places, from as far back as I could
remember, in every variety of picture-show--from the old peep-show and
magic-lantern, to the improved cinematograph; and speaking of the
cinematograph, it was in a "ride down the Strand" in a vitascope show
in Sydney that I first experienced the feeling of disappointment--I
kept expecting to come into a big street, or to see something
presently, right up to the moment the picture was shut off the screen.

And my London friends seemed to expect me to open my mouth or show
some sign of astonishment. The only thing that surprised me was to see
St. Paul's and those places reduced to about half the size I expected
them to be, and very black and dirty. I wanted to see the Monument
close, and my friends took me round by it, but didn't seem to think
much of it. I drifted back into an old London fog, and saw the London
coach come in, and Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters get down and start
to walk to the Commercial Boarding-house, where poor silly little
Mercy met the brute her father sold her to. I'd have followed (and no
doubt have found the Commercial Boarding-house little changed), but I
hadn't time before my friends wanted to point out something else.

English people seem unable to realize the progress of a new country.
Leaving out St. Paul's and the Abbey, and those old institutions, most
things that are in London we have in Australia on a smaller scale--
some on a larger--and we have--because of our readiness to give Yankee
and foreign notions a show--many things that they haven't got in
London yet.

I remember reading a magazine article by a leading English writer, in
which he censured the average Australian in London for his
"affectation of indifference," pointed out that it was only an
exhibition of weakness or ignorance, and that it would be more manly
to express his honest astonishment at the marvels he saw. That writer
will probably never understand that his article was only another
example of the stay-at-home Englishman's hopeless inability to realize
progress outside his own country.

My first landlady expressed surprise at hearing me speak "such good
English"; she said she thought that Australians had a language of
their own; and, now I come to think of it, she wasn't so far out.

The Buster's Dad took me round some of the way in the underground
railway. I noticed that a young friend of his watched me closely, to
see if I'd be nervous, I suppose. The Underground was about as hot as
the centre of Bulli Tunnel, near Sydney, and a good deal dirtier; in
some places the smoke goes up through gratings along the middle of the
street. The stations, big, grimy, gritty cellars, and you go up dusty
steps and stumble into mean streets and other unexpected places.

The size of London lies in the spread of it; but you can no more
realize it than you can the mighty extent of the Bush--the land of
magnificent distances. In the latter case you only remember the day's
ride or tramp through scrubs and clearings--and other days like it.
The day's work or walk. It is the same with distance at sea; you
realize the horizon around you all day, for weeks--or months--and
that's about all.

To me, the first, the most ghastly thing in London, was broad daylight
after nine o'clock at night. When I am hurried round, and things are
pointed out to me, I lose my bearings and see through cockney eyes. I
like to go alone. So, on Monday morning, I slipped out and took a walk
down to the City. It was another hot day, and there was plenty of
dust. I was already used to the absence of verandahs, and felt just as
much at home as if I were walking down George Street from Redfern. I
had decided that the best way to learn the City was to blunder round
and ask as little as possible. I called to mind certain instructions
given me, but decided to make back for the Bank whenever I got
hopelessly mixed, and make a fresh start from there.

But the trouble was to find the Bank. It is the most modest building I
ever met; most unobtrusive, as it should be, if only on account of its
dirt. On more than one occasion I asked to be directed to the Bank,
and was told that I was at it. It had a shut-up and deserted
appearance, as if it went bung about fifty years ago, and closed for
reconstruction (as most of our banks did in '92), and had never opened
since. I have a faint recollection of having seen a door in the front
wall, and, if there really is one, I'll go in next time I'm down in
the City, and see what it's like inside.

We have in Australia an exaggerated idea of the volume and rush and
roar of London traffic. I'd rather cross at the Bank (and not use the
subways) than at the corner of King and George Streets, Sydney, where
we have a double line of fast electric tramway, and the 'Bus Companies
are still hanging on. But this is mainly because London traffic is so
perfectly managed.

From the top of a 'bus the only real difference I could see between
the business street crowd of London and that of Sydney or Melbourne
was, while there is a sprinkling of frock-coats and tall hats in the
young cities, there is a shower in London. I fancied that the Sydney
people, when I last saw them, seemed the more haggard, worried and
hurried; but that might have been a trick of memory.

Down Fenchurch Street I was looking for a place in a hurry, and passed
it twice--because it was up a court instead of in the main street,
where it advertised itself to be--and was passing it for the third
time when I was aware of a shadow at my elbow. Poor devil!--he had
been a man, I suppose; there was little manhood left in him now.
Imagine a Sydney Domain Dosser in his last stage of dosserdom--imagine
him several degrees worse than he could possibly become in Sydney!
This man was apparently a hopeless drunkard; long past the bloated
stage. He wore an old frock-coat that was in rags round his wrists,
and so smeared with grease and dirt that it hung heavy from his sharp
shoulderblades. His hat, a level-brimmed stove-pipe, rested on his
ears, which supported it like brackets, the rim seemed only held
together by grease and dirt, and the crown was of the same materials,
with, perhaps, a thin under lining of felt. Where the grease was thin
on his clothes there were patches of collar green. And the most
wretched Sydney gutter-raker would not do more than turn the boots
over with a stick if he saw them lying in the rubbish. His trousers
legs (they don't call trousers pants in England)--his trousers were
stiff as buckram, and by the hang of them may have been suspended from
his waist by shreds or bits of string. Heaven only knows what ghastly
skeleton in dirt that old frock-coat covered.

"Excuse me, sir!" he said, hurriedly and hoarsely, "is there any place
you want to find? I can direct you. I'm--I'm a messenger! I've been
thirty-five years here, and I know every hole and corner--"

"No," I said, with the distrust of the stranger in London; "I can find
my way." We hear so much about the cleverness of London pickpockets,
confidence men, etc., that some of us, for the first week, take
precautions which seem childish and silly when we look back at them.

"But--but you've passed the place!" (Observation told him that--his
wits were sharpened by the drunkard's thirst.) "Only tell me what
place you want to find. I'll show you at once!" (His hands began to
tremble--then to shake.) "What--what place is it, sir? I've been here
thirty-five years and I--" (every now and again his voice broke into
an involuntary whine; the cry that breaks out in the speech of the
hopeless drunkard, who is suffering a recovery, and has been too long
without a drink). "I can show you, sir. I can show you at once, any
place, sir! Only tell me the name of the place!" (He was trembling now
from head to foot. I told him where I wanted to go.)

"Come with me, sir! Come with me. I know it! I'll show you the
place!--it's up here! You passed it! You'd never find it!" (His limbs
were trembling violently now. God help us all!) "There it is; go right
up those steps and in through that big door! Do you want to find any
other place, sir? I'll show you any place! Shall I wait, sir? I'm--I'm
a messenger--I've been round here for thirty-five years, and--"

"You've been here for thirty-five years?"

"Yes, sir! thirty-five years--" His whine broke loose again on the

"You don't seem to have done much good with your time," I said.

The words were scarcely out of my mouth before I felt the foolish
brutality of them. It benefited him, though, for I gave him enough to
drown his hell for a while. He wanted more ("make it even money, sir!"),
but that was human nature.

But London is perhaps the easiest city in the world to find your way
about in. It is here that you get the full benefit of the advice, "Ask
a policeman." I like the London policeman; he is large, good-natured
and seemingly broad-minded. When you speak to him he doesn't turn
slowly, and, if you are shabby, regard you as if you had shoved up
against him on purpose. He doesn't look you up and down and say,
"Phwhat's that? Oh, the Barrank! You ought to know where that is.
Where do you want to go to?" Neither does he turn his back on you,
jerk his thumb over his shoulder and say, "It's beyant."

He doesn't scratch his head, think lazily, and say, "Go round the
carrner, turn up the third turrnin' to the rroight. Keep straight down
till ye come to the top an a hill. Thin keep straight up till ye see a
church forninst ye. And thin arsk."

No. The London policeman attends to you instantly, and his directions
are prompt, plain and concise. He is recruited mostly from the
provinces, I believe, and there is a certain democratic dignity about
him which appeals to me. I like his "Second to the right, sir"; or
"Third--no--wait a moment" (with a cheerful smile) "fourth to the
left--ask the policeman there."

He knows most things about London. He is supposed to know everything
in existence--and many things which do not exist, except in the
imaginations of strangers from all possible parts of the world (and
from many places which would seem impossible to the untravelled
English mind). He turns from explaining to you where you are, and
where you'll have to go to get anywhere else, to attend to a slow old
lady who wants to be put in a tram, that doesn't come within half a
mile of where she is, in order to reach a place where trams don't run.
He has to keep one eye on the traffic and the other on her while she
finds her purse and looks out a piece of paper with an illegible
address scrawled on it; and he must put her right, somehow. Also
amongst hundreds of other things, he has to attend to strangers who
want clean good board and lodging cheap. And, mind you, all this time
he is probably stationed in the middle of a cross street, managing
four streams of traffic, of which the vehicles can go in twelve lawful
directions (if you count round the corners); while there is sure to be
a cabby trying variations. Also he has to take nervous women across
the street and save them in spite of themselves.

The London policeman wears two breast-pockets on his tunic (this is a
hint for Australian artists), and I think the pockets would be an
improvement to the uniforms of the "traps" of a certain city I know--
with, in one pocket, a small book in big type, "Defoe" style for
preference, setting forth the virtues of common civility, and, in the
other, a book which would explain to the Bobby, in language fitted to
his comprehension, that he is a servant of the people, and not a
recruiting agent for the gaols.

In my next letter I'll tell you about St. Paul's, the Abbey, and the
Tower, and a good many other things.


England, December, 1900.

DEAR JACK,--In my last letter I promised to tell you something about
St. Paul's, the Tower, and those places. You remember the story of a
rising young Australian politician who came home (how glibly the
"home" comes!)--who came home on business, stayed some months, and
went back without having seen either Westminster Abbey or the Tower,
and without having been once inside the British House of Commons. He
saw St. Paul's--he couldn't very well have dodged it. We couldn't
understand his constitution at the time, but I think I realize the
thing now. You see, we have come so far to see the big, old, or
otherwise wonderful (or eccentric) things that we've been hearing
about since childhood, and they are so near that we experience that
feeling of dullness or disinterestedness that comes after long
waiting, or expectation, and just before the climax. Besides, we come
from the land o' lots of time and bring the atmosphere of it with us,
round ourselves; so we reckon we'll just take things easy to-day and
go and do the Abbey or one of those places to-morrow--take a full day
for it. I wouldn't be surprised to know that hundreds come from
Australia to London, stay some time, and go away without having seen
anything to talk about.

If you come to make a living in London it doesn't do to lean up
against the Post of To-morrow. Rent days fly round and bills fly in.
Your landlady, if you board and have apartments, meets you with a
smile of anticipation before you know where you are, and they all
think that because you came from Australia you must have plenty of
money. You can't take a supply of tea, sugar and flour and pitch your
camp down the creek, where there's plenty of wood and water, and take
a fortnight to think over things. No; you must hustle round. You can
live about as cheaply or as expensively as you like in London, but
you've got to find those things out before you blue your cheque. You
can't borrow a few quid from your mate Jim, or Bill, and take another
week or so waiting for something to turn up. A Sydney University boy
of my acquaintance came "home" about two years ago to make a living in
London with his pen, and he took things easy for a while. Now he
answers letters by return post, with perhaps a letter-card following
his letter, and containing something which he forgot to say in the
letter; and I have known him to dash off a postcard by the same post
with something of importance on it which he forgot to mention in the
letter-card. When he arrived he wore comfortable clothes and a soft
felt hat; now he wears a frock-coat, a top-hat, gloves, a stick, a
card-case, a pair of glasses to nip on to his nose with a spring, and
all the rest of it. When he has an appointment you'll see him burst
out of the front door and rush down the street, jerking his watch out
every few yards, his coat tails flying and his top-hat lowered like a
battering-ram. It's a wonder he doesn't telescope into that hat
against something.

He is a good magazine writer, and a grand chap personally; and when I
get him quiet for an hour he's just the same old chap I knew in
Sydney. He has had a gruelling which he will never forget. Some day
I'll tell you about his life in London--the tragedy of it scared me.
Talk about heroes!

But where was I? Oh, about St. Paul's and those places. I went through
St. Paul's because I found myself on the steps and couldn't think of
anywhere else to go just then. I went through the Art Gallery and the
Abbey because my literary friend rushed me round and through those
places. I must go and see for myself later on.

St. Paul's is one of those places which are built too big, in a way,
to look large. Looming out of London, it does not appear more imposing
than a big corrugated iron shed looming out of the lonely scrubs Out
Back in Australia, and certainly less impressive when you are properly
impressed (or rather oppressed) by the extent and loneliness of the
mighty Bush.

I haven't seen the ruins of ancient lands--probably they would impress
me; but as far as I have seen of the works of modern man, I can't help
thinking that when he sets to work to build a great, useless building
with an eye to bigness only he succeeds in putting up a perishable
monument to his own paltriness and the littleness of all his works.
And the monument is usually an obstruction to the air, the view, and
the traffic--a square with a fountain would be far better there.
There's a lot more sense in an ant-hill than in St. Paul's. When man
builds a big thing like St. Paul's or St. Peter's, he builds so high
that when he wants to put stone josses--I mean statues--on the walls
and in the niches, and pictures up round inside, he has to make
representations of giants--monsters--else they wouldn't be visible to
people on the pavement or floor. And of what use is the result? You've
got to study relative distance and heights--say, the size of a man as
against the size of the building--in order to get some idea of the
"vastness" of the work or structure, and when you have got it of what
use is it to you? When a dome swells as big as the dome of St. Paul's
it suggests a silly attempt to rival the dome of the sky--and there
you are.

Mind I am not writing with the idea of pulling down everything that's
up in theory without suggesting anything in its place. Have patience
with me for a while. Neither am I going to use the worn-out argument
that the millions spent on these buildings would feed and clothe
thousands who are starving and in rags. The great majority of mankind
would not be content for a month unless they were slaves; and so why
abuse the few who will not be slaves, at least not slaves from a
worldly point of view--who escape from being slaves to man, either by
making money and sticking to it or by blowing out their brain matter.

I've seen buildings in Australia and elsewhere of less than half the
size of St. Paul's, which look much more imposing--the Hotel Australia
in Sydney, for instance, or the Yankee insurance offices next the
G.P.O.; but then in one case we have unbroken height, and in the other
fresh clean granite and freestone work. In the guide-book pictures St.
Paul's stands out complete--as in the guide-book pictures of most
buildings in the world. There is an atmosphere suggestive of wide
spaces--of asphalt walks and gardens running out a mile or two in any
direction. This is one of the apparently useless lies of
civilization--but I suppose it's born of commercialism, like most
other lies--a little branch line lie of commercialism. You don't see
much of St. Paul's in London--it is so crowded by buildings nearly as
grimy and dingy as itself. A coat of soot round the lower part of the
building hides the fine or graceful lines which may be in the stone
work, and throws the columns--which should stand out clean and
defined--flat against the inner wall; also it reduces the height of
the building. The upper half of the building is a dirty, rain-washed
white, and the soot is washed in streaks down over the ledges. I
remember a black cliff in a corner of the coast in New Zealand with a
cave in it and a round tussock hill on the top; on the upper ledges of
the cliff millions of sea-birds were in the habit of roosting. St.
Paul's, from a distance, reminds me of that cliff.

A Londoner tells me that by and by I'll look at St. Paul's and other
London things, and be ready to kick myself to think I was so foolish
as to write as I am writing now. If I do, I'll say so--and probably
kick myself. I have so often had occasion to kick myself that I am
getting hardened to it.

This Londoner says that he'll go past St. Paul's every day for nine
days and see nothing in it, but on the tenth day he'll look up and
have a feeling. I suppose when I go back to Sydney and see the General
Post Office or the Town Hall, I'll have a feeling too--because of many
things; but when I was in Sydney I passed those buildings nearly every
day for years, and the only feeling I had was one of resentment,
called up by the vicinity of a cheap restaurant in which I did a six
months' perish in other and braver years. Different billets make men
look at things in different ways.

English home people are remarkable for their invulnerable common
sense, but they allow the appearance of an awful lot of senseless
idolatry in London. And worse!--there is in London a fashionable dog
graveyard--headstones and all complete--and on one of those headstones
the fashionable bereaved one expresses a hope that she'll meet her
darling in heaven. But I didn't mean to touch on that; I'm not ready
for it yet. Such things excite me.

I take off my hat and go into St. Paul's (you have to take off your
hat, and that fact is pregnant). I take off my hat and go into St.
Paul's, expecting to be impressed and awed--and wishing to be. I think
it's a very good and hopeful thing to be impressed, and to feel a
reverence for something in these shallow cowardly days of a false
feeling of manliness, and of the sex problem. But the interior of St.
Paul's does not impress me; it suggests to me an imitation of the
interior of some older and larger building which I haven't seen yet.
The statuary, of white marble, is so smoked that it suggests at once
cheap plaster casts coated with grey or stone-coloured paint to
preserve and keep them together. This after the pure white marble in
Sydney gardens.

There is a sprinkling of people on a regiment of seats in the centre,
under the dome, between the shafts, and the organ is playing. I am not
educated to classical or organ music. I suppose that if I were to hear
a good voice now, singing "Bonnie Doon," or "Annie Laurie" or "Mary of
Argyle," or any of those old songs, I'd feel nice and miserable. Those
are the sort of tunes that impress me. To me the volume of the organ
of St. Paul's does not seem greater than that of the Sydney organ--the
biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. But I remember what I said in my
last letter about not seeing the contrast between a great thing and a
small thing of the same kind seen previously.

I go round one side of the nave behind the shafts and meet a spectral
figure in a black gown--a man who looks as if he's just come out of
the hospital--and he closes a wicket noiselessly and raises a ghostly
hand against me--as if there's some one dying up there. He doesn't
impress me at all. He might impress the majority, but he impresses me
least of anything in St. Paul's. I think he ought to be swept up and
taken away in the dust cart.

I go back and round the other way and try to get impressed by the
sculpture, and the following groups in succession is what I see
(according to notes taken on the spot, while another convalescent in a
black gown looked as if he'd expire before they got him back to the

Major-General Andrew Hay.--Officer in uniform falling sideways, in
most awkward position, and supported awkwardly by big, naked man on
left (why naked?), who holds the Major-General as if he's got
something in his hands in which he is not interested, and which he
doesn't know what to do with. Supporter seemingly blind and sea-sick;
lips suggest exhausted disgust. If he has any expression at all, it is
the expression of a tired man who is doing a useless and idiotic
thing, and knows it, and can't help himself. On the right stands the
figure of a private, holding his chin and looking as if he is sorry he
got the Major into his present fix. In the background to the right the
usual squeezed-out little row of wooden undersized soldiers charging.
The rank looks as if it's skewered.

Sir Thomas Picton.--Dressed as Alexander the Great, or something, with
a property helmet on and little else. Inevitable angel handing him a
wreath across the head of a lion. Lion looks currishly, maliciously
inclined to bite because the wreath isn't meat. Behind Sir Thomas, and
leaning familiarly on his shoulder, a naked girl, with wings on,
stands cross-legged; she has a woolly head, and all the points of a
third-rate Sydney barmaid in the old sub-letting days.

Lord Rodney.--Figure of Lord Rodney up in the background. Angel
standing on right, with hand thrown back towards Rodney's waistcoat,
and dictating to angel on left, who sits with a book and pencil, and
looks up at angel No. 1 as if to ask, "You surely don't want me to
write down that?" The whole suggests the designing of a new uniform on
a tailor's dummy.

Lord Rodney wears the indignant and dignified expression of a local
magnate who is stopped by a beggar in his own grounds. Sir Thomas
Picton wears something more like a string of small sausages bunched up
than a beard, and an expression of quiet annoyance. Others regard
their angels with looks more or less pained and idiotic, though some
of the expressions would be natural to men accosted by strange ladies
wearing wings.

Now, let any intelligent Englishman who reads this go into St. Paul's
and look at these groups, and decide as to whether the sculptors were
impudent humbugs, or I'm one.

How contemptible this "art" would seem by the side of the statue of
Burke and Wills (the Australian explorers) in Melbourne, or of Bobbie
Burns in Ballarat (the statue with a twinkle in the eye), or a hundred
others in Australia.

Talking of statues, there is often, from one point of view, an
unforeseen effect which is not possible in pictures--a point of a
cocked hat, for instance, which suggests a beak, or a rapier sticking
out behind, and giving the figure a tail. There is in the statue of
Lord Nelson, on a tall column in Trafalgar Square, an effect which is
greatly admired by the Americans who patronize Morley's Hotel on the
Strand side of the Square. There is a similar--or even more so--effect
in the statue of Captain Cook in Sydney, seen from one point of view.
It's strange that these things are never foreseen. The sculptors must
have had a rough time amongst their friends.

The Misguide Book says: "Generally speaking, the monuments in the
Cathedral are more interesting from personal associations than from
great artistic merit but some of the groups display vigorous action,
and the likenesses are well preserved," etc., etc. You've read the
same sort of stuff before. If the likenesses are preserved, then most
of the heroes must have been born idiots. From my point of view, most
of the statuary in St. Paul's is crude and--no, not theatrical--it
doesn't even deserve that term. Reversing time, I would say that it
belongs to the concert hall, living-picture school--the whole business
has a concert-hally atmosphere. And I needn't have reversed time
either, for the sentiment of the British Empire of to-day is popular
concert hall sentiment. We can't get any lower, and that's some

When I look at a stone angel I mostly see a shallow-brained, soulless
artist or sculptor's model in part of a sheet, and with a pair of
wings. The stone angel business has been carried to a sickening extent
in St. Paul's. If it were not so concert-hally, and thus beneath
contempt, I would call it--well, Jack, I would call it blasphemy--and
you know I'm no saint. To see everywhere crude angels in stone in
senseless attendance on stone gods supposed to represent dead heroes,
who were only lucky to be leaders, who were no braver than thousands
who fought under them, and some of whom were greater cowards in
domestic life than the majority. As our friend, the shearer's cook at
Come-by-Chance Station, used to say, "There's more money and sympathy
wasted over dead an' rotten humbugs than there is common justice done
to straight honest living men." It's the way of all the world, and all
time. Make gods of the dead! Crucify the living.

If a man's name cannot live in the history of a nation it cannot live
in a stone idol.

Londoners admit that the statuary in St. Paul's is notoriously bad.
Then why is it there? Why is it not broken up and buried, and
something sensible put in its place? Or is it an object lesson of the
times when conceited, untalented humbugs, with nothing but "cheek" to
recommend them, got by influence and court favour large sums of the
public money for spoiling marble, while men who had the genius to put
life and sense in stone were left to starve and eat their hearts out
in garrets, or drink themselves to hell in wine cellars?

There is no escape from a superstition called Wren in London. Going
round with my literary friend the other day, he pointed and said--

"Do you see that spire?"


"Perfect! by Wren."

The spire looked all right--anyway, I couldn't suggest any alteration
on the spot. Looking at it later on, I had to admit that it was

By and by he pointed to another spire.

"See that spire?"


"Horrible--by So-and-So."

It did look ugly. After a while he pointed again.

"See that spire?"


"By Wren--perfect. Slightly different in design from the other."

There was a slight difference. Later on we came to Westminster Abbey.

"See that tower?"


"Restored by Wren. But--" (he hesitated), "but the top doesn't somehow

It didn't seem to fit the bottom. That's what he meant. But he was too
much a Londoner, and too great a worshipper of Wren, to see where the
trouble was. I think I saw it at once. Wren had simply taken the tops
of four spires he had on hand and put one on each corner of the tower.
If ever a pun was justified, Wren was an inspired man. He wasn't a
tower man, and in restoring the Abbey he wasn't laying to his book. He
was working on his reputation--or, maybe, he was hard up at the time.
I'll take you into Westminster Abbey when I'm in a more cheerful frame
of mind.


England, January, 1901.

DEAR JACK,--When I came to England I took a house in a fair-sized, old
and new fashioned village, not fifty miles from London. I came down
here to get my breath after the voyage, and have a quiet think, and
talk things over with myself quietly before tackling London in
earnest. The village is, as I say, a new-old-fashioned one. Along one
side of the village street is a row of old elms, and behind them a row
of old-fashioned cottages, and an inn called the Blue Lion, with
thatch two feet thick, and a gravelled footpath. On the other side are
no trees, but a row of modern shops, such as you'd see in any decent
suburb in an Australian city, with a kerbed, asphalt pavement. All
round on the high ground are modern villas, detached, semi-detached,
and several in a row, from the 35 a-year cottage (rates and taxes
included) to the 90 or 100 house. If you take a 25 to 30 cottage,
you are known as those or them new people in that house; if you take a
50 to 60 house, you are the new people in Blank Villa; if you take a
90 or 100 house, you are Mr. and Mrs. Brown-Jones (or whatever your
name may be).

The country is undulating and covered with fields and hedge-rows, with
parks and little woods here and there, and brooks and streams along
the bottoms, that run by old brick-ways under little old-fashioned
hamlets, and under the corners of decayed buildings, which might have
been mills at one time; and in unexpected places in the corners of the
hedges are little, very old-fashioned inns, with fixed benches and
tables outside, and sanded and sawdusted floors in the bar and
taprooms, and ingle-nooks and window-seats, where customers drink, and
think (if they do think), and talk--do anything but dress--pretty much
as they did fifty or a hundred years ago.

The village has a big common, but the common is rather a painful
place, for it is frequented every day by nursemaids with babies in
perambulators, and by serious-looking individuals wheeling invalids in
chairs; and when you see the baby in the perambulator beside the
broken-up old party in the chair, you are apt to think of the years
that go between, and ponder drearily on the futility of human life.
Also troops of slum children are brought down here, now and again, for
an airing, and somehow it makes me feel sadder to see them on the
grass and in the sunshine for one day--and to think it's only for one
day--than it would to see them in their native gutters every day for a

You can walk out in any direction by the country roads, and round back
home; and when you get tired of walking by the narrow roads worn deep
between the hedges, and seeing nothing, you can climb out and follow
the field-paths. The field-roads are very narrow, barely wide enough
for one vehicle; so, I was told, that if a farmer proposes to take a
cart down one of these roads, he advertises the fact amongst his
neighbours a week beforehand, to lessen the possibility of his meeting
another cart halfway, in which case the farmer with the least moral or
physical backbone might have to back his horse for miles, and that
would mean inconvenience and loss of time to both sides, and possibly
break up an old and convenient borrowing-and-lending friendship.

It is a very pretty place, and I only saw one blot on the scenery
round here. It stands at the top of a slope in the background of as
pretty a piece of rural scenery as you could imagine, and it is a big
black board on which, painted in staring white letters, are the


The population of the village is aristocratic, "well-to-do," "better-
class" shopkeeping, mechanic and bucolic. The village is what we might
call a "tourist town" in Australia. "Better-class" and "well-to-do"
people take houses and bring their families down here for the summer.
Some stay all the year round, but I don't know whether these are of
the well-to-do or of the better-class people. I've heard of a "middle-
class" in England, but not down here--perhaps the term "middle-class"
is too vulgar for this village. Some do not even stay all the summer,
but go away quietly towards the middle or the end of the quarter. I've
heard shopkeepers refer to these as swindlers. There's a boarding-
house or two, kept by workmen's wives. There are several ladies in
25--30 houses, who let apartments. The husband of one (we stayed
with her till our house was ready) is a mechanic in the City, who
comes home once or twice a week disguised as a business man; his wife
lives in hourly dread of his real occupation becoming known in the
village--and all the neighbours know it.

There are other ladies, in 30--50 houses, who take in "paying
guests." One, a widow with a small income, who might be comfortable in
a cottage, but who has two grown daughters, who mustn't soil their
hands, and must have accomplishments and genteel society, is
struggling, with the assistance of "paying guests," to keep up an
appearance in a big house. She had the bailiff in last week.

I came in touch with the bucolic element first. I was nearly a week
rescuing my luggage from the Mudland Railway Company. The trouble is,
I believe, that most of the trains are in such a hurry that they
haven't always time to take in luggage, or, having got it aboard, they
haven't time to put it out. Anyway, after waiting four days, one of
the carriers (he was an intelligent type of workman) told me that my
luggage was at the station. I inquired at the office, but they knew
nothing about it; they told me that it might be over in the shed in
the yard, so I went over there. In the shed I found a fresh-faced,
unemotional youth, who wore an expression as if he were pondering
deeply over a complete absence of ideas. There also seemed a
something, as of resentment, in his expression, but this I believe was
unconscious. I recognized him at once, or rather his type; I had met
him as a loutish new chum working on Australian farms; I had come
across him Out Back in Australia, "getting colonial experience"
(though I could never conceive him as being capable of absorbing
experience of any kind). Travel doesn't change him--strange lands and
adventure make no impression on his mind. He is just as bucolic and
undemonstrative camping out under the great star on the mighty plains
of the never never, and comes home with no more ideas than he would
have had he only gone to the next village for a day. He is not
confined to England. He is not intentionally boorish nor uncivil, for
if he does leave a question unanswered now and again it is only
because the question fails to convey an impression to his alleged
mind--or he needs time. Repeat the question two or three times if
necessary, with decent intervals, and, above all, give him time. But,
anyway, you can't hurry him.

The youth in the shed was cleaning out the place. He worked on for a
few minutes, apparently totally unconscious of my intrusion; but I
gave myself time to soak in--I gave him fifteen minutes; then I stated
my name and asked if my boxes had come. He rubbed the top of his head,
and looked slowly round the shed, which was nearly empty; then
presently he got an idea, and asked me what I said my name was.

I told him again, and spelled it. The spelling of it seemed to rouse
him a little. He looked round the shed again, and in through the
window of a store-room that was locked, and up in the loft, and under
the floor. I had looked myself, and told him so, but he persisted in
looking. Then he asked me what my boxes were like.

I described them to him several times during the interview, at his own
request. The boxes were of unusual size and shape, and there would be
no mistaking them; yet he persisted in pulling out empty fruit-boxes,
and barrels, and bits of machinery from amongst the rubbish, and
asking me whether "any of them was them." He looked at the label on a
crate full of straw, and the name on it only differed in the matter of
three letters from mine. He pulled that out at once, and wanted to
know if it was mine. I am not sure now that I really convinced him
that it wasn't. Then I had a happy thought--I should have had it

"Are you in charge of this shed?" I asked--and I waited.

"No," he said, "I ain't."

"Is there a man in charge?" I asked--and gave him time.

"Yes," he said slowly, "there is."

"Can I see him?"

"Well--you might see him--if you want to."

"And where is he?"

"Oh! he's up the yard, he is."

I went up the yard and found the man in charge, and got him to admit
it. He might have been the youth that I'd left in the shed, suddenly
grown several years older, but otherwise little changed.

He knew nothing about the luggage, but agreed to have a look at the
books. We came across the name which had a syllable in it sounding
like one in mine, and that delayed us a little; then he went to have a
look in the shed, and I left him looking. I hunted up the carrier
again, and consulted him; he was positive that he had seen my luggage
arrive; and next day I found it under a tarpaulin in a truck up the
yard. The yard manager didn't seem in the least surprised. He asked me
which truck it was, and I took him to it and showed him the luggage.
He regarded the boxes with drowsy interest, looked at the address,
also the old shipping labels, and asked me if them boxes was mine. I
assured him that they were. I asked him what the next move would be.

He thought a while.

"Do you want them boxes?" he asked.


He thought for a long time, then said he'd see the carrier about them,
if I liked.

I privately resolved to see the carrier myself, and get the boxes away
at once, else some train might get hold of that truck by mistake and
take it on to Scotland. I suggested that there might be some papers in
the office, which would give me some idea of the charges, and which I
might have to sign. He agreed that that was likely, and walked back to
the office with me. On the way back he said, as if an idea got into
his head somehow and he wanted it settled one way or the other--

"You come from abroad, don't you?"

"Yes; I come from Australia."

Presently he said in a tired, disinterested tone--

"I thought you come from abroad."

I sounded him as deep as he went, but "Abroad" was the nearest that he
could get to Australia.

And I couldn't help thinking, "And are these of the people we're
fighting for?"

I've had rare opportunities for studying the British shopkeeper in all
his glory. I had taken a 30 house, but it soon got round that I came
from abroad, or Australia, so of course I must have plenty of money.
On the evening of the day we shifted into the house there came a knock
at the front door, and I went to open it--we hadn't captured a maid
yet. I saw a decently-dressed, respectable-looking man backing out
towards the gate, and I asked him if he wanted me.

"I must apologize, sir, for coming to the front gate, sir," he said
nervously, still backing out.

"Why?" I asked.

By this time he'd got to the gate, and I couldn't catch what he said--
I'm rather deaf, you know. I didn't seem able to coax him nearer, so I
told him to wait while I called the wife. When she came down he'd
disappeared. We stood wondering awhile, and presently the wife heard a
timid knock at the back door, and we went there. It was the man--he'd
slipped in and round while my back was turned. He had his hat off, and
looked very apologetic.

"I really must beg yer pardon, ma'am," he said, "for coming to the
front door--"

"Why?" she asked.

"I'm very sorry, ma'am," he said hurriedly; "but you see, I wasn't
sure that there was any one in the house yet. I'll always come to the
back door in the future."

It turned out that he was a grocer's man, and his boss had been
recommended to us by an Anglo-Australian acquaintance of ours in the

"Would you be pleased to give an order, ma'am?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," said the wife.

"Thank yer, ma'am," he said briskly, getting out his pocket-book and
pencil. "What would you be pleased to want, ma'am? I'll take it down,

She gave the order from a list she had.

"Three pounds of loaf-sugar."

Grocer's man, taking it down, "Thank yer, ma'am."

"There pounds of moist."

"Thank yer, ma'am!"

"One pound of fresh butter."

"Thank yer, ma'am!"

"Two pounds of rice."

"Thanky, mum!"

"One packet of Sunlight soap."

"Thanky, mum!"

"Two pieces of blue."

"Thanky, mum!"

And so on with the soda, starch, borax, etc., to the end of a long

"Anything more, mum?"

"No, that's all."

"Thanky, mum!"

He begged pardon again for coming to the front door, took off his hat,
and got away out of that. Next evening the milkman mistook the wife
for the maid, and growled about being kept waiting. He's been
conscience-stricken and apologetic ever since. The wife, who is
sympathetic, feels really sorry for him.

My hobby, as you know, is carpentering, and I often go to the shops
for gimlets, bradawls, screws, nails and glue, and such like; and, in
the absence of a maid, I frequently went small errands to the grocer
for pounds of butter or candles and the like. I usually dress in the
rough Sunday sac suit I wore in the Bush, and wear a slouch hat, and
not unfrequently a coloured shirt; but I came from abroad, you know,
and must have plenty of money--it's Australian fashion to dress as I
do, so I might be an earl at least by the way the village shopkeeper
bows and smiles and squirms when I come into his shop. I had at first
the greatest difficulty in the world to rescue my small purchase from
those shopkeepers; they didn't seem to understand that I was capable
of carrying anything heavier than my hands, or had ever been in the
habit of doing so. They couldn't understand why, if I bought a packet
of tacks that I wanted to use at once, or a pound of starch that the
wife was waiting for, I preferred to carry it home with me and have
done with the business.

"We would send it up at once," they'd protest; "the man is going

"Now look here!" I said one day to one of them. "You mustn't go by
appearances." (He bowed with humility.) "I'm not so delicate as I
might look; I'm thin, but most Australians are--I'm thin, but I'm
wiry." (He bowed again.) "I've been used to hard work" (they call
"graft" work in England); "I've camped out all winter in a tent on a
telegraph line in New Zealand; I've probably done more hard graft than
any man in this village, and as for walking and carrying, I've tramped
five hundred miles at a trip in the drought, across some of the driest
and hottest country Out Back in Australia, and carried a heavy swag
and a load of sorrow all the way." (He bowed.) "And now," I said,
"can't you understand that I'm able and willing to carry home that
quarter of a pound of borax? My wife is waiting for it; it won't hurt
me. I'll get home sooner than your man can, and you can save him to
send to a weaker customer. Now, be sensible; it will save you trouble,
and save me trouble, and save up your man, and save my wife
inconvenience. She'll want to argue with me if I go home without that
borax--I promised to bring it home--don't make me break my word!
What's the matter with the arrangement, anyway?" He bowed and smiled
in a scared sort of a way; my speech didn't seem to convey the ghost
of an understanding to his mind; but he let me have the borax--or
rather I got out of the shop with it before he pulled himself

There's a grocer just round the corner from where we live; he is newly
started in business; his prices are reasonable, and it would be
convenient for us to deal with him, but he is a white-haired, whey-
faced, abject man with pinkish eyes, and it's too painful to go into
his shop. We've been there twice, and I think that if we went a third
time, or gave him an order, he'd collapse, and I'd have to gather him
up from the floor. And the hand-rubbing, and the writhing, and the
sickly smirk of him! The British shopkeeper's smile is enough to warn
off a Bushman first thing. They straighten up pretty quick when they
strike a bad debt.

I went to the draper's and got a pair of gloves as a present for the
wife. They insisted on sending them, so I gave in, and told the draper
to send them in a van. He bowed. I asked him to send them in the best
and showiest vehicle he had, if he had more than one. He bowed, and
said he would. And he did. I don't think the van belonged to him--he
must have borrowed or hired it. Perhaps he bought it on the strength
of a new customer.

But I had hopes then. I thought I detected, in the sending of the van,
the action of a sly, dry humorist--a "joker" or "hard case," as we'd
call him in the Bush; so I determined to cultivate that draper, and if
possible get him to come up to my place some time of an evening, and
help me to keep from feeling homesick. But I was mistaken and
disappointed; he probably had less humour in him than any other man in
the village.

It is cut-throat competition that does it--makes crawlers of beings
who might have been men had they had the brains or courage to
emigrate. These shopkeepers will do anything, short of crawling and
grovelling at your feet, while they hope to gain your patronage, and
while they think you're safe; but let trouble come to your home--they
are at you like crows round a dying sheep in the Bush, though the bill
be but a few shillings. They have no souls, and have learned no mercy.
They know no middle level; they cannot meet you as man to man, as in
Australia; they must either crawl or bully. No Australian could help
feeling a hearty contempt for the average British shopkeeper. In a
village like this they do all in their power to overreach their
rivals; they hate each other, and yet they are all informers amongst
themselves. They will supply and cheat a customer for years, and the
moment they think he is going down they stop credit, and inform their
rivals of his trouble. If you have a dispute and close accounts with
one of them, he will often take revenge by hinting doubts of your
solvency to the others.

This is plain truth. But something more must be said in truth and
justice. In the Bush--take your own town of Come-by-Chance, for
instance; the shopkeepers have a hard enough job to pull through; they
will dump your groceries down at the front door, and growl if you
growl, and swear if you swear, and sometimes call you by your
Christian name; but if you're honestly hard-up, they'll say, "Oh! come
up to the store and get what you want, and settle up when you can."
But here in England, where people do not move about as in Australia
(where the husband's work, if he is a shearer or drover, might take
him away five hundred or a thousand miles, and for a year); here in
England they cannot trust, not the workman, but the respectable middle
class, better class, well-to-do class, independent class, or whatever
you like to call them. And why? Because of the curse of England--the
ghastly struggle to "keep up appearances"--because, if the tradesman
is not sharp, Mrs. So-and-so will very likely spend the money that So-
and-so owes him on a stylish, useless piece of furniture, which she
must have or burst, because Mrs. Somebodyelse has just bought one like

The houses and villas round here are very much like what you'd see at
Mosman, North Sydney, or any other well-to-do Australian suburb. I can
see little difference between the street I'm living in and the street
I lived in in North Sydney. But outside we have fields and hedges in
the place of bare fences, brown paddocks, and dreary, monotonous,
endless scrubs, as round about Come-by-Chance. This is a pretty place,
and a healthy place, and a bright place all summer, and the well-to-do
people ought to be happy; but I believe that they are the most
miserable people on the face of God's earth. It's all on account of
the struggle to keep up the appearance of being twice as well off as
they are.

We'll suppose that the "better class people" are tradesmen's families,
mechanics, and others, who have risen in the world. We'll lump those
known as "well-to-do" and "independent" people together--we'd call 'em
all the middle classes in Australia, but "middle class" is only a
vulgar term used by ignorant colonial democracy and bloated
aristocrats. I don't know anything about the aristocrats of this
village; they are driven up to the station at the last moment in dog-
carts or carriages, and ushered into a first-class carriage with as
much celerity and sympathetic respect as if they were royal families,
and that's about all you see of them.

About a hundred of the City men, who have their families down here, go
up to London every morning and come home at night. They travel third-
class, and there is much of a muchness between them. They don't talk--
perhaps they can't. Ten men can travel for two hours in a train
without one saying a word to another. If you try to talk to them, they
read a paper. This is English reserve, or English boorishness, or
English suspicion, or English ignorance--whatever you like to call it.
If you try to talk to them, they treat you as if you were a swindler
trying to get them to take shares in a rotten concern.

I can't say whether middle and upper class Englishmen are reserved
because they are shy, or because, as Dooley says, they have nothing to
say. Come to think of it, I think that Dooley is right. Englishmen
know nothing beyond their own little selfish and paltry little
commercial world, and they have the intelligence to know that they
know nothing, therefore they keep their mouths shut. Maybe it is
unconscious instinct which makes them do this. And perhaps it's an
instinctive knowledge of their own world-ignorance which goads them to
hector people who are in a lower station of life, and whom they
suppose to be more ignorant than they are themselves, and so keep up
some appearance of intellectual superiority. Possibly Englishmen are
silent because, when they are not thinking money, they are either
brooding over the fact that the world thinks them boorish, or keeping
up their reputation for being reserved. However, there are plenty of
exceptions in London--though I don't know how they got there.

Englishmen--younger sons or sons of families who have spent their
money to keep up appearances--ne'er-do-wells--anyway, Englishmen who
came out to Australia and drift into the Bush (provided they are not
old men), soon lose their reserve, and become grand fellows--humorous,
sympathetic and open-handed--the best we have.

Our street is furnished partly on the time-payment system, and partly
(and furtively) second-hand; so the furniture is either gimcrack or
full of white ants. It is fashionable or genteel and uncomfortable,
and most of it useless--plain comfortable furniture would cost less
than half the price. The villa ladies are wearing out their lives (and
souls, if they have any) in the ghastly struggle to "keep up
appearances." They talk of nothing but their servants. They never work
themselves--only worry, whine, and lie, and grow more selfish every
day--consequently they are frequently ill. They treat their servants
like dogs--often stint and half-starve the girl who has to do the
work, and therefore really needs the best, and most food, because
every penny that can be "saved out of the servant" is needed to "keep
up appearances." Consequently it is hard to get servants here--the
girls prefer to go into factories. One lady I know, a big, strong,
childless, discontented woman, recently dismissed her servant because
said servant refused to address her as "Mistress" and her husband as
"Master," instead of Mrs. Blank and Mr. Blank. Then the lady had to do
her housework for three days, when she broke down; she has had the
doctor ever since.

The servants, as far as my experience goes, are honest, healthy-
minded, and rather more intelligent than their mistresses. I have
talked to some of them! Yes, actually placed myself on a level with
common servants. I suppose it's about the lowest-down thing I could do
in this village. But it seems quite right and fashionable to talk
about servants, to lie about them, and scandalize them behind their
backs over four o'clock teas.

I've been introduced to the broad-minded intelligence of this village.
There is an artist acquaintance of mine here--a black and white
artist, cursed, as usual, with an idea that he can paint. He has no
children, and makes a comfortable income, but his wife says that they
must keep up appearances; so whenever they get a cheque the best part
of it has to go for rubbish in the furnishing line. But that's neither
here nor there. The other day he gave a private view of his pictures,
and invited me to meet some intelligent "well-to-do" or independent
people, who he said were broad-minded and unaffected--very "nice
people" indeed. He said I'd be sure to like them; so I went. The
visitors were a married couple, tall and thin; the husband wore a
frock-coat and was very English. He told me that he understood that
Australians were very unconventional in Australia; that was the only
idea he seemed to have (if it was an idea). Whenever my friend put a
picture on the easel the lady would clap her hands and exclaim--

"How jolly!" or "Isn't that jolly!" or "Oh, Edward! Isn't that jolly!"
Sometimes they'd both say it together.

My friend put up a picture called "Sad Autumn."

"Oh, isn't that jolly!"

He put up a picture labelled "The Death of Day."

"How jolly!"

He put up a picture of "A Village Churchyard in the Gloaming."

"Oh, isn't that jolly!"

If he'd had a picture of a disembowelled corpse, they'd have said it
was jolly.

But neither the artist nor his wife could see it.

And I couldn't help wondering, "And are these of the people we fight

There is a factory or two on the outskirts of the village--not staring
and unsightly as in Australia, but back behind trees and hedges--and
the work-people live in little rows and squares of cottages at the end
of the village and "over the Common." The working people seem to me to
be honest and healthy-minded, even humorous, and more intelligent than
the well-to-do class. But I came across one who seemed to have less
humour in him than the draper mentioned above. He is the village
coachbuilder, a tall, thin man, with very hollow cheeks and thin red
whiskers growing in the hollows. We struck up an acquaintance on the
strength of the fact that an uncle of his had gone out to Australia in
the early days and made money.

"And he came home, and paid all his debts, and went out again," said
the coachbuilder, impressively.

I didn't seem impressed.

"He came a long way out of his track," I said.

"They respected him for it," said the coachbuilder severely.

I got a better opinion of creditors.

"And when he went back," said the coachbuilder triumphantly, "he took
out nineteen relations with him!"

"How many?" I asked.

"Nineteen," said the coachbuilder.

I reckon I've got upwards of two hundred relatives in Australia, and
if I make a pile in England I'll strongly advise them to stay where
they are.

There's no getting away from the shopkeeping atmosphere in England.
The village post and telegraph, savings' bank and money order office
is in a toy and stationery shop, in a corner amongst the packages and
shelves. Fancy this in Australia, where, in the smallest town, these
offices, with the postmaster's residence attached, are in a
substantial brick or stone building by themselves. But if the English
public (especially those in London) will stand anything labelled
"Company," there's no reason why they shouldn't stand anything marked
"Government." By the way, I haven't noticed any politics here. I
suppose this village, like most of its kind, gets its politics, as
well as its newspaper, fixed up for it in London.

Our postmaster has the soul of a shopkeeper, and shows you novelties
when you call for letters. And strange to say (or is it strange?)
while he and his wife are servile as shopkeepers, they are mighty
independent in their official capacity. They change quickly and draw
the line very plain. The wants of the village in the way of maids,
situations, houses to let or sublet, or wanted, are pasted up in the
post office window, in the advertiser's own writing, at the rate of
sixpence a week. You can read the domestic and business troubles of
the village between the lines of these advertisements. Villagers study
that window with interest--it is their newspaper. But then, as most of
the servants are related, some way or other, the private affairs of
half the villa ladies are public property already.

We've got a maid (they call servants "maids" in England); she isn't
trained. When she applied for the place she stated that her mother was
a respectable woman. She is as light and graceful as a cow, and
stubbornly honest. All English country working people are obstinately
and aggressively honest. The man is "a honest working man," and the
woman is "a respectable woman," or "a respectable married woman,"
which last fact is stated and repeated and reiterated in almost every
neighbourly row or outside dispute, no matter what the disagreement is

Our servant starts first thing in the morning by scrubbing the middle
of the kitchen floor hard. If she overhears us say anything which she
considers funny she chuckles out loud. When visitors are in we often
hear a loud guffaw from the pantry or kitchen. She says "Hey!" or
"What-say?" but I like her, and would rather have her than a girl who
has been trained--that is, bullied and stinted, and suspected, and
watched, until she is forced to become deceitful and sly in her own

Our girl has been greatly troubled lately on her father's account; he
is a gardener; he has not been taking his food, and is falling away in
consequence, I understand.

"He's gettin' so narrer, Mrs. Lawson," says Amy; "he's nearly as
narrer as Mr. Lawson."

You know I'm rather thin.

There are plenty of young people here amongst the working-classes who
have never been in London in their lives.

We haven't been troubled much by callers. I believe that when
strangers settle down here people leave their cards or call on them,
to see what they're like and what sort of furniture they've got in the
house, and whether the wife has a tea-gown, a maid, and a tea service,
and what the service and the tea-gown are like; and to go out
afterwards and tell their friends all they've found out or supposed.
But I got an idea. I had some cheap curtains hung up to the front
window, and that scared 'em. A few factory girls and eighteen-penny to
half-crown a week slaveys go along our street sometimes on a Sunday
afternoon, and when they catch sight of the curtains they squeak and
giggle, and say--

"O--oh! Look at the penny-a-yard curtings!"

It's very interesting--shows how the minds of the middle class are
poisoning those of the working people. But the worship of appearance
is spreading its poison over Australian cities.

I notice that it's the fashion for the ladies down here to grab their
skirts up from the front when they walk out in wet weather; in London
they grab themselves behind. Englishwomen strike me as being, in
nature and appearance, hard, unsympathetic, selfish and ungraceful.

I haven't seen the parson yet. The old doctor is a very aristocratic
old gentleman, who, if a member of your family happens to die, regards
you in the light of a murderer because you sent for the young doctor
and not for him.

The young doctor is a grand young fellow, a Scot, prematurely grey,
whose wife was a nurse, and who is steadily working up a practice here
by dint of hard graft.

The landladies of the two leading hotels are elderly ladies of severe
aspect, and one of them has a moustache. It's a slow process getting
drunk here, they are so deliberate about serving you.

The publican of one of the little inns in the hedges has a face that
would do for the portrait of John Bull, if it had any expression at
all. He is short and as broad as he is long, and looms outside his
little inn on Sunday afternoon, looking at the weather. He walks
slowly into the middle of the road, with a movement as if he had
clockwork inside him, to get a view of the sky all round. Then he
comes back and slowly delivers his judgment on the weather in bull-
calf tones. He looks as if he has never been a mile from the village
in his life. He sells "Coider" by the jugful.

The station master is a shy man with a fresh complexion and side

The sergeant in charge of the police station is a good fellow, and, if
you know him, you can go up to the station after closing time and have
a nightcap with him.

The barber and tobacconist is a little Cockney, who attends on
gentlemen and gentlemen's families at their own 'omes and sells
tobacco by the hounce.

The village policeman is a heavy-footed countryman in uniform, who
sees you home if you happen to have had a drop too much, and calls
round next morning ostentatiously to ask "how the gentleman is?" but
really to see if you have forgotten that you tipped him generously
last night, and if so, to get another tip.

And that's about all at present, from yours truly.


THEY were spelling in the shade of a bush fence, or pile of cut scrub,
or something, and Pat O'Brien had a place that ought've bin covered by
his pants, or a patch; and it was in the sun with Pat's outlying
regions. And Dave Regan had a burning glass. Whispered Dave to his
mate lazily--

"I'll pop the glass onter Pat, Joe, an' when he jumps you jump too,
an' yell 'Snake!'"

"Uh-um," murmured Joe, and he reached carelessly for a new axe handle,
which he fingered abstractedly.

Joe rolled over very lazily on to his elbow, and applied the glass
like a magnifying glass to a common print.

In a little while Pat got up like a nervous horse that had thought it
was miles away from man, and alone, till suddenly yelled at. And his
language was bad about bull-dog ants. But at the same time, almost,
Joe jumped up, yelled "Snake!" and started to slash the bushes with
the axe handle.

"Beggod, boys," said Pat, "I'm bit!"

They were all up now.

"I'm bit, boys; an' where ye can't tie it!"

Joe and Dave took him, one on each side, and started to run him on the
track to Government House; but they hadn't gone far when at the
hurried suggestion of one of the others, and clamorous approval of the
rest (there were four others), they threw Pat on his flat, and knelt
and sat on him while Dave cut the place with his pocket-knife, and
squeezed out as much blood as he could.

Then they ran him on again, only stopping once to take more of his
blood, till they got to the huts.

The storekeeper was absent after his horse, so they walked Pat up and
down while the super opened the store with the wood axe, and handed
out two bottles of brandy.

They gave Pat a long pull, gave two fresh men a nip, who relieved the
pacers, and walked Pat up and down with a spurt, while the rest had a
nip to brace their nerves.

"It's a long way to Cork, boys," said Pat. "It's a long way to Cork."

They gave him another pull, and walked him up and down.

"I can feel it goin' through me like fire, boys," he said. "I can feel
it going through me like fire. Can't ye tie up me roomp somehow? Take
a twist on a bit of fincin' wire or something."

One of them picked up a piece of fencing wire, but dropped it

They gave him another pull, and walked him up and down. And every time
they walked him up and down the others had nips to keep up their

"I'm drowsin' down, boys," he said, wearily. "I'm drowsin' down. Ah!
boys, it's a pity to lose such a man."

They roused him up, and walked him up and down before giving him
another pull, but they had nips themselves to keep up to it.

"Ah! boys!" he said. "It's a long way to Cork."

"So it seems," said the super; but he got out a couple more bottles to
be ready. He had some himself. They gave Pat another pull, and walked
him up and down. The relief had pulls before they went in, and the
relieved had pulls when they fell out.

And they walked him up and down.

They started one off on horseback to "Stiffners," on the main road, to
see if there was a doctor or snakebite expert there, and to bring back
more spirits, in case they ran short. The super gave him two quid, but
he never came back.

And they walked Pat up and down and did exactly as before, till they
couldn't wake him, nor the super--nor themselves till next day.

Pat woke first, and thought, and remembered; then he roused Dave, and,
staggering, walked him up and down.

"Dave," he said (in conclusion). "Dave, me friend. Ye saved me life
wid ye're pocket-knife, and soocked me blood. Here's a couple of quid
for ye're sweetheart, me boy. An' there's wan of the same again
whinever and any time ye ask for it."

"Don't mention, Pat," said Dave. "It was nothing. I'd do the same to
yer any day."

"I know ye would, me boy," said Pat, and, the super being still
unconscious, they lay down again, well within the home gums' shade,
and slept like brothers.


EVERYTHING happened to the Mathews family, but Andy Page stuck to it
all through, because he had--secretly and unsuspectedly--worshipped
little Nelly Mathews, who died and became "Helen"; and because he was
Andy Page. Andy stuck to trouble all his life, and trouble stuck to

There is something infinitely sad about the death of a grown-up
daughter in the Bush, so we'll pass away from Helen's death and Andy's
sorrow, that he shared with the people, and Andy's secret
heartbursting grief that no earthly people could share with him, and
Andy's practical sympathy that was the more tender and touching for
being "uncouth."

Old Mathews drank to drown sorrow, which is the strongest swimmer in
the world. They said that any one would have thought he'd have kept
straight because of Helen--because of Nelly's death, I suppose they
meant--which is a way people have of looking at things. Or, rather, of
not looking at things.

Then Andy lent a hand. He finished ploughing the ten-acre paddock, and
put in the crop, and shepherded old Mathews, and saddled up in the
gloaming and followed him to Mudgee (or some wayside shanty, when he
missed him there), and wrestled with him, or waited and bore with him
with infinite patience until he got him home. And after a very bad and
heart-breaking time of this kind, and in the dusk--or in the
moonlight--an ungainly spook would haunt the grave that was

BORN FEBRUARY 10th, 1862.
9th JUNE, A.D. 1885.

And the spook seemed to find comfort there, for after a while it would
sit on a log by the cemetery fence, at a respectful distance from the
grave, and calmly smoke, with eyes to the stars.

One time, when Andy was known to be out of work, the grave was found,
on a Sunday visit, to have been carefully weeded round the mound, and
the palisading had been given a coat of paint, by snatches between
daylight and sunrise--or in the moonlight, or partly by candlelight,
perhaps. There were signs of candle-grease--and a scare about ghosts.
But Andy never touched the mound. The old caretaker (who fossicked in
the gullies in his spare time--which was mostly) said he'd fix that.
He'd got a letter with a "note" an' no name, askin' him to do it. As
to the rest, and the ghost, he only cocked his pipe and looked as if
he knew as much about the ways of the living as he did about the
doings of the dead.

Then one morning Mrs. Mathews couldn't, and didn't, get up, and this
stunning event sobered and steadied Mathews, and he did his level best
for all of them--as, indeed, he always had done when he wasn't

Andy made the best nurse of all of them. It isn't the comic man that
makes the best clown, nor the solemn the best tragedian--whether on
stage or page.

When Mrs. Mathews got well, Bob came home from shearing and halved his
cheque with his mother, and went to town with the other half and the
old man, to get a rig-out and presents. They got "glorious" together,
and Bob fought for the old man (and was obliged to fight him
afterwards, they said), and Andy could get neither of them out of
Mudgee while the cheque lasted. And he couldn't get one of them more
than a mile from the town while Bob's credit lasted. And Andy was
obliged to fight them both, and in turns, before it ended; for he was
the most obstinate galoot in Australia when doing what he considered
"the right thing."

Then, after a day or two, Bob kissed the girls, and his mother last;
then shook hands with the rest and Andy, and then, at the very last,
and safe in the saddle, he gave the old man's hand a hurried grip,
gulped, and rode away for Out Back; and his pack-horse followed him.
Bob loved the old man, though Jim was the Joseph. But they both and
all the rest loved Jim. The old man blundered blindly and hurriedly
round to the back of the house to see to something that wanted seeing
to, and the dust hid Bob and his horses in the West.

The spook sought Nelly's grave that night; for Andy Page loved Bob
better than them all, and felt "terrible" dull whenever he was gone.

Then drought, then rust in wheat, then smut, then the "ploorer," of
course; and, when all was gone, Andy went out with the old man and
bullocked on clearing and tank-sinking contracts that would break the
heart of a working bullock; and he drew no wages, so that the family
might have full rations.

Then the glorious seasons when the prices went down to nothing--but
there was more than plenty to eat, and clothes didn't matter much. And
Andy came home--he had come to call Mathews' home--and went up in the
afternoon to see how the wattles looked above the cemetery. And they
were all in bloom.

The old people thought it would be the best thing to fix things up
between Andy and Susan-the-Plain. Andy also thought it would be the
right thing, both to the family and the memory of Helen; for Susan was
her sister, and seemed hopeless, not so much on account of her
plainness and age, as because of her temper. But Susan thought Andy
was too much of a "goat" altogether, and, when all was settled, she
"chucked" him for an animal of another kind, and married a brute,
after all, who wanted a woman to do a man's work for him. Andy had got
his heart sort of indirectly set on her because of--well, that night,
the night of Susan's marriage, a doleful spook haunted the cemetery
and didn't smoke.

But Andy stuck to Susan all through the poor girl's life trouble with
the other animal, which was several kinds of Hog, and the struggle was
long and great and cruel.

Uncle Bob was killed riding home from the races (horse threw back its
head and smashed his face) and a nephew was thrown while riding for a
doctor for a dead man, and died next day; and Andy broke his favourite
mare's heart riding to Mudgee for both of them, and nearly broke his
own over it.

His brother's death sent old Mathews on the drink again, and this
time, by way of variety, he fell down a diggers' hole on the Old Pipe
Clay in the dark, on his way home. It was Andy who found him, of
course--or, rather, Andy's dog. The old man was howling for them to
open the door, and Andy heard him when the dog led him to the shaft.
When they got him out and home, and when the doctor searched him, he
found that his arm was broken close up to the joint, and his right
ankle either badly sprained or fractured--two little matters that the
old man began to notice, and mention, himself, when the gin worked

Then Mary--but we don't want to talk about that. No gentleman born and
bred could have been more delicately and tactfully sympathetic and
helpful than Andy was in that trouble.

Then, while the old man's arm and ankle and poor Mary's reputation
slowly mended, came Jim, the dark blue-eyed and dark curly-haired and
popular. Poor Jim had something wrong with the shape of his head,
which was constantly sending him into trouble connected with cards, or
dice, or two pennies--or about a horse. The business about the last
horse was very bad, and they came and took Jim.

The old man went on grubbing round a stump, as if he was done with all
things in this world now except the getting out of that stump. But the
old woman (they were neither old in years) lay down on the rough bed--
in her clothes, this time--and turned her face to the split-slab wall,
which was lined with scrim and pasted over with old newspapers.

She turned from the wall for Andy, and for no one else.

"D--don't take it like that, Mrs. Mathews," said Andy. "Yer know--yer
know ye're like a mother t' me." Then, with a burst: "An' yer might
'a' bin--an' I might 'a' bin yer son all right if I'd bin a different
kinder cove."

She sat up and put both hands on his shoulders, and looked at him for
a space.

"Andy," she said, "was it Helen?"

"Yes," said Andy.

"Poor Andy!" she said. "But, Andy; you are my son--the only son I've
got now." Then, with a sudden and fearful change of expression that
scared Andy: "Andy, you'd do anything for me, wouldn't you?--poor
Nelly's heart-broken mother?"

"I'd do anything for you, Mrs. Mathews. I'd do anything for you that
I'd do for--for Nelly."

"And for Jim, for our sakes--mine and poor dead Nelly's?"

"Y--yes, Mrs. Mathews."

"Then you are my son, just as much as if Nelly had lived and you had
married her."

That night Andy Page walked down the gullies with his hat back and his
face up, and a new light on it, like a lad who had just won the best
girl in the world. But the pull or wrench was to come, as it generally
comes, the day after the wedding, so to speak, when most men want an
hour or so to themselves.

It was a question of proving an alibi in Jim's case, and so it came to
pass that Andy stood up in Court at the next circuit, and told the
first deliberate lie he had ever told in his life. Jim turned deathly,
and one or two others shook in their shoes as Andy took the oath, for
he seemed more deliberately awkward than usual, and fumbled with the
Bible, while old Mathews grew corpse-like, and there was a blasphemous
and furtive whisper that Andy had funked it. But Andy straightened
himself, took up the book firmly, kissed it squarely, and told the
lie--after swearing on the Holy Bible to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God!

And Andy's word got Jim off.

They slunk away from Andy's hopelessly staring eyes, as he stumbled
dazedly out of Court, and let him go. He didn't go home to Mathews',
nor yet to the spot that was sacred to the memory of Helen Mathews;
but he rode round through dark gullies behind old Mt. Buckaroo, and
went seven miles in an opposite direction to Home Rule, where he had
struggled through a blank childhood and a terrible boyhood, and where
his mother was buried. And she had been a good woman. Perhaps this was
a case to take to his mother's grave.

So some men will do for the sake of a dead girl what they will not do
for any living soul on earth.

Jim was getting into more trouble, when, a few days later, Andy took
him for a walk--past the cemetery, as it happened, and, at the end of
the walk and talk, he put his arm round Jim's shoulders, and said--

"An' now, Jim, it's a fair thing. Take my advice and go Out Back, and
stay there till Christmas."

"I--I will," blubbered Jim, who had broken down. "I--I'll go next
week, Andy; I'd go to-morrow if I had a quid or two more to git a

"Go to-morrow then, Jim," said Andy, and he pressed five dusty notes
into Jim's hand. Jim still blubbered, but his fingers closed over the
notes like the fingers of a schoolboy, who had been given a
pocketknife to comfort him or keep him quiet.

"I will, Andy; I'll go to-morrow." Then with a weak attempt to look
Andy squarely in the face: "And I'll turn over a new leaf, Andy; I
swear to God I will. Just you wait and see, Andy."

"And you'll go to-morrow, Jim."

"I'll go to-morrow, Andy, as true as there's a God above me."

And he kept his word. He stole another horse, and started early.

They called, or sent for, and claimed Andy Page in all times of
trouble--no matter what the trouble was; and forgot him, of course, in
all scenes that aped festivity. Andy being wanted meant trouble with
others, just as surely as it meant trouble for poor Jim (and, of
course, his family) when any one, and no matter who it was, wanted to
see Jim particularly. And Andy got into the way of starting when a
message or call came from "home," just as Jim would start at the gleam
of a "mounted trooper's" cap.

And they blamed Andy for every misfortune. No matter what it was, the
blame would be screwed, by the family mental twist, round on to Andy.
It was Andy's blundering--who never blundered from the right thing; or
it was Andy's "thick tongue"--who had a silent and "straight" one. If
Andy hadn't done this; or if Andy hadn't done that. If Andy hadn't
said this; or if Andy hadn't said that. If Andy hadn't told.

There is a gap in the catalogue of family troubles, for I was away
from the district; but the first day of my return it was my misfortune
to have to ride on to Mathews', which meant Andy, with the cheerful
message that Bob had been thrown from his horse on the way home from
his last shed; or rather, that both his horses and he had fallen into
a gully, and one horse had broken his neck and the other her leg (and
had to be shot), and Bob was lying more or less broken-up at the
Halfway House, where his recovery would be doubtful.

I found Andy rigging a Spanish windlass over a shaft in Sapling Gully,
above the farm, where one of the plough horses had fallen down in the
night. Old Mathews had just run home for tools, a pole, or fencing-
wire, of something.

Billy Leonard, Mrs. Mathews' brother, arrived with me, having been
sent for, and he was wild. He thought it was his horse he had lent
Andy the week before, and had been stoking himself and boiling-over
all the way, and, as is usual in such cases, he was not mollified to
find that he had worked himself up for nothing.

"Look here, Andy Page!" he said, "send back my horse to-morrow. I
can't breed horses to burst themselves for other people, and be let
loose to fall down a shaft any night."

"But it isn't your horse, Mr. Leonard," said Andy.

"Don't you mind whose horse it is. You send it back to-night. You
won't want it now, anyway, by the look of things."

"Well, Mr. Leonard," said Andy, plucking up, "I only borrowed it to
help your own sister, anyway. You might think of that."

"Well, if that's the way you're going to talk to me, Andy Page,"
snarled Billy, "you can get your horse out yourself. An' look here,
before you begin to talk to me, you can let me have the rest of that
fiver I lent you. Send back my horse to-night, that's all!" and he
rode off.

It struck Andy's face stoney, for he knew why the "fiver" had been
borrowed, and where it went. But there was no help for it. I had to
tell him about Bob.

Then Andy gave his head a despairing jerk, and his arm a great,
impatient swing--the first time I remember him showing a sign of
impatience, and he said to me, as if struck with a sudden idea--

"Look here, Harry! That family's gettin' redicklus!"

Then, as though momentarily stunned by the stupendous ingratitude of
it all, he passed his hand across his sweaty, clayey brow, and added--

"An' it's lucky for me that I didn't marry inter it. I'll say that

But just here there was a great screaming and running about and
wringing of helpless hands down at the house. Then Mary came running,
screaming all the way up the gully. Andy seemed rooted to the spot,
awaiting the worst in deadly calmness.

"Andy! Andy!!" she screamed, "father's just bin found unconscious in
the middle of ther forty-acre paddock."

Andy turned slowly, as though turned by hypnotism, and, after a short
helpless stare in the direction where, I knew, lay the little cemetery
on the hillside, he swung back again and started running in the
direction of the forty-acre paddock.

She had loved, and had always shielded and stuck up for her father.

I thought I might as well follow.

The world is a ridiculous family, but it's safe to follow the Andies--
at a little distance.


THERE is one Chinaman the less in Australia by a mistake that was
purely aboriginal. Perhaps he is missed in China. Ted Butler brings
the account of the tragedy from Northern Queensland or somewhere.

The old shepherd had died, or got drunk, or got rats, or got the sack,
or a legacy, or got sane, or chucked it, or got lost, or found, or a
wife, or had cut his throat, or hanged himself, or got into Parliament
or the peerage--anyway, anything had happened to him that can happen
to an old shepherd or any other man in the bush, and he wasn't there.

Then a Chinaman came from nowhere, with nothing, apparently, save a
suit of dungaree, basket boots and hat, and a smile that was three
thousand years old. He looked as if he had fallen out of China last
night, and had been blown all the way in a dust storm, and the cracked
sweat and dust made him look more like an ancient Joss. He had no
English, but understood the boss as new chum Chinamen always
understand bosses, or as bosses can always make them understand.

"You want a job?"

"Yel," said the Chinaman.

"Can you shepherd sheep?"


"You saw that hut along the track, where there were some sheep in a


"You go back there, and put the sheep out in the morning, and put them
in at night."


"By and by I send you some ration."


"Well, stop yellin' and get."


"Get--go back."

"Yel." And China toiled and ploughed through the dust towards the hut.

Presently Billy, the black boy, came riding home.

"I say, Billy."

"Yahs, boss."

"Don't take the saddle off yet. I want you to take some tucker along
to the Mile Hut, and give it to the new shepherd you'll see there. Go
to the storekeeper, and he'll give you a bag of ration."

"Yahs, boss."

But in about three-quarters of an hour Billy was back, and he brought
the rations back with him.

"Wotinel, now, Billy? Didn't you see the new shepherd?"

"No, boss."

"Didn't you see anybody there at the hut?"

"No, boss."

"--it. Didn't you see a Chinaman there?"

"No, boss. What like it that phella?"

"X X X!--!!! Didn't you see a man--or a--woman if you like? Didn't
yer seen any double dash thing?"

"No, boss." Then, as an afterthought, "I see it something. Yellow,
like it dingo. Tail like it yarramin." (A horse. John had his pigtail
down and loose, and was dressing it when Billy happened.) "Talk it
like a plurry cockatoo. Bin killit sheep, mine think it. I bin kill

I suppose they buried the Chow--and the boss carefully gave Billy an
elementary lesson on the Races of Man before another blew out of


NEW Year's Eve! A hot night in midsummer in the drought. It was so
dark--with a smothering darkness--that even the low loom of the scrub-
covered ridges, close at hand across the creek, was not to be seen.
The sky was not clouded for rain, but with drought haze and the smoke
of distant bush fires.

Down the hard road to the crossing at Pipeclay Creek sounded the
footsteps of a man. Not the crunching steps of an English labourer,
clod-hopping contentedly home; these sounded more like the footsteps
of one pacing steadily to and fro, and thinking steadily and
hopelessly--sorting out the past. Only the steps went on. A glimmer of
white moleskin trousers and a suggestion of light-coloured tweed
jacket, now and again, as if in the glimmer of a faint ghost light in
the darkness.

The road ran along by the foot of a line of low ridges, or spurs, and,
as he passed the gullies or gaps, he felt a breath of hotter air, like
blasts from a furnace in the suffocating atmosphere. He followed a
two-railed fence for a short distance, and turned in at a white batten
gate. It seemed lighter now. There was a house, or, rather, a hut
suggested, with whitewashed slab walls and a bark roof. He walked
quietly round to the door of a detached kitchen, opened it softly,
went in and struck a match. A candle stood, stuck in a blot of its own
grease, on one end of the dresser. He lit the candle and looked round.

The walls of the kitchen were of split slabs, the roof box-bark, the
floor clay, and there was a large clay-lined fireplace, the sides a
dirty brown, and the back black. It had evidently never been
whitewashed. There was a bed of about a week's ashes, and above it,
suspended by a blackened hook and chain from a grimy cross-bar, hung a
black bucket full of warm water. The man got a fork, explored the
bucket, and found what he expected--a piece of raw corned-beef in
water, which had gone off the boil before the meat had been heated

The kitchen was furnished with a pine table, a well-made flour bin,
and a neat safe and side-board, or dresser--evidently the work of a
carpenter. The top of the safe was dirty--covered with crumbs and
grease and tea stains. On one corner lay a school exercise book, with
a stone ink-bottle and a pen beside it. The book was open at a page
written in the form of verse, in a woman's hand, and headed--


He took the edges of the book between his fingers and thumbs, and made
to tear it, but, the cover being tough, and resisting the first savage
tug, he altered his mind, and put the book down. Then he turned to the
table. There was a jumble of dirty crockery on one end, and on the
other, set on a sheet of stained newspaper, the remains of a meal--a
junk of badly-hacked bread, a basin of dripping (with the fat over the
edges), and a tin of treacle. The treacle had run down the sides of
the tin on to the paper. Knives, heavy with treacle, lay glued to the
paper. There was a dish with some water, a rag, and a cup or two in
it--evidently an attempt to wash-up.

The man took up a cup and pressed it hard between his palms, until it
broke. Then he felt relieved. He gathered the fragments in one hand,
took the candle, and stumbled out to where there was a dustheap.
Kicking a hole in the ashes, he dropped in the bits of broken
crockery, and covered them. Then his anger blazed again. He walked
quickly to the back door of the house, thrust the door open, and flung
in, but a child's voice said from the dark--

"Is that you, father? Don't tread on me, father."

The room was nearly as bare as the kitchen. There was a table, covered
with cheap American oilcloth, and, on the other side, a sofa on which
a straw mattress, a cloudy blanket, and a pillow without a slip had
been thrown in a heap. On the floor, between the sofa and the table,
lay a boy--child almost--on a similar mattress, with a cover of coarse
sacking, and a bundle of dirty clothes for a pillow. A pale,
thinfaced, dark-eyed boy.

"What are you doing here, sonny?" asked the father.

"Mother's bad again with her head. She says to tell you to come in
quiet, and sleep on the sofa tonight. I started to wash up and clean
up the kitchen, father, but I got sick."

"Why, what is the matter with you, sonny?" His voice quickened, and he
held the candle down to the child's face.

"Oh, nothing much, father. I felt sick, but I feel better now."

"What have you been eating?"

"Nothing that I know of; I think it was the hot weather, father."

The father spread the mattress, blew out the candle, and lay down in
his clothes. After a while the boy began to toss restlessly.

"Oh, it's too hot, father," he said. "I'm smothering."

The father got up, lit the candle, took a corner of the newspaper-
covered "scrim" lining that screened the cracks of the slab wall, and
tore it away; then he propped open the door with a chair.

"Oh, that's better already, father," said the boy.

The hut was three rooms long and one deep, with a verandah in front
and a skillion, harness and tool room, about half the length, behind.
The father opened the door of the next room softly, and propped that
open, too. There was another boy on the sofa, younger than the first,
but healthy and sturdy-looking. He had nothing on him but a very dirty
shirt, a patchwork quilt was slipping from under him, and most of it
was on the floor; the boy and the pillow were nearly off, too.

The father fixed him as comfortably as possible, and put some chairs
by the sofa to keep him from rolling off. He noticed that somebody had
started to scrub this room, and left it. He listened at the door of
the third room for a few moments to the breathing within; then he
opened it and gently walked in. There was an old-fashioned four-poster
cedar bedstead, a chest of drawers, and a baby's cradle made out of a
gin-case. The woman was fast asleep. She was a big, strong, and
healthy-looking woman, with dark hair and strong, square features.
There was a plate, a knife and fork, and eggshells, and a cup and
saucer on the top of the chest of drawers; also two candles, one stuck
in a mustard tin, and one in a pickle bottle, and a copy of Ardath.

He stepped out into the skillion, and lifted some harness on to its
pegs from chaff-bags in the corner. Coming in again, he nearly
stumbled over a bucket half-full of dirty water on the floor, with a
scrubbing brush, some wet rags, and half a bar of yellow soap beside
it. He put these things in the bucket, and carried it out. As he
passed through the first room the sick boy said--

"I couldn't lift the saddle of the harness on to the peg, father. I
had to leave the scrubbing to make some tea and cook some eggs for
mother, and put baby to bed, and then I felt too bad to go on with the
scrubbing--and I forgot about the bucket."

"Did the baby have any tea, sonny?"

"Yes. I made her bread and milk, and she ate a big plateful. The
calves are in the pen alright, and I fixed the gate. And I brought a
load of wood this morning, father, before mother took bad."

"You should not have done that. I told you not to. I could have done
that on Sunday. Now, are you sure you didn't lift a log into the cart
that was too heavy for you?"

"Quite sure, father. Oh, I'm plenty strong enough to put a load of
wood on the cart."

The father lay on his back on the sofa, with his hands behind his
head, for a few minutes.

"Aren't you tired, father?" asked the boy.

"No, sonny, not very tired; you must try and go to sleep now," and he
reached across the table for the candle, and blew it out.

Presently the baby cried, and in a moment the mother's voice was

"Nils! Nils! Are you there, Nils?"

"Yes, Emma."

"Then for God's sake come and take this child away before she drives
me mad! My head's splitting."

The father went in to the child and presently returned for a cup of

"She only wanted a drink," the boy heard him say to the mother.

"Well, didn't I tell you she wanted a drink? I've been calling for the
last half-hour, with that child screaming, and not a soul to come near
me, and me lying here helpless all day, and not a wink of sleep for
two nights."

"But, Emma, you were asleep when I came in."

"How can you tell such infernal lies? I--. To think I'm chained to a
man who can't say a word of truth! God help me! To have to lie night
after night in the same bed with a liar!"

The child in the first room lay quaking with terror, dreading one of
those cruel and shameful scenes which had made a hell of his

"Hush, Emma!" the man kept saying. "Do be reasonable. Think of the
children. They'll hear us."

"I don't care if they do. They'll know soon enough, God knows! I wish
I was under the turf!"

"Emma, do be reasonable."

"Reasonable! I--"

The child was crying again. The father came back to the first room,
got something from his coat pocket, and took it in.

"Nils, are you quite mad, or do you want to drive me mad? Don't give
the child that rattle! You must be either mad or a brute, and my
nerves in this state. Haven't you got the slightest consideration

"It's not a rattle, Emma; it's a doll."

"There you go again! Flinging your money away on rubbish that'll be on
the dust-heap to-morrow, and your poor wife slaving her finger-nails
off for you in this wretched hole, and not a decent rag to her back.
Me, your clever wife that ought to be--. Light those candles and bring
me a wet towel for my head. I must read now, and try and compose my
nerves, if I can."

When the father returned to the first room, the boy was sitting up in
bed, looking deathly white.

"Why, what's the matter, sonny?" said the father, bending over him,
and putting a hand to his back.

"Nothing, father. I'll be all right directly. Don't you worry,

"Where do you feel bad, sonny?"

"In my head and stomach, father; but I'll be all right d'rectly. I've
often been that way."

In a minute or two he was worse.

"For God's sake, Nils, take that boy into the kitchen, or somewhere,"
cried the woman, "or I'll go mad. It's enough to kill a horse. Do you
want to drive me into a lunatic asylum?"

"Do you feel better now, sonny?" asked the father.

"Yes, ever so much better, father," said the boy, white and weak.
"I'll be all right in a minute, father."

"You had best sleep on the sofa to-night, sonny. It's cooler there."

"No, father, I'd rather stay here; it's much cooler now."

The father fixed the bed as comfortably as he could, and, despite the
boy's protest, put his own pillow under his head. Then he made a fire
in the kitchen, and hung the kettle and a big billy of water over it.
He was haunted by recollections of convulsions amongst the children
while they were teething. He took off his boots, and was about to lie
down again when the mother called--

"Nils, Nils, have you made a fire?"

"Yes, Emma."

"Then for God's sake make me a cup of tea. I must have it after all

He hurried up the kettle--she calling every few minutes to know if
"that kettle was boiling yet." He took her a cup of tea, and then a
second. She said the tea was slush, and as sweet as syrup, and called
for more, and hot water.

"How do you feel now, sonny?" he asked as he lay down on the sofa once

"Much better, father. You can put out the light now if you like."

The father blew out the candle, and settled back again, still dressed,
save for his coat, and presently the small, weak hand sought the hard,
strong, horny, knotted one; and so they lay, as was customary with
them. After a while the father leaned over a little and whispered--

"Asleep, sonny?"

"No, father."

"Feel bad again?"

"No, father."


"What are you thinking about, sonny?"

"Nothing, father."

"But what is it? What are you worrying about? Tell me."

"Nothing, father, only--it'll be a good while yet before I grow up to
be a man, won't it, father?"

The father lay silent and troubled for a few moments.

"Why do you ask me that question to-night, sonny? I thought you'd done
with all that. You were always asking me that question when you were a
child. You're getting too old for those foolish fancies now. Why have
you always had such a horror of growing up to be a man?"

"I don't know, father. I always had funny thoughts--you know, father.
I used to think that I'd been a child once before, and grew up to be a
man, and grew old and died."

"You're not well to-night, sonny--that's what's the matter. You're
queer, sonny; it's a touch of sun--that's all. Now, try to go to
sleep. You'll grow up to be a man, in spite of laying awake worrying
about it. If you do, you'll be a man all the sooner."

Suddenly the mother called out--

"Can't you be quiet? What do you mean by talking at this hour of the
night? Am I never to get another wink of sleep? Shut those doors,
Nils, for God's sake, if you don't want to drive me mad--and make that
boy hold his tongue!"

The father closed the doors.

"Better try to go to sleep now, sonny," he whispered, as he lay down

The father waited for some time, then, moving very softly, he lit the
candle at the kitchen fire, put it where it shouldn't light the boy's
face, and watched him. And the child knew he was watching him, and
pretended to sleep, and, so pretending, he slept. And the old year
died as many old years had died.

The father was up about four o'clock--he worked at his trade in a
farming town about five miles away, and was struggling to make a farm
and a home between jobs. He cooked bacon for breakfast, washed up the
dishes and tidied the kitchen, gave the boys some bread and bacon fat,
of which they were very fond, and told the eldest to take a cup of tea
and some bread and milk to his mother and the baby when they woke.

The boy milked the three cows, set the milk, and heard his mother

"Nils! Nils!"

"Yes, mother."

"Why didn't you answer when I called you? I've been calling here for
the last three hours. Is your father gone out?"

"Yes, mother."

"Thank God! It's a relief to be rid of his everlasting growling. Bring
me a cup of tea and the Australian Journal, and take this child out
and dress her; she should have been up hours ago."

And so the New Year began.


THE CLOUD of thick, brownish dust, that indicated the passing of the
mail coach, paused opposite the claim, and the driver left a brown
paper parcel on the corner post of the new--split, two-rail fence
which had recently taken the place of the old, convict-built log fence
round the Log Paddock. The Quiet Man took the parcel, and put it in a
box, which held nails, candle ends, etc., under the bellows of the
pick-pointing forge. Then he climbed to the top of the logged-up
waste-heap, sat on the edge, and dropped his feet over the shaft into
the suspended green-hide bucket, and took a grip of the rope, and his
mate, taking a turn of the rope round a cross-piece on the whip-pole,
lowered him to the bottom for his shift below.

"Now, I wonder what Tom got up by the coach," reflected the man on
top, with a lazy mental effort. "It was too light for groceries, and
it can't be fancy goods."

There were three huts on the siding of a spur of the ridge that came
down to the corner of Log Paddock. One, a one-roomed bark hut, with
the chimney and door in an end, stood down close to the road, within
stone-throw of the claim. The other two were up the hill a bit, to
right and left, the one on the left a two-roomed bark hut, the other
had four rooms, a skillion, and a shed, and whitewashed slab walls,
and was called a house--"Mrs. Foster's House," or "Mrs. Foster's
Place," or, for short, "the Fosters'." Mrs. Foster's husband and sons
were away mostly, working with the drays--tank-sinking, dam-making,
etc.--and her daughter was in service with the old land-grant family
who owned Log Paddock--several thousands of acres of good, clear,
level creek and river frontage land--and did nothing with it, while
the selectors broke their backs and hearts trying to make farms in the
barren ridges. Mrs. Foster was just a gaunt, practical bushwoman, who,
in long years of hardship, drought and struggle, had lost the faculty
of bothering about things. She kept some cows and fowls and sold eggs
and butter, and assisted at bush confinements gratis. She worked hard
always--it was a habit she couldn't break herself of; besides, there
was nothing to rest for. She took the good, old, quiet Australian
Journal--they had got into the habit of subscribing for it years and
years before--and when it came she read it by snatches, between
mending and patching, or over a lonely cup of tea, as if it were a
less important part of her work, or duty, yet a part. She gave tramps
their allowance of tucker, too, as a matter of course, as though she
regarded them as details of ordinary bush life, in the ordinary bush
day's work. And so they were.

The woman who lived in the two-roomed hut was quite a young woman--
thirty-two or thirty-three--and quite good-looking. She had in her
grey eyes something that was past being haggard, and past being
haunted, and past being contemptuous; an expression--if you might call
it an expression, or the ghost of an expression--as if hope, love,
terror, horror, remorse, hatred and ice-cold contempt for the world
and all in it had all been there at one time, but years ago. I saw
just such an expression once in the eyes of a girl-singer who was
playing a harp and singing in a low pub in a sailors' bar in Genoa.
The woman in the hut had a weak face, or a face that had been weak,
with a curved-down mouth, but looking as if it had been chiselled down
with hard cuts in hard stone. She had belonged to a family of
publicans on the old Pipe-clay goldfield; had run away to Sydney with
some one as a girl, and come back in two or three years with a sewing
machine and a baby girl; had gone with the rush to Gulgong and other
fields, keeping grimly to herself, and working as a dressmaker. The
vicious cackle of women's tongues had died out with the years, other
children had been allowed and encouraged to play with her little
girl--now a sweet, gentle little thing of ten or twelve--and from
being referred to viciously as "Mrs. Brent-as-she-calls-herself," she
came to be called Mrs. Brent by courtesy, then by custom, and now
respectfully. The quiet influence of quiet, respectable men, who knew
the world, had a lot to do in bringing this change about--they always
treated her very respectfully. Mrs. Foster was her friend. They had
been neighbours on Gulgong, too, where, one day, Mrs. Foster got a
suspicion. Then she watched, and next day, after breakfast, and when
Mrs. Brent's little girl had gone to school, she dropped on her
unexpectedly with a length of dress material. Mrs. Brent hastily threw
a sheet of newspaper over half a loaf of bread, a saucer of dripping,
and a cup of milkless, sugarless tea on the table; but she was too
late. She was making moleskin trousers for the stores at that time.
Mrs. Foster was a woman of hard, practical kindness, and little or no
tact, and she offended Mrs. Brent at once.

"What do you mean," she demanded, "to come here and talk to me like
that? What is it to you whether I had any breakfast or not? I don't
know you! It's a new thing for a strange woman to come into a woman's
house and insult her. Who are you, and what do you want?"

"I'm Mrs. Foster, and I was there when you were born, but you don't
remember that. All I know is that you're starving yourself--you can't
work on an empty stomach; no woman can. You'll break down. And there's
your little girl--"

"She had an egg for her breakfast," broke in Mrs. Brent passionately.
"There's the shell in the fireplace if you don't believe me. If you
think I'm a pauper to be--to be--But why! To think of the brazen
impudence of it!" she gasped. "Now you just get out of this house,
whoever you are! There's the door!"

And so it was, but so there was Mrs. Foster, who had managed men in
the D.T.'s and had nursed a mad woman in her time; and so, in two
minutes, the door was shut, and the girl who had gone wrong was
sobbing on the flat breast of the woman who had never got the chance.

They often sewed together, mostly in silence, and had a cup of tea
together--sometimes at Mrs. Brent's hut and sometimes at Mrs.
Foster's. I don't know whether Mrs. Brent told Mrs. Foster all about
it, but most probably she did once, and was done with it. When they
sat and worked together in silence the chances are that the younger
woman brooded over the old wrong, and her relatives who were
scattered, and from whom she had never heard "since it happened." It
would, I think, be impossible to puzzle out what women like Mrs.
Foster think about over their work. She was past hoping or fretting,
and past complaining. There was nothing in the future, and there could
have been very little brightness in the past. Yet she knitted her
forehead, and seemed to be thinking deeply at times; but perhaps she
was only considering the advisability of buying another yard or two of
that stuff she got at the store in town.

The Quiet Man lived in the hut near the road, with his little boy of
five or six. The Quiet Man's name was Tom Moore, and he had been a
popular man on the goldfields. He married a girl at Gulgong about
seven years before, and she died before they had their first serious
quarrel. She died in child-birth. Mrs. Foster was a neighbour then;
she nursed Mrs. Moore, took charge of the child, cooked Tom's meals,
and saw that he ate them. He had been a quiet man ever since. There
had been talk of him and Mrs. Brent when she was a girl and he little
more than a boy, on the old Pipeclay diggings years ago; but he very
seldom spoke to, and never of, her, and he treated her with the
greatest respect. It was noticed that while other diggers gave her
clothes to make and mend, he never did; but he saw that her water cask
was kept filled, in dry weather, from the spring on the flat, and that
a load of cut firewood was dumped at the back of the hut occasionally.

Log Paddock was nearly done, and there were fewer diggers than
selectors in the vicinity. The children went to a small "provisional"
school, over the ridges--where, by the way, little else than geography
was provided, the teacher being well up in that branch, and no other.

Little Harry Moore went there occasionally, and was taken in strict
and motherly custody, from the time he left his father's hut until he
returned to it, by little Lily Brent. Mrs. Foster looked after little
Harry's stomach, and the seats of his breeches, while the father was
at work; and little Harry usually slept at her place while Tom was on
night shift. The child knew her as "Aunty Foster" all his life, and
every male in the vicinity was "uncle" to him.

Now, along about this Christmas time, Aunty Foster got another
suspicion. On one or two occasions Tom thanked her for certain repairs
and additions to his son's wardrobe, which she couldn't remember--
wasn't responsible for, in fact; and it puzzled her vaguely, but she
was past bothering over riddles. But one day he thanked her very
kindly for a new shirt for Harry, and insisted on paying for the
material, anyhow; and she knew she hadn't made that shirt. And this,
of course, puzzled her a bit. Then she said, "Oh, that's all right!"

Some days later Mrs. Brent fell ill, and Mrs. Foster nursed her for a
day and a night. Early next morning Tom saw her hurrying across from
Mrs. Brent's hut to her own, and stumbled hastily up the hill to cut
her off--and seemed to have nothing to say to her when he stopped her.
But Mrs. Foster understood him as he stood helplessly and
purposelessly before her.

"She's much better, Tom," she said. "She's had a good sleep, and
she'll be alright by to-morrow."

"Thank you, Mrs. Foster," said Tom, and retreated in confusion to his
hut, where he let the chops burn, and started to put on his little
boy's trousers back to front.

"Father," said Harry suddenly, "are you in love?"

"Wha'--what?" gasped Tom.

"Because," said Harry, "Lily Brent says that when people are in love
they forget and do things wrong."

"Don't talk nonsense, sonny," said Tom, so the conversation closed.

Tom had always been extremely shy of his little boy, and avoided
conversation, and they were strangers yet; but an incident was coming
along that was to bring those two lonely hearts close together.

It was Christmas Eve, and Tom and his mate knocked off a few minutes
before twelve at night. The hut and its shadow stood a dark patch in
the bright moonlight. Tom went in softly and lit the candle. Little
Harry was asleep--or seemed asleep. Tom changed his wet flannel and
moleskins, and then opened the parcel he had brought with him. A
woman's stocking hung to a nail at the head of the boy's bunk, and the
sight of it gave Tom a pang; he thought at first that it was one of
his wife's stockings, which had remained all this time unnoticed
amongst his belongings, and which the boy had found; but, on second
thoughts, he concluded that it must have been borrowed for the purpose
from Mrs. Foster. Moving softly, Tom put the lollies, ball, stem of a
jumping-jack and tin whistle in the stocking, and laid a Chatterbox
and a popgun on the table close handy. He turned to see if he had
missed anything, when the boy spoke suddenly, and Tom started as if he
had been shot. Little Harry was sitting up, his eyes wide open and
bright, and his arms stretched out towards his father.

"Father! Father!" he cried. "Oh, I'm so glad you're Santa Claus. I
suspected it for such a long time."

And the lonely man went down on his knees by the bunk, and the little
arms went round his neck.

"Father," said Harry presently, "why do you turn your face away? Why
don't you look at me?"

But the father couldn't for a while. Presently he asked, in a strange

"Where did you get the stocking, sonny?"

"From Mrs. Brent," said Harry; "but I promised her not to tell."

A thought struck Tom.

"Did Mrs. Brent make any clothes or things for you, Harry?" he asked.

"Yes," said Harry. "And, father, she's got an old portrait of you--
same's what we've got. I saw her looking at it one day--but I promised
not to tell that either."

Just then there was a step outside, and Tom opened the door, and there
stood Mrs. Brent, who started, gasped, turned very white, and then
flushed in the moonlight.

"Oh!" she gasped, "I--I--didn't know you were home, and--and I just
come to see if little Harry was alright."

Tom suddenly stepped forward, took both her hands, and looked into her
startled eyes. They stood so for a moment; then, as she felt, or
fancied she felt, his hands loosen, she cried out, as though pleading
for life.

"Tom--Tom! It happened so long ago, and I'd be a good wife to you;
forgive me." And Tom took her to him.

And, one morning in the New Year, after the wash-up (and the claim
panned out very well), the four of them went away in the coach, and
for a long time after the dust cloud disappeared down the road, Mrs.
Foster sat staring blindly at the pages of the Australian Journal.


I TOLD you how we took up a selection at Lahey's Creek, and how little
Jim had convulsions on the road out, and Brighton's sister-in-law
saved him; and about the hard struggle we had for years, and poor Mrs.
Spicer, who was "past carin'," and died like a broken-down horse; and
how I was lucky, got to be a squatter, and bought a brand-new, first-
class double buggy for Mary--and how her brother James brought it as a
surprise to Lahey's Creek. And before that I told you all about how I
first met Mary at Haviland Station, and how we fell in love, courted,
and got married. Ah, well! How the time goes by!

I had luck, and did well for three or four seasons running. I was
always going to build a new brick-and-shingle house for Mary--bricks
and shingles are cooler than slabs and iron--but that was one of the
houses I never built--except in the air. I've lived on the bank of the
creek, and the place looked about the same as ever--and about as
dreary and lonely and God-forsaken. I didn't even get any more
furniture, in a good many of 'em.

So we still lived in the old slab-and-bark house and Mary got tired of
bothering me about it. I'd always say, "Wait till the new house is
built." It was no home for a woman. I can see that now.

You remember how I was always talking about making a nice home for
Mary, and giving her more of my time, and trying to make her life a
little brighter when things brightened up. I tried to do it by taking
her trips to Sydney whenever I could get her to go, leaving her
brother James to look after the station. At first I'd send the black
boy ahead with fresh horses, and we'd flash down in the buggy the
hundred miles or so of glorious mountain and valley road to
Wallerawang, leave the buggy and two horses there, and take the train
over the Blue Mountains to the Big Smoke. Then again, when wool was
up, I'd take berths in a sleeping carriage from Dubbo, and put up at
the Royal in Sydney, and do the thing in great style. But Mary thought
the sleeping carriage was unnecessary expense, and she didn't like
stopping at an hotel. She was always anxious about me and the drink.
She preferred some "cheap, quiet place." "A run of bad seasons might
come along at any time, Joe," she said, "and then you'll be sorry for
the money you throw away now."

I thought it was very unjust of her to talk of throwing away money
when I was only trying to give her pleasure--but then women were
always unjust and unreasonable.

"If we don't enjoy ourselves when we've got the chance, we never
will," I said.

"We could do that just as well at home, Joe," said Mary, "if you only
knew--if you'd listen to me, and go the right way to work about it.
Why can't you settle down in your own home, and make it bright, and be

"Well, what's the use of furniture, or a new house for that matter,
when there's no one but Bushies to look at it?" I said. "We might just
as well live in a tent. What's the use of burying ourselves in the
blasted Bush altogether? We've got two pretty children, and you're
good-looking yet, Mary, and it isn't as if we were an old man and

"I'm nearly twenty-seven," said Mary. "I only thought of it to-day,
and it came like a shock to me. I feel like an old woman."

I'd learned enough of women not to argue with Mary while she was in
that mood. The fact of the matter was that after the first trip or two
she didn't seem to enjoy herself in the city. You see, she always
insisted on taking the children with her. She couldn't bring herself
to trust them at home with the girl, and I knew that if she did, she'd
be worrying all the time, and spoil her pleasure and mine, and so we
always took them with us. But they were an awful drag in the city.
Mary wouldn't trust 'em with a strange woman or girl, except perhaps
for a few hours when they were in bed, and we went to one of the
theatres. So we always carted them round the town with us. I soon got
tired of humping one or the other of 'em. But crossing the streets was
the worst. It was bad enough with Mary when we were out alone. She
would hang back when the crossing was clear, and suddenly make a start
when there was a rush of traffic, and baulk as often as not, and
sometimes turn and run back to the kerb from the middle of the
street--me trying to hang on to her all the time--till I'd get rippin'
wild, and go for her.

"Damn it all!" I said, "why can't you trust to me and come when I tell
you? One would think I came out with the fixed intention of getting
you run over, and getting rid of you." And Mary would lose her temper,
and say, "Ah, well, Joe, I sometimes think you do want to get rid of
me, the way you go on," or something like that, and our pleasure would
be spoilt for the day. But with the children! What with one or the
other of them always whimpering or crying, and Jim always yelling when
we got into a tram, or 'bus, or boat, or into some place that he
didn't trust, or when we reckoned we were lost, which was about every
twenty minutes--and, what with Mary losing her temper every time I
lost mine, there were times when I really wished in my heart I was on
my own...Ah, well, there came a day when I had my wish.

I forgot about the hard life in huts and camps in the Bush, and the
bitter, heart-breaking struggle she'd shared with me since we were
married, and how she'd slaved and fought through the blazing drought
on that wretched, lonely selection, in the first year, while I was
away with the team most of the time--how she'd stuck to me through
thick and thin. I only thought she was very irritable and selfish and
unreasonable, and that she ought to be able to keep the children in
better order. I believed that she had spoilt them. And I was wild to
think how our holiday was being wasted.

After the first time or two, Mary didn't seem to enjoy the theatre.
She told me one night, when we got a bit confidential, that the play
had depressed her, and made her sad.

"How's that?" I asked.

"Well, Joe," she said, "I don't want to hurt you, Joe, but, if you
must know, I was thinking all the time of the past--of our own lives."

That hurt me and made me wild. I'd been thinking, too, all the time I
was watching the play, of life as it was, and my own dull, sordid,
hopeless, monotonous life in particular. But I hadn't been thinking of
hers. The truth seemed that we were getting on each other's nerves--
we'd been too long together alone in the Bush; and it isn't good for a
man and his wife to be too much alone. I at least had come to think
that when Mary said unpleasant things she only did it to irritate me.

"What are you always raking up the past for?" I said. "Can't you have
done with it? Ain't I doing my best to make you happy? What more do
you want?"

"I want a good many little things, Joe," said Mary.

We quarrelled then, but in the hard, cold, quiet, sarcastic way we'd
got into lately--not the old short, fierce quarrel of other days, when
we'd make it up, and love each other all the more afterwards. I don't
know how much I hurt her, but I know she cut me to the heart
sometimes, as a woman can cut a man. Next evening I went out alone,
and didn't get back to the hotel till after twelve. Mary was up,
waiting; but she didn't say much, only that she had been afraid to go
to bed. Next morning she asked me to stay in and watch the children
while she went shopping, and bought the things she wanted to take
home, and I did, and we made it up, and got along smoothly until after
tea; then I wanted to go out, and Mary didn't want me to--she wanted
me to sit on the balcony with her.

I remember she was very earnest about me staying in with her that
evening, and if I hadn't been drinking the night before I would have
stayed. I waited awhile, and then I got restless, and found I was out
of tobacco.

"I will send out for it, Joe," said Mary.

"What nonsense," I said. "I'll run out and get it myself. I'm all
right. I'll get some fruit, too, and chocolates, for the children.
I'll only be a few minutes."

"Well, if you must go, you must," she said, in the hard tone again.

"I'll only be a few minutes, I tell you," I said. "Don't start the
thing again, for God's sake."

"Well, promise me you won't be more than a quarter of an hour," said
Mary, "and I'll wait here for you. I don't like being left alone in a
place full of strange men."

"That's all right, Mary," I said, and I stepped out for half an hour.
I was restless as a hen that didn't know where to lay. I wanted to
walk, and was fond of the noise and bustle of the streets. They
fascinated me, and dragged me out.

I didn't get back to the hotel till daylight.

I hoped to find Mary asleep, and I went into the bedroom very softly.
She was in bed, but she was awake. She took the thing so quietly that
it made me uneasy. When an impulsive, determined little woman begins
to take things very quietly, it's time for the man to straighten up
and look out. She didn't even ask me where I'd been, and that made me
more uneasy (I had a good yarn readied up), and when she spoke of a
murder case in the Herald and asked me if I'd read the divorce case,
where a wife sued her husband for drunkenness and adultery, I began to
get scared. I wished she'd go for me, and have done with it, but she
didn't. At last, at breakfast, she said--

"I think we'll go home to-day, Joe; we'll take the evening train from
Redfern. You can get any business done that you want to do by that

And I thought so, too.

It was a miserable journey--one of the most dreary and miserable I
ever made in my life. Both the children were peevish all the way.
While there were other passengers in the carriage I couldn't talk to
Mary, and when we were alone she wouldn't talk to me--except to answer
yes and no.

The worst of it was that I didn't know what she thought, or how much
she suspected. I wondered whether she believed that I had deceived
her, and that worried me a lot. I hadn't been drinking much, and I
came home sober that morning, so drink was no excuse for me being out
all night. I thought once or twice that it would have been much better
if I'd come home drunk, with a muddled yarn about meeting an old chum
and having a glorious "auld-lang-syne" night at some club.

I was very attentive all the way. I got tea and cake and sandwiches at
every refreshment room, and whatever fruit I could lay hands on, and
nursed the children to sleep by turns; but it didn't soften Mary. She
wasn't a child any longer. She only said, "Thank you, Joe," and as I
watched her face it seemed to grow harder and more set and obstinate.

"Mary," I said at last, when we were going down the Great Zig-zag,
"suppose we get out at Wallerawang, and go up through Cudgegong? We
can rest there for a day, and then go on to Gulgong, and see your
sister and Dick, and stay there for a night perhaps."

"If you like, Joe," said Mary.

"You'll like to see Hilda, Mary, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, Joe," she said, in the same cold, disinterested tone, "I would
like to see her."

The case seemed hopeless. I had first-class tickets through to Dubbo,
and would have to get others for the Cudgegong (Mudgee) line; besides,
the coach fares would be extra, and I thought Mary would rouse
herself, and buck at the waste of money, but she didn't seem to mind
that a bit. But Haviland cattle station was on the Cudgegong line, and
it was at Haviland where I first met Mary. She was brought up there
from a child, and I thought that the sight of the place would break
her down, if anything would.

We changed trains at Wallerawang Junction at midnight, and passed the
great Capertee Valley and Macdonald's Hole in the moonlight--a great
basin in the mountains, where "Starlight" and the Marsdens used to
ride, and hide sometimes for months together, in Robbery Under Arms,
and where thousands of tourists will go some day. All along the
Western line I saw old roads and tracks where I came droving as a boy,
and old camps where I camped; and the ruins of one old Halfway House,
dismal and haunted, in the heavy scrub, where my old chum Jack Barnes
and I had a glorious spree one time; and Gerty--but never mind that;
and lonely, deserted old roads, where I carried when I grew up, and
often tramped beside the bullocks or horses, and spouted Gordon's
poetry till it lifted me, and wished to God that I could write like
that, or do something, or break away from the life that was driving me
mad. And it all made me feel very dismal now and hopeless, and I hated
the Bush worse than ever, and made up my mind to take Mary and the
children out of it, just as soon as I could get rid of the station.
I'd take the first reasonable offer that came.

Mary slept, or pretended to sleep, most of the time, and I kept the
children quiet. I watched her face a good deal, and tried to persuade
myself that she hadn't changed much since the days when I had courted
her at Haviland; but somehow, Mary and the girl I got to love me years
ago seemed very different. It seemed to me as if--well, as if I'd
courted a girl and married a woman. But perhaps it was time and
distance--or I might have changed most. I began to feel myself getting
old (forty was very near), but it had never struck me that Mary would
feel that way too.

We had breakfast at Rylstone. After that Mary talked a little, but
still in a hard, cold way. She wondered how things were at home, and
hoped it would rain soon. She said the weather looked and smelt like
the beginning of a drought. Hanging out blue lights, I thought. Then
she'd be silent for miles, except to speak to the children; and then I
got a suspicion that she was talking at me through them, and it made
me wild, and I had a job to keep from breaking out. It was during that
journey that I first began to wonder what my wife was thinking about,
and to worry over it--to distrust her silence. I wished she'd cry, and
then it struck me that I hadn't seen tears in Mary's eyes for God
knows how long--and the thought of it hurt me a lot.

We had the carriage to ourselves after Dungaree, and Haviland was the
next station. I wished we could have passed Haviland by moonlight, or
in the evening, instead of the garish morning. I thought it would have
been more likely to soften Mary. I'd rehearsed the business, half
unconsciously, humbugging myself, as men will. I was going to be very
silent, and look extra sad, and keep gazing out of the window, and
never look at Mary, and try, if possible, to squeeze some suspicious
moisture into my eyes, as we passed the place. But I felt by instinct
that my barneying and pleading and bluffing and acting and humbugging
days were past--also my bullying days. I couldn't work on Mary's
feelings now like I used to. I knew, or thought I knew, that she saw
through me, and felt that she knew I knew it. Most men's wives see
through their husband's sooner or later, and when a wife does, it's
time for a husband to drop his nonsense, and go straight. She'll know
when he's sincere and when he's not--he needn't be afraid of that.

And so, the nearer we got to Haviland, the more helpless and
unprepared I felt. But when the train swung round the horn of the
crescent of hills in which Haviland lay there wasn't any need for
acting. There was the old homestead, little changed, and as fair as it
seemed in those far-away days, nearly eight years ago, when that lanky
scamp, Joe Wilson, came hanging round after "Little 'Possum," who was
far too good for the likes of him. There was the stable and buggy
house that Jack Barnes and I built between shearings. There was the
wide, brick-floored, vine-covered verandah where I first saw Mary; and
there was the little green flat by the river where I stood up, that
moonlight night, like a man, and thrashed big "Romany," the station
hand, because he'd said something nasty about little Mary Brand--all
the time she was sitting singing with the other girls under the
verandah to amuse a new chum Jackeroo. And there, near the willows by
the river, was the same old white, hardwood log where Mary and I sat
in the moonlight next night, while all the rest were dancing in the
big woolshed--when I made her understand how awfully fond of her I
was. And there--

There was no need for humbugging now. The trouble was to swallow the
lumps in my throat, and keep back the warm gush of suspicious moisture
that came to my eyes. Mary sat opposite, and I stole a glance at her.
She was staring out with wide-opened eyes, and there were tears in
them--and a scared look, I fancied for the moment. Then suddenly she
turned from the window and looked at me, her eyes wide and brimming,
and--well, it was the same little Mary, my sweetheart, after our first
quarrel years ago.

I jumped up and sat down by her side, and put my arm round her; and
she just put her arms round my neck and her head down on my chest, and
cried till the children cried too, and little Jim interfered--he
thought I was hurting his mother. Then Mary looked up and smiled. She
comforted the children, and told them to kiss their father, and for
the rest of the journey we talked of those old days, and at last Mary
put her arms round my neck, and said--

"You never did deceive me, Joe, did you? I want you to swear that to

"No, Mary," I said, "I never did. I swear to God I never did!"

And God knew whether I had done so or not.

.   .   .   .   .

"You've got the scar on the bridge of your nose still," said Mary,
kissing it, "and"--as if she'd just noticed it for the first time--
"why! your hair is greyer than ever," and she pulled down my head, and
her fingers began to go through my hair as in the days of old. And
when we got to the hotel at Cudgegong, she made me have a bath and lie
down on the bed and go to sleep. And when I awoke, late in the
afternoon, she was sitting by my side, smoothing my hair.



IT WAS a long time before we knew for certain that Mary's brother
James was shook after Maggie Charlesworth, the girl from Wall's
station. James always kept his business and his feelings to himself,
if he had any--I suppose he had. Perhaps he felt as much as, or more
than, the most of us, but hadn't the gift of expression, and felt and
suffered more on that account--but that's got nothing to do with it.

Maggie was a sort of adopted daughter at Wall's, and took a great
fancy to Mary, my wife, as all the girls and most of the women did.
She used to ride over to our place two or three times on weekdays and
always on Sunday afternoon. Mary and Maggie were great chums. Maggie
was a big, fine-looking Bush girl--a rare lump of a girl. A regular
tomboy, she used to be, they said, and chummy with every one, and they
said she used to tuck her petticoats under her when she thought she
was alone, and gallop through the Bush, riding man fashion. In fact,
they said she never got used to the side-saddle.

Even Mary, a woman, and Maggie's friend, and James' sister, was never
quite sure that there was anything between him and Maggie, though she
joked about it and chaffed Maggie sometimes. She didn't chaff James,
because she was his sister, and he was too sulky and short-tempered.
If Maggie knew, she kept it to herself. She kept James' secret, and
her own if she had one. She was very quick and witty, and could turn
off anything with a laugh and a joke. Perhaps it was because Mary was
James' sister that she didn't see the truth. Sisters don't know
everything, any more than mothers do, or wives for that matter.

But I had my own opinions--suspicions first, and then certainties.
"Take notice," my father used to say, "take notice of little things":
and I inherited the faculty from him, and took notice. Maybe, as I
grew up, and in after life, I took more notice of little things than
was good for my comfort or peace of mind--but that's got nothing to do
with it. I took notice of James. I noticed that when I happened to
ride up to the homestead at an odd hour of the day, when James ought
to be out on the run, and saw his horse in the yard and him pottering
round--patching up hurdles or doing something that ought to be done by
one of the men in the cool of the evening--it was a pretty sure sign
that Maggie Charlesworth was down at the house. I noticed later on
that James always had a new shed or bit of fencing on the way about
the homestead; and when he stayed at home, and took a few hours' spell
at the shed or fence, I felt pretty certain that Maggie would be down
to see Mary during the day. Mary would call him in to have a cup of
tea, when she made one for herself and Maggie, and James would drink
it grumpily and never say a word to Maggie, except "'Ello, Maggie!"
when he saw her, unless she spoke to him. She'd chaff him a bit
sometimes, and he'd take it quietly--or sulkily, rather. He'd only
talk about the drought and the rain, and station and Bush things, and
only when he was asked about them. I've seen him squat and loll about
the verandah all Sunday afternoon and for hours in the cool of a
weekday evening, and never say a word to Maggie Charlesworth, or seem
to take the slightest interest in her or what she was saying. James
was one of these men who listen, or seem to listen, a great deal and
think, or seem to think, a mighty lot.

And if I happened to pass Wall's and see James' horse hanging up
there, and him squatting on his heels or leaning on a fence, smoking
and yarning to young Billy Wall or one of the men, I'd know that
Maggie Charlesworth was at home. But Billy Wall told me that he never
heard James say a dozen words to Maggie, nor saw the slightest sign of
spooning between them. James' idea of courting seemed to be to hover
round and be within coo-ee, in case the girl made up her mind suddenly
that she wanted him. But I noticed at home that he stuck about the
verandah pretty close when Maggie was there and there happened to be
another likely man hanging round.

But, Lord! with a character like James and a character like Maggie
Charlesworth, you could never tell. They might have been courting all
the time and meeting every other night or so, and kissing and hugging
each other for hours, and no one any the wiser. You might as well
watch, and try to fox an old hen to her nest in the bushes; though she
cackles enough when the egg is laid and she's safe off the nest.

Well, it all came out by accident, as most things do. James was never
much of a rider, but he managed to hold his own with the others--his
obstinacy or pig-headedness helped him in that. He broke in his own
horses, but he always did it when there was no one about the place, or
else he took 'em away. There were other yards about the run, and James
was at home at all the little out-of-the-way huts and selections about
the district. Like most young fellows of his sort, he was touchy about
his riding and one or two other little things. Some of the chaps used
to make a joke about it, and say that James went away and got some one
else to break in his horses, but I knew James, and didn't believe that
for a moment. So when we saw him riding away, leading or driving a
young horse, we didn't take any notice; but Mary was always relieved
when he turned up without a broken neck or his shoulder put out.

Well, one day he picked up a filly cheap in the pound at Gulgong--a
likely-looking young thing, with blood in her, we could all see that.
She was one of those spidery horses, with a hollow back, and looked as
if she'd sag down if a big man got on her, till his feet rested on the
ground. She was one of those shy, jumpy young things that suddenly
sheer off sideways when they shy at anything, nearly as fast as they
go ahead.

James let it drop that he didn't buy the filly for himself, but for
some one else, but he wouldn't say who. You see, James was one of the
sort that keep things to themselves. He'd make a mystery of little,
unimportant things, and he often got me wild that way. I reckoned it
was a sign of ignorance and a shallow, narrow mind.

Anyway, he wouldn't tell me whom he bought the filly for. He took her
away once or twice, and perhaps he broke her in a bit early in the
morning before any one was up and about. Well, one quiet Sunday
morning he started down the creek, riding his own horse and leading
the filly. He had a little black bundle, like a coat, strapped to the
pommel of his saddle, and Mary's quick eye spotted it at once. "Why,
what's that you've got there on your saddle, James?" she said.

"Can't you mind your own business?" snarled James in a brotherly way.
"Can't yer see it's me coat? You're always asking nonsensical

"But you haven't got a black coat, James," said Mary, trying to get a
close look. "When did you buy--"

But James swung off and rode away.

It puzzled Mary. Women do bother a lot about little things--and worry
their husbands, too.

"That's funny," she said. "He could not have wanted one of my old
skirts for anything! Why, I do believe he's had the infernal cheek to
take my riding skirt to lend to some one. Did you ever hear of such a
thing? Whoever in this world could he--"

She ran to see, but her riding skirt was safe.

"What are you raving about now?" I said. "He's bought a new coat, and
he's making a bushranging mystery about it as usual--that's all it

"It wasn't a coat," said Mary, obstinately. "It was a dress."

I didn't bother arguing with her.

Everybody turned up that Sunday to dinner, or an hour or so
afterwards--except James, and I supposed he had stayed to dinner
somewhere. It was Bush fashion to drop into Sunday dinner anywhere--
there was always plenty, rough as it was, and the women could wash a
plate for a newcomer when somebody else was done. There was Dave
Regan, the drover, and my old mate, Jack Barnes, and Andy Maculloch,
an old droving chum of mine; and old Jim Bullock and Old Peter,
station hands from Wall's; and little Jimmy Nowlett, the bullock-
driver--he's just brought up a load of fencing wire for Wall; and
Ryan, the horse-breaker; and some women and girls who had driven over
in spring carts.

We were all camped on the verandah after dinner, smoking and yarning,
and some snoozing, others draining the big canvas water-bag dry while
getting through the heat and over the dinner. Some one spoke of James
and asked where he was, and that reminded Ryan of his buck-jumping
experience, and he told it again. It was about a horse he broke in
once for a Mrs. Murphy at Talbragar.

"I was passin' down by Mrs. Murphy's place one mornin'," said Ryan,
"whin she says, 'Good mornin', Mr. Ryan.' 'Good mornin', Mrs. Murphy,'
says I. 'Would you ride the mare for me this mornin', Mr. Ryan,' she
says. 'I'll ride the tail off her,' I says. 'All right,' she says,
'will you come in an' have a cup o' tay, an' ride the tail off her
afterwards?' 'All right,' I says, 'I'll come in and have a cup o' tay,
an' ride the tail off her afterwards.' So I had the cup o' tay, an'
thin I started down for the yard; I had a new pair of brogues on--
nicely greased. So I got on the mare, an' she made three consecutive
bucks. An' I made as many revolutions in the air. An' the last time I
went up, I happened to look down, an' I saw the mare a quarter of a
mile away. 'Go it, you--!' I says. 'An' now for a wallop!'" (Long
pause.) "I remembered no more till I woke up three days after in the
Gulgong hospital."

He'd scarcely finished when Mary jumped to her feet, and stared down
the creek through the trees on the other side.

"Joe! Joe!" she screamed, "there's a horse bolting! There's a horse
running away with a woman on the other side of the creek! Look! Look!
There she is! Quick, Joe, quick, for God's sake! My God, she'll be

We all jumped to our feet as if we'd been sitting on snakes, Mary
singing out: "She'll be thrown! She'll be thrown!" all the-time. Sure
enough there was a horse, with a woman on its back, galloping through
the timber down on the other side of the creek; and she rode as if
she'd go off at any moment. Dave Regan and Andy Maculloch were on
their horses and across the creek in a jiffy, to cut the other horse
off from the heavy scrub, and I started to run, but the woman's horse
swerved and ran down into the creek.

"Joe, Joe!" Mary screamed after me. "Run! Run! She'll be down in the
creek! She'll be thrown in the creek! She's thr-o-wn!"

But she wasn't. The horse struggled up the steep bank on our side--the
woman still clinging to the saddle--and made for the yard on the rise
at the back of the house. Then she propped, and the woman went
sprawling in the dust. We were all there in no time. It was James,
with a riding skirt on; he had been riding the filly with a side-
saddle. James was winded, but, by the holy frost, he was wild! He
didn't wait to unlock the waistband of his riding skirt; he tore hooks
and eyes out, and got out of the skirt.

"Why, whatever have you been doing, James?" said Mary, as soon as she
saw he wasn't hurt. "Why, that's Maggie Charlesworth's side-saddle--
and that's her skirt! Where is she? Where did you leave her?"

James said: "Damn Maggie Charlesworth!" and then he went inside the

Maggie told us all about it afterwards. You see, when we broke a horse
in to side-saddle, we used to hang a riding skirt from our belt or
from a ring in the saddle, so that the horse would get used to the
flapping of the skirt. Maggie lent James a skirt, and he hid it about
the place. She wanted to ride the filly to the races at Coborrah on
New Year's Day, and she met James by appointment at the old branding
yard down the creek that Sunday to see if she could manage the filly.
James shifted the sidesaddle from Maggie's horse to the filly, and
Maggie persuaded him to put the skirt on and get on the filly. Women
will get commonsensible, practical men to make fools of themselves all
over the world.

They were in the old yard, but James hadn't put up the rails yet, and
the filly bolted with him. Now, as I told you, James wasn't used to
side-saddle, and the skirt handicapped him a lot, so all he could do
was to hold on like grim death and swear.

Oh, but he was wild that Sunday. He sat inside and sulked, till he
could stand the three-cornered conversation of the chaps no longer;
then he jumped up and came out on the verandah.

"Look here, Dave Regan," he said, "I suppose you think it was all very

"Yes, James," drawled Dave, "I do--an' that's a fact."

"You're a--fool," said James, "and I wouldn't mind taking a fall out
of you now!"

The other fellows shifted their grins inside of themselves quick, but
Mary went for James red-hot and cooled him a bit. While he was getting
it from her, some one sings out--

"Why, here comes Maggie Charlesworth!"

She was riding James' horse, on his saddle, but sideways, of course,
and leading her own. As soon as she saw James she made for him, and
held out both her hands, but he just scowled at her and jumped on his
horse and rode away into the Bush.

"He'll come round," says Dave Regan.

Mary took Maggie inside, and, after a bit, I went in, grinning, to
share the laugh with them, but Mary grabbed me, and twisted me round,
and ran me out.

"Get out, you great fool," she hissed.

Maggie was crying, fit to break her heart.

Ah, well, but it's time to turn in. Some other time I'll tell you
about how Mary fixed up things between James and Maggie; how we put on
Dave Regan to pretend to make love to her, and how Dave got an
unexpected black eye.


AS FAR back as I can remember, the yarn of the Hairy Man was told in
the Blue Mountain district of New South Wales. It scared children
coming home by bush tracks from school and boys out late after lost
cows; and even grown bushmen, when going along a lonely track after
sunset, would hold their backs hollow and whistle a tune when they
suddenly heard a thud, thud of a kangaroo leaping off through the
scrub. Other districts also had spooks and bogies--the escaped tiger,
the ghost of the convict who had been done to death and buried in his
irons; ghosts of men who had hanged themselves; the ghost of the
hawker's wife whose husband had murdered her with a tomahawk in the
lonely camp by the track; the ghost of the murdered bushman whose mate
quietly stepped behind him as he sat reflecting over a pipe and broken
in the back of his head with an axe, and afterwards burned the body
between two logs; ghosts of victims whose murders had been avenged and
of undiscovered murders that had been done right enough--all sorts and
conditions of ghosts, none of them cheerful, most of them grimly
original and characteristic of the weirdly, melancholy and
aggressively lonely Australian bush. But the Hairy Man was permanent,
and his country spread from the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing
Range right out to the ends of the western spurs. He had been heard of
and seen and described so often and by so many reliable liars, that
most people agreed that there must be something. The most popular and
enduring theory was that he was a gorilla, or an ourang-outang which
had escaped from a menagerie long ago. He was also said to be a new
kind of kangaroo, or the last of a species of Australian animals which
hadn't been discovered yet. Anyway, in some places, he was regarded as
a danger to children coming home from school, as were wild bullocks,
snakes, and an occasional bushman in the D.T.'s. So now and then, when
the yarn had a revival, search parties were organized, and went out
with guns to find the Hairy Man, and to settle him and the question
one way or the other. But they never found him.

Dave Regan, Jim Benley and Andy Page, bush mates, had taken a contract
to clear and fence the ground for a new cemetery about three miles out
of the thriving township of Mudgee-Budgee. Mudgee-Budgee had risen to
the dignity of a three-pub town, and people were beginning to die. Up
to now the casual and scarce corpses of Mudgee-Budgee or of Home Rule,
a goldfield six miles to the west--the bushman who had been thrown
from his horse or smashed against a tree while riding recklessly, as
bushmen do, or the boozer who had died during a spree in hot weather--
had to be taken to the cemetery belonging to the farming town of
Buckaroo, about nine miles east of Mudgee-Budgee. This meant a nine-
mile, or, in the case of Home Rule, a fifteen-mile drag, which was a
long-drawn-out agony in blazing hot, dusty weather, or even in the
rain when the roads were boggy. The Buckaroo undertaker could only be
induced to bring his hearse out two miles along the road to meet the
corpse, which was carried so far in a drag, spring cart, or wagonette.
This so detracted from the dignity of Mudgee-Budgee and Home Rule,
that they agreed to get a cemetery between them, and Dave Regan got
the contract to prepare the ground for corpse planting.

Dave and his mates camped in an old deserted slab and bark hut which
happened to stand on the ground. It was a lonely place, which stood in
a dark stringy-bark bush, the nearest house being the hut of a timber-
getter and his family, about two miles along the track on the Home
Rule side.

It was the day after Anniversary Day. Dave and Jim were patriots, and
therefore were feeling very repentant and shaky. They had spent the
day at the Buckaroo races, half the night in Buckaroo, and the other
half in Home Rule, where the early closing law as regarded public
houses was not stringent. They had enjoyed a good time; had betted and
shouted away all their cash, as well as an advance drawn on the
contract, had run up scores at all the pubs, and had been in several
rows, and at least three fights. They weren't sure with whom, that was
the trouble, but had a drink-lurid recollection of having got off
their horses several times on the way home to fight each other. They
were too sick to eat or to smoke yet; so they sat outside the hut with
their nerves all unstrung and their imaginations therefore
particularly active. Under these conditions, they so magnified the
awful importance of the unknown and the nightmare portions of the
prior night, that they felt very dismal and hopeless indeed. Dave had
a haunting idea, which grew at last to be a sickening conviction, that
he had insulted and had wanted to fight the big squatter of the
district, from whom he had the promise of a big fencing contract. Jim
had a smothering recollection of a row with the leading Mudgee-Budgee
storekeeper, who gave them credit. And so they swore off drink--they
were going to chuck it for good. Each was firmly resolved this time.
But they said nothing about it to each other. They had sworn off
mutually so often that the thing had become boresome. But the worst of
it was that they had broken the bottle with the morning reviver, and
had nothing to straighten up on, and their nerves were not in a fit
state to allow of their going to Mudgee-Budgee at the risk of hearing
some new and awful truths of last night's doings, and they hadn't the
courage to ask Andy to go. They were very contrite and gentle towards
him with their "Yes, Andy," and "No, Andy," and "No, thank you, Andy,"
when he fried chops and made coffee for them. The day before they had
both sworn to him--solemnly, affectionately, and at last impatiently,
and even angrily--that they wouldn't get drunk, that they wouldn't
bet, that they wouldn't draw a penny on the contract, that they'd buy
a week's provisions first thing, that they'd bring the things home
with them on their horses, and that they'd come home early. And now--
they'd spent his money as well as their own! Andy made no remarks and
asked no questions when they woke at midday; and they took his silence
in a chastened spirit.

Andy Page was a patriot and a democrat, too, the most earnest of the
three; but he was as obstinately teetotal as he was honest and
truthful. Dave was the head of the party, but Andy was the father.
Andy had, on several occasions, gone into town with Dave and Jim on
pay nights--to look after them, to fight for them if necessary, and to
get them home, if possible, when they'd had enough. It was a thankless
job, but Andy was loved by his mates, who nevertheless, when drunk,
even wanted to fight him when he stood out against "one more drink for
the last." He was as strong physically, as well as morally, as the two
put together; and was respected even by the publican whom he abused
for serving his mates when they'd had enough. But the last spree but
one had disgusted Andy. He swore he'd never go into town with them
again, and like most simple-minded, honest, good-natured fellows whose
ideas come slowly, who are slow at arriving at decisions (and whose
decisions are nearly invariably right), when he'd once made up his
mind nothing short of a severe shock of earthquake could move him. So
he stayed at home on Anniversary Day, and washed and mended his

Dave and Jim were still moping wretchedly about the hut when, towards
the middle of the afternoon, an angel came along on horseback. It was
Jack Jones from Mudgee-Budgee, a drinking mate of theirs, a bush-
telegraph joker, and the ne'er-do-well of the district. He hung up his
shy, spidery filly under a shed at the back of the hut.

"I thought you chaps would be feeling shaky," he said, "and I've been
feeling as lonely and dismal as a bandicoot on a burnt ridge, so I
thought I'd come out. I've brought a flask of whisky."

Never were two souls more grateful. Bush mate-ship is a grand thing,
drunk or sober.

Andy promptly took charge of the whisky, and proceeded to dole out
judicious doses at decent intervals.

Jack, who was a sandy-complexioned young fellow with the expression of
a born humorist, had some news.

"You know Corny George?" They had heard of him. He was an old
Cornishman who split shingles and palings in the Black Range, and
lived alone in a hut in a dark gully under the shadow of Dead Man's

"He went in to Buckaroo to the police station yesterday," said Jack
Jones, "in a very bad state. He swore he'd seen the Hairy Man."

"The watter?"

"Yes, the Hairy Man. He swore that the Hairy Man had come down to his
hut the night before last, just after dark, and tried to break in. The
Hairy Man stayed about the hut all night, trying to pull the slabs off
the walls, and get the bark off the roof, and didn't go away till
daylight. Corny says he fired at him two or three times, through the
cracks, with his old shot gun, but the Hairy Man didn't take any
notice. The old chap was pretty shaky on it."

"Drink, I s'pose," grunted Andy contemptuously.

"No, it wasn't drink. They reckoned he'd been 'hatting' it too long.
They've got him at the police station."

"What did he say the Hairy Man was like?" asked Jim Bentley.

"Oh, the usual thing," said Jack. "'Bout as tall as a man and twice as
broad, arms nearly as long as himself, big wide mouth with grinning
teeth--and covered all over with red hair."

"Why, that's just what my uncle said he was like," exclaimed Andy
Page, suddenly taking great interest in the conversation. He was
passing in with some firewood to stick under a pot in which he was
boiling a piece of salt beef; but he stood stock still and stared at
Jim Bentley, with the blank, breathless expression of a man who has
just heard astounding news.

"Did your uncle see the Hairy Man, Andy?" inquired Dave Regan feebly.
He felt too sick to take much interest.

"Yes," said Andy, staring at Jack with great earnestness. "Didn't I
tell you? He was drivin' home up the pass to Dead Man's Gap, where he
lived then, and he seen the Hairy Man, bundlin' off among the rocks."

Andy paused impressively, and stared at Jack.

"And what did your uncle do, Andy?" asked Jack, with a jerky little

"He stood up in the cart and hammered into the horse, and galloped it
all the way home, full-bat up to the door; then he jumped down,
leaving the cart and horse standing there, and went in and lay down on
the bed, and wouldn't speak to anybody for two hours."

"How long?" asked Jim, still feebly.

"Two hours," said Andy earnestly, as he went in with the firewood.

Jack Jones proposed "a bit of a stroll"; he said it would do them
good. He felt an irresistible inclination to giggle, and wished to get
out of the hearing of Andy, whom he respected. As they slouched along
the track there was an incident which proved the state of their
nerves. A big brown snake whipped across the dusty path into a heap of
dead boughs. They stared at each other for a full minute, then Jack
summoned courage to ask--

"Did you chaps see that snake?"

"Yes," and so it was all right. Then they put a match to the boughs,
and stood round with long sticks till the snake came out.

They went back to the hut, and managed a cup of coffee. Presently they
got on to ghost and Hairy Man yarns again.

"That was God's truth," said Jack, "that yarn I told you about what
happened to me going up Dead Man's Pass. It was just as I told you. I
was driving slowly up in that little old spring cart of mine, when
something--I don't know what it was--made me look behind, and there
was a woman walking along behind the cart with her hands on the tail-
board. It was just above the spot where the hawker's wife was
murdered. She was dressed in black, and had black hair, and her face
was dead white. At first I thought that it was some woman who wanted a
lift, or a chap in woman's clothes playing the ghost, so I pulled up.
And when I looked round again she was gone. I thought she'd crouched
under the cart, so I whipped up the horse and then looked round again,
but there was nothing there. Then I reckon I drove home as fast as
Andy's uncle did. You needn't believe me unless you like."

"Thunderstorm coming," said Dave, sniffing and looking round the
corner to the east. "I thought this weather would bring something."

"My oath," said Jim, "a regular old-man storm, too."

The big, blue-black bank of storm cloud rose bodily from the east, and
was right overhead and sweeping down the sunset in a very few minutes.
Then the lightning blazed out, and swallowed up daylight as well as
darkness. But it was not a rain storm--it was the biggest hail storm
ever experienced in that district. Orchards and vineyards were
stripped, and many were ruined. Some said there were stones as big as
hen's eggs; some said the storm lasted over an hour, and some said
more--but the time was probably half or three-quarters of an hour.
Hail lay feet deep in the old diggers' holes for a fortnight after.
The mates half expected the hail to come through the roof of the hut.

Just as the storm began to hold up a little, they heard a louder
pattering outside, and a bang at the door. The door was of hardwood
boards with wide cracks; Andy rose to open it, but squinted through a
crack first. Then he snatched the big crowbar from the corner, dug the
foot of it into the earth floor, and jammed the pointed head under a
cross piece of the door; he did the same with a smaller crowbar, and
looked wildly round for more material for a barricade.

"What are you doing? Who is it, Andy?" wildly cried the others.

"It's the Hairy Man!" gasped Andy.

They quickly got to the door and squinted through the cracks. One
squint was sufficient. It was the Hairy Man right enough. He was about
as tall as an ordinary man, but seemed twice as broad across the
shoulders. He had long arms, and was covered with hair, face and all.
He had a big, ugly mouth, and wild, bloodshot eyes. So they helped
Andy to barricade the door.

There was another bang at the door. A cart rattled past, a woman
screamed, and the cart went on at an increased pace. There was a shot-
gun hanging on the wall, loaded--Andy had left it loaded to save
ammunition the last time he'd been out kangaroo shooting. Andy, like
most slow-thinking men, often did desperate things in a crisis. He
snatched down the gun, stepped back a pace or two, aimed at the door
low down, and fired. He doesn't know why he aimed low down--except
that it "was too much like shooting at a man." They heard a howl, and
the thing, whatever it was, running off. Then they barricaded the door
some more ere they scanned the door planking and found that about half
the charge had gone through.

"The powder must have got damp," said Andy. "I'll put in a double
charge to make sure," and he reloaded the gun with trembling hands.
The other three bumped their heads over the whisky. They can't say for
certain how they got through that night or what they said or did. The
first idea was to get out of there and run to Mudgee-Budgee, but they
were reluctant to leave their fort. "Who'd go out and reconnoitre?"
"Besides," said Jack Jones, "we're safer here, and the thing's gone,
whatever it was. What would they think of us if we went into town with
a yarn about a Hairy Man?" He had heard his horse breaking away, and
didn't care to take the chance of being chased on foot.

About an hour later they heard a horse galloping past, and, looking
through the cracks, saw a boy riding towards Mudgee-Budgee.

"It's young Foley," said Jack, "the son of that old timber-getter
that's just taken up a selection along the road near Home Rule."

"I wonder what's up?" said Andy. "Perhaps the Hairy Man's been there.
We ought to go along and help."

"They can take care of themselves," said Jack hurriedly. "They're
close to Home Rule, and can get plenty of help. The boy wouldn't ride
to Mudgee-Budgee if there was anything wrong."

The moon had risen full. Some two or three hours later they saw
Mahoney, the mounted constable, and the young doctor from Buckaroo,
ride past towards Home Rule.

"There's something up, right enough," said Jim Bentley.

Later on, about daybreak, Andy was sitting obstinately on guard, with
the gun across his knees and the others dozing on the bunks (and
waking now and then with jerks), when Constable Mahoney rode up to the
door and knocked a business knock that brought them all to their feet.

Andy asked him to come in, and placed a stool for him, but he didn't
see it. He looked round the hut.

"Whose fowlin' piece is that?" he asked.

"It's--it's mine," said Andy.

Mahoney took the gun up and examined it.

"Is this fowlin' piece loaded?" he asked

"Yes," said Andy, "it is."

"Now, listen to me, boys," said the constable. "Was the fowlin' piece
discharged last night?"

"Yes," said Andy, "it was."

"What's up? What have we done?" asked Jim Bentley, desperately.

"Done?" shouted Mahoney. "Done? Why, you've filled old Foley's legs
with kangaroo shot. That's what you've done! Do you know what that

"No," said Jack Jones. He was thinking hard.

"It's manslaughter!" roared Mahoney. "That's the meanin' of it!"

They explained what had happened as far as they were able. Now,
Mahoney had a weakness for the boys, and a keen sense of humour--
outside himself.

"Best come along with me," he said.

Andy had a stiff Sunday sac suit, of chocolate colour, and a starched
white shirt and collar, which he kept in a gin case. He always put
them all on when anything happened. On this occasion he fastened his
braces over his waistcoat, and didn't notice it until he had gone some
distance along the road.

There was great excitement at Foley's shanty--women and children
crying, and neighbours hanging round.

Foley was lying on his face on a stretcher, while the young doctor was
taking shot from the hairiest leg that Regan and Co. had ever seen on
man or beast. The doctor said, afterwards, that some of the shot had
only flattened inside the outer skin, and that others had a covering
of hair twisted round them. When Foley was turned round to give his
"dispositions," as Mahoney called them, they saw that he had enough
hair on his chest to stuff a set of buggy cushions. He had red
whiskers all over his face, rusty-red, spikey hair all over his head,
and a big mouth and bloodshot eyes. He was the hairiest and ugliest
man in the district.

His language was hardly understandable, partly because of the
excitement he was still labouring under, and partly because of his
peculiar shade of brogue. Where Mahoney said "shtone" Foley would say
"stawn"--a brogue with a drawl which sounded ridiculous in an angry
man. He drawled most over his oaths.

It seems that he was splitting fencing timber down "beyant the new
cimitry," when the storm came on. He thought it would be the usual
warm thunderstorm, and it was too far to run home. He didn't want to
get wet, so he took his clothes off, and put them in a hollow log till
the storm should be past. Then the lightning played round his tools--
the cross-cut saw, axe, wedges, etc.--and he had to get away from
there. He didn't bargain for "thim blanky hail-sta-w-ns." "It's a
wonder I wasn't scalped and drilled full of hawls." He thought of the
hut, and made for it, but they wouldn't let him in. Then he suddenly
saw some women in a tilt cart comin' round a bend in the road, and saw
no chance of getting out of sight--there was a clearing round the hut,
and so he banged at the door again. "I thawt the wimmin would stop."

"Whoy did ye think that?" asked Mahoney. "What would they shtop for?"

"How th' hell was I to know?--curiosity, I suppose. They welted into
their old hawse, an', as I turned to look after thim, the murderin'
villains inside shot a gun at me. I got back to me clawthes, an'
dressed somehow. Some one will have to pay for it. I'll be laid up on
me back for six weeks."

The young doctor excused himself, and went out for a few minutes.
Mahoney winked at Regan and party--a wink you could hear--and it
comforted them mightily. When they went out they saw the doctor
hanging to a sapling, some distance from the hut. He swung with his
back to the sapling, and slid to the ground, his legs stretched out in
front of him, He said he would be all right presently. The thing was
fixed up, but the young doctor wanted badly to have the case brought
into court. He said it would cheer up the district for years, and add
ten years to the life of the oldest inhabitant.


SOBER, honest, steady and kindly men have too little place in our
short-story literature. They are not "romantic" enough--not humorous
enough--they are not "picturesque." Yet the grandest of them all has
lived for ages in one of the best short stories ever written, for
longer than we know--in old Chinese Bibles perhaps--and he'll live
till the end of human troubles. We do not know his station and
condition; we do not know his religion, except it be the religion of

He was not a "Christian" as the name is understood by us, for Christ
had not been born. We don't even know his name; I can't think of him
as a fat or stout man, or a rich man; not even as a man who was
moderately well off. Dickens thinks that he was lank and lean, and
found it hard to live. I picture him as a silent, grave, earnest man,
with very, very sad eyes. Perhaps he had dealt in myrrh and spicery
from Gilead, and, being honest and unworldly, had fallen amongst
thieves himself, and lost all he had. No doubt he had his troubles
too. It is certain he was a sober and honest man, and it is equally
certain that he was well known on the roads to Jericho, and known for
more than one act of kindness, else the host of that old inn wouldn't
have trusted him so readily, as it is inferred he did. For: "And
whatsoe'er thou spendest more, when I return I will repay thee."

And there was a certain Nazarene about whom we know so much and so
little, and Whose teaching we preach so widely and practise so
narrowly, Who was so touched by this little story about the man from
Samaria that He told it wherever He could, to the multitude and in
high places; saying: "Go thou and do likewise." And certain men have
been doing likewise ever since.

For a certain man from anywhere, call him Biljim, journeying out to
Hungerford, leaves a sick mate at the Half-way Pub. (A man need only
be sick, or a stranger in distress, to be a "mate" in this case.) And
Biljim gives the boss of the shanty a couple of quid, and says: "You
stick to the poor--, an' fix him up; an' if it's anything more, I'll
pay yer when I come back after shearin'."

And so they pass on: the man from Samaria, with his patched and dusty
gown, his sand-worn sandals, and his patient ass, journeying down to
Jericho; and the man from anywhere, with his hack and pack-horse
"trav'lin'" out to Hungerford and beyond; with but two thousand years
between them, and little else in the matter of climate or character.

It may be heroic for a drunkard to do a brave deed, and save lives, as
drunkards often do. It is certainly picturesque, but there is such a
thing as Dutch courage. It may be noble, and it is romantic and
picturesque, for a scamp to do a deed of self-sacrifice, but there is
generally little to lose, even with life, and there is vanity--and
there is a character to be regained. It may be generous, even noble,
for a drunkard to stick to another through thick and thin, but there
is the bond, or the sympathy, of the craving for drink--and there is
such a thing as maudlin sentiment. How much greater it is for a sober
man to stick to a drunkard! But it is neither picturesque nor
romantic. How much greater is it for an honest man to stick to a
scamp! But it is not picturesque nor romantic enough for most writers.

One of the beauties of human nature is the fulfilment of its duty to
the stranger. "The stranger within thy gates." In all civilized lands,
and in many uncivilized ones, the stranger's presence is sacred. "The
stranger's hand to the stranger yet" may be all very well, but there
is the bond of the sympathy of exile--the sort of roving clannishness
about it. Nowhere is the duty to the stranger more willingly and more
eagerly performed, nor his presence held more sacred, than in places
where the folk have never been fifty miles from their birthplace.

A humorous side of the stranger question appeared in California of
half a century ago, when so many were strangers that all were
familiar: "Now, look yar, stranger."

Australia is the land of strangers, as were the Western States of
America. I met Out Back, once upon a time, a man they called the
Strangers' Friend. I met him in Bourke last, and his name was, say,
Jimmy Noland. He was a stout, nuggety man, in clean white "moles,"
crimson shirt, and red neck-handkerchief with white spots; and he wore
belt and bowyangs. He had a square face of severe expression that
might have been cut out of a block of wood. He had something of the
appearance of a better-class and serious bricklayer's labourer; or,
better still, a man in charge of the coaching stables of earlier days;
or, still better, a man who, by sheer force of hard work and dogged
honesty, had risen to be manager or foreman of a small station or
something Out Back.

He used to come into the pub on the main road, or the township, for
his half-yearly spree, and, though he seemed to drink level with
everybody, he never got really drunk. He took the spree seriously, as
he took everything else far too seriously to enjoy it, you'd think.
The spree seemed a religious rite with him, and he, as a shouter, was
something sacred to the drunks to whom drinking was religion all the
time. First he'd shout (sternly) for all he found on the verandah and
in the bar, and the drinks would be taken in solemn silence. Then he'd
shout again, rounding-up any stragglers he might have missed (or who
might have missed him) and any dead-drunks he could wake and get on
their feet. Then he'd demand of the boss, or barman, in a tone that
admitted of no nonsense or frivolity--

"Enny wimmin here?"


"Take ennythin'?"

"Yes. The cook, and ther's a washerwoman round at the back."

"Wotter they take?"

Being told, he'd presently go round to the back with a couple of
glasses. But he was never known to stay and do any fooling round
there. He'd arrange, though, to have an extra pair of moleskins,
shirt, neckerchief, handkerchief and pair of socks washed against the
end of his spree, and pay well for them. Not that he couldn't or
wouldn't wash for himself, but he thought it his duty "to pay the
wimmin for doin' what they was made for doin', an' pay 'em well."

Then, after another shout or two all round, he'd look up the stranger.

The stranger's only qualifications need be that he should be fairly
decent, a stranger, and hard-up or sick.

"I'm the Strangers' Friend," said Jimmy, severely. "The fellers as
knows can battle around for their bloomin' selves, but I'll look after
the stranger."

If the stranger was ragged, Jimmy would shout him a new shirt, pair of
trousers, and maybe a pair of boots, at the store; and he'd shout him
drinks, but see that he didn't take too much. He'd arrange for the
stranger's bed and tucker, and find out the stranger's name and where
he came from and the places he'd been in, and he'd yarn with the
stranger about those places, no matter where they were. And he'd talk
to the stranger about the back-country, and its old times, and its
future, or its chances--and the stranger's chances, too. And if the
stranger got confidential or maudlin on the verandah after sunset,
he'd comfort or check the stranger with some blunt philosophy which
might sound brutal in cities. If he knew of a place where there was a
chance of a job, on the back track, he'd fix up a swag, water-bag and
tucker for the stranger, and start him on the track with full
directions that sounded like a stiff lecture from a magistrate. And if
he had a commission to take a new hand back to his station, he'd be
happy; happier still if he had a commission to take two, for then he
would look up a second likely stranger and fix him up, and take them
both back with him at the end of his spree, when he would appear
exactly the same as when he started it.

Jimmy's boss was one of the best-hearted squatters west the Darling.
He was a small squatter, but he was a squatter, not a bank, syndicate
nor manager. Jimmy was said to be the real boss, as far as station
work went, by virtue of his long years of service, his capacity for
hard work and his obstinate honesty. About sundown he'd come over to
the "travellers'" (strangers') hut, put his head in at the door, and
demand, in the tone of a boss who would take no nonsense--

"Enny trav'ler here?"

One or two new chums or green hands might start to their feet,
expecting to be ordered off the station; but some one would answer:

"Then come up an' git yer tea."

After tea--

"You chaps got enny tobaccer?"

And he'd hand out a stick to be divided amongst them.

It was said that a great part of his wages went on strangers. But they
said he was never so happy as when he caught a sick traveller at the
hut. Jimmy would cross-examine him at length and with apparent
severity--as if it were the stranger's fault--and then he'd get out
his patent medicines. In the same tone, with a note of shocked
decency, he'd ask a man if that was the only pair of trousers he had
to go on the track with; and then he'd proceed to look him up another

But no one, not even his nearest friend, if he had one in the
squatter, could accuse Jimmy of having the faintest streak of
sentiment, poetry or romance in his soul. They said that the cult of
the stranger was a mania with Jimmy--a curious branch of insanity. The
stranger was to him something sacred, and his duty to the stranger was
a religious rite, without a suggestion of reward, whether here or in
the Hereafter. But, perhaps, long years ago, when women, or a woman,
was to Jimmy something more than a being to be paid for doing what she
was made for doing, he, a stranger himself, and sick in body, and
heart-sick, in a strange land, had been found by another Strangers'
Friend who stuck to him. And the memory of it had stuck to Jimmy all
his life.

The only explanation he was ever reported to have given was that
once--and it must have been in a weak moment--when remonstrated with
for squandering time and money over a "waster," he said--

"Ah, well, poor beggar, some day, when he's in a better fix, he might
go and do something for s'mother pore chap as he drops across."

It was in the drought of '91, that broke almost with the new year in
'92. Jack Mitchell and I were "carrying swags" west from the Darling
in hopes of "stragglers" to shear, and one morning we started from a
place that begins with "G," making for a place that ought to begin
with "Z," and, after an hour or so, we noticed, by the age of the
wheel tracks, that we'd taken the wet weather and much longer track to
the next Government tank. We decided to strike across the awful lignum
flats, or dry marshes, to the right track, and got lost, of course;
and it was late in the day when we struck the track--or rather when we
didn't. We stumbled on a private tank in the lignum, where there were
still a few buckets of water, and, under the alleged shade of three
stunted mulga saplings, we found two green hands, slight young Sydney
jackeroos, in the remains of tailor-made suits, with one small water-
bag between them, and the smallest of "stage" swags. They had good
lace-up boots, I noticed; but it takes a long time for boots to wear
out on those soft, dusty tracks. One man was knocked up and very ill,
and more sick with the horror of his condition in such a country; and
his mate was nearly as bad, what with the scare of his mate's
condition and out-back "stage fright." It was boiling hot, with a
smoky, smothering drought-sky over the awful, dry lignum swamps.

"Now, this would be a job for Mark Tapley, Harry," said Mitchell. "But
neither of us is built for the character, and I don't know what we can
do just yet. We can't carry him on to the tank nor back to the shanty;
besides, they're all drunk there, from the boss down, and the missus
has got her hands full. Best camp and boil the billy, anyhow, and see
how he gets on; and then one of us can go back and see what can be
done. Some horsemen might come along in the meantime."

The tank was just off the dry weather track, with a little track of
its own, and the jackeroos had struck it more by new chum luck (which
is akin to the drunk's luck) than by directions. We kept an ear out
for the sound of wheels or of horses' feet, and now and then one of us
would go out of the lignum on to the track, and look up and down it;
and, at last, just as Mitchell and I were deciding that one of us
should leave his swag and walk right back to the shanty, we suddenly
heard the click-clack of wheelhubs quite close, and saw two horses'
heads and the head and shoulders of the driver over a corner of the
dry lignum. I started forward, and was about to call out when Mitchell
said: "Never mind, Harry, he's coming into the tank." As the turn-out
came round I saw it was a four-wheeled trap, with a spring stretcher
on the load, and a mattress rolled up in sackcloth on top of it. I
glanced at Mitchell, and saw one of his strange, faint grins on his

"What is it, Jack?" I asked.

"It's Jimmy Noland," he said, "and without a stranger. Jimmy's in luck
to-day" (and with a cluck, as if it were a mild sort of joke), "and he
don't know it yet."

It was Jimmy, and he'd been into the "township" for a temporary supply
of necessaries for the station. (By the mattress we reckoned that a
kid, or a death, was expected out there.)

Jimmy got down, took a bucket that was slung under the tailboard, and,
seeing something peculiar about us, he came over.

"What's up here?" he demanded, in the tone of a boss whose men have
gone on strike, or left off work without warning.

We told him as much as we knew, and that the man seemed very bad.
Then, for the first time, I saw what might be likened to the shadow of
a smile of satisfaction on Jimmy Noland's face. But the next instant
his face was severe, and I thought I was mistaken.

"Here!" he said to me, as if I were one of his hands, and he had an
urgent appointment elsewhere. "Here!" he said, handing me the bucket,
"water my horses while I go and see what's up with the man."

He went over and squatted down by the sick man's side.

I'd finished watering the horses when he came back. "That's right," he
said. "Now, help me shift some of these boxes over, and get the
mattresses out in the side of the trap. I'll cover the soft 'un with
the baggin', and you'd best roll a swag out on it, for it's for some
one at the station and it mustn't get dirty...Now come and help us
lift the man on...Not that way, I tell yer. Lift him this way--I
never seed such orkard men in me life."

And so we got the sick man on to the mattress in the trap.

"Chuck up yer swags," he said to us, "and jab yer trotters (step out),
for it's too hot an' heavy for the horses to take all on yer."

We tramped on ahead, or beside the trap, to escape the dust. It was a
long, smothering, hot stretch, and we had to stop now and again to
attend to the sick man; and at last we struck one of the long gutters
that ran the water into the Government tank, and presently, round a
bend in the track, the tankheap loomed before us on the open plain
like a mountain against the afterglow.

While Jimmy was watering his horses at the long troughs, Mitchell
went, with the billy, into the little galvanized iron pumping-engine
room, where the tank-keeper (an old sailor) was, and when he came out
I saw, by the half-moon, a decided grin on his face.

"What now, Jack?" I asked.

"Jimmy's luck's in for the day, Harry, and no mistake," said Mitchell.
"There's a man there with a bad leg!"

"Wot's that about a bad leg?" demanded Jimmy, whose sharp ears caught
the last words.

Jack told him.

"Where's his mate?" growled Jimmy.

"Left him at the border Saturday week, and he's been crawling back
ever since," said Mitchell. "Making for the hospital at Bourke. Says
he was bit by a dog a couple of years ago. His leg looks a sight."

The station was not far away, but on a branch track of its own, an
anabranch track, in fact; and Jimmy had told us we'd better come on to
the station and have a good tuck-out, and one of us, at least, would
get a cut at the "stragglers." So presently we started again, the man
with the leg sitting on the trap's seat beside Jimmy, and Jimmy
smoking, and with a look of stolid satisfaction on his face, talking
to the man with the leg about the various bad legs he had known, and
now and then grunting an inquiry over his shoulder to his other
patient in the body of the trap.

Mitchell asked Jimmy who the fancy mattresses were for, and he said
they were for a stranger. "Man or woman?" asked Mitchell.

"Dunno yit," grunted Jimmy. "It ain't come yet."

They said at the station that four strangers at one time was Jimmy's
record, but one or two said it wasn't.

I think that that old Jericho track, where so many men fell amongst
thieves and were left sore, hurt, and like to die, would have been
right into Jimmy's hands.

And, come to think of it, none of them "rightly knew" Jimmy's real
name, or where he came from. Jimmy said "Somewheres."

But when he dies the boys will have a good headstone, if they have to
bring it all the way from Sydney, and on it they'll have chiselled the


And underneath, if the advice of one prevails--

"Go thou and do likewise."

And men shall do likewise until the Great Strangers' Friend calls them.


THE GRANDEST stories ever written were the stories of two men. That
holds good up to our times, from Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay to
Tennessee's Partner and Tennessee.

I can always see Sidney Carton mounting the scaffold to the
guillotine, his hands tied behind, a dreamy, far-away expression in
his eyes; his hair bound back in its ribband, much more carefully than
was usual with him; himself clothed more tidily than was usual with
him, because he was supposed to be the man for the sake of whose wife
and little girl he was about to die. Poor Sidney was a drunkard, and
perhaps that is why some of us are drawn to him all the more.

And Tennessee's Partner at the Court of Judge Lynch: "An' I answers
you fair and square, Jedge, as between man and man, 'What should a man
know about his partner?'" And Tennessee's Partner knew all.

And Tennessee's Partner, with his donkey Jenny and cart, and rough
coffin, in the shadow of the trees, after the lynching. He didn't want
to hurry the gentlemen at all. "But if yer quite done with Tennessee,
my partner thar"--And the last glimpse of Tennessee, the grave filled
up--the grave in the little digger's vegetable garden, I've seen them
in Australia--Tennessee sitting on the foot of the mound, wiping his
face with his red bandana handkerchief.

They used to say I was influenced by Bret Harte. I hope so. I read
"Tennessee's Partner" and the other stories when I was about thirteen,
and Dickens a little later on. Bret Harte died near to where I lived
in England, by the way.

Tennessee forgave his partner the greatest wrong that one man can do
another; and that's one thing that mateship can do.

The man who hasn't a male mate is a lonely man indeed, or a strange
man, though he have a wife and family. I believe there are few such
men. If the mate isn't here, he is somewhere else in the world, or
perhaps he may be dead.

Marcus Clarke speaks of a recaptured convict being asked where his
mate was, in a tone as if a mate were something a convict was born
with--like a mole, for instance. When I was on the track alone for a
stretch, I was always asked where my mate was, or if I had a mate.

.   .   .   .   .

And so it is, from "Boko Bill" (bottle-ho!) and "Three-Pea Ginger," of
Red Rock Lane, up or down--or up and down--to Percy and Harold who
fraternize at the Union Club. Bill gets "pinched" for shifting cases
from a cart, or something of that sort, and Ginger, who is "pretty
swift with the three-pea," but never rises above a little safe
"thieving" or paltry swindling, and is, therefore, never likely to
need serious "outside" assistance, works for Bill for all he is worth.
For a good deal more than he is worth, in fact. But in spite of the
positive and unanimous testimony of "Frowsy Sal" (one time "The Red
Streak" ), Bill's "piece," "Ginger," "The Red Rover," "One-Eyed Kate,"
"Stousher," "Pincher," and as many other equally respectable and well-
known ladies and gentlemen as the Court will listen to, Bill goes up
for a "sixer."

Ginger's work doesn't end here. Others are "pinched" and sent up, and
they take messages into Bill, and arrange with certain prisoners who
are "on tobacco" to help Bill, and be helped themselves when they come
out. Poor Pincher being pinched, Sal says to him: "If yer do get
fixed, Pincher, tell Bill I'm stickin'."

Presently the word goes round that Frowsy Sal is stickin' ter Boko
Bill, and is received, for the most part, with blasphemous incredulity
by the "talent." But Sal cooks in third-rate public-houses, and washes
and works hard to keep the kid, the room, and the "sticks," and have a
few shillings for Bill against he comes out, and she keeps "the
blokes" out of her kitchen. Which facts are commented on with yet
further wondering blasphemy, into which creeps a note almost of

So Ginger, being Bill's cobber, is deputed to send round the hat to
help Sal, because Sal is sticking to Bill. It is a furtive hat, but
the money comes in, and so Ginger sticks to Bill through Sal. The
money is from thievish hearts and thievish hands; but the hearts o'
men are there all the same.

Ginger, by the way, gets two black eyes, and a blue, swollen nose,
from a bigger "bloke," in an argument concerning Sal, and is hurt
about it. But wait till Bill comes out!

Hearts o' men are kind to Sal in other places. The warder inside the
gaol gate lays a kindly hand on her shoulder, and says, "Come along,
my girl." But Sal has no use for sympathy, and little for kindness.
"Blarst their eyes!" she says. "They can always ketch and gaol better
men than themselves. If it wasn't for the likes of poor Bill they'd
have to go to work themselves, from the Guv'nor down, blarst 'em!"

.   .   .   .   .

Let's have a look where Bill is, and, though I might seem to be on
branch tracks from my subject, the red thread is running all through.

If you go in "under the Government," and not as a visitor, you might
be the Duke of All-That-Is, and yet little Cooney, who is finishing a
sentence for breakin' 'n' enterin', and is "on tobacco," is a greater
man than you. Because he is on tobacco, which is worth twice its
weight in gold in gaol, and can lend bits to his mates.

In gaol the initiated help the awkward newcomers all they can. There
is much sympathy and practical human kindness cramped and cooped up in
gaol. A good-conduct prisoner with a "billet"--say, warder or pantry-
man in the hospital or observation ward, or cook or assistant in some
position which enables him to move about--will often risk his billet,
food and comfort (aye and extra punishment) in order to smuggle
tobacco to a prisoner whom he never met outside, and is never likely
to meet again. And this is often done at the instance of the
prisoner's mate. Mateship again!

.   .   .   .   .

True mateship looks for no limelight. They say that self-preservation
is the strongest instinct of mankind; it may come with the last gasp,
but I think the preservation of the life or liberty of a mate--man or
woman--is the first and strongest. It is the instinct that
irresistibly impels a thirsty, parched man, out on the burning sands,
to pour the last drop of water down the throat of a dying mate, where
none save the sun or moon or stars may see. And the sun, moon and
stars do not write to the newspapers. To give a weaker "partner" the
last sup of coffee, or bite of boiled beans and bacon, on the snow
wastes of Alaska, when the rim of the sun only touches the rim of the
south at noon. To give up the only vacant place in the boats at sea,
and die that perhaps most dreaded of all deaths--the death by drowning
in mid-ocean.

And the simple heroes of common life! They come down to us from a
certain Samaritan who journeyed down to Jericho one time, and pass--
mostly through Dickens in my case. Kit Nubbles, the uncouth champion
of Little Nell! The world is full of Kits, and this is one of the
reasons why the world lasts. Young John Chivery, turnkey at the
Marshalsea, who loved Little Dorrit! There was never a gentleman in
all his family, he said; but he stood, in the end, the greatest
gentleman in that book. All the others had something to gain--either
money, fame, or a woman's love; but he had nothing. Mark Tapley, poor
Tom Pinch, and simple Jo Gargery, Cap'n Cuttle, and--and Newman Noggs.
Newman Noggs, the drink-ruined scarecrow and money-lender's drudge,
wiping little Kate Nickleby's eyes with something that might have been
his handkerchief, but looked like a duster, and risking his very bread
to fight for her afterwards. Newman was a gentleman once, they said,
and kept his dogs. I think he was a gentleman yet. And little Snagsby,
the mild and the hopelessly henpecked, with his little cough of
deference behind his hand, and his furtive half-crown for a case of

The creed of mateship embraces an old mate's wife, sons and daughters.
"Yes, I'll lend you the money, Jack; don't mention it--your father an'
me was mates on the diggings long before you was thought of, my boy."
Or, simply: "I'm an old mate of your father's."

Mateship extends to an old absent mate's new mates and friends; as
with the present generation of Bush mates: "Why!"--with a surprised
and joyful oath, and a mighty clout on back or shoulder--"Did you know
Bill? Comeanavadrink!!" And, when you get confidential: "You don't
happen to be stiff, do you? Don't be frightened to say so! There's
always a quid or two there for any of blanky old Bill's friends as is
hard up!" (Bill is still young, by the way.) And the mighty burst of
joyous profanity when two Bush mates meet after a separation of some

.   .   .   .   .

Visiting an old mate in the hospital! The broad grins! Bill wasn't
used to being fixed up like that in the old days, with pretty nurses,
in caps and uniforms, gliding round him. But there was a woman--

Bill-o'-th'-Bush being dead, Jim and mates bury him, and Jim blubbers
and is unashamed. Later it is Jim's sad duty to take round the hat and
gather in the quids for poor Bill's missus and kids. And Jim sticks to
them, and helps them all he can; though Bill's missus always hated Jim
like poison, and Jim "could never stand her."

In ordinary cases, when a man or woman is in a hole--and the man need
not be a saint, nor the woman any better than she ought to be,
either--the hat is started round with bad swear words of unnecessary
vehemence, lest some--might cherish a suspicion that there is any--
sentiment behind it at all. "Chuck in half a quid and give the poor--
a show!"

.   .   .   .   .

Another kind of case--a little story of two men who went up and down
in the world. One mate went up because Fortune took a fancy to him,
and he didn't discredit Fortune; the other went down because he drank,
and Luck forbore to camp by his fire. In later years the pair came
together, and the mate who was up gave the mate who was down a billet
in his business in town, and bore with him with boundless patience,
and took him back time and again. And it came to pass that one day the
mate who was down saved the life of the little girl of the mate who
was up. Forthwith, the mate who was down rolled up his swag and took
the track, without even giving the mate who was up a chance to try and
thank him. He felt he couldn't meet him and look him in the face
again. And the old mate who was up understood. It was an extremely
awkward and embarrassing case all round. A money gift was absolutely
impossible--utterly out of the question; and it was equally impossible
for them to continue comfortably in their old relations. The only way
to mend matters would have been for the mate who was up to save the
life of the child of the mate who was down, in return; but the mate
who was down didn't have a child that he knew of. He went away, and
straightened up, and did not return until he was on his feet, and the
late affair had had time to blow over.

A man will more often reform because of a good or heroic deed he has
done, and has not been rewarded for, than because of a foolish or bad
one he has done and been punished for. Punishment does not reform men.

.   .   .   .   .

Mateship is jealous at times; and, if any jealousy can be unselfish,
free from vindictiveness, and even noble, this can be. Which reminds
me of an incident in the mateship of Bob Lucas and Jim Barnes,
professional shearers, west of the Darling River.

Bob was a good cove, a straight chap, a white man. So was Jim, so long
as he kept away from drink, cards, dice, and headin' 'em. They had
lost sight of each other for two or three years, and it had been
whispered that Bob had been in trouble, but for "nothin' bad." But it
wasn't whispered in Jim's presence, for he was always over-eager to
fight where Bob's name was concerned.

But there came a man, or a chap, to the shed where Bob and Jim shore--
or rather, a cove, in the vague sense of the term. Some of the chaps
referred to him as "a--." Call him Cooney. Cooney was short and
stout, or rather fat, where some men would be called burly, or
nuggety. He had, where it showed through holes in his rags, the
unhealthy pallid fatness of the tramp or gaol-bird who hasn't worked
for a long time. He had no moustache, but stubble nearly all over his
face. He had no proper swag, just a roll of rags on a string; he had
no water-bag, only a billy. To the surprise of some, Bob recognized
him and went and spoke to him. And Bob gave him tobacco, and spoke to
the boss over the board, and got him on picking up in the place of a
rouse-about who was leaving.

Jim was greatly disgusted, for Cooney was picking up for him and Bob
and three others, and was no good. "We'll cut out in a week or so, and
he'll get into it," said Bob. "Give the man a show." Jim and mates
grumbled, but mateship forbore to ask Bob's reasons for sticking to
the--. It was the etiquette of mateship. But Cooney, who was short of
something in his head, and got worse, instead of better, though Bob
helped him all he could, and Cooney had to be put off when an old hand
turned up. But Bob stuck to him, got him a few things from the store,
and arranged about his tucker for a day or two.

Cooney seemed neither slouching nor sullen, but he kept vaguely and
unobtrusively to himself. He would sit smoking in the row by the hut
after tea. His manner suggested that of a mild, harmless, deaf man of
rather low intelligence. Bob, who was a silent, serious man, would
sometimes squat beside him and talk in a low voice, and Jim began to
brood, as much as it was in his nature to brood, and to wonder more
often what there was between Cooney and his old mate. But mateship
forbade him to inquire. And so till "cut-out," and next day, the
river-boat being delayed, and time of little importance (for it was
the end of the season), while for an extra pound or two they decided
to take the track up the river to the township where they intended to
spend Christmas. As fuel to Jim's growing resentment, Cooney--who had
a decent swag by this time, and a water-bag, thanks to Bob--seemed
prepared to travel with them. Then Jim burst out--

"--it all, Bob! Yer ain't going to take that--on the track with us,
are yer?"

"He's only going as far as the Wanaaring track," said Bob, "and then
he's going to strike Out Back to look for a chance amongst the
stragglers." Then he added in a mutter: "He's got pluck anyhow, poor

"Well, I don't know about the pluck," said Jim. "But--why, he's got
all the brands of a gaol-bird or something, and I can't make out how
in--you came to cotton to him. I ain't goin' to ask neither, but if
it goes much farther it'll be a case of either him or me."

"You wait, Jim," said Bob, quietly. "I've got my reasons, and I might
tell you afterwards."

"Oh, orlright. I don't want to know."

They said little all day, except a word or two, now and again, with
reference to matches, the direction, and the distance to water, for
they were on the outside track from the river, and they were very
quiet by the camp-fire, and turned in early. Cooney made his camp some
distance from the fire, and Jim some distance from Bob--they lay as at
the points of a triangle, as it happened; a common triangle of life.

Next day it was much the same, but that night, while Bob was walking
up and down, as he often did, even after a long day's tramp, Jim,
tired of silence, stretched himself, and said to the silent Cooney--

"Well, Cooney! What'yer got on your mind? Writin' poetry, eh? What's
the trouble all this time, old horse?"

And Cooney answered quietly, and the reverse of offensively--

"Wotter yer care?"

"Wotyer say?"

"Wotter yer care?"

"Wotyer say that for?"

"Oh, it's only a sayin' I have."

That hopelessly widened the breach, if there could be said to have
been a breach, between Jim and Cooney, and increased Jim's
irritability towards his mate. But they were on the Wanaaring track,
and, next morning, after an early breakfast, Cooney, who had rolled
his swag at daylight, took the track. He had the bulk of the tucker in
his nose-bag, for they would reach the township in the afternoon, and
would not need it. Bob walked along the track with him for a bit,
while Jim sulkily rolled up his swag. Jim saw the two men stop about
half a mile away, and something pass between them, and he guessed it
was a pound-note, possibly two, and maybe a stick or so of tobacco.
For a moment Bob stood with his hand on Cooney's shoulder, then they
shook hands, and Cooney went on, and Bob came back to camp. He sat for
a few minutes on his swag in front of the fire (for early mornings can
be chilly Out Back, even in midsummer), and had another pint of tea to
give zest to his morning pipe. He said nothing, but seemed very

"Well, Bob!" Jim blurted out at last. "What the--are yer thinkin'
about? Frettin' about yer new mate? Hey?"

Bob stood up slowly, and stood with hands behind, looking down at the

"Jim," he said, in his sadly quiet way, "that man and me was in gaol

It brought Jim to his feet in an instant.

"Bob," he said, holding out his hand, "I'm sorry. I didn't know what I
was drivin' at."

"It's all right, Jim," said Bob, with a quiet smile; "don't say no
more about it."

But Jim had driven to gold.

A friend or a chum might have shunned Bob after that; a partner might
have at least asked what he had been in trouble for; "a pal" would
certainly have done so out of curiosity, and probably with rising
admiration. But mateship didn't.

The faith of men is as strong as the sympathy between them, and
perhaps the hardest thing on earth for a woman to kill.

Jim only glanced a little regretfully after the lonely little blur in
the west, and said--

"I'm sorry I didn't shake hands with the poor little--. But it can't
be helped now."

"Never mind," said Bob. "You might drop across him some day."


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