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Title: The Rising of the Court and Other Sketches in Prose and Verse
Author: Henry Lawson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
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Language:  English
Date first posted: October 2006
Date most recently updated: October 2006

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Title: The Rising of the Court and Other Sketches in Prose and Verse
Author: Henry Lawson




PROSE

The Rising of the Court
Roll Up at Talbragar
"Wanted by the Police"
The Bath
Instinct Gone Wrong
The Hypnotised Township
The Exciseman
Mateship in Shakespeare's Rome

VERSE

One Hundred and Three
The Army of the Rear
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
The Port o' Call
The Man Who Raised Charlestown
The Southerly Buster
'Tambaroora Jim'
Lake Eliza
In the Days When We Are Dead




THE RISING OF THE COURT

  Oh, then tell us, Sings and Judges, where our meeting is to be,
  when the laws of men are nothing, and our spirits all are free
  when the laws of men are nothing, and no wealth can hold the fort,
  There'll be thirst for mighty brewers at the Rising of the Court.


The same dingy court room, deep and dim, like a well, with the clock
high up on the wall, and the doors low down in it; with the bench,
which, with some gilding, might be likened to a gingerbread imitation
of a throne; the royal arms above it and the little witness box to one
side, where so many honest poor people are bullied, insulted and
laughed at by third-rate blackguardly little "lawyers," and so many
pitiful, pathetic and noble lies are told by pitiful sinners and
disreputable heroes for a little liberty for a lost self, or for the
sake of a friend--of a "pal" or a "cobber."  The same overworked
and underpaid magistrate trying to keep his attention fixed on the
same old miserable scene before him; as a weary, overworked and
underpaid journalist or author strives to keep his attention fixed on
his proofs.  The same row of big, strong, healthy, good-natured
policemen trying not to grin at times; and the police-court solicitors
("the place stinks with 'em," a sergeant told me) wrangling over
some miserable case for a crust, and the "reporters," shabby some of
them, eager to get a brutal joke for their papers out of the
accumulated mass of misery before them, whether it be at the expense
of the deaf, blind, or crippled man, or the alien.

And opposite the bench, the dock, divided by a partition, with the
women to the left and the men to the right, as it is on the stairs or
the block in polite society.  They bring children here no longer.  The
same shaking, wild-eyed, blood-shot-eyed and blear-eyed drunks and
disorderlies, though some of the women have nerves yet; and the same
decently dressed, but trembling and conscience-stricken little wretch
up for petty larceny or something, whose motor car bosses of a big
firm have sent a solicitor, "manager," or some understrapper here to
prosecute and give evidence.

But, over there, on a form to one side of the bench-opposite the
witness box--and as the one bright spot in this dark, and shameful,
and useless scene--and in a patch of sunlight from the skylight as it
happens--sit representatives of the Prisoners' Aid Society, Prison
Gate and Rescue Brigades, etc. (one or two of the ladies in nurses'
uniforms), who are come to help us and to fight for us against the Law
of their Land and of ours, God help us!

Mrs Johnson, of Red Rock Lane, is here, and her rival in revolution,
One-Eyed Kate, and Cock-Eyed Sal, and one or two of the other
aristocrats of the alley.  And the weeping bedraggled remains of what
was once, and not so long ago, a pretty, slight, fair-haired and
blue-eyed Australian girl.  She is up for inciting One-Eyed Kate to
resist the police.  Also, Three-Pea Ginger, Stousher, and Wingy, for
some participation in the row amongst the aforementioned ladies.
(Wingy, by the way, is a ratty little one-armed man, whose case is
usually described in the head-line, as "A 'Armless Case," by one of
our great dailies.)  And their pals are waiting outside in the
vestibule--Frowsy Kate (The Red Streak), Boko Bill, Pincher and his
"piece," etc., getting together the stuff for the possible fines, and
the ten-bob fee for the lawyer, in one case, and ready to swear to
anything, if called upon.  And I myself--though I have not yet entered
Red Rock Lane Society--on bail, on a charge of "plain drunk."  It
was "drunk and disorderly" by the way, but a kindly sergeant changed
it to plain drunk (though I always thought my drunk was ornamental).

Yet I am not ashamed--only comfortably dulled and a little
tired--dully interested and observant, and hopeful for the sunlight
presently.  We low persons get too great a contempt for things to feel
much ashamed at any time; and this very contempt keeps many of us from
"reforming."  We hear too many lies sworn that we know to be lies,
and see too many unjust and brutal things done that we know to be
brutal and unjust.

But let us go back a bit, and suppose we are still waiting for the
magistrate, and think of Last Night.  "Silence!"--but from no human
voice this time.  The whispering, shuffling, and clicking of the court
typewriter ceases, the scene darkens, and the court is blotted out as
a scene is blotted out from the sight of a man who has thrown himself
into a mesmeric trance.  And:

Drink--lurid recollection of being "searched"---clang of iron cell
door, and I grope for and crawl on to the slanting plank.  Period of
oblivion--or the soul is away in some other world.  Clang of cell
door again, and soul returns in a hurry to take heed of another soul,
belonging to a belated drunk on the plank by my side.  Other soul
says:

"Gotta match?"

So we're not in hell yet.

We fumble and light up.  They leave us our pipes, tobacco and matches;
presently, one knocks with his pipe on the iron trap of the door and
asks for water, which is brought in a tin pint-pot.  Then follow
intervals of smoking, incoherent mutterings that pass for
conversation, borrowings of matches, knockings with the pannikin on
the cell door wicket or trap for more water, matches, and bail; false
and fitful starts into slumber perhaps--or wild attempts at flight on
the part of our souls into that other world that the sober and sane
know nothing of; and, gradually, suddenly it seems, reason (if this
world is reasonable) comes back.

"What's your trouble!"

"Don't know.  Bomb outrage, perhaps."

"Drunk?"

"Yes."

"What's yours!"

"Same boat."

But presently he is plainly uneasy (and I am getting that way, too, to
tell the truth), and, after moving about, and walking up and down in
the narrow space as well as we can, he "rings up" another policeman,
who happens to be the fat one who is to be in charge all night.

"Wot's up here?"

"What have I been up to?"

"Killin' a Chinaman.  Go to sleep."

Policeman peers in at me inquiringly, but I forbear to ask questions.

Blankets are thrown in by a friend of mine in the force, though we
are not entitled to them until we are bailed or removed to the
"paddock"  (the big drunks' dormitory and dining cell at the
Central), and we proceed to make ourselves comfortable.  My mate
wonders whether he asked them to send to his wife to get bail, and
hopes he didn't.

They have left our wicket open, seeing, or rather hearing, that we are
quiet.  But they have seemingly left some other wickets open also, for
from a neighbouring cell comes the voice of Mrs Johnson holding forth.
The locomotive has apparently just been run into the cleaning sheds,
and her fires have not had time to cool.  They say that Mrs Johnson
was a "lady once," like many of her kind; that she is not a "bad
woman"--that is, not a woman of loose character--but gets money sent
to her from somewhere--from her "family," or her husband, perhaps.
But when she lets herself loose--or, rather, when the beer lets her
loose--she is a tornado and a terror in Red Rock Lane, and it is only
her fierce, practical kindness to her unfortunate or poverty-stricken
sisters in her sober moments that keeps her forgiven in that classic
thoroughfare.  She can certainly speak "like a lady" when she likes,
and like an intelligent, even a clever, woman--not like a "woman of
the world," but as a woman who knew and knows the world, and is in
hell.  But now her language is the language of a rough shearer in a
"rough shed" on a blazing hot day.

After a while my mate calls out to her:

"Oh! for God's sake give it a rest!"

Whereupon Mrs Johnson straightway opens on him and his ancestry, and
his mental, moral, and physical condition--especially the latter.  She
accuses him of every crime known to Christian countries and some
Asiatic and ancient ones.  She wants to know how long he has been out
of jail for kicking his wife to pieces that time when she was up as a
witness against him, and whether he is in for the same thing again?
(She has never set eyes on him, by the way, nor he on her.)

He calls back that she is not a respectable woman, and he knows all
about her.

Thereupon she shrieks at him and bangs and kicks at her door, and
demands his name and address.  It would appear that she is a
respectable woman, and hundreds can prove it, and she is going to make
him prove it in open court.

He calls back that his name is Percy Reginald Grainger, and his town
residence is "The Mansions," Macleay Street, next to Mr Isaacs, the
magistrate, and he also gives her the address of his solicitor.

She bangs and shrieks again, and states that she will get his name
from the charge sheet in the morning and have him up for criminal
libel, and have his cell mate up as a witness--and hers, too.  But
just here a policeman comes along and closes her wicket with a bang
and cuts her off, so that her statements become indistinct, or come
only as shrieks from a lost soul in an underground dungeon.  He also
threatens to cut us off and smother us if we don't shut up.  I wonder
whether they've got her in the padded cell.

We settle down again, but presently my fellow captive nudges me and
says: "Listen!"  From another cell comes the voice of a woman
singing--the girl who is in for "inciting to resist, your worship,"
in fact.  "Listen!" he says, "that woman could sing once."  Her
voice is low and sweet and plaintive, as of a woman who had been a
singer but had lost her voice.  And what do you think it is?

  The crowd in accents hushed reply--
  "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by."

Mrs Johnson's cell is suddenly silent.  Then, not mimickingly,
mockingly, or scornfully, but as if the girl is a champion of Jesus
of Nazareth, and is hurt at the ignorance of the multitude, and pities
_Him_:

  Now who is this Jesus of Nazareth, say?

The policeman, coming along the passage, closes the wicket in her door,
but softly this time, and not before we catch the  plaintive words
again.

  The crowd in accents hushed reply
  "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by."

My fellow felon throws the blanket off him impatiently, sits up with a
jerk, and gropes for his pipe.

"God!" he says.  "But this is red hot!  Have you got another
match?"

I wonder what the Nazarene would have to say about it.

Sleep for a while.  I wonder whether they'll give us time, or we'll be
able to sleep some of our sins off in the end, as we sleep our drink
off here?  Then "The Paddock" and day light; but there's little time
for the Paddock here, for we must soon be back in court.  The men
borrow and lend and divide tobacco, lend even pipes, while some break
up hard tobacco and roll cigarettes with bits of newspaper.  If it is
Sunday morning, even those who have no hope for bail, and have long
horrible day and night before them, will sometimes join in a cheer as
the more fortunate are bailed.  But the others have tea and bread and
butter brought to them by one of the Prisoners' Aid Societies, who ask
for no religion in return.  They come to save bodies, and not to fish
for souls.  The men walk up and down and to and fro, and cross and
recross incessantly, as caged men and animals always do--and as some
uncaged men do too.

"Any of you gentlemen want breakfast?"  Those who have money and
appetites order; some order for the sake of the tea alone; and some
"shout" two or three extra breakfasts for those who had nothing on
them when they were run in.  We low people can be very kind to each
other in trouble.  But now it's time to call us out by the lists,
marshal us up in the passage and draft us into court.  Ladies first.
But I forgot that I am out on bail, and that the foregoing belongs to
another occasion.  Or was it only imagination, or hearsay?
Journalists have got themselves run in before now, in order to see and
hear and feel and smell for themselves--and write.


"Silence!  Order in the Court."  I come like a shot out of my
nightmare, or trance, or what you will, and we all rise as the
magistrate takes his seat.  None of us noticed him come in, but he's
there, and I've a quaint idea that he bowed to his audience.  Kindly,
humorous Mr Isaacs, whom we have lost, always gave me that idea.  And,
while he looks over his papers, the women seem to group themselves,
unconsciously as it were, with Mrs Johnson as front centre, as though
they depended on her in some vague way.  She has slept it off and
tidied, or been tidied, up, and is as clear-headed as she ever will
be.  Crouching directly behind her, supported and comforted on one
side by One-Eyed Kate, and on the other by Cock-Eyed Sal, is the poor
bedraggled little resister of the Law, sobbing convulsively, her
breasts and thin shoulders heaving and shaking under her openwork
blouse--the girl who seemed to pity Jesus of Nazareth last night in
her cell.  There's very little inciting to resist about her now.  Most
women can cry when they like, I know, and many have cried men to jail
and the gallows; but here in this place, if a woman's tears can avail
her anything, who, save perhaps a police-court solicitor and
gentleman-by-Act-of-Parliament, would, or dare, raise a sneer.

I wonder what the Nazarene would have to say about it if He came in
to speak for her.  But probably they'd send Him to the receiving
house as a person of unsound mind, or give Him worse punishment for
drunkenness and contempt of court.

His Worship looks up.

Mrs Johnson (from the dock): "Good morning, Mr Isaacs.  How do you
do?  You're looking very well this morning, Mr Isaacs."

His Worship (from the Bench): "Thank you, Mrs Johnson.  I'm feeling
very well this, morning."

There's a pause, but there is no "laughter."  The would-be satellites
don't know whom the laugh might be against.  His Worship bends over
the papers again, and I can see that he is having trouble with that
quaintly humorous and kindly smile, or grin, of his.  He has as hard
a job to control his smile and get it off his face as some magistrates
have to get a smile on to theirs.  And there's a case coming by and
by that he'll have to look a bit serious over.  However--

"Jane Johnson!"

Mrs Johnson is here present, and reminds the Sergeant that she is.


Then begins, or does begin in most courts, the same dreary old drone,
like the giving out of a hymn, of the same dreary old charge:

"You--Are--Charged--With--Being--Drunk--And--Disorderly--In--Such
--And--Such--A--Street--How--Do--You--Plead--Guilty--Or--Not--Guilty?"
But they are less orthodox here.  The "disorderly" has dropped out of
Mrs Johnson's charge somehow, on the way from the charge room.  I don't
know what has been going on behind the scenes, but, anyway, it is
Christmas-time, and the Sergeant seems anxious to let Mrs Johnson off
lightly.  It means anything from twenty-four hours or five
shillings to three months on the Island for her.  The lawyers and the
police--especially the lawyers--are secretly afraid of Mrs Johnson.

However, again---

The Sergeant: "This woman has not been here for six weeks, your
Worship."

Mrs Johnson (who has him set and has been waiting for him for a year
or so): "It's a damned lie, Mr Isaacs.  I was here last Wednesday!"
Then, after a horrified pause in the Court: "But I beg _your_
pardon, Mr Isaacs."

His Worship's head goes down again.  The "laughter" doesn't come
here, either.  There is a whispered consultation, and (it being
Christmas-time) they compromise with Mrs Johnson for "five shillings
or the risin'," and she thanks his Worship and is escorted out,
rather more hurriedly than is comportable with her dignity, for she
remarks about it.

The members of the Johnsonian sisterhood have reason to be thankful
for the "lift" she has given them, for they all get off lightly, and
even the awful resister of Law-an'-order is forgiven.  Mrs Johnson has
money and is waiting outside to stand beers for them; she always
shouts for the boys when she has it.  And--what good does it all do?

It is very hard to touch the heart of a woman who is down, though they
are intensely sympathetic amongst themselves.  It is nearly as hard as
it is to combat the pride of a hard-working woman in poverty.  It was
such women as Mrs Johnson, One-Eyed Kate, and their sisters who led
Paris to Versailles; and a King and a Queen died for it.  It is such
women as Mrs Johnson and One-Eyed Kate and their sisters who will lead
a greater Paris to a greater Versailles some day, and many "Trust"
kings and queens, and their princes and princesses shall die for it.
And that reminds me of two reports in a recent great daily:

  Miss Angelina De Tapps, the youngest daughter of the well-known
  great family of brewers, was united in the holy bonds of matrimony
  to Mr Reginald Wells--(here follows a long account of the smart
  society wedding).  The happy pair leave en route for Europe per the
 ---next Friday.

  Jane Johnson, an old offender, again faced the music before Mr
  Isaacs, S.M., at the Central yesterday morning--(here follows a
  "humorous" report of the case).

Next time poor Mrs Johnson will leave _en route_ for "Th'
Island" and stay there three months.

The sisters join Mrs Johnson, who has some money and takes them to a
favourite haunt and shouts for them--as she does for the boys
sometimes.  Their opinions on civilization are not to be printed.

Ginger and Wingy get off with the option, and, though the fine is
heavy, it is paid.  They adjourn with Boko Bill, and their politics
are lurid.

Squinny Peters (plain drunk--five bob or the risin'), who is peculiar
for always paying his fine, elects to take it out this time.  It
appears that the last time Squinny got five bob or the risin' he
ante'd up the splosh like a man, and the court rose immediately, to
Squinny's intense disgust.  He isn't taking any chances this time.

Wild-Flowers-Charley, who recently did a fortnight, and has been out
on bail, has had a few this morning, and, in spite of warnings from
and promises to friends, insists on making a statement, though by
simply pleading guilty he might get off easily.  The statement lasts
some ten minutes.  Mr Isaacs listens patiently and politely and
remarks:

"Fourteen days."

Charley saw the humour of it afterwards, he says.

But what good does it all do?

I had no wish to treat drunkenness frivolously in beginning this
sketch; I have seen women in the horrors--that ought to be enough.




"ROLL UP AT TALBRAGAR"

  Jack Denver died at Talbragar when Christmas Eve began,
  And there was sorrow round the place, for Denver was a man;
  Jack Denver's wife bowed down her head--her daughter's grief was wild,
  And big Ben Duggan by the bed stood sobbing like a child.
  But big Ben Duggan saddled up, and galloped fast and far,
  To raise the longest funeral ever seen on Talbragar.

                                              -_Ben Duggan_.


Both funerals belonged to Big Ben Duggan in a way, though Jack Denver
was indirectly the cause of both.

Jack Denver was reckoned the most popular man in the district (outside
the principal township)--a white man and a straight man--a white boss
and a straight sportsman.  He was a squatter, though a small one; a
real squatter who lived on his run and worked with his men--no dummy,
super, manager for a bank, or swollen cockatoo about Jack Denver.  He
was on the committees at agricultural shows and sports, great at
picnics and dances, beloved by school children at school feasts (I
wonder if they call them feasts still), giver of extra or special
prizes, mostly sovs. and half-sovs., for foot races, etc.; leading
spirit for the scrub district in electioneering campaigns--they went
as right as men could go in the politics of those days who watched and
went the way Jack Denver went; header of subscription lists for
burnt-out, flooded-out, sick, hurt, dead or killed or otherwise
knocked-out selectors and others, or their families; barracker and
agitator for new provisional schools, assister of his Reverence and
little bush chapels, friend of all manner of wanderers--careless,
good-hearted scamps in trouble, broken-hearted new chums, wrecks and
failures and outcasts of any colour or creed, and especially of old
King Jimmy and the swiftly vanishing remnant of his tribe.  His big
slab-and-shingle and brick-floored kitchen, with its skillions, built
on more generous plans and specifications than even the house itself,
was the wanderer's goal and home in bad weather.  And--yes, owner, on
a small scale, of racehorses, and a keen sportsman.

Jack Denver and Big Ben Duggan were boys together on the old
selections, and at the new provisional bark school at Pipeclay; they
went into the Great North-West together "where all the rovers
go"--stock-riding and droving and overlanding, and came back after a
few years bronzed and seasoned and with wild yarns.

Jack married and settled down on a small run his father had bought
near Talbragar, and his generous family of tall, straight bush boys
and tall, straight bush girls grew up and had their sweethearts.  But,
when Jack married, Big Ben Duggan went back again, up into Queensland
and the Great North-West, with a makeshift mate who had also lost his
mate through marriage.  Ever and again, after one, and two, and three
years--the periods of absence lengthening as the years went on--Big
Ben Duggan would come back home, and stay a while (till the Great
North-West began to call insistently) at Denver's, where he would be
welcomed jubilantly by all--even the baby who had never seen him--for
there was "something about the man."  And, until late on the night
of his return, he and Jack would sit by the fire in winter, or outside
on the woodheap in summer, and yarn long and fondly about the Wide
Places, and strange things they knew and understood.

How sudden things are!  Ben was back (just in time for the holidays
and the Mudgee races) out of the level lands, where distance dwells in
her halls of shimmering haze, after following her for five years.

They were riding home from the races, the women and children in carts
and buggies, the men and boys on horseback--of course.  They raced
each other along the road, across short cuts, through scrub and
timber, and back to the slow-coming overloaded vehicles again, some
riding wildly and recklessly.  Jack Denver was amongst them, his heart
warmed with good luck at the races, good whisky to wet it, and the
return of his old mate.  "We're as good as the best of the young 'uns
yet, Ben!" he cried, as they swung through the trees.  "Ain't we,
you old---?"

And then and there it happened.

A new chum suggested that Jack had more than he thought aboard and was
thrown from his horse; but the new chum was repudiated with scorn and
bad words and indignation by bushmen and bushwomen alike--as indeed he
would be by any bushman who had seen a drunken rider ride.

"I learnt him to ride when he was a kiddy about so high," said old
Break-the-News Fosbery, resentfully gasping and gulping, "and Jack
wasn't thrown."  It was thought at first that his horse had shied and
run him against a tree, or under an overhanging branch; but Ben Duggan
had seen it, and explained the thing to the doctor with that strange
calmness or quietness that comes to men in the midst of a life's
grief.  Jack was riding loosely, and swung forward just as the filly,
a fresh young thing, threw back her head; and it struck him with
sledge-hammer force, full in the face.

He was dead, even before they got him to Anderson's Halfway Inn.
There was wild racing back to town for doctors, and some accidents;
one horse was killed and another ridden to death.  Others went as a
forlorn hope in search of Doc. Wild, eccentric Yankee bush "quack,"
who had once saved one of Denver's little girls from diphtheria;
others, again, for Peter M'Laughlan, bush missionary, to face the
women--for they couldn't.

Big Ben Duggan, blubbering unashamed by the bedside, put his hand on
Mrs Denver's shoulder, as she crouched there, wild-eyed, like a hunted
thing.  "Nev--never mind, Mrs Denver!"  he blurted out, with a note
as of indignation and defiance--just for all the world as if Jack
Denver had done a wrong thing and the district was down on
him--"he'll have the longest funeral ever seen in these parts!  Leave
that to me."  Then some of the women took her out to her daughter's.
Big Ben Duggan gave terse instructions to some of the young riders
about, and then, taking the best and freshest horse, the cross-country
scrub swallowed him--west.  The young men jumped on their horses and
rode, fan-like, east.

They took Jack Denver home.  They always took their dead home first,
whenever possible, and no matter the distance, before taking them to
their last long home; and they do it yet, I suppose.  They are not
always so particular about it in cities, from what I've seen.

But this was a strange funeral.  They had arranged mattress and sheet
in the bottom of a four-wheeler, and covered him with sheet, blanket,
and quilt, though the weather was warm; and over the body, from side
to side of the trap, they had stretched the big dark-green table-cloth
from Anderson's dining-room.  The long, ghostly, white, cleared
government road between the dark walls of timber in the moonlight.
The buggies and carts behind, and the dead-white faces and glistening
or despairingly staring eyes of the women--wife, daughters, and
nieces, and those who had come to help and comfort.  The men--sons and
brothers, and few mates and chums and sweethearts--riding to right and
left like a bodyguard, to comfort and be comforted who needed comfort.

Now and again a brother or son--mostly a brother--riding close to the
wheel, would suddenly throw out his arm on the mud splasher, of buggy
or cart, and, laying his head on it, sob as he rode, careless of tyre
and spokes, till a woman pushed him off gently:

"Take care of the wheel, Jim--mind the wheel."

The eldest son held the most painful position, by his mother's side in
the first buggy, supported by an aunt on the other side, while
somebody led his horse.  In the next buggy, between two daughters, sat
a young fellow who was engaged to one of them--they were to be married
after the holidays.  The poor girls were white and worn out; he had an
arm round each, and now and again they rested their heads on his
shoulders.  The younger girl would sleep by fits and starts, the sleep
of exhaustion, and start up half laughing and happy, to be stricken
wild-eyed the next moment by terrible reality.  Some couldn't realize
it at all--and to most of them all things were very dreamy, unreal and
far away on that lonely, silent road in the moonlight--silent save for
the slow, stumbling hoofs of tired horses, and the deliberate,
half-hesitating clack-clack of wheel-boxes on the axles.

Ben Duggan rode hard, as grief-stricken men ride--and walk.  At Cooyal
he woke up the solitary storekeeper and told him the news; then along
that little-used old road for some miles both ways, and back again,
rousing prospectors and fossickers, the butcher of the neighbourhood,
clearers, fencers, and timber-getters, in hut and tent.

"Who's that?"

"What's up?"

"What's the matter?"

"Ben Duggan!  Jack Denver's dead!  Killed ridin' home from the races!
Funeral's to-morrow.  Roll up at Talbragar or the nearest point you
can get to on the government road.  Tell the neighbours and folks."

"Good God!  How did it happen?"

But the hoofs of Ben's horse would be clattering or thudding away
into the distance.

He struck through to Dunne's selection--his brother-in-law, who had
not been to the races; then to Ross's farm--Old Ross was against
racing, but struck a match at once and said something to his auld wife
about them black trousers that belonged to the black coat and vest.

Then Ben swung to the left and round behind the spurs to the school at
Old Pipeclay, where he told the schoolmaster.  Then west again to
Morris's and Schneider's lonely farms in the deep estuary of Long
Gully, and through the gully to the Mudgee-Gulgong road at New
Pipeclay.  The long, dark, sullenly-brooding gully through which he
had gone to school in the glorious bush sunshine with Jack Denver, and
his sweetheart--now but three hours his hopelessly-stricken widow;
Bertha Lambert, Ben's sweetheart--married now, and newly a
grandmother; Harry Dale--drowned in the Lachlan; Lucy Brown--Harry's
school-day and boy-and-girl sweetheart--dead; and--and all the rest of
them.  Far away, far away--and near away: up in Queensland and out on
the wastes of the Never-Never.  Riding and camping, hardship and
comfort, monotony and adventure, drought, flood, blacks, and fire;
sprees and--the rest of it.  Long dry stretches on Dead Man's Track.
Cutting across the country in No Man's Land where there were no tracks
into the Unknown.  Chancing it and damning it.  Ill luck and good
luck.  Laughing at it afterwards and joking at it always; he and
Jack--always he and Jack--till Jack got married.  The children used to
say Long Gully was haunted, and always hurried through it after
sunset.  It was haunted enough now all right.

But, raising the gap at the head of the gully, he woke suddenly and
came back from the hazy, lazy plains; the

  Level lands where Distance hides in her halls of shimmering haze,
  And where her toiling dreamers ride towards her all their days;

where "these things" are ever far away, and Distance ever near--and
whither he had drifted, the last hour, with Jack Denver, from the old
Slab School.

"I wonder whether old Fosbery's got through yet?" he muttered, with
nervous anxiety, as he looked down on the cluster of farms and
scattered fringe of selections in the broad moonlight.  "I wonder if
he's got there yet?"  Then, as if to reassure himself: "He must have
started an hour before me, and the old man can ride yet."  He rode
down towards a farm on Pipeclay Creek, about the centre of the cluster
of farms, vineyards, and orchards.

Old Fosbery--otherwise Break-the-News--was a character round there.
If he was handy and no woman to be had, he was always sent to break
the news to the wife of a digger or bushman who had met with an
accident.  He was old, and world-wise, and had great tact--also great
experience in such matters.  Bad news had been broken to him so many
times that he had become hardened to it, and he had broken bad news so
often that he had come to take a decided sort of pleasure in it--just
as some bushman are great at funerals and will often travel miles to
advise, and organize, and comfort, and potter round a burying and are
welcomed.  They had broken the news to old Fosbery when his boy went
wrong and was "taken" ("when they took Jim").  They had broken the
news to old Fosbery when his daughter, Rose, went wrong, and bolted
with Flash Jack Redmond.  They had broken the news to the old man when
young Ted was thrown from his horse and killed.  They had broken the
news to the old man when the unexpected child of his old age and hopes
was accidentally burnt to death.  So the old man knew how it felt.


The farm was the home of one of Jack Denver's married sisters, and, as
there was no woman to go so far in the night they had sent old Fosbery
to tell her.  Folks were most uneasy and anxious, by the way, when
they saw old Fosbery coming unexpectedly, and sometimes some of them
got a bad start--but it helped break the news.

"Well, if he ain't there, I suppose I'll have to do it," thought Ben
as he passed quietly through the upper sliprails and neared the house.
"The old man might have knocked up or got drunk after all.  Anyway,
no one might come in the morning till it's too late--it always happens
that way--and--besides, the women'll want time to look up their black
things."

But, turning the corner of the cow-yard, he gave a sigh of relief as
he saw old Fosbery's horse tied up.  They were up, and the big kitchen
lighted; he caught a glimpse of a shock of white hair and bushy white
eyebrows that could have belonged to no one except old Break-the-News.
They were sitting at the table, the tearful wife pouring out tea, and
by the tokens Ben knew that old Fosbery had been very successful.  He
rode quietly to the lower sliprails, let them down softly, led his
horse carefully over them, put them up cautiously, and stood in a main
road again.  He paused to think, leaning one arm on his saddle and
tickling the nape of his neck with his little finger; his jaw dropped,
reflecting and grief forgotten in the business on hand, and the horse
"gave" to him, thinking he was about to mount.  He was tired--weary
with that strange energetic weariness that cannot rest.  It was five
miles from Mudgee and the news was known there and must have spread a
bit already; but the bulk of the Gulgong and Gulgong Road race-goers
had passed here before the accident.  Anyway, he thought he might as
well go over and tell old Buckolts, of the big vineyard, across the
creek, who was a great admirer of Jack Denver and had been drinking
with him at the races that day.  Old Buckolts was a man of weight in
the district, and was always referred to by all from his old wife
down, as "der boss," and by no other term.  The old slab farmhouse
and skillions and out-houses, and the new square brick house built in
front, were all asleep in the moonlight.  The dogs woke the old man
first (as was generally the case), as Ben opened the big white home
gate and passed through without dismounting.

"Who's dat?  Who voss die [there]?" shouted the old man as the
horse's hoofs crunched on the white creek-bed gravel between the two
houses.

"Ben Duggan!"

"Vot voss der matter?"

"Jack Denver's dead--killed riding home from the races."

"Vot dat you say?"

Ben repeated.

"Go avay!  Go home and go to sleep!  You voss shoking--and trunk.
Vat for you gum by my house mit a seely cock mit der bull shtory at
dis hour of der night?"

"It's only too true, Mr Buckolts," said Ben.  "I wish to God it
wasn't."

"You've got der yoomps, Pen.  Go to der poomp and poomp on your head
and den turn in someveers till ter morning.  I tells von of der pot's
to gif you a nip and show you a poonk.  Vy!  I trink mit Shack Denver
not twelf hour ago!"

But Ben persisted: "I'm not drunk, Mr Buckolts, and I ain't got the
horrors--I wish to God I was an' had.  Poor Jack was killed near
Anderson's, riding home, about six o'clock."

Though Ben couldn't see him, he could feel and hear by his tones,
that old Buckolts sat up in bed suddenly.

"_Mein Gott_!  How did it happen, Pen?"

Ben told him.

"Ven and veer voss der funeral?"

Ben told him.

"Frett!  Shonny!  Villie!  Sharley!" shouted the old man at the top
of his voice to the boys sleeping in the old house.  "Get up and
pring all der light horses in from der patticks, and gif dem a goot
feet mit plenty corn; and get der double-parrelled puggy ant der
sinkle puggy and der three spring carts retty.  Dere vill pe peoples
vanting lifts to-morrow.  Ant get der harnesses and sattles retty.
Vake up, olt vomans!"  (Mrs Buckolts must have been awake by this
time.)  "Call der girls ant see to dere plack tresses.  Py Gott, ve
_moost_ do dis thing in style.  Does his poor sister know over
dere across the creeks, Pen?  Durn out! you lazy, goot-for-noddings,
or I will chain you up on an ants' bed mit a rope like a tog; do you
not hear that Shack Denver voss dett?"

"I vill sent some of der girls over dere first thing in der
morning.  Holt on, Pen, ant I vill sent you out some vine."

Ben rode with the news to Lee's farm where Maurice Lee--at feud with
Buckolts and a silent man--was, for he had known Denver all his life,
and had gone, in his young days, on a long droving trip with him and
Ben Duggan.

A little later Ben returned to the main road on a fresh horse.  He
turned towards Gulgong, and rode hard; past the new bark provisional
school and along the sidings.  He left the news at Con O'Donnell's
lonely tin grocery and sly-grog shop, perched on the hillside--("God
forgive us all!" said Con O'Donnell).  He left the news at the
tumble-down public-house, among the huts and thistles and goats that
were left of the Log Paddock Rush.  There were goats on the veranda
and the place seemed dead; but there were startled replies and
inquiries and matches struck.  He left the news at Newton's selection,
and Old Bones Farm, and at Foley's at the foot of Lowe's Peak, close
under the gap between Peak and Granite Ridge.  Then he turned west, at
right angles to the main road, and took a track that was deserted
except for one farm and on every alternate Sunday.  He passed the
lonely little slab bush "chapel" of the locality, that broke
startlingly out of the scrub by the track side as he reached it; and
left the news at Southwick's farm at the end of the blind track.  At
more than one farm he left the bushwoman hurriedly looking up her
"black things;" and at more than one, one of the boys getting his
bridle to catch his horse and ride elsewhere with the news.

Ben rode back, through the moonlight and the moon-shadow haunted
paddocks, and the naked, white, ringbarked trees, along Snakes Creek,
parallel with the main road he had recently travelled till he struck
Pipeclay Creek again lower down.  He turned down the track towards the
river, and at the junction left word at Lowe's--one of the old
land-grant families.  The dogs woke an old handy man (who had been
"sent out" in past ages for "knocking a donkey off a hen-roost"-as
most of them were) and Ben told him to tell the family.

At Belinfante's Bridge across the Cudgegong Ben struck a big camp of
bullock-drivers, some going down with wool and some going back for
more.

"Hold on, Ben," cried Jimmy Nowlett, from his hammock under his
wagon as Ben was riding off--"Hold on a minute! I want to look at
yer."

Jimmy got his head out of his bunk very cautiously and carefully, and
his body after it--there were nut ends of bolts, a heavy axle, and
extremely hard projections, points, and corners within a very few
short inches of his chaff-filled sugar-bag pillow.  Slipping cannily
on to his hands and knees, he crawled out under the tail-board,
dragging his "moles" after him, and stood outside in the moonlight
shaking himself into his trousers.

Jimmy was a little man who always wore a large size in moleskins--for
some reason best known to himself--or more probably for no reason at
all; or because of a habit he'd got into accidentally years ago--or
because of the motherly trousers his mother used to build for him when
he was a boy.  And he always shook himself into his pants after the
manner of a woman shaking a pillow into a clean slip; his chin down on
his chest and his jaw dropped, as if he'd take himself in his teeth,
after the manner of the woman with a pillow, were he not prevented by
sound anatomical reasons.

"You look reg'lerly tuckered out, Ben,"  he said, "an' yer horse
could do with a spell too.  Git down, man, and have a pint er tea and
a bite."

Ben got down wearily and knew at once how knocked up he was.  He sat
right down on the hard ground, embracing and drawing up his knees, and
felt as if he'd like never to get up again: while Jimmy shook some
chaff and corn that he carried for his riding hack into a box for the
horse, and his travelling mate, Billy Grimshaw, lifted his big
namesake half full of cold tea, on to the glowing coals by the burning
log--looking just like an orang-outang in a Crimean shirt.

Ben got a fresh horse at Alfred Gentle's farm under the shadow of
Granite Ridge, and then on to Canadian (th' Canadian Lead of the
roaring days), which had been saved from the usual fate by becoming a
farming township.  Here he roused and told the storekeeper.  Then up
the creek to Home Rule, dreariest of deserted diggings.

He struck across the ages-haunted bush, and up Chinaman's Creek, past
"the Chinamen's Graves," and through the scrub and over the ridges
for the Talbragar Road.  For he had to see Jack Denver home from start
to finish.

Glaring, hot and dusty, lay the long, white road; coated with dust
that felt greasy to the touch and taste.  The coffin was in a
four-wheeled trap, for the solitary hearse that Mudgee boasted then
was to meet them some three miles out of town--at the racecourse, as
it happened, by one of those eternal ironies of fate.  (Jones, the
undertaker, had had another job that morning.) The long string of
buggies and carts and horsemen; other buggies and carts and horsemen
drawn respectfully back amongst the trees here and there along the
route; male hats off and held rigidly vertical with right ears as the
coffin passed; and drivers waiting for a chance to draw into the line.

Think of it; up early on the first morning, a long day at the races, a
long journey home, awake and up all night with grief and sympathy.
Some of the men had ridden till daylight; the women, worn out and
exhausted, had perhaps an hour or so of sleep towards morning--yet
they were all there, except Ben Duggan, on the long, hot, dusty road
back, heads swimming in the heat and faces and hands coated with
perspiration and dust--and never, never once breaking out of a slow
walk.  It would have been the same had it been pouring with rain.  I
have seen funerals trotting fast in London, and they are trotting more
and more in Australian cities, with only "the time" for an excuse.
But in the bush I have never seen a funeral faster than the slowest of
walks no matter who or what might wait, or what might happen or be
lost.  They stood by their dead well out there.  Maybe some of the
big, simple souls had a sort of vague idea that the departed would
stand a better show if accompanied as far as possible by the greatest
possible number of friends--"barrackers," so to speak.

Here all the shallow and involuntary sham of it, the shirking of a
dull and irksome duty--a bore, though the route be only a mile or so.
The satisfied undertaker, and the hard-up professional mutes and
mourners in seedy, mouldy, greeny-black, and with boozers' faces and
noses and a constant craving for beer to help them bear up against
their grief and keep their mock solemn faces.  Out there you were
carried to the hearse or trap from your home, and from the hearse or
trap to your grave--and with infinite carefulness and gentleness--on
the shoulders of men, and of men who had known and loved you.

There had been wonder and waiting in the morning for Ben Duggan; and
the women especially, on the way home, when free from restraint, were
greatly indignant against him.  To think that he should break out and
go on the drunk on this day of all days, when his oldest mate and
friend was being carried to his grave.  The men, knowing how he had
ridden all night, found great excuses; but later on some grew anxious
and wondered what could have become of him.

Some, returning home by a short cut, passed over Dead Man's Gap beyond
Lowe's Peak.

"Wonder what could have become of Ben Duggan."  mused one, as they
rode down.

There and then their wonders ceased.

A party of road-clearers had been at work along the bottom, and there
was much smoke from the burning-off, which must have made the track
dim and vague and uncertain at night.  Just at the foot of the gap,
clear of the rough going, a newly-fallen tree lay across the track.
It was stripped--had been stripped late the previous afternoon, in
fact; and, well, you won't know, what a log like that is when the sap
is well up until you have stepped casually on to it to take a look
round.  A confident skip, with your boot soles well greased, on to the
ice in a glaciarium for the first time would be nothing to it in its
results, I fancy.  (I remember we children used to scrape the sap off,
and eat it with satisfaction, if not with relish--white box I think
the trees were.)

Ben must have broken into a canter as he reached the level, as indeed
his horse's tracks showed he did, and the horse must have blundered in
the smoke, or jumped too long or too short; anyway, his long
slithering shoe marks were in the sap on the log, and he lay there
with a broken leg and shoulder.  He had struck it near the stump and
the sharp edge of an outcrop of rock.

There was more breakneck riding, and they got a cart and some bedding
and carried Ben to Anderson's, which was handiest, if not nearest, and
there was more wild and reckless riding for the doctor.

One got a gun, and rode back to shoot the horse.

Ben's case was hopeless from the first.  He was hurt close to that big
heart of his, as well as having a fractured skull.  He talked a lot of
the selections and old John Tierney, of the old bark school; and the
Never-Never country with Jack--and, later on, of the present.
"What's Ben sayin' now, Jim?" asked one young bushman as another
came out of the room with an awestruck face.

"He's sayin' that Jack Denver's dead, killed ridin' home from the
races, an' that the funeral's to-morrow, an' we're to roll up at
Talbragar!" answered the other, with wide eyes, a blank face and in
an awed voice.  "He's thinkin' to-day's yisterday."

But towards the end, under the ministrations of the doctor, Ben became
conscious.  He rolled his head a little on the pillow after he woke,
and then, seeming to remember all that happened up to his stunning
fall, he asked quietly:

"What sort of a funeral did Jack have?"

They told him it was the biggest ever seen in the district.

"Muster bin more'n a mile long," said one.

"Watcher talkin' about, Jim?" put in another.  "Yer talkin' through
yer socks.  It was more'n a mile an' a half, Ben, if it was er inch.
Some of the chaps timed it an' measured it an' compared notes as well
as they could.  Why, the head was at the Racecourse when the tail was
at Old--"

Ben sank back satisfied and a little later took the track that Jack
Denver had taken.




WANTED BY THE POLICE



Could it have been the Soul of Man and none higher that gave spoken
and written word to the noblest precepts of human nature?  For the
deeper you sound it the more noble it seems, in spite of all the
wrong, injustice, sin, sorrow, pain, religion, atheism, and cynics in
the world.  We make (or are supposed to make, or allow others to make)
laws for the protection of society, or property, or religion, or what
you will; and we pay thousands of men like ourselves to protect those
laws and see them carried out; and we build and maintain expensive
offices, police stations, court-houses and jails for the protecting
and carrying out of those laws, and the punishing of men--like
ourselves--who break them.  Yet, in our heart of hearts we are
antagonistic to most of the laws, and to the Law as a whole (which we
regard as an ass), and to the police magistrates and the judges.  And
we hate lawyers and loathe spies, pimps, and informers of all
descriptions and the hangman with all our soul.  For the Soul of Man
says: Thou shalt not refuse refuge to the outcast, and thou shalt not
betray the wanderer.

And those who do it we make outcast.

So we form Prisoners' Aid Societies, and Prisoners' Defence Societies,
and subscribe to them and praise them and love them and encourage them
to protect or defend men from the very laws that we pay so dearly to
maintain.  And how many of us, in the case of a crime against
property--and though the property be public and ours--would refuse
tucker to the hunted man, and a night's shelter from the pouring rain
and the scowling, haunting, threatening, and terrifying darkness?  Or
show the police in the morning the track the poor wretch had taken?  I
know I couldn't.

The Heart of Man says: Thou shalt not.

At country railway stations, where the trains stop for refreshments,
when a prisoner goes up or down in charge of a policeman, a native
delicacy prevents the local loafers from seeming to notice him; but at
the last moment there is always some hand to thrust in a clay pipe and
cake of tobacco, and maybe a bag of sandwiches to the policeman.

And, when a prisoner escapes, in the country at least--unless he be a
criminal maniac in for a serious offence, and therefore a real danger
to society--we all honestly hope that they won't catch him, and we
don't hide it.  And, if put in a corner, most of us would help them
not to catch him.

The thing came down through the ages and survived through the dark
Middle Ages, as all good things come down through the ages and survive
through the blackest ages.  The hunted man in the tree, or cave, or
hole, and strangers creeping to him with food in the darkness, and in
fear and trembling; though he was, as often happened, an enemy to
their creed, country, or party.  For he was outcast, and hungry, and a
wanderer whom men sought to kill.

These were mostly poor people or peasants; but it was so with the rich
and well-to-do in the bloody Middle Ages.  The Catholic country
gentleman helping the Protestant refugee to escape disguised as a
manservant (or a maidservant), and the Protestant country gentleman
doing likewise by a hunted Catholic in his turn, as the battles went.
Rebel helping royalist, and royalist helping rebel.  And always, here
and there, down through those ages, the delicate girl standing with
her back to a door and her arms outstretched across it, and facing,
with flashing eyes, the soldiers of the king or of the church--or
entertaining and bluffing them with beautiful lies--to give some poor
hunted devil time to hide or escape, though she a daughter of
royalists and the church, and he a rebel to his king and a traitor to
his creed.  For they sought to kill him.

There was sanctuary in those times, in the monkeries--and the
churches, where the soldiers of the king dared not go, for fear of
God.  There has been sanctuary since, in London and other places,
where His or Her Majesty's police dared not go because of the fear of
man.  The "Rocks" was really sanctuary, even in my time--also
Woollomooloo.  Now the only sanctuary is the jail.

And, not so far away, my masters!  Down close to us in history, and in
Merrie England, during Judge Jeffreys's "Bloody Assize," which
followed on the Monmouth rebellion and formed the blackest page in
English history, "a worthy widow named Elizabeth Gaunt was burned
alive at Tyburn, for having sheltered a wretch who himself gave
evidence against her.  She settled the fuel about herself with her own
hands, so that the flames should reach her quickly; and nobly said,
with her last breath, that she had obeyed the sacred command of God,
to give refuge to the outcast and not to betray the wanderer."
(Charles Dickens's _History of England._)

Note, I am not speaking of rebel to rebel, or loyalist to loyalist, or
comrade to comrade, or clansman to clansman in trouble--that goes
without saying--but of man and woman to man and woman in trouble, the
highest form of clannishness, the clannishness that embraces the whole
of this wicked world--the Clan of Mankind!

French people often helped English prisoners of war to escape to the
coast and across the water, and English people did likewise by the
French; and none dared raise the cry of "traitors."  It was the
highest form of patriotism on both sides.  And, by the way, it was,
is, and shall always be the women who are first to pity and help the
rebel refugee or the fallen enemy.

Succour thine enemy.


There must have been a lot of human kindness under the smothering,
stifling cloud of the "System" and behind the iron clank and
swishing "cat" strokes of brutality--a lot of soul light in the
darkness of our dark past--a page that has long since been closed
down--when innocent men and women were transported to shame, misery,
and horror; when mere boys were sent out on suspicion of stealing a
hare from the squire's preserves, and mere girls on suspicion of
lifting a riband from the merchant's counter.  But the many kindly
and self-sacrificing and even noble things that free and honest
settlers did, in those days of loneliness and hardship, for wretched
runaway convicts and others, are closed down with the pages too.  My
old grandmother used to tell me tales, but--well, I don't suppose a
wanted man (or a man that wasn't wanted, for that matter) ever turned
away from her huts, far back in the wild bush, without a quart of
coffee and a "feed" inside his hunted carcass, or went short of a
bit of bread and meat to see him on, and a gruff but friendly hint,
maybe, from the old man himself.  And they were a type of the early
settlers, she an English lady and the daughter of a clergyman.  Ah!
well---

Do you ever seem to remember things that you could not possibly
remember?  Something that happened in your mother's life, maybe, if
you are a girl, or your father's, if you are a boy--that happened to
your mother or father some years, perhaps, before you were born.  I
have many such haunting memories--as of having once witnessed a
murder, or an attempt at murder, for instance, and once seeing a tree
fall on a man--and as a child I had a memory of having been a man
myself once before.  But here is one of the pictures.

A hut in a dark gully; slab and stringy-bark, two rooms and a detached
kitchen with the boys' room roughly partitioned off it.  Big clay
fire-place with a big log fire in it.  The settler, or selector, and
his wife; another man who might have been "uncle," and a younger
woman who might have been "aunt;" two little boys and the baby.  It
was raining heavens hard outside, and the night was as black as pitch.
The uncle was reading a report in a paper (that seemed to have come,
somehow, a long way from somewhere) about two men who were wanted for
sheep- and cattle-stealing in the district.  I decidedly remember it
was during the reign of the squatters in the nearer west.  There came
a great gust that shook the kitchen and caused the mother to take up
the baby out of the rough gin-case cradle.  The father took his pipe
from his mouth and said: "Ah, well! poor devils."  "I hope they're
not out in a night like this, poor fellows," said the mother, rocking
the child in her arms.  "And I hope they'll never catch 'em,"
snapped her sister.  "The squatters has enough."

"I wonder where poor Jim is?"  the mother moaned, rocking the baby,
and with two of those great, silent tears starting from her haggard
eyes.

"Oh don't start about Jim again, Ellen," said her sister
impatiently.  "He can take care of himself.  You were always rushing
off to meet trouble half-way--time enough when they come, God knows."

"Now, look here, Ellen," put in Uncle Abe, soothingly, "he was up
in Queensland doing well when we last heerd of him.  Ain't yer never
goin' to be satisfied?"

Jim was evidently another and a younger uncle, whose temperament from
boyhood had given his family constant cause for anxiety.

The father sat smoking, resting his elbow on his knee, bunching up his
brush of red whiskers, and looking into the fire--and back into his
own foreign past in his own foreign land perhaps: and, it may be,
thinking in his own language.

Silence and smoke for a while; then the mother suddenly straightened
up and lifted a finger:

"Hush! What's that?  I thought I heard someone outside."

"Old Poley coughin'," said Uncle Abe, after they'd listened a space.
"She must be pretty bad--oughter give her a hot bran mash."  (Poley
was the best milker.)

"But I fancied I heard horses at the sliprails,"  said the mother.

"Old Prince,"  said Uncle Abe.  "Oughter let him into the shed."`

"Hush!" said the mother, "there's someone outside."  There
_was_ a step, as of someone retreating after peeping through a
crack in the door, but it was not old Poley's step; then, from farther
off, a cough that was like old Poley's cough, but had a rack in it.

"See who it is, Peter," said the mother.  Uncle Abe, who was
dramatic and an ass, slipped the old double-barrelled muzzle-loader
from its leathers on the wall and stood it in the far corner and sat
down by it.  The mother, who didn't seem to realize anything, frowned
at him impatiently.  The coughing fit started again.  It was a man.

"Who's there?  Anyone outside there?"  said the settler in a loud
voice.

"It's all right.  Is the boss there?  I want to speak to him,"
replied a voice with no cough in it.  The tone was reassuring, yet
rather strained, as if there had been an accident--or it might be a
cautious policeman or bushranger reconnoitring.

"Better see what he wants, Peter,"  said his sister-in-law quietly.
"Something's the matter--it may be the police."

Peter threw an empty bag over his shoulders, took the peg from the
door, opened it and stepped out.  The racking fit of coughing burst
forth again, nearer.  "That's a church-yarder!"  commented Uncle
Abe.

The settler came inside and whispered to the others, who started up,
interested.  The coughing started again outside.  When the fit was
over the mother said:

"Wait a minute till I get the boys out of the road and then bring
them in."  The boys were bundled into the end room and told to go to
bed at once.  They knelt up on the rough bed of slabs and straw
mattress, instead, and applied eyes and ears to the cracks in the
partition.

The mother called to the father, who had gone outside again.

"Tell them to come inside, Peter."

"Better bring the horses into the yard first and put them under
the shed," said the father to the unknown outside in the rain and
darkness.  Clatter of sliprails let down and tired hoofs over them,
and sliprails put up again; then they came in.

Wringing wet and apparently knocked up, a tall man with black curly
hair and beard, black eyes and eyebrows that made his face seem the
whiter; dressed in tweed coat, too small for him and short at the
sleeves, strapped riding-pants, leggings, and lace-up boots, all
sodden.  The other a mere boy, beardless or clean shaven, figure and
face of a native, but lacking in something; dressed like his
mate--like drovers or stockmen.  Arms and legs of riders, both of
them; cabbage-tree hats in left hands--as though the right ones had to
be kept ready for something (and looking like it)--pistol butts
probably.  The young man had a racking cough that seemed to wrench and
twist his frame as the settler steered him to a seat on a stool by the
fire.  (In the intervals of coughing he glared round like a watched
and hunted sneak-thief--as if the cough was something serious against
the law, and he must try to stop it.)

"Take that wet coat off him at once, Peter," said the settler's
wife, "and let me dry it."  Then, on second thoughts: "Take this
candle and take him into the house and get some dry things on him."

The dark man, who was still standing in the doorway, swung aside to
let them pass as the settler steered the young man into the "house;"
then swung back again.  He stood, drooping rather, with one hand on
the door-post; his big, wild, dark eyes kept glancing round and round
the room and even at the ceiling, seeming to overlook or be
unconscious of the faces after the first keen glance, but always
coming back to rest on the door in the partition of the boys' room
opposite.

"Won't you sit down by the fire and rest and dry yourself?"  asked
the settler's wife, rather timidly, after watching him for a moment.

He looked at the door again, abstractedly it seemed, or as if he had
not heard her.

Then Uncle Abe (who, by the way, was supposed to know more than he
should have been supposed to know) spoke out.

"Set down, man!  Set down and dry yerself.  There's no one there
except the boys--that's the boys' room.  Would yer like to look
through?"

The man seemed to rouse himself from a reverie.  He let his arm and
hand fall from the doorpost to his side like dead things.  "Thank
you, missus," he said, apparently unconscious of Uncle Abe, and went
and sat down in front of the fire.

"Hadn't you better take your wet coat off and let me dry it?"

"Thank you."  He took off his coat, and, turning the sleeve, inside
out, hung it from his knees with the lining to the fire then he leaned
forward, with his hands on his knees, and stared at the burning logs
and steam.  He was unarmed, or, if not, had left his pistols in the
saddle-bag outside.

Andy Page, general handy-man (who was there all the time, but has not
been mentioned yet, because he didn't mention anything himself which
seemed necessary to this dark picture), now remarked to the stranger,
with a wooden-face expression but a soft heart, that the rain would be
a good thing for the grass, mister, and make it grow; a safe remark to
make under the present, or, for the matter of that, under any
circumstances.

The stranger said, "Yes; it would."

"It will make it spring up like anything," said Andy.

The stranger admitted that it would.

Uncle Abe joined in, or, rather, slid in, and they talked about the
drought and the rain and the state of the country, in monosyllables
mostly, with "Jesso," and "So it is," and "You're right there,"
till the settler came back with the young man dressed in rough and
patched, but dry, clothes.  He took another stool by his mate's side
at the fire, and had another fit of coughing.  When it was over, Uncle
Abe remarked "That's a regular church-yarder yer got, young feller."

The young fellow, too exhausted to speak, even had he intended doing
so, turned his head in a quick, half-terrified way and gave it two
short jerky nods.

The settler had brought a bottle out--it was gin they kept for
medicine.  They gave him some hot, and he took it in his sudden,
frightened, half-animal way, like a dog that was used to ill-usage.

"He ought to be in the hospital,"  said the mother.

"He ought to be in bed right now at once," snapped the sister.
"Couldn't you stay till morning, or at least till the rain clears
up?" she said to the elder man.  "No one ain't likely to come near
this place in this weather."

"If we did he'd stand a good chance to get both hospital and a bed
pretty soon, and for a long stretch, too," said the dark man grimly.
"No, thank you all the same, miss--and missus--I'll get him fixed up
all right and safe before morning."

The father came into the end room with a couple of small feed boxes
and both boys tumbled under the blankets.  The father emptied some
chaff, from a bag in the corner, into the boxes, and then dished some
corn from another bag into the chaff and mixed it well with his hands.
Then he went out with the boxes under his arms, and the boys got up
again.

The mother had brought two chairs from the front room (I remember the
kind well: black painted hardwood that were always coming to pieces
and with apples painted on the backs).  She stood them with their
backs to the fire and, taking up the young man's wet clothes, which
the settler had brought out under his arm and thrown on a stool,
arranged them over the backs of chairs and the stool to dry.  He lost
some of his nervousness or seared manner under the influence of the
gin, and answered one or two questions with reference to his
complaint.

The baby was in the cradle asleep.  The sister drew boiling water from
the old-fashioned fountain over one side of the fire and made coffee.
The mother laid the coarse brownish cloth and set out the camp-oven
bread, salt beef, tin plates, and pintpots.  This was always called
"setting the table" in the bush.  "You'd better have it by the
fire," said the bush-wife to the dark man.

"Thank you, missus,"  he said, as he moved to a bench by the table,
"but it's plenty warm enough here.  Come on, Jack."

Jack, under the influence of another tot, was in a fit state to sit
down to a table something like a Christian, instead of coming to his
food like a beaten dog.

The hum of bush common-places went on.  One of the boys fell across
the bed and into deep slumber; the other watched on awhile, but must
have dozed.

When he was next aware, he saw, through the cracks, the taller man
putting on his dried coat by the fire; then he went to a rough "sofa"
at the side of the kitchen, where the young man was sleeping--with his
head and shoulders curled in to the wall and his arm over his face,
like a possum hiding from the light--and touched him on the shoulder.

"Come on, Jack,"  he said, "wake up."

Jack sprang to his feet with a blundering rush, grappled with his
mate, and made a break for the door.

"It's all right, Jack," said the other, gently yet firmly, holding
and shaking him.  "Go in with the boss and get into your own
clothes--we've got to make a start.  "The other came to himself and
went inside quietly with the settler.  The dark man stretched himself,
crossed the kitchen and looked down at the sleeping child; he returned
to the fire without comment.  The wildness had left his eyes.  The
bushwoman was busy putting some tucker in a sugar-bag.  "There's tea
and sugar and salt in these mustard tins, and they won't get wet,"
she said, "and there's some butter too; but I don't know how you'll
manage about the bread--I've wrapped it up, but you'll have to keep it
dry as well as you can."

"Thank you, missus, but that'll be all right.  I've got a bit of
oil-cloth," he said.

They spoke lamely for a while, against time; then the bushwoman
touched the spring, and their voices became suddenly low and earnest
as they drew together.  The stranger spoke as at a funeral, but the
funeral was his own.

"I don't care about myself so much," he said, "for I'm tired of it,
and--and--for the matter of that I'm tired of everything; but I'd like
to see poor Jack right, and I'll try to get clear myself, for his
sake.  You've seen him.  I can't blame myself, for I took him from a
life that was worse than jail.  You know how much worse than animals
some brutes treat their children in the bush.  And he was an
'adopted.'  You know what that means.  He was idiotic with
ill-treatment when I got hold of him.  He's sensible enough when away
with me, and true as steel.  He's about the only living human thing
I've got to care for, or to care for me, and I want to win out of this
hell for his sake."

He paused, and they were all silent.  He was measuring time, as his
next words proved: "Jack must be nearly ready now."  Then he took a
packet from some inside pocket of his blue dungaree shirt.  It was
wrapped in oil-cloth, and he opened it and laid it on the table; there
was a small Bible and a packet of letters--and portraits, maybe.

"Now, missus," he said, "you mustn't think me soft, and I'm neither
a religious man nor a hypocrite.  But that Bible was given to me by my
mother, and her hand-writing is in it, so I couldn't chuck it away.
Some of the letters are hers and some--someone else's.  You can read
them if you like.  Now, I want you to take care of them for me and dry
them if they are a little damp.  If I get clear I'll send for them
some day, and, if I don't--well, I don't want them to be taken with
me.  I don't want the police to know who I was, and what I was, and
who my relatives are and where they are.  You wouldn't have known, if
you do know now, only your husband knew me on the diggings, and
happened to be in the court when I got off on that first
cattle-stealing charge, and recognized me again to-night.  I can't
thank you enough, but I want you to remember that I'll never forget.
Even if I'm taken and have to serve my time I'll never forget it, and
I'll live to prove it."

"We--we don't want no thanks, an' we don't want no proofs," said the
bushwoman, her voice breaking.

The sister, her eyes suspiciously bright, took up the packet in her
sharp, practical way, and put it in a work-box she had in the kitchen.

The settler brought the young fellow out dressed in his own clothes.
The elder shook hands quietly all round, or, rather, they shook hands
with him.  "Now, Jack!" he said.  They had fastened an oilskin cape
round Jack's shoulders.

Jack came forward and shook hands with a nervous grip that he seemed
to have trouble to take off.  "I won't forget it," he said; "that's
all I can say--I won't forget it."  Then they went out with the
settler.  The rain had held up a little.  Clatter of sliprails down
and up, but the settler didn't come back.

"Wonder what Peter's doing?" said the wife.

"Showin' 'em down the short cut," said Uncle Abe.

But, presently, clatter of sliprails down again, and cattle driven
over them.

"Wonder what he's doing with the cows," said the wife.

They waited in wonder, and with growing anxiety, for some quarter of
an hour; then Abe and Andy, going out to see, met the settler coming
back.

"What in thunder are you doing with the cows, Peter?" asked Uncle
Abe.

"Oh, just driving them out and along a bit over those horse tracks;
we might get into trouble," said Peter.

When the boys woke it was morning, and the mother stood by the bed.
"You needn't get up yet, and don't say anyone was here last night if
you're asked," she whispered, and went out.  They were up on their
knees at once with their eyes to the cracks, and got the scare of
their young lives.  Three mounted troopers were steaming their legs at
the fire--their bodies had been protected by oilskin capes.  The
mother was busy about the table and the sister changing the baby.
Presently the two younger policemen sat down to bread and bacon and
coffee, but their senior (the sergeant) stood with his back to the
fire, with a pint-pot of coffee in his hand, eating nothing, but
frowning suspiciously round the room.

Said one of the young troopers to Aunt Annie, to break the lowering
silence, "You don't remember me?"

"Oh yes, I do; you were at Brown's School at Old Pipeclay--but I was
only there a few months."

"You look as if you didn't get much sleep," said the senior-
sergeant, bluntly, to the settler's wife, "and your sister too."

"And so would you," said Aunt Annie, sharply, "if you were up with
a sick baby all night."

"Sad affair that, about Brown the schoolmaster," said the younger
trooper to Aunt Annie.

"Yes," said Aunt Annie, "it was indeed."

The senior-sergeant stood glowering.  Presently he said brutally--
"The baby don't seem to be very sick; what's the matter with it?"

The young troopers move uneasily, and one impatiently.

"You should have seen her" (the baby) "about twelve o'clock last
night," said Aunt Annie, "we never thought she would live till the
morning."

"Oh, didn't you?" said the senior-sergeant, in a half-and-half tone.

The mother took the baby and held it so that its face was hidden from
the elder policeman.

"What became of Brown's family, miss?"  asked the young trooper.
"Do you remember Lucy Brown?"

"I really don't know," answered Aunt Annie, "all I know is that
they went to Sydney.  But I think I heard that Lucy was married."

Just then Uncle Abe and Andy came in to breakfast.  Andy sat down in
the corner with a wooden face, and Uncle Abe, who was a tall man, took
up a position, with his back to the fire, by the side of the senior
trooper, and seemed perfectly at home and at ease.  He lifted up his
coat behind, and his face was a study in bucolic unconsciousness.
The settler passed through to the boys' room (which was harness room,
feed room, tool house, and several other things), and as he passed out
with a shovel the sergeant said, "So you haven't seen anyone along
here for three days?"

"No," said the settler.

"Except Jimmy Marshfield that took over Barker's selection in Long
Gully," put in Aunt Annie.  "He was here yesterday.  Do you want
him?"

"An' them three fellers on horseback as rode past the corner of the
lower paddock the day afore yesterday," mumbled Uncle Abe, "but one
of 'em was one of the Coxes' boys, I think."

At the sound of Uncle Abe's voice both women started and paled, and
looked as if they'd like to gag him, but he was safe.

"What were they like?" asked the constable.

The women paled again, but Uncle Abe described them.  He had
imagination, and was only slow where the truth was concerned.

"Which way were they going?" asked the constable.  "Towards
Mudgee" (the police-station township), said Uncle Abe.

The constable gave his arm an impatient jerk and dropped Uncle Abe.

Uncle Abe looked as if he wanted badly to wink hard at someone, but
there was no friendly eye in the line of wink that would be safe.

"Well, it's strange," said the sergeant, "that the men we're after
didn't look up an out-of-the-way place like this for tucker, or
horse-feed, or news, or something."

"Now, look here," said Aunt Annie, "we're neither cattle duffers
nor sympathizers; we're honest, hard-working people, and God knows
we're glad enough to see a strange face when it comes to this lonely
hole; and if you only want to insult us, you'd better stop it at once.
I tell you there's nobody been here but old Jimmy Marshfield for three
days, and we haven't seen a stranger for over a fortnight, and that's
enough.  My sister's delicate and worried enough without you."  She
had a masculine habit of putting her hand up on something when holding
forth, and as it happened it rested on the work-box on the shelf that
contained the cattle-stealer's mother's Bible; but if put to it, Aunt
Annie would have sworn on the Bible itself.

"Oh well, no offence, no offence," said the constable.  "Come on,
men, if you've finished, it's no use wasting time round here."

The two young troopers thanked the mother for their breakfast, and
strange to say, the one who had spoken to her went up to Aunt Annie
and shook hands warmly with her.  Then they went out, and mounting,
rode back in the direction of Mudgee.  Uncle Abe winked long and hard
and solemnly at Andy Page, and Andy winked back like a mechanical
wooden image.  The two women nudged and smiled and seemed quite
girlish, not to say skittish, all the morning.  Something had come to
break the cruel hopeless monotony of their lives.  And even the
settler became foolishly cheerful.


Five years later: same hut, same yard, and a not much wider clearing
in the gully, and a little more fencing--the women rather more haggard
and tired looking, the settler rather more horny-handed and silent,
and Uncle Abe rather more philosophical.  The men had had to go out
and work on the stations.  With the settler and his wife it was, "If
we only had a few pounds to get the farm cleared and fenced, and
another good plough horse, and a few more cows."  That had been the
burden of their song for the five years and more.

Then, one evening, the mail boy left a parcel.  It was a small parcel,
in cloth-paper, carefully tied and sealed.  What could it be?  It
couldn't be the Christmas number of a weekly they subscribed to, for
it never came like that.  Aunt Annie cut the discussion short by
cutting the string with a table knife and breaking the wax.

And behold, a clean sugar-bag tightly folded and rolled.

And inside a strong whitey-brown envelope.

And on the envelope written or rather printed the words:

"For horse-feed, stabling, and supper."

And underneath, in smaller letters, "Send Bible and portraits
to-----."  (Here a name and address.)

And inside the envelope a roll of notes.

"Count them," said Aunt Annie.

But the settler's horny and knotty hands trembled too much, and so did
his wife's withered ones; so Aunt Annie counted them.

"Fifty pounds!" she said.

"Fifty pounds!" mused the settler, scratching his head in a
perplexed way.

"Fifty pounds!" gasped his wife.

"Yes," said Aunt Annie sharply, "fifty pounds!"

"Well, you'll get it settled between yer some day!" drawled Uncle
Abe.

Later, after thinking comfortably over the matter, he observed:

"Cast yer coffee an' bread an' bacon upon the waters---"

Uncle Abe never hurried himself or anybody else.




THE BATH



The moral should be revived.  Therefore, this is a story with a moral.
The lower end of Bill Street--otherwise William--overlooks Blue's
Point Road, with a vacant wedge-shaped allotment running down from a
Scottish church between Bill Street the aforesaid and the road, and a
terrace on the other side of the road.  A cheap, mean-looking terrace
of houses, flush with the pavement, each with two windows upstairs and
a large one in the middle downstairs, with a slit on one side of it
called a door--looking remarkably skully in ghastly dawns, afterglows,
and rainy afternoons and evenings.  The slits look as if the owners of
the skulls got it there from an upward blow of a sharp tomahawk, from
a shorter man--who was no friend of theirs--just about the time they
died.  The slits open occasionally, and mothers of the nation, mostly
holding their garments together at neck or bosom, lean out--at right
angles almost--and peer up and down the road, as if they are casually
curious as to what is keeping the rent collector so late this morning.
Then they shut up till late in the day, when a boy or two comes home
from work.  The terrace should be called "Jim's Terrace" if the road
is not "James's" Road, because no bills ever seem to be paid there
as they are in our street--and for other reasons.  There are four
houses, but seldom more than two of them occupied at one time--often
only one.  Tenants never shift in, or at least are never seen to, but
they get there.  The sign is a furtive candle light behind an old
table cloth, a skirt, or any rag of dark stuff tacked across the front
bedroom window, upstairs, and a shadow suggestive of a woman making up
a bed on the floor.

If more than two of the houses are occupied there is almost certain to
be an old granny with ragged grey hair, who folded her arms tight under
her ragged old breasts, and bends her tough old body, and sticks her
ragged grey old head out of the slit called a door, and squints up and
down the road, but not in the interests of mischief-making--they are
never here long enough--only out of mild, ragged, grey-headed
curiosity regarding the health or affairs of the rent collector.

Perhaps there are no bills to be collected in Skull Terrace because no
credit is given.  No jugs are put out, because there is no place to
put them, except on the pavement, or on the narrow window ledges,
where they would be in great and constant danger from the feet or
elbows of passers-by.  There are no tradesmen's entrances to the
houses in Skull Terrace.

Tenants and sub-tenants often leave on Friday morning in the full
glare of the day.  Granny throws down garments from the top window to
hurry things, and the wife below ties up much in an old allegedly
green or red table-cloth, on the pavement, at the last moment.  Van of
the "bottle ho"  variety.  It is all done very quickly, and nobody
takes any notice--they are never there long enough.  Landlord,
landlady, or rent collector--or whatever it is--calls later on; maybe,
knocks in a tired, even bored, way; makes inquiries next door, and
goes away, leaving the problem to take care of itself--all kind of
casual.  The business people of North Sydney, especially removers and
labourers, are very casual.  Down old Blue's Point Road the folk get
so casual that they just exist, but don't seem to do so.

One thing I never could make out about Skull Terrace is that when one
house becomes vacant from a house agent's point of view--there is a
permanent atmosphere of vacancy about the whole terrace--the people of
another move into it.  And there's not the slightest difference
between the houses.  It is because the removal is such a small affair,
I suppose, and the change is, the main thing.  I always do better for
awhile in a new house--but then I always did seem to get on better
somewhere else.

There are many points, or absence of points, about Skull Terrace that
fit in with Jim's casualness as against Bill's character, therefore
Blue's Point Road ought to be James's Street.

But just now, in the heat of summer, the terrace happens to be full,
and all the blinds are decent--the two new-comers are newly come down
to Skull Terrace, and the other blinds are looked up, washed, and
fixed up by force of example or from very shame's sake.

All of which seems to have nothing whatever to do with the story,
except that the scene is down opposite my balcony as I think and
smoke, and it is a blur on one of the most beautiful harbour views in
the world.


I had been working hard all day, mending the fence, putting up a
fowl-house and some lattice work and wire netting, and limewashing and
painting.  Labours of love.  I'd rather build a fowl-house than a
"pome" or story, any day.  And when finished--the fowl-house, I
mean--I sit and contemplate my handiwork with pure and unadulterated
joy.  And I take a candle out several times, after dark, to look at it
again.  I never got such pleasure out of rhyme, story, or first-class
London Academy notice.  I find it difficult to drag myself from the
fowl-house, or whatever it is, to meals, and harder to this work, and
I lie awake planning next day's work until I fall asleep in the sleep
of utter happy weariness.  And I'm up and at it, before washing, at
daylight.  But I was a carpenter and housepainter first.

Well, it had been a long, close day, and I was very dirty and tired,
but with the energy and restlessness of healthy, happy tiredness when
work is unfinished.  But I was out of two-inch nails, and the shops
were shut.

Then it struck me to start up the copper and have a real warm bath
after my own heart and ideas.  The bathroom is outside, next the
wash-house and copper.  There were plenty of splinters and ends of
softwood that were mine by right of purchase and labour.  My landlady
is, and always has been, sensitive on the subject of firewood.  She'll
buy anything else to make the house comfortable and beautiful.  She
has been known to buy a piano for one of her nieces and burn rubbish
in the stove the same day.  I knew she was uneasy about the softwood
odds and ends, but I couldn't help that--she'd still be sentimental
about them if she had a stack of firewood as big as the house.
There's at least one thing that most folk hate to buy--mine's
boot-laces or bone studs, so long as I can make pins or inked string
do.

I put a bucket of water in the copper, started a fire under that sent
sparks out of the wash-house flue at an alarming rate, filled the
copper to the brim, and, in the absence of a lid, covered it with a
piece of flattened galvanized iron I had.

I tacked the side edge of a strip of canvas to the matchboard wall
along over the inner edge of the bath, fastened a short piece of
gas-pipe to the outer edge, with pieces of string through holes made
in it, and let it hang down over the bath, leaving a hole at the head
for my head and shoulders.  I was going to have a long, comfortable,
and utterly lazy and drowsy hot water and steam bath, you know.

I fastened a piece of clothes-line round and over the head of the
bath, and twisted an old toilet-table cover and a towel round it where
it sagged into the bath, for a head rest-also to be soaped for where I
couldn't get at my back with my hands.

I went up to my room for some things, and it struck me to arrange two
chairs by the bed--candle and matches and tobacco on one side, and a
pile of Jack London, Kipling, and Yankee magazines on the other, with
the last _Lone Hand_ and _Bulletin_ on top.

Going down with pyjamas, towel, and soap, it struck me to have a
kettle and a saucepan full of water on the stove to use as the water
from the copper cooled.

I took a roomy, hard-bottomed kitchen chair into the bathroom; on it I
placed a carefully scraped, cleared, and filled pipe, matches, more
tobacco, tooth-brush, saucer with a lump of whiting and salt, piece of
looking-glass--to see progress of the teeth--and knife for finger and
toe nails.  And I knocked up a few three-inch iron nails in the wall
to hang things on.  I placed a clean suit of pyjamas over the back of
the chair, and over them the towels.

I arranged with the landlady to have a good cup of coffee made, as she
knows how to make it, ready to hand in round the edge of the door when
I should be in the bath.  There's nothing in that.  I've been with her
for years, and on account of the canvas it would be just the same as
if I were in bed.  On second thought I asked her to hand in some toast
--or bread and butter and bloater paste--at the same time.  I fed the
fire with judgment, and the copper boiled just as the last blaze died
down.  I got a pail and carried the water to the bath, pouring it in
through the opening at the head.  The last few pints I dipped into the
pail with a cup.  I covered the opening with a towel to keep the steam
and heat in until I was ready.  I got the boiling water from the
kitchen into the bucket, covered it with another towel, and stood it
in a handy corner in the bathroom.

I made an opening, turned on the cold water, and commenced to undress.
I hung my clothes on the wall, till morning, for I intended to go
straight from the bath to bed in my pyjamas and to lie there reading.

I turned off the cold water tap to be sure, lifted the towel off, and
put my good right foot in to feel the temperature--into about three
inches of cold water, and that was vanishing.

I'd forgotten to put in the plug.

I'm deaf, you know, and the landlady, hearing the water run, thought I
was flushing out the bath (we were new tenants) and wondered vaguely
why I was so long at it.

I dressed rather hurriedly in my working clothes, went inside, and
spread myself dramatically on the old cane lounge and covered my face
with my oldest hat, to show that it was comic and I took it that way.
But my landlady was so full of sympathy, condolence, and self-reproach
(because she failed to draw my attention to the gurgling) that she let
the coffee and toast burn.

I went up and lay on my bed, and was so tired and misty and far away
that I went to sleep without undressing, or even washing my face and
hands.

How many, in this life, forget the plug!

And how many, ah! how many, who passed through, and are passing
through Skull Terrace, commenced life as confidently, carefree, and
clear headed, and with such easily exercised, careful, intelligent,
practised, and methodical attention to details as I did the bath
business arrangements--and forgot to put in the plug.

And many because they were handicapped physically.




INSTINCT GONE WRONG



Old Mac used to sleep in his wagon in fine weather, when he had no
load, on his blankets spread out on the feed-bags; but one time he
struck Croydon, flush from a lucky and good back trip, and looked in
at the (say) Royal Hotel to wet his luck--as some men do with their
sorrow--and he "got there all right."  Next morning he had breakfast
in the dining-room, was waited on as a star boarder, and became
thoroughly demoralized; and his mind was made up (independent of
himself, as it were) to be a gentleman for once in his life.  He went
over to the store and bought the sloppiest suit of reach-me-downs of
glossiest black, and the stiffest and stickiest white shirt they had
to show--also four bone studs, two for the collar and two for the
cuffs.  Then he gave his worn "larstins" to the stable-boy (with
half a crown) to clean, and--proceeded.  He put the boots on during
the day, one at a time between drinks, gassing all the time, and
continued.  He concluded about midnight, after a very noisy time and
interviews with everyone on sight (slightly interrupted by drinks)
concerning "his room."  It was show time, you see, and all the rooms
were as full as he was--he was too full even to share the parlour or
billiard room with others; but he consented at last to a shake-down on
the balcony, the barmaid volunteering to spread the couch with her own
fair hands.

Towards daylight he woke, for one of the reasons why men do wake.  It
is well known, to people who know, that old campers-out (and young men
new to it, too) will wake _once_--if in a party, each at
different times--to tend to their cattle, or listen for the hobbles of
their horses, or simply to rise on their elbows and have a look
round--the last, I suppose, from an instinct born in old dangerous
times.  Mac woke up, and it was dark.  He reached out and his hand
fell, instinctively, on the rail of the balcony, which was to him
(instinctively--and that shows how instinct errs) the rail of the side
of his wagon, in which as I have said, he was wont to sleep.  So he
drew himself up on his knees and to his feet, with the instinctive
intention of getting down to (say) put some chaff and corn in the
feed-bags stretched across the shafts for the horses; for he intended,
by instinct, to make an early start.  Which shows how instinct can
never be trusted to travel with memory, but will get ahead of it--or
behind it.  (Say it was instinct mixed with or adulterated by drink.)
He got a long, hairy leg over and felt (instinctively) for the hub of
the wheel; his foot found and rested on the projecting ledge of the
balcony floor outside, and that, to him, was the hub all right.  He
swung his other leg over and expected to drop lightly on to the grass
or dust of the camp; but, being instinctively rigid, he fell heavily
some fifteen feet into a kerbed gutter.

As a result of his howls lights soon flickered in windows and
fanlights; and with prompt, eager, anxious, and awed bush first-aid
and assistance, they carried a very sober, battered and blasphemous
driver inside and spread mattresses on the floor.  And, some six weeks
afterwards, an image, mostly of plaster-of-Paris and bandages,
reclined, much against its will, on a be-cushioned cane lounge on the
hospital veranda; and, from the only free and workable corner of its
mouth, when the pipe was removed, came shockingly expressed opinions
of them----newfangled----two-story----! "night houses" (as it
called them).  And, thereafter, when he had a load on, or the weather
was too bad for sleeping in or under his wagon, the veranda of a
one-storied shanty (if he could get to it) was good enough for
MacSomething, the carrier.




THE HYPNOTIZED TOWNSHIP



They said that Harry Chatswood, the mail contractor would do anything
for Cobb & Co., even to stretching fencing-wire across the road in a
likely place: but I don't believe that--Harry was too good-hearted to
risk injuring innocent passengers, and he had a fellow feeling for
drivers, being an old coach driver on rough out-back tracks himself.
But he did rig up fencing-wire for old Mac, the carrier, one night,
though not across the road.  Harry, by the way, was a city-born
bushman, who had been everything for some years.  Anything from
six-foot-six to six-foot-nine, fourteen stone, and a hard case.  He is
a very successful coach-builder now, for he knows the wood, the roads,
and the weak parts in a coach.

It was in the good seasons when competition was keen and men's hearts
were hard--not as it is in times of drought, when there is no
competition, and men's hearts are soft, and there is all kindness and
goodwill between them.  He had had much opposition in fighting Cobb &
Co., and his coaches had won through on the outer tracks.  There was
little malice in his composition, but when old Mac, the teamster,
turned his teams over to his sons and started a light van for parcels
and passengers from Cunnamulla--that place which always sounds to me
suggestive of pumpkin pies--out in seeming opposition to Harry
Chatswood, Harry was annoyed.

Perhaps Mac only wished to end his days on the road with parcels that
were light and easy to handle (not like loads of fencing wire) and
passengers that were sociable; but he had been doing well with his
teams, and, besides, Harry thought he was after the mail contract: so
Harry was annoyed more than he was injured.  Mac was mean with the
money he had not because of the money he had a chance of getting; and
he mostly slept in his van, in all weathers, when away from home
which was kept by his wife about half-way between the half-way house
and the next "township."

One dark, gusty evening, Harry Chatswood's coach dragged, heavily
though passengerless, into Cunnamulla, and, as he turned into the yard
of the local "Royal," he saw Mac's tilted four-wheeler (which he
called his "van") drawn up opposite by the kerbing round the post
office.  Mac always chose a central position--with a vague idea of
advertisement perhaps.  But the nearness to the P.O. reminded Harry of
the mail contracts, and he knew that Mac had taken up a passenger or
two and some parcels in front of him (Harry) on the trip in.  And
something told Harry that Mac was asleep inside his van.  It was a
windy night, with signs of rain, and the curtains were drawn close.

Old Mac was there all right, and sleeping the sleep of a tired driver
after a long drowsy day on a hard box-seat, with little or no back
railing to it.  But there was a lecture on, or an exhibition of
hypnotism or mesmerism--"a blanky spirit rappin' fake," they called
it, run by "some blanker" in "the hall;" and when old Mac had seen
to his horses, he thought he might as well drop in for half an hour
and see what was going on.  Being a Mac, he was, of course,
theological, scientific, and argumentative.  He saw some things which
woke him up, challenged the performer to hypnotize him, was
"operated" on or "fooled with" a bit, had a "numb sorter
light-headed feelin'," and was told by a voice from the back of the
hall that his "leg was being pulled, Mac," and by another buzzin'
far-away kind of "ventrillick" voice that he would make a good
subject, and that, if he only had the will power and knew how (which
he would learn from a book the professor had to sell for five
shillings) he would be able to drive his van without horses or any
thing, save the pole sticking straight out in front.  These weren't
the professor's exact words--But, anyway, Mae came to himself with a
sudden jerk, left with a great Scottish snort of disgust and the sound
of heavy boots along the floor; and after a resentful whisky at the
Royal, where they laughed at his scrooging bushy eyebrows, fierce
black eyes and his deadly-in-earnest denunciation of all humbugs and
imposters, he returned to the aforesaid van, let down the flaps,
buttoned the daft and "feekle" world out, and himself in, and then
retired some more and slept, as I have said, rolled in his blankets
and overcoats on a bed of cushions, and chaff-bag.

Harry Chatswood got down from his empty coach, and was helping the
yard boy take out the horses, when his eye fell on the remnant of a
roll of fencing wire standing by the stable wall in the light of the
lantern.  Then an idea struck him unexpectedly, and his mind became
luminous.  He unhooked the swinglebar, swung it up over his
"leader's" rump (he was driving only three horses that trip), and
hooked it on to the horns of the hames.  Then he went inside (there
was another light there) and brought out a bridle and an old pair of
spurs that were hanging on the wall.  He buckled on the spurs at the
chopping block, slipped the winkers off the leader and the bridle on,
and took up the fencing-wire, and started out the gate with the horse.
The boy gaped after him once, and then hurried to put up the other two
horses.  He knew Harry Chatswood, and was in a hurry to see what he
would be up to.

There was a good crowd in town for the show, or the races, or a stock
sale, or land ballot, or something; but most of them were tired, or at
tea--or in the pubs--and the corners were deserted.  Observe how fate
makes time and things fit when she wants to do a good turn--or play a
practical joke.  Harry Chatswood, for instance, didn't know anything
about the hypnotic business.

It was the corners of the main street or road and the principal short
cross street, and the van was opposite the pub stables in the main
street.  Harry crossed the streets diagonally to the opposite corner,
in a line with the van.  There he slipped the bar down over the
horse's rump, and fastened one end of the wire on to the ring of it.
Then he walked back to the van, carrying the wire and letting the
coils go wide, and, as noiselessly as possible, made a loop in the
loose end and slipped it over the hooks on the end of the pole.
("Unnecessary detail!" my contemporaries will moan, "Overloaded
with uninteresting details!"  But that's because they haven't got the
details--and it's the details that go.)  Then Harry skipped back to
his horse, jumped on, gathered up the bridle reins, and used his
spurs.  There was a swish and a clang, a scrunch and a clock-clock and
rattle of wheels, and a surprised human sound; then a bump and a
shout--for there was no underground drainage, and the gutters belonged
to the Stone Age.  There was a swift clocking and rattle, more shouts,
another bump, and a yell.  And so on down the longish main street.
The stable-boy, who had left the horses in his excitement, burst into
the bar, shouting, "The Hypnertism's on, the Mesmerism's on!  Ole
Mae's van's runnin' away with him without no horses all right!"  The
crowd scuffled out into the street; there were some unfortunate horses
hanging up of course at the panel by the pub trough, and the first to
get to them jumped on and rode; the rest ran.  The hall--where they
were clearing the willing professor out in favour of a "darnce"--and
the other pubs decanted their contents, and chance souls skipped for
the verandas of weather-board shanties out of which other souls popped
to see the runaway.  They saw a weird horseman, or rather, something
like a camel (for Harry rode low, like Tod Sloan with his long back
humped--for effect)--apparently fleeing for its life in a veil of
dust, along the long white road, and some forty rods behind, an
unaccountable tilted coach careered in its own separate cloud of dust.
And from it came the shouts and yells.  Men shouted and swore, women
screamed for their children, and kids whimpered.  Some of the men
turned with an oath and stayed the panic with:

"It's only one of them flamin' motor-cars, you fools."

It might have been, and the yells the warning howls of a motorist who
had burst or lost his honk-kook and his head.

"It's runnin' away!"  or "The toff's mad or drunk!"  shouted
others.  "It'll break its crimson back over the bridge."

"Let it!" was the verdict of some.  "It's all the crimson carnal
things are good for."

But the riders still rode and the footmen ran.  There was a clatter of
hoofs on the short white bridge looming ghostly ahead, and then, at a
weird interval, the rattle and rumble of wheels, with no hoof-beats
accompanying.  The yells grew fainter.  Harry's leader was a good
horse, of the rather heavy coachhorse breed, with a little of the
racing blood in her, but she was tired to start with, and only
excitement and fright at the feel of the "pull" of the twisting wire
kept her up to that speed; and now she was getting winded, so half a
mile or so beyond the bridge Harry thought it had gone far enough, and
he stopped and got down.  The van ran on a bit, of course, and the
loop of the wire slipped off the hooks of the pole.  The wire recoiled
itself roughly along the dust nearly to the heels of Harry's horse.
Harry grabbed up as much of the wire as he could claw for, took the
mare by the neck with the other hand, and vanished through the dense
fringe of scrub off the road, till the wire caught and pulled him up;
he stood still for a moment, in the black shadow on the edge of a
little clearing, to listen.  Then he fumbled with the wire until he
got it untwisted, cast it off, and moved off silently with the mare
across the soft rotten ground, and left her in a handy bush stockyard,
to be brought back to the stables at a late hour that night--or rather
an early hour next morning--by a jackaroo stable-boy who would have
two half-crowns in his pocket and afterthought instructions to look
out for that wire and hide it if possible.

Then Harry Chatswood got back quickly, by a roundabout way, and walked
into the bar of the Royal, through the back entrance from the stables,
and stared, and wanted to know where all the chaps had gone to, and
what the noise was about, and whose trap had run away, and if anybody
was hurt.

The growing crowd gathered round the van, silent and awestruck, and
some of them threw off their hats, and lost them, in their anxiety to
show respect for the dead, or render assistance to the hurt, as men
do, round a bad accident in the bush.  They got the old man out, and
two of them helped him back along the road, with great solicitude,
while some walked round the van, and swore beneath their breaths, or
stared at it with open mouths, or examined it curiously, with their
eyes only, and in breathless silence.  They muttered, and agreed, in
the pale moonlight now showing, that the sounds of the horses' hoofs
had only been "spirit-rappin' sounds;" and, after some more
muttering, two of the stoutest, with subdued oaths, laid hold of the
pole and drew the van to the side of the road, where it would be out
of the way of chance night traffic.  But they stretched and rubbed
their arms afterwards, and then, and on the way back, they swore to
admiring acquaintances that they felt the "blanky 'lectricity"
runnin' all up their arms and "elbers" while they were holding the
pole, which, doubtless, they did--in imagination.

They got old Mac back to the Royal, with sundry hasty whiskies on the
way.  He was badly shaken, both physically, mentally, and in his
convictions, and, when he'd pulled himself together, he had little to
add to what they already knew.  But he confessed that, when he got
under his possum rug in the van, he couldn't help thinking of the
professor and his creepy (it was "creepy," or "uncanny," or
"awful," or "rum" with 'em now)--his blanky creepy hypnotism; and
he (old Mac) had just laid on his back comfortable, and stretched his
legs out straight, and his arms down straight by his sides, and drew
long, slow breaths; and tried to fix his mind on nothing--as the
professor had told him when he was "operatin' on him" in the hall.
Then he began to feel a strange sort of numbness coming over him, and
his limbs went heavy as lead, and he seemed to be gettin'
light-headed.  Then, all on a sudden, his arms seemed to begin to
lift, and just when he was goin' to pull 'em down the van started as
they had heard and seen it.  After a while he got on to his knees and
managed to wrench a corner; of the front curtain clear of the button
and get his head out.  And there was the van going helter-skelter, and
feeling like Tam o'Shanter's mare (the old man said), and he on her
barebacked.  And there was no horses, but a cloud of dust--or a
spook--on ahead, and the bare pole steering straight for it, just as
the professor had said it would be.  The old man thought he was going
to be taken clear across the Never-Never country and left to roast on
a sandhill, hundreds of miles from anywhere, for his sins, and he said
he was trying to think of a prayer or two all the time he was yelling.
They handed him more whisky from the publican's own bottle.  Hushed
and cautious inquiries for the Professor (with a big P now) elicited
the hushed and cautious fact that he had gone to bed.  But old Mac
caught the awesome name and glared round, so they hurriedly filled out
another for him, from the boss's bottle.  Then there was a slight
commotion.  The housemaid hurried scaredly in to the bar behind and
whispered to the boss.  She had been startled nearly out of her wits
by the Professor suddenly appearing at his bedroom door and calling
upon her to have a stiff nobbler of whisky hot sent up to his room.
The jackaroo yard-boy, aforesaid, volunteered to take it up, and while
he was gone there were hints of hysterics from the kitchen, and the
boss whispered in his turn to the crowd over the bar.  The jackaroo
just handed the tray and glass in through the partly opened door, had
a glimpse of pyjamas, and, after what seemed an interminable wait, he
came tiptoeing into the bar amongst its awe-struck haunters with an
air of great mystery, and no news whatever.

They fixed old Mac on a shake-down in the Commercial Room, where he'd
have light and some overflow guests on the sofas for company.  With a
last whisky in the bar, and a stiff whisky by his side on the floor,
he was understood to chuckle to the effect that he knew he was all
right when he'd won "the keystone o' the brig."  Though how a wooden
bridge with a level plank floor could have a keystone I don't
know--and they were too much impressed by the event of the evening to
inquire.  And so, with a few cases of hysterics to occupy the
attention of the younger women, some whimpering of frightened children
and comforting or chastened nagging by mothers, some unwonted prayers
muttered secretly and forgettingly, and a good deal of subdued
blasphemy, Cunnamulla sank to its troubled slumbers--some of the
sleepers in the commercial and billiard-rooms and parlours at the
Royal, to start up in a cold sweat, out of their beery and hypnotic
nightmares, to find Harry Chatswood making elaborate and fearsome
passes over them with his long, gaunt arms and hands, and a flaming
red table-cloth tied round his neck.

To be done with old Mac, for the present. He made one or two more
trips, but always by daylight, taking care to pick up a swagman or a
tramp when he had no passenger; but his "conveections" had had too
much of a shaking, so he sold his turnout (privately and at a
distance, for it was beginning to be called "the haunted van") and
returned to his teams--always keeping one of the lads with him for
company.  He reckoned it would take the devil's own hypnotism to move
a load of fencingwire, or pull a wool-team of bullocks out of a bog;
and before he invoked the ungodly power, which he let them believe he
could--he'd stick there and starve till he and his bullocks died a
"natural" death.  (He was a bit Irish--as all Scots are--back on one
side.)

But the strangest is to come.  The Professor, next morning, proved
uncomfortably unsociable, and though he could have done a roaring
business that night--and for a week of nights after, for that
matter--and though he was approached several times, he, for some
mysterious reason known only to himself, flatly refused to give one
more performance, and said he was leaving the town that day.  He
couldn't get a vehicle of any kind, for fear, love, or money, until
Harry Chatswood, who took a day off, volunteered, for a stiff
consideration, to borrow a buggy and drive him (the Professor) to the
next town towards the then railway terminus, in which town the
Professor's fame was not so awesome, and where he might get a lift to
the railway.  Harry ventured to remark to the Professor once or twice
during the drive that "there was a rum business with old Mac's van
last night," but he could get nothing out of him, so gave it best,
and finished the journey in contemplative silence.

Now, the fact was that the Professor had been the most surprised and
startled man in Cunnamulla that night; and he brooded over the thing
till he came to the conclusion that hypnotism was a dangerous power
to meddle with unless a man was physically and financially strong and
carefree--which he wasn't.  So he threw it up.

He learnt the truth, some years later, from a brother of Harry
Chatswood, in a Home or Retreat for Geniuses, where "friends were
paying," and his recovery was so sudden that it surprised and
disappointed the doctor and his friend, the manager of the home.
As it was, the Professor had some difficulty in getting out of it.




THE EXCISEMAN



Harry Chatswood, mail contractor (and several other things), was
driving out from, say, Georgeville to Croydon, with mails, parcels,
and only one passenger--a commercial traveller, who had shown himself
unsociable, and close in several other ways.  Nearly half-way to a
place that was half-way between the halfway house and the town,
Harry overhauled "Old Jack," a local character (there are many
well-known characters named "Old Jack") and gave him a lift as a
matter of course.

"Hello!  Is that you, Jack?"  in the gathering dusk.


"Yes, Harry."

"Then jump up here."

Harry was good-natured and would give anybody a lift if he could.

Old Jack climbed up on the box-seat, between Harry and the traveller,
who grew rather more stand- (or rather _sit_-) offish, wrapped
himself closer in his overcoat, and buttoned his cloak of silence and
general disgust to the chin button.  Old Jack got his pipe to work and
grunted, and chatted, and exchanged bush compliments with Harry
comfortably.  And so on to where they saw the light of a fire outside
a hut ahead.

"Let me down here, Harry," said Old Jack uneasily, "I owe Mother
Mac fourteen shillings for drinks, and I haven't got it on me, and
I've been on the spree back yonder, and she'll know it, an' I don't
want to face her.  I'll cut across through the paddock and you can
pick me up on the other side."

Harry thought a moment.

"Sit still, Jack," he said.  "I'll fix that all right."

He twisted and went down into his trouser-pocket, the reins in one
hand, and brought up a handful of silver.  He held his hand down to
the coach lamp, separated some of the silver from the rest by a sort
of sleight of hand--or rather sleight of fingers--and handed the
fourteen shillings over to Old Jack.

"Here y'are, Jack.  Pay me some other time."

"Thanks, Harry!" grunted Old Jack, as he twisted for his pocket.

It was a cold night, the hint of a possible shanty thawed the
traveller a bit, and he relaxed with a couple of grunts about the,
weather and the road, which were received in a brotherly spirit.
Harry's horses stopped of their own accord in front of the house, an
old bark-and-slab whitewashed humpy of the early settlers' farmhouse
type, with a plank door in the middle, one bleary-lighted window on
one side, and one forbiddingly blind one, as if death were there, on
the other.  It might have been.  The door opened, letting out a flood
of lamp-light and firelight which blindly showed the sides of the
coach and the near pole horse and threw the coach lamps and the rest
into the outer darkness of the opposing bush.

"Is that you, Harry?" called a voice and tone like Mrs Warren's of
the Profession.

"It's me."

A stoutly aggressive woman appeared.  She was rather florid, and
looked, moved and spoke as if she had been something in the city in
other years, and had been dumped down in the bush to make money in
mysterious ways; had married, mated--or got herself to be supposed to
be married--for convenience, and continued to make money by mysterious
means.  Anyway, she was "Mother Mac" to the bush, but, in the bank
in the "town," and in the stores where she dealt, she was _Mrs_
Mac, and there was always a promptly propped chair for her.  She was,
indeed, the missus of no other than old Mac, the teamster of hypnotic
fame, and late opposition to Harry Chatswood.  Hence, perhaps, part of
Harry's hesitation to pull up, farther back, and his generosity to Old
Jack.

Mrs or Mother Mac sold refreshments, from a rough bush dinner at
eighteenpence a head to passengers, to a fly-blown bottle of
ginger-ale or lemonade, hot in hot weather from a sunny fly-specked
window.  In between there was cold corned beef, bread and butter, and
tea, and (best of all if they only knew it) a good bush billy of
coffee on the coals before the fire on cold wet nights.  And outside
of it all, there was cold tea, which, when confidence was established,
or they knew one of the party, she served hushedly in cups without
saucers; for which she sometimes apologized, and which she took into
her murderous bedroom to fill, and replenish, in its darkest and most
felonious corner from homicidal-looking pots, by candle-light.  You'd
think you were in a cheap place, where you shouldn't be, in the city.

Harry and his passengers got down and stretched their legs, and while
Old Jack was guardedly answering a hurriedly whispered inquiry of
the traveller, Harry took the opportunity to nudge Mrs Mac, and
whisper in her ear:

"Look out, Mrs Mac!--Exciseman!"

"The devil he is!" whispered she.

"Ye-e-es!" whispered Harry.

"All right, Harry!" she whispered.  "Never a word!  I'll take care
of him, bless his soul."

After a warm at the wide wood fire, a gulp of coffee and a bite or two
at the bread and meat, the traveller, now thoroughly thawed,
stretched himself and said:

"Ah, well, Mrs Mac, haven't you got anything else to offer us?"

"And what more would you be wanting?" she snapped.  "Isn't the
bread and meat good enough for you?"

"But--but--you know---" he suggested lamely.

"Know?--I know!--What do _I_ know?"  A pause, then, with
startling suddenness, "Phwat d'y' mean?"

"No offence, Mrs Mac--no offence; but haven't you got something in
the way of--of a drink to offer us?"

"Dhrink!  Isn't the coffee good enough for ye?  I paid two and six a
pound for ut, and the milk new from the cow this very evenin'--an' th'
water rain-water."

"But--but--you know what I mean, Mrs Mac."

"An' I doan't know what ye mean.  _Phwat do ye mean_?  I've
asked ye that before.  What are ye dhrivin' at, man--out with it!"

"Well, I mean a little drop of the right stuff," he said, nettled.
Then he added: "No offence--no harm done."

"O-o-oh!" she said, illumination bursting in upon her brain.  "It's
the dirrty drink ye're afther, is it?  Well, I'll tell ye, first for
last, that we doan't keep a little drop of the right stuff nor a
little drop of the wrong stuff in this house.  It's a honest house,
an' me husband's a honest harrd-worrkin' carrier, as he'd soon let ye
know if he was at home this cold night, poor man.  No dirrty drink
comes into this house, nor goes out of it, I'd have ye know."

"Now, now, Mrs Mac, between friends, I meant no offence; but it's a
cold night, and I thought you might keep a bottle for medicine--or in
case of accident--or snake-bite, you know--they mostly do in the
bush."

"Medicine!  And phwat should we want with medicine?  This isn't a
five-guinea private hospital.  We're clean, healthy people, I'd have
ye know.  There's a bottle of painkiller, if that's what ye want, and
a packet of salts left--maybe they'd do ye some good.  An' a bottle of
eye-water, an' something to put in your ear for th' earache--maybe
ye'll want 'em both before ye go much farther."

"But, Mrs Mac--"

"No, no more of it!" she said.  "I tell ye that if it's a nip ye're
afther, ye'll have to go on fourteen miles to the pub in the town.
Ye're coffee's gittin' cowld, an' it's eighteenpence each to
passengers I charge on a night like this; Harry Chatswood's the driver
an' welcome, an' Ould Jack's an ould friend."  And she flounced round
to clatter her feelings amongst the crockery on the dresser--just as
men make a great show of filling and lighting their pipes in the
middle of a barney.  The table, by the way, was set on a brown holland
cloth, with the brightest of tin plates for cold meals, and the
brightest of tin pint-pots for the coffee (the crockery was in reserve
for hot meals and special local occasions) and at one side of the wide
fire-place hung an old-fashioned fountain, while in the other stood a
camp-oven; and billies and a black kerosene-tin hung evermore over the
fire from sooty chains.  These, and a big bucket-handled frying-pan
and a few rusty convict-time arms on the slab walls, were mostly to
amuse jackaroos and jackarooesses, and let them think they were
getting into the Australian-dontcherknow at last.

Harry Chatswood took the opportunity (he had a habit of taking
opportunities of this sort) to whisper to Old Jack:

"Pay her the fourteen bob, Jack, and have done with it.  She's got
the needle to-night all right, and damfiknow what for.  But the sight
of your fourteen bob might bring her round."  And Old Jack--as was
his way--blundered obediently and promptly right into the hole that
was shown him.

"Well, Mrs Mae," he said, getting up from the table and slipping his
hand into his pocket.  "I don't know what's come over yer to-night,
but, anyway--" Here he put the money down on the table.  "There's
the money I owe yer for--for---"

"For what?"  she demanded, turning on him with surprising swiftness
for such a stout woman.

"The--the fourteen bob I owed for them drinks when Bill Hogan and
me---"

"You don't owe me no fourteen bob for dhrinks, you dirty blaggard!
Are ye mad?  You got no drink off of me.  Phwat d'ye mean?"

"Beg--beg pardin, Mrs Mac," stammered Old Jack, very much taken
aback; "but the--yer know--the fourteen bob, anyway, I owed you
when--that night when me an' Bill Hogan an' yer sister-in-law, Mary
Don---"

"What?  Well, I--Git out of me house, ye low blaggard!  I'm a honest,
respictable married woman, and so is me sister-in-law, Mary Donelly;
and to think!--Git out of me door!" and she caught up the billy of
coffee.  "Git outside me door, or I'll let ye have it in ye'r ugly
face, ye low woolscourer--an' it's nearly bilin'."

Old Jack stumbled dazedly out, and blind instinct got him on to the
coach as the safest place.  Harry Chatswood had stood with his long,
gaunt figure hung by an elbow to the high mantelshelf, all the time,
taking alternate gulps from his pint of coffee and puffs from his
pipe, and very calmly and restfully regarding the scene.

"An' now," she said, "if the _gentleman's_ done, I'd thank him
to pay--it's eighteenpence--an' git his overcoat on.  I've had enough
dirty insults this night to last me a lifetime.  To think of it--the
blaggard!" she said to the table, "an' me a woman alone in a place
like this on a night like this!"

The traveller calmly put down a two-shilling piece, as if the whole
affair was the most ordinary thing in the world (for he was used to
many bush things) and comfortably got into his overcoat.

"Well, Mrs Mae, I never thought Old Jack was mad before," said Harry
Chatswood.  "And I hinted to him," he added in a whisper.
"Anyway" (out loudly), "you'll lend me a light, Mrs Mac, to have a
look at that there swingle-bar of mine?"

"With pleasure, Harry," she said, "for you're a white man, anyway.
I'll bring ye a light.  An' all the lights in heaven if I could,
an'--an' in the other place if they'd help ye."

When he'd looked to the swingle-bar, and had mounted to his place and
untwisted the reins from a side-bar, she cried:

"An' as for them two, Harry, shpill them in the first creek you come
to, an' God be good to you!  It's all they're fit for, the low
blaggards, to insult an honest woman alone in the bush in a place like
this."

"All right, Mrs Mac," said Harry, cheerfully.  "Good night, Mrs
Mac."

"Good night, Harry, an' God go with ye, for the creeks are risen
after last night's storm."  And Harry drove on and left her to think
over it.

She thought over it in a way that would have been unexpected to Harry,
and would have made him uneasy, for he was really good-natured.  She
sat down on a stool by the fire, and presently, after thinking over it
a bit, two big, lonely tears rolled down the lonely woman's fair, fat,
blonde cheeks in the firelight.

"An' to think of Old Jack," she said.  "The very last man in the
world I'd dreamed of turning on me.  But--but I always thought Old
Jack was goin' a bit ratty, an' maybe I was a bit hard on him.  God
forgive us all!"

Had Harry Chatswood seen her then he would have been sorry he did it.
Swagmen and broken-hearted new chums had met worse women than Mother
Mac.

But she pulled herself together, got up and bustled round.  She put on
more wood, swept the hearth, put a parcel of fresh steak and
sausages--brought by the coach--on to a clean plate on the table, and
got some potatoes into a dish; for Chatswood had told her that her
first and longest and favourite stepson was not far behind him with
the bullock team.  Before she had finished the potatoes she heard the
clock-clock of heavy wheels and the crack of the bullock whip coming
along the dark bush track.

But the very next morning a man riding back from Croydon called, and
stuck his head under the veranda eaves with a bush greeting, and she
told him all about it.

He straightened up, and tickled the back of his head with his little
finger, and gaped at her for a minute.

"Why," he said, "that wasn't no excise officer.  I know him well--I
was drinking with him at the Royal last night afore we went to bed,
an' had a nip with him this morning afore we started.  Why! that's
Bobby Howell, Burns and Bridges' traveller, an' a good sort when he
wakes up, an' willin' with the money when he does good biz, especially
when there's a chanst of a drink on a long road on a dark night."

"That Harry Chatswood again!  The infernal villain," she cried, with
a jerk of her arm.  "But I'll be even with him, the dirrty blaggard.
An' to think--I always knew Old Jack was a white man an'--to think!
There's fourteen shillin's gone that Old Jack would have paid me, an'
the traveller was good for three shillin's f'r the nips, an'--but Old
Jack will pay me next time, and I'll be even with Harry Chatswood, the
dirrty mail carter.  I'll take it out of him in parcels--I'll be even
with him."

She never saw Old Jack again with fourteen shillings, but she got even
with Harry Chatswood, and---But I'll tell you about that some other
time.  Time for a last smoke before we turn in.




MATESHIP IN SHAKESPEARE'S ROME



How we do misquote sayings, or misunderstand them when quoted rightly!
For instance, we "wait for something to turn up, like Micawber,"
careless or ignorant of the fact that Micawber worked harder than all
the rest put together for the leading characters' sakes; he was the
chief or only instrument in straightening out of the sadly mixed state
of things--and he held his tongue till the time came.  Moreover--and
"_Put a pin in that spot, young man_," as Dr "Yark" used to
say--when there came a turn in the tide of the affairs of Micawber, he
took it at the flood, and it led on to fortune.  He became a
hardworking settler, a pioneer--a respected early citizen and
magistrate in this bright young Commonwealth of ours, my masters!

And, by the way, and strictly between you and me, I have a shrewd
suspicion that Uriah Heep wasn't the only cad in David Copperfield.

Brutus, the originator of the saying, took the tide at the flood, and
it led him and his friends on to death, or--well, perhaps, under the
circumstances, it was all the same to Brutus and his old mate,
Cassius.

    And this, my masters, brings me home,
    Bush-born bard, to Ancient Rome.

And there's little difference in the climate, or the men--save in the
little matter of ironmongery--and no difference at all in the women.

We'll pass over the accident that happened to Caesar.  Such accidents
had happened to great and little Caesars hundreds of times before, and
have happened many times since, and will happen until the end of time,
both in "sport" (in plays) and in earnest:

    Cassius:....How many ages hence
            Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
            In states unborn and accents yet unknown?

    Brutus: How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
            That now at Pompey's basis lies along
            No worthier than the dust!

Shakespeare hadn't Australia and George Rignold in his mind's eye when
he wrote that.

    Cassius: So oft as that shall be,
             So often shall the knot of us be call'd
             The men that gave their country liberty.

Well, be that as it will, I'm with Brutus too, irrespective of the
merits of the case.  Antony spoke at the funeral, with free and
generous permission, and see what he made of it.  And why shouldn't I?
and see what I'll make of it.

Antony, after sending abject and uncalled-for surrender, and
grovelling unasked in the dust to Brutus and his friends as no
straight mate should do for another, dead or alive--and after taking
the blood-stained hands of his alleged friend's murderers--got
permission to speak.  To speak for his own ends or that paltry,
selfish thing called "revenge," be it for one's self or one's
friend.

"Brutus, I want a word with you," whispered Cassius.  "Don't let
him speak!  You don't know how he might stir up the mob with what he
says."

But Brutus had already given his word:

    Antony: That's all I seek:
            And am moreover suitor that I may
            Produce his body to the market place,
            And in the pulpit, as becomes a friend,
            Speak in the order of his funeral.

    Brutus: You shall, Mark Antony.

And now, strong in his right, as he thinks, and trusting to the honour
of Antony, he only stipulates that he (Brutus) shall go on to the
platform first and explain things; and that Antony shall speak all the
good he can of Caesar, but not abuse Brutus and his friends.

And Antony (mark you) agrees and promises and breaks his promise
immediately afterwards.  Maybe he was only gaining time for his good
friend Octavius Caesar, but time gained by such foul means is time
lost through all eternity.  Did Mark think of these things years
afterwards in Egypt when he was doubly ruined and doubly betrayed to
his good friend Octavius by that hot, jealous, selfish, shallow,
shifty, strumpet, Cleopatra, and Octavius was after his scalp with a
certainty of getting it?  He did--and he spoke of it, too.

Brutus made his speech, a straightforward, manly speech in prose,
and the gist of the matter was that he did what he did (killed Caesar),
not because he loved Caesar less, but because he loved Rome more.
And I believe he told the simple honest truth.

Then he acts as Antony's chairman, or introducer, in a manly
straightforward manner, and then he goes off and leaves the stage to
him, which is another generous act; though it was lucky for Brutus, as
it happened afterwards, that he was out of the way.

Mark Antony gets all the limelight and blank verse.  He had the "gift
of the gab" all right.  Old Cassius referred to it later on in one of
those "words-before-blows" barneys they had on the battlefield where
they hurt each other a damned sight more with their tongues than they
did with their swords afterwards.

We've all heard of Antony's speech:

       I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

Which was a lie to start with.


       The evil that men do lives after them,
       The good is oft interred with their bones.

Which is not so true in these days of newspapers and magazines.  And
so on.  He says that Brutus and his friends are honourable men about
nine times in his short speech.  Now, was Mark Antony an honourable
man?

And then the flap-doodle about dead Caesar's wounds, and their
poor dumb mouths, and the people kissing them, and dipping their
handkerchiefs in his sacred blood.  All worthy of our Purves trying
to pump tears out of a jury.

But it fetched the crowd; it always did, it always has done, it always
does, and it always will do.  And the hint of Caesar's will, and the
open abuse of Brutus and Co. when he saw that he was safe, and the
cheap anti-climax of the reading of the will.  Nothing in this line
can be too cheap for the crowd, as witness the melodramas of our own
civilized and enlightened times.

Antony was a noble Purves.

And the mob rushed off to burn houses, as it has always done, and will
always do when it gets a chance--it tried to burn mine more than once.

The quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius is one of the best scenes
in Shakespeare.  It is great from the sublime to the ridiculous--you
must read it for yourself.  It seems that Brutus objected to
Cassius's, or one of his off-side friends' methods of raising the
wind--he reckoned it was one of the very things they killed Julius
Caesar for; and Cassius, loving Brutus more than a brother, is very
much hurt about it.  I can't make out what the trouble really was
about and I don't suppose either Cassius or Brutus was clear as to
what it was all about either.  It's generally the way when friends
fall out.  It seems also that Brutus thinks that Cassius refused to
lend him a few quid to pay his legions, and, you know, it's an
unpardonable crime for one mate to refuse another a few quid when he's
in a hole; but it seems that the messenger was but a fool who brought
Cassius's answer back.  It is generally the messenger who is to blame,
when friends make it up after a quarrel that was all their own fault.
Messengers had an uncomfortable time in those days, as witness the
case of the base slave who had to bring Cleopatra the news of Antony's
marriage with Octavia.

But the quarrel scene is great for its deep knowledge of the hearts of
men in matters of man to man--of man friend to man friend--and it is
as humanly simple as a barney between two old bush mates that
threatens to end in a bloody fist-fight and separation for life, but
chances to end in a beer.  This quarrel threatened to end in the death
of either Brutus or Cassius or a set-to between their two armies, just
at the moment when they all should have been knit together against the
forces of Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar; but it ended in a beer, or
its equivalent, a bowl of wine.

Earlier in the quarrel, where Brutus asks why, after striking down the
foremost man in all the world for supporting land agents and others,
should they do the same thing and contaminate their fingers with base
bribes?

             I'd rather be a dog and bay the moon,
             Than such a Roman.

Cassius says:

             Brutus, bait not me
             I'll not endure it: you forget yourself,
             To hedge me in; I am a soldier, I,
             Older in practice, abler than yourself
             To make conditions.

    Brutus:  Go to, you are not, Cassius.

    Cassius: I am.

    Brutus:  I say you are not.

And so they get to it again until:

    Cassius: Is it come to this?

    Brutus:  You say you are a better soldier:
             Let it appear so; make your vaunting true,
             And it shall please me well: for mine own part,
             I shall be glad to learn of noble men.

    Cassius: You wrong me every way; you wrong me, Brutus;
             I said, an elder soldier, not a better.
             Did I say better?

(What big boys they were--and what big boys we all are!)
    Brutus:  If you did, I care not.

    Cassius: When Caesar lived he durst not thus have moved me.

    Brutus:  Peace, peace! you durst not thus have tempted him.

    Cassius: I durst not!

    Brutus:  No.

    Cassius: What! Durst not tempt him!

    Brutus:  For your life you durst not.

    Cassius: Do not presume too much upon my love;
             I may do that I shall be sorry for.

    Brutus:  You have done that you should be sorry for.


And so on till he gets to the matter of the refused quids, which is
cleared up at the expense of the messenger.

    Cassius: .... Brutus hath rived my heart
             A friend should bear his friend's infirmities,
             But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.

    Brutus:  I do not, till you practise them on me.

    Cassius: You love me not.

    Brutus:  I do not like your faults.

    Cassius: A friendly eye could never see such faults.

    Brutus:  A flatterer's would not, though they do appear
             As huge as high Olympus.

Then Cassius lets himself go.  He calls on Antony and young Octavius
and all the rest of 'em to come and be revenged on him alone, for he's
tired of the world ("Cassius is aweary of the world," he says).
He's hated by one he loves (that's Brutus).  He's braved by his
"brother" (Brutus), checked like a bondman, and Brutus keeps an eye
on all his faults and puts 'em down in a note-book, and learns 'em
over and gets 'em off by memory to cast in his teeth.  He offers
Brutus his dagger and bare breast and wants Brutus to take out his
heart, which, he says, is richer than all the quids--or rather
gold--which Brutus said he wouldn't lend him.  He wants Brutus to
strike him as he did Caesar, for he reckons that when Brutus hated
Caesar worst he loved him far better than ever he loved Cassius.

Remember these men were Southerners, like ourselves, not cold-blooded
Northerners--and, in spite of the seemingly effeminate Italian
temperament, as brave as our men were at Elands River.  The reason of
Brutus's seeming coldness and hardness during the quarrel is set forth
in a startling manner later on, as only the greatest poet in this
world could do it.

Brutus tells him kindly to put up his pig-sticker (and button his
shirt) and he could be just as mad or good-tempered as he liked, and
do what he liked, Brutus wouldn't mind him:

             .... Dishonour shall be humour.
             O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
             That carries anger as the flint bears fire,
             Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark
             And straight is cold again.

Whereupon Cassius weeps because he thinks Brutus is laughing at him.

             Hath Cassius lived
             To be but mirth and laughter to his Brutus,
             When grief and blood ill-temper'd vexeth him.

    Brutus:  When I spoke that, I was ill-temper'd too.

    Cassius: Do you confess so much?  Give me your hand.

    Brutus:  And my heart too.

Then Cassius explains that he got his temper from his mother (as I did
mine).

    Cassius: O Brutus!

    Brutus:  What's the matter? [Shakespeare should have added `now.']

    Cassius: Have not you love enough to bear with me,
             When that rash humour which my mother gave me
             Makes me forgetful?

    Brutus:  Yes, Cassius, and from henceforth,
             When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
             He'll think your mother chides, and leave you so.

And all this on the brink of disaster and death.

But here comes a rare touch, and we might as well quote it in full.

Mind you, I am following Shakespeare, and not history, which is mostly
lies.

A great poet's instinct might be nearer the truth; after all.  Of
course scholars know that Macbeth (or Macbethad) reigned for upwards
of twenty years in Scotland a wise and a generous king--so much so
that he was called "Macbathad the Liberal," and it was Duncan who
found his way to the throne by way of murder; but it didn't fit in
with Shakespeare's plans, and--anyway that's only a little matter
between the ghosts of Bill and Mac which was doubtless fixed up long
ago.  More likely they thought it such a one-millionth part of a
trifle that they never dreamed of thinking of mentioning it.

                               (Noise within.)

    Poet (within): Let me go in to see the generals; There is some
                   grudge between 'em--'tis not meet
                   They be alone.

    Lucilius (within): You shall not come to them.

    Poet (within): Nothing but death shall stay me.

("Within" in this case is, of course, without--outside the tent
where Lucilius and Titinius are on guard.)

                        Enter POET.

    Cassius: How now!  What's the matter?

    Poet:    For shame, you generals!  What do you mean?
             Love, and be friends, as two such men should be:
             For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.

    Cassius: Ha, ha! how vilely doth this cynic rhyme!

    Brutus:  Get you hence, sirrah; saucy fellow, hence!

    Cassius:  Bear with him, Brutus; 'tis his fashion.

    Brutus:  I'll know his humour when he knows his time:
             What should the wars do with these jingling fools?
             Companion, hence!

    Cassius: Away, away, be gone!

                                (Exit POET.)


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit a black eye
(_Lawson_).  Shakespeare was ever rough on poets--but stay!
Consider that this great world of Rome and all the men and women in it
were created by a "jingling fool" and a master of bad--not to say
execrable--rhymes, and his name was William Shakespeare.  You need to
sit down and think awhile after that.

Brutus sends Lucilius and Titinius to bid the commanders lodge their
companies for the night, and then all come to him.  Then he gives
Cassius a shock and strikes him to the heart for his share in the
quarrel.  It is almost directly after the row, when they have kicked
out the "jingling fool" of a poet.  Cassius does not know that
Brutus has to-day received news of the death, in Rome, of his good and
true wife Portia, who, during a fit of insanity, brought on by her
grief and anxiety for Brutus, and in the absence of her attendant, has
poisoned herself--or "swallowed fire," as Shakespeare has it.

    Brutus (to Lucius, his servant): Lucius, a bowl of wine!
    Cassius: I did not think you could have been so angry.
    Brutus:  O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.

    Cassius: Of your philosophy you make no use,
             If you give place to accidental evils.

    Brutus:  No man bears sorrow better:--Portia is dead.

    Cassius: Ha! Portia!

    Brutus:  She is dead.

    Cassius: How 'scaped I killing when I cross'd you so!
             O insupportable and touching loss!
             Upon what sickness?

    Brutus:  Impatient of my absence,
             And grief that young Octavius with Mark Antony
             Have made themselves so strong: for with her death
             That tidings came; with this she fell distract,
             And, her attendants absent, swallowed fire.

    Cassius: And died so?

    Brutus:  Even so.

    Cassius: O, ye immortal gods!

(Enter Lucius, with a jar of wine, a goblet, and a taper.)
    Brutus:  Speak no more of her.  Give me a bowl of wine:
             In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.
                                  (Drinks.)

    Cassius: My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge.
             Fill, Lucius, till the wine o'erswell the cup;
             I cannot drink too much of Brutus' love.
                                   (Drinks.)

You ought to read that scene carefully.  It will do no one any harm.
It did me a lot of good one time, when I was about to quarrel with a
friend whose heart was sick with many griefs that I knew nothing of at
the time.  You never know what's behind.

Titinius and Messala come in, and proceed to discuss the situation.

    Brutus:  Come in, Titinius!!  Welcome, good Messala.
             Now sit we close about this taper here,
             And call in question our necessities.

    Cassius (on whom the wine seems to have taken some effect):
             Portia, art thou gone?

    Brutus:  No more, I pray you.
             Messala, I have here received letters,
             That young Octavius and Mark Antony
             Come down upon us with a mighty power,
             Bending their expedition towards Philippi.

Messala has also letters to the same purpose, and they have likewise
news of the murder, or execution, of upwards of a hundred senators in
Rome.

    Cassius: Cicero one!
    Messala: Cicero is dead.

Poor Brutus!  His heart had cause to be sick of many griefs that day.
Messala thinks he has news to break, and Brutus draws him out.  How
many and many a man and woman, with a lump in the throat, have
broken sad and bad news since that day, and started out to do it in
the same old gentle way:

    Messala: Had you your letters from your wife, my lord?

    Brutus:  No, Messala.

    Messala: Nor nothing in your letters writ of her?

    Brutus:  Nothing, Messala.

    Messala: That, methinks, is strange.

    Brutus:  Why ask you?  Hear you aught of her in yours?

Maybe it strikes Messala like a flash that Brutus is in no need of any
more bad news just now, and it had better be postponed till after the
battle:

    Messala: No, my lord.

    Brutus:  Now, as you are a Roman, tell me true.

    Messala: Then like a Roman bear the truth I tell:
             For certain she is dead, and by strange manner.

    Brutus:  Why, farewell, Portia.  We must die, Messala:
             With meditating that she must die once
             I have the patience to endure it now.

Poor Messala comes to the scratch again rather lamely with a little
weak flattery: "Even so great men great losses should endure;" and
Cassius says, rather mixedly--it might have been the wine--that he has
as much strength in bearing trouble as Brutus has, and yet he couldn't
bear it so.

             I have as much of this in art as you,
             But yet my nature could not bear it so.

    Brutus:  Well, to our work alive.  What do you think
             Of marching on Philippi presently?

Brutus was a strong man.  Portia's spirit must bide a while.  They
discuss a plan of campaign.  Cassius is for waiting for the enemy to
seek them and so get through his tucker and knock his men up, while
they rest in a good position; but Brutus argues that the enemy will
gather up the country people between Philippi and their camp and come
on refreshed with added numbers and courage, and it would be better
for them to meet him at Philippi with these people at their back.  The
politics or inclination of the said country people didn't matter in
those days.  "There is a tide in the affairs of men"--and so they
decide to take it at the flood and float high on to the rocks at
Philippi.  Ah well, it led on to immortality, if it didn't to fortune.

Well, there's no more to say.  Brutus thinks that the main thing now
is a little rest--in which you'll agree with him; and he sends for his
night-shirt.

             Good night, Titinius:  noble, noble Cassius,
             Good night, and good repose!

That old fool of a Cassius--remorseful old smooth-bore--is still a bit
maudlin--maybe he had another swig at the wine when Shakespeare wasn't
looking.

    Cassius: O my dear brother!
             This was an ill beginning of the night
             Never come such division 'tween our souls!
             Let it not, Brutus.

    Brutus:  Everything is well.

    Cassius: Good night, my lord.

    Brutus:  Good sight, good brother.

Titinius and Messala: Good night, Lord Brutus.

    Brutus:  Farewell, every one.

And Cassius is the man whom Caesar denounced as having a lean and
hungry look: "Let me have men about me that are fat . . . such men
are dangerous."  (Mr Archibald held with that--and he had a lean, if
not a hungry, look too.)  When Antony put in a word for Cassius,
Caesar said that he wished he was fatter anyhow.  "He thinks too
much," Caesar said to Antony.  He read a lot; he could look through
men; he never went to the theatre, and heard no music; he never smiled
except as if grinning sarcastically at himself for "being moved to
smile at anything."  Caesar said that such men were never at heart's
ease while they could see a bigger man than themselves, and therefore
such men were dangerous.  "Come on my right hand, for this ear is
deaf, and tell me truly what thou think'st of him."  (That's a touch,
for deafness in people affected that way is usually greater in the
left ear.)

When Lucilius returned from taking a message from Brutus to Cassius
_re_ the loan of the fivers aforementioned and other matters--and
before the arrival of Cassius with his horse and foot, and the
quarrel--Brutus asked Lucilius what sort of a reception he had, and
being told "With courtesy and respect enough," he remarked, "Thou
hast described a hot friend cooling," and so on.  But Cassius will
cool no more until death cools him to-morrow at Philippi.

The rare gentleness of Brutus's character--and of the characters of
thousands of other bosses in trouble--is splendidly, and ah! so
softly, pictured in the tent with his servants after the departure of
the others.  It is a purely domestic scene without a hint of home,
women, or children--save that they themselves are big children.  The
scene now has the atmosphere of a soft, sad nightfall, after a long,
long, hot and weary day full of toil and struggle and trouble--though
it is really well on towards morning.

Lucius comes in with the gown.  Brutus says, "Give me the gown," and
asks where his (Lucius's) musical instrument is, and Lucius replies
that it's here in the tent.  Brutus notices that he speaks drowsily.
"Poor knave, I blame thee not, thou are o'er-watched."  He tells him
to call Claudius and some other of his men: "I'd have them sleep on
cushions in my tent."  They come.  He tells them he might have to
send them on business by and by to his "brother" Cassius, and bids
them lie down and sleep, calling them sirs.  They say they'll stand
and watch his pleasure.  "I will not have it so; lie down, good
sirs."  He finds, in the pocket of his gown, a book he'd been hunting
high and low for--and had evidently given Lucius a warm time
about--and he draws Lucius's attention to the fact:

             Look, Lucius, here's the book I sought for so:
             I put it in the pocket of my gown.

     Lucius: I was sure your lordship did not give it to me.

     Brutus: Bear with me, good boy, I am much forgetful, etc.

He asks Lucius if he can hold up his heavy eyes and touch his
instrument a strain or two.  But better give it all--it's not long:

     Lucius: Ay, my lord, an't please you.

     Brutus: It does, my boy:
             I trouble thee too much, but thou art willing.

     Lucius: It is my duty, sir.

     Brutus: I should not urge thy duty past thy might;
             I know young bloods look for a time of rest.

     Lucius: I have slept, my lord, already.

     Brutus: It was well done; and thou shalt sleep again;
             I will not hold thee long: if I do live,
             I will be good to thee.  (Music, and a song.)
             This is a sleepy tune.  O murderous slumber,
             Lay'st thou thy leaden mace upon my boy
             That plays thee music?  Gentle knave, good-night;
             I will not do thee so much wrong to wake thee:
             If thou dost nod, thou break'st thy instrument;
             I'll take it from thee; and, good boy, good-night.
             Let me see, let me see; is not the leaf turn'd down
             Where I left reading?  Here it is, I think.
                                                 (He sits down.)

A man for all time!  How natural it all reads!  You must remember that
he is a tired man after a long, strenuous day such as none of us ever

know.  The fate of Rome and his--a much smaller matter--are hanging on
the balance, and tomorrow will decide; but he is so mind-dulled and
shoulder-weary under the tremendous burden of great things and of many
griefs that he is almost apathetic; and over all is the cloud of a
loss that he has not yet had time to realize.  He is self-hypnotized,
so to speak, and his mind mercifully dulled for the moment on the Sea
of Fatalism.

                                         Enter GHOST of CAESAR

     Brutus: How ill this taper burns!  Ha! who comes here?
             I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
             That shapes this monstrous apparition.
             It comes upon me.  Art thou any thing?
             Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil
             That makest my blood cold, and my hair to stare?
             Speak to me what thou art!

His very "scare," or rather his cold blood and staring hair are as
things apart, to be analysed and explained quickly and put aside.

     Ghost:  Thy evil spirit, Brutus.

That was frank enough, anyway.

     Brutus: Why comest thou?

     Ghost:  To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.

     Brutus: Well; then I shall see thee again?

     Ghost:  Ay, at Philippi.
                                    (Vanishes.)

That was very satisfactory, so far.  But Brutus, having taken heart,
as he says, would hold more talk with the "ill spirit."  A ghost
always needs to be taken quietly--it's no use getting excited and
threshing round.  But Caesar's, being a new-chum ghost and bashful,
was doubtless embarrassed by his cool, matter-of-fact reception, and
left.  It didn't matter much.  They were to meet soon, above Philippi,
on more level terms.

But I cannot get away from the idea that Caesar's ghost's visit was
made in a friendly spirit.  Who knows?  Perhaps Portia's spirit had
sent it to comfort Brutus: her own being prevented from going for some
reason only known to the immortal gods.

Then Brutus wakes them all.

     Lucius: The strings, my lord, are false.

     Brutus: He thinks he is still at his instrument.
             Lucius, awake!

And after questioning them as to whether they cried out in their
sleep, or saw anything, he bids the boy sleep again (it is easy for
tired boys to sleep at will in camp) and sends two of the others to
Cassius to bid him get his forces on the way early and he would
follow.

     Brutus: Go and commend me to my brother Cassius;
             Bid him set on his powers betimes before,
             And we will follow.

     Varro and Claudius: It shall be done, my lord.

For, being a wise soldier, as well as a brave and gentle one, he
reckoned, no doubt, that it would be best to have a strong man in the
rear until the field was actually reached, for the benefit of would-be
deserters, and unconsidered trifles of country people-and maybe for
another reason not totally disconnected with his erratic friend
Cassius.

Just one more scene, and a very different one, before we hurry on to
the end, as they have done to Philippi.  It's the only scene in which
those two unlucky Romans, Cassius and Brutus, seem to score.

It is during the barney, or as Shakespeare calls it, the "parley"
before the battle.  Those parleys never seemed to do any good--except
to make matters worse, if I might put it like that: it's the same,
under similar circumstances, right up to to-day.  Enter on one side
Octavius Caesar, Mark Antony, and their pals and army; and, on the
other, Brutus and Cassius and the friends and followers of their
falling fortunes.

     Brutus: Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?

     Octavius: Not that we love words better, as you do.

You see, Octavius starts it.

Brutus lays himself open:

     Brutus: Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.
     Antony: In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words:
             Witness the hole you made in Caesar's heart,
             Crying, "Long live! hail, Caesar!"

This is one for Brutus, though it contains a lie.  But Cassius comes
to the rescue:

     Cassius: Antony,
              The posture of your blows are yet unknown,
              But, for your words, they rob the Hybla bees
              And leave them honeyless.

     Antony:  Not stingless too.

     Brutus:  O, yes, and soundless too;
              For you have stol'n their buzzing, Antony,
              And very wisely threat before you sting.

That was one for Antony, and he gets mad.  "Villains!" he yells, and
he abuses them about their vile daggers hacking one another in the
sides of Caesar (a little matter that ought to be worn threadbare by
now), and calls them apes and hounds and bondmen and curs, and O,
flatterers (which seems to be worst of all in his opinion--for he
isn't one, you know), and damns 'em generally.

Old Cassius remarks, "Flatterers!"

Then Octavius breaks loose, and draws his Roman chopper and waves it
round, and spreads himself out over Caesar's three-and-thirty
wounds--which ought to be given a rest by this time, but only seem to
be growing in number--and swears that he won't put up said chopper
till said wounds are avenged,

              Or till another Caesar
              Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.

Brutus says quietly that he cannot die by traitors unless he brings
'em with him.  (He sent one to Egypt later on.)  Octavius says he
hopes he wasn't born to die on Brutus's sword; and Brutus says, in
effect, that even if he was any good he couldn't die more honourably.

     Brutus:  O, if thou wert the noblest of thy strain,
              Young man, thou couldst not die more honourable.

     Cassius: A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honour,
              Join'd with a masker and a reveller!

Octavius calls off his dogs, and tells them to come on to-day if they
dare, or if not, when they have stomachs.

     Cassius: Why, now, blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark!
              The storm is up, and all is on the hazard.

Yes, I reckon old Cassius ("old" in an affectionate sense) and Brutus
came out top dogs from that scrap anyway.  And, yes, Antony _was_
good at orating.  He was great at orating over dead men--especially
dead "friends" (as he called his rivals) and dead enemies.  Brutus
was "the noblest Roman of them all" when Antony came across him
stiff later on.  Now when I die---

Octavius, by the way, orated over Antony and his dusky hussy later on
in Egypt, and they were the most "famous pair" in the world.  I
wonder whether the grim humour of it struck Octavius _then_: but
then that young man seemed to have but little brains and less humour.

But now they go to see about settling the matter with ironmongery.
You can imagine the fight; the heat and the dust, for it was spring in
a climate like ours.  The bullocking, sweating, grunting, slaughter,
the crack and clash and rattle as of fire-irons in a fender.  The bad
Latin language; the running away and chasing _en masse_ and by
individuals.  The mutual pauses, the truces or spells--"smoke-ho's"
we'd call 'em--between masses and individuals.  The battered-in, lost,
discarded or stolen helmets; the blood-stained, dinted, and loosened
armour with bits missing, and the bloody and grotesque bandages.  The
confusion amongst the soldiers, as it is to-day--the ignorance of one
wing as to the fate of the other, of one party as to the fate of the
other, of one individual as to the fate of another:

     Brutus:  Ride, ride, Messala, ride, and give these bills [directions
                 to officers]
              Unto the legions on the other side:

Poor Cassius, routed and in danger of being surrounded, and thinking
Brutus is in the same plight, or a prisoner or dead--and that Titinius
is taken or killed--gets his bondman, whose life he once saved, to kill
him in return for his freedom.

              Stand not to answer: here, take thou the hilts;
              And when my face is cover 'd, as 'tis now,
              Guide thou the sword.
                       Caesar, thou art revenged,
              Even with the sword that kill'd thee.

Good-bye, Cassius, old chap!

Titinius and Messala, coming too late, find Cassius dead; and
Titinius, being left alone while Messala takes the news to Brutus,
kills himself with Cassius's sword.  Titinius, farewell!

Come Brutus and those that are left.

     Brutus:  Where, where, Messala, doth his body lie?

     Messala: Lo, yonder, and Titinius mourning it.

     Brutus:  Titinius' face is upward.

     Cato:    He is slain.

Grim mates in a grim day in a grim hour.  Then the cry of Brutus:

              O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!

But if he were, perhaps he only gathered old Cassius and Titinius to
be sure of their company with him and Brutus amongst the gods a
little later.

     Brutus:  Friends, I owe more tears
              To this dead man than you shall see me pay.
              I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time.

And, after making arrangements for the removal of Cassius's body, they
go to try their fortunes in a second fight.  Young Cato is killed and
good Lucilius taken.  Comes Brutus beaten, with Dardanius his last
friend, and his three servants, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius.

     Brutus:  Come, poor remains of friends, rest on this rock.

Strato, exhausted, goes to sleep, as man can sleep during a battle;
and Brutus whispers the others, one after another, to kill him; but
they are shocked and refuse: "I'll rather kill myself," "I do such
a deed?" etc.  He begs Volumnius, his old schoolmate, to hold his
sword-hilt while he runs on it, for their love of old.

     Volumnius: That's not the office for a friend, my lord.

There are alarums, and they urge him to fly, for it's no use stopping
there.

     Brutus:  Farewell to you; and you; and you, Volumnius.
              Strato, thou hast been all this while asleep;
              Farewell to thee too, Strato! Countrymen,
              My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
              I found so man but he was true to me.

Ye gods! but it's grand.  I wish to our God that I could say as
much--or that man or woman [n]ever found me untrue.  Could Antony say
as much, afterwards, in Egypt--or Octavius! with Antony then on his
mind?  Even Antony's last man and servant failed him in the end,
killing himself rather than kill his master.  But Strato---

There are more alarums and voices calling to them to run.  They urge
Brutus again, and he tells them to go and he'll follow.  They all run
except Strato, who hesitates.

     Brutus:  I prithee, Strato, stay thou by thy lord:
              Thou art a fellow of a good respect;
              Thy life hath had some snatch of honour in it
              Hold then my sword, and turn away thy face,
              While I do run upon it.  Wilt thou, Strato?

     Strato:  Give me your hand first: fare you well, my lord.

     Brutus:  Farewell, good Strato.  Caesar, now be still:
              I kill'd not thee with half so good a will.

Brutus, good night!

I like Shakespeare's servants.  They seem to show that he sprang from
servants or common people rather than from lords and masters, for he
deals with them very gently.  It must be understood that servants,
bond and free, were born unto the same house and served it for
generations; and so down to modern England, where the old nurse and
the tottering old gardener often nursed and played with "Master
Will," when his father, the dead and gone old squire, was a young
man.

See where Timon's servants stand in the only patch of sunlight in
that black and bitter story:

                    Enter Flavius, with two or three SERVANTS.

     1 Serv.: Hear you, master steward, where's our master?
              Are we undone? cast off? nothing remaining?

     Flav.:   Alack, my fellows, what should I say to you?
              Let me be recorded by the righteous gods,
              I am as poor as you.

     1 Serv.: Such a house broke!
              So noble a master fall'n!  All gone! and not
              One friend to take his fortune by the arm,
              And go along with him!

     2 Serv.: As we do turn our backs
              From our companion thrown into his grave,
              So his familiars to his buried fortunes
              Slink all away; leave their false vows with him,
              Like empty purses pick'd; and his poor self,
              A dedicated beggar to the air,
              With his disease of all-shunn'd poverty,
              Walks, like contempt, alone.  More of our fellows.

                                      Enter other Servants

     Flav.:   All broken implements of a ruin'd house.

     3 Serv.: Yet do our hearts wear Timon's livery;
              That see I by our faces; we are fellows still,
              Serving alike in sorrow: leak'd is our bark,
              And we, poor mates, stand on the dying deck,
              Hearing the surges threat; we must all part
              Into this sea of air.

     Flav.:   Good fellows all,
              The latest of my wealth I'll share amongst you.
              Wherever we shall meet, for Timon's sake
              Let's yet be fellows; let's shake our heads, and say,
              As 'twere a knell unto our master's fortunes,
              "We have seen better days."  Let each take some.
                                             (Giving them money.)
              Nay, put out all your hands.  Not one word more:
              Thus part we rich in sorrow, parting poor.



ONE HUNDRED AND THREE

With the frame of a man, and the face of a boy, and a manner strangely wild,
And the great, wide, wondering, innocent eyes of a silent-suffering child;
With his hideous dress and his heavy boots, he drags to Eternity--
And the Warder says, in a softened tone: 'Keep step, One Hundred and Three.'

'Tis a ghastly travesty of drill--or a ghastly farce of work--
But One Hundred and Three, he catches step with a start, a shuffle and jerk.
'Tis slow starvation in separate cells, and a widow's son is he,
And the widow, she drank before he was born--(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

They shut a man in the four-by-eight, with a six-inch slit for air,
Twenty-three hours of the twenty-four, to brood on his virtues there.
And the dead stone walls and the iron door close in as an iron band
On eyes that followed the distant haze far out on the level land.

Bread and water and hominy, and a scrag of meat and a spud,
A Bible and thin flat book of rules, to cool a strong man's blood;
They take the spoon from the cell at night--and a stranger might think it odd;
But a man might sharpen it on the floor, and go to his own Great God.

One Hundred and Three, it is hard to believe that you saddled your horse at dawn;
There were girls that rode through the bush at eve, and girls who lolled on the lawn.
There were picnic parties in sunny bays, and ships on the shining sea;
There were foreign ports in the glorious days--(Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)

A man came out at exercise time from one of the cells to-day:
'Twas the ghastly spectre of one I knew, and I thought he was far away;
We dared not speak, but he signed 'Farewell--fare--well,' and I knew by this
And the number stamped on his clothes (not sewn) that a heavy sentence was his.

Where five men do the work of a boy, with warders not to see,
It is sad and bad and uselessly mad, it is ugly as it can be,
From the flower-beds laid to fit the gaol, in circle and line absurd,
To the gilded weathercock on the church, agape like a strangled bird.

Agape like a strangled bird in the sun, and I wonder what he could see?
The Fleet come in, and the Fleet go out? (Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)
The glorious sea, and the bays and Bush, and the distant mountains blue
(Keep step, keep step, One Hundred and Three, for my lines are halting too)

The great, round church with its volume of sound, where we dare not turn our eyes--
They take us there from our separate hells to sing of Paradise.
In all the creeds there is hope and doubt, but of this there is no doubt:
That starving prisoners faint in church, and the warders carry them out.

They double-lock at four o'clock and the warders leave their keys,
And the Governor strolls with a friend at eve through his stone conservatories;
Their window slits are like idiot mouths with square stone chins adrop,
And the weather-stains for the dribble, and the dead flat foreheads atop.

No light save the lights in the yard beneath the clustering lights of the Lord--
And the lights turned in to the window slits of the Observation Ward.
(They eat their meat with their fingers there in a madness starved and dull--
Oh! the padded cells and the "O--b--s" are nearly always full.)

Rules, regulations--red-tape and rules; all and alike they bind:
Under 'separate treatment' place the deaf; in the dark cell shut the blind!
And somewhere down in his sandstone tomb, with never a word to save,
One Hundred and Three is keeping step, as he'll keep it to his grave.

The press is printing its smug, smug lies, and paying its shameful debt--
It speaks of the comforts that prisoners have, and 'holidays' prisoners get.
The visitors come with their smug, smug smiles through the gaol on a working day,
And the public hears with its large, large ears what authorities have to say.

They lay their fingers on well-hosed walls, and they tread on the polished floor;
They peep in the generous shining cans with their ration Number Four.
And the visitors go with their smug, smug smiles; the reporters' work is done;
Stand up! my men, who have done your time on ration Number One!

Speak up, my men! I was never the man to keep my own bed warm,
I have jogged with you round in the Fools' Parade, and I've worn your uniform;
I've seen you live, and I've seen you die, and I've seen your reason fail--
I've smuggled tobacco and loosened my tongue--and I've been punished in gaol.

Ay! clang the spoon on the iron floor, and shove in the bread with your toe,
And shut with a bang the iron door, and clank the bolt--just so,
With an ignorant oath for a last good-night--or the voice of a filthy thought.
By the Gipsy Blood you have caught a man you'll be sorry that ever you caught.

He shall be buried alive without meat, for a day and a night unheard
If he speak to a fellow prisoner, though he die for want of a word.
He shall be punished, and he shall be starved, and he shall in darkness rot,
He shall be murdered body and soul--and God said, 'Thou shalt not!'

I've seen the remand-yard men go out, by the subway out of the yard--
And I've seen them come in with a foolish grin and a sentence of Three Years Hard.
They send a half-starved man to the court, where the hearts of men they carve--
Then feed him up in the hospital to give him the strength to starve.

You get the gaol-dust in your throat, in your skin the dead gaol-white;
You get the gaol-whine in your voice and in every letter you write.
And in your eyes comes the bright gaol-light--not the glare of the world's distraught,
Not the hunted look, nor the guilty look, but the awful look of the Caught.

There was one I met--'twas a mate of mine--in a gaol that is known to us;
He died--and they said it was 'heart disease'; but he died for want of a truss.
I've knelt at the head of the pallid dead, where the living dead were we,
And I've closed the yielding lids with my thumbs--(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

A criminal face is rare in gaol, where all things else are ripe--
It is higher up in the social scale that you'll find the criminal type.
But the kindness of man to man is great when penned in a sandstone pen--
The public call us the 'criminal class,' but the warders call us 'the men.'

The brute is a brute, and a kind man kind, and the strong heart does not fail--
A crawler's a crawler everywhere, but a man is a man in gaol!
For forced 'desertion' or drunkenness, or a law's illegal debt,
While never a man who was a man was 'reformed' by punishment yet.

The champagne lady comes home from the course in charge of the criminal swell--
They carry her in from the motor car to the lift in the Grand Hotel.
But armed with the savage Habituals Act they are waiting for you and me,
And the drums, they are beating loud and near. (Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

The clever scoundrels are all outside, and the moneyless mugs in gaol--
Men do twelve months for a mad wife's lies or Life for a strumpet's tale.
If the people knew what the warders know, and felt as the prisoners feel--
If the people knew, they would storm their gaols as they stormed the old Bastile.

And the cackling, screaming half-human hens who were never mothers nor wives
Would send their sisters to such a hell for the term of their natural lives,
Where laws are made in a Female Fit in the Land of the Crazy Fad,
And drunkards in judgment on drunkards sit and the mad condemn the mad.

The High Church service swells and swells where the tinted Christs look down--
It is easy to see who is weary and faint and weareth the thorny crown.
There are swift-made signs that are not to God, and they march us Hellward then.
It is hard to believe that we knelt as boys to 'for ever and ever, Amen.'

Warders and prisoners all alike in a dead rot dry and slow--
The author must not write for his own, and the tailor must not sew.
The billet-bound officers dare not speak and discharged men dare not tell
Though many and many an innocent man must brood in this barren hell.

We are most of us criminal, most of us mad, and we do what we can do.
(Remember the Observation Ward and Number Forty-Two.)
There are eyes that see through stone and iron, though the rest of the world be blind--
We are prisoners all in God's Great Gaol, but the Governor, He is kind.

They crave for sunlight, they crave for meat, they crave for the might-have-been,
But the cruellest thing in the walls of a gaol is the craving for nicotine.
Yet the spirit of Christ is everywhere where the heart of a man can dwell,
It comes like tobacco in prison--or like news to the separate cell.

* * * * *

They have smuggled him out to the Hospital with no one to tell the tale,
But it's little the doctors and nurses can do for the patient from Starvinghurst Gaol.
He cannot swallow the food they bring, for a gaol-starved man is he,
And the blanket and screen are ready to draw--(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

'What were you doing, One Hundred and Three?' and the answer is 'Three years hard,
And a month to go'--and the whisper is low: 'There's the moonlight--out in the yard.'
The drums, they are beating far and low, and the footstep's light and free,
And the angels are whispering over his bed: 'Keep step, One Hundred and Three!'



THE ARMY OF THE REAR

I listened through the music and the sounds of revelry,
And all the hollow noises of that year of Jubilee;
I heard beyond the music and beyond the loyal cheer,
The steady tramp of thousands that were marching in the rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  They seem to shake the air,
Those never-ceasing footsteps of the outcasts in the rear.

I heard defiance ringing from the men of rags and dirt,
I heard wan woman singing that sad 'Song of the Shirt,'
And o'er the sounds of menace and moaning low and drear,
I heard the steady tramping of their feet along the rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  Vibrating in the air--
They're swelling fast, those footsteps of the Army of the Rear!

I hate the wrongs I read about, I hate the wrongs I see!
The tramping of that army sounds as music unto me!
A music that is terrible, that frights the anxious ear,
Is beaten from the weary feet that tramp along the rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  In dogged, grim despair--
They have a goal, those footsteps of the Army of the Rear!

I looked upon the nobles, with their lineage so old;
I looked upon their mansions, on their acres and their gold,
I saw their women radiant in jewelled robes appear,
And then I joined the army of the outcasts in the rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  We'll show what Want can dare,
My brothers and my sisters of the Army of the Rear!

I looked upon the mass of poor, in filthy alleys pent;
And on the rich men's Edens, that are built on grinding rent;
I looked o'er London's miles of slums--I saw the horrors here,
And swore to die a soldier of the Army of the Rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  I've sworn to do and dare,
I've sworn to die a soldier of the Army of the Rear!

'They're brutes,' so say the wealthy, 'and by steel must be dismayed'--
Be brutes among us, nobles, they are brutes that ye have made;
We want what God hath given us, we want our portion here,
And that is why we're marching--and we'll march beyond the rear!
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  Awake and have a care,
Ye proud and haughty spurners of the wretches in the rear.

We'll nurse our wrongs to strengthen us, our hate that it may grow,
For, outcast from society, society's our foe.
Beware! who grind out human flesh, for human life is dear!
There's menace in the marching of the Army of the Rear.
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  There's danger in despair,
There's danger in the marching of the Army of the Rear!

The wealthy care not for our wants, nor for the pangs we feel;
Our hands have clutched in vain for bread, and now they clutch for steel!
Come, men of rags and hunger, come! There's work for heroes here!
There's room still in the vanguard of the Army of the Rear!
  Tramp! tramp! tramp!
  O men of want and care!
There's glory in the vanguard of the Army of the Rear!

January, 1888.



THE FRIENDS OF FALLEN FORTUNES

The battlefield behind us,
 And night loomed on the track;
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 Were riding at my back.
Save those who lay face upward
 Upon the sodden plain,
Not one of all I'd trusted
 Was missing from my train.

A draggled train and blood-stained,
 With helmets dented in,
With battered, loosened armour,
 But with a cheerful grin.
No dark look bent upon me;
 I noted to my shame
That Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 Are aye the last to blame.

Not one of all I'd trusted,
 Who'd followed to their cost,
Save those who lay face upward
 On that red field I'd lost;
And here and there a soldier
 I'd trusted not at all,
Like an unexpected mourner
 At a poor man's funeral.

And as the horses stumbled,
 And the footmen limped along,
They all joined in the chorus
 Of a good old Next Time song.
Behind us in the distance,
 By hill and lane and wood,
My ever-dwindling rear-guard
 Fell back again and stood.

They recked not wounds nor losses,
 They all seemed very kind,
From knight who rode beside me
 To boor who limped behind;
And some borne in their litters
 Through that long agony--
Their death-white, pain-drawn faces
 Had no reproach for me.

And so from noon till darkness,
 Till morning grim and grey,
The Earl's son and the Peasant's
 Were brothers that dark day.
I straightened in my saddle,
 And proudly glanced me round--
I still was King of Comrades,
 Whoever might be crowned!

I straightened in my saddle,
 And glanced round proudly then--
Whoe'er might reign a season,
 I held the hearts of men!
No power of gold can buy them
 While battles shall be fought--
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 Are never to be bought.

Through rain and marsh and hunger,
 To what their fate might bring,
The remnants of my legions
 Toiled on to join their King.
From north and south the captains
 Of scattered bands won through--
Beneath its beaten colours
 My beaten army grew.

And in the West before us--
 The West was ever thus--
More Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 Were gathering food for us;
For refuge and for succour--
 For safety, food and rest--
The best of beaten armies
 For ever seek the West.

* * * * *

With these men for my captains,
 When we marched east again,
Our enemies were scattered
 Like dust across the plain.
Our city lay before us,
 And as we marched along,
We joined the grand old chorus
 Of the glorious Next Time song.

And though they wear no armour,
 And bear no blade nor bill,
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 Are riding with me still;
And, many times defeated
 By city, field, and sea,
The Friends of Fallen Fortunes
 March on to Victory.



THE PORT O' CALL

Our hull is seldom painted,
 Our decks are seldom stoned;
Our sails are patched and cobbled
 And chains by rust marooned.
Our rigging is untidy,
 And all things in accord:--
We always sail on Friday
 With thirteen souls on board.

For all the days save Friday
 Were days of dark despair--
The fourteenth died of fever
 Whenever he was there.
Our good ship is the Chancit--
 Her oldest name of all;
But, in the ports we're blown to,
 She's called the 'Port o' Call.'

Our captain old Wot Matters--
 Our first mate young Hoo Kares,
Our cook is Wen Yew Wan Tit,
 And so the Chancit fares.
The sweethearts, wives, and others--
 And all we left behind--
Have many names to go by;
 But mine is Never Mind.

We fear no hell hereafter,
 We hope for no reward--
We always sail on Friday
 With thirteen men on board.
And every wind's a fair wind,
 That suits us, one and all,
And every port we're blown to
 We call our port-of-call.

I've seen the poor boy striving
 For just one chance to rise:
The light of truth and honour
 And genius in his eyes.
His school-mates jeered and mocked him,
 They mocked him through the town:
And his relatives scarce pitied,
 While his parents crushed him down.

I've seen the young man fighting
 The present and the past,
Till he triumphed in the city,
 And fame was his at last!
And generous, but steadfast,
 All for his Country then,
Unspoiled and all unconscious
 He stood, a prince of men.

I've seen the husband ruined,
 And drunken in the street,
When the World was all before him,
 And the ball was at his feet--
Thrust down by fate most bitter,
 Most cruel and unjust;
His children taught to loathe him,
 And his name dragged in the dust.

* * * * *

Our hull is never painted,
 Our decks are never stoned,
The cabin air is tainted,
 The good ship is disowned;
Our rigging is untidy,
 And all things in accord--
We always sail on Friday,
 With thirteen hands on board.

I've seen strong bushmen slaving,
 As men ne'er slaved before,
To win homes from the scrublands
 And win their country more.
And I've seen their children scattered
 As work-slaves on the soil;
And the old-age-pension begged for
 After fifty years of toil!

And the Bush Muse is discarded,
 There's a wanton on the track,
And her panderers are sneering
 At old soldiers of Out Back
The motor cars go racing
 Past the Heroes of Long Years,
And the dust is in their faces
 And the laughter in their ears.

* * * * *

We care not where we're bound for,
 Nor how the storm might howl;
For every wind's a fair wind,
 And every wind a foul.
There's nothing left to sail for
 Save that we keep our decks,
And watch for other castaways
 On rafts from other wrecks.



THE MAN WHO RAISED CHARLESTOWN

Suggested by an incident in the "Devil's Disciple," but the name
"Buckland" is fictitious here, and so also is "Charlestown," and
the quiet man may represent an original character for any time.

They were hanging men in Buckland who would not cheer King George--
The parson from his pulpit and the blacksmith from his forge;
They were hanging men and brothers, and the stoutest heart was down,
When a quiet man from Buckland rode at dusk to raise Charlestown

Not a young man in his glory filled with patriotic fire,
Not an orator or soldier, or a known man in his shire;
He was just the Unexpected--one of Danger's Volunteers,
At a time for which he'd waited, all unheard of, many years.

And Charlestown met in council, the quiet man to hear--
The town was large and wealthy, but the folks were filled with fear,
The fear of death and plunder; and none to lead had they,
And Self fought Patriotism as will always be the way.

The man turned to the people, and he spoke in anger then,
And crooked his finger here and there to those he marked as men.
And many gathered round him to see what they could do--
For men know men in danger, as they know the cowards too.

He chose his men and captains, and sent them here and there,
The arms and ammunition were gathered in the square;
While peaceful folk were praying or croaking, every one,
He was working with his blacksmiths at the carriage of a gun.

While the Council sat on Sunday, and the church bells rang their peal,
The quiet man was mending a broken waggon wheel;
While they passed their resolutions on his doings (and the likes),
From a pile his men brought to him he was choosing poles for pikes

(They were hanging men in Buckland who would not cheer King George;
They were making pikes in Charlestown at every blacksmith's forge
While the Council sat in session and the same old song they sang,
They heard the horsemen gallop out, and the blacksmiths' hammers clang.)

And a thrill went through the city ere the drums began to roll,
And the coward found his courage, and the drunkard found his soul.
So a thrill went through the city that would go through all the land,
For the quiet man from Buckland held men's hearts in his right hand.

And he caught a Charlestown poet (there are many tell the tale),
And he took him by the collar when he'd filled him up with ale:
'Now, then, write a song for Charlestown that shall lift her on her way,
For she's marching out to Buckland and to Death at break o' day.'

And he set the silenced women tearing sheet and shift and shirt
To make bandages and roll them for the men that would get hurt.
And he called out his musicians and he told them what to play:
'For I want my men excited when they march at break o' day.'

And he set the women cooking--with a wood-and-water crew--
'For I want no empty stomachs for the work we have to do.'
Then he said to his new soldiers: 'Eat your fill while yet you may;
'Tis a heavy road to Buckland that we'll march at break o' day.'

And a shout went through the city when the drums began to roll
(And the coward was a brave man and the beggar had a soul),
And the drunken Charlestown poet cared no more if he should hang,
For his song of 'Charlestown's Coming' was the song the soldiers sang.

And they cursed the King of England, and they shouted in their glee,
And they swore to drive the British and their friends into the sea;
But when they'd quite finished swearing, said their leader 'Let us pray,
For we march to Death and Freedom, and it's nearly dawn of day.'

There were marching feet at daybreak, and close upon their heels
Came the scuffling tread of horses and the heavy crunch of wheels;
So they took the road to Buckland, with their scout out to take heed,
And a quiet man of fifty on a grey horse in the lead

There was silence in the city, there was silence as of night--
Women in the ghostly daylight, kneeling, praying, deathly white,
As their mothers knelt before them, as their daughters knelt since then,
And as ours shall, in the future, kneel and pray for fighting men

For their men had gone to battle, as our sons and grandsons too
Must go out, for Life and Freedom, as all nations have to do.
And the Charlestown women waited for the sounds that came too soon--
Though they listened, almost breathless, till the early afternoon

Then they heard the tones of danger for their husbands, sweethearts, sons,
And they stopped their ears in terror, crying, 'Oh, my God! The guns!'
Then they strained their ears to listen through the church-bells' startled chime--
Far along the road to Buckland, Charlestown's guns were marking time.

'They advance!' 'They halt!' 'Retreating!' 'They come back!' 'The guns are done!'
But the calmer spirits, listening, said: 'Our guns are going on.'
And the friend and foe in Buckland felt two different kinds of thrills
When they heard the Charlestown cannon talking on the Buckland hills

And the quiet man of Buckland sent a message in that day,
And he gave the British soldiers just two hours to march away.
And they hang men there no longer, there is peace on land and wave;
On the sunny hills of Buckland there is many a quiet grave.

* * * * *

There is peace upon the land, and there is friendship on the waves--
On the sunny hills of Buckland there are rows of quiet graves.
And an ancient man in Buckland may be seen in sunny hours,
Pottering round about his garden, and his kitchen stuff and flowers.



THE SOUTHERLY BUSTER

There's a wind that blows out of the South in the drought,
 And we pray for the touch of his breath
When siroccos come forth from the North-West and North,
 Or in dead calms of fever and death.
With eyes glad and dim we should sing him a hymn,
 For depression and death are his foes,
And he gives us new life for the bread-winning strife--
 When the glorious Old Southerly blows.

Old Southerly Buster! your forces you muster
 Where seldom a wind bloweth twice,
And your 'white-caps' have hint of the snow caps, and glint of
 The far-away barriers of ice.
No wind the wide sea on can sing such a poean
 Or do the great work that you do;
Our own wind and only, from seas wild and lonely--
 Old Southerly Buster!--To you!

Oh, the city is baked, and its thirst is unslaked,
 Though it swallows iced drinks by the score,
And the blurred sky is low and the air seems aglow
 As if breezes would cool it no more.
We are watching all hands where the Post Office stands--
 We are watching out hopefully too--
For a red light shall glower from the Post Office tower
 When the Southerly Buster is due.

The yachts run away at the end of the day
 From the breakers commencing to comb,
For a few he may swamp in the health-giving romp
 With the friendly Old Southerly home.
But he never drowns one, for the drowning is done
 By the fools, or the reckless in sport;
And the alleys and slums shall be cooled when he comes
 With the weary wind-jammers to port.

Oh softly he plays through the city's hot ways
 To the beds where they're calling 'Come quick!'
He is gentle and mild round the feverish child,
 And he cools the hot brow of the sick.
Clearing drought-hazy skies, up the North Coast he hies
 Till the mouths of our rivers are fair--
And along the sea, too, he has good work to do,
 For he takes the old timber-tubs there.

'Tis a glorious mission, Old Sydney's Physician!
 Broom, Bucket, and Cloth of the East,
'Tis a breeze and a sprayer that answers our prayer,
 And it's free to the greatest and least.
The red-lamp's a warning to drought and its scorning--
 A sign to the city at large--
Hence! Headache and Worry! Despondency hurry!
 Old Southerly Buster's in charge

Old Southerly Buster! your forces you muster
 Where seldom a wind bloweth twice,
And your 'white-caps' have hint of the snow caps, and glint of
 The far-away barriers of ice.
No wind the wide sea on can sing such a poean
 Or do the great work that you do;
Our own wind and only, from seas wild and lonely--
 Old Southerly Buster!--To you!



'TAMBAROORA JIM'

He never drew a sword to fight a dozen foes alone,
Nor gave a life to save a life no better than his own.
He lived because he had been born--the hero of my song--
And fought the battle with his fist whene'er he fought a wrong.
Yet there are many men who would do anything for him--
A simple chap as went by name of 'Tambaroora Jim.'

He used to keep a shanty in the 'Come-and-find-it Scrub,'
And there were few but knew the name of Tambaroora's pub.
He wasn't great in lambing down, as many landlords are,
And never was a man less fit to stand behind a bar--
Off-hand, as most bush natives are, and freckled, tall, and slim,
A careless native of the land was 'Tambaroora Jim.'

When people said that loafers took the profit from his pub,
He'd ask them how they thought a chap could do without his grub;
He'd say, 'I've gone for days myself without a bite or sup--
'Oh! I've been through the mill and know what 'tis to be hard-up.'
He might have made his fortune, but he wasn't in the swim,
For no one had a softer heart than 'Tambaroora Jim.'

One dismal day I tramped across the Come-and-find-it Flats,
With 'Ballarat Adolphus' and a mate of 'Ballarat's';
'Twas nearly night and raining fast, and all our things were damp,
We'd no tobacco, and our legs were aching with the cramp;
We couldn't raise a cent, and so our lamp of hope was dim;
And thus we struck the shanty kept by 'Tambaroora Jim.'

We dropped our swags beneath a tree, and squatted in despair,
But Jim came out to watch the rain, and saw us sitting there;
He came and muttered, 'I suppose you haven't half-a-crown,
'But come and get some tucker, and a drink to wash it down.'
And so we took our blueys up and went along with him,
And then we knew why bushmen swore by 'Tambaroora Jim.'

We sat beside his kitchen fire and nursed our tired knees,
And blessed him when we heard the rain go rushing through the trees.
He made us stay, although he knew we couldn't raise a bob,
And tuckered us until we made some money on a job.
And many times since then we've filled our glasses to the brim,
And drunk in many pubs the health of 'Tambaroora Jim.'

A man need never want a meal while Jim had 'junk' to carve,
For 'Tambaroora' always said a fellow couldn't starve.
And this went on until he got a bailiff in his pub,
Through helping chaps as couldn't raise the money for their grub.
And so, one rainy evening, as the distant range grew dim,
He humped his bluey from the Flats--did 'Tambaroora Jim.'

I miss the fun in Jim's old bar--the laughter and the noise,
The jolly hours I used to spend on pay-nights with the boys.
But that's all past, and vain regrets are useless, I'll allow;
They say the Come-and-find-it Flats are all deserted now.
Poor 'Tambaroora's' dead, perhaps, but that's all right with him,
Saint Peter cottons on to chaps like 'Tambaroora Jim.'

I trust that he and I may meet where starry fields are grand,
And liquor up together in the pubs in spirit-land.
But if you chance to drop on Jim while in the West, my lad,
You won't forget to tell him that I want to see him bad.
I want to shake his hand again--I want to shout for him--
I want to have a glass or two with 'Tambaroora Jim.'



LAKE ELIZA

THE sand was heavy on our feet,
 A Christmas sky was o'er us,
And half a mile through dust and heat
 Lake 'Liza lay before us.
'You'll have a long and heavy tramp'--
 So said the last adviser--
'You can't do better than to camp
 To-night at Lake Eliza.'

We quite forgot our aching shanks,
 A cheerful spirit caught us;
We thought of green and shady banks,
 We thought of pleasant waters.
'Neath sky as niggard of its rain
 As of his gold the miser,
By mulga scrub and lignum plain
 We'd tramp'd to Lake Eliza.

A patch to grey discoloured sand,
 A fringe of tufty grasses,
A lonely pub in mulga scrub
 Is all the stranger passes.
He'd pass the Lake a dozen times
 And yet be none the wiser;
I hope that I shall never be
 As dry as Lake Eliza.

No patch of green or water seen
 To cheer the weary plodder;
The grass is tough as fencing-wire,
 And just as good for fodder.
And when I see it mentioned in
 Some local ADVERTISER,
'Twill make me laugh, or make me grin--
 The name of 'Lake Eliza.'



IN THE DAYS WHEN WE ARE DEAD

Listen! The end draws nearer,
 Nearer the morning--or night--
And I see with a vision clearer
 That the beginning was right!
These shall be words to remember
 When all has been done and said,
And my fame is a dying ember
 In the days when I am dead.

Listen! We wrote in sorrow,
 And we wrote by candle light;
We took no heed of the morrow,
 And I think that we were right--
(To-morrow, but not the day after,
 And I think that we were right).

We wrote of a world that was human
 And we wrote of blood that was red,
For a child, or a man, or a woman--
 Remember when we are dead.

Listen! We wrote not for money,
 And listen! We wrote not for fame--
We wrote for the milk and the honey
 Of Kindness, and not for a name.

We paused not, nor faltered for any,
 Though many fell back where we led;
We wrote of the few for the many--
 Remember when we are dead.

We suffered as few men suffer,
 Yet laughed as few men laugh;
We grin as the road grows rougher,
 And a bitterer cup we quaff.

We lived for Right and for Laughter,
 And we fought for a Nation ahead--
Remember it, friends, hereafter,
 In the years when I am dead--
For to-morrow and not the day after,
 For ourselves, and a Nation ahead.



THE END





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