Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

 

Title: Red And Gold
Author: Lionel Shave
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600451h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  March 2016
Most recent update: March 2016

This eBook was produced by: Hamish Darby and Colin Choat

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.

GO TO Project Gutenberg Australia HOME PAGE


Red And Gold
A Drama in One Act

by

Lionel Shave


From Five Proven One Act Plays
The Australasian Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd.
Sydney, N.S.W.
First published 1948

* * *

To the memory of "PAKIE" MACDOUGALL
to whose kindly encouragement these plays owe their being.


THE CHARACTERS

THE SHANTY-KEEPER
THE FOSSICKER
THE NEW CHUM
THE COACH-DRIVER
THE TROOPER

* * *

THE TIME. 11.30 am on a morning in the year 1865.

THE PLACE. Interior of a bush shanty on the road to the diggings.

THE SCENE. The bush shanty is built of rough hewn timber. Left is a counter with a couple of small kegs on it. Behind it are rough shelves with mugs, glasses, a slate, etc. A gun hangs on a nail in a convenient place. Right is a table with a couple of chairs. Back centre is a window and back right a door, both looking out on a sunlit bush scene. There is a semblance of a sapling verandah over the door. Along the back wall beneath the window is a bench. The floor would be of earth. When the curtain rises, THE SHANTY-KEEPER is behind the bar and THE FOSSICKER is sitting disconsolately On the bench.

* * *

SHANTY-KEEPER. D'ye see that! Your score be mounting up too high, Jamie. 'Tis time ye betook yeself after th' fossicking again.

FOSSICKER. I havena' seen a glint o' gauld o' late an' it isna' frae lack o' looking.

SHANTY-KEEPER. If ye hope to find it in th' lees of me new keg of rum ye're making a great mistake.

FOSSICKER. Ah, but 'tis a rare guid drap o' rum, Teemothy.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'll not be disputing that wid ye, but 'tis meself as'll be finding any gold there is in it.

FOSSICKER. Ye'd no hae it said ye were keeping a mean boose, wad ye?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Let any squint-eyed baboon say that of me!

FOSSICKER. Then just a wee drappie an' I'll awa'.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis the last an' I'm Warnin' ye.

[He pours out a noggin of rum.]

FOSSICKER [feelingly]. Aye, 'tis the lairst! Were it no that I'm sae heavy-hairted 'tis "Auld Lang Syne" I'd be singing th' noo.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye'd be well advised to save your wind aginst whistling for the next.

FOSSICKER. Oot intae th' hills ye'd dreeve me, a' for a speck or twa o' gauld.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis nought to me where ye go. But why would ye not be seeing how th' creek pans out agin?

FOSSICKER. Th' creek's mair unseempathetic tae a puir fossicking body than yesel'.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'd not be SO cocksure.

FOSSICKER. Red Maclagen an' the New Chum hae no made their fortunes by th' creek yet.

SHANTY-KEEPER, I'm still of the mind that they may.

FOSSICKER. Aye, Maclagen maybe, but no wi' his pick an' shovel.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis a hard worker he is.

FOSSICKER. Aye, wi' his wits. But smooth talk coaxes nae gauld oot o' the airth—only oot o' th' pooches o' loons.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Thim were th' very sintiments th' New Chum was expounding last noight.

FOSSICKER. I was i' nae condeetion tae hear him. Aye, 'tis a rare, guid drap o' rum ye hae there, Teemothy.

SHANTY-KEEPER. An' there it stays or ye'll be hearing nothing all this day, either.

FOSSICKER. Whit does it matter? 'Tis little seems tae happen when I'm i' a state o' cauld sobriety.

SHANTY-KEEPER. There was more than plinty last night. The New Chum was in a divil of a fighting mood. He'd have tried to baste the hide off th' Maclagen himself had he been here.

FOSSICKER. A sair sicht he'd hae been after yon braw laddie had feenished wi' him.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Indade he would, drunk or sober. But 'tis a great grievance he's nursing, none th' less. He's not the only one, mark ye!

FOSSICKER. Whit did he pay th' Red for his share o' yon claim?

SHANTY-KEEPER, All of a hundred pounds, so he says.

FOSSICKER. I wad hae sellit him'a' th' gauld i' the hills for th' hairf o' that.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye'll not be gettin' the chance now. The New Chum is cleaned out entirely, he was tellin' me. An' Maclagen's after holdin' him to th' strict letter of their agreement. Th' hundred pounds is his, says Maclagen, an' 'twill not be used for tucker an' th' like for th' New Chum, neither, he says.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis nae mair than I'd expect frae th' Maclagen.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He's a dirty hound, no doubt, but he vows they'll be finding th' pay dirt yet an' th' New Chum must bide his toime.

FOSSICKER. He'll be needing th' patience o' Job.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis run out of patience he is as well as money.

FOSSICKER. Then he'd be better off daein' a bit o' fossickin' i' partners wi' me. There's nae gauld i' th' creek an' Maclagen has sold him a wild cat.

SHANTY-KEEPER. The New Chum is not entirely convinced there's no gold. He has a suspicion Maclagan knows where to find it but won't.

FOSSICKER. He's a canny lad is th' Red.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Maybe he's after freezing the New Chum out.

FOSSICKER. Aye, if he kens th' gauld's there, he would. [He glances through the window.] The New Chum's coming awa' by the road th' noo.

SHANTY-KEEPER [looking through doorway]. He must have thought better of basting Maclagen.

FOSSICKER. He's nae lookin' sae spry ..

SHANTY-KEEPER. Maybe he's not but he wouldn't be wearing his face in th' front of him if he'd tried conclusions wid Maclagen.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis either th' Red or th' deil himsel' is at his heels, he's in sic a hurry.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Th' ould bhoy's more likely to be tormenting the throat of him. He'll be needing a reviver after last night I'm thinkin'.

FOSSICKER. It's no here he should be coming if he expects kindness an' conseederation.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Especially if he had a score as long as his arm, like some people I cud name.

FOSSICKER. Teemothy, ye're ower personal tae be making a guid publican.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'm more consarned wid making a good profit—an' keepin' it.

FOSSICKER. I dinna hauld wi' hoardin' masel'. 'Tis only setting temptation before these bushrangin' chiels.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Be the same token, I was not liking the looks of the lad that dropped in this morning. Here's a spalpeen as might he sticking his gun into the very ribs of me, I says to meself. But not at all! He pays for his liquor like a gintleman.

FOSSICKER. And he askit a body did hae a mooth, whit's mair.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He was not to know that yours was but th' entrance to th' bottomless pit itself. [Enter the NEW CHUM.] Good-day to ye.

NEW CHUM, Good morning, Tim. Has the coach passed by to-day?

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis early yet.

NEW CHUM. Pour me out a tot of rum—a sizeable one.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis a rare guid drap o' rum Teemothy keeps.

NEW CHUM. Hullo, Jamie. Pour him out one, Tim, and help yourself.

FOSSICKER. I wouldna' like ye tae think me importunate.

NEW CHUM. Not in the least. I may not have the pleasure of treating you again.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis a pity!

NEW CHUM [to SHANTY-KEEPER]. You said it WAS early for the coach.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis early yet for it to be rale late, as ye might say.

NEW CHUM. What the devil d'you mean?

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Twas due this morning, or even yesterday, but it may be tomorrow before it shows up.

NEW CHUM. Well, I shall be away by it whenever it comes.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye wouldn't be laving us.

NEW CHUM. Why not? Maclagen, the scut, has finished me at last.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis him as will be finished One of these fine days.

FOSSICKER. Here's tae ye.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Me best respects to ye.

NEW CHUM. I thank you. [Bitterly.] There's little else I'll be taking away with me.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Why shouldn't ye perservere here a bit o' th' store-kaper at Ryan's Crossing would tucker ye a while yet.

FOSSICKER. An' Teemothy is ower generous wi' th' slate.

NEW CHUM. I'll ask no more favours of any man.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Maclagen might see reason an' stand by ye for a week or two longer.

NEW CHUM. Who'd want to be beholden to a swindling dog like him

FOSSICKER. Teemothy was saeing ye were i' the mood tae be telling him as much last nicht.

NEW CHUM [to SHANTY-KEEPER] What were you saying?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Nought but what ye were proclaiming to th' high heavens yeaelf.

NEW CHUM. A man's tongue runs away with him when it's loosened.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis mair than his legs dae, i' ma experience.

NEW CHUM. I'm afraid mine led me far afield. I bushed myself last night, well and truly.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did ye not find your way to camp?

NEW CHUM. Not within miles. I fell into a gully full of bracken and must have dropped asleep.

FOSSICKER. Maclagen wouldna' be worrit that ye didna' return.

NEW CHUM. No, the scum! He'd gladly have seen the last of me long ago.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did ye pick a row wid him this morning?

NEW CHUM. I picked no row with him.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ah, ye didn't go back...maybe 'tis as well.

NEW CHUM [moving to the door to magic his confusion].

When the devil will that coach be here?

SHANTY-KEEPER. All in good time!

FOSSICKER. Aye, an' there's a muckle o' guid steady drinking could be done the whiles.

SHANTY-KEEPER. By them width' means, Jamie.

FOSSICKER. Would ye be excluding me deleeberately?

NEW CHUM [returning to counter]. Fill them up again. The little I have left might as well go that way as any other.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis a rare guid...[The SHANTY-KEEPER looks at him.] Philosophic speerit ye show [he looks at the SHANTY-KEEPER] if I may be permitted tae say so.

NEW CHUM. Philosophic? It usually earns a different name.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Why should ye clear out?

NEW CHUM [quickly, after glancing up and across the ceiling]. This shanty of yours gets as hot as a bloody oven, Tim.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ah, but th' cooling off in the avenin's fine.

NEW-CHUM [vehemently]. I couldn't stand it another day around here. That sneering Red devil would drive me insane. Out there, in the quiet, this morning, I weighed it up. He's cheated me. I know it. The look of him! His words I! His actions! And all the time goading me to hit him so he could thrash me to a pulp. I know the swine!

SHANTY-KEEPER. There's more than one man around here has felt th' weight of his fist.

NEW CHUM. If ever he had laid a hand on me...is that the coach I can hear?

FOSSICKER. [listening intently at the window]. Your lugs are fooling ye. Settle ye ael' doon tae th' richt an' proper enjoyment o' your liquor.

NEW CHUM. I don't find it so very palatable.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye laid no complaints yesterday.

NEW CHUM. That...was yesterday.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ah, there's fine mellowing qualities in it. Ye'll be forgettin' all your throubles after a glass or two.

NEW CHUM. I'm finished, I tell you. Wild horses wouldn't hold me here. As I lay out there this morning in a torment I could hear Maclagen's mocking laughter away down the gully.

FOSSICKER. 'Twas th' cackling 0' th' kookaburra ye heard.

NEW CHUM. No! No! It was too fiendish.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Nevertheless, Jamie's probably right for once. 'Twas th' laughing Johnny himself, I'll be bound.

NEW CHUM. It was Maclagen, I say! Red Maclagen and the 'hell-fiends that have possessed him.

FOSSICKER [meditatively]. I wouldna' hae thocht sae guid a drap o' rum could hae sic a devastatin' effect.

NEW CHUM. It isn't the rum talking. It's what I feel inside of me to be the truth.

SHANTY-KEEPER. But ye have legal rights. Ye wouldn't he after leaving Maclagen everything.

NEW CHUM. If it will bring him any satisfaction, he's welcome to it.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis impractical, tae say th' least.

NEW CHUM. I'll sell you my share in the claim, Jamie, with pleasure.

FOSSICKER. I havena' even th' credit tae return your hospitality.

NEW CHUM. You might as well have these for what they're worth.

[He pulls a few pebbles from his pocket which he hands to the FOSSICKER, who takes a quick glance at them and passes them over to the SHANTY-KEEPER.]

FOSSICKER. Will ye hae a wee drink wi' me th' noo?

[The SHANTY-KEEPER passes the pebbles back to the FOSSICKER in a contemptuous silence.]

I regret having tae withdraw ma invitation.

NEW CHUM. That's gold, isn't it? What there is of it!

SHANTY-KEEPER. Mica!

FOSSICKER. Teemothy can smell it.

NEW CHUM. And I still don't know how Maclagen has tricked me. But tricked me he has!

SHANTY-KEEPER. There may yet be gold in th' creek. What could ye be takin' for your share?

NEW CHUM. My fare to Sydney and the price of a meal or two when I reach there.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Supposing I made it a five pound note?

NEW CHUM. I should consider it more than generous.

FOSSICKER. 'Tis unco' strange the way ye mix pairsomony wi' extravagance, Teemothy.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Who knows what I have in mind. There be several accounts wid Maclagen as call for squaring.

NEW CHUM. And only one fitting way of tallying them up.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I've me own queer notions of that.

NEW CHUM. And so have I. [He returns to the door]. Is that the coach now?

FOSSICKER [listening]. Aye, it may be. But 'tis a ways off yet.

NEW CHUM. Then let us settle our affairs before it gets here.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye'll draw me a deed of assignment, of course.

NEW CHUM. Only too willingly. Have you pen and paper?

SHANTY-KEEPER. I have! Everything ye'd expect in a fine hostelry. Here they be.

NEW CHUM. Many thanks [sits at table]. Fill them up again while I'm writing.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis on the house-for luck.

FOSSICKER. 'Twad be mair fitting tae seal a bargain were both parties tae—

SHANTY-KEEPER. Drink at your expense, Jamie?

FOSSICKER. 'Twas nae whit I was aboot tae obsairve but I'm ower willin'.

SHANTY-KEEPER. We'll be lavin' it as it is an' maybe I'll be better off.

[The coach is heard approaching closer.]

NEW CHUM. What's today's date?

FOSSICKER. Thairsday.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis Friday! Hasn't me last piece of salt salmon gone bad on me?

NEW CHUM. Actually it's Saturday. But what's the date?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Saturday, is it? Then I ate today's corned beef yesterday an' that makes today th' seventeenth.

NEW CHUM. The seventeenth, is it? How time does fly! What other names have you besides Timothy?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Michael, Aloysius, Joseph.

FOSSICKER. Ye'll mark that Teemothy's exceeding generosity is inherited frae his godfaithers.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Twas more than a name or two they were after giving me. They added a measure of dacency an' that's more than any wild highlanders ever had-them an' their skirts like women.

FOSSICKER. I wouldna' argue wi' ye, Teemothy, but I wad hae ye reflect that th' ancient Greeks, wi' their high notions o' civilization, regarded trews as th' insignia o' barbarians.

SHANTY-KEEPER. An' I'd have ye know that th' Kings of Ireland...

NEW CHUM. Would you mind casting an eye over this?

SHANTY-KEEPER [to FOSSICKER]. 'Tis fortunate for ye there's pressing business on hand.

[ Sounds of coach drawing up and stopping.]

COACH-DRIVER [off stage]. Whoa there, Bess. Whoa! Hoi, in there! Steady Silver! Hoi!

SHANTY-KEEPER. Take yeself off an' make yeself useful for once, Jamie.

FOSSICKER. Ma mither didna rear me tae be a hitching post.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis that or divil another drink ye'll be swallowing this day.

FOSSICKER [moving to door]. Ah well, I'll nae be lackin' a sense of gratitude.

COACH-DRIVER [off stage]. Hoi there! Hoi, Timothy!

NEW CHUM. Would you witness this before you go, Jamie!

FOSSICKER. Aye! 'Tis nae th' first piece o' foolishness I've weetnessed an' 'twill nae be th' lairst, nae doot.

[He signs and exits.]

NEW CHUM. Now I'll sign it.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye do this of your own free will.

NEW CHUM: Right gladly.

SHANTY-KEEPER. One of us may live to regret th' day but, if the Lord pleases it should be me, I'll not be whimpering. There's th' price of it!

NEW CHUM. I'm deeply indebted to you, Tim, and I wish you more luck than I've had.

SHANTY-KEEPER. You can lave that to me! [COACH-DRIVER enters.] Come in.

COACH-DRIVER. Ah there, Tim.

SHANTY-KEEPER. So it's yeself, is it now? I thought 'twas Mister Cobb himself be all th' hullabaloo.

COACH-DRIVEB. No, it's me and damned lucky to be alive.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did ye have a spill?

COACH-DRIVER. No, a hold-up.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did ye now? When?

COACH-DRIVER. This morning-not above two hours ago.

NEW CHUM. Bushrangers around here, eh?

COACH-DRIVER. Johnny Gilbert, no less. At least, that was how he introduced himself.

NEW CHUM. How many of them?

COACH-DRIVER. He was all on his lonesome.

SHANTY-KEEPER. What like was he?

COACH-DRIVER. A big lump of a chap.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Wid a long thin nose an' side whiskers?

COACH-DRIVER. That's him!

SHANTY-KEEPER. Th' saints preserve us! He was here this very morning,

NEW CHUM. Did he hold you up, too, Tim?

SHANTY-KEEPER. No, he bought a drink or two an' went on his way. What about your passengers?

COACH-DRIVER. No one but women aboard and he didn't even take their jewels.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Are they coming in?

COACH-DRIVER. They're glued to their seats with fear.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Why didn't ye say so? 'Tis a poor publican they'll be thinking me.

[Exit SHANTY-KEEPER.]

NEW CHUM. How soon are you going on?

COACH-DRIVER. As soon as I've sluiced my throat.

NEW CHUM, I'm coming with you. Will you reach Sydney tomorrow morning?

COACH-DRIVER. No! We'll put up at Picton for the night, if we get that far.

NEW CHUM. I must be in Sydney early tomorrow, as early as possible.

COACH-DRIVER. Your only chance is to hire a hack at Picton and go right through.

NEW CHUM. I might do that.

COACH-DRIVER. What have you been doing round here? Prospecting?

NEW CHUM. That's what they call it.

COACH-DRIVER. Taking any gold down with you?

NEW CHUM. Gold! Don't talk to me about gold.

COACH-DRIVER. Down on your luck, eh?

NEW CHUM. Worse than that!...I never want to hear the name of gold again.

COACH-DRIVER. You're not the first digger I've taken back to town that felt like you do, though most of them pad the hoof.

NEW CHUM. I'd do that rather than stay here.

COACH-DRIVER. I never did think much of the prospects in these parts.

NEW CHUM. I came here with high hopes.

COACH-DRIVER. You need them. Sometimes, of course, a man buys into a likely claim and strikes it lucky.

NEW CHUM. And sometimes he doesn't!

[Enter SHANTY-KEEPER.]

SHANTY-KEEPER. What d'ye think of that? Smelling salts was all they were after wanting. Would they be takin' this for a lady's boudoir, d' 'ye think?

COACH-DRIVER [after sizing the place up]. I suppose It would depend on the lady. But why not give them a sniff of that potato spirit you make?

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis a lie! I've nought here but good exise spirit an' I wouldn't be wasting that on 'em!

NEW CHUM. You should be able to push on immediately, driver, shouldn't you?

SHANTY-KEEPER, Ah, let him bide a Whoile.

NEW CHUM. I want to be off.

[Exits hurriedly, the COACH-DRIVER looking after him enquiringly.]

SHANTY-KEEPER. Take no notice of him! Wild fancies av his own are snapping at th' back av him, like a heeler.

COACH-DRIVER. Well, I'm in no hurry. Let's have a drink.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye'll be needing a double rum to steady your nerves [he goes behind the counter] Unless, of course, 'tis a dish of tea ye'd prefer.

COACH-DRIVER. You'll be offering me a. glass of sherbert next.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ah, yes—wid a stick in it! Here! Put this beneath your waistcoat...So ye were looking down th' muzzle of a revolver this morning.

COACH-DRIVER. I was that and I've seen many a sight in my time as looked a lot prettier.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did he make any sort of a haul?

COACH-DRIVER. Not enough for a night's lodging.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He'll be getting that at th' expense of Her Majesty if he's not careful.

[NEW CHUM appears at door. Sounds of a horse galloping are heard.]

NEW CHUM. There's someone coming down the road at a fast gallop.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Like as not he'll be choking with dust, and the Lord be praised. Which way is he coming?

NEW CHUM. The same way as the coach did. He must be just around the bend.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ah, well, th' trough outside will stop his horse an' th' rest is in the lap of th' gods.

COACH-DRIVER. Maybe it's Gilbert paying a return Visit.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Would ye think so?

COACH DRIVER You might be sorry he let you off so lightly this morning.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ye might be right. 'Twas a warm welcome I give him this morning but [he takes a gun from wall] tis nothing to what'll be awaiting him this time. [To NEW CHUM.] Come in an' stand away from th' door so I can have a dacent sight of him.

NEW CHUM. Give me the gun.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I've an idea I'm better acquainted width handling of firearms than yeself. [To COACHDRIVER.] Where's your gun?

COACH-DRIVER. Gilbert took it this morning.

[Sounds of horse pulling up off-stage.]

SHANTY-KEEPER [throwing mallet to COACH-DRIVER]

Take this an stand behind th' door to fetch him a good crack if needs be. 'Tis Donnybrook Fair he'll be thinking he's at. [Enter TROOPER.] Up wid your hands! Well, I never!

TROOPER. Here! What's this all about?

SHANTY-KEEPER. We thought ye might be Johnny Gilbert th' bushranger, but ye don't look nearly as dangerous.

TROOPER. Gilbert?

COACH-DRIVER. Yes, he's in the district. He held up my coach this morning.

TROOPER. Did he? Where?

COACH-DRIVER. Twelve mile or so back along the road, by the Twin Sisters rock.

TROOPER. What time would that be?

COACH-DRIVER. About half past nine.

TROOPER. Have you reported it yet?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Only to me, seeing as how—

TROOPER. Yes, of course! Half past nine, eh? We must have been ahead of you. You know the creek that crosses the road?

SHANTY-KEEPER. About ten miles back?

TROOPER. That's it! We were riding by there about half past eight and we heard a shot.

NEW CHUM. Where did it come from?

TROOPER. In off the road a bit. It was followed immediately by a scream.

COACH-DRIVER. Someone shooting a warrigal, probably.

TROOPER. No warrigal ever screamed like what we heard, so we thought we'd look into it.

NEW CHUM. And what was it?

TROOPER. We made our way along the creek till we came to a miner's camp.

SHANTY-KEEPER [to NEW CHUM]. That sounds like your claim.

TROOPER [to NEW CHUM]. Did you have a mate, a big red-bearded chap?

NEW CHUM. My mate's big and red-bearded.

SHANTY-KEEPER. A feller named Maclagen.

TROOPER. I didn't stop to ask his name. He's been murdered,

COACH-DRIVER. Murdered!

TROOPER. Yes, murdered! Shot in the back. He gave his last twitch as we reached him.

NEW CHUM. He got no more than his deserts.

SHANTY-KEEPER. An' there's plenty around here as will say "Amen!" to that.

TROOPER [to NEW CHUM]. There Was some ill-feeling between you, by the sound of it.

NEW CHUM. There was—on my part at least.

TROOPER. What was the trouble?

NEW CHUM. I'm convinced he tricked me over the claim.

TROOPER. That's happened more than once. Where were you at half past eight?

NEW CHUM. I haven't any...clear recollection.

TROOPER. That isn't a very good explanation. Surely you know where you were.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He was sleeping off a grand an' glorious drunk.

TROOPER. Maybe he was, but who says so?

SHANTY-KEEPER. I do.

TROOPER. Where was he, then?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Under a tree be th' side av th' road opposite.

TROOPER. And where were you?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Keeping th' flies off him.

TROOPER. Then who shot his mate?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Why would ye be asking me?

COACH-DRIVER. It looks as if it might have been Gilbert.

TROOPER. It would be his first murder to date, if he did.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Every dacent bushranger has to make a start sometime.

TROOPER. I don't see how Gilbert could have done it.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Maybe ye're a stranger around here. If ye knew th' lay of th' land, 'twould same more likely.

TROOPER. Maybe it would.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'll draw it for ye. This is how it is.

[SHANTY-KEEPER proceeds to draw a map on the bar-room floor.]

TROOPER. Wait while I copy it down.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Here's where we are now—th' Royal Leinster Arms Hotel. Put it down.

TROOPER [writing]. Pub!

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis not doin' me house complete justice but let it be. Here's th' road ye've just come along.

COACH-DRIVER [pointing]. It Would be just about that bend where I was held up.

TROOPER. Mark in the creek, will you?

SHANTY-KEEPER. The creek crosses th' road—about here an' runs away to th' west.

TROOPER [to NEW CHUM]. Where would your claim lie?

NEW CHUM. About a couple of miles up the creek from the road.

SHANTY-KEEPER [pointing]. As near here as no matter.

TROOPER. It seemed further to me.

NEW CHUM. It's rough going along the creek. We never go that way. There's a track cuts into the road about two miles down that leads straight to it.

SHANTY-KEEPER, This is th' way of it.

TROOPER. That will be the track I took from the camp to here.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis the one Gilbert took this morning, no doubt.

TROOPER. What makes you think so?

SHANTY-KEEPER. He called in here to pay his respects, behavin' like a gintleman, what's more.

TROOPER. Why didn't I pass him somewhere, if he did?

NEW CHUM. The track carries on past the claim and joins the road by the Twin Sisters.

COACH-DRIVER. And that's where Gilbert waited for the coach.

SHANTY-KEEPER. While ye were ridin' up th' creek here [pointing to map] Gilbert made his way along the furthermost track an' ye must have missed him.

TROOPER. It looks rather like it.

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis as clear as daylight. All ye have to do is get after him hell for leather.

TROOPER. In which direction would he be likely to make?

SHANTY-KEEPER. If it wasn't one way, it would be the other, an' then agin it might be neither!

COACH-DRIVER. He generally works out west.

TROOPER. He'll probably make back there. Who knows this district well?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Ould Jamie outside has scratched every square inch of it: There's a couple of tracks lead over th' range to th' western road. He could show ye them.

TROOPER. I'll have a word with him and be on my way.

NEW CHUM. Won't you have a drink before you go?

SHANTY-KEEPER. 'Tis th' motto of th' Royal Leinster Arms—"quick and often." [He moves behind counter.]

TROOPER. Could word be sent to my mate?

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'll see to it meself.

TROOPER. Tell him I'm making for the Western Road and that he'd better return to Goulburn as fast as possible.

NEW CHUM. Where is he?

TROOPER. I left him at the camp. You'll be going back there, yourself, right away, I suppose.

NEW CHUM. I've no further interest in the claim.

TROOPER. Why not?

NEW CHUM. I've sold out—a quarter of an hour ago.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He'd sooner be after Gilbert wid you, I'm sure.

TROOPER. Would you like to come along? Can you ride?

NEW CHUM. Not very well, I'm afraid.

TROOPER. Then you'd better stay here, there's a lot of hard riding ahead. Here's good health to all of you. [They all drink with appropriate salutation.] I must be getting on. I'll probably be back next week for witnesses. Good-day.

[Exit TROOPER.]

NEW CHUM. What would they do with Gilbert if they caught him?

COACH-DRIVER. Hang him in Goulburn Gaol.

NEW CHUM. But they couldn't do that! Maclagen wasn't worth the hanging of anyone.

COACH-DRIVER. Ah, well, he'd swing for bushranging in any case.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Of course he would!

COACH-DRIVER [to NEW CHUM]. Are you coming along? [He moves to the door].

NEW CHUM. Yes, the sooner I'm out of-this godforsaken place, the better.

COACH-DRIVER. Make it lively then. I'll see you next week, Tim.

SHANTY-KEEPER. All right, me bhoy.

[Exit COACH-DRIVER.]

NEW CHUM. Why did you lie about where I was this morning?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Did I?

NEW CHUM. You know you did.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Th' Lord'll forgive me. 'Twas only to a policeman.

NEW CHUM. Do you think I killed Maclagen?

SHANTY-KEEPER. Why should I lie for ye if I thought ye did it?

NEW CHUM. I don't know.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'll tell ye something. I'm as likely to have shot Maclagen as any other man.

NEW CHUM. You?

SHANTY-KEEPER. No one else. I've had a bitter hatred of Maclagen stored up in me heart this five years. An' him not suspectin' either. But me day of reckonin' was drawin' nigh.

NEW CHUM. You needn't tell me you shot him.

SHANTY-KEEPER. There's no need to be tellin' ye anything. Nor any other man...ye'll not be leaving in such a hurry now, will ye?

NEW CHUM. I must! I couldn't go near the claim again. That swine would still be there.

SHANTY-KEEPER. He'll not be troublin' ye agin.

NEW CHUM. I couldn't stand it, I tell you.

SHANTY-KEEPER. I'm prepared to let ye out av your bargain an' stand by ye. There's gold in th' creek, I'll wager.

NEW CHUM. Gold? There's blood in it. And the curse of Maclagen is in the very air.

SHANTY-KEEPER. Th' creek's fast runnin' an' takes all in its course. An' time isn't slow at leavin' throubles behind it.

NEW CHUM. Don't talk of it! Gold in the creek! Dirty, filthy gold! The things men will do for gold.

[Enter TROOPER followed by the FOSSICKER.]

TROOPER. "Gold" did you say? Here take it. I nearly turned bushranger, by oversight.

[He throws a nugget to the NEW CHUM.]

NEW CHUM. What is it?

FOSSICKER. Gauld frae th' creek? 'Twould be a miracle!

TROOPER. I found it under your mate when I turned him over. Lucky Gilbert didn't see it.

NEW CHUM [looking at it in horror.] It wasn't! You're lying!

TROOPER. I'm telling you what happened. It was right under the head of his pick.

NEW CHUM. It wasn't! Maclagen wouldn't have unearthed it. You're trying to trick me, just as he did!

SHANTY-KEEPER. Be quiet! You're lettin' your 'imagination run riot wid ye.

NEW CHUM. You're trying to trick me, too. You're in with him. It's a swindle. Maclagen isn't dead! I know he isn't! He couldn't die.

TROOPER. You wouldn't say that if you saw him.

NEW CHUM [in a rising frenzy]. He isn't dead! I know! I did see him. No one could kill Maclagen. He isn't human. He's a fiend, that's what he is! He has no soul, he has no body, either! Bullets would go right through him. He tricked me. Then he laughed at me. I can hear him still, I've been hearing him all night.

[Sound of a kookaburra laughing, off stage.]

There he is now. He isn't dead! He's still laughing at me. I know you Maclagen. I didn't kill you—curse you.

[COACH-DRIVER appears in the doorway.]

Don't stand there! Don't stand there and laugh! Take your rotten gold! Blood red gold!

[He hurls nugget at COACH-DRIVER who dodges aside. The TROOPER seizes him.]

Let me go, Maclagen. Let me go, blast you. You're Maclagen, I know you are.

[COACH-DRIVER also seizes him.]

So are you! And you! I shot at you, Maclagen, but you needn't tell me I killed you, I saw you clawing the ground. You weren't dying, you beast. You were trying to hide the nugget you'd found. My nugget, Maclagen. Mine I tell you.

[Sound of kookaburra laughing, off stage, TROOPER and COACH-DRIVER drag the NEW CHUM screaming hysterically to the door.]

Stop it, will you? Make him stop laughing at me. Give me a gun. I'll stop the dirty scum. I'll pump more bullets into his black soul. Stop it, Maclagen...stop laughing at me...Oh! Stop him! Stop him!

[As the sounds of his fury are fading away the FOSSICKER picks up the nugget, looks longingly at it but the SHANTY-KEEPER holds his hand out for it, and it is passed over with reluctance.]

FOSSICKER. Teemothy, there's naething will dreeve a mon daft sooner than nae getting whit his hairt's set upon, be it a wuman, riches, or a—

[He licks his lips expectantly and glances at the rum keg.]

SHANTY-KEEPER [reflectively, looking a't the nugget of gold]. Ye're right, Jamie [then realising what is really at the back of the FOSSICKER'S mind] but ye'll not be getting the entire keg, not at once!

[He turns to pour the FOSSICKER and himself tots of rum as the curtain falls].


THE END

This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia