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Title: All That Swagger (1936)
Author: Miles Franklin
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Language:  English
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Title: All That Swagger (1936)
Author: Miles Franklin




* * * * *


TO THE MEMORY OF MY PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS
whose philosophical wit and wisdom and high integrity
are a living legend of the Murrumbidgee.


* * * * *



CHAPTER I


Memory recaptures a song or two echoing wistfully through the generations
of Delacy in the voice of old Fearless Danny. He was wont to rune to
himself as he sat alone, thrust aside by his sons as childish, his eyes
glazed with absence--that retreat of the aged when time has wrung the
colours from the present and left the rose and green only on the distant
fields of youth.

"Oh, moi! Oh, moi!" he would ejaculate, conversing to himself. Rarely was
there an understanding listener. When there was, he would gaze backward
into what long ago had been the future, and belatedly indulge in
nostalgia. He would linger on the picture of his mother taking her
farewell of him, and his father lacking the courage to see young Danny
being picked up by the coach that was to bear him away for ever.

The wild Murrumbidgee sinking into the bunyip hole, and tumbling
therefrom into Delacy's Crossing, would vanish, the Shannon take its
place, graciously traversing its ancient plain by Limerick, the beauteous
city. The road ran by Sarsfield Bridge to old Ennis in County Clare, to
the ruined Abbey where the boys played, and to Clare Castle. The day
would be in May with the whinchats merry in the furze, the larks high in
the air, such a day as the Isle of Destiny knows, a cajoling day, a day
to caress the heart of a youth to water in the presence of a maid, and to
turn a maid's heart to a man; and the era was a hundred years from now,
for young Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy, born in the year of Waterloo,
was stretching towards eighteen.

His home was on the rise by Ennis that looks north-east to the Slieve
Aughty Mountains, and north-west to the Aran Isles and the Atlantic,
which had expatriated or swallowed entirely so many Clare and Galway
lads. He stood in the road, not that he was at that date given to
meditation, but the ancient legendary of the scene, the acknowledged
presence of the fairies in the glens and raths, was as saturating to his
inner consciousness as the sun to his outer. The sunshine spread a
benediction full away to Kilrush and Liscannor Bay, to Kilkee and
Killaloe, to lilting Kildare and hilarious Kilkenny and Tipperary, to
Ennistymon and Crusheen, and Rathdrum and Carrickmore, to Enniskillen,
and Trillick and Letterkenny and Ballysodare, and Tara, and Tralee, and
Mallow, and Bantry, and Bandon. The darling loves and doves of names that
swell in the heart of Erin's inheritor, until he is thrappled! A presence
grown palpable through centuries of articulate myth and poesy had
nurtured young Delacy's spirit. He loved the open view of the thatched
white cabins on the treeless hillsides with the sociable roads across
them. Roads excited him, packed as they were with history, glamorous with
fable, with chivalry and romance and liberation in the way they ran
through the winds and rains of all the seasons of all the generations, a
foe to stagnation, a hostage to adventure.

He had a sense of deprivation that none of the green land was his. The
only soil he could dig his spade into was the paltry acreage of his
father's college, where there were prior rights of a playground for the
scholars, and a plot for the goat.

There was a legend that the Delacys had crossed the English Channel with
the Conqueror, and the Irish Sea with Strongbow. Whatever, the Delacys
had followed clerical pursuits and had never been rooted in the soil as
were the families of the reverberating cognomens and Firbolgian descent,
whose bones and brains had fertilized the soil and culture of Eire long
before culture or agriculture began in Albion. So Gaelic lore and
archaeological research would have it; but perhaps only pride, put on its
mettle by presumptuous usurpers, could reconstruct so gratifying a
prospect from the records of the savage and bloody procedure of all
factions in past days. At any rate, among the whole boiling of Delacys
was never a Kevin, a Patrick, nor an Aloysius, which showed they had lost
their chances in epochs later than the Tuatha de Danaan and Milesian.

Danny's father was principal of a preparatory college for boys. His
curriculum was limited, but he transmitted with his canings something
invaluable to his third son in his after life in the Antipodes--character
unflinching and resourceful. In the dislocation which accompanied
Continental military glory and the local agitation against oppression,
Schoolmaster Delacy, who was classified with the petty gentry loyal to
the Union, could not provide careers for three sons. One in due time
would step into his father's shoes, but it is debilitating to camp for an
old man's shoes, and no one knows what became of Robert Delacy. No doubt
he and the school petered out together. The second son, William, was
engulfed by India. It is known that he rose--or sank--to be a major in
the army there, but nothing more.

Danny's hunger for land was a crying for the moon in so far as his father
could help him. There was, however, an opening to appeal to the lad.
Poverty following the Napoleonic wars had driven thousands across the
Atlantic. Now the Colony of New South Wales was greedy for settlers.
Tales of rosy prospects for free men penetrated to Ennis, though Mrs
Delacy suppressed any talk of this.

Danny went often to the Cooleys, of Cooley Hall, over the hill, a name
pretentious for the farm, but the Cooleys remembered that they were of
one of the ancient and powerful clans. Mrs Cooley was a Francallew. The
patronymic, as found in an antique missal, had been written Franc-Alleu,
and signified freefield. The first Franc-Alleu had also been a follower
of the Bastard of Normandy. Thus the Cooleys and Francallews, as the
Delacys, had claims to a gentility characterized by loss of the Gaelic
tongue and the acceptance of the decree that Irish nationality was
synonymous with treason.

Danny enjoyed walking around with old Cooley, looking at the turnips,
discussing the bull in the meadow or the pigs in the sty, and was always
ready to help for love of work on the land. Old Cooley thought him an
obliging gossoon and sometimes lent him a nag to appear in the hunts. The
acuter Honoria had lately opened her husband's eves.

"Helping you, is it! Have ye seen his eyes light on our Johanna?" Pretty
Johanna was mistress of the dairy, and could turn the heel of a sock with
the best.

"The devil mend him! I'll break the young spalpeen's back."*

[* The aim is merely to indicate the rhythm and poetic and philosophic
idiom of' the speech of the Irish characters, not to make a pedantic
exhibition of Irish pronunciation word by word. Those acquainted with the
deeply-placed voices, and rich unorthodox vowel sounds which distinguish
much of Irish-English, despite disclaimers by thaw who adopt the haw-haw,
flat-vowelled Public School English, are independent of phonetic
reproduction, and to read dialect is a wearying and frequently an
impossible exercise to all but those who specialize in linguistics.]

"Father O'Fogarty shall say a special word to her on her duty."

"A Prodestan', and him with nothing to his back--will have to go for a
soldier belike."

"He talks more of going to the Antipodes."

"The sooner the better! Kevin O'Gorman with a phroperty near as good as
me own, waiting for her to say the word."

"An old widow-man with big children, not to touch the heart of a young
girl."

"I'll touch her back with a stout ashplant if she shows anny nonsense."

Thereafter Danny was frigidly met, and found it difficult to see Johanna
alone. She confessed to undergoing penances. "Sure, 'twas worth it," she
said, tossing her head.

This made Danny feel like a king. He, too, had been taken to task. The
unpleasantness suffered by love's young dreamers on opposite sides of a
sectarian fence was theirs, though the elders had kindly dispositions and
were among the enlightened and less bigoted. There was, too, an endearing
story about the Delacys. In bad past days when the land had been
parcelled among the usurpers, a Delacy had accepted in name only and
permitted the rightful inheritor to occupy. In the recent agitation for
Catholic Emancipation, Schoolmaster Delacy had allowed the use of his
class-room. These things were not forgotten. Also, Danny's emigration was
becoming practical, and both sets of parents looked upon this as a way
out of the danger. The Cooleys welcomed it with relief, the Delacys with
sorrow, but also as the lesser of two evils.

Danny was taking his head with a precocity and enterprise natural to one
who was as Danny was, who did what Danny did when he became known by half
a dozen nicknames, all tributes to character and courage. On the
intoxicating day of his recollection he was scanning the landscape for a
handkerchief on a gorse bush at the back of Cooley's barn. On that day
old Cooley went to market, and Danny had something to read to his
Johanna.

Scarcely waiting to take precautions against discovery, he pulled a paper
from his shirt and cried: "Johanna, Mavourneen! Listen to this. I've got
it all laid out in me moind."

Johanna had rather he noted her dainty shoes and trim kirtle. What
satisfaction was there in virtue without opportunity to win its spurs?
Kevin O'Gorman--nasty widow-man of the advanced age of thirty-five--was
over-ready to test her, but she resisted his attempts with loathing,
while she doubted that Danny could be provoked out of his respect for
women by any tactics possible to an inviolable maiden.

Danny liked to read. He had more facility than Johanna, the victim of an
inferior governess. "Out there, sure there are new developments at every
turning of the moon. Listen, will you?--"


"The short space of little more than four decades has converted the
horrid and trackless wilderness--the transient hunting field of some
migratory tribe of naked and unidead savages--into the busy mart of
civilized and enlightened intercourse where there is yearly exported to
the mother-country produce of many kinds, and where the tastes, the
pursuits, the comforts, and even elegancies of English Society, are
valued and enjoyed to a far more substantial extent than in many of the
large towns of Great Britain itself."


"It reads like a grand story," commented Johanna.

"'Tis actual fact. There are towns like Limerick, and fine establishments
like your aunt's already there."

"Can that be true?" exclaimed Johanna, her eyes dancing with excitement.
"I'm wanting to hear of the elegancies."

"True, why true! You can depend on the printed word as if 'twas from the
book of Ballymote. Listen to their aims:"


"To induce respectable and virtuous families among the industrious ranks
of society at home, to transfer their capital and labour from an arena
where the whirl of competition stands formidably in the way of successful
exertion, to a field where not competency alone, but certain fortune can
hardly fail to reward the efforts of careful, persevering and honourable
toil."


"Certain fortune! A man would be driving his carriage, with high-steppers
like the Thomonds', before you could turn round."

"Ah, %mould take too long!" said Johanna, dubiously. "Me Aunt Della had a
letter that came from Shamus O'Tooley, who wint out after the rebellion,
and it was full of terrible hardships, and convicts, and nothing to eat.
I saw it meself. 'Tis kept in the old book."

"Och! Johanna, I have trouble getting things into your head, and then
they come out again. The rebellion was a generation ago, and sure, they
were rebels and convicts."

"They were noble heroes foighting for freedom."

"Maybe they were, too, but they were treated as felons and transported.
'Tis all dealt with here. It says that Sydney Cove was a repository of
national crime, a vast territorial jail inhabited only by felons and
their overseers. 'Even the Governors themselves scarcely exceeded, either
in dignity or importance, anything but superintendents of houses of
correction.' Sure, what could that generate but a superfluity of
naughtiness? That was at the beginning, but since 1820, 'a tide of
respectable immigration has been diluting that deplorable state of
affairs at the furthest extremity of the globe'."

"It sounds desperate to be so far away."

"Lo, and behold ye! 'Twould be the centre of the universe if you were
there with me, Johanna," said Danny, boldly. "And what put such a notion
in ye'r skull?" demanded Johanna with mounting interest.

"'Tis natural, Johanna, and there is no escape from Nature."

"And what do ye mean by me being at the centre of the universe out
there? Me father and mother would never emigrate to the furthest ends of
the globe, and them with this fine place."

"Then are you going to remain unmarried? That would be difficult for
the prettiest girl in County Clare."

"It would that same, with O'Gorman never giving me a moment's peace.
Sure, his eye would be on me now, but for his going to market a pig."

"Arrah! O'Gorman, an old grandfather like a gorilla, with grown-up
children."

"He could give his wife everything, Danny Delacy."

"He could never give her the advinture of going over the seas to a
splendid new country. I could soon give you a carriage and pair like the
Marchioness of Sligo. They give a free man 130 or 150 acres, and a few
acres to each child, and you can get Government men assigned to labour
for you."

"It doesn't sound rational."

"At anny rate, I'm off the day I'm eighteen. Will you wait for me?"

"How long, Danny-boy?"

"Maybe two years. Time is consumed with the voyage."

"I could never hold out two years against O'Gorman's importunities, and
me feyther all for getting me set up with such a property. I'm a full
year and a trifle more than ye, Danny-boy. 'Tis only a dream."

"Everything is a dream till it is made come true. Come make this true
with me, Johanna."

He stood before her, not yet eighteen, and the meagre stature of
five-feet-seven-and-a-half-inches wherewith to attack the wilds of the
Antipodes in bravura days of convicts and aborigines, before the
explorers had finished their surveys. Neither had he the features of the
classic heroes; a small pointed nose, a stubborn mouth, now full of ugly
teeth, and later to be ambushed in an unmolested beard. But Johanna doted
on his eyes, as blue as the heavens on the days when the salmon wait to
go up; his hair with the raven sheen and as soft as floss silk; his
forehead broad and full; his voice as deep and brave as a stag hound's.

As the Isle of Destiny animated the early Milesians with the expectation
of refuge and plenty, so did the Continent of Australia inspire young
Danny. His hunger for land and need for action banished indecision. He
dreamed of wide acres like those of County Clare, running away for square
miles, all his own.

"Moi, oh, moi! What a prospect," he would exclaim.

The district was combed for families with members in New South Wales,
and, no matter what the nature of the information, it fanned the
enthusiasm of Danny Delacy. The schoolmaster aided the lad, as far as
small means allowed, to escape from restricting circumstances to spacious
opportunities baited with adventure. The eyes of Mrs Delacy reflected her
bereavement. Industrious and cheerful, his ready wit with never a barb in
it, arid cowardice and lies unknown to him, Danny was his mother's bright
spot in life, her baby. Now he was to go. She would be old and deserted.
Her eyes reflected her bereavement.

Otherwise, the situation was eased for neighbours who feared a mixed
marriage. Danny confessed that he had asked Johanna to come out to him.
Danny not quite eighteen! His parents hid the smiles. The difficulties of
communication guaranteed the defeat of young love. The widow Cassidy once
had had a paper with a mark beside the title which meant that her
daughter was living, but not another line in all the years. It would take
more than a year to receive a reply to a letter. A little tact until
Danny departed was all that was necessary.

Mrs Cooley was likewise sensible, and also sympathetic. Cooley had been
foisted on her as a safe match when her imagination hungered for
something more knightly. She was a steady woman and true to her faith;
she was firmly for establishing Johanna but, "Be aisy," she would advise.
"Danny Delacy is a nice boy, for all he's a heretic. He's as fearless as
a game cock."

"It's a bantam he is."

"And with the lively word for young and old, and all his foine
book-learning and conversation from his feyther; it is not to be wondered
that Johanna is a bit touched; but sure, he's but halffledged--not a
pluck of beard on him yet. Whin he's gone, and no sign for a full year,
then O'Gorman can be tender, and it's snugly settled she'll be before the
second year."

"O'Gorman may be a little coorse in the horn beside young Danny, but he
has a tidy phropery, and with twinty years more on her, 'tis glad she'll
be that she was saved from a come-day-go-day Prodestan'."

"Maybe, and maybe not," said Honoria, with recollections of herself at
Johanna's age. "At anny rate, let her have a rich good-bye to him. Sure,
she was crying all night."

"Women can turn the taps on for annything."

"All the same, O'Gorman should not be too pressing for a while. She has
been teasing to go stay by me sister Kate Thomond. She need not come back
till Danny has gone for good and all."

Cooley left the matter to her. She was his second wife. He had never been
able finally to get the better of either; women were unfathomable. New
dresses were necessary for the visit to Mrs Thomond, whose husband throve
in the law in Limerick, but Honoria pointed out that they would do for
the wedding later. Honoria was plotting for Johanna's escape from the
widow-man. There would be promising sprigs of the law about the Thomonds.
Johanna could seize her chance to mate in accordance with youthful taste
as well as in het own religion.

She and Danny had their final meeting in the coomb, reached by the stile
out of the barley paddock behind the Cooley Hall barn.

"I could never hold out for two years, Danny-boy," sobbed Johanna. "As
soon as ye'r back is turned, they'll put on the clampers. Besides, it's
out of sight, out of mind with min. The minute ye don't see me, ye'll
forget me."

"Be all the pipers in Paradise!" shouted Danny, his eyes flashing blue
flame. "We can put the come-hither on it in a twinkling. Come with me,
Johanna, and see to it that I do not change me moind, nor yours neither."

Johanna baulked momentarily. She accused Danny of his youth, which he
said would quickly improve. There was the dread obstruction of creed,
like black magic, but Danny was inclined to pooh-pooh all religions as
superstition. In this issue his lissom young form and fair skin
outweighed the swarthy hairy O'Gorman, with a breath which made kisses a
persecution; and not for nothing was Johanna given a nose like an
Emperor's, and black eyes to go with it, and a mouth as beautiful as
those that the Greeks sculptured in marble, and as firmly set.

She lacked Danny's love of the soil and open spaces. Her cravings were
for town graces as found with her aunt, Kate Thomond; and the O'Gorman
farm had fewer amenities and uglier furniture than Cooley Hall. She could
see what was ahead of her in County Clare. She did not share Danny's
visions, but was it not in print that the people of Sydney Cove "enjoyed
to a far more substantial extent than in many of the large towns of Great
Britain itself, the tastes, the pursuits, the comforts and even the
elegancies of English Society"? Johanna adored elegancies. Better the
hope of elegancies at the "furthest extremity of the globe" than the
certainty of inelegancies on O'Gorman's farm. She swallowed the camel of
faith in the delusion of brides that husbands can be reformed. The
susceptible Danny, who could not meet her eyes without flushing and
collapsing into self-consciousness, would be easily managed when she had
him all alone. His conversion would reflect glory on her.

That pretty day they sat side by side upon the stile overlooking the
ripening barley, their troth plighted, and considering, with the
high-heartedness of youth and inexperience, the stratagems necessary.

She packed her box that night and put in her best bits, collected against
marriage. Her mother wondered at the weight of it at the time. She was to
travel with a Sister from the convent.

"Just supposing that ye'r Danny never comes back?"

"Then I'll be a nun, but I'll never marry O'Gorman. Don't say I have not
warned ye."

It was certainly better that she should have her chance at Kate Thomond's
fine parties and not be plagued by the hairy O'Gorman for the present.

The wrench of departure remained unrecorded by Danny except in the final
perspective of memory. When years had taken the strength--though never
the courage--from Daniel's spirit, the old eyes would rest upon that
poignant drama. He could be seen with all his worldly goods in a box on
his shoulder, walking away from his home to take the coach where the lane
met the highway to Limerick. He had few goods: a tool or two, a new suit,
a second pair of boots, several pairs of socks, some shirts, a Bible, and
a book of poems. All the currency that his parents could collect was in
his belt, but there was a fortune in his sound stomach and high heart.

"Sure, me father kissed me--the only time he ever did, that I remember.
He handed me his own frieze over-coat, and went into his schoolroom and
shut the door...Me mother sat on a milestone and flung her apron over her
head and buried her head in her arms. That's how she remained as I looked
back--all the way to the turn of the road. That's how I remember her
always...All those years, and I never saw her again...dead a lifetime
ago...but in me moind I can see her sitting there still...The moind! The
moind!"

On that summer day, when the heavens matched his eyes in sparkle and
colour, he glanced blithely toward the coomb, with the stile at its feet,
where he and Johanna had sealed their plan of action with sacred
promises. He took the parting from his family lightly--going to Johanna
as he was, and full of impatience to be accumulating that fortune which
would bring him back to them or them to him--but it deepened in his
memory as the road lengthened. Later he found a song to voice his
emotions, and this he would rune over and over, forgetting his
listener--if any--his fading eyes on the sweet distance of old County
Clare:


I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, where we sat side by side,
On a bright May morning long ago, when first you were my bride.
The corn was springing fresh and green and the lark sang loud and high,
And the red was on your lip, Mary, and the lovelight in your eye.


The young man's consciousness was instinct with the comprehended soul of
Ireland, a tangible entity wrought by countless generations to a
nourishing cloak for the ego. Stored for sustenance later was the
spiritual grace of concrete places, that supra mundane presence which
gave reality to the musical names, the long-trodden ways of Eire. His
heart and eyes were ahead on adventure. Away, away, from his native
environment so rich in mystic lore, to a land purged of history since
before Etruscan Ides or Babylonian orgies were calendared, his spirit of
an independence to further the artificing of a new culture and of legends
distinctive of places whose names at that date were scarcely taken down
from the aborigines.

There was wild dismay at Cooley Hall when it was discovered that Johanna
would never more return to superintend her dairy or help the younger
children with their lessons. One Cooley blamed the other. O'Gorman blamed
them both, having held his horses for two years for this reluctant girl.
With the aid of a cousin--herself bent on eloping with an English
officer--Johanna had made her escape forty-eight hours before it was
suspected. A letter came some days later stating that she was off to
Belfast to be married to Danny Delacy and emigrate to the Antipodes.

"Marry a Prodestant--to travel without marriage and be roonedand in that
scoundrelly northern town!" Mrs Cooley keened affrightingly and set out
to attack Mrs Delacy. Both women said things that they could neither
forgive nor forget.

There came in time a letter from young Delacy to old Cooley reporting
that the absconders were married and on board the good ship _Jane_ bound
for Sydney Cove. Honoria Cooley preserved the document as the certificate
of her daughter's rectitude, but old Cooley never felt that it was a real
marriage. His bitter denunciation followed his Johanna--once his delight.
He disowned her as part of his flesh, and prayed that she would rue the
vile sorrow and shame she had put on him and her mother.

Johanna accepted excommunication cheerfully. Maledictions could not
travel so far as she and Danny were going, and all would be repealed when
Danny was brought into the true fold. She was full of excitement in
sailing with the personal effects she had collected, ostensibly as the
bride of the odious O'Gorman; and had she not her own rights of being?
The Cooleys claimed descent from the princes of Ith or Heremon. Were
there not legends of Queen Maeve and the great cattle spoil of Cooley?

Moyna Thomond, Johanna's accomplice, a generous and romantic girl, was
distressed by Johanna's going so far away, and insisted upon giving as
many of her own things as the two girls could smuggle out of the house.
Among these was a cedar work-box with drawers, set on a tripod pedestal,
which had to be lashed on to the deck arid tended all the way to Sydney
Cove. There was also a little chair with carved back and curved legs with
claw-and-ball fret, a pair of china ornaments and a set of three
Waterford lustres. The cousins parted with promises of eternal fealty and
the hope of reunion in Sydney. Every possibility dangles before the nose
of adventurous youth.

They never met again. Nor did old Cooley ever rescind his curses. That,
perhaps, is why the Delacys know so little of their ancestry in Ireland.
Mrs Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy rarely mentioned her family, except
abstractly, even to her sons and daughters. Danny lost account of his
because his mother died shortly after his departure, and he disregarded
letter-writing. Also, His Majesty's mails were not so cheap, swift and
dependable a hundred years ago as to-day.

A later Mrs Delacy wrote home to the parish priest, who could find only
an aunt on the Cooley side, and her memory was gone. A hundred years from
the date of Danny's embarkation, a great-grandson of his name alighted
out of the sky near Ennis. He was hospitably received by the Bishop of
Killaloe, and entertained at St Flannahan's College, but not a trace of a
Cooley or a Delacy could he find. Nevertheless, in the indestructible
archives of imagination, Mrs Delacy still sits upon the milestone with
her head bowed upon her arms. By the further aid of an old song, Danny
and his Johanna remain for ever in the sunlight on the stile, he young
and brave, and listening to the words she now for ever speaks, the
lovelight in her eyes; the red upon her cheeks.



CHAPTER II


The _Jane_, 374 tons, entered Port Jackson, "the beautiful land-locked
marine lake", and anchored in Sydney Cove, seven miles from the Heads,
six months from the day she had sailed from Southampton. The arrival of
the Delacys was chronicled in the Australian of the date:--"Mr George
Moore, of Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal; Mr and Mrs Daniel Delacy, of Ennis,
Co. Clare, as well as 20 steerage passengers, principally mechanics and
their families. All the passengers spoke in high terms of the gentlemanly
treatment afforded them by Capt. Jas. Riddell."

Mr George Moore of Ballyshannon had a promising estate in the Colony at
Bandalong and at Quebarra on the Morumbidgee. He had been out for some
years, driven from Ireland by the death of his wife, and had returned to
Dublin only to place his son at Trinity College. On the _Jane_ he had shown
a warm interest in the immigrant bride of nineteen-and-a-bit with her
groom of eighteen, and his kindness and generosity had mitigated some of
the hardships of the voyage for Johanna. To conserve his currency Danny
had taken a steerage passage for himself and put his wife in the between
accommodation. Mr Moore had had them both removed to berths near his own
so that his young countrywoman could have the company of the ladies in
the cuddy. From his ample stores he had coaxed her appetite and exerted
himself for her comfort in other ways as well as by cheering and
sustaining her during the trying months of their passage. He also offered
Danny the position of overseer, and invited Johanna to take up her
residence as lady-housekeeper at his station. For the moment Danny had
other ideas.

Mr Moore was an esteemed patron of Petty's grand new hotel for the gentry
on Church Hill, and, on landing, took the young pair to a select boarding
establishment near by, which the proprietor had "the distinguished honour
to announce is recommended by ladies of the first respectability, that
his dinners are got up in the first style with change of soups daily and
mock turtle three times a week". This gentleman also pointed out that his
hostelry had a fine view of Port Jackson and Darling Harbour, and that
his clients could hear the strains of the military band from the Fort
near at hand.

Those elegancies which Johanna had expected, were, as elsewhere, for the
privileged. She saw little of them at her boarding establishment, where
the cark of funds running low and the discomfort of approaching
motherhood depressed her. She was not at that date susceptible to the
swagger of the military bucks, nor was she concerned with the lady, who
desired, for a consideration, to undertake "the preservation of the
complexion from the burning pernicious influence of the solar beams of
the Antipodes". She was delighted with orange blossoms, water-melons,
guavas, and pomegranates. Grapes and peaches were to her taste, but the
clouds of flies and mosquitoes and the heat distressed her. A
"brick-fielder" frightened and prostrated her. Danny demanded her
enthusiasm for the lively harbour with a forest of masts like a deciduous
wood, and shouted in her ear that there were twenty-two whalers at sea,
in addition to all those in port, and that their capacity was from 70 to
700 barrels.

"Moi! Think of that wealth. Sure, a boat with 500 barrels of sperm oil
put in the same day as ourselves because ten of the crew refused duty.
They've been a year away in the Antarctic."

It was a blow to Danny to learn that land grants had ceased in
'thirty-one. The information imparted to Johanna in the coomb had been
out of date. There were no special prizes for a young man because he was
free and honest. He had to acquire by toil. Without a trade or any
special influence there was a stiff prospect ahead of the little pair in
the Colony, thrusting beyond its garde-major days, but still hampered by
bedraggled swaddling clothes of convictism.

Danny was out every hour of the day seeking an opening. Johanna was left
much to herself. Mr Moore had too much business demanding attention to
pay her any but a short call. A lady--especially one in her "delicate"
state of health--did not walk abroad alone when the quarterly muster of
ticket-of-leavers was proceeding at the post office, when prisoners were
marched about in gangs under guard, when misdemeanants were sent aboard
the hulks as a respite from severer punishment, or were sentenced to days
on the treadmill. Danny would burst in to declare that the cattle market
had excellent beasts, but that he saw a rubbishing lot of ewe-necked
horses. "Och, the field for breeding horses that's here--the uses for
them!" Or he would tell of the cricket match for £50 a side.

Johanna read the newspapers and learnt that bread was 4 lb., 7d.; bacon,
6d. lb.; beef, 3d.; butter, 1/2; cheese, 4d. to 8d.; and candles, 6½d.
Salted hides were 2d. per lb.; horns, 10/- per 100; guinea fowls, 6/6 per
pair, and turkeys, 5/- each.

Danny was determined to own land, but how was he to clear and work it
without capital, and in competition with established and favoured men who
could command all the Government labour they needed? He had not arrived
early enough. The big fellows, with parents to provide capital and
influence, frequently dishonestly exercised in official circles, had
already pegged their claims and were squatting on them west, north, and
south, to the full extent of the Nineteen Counties.

Danny said he would be doomed if he had travelled thirteen thousand miles
for land, then to sit down like a hen in a town as a servant to any man.
At length, when funds ran out, he consented to go up country with Mr
Moore until he could set-up on his own land. That she was to be with Mr
Moore was to Johanna the only factor to temper the strangeness and
uncongeniality of her new environment. Had Mr Moore been situated near
Sydney, she could have been comparatively happy, but what elegancies or
ease could there be in the untamed bush from which came bloodcurdling
tales of bushrangers and aborigines.

The size and height of the trees frightened her. "Sure, they'd make
gallows posts big enough for the devil to collect his own," she cried,
and withdrew her eyes from those standing stark and dead early on the
route; and she never forgot the gibbeted form she saw along the way.

The trees inspired Danny. "They're giants, bedad! From the top of them
you could slip into heaven itself, me brave Johanna."

"There's nothing that would be called grass at home--nothing that affords
a full bite."

"But if it provides a full belly, it is the same thing."

"At anny rate the whole world is a forest. There is ne'er a meadow at
all," said Johanna, disconsolately.

"They're for me to make," maintained the undefeatable Daniel.

"Och! Live horse till ye get grass!" murmured Johanna.

They travelled in two drays, with only a few yoke of oxen in each
vehicle, and progress was retarded by the necessity of double-banking at
stiff pinches. They had assigned men to attend them, men glad to be going
to Mr Moore, who had a good name.

The Goulburn Plains were already held by families, which, in some
instances, hold them still with prestige and comfort. Lake George was
gone, likewise Gounderu. Limestone Plains was in the hands of first
families, there to remain, in imitation of the English squirearchy, until
dispossessed by an imperative democracy in favour of an ideally modelled
city.

They reached Bandalong, one of the farthest-out stations, not far from
Mount Bowning, which a year later was declared the official limit for
settlement. The holding was large and watered by the Bandalong, a short
tributary of the Morumbidgee. Mount Bowning's round blue head was a
sentinel from every direction.

For Johanna's sake Danny was relieved to anchor, but he was emphatic
"It's only till I can foind meself."

Johanna's child did not live long, but it was only a girl, and Johanna
had a reverence for producing males that was descended from a racial era
when an adulteress, with sons, could wear a bolder face than an honest
wife with nothing but daughters.

"The poor little thing would have been a help in manny ways," observed
Danny, having in mind that family labour with which men of various
designations made their way on the land.

Danny pegged away with Mr Moore, with little adventure but that of a
strange environment. Johanna was weak and fretful. This fact and the
unwelcome attentions of Walter Moore prevented Danny from going with
Major Mitchell in 1835. Lack of capital kept him from joining the
overlanders who rushed along the Major's Line in the years following,
years during which the squatters extended their occupancy of the land
from the Morumbidgee to the Darling, and changed the social and economic
composition of the Colony. The sheep owners within the Nineteen Counties
authorized for land settlement, had, under existing policies, been able
to secure most of the grazing areas. Later arrivals coveted holdings
beyond the jurisdiction of the area delimited for the maintaining of law
and order, and soon spread like a bursting dam in disregard of an Act
declaring squatters to be unauthorized trespassers on the Crown. The mere
name did not wound the hardy and mostly unscrupulous adventurers, there
beyond the application of law, in millions of acres of inland grass
country to be had for the seizing. The Governor preserved Governmental
prestige by sanctioning what was too strong to suppress, and licensed the
squatters to trespass by the payment of a small yearly fee, or rental,
for vast stations. "Squatter" acquired an antipodean connotation
approximating that of manorial lord as the graziers entrenched themselves
in parody of English County Families. Conditions have ensured that they
remain a parody to this day.

There were no coolies, Zulus, nor abducted negroes here. In the serf
class were only British prisoners, and transportation was soon to cease.
Thenceforward for several generations, Australian men were to establish
their homes, if not by the sweat of their brows, then in saddle galls and
the physical hardihood of an existence which demanded the pluck to ride
colts that had run ungentled until mature. Women had had to give birth to
their families in the same way since Eve, but in Australia, the highest
type and breed of white woman had to add to that fundamental travail the
secondary labour, which in more populous lands is delegated to the
disinherited and servile classes, or to the backward races.

Though he was hobbled by domesticity plus lack of capital, Danny never
settled as an underling at Bandalong. He disliked his relation to the
convicts as overseer, and abhorred theirs to the lash. Though of
invulnerable integrity himself, no man was more merciful to
transgressors. Decency abode in him as melody in music and without any
sense of superiority. There was little of either the bully or the servant
in him; he was ineradicably a free man, an individualist. His father was
a Trinity College man; Danny himself at least knew of the classics when
only "betters" could read or write. Old Cooley, too, had the status of a
fox-hunting squire, and Johanna had not forsaken her country and
forsworn her faith to sink in the social scale.

Each time that Danny reached the plateau that lay between Bandalong and
another holding of Mr Moore's on the Murrumbidgee--as it was later to be
spelt--he was bewitched by the spectacle of the heavens prinked with a
necklace of ranges beautiful as opals and sapphires. There it lay, land
in plenty beyond County Murray. No one had penetrated its gorges since
Hume and Hovell had skirted them in reaching the Doomut ten years
earlier. This domain was guarded by natural ramparts and dismissed as
inaccessible while there was ample open country. The high blue ranges
were the wall of a fountain province beyond which the Colony sloped down
and away to droughty plains of heat and mirage, already held in lively
cattle runs from the Lachlan to the Murray, and from whence came news of
desperate encounters with inhabitants who resisted invasion, or who
executed summary justice upon men who upheld white prestige in
desecrating black women. The Out Back had no allure for Danny. He babbled
of the cool endearing mountains in a way that filled Johanna with
apprehension. On the other hand, Walter Moore, a waster and libertine,
laid her under continual siege so that she longed for some way of escape.
Mr Moore voiced the opinion, volubly upheld by Walter, that native dogs
would destroy all young or weak stock in winter in the gorges. In summer,
the aborigines, who migrated there for their initiation ceremonies and to
feast on the boogongs,* would spear or frighten away what animals escaped
the dogs.

[* Large edible moths.]

"Maybe we had better stay where we are well-off," sighed Johanna.

"Well-off, by damn!" was all that Danny said.

Finally Johanna had to complain of Walter, and she begged his father to
assist Danny to a place of his own. Mr Moore had seen dubious incidents,
and regretfully acceded to Johanna's plea. He had for the handsome 'young
woman the affection of a parent, and would miss her, as the society of
any women, and especially of ladies, was highly prized. The
Commissioner--the all-powerful of the period--was Mr Moore's friend, and
through him Moore obtained a sliver of land on the Morurnbidgee,
adjoining the Moore property, Quebarra.

Some time earlier it had been a grant to a convict who had saved an
official's life. The man, given his freedom, had married and settled
there. For the birth of his child he took his wife to Mrs Fullwood, of
Heulong, eight miles away across the river. He brought wife and child
home on Mrs Fullwood's horse at dusk when the river was a little high, so
that he had to give all his energy to guiding the horse and keeping him
on his feet. When the horse rushed up the bank past him out of the water,
the saddle was empty. The bodies were found days after and buried near
by. The man abandoned his land and disappeared. It remained unoccupied
because of a legend that the ghost of the woman and child wailed in the
crossing when the water was shoulder-high at the dark of the moon.

Danny "arrahed" at ghosts. They raised no fear in his valiant flesh, and
the river frontage secured the gorges behind it. Currency being scarce,
Mr Moore paid Delacy in live stock, which were allowed to run on the
skirts at Bandalong. Now he advanced labourers to fell timber and put up
a hut.

Johanna regretted her comfortable quarters and lady's life, with assigned
labour for all purposes, including a nurse for the baby, and prepared to
accompany Danny into the wilderness once more. She moved to Quebarra to
be safe from young Moore and nearer to Danny while he was erecting their
shelter.

The new place was called Bewuck by the blacks for the hauls of cod they
caught in the fish hole, almost in front of the homestead. It was a
reservoir from which the water issued in a slight fall and ran wide on a
stony bed that made one of the few safe crossings in a day's ride. While
at Quebarra, Johanna was told of the ghosts by the stockman's wile, and
that the bottomless waterhole was the home of the bunyip, most mysterious
of all the fantastic Australian animals.

Johanna soon moved to her home, with her belongings on a slide. The early
settler's heart sank as she struggled down the declivity to the rough
spot without a road, and far from neighbours. Terror invaded her when she
saw the wild river rushing past so near her door. She clasped her toddler
against the mesmeric danger. The river had a long, harsh name and was
lined with uncanny trees, strangely called oaks, and clothed in green
hair that was tormented by the breeze to the melancholy cadence of the
banshee.

The new home was a wooden shell. The cracks let in the sun. Johanna found
no bar on the door, and when Danny went out of her sight in the gathering
dusk, she wailed that the bunyip would devour her and the child.

"You've been listening to some nullity with an empty skull so that
stories rattle in it," said Danny, with scorn. "The bunyip will be all to
the good to scare the child from the river. No wan has ever heard of the
bunyip away from the water. Sure, I wish I could capture the beast. I'd
be clearing up a mystery that disturbs the zoologists and gaining renown
for meself."

The brown and the black, and even the deadly tiger snakes were thick
about the river banks--an added torture to an exile from the sacred Isle
of Inisfail from which the blessed St 'Patrick himself had banished the
reptiles. Danny did not minimize the danger from snakes, though he could
break their backs by cracking them like a whip, a performance which made
Johanna tremble for his safety. He was more than occupied as the founder
of one of the first families on the Morumbidgee, and was as full of
satisfaction as though his frontage had put him among the landed gentry
of Ireland. His gunyah of shrinking slabs, covered with bark, elated him;
but the drips spoiled Johanna's bed curtains and made it necessary to
hide her few linen treasures, and thus defeated the elegancy dear to her
heart.

Day or night there was no relief from the Morumbidgee, so lone and dark
and far, with the voice of a ravening wind--thousands of miles of it
until it met an unknown sea. Johanna felt that here indeed was the
furthest extremity of the globe from the placid Shannon in its park-like
plain. The contrast between this stream and that golden mirror in the
westering sun, when the gentry's salmon waited head to tail to go up, was
so gruelling that her father's curse seemed to have overtaken her. Here,
at length, she felt the punishment of her name being tabu in her family,
and that never again would she see Cooley Hall in old County Clare.



CHAPTER III


Guarding the illusive land were throngs of giants--the stateliest trees
on the globe. Delacy was like an ant in the aisles of box trees and
towering river gums, but he attacked them as an army, grunting with
effort, sweat dripping from him. His slight form grew as wiry as steel;
his hands were corneous and scarred with the work of felling and
grubbing.

"Mother of God!" little Johanna cried, as she saw the columns toppling.
She was sick with terror lest her world of Danny and the child and the
animals should be crushed there by the lorn river, with none to come to
the rescue. It resembled the destruction of a universe, as in fact it
was. A world of unexcelled, unrealized wealth had to go up in smoke that
a small patch might be cleared to grow bread, and a hut have safety.
Felled, the timber encumbered more ground than standing, until, with the
help of men supplied through Mr Moore, Danny rolled the smaller logs into
fences, and burned the remainder. He was out before daylight. He could
scarcely desist for meals. Johanna brought him food and drink at
intervals. The burning-off kept him until midnight, his pillars of fire
licking the starry heavens low above his gorges.

In the evening Johanna would put her child to sleep, and help by
gathering up the sticks. This work relieved her loneliness, intensified
by the moaning of the river oaks, and the noise of the queer grey birds
that threw laughter back and forth for miles, until dark and after. Their
lusty guffawing, upon the smallest provocation or upon none, had a
brow-heating effect, and she was mortally afraid that the bunyip would
rear his undescribed form from the fish hole, or that the ghosts would
cry in the crossing. These fears festered; she dared not confess them to
Danny. He had none of the cruelty of the cowardly, but he had an
inability to estimate the torments of the timid, which is sometimes a
part of fearlessness. He had the heritage of his Irish temperament, which
had enabled his exiled compatriots to turn desperate plights to brilliant
victories, though Danny himself was free from swashbuckling taint. He
despised belligerence. He disregarded firearms. His warrior prowess was
thus freed to assault the continent of Australia, and he did not grizzle
because he was unarmed and single-handed.

Though not at Bewuck until November, he was ready for the autumn
ploughing. One of Moore's men, named Hannon, and trusted by both Delacys,
was left to guard the new home. Danny borrowed the stockman's daughter,
aged eight, from Quebarra for company for Johanna. The arms were also
left with her--a broken cutlass and a flint-lock musket. Should the fire
die out, a greasy rag, ignited by firing it from the gun, could be
applied to punk. Danny with his sledge and the second man set out to
forage for seed and provisions at Bandalong, thirty miles distant. Drays
were scarce in the district of some fifty square miles, but two belonged
to Danny's protector.

Danny's courage was as inexhaustible as his energy. Johanna therefore
merited extra consideration, as her fortitude was cold and stricken. Her
unborn child depressed her and made her a prisoner in the gorges with the
river's banshee trees and bunyip hole. Endurance horn of necessity kept
her from breaking down during those breaking-in days. Danny scarcely
realized her heroism in remaining there. She did not realize it herself.
Danny did not recognize himself as heroic, and had no wish to spare from
the combat to worship other heroes. Martyrs he would have overlooked as
hypochondriacs or malingerers.

"Now, you're all set, Johanna, Mavourneen," he observed, when ready to
depart. "Hannon will look after you like a father, and what could hurt
you here at all, annyway? The bushrangers have died out, and would nor
come for so little. If they do, let them have it. It's the fighting and
defence that makes all the trouble."

"But it's a queer man who does not defind himself."

"The trouble with defence is that the few it saves are nothing to the
danger it brings upon innocent people by provocation. And now tell me,
you'll be all right, me brave Johanna, who has come over the seas with
me."

"Would there be anny good in telling ye annything else? Get on with ye,
and waste no time in returning."

"You may be a little lonesome now, but this is to be a greater place than
Cooley Hall, with a finer town than old Ennis on top of us."

"Ye'll be too old to enjoy that whin it comes."

"Och! You must look to the future. 'Tis only the beasts and nullities
have no foresight."

Johanna suffered keenly during his absence. Hannon slept at a distance
from the house. When the jackasses ceased, the dark fitted over the
tree-tops like a night-cap, and the boobooks hooted, or the native dogs
howled, or the little booraby bears wailed like tortured children. It was
the dark of the moon, and the river more than girth deep, so Johanna was
sure it was a ghost that screamed there. She went to bed at dusk,
gathering Florry--the visitor--and her own child with her, and shuddering
at every sound. Sometimes she wept, but empires are not wrought, nor won,
without the tears of the weak, aye, and of the strong. "Tears wash the
eye", as the young Delacys later wrote in their copy-books; and Johanna
had fine, flashing eyes, independent of spectacles, to the end.

When the sunlight left the gorge she would climb with the children and an
old dog up the track where the sun still shone across the plateau, and
there watch for Danny's return.

"He can't be here yet, Misthress," Hannon would say.

"'Tis an excursion away from the dungeons of me castle," Johanna would
reply.

At length a party approached among the more open timber. Mr Moore had
lent Danny a dray and four bullocks. There was the horse slide and a
third horse farther away. Danny hurried forward.

"Sure, Mr Moore is a white man if ever there was wan. I've got a power of
potatoes and pumpkins and all manner of seed wheat and barley, and
suckers from fruit trees, and flowers for a garden in me spare time, me
brave Johanna."

Spare time among settlers was a rare elegancy.

"And Johanna, will you believe me, they have a township laid out by
Moore's. There's to be a store and a lock-up; and churches and schools
and a post office will come. Sure, the teamsters congregate there from
three directions, and there's a power of traffic already. People are
buying blocks for farms."

The stir of Danny's returns compensated for his absences. His booty was
sometimes inutile but always entertaining. This time he had beads--as for
the Island trade--but there were also two Dutch toys for the children, a
roll of dowlas, twine and sail needles, raisins, writing paper, powder
for ink, and a keg of tobacco. Sperm candles were a contribution to
Johanna's elegancies.

"I'd rather a roll of flannel for your underclothes than so much dowlas."

"Sure, I'll be warm working in dowlas. I have wan kag of chisel-pointed
lath nails and another of green paint. The paint is sour own. A place can
be made a palace with a dab of paint and a lick of plaster."

The recital progressed before the horny log fire while Johanna and Florry
prepared the meal.

"But now, Johanna, can you guess what more I've got?"

"A newspaper!"

"Och, I have a dozen of them!"

"A letter from Ennis?"

"Not this time, but 'twill come."

"Mr Moore has lent ye some hooks."

"I have wan, but there will be no time to read, so I resisted more."

"Did ye bring me anny burrds, Danny-boy?"

"Och!" It was a shout of triumph. "As fine a pair of turkeys as ever you
saw, and thim 16/- the pair in Sydney this mortal minute; and a little
cock and two hins."

"I'll go see they are not smothered," exclaimed Johanna. "Leave them be.
You haven't guessed what more it is I've brought."

"I'd like it to be a cask for a tub."

"I've wan big enough for a bath, and a little wan to make pails beside
it; but what more have I?"

"Ye'r so full of wonders, Danny-boy, that ye might have the Brown Bull of
Cooley himself hid along the track."

Danny loosed a shout of triumph. "You've almost said it. I have the next
thing to the Bull of Cooley or the Shan Van Voght captured. I've got a
fine lump of a colt--the brown entire."

Johanna strove to be impressed, though the poultry were more to her
understanding than a crippled horse.

The colt had been the hope of Mr Moore's stud. Eyes of men, dulled by the
"System", had brightened at sight of the animal who combined all the
virtues and graces. Then, about a year since, the groom had been
galloping him in sight of the household, when he put his foot in a hole,
and crack!--with a sound like a pistol, the off fore fetlock was clean
snapped. The jockey was killed, and put a gloomy seal on the fate of the
Singer, son of Skeleton.

"'Tis a pity not to give him a chance of his life," said Danny, who loved
a good horse for his beauty and usefulness, though he had as great a
contempt for horse-racing and all that went with it, as he had for army
swagger.

His idea of a stringy-bark stocking for the fetlock was carried out by a
surgeon guest. Danny slung the animal and tended him constantly for
weeks. That was his way, with no purpose other than absorption in the
enterprise for its own sake. The horse had grown dangerous after Danny's
departure, but was so calm when handled by his old friend again that
Moore said: "You've earned that horse, Delacy."

Thus Johanna saw the animal in the twilight. He was in poor condition and
unkempt after his journey on three legs, but his eyes were wide and wise,
and he had the stance of an emperor. "Is he really such a grand beast and
all?"

Doubt impelled speech from Dunn, the dour man holding the halter.

"Sure, ye'r honour, there's not his aquil in the Colony this day, beggin'
ye'r pardon for spakin'. He's own son of Skeleton and by a mare of the
purest blood herself. And Skeleton himself was owned by the Marquis of
Sligo himself at first; and he sowld him to none but a prince, him wid
the name of Ester Hazy. It sounds loike a faymale and all, but 'tis a
man, as Oi've been towld by thim that's seen him at the great race
meetings.

"Sure, he was the bist horse of the year whin Lord Sligo purchased him,
and the bist horse of the year in owld Oireland is the bist horse in the
world, beggin' ye'r honour's pardon, for mintioning it to wan from the
owld place herself. By the Calendars can be seen Skeleton's manny
successful performances. He was considered in ivery way superior to
Arrogance, who won the King's Plate at Doncaster in as short a toime as
iver before or since. But Skeleton was superior. And Master Robert was
decidedly the best of his year before him. Master Robert was the dad of
Skeleton and was got by Buffer. His dam was Spinster by Shuttle, and his
great-dam by Sir Robert, great-granddam by Bordeaux, great-great-granddam
was Sperenza, own sister of Saltrom, by Eclipse."

Johanna retired. Refinement decreed that ladies should feign ignorance of
the presence and purpose of stud animals.

This information had been read to Dunn from the newspapers by a lettered
fellow-lag, and Dunn had committed it to memory as a poem. "Sure," he
added, "Skeleton as a two-year-old ran at the Curragh of Kildare and came
second to horses he afterwards beat to smithereens."

"By damn!" said Delacy. "We're in the presence of royalty. Me fortune's
made entirely. What is more, Dunn, I go by the dam. This fellow's dam was
a thoroughbred, and a perfect lady to boot. The nullities think anny old
dam will do. Observation shows that the mother is equally
impoortant--more so, to judge by human beings."

There were now free immigrants arriving under the new policy of
assistance with funds derived from the sale of Crown Lands, but the towns
and the big men had the pick of these, and Delacy, short of capital, was
dependent upon ex-ticket-of-leavers, who sometimes imposed upon him
because of their grey hairs. His personal industry continued unabated. He
robbed from the nights by working in the light of log fires in the barn,
called the kitchen, and used as the men's hut. There took place the
grinding of wheat in the hand mill, the making of halters, hobbles and
ropes of greenhide, and the construction of big saddle-bags employed for
transport over an ordinary saddle. The useful pack-saddle had not then
come into use.

Hannon and Danny ploughed with two steady bullocks lent by Mr Moore, and
a pair of milkers' calves. It was part of the day's work to pursue the
bolting team around the paddock, Hannon trying to "whoa" them while Danny
clung to the precious borrowed plough. Palings were split for Johanna's
garden. Land was set aside for fruit trees and vegetables. The jackasses
followed plough or spade for the fat blue-and-ivory grannie grubs that
popped from the gleaming furrows. Danny found them entertaining
companions and mingled his laughter with theirs. The brown colt became a
member of the family and helped to shape its fortunes--all in the trend
of the times.

Johanna had been startled on the morning after his arrival when she saw
her husband sitting on the ground with the entire's foot in his arms as
he refitted the splint.

"The Saints preserve us! He could batter ye to pieces."

"Arrah, he's as gentle as a lamb. You've only to treat him like a
Christian."

Dunn bad the congenial task of groom, and many a feed of sprouting barley
was filched for the horse.

Mrs Wade left Florry at Bewuck to help Johanna, and later came herself.
Mrs Fullwood was cut off by the river's winter level. The infant settler
was one of few arrivals during the cold months. The Delacys were remote
from roads. A man or two came, having heard of the colt, and there was a
messenger from one of the big stations towards The Plains to borrow salt
and a bag of flour.

There were floods of marsupial visitors, some of whose species have since
been extirpated. One of the men had to be on duty all night to save the
crops. Gentle furry things fell into simple traps or to Rover and his
colleagues. Their flesh fed the poultry and pigs, and scores of their
skins were pegged out to dry. Pelts of kangaroos and wallaroos were
marketable. Kangaroos were also eaten. Cattle were too precious to be
made into beef at the beginning.

Spring came and ripened towards summer and Christmas. The waters of the
Murrumbidgee subsided, and Delacy's tenancy was contested by the
Fullwoods and Butlers. One morning Heulong cattle supplanted the Bewuck
herd right to the fence of the cow paddock, and not far away were Butler
cattle from Glenties. The little, man was to be squeezed out by the
bigger squatters on either side.

Danny summoned his dogs and rode to contest this. In charge of the
Heulong stock was a man named O'Neill, on a good horse. He had his
instructions, and rode belligerently at Danny, pulling a pistol from his
holster. Fullwood and Butler were cronies of the Commissioner, Danny was
a penniless immigrant wedging his way on to the river.

The pistol was so enraging to him that he rode straight at it, ordering
O'Neill to drop it, "before I skelp the eyes out of your head, you
scoundrel, doing the dirty work of some cowardly crawler, who's bought
you for a plug of tobacco and a taggeen of rum."

O'Neill shouted. "Take back ye'r durrty words, ye little shrivelled
bastard Prodestant heretic! Get off of ye'r horse and meet me man to
man."

"Impty the charge from your pistol and I will," said Danny, "Though it's
thim that's above you I should be meeting."

O'Neill, surprised, obediently discharged his pistol and replaced it in
the holster. He had been a bruiser and smiled to think how he would
dispose of Delacy and get the reward from Butler and Fullwood. The men
dismounted, tied up their horses and took off their coats. Butler's man,
who had been in the offing to report, now rode up. Butler himself halted
at a distance behind the trees, and there were Danny's two assigned men
from Mr Moore.

None of the Delacys had the physique of boxers. They were as slight as
reeds, with delicate hands. Danny's only chance was to rush his opponent.
O'Neill waited for him, parried him easily, and with one blow brought the
blood from Danny's nose; a second closed one of his eyes, a third, on the
point of the jaw, laid him out. It was over in a minute. Butler came from
ambush with contemptuous mien. Danny's men gloated to see one of their
own fraternity as capable as O'Neill. They despised Danny, insignificant
and unable to shake a fist in self-defence.

"Pour a drop of water on him and take him home to his wife," ordered
Butler, and rode away with his man. The victor mounted his horse and
drove the Heulong cattle towards Bewuck homestead. Danny lay winded for
some time, then he sat up, went to the river, and soused his head in the
clear cold water. His men hung about currishly, without contesting the
encroachments of O'Neill. Charles Fullwood, who had watched from across
the river, rode out of sight well satisfied.

O'Neill had not punished Delacy too heavily. But for the closed eye and a
slight dizziness he was quickly himself. He made no remark to his men,
but mounted his horse, and with his long heavy stockwhip in hand, rode
towards O'Neill.

"You've beaten me at that noble art," he said mildly. "I met you because
otherwise I would have been open to the insinuation of cowardice, but I
fear no man in heaven or hell, and I'm no man's servant but me own. Me
brave gladiator with the pistol and fists, acting for another, who's too
craven to represent himself, now it's for the second round. The first was
to your pattern, the second is to me own. Your horse is better than mine,
and you have a whip the same, and I hereby give notice that I'll skelp
you off me premises. Arrah! Begin!"

O'Neill took up the duel. Delacy was on him with a yell, getting the
first stroke at the horse's flank and sending him rearing and plunging.
O'Neill had as little chance when agility was demanded as Delacy when it
was weight. The little man got in two cuts for the big man's one.
O'Neill's shoulders had not so stung since he had been on the triangle.
As Delacy gained the ascendancy, he ordered his men to round-up the
trespassing cattle, and with dogs barking and biting, they were driven
into the river, to the consternation of Butler and Fullwood.

Danny had earned the men's respect. He gave instructions as to where the
cattle were to be pastured, and rode home.

He explained his eye to Johanna as the result of fly bite, then
prevalent, took a meal and rode away to Mr Moore, who used his influence
with the Commissioner for Crown Lands. Delacy was allowed to add to his
holding land to which those already settled wanted the right without
payment. Seeing that he had a protector, Butler and Fullwood desisted
from open hostilities. They feared they had gone too far in setting a lag
to attack a freeman.

The tale spread from the Heulong and Glenties men to the stockmen of
Quebarra, and returned to Johanna from Florry's mother. Mrs Fullwood was
perhaps the only one who did not know of the encounter and she did not
withdraw her neighbourliness from Johanna. Gossip was that Fullwood
discarded O'Neill for exceeding his duty in carrying the issue to a
physical fight.

"Time will test the whole pack of them--which are min and which are
crawlers!" grunted Danny.

The next stir was the approach of blacks. A man from Glenties reported to
Quebarra that Bewuck was their objective. The fish hole was their
feasting and camping ground. Two tame aborigines came to herald the tribe
and to inform Danny that he was on their territory.

"God help us! What's to become of me and the children," exclaimed
Johanna, terrified.

"Sure, we have taken their ground," said Danny. "But these have never
hurt a hair of the settlers front here to The Plains. I'll go meet them
like a Christian and see what can be done."

One of the Moore bullocks had developed lumpy-jaw and had been left to
Danny for disposal, so he rode to meet the dispossessed with the
oppressed servitor as a peace offering. One of the envoys was with him,
and introduced him and explained the bullock. It was accepted as a
princely gift. The unarmed Danny was received as a brother, and guffawed
in concert with the men. When he got on his horse, one of the envoys
brought a girl piccaninny and signified that she was to be taken on the
pommel. Danny was elated, but Johanna received the child with mingled
feelings.

"They'll be after ye with spears, taking ye for art abductor." Her elder
child, now three, was terrified of the girl's dark skin and asked would
she eat the baby. The Australian was not alarmed but full of curiosity
about the white babies and their clothes.

"Dayvil if ever I met pleasanter people, smiling from ear to ear, they
were so pleased with Bally. It wrung me heart, the poor old fellow
walking along with me so friendly and intelligent, but he is only a beast
after all. The child reminds me of a wild turkey, but as you see, not wan
bit uneasy."

"Murra me, that ever I was born and came roaming to the wilds! They've
given the child to ye for fosterage, and that's why she is so easy."

"Be the powers! That would be an honour to you, me brave Johanna."

She saw the adventure. "If it wouldn't bring hordes of murdering savages
upon us. In anny case I must put a shimmy on her, not to let her be a
shame before me and a bedivilmint to the min."

Late that night shadows stole between Johanna and the moon on her tiny
window. Danny sprang forth and called on the prowlers to halt. They were
petrified by his booming tones. He lit a candle and invited the visitors
to investigate the fate of the piccaninny. They were impressed to see her
already in white man's garb in a bed beside the cot of the toddler, from
whom she refused to part.

"That one sit down longa white pfella--all same as white pfella," they
said. The child's account must have been satisfactory for she was left
where she was--adopted. Only Danny tasted the roasted boogongs brought as
a present, which, he recorded, reminded him of dried plums.

Her people camped at the bunyip hole, on the other side of the river,
which gave some safety from the mangy curs. Otherwise, as Danny pointed
out, they were far less destructive than a company of whites would have
been. "And me having taken the heart of their ground! Sure, they're the
most generous and forgiving Christians," he exclaimed. "They make a
contrast to old Butler and Fullwood, trying to batter me up."

Peace was aided by abundance of cod and bream. One or two cod weighed
more than a hundred pounds each. Danny strutted among the bucks with the
enjoyment of a boy, and they taught him how to use for fish-bait the big
casuarina grubs without puncturing them, lest they leak away in a milky
fluid. One of the men had been with Major Mitchell, and came to the home.
He was interested in the colt's wooden stocking and called him
nullah-mundoey--wooden leg or boot. Johanna was amused by the half-tamed
gins, and set them to wash for her in return for a garment or two.

At the end of a fortnight they moved farther south to the mountains that
beckoned Danny as the Lorelei, and where there remained undisturbed by
whites a hundred or more square miles teeming with fish, waterfowl,
turkeys, marsupials, emus, snakes, lizards, boogongs and other food. In
the retreats near Numba Nanga the aborigines held their ceremonies safe
from intrusion.

The little girl made no attempt to leave with them. "'Tis romantic,
Johanna. She is left with us like an ancient chief's daughter to rear up
in civilization."

They were not clever enough to extract her name. As a gesture to Johanna,
Danny christened her Maeve, after the chieftainess who had had such an
inordinate desire to possess the Brown Bull of Cooley. The child was
lovable and willing, and Johanna's first native-born servant, though in
Danny's commonwealth she ranked as a daughter of the house.

Delacy, as the Colony at large, was completely the grazier and little the
farmer. He could never ascend from his gorges to the higher land of
Quebarra or Glenties without exalted emotion. He would gaze towards the
Australian Alps and collaterals, extending for eighty or a hundred miles
around the translucent horizon, and feel as a poet drinking from the
fountain of inspiration. There lay a land to be wrought to his heart's
desire. With this attitude of the visionary was interwoven the need for
energetic action. It the rare moments when he sat with Johanna before
retiring he talked of going up the Murrumbidgee with his surplus stock
and settling in a valley that the blacks called Burrabinga.

"Utterly inaccessible," Johanna would say with failing heart.

"Wasn't Australia inaccessible till Cook found it, and America out of
bounds till the Puritan Fathers settled it? No place inaccessible if you
have the moind to go there."

What Johanna really felt was that the mountains were all too accessible
to Danny.

"Sure, we must look ahead. 'Tis only the beasts and nullities have no
foresight. I'll need territory for me sons."

"And thim not born yet! Counting chickens before they are hatched."

"You'll have more luck with time," said Danny cheerfully. "I'll be too
late again if I don't look cut. There's Urquhart at Keebah these five
years, and him building a fine house by Government min, near as good as
Moore's."

Danny had already been in the coveted territory in pursuit of bushrangers
that had stuck up Moore's stables. He had also helped a late explorer to
follow the Hume-Hovell line to the Murray; when, according to Johanna, he
had better have been minding his own business. But what is the business
of an adventurous dreamer but to penetrate the forest and traverse the
untrodden plain and establish outposts.

"It would be snore sinse to wait till there is more population," Johanna
would say.

She could not understand his urge to go first, his exaltation in reaching
beyond roads and fences. "Someone must first make the road, me brave
Johanna," he would chant. "Have you never considered that every road was
no road wanst? 'Tis amazing to consider the min away back in the
immensity of time who went first--even in old Ireland."

"But there's no call for ye--a man with childre--to be that wan. There's
reason in all things, and there's little in rushing ahead to the backward
places to be lost and to starve."

After the second harvest there was no restraining him. He had his holding
ring-harked and fenced in paddocks near to the house, and a relatively
large portion under cultivation. He had a house and garden and a
sprouting orchard; he was overstocked, and Heulong and Glenties harried
him whenever possible without coming into the open.

Hannon, blacksmith by trade, carpenter by natural gift, was a treasure.
That he should ever have been a lag was, Danny said, a reflection on the
"System". Danny had no hesitation in leaving him in charge of the place
and of Johanna. Johanna had confidence in Hannon, but she hated to be
left at Bewuck. Maeve, fat and sonsy, was merry company and helpful.
Wade, with a wife and children, was still at Quebarra, only nine miles
distant, so Delacy felt that the country was thickly populated. He would
not be commendable to common sense, the crown of which was profit if he
confessed that there was a compulsion on hint to push farther out, to do,
to be, to put something into life and country, without envy of those who
might pillage fortunes in his tracks. And without such as Delacy whence
would conic wealth for harvesting by the sane self-seekers? Why should
not he himself seek gain? But it is in a man's stars whether he is a
giver or a getter, and the two are separate as marble and mud.

Johanna became resigned as the enterprise took shape. Danny's eyes had
the light that had shone in them seven years before, when he talked of
emigrating.



CHAPTER IV


It was a wide morning in the New Year, with the summer braver than ever
it is where the Shannon flows, when Delacy started farther out with fifty
head of mixed horned cattle and a dozen horses. With him was the dour
Dunn, a carpenter of sorts, who could build a hut. They had four horses
loaded with provisions and gear, and the old musket and ammunition, with
which to supplement their larder.

"Come with me, Johanna, up to the top. You can wish me luck."

From the clay of her advent, Maeve could be trusted to keep her foster
sisters from harm, so Johanna walked beside Danny, who led the mare with
the elder child astride her, to the crest of the ascent.

"Ah, me brave Johanna, look at that!" he exclaimed, his eyes enlarging
and darkening with emotion. "With that before me I could lepp over the
moon."

"It was the owld grey mare that was waiting till me back was turned to
lepp into me lettuce plot," said Johanna, whose heart and body were
heavy.

The cattle lowed questioningly at this disturbance of their habits. The
dogs--brave heelers and intrepid kangaroo chasers--yelped and whined and
rolled on their backs in impatience to be gone. Danny took the pipe from
his mouth to kiss his family good-bye. This weapon did not look so big
with a beard around it. His beard at twenty-five was sleek and fine, and
had the goatee contour of the whiskers of the great Earl of Cork, to
whose portrait, by Paul Van Somers, Danny bore a resemblance.

"If you get lonesome, shut the house and away to Mrs Wade. You and the
children are more important than all the country."

He mounted and took off his hat and looked back, while the mare pranced
and spluttered to overtake her company.

"The woild blacks up there maybe will eat ye," called Johanna.

"Why put such a calumny on quiet people," he laughed, and rode into the
boundless day with the ancient enchantment upon it.

Johanna took her child's hand and watched the path against snakes. Their
despatch with a stringy-bark sucker with a knob remained an ordeal to
her. Maeve was her mainstay in this. The flicker to be seen in the dark
people's eyes lit in hers at the sport, and she had to be trained to
forgo such rich food.

Danny travelled with a paean in his heart, his eyes towards the ramparts
that swept southwards to Brisbane Plains--the Monaro of to-day. The
dazzling clarified atmosphere imposed no border on distance but eternity,
and had a liberating effect. Nearer lay Limestone Plains, where to-day is
the parliamentary city, conceived and planned in a spate of democratic
idealism.

The tourist, succeeding the traveller, who early followed the explorer,
may look across that view to-day, and see, still undefaced by man, the
haunting beauty of the ranges wearing the ages down tenaciously. He can
choose for himself where across them was the way of Daniel Brian Robert
M. Delacy. Delacy's Gap and Delacy's Peaks sentinel the distance, though
the old name is wearing faint with the passing of living memory, and new
names are being substituted in compliment to petty officials. Where Danny
raised his first hut may be known by the abrupt gorge, like the cleft
keep of an ancient fortress, through which the river winds. The spot was
familiar to the blacks as Burrabinga, or the jump, where a giant once
leaped across with thunder and lightning in his spears. The homestead, an
agglomeration of the years and the generations of Delacy, was for long
one of the best known in the southern district.

A stockman going towards Ginninginninderra crossed Danny's track at noon
with the news that the tribes of Monaro anti those from lower down the
Murrumbidgee had been mustering for a week. They had arrived lean and
mangy from Riverina, but several weeks' feasting, topped off with
boogongs, had put a gloss on their hides and filled them with virility,
which in all tongues is synonymous with fight. A battle was expected.

"Be the poipers, 'twill be an exhilarating spectacle," exclaimed Delacy.

The cattle, who could sense the approach of aborigines two or three days
distant, had to be driven in a northerly direction from the smoke
signals. Two days pressed travelling brought them to Keebah, where there
was a good crossing. Delacy was welcomed by Urquhart and his wife, two
young settlers with three infants. Urquhart was Danny's age, and his wife
five years younger.

The house was the farthest-out convict-built house in its direction. The
third generation of Urquharts used to exhibit the staples in the
cellar--to which delinquents had been chained--as the patent of their own
gentility, until the Federal authorities shore their outer runs from the
home paddocks like the belly from a fleece lest the inhabitants should
pollute the watershed of the new city, and thus dislodged a number of
early settlers and endowed them with bitter views on Government
resumption of land.

At the end of a pleasant visit, Delacy pushed on for another twenty
miles, where the horses and cattle drew together baulking on the edge of
the precipices which guarded his valley.

"Sure, ye'r honour, 'tis impassable," said Dunn.

"Impassable, by damn!" shouted Danny. "I have the intintion of breeding
horses that could manipulate a steeple. This mare can be the pioneer.
I'll go first. Rouse them up to follow."

With an "arrah" or two, the long-suffering brood mare was urged forward,
and nervously sought the safest place to set her hooves, where later her
progeny romped with the assurance of goats. The man on her back forced
his flesh to the dictates of his mind, and horseflesh had to conform.
Down she went, snorting, sliding, sitting, scraping the hide off her
hocks, and with Dunn compelling the packed animals pinch by pinch in her
wake. The dogs heeled the cattle and horses between Dunn and their leader
and they came to the foot of the descent without loss.


The cattle settled for the night. Snow was falling in defiance of the
calendar and had purged the air of the disturbing aborigines. The men
made fires for warmth and to scare the dingoes. The dogs drew attention
to an object which Danny found to be a native boy of ten or twelve years
in the ashes of a dead fire. He was in a pitiable condition: the front of
his torso was deeply burned: he made no movement.

Delacy carried the suffering creature to his camp and wrapped him in his
own blanket. The charred body was softened with grease, protected from
the weather, and had a few drops of rum forced down its throat. Later
Danny tried to feed his patient on a morsel of bandicoot, taken from the
dogs and roasted, but he could not swallow.

Next day Danny anti Dunn had to carry the boy in a blanket. He lay
motionless and on the brink of death during the difficult transit. The
dogs worked among the stock and at dusk the men rigged a canvas shelter.

"Sure, 'twould be aisier for ye'rself and him, ye'r honour, if you
finished him now," said Dunn. "I've seen them shoot down manny a fine
buck on the north coast whin I was serving rue turrn. They do be saying
that they're not human, but only animals."

"What haythen promulgated that idea? Am I a murderer to choose between
the colour of a skin? I show aquil respect to humanity whether it is
black, white or yellow, bond or free."

He wrapped his invalid against frost-bite, while Dunn rode around the
cattle and returned to report that a couple of blacks were spearing a
heifer.

"And you to be letting them," yelled Danny, seizing Dunn's nag.

Later it was well-known from the Yackandandah to Yass that Daniel Delacy
had no fear of anything--a surer protection than the old musket.

He galloped up to the aggressors--if that were the right term--dismounted
and made signs of friendliness in the manner of Governor Davey's
proclamation, and he bellowed--simply bellowed. It was said that in
middle life he could sit on his verandas and converse with stockmen miles
out on the run, so powerful his lungs, so resonant his voice, produced in
the deep-chested Irish way, which is rarely muted by self-consciousness.
He tried to convey that he gave the speared beast, but that the warriors
were to touch no others. The fervour of his utterance, his blue eyes
glinting conspicuously in the tan, impressed them. They made signs of
peace. Danny rode around his cattle all night, but there were no further
depredations.

On the day following, other blacks appeared, among them some who had
feasted on the lumpy-jawed beast at Bewuck. Danny gathered from the
pantomime that the story of the fosterage of Maeve was being told. They
traced the burned boy to Danny's camp--possibly coming to bury him--and
were impressed by seeing him alive and cherished. Danny had established
himself as a superman, a big pfella chief, a popular corroboree theme. He
had not embroiled himself by defence.

The boy's name was Doogoolook. He was left with Danny, and as soon as the
beast was devoured, the tribe moved towards the black rock of prehistoric
ages which still guards their borah rings.

Danny was safe to "tail" his cattle so that they would home in the
valleys. He and Dunn made a hut of logs with a lean-to called a
"skilling" and a roof of stringy-bark.

"A prodigious country, Dunn, to provide a roof for the skinning of it
from the trees. A fine thing too to be killing a few trees in the
process."

For weeks, the eyes alone showed that Danny's patient lived. Danny did
not flag in greasing him, and fed him on skilligalee procured from the
blood of wild animals. He talked to him in loud and cheerful tones, but
no response came from the emaciated half-cooked frame. A bitch, brought
to supply successors to casualties from snake-bite or kangaroo maulings,
kept the sores as clean as anything science could devise, and one day
when Danny was eating his own meal of duck, his charge reached for a
discarded bone.

"Be the poipers! We shall have ye as strong as the Bull of Cooley or the
_cervus giganticus_ before long."

Dunn was unable to endure the stench of the fat on the creature in the
blanket, but Danny's ardour for results rendered him superior to bad
smells. He contributed a shirt as bandages for the sores, and a pair of
trousers cut off at the knees. The remnants of moleskin made a comforting
breastplate. The boy began to walk. His limbs were sound.

"Why does he never make a sound?" Danny would demand. "Maybe he's dumb,
ye'r honour."

Danny thereupon yelled behind the child but he gave no sign of hearing.
"There's deaf and dumb whites, and sure, this is a black wan. Doesn't
that show that he is human and aquil with us? How shall we teach him
anything at all?" After pondering Danny decided, "I'll have to keep him
as a pet. He'll be an astonishment to me wife."

The cattle settled in the valleys contiguous to the hut. Danny warred
against the trees with ring-barking--the new aid to destruction--added to
fire. The weeks disappeared like quicksilver. Only two callers penetrated
to the fastnesses--a man who helped to hump provisions from Keebah, and
an adventurer from Limestone Plains. Danny had had but one chance of
sending a message to Johanna. The heavy frosts of May brought him to a
sense of the calendar. One day he brought the mare back on her haunches
with a Nell. "Be the poipers, the youngster must have arrived, and me not
to have remembered!"

He could not be sure to a few weeks in the months, nor a day or so in the
week, where he was. He returned to the hut as if pursued. "Give me a bit
to eat. I'm off to Bewuck. There's important business I should have been
there a month past for. You give an eye to the stock," he ordered Dunn.
"If you want rations, you can make out to Keebah."

Doogoolook ran after his master like a dog, so he had to stop and catch a
second horse and furnish it with an improvised bridle and a piece of bag
for a saddle, with greenhide loops for stirrups.

"Maybe I'll be back within a week, arid maybe not till ve see me," Delacy
shouted, his horses on the run.

His intention of riding night and day had to be abandoned because of
Doogoolook, whose body was not all healed. They reached Bewuck three days
later, the dogs announcing their arrival. Johanna took her second child,
little Della, and sat on the verandah facing the river.

Hannon came forward for the horses through a gate painted green, and
Doogoolook, at a sign, went with him. Kathleen Moyna was so shy that she
ran from her father and clung to the leg of Hannon, the ex-lag. Danny
went inside with fear in his heart because Johanna had not come to meet
him.

"Good day, is me wife well?" he asked of the strange woman who met him at
the threshold.

"Quite well, sir."

"Johanna, me brave Johanna, where are you?" he called. He ought in every
room for her. "Johanna, I've come home." She urned her head away and
looked so thin and frail that he was artled. "The child that was coming,"
he murmured.

Her eyes flashed scornfully. "Ye might well ask! Ye to stay away all that
toime without wan flick of proper affection as husband or her!" Danny was
smitten mute, shamed that he had forgotten his impending fatherhood.

"The foinest boy ye ever saw, and him to be born dead by all I underwint.
Lonesomeness and fright! The trees everlastingly moaning like banshees,
and the bunyip screaming like wan murdered, night after night. Sure,
Maeve and Hannon both tracked him as plain as bull beef on the flat rocks
around the hole."

Danny did not scoff at the bunyip. "I'm sorry, Johanna. Sure, are things
that can't be explained."

"There are plinty of them with ye, Daniel Delacy."

"I'm glad you have a woman with you, Johanna."

"Was I to be alone here with Hannon, a scandal for all the world and
Walter Moore another? I wrote to Mr Moore and he took pity on me and sent
the woman."

"Sure, Hannon is a quiet, harmless man."

"You need to be more rational."

"So a boy, and it dead," repeated Danny, subdued. "I'll need o recast me
operations."

"Ye'll need to mind ye'r ways. I can stand no more. It's nothing but a
snake killer in a territorial prison ye've reduced me to."

He dared not caress her. He retreated for the present.

He noted the rough chairs made elegant with paint, and was touched by the
efforts towards refinement. Everything seemed prosperous and ship-shape,
so really and comfortably a home to be proud of, that he was convicted of
dereliction as a husband.

He made friends with Maeve and Kathleen Moyna. "Sure a brother for you,
Maeve." Maeve smiled at Doogoolook and quickly discovered his disability.
He clung to Danny, who returned to Johanna with him and the girls.

Johanna refused to look at him. "Ye can run after every black and Tom
cat, and let ye'r own die forgotten," she said.

Danny had to go to the kitchen and eat with Doogoolook, and he persuaded
him to sleep there until a "skilling" could be erected for him. Danny was
cheered by the sight of his yearlings, the nucleus of the Delacy walers.

He had to dismount from the charger of adventure and propitiate Johanna,
not without fear that he might lose Burrabinga. Having retired from the
field of gallantry at eighteen, he was rusty in its graces, but he was
urgent to revive Johanna's affection. He devoted himself to her
throughout the winter, the more so because Walter Moore quartered himself
at Bewuck for weeks. He was a lascivious fellow and had long been the
bane of Johanna's life. Danny, who thought no evil, was at length
convinced of Walter's wicked intentions. "Sure, 'tis a grief that he is
the son of the best friend we ever can have. Otherwise I'd scald him with
a kettle of hot water without anny compunction whatever. Come with me
away to Burrabinga, Johanna, and you'll escape him and be with me to
build up our fortune."

Such was the burden of his lay, until Johanna knew that further
resistance would be useless, though her melancholy heart would not rise.
In Danny's eyes was the light that had lit them in the far' days of
Ennis, when, as a way to escape O'Gorman and have her love, she had
consented to flee to New South Wales--a cataclysmic experience to one
whose dream was an orthodox home with good carpets, china and napery.
Hardship, suffering and loneliness had been her portion.
Childbearing--four children and only two surviving--had weakened her for
marital combat. In the intoxication of passion she had chosen Danny
against her family, her country and her God, and could not now rebel. She
had no one behind her. Marriage was inviolable in her world, divorce a
scandalous phenomenon, a woman who deserted her husband a social outcast.
Johanna had to cleave unto Danny now though the allure was no longer
potent. The thrilling enfranchisement of her husband's early conjugal
behaviour had degenerated to that sheepishness and self-consciousness
irritating to a wife.



CHAPTER V


On another grand long day Danny set off once more for the hills. Four
children and Johanna had to be transported this time. The ravines between
Keebah and Burrabinga were impassable for vehicles. Doogoolook, quick at
understanding and making signs, was free from the venial sins of white
boys. He and Maeve shared one nag. Johanna had another and a side-saddle
to herself. Kathleen Moyna had a quiet old mare and Della clung on behind
her sister. Dunn had lately ridden down to find out what had become of
his master, and was now in charge of a string of pack-horses.

Hannon had married the woman sent by Mr Moore, and they were left to keep
Bewuck in order.

Johanna stayed two days at Keebah with Janet Urquhart, and from the
amenities of this home drew fresh courage to advance beyond the
surveyors, beyond the security of roads and fences.

During the descent, Danny had to go beside Johanna, while Dunn had the
children. Urquhart and Doogoolook guarded the pack-horses against the
fate of the Biblical swine. Dusk fell before the last lap, so Danny
camped at his spring where the clearest, coldest water in Australia
bubbled straight from the earth amid tree-ferns and maiden-hair. The
children had their foster relatives to introduce them to wonderland.
Johanna was weary and busy with the meal, while the men took off the
packs and prepared the bedding.

Danny had brought the colt, named Nullah-Mundoey by the blacks, and went
back to fetch him up to the company.

"He'll never go down the precipices, ye'r honour," said Dunn.

"What is there to prevent him, if I make up me moind?"

The animal, through being left behind, was heady. Danny admonished him.
"On with you! You'll soon be in the valley, and then a gentleman's career
among the ladies ever after, strutting about with a mug of consequence on
you."

The second day was a repetition of the first and Johanna grew more
depressed by the prison-like features of her retreat. Nearing dusk, the
hut was reached. Johanna could have wept with weariness and despair, but
Danny felt the elation of a conqueror. He could envision his domain
denuded of the native standing armies, a place worthy of many sons to he.

"Come in, me brave Johanna. Here's your second home, all ready waiting
for you. In another twenty years think what it will be, and us still in
our prime."

"'Tis Bunratty Castle* itself," she sighed, "and ye not contint with
_seeing_ it. Surely, Danny Delacy, this is the furthest extremity of the
globe, and there is no further place to drag me, but Purgatory itself."

[* Bunratty was a castle in County Clare "so strong that besiegers often
had to content themselves with viewing it from a distance."]

Johanna was repelled by the grime and uncouthness of her hut. It had been
a dreadful drop from Moore's to Bewuck; now she was at the end of a much
longer fall from amenities, friends, music, books and every elegancy,
even those attainable by green paint, and mortar of chopped horsehair and
cow dung to fill cracks. The children could nearly run between the slabs
of Burrabinga wails. More birds riotously guffawing, and higher
precipices than at Bewuck hastened the night. Doogoolook had already
exhibited a snake. The situation was too depolarizing for tears.

However, when hunger was satisfied, retreat to bed by the light of the
fire in the big hearth was a relief from fatigue. All were soon asleep
but Johanna, who turned over the realization that never again would she
see the soft green plains of County Glare with its old homesteads
nestling amid pet trees and friendly shrubs. Out on the flats, amid the
tussocks and the thickets of tea-tree, the plovers were almost as
plentiful as the ducks. More curlews than elsewhere--for these be
solitaries--came as night deepened, and their chorale arose above that of
the dingoes. Curlews were the banshee birds of Johanna's childhood, but
these in the swamps of Burrabinga wailed the same melody as those in the
sedges of Clare, and the homesick immigrant fell asleep comforted by a
familiar voice in a strange lost land.

If ever woman earned an inheritance for her sons in Australia it was
Johanna, but that night she was conscious only of the bruising of those
impossible descents where it was too rough to sit on a horse, where a
false step would have sent her crashing over the precipice. Now the
mountain was a mighty bastion to imprison her among fearsome trees so
high that they shut out the heavens--a frightening land of endless
forests far from the gentle Shannon.

In the morning she found that the river had none of the mourning trees of
the Murrumbidgee, and was lined with ferns more beautiful than those in
the hot-houses of the gentry in Limerick. The children found the
blossoming grevillea (rosmarinifolia) and adored it as ducks and drakes,
and plucked the chookies of the banksia--misnamed honeysuckle. The valley
was white as Ireland's May with tea-tree, and blue with mint shrub, a
paradise replete with flowers for the children. Doogoolook and Maeve were
conjurors as well as reliable guardians. The girl laughed with the
jackasses and cawed with the crows, and reproduced the heavenly warbling
of the magpies; they had wild things' eggs for toys, their young for
pets.

All importation had to be on pack-horses that negotiated the worst
pinches on their hocks. Everything possible was manufactured on the spot.
With axe and adze Dunn quarried tables and stools from green wood as
heavy as lead. Mattresses of sacking filled with grass were placed on
stringy-bark on pegs sunk in the floor. The shutters were of greenhide.

"The peasants around Ennis would be surprised to see our bothy in the
glen," observed Johanna.

"Moi, woman, the peasant's crib is a crumb begrudged from the overlord's
spoils in an effete civilization. Our shortcomings must be endured only
till the population advances."

"'Twould be rational to wait till the population had advanced."

"Och, you have no reason at you. We waited till the population was out of
bounds."

Pelts of dingoes, wallaroos and beautiful possums were to be had for
little effort. Those of half a dozen subsidiary species were not worth
garnering. Fur rugs replaced blankets, skins cushioned the rough chairs.
Johanna, tenacious in gentility, never surrendered her napery, though a
special pack-horse had to import Russian sheeting. The earthen floor was
carpeted by the hide of a packhorse, who had lost his life in pioneering
at Delacy's Cutting. For ornaments there were emu eggs and lyre birds'
tails, bullock horns and the skin of the speckled echidna, but Johanna
craved china, pictures and cross-stitch mats, and vases with glass
dangles like those which decorated the withdrawing room of her aunt in
Limerick. And, oh, for the sideboard at Cooley Hall with its carved
foxes' heads, and the stand in the hall with its ashplants and blackthorn
sticks!

In time she had a garden meagrely furnished with immigrant plants. She
struggled to extirpate anything native as a weed. She lacked originality
to knead unfamiliar products into the dough of culture. She taught Maeve
and Kathleen Moyna their letters. She instructed Maeve in her own
catechism as she remembered it without the text, left at Cooley Hall, and
forbidden by Danny. If she had not been excommunicated she could have
found ease in describing her surroundings to her home folks, but she had
no one with whom to correspond. She was starved by the spiritual
emptiness of her days, but she grew reconciled in homemaking. She never
had Danny's luminous satisfaction in pioneering. He was a torch of
purpose; she had to step as well as she could in the rugged pathway
lighted by that torch.

The blacks did not trouble them. They stopped on the far side of Numba
Nanga, distant some days' ride. Danny gave them a beast or two each
season. His live stock were prolific. He grew wheat, potatoes, maize,
pumpkins and other vegetables.


Two winters slipped around and Johanna had a male infant in her arms.
Janet Urquhart had come up from Keebah to attend her. She was a stiff,
fattish woman and found the journey down the pinches almost as arduous as
parturition.

With this son Johanna recovered her pluck, and Danny his desire for
expansion. He had not dared to go farther than Keebah all this time, and
had managed Bewuck by sending Dunn down at intervals. This was a tribute
to his consideration for Johanna, as he lacked ability to delegate, a
weakness which kept him from multiplying his own man power.

He was short of money to entice labour. In the Colony, farm labourers and
grooms buried their avocations in the general term of rouseabout, and
added the work of carpenter, builder, blacksmith, butcher or other trades
according to their capabilities. Those were the years of the tussle
between Wentworth, patriotic native son, and Gipps, ablest of Governors.
The Governor had to support the Crown against Wentworth's claim for local
control of immigration, land sales, police, education and so on, and
among the cross currents, speculation in land and general mismanagement
bore their usual fruits.

The nadir year of 'forty-three was reached. Banks failed, many people
were bankrupted and there were more than a thousand unemployed in Sydney.
No one had money to employ labour or buy land. Fine bullocks brought only
ten or fifteen shillings per head. Boiling-down establishments were
rendering them for 5/- each. In the bad 'forties tallow was one of the
Colony's chief exports. Delacy mustered cattle in the hope of disposing
of them at Goulburn, where there was a boiling-down establishment.
Johanna was willing to remain alone with Maeve, while Doogoolook, as well
as Dunn, helped to steady the cattle beyond the Murrumbidgee departure.
He was now such a part of the pipe that he did not remove it. His family
used his brow for kissing. "You won't be alone for more than four days,
barring accident. Nothing could harm you here. The bushrangers are a
thing of the past."

"I might he glad of their company," said Johanna, brave indeed, tossing
her head.

Danny was riding a "foine lump of a colt", which required a breaker, but
Danny was undaunted. The cattle were so tame after the first tiring day
that he sent Doogoolook back at once. Dunn went across the Murrumbidgee,
and then Danny pushed on alone to Bewuck. Hannon helped thence for a
couple of days, when Danny dispensed with him also, intending to pick up
the first helper available.

He could not dispose of his cattle at Goulburn, and was proceeding to
Parramatta when he met a dealer who offered a decent price if Delacy
would help him on the way to Bathurst. To this Danny agreed. He sold
everything but the Nullah-Mundoey colt and his old pack mare, and with
these steered at right angles to Major Mitchell's Murrumbidgee line on
his way home after five weeks' absence.

He rode through rolling or hilly country on his strapping horse. The tall
trees, the bright birds, the quaint animals filled him with wonder and
delight. The spaciousness, the opportunity to pioneer was sufficient to
his energy. "No man needs arms to protect himself from annything but
jungle 'beasts," he was thinking, "and they don't exist in this paradise;
and dayvil if anny one could expect people to be more civil than the
natives."

The quiet pace of the fat cattle and the luscious kangaroo grass were as
energizing to horse-flesh as boogongs to aborigines, and Lancelot
Nullah-Mundoey was flash. When Danny stood in his stirrups and shouted
"Arrah!" Lancelot was provoked into a tidy buck. A masterly prop landed
his rider on the hard ground, stunned. Lancelot made off and devoted
himself to getting rid of the slippery new saddle which had expedited
Delacy's fall.

Sunstroke would have finished him on that blazing day but for the
meat-eating ants. Pain partially brought him to. Subconsciously he
crawled to the shade of a tree. There was no settler within leagues, but
a few miles eastward, two bullock drays were snailing their way from the
Port to one of the stations farther out, and were to cross Danny's track
at sundown.

Mr Alwyn Evans, from Kilpoonta, two hundred miles farther along the
overlanders' line, had gone down many weeks earlier to meet his bride,
who had come out from England. On the previous day he had ridden forward
because of rumours of hostile tribes on the Lachlan, and the fear that
the home, which he had worked four years to establish in Major Mitchell's
wake, might be in ashes to meet its mistress. The Rufus affray and other
disgraceful incidents were only a year or two past. He had left his wife
with the drays, and several assigned men, who had proved themselves
trusty partners.

The dogs found Danny. The men unravelled the story from the horses'
tracks. Injuries such as Delacy's were common in bravura days. With the
help of her servants, Mrs Evans examined the man for wounds. His body was
snowy where the sun had not touched it. The small shapely hands were
work-roughened, but the delicate feet had always been booted. He was
dressed in slops, the rough shirt none too clean, but in a pocket was a
handkerchief of pure linen, unused. Danny was never a sniffler. The men
were interested that his back was unscathed. It was evident he was a free
man, and probably a gentleman. His papers had gone in Lancelot's
saddle-bag.

Abrasions on the right leg had kept the ants from his eyes and ears. The
flesh was eaten in spots half an inch deep and as large as a Spanish
dollar. The bone was broken. Mrs Evans put her patient in her own
sleeping accommodation and had a hunk prepared for herself in the second
dray.

Danny remained unconscious. Mrs Evans and her men did their best, leaving
cure to Nature. They swung the man on sacking fastened above the bed of
the dray, and went forward through a trying week. Then they were met by
Evans who said that the danger had been averted. He brought a surgeon to
look at Danny, a shepherd from a lonely outpost, a clever man driven to
the Colony by drink, who in the lean 'forties could find no professional
opening. He had his books and instruments and was playing a useful part
in that pioneering which called the flawed, the outlawed and the surplus
to nobler service than falls to many of the sheltered and redundant in
crowded grooves.

There were dangerous symptoms. The leg was beyond setting. The surgeon
hacked it off. There were no women at this station, so Mrs Evans would
not leave Danny. Evans upheld her action though he was rampant to be at
Kilpoonta ere rain should detain them. The swinging stretcher was
improved. They moved forward before a week had ended.

The patient's state was beyond the surgeon, who attended him on the
journey. His escape from death through mortification was a miracle
attributed to healthy blood. Following the amputation he began to groan
and then wandered into delirium. He sometimes called on his mother and
sometimes on Johanna. His accents were Irish. An advertisement describing
him was prepared to await a traveller as far as the nearest post office
and thence to Sydney for insertion in the _Sydney Morning Herald_.

Weeks from the time that Danny had been injured he reached Kilpoonta on
the Lachlan. In the joy of arrival the newly-married pair did not neglect
the stranger. Who was he? Whence had he come? There was not much
machinery for instituting inquiry. The mystery was of lively interest in
the far solitudes.

The surgeon continued to marvel that life could be retained. He would he
more surprised, he said, if the man ever regained his senses as the
symptoms pointed to injuries to the skull. They were unaware of Danny's
wiry constitution and vitality.



CHAPTER VI


Evans's advertisement appeared when Delacy's family had no idea that he
was missing. A lost man in days when convicts were for ever escaping did
not attract much attention.

Moore shared a subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald with a friend in
Sydney; when opportunity permitted he sent Delacy copies, but opportunity
did not occur at the date. Mrs Urquhart did not read and Urquhart was
busy. For one reason or another the news of Danny passed unnoticed.

The surgeon continued to marvel that life could be retained during the
typhoid state which accompanied the gangrene lingering in the amputated
leg. The sufferer showed dangerous irritation under light or noise, so
the window was darkened and he was left in quiet for hours. He would take
a sip of nourishment only from the hand of Mrs Evans. The probability
that he was a person of importance was discounted by his Irish accent,
and the fact that he had not been sought. His hosts had the idea that he
was an escaping Irish rebel. They were conservative, but too kind to hand
over to officialdom any creature so helpless and suffering, and the
surgeon was curious to see how long his patient would last.

Also at that time they had bigger worries than a helpless person to whom
they had grown accustomed. Hostile blacks kept them in suspense. In that
region there had been bitter encounters, with each side guilty of
gruesome atrocities. There were floods, and scab in the flocks, and a
struggle with an unscrupulous overlander, who tried to usurp Kilpoonta.
Evans too met with an accident--broken arm and collarbone--which gave his
wife and the surgeon a second patient. As Mr Evans convalesced, Mrs Evans
had more time for her first patient and insisted that his improvement was
so marked that he would recover. She and the surgeon watched with renewed
interest. The poison slowly drained from the wound and at length youth
and strength returned Delacy from death. No rontgen rays ever revealed to
what extent his brain box had been injured. He regained his mind one
morning following an easy night to find himself in a neat bed. A lady was
sitting near fashioning tiny garments. That was all for the time. He fell
into a long restoring sleep.


A day later he awakened to refinement and easy circumstances as compared
with the primitive hut and fur rugs where he had left Johanna and the
children. The gentlewoman--still sewing--reminded him of his mother in
Ennis, so far away. Was it a dream? If he spoke would this angelic
presence dissolve? He slept again.

When dawn once more reddened the levels, he recognized the guffawing
birds. The lady was replaced by a rough, sunburned man. Neither heaven
nor Ireland.

Another twenty-four hours and he had strength to demand, "Where am I?
What has come to me?"

"You had an accident--nasty crack on the head."

His hand went to his shaven poll. "That dayvil of a Lancelot got rid of
me; to some extint that I should be in bed with me hair off and not to
know it."

His questions were cautiously answered.

"Is rue leg broke?" he demanded, noting the hump in the bedding. "It
certainly is."

Danny was tractable. A broken leg was a mere inconvenience. The surgeon
insisted upon sleep. Danny slept, too weak for anything else. At each
awakening he was increasingly alert. He gave his name and history, but at
intervals the surgeon shut off talk in the interests of Danny's head.

He was astonished to be so far out of his course, and startled when he
found that the season vacated before Christmas was now into autumn. "Be
the powers, me poor Johanna will be thinking I'm dead and eaten by the
blacks all this time. How could it happen that I have been in darkness so
long?...and a centipede could have recovered all his legs since then."

"Fever reduced you to death's door. Crutches are ready when you get a
little strength."

By damn! he'd try his leg that very minute. Mrs Evans was summoned by his
loud tones. She explained gently that the fracture had been compound,
that to save his life, well, it had been necessary to remove a portion of
the bone.

Danny's eyes blazed in blue flame with resistance. He flung the
bedclothes back and saw that the mass of lint stopped short. He shouted.
He tore the linen away and found an unpleasing stump. When he knew that
he had but one leg he gave way, heroically unashamed. Such was his
courage that he could afford to be. Implicit in his spiritual and mental
fibre was a quality that excluded fear of conviction of cowardice, by
himself or others.

Mrs Evans petted him like a child. When his paroxysm subsided he fell
asleep and did not wake until the birds were laughing against the sinking
sun. Had some long lost god endowed them with derision?

Danny sat up. Mrs Evans protested that he would bring on his death. "Not
at all. 'Tis all in the moind, and my moind is set."

Evans could not send a messenger because the blacks were again hostile.
Not a man could be spared. Danny was of opinion that the blacks had not
been properly treated. He suggested that they should be conciliated with
offers of sheep. "Why should ye not pay rint to the poor dayvils?"

This was dismissed as nonsense by the richer and more warlike squatters
who had settled on the overland line. Delacy was a sentimental Irishman
who had long been "out of his head". The alarums of encounters with
aborigines served to detain him while he gained strength.

The tan had faded, leaving his cheeks white. Always spare, his flesh had
wasted to show bones as slender as a girl's. He could have passed for a
boy but for his beard. The pipe had been lost. He declared that he was
the father of three children living, and two dead. His friends' hearts
were moved by the hampering loss of a leg to one with such heavy domestic
responsibilities plus the fate of wresting a livelihood from impenetrable
wilds.

After the first outburst no word of repining was heard. "Sure, better min
than meself have achieved greatness with wan leg." Delacy's cheerful
pluck endeared him to all. At the end of a week he insisted upon mounting
a horse, and would have departed but for the impending siege.

When the blacks retreated towards the Murray, the elder Evans returned
from pursuit and agreed to accompany Delacy. He refused the escort of the
younger brother because Mrs Evans was on the way to motherhood. She gave
her patient her own mare. David Evans limited each day to Delacy's
endurance and to prevent the re-opening of the wound. They cut distance
by passing Keebah.

Danny could scarcely conquer the flesh during the last half-day. The mare
trembled on the edge of the descents, but followed the more ruthlessly
urged animals without falling, while Danny clenched his teeth and hung
on. Evans suggested camping by the spring, now called Breakfast Lookout,
but Danny would not leave his Johanna another night in solitude and
doubt. He thought to find her there. What had she to do but superintend
Dunn and Doogoolook? lie accepted heroic passivity as Nature's design for
women. When he was down on the level he asked for a nip of rum and his
hand shook as he took the flask.

Onward, onward, the pain in his mutilated limb overlooked in the
excitement of return! None but mild ridges remained. The horse track led
where a salt shed was an obelisk of settlement; then the homestead with a
timbered rise beyond. The sun had set behind a wild peak leaving the
cultivation flat and house plot bathed in molten afterglow, and peopled
with birds which had come down from the snow lands for the winter. Scrub
wallabies and kangaroos scurried into the shadows at the approach of the
horsemen.

Delacy raised his Irish halloa, and the shrill coo-coo-ee-coo that he had
learned from his black friends.

"Munny-munny-lumby-adjong-cooo!" *

[* I am indebted to Mrs W. A. Lampe (nee Wilkinson), for this lovely
aboriginal call. She grew up on Yellowin Station, one of the early
squattages situated in the fountain country of the boogongs and tea-tree
and tree-ferns. The first Wilkinsons were gentle with the blacks, gave
them bullocks for their annual feasts, and enjoyed friendship with them.
The gins used to do the station washing, and Mrs Lampe relates that when
they went to the creek for water they were often slow to return. One
piccaninny used to wail when his mother thus left him. The other gins
would try to pacify hint without avail, awl then resort to the call which
meant "Hurry-up, hurry-up with the water!" The last word, "coo", would be
prolonged, and many notes higher--a clear, ringing top note.--M.F.]

No baying of dogs. No whuffing of Rover--pari bloodhound--who guarded the
children and their mother. Not a yelp from a cattle cur. Only the click
of the disturbed plovers, and the vesper chortles of the master ironists
tossed from point to point, taken up and repeated softly from afar, as in
an orchestra--_crescendo-diminuendo-dacapo-coda_.

No smoke above the chimney. The nearing homestead looked strange and
small. Delacy's senses had to accept the impossible. The main portion of
his home had vanished as completely as the fences and lakes that melt
upon approach from the vast levels of mirage land. No woman nor children,
nor black retainer, nor cow; only the voice of the wild river which
deepened a lornness ghostly and dismaying.

They reached the remains of a fire where a home had been. Desolation. It
looked like the work of marauders. There was no message or sign of
Johanna. The blow was too heavy for Danny in his weakness, his physical
agony. He wept and called to high heaven for his wife and little ones,
whom he never more would see.

Evans sat him down gently. He insisted upon camping. Night was falling
and Delacy was unfit to go on. Exhaustion and rum brought him to sleep
despite all.



CHAPTER VII


When Dunn, the ex-felon, turned back from his employer, he thought of a
fellow lag who kept a sly grog shop in the ranges beyond Gounderu. He had
stood to his trust when left in solitude, but a terrible craving,
irresistible as sexual lust, suddenly began to torture him. For years he
had been content with the station ration of rum, but an internal fire now
sent him on a jag of weeks which dissolved his horses and gear. He
returned to consciousness a pariah. Weeks had passed and Delacy would be
home. Dunn felt himself a horse thief and worse. He was compelled to
disappear.

Johanna waited valiantly. Dunn was to have returned at the end of four
clays. At the end of eight she concluded that Danny had needed him for
longer, and composed herself for Danny's return, at the end of a month at
latest.

She had neither messenger nor mail service, but the aborigines had. The
cattle moved restlessly in the gullies of the wild runs. Doogoolook
reported from smoke signals that his people were moving on Burrabinga.
The lad was intelligent and of noble character. He could make himself
understood by signs to Maeve, and she interpreted to Johanna.

She had an idea of making out to Keebah, but the army was approaching
that way, and how was she to climb the mountain walls with a babe in arms
and two little girls?

"Mary, Mother of God, help me," she prayed, dormant phrases coming to her
lips.

The first wave of fear past, her courage and experience re-established
her. These were Doogoolook and Maeve's people, so she sent the lad to
inform them that she would give them some beasts.

The tribe was fat and hearty. Game was plentiful. The boogongs at Keebah
had been more than they could consume. Even the gins were gorged. The
whole family, including gins and piccaninnies, were making a detour to
call on their patrons, out of curiosity, friendliness, and as part of the
annual walkabout. Some of the gins, who wore a rag of clothes, were
already known to Johanna since the Bewuck encampment, and when they
called on her, her Irish warmth delighted them and cemented sisterhood.
They talked to Maeve excitedly in their soft voices and filled the place
with their laughter, in distant aeons captured and standardized by the
big grey kingfishers. They were proud of Maeve's position among the
whites. A miracle greater than reversal of a "boning" had established
Danny as a chief of good magic. Here was Doogoolook, strong and happy, a
member of a white tribe.

In warm weather he dressed in knee pants, and Johanna made him a gaily
decorated shield for his scarred chest, which his people took to be the
regalia of royalty.

"Minetinkit, that pfella budgery!" they guffawed.

In honour of the bullock they staged a feast and a play corroboree, in
which women had the part of accompanists. Johanna was treated with honour
and with her brood beheld a spectacle seen by few white women.

She gave her friends all that she could spare from her stores in the way
of clothes, tobacco, flour, raisins and potatoes. They prized the
potatoes, which the warriors carried away on their spears. They neither
thieved nor destroyed otherwise and at the end of a few days moved on,
working their way down the river before autumn, and looking for fight.
They left the valley unspoiled. Not a tree was mutilated except to
extract a possum. No bush fires followed in their wake. Graciously,
peacefully they had ceded their territory to Delacy.

Enlivened by the leis, Johanna turned with fresh heart to her tasks,
while looking hourly for Danny. He must have gone on to Parramatta, she
concluded, as the weeks ran into the second month. Day followed day, but
no horseman emerged from the mighty aisles of curabbi and peppermint at
the other side of the little flat where the curlews wailed so friendlily.
There was only the ceaseless song of the river like a wild wind, and
chortling birds, the warbling magpies and clouds of other songsters, or
the "pheasants" mimicking her cock, to embellish the haunting stillness
of the cathedral forests, and Doogoolook's shadow-like presence to
accentuate the solitude. At night there were the unfailing boobooks and
dingoes to augment the curlews' concert, and the native cats to make
raids upon her precious hens.

Still no halloa or whip-crack announced Danny's return,

Rations were running low, and at the end of six weeks Doogoolook took a
letter to Keebah. Doogoolook drew with a stick on the ground the fetching
of Urquhart, but Johanna substituted his reading the letter, and
Doogoolook returning next day. This was conveyed by one lie-down in
sleep--head-on-hand with closed eyes--and quick jump-up.

Still a child in years by white standards, and mute, he went faithfully
on his errand; Johanna watched him to the edge of the clearing, and,
bereft of her protector, turned about in he? internment camp and attacked
a snake which had appeared as the boy departed.

She retired early, drawing her chicks about her, but doors cannot be
barred against loneliness and fear. Bewuck, despite its bunyip and ghost,
was by comparison, a centre of population. In those days she grew fond of
Maeve, who was always cheerful, and unafraid of the great bush.

At the end of the fourth day the forest was still without Doogoolook, and
Johanna grew uneasy lest the mare had lost her footing on a bad pinch,
and hurtled into the gulf. However, Maeve was a good fisher, and the hens
laid.

That afternoon Johanna and Maeve went seeking the cow that had escaped,
Johanna carrying the baby. Kathleen Moyna and Della were left at home,
and what happened, who can say? They had heard their mother speak of the
need to keep the fire in because that morning there had been trouble to
relight it from the ashes. From across the clearing Johanna saw smoke
issuing from the roof. She deposited the baby and sped to the rescue. She
readied the threshold in an agony of fear and found the children in
flames. She extinguished the smaller in a tub of water, but Kathleen
Moyna ran screeching into the breeze, with her mother in pursuit. She
caught the child at length, and in beating out the flames was herself
scorched on wrists and hands.

She screamed to Maeve to go after the baby lest ants or snakes should be
endangering him, while she attended to Kathleen Moyna. The house was a
bonfire.

As a fire precaution Danny had placed the kitchen at a ludicrous distance
from the house. In this were the beef casks and other stores, and the
distracted woman had this shelter when the fire in the main house
subsided. Maeve had recaptured the cow, so the babies' principal diet was
assured.

Kathleen Moyna's body was shockingly burned. Mercifully she had passed
beyond consciousness and lay as if asleep. Johanna's hands were so
painful that only despair and the demands upon her kept her from fainting
time after time. The sole alleviation was in keeping her singed flesh in
the cold water of the river. Maeve did the same for the other child, who
was but slightly burned.

Morning came. Della was free from pain and slept safely. The fire had
died out of Johanna's hands, but they were like bladders. She tore up her
undergarments and bound her fingers in grease. Kathleen Moyna still
breathed though Johanna saw that she could not last long, that indeed it
was better that she should not recover, though the mother's heart cried
out against bereavement. The day was loud with jackasses, morn, noon and
evening. The plovers clicked on the eerie flats with their tea-tree
groves, beautiful as Asiatic art, and as alien to the early British
settlers.

There was firewood to place against the loss of the fur robes at night.
Only Doogoolook's remained. Johanna was doubtful of finding the track to
Keebah and transporting three small children, one of them dying.
Doogoolook had taken the quiet mare. It was unlikely that she could catch
another horse. Even so, how could she carry sufficient provisions and
tackle to camp during their slow and painful progress? Maeve was sure
that she knew the way, and that she could carry the baby, with Della also
walking, while Johanna nursed Kathleen Moyna on the horse. Johanna
remembered the Burrabinga to be crossed three times. She had to abandon
the project until her hands could heal. She would have welcomed a
bushranger.


Meanwhile, Doogoolook had reached Keebah. Urquhart and most of his men,
like Danny, were away with sheep to a boiling-down plant. Mrs Urquhart,
with an immigrant woman and a ticket-of-leaver, was at the station, but
they were all illiterate. There was no other neighbour within thirty
miles. They could not understand Doogoolook's sign language, nor he make
sense of theirs. He drew figures to indicate Mrs Delacy and the children.
Those assembled understood that it was something about Mr Delacy. Had he
tumbled down? No. It seemed to be some business between Danny and Sandy.
Mrs Urquhart could only await a person who could read. At the end of
four days Doogoolook grew so uneasy that he slipped away on foot in the
dead of night.

Maeve discerned him reappearing one morning from the boles of the timber.
He conveyed that Mr Urquhart was absent and that the others shook their
heads over the letter. His return gave slight hope, but Kathleen Moyna
ceased to breathe an hour later. Her mother determined to set out for
Keebah with the body. Maeve and Doogoolook yarded the second quiet horse
and it was packed with provisions and the rug. Johanna perched on top
with the dead child, wrapped in a sack, in her arms. The boy took his
turn with Maeve in carrying the baby. Della, clad in charred rags,
toddled bravely at the beginning. Up the steep pinches Doogoolook held
the horse's tail and put Della on his shoulder. In places he had to take
his charges singly. Now and again Johanna struggled along on foot with
her burden, while Maeve, with the baby in her arms, rode with Della
behind her.

Kathleen Moyna had been named for the aunt who had sheltered Johanna, and
also for the cousin who had aided her elopement. Johanna felt that old
Cooley's curse had now reached even to her helpless child. Despair
deadened her anguish and kept her calm. Progress was painful to her
tortured hands in meagre binding, and to Della's scorched face and limbs.

They were settled for a third night when Urquhart found them. He was
shocked by the tragedy and their present plight, and to learn that Mrs
Delacy had been so long alone. He persuaded Johanna to let him take
Kathleen Moyna and left the exhausted party settled with Doogoolook while
he rode hard to Keebah for assistance.

He was back a little after daylight with helpers and comforts, and they
all reached Keebah by ten o'clock that night.

Janet was awaiting them beyond the stables with hot soup and a capacious
heart. Johanna was laid in a comfortable bed. Della screamed with pain
and weariness and clung to Maeve until bread and honey tempted her.
Doogoolook was commended as a budgery pfella in ear-splitting shouts. All
waste of breath, but the gestures nourished his affections. Finally all
were at rest.


Kathleen Moyna was buried at the foot of the flower garden beside an
Urquhart infant who had succumbed to convulsions.


Delacy's horses had not returned and there had been no letter from him,
though the mail had been collected from the nearest township. Janet kept
Johanna in bed. To ease her mind Urquhart rode to Bewuck and thence to Mr
Moore at Bandalong. He returned without news of Delacy. Mr Moore was much
concerned. He started inquiries, but by now the Evanses were no longer on
the alert for anything of the kind.

Johanna felt in her lonely nostalgic mind that Danny had deserted her for
livelier adventures or the seductions of a fresher woman. This was unjust
to her experience of Danny. Urquhart maintained that it was too early to
regard Delacy as a deserter, that he was a pure merino who would not
abscond from a fine young wife and children.

"Straight goers among men," said Johanna, "nevertheless don't care how
crooked they are with a woman whin another takes their eye."

Mrs Urquhart nodded her head, and Sandy, remembering passages, steered
from the subject.

Urquhart and Moore were of opinion that violence had ended Delacy. The
disappearance of Dunn, transported for a criminal act, lent colour to
this. Urquhart tried to rally Johanna, but she was haunted by sick fears
and lacked inner sanctuary. She had repudiated her own creed and could
not adopt Danny's personal brand of free thought. No dogma guilty of
imposing mental shackles could have lasted with Delacy. Even in youth,
tolerant and philosophical though he was, Johanna had found him adamant
in Protestantism in so far as it meant freedom of thought. No womanly
blandishments had ever affected him in this direction; as well have tried
to cajole him to dishonesty. It was hard on Johanna. She accepted her
trials as emanating from her father's curse, and retreated upon stoicism.
The Uquharts were Presbyterians. With them she found hospitality,
friendship and companionship after loneliness, but no religious solace.

Her future had to be considered as the weeks passed without news of
Danny. Mr Moore wanted her back at Bandalong. Johanna desired to return
to Bewuck. Danny or no Danny she had renounced Burrabinga for ever.
Hitherto she had accepted the faithful Doogoolook as complacently as a
dog, but now, despite his muteness, he had become something between an
elder son and a younger brother.

Mrs Urquhart's welcome never waned. Her comfort in a companion was born
of woman-scarcity and isolation, and the Delacy children mingling with
the Urquhart's added zest to life.

So time sped and another day had broken at Burrabinga. Rain had
obliterated tracks long since, but Evans found utensils that had been
used after having been through the fire, and potatoes remained as
evidence that there had been no robbery by blacks.

"Your family will be safe with the nearest neighbour," Evans remarked.

Danny's soul was renewed by hope. He set out for Keebah immediately, but
his mind could not force his tortured flesh to the whole journey in one
day.

It was a great moment when the travellers came within range of Mrs
Urquhart's candles. Here was a Danny with one trouser leg pinned up, a
Danny no longer as swift as a steel spring in recoil, an emaciated
fragile Danny noisily clouting his way, but with authentic flame-blue
eyes and booming voice, dismissing his pain in the excitement of finding
wife and weans, with Doogoolook executing capers of welcome; a Danny
without self-consciousness as to how a wife might regard a mutilated
spouse, a crippled breadwinner; a Danny so overjoyed that speculations
about his Johanna's attitude were crowded out.

Her resentment of imagined desertion was washed away in the reunion, but
site was conspicuously pallid and unresponsive, the iron of tragedy fresh
in her soul. The full extent of the catastrophe could not be withheld
from Danny. He was already so near to collapse from pain and exhaustion
that Evans enlisted Mrs Urquhart to prepare a bed and in it, with the aid
of rum, his charge took this final blow lying down.


Delacy survived that journey as well as the shock of the calamity that
met him, though he was compelled to lie up for several weeks at the
Urquharts'.

He spoke of erecting another hut at Burrabinga, but Johanna vetoed this.
"Me wits forsook me to go there in the first place to such a lost
hole--collecting asses' loads of sorrow and heart-scald. Even ye should
have more sinse than to think ye can scale those walls with wan leg. 'Tis
a goat with four ye had better be, for ye'r owld Bunratty Castle."

"Arrah! Haven't I just been up and down with me wan leg, and me not yet
restored to full fighting trim. Wan leg is as good as two if the moind is
set."

"And what is more, Danny Delacy, while ye are capering about from wan
place to the next, how am I to know if the leaks in the roof at Bewuck
haven't dripped on me few best bits, and the weevils to have eaten the
rest, if the place is not burned down entirely and somewan walked off
with the unprotected remains?"

Danny's leg was, still as sensitive as a boil, and his head had an
unprecedented tendency to ache in the sun. He took to an outsize in straw
wide-awakes that year and filled it with the cool leaves of the
peppermint. When his head had recovered, the leaves had become a habit.
They made his head look enormous, but his actions, motivated by utility,
were unrestricted by what the timid might think. When the wags made him
their butt, he was contemptuous, "With the wits of jackasses, and
destitute of conversation, they should be thankful that I supply a
subject."

The death of Kathleen Moyna, combined with Johanna's attitude and state,
forced him to relinquish Burrabinga temporarily. He attributed his
retreat to advancing winter and the need to procure an artificial limb.
He was so proficient with his crutch that he sometimes resembled an
escaping kangaroo. As soon as his strength returned, he departed with
Doogoolook, leaving Johanna at Keebah.



CHAPTER VIII


The voice of the aboriginal Dryopes held the welcome of old acquaintance
for Johanna as she descended the gorge. The cause of their lamentation
had retreated beyond the conjecture of mythology, but its melody was now
consonant with Johanna's mood. Like Queen Pomare--lately dethroned--she
would never permit one of her casuarinas to be cut down, and, in later
years, when she rarely left home, she missed the lullaby of river and
trees. Having survived searing ordeals, she was relieved by comparative
peace, and revived among her prized household possessions, though there
was now in her emotions a chamber sealed and silent, sacred to Kathleen
Moyna. Contentment gradually grew out of acceptance. The exiled daughter
of Erin graduated as a citizen of New South Wales.

She had renounced the mountains for ever.

Not so Danny. Unconquerable longing assailed him each time he came up
from the chasm through which the Murrumbidgee elbows its way to the great
plains. As he would rein-in to pick out the notch in the ramparts that
led to Burrabinga, he would fall into worshipful contemplation of the
ranges, thrown one upon another like storm waves petrified when the world
had cooled. Their foreverness soothed and inspired. The dignity of
permanence lay on a view superb as that from Edessa in Old Greece down
the valley of the Vardar towards Olympus. But the view towards Salonika
is bearded with legend reaching back to the dawn of human history. The
spoliation and squalor, the desecration and degradation of which human
history is compounded equally with glory, had been cleansed from Delacy's
province since eras lost in time. There for the dreamers, the
path-finders, the road-makers with the forcefulness to project their
personality upon their environment, lay a world inviting light-hearted
effort and glamorous deeds.

"Oh, moi, oh, moi!" Delacy would ejaculate out of that emotion which
suffuses the receptive soul when refreshed at the well of beauty or
nobility. He would flap his horse with his big hat, scattering the
contents like moths about him, and go on his way with a tag from the
classics or a verse from the song books, whose contents were deciphered
by the light of camp or hut fire and put to a tune by the musical, or
bellowed with tuneless satisfaction by the less gifted.

Bewitched anew by the ranges, Danny would be restless. "A man is a fool
to leave that territory, after all the preliminaries, till it is jumped
on him."

"Better it be jumped by another fool next time. You a cripple. Bunratty
Castle, a prison of stone, crags fit only for the blacks to pick grubs,
and the native dogs to howl in."

"When me artificial limb is attached, 'twill make a power of difference."

"Little difference! Ye'd better learn reason in time."

Danny was ambitious for an apparatus made by a renowned artisan in
Sydney, who had learned his craft after the Napoleonic campaigns, but the
tragedy of Kathleen Moyna was too fresh for him to disregard Johanna's
views. He occupied himself by clearing more cow paddocks on the river
banks. In the mortal combat with the trees--a combat waged by every
settler--there was enough to engage his depleted energy and impeded
activity for a year or two. He dreamed of having his holding as clear as
the plains of County Clare, with mayhap a ladylike imported tree or two
for ornament, and an orchard about the house.

Where Danny extirpated so ardently, the curious can find to-day a
well-grown forest. A gnarled stick or two of quince trees withstand the
sheep amid native shrubs just below the bunyip hole. Where Johanna set
her garden, still live the flag lilies--royal emblems of republican
France. Those educated to explore pioneer homestead sites may discern
amid the lusty yellow-box and wattle trees the ridges of Danny's first
cultivation. There are the "lands" where earth, purified by a thousand
years, nay, aeons of fallowhood, first gave up its grannie grubs to the
magpies who warbled liquid notes of thanksgiving, and to the kookaburras,
who filled the valley with grotesque mirth, so disturbing to Johanna. A
century has mellowed that laughter to enchantment for the children of
Australia, has rendered her exiles nostalgic for the morning and evening
fanfare of glee.

The indigenous standing army, which made and held the earth on the
hillsides, has vanquished a thousand Dannies since then, anti obliterated
their works. Not yet is there understanding of this continent, so
sensitive and gently fierce. Neither conquered nor despoiled, and only in
parts defaced, it challenges the grandsons and great-grandsons and
great-granddaughters of all the half-articulate Dannies to hold or to
lose their incalculable heritage.

Johanna reared turkeys and set up a dairy. She had so much butter that
she stored it in "kags".

Delacy hoped with butter, tallow, hides and other skins to obtain cash to
renew squatting licences for Burrabinga, and to buy an artificial leg. He
groaned to think of his stock being lost in the mountains.

"Yell never be able to get round there again," said Johanna.

"With a new leg, I'd lepp over the moon."

He commissioned the wheelwright at the township to build a dray, and when
he announced that he was going to Sydney, Johanna said that she too would
go. Her nerve had not recovered sufficiently to let him stray alone
again. Danny welcomed her company. Hannon and his wife had a hut beyond
the cultivation paddock, and with Maeve and Doogoolook could take care of
the children. There were now five: Della and Robert; William and Honoria,
the twins born at Keebah; Harry, the youngest, a few months of age. Three
years had gone since Delacy lost his leg.

So the Delacys retraced their early journey along the Great Southern
Road, convict-built from Port Jackson to Port Phillip, which they met at
the Township. Two of Mr Moore's drays travelled with them for mutual
protection. Her Majesty's mails had long run regularly to many points.
Mails by private subscription went quite far out. The contingent of human
beings advancing against the arboreal army of occupation was beginning to
scrimshaw a history at the furthest extremity of the globe, where record
of human achievements had been relegated to recesses of time beyond the
research of ethnologists or archaeologists.

Mrs Delacy and the baby were perched among the malodorous merchandise.
Mounted on Mrs Evans's mare, Danny drove or led his bullocks. The teams
doubled in steep or boggy places. Danny was no bullocky, except thereby.
Not his the patience to become a craftsman in any of his various
activities. He triumphed by force of mind over body. With an "Arrah, by
damn!" he dismissed obstacles. "The moind! The moind! It's all in the
moind!" was the phrase by which his associates best remember him.

A journey of some weeks brought them to the turnpike at the end of George
Street, and they wound downwards to the Quay, impressed by the progress
made in the thirteen years since they had arrived. Many of the wooden
skillings had been replaced by brick houses overlaid with cement to look
like freestone. Some of them were as good as the houses in the better
parts of Limerick. Even the lower orders had verandaed cottages and
garden plots in Pitt Street that were more comfortable than Quebarra,
Glenties or Bewuck. Hyde Park was being reformed from a racecourse.

They went again to the select boarding establishment on Church Hill, with
its patrons of the 'first respectability. Johanna was captivated by the
Markets, which were opened on Tuesdays and Fridays by ringing a bell at 7
a.m., and which were cleansed by water from a pump in the centre.
Everybody was agreed that these premises were so elegant that they were
an amphitheatre rather than a market.

Mrs Delacy loved Sydney and would that her lot had been there. This could
never be with Danny. Neighbours within sight had a stifling effect on
him. He thrilled to wide horizons. His spirit had been endowed by the
seas that belaboured Erin's shores with an impetus unimpeded from the
Pole, or rolled away to America without obstruction. His descent upon
Sydney was a rare spree, an excrescence upon Life. Johanna had rather
that Sydney were Life and the bush a removable excrescence. She was
delighted by a play called _Blackeyed Susan_, preceded by "God Save the
Queen", and followed by _Monsieur Tonson_, a farce.

Danny laughed and clapped with abandon, but more nourishing to him were
the conversations with gentlemen at the boarding house, and anywhere he
encountered them--in hotel bars, in banks and business houses and shops.

While Johanna was disrobing for the night he would serve up a résumé of
the day's pabulum. The Colony was still in the throes of the 'forties,
which had closed the Bank of Australia, and were driving mechanics to
replace labourers at £12 and £15 per annum.

"Sure, the tonnage in the harbour is only fifty per cent of what it has
been. 'Tis a mortal curious state of affairs in a new country when all we
can do is bile down prime beef cattle for tallow, and suffer the stink of
the plants from Yass on the Port Phillip Road to Bungarrabee on the
Western Highway.

"The Colony is wallowing in a general financial stringency which is to be
attributed to the premature and abrupt termination of transportation and
assignment, and the extravagant over-speculation during several years.
Sure, Johanna, I've been talking to a man at the hide store, and there is
a great importation of grain and salted meats and other commodities,
which has sucked the cash from us. I was talking to the manager of the
bank about the high rate of interest on money, together with the monopoly
of bank discounts. Says he, 'Mr Delacy, banks are not philanthropical
institutions. 'Bedad, no,' says I to that, 'they resimble more a
bushranging gang."

"And now whoi would ye be so vulgar to a gintleman like a bank manager?"

"The depreciation of wool in the English market is resulting in the
Colony being in such debt for English goods that the English merchants
have refused further credit," continued Danny in unbroken flow.

Even as it was to be generations after Danny's day!

The wiseacres of his generation were assured that the Colony would
prosper on stringent economy, especially if labour could be procured for
the veriest subsistence wage.

"'Tis a situation to give the old corruptionists a fit of the cholera, if
the presint posture of affairs was permanint; but me moind remains
undaunted as I look ahead. In a young and springing community with
lashings of opportunity, there is no distress in a little stagnation.
'Tis but an opening skirmish to enterprises the extint of which cannot be
dreamt--no, not even by a man who had enough drink to stiffen a tinker,
and him not to be stiffened...Though I can't help but be thinking they
haven't much rayson who want us to be brought to the knees by economy.
Doesn't it stand to rayson that what we want is more consumption of
commodities, not less; and the way to further that would be to double all
the workers' wages instead of halving them."

"It's well that ye came out of ye'r own accord, Danny Delacy, or I'm
thinking, with some of ye'r notions, ye'd have been sint out as a
seditionist."

"By damn! What I say is irrefutable! Couldn't wan with no more intellect
than an eft observe throughout history that we always starve when
commodities are cheap, and when we economize. We thrive when they are
dear. Wouldn't you think, it's so obvious by now, that instid of economy
to right things, they'd experiment on what extravagance and distributing
things to the needy would do?"

"Och, there's no rayson at ye!" said Johanna. "Aren't all the wise ones
at the head of things saying in the paper that it's the expensiveness of
the Government, coupled together with private extravagance, that has
brought us to this pitch of ruin. Didn't I bear that foine gintleman at
dinner say that we have got ahead of German wool growers in the quality
of merino wool, and that it is setting us on our feet again?"

"Sure, did you note he also said that there was ruin in Germany
therefore? There is poor satisfaction to my moind in progress that is
made at the expinse of trouble elsewhere. There can be no stability in
cut-throat capers."

"Sure, I read in the paper with me own eyes that without cheap and
abundant labour the community cannot expect to prosper."

"That's what I'm saying--at the expinse of slaves. I'm free meself and
would wish every man-jack, black and white, to be the sameaquil before
his Maker. If men are beaten down so that they work for rations and
slops, who'll buy our commodities? Answer me that!"

"Och, Danny-boy, if what ye say was true, if it was ye who had the wisdom
at ye, wouldn't they be putting ye at the head of things instead of to be
ignoring ye among the native dogs and the precipices?"

"Wait till I get me new limb. As sure as there is a cross on the ass,
there can't help being abundance for all. Think of the progress! The time
between here and the old country has been cut in half since we came out.
We can now get the Melbourne papers in a few days after they are printed.
Me moind is on the grand future when all these little difficulties of
disorganization will be dissolved."

It was beneath his vision that the human race--most inefficient of
mammals--three or four generations ahead would still be unable to feed
and clothe and care for its members with adequacy though in possession of
a world teeming with every commodity raw and manufactured, and with
inconceivable discoveries and inventions at its disposal.

Delacy attended some of the Usury Debates and met the representative of
his territory in the Legislative Council. "To-morrow I must go see him
again and give him some advice and information."

"'Tis a pity ye couldn't moind ye'r own business and leave a man like
that to his own. Too many can put their hand in ye'r bag. By ye'r
tendency to be always helping others, and a scatteration in ye'r
projects, ye will arroive nowhere in the ind. Let others look after
themselves. They never consider ye."

"Sure, where would I be to-day if Mrs Evans had not made me her business,
but had gone on moinding her own?"

"Och, ye'r waking the baby with ye'r blather."

"Put out the candle, me brave Johanna. I'll be as quiet as a mouse."


Danny disposed of his "kags", and hides and horsehair with fair profit,
considering the financial stringency. In their place he procured axes and
tomahawks, a saw, a tarpaulin, two-and-a-half and three-bushel bags, some
suits of slops, a keg of hurdle and horseshoe nails, a saddle and bridle
bits, percussion caps; striped shirts with linen collars for township
wear; a roll of China matting, and another "kag" of paint as a concession
to Johanna's elegancies. He also purchased American flour and lemon syrup
as delicacies; and Seidlitz powders and castor oil, and bluestone and
tobacco; and Day and Martin's blacking because he got a damaged case
cheaply; and an inspiring pipe to replace the treasure lost these three
years, as well as many another article indispensable to him.

Johanna found a companion at the select boarding establishment and had an
enlivening holiday. Amusements, paved walks under her feet, to have
vegetables, animal and other produce purchasable in the shops--this was
life. It had been her ambition at Cooley Hall, but Danny had carried her
off to a State where everything had to be grown or manufactured. She
revelled as far as the capacity of purse and dray allowed.

She could not resist softest cashmeres and organdies. There were coloured
handkerchiefs, and gimp and bugles for trimming. A pongee handkerchief
and gay print were for Maeve, and a gaudy bundle handkerchief for
Doogoolook. There were slippers and hose, and a leghorn bonnet "richly
trimmed"; and ribbons and perfume and lace; and a gingham umbrella for
4/-. There were green baize and steel busks, a worsted table cover, an
Indian shawl, satin brocade; and a dainty pair of black lace gloves at
1/3. Johanna had an ineradicable joy in elegancies for their own sake.
She had a longing for a set of horsehair furniture, but limitation in
means and transportation postponed these. She compromised on currants and
preserved ginger, a tea set of Staffordshire, and a little music box that
played three tinkling tunes.

Delacy informed himself of the growth of the horse trade with India, and
plumed himself upon the three mares that had travelled with their noses
on the tail of the dray. Cornet of Parramatta, a blood horse of Arab
strain, was to add his lineage to the walers of Burrabinga.

The return journey began as soon as the new leg was ready. When
approaching the Gib they were stuck-up by one of the intermittent bands
of bushrangers that had arisen to attack the mail coaches. All teams and
other travellers were mustered in the hollow awaiting the mail from
Goulburn. The contents of the drays were ransacked. Tea, currants and
flour were emptied on the earth and the teamsters left to salvage what
they could from flies, ants and grit.

Mrs Delacy had a triumph remembered by her descendants. She was still
bright-eyed and handsome and plied a fearless tongue against the robbers.
She was set to cook a meal while the men were bailed-up until disarmed
and relieved of valuables. Danny was for chastising his jailer with his
crutch, to which he still clung. Johanna reassured him, "Sure, they'll do
no harm to an old woman hurrying home to four childre as well as the wan
that's crying for her now."

"The dam of five, and _that_ for a sire! Were men so scarce?" guffawed the
leader of the gang. "Does he put that forty gallon hat on to make him
important?"

"No, to contain his brains," said Johanna.

"And he, the preposterous vaygabond," shouted Danny, "by the same token
would need nothing but a paynut shell."

The man let Johanna keep her trinkets. "Begob, we can afford that to the
only lady with us." Another had been ordered to halt but had whipped her
horse into a gallop. She was a bride, and her husband was forced to
gallop with her. "Let them burst," the man had decreed with a coarse
imprecation concerning newly-weds.

Johanna tried to silence Danny. The leader set her at ease. "We'll not
hurt your tom-tit, missus. He has a voice and a beard, and a pipe in the
middle of it like a real man; and by tripes, what there is of him is
worth a dozen of the pot bellies--swelled with importance and ordering
the lash for their betters. He has no weapon with him but his crutch."

When the coach came and the mailbags were rifled, the travellers were
released without further molestation, but Johanna's taste for journeys
was ruined. After that she talked of trips to Sydney, but never took
them. The growing city as well as the mountains dropped out of bounds for
her.



CHAPTER IX


Delacy's grand artificial limb was a peg with a socket attached by straps
to the waist. He became nimble with it on practice, and Doogoolook's wide
laughter full of teeth, but empty of sound, conveyed that Danny and the
brown horse were now both nullah-mundoeys.

The coolness of valleys and streams draped in ferns and shrubs, their
fragrant aromatic purity, still enthralled him. The encircling ramparts
guarded a kingdom, for which he would have forsaken the bread and butter
of home and wife as for an enchantress. The beckoning fastnesses should
now guard twenty or thirty walers sufficiently mature for the Indian
market.

"And how will ye handle them with but one leg?"

"Have I no ingenuity?"

Refreshed by her excursion into the outer world, Johanna now admitted
that there was property in the mountains, but decreed that never again
should Danny traipse off by himself. Therefore, in company with Hannon
and Doogoolook, he set out once more when summer was bold in the land.
Johanna had Maeve and Mrs Harmon, and an artisan, who knew something of
farm work.

Delacy went by Keebah, and Urquhart accompanied him down the precipices.
The mare had to carry him every yard of the way now. He detached the peg
leg lest in the scrabbling and lurching it be smashed against tree or
rock. Regardless of age or sex, Danny's mount was always a "mare". In
this case it was the imported Irish lady of exquisite paces, given him by
Mrs Evans, when her heart had been touched by his infirmity.

"Mules would be fine for this country," said Urquhart.

"Never wan of the unclean beasts would I run on me country. Nature
repudiates such perversion and allows no further issue. That should teach
a civilized man."

Danny uttered no word of repining about his leg, nor suffered any tremor
that its loss made him less a man.

A nest of bulldog ants occupied the floor of the hut. Bats possessed the
rafters. Wombats had burrowed under the wall plates. Kangaroo rats had
snug homes in tussocks around the door step. From one a black snake
issued to his doom in the shape of Doogoolook.

Urquhart tarried to lend a hand and cast an eye on the country beyond
Delacy's. His sons were growing up. "There's little sense to risk bones
raising cattle in these wilds to make the land stink with rendering them
down."

"But faith, a man who cannot look at the future is only a come-day-go-day
contraption."

When those boys whom Johanna was rearing for him would throw their weight
into the scale they would be bound to Burrabinga by firmer considerations
that a paltry wage and rations of beef and flour, sugar, tea, rum and
tobacco.

Nullah-Mundoey's headquarters were in the fields of kangaroo grass, as
high as his withers, on the burned river bank. The cripple had kept the
mob from dispersing and there was a fine display of mares, fillies and
colts.

With a couple of stockmen Delacy began the trapping and branding of
cleanskin cattle which had retreated beyond the domain of the horses. His
brand and his earmarks were put on all cattle caught. Colts and fillies
had their baptism. Horses with other brands were advertised.

Doogoolook was becoming a marvellous horseman and stockman, and yokels
who came to Burrabinga had to follow his lead. That of Danny was hardly
less daring. He rode the gorges at a furious pace, hallo-ing like a
demon, depending on the "mare". Mind transformed horse and rider. Danny
never fell from the horse nor the horse under him. He raged with
industry from day-break and until long after night fell by the light of
fires in the cavernous hearth. He struggled for money for extra labour,
to put up adequate yards and huts, and above all to make a cutting
around the worst pinches. It was almost more than could be expected of
horses to traverse the precipices when laden. "But with the pinches
reduced, sure an old woman in a donkey cart would have no distress in
flipping back and forth."

Danny classified the live stock. Horses were taken to Bewuck, and Moore's
breakers engaged to prepare them as cavalry chargers. Distraught heifers
and steers went down the river to be tamed. "Och, dragging the life out
of ye'rself and no peace to anny one else," said Johanna.

"What else can a man do for an honest indipindence in a raw country with
no capital but his hands?"

"There's plenty that don't drive themselves so extremely."

"Plenty of vaygabonds like the cattle spoilers of old." Danny waved his
pipe towards squatters; men who had started with capital and whose
fortunes were enlarging like snowballs. "Some of those who would have
driven me off if they could."

"'Tis not in ye to be rich. The rich have more hard-fistedness. And ye
bullock everything ye'rself, and wan man power can't extind. The great
succeeders put other fellows to work for them while they reap the
spoils."

Danny was a pioneer of Australian democracy in its levelling-aspects,
which later socio-economists were to discredit as obstructing to
intellectual progress.

The marriage had shaken down. Johanna now saw Danny and it for what they
were. Danny, in the way of many spouses, had to take adventures of the
spirit without his wife, but he valued her as a nest with eggs in it at
the base of his fortune, while he experimented with the superstructure.
The mountains were his aisling, his Dark Rosaleen. Not that this was a
conscious indulgence, the physical campaign left no time for
introspection nor even for sentiment, until he came to be accounted
childish with age, but he faced the ranges with unabating zest. Arrived
there he had the satisfaction of a bandit in retreat, only that Delacy
had no strain of the outlaw ii him. He was civilized.

The return of the blacks one summer, after two years' absence, was
heralded by the unease of the cattle, which were driven away to safety.
The aborigines' rights as ground landlords in the Burrabinga kingdom were
respected by the payment of two beasts. No one connected with Delacy
would have dared to "disrespect" a gin.

Two chiefs came to the hut and demanded Doogoolook. "I've often wondered
that the wild taste has not come on him," said Delacy to Hannon.

Doogoolook went with his people. The alternative was death. Danny
conveyed that his ward was entitled to a horse, blankets, etc., but this
was disregarded. Danny could not be sure that Doogoolook was happy in
departure, and in the days that followed sorely missed one whom he
discovered to have been as useful as two newly-imported whites. "Sure,
he's one of the whitest men I ever knew."

Two months later he saw a form emerge from the tall trees across the
river, and welcomed the returning Doogoolook. He had attained his
manhood; he pointed to tangible evidence. He was now entitled to marry,
but the gins apportioned to him were the worse for wear, so he had been
allowed to return, perhaps because of his muteness and Delacy's early
rescue of him. The facts are not recorded. No aurist ever tried to decide
whether Doogoolook's muteness was the result of destroyed vocal chords,
or merely of shock.

Delacy's second decade of colonizing found him strenuously engaged with
his two homes. New South Wales had settled down to a sedate tempo, when
suddenly the composition of life in the new continent blew up over night.



CHAPTER X


Gold! Gold!

Delirium set in and prevailed. From Van Diemen's Land to Moreton Bay the
population skedaddled. Free workers set off as one man. Others absconded.
Sailors deserted. Ships lay empty in port. Squatters, professional men,
clerks, ploughmen, shepherds, stockmen--masters and men alike--forsook
employment and tamily. The wise and the silly, the strong and the weak,
the old and the young, the comfortably placed and the destitute, the good
and the bad, the rough and the gentle scurried in the direction of
Bathurst where it was rumoured that gold, man's most permanent god, his
ablest and least changeable friend, was to be picked up from the surface
of the earth.

From Sydney to Bathurst the camp fires blazed in a chain by night. The
road was often a river of mud through which, by day, struggled a
nondescript collection of humanity, burdened with nothing or anything
from a garden fork to a compass. It was then that the Australian learned
to roll a swag and pad the track hungry and cold, sweating or
fly-tormented in a strange and lonely land.

Gold! Gold!

Richer discoveries in the new Colony of Victoria resulted in wilder and
bigger rushes there.

Tales of gold went across the seas. Ships crowded south packed with
diggers. Among them were heirs and cadets of lordly houses, desperadoes
from many nations, skilled diggers from California, poets, callow
professors from Germany, auctioneers, cheap Johns, impostors in rich
release. People ran with greater alacrity than if St Gabriel had
proclaimed an authentic heaven wide open.

Gold! Gold!

Gold trickled across counters from leather pouches and tinder boxes. It
was carried in belts and small bottles and dusty tins.

On the sheep stations adjoining Bewuck the merinos were abandoned to scab
and footrot and dingoes. Delacy himself, could no more resist such a call
to adventure than the magpies the resurgence of spring. Johanna fought
against the first rushes in New South Wales with barbed shafts.

"An old married man! Ye with wan leg already gone in ye'r brave
adventuring! Ye, that could have nearly been a grandfather had ye been a
proper father, and not distressed me by ye'r capers."

It would have taken the Bull of Cooley to hold him from Bendigo and
Ballarat. "Sure, I may as well go where there's promise. I can' be
running the whole country with meself and Hannon alone. I might search
the world with a small tooth comb for another chance of plucking up gold
from the roots of the grass."

"Ah, scatteration! When ye've dragged ye'rself to pieces to establish the
horses and cattle at Burrabinga, and a depot and a home here, why leave
everything to the native dogs? Ye'r stock unbranded for those who like to
stick a mark on them."

"Och, every one will be running with me. The young stock will stay with
their dams. And to think, me brave Johanna, if I brought you a fortune!"

"Ye'll more like be bringing me something worse than the wooden leg. How
could ye work a claim on wan leg?"

"Couldn't I lepp over manny of them that has four, when I set me moind?
Sure, it's all in the moind."

Urquhart, with ten children, and whom Johanna had thought a model of
common sense, announced his intention of accompanying Delacy. Johanna was
defeated, but luckily Hannon and Doogoolook stood by her. There was also
a mild old poodle of an English gentleman as tutor. Johanna had to resign
herself to observing the neglect of the substance for the chase of the
shadow, but Danny was no longer a hero. She was seasoned to his sorties.
His absences were a relief.

The hour came for him to mount the mare, a good animal in her prime.
Attendant upon her were two able colts packed with digging and other
gear, and merchandise, including tobacco. Johanna accompanied him as far
as the sliprails beyond the household premises. From there she turned
back to set her will on Bewuck.

She desired education for her children. Hitherto they had had only
scrappy lessons by those ill-designed to impart their knowledge. Danny
was accustomed to suspend lessons if tutor and pupils could forward the
farm work.

Johanna prepared to send Della, now twelve, to Sydney to a boarding
school nominated by Mr Moore. He was going clown and took charge of the
girl and paid her fare. Johanna held her breath about such a daring step,
but if Danny was for ever to be capering about the country, leaving her
no better situated than a widow, and in some ways worse, she must do
something for her daughters. She was tempted to send them to a convent,
but resisted because the Roman Catholic creed and the brogue would be
detrimental socially, and they must acquire refinement and
accomplishments to the end of securing husbands with civilized homes in
Sydney. Her desire was to rescue her daughters from some of her own
hardships and heartbreaks in "this blackfellow pioneering, with me life
in me hand and me heart in me mouth from wan unholy terror after the
other".

It was a year of floods. Every stream Delacy and Urquhart met was a
banker. Several had to be swum at the risk of life. How Delacy swam the
Yackandandah on the tail of the mare, and smashed his wooden leg in the
passage, was one of his staple anecdotes when old, and swimming the
Yackandandah was a byword with his descendants.

Urquhart lost a horse in the Campaspe. They had to camp in their wet
clothes several times, and without a fire, because their tinder was wet.
They were also without food for forty-eight hours, on two stretches,
until they reached some lonely shepherd's hut. At one they were offered
£3 per hundred to shear sheep, as all the men had deserted for the gold
fields. They refused this to haste to fortune and the livelier adventures
which have but lately receded from Australia's pioneering scene, and
which are recorded in the yellowing newspapers and in many a romance of
the time, or in those since constructed with varying accuracy. They were
arduous rough experiences, sometimes dangerous, and more coarsening than
romantic, in aggressively democratic, not to say familiar association
with bogus lords and parsons, soothsayers, table-rappers, medical quacks,
harridans and strumpets, sleight-of-hand artists of exceptional daring
and great diversity, audacious swindlers, bushrangers and other
criminals--a hodge-podge savingly salted with men of grit and resource,
and women of unconquerable endurance and respectability.

Delacy and Urquhart were robbed of their first £100 by a third mate,
while asleep. Years later they learned that he was blown to pieces in a
mine in Queensland. They were stuck-up by the notorious Black Douglas and
his gang, and were triumphant that it was so soon following the first
robbery that they had not an ounce of gold between them. Danny had one
promising alluvial claim but was too slap-dash to win the good of it, and
his leg hampered him in shaft sinking.

Homes and families at length became enticing to both men. Johanna's
indifference concerning Danny's absence helped to draw his thoughts to
the Murrumbidgee. Urquhart postulated that with the rise in stock, they
were risking the loss of certain prosperity in mere gambling. Live stock
would not include so many "shicers" if one were wary of "shysters".
Neither had any affinity with the lawless elements and were lucky in
withdrawing before rebellion culminated in the Eureka Stockade.


One evening at afterglow the dogs heard the jingle of hobble-chains and
quart-pot and gave tongue. The family ran out, saw the silhouette on the
dazzling skyline and answered Danny's hail. He dismounted on a mended peg
and shouted for each member of his family. "Wait till I show you what I
have brought."

"I can see the owld pipe ye haven't lost this time. Has it taken root
entirely? Maybe I should be thankful that it's wan leg ye still have
intact."

Danny went inside, for the moment he did not miss Della. He was told that
one of his colts sold on the diggings had reached home ahead of him. He
produced his nuggets. Johanna accepted several as keepsakes, but
maintained an aloof manner. Women were compelled to be subservient, an
attitude in which Johanna had been racially bent from the days of Brehon
law, but, psychologically, the Danny who had lured her over the seas was
dead. She was now aware that she was wedded to an insignificant fellow,
eccentric because of his abnormal honesty, and incapable of providing the
refinement and elegancies she adored.

The moment came when Della's absence had to be explained. Johanna made
her plunge, her pulse not so confident as her mien. Danny was astonished.

"Is at a school-mistress you are making of her? Aren't there husbands
enough in a country crying out for population?"

"What kind of husbands for those who know nothing but to run after
turkeys and chase crows? They'll be on the level of barefooted sluts from
the bothies around Ennis, unless I contrive for them to see something
different. If it was not for Cooley Hall in me own remimbrance, 'tis
often I'd wonder was I annything but wan of the savages that roam in a
tribe."

"You should have consulted me."

"Consult the wind, and ye away with it!" Johanna threw up her chin. "How
did I know if ye'd ever return, or return with ye'r wits; and me
daughters running to seed."

"Maybe you did right," temporized Danny. "Sure, I'll have the means
hereafter to put things to right, and you'll be riding in your carriage
before long, me brave Johanna."

Flaying gained the ascendancy, she continued, "And me beautiful son, he
must be a gentleman, with learning more than lie can accumulate from a
rouseabout."

"We'll consider all these things at the proper time."

Bewuck had prospered under Johanna. Wheat, also hay, hides and butter had
soared to a fabulous price. There was a ready market for eggs and
poultry. Even feathers were saleable. Johanna had money to send her
children to school. Danny was not so great a hero by comparison.
Nevertheless he had yarns of the Yackandandah, of the new Colony of
Victoria, of the bustling city of Melbourne, alive with rich diggers and
their ladies, of men lighting their pipes with bank notes and shoeing
their horses with gold. He had sufficient currency to renew leases at
Burrabinga, to buy more acres around Bewuck, and make additions to the
homestead.

Johanna did not allow her advantage to slip. Robert and Honoria must also
go to school in Sydney. Danny gave his consent vaguely, and as a sop
because he was wild to be away with stockmen to collect cattle, now worth
as much as £20 per head, and all the world was demanding horses. He was
also eager to retreat to Burrabinga because of another gift he had
brought from the diggings, and which he wished to keep from Johanna as
long as possible: a taste for rum. This had grown during long shifts of
standing to the waist in cold water until dysentery became prevalent and
rum the universal panacea, as well as a disinfectant for polluted
drinking water. At Burrabinga be would be able to enjoy his grog, and
would no longer refuse his employee's invitations to drink with them.
However, he never tippled to the deterioration of his energy and
industry.

Having his consent to the education of Robert and Honoria, Johanna
cheerfully bade him go. He stipulated that the other two boys should be
left to him to rear to pastoral pursuits. For the present they remained
with the new London misfit in the schoolhouse beside the bunyip hole.

The ridges of Delacy's territory, and for eighty or a hundred miles
surrounding it, were alive with descendants of animals that had early
been driven off by the blacks from the overlanders' route. In fenceless
days many a beast sought a mate and founded a community in the wilds. In
the withering droughts they migrated from the parched plains to the
fountful hills; And from the head of the Murray to Monaro, to Bathurst
and New England, they mightily increased, sometimes with the aid of
well-bred runaways. During years when cattle had been unsaleable they
remained on the runs until they died of old age.

Delacy erected trap yards and drafting crushes. Money flowed from effort.
Urquhart, himself a straight man, deplored Danny's honesty as extreme,
because he refused to confiscate the horses and cattle that drifted to
Burrabinga. To Urquhart's remonstrance he would say, "Am I a horse and
cattle thief? Sure, weren't min hanged in the old country for lifting a
sheep, and am I to risk destroying me character? You can be a lifetime
building a good character and lose it in twenty-four hours by a single
act of foolishness."

His truthfulness was more than that demanded by common sense. Not another
such horse-toper was known from the Murrumbidgee to the Lachlan. When
vending he declared the blemishes of his stock before reciting their
excellencies. This eccentricity had some reward. People in Sydney sent to
him for horses. Novices in buying came to him because he could be
trusted. He did not, however, grow as rich as some of his neighbours.

Wealth was not to be wrested from the land without more avarice than
Delacy had. The earth has her lean seasons of droughts or plagues, or her
times of surplus when demand hangs slack. There were dingoes and disease,
and as live stock rose in value with the discovery of gold, bushranging
and cattle- and horse-duffing became staple industries in the wilds of
Monaro. Danny was a heavy loser to thieves who settled around him.

The family wanted more land at Bewuck, with the mountains as an outlet,
but Danny still hoped to persuade Johanna to live at made cuttings around
the worst pinches. Notwithstanding, there was money to bank, and banks of
re-established reputations to engulf Johanna's hoards. She hated to
surrender her currency, and Danny failed to extend her partnership to his
cheque book. Women's part in the struggle was accepted as their unpaid
duty--Burrabinga. He put up an abode to replace the burned hut, and by
women as well as men.

The making a gentleman of Robert, as well as the polishing of Della and
Honoria, was expensive, and Delacy was constantly in need of capital.

Robert was the pride of Johanna's heart, and it was her secret ambition
that he might take to scholarship, and even return to Ireland and become
a priest. He favoured his mother in features. He had her keen black eyes
and her nose--the nose of an emperor. He needed it at college when he
found himself in a class of select young gentlemen, much his junior in
years, but so far in advance in their studies that they ridiculed him as
a dunce and a country lout. He had neither wealth nor any connections,
nor was he fashioned to pound his way. Taller than his father, he had the
willowy grace that distinguishes the Delacy descendants to this day, and
the floss silk black hair, the delicate Delacy hands with the filbert
nails.

No word of the agonizing humiliation of his first months escaped into his
home letters, because the family were so sure that he was on a superior
and enviable plane of existence. Nor would he admit defeat while Della
could remain at her exclusive school. He had a weapon in his tongue and
found his feet as soon as his prowess with horses earned him the
protection of a leading boy whose father kept riding and carriage horses.
His mother's generous response to his secret requests for money provided
a wardrobe which also helped him to victory.


His brothers followed a different routine. On harvest days they were
hullabalooed from bed before dawn, and Harry was so drowsy that he
sometimes fell asleep in the wallaby hole in the log fence on his way to
bind sheaves, and would not be found until the other workers were
returning to dinner at noon. Danny had no mercy on these two children. He
had none on himself. He took credit that he did not ask the meanest
convict to do what he would not do himself, a procedure which with time
has developed a national attitude of hostility toward special rewards for
any outsize talent but that of money-making. It was not the procedure to
make Delacy a wealthy overlord nor to hold the respect of the servile,
who are refreshed by worship of a financial superior, and who can
recognize no other. Delacy's superiority was of that quality which is
derided, or at best tolerated as eccentricity in a private person, and
which, in those dedicated to public service, is violently opposed until
it succeeds, and which is posthumously acknowledged by the effigies which
make disfiguring bird-roosts in public places.


The education of William and Harry was of the sketchiest, though Danny,
son of a schoolmaster, considered tutors indispensable. There was always
a sprig of sere leaf of the British upper middle class in the
school-house in the orchard. Generally he would be the product of Public
School or University, with classic knowledge useless to himself and
unwanted by boys destined for the land, but which was pleasant to Delacy
in conversation, to which he clung as a mental necessity as stubbornly as
his wife clung to elegancies. Some of these tutors were victims of
alcohol; all had some cardinal defect due to which they had been
jettisoned by their families. Most had as little facility in imparting
their superfluous knowledge as they had in enforcing discipline. School
hours were relegated to winter nights or wet days, when an hour or two
would be set apart for lessons by the light of a slush lamp. The walls
had wide cracks that let in the breeze; the boys were more concerned with
the possums that came in between the wall-plate and the bark roof, than
with the Wars of the Roses or Greek mythology, though Henry VIII was of
masculine interest. The hours were further curtailed by slyly turning on
the clock or by inveigling a nostalgic exile to read national ballads.

The boys were tired and sleepy, whether the harvest were ripe or only
sprouting. Their evening meal--mostly of salt beef and potatoes--was
delayed until they shot a minimum of sixteen possums each. The possums
came at dusk from the pipy trees near by to feast on the luscious
imported wheat so conveniently set in their habitat. The boys had to be
quick or the marsupials scaled out of gunshot. In the phrase of the day
the eucalypts took two men and a boy to see to the top of them.

The pelts had to be skinned and pegged out with hundreds of fine nails on
logs or walls, but Johanna would not let them encroach on places adorned
with the first "kag" of green paint, or its successors. Then came the
tanning and sewing of skins into rugs on winter nights, by the light of
big fires. Each sewer was rewarded by the price of a rug. Some of the
best brought £5--a big sum when minors commonly worked for their fathers
without wages.

Sometimes a tutor would do his duty during the quarter leading up to
pay-day, because in grotesque surroundings there was more salt in
occupation than in idleness. Thus, despite interruptions and recreations,
William and Harry had a little reading, writing and "ciphering", and were
literate for their day. Harry accumulated stores of poetry to furnish his
isolation and nourish his spirit. Old expirees, casual labour,
contributed tales that had descended from the seanachies and bards of
Tara's zenith, and earlier. Some were familiar with stories of Cormac
MacArt, the great king, grandson of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and son
of Art the Lonely, whose reign was full of plenty and such honesty that
there was no need to guard flocks or to bolt doors. Stories from Gaelic
legendary found fresh voice to the song of the Murrumbidgee and disclosed
a glint of the glories of the Ard-Rights of Eirinn and of the grand feis.
The deeds of the Fianna and their immortal hounds, the high test of
learning which they had to reach, as well as those other woodcraft tests,
which young Harry could emulate, were especially inspiring. The tales
lost none of their spell in the garbling, tales of Nial of the Nine
Hostages; tales told originally by Oisin, son of the chief bard of Fian,
and which, though accounted pagan, could charm the tired Patrick himself;
tales which time could not extirpate and which in the language of
would-be conquerors still spring fragrant and poetic from the soil of
Ireland.

Harry, spellbound beside the roaring log fires, gave the honour anciently
due to poets to their tales. Endowed with imagination, he translated
dream people to his native forests. They existed for him in the voices of
river, wind and rain, or stood in the shadows beyond the firelight--a
company of friends that made him love the night. They were of his inner
life which he hid from the profane. Oh, that he could be a seanachie and
recite the deeds of noble men, and himself attain nobility!

The boys were fortunate in Maeve and Doogoolook, who educated them to
their environment. Saved by Danny from superstition, they had no fear of
the bunyip, and the area had no other terrors. Before he was eight Harry
could swim like a binghi. A favourite sport with him and William was to
dive towards the middle of the hole in the hope of routing the bunyip* on
to the bank. The bunyip had a strong personality during his reign.
William and Harry and another younger friend all but saw him one morning.

[* The oldest inhabitants of the district are agreed that a bunyip
existed and that he was probably a large otter, shy and now extinct; or,
that when the rivers remained undisturbed, except occasionally in summer
by the blacks, a few seals may have worked their way all the thousands of
miles inland from the Bight, to remain in exile until they died of old
age.]

They had left the catch of their night lines on the table rocks of the
fish hole while they sought grubs. On returning-they found only the head
of a cod which had weighed about ten pounds, and something, which they
described as the size of a calf, slipping into the water. Cooees brought
Danny and others, and they all saw the undecipherable tracks of an animal
leading from the water to the fish head and back into the water.



CHAPTER XI


The time came when Delacy could put William and Harry to the work of
adults.

A large field of wheat that had escaped smut or rust, was saved by
vigilance from cockatoos by day and marsupials by night. Much hung on the
selling of this grain to a mill at Albury for 17/6, or possibly more, per
bushel, and all was not going well with the harvesting. Hannon, who was
in charge, was beset by cantankerous old lags whose intention was to pick
a quarrel and put the onus of dismissal on the employer. Delacy increased
the ration of grog but this did not pacify them. Hannon trembled lest a
firestick should be put to the garnered stooks.

The climax came when Delacy was rushing the reapers to beat a
thunderstorm. It was as hot as a furnace in the narrow gorge. Flies and
sandy blight increased irritation. Usually the meal was served in two
shifts in the kitchen, but on this day the men were squeezed at one
table, and the reek of dirty sweating bodies, rank tobacco, cabbage and
rum was nauseating to all but the inured. One man was given a seat at a
side table. He tried to start a disturbance by flinging his plate on the
floor and shouting, "I'll not submit to the outrage of being set apart
because of what is past in my life."

Delacy seized the gigantic tin teapot and made towards the man. "Pick up
your good victuals, you vaygabond haythen, or I'll baptize you to me own
taste."

The malcontent, with one glance towards his adversary, who was about half
his weight, six inches shorter, and hopping on a peg leg, fled the
premises for ever, amid the laughter of his fellows.

Johanna was still without her carriage, though Danny now had two drays,
in which the boys were to transport the wheat. They held back on a rising
market until the frosts had come, then Danny escorted them up from the
homestead to the plateau commanding a view of the ranges southward, and
left them to make a daylight start towards that part of the road to Port
Phillip which served the upper reaches of the Riverina.

William Delacy, now nearly seventeen, was of staid dependable character,
and his shoulder had long been pressed to the wheel of responsibility. He
was already clever at training steers, horses and dogs. He worked with
more patience than his father, but with equal noise, and could be heard
admonishing his creatures a mile distant. He had his father's honesty but
was more prosaic, "more practical" said his acquaintances, though Danny
was ultra practical in acting as he preached. William's actions contained
less of the flights of the wild geese of adventure. He thought more of
the immediate return for his enterprises, less of their ultimate concern
with destiny.

Harry, nearly two years younger, was an eager laddie, slender as a wand,
with delicately chiselled features and Danny's blue eyes, with a drop of
Johanna's to deepen them. Never were loins so slim nor backs more flat
than the Delacys', but whereas Johanna and Danny were a doll-like pair,
the men that sprang from them were all tall.

William was conscientious, and Harry squandered himself in the trust
committed to him. William had the best leaders and polers with frisky
characters between. Harry's team was steady throughout. Four or five
mature spares, tame servitors, walked free, and disloyally (to their own
race) horned any youngsters into keeping the pole-chain straight when
timidity or rebellion slewed them from the line. William had been on a
similar trip with Hannon two years earlier and would have been accounted
wanting had he forgotten any turn of the way.

The boys woke to an icy dawn with a wind that would shave a
gooseberry--Harry's words--sweeping full across the plateau from the high
peaks down Monaro way. When they unrolled from their possum rugs beneath
the dray, Harry saw a man taking the hell from his riding horse. A second
man was trying to catch William's. These fillies were the reward of
heroic labour. Danny abhorred the vice of "horsiness" and sold all his
prime geldings, but youth will have its swagger, and these fillies were
the apple of the boys' eyes.

Harry rushed towards the robber yelling language that his mother would
have asserted was unknown to him. He kicked the man's shins wildly
despite a couple of holsters in his belt. With similar recklessness,
William ran to rescue his idol. Both lads had Danny's fearlessness.

"You fine young pup! You---fool! I might have put a bullet in you." Harry
was small for his years, he looked childish. The robber remained
good-humoured because his Wellingtons had protected his shins.

"You can't have my filly," screeched Harry, who had not been taught to
modulate his voice.

"How are you going to stop me?"

"I'll soon show you!" The lad seized his bridle and flung the reins over
the filly's ears in such a pelter that the sudden up-jerk of her head
sent him sprawling in the swamps. Whack! He was a comical spectacle, feet
in air, the rearing filly above him. The bushranger guffawed. The boy was
unarmed, his work-marred hands as delicate as a girl's. A kick would have
thrown him into the middle of the coming week. He sprang up dripping,
frozen, and foolish, but undaunted.

"Hold on," said the man. "If you had your paddy under control, you'd be
gamer still, but you'll never make a pug."

Harry's sensitive features betrayed a struggle to hold back tears.
William had reached his horse ahead of the other thief, and now cantered
up to see what was happening to Harry.

"Are you unarmed, too?"

"Why should I be armed in a free country?" countered William. He
recognized the men from descriptions, and was prepared for the loss of
both horses.

"This ---- young pup is as fresh as a gander," remarked the leader. "Are you
going to enter the fillies for the gents' races at Bong Bong?
Nullah-Mundoeys, ain't they?"

"Yes," replied Harry, to whom hope suddenly returned. "They're out of
Cornet mares by Knobkerrie, and he was by Shillelagh out of Miss
Nullah-Mundoey, and she was by Whipstick, and then came the original
Nullah-Mundoey."

"Good iron! I don't rob little boys, not when they've been flung by old
fearless Danny of the mountains. He parades about unarmed. Tell your old
man he's flung a couple of pups as game as himself, and that it was Clark
said it. You can keep your mokes. I'll pick up a couple of the same breed
from them who don't deserve them."

The boys were elated by this encounter. It lent adventure to their
passage as they camped in frost or rain and lived on damper and salt
junk, cooked by themselves at night. They had no warm clothing. A poncho
of sailcloth protected them from water or wind, as, unconscious of
hardship, they thrashed their way in mud or dust, with bullocks that grew
tender around the necks and sore-footed as they endured their share of
the bovine torture which advanced Australian colonization. Harry survived
whooping cough, his vocal convulsions having given more amusement than
concern to his fellow travellers.

While the boys were toiling with the drays, Danny went to the Township to
take a pack load of skins and to call at the post office During Robert's
stay in Sydney, his mother insisted upon letters being collected at least
once a month. A tutor was to be selected from Hennessy's hotel, where
there were generally remittance men open for such a post. The clergyman
who examined the boys' educational progress, reported that Harry was
backward, so he was to renew his studies during the winter nights when he
returned with the teams.

Danny chose a soft young fellow in the hotel yard, where he also became
enamoured of a carriage. A queer shingle of military aristocracy who had
come to inspect the country, had been vanquished by his cardinal enemy,
and liquidated his carriage and four horses. The publican offered the
vehicle to Danny, half in jest.

Here was the carriage which had been promised to Johanna in the coomb
near her old home. She had given up riding, and complained of being a
prisoner at Bewuck. Danny decided to take the vehicle home that day. All
the talent of the Township, from masters to tag-rag and bobtail,
collected to grin at the odd team which was yoked to it, two heavyish
pack-horses on the pole and two blood saddle mares as leaders.

The pub groom put the horses in with unholy glee, and the new owner took
charge. He was neither whip nor horse-trainer, but through inability to
recognize impossibilities, frequently overrode them. The two ladies
Nullah-Mundoey never before had been yoked to anything.

"Be careful! They may go mad when you start," warned a more kindly
onlooker.

"Arran! Why should they? Child's play to what those mares have achieved
and never showed the whites of their eyes."

"Wait till the collars begin to nip them."

"Fearless Danny only needed a carriage to be king of the Murrumbidgee."

There was admiration as well as baiting in the rude sallies.

"Sure he's as big a swell as the best, and honester than all the others
put together, only he's never concerned with howldin' on to schnobbery,"
said the publican, one Hennessy, a big fat man of Danny's age. He owned
the grand hotel and had lately risen to it from a sly grog shop, which,
before hotels were licensed, he had kept under cover of the little
general store, from which the Township had been hatched as from an egg.

The chorus increased. As the yapping of curs Delacy regarded it, to be
dispersed by his horses' heels in the clatter of his enterprises. Never
was being more indifferent to criticism, and he was as far above
scandal-mongering as a lark's song above a snail's track.

Flowers of originality in eminent men are cherished by the mob as signs
of greatness. Originality in the obscure makes him a butt for lesser
wits. Danny in his loose slops, clumping on his peg, was a leprechaun
figure. He settled his hat full of leaves, with the chin strap jostling
his pipe.

"Taking any passengers?" someone called out.

"Too many jackasses for me to accommodate you all, and I never make
invidious distinctions among me fellow men, but you can draw lots for the
honour of riding with me, and be damned to you." He called for a chair,
which Hennessy himself brought with goodwill. From this Delacy climbed
over the wheel and took the reins. He looked around and saw the tutor.
"Sure, make yourself a place among the saddles inside."

The young man obeyed, reddening like a cherry.

"Lead out the mares till they see what to do," Danny ordered a native
lout, who grinned and remained where he was. He would not align himself
with a butt. Danny caught him a flick with his stockwhip, and cackles
against the lout brought volunteers. The mares, inured to much, found
this too much. They reared into the collars with hysterical desire to
leap over the traces. The men at the bit-rings had sufficient
neighbourliness to act as a brake on Danny's recklessness. A hardy pair
assumed the positions of postillions.

"Leave go now. A sound skelping is the way to dispose a horse to
harness."

A second young man dived into the carriage on top of the tutor.

"Sure, iver since the owld man's daughter came home from boording school
the young feller has been squinting at her," observed Hennessy.

"You owld spalpeens, with your experience to balk at a ladylike
carriage," exclaimed Danny, who had his own way with bolting horses,
proved by experience. With a yell to be heard for a mile in the clear
autumn air, he laid the whip about the leaders. They sprang ahead from
the flaying thong, but the polers' speed was not dangerous. All the
loafers ran to the crest of an eminence. Those with horses rode farther;
not every day was there such a lively clown.

Familiar and deafening advice soon assured Delacy's four-in-hand that
nothing untoward was happening. The polers were winded through being
dragged by the Nullah-Mundoeys. They bowed to domination and hung into
the breeching. Danny's disregard of anything but his purpose had added
another story to the records.

"It won't be a week till he uses the carriage to cart possum skins out of
the mountains," remarked Hennessy.

"I've never seen the beat of him."

"Where did ye iver see his aquil? Whoi, Danny Delacy could tame a woild
elephant, and him naught but a nullah-mundoey himself. Not a fear at all,
anny more than if he was made of injy rubber."

Not at all timid was the young man pulled into the carriage by the tutor,
and who had called to a mate, "Bring my horse when you come."

Gerald Butler, young native squatter, and Walter Dillingham, imported,
had a rough passage among the gear until the mares were encrusted with
sweat and dust and their shoulders were growing tender. One jibbed. Young
Butler revealed himself.

"Wait a moment, Mr Delacy, I'll lead her."

"Did you spring conveniently out of a bush?"

"Out of the carriage. I was one of the jackasses who accepted your
invitation."

"Not so much a jackass, I'm thinking, as the right man in the right
place."

The gratified young man took the mare's bit-ring.

"He's in a more manly situation than his feyther was behind the trees
waiting to see me cattle driven off," thought Delacy, and did not allow
the father's character to prejudice him against the son. "Where's me
other brave warrior?" he shouted. "Jump out, unless you're glued to the
seat, and put a boulder to the wheel."

The man put a stone in front of the back wheel, on to which, however, the
carriage backed and saved him from ridicule as a new chum.

The mare continued to jib. She had been trained to tow people up hills,
so they tied her tail to the swingle-bar and she pulled thus with spirit
to the end of the day, when they descended to the homestead. Danny hacked
down a tree and lashed it to the back axle. With stirrup leathers, Butler
and the pop-eyed tutor held on to the upper side to prevent capsize. The
dogs brought out the family.

"A carriage," cried Jane Hannon.

"Father is driving," said Maeve.

"He's got himself killed again in some new way," moaned Johanna.

"How could he be killed and driving too?" demanded Della. "Gerry Butler
and a strange young man," announced Maeve.

Della withdrew to re-arrange herself. Gerald Butler was the most comely
of the Murrumbidgee callers.

"Where are you, me brave Johanna?" shouted Danny. "Come, see the
carriage. Now you can drive around in comfort when you have the moind."
He was at the foot of the descent across the cultivation paddock. Young
Butler was detaching the drag, while the tutor was investigating the
damage done to his hands.

"Wan of these days 'tis a circus in full cry ye'll be bringing me, and ye
the clown all complete in it," Johanna called with mixed emotions. A real
carriage was exciting when her circle had not yet achieved spring carts,
but some little trap would have been more manageable. Danny had surpassed
himself this time, so he took his pipe from its fastnesses to kiss his
wife.

"Sure, ye're getting to smell like a hogshead as well as a tobacco kag,"
she complained.

"I've had no more than a taggeen, and it a day past. I've brought a young
man--sure, I forgot to inquire your name. He can bring Harry on and lend
a hand when necessary."

"The carriage certainly makes you the first lady in the district, Mrs
Delacy," said Butler, giving her good evening.

The vehicle was placed behind the hen house and protected by a tarpaulin
until a house of its own could be built.


Six weeks later Harry and William returned from the wheat expedition,
William unkempt and aged for his years, Harry looking like an ill-treated
orphan, but swaggering manfully and unaware that the task had been above
his years and strength. Their exploit was soon dimmed by the home-coming
of Robert, his education completed. Johanna's idea that her darling could
ever be a student would have convulsed his teachers. Nevertheless, he had
imbibed from his Sydney sojourn sufficient to gain the ascendancy in his
family. Harry basked in his brother's glory.

Harry had his father's tendencies, and, according to William, was "the
damnedest fool that ever drew breath". Notwithstanding this plain speech,
Harry was fond of William for his underlying kindliness, and because they
both had inherited Danny's principle, and lacked respect for any but
honest men.

Robert's qualities were not defeated by gauche self-consciousness. At
bottom he was perhaps the least generous of the brothers, the least
affectionate, but he was a better politician than either, and there were
perquisites in cultivating the affections of others--even brothers. He
thought Harry a greater fool than did William, but instead of mentioning
it so bluntly made capital of Harry's romantic attitude towards him and
life. Robert was eighteen, the age at which his father had married. Only
a suggestion of beard smutted his lip, but he shaved with ostentation. He
could swagger with style, an art denied to William. He was lithe and a
light-weight despite his seventy-two inches and well-squared shoulders.
The Delacys were race horses rather than cobs, of lean and wiry staying
powers through Danny's transmitted lung capacity and hardy rearing.

There Robert's resemblance to his father and brothers ended. He had more
qualities than they for rising to eminence. He could enlist others. He
had plausible reasons for riding the best horses and undertaking the
pleasantest jobs. He remained the darling of his mother's heart. His
manners were pleasing after what she had endured from rough employees and
the casual Danny. She considered Robert fit to mate with the Governor's
daughter.

The wheat money and Robert's homecoming helped Danny's determination to
settle in the mountains. The deciding factor rankled. During the winter
he had come home from the Township the worse for liquor. His babble had
wearied Johanna. He was now forty-six and she forty-seven years old. Her
urge for man-flesh had dulled. She craved peace. Years since, she had had
to relinquish her day-dream of returning in affluence to the people of
her girlhood. She saw Danny as an insignificant, ineffectual old man,
hopping on one leg. His once gallant daring now seemed foolhardiness.
Tippling made him insupportable. She had outgrown or outworn him and was
as careless of his feelings as though oblivious to them.

"Ye'r a black-jack and tobacco kag combined, and I have no taste for
sleeping with such. I'll make ye a bed in the ind room," she said.

For a moment Danny felt old and defeated. He became aware that he was a
cripple. He looked in the glass for the first time in years and was not
reassured by the unclassical features ambushed in beard, from which a
pipe protruded like an obelisk. The pipe was rank, he decided, and threw
it from him. He picked it up again helplessly. It had become part of him.

"I am an old tobacco kag and a rum jar," he murmured in the smallest
voice he had ever employed, facing truth as was his wont. He could have
reduced Johanna to obedience. The community was behind him, including the
Church, and women themselves, but Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy was
gallant. He had been too active for introspection, but he thought now in
swift impressionistic style. He decided that Johanna was a trifle
"touched". She had been overstrained by what she had undergone at the
time of the fire and the death of Kathleen Moyna. She would recover.

No parallel case was known to him. There were women who had cut the
painter because they were "loose", or because the husbands were
recognizedly unbearable. In either case the odium was crushing. There
were milder cases in which the woman's health was a factor, but Danny
could not cover his situation by muttering about Johanna's health while
she was announcing that she had never been better in her life. She
remained casual and assured in a practical piece of feminism, which, as
pioneering, eclipsed her achievements in other fields.

Her dumbfounding attitude drove Danny to the Township to a tailor--an
emancipist settled there. He ordered a suit "fit for a modest gentleman".
He bought also a gentleman's hat, and had a boot made for his delicate
foot. When the outfit was ready he rode home in it. The result was
reducing. His head seemed to have shrunk in a hat of normal size without
the gum leaves.

Johanna was convulsed. "Sure, ye've shrunk back to childhood ahead of
time. What has come to ye? Ye look like Harry in a false beard."

Danny murmured concerning the need of a suit when he sat on the jury. A
big brooch remained forgotten in the pocket of the waistcoat. He bawled
an order to put the horses in over night in readiness for big doings, and
bustled in and out of store and harness room until a late hour. A
civilizable being in a race largely composed of anthropoids--that was his
only demonstration.

Sophistry supervened to comfort him. Johanna herself would lose socially
by her untoward conduct. His absence at Burrabinga would defeat the
curious.



CHAPTER XII


If the withdrawal of land grants in 'thirty-one was manipulated by those
with capital and influence, the Robertson and Duffy Acts redressed the
grievance thirty years later in New South Wales and Victoria. The small
man was given his chance. The free selectors closer-settled the vast
empty squattages and penetrated even to Delacy's province. The
inexperienced were often to lose their all and abandon their nests in the
wilderness; some were to be squeezed out by the big squatters; others
were to harry the flanks of the squatters and drive profitable bargains;
more were to establish desirable estates.

Delacy applied for blocks at strategic points for himself and sons. To
fulfil the regulations he engaged a man to build huts. To employ
substitutes was against the Delacy principle, but "dummying" became an
avocation, and through this Delacy added to his retainers.

One day a forbidding looking man of fifty appeared at Bewuck and called
Delacy down below the pigsty. This was the man whom the Fullwoods and
Butlers had set to the work of eating Delacy out in the beginning. He
averred now that Delacy was the only white man he had ever met, and
offered himself as a dummy to secure part of Burrabinga run.

"You would be more congenially suited at that with wan of your owld
friends, Butler or Fullwood," said Delacy.

O'Neill then threw himself on Delacy's mercy. It was difficult for him to
find employment because of his bad name as an old lag who also had been
colonially convicted. His early patrons dared not employ him; they had to
be more careful of their respectability. O'Neill had been sent from
Ireland for some act of just rebellion, but had done fifteen years in New
South Wales for "d work wid a horse". To one who had gibed at him as a
horse thief, he replied scornfully, "Never in me loife had I anny
timptation to another man's goods. Moind ye'r own step."

Rumour fitted to him the case of a man of violent temper at Liverpool,
enamoured of a girl who played with him. In days when horses were rare,
and he a ticket-of-leaver, O'Neill rode as a gentleman's trainer. Pretty
Kitty Magee led him on shamelessly, and like Young Lochinvar, he one day
invited her to his croupe. Kitty dissolved in giggles.

"Since last I was talking with ye, I've been promised a carriage and
pair."

At that O'Neill spurred his horse on to her. She was crippled.


Delacy saw in the Free Selection Act an opportunity for the outcast to
re-establish himself on a horse camp south from Burrabinga. Delacy was
nobly forgiving of human mistakes, and no intimation of his ever
confirmed the facts which he had from O'Neill.

"Has he committed anny fresh crime that ye exile him anew?" was Johanna's
question. "The loneliness there would send a man mad."

"Och, he'll come down for rations once a fortnight," said Danny, who
feared not even loneliness, though of all men he was the most sociable.
"Am I not helping him to honest indipindince, opening up fine country for
the generations that come after?"

"The generations won't be much concern of poor old Larry O'Neill, and
there are some not over-joyed by what happens to them in dingo' country."

O'Neill set out with the sawyer-carpenter, the three Delacys, and the
tutor. Doogoolook was to put the finishing touches to his foster
brothers' education as unexcelled bushmen. As an afflicted boy in a
strange civilization, Johanna had depended on him as she could not have
done on a whole white youth. As many another of his race he did not fail
in his trust, and has gone without medal or monument to add to the rich
aura of his incalculable country.

Robert remained at Bewuck to assist Hannon, and Johanna was content that
Danny should take his goslings to the hills, where an arduous life
awaited them. Not only were there encroaching selectors, but bands of
fossickers treated Delacy to a gold-rush at Bullock Gap. Gunyahs and
tents met him on the edge of Burrabinga north when the spring mustering
took him that way. Before many months, however, their occupants
disappeared to a bigger rush on the Eucumbene.

The snow was deep that year on the highlands as early as June, and one
night Delacy was camped in a stringy-bark hut on the deserted goldfield
preparatory to meeting the boys next morning at trap yards fifteen miles
distant. He was snug in his possum rug when aroused by a voice too human
for a dingo. It came nearer. It reached the door of the hut. Delacy arose
and stood on the door log, clearly outlined by the firelight.

"Anny wan there? Is it murder, or what? Speak up!" he bawled.

A foreign voice squeaked, "By Cli, Boss, give 'em lelp?"

A tall form fell at Delacy's feet. He dragged it in as well as he could.
"By damn! Wait till I get me leg."

The firelight revealed a Chinese, whom Delacy drew to the warmth. The
man's extremities were chilblained so Delacy applied neat's-foot, and
tendered damper sopped in hot tea. The stranger then slept from
exhaustion in his host's rug while the host himself lay almost in the
ashes. Delacy had acquired another picturesque associate.

Wong Foo could not be taken to the trap yards next morning. Mongols were
not horsemen. A suffering one on a packsaddle was not practicable. A
man's health was more to Delacy than the capture of a mob of cleanskins.
Explanations were impossible. Delacy lacked savvy in broken language.
With any foreigner he roared ever louder and louder until he was winded
and the victim bewildered. The stranger trusted his rescuer sublimely as
he was put on the mare.

Arrived at the homestead, after a journey difficult for both, Danny
administered the general panacea and bandaged the nipped feet and
fingers. He placed Wong in his own berth, and laid himself on the floor.

"What else would a man do, and calling himself a Christian? No man has
the rights of neighbourliness if he balks at colour, class, or even
character."

The notice on the hut door aroused the curiosity of the other musterers,
and their laughter crackled when later Wong Foo's face looked from their
father's bunk. They had not seen a Chinese so magnificent of pigtail. At
first sight he was as ugly, as non-human as a joss, but Danny insisted,
"He's a whoite man, I predict. He has a foine expression."

"What are you going to do with him?" inquired William. "He'll make a mate
for Doogoolook," piped Harry.

"I turn him over to you. Shall you tie a firestick to his pigtail? Use
your moinds--if you have anny?"

"Oh, hell, I don't know," said William.

"By damn! None of that bad language or I'll take a waddy to you."

During this colloquy Wong Foo beamed upon his hosts.

"At any rate he's a cheerful old cove. He'll be good company," chirped
Harry.

"I reckon he'll be worth his tucker for that," conceded William. "If he's
kept lying around handy, he might come in useful."

Company, entertainment, was almost as prized in solitary days as a good
horse.

"A pity he's not more intelligible," said Danny. "Maybe he's full of
enlightening conversation if we could tap it."

The Oriental mind remained unknown to the Delacys, but legends indicate
that Foo felt himself born again as a blood brother of the family,
consecrated to that best-wearing fabric of the emotions--friendship. The
question of inequality did riot occur to him. How could it in light of
Danny's reception of him? The unique alliance was never spoiled, rooted
as it was in the goodwill, the sterling character of both parties, and
protected by the inability of each to use too searchingly the other's
tongue.

"Missa Delacy belly good man!" Wong would explain. His breeding was so
good that he deferred to his patron as he walked around with him.
Doogoolook, at first suspecting a usurper, walked on the other side of
his foster father, but soon grew friendly, and the inimitable trio was
long a decoration to the district.

"I know," shouted Harry one night, "Wong Foo can drive the carriage you
brought Ma, and Doogoolook can sit beside him to open the gates."

"Small moinds delight in small jokes," said Danny, "but you must be above
catering to them. Get out your hooks now and the tutor can exercise your
mental capacity."

The stranger's feet and fingers quickly healed, and then he did wonderful
things to the unfinished house. He also started a garden. He tried to
explain his need to return to Bullock Gap, but. Danny boomed and boomed
that he would be lost again, and Wong was forced to desist for a time.

A stockman opportunely arrived who had had three years on the diggings
with Chinese, and in pidgin interpreted that Wong was twenty-six years of
age and had come from Canton, the City of Lambs.

"I thought he was a hundred, by Cli!" interposed Harry

"He reckons he's a chemist in his own city," said Aldon, the stockman.

"By damn! He's a man of education, I knew it!" cried Danny.

Having tastes above the coolies who came to the goldfields, Foo desired
to fossick alone on Burrabinga run. Danny suggested other fields as more
lucrative, but the matter was determined for Foo by the nearness of the
Delacys. Foo had left his gear in one of the deserted huts and was sure
he could find it if taken back to Delacy's camp. Danny ordered a second
mare, the most sluggish salt lumper available.

"I never saw a Chow riding," remarked William.

"You can see this wan." said Danny.

Wong Foo would ten thousand times rather have walked, but was too surely
a gentleman to say so. The Delacys rode. He too must ride. There for ever
he renounced peasant pottering with a bamboo pole. With the yokels from
Europe this Asiatic was transformed willy-nilly into a horseman, if not
of one sort, then of another. With much vociferation Danny got his pupil
from a fallen log to the back of the horse.

"He's going pale, by Cli, under the yaller," giggled the boys. Even Danny
was not above laughing, so ridiculous were equestrian ineptitude and
timidity. The rouseabouts and the birds all around chortled deliriously.
Menura across the river mimicked them all impartially. There was
merriment in the taming of a continent where even the birds laughed. The
Oriental conformed by raising a sickly grimace.

Doogoolook rode ahead, turning now and again to show his noiseless grin.
Foo held on to the pommel and lay as flat as he could. His legs dangled
useless as those of a wooden doll. Each time the horse lurched from
Danny's larrups, Wong thought his hour had come, but he was stoically
silent.

Wong selected one of the deserted huts. Delacy had a squatting licence
for that part, and Wong had a miner's right, and thus he was doubly
established.


With the boom in live stock, two young men named Angus came and took up
the station between Keebah and Burrabinga. It was called Birrabee by the
blacks because the sand of the creek was infested with fleas.

"Hasn't it been my ambition to lead the way for population?" observed
Delacy. "And sure, covetousness bursts the bag."

If on the wrong side of matrimony, Delacy was on the top side of the
horse trade. He had been improving his stud for years, and at the time of
Johanna's disturbing action had a champion sire, Bewuck Nullah-Mundoey. A
strain of Arab was evident in his head and the clean muscular barrel, and
in his strength and speed, but the horse was sixteen hands. On the flats
of Burrabinga was a crowd of fillies and colts ripening into walers of
reputation. There was respect for the Nullah-Mundoey blood among spielers
and stockmen.

The last of the tutors went, leaving Harry in possession of his library.
The huts were up on the selections, the new house at the main
homestead--a mansion of four rooms--was completed. Despite hard work,
Danny's mind had been riveted on the provoking forwardness of Johanna in
the hope that during two years her tantrums would have subsided. Bewuck
called. He drafted out the biggest bullocks and maturest walers for
market, and set out to be at home for Christmas.

William and Harry were left at Burrabinga. Doogoolook always attached
himself to Delacy with the surety of the best heeler. "'Twill be easier
to tell the story with Wong as illustration," he explained, and rode out
to Bullock Gap to collect his second gentleman-in-waiting. By this time
Yong could at least mount on a horse, and Delacy had supplied him with
suitable beasts at equitable prices.

Bewuck was to wear a new air to meet him.

He had scarcely been out of sight when Robert assumed charge of his
mother and Hannon. He laughed at the carriage beside the hen house, but
recognized its social possibilities, and began his career as a whip by
training a pair of saddle mares to run in traces. He further set men to
grade the dray track so that the carriage could ascend to the plateau
without overturning. When he was ready, he put Hannon on the box beside
him and drove his mother to the Township.

Then began for Mrs Delacy the nearest approach to happiness she had known
since the illusions of her teens. For nearly thirty years she had been
dragged after Danny's rough-riding kite, she whose ambition was a
conventional city existence. Her soul was sick of colonizing rigours.
Squatting, pioneering, grazing, bushwhacking--settling by any of its
classifications--to her taste was little above bushranging in quality or
status. Danny's democracy was full of trials to her. Coming from the
educated classes in the old country, Delacy was entitled to the best
society the Colony afforded, but he was destitute of social ambition. To
Johanna's irritation he allowed emancipists to climb past him while he
was a brother to any man who cared to use his hospitality. Danny was a
separate soul and too engrossed in the struggle of home-building to
cultivate any society as society per se. The haughtiest and humblest
welcomed him on his sorties in his district, and he called upon all
grades impartially.

Few came to Bewuck, leagues off the main highway. "The raggle-taggle
can't injure me," Johanna used to think, "but 'twill be different when
the girls are ripe to marry."

With Danny risking the necks of his two sons in a wild region, she felt
she had earned the right to Robert and her daughters. Robert was up to
her dearest expectations. His years of schooling in Sydney had made him
as dashing a young man as the ranks of the corn-stalks--or native
born--could show. The business of Bewuck, as distinct from its labour,
fell to him because of his address; he arrogated to himself all
transactions that took him to the Township on horseback instead of with
the pack-horses and bullock drays, and was credited with "having a head
on him".

All the Delacy boys had wit, but Robert had a tip on his tongue to prick
dumber persons to his purpose through fear of ridicule. His gallant
swagger took the eyes of women, and he had enough for all. He did not
discredit the bunyip nor the ghosts in the crossing; he was not himself
free from fear of such things. His mother could now admit her tremors.

The Township had grown with the discovery of gold. There were attractions
for Robert in its hotel parlours, and also in the bedrooms, before he
left his teens. He differed from the others of his name by an embracive
taste in wenches. Those who disliked him--and he had more enemies than
the others put together--said he was a flash fellow, lascivious with
women. Flash was a man's word never used by ladies nor of ladies, though
they might be doubtful, but it fitted Robert in his adolescence. Sly and
uninstructed, he was indebted to servant girls for the most vital
education of his youth, and he shrewdly left others to fight his battles.
His staunchest champion was young Harry.

Robert cultivated his mother. He warmed her lonely heart adrift from
family moorings, and which had never found sanctuary in Danny's
impersonality and selflessness. Handsome and smartly dressed, Robert
renewed her life. His indifference to higher education was forgotten in
the joy of his companionship and protection. It was unthinkable to her
that he should be squandered on some hussy. In the absence of worthy
mates, she cultivated the least unworthy at Glenties and Heulong. She
encouraged Gerald Butler for Della. Old Butler was unequivocally among
the gentry, and his ruthless financial tactics made him prosperous. Della
was rising in the twenties unwed, which surprised her mother, because she
was good-looking and sprightly. Admirers were plentiful, but Della was
inhibited by a love dream dating from her term at school, where she had
become infatuated with a cornet in the --th. He never saw Della except en
masse as the school crocodiled abroad with its instructresses, so he
could not respond, but the image of a smart uniforrn was a fixation in
the heart of the girl from Murrumbidgee solitudes.


Danny and his companions dismounted by the new stables one December day
when the jubilation of birds arose in the orchard, and the voice of the
river and its hamadryads made silvery music in an aromatic world.

"I've come to invite you to the new home, sure, me country seat at
Burrabinga," he said in greeting.

"The Saints preserve us! Ye have a new clown in your circus," exclaimed
Johanna.

Wong Foo bowed and beamed. He had gold in his pockets to be made into
jewellery for the ladies. His hair had been cut in colonial fashion to
mark his adoption by Delacy. Johanna was in high spirits. Some of her
youthful vivacity had revived, but Danny was not sure that she was
welcoming him with open arms.

"Sure, we can't treat Wong as a serf. He will have to sit with us for
meals. He can sleep in the ind room. He's an educated man and a Christian
haythen, if ever there was wan."

There! That would dispose of the end room!

He was astonished by the improvements. Paint brightened doors and gates.
The house had additions. Johanna had a parlour with a carpet and a suite
of the horsehair furniture she had coveted years before. The earthen
floors had all disappeared. Danny y generously admired everything.

When the evening meal was served, Maeve was cooking, while a girl brought
in the dishes. To these had been added a cruet with a dozen bottles and a
set of dish-covers. There was a chiffonier as a substitute for the
sideboard with the foxes' heads at Cooley Hall, and on it were displayed
a toast rack, glasses, and an epergne.

The girl was a shepherd's daughter. Johanna was a disciplinarian in
turning a gurrl into a surrvant. Robert was at the head of the table,
carving in assured style, and at the end of the meal he toyed with a
pencil-case in a topside manner. Danny was proud of the way Della queened
it among the tea cups. He repeated his invitation to Burrabinga.

Johanna laughed. "I'll go up when me carriage can bowl along a proper
road. I've had enough of scrambling into that backward place."

"A couple of accomplished navvies would soon grade the road."

"I'd need evidence, me vehicle not to be bounding like a corruk in a
torrent, with men hanging on to it trying to rescue it from the rocks,
and me rattled about inside like a pea in a pannikin till I had a skin
full of sore bones, if not shattered entirely."

Danny went to Johanna's room at bedtime and remarked conversationally,
"Aren't you a little severe on the girl?"

"A surrvant is better for being kept in her place.

"But what is a servant's place? What is anny .wan's place but what he can
make it?"

"I'm furrm that a surrvant shan't have my place, and me to be waiting on
her." Presently she said. "Ye'r bed is ready for ye in the ind room."

Danny was checkmated. "Wong Foo was to go there."

"Sure, ye insisted that I should accept him as a gintleman and an aquil
at me table. Ye would surprise me if ye would object to his sleeping
across the room from ye."

Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy could face a charging hull without a
tremor, but Johanna Cooley had the upper hand of him. He could not raise
a clamour in the hearing of Wong Foo, who beamed and beamed. He retired
with his protégé to the end room. He was unable to explain that his wife
was--well, by all the pipers, what was there to explain? His business was
his own, hut, as he snuffed out the light, he hoped that Wong Foo would
think separate apartments the fashion for husbands of the best carat on
the Murrumbidgee.

To disguise Johanna's attitude from himself he was impelled to extra
energy, if that were possible. He quickly discerned that too much time
had been given to elegancies and amenities at the expense of fundamentals
to be profitable, but excused Robert on account of inexperience. Besides,
he was so perfect in his mother's eyes, and so confident, that Danny
hardly knew how to cope with him. He pointed out the top-heaviness of the
youth's management. Robert plausibly agreed, and expressed his intention
of tackling various things immediately. He had done what he could to
arouse his mother. She had been melancholy but now she had an interest in
her house and garden, and visited the neighbours. The novelty of this
bemused Danny for the moment.

"Moi, oh, moi," he murmured, as Johanna's side of the case now came to
him. He felt let-down that she had not confided in him, but, without
rancour, looked inward and blamed himself. His disposition was pure wool
throughout. His brave Johanna must have her desires in the homestead and
in the housekeeping. He would support them. Johanna would by and by
return to normal.

He ordered a holiday to the Township. Johanna, Maeve and Della were to go
inside the carriage. Robert was to drive with Wong beside him. The trip
out of Burrabinga had so wounded Foo that stoicism could not hide his
state. Robert was not brave enough to confess that he had been employing
Hannan as coachman, and Danny's training made him endure the Chinese.

"They'll think he is my footman," he chuckled to his mother. "He can't
talk enough to explain." Robert's Sydney years had partially liberated
him from local opinion. He would go his own way and be damned to the
criticism of the tag-rag--while he did not come to grief.

Danny and Doogoolook capered ahead and democratized the carriage. Danny
could have turned a hearse into a family coach without embarrassment. The
pack-horses and miscellaneous collection of dogs careered ahead into the
backyard of Hennessy's hotel, their advent enlivening the Township.

Robert escorted his mother on his arm across the yard to the entrance
door and thence to the ladies' parlour, winking as he went at the barmaid
and the house girl. Danny had rarely been situated to take Johanna on his
arm. Geography had defeated him. Since the loss of his leg he was no
figure for a pageant of ladies in crinolines, but here was Robert doing
the stylish thing. He was waiting to do it again on the straggling street
as Johanna went to the general store. How happily she bowed and
condescended to the Fullwoods and the Butlers, who also happened to be
in town.

Gerald Butler seemed to spring out of nowhere as he had sprung out of the
carriage on the day of its debut, and offered his arm to Della in
imitation of Robert. Wong curvetted near to Robert as well as his
infirmities permitted. He recognized the leader of the family.

Doogoolook and Maeve were for Danny to escort. "Oh, moi, oh, moi!" he
murmured, wistfulness invading him, but only momentary. He boomed at
Doogoolook. He had a repertory of signs, but in moments of stress could
not contain his voice. He handed sovereigns to all the women. He bought
every one material for an outfit from the store, and ordered an extra keg
of rum for rations.

He and Robert had entertainment in taking Wong to the tailor and the
saddler. Danny gave copious advice, which bewildered Wong, who pointed to
Robert and insisted upon being a copy. What was the good of a flash
turn-out to regale the dingoes at Bullock Gap, Danny boomed, but it was
lost on Wong. He was still young and was having amazing experiences. He
was nearly Robert's height, and was excited by Robert's swagger. He would
have assumed one like it but for the effect of the hard journey. He chose
a showy saddle and Robert was flattered by this imitation.

"They'll think he's my illegitimate brother or uncle when he's fully
rigged," he observed.

"Humph!" said Danny.

Wong's deference to age kept Danny well in the picture too, and Danny was
proud of Robert's style and "the head he had on him", only, when he was
about to project himself upon the stage, Robert would be acting a leading
part so that his father's energy returned upon himself like the wuff from
a slackening sail. He took a number of nobblers that evening and was
excited and loud in political and poetical dissertation.

The hotel room had a large double bed, but Johanna objected to tobacco
and rum as perfumes, and rested on an ottoman and let Danny snore by
himself. He did not snore as a matter of fact. Johanna's contempt sobered
him and he lay awake and planned immediate return to Burrabinga. He had
meant to spend the summer at Bewuck, but now decided that Hannon and
Robert could be left to carry on as before.

At breakfast next morning he said to Della, "Can you be ready to come to
Burrabinga with me and housekeep?"

Gerald Butler looked at Della, so for the effect on him, she said she
would love to go.

"Are you going to drive up, Mr Delacy?" he inquired. "You will need me to
hang on to the vehicle again."

"There's always need for a good man annywhere," said Danny. "Why don't
you take up a run on the other side of me? There's a crowd bound that way
now, and I'd sooner the dayvil I know."

"I shall take a look at it, at any rate," said Gerald.

Johanna believed that marriage was the natural end of women, but was not
disturbed by Della's indifference to her suitors. All the district could
see that she had numerous chances. Johanna defended her with many a quip
when people rallied her on remaining unwed, and had a dream about her
ultimate disposal, which had been transferred from Robert. A handsome
daughter, who could have married well, would be a more desirable bride of
the Church than a disappointed failure.


A week's restraint from riding was necessary for Wong Foo, and when he
was ready to take the track his horse was fitted with the new saddle and
bridle and a gaudy saddle-cloth. Wong had boots and spurs and a town hat,
like Robert's, in which he looked quaint indeed. Johanna had accepted
him. He had done wonders for her garden, and presented her with a set of
earrings and a massive brooch with dangles, which had a cavity for hair
at the back and a frame for a .photo before. "'Twill hold Robert's photo
nicely," said she.

"Better have Wong's hair at the back," suggested Robert, which shocked
and delighted his mother.

Della was relieved to be going to Burrabinga. Inquiries as to whether she
intended Honoria to outstrip her were not enough to drive her into
marriage without love, but she would he glad to escape them. Her mother
was acquiescent. Della would mature safely at Burrabinga, and Honoria
would be home from Sydney at Easter. Johanna insisted that Bella
Rafferty, the girl she had trained, should go with Della.

"She must have wan of her own sex, not to be imprisoned in that lost hole
with only a black and a haythen, and ye'r feyther lacking the
circumspection of an eft."

Bella was avid for adventure with Miss Della, and rode gaily by her side,
with Doogoolook and Wong as equerries. Gerry Butler suffered Danny's
conversation.

The Urquharts held them for two days for company. Danny had much talk
with Urquhart. Agnes and Janet, Jessie and Donald were eager for the
second generation of Delacys. The young men showed Gerry that he could
not have the accomplished Della to himself. Also present were Tom and Ned
Angus. Tom was the smart young man from the Victorian side of Monaro, who
had taken Birrabee, between Urquhart and Delacy. Ned was fourteen, but
already with a noticeable moustache. He became page to Della, who used
the sunny good-natured boy to keep her adult admirers at a distance.

Doogoolook took Danny away behind the stables and staged a pantomime of a
man with a revolver, using the signs for bad man. Danny grasped that
neither Tom nor Ned were bad, but had a bad man behind them. He put the
charitable construction on it. "It's wan of those things that will have
to develop or die out," he said. It was in the maturing pattern of his
life, which, so far, had been as uncomplicated as a windlass.

Burrabinga was no longer inaccessible and did not remain remote with two
pretty young women singing about a house with girly curtains on glass
windows, "crockery" on shelves, a white tablecloth for meals, and boards
on the main floors.

Gerald stayed a week watching Della and doting on her housekeeping.
"Surely," he mused, "she must take me soon now for fear of being an old
maid."



CHAPTER XIII


In his transition from parent of nestlings to Delacy man maintaining his
manhood among maturing sons, Delacy ran parallel with the progress of the
Colony.

Rebellion had early thrown out the "Rum Corps" and burst the shell of the
garde-major regime. Land grants to die favoured had ended twenty years
later. The financial doldrums of the 'forties, the momentum of the
golden 'fifties, more recently weathered, advanced a spirit of robust
democracy.

No section of society can maintain aristocratic amenities and elegancies
without a submerged race, whether slaves of another breed or the
unprivileged of its own, to do the hard and menial labour. Australia
began with manacled slaves, mostly misdemeanants, many of whom were
bedevilled into irreclaimable outlaws by archaic officialdom and its
right to prescribe the lash, but many factors operated against the
continuance of this ancient social composition. Wentworth and his
colleagues were early leaders in its disruption. Distance from old-world
authority and traditions of serfdom, and the scarcity of population of
any kind from which to draft menials, coupled with inebriating
opportunities for virile humanity loosed into an unspoiled continent,
were defeating to class demarcation. Due to a dearth of well-bred
females, the difference between freemen and emancipists was sunk in
unions among the native born. Landed gentry and budding plutocracy were
invigorated by marriages with the progeny of outlaws, in whose veins was
some of the hardiest and most adventurous blood in the human race.
Freedom and space, which in a virgin continent demanded courageous
resourcefulness, sharpened wits and ingrained self-reliance in the
people, and their isolation had, at its inception, an expansive
influence.

Wentworth's demand for autonomy, and later the surging equality
inevitable among the diversified congregations of freemen under the
compulsion of gold-rush condition, smashed the aristocratic assumption in
Australia and left an indelible stamp on Australian behaviour. With the
passing of the earliest "old hands" the national idiom had been
democratically fixed, its spirit a fresh attempt at egalitarianism, the
brothers of the Utopia to be at least as equal as blood brothers under
primogeniture. Distinctive national characteristics, some of them
paradoxical, were being ingrained by the force of environment.

Conditions, generally, were against the squattocracy entrenching itself
as a squirearchy. The squattocracy it had to remain, with the difference
between the Australian Bush and the English County so firmly marked that
the Australian squatter and his missus--save in lamentable examples--have
always been noted for a physical independence, a dignified ability to
fend for themselves, resembling that of the higher animal world.

Thus in attacking, with single-handed hardihood, the wilderness beyond
the fringe of the transplanted squirearchy, Delacy was a symbol and a
portent of an Australia which still pecks at its shell a hundred years
after his arrival. His practice of equality with all men was part of a
continent-wide experiment, which, when Delacy was in his grave was to
flower in measures of political freedom and protection for the ordinary
man which raised the personnel of the Australian working class to an
unprecedented level and then left it shoaled for lack of continuing
inspired leadership.

Absence of backward breeds diminished the flunkey class; the
transformation of the peasant element was in part the contribution of the
horse. No man can remain a peasant and go a-horse. Willy-filly the blood
saddle-horse will limber him out of his peasant characteristics. This
four-footed brother cannot supply what Nature omitted, and change dunces
into intellectuals, but he can lighten their bovine peculiarities.

Horses! Horses!

The whole population took to horse. Wishes were horses from the 'forties
onward.

Those congenitally unsuited to excel in horsemanship nevertheless climbed
on to nags and were forbearingly carried out. Even Delacy's Chinaman used
an aristocratic Nullah-Mundoey. The stodginess of the yokels from Europe
was swiftly massaged into something more flexible. The bumpkin was
exercised towards a swagger. The galoot, for good or ill, was transformed
into a stockrider, a jockey, a spieler, a drover, a horse-breaker, a
horse-toper, a horse-breeder--a caballero of one kind or another. He
plodded no more on foot. Only derelicts walked.

The man at one with light horses may be a brave dashing gentle man at
large, a cavalry officer at heel, a soulless undersized simian or any of
the intermediate grades, but lie ceases to be a peasant. Australia has
remained a peasantless Commonwealth, a peonless community.

Cavalier qualities were heightened in the Australian by the class of
horses available. He rode no mustangs with strawberry hides like those of
their horned brothers, but animals with a dash of good blood. The brumby
of Australian beginnings was an escaped blood on one side of his family
tree. Nevertheless, the dearth of menials, which forced pioneer tasks
upon the squatter, likewise saved the yokel from developing into a
full-blown caballero. The Australian horseman lacked the leisure and the
arena furnished with peons and flunkeys in which to develop picturesque
flourish in manners and to pursue _amour_ as a fine art. Complementary to
his responsibilities as wood-and-water joey and general rouseabout, all
the pioneer women, who pulled their weight on the frontier, had to cope
with toil which in Great Britain was relegated to "general slaveys".

The rough rider had little time for serenades and genuflexions, his lady
less to accept them. That perhaps is why the Australian has been
described as the world's worst lover, though he developed his own
commendable qualities and habits. Australian women, though inured to
hardship and deprivation, had true mateship and the large measure of
marital faithfulness attendant upon monogamy enforced by conditions; the
dignity of equal citizenship was early theirs.

Delacy, freeman by the accident of parentage as well as by the richer
endowment of mental and spiritual independence, reared his family when
the Colonies were expanding towards Commonwealth--not, however, to be
consummated until fifty years later--and he reared them on horseback.

The Delacys were woven into the great days of the horse, when he was
transporter in two senses, when all release, romance, adventure, travel,
hung on his withers. His usage demanded ability and daring and included
all the exhilarating swagger invested in furnishing the superbest of
creatures in hogskin and silver. His was a high destiny which remained
unchallenged for half a century.

Johanna's forbears gave their male children a horse at seven, and a sword
and spear. Regardless of sex, the Australian bush child had a horse long
before he was seven. Children went a-horse in the parents' arms before
they could sit up. At an earlier age they rode with their undefeatable
mothers to be born, for though property rights for women on the
Murrumbidgee had not then advanced far beyond Brehon law, the exigencies
of pioneering put women on horseback. A lop-sided saddle and long robes
were indispensable to constrain female limbs to spurious femininity, but
were not entirely discommoding.

The Australian Alps came near to being populated in the decades
succeeding the gold-rushes. Not only were there squatters, selectors and
fossickers. Horse shooters were present to do away with thousands of
horses. (Horsehair furniture was fashionable, to tickle the bare legs of
children.) There were kangaroo shooters and those who slaughtered the
lyre-bird. The mountains were alive with these fairy creatures. American
gold-seekers of the 'fifties remained to fossick through the 'sixties,
and saw the trade in their tails.

No one thought of conserving anything. Men worked to the limit, grunting
with effort. Women bore children without restraint and thought it God's
will. When jellied, fly-blown human backs had the sanction of society,
there was no tenderness towards animals, no artistic and scientific
realization that in Australia's living unique flora, fauna and avifauna
were masterpieces beyond anything she can ever contribute to museums and
galleries. Here was a wonder continent, a vast garden of Eden free from
sin and disease, left intact by the aborigines. The aim was to rifle it,
exploit it in greedy haste. People unable to project themselves beyond
the ancient soul-case wrought for them by the inspired members of their
race through a hundred generations in Europe were driven by their
immediate needs to uproot Australia, to tame it into a semblance of
familiar fields and towns. And there was abundance for all. Fire the
forests, destroy them, man was merely as an ant against them. Millions of
square miles of the stateliest trees in creation remained. Exterminate
Menura for his tail regardless of his magic powers of mimicry. Snare and
trap the possums, the kangaroos and all the marsupial tribes, droves of
them still appeared. Nemesis was not in that generation, nor the next.

That generation earned by sweat, endurance and deprivation the right to a
harvest of some kind, salted with a little swagger. It lies forgotten
now, while a less-inspired host of exploiteers, without hard toil, reaps
where the old hands blazed the track in sturdy if ignorant hardihood.

Kiandra and Adelong, the leading goldfields of Delacy's area, provided a
market for beef, for working bullocks, for every kind of horse. The
Delacys profited, so did the Anguses of Birrabee and the Urquharts of
Keebah, and many another. That region appealed to the native born. It was
rather beyond immigrants unskilled in bushcraft.

The influence of the Urquhart girls, and Della and her handmaiden Bella
Rafferty, was to transform the hobbledehoys of their runs into blades who
gave time to boots and horse gear, and naive and sometimes obscene
speculation upon the mysteriousness of women. Tom Angus was a model. He
had travelled and knew the Victorian side and Port Phillip as well as
Port Jackson. Down about Rose Hill and Liverpool he had learned the
niceties of pacing horses, the social graces of addressing ladies without
utter confusion, and he sec the fashion in all that swagger, beyond the
Murrumbidgee.



CHAPTER XIV


"One door never shuts but another opens," observed Johanna.

The shut door was that of her friend Mr Moore, who had died during
Robert's final term at College. Johanna's youthful annoyance had sold
Bandalong Station and departed for Dublin to rejoin his brother, who had
refused to return to Australia years before on completing his education
at Trinity College.

The new door opened by grace of Robert, whose career at Bewuck revived
his mother's spirit. She ascended from her gorges to take her place in
the pastoral society of the country that stretched away to Goulburn on
one side and Monaro on the other. It had chafed her to be held back to
take the dust of expirees. Danny's notion that a man should be judged by
character regardless of financial or social success, was to Johanna
rankly foolish. Who was Danny to judge men? He had no special rights in
divination. It had been lively enough for him, leathering about the
country, but she had been restricted to uncouth loneliness beside the
waterhole of evil reputation in the sombre river with its lorn
casuarinas.

Robert took her to call on the Butlers of Glenties and on the new and
stylish owners at Quebarra and at Bandalong. She had the satisfaction of
refusing her acquaintance to Mrs Wells, farther up the river, because her
father had been a convict. When the river permitted, Robert set her on a
gentle horse and visited the Fullwoods of Heulong.

The Fullwoods displayed the portrait of an ancestor in an Elizabethan
ruff, as well as a sword, and a few pieces of table silver bearing a
crest, and were authentically from the flanges of the squirearchy,
whereas Johanna's parent was Irish and somewhat of a squireen through
being the younger son of a younger son too many times in succession in a
subject country.

In the Heulong family were two daughters of suitable age for Robert, who
was not at first aware of his mother's hopes, though the association
pleased him because he too found his father's democratic eccentricities
distasteful. He was, and felt himself the equal of the crackest young men
in the district, and in a position to make intimates among them as he
willed. He could resist few women unless they were grandmothers or as
ugly as a mormops. He did not relish remarks about himself as coachie,
but when Grace Fullwood came to stay at Bewuck and sat on the box beside
him, he was compensated. His gallant manner was taken for serious
attention by Grace Fullwood, but little Mollie McCathie at Hennessy's pub
was more seductive. She was generous, and Robert was a taker of all gifts
from women. The tall insipid Grace, with a nose like his own, only
sharper, and weak blue eyes and sandy hair, was outclassed by the plump
and ticklesome Molly of the button nose and darting wit. She was merely
the orphaned niece of the publican, but that gentleman had orthodox Irish
ideas for her behaviour and kept a shrewd eye on her admirers. Maidens
were in demand, and Hennessy had ambitions.

Johanna enjoyed making purchases in the Township as much as Robert
enjoyed other entertainment to be found there. Her turkeys throve like
the rabbits of later years on the grass and grass-hoppers of the river
flats. There were no enemies but native cats and crows, and Robert
perfected his marksmanship on the crows. His mother was glad to give him
the latest swagger in firearms. She would have felt safer in the
beginning had the blacks been kept in their place (or out of it, as Danny
would have maintained), by lethal weapons instead of conciliation, though
Danny's policy had been vindicated by results.

Mrs Delacy was not any longer afraid of the blacks, though they visited
Bewuck in force the year that Della went to Burrabinga, and Maeve
interpreted their demand for a beast. Cattle were now a high price and
Robert was against paying this rent until his vanity was prickled by the
leader, who said, "Him plum flash, minetinkit. Him no budgery old pfella
Nullah-Mundoey."

The old gins--very witch-like towards the end--crept in as softly as
shadows and sat in the kitchen fireplace, and emitted wild guffaws when
they startled Johanna. That was the last season that she heard against
the soughing of her casuarinas their piercing cry:

Munny munny lumby adjong cooo!

They moved on to fight with rival tribes on the tableland towards Monaro,
where the fray was ended by the settlers, and it was in that decade that
the aborigines began to dwindle from the district.


Robert was developing a thriving business in harness horses, whose
subjugation was furthered by a turn in the plough, on which occasions
Robert's daring furrows would not have earned him a place in the
ploughing matches of The Plains. He coveted a gig and tandem with which
to eclipse a bullet-headed young man from one of the big stations down
the Murrumbidgee beyond Wagga Wagga. Once having seen such a turn-out he
wearied of the carriage, and at that date the horses bolted with it and
broke a window and sprained an axle. Many turkeys would be needed o pay
for a gig, but chance aided Robert. A messenger from Burrabinga brought
instructions to sell the surplus horned cattle and leave Bewuck for
topping-up beasts that were coming down. Robert kept the money from a
steer he sold to a teamster and told his mother that Hennessy had found a
gig for the sum of her turkey money.

Robert trained a likely pair for the gig, and his handling of them up and
down the street, and curving in and out of the pub's back yard, was so
capable that Hennessy consented when Robert invited Molly, to drive with
him.

"Git up to no foolery, and stay widin soight of me," said Hennessy. This
was concession to propriety so that Molly's matrimonial stock should not
be lowered.

Molly put on her new leghorn bonnet, her shawl and mittens, mounted a
chair and into the gig with ostentatious modesty in handling her skirts.
Her heart fluttered. Robert was the most striking young man in the
district, with his aquiline profile and Johanna's eyes--grown blacker and
more piercing. He could not ride as well as his brothers, but chose the
most showy of the Nullah Mundoeys, and had the finest tackle and boots and
breeches, and with his willowy grace was the perfect figure of a
horseman, like the Magyars of old.

Hennessy saw him as a profitable catch, if nothing better came within
reach. Old Delacy was too white a man to grow rich, like some of the
squatters, but Bewuck would fall to the eldest son, already in
possession. The profits to be made from fools by pubbing could add to it.
Also, Hennessy's was the general store, which retailed everything from
marbles to hairpins, a pennyworth of pack thread to a ship's cable,
jaconet to moleskin, as the broadsheet--forerunner of a Township
newspaper--announced to Hennessy's "distinguished patrons". Farmers were
surrounding the Township, and Hennessy had a tract of the Moore station
where he depastured the horses of his patrons. Many animals thus melted
through alcohol into his permanent possession. The township had grown as
a centre for fossickers beyond the Murrumbidgee, and the Great Southern
Road was crawling with teams carrying goods from Sydney and needing
accommodation for man and beast.

Hennessy was growing rich, and he craved position. He remained unmarried
because the women available would not advance him socially. He longed for
Molly to marry into one of those families which had snubbed him as a lag,
a terrier from the bogs of Ireland, and a publican. Delacy had been
neither familiar nor superior, but had treated Hennessy as he did all
men. Hennessy was therefore well-disposed towards the Delacy breed.
Delacy was a "black Prodestan'", but Mrs Delacy had been born in the "wan
thrue Church", and Hennessy would not permit creed to stand in the way of
social ascent. The Church had not been so ready with comfort when he had
been a lag as it was with requests for support now that he was behind an
auriferous bar. So he allowed Molly to christen the gig and got Robert on
his books with an advance for it.

Honoria, shortened to Norah, had also been some time at home, her
education completed, her life begun, and Stewart Butler, brother of
Gerald. was among the most frequent callers at Bewuck.

Gerald went to Burrabinga, but Della remained unmoved by his pleas. She
enjoyed her position in charge of a house of her own, with no husband to
dictate to her. Bella Rafferty found life with Miss Della a holiday, and
queened it in a kitchen full of admirers. Bella was more popular than her
mistress, and had nearly as good a chance as Molly McCathie at the pub,
of marrying into the squattocracy. Della was of unbroachable
maidenliness. Bella was full of fun and more approachable. There were
large crumbs from her table of maidenhood as well as the probability of a
real helping.

There was facetious "teasing" when James Fullwood appeared every Saturday
night. He was the bachelor and younger brother of Charles at Heulong, and
held a rough run near Wong Foo. He was attributed to Della and Bella in
turn. Della repudiated the imputation with scorn. Bella tried to ape her,
but furious blushes defeated her.

Danny discouraged that kind of raillery. "Arrah! 'Twould be better to
occur our moinds with something essential. What James Fullwood a good
dinner cooked and laid out by a woman after a week of beef and damper on
a log. A few soft words in anny direction is little to pay for it, and
comes natural to bachelors, old or young--more to the old than the young,
I'm thinking. They're more brazen in the horn."

Bella resented this. Her pate harboured an apophthegm concerning an old
man's darling. Mrs Wells (on whom Mrs Delacy refused to call) had married
old Wells who had a better place than Bewuck and Burrabinga together. The
father of Mrs Wells had worked in irons and made no secret of it. Mrs
Wells had shepherded the Wells sheep barefooted, and had been called
Polly by every one until she was sixteen. Now she wore a silk dress and a
lot of rings and brooches, and sat inside with old Wells, and ate his
mutton openly instead of that secretly obtained by her dad from the same
source, while any one who dared to address her as Polly was caustically
set right by old Wells and sent to the hut or kitchen to eat.

Bella resented having to eat in the kitchen, when all the men were agreed
that she was much prettier than Della. It looked as if Della might be an
old maid--a failure and a disgrace.

Nor did Danny approve of Bella eating in the kitchen. It increased his
burden as chaperon, as in his day virginity was guarded by eternal
vigilance. The girls shared one bedroom for safety, but Johanna decreed
that Bella should be kept in her place for meals, otherwise both girls
would be recalled. Johanna said that while there was breath in her body,
she would not submit to her daughters being ruffians as well as
"haythens". Danny yielded more to Johanna in her recalcitrance than he
had done since the larks sang loud and high to them at Cooley Hall.

Della's early fixation remained. Her ideal was an urban life with a sleek
city man. The bush had not quickened her imagination; she absorbed
nothing from its differences to add to her natal endowment. She liked the
Anguses best of the circle. Tom's flowery manners appeased her romantic
idea of what a gentleman should be. Young Ned, now advanced to a full
moustache, remained her devoted page.

Tom and Ned were rich, with girls on both sides of them. There was room
for them all, and plenty of live stock to be captured by the resourceful.
Danny stuck to walers. The Anguses had a rare beast named the Bedouin,
advertised as pure Arab, with a perfect head and a crest as lordly as the
English thoroughbreds. He had no flaw except a too-feminine head. The
grace of the muzzle and clean-cut jaw, with the full bright eyes in the
mane that hung to his knees, suggested a houri in her tresses, but such
was his pre-potence as a sire that no brand was necessary to distinguish
his progeny.

The two breeders did not tread on each other's skirts. The Anguses worked
up a reputation for polo ponies, and they and the Delacys once chartered
a ship to take their horses direct to Calcutta. Tom Angus and Robert fell
into fervent friendship, with their love of showy horses as a bond.
Robert saw the possibilities of the Bedouins as harness horses for small
vehicles and coveted a tandem for his gig, but there would be trouble
with father, who had a mania for big horses, like his notion of an
over-roomy hat filled with leaves, and a large boot padded with
cloth--the Prince Alberts of the derelicts.

"With wan leg wouldn't ye find a smaller horse easier to climb on?"
Johanna would demand.

"Och, I like to be where I can look around, not crawling about with the
efts and ants."

Robert and Toni called on the Butlers and. Fullwoods and did the Township
in company. Tom was charmed by Molly, and she seemed to favour him more
than Robert, but Hennessy did not encourage Tom. He knew just what the
Delacys were, and were not. In Tom he saw a young man as astute as
himself, and who, like himself, never mentioned his antecedents.

At this time Mrs Fullwood's sister came to Heulong, Mrs Euphemia
Fitzhugh, widow of a Major of Crimean fame, a topside lady in her own
estimation, who gave a social fillip to her relatives. Her crinolines and
ringlets, her bracelets and shawls were the twitter of the district.

Mrs Delacy and Mrs Fitzhugh met in the parlour of Hennessy's hotel, which
ascended socially with the widow's arrival. It was regarded as a palace
since a recent addition of a wing of two stories. "Sure," said Danny,
"There is a man who sees, ahead. Hennessy is going to be the biggest man
in the district."

"He will be able to show himself in a circus," said Johanna.

"Och, woman, there's no sense at you."

"His brogue would carry a horse," said Johanna contemptuously. Danny
chortled. "You think yourself has less brogue than Hennessy, and I think
I have less than you, but outsiders would lump us all together."

"Only those who don't know a grape from a gooseberry would be so
ignorant," maintained Johanna.

Johanna was over-impressed by Euphemia Fitzhugh, so long had she been
exiled from gentility, and so eager was she to offset Danny's oddity in
practice of equality. Mrs Fitzhugh was recruiting an army of satellites
and was condescendingly gracious. Hennessy had long been looking for a
widow suitable to his secret ambition, and eyed this one as he might a
likely blood mare. He ambled up on all occasions and was excessively
ingratiating. The lady encouraged him. She was of the old country school,
and felt that she conferred favour and happiness on any members of the
lower orders by accepting their service or substance.

Mrs Fullwood, her sister, a much quieter bird, murmured of the trouble in
crossing the Murrumbidgee, which separated them from the Township and the
best of the seignorials.

"We need," said Mrs Fitzhugh, "two vehicles. We could then come to the
river, cross in the boat, and take up our travels again on this side."

Mrs Fullwood had but recently acquired her only vehicle, a small cart.

"'Tis a pity," said Mrs Delacy, "that my carriage is out of order. I
could lind it to ye without anny inconvenience at all, as I have a gig
now. Me son is a great whip."

"Oh, yes, your son, that young gentleman I observed this morning. He was
educated in Sydney, I hear."

Johanna glowed. "And Norah, too, and also her sister Della, in the
mountains."

"I understand that your husband has his main seat in the mountains."

"I'm thinking his main seat up there is a-hor-seback," responded Johanna
with humour. "There's not much other In those regions. 'Tis not like the
old country."

This conversation was taking place at dinner. "That is very handsome of
ye, Mrs Delacy," interposed Hennessy, in reference to the carriage. He
was carving a mighty roast. Since he had enlarged the hotel, he sat at
table and carved for his select guests. There was a tag-rag table
downstairs, and people could also be exclusive by dining in a
sitting-room. Hennessy was real host, no vassal. He turned with a
flourish to the widow. "Sure, 'twould be noice if a lady who has come to
ornamint our disthrict could move about at her aise. Would ye'r carriage
be nading much repairing, Mrs Delacy?"

"More than I want to spind on it, me having no use for such a caravan."

"If ye'll be so gracious as to lind it, Oi'll kape moi ind up by having
it repaired in me own shop."

Johanna was uneasy, thinking of Danny. Hennessy beamed broadly. Mrs
Fitzhugh languished and gushed. She would not be out of pocket by the
undertaking: it was the privilege of inferiors to pay. Robert, in debt to
Hennessy, offered to bring in the carriage.

When the job was tackled the carriage had to be put on the dray, and took
more than a week of Hannon's time with Robert's help, when they should
have been mending the fences, and always, when no other tasks pressed,
have been grubbing, ring-barking and cultivating if Bewuck was to
prosper. Robert did not drive the bullocks. He delegated labour.

Mrs Fitzhugh was amiable to those who might be useful, and Robert was up
to Colonial standards. She liked personable men to curvet around her
crinoline.

Hennessy played for attention by talking of his orphaned niece. "God hilp
me, Oi nade the advoice of a lady such as ye'rself, if ye'll pardon the
presumption in bothering ye. Ye would be a motthel for anny young faymale
that had the distinguished opporchunity of observing ye."

Hennessy's manner had none of the brusque independence which made the
native born so odious. She would be enchanted to influence the
unfortunate Molly, and jumped to the conclusion that "these persons"
would supply her with a free personal maid as well as a carriage.

Molly astutely perceived the lady's condescension. Their meeting bristled
into an encounter. Molly did not curtsy. She did not smile. She stood as
uncompromisingly as a corner post. Mrs Fitzhugh assumed hauteur. Molly
made such an unabashed inspection of the widow's person, district by
district, that the proprietor grew conscious of defects. Mrs Fitzhugh
felt that Molly was too odiously a hussy for anything but salutary
reform. Molly meant to copy Mrs Fitzhugh's tricks of adornment. She left
the widow to make all the advances. Euphemia lost her way and covered her
defeat by languishing. "I declare I feel so overdone that my head aches."

"Maybe," said Molly, "if you cut your stay-laces you'd feel better. I'm
always afraid of apoplexy when old people are so stout."

Mrs Fitzhugh looked in danger of a seizure and felt too like one to
retort.

"An odious hussy, the real malapert," she remarked to her sister later.
What would have been her state of mind could she have seen into
Hennessy's where she reposed as a possible aunt for that hussy, because
of successful marriages in the squattocracy between persons equally
incongruous?

He insisted upon Molly sitting at table with the guests, and would not
permit her to do any menial tasks. He measured his money-making powers
with those of his contemporaries and knew he had few equals, and that
money was the most powerful key to any society, even that of the
angels--with their harps and pavements of gold.

Overhearing Molly's blague with the young men, when their women were not
by, Euphemia warned her sister, "You had better watch that creature
unless you want her in the family."

Mrs Fullwood replied that both her sons of suitable age were pursuing
Della and Honoria Delacy.

"Dear me, is that desirable? Mrs Delacy is a well-meaning little person;
she knows her place better than the McCathie minx, but she is so Irish. I
suppose Mr Delacy married beneath him. Have they money?"

"No, they are comparatively poor."

"Then why do you acknowledge them?"

"Every one thinks highly of Mr Delacy's character."

"I should not encourage them. Much more than honesty is necessary to make
a good match."

"They are going to provide you with a carriage."

"I wish I had known before we accepted it. We must not let such people
presume upon our condescension. The young man will take it as an
encouragement for Grace, I fear. We must use the carriage to take her
away from his attention. That. would be a just rebuke for his
presumption."

Mrs Fullwood sighed. Euphemia had a great deal to learn in the Colonies.
Mrs Fullwood had been reared in the same snobbery, but there had been
much of loneliness, hardship and childbearing to counteract it. "I don't
think Robert Delacy thinks so much of Grace as she does of him."

"She must be cured of such foolishness. It would be helpful to let Molly
Mc. have her way with the Delacy boy."

"If we could be sure that she would have it with him and not with my
Aubrey."

"Hennessy should be spoken to. Surely he knows his placer"

Euphemia had surprising things to learn of Hennessy's place. Mrs Fullwood
sighed again, uneasily, remembering her account at Hennessy's store.
Charles Fullwood, Esq., always had more classyupper-classy--work for the
money made at Heulong than payment of Hennessy's bills. Charles, like his
sister-in-law, felt that it was the lower orders' privilege to run big
bills for their betters.


"Sure, there's a foine thriving lady for ye--a hoigh sthepper if iver
there was wan," observed Hennessy to his niece, Molly McCathie.

"Fat old thing! Thinks she's Lady Muck, and we are the dirt beneath her
feet," said Molly to her uncle Hennessy, the Township publican.

"Ye from the convent, and have ye no genteeler language for a lady who
could bring ye on?"

"Bring me on!" snorted Molly. "She'd rather put me down."

"She's maybe a little hard to howld," conceded Hennessy. "But loike a
blood mare, when ye git used to her stroide, a great goer." Molly tossed
her head--like a blood filly. There were others she did not much care
for either. Mrs Fullwood was a rag, but old mother Delacy had started to
be top-lofty, and that was worse than Mrs Fitzhugh. Johanna had seen
alarming passages between Molly and Robert, and the other hotels were no
more than shanties for bullockies; besides, she quaked lest Danny might
consider Molly a fine girl, fit for any man.

When the carriage was repaired she suggested that Mrs Fullwood, her
sister, and Grace should visit Bewuck. Mrs Fitzhugh consented to one
night there on her tour of the district's (would-be) manorial families.
This would reward the Delacys for the carriage.

Mrs Delacy prepared a turkey feast and used all her elegancies, from the
Irish linen to the plated toast rack. Jane Hannon cooked. Maeve was free
to hand the dishes, and entered into the spirit of the occasion as she
always did into everything that her family staged. Mrs Fullwood thought
how comfortable the place was, how swimming in plenty; and Robert was so
charming to his mother, so gallant to the guests. It was a treat to see
him managing.

Euphemia was more critical. "She's a kind little woman, but so _dreadfully_
Irish." Her tone implied that to be Irish was socially as bad as
convictism.

"The Duke of Wellington himself was Irish," said Mrs Fullwood in defence
of her helpful neighbour.

"Yes, but not Mrs Delacy's kind. She has a brogue that you could cut with
a knife."

Mrs Fullwood--very foolishly, Euphemia thought--asked Mrs Delacy to
accompany them on the tour. She rather timorously accepted, expressing
the fear that she might be crushing the others.

"Couldn't Grace stay and keep me company till you come back," suggested
Honoria.

Mrs Fitzhugh instantly vetoed this.

Robert interposed. "Go with Mrs Fullwood, Ma, as far as Glenties, and
I'll bring you back in the gig. If Grace will drive with me going it will
leave room in the carriage."

"I should adore a spin behind your tandem," promptly said Mrs Fitzhugh.

"Even better," said the adroit Robert. "I should have to plead with
Grace, but you offer kindly to keep me company."

Horses and driver were supplied by the accommodating Hennessy. Mrs
Fitzhugh was relieved to drop the Delacys at Butlers' and proceed from
there as though the carriage were her own. "The carriage is totally above
the poor little person," she observed to Grace. "She means well, but she
is so _dreadfully_ Irish."

Mrs Fitzhugh had her own hunting to attend to. The Major had been so gay
a buck that she was comparatively destitute. She was now chary of the
army and navy, but had heard tales of prizes without apparent reason but
the right attitude of inferiors towards betters. An auspicious beginning.

Robert's business increased. Fancy prices were obtainable in Sydney and
Melbourne for well-matched pairs. Tom Angus picked the animals and sent
them to Robert to educate. Robert felt himself flowing in money so that
he postponed paying Hennessy. Hennessy let the debt increase without
remark. Robert became independent of his mother's turkey bank. Money that
came so easily seemed his own, without the recognition that it was made
at the expense of Bewuck.

When she had canvassed the elite for eligibles, Mrs Fitzhugh did not
bother to thank the owner of the carriage, nor return it. She left it at
Hennessy's hotel, where it was speedily referred to as Mrs Fitz's by the
menials who had to tend it. She had to travel from Heulong on horseback,
and bluntly deplored the station being on the wrong side of "that
absurdly named river".

Charles Fullwood was with James in the mountains mustering the cattle
near Wong Foo's claim. Euphemia was waiting to see James. She could not
consider him while he remained in the impenetrable wilds, but in a new
country everything was open to a man of family, if he had the sense to
insist upon his rights.

Grace wrote to Robert in care of Hennessy's hotel, if his visits to
Heulong were too widely spaced.



CHAPTER XV


Robert's father maintained his hardihood at Burrabinga. Johanna had
called it a lost region in days when none wanted it, and up to the time
of her great-grandchildren its caves and gorges, streams and mountain
crests, were to remain but little-known to any save wombats and eagles or
those who would ride the Federal Capital Territory. In the beginning
hundreds of thousands of acres were held in Crown Leases at less than £50
per annum. At that, the lessees paid high in endurance, hard sweat,
loneliness and physical danger, and if ever a holding was earned it was
Burrabinga by the Delacys, despite the racial or legal rights of any
other man's posterity.

The distances round about were estimated from Burrabinga. Old
Nullah-Mundoey made it a landmark and it was called sixty miles from
everywhere, because it was sixty miles from Gool Gool as well as the
Township. It was thirty miles from the corroboree grounds, twenty from
Wong Foo, also twenty from O'Neill's outpost to the south. He was jealous
of intruders at his end, and Wong Foo was an acute inspector at his.
Delacy had won their loyalty.

On their frontiers the Delacys had trap yards baited with salt and
supported by drafting plants. These were built like stockades with logs
drawn into place by bullocks, labour which entailed sweating among swarms
of flies from dawn until dark on a diet of damper and salt junk and tea
without milk. Foxhunting squires might have balked at the ordinary
performances of the Delacys' days.

On a morning in January when the century was in its sixties, and Danny in
his fifties, he was to be seen at the top of his form at Dead Horse
Plain. Scrub bulls were deteriorating the wild mobs and could be shot, or
emasculated for working bullocks. Shooting at large made too much packing
of hides, the cutting-out process was impossible in that country, and
drafting in the yards was dangerous.

"We'll take out the visitors first," was the order.

Honest Delacy was punctilious about other people's stock, even in
careless fenceless days. He would weary horse-flesh to send home strays,
and man-flesh was squandered by all the Delacys, even by Robert, as
compared with other men. The strays dealt with, Danny proceeded to test a
theory. He said that if he stood still he would be safe from a charging
bull, though not from a cow. In the big yard were posts to duck behind,
but a man who took to the rails too often was howled out of composure as
a new chum or yellow.

"You can't prove that without being gored to smithereens," protested
William.

"Am I an eft not to learn from experience--with the beasts a lifetime!"
However, he compromised.

He would test his theory with an effigy made of tussocks and his coat and
worked with a rope. With a yapping of dogs and a whirlwind of dust a few
of the luniest scrubbers went into the big yard. They charged with a mad
bellow to within a breath of the figure, then swerved and walloped up to
the high fence. Catching sight of the scarecrow from a fresh angle they
rushed again, and again halted without touching it. Half a dozen more
bulls were run in maddened by the chase, but it was always the same.

They were put through again while Danny pulled the string. One old fellow
pawed the earth and threatened with angry roar, and when he saw it move
rushed to gore it.

"Didn't I tell you to keep still and you're safe."

"Who in thunder could keep still?" demanded Harry.

"Sure, I'll take no chances with the ladies, but drive in that Bullock
Gap mob and I'll pick out the stags without anny confusion whatever."

Doogoolook, stockmen, O'Neill, Anguses, William and Harry were all
helping. Tom Angus had his revolver quietly ready. Danny took a position
in the big yard, plunking his hat on his head and planting his peg
stoutly in the ground. His beard was now long but without a grey hair.

William and Harry were at the drafting gates armed with heavy roping
poles. Others were at the flood gate. In rushed the cattle. There was not
a move in Delacy. The beasts charged on and away leaving him so at ease
that when one rushed back instead of to the split, Danny, full of
enjoyment, wheeled with a "Whist me boy!" and met him again.

"By Jove! I take off my hat to you, Mr Delacy," cried Tom. "The most
fearless man I ever saw, bar none."

A thunderstorm soaked the dust at noon. Later Danny took the fairway to
open the gate. A cow charged him and he tripped and fell. The cow bounded
over him and on to that freedom, more enticing that revenge. In her wake
dashed the mob. Danny lay still in the mud. The spectators were as
helpless to arrest the rush as if the bottom had opened in a sack of
onions. They leapt towards the mound left in its track, Harry with a
screech of horror, William an oath. Danny, hearing their exclamations
above him, sat up, a weird figure, clad in mud--safe.

"Aren't you hurt at all?" demanded William, as they helped him up.

"Hurt, by damn! Sure, I'm smothered and murdered in mud with all the wild
cattle in the kingdom lepping over me! Be all the poipers, there's
intelligence in brute creation--not wan so much as flicked me in passing.
'Twould be incredible if you heard it as a yarn. I'll go clean meself at
the creek."

His pipe was in place so that the onlookers were taken with
uncontrollable laughter--hysterical relief.

"Moi, oh, moi!" he observed, "It takes little to amuse those not too
capacious in the top story."

All the men rode home to Burrabinga that night. Now that the girls were
there they returned as often as possible for the bright company and the
good cooking. There were vegetables in the garden started by Wong Foo.
Slips or pips brought during Johanna's day were in full bearing. Quince
suckers took root if merely stuck in the rich dark loam. There was
adventure in seedling apples, and they grew in great glory at Burrabinga.
In autumn their branches bent to the earth in a harvest as free from
disease as the first garden ere the sins and weeds of man intruded.

The salt of necessity and the sugar of hearty admiration urged Della and
Bella to lively housewifery. There were ever volunteers to help them with
storing the quinces, apples, pumpkins, and pie melons, which remained
until fruit ripened again. If the girls' supplies ran low, Wong Foo, by
some telepathy, would arrive with vegetables or exotic luxuries.

He was awaiting the men on their return from the drafting. A member of
the family by right of being swaddled in Danny's rug, he was sitting in
the principal room on a prized chair carved by a stockman. Wong was
wearing his grand suit. Like his saddle and gear it was still in perfect
order.

"Such a pity those things are wasted on a Chow," said Bella.

Family business had brought Wong. He noted that Burrabinga cattle were
disappearing from his end of the run while the Delacys were elsewhere
occupied. Cattle could migrate, but when they left a hide behind them
Wong saw that it was always of the Delacy mobs. He was too astute to
blurt out his suspicions until he had prospected.

"You sellum muchee clattle Missa James Flullwood?" he inquired. Danny
said no. "You sellum any lulla man?"

A list of sales was given. Wong proceeded.

"Whaffor hide off you clattle lie in sclub out by me alla samee sclub
longa gladen lulla side liver?"

Wong pointed to the tea-tree groves of the swampy flats in the direction
of Birrabee.

"Some fossicker has helped himself to free beef," remarked William.

Wong resorted to diagrams on the ground behind the the cow-yard, safe
from the ears of women and "hands". It appeared to be bigger than beef
for a few men. "Any strange men there lately?"

"No. Alla samee ol' fliends, Missa James Flullwood."

"Wong has got hold of a bull's nest," said William. "We must ask old
Jimmy if he has missed any stock."

Wong was too cautious to mention names again, or all that he had noted.
He urged Delacy to muster the Bullock Gap runs and to stay the night.
"Blinga lun ladies. Makee big feast. Ladies one hut, men lulla."

The girls seized upon this.

Wong went off in the morning at full gallop, his hat on the back of his
head, his coat flapping, his body swaying from side to side as if he were
drunk. He was eager to begin on one of the biggest occasions of his
Burrabinga career.

"Enough to give the horse a sore back through to the girth," remarked
Harry.

"Golly, yes! A Nullah-Mundoey wasted," said William.

"I'd rather see Wong on a good horse than manny of the scoundrels that
ride about the country," said Danny. "Often the best riders are the worst
men." The young men asserted that there never was a Chinese horseman.
"Arrah! You can't swim without water, and Wong was a townie in any case."

"But town men here can ride," observed Harry.

"They sit on horses to save walking," corrected William.

Wong rode in again during the week with a pack-horse and two hides, which
he spread behind the cowshed in triumph.

"Me chasen honey bloke, and see ol' fella clows, and findem."

The Delacy boys decided to investigate. They were inviting the Urquhart's
to Wrong's party. Danny sent a note asking Urquhart to chaperon the
girls.

James Fullwood rode in to Burrabinga the day following Wong's arrival. He
paid his respects to the girls impartially, but Della was indifferent,
and Bella effusive. As soon as possible he took Delacy behind the shed,
that spot where secrets were told.

"I know you keep that Chink prospector as a pet, but do you let him do
what he likes with your cattle?"

"I let him have a beast when he needs it."

"He wouddn't need two in a week."

"Och, he's preparing a great feast for us all and maybe has exaggerated
notions."

"But I'm speaking of two weeks past. I found a hide pegged out above his
claim. When I found another it looked pretty rum. The tracks all round
were Wong's."

Delacy led Fullwood to the hides. "Those are off my spotted steers that
ran at Bullock Gap--would it be those you saw?"

"You found them yourself ?"

"Wong brought them. He thought someone had duffed them."

"I'd keep an eye on Wong, if I were you. There's a lot more in that old
Chink head than comes out."

"That's because we are too ignorant to understand him."

"What's yours seems to be his, but if I catch him meddling with my
beasts, I'll make it hot for him."

"Ah, sure, Wong Foo is a foine man."

"I thought it my duty to warn you."

"Sure, you've done what you thought right to a neebur. Turn your horse
out for the night."

O'Neill came down for rations that Saturday after a month's absence, and
Delacy instructed him to keep his eyes open for evidence of any cattle or
horse duffers in his direction.



CHAPTER XVI


Wong Foo had two prospectors' huts set in cultivated plots. In one he
kept utensils and table implements, which he used in imitation of Bewuck.
In this he had berths prepared for the girls. His feast included one duck
per person cooked in Chinese fashion, with a great array of vegetables,
followed by Oriental comfits.

The Delacys were proud of Wong Foo and justified in their fosterage.
Wong's gallantry jacked-up that of the others, and the girls had pretty
presents and more attention than they could absorb.

There were practical jokes and games--old games designed to aid _amour_
while preserving convention. James Fullwood most frequently chose Bella
Rafferty for partner. Della contented, herself with her young cavalier,
Ned, who had remained deep in calf-love with her. She found him useful as
a buffer between her and men better matched to her years. William Delacy
fancied Janet Urquhart, but was so gauche that she did not become aware
of it. Harry, eager, impressionable, and starved for the humanities,
monopolized her. Any young woman untarnished by familiarity could be
placed in the role of a princess, and Janet, shapely of form and pleasing
of face, served well.

Urquhart approved of William Delacy; other suitors were none so
desirable. Keebah was shut away from many families by the Murrumbidgee
during half the year, and his two eldest daughters, Sarah and Agnes, had
not married well.

Wong took the gentlemen to his own hut where Delacy and Urquhart revived
memories of Bendigo and Ballarat over a jug of Jamaica for another hour.
Wong reserved his couch for them, and the other men rolled in their own
blankets. The boys awakened at daylight to find Wong already stirring,
while the red Scottish and black Irish beards intermingled as the old
mates slept it off.

When later the two told the tale, they proclaimed, "Ghost it was
laughable to see a Chinaman so tight!" But the young men gave their
version, and comments from Johanna were so puncturing that Danny
relinquished the story. Mrs Janet Urquhart suffered it with a cold steady
glare that was attributed by Sandy to feminine kill-joyism and lack of
sense of humour.

James Fullwood himself had been "three sheets in the wind", but the fall
of Danny and Sandy was the subject of his facetiousness with Bella. She
giggled flatteringly and contributed spirited accounts of what happened
when her father (nominal) was drunk. She had a robust sense of humour
free from kill-joyism.

"I like to see a man a little on top of hisself," said she. "But Ma is
always joring."

Della was contemptuous of Fullwood's familiarity with her servant and
turned her smiles towards young Urquhart.

The day was spent in visiting caves, and the second night at Fullwood's
station. There was no such feast as at Wong's, but the bathing was
improved by rice and potatoes boiled in the one billycan with the salt
junk. On the third day Urquhart Senior escorted the women back to
Burrabinga homestead, while Danny, with a whoop, assembled dogs and men
and started after the mobs of the region. The Urquhart sons joined in to
see if any of their own cattle were in that direction.

They were all surprised by the few beasts sighted. Doogoolook confirmed
the theory of duffing with evidence of a mixed mob being driven towards
the Great Southern Road. He pointed to the tracks of two horses. One
belonged to the Anguses. His pupils, William and Harry, were equally
acute, and verified the Angus tracks as those of a mare that had
disappeared a month before. The young Delacys and Anguses turned into
troopers instanter and left the mustering to Fullwood and the Urquharts.

"I expected this," remarked Fullwood to Delacy.

"There's been a power of cattle lifted down Monaro way, and it's a curse
for it to start here," he responded.

"I mean the horse tracks. You might owe Wong a beast or two for all the
feasts he provides, but the Anguses are close about their past. Never any
brag about _their_ family."

"What the dayvil good is a man's family? Descent gave an unfair pull in
the old country, but out here a man has to be a man and make his ascent
himself."

"You'd think twice though before giving your daughter to a man of no
family?"

"Are you proposing for me daughter, James Fullwood?"

"There are too many younger blades in the running."

"She takes her time. There is no telling where her fancy will evintually
settle."

"Are you proposing to me for a son-in-law, Mr Delacy?"

This point fell in jocularity. Fullwood persisted with the other. "Jokes
aside, it was about the Anguses' reputation."

"Have ye annything definite? If so, let's put it to them, and they can
defend themselves. A hint without evidence is a snake in the grass, like
that boomer you dispatched to-day at the lickhole, and moi, oh, moi!"
Danny took a meditative pull at the pipe, "I'm thinking that the poor
snake was moinding his own business, and we intruding. If you begin to
contimplate the injustices of the universe they are beyond
disentangling."

Fullwood headed Danny out of a philosophic gully. "Most interesting, Mr
Delacy, and I'm one to live and let live, but the tracks of that Angus
horse following a mob of your cattle off the run are rather more
interesting to me."

"It looks as if the Anguses had lost their mare."

Doogoolook returned a day later with the Bedouin mare, leg-weary and
galled. He deposed, by signs, that he had found her among wild horses
between Birrabee and Keebah. Delacy pointed to the saddle galls and asked
if Wong had made them. Doogoolook intimated otherwise.

"It would be easy to make a mistake on his evidence," remarked Fullwood.
"I wouldn't convict a proved criminal on it."

"Let's ask if William made the galls," chortled Harry, but William
snorted that he could not make such a mess of a horse if he lived on it.

Fullwood promised to report any further evidence immediately. Danny
remained a night behind the others and enjoyed a talk with Wong.

"Who you tinkem bad man, steal um cattle?" demanded Wong. "Some fellow up
the Bland, maybe."

"You likee young Angus--tinkum good fellow mally glels; or you likee
betta Missa Fullwood, tinkum betta gentleman?"

"Sure, a man could be a king and I would not consider him a gentleman
unless he was an honest man first. One man is as good as another if he is
as good--do you understand? But, of course, it has to be proved first."

"Which you likee good best, Tom Angus or Missa Fullwood?" This question
of relative merit plagued Wong.

"Be the poipers, if put to it I could not say. Wan is young and the other
is getting on for forty-five, but you are a better man than ayther."

"Which you tinkum blest--bad once good now, this time once, or bad once,
good once, bad again?"

"Sure, Wong, 'twould take a Philadelphia lawyer to unravel your meanings.
But do you mean that if a man was bad for half his life, is it better to
be the first half or the latter kind? That is a quischun for the bishops,
and they know as much as an eft, when all is said and done. It will be
aquil when we carry our hides to the tanyard, but," and Danny puffed
loudly, "if 'tis your own morals that are involved, sure, as me neebur,
'mould be more convenient to me if you gave me the reformed ind of your
career."

The sons wanted the troopers. Danny said, "What troopers but ourselves
would have anny chance against min in these ravines? We'll keep our eyes
open."

Cattle stealing did not cease. Two weeks after the picnic James Fullwood
rode in to say that a mob of his were missing and their tracks pointed
toward Dead Horse Plain.

"Your cattle are safe with O'Neill," said Danny. "I shall spind a night
with him this week, the man maybe is lonely."

"He might find it profitable to shut his eyes. I'd watch an old lag like
that."

"He let himself be employed once to do a dirty trick, but I'd trust a lot
of the old lags beyond those that employed them."

Fullwood ignored the imputation in this. He thought Delacy a fool, who
would trust any scoundrel, and went at once on the tracks of his own
cattle.

Before Delacy set out, O'Neill appeared to report the tracks of a mob not
ten miles from his hut--mixed cattle driven in the direction of Gool Gool
by two horsemen--as plain as a Government notice. Harry, William and
Doogoolook set off, but their efforts were defeated by a thunderstorm. To
catch the cattle lifters in the act now became the great endeavour at
Burrabinga.

Fullwood returned days later and said that most of the cattle were his.
He had tracked them to within ten miles of O'Neill's hut, and thence
towards the Snowy, but lost them because of a thunderstorm.

"This doesn't look like stopping till we are stripped," he said to Danny.
"It has been pulled off too easily. I'll inform the troopers, and I'll
make no bones of my suspicions of both Wong and O'Neill, not to mention
others."

"Then I'll postpone my suspicions. Too manny names maybe would moider the
troopers."

The trooper came with his tracker from Queanbeyan, but he had to depend
on the Delacys to lead him about. Doogoolook was better than the police
tracker. This inspired Harry, who was rampant for romantic adventure.

He and William took no one into their confidence, not even their bosom
friends the Anguses. They were not so bosom to William as to Robert,
because Tom had a more taking style with the girls. William was shy and
had a fear of making himself ridiculous. Thus while he looked longingly
on Janet Urquhart, her eyes were cast on Tom Angus, who could make her
laugh. With William she could find nothing to say. He, therefore, could
pick many faults in both the Anguses, and objected to young Ned hanging
around Della. He was alarmed that she was becoming an old maid, and the
boy's presence held grown men at a distance.

No cattle were removed during the ensuing weeks. No unaccounted person
either as fossicker or lyre-bird hunter was to be seen. William and Harry
unearthed families of wild horses from remote places and thought that the
cattle duffers must have gone elsewhere, when suddenly crows led them to
a tea-tree clump five miles from Wong's hut. Tracks ran to Wong's claim
and also in the direction of James Fullwood's hut. The hide could not be
mistaken, it was black on the sides and white on the back and belly.
Hoofs and head were not about, but could have been dragged away by
dingoes. The boys agreed to say nothing of their find, but cut out the
brand and took it home with them. They were beginners. Later in the day
James Fullwood missed the branded portion of the hide. His detective
efforts were being spoiled, so he rode in to ascertain what the Delacy
boys knew.

On the following morning William and Harry found that their evidence had
disappeared. They had not reckoned on the feats of a kangaroo dog when
they stuck the hide in the wall-plate of the veranda.

Fullwood put another spoke in their wheel through Bella. While she was
washing-up in the evening, he went to the kitchen on the excuse of a feed
for his dog. "Say, Bella," he began, tickling her and attempting a kiss,
"I want you to help me in a little bit of work--a woman's wits, you
know."

"Go orn! You'll make me squeak so Deller will hear, and she'll be out.
She's as jealous as a bear."

"What of?"

"Ole maids is always jealous. Lor', I wouldn't be an ole maid for
anything, I'd sooner take that gawky William."

"He wouldn't take you."

"Oh, wouldn't he, if I cocked half an eye at him."

"I'd rather take you myself that let you be wasted like that."

"Go orn. Old coves always talk loving and mean nothink...Wot was you
going to arsk me?"

"See here, you've heard of cattle being duffed about here?"

"The dust about it has died down. Whodone  it?"

"That's what I'm trying to discover, but these oafs blundered in and blew
the gaff. I found another of my beasts skinned, and was setting to watch
when they hacked the brand out.

"That was the piece of hide I found larst night. Stinking thing, was
stuck nearly in me face. I threw it in the fire. I larled till me sides
ached to see them looking for it, and thinking the kangaroo dogs ate it."

"You're a hard case," said Fullwood with admiration. "Next time they
bring home bits of hide I want you to save them for me. I suspect Wong
Foo and O'Neill, but these--mugs want to keep them as pets."

"What do I get for keeping the hide?"

"Don't you love me a little?"

"How much do you love me?"

"As much as you let me." Woman hungry, he swept the juicy Bella on to his
knee. Bella lacked experience but she made up in daring.

Some weeks later the Delacys put two pieces of hide high in the kitchen
rafters. Bella had to put a stool on the table to reach them. Though she
could not read, she knew the Delacy brands. She cunningly evolved the
pieces of the puzzle and threw the hide into the fire. Della came out to
inquire the cause of the odious smell. Bella was highly indignant at the
stuff being put in the rafters to fall on her head. "It hurted me, and it
stank." Forthwith she washed her head, and every one had to keep out of
the kitchen while she dried it before the fire. Only a hussy would allow
a man to see her with her hair flowing. Bella published her maidenly
modesty for the benefit of the virtuous William who had rebuked her
advances. Harry inquired through the door about the hide.

"Er course I burned the stinking stuff. It pilluted the kitchen. Miss
Deller was singing out about the smell. Full wop on me head! I might have
been stunned and have fell into the fire. And having to wash me head at
this time er night; might ketch me death er cold!" Bella hugged her glee.

Della could not put Bella in her place. She had not Johanna's confidence.
William and Harry had to begin all over again. It was not difficult, for
the cattle-duffer, like the dog in Proverbs, returned to his waywardness,
and there was high riding about the bush on the part of the amateur
troopers.

This time they felt so sure of their quarry that they arranged witnesses,
and whispered in the shed at night, or in their skillion bedroom
adjoining the girls'. Bella's ears were bush trained; she could hear like
a dog and listened with virtuosity. There was no wool over her eyes.
Instinctively she was against authority and resented the Delacy honesty
and irreproachable respectability. She was her mother's daughter, and old
mother Rafferty was notorious.

The young Delacys were all for the police, but Danny said, "Wanst you
begin law, it never ends, and law helps the wrong man much more than the
right one. To boot, it stirs up dangerous enemies."

The Anguses were not going to allow their cattle to be taken without
saying boo. Next their polo ponies would go, and they might as well
retreat from the district.

Two young men were to go for the police and two remain on watch. This
time the brands were put in a billy on the dining-room shelf for safety.
Bella chuckled as she hid the bundle in the ridge pole in the dark of the
stable, where one smell more would not he betraying. In case of accident,
she wore Della's boots on this errand.

At piccaninny dawn, the billy with the lid off was found rolling on the
floor, the dining-room door open and the hide gone. There was
recrimination for whoever had been careless. Della had gone out first and
confessed to leaving the door unlatched. The combined tracking ability of
the place could find no remnant of the parcel, nor any slot of dog in the
house precincts. The young men retreated to the shed for confabulation.

"You'd think it was a plot against the Roosians," said Danny, breaking in
on them. The confabulators stated their suspicions of a plot. There could
not have been three accidents to the pieces of hide.

"It looks pretty black against that Bella. She's been getting very bold
lately," said William.

"If she is in it, she would be acting cat's-paw for one of the min," said
Danny.

"And he's acting cat's-paw for the duffer."

"Whoever that is," said Danny.

"There is no doubt who that is," said Tom Angus, supported by William and
Harry.

"We must pay attintion to common sinse," said Danny. "You want to be
double-sure before you can be half-sure enough to lay a charge."

The many dogs, visiting and resident, bayed a loud announcement, and
James Fullwood approached out of the timber on the Keebah track. The
disturbed plovers ran stiltedly away and rose with protesting
tut-tut-tut-tuts from the tea-tree swamps. The men dispersed to their
horses.

Disgruntled by the loss of the hide, the Anguses said they were on their
way home. William, in his township suit, which Bella despised, felt
foolish. Noting the signs, Fullwood was a mass of curiosity.

Bella came to the back gate, ostensibly to give some meat to the dogs,
and made signs to Fullwood. "Oh, what a nice horse," she exclaimed.

Fullwood stepped toward the animal, which was hitched to the grindstone.
"Be careful, he is savage."

"I don't want him to know what fools we've been made," said William. The
others nodded.

Bella was patting the harmless horse's neck and muttering to Fullwood.
''I got them all safe, right from under their noses, when thev was all
off to the police to play old Harry."

"Got what?"

"You know--the pieces of hide you wanted."

"They're the softest louts I know. A cat could hocus them with dingo pups
for kittens. The Anguses must be splitting their sides with laughter, but
all the same, very relieved that you have saved them."

"Go orn!" said Bella, shrewdly narrowing her eyes and enlarging her
suspicions. In suspicions she rarely went astray, except with the
Delacys, who antagonized her. She suspected their honesty as hypocrisy,
while the hypocrisy of those practised in dissimulation of misdoing had
her ready applause.

"Get me the brands as soon as you can."

"I'd have to be terrible careful that they were all away on the run."

Fullwood rejoined the men. The meal was now ready, to which no invitation
was necessary.

"Better turn our horse out and stay the night," said Danny. After the
meal Tom Angus departed for Birrabee. To explain the town suit, William
said he was going with him to bring the mail from Keebah. It was six
weeks since Burrabinga had had any, also, William was famished for a
sight of Janet. Harry and Ned rode aimlessly out towards Bullock Gap with
their spoiled plan. Danny gave the stockmen a start for Dead Horse Plain
with a mob of horses that had come down from the highlands too early.
Fullwood lingered talking to Della and awaiting opportunity with Bella.
This came when she went to pen the calves for the night. They dawdled in
the cow bail.

"Now is your chance to get me those brands."

Women were scarce, and Bella was a tantalizing morsel to an ageing man.
She drove her terms and was fertile in stratagems. When preparing the
evening meal she said that Fullwood had been down to Heulong and had a
letter from her mother.

"It was like his cheek to forget it and not give it to me the mmute he
come," she declared as she handed it to Della to read.

"If Mr Fullwood has beens down without giving us a chance to send a
letter, I do think he's mean."

Bella's family was illiterate. Someone had acted as scribe. Bella was
informed that her mother was poorly, as an addition to the family was due
in about a month. Bella must come home at once to take care of the
smaller children.

"I'm going," said Bella, affecting to be perturbed. "Poor ole Mar is
forty-five; it might finish her this time."

Danny returned shortly afterwards. Fullwood explained that the letter had
been brought by a stray prospector, and that he also had received word
which made it imperative to go to Heulong. He could take Bella with him.

Delacy said he would take Bella. She demanded a pack-horse for her
belongings. "Arrah, you'll be back before you know it." One swag-bellied
old mare was given to Bella's packs and another to her person. Danny said
Della could have a holiday at Keebah. The four set out. Bella refused to
cheer up, and in the manner of the sullen, garnered propitiation. The
first night they scrambled up to Birrabee and surprised the Anguses, who
gave them camp welcome. The following day they reached Keebah. Delacy
felt it his duty to go on with Bella, but Fullwood asserted that the girl
would be equally safe with him. They would make on to the next
settler--twenty-five miles distant--and early the following day reach
Bella's parents on the left bank of the river.

Delacy was seduced by the rum and the talk at Keebah to let them go. "The
lass will be all right," said Urquhart. "If Fullwood, who is one of us,
can't take care of himself, he's a fule who deserves what he gets. And
it's a cold wet day with no comfort for canoodling. He! He! Hal Ha!"

The old mates had a spree, not quite so free as that nurtured by the
sympathetic Wong Foo. Mrs Janet's glare acted as a slight brake.
Intoxication brought no poison to the surface in Danny. He merely babbled
philosophical speculation, recited ballads and enjoyed a spate of
hyperbole, but alcohol in its lees had an inflammatory effect on Sandy.



CHAPTER XVII


The desolation of a camp mat is empty all day, enfolded Burrabinga
homestead with the loss of the two young women. Winter had come. The
mountain tops were white with snow, the gullies slippery with unmelted
frost. The icicles rose nightly like stubble on ungrassed spaces and
crunched underfoot. Callers ceased. The Delacy men were not driven by
table greed or other spurs to comfort. Their meals fell back to primitive
consistency. They shut up the house, awaiting the girls' return, and
pigged in the kitchen.

O'Neill sometimes lingered half a week when he beat his way down for
rations. In the glow of the big log fires scores of muzzles were whittled
from the light but tough woolly-butts, and thrown aside to dry for the
next weaning. Harry knew by heart the few books left by his final tutor;
Danny had read every line, including the advertisements, in newspapers of
London and Sydney, months old when packed up from Keebah. Ned Callahan, a
stockman, had a greasy song-book, dearly prized, from which Harry read
him the songs and to which Ned put tunes he had heard. He had an ear and
played hop-jigs and song-tunes on the mouth organ and jew's harp. He was
also a Grinling Gibbons with a pen knife. The Delacys had no
accomplishments. They had been reared only to bushcraft. William had no
other interest, but Harry was famishing for intellectual contacts. A few
great novels would have released him into another world.


Danny wearied of the winter routine and longed for Bewuck and Johanna, so
uttered his intention of going down the river. "Sure, you are big and
ugly enough to run the place till spring. You can make a trip to Keebah
to see Della, but don't ride the tails off all the horses."

Keebah would see them as soon as his back was turned for there lay their
magnets.

"None of this police business, no matter if the house is lifted off you
by the roots. I'm in a firmer position with the knowledge of the duffer
in me hand than if it is exploded. Is that clear beyond
misunderstanding?"

It was. Danny continued, "Sure, there's nothing to be done here now but
to keep dingoes down for their depredations among foals or calves that
will be dropped out of season, and the snaring of possums and wallaroos.
In your spare time you can make that new horse paddock, no more than
eighty acres. Keep it small so that horses can be handy for use
overnight. Pile up the logs so that it can't be jumped out of. You'll be
clearing the ground at the same time. _Absolvi meam animam_, so now I'll
be gone."

He chose two pack-mares to carry fine skins for Johanna. He had little
else to take her this time excepting a few nuggets exchanged by
prospectors for beef or horses, and a dozen prime specimens of
lyre-birds' tails. Doogoolook prepared himself. He had become a habit
with Delacy.

The whisky flask at Keebah was low; what remained was firmly held by Mrs
Janet for emergencies, so Delacy was saved from delay and surprised his
family one wintry dusk at the hour when the back log for the morning fire
was being taken into the kitchen by all the man power available armed
with crowbars. The sun had set without a fleck of clouds. The sky was a
frosty arch of electric pallor deepened on the eastern rim by rose tinged
with blue, and lightened along the western ranges by the gleam of
nacreous turquoise. He descended with whip-crack and halloa, his dogs
loping ahead to make trouble with the Bewuck pack and dispersing the
jackasses sitting on low snags awaiting a belated grub. "Here's your
father," exclaimed Johanna, and ran in her old eager way to meet him.

"Me brave Johanna, are you all well?" Danny dismounted and removed the
pipe.

"That can't mean much to ye," said Johanna with spirit. "It's a widow
I've been off and on for years."

"That's more so with me than you, I'm thinking," he said with a
self-conscious grin.

"It's lucky I am to have a fine son."

Robert, Maeve. and Norah came forward and dispersed uneasiness. Danny
observed how striking a man Robert had grown.

Danny changed his clothes, brushed his hair, and felt subdued to a mere
guest at his own table, where Robert presided with flourish.

Talk loosened during the evening, though Robert was not a talker. He
rarely explained. He went across to Hannon's on pretext of business,
leaving his father with the women. Johanna liked to gossip, or read the
new paper that had started in the Township.

"Make ye'r father a bed in the ind room, he will be tired from riding all
day," she said to Norah.

Danny was chilled and disappointed. Time had emancipated Johanna from the
urge for a husband, but Danny was not yet released from sex.

Johanna had much to tell, so she began, "I don't know that I should
bother to tell ye. I've been deserted in the eyes of the country for half
me life."

"You could have paid me a visit; and you never sent me a letter."

"That cuts the other way round, I'm thinking."

"Sure, what had I to report but tigrinizing about the scrub with horses
and cattle. It was you that had all the news; and sure, didn't we sind a
letter by Bella when she came down; and did James Fullwood sind on the
two old mares?"

"What's this about Bella coming down? And in that case what have ye done
with me daughter--left her to be the prey of dingoes and stray min in
ye'r owld Bunratty Castle?"

"Have you heard if Old Mother Rafferty has had another child?"

"Sure, what is that but a regular occurrence this twinty-five years or
more. It's nearly as common as old Rafferty going on the spree, and more
regular, surely it's come to an ind at last, and ye'r concern is rather
late."

"But James Fullwood brought Bella down more than a month ago to be with
her mother for the purpose designated."

"The river has been high, and 'twould not occur to such tag-rag to inform
their betters about what they should know."

"I'll find out to-morrow."

"And where is Della?"

"With Mrs Urquhart till Bella comes back."

"Are ye marrying her on wan of the Urquharts?"

"'Twill take more than me to marry Della to anny one. She has a distant
way with her to all men."

Johanna heard this with satisfaction, and divulged that the second Butler
boy, Stewart, wanted to marry Norah, and that she and Mrs Butler were
both satisfied. It only remained for the fathers to come to terms.

In the morning Danny saw that Robert's management still furthered
elegancies at the expense of fundamentals. The cutting was accepted as
necessary for Johanna's carriage, also the pointed palings around her
garden, but there was stable and carriage accommodation, for which
clearing and cultivation had been neglected.

"It is not necessary to be pampering horses, like in the old country. If
they can thrive in the open at Burrabinga, this would be like the tropics
by comparison." He was confronted by the showy gig. "Whoi? What..." He
looked towards the carriage house. The door was open upon vacancy.
"Where's your mother's conveyance?"

"She lent it to Mrs Fitzhugh."

"And why should Mrs Fitzhugh be provided with a carriage by your mother?"

"She's Mrs Fullwood's sister."

"Och, I remimber now. Sure, 'tis your mother's business what she does
with her own carriage, but I must find the rights of it. Is this vehicle
Mrs Fitzhugh's?"

"No. I got it for a mere song to take Ma out a little. Her health was
suffering from the years of confinement."

Danny muttered, "Oh, moi, oh, moi," to himself, and saddled a mare for
inspection farther afield. He was astonished by the number of milch cows
and the flocks of turkeys.

"Do you do the milking?"

"I haven't time. Maeve and Hannon and his old woman do that. I reckon it
pays better to see that others don't loaf than to do everything by
one-man power."

Danny was further surprised by so many Bedouins. "Did the Anguses come
out and me not to be told?"

"No. These came when you sent the draft together."

"And why are they devouring winter grass here?"

"Huh! They pay better than cows. Norah has kept books. There's a chap I
knew at school, his father runs the bazaar in Sydney and has the right
connection."

"Moi, oh, moi!" repeated Danny, overwhelmed, but not convinced that the
business was sound. He spent the day outside. A virile man did not remain
indoors unless there were women guests or it was Sunday or there was a
deluge or he had a broken leg. He had to confess, though with private
reservations, that Robert "had a head on him".

That evening Stewart Butler came to see Danny, whose tracks through
Glenties had been reported. After supper Norah and he were permitted the
sedate occupancy of the "parlour"--Johanna's prized elegancy--while the
parents had the dining-room fire. Robert went over to Hannon's hut to
talk horses. He could not talk to his father. Maeve, looking old and
worn, had Doogoolook in the kitchen, where she showed him pictures in a
London periodical. Convention did not permit Norah and her affianced to
intervals hermetically sealed in their own society. Norah emerged at
intervals on some maidenly pretext, or Danny or Johanna intruded to make
specific inquiry, or to mend the fire.

One of these interruptions was to ask Butler if he had heard of James
Fullwood being home a month before to bring Bella Rafferty.

Mrs Butler employed one of the girls younger than Bella, but Stewart had
not heard of Bella or Fullwood being down. Charles Fullwood had been
away, some said, dealing in cattle and taking them to Victoria. So prized
was news that the whole region would speedily know that Delacy was down
from the mountains. It was puzzling that James Fullwood's visit and
Bella's homecoming had escaped attention.

"Sure, the punt is washed away, and it puts people in prison," remarked
Johanna.

"I had forgotten the mournful crying of the wind in the oaks."

"Didn't it nearly kill me getting used to them, and now the night is
empty away from them? I had to take banshees for me familiars and become
the aquil of black haythens for want of better company."

"But think of the cramped life in Ireland--and here the width and
freedom."

"The width and freedom with native dogs is such that it defeats
civilization in the loneliness."

Danny felt that it was time to be mending the fire in the parlour. On
returning he asked Johanna why Mrs Fitzhugh should be wearing out the
carriage.

Johanna advanced her hopes for Robert and Grace Fullwood. "Surely you'd
never help things on with that sawny bean-pole?"

"My Robert has looks enough for two."

"And too manny for himself, I'm thinking," grunted Danny, depositing his
dottle in the fire and beginning on a fresh plug. "It is the family.
Beauties don't always make the best wives."

"It's the family I'm against."

"Now what could anny sane man have against the Fullwoods? They visit at
Cobbramorragong as well as at Camerons of The Plains, and _they_ have never
come here."

"That's because we are not rich enough. Whin it coines to breed, me
family is better than anny of them for education and principle."

"Och, if I didn't keep ye up a little ye'd soon slip back to the
emancipists."

"There's manny an ex-ticket-of-leaver I'd rather be allied with than the
Fullwoods, though they might be of the nobility and visit on royalty."

"Ye'd maybe prefer Hennessy of the public house?"

"Hennessy, when all is said, never hired a felon to beat me up and oust
me cattle from their run. Hennessy is as foine a man as can be met in the
Colony, a rale man, not like these whining down-looking Fullwoods, who
can only honk and hah through their 'noses. They never look you in the
face."

"I despise bold glaring men like Walter Moore. I had to fight to preserve
meself from him."

"Well, now, Johanna, 'tis no use of getting at cross-purposes over a
bottle of smoke. What is behind these veiled observations about Hennessy
as a substitute for Fullwood in the matrimonial sense?"

"I saw passages between Robert and Molly McCathie that showed he had
better see something higher.. Boys are romantic at that age, and 'tis
time he was settled."

"Of the two evils I prefer Molly, and of the two prospective
fathers-in-law Hennessy is the best man."

"A lag."

"He was lagged for struggling for freedom. When I see the way some of
these jumped-up squireens look down their noses and say a man is Irish,
I'm counting it an honour to a man who had the pride and indipindince to
want Ireland cleared of the English, a milk-and-water, conceited breed,
with great proclivities for grasping the globe and pretinding that it is
for the good of those they dispossess."

"Wan might as well try to rayson with the wind as with ye, Daniel Delacy."

"It's yourself cannot reason. After all, what is the use of us bickering
here? The young people might be settling their affairs in the way we did.
Has Robert shown anny predilection for Grace?"

"'Tis Grace that is eating her heart for him."

Johanna would think that all the country wanted her precious son. Danny
was more interested for the moment in ascertaining if Bella had been
landed at home sound in limb and virtue. She was his particular
responsibility. "To-morrow I go to the Township to straighten me
business. Will you go with me, Johanna?"

"'Tis too cold across those plains these short days."

Danny invited Robert to ride with him, but Robert said he could not spare
the time just then. "How often do you go in?"

"I can't remember when I was in last--a couple or three months ago."

Danny was pleased that Robert did not waste his time around town.
Doogoolook prepared himself to accompany his master, but was sent instead
to discover if Bella were safe. This had to depend on signs as the
Raffertys were illiterate.


Danny found Mrs Fitzhugh established at Hennessy's. She refused to be
marooned on the other side of the Murrumbidgee in winter. La, she was
used to lively society, not that of dingoes and possums interspersed with
blackfellows. The censorious sneered at her husband-hunting, illogically,
when any woman evading marriage was considered abnormal or a failure.

Mrs Fitzhugh had her own sitting-room to which she retreated when smitten
with an attack of de Vere. Otherwise she dined at the public table to
inspect the squatters who blew in on the way from Riverina. Her sister
deplored the money spent in hotel residence, but Euphemia said that the
bogtrotter Hennessy was delighted to make nominal terms for one who gave
distinction to his wretched backblocks shanty. Hennessy was pleased with
her mounting bill. Their designs upon each other, though obvious to
onlookers, were ludicrously veiled from both schemers.

Euphemia was interested to meet Delacy of Bewuck and Burrabinga, of whom
there were many diverting tales, and whom Hennessy advertised as the most
honest and fearless man on the Murrumbidgee. Oh, that she had had someone
in whom to confide her first impressions of that shrimp of a being
thumping along on one leg: with a long black beard; and slop clothes some
sizes too large for him! La, what a country! And this spectacle aspired
to be father-in-law to her niece! So deplorably Irish! He made her
hilarious. She anticipated no difficulty in retaining her carriage. Such
an object would be hat-in-hand to court her favour. She impressed him by
her gaiety and dashingly crinolined swagger, while she regretted a
loutish society which provided none to appreciate her expression behind
her fan. Had Johanna been more cordial to Danny he would have had more
effulgence to loose on Mrs Fitzhugh. As it was, he treated her to
political dissertations, demanding of her, as a comparatively recent
arrival, information and response which she was too hare-brained to give.
He was not obtuse to her sense of her own superiority, and she was
sobered before the end of the meal. "Me wife has lent you her carriage, I
understand," he remarked before withdrawing.

"It was quite obliging of her."

"I'm thinking it might have been better to lend it to some poor woman who
needed it, and not to you who has so many fine friends waiting on you."

Mrs Fitzhugh did not know how this was intended. She was too little a
lady, too much a self-seeking snob to return the carriage with gracious
thanks.

"How lately have you been at Heulong?" Danny inquired. "Not for months. I
got away before the river rose."

"Then you did not see James Fullwood when he was down?'

"He has not been down or my sister would have mentioned it. We get the
post and parcels across quite often in the boat."

"It's dayvilish mysterious," thought Danny, and stumped away to find
Hennessy, who was waiting for him in his private room behind the bar. He
could give no information about James Full-wood, but had other business
which soon put Bella out of Danny's head.

"If Oi could hev got away, Oi'd hev taken a thrip up to see ye, not
wantin' to commit impoortant matter to a letter."

Danny removed the pipe to receive a communication with such a prelude.
The trouble was concerning Robert and Hennessy's niece, Molly McCathie.

"In the name of God!" ejaculated Delacy, thoroughly upset, as Hennessy
presented the shameful details of such cases. Robert had been found in
Molly's room at an ungodly hour; she had been sent to the Sisters at the
Convent in Goulburn; matters could he mended by marriage. "Sure, I had
other ideas, and thim a little betther," he continued, gaining confidence
as he perceived the consternation of Delacy. "But seeing phwat has
happened, I can do no other. That young divvil of yours has so much
swagger that the girls is bloinded on behowlding him. Sure, he's so flash
in full feather that it would take coloured specs to protect the ois."

Hennessy was called away to quell a disturbance in the bar. Danny
pondered the evidence. Johanna had spoken of Molly, and Robert had kept
away from town for some months. With his gig and plated harness and
tandem Bedouins!

Hennessy returned.

"I must have time to inquire into the rights of this. I'll condemn no man
unheard, not even me own son; but me own son, if it is proven against
him, shall do justice to anny woman--black, whoite or green," said
Delacy. He did not take his noggins that evening nor become loud in
poetical recitation and political discussion.

Hennessy counted upon the Delacy integrity. "It could be a very good
match," he said. "Oi'll treat her as me own daughter. Oi'll be
open-handed because it is your son. Afther all, 'tis a vaynial sin for
the gossoons and colleens to be fond of wan another. We've been young
ourselves, Danny Delacy."

"I was never young to that extent, _Mister_ Hennessy."

Hennessy took the hint in the emphasis on the mister as he replied, "But
in this new counthry, Mr Delacy, things have broadened considerably.
Shure, Molly is fit to wed wid anny wan in these jumped-up Colonies.
She's been eddicated as well as your son, and that's betther than anny
wan else in the disthrict."

"I'll sleep on it," said Delacy.

He lay awake for an hour or two--an unusual state for him. Hennessy's
declarations and demands were a blow. He could not be sure of Robert, and
Johanna had to be faced. Also, despite his theories, he had his
pride--pride in honesty of breed, and he did not welcome as a
daughter-in-law the niece of a convict. Molly's parents were unknown, at
least to any one but Hennessy. She might be a by-blow of Hennessy's, or
worse, and she was a Roman Catholic. Delacy was so honest that he would
have preferred the daughter of a humble man of principle to that of a
scoundrel grandee, and he was all for helping the erring to re-establish
themselves, but lie did not enjoy the prospect of alliance with the
disreputable.



CHAPTER XVIII


Danny returned to Bewuck so early on the following day that Johanna
inquired what was the matter.

"Me business was finished. There was nothing to hang around for. And I am
curious that nothing has been heard of Fullwood and Bella Rafferty."

Doogoolook came home at evening. He had crossed in the Quebarra boat,
nine miles down, and let the horse swim. He had no news. Bella was
nowhere to be seen, nor the two mares who should by now have been
morganatically awaiting young Nullah-Mundoeys at Bewuck.

Robert, sick with uneasiness, awaited his father's return. Shrinking from
the inevitable reckoning, he had ridden home with Stewart Butler to look
at a colt. Danny was relieved to hear this. He, too shrank from the
encounter. In a way he was glad of the lesser problem of Bella, and
announced his intention of swimming the river on the morrow and riding to
Heulong and Rafferty's to settle the matter.

"Ye'll get your death of cramp in the river. There's no need to be in a
flurry over that streel. She'll be setting herself up somewhere on the
strength of my training, and telling a cock and bull tory about her
escape from Bunratty Castle."

Danny was not to be deterred. In the morning he saddled the
river-crosser--a tall old grey--and tying-up a head bundle went down to
the dark swirling waters, a man in the fifties with but one leg, but who
retained his nerve.

"Mother of God! Will ye never gather a little common sense? An eft would
be an elephant to ye in common sense. What ever has come to that Rafferty
streel, another day or two wouldn't worsen it."

Danny had his bundle on his head, the string held in his teeth. With a
muffled arrah he drove the hunched and protesting grey forward to the
girth, the veteran feeling his way and keeping his feet nearly to the
farther bank, where he swam bravely and completed a safe crossing.
Doogoolook exposed his teeth in a silent laugh of admiration. His chief
was invincible.

Neither of the Fullwood men was at home, so Danny was for holding all
arley on horseback and departing. Mrs Fullwood was too kindly and
hospitable for that. She brought out a crutch that had been used by James
when he cut his foot with an adze. Grace was also desirous of being
helpful. They were eager for news of Bewuck.

"Are Della and Bella Rafferty still in the mountains?" Mrs Fullwood
inquired.

Danny saw that nothing would be gained by telling of Bella's
disappearance. He let her slide for the moment. He found that Mrs
Fullwood had not seen James for months and that Charles had been up in
the mountains for nearly all the past summer Delacy was surprised by this
news. Charles was away now. It was a disappointing visit to Grace, as
Danny never mentioned Robert.

Leaving Heulong, Delacy turned the grey towards Learmont, a settler
between Heulong and Keebah, where he arrived about nine o'clock, and,
while being fed, learned that the Learmonts knew nothing of Bella or
Fullwood. Danny remarked that he had expected Fullwood to leave two old
mares there, and said nothing of Bella. He loathed scandal as the plague,
and was careful not to start any.

All that day Johanna watched the crossing until it was dark, and Norah
persuaded her that Danny had remained at Heulong. Robert returned at
dusk, much relieved to find that his father was not at home, and to
estimate that Danny had not divulged anything. The evil hour was
postponed. He had already been arraigned by Hennessy, and had taken a
defiant stand.

Johanna's vigil was rewarded next afternoon. Danny had pressed himself
and the grey to outstrip additional waters on the way from farther up.
Robert wished that his father would catch pneumonia and be too ill to
bring him to judgment. Danny arrived with his teeth chattering and blue
with cold, but a change of clothes and a nip of rum before the fire soon
made him ready for a hearty meal, while he told the latest instalment of
the Bella Rafferty serial.

"She must have eloped with old Jimmy," said Robert. "They could not both
have fallen down a precipice."

Danny wrote to William and dispatched Doogoolook. The boys were bidden to
go out to James Fullwood's and do everything to find out where Bella had
been taken.


Danny was now ready to address Robert. He waited until after supper and
took possession of the kitchen.

"Well, Robert, Hennessy has laid a charge against you that never thought
would be laid against son of me own. Have you anything to say for
yourself?"

"If you are going to believe what an old lag..."

"It's when a man has no case that he resorts to abusing the other side. I
asked, have you anything to say for yourself?"

"What is Hennessy saying?"

"Had you no words of your own with Hennessy?"

"He's been trying to rope someone in for that bitch of a Molly, and I'm
one that's been attacked, if that is what you mean. He hasn't a leg to
stand on; she's the town harlot."

"Now, look here," said Danny, removing his pipe, the better to emphasize
his words, "another low thing is to blayguard a young woman as a way out
of your own sins, if you have had anny gifts from her."

For all his brazen air, Robert's heart was thumping against his chest. He
could hear the river and the oak fronds weeping in the night, and wished
that he was a little boy again plunging in the bunyip hole with
Doogoolook, and never a thought of girls, blast them! "Every one knows
what that Molly is."

"What I am concerned with is your own behaviour. Have I ever taught you
to make others the keeper of your actions as a decent citizen? Have you,
or have you not, had certain relations with Molly McCathie?"

"Aw, we had a lark or two with her. She let us go too far, but there were
half a dozen in it."

"It's true then, that you have had relations with Molly McCathie in
accordance with Hennessy's allegations?"

"He just picked on me."

"What others do you accuse?"

"Gerald Butler and Tom Angus and Branston and Aubrey Fullwood to name a
few. Athol Macallister was the one who started it."

"How came this?"

"After a bit of a dance one night in the Hall beside the store, we might
have been a little on, not being used to liquor. Molly only put me to bed
in her room to save waking the old man, and he got toothache or something
in the night and came in. I never did her any harm. Old Hennessy is mad
to get up in the social stirrups and he picks on me because he knows you
will be the softest to handle."

Danny put hint through a searching cross-examination, and so hammered
home the enormity of "tampering with army girl--black, whoite or green",
that Robert's bravado was plucked and he was left in the undergarments of
shame.

"I've heard you and Hennessy separately," concluded Danny. "The next is
to bring you face to face and see how you stand up then. 'Twill be the
girl's turn next. No accusations will ver be laid involving me family's
character but I'll clear them up. If you have incurred anny
responsibility, by the Lord Harry, me boy, you'll discharge it. You'll
ride in to Hennessy with me to-morrow.

"I won't," said Robert flatly. "Why should I lick-spittle after a ---- old
lag because he is acting as a criminal to me?"

"I'll concede your point. Hennessy shall come here."

"If he comes here Ma will onder why, and it will upset her."

"It's too late to think of your mother's health now."

Robert's experience at college in Sydney made him contemptuous of his
father's narrow standards, though none so desirous of esteem as he, and
he crumpled at the prospect of being the oaf to hold the parcel in a
company affair. Unconvicted of sin he feared only ridicule, and would
have sold his soul to keep the matter secret.

Molly was equally unabashed spiritually or socially, though such generous
behaviour as hers to lovers was not made safe by science for unmarried
women until a later generation. A lady of pleasure was in a plight but
trusted to extricate herself by marriage. Robert really was in danger.
Her favourite was Athol, son of old Bandy Macallister of Curragoobill,
and half a dozen other stations from the Murray to the Darling. Bandy was
cynical and vulgar, and able to drive a bargain. His only legitimized son
was the wildest blackguard unlicked, and the bullet-headed whip who drove
tandem with such dash that the dazzled Robert had taken him as a model.

In time Robert had been able to drive a tandem of Bedouins through the
Township when Athol was there to behold, and be conquered. He made an
offer. Robert refused. Athol must have those dun beasts with the silver
manes and tails, no matter what the cost or conditions. Robert pursued
his advantage. Athol made him a familiar, but such was Robert's
up-bringing that he would not take Athol home to Norah.

He brought Gerry Butler to Athol, and both lads imitated Athol's
gracelessness. Athol led in appreciation of Molly's satisfying charms.
All her paramours remembered her as long as they lived, and grinned with
glee when they met her. Molly adored Athol, but drunk or sober, she could
not noose him into marriage. He was the kind of rapscallion to hold all
women lightly unless proved under test. He would kiss a servant girl as
soon as look at her, and seduce her as a sporting incident. Casuahies in
virtue were entirely a feminine responsibility in his philosophy.

He was the supreme example of all the masculine insolence of the bloods
of his decade. He jeered at Gerald and Robert for being old maids, and
led them after him on thoroughbreds, jumping in and out of the flower
gardens fronting the straggling main street of the Township and of
Queanbeyan and of Cooma. They likewise followed his lead in the lark of
breaking the crockery in one or two shanties, when Robert, due to fear of
his father's principles, had to pay. In Athol's company the two young men
first became drunk--taking lessons in how to carry liquor like a swell.
Blood horses, kangaroo dogs and greyhounds, guns, plated harness, top
boots and cabbage tree hats at £7/10/- or £15 each, all the squatter
swagger, which embellished drinking, swearing and wenching, came natural
to Athol. He was protected by the conventions in virility of the times,
and by old Bandy's wealth. He was wild where his imitators could not
ascend above flashness. There were plenty to say: "There's no harm in
young Mac at bottom," though he was but a simian in human shape,
graceless and uncivilizable.

When a scapegoat was needed, he cunningly had one. Robert was left in
Molly's arms after a certain debauch. The best fun had been in leading
Hennessy to find him there. Athol had blundered up and down the passage
to awaken the old terrier, and when he emerged blinking with his candle,
he saw Athol near Molly's door. Hennessy demanded admittance to Molly's
room and found Robert.

"Too dead to the world to be dangerous, but that, by helll akes it
funnier." Athol cackled as he told his crew in Sydney.

"Christ! But it must have been rich," they agreed.

Athol ran gaily away with his Bedouin tandem, for which he had paid £250
in cash; but ah, he had his revenge for that. Robert would need more than
£250 before he was done. Molly pleaded and pleaded. Athol showed her
letters around with inflated swagger, and told her he wanted no wife who
was found asleep with dirty young Irish dogs like Bob Delacy.

Hennessy had the measure of Athol, and was relieved that Robert was so
fullv compromised. Molly. made desperate and revengeful by Athol's
repudiation, let her uncle have his head. If he could make Robert marry
her, she was willing. Too uncertain of consequences to claim innocence,
she was obstinately silent. Hennessy sent her to Goulburn for safety, and
started on Robert.


The interview with Robert. Hennessy and Danny was disastrous to Robert's
case. The facts were incontrovertible as stated by Hennessy, with the
housekeeper's corroboration.

"You must bring the girl out to my place, and me wife and I will
interrogate her," said Delacy, "first by herself and then with you and
Robert present...I'll be thankful to have me wife's carriage brought home.
Hospitality can go too far for them that's not worth it--not meaning you,
Hennessy."

He marched away with dignity, notwithstanding his sloppy clothes and
peg-leg. It was Robert, in the panoply of unmarred youth and smart gear,
who was shorn of swagger. Hennessy was satisfied with his progress. The
Delacys would kick for a while, but he would set the young folks up and
then use the connection for every ounce that it would yield, Mrs Fitzhugh
his next objective. He regretted the youthful rebellion that had put
ostracizing wales on his back. There was now no cause for rebellion in
Australia. The Irish famine in the 'forties had exterminated those
members of his family who had not escaped to Canada or the United States.
Poor old Ireland was in a hopeless mess, but in the Colonies a man had
outlet for ambition and energy. Hennessy meant to go up and up, all
obstacles but a spur to endeavour.


"Your mother will have to know. Will you tell her or shall I?"

"I'll tell her myself," said Robert sulkily.

"And I'll be present."

Robert was thus cornered to divulge the fact of discovery in Molly's bed
at 3 a.m. "I was drunk, was the reason. Gerry Butler, Athol Macallister,
Aubrey Fullwood, Tom Angus and' I all went in together, but I was not
used to drink, and it made me dizzy. There was no harm, really. The
others went out when I went to sleep. Molly does nothing but throw
herself at men. She is playing her cards now to land me."

Danny's comment was a loud "Humph!"

"Mother of God, have mercy, that such a thing could befall me son!"
shrieked Johanna, in such grief and excitement as Danny had not
previously seen from her. He was dazed.

Robert thought he had driven his mother mad and was scared to hysteria.
He put his arms about her and tried to quieten her, "I swear, Ma, I am
innocent. We were just daring each other to get drunk to see what it was
like."

"I know that hussy!" Johanna screamed between paroxysms. "I've seen her
at work to capture me innocent son, and him trapped in a net. God help
me, that I should have come to this! It is a just punishment...And what
are ye doing, Daniel Delacy, to save ye'r son from the clutches of that
foul harpy, and that criminal, Hennessy?"

Danny's statement that he had investigated so as to have justice in hand
and had discovered Robert's culpability, brought a fresh outburst. It did
not move Danny fundamentally. He considered it on a par with Johanna's
marital aberration, and thought that if he had met that firmly she might
not now have been so wild. Justice he would have and was so reasonable
that he knew all the virtue would not be on one side, even with his son.

"Peace, woman!" he said at last. "Nothing more can be done till we hear
what the girl has eto say."

"What she says! She should never be let open her mouth again to her
betters. If such a slut ever comes near me, I'll tear her eyes out by the
roots."

"Come now, Johanna, if the case was your own daughter led astray by the
love of some young man, and she motherless and fatherless, wouldn't your
heart break if there was no justice for her?"

"Ye to name wan like that with ye'r own daughter--shame on ye!"

"Your daughters had you to look after them."

"'Tis plain they would never have had ye in army trouble. And where is me
daughter now? And where is that surrvant I trained for her among the
dingoes?"

Danny was tempted to interject that Bella had been put in charge of one
of the aristocratic Fullwoods, but felt it more than his position as a
husband would carry.

"And ye to be tigrinizing about after Hennessy's by-blow--no father and
mother! None that can be mentioned at all events." When Robert recovered
from his alarm, his mother's attitude was an immense satisfaction to him.
Danny shut his long stained teeth hard and stumped away on other
business. Johanna's outburst had unmanned him, but did not deflect him
from procedure necessary to the upholding of character. The next move was
Hennessy's. The girl had to be brought from Goulburn.

"Ye'r father increases in oddity till sometimes I don't know what to
think of him," Johanna observed to Norah, in making a report in which
Robert's liability was unscrupulously minimized.

"That Molly was always an odious, forward creature, who tried to put
herself on a level with every one," observed Norah, fearful lest her
precious Stewart might also have been contaminated.

Men's indulgence with certain women beneath respect was known to take
place, but when it happened with a member of any circle, the
accommodating female was known for an enemy and could be given no quarter
by self-respecting ladies.



Chapter XIX


Danny tried to offset his uneasiness by furious action, but found that
Bewuck was Robert's. Every one looked to Robert as the boss, even the
dogs. Danny's special servitors forsook him to run after Robert, in spite
of the wars this entailed. The canine fraternity are psychologists, and
in selecting Robert, dogs knew that only against their master could
lese-majesty be committed. The other Delacys imposed humiliating
discipline on their dogs, but Robert's personality, as it ripened,
compelled other people to guard against his servitors' depredations or to
suffer them as quietly as possible.

Deprived of more urgent business, Danny crossed the Murrumbidgee again on
the Bella business. Johanna raised no protest this time. She hid in her
bedroom and waited anxiously until Maeve announced that Danny was safely
across. She laughed grimly at the worry about Bella. "Another streel who
can take care of herself to the injury of others, or she wouldn't he true
to her breed. Your father deserves the pair of treasures he has on his
hands now."

Robert was disquieted by the impending private meeting with his mother,
which could no longer be evaded when she had the fire lighted in the
drawing-room that evening and summoned him. "And now, my son, tell me how
ye came to be trapped. Ye will never be so innocent among wolves
hereafter."

Robert, affecting candour, told little, but made a plausible defence. He
had already admitted the intoxication. He considered that Gerry Butler,
Athol Macallister and the others had gone too far with Molly, and when
they were in danger of old Hennessy, had rigged the evidence on him.

"That wily old wretch will stop at nothing to crawl nto a good family.
God help us, and your father no more use than a broken umbrella in a
thunderstorm to withstand him."

"I'll clear out to Queensland where thev can't get hold of me."

"If Grace should hear of it, 'twill distress the poor girl; but if she's
worthy of ye, 'twill be a nice little test."

Robert was indifferent to Grace's attitude for or against him, but was
too diplomatic to say so. "In any case, I'll o awav to Queensland for a
spell. Urn full-up of Bewuck. It's a tin-pot hole. Out on the Darling
Downs..."

"Have I not endured enough in the furthest wilds from civilization
without me heart to be torn from me by me eldest son going where it is
like an oven all the time, and with the cannibal lacks eating ye, and the
fever at ye."

Robert would almost as soon have married Molly as fulfil his threat, but
young men in New South Wales were making it as their fathers had cited
the Antipodes.

"Would ye be running with ye'r tail between ye'r legs, like wan of the
curs out there, and leaving the field to the lags and their bastards?
Shame on ye, Robert! That would be to admit ye were guilty, and that I
never would do, even if ye were--not to sweepings like that, or they
would soon be in the stirrups, and their betters in the gutter."


Delacy had no pleasant prospect as he approached the Raffertys. They were
of objectionable quality. The mother's easy virtue was a byword,
therefore they would make a noise about their daughter, and by damn!
where were Bella and Fullwood?

The Raffertys came streaming to meet Mr Delacy, and held his stirrup and
hampered him in alighting, noisomely servile and genuinely hospitable and
eager for news. Their hut was squalid. They were shepherds for Wells, a
squatter adjoining Old Glenties, and under the Act had selected a few
acres around their abode. They treated clogs, pigs and fowls as equals.
Mrs Rafferty's hair was matted and verminous, her dress filthy and
tattered.

"Begob, and 'tis ye'rself, Mr Delacy, that is the kind gintleman to come
all this way around to inform me of me darlint Bella. And how is the
darlint gurrl? And it's blissed she was to be trained by ye'r dear
woife--a dear koind lady if iver there was wan. 'God bless her!' sez Oi to
Mrs Rafferty at the toime, Oi did, ''tis the chance of a loife-time.'"

The woman was less effusive but equally servile. It was difficult for
Delacy to open, but he was justly known as Danny the brave. The deterring
factor was the likelihood of the woman's false grief. For what might he
not be blamed to disturb an expectant mother, though she was a notorious
polyandrist? He withdrew Rafferty, "To talk about a bull, Rafferty, and
that no lady's subject."

Mrs Rafferty retreated in a "refined" manner taking some of the smaller
youngsters with her. At a hint from Delacy, Rafferty threatened with a
kick the bigger ones.

"Did ye send a letter to Bella by James Fullwood about three weeks past?"

"Divvil a wan of the Fullwoods have we seen for months."

"I do not wish to disturb your wife with something that maybe can be
cleared up," Delacy continued, and related the circumstances of Bella's
disappearance.

"Begob!" said Rafferty. He suspected that he had no responsibility for
Bella's being, and had been glad to be free from her tongue, but he had a
property claim on her. "Ye did wrong, Mr Delacy, not to bring her on
ye'rself, ye having promised the mother to guard her as wan of ye'r own."

"But Fullwood--a man of years--and coming straight down."

"Min of years are none too safe--but he shall be made to pay--he must be
follered and made to pay."

"I've sent me black boy with instructions to me sons. I went meself as
far as Learmont's."

"I thrimble at the thought of telling me poor wife. Her sowl is wrapped
up in that darlint gurrl. If she is rooned, 'twill be a bad dav for all
concerned. They'll be made to pay, and to the limit. Ye'll come to tell
me owld woman."

Danny did not balk, though he nearly gasped as he endured the
unrestrained and fetid blasts of Mother Rafferty's tongue.

"Shure, ivirv wan concerned will be made to pay," was Rafferty's
monotonous reiteration.

"I'll do me best to clear it up," said Delacy.

The female Rafferty continued to vituperate in fluent Cockney about the
ruination of her child. The male Rafferty kept on and on that everv one
should be made to pay.

Delacy rode away followed by execrations, and murmuring to himself,
"There's a cask of maggotty meat for you!"

At nine o'clock the Bewuck household heard his halloas above the
Murrumbidgee. "Save us!" exclaimed Johanna. "Is that your father, and the
river up, and as cold as ice, and him for ever thinking he's as young as
he was in 'fifty-two, swimming the Yackandandah, and it the dark of the
moon? Sure, he's stark mad."

"He'll be all right," said Robert. "You couldn't kill him with an axe.
The grey could do the crossing in hobbles."

The crisp stars faintly showed the rushing water in the deep gorge. A
small wind cancelled frost and sighed in the casuarinas' mermaid tresses.
The curlews retreated wailing. The plovers protested noisily. All the
dogs howled or yelped. Danny loved their welcoming commotion. Johanna was
nervous.

Robert was not alarmed for his father's safety. His sudden disappearance
would have been a relief. Danny had never demanded affection from his
sons, and at present he was in the position of a judge. Robert and Maeve
went out with lanterns and soon the traveller was casting extra logs on
his roaring fire, while the drenched horse shivered without reward or
care under the frosty sky.

Danny was not communicative about the Rafferty episode. He remarked that
the letter had been a ruse. The Raffertys had not heard from Bella.

"Most likely she's run off with somewan as soon as ye'r back was turned,"
observed Johanna.

"It's for the police now. If annything has happened to her and it not
reported, 'mould look queer on mv part."

He took so much rum on going to bed that he awakened late next morning,
and his stump of a leg was paining as though nails were being driven into
it. Two immersions in icy waters during a long day without food had been
too much.

"There's a wind sweeping clown from Monaro all laden with gusts of
sleet," Johanna reported.

"Sure, I have a cold as long as a wet week. Wan day more won't hurt Bella
either way." He made a noise about his rare indisposition, and doctored
himself with one remedy more drastic than the other in such quick
succession that only an invincible stomach could have escaped
disturbance.

In the evening a messenger arrived with a letter from Hennessy stating
that he had brought Molly from Goulburn, and that she was ready to meet
Delacy and Robert. The messenger was put up for the night.

"Shall I send word for Hennessy to bring the girl out here?"

"Ye'll sind word that she'll never place her foot in this house only over
me dead body. Neither me daughter nor meself will contaminate the place
with such trash."

"Then, Johanna, will you go with me to face the girl and sift her story?"

"Me, to go to the beck of her! I've sifted her story. Shame on ye, Daniel
Delacy, ye have less gumption than an eft, and ye knowing me, to suggest
such an indignity."

"Well, Robert, you can ride to the Township with me to-morrow."

"I won't." Robert swaggered rebelliously.

"Arrah! 'Tis as I thought. You're too guilty to face the girl. There's no
man, woman or child on this earth that I am not game to face about
anything."

"I'm not guilty at all. She's a liar and a ----. I'll go to Queensland
before I'll say a word to her."

"You are mortal uneasy about her accusations if it will take Queensland
to pull you up--running from a girl no more than five feet high. I've
seen you smirking after her often enough. While you are on Bewuck, you'll
observe what I say. I'm ashamed that wan of me breed hasn't the pluck to
face a bull's nest and explode it, if it's false. You should have heard
the bally-ragging I faced from the Raffertys, male and female."

Put this way, Robert said he would go. Danny barred the gig as flash, and
they set off on horseback, Robert considerably subdued.


The encounter was in Hennessy's private den. Molly was dressed with
girlish simplicity and a manner to match. She hardly raised her eves to
Danny and hovered touchingly on the verge of tears. She was so pretty and
healthy that she charmed Danny, who had always liked her cheerful
riendliness. Whatever she was, he thought her worth a whole boiling of
Fullwoods.

Robert, braced for belligerence, was nonplussed by Molly's chaste, shy
mien. Could such hypocrisy be! He had thought his mother rather soft as
to his own virtues, but he marvelled at her acumen regarding the
perfidious Molly.

"Now, Molly, bear up," said Hennessy. "Though ye've done foolishly, ye
and Robert were both vaynial young folks. Things can be minded, as Mr
Delacy has shown."

Danny removed his pipe to address seductive girlishness. Robert felt as
many another man--and woman--has felt on seeing a jury of males bowled
over by the attractively presented sexiness of some designing hussy.

"Now, Molly McCathie, you've brought wan of the most serious accusations
in life against me son, and what have you to say for yourself?"

Molly fluttered and choked and took refuge in a handkerchief. "I didn't
want to, but Robert kept on and on, and I was frightened, but he swore by
everything holy to marry me."

"What a boomer!" burst from Robert. "I could never make you have me
because you were so mashed on Athol Macallister. He was always in your
bedroom as if he was married to you."

"Phwat do ye know of anny young gurrl's bedroom? Ye are admitting that ye
bothered her with advances?" bawled Hennessy.

Robert saw his mistake. Hennessy continued. "Ye cannot denoi that Mrs
Rooney and meself found ye in me niece's room on the noight of the
dance?"

"I don't remember anything about it. I took a nobbler of your poisoned
grog, and Gerry Butler and Athol Macallister and Tom Angus played a
practical joke by landing me there. I never harmed Molly, I'm sure of
that."

"Sure there's no harrum at all, if ye'll shoulder ye'r raysponsibilities
loike a gintleman. Molly's heart is scalded for ye, and if ye'r feyther
will put up a little caboose for ye, Oi'll set ye up rint free, with as
handsome a prospect as tinny one."

"It's not my responsibility. I was too dead drunk."

"It wasn't that time but all the others," whimpered Molly, "and every one
is talking about you and me, and I'm ruined. I wish was dead."

"As to being ruined," said Danny judicially, "scandalmongering japers are
like the magpies chattering on the fence posts; but are you really ruined
to the extent of prospects of motherhood?"

Molly bent her head and' fostered wild sobs, satisfactory to Hennessy,
touching to Danny, but dismaying to Robert.

"I'll ave to kill myself," she wailed, with shattering sobs.

"I'm not the only one."

"Ye're the only wan Molly has ever encouraged," said the good-tempered
tones of Hennessy. "Oi was not anxious for ye, as Molly has bet ther
chances, but there is no evidence from here to Goulburn of Molly being
out with anny one but ye. Whoi, didn't ye come straight here and get her
to christen ye'r gig? The divvil mind ye, if Oi had known that ye were
not honourably intintioned to me motherless orphan! I tawt, being the son
of a gindeman, the sowl of honour himself, that Oi was safe wid ye. There
were plinty others--Macallister for wan, but the crows could see that he
is dangerous, and niver did me gurrl go out of soight wid him."

Asseverations and denials were powerless in face of such mendacity. When
Robert got out of that room he would steer for the Queensland border
without waiting for fine weather. At the end of a hacking session,
Hennessy observed that his poor child was fainting, and, dramatically
picking her up, carried her from the room. He threw her on her bed none
too tenderly, "Don't ye inove out till I give ye lave. Begor, 'tis safest
to put the key in me pocket."

He returned to Delacy. Robert was contemptuously silent, his scorn
suiting his eagle features.

"You can go to bed, Robert. I want a word with Hennessy."

Robert removed himself with open contempt, but it made no dint in
Hennessy's purpose. Robert was damned if ever he'd allow the old man to
tell him to go to bed again. He'd sooner tell him to go to hell than
obey. If those two old fools thought they were going to settle his
affairs, they'd find out their mistake, but uneasiness arose through his
debts to Hennessy. As many a one with a "fine head for business", finding
money easy, Robert had squandered it. Was Hennessy reserving mention of
the debts for a knock-out blow?

He picked his overcoat and hat from the rack, went to the stable for his
horse, and galloped into the sharp night, reaching home at two o'clock.
His mother called out to him and he told her of Molly's hypocrisy and the
attitude of his father and Hennessy. His mother's support was comforting.
"No matter what they do, I'll never marry her," he maintained.

"'Twill never come to that. If ye'r lather is such a newt to be put upon
to that extint, we'll have a plan as simple as shelling peas that will
leave them looking like a pair of plucked geese in a thunderstorm."

Under seal of secrecy he confessed to debts. His mother took this the
right way too. "Me poor foolish boy. He has prepared a trap for ye, the
unholy scoundrel. We can make it up out of the egg money."

Robert confessed to about half. Even that staggered his mother, but did
not daunt her.


"Are you convinced that Molly is to become a mother?" Danny inquired of
Hennessy.

"We can be sure wid a doctor," said Hennessy smoothly. "Shure, 'twould be
a raylief to know otherwise. Oi'm no advocate of forced marriages."

"I propose Dr Britton in Goulburn. A certificate from him would convince
me."

"Oi'll take Molly to-morrow and Dr Britton can sind worrud in his own
hand."

Molly washed her puffed face and reviewed her position. She was incensed
by Athol Macallister's indifference to her last plea, his cruelty when
her hunger for him was unendurable. She was forced to do something to
offset it, and Robert was an instrument. His superior attitude filled her
with a desire for revenge, and the hardihood to go through with her
uncle's plan. He was only a puppy, a lout, whining after her like a
little boy, crying even for kisses, and now to blacken her and throw the
blame on others!

She could have picked on Athol, but he would have laughed at any threat
of being sued for maintenance. He had never babbled of marriage as Robert
had. Her attempt to force Robert into marriage had in it more of revenge
on Athol than desire to save her name. Such infatuation and dehght as
hers in Athol could not be quite unreturned. She sought to arouse his
jealousy.

Danny was not surprised to find that Robert bad gone. It left him free to
return by Butler's and confront Gerald. His honesty and candour unsuited
him for such investigation. Gerry had enjoyed Molly's generosity. He had
been a floater for years because he could make no headway with Della who
nevertheless did not accept any one else and thus end his uncertainty.
Gerry's only concern was to clear himself, though it might put Molly in
the family into which his brother was about to marry and where he too had
not given up hope. He was cautious, but admitted that Robert had been
fond of Molly.

Danny reached Bewuck before Johanna had retired. Robert kept out of the
way. Johanna extraeted what had passed in Hennessy's room, and put her
own construction on it.

"Robert must shoulder his responsibilities. It doesn't matter to me if
the girl is Molly McCathie or the Governor's daughter." Argument was
useless when he closed his mouth that way. Johanna had not prevailed over
him religiously when he was young and amorous. She compressed her lips
upon her own purpose. Her beautiful son was not to be sacrificed to a
faggot, let Dr Britton's verdict be what it might.

Robert found the atmosphere unbearable. It was against the training of
horses. Danny had Hannon in tow and Robert could not give orders in view
of his own doubtful status. He was reheved when his mother asked for help
in her garden. Matters were not advanced for him by the arrival of a big
working bullock who attempted to get into the cow-paddock where he had
been born. "Sure, that's old Daisy's calf," observed Danny. "I thought
Robert gave him to the blacks with the hipped cow for a feast a year
ago." Hannon was silent. He never made trouble with his tongue.

Danny pursued the subject at dinner. "'Tis plain he's a worker; someone
must have got him from the blacks."

It was the beast that Robert had sold to pay for the gig. Robert longed
for his father to go away that day so he could manage the cursed affair,
but Danny turned the bullock into the cow-paddock and pottered about the
premises all the afternoon.

At dusk the owner appeared, a teamster named Bell. He was carrying stores
from the Township to The Plains and the bullock had bolted for home. "And
how did you come by him, I'd be interested to know?" inquired Danny.

"Bought Inns front the young cove here. I got a receipt."

"Sure, that was the lot me son told me about when I was in the mountains.
You'll stay the night?"

The man said he must push on, but he first had a good meal in the
kitchen.

Danny went into Robert. "Did you sell the yellow bullock to Bell
separate?"

Robert was caught.

"This will need explanation," said Danny, returning to talk with Bell,
who later departed with his beast. The disappointed creature had to be
heeled all the way up the cutting by a dog and striped by a whip till he
bled. Danny called his son out behind the stables in the frosty night and
gave him such a dressing-down that Robert trembled. Danny was at a loss
to account for such a lack of principle in a son of his loins. "And what
did you do with the money?"

"Bought the gig to drive Ma about," said Robert sullenly.

"I bought a carriage more comfortable to your mother."

"It's as big as a circus."

"I thought at the time you were wanting in judgment to give a young
bullock to the blacks, but I would rather that you lacked judgment than
principle," said Danny, showing his own lack of business values.

Robert could have been cutting, as he grew to be with years, but was
subdued by the fear of his greater debt to Hennessy coming to light.

"It looks as if you lacked principle right through. Molly McCathie is too
good for you." Danny stumped hack to his fire. Christianly lenient to
others, he set an inexorably high standard for himself and his own.

Robert's vanity, of which he had an inordinate share, was painfully
wounded, a stinging experience, following upon the other. In his
passionate humiliation he actually contemplated flight to Queensland, and
that was desperation. He was a homer, not a roamer by nature.

That evening Danny retired early, and to his bed proper, the big double
bed of marital years. "Bring me nightshirt," he requested Norah. "I'm
free from me cold now." Robert's debacle was not all distress to his
father. Obliquely it gave him conjugal courage.

Johanna remained up unusually late, but she found Danny awake waiting for
her, a candle set on his chest to read the paper. "Yell set the place
a-fire wan of these nights," she said, but omitted to complain of the
ripe odour of the pipe.

"I came to bed early to have a private talk with you."

"And I stayed up late to balk ye," thought Johanna, taking as long as the
frosty air permitted to prepare herself for bed.

A sore and sorry Robert lay awake wondering what his father was saying as
the murmur of voices continued for some time.

"If the blacks demanded two and he satisfied them with wan, sure, he was
entoitled to the money," was Johanna's argument. "He wasn't entitled to
tell a lie and deceive me."

"A little whoite loi!".

"A lie is a lie."

"And a fool is a fool," thought Johanna. "Sure, ye can't expect a foine
young man of Robert's address and education, and a head for business on
him, to manage and improve everything and be contint with the position of
an assigned man."

Danny thought with satisfaction that Robert would be relieved of
management.

"Ye cannot educate a foine boy to be a gentleman and expect him to drag
around like a peat cutter," persisted Johanna.

"An honest man is more to me than the shiniest gentleman. Be the poipers,
no man can be a gentleman at all unless he is honest first."

Johanna might have approved of the misappropriation of the bullock,
thought Danny. He was shocked by her attitude, and, in the way of
parents, inclined to attribute the bad streak in Robert to her side. He
laid her unreasoning partisanship to the maniacal qualities of mother
love, the protection of the offspring by the female, to be seen even in
the magpie.

"If his own father can't protect him whin he makes a little youthful
slip, it's a poor chance for me boy in a world full of lags and harpies."
Johanna sounded like tears.

"Och, woman, there's no rayson at you," said Danny, turning over, and
half wishing that he had kept to the end room. "By damnl he's just like a
magpie with a nest," he thought as he drifted to sleep, comforted that it
was a natural rather than an evil phenomenon.

A cold sweat would break over Robert when he thought of Dr Britton's
report being affirmative. The days hung like a blight. He was thankful to
retreat to the barn and husk maize, a task formerly beneath him.



CHAPTER XX


William's arrival was a welcome break in the strain.

As soon as Doogoolook had reached Burrabinga with Danny's letter, Harry
investigated as far as Learmont's while William went to Wong Foo and to
James Fullwood's hut. Bella had been at the hut, as a garment testified.
Wong had further information about Delacy cattle going to market with the
Fullwoods, and this time there was nothing to cloud the issue.

"That streel must have gone off with James Fullwood," said Harry to
William in solemn consultation.

"She even made up to me, but I threatened to throw a dish of water on
her," responded the unconscious Joseph.

"And we'll get the blame of it and all the disgrace. Will she have a
baby?" Harry sank to a hollow whisper.

Billy Aldon, the stockman baching with O'Neill, came for rations, and as
the matter was no longer secret, the Delacys talked with him. He was
enamoured of Bella. It was for safety that Danny had latterly banished
him to Dead Horse Plain. Jealousy loosened his tongue. He was ready any
time that a witness was needed as to who lifted so many Delacy cattle
during the past year. The boys left that in abeyance until they could
reinstate their respectability regarding the abduction or absconding of
Bella. Billy was eager to follow Fullwood to Hell or Hay in order "to
belt the stuffin' outer the ---- ole morepork".

"There's not much stuffing in old skinny Jimmy, but we'll let Billy rip,"
chuckled William.

Fullwood must have left Bella somewhere, if he had gone on to Melbourne
with cattle, as reported. The three young men set out to find her,
leaving Ned Callahan to patrol Burrabinga, a great deal of which was then
under snow. From the ranges across the river for twenty miles to Bullock
Gap and beyond was girth deep in dry snow as if coarse salt had been
scattered, and every denizen of the bush had left his track, whether
Menura or wombat, dingo or bandicoot.

William rode to Gool Gool, Harry to Queanbeyan, and Billy Aldon to
Gundagai on the Great Southern Road. He had no difficulty in tracking
Bella. Women riding that way were an event in winter. He followed to
Cootamundra, where Bella was established at the best hotel, and calling
herself Mrs Wood. When Aldon said he had a letter for her she ordered him
to be sent in. She was in gay mood, which incensed her discarded lover.

"Is this what you've come tot Too flash for an honest man's offer to make
a decent wife of you, but that ---- of a rotten cattle-duffing swell can have
his own way."

Bella stuck her tongue out and giggled until she was breathless.

"You may be all right for a bit in yer fine feathers, but wait till
people know what you are--_Mrs Wood!_ Think yer very smart, ain't you.
At any rate I'll foller ole Jimmy and belt the stuffm' outer his
ole hide."

"Cripes, that would be funny! He could have you took up by the police."

"He can be took up for abduction if you ain't of age."

"Took up for abducting his own missus! You are a hard ease!"

"So that's what he promised, and you are green enough to swaller it."

"Seein's believin'. I'll show me marriage lines, and me ring." She
brought her left hand into view and took from the bosom of her dress a
document which elated her every time she beheld it. Billy could not read,
but was duly impressed.

"Crikey, Beller, is this true, or only gammon?"

Bella swore glibly that she was Mrs James Fullwood, and calling herself
Wood modestly until James could take her to his family. "Golly, I'm
splittin' me sides to think how that Annie and Grace will look w'en they
have to call me Aunty."

The disappointed lover was cheered. Bella was a merry wight. "They
mightn't have nothink to do with yer."

Bella tossed her head. "Just let them try any larks!"

"Oh, well," said Billy with resignation, "Seein' you have done so well by
yourself, I wish yous luck. I reckon I had better not welt the stuffin'
outer ole Jimmy."

They waxed familiar and Bella commissioned Billy to take the news to
"pore ole Mar". "This is sure to git out wrong end fust as soon as she
misses me, an' the ole cove will be runnin' round roarin' as if he could
do somethink. Tell them to keep it quiet till James comes home, as he
wants to take me to his family hisself."

"Cripes, I'd like to take the news to Heulong meself," grinned Billy. It
was impossible to be depressed with Bella.

Billy was pleased to be messenger. One was necessary seeing that none of
the parties could write a letter. "You really are married by a priest or
parson, not just hocussing me?"

"I was married by the ole parson here in town. Go an' arsk him. Tell him
ye'r me brother."

Billy did this and was assured that the marriage had been duly
solemnized. The clergyman congratulated the young man that his sister had
done so well for herself.

Billy returned to Burrabinga with his blithe news. William put Harry and
Callahan to winter tasks and rode with Billy on his errand. William went
on to set his father's mind at rest. His report was a triumph for Danny,
but a blow to Johanna to have that streel in a family she so much admired
and into which her heir apparent was to wed.

"Have I been rearing a shepherd's slut to enter the quality," she
remarked.


Dr Britton's report confirmed Molly's statement. Hennessy had ensured
that. He took Peggy Bell--daughter of the teamster who owned the yellow
bullock--with him for the purpose. She had been employed in the hotel,
had come to grief, and had just been found out by Mrs Rooney, the
housekeeper. Her swain, a young bullocky, was eager to make an honest man
of himself. Hennessy offered to take her to Goulburn with him and Molly,
to meet and marry her man, on his way with loading, and thus save her
from reproach. It was she whom Dr Britton certified as Molly McCathie.
She was so terrified that she merely wept and submitted to examination as
part of her fall. Mr Hennessy was so good to her. He gave her ten pounds
as a wedding present and had her cared for at the convent until her man
came through.

Dr Britton's report, made in good faith, filled Robert with fresh dismay.

"He'll marry the girl," said Danny, setting his jaw. He went riding about
the place, shifting stock and inspecting fences, followed by what dogs he
could command.

Norah said coldly, "We'll be dragged down to that level."

Robert sought his mother, startled by the prospect of exile to Queensland
with not so much as a horse except by permission of his father. To be
cooped at Bewuck as Molly's husband was hardly less terrifying, and he
could not remain on his old terms and refuse to marry her.

"There's wan very simple way to ind the trouble and be safe," said
Johanna.

"Too good to be true, but tell me."

"Silly choild! Off this night and ask Grace to elope with ye. Ye could
take her in the gig."

The carriage had been borrowed by Hennessy, without asking, to take the
erring females to Goulburn.

"That!" said Robert without enthusiasm. "That is not possible."

"She would run this very night if ye asked her. Whin I was years younger
than she is, didn't I run to the ind of the globe with ye'r father!"
Johanna's gurgle of laughter meant that if Danny could succeed, Robert
could not fail. "If ye were safely married to Grace, it's certain ye
could not be married to that other drab, not by all the bishops, nor the
blessed Pope himself, for even ye'r father does not hold with polygamy or
anny loose ideas, I will say that for him. Go you this afternoon, ye are
sure of a welcome."

Robert was too sure. He loathed Grace's clammy kisses. If he could go
where he'd never be seen again, he was bothered if he wouldn't prefer
Molly.

"Saddle-up and off ye go, boy."

"The river is high."

"Och, me son is not going to balk, whin his poor old father with wan leg
goes back and forth. Besides, me rheumatism is troubling me. I need some
of Mrs Fullwood's liniment. I've forgotten the recipe. Go, bring me some,
like a good son."

The errand would bring escape from his father. When Danny was out of
sight during the afternoon, Robert caught the tall grey and followed the
routine, but when safely across galloped on without changing, regardless
of chill. Danny inquired where he was, uneasy lest he might have flown to
Queensland.

"I'm kept awake at night with the rheumatism and I sent him for some
liniment."

"Arrah! Johanna, there's no use in throwing him with Grace. I won't
countenance sons of mine planting nameless children about the
Colony--black, whoite or green. He marries the girl, or he leaves the
place for ever."

"No other man would take such a hard stand against his own flesh and
blood."

"'Tis for, not against me own flesh...I want no bastard grandchildren."

"What ye'r doing is groping for the bastards of others."


Robert had a month's grace to marry Molly or go from the Bewuck roof. He
hoped against hope for reprieve. Molly McCathie remained with the
Sisters. They had been informed of the state of affairs and instructed to
guard Molly and allow none but young Delacy to see her. She was demure
and tractable and the good souls were eager to see her made respectable.

Hennessy knew of Delacy's edict.

The river grey had' a desperately hard life that winter, turned out
drenched night after night to freeze in the frost. His ribs could be
counted in his pinched hide, though it was not a droughty season.

Grace had a happy fortnight following Dr Britton's report.

Robert seemed to be in love with her at last, yet there was a canker of
uncertainty. He put a hypothetical proposition rather than a direct
proposal of marriage.

"My mother and father eloped, what would you think of eloping?"

"When a young lady really loves she thinks only of her intended's
happiness."

"What would you do if someone arrived to take you at your word?"

"If it was the onliest one..."

"It would be better in the summer time."

"All times of the year are the same to real love."

Still he hung off, clinging to freedom, turning over plans to save
himself from exile. He sent a statement to Tom Angus suggesting that he
should send down harness horses in which they would be partners. Robert
would train the animals somewhere near Sydney where buyers could come for
trial. If this was too ambitious Robert was sure that Tom would lend him
a couple of horses to go to Queensland. There was no need to submit to
either Grace or Molly.

He waited feverishly for Toin's response, embracing every opportunity of
getting the post. When a letter came Robert went down to the bunyip hole
to read it. His letter to Tom fell out of the wrapping, accompanied by
one from Ned, who wrote that Tom had departed for Calcutta in charge of a
shipment of horses. Doings had been slack at Birrabee and Tom was glad of
the adventure.

Danny and William were astonished by Tom's "clearing out as if he had a
firestick behind him" without saying good-bye or asking Burrabinga if
they had any horses to ship.

Robert later had a letter from Tom in Sydney explaining that he had had
to rush to catch the chance. The real reason for his sudden departure was
rumours of the Molly embroglio. He was, however, safe, because Hennessy
would suppress his name for Molly's sake. This was Robert's first example
of how boon companions consider their own safety in a jam. It was bitter
in his soul and left him without a prop.

"All the Bedouins must go back to Birrabee," announced Danny to William,
pleased with this further opportunity to re-establish his mastership of
Bewuck.

Johanna tried to enlist William in marrying Robert and Grace, but William
was as firmly against the Fullwoods as Danny, and for the same reason,
plus being of the age to feel Grace's lack of charm.

William had Robert's story first from Danny, and William's principle in
such issues was as straight as his father's. He thought it a low business
and shared Norah's point of view that Robert was dragging the family
down. Remembering Bella's advances and knowing Molly, he was fair enough
to say, "She must have snared Robert."

"Snared be damned! There are always snares. Principle will keep a man out
of snares."

Wilham was young. How could his father, old and one-legged, and an
"oddity" understand the lures cast for such dash as Robert's. William
then had his mother's presentation. He atttributed her attitude to
motherly devotion and to the ease with which a weak female's vision could
be clouded. Then the brothers got away behind the stables and Robert gave
his version. William accepted this with reserve.

Robert could not raise much swagger for all his obscenity and his
allegations that the other lads were equally guilty. He could not
minimize the plight he was in, nor feel anything but humiliation under
William's searching questions. The hearty guffaws from one side of
William did not hide his disapproval on the other. It was William's
opportunity to swagger a little in relating how Bella had tried similar
tactics with him, and how he had threatened her with a dish of water.
Robert felt William's respectability sitting in judgment. William
determined that Della should be informed of Gerry's participation, but a
letter from Norah had already done its work.


The Delacys did not announce Bella's romance, but such news speedily
leaked out: only from the Fullwood women at Heulong was it kept, as at
that date the river separated them from the Township and other centres of
gossip. The Rafferty joy was great--a Cophetua fairy story. "And, by
tripes, on one side, if not both, she's a bigger swell than the
Fullwoods," grinned her mother.

Charles Fullwood returned from the droving expedition and slipped quietly
home on the left bank of the river. His wife reported Robert's frequent
visits.

"Encourage him all you can," said Charles with an urgency that surprised
her. "It won't be easy to get rid of Grace."

"Why? I like Mrs Delacy, but she is _dreadfully_ Irish."

"It is a matter of business." Mrs Fullwood was never enlightened about
business. "Encourage Robert. Get them married."

"He has no prospects."

"Let them set up here to begin. He'll soon make his way."

"There are stories about his familiarity with Molly McCathie."

"Young men will have their fun. Molly might have been trying to trap him.
Grace had better nobble him; her chances won't last." Charles postponed
the news of 'Bella as a sister-in-law. Robert had never mentioned it.

Mrs Fullwood sighed. However, as a meek wife, she spoke tactfully to
Grace. On Robert's next visit he was flattered by Fullwood's cordiality
and the way he was consulted about horses.

"Papa would like you as a young partner," Grace beamed at him, her heant
in her eyes, such as they were. The quality of her eyes made that of her
heart negligible to young men. Surely Robert would hang off no longer.

The Fullwood attitude was balm to his deflated self-esteem, but
still--Grace! No. Exile would not be so unendurable as Grace's sickly
sentimental gush and inept embrace. He dwelt on Molly's delights--Molly
before whom he was hauled as an enemy. If Molly loved him best of
all--that was a softening thought. And the girl was in a dreadful fix. It
was, he supposed, a serious matter for a girl--but then all those other
fellows. Life could be complex.

He awoke each morning with a shudder to realize that another day was gone
from those wherein to decide between Grace, Queensland and Molly. The
most harrowing prospect was in being sued for maintenance by Molly so
that all his cronies would whoop from Riverina to Goulburn, and his fall
be known even in Sydney. Grace seemed the better way out. He would be
reinstated all round. He could make his way with horses. The Fullwoods
were so welcoming that it was like coming from frost to sunshine to
escape from his father to Heulong. It weakened his dislike for marriage
with Grace. He rode down the river nearly every evening and crossed in a
boat from Quebarra. His father did not ask where he went, but waited for
the month to run.

Johanna swung between fear of Robert being drowned of cramp in the river,
and the hope of hearing that he and Grace had eloped. Danny kept watch so
that Robert could not abstract the gig. Hennessy retained the carriage.
He sent Robert a private letter hinting that his debts could be cleared
up as a wedding gift; but those other men turned Robert against Molly. He
made up his mind to marry Grace.

He laid hesitation to his father's disapproval. When Charles Fullwood
heard of this he knew the reason. "Let them run away," he said. "Robert
has a taking way with the opposite sex and old Danny is looking for money
with him. Grace will be lucky to hook him."

Hennessy wrote that he would bring his niece and a priest as soon as the
month was up.

"He'll need an armed guard to take me," said Robert defiantly to his
mother. "You warn me of his approach and be off to Grace, but I don't
want to throw in my hand until the last round."

"That way you might lose Grace."

This prospect was not without comfort to Robert.

Molly was equally distraught. She passed her days in feverish longing for
Athol Macallister, smuggling letters to him and begging him to rescue her
from Robert. No answer came, so one day as the month was ending, such are
the fluctuations of _amour_, that she wrote one more letter in a style
absorbed from the sentimental romances she favoured:

I don't want you to come now. I find that the diktates of my heart are no
longer for you. Your immage is being thrust out by that of a manlyer
figure. A week ago I loved you to _distrackion_, but you _trampled_ on my
love and did not care that you had left me in trouble. I find that I have
been spared the punishment of my reckless love. You have no power over me
now. I could pass you by _without interest_. My pulses would not flutter at
beholding you. I am now happy in my love for Robert and will make him a
good wife. He has been nobel and generous. He is a better man than you in
every way. He is taller and _handsomer_, and a _better whip_. I don't care
if I never see you again but I wish you well. I am longing for my wedding
day--only six days more now. Robert and I will drive to Sydney.




CHAPTER XXI


The day came. Robert, worn by the strain of the past month, worked with
his mother in her garden, and she kept watch. Danny stumped about,
elaborately casual, ordering and consulting with Hannon and William.

The short, cold afternoon waned without the dogs announcing any thing or
person coming down the cutting. The sun, attended by a few clouds, sank
in winter brilliance as though a universe of gold had exploded beyond the
rim and scattered islands and mountains in seas of molten glory around
the globe. Robert was unresponsive to its grand beauty. His mother urged
him away to Grace.

"I'll wait till daylight--safer for the river," he said, and went to bed
early.

Danny sat up late. Johanna sat with him. "No sign of Hennessy," she said
triumphantly, when they retired. The dogs curled against the cold, had
not announced so much as a possum.

"He has been delayed," said Danny.

The household was tense for an arrival during the following day, but it
too ran away undisturbed, its full sunlit silence palpitating on the
clearings like a spirit that had escaped from the sombre brooding scrub.
Robert was acutely nervous. All felt the drama. Danny was tormented by
curiosity and the desire to go to the Township to broach the situation,
but dignity forde.

On the third day the ballyhoo of the dogs portended something special,
and Mrs Delacy's carriage and Hennessy's pair were outlined on the
skyline preparatory to descent.

"Away to Grace," counselled Johanna, but Robert felt suddenly that he
preferred Molly as a woman per se. If old Hennessy would set him up near
Sydney, where he would escape local pother, and if it were not for doubts
of the paternity of that coming child, he would be willing. Molly, after
all, was a first love, and deliciously in her teens, while Grace was
leanly his senior by two years.

"Are you staying to meet the bride, or will you swim the Yackandandah to
Grace?" William asked him.

"If he has dared to bring that slut, she shall not enter this house,"
said Johanna, embattled.

Danny went out. William stood in the background. Norah and Maeve peeped
unseen. Robert hid.

"Good day, sir," said Hennessy's groom, reining-in near the stables.

Danny gave good day and went forward.

"Where shall I leave the vehicle?" inquired the man. The horses lowered
their heads to relieve their shoulders from the collars, and mouthed the
bit's. The man descended. No one came from the body of the carriage. "Mr
Hennessy sent the carriage back with his compliments."

"Have you a letter?"

"No, sir. He only told me to return the carriage."

Danny opened the door. There was nothing inside but a saddle and bridle
for the man's return journey. Danny was mystified, but hospitality was
imperative. "Turn the horses out and stay the night."

William passed the information to his mother. Robert overheard and his
spirits leapt up like a flame at the unexpected reprieve from both Molly
and Grace.

Danny would not make direct inquiries from Hennessy's employee. He talked
to him in the kitchen and supplied him with grog, but could learn nothing
clarifying. Hennessy's move was cryptic. Danny would stay on his own
preserves and await another. His and Robert's tactics had become one.


Several days earlier Hennessy had pounded off to Goulburn because the
Sisters had written that all was now well with his niece. The young
gentleman, unable to wait any longer, had whisked her away, they said,
though Hennessy knew through his informants that Robert was still at
Bewuck.

There was a flutter among the Sisters when Hennessy arrived. They showed
Molly's letter thanking them and stating that she was off to be married
to the man she loved. They were satisfied because the young man had come
in a dogcart with horses of queer colour with white manes and tails. When
he had Molly safely in his trap he came and left the letter, because
Molly, bless her kind heart, in spite of her venial sins, did not want
them to be worried.

"What loike was the young man?" demanded Hennessy, a grim certainty
settling on him. He knew those liver-coloured horses. "He was smallish
and thin with hair as red as the fox." Hennessy said no more. He paid
his debts and withdrew to prepare for a shotgun marriage, not the first
nor the last of its kind among the nobility, and their parody the
squattocracy. He rushed to the train to Sydney, sending back
instructions about the Delacy carriage. He was in a humiliating position
with Delacy, whom he respected. Hennessy was somewhat honest, though
sensitiveness had been killed by the lash. Society must pay for that.
Arrivism was his creed.

The momentary sincerity of Molly's indifference, reflected in her letter,
had worked upon Athol's vanity, and he bowled along to reassert his sway.
Molly's wounds still smarted and she was clever enough to work upon him
about Robert's jealousy until he believed her. "Mr Delacy is as mad for
me to marry Robert as Robert is himself because Uncle Kevin has promised
to set us up and make me his heiress. I'd be afraid to go with you.
Robert is a dead shot." Athol knew the truth of the last.

"Uncle would shoot you like a wallaby too, or get the blacks down there
to put a spear into both of us, and end the disgrace." The blacks around
Macallister's holdings had niot been conciliated. Athol, remembering
Robert's infatuation for Molly, was brought to promise marriage,
whereupon Molly consented to go with him to Sydney. He put her up at
Petty's and was surprised to find that no marriage, no favours. Molly had
become silent and pale, and even more seductive to the hardy male animal.
The hotel was above reproach, so Athol put up around the corner and
enjoyed Molly in the correctest fashion.

The liver-coloured Bedouins were as easily traced as a comet, and
Hennessy caught up with them before Molly's resistance had buckled,
fortunately for her career. Athol was indignant that Hennessy should
mention firearms, such was his temperature at the moment.

So it was a romantic marriage and Hennessy welcomed Molly and Athol
effusively until old Bandy should come to reason. Marriage was final and
Athol was a bigger prize financially than the Delacys and Fullwoods
combined. Socially, therefore, he could lord it where lie willed, and
Hennessy was strengthened in Isis ambitions for Euphemia Fitzhugh.

"Shure, were ye just playing ye'r cards to bring him up to scratch?"
chuckled Hennessy. "Ye're the deep wan, Molly asthore."

"For two pins I'd have had neither of them," said Molly, recovering her
spirit with safety.

Her career as Mrs Macallister did not become part of Y Delac's epic,
though she made bins look foolish before Robert, now victorious. Johanna
did not let Danny off lightly.

"The poor lamb," she crooned. "Wouldn't anny parent with a speck of
natural instinct in the heart of him know that the buy had been led to
take a drop of grog--and him not being set a good example by his own
father--and it to go to his head, and the rest to be put upon him as a
felonious practical joke."

"He did tamper with the girl, whatever."

"A drab, and she and her scoundrelly so-called uncle with two min
bailed-up till she saw which was the weakest under blackmailing, no
less."

Robert's right to swagger offensively was tamed by uneasiness lest the
debt to Hennessy should come to light; nor was the thought of Grace
reassuring. He shuddered to think that he might now have been tied to
Grace's fishy kisses for life! Never again would he let himself be scared
into anything by a woman. Still, he wished he could disappear until the
matter cooled with Grace.

Fullwood had a picturesque version of the affair. He recognized that
Robert had contemplated safety through Grace, and, now that danger had
passed, would discard het like an icicle.

Instead of stiffening her pride, Grace nearly wept Iser eyes assay, and
courted a decline by exaggerating a common cold.

Fullwood came around by the Township and made a formal call upon Delacy.
He opened mildly while smoking a pipe in tile sun after dinner. He
sketched a pathetic picture of his daughter and stressed Robert's
responsibility. Danny allowed him to talk himself out and then repeat
while he drew deep gurgles from his hippo of a pipe. 'Then he knocked out
the ashes on his wooden leg. "Sure, Fullwood, I have the advantage of you
in this leg to empty me pipe. There's philosophy in that now, to make
some use out of everything when it's turned against you. 'Tis aisier in
theory than in practice, but if it would be followed 'mould make a man
invincible."

Fullwood regarded this as an evasion and waited until Delacy loaded up
again. It was like asking a man to go into battle unarmed to deprive
Delacy of his pipe. "Whin I swam the Yackandandah in 'fifty-two, sure, I
broke me wooden leg, but me pipe remained in place."

"I wonder that it is still detachable."

"'Tis a lamentable weakness, whin a man ponders on it." Fullwood was far
from wishing to ponder on it. He noticed Maeve taking a couple of chums
of swill to the pigs, and suggested inspection to get away from household
ears.

"Sure," said Delacy when they were at the sty. "I've heard that Robert
has paid a few visits to Heulong. 'Tis lamentable when young women take
these things over seriously."

"A few visits!" rasped Fullwood. "He has been at my housse constantly,
and made himself inseparable from my daughter. I  not have permitted it
if I had been at home, but my wife is easily imposed upon."

"'Tis true you've been away this past year on a great deal of business,"
dryly remarked Delacy. This time he was to stand by his own, because of
principle fundamentally, and inclination humanly. Grace was no motherless
maiden, nor dimpled darling.

"Yes, I was unavoidably absent, and your son took advantage of that,"
said Fullwood tartly.

"I'nt sorry, Fullwood, if what you say is true, but there are anny number
of gossoons running about the district looking for wives, and your
daughter can have her pick."

"But I have to remember that I am a Fullwood of Fullwood Manor, County
Sussex, and my daughter cannot..."

"'Tis so. And I have to remember that I am an hottest manor try to
be--and like Denny Blake, I'm from County Clare. That's all these is at
it Fullwood, except that we'll have to carry our hides to the tansard
ounselves in the finish--and under our own brands, Fullwood--under our
own brands."

Fullwood cursed him for a rambling old Irish fool, and attempted to bring
hint to the point. "Well, Delacy, what are you going to do about it?"

"About bringing me hide to the tanyard eventually under me own brand?"

"Philosophy may be well enough for educated philosophers, but I am
speaking of my daughter."

"And she having no education in philosophy, you imply."

"You arc evading the point."

"That's no lie, neither. Sure, I'll return to it. _Auribus teneo _lupum_.
I advise your daughter to look for another beau who will be pond to marry
on a Fullwood front the dayvil knows where."

"Dammel Is sour son to go about the country breaking a refined young
female's heart and wrecking her health? Her very life may be at stake."

"Sure, hasn't she been able to find a second string for her bow? I wish
her every success in the world. I don't hold it against anny girl who her
father is, or in what County he was born. 'Tis a dispensation beyond her
entirely...That's a fine sow, Fullwood...She's likely to farrow a dozen
piglets. What mote could you expect of a lady?"

"Your flippancy shows a lack of sensibility. I'm willing to pass it over
as the Irish idea of a joke, but I shan't let the matter rest there."

"What do you expect of me, Fullwood. There can be nothing more likely of
disaster than a young man to marry where he has no love."

"Then he should not court in that direction."

"He should not. If me son has done that he shall be reprimanded, I
promise you."

With this, Fullwood was so discontented that he scent for his horse.
"You'll turn your horse out and stay the night? 'Tis a long stretch back
to the Township, and the days not much longer yet." Fullwood declined. He
did not return to the house to say good-bye to the ladies. He muttered
when in the saddle, "I hope Delacy that this matter will be settled its a
gentlemanly way."

"I hope so too, I'm sure, Fullwood, _ab imo pectore_, and definitely. I
have no policy of ungentlemanliness to anny mats of anny
nationality--English or Irish, black, whoite or greets. 'Tis that your
idea of a gentleman and mine might differ. No man without principle is a
gentleman to me no matter what County or palace he may come from. Good
day!"

The dogs rushed out and heeled the departing gentleman up the cutting,
Fullwood lashing furiously at them with his whip. "Sool him, boys! Sool
him!" Danny chuckled under his breath. Aloud Ise bayed above the dogs,
"Come behind! Come behind, you mong-rels! Lie down!"

"And whoi did Mr Fullwood go off without a good afternoon, and he a
gentleman?" inquired Johanna.

"His title to gentleman was not aquil to the sudden strain put on it.
Matters are a little awkward by reason of his accusations that Robert has
been philandering with Grace. He as much as threatened proceedings, if
Robert doesn't marry her."

"God help us! I hope ye told him that we will elcome Grace. The best
thing for Robert is to settle down with her. He has been put off romance
a little by that impudent drab's attack. A shock to a sensitive boy."

"Humph!" said Danny. "Get all foolishness out of your head about the
Fullwood piece and Robert. Though Robert seas reprehensible to court her,
I shall not expect bins to marry in this case where there is no
suggestion of a nameless offspring. I would not countenance wan of me
risen marrying whit a Fullwood if she was hung with the wealth of the
whole County of Sussex."

"No, ye'd lather force him to marry with a by-blow of a lag."

"You talk against the facts. You accuse me of not caring for family, and
I hope I never shall in the low snob sense, but I'm sound on breed, and
never will wan of mine marry with so low a breed as Fullwoods, I don't
care if they have an orchard of family trees all hung with titles instead
of fruit. The Fullwoods talk in a whine and look sly. I have plenty more
in hand, but let that content you. Auribus teneo lupum. There is no use
in bidding the dayvil good day unless he is about to enter."



CHAPTER XXII


Molly and Athol were at the hotel until old Macallister should show his
hand. Hennessy was working the connection for all he could socially.
Molly had her own suite in glory equal to that of Euphemia Fitzhugh, now
shorn of a carriage. Euphemia, hearing of the half-dozen stations and
endless flocks and herds of old Bandy--a widower--was looking forward to
meeting him. She was, therefore, less hoity-toity to Molly, and Molly
victorious, was not so touchy. Hennessy was beamingly hopeful. His
unmentionable days having shown him the fibre of those in the stirrups,'
he was determined to be among them, and believed in and depended upon
push, though one sound thins in him was his appreciation of character.
Delacy was a favourite with him. He was desirious of healing any
lacerations, so wrote to Robert begging the favour of a few private
words.


Hennessy was none of your ilhterate terriers. He had been a bright
scholar at one of the little Hedge Schools born of the Penal Laws, where
he had learned to read out of a Catholic prayer book lent to him by a
soft-eyed, bare-footed maid with a shawl over her curls, and a dream in
her eyes, which she had shared with young Kevin. She was to have been
his, but his ability to read and write had later made him prominent in
the Anti-Union agitation and resulted in his transportation. An untamable
dislike to conform had earned him those shameful wales on his back,
though he did not forget Brigid. When he had earned his ticket-f-leave,
he wrote home, but an unknown parish priest replied that the family in
question had perished during the famine. There had been another woman
then, generous in concupiscence to the handsome young lag, and she had
later dumped Molly on him. He had done his best for Molly, not so much
because of her mother's generosity as for the memory of the little
Brigid, who had died of hunger waiting for him, whose dream died with
her. In its place came a hardy desire for power and consequence. Euphemia
Fitzhugh was a possible stepping-stone in his ambition, which would not be
helped by enmity with Robert Delacy, whom Fullwood, brother-in-law of
Euphemia, was pursuing for his daughter.

Hennessy's letter was extremely tactful and Robert appeared without
delay, driving his gig again. His father was under-dog for the moment.

"Well, young Robert Delacy, it was about that money ye owe me, Oi don't
suppose ye can pay it all off in wan gulp?"

"Not just at the moment." Robert's business head came to his aid. "You
owe me more than I owe you for what you tried to put upon me and the old
man."

Hennessy loosed a genial guffaw. "Ye've a great head on ye! It was moi
intintion to tell ye not to throuble about the interest. I had no ill
feelings to ye at the toime, and hope ye howld none now."

"None at all, but business is business, Hennessy. I have a sound case for
an action, but the worry is not good for my mother. We'll call it square
if you like to give me a note of discharge. I don't want to hurt Molly.
The mud would dirty her.' It doesn't matter to a man," Robert concluded
with daring swagger.

"Ye flash pup, ye never came from the owld man's soide. It will soon take
double dark glasses to protect the ois whin behowlding ye," thought
Hennessy, but he liberated another spurious chortle and clapped Robert on
the shoulder. "Ye're a bright fellow, Robert Delacy. No wonder Molly
didn't catch ye, though she pulled the wool over her owld uncle's ois to
hilp her, she wanted ye that bad."

Robert's vanity began to recover from some of its wounds. He could say,
"Looks like it, when she leathers off with another."

"Be japers, ye hurrt her proide, and ye know how we'll clutch at the
second bit to save our proide."

This put Robert in an amenable mood. "If you give me a note of full
discharge, properly attested, we'll wipe the slate clean on both sides
and let bygones be bygones."

"Shure, we will. Come and have a dbrink on the house."

The snob in Robert prevailed, also recollections of the consequences of
Hennessy's grog. "Thanks, but your grog was the cause of my trouble." He
said it haughtily without a twinkle. Already he could be as
uncompromisingly aristocratic as his mother.

"It's the last Winne yell iver rayluse a dhrink wid me," thought
Hennessy, but he said, "Ye've a head on ye, Robert, to learn by
experience, and Oi applaud ye, but coine and call on Molly McCathie,
alias Mrs Athol Macallister."

Robert condescended to this. Molly was eager to second her uncle in her
social einstatement. Robert was a ladies' man. He could be cutting to
women, but not insensible to their allure, if it existed. Molly was
acting a shy ladylike part reminiscent of her convent training. Robert
must make the first move. Hennessy left them together. Molly languished
in the best style, fluttering a lace handkerchief above her flounces,
displaying an embroidered sandal on a footstool.

"I have called to congratulate you. I suppose I must call you Mrs
Macallister?"

"No, I am Molly to old friends--in private. In public maybe it would be
better to stick on the Mrs, seeing that I have shocked the fogies." The
old roguish Molly peeped out. Robert became himself.

"What the hell did you mean, getting the two old men after me that way,
and then running off with that Athol?'

"Why did you break my heart? I was desperate. You had ruined my
reputation, and poor dear Athol is so desperately in love with me, I was
sorry for him." Molly sighed.

Robert knew the rights of her pose about reputation, but it was so
gratifying to learn that he had broken her heart and that she had to turn
to Athol in despair, that he overlooked it.

"Well, Molly, I wish you well. I must depart. I am not good for ladies'
reputations." He turned at the door with bravado, "Are you going to call
it Robert?"

Molly tossed a cushion after him. He heard her gay laughter as he
descended. She came running down the passage and called over the
bannister, "Stay to-night and we can go over some names. Athol is in
Goulburn."

Robert, elated, said to Hennessy with a tone of authority, "You won't
forget that note of discharge."

"Shure!" grunted Hennessy. "And ye can sind in the gig."

"Tell you what," compromised Robert then, "we might both, a well as not,
let the tail go with the hide. Let me have what I pairl on the trap, and
it is yours; and I'll train a pair for you for goal' measure."

"Roight ye are, on wan condition."

"What is that?"

"That ye'r women folk don't look down on Molly."

"I'm afraid I do not control the ladies of my family."

"Ye can say a word. It won't do to hurt Molly's feelings." Dealing with
these jumped-up Colonials, one needed a sledge-hammer style and Hennessy's
determination was to jump-up himself without bashfulness.

"If ye'r women folk were kind-hearted enough to call on Molly--" he
continued without a qualm, "well, ye could kape the gig, and Oi'd give ye
what ye laid on it as well. It is betther to run ye'r mother about than
the owld circus van. Now, if ye'r mother was to call on Molly it would he
aquil to the Quane's condescinsion to clear up the little
misunderstanding on all soides, and choke the gossip out of the tongues
of the sweepings that abount in this district--a bargain on it--ye've a
head for business on ye."

"I'll see what can be done," said Robert, hesitantly.

"Be japers, it is done thin already, me bhoy, for no lady could resist
ye, not wan so condescinsious, and of the rare gentility of ye'r own
mother. Shure, here is the cash, and Oi'll have the note of discharge
ready whin ye'r mother comes to call on Molly, no less...Norah too, would
complete it."

Hennessy retained a trump, but Robert came to the Bewuck supper table on
the following night with more self-assurance than he had enjoyed for
months. He could hold up his head again, and a fine head it was. Tall,
haughty, slender, he was the hidalgo to perfection, and gave body to
Johanna's legend that far back on her mother's side was a grandee of
Spain; that one of the women of the family haying found on the beach,
unconscious, a man from the fleeing Armada had been so taken with his
beauty that slte had him carried home and hidden in a garret while others
were being murdered and rifled for loot; that she married him and that he
turned out to be the son of a nobleman.

"'Twas all written down in an old book that me grandmother had from her
great-grandmother, as sure as the Book of Ballymote," she would muse.
When Della and Norah would ask her to write home for a copy of the
entries, Johanna would change the subject. That she would never write
home was painful to her. "Maybe ye'll go home ye'rself wan day," she
would say, "and find out if anny of them escaped the famine."

The girls, as they grew, found slights put upon the Irish by those
prejudiced against the breed and its creed. They heard people mimicking
their parents' brogue, which is a sore shame to adolescents, and so they
were not ambitious to trace themselves to a dagosome sort of half-black
in addition to being Irish--and Johanna's story was but faintly
remembered.

Robert took his father aside during the evening and brought the
sovereigns from his pocket. "There's the money for the yellow steer. I
only sort of borrowed it."

"It's a good thing never to borrow in that way. As often as not there's
an accident and such borrowing is embezzlement in a court of law.
Whatever, you've had your lesson."

"I'll never be so green again," said Robert, but with a different
connotation from his fathers.

"And now, how did you come by the money:"

"I had it paid on the gig, but in consideration of the way Hennessy
treated me, I am to have the gig and the money, and let bygones be
bygones."

"'Tis quite decent of Hennessy."

"Decent of me to let the old bushranger off for bailing me up, you mean.
I could pull him for defamation of character only it would upset Ma, and
show up what a fool you were."

Danny did not prolong the interview. He let the Fullwood case go for the
time being.

Robert recounted the denouement to William that evening by the dying
kitchen fire. "The old hide caved-in; was glad to let all he money go and
give me the gig, or I'd have pulled him for blackmail. Asked me to have a
drink. 'Drink your ---- poisoned grog yourself!' I said. Thought he had
me cornered, but he found out his mistake."

Hennessy was a shrewd bargainer, William duly admired Robert's business
ability. "But all the same," he giggled, "you had better be careful next
time. You don't want to be swimming the Yackandandah for fun."


The next move was from Fullwood. He informed Delacy two days later in the
Township, that he would begin an action for a breach of promise. "Your
son made a convenience of my daughter's affections because he was caught
in another direction. He gets free, and leaves my daughter in such a
state of suffering that her health is permanently injured."

"And would you injure her health further by exposing her misplaced
affections for the tag-rag to delight in?" Danny was not to be stampeded
a second time.

"Robert shall marry or pay."

"_Ad Kalendas Graecas_, Fullwood--at the Greek Kalends."

"He shall marry or pay."

"Let sleeping dogs lie, is sound advice. I'll bid you good day."

"This is not the last of this," called Fullwood.

"Please yourself, Fullwood. Please yourself."

Fullwood did.

A few days later Robert was stunned to receive a legal document, which he
read behind the stable, his hands trembling. Just when he had been
cleared to have this dam burst, and no likelihood of a fresh miracle to
extricate him! He could not face the old man again. He would go to
Queensland this time. For the moment he went to his mother.

He had been saved from the disreputable Molly, but Grace, of unbroken
chastity, was equally formidable. Women were the deuce. It would be a
wily one who would get the better of him again, unless he meant to give
way to matrimony.

Johanna was Grace's advocate. The threat of Queensland made her urgent.
If Robert married Grace he would be set up near by, and Bewuck must be
his, he, the eldest son. Robert was afraid of the writ of summons. His
mother showed it to Danny and advocated marriage to scotch the trouble.

"Fullwood has no case against Robert or me. Sure, Fullwood is a
fool--hink-honk-ha-ing through that nose of his."

"And how could he be honking through annybody else's nose?"

"He's so smart with his law. Sure, I'll sit tight. It may be all cry and
no wool, as the dayvil said when he was shearing the pig." Robert was
thankful those days to work with William, who was putting up a split-rail
fence on the outer boundary to replace a cockatoo erection. At night they
shot possums off the crops or mended harness. They improved the hen house
and enlarged the orchard, and re-painted doors and gates for their
mother. It was Robert's first experience of hard work. During these
winter weeks when there was a lull at Burrabinga, Danny was glad to
remain at Bewuck for the outcome of the Fullwood complications.

No one was concerned about the lack of amusements for Harry, at
Burrabinga with no company but a deaf mute, and two stockmen, one of them
discarded by Bella Rafferty. Harry did not notice it himself. He never
expected to reap from others. His eager desire was to give what he could
with two-handed generosity. He brightened wet days and the evenings by
the vocal fires in telling stories. Aldon and Callahan listened
entranced. O'Neill struggled horse-deep through the drifts, risking his
life and suffering the belligerence of the station dogs against his own
pets, for the sake of such rare entertainment. When Harry came to the end
of stories he had read, he recited his own, now that William, the
literal, was not present to blight imagination. Right down to the present
day a remaining old hand or two can remember Harry's thrilling stories,
some of which were rooted in Celtic legend, while others welled from the
lad's own virginal depths to echo in the poignant silence of a land
bewitched.

Fullwood shortly reappeared at Bewuck demanding a conference with Robert.
He said he had no wish to wash dirty linen in public and was desirous of
settling the case out of court. This visit was due to his wife's
assurance that Johanna was eager for the match, but Danny forbade Johanna
to talk, and she retreated to her own sitting-room like an offended hen
and brooded on the elegance of her china dogs and wool mats, the
Waterford lustres and the cedar workbox, which she had maintained in the
tradition of a manorial hall despite all "oddities" of democracy or
difficulties of pioneering.

The men went to the old school-house and lighted a fire there. Delacy
smoked with loud smacking of his lips and an occasional "Moi, oh, moi!"
as if he were absently philosophizing, while Fullwood restated his case.

"What have you to say for yourself?" Fullwood suddenly demanded of
Robert.

"I--er--it wouldn't be fair to marry Grace when I don't care for her that
way."

"Do you refuse to fulfil your obligations to my daughter?"

"I never undertook any obligations."

"Oh, yes, you did, and I can prove it."

"No, I didn't. She was so dam' friendly--like all the girls, and I
couldn't be rude to her in return."

Danny continued his loud smacking and ejaculation as Fullwood rose to
whining rage. Suddenly Danny bluntly demanded of Robert if he had had any
wrongful relations with Grace. Robert was able to deny.

Fullwood ranted his astonishment that any one claiming to be a free man
and a gentleman should act as Robert was acting toward Grace, and that
Delacy should countenance him.

"You're not half so astonished as I am, and that is a lie, because I am
not astonished at all--having made me judgment whin I found out who
duffed all me cattle this last year. That's the reason, Fullwood, that no
son or daughter of me own will marry with wan of yours with me consent.
You compel me to let go the ears of me wolf. I'll not mention your
gentlemanly action nearly thirty years ago to set a lag to beat me up. I
have not proceeded against you out of mercy, and because of the
neeborliness of your wife. I could afford to lose me cattle better than
you could afford to lose your character, not your character, for you
haven't anny--but your reputation."

"By Christ, what do you insinuate?"

Joy spread through Robert. He nearly crowed aloud to be rescued by the
old man.

"Bluster won't help you with me, Fullwood...'Tis never used except in
weak cases--false feathers that floi off in the wind. You don't think I'm
an eft to be fooled by you--me with me invincible blackboy and two sons
the best trackers in the world, not to name Wong Foo with his eyes open,
and O'Neill trained by yourself. I give warning that the next tracking
will be done by the troopers. If me son has attracted your daughter and
has nothing to give in return, I regret it, Fullwood, and to make matters
square, though I have the evidence and the witnesses, I'll lay no charge
against you--this time."

"By God! you'll pay for this. I was willing to come to terms, but nothing
will hold me back from demanding my pound of flesh now. If you think I
shall tolerate this from a social inferior..."

Danny emitted a disconcerting grunt of amusement. "Bedad, every man
thinks himself the social superior of every other--'tis a matter of the
moind. The truth is that wan man is as good as another, if he is as good;
and none of us anny better than we should be. You can have as many social
pretensions as you can afford, but not at the expinse of duffing me
cattle hereafter, Fullwood."

Fullwood grabbed his hat. "I'll open proceedings next week."

"Go home to your daughter; tell her the truth of the fix you are in, and
she'll be willing to recover from her broken heart to save your social
pretensions."

"You, you young blackguard! I'll see you lagged yet."

Robert spluttered vulgar glee in Fullwood's face.

Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy, who had been so genially conversational,
put down his pipe and stood up on his wooden leg, his hackle well up at
last.

"Fullwood," he thundered, and could have been heard half a mile away, but
only the Murrumbidgee was listening. "You've gone too far! Social
boasting wan above the other is waste of breath whin there is nothing for
anny of us but to carry our hides to the Lanyard in the ind. Manny a man
was in the chain-gangs wrongfully, and manny who were there by rights
were better than them who sent them there; but there's limits, Fullwood,
and you've gone outside them. I know you for what you are, wan of those
that should have been in the chain-gangs, you and your flash owld scrag
of a brother that's ran off and married on Bella Rafferty, whose mother
has the social pretensions of meeting the gentry on the wrong side of the
blanket. And bedad, while I remember it, I'll be obleeged for the
immediate return of me two owld mares. Wan is branded BB under the mane,
off-side, and the other GM under the saddle flan, near side, and wan has
a switch tail, and both will throw Nullah-Mundoey foals that are not to
be sneezed at.

"I know plenty to get you and James a long sentence of hard labour, and
if you don't reform you shall not be let off hereafter. And when you cast
social aspersions at me, it's time for an honest man to assert his
principles. I'll have you know, Fullwood, that me family have been honest
min as long as they are remembered, at home in the old country as well as
here. Me and me wife came here free and dragged with honest sweat,
cultivating here, and opening up the mountains, where no wan wanted to
go. I was none of those pretentious big capitalists that by the aid of
their tools, the Government officials, grabbed all the easy land and grew
rich by driving the convicts like slaves. I've worked for annything I
have, and have never touched a farthing of another roan's rights, If I
didn't make this testimony of me breed and me principles I'd be failing
as a decent citizen. As for the social inferior business, sure, I hope me
family will never be connected with you, for I know you as a cattle and
horse thief, and not anny more of a gentleman than old Rafferty. Rafferty
has the better blood--more upstanding manhood in it."

Fullwood muttered scurrilous insults. Robert for the first time was
delighted with his father.

"Keep your ill-nature and bad manners for someone else, Full-wood. I've
never been in a position where I've had to throw dung at another man
because of me own case being contimptible. Maybe I'd be a poisonous
crawler too in such exulcerated circumstances." This habit of
philosophical disquisition was more exasperating to his opponent than
normal vituperation.

"I'm giving you more than you'd ever get by breach of promise. Reform
your evil performances and receive your new sister-in-law. Me wife will
he pleased to know that her training has such rich results on black,
whoite and green. Me brave Johanna is all for the aristocracy, coming
from a fox-hunting squire, who is a great swell indeed, though why is not
to be seen under intelligent consideration."

Fullwood whined more insults.

"You'd better control yourself and stay to a meal," said Delacy at
length, too neighbourly to order Fullwood away. With the pluck of Conn of
the Hundred Battles, he was never belligerent.

Fullwood departed with renewed threats, and insults as copious as his
poverty of vocabulary permitted. "This is infamous--infamous! I'll have
it handled by the right authorities."

"It is so infamous that I'll leave it to Sergeant O'Gorman hereafter.
'Tis O'Gorman has the authority, and I the evidence. Remimber, I've
warned you."

When his father's back was turned, Robert thumbed his nose and swelled
his cheeks and made vulgar explosive sounds incongruous with his grandee
physique. He thoroughly earned Fullwood's enraged, "Flash lout!"

"Arrah, Fullwood, don't make a noise over sour grapes, it draws attintion
to your disappointment," said Danny, whose temper had returned to normal.


Johanna was startled to learn of the Fullwood thievishness. "Father was
immense," chortled Robert, as he told the tale with embroidery and
mimicry. "I didn't know he had it in him."

Johanna bridled. "Would I be wan to pick a nullity?"

"But he's so fond of making us take other people's dust."

"He's an oddity about democracy, and carries honesty to foolish extremes,
but sure, don't I remember him in County Clare when he was younger than
ye are."

Honoria was equally tonicked that her father should have defined his
social status. William cackled, "Robert won't have to go to the Darling
Downs till another darling chases him."

Robert differed from the other men of the family by his disposition to
gallantry, but they, measuring him by themselves, always rallied to
vindicate him. Freed from entanglements, he was his old self with
intensification, and, without reference to his father, invited his mother
to go to town in the gig. Danny's vanquishment of Fullwood had not
brought father and son nearer together, because Robert recognized that
the "old man", as he now began to call him, would not champion his son
any more than black, white or green, unless principle supported the case.

Robert itched to show himself abroad with his tandem, but Hennessy's
clearance was dependent upon the Delacy women's attitude to Molly
Macallister, and there was embarrassment in the confession involved.
Johanna had rehearsed to be haughty with Molly, but she hid her
disappointment and bowed to the necessity of completing Robert's success.

"Let this be a warning to ye, once and for all, me son."

"It's all that," agreed Robert, genial through gaining his point. "And
you can take it out on the Fullwoods. They are for everlasting trying to
put on airs, and they are in such a mess that they can't do anything."

"Poor Grace's only sin was to want ye, me boy; and her mother has been a
kind friend since I settled here. It's not in me to bite the hand that
stroked me." Johanna was silent a moment and then brightened, "But I'll
not allow that Fitzhugh faymale to condescind to me in future."

"'Tis mad weather to be going to town," said Danny, "With a wind that
would perish the Danes." But Robert wrapped his mother in wallaroo fur
and put a hot brick at her feet.

Hennessy's effusive reception had an emollient effect. Johanna's refusal
to encounter him during the embroglio had spared them both humiliation.
She extended her hand as an ancient Cooley might have done to a liege.

"Ye've come to see little Molly," said he, beaming broadly, and
continuing torrentially, "Shure, 'tis Herself, sez Oi, that is the rale
quality from the owld place itself, and none of this arrogance of
Johnny-come-lately-jumped-up Colonials. Oi've had me thrubbles r'arin'
Molly, Oi don't moind confessing, since ever me poor sister died sudden
and destitute. She now to have put upon me such a mistake that Oi seemed
harsh in me demands to Mr Delacy and that foine son of ye'rs, but they
carried it off as only rale gintlemen can. Whin Molly was off laughing at
us all, me chief disappointment was that she had picked wan that was not
such a gintleman as anny son r'ared by ye'rself would be, but Oi'm
thinking ye're the betther pleased for that, and I hope by that you'll
let bygones be bygones, if ye could see ye'r way to show a word of
friendliness to Molly, 'twould be the bist illustration in the worruld of
how the quality can act, and be the turning inflooence of her loife."

Johanna was willing to be a patroness of virtue. Macallister, Senior, had
arrived, and she was curious to see how he was bearing up as a
father-in-law. There was the glamour of wickedness as well as wealth
about that braw pioneer. Molly was now independent of her old
acquaintances' favour, and Johanna thought it showed good feeling in
Hennessy to value it.

"Shure, Mr Macallister, saynior, is here this very day. He would deem it
a great honour entirely to meet ye a dinner in his private soot. Oi shall
be as proud as if the Queen herself came to dine with me this day."

Johanna was relieved that the matter was thus arranged for her. She had
only to be a lady, just a little stiff, and all would be well for Robert.

Bandy Macallister had come down hot-foot from his gins on his
farthest-out station, away at Yambooca where the Darling meets the
Murray, where men had laws of their own, and Cockenzie men surfed out to
sea over the Murray bars in tublike craft with reckless .disregard of
consequences.

Bandy approved of marriage for others. For himself he preferred
mistresses. "As soon as you marry," he would declaim, "the besom begins
to dictate to you, but you can get rid of a mistress if she doesn't suit,
and she knows it, and that makes for peace and pleasant service."

Rumours of how Molly had trapped Athol so pleased him that he laughed
until he creaked at her demure airs, and thought that with her health and
prettiness she might be just the keeper to tame his son and carry on the
name. He desired a legally begotten grandson but had no parental
illusions concerning Athol.

Molly was expensively dressed and excessively "refined". Johanna was kept
at a distance. She was amazed by the cynical ribaldries of Bandy, and
glad to fall back on a genteel bearing and accept Hennessy's solicitous
attentions for her comfort. Athol was not present. Robert, likewise, had
the nous to absent himself.

Euphemia spread herself effulgently before Bandy, who would not risk
familiarity with her, but she put him in such coarse good humour that
she fancied she was advancing. She was gushing to Molly and contemptuous
of Johanna and her brogue. She had not been across the Murrumbidgee since
the autumn rains, and Charles Fullwood had forbidden his wife to mention
the acquisition of Bella, or Robert Delacy's and Grace's misunderstanding
until he should have brought off his _coup_.

"When my husband was stationed at. Dublin I had a personal maid with your
amusing brogue," she condescended to Johanna. "And ye liked it?"

"When I could understand it."

"And does it remoind ye of happy days?"

"Yes, when I was a girl bride."

"Then 'twill be pleasant for ye to be with ye'r new sister-in-law, me
surrvant gurll, Bella Raffenty that was. Sure, I had a struggle to
civilize her from a rough bare-footed shepherd's brat. Belike she has
picked up some of me brogue as well as some civilized habits, if she
doesn't fall back into her streelishness."

Mrs Fitzhugh was thunderstruck.

"'Tis true, thin?" inquired Hennessy.

"Yes. An elopement. Molly, ye're in the fashion. Sure, didn't I elope
meself, all the way from Ireland to New South Wales."

"I've heard of another in the air," said Molly, who loathed the widow
naturally from the beginning, and now because she suspected her uncle's
ambition and feared he might succeed, and disinherit his niece. "The lady
was your niece Grace."

"And who was the young man?" inquired Bandy of Mrs Fitzhugh.

"There was some lunkhead trying to pay her attentions, but his family
were socially inferior."

Noting the lightning in Johanna's eyes, Hennessy hastened to avert
friction. "If that is off, we'll have to foind another. Mr Macallister or
meself moight obloige, if we could foind the ladies."

"That would be easy with our bawbees," cackled Macallister. Here Hennessy
was called from the room by a groom who had difficulty in restraining an
English aristocrat--a victim of delirium tremens--from burning clown the
stables where he was lodged, in an attempt to get rid of the reptiles in
his straw. "Can I have your word to rope him?" demanded the man before he
was out of hearing.

Johanna, inflamed by Euphemia's last insult, could scarcely bridle
herself to inquire, "Are ye not going to elope ye'rself? 'Twould stop the
high talk and he a ripe romance."

Euphemia's mind, running on the senior Macallister, was prepared to he
indulgent about badinage. "Dear me, do people talk?"

"Sure, gags wouldn't stop them. Some say ye roust even be secretly
married.''

"Monstrous! I've riot known Mr Macallister a week."

The ladies had risen and were on the way to the parlour. "Och, 'tis not
Mr Macallister at all, but Mr Hennessy himself, and ye living here so
continted and comfortable."

"My goodness, woman," she said, completely outraged, "He a convict. An
ignorant bog-trotting Irishman--an innkeeper-servant who is helped by my
patronage!"

"I've been longer exiled at the furthest extremity of the globe than ye
have, and to be sure, society is topsy-turvy out here. I never thought I
was training Bella Rafferty to be wan of me equals...There's a deal of
speculation tinny way."

"Among vile scum of servants, I presume."

"I see no surrvants but me own, and I never encourage them to be vulgar
at the expense of their betters. Sure, ye've been settled here a long
time now, and 'tis to be seen that Hennessy is powerfully set up with ye.
Bella Rafferty, as ye'r sister-in-law, wanst removed, and Molly as Mrs
Macallister, must be a great encouragement to him."

"But a woman of my family--a married woman--surely no one would dare?"

"Sure, widows are said to be more comprehensive than shy young girls in
all their modesty. After love's young dream is dispersed, it becomes a
matter of business, and Hennessy is a powerful man. He owns the
Township."

The Fitzhugh gave Johanna a curdling look and swept from her presence to
her own apartments. This evil Irish fishwife could not be concocting her
slanders without foundation. Euphemia recalled passages with Hennessy
which she attributed to Irish exuberance. The odious presumptuous
monster! She thought with alarm of her bill. And the Bella elopement,
when she had been awaiting James as a possibility! Her means would not
run to Sydney. She must return to Heulong. The Colonies were a racking
nightmare; but a colder, more cramped prospect was the life open to her
in England, in shabby lodgings with a chasm between her and desirable men
and the competition!

Macallister followed Johanna to the parlour--a tremendous compliment--and
overheard part of the brush between the women. "You've disposed of the
big besom in one shot," he grinned, placing a chair for her. "She
desairved it...my certes, Mrs Delacy, I wish my Athol had married one of
your daughters, if you have any like yourself. I hear there is no
certainty but that your son has fathered me a grandchild. I would approve
of the breed."

"Mr Macallister, for shame! Ye shock me. Me son..."

"No offence, little lady, no offence!" The twinkle in his eye was so
disturbing that they both laughed.

Johanna preened her draperies and in victory was amiable to Molly. She
was extra virtuous of deportment before the rakish Bandy, but invited him
to bring his daughter-in-law to Bewuck, "Sure, me husband dearly loves a
little political conversation with anny wan from the old country."

Hennessy was so excited by this invitation that he made Johanna a present
of stuffed humming birds under a gloss globe, an elegant and fashionable
ornament which he dearly prized. Johanna carried it home in front of her
like a monument.

"By damn!" exclaimed Danny, when all was explained. "'Tis you that has
got the wedding present on account of Molly, instead of having to provide
wan, me brave Johanna. Dayvil if ever I heard of such another propitious
advinture." He laughed until tears ran down his cheeks.

"Whin was I ever a nullity?" cried Johanna.

"Ma got a prize for swimming the Yackandandah without getting wet,"
chortled William.

While the novelty lasted, one or other would slip in to dote on the new
ornament as it sat on a wool mat on Johanna's round table of walnut with
claw and ball feet.

Robert had Hennessy's note, so worded that he had quittance of his debts
to date in consideration of the misunderstanding about the Molly McCathie
elopement, but only on the further understanding that Robert's women folk
were not to slight Molly Macallister. Before Robert could show it about
or tell Hennessy to go to hell, he would have to pay his debts in full.



CHAPTER XXIII


During the absence of Johanna and Robert, Danny arranged his "moind".
Robert's returning swagger had determined him. There had been more good
luck than triumph of principle in Robert's exoneration, and, in addition,
Danny was not sufficiently tanistic to enjoy the election of his
successor thus early in his career.

"I've been thinking," he said that night. "Robert is getting too soft and
ladified around town here. He has never done his share on the axe, or in
camping out, and fencing, and running wild horses and cattle. Burrabinga
would be the making of him, and remove him from the wrong women--that
Molly Macallister piece--who I'm thinking marriage won't settle for
long--and the poor Fullwood flourbag on a pole, with a lip that you could
trip on."

"I'd like to see me boy safely married, which he can't be if he's strewed
up there among the dingoes."

"Arrah, he needs straightening-up. The Urquhart girls are as fine a lot
of young people as ever walked."

"And Janet designed for William?"

"Och, he walks around her and doesn't know how to come to a head. There
is a drove of others. It maybe will bring Della up to the mark to see
Norah ahead of her."

Both families were agreeable to the marriage of Norah and Stewart Butler,
which was to take place five weeks hence.

Robert was relieved to go to Burrabinga, out of reach of Grace. He and
William set off accompanied by a lusty brigade of dogs. Danny had to tie
up his to keep them at Bewuck. Even so, two broke their chains and
departed. William was to send Della home as soon as the river fell.
Johanna said that she would provide no more wives for the unconvicted
gentry by strewing her daughters and their "surrvants" about the furthest
extremities of the wilderness.

Sandy Urquhart escorted Della home and spent some days with Danny in
yarning, in visiting the neighbours, and the two old mates got drunk
together in the Township. Through this fall, Danny lost the ground he had
been regaining as public consort if not private spouse of Johanna. She
relegated him to the "ind room" again on the excuse that her head
suffered from the perfume of rum and tobacco combined.

Danny felt this banishment to be a social disgrace out of all proportion
to its actuality, especially as he had no sensuality to harry him, but
his honest idea of the sanctity, the inviolability of the marriage-bed
demanded that it should be double. To propitiate Johanna he permitted his
grog to be entirely regulated by her, thus emulating Sandy Urquhart, who
had to submit to Janet's dispensing. Johanna never had to endure any
bullying or malicious onslaughts from Danny comparable with those
suffered by Janet. Danny's disposition contained the innocence of a pure
heart mixed with considerable wisdom, as ail thorough-going decency
demands, and in the rationing of grog, his taste for alcohol bitted him
more firmly in the fall of his life than ever his sexual appetite had
done in his prime.


Bela Rafferty came home to Heulong at the time that Della returned to the
other bank of the river. James had a fleshly craving for her--personable
young women were scarce--and he and Charles had finally been held to
ransom. Married, she would be their accessory, otherwise she threatened
to expose them. She and Aldon, the Delacys' stockman, had the evidence.
Charles had resisted at first, fearing his wife's attitude. She was a
meek woman, but honourable, and the sister of that formidable brigadiers
Euphemia Fitzhugh. Bella threatened boldly. James coveted her, and loss
of social caste would have crumbled Charles. Bella drove her bargain to
the hilt. She must be openly accepted by the family, like a certain Mrs
Wells, and "made a lady of". Her idea of this was fine clothes, idleness
and the right to order servants to do her bidding.

The advocacy of Bella devolved upon Charles. He drew attention to her
good looks and pointed out that Mrs Delacy had partly civilized her. The
marriage was no worse than that of Athol Macallister to Molly McCathie,
and many others contracted by squatters because of the scarcity of
well-bred women.

Mrs Fullwood said that Molly was free from family except an uncle, who
could leave her much property, and that she had been educated in a
convent, whereas Bella did not know her letters. But Mrs Fullwood had to
resign herself to one more cross and consent to train Bella. Bella was to
forswear her family: she and the family agreed to this.

There were times when Bella was not all a cross. Euphemia, disturbed to
find that there was truth in Mrs Delacy's riposting, had returned to
Heulong, despite the river Murrumbidgee. She was enraged by such a family
accretion as Bella, but Bela, shameless, and sure of her men, was not
squelchable by a dozen Euphemias, and the encounters were studded with
comedy.

Charles felt like hanging himself to have given-in when he found that
Delacy had long known the facts of the cattle-lifting, and was not going
to prosecute. He threatened to throw Bella out, and told her it was he
who had the whip-hand of Delacy through the fear of an action for breach
of promise, but Bella bared her teeth and told Charles that she knew of a
certain widow in a pub on the way to Riverina to whom had gone as hush
money large sums gained from other men's cattle.

The elopement was the subject of gossip from Goulburn to Gool Gool,
having superseded the Molly McCathie scandal-romance. Then it was
displaced by the Bewuck wedding.

The Fullwoods presented a problem. Danny said that he had no wish to
maintain enmity with "anny" man--black, white or green--so long as he did
not duff Burrabinga cattle. Johanna said she had nothing but goodwill for
Grace and her mother, but could not risk sending an invitation and being
set down.

"'Tis a good policy to let the other fellow do the setting down. Whin
you come off top it rankles, but if he snubs you, it pleases his vanity
and doesn't hurt you."

"Likely I'd put meself in an invidious position!"

"Invidious! By damn! All this tongue-lashing is chaff in the wind. Invite
them all, and if they rayfuse, 'tis their own dispensation. The boys have
not reported any cattle missing lately."

"What about Bella Rafferty?"

"Sure, Bella, whoi, Bella will be the flower of that flock! Have ye
forgotten the widow Fitzhugh?"

"It's the sunflower she'll be--a great big red wan with bunions, if such
iver was seen. I'd better invite Hennessy to dance with her," giggled
Johanna, who had her sense of the humorous. People could make an "omnium
gatherum" of a wedding; she remembered her girlhood, when all attended as
their right. Hennessy, if honoured, would not be angry with Robert.


At the festivities, Mrs Janet had sometimes to confront Sandy and
concentrate until her stare grew glassy. She could not risk his breaking
loose to chop up the furniture or smash the globe of the humming
birds--so much admired. Great was her relief when he retired to the "ind
room" from whence his snores accomnanied the dancing. What mattered the
giggles they evoked when compared with his usual threats to kill her with
an axe or to burn down the house. Mrs Urquhart was free to enjoy Bella
and to wonder why she had thrown herself away on bob-tailed old James.
She invited her to make an extended visit to Keebah. Bella's laugh was
the heartiest, her manner the most friendly and boisterous of any
present. She had no shame about her past, no airs about her present, nor
fears for her future. She slapped the old men on the back, and rallied
the young ones like a popular mid-wife having a night out with her
clientele.

Euphemia Fitzhugh was present. She could not afford to neglect
opportunity. "Ye are welcome," said Johanna in receiving her, "and I've
invited Mr Hennessy specially for ye, his first time in me house. He's
still on the market, and the richest bachelor in the district."

This early put Euphemia in her place. Fight died in her before the
spanking self-assurance of Mrs James, former servant to her hostess, and
"adulterated" daughter of old Rafferty, as the wags put it, whose wife
had been a passenger on a "girl ship", and boasted that she had been the
toy of the officers on a warship when becalmed in the doldrums. Such a
mess! Euphemia raised a smile by main force for Hennessy, remembering her
bill.

Hennessy was effulgent and mellow. He had always liked Delacy and
respected Johanna. There had been years when Danny's fearless
straight-going had had its effect in reclaiming him.

Doogoolook and Maeve were paid every attention. Wong Foo was resplendent
and had brought a pack load of presents for the bride. The story was
retold of how Delacy had saved the life of Foo, and also of the two
blacks, and made them members of the family.

Young Harry was excited by the company. He had much of solitude and had
grown so shy that he would hide behind a tree at the approach of a
stranger, but Bella "brought him out". He worshipped all the girls as
divinities. His hero was Robert, who had such a fine swagger before maids
and matrons, who danced even with the terrifying Mrs Fitzhugh, and was
such a "ladies' man" that Danny, for safety, acted as patrol. Harry's
eyes dilated to note what would happen when Robert and Grace met, but
they managed to keep apart with skill. The two senior Fullwoods had had
business to take them to Goulburn. Gerald Butler, who found Della
difficult of access, was seen to dance with Grace and saved her from
being a wallflower. Della danced more often with Hennessy than with
Gerald, which delighted Hennessy.

The carriage took the young people to their new home, fifteen miles
distant, on a run called New Glenties, in honour of the parent station,
which was named from old Butler's place of origin. Robert drove four
horses with ribbons in the manes and Harry sat beside him.

The vehicle was disabled on its return journey down the cutting, so it
was propped up in its house and sank to decrepitude. The poultry in the
end had more use of it than ever Johanna. Nettles grew about it in
summer. Hens brought forth new life in its shelter as it drowsed in the
ceaseless lullaby of the river and its sighing trees--the pioneer
carriage on the Murrumbidgee.


Much of the attention given to Della at the wedding, by reason of her
residence in the mountains and as mistress of the new Mrs Fullwood, took
the form of jokes about her being an old maid. Gerald Butler was as
assiduous as ever when the wedding pother subsided but Della would having
nothing to do with "Molly McCathie's leavings". Gerald retorted that if
she wanted a sissy who was not somebody's leavings she would have to
clutch him straight from the cradle as she was now old enough to be the
grandmother of all the bachelors excepting a few shepherds and Hennessy.

The lively girl grew silent and thin and did not enjoy circumscription by
her mother after her liberty and consequence at Burrabinga.

Danny was concerned about her old-maidism, though she was not yet thirty.
Johanna watched with satisfaction. "What can ye expect after strewing her
among the dingoes? It's meself that is thankful that she has not taken up
with some cattle duffer."

The responsibility for his daughter's spinsterhood, thus thrust upon him,
impelled Danny to action. As soon as Christmas was past he decided to
visit "me dear old frinds the Evanses, who saved me life in the first
place, but for which we wouldn't be here at all. Maybe the great
frindship will act as incentive for Della to pick up with wan of the
young men...Sure to think it has been al this life-time and us never to
have seen each other!"

The carriage demanded four horses and Robert, the whip, and Danny was
bent on keeping Robert Chanticleer in his place. He harnessed three
horses abreast to the gig. Della rode her pleasant mannered
Nullah-Mundoey and wore a habit that swept the grass and had to be
gathered up from snags. Victorian draperies call for prestidigitation in
handling but the need produced the virtuosi. Doogoolook rode too and
opened the gates or sliprails. Some parts of the country were now fenced
between Bewuck on the Murrumbidgee and Kilpoonta on the Lachlan.
Doogoolook led a lovely Nullah-Mundoey, broken by Harry and paced by
Robert, for Mrs Evans in memory of the mare she had given Danny in his
need. Packed in the gig, or as excrescences on the horses, were other
presents, including rose cuttings and a China peach tree, two guinea
hens, a specially cured ham, a "kag" of dried fruit, a china teapot, and
some yards of silk brocade. Nothing could be too goo for the Evanses.

There was joy, and effusive demonstration of it in the reunion of Danny
with Mr and Mrs Evans, but as sometimes happens with all but the rarely
understanding of wives on coming in contact with a husband's life-saving
friends for the first time, Johanna did not quite thaw.

Della was a disappointment to her father and the Evanses. They were sure
she must have favoured her mother's family. The eldest Evans, four years
her junior, seas the nearest to her age, but he told his mother that she
was as dismal as a motherless foal--a real old maid, and easy to see why.
Della, in her turn, said she had never seen such a stupid boor as Penhryn
Evans; that he never opened his mouth except to put food in it, and that
it was big enough for hint to put his foot there too.

"Moi, oh, moi! What can be coming over the young people, at all? Whoi,
the very breed of the Evanses would attract me. Do you see anything at
all the matter with young Evans?" he demanded of Johanna.

"Sure, after a view of him, I can see whoi all the girls are woild for my
Robert."

"Arrah, but thirty years in the future is what tests a marriage."

"Och, if marriages were gone into knowing what thirty years would bring,
most women, I'm thinking, would be nuns in preference," There was nothing
further after a visit of some weeks but to return all the way from
Kilpoonta on the Lachlan to Bewuck on the Murrumbidgee, where the latest
gossip was that Gerald Butler was going to Heulong regularly. Della was
now without a suitor. Danny interrogated her, "What is wrong with the
young men? Are you hankering after someone you can't get?"

Della said she cared for no one, and unless she cared she preferred to
remain unmarried.

"Leave Della be," advised her mother. "She will be a pleasant companion
to me--and ye too whin we grow older. Ye won't always be able to cover
the country like a wallaby."

Johanna cuddled her idea of Della being a bride of the Church, thus
should she win glory and sanctuary for herself and atone for her mother.

Della conveniently turned religious at that date. Johanna let her alone
in the Church of England for the time, but was bent on turning her
thoughts the right way later. She visited Father O'Brien, when he toured
the district, and gained comfort and some holy books lost to her for
years. When the Reverend Father went back to Sydney he sent her a print
of the Blue Madonna elegantly framed, which Johanna made the centre of a
shrine in her bedroom. Danny was inclined to oppose, but philosophy
restrained him. "Sure, 'tis meself would be the slave to superstition to
think there could be harm in a pretty picture. 'Tis only when it is
worshipped as an idol that the mischief enters, and I'll have no idols in
my house. I'll have no man tell me how to think, or stand between me and
God."

"Ye have ye'r own clergyman come here," said Johanna, "and he tells you
how to think."

"I reserve me own opinion."

"Sure, 'tis ye that has all the wisdom."

"No wan has anny wisdom when it comes to an altercation, but if the
parson tried to dictate to me about the mysteries that are hid from us
all--black, whoite or green, Protestant, Catholic, Jew Pagan, sure I'd
tell him to go to hell at wanst. That's the privilege of Protestantism,
that if ye have a moind ye can use it; but if ye had a moind, Johanna,
and it went contrary to Father O'Brien Father Shannon, Shannon, there
would be the dayvil to pay, and talk of damning, and look askance. I'll
never submit to the like of and me a free man."

"Ye'll submit though to a poipe and a kag of rum," sniffed Johanna.



CHAPTER XXIV


Danny had banished the second planet from his personal sky.

Johanna was dependent upon hint once more. He sank into the comforts of
Bewuck varied by visits to Norah and Stewart Butler at New Glenties.
There was the expectation of grandchildren. There Were cures for rust in
wheat, and new varieties of potatoes, but with the slackening of effort
he suffered front dullness, and went often to the Township for the
alleviation of conversation. He had a lively interest in the progress of
the Overland Telegraph to Darwin, and the explorations of Forrest. He was
conversant with Polynesian affairs, had opinions upon the annexation of
the Fiji Islands, and the proposal for a Customs Union with a levy on
trade along the Murray. He threw himself with gusto into the fine points
of the Parkes-Robertson Parliamentary wrangle, and elections were high
points of existence to him. His voice, and that of other settlers could
be heard literally for miles when loosened by grog and opinionatedness
regarding public issues towards which Johanna maintained an indifference
which was accepted as typical of women.


Burrabinga remained a camp stripped of table and bed linen; crockery when
broken was replaced by tin ware. Danny said there was no "sinse" in
wasting elegancies on "min". Saplings sprang up in the orchard, holes
were worked in the fence of the garden, and marsupials destroyed
everything. The possums were always first to harvest the fruit. The
presence of women was necessary to drive the Delacys to home comforts.
They never used any but packing needles, nor learned to cook beyond salt
junk and damper and tea without milk.

Robert missed human association after his reign at Bewuck, but quickly
arranged the work so that others took the brunt of running wild cattle
and horses by Bullock Gap or Dead Horse Plain while the business down
Keebah way fell to him. For this he took the best saddle-horses. There
was a difference between the saddle- and stock-horse as wide as that
maintained by Johanna between herself and the "gurrls" she trained as
"surrvants". The saddle-horses were bent to paces as young ladies and
gentlemen were taught deportment and dancing.

Robert's taste in horses was infallible, but his aristocrats were
sometimes second-rate for following mobs up and down their native
precipices, and he was out-classed in rough riding. Nevertheless Harry
worshipped him and took hard labour off his shoulders as much as
possible. Harry had his father's fearlessness. He craved a hero, to die
for if necessary, and Robert, with his plumes freshly upon him, fitted
the conception, accepted the homage and brought a new element into the
Keebah circle. He wore top boots, stylish breeches and showy spurs, had a
marvel of the whip-maker's art, arid was following by all the dogs.
Harry's whip was roughly plaited by himself, had a hickory handle, and
his raiment was in keeping, but the contrast he presented only added to
his pride in Robert as a dandy. Robert had glamour, with the tales of
girls doing scandalous things to trap his love, and glamour is as
necessary as salt to youths of a certain temperament.

William was more judicial and critical, and his attitude grew censorious
after Janet Urquhart fell desperately in love with Robert. He had never
believed Robert guiltless in the Grace and Molly cases. No charmer ever
is, Janet, Elspeth, and Jeanie, all three, could see no other sun when
Robert's shone. 'William contemptuously attributed this to Robert's
breeches and boots. He secured a good turn-out for himself but
nevertheless remained an honest frump. He had no long mirror in which to
appraise the difference in deportment between himself and his brother,
but saw it in the indifference of the girls.

The community received another woman. The Charles Fullwoods had had
enough of Bella, and she was weary of the restrictions of Heulong. She
had acquired a set of manners that could be put on and off like a dolman,
she could write a letter and read the newspaper, and so was literate for
the times. She insisted upon James making a home near Bullock Gap, at
Cherry Tree Hill, and the Delacy men did not stand aloof. Fullwood had
not been caught stealing their cattle for over two years, and there was
no withstanding Bella. She gave them good meals. She rode to Burrabinga
with a pack-horse and possessed herself of flowers and shrubs from
Della's garden. The Urquharts and Anguses liked her. She was a woman free
from complainings, ready and able to bring forth a brood in solitude and
hardship. If her husband took a nobbler or a beast here and there, no one
held her responsible.

Tom Angus had married in India and meant to make his home there. George
Angus arrived to support the precocious Ned, who had been carrying on
alone at Birrabee with a stockman. Robert very nearly had to take second
place. George had more address than all the Delacys together, and handled
harness horses in a way to turn Robert pale with envy, especially as he
was jailed in the valley behind Delacy's mountain to be scaled only by
horses as surefooted as goats.

The Keebah girls thus had two glories, with William as a fallback and
young Harry and Ned as reserves. Janet adored Robert, but he was no
longer very young, had had two disastrous entanglements, and could find
pleasure in more than one woman at a time. Little Jeanie was the joy of
Ned and Harry, to whom a divinity was necessary. Ned missed Della, who
had so long been his tutoress.

Saturday nights now found the young men gathered at Keebah instead of
Burrabinga. There was a deal of horseplay and practical jokes. William
saw what he saw and thought what he thought. Having been buried in
solitude, he was too shy and nervous to push to the front, so resigned
himself to talk with old Urquhart of the relation of fencing and dingoes
to woolgrowing.

One evening a stupendous racket denoted a race in progress. All the
hardwood forms from the school-house and kitchen were in line, each with
a jockey--males astride, females crumpled sideways. The male winner was
to bestow a kiss upon a maiden of his own choosing. The lady winner was
to name a gentleman to embrace her. The proprieties, independent of
science, held that male _amour_ was a Niagara that must be stemmed, and
that women's resistance, armoured in distaste, had to be stormed.

William longed to be a contestant, but would have bolted from the prize
as dangerous immorality. The men romped away with limb-endangering
determination to be first. The girls all ended level as a concession to
self-conscious modesty. Robert proclaimed that every girl had won. Much
giggling and blushing ensued.

George Angus won and claimed Janet, the handsome and inarticulate, whose
unselfish appreciation of the social contributions of others made her a
favourite with exhibitionists. Harry said that George had not won
fairly. He resented George's aspiring to any jealous young woman
favoured by Robert, but this George ignored as jealousy. The girls were all
compelled to choose. Baby Jeanie picked both Harry and Ned, and hilarity
relieved the tension. The Keebah boys were dependent on Ellen Learmont
from farther down the river. No one challenged their interest in the
girl, who was of the Grace Fullwood type, material for drudging wife and
uncomplaining mother, but unalluring.

In the second race Robert chose Janet, who exclaimed, "Oh, I couldn't be
kissing with every one looking on!"

Laughter and bucolic ribaldry greeted this, but Robert was equal to the
occasion. "Come into the garden among the roses; anything to please a
lady."

A dangerous precedent was established. William concluded that all the
girls were as hold as Bella, and took to his role of Joseph. He neither
desired to sin nor to be subjected to shopworn goods. Thereafter he was
regarded as being "cut out for an old bachelor". The Anguses brought
their sister Susan to Birrabee, a bright girl who could ride as well as
her brothers, and was popular with all. Three of the young Urquharts fell
prone in love with her, and Mrs Urquhart took her word on household
arrangements as inspired. George hoped that Robert would be attracted by
her and leave Janet alone, but Robert and Susan played the same game and
did not progress beyond the preliminary moves.

Soon the friendliness between the Delacys and Anguses was endangered.
Robert could do no wrong in Harry's eyes, and so when the Anguses clashed
with Robert they could do no right. It fell out one Monday morning as the
young men rode from Keebah that Harry was hopping off his horse every
mile or so and shaping-up to George on Robert's behalf.

Robert accepted all homage without embarrassment, but this demonstration
distressed George. He liked young Harry, and both Anguses were bent on
keeping out of trouble. George wished to marry Susan to a Delacy or an
Urquhart and himself marry Janet. One Saturday night the school-house
was used by Robert and Janet when reaping prizes, and they were unaware
of the old tutor in the corner away from the firelight. He reported what
he saw. Mrs Urquhart was always for peace and did not suspect evil until
its fruits were ripe, but she could not calm Sandy even by laxity in
grog rationing.

On the following Saturday the gathering was at Birrabee, where the
Urquharts did not appear. Their absence was attributed to a thunderstorm.

During the week Harry went to Keebah with an important letter for the
post. For once Robert had left this pleasant task to his brother while he
packed salt out towards Bullock Gap and had a feast with Wong Foo. Harry
returned at midnight on the same day, having pushed his brave brumby
there and back without calling at Birrabee.

No sooner had the dogs announced him at the stable gates, a quarter of a
mile from the house, than Urquhart had put out to meet him. "He must have
been looking out for me with his old spy glasses. Holy Ghost! He had a
gun, and I thought he was going to fire it off. Acted as if I was a
bushranger!"

"Was he drunk?"

"Hanged if I know. He didn't let me get near enough to smell him. He sat
straight enough on the old moke."

"Didn't he make any explanation?"

"I was so taken back, I didn't know which way to look for Sunday."

"But he must have said something."

"He said a whole thunderstorm. If one of us comes inside his boundaries
again he is going to put a bullet in us. He said he treated us like his
own family, and this is the low-down way we've treated him in return. I
said I never did anything. He said if I didn't, it was only because I was
not old enough. He said William was all right."

"Robert up to his tricks again."

"He said Robert and George, but I bet it's that Chow of a George, and
he's putting it on Robert."

"You have the faith of a mother in Robert, but the Yackandandah can't
always be swum dry."

"You mean that old Urquhart is trying to trap him now for his females
like Fullwood and old Hennessy did? Golly, it must be exciting to be
Robert."

"It will be so exciting some day that he'll be facing a jury, and they
Won't be so damn' partial as you and Ma."

"How can Robert help it when the women are just mad after him? Gosh, old
Sandy was crying like an old woman."

"Aw, the D.T.s often takes them crying. Did you see the old woman or any
of the boys?"

"Not a sign of any one else. He was sitting in wait."

"How could he be sitting in wait in the middle of the week?"

"Find out for yourself. I'm not going to have a gun at me again, and be
called names that would blister an anvil."

Now justified in his policy of total abstinence from any association with
the girls. William could afford to laugh. "I reckon the old man caught
you slobbering over Jeanie."

He suggested that they should say nothing and await developments. Harry
accepted this with regard to the Anguses, but warned Robert, who
swaggered, though he was startled, and went in fear of old Urquhart
appearing to haul him away to marry Janet. A week's uneasiness brought
him to say that he had heard of some blood horses up by Wild Horse Plain
and would join O'Neill and try to trap them. In view of the fondness and
softness of Janet it would be safer to be out of the way for a while. He
made jokes about going into the wombat wilds to take the hard going, but
William inquired, "When old Sandy comes looking for you, shall we say
which way you went?"

Robert departed two mornings later on a prime Nullah-Mundoey, with the
two best pack-horses and a contentious retinue of dogs. William and Harry
were left to the boundary fence they were erecting between Birrabee and
Burrabinga--hard, heavy work, felling trees and rolling them into line in
rough country. They toiled all day long in the vast solitude where never
a man appeared, and in the evening had salt beef and damper washed down
by tea, and then rolled in a rug before a fire and slept to the lullaby
of dingoes, curlews, and other night creatures, and the bullocks' bells
against the delicate song of some rivulet. They had put up fifteen miles
single-handed and the Anguses were working their way towards them.

In due time they met, and Harry, blaming George for the departure of
Robert, hurled insinuations of his being at the root of the trouble with
Urquhart. George tried to keep the peace, but Harry was not to be quieted
and grandiloquently challenged George to a duel.

George laughed in his face. "What about?"

"You know well enough. Others have suffered from being mixed up with
you."

A cloud passed across George's pleasant face. "If that's it, how shall we
fight? Fists--I'd be guilty of cruelty to animals."

"Revolvers."

"No thanks. I'm not a murderer."

William tried to bring Harry to sense. At length a riding duel was
decided upon, but the logical William wanted to know what it would prove.

"Which is best rider, I suppose," said George, still in charge of his
temper.

Ned strove for peace, almost to tears, as a warm affection had always
existed between him and Harry. However, rough riding was in the day's
work. Little harm could come of such a contest but waste of time, and the
Delacys had all the time of the year at their disposal. Each was to bring
in an outlaw, five or six years of age and never yarded, over precipitous
country. They tossed for places and Harry got a roan brumby that ran
beyond Bullock Gap, George a chestnut colt towards Dead Horse Plain.

The stock-horses were saddled before dawn. Harry had picked a quiet, low,
long, goose-rumped animal as ugly as sin. She was flat-sided, had a big
head and always a long tail, which ill-suited her, but she went raving
mad if it was reduced.

George laughed at her appearance, She had been out at grass for twelve
months following a staking and he had not yet seen her feats in
descending impossible grades strewn with every kind of obstruction, from
fallen giants to wombat holes. Georges nag was a piebald colt,
phenomenally active, a bit pig-mouthed but acquainted with rough country.

They started at sunnise, reviled by William and Ned as fools. These two
agreed to follow, Ned on Harry's trail, William on George's in case of
accident.

A few miles along his way Harry found the tracks of George's mob leading
towards Bullock Gap, and presently saw that the two colonies had combined
so both men started after thorn together. William and Ned came up at a
strategic point, and in the excitement of finding the colts in company
turned it into a special day's muster.

An escaped blood mare fell early and hipped herself. Ned's filly put her
fetlock out and was also dropped from the chase. He had to make to Wong's
and borrow a horse to return to camp. William, a fearless rider, kept up
with the others. The wild horses frequently disappeared with a crash of
hoofs and the dislodged boulders cannoning down the gorges, and reached
some distant crest, only to be out-manoeuvred by one or other of the
pursuers. A young stallion fell on a slippery sideling near Cherry 'Free
Hill and broke his neck. A handsome grey mare snapped her leg in a tough
vine; never were there so many casualties in a day. George and Harry rode
as if on winged steeds that lifted them past obstacles on ways that the
young men in cold blood could scarcely have trodden on foot--the fastest
mob in the region followed by the most reckless riders. In the afternoon
William was left behind by the laming of his horse,

The duellists remained, joined to yard the two remaining colts, which
they did at sundown, having run all day without food or drink. Even the
wild things were weary, and after one mad rush at the rails, which they
struck with their forefeet, settled down defeated, with wide nostrils and
heaving flanks.

George had been so careful, as well as skilled, in avoiding jostling that
Harry was warmed to admiration and a realization that there might be two
sides to the question of George and Robert as stars in one firmament.

He flung off his suffering, but far hum foundered beast, held her from
more than sip of water and came forward to congratulate George, but
George spoke first, "I take off my hat to you, Harry. You're a rider for
fair! If you could get a saddle on hell you'd ride it to a standstill;
and that mare is a wonder. Any time you want to sell her, let me have
first offer."

Harry was equally cordial. The enmity engendered by his unreasoning
partisanship was healthfully tempered and reflection was later to incline
him to judgments in line with his father's.



CHAPTER XXV


Old Sandy did not come to Birrabee or Burrabinga, nor go to Bewuck. The
young men kept to their own lairs and ceased to visit. To William,
Robert's disappearance was evidence of guilt. When O'Neill came for
rations he reported that Robert had stayed only two days with him.
William set out to ascertain if there had been more than alcoholic
distemper in old Urquhart.

If the Anguses had been chased from Keebah they were keeping it to
themselves. "We've been imprisoned for ages," said Susan, with her usual
manner. "Every Saturday we waited for you till it was too late to set
out. I've had a scalded hand, too." She still had a rag on it.

William rode on to Keebah. When the dogs barked, Donald hastened to meet
him, red with embarrassment. "I'm awfully sorry, Bill, but it would be
better not to go to the house till things blow over."

"I'm not a horse or cattle thief. I'll certainly keep away but I must
know the reason of the insult to my character."

"There's nothing against you. Bill...only...well...you see Robert is too
much of a ladies' man for the dad's taste. The tutor has reported more
than happened between Robert and Janet in the school-house, I reckon."

"I don't like this."

"No more do I. but what can I do? The dad has forbidden any
communication. I thought we could meet at Birrabee, but that has gone
smash, too."

"And how arc you going to see Susan?"

"This can't last," Donald reddened and turned to other topics. "Ma has
been in bed with an accident. It keeps Elspeth busy, with Janet away."

"Where is Janet?"

"Gone to Sarah's for a spell...There has been the devil to pay,  I can
tell you...If you are hungry I'll sneak you some grub."

William disclaimed hunger. He lacked the address to go past Donald to
ventilate the matter with Sandy. It was a blow to an inexperienced young
man of his probity in every relation, including women--especially
including women. The unfairness of being declassed because of the
behaviour of Robert or George rankled in his breast. It was imperative
that his father should he informed. Harry's concern was to find Robert
and reinstate him, but William insisted that he should stick to
Burrabinga. A day later William rode down by way of Learmont's, passing
Keebah.

"Be the poipers!" exclaimed Danny. "Robert is a light scoundrel with
women, and I shan't have him ruining the daughters of me best friend. Who
took me family in when I was lost? This viper in the grass to be me own
son! Janet, the foinest girl in the Colony!"

"Och! Janet!" snapped Johanna, "a great soft bag of flour that could no
more take care of herself than a pumpkin."

"The more disgrace then to Robert that she should not be safe. Get in the
brown mare for the morning. I'll follow Robert to--to...sure, I'll follow
till I catch him, if 'tis off the ind of the continent. This time he'll
fulfil his duty. He's escaped too lightly hitherto."

"Yell find another bull's nest," said Johanna. "Robert cannot be
responsible for the sinful capers of drabs that should be shut up and
whipped and be made to leave him alone."

"Och, woman, there is no consistency at you at all. Was it you or me that
was trying to rise among the gentry by collaring Grace? Answer me, yes or
no."

It was liberation to ascend to the plateau and turn again towards the
beckoning hills, blue and still, wreathing on and on to Victoria. Bewuck
irked him but he would not relinquish it to _Robert again because he was
weary of hearing of his son's perfection in management. He would have
been back in his fastness long since only that Robert reigned there. Now
this!

To be in the saddle all day again, with a Nullah-Mundoey under, and the
dogs and Doogoolook capering fore and aft, with the eternal splendour
spread before him as a banquet on the table of the universe, generated a
spiritual exaltation beyond the miniature condenser of human
articulation.

They rested at noon to boil the quart-pot in surroundings aromatic and
primeval; they crossed the Murrumbidgee by Keebah punt at sundown and
reached the homestead at dusk. They were met by Donald at the stables.
There was no ready turning-out of horses. Donald compromised by putting
them in the stables, and was nervous as he went to the house. Danny was
unhappy to be approaching the hospital door with the possibility of
enmity meeting him. He halted at the garden gate.

"Go tell your father I'm here."

Urquhart was some time appearing. As Danny waited, his ire rose against
Robert.

"Good evening, Mr Delacy," said Urquhart, and did not extend his hand.

"Good evening, Sandy Urquhart. I never thought to see the day when you
would not shake hands. Sure, if wan of mine has done you wrong, I'm here
to face the facts, and prove or disprove them, and do all in me power to
make amends."

Urquhart led the way to the office where he kept his accounts. "Sit
down," he said, as if to a stranger, and left Delacy to open. "What is
this I hear, Sandy?"

"What have you heard?"

"That you have ordered me sons away with a gun."

"Your bairns were as welcome as my ain, till I foond disgraceful
proceedings in my ain hoose. I had to take steps to pluck my daughter
from ruin."

"Which of me sons was it, Sandy?"

"William I believe to be a decent mon, but that other one roust never
come near this hoose again."

"This is a dreadful business."

"How he came to be son of yours and your guid wife I dinna ken. No young
woman would be safe wi' him."

"I'll he honest with you, Sandy, as I would with black, whoite or green.
If Robert has left annything behind, he shall marry her, or I'll take the
gun to him meself. But I must be fair to him too, though he is my own
son. You may have heard of me forcing him to marry on the niece of
Hennessy, the publican. You never saw anything so plausible, and sure,
while I had the boy bailed up, by damn, if the girl did not exonerate him
by running oft with the son of old Bandy Macallister, the millionaire. It
made me pause, Sandy, when the next wan accused Robert; and that was
Fullwood witti his daughter..."

'That cattle duffer!"

"Have you his quality, too? Sure, I squashed that, and now the Fullwood
piece is trying to marry young Butler, and me not wanting the connection.
Moind, I don't say that Robert is guiltless, but the girls do throw
themselves before him. It's this dash with his spurs and all that swagger
that does it."

"It appears that Robert is beyond you. Some of the ugly tattle may have
been leasing, but Robert has a way of escaping. Could you lay your hand
on him now? Most likely he has another lassie all ready to marry in case
I should bring him to book. There are plenty better lads than that
swaggering birkie o' yours. It is my will that he shall come here no more
till he has a wife to keep him frae being a menace to other women."

Urquhart had never seen his old mate look so dashed, arid it went hard
with him, but Robert's offence had been deep. How ever, his cellarer
partly retrieved the occasion by extra rations. After a nobbler or two
Urquhart softened to call his visitor "Danny", and to tell him precisely
what damage Robert had wreaked. The old mates wept together as they grew
maudlin, and re-pledged the fealty of the Yackandandah, but Urquhart did
not relax towards Robert. He was too proud to expose his trouble to the
community, and preferred his own way of settling it. He said that his
friendship with Johanna and Danny stood, but when Danny sobered there was
a constraint upon the old open-heartedness.

Danny rode on to Burrabinga where he helped William and Harry to chase
wild bullocks from Bullock Gap. He thundered through the scrub down
impossible declivities, holding his wooden leg in his hand, as he had
done in his youth, and his mare never so much as stumbled under him. The
mind still held dominion over the flesh. He held his own against his
sons, but Robert had jarred his dream of opening up territory for
posterity. He had spoiled the human association so precious and so
sparsely rationed in the lonely pioneering days. Danny hardly knew what
to do. Robert was mature and had long since been promised partnership.

He spent a night with Wong Foo and was comforted that no moth
deteriorated the fabric of that friendship. He called upon Bella and was
cheered and amused by her jovial camaraderie. He had little against
Bella, She had eloped, and Danny had done that himself. It was not the
custom to visit a husband's lack of character on his wife unnecessarily.
Bella asked Mr Delacy to carry a letter and parcel to her mother and to
say nothing to James. The union remained morganatic: the Fullwoods had
not relaxed towards the Rafferty collection.

Danny returned to make his difficult report to Johanna, who was waiting
in a fury of nerves.

"And you, Daniel Delacy, not to see it's those Anguses making mischief
and putting the blame on me beautiful boy. That sour old fox-coloured
Presbyterian to talk of taking a gun; and that ignorant old trollop of a
Mrs Janet, the shape of two flour bags set wan upon the other--she'd do
annything out of hell or in it too--and that's where she should he for
such wickedness--anny thing to trap me beautiful boy. And ye with no
more circumspection than an eft in controversy with them. If ye had a
proper proide, Robert could have been married with wan of the Camerons of
The Plains by now."

"Nonsense, woman, there's no eligible Cameron above ten years old.

"And what did ye say whin he ordered Robert to keep his distance? If ye
had anny backbone, but ye wouldn't have; ye'd be crying around a kag of
rum, and taking ivery side but ye'r own, and blathering like the feis of
Tara, and nothing in it but wind."

"There's this, Johanna, you're over-excited now. That is all that can
excuse you for talking of Janet Urquhart, who took you in whin I lay with
me limb gone and me moind astray."

"I'm thinking it's still astray. And whoi were ye capering around an
impty continent, and laying on an ant bed till ye'r limb was ate off..."

"Och, woman, there's no sense at you at all." There was no appeal but
justice to Danny's impersonality and large magnanimity; and justice was
coldly repellent to the over-wrought mother.

"What has come to Robert, wandering the wilds alone? He might fall in
with the bushrangers and lose his life," she wailed.

"By damn! Urn thinking he would be at home with them. He can shoot and
strut and swagger about while honest men do the hard work."

"Me poor scandalised boy!"

"You're wrong in the evidence, me brave Johanna. We've weathered manny a
storm, and we'll weather this wan, but Robert cleared out when there was
no breath of scandal, so he must have had ray sons known to himself."

Della refused to be goaded into an opinion for or against Janet or
Robent. She had settled down to all the odd tasks as well as the major
management of Bewuck homestead. The stitches dropped by others were
picked up by her. Her mother was satisfied with this as progress towards
religious retreat. Della had put aside a number of things as ungodly,
among them the bustles, panniers and flounces of the 'seventies and
looked so skinny and unnatural that her brothers fount a trial to take
her to town. Johanna devoted henself to her garden and pot plants and the
dairy, which she superintended with Maeve and Hannon. She still delighted
in her turkeys and other poultry. Fur the remainder, she loved to gossip.
Not an item of news but pert filmed to her in the end if not sooner. A
frequent complaint was that Robert was not there to relieve her
imprisonment with his gig and tandem.

Danny, on the contrary, was no gossip. He condemned scandal. If any one
bnought him a foul story he would say, "If it is as bad as that, leave it
to Sergeant O'Gorman. It is beyond you, and the Sergeant is there for the
purpose of enforcing decency."

No sooner had Danny and Doogoolook dropped out of sight on their way home
than Harry took a pack-horse with provisions and camp gear and set off to
O'Neill to seek Robert. When O'Neill saw Harry's earnest spirit he said
he was sure that Robert was on the next occupied squattage, no more than
forty miles beyond Wild Horse Plain on the watershed between the
Murrumbidgee and the Snowy.

Here were the Lillingstons, in that generation somewhat taboo socially,
but who went in succeeding families to the top on Monaro, so that the
representatives of the name to-day swagger under as big a mortgage as any
other polo players and merino riders in the Mother State. Their hunting
ground in Daniel Delacy's day lay in the Crown Lands between Burrabinga
and their own holding, Bunbilliko. Tales were that they trapped every
hoof within reach, regardless of brand, and drove it by way of Jacob's
Ladder to Melbourne. Rumour may not have been excessive, as they rose to
be soundly rich in two generations.

Robert was heartily welcomed to Bunbilliko. Boots and breeches, spurs,
whips, plated gear, blood horses and rough riding had notorious exponents
in the Lillingstons. Delacy, Senior, had kept away from them,
disapproving of their lack of probity, but as he never slandered any one
he had not impressed this upon his sons.

There was a family of four sons and three daughters. The men were dashing
fellows and Robert was known to them for his ability with harness horses.
When he stated the reason of his visit they were ready to assist him.
They were unfailingly plausible and said that their own cleanskins were
running where Robert proposed to muster so they would make it a
partnership.

The open downs of Bunbilliko were suited to the training of harness
horses, so Robert put his business head to work and escaped the
bone-racking operations of sliding down precipices or buck-jumping. He
began by yoking horses to a log, and quickly had them fit for the spring
cart. The Lillingstons ordered a dogcart and soon they were all flashing
in and out of Cooma, but Robert remained excessively business-like. He
was uneasy concerning his absence and determined to reinstate himself by
a fine catch of horned cleanskins as well as horses.

Old Lillingston had done five years for horse-stealing on the northern
rivers, and his marriage was one of the variety common where the couples
went ahead and awaited the benefit of clergy when bishop or priest
visited remote places. He and Mrs Lillingston were delighted with young
Delacy's advent. Connection with a family so renowned for respectability
would lay the foundation stone of their social ascent, and they did
everything to woo Robert for one of the girls, but he was careful to show
no more favour to one than the other and to be as circumspect as if he
were married elsewhere and strictly monogamous. They were of the type of
Susan Angus, lively and able to take care of themselves, and to put
forward any side that suited. Robert was beginning to consider himself a
sultan to choose as he willed, and his maturing ambition was for a maiden
conventionally unspotted, clean as crystal, staunch as hemp.



CHAPTER XXVI


ROBERT wrote to his father a glowing account of the numbers of cattle and
horses he had reclaimed in partnership with the Lillingstons, and urged
the need to take advantage of a rising market.

Johanna was jubilant. "Me beautiful boy, what a head on him! And there
were those to disbelieve him and throw scandal on him!"

"It would be like him to take up with the fastest lot in creation. People
of questionable antecedents, and flasher even than Robert. Sure, I've
seen the Lillingstons in Queanbeyan, swaggering like dukes. Fellows with
small heads and long legs and smooth tongues."

While Robert's letter had been travelling to Bewuck, Harry had reached
Bunbilliko, and was effusively welcomed. He was like Robert in tall
willowy physique, soft black hair and chiselled features, but his eyes
were blue. He had no fine gear, and his small delicate hands were scarred
and calloused, with nails broken to the quick from the incredible miles
of fencing he had put up with them naked to sun, rain and frost. His
horses too were suitable for wild riding in impossible country, as
Robert's for showy appearance. Robert's were almost clean bred; Harry's
were brumbies, tireless and surefooted as goats.

Harry reported the Keebah commotion as he knew it. "Blinded old jackass!"
said Robert.

With a showy collection of oaths he placed the blame on other shoulders,
mainly George's. Harry was stirred to ride away to settle scores anew
with George, but Robert persuaded him to be quiet. "A decent man always
holds his tongue and stands the gaff if a woman is concerned," said
Robert nobly, lighting a pipe as large as his father's, and more
striking. To save a woman at his own expense was the swagger for
gentlemen in the printed romances that came Harry's way, and there was
zest for the spiritually hungry young man in living up to even a spurious
ideal.

Harry's eager selfless disposition made him a favourite with the
Lillingstons. The girls adopted him. He remembered them as sweet women
for ever, nor ever suffered any deterioration by the association, because
of Danny in him as well as freshly compounded depths of his own. Mike
Lillingston and he became bosom friends. It was Harry's first taste of
the delight of a mate who could match him in bushcraft and poetic
imagination.

Harry was enthralled by this country of tussocks and daisies, bluebells
and snow gums and little plains, where the Murrumbidgee begins as a
crystal and vocal sylph and roams about the forehead of Monaro gathering
volume and experience. In the numerous limestone caves within ride, the
young men found a world which they furnished with imaginary peoples and
cities. Fantastic metropolises buried beyond archaeological recall arose
at their bidding. Even the scrimshawing of the insects on the trunks of
the eucalypts was weft into fiction which held a younger generation
spell-bound when Mike's beard was grey. A few of their tales linger
half-remembered, but more have escaped to the faery of some outer circle
of time from people too engrossed in the arduous mechanics of pioneering
to keep a log of imaginings.

Horse buyers were due from Melbourne, so Robert decided to extend his
absence. With Harry, unexcelled buck-jump rider, to rack his frame,
Robert would prepare a draft of trained saddle as well as harness horses.
Harry was childishly proud of what Robert had accomplished, and he and
Mike were engaged day in day out. Their rewards were a girl's smile or a
word of commendation from a colleague. The companionship of girls, whose
kindness could relieve him of the painful shyness grown in solitude, was
a heaven of reward to Harry.

Also employed was old Peg-leg from the Gulph, a free selector, a
hang-over from Kiandra diggings, a lag who had lost his limb in trying to
escape from the sham-gang, and never denying it, nor excusing his
misdeeds. He had been a stable boy in England, and though old and
crippled was a mountain of help in training horses.

Robert's leadership was accepted by the Lillingstons, who never slackened
their flattery of him. He paced a filly for each of the girls and for the
old man, and for this they gave hint the best colt of the muster.

Harry got nothing but the chance to wreck his bones, but he had an
imagination to illuminate a province ere it was raped by the axe or knew
the desecration of sheep, the intrusion of roads, the confinement of
fences. Wide days of dazzling light, and nights massed with stars or
white with inebriating moonlight brewed the spirit of romance.

Two dealers came. Long Tom Bradford was known for his projecting teeth
and a glass eye, which was the wonder of his decade. It was not polite to
mention it, especially before the ladies, but Tom sometimes took it out
as a private treat for men and boys. His crony was Yorkie Driffield, a
short broad man with an outsized laugh, and they were as powerful a pair
of horse-copers as could be matched in South West Ireland.

A big week ensued. Robert and Rodney were masters of the Harness pairs;
Mike and Harry were jockeys. Robert presided at the bargaining and
whacking of the horses, and all concerned were satisfied with the
results. Long Tom and Yorkie perceived a bonanza. Trained horses "free
from vice" were in demand. They paid a wad of some hundreds and undertook
to bring the balance six months hence. Their word was their bond; they
had been trading throughout Monaro for years, and never a penny had they
diddled any man.


As a finale to the summer's business, Robert and Harry appeared at a ball
in Cooma with the Lillingstons. All Cooma and neighbourhood were in
attendance, some of the men in evening dress. Robert could not achieve
that at short notice. Harry looked on in a second-best suit of one of the
Lillingstons because his own clothes were worn out. He laughed until he
was exhausted, and behind the scenes made friends with Meg Syme, a tall
young woman of serious mood, who generously gave a hand where there were
gaps in the service. Her younger sisters and a brother disported
themselves in the dance, which was by public subscription.

Robert and Rodney found the ball dull, but would not leave without
supper. Robert went to the table in the tent in the back yard and began
to help himself and companion. This brought one of the junior stewards,
who happened to be Douglas Syme, brother of Meg. "Go away, you lout and
carry guts to a bear," said Rodney. "He's not fit to carry guts to a
bear," added Robert.

The chief panjandrum was fetched, old Major Rawson, whose station joined
the Lillingstons'. He was panoplied in full evening uniform and his
status as top sawyer of the district's swells. When the Lillingstons had
business near his homestead and appeared at meal times, Rawson offered
them a feed in the kitchen. This mistake had been repeated recently
during a call by Rodney and Robert to see about some colts. Rodney had
hoped that the presence of a Delacy would make a difference, but Rawson
discerned and resisted these tactics of a social climber.

"I'm sorry we've finished dinner, but the cook may be able to find
something for you," he had said.

Robert refused haughtily before the sentence was finished.

When Rawson was called in by young Syme, he was flustered to find Robert
and Rodney. He suspected the Lillingstons in the matter of his
cleanskins. As the Lillingstons knew, Rawson was an adept in popping a
brand on a Bunbilliko steer or colt himself, and was, through his
influence with the Commissioner, trying to squeeze out the Lillingstons.

"This won't do," he said to Rodney, who was slicing the breast of a
turkey cock, reared by Meg Syme, as it lay on a platter in its own
juices.

Rodney ignored this. Rawson said he would throw him out, and put his hand
on Rodney's collar. Robert thereupon seized the bird and wiped gravy and
grease down Major Rawson's white shirt front, thus relieving his envy of
the Major's sartorial superiority, as well as having revenge for the
intended social insult at their former meeting. "Sorry, my hand slipped,"
said Robert with assumed regret. "The cook very likely can find a
tea-towel or something in the kitchen."

All ears were strained, many with delight in the incident. Rawson had an
overbearing manner; all but his intimates had suffered from it. He felt
he was defeated for the moment. Meg Syme came to the rescue by pinning a
handkerchief across the irate bosom. To raise a froth on their swagger
the two worthies returned to the ball-room for one more dance before
departure. Robert's fancy was taken by a pretty little outsider, who
refused him because of the Rawson incident. "Go to hell," whispered
Robert, swaggering off to another girl, who, to his consternation, also
turned from him. "You insulted my brother!"

"Never intentionally would I insult the brother of such a pretty girl,"
said Robert grandly, "and if I insulted him accidentally I'd apologize."

"You ought to, if you are a gentleman."

Harry came to explain that the young man who had first tried to turn
Rodney from the supper table was Douglas Syme, brother of his new friend
Meg, who had cooked the turkey, and that the girl Robert had asked to
dance was Nessie Syme. Robert was not abashed. "If I apologize will you
dance with me?"

The girl agreed, confused and afraid of a commotion. "Bring your
brother," said Robert.

"Douglas wouldn't come," said Nessie.

"Then I must go to him. I was in the wrong," said Robert. Harry beamed on
his hero.

Robert strutted down the room. "You come with me," he said, tucking the
girl's arm under his, nolens volens.

"I've come to apologize," he said loudly. "I was wrong, Mr Syme. I said
you weren't fit to carry offal to a bear, but you are, you are!...And now
for our dance."

The dance past, Robert was confronted by young Syme with his hackle now
raised on two counts.

"You told my sister to go to hell," he said angrily, "And you can just
come outside until I take it out of your hide."

"Your sister?" said Robert, a little taken back.

"My other sister."

Robert caught sight of the third Syme girl at the far side of the room.
"I don't want to hit you, my lad, for my fault," he said to the youth.
"I'll apologize publicly and abjectly." His mordant wit was stimulated by
champagne, and he went across the room to Jeanie Syme with mock humility,
"Say, Miss Syme, I advised you to go to a warmer place than this freezing
hole, but your brother has seen me about it, and now you needn't go; you
are to dance with me instead." Before the shy girl could parry this she
too was being whirled around the dancing floor. All eyes were upon her
partner in the hope that he might further enliven the meeting, but he
prepared to leave at the end of the polka.

Harry reported from behind the scenes, "Ghost! Every one is pleased you
did that to old Rawson. He's always trying to show his authority. I'll
introduce you to the eldest Miss Syme. You'll have to be civil to her if
you want to do a line with Jeanie and Nessie."

Meg was distant and dignified and nearly as tall as Robert, but there was
a twinkle of amusement in her eyes. She had observed this celebrated
bachelor several times previously displaying hi horses around Cooma. She
inspired him to genuine apology. "You see, old Rawson tries to come the
nabob. Every one was so paralyse before him that perhaps I went a little
too far."

"Quite a long way too far," said Meg, but her eyes smiled.

Harry was excited that Robert had brought ridicule on the would-be baron
of the district. The following morning he show Robert the bundle of
goodies that Meg had given him for the road. Robert was so expanded by his
own triumphs of wit and adulation that he went to a celebrated saddler's
in the town to procure Harry a new saddle. He asked for pig-skin of a man
too full of his own conceit to appreciate the celebrity before him.

"We keep only hog-skin," said he in a corrective tone.

"What a pity; I wanted pig-skin."

"But," said the man, seeing a customer for an expensive saddle, "they are
the same article."

"Oh, no," said Robert. "You only had hog-skin when I asked for pig-skin,
so I'll go elsewhere." He strode away with a fine flourish of his heels
to show the fine length of his spurs.

The home-going was full of pleasure to Harry. A crisp April sunset
reddened the valley, the garnered hay paddocks and naked orchard were
grey under the nightly frost which already tingled in the air, and the
voice of the Murrumbidgee came loudly from the crossing as they descended
the cutting and were announced by the dogs. Robert's contingent rushed
forward, some to engage in plunder while others disputed with the home
pack. The hens were safely on their roost and Johanna free to run across
the cultivation paddock to meet the travellers. Danny followed as far as
the wood-heap, shouting orders about the dogs, and Della and Maeve came
out to the stables.

In the evening when Della settled to the mending and Maeve went to bed,
Robert brought out his gains and told of the partnership with the
Lillingstons. It was hard to tell who was the more moved during the
recital, Johanna or Harry.

"Can ye trust the dealers, me boy?" asked Johanna.

"They have a good name," interposed Danny. "You mean the long man with
the glass eye, and the broad man with the guffaw. Sure, the short
fellow's guffaw is heard all over Monaro."

But it was never heard there again. Never.

"In any case, see what we have and all because of Robert," eagerly
interposed Harry.

"A few clothes would improve you," said Johanna.

"He must have a new suit," said Robert. He did not press his own rights,
waiting for what Danny had up his sleeve about Janet Urquhart.

That came up next morning when they were inspecting the colts which
Robert had selected as saddle-horses.

"I never thought Urquhart would warn wan of mine off with a gun. Forty
years in the Colony and such a thing has never happened to me, yet
wherever you go there is trouble. What is your side of it?"

"Looks like the same old play to get a husband for his trollop of a
girl."

"The mention of you as a husband made him talk of a gun."

"Long Tom could see through that with his glass eye. Two guns wouldn't
run me into being a husband for any of them."

Danny was gagged by his oath of secrecy. "At anny rate you've ruined me
best friendship. If you don't want Grace; and Molly ran off from you; and
you speak like a low-down scut of Janet--wan of the finest young women
to be seen, who is fit to make a home and rear a family--in the name of
reason, who do you want? Have you taken up with a Lillingston?"

"I have no more thought of them than of Molly or Grace."

"I hope they have none of you. The safest thing would be to marry a
steady woman and cease to be a candidate for mischief with all the
faymales from Goulburn to Cooma--rags or silk."

"I'm in a fine position to marry, with never a penny of my own."

"I'll set you up if you choose the right woman."

Robert asked for a share in the cattle and horses reclaimed from
Bunbilliko, and Danny agreed to consider the question of partnership
with his sons, so often deferred. For the present Robert was allowed to
set off for the cattle, and to take Harry. Doogoolook was also
contributed to the expedition.

William was left to slog at Burrabinga with two stockmen through a long
snowy winter. Cut off from Keebah, his one social outlet, he grew more
shy and awkward. He would not go to Birrabee. He feared Susan as
dangerously attractive, and also he was too proud to go where he would
have to refer to his proscription by old Urquhart. Bella and Wong Foo
were his only relief in isolation.



CHAPTER XXVII


Robert and Harry came out of the cattle enterprise with profit sufficient
to advance Robert's prestige. Harry had none to bother any one. The
months ran away after that without any word from the horse boxers. Winter
lingered with snow and sleet throughout September and October. Robert
went through to Bunbilliko and took Harry with him. By the end of
November the new tussocks were strong and green, the plains aglow with
bluebells and daisies, other horses were finishing their education, but
Long Tom and Yorkie did not appear.

Rodney and Robert continued their career in Cooma. Robert had his eyes
open for Meg Syme, whose dignity had impressed him at the time of the
ball, He saw her one day in the leading store and asked her would she
Rive him a shakedown for the night as his horse was sulleting a stone
bruise. He winked warningly at Rodney. Meg naturally concerted,
hospitality being obligatory. Rodney was glad to flirt with Nessie and
Jeanie. Old Syme had a small place not far out of town and since the
death of his wife, Meg had kept house for him and the younger children.


Harry and Mike roamed the far recesses of their region, where only a
shadow people, who had neither despoiled beauty nor let any monuments,
intervened between creation and the young men's reign in an emptiness
awe-inspiring and splendid. Thousands of magpies showered mellow notes
into the aromatic silence; butcher birds practised their rich phrases;
the crashing mockery of jackasses echoed far and near; a feathered host
threw their smaller harmonies into the interstices of a spring orchestra,
with the alien rhythm of hoof-beats as its drums. Crystal water rifled
hill and plain. Flowers were everywhere--a carpet of blue and gold
underfoot, an arras on the lower scrub, a canopy overhead exuding honeyed
incense which the tempered winds swept pure and free from eternity to
eternity.

A human intrusion was the death in the ranges of a lone fossicker known
as Taffy. Rumour was that he left a hidden can of nuggets. Old Peg-leg,
mad to find the treasure, dug everywhere like a wombat.

Mike and Harry's intention of teasing Peg-leg by reporting the finding of
the nuggets was forestalled one day by the ferocity of the old man. His
wife, Brandy Mary, tottered to meet them, clothes awry, waving her arms
and weeping and shrieking that she must tell them something, but was
afraid that the old man would murder her. Peg-leg rushed front the hut
and dragged her inside by her matted locks. The boys, horrified, rode
away, leaving Peg-leg to exercise his marital authority. The vast
solitudes were often a jail where a conjugal prisoner had no redress from
a warder, brutal as any that operated in officialdom. The screams and
terror of many a tragedy evaporated into the palpitant and pregnant
silence.


The year drew to a close without news of the horse dealers. The three
Delacy men with Doogoolook and Wong homed to Bewuck for Christmas, while
O'Neill took charge of Burrabinga.

The women were full of bustle and importance preparing the old-world
feast in baking weather. The men were still able to enjoy the Bunyip
Hole. Honoria Butler came home for Christmas Day but took all her family
and guests to Old Glenties for the picnic races which the elder Butlers
always organized for Boxing Day. The Fullwoods appeared there in force
and Charles said good day to Delacy again. The Fullwoods had been the
greater losers by the long avoidance. Gerald, Della's one-time flame, was
now pursuing Grace, and Grace met Robert with equanimity.

During the dance in the evening Gerald and Grace decided to marry. Della
did not dance since she had turned religious. It devolved upon her to
find sleeping places, for the infants of the self-satisfied matrons--the
conventional role for one who was such an "oddity" that she had thrown
away her chances. She met with pale wit the crude humorosities about her
spinsterhood,-while her mother was secretly satisfied as to her final
disposal.

Danny at intervals broke into song, for which he was fitted with one of
the most resonant voices in the world and not a thread of ear. His
masterpiece was:


I'm Denny Blake from County Clare,
And ready at command,
To sing a song in praise
Of my own clear native land.
   etc. etc.

I love my native country,
I'm loyal to my Queen
But I can't forget old Ireland,
Where the grass grows green.


Old Butler, who had a true tenor, brought tears to the eyes of the elders
with:


I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, where we sat side by side,
On a bright May looming long ago, when first you were my bride.
The corn was springing fresh and green and the lark sang loud and high,
And the red was on your lip, Mary, and the lovelight in your eye.


Then he repeated an old favourite:


Those evening bells, those evening bells!
How many a tale their music tells,
Of youth, and home, and that sweet time,
When last I heard their soothing chime!

And so 'twill be when I am gone;
That tuneful peal will still ring on,
While other bards shall walk these dells,
And sing your praise, sweet evening hells!


Danny called for the other song again and again. He bellowed it with
Butler, ruining the effect, but was so saturated with the sentiment that
he grew maudlin.

"Moi, oh, moi, but doesn't it fit like a glove, me brave Johanna?...'The
lark sang loud and high, and the red was on your lip, Mary, and the
lcvelight in your eye.'"

"Ye'r getting sintimintal in ye'r old days, which ye never were in ye'r
young," said Johanna. "A sign of childishness, I'm thinking. Ye've had
too manny taggeens. Get away before ye make a bigger fool of ye'rself.
Ye'll wake all the babies, roaring like the Bull of Cooley, and
destroying the chances of those who can sing without pulling the rafters
down."

Danny went without protest to a bed reserved for him by Della. "Moi, oh,
moi!" he murmured, as he unstrapped his stump. "I'm sitting on the stile,
Mary, where we sat side by side, on a bright May morning long ago, when
first you were my bride.' The moind! The moind! 'Tis all in the moind,
Johanna. In me moind I'm sitting there with you, as we did long ago in
old County Clare, and yet here we are on the Murrumbidgee."

Too active to dwell in the past or to realize he was getting on in years,
this song suddenly struck a deep chord in his being, and filled him with
wistfulness. He was startled to find that the glow of life, in which he
had walked as in dawn-light, had stealthily slipped behind him, and that
he had to look over his shoulder to behold it as he went on into the
night--a lonely shadow reflected against the afterglow.


The Delacy brothers were back at Burrabinga. January passed. Still no
tidings of the horse dealers.

"They've come and gone and the Lillingstons collared the swag, most
likely," said William.

Harry repudiated this on behalf of his friend Mike.


There was other news to flutter the Delacys. George Angus had married
Janet Urquhart. William heard it when he went to Birrabee for the post.
"George makes no secret of it. He grins from ear to ear like a dingo
scenting a calf."

Harry rushed in, "That proves that Robert never even looked at fat old
Janet."

Robert left Harry to do the talking for him while he threw his legs about
in transcendant swagger and went to yard his colt, presented by the
ingratiating Lillingstons. Smiles played across his features during the
afternoon. In the evening he announced that he was off to Bewuck in the
morning on business with the old man. Attended by his canine court, he
called at Birrabee and George accepted congratulations. Robert generously
offered Harry to cut shingles and adze posts for additions to the house.
He reached Keebah a few hours later. _He_ had never been ordered away, and
was bold in the knowledge of Urquhart's absence and Janet's marriage. He
entered and asked Mrs Urquhart, who had no skill in enmity, if he could
do anything for her in the Township and was affable while his champions
disabled a milder animal or two and killed a few hens. He refused the
invitation to spend the night in favour of riding on to Learmont's. He
would discipline Keebah by a little hauteur.

George Angus was whole-heartedly in love with Janet, and in the
determination to improve his social position by marriage into the
Urquhart family, had used the rumpus with Robert to further his suit. Old
Urquhart would be glad to dispose of Janet--blown upon by scandal--so
George had said that he had had Janet nearly won when Robert cut-in, and
believed he could make her care again. He had been permitted to write to
her.

Janet was overwhelmed by his ardour and the command of her father to
marry him. She was ill of homesickness in banishment as a blight upon the
prospects of her younger sisters. Robert was out of the picture. By
marrying George she could make amends and return to her circle. It seemed
a small price to pay. Whether her reinstatement made her as jubilant as
his exoneration rendered Robert, Janet was too lymphatic and unawakened
to know or show.


On arrival at Bewuck, Robert ill concealed his elation. When appetites
slackened towards second helping, Danny enquired,

"Have you anny news?"

"Only Janet Urquhart's wedding, but that is stale, I suppose?"

"Janet! Ye don't meant it! And who did she marry?" demanded Johanna.
"George, of course! Who else do you think would have her after their
carryings-on?"

It took the wind out of Danny's sails surely enough, and filled
Johanna's. "Just what I knew. There goes another scandalous plot of some
designing slut to capture me son."

"Is this wedding fact or rumour?" was Danny's question.

"Had it from George himself. They confirmed it at Keebah. Janet is
coming to Birrabee as soon as George has the house ready."

"Ye were at Keebah, and did they receive ye?" Johanna fluttered with
excitement.

"Fell over me, but I came on to Learmont's. They deserve a little of the
cold shoulder for what the old dingo tried to pull off with his talk of
guns. A man has no chance against a woman's lies but if you let 'em alone
they bowl themselves out. The old man had D.T.'s and saw snakes."

Danny felt that Sandy had somehow let him down, but Sandy's secret
remained and Danny kept it courageously against all provocation, kept it
so well that it came to Danny's grandchildren only from the last
remaining member of Danny's brood, when there was no longer any one
living for scandal to wound. George had cleared up the field for Robert,
whose triumph Danny had to suffer, a common ordeal to persons of
spiritual integrity when in conflict with those of less or none. Again
Robert by a fluke had emerged as a hero. Luck was his evidently, and a
fine business head, but he had not his father's respect. Neither had
Danny Robert's. He was inclined to dismiss his father as a silly old man.
The most trying result to Danny was Johanna's harping upon Urquhart
iniquity regarding her splendid son.

"Surely ye could see Urquhart was at his drinking! It shows how drink
takes the brain from a man entirely and leaves him like an impty kag with
an offensive smell."

Danny would have welcomed the peace of the "ind room" but for the marital
demotion involved.

The horse dealers never reappeared. Other men took their place. Horses
were saleable property. Robert and Harry went regularly to Bunbilliko.
The Burrabinga stock followed the river to its source in the austere
plains that exalt Monaro, a province with Kosciusko as its king, a king
not permanently crowned with snow, but garlanded each year with daisies.

The Lillingston girls abandoned hopes of Robert. Their brothers found
that Robert took them to Burrabinga but never to Bewuck. The connection
simmered down to the friendship between Harry and Mike. The reclaiming of
stock from that area was finally delegated to Harry. It was he who
brought the news that Brandy Mary had died drunk and that Peg-leg lived
on alone. He had given up work; a son who lived fifty miles away brought
him provisions. Gossip was that the son extracted heavy payment for
this, which Peg-leg produced from a hoard about the place. He threatened
to shoot intruders at sight and his temper was so evil that even the
clergyman gave him a wide berth.

"Poor old devil," observed Lillingston. "He's mad with loneliness. A
useful old cove with horses. He's got a mania against trespassers.
Transported for poaching and it takes him that way now."



CHAPTER XXVIII


Meg Syme tutored her younger sisters and brothers, made all the clothing
for the family, masculine and feminine, and was a splendid figure on a
horse. Some said he would be a lucky man who won her; but men made little
progress with her. She was too sedate, and only six years younger than
Robert, who was now thirty-seven. She had no glances or blushes for
Robert, who found her an enigma. At first he was regarded as Nessie's
conquest, but Nessie discovered that Meg was the attraction. This created
a sensation. Meg began to blossom. The neighbours said it was a shame
that Robert Delacy should make a fool of her, and tried to warn her with
gossip, but like Johanna, Meg was Robert's partisan for ever.

He measured Meg by his own instabilities and forays and felt that he had
what he desired, and that to her nothing but full dignities could be
suggested. He confided to his father that he wanted to marry.

"Have you chosen the girl or is it wan of them chasing you again?"

Robert said that he had chosen, and left his father to break the news. In
this case he knew Danny would be more of an ally than Johanna.

"Mother of God! Some streel has got hold of him again!"

Danny knew nothing of the Symes and bade her hold her whist until he made
inquiries. Della was overlooked. Norah was consulted, being married and
of the pure merino squattocracy. Her mother-in-law wrote to a friend near
Cooma, old Mrs Rawson. The reply came from Major Rawson of shirt-bosom
fame!


The Symes as far as I know, are respectable people, who derive from the
farmer class in the North of Ireland. I do not, however, know them
personally, and would not think of inviting them into my house on an
equality with my family.


"I knew," wailed Johanna.

"I don't want to be dragged down to people of that class," said Norah.

Della was silent.

"If she is an upstanding faymale and her people have good principles, I'd
as soon have her as the Queen's daughter. Robert is lucky to get such
after his miscarriages."

"It's a wife for me son, I'm considering, not a horse."

"There would be more sinse in considering a wife on the principles of a
noble horse, seeing what she is put to, raring children and dragging
about amid arduous conditions. Sure, 'tis not a canary bird to put in a
cage that Robert's needing. If you were choosing a horse would you pick
the weakest of the mob because it was a pretty little thing that would
fall down at all critical moments because of its refinement?"

"Ye have no more sinse at ye than the snipe in the bog at home in
Ireland."

"'Tis yourself that lacks the rayson.' Sure, when we consider a horse,
'tis breed that gives him stamina and makes him able to do more and do it
with a spring, while the common slug would rack your bones and wind
himself and not accomplish half the distance; and whoi should it be breed
in a woman, or a man, to be weak and helpless? There is food for thought
there."

"'Tis a wonder in picking ye'r own wife, ye did not choose wan of those
big bony fishwives from..."

"Arrah, me brave Johanna, 'tis the example of the polo pony we have; and
'tis the most striking in the whole boiling. 'Tis a polo pony you were,
me brave Johanna." He shouted this after her as she ran away to hide her
smiles. There were moments when her choice of Danny was justified.


I'm Denny Blake from County Clare,
  And ready at command,
To sing a song in praises
  Of my own dear native land.


he chanted in the resonant voice that was sometimes husky, perhaps
through constant smoking of stale twist.

He took a Nullah-Mundoey mare and packed his valise preparatory to
inspecting the Syme family.

Della suggested that Danny should go by gig and let her mother accompany
him.

"Me," snorted Johanna, "to be running about after her! She should bring
herself here for me to see, but if she did, I'd slap the door in her
face."

"What sense could there be in that? In moi moind there's a good chance of
her being too good for Robert."

He stayed one night at The Plains with Cameron. The next he quartered
himself at a shepherd's hut without interest in social gradations and
equally careless of the difference in quality of bed and food. The
sublime panorama spread before him as he journeyed by tracks all night
with flowers and birds, and quaint shy marsupials assured him of an
unending force harmonious and indestructible of which he was a part, and
he approached the Symes in a mind to estimate the proposed marriage on
its merits.

The Symes knew many anecdotes of Nullah-Mundoey, whose heroic
performances were already a legend d had earned him more titles than an
earl, in days when "jar!" meant strong man. He had started as Danny
Delacy of the Murrumbidgee and now was Nullah-Mundoey, Fearless Danny,
and Honest Delacy.

It was a shock to Meg Syme when a strange little man with a long straight
black beard, wearing sloppy clothes and a copataine hat--kept from
sliding over his eyes by a stuffing of gum leaves--boomed a flowery
greeting at her, and then broke into a guffaw. "Sure, you're as tall as
Robert himself--a pair of bean poles. You'd be good for spreading a hop
vine."

When Meg accepted his queerness, she liked him, he was so homely, so good
and wise, so free from acidity and malice. She read everything procurable
and was educated to enjoy the philosophic epigrams that poured from Mr
Delacy. He and Syme had fundamental congeniality in principle, but Syme
was the more thrifty and likely to die the richer, as Delacy recognized.

Danny's report was that Robert had done well for himself. Here was a fine
powerful woman old enough to have shown her quality. "She looks sound and
sensible, bur sure, a wife is only to be proved after hard trials and
constant companionship. But I never expected annything so promising of
common sense from Robert. Now if it had been William."

"Hasn't Robert always had more head on him than all the rest of the
family slapped together?"

Inconsistently with this, Johanna's back was up against what Danny
reported of Meg, and she insisted upon regarding her as a designing woman
who was sniggling the prize by sharp practice.

"Sure, I'll be thankful to the woman to take possession of him so I can
settle without expecting to hear of me best friend turned into an enemy,
or other members of the community coming at me because they think he has
meddled with their women. She's a brave woman, and good luck to her, I
say."

"But she is so old--over thirty."

"Och, isn't Robert an old rake himself?"

"But has she anny beauty?" Johanna demanded beauty in her daughter-in-law
as an elegancy due to her own refinement.

"I thought Robert had enough beauty for the family. Enough is better than
a feast, even of baits for the dingoes."

"I judge that she is plain as old Bally, but ye're a nullity when it
comes to judging all such things."

"Sure wasn't I a judge of beauty, or how could I have chosen the
prettiest girl in County Clare and got her to run over the seas with me?
'And the red was on your lip, Mary, and the lovelight in your eye!' Moi,
oh, moil e brave Johanna!"

"I'm reduced often to thinking it was an accident."

Danny smoked with loud smacks and pensive emissions of, "The moind! The
moind!"

Della questioned her father quietly, "Is she dark or fair; has she curly
hair or a long nose, and is she good-tempered?"

"Would she let me know her bad timper at this stage of the game? That has
to be risked. Wives can't be had on trial."

"But surely, Father, you can describe her features?"

"She has a nose in the middle of her face and a mouth below that, and an
eye on either side of it farther up. Her face must have been all right,
or I'd have noticed it."

"Sure, it was only by good luck I wasn't a two-headed monster," observed
Johanna.

The coming wedding called for a family conclave. The partnership of the
men Delacys, so long delayed, was at last to be put on a business
footing. Danny had Bewuck. Burrabinga homestead was to be improved for
Robert. William and Harry were to live there with Robert, or with Danny
at Bewuck, as the work demanded, until they should marry, when a home
each was to be erected for them out of the general budget. It was the
loose and generous arrangement of Danny, of whom Johanna said, "He has
too much scatteration on him and not enough grasping ever to make a
fortune, no matter how great the opportunity."

Neither Johanna nor Della was mentioned in the new understanding. The
work they had put into making both homes was not officially acknowledged
by so much as a new bonnet. Johanna was in a better position than Della.
The butter money was hers, except when Danny happened to be pushed for
cash, and remembered it; even then, if Johanna said she needed it, Danny
would not question her statement. There were also the turkeys. The
rearing of these fell to Della now, also the dairy and the care of Maeve,
who was frail, and needed help, and sat much in the chimney corner, and
when left to herself, crouched in the ashes.

Della had slipped into drudgery without any one being aware of it. She
was growing scraggy and her thin little hands were as rough as Harry's.
She dressed in drab winseys or something equally cheap and depressing,
was firmly embedded in spinsterhood, seldom mentioned, never discussed,
unnoticed by any one but her mother, who had designs upon her. Johanna
was hoarding every penny now towards Della's _dot_ as a _religieuse_. But
this Della did not know.

When she was left out of the new partnership she retired and sobbed
herself sick. Very little recognition would have saved her this hurt--a
small sum yearly to hoard against old age. She envisaged her end, and did
not like it. Even the gawky Grace Fullwood had married Della's old flame,
Gerald Butler, and was settled with home and children and good social
position.

A new home of slabs and shingles was pushed forward. All strove in the
cause of Robert. Danny came up to lay out gardens, and his friend Wong
Foo came in to help. These two with a stray rouse-about and the bullocks
went across the river and enclosed five acres of rich loam where it would
be safe from the poultry. The inconvenience of crossing the Burrabinga on
horseback bothered no one. There was a power of mares to be mounted. Some
old prad was always dozing at the back gate or in the stable awaiting a
chore; picked horses were in the horse paddock--forerunners of the
telegraphs and telephones. Everywhere were mares with foals at heel; none
escaped. Fecundity was prized in man and beast.

Wong brought vegetable seeds. Danny took his mares and packed flower
plants and shrubs from Birrabee. The gentle Janet met him with her usual
friendliness, unaware that her father had confided in his old mate.

Robert was glowing, his swagger moderated by affection for a good woman
and approaching responsibility. Harry was indefatigable and ecstatic.
William kept judicial watch. Danny was released in enterprise as he had
not been of late. Bewuck had not scope enough for him; he often looked
wistfully towards the mountains which he had opened up, but which Robert
was taking from him.

Danny was becoming a worn-out pioneer. Empires rise on the unrewarded
efforts of such indomitable individualists. Only a few of the many emerge
to the ken of recorders to give new lease to tales of daring and
fortitude. They pour out their strength and courage in taming new
territory. They are givers. They provide lashings and leavings of raw
material, or father the exploitable rank and file for the shrewder
investors--the takers.

Danny, the ineffectual old pioneer, was to have his reward--if any--in a
zest in life which did not stale until he was past seventy, and which
sheltered him from all the ghosts and devils that invade the pillow of
the complex and introspective. And he rarely had an ear-ache or
stomach-ache; when a tooth ached he prised it out with a pen-knife.
Rheumatism passed him without toll, indigestion was a stranger to him,
though his most constant food was a cut from a salt round enlivened by
mustard applied like treacle, a diet which had become a habit while he
bached. The fiends of physical torture, finding his courage invincible
under their first attack, were won henceforth to clemency.


Johanna refused to go to the wedding, and Danny would not go without her.
No one thought to invite Della, another unintentional slight, which
showed her her position. Norah Butler declined because she was not proud
of the match. Meg, therefore, tactfully decided that she would have only
her own family, and William and Harry to support Robert.

"Shall I bring Meg here to see you?" inquired Robert.

"Time enough when a child is coming. Ye can't leave her up among the
dingoes for that event. Della will then wait on her."

Della stiffened her back. "Indeed, that is keeping my new sister too long
waiting for a welcome from the women of the family. I'm becoming a
nullity in prison by the river, year after year, with no companion but
the bunyip, and the oaks for ever mourning. I'll go up and prepare the
house for Margaret."

Robert was delighted and clinched this support before his mother could
demur.

"And what am I to do alone, with Maeve not fit to do a slap of work?"

"Jane Hannon can sleep in the house. Della needs a change."

"I need some new clothes. It would be small recommendation for me to
appear before my new sister looking like a workhouse inmate." Robert
agreed grandly as a partner of the firm.



CHAPTER XXIX


Della sang around the new house as she papered its walls, made curtains
for its little windows or stuffed mattresses with straw, or painted the
shelves that Harry put up. She was reinvigorated by the release from 'her
mother's exactions and looked ten years younger in the fussy new dresses
which Robert had sanctioned.

A house! A house! A home of one's own.

She saw now, when nearing forty, and all chances gone, that she had been
foolish to demand a dream man. The home and the business standing
afforded by marriage were the more important. Any not too impossible man
would have served.

Harry had helped with the Angus nuptial building. Ned was returning the
obligation at Burrabinga. "Ned used to be your puppy lover," remarked
Harry, tactlessly facetious.

Ned braved the accusation. "Not so much of a puppy!"

Della enjoyed his kindness, his gaiety, also his carpentering ability, in
which the Delacys were conspicuously deficient. They had a happy time in
making the house comfortable for Meg, or Margaret, as her new family
called her, following Della's lead. As they progressed, Ned remarked, "I
wish I was getting a house of my own ready. Now that Janet is not well,
I'm afraid to tread inside."

"I was wishing I had a house myself," confessed Della.

"Holy sailors! You're a wonderful housekeeper: you've had so much
practice. Why didn't you marry Gerry Butler?"

"I did not like him enough, and he was fast."

Ned smiled in his brown beard, which had never known the razor and was
round and furry as a possum.

Masculinity leant heavily on beards. All the bushmen had beards. Some of
the older imported men had theirs trimmed in hedges around the chin, or
lawns under the ears. Others cleared a putting space around one or both
lips, or the chin appeared as a bald hill in a jungle--diverting patterns
to modify the affliction of a frowsy mane on the face.

Ned's beard gave him several years among men who did not know his youth.
He had grown it much earlier than any of the Delacys, who were a
smooth-skinned race. He laughed a deep bass laugh into his hairy maturity
because he was not "fast". The urge was on him for a wife, and he wanted
Della. On the strength of his beard he quickly essayed a lover-like
statement.

Della was resistant, but she remembered Ned's early partiality, and as
his advances gained firmness, she hardened in the determination necessary
to marry a man so many years her junior. Ned would give her a home of her
own. No matter how humble or remote, it would provide escape from the
constant um of a mother's dictation, sapping of harmony and hope.
Anything to escape from her mother, though she could scarcely admit this,
even to herself, without a sense of blasphemy.

She too had satisfaction in the volume of Ned's beard.

It must be confessed that the splendiferous Robert had a similarly
Biblical beard, long enough to blow about in the wind. Incredible that he
could have appealed as a lover! But the girls of his day did not expect
the impossible in husbands: they had it. They did not quail before the
impossible in life: they unconsciously achieved it.

Ned continued to smile in his beard, Della to regard it contemplatively
while the family failed to note anything significant because attention
was focused on preparations for Robert's bride.

Robert's policy towards Keebah had had the desired effect. Now that
Janet's slip was safely submerged in marriage, Mr and Mrs Urquhart wished
to avoid any action that would inform the curious, and formally invited
Robert to bring his bride to Keebah for a visit on the way from Cooma.
Robert graciously accepted.

After enclosing the garden Danny went home and reappeared with one
pack-horse laden with fancy fowls and another with turkeys and geese. The
gobbler and the goose raised a clamour that brought out the dogs in full
cry from all the settlers en route. The turkey-hen bore her passage with
her meek whine, the gander said "shush-shush!" all the way; a bantam
crowed perkily; the pack-mares endured heroically. The pride of Danny's
argosy was a third horse with a nanny and two kids, one of them
unrelated, from which to begin a Burrabinga dynasty. Mrs Rafferty had
been loath to part with her old Nanny but Mr Delacy was the patron of the
socially-ascended Bella. Johanna remarked that the idea of goats was as
sensible as if it had been generated by the snipe in the bogs at home in
Ireland, "When ye have more cows than Brian Born himself."

Danny roped the recalcitrant matron's horns and a Nullah-Mundoey had to
tow her. When the she-kid wailed in front Nanny rushed forward and butted
the pack-horse. "The davvil such a botheration was never encountered,"
Danny remarked to his dumb beasts, including Doogoolook.

All this cargo had to be unloaded at Learmont's, Keebah and Birrabee,
where Danny made halts and had his animals fed and watered.

"Golly, the old cove is a hard case--gets rummier every day," remarked
George Angus, but the kindly Janet tended the fowls, and Ned helped with
the goats because of Della.

Transit down the precipices bred legend. Doogoolook took the horses
singly while Danny held the others, and when both were occupied with the
goat horse, the others broke away and bolted for the homestead. The cages
were not completely smashed. The mares knew where to step lest a bump
against a tree hurt them more than their load. The geese and turkeys kept
their heads in and so were not brained.

At the homestead the tortured beasts were unloaded by Della. The bantam
cock had his leg crushed but crew so gamely that Della's heart was
touched and she kept him in a box to mend. The turkey-hen was dead. One
of the mares was injured by a shaft of the pack-saddle penetrating her
withers and she lay down for days, but Della would not give her up to a
bullet.

Wong Foo appeared with pack loads for the great Robert's wife. O'Neill
came down in mid-week bringing the hide of a piebald brumby, tail and
all, tanned as a carpet He too, was invited to remain until Mrs Robert's
arrival.

She and her suite came home in detachments. She rode on a beautiful
saddle and a Nullah-Mundoey--the gifts of Robert. He rode the Lillingston
gelding.

William drove Mrs Robert's horses and heifers, with satisfaction in this
accretion to the Burrabinga property. Robert had the best spending sense,
'William the squarest idea of the power of property, but Harry finally,
when the dross of the flesh was purged with years, though a beggar
financially, had a spiritual kingdom that none could take away.

Harry left for home with the bride's handmaiden on a safe brumby of such
rough paces that the child was like to be jellied. Old Syme insisted upon
providing his daughter with a serving-maid, no matter how incipient. Meg
must be supported in her new squatter status. There was such a demand for
women that they were prematurely plucked from childhood, and to have
Fannie Monson, aged eight, fed and trained was a relief to the packed
shepherd's hut that was her home. She was so shy that she hid under the
bed in sick terror on hearing the proposal, but she was hauled to light,
and a rig-out--it could not be called a wardrobe--gathered for her. One
of her brothers, for some reason, had once had a pair of boots, and,
because of ineradicable self-respect, these were put on the little
creature.

Convention was so rigid that Fannie must not straddle a horse. Harry
improvised a horn on a man's saddle and the rider clung on as best she
could, the gullet of the saddle bruising her thigh. She was inarticulate,
and all her sobs were worn away. She looked back with dry gasps, while
the hut was visible, and when it sank from view she tried to get off the
horse and run back. Her attitude was touching to Harry. He put her
astride for her safety and started the brumby to his bone-racking jog. A
mile or two on the way Harry had to retrace for the boots, which he then
tied on with horsehair. The child grew so weary and sore that she had to
stay in bed for a day where they first halted. The kind settler's wife
gave Harry a pillow for his pommel and he let the child sit there when
they set out again. Fannie had given Harry her trust. He was so absent
while he dreamed his own dreams, that she came out of her shell. Then he
sang her a song which brought a smile:


Sally had a magpie that was very fond of talking,
She plucked a feather from his tail,
Every time she went out walking,
Soon poor Mag's tail hadn't a feather upon it,
But you had the pleasure of seeing them stuck,
All round Sally's bonnet.


He was ashamed of the naked pipe-stems, with the livid ring around the
ankles chafed by the rough boots, so he enlisted a Queanbeyan barmaid to
buy small boots and stockings. He also bought the child some "lollies"
and a mouth-organ, and a hat to replace the tattered rag that blinkered
her. He hurried to be home to welcome the bride, who was paying visits as
she came, and it devolved upon Della to clean and clothe Fannie.

Mrs Robert's live stock were depastured in the house paddock, and her
poultry made the place homely as she rode across the flats in her stylish
habit. She was a fine sensible woman in her prime, heartily in love with
Robert, and of a mind and experience to accept whatever the bargain
brought. Her little serving-maid was so over-awed that she peeped at the
newcomers from Harry's coattail. Wong Foo and Doogoolook added to the
originality of the Delacy collection.

Danny and Wong grew merry and fuddled, but no one was disturbed by that.
Wong had taken to grog as part of his Europeanization. The man who did
not drink was as rare as the one without whiskers. Not sobriety so much
as whether a man could carry liquor was the standard, and no vices came
to light in Danny or Wong when wine cast out wit.

Danny had to return to Johanna at the end of a week, but Della extended
her visit indefinitely. Margaret was pleased to have her. They made
dresses for themselves and rearranged their tresses in the prevailing
mode. Fannie's curls came off in the interests of hygiene. The women not
only reared and trained maids, but made their clothes until they could do
this for themselves. The best mistresses also taught them to read and
write. Fannie thus recovered from loneliness, for when she was not
learning housewifery, she had books to con.

The prevailing mentality attributed long hair on women to the will of
God: interference with it was approaching hermaphroditism, so when
Fannie's mother heard of the cropped head, her shrill execrations drove
Monson to leave his sheep and rescue his child from "that jumped-up Meg
Syme who would dare to call a decent child lousy!"

Fannie was glad to see her father, but did not want to go with him. He
found her dressed like a little lady, her locks growing well and tied
with ribbon. She brought her slate, and her father, who had no lettering,
was proud, and cursed his wife's foolishness, and left the child without
a protest.


Harry went to Bunbilliko for a visit and came back with a rousing tale.

Peg-leg had died, so Mike and Harry re-explored the caves near the
abandoned selection and in an inner chamber found two skeletons. The
police were notified. The clothing indicated that the skeletons were not
very old, though ants had cleaned the bones. The remains were those of
Long Tom Bradford and Yorkie Driffield. All the Lillingstons recognized
the projecting teeth of the taller man, and a glass eye rolled out of the
empty skull. The men had been murdered by a heavy weapon--probably axed
while sleeping. They must have been killed elsewhere, as one of the
skeletons lay on a rough hand-barrow. Two people had been necessary to
carry them there.

Peg-leg's hut was two miles distant. No evidence was forthcoming from the
son, so long after the date. Mike and Harry's reconstruction of the case
was that Long Tom and Yorkie had been overtaken by night on their journey
from Cooma to Bunbilliko, had been refused a shakedown by Peg-leg and had
gone on to camp at the creek near the cave. Peg-leg had killed them in
the night and compelled the old woman to help him secrete the bodies.
That may have been what Brandy Mary had tried to confess on the day that
the old man had dragged her into the hut. That was why he fiercely
forbade people to visit his hut or seek for stock on his holding. Also,
he had lived on the money that the dealers had been carrying. Nothing
could be proved. Suspicions grew into history. The spot became known as
Murderers' Cave.

"I wish the money had not been lost," said Johanna.

"So do I, but what is there in a few hundred pounds compared with the
knowledge of honesty in men. Poor fellows! Came back true to their word,"
exclaimed Danny.

Harry had a pleasanter story. He and Mike had accompanied the Sergeant
from Cooma to Gool Cool, as certain formalities had to be observed in
that township. One night they had put up at a station renowned for its
hospitality and the beauty of its daughters, and here Harry met his
princess, Josephine Battle.

"Ghost! She is the most beautiful woman I ever saw! A complexion like
pink wax, and hair the colour of gold!"

The young lady was referred to as the Princess, a member of the Royal
Family. Harry was so romantic about her that Della found him good
material to further her own plans.


Township and district were entertained by Hennessy's marriage
finally--and to Euphemia Fitzhugh.

"Sure, I knew she'd come to it when her plumage began to moult," said
Johanna.

"A fool not to have taken him long ago. He could have had children."

"Hasn't he always had Molly Macallister?"

The Township was long since a municipality, and Hennessy the mayor. He
had a bigger hotel than formerly, the blacksmithing business, the leading
general store and a flour mill. He was prospering far, beyond his needs
and had much to lend him importance. Even Johanna admitted that it was
surprising that he should still want, "that ould hairo, well over fifty".

"Sure, the attempt to win her was a habit with him, and at last she caved
in. 'Twill be entertaining to observe which will overcome the other. They
are both too long in the horn for the frictions of double harness."

Euphemia had capitulated in a fit of despair. She was overpowering for
governessing, and met no eligibles. Hennessy was her last resource from
the footless drifting around that confronted a woman, whose man died,
whom the law did not bury with him, nor provide with a pension, and who
refused to be a drudge in the background. With mingled feelings Hennessy
installed her in a stone house near the Township. She was provided with a
vehicle and a groom; she had soft carpets and a rosewood piano, expensive
china, jewellery and silks, and servants to wait upon her, but attached
to them was Hennessy--corpulent and sweaty. He was also vulgar. Euphemia
had been well-seasoned to vulgarity in army days, and later among the
squatters, but in nothing is there more caste snobbery than in the
quality of vulgarity, and Hennessy's was not the swagger kind. He was
bogtrotter Irish, in itself the lowest form of vulgarity. The way on
earth of Euphemia Hennessy was not harmonious. Molly Macallister mortally
hated her. She had long been cultivating her "uncle". Molly and her
youngsters were his best root in life. Euphemia had nothing but fear of
poverty, fear of the approaching abyss of mystery, which kept her
clinging to the daylight called life, even as Mrs Hennessy.

She provided diversion for her district when personal gossip was the salt
of human association. Every one knew that she demanded a separate
sleeping apartment. Grandfathers, denatured by gentility, declared that
Hennessy should seize' his wife by the hair of the head and thrash her
into subjection. If women were allowed to act as she, all wives would get
above themselves, and what then would become of the sanctity of marriage
and the family and the home!

It was Danny who observed, "'Tis little compliment to the marriage state,
if women have to be kept so tight for fear they'll lepp right out of it
entirely."

Johanna put him to rights. "Ye men have no more logic than an eft about
women. We let ye blather to keep ye out of worse mischief. Listen to min
talking--and they don't need to have the grog in neither--and ye'll hear
that women are wild for marriage. At the same time ye daren't let wan
wife escape from her sleep being ruined by the grunts of a living tobacco
or rum kag, but ye're all raging with fear as if an armed rebellion was
disrupting the bonds of matrimony. Och, ye're such, that only that
there's nothing else, ye wouldn't be put up with at all."

After that, when Euphemia's marital behaviour was dissected, Danny would
exclaim, "Leave her to Sergeant O'Gorman to deal with if she's as
scandalous as that; or let the Bishop be called in to adjudicate the
moral question."

Hennessy, despite the snipe-bog beginning and the chain-gang finishing
imposed upon him by society, was too much the natural an to babble of his
affairs in public or to coerce his wife in private. Through his paid
menials and those who listened to them, yarns seeped out and were lapped
up by "the buckeens, who for lack of better think themselves the
aristocracy", to quote Delacy--one of the few men in that region
sufficiently outstanding to be quoted.



CHAPTER XXX


A year passed without issue for Margaret and Robert. Della and Ned had
decided to marry, and Della was nerving herself to confess, first to
Robert, and worse, to her mother.

Robert, established, was as proud as his mother, but Della had stood by
him and Margaret, and Margaret was now standing by Della. William was
disappointed that Della should be a failure, his clever good-looking
sister, so well educated! Her marriage, even to Ned, would relieve him of
the humiliation of having in his family the only old maid he knew. Harry
was warmly for his old mate, and everybody liked Ned personally, when the
shock of the parity in years wore away.

Della sent for her father, who was delighted by any call to the
mountains.

"All that time away, she wants ye as the go-between to bring her home,"
said Johanna.

Della made her confession in the vegetable garden across the river,
whither they had ridden for privacy.

"In the name of God, woman!" Danny burst out. "He's scarce done teething
compared with you. You let Butler go to that squeaking beanpole of a
Fullwood, and then to make a fool of yourself with a boy. God knows what
his family may be."

"His family is good enough for the Urquharts. You were eager for us to
marry there. This is next door, with both Janet and Donald married to
Anguses."

Danny would not divulge that Janet, as salvaged material, had been
compelled to lower her standard. "That's the Urquharts. Once there's a
breach in the fence, the dingoes run in, but you have no call to get into
the yard where they are coming. And what will you live on?"

"You might well ask, when I'm treated as if I were the black gin who was
picked out of the bush. There was a fuss about Margaret Syme being only a
free selector's daughter, but she came with cattle and horses and
furniture and good clothes, and a shelf of books and some jewellery and a
maid. And didn't you rush and make her a vegetable garden; another of
flowers, and an orchard--mostly from the remains of my hard work in the
valley when I was a girl? And didn't you career the country, like a
Chinaman trading to the diggings, with crates of fowls and animals for
another man's daughter? You can surely do the same for your own? And
didn't you nearly kill a good pack-mare, and I attend her for weeks with
venice turps, and you were going to shoot her, the smell was so bad.
Surely I'm entitled to her for a start. Perhaps Margaret will spare me a
clutch of eggs from the poultry you brought her. Wong Foo might give me a
jar of ginger, seeing I spent years making a home for him to come to."

"Sure, if anny man ever paid his way by giving, it was Wong," interposed
Danny.

"In that case, perhaps he'll give me a bag of seed potatoes to boot; when
he was so generous to a strange woman he never saw."

"An-ah! Robert was the head of the family."

"And I have been the sides of the family for longer than Robert. You
can't have the roof without walls, and I've worked myself old only to be
overlooked."

"Why, Della, what's got at you? There's no call to bally-rag me to such
an extent. You are entitled to the same as I did for Margaret, and a few
head of stock are neither here nor there, but you can't disguise the fact
that you're an old worn-out woman of forty wanting to marry a man so
young that you'll look foolish."

"And how did I become worn-out but by slaving to make homes for others,
and now have none of my own?"

"What home will Ned provide?"

"Ned built a house for Janet Urquhart: Harry helped him. Now he can help
Ned to build one for me. I had no share in the property, but thank God, I
have as much right to select on Burrabinga as a perfect stranger."

"Sure, there's no need to act like an inimy. I'm open to the argument
that it's not meself who is to marry Angus. What do your brothers think
about this?"

"When Robert was about to marry Miss Syme, Norah was consulted because
she was a married woman. No one asked my opinion. No one took any notice
of me then; I'll be obliged if they pursue the same course now."

"Och, you're soured by letting your chances go by, and having to take the
unsuitable stick in the end. And what will your mother say, who had you
all salted by for a nun?"

"Me, for a nun!"

Danny had a twinkle in his eye in contemplating the old maid, designed
for the cloister, thus saving herself at the last moment by inappropriate
marriage.

He needed more than humour, however, to face Johanna with the news.
Della's outburst had been based on just grievance. Johanna was
unreasonable. She accused Danny of being a nullity, and his children of
taking after him.

"It only remains for William to run away with old mother Euphemia
Hennessy and Harry to take wan of Beila Rafferty's sisters, to complete
me joy and proide in me family, all stablished among the quality. Sorrow
the day, and God's blame on me, that I ever left me beautiful home of
Cooley Hall to go to the furthest inds of the globe, with blacks adopted
as part of me family, and a haythen Chinaman for a brother, to become a
haythen and savage meself, with a bunyip and ghost as me main
companions."

"'Tis sad indeed, me brave Johanna, that you left the attractive Kevin
O'Gorman, with the hair sprouting on him like kangaroo grass on the
ring-barked flats, and all his well-grown children, and his few cows and
potatoes running on a furze patch, to die in the famine beside a snipe
bog, for such a pitiful picture as you depict."

"And it's ye that would reproach me, and attimpt to marry me best son on
every streel..."

"Och, the facts don't stand up to your allegations. 'Twas meself who
rescued your supertoploftical Robert from wan string of a thing, and he's
now got as fine a woman as ever I saw; and isn't Norah getting rich and
visiting at The Plains, and by damn, I like Ned Angus. He's none of your
sour-bellies--always a fine laugh out of him--and Della has rights in the
country that you and she civilized in the first place."

"'Twill never be civilized. 'Tis only fit for dingoes."

"'Twill be more sought than the Lakes of Killarney in a hundred years.
Sure 'tis the water supply from here to Death-o'-Day and beyond."

"It's easy to blather what can't be proved for a hundred years. It's
manny an ass-load of foolishness has assailed me ears, and manny the
heart-scald since I married ye. Now the children are going the same road,
me heart is killed in me bosom."

Her last hope of religious atonement was being smashed. She was
humiliated. How could she tell Father Shannon that her daughter was about
to marry an inferior, ten or twelve years her junior. Her natural
supports were collapsing. Maeve was failing, and she was weary of
contending with impudent colonial lasses. A wave of depression engulfed
her, as it has many another at her age. There was no future. She lay upon
her bed, and, like Hezekiah, turned her face to the wall. It seemed as if
her early hardships and griefs had damaged her resilience. Night fitted
hard on her like a cap. The curlews' wail came from the fiats and the
wind moaned in the casuarinas and grumbled in the chimneys.

The faithful Maeve crept in next day and watched her dumbly.

Jane Hannon came, but Johanna refused to be tended or comforted. She lay
listening to the rushing Murrumbidgee and its soughing oaks. The peewits
scolded the cats who intruded upon their work in the garden, and a dozen
other species joined in their protest. Butcher birds practised
assiduously; scores of magpies filled the gleaming day with musical
enchantment; the kookaburras raised their wild mocking laughter in the
homestead precincts. Danny offered to bring Norah Butler, and was rebuked
for thoughtlessness, for the Butlers were recovering from measles. So
Doogoolook was despatched with a note to Della.

A pet wallaroo that Robert had brought in his pocket some months since,
hopped in and sat beside the bed, his little forepaws placed on the
coverlet of his dead clansmen. Johanna caressed the soft head. "Another
of me outlandish adoptions." Her thoughts reverted to Maeve. "Poor lost
thing, what has she to look to but meself?"

Johanna arose and went about her duties, but consolation was absent from
the daily brew. She was never now, it seemed, to make any restitution to
her Church. God's blame was on her. Della came home, her jaw set for
stirring encounters, but Johanna was already defeated. Della waited on
the rack with nervousness for her mother to open and was met by depressed
silence. Della was forced to speak first. "Mother, aren't you well?"

"Well as ever an old woman can be who has nothing further to live for."

"I hope you are not upset because I'm going to marry Mr Edward Angus.
He's some years younger than I am, but Mother..."

"'Tis no concern of mine what age Mr Edward Angus is."

"But Mother, please try to understand."

"What is there to understand? Ye have the right to do as ye like at ye'r
time of life. It is not as if ye were young and likely to improve in
sinse."

Della tried conciliation, but her mother balked her by calling to Maeve
about the turkeys, and in the weeks that followed, remained impervious to
persuasion or attack. "'Tis of no interest to me to discuss ye'r affairs.
I have plinty to consider in me own," she would say icily, neither
impolite nor sulky, but impenetrable.

Della would lie awake furiously resenting her mother's attitude, which
she felt was deliberately cruel. Johanna too, lay awake, in a life
denuded of purpose or nourishing emotions, and she could not attain peace
because denied the ritual of her special creed.

William, who was at Bewuck, paid a Sunday visit to Norah to report.
"There's no sense in calling attention to the bad match by this dust-up.
Ned is a steady chap; doesn't even get drunk. He can't be worse-off than
old Jimmy Fullwood, and his family stick to him in spite of Bella
Rafferty and a big tribe of Raffertys in the district."

Stewart Butler liked Ned, and commented, "With George and Susan married
to Urquharts, the family is going up, and that is what counts. You can't
blame Della for thinking anything better than being an old maid."

"It's terrible at home," William told Norah. "Like a death that doesn't
get buried. Why don't you invite Della here?"

Norah sent a note by him.

A day later Della said, "I am going to Norah. I'll stay there till I am
married."

"Please ye'rself," said Johanna.

Della said to William, "Mother is so strange, I don't know how to act,
but I'm entitled to some things."

"Yes, of course. Ma will come round. Don't make matters worse by saying
anything to regret. She's getting old, and had such ambitions."

Johanna ignored Della's preparations, and when she came to say good-bye,
merely murmured "good afternoon!" and walked into her room. She could not
give way graciously, and her intransigence was making her ill.

Danny's attitude served him better. "Sure, Della, I wish you well. I'll
be up to make your garden; and I'll go gather fowls too. Do your best if
your mother holds out the olive branch. She's feeling worse than you are
over this. She started on too high a rung, and now, God help her, she
can't climb down. Sure, I've always found it easier to cut the tail off
pride than to go to bed with it and be strangled."

Margaret supported Della, even to her property rights. Margaret was so
happy in finding romance, when she had put the possibility from her, that
she blossomed generously that year, with little thought of self.

"None of us has pleased poor old Ma in our marriages," remarked Robert.
"Norah did the best. Harry must make an alliance with this Princess of
the Blood to pull things up."

Della was married from Norah's and rode to Burrabinga on her own
Nullah-Mundoey, known as Fairy, whose proud foal followed her all the
way, companioned by a colt of the pack-mare. That was four horses Della
had for a beginning.

Ned's home, to be known as "Homehurst", was going up on a selection
farther down the river. Della was to stay with Margaret until it was
ready. Danny with a hen on his pommel, his pockets full of chicks, and a
renewed zest in pioneering arrived to "tigrinize" in the gardens. He
prepared the deep clean earth for potatoes--those efficient pioneers, who
tamed to friability the most resistant clay. He procured from Robert's
stable a bag of albinos with blue eyes and long white hair. "Sure,
they're a trifle far gone," he observed. "They'll mostly be stags, but
they deserve a chance to fructify."

He was invigorated in mind and body by the solitude amid the stately
boles of the gums, resembling marble pillars. Sunbeams fell like
searchlights through the roofs of sickle leaves on to the bracken and
aromatic shrubs below. Magpies, black and white cockatoos, gang-gangs,
tits, kookaburras, honey-eaters, wood-peckers, thrushes and countless
other friends were with him all the day, as they had been over forty
years earlier when Bewuck had been equally virgin. Across the river the
lyre-tails flashed in the openings as they played hide-and-seek with
their families, or paused to reproduce the sound of his axe. 'When first
at Burrabinga he had been sure that some man had been near at hand, but
one man, creeping quietly while the other worked had traced the sounds to
the mimicry of Menura. Mimicry by pet magpies and other birds was an
amusing parody, that of the lyre-birds a spell-binding recital. On misty
winter mornings when all was damp and dripping, and fragrant as
imagination with the sharp sweet tang of the dead leaves, when other
creatures were still, then the lyre-bird's notes rang full and clear
through the eucalypt aisles,

The swift water was to Delacy a companionable voice from unpeopled
eternities. As he visualized the thronging generations to be, he pondered
on the productivity of seed--animal and vegetable. Posterity of his own
was a bulwark to set against the ephemerality of the separate life span.
Satisfaction that Della still had time to perpetuate him outweighed the
lack of property in the match: and he had never detected anything amiss
with Ned's principles.



CHAPTER XXXI


At the time of his marriage to Susan Angus, Donald Urquhart removed to
the Riverine. Tom Angus was tea-planting in India. George and Janet held
Birrabee. Ned and Della were at Homehurst, where Danny's garden
flourished free from weeds and pests. All were behaving in a way becoming
to an empty continent where population was in demand.

Johanna was impatient for Robert's son, and to ensure his safe passage,
all the voluntary man power available in addition to what the Delacys
could afford, worked in a bee cutting a gradient around the most dizzying
pinch so that Margaret could come out by vehicle.

With several stout fellows to help, Robert could now drive out. Down the
precipices the wagonette was steadied by a tree on the axle; around
sidelings, men acting tug-of-war on ropes prevented a capsize. When
climbing the pinches extra horses were adjured with whip and shout to do
their utmost. To have walked might have been easier to Margaret in
places, but it was "all in the moind", and the mind of the incipient
nation was liberated from trudging on foot.

At dinner time the horses had a respite while Margaret was enthroned on
rugs on a log. Fannie, her little maid, sat near. Appetites were
unrivalled. It was a pleasant and distinguished occasion for all
concerned. Parrots flashed by like flowers. Dozens of other species
warbled or called. Lyre-birds escorted them all the way. The dogs
disturbed hoppers of numerous clans that whirled around the hillside amid
the tree-ferns and shrubs. The boles of the eucalypts pillared a
far-reaching, echoing world, holy with emptiness.

Margaret reached Bewuck where she was made to sit down more than she
enjoyed, with her feet on a hassock, and the men modulated their voices
sentimentally when they addressed her.

When the child came, two and a half years after her marriage, it was
nothing but a girl, a small object with black fuzz on her top. "All that
time waiting and ye could have put it in a milk jug," complained Johanna,
disappointed.

Boys were the fashion. Margaret had missed her chance of doing a
spectacular thing for the family. And there was that streel of a Bella
Rafferty with four strapping boys. They must have been showing the breed
of Bella's unknown father, the men ribaldly declared. This was
discouraging to the strait-laced women as it seemed that virtue had
little to do with virtuosity in motherhood.

Della's turn came. "Hurrying against time," chuckled William. He was
regarded as a confirmed bachelor and was an interested and amused
onlooker.

Bella offered to come to Homehurst to officiate, and Margaret invited
Della to Burrabinga, but in view of the fuss made of Mrs Robert, Mrs
Edward would not hide her epic in her own back yard. She invited herself
to Norah's, as a demonstration to her mother--taking a woman not her own
flesh and blood to Bewuck, and ignoring her own! And all their grinning
and criticism of an old maid married to a boy! Della's fighting spirit
was up to show what a lucky pioneer could do, and all that swagger.

She took care of her home and husband until within six weeks of her time.
Then she set out on a side-saddle, and her horse heaved and struggled
under her all day like a canoe in rapids through snow which lay as deep
as the girths as far as Birrabee. She was bruised and fatigued, but
cheerful, as people are when making a grand gesture. Her next stage was
Keebah. Her appearance so shocked gallant old Urquhart that he drove her
in his dogcart to meet Stewart, who took her to New Glenties where she
arrived in high spirits.

Eleven months from her marriage day she was delivered of a boy! She wrote
to her mother--it was a command--to come and see her _grandson_!

The carriage was beyond repair, the dogcart away at the blacksmith's, so
William went a mucker and bought a double-seated buggy to take his
parents to see his nephew.

They brought him and his mother back to Bewuck with them. No reference
was made to the past, but Johanna heaped gifts and indulgences upon Della
and her grandson. She put a new sovereign in each of the child's fat
paws, whereas Margaret's girl had received but one. Della knew that it
was a complete reconciliation and was happy.

In the confidence of her newly established state she sent to Robert to
bring his wagonette. Robert, without demur, came as far as The Plains.
This far Della was driven at her order by William, with her father to
hold the horses while William opened sliprails or gates. Nothing could
have been too high for Della in her victory.

She called the son Daniel Cooley, which delighted the grandparents. Ned
simply laughed his deep bass laugh in his deep brown beard without
advancing his own parents' rights in the case. He was the most agreeable
man in the world.

There was rivalry for the next goal, and Margaret again produced a
daughter. This time she dispensed with flourish, and went to one of her
sisters. Della came only to Birrabee and with Janet for nurse, produced
twins, a boy and a girl, each as big as Margaret's one. "What about an
old maid now?" she demanded, a little delirious with such success, at the
age of forty-two.

"Making the most of her chances before closing time," chuckled Danny.

William laughed until the tears had to be wiped from his eyes. The whole
family laughed, none more generously than Margaret, whose sense of humour
carried her unrancorously through the comedy.

Danny and William rode up to see the children.

"What can you do about this eclipse?" Danny asked Margaret, but with a
twinkle.


All Harry's flames had been divinities to him, but Josephine Battle, whom
he had courted for years, was a topnotcher in the class. Hennessy summed
up the three men, "Robert is a divvil for women, and William is so afraid
of thim that, begor, he must be sick to know what they could do to him
wid the chance; but Harry is the owld man over again. He is as aisy wid
an owld trull, and with a young wan too, be japers, as he is with the
most innocent and schwell young gurrl in the counthry. He is that
innocent himself that he thinks every one the same."

The whole connection was delighted when Harry went across the watershed
to bring his princess home. They were surprised that the least of the
Delacys had done so well for himself, but princesses need courtiers, and
a disposition deficient in spiritual emotion found stimulation in Harry's
poetic adoration.

A carpenter was engaged upon a house across the river from Robert. Danny
was as busy as a wombat, and as much in the earth, making a garden for
Margaret on her own side of the Burrabinga. The other had sometimes been
inaccessible. A footbridge attached to the eurabbi trees was to ensure
communication during floods. Wong paid rich tributes and grew mellow and
noisy. He saw that it was customary for Europeans to imbibe much alcohol
at weddings, births, funerals and miscellaneous celebrations, and also
without festival, obviously for practice. To become drunk was productive
of amusement and admiration among men, though the women pricked at them
like gnats and tried to spoil sport, even as the women in his own
country.

The "front room" of the new house was a source of pride. In it reposed
the set of horsehair chairs, the scroll-headed couch and a pedestal
dining-table, which William had sanctioned, and which Harry and Ned had
brought by bullock dray. Teams had superseded the valiant pack-horses. To
take loading up and down the passes required intrepidity from men and
bullocks--in roadless days. Bullocks were undefeatable. Straight up the
pinches they strained, all hands energetic as offsiders, execrating,
flaying, belabouring, jabbing to ensure a simultaneous heave, inch by
inch, until men and beasts were winded. Descending the precipices, the
polers, staked down by the pole, bellowed in the agony of holding the
load. Complaining but unrebellious, maddened but staunch, until their
tongues lolled and the breath was crushed out of them, they held until
time after time all hands had to rush to their release. Freed they lay
down and chewed their cud, without rancour they came at call to submit
their raw swollen necks to a renewal of the ordeal and again leant to
haul with hearts that could not be soured or broken. In awkward places
the down-driven weight of the clumsy yokes and bows forced them to toil
for yards on their knees--penance enough to buy the district a place in
Paradise, if vicarious expiation is ever efficacious. There are peoples
with sacred cows; Australians could fittingly honour the memory of
working bullocks.

It might have been less arduous in places to hang the merchandise on
poles, but only the peasant laboured as a beast, forcing his ox or his
wife to similar toil. The Australian, whether clerk or yokel, had taken
the English county gentleman as his pattern and lifted his wife out of
the furrow for ever: and though using beasts in some places was an
incredible feat, it was accomplished with the swagger brewed by such
feats and grew into the psychology of a people to blossom later in daring
exploits in South Africa or on Gallipoli.

The Delacy bullocks had two trips on the bride's behalf, the second to
her maiden home, and this one involved the traversing of country where no
vehicle had previously gone. Every man was proud of the chief article
imported, Josephine Delacy's piano. It established Burrabinga's social
standing. Pianos were still rare. Norah Butler had not long had one. Even
the bullocks had gained prestige through hauling the piano. Station
bullocks in any case were the aristocrats of the trade and often reached
great size and an honoured old age in flowery ways of peace unacquainted
with the hardships of the carriers, who lived in perpetual hell: and on
the day that Danny arrived to pay his respects to his new daughter
in-law, the unsmashable dray was gathering rust tinder the fairy shawl of
a wattle while the bullocks luxuriated in the cow paddock, their
intermittent trials forgotten.

Margaret warned Josephine, "You'll need to get used to old Mr Delacy. His
wooden leg makes him odd."

The Burrabinga dogs hullahaloed the Bewuck dogs all across the flats, and
Father was reported to be at the stables. Josephine and Robert, Della and
Ned, as well as several remittance men as guests, were seated at dinner
when Danny could be heard admonishing the dogs, and something else, as he
stumped along the veranda with Harry in attendance. Josephine rose to
meet a small figure in a soiled linen duster. His weather-beaten cabbage
tree was buckled about his formidable pipe. Under one arm he had a
peacock and under the other that gentleman's wife.

"Take the faymale, I'll be obleeged," he said to Margaret. He was then
free to display the tail of the cock to Josephine. "Sure, me dear, I'm
proud to welcome you as a mimber of me family. I've brought this beast as
a fitting creature to celebrate such an evint. Sure, I could lepp over
your head this moment with pride."

"If you are not careful, the bird will fly over your own head," said
Robert.

Consternation was on the features of his sister-in-law. She was
conventional, a twin soul of Johanna's in her desire for the elegancies
of life, and her starched standards were more constricting than standards
can be in the liberating Celtic temperament.

This the great man! That horrible Irish brogue!

Josephine had taken from the air the English notion that the Irish accent
was socially beyond the pale, and came from a home where gentility and
probity were equal. She concluded that Danny was intoxicated, and awaited
the righting of, what was to her, a vulgar situation, but Harry's face
was beaming. He had pictured peafowls as connected with palaces and
princesses, and here was Father with one under each arm for the bride!

While Harry hung on further pronouncements, Margaret retrieved an awkward
moment. "Josephine is so overcome that she does not know what to say. The
peacock makes me feel like a fairy tale."

"He is magnificent, Father. How did you carry him over the mountain
without a feather spoiled?" Robert sent Fannie, now quite sizable, to
bring the rouseabout.

Josephine was terrified that the old man would kiss her, but he kissed no
one but Johanna, and her only when he was departing on a journey. As
lovers the Delacys were amateurs.

The rouseabout and Harry went to place the birds in safety in the salt
room. Danny was free to make his speech. He removed his hat and the
leaves fluttered about his shoulders like good wishes.

"The paycock to my moind is the most imperial of birds. 'Tis not only his
tail that he spreads around him as the rainbow, but 'tis the carriage of
his head with the mantle and crown upon it. And by that I consider him a
proper gift of welcome to make to wan whom me and me family regard as a
princess. Sure, I've brought a few other things as well, but this is the
most advinturous. Me woife has sint you some token of her welcome, and
she hopes ere another week has gone you will grace Bewuck by your
presence."

Margaret had not been invited to Bewuck until she was to have a child.
Josephine's evident distaste and embarrassment registered against her
with Robert. There was resentment as well as jealousy and satire in his
aside to her. "It must be an ordeal to have a morganatic bridegroom."
(This had been Margaret's private comment earlier.) "Come Father, you
need a wash," he said aloud. "Fannie, bring Mr Delacy my coat."

"Be the poipers, the birds have christened me! I'll disappear," said
Danny, ignominiously stopped in mid-flight.

He reappeared with his mop of black silk--still without silver
threads--combed from his noble forehead and cut in a pudding-basin crop.
Robert's coat made his father a comical figure, but the torrent of
welcome continued until it tailed off into political disquisition.

Later the whole family went to the new house. Billy, who had been a kid
at Margaret's inception, was now a patriarchal and odorous personality. A
king of Billies, he would send his family up a leaning tree and stand at
the foot to protect them from dingoes. He mounted a pulpit of rocks and
expectorated his defiance of all and sundry. Margaret bad long coveted
his hide for her floor, but Danny demurred, "Sure, 'twould be ungrateful
to kill wan who has more against the dingoes than we have."

Danny asked the owner of the piano if she could sing "Those Evening
Bells", and "I'm Sitting on the Stile". During the exhibition of her
repertory he said, "Oh, moi, be all the poipers, Johanna will be
pleased."

It was glorious to report to her, "You never saw a finer prospect than
Margaret and Robert, and Harry and Josephine."

"Sure, I hope Josephine's first is a boy."

"Wan is no use without the other. Those women are no dolls, but can take
their place in opening up the country for future generations."

"A grave will be opened-up for ye and me before long, Danny boy."

"There's no circumventing that, but we can't sit on our hunkers like the
fox waiting for the time to arrive; but when you contemplate, why do we
tigrinize so, when it all ends in a bottle of smoke?

"Circumspection can make it ind in a fat banking account"

"But all the circumspection in the universe cannot take the banking
account away with you, me brave Johanna."



CHAPTER XXXII


Josephine distinguished herself by producing a son at the end of her
first year.

"A pity it's only a morganatic union," Robert sarcastically
observed, but had too much style to omit due respect to his
sister-in-law, and journeyed with Danny and William to the Battles
station to see his nephew. Though jealous of Josephine as likely to
eclipse Margaret, Robert prized any connection worthy of his family. Such
a judge of women made no mistake about Harry's wife.

William brought back glowing accounts of the skill of the housekeeping,
the refinement, and order at what Robert derided as "Battle Abbey".
Danny was eager that William too should marry a daughter of this house.
The same idea invaded William. Here at last was perfection in a nest of
daughters who would never be guilty of "looseness".

Danny reported, "The dayvil a finer child I never did see--as good as wan
of those first wans of yours, Johanna; and the white skin of him, and big
eyes. A robe on him to the floor. He's that extraordinarily refined he
ought to have been a female."

"He ought not to be anny such thing! William shall take the buggy and
bring Josephine down to show the district as soon as possible."

"Sure, Mrs Harry's brother is carrying him home on the pommel, and
Elizabeth Battle,"--Danny winked behind William's back--"is coming to aid
Mrs Harry till she gets strong...Moi, oh, moi! Before long the boy will
be astride one of the finest Nullah-Mundoeys in the world. I must go pick
a promising foal."

Johanna produced the runs jar. She even took a sip herself, and summoned
Hannon.

Harry wished to name the child Daniel. Danny suggested Brian, but a name
so vulgarly Irish was abhorrent to the Battles. Harry then constructed
Johan from Johanna. "Sure, me brave Johanna, it is a fine romantic
thought, and you deserve it," said Danny.

The boy's second name was Darcy, which slept until tile old Delacys
should have passed. "I'll call him 'baby' as long as I can," thought
Josephine.

When Josephine came to Bewuck, it was Robert who drove ha. "I cannot risk
the heir-apparent's neck," he said. His brothers always deferred to
Robert in this, as in business. Josephine felt safe only when he handled
the reins. She admired his efficiency and authority, though she could
never be sure whether he was humorous or sarcastic about the
"heir-apparent". Elizabeth accompanied her. Robert brought Margaret out
also, and her maid. He had an instinct for advertisement and would not
hide his wife in the valley while Josephine in her glory, with her son
and her sister, was being peddled around Johanna's radius.

Johanna had her arms open for both Margaret and Josephine, but Robert
said he had business in the Township, and put up at Hennessy's with
enough dash to fill the stable yard, and Euphemia's former suite, and
overflow to enliven the main street. William's pair was outclassed by
Robert's four big greys and the three unrivalled kangaroo dogs privileged
to decorate his progress.

The dressmaker was called upon to outdo Josephine and it took all
Margaret's height and personality to dignify her courageous attempts.
Robert was elated by the result. Margaret would have been willing to
concede the palm to Josephine and retreat to Burrabinga. "Let her have
her day," she would say with a wan smile to Robert's urging. "Mine is
probably coming. I feel sick enough for triplets--all boys!"

Johanna was shocked that Josephine had no maid to wait upon her, and set
about training an unbroken "gurrl" into a "surrvant" and nurse-maid. One
maid, aged five, had been discarded by Josephine, as such an infant only
added to her duties. Some philanthropist had sought to find the child a
berth because her mother was dead and her father the usual drunkard.

Never had the little lady at Bewuck been so proud, so near to happiness
as in the acquisition of Josephine. She revelled in the young woman's
beauty, her accomplishments, her family, her competence. Many women were
as resourceful as Josephine, but the style of all her work set her apart
and'earned her the resentment of those who had to compete with her. It is
difficult for superiority to be forgiven by those cribbed with it in a
small community. Josephine was never rough-and-ready. She was always
ladylike in deportment, even when building the hen house, or making her
own furniture, which she could do with the skill of a carpenter, and in a
high collar and steel-slatted corsets, without disarranging her long
skirts. Her dresses inside and out had the finish of a fashion-plate,
which she could reproduce without the aid of a model, no matter how
intricate and elaborate the design.

Johanna commanded a rally at New Glenties because of Norah's piano.
Neither Josephine nor Elizabeth had any more music than a budgerigar, but
Johanna was not educated to discover this. They had been stiffly
governessed and executed their repertory with precision, not a note
missing in the "pieces", not more than two semi-tones flat in the
ditties.

Johanna's pride and joy were touching. Her eyes sparkled as she dandled
Johan Darcy while the young ladies rendered, "Fly Away, Pretty Moth";
"Jeanette and Jeanot"; "What are the Wild Waves Saying?" (duet); "By the
Sad Sea Waves"; and "Annie Laurie".

Stewart shut his eyes and yammered, "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still",
and "Juanita"; two songs with which he had courted Norah, as well as
"Silver Threads Among the Gold", with which he still flattered her. Old
Butler, with his sweet tenor, sang "The Harp that Once"; "Believe Me If
All"; "Oft in the Stilly Night"; "The Minstrel Boy"; "The Dear Little
Shamrock"; and in response to Danny's importunities, repeated "Those
Evening Bells" and "The Irish Emigrant" until he was hoarse. "Just Before
the Battle"; "Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching"; "The Gipsy's
Warning"; "Sweet Belle Mahone"; and "I Wandered To-day to the Hill,
Maggie"; were sung in chorus by the company while the soloists recovered
their breath.

Elizabeth touched all hearts with:


Sweet dreamland faces, passing to and fro,
Bring back to memory days of long ago.


And as an encore:


Do you remember the paths where we met,
Long, long ago, long ago?
Ah, yes, you told me you ne'er would forget,
Long, long ago, long ago!


The frail plaintive voice and tender sentiments drew relieving tears from
souls nostalgic for the scenes of youth. The refrains escaped into the
silver night, a minor chord to modulate the coarse maledictions lingering
from chain-gang days, the reverberating laughter of aborigines, of birds,
and of invading Europeans of the pioneering century--motifs awaiting
release by indigenous genius.

Stewart was tactless in his admiration of Josephine. "Harry has found a
real lady. It's a mystery to me how he collared her."

"Huh!" said Norah, indignantly, "She was never away to be educated in
Sydney like Della and I."

"Lot of good Della's education is, buried at Burrabinga."

"Isn't Josephine buried there too, and glad to by married to my brother!
And didn't Della refuse yours?"

Stewart stupidly reiterated his admiration to Robert, who was cynical.
"You must remember to walk backwards from her or the marriage may be
annulled."

Stewart and Johanna were able to revel together about the new connection.
"Sure, Stewart, do all ye can to push on a match between William and the
sister. Look at them now; does she look interested, do ye thinks"

Elizabeth, a fragrant flowerlike presence, sat on a couch with William,
who was as stiff as a sergeant in mufti at a court martial.

Danny adjured Josephine. "Sure, where would you find a finer young man
than me son for your sister?"

"I'm not a match-maker."

"But you can urge it on."

Josephine knew her sister's tastes and her own--now. William had whittled
away his lesson time by putting on the clock and possuming, and Elizabeth
demanded education as a corollary of gentlemanliness. For her, no
homespun worth could outweigh lack of polish in the intimacy of marriage.

Harry and his mother had the idea that both families should go to Sydney
on a sight-seeing trip to provide general entertainment and foster
romance.

The discomforts of the expedition remained in the memories of Mrs Robert
and Mrs Harry for over half a century, the one through the nausea she
suffered, the other because her infant would not stay with a nurse, and
waked up and shrieked at every entertainment into which she smuggled him.
Also the hotel was infested, and awful to Josephine, whose family not
only were in the piano class but among the more select who kept insects
out of their beds, a distinction unachieved by many genealogically
arrogant families a generation later.

Mrs Robert envied Della who had remained at Burrabinga in charge of
Margaret's children as well as her own. Della had retired on her laurels
of two sons and a daughter and would not risk their health "to flash
about the country in fine clothes". "It's a mere act of God to give birth
to twins," she proclaimed, "but it takes a good mother to rear them
both." She was reacting noisily against earlier slights, and levied upon
her circle for admiration of her capability and devotion.

What William and Elizabeth got out of the holiday has been forgotten. The
supposition was that William proposed and Elizabeth declined. Johanna and
Danny were painfully disappointed that no engagement resulted from the
grand visit to Sydney. They discussed it with Robert.

"William says it's because he is not educated, but surely Robert, you are
well educated."

"Ah, but Elizabeth hasn't the opportunity to marry me, or she would
probably rush it."

"Josephine married Harry, and he had no more education than William,"
persisted Danny.

"But Harry, most likely, deafened her by spouting enough poetry and
history for a professor. William has always pooh-poohed that stuff."

"When it comes to family," said Johanna haughtily, "who annywhere can
compete with me own? The Cooleys came from Kings and were beacons of
culture when the English were paddling about in the woods living on
acorns with the wild boars. 'With us, princesses and scholars were
plentiful and equally honoured."

"'Tis so, me brave Johanna, and out here whin we had a princess from a
people as old as the Irish--if we only knew--a black princess given to
us--what honour could have been higher and didn't we follow the swell
proclivities of all those in the saddle by making a servant of her and
letting her milk the cows and..."

William was in no humour for his father's two-edged philosophy. "Oh, that
old talk!" he grumbled. "It's a drawback to be Irish."

This was hard on Johanna's pride, but she did not give in. "Elizabeth
will come round by and by," she said.

William did not feel that way. The rebuff he had received, though gentle,
hurt him deeply and hardened his bachelor shell.

"The day will come when she'll regret she did not marry William," Johanna
would repeat.

Maybe it did. Elizabeth shortly afterwards married a man with slightly
more syntax, but none of William's kindness, who neglected her. She died
four years later, and her husband remarried within the year.


The Delacy pride had another jolt at that time.

Donald Urquhart, who married Susan Angus and went to the Riverine, was
drowned. Sandy set out to aid Susan, but when he arrived at the home,
near Wagga Wagga, found that she had gone to the town in Gippsland whence
the Anguses derived. Sandy followed and called at the police station for
directions. The Sergeant knew no one of the name of Angus, but the
recently arrived widow was with her mother, a Mrs Farmer. Sandy concluded
that Mrs Farmer had remarried.

"Not that I know of," said the Sergeant. Asked why her family should go
by the name of Angus, the police officer supposed that they had dropped
their own when they went across the birder while the old man was doing
his term for robbery under arms.

Investigation proved the truth of this. Urquhart's first grandson of the
name! And Janet too, the wife of George Angus! Urquhart came near to
violence upon his wife when she said placidly, "The thing can't be
undone. The less noise about it the better. They are better than those
with model parents."

"By God, woman, it's the breed!"

"Good men have bad sons. This is the other way about."

Sandy was impelled to share his grief with his old mate, Delacy, and set
out with Janet, also Jean who was still single. Bounding across the
plains in a light buggy in which the passengers sat back to back, Jean
was thrown out, had her arm broken and arrived at Bewuck in pain.

At daylight next day Johanna and Janet took her to the doctor in the
Township. William drove them in his own vehicle. Janet and Johanna had an
enjoyable reunion and Maeve and Mrs Hannon were left in charge of Danny
and Sandy. The women remained overnight in the Township and during the
evening of their absence Sandy divulged the scandal.

"By damn! Be the poipers!" The loosing of these oaths at intervals
indicated Danny's emotion. "We who set such store on principle, to be
married in with a robber who was doing time! Isn't that life all over for
you?

"I don't know what steps to take," said Sandy.

"You can't take anny steps but to keep it from the women, your Janet and
my Della, and above all Johanna, me wife. I'm disturbed to think how she
would take it. I kept the secret tight about young Janet and it was blown
out when she married,"

"It cannot be kept dark when old Farmer is out."

"If he'd take the name of Angus and keep quiet, the bit it would take to
keep him would be neither here nor there."

"He's too much of an out-and-outer for that."

"Then we must face it with what composure we can assume. Isn't there a
convict in nearly every family we know, but our own, and them mostly
better than the rags of free men that succeeded them? Sure, Sandy,
there's going to be a great levelling down of the consequential upstarts
in this Colony, and an eruption from below of the bolder spirits. In
another fifty years the sons of horse thieves may be slimy with
rayspictability, and the rayspictable rayversed. Isn't it better to be
coming up from a felon than going down to wan? Sure, there should be no
brand put on the son for the father's crime. Otherwise, in logic, he'd be
forced to be dishonest because his parents were, and the implications of
that don't stand pondering upon, Sandy. And by damn! I can't help the
situation annyway, no matter what disquisitions arise in me."

As the two old mates gathered comfort and whisky, Danny was ready to
consider a son-in-law whose father was in jail an acquisition. "Why,"
demanded he, "should I expect the son of a bad man to stay clear of
marrying into my family more than another? Put it to logic, Sandy. And
sure, too often I've been made into a fool by me bull's nest exploding on
me with Robert, to worry about this wan."

Sandy craved to kill somebody--anybody would do--to relieve his angry
humiliation. Janet foolishly had left her holiday ration of good Scotch,
and Jane Hannon and Maeve had no control over the old gentlemen. Danny
feloniously ordered Doogoolook to track Johanna's cache, and with wide
voiceless grins he soon produced the demijohn.

"Sure, we've enough to stiffen an army, or our own old bulls. We'd better
go to the kitchen, where we can mix a sup of hot water with it. By damnl
e'll drink the jail bird to consternation."

Doogoolook was served with a nobbler of each brand, which sent him on a
walk-about for the night, but what the inarticulate exile found in the
way of company, none knew. The clamorous silence may for him have been
peopled with obvious magic which scientists will not unravel for another
cycle.

Danny could have been heard to exclaim, "Sure, I'm so overjoyed by this
reunion, without anny interference whatever, that I could lepp over your
head in wan lepp."

"I'm a wee bit stiff for that, mesel'."

"That's mortal curious. You would think I would not be so soople as I was
with two legs, but lepp--why man alive, lepp, sure, I could lepp over the
moon this mortal minute!"

"That grog must be ower powerful," said Sandy, who could carry more at
the beginning, but grew poisonous as the debauch ripened. "'Tis not good
to mix drinks, Sandy."

"Hoots! We'll mix drinks and whatever else we dom well please in this gey
nicht of freedom from those tyrannizing besoms, though I'm no denying
that Janet is good in her way."

An eavesdropper could have heard them swimming the Yack andandah in
'fifty-two and bottoming their shicers at Bendigo or Mount Alexander, and
burying the digger murdered by the bushrangers. They went further back to
the burning of Burrabinga hue-homestead when Danny had returned to
desolation and tragedy.

"Sure, Sandy, we're the greatest pioneers, bar none. Anny man who thinks
he surpasses us, 'tis calumny. Those fellows on The Plains had much clear
country and no precipices to be climbed, and as manny assigned men as
they could employ, and money, and a mort of other advantages. A lady
could pioneer by watching others put their hacks into it. But those that
did are the rale men, and by damn, we're them! Those Camerons and the
like only overlooked while the poor dayvils in chains were the rale
pioneers--sure, there ought to be statues of them erected."

"It would never do to let the working man get above hissel' or the Colony
might as well be abandoned."

That was a dangerous lead to the great open sore that Angus, Senior, was
a felon. At this hour Sandy "had enough drink taken" to be downright
nasty, while Danny was philosophical beyond even lunacy's licence.

"Sandy, acushla, the old mate of me great days of long ago, what does it
matter? Do you know who your great-great-grandfather was, and who the
dayvil cares? And these would-be dukes on The Plains--who are fine people
aside from their little assumptions of gentility--in the old country
would not have the pedigree of anny buckeen in the bohreen--sure, that's
nearly poetry I'm wasting on you. Wait till the next generation scatters
what we are gathering. All the slip-rails are down, and they'll be all
boxed and never drafted, and you and me will have carried our hides to
the tanyard--and carried them like men. Sure, we have good hides to
carry. There's never a feather of use in worrying about old Angus alias
Farmer. Let the tail go with the hide. Sure, my breed is so good that I
can affoord to purify the Anguses. No blame to them that they want to
rise.

"Maybe in less than a hundred years nothing will matter. In the
immeasurable immensity of space, Sandy, 'tis beyond the furthest limits
of moind to compute, will they know 'twas you and me who first civilized
the Murrumbidgee? Even then you had others before you, and before me was
the poor dayvil whose wife and child fell in the river. They say they cry
there still, and though I'm not for encouraging such foolish notions, yet
often I think maybe, that those who believe in ghosts have a case. What
proof have we, Sandy, that they have not, and what does it matter when
'twill all be the same in a hundred years? And a hundred years is but the
twinkling of an eye. And the bunyip and the banshee, sure they exist,
Sandy, to them that can see and hear them. It's all in the moind. There
are only time and the wind and space to last for ever. Time and space are
the same thing in different dimensions. If our faculties were fully
developed, we could maybe hear in the wind all that wint on here when
there were cities like Babylon and Tyre. Think of the immensity of
oblivion that enwraps this continent regarding what wint on in times when
ancient Asia was young, and youthful Europe was a wilderness."

Urquhart had been as silent as an old bison, and the glare in his eye was
that of a bison about to charge. Over-proof Jamaica on top of potent
Scotch was working in him. He burst into a sullen roar. "You are
havering, Daniel Delacy; blethering about nothing, like an auld
apple-wife selling pears. My heid is reeling with the clack of your
tongue like the clapper of a bell in your empty skull. It is what happens
now that matters. If I did something because it would not matter in a
hundred years, I'd be as big a fule as you are, which the Lord forbid. I,
Alexander Urquhart of Aberdeenshire, and now on the Murrumbidgee, I do
not tamely submit to my bluid being mingled with that of a felon."

"But what can you do about your fine blood, Sandy, avic? You cannot
extract it. Sure, a lot of pleasure is quinched with age, but a lot of
sting is also flattened..."

"You're a fule, Daniel Delacy, a blethering fule!"

"Sure, you are proclaiming it like a blast of wind from Monaro in me
face. You'd talk the teeth out of a saw yourself, and as for a fool..."
Danny laughed in alcoholic glee. He arose with the intention of slapping
Sandy on the back, but he sat with a whack on the floor. "Sandy, give me
a hand. I'm not so soople as when I broke it in the Yackandandah. 'Sure,
I'm Denny Blake from County Clare, and ready at command to sing a song in
praises, of me own dear native land..."

Sandy fell upon his mate and they rolled together until Danny reached the
leg of the table and went up by that, followed by Sandy. When they were
reseated Sandy began to sing:


Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie!


"_Gory bed or victorie_, Danny Delacy, there's a model for you!"

"You're looking for ructions, Sandy."

"You're a fule, a dom' fule, Danny. Let the tail go with the hide, ye
blether, but the foul tail is taking the hide."

"What can you do to stop it, Sandy, asthore?"

"Do!" he yelled, infuriated by Danny's laughter. "I'll show you what I
can do."

"You can't show me that a few years will not put a flattener on the
praytintious and heave up the under-dogs like a volcano."

Sandy brandished a tomahawk from the dresser while Danny watched with the
pleasure of a child. Near at hand the retired cradle was full of eggs
awaiting Johanna's housewifery. With a clansman's screech Sandy jumped
straight into them for the ease their scrunching gave his drink-inflamed
nerves. His Yackandandah mate roared a couplet of "The wearin' of the
Green", and cried "Sool him, boy, sool him!" and nearly choked with
laughter to see Sandy's trousers lepping so gaily in the cause of
scrambled eggs. He longed to assist but to rise was beyond him.

"Sure, you have plinty for lashings of pancakes, Sandy Mavourneen."

"I'd dance on Farmer like this," he bellowed with a stanza of "The
Campbells are Coming". "That is how I'd show my manhood!"

"I'm destroyed with amusement," gasped Danny. "But still and all, 'tis
only the eggs that are killed. To slap it at him like that won't hurt
Farmer, nor make his children unmarried to ours, nor put the
grand-children back where they came from. And 'tis ungintlemanly waste of
the hins' labour."

At this, Sandy leapt right out of the box with the eggs dripping from
him. Danny thought his last moment had come, but met the brandished axe
as steadily as he met a charging bull, and the blow fell on the table
that was Johanna's pride. It had the flaunting elegancy of varnished legs
and a top of white pine when kitchen tables were of hardwood slabs.

This deed sobered Danny and startled Sandy. "Begor, you've done it now.
Sure that cannot be covered from me wife. Come get to bed! 'Tis we are to
blame for swallowing enough grog to stiffen a cannibal; and how shall we
account to Johanna and Janet for having it?"

"The besons! It is their fault for keeping it from us!"

Sandy reeled away, resentful of advice, and got into bed as he was, while
Danny found his own mattress. His pipe burned a hole in a bolster, but
the special pagan god--a male god--that broods over intoxication
smothered the conflagration in feathers.

Hannon laughed heartily at the dance, which he witnessed through a crack.
He saw that the fire was safe, took a swig of the two alcohols, and
ignored the eggs. His ageing bones were craving rest.

Rumour was that the kangaroo dogs fattened on eggs and that the family
lived on pancakes for a month, but that was drollery. Hannon did not
report what his wife said as she followed a dried eggy trail all over the
carpet of Johanna's drawing-room through to the spare-room bed. The
wallaroo robe and broken eggs; and the goose-down mattress which Johanna
had made in the tradition of Cooley Hall!

Danny was completely subdued by the charred bolster. "If you'll put as
good a face on things as possible, I'll give you a pound," he said to
Jane Hannon. "The table can't be attributed to accident, but the eggs
need not be dwelt on to anny extint. The kangaroo pups could be
mintioned, but 'tis more honest to face it." Danny resisted temptation
with a sigh.

Consciousness returned painfully to Sandy in the "ind room", in all his
clothes, even his boots, and glued to Johanna's best bedding from the
knees down. He invariably wakened in a dangerous mood after a spree, and
now flamed with rage against Janet, though in sane stretches he upheld
her, was sensitive about social mistakes and had a high sense of what was
due to the ladies.

He laved himself, put on another suit and said grandly to Jane Hannon
that he had taken some of Mr Delacy's overproof, and must have stepped in
the egg box. Profuse apologies. If Mrs Hannon would rectify the damage he
would split five pounds between her and Maeve. Mrs Hannon worked with a
will after that, and the hens cackled all day long as if conscious of
emergency. The hacked side of the table was turned to the wall, and Jane
later reported that everything but it had been restored to normal.

"What table?" asked Urquhart, and the stupid woman led him to it.

"Mrs Delacy sets such store on it, sir; I only hope she won't blame me,
sir."

Urquhart glowered in a frightening way. Craving for a "wee drappie" got
the better of him in the afternoon, but Hannon had finished all that
remained. Sandy therefore drove off in maniacal fury, hurling
imprecations at his old mate Danny, asserting that that besom of a Janet
would find the door shut in her face if she attempted to return to
Keebah; nor would he suffer the other besom's tongue about her table.


William brought the ladies home at dusk. Jean had her arm bandaged
mightily; the journey had tried her and she was grateful for William's
kindness. The baying dogs, the carrying of parcels to the house, the rich
meal awaiting, the stimulating presence of "company", and the adventure
of Jean's visit to the doctor obscured Sandy's absence for the moment.

"Has any accident happened Sandy?" Janet asked when preliminaries had
subsided.

"No accident." Danny took her aside. "Sure, Mrs Janet, he and I
celebrated a little over-much last night. You being Sandy's old mate the
same as I am meself, only on the inside of the bedroom door, know that he
can be a little cantankerous next day..."

"And he's taken the needle and gone off?"

"Dayvil a needle! He's craw sick and gone to look for a sup of whisky."

"He'd make to the nearest pub, but we did not meet him."

"He went the other way."

"I can't do anything now," said Janet calmly.

Danny clutched this straw, and the cheerful meal proceeded. A great deal
of attention was given to Jean, especially by William, who cut her food
for her. Every ear was alert for Sandy each time the dogs barked, but
they announced only possums or other marsupials invading the homestead.

Danny thought it better to inform Johanna before she found out. "Sure, me
brave Johanna, Sandy was so afraid to meet you that he has cleared out."

"Is the drink still in your senses that ye talk a double ass-load of
foolishness?"

Danny confessed about the eggs first. "They're nothing that can't be
replaced by the hins, but Sandy got a bit beyond himself and cut your
table. Whin he remimbered he was so ashamed that he took to his heels."

"And did he think he'd be ate up by me?" exclaimed Johanna with spirit.
"Since whin was I a man eater? And what was ye'r part in this, me brave
gladiator? Ye did not sit by like a son of timperance with a blue ribbon
bow on ye'r beard."

"A man is entitled to a sup or two whin meeting an old mate who saved his
life in the Yackandandah, and sure, it made me so sleepy that the pipe
singed the bolster."

Johanna gasped. "The place afire! Have ye destroyed me best things, the
workbox and the stuffed birds?"

"Not at all! 'Twas nothing. Think if the house had caught fire and I and
Sandy to have perished in the flames."

"Ah, as long as ye had really perished--the pair of ye together--I'm
thinking that Janet and I could have borne up under it very well
entirely."

Johanna could track as well as Doogoolook among her sacred elegancies and
when she found that her secret still had been raided she quickly
reconstructed the orgy. "Sure, they swam the Yackandandah and found gold
all night and were the finest pair of marvels in the universe; but I'm
distressed that poor Mr Urquhart should feel it upon him to run away, as
if from an ogre."

"He had every right to feel upset. I'll have to be taken after him as
soon as William can spare time," responded Janet, imperturbably. She knew
what had led to such an outbreak, but with superlative discretion let it
be attributed to mixed drinks.

The crisp day and the skill required to handle his pair cleared the fumes
from Urquhart's brain and he thought better of running away. Instead he
went to Queanbeyan, about fifty miles distant, and had a refresher at the
Royal, and left his horses to the groom. At dawn next morning he was
again rattling across the plains. Janet was relieved to see him and
pleased with the tiny book cabinet, the walnut table and the brocade
which he had procured as a peace offering to Johanna. Gallantry and
friendship were both served, and the mutilated table, repaired by Hannon,
still exists in one of the family storerooms, a refuge for spiders and
empty flower pots.

Jean remained at Bewuck for her arm to mend, and so quiet a maiden was
she, so esteemed was William, that he was permitted to drive her home
later unchaperoned.

Sandy, subjugated by the eggs and table outbreak, agreed to divulge
nothing of old Farmer, and in due time Mrs Farmer conveniently died and
Tom did his duty to the family by taking his father to India to end his
days respectably under the alias of Angus. The secret was nobly kept. It
became known only to some of Danny's grandchildren fifty years later,
when neither an Angus nor an Urquhart was left in the district.



CHAPTER XXXIII


Robert's children were growing healthily, as Danny observed when he went
up for the shearing. Sheep had been introduced. Danny helped to muster
with splendid yells, from the back of a Nullah Mundoey. He could still
burst through the scrub and descend sharp declivities with elan. William
was also much at Burrabinga trying to reduce the dingoes. He and Harry
were sometimes ill of cramp through long hours of sheep-washing. The
Delacys began too late to re-adjust themselves to sheep. Where horses
inspired swagger, sheep compelled a poking and slogging which irked the
reckless caballeros. The paradox of mounted infantry was beyond them.

Surveyors had been busy for a decade. Much of the mountain country was
now leased from the Crown. The rich squatters from Riverina and farther
north built summer homes there. The Mesdames Delacy were hostesses to any
amount of the best society, and were general favourites. They were
smartly dressed and well mounted, had well-stocked gardens, and the
social amenities introduced by Josephine were observed in their homes.

Danny had a gardening uniform of white moleskin with pieces of soogee
bagging tacked on the trousers. He still wore leaves in his hat and a fly
veil. Mrs Robert and Mrs Harry, both conventional, were deprecatory of
the old man's eccentricities.

"If only he would keep in the background," would murmur one or the other,
embarrassed to have him daubed with chocolate clay bursting upon the
cream of the squattocracy. Danny found more entertainment in the
foreground, and his guests enjoyed him. His opinions on horse breeding
were respected; he was known to speak the truth even in a horse deal, and
that set him apart.

The children grew to need tutors. A supply of remittance men was still to
be found at the hotels in the township, some of whom had been sent out
for unalloyed uselessness, others because to this they added imbibing.
Among them were charming and expensively educated gentlemen with
documented family trees, and as Burrabinga was celebrated for its
inaccessibility to pubs, the Delacys could pick and choose.

Little Clare Margaret, known as Clare for short, was the pride of the
station. She had the blue eyes of Danny, with a darker tinge, and lashes
that were early a snare, and had her mother to thank that the Delacy
floss turned up in adorable curls. Her lips rippled with laughter. They
had much practice as she was a merry little cricket with an equal sense
of humour and of devilment. She held court with station hands, squatters,
drovers, remittance men and relatives in her kingdom of eucalypts. So
little of the bush had been driven back that from the house she could
gaze down its aisles. They had no end, the big trees swept the sky and
magic birds were as plentiful as flowers. There were kookaburras to
laugh, leather-heads to fulminate, parrots and gang-gangs of gay colours,
magpies and cockatoos of several varieties, honey-eaters, coach-whips,
wagtails, tits and robins, peewits, curlews, plovers, pigeons, quail,
cranes, ducks galore, the ibis and a hundred other species, for some of
which the bush men had onomatopoeic names. When Clare could escape to the
hut, the men could tell her what the birds said, and she could watch the
lyre-tails playing on the sideling across the river. The men often caught
her one and tied it up by a leg, but it always died and then its tail was
pretty on the shelf above the fireplace.

Peacocks as big as clouds flew high in the gum trees. They were
swaggering fellows who descended as the reivers of old and wrung the
necks of chickens, and cannibalistically ate eggs, or harried the hens
until some had to be shot. Then their tails, like tapestried panels,
beautified the corners of the sitting-room. Grandpa was proud of the
peafowls.

A dog guarded Clare Margaret from forest or stream. Sometimes she would
escape to a cleared space in the foal paddock to see the peacocks
spreading their tails like rainbows in the sunlight until she clapped her
hands with glee, when Rover would rush up with a "woof" and disperse the
exhibitionists. Clare Margaret rode on Rover at the beginning but soon
progressed to a Nullah-Mundoey of her own, and went to the muster or sat
on the top rail and gave her opinions like the best horse-coper of them
all. At three, and four, and five there were males slaving for
recognition, and opportunities for mischief were illimitable. Uncle
William had the spancelled idea that physical freedom or any mental
capacity beyond that of a hen would rob a girl of womanliness.

"Clare Margaret is as rough as a boy," he confided to Josephine. "Sitting
up on the fence and knowing unladylike things about stock. I blush at
what she says to the buyers."

He had a case when Clare, at the age of four, had shown-off for those
assembled by following Grandpa with an imaginary wooden leg as she
declaimed, "By damn, it's hot to-day."

They were all too concerned for the child's gentility to be amused.
Grandpa, himself, the awful example!

"By damn, me dear," he said to her, "You mustn't say what I say till you
have a beard like me and a pipe to put in it."

"Can I have a pipe at once, and when will my beard grow?" demanded the
adventurous child.

"I must bridle me tongue, and not corrupt the young before their time,"
said Grandpa, joining in the laughter.

"By damn!" said Danny's parodist, with an inimitable guffaw.

William was in a fantod. He thought the child should be reclaimed by
segregation. This angered Margaret, with only Fannie as helper and a
dozen men to make work. She complained later to Josephine.


It broke Clare Margaret's heart to be kept behind when men and dogs moved
back to the yards. To pacify her, Margaret put her across the bridge to
Aunt Josephine, Rover by her side. Clare could do wonderful things with
Johan (pronounced John), who was as obedient as Rover, but Aunt Josephine
was not pleased when he ate mud-pies at his cousin's order.

A doctor of medicine, with high degrees but no resistance to alcohol, was
retained by Robert, who said he could come in handy in case of accidents,
and could tutor Clare.

The tutor diminished Clare's leisure until she promoted him to be a
glorified Rover and a party to her adventures. She loved to visit Aunt
Della, where she had three followers, but they mostly followed into
mischief.

The tutor at Burrabinga soon had a school of three. Another remittance
man resided at Aunt Della's, and it was his office to ride with Daniel
Cooley Angus each morning to within a mile of Burrabinga and return for
him in the afternoon. As often as not he spent the day at Burrabinga. All
were welcome at the Delacy tables. There was ample food in the townships,
any number of big bullocks to haul it, and horses to sell to pay for it
all, including the bullocky's wages. If a bullocky were not forthcoming,
William or Harry acted instead, or Ned Angus.

The remittance men carried culture beyond the Murrumbidgee. They
patronized modern writers as well as the classics. Even Walt Whitman and
Zola were read (one by the men and the other by the women), and some of
the tutors could sketch, and some could play chess, and all were
appreciated for their company.

The school-house was away from the main abode. Through the doorway Clare
could watch the butterflies in her mother's garden. She could see the
cherries reddening in the orchard beyond, where she would climb to the
highest bough as soon as lessons were past. She could also see the
plovers and magpies assailing approaching horsemen and feigning broken
wings to lead them from the direction of nestlings. Kangy lay on the
veranda sunning himself, safe from strange dogs, and Cocky swore at him
from the gate post, where he had come to rest after pulling the pegs from
the clothes on the lines. A full and glowing life for a little girl in a
natural environment and with but a minimum of restraint.

Doctor sometimes secured an illicit bottle. The children learned that the
gentleman was ill, and enjoyed the results of these indispositions. There
were other holidays connected with the post-office when the tutor made-up
the mail bag and sealed it carefully as deputy for Queen Victoria
herself.

On a certain summer afternoon when Clare Margaret should have been
pricking her fingers and a sampler with a needle she was at liberty while
her mother wrote letters, so she led Johan and Daniel Cooley to the foal
paddock to play hide and seek among the mares. She could stoop under the
flanks of the taller ones and holding on by the stifles, peer out from
the ambush of tails that swept the ground. When the fat little boys came
near she would skip on to another animal.

"God help us!" Grandpa looked over the fence of the vegetable garden and
saw the danger. Those children to be running between the legs of
treacherous mares with foals! "And not a hair of their heads to be hurt!
Every wan of the Nullah-Mundoeys should be hung with a blue ribbon for
their motherly conduct. Sure, the breed was always gentlemanly."

Reprimanded and cautioned, Clare Margaret was allowed to lead her men to
the mice hunt. The hay shed had to be cleared for the new hay. The old
hay was rich provender for the mice, and the mice made sport for the
dogs. The men prepared for the massacre by chaining clogs at certain
points to keep mice from the house. Others worked with the men who were
active with waddics as the straw was pitch-forked nut. Mice ran about
like a disturbed ant bed, the dogs were delirious with excitement and the
kookaburras gathered for the booty.

The children found many nests of baby mice and collected them. The
intention was to have live lambs whose tails could be cut off.

The men shovelled the stunned mice into empty tar drums for despatch
later. Their minds slipped off the children, who stole away dragging a
can of mice. Clare Margaret knew of the drownings of kittens and puppies.
Arrived at the river, she had the idea of swimming races. The smooth hole
was best for this, dangerous and deep under the pulpit of Billy the Goat.
Chubby hands set scores of mice in the water. Small feet waded in to give
them a start. Fannie reported that the kitchen was invaded by bedraggled
mice. They had swum to land as the water revived them. They were traced
to the river. Margaret's heart lost a beat to observe the children's
danger. Then she was so angered that she plucked a quince switch and went
for them. Her switchings were aimed impartially at all offenders, and
Clare Margare stepped aside and let her male cousins take the stripes.
They yelled so loudly that the men heard them, and ran. Mrs Robert nearly
laid the stick about them in her fright.

"If you can't be trusted with children you should he in a fish bowl for
newts."

The men were meek, relieved to have escaped tragedy.

Clare Margaret was angelic for the remainder of the day. Her mother had
been so frightened that Johan was sent home immediately, and Daniel
Cooley Angus's equerry went early with his charge. Clare Margaret went to
garden with Grandpa. "Sure," said he, "such energy must have an outlet or
it corrodes." She picked out all the young carrots and parsnips which
Grandpa had already reset. Grandfather was not annoyed. He had a
beautiful temper. His idea of gardening of late years was to pick out
everything and then reset. This was less tedious than separating weeds
from vegetables. The Mesdames Delacy complained of the set-back to the
plants, but as Grandfather pointed out, there was such a mort of
vegetables that half of them could not be consumed. In any case if he
operated drastically in Robert's garden there would be plenty left in
Della's or Josephine's, and a rouseabout with a pack-horse could fetch
liberal supplies.

Danny Delacy was being sunk in Grandpa by young souls who had known him
as no other.

The Mesdames Delacy, aiming at style in the society of which they were
the summer centre, chafed under the tutelage of William, the treasurer of
the partnership. He kept such a string on the purse that Margaret said,
"He mistakes himself for an almoner."

"It is ridiculous that we cannot order a new saucepan till he approves of
it," agreed Josephine.

"Nor even a thimble, and his ideas are so old-maidish." William, on his
side, was shocked by the general extravagance of Burrabinga, and
particularly by the wastefulness of Mrs Robert. Grandfather was
corroborative.

"We'll be bankrupt before manny seasons, if something isn't done to stem
Mrs Robert's squandering--and she well-abetted by Robert. Sure, every wan
in the world uses the place for a private hotel. Every Tom and Dick make
there to camp. The kitchen is as crowded as the dining-room--like two
tables at Hennessy's, only you have to pay at Hennessy's. I counted,
Johanna, last Saturday night--there were twenty extras. There were
squatters and doctors from Melbourne and Riverina, and you'd think the
sitting-room was Hennessy's bar, with the smoke so thick you couldn't see
through it, and the grog flowing grandly."

"It would be. Who took the grog there? Is it all put down to ye?"

"Whin I recall, the visitors brought some, except wan bottle that Robert
swaggered in with, and that and its large-family of brothers will
presently he put down to Father--you're right."

"Sure, it wasn't I ever gave me sons an example in drink, except to keep
from it."

Danny took another lead. "There were horse-buyers putting in time, and
min pretending to look for work, and a genuine traveller or two. A
stockman from Keebah and another young fellow from the dayvil knows where
were sticking up to Fannie. There were the surveyors, and a fellow as
agent for an American book--sure, I bought a copy meself for two
guineas."

"Where did ye put it?"

"'Tis to be delivered later."

"Two more guineas gone."

"Well, at anny rate they were all there. They thinned out a bit on Monday
morning. Robert has a store-room--like a magazine for the army--bins set
around to keep the goods from mice and ants. Be the poipers, it's the
two-legged ants that walk in there. You can track them in a stream by
what they drop as they go. Every man-jack free to replenish his
tucker-bags, not only with a bit of flour or tea, but with currants and
the like. Sure, Johanna, that can't last! No use in all me scraping to
save at the spill and it going out at the bung like the Murrumbidgee."

Grandfather made many trips to keep his eye on the extravagance, with no
result but his own annoyance. He and William and Della were for ever
complaining of the spending, and Mesdames Robert and Harry were irritated
by William's questioning of their every trivial requirement. The
situation was unsatisfactory. Harry too had his discontents. He was tired
of being the drudge. Robert was no longer his hero. An attitude of
worship adopted in adolescent fervour had grown irksome. Margaret had her
hands full in bearing a family, in making their clothes, in running a
house that was used as a hotel, in raising poultry, in making jam and
butter with only the aid of Fannie and occasional rouseabouts. In
addition she managed to read and hold her own as a clever woman in the
estimation of her guests from the cities, and this she could not have
done had she cultivated penuriousness. She looked forward to the help of
her daughters. Clare was already a marvel when housework could be
presented as an adventure. Otherwise she took adventure out of doors. At
seven and eight she could ride like a stockman in her pretty side-saddle,
and she could sew and spell and cook, but she was for ever leading her
devoted swains, Daniel and Johan, into trouble.

She was eight when a mail holiday fell on a splendidly rainy day and
Johan and Daniel stayed overnight because the river was high and the
approach to the footbridge under water. She loved to hear the ground sing
after rain, and between downpours the children paddled about driving in
sticks to halt the shrilling of crickets and frogs.

"What a lovely lot of water for the geese, let's drive them in," she
exclaimed, as she beheld the river swollen to its outer banks. Twenty
descendants of the birds imported by Grandfather were sheltering near the
pigsty. They had no liking for the fierce stream, but their resistance
was broken by Clare and her boys with sticks and stones. The sty full of
grunters was at their back, the flood before. They took the flood.

"They bob up and down like the ships in the poetry," Clare could mimic
them exactly. Her inferiors laughed to see the geese riding so bravely.
They could not land on the opposite bank for the castellated rocks of
Billy's pulpit. The current rushed them away.

Margaret came out in time to see them in the distance. "Aren't they
lovely? We drove them in," cried Della's boy.

Margaret plucked a sucker from the quince tree by the kitchen gate. Clare
escaped by diving from the pigsty fence on to a big barrow, which flung
her in the mire. The boys received the switch, and pink streaks appeared
on fat legs. Daniel howled. Johan, though only five, bolted on to the
swaying bridge through water above his middle, and home to his mother.
Seeing that he was safely across, Margaret sent a horseman after her
property. He followed for twenty miles but not one of the beautiful birds
ever returned to Burrabinga, alive or dead.

Josephine was none too pleased to have her darling come bawling home at
the risk of being drowned, though she recognized that Margaret must be
weary of other people's children in addition to her own.

"If Clare Margaret can lead Johan about by the nose now, you can see how
it will be later."

"It might lead to marriage," responded Harry.

The Delacys, themselves without cousins, thought of them as scarcely
removed from sisters and brothers, and Danny had instilled into his
family a nausea at the idea of marriage between cousins. This maturing
danger and the gathering irritations of the ill-defined partnership led
Josephine and Harry to consider removal.



CHAPTER XXXIV


When removal was mooted, Grandpa was astounded; more, he was dismayed,
grieved. Leave, after Harry and William had sweated to enclose the ranges
with leagues of fencing! Forsake the kingdor which he and Johanna had
squandered their youth in civilizing; now, when the lonely years were
past and roads were making the area accessible! Even Johanna was aghast
that Burrabinga should be abandoned by Harry now when it had grown
desirable.

Nevertheless the Delacy partnership fell to pieces because reasons
indicated. Harry secured a place in the direction of Cootamundra and he
and Josephine were both relieved to go, though regret also seared Harry.
He had put more hard labour into the making of Burrabinga than either of
his brothers, had spent more years immured in its solitude and had deeper
poetic imagination to bind him to it. However, he wanted to be free.

The ordeal of surmounting the passes with infants was direful to
Josephine and she was glad to escape. Her ideal was in parts that of her
mother-in-law. Though she had spent all her life in the bush, Josephine
never loved it. Her hunger was ever for the pavements, for city
conveniences, city pleasures. She would have found more satisfaction with
a conventional city man of English mind and habits. None had been
available so she had accepted a fey Irish bush native, and in thinking
she could change him r mind, was as fatuous as Johanna had been in
believing that she could woo the free-thinking Danny to her creed.

Johanna almost keened her lamentations. "He'll never collect a shirt to
his back once he leaves his brothers. He's his father over again, only
much worse. Danny had no heart to grasp and gather like those who became
rich, but he was content to be thrifty. Harry is extravagant. Sure,
Josephine, stop it, for the love of God!"

"How can I stop it?" said Josephine, who was aching to be free of the
Delacy association, which she abominated. Hibernianism was to her
synonymous with vulgarity. Harry would improve when he cast it off. Irish
exuberance of expression she abhorred as lying, though Grandfather had
never been known to misrepresent, and Harry was almost as foolishly
truthful, while Josephine herself lacked tolerance and the judicial mind
on which truth is dependent.

When she had Harry under her single influence, he should lead a different
life. Burrabinga, as far as she was concerned, would remain literally
Bunratty Castle thereafter. Only Johan Darcy wailed all the way to
Birrabee. He cried to leave Clare Margaret, and for other causes beyond
his understanding. He was a dreamy child and Grandfather's pronouncement
that he should have been a "faymale" was apposite.


They remained some days at Keebah bidding good-bye to other neighbours as
well as their beloved Urquharts. Then they passed away to a different
district, and Johanna's prophecy of indigence was fulfilled over and over
again.


Della and Ned Angus also left in the reorganization. Ned went back to
Victoria, and his family, with Harry's, dropped from the trunk line of
Delacys. Robert, the eldest son, the one Delacy who had been born at
Burrabinga, now reigned there alone. Danny retained Bewuck, and William,
the confirmed bachelor, remained with him. Hannon had died, and his wife
gone elsewhere.

A year after the dissolution, Grandpa reported, "Sure, Robert is bursting
into the heavy swell now."

"Why should he be climbing down into a wombat burrow like the rest of the
Delacys? Who is more entitled to be a swell than my Robert?"

"As long as he can support it he can become a duke, but surely, Johanna,
I can engage in a little descriptive conversation without having me
throat jumped down? If I don't tell you the news, you say what use am I
as a companion at all."

"Well, what is Robert doing?" inquired William, who never read a book,
and derived his mental nutrition from gossip. "The house is spread all
over the place from wan ind to the other. That eldest girl is a treat to
see. She is you over again, Johanna."

"She has blue eyes."

"That is an inconsequential detail in the main scheme of character. They
also have a lady companion who teaches the little girls music. Bedad, I
think the boys are learning the piano, too. They have an old lag living
in Harry's kitchen, and he does the gardening. Sure, I thought I'd be
eaten up whin I wint to help him."

"I wish ye'd be ate up whin ye pull up me best flowers."


Robert was happy in exercising his talent for organization and
hospitality unfettered. He disposed of the sheep with the partnership.
Sheep were subject to footrot and fluke, and the dingoes could never he
stemmed, but the horse was still in his zenith.

Robert had ringers and fencers all through the hills. The rich river
flats of mineral loam that had silted from the hills through centuries
were free of timber for grazing paddocks, and some of the heaviest beasts
that went to Sydney and Melbourne were fattened there. And the horses! A
horse of the Nullah-Mundoev strain won at Randwick. Robert's breakers
turned out saddle-horses which became known at all the up-country shows.
His personal preoccupation was a coaching strain of big fellows for Cobb
and Co.. and light harness ponies.

The animals that Robert bred for tandems and four-in-hands were famous
from Melbourne to Brisbane. When Athol Macallister, late in the
'eighties, drove eight horses to show off to Lord Carrington, they had
been bred by Robert.

Money came in a stream to Burrabinga, but it went as easily. An absence
of skin-flint thrift characterized the _ménage_. Robert had a head on him;
so had his wife to advise him, but both were more spenders than hoarders,
and those who rise to great estates from small beginnings, are weft into
legends of parsimony or tight-fistedness, or sharp practice of some kind.
If Danny had been known as Hungry Delacy instead of as Honest Danny he
might have transmitted a strain to make his sons financial nabobs. Tales
of the Delacys were all on the other side of the ledger. Burrabinga was
called a free hotel, and it staggered its descendants to estimate how
much could have been invested more profitably than in the unreturned
thousands of meals, in the tons of rations distributed in tucker-bags, in
horses lent that never returned.

"Sure, it's come-aisy, go-aisy," Grandfather remarked.

"And that is 'good-iron wingey!' till there's a stoppage in the come-easy
part," added William.


Johanna hungered for Robert. He, of all her children, gave her the most
heart-warming attention. Her sole pleasure, now, was visits from her
grandchildren so that she could reward them with presents. Like Danny,
she was a giver. She complained of feeling poorly the year that followed
the dissolution of partnership.

"Sure, I'm past the allotted span, and that is the ind of the road for
most of us. If ye want to see me, Robert, ye must come without waiting
too long between whiles."

"The death of poor Maeve and the departure of Jane Hannon have dispirited
her," said Danny.

Maeve had passed like a sigh in the chimney corner one day-break--in the
ashes, despite all Johanna's training. They laid her where she had for
ever the susurrant lullaby of the Murrumbidgee released from the bunyip
hole where her vanished tribe had come to feast on the cod, and later to
accept the bullocks given to them as rent.

When Clare was nine, Margaret visited her sister near Bungendore to help
with a family event, and Robert decided to take his eldest daughters
to his mother, who was always asking for them.

One morning saw him pulling the tails of the four-in-hand to the correct
outline. No one could thin a tail more expertly, nor so cleverly escape
the lashing hoofs of the irritated animals. Robert enjoyed his family's
credit in his mother's eyes, and took pains in staging this event.

Every one was assisting. Wong Foo had ridden in with a pack of gifts.
Robert had taken over Wong's allegiance with the departure of Danny.
Doogoolook also preferred Burrabinga when it came to settling down. He
had a lair at the end of the stables, and, like Maeve, was addicted to
the chimney corner, for its company as much as its warmth.

They set off with the usual routine of extra horses and a vassal sent
ahead to boil the billy at Danny's spring at the top of the pinch where
the top of the morning saw the sun enchant the mists to rainbow veils
beneath the travellers. Robert drove with Margaret beside him, and Vida
between them. Miss Hassell, the music governess, sat at the back with the
two little boys. Clare and Mavis rode horses fit for a pageant. They had
exquisite points and showy action, could walk away from normal beasts and
cantered pneumatically. Their velvet mouths responded to the children's
fingers; their bridle bits gleamed in the sunshine, the children sat with
the certainty of monkeys, on hogskin saddles, which were the fashion at
the height of the horse age.

These two girls were the joy of Robert's heart, but Grandma never saw
them on their beautiful horses.

She lay down one afternoon, complaining of feeling queer. Danny suggested
the doctor.

"I wish ye would fetch Father Shannon," said Johanna.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Danny, a little sharply because he was startled.
Johanna said no more.

On the following day she sat in the garden under a climbing rose that she
had early planted, and seemed herself again. Later she was so strange
that William galloped a swift Nullah-Mundoey to the doctor. Danny
reported on his return, that Johanna had been wandering. She had talked
of the bunyip, and the banshee, and the keening of the river oaks, and
had held a conversation with Kathleen Moyna, though she had scarcely
mentioned the little girl during the years that had gone since her tragic
death.

She looked at the doctor quietly. "Ye can do nothing for me, doctor. It
was Father Shannon I needed."

It was Danny--surprised to see it--who picked up the rosary on the
coverlet and handed it to her.

"It does not matter now," she murmured, the nostalgia of lifelong exile
in her voice. "It is a long time Danny-boy that ye and me have been
together. A long time and a long distance away from old Ireland we've
wandered in this lost place; but I am going home now. They are all
waiting for me--ye'r mother and me own, and Kathleen Moyna...Is that the
wind Danny, or is it the oaks crying for ever? What can be their grief, I
wonder?"

With that she turned her head, as though weary, and left her old partner
all alone with the little elegancies she had so gallantly
accumulated--_at the furthest extremity of the globe_.



CHAPTER XXXV


The Delacy men were helpless without women--respectable women. Other
grades were unknown to any of them but Robert.

Danny and William were as the abandoned on an island. William recognized
that life had stopped until he could bring a woman to Bewuck. Jean
Urquhart was reaching the no-man's-land of spinsterhood, and deserved to
be rescued. The property that would later be hers was a bait to him,
while Danny was overjoyed to have an Urquhart.

William was accepted without quibble after an awkward and prosaic
proposal. When he had recovered from his stage fright, he joked about
their swimming the Yackandandah together, and recalled the spree enjoyed
by Sandy and Danny while he and Jean had been absent. Jean confessed that
it was because of his kindness when her arm was broken that she had come
to love him and had waited for him. William was contented to hear this.

They took possession of the main bedroom, and Danny moved out to the "ind
room", where he was free, henceforth, to be a tobacco or rum "kag", with
none to care enough to reprimand him.

The loss of Johanna finally defeated youth in him. Zest of life waned
with the realization that he was alone, a supernumerary, that the vision
that had led him forward in high-geared courage had eluded him by
changing character and position. The beautiful mountain ranges no longer
lured him; he grew indifferent to the extension of life through the
medium of his children. The source of beauty and inspiration was as far
away as ever, farther, and retreating still. His aisling was now in the
rear; a young man sitting on a furze bank with a high-spirited girl
entranced by his tale of the land of opportunity at the far end of the
universe.

"Oh, moi, oh, moi!" he would murmur, and croon to himself old songs that
he had heard at cabin doors. William said, in his hearing that he was
childish, but Danny was not annoyed by that. His sweet temper did not
fail him, and scandal and criticism went sick in his presence. He knew
that his sons, except, perhaps, Harry, were too childish to attain any
but mundane wisdom. Despite his years and wooden leg, he would mount an
easy-paced Nullah Mundoey and call upon those of the old squatters still
above ground. Their misdemeanours were forgiven, only their companionship
craved now.

"Arrah!" he would cry. "If I meet a man of fifty or sixty, he's only a
boy who does not know what I know. He hasn't seen the Murrumbidgee as I
first saw it."

The year of Johanna's death, two others of Danny's circle passed--O'Neill
and Doogoolook. One of O'Neill's faithful dogs had to be shot before
Robert's men could approach the corpse in the hut on Dead Horse Plain.
Among the man's belongings was a packet, sealed and sewn in sacking, and
addressed to Danny. Robert brought it to his father,---who took it to the
end room to investigate. Some stray literate had written for O'Neill the
request that Mr Delacy, Senior--or in case of his death, Harry or
'William--should carry out his will.

"You must take me to Sydney," commanded Grandpa.

William said he would go alone, but his father demanded, "Am I to be
shamed by a dog, who would not be cajoled from his trust? Shall I fail in
a human act put upon me by a lonely soul who depended on me character?".

So he and William found, in a room in a terrace in Surry Hills, one
Katherine Magee, who had lain nearly a life-time on her back. Delacy
handed her O'Neill's hoard.

"Larry took me up wrong," she muttered. "I was only teasing him a little
before giving-in, but he rode his fine horse over me, and ye see before
ye the result."

"Wan result," said Danny. "The other was a man dead after fifty bitter
years with no companion but a dog."


Doogoolook went in the ashes--like Maeve--the shadow of a shadow departed
to rejoin his lost tribe. Clare Margaret staged his funeral. All the
flowers from the garden were piled upon his coffin, and the children
followed sobbing lustily. There were now two other graves in the
enclosure on the hill above where the curlews wailed in the tea-tree.
Burrabinga hospitality extended even to wayfarers who came there to die
and to return to its clean deep earth.

Others of the early associates deserted Danny. Charles Fullwood had gone.
James, husband of Bella Rafferty, remained, retrieved a generation since
from cattle duffing, and now living in the old Heulong homestead. Mrs
Charles was much with her sister, Mrs Hennessy. Both men's sons were
hard-working bushmen. Some of both broods got jobs to fence or
horse-break on Burrabinga, which was a refuge for all classes.

William became a father without losing his bachelor aridity. Jean was
easy-going and kind. Johanna's standards of house-keeping were abrogated,
but no word of criticism escaped Danny. Jean did not heel him from one
retreat to another as a demonstration of her abilities, and he
appreciated peace.

The children grew and murdered Johanna's garden. Grandpa saw the
elegancies which his Johanna had earned so valiantly and treasured so
tenaciously being spoiled and hacked. He was so wise that these things
meant little to him now. He sat where the sun could warm and the
Murrumbidgee gorges would disappear, and in their place would materialize
the young Johanna and his mother and others, each detail of their
environment in Ennis in old County Clare, as clear as though a spotlight
rested upon it: Athlunkard Street out of Limerick, the ruined Abbey of
Donough Cairbreach O'Brien, the Austin Priory, founded by the last King
of Munster, where Danny had played as a boy. Ah, those roads to Crusheen
and Kilrush! "Oh, moi! Oh, moi!"

William's interest in gossip shifted base as he became a family man. He
had some of Johanna's pride, and looked forward to good matches for his
nieces and nephews, with whom he kept in affectionate association. He was
pleased with the Butlers, who were firmly in the stirrups of the highest
squattocracy. Cooley Butler, of New Glenties, was one of the best set-up
young men in the district, and the desire of all the girls of his circle.

Another interest to William was the Nullah-Mundoey stud. He did a little
breeding and could still sit a buck-lepp, though he was like Danny in his
lack of horse swagger. He neither betted nor raced. He had improved the
Nullah-Mundoey stock and was always hoping for the perfect beast by a
process dependent upon knowledge and selection, equine heredity and a
sixth sense; and then when everything had been attended to, a fluke, as
with the appearance of a great diva or a major batsman. The horse artist,
as every other, is never satisfied. Still, William had the usual share of
luck, and his picked colts and fillies were worth a lot of money.

He received a plea from Cooley Butler, in the 'nineties, a few years
after the bank-breaking crisis, when pastoralists were beginning to
return to normality. The Butlers, in continuance of early custom, were
the hosts for a picnic race meeting on Boxing Day. On this occasion
several good horses were coming, and Cooley wanted Uncle of William to
lend him a Nullah-Mundoey to knock the stuffing out of rivals.

"By damn!" said Grandpa. "Lend him the brown colt. The Vances nor anny
wan else can't produce a beast to get within cooee of that wan."

Cooley (written and pronounced Coole for short) followed his letter and
was allowed to take the colt back with him. William had an ambition for
this nephew. He was to marry Fannie Vance. Old Vance, of Longview, was
the rising wool champion of the district, a settler who had the qualities
for enlarging fortune so conspicuously absent from the Delacy
temperament. His only daughter was now twenty-one, a handsome girl with
none of the dubiety of a siren. The Vances hoped she would marry a
connection of The Plains--money to money. The Butlers were prosperous,
but Fannie should command one even more prosperous than Coole. Fannie and
Uncle William, however, saw eye to eye in this. The colt was being lent
to Coole to acid to his popularity. William had another match in view
between Coole's sister, Laura, and Humphrey Vance. This young man was
three years older than Fannie and did not squander his resources on any
but useful horses, which among sheep, were of the moke variety. Laura was
a sturdy girl, like the Butlers, and William felt that she would need
some pushing to set sail on the best pond of matrimony. Laura and
Humphrey, both big and ungay, would make a fine buggy pair, thought
William, fallaciously, seeing that suitability as a pair or anything
else, is rarely conducive to marriage.

Aunt Jean decided that she would be more comfortable at home. She could
stay alone at Bewuck and keep an eye on the stock as well as the
children; while she sped her men's departure.

Grandpa elected to ride to the races. This was opposed as childishness,
but the pride of still being a horseman, at nearly eighty-two, and the
prospect of meeting the remnants of the early settlers sustained old
Nullah-Mundoey.

Shortly after his arrival, Robert appeared. The Burrabingas were spending
Christmas with Aunt Nessie, near Bungendore, and Robert had cantered over
to the races with Clare Margaret. She was now seventeen, tall and finely
developed, a competent equestrienne, who showed off to perfection the
form-following habits of her clay, with their absurd jackets with pert
little tails weighted with shot. She had Johanna's complexion and
features, and the willowy grace of the Delacy men. She was supple and
straight as a quince rod, rosy brown, such as her mother had plucked for
the impish escapades with mice or geese, and hers was the unusual beauty
of the quince blossom. She was merry and witty. In serious mood she had
the poise of a woman of twenty-three. Angry she was like a thunderstorm.
Old and young livened in her company. Robert was vain as he walked in the
wake of the sensation caused by her appearance.

Robert's advent created a stir. His dogs always ensured that. His
kangaroo and cattle dogs and dingo-killers were more useful to their
master than men, and a menace to every one else. He was usually to be
seen about Burrabinga with a pack of pets, some of them pups, receiving
their training. Fowls, food, clothing and other articles disappeared with
them, but complaints were received by Robert either with satisfaction in
the prowess of his champions, or dismissed as false reports.

His marauder, Prince, soon had a pullet. Aunt Honoria squawked as loudly
as her bird, and rushed out with a broom. Clare Margaret skimmed to the
rescue, seized the big brute by the collar, and with merry disregard of
his growls, kicked him spiritedly until he dropped the bird, which was
fit only for decapitation. Goole ran to help in chaining Prince and the
cousins were immediately friends. Goole asked her to name the
Nullah-Mundoey colt.

"Oo! I'd love a sprint on him, then I could choose a suitable name,"
gurgled Clare Margaret. Coole forthwith carried her saddle to the stall
where the embryo champion was housed and they took a gallop in the sweet
respite of twilight after a baking day. This was a horse as near
perfection as the girl would ever feel under her--big with long elastic
stride, intelligent and sweet-tempered, a thorough gentleman. When Clare
sprang off him into her cousin's arms she turned and buried her face in
the animal's sweet-smelling neck and exclaimed, "Oh, the love, the
darling. I wish I could ride him in the race."

"I have his name," cried Coole. "We'll call him Truelove."

Coole went to slip this into the programmes, the top conceit of the
occasion. Coole had procured a hand-press on which they were copied--on
tawdry pink paper. In the interests of surprise, the press was hidden in
Coole's bedroom.

"Lady Grey was so frisky that I'm tired," remarked Clare Margaret. "She
stood on her hind legs all the way and shied at her own shadow."

"Flop on the bed and get your wind while I tackle this fakement," said
Coole. Reared in the Delacy idea of cousinship, they had no amorous
thought, but they were congenial. No one had yet awakened Clare Margaret,
and Coole was half in love with Fannie Vance.

Uncle 'William saw Clare Margaret going into Coole's bedroom. He had
known the girl was not safe, as soon as he saw her alight from Lady Grey.
The way the young men, and the old ones too, were electrified, was proof
of it. None of the women of his family would thus have entered a man's
bedroom with him unless the man were invalided. Uncle William strolled
past the door. It was closed! With convention to support him, he
blundered in, "I thought is was Grandpa's room."

The scurrying to hide the press suggested guilt. "You had better go to
your aunt." Uncle reserved the remainder for Coole.

"Lordy, Uncle, she was only helping me with advice."

"What advice could she give worth taking?" But what young man would take
the advice of a seed onion when that of a quince blossom was to be had?
"If any one saw this there would be a scandal."

"Oh, I say, Uncle, don't draw the long bow. She's only a kiddy." When
Coole next saw Clare Margaret, he remarked, "Whoop, there was a dust-up!"

"I'd like to do something to shock Uncle William properly. He's like a
clucking hen."

"The name of the colt will stick in his craw."

"You bet!"

"Don't let him hear you say 'you bet'."

"Let's get Grandpa on our side about the name. He used to help me
secretly when I couldn't do sums."

Grandpa had awakened and was being fortified with a nip of rum. Clare had
changed into a muslin frock billowing with frills and a sash, and fresh
from the iron. She had her hair up, basting to be adult, and came to
Grandpa with a girlish laugh and pinned a rose in his coat. "Grandpa, can
you keep a secret?"

The old vision winged to County Chu-e on a May morning long ago. Here was
Johanna, lovely as his youthful and aged dream of her blended.

"Johanna, me brave Johanna!" he murmured. Then half to himself.


"The place is little changed, Mary, the day is bright as then,
The lark's loud song is in my ear, and the corn is green again.
But I miss the soft clasp of your hand, and the breath warm on your cheek.
And I still keep listening to the words you never more may speak,
You never more may speak!"


Tears ran down the old man's cheeks. Clare Margaret was touched. Goole
was awed.

"Grandpa, pet, am I like Grandma?"

"Sure, acushla, I thought she had come back again, no less. And be all
the poipers, 'tis me old friend Clare Margaret grown into a grand young
lady. Sure you should be grand too, seeing you had me brave Johanna as a
copy."

To forestall fresh grief, Coole interposed. "Grandfather, the
Nullah-Mundoey colt is yours as much as Uncle William's, isn't he?"

"Ne'er a Nullah-Mundoey at all would there have been if I had let them
shoot the original. Sure, am I not Nullah-Mundoey meself, honourably
named by the blacks? You've reminded me of what I have forgotten for
years...Sure, every one is dead but a few inconsequential boys."

"Then we can name the colt for the races?"

"Where could there be a prouder name than Nullah-Mundoey?"

"That's his surname. He must have a Christian name too."

"Sure, he is a Christian. Oh, moi, oh, moi! Then me love, call him
something to please yourself, and we'll all be pleased."

"You will be on my side, even if Uncle William doesn't like the name?"

"I'll support you if you call him the Pope or the Dayvil himself."

"And it's a secret, mind!" The girl pranced away.

Grandpa sat on his bed and chuckled. "Begor, it's a secret as far as I'm
concerned, for I don't know it. 'Tis safe that way, me little
Johanna-over-again. 'And the red was on your lip, Mary, and the lovelight
in your eye. _The lovelight in your eye._' Oh, moi, oh, moi!"


On Boxing Day most of the neighbours and many townspeople assembled on
the plain near the homestead, where the races went with zip. Humphrey
Vance immediately forsook Laura Butler to squire Clare Margaret. Laura
was a childhood's friend, but here was a thrill. Uncle William
interfered. Clare had plenty of time, and Humphrey and Laura would be
ideal. Clare went away, laughing back at Humphrey. Uncle thought it a
wanton laugh, but it was the girl's ordinary chuckle at a male subject,
and with such she had been surrounded in all ages and degrees of
surrender since she had first arrived at Burrabinga. Inured to the
admiration of men, she found no more danger in it than in the company of
horses and dogs.

As she twitched her habit about her alluring form, Uncle thought she
would look more modest in a dress. She was wearing her habit because she
felt unfurnished without a horse, and she was so stylish in bearing that
William feared a tendency to be "fast". Horrors, if she should be a
menace to the families of Delacy, whose women were all as far above
reproach as if embalmed!

The chief, event for William was the Nullah-Mundoey's race. The pink
programmes were distributed. Uncle, exercising his best conversational
graces to impress Mrs Vance, unfolded his. He ran down the names. The
colt was not there. He reread. Messrs Daniel and William Delacy were in
the owners' column, and Coole Butler was up. This Truelove must be the
Nullah-Mundoey. The peerless colt to be insulted by the sick effeminate
name of _Truelove_! It was nauseating to Uncle William, who had never
experienced any inspiring demonstrations of true love.

He hurried to correct the blunder. Too late. The horses were ramping,
while Humphrey Vance waited to drop the handkerchief. The Nullah-Mundoey
was causing the trouble. He had a fancy for galloping in the wrong
direction. Clare Margaret was among the men, shouting superfluous advice
in a voice shrill with excitement, and devilishly unladylike.

The horses were off at last, Truelove in the ruck, but when it dawned on
him that the rabble was trying to out-distance him, he reached out and
came in some lengths ahead. He was so undistressed that Coole put on
Clare Margaret's saddle and let her have a run, himself in attendance.

The day was spoilt for William. The origin of the flash lovesick name for
the colt was as evident as a toll bar. The girl was a trouble maker.
William went to Robert. Did he wish to see his daughter making a
spectacle of herself with a cousin? Robert swore that he knew nothing of
the naming of the horse, and was proud of Clare's popularity.

"Your Uncle William is blaming me for the colt's name," he said when he
met her.

"Grandpa knows all about it," said Clare.

Old Cameron, of The Plains, had arrived--a ducal honour--and wanted Clare
Margaret to mount his horse too.

"If she would only do something there," mused William, "instead of making
a mess in her own family." But alas, there was no eligible Cameron,
merely a susceptible one.

"Did you know about the name of the Nullah-Mundoey?" inquired William.

"And what is his name?" countered Grandfather.

"Truelove!" snorted William.

"Be the poipers, that's fine!" Grandfather chortled with youthful gusto.
"'Tis easy to see how that was inspired. And if it hadn't been, the
young min of to-day would have been nullities entirely. That's me
granddaughter," he said to Hennessy. "Dayvil if ever I saw a prettier
girl. You must drink her health."

No youths in the throes of adolescence were more delighted with each
other's company than Grandpa and Hennessy. "Sure. Hennessy, I'm so glad
you've come that I could lepp over you."

"And sure, Danny Delacy, I could lepp twice as hoigh as that to see ye,
me owld hopping beauty--owld Nullah-Mundoey himself--and his colt to be
coming out as Thruelove at this date! God hilp us! The day that was impty
as a barn in spring is now furnished for me loike a palace by ye'r
prisince."

Hennessy was practically owner of Bandalong, and its perpetual mayor;
Delacy the most interesting of its pioneers. The two old men were
inseparable. Spread around them were the "improved" properties, the
result of sixty years of war against the trees, and far away was the
panorama of blue distance to liberate the eye and spirit with a calming
foretaste of eternity. The for-everness, the wistful divine for-everness
of the massed ranges strung the soul to nobility and to the understanding
that eternity was there and then. The old friends leant upon a four-rail
fence, after studying its timbers and the craftsmanship, as artists
examine picture or book, and smoked with the distance before them while
the stewards buzzed with preparations.

"Sure, Hennessy, there's a lot of country there that has scarce been seen
and never trod upon yet. All me tigrinizing and dragging, what has it
amounted to? I had more than twenty miles square to meself when I went
there, and all I'll need now will be six feet by two. A power of people
have carried their hides to the tanyard since I struggled through that
gap." The sweet cleft prinked the blues of an atmosphere beyond
description and awaiting a new school of painters. "And it's you and me
for it next, Hennessy."

"Ye'r right, and we're carrying our owld pelts fearless and game." Clare
Margaret galloped up and tweaked Grandpa's beard. "You're a true love of
a Grandpa. Uncle 'William is as scotty as a French hen with her feathers
the wrong way. So please say that you called the colt Truelove after me,
and I'll say I called him after you, and that will mix them up."

"Sure, they'd be efts if it did, but we'll play hide and seek, if it
pleases you, me beauty."

"And if anny wan disbelieves, shure, I'll sthamp on him," added Hennessy,
thinking that the girl had her father's dash without his sting. As she
curvetted away he said to Danny. "There is wan that to be looking at
makes ye think of ye'r youth and the pains and proizes of it. Some there
are, Danny Delacy, that ye shake hands with, and others ye take off ye'r
hat to and thrimble to contimplate. Oi'm thinking that all the young min
will be standing in loine to marry that wan, and they'll have to struggle
through the scrub of owld fellies that will feel young again to be
looking at her."

"Sure, that is the sort that never picks the best match after all. She's
the spit of me brave Johanna, and didn't she pick me."

"Ye must have had ye're points, no less, or she wouldn't have done it."

The Butlers had an overflowing house party and there was dancing in the
evening in the biggest rooms. Grandpa was given a bedroom to himself, and
he took Hennessy with him for company. Two dormitories were set up for
the crowd: at one end of the house the school-room for women, at the
other the billiard-smokingroom for men.

Fannie Vance was the belle, in a fussy ball dress, and Coole danced with
her often enough to encourage Uncle William. Clare Margaret had to be
content with the muslin of the previous evening, but she danced like a
sprite and had every one dithering with interest.

"Give her a couple more years and there will be heart-burnings," said the
men.

"Her mother ought to look after her, or there will be trouble," said the
women, as she danced with Humphrey while Laura Butler looked on. She
danced with every one, including Grandpa and Hennessy, and between dances
played follow-the-leader with the rowdies of her own age, or charged down
the orchard in search of booty--half-child, half-woman, wholly
captivating.

William took his mind off her to prance about with Mrs Vance seeking to
make a good impression on behalf of Laura and Coole. Around 2 a.m. all
the non-dancers grew weary, and began to slip away one by one. Uncle
William realized with a start that he had not seen Clare for a long time.
He set off on patrol and came upon her in a side garden, where
gooseberries were the attraction, though Uncle suspected Coole.

"Is the men's room this end?" he asked, to cover his presence, and
pointing over his shoulder, but glancing past his niece to ascertain if
Coole were lurking in the shadows of the bushes.

"Yes," called Clare Margaret, on the wing. Uncle William felt that he
should wait about to see what mischief she was in, but sleepiness won,
and he left her to good luck.



CHAPTER XXXVI


William was unofficial steward of the proprieties, and the whole boiling
of Delacy women was blameless. Technical chastity was obligatory for all
decent women and had to be vouched for by watchdogs of sexual decorum
called chaperons. Feminine frailty of mind and physique was sentimentally
idealized, and, to complement this faked fruit of chivalry, masculine
virility was so emphasized as almost to induce satyriasis. However, all
the Delacy men were so civilized that none of those tragedies common to
servant maids in the protection of gentlemen's homes had ever disgraced
the habitations of the Delacys or of their in-laws: and Uncle William was
the most correctly chaste of them all.

He awakened with Clare Margaret on his conscience. As he yawned he was
thinking that he should have consigned her to her aunt before retiring.
Sissy Vance, adopted sister of Fannie, was already out of bed and
surprised to see a formidable black beard other than her foster-father's
beside her foster-mother. She was only twelve but the code was embedded
in her mind. Surprise ripened to startled astonishment. She was
transfixed. So was the bearded one as his wits cleared. That was a big
girl putting her naked limbs--they were not legs except to the
vulgar--into her drawers! Her long hair was afloat about her shoulders.
Sissy emitted an hysterical yelp, "Ma!"--which brought that person to
consciousness. Uncle William and Mrs Vance sat up and confronted each
other as though the Judgment Day had come and wiped out distinctions.
Sissy ran out shrieking, "Ma and Mr Delacy are in bed together!"

The elder women said: "Ssh! Ssh!" too late. Suppression of the scandal
was impossible.

"Shure, William must have been very dhrunk, though I did not see him take
a dhrop," was Hennessy's comment.

A general summarily degraded at a drumhead court-martial could not have
felt worse than William. He fled.

Mrs Vance, sensible, kind, placid, appeared, blushing but valiant, and
said, "it was an accident. Poor Mr Delacy is so terribly upset that it
would be nice to say no more about it." She had been asleep when William
came in, and no light but the dimmest of lanterns on a high mantelpiece.
The incident was the funnier because William was almost a teetotaller. Mr
Vance dug Robert in the ribs, "If it had been you, Bob Delacy, it might
have been more dangerous!" Robert retorted too gorgeously for print in
Australia, and nettled Vance.

"When old Hopping Danny dies, the best of the Delacys will be gone," he
said, and meant it.

"And when you go the worst of the Vances will he out of sight," returned
Robert, throwing his legs about and departing.

The young gathered out of sight to giggle. The elders upheld their
dignity by laughing when the young were not by.

The pressure of merriment speedily united both generations in ribald
laughter. There was much laughter in the unexpected continent where even
the birds chortled in derision and were mimicked by their own kind.

When some wag started a subscription to buy spectacles for Mr W. Delacy,
that person demanded a scapegoat, in the person of his niece. He believed
that she had purposely misdirected him to spoil the promising state of
affairs between Coole and Fannie Vance. He insisted that Clare should
apologize to himself and Mrs Vance, and that Robert should remove her
from the meeting. He was in such a fantod that Robert had to take notice,
though he thought his brother a number of obscene kinds of fool.

Clare was found by her father in her grandfather's bedroom, where she had
hidden because her sense of the ridiculous was tot immature to surmount
the scandal in an affair for which she wa blamed. She was furious with
Uncle William's stupidity. Rober smothered a smile in his beard as he
asked, "Why the deuce did you do it?"

"Uncle William mistook me. I did not do it on purpose."

"I should have been even more amused if you had," said Rober and decamped
with a swagger.

Clare Margaret's humiliation evaporated. Her smiles returned. There were
cheers when she appeared on the racecourse.

"She's going to the devil straight," said William to Norah. "Does no one
care that a girl with the name of Delacy promises to be looser than Molly
Macallister was in her day?"

Norah was too busy to heed. "Tell Grandpa to speak to her. He was always
very strict with us."

Danny roared with laughter when Clare Margaret came before him. William
rebuked his venerable parent as both drunk and childish.

"Arrah, 'William, if only you had been a little of each, it would have
saved you from being a whole ass-load of fools at wanst," retorted Danny.
He had thrown off Grandfather, and become Danny again for an hour.

William walked from him.

"Och, Mavourneen!" exulted Danny, speechless and weeping with mirth.
"That this should have happened to your Uncle William, no less. Years
ago, it would have been good for what ails him. He's too long in the
tooth, now...There's a five pound note for a new dress. Go forth, me
dear, and pluck the flowers while they bloom. 'And the red was on your
lip, Mary, and the lovelight in your eye!'" he murmured, as she sped away.
"Och, Hennessy, if I could go home and find Johanna there to tell about
this!"

"Shure, women don't look at things the way min do. Would she have seen
the rale fun of this!"

"Maybe she wouldn't, but 'twould have been a satisfaction to tell her all
the same."

They went and leaned over the fence again, with its sound grey rails,
moss-patterned, of uniform length, well-shouldered into perfect mortice
holes in stout posts sunk unshakably in the earth--a sample of the early
fences set in undeviating lines, up over ridges and down into gullies,
mile on mile, on mile. Danny, as ever, was tranced with that view
wreathed in speaking silence and translucent light.

"Such a botheration! Sure, me son couldn't make more to-do if he was the
Pope and found .himself in bed with Queen Victoria. Have we the morals of
the kennel, that we take this in such a way? There hasn't been another
such hullabaloo since Sandy Urquhart danced in a hundred fresh eggs."

"'Twould have been better had they been rotten."

"Maybe...Sure, Hennessy, me son William is always saying I'm childish.
'Tis himself that is not childish enough to permit anny wisdom...Sure,
life is curious. Did we ever think we would ind up together looking
over the fince here into--into--why, by damn, into eternity, Hennessy?"

"Begob we didn't, and with thim what wanst took dark glasses to protect
the ois from their effulgence now so faded and shrivelled that a
telescope is called for to discern thim at all."

"By that token, how is your wife?"

"She loikes more and more to get away to Sydney. Sure, Oi'd pinsion her
and her sister, only for the look of it."

"Sure, Hennessy, now, on the last lap, it is never me generosities that I
have regretted."

"No man could have less regret than ye."

"I've manny a regret to nag at me now that I don't sleep so sound in the
nights, whin I can hear the river like a wind, and the oaks for ever
crying, as me wife said, with some unknown grief. There may be truth in
the ancient fables that turned women into trees."

"In the name of wonder, Danny, ye, with a cleaner sheet than manny
setting up to be holy."

"Och, me wife, at the end, craved a priest, and I did not bring him. It
worries me for ever, Hennessy. It was meself was the bigot, for what harm
could a damned old parrot--of anny denomination whatever--do, trying to
interpose between a soul and its Maker? And 'twould have comforted me
brave Johanna."

"Forget it, Danny Delacy. Thim fellies nevir took any throuble to support
me whin I needed thim desperately. Now, they can follow after thim that
can't see through thim."

"You were always an intelligent man, Hennessy."

Clare Margaret withdrew from her Grandfather, overcome with conflicting
emotions due to her age and temperament. Humphrey sought her, and found
her alone in a buggy. He elicited that everything was hateful, Uncle
William the most hateful of all, and that she was ashamed to look
Humphrey's mother in the face; only Grandpa was a dear.

Humphrey was an easy victim of feminine tears. Something had to be done
to cheer Clare Margaret, who was talking of leaving to escape her
notoriety. Hang the races! Humphrey suggested a spin in his new sulky
ostentatiously silver-plated.

They were soon speeding towards the Township, where Mount Bowning stood
like a blue dome on the horizon. The highway, undulating across the
plains, whose ivory contours were dotted with contented live stock and
birds, had known the early explorers. The ringing hoofs, the wheels
crunching the fine gravel took them six or seven miles into that fair
view, before Humphrey remembered that luncheon would be on, and that he
had made matters worse for Glare Margaret.

"We'll take the track behind the wool-shed, and you can slip into the
house and come from there later."

"Why?" demanded Clare Margaret.

"You're a grown-up young lady now, and should not be leading me astray."

Dimples beautified her cheeks. "I'd love to shock them. If Uncle William
says anything, you must stand by me."

"I'll do that to the finish and back again," said Humphrey, elated to
rollick into the picnic with the prize girl in his sulky, and the
high-stepping trotter under it.

Again Clare Margaret eclipsed the races. Uncle William came at her as she
went to the house to tidy her hair. "If your father hasn't the sense to
keep you in order, you are old enough to understand things for yourself."

"Yes, Uncle," she said demurely.

"Then why did you, on top of the other ugly thing, go driving off in that
flash way with young Vance?"

"He wanted a chance to propose without you all listening."

"Propose!...You are not old enough."

"Humphrey wouldn't mind waiting for--for his _true love_!"

"I'll speak to Humphrey."

Before she could warn Humphrey of the joke, he and Uncle had moved aside
together. "You shouldn't have taken Clare for such a conspicuous drive.
She is so flighty that she says you needed a chance to propose."

"Surely she did not say that?"

"It shows how rattle-pated she is, but she is only a child, and I
want you to say nothing about it and be careful with her."

"You can trust her never to come to any harm with me."

"She was just poking fun at me again."

"More likely at me."

"She is very young."

"If a fellow didn't get in early with Clare Margaret, he might not stand
much chance."

"Then I'll say no more now. She is so taking that she had better be
married early. This is a pleasant surprise."

"Yes, indeed," agreed Humphrey.

William reflected that he would have to select someone else for

Laura, but it would be a relief to have Clare tied up out of mischief
with such a steady young man.

Humphrey, smiling fatuously and thrilled to the core, hurried to find
Clare Margaret, but she had fled the field, as disconcerted as Uncle
William had been earlier.

"Clare Margaret!" Humphrey repeated to himself. "Clare Margaret, you
little pet! You must mean it. Clare Margaret Vance. _Mrs Humphrey Vance!_"

When he descried his love she was coming from the house with a young man
who was leading a hard-ridden horse in poor condition. Her embarrassments
of the last twenty-four hours were all forgotten.

"Humphrey!" she called, with beaming face. "See who has come all the way
from Cootamundra to see me."

"And Grandfather," added the traveller. Humphrey was relieved by his
youth. Not a suspicion of down on the lad's lip! He was made known as
Johan Darcy Delacy, son of Harry, who had left Burrabinga at the
dissolution of the partnership.

"His name is Johan, after Grandma, because she went mad with joy because
he was not a girl like me. As Grandma is dead and her feelings can't be
hurt, I'm going to call him Darcy. Don't you think it the prettiest name
you ever heard?"

"Rather girlish."

"It's ever so stylish, like a book."

"But we're not in a book."

"Darcy! I can't help saying it."

"I like Clare Margaret."

"A silly name--as long as a wet week."

"What about Humphrey?"

"Too much like Humbug," said she, with a twinkle ripe for her years.

"It's you who should have it then. How do you like the sound of Mrs
Humphrey?" This an aside.

"I'm deaf," she laughed. "Come on, every one is dying with curiosity
about Darcy. We must find Grandpa."

Humphrey walked on one side of her, Darcy on the other, leading his
intrepid beast. Grandpa was found. "Oh, moi, oh, moi!" he exclaimed.
"Sure I'm glad to see you, me boy. You've grown like a gum tree. What age
are you now?"

"Going on for fifteen," said Johan--now become Darcy--which meant that he
was just fourteen.

"You look eighteen." Grandfather had said the right thing, and Darcy
thought him a "real nice old clip".

"He's three years, all but a week, younger than I am," said Clare
Margaret. She introduced him possessively, and he was welcomed like a
hero.

"You've come to stay with us?" said Aunt Norah and Uncle Stewart.

"You must stay at Bewuck," said Uncle William.

"You are coming home with me to Burrabinga," was Uncle Robert's
interpolation in his grand-seignorial manner.

Clare Margaret answered for him, "Of course he is."

Darcy was impressed by Uncle Robert, his leggings and spurs, his tall
striking carriage, his condescending air, his enviable dogs.

"By damn! He should have been a faymale!" observed Grandpa to Hennessy.
"The eyes of him like an owl, with the lashes like the reeds around a
pool, and the gentle expression."

"Shure, only that ye had a beard loike a billy goat from the first minute
I beheld ye, this youngster remoinds me of ye."

Darcy was both Danny and Harry on their imaginative side, with a plus of
his own, and he was homing to his own place and people after exile. He
looked towards the wreathed blue ranges that lay as a glory on the day,
and was impatient to complete his journey. Only the presence of Clare
Margaret enticed him to delay. The day, the occasion, were enchanted for
him; all that he had expected, could he but return to that delectable
region. His horse, Deerfoot, had a reception matching her rider's. She,
too, was a relative. She was by a famous polo pony, and mothered by an
old Nullah-Mundoey that Harry had taken away with him, a tireless beast
as free from vice as an unborn child. Her daughter was the delight of the
boy's heart. There had been prolonged drought in his part of the country,
with awful losses in stock. Every rib could be counted in his filly, but
this could not rob her of beauty; the points were hers. She was lined
with sweat, showing her weakness, but she had clone the eighty miles to
Bewuck in a long day. Darcy had arrived late on the previous evening. His
Aunt Jean had tried to detain him. Failing that, she had offered him a
fresh horse, but no, he set off again next forenoon on Deerfoot.

"She's a clinker," said Uncle William, "but it doesn't do to break their
hearts at that age."

"I'll coddle her up a bit," said Coole cordially.

Clare went with them. "I want to show you Lady Grey and Truelove."

"Clare Margaret," called Grandpa after her. "You go get me the
Nullah-Mundoey mare. Johan, can have her to ride while his own spells.
I'll go home in the buggy. I feel a little stiff." A wave of sadness, of
relinquishment, bathed the old man as he looked towards the hills, that
had so long bewitched him, and realized that he would never ride thither
again with the wide sunlight casting its spell all clay until he came
at evening to the valley he had tried to tame.

"Remember the day we ran the geese into the river?" Clare was heard to
ask young Delacy, as they went away with the filly.

The field of Venus was left to Fannie, Laura, and the other grown-up
young ladies. Clare Margaret reappeared with her hair in a plait, and a
manner in keeping. She had returned to childhood with her old playmate.
Humphrey found the boy a nuisance, but hoped that he would guard the girl
from others as well as himself. Even Uncle William saw no danger in so
young a cousin. Humphrey noted the boy's mended bridle, and gave him a
prize on the score that had the filly been in condition, she would have
won more than a bridle. "Your old bridle will do one of my men for poking
about...I want you to take care of Clare Margaret. You are an older
friend of hers than I am." Darcy thought Humphrey one of the nicest men
he had ever met.

Aunt Norah gave the boy a sovereign for his birthday, "Just as if you had
been here for it."

There were other presents. Darcy had not dreamed of such riches.
A letter to his sister. Isabel, reflecting his delight in his reception
and the events, was a masterpiece for a boy in the midst of an active
campaign. Every one was described in character as well as person. The
judgments, glowing and youthful, but discerning, were a revelation when
long afterwards the letter came out of hiding.



CHAPTER XXXVII


Darcy was not to be diverted from Burrabinga. His visit among the
affectionate Bandalong relatives was merely the prelude to his homing.
Uncle Robert agreed that Deerfoot needed a spell before tackling the
mountains. "Supposing I leave Glare Margaret to show you the way," he
said.

"That would be spiffing," interposed Clare Margaret. "Then we can stay
with every one who invites Darcy."

"Can I trust you never to take your eye off her?" Uncle Robert's smile
escaped from his beard, but Darcy was serious.

"It wasn't necessary to say that," said Aunt Norah later; "he follows her
like a spaniel."

"Good job he's so much younger, or there might be a case of cousins,"
remarked Uncle William, and every one laughed.

Darcy rode Grandpa's Nullah-Mundoey to Bewuck. Coole drove Grandpa in the
Butler sociable. Uncle William Jed the colt with the disgraceful name.
Clare Margaret and Darcy careered ahead on their perfect saddle hacks.

Uncle Stewart put another sovereign in Darcy's pocket. Aunt Jean gave him
new boots. Hennessy pressed him to stay, an invitation which delighted
Clare Margaret. She and Euphemia were warm friends. Glare admired her
elder's luxuriousness. Darcy was uneasy about all the gifts. He murmured
something about paying back by and by, which made every one smile. He was
a true Delacy, for they never could take. Give. Give. They needed no
exhortation to give to the poor. They gave indiscriminately to rich and
poor the fortune which could have been theirs had avarice walked with
industry in their pioneering epic.

Gerald and Mrs (Grace Fullwood) Butler took the young people to their
home. Mrs Butler said, laughingly, "When I was like you, Clare Margaret,
your father used to ride about with me as Darcy is doing with you now."
Thus was an old incident translated--at least for publication.

Darcy's coming created an interest out of proportion to his worldly
prospects, but his satisfaction in the people and places was that of a
child in fairyland and cheered every one. Though manly of physique and
bearing for his age, there was nevertheless some illumination of spirit,
a gentleness which made Grandpa call him Johanna right out, to the
amusement of William, who had no delicacy in dismissing Grandpa as
childish.

"Childish, by damn," said Grandpa, imperturbably. "It's you who's too
childish to see what's there. Sure, the boy should have been a faymale;
then the visions that are in him would not get so much in his way when he
has to drag about after money."

"What are you going to do? You should study for a barrister," was said to
him, but Darcy was proud of the certificate, which at thirteen had
entitled him to escape from the little bush school to begin life on the
plane of a man.

He and Grandpa enjoyed each other. The old man took him over every
paddock Of Bewuck and told its history and grew voluble about the bunyip
hole and Delacy's Crossing. Darcy adored the sighing she-oaks. Mounted on
the Nullah-Mundoey of rocking-chair paces, Grandpa rode up on to the
plateau 'to explain the landscape.

"Oh, moi, oh, moi!" he cried, suffused with emotion as he beheld that
holy of holies, that chapel of his soul, as remote and witching as when
he first beheld it. His eyes glazed with memories. They could see so far
and so much--the roads leading to Limerick, and to the Atlantic beyond
Cooley Hall on a May day when a beautiful girl awaited Danny Delacy in
the coomb; the long, lone trails that he had blazed, extending to
eternity, and foreshortened until Ennis and Burrabinga coalesced. To his
inner consciousness, the scene was glamorous and haunting, plangent with
silent voices of past and present--future or past--which was which, in
the bewildering circles of time and space? He could only repeat, "Oh,
moi, moi!" The boy must grow to it himself.

The lad gazed, his dreams coloured by youth. He listened rapt to the
story of 'Burrabinga being tamed, and without murdering the blacks. How
Grandpa came by his wooden leg, and how swam the Yackandandah in
'fifty-two, were grand yarns. Darcy wanted so, many others that Aunt Jean
gave Grandpa a toddy runt when he came in, he looked so white and old and
illuminated. The alcohol loosened his tongue again so that he tried to
explain to Darcy that in the aura of Australia were a thousand mysteries
awaiting those with grace of understanding, but that most human beings
were inferior in insight to the quadrupeds. "Be the poipers, the lad's
meself over again. He has the vision of posterity in his eyes."

Uncle William rapped out, "Posterity, be damned! He seems just like
Harry, a damned fool that will never know a shirt to his back."

"Sure, there'll be somewan always to see that he has a shirt."

"Leave Grandpa alone," said Aunt Jean, and promised him a second toddy if
he would go to bed.

Glad of the excuse to see Clare Margaret, Humphrey Vance brought Deerfoot
at the end of a week. The filly's condition was a certificate of special
care. Humphrey was frank about his predilection for the girl, but agreed
with 'William that it might be unwise to force her emotions for another
year.

At the end of January, Margaret called Clare Margaret home.

Grandpa confirmed the gift of the Nullah-Mundoey to Johan, and added a
ten pound note. He was giving practically his all. Care was exercised
that he should not have too much to "strew around".

Clare Margaret pooh-poohed Uncle William's suggestion of accompanying
her, so he showed the short cut through Old Glenties, by which Keebah
could be reached the first day, and thence to Birrabee and Burrabinga in
old-fashioned stages. No prince had more poetic exaltation in regaining a
kingdom than Darcy upon returning to this region.

His relatives gave him a warm welcome. An extra bed was placed in the
boys' room, an informal apartment where the cracks were stopped with
strips of tin. The slabs were whitewashed, the ceiling was of calico. The
possums often came in at night. The floor, also of slabs, was softened
with splendid skins. The bedsteads were of rough wood. There was a shelf
on pegs, and a stool or two to complete the furnishing. There was not
even a mirror.

After the qualities of his mother's house-keeping, Darcy was a little
shocked, but to one who had never been called a pet name, the atmosphere
of this family, with the careless freedom and livelier life, was
exciting. Clare Margaret and Mavis were his elders; Syme, Vida and Roger
followed. What Clare Margaret decreed was law. Darcy became a leader in
enterprises demanding imagination.

The younger ones were still slaves to the school-room for the greater
part of the day. After that, there was a young lady to instruct in piano,
sewing, fancy work and dancing at a wage of £13 per annum, plus
unrivalled opportunities for marriage.

Josephine wrote at the end of a month calling Darcy home, but he asked to
stay a month longer, and then another month. He then pleaded to see the
snow, which covered the ranges in the months of July and August. When the
snow came, the rivers were swollen and prevented his getting out for
weeks.

There was a dreadful drought all down the Bland. A springless spring
gruelled Murrumbong, with not a blade of grass in the locality, and all
but eight of Harry's horned cattle died. Life could barely be kept in his
horses. Half a dozen faithful friends lay down under the brassy skies and
breathed their last. Harry was mortgaged to the limit, and in debt
everywhere. Josephine kept the house going by rearing fowls and selling
eggs. There were three other children besides Darcy, but Grandma Battle
always had one of them.

In the circumstances, Darcy was allowed to linger at Burrabinga, though
not without misgivings on Josephine's part, one of them because Robert
derided teetotalism. He boasted that his sons should grow up to be men of
the world, who could take a drink and meet other emergencies like real
men, and not like girls in pants. Chief and Chieftainess were little for
precepts of correction. The children learned by imitation, and grew to be
resourceful and so lavishly hospitable, that, in a predatory society,
they must eventually beggar themselves.

But those fell days were not yet.

The Burrabinga youngsters were enjoying a life of experiment which filled
Josephine with another apprehension in regard to her beautiful boy, than
whom she would have preferred to see all her other children dead in one
sweep. In Darcy's letters to Isabel, which Josephine had fished from the
girl's secret cubby, there recurred the swear-word _damn_. Josephine
never went farther than d--- in indicating such an oath. Harry was not
allowed the relief of it in her hearing. "A foul mouth indicates a foul
mind," she observe firm in her understanding of what was purity.

Margaret did not read her children's letters unless requested do so, and
at that date the Burrabingas were effervescing in t adolescent swagger of
oaths tacked on to their speech for orname while their parents remained
unaware of their reputation as "foul-mouthed young rips". They were
merely in advance of the fashion smart expletives.

As the terrible seasons at Cootamundra did not mend, Darcy was allowed to
linger indefinitely at Burrabinga. Harry could not send him a penny. It
did not occur to Robert to give wages to one so young, though he
acknowledged that the lad was as useful a man. He had his own horses and
gear, and a few pounds it pocket to begin, which quickly went into the
young people's common store. Darcy was not a hoarder. He made something
the price on dingo pelts and the sale of possum skins, and for remainder
was in love with living and ambitious to become as good a rider as his
associates. He was that front the beginning, but they jeered at him for a
townie because they knew the way down a few precipices which at first
made Darcy pause. Life was a tournament and a picnic, spent largely in
the saddle. If Robert was harassed by the Bank overdrafts and the
mortgages, which piled up during lean years, he did not pass his worries
on to the young, beyond developing his gift for sarcastic comment. He was
a silent man, and indeed, when had he opportunity to talk? During meals
he looked down a table which held twenty eaters, and where the minimum
was ten. All had to be served before he could take a bite, and third
helpings were common at that generous table. Talk was for those with
leisure.

Great days for Burrabinga, to be remembered with regret and affection!

Darcy and his cousins were growing up.

Robert caught his son Syme in the kitchen trying to kiss Mimie, one of
the successors to Fannie, who had long since married and retired to a
selection beyond James and Bella Fullwood at Cherry Tree Hill. Robert
recalled Molly McCathie and the hotel girls to whom he owed similar
education, and said that girls in the kitchen would be a constant menace.
A Chinese cook was substituted, a man who did wonders in the garden and
laundry, in addition to the kitchen. Lady-helps were engaged for the
house.

It was the day of the lady-help by whom the housewives were saved from a
shortage in household drudges. As a sign of the times numbers of young
women had the need or the desire to escape from their mothers' homes.
Some went as governesses. Those not smart at their lessons--none had any
education--served at lady-helps. They found domestic tasks in other
women's houses more endurable than in their mothers' so long as they were
not menialized. Housewives could offer £13 or £20 per annum with aplomb,
where before they had had to give female servants more than £26 as a
minimum. Then lady-helps, as equals, could be expected like daughters to
keep on until all hours, but unlike daughters they had the adventure of
flirting with the sons of the house as well as others--adventure and
openings in the career of matrimony. Their mistresses were freed from the
moral care which had to be extended to menial females. Social equals were
not so preyed upon by those of exaggerated virility as were the girls on
the lower social rung.

Time drifted along in the remote station life, idyllic and sufficing.
Neither Darcy nor his cousins went as far as Sydney. There were thousands
in the same untravelled condition. Out in the world of the capitals women
like Catherine Spence, Ladies Jersey and Windeyer, Rose Scott and Annette
Bear-Crawford, with Vida Goldstein as the young and lovely subaltern of
the regiment, were leading women towards political enfranchisement. They
provided a popular subject for caricaturists, one well within the grasp
of all, from the city slums to the Never Never, and there was no feat
that revolution would grow from a demand so amusingly in opposition to
what Nature had decreed for the feminine brain.

A more tangible revolution, and which was to end the supremacy of the
horse, was vested in the bicycle. The "penny farthing" velocipede had
been superseded by well-proportioned pairs of wheels, which multiplied
like mushrooms. The bicycle became the instrument of sport. Bicycles were
the rage. Bullet-headed varlets, with all their power in their thighs,
pedalled like demons around banked tracks and were the heroes of envious
crowds of congenial mentality.

The bicycle became a bike and an epidemic. The craze infected women, who
went a-wheel amid shrieks of disapproval and prognostications that the
race would be endangered by such unsexing of potential mothers. The bar
on the bicycle was let down so that women could cycle without freeing
their torsos from steel slats, or their legs from several skirts flapping
to the soles of their shoes. Thus was convention confused with Nature's
differentiation, and "womanliness" preserved. Nevertheless popular
journalists frothed about complexions being spoiled, skins wrinkled and
expressions becoming hard under the strain of cycling so that feminine
appeal to men would disappear; but men, as ever, accepted the girls
available in their decades, regardless of the vagaries of fashion, and
without establishing a reputation for sexual abstinence.

There was lively intervisiting with other stations. Uncle William would
rave from one visit until the next at what he observed. "Harry, of
course, is a born fool. He would give away what he had not got, but
Robert was supposed to have a head on him, but is it sense to work as
hard as he does and then squander it all in keeping a private pub for
every loafer than comes along?"

"It's as bad at Keebah," said Jean placidly. "I was tired of always
slaving for callers."

"Sure, wasn't I always telling you that everything is as free of charge
as if it was this Utopia the agitators talk about." This from Grandpa.

"Ah, but that was poverty camp compared with what it is with all the
youngsters grown up and acting independently."

"Keebah has become nothing but a half-way house for those hurrying on to
take up residence at Burrabinga," added jean.

"The Governor's aide-de-camp was there, and two lady-helps, and the old
tutor who looks after the post office, and a Chinese cook. The fellow
from Government House is one of those flash dolls out from England who
must have olives to eat. So one of the girls ordered a whole case by
mail--cost pounds. Did you ever try olives?--not fit for pigs--I spat
them out. They are going mouldy because some pup wanted two or three, and
if they met him in Sydney, he would look the other side of the street."

"Snobbery!" interpolated Grandpa.

"It will give the girls a chance to make good matches," suggested

Jean. "More likely to give those lady-helps the chances. Robert's girls
will pick up some useless crawler in the end...They are too swell to make
their own candles now. That Syme--as flash a young blackguard as ever was
foaled--took a whole sperm candle from the piano and melted it between
the logs until the blaze started. Too lazy to get stringy-bark or even to
throw a log on in time. And tools or a new saddle are dropped where they
are used. Like the blacks!"

"Queen Victoria couldn't afford that," said Jean. "I've been told from
Keebah, that they all, from Margaret down, put on a new dress and wear it
regularly instead of keeping it for Sundays."

"They have orchards enough to supply the Township, but I saw a dray load
of tinned jam going in. There were three leading doctors there being run
after like gods--there for pheasant and kangaroo shooting--and if Robert
got a belly-ache in Sydney, they wouldn't take a bob off the fees."

"Such extravagant habits are shocking--shocking!"

"Arrah!" said Grandpa contemplatively, removing his pipe for emphasis.
"It's difficult to do annything with children after they get out of arms.
Didn't I elope against me parents? And did Robert ever perform wan thing
that his mother had laid out for him? And now, maybe, Robert can do
nothing with his family."

"Bosh! You are childish! I shall never let my children have these
extravagant notions."

"Huh, be the poipers! Robert and his family have the pleasure of
squandering in company. You may drag yours up like a lot of gomerils in
moleskins, and before you are cold in your grave, William, me brave
warrior, they may have started to scatter what you leave."

"You're childish!" grunted William.

"That boot is on your own foot," retorted the old man with humorous good
temper. "You are too narrow-minded to observe the facts of life, and when
you are bowled out you call me childish."



CHAPTER XXXVIII


Bicycles caused no uneasiness at Burrabinga. The precipices were against
them. A few far-seeing horse breeders were alarmed, but the parrotry,
clacking that no new invention can influence the existing order, remained
undisturbed. People who rode bicycles were graded as flash townies.
Squatters and selectors had a feeling of wholesome superiority over the
town-dweller as a parasite. The male townie was on a lower grade of
manliness generally; his female was suspect in virtue and home-making
ability. In the incipient Australian nation the parasite had not then
become as a whole more important than the person who supported him.

The system of profiteering and business rationalization, under which
every man finally naively expected to live by usury at the expense of his
brother, had not yet induced world paralysis of trade, nor so universally
grafted the artificial fruit of poverty on to the tree of plenty. The
regulations of trades-unionism were still being resisted as anarchy by
those subscribing to the doctrine that slave labour is imperative to
maintain a prosperous state. A world strike of workers for the limitation
of the hours of the working day with an increase in wages was extreme
among postulates for reform. Recurrent minor strikes in various
trades--shearers, dock labourers, building workers, or workers in
manufactories--were the nightmare of employers.

Banking cycles moved in irregular but inevitable tides. Hard times came,
but there remained enbugh slack in the manipulation of world resources
for them to pass. The Colonies, with plenty of elbow room for mistakes,
had recovered from the panic of 'ninety-three, and the Empire was
drifting towards eruption in South Africa. Spectacular imperialists
glittered there. In huts or in smoking-rooms from Burrabinga to Brisbane
and Ballarat men read of the parties given in Mayfair. The newly-arrived
remittance fraternity were as popular and as ribald as Scheherazade with
tales of noble ladies as mistresses of charm and of Princes of the
Blood--lovely females decked like Arabian nights by the South African
millionaires. Diamonds bribed the ladies who were the link to association
with certain Royalties.

'Strewth, they were appetizing reports!

Men, so red blooded that unless tanned to the colour of shoe leather they
looked like trussed beef, swore bullockies' and squatters' oaths--in
which there is no difference--as to what they would do if any prince,
king or "Gawd-Almighty Himself" tried to have the loan of their wives.
They felt themselves superior to the effete fellows in London Society,
but the ladies protected their complexions, and dreamed of going Home to
be presented at Court, to appear at the opera at Covent Garden, and at
the Derby, and of having illustrious and clandestine lovers. Either royal
or diamond swells would have been equally satisfactory. Many went, but
few had courtesan luck.

The "moind" plays tricks with perspective, and London was near to Sydney
and Melbourne, while Australia remained a terrific and uncouth distance
from England.

All this scarcely touched the Delacys, except in the enjoyment of
salacious stories. They had no hankerings for England. Danny and Johanna
had not transferred to them any desire to be, nor any sense of being
other than Australians. At that time, too, young Australians awakened to
a sense of nationality which is inevitably fostered by poets. Native
balladists were interpreting Australia's magic in an inspiring and
satisfying form. Rhymed stories and challenges were recited in every
school or Church, concert hall, drawing-room, hut or camp.

_For Australia_ was a vital slogan.

Then war with the Boers was definitely proclaimed. Australians were wild
to go. Here was a congenial adventure for those whose lives approximated
a cavalry campaign since ever they could sit up and say "gee-gee", a word
as early in their vocabulary as "dadda". There was some talk of the
foolish waste of money involved in sending men all the way from Australia
when the mighty General Buller and his forty thousand men--the
undefeatable English cavalry and infantry--would have Johnny Boer back in
his place before the Australian contingent could land in Africa.

Still, the gesture must be made. One people! One flag! Britons never will
be slaves! There is life in the old bull-clog yet! The British Lion cannot
have his tail tweaked without the Kangaroo giving the tweaker whatfor!

Chamberlain would accept only a handful of colonials, and seemed to think
they would be a nuisance. The rush to get away was so great that men were
selected as carefully as offerings to the gods--which indeed they were.

It was splendid for horse-breeders. Men came through the land offering
good prices for military horses. Burrabinga rejoiced. The still-dominant
horse was refurbished with cavalry swagger.

Grandpa was disturbed by the prospects of war, he who had been born in
the year of Waterloo, and had heard the drums all through his childhood.
He did not feel so lightly about the outbreak as did the young fellows
reared on a continent too distant for war to reach. He knew the wreckage
and poverty inseparable from military glory.

He had not been on a horse for more than a year, but he insisted upon a
visit to Butler at Old Glenties. The old man was valiant, mounting a
little stool to a chair and thence to an old nag's back. His grey beard
was long on his chest, his exquisitely fashioned hands, frail with age,
were small as a girl's upon the reins. Sophie, William's eldest, went
with him to open gates.

"What does the war matter to him?" said William as they went. "I'll get a
better price for those horses." William had never fathomed the man who
was his father, had early regarded him as a fool, but despite a wooden
leg, old Danny, in the neat suit and bowler hat, bought long ago to
impress his Johanna, had dignity and distinction. He could be recognized
as a man with culture behind him--a personality, whereas William remained
an honest, uninspired bushman to whom all flights of imagination were
insanity.

"The poor old man wants a yarn," said Jean. "He is lonely with all his
mates gone."

The visit was disappointing. Butler never had had any mind beyond his own
runs, and had prospered on sheep. The reviving effects of war were not so
readily apparent among the jumbucks. Butler was for smashing the Boers
without argument--low ruffians that they were. Delacy had looked forward
to discussing the Boer's side of the fracas, where lay his sympathies.
After a few nobblers on both sides, he grew so noisy and was so trounced
by Butler that Sophie was excited by the scandal she would have to
report.

Mrs Gerald Butler--Grace Fullwood that was--lived with her father-in-law
since the death of Grandma Butler. She intervened at length. "He is sorry
for the Boers, and so am I. Why should any one want to tear off there and
interfere with foreigners--in their own country? They might get shot
themselves, too. They would be safer at home minding their own business."

This snuffed the wrangle. Butler was above arguing with females, who
invariably raised some trivial point outside the subject at issue.

The nag's aged action jarred the rider, who was in pain from fatigue and
bruising when he returned to Bewuck. William had to undress him and put
him to bed, and he gave the old man an unfeeling lecture for thinking he
could ride at his age. Old Danny could retreat beyond his son's
animadversions, not merely forgiving but free from the rancour which
needs the purge of forgiveness. He was a week recovering, and then
complained anew of loneliness. Women were gabbletraps. He ached for an
intelligent political discussion of the war, or a yarn on horse-breeding
with an old mate. He asked Sophie, who was precocious with her lessons,
to write to Sandy Urquhart inviting him to come down for a good
conversation.

"Nonsense!" said William. "The war is of no interest to any one."

"But a little conversation..."

"Conversation! Blather! It won't pay the taxes for any one but the
publicans, who set a trap of conversation for the windbags."

Grandpa refuged in the store-house of memory--those days when the larks
sang loud and high. One of the children fell over Grandpa's foot and
howled. To divert him Grandpa sang, "I'm Denny Blake from County Clare."

No one would analyse the implications of the war though it speedily
became more personal to the Delacys than a horse fair. Syme Delacy and
Jimmy Fullwood joined the Light Horse and let the mustering go to attend
drill and go on cross-country cavalry picnics.

Uncle William chuckled with relief. "It would be grand if the war would
last until Syme got there."

"I think of his mother," said Jean.

"So do I. She'll have something worse to face than a hero killed at the
war if that fellow hangs around town much longer. If he got out of
Burrabinga he would be fit for nothing but horse-breaking; he has an evil
tongue; he'd be good enough to shoot Boers."

Syme had his father's gift of satiric repartee, and no discretion in
employing it. He was the _bête noire_ of his uncle, who could not discern
the charm he had for women, and who considered him a flash jackass with
no more brains that a turtle. He was however a smart horseman, with more
than his father's swagger at the same age. His uncle had observed him in
Bandalong where he was led by Jimmy, one of Bella Rafferty's sons, and
where though so young, Syme was to be seen pursuing a vital part of his
education with servant girls in embrasures at midnight. William knew that
if he spoke to Margaret she would take to hysterics and Robert would tell
him to put on Mrs Grundy's drawers. William, in avuncular anxiety,
grizzled to Grandpa.

"Moi, oh, mod" he commented. "I was given no instructions, and Robert had
to go to Molly McCathie for enlightenment, and now Robert's son has to
depend on some ignorant streel for knowledge essential to his manhood."

William regarded this as further evidence of Grandpa's senility, but the
days were glorious for Syme and jimmy. To the deviltry of reckless
horsemanship was added the cavalry swagger--war danger--acclamation of
heroes--all the swashbuckling sentimentality of bugles and uniforms. They
were a gay pair of cockerels in olive green, and hats to match, turned up
at the side with chookie feathers.

Margaret was thrilled with the look of her darling. "It will keep him out
of mischief," she said.

The impression still was that the Australian contingent was a mere
gesture of empire, and that a war against a few untrained farmers would
be ended before it could reach the front. It was unlikely that a second
contingent would embark.

But the war ripened. The Australians arrived and were absorbed into
various British regiments. Methuen's check at Magersfontein, with great
loss, the Colenso disaster, where Buller suffered' a humiliating defeat
at the Tugela River by a force much smaller than his own, were
incredible. The superciliousness concerning Australia and New Zealand
troops had turned to a special call for volunteers who could ride and
shoot--"shoot a mosquito at three hundred yards and live on fresh air and
exercise as long as there were holes to pull in their belts."

"Moi, oh, mod" moaned Grandpa. "Going out to shoot colonists like
themselves, to uphold a few blood-suckers in their debaucher in London!"

Kitchener and Bobs were taking command. There was a call for 20,000 men
to fill the places of those cut to pieces in the first engagements.

A second contingent was to depart after the New Year, and Syme and Jimmy
were trying to get into this. Some of the from the land were so
humiliated by military rejection that they would not return to their own
districts. The Delacys and Fullwoods were puffed with pride when Syme and
Jimmy were definitely accepted because they could not be thrown by a
horse, unless by a miracle, and could top the score with rifle, carbine
or revolver. Also they were each presented by their parents with a superb
Nullah-Mundoey. Women are always exalted to sacrifice sons Moloch, and
fathers believe that war is the thing to make a man of a lad.

Hurrah for adventure!

The idea still was that Syme and Jimmy were lucky young devils because
this detachment would never need to land in Africa, but would go right on
to England for a jamboree. The Queen would be so pleased with the whelps
from the far Southland, who had rushed to her aid, that she would invite
them to Buckingham Palace. They would go up to London to look at the
Queen. Lucky young beggars, indeed!

The family went to Sydney to see Syme embark. His youth and the willowy
Delacy grace and sensitiveness of feature attracted attention as the
marchers struggled through the embracive crowd delirious with imperial
fever. Margaret walked on the pavement. Girls threw so many handkerchiefs
at the boy that he was covered. He thrust them across to his mother with
his rifle. "Here, Ma, souvenirs."

The excited crowd collected them and handed Margaret the spoil at the
wharf where she put it in a cab--three hundred handkerchiefs. There were
paragraphs in the papers. Margaret was extolled as the magnificent type
of Australian woman who produced heroic sons to serve the Empire. It was
said that if every one who had enjoyed the generous hospitality of
Burrabinga could have thrown a handkerchief, Mrs Delacy would have been
smothered and the traffic blocked.

Thus the departure of Syme at the touching age of seventeen, and a heavy
bill to be met at the Grand Central, and for the cabs the family had
constantly occupied during the festivities.


After that the war settled into its stride, and enteric and other allies
of Mars did their part. Grandpa continued to grieve. "You'd think the war
was a personal affair with him," grumbled William.

Finally, in the interests of harmony, Grandpa suppressed his peculiar
ideas and contented himself with dreaming in the sun. As the days
shortened, the cooler atmosphere tempted him to walk about the homestead.
One afternoon when autumn held the scene in delicious stillness, he took
his ancient hat and staff and called to Rover, the last of a long
succession of the name, and with him went up the cutting. The day was
full of birds, many of which had come down from the mountains for the
winter. Among the arrivals were the grey magpies, making a raid on the
quinces, still hanging like golden lanterns in the orchard. Grandpa's
unfailing friends, the kookaburras, sat low on snags, feathers fluffed,
and meditated on the imminence of winter, or occasionally laughed
furiously from higher branches. The wag-tails accompanied him closely,
revolving their fan tails. Robin red-breasts and many other tits and
woodpeckers were present. Rover intermittently dispersed the more
intrusive with a "wuff!", and the peewits and soldier birds reprimanded
him like viragoes. The magpies showered their mellow notes into the
charmed air, and the cockatoos rent it with their screeching when, at the
warning of their sentinels, they rose in a snowy cloud from the
cultivation paddocks: Bright parrots passed in spasmodic flight or
tarried to indulge in small talk. Down by the stockyards the crows were
holding a corroboree of mourning and resentment over the discovery of a
dead comrade. Grandpa observed many other forms along the track that
resolved themselves into feathered friends, and he joyed in their
companionship.

He sat on a boulder now and again and rested. He had plenty of time. He
was realizing that he was free of eternity, that he was at its centre,
that it flowed all about him. It was a vast realization, but he had no
one with whom to share it, except perhaps Harry, and Harry was such a
fool by the rules of common sense, that he would not have a pound note to
bring him for so momentous a conversation. William would flout the
necessity as a symptom of mental senility, and as for Robert--the old man
chuckled to think how Robert would receive such a revelation. "Moi, oh,
moil The moind! The moind!" he murmured, his soul refusing to surrender
to Robert's and William's standards. In the illumination of Hy-Brasil
there was assurance that somewhere, some time, not Robert, not William,
but Harry, had the superior wisdom.

Near the crest of the cutting he sat on a grey log. He remembered felling
the tree more than half a century gone; it remained as sound as a stone
and was decorated with beaded lichen. He watched the Murrumbidgee
tumbling from the bunyip hole into Delacy's Crossing, and heard the
complaint of the casuarinas mingling with its sigh as it ran from out
eternity into eternity, crying Husssssssssssh! to the sun or stars. There
was mystery for you! Danny liked to ponder on mysteries, but the twin
mysteries of time and space were overpowering.

He went on his way with his staff and wooden leg, a figure firmly etched
into the consciousness of the district. His object was the point from
which he could see the panorama of plain with the mountains stacked
behind. Short of breath at the top, he sank down to recover and grew
tranced with the view. Between gorges he could still see the river
coursing from the dark hills past the homestead which he and Johanna had
made. Equally near, since his realization of eternity, was the land he
and his Johanna. had renounced on that May day long ago when they had
plighted their troth and planned to elope. Did Time flow forward in a
straight stream, or in circles, or were there two streams passing each
other?

Far away was the timeless, illimitable blue with the mountains prinked
upon it and a presence palpitant with a thousand centuries of oblivion,
behind which the sun was going down to Riverina to rise on old Ireland,
now so near at hand. Poor Ireland! So scourged by conquerors and
usurpers, that at best she could have afforded him room for a goat and
the operations of a spade, but here was the glory of wide horizons,
sublimely empty. He worshipped the pregnant peace of the piled ridges
with their lore unlegended. Potential revelation hovering just beyond
capture gave the locality its haunting magic.

"The moind! The moind!" he spoke aloud to himself, in the way of a poet
lacking an audience.

When the evening meal was prepared, Grandpa was missing. With an
imprecation, William hurried up the cutting, one of the men with him. Old
Rover, who loved Grandpa, barked at their approach. The April air was
nipping after sundown for old bones. Grandpa had grown so stiff against
the stump that he was unable to rise, so they made a chair of their hands
interlaced. William was startled because the old man did not speak. He
was fey as one who had been out all night on the hill-tops with the
Little People, and all the host of elfin spirits, which in his native
land retain their identity. He seemed to see things beyond other vision,
to hear voices to which other ears were closed.

William scolded him sharply because he was uneasy. They bathed his foot
in mustard and hot water to guard against chill, and put him to bed. He
refused a toddy by a headshake.

"He's had a stroke," said William. "Either that, or his mind has
completely left him."

Danny lay for a time looking into the night and pondering on posterity.
His urgency for future generations was tempered by what he had gathered
on the hill-tops. Liberated, as he now was, from the time limitations of
the earth-bound, he recognized that posterity should not be in haste to
squander its dwindling heritage of unpeopled spaces. There was endless
time for posterity. The more time and the less posterity, the better for
posterity. Posterity could afford to wait.

This thought was his lullaby. In the morning he did not rise to make the
fire, as he delighted to do. Jean went in to him. He spoke in his usual
resounding voice, though it was husky. "I would liketo see me family,
more particularly Harry and Della, that I have not seen these manny
years."

"Aren't you feeling well, Father?"

"Never felt better, nor worse neyther."

"We can't get Della here, unless he is very ill. We'd be blamed for
useless expense."

The doctor arrived on the following day, and could find nothing wrong.
The heart was weak, but not more than to be expected in a man of Danny's
age.

"Sure, doctors are wasted on me now. It's me family I'd like to see for a
little conversation about important mysteries."

"He's gone really childish," said William behind his back. "Della and
Harry could not afford to come."

As though he had heard, the old man remarked, "We never can afford to go
see each other while we're alive, but when it is no use, money is strewed
in foolish show. 'Tis a pity, but it does not matter now. Sure, I'd like
to see me old friend Hennessy."

"Hennessy is too old to come out these short days."

"Sure," said Danny resignedly. "Johanna wanted Father Shannon, and I was
too benighted to bring him. This makes it square. Human ignorance will
keep on repeating itself till the end. When we come to carry our hides to
the tanyard...yes, old Danny Delacy from County Clare can step up with
his wooden leg with manny another scar, and say _adsum_."

William was sure the old man was wandering. However, he dropped asleep
after saying that he felt as well as ever he had been.

Little Danny shared the "ind room" with Grandpa because the old man liked
his company. In the morning the boy ran to report that Grandpa was not
sitting up and smoking as usual, that his pipe had fallen on the floor.

Danny's pipe had gone out.



CHAPTER XXXIX


No expense was spared on telegrams or other arrangements.

Harry rode through as Darcy had done three years earlier. The mother of
Deerfoot, thin and old, did not founder in the long day. Harry too was
thin and old and shabby. Every one thought he had grown unnaturally
quiet. He spoke of the iron drought in his region and said there were
scores of others in his plight. He was never a grumbler.

He felt as though the roof had been lifted from life and he left
unprotected against the elements as he turned from the figure which lay
in the "ind room" in the still dignity of death. As he wandered alone by
the bunyip hole he pondered on his inability to conquer destiny, and
acknowledged his father's single-handed achievement as considerable. He
could not recall any lie, any ignoble action or cowardice as emanating
from that being, and now realized how much his father had been to him. He
could have gazed all day upon the wreathed ranges that had engulfed his
adolescence. The keening casuarinas were a voice from another life and
drowned him in emotion. Gone, all gone now, Danny and Johanna, and many
another, and he alone in the world of arid facts and insurmountable
difficulties. Nevertheless that other magic--the nobility, the spiritual
exaltation--were a man's birthright could he but attain it. He had
inherited, in intensified degree, Danny's sensing of the spiritual
potency of his continent--that aisling sense of his forebears which
personified Ireland as the Dark Rosaleen.

William was in charge of the funeral, and barred women, though Clare
Margaret had ridden out with her father and Wong Foo and other Burrabinga
retainers.

"There won't be many at the funeral," remarked William. "No," agreed
Robert. "Father could have left us a fortune, if he had had any sense."

"Every one could put a hand in his bag."

"He was harmless. That's about the best that can be said for him."

"Old Butler and Heulong Fullwood and Urquhart are all that's left: Father
really died when he retired from partnership. He's been childish for
years."

Drought was making horse-flesh precious: only a few people followed from
the bunyip hole and the haunted crossing away from the homestead and up
the cutting down which Delacy in his prime had brought the first
Nullah-Mundoey. Turning at right-angles from the panoramic background,
which the guest of honour had loved so well, the neighbours took the
crisp road along which Johanna's carriage had bumped home to surprise
her.

The highway was marked now with split-rails and wire. Gates and mail
boxes denoted the homesteads, and from every one came a representative.
William was surprised by the buggies and pairs of the squatters, the
sulkies and spring carts of the smaller graziers and the numbers of
horsemen.

"It's out of respect to us and the Butlers," he remarked to Robert.
"Funerals are for those that are alive to see."

Robert was sure that he had most to do with the increasing congregation,
but Harry had more credit in the bank of spiritual understanding. He
knew that the demonstration included men who hardly knew William and who
had no admiration for Robert, and was entirely for old Danny, the
ineffectual pioneer, who bullocked to tame a wilderness with more
thought of posterity than of personal gain, and who by courage and
generosity topping that of his fellows had salted existence with drama.

Old Nullah-Mundoey; Fearless Danny; Honest Delacy of the Murrumbidgee,
was taking his last journey over the way that had travelled first of
those assembled, and the news had spread.

"How the devil did they get to hear of it!" exclaimed William as place
after place yielded its tribute.

Danny had outlived funeral tears, but Hennessy, the publican, heavy, old,
known to all, let his loss have way. Two women wept as they peeped from
the shrouded windows as the procession went along the main street to the
graveyard. Bella Fullwood and Molly Macallister, both now blousy and
elderly, recalled the lance that old Nullah-Mundoey had broken for each
in her youth, generosity and innocence that had not been repeated in
their experience of men, and which that day was passing into legend.

A bullying autumn wind thrust the tails of the horses far aside and
mocked the _cortège_ with little whirlwinds of dust that rose in the road
and danced away across the bare dry ridges. The buggy pairs could not be
held to William's sense of decorum. Their drivers withdrew occasionally
for a smoke in sheltering scrub. There was talk of drought and prices and
of the war, and anecdotes of Nullah-Mundoey, which had emanated from
Hennessy. William and Robert did not appreciate their father's fame being
invested in this Boswell, once a convict and always a publican. William
was overly respectable, and Robert respected genteel respectability.

There was a bell to toll for Danny, as he passed the new church, and a
railway line to be crossed along the track which he and Johanna had
followed sixty years earlier in Mr Moore's bullock dray. They laid him
to rest on the wind swept hillside above the Township with Mount Bowning
as a sentinel on one hand, and far on the other the adorning ranges
which he had worshipped as a fountain head of the continent.

Harry returned to Bewuck with Robert and William. There was no will.
Danny had given away his personal effects long ago. Harry coveted some
memento of his parents, but sighed as he realized that Josephine had her
own conventions in elegancies, and lacked tenderness towards the past.
Harry felt that life was defeating him. Robert urged him to take a turn
to Burrabinga, but Harry had no heart for this, now, when old Danny's
passing had left the universe so unaccountably blank.

He was surprised to see how Darcy had grown, and noted his sensitive
features and the willowy Delacy physique. Josephine had commanded him, to
bring the boy home. Darcy asserted that he would return only for a short
time, and stipulated that he should first get his possessions from
Burrabinga. Harry said it would be a pity to expose his Nullah-Mundoey
and her two promising foals to the drought at Murrumbong. Clare Margaret
then promised to care for Darcy's belongings and send them after him if
he did not return in a month. Her pretty oval face, where the dimples
played when she laughed, was swollen and red as she wept with abandon at
the prospect of losing Darcy, even temporarily. Uncle William,
scandalized, thought it time that the cousins were separated. The girl's
emotion saved Darcy from heartbreak. He too wept, out of sight by the
bunyip hole, screened by the sighing casuarinas while he and his Oread
staged one of the colossal partings demanded by young romance.


Among the younger members of the Burrabinga family, news of the big
muster at Grandpa's funeral was eclipsed by the sudden withdrawal of
Darcy. They straightway made a cult of the absent one with Clare Margaret
as its priestess. They hung his pack-saddle on the rafters to gather
hornets' nests, and the Nullah-Mundoey and her progeny became sacred. At
Burrabinga romantic tendencies were free from parental curiosity.

Margaret asked why Darcy had disappeared. "Harry said something about the
danger of cousins. Josephine wants him to go in for teaching."

"Cousins, pshaw! Familiarity would be the best way to counteract that.
I'll miss the boy."

"I reckon Josephine is not going to run any risk of a morganatic alliance
for her Prince of the Blood. That poor old devil of a Harry is looking
terribly down on his luck."

The elders had much else to engross them with the interest to be met at
the Bank. The war with the Boers was providential in this connection,
Drought had not scorched the well-watered valleys of old Danny's kingdom,
and stirring horse musters continued. Fine profits but little of the
grief of war reached from far-away South Africa to farther-away
Australia.

Strangely, the war had not finished before Syme arrived in South Africa.
The few, who, at the beginning, were concerned with the ethics of the
case, had been silenced by the noise of drums and "The Soldiers of the
Queen". People had come to have a lower opinion of the Boers. They shot
from behind rocks instead of swaggering out into the open in the glory of
martial etiquette where they would soon have been settled by the expert
soldiers of the Queen, my lad, in the fight for England's glory, lad.

Syme was the current hero. His letters were splendid, and he sent his
mother a ring he had cut from the finger of a dead. Boer. It looked like
a worn wedding ring. It was perfectly sound, so the family said the
cutting must allude to the finger. Clare Margaret thought that the finger
might have swollen when the man died. The rigours of war were beyond
their visualization.


Darcy and his father scarcely spoke on the way. The boy's heart was
behind him in the lively routine of Burrabinga, the man's in that life
which old Danny had taken with him to the grave.

Arrived at Murrumbong, Darcy felt cramped. The thirsty stricken paddocks
were hideous to him. He lived only for the mail from Burrabinga, ten days
distant--an eternity--and fell to work with feverish energy so that no
task should block his return to his cousins. He whitewashed the dairy and
cowbails, cleaned the vegetable garden, topped the fences, and started to
plough the dry paddocks, which had been months waiting for rain. Harry
procured seed wheat on credit.

Josephine quickly discerned that Darcy's life hung on the mail. Her
children were denied sanctuary: she had no urgent spiritual needs herself
and her suspicion of inner retreat was that of the crime psychologist.

Clare Margaret's first letter came as the breaking of the drought:


DARLING DARCY,

We nearly all died when I got home without you. You must have heard me
howling all the way from Murrumbong. I've packed up all your dear things.
No one shall break in your foals but myself.


There followed pages of the doings of the family. Each member added a
postcript expressing ardent affection, and a merry anecdote against
someone. There was an oath here and there. Clare Margaret said she had
swallowed a stiff nobbler the first night to drown her sorrow; and that
Roger had got drunk, and it was terribly funny.

Darcy read with passionate nostalgia, reliving the past with sick
longing. "This day fortnight I was with Clare Margaret. This day month we
were..." and so on. At Murrumbong he could not enter without being
reprimanded for some omission. Coming weary from work he was nagged to
perform some extra chore to spare his mother. After the careless freedom
of Burrabinga and its village of buildings the compact house was a cage
in which there was no escape from the stings. One day he burst out that
it was hell, and the issue was raised.

Josephine rebuked him for being coarse and rough. She was ambitious to
see him in a clerkly position with meek manner and well-laundered linen.
"'Evil communications corrupt good manners.' You moon about, and I know
the reason. You wait for those indecent letters from Clare, full of vile
swear words and vulgarity--dreadful enough in a man, but unthinkable in a
girl. A grown-up woman now. I don't know what her mother can be doing to
let such stuff pass through the post."

"Aunt Margaret and Uncle Robert never pry."

"It is high time that they knew what is going on."

He hurried to the spot where he secreted the letters. They were missing.
There was no place from Hoof to rafters in Josephine's house where so
much as a spider or a speck of dust would dispute cleanliness and order.
She projected herself upon her circle as an unsurpassed manager and
housekeeper, and her technique in motherhood was equally brilliant. To
break a child's rebellious spirit was parental sport--part of parental
dictatorship. Children's duty was obedience and gratitude to the authors
of their being.

Darcy returned with blanched face and blazing eyes. Josephine had no
intuition of error in pursuing an established course.

"Where are my letters?" Darcy was perilously near to tears.

"I haven't finished reading them yet."

"You have no right to read them at all!" He could not have believed such
outrage possible.

"Don't look like a madman! Who has a right to read a boy's letters if not
his mother? Who is the one in all the world best able to advise him: who
has his best interests at heart, but his mother? It is disgusting for a
boy of your age to get letters like that. I demand to know what you said
to her--your cousin too. I don't know what your father will say. The evil
influence of Burrabinga is glaringly evident."

"I _love_ Burrabinga and _hate_ here," burst from him in all the passion of
his being.

"People always love sin and hate what is good." Josephine was
unacquainted with such intense emotion, and attributed it to bad temper
and the Irish strain.

"Give me my letters!"

"That I never will. I shall burn them. I would not defile my house with
such rubbish; if you don't turn over a new leaf, you'll find yourself in
terrible trouble--with a creature like that. She can have no shame. I
pray that evil practices have not already gone too far."

Darcy rushed from his mother, quivering in every fibre. She called after
him in scornful parody, "_'Darling Darcy, I got drunk. Darling_ Darcy.'
Ha! Ha!"

She was shattering beauty and innocence, so that afterwards, had the boy
a holy of holies, he would employ any subterfuge to protect it from his
mother. There is sadism in motherhood as well as in _amour_ and the boy
felt that his mother enjoyed his wounding. She had had no mercy on his
sensitive writhings as a child, had called him silly. He shrank from
further mention of the subject by her, as added profanation. Nothing was
left for him but to flee--no matter where--to be safe from further
inquisition. He disappeared for the day, unable to face the ordeal of
others knowing what had happened to him--not simply the spoiling of his
adolescent idyll, but that the spoiling had been done by his mother, with
evident satisfaction. His mother, whom he had been taught, by that
mother, enthusiastically supported by his father, to honour as a
priceless pearl among mothers, had done this thing to him, had put
complex shame in his soul, because to question a mother's holiness was
blasphemy. He walked all day among the soldier birds and crows and
cockatoos and whistling jays and scrub wallabies and hares, gathering a
shell on a festering wound.

He had come from the ploughing, leaving the horses a meagre ration of
straw--the only fodder available. When he did not appear for dinner,
Harry grew uneasy, and rode around the paddocks where the boy might have
met with an accident among his rabbit traps. He speculated until
Josephine had to explain.

Harry listened in silence. "I wish you had told me first."

"Why, pray?"

"There may have been no harm in the letters."

"No harm--after what I have told you! It looks like the low Irish coming
out--drinking and swearing--and now immorality!"

"That's not Irish particularly, but all human nature.

"Nonsense! Every publican in the country is Irish. Your own father made
no bones about saying d--- in front of little girls."

There was much that Harry could have said, and all of it would have been
so unavailing that he merely sighed and went to continue the ploughing,
glancing in every direction in the hope of seeing Darcy. The girl and boy
next in age were with Josephine's relations, the younger girl at school.

Darcy returned with her in time for the evening meal, and kept with her
so that his mother could not renew the attack. He went to bed when the
little girl did. Josephine remarked that he was sulking, and that she
despised moodiness.

She insisted upon Darcy facing her next morning when his sister had gone
to school. "It's time you thought of doing something now and helping me
with the younger children. Your father can't make a living. The right
kind of young men take an interest in helping their mothers, who
sacrifice everything for their children."

Pupil-teachers were in demand, especially males. Darcy had been unusually
quick at his lessons, and Josephine's design was that he should return to
school and study for examination. His academic education had been
obtained in a tiny bush school-house, three miles from his home, one of
the many which had sprung up in accordance with old Henry Parkes's
beneficent Education Act. In the growth of closer settlement, following
Robertson's earlier Land Act, this resulted in school-houses occurring
every five miles or so, wherever a dozen or a score of children could be
mustered. The demand for instructors, had, at the beginning, provided
genteel careers for men and women with a little lettering and the
ambition to escape from the plough or cow-yard. Darcy's instructress had
had more ambition than knowledge. Elderly and weary, her fierce canings
of stupefied frightened louts who had not the mentality to learn by rote
the multiplication tables, or chunks of the _Gazeteer_, or dates of
English history, had been a nightmare to Darcy. He had prompted his less
gifted school mates and this had brought harsh canings upon him too. His
delicate hands were often so swollen and bruised that his home
tasks--especially milking--were painful. His sensitiveness which made him
fear that he might involuntarily withdraw his hand before the cane
descended was a nervous trial equalling the pain itself.

Thus had he gained a conception of the teaching profession, and his
mother asked him to return and sit among little kids under the scotty old
woman in order to take her role. He would rather be a navvy.

"Then what are you going to do?" demanded his mother. "I'm going back to
Burrabinga."

"That you shall never do. I shall write to your uncle and aunt."

This was ordeal piled on ordeal to the hypersensitive lad. "Don't you
dare write to them!"

"It shows what you have come to to talk to your mother like that. There
is only one condition on which I'll consent not to warn them, as I
should."

"What is that?"

"You must keep away from Burrabinga completely."

His choice was instantly made. Anything to block his mother from writing
to his uncle and aunt. "All right, if you'll keep your word."

"What right have you to suggest that I shall break my word? I leave that
sort of thing to the Irish."

"All right then. Give me back my letters."

"I burned them. I hope you will try to forget every silly indecent word
that was in them. Clare Margaret must be a horrid girl." Josephine had
shut him from Burrabinga effectually. She felt him shamed yet thrilled by
the awakening. Like a drought blast on fruit she had forced his
adolescence prematurely to manhood at seventeen. In the same stroke she
had made Murrumbong uninhabitable. Henceforth his foremost emotion toward
his mother was dread of her power to desecrate. He must guard against
this danger by flight. He would remove his dream to the Diamantina, or
the Cooper or Roper or the Paroo or the Never Never to keep it safe from
profanation.

Harry had gone to plough. Darcy walked down the hill to him. That his
father would understand did not enter his head. Stroke by stroke,
unceasingly, Josephine imbued her children with the fact of their father
being useless as a parent or a provider, and Harry had not counteracted
this either by self-assertion or practical demonstration. Darcy strove to
make his announcement as one man to another. "Father, I'm clearing out.
Mother and I have had a bit of a row. I can't stay here any longer."

Harry's insight and kindness prevented him from probing. He said quietly,
"Better give it a week's thought, my boy. Your mother has a great deal to
worry her. It will pass." He did not mention Burrabinga, which was
healing to Darcy.

He remained with his father for some days. His mother recited the
opportunities for pupil-teachers. There were numerous examples of men in
public affairs who had begun as school-teachers. Darcy shuddered.
Relinquish Deerfoot and all the tribe of Nullah-Mundoeys, retire from
swinging neck and neck after wild horses, or from catapulting down
precipices after cattle at the musters, to sit inside like an old woman,
with a few kids!

He busied himself in secret preparations. His saddle was given more
stuffing. Deerfoot got stout new shoes. His father noted the ominous
signs, while his mother thought she had brought him to her way of
thinking.

He asked his father for a pack-horse, for which he would send the money
as soon as he had it. There was no danger of Harry requiring money from
the boy, though he had not a penny and did not know where to raise one.
He could never drive any one, but all could squeeze him. He asked Darcy
what he was going to do.

"Go droving!" He pronounced the words as a challenge.

"Hard work. You want to get with a decent man."

"I've written to Donal Geraghty."

"Have you told your mother?"

"Not till I'm ready to start."

"Her idea of teaching is all right, you know."

"Walloping helpless kids all day! I'd rather blow my brains out and be
done with it."

"You'll want a good dog."

The boy's eyes softened. "I'd like to take old Barney. He's a champion
heeler."

"You can have him. I have little use for him here."

Josephine railed when she was informed on the evening before Darcy was to
leave. She commanded Harry to detain him. Harry said that he had been
contemplating a droving contract himself until the drought should break.

In the morning the boy took the possum rug for which he had himself shot
and tanned the skins. He had some extra shirts and socks. Harry
contributed his own old oil-skin coat, his quart pot and tucker-bags.
Josephine produced a pound note from her hard won store.

The boy was sad when departure was upon him. He said goodbye to the
little girl and to his parents. He mounted Deerfoot, pulled Blackie's
halter, and whistled to old Barney, the only being involved who seemed to
be pleased.

Bound for the outer Overland, where the roads were still unfenced, the
youth rode down the rise from the house among the messmates, and crossed
the cow paddock amid the briars to gain the track that led to the Great
Stock Route that fed the Riverina and the Lachlan and the Bogan. As the
stage to restless girls, as the sea to European lads, so called the Great
Stock Routes to Australian boys in those decades. To go a-droving had
glamour. The drover, idyllic, comic, tragic, manly, was a sentimental
subject for the balladists who were fostering a new nation and portraying
its unwieldy place in the sun.

Harry was dejected to see his boy go thus. He understood, but was
powerless. In the great days of Tara, he might have thriven in giving
richly as a seanachie through his endowment of memory and poetic
imagination plus physical courage and skill. Born out of his century, he
had nothing but spiritual gifts to offer, gifts which in his environment,
were spurned as foolishness bordering on lunacy. Deprived of any outlet
or income spiritually from which to renew courage, hope seemed to wither.
He was sickened by his helplessness in an economic system in which, as
his mother had expressed it, he was as unprotected as a plucked goose in
a snow storm.

There was no one to understand him, though he understood Josephine's
bitterness to see her son spurn .a sensible suggestion and depart as a
mere casual labourer or station "hand". His was a double agony. He blamed
himself for his own failure and what it was bringing upon Josephine. She
went into the house out o sight. She suffered from an angry sense of
obstruction by the futilit of another, heartily despised that other's
incapability, and was no free from a desire for revenge upon him.

Harry glanced around the arid landscape, stricken by the white glare. No
green anywhere. An empty watercourse gaped at the foot of the homestead
rise. A brazen sky oppressed the shabby earth--bare dusty paddocks, dead
standing timber, ragged sombre scrub and the pitiless bleaching sunshine
from dawn until dusk. Ugly, sordid, poverty-stricken.

The road, upon which the two horses and the dog were becoming specks,
uncurled its grey tape to the crest of the ridge, where dropped out of
sight in the blue. There was always romance it road, beauty in the way it
lay across the horizon, suggesting something beyond the rim, even if only
at the furthest ends of the globe. The roads led up and on and away, with
a promise of liberation. Highways of hope--adventure--possibility.

Harry's thoughts lay upon old Danny, who had blazed his way where roads
were yet to be. A boy with Danny in him could not sit like a barnyard
fowl sifting the dust through his wings.

Harry continued to stand as if petrified, gazing along the road where his
son had disappeared, and on which he was never to be seen again. Distance
and the magic light cast a patina of exquisite blue on the suffering
land, and wove a spell of beauty to lure the traveller beyond the rim.
Only advancing age and horny experience could hold a man to the
realization that the beauty of distance was a mirage.

Johan Darcy, grandson of Daniel Brian Robert M. Delacy, had disappeared
into the distance with two horses, a dog, and a pound note, to follow, by
droving on the Overland, the double mirage of adventure and romance.



CHAPTER XL


The best of the Delacys may have gone in old Nullah-Mundoey. The most
impressive remained in Robert, whom the astute Wong Foo had early elected
as head of the family. With rare exceptions, all stations were centres of
sociability and hospitality, but Burrabinga was known as the most
hospitable of its region. The Delacy personality gave that hospitality
charm. If Harry was a misplaced _file-seanachie_ of the time of the
_Ard-Righs_, or High Kings in Erin, the Delacys in general were
reincarnated _brughaids_, those honoured officials of hospitality, of whom
it was written that they warned off no person of whatever shape, that no
company was refused, and no account kept by the hosts against any person,
no matter how often he came.

William continued to rage at the madness of such unbridled hospitality.
Both Margaret and Robert were generous and careless. The family grew up
more so, in keeping with the increasing availability of commodities.
Putting the brake on became impossible.

The war dragged on. The continuing demand for horses was all to the good.
The chief danger seemed to be typhoid fever, but Syme, so far, had
weathered everything. No one any longer discussed the rights of either
Uitlander or Boer. The gentleman who had lost his job at Sydney
University because of unpatriotic talk, spent months at Burrabinga, but
did not debate the ethics of the war. Just as well. No one but C. P.
Scott of the _Manchester Guardian_, and old Danny, would have understood
his views, and the first was removed by distance and the other was
mouldering in the grave.

No one knew if Robert had views. He had voted for the sitting Member for
years, and was free from profundities of thought, a silent man in his
sixties, with a spanking overdraft at the Bank, and a family that took
little notice of him, or he of them, except when there was a crisis.
Instead of commanding his son and keeping him into the collar, he rode
the ranges himself. Though stiffening, he was still slim and straight as
a reed, and with his aquiline features and height, a striking presence.
He could not now swing on or off a horse in motion, but he was always
a-horse, rode magnificent animals, and the excess of vigour, which had
had an overflow in swagger in youth, still lent him grit and grip.

There were many leagues of fencing now. The knolls and lesser hills
around the homestead were dotted with stately trees, spared by the axe,
and had the appearance of a park wrested from the wilderness, but much
labour was necessary to keep the scrub at bay.


Young Darcy had been months on the road towards the great northwest
"where all the rovers go". He was bringing cavalry remounts from
Queensland. The days on the Warrego Tracks, the nights with horses, the
drovers' purgatory, were hard on his young frame, but his shattered dream
was reshaping itself in the grand unpeopledness of the Route.

He had denied himself to send money to his mother. There! That was better
than miserable school-teaching. Barney and Blackie were still with him.
He was getting letters from Clare at odd corners of the Overland. Clare
had sent him Grandpa's Nullah-Mundoey by a drover who had stayed at
Burrabinga--most men would go out of their way to serve Clare Margaret.

Darcy--plain John on the Out Back Overland--was horribly tanned, and
lines were already chiselled by the sun around his eyes. He was learning
to take his grub like a dog, and to lie down and sleep like one, in
snatches, with little between him and the earth, but there was nothing at
all between him and the full glory of the inland sky at night--a free
field for the visionary. From the Leeuwin to Cape York, from the Great
Bight to the Gulf of Carpentaria, the eerie land ached in the sleep of
oblivion, but poets increasingly sensed her dreams. Often, in the
night, young Delacy could feel the startled silence throb with magic.

Otherwise he was growing hardened to many things, but he was also growing
a moustache, and on that his plans depended. With a moustache he would
return to Burrabinga--to Clare Margaret--a man.


In time the Boers surrendered, Among those who left their bones on the
veldt was Syme Delacy. The living heroes straggled back into the old
life, where most of the population worked for a living, and soldiering
was healthily out of fashion as soon as war ceased. Slogans about badly
managed troop ships were shouted at political meetings, and had reference
to experiences which acquainted warriors with the actualities of war as
well as its licence and adventures. At intervals, since the incipient
nation had outgrown its garde-major character, there had been attempts by
certain cliques to re-impose military snobbery, but without success, and
contingents which, during martial fever, had been lionized, found their
military doughtiness forgotten as they returned to normal citizenship.
Federation and political enfranchisement of women had slipped on to the
country unaware. Excepting Margaret, the Burrabinga people took little
notice of political statutes. More interesting to them was the death of
Wong Foo, in his hut at Bullock Gap, whither Glare Margaret had galloped
to nurse him, but too late. He was brought in by a fellow countryman to
be buried in the station graveyard with family honours. He had made a
legal will leaving his selection--now paid-up freehold--to Robert and his
heirs for ever.

Roger was turning out as good a whip as his father. He drove four
coachers in the family sociable, which could accommodate six dignified
sizable people and many more if they were undignified and squeezable.
Among the guests would be staid members of the medical and legal
professions, and various young fellows who imitated vice-regal _aides_.
When any of these needed horses they sent to the Burrabinga Delacys. No
others were known. Harry was obscured by poverty in a cockatoo-farming
community. William rendered his family inconspicuous by a routine imposed
to counteract the "flashing-about" of Robert's family. His prediction of
Burrabinga, "It can't last," was complemented by other people's, "How on
earth does it last? The banks will fetch old Robert a gutser one of these
days."

William's girls were not so gay and captivating as Robert's. The
Burrabinga girls were tall and slim and as supple as eels; they and their
horses seemed one. William laid his daughters' lack of dash to the fact
that Bewuck was primarily a sheep station. "Sheep put the comehither on
flashness and all that swagger," he said to Jean.

"A good thing too. Girls can't spend all their lives riding about on
flash horses to show off their figures, or in making fun of other
people."

Everybody extolled the Burrabinga girls and predicted great matches for
them--those merry, curly-headed, dare-devil minxes bubbling with witty
ridicule of each and all, but also warm-hearted, who could make a pie-a
ust or a ball dress as well as they could break a filly to lady-like
paces. They had opportunities of marrying city wealth, but William was
astute as well as envious. "I'd like to see them going up in the world,"
he said. "But they are likely to be snapped up by some useless fellow
with an eye to the main chance. All the no-chop bankers' and clergymen's
sons are mustered there, as horse-breakers, or to sink post-holes, and
because they set up as swells they are taken inside, and make themselves
so familiar that the desirable men are shooed off."

"Has Humphrey Vance gone back to Laura Butler?" inquired Jean. "Clare
Margaret ought to think of someone else if he won't come up to scratch,
or she will be an old maid."

"Humphrey will never think of any one else while Clare Margaret is free.
He goes up now and again. She is a fool to hang off. She will never catch
a better young man anywhere--and the property too."



CHAPTER XLI


Late one afternoon Darcy reined-in to note the changes that had taken
place in Burrabinga during his absence. Some of the nearer slopes had
been ringbarked and burned; trout fishers had denuded a reach of the
river of its fairy shrubs. The orchards obscured the low-set house. Old
Wong's grave was new in the little cemetery.

Clare Margaret had planted a drive of poplars and clumps of pampas grass,
and the leaves of the trees shimmered as beaten gold, the white plumes of
the grass waved like the crests of a medieval crusade against the setting
sun. Pale blue wood smoke from the autumn burning-off was incense to the
traveller's senses, and the cool, familiar song of the river poured
between day and night like eternity whispering _Hussssssssssh_! to the
mundane disharmonies of man. Darcy felt that he had come home. The
western country could not be what this was to him. It was like entering a
deep, cool castle after the heat and glare, dust or wet or cold of
unrelieved night and day. He rode forward to the announcement of the
dogs, which brought some of the family to the veranda. He was breathless
in thinking of Clare Margaret. Would she know him?

"He has the Delacy figure," said Margaret, turning pale and withdrawing
because of Syme.

Clare Margaret sped between dahlias and chrysanthemums, thence through
the orchard and her pride of pampas plumes, and the horseman sprang to
the ground as she came. They met. They had kissed effusively at parting,
but Darcy could not go beyond a hand-shake now. She saw the joy in his
eyes, the emotion on his sensitive features, and his capacity to feel
quickened her pulse as it never quickened for Humphrey Vance.

Darcy was a man. He had a "mo". That "mo" gave him confidence as his eyes
caressed her. She was adult. Darcy thought her curly hair lovely in the
new fashion, straight out of _Madame Weigel's Fashion Journal_. How tiny
her waist in the exacting blouse and belt, a style in which the
Burrabinga girls were experts.

Darcy went about investigating the changes. The girls had remodelled and
rearranged the house to accord with their ideas of elegancy. One of the
tradesmen, that were for ever dropping anchor in the sheltered cove of
Burrabinga, had been commissioned by Clare Margaret. Her father had
protested in view of the overdrafts, but the man, depressed after D.T.'s,
was comforted by the young people and glad to work for nominal wages. He
added a smoke-room or den, and another broad veranda, such as dignified
the old bush homestead to their uses. There were splendid pelts from
descendants of Billy, the tanning of which cost little but time, and the
Delacys would have been amused to put value on their time. There were
shelves for books; a roomy sofa was softened by cushions of bright "crazy
work" of pieces of Burrabinga dresses, a piano was weighted with showy
photograph frames--an informal room held in fond remembrance by its
friends.

Later in the evening Clare Margaret and Darcy had the schoolhouse to
themselves. There were so many guests that their absence went unnoticed.
They lighted a fire and feasted on apples and quinces and pears. Darcy
had forgotten that such cosiness and so much luscious fruit could he his.

Clare Margaret spoke of the soldier of the Queen who had not returned
from the veldt. "It was terrible when word came. That was what made Ma so
grey. Then she and Pa began to pet Roger, and he began to play-up and
think he was the Governor. He's smitten on a barmaid in Cooma and she is
threatening breach of promise. Pa says it will blow over because Roger is
under age, but Ma gets so upset over things since Syme went."

Clare confessed that Roger got drunk ever so often, and that his state
had to be hidden from his mother. Nosy old Uncle William had come up once
specially to tittle-tat about Roger, but Pa had squelched him.

"If the boy does take a glass now and again, I want him to. I could
always take my glass among men. Harry was kept in a coop, but as soon as
he got away from us he drank like a fish. I don't want my boys to be like
him."

"But I was reared like Harry," William had contended, "and if it came to
real assets, I might be ahead of you."

"A young man can't carry his liquor if he is kept on a feeding bottle too
long." Robert had walked off with his defiant swagger, which William
called "throwing his legs about". He had turned back for a last word. "I
reckon you remember the false accusations that were brought against me
when I was Roger's age. It will take more than hearsay to put me against
my own flesh and blood."

"It is to be hoped that Roger has your luck in crawling out of tight
corners," was William's parting thrust.

There was harness and saddle repairing to keep Darcy busy for weeks, and
with Syme gone and Roger so erratic, there was need of a stockman. The
war had cleared away the sons of lawyers and bank employees who had sown
their ne'er-do-wellism around the station, Robert said, "If you are
wanting a job, you might as well go on my books for the present."

A night or two after his arrival, when he was in the kitchen writing
labels for Clare Margaret's jam pots, he observed with some confusion,
"You are not married yet?"

"Who would I marry?"

"One of these fine swells for everlasting eating the place to beggary."

"The lady-helps don't give me a look-in; and," she continued with a
provocative smile, "Humphrey is like a policeman and sees that no one
else has a chance."

"Are you engaged to him?"

"I might have to take him yet."

"Then you don't care for him so dreadfully much?"

"Not so much as I wish I did."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, you know. Uncle William says he'll be able to buy and sell every
other man who comes here before long."

"Pooh, money! What good is that?"

"You'd know, if you saw poor old Pa and Ma so worried about the Bank.
Scissors, it was awful just after you went away. The Bank would have
foreclosed, only the war saved us...but it took poor old Syme."

"You know why I came hack, don't you?"

"Every one loves to come back to dear old Burrabinga."

"That's true. I reined-in the nags on The Plains and looked and looked
for half an hour at the mountains. I thought of what Grandpa told me that
time I rode Deerfoot to the races. He said the mountains had beckoned him
always. It seemed as if the silence were speaking, if you can understand
what I mean."

"I know."

Another generation or two and Danny's breed would be indigenous to the
soil which they had awakened from fabulous fallow-hood, its primeval
virginity scarcely yet ravished from timeless sleep.

After a silence, Darcy continued, "If you were going to marry Humphrey,
I'd saddle the nags and make back to the Diamantina." Then his heart
gagged him. From the den floated a waltz medley: The lndics--Weber's
Last--Myosotis--Blue Pacific--The Isis--a string of favourites, banged
out in accentuated rhythm. The voice of the Burrabinga rushed like wings
into their personal silence.

"So now you know," said the youth haltingly.

"Yes, I know," responded Clare Margaret, without a trace of coquetry.

"I suppose I must go away to the Paroo or the Roper."

"You mean because of the cousin business?"

"What do you think about it?"

"There would be the father and mother and uncle and aunt of a row."

"Is that all!" exclaimed Darcy, suddenly elated. "You mean that you
wouldn't object, yourself?"

"Well, lots of cousins do marry, from Royalty down."

"That's what I want to tell you. I met a man out in the Never
Never--fellow with a university education--talked real hee-haw like the
old parson. Cripes! it was funny to hear him swearing at the cattle in
that brogue. Told me about the Ptolemies--Cleopatra you know, and
Pharaoh. They married sisters and brothers."

"The worst trouble is that I'm old enough to be your mother."

"Don't be batty--it's not much over two years."

"You mean a few days under three years." Then Clare Margaret, the plucky,
the actual manager of the homestead, broke into sobs and said irrational
things. She was a wild creature. Parental discipline had been skipped,
and life itself had let her run as untamed as a high-spirited
Nullah-Mundoey, which knew neither bit nor tackle until fully grown. She
was maturing with the loss of Syme as her only experience of grief, and
Roger's lack of self-control as the major trouble of her days.

"We can never think of it. I couldn't marry a boy. If I wait till you are
old enough every one will say I took you because I was an old maid and
could get no one else."

"Aunt Della and Uncle Ned were as happy as Larry."

"Uncle Ned wasn't a cousin," sobbed Clare Margaret. "I wish you would go
away where I'll never see you again, because I can't bear you being my
cousin."

"I can't bear it either," said Darcy, equally distraught. He had learned
much in the hard days of drought, in the pitiless sun, in the restless
nights under the frosty stars, or in the dreary sodden rain, but nothing
that enabled him to bear up under Clare Margaret's tears. "It would be
best for me to go away at once and get it over. 1'11 never think of any
one else as long as I live."

Clare was so moved that Darcy had to clamp down his own excitement and
comfort her. "Don't go away at once. I could not bear it. I'll ride all
the outlaws and try to break my neck."

Darcy was weary of camp food and a bed on the ground and the endlessness
of roads--of sand or dust, naked of grass, without water, or else boggy
or deadly with poisonous herbage. The prospect of sojourn where Clare
Margaret was could not be resisted.

The saddling took a long time, as he was so often called out to the
mustering, or to deliver stock. He could drop into the breach when Roger
failed, and when he spoke of going, not only Clare Margaret but his aunt
and uncle would inquire what was his hurry.

His mother heard with disquietude that he was agagin at Burrabinga. She
harped on the cousin danger, though others were more alarming to her.
Harry sought to minimize uneasiness.



CHAPTER XLII


A year passed: Darcy was still at Burrabinga. Robert and Margaret were
unaware of the quality of his and Clare's affections. The others were
engrossed in their own affairs. Their life was lively with bouts of hard
work interspersed with picnics or attendance at the agricultural shows or
charity bazaars in the surrounding townships. Clare Margaret was left
more and more to superintend the homestead. On her depended the
regulation of supplies, the sowing of vegetables, the harvesting of the
orchard.

Mavis married. The third daughter, Vida, announced her engagement.
Mavis's husband was the son of a barrister, and following his father in
the law. Vida's affianced was supposed to have wrecked his health in the
war, but his father was able to give him a liberal allowance, and his
idleness was envied.

Clare and Darcy might have drifted indefinitely in the morass of cousinly
_amour_, only that Humphrey Vance appeared and remained at Burrabinga until
he could define matters. He sought opportunity one Saturday night by
manoeuvring Clare Margaret away from the people singing in the den or
dancing on the veranda. Robert was resting in his own room with Margaret.
It was increasingly their habit to withdraw.

"I don't believe you care as much as a tobacco tag for me," said Vance
when alone in the school-house with his love.

"Oh, yes I do. It's only that I haven't time to get married. If I didn't
look after things, we'd be on the rocks."

"If you cared, you'd think of marriage first."

"How do you know?"

"Because I care."

Humphrey forced himself to go on. He was a straightforward man with less
feeling and imagination than the Delacys, but more ballast in worldly
affairs.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking this last year. You are wearing your
life away here for nothing--just keeping a free pub for all and sundry. I
want you now while we are young, to have some fun."

"Marriage always looks to me like the end of fun."

"Well, what is your idea--working like ten for every loafer that comes
along to take advantage of your soft heart? You'll be eaten out in the
end, like the people in the back country with the swarms of rabbits."

"We have the Wong Foo estate," laughed the girl. Wong's estate was a
family by-word like the Yackandandah.

"You might be jolly glad of Wong Foo's thrift before long," said Humphrey
with a touch of rebuke. Flippancy about money matters savoured to him of
half-wittedness.

Clare was silent. Humphrey had to re-open the question. "I could give you
everything you want."

"Yes, but I'd have to marry you," flashed the girl, partly in return for
his financial superiority.

Humphrey winced. "You won't mind if I speak plainly?"

"Fire away!" she said brusquely, to cover her apprehension.

"It has been hard on my vanity, but I have to face it. You like me as a
friend, but you are dead in love with Darcy. He's the dreamy sort of chap
that girls like to coddle."

He was shocked by the effect of his words. Clare Margaret blushed to her
cars, then paled as if fainting, and broke into sobs, equally
disconcerting. She had always been the most high-spirited creature of
Humphrey's acquaintance.

"There! There!" said he, attempting comfort, but determined to straighten
out his emotions in a business-like way. He was too common-sense to waste
his substance in providing a free resort for spongers--some of them
supercilious. "I did not mean to hurt your feelings, but I have been
living in a fool's paradise. Cousins are the devil. They have an inside
pull and you can find yourself in deep water with them before you know
where you are."

Clare Margaret continued to cry, but softly, so that Humphrey recovered
his composure. "Now, you are soft on Darcy, aren't you? He means more to
you than any one else in the world: 'fess up." She said no word of
denial, for which he hungered, however false. With stern effort he
continued. "That would not matter: I could help you to overcome your
infatuation for the youngster, if he did not care for you, but he loves
you like a girl in a story book. I can see that now, from that day he
came to the races. You turned into a different person to play with him.
The familiarity of the cousin business blinded me."

"We tried," said Clare Margaret, with a sob.

"Ah!" breathed Humphrey, and was silent so long that the river imposed
its _Hussssssssssh!_ upon the ephemeral fret of man. "Well," he said at
length. "You can't go on for ever as you are now. What are you going to
_do_?"

"How do you mean _do_?" asked the girl.

"You can't marry him."

At that Glare Margaret demanded, "Why?"

"He's a cousin, and I know how the Delacys look at that."

"Lots of cousins do marry."

"Yes, but how would he keep you?"

"Like Uncle Ned keeps Aunt Della, I suppose."

Humphrey's face went blank. "Then you are thinking of marrying him?"

"It seems to be you who are thinking that."

"I've thought of nothing else but marrying you since you were seventeen:
and I'm just waking up to see where I stand."

"Right in front of me in the middle of the school-room," said she, very
Clare Margaretly. He was incited to seize her wrists and hold her where
he could look into her eyes. Her femininity excited him as wine, and she
enjoyed his male strength, but his nose looked too big, his eyes too
small. He was broad and heavy--like a coacher. Her ideal was the
thoroughbred.

"You can waste your own time if you like, though it's a terrible pity
when you'd make such a lovely little wife, but you have no right to waste
Darcy's life, and mine."

"I don't want you to hang around."

"But you let us hang around. If you don't want Darcy, why don't you send
him away? On the square--which of us do you want?"

"Oh, I wish. I wish Darcy was older." She began to sob again.

Humphrey was tender to the indecision of such a beautiful girl. He
decided to have a talk with Darcy. He liked him in spite of being jealous
of him, but, as a man able to add to his property, he felt mighty
superior to any male Delacy. He went with Clare to bathe her face in the
river, opposite old Billy's hustings, and then they returned to the den,
where dancing was proceeding as usual. A Sydney man insisted upon a turn
with Clare Margaret, which gave Humphrey his chance with Darcy. They went
out on the pretext of letting a horse out of the stable. It was not easy
to begin, but 'Vance was direct, not complex.

"I wanted to talk to you about Clare Margaret." He made a good deal of
lighting his pipe, though there was no wind. The stars blazed in a clear
dark sky. Darcy freed the horse. This accomplished, he stood with his
back to the stable door, waiting for Vance to continue, and thankful
that the night hid the commotion in his senses.

"I've been talking to Clare Margaret. She can't make up her mind: we
ought to do it for her. You know what I mean?"

"Go ahead."

"Well, hang it all, I've been telling her that she doesn't want to waste
her life; and I don't want to waste any more of mine either, just hanging
around. It's this way: I think she would he fonder of you than she is of
me, if you were not her cousin and so much younger. But those facts can't
be blinked, and I think it would be a good thing if you would go away and
let me see what I can do."

"Did Clare Margaret say that?"

"No. I think she is between two fires, but if one went out she could turn
to the other to boil her billy."

"Did she say who she liked best?"

"No. I'm telling you that she can't make up her mind, and if one of us
went away she would be satisfied with the other."

"Are you going away?"

"Damn it all, how could I, and take care of my property?"

"I see," said Darcy helplessly. He had no property.

"Excuse me for saying this, but I'm a bit older, and could provide for
her better than you can, but if she really wants you, and you have the
guts to go through with it, well, I'll keep out of sight. I have no more
time to waste. After all, Clare Margaret is not the only girl in the
world."

"She is to me."

"To me too, of course, if I could have her, but if I can't, I don't see
any force in mooching about as an old bachelor for ever."

"Whether Clare Margaret marries someone else or not there could never be
any one else for me."

Darcy said this with an intensity astonishing to Vance--of different
mould. The Delacys were like that, he reflected--emotional--Irish. It was
attractive in the girls. They seemed to feel so keenly that beside them
other girls were wooden and dull; but in men--damn it all, such
sensitiveness made them girlish. That was what had foundered young Syme
and Roger. Their company was so sought that they had been spoiled. And
two of a kind would never do. An outsider might be charmed by Darcy, but
surely Clare would be repelled by the Delacy qualities, which led to
waste. He had to acknowledge, however, that Darcy showed none of Syme's
or Roger's tendencies. He was as steady as a girl, but it was doubtful if
he would ever have any property. A man could no longer acquire land by
sitting down on it as the Anguses and others had done years ago. There
would he nothing of Burrabinga left for any of them. He wondered how old
Robert hung on as he did.

"If she means all that to you," said Humphrey, picking his way.
"And--well--if you mean as much to her--I reckon the difference in age
and the cousin business will have to go."

"But you point out that I can t give her a grand home, so I'll up and
clear out." His mother's tribulations because of his father's failure as
a provider came across the screen of experience as a warning.

"Will you?" said Humphrey, with a throb of hope.

"Straight wire, I will. I had a letter from my old boss this week asking
me to join him on the Overland to Adelaide."

"I reckon that will let us both know which of our cakes is dough."

They lingered affecting interest in general matters. To both came
insistently the swift river singing on the way to old Murrumbidgee Big
Waters--a susurrant thoroughfare of sound accompanied by the yelp of a
dog, the neighing of a horse, the cry of the curlews and plovers in the
tea-tree swamp, the crickets chirping for rain. All sounds flickered out
against that melody, constant as time, untamed as the wind.

"The river is so loud it promises rain," said Humphrey.

"Doesn't look like it," said Darcy, glancing at the sky, velvety black
and crowded with stars. Both were impatient to return to Clare Margaret.

On Monday evening Darcy announced to her his intention of leaving
Burrabinga again--this time permanently. She saw by his manner that
something had decided him so she took her life in her hands and voted for
love and poverty. Darcy tried to stand by his principles. They were
together in the laundry on the bank of the river, the girl "folding down"
for the morrow's ironing in the light of a hurricane lantern. Darcy
helped.

"I thought you cared terribly for me--you pretended."

"I do, but I'm trying to save you. I have no property. Vance will have
the whole of Longview."

Clare Margaret was practical. "You could take up that selection out by
Bullock Gap, where Wong Foo used to fossick, on that ferny creek. I can
do everything in a house. Look at this wash, piled to the rafters--a
first class hotel couldn't have more. Most of them act as if they were
conferring an honour on me to come and eat us out. That old swine who
came with Dr Christopher on Saturday actually complained of fleas in his
bed. He took them there from that mangy old dog he put inside the flower
garden. He broke off my dahlias."

"A fatal accident is sneaking up on that dog."

"Goody!"

"I'm getting full of these old culls too. They smoodge around Roger but
they order me like a rouseabout. One had the cheek to offer me a tip last
week."

When all the linen was folded they sat together on the ironing table and
swung their feet and talked to the lullaby of the river until the lantern
went out for want of oil, and all the household was in bed. They had
caught a gleam of the light of life and were exalted by the radiance. In
it they ripened and laid plans within the fortress of their preference
for each other for a partnership against the world at large.


Storms followed. Robert was proud, with Johanna's social values, and had
dreamed of Clare making a splendid match. Inconsistently he had not
employed the least stratagem to ensure this. His training, or absence of
training, by Danny, had not fitted him for such diplomacy. He could not
manipulate people to his will. He was growing to be a lonely, if
distinguished figure, resembling one of the stately river gums among a
scrub of saplings and underbrush, but still unbowed by fate. He denounced
Clare's intention on the grounds of consanguinity, her seniority and
Darcy's lack of property, and said that Vance would be more satisfactory.
He discussed the matter with Margaret.

"It's a case of propinquity," she remarked. "I cannot understand
marriages between cousins on any other grounds. They lack romance or
novelty."

"It's as disgusting to me as it would be to think of marrying my sister.
Josephine and Harry will make an uproar."

"They should have kept him away."

"I like him, if it wasn't for this." Robert wished that Roger promised
half as well, but he was jealous as well as proud, lacked his father's
passion for abstract truth, and would not permit such heresy to escape
him.

There ensued a period of strain for the old people and Glare Margaret and
Darcy. Mavis, Vida and Roger welcomed the prospect of Darcy to keep
Burrabinga going. They wanted the dear old homestead to come home to, and
Darcy was one of themselves. Clare Margaret had done more for the place
than all the others together, and felt that she had a right to the status
of a son, but women's rights had little of such logical results despite
the political enfranchisement granted some years before to Australian
women and applauded by the progressive throughout the world.

With signal wisdom Josephine and Harry refrained from public comment on a
marriage that was distressing to them.

"Marriage between cousins is revolting to me," said Harry.

"Cousins or strangers don't matter so much eventually as having to drag
along in poverty. With the publican taking the bread out of the
children's mouth, it is worse."

"As old Hennessy used to say," observed Harry grimly, "old Danny was the
best of the Delacys. There doesn't seem to be any promise among the
rising generation."

"It is a bitter thing for a mother to be helpless to do anything for her
children. I knew that Darcy was gone just as much as the poor boy that
was drowned, that day I watched him ride away. Heaven knows I tried to
save him from questionable influences and this scratching on the land,
but he would not listen to me."


The marriage took place six months later at Burrabinga. Mavis and Vida
did not come from Sydney for it, and no one was invited in the
neighbourhood. There was no pack of guests to gloat on a bride decorated
with satin and orange blossoms: the principals were almost as modest as
illicit lovers. The swarms of visitors to Burrabinga were relieved by
Clare Margaret's self-effacement, which enabled them to say later, "You
should have let your friends know so that we could have sent presents."

Humphrey wrote a letter of congratulations to Darcy and offered to be
godfather to his first son. Coole Butler and Fannie (Vance) sent a
present. Four years since they had married, much to Uncle William's
satisfaction. That was one solid union of property with property in the
family.

Following the wedding Darcy and Clare rode to Keebah for the night. Old
Sandy and Janet were still living, but piteously old, and there was also
one of the sons to extend a welcome. A special dinner had been prepared
and Clare was given an egg cruet, which so touched her that she wept.

"That's her grand match, to her boy cousin," sniggered Uncle William to
Jean. "A nice child, but as damned a fool as his father."

"Poor things. They have to make the best of it now."

"If they had some of the money they've squandered on cadgers and flash
showing-off, they wouldn't be starting in the scrubs with their bare
hands like our fathers and mothers did over seventy years ago."

"Clare Margaret won't have so much time to make fun of others now."
Clare's entertaining ridicule found unfailing material in Uncle William's
and Aunt Jean's peculiarities, but considering that Clare was now
extinguished, Jean added, "We had better send them a wedding present."

"That flummery of silver plate to put on airs above themselves won't be
any good at Bullock Gap. A cheque will be handy."

Clare--she dropped the Margaret in the struggle of marriage--wrote Uncle
William and Aunt Jean a grateful note and felt leis critical of the
Bewucks.

She and Darcy selected on a creek abounding in tea-tree groves where a
horseshoe of ranges rose in tiers against the sunset. They lived in a
tent during the summer. Darcy and two men, plus Jim the Carpenter from
Burrabinga, worked to have a shelter before the sleet of winter. To
conform to the residential requirements of the Act, the main house was
Clare's, the kitchen and store-room Darcy's, with the boundary line
between. The home was of slabs as the first hut at Burrabinga had been.
Clare, however, insisted upon two progressive features: all the floors
were boarded and the roof was of corrugated iron. The bark roofs of the
early pioneers had retreated to a lower social level, and Clare and Darcy
clung to their squatter grading.

Darcy had to guard the poultry from prolific native cats, and lessen the
marsupials on whose runs he had settled. He tanned skins and sold them;
the capable and tireless Clare made rugs of more to be used as blankets.
They made their own furniture and displayed one or two "elegancies"
collected in addition to the egg cruet. After all the arduous and
unflinching pioneering they had less than Johanna had started with
seventy years earlier. Ther were no longer any friendly gins to wash for
Clare.

On moonlit nights Darcy scarcely went to bed at all, but spent his time
in clearing while Clare helped him with the firing, as Johanna had helped
Danny at Bewuck. They had a start with horses and cattle and began to
collect a flock of sheep. They made a garden and orchard in the deep pure
earth of the flats, free from weeds, blight or insects.

Their ceaseless endeavour to wrest an estate from the bush left them no
time to be lonely. They were glad to sleep during the abbreviated nights
and on Sunday afternoons. There were no hordes of tourists to eat them to
bankruptcy as at Burrabinga. Their nearest neighbour was the son of Bella
Rafferty, who, one of his Heulong cousins, was bringing forth a large
brood James Fullwood's old homestead nine miles distant.

Bella was still living at Heulong. James, Charles and his wife as well as
her sister, Euphemia Hennessy, and Hennessy himself, were now all dead.

Towards the end of the first year Clare had to slacken her lab Darcy
increased his--if that were possible.

All their thrift was needed to offset the descending rhythm of trade. The
demand for horses declined and declined. Bicycles had banished horses in
thousands from the towns. The progress of the horseless wonder was
further alarming.

"Horses will soon be two a penny," the breeders said.

A few years more and the motor car, which had excited such derision at
the beginning of the century, became a commercial reality--the final
challenge to the horse, and all the swagger of his acolytes. Most people
were still assured that the motor car could never be anything but a toy
for the wealthy. The cost would keep it above the ordinary man, who would
have to depend on the horse.

Other changes came. The district had been triumphant in the provincial
and acrimonious rivalries for the site of the Federal Capital. The Plains
were to be adorned with an ideal city scientifically planned. People in
other countries found the name of Canberra in the cabled news and gave it
a new mispronunciation. In the image of Washington, D.C., U.S.A., Federal
Capital Territory was resumed.

Numbers of old pioneers were swept away as rubble before progress. It
would have been an act of grace to leave undisturbed a few old
identities, so soon to join the aborigines, whom they in a recent day had
unfeelingly ousted, but a young and impatient democracy could not loiter.
The old folks--all gone these twenty years--had to pull up their stakes
in the sunset of their days. Birrabee and Keebah were resumed. This
finished Sandy at something above ninety. He died of a stroke and left
with a long _cortege_ expressive of sympathy. Janet--only five years his
junior--went with George and Janet Junior to Victoria. She was valiant
and uncomplaining, but when the boundary gate of Keebah closed behind her
she was shorn of all that had been her and hers through seventy years,
and became a piece of displaced furniture, superfluous and with but one
wish, to be brought back to rest beside her Sandy.

Their headstones dignify the pioneer graveyard where the wide day lights
The Plains. Few remember them to-day. All the settlers contemporaneous
with the first Delacy generation were too hard at work, too unschooled to
leave written records. The shelters they erected against the blazing sun,
the sparkling frost, the deluging rain and the wild winds sweeping
without obstruction across a quarter of the globe, have decayed or been
reshaped to other uses. The occupants have vanished as last year's snows
from the frore highlands of their, old time runs, their bodies returned
to the comfort of the earth which their burial disturbed from an oblivion
of cleansing fallowhood.

Robert Delacy, of all his coterie, was left for a time to reign alone at
Burrabinga, the most tangible result of the dreams of the young Danny,
who at eighteen sat on a stile one May clay in old County Clare,
projecting adventure and plighting his troth with his Johanna, with the
lovelight in her eyes and the hardihood to dope with her Danny-boy to the
"furthest extremity of the globe".



CHAPTER XLIII


Motor cars had conquered the Blue Mountains by 1905. Delacy's Peaks
protected their realm a little longer but _decrescendo_ was written under
the high-spirited rhythm of blood horses' hoofs, and brought dispirited
years to Burrabinga.

Old Robert's silken thatch still had no white threads, though there were
some about his jowl. Mavis and Vida, when he visited them in Sydney,
insisted upon Pa submitting to the King Edward clip, which had long been
in vogue for squatters with any sense of style. Those who clung to the
possum formation in whiskers had been relegated to farce, and ridiculed
as Dad Waybacks, successors to the earlier bushwhackers.

Robert's flesh, in the Delacy way, grew less and less with age. He
alighted gingerly at the end of the day, though he still rode spirited
beasts of the old strains, and he and his dogs were about the runs all
day and every day. He suffered at intervals, but Margaret's embrocations
kept the wolf of decrepitude at bay. They were both feeling their age,
with the whole elder generation departed as last season's leaves, and
themselves on the outposts as the oldest hands. To the oldsters the world
never recovered from the passing of Victoria. King Edward had not time to
sink his life-long role of Prince of Wales in that of King, ere he had
gone, and his son had taken his place. That was better: King George and
the new Queen had made themselves actual by a visit to open the first
Commonwealth Parliament. Australia owned a social share in them.

Robert was the only Delacy, who in the false phrase, could carry his
liquor. Alcohol was his constant resource in heat or cold, fatigue or
depression, but no one ever saw him fuddled. Grog was forbidden to the
lads at Bewuck. Uncle William was able to say, "I told you so," with
reference to Roger, who patronized the hotel of Gool Gool because no
reporting relatives were there. When he was ejected by some publican he
would make to Ferny Creek and implore Clare to shelter him until he was
fit to reappear. Margaret had never seen him in the trough of his bouts.
As Johanna with Robert, she refused to be aware of anything that
belittled her son. Robert accepted this as natural from a mother. The
police and the publicans had early informed him, however, and his haughty
spirit was hurt that he had to be grateful for their lenience.

Enlivenment came from the grandchildren. As soon as they could lisp they
all plumped for Burrabinga. Adventure lingered in its orchards, its
river, its domestic animals in the fascinating processes of multiplying.
A boy could collect eggs from a score of species, or find an eerie or
bring home baby possums and wallabies. There were no bird lovers or
animal protectors to give him a bad conscience. And there were always
horses. No Delacy walked except to catch a horse.

Another of Josephine's children died of chill after influenza. The tragic
Delacys again! William said that Harry's brood were weeds. One of his own
daughters, Sophie, was distinguishing herself. She had persuaded her father
to send her to Shirley, a school conducted by two advanced Englishwomen,
where she won scholarships and other prizes which diminished her expenses
and earned her reputation. She had begun pedagogic training at the
University. William exulted in her. There were paragraphs about her in the
local paper, and her picture had been in the _Town and Country Journal_.
Hitherto no Delacy had been mentioned in the _T. and C.J._ unless he died.

"'A live dog is better than a dead lion,'" said Clare at Ferny Creek,
criticizing the picture. "One Delacy promises to be worthy of old Danny,
as Hennessy would have said it. I must congratulate Uncle William."

William was not without uneasiness lest his prodigy might be
"strong-minded", and shut out of matrimony, the weak-minded _per contra_
being more fitted for that exclusive field for women.

Clare's boy had blue eyes and hair like black floss from old Danny. Clare
taught him, and he could write a letter before he was six. He was also a
dare-devil. Punishment was no deterrent  to shinning the highest trees
after birds' nests or to riding as recklessly as all the Delacys in one.
He also had a tendency towards machinery and disgraced his tradition by
preferring a bicycle to a horse. Josephine claimed his mechanical genius,
as she was the only one of the fraternity "handy" with carpenters' tools.

He had been christened Brian Daniel, after Danny, and Franc-Alleu, after
Johanna's mother, with reversion to the old spelling. Josephine deplored
the hideous names, but Harry cherished the naming.

Clare was determined that the child should have the highest education
obtainable. "It is time that one of the Delacys knew more than to be a
drover or a boundary rider," she observed.

"They rack themselves delving about the ranges, just for loafers to cadge
from them. We need a few Delacys with fat tummies to spread gold chains
on, and to sit in town while others take a turn tigrinizing in the
scrub."

She was thin and prematurely wrinkled and brown from hard work. Her wit
had sharpened in the struggle, but her pride and the unfailing devotion
of Darcy kept her up. Darcy seemed like an old man, not a peck of flesh
on him, but people contended that emaciation was schetic of the Delacys.
The weariness of his bearing wrung the heart of his father when he came
on a visit.

Darcy attributed his state to having wrenched his back when fencing. Such
work with the Delacy physique was the relegation of a racehorse to a wool
wagon. Harry reported that the homestead was a wonder. He did not know
how Darcy had managed so much grubbing and fencing.

"A pity it is such an out-of-the-way hole," observed Josephine. "Why the
Delacys buried themselves there in the first place, puzzles me."

"The easy land was grabbed by the big fellows with capital, and influence
with the officials. That region is one of the fountains of Australia."

"Lots of men started as convicts and left fortunes. The Delacys were
free, yet came to nothing."

"To become rich you have to grasp without principle."

"Lots of rich people have as good a character as your father."

"I have never seen as great a character as my father."

"A man is not great who cannot provide for his family and attain some
prominence."

"Criminals can be prominent. My father had a vision of the future. He
opened a region without bloodshed among the blacks: Doogoolook and Maeve
confirm that: and without convict slaves, or any ill-gotten gains."

"But he got nowhere. No Delacy has ever been a member of Parliament, or
even the Mayor of Bandalong, or anything but a wasteful nonentity."

"Perhaps when all our hides are in the tanyard, it will be difficult to
say who were the failures and who the successes." Harry was dispirited by
his financial helplessness. Josephine had much to endure because of it
and did not allow him to forget it.

The twist in Darcy's back did not mend. Clare had to bring him to the
doctor all the way around by Heulong. Those living in the direction of
Ferny Creek lacked the influence to obtain a bridge. One had been thrown
across the river to transport materials during the building of a weir,
but this was on the Learmont property, and Learmont threatened to shoot
trespassers. Other landholders tacitly supported him. Opening the road
would entail expensive fencing and the loss of acres now used in grazing.

The doctor said that Darcy had been dying on his feet for two years. Hard
years of droving, followed by racking effort and frantic industry to
provide a home for his Oread--beautiful as a quince blossom--had wrecked
his sensitive frame. He was to be gisen the peace possible. Nothing else
now mattered. He craved to return to Ferny Creek'. The litigious Learmont
contesting the right way to a bridge without approaches and high as a
gallows in the air, was in the minds of Darcy's friends when they advised
him stay in Bandalong. Soon the rivers would be swollen with winter and
communication cut off.

"If I was home you could look after me better than all the doctors and
nurses put together. If only I could have a rest I would be all right.
Ghost! I'm tired."

Clare did not fail him. She choked back her grief, her warm heart all
indulgence. She borrowed a buggy and drove him home. They had to ride
from the Murrumbidgee. Trees had fallen in a recent gale and great holes
had been washed in their bush track but Darcy uttered no complaint. When
Glare laid him down at the end of the journey, he was a waxen shadow,
but the sapphire eyes thanked her with a look of contentment.

During the autumn days--soundless, still--Nature held her breath. The
comfort of return lent Darcy a little strength, and soon he was able to
sit in the sun. Clare was fortunate in old Dunlop, who could turn his
hand to any task. As with many a homeless middle-aged man, his mistress
was alcohol. He was an occasional boozer, who might once a year obey the
craving, but Clare did no think he would go while responsibility braced
him. Roger promised to come for some weeks after the autumn mustering and
branding.

Darcy was free from pain and talked of being well when the cold weather
went. Clare was feverishly happy those days, and her strength equal to
the calls of housewife and nurse as well as the field work. She toiled
and scraped with no one but young Brian to aid her. From early
extravagance she had changed to hard thrift.

"Doctors are often mistaken," she said to herself, and recalled hopeless
cases that had recovered.

Only Dr McKenzie was surprised that death delayed. During this reprieve
old Dunlop's will collapsed and he departed Gool Gool on imaginary
business, where he began to drink himself to verminous emaciation in a
pub beyond the township. Roger had gone in the same direction with
butcher's fats, and camped in another pub.

The cold weather was a strain on Darcy, so Clare had his bed removed to
the largest room, with the deep fireplace, in which the logs could be
piled until they roared. When the crisp frosty weather was broken by grey
skies and the portents of storm, she persuaded him to rest all day.

Darcy continued to complain of the cold, though the logs glowed white as
a blast furnace and hissed as a rising gust whirled rain drops down the
wide flue. As darkness approached and the animal world took shelter from
wind and rain, Clare reheated the bed until it was an oven, but still
Darcy shivered. Then Clare's heart missed a beat as she recognized the
visitor who had come through the barred hard-wood door on the wings of
the furious night and waited near the threshold. "No! No! Go away!" cried
her heart in anguished resistance.

She knew nothing of death, despair unnerved her, but courage even as
fear, is sometimes an entity beyond the volition of its host. Darcy began
to talk, and she placed him comfortably on his pillows. "You know,
Grandpa was a dear old man. He gave me that beautiful Nullah-Mundoey with
no more fuss than if it was a kitten. He was the most wonderful old man I
ever knew--all those wise things people tell of him. When we're
youngsters, we don't understand. We make fun of the old instead of
finding out how they did things. It's too late by the time we have enough
sense to know how wonderful they were."

"Are you warmer now, pet?"

"I don't know. I've forgotten. I wish I could talk to old Grandpa now. He
could tell me what I wanted to know. He knew all about Ireland, but we
never asked him about it...Think of that time he lost his leg."

"Yes, and those spiffing yarns that old Hennessy told us about how he
acted with the carriage, and when old Grace Butler wanted to get up a
breach of promise case against Pa."

She talked with forced gaiety as the hour approached midnight and the
Reaper drew ever nearer while Brian slept, and the wild wind was lashing
the sleet on to the roof, tearing the vines from the veranda posts and
laying low many a forest giant.

Darcy roused after a doze. "I'd like to be buried near old Grandpa! I'd
like to do something friendly to him. He was such a friendly old man. He
didn't mind us being only kiddies."

His head fell sideways, he gasped, a look of unutterable weariness passed
across his features and left them calm and without expression.

Then Clare Margaret knew that she was bereft of her dearest, her richest
anchorage. No miracle had spared her this ordeal. No miracle but that of
fortitude would support her or extricate her from the finalities.

Numb with loss, she suppressed the desire to run sobbing to the child in
the farthest room, and turned to prepare her beloved for his last sleep
in her presence. The storm continued to shake the house and lash the big
trees to frenzy as it rushed up from the vast south with a voice like the
wrath of God.

When everything was in order she wakened the boy, who came wondering-eyed
from his nest under the possum fur to the light of the kerosene lamp and
the sinking fire.

"Is Father worse?"

"No pet, he will never suffer any more."

A sob stifled speech so that Brian, terrified, demanded, "Is he dead?"

His mother calmed him and said he could sit beside the bed and keep
Father company while she arranged the cold room for his lying-in state.
At daybreak she said, "You must go for Charlie Fullwood." This was Bella
Rafferty's son, nine miles distant.

Brian departed, enjoined against galloping, or jumping over logs lest his
sure-footed friend should slip in the water-logged tracks.

Fullwood set out immediately, leaving Brian to escort Mrs Full-wood. When
she was ready she clambered on to an old neddy and the baby was handed
up.

Charlie had arrived with a drenched horse, but Clare, working inhumanly,
had milked the cows and was attending to the other animals. She was too
tense for speech, and Charlie was relieved by his wife's arrival. He then
went to inform Burrabinga.

The approaches to the foot-bridge had been washed away during the
previous spring. Many things were in need of repair since Clare and Darcy
had left, and Jim the Carpenter had gone to his rest in the station
graveyard.

The river foamed past as on the day the mischievous Clare had rounded the
geese into it. No one attempted the Burrabinga in flood. Hydraulic
pressure would have swept the most dauntless horse off his feet or to
some spot where there was no bank to land.

The dogs brought out the household. Roger was still in Gool Gool, Robert
away on the run. Intuition told Margaret that a "bad turn" had to be
reported. Nothing more could be done. The river would run down quickly if
the rain ceased, but the dense snow clouds did not promise fine weather.
If the river did not fall. Margaret supposed that it would be necessary
to bury Darcy at Ferny Creek.

Fullwood rode away to get a prospector on the Gool Gool road. Rain fell,
steady and windless, warm and with no signs of clearing. When Fullwood
returned it was time to dig-in for the night. They would go at dawn for
the pine flooring-boards of Fullwood's dining-room.

Mrs Charlie reported Clare's intention of taking her husband to
Bandalong. "We couldn't get round the sideling to Heulong bridge. Ferny
Creek is washed out in deep holes." He repeated this to Clare.

"His last words were that he wanted to be buried beside Grandpa Delacy,
and I'm going to do it."

"If only the bridge were finished," murmured Charlie.

"Surely to heavens!" she broke out passionately, "When I think of all I
did at Burrabinga--went miles and days out of the way care for
people--any tramp or Chinaman was always looked after--there must be
someone to help me now, or they are a beggarly lot."

"How can we get to the bridge?" said Fullwood, but merely while he
collected his wits.

The rain roared on the iron roof and trickled down the chimney and hissed
in the fire. The augmented voice of Ferny Creek could be heard in the
distance. No other sounds came from a drenched world. Beast and bird had
sought shelter.

"My poor darling is so wasted, he can't weigh eight stone. Up the stiff
places we can carry him. I can sew the coffin in bags so that it can be
hooked on."

Learmont wouldn't think twice about a charge of shot."

"We'll go at night."

"All right, Clare. We'll be ready."

Fullwood went out to talk with his mates. Decent men near to primeval
Nature, to balk a woman exigent for her young or her dead would be
blasphemy to them.

The old Fossicker took off his hat to think. "Christ!" was the most
printable of his expletives. "We'd be a lot of old women if we couldn't
do what she wants. Child's play to what I've seen on the diggings."



CHAPTER XLIV


The lowering skies did not lift. It was one of the wettest months
remembered in Danny's kingdom. A spring broke out in the stable. Water
gushed up if a stick were thrust in the ground anywhere about the
premises, but Clare was not to be deterred. Two more men had mustered
from beyond the Fossicker's. No word had been allowed to seep to
Learmont, a mile below the bridge.

As soon as Darcy was in his box they set out. The coffin was slung on an
old salt lumper. The vast saturated bush was voiceless save for the
patter of rain and the music of rills filling a hundred channels. Every
gully had a creek swollen to a river, each hillside its cascading bridal
veil. The horses sank to the hocks in mud or waded girth-deep through
swamps and creeks. The hills and sidelings were the most difficult, as
the earth gave way in greasy slithers.

The silent traveller lay through the first night in Annie Fullwood's best
room. The party arose by candlelight and departed at dawn. The rain had
ceased for a brief interval, and along the ridges the lyre-tails could be
heard singing anthems in their arboreous transepts. The returning rain
silenced the heavenly choristers who still accompanied the procession for
some distance, and then fluttered across the track and disappeared down
the precipices.

"I don't expect Learmont will give any trouble in the circumstances,"
Charles Fullwood whispered.

"The circumstances are just the ones he'll fight, if he knows anything,"
responded the Fossicker, who had seen life undecorated on many goldfields
and knew that superstition was strong than law concerning a corpse
conferring the right of way to a place of burial.

"I'll deal with Learmont," said Clare, overhearing. "Darcy goes to
Grandpa as he wished."

Brian shinned up a pole with a rope. Getting Father over the bridge
became an adventure to him. "Here comes someone," he shouted.

"Old Learmont," said one of the men, halting in his task. Clare nerved
herself for combat. The rider approached blazing with rage, until he
noted the woman and that other malign shape.

His reaction was immediate. He dismounted and came on with uncovered head
in the rain.

"Clare Margaret, I am very sorry for this," he said in earnest
neighbourliness. He and the elder Delacys had been boys together. "I'm in
time to lend a hand."

Glare broke down at that, while Learmont joined the men. "You should have
let me know."

"We hadn't time to send so far," said Fullwood.

"We thought you might run us off as trespassers," observed the old
Fossicker.

"Circumstances alter cases," Learmont admitted.

At the farther side of the river the burden was carried to the bank by
the men waist deep in water, who then took Clare and Brian. A horse and
cart were fetched from a settler: messages were telephoned.

"A pity we had no time to let Burrabinga know," remarked Fullwood. "They
might get out by the Keebah punt."

Clare's response was bitter. "I'm glad they did not know. Pa and Ma are
too old to slop around in the sleet and get rheumatism. Every one else
can go to hell, and stay there. No one came to our wedding. My poor lamb
died on his feet slaving. After seventy years of pioneering we still had
to start with our bare hands because we were mad on hospitality."

"But that is how the country got settled," murmured Fullwood, "by helping
each other and sharing."

"I don't want any flash cadgers gloating now," snapped Clare.

Nevertheless telephones rang with the news of Clare Margaret. She had
become Clare Margaret again like a princess resuming a title. Forgotten
since her eclipse in a poor marriage, she now, in flood and storm,
re-emerged with the silent Darcy and opened a thoroughfare.

Tales were revived of old Delacy's honesty and fearlessness. "His deaf
and dumb blackfellow on one side of him and a full blown Chow, as flash
at a white man, on the other!"

"Started those horses from a colt that he stuck a wooden leg on."

"And scattered peacocks and billy-goats from Goulburn to Cootamundra."

"Any youngsters?"

"One boy, about eight."

"Old Danny's breed on both sides ought to produce something."

"Fullwood says he was like an engineer getting the coffin on to
the bridge."

People met the mourners. Danny Delacy was a living legend, and scarcely a
soul in the district but had enjoyed the hospitality of Burrabinga. Many
remembered the vivacious girl and her prancing horse and glittering gear,
her pranks in all the gay swagger of the 'nineties, and this tragic
reappearance stirred the imagination. A squatter between Butler's and the
bridge met her with a buggy and pair, and the rough box rested in another
drawing room for the second night with the winter flowers of the station
garden laid upon it.

The rain held up at dawning as they left for the Township, but the sky
was heavy and the wind had asperity. Fresh contingents of sympathizers
followed for an hour or two and dropped back when others took their
places.

Uncle William came to meet the procession with the Bandalong hearse. On,
on, across the rolling grey plains in the biting cheerless day. The
Township had not enjoyed so interesting a funeral since old
Nullah-Mundoey had enlivened the route. Brian whispered to his mother,
"All the people to see Father buried! They must think a lot of him."

"It's too late," said his mother grimly. "It doesn't matter what they
think now."

Uncle William's plan for his niece to remain at Hennessy's with her Aunt
Jean died when Clare Margaret looked through and beyond every one.
Silent, tearless, stern, showing the ravages of hardship, she stood by
the graveside, for the first time in her life careless alike of
appearances or opinion while the sodden clods drummed on the coffin. The
prelude to life with its flowery morning and perfumed zephyrs had passed:
she had learned that life was an isolating monster; that those worthy of
maturity--the givers--must ever meet it separate and alone.

The top boots which had been Darcy's one scrap of wedding finery, showed
under her shrunken skirt. Her bare coarsened hands were blue with cold.
She had lost her gloves at the bridge. The soaking rain had come on
again. Someone held an umbrella over her. It was Humphrey Vance. He had
looked at her across the grave but she had not acknowledged him.

He remembered the lilting girl on the blood filly, the budding woman in
frilly gown, a-bubble with high spirits, and now, though she was a sombre
and weather-beaten widow of thirty-three, in a battered hat and shabby
coat, he knew that his heart still was hers. The quince blossom girlish
beauty had left something of gipsy defiance in her unheeding despair as
she stood by the filling grave, a sorely smitten woman, but clearly of
fighting mind.

Vance would have stood by her to a greater extent than the umbrella, but
was too aware of his environment to bring gossip upon her. Also, she had
not wanted him long ago and might resent his intrusion now, though he was
nominally godfather to the boy. Later, he might assume some
responsibility, but action involving expenditure needed deliberation.

He relinquished the umbrella to Harry Delacy, who had arrived in time for
the burial. Financial helplessness was stamped upon his clothes, but he
had Danny's wholesomeness of disposition, and neither defeat nor
bitterness looked from his eyes as he acknowledged old friends. A cough
racked his thin form, and people were relieved when the Vance umbrella
shed some of the drops off him.

William tried to lead Clare Margaret from the grave after the first
clods, but she would not move. All perforce had to stand with her. The
shovellers worked furiously to shorten the ordeal and soon the mound was
shaped. Still she stood.

"I'll bring her presently," Harry whispered to William, as the crowd
withdrew to Hennessy's hotel to take nips against incipient colds and to
discuss the widow, past, present and future.

"Vance can have her now," said one of Vance's employees. "She still must
be sticking in his craw."

"Good iron wingey! Wouldn't it be a lift for her."

"My oath? She's a fool if she doesn't nab him now."

"Big streak of fool in all the Delacys--riding horses no sane man would
back."

"Yes, and spouting poetry without being drunk neither."

"They were eaten-out by loafers--worse than rabbits."

"My oath, yes! The Vances started later and now are the nobs of the
district, and the Delacys are going to pot."

"Old Vance never gave a meal away, even in the early days."

"Showed his common sense."

"Old William has enough savvy to sit like a clucking hen on what he has.
Old Robert's overdraft must be a boomer."

"Hear the kid ask if they were going to cheer his father?"

"By cripes! she deserved a cheer, bringing him out like she did."

"It put old Learmont's pot on properly. Have another?"

"By oath, I will. It's so flaming cold it will turn to snow." The bar
talk eddied to the price of wool and live stock. Brian's question about
the cheers had issued in a clear-treble.

His only other gathering had been a football match at The Plains
where the hero of the game had been hip-hip-hoorayed.

Harry and Clare lingered by the grave. The large attendance at Danny's
funeral had inspired the sons to replace Johanna's modest headstone by a
pair of more elaborate design. The cost had fallen on William. Robert had
not yet sent a cheque for his share, and Harry rarely had a penny.

The horizon was obscured by a veil of slanting rain that soaked the
mourners in spite of the expensive umbrella as they read the epitaphs,
and Harry then and there informed Brian of the great qualities of his
great-grandparents.



CHAPTER XLV


Uncle William hurried them to Hennessy's, to dry clothes, a big fire, and
nips of grog. Harry made light of his cough, which had persisted since
the whooping cough contracted on the roads with the wheat when a boy. He
suffered keenly his inability to aid his daughter-in-law, but as
Josephine constantly pointed out, he could not give his money to the
publicans and still have it for his own use. He had been twice rescued
with advances on Josephine's expectations, but this had not prevailed
against droughts and the mismanagement due to a lack of bargaining
proclivities. He was now meditating a loan from William.

"Don't take it too hard," said Uncle William to Clare. "I'll take a look
around myself. A few pounds is neither here nor there, if you're wanting
it. We can spare it."

"Of course we can," said Aunt Jean.

Clare appreciated this liberality, but her pride was wounding her.
WFulliam was generous to his relatives, also, since Vance's action with
the umbrella, Glare's stock had begun to rise again. She always felt the
necessity to stress friendliness with Uncle William since maturing to
understand the depth of the affront she was supposed to have put upon him
long ago. He, on his side, had come to see that it had not mattered.

"You are a strong young woman yet, and time does wonders," he said, bent
on cheering her so that he could show her the wonderful photograph of
Sophie in her cap and gown. Sophie was the only one of old Danny's stock
achieving any distinction. WFulliam could afford to be bountifu! to the
once-gay and merry Clare Margaret now a sorrowing widow. His boys
promised to be capable of holding what he had accumulated--something for
thanks when one of Robert's sons had been killed and the other was
thriftless, and Harry's were so delicate that they had early disappeared.

"I'm glad that Sophie has struck out and got education," said Clare. "If
I drop like a bullock in the chains for it, I mean to give Brian a
chance. Only fools drag at this pioneering. The fat slugs who never soil
their hands come and sit in the places we've bursted ourselves to make."

When the rain lifted William drove her home by Heulong bridge. Harry had
delight in little Brian, and Josephine invited Clare to bring the boy to
Murrumbong, but she was eager to be at Ferny Creek, where the old
Fossicker was in charge.

Josephine was not softened towards Clare Margaret by Darcy's death. Clare
had lured him from home; she had won. Josephine remembered her last view
of the boy riding away across the dusty paddocks in defiance of her
plans. Had he listened, he would now have been in a comfortable school
instead of having bullocked himself into an early grave; and that he
would have been wearing good clothes was in Josephine's subconsciousness.
Old Johanna had struggled unti! the end for the elegancies through which
Danny had charged like an antelope at a horse fair. Josephine, in her
turn, longed for the sleek city man, and the pavement parade for herself
instead of the shaggy bushman and his isolated home. The mating instinct
brews a delirious spring, then follows a long summer and autumn,
frequently of incompatibility.

Roger had got as far as Ferny Creek to find the Fossicker alone. Dunlop
appeared later and the three were there when Clare returned to reflect
bitterly that any of them could better have been spared than the light of
her existence.

Before the river was safe to ford, Robert with the hardiest of his dogs
came to ask Clare to return to Burrabinga. But Glare refused firmly.
Ferny Creek was all that she had for her boy, and she meant to hold it.

Disappointed, Robert turned to execrate Roger. Roger in turn, accused his
father of neglect to instruct his sons regarding the need for sobriety,
and laid the blame for his youthful surrender to alcohol on the fact that
it "was everlastingly shoved under my nose". Outsiders thought Robert
obtuse to his son's delinquencies, or that he had lax standards, but that
was due to his pride. He rode homeward with William's early warnings--so
contemptuously dismissed--bitter in his recollection, while Roger raged
about the slack way he had been reared.

"Nothing but New Guinea will pull you up this time," said his sister
dryly. "Queensland will be too cool to keep your indignation at bolling
point. You can't blame Pa for what you were doing while Darcy was dying
and I was alone."

This pierced Roger's armour. He abjured alcohol and returned to
Burrabinga to rebuild the foot-bridge far above flood level.

When the river was safe Margaret rode out to add her persuasions to
Robert's.


"It is kind of you and Pa, but I could never go back to waiting on a lot
of tourists for nothing. Mavis and Vida had stacks of useless wedding
presents, but I had nothing. I mean to educate Brian so that he can
escape to the city and have everything to his hand. The Delacys have done
their share of tigrinizing for others to reap the benefit. It's time some
of the city people worked a little of the corporation off themselves.
Grandpa and Grandma, then you and Pa pioneered like navvies, and yet
Darcy and I were not a bit farther along. The poor darling had to be
hauled out to be buried like something from the North Pole."

"What would be a pity would be to leave the benefits to outsiders after
doing the slogging. You must do as you feel best." Margaret turned to
other subjects.

"It's a pleasure to see Uncle William's pride in Sophie," said Clare with
a flash of her old humour. "He has the copyright on the only Delacy that
isn't a dud. He's so pleased with me now as a down-and-outer that he's
forgiven the night he got to bed with Mrs Vance."

"I hope William will never know sorrow or loss. We shall be grateful if
his children carry the name to the top."

Clare was wel!-off for man power while her loss was fresh. Every
neighbour offered to carry a load of supplies or to mend a fence, and so
forth. Dunlop had straightened up once more and was due to give a term of
excellent service. The Fossicker too, was glad to ring-bark or do odd
jobs during the winter in return for his keep under a sound roof.

"She can't carry on there with nothing but men," said Robert. She did
though, for a time, preparing to part with Brian for his own sake. She
was willing to mortgage the property to assist one bright Delacy
intellect to something other than bushwhacking, and in this was part of
the general revulsion against bush life that was infecting the people.

The city lured. Young men who had slogged from dawn until night in
fencing or grubbing, hilling potatoes or ploughing in the dust, or
tending sheep, or who were tied to a dairy, thought that to drive trams,
or guard the lunatics in the asylums, or work in the gardens of such
institutions, or to stroll about dressed-up as policemen in shifts of a
mere eight hours, was girls' play. To receive for such service high and
sure wages with no loss of sleep through fear of frost, or drought, or
blight, or a slump in demand, which reduced return for produce to less
than its carriage to market--well, only woop-woops would longer endure
bent backs and grunting effort to support city parasites. It was the
bushman's turn to rest while others carried the loads.

Times were hard. Burrabinga was in a sad way, less two males and the most
stirring female Delacy, and with the market for beef and horses steadily
declining. Bank foreclosure was postponed only in the hope of recovery.

Clare was safe at Ferny Creek. She had a picked flock of merinos. The
place was dog-fenced and cleared on the rich deep flats and on some of
the slopes.

Brian was sent to school in Sydney. Mavis, who lived at Burwood, took
him, and he attended the public school there. He was a long way behind
other boys in his subjects, but he applied himself to study and settled
happily to his changed life. His mother's hopes were on him. For his sake
the days were all too short. To throw a sop to convention she acquired a
gentlewoman whose husband had led her a dog's life and finally abandoned
her while he retired to Darlinghurst Gaol. She was pleased to retreat
from censorious tongues and more relieved than touchy that the alias of
Mrs Thingamebob generally hid her real name.

Humphrey Vance found business to bring him to Ferny Creek. Clare was able
to spare her outer paddocks for agistment and thus earn more for Brian.
She was indebted to Vance for equitable pay for her grass, good prices
for her live stock, inquiries about his godson, and the example of his
close-fistedness.

Harry was dogged by ill-luck as well as mismanagement. The youngest girl
passed in an epidemic of diphtheria. Only Isabel survived. She was a
sturdy, opinionated woman who met Josephine in full combat. A final
battle-royal had resulted in Isabel training as a nurse and disappearing
into the Orient with a medical mission. Josephine denounced her as an
ingrate, but Uncle William laughed merrily about her, and Clare said she
was glad to see her making a profession of the Battle self-righteousness
instead of wasting it on the family.

Margaret and Robert were like two ring-barked gums, stripped but not yet
struck to the ground by lightning or wind. Roger had his uses to his
mother. Because of him she had no trouble in securing "jineroos" to fill
the place of her departed daughters. The ambition to be established in
the squattocracy lured many a subaltern lass beyond the Murrumbidgee.
City girls still had the illusion that it was necessary only to reach a
station to enjoy easy wealth and a continual picnic of adventure.

Roger had al! the Delacy charm, which none of the family had so far been
able to market as personality. He was not one who absorbed from others,
nor who shoved both fists in the bag when perquisites were being
distributed--ah, there was the family weakness. He had sweethearts in all
the townships of his operations--Cooma, Bungendore, Bandalong, Gool Gool,
and farther afield, but showed no disposition for the fetters of marriage.

Old Danny's breed was lying fallow as far as any distinction in his
descendants was discernible.



CHAPTER XLVI


Thus the Delacys and other integral units of the populace drowsed along
until one fine day they found the world at war. From Chicago to Baghdad,
Tokyo to St Petersburg, Canton to Canberra and Rio de Janeiro, and hack
again to London, wiseacres were assured that it could not be real. Just
some mad scare: the dogs of war would he back in their collars again in a
twinkling.

Kitchener was predicting that it would be a three years' job, and was
regarded as a war-monger, talking in character. War could not last with
all the modern appliances. Europe would be blown to smithereens in two
weeks. The doctrine of "frightfulness" to make war so terrible that men
would shrink from beginning it, had mesmerized the masses.

France had no illusions.

The war continued and spread. Nation after nation became infected--"got
hysterics", as an old lady remarked in Chicago. Australia heard England's
bugles "blowing o'er the sea, as they had called a thousand years". That
calling, calling, across the wintry sea, aroused England's outposts. Once
more the lust for adventure in beef-fed men was fanned to imperial uses
by sentiment conducted through the umbilical cord of quasi-nationhood.

_Australia will be there, will be there!_

The Australians swaggered up again to fill contingents as for the Boer
War--cavalry, too, though the rhythm of horses' hoofs was but a dying
echo far down the road to yesterday.

Ethically progressive mentality and engines of war are incompatible.

The war for votes for the Uitlanders had with time assumed a different
complexion to the veterans of that campaign, but the saving of gallant
little Belgium was a brand new cause to ignite the idealist in Youth--a
glamorous war cry to disguise the lust for blood, the lunacy of general
havoc.

Margaret winced to recall the going of Syme. She could still hear the
thunder of the farewell salute on the last day she had seen him. She
hoped that Roger would not contract war fever.

Station people were hopefu! that the price of produce would rise and set
the pastoralists and farmers on their feet again: the country would be
cleared of a lot of wasters and braggarts as in the Boer War.

The Delacys were not war-minded. Danny's contempt for arms and
braggadocio had made them indifferent to soldiers and all that they
'stood for. Still, there was one Delacy who heard the call of adventure.
He had respected the Germans, having heard that they were people who
could amass property, and were up-to-date in trade; but Sophie was a
stout jingo, and informed her family to the contrary. The news that the
Germans--unlike many natives and imported wasters--did not look upon
Australia as a "beastly hole", soon began to tell. The _Emden_ incident was
near home and put pep into the whole performance.

Young Dan from Bewuck enlisted.

Clare was so startled that she spoke of bringing Brian home.

"There are plenty of wombat holes at Ferny Creek for him to hide in,"
said Uncle Roger. "If the whole Australian contingent hid in them instead
of going overseas to shoot Turks, it would be better business."

Dan's family went down to see him embark, much to the amusement of the
Burrabinga girls in Sydney. Their letters to Clare Margaret were full of
merry ridicule of the antics of the Bewucks in town. Aunt Jean, it was
asserted, was lost in George Street and sat on the edge of the pavement
until the police took up her case. Uncle William meanwhile was wrapped
around a lamp post in King Street and coo-eeing so that she would know
his whereabouts. Rescued from this predicament they rode all night in an
automatic lift where help could not reach them.

Little Brian, however, took his cousin seriously. He had the adventure
from the schoolboy angle. Dan from Bewuck, sweating along to
Woolloomooloo, and then climbing the rigging of the ship, was a hero to
him. Brian was proud of Dan and hoped that the war would last until he
too could go amid cheers and crowds, and the thrilling thunder of a
military salute across the harbour. He wrote to his mother that the jokes
of Aunties Mavis and Vida about Aunt Jean and Uncle William were mostly
taradiddle. Brian liked Sophie. She was the only one who took an interest
in his lessons and helped him to win a prize.

Kitchener and Bobs made a popular come-back. Some of the horses and bulls
named after them and Oom Paul, Cetewayo, Umslopagaas and Lobengula were
still remembered. Anticipation of the newest atrocity made the newspapers
more exciting than a detective novel. From lurid propaganda hungrily
absorbed, grew the belief that the Allies were a race of God-fearing
crusaders saving heroic little Belgium, and that of these, the
Australasians--speedily become the glorious Anzacs--outstripped every
other breed of men at five to one. Through the restricted channel of the
cables the news could be kept pure and undefiled by reason or the truth
of the criticism voiced by the thinkers, and war glory made a resounding
din from pole to pole.

In the absence of the picked men, all kinds of persons, superannuated,
superfluous, or flawed by God, found in the war resurrection and
liberation, and accordingly revelled in it. Fear of financial depression
was speedily removed by inflated prosperity. Wool! Wool! Wool!

Wool was crowned king anew. The big sheep men became local kings. Every
cockatoo farmer entrenched himself as a thriving wool squire by the aid
of sacrificial dogs ruthlessly bred and ruthlessly trained as a
substitute for slave labour.

The Robert Delacys had not run to sheep. The poking quality of the
industry had repelled such caballeros. Burrabinga, however, had lands to
let, and endless horses and dogs, and no men knew the area as did Robert
and Roger. Robert had hopes of catching up with the interest on the
mortgages.

Roger was kept away from the townships because all the girls were
hysterical about the glorious heroes, and continually demanded of him to
enlist. He was goaded to try but was rejected for physical disabilities,
of a nature to rob him of any swagger in the eyes of the ladies.

Good fortune came to Clare Margaret with the boom in wool. Her flocks
were first class and she was well-off for man power. Old Dunlop continued
to soak at intervals, but was glad to crawl back. The Fossicker also was
happy to work at Ferny Creek without recourse to Wages Boards for the
fabulous gold which he was certain remained in the gullies. Indeed, he
found plenty to supply his simple needs. These retainers were permanent
because Clare left them alone. They could combine the freedom of hatting
with adjacence to a home and did not make off as formerly from any
community where women appeared.

Clare Margaret's wool brought a high price at first and later was
purchased by B.A.W.R.A., or the great British-Australian Wool Syndicate.
She banked money. Her property increased in value, and was entirely at
the service of Brian's education. There was to be no retirement among the
dingoes for that young man.

The war went on and on, draining even far-away Australia of first-class
man power. Europe had become a shambles. As war fever progressed from
initia! hysteria to chronic paranoia, there arose a clamour for
conscription. The Australian boast of fighting as free men was to be
challenged. Australia mustered crusaders, who, from hustings up and down
the Commonwealth, and at the risk of personal assault, strove to publish
the facts of the war that was wrecking European civilization. Among these
were a few independent thinkers devoted to truth, and many more who
believed that here was an opening to pay off an old grievance against
England. The crusaders were branded as cowards lacking the spirit of a
louse; perverts who combined with irreconcilables--traitors to let down
the glorious heroes in the trenches. Recrimination and vituperation
reached furnace heat, and then the heroes on active service themselves
rejected conscription.

No imputation of slacking could have held against the battle-scarred
features, the virile appearance of a big fellow declaiming in Hyde Park,
while his mates upheld him. No one dared to interfere with his
sentiments, as the men wore on their sleeves the letter "A", emblem of
the sacred Anzacs, extolled by Press and public as the equals of the
gladiators of old. "You see, it was this way, we came over here as free
men to fight, and we've had a bellyful of war--a double-dyed-damned
bellyfull, with all this saluting like a monkey on a stick. We came to
save Belgium and end war, and all we're getting out of it is to be made
lick-spittlers like the people here. Instead of saving any one, we re
being made like them, and we'd be damn' cowards to force the other poor
young bastards out home to come by force, now when we know what it's
like."

"For God's sake vote to keep young Dick out of this," was the type of
admonition in scores of letters from elder brothers in the trenches. The
day was saved, symbolically or actually for a shrec of freedom. There
were people, with names great in the humanities, who graded this as the
outstanding distinction won by the Australian warriors, and one of the
most heroic incidents of the war. "The Diggers," exploited _ad nauseam_
by mlitary propagandists, in this took a stand magnificent in its
isolation and independence. Other armies could tell of battles held or
won, and flaunt the trophies taken with mad heroism equalling that of the
Australians, but only these men from _the furthest extremity of the
globe_ had volunteered to fight as free men, and, in the midst of world
hysteria, coolly maintained their right to do so. For what it might mean,
there it was, a lone banner unequivocally unfurled in a demented world.

_Advance Australia Fair!_

The Delacy women in Sydney--capable needlewomen--sewed, sewed, sewed;
knitted, knitted, knitted, on those bales of pyjamas, those bales of
socks, those bales of baby clothes, famous from Monastir to Belgium and
to London's slums, so many of which went to the decimated Serbs in
Macedonia, and so many to the haunts of the fishes _en route_.

That was as near as the Delacys, except Dan from Bewuck, got to the war.
One of the Butlers had taken a commission and was rising to glory as a
major.

At the end of 1916 Humphrey Vance created a sensation by enlisting. Every
one said that he was the last man of whom it was to be expected. Clare
Margaret was really responsible. After two and a half years of renewed
hovering he had definitely asked her to marry him. She as definitely
refused. The glamour of her love for Darcy remained. She could not put
this heavy, middle-aged man in her darling's place. And there was Brian.
He was her life work. She had managed alone in the impossible years: she
would not share him with any one now when money was easy and the way
clear.

"Oh, well, then, I might as well take a look at the way they are coming
along in Europe," announced Humphrey.

Clare Margaret expressed regret that he should endanger himself. He
laughed comfortably. "I've no ambition to run around butchering Turks
with a bayonet, or bombing Germans. I shall get into the remount
department. They want men who know something of horses."

This made him a new butt for the bright Delacy wit. What could he know of
horses, poking about on open country after sheep? To the highly
specialized Delacys, his knowledge of horses might have been fifth rate,
but to the officers who were wont to come to New Glenties or Longview to
blunder after rabbits or wallabies on over-fed crocks, he was a marvel of
practical knowledge, and readily given a commission in Egypt.

Young Dan from Bewuck never came back. He never walked the home way from
those gates at Woolloomooloo, through which he had sweated so gallantly
in quest of adventure--never, not even as one of the nerve-shattered or
mutilated, who are still serving their sentence to Mars.



CHAPTER XLVII


War gripped the world as a chronic state wherein people ceased to realize
any other kind of existence, and were devoid of any other pre-occupation.

Then suddenly the slaughter ceased. The word _armistice_ took the place of
the word _war_. Brutalized and exhausted peoples, destitute of leaders of
vision or followers of faith, groped in a limbo of shattered ideals and
discredited philosophies. Nevertheless the welcome home celebrations were
flattering to the survivors, and a relief to the spiritual lesions of the
non-combatants who organized them.

Bandalong turned out to honour its returned heroes, led by Major Butler,
who had not suffered a scratch and was covered with glory and medals. His
mother--Robert Delacy's rejected adorer--was the only Fullwood who had
done well for herself socially and financially. Her son, the Major, was
companioned by Captain Vance.

Later, Bandalong erected a monument to its soldiers, fallen or standing.
The dedication took place during the holidays, so Brian and his mother
came in a sulky driving a Nullah-Mundoey who could do the fifty miles
from Ferny Creek and go home next day undistressed, though she was
seventeen. All the progressive and prosperous now had motor cars, but
they were not used in the procession, because horses had not yet accepted
them and there was the difficulty of combining the old pace and the new.
Brian was vain that one of the heroes was his godfather, though Vance had
been merely nominal in the office. All the living Bewucks were present,
and Dan's name was in gold on the granite column. There was pain in their
glory, but Dan had bequeathed his family a gratifying importance for the
holiday.

"It's like Daddy's funeral," said Brian. "Only it is not raining and
there are more people."

"It's a funeral sure enough," responded his mother. "All the poor fellows
who never came home to be buried."

Every one greeted Clare Margaret and her son. She recalled the day that
her boy's father had come riding on his heroic pony, Deerfoot, and her
heart was desolate; but no one else remembered Darcy. He was not
mentioned.

"Brian is the living image of my father," said Uncle William, and added,
"If he's as good a man, he'll be harmless."

"A great old pioneer!" remarked someone else.

"I'm glad there's no pioneering for Brian to do," observed Clare. "Oh,
but I want to be a pioneer," chirped Brian. Someone laughed.

"He was luckier still to miss the war," volunteered another. "Plenty more
wars to get into as soon as he is ready."

"I thought you fellows went over there to end war."

"More like the beginning of dozens by the look of Europe." There was a
band to drown such banal babble; as well as the Member for the
Constituency, the Mayor of Bandalong, and others to make speeches. There
were, as show pieces, stifling in their uniforms in the blazing sunlight,
a few of the surviving Anzac heroes Of France and Flanders and Egypt, who
were receding so swiftly from public interest, that with the dedication
of the Memorial that day, they became a memory.

When the ceremony waned, Clare drove to the cemetery, where northerlies,
searing from the equator, southerlies, blustering from the pole, blow on
the high point beyond the Township, and the roads cross and run away to
Monaro and Melbourne, Riverina and Bathurst and Sydney.

"Every one says I'm like Great-grandpa," said Brian, reading old Danny's
inscription, "What was he like?"

"I only saw him when he was a grandfather, but you have the blue eyes and
silky black hair, and Grandfather was smallish, like you."

"Why was he called old Hopping Danny?"

"Because he had a wooden leg."

"Was he a soldier?"

"No. He was a pioneer."

Brian was invited to all the family places: to old Glenties and New
Glenties, and Longview, Bewuck and Heulong. At all he asked questions
about his great-grandfather. He was eager for an ancestral hero like the
splendid war heroes, and Great-grandpa Danny was the most promising
material.

"Why was he called Fearless Danny? Why was he called Nullah Mundoey? How
did he get the wooden leg?"

These questions called basic and satellite yarns from old tongues. Clare
Margaret too found pleasure in reconstructing her grandfather. Upon the
demand of Brian he reappeared as a personality big in heroic as well as
humorous stories, a man who could emerge larger than life from ridiculous
anecdotes. He had talked much with Darcy during that first visit when the
boy had been captivated by the gift of the Nullah-Mundoey. Darcy had
constantly repeated his knowledge to Clare Margaret. and she had a full
store to draw from.

"Tell me about the time Grandpa Danny brought the peacocks?" Brian would
demand. He would question his Burrabinga Grandmother. another gifted
raconteuse, rich in tales of Great-grandpa, and humorous. He would gallop
off to Burrabinga to get the rights of the story of Billy the goat, or of
the finding of Doogoolook and Wong Foo. "Tell me again about
Great-grandpa and the Yackandandah. Tell me about the time he brought the
carriage home to Great-grandma."

Clare sent him to his Grandfather Harry, settled at Bowral. From him she
knew he would come to know much that he might otherwise miss. The visit
was bliss, and renewed hope in Harry. Josephine was pleased with the
lad's "handiness". He returned full of ambition and lore and an increased
interest in old Nullah-Mundoey. "I'm sorry there is no pioneering for me
to do," he would sigh.

"You must turn pioneering backsy-fore and be the first Australian Delacy
to go to the old country and do something there--something better than
leaving your bones in the mud like poor young Danny and Syme."

"I'm afraid the kid will be no better at money-grubbing than the rest of
us," said his Uncle Roger.

"That's why I'm arming him with every scrap of education I can get."

Brian's mechanical gift grew with him. When a motor car penetrated to
Ferny Creek and broke down, he righted the trouble. He decided to work
with motor cars forthwith, but his mother persuaded him to continue with
his studies, just to please her.

"You must swim the Yackandandah of those exams," she said with a twinkle.
A sense of humour was a bond between them. Clare Margaret's idea of
education was to pass examinations so brilliantly that the result was
letters after the graduate's name. She lacked acquaintance with any other
view of it.

At Burrabinga, foreclosure by the Bank cast its shadow. "It will kill
poor old Pa and Ma," they all agreed. Every one was aghast at uprooting
the fine old pair. Bank officials and influential friends presented a
plan to capitalize the hospitality of the homestead. If Clare Margaret
would return and run a guest house there would be little difference
excepting that guests, instead of eating their friends out of their home,
would help to eat them in.

"Your friends would rally to you," said the Bank manager. "Yes, like they
did to me when I married," said Clare.

"A lot sent kind letters when Darcy died," remarked Roger. "Yes, when it
cost them only a stamp and a bit of paper."

"You don't want to let yourself get bitter."

"And you don't want to let yourself get bitters," retorted his sister.
"If you kept off the booze you could save Burrabinga yet. I could if I
was let at it without interference."

The decision was to, adhere to agistment. Flocks were priceless, there
was brisk demand for grass country, and the boom had every prospect of
continuing. The guests were dropping off with the old people's increasing
age: expenses could be cut in many directions, and Roger was blithe about
pulling the place together. Clare would not risk the loss of her hard-won
independence. Mrs Thingamebob gave thanks for the preservation of a
situation wherein the energies of a mistress, usually directed to making
a house a place of petty persecution and unrest, had to go to the
superintendence of remunerative flocks.

The Vances had progressed to the champion class of sheep breeders at the
Sydney Show, which meant that they led the world as growers of fine
merino staples. Their wool attracted the notice of foreign buyers to
other growers in the district, and Clare Margaret benefited. Her brand
was sought and her neat bales went to market by way of the bridge which
Darcy had opened.

With a year or so at Ferny Creek to delay him, Brian advanced to the
University. Clare Margaret had been wise as far as she knew concerning
the relation of examinations to education. Brian's facility in imbibing
knowledge won him one scholastic prize after the other and attracted
attention in the Faculty of Arts. He had inherited old Danny's wiry speed
on his feet, and prominence in games made him more important to his
fellow students than if he had discovered why men were born. His interest
in machinery was diverted for the present into a delight in maths.

He arrived home on his first vacation in a motor car. By bargaining and
exchanging he had a machine that could be nursed to go for miles at a
stretch. He also had money in hand.

"Whoop!" exclaimed Clare. "Perhaps the Delacys are going to produce a
financier at last."

"Old Danny will never be dead while he is alive," said those who
remembered old Nullah-Mundoey. Briau wore that as his panache and took
his great-grandfather as his standard. In a difficulty he would recite
the old man's exploits. "If," thought Clare, "I can only get him to
follow Grandpa's lead in other directions, he will be safe from one kind
of woman."

For the present girls had little interest for Brian. He thought more of
the conspicuous pipe he was cultivating in imitation of his progenitor.
He loved the Murrumbidgee area as deeply as old Nullah-Mundoey could have
desired. The influence of his grandfather Harry had also to be
considered. The region was being dredged from oblivion by the projection
upon it of human personality. A land beloved, as a being cherished,
garners spiritual identity.

Brian was skilled in handling horse or car, but he said the horse was
dead commercially. "He's staggering on his last legs now, except for
pottering about on rough country. Next it will be the aeroplane
everywhere. Golly, I'd like an aeroplane for travelling and a car for
small errands."

The daring had long been risking life and limb in motor car races and by
stunting in the air. The air suggestion terrified Clair Margaret, but
this danger was out of the question financially, and the desire died down
in Brian when he was half-way through his University course. Having
wasted a year in the transition from pupil to student he became a glutton
for studies.

"I'd tremble to think how she'd take it if anything happened to him,"
said her family.

"There's a lot to come out of him from others as well as old Honest Danny
that might throw him off the rails," said old Dunk who had worked about
the district since Brian's granddads been in their prime.

During the hold boom years that sprang like giant nettles from the humus
of havoc, young Brian, with not a care, was a worthy object of parental
and national pride. In due course he achieved his Bachelor's degree with
honours, and his mother, exhausted by excitement, went to Sydney for the
graduation revels. There were friends among the University staff who
insisted upon the acceptance of their invitations, and did much for her
pleasure. These were hold-overs from the palmy days of Burrabinga, who
had lapsed from association through gathering age rather than because of
Burrabinga's moth-eaten finances, as Clare was touchily inclined to
think. It was placed to Brian's credit that he had not swanked about this
intimacy with the dons.

"Pooh!" said Brian. "My great-granddad, Nullah-Mundoey Delacy, was a
greater man than all the professors glued together. You should see where
he took the first bullock dray beyond the Murrumbidgee. I'd like to see
old Prof. ---- confronted by such a problem."

Pioneering had become a passport to social importance. Young people
swaggered about having the greatest number of Australian forebears
possible, and the more bullocking these had done the better.

The country regions had an epidemic of centenaries, marked by festivals
of remembrance in the banal little towns, which drowsed in arrested
mental development. Even Bandalong had a Boomerang Week to celebrate the
arrival of Mr Moore, who had settled there some years before he had come
back from Ireland with young Delacy. Sophie was an eminent daughter who
honoured her native town and was proud of Brian.

Clare Margaret was able to say to Uncle William, "There are two Delacys
able to distinguish themselves, at all events." William was happy and
proud. He had long since forgiven Clare's flightiness and respected her
as one able to hang on to her property. They could talk of wool and
markets as twin souls. "What is Brian going to do with his grand
education now that lie has it?"

"He's hankering for the motor car business."

"But isn't he educated well enough for a doctor or lawyer? It would be a
waste of money if he did not use his education."

"At any rate he has it. I was determined he should not be like all the
other Delacys, feeling clever enough to be Attorney Generals, but with
only a rabbiter's education."

Others were curious about the purpose of Brian's "flash education". The
land was in favour again with the boom in wool. Weird little selections
of hop scrub and wallaby runs, far back on barren ridges beyond Goulburn
and Gunning, Bandalong and Yass, which had been the retreat of casual
labourers, now commanded extortionate sums.

One fine day Clare Margaret grew hysterical with pride upon receiving the
news that Brian Daniel Franc-Alleu Delacy had been awarded the James
Gawler scholarship. This carried £300 per annum for two years at one of
the leading universities of Great Britain, with the possibility of a
third year, if so recommended by the authorities of the chosen
university. Brian was brilliant in a number of subjects, including
philosophy, history and economics, and had a talent for applied
mathematics which should have put him in the Engineering Departments if
this ability had not been jostled by his hunger for academic subjects.

This award set the seal on his excellence in scholarship and character.
There were those to point out that it took life to test what was real
talent, not this cramming at universities; but this was not the point of
view of the prize winners, nor of their immediate families, especially
outsiders like the Delacys for whom a university retained its prestige
and superiority.

All the families consented to be proud of Brian. He was easy to lionize.
He had the physical health of his progenitors and the Delacy humour, in
its broader, kindlier aspects of liberated personality as distinct from
the carping ridicule of those suffering inhibitions or a sense of
failure. He was claimed by the squattocracy as a bush boy, and his
residence in Sydney had broadened him into an all-round Australian. Talcs
of old Danny gained him the ears of the reporters. The members of his
family, accepting a strong lead, recalled Grandfather as an original and
extraordinary character with manifestations in keeping, rather than as an
oddity with an Irish brogue. Clare Margaret pasted this fresh notice in
the scrap-book with the obituary tributes to old Danny. "At last," she
exulted, "There is a Delacy who is something more than a waster throwing
away opportunities of fortune by supporting spongers." Old. Harry was
similarly jubilant.

People warned Clare Margaret that she would lose her boy by letting him
go to England, that all the geniuses stayed in England or were grabbed by
the United States, and Australia had to be content with the ordinary
natives or importations of small calibre.

"If I lose him, I lose him," said Glare Margaret. "He shall have his
chance without any strings. I'd rather lose him to England or the United
States than have him wasted as a dingo here."

People suggested that she should go with him.

"No. I stay right on Ferny Creek. I'm only an old wombat, but I'm a queen
wombat on my own run. I'm not going forth to be exhibited in a circus or
a zoo. I see ship loads of remark creatures all off to London--much
queerer than our marsupia often wonder what is thought of them on the
other side."

"Used to 'em--most of them are pommies taking a trip home."

"Thanks for such a feasible explanation."

She went with Brian overland to Melbourne, big travel to her, who had
been no farther than Sydney. She was unwavering gaiety and comradeship
until the bell clanged for her to go the ship.

"You'll come over, Mum, just as soon as I get the hang of it? We could
live like fighting cocks on £300 a year. It's a fortune."

To hear this was almost as sweet as the days of her youthful love. It
sustained her going down the gang-plank and during the long wait on the
wharf on the end of a paper ribbon until the ship moved out of sight and
across the Rip for the voyage. It was with her on the return to Ferny
Creek.

"That is the end of him for me," she said to Mrs Thingamebob, a
sympathetic confidante, now of years' standing.

"Why should you say that?"

"He never can be the same again. He will soon belong to some other woman,
and even if she had two heads and cauliflower ears, I'll never take the
bloom off his love affair when it comes, and hurt him as Darcy and I were
hurt. No. The only chance of companionship in life is a real mate, like
Darcy was, and if he goes, you are alone."

"Or at peace," softly interposed Mrs Thingamebob, thinking of her mate
who had died in Darlinghurst Gaol.



CHAPTER XLVIII


Then to look for letters.

The first two came from the home ports, then a blank until the third from
Colombo, and a long wait until the first from England. At length the
regular report once a week. Eagerly awaited, these letters were at first
full of description. Clare Margaret's in return, so detailed, were
eagerly devoured, until in the increasing momentum of life at Oxford,
they were scampered through and kept for re-reading, which rarely took
place.

Brian found it harder to compile a letter. Much effort would be necessary
to inform his mother of a life to which she had no key. The interests of
mother and son drifted apart. Clare Margaret continued to write fully
from her centre and was frequently disappointed that Brian omitted to
answer her questions. She adhered to her work. The property was now her
habit, her life. She left the care of the house to Mrs Thingamebob and
tended her sheep and cattle, her cultivation paddocks, her orchards--her
beautiful estate, which she and Darcy had made in partnership. Darcy had
left his share to her to be halved with Brian on his twenty-first
birthday, if worthy. Ah, he had been worthy: she had helped to make him
so. Now he was a junior sleeping partner, and she faithful in
stewardship. Brian was to have a property as well as an education: he
should not be cast out naked and unprotected into the world as she and
Darcy had been by incompetent parents. Brian's letters were the sweetest
expectation of her days. That other woman had not yet intruded, so far
asshe could judge. Her mother pride and passion could be indulged
unchecked. Sometimes a personal paragraph in the newspapers further
rewarded her.

That was Australia's share of her Brian for years, Australia's usual
share of her gifted ones; the inevitable share of the inhabitants of a
distant colony of an Empire whose core remains, a vampire to attract all
the ergs of scientific or artistic genius, long after its outposts have
ceased to provide an outlet for its physical adventurers.

Clare Margaret lacked the spiritual or intellectual equipment to project
herself into Brian's life, though the Delacys were humorous and
informative letter writers. As time passed Brian told less and less of
his daily routine and filled his page with comment on what his mother
wrote. This too dwindled. Those mail clays which brought no letter were
agony: Clare did not know how to cover her humiliation from the
Fossicker, Dunlop and Mrs Thingamebob.

As the first year ended there were honours to report. Clare revived and
proclaimed that Brian had had to stick to his studies, without time for
letters. Lo, here was the result. And still there was no woman to dispute
her ownership. There was much to hold her attention at home. The boom in
woo! subsided during the year of Brian's departure, and with it the value
of land. The Bank officials saw that there was no possibility of Robert
and Roger redeeming Burrabinga, and were desirous of realizing before
further decline. This had to be put to Robert, and he did not in life
leave the old place where he had reigned as the last of the pioneer
squatters of the district.

The stroke which prefaced his passing was attributed to shock.
Fortunately he did not linger more than a few months and these were
passed in the old home. Despite his great age, he partly recovered and
was able to sit in an easy chair on one of the verandas in the morning
sunlight within sound of the river, and three or four of his faithful
heelers would find their way in to regard him with worship and snooze at
his feet. The burdens of the present were blotted out, his memory slipped
back to the past. To all and sundry he continued to offer the hospitality
which had distinguished his establishment for half a century. He would
look up, his once piercing eyes glazed and uncertain, and stammer, "Turn
your horses out and stay the night. The cook will give you a feed for
your dogs."

The cost of that hospitality, hoarded, would have given him comfort and
freedom from worry at the last, that hospitality so free and generous for
which his only return had been the pleasure in dispensing, and the final
worry' of poverty.

He who had been born at Burrabinga should have lain there or have come
out with a spanking four-in-hand, but the horses were gone; a pall of
debt as well as of death hung over the valley.

William waited in Bandalong for the funeral. Harry, still slim and erect,
came up to Burrabinga. He wept tears of age-weakness and sadness to see
the old valley again, and Robert for ever asleep to the Burrabinga's
anodyne lullaby, while a fierce old dog howled mournfully like a tolling
bell.

"Poor old Robert," he quavered. "You've carried your hide to the tanyard,
and carried it well. I won't be long following you."

"Death--time--just a breath or two--and all our swagger, where is it?" he
observed to Margaret, and relinquished the scene that had known his shy
lonely youth, the strength of his thews, and his stillborn dreams. He was
now living in Bowral, rescued from final destitution by his efficient
Josephine's inheritance.

Burrabinga was shortly to be sold by order of the mortgagees. All those
rich deep acres watered by creeks that had never run dry in the memory of
white men, and the white men of Burrabinga were all of old Danny's
providing! Long years of loneliness and stiffening slogging were
represented by its extensive freehold. Three whole generations of
bone-racking, neck-risking exploits had gone in wresting Danny's now
curtailed province from primeval fallow-hood and taming it to Europe's
service, and the last of those who had waged war against resistant Nature
would not reap the harvest of their despoiling.

Roger was bitter, but Clare Margaret said, "If you hadn't the guts to
hold on, you can't blame outsiders. You have to thank old Wong that you
have a tubby to retreat to."

They hoped--Roger and Harry--that by some fluke Burrabinga would still be
Delacy's. The world until recently had been booming; all the money could
not have disappeared overnight. Roger expected the mortgage to be
realized and the Bank to retain him as manager.

"A pity that none of the Delacys had any business sense," remarked
Josephine. "Fools tame properties for the wise to enjoy."

Harry's hope was that Clare Margaret would pawn Ferny Creek and her
merinos--the lesser to retain the greater. "If they could have Burrabinga
without one old cow or so much as a fowl to stock it, surely to God, it's
a fortune. Motor cars to bring it near. Think what it was when my father
went there with his bare hands and a few head of cattle, and the blacks
to be conciliated. His own axe the first to blaze a tree, except those
holed by a black after a possum. I wish I had my strength."

His strength was gone. All that he had from Burrabinga, where it had been
wasted, was an irrational love of the place, and that in Josephine's
estimation was foolishness. Not hers to feel that it was spiritual tilth
of a people, which in the potent circle creates the place soul to inspire
a people. Harry worshipped this land which had lain fallow of love or
hate since before time, or, had it the love of the shadow people, who
melted as wraiths before invasion, that love--unrecorded in archives or
architecture--lay so lightly, was so tenuous that it was beyond reach of
man's working senses.

Old Harry as he dreamed in the sun, to warm old bones, was so near the
end of the blind alley of life in the physical body that miracles for him
had now to embrace a new dimension.

It had been clear for some time to the financial manipulators that world
trade was on a perilous slope and beyond their control. Clare Margaret
never speculated. What she had had been won by inhuman industry. She
would take no risks. Also she was strapped for ready money. She kept her
secret, but Brian, overseas in that superior removed life, that earthly
paradise, was a drain on her. He was constantly requesting money on the
ground that his 300 per annum went nowhere in England; as an Australian a
fellow was marked.

Burrabinga was a bargain for the British-Australasian Properties Limited,
many of whose clients lived on the Riviera, where the sunshine was so
bright, and the franc, following the war, was so cheap. Some of them did
not know a merino from a corriedale or a comeback, nor a brigalow from a
swamp gum or a kurrajong, and they abominated the Australian accent. They
were conscious of Australia as once a convict colony and still a retreat
for a proletariat over-proletaneous since machinery was making so many
men superfluous in industry. The place was a store-house of gems,
minerals and other, raw materials, and now that British capital had been
blown out of Europe by depreciated currencies and other results of
military glory, Australia, by reason of its umbilical connection, was the
safest investment for British usurers as it had been a hundred years ago
the ideal dumping ground for spoiled or unruly British subjects.

"Usury must reap where it can," observed old Harry. "It has to shun both
ethics and philanthropy, but when investment can be applied to taking in
the family washing, it booms its own self-righteousness till its ears are
full and the devil laughs out loud."

Roger was offered a job as boundary rider. No one knew the fences so
well, and the points of invasion by the dingoes and wombats which refused
to be dispossessed. Old Mrs Robert was informed that there would be a
jointure for her. A letter from the chief panjandrum of the B-A
Properties Ltd stated that she was welcome to reside at Burrabinga until
the end of her days.

Upon reading the letter, Mrs Robert rose to her full height and her full
dignity. With her ancient grand manner, which had sat well upon her as
hostess there for half a century, she thanked the Manager-in-Chief of the
Company, who was there taking stock and awaiting the arrival of a
resident manager.

"I have made other arrangements, thank you."

The conversation was left dangling. The Manager, a decent man with heavy
responsibilities, did not know how to proceed for a moment. Her anger
would have made it easier for the "business is business" patter. "The
storm that was promising seems to be passing off," she remarked urbanely,
with a far grand glance at the familiar heavens.

The Manager wiped his forehead with his handkerchief al he agreed with
her, and looked at the mighty clouds moving out by the source of the
Burrabinga on the way to Bunbilliko where Robert and Harry had ridden
when young with the Lillingstons.

She turned to Clare Margaret when the man had escaped, "I'll go with you
for a visit, as you have so often asked me."

Clare Margaret had designed apartments for her during the Fossicker
carpenter's remodellings. She had a private collogue with the Company's
representative. By law Margaret was not entitled to so much as a
tea-spoon or a pillow, but there are times when even the financial law of
the hawk to the chicken, would lose more by taking its fill than by
leaving a crumb. The Manager had risen to his present position from
pioneering selectors. He was a success, and though business success is
not won by Delacy characteristics of sharing and giving, nevertheless he
was touched to see the old lady thus shorn at the end of her days. He was
more sympathetic towards her position than towards that of the usurers
overseas who had classified his accent as common Cockney. No inventory
was to be made until Margaret chose what articles she wished from the
sprawling dwelling. By all canons, even those of usury, she had earned
them at a thousand per cent, paid up. Roger was allowed an old horse
dray. No more drays for Burrabinga. On all up-to-date places drays were
falling to pieces under the shade of some tree. The last of the horse
wagons dwindled with Robert's final decade. Clare Margaret would send
horses to take out the load.

Roger was left in charge until the resident manager could arrive, and his
mother decided to stay with him. This was a reprieve for Roger. To send
him from Burrabinga was like turning an old horse from his foal-hood's
stable.

"The Manager must have perspired with relief," chuckled Clare Margaret,
"when he heard that Ma had other arrangements."

Roger railed against the swindlers who turned people out with nothing
after generations of pioneering labour.

"The Barbara Frietchie part suits Ma to perfection, but it looks rather
silly on you," said Clare Margaret. "I'm not going to antagonize the
Manager, and I'll take everything he offers."

"I wouldn't take a stick. Let the lousy swine take the tail with the
hide."

"Rubbish! He is not the one who is driving you out penniless, but all the
cadgers for the last forty years--and the pub keepers. You ought to be
thankful that old Wong paid his way."



CHAPTER XLIX


"It is strange that Brian never sends any word about the old place." Old
Harry harped on this as he sat chopping the fuel. He knew the qualities
of each block intimately, and handled it with artistic relish and
affection, his mind reverting to the undesecrated forests of his youth
and the dreams he had dreamed to people them.

"What could he say?" Josephine would pose. "The Delacys never had a
business head among them. They got too big for their boots, and this is
the logical outcome."

"Yes, but," Harry would counter, "young Brian felt differently about
things. He was like his great-grandfather."

"That would not help him to get on very far."

Harry would abandon the argument. He was a man of peace.

Clare Margaret also wondered why she heard so little from her son. She
had sent him all the spare money that came in, and was more than ever
determined not to cripple Ferny Creek. The final illustration of the need
for avarice was before her.

At the close of Brian's second year of absence there was a blow. Brian
was not recommended for a third year's study, and as far as his mother
could deduce, did not seem to have any definite profession. He told her
that he was going to work, and he was sick of sitting about among books,
which a girl could do and thereby "lick the Senior Wrangler". (Clare
Margaret took this as a tilt at the nagging propensities of women.)

He further confessed to having been swindled, and that he was in debt,
and would be disgraced unless she could rescue him.

She hastened to the Bank in Bandalong. Anything, everything, to save her
boy.

Brian was thus released from debt, but loose in a hostile world without a
paid position. He asked for his patrimony to start in business. His
mother asked what kind of business, and he wrote that it would be
something in the mechanical line. "I've been fumbling around wasting my
time on academic subjects when I should have been in an engineering
works. That has put me back years, but with a bit of income I won't be so
hipped as if I had to cringe for a job."

Later he wrote of his arduous days in an aeroplane factory, where he was
starting from the ground up. "Tackling the dungarees again after lolling
about like a swell soon took the fine lady out of my fists."

Clare Margaret did not divulge that he was not doing the third year at
Oxford. There were a few, more conversant with the world than she, who
asked what Brian was going to do when his term at Oxford bad ended. What
was he to pay in results for the capital spent in making him a graduate
of two universities? Fortunately such "sticky-beaks" were few. Most of
Clare Margaret's acquaintances were as naive as herself, and looked upon
Brian's scholarship as an Elijah's chariot which had lifted him to a
region far above the Murrumbidgee.

Clare was pitifully uneasy concerning him and determined to face secretly
whatever might come from that source. She reflected despairingly that the
Delacy breed was certainly destitute of acquisitive proclivities. Nearly
a hundred years since Johanna and Danny had landed, and no outstanding
successes to show for all the struggle and honesty and heroism! Other
families, started by lags, had amassed fortunes. New arrivals within the
present century had made the environment subservient to their success;
whereas the most distinguished Delacy was Sophie of Bewuck, headmistress
of a High School, who educated the daughters of others, having none of
her own, nor so much as a niece or nephew worthy of her. Since 1914
crowds of people had made war fortunes and ordinary fortunes and departed
to splurge in Europe, but none of these were Delacys. The Delacys, who
adored Australia, could not make her pay dividends--to themselves.

Della's children had dropped out of sight in Victoria as minor
pastoralists and farmers. Honoria's family--the New Glenties
Butlers--included Coole, who was a rich man, but not nearly so wealthy as
the Vances, who had progressed to championship ranks in wool with social
obligations in keeping. They bad half a dozen rich properties; the sons
played polo; the daughters had their photographs taken in the act of
looking on, and appeared in what _Society_ had become since the war and at
the _furthest extremity of the globe_ from its London origin. It was a
cocktail rather than a cocktailed affair, inadequately furnished with
distinction or intelligence. Its bright young things displayed their fine
physique on the democratic beaches which made Sydney a paradise, or
cavorted at charity functions where they followed trivially the procedure
and fashions prescribed for them by Europe.

Clare Margaret always spent a night with Uncle William on her way to the
Township and he was one of the inquisitive. They had grown close together
with the years, and to him she confessed with a smile, "Like your Bob, I
think Brian is wiping up grease with a dirty rag these days."

This was a family gag. Bob, one of the few Delacys to "chuck" the bush,
had landed in a motor garage where he was set to clean the cars and was
there found, to his father's consternation, "Wiping grease off a car with
a dirty rag."

"Why, damn it," exclaimed William, "the money spent on Brian since he
started to get this fine education would secure a tidy property." He was
sorry for Clare Margaret. His own family too, except Sophie, were
disappointing. "It's a pity his flash promise isn't coming to anything.
He wants six months on the axe to make a man of him."

"Those who had six years on the axe aren't so wonderful."

"But he could have been an aeroplane mechanic without all the expense of
one university education after another. If he takes to flying, you've as
good as been at his funeral already."

"Oh, well, I shan't bury him till I have to, and then I shan't ask any
one to help me cry." Uncle William knew when to desist.

When Clare Margaret was leaving in the morning, he said, "I hope you get
good news from Brian next time. It seems that you and I are the only
Delacys with head enough to hang on to our property."

"I'm only a brumby compared with you. Bewuck is a beautiful property--six
times the value of Ferny Creek."

"And six times as many to scatter it as soon as I am cold."

Those were his last words to her. She never saw him alive again. His
tombstone stands head to head with old Nullah-Mundoey's where the
unfettered winds fan the fleckless days.

Roger and his mother were finally ejected from Burrabinga. The new
Manager arrived--without his wife until he knew how the dispossessed were
to act. Unnecessary precaution. Margaret was too strong, Roger too
gentlemanly, Clare Margaret too full of common sense for hostility.

Clare brought her car. The journey, which, in the era of the horse, would
have taken the best part of a week, was made in the day. They stormed up
Delacy's Cutting, through Delacy's Gap and down past the remains of
Birrabee and Keebah without pausing, had dinner at the Hotel Canberra,
and away towards Bandalong for Darcy's bridge and home to Ferny Creek at
warm dusk in October. A cheery fire burned in the new room, for old
bones. Margaret's smaller things were in place.

"It is all very nice," she said, in her grand way. "You mug have waved a
magician's wand."

"It will be better when all your own things arrive from dear old
Burrabinga."

"Dear old Burrabinga, my Burrabinga, has gone with your father and Syme
and Darcy, and William and old Danny and Johanna. and Norah and Della and
Stewart and Ned. I never want to hear the new Burrabinga mentioned."

Thus she closed her life and turned with dignity and fortitude to its
epilogue.

"We are lucky to have escaped the rain," said Clare. The storm could be
seen approaching as on a screen far across the valley. Soon it was
beating on the house, rattling the spouting, chasing any loose vessel of
tin, tattering the soft young garden, and turning spitefully cold.

Wild hours always took Clare back to Darcy's passing.

Roger, with the aid of old Dunlop--now very stiff--had his belongings
loaded as night was falling, and the wild wind intruded upon the spring
scene. He was compelled to borrow a tarpaulin--the Delacy tarpaulin, now
no longer his.

They had pulled the dray against the high palings of the little graveyard
where lay Doogoolook and others. They sheltered under the end of the
tarpaulin, Roger too depressed for further action, while Dunlop made a
fire and boiled the billy.

The new Manager expected them at the house when they should have made all
snug, but they did not appear. In an improvised bed under a dray with a
few sticks of furniture, the last of the Burrabinga men spent his
outgoing night. Danny, Robert and Harry had often gone out and soaked
themselves to bring in wayfarers out of such weather, but not by such
brotherliness are stations retained to pay dividends on far-flung
investments.

At midnight, when the storm had ceased, and a waning moon showed through
ragged clouds, Roger was aroused by a delegation of Wong Foo's
compatriots come to remove Wong's bones to China now that Burrabinga had
passed from Delacy ownership. They were furnished with a permit from the
authorities, and this procedure was in key with Roger's mood. He and
Dunlop assisted as by "the struggling moonbeam's misty light, and the
lantern dimly burning", like a reversal of a famous burial, Wong's
remains were disinterred.

The head board remained, the mound was carefully remodelled, and the
Manager a week later reported to his wife, "All that trouble to clean up
a Chinaman's grave--no wonder they lost their property!"


Old Harry, warming his hones in the sun, wept bitterly when he heard that
Burrabinga was really gone from the family--that no miracle had saved it.
Until the last moment he had expected something from young Brian, who had
gone abroad in a cloud of glory, but he had not sent so much as a post
card.

Josephine laughed that he should take it so much to heart. "What does it
matter to you now, when your time at the longest must be very short?"

He felt that she did not understand. "It was the motor cars that ruined
Burrabinga by killing out the horses. Stinking machines that eat Yankee
oil," he quavered.

"A lot of Delacy money went to maintain the publicans in luxury."

"Even that was better under our economic system than keeping foreigners,
as you'll find presently...But it's strange that none of my father's
progeny was worthy of him."

"He never taught them to do anything but tigrinize among the native dogs,
as your mother used to say."

"My father was a great man," persisted Harry. "The day will come when his
power will be seen in this young Brian or his issue, and it will be more
for Australia and the race than a dozen of the usurers who have
accumulated filthy lucre in the banks. My father's vision will be bearing
the fruit of life when the money-bags kind of success is suppressed as
out-of-date barbarism."

"It is as well for you to think so," cackled Josephine, and bore with his
vagaries because she considered him childish.

Clare found her mother a comfort. Her mind was still keen and they always
had had a sense of humour as a bond. Clare confessed some of her
uneasiness about Brian. "With all the chance I gave him to get above
rabbiting, he is only working in an air garage."

"Perhaps these things are dictated by fate. All sorts were of use at the
start of colonization because they were scarce, but it is different now."

"Yes, but Grandpa had something notable about him, and as Uncle William
said, the last time I saw the poor old man, the only difference between
Ferny Creek and Bewuck was that there were more scatterers at Bewuck."

"Brian has not found himself yet," said Margaret, too tactful to fan
anxieties. "At any rate he can still come back to you--not like Syme and
Dan. I see in the paper that Aunt Jean has gone to Sydney for some
ceremony at the gates where Dan embarked."

Sophie, instructress of the young, whom the years had not disillusioned
regarding patrioteering, took care that her mother and she had their
places on the official dais at the ceremony of commemoration when the
wharf entrance was christened the "Gates of Remembrance" nearly a
generation after young Dan and many as likely a lad had disappeared that
way never to return; but the soldier lads had been replaced by oncoming
youth and the gates neglected--forgotten--by all but a dwindling company
of ageing women who assemble there on Anzac Day with rosemary in their
hands and a hurt look in their eyes that they are no longer acclaimed as
the givers of men to Moloch. They are disgruntled to learn that the
promises of Mars are as false as those of Don Juan when despoiling a
maiden, but they remain incapable of instructing the rising generation
that the glories of Anzac are as empty as all military glory down the
centuries, symbolized by a tattered flag or a suit of rusty armour in a
silent museum.

The memorial service fell on a beautiful afternoon and the clergyman
denounced those who desecrated the day by football or tennis, with never
a solemn thought for the men who had given their lives in a noble cause,
but the cause, half a generation since had been discredited by ethical
thinkers, and the exhortation was sanctimonious and dreary.

Jean could not stem her tears, so she walked down the pier. No one had
thought of war when she was young, but now it was on every page of the
newspapers, and these silly memorials were everywhere. Why did not the
clergyman honestly say that the soldiers had got what they deserved for
being such fools as to go, instead of scolding the young people for
snatching their holiday play while they could?

The harbour so grand, so blue, so restless, awed her, and she was
fascinated by the great ships steaming directly towards her. She asked a
man sitting on a bollard what ships they were.

"War ships, lady. Getting ready for the next war."

"Getting ready for the next war," she echoed stupidly. "But what are they
doing here now?"

"Been outside the Heads firing off for practice. Love the crows, Marl
ain't you heard the windows rattling fit 'to split, and the houses
shaking, and all them cows feeling as if they were God Himself blazing
away?"

Jean had the impulse to ask him more, but he looked like a wicked
bolshevist, and Sophie kept her family informed of the danger of Russian
ideas. The man had turned back to his paper, numbed by the news that the
Imperial General Staff in England were exercised by the difficulties "of
training a new generation of officers who have no personal experience of
war". The General Staff, faced with such a problem for the successors of
those who had given their lives to end war, favoured staff rides over the
battlefields of France. While the English army benefited by its nearness
to the Western Front battlefields "the United States Army is not so
fortunate, but the same problem of training officers who were too young
for the last war is likewise being pondered at Washington...the
keynote...is to make officers 'psychologically fit' to face the mental
stresses of war."

"Gor' damn me, can you beat that!" muttered the man as he read. He would
like to tell those ---- young fools of the actualities of war. He could
open their eyes. "These old women too, with their remembrance, and the
old cow of a parson working them up to think they are heroines when they
are b---- fools, who ought to be..." He took an explosive turn towards
the old lady who was gaping at the ships. But no, she was a fool, and
might have him arrested for assault or something...What was the use? What
was the ---- use?

Jean continued to gaze at the ships. She recalled what Dan had said when
he enlisted, what Sophie had said, and was bewildered by the way it had
worked out. Dan had gone to save Belgium and to end war, and she and
William had given £20 to the fund for Belgians, but still there was no
peace. Everybody was mesmerized by armaments. The ships compelled worship
in their resistless might, and rode straight from battle practice up the
bay, though she was there specially to commemorate the spot from which
her Dan, long ago, had gone away to die in the big brave war to end all
other wars for ever.


Old Harry, dreaming over book or newspaper, still pinned his faith on
Brian with reference to the continuity of character through the
generations. "It stands to reason," he would say at such times as
Josephine was amenable to listen unrancorously. "A great spirit like my
father's could not go without results. It might not reappear for a
generation or two. Breed is like that. But in the immense age of the
human race, if a great spirit appeared every five hundred years, think
what that would mean. All the same, I should like to see someone worthy
of my father's breed, and it can't be in my time unless it's young Brian.
Get me pen and paper. I'll ask him what he is doing."

His letter was so foolish, in Josephine's estimation, that she wrote an
explanatory note. "Your grandfather is too old to write now. His fingers
ache when he tries to hold the pen, and he is not clear in what he wants
to say, but he will be waiting for a reply as if his ideas were of
importance. He is always longing to see you, but you must not expect to
see him here when you come as the doctor says that his organs are quite
worn out."

"A dream, a vision of what is to be, is greater than all the moneybags in
the world," Harry remarked, when the letter was safely in the envelope,
and he set out to the post office to deposit it. Old and frail, a
financial failure, isolated from his spiritual equals, his winged spirit
nevertheless continued to resist the conclusions of materialistic common
sense as stupid and wasteful.

"If I hadn't hung on to something, we'd be in a pretty pass to-day. And
if my poor Darcy had had a money-bag or two to start, he need not have
killed himself in that silly pioneering without any reward. There is
reason in all things."

"There is one kind of reasoning that never does anything but fill its
belly from the store-house after the other fellow has pioneered to build
and stock it."

"But what is the sense in piling up for the other fellow? I'd rather be
the other fellow for a change."

"Pioneering in thought--making the vision come true--uncovering the
wonders for the use of man, that is the pioneering that never ends. 'The
moind! The moind!' Flying, wireless, radios, all these things are the
outward and visible signs--as the old parson used to teach us by the
bunyip hole--of pioneering in the mind, but without integrity of the soul
these discoveries will only destroy us. Now here I have to sit waiting
for a reply from Brian, and it may not come until I'm dead, and if the
cables and wireless were made to serve man instead of mammon I could hear
in a day."

"You want some of the money-bags you despise and then you could send
cables as long as letters."

"It is the criminal worship of money-bags that is depriving me of the
right to use the cables."

Josephine ignored this as wicked communism which he talked because his
mind was gone. "There would have to be laws to stop bolshevist agitators
from using the cables for their purposes," she said.

Harry floated on the knowledge that Josephine was spiritually barren. Her
disparagements provided a saint with a hair shirt, as her young beauty
had once furnished a poetical romantic with a princess; and saintship is
enhanced by hair shirts. With leisure he had cultivated the spiritual
ecstasies, and the dismissal of his discoveries as symptoms of dementia
had given him intense mental distress. Dreams cannot he secured by
entailment, and he had been too visionary to grasp and to hold and thus
impress himself upon a primitive community. For a time, he, the giver,
had come near to withering at the root because his offerings had been
derided. His ordeal finally drove him to a sanctuary of amateur yoga
built upon the comforting thesis that pearls should not be thrown in the
mire, and the gentle thought that his would be the lack in ethical
understanding to demand fruit from nettle bushes.

Josephine was indispensable, efficient and unceasing in her duties and
care, and habit is stronger than passion, and outlasts it. He was a
one-woman man; none but Josephine had known his virility, and such a man,
when of fine sensibilities, is hound to a woman for ever by his own
virginal conception of her, plus his dire male need. To such a man the
romantic adolescent ideal of his wife as a superior and extraordinary
being can co-exist with his experience of her lack of spiritual
integrity; also, subconsciously to tincture the most liberal masculine
thought is the phallic content that, after all, women are weaker beings,
who only of recent generations have been conceded the possession of a
soul.

Not so long after posting the letter, Harry slipped away one morning to
enlarge that presence palpable but intangible which is the aura of places
where human association continues from generation to generation.

Of Harry's own family only Clare Margaret came to see him laid away.

Josephine consented to return with Glare for a week, but she was
unendurably restless. She hated the district. The distance from a
physician in case of sickness, and the lack of elegancies and
entertainments had always been insupportable to her. She turned eagerly
to her own life at last, the heroine of long years of incompatibility and
the loss of all her family but Isabel, who was never mentioned. Her
indomitable prosaicness exposed her to the discovery that she was lonely
without Harry. He had given her much, though not of those things for
which money-bags are the symbol. Long in advance he had provided
illumination on many issues that arose, so that by comparison ordinary
people were sadly uninformed. What had been dismissed in Harry as
eccentricity now showed up glaringly the mediocrity of those who had
submerged him without wrecking his spiritual genius.



CHAPTER L


The hegira to Europe furnishes experiences so removed from those open to
the home-staying Australian that Brian was able for a time to harvest his
blunders without exposure to his native runs. Achievements conspicuous in
Bandalong and Yass, and which lent him brief distinction at Sydney
University, attracted no notice at Oxford. There he was merely one of the
colonial students, who were of all persuasions, complexions and
nationalities.

The national heritage, the man-made beauty of centuries of ancient
glamour and still-living tradition had at first intoxicated him, and had
involved the metaphysical experience of fusing his dream of old places
with their actuality. Greedily he had tried to swallow all of life. First
came the acquiring of knowledge in accordance with the curricula, then
the stimulation of his thinking powers by association with mental equals
and superiors in the movements having political platforms and
affiliations. A diplomatic tolerance grown wily and mellow in the
handling of resurgence and insurgence--any intransigence from
colonists--ignored much, but twice Brian narrowly escaped being sent down
for activities with subversionists.

He also excelled in sports, which enlarged his social contacts, and these
flowered in the major biological initiation. For this a number of Brian's
relatives had been indebted to the ancient and generous school of
serving-maids. In England, in Brian's decade, the faculty had widened;
social equals were available in a fairer educational exchange, and
Brian's experience on this front proceeded without volcanic disturbance.
Many more extensive dossiers are available in the novels which in the
post-war emergent period provoked attention by their unreticent details
of bodily functionings and provided capital sport when flung in the face
of fin de siecle wowserism. The lack of variety in all normal biological
processes reduced such case histories to unendurable dullness as soon as
such confessions were accepted as part of modern behaviour.

Sufficient to record that Brian Delacy graduated in the Faculty of Sex
without spiritual or physical accident, largely because his predilection
for women older than himself saved him from the enticing flappers or
vicious demi-mondaines.

His dismissal without the third year of the Gawler Scholarship drove him
to cover, tortured in every fibre of his being, in which there was some
of the sensitiveness of his father and his grandfather, Harry. For days
he floundered in humiliating reflection that he had wasted his chances at
Sydney and at Oxford. He had lost the rewards of both the careful and
talented and the daring and gifted. He must flee from the scene of his
immediate defeat; nor could he face return to Australia with empty hands
and no definite profession, seeing the flourish with which he had
departed.

He was loose in a world where to drop from a post was as hazardous as
falling off a liner in a high sea, for all the hope there was of getting
back to a berth. To such a pass of futility had Big Business Dictatorship
brought the human race at the beginning of the fourth decade of the
Twentieth Century. However, Brian's mother had rescued him from debt and
was sending him a small income, and the isolation of Australia from
England enabled him to make a new start without the derision of former
associates.

Talents, dormant during his pursuit of academic arts and philosophies,
now re-awakened. In any case he would not have remained drugged by
ancient glamour. Mechanics. As he had rallied to the filibusters in the
political line so he would be in the van of mechanics, and to him that
meant aeroplanes. He turned with a will to Coventry. Those were the days
when he wrote of dungarees, which in the real sense were a passing
incident. His personality was worth more than a university degree in the
acquaintances it brought him.

"If aviation attracts you," said Sir Coverley Benedict, father of a
fellow collegian, "I'll get you into the Royal Air Force." His own son
was working off headiness in this avenue, and Brian seized the chance to
join him, though he was temperamentally unsuited to military
organizations.

His ambition to master every branch of aeronautics combined with his
talent for mechanics quickly made the air his element. He won his wings
with expedition and wore them with the dash with which his grandfathers
had clanked their silver-plated spurs.

He and young Benedict went often to the Duchess of Tilbury. The Duchess
was divorced, but traded under her old title. She was a man-eater of air
officers, and herself a notorious aviator. No airman was too young for
her, and she specialized in those from overseas, and found their lack of
ceremony amusing. They sometimes found her food and other things
"rotten", and it was after a midnight supper at her apartment that both
Delacy and Benedict were smitten with gastritis. Brian, who considered
himself gastronomically as invincible as a goanna, was kept in hospital
for a month, at the end of which the official physicians declared him
permanently unfit, and gently dismissed him from the Service.

It had been a relief to inform his mother that he was in the Royal Air
Force, and to sprinkle his letters with the names of the swagger
people--many of them with titles--who petted flight officers, while his
mother's fears for his safety in the air had speedily given way to pride
in his stylish career.

To be discarded as unfit was as staggering if not so painful as his
retreat from Oxford. He spent terrible weeks of depression in lodgings,
and sent no letter to Australia during the time. Then he sallied forth to
tell the Duchess what her supper had done for him.

The Duchess's ambition in aviation outstripped her means now that the
Duke had a practising as well as a cast-off duchess to support in the
style to which she had been accustomed. That was why her lobster salad
had been poisonous. Her refuge was Americans with money, preferably the
_nouveaux riches_ who had the illusion that any of the British titled
were "the best people".

Brian found her Grace preoccupied with his successors, but one Lola
Bradley, a miss from the Middle West, glamour-struck for Europe in
general, and aviation in particular, was kind to him. She was older than
she looked, and had but lately seized her freedom. She had money, though
was "not so lousy with dollars as some", to use the Duchess's
classification. Lola's was that she was "just plumb crazy about flying".
She was won by Brian's friendly Australian manner, and was a good
listener, so he was soon telling her that he felt like making an end of
everything. This resulted in Lola's suggestion to escape before he was
again poisoned by the Duchess's "muck", and spend the remainder of the
day with her. She persuaded him to remain a couple of nights and later to
fetch his possessions from his attic in Bloomsbury and accept her care
until he was fit again.

Lola had dazzling teeth, but at school had been called pop-eyed, a state
arising from her enthusiasm, and which time was tempering. Good-natured
and easy, she restored Brian's _amour-propre_, and freed him from a
threatened fixation concerning "the tragic Delacys", which had arisen
after the second mishap to cloud his sunny outlook. She confessed to
being six years his senior. When he, sun-lined and tanned, said that he
would not have thought her more than thirty, she regretted that she had
not proclaimed herself that age. Her companionship, ostensibly as nurse,
was wholesome. Brian's emotions were affectionate, and promised something
more. Lola had broken away from home determined to have an affaire ere
the years should have superannuated _amour_, and pursued her purpose
without hesitation.

Brian consented to go with her to recuperate in the south of France, and
for a time she relinquished her ambitions as an aviator in favour of
love. They dawdled along the beaten track, forgetting which was Arles or
Nimes. In Avignon they stayed at the Grand-Hotel d'Europe and inspected
the Notre-Dame-des-Dorns Cathedral with its "richly decorated interior".
Owing to Brian's reversals, romance was inhibited until Lola noted in the
hotel register the name of a physician from Chicago. She called on him
and begged him to examine Brian, which he consented to do, and testified
with confidence that Brian was as sound as an ox.

A young man renewed went from the physician's presence.

Inquiries later convinced Brian that the real reason for his removal from
the R.A.F. was that at Oxford he had embraced a set tainted red, and that
his manner .had not been sufficiently conforming to superior officers to
be tolerated in time of peace. His Duchess had been of the wrong bouquet
to protect him, where there were so many young fellows who could more
safely be moulded to the pattern of "an officer and a gentleman".

"I'm tickled clear through that you are free," exclaimed Lola. "Let's do
all the stunts right away, darling. Cape to Cairo first, for practice.
Then we'll fly to Australia and see that Uppamurrumbadgeree you talk so
much about."

Continually Brian's thoughts reverted to the Murrumbidgee because he was
shut therefrom by failure of two kinds. Now himself again, his nostalgia
was the spring of inspiration. Avignon, capital of the Department of
Vaucluse, sent his thoughts to Vaucluse House in Sydney.

Australia so far away! England had once been a mere five weeks from
Australia, but in the Anglification of his perspective Australia had come
to be at the furthest extremity of the globe. Yet a year since a girl had
upped and flown to Australia in a matter of days. An English girl. The
world had buzzed with the miracle. Its full significance came to Brian
now.

Strolling in Railway Square he remarked of the statue of the inventor of
the flax-spinning machine. "By Jove, it would suit me better to be doing
something to win a monument in my own land than to be paddling around
here like a poodle on a string looking at the round towers and
machicolated battlements. You should see the battlements at Burrabinga!
All the blah like that about Francesco Petrarca seeing Laura de Noyes in
a nunnery church, and the old popes living here in thirteen hundred, and
the glamour of distant days is woven into a sentimental camouflage and
hides the present squalor and lunacy of Europe. Romance needs adventure
at them start, and the start of tradition is adventure that gets
recorded. I'm for starting something glamorous concerning my own wide
open spaces. Whoops! that's a filthy cold wind."

"That's the famous Mistral," contributed Lola.

"Huh! even their old wind is given a title! You wait till you feel the
Monaro wind across Canberra; it would shave a gooseberry as we
say...These religious artistic works are a bit frowsty, and the incense
like soup. I wish you could smell the bush about Ferny Creek on a summer
night. I reckon it's holy. The earth here cannot work off the continual
contamination of human contact, like lice for ever on it, and fertilizers
and battles."

Following this outburst Brian walked alone on the terrace with its view
of the Rhône and the Cevennes and the Alps, majestic in the waning light.
The splendour drove him, as his great-grandfather, to ponder on
posterity, his contemporaries being inadequate to people the eternal
grandeur of the globe. His spiritual and intellectual harvest from the
history piled before him and from the glory of the past as exemplified by
Oxford was realization of the potentialities of his own anciently empty
new land. He compared his own double heritage with the circumscription of
those who possessed only Europe, and exulted. He had inherited Danny's
and Harry's dreams.

Far Australia was brought near if a girl could fly there over the
week-end, so to speak. In a flash he saw his future. Aviation. Aviation
not for mere aviation's nor adventurous stunt's sake, but for Australia.
The caballero would transfer from the horse to the aeroplane. He was
impatient to be winging his way by Rome, Vesuvius, Athens, Damascus,
Baghdad, Basra--names mossy with legend, but which in his present mood
had not the liberation of the mellifluous lullaby names of his native
beat, plucked like the echo of an echo, the shadow of a shadow from a
wraith-like people who had left undefiled and undespoiled their
disdainful, capricious land.

In the profound suffusion of emotion which transcends thought, and but
for which the intellectual absolute would he too arid to prevail, he sat
upon the hotel bed that night and harangued Lola. as the young Danny had
spell-bound his Johanna in the womb in Clare a century earlier.

"Beggar it all!" he exploded. "I'm glad I came to Europe. and more glad
that I didn't fit. It has just come to me--the indignity of crawling home
to Europe and drawing on what has been made here--mostly made a mess
of--and rehashed, and polished and traditioned and precedented for
centuries, when we have a whole new country still clean and
free--free--_Free!_ Do you realize its freeness? The freest social and
sociological conditions on the globe, and empty. Think of the glorious
emptiness of it! The purity! Here you have the treasures of art and
architecture of the ages, but as well you have accumulations of
pollution. Do you grasp, woman, how clean we are In Australia?"

"I hadn't heard any big noise about your cleanness."

"Talk about incense! The heavenly perfume of Australia used to waft far
out to sea before it was civilized. You've never known a rapturously pure
smell until you have been in a eucalyptus forest. There's not even any
damp smell of rot from vegetable humus. It's antiseptic with cleanness."

"But you'll find it kind of different from what you expect when you go
back. You won't be able to stand it after Europe."

"How d'you mean? Stand what?"

"You miss all the contacts--you know, the culture."

"Culture, bah! I'm beginning to see that culture makes a poor return for
the time it has had and what it has cost in blood and slaves. I've been
up against men dripping with culture, and what is called breed and
education, and it did not save them from being crawlers who had no
semblance of manhood. The highly cultured can be the lowest perverts.
The cultured can be contented amid gross injustice. Culture be
damned! Culture is not enough, we need decency and goodwill in
brotherhood--common sense in opportunity and in distribution of the
world's products--ethical ideals in control of man's inventiveness.

"Culture, Huh! Filaria, hookworm and leprosy are samples of ancient
culture of the East that were introduced into the Australian garden of
Eden a century ago. It would take a lot of Ming vases and artistic prints
and flowery proverbs and polished manners and underhand subtle diplomacy
and military glory to outweigh those scourges. Culture! Europeans haven't
the common business savvy to live without war, and they spread their
Kelly gang tactics through all the world. Europe should be boycotted to
stew in her own juice. Asia's somnolent ignorance is preferable to her
wakening and speeding-up to Europe's general lunacy and inefficiency!"

"Yes, but I've been back to the Middle West, and it was a bit crude after
Europe," interposed Lola, when he stopped for breath.

"Crude, be blasted! I pray that Australia may remain crude and empty as
the last refuge for the doomed of Asia and Europe...How do you mean
_crude_ any way?"

"Unsophisticated, I guess--that's what they call us Americans when they
want to be polite but..."

"...superior. Crude people always do better for their fellows than the
sophisticated. If you analyse sophistication it explodes  as a nasty
stink. Sophistication is a green sickness that feeds on decadence. I'm
off back to first principles. One of Europe's biggest crimes is to drag
her descendants back from Australia and America to gather diseases and to
die in her tribal racketeering."

In the manner of women, Lola was giving him one ear while with half her
consciousness she pursued her own thoughts. She was ten years older than
Brian. Like him she had come to the hub of sophistication from an
outpost; similarly at first she had been shocked by the poverty, the
servility, the flagrant assumption of superiority by caste. She had grown
homesick for Michigan, but upon return to a tortured sojourn among her
early associates she felt that the women trading upon domestic
womanliness, the standardized college professors, the exalted
pants-pressers cried aloud for debunking, if not indeed for elimination.
On her second escape to Europe she had become selective of congenial
contacts, as one could in the old-world centres. Class or caste could be
used for one's comfort. In this reorientation, poverty and servility had
ceased to distress her. She was not responsible for her own state in life
nor that of others. History demonstrated that humanity was unchanging
despite its new gadgets; experience taught that there was more profit in
getting the best out of the world than in attempts to reform it, though
men must gas about something. This was rather a safe hobby for Brian as
long as it did not go too far.

She could companion him in his activities but not in his dreams.

"The most important thing about Australia at this crisis in civilization
is its emptiness," Brian was saying.

Australia's emptiness added to its isolation did not appeal to Lola, but
she listened satisfactorily. A trip to early scenes was the only cure for
childish illusions about the home town. Lola would follow. One track was
as good as another to the aviator, for whom death waited daily. Aviation
was not for old age. For the present there was love--the pleasures of
sex--Brian the indispensable instrument. She gazed at him indulgently.

"That emptiness sounds kind of lonely."

"Lonely, bah! Population hasn't saved Europe or Asia. Even America isn't
able to provide for or use all her population since machines have
triumphed. Fly! Fly! Air ships and their speed solve the problem of
communication and physical association and could preserve the glory and
cleanliness of splendid distances.

"The profits expected from inducing people to multiply and populate the
empty spaces have disappeared with the failure of the brave new magic of
good salesmanship and business rationalization. George, it's laughable to
examine the breakdown of the practical fellows who have been licensed as
Caesars of human destiny! Their shebeening antics have ended in the race
suicide of wars and have created nothing but a world bout of constipation
in trade...When you think of warrior he-men submitting to tightening
their belts and stinting their families in the middle of plenty to
maintain a worn-out system..."

"It's surely a great demonstration of matter over mind."

"Yes, the whole world is paralysed by the mumbo-jumbo of banking jargon,
like a binghi 'boned' by a medicine man. Australia is the sole remaining
uncluttered frontier for a better experiment in civilization, with none
'debauched by slavery, or corrupt by power'. The idealists of the world
should be mobilized to ensure that good old virgin Aussie is not wholly
raped and squandered merely to alleviate the backward and undeveloped
human products. Under the exploitation and profiteering of their masters
it would soon be another Asia or Europe. It should be reserved for
peoples who as a minimum of sanity will agree to abandon war and poverty
and do something substantial to diminish disease."

"Promising when you say it quickly, but kind of an overtime job to bring
about."

"The only thing needed is intelligence and the courage to scrap outworn
systems. Intelligent brotherhood is the formula, but it would have to be
camouflaged as something new. Intelligence has never been tried yet on a
big ethical scale. Aviation has come in time to preserve Australia from
the mess of over-fecundity which has been preached as a religio-politico
doctrine to fill up countries to make consumers for trade that is
manipulated by bandits--alias leaders--shysters--quacks, who allow people
to starve while they throw fish back into the North Sea or burn wheat and
wool or coffee or cotton from China to Peru just to regulate prices for
the exploiteer. Such tomfoolery can't last."

"It has lasted a fair time."

"But not much longer."

"It's digging itself in stronger than ever. Look at Europe, and they're
going to be a whole heap worse yet before they're any better is my
guess." Lola's voice was ironical.

"The last struggle! We are faced with the choice between the annihilation
of civilization as it exists, or a universal reorganization of ethical
forces. Even stupid folks can see that, if it's in simple catch words.
_Try intelligence!_ There's my slogan when I get into the Commonwealth
Cabinet as Minister for Air Transport."

"Fine courageous young idea when you say it quickly, but the bone-heads
and mugwumps will be hard to convert."

"You must never raise your doctrine too far above those who have no way
of rising from the dust except in an aeroplane. A continent with
population thinly sown but of better quality, now that the old idea of
hordes being necessary to police manufactories or feed cannon has gone
phut. Nearly time we did something about the racial crime of breeding
from the unfit, and the race suicide of wars that waste the best and
strongest."

"'In that day blessed are the paps which never gave suck,'" quoted Lola,
yawning and flicking a piece of cigarette from her lip. "Great opening
for the debunking of motherhood. You'll have the women with you provided
that you can wean them from their witch doctors, and the men against you
if you advocate sex-control instead of birth limitation."

"The old pagan gods must laugh till the spheres crack. Wait till you hear
the kookaburras laughing all around the sunset. Their chortles must have
been transmitted from lost gods. A whole continent still mutinied! No
middens of the offal called history. Talk about European precedents! Ours
are colossal!"

"I'm waiting to be led to this land of promised hope and glory. It sounds
a pretty swell dump."

They began their joint career that night. Lola had the means to provide a
plane, Brian the mechanical skill to keep it at concert pitch. Her
ambition was his. Life was good again despite the financial paralysis
which had crept outward from the core to the extremities of the world.


At Ferny Creek Clare Margaret was alarmed by the declining value of wool,
though the first two years of the slack had not hurt the Australian
workers. They let the motor cars go, then the gramophones, the
player-pianos, the time-payment houses, while the so-called poor turned
up their noses at the clothes cast off to them, and others with money
sense collected them and sold them to the ol' clo' merchants.

At this stage had come the second blow through Brian's removal from the
R.A.F. His mother cabled his fare. The money was useful to Brian in
Europe. After weeks of silence came his statement that, to gain strength
before the sea voyage, he was going to the Riviera to look for the sun.
After further anxiety his mother was rejoiced by the verdict of the
Chicago physician and accepted Brian's decision to return to aviation.

Families that had migrated to the cities from bush holdings now felt that
evacuation had been a mistake. Those on the land could at least be sure
of food and shelter. Interest on mortgages mounted to startling figures
among the big men, but Clare Margaret's thrift kept her solvent while the
financial crisis went on and on--ripened to a "chronic". Though the land
was bursting with plenty, Australians began to feel the pinch. They had
no gold. Britain relinquished the gold standard in banking while the
U.S.A. collected gold and awakened the jealousy of the world. Despite
this the U.S.A., another country groaning with produce, plus almost human
machinery, was in a worse plight than Australia, because it had gone
farther in industrial artifice before reaching the impasse.

No new theory advanced to banish this ludicrous scourge of poverty in
plenty was acceptable. Russia's experiment aroused terror in the boss
classes throughout the universe; besides, it was not applicable to those
countries which had in their barns and warehouses more products than
could be consumed under an inadequate system of distribution. Financial
manipulators clung to the current economic organization, refusing to
recognize that parasitism when too robust kills its hosts, and that the
"cornering" of markets was no longer compatible with world peace and
sanity. Attempts to graft new patterns of living upon the existing
confusion revealed that the old virtues of thrift and industry were no
longer rewarding, but those who still had possessions continued to decry
new designs as anarchy and to demand of their experts the
re-establishment of pre-slump normality.

The voice of the doled was dolorous in the land. Idleness enervated the
adolescent generation as war had brutalized its predecessors. The only
hope of betterment, of release from constricting poverty for the great
masses of people in the mightiest empire on record was a lottery chance
or gambling on the racecourses. All waited. For what?

For a miracle, in the ancient way of mankind, from out eternity, and to
eternity; the miracle of leadership that would be accepted; some
ingenious formula, to save people from starvation in the midst of
abundance; simply that.


Brian proceeded healthfully with his career, confident that the thinkers
must before long impose intelligence upon stupidity; otherwise some major
explosion would wreck the present forms of civilization.

Lola was described as a brilliant American woman aviator, able in all
departments, including wireless. Brian combined mechanics with
aeronautics and wireless, and his partnership with her was filled with
instructive activity. They took private persons on flights, competed in
air races, gave some attention to aerobatics and put up a record on two
of the authorized air routes. Their performances gained the attention of
leading makers who engaged them as test pilots. The owners of a new style
of machine, partly of Spanish origin, which, through numerous
metamorphoses, and because of its special construction, had come to be
known as the Multiple-Vertical-Gyro, invited the Delacys to attempt the
Atlantic in their product.

Lola opposed this in favour of Australia for the simple reason that in
her own state Brian would discover her real age, and she loved him more
consumedly with each month. She had as much nerve as he in the air but
lacked the hardihood to confess that she was ten years his senior. So
long as her youthful appearance remained she would conserve her romance.

The Multiple-Vertical-Gyro Company were agreeable to this as their
product had already been exhibited in New York.

The Middle West held probable embarrassment for Lola; the Upper
Murrumbidgee would be equally uncomfortable for Brian under certain
conditions. He had absorbed enough of the sophisticated she-man point of
view of Europe to accept Lola's gifts in _amour_ while in London and
France. It would be another matter to appear in Australia unmarried to
his female partner. One aviator had been thus libertarian, an innovation
which, on the Murrumbidgee, had eclipsed her achievements in flight--as
Brian knew from his mother's letters.

He was too fond of his mother to subject her to such a trial, and spoil
all the triumph of his return, for which she had so loyally worked. What
he desired was a share in making Australia an avian Commonwealth as it
had been an equestrian Colony in the days of the earlier Delacys. As with
old Nullah-Mundoey, personal aggrandizement would not mean so much to him
as the development of his incalculable continent where a spiritual legacy
lured him home like a siren. His waywardness would be against other
forces than Mrs Grundy. To protect his dreams from disharmony, his
schemes from obloquy, he was willing to observe the most barnacled family
conventions.

"If we flew to Aussie together, we'd have to get married," he said to
Lola.

"Why, how perfectly ridiculous! I thought it was a new country with
advanced ideas."

"There's nothing new about living in concubinage."

"How crude to put it that way!"

"It wouldn't be put so politely among the old pioneers on the
Murrumbidgee. Not a single solemn simple simon one of my aunts or
great-aunts was so much as breathed upon before she was married. Even the
men had to be quite decent because there were so few women to be indecent
with."

"I guess that was the only reason. Oh, well, I understand. I was raised
in the same kind of bourgeois respectability in Jackson, Michigan, but I
did not lie down under it."

"Well, what about it?"

"About what?"

"Our tying up."

She was aching to hear him say that he loved her, not merely to suggest
marriage to maintain his respectability. "Maybe we'd better. I guess I
can stand it as well as you, but I don't want to be taken for your
grandmother."

"My grandmother's cat! I reckon I look as old as you are; and there's no
need to tell all we know. Knock a couple of years off."

"All right. Let's. Then when I want to go home to Michigan you can
divorce me for desertion."

"What in thunder for? I thought you cared for me?"

His blank look was comforting. "Yes, but if you're marrying only to be
respectable enough to carry out our flight to Australia, I don't want to
hold you."

"Beggar it all, I'm fond of you, and would like to marry you if we did no
flying at all."

"Then no backing and filling about the difference in our ages later. I've
always said I'd never be such a fool."

"I'll forget it, if you do."

"That settles it then." Joy suffused her to have her Brian plus
respectability. There would be no need to stick to him for ever if the
union became impossible.

Brian regarded marriage as inviolable. He was subconsciously disappointed
that he was not transported, but this he laid to having anticipated the
legal partnership by "living in sin". As with his great-grandfather, his
vision of life itself was more seizing than his amorous abandon to it.
Marriage was the completion of a man's person. Now that this was achieved
he could push forward as a bridegroom of Australia--the attitude held by
all great men, perhaps, towards their country, their people, their art,
or career.

AUSTRALIAN MARRIES WEALTHY AMERICAN AVIATRIX

It was crack cable news in Fleet Street, so full of Australians.

A freelance some months since had dispatched a photograph of the American
aviatrix and Australian aviator, which was now unfiled and widely
reproduced in the Australian Press. The newly married pair were credited
with planning an air honeymoon to Australia in a new type of machine.

The photograph had been snapped in a bleak March dawn at the end of one
of Lola's long-distance flights. In it she looked, as she expressed it,
"Like something that never happened unless in a nightmare after eating an
English boiled pudding."

"I think she must be a multi-millionaire," smiled Margaret.

"She looks a thousand, and old for her age," agreed Roger.

The oversea correspondents had delighted to cable her age, as given in
the marriage declaration. Clare Margaret had had a joint cable from the
pair which sustained her pride under the blow of the other woman's
possession of her boy. She spoke now with a challenge in her voice. "It's
that silly way they are all taken, showing their teeth like sharks. And
she had just come off a killing flight."

"He has married a very old woman," wrote Aunt Jean in a letter of
congratulation to Clare Margaret. "But the Delacys like to marry people
older than themselves. I hope Brian is not killed before We get a look at
him and his rich American wife. It is good to have someone bring money
into the family at last."

"She could not be called a beauty by any stretch of the imagination,"
wrote Josephine. "She looks very old, but your Aunt Della married a man
with a greater disparity in years and it made no difference in the end..
A pity his poor old grandfather did not last till Brian came. He had such
faith in him doing something great some day."

Clare Margaret began to work for the day of Brian's arrival. There were
"kags" of paint, now distributed in tins. She looked with satisfaction at
her property (and Brian's) in a bend of the stream, with the trees that
'made it resemble an English park, a condition ensured by Darcy's love of
trees and the education of Clare by aristocratic English tutors. Beyond
Ferny Creek, the enfolding ranges, still crowned with timber, rose in
tiers. Comforting roads wound across the horizon towards the bridge, and
Burrabinga and Gool Gool.

Humphrey Vance immediately offered to drive Clare Margaret and her
mother, and also Roger, to Sydney for Brian's arrival.

"He's my godson, and that entitles me to a bit of a splurge. I've had a
hankering to own a plane for a long time."

Clare Margaret's tense driving mood had eased with the prospect of
happiness and success for Brian. She suggested taking Aunt Jean too. "The
three old ladies, each well on the way to a hundred, will be an
encouragement to the bride," she chuckled. "A certificate for the Delacy
men as husbands that their wives all outlive them, whether they started
at scratch or behind it."

When paragraphs appeared concerning the renown that this sprig was
bringing to the pioneer family of Delacy, Clare Margaret slyly remarked,
"Only that I disgraced myself by marrying a cousin it wouldn't have been
the Delacy name at all."

"Lucky for the old man's memory," said Humphrey, "but you know the name
you should have."

"You say that because you know you are safe."

"No fear! You could make it right yet."

"You'd die of fright if I took you at your word."

"Just try me."

"It would burst up our habits. Better if I stayed at Ferny Creek and you
at Longview."

"I might consent to that."

"Would you, really?"

Vance looked dubious. "I might come to it if I could not get you any
other way; but we wouldn't be able to stand the talk."

It was well that Brian had bowed to convention on the tracks that Danny
had blazed.

The day came when the cables bore the news of Mr and Mrs Delacy's hop-off
from England in a Multiple-Vertical-Gyro christened _Nullah-Mundoey_. The
route was that which a slip of a girl had traversed alone some three
years earlier, and three years were a generation in air-ship progress.
The interest in this flight lay in the new type of machine. It was the
first England-to-Australia flight of a man and his wife linking the two
English-speaking nations of the Pacific. A point stressed in the recent
Italian flight was that, Balbo, the leader, had allowed none but
bachelors to take part, presumably so that they should be unhindered by
legally accredited feminine fears and tears. The terrors of illicit
ladies had to be kept out of the public eye and ear, or presumably were
an inspiration to virility rather than a softening of manly fibre.

Brian, with the Delacy sense of humour, turned this point inside out
merrily, and started well with the Press. Old Danny had come immediately
after the explorers Sturt and Major Mitchell. and made a home for wife
and babies in the wilds. His great-grandson's announced ambition was to
forward the family era in aviation and thus to banish Australian
loneliness and isolation, internecine or international.

"We must take to the plane as the early settler took to the horse and the
camel. We must all fly as a matter of course."

Lola knew him for a superb "mixer", and he was too normally of his nation
to frighten it with wild ideas. He hammered on those already
half-accepted, over and over again, a few genial slogans that grew
familiar.

_A winged continent can be mistress of her own sea-line and sky-line; a
wingless Australia is prey for Molly Hawks._

"A few slogans pile up publicity and make fame--too many smother it,"
said he.



CHAPTER LI


Clare Margaret was filled with an exciting sense of unreality to be at
the good old Metropole, the favourite hostelry of many of the
squattocracy. They were still the squattocracy, though their stations
were widely merged in syndicated ownership.

Aunt Jean and Margaret called the roll of the old timers, so few of whom
could answer _adsum_ as their names arose for review. Aunt Jean was
forgetful and repetitive and a little deaf, but that was her complaint of
Margaret. "Poor old thing, she must be nearly a hundred, no wonder she is
as she is," she would remark in Margaret's hearing. Luckily Margaret's
sense of humour was as mellow as her years. Josephine was also persuaded
to come to the hotel. Hers was the final triumph. Neither deaf nor
forgetful, erect and free from bulges, she was of striking elegance.

"You might take me to the theatre," Clare Margaret suggested to Humphrey,
"I shall go mad with nervousness waiting here for news from the Timor
Sea. There are three chaperons--more correct than the picnic when poor
old Uncle William lectured me because I went for a drive in your new
sulky; spoiling sport when he had you ready for Laura Butler." Clare
laughed mischievously but was thankful that she had not married this
"stodgy old cow".

Near midnight, the hotel buzzed with the news that the _Nullah-Mundoey_
and its pilots had safely reached Darwin, and broken previous records
with ease. Congratulations met the relatives of the fliers at every turn.

The M-V-G had proved the claims of its makers by resisting the sand
storms of the Near East and the heat of the tropics of India, and by
refusing to misfire in the monsoons which sluiced upon it over Rangoon.
Mrs Delacy had done much blind flying and had taken the watch over the
Tirnor. Delacy was in fine fettle, but Mrs Delacy was feeling the strain
so that the passage from Darwin was to be taken in short stages.

Arrival at Mascot was timed for ten o'clock one August morning. A
stubborn drought prevailed even as far south as Gippsland. The young day
was pallid with the southerly which roistered up from the Antarctic to
make heady going for the Nullah-Mundoey. The wind sausages bellied as
tightly as boiled puddings. Whirlwinds of dust soiled the air, freezing
to Sydneysiders, but mild to those from the Upper Murrumbidgee, where
Monaro winds have the shrewd rasp of purification.

News came that Delacy had to land for an hour after leaving Narromine
because of Mrs Delacy's indisposition, though she was finishing the
flight with her husband. Old-timers shook their heads and stood to reason
that women were not meant by nature to fly. Men of outmoded thought, who
still felt that whistling was blasphemy for women, and politics beyond
them, had a nourishing revival.

"Oh, why doesn't he leave her and come on," said Adrienne Butler, an
aviator kinswoman of Brian.

"Too much like old Nullah-Mundoey," said his mother. "Grandfather always
took Grandma with him everywhere until she jacked up."

Adrienne was a conspicuous figure among those milling around in the dust
for an extra hour. The baby of the family of Coole and Fanny (Vance)
Butler, she was Brian's second cousin and awaited him with feverish
enthusiasm. She strained to be upon the minute or ahead of it. Roger
Delacy described her in domestic society as a chain-smoker and a
married-man chaser. In other congregations more pungent tributes
circulated, which though unsubstantiated, rescued Adrienne from the
obscurity which would have been hers had her deportment won approval from
Roger. She was frequently the subject of Press paragraphs, and familiar
to the public through the pictures of her opening-up the fleeces of her
Uncle Humphrey's champions, or leading-in her father's winners at picnic
races. She was a pet with her uncle, and regarded as his heiress, and
much courted for his sake as well as for her own liveliness.

Coole was President of the Bandalong Jockey Club, and Adrienne among the
dwindling number of girls who could ride. She boasted of the Delacy blood
there. She could even play polo, on ponies of the old Nullah-Mundoey
strain. Also she had an "A" licence as a pilot. A plane of her own had
been postponed by the subsidence of wool profits. Adrienne had tried to
wheedle her uncle into providing one, but a lot of the troglodyte
lingered in him. He thought that flying had made Adrienne just a little
"loud", though it was hidden from him just how far she had advanced
beyond girls too genteel to whistle. She was eager for adventure with her
cousins, and when she saw the pictures of Lola, felt sure that Brian
would be an easy conquest.

"Married to an old scrag like that, he will be rabid for a little
understanding," she observed to her confidante, as she retouched her
pillar-box red lips. Her cheeks and finger nails were also lacquered with
a flaming tint. Upon an endearing mass of curls, like a poodle's, was
perched a _chapeau_, constructed from a piece of stockinette, to resemble
the cap of Reskemeer's "Cornish Gent", and she had a fashionable coatee
known as a "bum freezer", which outlined her anatomy apropos.

"In my young days it was the bosom that was upholstered to the shape of a
plum pudding," chuckled Clare Margaret. "And to-day it is the b-t-m. You
never got such a boomer from the Delacy side of the house."

"A great deal depends on it," said Adrienne, exercising her muscles like
a hula-hula dancer.

"I'll say all depends on it when you have nothing else on which to
depend," said Clare Margaret with an indulgent chuckle.

Adrienne was noted by a Press-woman who signed her social gossip
"Ercildoun"--a distant connection of the Delacys--who had consorted with
Brian and Lola in London.

"Absolutely, _mon vieux cheval_," said this person softly. She knew the
European and American originals of Adrienne, and dismissed her as an
unworthy graft on old pioneer stock.

"Why do you call me that?" demanded Adrienne, as they shared Clare's
sandwiches and thermos of coffee in the last hour.

"Because you are so conspicuously _vieux jeu, mon enfant_."

Adrienne could not be sure of Ercildoun, but courted her. To be
written-up was a criterion of success; Adrienne was no blob or woop-woop.
Clare was amused by the disapproval of Adrienne by the old-fangled. Clare
herself had been a shocker when younger than Adrienne, and now applied
the yard-stick of experience.

"Pooh!" she said to Roger's complaint. "What's wrong with her? She's only
going with the times."

"She's over the odds--a bit of a b----."

"Bah! Men always think dirty things that they manufacture out of their
own minds about women. Noah took a pair of that fashion into the Ark and
they have multiplied ever since."

Adrienne quickly discovered Glares sanction and kept in the limelight by
sticking to the celebrity's mother. Adrienne overheard someone say, "She
ought to be thankful to Clare Margaret; she's the dog-in-the-manger who
keeps Humphrey from some flapper who would make his money fly."

Clare Margaret took the girl as easily as she used to manage the spirited
Nullah-Mundoeys, and with such handling Adrienne purred. She threw her
arms around Clare and whispered that she loved her and wanted to help by
lending her Humber with herself as chauffeuse.


At length the avian _Nullah-Mundoey_ and its escort of twenty planes were
descried. Clare and Adrienne embraced each other and wept with
excitement. "I know he's lovely," exclaimed the girl. "I am so proud he
is my cousin. I'm sick of so many blobs and woop-woops for relations."

The Press representatives were photographing the three ancient graces. "I
should be in too," said Adrienne. "I'm the only other flying Delacy."

"We owe her the front page for carrying the ads," said a good-natured
veteran. "Come on, Miss Aviatrix."

"The old bungs are very proud of my cousin," she remarked. "With his
education he might have merely turned into some sort of old professor."

"It would be better though if he were bringing home the Davis Cup or the
Ashes," said the veteran.

"That would be too much to expect," said Adrienne.

"Quite!" interposed Ercildoun. "We must be thankful it's flying. He might
have obscured himself by producing a serious exposition of Commonwealth
politics."

The earlier gale had blown the day clear, and eased a little. The wind
guides slumped to the outline of big white caterpillars. The sun sparkled
on the plain where a decade earlier had still flourished a garden of
fairy shrubs and unique flowers. The world ran clear and flat to the
distant bay, beautiful with the special magic of Sydney waters, the sea
as Cook had first beheld it foaming about its promontories.

Roger and Humphrey re-tucked the old ladies' wraps and offered them
alcoholic sustenance. The watchers eddied for positions in relation to
the sun. The unemployed from adjacent suburbs and congeries were present
in numbers, but there was no such muster as called up by Amy Johnson.
These arrivals were becoming a commonplace, and no man could outdo
"Smithy", whose constant achievements made him a classic.

The M-V-G machine neared speedily, gave the airman's curtsy _in excelsis_
and rose to remain buzzing overhead.

"Stone the crows! A beetle or a windmill!" exclaimed a spectator. "A new
fakement; haven't you read the papers?" demanded another.

"By cripes! it's a rum looking contraption."

Loud guffaws as at a clown among air ships.

"You can laugh, but it's the only machine that can hang about in the air.
Aw, what's the good of talking to ---- bastards that haven't as much
machinery in their heads as a tin hare."

The _Nullah-Mundoey_ was fairly overhead demonstrating her dragon-fly
stunt. Then she alighted vertically, according to claim; she had really
arrived. Her pilots were getting out of the cockpit. The crowd was
prevented from shredding the plane for souvenirs by squads of police who
pushed every one back to a place of safety from the planes alighting on
the drome. The Pressmen acted as guards to the relatives who went to meet
the pair, Lola looking her age--any age up to a hundred, as someone
kindly said--and exceedingly white and drawn, in spite of chic make-up.
She had been a passenger only from Darwin, but there she was as Brian's
mate.

Cheers from swirling knots of people. Police regulating movement. Brian
was caught by one camera in the act of kissing his mother. Then came the
three old aunts. Adrienne pump-handled Brian's hand and omitted to
embrace Lola. People strained on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of the pair,
and stood on one foot and another and ached with apathy while the head of
the Aero Club, the head of the Chamber of Commerce and others welcomed
the flyers, and business envoys on duty pushed their commodities. A
municipal authority put forward the claims of the spot, as an imperial
drome. Here was a square mile of level plain, right at the city's side
door, as yet pre-empted by little except the bedraggled skirts of a slum
and Chinese vegetable gardens--a glorious opportunity awaiting people of
vision and taste. The microphone was thrust before the flyers. Brian
beamed and began. Fine popular pieces welled spontaneously from his
overflowing zest in being an Australian. Everything was for Australia.
His cheering pronouncements were direct descendants of old Danny's
visions of posterity. Here was posterity fulfilling Danny.

Ercildoun made her way to Lola, whose eyes lighted to recognize a friend
and ally. Lola whispered, "I feel as if I'm going to die. I'm so
air-sick, and it does not ease off when I land. Oh, if only I could lie
down somewhere and sleep for a week! They'll take dreadful pictures of me
looking like something the cat left on the mat."

"You need a dragon. Ah, Adrienne, _mon vieux cheval_, here's your
opportunity. The only member of Lola's sex in the tribe able to meet her
on some sort of equality. Excuse me--excuse--please excuse--thank you so
much. Splendid, so kind of you--just let me pass." Thus she made her way,
with Adrienne commandeered to the service of Lola, and reached the Humber
while the crowd pressed around Brian, warmed by his humorous tones.

The reporters beset him with busy pencils as he turned from the
microphone. "Fly, that's the order of the day. My old great-grandad--all
his kids went from the bottle on to a horse without a pram between, and
my kids and yours--if we have the luck to have any--must go from their
mothers--by George! they must go with their mothers straight into planes.
We'll build hangars and dromes instead of roads. Instead of the old
shanty-keepers with stables and nose-bags, we're going to have bowsers
and skilled mechanics with spare parts dotted about from the Roper to the
Paroo and Ayer's Rock, and from the Leeuwin to Cape York. It's the
greatest flying land on the globe--the best sky--blow it all, we've got
about the biggest sky there is all in one piece, and that's without any
bolony. Here my wife and I are linking-up America. It is due to my wife's
superb navigation that this flight has been so successful. She has a
sixth sense of direction, like our ornithorhynchus. She can show me the
way to Aussie in the dark, and the only condition upon which she would
marry me was that I'd bring her straight home to see you all. She will
now say hullo!"

"Your wife has eloped," shouted a voice.

Brian joined in the laughter. "She has a big heart for Australians. She's
too modest about her achievements, so I thank you on her behalf for this
magnificent welcome, and promise that she will talk later to you all on
the air."

Fellow pilots carried him for a few yards between lines of curious people
and then put him down. The three old ladies were cheered as they
progressed under the care of Roger, Humphrey and Clare Margaret.

"Can't I get into the thing and see how it goes?" demanded Josephine.

"Would you, Grandma?" Brian shouted his excitement.

He was surprised and delighted by the stylish and youthful appearance of
this grandma in her rich fur coat, her Parisian _chapeau_, with her
feminine earrings and fragrant posy of boronia and violets.

"And what about you?" he turned to Margaret and Jean.

"I suppose I might as well end that way as any other," said Margaret. She
was not to be outdone by Josephine in the last lap.

Jean refused to risk her life. She could never be prodded into family
rivalries. The two old ladies were placed in the machine.

OCTOGENARIAN LADIES IN FIRST FLIGHT

Meanwhile Lola arrived at the Hotel and was taken upstairs to to a back
room, while the suite on the front, decorated by a Committee of Welcome,
was left to decoy the bothersome.

It was Ercildoun who compiled the interviews loaded with cute and
popularizing American opinions of Australia's gorgeous girls and vast
beaches, she who set in motion the conception of Lola as so modest and
feminine that she left all speech-making to her husband, though she could
fly blind for leagues and take the watch over the Timor without a tremor.

Lola had to be excused from all the officially arranged welcomes. Such a
pity, said someone, but Clare Margaret thus had Brian to herself, and
Adrienne wasted no sympathy on the indisposed airwoman.

"She doesn't look so bad as her photo led us to expect," said Margaret.

"She's better looking than he is. He has that Irish mouth like old
Grandpa Danny," said Josephine.

"Terrible pity he didn't take after the royal side of the house,"
muttered Roger.

Clare was so happy that she said, "Let her have her head. She's a show
piece, and what Brian doesn't know won't hurt him. Humphrey is another
ready to cheer now that the battle is won, so I'm letting the tails go
swimming with the hides in this Yackandandah."

Clare decided to abrogate her unforgiveness. Humorously she realized that
it would never occur to the unrelenting old lady that she could
necessitate forbearance; always her own heroine, no tinge of remorse had
ever tarnished her self-confidence.

During a family rally held later Aunt Jean remarked, "All that Brian
needs to be exactly old Grandpa Danny is the big pipe and the long
beard."

"And the wooden leg," added Roger.

Josephine asked what he would do with the _Nullah-Mundoey_ at Ferny Creek.
"It will get tangled up in the trees."

"You might drop something on the dingoes--plenty of them there yet,"
contributed Aunt Jean.

"Oh, the _Nullah-Mundoey_ can land in its own space. That's how it will
revolutionize flying."

"Rather early for a revolution; I thought flying was hardly rooted yet,"
observed Roger, whip and horseman, beached by change.

Lola remained so weak and nervous that she soon withdrew, followed by
murmurs of these flights being unfit for women, but Margaret said, "I
don't suppose that flying is any more wearing than being in a hut
surrounded by hostile blacks with fire spears, or than having a baby on a
tarpaulin under a dray on a flooded stream bank among the flies and ants,
as the women did in my mother's day. Women can stand more than men, and
outlast them, as far as I have seen. Something else could have upset
Lola; there is a lot of gastric flu about."

Clare Margaret was eager to have her daughter-in-law at home to smother
her with attention. Eventually they went together in the car placed at
Brian's disposal by the Oil Company, whose product he had used on the
flight. Brian remained in Sydney to pluck opportunity while interest in
him was awake. He was full of unction that he was representing Lola as
well as himself. Only Lola was feeling more resentful than grateful to
him.

His Grandmother Josephine was a rich find to him. Darcy had rarely
mentioned his mother. Silence had been the only way to evade Clare
Margaret's criticism of her mother-in-law. Not so long after Darcy's
death Brian had gone away to school, and Clare's habit of silence about
Josephine thus enabled her grandson to make her acquaintance free of the
ancient jealousies and incompatibilities. Though verging on eighty,
Josephine retained more vigour and beauty than the average woman of
sixty, and could outlast any number of the flappers. She dressed
expensively and stylishly. Women clamour for outstanding men, no matter
how eccentric, but the most exceptional man would rather a stylish and
handsome female relative than a successful genius, or one who had saved
his life, if lacking in style of dress or person. Despite all Clare's
devotion Brian, because of her weather-beaten appearance and
uncompromising speech, found more satisfaction to his vanity in his
grandmother's feminine grace and dignity. In addition, Josephine had the
ability to take a practical interest in the _Nullah-Mundoey_, and with
Brian on guard soon could manage the controls. She confessed a desire to
have a plane of her own. Brian was equally a satisfaction to Josephine.
She would at best have tolerated an acclaimed artistic genius, provided
he could make money, but mechanical skill she could understand and in air
science take pride. From all her marital disappointment, including the
early loss of all her children but the stiff-necked Isabel, here at last
was a shred of recompense. Her implacable disparagements of family
members amused Brian. He attributed them to her great age. Also he was
not at her mercy, and there was a precipitate of her own harder prosaic
grain in him to rescue him from the visionary and sensitive Delacy
temperament, while he retained the Delacy winsomeness. He felt
indubitably Josephine's kin and dramatized her strain in himself.

She was a prodigy for which he was thankful, as Adrienne said, "among the
crowd of blobs". A born mechanic, she revelled in her grandson's skill,
and in having her own recognized. She did not have to insist that Brian
inherited his gifts from her; he loudly proclaimed his debt. Throughout
her married years she had heard poetic interpretations of life and of
nature, or dreams of posterity, which had irritated her as the delirium
of incompetence, while the door of the stable might be hanging on one
hinge, or the spouting escaping from the veranda, and she herself
compelled to attend to such repairs. Men who could not make money were
contemptible in her eyes. She was never tired of driving or flying with
this young man, who belonged to her, and she put helpful sums in his
pocket. The belated outlet for her mechanical skill in flying was an
excitement to banish the _malaise_ of old age.

Adrienne remained in Sydney, supposedly in the charge of her Uncle
Humphrey, and attended functions on the invitations intended for Lola.
She had much notice as the intrepid young aviatrix, Brian's cousin, and
was described without reservations as beautiful. Brian accepted her and
liked her as a kid who had an infectious excitement in her experiences.
He needed advertisement; Adrienne was a fine publicity hound and a
tireless honorary secretary. She took a palpitant interest in the
_Nullah-Mundoey_; flew it with confidence, and gave her views on its coming
supremacy. This was all attributed to cousinly interest. There lay the
danger.

Awaiting the completion of the bigger M-V-G, Brian was compelled to take
people on joy rides and to grab any odd job. Lola was not wealthy as
rumour said. One after another of her father's enterprises had run dry
since 1928, and she had spent her available assets with Brian in
aviation. Brian spoke before every group that asked him, regardless of
its size or politics. He had old Danny's sociable attitude toward his
fellows, and was careful not to be too far above the crowd except in an
air ship. He reinvested platitudes so that he was inspiring, and Adrienne
toppled into amorous infatuation for him as only a girl of twenty can,
and was heady with the anti-social delusions of the state. She was sure
that Lola had taken advantage of Brian through her money--an old woman
who was strangling his personality. Adrienne had embraced modernism and
imagined that she had jettisoned the conventions. She was plaguing her
Uncle Humphrey to float her as a Trans-Pacific flier, and dreamed of
taking Lola's place.

Lola thought Ferny Creek the clearest, cutest place she had ever seen as
a week-end summer resort, but to her it had the primitiveness of a camp,
with less of comfort and conveniences than many a summer cottage of her
childhood at Charlevoix or Harbour Springs. To that was added a sense of
isolation from the world which Pitcairn Island might have given to Clare
Margaret. Not even one modern picture on the walls! Nothing but enlarged
photographs--and of what looked like hayseeds! Not even radio!

Lola could not ride, and hated the hush roads for the automobile. She was
not a nature lover. The strange elfin spring meant little to her, though
she obligingly tried to gush over the mimosa which afflicted her with hay
fever. She made no discoveries for herself. She was a worshipper of
machines, especially of the carrier that could scour the skies and speak
between continents. She was no raconteuse to gain entertainment in
entertaining others. Her social equipment was in her ability to listen.
During six years or more she had been a mental sponge saturated with all
the advanced politics, isms and ologies of art and science of the
capitals of Europe and of the United States. Her indisposition at Ferny
Creek confined her to the housewives who called on her mother-in-law, and
their gossip of cake and knitting recipes was stupefying. A letter from
her ally, Ercildoun, provided escape.

Ercildoun had summed-up Adrienne's cousinliness to a millimetre. Neither
trouble-maker nor alarmist, she simply said it was a pity that Brian had
to take the lionizing alone as it put him in a false position, especially
with women.

Lola was frantic to escape from Ferny Creek, and suggested to Clare
Margaret a descent upon Sydney in company to surprise Brian. This was
agreed upon and Ferny Creek was left to Mrs Thingamebob and Roger.

Up and away at the first hint of dawn in the powerful car to do in half a
day what had taken Danny and Johanna weeks to cover with bullocks and
dray. It was lovely weather but Lola scarcely deigned to cast her eyes
back at the panorama which had enchanted Danny and Harry.

Upon parking the car, Clare Margaret hurried to Neutral Bay to see
Josephine, who had hurt her foot and was confined to her apartment. In
_accordance with her design, Lola went unaccompanied in pursuit of Brian.
She walked into the Metropole without luggage, and took the key from the
attendant but brought it down again to the office so that Brian could
come up. "Don't mention that I have come," she said. "I want to have a
rest."

"Good-o," said the man, and forgot all about her. The lift operator did
not recognize her.

Brian's things were flung about with his customary disorder. Lola was
orderly. She took a coat from the back of a chair to transfer it to a
wardrobe. Letters fell from the pockets, an inscription uppermost.
"Darling, dinkydi Brian." What followed was in the same vein, and signed
"Coz Adrienne."

"Indeed!" mused Lola. "So that is the how of it."

She then read all the letters. They oozed mush from a variety of
fair-weather admirers. Lola had had her own share of this, and knew how
little the recipient was to blame. Adrienne was different.

"If Uncle Humphrey would finance you, you would not need poor old Lola's
'money any more."

Lola's nausea was replaced by a pain like a knife in her being. She read
on, "It's no use if I couldn't see you again, I'd kill myself and leave
a letter saying why. I don't mind so long as I can see you every day. I
count each hour when I don't. I don't care about my character. Perhaps if
Lola knew, she would get a divorce, and then you'd be free."

If Lola knew what? How far had this gone? Lola pondered each phrase. The
suspicion grew that Adrienne would not have gone on without response. Was
Brian posing as a martyr tied to an old woman? The sentence about poor
old Lola's money stung.

A box of powder and a perfume that Lola did not use, were on the dressing
table, feminine garments in the wardrobe. The girl must be running a
disgusting affair right in the hotel, which Lola had thought to be as
respectable as the leading hotel in Tecumseh or Dowagiac, Michigan. It
was nearly as primitive in her point of view. Was such behaviour
countenanced in a family hostelry?

She went downstairs and made herself agreeable to the office staff,
finger on lips and, honeyed words underneath. Was her husband at Mascot?
He was. Would she like to get through on the telephone? Oh, no, she was
going straight out by car. She was expecting her cousin, Miss Butler--had
she arrived?

"She is in and out with Mr Delacy. They are usually here to dinner, but
go out to dance afterwards. There is some mail here," said the attendant,
handing a sheaf of cablegrams and letters. "I hope you are feeling fit
again, Mrs Delacy."

"Yes, thank you. I am glad my husband is getting some dancing. Don't
mention my return as I want to beat the game by an hour or two. There is
the key."

The key was in its place, evidence of her departure, but at the door she
doubled back behind an influx of pastoralists and escaped upstairs, where
she had left the door unlatched. Some of the cables were greetings and
congratulations, but others informed her of further decline in her
industrial securities. In fact she had overdrawn, and was practically
without resources. She was so depressed by this second shock that she
craved to lie in peace in the dark, She got through to Ercildoun on the
telephone and confessed that she was feeling queerly and did not want any
one to know that she had returned to town. Ercildoun recommended a
doctor, to which Lola consented. She then crawled on to a corner of the
bed under the motor rug and hat boxes and other disorder, and, placing
something to keep the light from her eyes, drifted into sleep. It was the
ability to sleep when under strain that so stood to her as an airwoman
and preserved her youthful appearance.



CHAPTER LII


She was awakened some time later by the entrance of Brian. Adrienne was
with him. Lola remained quiet and it speedily became apparent that
Adrienne was entering surreptitiously to dress.

"I'll go down to the lounge till you come," said Brian. "The room next
door will be ready for you to-night. Old Fullwood from Heulong has it and
will be leaving after dinner."

"It's going to be gorgeous to-night. The _Monowai_ has nice long decks.
Ta-ta, darling!"

The sound of heated kissing inspired Lola to pop up and say, "Too
cousinly!" but that was not sufficiently annihilating. She lay stricken
while Brian departed and Adrienne changed her dress, posturing before the
mirror as she hummed happily, "You Will Remember Vienna," and tossed her
discarded garments on to Lola.

At the end of ten minutes Adrienne cautiously opened the door to a knock.
Brian, in the aperture, began, "I say! They tell me downstairs that Lola
came to-day and went out to Mascot to meet me."

"Damn! Spoils all our fun. Jump into your things and let's escape before
we're stopped."

"I couldn't do that."

"Are you frightened?"

"Rot! No. But I shan't have so much time for you now. I'll have to take
Lola about. I don't want her to get a wrong view of Australia."

"Aren't you going to tell her about us?"

"What about us?"

"All we mean to each other."

"It is you that has worked up the vamp stuff. I have no time for it now."

"Yes, but we have a right to love. We are young and strong. Lola is too
old to fly, that's why this has broken her up."

"I wouldn't say that. She can give me points yet as a pilot, though I
beat her in knowledge of the engine. I use scientific knowledge; so does
she, but she has intuition or something in addition."

"Every one says she is too old for you."

"Rats! All the others I tried were too young! This boy-and-girl mugging
business soon palls on me."

"But you would never, never have thought of her if she hadn't money.
That's true, isn't it?"

"It's true that she wouldn't have been able to afford me only she had
money."

"If you only look upon it as boy-and-girl mugging business, Ill die. Why
did you let me think you cared?"

"Hell, I couldn't stop you! You'll get over it, A year from now you'll be
wondering why you felt like this. It's only puppy love."

"But there could never be any one the same again. Don't 'you care at
all?"

Tears and hysterics were adumbrated. Brian hated such manifestations as
the plague. "Yes, yes, of course I care in a way, but Lola is my wife."

"What difference does that make, if she is an old thing you couldn't
love; besides, she is a Yankee, and the Yanks never stay married to the
first husband. If they want a man they just horn-in and take him without
worrying that he is married, like in both those talkies we saw last
night. If you had your choice..."

"Yes, if you had your choice?" said Lola, who had squirmed noiselessly
from her position and stood up behind them. Her voice was as startling as
a pistol.

"When did you come in?" asked Brian.

"A little while before Adrienne."

Adrienne was aggressive. "Well, now you know!"

"Yes, I know," said Lola slowly, and as if very tired. She felt as though
her voice were coming from someone else, and that her limbs had turned to
lead. As a novice in the first stages of intoxication striving to keep
control of himself, she resolved to say as little as possible. She stood
looking at them.

Brian was confounded, and enraged with Adrienne for putting him in a
foolish position.

"You listened!" Adrienne accused shrilly.

"I surely did...and I _heard_."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" proceeded Adrienne. defiantly,
but her heart was pounding madly, and her knees threatened to collapse.

"About what?"

"About Brian and me loving each other."

"Why should I do anything? I have so many important issues chasing me
that you and Brian must settle these paltry disturbances between
yourselves."

"Adrienne is a nice little cousin, and only a bit sentimental," offered
Brian.

"Are you trying to crawl out, and pretend you did not mean it?" flashed
Adrienne. "Coward!"

"You'll learn that men are always cowards or brutes when they find
themselves in a fix between two women; what else can they be?" Lola knew
that she loved Brian to agony, but something at present made him so
distasteful to her that she could have thrown him away like an old glove.
"You can have him. All I want is a plane. I'll need that, as I have no
other resources now. I have just heard that my Industrials have declined
to nothing, so I can't be useful in the way of money...If you don't mind,
I'd like my room. I want to rest. You can decide your future elsewhere."

Brian signed to Adrienne to go. "It's useless making signs for me to
clear out. Didn't you mean what you said? Was it all hooey?"

A man can accept a girl's offering as easily as walking into the
sunlight, and Brian had not until that moment realized the intensity of
Adrienne's predilection for him. He saw in a flash that he had been
culpable--careless of the furnace at the end of _amour_. He could have
wrung the girl's neck, but there was in him too much of old Danny and
Harry and Darcy to be brutal. "I'll be likely to break my wooden leg in
this Yackandandah," he thought, suppressing a grin. The women would not
forgive amusement in such a crisis.

"This is a hell of a mess, Adrienne. I must say, I never thought you were
interested in me for more than the flying racket, and being a nice little
Delacy cousin."

"Are you beginning to crawl down?" demanded the girl, intransigent.

"Don't mind me. I'm only an old thing married for my money." Lola threw
this bitterly into the controversy.

"Come now, Lola, we had the whole business of age back and forth before
we started to swim the Yackandandah of marriage. It's not like you
to nag about it now."

"But I've lost my money since then; and Adrienne wouldn't have used that
line of talk to you if you had any respect for me. You'd have told her
that my age was not her business."

"I have as much right to him as you have. I love him. Love has first
right."

"You'll find it has second and third and no rights at all, when you've
had as much experience as I have. You always have to be pulling a man
away from some kind of creature--old or young--tripe out of the gutter
can seduce most of them. You can take on the job if you want it. I'm
tired and sick."

She swayed and leant on the footrail of the bed in a determined effort
against fainting. Her face was ghastly--sallow, puffy under the eyes.
Distraught, she suddenly shouted, "Get right out of here, this instant,
both of you!"

"Oh, I say," exclaimed Brian. "Really, Lola! No harm has been done. I can
swear..."

Angry expostulation broke from Adrienne. The chambermaid knocked loudly
and said, "The doctor has come, Mrs Delacy;"

A doctor of medicine is a sacrosanct official of society. In Australia he
is naïvely an aristocrat to boot. This one was an imposing, authoritative
female, one of the cleverest gynaecologists in the world. Even Adrienne
could not buck a personage of such standing. It would have required a
debauched outlaw to gainsay Dr Hester Augarde, and Brian _au fond_ was of
Murrumbidgee respectability and family discipline. He was also disturbed
by the state of Lola's health. Her indisposition had continued for weeks.

"Good evening! Are you the patient?...I see you are," said the physician,
moving towards the bed and Lola, who had now lain down. "Are you the
husband?" she inquired of Brian, as though he were some kind of spider,
and placing him then and there in the centre of the diagnosis. Adrienne
was relieved to slip away. The adventure had lost incandescence with this
commanding official regarding Lola stretched on the bed, though Adrienne
clung to the flattering delusion that this collapse was due to jealousy
of girlish charms. It would be miraculous if Lola had appendicitis or
something similar and died under the operation.

"I'll remain in the hall in case you need me," said Brian. "Thank you.
Close the door," said Dr Augarde.

Adrienne descended to the lounge, where she met one of the polo heroes
straight from Cobbitty--young Rodney Lillingston of Cooma. He was elated
by the prospect of such a listener for a recital of the day's play, but
speedily came to the conclusion that flying swank was deranging
Adrienne's brain.

Brian walked up and down the corridor in a whirl of emotions. The doctor
was so long that the husband had time to cool--to freeze--and to think.
Blast Adrienne! He bad been a fool, but he reckoned all men were when a
woman was young and pretty, and eager. She need not be pretty so long as
she was pressing. A succession of tripe, Lola had said in her bitterness,
and the evidence was on her side. A man needed sentinels to warn him, or
he was in a bog before he saw it.

He recalled how Lola had stood by him in his defeat and depression in
London, and in the long watches in the air, the latest over the Timor.
She had been none too fit before they hopped off, but would not hold up
the flight. Now she had lost her money. He was happy to find that this
reverse endeared her to him. His affection had roots in comradeship. Lola
was generous and kind and the best pilot he had ever worked with. She
seemed to possess some harmonious power over the machine, as women used
to have over horses that were dangerous with men, and when she had to fly
blind she held to her course as straight as a sextant. He hoped that she
was not seriously ill.

Dr Augarde came out and closed the door behind her. "You are Mr Delacy, I
suppose?" Assured on this point, she said with authority, "If care is
taken, there is every hope of saving the child."

Brian went so white that she led him to the drawing-room at the end of
the passage. "Does this come as an unpleasant shock?"

"The greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. I had no idea.
Poor little Lola! May I go to her?"

"Yes, but rest and quiet, mind, no excitement. No celebration Marvellous!
My first aeroplane case. Three months and she took that flight. Madness!"

Brian's eyes flashed blue flame, reflecting such excitement as,
generations past, Johanna had seen in young Danny's when there had been
no resisting him, when she had had to follow to the furthest extremity of
the globe, and from there farther still into the wilderness. This was
something greater than himself, greater than _amour_; it was the extension
of himself, a link in an unbroken chain--immortality.

"She never told me," he stammered.

"She had her reasons doubtless," said the doctor dryly. "The fourth
generation of Delacys to fly!"

"You must be careful--no strain--no excitement."

"Shall you send a nurse?"

"A sensible friend to seclude her for a month would be better. Absolute
quiet for the next forty-eight hours--mind!"

As Brian escorted the doctor to the door, he saw Ercildoun approaching,
and ducked to the florist's counter to escape her. He seized an armful of
wattle--not so much as his forebears had sheaved-up to make
wattle-and-daub shelters or sheep folds, but he ascended the stairway
draped in perfumed fluff. He burst into Lola's presence, a golden cloud.
She saw his expression and knew his mind.

"Some wattle, my love."

"I thought it was mimosa."

"That's its trade moniker; it's home name is wattle--good old wattle!
God, is there anything so ethereal in the world!"

He stood by the bed, then went to her, tender and exalted curbing his
urge for corroboree.

"Congratulations, darling!" he said, kissing her gently. "This is
unbelievable. I'm mad all through with joy. It's the most tremendous and
symbolical thing that has happened in the history of Australia since Cook
landed. A flying son! Flew before his birth, like I and my father and
uncles and aunts and cousins went on horseback with out mothers before we
were born. That's the way to have a nation of airmen."

"Or an airwoman."

"Oh, yes, forgive me. Too much phallic bumptiousness on my part, eh? We
can have an air son later if you'd prefer one of your own sex to start,"
he gallantly amended.

"One may be plenty for me to produce and you to raise. I'm not so tickled
as I might be about the loss of my income. I chose a bad time. This will
put the kibosh on my flights for some time."

"A glorious time! Plenty of room for us all in the skies above Aussie,
the biggest skies in the world over our own back yard. Never mind about
the flight to America in the new plane. It is off for the present. The
M-V-G Company has some new safety improvements and wants the
Nullah-Mundoey over there...Humphrey Vance has been wanting me to stay
here. There is a project to map out the unknown parts of Australia
properly, and old Humphrey wants to fly, and will fork-up for that. Civil
aviation, air mail--all sorts of leads. This settles it. Humphrey can be
godfather to the kid as he was of me. You wouldn't mind, would you?"

Lola raised herself with effort. The feeling of unreality persisted.
"I'll make a bargain with you. Mr Vance can be one of the godparents on
one condition."

"What's that? It's granted anyhow. The kid is yours, of course."

"You must be more dignified about my age. If you had the right attitude,
or any respect for our union, you would not let these flappers get
balled-up. You are to blame somehow, or they wouldn't write you those
sloppy letters."

"I never read their cows of letters."

"Maybe you don't, but if you can't control the situation with more
dignity, I can't go on with the wear and tear all my life. I'd rather end
it now."

"I never think of the damn flapps at all--only to dance."

He saw his mistake, but could not recall his words. Lola was not a
dancer. She would be ungraceful on a dance floor--angular and big-boned.
She had her ascendancy as a goddess of the machine. Up and away into the
skies, she was glorious, an albatross, enduring, courageous, inspiring.
She came to earth, like an albatross, awkwardly.

Fortunately for that forbidden excitement, Ercildoun knocked on the door.
Lola called, "Come!" and welcomed her in such a way that Brian was glad
to obey doctor's orders and give place. The caller sent him on an errand.

"So the murder is out," she laughed, to Lola. "Took a long time, seeing
the cities were as clear as a wagon track on the Black Soil Plains after
rain."

"I guess they never dreamed I would be on a big flight--that fooled
them."

"Yes, they thought you were too modern for this business."

"This modern business gets my goat."

"Are you glad?"

"More worried. I'd go mad if I had to go through this among those women
around Ferny Creek. They're darlings, but they don't know a thing about
anything that's happened since our Civil War. How the heck do you put up
with them?"

"I leave 'em, as you left Michigan."

"But Michigan has a few gadgets that Ferny Creek does without."

"Gadgets don't finally satisfy the mind, and you have to pick your clique
in London to escape the fundamentalists or the 'spit and polish'
imperialists and such. There are times when I know that one whiff of a
Ferny Creek is worth all the intelligentsia of London and New York and
Paris and Moscow put together."

"That could be true too, but there is something else." Without reserve,
Lola gave the facts of the Adrienne complication. "Do you suppose the
girl is neurasthenic? I don't know how Australian girls take things.
Here, in this very paper, is a case of a girl in England who took poison
when the man had to choose between chère amie and his wife--and chose the
wife."

"I forgot all about Adrienne in this issue."

"It is to be hoped that she will forget."

"This will cure her. She's of good prosaic old stock. I recall my disgust
when I was Adrienne's age. A man cavorted before me with caterwaulings of
deathless love, and I found out that at the same time his wife was within
a month of her time."

"That was pre-Ark delicacy. Girls are more advanced to-day."

"Advanced where?"

"Oh, well, it is considered smart to chisel-in on a married woman now.
You're only entitled to a man while you can hold him, In my case the
darlings have to rescue the martyred hero."

"Adrienne will be all right. We folks that were reared on ferny creeks
are not so neurotic yet, thank God. I have telephoned for Clare Margaret.
A word in her ear arid she will prick the whole mess like a toy balloon."

Brian had gone to telephone "old Humphrey" about his god-fathership to
the first air-born child of the coming air-born race. He was so excited
that he could hardly hold the receiver. As he came out of the booth,
Adrienne was waiting for him. He had forgotten her, but he had a
stupendous alibi, as Lola would have expressed it. His thoughts were of
Australians in the air, of children to be horn in aeroplanes as they had
been born in hulks or in bullock drays in the early days. He was
impersonal, detached, as Danny of yore when the far blue peaks of his
kingdom enthralled him.

"Oh, Adrienne, old scout!" he exclaimed, "Such news! A miracle--an air
miracle. Come, I'll tell you."

The girl's heart leapt. Heaven knows how she interpreted that miracle in
relation to her own infatuation. Brian's culpability had been passive; he
did not think of Adrienne as a disappointed amoreuse.

"It's immense, Adrienne! You must be godmother," he concluded. "The only
other flier of old Nullah-Mundoey's breed."

Adrienne turned a ghastly colour under her flamboyant lacquer. Her
romance, her drug was being torn from her without warning or alleviation.
"I don't want to be an old cow of a godmother," she protested shrilly.

Fortunately there were only one or two people present. The hotel had
emptied for the picture theatres. While Brian had been in the telephone
booth, Ercildoun had been giving Clare Margaret the facts. They both now
came forward to blanket a scene. Adrienne had been through too much on
her nerve with an unseasoned frame, fed on excitement and modernistic
notions of securing thrills; and they had all been too preoccupied for
dinner. Ercildoun put her arm around the girl, who strove to hurl
something denunciatory at Brian, but it foundered in sobs.

"You go to Lola, I'll take care of Adrienne," said Clare Margaret to her
son.

"Of course Adrienne will be godmother," said Ercildoun over her shoulder.
"She's the right person, the second flying Delacy."

Brian was glad to bound away up the staircase. The women entered the lift.

"As soon as it is decent to mention it, I'll put it in the papers," said
Ercildoun, as they reached the empty drawing-room. "Another honour for
the popular young airwoman, Miss Butler."

"He made me love him desperately, and then he doesn't care," sobbed
Adrienne.

"Don't let any one know that," advised Clare Margaret. "They all ought to
be told what he is."

"Never let a man know how much he has hurt you."

"Why not?"

"Oh, perhaps so that he can hurt you some more," she replied, with a
humorous chuckle, and cynicism that was merely an echo or a subconscious
recognition of the amoral quality of _amour_. Her own husband had adored
her from his birth until his death; her father and mother had been
congenial comrades as long as the partnership lasted. "Never let a man
get under your skin. The more he hurts you, the more cocky it makes
him--and you become a laughing stock." Nevertheless she was concerned for
the girl's wan face, and put an arm about her. "Come on, old hard-timer,
this is a Yackandandah that millions of women have to swim, but this one
is only a creek, and you know how to fly. You can say 'ka-poop' and thumb
your nose to the whole blinking lot."


It was a woman's night. Clare Margaret attended to Lola's wants and
ensured the prescribed quiet. Ercildoun had full charge of Adrienne, and
fortified her against making a fool of herself. She took the girl to her
apartment in Darlingburst, fed her, confessed to having survived crises
of her own, so that Adrienne emerged her admirer for life and on the way
to recovery.

A sense of satisfaction was mingled with Lola's recoil from the
restricting and tiresome stretch ahead of her. She would avoid all risks.
Other women should not be able to assume airs of superiority towards her
because of mere motherhood, a detail she would take on the wings of her
career. It would also mean more security of sexual tenure. Brian would be
forestalled in a common excuse for paramouring. Even among the liberated
of Bloomsbury a familiar eulogy of a woman was that she was a real mate
who had given her paramour a fine son, a form of self-expression denied
him by his wife. Well, she was giving Brian a child to assure his
virility. Men were so hysterical; impair their sense of sex in this
particular and they collapsed. Her secret out, her status with Brian
re-defined, sweet relief sent her to sleep for the ensuing twenty-four
hours.

Brian found himself superfluous and was thankful to be dismissed. The
urge was on him to commune with the invisible, so he arranged for a plane
to set off for his home region.

It was glorious weather in the heart of spring, warm and soft, the winds
asleep. Up, like a god, from the drome carpeted with dew-sopped grasses,
which had come when plentiful rains followed the winter drought. The
works of men shrank as the machine climbed into the rosy dawn. The
receding dwellings resembled verminous incrustations flat upon the soil,
the movement of traffic that of insects. Only the Pacific, blue abeam,
and the roads stretching across and beyond the wide horizons retained
their dignity. Along the best of the roads, old Danny and his Johanna had
crept for weeks like ants under the mighty timber. To-day, in an hour,
their great-grandson sped the distance in the eagles' domain, a spot upon
the sun. Below him a million acres cleared and paddocked danced in waves
of light where scarcely enough trees remained to lend graciousness.

Before him lay the destined land of Daniel Brian Robert M Delacy, in its
aura of palpitant silence, enchantment welling from its ageless mystery.
From that pregnant oblivion, glittering free of humanity to the Pole,
shimmering broadly to the equator, might come the revelation for which
man was toiling upward from the abyss. There a man had space to escape
from the limitations of his outer shell into the boundless freedom of his
inner consciousness. There the sun rose as the promise of God and set as
His benediction.

Brian alighted upon an emergency drome in an early holding in the Gap,
long since cleared except of wattles, and commanding a view of the far
piled ranges beyond Canberra, that lie dreaming for ever in blue
forgetfulness. The hills were an altar, this a vigil of oblation in the
worshipper's private chapel with a choir of magpies, kookaburras,
warblers--each after his kind--filling the invisible transepts with
music.

The prospects of perpetuity through his child liberated the young man to
that which has ever been found upon the hilltops; which some must miss,
and which those who seek to condition by explanation, must lose. Brian,
as Danny long ago, was realizing that he was free of eternity in the
present, that by the release of spiritual emotion man transcends
intellect and gains a glimpse of the kingdom of the unconditioned and
unexpressed, with exaltation vested in its remaining unconditionable,
inexpressible. The consciousness of infinity in such rare moments adds
knowledge and experience to mere acknowledgment of immortality.

The son of this soil and sunlight thrilled to his destiny as guardian of
an unspoiled habitat for the human race. Here lay a sensitive land
protected by phantom qualities that would return her to desert to rid
herself of the plague of too dense a population: an elusive land whose
suns and floods could cleanse her, a land of elfin flowers and animals,
an eerie land not to be bludgeoned but wooed from a vast oblivion wherein
past history might for ever remain in the realm of conjecture.

Such was his land.

Wanted, a race worthy to possess her, a new race by developments in
communications and transportation to be liberated from the primitive and
panic trade compulsion of squalid gregariousness and proliferousness. Why
not a people selected from the world's best?

Australia had sent him abroad to the best in the old world, had welcomed
him home effusively. Here he was. He stretched himself on the warm clean
earth and exulted in the fact of being born to this when he might have
been dropped where the very stones were worn with the footprints of
countless generations, so that a man was paralysed by the realization of
being only one more leaf to fall on the humus of history.

Through disregard of the impossible men had come to fly. The aviator and
humanitarian pondered upon the inconsistency of men who could dare and
harness the elements and yet submit to physical want in the midst of
abundance. There upon the hill-top in the rest of vigour he laughed aloud
at stupidity which could so easily ye way to sane employment of the
resources at man's command. This ludicrous system of exploitation which
wasted food while people wearied in bread lines had long since been
brought to judgment and condemned and was being superseded despite all
the false briefs, all the specious and special pleading and lethal
armaments of the brigands who still clung desperately to key positions.

To every youth worthy of human estate the readjustment of the human
comedy to the pattern of sanity and happiness appears immediately
practicable; all the old men are doomed, when choked with experience, to
see that readjustment deferred to posterity.

He took a letter from his pocket and tenderly unfolded it, happiness
playing upon his features. The paper was patched at the folds, the faint
writing in pencil, but Brian valued the document as the deed of his
inheritance. It was the last letter that old Harry had written, which
Josephine had covered with apology. Brian treasured both letters, felt in
himself the qualities of the two writers and their divergent
understanding of character.

The trembling sentences ran:

"I can see it clearly now at the threshold of everlasting life: believe
me boy, the new conceptions of time and spare will knock man's present
superstitions sky high and liberate his mind. The infinite immortality is
with us always. Future and past are words that can be used one for the
other. Man presently will be able to look round time as you fly around
the globe. Man only needs to give intelligence full play and fair play to
own the potentialities beyond the frontiers of present human knowledge in
the Never Never and the Never Yet of the mind.

"Australia is the most wonderful country in the world, but new ideas must
be freed to save and develop it. Australians must do something better
than copy any one else on the globe. There has been too much pioneering
of destruction, trying to force Australia to the mistakes and
achievements of Asia and Europe. Science must learn to take Australia on
her own lines and let her remain different.

"A dream is the highest possession of man. I can see in a vision the
pioneering that is to be done in the mind. The mind! your
great-grandfather used to say. He was a great man. Your father was a
delicate link, but he held the chain. I was a failure by all accounts,
but I held the torch for you and will finally he a success if you are
worthy of old Fearless Danny of the Murrumbidgee. His vision of the
future and the past and his contentment with the big mysteries was a
greater possession than all the money-bags in the banks because he could
both take it away with him and leave it behind hint too. In the eras
which are coming it is not the felons, who can grasp at the expense of
their fellows, who are to succeed in the fullness of living but those
who..."

The frail hand had here failed its master but there was enough for Brian.
And it was all true. He gazed across the blue-green ocean of ranges which
Danny and Harry had seen as the vitals of the continent. There nestled
his stake in the soil--as much as a man might retain in the choppy seas
of evolution. Had old Danny been a grasper instead of a dreamer, what
might have been his descendant's position to-day? Doubtful.

Danny, Harry and Darcy had given hint vision. What had the financially
successful achieved? From The Plains spread before him they had been
dislodged by an urgent democracy, and had left no distinguished
representative. Had any of the old squatter clans of Danny Delacy's
kingdom done so? A noted Greek scholar and one or two literary men and
women of the region occurred to him.

The merely predatory or acquisitive now went in terror of the nascent
ethical order which might mulct the hoarders of their money-bags. (Old
Harry's term served.) In such event hoarders would be nonentities;
whereas Brian felt himself equipped to meet whatever the changing tides
of behaviour might bring--even the repudiation of hoarding. No political
party could rob him of his aspirations and ambitions; and he gloried in
that alloy of ruthlessness--horse-sense--to armour him amid the wreckers
and pluckers. For that he thanked his mother and Grandmother Josephine.
His mother had definite suspicions of the motives of her fellows, a
biting ridicule of their persons, but Delacy qualities also left her
sympathetic and vulnerable.

Grandmother Josephine! He chuckled to contemplate that masterpiece. How
she had worn! She must be the most beautiful woman of her age in
Australia, and undefeated still. First-class material throughout was
there, and no lyrical sensitiveness to betray her into weaknesses.
Grandfather Harry had been a real man to lure her into marriage and to
stand up to her through all those years!

"I'm glad you have some of my character, boy," she had said. "I do admire
character." There was no hedging in her judgments. "You want to guard
against the Delacy weaknesses--blathering poetry and ranting like
red-raggers against money-bags while the thieves plucked them bare; or
else giving away all they had. All that pleasantness and talk about a
sense of humour, and that haw-hawing at silly jokes, cannot make up for a
lack of back-bone. I do respect a man with character, one who can make
his way in the world and rise to something substantial for himself and
his family."

Conspicuous results on the concrete level had been achieved by the
operations of character as she conceived it. Babylons and modern empires
had arisen at its will, and passed because of its lack of spiritual
ascendancy. His grandfather had had another conception--character as
mind--the spiritual man as of more importance than the physical. He was
right. The pathways to the shrines of the saints remain smooth from the
feet of pilgrims long after the tombs of conquerors are smothered by the
jungle.

At the opening of his farewell letter Harry had exhorted his grandson of
the new generation, as an aviator and man of vision, "To surmount the
clouds, to woo the moon and dare the sun." To his grandmother, what a
typical example of Delacy poetical blather! But Brian could distil
exaltation from the hyperbole. Without such dreamers men could not have
achieved even mechanical flight. His grandmother might have been of those
to pile a faggot on the blasphemous inventor of the Middle Ages, but she
could, even at eighty (by gad!), keep a machine in order and subject it
to her skill. He understood both progenitors, and gloried in the
temperament that was his by such a combination of qualities,

"I'm a new style millionaire. At any rate I would not exchange with one
of the blobs with all the, property of the McCaugheys Kidmans and Tysons
rolled together. Granddad was right. He was a success. Old Danny was a
great ancestor to transmit the inheritance of an outlook to fit me for
the uncharted future. Let it come I'm ready for it, no matter which way
the wind blows. I'm a two-headed kangaroo."

All too swiftly the day ascended and declined. The shadows lengthened
from the cropped tussocks pimpling the hillsides. Per fume of wattle
bathed approaching evening in delight. The bright landscape danced in air
translucent and dazzling. The westering sun laying vesper offering on the
rim of day, melted sky and mountains into a glory of filtered light and
retreated to the core of a continent over which as yet man has no sure
dominion. A land of distances, a land dependent upon distances for
preservation; a land gorgeously empty and with none of the accumulations
of centuries of human occupation; a continent surveyed, fenced, patrolled
and policed by the nucleus of a nation analogous to a patriarchal family
with unwieldy wealth.

"Australia, the incredible feat!" he chanted, with old Danny's habit of
talking and laughing aloud to himself when lacking an audience to his
mood or depth.

He returned to the plane and set the engines running. An old mare and
foal frisked up to inspect him. Their points denoted his
great-grandfather's breeds. Brian could sec in memory his grandfather
Robert riding on those plains with his dogs seeking sport and pillaging
as they went. All the roads far and near had rung with the music of
equine hofs, which now echoed along the currents of past Time, and
lingered in actuality west and north on stretches of country still held
by a handful of men with their interminable leagues of fencing, their
immortal horses and dogs, their intrepid and lonely women and children,
awaiting the reinforcement of aircraft.

Airman Delacy pondered on the extension of his being hack to his
great-grandfather through living memory, and on to his own
great-grandson--with luck. The pert foal frollicking up to sniff the
machine illustrated the revolution in transport. He was part of the
transition and had the good fortune to be in his prime at this stupendous
parting of the ways. He recalled his youth a-horse, the companionship
with spirited quadrupeds. Horse and man had laboured together, the man
the lord, the horse the generous unrewarded collaborator, who had
transformed the yokels of Europe into a nation of cavalry. In step with
change they must now graduate as bird-men in vessels which could attain
the stratosphere.

Critical days ahead with the machine as master, looming as the destroyer
if manipulated to Satanic ends!

But it was inconceivable that men would hurl themselves into the abyss
when the way out was as clear and wide as the shimmering track of the
departing sun.

"I must have my eye on a promising Nullah-Mundoey for the young beggar
that's coming," laughed the aviator. "A Nullah-Mundoey of the air."

The engine shuddered and hummed, moved, ran, ascended; roaring, it rent
the upper air, drowning the rhythm of ghostly hoofbeats, swiftly was gone
above the ranges, while on the silver screen of night appeared the
spectral forms of bullock transport and receding Delacys moving against
ancient unfamiliar apparitions on the palimpsest of Time.


_Australia, 1933._



THE END



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