an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: For Life and Other Stories
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2301211h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: 2023
Most recent update: 2023

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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For Life and Other Stories

Steele Rudd





For Life
     Chapter 1. - Murder!
     Chapter 2. - The Fight for Life Begins
     Chapter 3. - A Dash for Liberty
     Chapter 4. - An Anxious Moment
     Chapter 5. - Proving His Alibi
     Chapter 6. - The Way of the Transgressor is Hard
     Chapter 7. - A Devil of a Fright
     Chapter 8. - A Tale of a Tub
     Chapter 9. - Divers Diversions
     Chapter 10. - A Forlorn Hope

On the Condamine
     Chapter 1. - Down on Their Luck
     Chapter 2. - Prickly Pear
     Chapter 3. - In the Seat of the Mighty

A Note From Mary
Villiam Brandt Relates his Queenslandic Experience
Charley’s Yarn
The Man and the Millionaire
Dinny Delaney’s Industry
Out Driving
Odds and Ends


A few of the stories in this volume have appeared in the columns of Steele Rudd’s Magazine, The Australian, The Worker (Q.) and I have to thank the editors of these papers for permission to republish in book form.

For Life and others are here published for the first time.


For Life

Chapter 1

Murder! It was murder! When the wires flashed the news that the Kellys had shot the police at the head of the King River, in Victoria—when word reached civilisation that the Kenniffs had “done for” Constable Doyle and young Dalke on the Maranva River in Queensland, and had burnt their bodies to a cinder to hide their crime, the excitement in Australia was indescribable. But when one December morning in the midst of all the Christmas festivities, the inhabitants of the small, peaceful, country township of Trackson awoke out of their sleep and learned that the three Maguire girls and their brother, all of whom had only the evening before left for their selection in a dog-cart at 8 o’clock, were lying dead in a paddock not a quarter of a mile out, the unfortunate girls brutally outraged and strangled with pocket handkerchiefs, the brother shot in the back with a rifle, the dog-cart, all blood-bespattered, tilted near the bodies, and the horse lying with its throat cut—Australia was staggered!

Fear and alarm filled the hearts of the people in the country, and from one end of the land to the other, the cry went up for protection and vengeance. Then the Police and the Press commenced their work—especially the Press. “Specials” were hurried to the scene of the tragedy on board police trains, and column after column of grim, gruesome details were wired to the cities, and sought and jostled for by the eager, horror-stricken citizens.

“Unfortunately,” said the specials, “the Sergeant in charge of the district, though recognised as a most capable officer, lost his head, and instead of roping off the scene of the outrage, unwittingly permitted the spectators to gather about the bodies and obliterate the tracks of the perpetrators of the deed. This unfortunate mistake has made the task of the black-trackers much more difficult than it would otherwise have been. When interviewed this morning, however, Chief-Inspector Banks, who has full charge of the case, intimated that the police have already a very strong clue, and an arrest may be expected at any moment.”

In one column of the various prints appeared exhaustive pedigrees and descriptions of the whole of the Maguire family, from the father, an inoffensive, struggling, old selector, to the baby at the mother’s breast, and illustrated with their alleged photographs. In another, just to balance the interest, was a long, vainglorious history of the uneventful career of Chief Inspector Banks, with loud and exaggerated accounts of deeds of daring he never did; of the long, hard rides he had ridden through drought-stricken country in the West; of the skill he possessed in the art of tracking; of his ability to go without food and water for weeks and carry home the corpses of several prisoners on his back before breaking his fast; of his marvellous, analytical mind, and of his genius for weighing and sifting evidence.

And when the excited people had ravenously read all these things, their hearts went out to Chief Inspector Banks, and they cheered silently for him. Then they went home and read the account of his life over, and decided amongst themselves how the murder was committed, who committed it, how many were concerned in it, what sort of murderers they were, and what tale they told their victims to lure them from the main road into the paddock. And finally they agreed that Banks was a clever officer. Then, expressing sympathy for their brothers and sisters of the bush who were without police protection, they retired to bed, and dreamt the dream of tragedies.



In the morning they would seek the newspapers for news of the expected arrest, and in bunches would gather round the one sheet and peer over each other’s shoulders. “There you are”—from the outside one of the group; and the centre man, in a voice full of emotion, would proceed to read for the benefit of the others.


And after repeating all the ghastly details printed on the previous day, the “Special” would proceed to tell how the blood-stained saddle-cloth had been picked up in the mountains, some twenty or thirty miles from the scene of the murder, but about the finding of which Chief Inspector Banks would permit no information to leak out.

“A man named Burke was to-day brought before the visiting magistrate, Mr, P. J. M. Smith, and Messrs. J. O. Jones and T. Brown, Js.P., and formally charged with vagrancy. The Courtroom was thronged with people anxious to catch a glimpse of the prisoner, many of whom had come twenty and thirty miles to see him. Burke who is a notorious character, has already served several sentences for horse-stealing and criminal assaults, and was only liberated from gaol six or eight weeks before the Maguires were murdered. A remand was granted.”

For a while there was a lull in the proceedings, and no more dead horses having been found, no more blood-stained saddle-cloths picked up, people began to get restive, and wondered what the police were doing and what had become of Burke, and if, after all, he was only a vagrant.


Chapter 2
The Fight for Life Begins

A few days after, the writer of these pages received the following letter from an Under-Secretary:

“I have the honour to inform you that prisoner Burke, at present serving sentence for vagrancy in H.M. prison, Muddy-road, is to be escorted by the police over the route which he travelled when discharged from gaol in November last, and to request that you will make the necessary preparation to join the party which is to leave on Monday next in charge of Inspector Black, and take full shorthand notes of all the evidence and forward same along with your report to the Commissioner of Police as soon as the journey is completed.”

* * * * * * * *

The sun was just rising when I picked the Police up outside the city on the following Monday morning. They were waiting for me on the main road. At first glance one would have thought they were a travelling show just breaking camp. The party consisted of one inspector, four mounted troopers, two black-trackers (each leading a pack-horse burdened with blankets, hobbles, quart-pots, &c.), while the police van, driven by two constables, in which Burke had travelled from the gaol, was wheeling round in the act of returning. Burke himself was standing handcuffed between two constables. As I approached he eyed me curiously. He seemed to wonder what part I was to play in the expedition. I made no speculations as to his part.

“You’re a bit late,” the Inspector said. And looking over the “show” I asked him what sort of a house he had had last night. The rest of the Force smiled, and Burke, who was watching me from under the rim of a soft felt hat that had once been white—white until he started sleeping in it and using it for a bellows—broke into a rasping, grating laugh and said:

“He thinks we’re a bloomin’ circus!”

The troopers smiled and fumbled with their saddle gear, and gathered up their bridle reins; the two trackers grinned hard and showed their white teeth, and the Inspector said cynically:

“Yes; and unless you prove all you say you can, the last item of it will be Richard Burke performing on the end of a tight rope.”

“I know bloomin’ well,” Burke snapped back, “that that’s what you would like to bill me for, but by——”

“Come along”—sharply to Senior-Constable Adam Jackson—“Put him on his horse and let us make a start.”

Jackson saluted his Inspector, and, ordering the prisoner to mount, said: “Can you get on?” [wondering if the gaol bird could climb into the saddle handcuffed]. But Burke, with several oaths, despised assistance, and gripping the pommel with both hands started to mount. The burly constable stood holding the horse by the head. The rest of us sat on our horses looking on. The animal Burke was mounting, a long limbed chestnut with a game, clean-cut head, was just off the grass after six months’ spell in the police paddocks, and was fresh and touchy as an unbroken colt.

“Are you right?” Jackson gasped, struggling with the horse to prevent him rearing, in the same breath calling the animal names for not taking things quietly.

“Right,” Burke answered as he landed in the saddle. Then, in spite of Jackson, down went the chestnut’s head, and, with a snort, it put in one—two—three bucks, all in the same place. Jackson hung on like grim death to the reins. Powerless to balance himself without the use of his hands, the prisoner rose about three feet out of the saddle.

“Hold him, Jackson! Hold him!” the Inspector cried apprehensively, and the other constables scrambled from their horses to try and save the situation. But the chestnut got in some more good work, and the next moment Burke left the saddle, and, flying through the air, fell into the arms of two policemen, who fell on the top of each other under the weight of him.

“Are you hurt?” the Inspector asked when Burke rose spitting out dirt and cursing.

“Hurt be damned!” was the answer.

Then turning to me the Inspector explained, alluding to the horse:

“I picked that old dog as the quietest and slowest we could put him on.”

“Yes,” Burke gasped savagely. “I know all about the brute being quiet! And do you think I don’t tumble to your capers? Here”—struggling violently with the handcuffs—“take these blamed things off and give me a fair show and I’ll ride the beggar barebacked.”

The Inspector wasn’t to be caught napping so easily, however, but jumping across the chestnut himself he dug his heels into him, and laying the whip on his ribs put him through a lively ten minutes. Then, throwing the reins to the constable again as he dismounted, he said:

“Put him on again, Jackson; he’s all right now,” and once more Burke climbed on to the chestnut, but this time was allowed to remain in the saddle. Then, when his legs were manacled by passing a chain under the horse’s belly, the escort started in double file on its three-hundred-mile journey.


Chapter 3
A Dash for Liberty

It was an imposing-looking cavalcade. Constable Jackson in cabbage-tree hat, shirt sleeves, riding tweeds, a revolver clinging to his belt, went first, leading the prisoner’s horse by a well-polished dog chain. Behind him Constables Edmunds and Taay with more revolvers. Then Inspector Black and the writer. Behind us a junior constable on probation with another revolver, the possession of which distressed and hampered him visibly; and bringing up the rear the two trackers leading the packs and filling the morning air with the sound of jingling hobble chains and pint pots. And the milkmen coming along, making townward with their supplies, drew off the road and glowered as we trooped past, then sat staring after us till we were out of sight.

“It’ll be all over town in a couple of hours that we’ve left,” Black murmured, casting a sullen, unfriendly eye on the milk vendors. “Damn them!” and he hit his boot with his riding whip. I was unable to see that it could make any difference to the long arm of the Law, anyway, but suggested that we raid their carts and drink the milk, and deprive them of an excuse to go to town.

“Talk sense,” he answered shortly. I was trying to think of some, when one milkman, more curious than the others, shouted out in an anxious tone, “Is that the cove who did the murder you’ve got there?”

“You blasted cow!” Burke yelled back furiously. “I’d like to murder you!”

“No doubt but you would,” the other answered. “It’s your business.” Then he whipped up his horse and drove on.

“Now there you are,” Burke explained, turning his head and shaking it frantically at the Inspector. “What rotten chance has a chap got of clearing himself when every darned cove in the country already reckons he’s guilty?”

The Inspector made no reply.

“I think every chap ought to get a fair show,” Burke added sullenly.

Then, after riding along for about five minutes: “Now, if I get tried for this murder that darned cove might be put on my jury.”

Still there was no reply. The hoof-beats of the escort rattled on the hard road, and the chains on the legs of the prisoner jingled an eerie refrain.

Constable Taay’s horse, a raw, handsome colt not long broken, stumbled badly, and the long, supple Australian in khaki, who had served a long apprenticeship horse-breaking in the West before joining the force, drove the spurs into the animal’s ribs to rebuke him. The colt began to buck. And how he did buck!

“Stick to him, Taay!” his brother constables called, pulling out of the way to make room for the performance. Taay began with the whip, and next moment the colt bucked in between Constable Jackson and his prisoner and separated them. Burke glanced quickly round; then, driving his heels into the chestnut’s ribs, yelled, “Come on!” and off he went full gallop. Then there was excitement! Dick Turpin’s ride to York was a fool to what followed.



“Look out for him, Jackson!” the Inspector shouted, realising the position a moment too late, and, putting whip and spurs to his own horse, raced furiously in pursuit. Whip and spurs were applied to every horse there, and Taay and his bucking colt were left standing. Even the trackers in their excitement walloped the packs along, at the risk of strewing the road with blankets and provender. Constable Jackson, drawing up on the near side of the fugitive, let fly a revolver shot, which fortunately missed. “Don’t shoot, Adam! Damn it, don’t shoot! Get hold of his reins!” came wildly from the Inspector, who was racing on the off and overtaking Burke every stride. Burke, with a fiendish grin on his face, threw a glance back over his shoulder at his pursuers, then used his heels harder than ever. But the chestnut was all out and outpaced, and the Inspector and Jackson, closing in on either side, leaned out of their saddles and grabbed his reins.

“You danmed scoundrel!” Black gasped when they came to a standstill, the steam flying from the nostrils of the horses. “Think yourself lucky you didn’t get your brains blown out.”

Burke seemed to regard it all as a good joke, and grinning amusedly at the excited constables around him, remarked: “Well, some of you did have a shot, but you couldn’t hit a haystack. It didn’t go within a mile of me.”

“Within a mile of you!” Jackson snapped, inserting his finger into a newly-made hole in the side of Burke’s shirt. “You didn’t want it to go any nearer than that, did you?” Burke glanced quickly at the bullet hole in the garment and went a little pale.

“You meant it all right,” he mumbled, looking Jackson in the face.

“Meant it!” from the Inspector. “I rather think he did, and meant a second one, too, if I hadn’t stopped him.”

“And I would have brought you out of that saddle,” Jackson snarled, “much quicker than the old chestnut did.”

Burke said nothing, but regarded Jackson steadily till the black boys came up, when the Inspector gave the order and the procession shifted ground again.

“Heavens!” said the Inspector, leaning forward and stroking his horse’s neck. “We had to ride like the devil for a while to get near the old chestnut! If it had been in rough country anything might have happened. But nothing must be said about this.”

I nodded.

Behind me the two simple-minded trackers were discussing the incident.

Garrione said, “By crites, that cobe Burkes he been go it that time.”

“Nudding like how he been go when I catch him over der border, long fellow time ago,” Norman answered, seriously.

“Yaas?” in surprised tones from Garrione. “You been ’rest him one time?”

“Oh, yaas,” Norman answered proudly. “I been arrest him two times twice.”

“Yaas? How—what he been do dem times?”

“Oh, shootit a cobe in a arm and plant in it big scrub, and trabel in a dark night. I catch him sittin’ alonga log New Sout Wales.”

The Inspector, catching the words, turned in the saddle and said:

“What’s that, Norman? You been arrest Burke? You mean it Sergeant Walker, don’t you?”

“I been trackit him, though,” Norman claimed, “trackit him all three day.”

“Oh yes, but you didn’t arrest him. You remember you been two three hundred yards away when the sergeant shoot Burke in the leg?”

Norman remembered.

“Oh! that been right,” he answered, showing his teeth; “but I been watch it all.”

We smiled, and for some moments there was a silence. Then Garrione, who had been turning the matter over in his mind, said in low, disappointed sort of tones to his brother tracker:

“I tink it you been blow it a damn good lot, Norman.”

We smiled.

“All right,” the other answered indignantly, “you tink it dat!” and he flicked the pack-horse and shook an extra rattle out of the pint pots and hobble chains. Then added, “When we stoppit fo’ breakfast you askit Burke. He tell it you all about me.”


Chapter 4
An Anxious Moment

It was about nine o’clock when we came to a tributary of the great river that glided calmly through the capital. The Inspector called a halt and suggested breakfasting. The trackers and the cadet relieved the packs and attended to the horses. Constable Edmonds, the boss cook and caterer in the force, saw to the fire and looked after the breakfast. Jackson and Taay attended to Burke, relieved him of his handcuffs and sat down beside him on the grass, and engaged him in friendly conversation about crime and criminals, and the security and insecurity of the various gaols in Australia. Inspector Black and I reclined in the shade on our elbows and nibbled blades of grass and thought a good deal.

The cadet went off to a neighbouring farm-house, and returned with a billy-can of milk. The Inspector sat up, and glanced carelessly across at the prisoner. An oath escaped him, which made me sit up and stare. He beckoned the cadet and muttered angrily, “Who the devil left that rifle there? Get it away at once,” The cadet looked about him, and seeing a rifle leaning against a tree within arm’s length of Burke, glided stealthily across and secured it quietly. Burke’s quick eyes noticed the movement.

“Are you afraid?” he said cheekily to the Inspector.

“Oh, no,” Black replied calmly, “but I fancy I see a bear on a tree down the creek.”

He took aim from where he sat, and fired. The bear, which was a hundred yards off, reeled out of the tree and thumped the ground hard.

“Knocked him, blowed if you didn’t!” Burke said; then in admiration added, “By gums! You can use a rifle all right!”

“I thought it just as well to let him know I could,” the Inspector said in an undertone to me, “in case he tries on some of his games with us, if he gets another chance.”

Constable Edmonds called “Breakfast,” and all of us except the Inspector rose and approached the spread that was prepared beneath a tree, a short distance off, and crouched round it. The Inspector remained awhile silently examining the rifle.

“Here’s one for you, Burke,” Edmonds said, tossing the prisoner a pannikin. “You’d better scratch your name on it—any one of them will do; I know you have a good few.”

The rest of us remembered Burke’s numerous aliases and smiled. Burke scowled and looked about for something to scratch “his mark” on the pint with. His eye rested on Constable Edmond’s belt and revolver lying on the grass at his elbow. He lifted the weapon, and, while the others were reaching for tea and digging into the bread and beef, toyed with it. Then he said, grinning, “Wonder could I write my name with this at a couple of hundred yards?”



The others looked up. Dismay suddenly filled their faces. The Force looked as if it had been struck by lightning. Crouched on my haunches just opposite Burke I sat heavily back and tried to conceal my head behind a large pannikin of tea. I spilt a lot of that tea into my lap and didn’t feel it burn me.

Burke toyed more with the weapon. Still the Force remained dumb. Some of it had lifted large wedges of bread and beef to its mouth, and there the provender was suspended. It was a terrible moment—for me.

But the suspense broke suddenly,

Burke,” in a sharp, ringing voice, “put that revolver down or I’ll blow a hole through you!

Burke glanced across quickly and saw himself covered by the Inspector’s rifle. With a cynical chuckle he put the revolver down and said, “You fellows are easily frightened.”

I believed him.

Four pairs of hands instantly went out and reached for that weapon. Then the Inspector with fire in his eye came forward and said:

“The next man who lets his revolver get out of his hands returns to head-quarters under suspension.” There was a silence; then Burke looked across at me and said:

“Chuck us across a slice of that beef, boss.”

I chucked him across a slice, and the breakfast proceeded again calmly.

Advancing to our horses when we were prepared to start again the Inspector said:

“I don’t know how the deuce you would have got on if I had had to fire at him. A bit of your ear just covered the sight of my rifle.”

My hand went voluntarily to the side of my head, but my ear was still there, and I was glad.


Chapter 5
Proving His Alibi

On a good breakfast, and with tobacco clouds blowing from half a dozen pipes, we moved along at a brisk walking pace. The hard, made roads gradually gave way to soft grass and herbage under foot, and the bushland commenced to open out. Over the brow of a sand ridge the prisoner led the cavalcade; on past a deserted orchard, where a few ragged orange trees and the broken walls and sapling rafters of a humpy reared themselves like grim sentinels of the dead; past an old pumping station long since disused; then down on to the river and into a lane that led by the door of a dairyman’s home.

Constable Jackson, with the prisoner, reined up, and their horses breasted the fence until the last of the escort drew up.

“What is it, Jackson?” from the Inspector.

“Burke says this is the first place he called at, sir.”

“Very well; get off and we’ll see what he remembers about it.”

All of us, glad to ease our limbs, dismounted—all except the trackers. They were sent on ahead to wait at a certain spot till we came up.

I seated myself comfortably on the ground with my arm in the bridle reins, and took out my note book.

“What day, and what time of the day was it,” the Inspector asked of Burke, “when you reached here? And tell us whom you saw, and what the people are like who live here, and what conversation you had with them?” The prisoner leaned on the fence, and ran his fingers up under his slouch hat and thought hard for several moments.

“I got here,” he said, “on the tenth of November; that was a Saturday; and it was just about sundown when I reached these rails. There were some cows inside this little paddock—I don’t think they belonged to this cove here—and a red bull with one horn was with them. I noticed the bull particularly, because he had just been staked in the barbwire, and his near hind leg was nearly cut off. This cove who lives here is a bloomin’ old Irishman, and he has finger-nails as long as—”

He stopped short, after waiting a while for his next words, and glared at me with blood in his eye.

“Oh!” he rasped out. “Is this the caper? This is what you’re here for? You’re not a blamed trap at all, then?”

I said “I was sorry I wasn’t, and that I was merely there to take a note of everything that was said.”

“I know that fancy caper!” he stormed. “You’ve been sent here by the dirty Government to put the rope round my bloomin’ neck!”

“Perhaps,” I answered, “to keep the rope from going round your neck. Everything said in your favour will go down in my notes.”

“But how am I to tell,” he protested furiously, “what you put down?”

“I’ll read the notes over to you,” I suggested, “whenever you wish me to.”

“Yes,” he insisted sullenly, “and afterwards you can knock out anything that doesn’t suit the police. I know these little tricks.”

I endeavoured to assure him I had a conscience and that I would sooner forfeit my billet and go cracking stones than take a hand in anything that wasn’t strictly honourable. The Inspector reasoned with him; and finally in a sour, dogged sort of way he consented to proceed.

When he began to think again the whites of his eyes rolled suspiciously in the direction of my notebook, and I became conscious that a constable had placed himself between us. I felt shaky. The feeling somehow interfered with my pencil, and the notes I made were illegible. I was not happy.

“Well,” Burke said, leaning on the fence again, “this chap who lives here has got finger nails as long and as hard as a cockatoo’s beak, and he peels potatoes with them. His name is Ryan. He’s a bad-tempered old dog, and I gave him a hiding for calling me a loafer.”

The Inspector said, “That will do,” and led the way into Ryan’s residence.

Ryan was sitting in a poky back room, with a dish of potatoes in his lap, peeling them with his finger nails, with which he sliced them as you would with a knife. All of us stood and stared.

Ryan looked up in surprise.

“It’s the polis!” he stammered, recognising the khaki.

“Did you ever see this man before?” motioning Burke forward.

“I never. Oi don’t know him at all.”

“What! you never saw me before?” in surprised tones from Burke.

“How cud Oi? Oi have never been in gaol.”

“You old crawler!” savagely from Burke. “Do you remember me giving you a hiding out there in the yard for calling me a loafer?”

“An’—an’—if me gun had been at home,” the old man squealed, springing at him like a wild cat, “Oi—Oi wud have shot ye that same evenin’, ye dhirty gaol bird!”

Burke smiled.

“Then you remember him now?” the Inspector asked for final assurance.

“I doan’t!” howled the old man indignantly.

The Inspector turned away.

“You — old dog! You would see a man hang right enough!” Burke hissed as he was bundled off by the constable. And Ryan sat down and went on peeling potatoes with his finger nails.

* * * * * * * * *

Overtaking the trackers, the cavalcade headed towards the river and travelled without incident for a couple of miles.

“Hello!” the Inspector remarked in tones of surprise; “he’s making for the ferry. Aha! This is interesting. If he crossed the river here that evening, he’s done. We’ve got him beat! He’ll fix himself up for the Pixley affair as sure as the Lord made little apples. He hasn’t the faintest idea, either, that he’s suspected of it.”

The “Pixley affair” was the murder of a boy who was riding on a pony along a lonely part of the road on the eastern side of the river the evening of the day that Burke was released from the city gaol, and the solution of which hopelessly baffled the police.

When about fifty yards from the ferry Constable Jackson reined up again and waited. A hopeful look was in the Inspector’s face as he came up.

“What happened here?” he asked of Burke.

“When I left Ryan’s I took the road we just came, and got to the ferry here a little after dark, and spoke to the ferryman.”

“Of course you crossed over, I suppose,” the Inspector said, assuming indifference.

“No; I had no money on me, and this miserable hog down here (meaning the ferryman)—I think it’s him—he wears a cabbagetree hat and a red beard—wouldn’t take me across, and I told him to go to hell. Then I turned back and went along the river bank and camped in some thick shrubs.”

“And you didn’t cross the river at all, then?” the Inspector repeated.

“No; I hadn’t the luck.”

The Inspector exchanged a meaning look with Jackson, and the escort advanced to the ferry.

“No,” the ferryman said, shaking his head, “I don’t remember refusing to take anyone across in my life. In fact, I’m sure I never.”

Then, after looking Burke all over at the Inspector’s request:

“No, I never had a conversation with that man; never saw him before that I remember.” Then, exhibiting a desire to be just: “Of course, I don’t say that I didn’t take him over. I might any time do that without recollecting his face again.”

“Don’t you remember,” Burke asked, “that I had no money, and we had a bit of a barney over it, and I told you to go to hell?”

The ferryman, a big, hard-looking man, smiled and said quietly: “It isn’t likely I’d forget that if it happened, because I would have thrown you into the river if it had.”

“You would have to be a lot better with your hands than you are at remembering things, old chap,” Burke said with flashing eyes. Then to the Inspector: “It’s no use wasting time here; this fellow doesn’t remember anything, or doesn’t want to.”

“Well, you’re a cheeky gentleman, anyway,” said the ferryman, “and those handcuffs, I think, just suit you.”

Burke scowled at him as we rode away.

A new interest now seemed to enter into the proceedings. Constable Jackson was allowed to get well ahead, and the Inspector rode close to the other constables, and asked them “what they thought of it.”

About a mile or so along the bank of the river Burke pointed to a clump of thick undergrowth no higher than a man’s head as the spot where he slept that night.

“Did you make a fire?” the Inspector asked, scrutinising the place.

“No, I did not bother making one. I had a bit of tucker with me, and when I finished it just crept in amongst those bushes and went to sleep.”

“A curious place for a bushman to select a camp, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, I dunno” (sullenly); “just as good as any other; and I didn’t want the whole country to see me, anyway.”

The Inspector smiled meaningly; then, directing the escort to a waterhole, decided to halt for lunch.


Chapter 6
The Way of the Transgressor is Hard

When the meal was over we were lounging in the shade of the trees, smoking and watching the horses with their bridles on cropping the grass round about.

Burke lay on the broad of his back, staring silently into the green foliage that waved above his head, thinking of days and dates, raking his memory to recall the tracks he had trodden—the faces he had met, the things he had seen and said and heard said during those unlucky weeks he had been a free man. Failure to account for one single link in the chain of evidence that was to establish his alibi he knew was to miss the life line. Sympathy he had none; assistance he could not command or expect; conscience told him he was a criminal; experience warned him that the police regarded him as a useless and dangerous member of society, and that if he were even innocently hanged for the crime they were anxious to sheet home to him to save themselves, they would plead that his life was no loss anyway. In short, he saw plainly that it was to be a fight with himself on the one side and the whole police force on the other, and the trophy—his own miserable, misspent life!

With a calm, determined expression on his face he turned over on his elbow and looked around.

Locating me, he crawled across and asked to have the notes I had taken at the ferry read over to him.

“H’m!” he muttered, nipping the end of a blade of grass, “that cove should have remembered me.”

Then he reflected again.

Criminal and all that I knew the man to be, I couldn’t withhold all compassion from him, and, with an effort, made up my mind to take a risk.

“It’s well for you, Burke,” I said, “that you didn’t cross the ferry that evening.”

He opened his eyes and stared tragically.

“There was a boy murdered on the other side about the time you would have crossed,” I added.

“Gord blast and burn them!” he exclaimed, bounding to his feet and glaring round on the Law. They instantly came to the perpendicular with their hands on their revolvers. “And you’re trying to saddle me with that blanky crime as well! You—!—!—!”

The very leaves on the gum trees, overhead, trembled at his outburst of profanity.

The Inspector warned him to be careful.

“Curs! Cadgers!” Burke muttered bitterly, and threw himself on the grass again, and writhed like a wild animal.

I felt guilty of having disturbed the harmony of the expedition, and remained silent.

“Doing all they can to hang me!” he muttered again, tearing fistfuls of grass out of the earth and throwing them violently from him. Some of it scattered over the tea bucket and landed in the tea.

“Damn it!” in reproval from Constable Edmonds. “Don’t do that! We’ll want another drink of tea before we start.”

Burke tore out more grass, but this time didn’t cast it from him; he crunched it viciously in his fists instead.

Then he stretched himself out on his back again and reflected as before.

“You thought you had me beat at the ferry,” Burke with a savage chuckle said to the Inspector, as we moved along again, “but you hadn’t. I’ve thought of something now which I’d forgotten then. Come back to the bushes where I camped, and we should find a pickle bottle that I left there. I got it full of jam from a woman whose house we passed a little way back, and whom I told that the ferryman would not take me across. Now that I know what you are after I’m damned glad he didn’t.”

Returning to the clump of shrubs, one of the constables dismounted and, searching the spot, found the pickle bottle. It was labelled in a woman’s handwriting, “Melon and lemon.”

“That’s it,” Burke said. “Now bring it down and see if the woman remembers it.”

The woman did remember it. She also remembered giving it to Burke, and supported his statement in respect to the ferryman.

“There you are, me shavers,” Burke, with a malignant smile, said to the force. Then to the woman, as they hurried him away:

“They would like to make out that I crossed the ferry that evening, missus, so as to fix me with the murder of that boy.”

“Hold your tongue and be civil!” the burly senior-constable growled, “or I’ll give you a lick on the jaw.”

Burke held his tongue, and the cavalcade once more proceeded along the banks of the river. For miles we travelled over barren, unproductive patches of clay country, at intervals hugging picturesque pockets on the river: through gaps in the broken fences of the abandoned sugar fields we rode, and not a sound all the while except the jangling of bridle bits, the ring of stirrup irons, and the incessant rattle of the packs. Crossing the river where the broad expanse of water divided itself into several limpid streams, trickling calmly over shallow, sandy beds, the rude habitation of a timber-getter rose before us.

“I came to this place,” Burke said, “about dinner-time on my second day out, and seeing no one about called out, ‘Is anyone at home?’ A man answered me from inside. He didn’t show himself. I told him I wanted a bit of tucker. He said ‘Go to the devil and buy tucker the same as I have to!’

“I went further on to a place about a mile from here, and got a feed from a Danish woman.”

The timber-getter, a big, hairy, sunburnt man, had just drawn his team up alongside a fence to unyoke; and, as the escort approached, dropped his long whip and stared in surprise.

“Do you know this man?” the Inspector asked, indicating Burke with his hunting-crop. The bullock-puncher walked all round the prisoner as he sat on the horse and looked hard and long at him.

“I have not had that pleasure.”

To the next question he answered: “That’s right; I did tell a cove one day to go to the devil and buy some tucker, but I did not see the chap. If I was to hear this man speak, though, I could tell you if he is the same, because the cove that spoke to me had a voice that no one in this world would ever forget.”

The Inspector asked Burke to say something. Burke lifted his voice and said: “Can you let us have a bit of tucker in there?”

“That’s the cove!” the bullock-puncher exclaimed, with an amused look on his face. “I’ll stake my blanky life on it.”

The Inspector was satisfied, and, directing the party to an adjacent box-tree ridge as a suitable spot to pitch camp for the night, followed in the rear with a thoughtful look on his face.

“I’m afraid that gets the dog out of the Pixley affair,” he said sorrowfully to me, after covering a hundred yards or so.

“I’m afraid he was never in it,” I answered heroically.

“Perhaps,” he muttered. “But if he doesn’t get nailed for the Trackson murder before we’re done with him, then my name isn’t James Moreum Black.”

“If he’s guilty,” I replied, “I hope he swings for it—and promptly.”

“It’s darned little odds whether he is or not; for he’s bad enough for anything,” he answered.


Chapter 7
A Devil of a Fright

We rode along together, and reached the spot where the boys were unpacking, in silence. Then, as the sun went down, a white calico tent pitched to a sapling, to which the prisoner was to be chained over night, was flying on the ridge: and all around saddles, bridles, packs, blankets, and baggage were strewn. A great fire blazed a few yards off, and the sweat-marked horses clanked their hobblechains and waded knee-deep into the long bluegrass.

It had been a long, hot day, and when tea was over we lay in the cool and smoked, listening in silence to the dismal hoots of the night birds. The prisoner sat on his haunches, the reflection of the fire shedding a pallid, hunted look over his drawn features, thinking and thinking. From a log, a short distance off, the two black boys chanted weird dirges in their native tongue. In the middle of their song Norman suddenly stopped, and yelling to the other to “Lookit out—death adder!”—bounded up and peered cautiously down beside the log. Sure enough a death adder was there. Charlie stunned the reptile with a short stick, then, yabbering excitedly, conveyed it to the light for inspection.

“Chuck it on the fire,” the Inspector cried. The tracker threw it on the fire, where, for a moment or two, it wriggled in its agony. But Burke never shifted his eyes; he hardly seemed to notice the incident.

There was a rustle in the long grass, and the forms of several shy sons of a neighbouring selector cautiously appeared in the light. They nervously murmured “Good-night,” and for some time stood surveying the camp with wonder in their eyes. Finding their presence not resented, they gained courage, and seating themselves beside each other on the grass, settled down to enjoy the grotesque duets of the gorgeously-uniformed trackers. Occasionally they would steal sly glances at the prisoner, then shift their gaze to the constables lounging around.

Constable Edmunds, with a sense of humour, rose suddenly.

“You are the very coves we want,” he said, striding towards them. The next moment they had vanished like a vision into the night, and the sharp sound of dead sticks breaking under their bare feet as they skedaddled down the ridge, was all that proclaimed their whereabouts. The other constables chuckled amusedly, and Norman with a loud, cheerful laugh, said, “By cripes, you been frightenit dem coves that time.”

Edmunds, lifting an empty bucket that stood near the fire, said: “Here! go down the gully and fill this for the night.” The cheerful expression on Norman’s face changed instantly. His white eyes rolled in their sockets like a pair of billiard balls, and with a look of alarm he murmured:

“Oh, I not been go down dere when it dark.”

“What the deuce you frightened of?” the constable growled. “Charley, he go with you.”

It was Charlie’s turn then to feel alarmed. With a sulky look in his eyes, he shook his head firmly in the negative.

The Inspector’s voice rang out: “Go on, you pair of fools, and bring the water; and a darned good job if some devil devil does get hold of you!”

The rest of the force chuckled again.

“Well, we not go without plenty fire stick,” Norman muttered, and the two of them, arming themselves with most of the fire, trudged off reluctantly, swinging the flaring torches round their heads as they went.

An idea struck Constable Edmunds.

“I’ll give them both a devil of a fright,” he said, and, hurrying into the darkness, made a detour, and arrived on the opposite bank of the waterhole before the superstitious ones reached the spot; then, crouching down, waited for them.

They approached the hole cautiously, swinging their fire sticks with increased energy.

“You dippit up water,” Norman whispered timidly to his dusky companion.

“Oh, no, you been do dat,” Charlie answered. “You takit bucket; I been wavit fire stick.”

After some more yabbering in undertones, Norman took the bucket, and, as he stealthily hung down over the bank of the hole, which was a couple of feet high, to fill the vessel, bang! went the constable’s revolver, Norman with a yell and a heavy splash fell into the water: Charlie abandoned the fire stick and ran like an emu for the camp. With a shout he bounded over the fire, and, landing breathless among the members of the force, vociferated excitedly:



“Murderer been camp alonga water and shootit Norman! Lookit out! Lookit out!” (peering wildly into the darkness). “Getit rifle quick; he been come dis way pretty soon!”

The words had hardly left his lips when Norman, breathing like a colt choking, and wet from head to foot, rushed into the light and threw himself into the arms of the Inspector.

“Get out!” Black shouted indignantly, and jumped to his feet to escape a bath. “What the devil have you been doing?”

Norman had only wind enough left to roll his eyes about, and gesticulate, and point in the direction of the waterhole.

The constables rolled over and over on the grass and held their sides, and kicked the earth hard with delight.

After a while Constable Edmunds returned into camp from an opposite quarter.

“Did you bring the water?” he asked in an unconcerned sort of tone of the excited blacks.

The two trackers looked at each other, and Charlie rose and said wildly:

“Norman, he been reachit down” (suiting the action to the word), “and big pfella rifle fire, and him fallit in water.”

“And did you leave the bucket in the hole?” the constable yelled at Norman. Norman, his eyes still bursting from his head, nodded in the affirmative.

“Well, back you go and get it, the two of you,” Edmunds commanded. “No one fired a rifle at you; that’s only a yarn. You were too frightened to go near the hole.”

The thought of having to return to that waterhole was too much for Charlie, and, seizing a long stick, he waved it defiantly at the constable, and yelled, “I been go there no more; you been go your plurry self!”

Then for the first time since tea Burke spoke.

“Good man, Charlie,” he said, turning his head; “ I’m glad to see you’ve got some courage, anyway.”

“Oh, well,” Edmunds chuckled, “I’m not afraid to go,” and went off to fish the bucket out of the hole.

When he had gone, Charlie said apprehensively to the Inspector:

“You waitit a while, Mr. Black: he come back here pretty quick.”

Then the form of the constable, bending to the weight of the water, appeared, and the simple trackers stared at him in amazement.

“You no been see no one?” Charlie asked, wonderingly.

“Oh, yes,” Edmunds growled. “I saw a cove down there—big, wild-looking cove with long whiskers.”

“Yair” (excitedly). “What he been do?”

“Oh, he been runnit like the devil, all the same as you.”

Charlie looked at Norman, and in an analytical sort of way, murmured, “He been habit only one cartridge that cove, Norman, by cripes! I been trackit him, though, alonga daybreak.”

When we had finished smoking and it was time to turn in, we spread our blankets on the ground and lay with our heads in the saddles. Burke was placed in the tent between two constables, his feet chained to the sapling, and one of his wrists handcuffed to the senior-constable’s. Word had been previously passed round to all hands not to sleep too soundly, in case of emergency. The warning, however, was scarcely necessary, for to sleep at all the first night out on the hard, uneven ground, with two blackfellows snoring at your ears like a thousand bears, was a difficult proposition.

The Inspector himself slept least of any; whether the responsibility of the charge weighed too heavily upon his mind or whether he apprehended an effort might be made during the night to rescue the prisoner, I do not know; but the least sound or the slightest movement would bring him to a sitting position with his eye fixed on the slumbering form of Burke and his hand on a revolver. Nothing extraordinary happened, however, and at daybreak the horses were rounded up and breakfast got ready.

“Where the devil is Charlie?” the Inspector asked, missing the tracker. No one seemed to know.

“Fooling round somewhere,” Constable Taay answered, rising and looking round the ridge to locate him.

In a while the missing one appeared. He came over the back of the ridge with a large grin on his face, and approaching Edmunds, who was seated on the grass, lifted his foot and examined his boot.

You been him,” he said. “You been shootit Norman last night; I been trackit you all a down a this way” (pointing over the back of the ridge).

The camp smiled.

“I thoughtit been him,” Norman said in tones of forgiveness. Norman was a transparent sort of liar.

Then the camp laughed at his expense, and gathering the baggage together, prepared to make a fresh start.


Chapter 8
A Tale of a Tub

Before Burke was placed on the horse the Inspector asked him if anything important happened at the Danish woman’s house.

“No,” he answered. “I merely asked her for some tucker, which she gave me, and then I went on.”

The Danish woman was just out of bed when the escort surrounded her door.

“I don’t know noddings,” she answered stiffly, in reply to the Inspector. “I don’t get mixed up in no von’s peesness. You mosht find oud dem dings for youselluf.”

“Did you ever see this man before?” the Inspector asked in a firm voice, pointing to the prisoner, “You had better say so if you did.”

“I saw noddings” (dropping her head sulkily).

The question was repeated.

“Ask himselluf,” the woman replied stubbornly. “He can tole you so well as me.”

“I know all about that, but I want you to tell me. Did you see him before?”

No answer.

“Don’t you remember a man calling here about dinner-time, missus,” Burke chipped in quietly, “and you gave him some dinner: a piece of bread and some stewed rat, I think it was?”

“Vell, I do noddings wrong by dat, and it is not a shame to givf rat ven I am only a poor voman, do you tink?”

“I don’t mean that” ( from the Inspector ), “I’d eat rat myself if I could not get anything else. But you saw this man before—that’s all I want to know?”

“Vell, I did see him, if you vill make me say so; and he asked me vare vas my husban’, and I say he vas inside, ven he vas dead ten, twelf j’ear. But I vas vrightent, for dat man, he haf a bad face.”

Burke smiled. So did we.

“Well, why did you not tell us that before?” the Inspector replied shortly, and we rode on.

We rode on till noon, when the iron-roofed houses of two humble homesteads, standing about two hundred yards from each other, came into view.

“I called at this near house,” Burke began before we approached the place, “about five o’clock the second day I was out. I couldn’t see anyone about for a while, but the front door, which you’ll find is made of split timber, was slightly opened, and I saw a woman having a bath in a tub. I sang out, ‘Is there anyone at home?’ and when she saw me standing outside she rushed out holding her dress round her, and ran over to this house here” (pointing to the other habitation).

The force smiled, and moved toward the place. A tall, old-maidish-looking woman appeared in the door-way, and over her shoulders two young girls peered at us. The woman coloured up and shook her head when questioned by the Inspector, and was sure she had never seen Burke before. In fact, no man of any description had called at her place about the date mentioned. She was positive of that. She would have remembered if there had, because hers being such an out-of-the-way place she had very few callers of any kind.

The Inspector remained silent for a few moments. The situation was a delicate one, and he was considering how to frame his next question, when his eyes wandered unconsciously to Burke’s. Burke immediately jumped into the breach.

“Don’t you recollect a man coming to the door one evening when you were having a bath,” he said, “and when he called out you got a fright and ran over to that house there?”

The old maid scowled and went scarlet.

“Oh, yes, aunt,” one of the girls said. “That was when you ran over to mother’s, and that is the man” (looking at Burke) “who opened our window the same night.”

The old maid silenced the girl with her elbow, but made no remark.

“What did you say?” the Inspector said coaxingly to the girl. “That this man opened your window the same night?”

“She’s talking through her neck,” Burke growled, shifting restlessly in the saddle. And the girl received another dig in the ribs from her aunt.

The Inspector dismounted, and exerted all his powers of persuasion, and applied all the intimidating tactics he could invent, but his efforts to extract any further information were futile.

“Did you put down what the girl said about her aunt running over to the other place?” Burke said to me as we rode along again,

“Yes; and about the window, too,” I answered maliciously.

Burke scowled.

* * * * * * * *

With unerring direction the prisoner conducted the escort to a secluded spot at the bottom of a deep gully where he had camped the same night, and pointed to the ashes of the fire he had kindled.

“If he keeps this up,” the Inspector murmured to me as he turned from the place, “he’s a wonder.”

And a wonder Burke was. Day after day he ran his own tracks through the broad, silent bush; over mountains and through scrub; avoiding stock routes and roads; veering off townships that contained police stations; mistaking no spot that he camped at; passing no place where he had called; forgetting no face he had seen; recalling and verifying every word he had spoken to strangers and every word they had spoken to him; describing their build; detailing their peculiarities in manner, gait, and speech; giving their nationalities, and frequently their relationship one to the other. And all this he gathered during his hurried peregrinations of eight weeks! His bush instincts, his memory and his observation, might well have been the envy of any Australian story-writer.

A fortnight went by—a fortnight of slow, sleepy rides often extending long into the night, often through rain and slush, and in the face of storm and hail—and the escort found itself dragging along about thirty miles to the eastward of the scene of the Trackson murder. The prisoner was trespassing on dangerous ground. Was he going to run his tracks into Trackson and seal his fate, or would he shy off and steer a different course were questions that silently engaged every mind. We were not left long in suspense, however. He turned his back completely on the fated township, and led the cavalcade to the foot of the great mountain range.

“I don’t believe the cunning dog came this way,” the Inspector murmured disappointedly, casting his eye on the form of Burke jogging leisurely along beside the senior-constable, “I’m darned if I do!”

A depression seemed to set in all round, and weighed heavily upon the police; and miles and miles of the way were covered without a word being exchanged between any of them.

Striking a bridle track that wound up the steep sides of the range and led through a historical gap to the broad expanse of tableland beyond, Burke halted and pointed to a bark humpy hidden away in a deep gorge.

“An old man and his three sons live here,” he said, “and when I called about four o’clock on the second day of December, the two big boys were wrestling on the grass, in front of the hut, and the old man was cutting the other one’s hair with a pair of shears. I sat down for a while and watched the boys wrestling. They weren’t much good at it, and I offered to show them some points. One of them had a ‘go’ at me, and I threw him over my head. The old man, thinking there was a row on, rushed out and woodened me behind the ear with a lump of stick while my back was turned. It knocked me silly for a while, but when the boys explained that it was all in fun the old man apologised and made me stay the night with them.”



We found the old man and the three boys sitting down to their evening meal together, and on hearing the tramp of our horses they came to the door.

“Ai,” the parent said, on being interrogated, “that’s quaht correct; and from what Ah’ve heerd o’ him since Ah’m dev’lish sorry Ah didn’t give him a hardey yun in the year.”

“Then he did stay with you that night?” the Inspector said with a smile.

“That he did, and from all Ah hear abaht him it waint no angel we were ’arbouring unawares,” the old man replied.

“Well, I’m pretty sure,” Burke put in, “that you don’t follow the occupation of an angel yourself, or you wouldn’t be hiding yourself away in these ranges.”

“Well, Ah’m certain, m’ shaver, from the looks o’ you, that y’ never followed e’er a occupation at all—not on yer own choosin’. I baint have any doubts tho’ but what you could crahk stones or pick oakum wi’ any yun i’ the land.”

Burke winced, but before he could make a reply he was hustled away.

We went into camp along with two drovers, and shared with them the comforts and discomforts of a deserted hut. The drovers were in charge of a mob of cattle, and it was their third day on the road. They were short-handed, and had taken watch the whole of the first two nights.

A large fire burned, and illuminated the trees around. Two emus approached cautiously, then turned and fled into the gloom.

Tea was over; the camp still and quiet. Showers of sparks wreathed up through the tracery of branches —up, up, and out into the silent void.

The Inspector was kindly disposed.

“You know how to watch cattle?” he said to Charlie.

Charlie did.

“Well, get a horse and watch the mob for Mr. Jones till middle of night; then you turn in.”

Charlie rose reluctantly to secure a horse.

The drover was grateful, but wanted assurance that the darkie wouldn’t go to sleep on watch and lose the cattle.

“Now, don’t you go to sleep,” the Inspector said. “If you do, the devil devil catch you sure as your name is Charlie.”

“Oh, me not been go to sleep,” Charlie answered, “not while him been about.” And mounting the horse, he rode quietly round the resting mob.

“He’ll watch them all right,” the Inspector assured the drovers; “he’ll be too frightened to go to sleep.” And the “camp” turned in for the night.

For a couple of hours Charlie rode round the mob. It was tedious work, and more than once he found himself and horse nodding to sleep. Finally they both went to sleep; and dreamed. Suddenly a startled emu came streaking through the timber, as emus will at night, and collided heavily with the slumbering horse. The old horse bounded out of its dream without giving Charlie any warning. Charlie left the saddle and fell on his head. He yelled and jumped up hurriedly. He didn’t wait to find out things. He ran. He came to earth again in a stump hole, and yelled some more. He ran faster and fell over a fence. Then the door of the hut burst open, and he fell inside on top of the slumbering Inspector. The Inspector bounded up and reached for his revolver.

“What the devil’s the matter?” he said.

“By cripes, him been come, boss!” Charlie gasped, glaring at the door.

“My God! they’re off!” And the drovers bounded from their blankets.

Then a thousand devils seemed to be thundering and crashing through timber. The hoof beats of galloping horses rang on the night, and cries of “Werp! Werp! Woa, there! Woa!” grew fainter and fainter till they died away.


Chapter 9
Divers Diversions

Next morning the cavalcade in single file climbed the mountain sides, and reached the great plateau.

Descending from the plateau we struck the head of one of the largest of Australian rivers. A magnificent waterhole and abundance of grass were there, and the Inspector decided to camp for a couple of days to spell the horses. It was a weary, monotonous time. With little to converse about and nothing whatever to read, those two days dragged tediously by. A big scrub was there, however, and the rifles supplied us with turkeys and pigeons without number, and we fed in style equal to Paris House.

On the afternoon of the second day the prisoner expressed a wish to indulge in a swim. He said he wanted “a good wash badly.” We believed him. We knew he did. We had to sleep near him; and his wardrobe was not an extensive one. The shirt and trousers he was wearing were those he had worn during the eight weeks he was out. He had no others with him, and he never borrowed ours.

“Let him have a dip,” the Inspector said to the senior-constable, “but leave the leg-irons on one of his ankles.” Then, while Burke was undressing, he whispered in an undertone to Constable Taay to “slip round to the other side of the hole, in case he might try something on.”

Taay, taking up the rifle and pretending to be looking for game, sauntered round and took up a position on the other bank.

Burke, with the leg-irons jingling like hobble chains as he faced the water, plunged head first into the hole and dived. All eyes were immediately fixed on the surface to locate the spot where he would likely appear again. He didn’t appear. The circles he left behind on the face of the water grew larger and larger. The Inspector became concerned. “Look out for him!” he cried, standing up revolver in hand. “Get to the bottom end, some of you, quick!” The next moment all hands were gathered round that hole watching every motion of the water, and listening intently for the faintest sound. None came.

Ten, fifteen minutes went past; yet not a sign of the prisoner! The Inspector became frantic. He called loudly to him by name—called a dozen times.

Still no response.

“He has either come up close to the bank with his head behind them reeds there,” the senior said, “or the leg-irons have him caught in a bramble at the bottom of the hole, and he’s done for.”

“But surely there’d be bubbles come on the water if he was caught at the bottom,” the Inspector said despairingly; then tore at his hair and called for the prisoner again.

“By —!” he cried desperately at last, “if he’s behind those reeds and won’t come out, I’ll riddle him with bullets!”

Burke was behind the reeds; but only his nose was above water, and as the Inspector raised the revolver to fire in his direction he disappeared like a turtle; and when the shooting was over rose noiselessly again to the surface.

An hour—two hours passed; still no trace of the prisoner.

“He’s stuck by the leg-iron, all right,” the senior repeated in hopeless tones; and the Inspector murmured, “There’ll be a hell of a row,” and ran wildly about the banks peering over the edges of them.

At last an idea suddenly struck him, and he cried, “Can any of you dive?”

“Charlie, he been a great diver.” Norman said proudly.

The Inspector turned hopefully to Charlie. Charlie demurred. The darkie had no wish to emulate the bad example of Burke.

“Not in dare,” he said stubbornly. “I been get stuck, too. By cripes!”

The next moment Constable Taay had stripped off, and, facing the spot where Burke disappeared, took a header. The rest of the force waited breathlessly.

“By cripes, boss,” Charlie said with enthusiasm, “if him been get stuck, too, I ridit in his saddle.”

The Inspector scowled at Charlie and fixed his eyes on the water again.

In a few seconds Constable Taay, spouting water with the noise of a whale, came to the surface.

“I felt the head of a tree or something,” he gasped, “but nothing else.”

“He’s under it all right,” the senior murmured again, “and out of it he’ll never come.”

After a few minutes’ rest Constable Taay dived a second time. As he disappeared again, Burke left his hiding place and swam under water towards him.

Taay in groping about embraced the form of the latter; and seizing him by the hair rose triumphantly with him. Burke came to the surface as limp and lifeless as a dead man.

“I’ve got him!” Taay cried. “He was under a log,” and swam to the bank with the corpse.

“Dead, by G—!” the Inspector muttered, as the body was dragged out and stretched on the grass.

“Wait a bit—wait a bit!” the senior cried excitedly.” Turn him over; put his head down hill and let the water run out of him, and rub him—rub him, every one of ye.”

All of us set to work, and rubbed and scrubbed and patted and spanked the body of Burke. Then we held him up by the heels, but no water ran out of him.

“By gobs!” the senior exclaimed, making a discovery, “I believe he’s breathing.”

Burke was breathing, but only slightly.

“Run to my valise.” the Inspector said, “and bring a flask of brandy that’s there.”

Norman ran and brought the brandy flask, and the neck of it was inserted in the drowned man’s mouth. He began to drink feebly.

“By heavens, he’s coming round” the Inspector cried, putting the neck of the flask into Burkes mouth again. Burke closed his teeth upon it and drank greedily.

He drank it all before relaxing his grip.

“By cripes!” Charlie moaned as the brandy disappeared, “I don’t think he been drowned very much, somehow.”

Burke groaned, and opening his eyes murmured, “Wheresh [hic] are we?”

“How do you feel?” the Inspector asked sympathetically.

Burke lifted his voice and in a cracked, drunken key began to sing; “We wonsh go home [hic] till mornin’; w’e won’sh go home [hic] till mornin’.”

A cheerful chuckle came from the force, and Charlie said:

“Brandy putit life into him. By cripes!”

Burke suddenly staggered to his feet, and yelling, “You were too d— frightened to go in after me, anyway, you black scrubber!” and aimed several kicks with his bare foot at Charlie.



The Inspector stared, and said to Taay, “Was he under the log?”

Then, swinging his arms about like flails, Burke cried, “Come on! I’ll (hic) fight the wholsh dam lot yoush!”

They came on, and three heavy policemen fell on him, and bore him to the ground again. Then they handcuffed him and secured him in the tent, where he struggled and howled like a wild animal till long into the night.


Chapter 10
A Forlorn Hope

At daybreak the escort, with feelings of thankfulness, left camp, and for several miles ran the river down in a southerly direction. Steering a westerly course, we travelled inland, and, crossing the border again, were once more moving along the heights of the plateau.

Our faces were now turned in the direction of the scene of the murder, and fresh hopes filled the hearts of the police. A tramp of four days and a drop over the ranges by a well-known mountain pass would land a footman in Trackson. The Inspector mentally calculated distances, and with feelings mingled with joy and anxiety reckoned up the dates supplied by the prisoner. The prisoner himself seemed the least concerned of the party.

Two more days passed. Then the rolling plains, fringed with ridge and timber-land, dotted here and there with farm-houses and miscellaneous habitations, spread themselves out before us.

“Rather a good class of people live here,” Burke said as we came to a gate leading to a comfortable-looking homestead; “and when I struck it about sundown on the ninth of December all the men were at the killing-yard killing a bullock. There were two very good-looking girls sitting sewing on the verandah. One of them had very dark hair, and the other was fair. The fair one’s name was Stella. I asked them over the fence for something to eat. They gave me a loaf of bread, a bit o’ tea, about half a pound of butter, and a big slice of cheese.”

The escort then advanced to the house, and found the two pretty girls still sitting on the verandah. With looks of surprise and confusion they tripped down the steps and came to the garden fence. When questioned by the Inspector they looked hard at each other, and thought hard. The dark one shook her head dubiously, but the fair one suddenly remembered that a traveller had called about the date mentioned, and that she and her sister had given him something to eat. She remembered it because they happened to have more bread in the house that day than they knew what to do with, and were glad to give it to someone rather than waste it.

“Don’t you recollect,” she added, turning to her sister, “that pa was in a great scot, and said we were only encouraging ‘sundowners’ to make the house a place of call?”

Then the other remembered also.

“Is your name Stella?” the Inspector asked, addressing the fair one.

She stared in surprise, then laughed and said: “It is; but I’m sure I don’t know how you know.”

“Would you know the man again if you saw him?” the Inspector further interrogated

The fair girl seemed doubtful but her sister was sure she would.

“Do you see him here, then?” was the next question.

The dark girl ran her eye over the line of dusty faces fronting her across the fence. She ran her eye over us several times.

At last she made up her mind.

“That’s the man,” she said, pointing to me.

A broad official grin stole over the features of the police, and the two trackers broke into a variety of giggles, and made jokes in their own language at my expense.

“Are you quite sure? “ I asked, straightening myself up, and endeavouring to look attractive and innocent. It was a difficult proposition.

She hesitated a moment.

“N-n-no, “ she said, “not when you speak.” And then she smiled and showed an enviable set of teeth and how nice she was. I longed to pull the palings down and hug her.

“Would you think I was the man?” Burke broke out in his harsh, grating voice.

“Oh! that’s the man!” both girls exclaimed. “And you were carrying a small calico swag, and wearing the same hat you have on now,” one of them added. Then turning apologetically to me, the brunette said with a smile, “But you’re awfully alike, you know.”

The desire to pull the palings out and hug her melted suddenly from me. She didn’t strike me as being a nice girl.

* * * * * * * *

Like explorers of the past, the escort slowly crossed the plains. The homes of a dozen selectors were visited; the rich pastoral lands of various stations, where the great sheep-walks mocked the small and struggling landholders, were traversed; another of the prisoner’s camping-places identified; another night under the trees by the bank of a creek; and then the day of all days—the day that would either set the prisoner free or see him hanged by the neck in the city gaol—was entered upon.

Burke had now accounted for his every movement, and proved his whereabouts right up to the morning of the tragedy; and not more than thirty miles of country lay between the escort and Traekson. Could the prisoner have made a quick day’s march, taking a direct course through the mountain ranges, and reached Trackson in time to intercept the Maguires when returning from the ball they had never attended? The police scarcely dare ask themselves that question; but silently and with a look of anxious expectation they moved from camp, watching their prisoner closely as they rode along. When some three miles had been covered, Burke directed the way to a clump of grasstrees.

“I reached those trees about ten o’clock, and camped under them till one or two, then went on to a township about four miles from here.”

“You camped under them till one!” the Inspector murmured incredulously. And: “I don’t believe it!” in an undertone from one of the constables,

“All right!” the Inspector sighed, touching his horse with the riding whip. “We’ll soon see all about it, I suppose.”

Those grass-trees were a wet blanket on the hopes and prospects of the police.

Presently the township came into view. So did a crowd of excited-looking people—a galaxy of men, women, and youths, some mounted on horseback, some driving in sulkies and traps. News of the escort’s advance was brought in the evening before, and the inhabitants, anxious to see the notorious suspect, turned out to meet us. They lined up on both sides of the black-soil lane, and, like a guard of honour, awaited us. As we drew near we felt like conquering heroes. The prisoner felt like a wild animal being exhibited. He disliked admiration. He was displeased. He began to show his displeasure. At range of a hundred yards he opened a slow preliminary fire of profanity on them. We smiled. We knew what was coming, and what a shock the crowd would get. At seventy yards Burke’s voice rose to a shout, and he became violently profane. Several females left the ranks and drove away. At fifty yards the prisoner went off like a cannon, and belched forth such a volume of blasphemy that the two lines broke into disorder and fled down the road to the township. But a square shouldered man with a slouch hat shading his eyes, a pointed, faded beard of no particular variety or consequence, sleeves rolled up, grease on his shirt, and blood splashes on his trouser legs, remained sitting calmly on a yellow, shoulder-marked mare with a thick, heavy tail and a strawberry neck. He was the butcher. Burke gasped for breath, then attacked him. He called him a variety of blood and birth stains; threw doubts on his pedigree and his nationality; questioned his sex, and threatened when he was free to return and murder him in his sleep. Then, in spite of the senior-constable, he spurred the chestnut round in a half-circle and tried to ride the butcher down.

“You’re a queer card,” the vendor of tuberculosis said, and, putting spurs to the yellow mare with the strawberry neck, raced in pursuit of the main body.

“The — dog!” Burke murmured. “I’ll look him up when I come out!”

Before entering the township the escort left the main road and turned down a lane leading to a primitive dairy farm.

“The man who lives here,” Burke said, “is an Irishman, and his name’s Malone. He has only owned the farm about two years, and he bought it from a chap called Regan. I got some bread and tea from him about six o’clock in the evening and made a fire and camped just in front of the house. That was the night you fellows reckon I was in Trackson murdering the Maguires.”

The Inspector bit his lip and rode on in silence.

Malone was at dinner, and, with excitement in his eye, and twirling a fork in his fingers with a lump of fresh meat impaled on the prongs of it, came out to meet us.

“I do thin remimber him,” he snapped with emphasis; “remimber him damn well. And what’s more, ye’re barkin’ up the wrong tree—ye haven’t the right mahn.”

“I don’t want your opinion on that.” the Inspector snarled. “Is he the man who called here on the evening of the twenty-sixth December, and can you swear to him? That’s all I want to know from you.”

“Of courrse Oi can swear to him; and Oi cud swear at him. And Oi cud swear he was just across the road under that tree the very next morning. And Oi cud swear if it wasn’t him it was someone else who got awaay with me Christmas ham from out me kitchen that same night.”

“And you’re certain it was the twenty-sixth December?” the Inspector asked as a last hope.

“Just as certain as I am that ye are all wastin’ ye’re toime draggin’ him round the country, and lettin’ them who did the murther get awaay.”

“I only want you to answer my question,” came angrily from the Inspector,

“I huv answered ye’re question,” Malone replied, still twirling the steak about. “Oi huv more than answered it. And sure there’s the Dalys and the O’Briens, and ahl thim, who cud answer it too; fer ahl ov thim recognised him as the mahn who wer’ here whin they see his picter in the paipers.”

“Is your name Malone?”

“It is—Martin Thomas Patrick Malone! And I’m not ashamed of it, neither.”

“Did you buy this place from a man called Regan?”

“I did—from Terence Regan, senior.”

The Inspector mounted his horse again.

“I’m obliged to you,” Burke said to Malone, as we turned away.

“Thin yez needn’t be,” answered Malone; “fer I’d give yez ten year if Oi were a judge.”

* * * * * * * *

The same evening the police lay in camp resting and reflecting on the dismal results of their investigations, and their hopeless chances of reward. A messenger arrived on horseback, and handed the Inspector a note from the stationmaster of the township. The Inspector read it and brightened up.

“The stationmaster’s office was broken into here last night,” he said, looking at his subordinates, “and the iron safe, with a lot of cash in it, taken into a gully and burst open.”

The rest of the Force cheered up. They thought they saw a silver lining to the official cloud. Their minds travelled again to the Trackson tragedy, and a fresh clue loomed large in their imaginations.

The Inspector ordered his horse to be saddled at once; then, accompanied by Charlie, the tracker, and Constable Taay, rode speedily to the railway station.

The exact spot in the gully where the safe had been taken was pointed out by the officials. The Inspector noted the place carefully. Then the work of the tracker commenced. The darkie had no difficulty in picking up the tracks of the robber. They were as clear as day to him.

“I follow dem galloping,” he said boastfully.

“Never mind,” the Inspector answered. “We’ll run them on foot.”

The tracks led off through the grass that covered a long, sloping ridge in a station paddock. For about a hundred yards Charlie bustled eagerly along, keeping a straight line. Suddenly he stopped.

“He been crouch down here a little while,” he said, “all alonga himself, and look round to see if anyone follow.”

On again he went.

“Now he been run; and run it all a time with one cove leg. Him have it tshort foot.”

And the black trotted along, all the while working round the grass paddock in a half-circle,

“He been sit it on his knee alonga here,” and Charlie paused again. “Then him been turn round, and run it this way.”

Charlie followed “that way,” and the tracks led him right to the front door of the local Justice of the Peace. The Inspector stared in at the doorway, and commenced to think hard. While he was thinking, and the tracker “jabbering,” the J.P., with his boots off, came to the verandah and stared also.

The Inspector explained.

“Oh, yes,” the Justice said with a grin. “I was down having a look at that safe this morning, with the stationmaster, and afterwards went round the paddock to see if I could shoot a hare.”

“Well, I’m d—d!” the Inspector murmured.

“That pfellow I been trackit alonga here have it tshort foot,” Charlie said.

“So have I,” the J.P. answered cheerfully. “I’ve no toes on that foot—they were shot off,” and he elevated the wounded member for inspection.

Charlie was silenced.

At the Justice’s invitation the Inspector stepped inside and took a whisky, then returned to the camp.

* * * * * * * *

The commission was over. The farce had finished. There was nothing more to do, and on the following evening, weary and worn out, we arrived at Trackson, where the Chief Inspector, sitting like a huge chrysalis amidst piles of documentary evidence, and waste paper, awaited our verdict.

“No possible!” Inspector Black said gloomily, throwing himself into a chair. “He wasn’t within thirty miles of this place that night, and could have had no more hand in it than I had, as you’ll see by the evidence.”

“I don’t care a d— what the evidence is!” the Chief replied. “I still stick to my conclusion—that Burke was the man.”

* * * * * * * *

A few weeks after, Burke was released. He came to my office in the city and said he was grateful to me for having made a truthful report.

“What is your private opinion about the murder, anyway, Burke?” I asked as he rose to go.

“I have no opinion about it,” he said; “no more than the police have.”


On the Condamine

Chapter 1
Down on Their Luck

Ferguson was an artist, and occupied an office in an old tumble-down rookery of a town hall, where some barristers, money-lenders, and a female barber or two kept company with multitudes of moths and bats; and where an army of noisy aldermen met to discuss loans and plague and fought over the right and wrong way of keeping the rate-payers poor and the city dirty and behind the times, and always adopted the right way. Ferguson spent a lot of time drawing pictures of people, and cartoons of politicians, and scraps of landscape and pieces of the river, and packing them up to send away to the newspapers. He spent a good deal of time, too, unpacking them when they came back, and swearing over editors for not having brains enough to appreciate good work.



Merton was not so fortunate as Ferguson. Merton had no office. Merton was a writer. Writers rarely have offices. He used a corner of Ferguson’s. Merton had plenty to do, though; he was always writing. When he wasn’t writing paragraphs or articles against the Government, he was turning out short stories or long poems. And he regularly threw them all into the office of the “Miser,” “Daily Dividend,” “Morning Mopoke,” “Weekly Wage,” and other wealthy publications, and, like well-directed boomerangs, they came right back to him.

A team of visiting footballers were being welcomed to the capital by the mayor and leading citizens, and people were hurrying up the stairs of the town hall. A meek bailiff entered the building and went into Ferguson’s office and sat down. He was a shabby, homely sort of man, and told Ferguson that if he was his only brother he couldn’t feel sorrier for him.

“Oh, that’s all right,” Ferguson said, just as if it didn’t matter. Then he and Merton went out and silently tramped about the streets. They trudged the town for hours, just as they had done for weeks and months past, in a hopeless search for work.

“There’s little chance of anything,” Merton said, as they emerged from one of the Government Departments.

“None,” Ferguson replied sadly, “none.”

And none was there. Brisbane was in a bad way. The country was in the throes of a long, ruinous drought. Capitalists had taken alarm; no public works were being carried on; no money was in circulation; no business of any kind was being done. All was stagnation, and, to make matters worse, there had been a change of Government.

Lunch hour. Ferguson and Merton wended their way up Edward street to their boarding house on the Terrace. Other people going to lunch, bank clerks, civil servants, and shop hands rushed along as though every moment meant a million of money to them. But Ferguson and Merton sauntered along with their heads down and their eyes on the ground. Time was nothing to them.

At the boarding house they washed their hands and gave their hair a brush, and as they entered the dining room to take their seats at the table, a nasty look was lurking in the eye of the landlady.

“Any luck?” an elderly boarder seated opposite asked kindly.

Ferguson and Merton shook their heads gravely.

“H’m,” the other said, and dipped into his soup.

There were eight or ten boarders gathered at the table, some of whom were new arrivals, and to these and the good payers the landlady was especially attentive and polite.

“What’l you take, Mr. Ward?… Mr. Jones, will you try some steak hand honions?… Hand you, Mr. Brown? … shall Hi ’elp you to some tomatoes has well, Mr. Smith? … Mary, get Mr. ’Artley a spoon.” But she didn’t say anything to Ferguson and Merton. Somehow she seemed to forget they were present. She served everyone else, then joined in an argument with Brown and Smith about the wisdom of girls looking out for rich husbands.

Ferguson and Merton fumbled their knives and forks about with the tips of their fingers, and tried to look pleasant. Once or twice they glanced timidly at the landlady, but she didn’t catch their eye. The elderly boarder opposite seemed to take in the situation. He looked up at the landlady, but she didn’t catch his eye either.

Merton made some clumsy efforts to appear cheerful. In a low, uncertain voice he tried to start a conversation with his companion about the weather. But Ferguson wasn’t in a talkative mood. He gazed along the polished blade of a table knife, and muttered “H’m.” He muttered “H’m” several times, and Merton gave up the idea.

The elderly boarder opposite frowned, and looked up at the landlady again; but she was addressing some remarks to Ward about the new post office clock which had stopped.

Mary, the servant girl, entered, and ran her eye over the table. Mary was an intelligent girl. In that respect she was different to other girls. She took in the situation, and moved slowly up to her mistress and spoke quietly to her.

“Hoh!” the landlady said, looking at Ferguson and Merton, “what will yous have?”

Merton said he would try a little steak and onions, and Ferguson, with whom steak and onions didn’t agree, was helped from the same dish, but Ferguson didn’t protest. He gratefully murmured, “Thank you.”

Then they both brightened up, and Merton rattled the cruet about, and passed the mustard and pepper to Ferguson, and helped him to some sugar for his tea; then entered into an argument with the elderly one opposite on the subject of deporting Kanakas from the State. A good meal made a difference to Merton.

“No,” the elderly boarder said, rising from the table, “there’s nothing of the Christian in sending the poor devils back to the Islands.”

“Well,” Merton called out after him, “we can’t have Queensland overrun with walk-about Kanakas.”

“Huh!” the landlady sneered, proceeding to gather some of the dishes together. “Hit might has well have Kanakas walkin ’habout it has hother people, hif you hask me.”

Merton went crimson; so did Ferguson.

“Another cup of tea, Mr. Ferguson?” Mary asked.

Ferguson wouldn’t; Ferguson couldn’t. But Merton, after hesitating and glancing out of the comer of his eyes at the landlady, risked another one. Merton was always taking chances.

With the exception of Brown, who had no teeth and found it hard to chew his meat, the rest of the boarders finished and hurried away. Ferguson and Merton kept their eyes on Brown. They took their time from Brown. When he rose they finished abruptly and rose, too. Ferguson and Merton didn’t regard it prudent to be left alone with the landlady.

They climbed the staircase and went into their room again, where they sat on the beds and grinned grimly at each other.

“Strong, isn’t she?” Merton said, thinking of the landlady.

Ferguson paced the room in silence.

“Ah, well!” he sighed, putting on his hat, “we can only go out and try again.”

And they crept down the stairs without making any noise.

“Hoh, Mr. Ferguson hand Mr. Merton!” the landlady, hurrying from the kitchen, called to them, as they were half-way out the door. They paused and turned round with a heavy sinking feeling at their hearts.

“What habout the money you wuz to let me ’ave larst night?” she asked, with an ugly screw in her mouth, looking from one to the other.

Ferguson lowered his head.

“Well, we’re very sorry, Mrs. Braddon,” Merton began, acting as spokesman; “we’ve not been able to get anything yet, though we’re trying all we can; but as soon—”

“Hoh!” the landlady said, “that wuz halways your yarn. Hi’m sick hon it.”

“Well, we feel it very much, Mrs.—”

“Hi don’t care; Hi want to be paid. Hit’s ten weeks since Hi seen a sign o’ hanything from heither o’ you, hand both hon you hever since you bin with me ’as been going to get a job.”

“Well, you know, Mrs. Braddon,” Merton pleaded, “what terrible bad times these —”

“Hi don’t care!” the landlady screeched; “hit’s nothing to do with me. Hare you going to pay what you howe, or hare you not?”

“How can we?” Ferguson put in pleadingly. “You can’t draw blood out of a stone, Mrs. Braddon.”

“Hoh, that’s hit! Then y’ don’t come hin ’ere hany more. Keepin’ hout gentlemen who’s willin’ ter pay fer th’ room hin advance!”

And, slamming the door leading to the foot of the staircase, she turned the key and looked defiantly into their dejected faces.

“It isn’t that we wouldn’t pay if we could, Mrs. Braddon,” Ferguson said with emotion, “but you will be paid, every penny. And I’m grateful to you for all you’ve done, and—”

“Hoh, hit’s very easy ter be perlite to a poor woman when you’re runnin’ hoff without payin’ for hall you’ve heat hon ’er. But yer can go; yer hain’t men, neither hon yer.”

That’s how Ferguson and Merton came to be cutting prickly pear on the banks of the Condamine for the Queensland Government.

Chapter 2
Prickly Pear

Midwinter. A bitter cold day. A westerly wind sweeping the frost-bitten plains of Southern Queensland, driving great balls of roly-poly grass before it, rolling it into creeks, filling every gully and opening in the ground with it, banking it up in great brown walls, miles in length, against the fences and railway line.

On the edge of the sparse and stunted timber nestled a miniature township of weird, weather-worn calico tents; down on the plain a hundred men engaged clearing prickly pear—belting and bruising the pest with long-handled hoes, and gathering it into heaps with forks. They might just as well have been bailing water out of the bay with billy-cans, for all the good they were doing. The terrible cactus had well-nigh taken possession of the land. In less than fifty years it had spread over thousands of miles of country, covering meadow and mountain, growing luxuriantly out of wood and brigalow, choking the few water-holes that remained, blocking every roadway, obliterating the land marks of the men who “blazed the track” and camping grounds of the first inhabitants, and holding in its grip tracts upon tracts of pasture land which once might easily have been saved and preserved for occupation by millions of prosperous people.

The hundred men were from the city—they were a portion of the unemployed—and a sad and sorry galaxy they were. Men of all classes and callings comprised their number; men retrenched from the ranks of the Civil Service to save the country from bleeding; men who had lost fortunes in the terrible drought; men who never had any fortunes to lose; and men whose fortunes, like their future, were all before them. Ferguson and Merton were among the latter.

Ah, but it was hard on those city men, slaving amongst that wretched pear! Hack! Hack! Slog! Slog! the whole day long. Slashing at the masses of thick leaves, tramping among the thorns, poking and delving round the great bunches of crimson-fruited rubbish to get at its roots. And such roots! Like a network of scrub vines they lay concealed under ground and running in every direction for forty yards and more. And tracing the tangled meshes and tearing them from the soil was the devil itself. Whenever the men’s hands or their trouser legs or shirt sleeves came in contact with the accursed stuff, clusters of prickles clung tenaciously and worked their way through the clothing into the flesh, and sores and festers and general misery resulted. To touch the pest with bare hands was out of the question. It was alive with prickles. The men’s very boots and leggings—when they had any of the latter—became smothered with and were penetrated by the prickles. And even the hoe handles from one end to the other were coated with the jags till the hardest and horniest hand there could hardly hold the implement. Ah, there was no joy working amongst that pear! It was not a privilege for an Australian to be proud of. There was neither sport nor poetry in it. It was fearful, heartbreaking employment; a painful and useless occupation, but it gave the Government an excuse to pay wages to the unfortunate men.

The pear, too, was the home of all the vermin on earth. At the sound of the hoes, numerous rats and bandicoots and hares would dart into the open and scamper for dear life. And at regular intervals great lurking reptiles would cause commotion among the men and fill their souls with fear and apprehension.

Cutting that pear made a great change in Ferguson and Merton. In slouch hats and torn shirts and soiled moleskin trousers, no one from the city would ever have recognised them.

“How are y’ hands, Freddy?” Merton sometimes would ask, leaning on his hoe and looking at his friend.



And Ferguson would pause and hold up both palms, displaying blisters that looked like poached eggs. Then he’d glance furtively back over the half mile or so of “cleared” land, dotted with numerous peaks of the gathered pear standing out like small lucerne stacks, and at the vast expanse of horror stretching before them; and, lifting the hoe, would go on again. Of whatever “light” or “shade” or “perspective” there might have been in the picture presented about him, Ferguson never spoke. Ferguson never discoursed on art at all now; not even for sunsets—and the sun went down every evening on the pear—had he any admiration. But Merton was different to Ferguson. Merton had more to say now than he had when he was in the city, and he had been a prominent member of a debating class there. He spoke in plainer terms, too, and with more force, and his vocabulary seemed to be greatly enlarged.

“It’s a cruel — thing, this,” he would say, glaring at the pear, when the overseer wasn’t present. “A cursed — of a game, Freddy! — it! I wouldn’t ask a mangy Chow or a — nigger to tackle it!”

Ferguson, though, would never encourage Merton to blaspheme or rebel against his fate.

“Never mind, Magnus, old chap,” he would answer consolingly; “try and put up with it a while.”

Ferguson was a good young man, with a heart full of hope and a lot of faith in Providence.

Sometimes a casual selector would happen along, and, sitting carelessly on his hairy cart-horse, would shake his head like an unbeliever and grin weirdly at the men “exterminating” the pear.

Old Kiley rode up one day and inspected the “cleared” patch, where young pear was growing again like a field of transplanted cabbage; then approached the nearest gang of men.

“It’s fine fun yer havin’ here,” he said flippantly.

“It’s — fine fun,” Merton answered, looking up savagely.

The other men chuckled in a grim, sore sort of way.

“When d’ yiz expec’ to complate th’ job?” Kiley asked satirically, gazing across the expanse of thriving rubbish that lay hundreds of miles ahead.

“Maybe in a fortnight,” Merton replied ironically, “maybe in a ——.”

“Well, yiz had betther hurry up,” Kiley broke out cheerfully; “fur ’tis comin’ up like th’ divvle beyant there, an’ if it overtakes y’ yiz’ll niwer git out iv it.” And the old selector rode away.

And when the men knocked off at night and went to their tents for supper, there was no conviviality or rejoicing of any kind amongst them. There was no music—no merriment around their camp-fire. It was then that the poison began to find them out and to work in. And until it was time to “turn in,” the men mostly sat swearing and searching every stitch of clothing they had for prickles, and picking them out; and in turn they extracted them with tweezers from the arms and necks and backs of each other. But that wasn’t the worst; for, exercise what care they would, the wretched prickles found their way into every blanket in the tent, and robbed the men of their sleep. And more groans and profanity were heard through the hours of the night than sounds of peaceful slumber.

“Ah, it was purgatory those days, Freddy,” Merton often says now, when he thinks of the prickly pear.


Chapter 3
In the Seat of the Mighty

A cold, cloudy morning on the Condamine. There was no intermingling of “light” and “shade” on the landscape; no agreeable odours in the air; no buds; no animals about; nothing to soothe the ear, nothing to gratify the sight. The surroundings were hopeless, vile, sorrowful—the land was an endless, unconquerable mass of accursed prickly pear, through which the waterless river lay gaping like a crack in a brick wall.

The overseer, the day before, had taken Merton to task for blaspheming the pear and “talking in the ranks.”

“I wouldn’t take any notice of him, Magnus,” Ferguson said, referring to the incident, as they left the tents together with their hoes on their shoulders to begin again on the wretched pear.



“It’s all very fine, Freddy,” Merton answered, “but how can a fellow help himself? He’s always cocking his slant eye round to see what I’m up to, and nagging about something or other. Damn him, I do as much work for my seven shillings a day as anyone in camp, and a good deal more than some of them.”

“Still, I’d simply do it, and wouldn’t argue with any of them,” Ferguson replied kindly.

“I’d go balmy, Freddy,” Merton said. “You might just as well put me in St. Helena straight away.”

The men took their places; the hoes moved again; and scraps of leaf and pulp, and sprays of juice from the bruised pear, began to fly about in showers.

The overseer strolled here and there with watchful eyes, and for an hour nothing but the chop, chop, of the hoes, and a smothered oath from the men when the prickles pierced their skin, was to be heard.

Now and again Merton would glance round and catch the eye of the overseer turned in his direction.

“Look at him! His lamps are on me again!” he would mutter to Ferguson; but Ferguson would treat the matter lightly.

“He’s got to look somewhere, Magnus,” he would say, “and his eye is on the rest of us as often as it’s on you.”

“I’d like to hit him in it with this!” Merton growled viciously, uprooting a bunch of pear weighing about one hundredweight.

Ferguson smiled, and for a long while the work went on smoothly.

Merton began to get fidgety and irritable. Merton was never happy when he wasn’t talking or arguing with somebody.

Suddenly a mangy-looking kangaroo-rat, with most of the hair missing from its back, sprang out of the pear right in the teeth of a useless old dog that had been discarded by some of the selectors on the River, and had taken up its quarters with the pearcutters.

“Woh-h! Shoo-h!” Merton shouted, pointing his hoe at the marsupial. “A piebald!”

All the men looked round. The overseer, standing fifty yards off, turned and moved towards Merton.

The old dog, acting on the impulse of the moment, started up, and, on three legs, feebly pursued the vermin, yelping hard and hopefully in its tracks.

“Go it, you cripple!” Merton yelled satirically to the humorous mongrel.

The other men laughed.

“Didn’t I tell you Rover had some foot, Dinny?” Merton called to a sympathetic old Irishman with whom the dog had made friends.

“You did then, be gob!” Dinny answered, following the canine’s lame efforts, with admiration in his eye.

The overseer approached, and Ferguson, in an undertone, counselled Merton to get on with his work.

Merton lifted his hoe and made several savage slashes at the pear. Merton was a determined worker when the fit came on him. It took a good while for the fit to come on him, though; and it always went off quickly.

“Merton!” the overseer said sharply.

Merton looked round.

“I’ve spoken to you two or—

The piebald rat, pursued closely by a reinforcement of noisy canines that had mysteriously risen from some place or other, was racing back to the pear.

“Hoh-h! Look out for the piebald!” Merton yelled excitedly, ignoring the overseer, and charging forward.

Every man in the pear “looked out.” Being mostly British, a chase stirred their dull blood, and a desire to be in at the death took possession of them.

“Yooh-h!” they shouted, and brought their hoes and pitchforks to the “present.”

The rat was making a straight line for Dinny.

Dinny lost control of himself. He jumped forward, and heaved his hoe at it. The vermin veered off and headed for the overseer. More hoes flew after it, and the dog pressing hardest suddenly stopped and howled and dropped out of the hunt, lame.

“Men!” the overseer called angrily. He didn’t approve of their turn for sport. He didn’t attempt to kick the vermin when it was right at his feet, either.

“Look out!” Merton shouted warningly, and swung his hoe at the rat, and hit the overseer on the shins with the handle.

“Oo-h-h! Damn it!” the overseer said, suddenly flopping into a sitting position on the ground. He suddenly rose again, and bounded about, clutching at the slack of his pants, as though the pain from his shins had suddenly shifted there.

“Aisy, sir, aisy!” Dinny said, coming to the overseer’s rescue. “’Tis the divvle’s own piece of pear yiz have picked up!” And Dinny proceeded cautiously to remove a broad prickly leaf from behind the overseer.

The overseer trembled and twitched and flinched and whined: “E-ee!” And when Dinny cautiously fingered the leaf he yelled:

“Don’t! Don’t weigh down on it!… Ee-e! … Pull straight, man!”

“By damn, sir!” Dinny exclaimed, when the leaf refused to come away at the first pull, “but it have a dog’s grip iv you!”



A half-dozen other men gathered round to lend a hand, each of them suggesting a different method of operation.

“Let one do it! “ the overseer cried, and twitched some more, and whined again.

“Come out of the way,” Dinny said, and brushed the others aside.

With both hands inside his slouch hat he seized the prickly leaf firmly, and wrenched it away.

The overseer jumped in the air like a kangaroo shot in the tail, and made ugly faces, and placed his hand on the part to make sure the operation had been performed.

“’Tis off! ’tis off!” Dinny said with cheerful assurance. “’Tis there, see!” and he pointed to the leaf now on the ground.

Then the pain in the wounded shins re-asserted itself, and the overseer swore and limped about, and sat carefully down where there was no pear, and nursed his limbs and groaned.

“What th’ diwle did become iv th’ varmint?” Dinny asked, thinking of the piebald rat.

The others started discussing him.

“Get on with, th’ work … th’ whole damned lot of you!” the overseer broke out, recovering himself a little.

The men separated, and searched for their hoes, and disputed the ownership of them, and after swapping and changing about, commenced again.

The overseer crawled to his feet, and limped towards Merton. Merton was stabbing a pitch-fork into loose leaves lying about the ground, and throwing them on a heap.

“You’re to blame for all this,” the overseer began bitterly.

Merton leaned on the fork, and looked at the overseer with a clear, humorous eye.

The other men stopped working and stared.

“I’m not talking to any of you,” the overseer said, snapping his hand at them. They took the hint and began working again.

“It’s not the first time nor the fifth I have had to speak to you, Merton.”

Merton gazed thoughtfully at a bunch of pear that Ferguson was slashing at.

“An’ if there’s any more—”

A large black snake glided silently from under Ferguson’s hoe.

“Loo’ out, Freddy!” Merton shouted; “near your feet!”

Ferguson sprang back—so did the overseer. And all the men stopped again and stared. Some of them laughed. They all thought there was another rat.

Ferguson aimed blows at the reptile with his hoe, and made holes in the earth.

“Hit him!” the overseer shouted, springing further out of reach.

Merton stabbed at the snake with his pitch-fork, and buried the prongs in the ground.

“Another one!” the man working next to Ferguson cried out excitedly, dancing about and raining blows all round himself.

The other men rushed over.

Merton stabbed at his snake again, and it wriggled across the prongs of the fork.

“Look out!” he shouted wildly, and tossed the reptile high in the air above their heads. The men swore, and dropped their hoes, and scattered. The overseer, who was directly under the falling serpent, jumped backwards, and fell across a bed of pear, and gasped “Hell!” He seemed to think the snake was falling on him, too, and lashed out with his feet and hands, and covered himself from top to bottom with prickles. But the snake didn’t fall on the overseer. Merton dexterously caught it on the fork, and, with a cheerful shout, heaved it after the men, who scattered again, and swore more. Then one of them attacked it in the open with a hoe, and put an end to it.

“God bless my soul!” Merton said sympathetically, taking charge of the unhappy overseer, and becoming his benefactor, “you’re covered with the d— things! They’re in your eyes! All over you, man! Come down to the river.”

“B-last you!” the overseer spluttered angrily. “Clear out! Get out of here!”

Merton retired, and started chopping. Then, along with Dinny, the overseer limped off to the bed of the river, where he took off his clothes, and lay shivering, while Dinny greased him all over with fistfuls of wet sand and mud, and rubbed it into his skin to kill the prickles.

* * * * * * * *

The overseer didn’t dismiss Merton. He called the men together in the evening, and told them that pear-cutting was a black’s game, and went away himself.


A Note From Mary

Our school is on the bank of the creek. A big building it is, and holds a great many people. It’s made of stringy bark. There’s a door in it and three calico windows. A piece of board with “SCHOOL” marked on it is fixed on the roof over the door. Father had the board put up; he thought perhaps someone might mistake it for a hotel. Father is on the committee. Rose Ann Crowe is the teacher; but she doesn’t get anything for teaching. Her father gets it. She gets out of peeling the potatoes and cutting wood and work like that, at home.

We have dances in the school sometimes, and last week there was a play got up. Sandy McCallum got it up. It was his own composing. “In Australia” was the name of it, and it was splendid. They learned to act it in Crowe’s barn at night. A big crowd rolled up to see it when it was staged. Some came from the Rocky, some from Prosperity, some from Grurney’s—from everywhere they came.

Old Riley was on the door, and Jim Smith shifted the scenery and looked after the lights.

There were twelve lights—big, fat lamps that flared like fires. At eight o’clock the play commenced, and Jim blew all the lights out, except those wanted on the stage. The smell of burnt fat was terrible, and drove everyone out. But they came in again. It must have been very old fat. Rose Ann played an overture on the concertina, and the curtain was lifted. The curtain was not a picturesque one. It was made out of bags that were stained with brine and pricklypear juice, and did not look artistic. When it was up, though, after a lot of pulling, the bark humpy that was on the stage was quite real. And the people laughed at Patsy Riley lying on his stomach in front of it, poking his tongue out at a goauna; a live one tied to a peg. Sandy McCallum was dressed in old clothes, and he had to pretend to hammer Patsy, and when he rushed at Patsy with a hoe, Patsy ran into the humpy, and it all fell down on him, and somehow the goanna got away and went among the people. All the women sang out and jumped up on the seats, and the men aimed kicks at it. But there was no light, and the goanna crawled up on a window and dropped down the other side on Goostrey’s dog, and bit it on the back; then climbed a tree before anyone could secure it. But the play went on without its goanna, and was a great success.


Villiam Brandt Relates his Queenslandic Experience

It vas in der year eighdeen hundhert und sigty four dot I landed in dis golony. Dere vas altergedder about tirty of us young Sherman poys. Fine powerful shaps ve all, too, vas at dat dime. Ve vas brought all from Shermany under engagement to vork in de golony for dree years at tventy pounds a year, and by shingo ve dought it vas a fine vage, too.

Vell ve vas taken along to a sugar plantation on de river bank shust bedween Brisbane and Ipswich, and dere ve vas stardet. Mine vord, dat plantation vas sholly hard vork; sveat ran down us like vater. It vas yacker like der teufel all day; and at night ve all vas lodged on a hulk dat vas anchored in der river vere ve stay till it vas mornin’ again. Not von vas allowed to leave der ship; but dot overseer he vent avay efery night. Alvays he vent ashore by a voodden landing, vitch he pull after him to de bank, and dere ve vas all left like lions in dat cage.

Ve vas all sholly coves, full of fun and mischief, and de noise ve make on dat poat dem nights vas most deriffic. Ve cooee and yell on de vater like a quandidy of vild animals.

Von bright moonlight night, vile de overseer vas avay, I see a small poat tied to de pank shust aboud forty yards avay. It vould hold aboud six. “Mine vord,” I tells myself, “here’s a shoke. Who’s on for a pull?” I says, and off goes aboud half a dozen shaps.

Ve must have vent a vast number of miles down dat river in no time. De tide vas vid us, yer know, and, by shimny, how ve did pull!

At last ve come to a gread pig island, and oud ve shumps. I don’t know vat de place vas call, but it vas full of derrible long dry grass and drees. Ve stayed a vile to spell; den ve set it all on fire and cleared back. Lort, how dat fire go up! Ven ve look pack and see dem flames rise high and higher, it tought me of Napoleon ven he vas runnin’ avay from Moscow. But pulling dot poat back vos most frightful. Der tide vas against us this time, und it vas shust all ve could do to get along. Ve tugged and tugged at dem oars, till ve tought dey must break, an’ de sveat dot rub oud of us nearly fill her oop. Ve didn’t know how glad ve vas to get back.



De overseer soon find oud our leetle game, tho’; und a veek afder dot ve vas removed about tirty miles through de bush on to de Logan, vere dere vas a contract to clear drees. Dis vas our first time in der bush, and by Shove it vas a vilderness. Here ve vas put in gangs of seven und eight und set to vork. De humpy vere ve sleep und had meals vas a comeecal place. It vas made of two valls of large logs vide at der bottom and rolled up togedder till they meet at the top, und vas a very long place. Dere vas nodding only drees und scrub to be seen for miles. It vas a hell of coundry altergedder.

Der third night ve vas at de Logan I vas shust goin’ out of that humpy ven I heard a shtrange noise dat I never heerd pefore. “Quark! quark!” it vent, und shust then I see someding run like de vind up a dree dat vas shtanding by.

“I must see vat kind of a vild animal dot is,” I says. For a long time then I look up dat dree till my neck was tired, but I couldn’t see him yet. Dere vas a couple of axes layin’ dere, and two of us shtarted at dat dree. It was a regular yiant of a one, too. Ve couldn’t put our arms roun’ him. Vell, ve vired in and belted avay for a long vile. He vas an ironbark, and my vord a tough feller. Shop! shop! vent dem axes on each side of him so quick as ever ve could make dem go. At last he give a crack—den anudder—and down he vent wid one derrific grash righd across the end of dat humpy.

Mine golly, dere vas drouble den! Dem fellows leave that humpy in a most vonderful state. They didn’t know vat had happened yet. They couldn’t make it all oud for a vile.

“Look oud, shaps!” I says; “dere is a vild animal up this dree; I vant ter get him.” Dey saw then vat vas the matter, and for some leetle considerable time vent demselves into vild beasts, and svear at me in Sherman till I could see that vild animal no more. Dot vas all right.

Afder vorkin’ dem gangs for some veeks I vas gettin’ on pretty smart. De boss of our gang he vas English, und ven he showed me anyding I vas like a parrot. Yer know, I vas angshus to learn everyding. Von day he said to me:

“Vell, you musd be a fool vorkin’ here for twenty pound a year ven yer could make a pound a veek and tucker.”

“Look here,” I shys, “I have been tinkin’ like dot myself, and I am goin’ to clear. Some night I will go righd avay, and von’t be seen here some more.”

“Don’t you,” he says,

I dells him I am determined, and nodding vill shtop me.

Ven he sees I mean vot I says, he tells me dot if I go not to take any more wid me.

A couple of more days go py, and I says to my mate, “Phil, I is goin’ to run away. ’Tis all tam nonsense vorkin for twenty pound a year ven ve could make a pound a veek and tucker.”

“Vell, den,” says Phil, “I’m off, too”; and anoder shap called Yack Lynch said he vould go, too, likewise.

“Dot vill be enough, den,” I says; “no more then dree, or the game vill get upsit.”

Everyding vas soon ready, and von night at twelve o’clock, mid our svags ’pon our packs, ve all go avay.

By Yorge! more drouble shtarted dat ve had not yet thought about. Werry soon ve was in de tick of a big scrub. It vas a derrible time altergedder. I had von box all of matches dot I dake from the camp, and ve shtrike dem eferyone, but ve could make not some progress.

“Oh, vell, poys,” I says, “dere is nodding for it; ve vill have to go pack and camp outside the fence.” Pack we goes agen and camped at the edge of dot scrub, shust not so far avay from de humpy. In de mornin’ ve vas off shust pefore ve could see. Dere vas enough tucker in de plankets to last for von day. Ve got py the scrub, and efery minet ve keep lookin’ back to see if dat overseer vas afder us. The tree of us vas yolly pig shtrong shaps, and ve made up our minds tergedder dat if he vould come afder us ve vould give him a yolly good hammering. So ve vould, too, mine vord!

All dat day ve valked like horses through dat bush, and hadn’t found a road yet. At last it vas gettin’ dark, and ve vas comin’ to a creek. A most enormous gum dree vas growin’ py the bank, so I dells my mates ve vill camp under him for dot night.

Ve vas off agen by sun break, and py Shorge, ve valk agen dat day mit them svags. Gracious! I taught me dere vas gold in mine, he vas getting so heavy.

All day ve followed dot creet; I dink ve must have crossed it a hundhred dimes. I vas sure ve had tramped sigsty miles. Shust ven it vas gettin’ sundown, and ve vas all of us dead beat, I looks ahead a bit. “Goot Lort, shaps!” I says, “dere is dot same werry dree ve sleep under last night. Vere have ve been?”

My mates dey all shtare mit dere mouths at that dree, and couldn’t make him oud. It vas him all righd, tho’. So ve drows our svags down and shleep under him von more nights.

The tucker bag vas run short now, and ve vas begin to see some more drouble. There vas blenty of flour, tho’, yet, and I dink I vould make a yonny cake. It vas an awful job, and the oberation vas derrible. De odder two shaps hold a handkerchief by the corners vile I mix up the flour in him. To get that dough off my fingers vas de teufel. It shtick like glue to eferyding, and vouldn’t come off that handkerchief, so I put de lot in the billy and boils dem all. Mine vord, it went high!

The next day ve shogs along, and ven nearly two o’clock ve sees a house. By Shove, vasn’t ve glad that dime! It done our eyes goot to see dot house.

“Come on,” I says; “ve vill go over and ask for a feed.”

Over ve goes and drows down our svags on the grass. A voman comes to the door, and I dells her as vell as I could that ve vant tucker. She soon understand, and give us a yolly good blow oud. Ve vas werry sorry to leave that place, but ve must get along. Yust then ve loose Yack Lynch. He vas a cute bloke, uud didn’t like valkin’ them roads, so he stay pehind, and hired mit de farmer. Ve never see him since. Ven ve leave there vas a loosern paddock, and ve vas goin’ to make a short cut. Ve vas yirst getting trew, ven a man mid a gun come runnin’ like a deemun.



“Py doonder!” he says, “if you don’t got oud of mine loosern paddick I vill plow your prains oud for you.”

Ve sholly soon got back ven ve see dot gun.

Dot day ve come to Ipswich. At first ve didn’t know vedder to vent in de town, cause ve tought, as ve run avay, all de peleecemen vould be afder us.

“Anyhow, poys,” I says, “ve must shance it,” and in ve goes. It vas alrighd; no one vas dere, und nopody take any nodice of us at all. Ve vas dinkin’ to ask for some vork in Ipswich, but shange our minds. I dink ve shange our minds dem times more ofen than ve shange our socks.

Two or dree days more and ve reach Fassifern—dat vas Misther Veinholt’s station. Ve soon make our minds up, and ask for a yob. Veinholt, he vas in his office yust then, and he could speak Sherman vell. He ask us in Sherman, “Vot you vant?”

I ask him if there is any shance of a yob. He scratch his head for a long vile, and says:

“Vell, there is a lot of shaps lookin’ for vork now. Vot can you do? Can you garden?

“Yes; oh, yes!”



My mate Phil vas a gardener, but neider of us vas a shepperd; but you know ve vasn’t going to lose a yob because ve don’ could do it.

“Oh, vell,” Veinholt says, “I might take you on.”

“How much vill you give?” I ask him.

Agen he scratch his head for a long biece. “Vell, you know,” he says, “vages is very low shust now. I vill give you £28 a year.”

‘’Golly! dat vas not enouf,” I says to Phil.” Better ve had not run avay at all.”

“No,” I dells him; “dot is too leetle; ve von’t take it.”

Afder anodder vile he say he vill give tirty.

Ve vas nearly takin’ tirty, but ve tought ve vould have one more dry.

“Vell, I vill tell you vat I will do mid you,” he says. “I vill give you £38 for twelve munce, and not von penny more.”

“All righd,” ve dells him, “ve vill take dot.”

“Vitch of you is the gardener?” he ask,

Phil say he is.

“All righd.”

“And you” (dat vas me, Villiam Brandt) “is de shepperd?”

“Yah,” I say.

Next mornin’ I find mineself aboud twelve mile from that station mid two tousand sheep. It vas derrible vork. Dem days went by like years. I never see a vite man for munce. Efery day I let them sheep go from the yard, den lay mineself down under a dree and shleep all the time. How I never lose dem all eferyone I don’t could never know. I dells mineself, if I stick to dis yob long I vill soon go mad.

Von day the overseer he come oud.

“Vell, Villiam,” he says, “how are yer gettin’ on?”

“Don’t like dis yob at all,” I dells him. “Can’t you give me someding else—shopping down drees or anyding. Vy, I’m oud here in de bush shust like a sapige—dere is no von to talk mid. Already I forget me vot leetle English I know, and soon I von’t talk some Sherman.”

He only laugh,

Efery day vent by shust the same. I alvays had nodding but salt yunk and damper ter ead. Von day I thought me I vould have some fresh mead; so I vent me in de yard ven the sheep was all dere and caught a fine pig fat vedder—de best feller in dot flock. I soon had him dead and hangin’ in the hut like it vas a butcher’s shop. Dot night I had me a gerreat feed. Ven the overseer come oud agen, he count them sheep twice.

“All right, Villiam,” he say; “but dere is von missing.”

“Oh, I ead dat feller,” I dells him.

“Vot?” he says.

“I ead him.”

“By Shove!” he tells me, “don’t ead any more.”

Afder dat he says:

“Dere is anodder shap comin’ to shepperd, Villiam; ve vant you at the station.”

Mine geracious, I vas glad to hear dat news!

Next mornin’ I had me up pefore it vas day, and vas sittin’ on mine svag outside de hut vaitin’ for dat shap ter come. Ven I see him a long vay off, I picks up mine planket und vas gone.

Dere vas no more shepperdin’ for Villiam Brandt.


Charley’s Yarn

We were camped on the Bogan—four of us. We had finished tea, and were lying on our blankets, yarning and smoking, and lazily watching the stars. The moon came slowly up over the gloomy timber, and blazed on the surface of the big water-hole.

Each of us, excepting Charley, had told a yarn, and a silence set in—a silence broken only by the steady puffing of pipes. Charley wasn’t a smoker, nor a talker—he was the chump, the “green” one of the party, and, as a rule, we acted charitably towards him on that account.

Miller lazily raised himself upon his elbow and proposed that Charley tell a yarn. He never expected that Charley would. Neither did we. We grinned in silence, and smoked harder.

Charley, who had been sitting on his blanket all the while, shook his head and grinned, too.

“Might as well,” Miller said playfully.

“Only know one,” Charley said, “an’ it’s true.”

The rest of us sat up to look at Charley.

“All the better,” Miller said, kicking Smith on the leg; “that’s the kind we like.”

Charley grinned and shuffled about.

“Go on,” Smith said encouragingly.

Charley began:

“I was only a young fellow at the time.” Then he stopped.

“Well?” Miller said. “Well?”

“Quite a kid,” Charley continued. “We was all workin’ for Brown up North Queensland, and we were out on the station by ourselves. I can remember the humpy we lived in just as if it was only yesterday. And me father and mother, and me brothers and me sister, I can see them now!”

Tears came into Charley’s eyes, and we stopped grinning,

“The blacks was terrible bad,” he went on, mastering his emotion, “and used to kill the cattle and th’ sheep. And we were very frightened of them. One morning early they came and yelled round the house, an’ I remember how father jumped up; an’ I remember, too, how they shoved the door down, and rushed in with tomahawks. Poor Dad! They killed him first, and he fell in the front room.”

Charley paused again, and passed his hand across his eyes. Our hearts went out to him.

He proceeded:

“The way mother screamed is always in me ears. It’s in them now! They killed her in the bed. An’ me sister and me brother, it was awful how they died! I was the only one that got away. A black gin saw me in the bed, and she picked me up and ran with me to the edge of a scrub, hugging me close to her all the time. She meant to keep me for herself. But when the blacks had burnt the house, they came to the scrub where we were. They talked angrily to the old gin when they saw me, but she held me tight. Then two of them took me from her, and, each taking hold of a leg of me, swung me round and round to throw me over the top of a tree. It was awful!”

He paused again, and we could see how pale he was. Poor old Charley!

“But the others stopped them,” he renewed, “and they threw me on the ground same as they would a kangaroo rat. Then they gathered up all the dead wood about, and stacked it in a heap round the foot of a tree, and placed me on the top of it and set fire to it. I’ll never forget that fire. It burned up all round and in blue flames, and forked tongues shot up at me.”

He stopped again. We waited. Charley lay back and gazed at the sky.

“But you haven’t finished?” Miller said. “Didn’t the fire burn you, man?”

Charley raised himself slowly.

“No, it didn’t,” he said. “I was too green to burn.”


The Man and the Millionaire

He was unfolding some tucker from his swag, and making profane remarks to the carcase of a dead sheep which floated calmly in the waterhole from which he had filled his billy, when a stranger rode up.

“Good-day, mate,” he said, and, after a pause, “Have a bit t’ eat?”

“I’ll take a pint of tea,” said the stranger, and got off his horse. Then rolling a stone over to sit on, he asked the other, “Where are you bound?”

“Heard old Tyson wanted a fencer—goin’ up t’ see. This is his run we’re on now, ain’t it?”

“Yes” (blowing the hot tea).

“The miserable old hound! B’lieve he’d skin a crow for his hide and stew him for the drippin’. Wonder, if he came along here now, would he strip and rescue that monkey for the wool? And he’s a native, too—that’s the part that hurts me! They say he’s ugly, too—got a face like a broken fire-brand. Have some more tea, mate?”

“No more, thanks.” And the stranger mounted and left.

* * * * * * * *

The fencer arrived at the station, and threw down his swag on the verandah of the store, in front of which his friend of the day before was standing.

“Hello!” he said. “What the devil are you doing here? In before me for the job, eh? Thought that was your game yesterday.”

Not waiting for a reply, he tramped in.

“Storekeeper, I’ve come to see about a job o’ fencin’.”


“Any show?”

“Ask Mr. Tyson.”

“Where is he?”

“There on the verandah.”

“H——!” (whispers) “yer don’t say so!


Dinny Delaney’s Industry

“Dinny” Delaney (Daniel, he was christened) was a long, lazy, useless individual after the style of Dan Rudd. Their ambitions, their tastes and talents were identical; but in dissimulation and “ways that were dark” Dinny could lose Dan easily. He had forgotten more roguery than ever Dan learned. Dinny was Dan’s tutor. He taught him to “battle”—to lie profitably and interestingly, and to live and enjoy life without working.

Dinny was a philosopher. He studied human nature, and reckoned the world was mostly made up of mugs, and that the Lord created mugs for the use of the higher and more intelligent class, just as He did horses and sheep-dogs.

Dinny, himself, was of the intelligent class. People sometimes spoke well of Dinny; said there was a lot in him. They envied him his brains, and wondered why a fellow like him didn’t make better use of his head.

Dinny had brains. He was brimful of natural gifts, but—as with a bad conscience—he concealed them.

When his wife’s people turned him out of (their) house and home, though, and cast him penniless upon the world, and libelled and belittled him to the neighbours, then his ability shaped and showed itself. Lazy and useless no longer, he wore a watch and owned a horse and saddle the first week out.

“Can make stacks o’ money,” Dinny said to Dan, “if on’y I find th’ right cove to work an idea o’ mine I’ve been thinkin’ o’ for years… Twenty thousand in it inside a year, if there’s a bob.” And he went into details. But Dan shook his head and whistled. (Dan respected the police. Dan was not a criminal.)

Then one day Dinny disappeared from Saddletop, and left Queensland, and was never thought of any more.

* * * * * * * *

Four years passed.

Dinny returned to his native land, returned in a first-class railway carriage, smoking big cigars, his luggage in leather bags, and with all outward signs of a gentleman in prosperous circumstances upon him. Dinny had risen in the world. He was a new man. His name wasn’t Dinny any longer. ’Twas James—James Richardson.

Dinny didn’t call at Saddletop (his home); he went to Brisbane, where all the big business people go, and put up at an obscure hotel in a back street. Dinny was not proud; prosperity hadn’t spoilt him. Like Tyson he avoided society; his mind was all on his business. A good business it was, too. He engaged a cab and drove to the Lands Office, and made loud inquiries about land—good agricultural land—land that he hadn’t any idea of acquiring, or even looking at. The Lands officials fell over their stools and hustled each other finding good country for Dinny. A rich customer from Victoria didn’t adorn the office every morning.

Dinny thought Goomburra or Mount Russell Estate might fill the bill—he wasn’t sure; he would have a look at them; and, loaded with information and maps, he returned to his hotel, where, sprawling on a bed, his partner (an amiable person named Johnson) awaited him.

“Go on th’ land, young man,” Dinny said, with emphasis, to Johnson, throwing the roll of maps he carried in his hand hard at the brick wall; “Go on the land.”

Johnson chuckled cheerfully, and reaching for his coat, took from the pocket of it a railway time-table. He was a calm-looking man, Johnson.

“Leaves Toogoom 7.30 p.m.,” he read aloud; “arrives Greenbank 8.47.”

“Sooner we get to work, then, now,” Dinny rejoined, “th’ better.”

The partner nodded.

“Everything’s serene,” he added, closing a huge leather bag that contained clothes and things belonging to the hotel.

The evening following, Johnson in a casual way entered the train that left Toogoom for Stanthorpe, and joined Dinny—the sole occupant of a first-class carriage. They were strangers to each other till the train started; then they became fast friends again and talked trade.

“No letters or anything in your bag, ’s there?” Johnson said.

Dinny shook his head and gave a smile.

“Not me,” he answered

“Nor about you, anywhere?”

Dinny shook his head again.

Johnson sat back and admired Dinny.

Several small sidings were passed.

“This is her,” Dinny said, as the train slackened speed to stop at Greenbank, the place where all the cheese comes from. A stationmaster swinging a red light, a forlorn-looking person in shirt sleeves, and some dogs, were on the platform. The rest of the inhabitants were away laying poison for ’possums.

A farmer’s wife with two children alighted, and the train moved again.

“Now fer it!” Dinny said, straightening himself up.

He opened the carriage door, stood on the step a moment, said “Look after y’self,” to Johnson, glanced along the train, then dropped lightly to the ground, and proceeded cautiously along the line.

Dinny had never been employed on a railway-line, but he understood trains. He had been dropping off trains for four years. Johnson, his head and shoulders protruding from a window, grinned contentedly; then remained in contemplation. Telegraph poles flashed by in grey streaks; farms, ridges, and belts of timber were dimly outlined in the night.

The engine whistled again. Johnson roused himself. He ran his fingers through his hair and became agitated. Johnson was a man with a lot of emotion. He took it all from his father. He was an undertaker. Johnson signalled and called wildly to the stationmaster.

“A man fell out o’ here! “ he cried; “fell out the carriage—tumbled clean through this damn door.”

The guard, hearing the commotion, came along. Guards are not so cautious as policemen.

“He was standing just here,” Johnson explained excitedly, indicating the position, “and was strapping that bag” (he delivered Dinny’s abandoned property a kick). “The strap broke, and he overbalanced against the door, and it flew open, and out he went… Don’t know who he was. He was here when I got in. My Heavens!”

The train went on, and the stationmaster sat and worked hard at the telegraph instrument.

The officer at Greenbank perused his tape, looked at it again, made an exclamation, snapped up a lamp, rushed away to procure some spirits, then hurried along the line.

Quarter of a mile from the platform he came upon Dinny. Unfortunate Dinny! There he was coiled up for dead—with all his best clothes on, too. A few yards from the rails he lay prostrate, doubled up as though he had been rammed into a gun and fired at a tree.

“Are y’ hurt, mister?” the S.M. asked in a subdued voice that trembled with apprehension.

No answer.

Poor devil!” the S.M. moaned; then knelt down and placed his ear close to Dinny’s mouth. Dinny emitted just enough breath to convince his benefactor that there was yet hope. Dinny was not a man to discourage a good cause.

The officer raised Dinny’s head tenderly and poked the neck of the whisky flask between his teeth. Dinny didn’t resist. He drank feebly. He drank some more. He would joyously have swilled the lot but for a resolution he made in the firm’s interest never to overdo things during business hours. The stimulant seemed to revive him. He opened his eyes and closed them again. Dinny was bad.

“Are you a married man?” inquired the anxious attendant.

“N-no!” (faintly).

“Have you any friends?”


“Poor devil!”

A “special” with a doctor on board steamed into Greenbank, and Dinny, to all appearances a corpse, was lifted into the van and taken back to Toogoom and placed in the hospital. Next day the whole continent read of the accident.

“Isn’t that saad?” sighed big Mrs. McSmith, a sympathetic old person, and mother-in-law to Dinny. “Th’ peoor maan to trevell a’ th’ waay from Waste Ustralle an’ fall out o’ a train like thet;… an’ dyin’ in the hospital and ne’er a frien’ by;… th’ peoor maan … a gentlemun, too! “

That’s y’r beautiful Gov’ment, an’ y’r Railway Department, for y’!” her long-legged son, Johnny, who studied politics, declaimed. “By th’ Lord Harry it beats me how there isn’t more accidents. There’s never any of those blooming doors shut… It’s blanky well time there was a change in th’ ministration of th’ ’fairs of this country, I promise yer!”

And a hundred other such humorists in a hundred different places could understand, from narrow escapes they themselves had had, how the accident happened.

* * * * * * * *

Dinny didn’t die. He didn’t get any better, either. He couldn’t very well, because his spine was injured. Crippled for life, Dinny was paralysed completely in his lower limbs. The patella and planter reflexes (whatever they were) had disappeared from both his legs. He was in a state of extreme nervous prostration, and his lumbar vertebra was shot, or shattered or something—so the doctors said.

Poor old Dinny! For four long sweltering months Dinny lay helpless in a private ward, and was never once off his back—at least not in day-time—not when anyone was about to observe him. And it couldn’t have been that Dinny was sensitive in the presence of nurses. Dinny was not modest. But there were occasions when, without leaving bed, he could take healthful exercise. Dinny was never a believer in absolute inactivity. Raising himself on his palms and shoulders till his feet pointed to the ceiling, he would vigorously work both legs with the speed of a fly-wheel, resembling the orange-coloured acrobat manipulating the big ball with his toes. For variety, Dinny would balance the furniture on them till he got tired or heard a footstep.

One evening, when he was doing this, the door suddenly opened without any noise, and a voice said, “AHA!”

Dinny did get a fright; it nearly choked him.

“M-mighty!” he gasped, picking himself off the floor where he had rolled.

But it was only Johnson to see him—the stranger who witnessed the accident.

* * * * * * * *

“Take three thousand pounds?”

Dinny answered feebly in the negative.

“If the cove who was in the train with me can be got,” he said to his solicitor, “go to law with it, Sir!” Then, after reflecting, “But it can’t matter much t’ me now.”

Dinny was a despondent client.

The “cove” was easily found, but he was sorry on Richardson’s account that he couldn’t remain to give evidence unless the case was brought on at once (Johnson was getting short of cash), as business was calling him to California. But he would do his best to stretch a point.

He’d “see,” anyway.

Johnson was a humane man.

“Action against the Railway Commissioner,” the Brisbane newspapers said. “Fall from a train. £15,000 damages claimed.”

Daniel had gone to judgment.

* * * * * * * *

“Richardson v. Commissioner for Railways!” cried a court official.

’Twas the last case on the cause-list—the grand finale to a long winter session. Dinny was a big draw. A crowd of eager, interested faces filled the court. People left business to flock there. Unusual solemnity marked the proceedings. There was a strong bar.

“I appear for the plaintiff, your honour,” said Dinny’s counsel, an alert, distinguished pleader.

From the other end of the table an eloquent K.C., assisted by juniors and surrounded with Crown officials, books, photographs, piles of documents, and the Railway Department, bowed the formal intimation. His honour made a note.

A short silence, then commotion behind the bar. The Judge, grave, dignified, lifted his head and peered through his glittering, gold-rimmed glasses. The Sheriff, composed, played with a pen. All eyes turned to a side door opening from the jury-room. A constable cleared the way, and the plaintiff, in charge of the ambulance, was conveyed into court on a bed, his lengthy form concealed beneath a cover resembling a trough turned upside down.

Dinny caused a great sensation. The bed was elevated on chairs adjacent to the jurors, and there, in full gaze of everyone, reclined Richardson, Dinny, the eldest son of Delaney—calm, collected, innocent looking as an infant in its first sleep. Dinny had a fine nerve. He was a fine actor, too. The stage had lost a star in him. The hearts of the audience went right out to Dinny. Never since his birth did he receive so much sympathy. They would give him full damages.

Australians are a just people.

But there was no affinity between Dinny and the Defence. They hadn’t any commiseration; but made audible jests and jeers that jarred the sentiment of the moment. They seemed to think Dinny was a fraud. But Dinny only looked at them. He expressed his opinion of them with his eyes.

Dinny’s advocate rose to his feet. A clear voice he had and suave. Conscious of a good cause, he was all sympathy and assurance. He believed his client’s story.

“What is your name?” he said to Dinny.

Dinny quietly told him “James Richardson.” He told him a host of other things, too, equally false. He said he was thirty-five years of age (Dinny was forty-five if he was a day), that he was born in New Zealand (Dinny was a native of Boondooroo), worked hard there with his father for years (Dinny never worked hard anywhere in his life), went to Tasmania, to Victoria, to W.A. Came to Queensland to take up land. Then in tones that would move a marble monument he described his fall from the train, and, with real tears in his sad-looking eyes, declared that he hadn’t been able to move his legs or sit up since.

“I on’y wish ter heavens I could, mister!” he added. “It wouldn’t be ’ere I’d be.”

Dinny was a touching liar when he was in the mood. The spectators felt sorry for Dinny.

“Call Samuel Johnson.”

Sam’el Johnson! Sam’el Johnson! Sam’el Johnson!” echoed in the corridors and died off down the double stairway.

No response.

For the first time in his life Dinny was discomposed.

The spectators watched for Johnson. If Dinny hadn’t been a strong man he must have fainted or fallen out of bed. He stared at everyone who entered, but there was no sign of Johnson.

Dinny reflected. So did the court. Plaintiff’s counsel made an explanation. He deplored the absence of Johnson, and informed the court that the evidence the missing witness was able to give was most material to his suffering client.

Dinny was a “bit off” just then, but he controlled himself. He closed his eyes and waited. Dinny was a patient plaintiff.

Counsel for the Defence took the floor. He adjusted his glasses, fixed his legal eyes on Dinny, and with the apathy that “mocks a man’s distress,” shouted at him to “speak out.” Quite different he was to Dinny’s advocate; he didn’t consider an invalid at all. And he indulged in personalities; asked Dinny questions about two men named McDonald and Robertson who had fallen out of trains in other States, and were paralysed in the lower limbs, too; who went out walking with their girls immediately they received a solatium in large sums of money from the Governments interested.

Dinny scowled. He didn’t anticipate these things. He could understand, too, now why Johnson didn’t turn up. So could the spectators. They didn’t believe any more in Dinny.

Australians are an unreliable people.

Several witnesses from down-South entered the box and claimed Dinny as a friend of theirs. McDonald, they called him. Dinny lost heart. His temperature went up and a change came over his demeanour. The audience began to enjoy themselves. They were an impulsive congregation.

“You were found lying on the railway-line near Paddy’s Pinch, in Victoria, last October, were you not?” King’s Counsel, in a careless, friendly kind of way, asked of Dinny.

“N-no, I wasn’t!” Dinny answered, showing his teeth. Dinny was an ugly opponent when he was roused.

“And you were taken to an hospital for dead?” (continuing, as though he hadn’t heard Dinny’s reply).

No, I wasn’t taken ter any horspital fer dead!” Dinny sneered, glaring aggressively at the enemy.

“And you a strong, able-bodied man, in the best of health” (Counsel suddenly waxed vehement), “remained on your back for five months” (he paused, and then in a deep, dramatic voice), “pretending you were paralysed?

Dinny, to the amazement of the court and his own counsel, raised himself on his elbow.

N-no!” he shouted. “N-no; ner fer one month” (finishing in the same key as his opponent).

“And for this heinous piece of shamming” (Counsel’s voice cracked like a rifle), “you received from the Government of Victoria a sum of £1500, in settlement of an action you threatened it with?”

“A lie!” Dinny yelled back, suddenly sitting bolt upright and facing his antagonist. (Dinny was always a tiger to fight.) He gulped down a lump that rose in his throat. “It’s a lie! … But if yer want ter know” (Dinny jumped off the bed and stood in his pyjamas), “if yer want ter know who did” (Dinny swung his hand round contemptuously and pointed through a window), “find Mister Johnson!



* * * * * * * *

The court didn’t try to find Mr. Johnson, and the jury didn’t give Dinny any damages. The Judge gave him gaol instead.


Out Driving

He used to go out driving a lot once; we don’t now. There’s no horse since the drought. One Sunday we were driving through Dirranbandi, and the horse (Sam) took bad. Father took him out of the cart, and pulled him across to the chemist’s shop; and the chemist came out and bled poor old Sam till he staggered.

“Look out!” Father shouted. “That’s enough, man; that’s enough!”

But the chemist reckoned that he knew more about it than Father, and took another pint of blood out of Sam. Then all at once Sam tried to rear, and fell down, and shivered, and threw out all his legs, and shoved the side of the shop in, and broke a lot of bottles, and died. It cost Father ten shillings to bury Sam; and the chemist sent a bill in. That’s twelve months ago, and the bill is on the mantelpiece yet.

* * * * * * * *

The road from our place to Gurney’s Gully runs through a station paddock. Father was driving us there in Baker’s dray last week, and a mob of station cattle followed us along. Father stopped the dray to look at them. They came up quite close to us.

“Hold the reins a minet,” Father said, “an’ I’ll give the big brindle fellow a start,” and he took up a long rope that was lying in the bottom of the dray. It had been lying in the dray since we had dragged Betsy out of the creek, and one end of it was tied to the axle. Father heaved the rope at the brindle bullock, and it stuck on his horn (there was a loop on it which Father didn’t know of).

“Moses!” Father said, when he saw what he had done.

The bullock plunged and bellowed, and frightened all the others away. Father got excited.

“Weh! Weh!” he shouted, and snatched the reins from Mother to stop the horse from bolting.

“My gracious me, what have y’ done?” Mother said, and tried to jump out, but Father pulled her back.

The bullock ran round and round the dray, and tied us all up in the rope, and reared and fell under the horse’s legs and bellowed.

“Oh, dear, dear!” Mother said, and looked quite white. Then the bullock got on its feet again, and burrowed under the dray and turned it over, and we all fell out.

“My God!” Father said, and Mother screamed.

All of us screamed, and escaped behind trees. But before Father could stop the horse it got away, and bolted through the paddock with the shafts and body of the dray. The bullock kept possession of the axle and the wheels, and dragged them about till he got stuck round a stump. Then, when Father got a chance, he ran in and cut the rope, and the brute galloped away.

“Blarst ’im!” Father said, and went off to see what had become of the horse. But he only saw bits of the harness.

Now Baker thinks it was all Father’s fault, and wants to make him pay for the dray. But Father is going to town to see about it.


Odds and Ends

“Talking about buck-jump riders,” Williams said, “a darkey at Toompine was th’ best ever I see. Saw him on a chestnut mare one mornin’ that no one down th’ river ever could ride; only a bit of a thing, too—a little bay. Buck? By Christmas! On ’er side, straight ahead, and backwards, an’ round an’ round, an’ straight up, an’ high as your bloomin’ head every time. Y’ couldn’t see ’er or th’ darkey for dust—just like a big whirlwind tearin’ th’ yard up. Excitin’? Ghost! We climbed th’ yard out o’ the road. Th’ saddle-cloth went first; then th’ darkey’s boots and his belt left, and his shirt and trousers came flying out o’ th’ cloud o’ dust. Crikey! We thought it wer’ himself, for th’ moment. Then we started cheerin’, bein’ mostly British, an’ th’ bloomin’ mare starts squealin’ an’ gruntin’, sort o’ hootin’ like. By gad! ‘Stick to ’er! Stick to ’er!’ th’ boss was yellin ‘ an ‘gettin’ louder every time, when th’ darkey’s saddle hit him hard in the vestcut, an’ knocked him clean off th’ top rail an’ silenced him. Cripes! We got down off the yard in quick time, ’fore gettin’ one with the darkey. But he never come off—not ’im. Th’ mare give in, an’ when th’ dust cleared away there he was, sittin’ across her neck with a short hold of th’ reins, an’ his toes in th’ bridle-rings fer stirrups—an’ smilin’.”

* * * * * * * *

Yellow Charley, a half-caste, arrested for cattle-stealing, slipped the constable during the night, and, in handcuffs, struck Caffery’s place just before dawn. Caffery’s yard was full of cattle. Caffery was stooping at a fire beside the rails, dusting a “johnny-cake,” raked from the ashes, with an empty tea-bag.

“Mornin’,” Yellow Charley said cheerfully.

“Mornin’,” answered Caffery, without looking up.

“Seen any ’traps’ about?”

“Nuh,” said Caffery, carelessly, flogging the “cake” harder with the bag.

The escaped one grinned.

“What d’ y’ think o’ these?” he said, holding out his hands and displaying the handcuffs.

Caffery looked up casually. Then he dropped the johnny-cake as though it burnt him, jumped over the fire, threw down the rails of the yard, rushed the cattle out, sooled the dog on them, and watched till they had disappeared in the timber. Then he turned, stared at the handcuffs, and said: “I didn’t think there was any cops about.”

* * * * * * * *

There was blood in the sundowner’s eye. “Cursed lot o’ scabs!” he said. “They stole me damper out o’ th’ fire when I wer’ in th’ crick breakin’ a few sticks fer th’ night. I wouldn’t ’ave minded s’ much, though, if th’ mean, loafin’ lot o’ cadgers hadn’t covered th’ hole up an’ kep’ me scratchin’ fer it, an’ spoilin’ th’ fire, ’fore findin’ it wer’ gone!”

* * * * * * * *

Jones, a tea man, “doing” the West per bike, flashed along a scrub road late one night, and passed old Schultz, returning to camp from the pub. Schultz dropped his meat-supply in the dirt and jumped behind a blue gum; then ran back, hard, to the pub. “Whatever it was,” he said, “it didn’t run; it flew; and was about five feet high, with one eye like a ball o’ blanky fire. By cripes! Give us a drop o’ brandy.”

* * * * * * * *

“When my old horse jibs,” Brown said, “I never worries about it, an’ I don’t swear or ’ammer ’im. I just opens his mouth wide’s I can an’ chucks in a handful o’ dirt. Then, while he’s sneezin’ an’ snortin’ an’ spittin’ it out, I sez, ‘Get erp, Billy!’ an’ he goes off without thinkin’.”

* * * * * * * *

“Dalton?” Gallagher exclaimed; “old Johnny Dalton? I wouldn’t take him wid me to look fer goats!” And he laughed heartily. “Johnny oncet came out with us mustering bullocks,” he said, “an’ we were camped one night there on th’ crick, ’way below Dirranbandi. About eight o’clock th’ dingoes found us out, an’ made a devil of a noise, an’ frightened th’ wits out o’ poor Johnny. When we turned in I was there” (Gallagher scratched the position in the ground with a stick); “Connolly was here” (another scratch), “an’ here was Johnny, on the outside o’ Connolly. When we woke in th’ mornin’ where d’ y’ think me brave Johnny was?”

Daley said he didn’t know.

He was in th’ middle.



Project Gutenberg Australia