an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: Sandy’s Selection
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2400041h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: 2024
Most recent update: 2024

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Sandy’s Selection

Steele Rudd





To The Memory of the Good Old Times!

To the memory of the
old Bush Days,
when we crossed the rolling plains in the
dragging, creaking dray;
To the memory of the
Old Homestead
where the great trees towered
and the long grass reached above our heads—
the homestead where the rafters shook to gay bush songs,
and we danced and danced the whole night through—
the homestead where we toiled and struggled,
and hoped and lost—
the homestead where our hearts beat free,
and merriment mocked at adversity;
and to you
you who shared with me the shade of the
apple trees on the plains—
who shared with me those careless days
by mountain, creek and scrub,
I fondly dedicate
This Book.

      ”Steele Rudd”
                Brisbane, Oct. 8, 1904


With the exception of six chapters, the whole of the sketches comprising “Sandy’s Selection” are republished from “Steele Rudd’s Magazine.” Chapter 1 was first published in “The North Queensland Register”; Chapter 11, in “The Queenslander”. Chapters 12, 13, portion of 15, and 17 in “The Bulletin.” To the Proprietors of these papers, for permission to reprint the sketches in book form, I acknowledge my indebtedness.
       A. H. D.


Chapter 1. - The New Home
Chapter 2. - Twelve Months After
Chapter 3. - Uncle And The ’Roos
Chapter 4. - Sandy’s Gold Mine
Chapter 5. - Trouble On The Mine
Chapter 6. - Two Cases For The Doctor
Chapter 7. - Some Neighbours Of Sandy’s
Chapter 8. - Two Girls From Town Pass
Chapter 9. - Cows And Horses
Chapter 10. - One Corn Season
Chapter 11. - In The Drought Time
Chapter 12. - Sandy’s Lucky Shot
Chapter 13. - Jimmy Parker’s Holiday
Chapter 14. - Uncle’s Arrest
Chapter 15. - An Appeal To Old Dad
Chapter 16. - A Hundred Pounds
Chapter 17. - A Distinguished Visitor
Chapter 18. - Dad Takes To Politics
Chapter 19. - Dad In Parliament
Chapter 20. - The Ripper Sewing Machine
Chapter 21. - Kate’s Babies
Chapter 22. - McMaster’s Traction Engine


Chapter 1
The New Home

Though we did eat a lot of cake and pumpkin-tart, and jump about and feel happy at Kate’s wedding, we were down hearted enough when she went away.

All morning we hung around waiting for the parting.

“Well, I hope as you’re going to a good home, my girl,” Mother said as they packed up, “an’ that you’ll both be ’appy.”

Kate murmured something, and then they whimpered and wept a lot, and home was miserable and gloomy.

But Sandy was jolly enough. Sandy was Kate’s husband; and he didn’t know—poor fellow!—what lay before him. He whistled and hummed tunes as he bustled in and out with bundles to strap to the saddles; and sometimes he broke out and sang in a loud, rasping voice to the air of “The Old Bullock Dray”:

Oh, we’re off out selecting where the gum trees grow—
Where the wallabies and ’possums will be all the go—
Oh, we’ll all be pumpkin squatters in a year or so,
With a cow to kill at Christmas where the gum trees grow!

When at last everything was ready and Kate could find no excuse for staying any longer, she turned her big, red eyes upon Mother and blubbered afresh. We trooped outside with lumps in our throats and sat on the ground, our backs to the slabs, and waited.

“Boo-hoo! Boo-oo-hoo!” from inside.

We wished we had gone away somewhere.

“You’ll be goo-goo-good t’ ’er, Sandy?” Mother sobbed.

Sandy said he would.

“An’ m-m-make ’er ’ap-ap-py?”

Sandy promised.

Then there was loud kissing and silent hand-shaking, and Kate, crying violently, passed out in charge of Sandy and was put on her horse.

They started, and as they rode slowly down the track we stood up and watched them and waved until the thick timber closed behind them and they passed from our sight,

Sandy’s selection was on Sleepy Creek, a hundred and sixty acre one. All beautiful land, too, Three acres of it were cleared. Sandy was straggling hard to clear one more. The remaining hundred and fifty-six were under scrub, prickly-pear, wallaby-bush and Bathurst-burr.

There was a new house, built on the premises, with four slabbed sides and a top, a place to get in at and two small, square holes, one each side the door, to look out through. The whole was guarded by a dandy-looking dog-leg fence, that kept everything off except cattle, iguanas, kangaroo rats, snakes, and death adders. Inside, tidy and natty. Curtains on the bed; a cloth on the table, the legs of which were screwed into the earth; two gin cases that served as chairs wore crochet coverings; while the holes in the floor, in and out of which snakes used to chase mice, were covered with bags, and a heavy round block placed on them for additional safety. A Christmas card, and a paper picture of Queen Victoria, and another of Wellington at Waterloo with his legs torn off, decorated the walls.

No grass on the selection—not a blade, not a root. The place was overstocked. Its carrying capacity was outraged. It had been overstocked for fifty years. Sandy reckoned he had between two and three million wallabies on it—not including kangaroo rats and bandicoots. The total number of these he couldn’t approximate. They were not abroad much in the day, and Sandy didn’t go out at night. Sandy was a good husband.

Sandy worked hard grubbing and clearing timber those long, hot days; no one with him but the dog. The dog always accompanied him. It never could think that Sandy was not on a plain, and followed him about to get in the shade. In the cool of the evening Kate would come out and lend a hand. She would take an axe and face Sandy across a big log, and they would chop, chop, alternately at the same nick. When the log was cut through Sandy would sit on it and take Kate on his knee and press his hairy chin into the hollow of her cheek and ask her if she really, really loved him? Sandy was a devoted husband.

Though no neighbours lived nearer than five miles, Sandy and Kate never found the selection lonely. They had plenty to occupy their minds with during the day; and at night, after supper, they used to sit at the table and sing through several books of “Australian Melodies.” When not in a mood for music, Sandy would go out and grope in the dark for armfuls of stones and handy waddies, and stack them inside. Then he’d throw the door open, and, loaded heavily with missiles, Kate and he would wait and watch. And when a kangaroo rat, or twenty kangaroo rats, hopped gallantly along into the light, they would let fly—bang! bif! It was a delightful pastime, and they indulged liberally in it until late at night; but in the morning, what an accumulation of rubbish around the door! Not many rats, though; thirty-three was the most ever they knocked in one night.


Sandy commenced breaking-up. The first day he turned over half-an-acre; the second, none at all. For a week he tramped the bush looking for the horses. The selection was fenced only on one side, and they used to get out. It took him a long time to finish the four acres. He was always searching for the horses, and when he did find them—which was mostly at sundown— and put them in the paddock, they were gone again in the morning.

Sandy sowed corn and fenced it in with wire netting four feet high, which he was to pay for after the shelling. He put a wire netting gate in it, fastened with a patent spring lock which the storekeeper had recommended; and not a wallaby could get in. Just at the right time it rained, and the corn shot up and grew till it was higher than the netting. It was a picture! Sandy and Kate went to look at it every day. So did the wallabies. They approached it at nightfall in all manner of ways — in long, single file, in double file, in droves and right and left battalions. They gathered round the netting, and panted and jostled each other like thirsty sheep about a dam; and Sandy would smile complacently at them. Sometimes at night he would stop singing and listen. “Hear th’ devils?” he would say to Kate, and grin; then he would poke his head out the door and yell derisively. A rush—a scampering through bushes, and cracking of dead sticks! And Sandy would begin a new song.

But one night when he yelled there was no response. Sandy listened. Not a wallaby was on the move, but he could hear the corn leaves rasping and tearing violently. He listened again, and looked desperately at Kate. Kate turned pale. Sandy rushed out and ran to the gate. It was wide open. The waning moon threw a pallid light over the place. Sandy stood. A dark mass of wallabies, like ten thousand head of sheep being counted through a hurdle, were fighting for admission. They couldn’t get in. The corn paddock was full.

Sandy was a bad loser. He wrote a letter to Dad with prickly pear juice, in which he moaned vehemently; and Mother went over in the dray to console and encourage her son-in-law.

“Ah, well!” she said to Kate, “it was a pity, but y’ should be thankful you’ve got a good husband, my girl—no one could want more than that.”

“Well, yes,” Kate answered, belting into a tree with the axe, “that’s one thing (grunt), Mother; we’re both (gasp) happy enough (grunt, gasp) anyway!”


Chapter 2
Twelve Months After

Sandy and Kate had been just a year on their selection—a year toiling amongst timber and stones and trees—a year struggling and straining—a year hoping. And they might as well have sat calmly down all the while, or remained in bed. They hadn’t a chattel, scarcely, to start with—nothing but an old cart, an improvised sledge for bringing water on when the gully went dry, an axe, and a wooden plough which a pair of used-up old mares (that no grass or grain or blue-metal or profanity could animate) sometimes trailed about and scratched the ground with.

Sandy was a man of resolution; and when he found things going against him he resolved to leave off. He left off suddenly one day; reached down Kate’s saddle from the cross-beam; heaped ashes on the fire; filled a sack with an old rooster and a pair of lost-looking hens that never laid, a bottle or two of honey, and some prickly-pear jam; fastened the door with a chain; addressed a word of advice to the cat; looked round to see nothing valuable was left lying about outside; then hoisted Kate on to one of the old mares, and came to Shingle Hut and planted the poultry and the strained honey and the jam cheerfully down at our door.

We nearly went off our heads. Dad heard us rejoicing, and hurried from the paddock to greet Sandy and Kate. He took charge of the old mares, unsaddled them and gave them each a pumpkin, and couldn’t work any more that day. Joe exploited the sack and turned the poultry adrift, and rushed wildly round waving the honey and the prickly-pear jam about, and said they were his. Kate smiled and told Mother she could have brought ever so much more had she thought we would have liked it. Joe sighed and inquired of Kate if she would be going back soon. Joe longed to return with her at once and stay a year.

We made much of Sandy and Kate—Dad particularly. He urged them to make up their minds to stay altogether; but Sandy wouldn’t. “Sleepy Creek’s afore this,” he used to say; and every day we expected he would return—the very thought of his departure made us dull.

Several weeks went pleasantly by, then a couple of months passed, and Sandy and Kate were still with us. They spent their time hunting up old acquaintances, in our cart, and getting up dances to which they invited the whole country side. And they shook young and old by the hand when they were leaving, and made them promise to come to the next dance.

Sandy and Kate talked of organising a real big riding-party, to wind up with a dance at night. It must have been a great success, only that Sal, one day, started grumbling, and said she was tired of being made a slave and a washerwoman of, while other people—meaning Sandy and Kate—trotted about enjoying themselves. Mother, too, had to complain of the flour-bag going down in a month. Then Dad, who had grown quite surly and uncommunicative since the riding-party had been mentioned, must turn round one morning and curse Sandy because he was giving the old mares a feed of corn. Dad asked Sandy if he meant to stay all his life living on him, and spoilt everything.

Sandy didn’t answer. His dignity was insulted. He walked straight into the house. “Get yer things,” he said to Kate, “an’ get out o’ here! No more o’ this f’ me!

Then there was a noise! Kate cried; Mother sobbed and hung on to Sandy, and said she wouldn’t hear of it.

Sal, weeping, went out to conciliate Dad. Dad flung the harness on the ground and roared; “Th’ devil take th’ lot o’ y’! Am I goin’ t’ work here an’ run inter debt t’ keep rations in the place t’ feed him an’ you too? “

Sal came in again.

All Mother’s supplications were lost on Sandy. He was determined to go. He saddled the old mares as fast as he could, and when Kate was ready he lifted her on and went off without looking at Dad.

Then Mother and Sal sat down and cried some more.

But Sandy and Kate didn’t go off alone. Uncle Peter accompanied them. Said he wanted a change, too.

Near sunset. Sandy and Kate and Uncle approaching the house; Sandy pointing out his boundary-line to Uncle and scrutinising a lot of strange cattle round the place.

“Hello!” Sandy exclaimed, “th’ winder’s open!”

Kate stared.

“Wonder who th’ devil—” But Sandy didn’t finish. The cattle made off through the rails, which someone had left down, and a bullock’s head, with huge horns on it, poked itself suddenly out the window.

“Well, I’m d—d!” Sandy said, coming to a dead stop.

“A bullick in the house!” murmured Kate, “O dear! dear! dear!”

Only Uncle saw the humour of it. Uncle had a keen sense of other people’s humour. He chuckled and urged his old horse towards the house.

As the party came near, the bullock snorted and made several attempts to fall out, then withdrew his head and sailed around inside and made a great noise. Sandy growled fiercely, and Kate looked troubled.

Uncle explained cheerfully how the animal got in. “Some ’n’s left the door wide open,” he said, “an’ he’s mooched in and shoved it shut on hisself. I see it done afore many a time.”

Sandy jumped down to let the brute out. Kate stood off out of reach; while Uncle prowled to the back of the building, and peeped through the cracks and talked soothingly to the bullock.

Sandy shoved the door in with a pole and ran away. But the bullock didn’t rush out—it rushed into the bedroom and plunged about in there.

Uncle laughed and shifted to another crack. He was laughing hard when all at once a crash came just at his crack, and a lot of slabs fell out and silenced him. Then the bullock plunged through the opening and galloped away with the bed-curtain on his horns.

Sandy lifted a heavy slab from Uncle’s chest, then looked inside. A great load was taken off his mind when he found no evidence of the brute having been an occupant any length of time.

Uncle also looked in. He seemed disappointed. He looked coldly at the interior as a prospective boarder at three guineas per week might have viewed it; and said he couldn’t see that the bullock had ill-used the furniture much, anyway.

“He’s smashed th’ box,” Sandy said, contradicting him, and proceeded to put the battered gin-case together again.

“Didn’t harm the chairs or th’ pianner” Uncle went on; then, gloomily eyeing the walls and the roof, in which there were some big holes: “S’pose y’ built this y’self?” But Sandy wasn’t given to “blowing.” He made no answer.

Kate flew round and prepared tea, and when they had talked awhile she fished out some bags and a bundle of kangaroo skins and made a comfortable bed for Uncle on the floor.

They turned in, and Uncle began to cough violently, and in a load voice complained of a draught from the cracks, and called out all night long about fleas, and every moment wished to Heaven that morning would come. Uncle was an impatient man.


Chapter 3
Uncle and the ’Roos

Next morning Sandy took Uncle over the property, and showed him the plough, and the land he had cleared, and where he was going to erect a barn and run a dividing fence, and pointed out holes where the wallabies came through the palings round the bit of cultivation.

Uncle sat on a log and praised the soil and the grass and the country generally, but shook his head in condemnation of everything Sandy had been doing, and mapped out an elaborate plan for the successful working of the place. “That is, o’ course,” he concluded, “if y’ expects me t’ remain an’ ’elp?”

Sandy did. Sandy saw salvation in Uncle. He was never so hopeful before. He could see his way clearly now. His heart beat fast in the anticipation of the prosperity Uncle painted, and a new colour came to his face.

They sauntered back to the house, and Sandy spent the remainder of the day explaining the “plans” to Kate. “No doubt,” he said exultingly, “the old chap’s got a head on ’im!” Large tears came into Kate’s eyes. Pride of relationship to Uncle brought them.

A cold day. Sandy rolling big logs together, burning off; Kate humping water from the gully in a bucket; Uncle busy in the house, hammering things. He nailed a piece of tin over a crack near the head of his bed; then rolled a big stone in near the fire and sat on it to read a newspaper.

A mob of hunted kangaroos bounded past and jumped the wire fence—all but one, a fair-sized thing, that got fast and hung by the toes, kicking and rattling the wire.

Kate put down the bucket and called excitedly to Sandy, who ran up and secured the prize. Dead ’roos were common enough, but seldom was a live one thrown in Sandy’s way. He held it by the tail and entertained himself by making it spring towards Kate, who squealed and dodged behind trees.

Presently he got tired, and paused to consider what to do with the brute.

A bright idea occurred to him. “I know,” he said; his face lighting up. “Come on!” and he forced the animal before him and shoved it into the house, grinning when it dashed behind the fire and startled Uncle. Uncle “shooed” it with the newspaper and fell off the stone; then he swore.

Sandy took the marsupial in his big arms and threw it on its back. Then, turning to Kate: “Bring an old pair o’ my trousers.”

Kate eagerly searched the bedroom, and returned giggling and holding out a garment that wasn’t Sandy’s.

“They’ll do,” Sandy ejaculated; “it’s a doe.”

Kate threatened to squeal herself ill. The ’roo struggled. Sandy punched it.

Uncle began to appreciate Sandy’s idea. He joined in and helped to dress the ’roo.

“Now then,” said Sandy, fastening the garment round the animal’s waist with greenhide, “Have y’ an ol’ jacket?”

Kate produced a red one. Sandy grinned approval and pulled the jacket on the ’roo.

“Bring th’ sheep bell (you cow, stand!) I foun’ th’ other day.”

Kate brought the bell, while Uncle chuckled cheerfully.

“Let ’er up!” Sandy cried, throwing wide the door; and away went the ’roo.

Half an hour later, “Look ’ere!” Sandy yelled.

Kate and Uncle bolted out. The bush was fairly alive with marsupial—hundreds and hundreds of them, all bearing down upon the house, bounding along as though a pack of dogs or the devil himself were at their heels. But it was only the one in Kate’s clothes they were flying from, and the brute was in distress. It floundered badly, half a mile behind, tinkling the sheep bell all the time.


Sandy danced with joy, and yelled words of encouragement to it as it followed in pursuit

It was days before those kangaroos settled down, and when they did they came back to Sandy’s ground; and there wasn’t a blade of his grass they didn’t eat.

Sandy was making but little headway with the clearing; ’twas all heavy timber; and, so far, Uncle hadn’t been able to render any assistance. Uncle was busy in the house building a sofa. He had been more than a month building the sofa.

Sandy saw an advertisement in a newspaper offering big prices for kangaroo skins, and used to knock off early every afternoon and prowl about firing the gun at the brutes.

Two gigantic “old men” that were always there engaged Sandy’s particular attention. He longed to have their hides, but never could get a shot at them.

He discussed the matter with Uncle one night.

“Don’t go near them any more,” said Uncle, “leave it to me; I’ll get them.” Sandy complied. He reckoned it was all over with the “old men.” Sandy shared Kate’s belief in Uncle.

For days Uncle neglected the sofa, and spent his time constructing a cow out of hide and straw and pieces of pine.

“Now then!” he said to Sandy one evening, after explaining the works of the animal to him—particularly of its head, which he manipulated with a piece of rope, “You take y’ gun an’ be th’ front legs—I’m th’ hind ones—an’ I’ll swing th’ tail.”

Sandy grinned, and disappeared from his hips up inside the “cow.” Uncle followed suit, and the cow—a clumsy, ill-shaped, ugly-looking brute, high in the front, blundered off up the paddock.

“Hold a minute,” said Uncle, breathing fast, and the rear of the cow rested, while her front part elevated itself like an elephant with its toes on a tub.

The animal staggered on again for about a mile, then stopped suddenly. “Here they are,” Sandy whispered, clutching the gun, “feedin’.” Then it was that Uncle’s genius revealed itself. “Down with y’r ’ead,” he said, “an’ feed round about a bit.”

Sandy bent his back and worked the rope—and the cow fed. Then Uncle put his hand out of a hole and she switched her tail.

The “old men” straightened up and stared.

“On a bit further,” said Uncle — “quietly!” And the “cow” sauntered along as though the herbage wasn’t to her taste. All at once there were sounds of galloping hoofs and breaking timber. “Holy!” Sandy muttered— “Cattle!” and tried to look round.

“’S all right,” Uncle said, “’s all right, ain’t we one of ’em?”

They were station cattle that for some time had been staring at the cow. They followed her cautiously till at last, overcome with curiosity, they came with a rush.

“They there yet?” Uncle whispered (meaning the game).

But Sandy was dumb. His attention was all on the cattle. Sandy understood the ways of cattle.

They increased in number and careered around making a dreadful noise. They displayed a friendly interest in the “cow,” and approached her closely and smelt her, and sprang back when she swore or switched her tail, till at last, when she refused to fraternise with them and sidled away to the foot of a tree, they shoved her about and her hind legs crossed, and she sat down. Then a heifer, that stood off throwing lumps of earth over its back, suddenly rushed in with a prolonged bellow, and ripped her horns into the “cow” and knocked her down. Sandy and Uncle struggled out and made off different ways; and the heifer and the whole mob took fright and fled—so did the “old men.”

My God!” Uncle gasped, and sank in a heap at the foot of a tree, where he pressed his hands hard against his sides and coughed, and coughed, and coughed.

Uncle always said that day had made him feel an old man before his time.


Chapter 4
Sandy’s Gold Mine

From eight acres of wheat, that Sandy had struggled hard for half a year to put in, he got a couple of bags of flour and some pollard, and was thankful. “Somethin’ like!” he said jubilantly, raking out a fistful for Kate to admire— “None o’ y’r dirt in that; that is flour.”

Two bags of flour was not a rich reward for half a year’s toil— nothing to boast about—nothing to make an ordinary person rejoice wildly. But Sandy was no ordinary person.

The returns didn’t satisfy Uncle, though. He was disappointed, and lost faith in the producing powers of Sandy’s soil. Where crops were concerned Uncle was a pessimist; he discredited farming altogether.

“Pshaw!” he grunted, in answer to Tom Clatty, who was taking cattle down the creek; “he med nothing—nothink on’y a bag or two o’ flour thet he’s stuck in there takin’ all th’ room o’ th’ ’ouse up—lookin’ an’ starin’ at ’em ev’ry night as though they were alive! He mighter done though, hed he took my advice at the start an’ let thet alone” (Uncle swung his right hand in contemptuous condemnation of the eight acres of cultivation) “an’ cleared ’ere” (swinging his other hand, and indicating the high part of the paddock, where stones and rocks were most and biggest, and the timber and trees so heavy that there wasn’t room for a hen to lay) “but no!” (Uncle made an ugly grimace and held up both hands) “’e must listen to ’er!

Then he said “Good-day” to Clatty, who smiled; and went off to a “nest” he had made for himself in the paddock—a shady, secluded retreat commanding a view of the cultivation, and Sandy rolling and tumbling about in it behind the two horses and the cranky old plough—to study a greasy, torn, water-stained copy of Queensland Hansard. The date of it was washed out, but it must have been nearly as ancient as some of the arguments it contained.

Uncle pored over that Hansard till near dinner-time, then crawled out, and, shaking off the dry leaves that clung to his clothes, strutted across to Sandy with the publication in his hand. “Somethin’ in this,” he said, “’ll open yer eyes.” Sandy called “Waay-h” to the horses, and they broke into a canter. Down went the plough handles, and Sandy brought the pair on to their rumps with a furious haul of the reins. “Waay, then, will yer—y’ mad, rushin’ dorgs! I’ll stop yer gallop!”

The black mare was all a-tremble, and seemed undecided. Sandy watched her a moment, then swore and smacked her hard with a rein to make her stand. Then both took fright, and plunged and swung suddenly round, and fouled Uncle (who was standing by waiting a chance to spell out Hansard), and knocked him down and trampled him under.

When he got free of their feet and found his own, he called Sandy a fool, and limped away in a temper. He returned, though, when the animals were unyoked, and seating himself on the beam of the plough, produced Hansard again.

Sandy prepared to listen; he rubbed the perspiration from his face with the palm of his hand, leaving large dirt smudges in its place, and sat beside Uncle, and stared over his shoulder.

“Listen ’ere!”—and Uncle in a sharp, shrill voice read a portion of the Premier’s speech, which said “the Government is offering a bonus of a thousand pounds to any person discovering in Queensland a new payable gold mine.” He paused, and looked meaningly at Sandy.

Sandy’s eyes fairly caught fire. “Gad!” he exclaimed, “a thousan’ poun’!”—and reached for the Hansard.

But Uncle hadn’t finished. “A bonus of one thousand pounds,” he read again, “to any person discovering in Queensland a new payable gold mine.”

Sandy turned his head, and his eyes settled on the mountain at the back of his paddock.

“This is all gold-bearing country,” Uncle said, guessing what was passing in Sandy’s mind— “every blessed inch of it!”

“Think so?” And Sandy’s month opened wide.

Know it!” Uncle replied; “know it for certant. Why, look ’ere!” (he rose and hobbled away, returning with a huge lump of useless-looking metal, which he threw down at Sandy’s feet), “there’s gold in that.”

Specks of some bright substance or other sparkled on its surface. Sandy stared at the specks and couldn’t speak; he seemed transfixed.

“Not in payable quantities, o’ course,” Uncle went on; “but there’s the gold, and,” he added, “there’s lots of it round ’ere—heaps of it; only wants workin’.”

It was all quite clear to Sandy, and he sat mentally combating a resolution he had made only three days before when Kate lost patience with him and told him to decide what he meant to do—work his own land as it should be worked, and leave off tearing about after kangaroos and bees’ nests and things, or stay inside altogether and do the housework and let her go out.

“Show me th’ spade a moment!” And Uncle took the implement from the plough and went off with it on his shoulder.

Just then Kate cooeed, and Sandy went off to dinner, thinking as he walked along. A year had made a great difference in Kate. Her nature was changed. Degeneration had set in; she regarded life seriously now, and nagged steadily at Sandy from the moment he opened his eyes in the morning till it was time to “turn in” at night. Sandy was never out of her mind; all her thoughts were for him. A constant little wife Kate was.

“How’s th’ horses been going ter-day?” she inquired, pouring out the tea as Sandy trudged in. Sandy was pondering heavily, wondering how to open the subject of gold mining to her, and failed to reply.

“Are y’ deaf?” Kate squealed. Sandy looked at her.

“How are they goin’—th’ horses?

“Oh! rushin’ terrible.”

“Well, could’n’ y’ say s’, ’stead o’ standin’ mopin’ there like a sick owl!” And Kate bounced across to the fireplace.

Sandy made no reply. He sat down cautiously and began on the ’roo tail soup. Kate took her seat at the end of the table, frowning deeply.

There was a dead silence.

Suddenly Kate dropped the sugar tin, scrambled to her feet, snatched up a bundle of bushes, comprising the broom, and struck the kangaroo dog across the spine with it, just when the hound was successfully manoeuvring a bone from the pot boiling on the fire; and squealed: “Out of this, y’ brute—yer rubbish: it’s all yer good f’—all y’ was ever learned t’ be good fer—hook!

Sandy felt it wasn’t all meant for the dog, and wished the brute had gone away somewhere and got poisoned.

Still he said nothing. Sandy wasn’t a warlike person. He kept on at the soup, and when he had finished smacked his lips and murmured: “Real good.”

It was a wise observation, for if there was anything Kate was proud of at all it was her cooking. Most women are—even those who can’t cook a chop. The frown vanished from her face, and she looked pleased.

“I’ve made y’ a meat and gravy puddin’, too,” she said, enthusiastically displaying her dainty in a tin.

Sandy stared at it in surprise, then smiled on Kate, and looked just as he did the day he got married.

Silence again.

“What d’ y’ think,” said Sandy, coming to the point, “but y’ better not say ennerthin’ about it yet awhile, ol’ girl.” He leaned over confidentially.

It was Kate’s turn to appear surprised, and her big eyes opened wide.

“There’s gold near the mountain,” Sandy whispered.

Gold?” and Kate screwed her eyebrows about, and stared at him.

“I couldn’t ’ve b’lieved it, meself, but it’s there; the old chap found it—dashed if he didn’t.”

Kate thought hard for a few seconds, while the frown returned to her face again.

“Didn’t he read that t’ y’?” Sandy drawled, “that in th’ paper this mornin’ about a thousan’ poun’ t’ be given t’ th’ cove finding gold in—”

“Bah!” Kate blurted out; “do y’ believe that?” and she bounced from the table in disgust, and knocked over the pudding.


Chapter 5
Trouble on the Mine

All that day Uncle was hard at work, and at night he came in with mystery oozing out all over him, and refused to utter a word. But next morning, while Sandy and Kate were at breakfast, there was a noise at the door like a tip-dray emptying itself of gravel, and Uncle marched in, puffing and brushing dust and scraps of rotten rock from his sleeves and arms with the palm of his hand.

“Have a look at these,” he said invitingly to Sandy, and the big dupe jumped up and followed him out.

“See,” said Uncle, foraging among the pile of decayed stone he had deposited at the door, “see that!” (pointing to something that glistened in the rubbish) “look!” (tossing the stuff about), “there’s gold all through it!”

Sandy couldn’t find language to express his astonishment. He had never seen gold in the raw before. He called Kate.

Kate ignored him.

Sandy put his head in at the door and implored her to “just come an ’ave a look.”

She came at last, reluctantly, and was sullen and suspicious-looking. Her eyes rested on the pile of “specimens.”

“Is that y’r gold,” she said disdainfully, “that?

Uncle straightened himself up and gazed at her like one who had been hit hard with something.

“Rubbish!” Kate hissed, “mud!” and tossed her head and went inside again.

“I thought so,” Uncle said, ironically. “I expected as much,” looking at Sandy; “she never saw a sign of gold in her life, knows simply nothink about it, no more ’n you do, an’ hear what she sez!”

Uncle had gathered up the specimens, when a policeman and a warder from the asylum rode up and asked questions about an escaped lunatic they were in search of—“a fellow,” they said, “that talked religion.”

Neither Sandy nor Uncle had seen anyone about answering the description, and both shook their heads.

“Well, if he does happen to come this way,” the policeman said, riding off again, “watch him, because he’s a bit dangerous.” Uncle chuckled. He had no fear of lunatics; no fear of any-thing—so he said.

A week later Uncle and Sandy were sinking a shaft at the bottom of the mountain. It was down about thirty feet, and they had just returned from dinner.

Sandy was preparing to descend. Sandy did all the descending—all the digging, too. Uncle was director, and had charge of the windlass and Hansard. And whenever Sandy swore loud enough to attract his attention he wound up the bucket, and sometimes let it run down again before he emptied it.

“Wait till I fix this,” Sandy said (adjusting a bandage that covered a wound on the back of his head, made by a pick Uncle let fall on him), then took hold of the bucket. “Sure y’ can steady ’er?” he murmured, hesitating at the brink.

Sandy was losing confidence in Uncle.

“Pshaw!” Uncle answered, struggling with the cranky windlass— “Wot y’ fritent o’, man; lower two like y’.”

The windlass creaked, the bucket began to descend, and Sandy’s head had just disappeared when a wild-looking man stepped out from amongst some bushes and walked straight for Uncle, pointing a gun at him and calling out:

“Deliver thyself; put thy hands up!”



Uncle got a shock. For a moment he seemed dazed, but his understanding soon returned, and then up went both hands (Uncle wasn’t afraid), round went the windlass, and the handle struck him in the chest and knocked him down.

“Oh-h! you cow!” in muffled tones came from the bottom of the well.

Like John the Baptist, the wild-looking man was scarce of raiment, and appeared as though he had subsisted for some time on grasshoppers and honey.

“Behold!” he said, “the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him.”

Uncle, who had regained his feet, remembered the policeman’s warning, and his teeth chattered. Uncle wasn’t a coward; but, somehow, he always left his bravery in the pocket of his other clothes.

“Deliver thy watch, shivering sinner! and thy purse.” And the pious bushranger poked the muzzle of the gun into Uncle’s face.

Uncle closed his eyes. (He wasn’t afraid.) “For the love of God, man,” he said, “I haven’t any.”

Liar!” shouted the lunatic, glaring along the barrel of the gun.

Groans, intermingled with threats and bad language, came from the bottom of the shaft. The crank lowered his weapon, and, leaning over, peered into the hole. Some more groans.

“Infamous dog!” he shouted down; then, seizing the windlass, he wound up the bucket.

Enter!” he said peremptorily to Uncle, and pointed to the dangling vessel.

Oh-h—no—mercy!my God!” Uncle moaned; “not down there?

“Takest thou my name in vain?” And the lunatic, using one hand, again took aim at Uncle.

Enter, sinner!” he repeated.

Uncle nearly fell down the hole scrambling to seat himself in the bucket, and when he was all in the lunatic yelled “Infidel!”— and let the handle go.

The windlass did rattle round! There was a great row at the bottom. Sandy took offence at Uncle for descending without giving him any warning, and fell on him and threatened to heave him to the top again. Sandy didn’t understand.

The lunatic listened with his ear over the well for a moment or two, then spoke solemnly into it. “Verily,” he began, “I say unto thee, thou shalt—”

He was interrupted by a voice behind, and looking round, saw old Hawkins and his two sons approaching. They were out kangarooing. “Devils!” he ejaculated, and, bounding up, fled for the mountain.

The Hawkinses rescued Sandy and Uncle from the well. There was a lot of blood on Sandy when he came to the top, and he was in a bad humour. “Enough gold-mining for me!” he said sulkily, and pulled on his coat and went silently homeward.


Chapter 6
Two Cases for the Doctor

Sandy behind the plough again. Uncle invalided—moping at the house with a heavy, thick muffler round his neck, coughing and complaining of cold and a sore lip. He had complained of a sore lip on and off for months. The pain was getting unbearable, he said, and declared he would have to go to the hospital or see a doctor about it.

Kate wished to heavens he would—go anywhere so long as he didn’t return any more. She had come to regard Uncle as a nuisance, and a serious hindrance to Sandy. Women are so changeable. Not so Sandy, himself; he had no desire to lose Uncle. The bonds of kinship were still strong; besides, Sandy was forgiving and sympathetic. He took Uncle in hand and patched him up—bathed and poulticed the afflicted part, and sat up late in the night humouring and keeping him company.

One evening Sandy applied a little “farmers’ friend” to Uncle’s lip to relieve the pain, and for five or six minutes you would have thought a snake was coiled round Uncle’s leg. He danced about the room with his hand over his mouth, only removing it to swear and shout for water.

Both kerosene tins were empty, and Uncle kicked one against the slabs and the other he sent flying close to Kate’s head. Then he bolted out the door and made for the gully.

Sandy stared aghast for several moments, his big heart heaving with concern and compassion; then he turned to Kate and, with pathos in his voice, asked her not to laugh.

Uncle got worse every day, till at last there was scarcely any living in the house with him.

One evening Sandy heard that Dr. Anderson was setting a limb for Morrissey, three miles down the creek. He jumped on one of the old mares and rode down to Morrissey’s.

On his way home Dr. Anderson called at Sandy’s selection and overhauled Uncle. A nice man was Dr. Anderson—or Kate reckoned he was, anyway. He shook hands with Kate. He had the name of being clever, too. Everyone on the creek said he was, and there must have been eight or nine living there altogether.

Cancer!” he said, after a careful examination of Uncle’s lip—“have to be cut out!” And his big, sympathetic eyes looked steadily into Uncle’s little grey ones through a pair of gold-rimmed spec’s.

Uncle never flinched

“It’ll be rather painful,” the doctor explained, “and I’ll have to put you under chloroform.”

Uncle flinched then, and became apprehensive.

“Couldn’t y’ do it without chloroform?” he stammered.

The doctor said he could—would rather do it so, in fact, if Uncle thought he could stand it.

Uncle never displayed such a nerve before.

“Stand it all right,” he said, seating himself on a box and inviting the doctor to begin at once.

The latter smiled.

“I’ll be here to-morrow,” he said, “meanwhile your son here” (meaning Sandy, who stood gloomily by), “if he has a razor, might shave your lip.”

Sandy had a razor. An heirloom. It was frequently used for shaving greenhide. And when the doctor came again Uncle’s top lip—a long, thin one that hung like a board in a calf’s nose —was scraped as bare as a boot.

Everything was ready for the operation. Kate provided warm water and cloths; Sandy left the plough to come in and look on, and Uncle submitted himself bravely.

The doctor took his coat off, and Sandy groaned. The doctor fossicked in a leather bag, and produced a pair of bright scissors, which he carefully wiped. Uncle turned very white, but kept calm.

“Now, put your lip out!” said the doctor.

Uncle contorted his features till his lip projected like the peak on a policeman’s cap. Then the doctor pushed back his white stiff cuffs, reached out, and, like clipping a piece of cardboard, snipped a V-shaped piece from Uncle’s lip.

Uncle clenched his fists and quivered all over. “You’re a Briton,” the medico said; “did it hurt?”

“Not ’utch,” Uncle answered, large tears rushing from his eyes.

The wound was bathed and patched with sticking-plaster, and the rest of the day Uncle lay on the sofa, reflecting on his fate and the uselessness of life generally.

In four days Dr. Anderson called again and cheerfully examined the patient. The sticking-plaster, he found, had mostly left the lip—poked off by the stubble that had grown.

“You must have another shave,” he said, “or the plaster will never stick. I’ll be back again in about two hours.” And he prepared to depart.

Tears came into Uncle’s eyes as he shifted restlessly on the sofa.

“Who’s going to shave me?” he asked.

“Oh, he can do it again,” the doctor replied, nodding towards Sandy.

Uncle turned his head as slowly as a wounded bear might, and rested his eyes full on Sandy, who stood motionless at the fireplace, looking the very temple of tenderness.

“Well then,” he said in a firm voice, “I want chloroform.”

A glorious day. There had been heavy rain on the creek, and the air was crisp and clear. No haze hung round the mountains; everything bright and cheerful; the Bush was at its best.

Uncle was about—quite recovered—quite himself again. All his uselessness and inactivity had returned.

Sandy was opening the last land. He had just erected a stake with paper fastened to the head of it—a mark to go by, and was jumping the plough into line when his eye rested on a flag in the shape of a white skirt flying at the humpy.

Sandy flung the plough down, and, regardless of the horses, tore over the ploughed ground, and was at the humpy in a few bounds.

He rushed from it again and raced wildly round in search of Uncle. Uncle was in his “nest.”

Uncle only caught the first words of what Sandy said. But he heard enough. He raised himself quickly and stared in amazement.

“Here! here! no! Send me. Let me go!” he shouted after Sandy, as the latter raced back to the plough.

Sandy threw the harness from the horses; dragged the mare after him and shoved her into an old spring-cart, housed under a tree at the back of the humpy; then, jumping in, recklessly rattled down the creek at the risk of breaking his neck.

Uncle stared after Sandy till he became restless, then walked about, now and again pausing to glance at the deserted humpy, where the white skirt was still flying.

Uncle was agitated.

An hour passed. Still Uncle walked up and down.

Confound it!” he muttered, “what th’ devil did he want leaving me here for?”

He thought he heard his name called. “My God!” and he looked up and listened. But it was only his imagination.

Another hour nearly spent. Uncle became remorseful. He reproached himself. “Wot th’ devil did I want comin’ ’ere at all, for?” he whined; then lost himself in reverie.

When he woke up, and looked round again, the horse, and cart were standing before the humpy. Sandy was there, too— hurrying big Mrs. McNevin and a calico bundle indoors. Uncle was relieved!

Presently Sandy sauntered towards Uncle. When half-way he stood and leaned on the fence. He looked lost.

Uncle approached him. “Well?” he whispered, apprehensively.

Sandy did not answer. His face was grave; a heavy load seemed to be on his mind. He sighed audibly.

Then Uncle, too, leaned on the fence and both were silent, motionless, till Mrs. McNevin showed herself. “Come, Sondy, mon,” she called lustily. “Come an’ see yeer bairn; d’ ye nae hear the squeals o’t?”

Sandy gave a bound, and could scarcely keep his feet in the haste he made to reach the humpy.

Uncle left next day. He wouldn’t stay any longer on Sandy’s selection. Uncle couldn’t stand excitement—or a baby in the house. That was why he never got married—so he told Sandy and Mrs. McNevin.


Chapter 7
Some Neighbours of Sandy’s

The Taltys lived on the Station road—three boys and three girls and the “old man and woman.” A well-grown family they were, healthy and strong as horses. They took great care of their strength, too—they rarely used any of it.

They were easy-going and never complained; they seemed to have no trials, no cares, nothing to worry about. They had nothing much to wear about, either.

Talty’s selection wasn’t one of the smiling order. No money was wasted on it; no unnecessary buildings, no wire-netting fences, no ornamental trees, no drays or carts, no machinery, and no old iron lying about rusting in the sun. There was no visible extravagance of any kind.

The house opened into a garden fenced with sticks and filled with a rose-bush, a currajong tree and a waterhole. It was without a chimney and without a tank. It leaned on an acre or two of cleared ground ornamented with burnt holes, ash-patches and stumps and sawn logs from which the dry sapwood had been hacked and chopped away. Round the house, to protect it from bush fires, was a ploughed circle; four years had passed since it was ploughed, and grass and weeds grew luxuriantly out of it. At the rear was a pigsty built of heavy logs; and looming behind the sty was a steep, stony mountain that periodically, when the family were dining, let slip some granite, which bounded over the pigs and bumped the corner of the house and knocked slabs out, and shook cobwebs and spiders and shingles and things on to the dinner, and let daylight into the building. Creeping slowly down the mountain side, threatening to submerge the sty and the house and the cleared ground, came a thick, massive scrub from which at night howls and weird noises arose; also droves of wallabies and things to encourage the Taltys and keep them employed. In front stretched a paddock of five acres fenced with fallen timber and sticks and piles of bushes. Talty called it “the cultivation,” sometimes the “apiary.” It contained a patch of wheat embroidered with “stinking Roger” and grass higher than any horse, and some bee-hives in white boxes cocked up on forked sticks. The Taltys went in for honey-raising as well as agriculture; they didn’t believe in placing all their eggs in one basket.

No live stock, excepting a pair of grey horses, were ever on Talty’s selection; and whenever Sandy went to draw water from the creek he always had to pull the grey horses out of the mud.

The Taltys owned some cattle, but they only came round the place when the wheat was coming on. They possessed fowls, too, and a pet kangaroo and an emu and a magpie. These were always at home. The kangaroo and emu used to forage near the road and race drovers’ and shepherds’ dogs from the fence to the house, where the magpie would lend a hand and slang the retreating canines.

Talty was a methodical man, and farmed on a system: a good system, he reckoned, was everything on a farm. He cooked, for shearers half the year, and grew wheat and pumpkins and strained honey the other half. He pottered about till all hours of night, and his work was never done; and he slept every morning till the flies and the heat of the sun hunted him out.

“Get the hoe, lads!” he would say to the boys in an eager kind of way just about dinner-time. The boys would rush round and search the paddock and the long grass about the pig-sty and the heads of trees, where some of them had “seen it one day.” When they had found it, Talty would spend an hour wedging the handle, then he would amble off with it on his shoulder, the boys following at his heels, and scratch holes in the grass and plant pumpkin seed, and write down the date of the sowing in a book. Talty mostly found something to do at the fence, where anyone going by might see him and ask the way and talk all day if they were not in a hurry.

Talty said he owned altogether twenty-five head of cattle, mostly cows—the makers of good milkers, too; and it was the time when no dairies were about, when no one else had cows, and butter was four shillings a pound at the store.

And whenever those cows did come round in the daytime, Talty and the boys, in the interests of the rusty wheat, would dog and stone them across fences and over ridges, and do their utmost to “wander” them. They wouldn’t get home till all hours of night; and no sooner would they be under the blankets when they would hear the cows again. Then Talty and the boys would bound from bed and run out in their shirts and shout and call the dog and grope in the dark for stones, and chase the cattle back over more mountains. The Taltys were always kept going in the wheat season.

Often Talty would come over and lean on the fence, and discuss things with Sandy.

“There’s nothin’ in wheat,” he used to say, despondingly; nothin’! . . . Cows seems to be the on’y thing, now . . . an’ they ain’t to be got . . . But I dunno” (and he’d look round at the country and sigh), “the wife has a idea of a boardin’ house in town . . . but I dunno.”

Yet good, kind-hearted people the Taltys were; and when in adversity they at last abandoned their homestead and went away, memories of their careless unselfishness lingered long in the hearts of Sandy and Kate, who would often sit and speak of them, and wonder if they were doing well.

The McCabes were different from the Taltys. There were nine of them. They came to Sleepy Creek before Sandy.

Came one September, when the country looked well, and the quondong trees hung heavy with crimson fruit. Their house stood on a clearing in the middle of a pine scrub, and was surrounded with a new two-wire fence. The fence was a valuable improvement—so old McCabe said.

At the back were miles and miles of prickly pear; in front a cultivation paddock enclosed with a dog-leg fence; on one side a killing-yard with a gallows fixed in a dead pine-tree. When there was no beast hanging on the gallows a family of jackasses roosted on it. They roosted on it, too, when a beast was hanging there. A large quondong tree, with a sapling ladder leaning against it and reaching up among the branches, shaded the house. The fowls used the ladder to mount the tree at night.

On the other side was a cowyard and a log pig-sty, with three piebald pigs in it. McCabe caught the pigs one day among the prickly-pear while they had their heads down, feeding on a wallaby.

And there was a garden staked all round with pine saplings. The bark was leaving the saplings and some of them were longer than others. In the moonlight they looked like the pipes of a church organ. The garden was full of sunflowers and pumpkins and young pine-trees.

McCabe never liked the house; always said it was too small, after the day he tripped going in the back door and fell against the front step and cut his head. He used to say he would enlarge it “next year.” McCabe was always going to do things “next year.” But he painted the house, inside and out, one year; painted it pink. He manufactured the paint from prickly-pear, and it made a wonderful difference to the place.

Three miles from McCabe’s lived the Dooleys. There were more Dooleys by one than McCabes, a circumstance to which Dooley attributed the ill-feeling displayed towards him by McCabe. But McCabe always denied it. He said it was nothing more than a bit of friendly rivalry on his part, and he reckoned he could take a beating as well as anyone.

One day McCabe and Dooley argued at Anderson’s pub. about horses. McCabe offered to race his piebald against Dooley’s chestnut mare for a bag of pumpkins, and Dooley took him up. Dooley used to drive a Cup-winner in a dray, and reckoned he knew a lot about racing.

The match took place one Sunday evening, and everyone gathered in Anderson’s paddock to see it. Riley was proposed as starter and judge, and McCabe objected; objected because it was Riley who had judged at the grass-fed meeting, when Roberts’ black mare and Talty’s grey colt ran a dead-heat. Riley said “the piebald won.” McCabe also remembered that Riley one summer, when his sight failed, swapped his shot gun to an Indian hawker for a pair of spectacles which used to bring objects right up against him, and caused him to give his hand to people to shake when they weren’t near. McCabe made capital out of this. But the publican stuck up for Riley; said he was a decent, honest man, and McCabe had to give way.

It was hard to tell which horse was in the better condition. They were a sorry pair! Dooley’s chestnut was fed on pear, while McCabe’s looked as though it had been fed on the prickles.

Dooley, his coat off and a white handkerchief tied round his head, rode out first, and carried a heavy slogger. After a while McCabe came along; he was bare-backed and bare-footed. Two jam tins with the ends knocked out were tied over the piebald’s eyes to protect them from the flies; and when Dooley’s chestnut saw the tins it sidled off and wouldn’t draw into line. Jack Peck took the brute by the head and pulled him alongside. While Peck was pulling, McCabe’s horse went to sleep. He seemed to think his rider wanted to “pitch.” But McCabe jerked his mouth and kicked him with his heels and woke him up.

“Are y’ riddy?” Riley said, and Dooley and McCabe gathered up their reins, leaned forward, lifted their feet, and eyed the starter. Riley pointed a heavy muzzle-loader at the clouds and pulled the trigger. The gun refused to go off. Riley took it down, poked at it and placed the head of a match in the nipple. Then she exploded before he could get her to his shoulder again, and blew a hole in the leg of Dooley’s pants. .

Both horses jumped away. Everyone shouted. Two kangaroo dogs ran and got in McCabe’s way, and kept the piebald back. Dooley worked hard on the chestnut. His arms and legs moved like large eyelids. We could see it was going to be a good race, and ran to the winning-post to enjoy the finish. They came round “the turn” neck and neck. A hundred yards from home Dooley drew into the lead and everyone was shouting “The chestnut ’ll win!” And Mrs. McCabe seemed very down-hearted

But McCabe was a resourceful man. When he found the piebald was done he slipped off, and putting his head back, took advantage of his bare feet and came after Dooley. There was excitement, then! It was too much for the chestnut. She fell down, and Dooley pulled himself together and chased McCabe, who was out of wind. He couldn’t pass him, though, and Riley gave the race to McCabe. But Dooley never gave him the pumpkins.

[Note.—The concluding portion of this chapter was suggested to me by Mr. E. A. Murphy. —S. R.]


Chapter 8
Two Girls from Town

The sun had gone down. Wallabies came from the scrub and undergrowth, and hovered about the grasslands; the birds flew silently to rest; Sandy dropped the plough-handles and unyoked the horses for the day.

A dray creaked along and stopped at the door of the house. Kate left the baking and ran out with flour on her apron and dough on her hands.

“Goodness me!” she exclaimed, “Liza and Bella!”

And as the two girls jumped from the dray she threw her arms about them and hugged them hard in turn, and left tears on their cheeks and dough-marks on their shoulders. The girls kissed Kate too, and were pleased they had surprised her.”

“We weren’t expecting you till Thursday,” Kate explained, “and both of us meant to meet you at the station.”

The girls shrieked at Kate. “Isn’t this Thursday?” they squealed.

Kate seemed puzzled. “Ain’t it Wednesday?” she said.

The girls shrieked more. And Patsy Riley, whose dray it was, looked out shyly from under his drooping hat, and drawled “Yairs it’s Thursday, Mrs. Taylor; I thought it wer’ Wednesday, too, till I got to th’ station this mornin’.”

It was Kate’s turn to shriek now, and the other two joined in and hung on to their band-boxes and the tail of the dray, and shed tears and yelled “Oh! Mrs. Taylor!”

Patsy smiled, said “’Night,” and drove on.

Kate led the way inside; and the visitors removed their hats, put away their luggage, and proceeded to make themselves at home. Fine jolly girls were Liza Parker and Bella McBean. Plump, fresh-looking young women, neatly dressed and full of “life.” They were from Town, too, and on their first visit to Sleepy Creek—on their first visit to the Bush, in fact. They sat down and remained quiet while Kate enquired after their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, also their relations and everyone she knew in town or had heard mention of. Then they pounced on little Jim and hunted him through the house, and hugged him, and placed him across their knees and tickled him till he yelled and fought for freedom like a bull calf.

Sandy strolled in with a pumpkin on his shoulder. “I’m blowed,” he said, and dropped the vegetable heavily on the floor. It rolled on the dog’s paw and made the brute howl.

“Mr. Taylor!” the girls said, and rushed round Sandy. Sandy was a favourite with women. Kate looked on and smiled, and when the reception was over she asked Sandy what day it was.



“Wednesday,” Sandy said, and the others shrieked again.

Uncle hobbled in and began a conversation with the dog. “Uncle,” Kate said, “this is Liza Parker and Bella McBean from Ipswich.”

Uncle gave them his hand, and wasn’t sure if he had ever seen them before, but he knew their fathers well. That was an old lie of Uncle’s. The girls looked hard at Uncle, and Bella McBean explained the cause of their merriment to him.

“I noo,” Uncle said, chuckling at Sandy. “I noo it weren’t; I tol’ him yes’d’y it wer’ Friday.”

You’d think the house was coming down then! Even the dog rushed about and whined. And when Uncle frowned and said he was “d—d if he could see ennerthin’ ter laugh et,” Sandy threw up his big feet and fell backwards off a case.

“Hidjets!" Uncle said, and went outside.

After supper. The girls tied aprons round themselves, rolled up their sleeves and gave Kate a hand with the washing-up. Sandy cleaned the old gun and hunted in every hole and corner for ammunition and the ramrod.

“Would y’ like t’ see a bit o’ ’possum shootin’?” he said, flourishing the weapon.

Liza and Bella were delighted. They had never seen any ’possum shooting before—had hardly ever seen a ’possum.

“Well, come on, there’s plenty round th’ corn,” and Sandy put the gun on his shoulder. Kate and the visitors fastened their hat-strings, and Uncle tightened the handkerchief that was always about his neck, and turned up the collar of his coat, and went too.

“Here’s one!” Sandy exclaimed after mooning and blundering about beneath a tree. “See him,” and the girls stared into the tree.

“Quite different to bears,” one of them said, and Uncle dropped on his haunches and chuckled. “Different to bears!”

Sandy brushed everyone aside and levelled the gun; and Liza and Bella tittered and crept behind Kate.

“He’s poked himself behind a limb,” Sandy said, and stepped back a pace or two to get better aim, and fell over Uncle and lost the gun. Uncle rose and danced about and called Sandy “a awkward galoot.”

“How was I t’ see y’,” Sandy snapped, “when y’ go an’ sit down behind a fellow in th’ dark?”

“Might ’a’ shot someone!” Uncle growled, retiring out of range, while Sandy took aim again.

“Click! Click! Click!” was all Sandy could get out of the gun.

“Bring me another cap!” he called to Uncle, who was in charge of the ammunition.

“Which way have y’ got ’er pointin’, fust?” Uncle answered. Sandy assured him she was “all right,” and Uncle came from behind a stump and felt himself all over for caps.

“Here’s th’ powder an’ shot an’ the paper,” he said, “y’ must have th’ caps y’self.”

Sandy said he hadn’t, and remembered giving them to Uncle after taking one from the box.

“Well, they must be where y’ fell over me,” Uncle answered, and an hour was spent striking matches and searching amongst the grass and brambles for the caps.

Kate grew restless. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, “you can shoot plenty another night.” Then she and the girls retired empty-handed to the house, and talked about the people in town, and patterns, and puddings, and things.

But Sandy was bent upon securing a ’possum for Liza and Bella.

“See can I knock him,” he said to Uncle, and opened fire on the pest with stones and waddies. Uncle crouched in the grass and watched the effect of every missile.

“Nearly,” he said, “just grazed ’is ’ead.”

The waddies rattled among the limbs.

“Shiftin’ ’im!”—from Uncle.

Sandy let fly some more.

“He’s comin’ down; look out for him.” And Uncle danced about the foot of the tree. Sandy ran in armed with a long stick with a prong projecting from it which he was not aware of.

“Hit ’im! hit ’im!” Uncle yelled. (Uncle could see the vermin, but Sandy couldn’t locate it at all.)

“There in the low fork—d—n it, look! he’s comin’—’ere, ’ere!”

The ’possum came down the trunk of the tree, and Sandy swung the stick and hit Uncle on the neck with the prong, and Uncle sank softly in the grass. Sandy continued to deal blows all round the tree in quick succession. But the ’possum reached the ground and escaped to a towering gum, where he was soon swaying calmly about in the boughs.

“Fancy th’ little devil gettin’ away!” Sandy said. Not a sound came from Uncle.

“See how th’ little wretch jumped?” Uncle was still silent.

“What’s th’ matter?” Sandy asked, a feeling of suspicion creeping over him. “What’s up?” and he felt for Uncle, then struck a match and saw blood on him. Sandy rushed away to the house and called for water and alarmed Kate and the girls.

“Oh dear me!” Kate said, “Uncle’s shot!” Then there was commotion.

While Sandy was procuring water, Uncle, half-dazed, struggled to his feet and staggered off in the wrong direction.

Sandy, followed by Kate and the girls, rushed to the scene of the accident with water and a supply of rag.

“He was here somewhere,” Sandy said; “this is the tree.” And he stared perplexedly into the branches of the dead box. One of the girls tripped against the gun and took fright. Sandy was convinced.

“He’ll be over here,” he said, advancing to the right. He struck a match. “Where are y’?” he said, “where th’ deuce ’a’ y’ got t’? Uncle!

No answer.

“He was here,” Sandy said, and knelt down to examine the place with the aid of a lighted match. “There’s blood, see?”

Kate and the girls shuddered. “You haven’t killed him?” Kate said in tones of apprehension.

Killed ’im! oh, my God! That’s what they’ll be saying,” and Sandy started running round in the dark calling at the top of his voice for Uncle.

Uncle had staggered on till he fouled the wire fence. Then he followed it along till it spanned a dirty little water-hole into which he blundered. When he pulled himself out all his senses had returned, and he made for the house. He heard Sandy cooeeing and feebly responded. A heavy load was lifted from Sandy’s mind.

“Where did y’ get to,” he said, “ I thought you was hurt?” Uncle groaned, and Sandy dragged him inside to the light.

A sorry sight Uncle was—mud from head to heels. He couldn’t see for mud! Kate and the girls looked him up and down just for a second, then they broke out and screamed. Sandy turned away and tried to keep calm.

“If y’ got hit on th’ back o’ th’ neck with a stick,” Uncle growled, “and didn’t know where you was till y’ fell in a d—d hole, you wouldn’t want to laugh!” And he fixed his eyes on Bella. She jumped off her seat and screamed more. But Sandy secured a light and took Uncle out to the shed, where he scraped him down, then put him to bed.

When Liza and Bella said “Good night” to Kate and Sandy, they closed the door of their room, put things against it, then talked about Uncle and tittered till all hours.


Chapter 9
Cows and Horses

Liza and Bella were up next morning before the sun, and went out to watch Sandy milking. They ventured into the yard, and rushed out in disorder when Riley’s red bull came and bellowed into the calf-pen. Sandy stood up and grinned, and they returned to try their hands at milking. They tugged at the teats, and pinched them with their finger nails, and let the bucket fall in the mud when the cow kicked.

“Look out!” Sandy said, brushing them away and seating himself under the cow. They stood admiring Sandy’s skill for awhile, then Bella McBean leaned against the door of the calf-pen, which suddenly fell in, and a big bull calf rushed out, scraping tufts of hair off himself against the edges of the doorway, and plunged for possession of the cow’s udder, and knocked Sandy off the milking block and emptied the milk over him. Talk of hilarity! You could hear those girls a mile away! Sandy pulled himself out of the dirt, and lifted his foot to kick the bull calf on the jaw; but, remembering there were ladies present, restrained himself.

“Yer brute!” he hissed, and seized the calf by the ears to tear him from the cow. But Bully stuck to his hold like a leech, and bunted and slobbered and sucked hard to make hay while the sun shone. The girls enjoyed Bully more and more; and Liza was shrieking at the top of her voice, her back turned to the pen, when Silky’s calf, a nervous rat of a heifer, bounded out, and swerving to avoid Bella, mixed itself up in Liza’s skirts and carried her off her feet. Then Sandy yelled, “Hoh! hoh! hoh! Ha! ha! ha!” and leaned against the cow and let the bull calf get all the milk.


Bella and Liza left the yard, tittering, to return to the house. The red bull strolled leisurely towards them and shook his head. They screamed and raced for the back door, which was closed. The dogs barked. Uncle opened the back door and ran out in his shirt to see what the matter was. Bella and Liza squealed more when they saw Uncle, and stopped and looked in different directions. Uncle wheeled round and rushed inside.

Liza and Bella had been over a week with Sandy and Kate, and their time was nearly up. Kate wished they could remain another month or two months; Sandy said he wouldn’t mind if they stayed for ever. “Makes th’ place lively,” he added. Uncle, though, wished they would “clear out and never come back again.” “All this giggling at everythink gets sickenin’,” he said.

Every afternoon Kate drove the girls out in the cart to see some of her friends, and Mrs. Riley had yet to be called on. The day arrived to visit her, and Kate was sorry she couldn’t accompany the girls. Sandy was busy putting in potatoes and required assistance.

“But you can drive yourselves,” Kate said, “it isn’t far— or Uncle will go with you.”

They said they would drive themselves. Bella was sure she could pilot the conveyance, and both were delighted with the prospect of their final outing.

Kate left the house to assist Sandy, and the girls successfully caught the old mare. Sandy had left the necessary harness in the cart, and they proceeded to fasten it on Gypsy. After a lot of discussion and contradiction they agreed as to how the collar should be adjusted. The saddle and breeching bothered them a good deal. It was a heavy strain on them; but when it came to putting the crupper on the mare their real trouble commenced. Bella approached Gypsy’s tail with care and caution, while Liza held the animal firmly by the bit and tittered. Gypsy lifted her hind foot and stamped it heavily on the ground, because of flies, just at the psychological moment. Bella gave a short squeal and jumped back, and, treading on a pumpkin, which rolled from under her, fell down. Liza let go the mare’s head and fled. Then they laughed at each other and said they were glad no one was about.

“See can you fix it,” Bella said. But Liza wouldn’t take any risks. She was not a horsebreaker. She had a head full of good ideas, though.

“Bring her round to the verandah,” she said, “and put it on through the window.”

They led Gypsy round to the verandah, backed her in beneath the window (there were no floor boards), and while Liza stuck to her head again, Bella slipped inside, mounted the sofa and leaned out to reach for the crupper.

“Push her back a little, Liza,” she chuckled.

Liza giggled, and put some weight into her work. Bella, with an effort, managed to grip the leather.


“Little further!” she said encouragingly, at the same time pulling with all her strength. But instead of backing, the old brute stubbornly slewed her hindquarters round and dragged Bella through the window. When Liza saw her companion falling she threw up her hands and squealed into the mare’s ears, and the animal took fright, and trotted gently round the yard. But Bella didn’t fall heavily. The window-shutter, which opened on the inside, closed as she fell, and one of her feet jammed, and she hung like a flag at half-mast. She giggled while Liza struggled to rescue her, but when Uncle’s voice and footsteps suddenly sounded near she screamed appallingly. Her screams only made Uncle the more heroic. He rushed past Liza, entered the house, pulled the window shutter with one hand, pushed Bella’s foot with the other, and—dropped her on her head.

They didn’t go to Riley’s.

Liza and Bella often talk about their trip to Sleepy Greek, and they always say they were never at a place where they enjoyed themselves so well, and they’ve both been to Government House several times.


Chapter 10
One Corn Season

Sandy was knocking his selection into shape. Every day it became more and more like a place that was inhabited. No prickly-pear, no undergrowth, no logs, no brambles, no timber or rubbish of any kind lay around the house now. Only a few large trees, half naked, stood near, and they were withering. Sandy stripped them for roofing for the fowl-house, and the calf-pen, and the new barn he had erected.

Sandy was pushing ahead. He had four acres planted with lucerne, and eight more under corn—fine healthy-looking corn, too! And talk about work! Sandy rarely rested. He would begin hard at daylight, and bullock till he couldn’t see—bullock till the stars came out and blinked and blazed—till Kate exhausted herself cooeeing and calling, and came and abused him for keeping supper waiting.

While the corn was maturing Sandy extended operations— cut more prickly-pear; grubbed more big trees; rolled more heavy logs together; tramped, trudged, and groped round gathering and raking up sticks and banking-up fires till another plot of land—six acres—was bare of everything but ashes and grass. Sandy had no respect for timber; didn’t recognise it was a splendid asset for the country, or show any desire to conserve any of it for those who were to come after him. There was no national spirit in Sandy that way.

A public holiday. A day of dust, of thirst and flies and hell’s own heat on the selection; a day of glee and gaiety, pomp and picnics and military display in the city.

The posts were in the ground, and Sandy was running a couple of wires around the new land—old, second-hand stuff it was, too— wire that had been put up in heaps instead of coils, and was the devil and all to work. It twisted, knotted, tangled itself up like a fishing-line, and repeatedly went asunder and raised lumps of profanity on Sandy.

Kate left the house and went to assist Sandy; and together they strained and struggled the whole day, dragging the wire through those posts. Terrible work it was lugging and humouring that wretched, rusty material! and not a yard of it would run smoothly. Perspiration flowed from both of them. Now and again Kate would feel as though she must give in, and Sandy would throw the wire down and advise her to take a “spell.” Then they’d sit in the shade, somewhere, mopping themselves, brushing the flies away, and deploring the necessity for fencing at all, and uselessly wishing they had been born lucky, or rich, or blind, or something.

“Ah, well!” Sandy would say, rising wearily to it again; “there isn’t much more of it to be done now.” And Kate would tie the strings of her bonnet together, and slowly struggle to her feet too.

The eye of a dusty drover, riding loosely on the wings of a mob of cattle passing down the creek, would rest for a moment on Sandy and Kate.

“There’s life for y’!”—he would say to a companion coming round from the tail of the mob.


“Terrible!” the other would answer, and with a grim, sad sort of chuckle they’d turn their heads away. Drovers never could see any pleasure or poetry in a selection.

And Sandy and Kate would pause to stare at the cattle, and at the tired, worn-out looking men behind them.

“Rough time them poor devils must have,” Sandy would murmur sympathisingly; “going all day in th’ heat, an’ camping out every night, wet or dry.”

“Always from home, too,” Kate would add; “an’ some o’ them, p’r’aps, have no home to go to! Thank goodness we’re not so bad off as that.”

Sandy and Kate had a warm place in their hearts for the drovers.

Occasionally little Jim, who had to put in a long, lonely day under the trees near by, diverted their attention and provided some relaxation. At intervals he would poke about the slack wire, and when Sandy pulled and lurched viciously to tighten it, Jim would be found hanging in it by the legs. To console him took more time and rubbing than it would to restore the apparently drowned. More often though, green-heads or hornets were the cause of his distress; and once, when playing about the head of a fallen tree, he yelled and held up his hands and jumped backwards in such a way that Sandy thought there must be a snake, and made a blind rush to rescue his offspring, and fell over a stump hidden in the grass, and skinned his knee and his elbow, and tore a piece out of a new flannel shirt he had on. But it was only a jew-lizard waddling casually after Jim with its mouth open.

When the last panel was wired, Kate sat heavily down and sighed, and fervently thanked God it was finished.

On the way to the house Sandy brightened up, and talked cheerfully of their prospects, and invited Kate to view the corn. “It’s grown a foot since yesterday,” he said. But Kate couldn’t; she was not in a mood to admire maize or anything else just then. She would have passed a mirror without looking into it, or one of her own sex without turning to see “what she had on.” Sandy stalked through the crop, though. He flew round and got supper ready, too, when he reached the house that night.

Sandy ploughing; breaking up the new land.

“Stan’ up! . . . Gypsy! . . . Vi’let! . . . now then—come on!

Perspiring and agitated, he stood and jumped the plough about to loosen the soil at its nose and give the brutes a chance. The jaded old mares, poor, weak, worn-out and covered with sweat, stood too. Kate, anxious-looking, and holding the reins and a whip in her hands, stood also. ’Twas a fine picture; it would have looked well done in oils.

“Now then!” Sandy began again; “Gypsy! . . . come on, Vi’let! . . . Gyp’! . . .” They strained and rocked and rolled against each other; then slackened off and backed, and sat down in a heap on the plough, and groaned.

Blarst them!” and Sandy took the reins and whip from Kate. “See can y’ hold th’ plough, awhile,” he said.

Kate stood near the handles, and begged Sandy not to be “hard on the poor old things.”

But Sandy’s blood was up. He shortened the reins and shouted “Vil’t! . . . Gypsy!” and dropped the whip heavily on their hides, and knocked dust out of them.


Kate turned her head and looked away. The old mares swayed and tumbled about; then took to the collars and moved off as if breaking up was easy. The plough glided smoothly after them on its side. Sandy hurried along and roared and applied more whip to them. Sandy knew when he had an advantage.

“You old devils!” he shouted triumphantly; “you can do it well enough when you like.” They kept going for about thirty yards, when Sandy glanced over his shoulder to see how Kate was manipulating the implement.

Weh-h!” he yelled, when he saw she was not between the handles, and pulled the brutes up suddenly with an angry jerk. Then he threw the reins down in disgust, glanced back at Kate, standing motionless, and growled “What th’ devil’s th’ good o’ that?”

Kate started to laugh.

“D—d if I can see any joke in it!” Sandy said, and commenced throwing the plough about, and was looking ugly, when the new slip-rails near by—a barricade of bark and green saplings —fell with a crash. Sandy looked up and saw a man leading a horse over the ruins.

Dad! it’s Dad!” Kate exclaimed, and ran to meet her parent.

Sandy brightened up all at once. He grinned and strode forward, too; for Dad it was—Dad on his old black horse, and on his first visit to Sleepy Creek.

“So this is where y’ are?” Dad began, staring about. He shook hands with them, then proceeded to indict Dave and Joe for misleading him.

“Would neverer got here,” he went on, “if I’d a’ come th’ way they said! They tol’ me y’ wuz away back here!” And Dad waved his hand all round the compass. “I’d ’ave been ’ere three hours ago if it weren’t for thet.”

Kate and Sandy smiled. They knew Dad had been bushed.

“I know th’ place well enough, now,” Dad added, looking round as though he had once been familiar with the locality. In dissimulation Dad hadn’t many equals.

Sandy took Dad’s horse and put it in the grass-paddock; and Kate, having inquired after Mother and Sarah and the rest, hurried to the house to put the meat on for supper. Had it been the King or a circus that had arrived Sandy and Kate couldn’t have been more pleased.

Dad ran his eye over Sandy’s plough-horses. Dad always admired that class of animal. “Wot’s th’ good o’ them?” he said; “y’ll never break this up wi’ them; they’re too weak, man!”

Then, after walking round and examining them closely: “Haven’t y’ any better than them?

“Will have, next year,” Sandy drawled; “when we break in th’ two foals.”

“There’s plenty o’ them at my place,” Dad said, “doin’ nothin’ (Dad was prospering now); “an’ if y’ like t’ come over y’ can have y’r pick of a couple t’ work an’ keep as long as y’ like. . . . Them ol’ mares ain’t fit fer ploughin’.”

Sandy showed his delight, and said it was “just what he wanted.”

“Well, they’re there,” Dad said; and Sandy thanked him again.

After talking about rain and things, Sandy threw the harness off the old mares and escorted Dad over the “farm.” Sandy was proud of the progress he was making, and pointed out the potatoes and the lucerne to Dad, and showed him the corn.

“Very good,” Dad said, “very good!”

Sandy told Dad how long the corn had taken to grow, and figured out the number of bushels he expected to get of it.

“I dare say,” Dad said; “jusso.”

“It’s great soil, y’ know,” Sandy remarked with enthusiasm, rooting up some with his boot for inspection.

“No doubt,” Dad answered, “no doubt.” Then, after casting his eyes over the selection and reflecting: “Yairs, you ought t’ do pretty well here, between y’, after a while.”

Sandy said he expected to do “real well,” as soon as the new ground was ready and everything straight. Then Dad gave him a lot of advice; told him several times to “keep at it,” to “stick to it,” and to “use his head,” and they adjourned to the house.

“I’ve been tellin’ him,” Dad said to Kate, “t’ come over and get a couple o’ good horses—them old mares is useless to him; no one could plough new ground w’ them!

Tears came into Kate’s eyes, and she said it was real good of Dad.

“There’s plenty of ’em there,” Dad said lightly; “plenty!”

Dad stayed all night with Sandy and Kate. He camped on the floor, and didn’t get any sleep. “Th’ damn ’possums,” he said, “was runnin’ over me all night.” And after looking round the place again and giving Sandy more advice, he went home next morning.

“Now don’t f’get t’ come for th’ horses,” he said when parting with Sandy.

Sandy didn’t forget. He started for them at dawn the following day. He reached Saddletop before dinner, and found Dad at the yard. Dad was walking round roaring and railing about a heifer that had burst on the lucerne, and vigorously reviling Bill and Tom for negligence, and threatening them with violence.

“I’ll see what there is d’rec’ly,” Dad snapped when Sandy reminded him of his promise. Then he hobbled off, and left Sandy hanging round the cow-yard for an hour while he went and swore at Dave.

After a lot of hesitation Sandy approached Dad again.

“Th’ last time I lent a horse,” Dad snorted, “it wer’ sent back w’ sore shoulders and lame . . . Lending!” he mumbled, walking away, “it’s nothin’ but lend! lend! lend!

After a while he called to Joe to know if there was “a draught horse that could be done without for a week or so?”

Joe said there was; and named four, all staunch, useful plough-horses.

Dad ignored them all. “Isn’t Molly there?” he yelled.

“Yairs, she’s there,” Joe said, grinning.

“Well, bring her in.” (Turning to Sandy): “Y’ can take Molly; but mind an’ give’er a bit o’ feed, an’ don’t knock her about, an’ see ’er shoulders don’t get bad, an’ don’t keep her over there after y’ve done w’ ’er.”

Molly was about the ugliest, oldest, poorest and meanest animal Dad had ever owned, and ten times more worthless and unreliable than Sandy’s own old stagers.


Sandy stood when Joe yarded Molly, and stared as though he doubted her species. Then, without any display of gratitude or enthusiasm, he mooched up and put a halter on her, and pulled her out the gate. Sandy looked sulky.

“She’s not got much condition,” he mumbled as he passed Dad.

“If y’ don’t like ’er,” Dad yelled, “leave ’er!”

D—n y’! I will leave ’er, then,” Sandy squealed, and pulling the halter off, he let the brute go. “Keep y’r rubbish! he hissed to Dad; and jumped on his own horse and rode hard away.

Sandy tried to explain to Kate why he had returned without the horses.

“I wouldn’t a’ minded,” Kate said kindly; “I would ’a’ brought Molly.” But a woman doesn’t know how humiliation hits at the heart of a man.

Sandy didn’t lose heart. He accepted a pair of colts from Daley to break in, and with their aid scratched up the new ground.

The corn matured. But Sandy didn’t get anything out of it, except a lot of running about. The cockatoos got most; they swarmed round and ravaged it every day, and what they overlooked the ’possums took away at night.

“It’s sickenin’,” Sandy said, “sickenin’!” And for days he sat about the house brooding and reflecting.

Kate talked to him sympathisingly. “There’s nothing else to turn t’,” she said; “an’ perhaps we might do better if we tried again.”

“All right,” said Sandy; “I’ll try and he took up the axe and went and cut down more trees.


Chapter 11
In the Drought Time

Sandy looked at the sky, then sat balanced on the middle wires of the fence surrounding the humpy. His large brown elbows rested on his knees, his eyes were riveted on the ground.

Opposite him stood Kate. She cast a languid look over the drought-stricken land, then rested her eyes on the form of her dispirited, disheartened husband.

An irreverent dog leaned against a tree near by and barked feebly at a harmless small lizard. The brute always leaned against something when it barked—it was too thin to exert itself standing.

“There’s another one dead,” Sandy murmured sorrowfully, referring to the cows. “One more, an’—an’ th’ lot’s gone!”

Kate stared pensively towards a spot in the gully strewn with boughs and bags where a beast lay—where it had lain a fortnight—and large tears came into her eyes.

“If it would ra—rain—”

“Rain!” (A pause). “It’ll never rain in this blasted place.” And Sandy left the wires and again surveyed the hopeless, heartless heavens. “’Twas never like this,” he said wearily, scanning the scorched surroundings.

And never was it—never within the memory of man. There was no water, no grass—no roots even; the whole country was bare, burnt, blackened. Most of the wretched stock had died, those that had not were just lingering on apple-tree. Day after day the sun struck fiercely, mercilessly down; the earth yielded nothing but dust; mile upon mile of large forest trees were dead, and bush fires raged all round, at night lighting the gloomy range till it looked like a great city—or a great hell.

Uncle Peter limped out of the house and yawned, and called attention to Mrs. Grogan felling trees.

“An awful woman ter work,” Uncle said in tired tones.

Uncle admired people who worked. To be able to work well, he said, one must begin early in life. Uncle must have commenced pretty late himself.

A water reserve, consisting of stones, bleached bones, grass-trees, and a mud hole where cattle and kangaroos got bogged together, divided Sandy’s selection from Mrs. Grogan’s homestead.

From his yard Sandy could see the widow’s house showing through the trees—a large slab humpy roofed with bark, heavy saplings and boulders holding the roof down; ten acres of cultivation with stumps in it as numerous as the stars; some irregular palings leaning all directions, and a dog-leg fence around the lot.

Mrs. Grogan was a widow, a frail, jaded widow with bent back and sunken cheeks—the only female on Sleepy Greek who owned a selection. Grogan left it to her.

Multitudes of husbands die every year without bequeathing their wives so much as a stick. Grogan was not one of these. He was energetic, a man who made provision for the future. Besides the selection he left his widow ten children, and a mortgage, and a heavy bill to pay, and the fence to mend, and the ploughing to do. And the widow inherited the lot cheerfully, faced it all, beginning where Grogan had left off. How she hoped to succeed the Lord only could tell!

For a year she strained and struggled—put on a man’s hat and shirt, cleared land, humped water, ploughed through the hottest day, or tramped beside the harrow; a train of ragged, helpless offspring at her heels, crying and complaining of hunger, and of burr and bindai in their shoeless feet. Often, like motherless little lambs, they nestled together in the shade of the bushes and whined till they fell asleep.

To people who passed they were objects of pity: it was seldom people passed that way, though, unless they were lost.

Mrs. Grogan harvested several bags of wheat, and great was the rejoicing in the humble home. Johnny and Mary—the eldest boy and girl—took it to the railway station, three sacks at a time, in an old spring cart held together with wire rope and wooden wedges.

Obedient to orders, they never hurried or harassed Stumpy, the family cart-horse. They allowed him his own time, and Stumpy enjoyed it. A careful servant was Stumpy. Had he belonged to an ambulance brigade he couldn’t have moved with more precaution. If the wheels touched a stone, or an obstacle however small, he would stand instantly and wait till it was removed. He would wait all night if it were necessary. Sometimes he deceived himself, and stopped where there was no obstacle, and unless someone dismounted and pretended to remove the obstruction he would refuse to budge any more. A horse you could trust—anyone could drive Stumpy. Whenever his winkers dropped off and got round his legs he never took fright, he always kept going till he saw a shade to put his head in; then he would wait patiently till Johnny jumped down and tied them on again. Johnny generally took an hour to tie the winkers on. Stumpy didn’t mind if he took a week.

From the railway station you could see the cart coming an hour before it arrived, and one couldn’t see more than half a mile at a time in the country round Sleepy Creek. And when they kept others waiting while they wasted the daylight struggling to back Stumpy up to the goods-shed—Johnny at his head and Mary at the wheel—no one ever swore or demurred. The station-master would go out of his way cheerfully to unload the grain, and as they drove off again would shake his head in sympathy.

“Poor devils!” he would mutter solemnly, following the dejected turn-out, as it wobbled away, with his big soft eyes. “Poor little devils!”

The widow often came to Sandy’s place to see could she borrow one of the old mares to plough with. She never could, though. Not that Sandy was selfish and unneighbourly, but the old mares were barely able to carry their hides, to say nothing of dragging a plough.

“I on’y wish they was able t’,” Sandy would say, and as a solatium Kate always asked the widow how the children were getting along.

“Pretty well most of them is, though Kitty’s in bed with th’ cold ter day; an’ Willie have a bad foot—all festered up roun’ the heel; an’ Mitty’s complained terrible about ’er stomach ever since yes’dy, an’ las’ night I had t’ be up four times with her, but this morning I give ’er a good dose o’ oil an’ she’s a little bit better” (moving off a step or two). “Oh! it’s a worry with so many, so ’tis, an’ one can’t see to them all as y’ would like an’ be out workin’ in th’ paddick. It’s too much for one. But Mary’s getting a good help now—so’s Johnny; he’s shootin’ bears ter-day; he shot seven yes’d’y and two ’possums las’ night thet was always comin’ down the chimley after th’ flour.”

Then with a weird smile the widow would move away again and depart. And Kate staring after her would sigh, and sighing imagine her own misfortunes a lot lighter; and for one blessing, at least, she would fervently thank God—thank Him that she had a husband to toil for her. ’Twas one thing Kate never forgot—neither did Sandy.

One morning Sandy felled a bottle-tree in the scrub and shouldered portions of it home to try it on Strawberry. Strawberry was his last surviving cow, and was kept above ground in a sling. But the bottle-tree didn’t tempt her; she stared at it and moaned and moved her fleshless carcase as though she inwardly rejoiced. Then she took a fresh turn—went limp and died. Sandy kicked her, but she didn’t respond. So he turned sadly away to break the news to Kate.

He was walking slowly, his eyes fixed on the ground, pondering, when suddenly a commotion at the house startled him. He looked up. Uncle, standing on a stump near the house, was excitedly ejaculating, while Kate screamed that Grogan’s house was on fire. Sandy hastened, and seeing thick smoke belching from the widow’s roof forgot his own trouble and rushed to the rescue.

Uncle, handicapped with a cough and varicose veins and sore feet and lack of enthusiasm generally, followed slowly.

Sandy and young Williams, who had also arrived on the scene, burst open the door of the house and dragged out some rough furniture that Grogan in his lifetime had knocked together with the aid of a tomahawk and a slushlight. But a sudden gust of wind lifted the flames through the opening, and the dwelling commenced to burn like paper.

“No use!” Sandy said at last, turning with a sickly look to the terrified widow clutching her offspring, as though apprehending they would walk into the fire, “y’ can’t ’elp it now.” And he stood off, wiping the perspiration from his face, and looked miserable.

Uncle, distressed and breathless, arrived. He planted himself within a paling enclosure and gasped out useless injunctions to Sandy, who refused to hear them. But Uncle, too, lost hope, and in silence viewed the conflagration.

Johnny Grogan, who had been absent at the store, turned up. He dashed round the burning house and attempted to enter at the back. The flames repelled him. Tried again; then smashed in a bark window, and inserting an arm to the shoulder, groped for something. He withdrew his arm suddenly and nursed it a second, then groped more.

“Got it!” he exclaimed joyously, and hooked out a rifle, the woodwork all aflame; he heaved it from him and rubbed his hands.

The rifle, a short-barrelled magazine, fell at Uncle’s feet flaring like a torch. Uncle stared hard at it. It was a curiosity to him. He lifted his foot to stamp out the blaze, when “Bang!” went the weapon with a loud report, and bouncing up at Uncle turned in the air like a live thing. Uncle got the fright of his life. “Hooh!” he exclaimed, and staggered as though he were wounded.

The rifle lay smouldering, the muzzle pointing at Uncle’s legs.

“Look out, there’s more in it,” Johnny shouted, getting out of reach himself.

“D—y’!” Uncle gasped, backing away, yet keeping both eyes on the firearm as he would on a snake. But the palings blocked him. He put his hands behind and felt, and clutching the obstruction anchored himself. His thoughts travelled fast. Anticipating another shot, he raised his left foot to bring it out of the line of fire, but hurriedly put it down and lifted the other. He repeated the motion several times and looked like a dancing bear. Only for a second, though. “Bang! bang! bang!” ‘Three shots in quick succession were aimed at Uncle, then the panel of paling went down with a crash, and he fell through and escaped. No one laughed.

Sandy turned to the distracted widow, and a lump that threatened to choke him rose in his throat.

“Y’ can’t stay here, Mrs. Grogan,” he said; “an’ there’s no use cryin’—it can’t be helped” (he gulped the lump down).

“Bring th’ children and come home with us.”

Then he raised the smallest toddler to his broad shoulder, and taking another by the hand led the way through the rails, into the hollow, and over the ridge. And as the train of homeless ones tramped in file along the narrow winding track, the moaning oak trees, the charred ruins of Hodgson’s Scrub, the dead, gaunt gums, and the great desolate Range, all seemed to join in their despair.


Chapter 12
Sandy’s Lucky Shot

Sandy worked harder than ever. The burning-off continued, and every night the fires blazed in the grass-paddock again. And while the crop ripened Sandy lost no time; through the long, hot days he belted away with the maul and knocked up posts enough to go round the land he was clearing.

M’Mahon, the only person on Sleepy who possessed a reaper, was to reap for Sandy; but he couldn’t come till he had knocked Finley’s down, and he couldn’t begin on Finley’s till his own was taken off.

M’Mahon had barely commenced his own—fifty acres, too—when something went wrong with the machine. Something was always going wrong with the machine. Portions of it had to be sent to town for repairs, and just then Sandy’s twelve acres turned dead ripe. It worried Sandy. He moped about from day to day watching the crop; said he didn’t know what “th’ devil to do,” and wished he had known M’Mahon was going to humbug him, and he’d have begun with a scythe weeks ago. But Kate was more resourceful than Sandy. She put on her hat and went down to McMahon and gave him a piece of her mind. When she returned with the balance she went through the wheat with Sandy, testing it here and there—lovely full grain it was, too—and both agreed it might stand another fortnight, when M’Mahon promised to turn up for certain.

Meanwhile Finley, who also had lost faith in M’Mahon, in sheer desperation went to town and ordered a new harvester of the latest brand, on time payment. At the end of a week people from the township, and for miles around, assembled on Finley’s ground to witness the latest wonder at work, and to arrange with Finley to “do” their little patches. M’Mahon’s old-fashioned concern went out of demand—they lost respect for it.

Finley spent all the morning turning and screwing bolts about and hunting up harness for four horses. And when at last he mounted the machine and made a start, the comb brushed smoothly over the heads, and only picked up clomps of “wild Irishman” and thistles. The works clogged and buzzed like a corn-sheller with a brick or a clothes-prop passing through it.

Spectators shook their heads dubiously, eyed her all over, and said they wouldn’t have theirs “done” by her at any price. (M’Mahon’s discarded old implement retrieved its reputation.) One had a notion there was a mistake—he was sure he had seen them well-boring in the West with the same kind of thing. Finley glared and cursed, and kicked the horses. He tried the machine again, then sent a hasty message to the vendors in town to come and take the thing home.

Next day the agent arrived at Finley’s, accompanied by an expert—a man who understood harvesters, a man from Victoria, who condemned Finley’s crop and his horses as soon as he set eyes on them. He commenced operations by detailing prize performances and show competitions carried off by that particular brand of harvester. And when any of those standing round struck savagely at the flies, and remarked how bad they were, he would look out from under the machine, with five or six in his eye, and say: “You ought t’ be down in th’ mallee for a while.”

And whilst he poked and fumbled, and fiddled and climbed about the harvester, putting her straight, the agent, a broad, priestly-looking man with a rosy face under a large hat, and a white handkerchief protecting his thick perspiring neck from the sun, dropped in the shade of the dray and passed eulogies on “Jim’s” skilful handling of harvesters, and in low confiding tones invited the unbelievers to wait till they saw the work he could get out of her.

The expert mounted the seat and started the horses. Such a row! Such an empty rumble and rattle! Spectators followed, guffawing, and pointing out grain strewn in her track, plucking heads she had missed, and shaking their heads in deprecation at Finley. At the end of the field the harvester came to a standstill, and the expert left his seat to adjust the machinery some more. Another start, and a score or more of stoppages. Then the expert explained to Finley the cause of the failure.

“I’m not surprised,” he said; “th’ stuff’s all down. No machine in th’ world would ever pick that up,” and with his foot he kicked some of it straight. “It’s not a fair trial; but if there’s any wheat about” (looking towards M’Mahon’s away in the distance) “that’s standin’ at all, I’d show y’ what sort o’ work she can do.”

Sandy knew where there was an ideal crop, and eagerly suggested his own. “Straight as a ramrod,” he said “’n’ not a weed in it.”

Sandy had never displayed such sagacity before.

The agent and Finley held a conference. The agent was sure that if Finley saw the machine in a good, standing crop he’d be satisfied with her. Finley shook his head. “Don’t know,” he said, gloomily. But after a lot of argument he consented to a further trial; and Sandy ran home and knocked down some of his fence to let the harvester in.

“That’s a bit better,” the expert said, assuming a half-satisfied air when he saw Sandy’s wheat. “She’ll take that, I think; but it’s not th’ best crop in th’ world.”

Sandy’s wheat, what there was of it, was a subject for a painter. It was a fluke, and the expert had never seen anything like it in the mallee or anywhere else.

Sandy was all energy and anxiety. The expert complained of Finley’s greenhide reins. Sandy rushed and hunted up the best in his shed, a pair worse than Finley’s, and brought them along. The expert found fault with a swingle-tree; Sandy darted to where his plough lay rusting in the summer grass at the furthest corner of the cultivation, and returned with a heavy, clumsy implement he had manufactured himself, on his shoulder. The agent was thirsty; Sandy bolted off for a bucket of water and a pint.

Finally everything was fixed, and the man from the mallee threw the harvester into gear and let her go. Away she tore, humming, buzzing, chaff and dust flying round her in a thick cloud. This time she meant business. The onlookers followed, watching the performance closely. As the result of several rounds four full bags of clean grain were lifted from her. Every hand present was dipped into them. Everyone was surprised. They began to regard the harvester as a miracle, and climbed all over her in search of enlightenment, and looked wise, and said “Jusso” when they didn’t understand things the expert told them about her.

“I told you,” he said triumphantly, “what she could do with a fair show.”

But Finley remained unconvinced. He was still dissatisfied. So was Sandy. Sandy thought the trial was too short, and urged a longer one. The agent smiled, but seemed prepared to do anything to convince Finley. They started again, and Sandy mounted the harvester beside the expert and accompanied him round and round, praising her work, and calling out “She’s a beauty!” to the doubtful Finley,

The expert settled down to work, and kept going till dark, and when the horses were taken out for the day there was a big hole in Sandy’s twelve acres and a broad smile on Sandy’s face.

Next day found Finley undecided. The expert went to work again, and kept Finley’s horses moving till the twelve acres were bagged. And they counted seventy-five bags! Sandy wouldn’t believe it. He counted them himself— counted them twice. Sandy never felt his bluchers so light on his feet before, and his eyes seemed to see nothing but money rolling in.

Yet Finley remained obdurate.

“I don’t deny,” he growled, stubbornly, “don’t deny at all that that’s good work she’s done; but I want to see her take short stuff like she’s took that.”

“See if she’ll do my barley,” Sandy said; “that’s short enough.”

Finley didn’t reply. The purchase-money was on his mind. The expert thought he saw a point in showing the harvester off in Sandy’s barley, and into it he went.

Every round that was made Sandy loudly lauded the machine; and when she had taken 40 bags off the four acres, he would have bought her himself, but for Kate.

“If you make her do mine as well as she’s done that,” Finley said to the agent, “I’ll keep her.”

Then the harvester left Sandy’s paddock.

Sandy couldn’t rest until the wheat and barley were carted to the railway and sent away. And when he was finished loading and unloading those bags, he looked as weary and played-out as a working bullock turned out to die.

A week later, when a cheque for £77 arrived, you would think Sandy had drawn the big money in “Tattersall’s.” The sight of it made him tremble, and his big rough hands couldn’t hold the piece of paper. But Kate was more composed. She took the cheque, examined it, and perused the statement. Then they went inside, and sat down, and talked hopefully of farming and of the future.

“I knew we would do well,” Kate said, her eyes filling with tears. “I knew we would, once we made a push. An’ oh! I am glad we’ve made such a start” (looking at the cheque again), “an’ we must get on now, Sandy, if we’re careful an’ saving, an’ work as we’ve been doing. An’ who knows what we might be yet?”

“Might be better off th’n Tyson,” Sandy suggested.

Kate made a calculation.

“There’s £20,” she said, “to go to the store. Another plough-horse, £10. Six more heifers, £21. Clothes for yourself, and a few little things for the house, £6. And the other £20—I’m going to bank.”

Sandy’s big, sleepy eyes opened wide. The idea of having money in a bank was almost too much for him. He silently reached for the cheque again, eyed it closely, and spelt it over. And while he hung fondly over the precious document, Kate broke into more raptures. She shed tears again, and said she always had a feeling they would get on. “An’ oh!” she burst out, “I have often prayed that God would remember us, an’—an’ he has, Sandy!”


Chapter 13
Jimmy Parker’s Holiday

The Parkers were friends of Sandy’s and Kate’s, and lived in town, where they were mostly out of work. Sometimes Sandy sent them a bag of potatoes; and once Parker sent Sandy a case of fruit, which the railway people enjoyed.

Jimmy Parker came to Sandy’s to spend a holiday. Jimmy was about fourteen, and had never been to the bush. He had often longed to see it though; and to become acquainted with cattle and kangaroos was his ambition. Sandy met him at the railway and took him to the selection in the dray. Jimmy was delighted to see so much country, and all the way along nursed a small rifle he had brought with him.

“How ’re y’ on kang’roos?” Sandy asked, eyeing the weapon. Jimmy said he didn’t know. “Never had a shot at any.”

Sandy told him there were thousands round his place, and boasted of their size and ferocity. Jimmy drew deep breaths, and his eyes rolled excitedly.

“How do you manage,” he asked, “when an old man tackles you?”

“Them’s one of th’ things y’ ’ve got t’ look out f’r,” Sandy answered lightly, giving the old mare the double of the reins hard on the rump, and making her go a lot slower. “The las’ time one tackled me.” he went on, “I just took ’im be th’ throat with me left hand till I got out me knife; then I stuck it inter ’im an’ ripped ’im right up t’ th’ bloomin’ mouth, an’ let a heap o’ green grass outer ’im.”

Jimmy shuddered, and suddenly discovered he had left his pocket-knife at home.

“Well, while y’r up ’ere,” Sandy said advisedly, “you had better borrow mine whenever y’ go out.”

Silence for about a mile.

Going down the Gap, near Talty’s, a great noise suddenly broke out. There was wild commotion in the gully.

“Hello!” Sandy said, stopping the dray; “they’re after somethin’.” And he stared about. “There it comes!” he cried; “look out! . . . Get y’r rifle!”

A tired, miserable marsupial floundered towards them, pursued by three of the Talty girls and an old blind dog.

“Sool ’im, sool ’im!” the girls were shouting, and the blind dog sooled in moderation.”

Sandy jumped off the dray and heaved a waddy vainly at the passing ’roo, then joined in the chase. But Jimmy sat still and grinned and wondered. A ’roo hunt was new to Jimmy.

When the dray arrived at the selection Kate met it at the rails, and nearly shook Jimmy’s hand off. Kate always got excited when visitors came. She commented on his altered appearance, asked him how his mother was and how his father was keeping, and if the baby was walking yet, and why his sister Julia didn’t come, and said what a strange thing it was “our boy” was called Jimmy too, and finished by inquiring how he liked Sleepy Creek. Then she foraged in the dray for things Sandy had brought from the store.

“What about tea? Didn’t y’ bring tea?” she cried.

Sandy threw down a new rake he had purchased and stared sheepishly.

“Clean f’got it!” he gasped.

“Well, y’re a thing,” Kate snapped, “why it was what we wanted most, an’ I told y’ not t’ f’get it!” Kate nearly cried.

“Ain’t y’ got none at all?” Sandy murmured.

Jimmy felt he was in the way, and strolled over to the garden.

“Got none?” Kate snorted. “Of course I ain’t.”

Sandy looked very dejected.

“Y’ didn’t f’get y’r old rotten t’bacca, I know?”

Sandy made no remark.

“Oh, yer mighter thought of it!” reproachfully. Then she went inside and slipped out the other door, and went off to Mrs. Hogan’s as fast as she could run. Kate was a great one for tea.

Jimmy removed his hat at the door, and smoothed his hair with his hand. Sandy kept his on.

“Y’ know me Uncle?” Sandy said, introducing Jimmy,

Uncle grinned, and leaned round to shake hands without getting up, and the pumpkin he was sitting on at the fire rolled, and he slipped off. Sandy laughed. Uncle recovered himself and sat staring into Jimmy’s face as if he was a kangaroo, and made him feel uneasy.

“Pull y’r boxes up,” Sandy said when tea was ready, and dumped his own down at the head of the table.

They all sat round. Sandy piled enough corned beef and potatoes and pumpkin on Jimmy’s plate to last him a week, and worried him all through the meal to take more. And when he refused a third cup of tea, Kate became alarmed about his health. She was sure he was ill, and suggested he might take a dose of oil or something and go to bed early. After tea, Sandy proposed a “bit o’ ’possum shootin’,” and he and Jimmy got ready and went out. They mooned about, falling over logs and fouling brambles and limbs that nearly poked their eyes out, until the moon went down, but didn’t see a solitary ’possum—saw nothing at all to blaze at.

“D—n funny!” Sandy mused. “Any other night they’d be thick.”

They returned to the house.

“There’s a bed made for Jimmy at the fire,” Kate called out from beneath the blankets; and there’s some bags at th’ foot for him to throw on hisself in th’ night if he feels cold.”

Jimmy assured Sandy he would be comfortable, and turned in.

When he woke in the morning the fire was made, and Kate was skipping in and out getting breakfast ready.

Jimmy wished to rise and be about. But Kate was in the road. He watched her movements closely, and when she went out the door to yell to Sandy, who was milking at the yard, that breakfast was ready, he jumped out, grabbed his trousers and faced the fire.

Jimmy never in his life before was in such haste so early in the morning. He got one leg in, and was dancing about on it, balancing himself, and kicking and fumbling with the other, when Kate returned. Jimmy wasn’t a precocious youth—he was sensitive and shy, and Kate regarded him more as a son than anything else. She took no notice of him, but went straight to the fire to make the tea.

Jimmy faced the other way then, and tangled himself up and fell on the bed. Then he snatched the blanket and covered himself again; he turned red, too, and was in distress. Kate made the tea, and turned to the table and commenced to hum a tune. After a while, Jimmy sat up and fumbled with the blanket; and when at last he stood on his feet his trousers were on.


After breakfast, Jimmy helped Sandy to yoke the horses; then took the rifle and went in search of kangaroos. Sandy directed him to a spot where he would find them in millions.

Jimmy tramped round and round the paddock, and hunted about till the rifle felt heavy as lead and the skin came off his heels, but saw nothing to fire at, save two little brown birds and a jew-lizard. He returned, and directed his steps to where Sandy was running about behind two horses and a plough, and swearing. Sandy was surprised to hear there were no kangaroos about; he couldn’t understand it. For a second or two he stood, scanning the tree-tops waving over the wire fence.

“Gen’ally a bear or two about here,” he said, scraping the dust off himself. “Don’t seem to be any ter-day, though.”

Jimmy said it didn’t matter, and he looked as if he spoke the truth. Jimmy was getting tired of kangaroo shooting— tired of the Bush altogether.

“Have a go at drivin’?” Sandy suggested, cheerfully; “leave y’r rifle here, and take the reins for a while, and see how y’ get on.”

Jimmy said he didn’t mind trying—but he didn’t say it with any enthusiasm; and in a weary sort of way he stood up and took the reins. Sandy yelled at the horses; they woke up and made a rush at different intervals. The plough jumped, stopped, jumped again, then scratched along after them. Jimmy tried to keep up with it—he limped, stumbled, jumped over some clumps of burr, and tripped against dry cornstalks that hadn’t been cut.

Sandy continued to yell at the horses, struggling all the time to keep his footing. A withered pumpkin-vine that seemed to be growing all over the paddock, with numerous small pumpkins dangling to it, got twisted round one of Jimmy’s legs. Jimmy kicked frantically to free himself of it, and fell down.

The horses dragged him along till he got up again. Sandy didn’t notice him; he was battling hard to keep the plough in.

“To y’!—to y’!” Sandy called when the black mare left the furrow. Jimmy pulled the wrong rein. “Damn it!” Sandy shouted, losing his temper—“to y’!” Jimmy pulled the wrong rein some more; then Sandy threw the handles down savagely, and cried: “Blarst it, what’s th’ good o’ that?” and snatched the reins from Jimmy and nearly dragged the heads off the horses.

A lump came into Jimmy’s throat, and while the spade was falling heavily on the rumps of the horses he stole away, feeling mistaken and disappointed in Sandy, the friend of his father. Near the house he met Kate coming along with a can of tea and some scones and butter for Sandy’s “eleven o’clock.”

Kate was red with the heat and the haste she was making, but was cheerful as a book-agent. She pressed Jimmy to return to the plough and have some tea. But Jimmy wasn’t hungry, and said he would sooner “mooch about a bit.” Kate showed him where he would find Uncle. “He’s always there,” she added. “Nothing’ll shift him!

Jimmy went to the house and put the rifle away; then sat in the shade of the verandah and felt lost and lonely. Not a soul about; scarcely a sound audible! Jimmy wondered how any one could live in such a place, and began to think of home and the town. Some fowls and a few turkeys came round, stretched their necks and took side glances at him, then moved away again.

Jimmy rose and went in search of Uncle. He found him snoring in a new nest he had made out of an old tent patched with rag and bagging, standing some distance from the house. Sandy sometimes used it as a store-room. At the sound of Jimmy’s voice, Uncle woke up with a start, but when he saw it wasn’t a policeman or a bushranger, he drew his legs up to give him room to sit on the corner of the bunk, and went calmly off to sleep again.

Jimmy stared hard at Uncle, then at a cat slumbering on top of a bag of flour near his head, which was all the tent contained. Large flies buzzed about like bees, and Jimmy felt lonelier than before.

“How far is it from here to the train?” he asked.

No answer. Uncle was fast asleep.

Jimmy touched him on the bare foot. “Hey,” he said, “how far—”

Whip-cracks and men’s voices shouting sounded close to the tent. Jimmy rushed out. Two horsemen were in the grass-paddock, wheeling a wild-looking, black bull toward Sandy’s yard. Foam was flowing from the bull’s nostrils and mouth, and his blood was fairly up.

“Look out there!” the men shouted when Jimmy showed himself. “Look out! Keep inside!

Jimmy sheltered himself behind a large tree, and got excited. The bull saw the tent, and instead of taking fright went straight at it with his head down. Jimmy clung to the tree and yelled a warning to Uncle. But Uncle was a hard man to shift. The bull went right through the tent and levelled it to the ground.

The cat got a great start. It raced in three different directions before remembering where the house lay; then to see it light out! But there was no word of Uncle.

Jimmy nearly fainted. The horsemen shouted hilariously, but they had no idea the tent was inhabited. The bag of flour attracted the bull’s attention; he took it for an enemy, and dug his horns into it, rooted it about, and bellowed and breathed into it. The flour clung to his moist nose and hide, and went into dough on him, and turned him white.

Meanwhile, Uncle had been lying low, but the bull tramped on him, and he thought it time to shift. On hands and knees he emerged from the debris, and crawled some yards; then, like a rat forsaking a log, he made off as fast as terror and tender feet would allow in the direction of the house. The bull caught sight of Uncle, and, despite all attempts of the horsemen to frustrate him, went headlong in pursuit.

Uncle had 50 yards to cover to reach the house; the bull had 100 yards to go. Talk about excitement! Neither Jimmy nor the horsemen could speak. They stared and trembled. The bull rattled over the ground like a racehorse in a straight. You couldn’t hear Uncle moving, but he got a lot out of his arms and head.

“He’ll have him,” one of the men murmured, apprehensively; “he will . . . he—”

Done it!” Jimmy burst out excitedly, just as Uncle threw himself in the back door, which, happily, was wide open. Then, almost instantly, there was a loud crash, and the bull and the slabs and the roof of Sandy’s new skillion were wildly mixed up, and the animal was plunging madly about inside with groceries on his horns.

For a fortnight after, Jimmy was in high spirits, and never thought of home once.

done it


Chapter 14
Uncle’s Arrest

Sandy moped about with sadness in his face while Uncle, for the second or third time, collected his “traps” and bits of things, and packed up to leave the selection. When the time came to shake hands and say good-bye, Sandy asked Uncle to come back if he felt dissatisfied; and, forcing back a lump that rose in his throat, mumbled kindly, “There’s no necessity for y’ to leave at all; there’s plenty o’ room here, goodness knows.”

But Uncle was an obstinate old man. “No,” he answered, with a lofty wave of the hand, “I told y’ before, I couldn’t live in a place where there was children.” And, with his odds-an’-ends tied in a handkerchief, he went off to loaf again on Dad at Ruddville, and to be a nuisance and a pest to Sarah and Dave and the rest.

Kate fervently thanked heaven that Uncle had gone, and hoped to goodness he would never return. “A blessed nuisance wherever he is,” she said, “scarcely ever did anything . . . and then never without being asked . . . and when he did it, only made more work for others!”

“The place ’ll be lonely without him,” Sandy said, sighing.

“It’ll be a lot better off without him,” Kate snapped, and turning on her heel went away to throw thistles to the pigs.

Three months later.

Sandy in the gully, bursting himself hauling back panels of the fence that had been taken away and left on the reserve by the last flood. It was dinner-time, and Kate mounted a ladder that leaned against a small lucerne stack and coo-eed and waved to him.

“Orright,” Sandy shouted back. When he reached the house a pile of potatoes and cabbage, and a plate of fried bread, just out of the pan, awaited him. Kate was a great one to cook— she was one of those who could dish up a meal from almost nothing.

Kate apologised to Sandy for the absence of meat. “Riley’s couldn’t have killed last night,” she said, “or they’d have sent some over to-day.”

Sandy grunted. Then after reflecting: “Wot about the kangaroo leg I got last night?”

“Pshaw!” Kate said, rattling the cups and saucers on the table.

“But, crickey,” Sandy answered, “I’m hungry, an’ kangaroo’s not too bad, now.”

Then he took a knife and went out the back door. In a while he returned with several rounds of fresh “steak,” and dropped them enthusiastically into the pan.

Kate grinned. “Well, if you will have it,” she said, “I’ll cook it for you,” and took charge of the pan.

She talked away to Sandy about the fence, and probed and poked hard at the steak. Sandy sat on his haunches watching the pan and saying, “Yairs.” The cat mounted the table to procure something to go on with, and upset the milk. The dog, always hanging about the door, on the alert, rushed in and fought with the cat for possession of the fluid as it trickled into a small pool in a hollow of the earthen floor.

“Gracious! what’s happened now?” and Kate flew in. “You might look after things a bit when one’s back’s turned,” she said, indignantly.

“Gehout!” Sandy yelled, and getting up kicked the dog in the ribs with one foot, and missed the cat with the other.

Kate bent over the pan again and dropped more dripping into it.

Sandy followed the cat out the front door and round the house. A stray pitchfork diverted his attention. He lifted it and went to place it in the shed.

The cat glided in again by the back door and walked round the table, and looked up at the provender. Then it mounted the cloth and put its head in the milk jug and upset it again. Kate sprang round.

“Confound it! Sskat!” she cried.

“Tom” landed on the floor along with the jug, and raced out the front door again. Kate rushed to the back one and met Sandy coming in.

“I do wish you would watch the cat for a moment!” she whined. “It wouldn’t hurt you . . . There’s not a drop of milk, now, for the dinner! . . . and the jug’s in pieces, too!”

“Th’ cat?” Sandy said; “it wasn’t th’ cat; I jus’ chased ’im round th’ house.”

“Pshaw!” Kate snorted, and hurried back. The cat jumped off the table and flew out the door once more.

“You wretch of a thing!” Kate screeched, and rushed after Tom.


Sandy heard something strike the wall outside and grinned. The cat, with its back and hair up, raced in at the back door and flew into the bedroom. It scrambled hurriedly up the bed-post, then reached the partition, and walked calmly along the beam and looked down on the dinner-table.

Kate, with a piece of axe-handle in her hand, followed in pursuit. “Where is he gone?” she gasped.

“Th’ bedroom,” Sandy drawled, bending over the pan to prod the steak with a knife.

Kate disappeared in the bedroom and probed beneath the bed with the axe-handle, and said, “Psst, psst!” But the cat didn’t run out. Kate appeared again and told Sandy to give the brute away to somebody.

Sandy made no reply. He tilted the pan to distribute the fat equally over the “steak.”

“Show me,” Kate said, throwing down the axe-handle, and seizing the pan again. In a few moments the “steak” was cooked, dished, and placed on the table, and the smell was grand.

“There you are,” Kate said, “and for goodness sake let us have dinner.”

Sandy took his place at the table, and rubbed two knives together. Kate seized the tea-pot and poured the tea out.

“Don’t see why kangaroo shouldn’t be as good as other meat,” Sandy said, plunging a fork into the flesh, which didn’t jump. “It eats grass and drinks water same as bullocks or sheep . . . An’ look at pigs, they—”

A shadow crossed the room, and the form of a man appeared at the front door. Sandy looked round. “Well, I’m—be— blowed,” he said, and jumped up and seized the man by the hand.

The man was Uncle.

“Hello!” was all Kate said, “back again.” And she rose and reached down another cup and saucer.

Sandy made a lot of Uncle. He flew round and found him something to sit on, and planted it at the table for him.

“’Avin dinner?” Uncle asked, as if he couldn’t see they were.

“You’re just in time,” Sandy said, rubbing the knives together again. “What’ll y’ have—some meat?”

Uncle would.

“An’ how did y’ leave them all at Ruddville?” Sandy went on, drawing the knife across the ’roo.

Uncle made no answer till he started on the steak, then with a full mouth shook his head and said, “Had enough of them. Get all the work they can out o’ y’ for nothin; then y’ can go!

Kate flared up and her eyes flashed fire, but Sandy saved Uncle.

“Have some more steak?” he said, holding up a forkful of the ’roo, with gravy running from it. Uncle held out his plate and received a fresh supply.

“You wouldn’t think that was kangaroo?” Sandy said, directing Uncle’s attention to the dish.

“Well, I wouldn’t have thought it were mutton,” Uncle answered.

Sandy grinned, and was proceeding to draw comparisons, when a voice called out at the front door.

“Strangers,” Kate murmured, looking through the door.

Sandy left the table and went out. Three men were there, and they inquired the way to some place of which Sandy had never heard, and asked for a drink. They went away, and Sandy returned to his dinner.

“Don’t like the looks of them chaps,” he said.

Kate rose and looked out. “They’ve only one swag between them, too,” she said.

Uncle took a peep at them. “Makin’ down th’ crick,” he added. “Country’s full o’ loafers, just now.” And he turned and stretched himself on the sofa and went to sleep.

Two days after.

There was excitement on the Creek. Old Byrnes’s place was broken into, in the middle of the night, and some money and a silver watch taken. Byrnes sent for the police.

“Them chaps done it,” Uncle said, meaning the three strangers who had asked Sandy for a drink. “I thought they was after somethin’.”

And when a policeman came to make enquiries, Uncle received him sullenly; said he didn’t notice anything suspicious about the men at all. He couldn’t say what they were like, either, or what kind of clothes they had on, or if they had any on.

“Good gracious!” Kate broke in, “didn’t you say they looked like thieves or loafers?”

Who! . . . me?” Uncle answered, looking surprised.

“Yes, you,” Kate rejoined, confidently.

Gran’mother!” Uncle hissed, and hobbled away.

The policeman gleaned all he could from Sandy and Kate, then rode off.

“Hidjets!” Uncle squealed when the Law was out of hearing, “what did y’ want t’ tell him ennerthin’ for?”

Sandy and Kate stared.

“You’ll look well if y’ find y’selves in th’ witness-box . . . or if y’ get up and find your horses an’ cows gone some mornin’.”

Then Uncle went off to catch his own old hack to ride down the creek in search of fossil bones. Fossil hunting had become an industry with Uncle. Fossils and Angora goats and gooseberries, he reckoned, were to become the staple products of Sleepy Creek.

The policeman arrested three men in an empty hut near the Crossing, and was driving them up the creek same as you would cows, when he met Uncle.

The Law called a halt. “Are these the chaps you saw?” he asked of Uncle; but before Uncle could make answer one of the prisoners took to his heels and made off.

“Watch these two!” the policeman said excitedly to Uncle, and wheeling his horse round, raced in pursuit. The fugitive, finding he was overtaken, took a turn round a tree, and the Law lost ground.

“If th’ trap isn’t sharp, Jack ’ll lose him,” one of Uncle’s captives remarked, watching the chase cheerfully.

“He will,” the other one added; “he will . . . he— Then he grabbed Uncle by the leg and said, “Here, get down an’ I’ll give the bobby a hand.”

Before Uncle could collect his thoughts he was standing on the ground. The prisoner swung himself into the saddle, threw away his hat, snatched Uncle’s, and galloped off in the opposite direction.

In a few moments the officer returned, leading his man on the end of a saddlestrap. “Where did that horseman go who I left here?” he said to Uncle.

Uncle stuttered and stammered, and tried to explain the position.

“None of your yarns to me!” the Law said, firmly. “Pick up your swag there, and march . . . an’ the first one of y’ that tries to get away again, I’ll put a bullet in him.”

Uncle showed his teeth. “You’re a hass,” he shouted. “Can’t y’ see I haint th cove?”

“Go on there, now,” the policeman said. “Pick up that swag and go.” And he spurred his horse right up against Uncle.

Uncle gesticulated and blasphemed, then took up the other man’s dirty bundle and padded along beside his strange companions.

“Don’t be trying to get out of it like that, old chap,” one of them whispered in Uncle’s ear. “You’re our mate right enough.”

Uncle dropped the bundle and seized him by the whiskers, and squealed and called him a liar.

He ordered Uncle to “let go.” Uncle wouldn’t. Then he lifted Uncle off the ground, and swinging him round, hit the policeman’s horse with him. The animal snorted and plunged to one side.

“Here!” the Law shouted, fixing an angry eye on Uncle, “clear out; an’ when you’re asked about anyone again, don’t tell lies.”

Uncle hobbled home. “I reckon he can get into it,” he declaimed to Sandy. “A policeman can’t do that sort of thing?” Sandy thought hard, and said he didn’t think he could, either.

But Kate only smiled.


Chapter 15
An Appeal to Old Dad

Sandy and Kate were in trouble again. Following close upon the heels of a few good seasons and some small successes, came reverses and misfortune. A drought set in. Month after month went by—and no rain! A year passed, then two years, and still the drought raged. The few pounds that Sandy had scraped together, and Kate had saved, went in feed for the cows; and when that was done, Sandy resorted to falling trees to keep them alive on the wretched leaves. And then, sick and weary and tired of it all, he threw down the axe and gave in one day, and the cows died —every hoof of them! One by one the horses dropped off— all but Gypsy, and the Lord only knows how she managed to survive; and Sandy, broken-hearted, his hopes and happiness shattered, sat down and cursed the selection, cursed the country, and cursed himself for having been a deluded, hopeful fool.

Then, one day, large, heavy clouds climbed over the horizon, and it rained; rained hard for weeks. And the drought broke; and where nothing but dust and bones had been seen for years, grass and herbage sprang up, and all the land became green and grand again.

Kate, who was always brave, took fresh heart when she saw the country looking well, and talked encouragingly to Sandy, and said if they could only manage to make another start there might never be a drought again. But Sandy only sighed, and said he could see no earthly way of making another start.

“Dad has made a lot of money,” Kate said thoughtfully, “an’ if you asked him, perhaps he might lend us a hundred pounds, and we could pay him back.”

Sandy grinned a grim sort of grin.

“Well, I’d ask him,” Kate went on; and, after a long silence, Sandy said he would.

At Ruddville we were getting ground ready for wheat, and all of us were busy, especially Dad. He was bobbing up everywhere, trying to be in half-a-dozen places all at once.

Dave went off to the ploughs, leading three horses; Joe followed with three more.

Barney, the new man, a few minutes later, was throwing the harness on his set. Dad happened along.

“Y’ going t’ be here all day?” he roared. The man nearly fell down. He fumbled with the coupling-strap, but failed to fasten it, and hurried the horses away without giving any answer.

Dad shuffled to the rear of the stable, where Lion, a draught horse, was invalided. Dad tried him with a fistful of new hay. Lion refused.

Sneezer Wingfield rode into the yard and asked Dad could he lend him a horse for a few days to draw his chaff to the railway. Dad ignored Sneezer’s presence. He poured the balance of a bottle of saltpetre into Lion’s nostrils, then began rubbing hard about the flanks, and whistling encouragingly to him.

Sneezer repeated his remark. Dad got annoyed.

“Where th’ devil d’ y’ expect I c’n get horses from t’ lend ye?” he snapped, turning round and glaring savagely at Sneezer.

“I thought maybe y’ had one, that’s all,” Sneezer murmured, and went away. He returned again, accompanied by Bill. Bill and Sneezer were close friends. Bill sometimes took Sneezer’s sister out riding.



“Oh,” said Bill, approaching his parent with great respect, “Gypsy’s down th’ paddock there doin’ nothin’; I s’pose Sneezer c’n have th’ lend of her, Dad, to draw their—”

“Well, why th’ devil don’t he go an’ get her?” Dad yelled, interrupting him. “Does ’e want me t’ go runnin’ after ’er fer ’im?’

Sneezer smiled, and went and got Gypsy.

Dad trotted across to the ploughs, and worried Dave and Joe for an hour; then returned and yelled at Sarah to know why the deuce she left the door of the dairy open, and threatened to sell out and go and live in town by himself if “th’ damn place isn’t looked after.”

A young man, clean-shaved, and wearing a straw hat and breeches and boots, rode up to the gate on a grey horse, shod all round and well-groomed.

“Good morning,” he said.

“The same,” said Dad.

“I’m a dairy inspector.”

“Oh, you are?” said Dad, with a surly stare.

“Yes-s,” nervously returned the other.

Dad lifted a back-band that was hanging on the fence, put it in the stable, and was walking off.

“I’m to inspect all the dairies round here,” the official remarked, by way of reminding Dad of his presence.

“Well,” Dad grunted, “I should ’a’ expected t’ find a man with a stronger growth of hair on his face fer th’ inspector.”

“I don’t know,” the other said mildly. “P’r’aps it would surprise you to know that I’m also a veterinary surgeon?”

It did surprise Dad, as his face showed. But he thought of Lion, and his expression changed.

“Wull, if y’ are, me boy,” he said kindly, “you’re the very man I want. Come round here and look at Lion.”

But the inspector wished to see the dairy first; and Dad, after hesitating, conducted him there. The inspector complimented Dad on the appearance of the butter. Dad received his remarks in silence.

“You had better shift these old cases out of this, though, I think?” —and the official pointed to a pair of good butter-boxes, built in town specially for Dad.

“Young man,” Dad snorted, showing the white of his eye, “do you know a butter-box when you see one?

The officer scanned them closely again, and seemed in a quandary. “Anyway,” he stammered, looking at the door, “the dairy is built too near the pigsty, ain’t it?”

“Look here, me shaver,” Dad said, “when you own this proputty you can put the dairy where you d—n well like; but just now, let me tell y’, it belongs to me.”

“It’s my duty, though, Mr.—”

Dad interrupted him. “Do you know,” he shouted, “do you know, me boy, that the Gov’nor an’ th’ Premier of th’ country have been in this dairy?”

The official said he wasn’t aware of it.

“O’ course, you wasn’t,” Dad snarled. Then, raising his voice to squealing pitch, and poking his hairy chin into the other’s face: “Well, then, they have.”

The inspector got uneasy.

“You had better see th’ horse,” Dad growled, showing the way to the door; and when the inspector stepped out he pulled it to violently and turned the key.

They walked across the yard.

“If you’re a doctor, as you say you are,” Dad grumbled, “then y’ know all th’ ins an’ outs, as well as every bone and muscle, of a horse’s body. . . . Now, tell me what’s up with him!” —pointing to the sick horse.

The inspector threw off his coat, walked round Lion a few times, and eyed him closely. Then he took him by the head, peered into his mouth, into his eyes, and examined both ears.

“Nothing the matter with him,” he said, turning to Dad.

“Pshaw!” Dad blurted out, and hobbled away a yard or two. “Y’ might just— Pshaw!” he broke out again, walking off another yard or two. . . . “Y’ might as well ’samine his tail now, yeejit! Look here!” —(Dad flung out his arm furiously)— “d’ y’ see that gate? Now, get through it as quick as y’ can, or I’ll make an inspector o’ y’!”

The official mounted his horse and went over to Regan’s.

Bill was trying to hunt a bullock out of the big yard into the killing pen—a rowdy brute it was, too, just off the range, and Bill wasn’t taking any risks.

Dad came along.

“Take ’im quietly; take ’im quietly,” he shouted— “rushin’ ’im about; what’s th’ use o’ that? Want th’ meat ter go bad?”

“You keep back out o’ there,” Bill called out in warning as Dad crawled through the rails, “you ain’t quick enough t’ keep out of his way.”

But Dad entered and leisurely strode across the yard, the bullock staring fiercely at him, and walked into the killing-pen and stood there in full view of the beast.

“Now give him a start, Bill!” he shouted.

“He’ll give you a start,” Bill shouted back, “if you don’t have some sense an’ get out o’ there.”

“Y’ whelp! is that all y’ know yet about pennin’ a bullock?” And Dad marched right out of the pen and courageously shook his hat at the beast. The bullock instantly charged. Dad turned and hurriedly led the way back into the pen. The bullock bounded in at his heels. Dad dexterously popped behind the large swing gate, opening into the pen, and with a bang and a chuck shoved it shut; then, as the enraged bull swung round and located him, dived to escape under the bottom rail. But Dad didn’t calculate correctly. Only his head went under the rail—the rest of him jammed. The beast made a great dust and knelt on Dad and bellowed in his ear and knocked splinters off the rails with his horns, just above his head. Dad yelled to Bill. Bill rushed up and shoved the gate in, and the bullock plunged through into the big yard again.


“Confound it!” Dad howled when he got up; “what th’ devil did y’ want t’ open th’ gate fer an’ let ’im out again?”

Dad was an ungrateful parent.

A man with a pack on his back, a billy-can in one hand, and a wretched skeleton of a horse towing behind him, passed the gate. Three children were on the back of the horse—stowed away amongst a pile of bedding and tin dishes and things; a lame woman without boots limped beside the horse, poking it at intervals with a stick. Two miserable dogs slunk behind the woman.

The family looked up and stared at the house, but didn’t call. At the hay shed, further down, they saw Cranky Jack mowing lucerne. The man asked Jack for a bit of hay for the horse. Jack was nothing if he wasn’t generous. He opened the rails and led the animal into the shed where Dad’s best hay was.

“There isn’t many like you about,” the man said to Jack, with gratitude in his eye.

“Nice horse that, Jim,” Jack remarked after staring long and vacantly at the sad object. There was a lot of unconscious humour in Jack.

The nomads sat on the ground and rested while the horse took its fill of Dad’s hay. Jack went on mowing. Dad rushed on the scene.

“Who told y’ t’ put that d—d horse in here?” he roared at the man.

“He did,” the man answered quietly, pointing to Jack.

“Take it out,” Dad yelled, slashing the brute on the head with his old hat and digging the toe of his boot into its stomach.

The man jumped up in a rage, and swore, and kicked Dad twice. Then there was a fight. Dad’s own account of battles he had fought had often impressed us, but now he seemed to lose all his skill. The man got all over him, but Dad caught him round the waist, and down they went in each other’s arms among the hay—Dad underneath.

Then the enemy mobilised. The lame woman joined in, and threw hay on Dad’s head and prevented him seeing, while the man squeezed his windpipe. Cranky Jack threw down the scythe, jammed a finger into each of his ears, and grinned and grimaced. Jack was a useless man in a row. But just then Sandy, Kate, and little Jimmy came driving along in their dray, and Dad’s life was saved.

At dinner Dad said he didn’t remember such a busy morning for a long while.


Chapter 16
A Hundred Pounds

Sandy and Kate and Jimmy had been a week at Ruddville.

“Think we’ll go home this evening,” Sandy said to Kate one morning, “an’ see if there’s anything can be done. Might be able to do a bit o’ ploughin’ or somethin’—but I dunno!” And they walked slowly down the yard together and sat on the wood-heap, and looked lonely and sad.

“Have you spoken to Dad yet about the money?” Kate asked thoughtfully.

“Not yet,” Sandy said, scratching the ground with a chip, and reflecting; “can never get a chance t’.”

Just then Dad hobbled past, swearing and shouting, and heaving sticks at a colt that was pawing at a bag of corn standing near the door of the barn.

“Go an’ speak to him now,” Kate said encouragingly.

“Think he’d give it?” Sandy murmured timidly.

“He might—you can’t tell; there, he’s gone into the barn,” and Kate followed Dad’s movements with her eyes. Sandy rose slowly, hitched his pants, and slouched towards the barn.

“Out o’ this,” Dad yelled within, “out o’ this, you wretches!” And he threw rakes and things about, and banged the walls of the building. A dozen or more cackling fowls flew out the door.

“Eatin’ th’ corn?” Sandy asked.

“Eatin’ it!” Dad howled; “they’re always at it, th’ rubbish!” And he started pulling the sacks about and straightening them up.

“They’re a great nuisance about a place is fowls,” Sandy remarked politely, and cleared his throat.

“They wouldn’t be,” Dad shouted, “if th’ doors was kept shut as they should be. . . Look there!” indicating a few grains of corn escaping from a small hole in a sack, “look at that!—them infernal fellers” (meaning Dave and Joe) “never look after a d—n thing! They’d see that hole there all their lives, and wouldn’t put a stitch in it.”

Sandy placed his hand on the sack Dad had complained of, and the grain escaped a little faster.

“Confound it, don’t make it worse, ye eejit!” Dad shouted.

Sandy stood off, and was silent.

“There won’t be a grain of it left d’rec’ly,” Dad groaned, and went off to the house to procure a packing needle.

Sandy sat on the bags for a while pondering, then went out and rejoined Kate.

“See him?” Kate asked hopefully.

“Yairs, I saw him,” Sandy drawled—(Kate’s eyes opened wide)—“but that was all.”

“And didn’t you ask him?”

“Not yet,” Sandy answered, “I’ll see him in a minit.” Kate got annoyed.

“Well, how the diggins could I ask him?” Sandy whined.

Dad came trotting from the house again. “Ask him now,” Kate said in an undertone.

Sandy stood up and hitched his trousers again.

Three needles there yesterday!” Dad growled as he approached Sandy, “an’ not a d—n one to be found anywhere now.”

Sandy was going to say something, but just then Joe returned from the Railway Station, and drove into the yard with a large case in the cart containing the things which Dad had bought for us when he was in Brisbane. At sight of the case Dad’s manner changed, and he forgot all about the leak in the corn bag.

“Take it round to the front,” he said cheerfully, then hobbled after Joe.

All of us, including Sandy and Kate, gathered round the cart, and when we saw the size of the case we wondered at Dad’s liberality, and hoped he wouldn’t be long before he would take another trip to Brisbane.

“Take care,” Dad said, attacking the lid with a tomahawk and scattering scraps of pine over everyone; “stand away till I open it.”

We stood away and waited like youngsters round a Christmas-tree. A portion of the lid came away with a loud tear and disclosed a collection of extraordinary-looking merchandise. You’d think Dad had bought a pawnshop or the rights to a vacant allotment.

Mother plunged her hand into a corner of the receptacle to secure something for Sarah. Dad shoved her off.

“Take y’r time!” he said, “everything ’ll be got out d’rec’ly!”

Some more pine was shattered, then Dad hung over the opening and plunged both hands deep into the case. He dragged out some old leather with stirrup irons attached to it, which might once have been a saddle, and said enthusiastically: “Here y’ are, Tom!”

Tom couldn’t contain himself. He reached eagerly for his prize, and backed away with it in his arms and gloated over it. Dave and Joe grinned at Tom’s saddle.

Bill, who had just arrived, rushed in and squeezed between Sandy and Kate, and made Sandy tramp on Mother’s corn, and hung over the box, and cried: “What’s for me, Dad?”

“Confound it! have patience and let me get at the things!” Dad said, and glared at Bill.

“Have y’ any more o’ them saddles?” Joe asked, grinning behind Dad’s back. Dad dug into the case again.

“Here’s something,” he said, “to put on that red cow,” —and hanked out a large bullock-bell with a crack in it. Joe took possession of the bell and grinned.

“Here’s a thing you’ve been wanting long enough,” and Dad handed Dave an ancient rust-eaten screw-jack. Dave sat on his haunches and examined it. Joe rang the bullock bell in Dad’s ear.

“Bill! Where’s Bill?” Bill was there.

Dad put a pair of leggings into his hands. “They’re for the yard,” he said.

Bill grabbed the present; and, sitting down on the verandah, straightway commenced to pull them on. Joe rang the bullock bell in Dad’s ear again. Dad jumped round.

“Bless my soul, fellow,” he said; “can’t you keep it quiet fer a minit? “

Joe exchanged grins with Dave. Barty pressed forward and clamoured for his share. Dad wiped perspiration off himself, and shouted: “If y’ can’t keep y’r head out of it and stand back I’ll shut th’ d—n thing up altogether!”

Joe urged everyone to stand back. “You can’t,” he said, “expect Dad t’ give y’ any of the new things he’s bought if y’ won’t let him get them out.” Sandy chuckled and moved away.

Dad produced a brace, several rusty bits, a lock without a key, a small entering wedge, and two odd spurs, all of which he loaded Joe with. Joe smiled, and planted them down carefully on the verandah, then turned them over with the toe of his boot and contemplated them curiously.

Tom made a discovery. “There’s on’y one spring-bar in this saddle, Dad!” he whined.

“There never is any more,” Joe said, “in them sort.” Dave and Sandy and Sarah guffawed.

Then Bill made complaint. “These ain’t mates, Dad,” he said, holding up the leggings.

“There was some window things,” Dad murmured, ignoring Bill, and raking among the rubbish.

Bill appealed again. “D—n it!” Dad shouted, turning on him, “if y’ don’t like them, leave them!”

Then there was a lull. “Here they are!” and Dad fished out a pair of spring roller blinds, and handed them to Mother. Mother explained the mechanism of them to Sarah and Kate. She said all the places in Brisbane were fitted up with them.

“Where’s the hammer?” Dad asked, abandoning the case. No one could find the hammer, but Barty produced the tomahawk.

“Now, where’s some tacks?” Dad said. Mother found a packet.

“Where’s yer blind?” Sarah brought one.

“Keep out o’ th’ way, can’t y’?” and Dad shoved Barty against the table.

“Which is the inside, an’ which is the out?”—and Dad twirled and twisted the blind about. Mother explained. Dad placed the roller on the table and tacked the blind to it with the tomahawk. We looked on curiously.

“The wood’s to go at the bottom I s’pose?” Dave said. Dad chuckled. “You’re as bad as the cove at th’ museum,” he said, “who thought kangaroos stung with their tail!”

All of us laughed. We knew it would please Dad. And Dad straightened up and laughed hard at Dave.

“Screws would be the best,” Mother said, watching Dad closely.

“Nails is just as good,” Dad answered; “a lot better, in fact.” Then he lifted the tomahawk and bruised his thumb with it.

“What’s th’ matter?” Mother asked.

“I don’t know why th’ devil th’ hammer can’t be found,” Dad groaned, “when it’s wanted.” And he sucked his thumb.

After a while Dad mounted a chair, and fastened the brackets to the wall. “They’re upside down,” Mother said, looking squarely at them.

“Well, why th’ devil couldn’t some of y’ say so before?” Dad growled, proceeding to remove them.

He fastened those brackets on again, and all of us got stiff necks watching him. “Now then,” Dad said, “hand up the affair.”

Mother handed him the roller with the blind attached. “Be sure you’ve got it alright,” she said.

Dad held it above his head and examined it. “The other way,” Mother said. Dad turned it. Mother began to think. “N-n-no,” she stammered; “that’s not it; the other way was right.

“Now!” Dad roared, looking down at her, “which is it? I can’t put the d—n thing on both ways!”

Mother hesitated.

“Pshaw!” and Dad decided for himself.

“Too close,” Dave drawled, when he saw the roller reached a foot beyond the brackets. Dad stared at the wall. We grinned.

“Should have measured it first,” Joe chimed in.

“You all know a devil of a lot about it now,” Dad growled; then extended the brackets and tried the roller again.

“Too short,” Joe chuckled. Then Dad swore, and smashed the bracket into a lot of small pieces with the tomahawk, and made a big dinge in the wall.

“Don’t bother about it,” Mother said quietly; “never mind it at all.”

But Dad wouldn’t be beat. He mounted the chair again, and persevered and swore till the thing went into place. “Now then!” he said triumphantly, stepping to the floor, “how does it go?”

He tugged the blind. It didn’t move. We grinned. Dad tugged it again. It still refused to move. Then he took it in both hands and tore it down and threw it outside, and went away and sat on the verandah.

Sandy followed Dad to the verandah, and sat down within a few feet of him, and patted the boards restlessly with his foot. Dad mopped his brow with a handkerchief, and puffed and groaned, but took no notice of Sandy. Several times Sandy cleared his throat.

There was a long interval of silence.

“We’ll have t’ be making a start fer home this evenin,” Sandy said, gazing gloomily at the verandah boards, “an’ get to work again.”

“Well!” Dad grunted, “there’s nothin’ to be got idlin’ about, is there?”

“Don’t see how anything’s to be got now,” Sandy murmured despondently. “We’ve nothin’ to do anythin’ with. Everythin’ went in the drouth, and we haven’t even one cow left out of th’ twenty!”

Dad grunted again, and stared across the landscape.

“Kate an’ me,” Sandy went on, fumbling nervously with his fingers, “were thinkin’ that perhaps you could lend us a hundred pound?”

“Whaht!” Dad bellowed, bounding off the chair and throwing up his arms. “WHAHT!”

“We would pay it back again,” Sandy concluded humbly.

“You’re mad!” Dad yelled, tearing up and down the verandah like an enraged lion; “Mad! Lend you a hundred pounds! . . Where the devil would I get a hundred pounds?”—turning round and facing poor Sandy. “Go an’ work, an’ earn a hundred pounds the same as I had to—same as anyone has to. . . . A HUNDRED POUNDS!” And his voice shook the very roof.

Mother heard him and hurried to the verandah, pale and alarmed-looking.

“Lend you a hundred pounds!” Dad went on, “to sit down with, I suppose, an’ spend an’ loaf on.”

Sandy couldn’t bear any more. He jumped to his feet.

“Keep your money!” he roared in a broken voice and with tears in his eyes; “I can get on without it. I’m d—n sorry ever I asked you for it. . . . Keep it!”

And he hurried into the yard, shoved the horse into the dray, helped Kate to climb to her seat, and drove away.

For a good while Dad stormed through the house, kicking chairs and things out of his way, and every now and again shouting “A hundred pounds!

Mother and Sarah watched the dray roll away, then went into the kitchen and sat and talked about Kate and cried.

Meanwhile Dad calmed down, and was silent.

“She has a hard time, poor girl!” Mother said, and sobbed more.

Presently Dad moved about again, and called loudly for Bill. Bill went to him, and Dad said: “Here, get a horse and catch up to your sister and give this to her,” And he handed Bill a cheque.

“A ’undered!” Bill shouted, as he passed the kitchen door on his way to the yard.

Dad went and sat on the verandah again, and Mother and Sarah dried their eyes in their aprons and joined him.

Then the shades of evening lengthened out, and the sun went down on the golden-tinted wheat-fields—on the rolling grassy plains—on the timbered tablelands, and on the homes and homesteads of this new land—this great land—our own broad bright Bushland.


Chapter 17
A Distinguished Visitor

Next day was the day remembered by everyone—the day the O’Briens and the Bradys fell out, and fought in the lane, and Mrs. O’Brien bit off Brady’s finger—the day Mrs. Mathers and Mrs. Andy Mullens left for Brisbane, to see the Exhibition, and took their luggage in a cradle and two tea-tins.

Distinguished visitors—a Minister of the Crown and several M’s P.—were coming to Ruddville.

“Dinny” Donoghue, our reputed “useless” member, was the cause of it. He had arranged with Dad to meet the party, supply saddle-horses, and escort it to the Falls and Parker’s Point, twelve miles along the range. Attractive scenery abounded at those places, and the party was to spend a day or so viewing it. Nothing could have pleased Dad more. He was in his element. He would have found horses for a hundred had it been necessary.

The party arrived. No band—no address—no presentation—no distinguished gathering, except the Regans and Kelly and Thompson’s men leaning over the fence.

The dogs barked a welcome, and Dad introduced the visitors to Mother and Sarah, who felt flustered and tried desperately to appear composed. Then he treated them to refreshments. Lots of people round our way reckoned a Minister wouldn’t touch spirits; but they couldn’t have entertained any at their places. This one touched it; the whole party did except Mr. Julius A. Stanley. But he wasn’t a Member of Parliament; he was only with the party.

“No, no!” Stanley said, stalking about the room, composedly inspecting the enlarged portraits hanging on the wall; “never touch it when I’m in the bush.”

Dad looked at him and stared. Dad had never known anyone to refuse before.

Some of the visitors smiled. The Minister, Mother thought, frowned. We heard afterwards that he didn’t approve of Stanley’s presence.

Stanley was a heroic person. A person, too, uncommonly full of assurance; with an overweening predilection for heavy words, and afflicted with a delusion that his frame and constitution were of cast iron.

Before starting to the Range, Dad invited the party to “have a look round.”

They inspected the machinery, the dairy, and the cows. The Minister was delighted. The things he saw seemed to make him regret his own humble avocation. He said he envied Dad, and spoke of the freedom and independence of a farmer’s life, and loudly repined because there weren’t millions of men with Dad’s industry and intelligence on the land. (He paid the same compliment to a gathering of settlers at Black Duck three days later.)

But Stanley was not so impressed by the surroundings. Queensland dairymen, he reckoned, began at the wrong end. Stanley was a plain-spoken man. He said it would pay most of them, before commencing operations, to sit down and find out how much they knew about a cow.

“Look at that waster of a heifer, there,” he remarked, pointing, by way of illustration, to Silky, a nine-year-old cow; “a Hereford, right enough; but see the udder she has—all flesh. She wouldn’t keep a cat in milk.”

Silky was the best milker we had; a shorthorn that Dad had paid thirteen guineas for.

Dad tried to explain these things to Stanley, but the latter turned a torrent of rhetoric on Dad, and confused him.

“Well, she was sold as a shorthorn to me,” Dad mumbled in conclusion.

“Just as I say,” Stanley retorted; “and, a fortiori, YOU were sold.”

The Minister showed displeasure. He scowled, and Joe overheard him say things about Stanley to Mr. Fitzgerald, Member for Up-North.

“Bloodwood,” Stanley observed, placing both hands on a yard railing as though he would pull it down.

“Ironbark,” Dad said, correcting him. “Split on the ridge there,” pointing with his finger.

Stanley made grimaces.

“Tut, man,” he said, eyeing the timber closely, “not a rail of it. Eucalyptus corymbosa!

Dad was knocked out.

Ready to start. Joe, who with Dad was to accompany the expedition, led out the horses and was allotting each his mount.

Stanley waved him off.

“Oh, dear, no!” he said, “I require no horse.”

“It’s fifteen mile,” Dad put in, staring at him.

“Make no difference if it were thirty,” Stanley answered, buttoning his coat up, “only exercise to a man when he’s done his sixty and seventy in a day, carrying a rifle and tomahawk.”

Several of his friends tried to persuade him to change his mind, but in vain. Stanley expanded his chest.

“You’ll have to stir your mokes up,” he said, “to keep me in sight.” Then, taking a piece of bramble in his hand for a walking-stick, he started off through the paddocks, making strides that provoked Dave and Sarah to merriment and the Minister to expressions of resentment. The mounted division followed.

It was a brilliant day, all sunlight and brightness. The two-mile hut was passed, Stanley still swinging along, well in the lead. Dad reckoned he was an extraordinary man.

Joe, with finger and mouth, whistled like a locomotive. Stanley glanced back over his shoulder. Joe waved his hand to indicate a change of course. Stanley swung into line without shortening his stride. The party laughed—all except the Minister. He was a man without freedom or gaiety.

Five miles were covered. Stanley’s action become erratic. He puffed, sweated. Gradually he “came back” to the horses. Burr and grass-seed clung to his clothes. Gullies, undergrowth, and patches of blady growth impeded his path, broke his pace. The smallest stone, a stick, the slightest unevenness in the earth caused him to trip.

Six miles. Stanley fell in the rear; removed his coat and carried it on his shoulder. Dad became concerned. He dropped back and invited Stanley to hang on to the stirrup.

Stanley wouldn’t. He declined with a shake of the head. He didn’t speak; he couldn’t. Dad rode along beside his guest in silence. Stanley removed his collar and hat, and carried them in his hand.

Five miles more to tramp. The Horsemen were out of sight. Dad became agitated. “Look here.” he said, coming to a standstill and sliding off his mare: “you get up —I’ll walk the rest.”

Stanley sank in the grass. “It’s the first time,” he gasped, when he had recovered sufficient breath, “that I’ve done any walking in this sort of country.” Then he mounted the mare and encouraged Dad, who blundered feebly along, with cheerful chunks of information about the fauna and flora of the Antarctic regions.

The mounted division had arrived at the Falls, and dismounted at an old hut there. “Confounded shame!” said the Minister when Stanley hove in sight, perched on Dad’s mare, while Dad himself staggered along on foot. None of the others spoke. They stared. A sort of depression was over them.

“By Jove!” Stanley called out as he came up—“only my friend here would insist upon getting down to stretch his limbs, I wouldn’t have been far behind you.”

Dad was too exhausted to say anything. He drank a lot of water, and then sat and wiped the perspiration from his face. After resting, the party put in a few hours sight-seeing and shooting. Then they returned to the hut, had tea, and smoked.

When the moon rose they went off again and mooched round for wallabies. Stanley wouldn’t carry a gun. Said he didn’t want any. He walked beside Dad all the time, watching for game for him. His eyes were better than Dad’s, and he saw the things first.

“Steady! steady!” he would whisper when anything presented itself, and Dad would stand still and peer excitedly all round the compass. Then Stanley, without moving his eyes from the object, would reach out his hand and noiselessly take the gun from Dad and fire it off. He would always hand it back again, though, and wait till Dad rammed another charge into her.

Dad didn’t remonstrate, but he was struck with a brilliant idea. He stuffed a heavy double charge into the old gun, and prowled along beside his exuberant guest with a wicked grin on his face.

“There! there!” Stanley whispered hoarsely, as the white front of a wallaby showed itself right under their noses.

Dad held out the gun to him.

“No, no, no,” Stanley said, “you haven’t had a shot yet. Be quick!”

Thus adjured, Dad tremblingly raised the weapon, fired, and fell flat on his back.

All were preparing to turn in, making their beds on the floor of the hut. “Haven’t you a rug, sir?” Dad asked of Stanley, much concerned.

Stanley hadn’t. Never carried one in his life. ’Twas always his practice, he said, to sleep without covering of any kind. All he required was something level to lie on— the harder it was the sounder he could sleep.

A slab table stood in the centre of the hut, its legs fixed in the earth. With calm indifference Stanley mounted that table, stretched himself full length upon it, folded his arms across his chest, closed his eyes—and was asleep.

Those on the floor grinned and compared him to Gladstone. But the Minister shook his head sceptically and tucked his rug about himself.

Half-an-hour and all were snoring—all but Joe. He was interested in Stanley, and lay with an eye on the table. Stanley didn’t sleep very long. He raised himself cautiously and, by the light of the moon and the flickering fire, stared at the slumbering forms beneath. Then he slipped quietly from the table and crawled under Dad’s rug.

Dad must have thought it was Mother; he put his arms round Stanley and murmured things about “calves” and “milk.”

At daybreak Stanley took to the table again, and when the others opened their eyes he was sleeping loudly.

Breakfast. Then some more sight-seeing and shooting. After a light lunch, made off the remains of the provender, they spoke of returning. Joe packed up and got the horses ready.

Stanley, his chest pushed out and head tilted back, strode leisurely forward and mounted Dad’s mare. “Come along, Johnson,” he said; “you and I’ll be going on.” They rode off.

Seeing Dad on foot, the Minister hesitated, and stared about. He saw Stanley in advance, waving his hand in debate with Johnson, and grasped the position.

“It’s too d—d bad!” he exclaimed angrily, “too bad, indeed.”

He dismounted at once, and resigned his horse to Dad. But the Member for Up-North and Dinny Donoghue, who misrepresented our district, wouldn’t hear of such a sacrifice. They alighted also, both vigorously claiming the right to “pad the hoof.” Finally, they agreed to tramp and ride alternately, and Dad and the Minister rode.

“Curse him!” Donoghue would hiss, staring after the form of Stanley, every time his turn came to walk. “May th’ horse break his thick neck!”

Nearing the end of the journey, and about one mile from Buddville, Stanley happened, incidentally, to look back. Perceiving Donoghue labouring laggardly along on foot, he stopped.

Bless my soul!” he said when Donoghue came up;. “why didn’t you shout, man, for the horse? Well, well, well, you’re a nice sort of fellow! Here, man!” And he jumped down and hoisted the tired politician into the saddle before he conld protest.

Stanley then extended himself and left the party behind. Approaching the house, he saw Mother and Sarah watching intently from the verandah, and felt they were admiring his performance. He determined to finish strong. The garden fence was before him. Exulting in the consciousness of his own agility, he took off his hat, bounded lightly in the air, ran at the palings, jumped, and fell heavily on the geraniums.


Chapter 18
Dad Takes to Politics

Smith, the member for our district, died one day, and we forgot all about him the next. Not that a politician is ever remembered longer than that; but Smith had been a blind, bigoted old Tory, and was better dead. Politicians mostly are better dead, as far as other people are concerned.

One night, Gray and Wilkins and Mulrooney and Fahey and Charley Thompson and Johnson and a lot of others came to our place, and asked Dad to oppose Mulligan, the “endorsed” candidate for Eton Vale. Dad was taken by surprise. He opened his eyes and stared, and he chuckled too. But the deputation was in earnest, and waited for his reply.

“You’re the man we want, Rudd,” Gray said. “You know the country and the wants of the district, and what is best for the farmers, and you’d be able to make yourself heard.”

Joe and Dave, seated near the fire, turned their heads and grinned.

“You’ve only to stand.” Mulrooney said, “and you’ll get the seat.”

Joe and Dave chuckled disparagingly, then rose and went on to the verandah. Dad glared after them with ferocity in his eye.

“I don’t think he would do for it, Mr. Mulrooney,” Mother said by way of apology for Dad. Dad didn’t agree with Mother. “Why not?” he snorted. “Why th’ devil wouldn’t I? I’d tell some of them fellows what I think of them an’ what they’ve been doing for the country—th’ robbers—believe me!” And his eyes flashed real fire.

“Well, you’ll stand then, Mr. Rudd?” Gray said again.

Dad stared first at one, then at another, and seemed in doubt.

“It’s yer dooty, Rudd,” Thompson drawled; and Thompson at heart didn’t care two straws whether Dad consented to stand or whether he went away and drowned himself

“We want a man,” Fahey added, “who’ll go to Brisbane and put the sufferances of the farmers plainly an’—an’—well before Parliament—a man who’ll—who’ll talk t’ thim, an’ talk straight-forredly t’ thim, an—an—tell thim what’s right an’—an’ what ought t’ be done! An’ there’s no one can do it better’n you.”

Dad stared at the floor in silence.

“It’s yer dooty,” Thompson drawled again, filling his pipe.

Dave and Joe laughed aloud, and left the verandah and went to the barn to husk corn.

At last Dad pulled himself together. “Then I will!” he said; and rising to his feet he struck the table hard with his fist and put the light out. “That’s my word!” he shouted in the dark.

Mulrooney struck a match, and Sarah relit the lamp.

“And when I give me word,” Dad went on, “I alwez keep it!” And he struck the table harder than before, and put the lamp out again.

“Goodness me!” Mother moaned; “what is the man doing?” But Mulrooney struck another match and handed it to Sarah.

Dad then went into details, and the deputation expressed its delight with him, and went away.

Next morning at breakfast Joe asked Dave whom he was going to vote for, and Dave spluttered into his cup and splashed tea about the table. Sarah, at the bottom of the board, struggled to suppress her mirth. Dad, at the head, cleared his throat and scowled. Joe looked calmly at Dad and said: “When are y’ going to address the ’lectors?”

Dave bent his head and leaned heavily on his knife and fork, and spluttered more.

“Well,” Dad answered severely, “my committee will arrange all that, I dare say.”

Dave lifted his head and felt for something to wipe the tears from his eyes with. Barty, seated opposite, pointed with his fork to Dave and cried: “L—l—look at ’im!”

All of us broke into loud hilarity—all of us except Dad. He dropped his knife and fork and shouted: “Look here—!

But Dave and Joe rose together and hastened to the yard.

“Th’ devil take them!” Dad growled, taking up his knife and fork again and proceeding with his breakfast, “and their confounded impudence!”

To our astonishment, Dad kept faith with the deputation and prepared to contest Eton Vale. He went with Gray and Thompson and travelled round the country, and addressed the electors at the Middle Arm, and Cherry Gully, and Bible Creek, and Tannymorel, and Hell-hole, and any place where there was a school or a shed or anything he could stand up in. At nearly every place Dad appeared he was received with joy and enthusiasm and made much of.

Saddletop was the only place where he met with opposition, and then only from old Carey. Carey was jealous of Dad’s prosperity and popularity, and jumped up at the meeting and accused him of all kinds of villainy, and called him “Judas!” But when Dad came off the platform and reached for Carey, Carey hurried out, and nothing more was heard from him until heavy lumps of blue metal began to thump and rattle on the iron roof, and punctuate Dad’s oration.

“Now isn’t he a— scoundrel?” Dad said to the audience, and they stood up and yelled. They enjoyed Dad. His style suited them. He used plain language, and didn’t quote statistics or poetry or scripture. And they liked Dad because he wasn’t a sham—because he didn’t go to their houses and ask after the health of absent members of the family whom he had never seen, and wish to be remembered to them; because he didn’t compliment the wives upon having honest, hardworking, industrious husbands, when he didn’t know if they had or not—and because he didn’t hug and cuddle every baby in the electorate, and say they resembled their fathers or their mothers or someone. People respected Dad, too, because he was plain and honest, and when polling day came round they voted for him to a man, and with a big cheer put him in at the head of the poll.

We could scarcely believe it when the news came that Dad was in. Dave said: “Well I’m blowed!” Sarah danced about and clapped her hands and spoke of going to Brisbane; and Mother sat down and shed tears.

And when Gray drove Dad home in the buggy we all gathered round and received him like a monarch. We had never honoured our parent so much before. Mother threw her arms round Dad and hugged him; Sarah took possession of his arm; Barty hung on fondly to the slack of his pants; Joe carried his top-coat, and Dave walked in the rear grinning.

Dad stood it well. He showed wonderful composure. You’d think he had been a member of Parliament all his days. When he had mounted the verandah he turned, and looking at us all, said: “To-morrow I’ll have to go to Brisbane, an’ be away all the session, an’ you’ll have the place to look after y’selves.”

That was a welcome piece of news. It sent a thrill of delight right through us. To every one of us it was the happiest feature of Dad’s political triumph. We hoped the session might last for the term of Dad’s natural life.

Next day Joe drove Dad to the railway station, and he caught the train for Brisbane.

At Toogoom Dad was joined by another member of Parliament, a politician who conducted a newspaper and had used its influence to belittle and vilify Dad because he was honest. He grabbed Dad by the hand and said he was delighted to see him, and congratulated him on his victory, and treated him just like a brother. Dad was astonished. Dad didn’t know much about politicians then.

Arrived at Brisbane, Dad set out with his portmanteau for his old boarding-house on Wickham Terrace. He had scarcely entered the establishment when the boarders were rushing wildly into each other’s rooms, calling out “Esau is back!” They all remembered Dad, and seemed pleased to see him again.

Next morning, at breakfast, Dad sat over a plate of sausage, and in a loud voice enquired the way to Parliament House. Several of the boarders directed him.

“Are you going to hear them speak, Mr. Rudd?” the landlady asked.

“Well, yes,” Dad answered, “and to speak myself, p’r’aps.”

They all stared at Dad then, and one who read the papers regularly, and had a memory for names, asked him if he was related to the Rudd who had been returned for Eton Vale?

Dad leaned back as if he was in a barber’s chair, and laughed heartily. “I’m ’im!” he said. “It’s me that beat Mulligan!”

They all stared again and laughed.

Really, though, Mr. Rudd?” the landlady asked meekly, and as if she secretly doubted Dad.

“Yairs,” Dad went on, ignoring the lady, “I beat Mulligan easy enough. Be three ’und’ed an’ ten, I think it were.”

“If I’d known you had a member of Parliament here, Mrs. Brown,” said a beery-looking boarder, the wag of the house, rising and leaning on the back of his chair, “I’d have taken off my boots.”

There was a loud roar round the table then, and every eye was fixed cheerfully on Dad. Dad glared at the wag. The wag smiled placidly back at him.

“Well,” Dad said, “that would be more than y’ do when y’ go to bed!”

They roared louder then, and the wag changed colour and went away. Somebody reached over and said “Good man!” to Dad, and hit him hard on the back, and made him spill all the tea out of the saucer which he had just blown cool and was lifting to his mouth. Dad frowned. Then another boarder repeated Dad’s retort to the wag, and the room rang with renewed hilarity. And the same boarder punched Dad on the back a second time, and caused a sausage to escape from his fork.

Damn you!” Dad shouted, turning fiercely on him. But the boarder folded his serviette, and hurried from the table chuckling. So did the others.

Dad found his way to Parliament House, and entered the building as if he was proprietor of it. He seemed to be emulating in dignity and lordliness the member for Warwick.

Several messengers, and a clean, well-groomed, well-fed policeman approached Dad. They appeared to suspect he was a new hairy sort of Guy Fawkes, with evil designs on the costly and sacred edifice.

“Where’s th’ place where they’re speakin’?” Dad asked.

The Law pointed up a wide staircase, and said: “But y’ can’t go there. Have you a ticket?”

Dad hadn’t.

“Go along there then,” the policeman said, pointing through a doorway; “you’ll get a ticket for the gallery, and go up the stairs.”

Dad poked his way through, and a boy in brass buttons handed him a ticket in silence, and pointed up the stairs.

Dad blundered up like an elephant, his footsteps and false steps echoing all over the building. He reached the top breathless; and when his eyes rested on a group of ordinary-looking people crouching in listening attitudes, he looked bewildered. A policeman with white gloves on, and his hair oiled and parted in the centre, grimaced and motioned to Dad to sit down.

A voice came from the depths of the Chamber: “I repeat, Sir, that the Government have made no efforts whatever to encourage the right people to come and settle here!”

Dad looked down, and saw all the eminent legislators of his country lolloping idly on the benches.

“Damn it!” he exclaimed in a loud voice, “that’s where I’ve to be.”

Those in the gallery turned their heads and looked angrily at Dad. The policeman tip-toed up a few short steps and whispered a brief warning into Dad’s ear.

“Do you know who I am?” Dad said in a voice that travelled round the building and reached the ear of Mr. Speaker, who turned his eyes up to the gallery.

The policeman squeezed Dad’s arm viciously to silence him; but he might just as well have squeezed one of the wooden forms.

“Do you know who I am?” Dad said again in a louder key.

The policeman grimaced some more, and removed Dad’s hat from his head and tried to force him into a seat. Dad recovered his hat with a violent wrench, and hit the policeman on the head with it, and knocked the parting out of his hair and planted a lot of dust in it. The gallery stood up to enjoy Dad. The policeman clenched his teeth, and pounced fiercely on Dad. But Dad put both hands to him and shoved him right off his feet, and he fell down the short steps with a thud against a little man with a bald head, and crushed him under a form. The gallery forgot about the debate, and in one voice cheered the new show. Dad expanded his chest and extended his nostrils, and stood game and defiant-looking, waiting for the Law to renew the attack.

“Clear the gallery!” came from Mr. Speaker.

Then there was commotion! In an instant three policemen appeared in the gallery and seized Dad, and rolled down the stairs with him. Dad yelled and fought with them like a wild beast; and the Law had just sent for a cab to take Dad to gaol, when the member for Toogoom appeared and recognised him. The Toogoom man explained matters, then took Dad into the refreshment room and calmed him.

The member for Toogoom became a sort of “best man” to Dad. He conducted him to the “chair,” and introduced him to Mr. Speaker as the member for Eton Vale. The Speaker bowed profoundly to Dad, and Dad asked him how he was getting on, then took a seat on the cross benches and sank deep into the costly leather cushions, and cleared his throat several times and groaned, and glared composedly round the gorgeous chamber and up at the galleries. Those in the gallery stared down at Dad and grinned. And the “members” conversed with each other about him, and the reporters made notes of his arrival and his personal appearance, and the artists made sketches of him which no one but themselves would ever recognise.

It didn’t take Dad long to become the most notorious member of the Assembly. He stood for virility and sincerity. Whenever an idea struck him he expressed it in a loud voice, in his own uncompromising vernacular. Nobody ever failed to comprehend Dad’s language. He usually said everything three times over, in case of doubt, and a fourth time to make sure; but there never was any doubt. As for compromises, Dad scorned them. He knew right from wrong, or thought he did; and he never waited to hear what anybody else thought before saying what he thought. He wasn’t a “trimmer,” and in Parliament he had no more inclination to sit on a fence than he had at home on the farm.

Consequently people came especially to see and hear Dad, and they never went away disappointed, Whatever their expectations were, Dad generally surpassed expectation; and that merely by virtue of being himself, a plain man with an unmistakeably plain manner.


Chapter 19
Dad In Parliament

Here they lolled—seventy-two picked men, seventy-two paid representatives of public opinion, seventy-two imposing-looking politicians. Some of them were lean and long and weary; some big, bulky, and bloated; some dejected; some jolly; some poetic; some pious; some had long hair; some had no hair; many of them wore spectacles; one wore an eyeglass; and one, the prig of the galaxy, wore curls.

The Minister for Lands rose to introduce “A Land Settlement Bill,” and made a long speech. He said no country in the wide world was so liberal in the matter of land as this country, and with eloquence and enthusiasm he proceeded to reveal a new scheme for settling people on the land. There was never a Minister for Lands yet born who hadn’t a new scheme for settling people somewhere or other.

Dad screwed himself round, crossed his legs, and fixed his eyes intently on that Minister. You’d think he was preparing to enjoy a sermon.

“In the first clause of the Bill,” the Minister went on, “provision is made for monetary assistance, and the principal aim of the measure is to help those who have a desire to live a country life to settle on the land in communities—”

Just here an oldish member, named O’Riley, with a wild-looking head of flowing white hair, and a strong Irish accent, said “Hear! hear!”

He sat near Dad, and Dad glared aggressively at him.

“There’s nothing new in the village community system,” the Minister resumed. “It’s older than the Norman Conquest.” Then he talked glibly about “grazing farms,” and “homesteads,” and “continuous occupation by the groups,” and “undue restrictions,” and “articles of export,” and “open markets,” and many other ancient and miserable platitudes.

Dad edged along the seat an inch or two so as not to miss any of him, and unconsciously leaned on the Hibernian’s tall black hat. O’Reilly poked Dad in the ribs with a silver-headed walking-stick, which he was leaning on, and nodded a hint to dissociate himself from the beaver. Dad scowled disdainfully, but didn’t remove himself. O’Riley poked him in the ribs again.

“Damn you!” Dad said, “What do you want?

“Have y’ not iny manners? Do not ye see you’re crushing me hat?”

The Speaker reproved O’Riley. “Order!” he said, sententiously; “Order!”

Dad glared angrily at O’Riley, then shoved the hat away, and again gave all his attention to the Minister.

O’Riley continued to snarl audibly, and turned the whites of his eyes menacingly at Dad, and attracted the attention of members sitting behind. They laughed, and were in turn called to order by the Speaker.

“These co-operators, therefore,” the Minister said, “will have to settle their disputes among themselves, except in matters of a criminal nature, and if they resort to any contentious proceedings—that is to say, if they go to law with one another— they will cease to be members of the society. This is a bold experiment—”

“An’ a fool of a one!” Dad shouted in a voice that drowned the Minister’s; and rising to his feet, he held up his hand.

“Order! Order!” the Speaker cried, eyeing Dad like an adder.

“Look here—!” Dad shouted, pointing his finger at the Minister.

“The honourable member for Eton Yale must desist interrupting the—” The rest of the Speaker’s rebuke was lost.

The Chamber suddenly became boisterous. “Sit down! Sit down!” came from every corner. Then a member seated behind Dad reached forward and pulled him down on the seat by the coat-tail.

Dad turned angrily on O’Riley and shook his fist at him, and in a loud voice warned him to be careful. O’Riley gesticulated and showed his teeth to Dad and hissed, and among other things said that he “had been a mimber of the House for twenty-five years an’ more.” Dad grunted contemptuously, and said “he didn’t care if he had been a member for fifty-five year!” O’Riley turned the whites of his eyes at Dad again, then ignored him.

“It provides that in cases of destitution,” continued the Minister, “certain allowances may be made to the wives and families of the men for a limited period at places away from the settlement. It would be impossible to take women and children to a settlement in its rough condition—”

Whaht?” Dad yelled, jumping up again. “What th’ devil sort o’ people do you—”

“Order! Order!” came sharp and angrily from the Speaker. “The honourable member must retract those words at once.”

“Hear! Hear!” “Hear! Hear!” from those on the Ministerial side, mingled with loud cries of “Withdraw!”

“I’ve come here,” Dad shouted, waving his hands about, “to see that the honest an’ right an’ —”

Cries of “Chair! Chair!” and “Sit down!” accompanied by loud laughter from the Labour Party, overflowed the Chamber.

“I must ask the honourable member for Eton Vale, once and for all,” the Speaker said, angrily, “to resume his seat.” And he seemed to mean what he said.

Dad lifted his voice again, but “Chair! Chair!” and more Labour laughter smothered him. It looked as if something serious must happen, but the member for Toogoom hurried across the floor and talked persuasively into Dad’s ear, and Dad gave way reluctantly, and sat heavily down on O’Riley’s long hat and made it flat.

Then there was disorder.

“Why th’ devil didn’t y’ look after it, then?” Dad snorted at O’Riley, rising and releasing the battered beaver; “I haven’t eyes behind me!”

“You’re an ignorant elephant, that’s what you are!” O’Riley said, lifting his voice and the beaver. Dad turned and fell on O’Riley, and took him by the collar and squeezed him hard into the cushion.

There was real commotion and genuine excitement then!

All the members stood up. Some called “Shame!” others “Disgraceful!” People in the galleries leaned over and grinned, and burst buttons off their garments in unloosing their joy.

Messengers and miscellaneous members rushed eagerly through the lobbies and into the “refreshment room,” urging absent ones to hurry and witness the fun.

“Lesh them fi’ it out!” murmured the honourable member for Fillemupagen, hanging on fondly to the edge of the bar by the dimple in his chin.

The Speaker grew pale, and exhausted himself appealing for “Order!” He might just as well have called “Butcher!” or “Baker!” or anything, for Dad was deaf to it all.

O’Riley twisted his legs round Dad’s neck, and yelled in a shrill, hideous key, and hit blindly at Dad’s ear with his fist. Dad straightened up and swung round with him, but couldn’t shake him off. A small dog with no tail which had been lying asleep in a corner of the “Under-Secretary’s” gallery, woke up suddenly, and seeing O’Riley being swung round, thought he was a bicycle, and rushed in and yelped vigorously at Dad.

The Labour Party broke into fresh bursts of hilarity, and a messenger in uniform hastened to eject the dog. The animal dodged through his legs and barked at him. The occupants of the “Strangers’” gallery lost control of their emotions and hung over the railings and shrieked.

“Clear the Galleries!” the Speaker gasped, and created more commotion and disorder. At last several members seized Dad and separated him from O’Riley, and asked him to have some sense and not to be a fool. O’Riley, bereft of his collar and tie, and with his white hair dishevelled, stood panting and gasping for a moment; then suddenly, and with the agility of a circus man, he divested himself of his coat, which he tossed fiercely to the rear. It spread itself out on to the table, and upset a water-bottle on the Statutes. Then O’Riley ripped his vest off with one pull and flung it away too. It fluttered through the Chamber and settled calmly on the Speaker. And whilst “Order!” and “Shame!” echoed all round, he yelled a profane sort of prelude, then struck a pugilistic attitude and sparred wildly round Dad and those who were restraining him, and bumped the table about.

The member for Fillemupagen rolled into the Chamber, and hiccoughed above the din, “Lesh ’im have’sh it, Riley—he’sh ’gainst Fe’ration!” More loud laughter from the Labour Party, and pathetic cries of “Disgraceful!” from the Conservatives.

The “Chesterfield” of the Assembly, submerged in a high collar, rose and appealed for peace. “I nevah in all mai laife,” he said, “witnessed anything so beastly bleggahdly.” Then he went outside the bar in disgust and murmured “Vulgah bleggahds!”

Finally two or three members secured O’Riley, and conducted him to an ante-room, where they calmed and clothed him. Dad sat down and glared round like an injured lion. Then the Premier, pale and trembling with indignation, rose.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said: “It is with feelings of pain—with feelings of shame, Sir (Hear, hear!) that I rise to refer to the disgraceful scene—the degrading exhibition of ruffianism which this honourable House has just witnessed.” (The member for Bordertown with the clean shave shifted his chew from the hollow of one cheek to the other, and said “Hear! Hear!” then leisurely went on chewing some more.) “During the whole of the twenty years that I have had the honour to hold a seat in this Chamber, Sir, I have never known an occasion when the honour and reputation of this House has been so insulted, so er—er— dragged to the level, I might say, of the common public-house backyard brawl, Sir.” (Loud applause and shouts of approval from the Conservatives, intermingled with “Rot!” and shouts of “What about the Jerkins incident!” from the Labour supporters, and hiccoughs and “Queshun!” from the member for Fillemupagen, and “Order!” from the Speaker.) “The hon. member for Churchland” (meaning O’Riley) “is an old member of this House, Sir, and I’m amazed, Mr. Speaker, amazed, I say, and grieved, that he should so far forget himself as to be guilty of such conduct—conduct only becoming er—er—” (“Gentlemen!” from the member for Bourke, and laughter from the Labour Party) “a lunatic, Sir!” (O’Riley, who had re-entered the Chamber, here jumped to his feet and vociferated wildly, and was promptly pulled by two other members on to the cushion again, where he kicked and scratched and yelled “I am not a lunatic!”) “The honourable member for Eton Vale,” turning and glancing in the direction of Dad, “is the youngest member of this House, and it may be well he should understand that if he comes here with no respect for himself he might at least show some reverence and regard for the honourable position he happens to hold, and for the dignity and reputation of this Assembly.” (Wild applause from the Ministerialists, during which Dad groaned contentedly, and stared about the Chamber and up at the crowded galleries.) “And”—the Premier concluded severely— “I ask you to call upon the honourable member for Churchland and the honourable member for Eton Vale to apologise to this House, Sir.”

Then the Chamber rang with cheers and triumphant cries of “Apologise!” from the Government benches.

The “Chesterfield” of the Assembly, in his lofty, lordly fashion, rose to gratuitously endorse the remarks of the Premier, and more confusion followed. The Independents and Labour members rose en masse, and bombarded him with cries of “Sit down!” “Chair!” “The member for Churchland!” and “Let them apologise!” Then “Chesterfield” turned ferociously upon them, and lifting his voice above theirs shouted back:—

“If you will have the mannahs to permit mai to be heard, I only wish to sai that you ah the maost vulgah cwowd of hoodlums that evah disgwaced a Legislative Assembly!” And he sat down suddenly, and mopped his flushed brow with a large silk handkerchief and muttered, “Vulgah cads!”

“I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker!” yelled a broad-shouldered member, with a tremendous voice, across the table. Is the member for Bunya in order, Sir, in describing members on this side the House as a horde of hoodlums, disgracing—”

“Mr. Speaker!” the Premier hotly interrupted, landing on his feet in a bound— “the member for Churchland and the member for Eton Vale should be asked to—”

“I have asked for your decision, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order,” the broad-backed member yelled back. (Cheers and “Hear, hear!” from the Labour Party).

“Chair! Chair!” from different parts of the Assembly. Then the Speaker, red in the face and angry-looking, pointed his sharp-edged features at the broad-backed Labour man, who was standing erect and wagging his head, and said:—

“If the honourable member for the Bunya made use of the words complained of by the honourable member for St. George, such expressions are certainly unparliamentary, and must be with—”

The Premier jumped to his feet again and interrupted excitedly— “I regret to have to move, Sir, that your ruling be disagreed with.” (Great disorder). “According to May—” (More disorder and loud cries of “Chair!” “Respect the Chair!” and “Shame!” during which Dad rose and strolled out of the Chamber, as did the member for Toogoom and O’Riley.)

“It is clearly laid down in May, Mr. Speaker, Clause 999 that—”

Chair! Chair! Chair!

“I must draw the attention of the Honourable the Leader of the Government,” the Speaker said, “to the fact that the question before—”

He was suddenly interrupted from an unexpected quarter. On his left at the bar of the Chamber fresh disorder broke out.

The prig of the House rushed into the Chamber in fear and trembling, with his curls standing straight up.

Let go ov me! Let go ov me! Let go ov me!” rang out in a wild shrill key, and Dad and O’Riley, locked in each other’s embrace, rocked and swayed about in the lobby, then with a heavy thud fell on the carpet, their heads just inside the Chamber.

Wild confusion! Those who were not in a position to see what was going on stood on the seats.

“Disgwaceful!” the Chesterfield of the Assembly moaned. “A positive outwage!”

“Who’sh on top thish ’ime?” murmured the member for Fillemupagen, with his chin resting calmly on his chest.

A spectator in the gallery—one of the unwashed who spent much valueless time following the debates—craned to get a view of the struggle, and overbalanced himself and fell in. But he clung with both hands to the balustrading, and kicked his legs about like a frog in water just above the heads of a bunch of Government supporters.

“Help! Help!” he shouted.

The bunch of Government supporters suddenly looked up, then took alarm and divided and rushed across the floor.

The Speaker closed his eyes and moaned.

The Chamber rang with a fresh burst of Labour laughter.

“Oh, my G—! help!” groaned the dangling form. All eyes were turned on it. But the long arms of the Law reached down from the gallery and hauled the intruder back. Then they shook him and kicked him down the stairs.

At the same moment Dad and O’Riley suddenly disappeared from the floor. The member for Toogoom and some more dragged them away by the heels and saved the situation.

“Shocking!” “Shocking!” came from Ministers, while bursts of smothered merriment continued to escape from the ranks of Labour, and for some moments the House didn’t know where it was. Then the Speaker, perspiring and harassed-looking, turned his face to the clock and said he would “resume the Chair at seven o’clock.”

The newspapers made a great fuss about the incident, and when we read them at Ruddville, we felt that all those years we had never known what our father was capable of.

On Sandy’s Selection Kate almost prayed with pride. She and Sandy read the account in The Queenslander to little Jimmy, and exhorted him solemnly to grow up and be a great man like grandfather.

“I will if you will, Mother,” said Jimmy.

Kate grinned at Sandy, and said it was rather late in the day for her to aim at greatness, but she would do her best. And sure enough she did.


Chapter 20
The Ripper Sewing-Machine

Summer time. Sandy, worn, weary-looking, his face smudged with soil and perspiration, came inside and threw himself down on the sofa. He growled and grumbled about the scuffler, and abused the old horse he’d left yoked to it in the paddock. He reckoned the brute was doing more harm than good to the corn.

“Well, I’d come out and give you a hand,” Kate said sympathisingly, “but I’ve all this sewing to do, and fix up.” And she tossed a pile of calico and flannel and stuff about.

Then she asked Jimmy if he’d seen the thimble, and what he did with the cotton? And Jimmy, who was seated at her feet playing with the waste pieces, produced the missing articles.

“There’ll be a couple of flannels to run up for yourself, and a couple of little suits for Jimmy, besides a lot of patching and mending, and—these here.” And she indicated a heap of miniature garments. Whom they were for wasn’t quite clear, but Sandy seemed to understand. “Perhaps Mary could give you a hand,” Kate went on, “she isn’t any use to me.”

Mary, who just then was out gathering an armful of wood, was a useless sort of a girl sent by her mother to Kate to be taught “to sew and to be useful.”

“No,” Sandy said; “Saunders is there if I want anyone.”

Saunders was putting in a day’s ploughing for Sandy, and was working the other horse.

Kate threaded the needle, and stitched on in silence. Sandy stretched himself full length, and reflected.

After a while: “What about seeing Mrs. Holstein?” Kate said.

Sandy said he’d go across in the evening. Then he left the sofa, took a pint, reached himself a drink from the bottom of the cask, and returned to the scuffler, and yelled at the horse again. The horse rocked and rolled and rushed out of his course, and broke down more corn.

An hour after. The rooster came to the door and crowed.

“A stranger coming,” Kate said, gnawing the end of the thread. Mary, like the idiot she was, grunted, and held up one of the miniature garments to admire. Kate snatched it from her.

“Don’t be flying them about!” she said, and buried it in the pile.

The dog barked. “There is someone,” Kate said, and Mary bounced up and gaped out the front door, then turned and ran to the back.

“A man,” she grunted, “at the rails.”

“For goodness sake, then,” Kate snapped, rising and straightening things up, “keep out of sight—look at the cut of you! . . . Where did you put my skirt? Quick.”

Mary ran in and out of two rooms.

“Look at you without a boot to your foot! . . . Who is he?”

Mary rushed off, and poked her head out the back door again. “Lockin’ th’ wheels of his cart, and puttin’ nose-bags on his horses,” she reported.

The stranger strode round to the front, and Kate stepped out to meet him. “Good afternoon,” he said, lifting his hat.

Kate said “Good-day.”

“My name is Smith—Beresford Charles Smith. I’m travelling this district as the representative of the Ripper sewing-machine. Can I do some business with you, madam?”

He smiled, and his eyes roamed in through the open door and lit on Kate’s heap of needlework.

“I see you have no sewing-machine,” he went on, “though you have plenty sewing to do. The very woman that should have one. Just excuse me for half-a-minute,” and he turned to his cart, and lifted down a sewing-machine.

He struggled with it to the verandah, and dumped it down enthusiastically.

“It’s like a cornsheller,” Mary whispered.

The man stood over it, and took a rag from his pocket and dusted it here and there.

“The price of it is £14,” he said, “payable in monthly instalments of half-a-guinea. It’s the easiest thing in life to work one of these. All you have to do,” (taking a scrap of cloth from his pocket) “is to place your material under the needle so, then” (dragging a box towards him, and sitting tenderly on it) “put your foot square on the treadle, touch the wheel and—”

The machine rattled off.


Kate stared; Mary guffawed; and Jimmy came forward with a stick in his hand, and was motioned back by the man.

“This machine isn’t like other machines, Missis,” the man explained, “it will stitch as many doubles as you like. It will even sew leather, and you can’t break it. Now sit here, and try it yourself, and see how simple it is.”

Kate glanced down at the boots she had on, and turned red. The one on her right foot was an old one of Sandy’s, the one on her left foot was a canvas shoe that Jimmy had found in the dust of a drover’s camp one Sunday. But the man didn’t press her.

“These,” he went on, dipping his hand into a box of implements, “are the different arrangements for fancy work. . . That’s a quilter. This is a friller. Here’s a tucker.” And he explained their uses. “You can do any work,” he went on, “with these machines—sew on buttons, or put a patch on your good man’s trousers.” Kate smiled, and Mary guffawed.

“Now” (looking round) “if I had a piece of waste fabric I would show you—”

Kate hurried into the bedroom to fossick out something.

“Here you are.” (He pounced on the pile of sewing and lifted the topmost article.) “This will—”

The man’s eyes rested on the small sleeves to the thing, and he tossed it back, and grinned at Mary. Kate returned with a waste piece of moleskin, and the man placed it on the machine and stitched it into all shapes. Then he mentioned the terms again, and produced some papers and a pen, and asked Kate her full name.

Kate thought he had better consult Sandy about the matter, and told him where Sandy could be found. The man went down the paddock and saw Saunders scratching about with one horse and a plough. Saunders waved him off. He turned away and saw Sandy emerging from the corn behind the scuffler.

“Good afternoon, sir,” he called to Sandy.

“Come round ’ere, you clumsy brute, y’,” Sandy said.

“You Mr. Taylor?” the man asked.

You stumblin’ cow!” Sandy shouted. “Keep y’r head out of it; eatin’ is all y’r good for.”

“Put a nose-bag on him, sir,” the man suggested.

“D—n ’im,” Sandy shouted, “he’s gettin’ too much now, without puttin’ any nose-bag on him.”

Sandy turned the horse round, and was “flicking” him up again, when the man lifted his voice. “One moment, sir,” he called, “I’m selling your good lady a machine, and if you don’t mind stepping up, I—”

Sandy stopped the horse. “What sort of a machine?” he asked sulkily.

The machine man explained. Then, without giving time to reply, he praised the corn (which was drooping as fast as it could for want of rain), and said the selection altogether was a grand sight—a perfect panorama—as you approached it from the top of the hill.

Sandy went with him to the house to see the Ripper.

“It’s a splendid machine,” Kate said approvingly to Sandy.

“There’s not a house in any of the towns,” the man remarked, placing his hands on his wares, “without a machine of this kind. Every year, I suppose, I dispose of thousands of them.” (He felt himself all over.) “If I had my book here I could tell you the exact number.”

Then he showed Sandy how it would sew leather. “What about hide?” Sandy asked.

“Makes no difference.”

“It’s a rum arrangement, right enough,” Sandy murmured in admiration.

“Ten shillings a month,” the man said, producing the pen and papers again. “In a couple of years the whole thing will be paid off, and you won’t have felt the cost of it.”

Sandy’s eyes danced, and he looked at Kate

“It’s a good machine,” Kate mumbled, looking hard at it.

“Ten shillings a month,” Sandy murmured, stroking his beard.

“Tell you what I’ll do,” the man said, looking at Sandy. “I’ll sell you the machine straight out for £2; but you must keep it to yourself.”

“Oh, my word,” Sandy said. Then to Kate: “We got £2?”

“Just have it,” Kate said, producing the purse.

The man took the money, and gave Sandy a receipt. Then went away, and left the horse and cart in the yard. Sandy couldn’t understand it.

Sandy wasn’t in a hurry to return to the scuffling; he remained with Kate, and showed her how to put the Ripper out of gear and to put it in gear, and when Kate had tired of experimenting he sat down and worked it himself.

Sandy got on well with the machine. He tried it on a piece of moleskin. Then he placed a scrap of leather under the needle, and put all the weight of his feet on the treadle. There was a crack! The needle flew into pieces, and the works inside the machine rattled and buzzed like the spring of a roller-blind running down.

“You’ve done it!” Kate said, apprehensively.

Sandy stared at the Ripper for a while; then discarded the leather, and inserting a fresh needle tried it on the moleskin again. But the Ripper refused to work any more.

“You’ve broke it!” Kate groaned, sorrowfully.

“Well, it must be a useless thing,” Sandy muttered, “if it can’t stand any more than that.”

Then he went out and brought Saunders in. Saunders laughed when he saw the Ripper, and asked Sandy what he wanted buying a thing like that for.

“She had it bought when I come in,” Sandy mumbled.

“Indeed,” Kate snapped, “you bought it yourself.”

“If my old woman bought me a thing like that,” Saunders said, philosophically, “I’d set fire to her.” And he bent over and proceeded to overhaul the Ripper like one who understood the mechanism of it.

“Got a screw-wrench?” he said to Sandy. Sandy produced one, and Saunders applied it to various parts of the machine without success.

“If I could only get a look at the inside of her,” he muttered, kneeling and scrutinising the Ripper closely.

“Take off the wheel, and you might get at it,” Sandy suggested.

Saunders went to work on the wheel. He grunted and screwed hard at it and swore, then he tapped it with the screw-wrench, and it fell on the floor in several pieces. Kate’s breath went clean away.

Saunders threw the implement down in disgust, and stared at the Ripper. “Before I’d buy a thing like that,” he said, shaking his head, “I’d cut me throat.”

Then they went back to the plough.

Three days after, two policemen and another man called at Sandy’s place and claimed the horse and cart—also the Ripper. They said they were stolen property, and asked for a description of the man who left them.

Sandy didn’t try to prevent them taking the lot away.


Chapter 21
Kate’s Babies

Sandy had brought Mrs. Holstein and her traps in the dray, and was sitting on his haunches with his back against the barn and an anxious look on his face, just as he had sat when Jimmy was born.

An hour passed.

Mrs. Holstein came to the back door. “Anoder poy!” she called out.

Sandy straightened himself up and grinned. Mrs. Holstein withdrew.

Sandy, stepping out briskly, paced about between the barn and the house, whistling some sort of a tune.

Mrs. Holstein came to the back door again. “Anoder von!” she shouted, grinning broadly— “a gairl.”

Sandy stopped whistling, and his eyes and mouth opened wide. “Two?” he said, looking surprised.

Dweens!” And Mrs. Holstein laughed and disappeared again.

“Well, I’m blowed!” Sandy murmured, and walked up and down some more.

After a while Mrs. Holstein came to the door again, and burst out laughing.

“Theresh d-d-dree!” she stammered, “von more vos a poy!

“My G—!” Sandy said, “I must stop this,” and he advanced hurriedly to the door. But Mrs. Holstein threw up her hands and wouldn’t let him in.

“You should feel sholly aboud dem all. Two fine leetle poys, so like each oder as vos two pins. Und de leetle girl vos so plump—so fat as a leetle pig.” And she laughed at Sandy and hurried inside again.

Then a chorus of strange voices like the bleating of lambs fell on Sandy’s ear, and he turned away, and running his thick fingers through his hair shoved his hat off. Then he stood and meditated.

He was meditating hard, when once more the form of Mrs. Holstein appeared. It was too much for Sandy.

What!” he shouted, and ran blindly in the direction of the barn.


“Dere vos not some more, you silly shap!” Mrs. Holstein called after him. But Sandy paid no attention to her; he was heading for the haystack—whatever consolation he hoped to find there!—when Uncle, who had been absent several months from the selection, rode cheerfully into the yard with a swag rolled before him on the saddle.

“Tol dot foolish man dere vos not some more,” Mrs. Holstein said, appealing to Uncle.

“Not some more what?” Uncle asked, wonderingly.

“Not some more shilders. . . . I tell him der missus she haf dreeplets, and he tink dere vos some more yet, und rund avay.”

Triplets!” Uncle squealed. “Triplets! Moses!” and he tugged his old horse round and went away again. The selection was no place for Uncle any more.

Sandy wandered up the paddock, and walked aimlessly about among the trees, thinking and considering till he grew cool. Then he decided to face the trouble like a man and with a light heart. He returned to the house again, and grinning feebly went inside.

“Dere vos only dree, you see,” Mrs. Holstein giggled, and Sandy stood and stared at the triplets. Fine-looking youngsters they were, too; just like Sandy. After a while he began to look upon them with some pride and admiration.

Mrs. Holstein shrieked at Sandy, and said he ought to “dink proud of himself,” and added that her son Wilhelm had been “merriet fife year und hef only one just yet.” Then she hit Sandy hard on the back with her heavy dumpy hand and went out.

Sandy’s admiration for his offspring rapidly increased, and he hung over them and handled and fondled them till Mrs. Holstein returned, and hinted it was time he left the room.

“You vill hef plenty times for dem drekleys,” she said, and laughed at Sandy again.

When word reached Ruddville that Kate had triplets, Mother and Sarah became excited. You’d think they were going to a wedding or had come into a large fortune.

“She will be proud!” Sarah kept saying, and “I would like to see them!” and Mother put on her hat and ran down the paddock to break the news to Dad, who had just reached home for the holidays, after making the biggest Parliamentary reputation known for twenty-five years.

“Just what I’d expect!” Dad grunted; “they’ve got a lot o’ sense!”

“You ought to be proud to be their grandfather,” Mother said smilingly.

Gran’father!” Dad snorted; “what th’ devil do they want with three! Couldn’t one be enough! Three foals or three calves would pay them better!”

Dad was a mercenary old man. But, nevertheless, he put the horse in the buggy next day and drove Mother and Sarah over to see the triplets. Mother said she was sure Kate wouldn’t have enough little clothes for them all, and raked from the big family box a bundle of garments she had harboured there for years—things she had used on Dan and Dave when they were babies, and took them with her to give to Kate.

“What d’ y think o’ them?” Sandy asked, when Dad had looked at the triplets.

“Well,” Dad said, clearing his throat, “I s’pose it’s better than losin’ one.” And he sat and stared all round the room, examining the walls and the naked rafters.

Sandy brought out the cup and a bottle he’d brought from the store.

“Just a little,” Dad said.

Sandy gave him a lot.

“When were they born?” Dad asked, brightening up.

Sandy told him. Then Dad went and had another look at the triplets.

“The little girl is very like you, Father,” Kate said, with pride and admiration in her eyes.

Dad seemed to think she was.

“Show us a hold o’ some o’ them,” he said, and lifted one and walked about with it in his arms. Dad walked about with one or the other for an hour or more, and when he was going away he left three sovereigns—one for each of them.

“I think Father’s very proud of them,” said Kate, when the buggy had gone, and Sandy grinned and hung over the triplets and suggested calling one of them after Dad.

It was no time before the whole country-side had heard of Kate’s triplets, and there was scarcely a man, woman, or child that didn’t come to see them. Even old Riley came.

Riley was fond of children, and when he saw the three mites huddled together he shook his head and said; “’Tis wonderful! I often heerd o’ it; but I never sin it till neow.”

Then Sandy produced the bottle, and poured some of the contents into a cup for Riley.

“Well,” Riley said, lifting the cup to his head, “here’s good luck t’ ye; an’ I hope y’ll allus be as fortinit!” And he tossed off the liquor without water and without a tear. Mrs. Holstein, standing by with fun in her eye, shrieked cheerfully, and hit Sandy on the back again. Sandy grinned and rolled the bottle up again in some rag, and put it carefully away.

“Dink can you menitch to go along yourself some now?” Mrs. Holstein said to Kate one morning. “Dey vos vait for me at der drashing.”

Kate felt sure she could manage first-rate; and the nurse gathered up her traps, kissed the triplets several times, hugged Kate too, then laughed at Sandy and said:—

“I von’t come here some more anoder time, Meeser Daylor, if you hef such a big shob fo’ me.”

Then she beckoned Sandy out of Kate’s hearing, and handed him a scrap of paper, and laughed again. “Mine leetle bill.”

Nine pounds!” Sandy exclaimed. “Nine pounds! . . . I thought you always charged three!

“For von, yah,” Mrs. Holstein explained. But you vos difference from oder beople . . . you vos haf dree,” And the German nurse screamed with delight at Sandy.

Sandy, concerned and agitated-looking, said he would “see the missus about it.”

“It vill be some lessons to you,” Mrs. Holstein squealed further as Sandy turned sadly away.

“We’ll have to pay it, I suppose,” Kate said in answer to Sandy; “they’re worth it, ain’t they?” and she smiled and planted kisses on the cheeks of the numerous offspring.

“It means one of the cows ’ll have to go,” Sandy murmured, and went out to tell the nurse it “would be orright.”

“Nene poun’?” and the tears ran out of Mrs. Holstein’s eyes. “You vos so foolidge, Meeser Daylor, I vos make fun mid you.” And she ran in and explained her joke to Kate.

“Oh, ’s that it!” Sandy drawled, and brightened up. Then he grinned and went out and stood by the dray. Mrs. Holstein climbed into it and they drove away.

“You send fo’ me,” she called out to Kate, “if somedings go wrong mid the shilders.”

Kate said she would, and waved her hand from the door.

A week had scarcely passed when something went wrong. One of the triplets (the girl) screamed painfully the whole of one night, and began again after breakfast. Kate was in distress. Once or twice the infant’s breath seemed to leave it altogether, and Kate told Sandy to go at once for Mrs. Holstein. Sandy, more concerned even than Kate, rushed away to catch a horse. But not a beast could he lay hands on. They seemed to know he was in a hurry, and wouldn’t stand or be driven to the yard. The old black mare, that Kate could catch in any paddock at any hour of the day or night, allowed him to approach within a foot or two of her, then changed her mind and galloped after the others. Sandy cursed them bitterly, and ran back to the house with an idea in his head.

The triplets were all screaming when he entered the door, and Jimmy was bellowing violently too, because the “puppy dorg” bit him. Kate was nearly out of her mind, and between her tears was crooning “There now!” “There now!” “Don’t lose any time!” she moaned, when she saw Sandy, and continued— “There, then! There, then!”


“I can’t catch any o’ them,” Sandy groaned; “where’s some o’ your old skirts?” And he darted into the bedroom. He came out again in a skirt of Kate’s which reached to his knees and was open down the front. Then he snatched up her hat and hurried to the paddock with the bridle on his arm.

“There then! . . . There then! . . . There then!” Kate continued to moan, pressing her cheek close to the face of the mite that was most in trouble

Jimmy stopped bellowing to stare at his father, then laughed.

He ran to the verandah and watched him till he was out of sight, and laughed again.

When the horses saw Sandy approaching they lifted their heads and stared. Then they lifted their tails and trotted round him and stood. Sandy called kindly to the black mare in the voice of Kate, and the lot snorted and turned and raced recklessly through the timber, and fell over the fence and got lost.

Sandy didn’t return to the house; he stepped out of his disguise and started at a trot for Holstein’s, three miles away.

The thresher was humming and buzzing, and a dozen men or more were busily lifting bags, tossing hay and heaving sheaves about, when Sandy entered the yard. A number of dogs rushed out from the shade of the stacks and barked. A man on a stack looked down, and, recognising Sandy, cheerfully waved a pitchfork above his head, and called above the din for three cheers. Those who heard and understood responded; the others gaped wonderingly. But when they saw Sandy they laughed boisterously and renewed the cheer. Sandy ignored them. He passed on and approached the house.

“Noding ad all,” Mrs. Holstein said when Sandy explained. “It yust vos some vind. Efery shild haf dot. My Yacob he haf it; und he shqveal so dot Holstein he get not no sleep.”

“And what did you give him?” Sandy asked.

“I gif him der guraveeseet.”

Sandy couldn’t understand.

Guraveeseet,” Mrs. Holstein repeated excitedly; “Guraveeseet!

Sandy shook his head and looked stupid.

Mrs. Holstein turned and reached down a tin from the mantelpiece containing caraway seeds.

“Oh—h!” Sandy said with an enlightened smile.

“Yah,” Mrs. Holstein squealed; “dot vos it. Tol Mishey Daylor put some hot vater on him und gif a leetle to der shild.”

“I see,” Sandy said, “you pour hot water on it?”

“Yah!” and the German woman laughed pleasantly at Sandy’s intelligence.

“And which do you give it?” Sandy inquired further, “the seeds or the water?

Mrs. Holstein broke into a loud shriek of merriment.

“Der seets,” she screamed, “vould stop its moud aldergedder, und you vould haf only dwins.”

“Give it th’ water, then?” Sandy said, getting impatient.

“Yah, der vater.

Sandy was satisfied and turned to go.

“Und if dot don’ make him quiet,” Mrs. Holstein added, following Sandy to the yard, “yust hold him by der leg und der vind it run oud.”

Sandy stared at her.

“What, hold it upside down?” he said.

“Mid its head down—yust like it vos a vallaby; Holstein he hold Yacob like dot.”

“I see,” Sandy said, and hurried away.

As Sandy passed the thresher again old Holstein, covered in chaff and dust, left the winnower and intercepted him,

“I hear aboud dot,” he said gravely, holding Sandy by the hand. “Mein Got! dot vos a great lot.” And he shook his head.

The man on the stack opened fire on Sandy again.

“Take not no nodice of him,” Holstein said, “dot fool he vos only yealous; he been merriet a vife dirteen year und he haf noding yet.” Then he shook hands again with Sandy and said: “I congradeelade you, my man!”

Sandy hastened away, and panted home.

“It’s only wind,” he said, stumbling inside. “Get some caraway seeds and pour hot water on them and give it some; hers gets it just the same.”

Kate placed the limp, wailing infant in Sandy’s arms while she searched the house for caraway seeds. But none was to be found.

“It doesn’t matter, then,” Sandy said eagerly; “if you hold it by the legs with its head down she says it’ll do just as well.”

“Oh—and hurt it!” Kate moaned.

“It won’t!” Sandy insisted. “They did it to all theirs! . . Let me.” And he stretched the babe on the sofa, and fumbled clumsily about its long clothes in search of its legs.

“Be careful! Oh, be careful!” Kate cried, holding up her hands.

Sandy found its legs, and slowly upended the squalling offspring.



“Don— don— don’t!” from Kate.

But Sandy held it up. Then between its screams a gulp of air escaped from the mite.

“Oh-h,” Kate gasped; “it’s up—it’s got it up!” And she threw out her hands and took possession of the infant again and hugged it, and it became calm.

“I told y’!” Sandy said, grinning triumphantly. “I told y’!”

The triplets were a great drag on Kate. Her hands were always full. They kept her occupied, and made the house merry. All day long she was going—feeding them, hushing them, and putting them to sleep. And often when Sandy came for dinner nothing would be ready, and he would have to take charge of some of the triplets; walk up and down with them in his arms, singing in his own peculiar way to humour them; while Kate flew round and prepared the meal.

Three’s th’ devil, isn’t it?” Sandy would say, shaking the youngsters about in his clumsy efforts to silence them.

“I don’t know,” Kate would answer, banging cups and things on the table; “there’s just as much trouble with one as there is with three.”

But at night, sometimes, Kate was inclined to agree with Sandy, for then something or other always went wrong with the triplets. They didn’t like being in the dark, so Sandy reckoned. Frequently one would start out of its sleep and bleat; and to prevent its cries from waking the others Kate would slip into the front room with it and shake it about in there before the fire, if any were left, to soothe it. In a while, Sandy, with one of the others in his big arms, would creep out in his shirt and bare feet and join her. For an hour or so they’d both pace the room together, and just when things were getting quiet the one in the bed would break out. Then Kate would carefully load Sandy with her charge, and with whispered injunctions to move quietly about with them, run back to the bed to silence the other. But generally the “other”—mostly the girl—was the hardest to console, and for no obvious reason whatever would scream itself into convulsions, and almost drive Kate to distraction.

There, then! . . . There, then! . . . There, then!” she would croon, while her tears would flow and wet the youngster’s cheek. And in the middle of it all something would suddenly go wrong with Sandy, and the pair in his charge would struggle with him and squeal themselves black.

“Well, it is th’ devil!” Sandy would groan, and Kate wouldn’t contradict him.

“I’m always afraid something ’ll go wrong with them,” Kate used to say to Sandy, “and I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to them.”

One day something did happen. Kate had carefully settled the triplets on the floor, with some bagging under them to prevent them catching cold or eating holes in the ground floor, and had placed the “teat” of a milk bottle in the mouth of one while she put some clothes through the wash-tub. When she looked in again to see how they were getting on, the “teat” was missing, and she took alarm, and ran out and called Sandy from the plough.

“Goodness me! What are we going to do?” Kate cried, wringing her hands, “it swallowed the ‘teat’ while I was washing!”

Sandy looked grave. “What about oil?” he said.

Kate rushed away and procured some, and they gave the infant a dose. Then Kate took it up in her lap and nursed it, and wept over it.

Sandy sat looking on, and thinking hard of what might result, when something suddenly occurred to him.

“How do you know it was that one swallowed it?” he asked with increased anxiety.

“Well, I don’t know,” Kate said, doubtingly, “only that it had it in its mouth when I went out.”

“But it might have been one of the others swallowed it!” Sandy suggested.

Kate stared with apprehension at the two “cooing” mites on the bagging, and said, “It might,” and put more doubt into Sandy’s heart.

“Well, then,” he said, “they had better get a dose, too, and be on the safe side.”

Kate agreed with Sandy, and jumped up and administered oil all round. Then she lifted the squealing infants from the floor, and the teat dropped from the clothes of one of them.

Sandy stared for a moment, then called Kate a fool and went back to the plough.


Chapter 22
McMaster’s Traction Engine

Rain came just when it was wanted, and Sandy’s barley matured and ripened, and was a good crop.

McMaster’s steam thresher was in the district, and Sandy engaged it to thresh his barley. A steam thresher was a novelty at Sleepy Creek, and the rapidity with which it put the stacks through and shifted itself to the next selection was a matter of wonder to everyone, and afforded the selectors food for conversation, and kept them idle.

While the thresher was at work, wild Dick Saunders came to see Sandy. Dick had had a crop too—it was a pleasant change for Dick. He reaped a few drayloads of wheat from his ten acres, and was anxious to know from Sandy the rates McMaster charged for threshing. Sandy told him: “Nine-pence a bag for anything over thirty bags, and sixpence an hour for the men. Anything under that £2 for the shift.” Then Dick approached McMaster; but the proprietor of the steam thresher shook his head, and said he had passed Dick’s place, and wouldn’t take the machine back that way for less than £3 10s.; and it wouldn’t pay him to return even for that sum, he reckoned.

Dick cursed McMaster with all his might; called him a bumble-footed Jew, and named two or three different kinds of places where he would see him to before he’d give £3 10s. for threshing five or six bags of wheat; and ended by saying he would sooner put a fire-stick in it! Then Dick went away, and left the yard-gate open, and Mrs. Hogan’s cows walked in, and one of them chewed McMaster’s vest coat, which was hanging on the guard-iron of a dray, and tramped on his watch.

Next day was New Year’s day, and McMaster and his men were in town enjoying themselves. The thresher was silent, and stood at the stacks with a tarpaulin thrown over portions of her.

Dick came to see Sandy again, and they sat under the verandah and talked about McMaster and Dick’s bit of wheat. Dick was despondent, and said he didn’t know what the devil he was going to do. Uncle, with an old newspaper in his hand, came out and joined them.

“Well, I tell y’ what I’d do,” Uncle put in cheerfully— (Dick scowled heavily on him)—”I’d go straight away, now” —Uncle went on— “get a couple o’ drays, put your wheat on ’em, bring it over here an’ shove it through the machine.”

“An’ who the devil’s going to drive th’ engine?” Dick asked.

Me,” said Uncle.

Dick and Sandy both stared at Uncle.

You?”—Dick said— “Can y’ drive it?”

Uncle chuckled.

“Well, I should think so,” he answered, “seein’ I’ve been among ’em all me life.”

Sandy grinned his incredulity.

“Well, I suppose y’ seen me take charge of her yes’d’y, didn’t y’, when the driver was away?” Uncle answered, and Sandy admitted he had. And, in truth, Uncle, who since the arrival of the machine had put in all his time poking about the engine, had been left in charge of her for a few moments, but all he had to do was to stand with his hands behind his back looking at her.

Dick thought he saw something in the suggestion, and began to treat Uncle with respect.

“Well, if you think you can manage it,” he said, “we’ll very soon bring the stack across.”

Manage it!”—and Uncle straightened up his shrunken little form. “Go and bring th’ stuff,” he said; “I’ll soon start th’ blessed engine.” And he threw his arms about like one eager to get to work.

Sandy and Saunders didn’t waste any more time. They caught the horses, put them in the drays, and went for Dick’s stack. Uncle proceeded to the engine, and filled the boiler with water, and put a fire into her. Kate came out and looked on.

‘All that’s to be done now,” Uncle explained, “is to wait till the hand of the clock points to 100, then draw the lever, an’ away she goes.” Then he touched her here and there with a handful of cotton waste. “McMaster ’ll be a bit surprised,” he added with a chuckle, “when he comes back and finds we’ve put Dick’s wheat through.”

Sandy and Saunders, accompanied by Mrs. Saunders, returned with two large dray-loads of wheat, and drew up beside the thresher.

“How are we going to manage?” Sandy said, looking perplexed. Then they put their heads together to solve the labour problem. After a while Sandy made a suggestion.

“I’ll feed the thresher,” he said; “Dick can look after the bags; Mrs. Saunders pitch off the dray; Uncle drive the engine, and Kate ’ll give a hand from one to another.”

It seemed a satisfactory arrangement, and Mrs. Saunders climbed on to the load, and commenced heaving sheaves about.

Uncle walked round about the machine to assure himself that the gear and everything connected with the plant was in going order.

“Are y’ ready?” he called out.

“Right,” Sandy answered, and Uncle blew the whistle.

“Good man!” Saunders yelled encouragingly. Then Uncle drew the lever, and off went the engine. Off went the horses, too, with the load of wheat, and with Mrs. Saunders on top of it. Saunders’ horses weren’t used to traction engines; and they raced across the cultivation paddock and dropped sheaves all about it, and dropped Mrs. Saunders on it also. The engine tore itself away from the rest of the plant, and with a vigorous puff-puff! puff-puff! made straight for Sandy’s cow-yard.


Sandy stood staring for a moment or two as though he were paralysed; then he yelled to Uncle and pursued the engine.

Stop ’er!” Sandy shouted, “Stop ’er!

Uncle tugged and fumbled at various parts of the works, and increased her speed. Sandy headed her, and waved his hands about frantically, but the engine took no notice of him.

Uncle was in distress.

The engine went right through the yard and burst it all up; and when Uncle heard the timber cracking he deserted his post—jumped to the ground, and one of the heavy rails fell across his neck and held him down. Sandy hurriedly dragged it off and gave chase again. He snatched up a log and dropped it in front of one of the wheels. The engine stepped over it and puffed along leisurely. The wire fence was in front. She took it all away with her, and went steaming up the grass paddock.

“For heaven’s sake, come an’ give a hand someone!” Sandy cried, distractedly.

Saunders, who had abandoned his horses, overtook Sandy.

“Why in th’ name of th’ devil did he say he could drive it for?” he shouted into Sandy’s ear.

“What the devil’s the good of askin’ that now?” Sandy shouted back. “’Ere, get hold of this an’ see if it ’ll stop her,” and between them they heaved a big log in front of the traction. She climbed over it, and rubbed herself against an iron bark tree, and tore a heavy hanging limb to the ground, which nearly took Sandy’s life.

“Terrible! terrible!” Sandy moaned.

“It’s a — caution!!” from Saunders, and both trotted and panted beside the runaway.

“There must be some way of stopping her,” Dick gasped, and placing his foot on the step he mounted her boldly.

“Pull that thing near y’,” Sandy shouted,— “an’ see if it ’ll do any good.”

Dick pulled the “thing,” and the engine whistled as if it were in pain, and he jumped off.

“Aint good enough,” he chuckled, “th’ darn boiler or something might burst on a feller.”

A stump slewed the engine round and altered her course, and she bore down on the corn, whistling all the time. Sandy groaned heavily.

“Look out for the wire,” Saunders shouted, and they both hung back till the engine tore up the cultivation-paddock fence; then they pursued her through the corn. She cut a big clearing through the crop. On the other side was a lane. She cut the lane in two, and approached an embankment surrounding a government dam.

Sandy groaned.

The engine climbed the embankment and dropped over the other side, and covered herself in mud and water, and fizzled and whistled and bubbled, and then was quiet.

Sandy couldn’t sleep that night, and in the morning when McMaster and his men turned up he couldn’t be found—he was busy in the corn.

Kate told McMaster where the engine was, and said Uncle was to blame. McMaster didn’t take it well at all; he stuttered and swore, and threatened to sue Sandy and Uncle, and everyone who had a hand in shifting it. Then he and his men proceeded to the dam, and when they saw the traction, they cursed Sandy and Uncle again. But Sandy never came out of the corn.

McMaster went away and procured all the draught horses in the place, about fifty, and hooked them to the engine; then he and all his men, and all the farmers about, except Sandy and Dick Saunders, hammered the horses with sticks, and shouted at them, till they pulled the engine out of the dam. Then they scraped the mud off it.

The engine didn’t receive much damage, but McMaster wouldn’t thresh any more barley for Sandy.


Project Gutenberg Australia