an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: Back at Our Selection
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2400051h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: 2024
Most recent update: 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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Back at Our Selection

Steele Rudd






Chapter 1. - Dad Makes A Speech
Chapter 2. - The Home Coming
Chapter 3. - Mrs. Peterson’s Remains
Chapter 4. - Dad And The Pigs
Chapter 5. - Sarah’s Gold Watch
Chapter 6. - Sarah’s Courtship
Chapter 7. - The Rifle Range
Chapter 8. - A Dead Horse And A Live One
Chapter 9. - Mulcahy’s Pigs
Chapter 10. - Dave Brings Home A Wife
Chapter 11. - Dave’s New House
Chapter 12. - Dave And Lily Start Housekeeping
Chapter 13. - Lily’s Mother Arrives
Chapter 14. - Lily’s Mother Meets Dad
Chapter 15. - Dad Holds A Post Mortem
Chapter 16. - Dad Relents
Chapter 17. - Dad Forgets The Past
Chapter 18. - The Races
Chapter 19. - Norah Comes Home
Chapter 20. - Norah’s Holiday
Chapter 21. - The Harvest Home
Chapter 22. - “A Jolly Good Fellow”


Chapter 1
Dad Makes a Speech

Dad had been a member of Parliament for several years, and had gained a reputation for fearless, violent debating, and for hard practical common sense.

A new Government was in power, and there was a long debate on. People crowded into the House, and thronged the galleries. The Chamber presented a new and strange appearance. The Government side of it was crammed. Had any more members been returned by the people to support that Premier, they would have had to sit outside and support him on the steps.

The proceedings opened with prayer and adjourned in wrath. For several weeks they opened and adjourned in like manner. Then one evening a piece of the policy— the part that they had left behind in the drawers when they went to the country— was unfolded, and business commenced.

The Treasurer, a sturdy, pompous, Cromwellian sort of politician, rose and began his second reading speech on “A Land Betterment Bill.” He explained all the beauties and perfections of that Bill; said he had a lot of faith in it; said it was to be the salvation of the country; and was confident that members would find the principle embodied in it simple and easily understood. “Whoso maketh a thing,” he said, “whoso createth a value, to him that thing or value belongs,” (Loud cheers from the Government benches.) “Let me illustrate my meaning,” he went on. “Suppose John Smith buys 100 acres of land at £1 per acre; and suppose further that he improves and clears that land, or spends money or labour on it equal to £4 per acre, then everyone must recognise that John Smith, has a property right in that land to the extent of £500.” Everyone did; they got up and cheered the prophet. He referred to the teachings of John Stuart Mill, and they cheered some more. “But,” he continued confidently, “further suppose that a railway is built into the district where that land is, and the value of John Smith’s holding is increased thereby in value from £5 to £8 per acre, then it must be clear to everyone that if John Smith has a property right in the £5 per acre which he created, the community which added another £3 per acre to the value of the land has a property right in that increased value—”

“Tis a lie; ’twould be robbery!” Dad shouted. And was silenced by the Speaker.

When the Treasurer had ceased his references to Mill, and his mathematical calculations, the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Targo rose in turn and abused the Bill. Then Dad caught the Speaker’s eye.

“Sir,” Dad commenced in a loud aggressive voice— (Laughter and guffaws from the Government end of the House.) Dad paused, and glared at the scoffers till they were silent, then proceeded: “I was sent into this House by honest sensible farmers and selectors—men an’ their wives who have been struggling all th’ days of their life on the land—an’ I was sent ter look after their interests an’ ter tell any Government that would make bad laws—that tries ter bring in mischievous legislation, what I think of them. (Hear! Hear!) An’ I tell this Gover’ment (Dad raised his clenched fist above his head) that this Bill is nothing but broad daylight robbery.” (Down came Dad’s fist like a sledge hammer.)

“Nonsense!” from the Treasurer.

“’Tis not nonsense,” Dad yelled back, “this Bill is nonsense— and all the rot you have been telling this House about it is nonsense! With your prattle about things what someone called Mill have to say! What’s the good o’ that? (Opposition laughter.) What have he ter do with peoples’ land?” (Loud laughter, and “You don’t understand it” from the Treasurer.) “I do understand it,” Dad shouted. “Do you think I don’t understand when a man tries ter put his hand into my pocket that he wants to help himself ter something he never put there?” (Opposition cheers.)

“He wouldn’t find anything there, only pumpkin, if he did,” interjected the member for Sandy Gallop.

“He’d find more there than he’d find in yours,” Dad snorted. “I’m not like ye— I didn’t come here fer a livin’. (Cheers and laughter from the Opposition.) I won my independence workin’ and battlin’ on th’ land. (Hear! Hear!) I went on the land, Mr. Speaker, more than forty year ago, when I hadn’t enough ter buy a billy-can with— when there was no railway, and when there wasn’t another settler within ten mile o’ me—(applause)—an’ I would ask the Minister that brings this Bill here to tax selectors with if he knows anything about land? If he knows what selecting in this country meant ter the pioneers of it, and what it means ter this day? (Opposition cheers, and cries of “Rot” from the other side.) I stand here and tell him he knows nothing of it. He comes here a newchum, with his head stuffed full of fine ideas about some fool—”

Dad was pulled up by the Speaker. “Order,” he cried, “the honorable member must not indulge in terms which are unparliamentary, and must withdraw them.” (Loud “Hear, Hears!” from Ministers.)

“Well, then,” Dad roared on, “with ideas about some fellow he calls ‘Mill’— (laughter)— and wants to take half of the increased value of a poor man’s bit of land ter put in his Treasury to pay debts and things with that every loafer and sundowner in th’ country have had a hand in incurrin’. (Cheers from the Opposition.) He talks in a fine way about a selection increasing in value till it’s worth £500. What is that to a poor man after his twenty years’ battle with it— after his years of scrub-cutting and fighting fires, with livin’ on dry bread, and harrowin’ his grain in perhaps with a bramble before he sees his deeds— after payin’ interest at 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, for fifteen years—after sinkin’ wells all over it, and never gettin’ any water? (Loud cheering from the opponents of the Bill.) I tell the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, that he don’t know what he talks about. With this Bill, he is like a lunatic runnin’ about with a loaded gun in his hand—(roars of laughter)— and the sooner the gun is taken off of him and smashed across a fence, the better it will be for the people of this country. (Renewed laughter.) He talks about the value that a railway gives to a man’s land, and wants to pocket some of it on that account. I never in all my days heerd of such an impudent reason for stealing a man’s property. Sir, a cattle-duffer has more decency and honour than that. A railway,” Dad fairly yelled, “confound it! Doesn’t the selector help to build the railway? (Hear! Hear!) Doesn’t he pay freight and fares to that railway for carrying his produce and himself and his family when they can afford to go anywhere? Surely to God that should be enough! (Cheers.) If it isn’t,” Dad lowered both hands below his knees, and struck a lifting attitude, “if it isn’t,” and he suited the word to the action, “then tear your d— railways up.” (Cheers from the Opposition.)

“Order!” the Speaker cried again, “I warn the honourable member not to continue using terms which are unparliamentary.”

(“Hear, hear! Hear, hear!” from the Treasury benches.)

“I say tear them up,” Dad went on, “and go back to the bullock drays and the coach. They’ll carry produce and passengers nearly as quick as your trains, and are doing it in parts of the country now, and they’re not asking the people for any of the increased value of their bit of land for doing it either. (Loud cheering.) Mr. Speaker, this Bill is robbery! (Government dissent.) “’Tis thievery! (Great disorder.) And the Government know it! (“No, no!” and more disorder.) You do!” and Dad lifted his voice a note higher, “and shame on you! shame on you, for trying ter sell the electors that sent you here ter make honest laws fer them. (Opposition cheers and Government dissent.) You told them there would be no more taxation, and ’tis nothing but taxin’ and taxin’ them you’re doin’. The very first thing you do is to break your pledge—to lie! (Uproar and “Order, Order!” from the Speaker.) Then you put a charge on a poor man’s few dairy cows (Hear, hear!) and you want him to pay for carrying a gun about, and another of you would bleed more money from him fer keepin’ his own stallion. (Cries of “No” and “Yes, yes.”) ’Tis scandalous! ’Tis villainy!” (Great uproar, and Dad again called to order.) “To th’ devil with the railways and their increased value—”

“Order! Order!” cried the Speaker, “the honourable member must address the House in more respectful language.”

“Let them build their railways into some part of the bush where there’s no one,” Dad howled, “and see how much it will increase the value of the land!”

The Treasurer: “So it would when the people settle there.”

“Well, then, charge an increased price for it, and the people will know what the bargain is they are making. But until they do go and settle there, your railway wouldn’t be worth tuppence— ’twould rust.” (Hear, Hear!) Dad paused for breath, then continued. “But this Bill is a shameful piece of work! (Dissent.) ’Tis full of tricks and traps to grind selectors down and take their land away from them! (Cries of “No, no,” and “Nonsense,” and cheers from the Opposition.) It is! All the Treasurer’s fine talk about letting a man make his own valuation is lies! (Great disorder and cheers, in the midst of which the Speaker’s rebukes and appeals for order are drowned.) ’Tis false magemanimity! (Dissent, intermingled with laughter.) ’Tis a trick to get a man to value his property for more than ’tis worth, and if he undervalue it, you take it off him at that price. (Hear, Hear!) And how many farmers are there in the country, let me ask you, who would think of selling their places even for a hundred pounds more than they are worth? What good would it do them? It wudn’t be enough to keep them; and do you think they want to begin an’ cut holes in the bush again, and to fight drought, and floods, and fires, and mean bad Governments? (Cheers from the Opposition.) And this is the kind of law-making we get from a Ministry that prattles about settling people on the land, an’ trots round the country patting farmers on the back and gorgin’ on their banquets! (Cheers.) ’Tis treachery—”


“’tis highway robbery—”

“Order! Order!”

“’tis d— roguery—” (Uproar.)

“Order! Order!” the Speaker cried. “The Honourable member must not make such statements.”

The Premier rose angrily, and asked that the member for Eton Vale be called on to withdraw the words “d— roguery,” and the Speaker called upon Dad to withdraw them.

“What I’ve said is th’ plain truth!” Dad shouted, throwing his arms and head about.

Loud cries of “Shame” and “Withdraw” from the Government benches.

“NEVER!” Dad howled.

The Speaker: “I ask the honourable member for Eton Vale to withdraw the words the Premier complains of, which are most unparliamentary.” (Commotion.)

“I’ll not!” Dad shouted. “I defy you to make me withdraw what I know is the truth,” (Great confusion, during which the Speaker “named” Dad to the House.)

The Premier jumped to his feet.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I regret that the honourable member for Eton Vale should again be the cause of another disgraceful scene in this Chamber, and when that member not only violates the rules and propriety of this House, but openly hurls defiance at your executive authority, sir, I am compelled, however painful the duty may be, to move that the honourable member be suspended for the term of one week.” (Disorder, and cries of “Gag” and yells and howls of approval.)

The motion was carried, and the Speaker said:

“It is the pleasure of this House that the member for Eton Vale be suspended for one week—(more confusion)— and I ask the honourable member to withdraw from its precincts.” (Great uproar.)

“Never!” Dad shouted furiously, “Never!”

Then the Sergeant-at-Arms and officers of the House approached, and Dad prepared for violence. But the Leader of the Opposition spoke persuasively to him, and he strode out quietly. At the bar of the House, he turned, and shouted “Thieves! Robbers!


Chapter 2
The Home-Coming

A cold day at Saddletop. A bitter westerly howled over the broad, billowy plains, penetrating the huts and homes of the selectors. Limbs of tall grey, ghostly-looking gum trees tossed and swayed in the wind. Horses and cattle, shaggy coated and hump-backed, sought shelter in the mountainous timber-land. Sleepy native bears, indifferent to the wind or the weather or the world, crouched calmly in the highest forks of the great trees. Fallen forest leaves drifted into heaps, and all round was dreary, desolate, dead, and dry.

Mrs. Banks and her daughter Amelia, both shaking and shivering with the cold, dropped into our place. They came to see mother and Sarah in the interests of Temperance. They were the promoters—the guiding stars—of the Saddle-top Band of Hope. Mother was pleased to see them. She shook them by the hand and asked them how they were, and if they had had the influenza, and made them a cup of tea. Then Mrs. Banks began to talk, and unfolded her programme to mother.

Strong drink, she said, was a horrible evil, a curse that brought nothing but ruin and misery to every home it entered. She implored Mother and Sarah to join her in her efforts to put it down. “It’s a sorrowful thing,” she went on, “to see men wasting their money in drink, going in debt for it even, and ruining their health and their lives and getting into gaol, and even committing murder. Oh, it’s horrible!”

Not once in a year was a drunk ever seen on Saddletop. He was rarer than a rich relation. None of him had time to get drunk, even if he had the inclination.

“Many and many a time, Mrs. Rudd,” the temperance one went on, “do I thank God my husband never touches a drop, and ah! it is such a blessing—far before all the money and land in the world to feel that when he goes to the railway station or to town, he’ll come home sober, and he was always the same. And I always tell Amelia she must get a husband like her father—and never to mind what he might be, or if he hasn’t a shilling in the world to bless himself with, so long as he doesn’t drink.”

Mother agreed with Mrs. Banks that drink was a bad thing; “too much,” she thought wasn’t good for anyone, but added that there were some who could “take a little now and again without doing themselves any harm.” Mother was a cautious woman. She remembered once or twice having smelt drink on Dad.

“I don’t believe it,” Mrs. Banks squealed, “I don’t believe it at all. No one can touch drink without it getting a hold of them—don’t you believe it; not without it becoming master of them; no! no! no! once a drunkard always a drunkard. And then,” lowering her voice, “they go down, down, down to despair and the devil.”

Just here Joe strolled in and shook hands with Mrs. Banks and Amelia, and asked them how the wheat was. Mrs. Banks asked him if he would come along to the Band of Hope the following Thursday night and sing something, and set a good example to “the wild young fellows in the district,” and bring Sarah with him.

Joe smiled, and enquired if there would be any beer there.

Mrs. Banks turned to Joe. “Young man,” she commenced, but her attack was cut short. Barty, who was standing on the verandah, suddenly yelled, “Come here, quick! quick!” Then broke into a loud cheerful laugh, that raised commotion in the ranks of the poultry parading the back yard.

Everyone, including Mrs. Banks, rushed out.

Slowly approaching the gate were two men “doublebank” on an old hairy horse, both with their hats on the side of their heads, and tossing and rocking about like a small boat among the breakers.

old men

Joe and Sarah and Amelia regarded them with merriment, and laughed heartier than Barty did.

Mother smiled, and said, “Dear! dear! dear!”

Mrs. Banks adjusted her spectacles and stared, then lifted her hands and said to Mother, “There now, what have I been saying? Doesn’t that prove every word I said? Oh, that horrible curse, drink!”

Joe suddenly stopped laughing, and exclaimed, “Moses! the fellow behind is Dad.”

Who?” Mrs. Banks asked, sharply, adjusting her spectacles again, and staring harder than before.

“Dad!” Joe repeated. “D—it,” and ran to the gate.

“Oh, Mrs. Rudd,” Mrs.Banks said, turning to mother, “I am so sorry for you, I am, I am indeed. You deserve a better—”

 “And the other’s father!” —FATHER!” Amelia squealed, recognising her parent as his head rose from the horse’s neck.

Mrs. Banks clutched her daughter’s arm, and screeched, “Who’s father, child?”

“Yours, ours, MINE!” the girl shrieked back, reeling about on the verandah.

“Merciful heaven! Not Jim—not James?” Mrs. Banks gasped, hanging tightly to Amelia.

“Yes, father!” Amelia squealed again.

Then Mrs. Banks covered her face with her hands, and staggered some more.

It was too much for Sarah. She broke into a fresh fit of merriment, and ran inside.

“Woesh, Carbine,” Dad shouted, reaching round the man in the stroke seat, and hitting out at the animal’s ears with his hard hat.

“Steady!” Joe said, “Steady, you old fool, or you’ll both come off.”

But Dad was in a merry mood. “Woesh,” he said again, and aimed another welt at Carbine’s woolly ears, and the animal put down its head, and Banks fell over in the dust.

Joe chuckled. Mrs. Banks and Amelia screamed, and ran down the verandah to see if Banks were dead.

“Tolsh him, he couldn’t shstick a buck,” Dad hiccoughed, scrambling down the side of the craft, and extending his parliamentary hand to Joe.

Mrs. Banks approached.

“James!” she gasped, taking the muddled Banks by the shoulders and glaring into his eyes. “What is the meaning of all this?”

“Ish zat yoush, ’Lisha?” Banks said.



“Oh, you brute—you beast! You know well its me.” Then she shook her lean fist in his face, and shrieked with fearful emphasis. “There’s a time and a place for everything, but wait till I get you home, Banks!

Then, turning to her daughter—“Come along, Amelia, and leave the wretch,” and off they tramped without even saying “Good-bye” to Mother and Sarah.

Dad took possession of Banks, and with the assistance of Joe piloted him through the gate, and up the steps.

“A nice way for you to come home,” Mother said reproachfully to Dad.

“No one at (hic) station, ansh I givesh him double,” Banks put in.

“Theysh kicked me oush Parlmen’, Ellen,” Dad mumbled, “kicked me oush. Sushpen’ed me (hic) one weeksh, wonsh go back any more.”

“And no wonder,” Mother said.

Then Dad and Banks sat down inside, and in a rambling, unintelligible sort of way, argued on politics and dairying until near night—until Mrs. Banks, who had changed her mind about leaving her husband, returned suddenly, and flew at him, and pulled him out of the chair by his hair and whiskers, and screamed in his ear and shed hot angry tears down his neck, and ordered him home. Banks gathered himself together and went. Banks was an obedient husband.

That’s nearly three years ago now, and though Mrs. Banks still pays visits to our place she never says anything to Mother about Temperance.


Chapter 3
Mrs. Peterson’s Remains

Dad wouldn’t go back to the House any more.

“Parliament is no place for an honest man,” he said, and he resigned in favour of Regan. Then he put away his new clothes, and rolled up his sleeves, and became himself again.

Old Peterson came to our place one night, and talked to Dad about removing the remains of his (Peterson’s) wife from Pikedale out-station to Saddletop.

“I’d like to have her near me,” he said, with tears in his eyes, “so when I go off they can put me along side o’ her.”

“Yairs,” Dad said approvingly, “yairs, an’ it be a lonesome place, too, out where she lay.”

“It nearly killed I, Rudd,” Peterson said, “to leave her there; but you know what them days were when she and me were shepperdin’ for the Smiths.”

Dad remembered them well, and added—

“She be buried under the same tree with Jones what wer’ killed be th’ blacks?”

“No,” Peterson answered softly, “that were Dan Fitzgerald the newchum; we put him near my old woman. Jones, he be planted down on the crick.”

“Thought he were under the tree, too,” Dad said, reflecting, “and that there were a flat stone on him.”

“No,” Peterson replied, “th’ stone it be on my poor old woman; the only stone there be there.”

“You’re right, Peterson,” Dad said, suddenly remmembering the circumstances, “You’re right,” and, with a gimlet, he scratched a plan of the station graves on the table, showing the position of the “crick” and the tree, and the gate, to convince Peterson.

“That’s it,” Peterson said, “that’s it.”

Then, after reflecting—

“Well, I don’t mind paying some of the lads (looking at Dave and Joe) five pounds or so to shift her down here.”

“Well, yes,” Dad said, looking suggestively at Dave, “Jusso.”

“What, drive fifty miles,” Dave said, “and dig up someone for five pounds? I wouldn’t do it for a hundred!”

“Nor me—for five hundred,” Joe put in promptly, “and fancy campin’ out with the bones!”

Mother and Sarah shuddered at thoughts of the undertaking; while Tom and Bill chuckled, and were loudly ordered to leave the room by Dad.

“You need have no fear,” Peterson said, looking at Joe, “she never would hurt anyone, would my old woman, never.”

But Joe shook his head, and grinned.

“Well,” Dad said, thinking of the five pounds, “when the lucerne’s all in I’ll take the cart, and go for her myself, Peterson.”

“Nonsense,” Mother said with a look of disapproval at Dad, “don’t be foolish.”

“Well,” Dad answered, “when it’s got to be done, woman, somebody must do it, an’ you can’t expect th’ man to do it himself, can y’? I wouldn’t like ter have ter do it if it were me.”

Then Peterson shook hands with Dad, and called him a Christian, and went home.

The lucerne was in, and Dad went over and saw Peterson.

“Everything is ready,” Peterson said, and opened the door of his slab skillion, and took Dad inside, and showed him a rough unpolished pine coffin resting on a pair of tressels.

“H’m,” Dad mumbled, “h’m,” and was approaching the coffin to inspect it, when a head and a long naked neck leaned over the edge, and looked out at him.

Dad jumped back.

“She’s a savage old wretch,” Peterson said, taking a broody hen by the neck, and lifting her from the coffin, and dropping her on to the floor.

“To th’ devil with ’er,” Dad shouted, when the hen, with ruffled feathers, flew viciously at his shins, and, lifting his foot, he kicked her right out the door.

“Two others,” Peterson said, lifting some more poultry from the coffin, “th’ three of em’s been sittin’ in it fer munds, and ain’t brought out one chicken yet between em.

Dad regarded Peterson with a suspicious eye. Dad seemed to doubt Peterson’s sanity.

“This is the lid of it,” Peterson went on, taking a board from a corner, and fitting it on the coffin, “and there’s some screws for it somewhere here,” and he foraged about a dusty shelf, but failed fo find any.

Then each took an end of the coffin, and carried it out, and loaded Peterson’s cart with it. And when it was fastened so that it couldn’t slip off, Dad returned home, and told Bill to keep Prince in all night.

Early next morning, Dad, loaded to the ground with “tools and provisions and things required on the journey, and accompanied by Barty, brought Prince along, and harnessed him to Peterson’s cart.

“Now, you won’t forget,” Peterson said, when Dad had stuffed the provisions into the coffin, “the grave nearest the gate with th’ flat stone on it.”

“I know, I know,” Dad answered, impatiently, and mounting beside Barty, took the reins, and drove off.

It was a glorious morning. The air was crisp and clear. A heavy dew, glistening like diamonds, was on the grass. Magpies warbled in the boughs, and jackasses laughed from the gaunt limbs of the tall dead trees. A few turns in the lane, a straight run for a mile or two, and the cart containing Dad and Barty and the coffin swung on to the main Warwick road, and soon Saddletop was left far behind.

As the sun rose high in the sky and the day wore on, Dad and Barty began to meet people on the way; some driving in traps, some in charge of drays, some on horseback, some on foot with swags on their backs. And those whom Dad passed at a trotting pace called out “Good-day” to him, and stared after the coffin which projected over the front and back of the cart; and others whom he met when Prince was walking steadily along getting his wind, seemed to take the cart for a funeral, and looked very grave, and reverently removed their hats as they went by.

“Hang it,” Dad would say, “git up.” And he’d hit Prince with a switch to make him trot. Dad didn’t like to be the cause of deceiving or disappointing people.

Dad and Barty camped out under the cart that night, and at noon next day arrived at their destination. They took the horse out, and after examining the foot of a dozen trees or more, and raking and scratching among the long grass and dead timber for nearly an hour, discovered the “flat stone,” weather-worn and shattered into several small pieces.

“I knew it wer’ here,” Dad said triumphantly, gathering it up; then, after examining the spot closely, “the hole’ill run this way (indicating the lay of the grave with a movement of his hand), they always put them with their feet to the risin’ sun.”

Then while Barty gathered wood, and made a fire, and boiled the billy, and made tea for the dinner, Dad lifted the things out of the cart, and gave Prince a feed of corn and chaff in the coffin.

“Doesn’t make a bad feed box,” Dad said, standing off admiringly, and watching the horse, and Barty chuckled and dipped into the sack, and pulled out some provender for their own meal.

“Well, now,” Dad said, rising from the grass when they had finished dinner, “let me see,” and he secured four short sticks, and stuck them in the ground to define the outline of the grave, then took up a crowbar, and started sinking. Dad used the bar, and grunted, and heaved up dirt and stones and things from the hole, until he disappeared from sight in it—until he struck water. Then he climbed out of the hole, and said some one must have been there sometime or other, and shifted the flat stone.

Next morning Dad started another hole, and he hadn’t gone down more than four feet with it when he struck payable dirt.

“Ha, ha!” he called out jubilantly, “I’ve got ’er.”

“Got ’er, Dad?” Barty answered, peering into the hole, and sharing his parent’s joy.

“Put th’ bar right through some of ’er, too,” Dad replied, right through ’er neck.” And he proceeded to hand up the bones carefully to Barty.

“Put them in as I give ’em to you,” Dad said, “here’s the head . . . catch it.” And he heaved up a hideous-looking skull, which Barty caught, clutching it to his chest like marking a football, and falling down on the heap of mullock with fright when he saw it. Barty placed the skull in the coffin, and turned from it with a cold shudder.

“Two arms,” Dad cried, poking the ends of them at Barty. “Fit them along the sides.” Barty handled them gingerly, and fitted them along the sides.

“Some more,” and Dad handed up a miscellaneous assortment. “And here’s the legs.”

Then Dad jumped out of the hole, and wiped the perspiration off himself, and for a moment gazed on the contents of the coffin.

“Long shins she have,” he said philosophically, “never thought she were so big.” And he gathered a quantity of dry grass and dead leaves, and proceeded to pack the coffin.

“We’ll have to leave the lid off till we get home,” Dad said, and together they hoisted the coffin into the cart, and secured it again with a rope. And when the tools and baggage were collected, Dad yoked Prince up again, and started on the return journey to Saddletop.

Another ideal day, with a cool soft breeze blowing. As the cart rattled and rolled along past ridge and rock, past bullock drays and silent deserted huts, through “gallows” gates and mountain gaps, by silent scrubs and full lagoons, Dad, with his hat tilted on the back of his head, and his long beard divided in the breeze, was in a joyful mood. Every now and again he would lift his voice, and break into song. Dad wasn’t a trained singer, but he had a powerful voice. It only wanted a limelight turned on Dad when he was singing, and you would think he was a Niagara of Music.

“We’ll camp here to-night,” Dad said when, about sundown, they arrived at Merrit’s Crossing, where there was a large waterhole with abundance of firewood.

They unharnessed Prince, and while Barty looked after the fire, which he kindled beside a log, and boiled the billy, Dad fed the horse.

Supper over they stretched themselves on the grass, and lay in silence watching the stars, and listening to the owls hooting among the timber, and the plovers crying round the waterhole. And as the darkness grew thicker the night became eerie and unearthly.

All at once Dad rose to a sitting position, and stared into the gloom.

“What were that?” he said in hushed tones.

Barty hadn’t seen anything.

“I would a’ sworn it were a woman,” Dad murmured, “an’ she come right out of the hole, and flashed past, quite close!”

Barty felt his hair rising, and stared round suspiciously at the coffin.

“Must a’ been fancy,” Dad said, after reflecting, and leaned back on his elbow again.

“Might a’ been a ghost,” Barty whispered, apprehensively.

Dad chuckled derisively. Dad didn’t believe in ghosts— so he used to say.

They both lay back in silence again.

Suddenly footsteps were heard approaching, and from out the darkness a husky voice called, “’Night.”

Dad made a jump. Barty made one, too, and put his parent between himself and the cart and the corpse.

“Ain’t y’ afraid o’ campin’ here?” And a ragged, grey-bearded old traveller, with a swag on his back, appeared in the light of the blazing fire.

Dad eyed the intruder for a moment, and said—

“Where th’ devil did you come from?”

“From back there,” the traveller answered, jerking his thumb over his shoulder, as he put down his swag. “Made twenty miles since mornin’, and walked through a d— lot o’ Scotch thistles and Bathurst burr, too, and ain’t had a mouthful to eat all day.”

“Plenty here,” Dad said, shoving the billy, half full of cold tea, and the bag containing the provender, towards the ragged guest; “help yourself.”

The derelict’s eyes glistened with gratitude, and taking out his pocket knife, he sat over the bag and carved for himself. Then, with a heavy supply of bread and meat in one hand, and a pint of tea in the other, he sat on the log and munched and talked volubly. Several times he re-visited the bag, and armed himself with a fresh supply, and when he had eaten enough to satisfy three men, and emptied the billy, he took out an old pipe, lit it with a fire stick, and started smoking like a bad fireplace.

After a while he looked at Dad, and said—

“Ain’t y’ afraid of seein’ Mrs. Carey’s ghost here?”

Dad didn’t understand.

“Paddy Carey’s wife—she were murdered here—didn’t y’ know?” he went on for Dad’s information, “she were thrown in that hole. Lots o’ fellows has seen her ghost different times o’ the night, and no one ever camps here for that reason. Think it hall moonshine meself.” And the grey-bearded one pulled hard at his pipe again.

Dad sat right up, and stared about.

“Then that wer’ th’ woman I see a while ago,” he said.

The traveller suddenly stopped smoking.

“Did you see her?” he asked, in low, hollow tones, and glided from the log, and got near the fire, looking hard at Dad.

A cold shiver came over Barty, and he crouched beside Dad.

“I see a woman, I swear,” Dad answered, “but I never remember any being murdered here. Remember a man being murdered at Grasstree—five mile from here—in the ’4o’s, and Mrs. Peterson, she were killed be th’ blacks th’ same week at Pikedale.”

“I know that—I remember ’er,” the traveller said, “she were a fine little woman she were, no mistake, and many a—”

“A big woman, weren’t she?” Dad interrupted, thinking of the measurements of the contents of the coffin.

“The smallest woman ever y’ see,” the other answered confidently.

“Are y’ certaint?” Dad asked concernedly.

Sure of it,” the traveller said, peering cautiously into the darkness. “I see ’er many times drivin’ th’ sheep with Peter, as we called th’ ’usband them days.”

“Suppose you wuz to see her again,” Dad asked, “would you know her?”

“Quicker’n I’d know you.” And the traveller stared nervously into the night again.

Dad rose, and looked round, and seemed to hesitate. Then with an effort, he climbed into the cart, and after fumbling in the coffin returned with the skull in his hand.

“That her?” he said, poking the gruesome thing right under the traveller’s nose.

“My God!” the traveller gasped, standing up, and backing away from Dad, “My God!”

“Think it’s her?” Dad repeated, holding it nearer to him.

But the other didn’t wait to give Dad any opinion. He snatched up his swag, and bolted into the night, and for several moments only the “patter patter” of his feet could be heard on the still air as he hurried away.

“Funny fellow!” Dad mumbled, and climbed into the cart again.

He had just fixed the skull in its place in the coffin when a couple of old pensioned-off milch cows, that were running on the reserve, sauntered noiselessly up to the camp. One of them poked her head into the light, and her big dreamy eyes, with the fire shining on them, suddenly met Barty’s. Barty sent up a loud yell, and bounded to his feet, and Dad fell off the cart, and pulled the coffin down after him, and emptied its contents all over himself.

“What th’ devil’s th’ matter with y’?” Dad gasped, scrambling excitedly to his feet, and staring all round.

“It was lookin’ at me,” Barty answered, shuddering and holding on to Dad.

“What were?” Dad whispered hoarsely, looking all round again.

“Look! See it!” and Barty pointed with his finger.

Dad stared till the object moved slightly, and again revealed the fire in its eye.

Dad whispered to Barty to “keep quiet,” and, crouching down, armed himself with a heavy piece of a gum tree. He stood up then, and stared again, his big heart all the time thumping like a bullock’s.

Dad thought he would give the enemy a chance, and with a terrible tremor in his voice, called out—

“Who are you?

There was no answer, but the cow, in a casual way, moved forward to the fire, and flicked her tail about, and put her foot in the empty billy, and her nose in the bread bag.

“Well, I’m d—” Dad said, turning to Barty, “is thet what frightened y’—a cow?”

“So it did you,” Barty chuckled.

Pshaw!” Dad protested, “how th’ deuce were I to see from here?

“But wasn’t I—”

Dad broke in and silenced Barty.

“D— her!” he yelled, “she’s het all th’ bread!” and he heaved the heavy piece of gum tree at the brute, and she jumped through the fire, and made off with the billy-can on her foot.

Dad swore violently after her, and turned to the fallen coffin. And while Barty struck matches, and held them up to make a light, Dad gathered the scattered remains, and packed them in again. Then they hoisted the coffin back into the cart, and drawing a tent fly over the vehicle, took their blankets, and crept in underneath to sleep for the night.

“Think was it a woman, y’ saw the first time, Dad?” Barty asked, when he was close beside his parent, and his head well under the blanket.

“Rubbish!” Dad growled, “go to sleep.” Dad wasn’t going to waste any more time on ghosts. And while the wind sprang up and sobbed, and the tent-fly flapped, and the night birds whooped, Dad and Barty both fell asleep.

They were sleeping soundly when the old cows took it in their heads to return and poke about again. They approached the fire first; then the fly that covered the cart attracted their attention, and they sniffed at it. They got a taste of some brine that had been spilled on it. They were fond of brine. Brine is beer to cows. It was years since these cows had tasted brine. They started to lick it off. It made them hungry. They chewed holes in the fly, and one of the brutes put her head right in through one of them, and for a while contemplated the sleeping form of Dad. Then she pressed her cold wet nose against his brow, and breathed on him. Dad, with ghosts on his brain, woke with a big jump, and gave the cow a great start. She tried to pull back, but her horns became fast in the spokes of the wheel. Then she put out her tongue, and bellowed in Dad’s ear, and started dragging the cart about the reserve. Dad and Barty abandoned their blankets in a great hurry, and escaped by the back way, and when Dad grasped the situation he swore, and ran round, and groped for the heavy piece of gum tree. His eyes rested on a half-burnt stick in the fire, and he picked it out, and rushed at the struggling brute with it, and shoved the hot end against her ribs, and hissed, “You rubbish!” and the air was filled with a round of wild fearsome bellows that mingled with a strong smell of burning hair. The brute didn’t like the firestick. She kicked it out of Dad’s hand, and reared up and shoved the cart right over, and spilt the remains out of the coffin again, and just when Dad was arriving with a fresh fire stick she got free, and made off with the tent-fly hanging all over her. Swear! Dad did swear! It sounded like sacrilege on the silent night. Then Barty and he put their shoulders to the wheel, and righted the cart, and when they had gathered Mrs. Peterson together again, and adjusted the coffin, it was nearly daylight.

As there was no billy-can to make tea in, Dad wouldn’t be bothered waiting for breakfast. Breakfast without tea was purgatory to Dad.

“Jump up,” he said to Barty, when it broke day and the horse was harnessed to the cart, “and we’ll be home be dinner time.”

Barty climbed in, and away they went.

“Glad we didn’t have to come back without her,” Dad said, casting a look of triumph at the “loading.”

“Wonder will they have a hole ready when we get there?”

“Wonder will they have th’ dinner ready?” Barty mumbled.

“Come on with yer! Git erp!” Dad shouted, whacking at the horse with the reins, as the brute began to tire at the long stony pinches. But Prince got slower, and slower and Dad grew tired of jerking at the reins.

“Where’s that switch?” he said, groping in the bottom of the cart. But the switch had fallen out somewhere.

Dad put his hand in the coffin, and seized one of the shin bones.

“Git erp!” he shouted again, and struck Prince on the rump with the bone. Prince bounded into the collar, and broke into a trot, and the bone broke into several pieces, and fell between the shafts on to the road.

Wa-ay!” Dad roared, “wa-ay!” and hauled Prince in again.

“Confound it!” he said, when Barty jumped down, and picked up the pieces. “I thought her leg wer’ stronger than that. Must have been cracked when she wer’ alive!” And he placed the shattered shin bone carefully back in the coffin.

Dad and Barty reached home after dinner, and as they drove through the gate with the coffin showing conspicuously in the cart, Mother and Sarah, who were in the yard admiring the fowls, lifted their heads, then threw up their hands, and flew inside.

“Don’t bring it in here,” Mother cried, as Dad walloped the jaded horse right up to the front steps. “Don’t bring it here. Take it away out of sight, man!”

“Tut, tut,” Dad said, “must leave it somewhere till we get a fresh horse to take it to Peterson, and get some dinner ourselves.”

Barty and Dad jumped down and unharnessed Prince, and pulled the cart round, and blocked the wheels, and rested the points of the shafts on the edge of the verandah, so as the coffin wouldn’t slip off, and empty itself again.

Then they sat down to a late dinner, and Dad would have told Mother all about the trip, but Mother made ugly faces at him, and held up her hands, and said—

“Huh! I don’t want to hear it, I don’t.”

Bill came strolling in from the paddock, and greeted the undertakers with a broad grin, and Dad sent him away to tell Peterson he wanted to see him.

In half an hour Bill returned with Peterson. Peterson, in mourning clothes, was pale and grave-looking, and sat on the sofa, and for a moment or two appeared to be praying. Dad stared at him for a while, then said:

“It wer’ pretty hard findin’ where she lay.” And he proceeded to draw another plan on the table, showing the gate and the “crick” and the position of the different graves as he had found them.

“She wer’ just here,” he concluded, stabbing a hole in the table.

Peterson looked puzzled. He seemed unable to follow Dad. Dad got angry.

“There were three under th’ tree, weren’t ther’?” he thundered, thumping the table.

“No,” Peterson said quietly, shaking his head. “Two!

“Bah!” Dad bellowed, “there wer’ three, I tell y’.”

Peterson shook his head again, adding apprehensively, “Hope you haven’t been to the wrong place.”

“Look here,” Dad shouted, rising to his feet, “weren’t one of your ol’ woman’s shins sore one time? Weren’t one of ’em cracked?”

Peterson opened his eyes, and stared hard at Dad.

“She only had one leg,” he said slowly.

“It was Dad’s turn to open his eyes then. He opened his mouth, too, and stared and gaped.

“Eh?” he murmured, lowering his voice, and leaning towards Peterson.

“She only had one leg,” Peterson repeated calmly.

“Damn it!” Dad broke out, “but the one I got have two.”

“’Tain’t my Mary, then,” Peterson murmured, dropping his eyes on the floor, “’tain’t my Mary.”

Dad sat down, and for some moments was speechless. Then suddenly he jumped up, and leaving the room, went to the cart.

He returned with the grinning skull in his hand.

“Is that ’er?” he said, thrusting the gruesome thing at Peterson.

Mother and Sarah nearly knocked each other over in their haste to leave the room.

Peterson jumped up, and staggered back.

“A blackfellow!” he muttered, eyeing the head as if it would bite him.

“Eer—w—what?” Dad asked.

“A blackfellow!” Peterson said again.

“To th’ devil with it, then,” Dad yelled, and savagely heaved the skull through the door.

There was no funeral and no burial. Dad took the coffin down the back-yard, and emptied it calmly on the dust-heap.


Chapter 4
Dad and the Pigs

Dad disregarded our advice and went in heavily for pigs. He reckoned there was money in pigs, and argued they would “rise” but he didn’t say how. We wondered if he meant they would fly.

Dad bred the brutes for several years—bred till the sties couldn’t hold them—till the yard contained swine of all sorts and sizes. Black, white, brown, grey, sandy, and piebald pigs—fat, sleepy pigs—poor pigs, scaly, scabby pigs, and pigs with snouts like the nose of a smithy’s bellows, roamed round at all hours raking and rooting into every hole and corner of the place.

If a bucket, a can, or a cask were left about anywhere, they’d swarm round it, and fight for its contents, if it contained anything, and when they had cleaned it out they would roll it away somewhere and leave it. Pigs! The farm was overrun with the rubbish! If a stranger approached the house on horseback, ’twas at the risk of breaking his neck, for if his horse didn’t fall over a heap of slumbering swine, a family of suckers would start out noisily from some corner or other to greet him, and make the animal bolt. Strangers always spoke disparagingly of our pigs.

To remonstrate with Dad was only waste of time.

“Wait a while,” he’d say, confidently, “they’ll be valuable directly; they’ll go up when this new Government gets things into shape.”

’Twas wonderful the faith Dad had in new Governments! Far more than he had in new braces or boots. Of the new Government, we knew nothing; but we understood a lot about Dad’s pigs, and wished a flood would come and wash them all away. We were sick of seeing them—weary of cursing the wretches; tired of throwing things at them, and of hearing the Regans and others complain of their crops being rooted out of the ground by them.

“Why don’t y’ get rid o’ them?” Dave said to Dad one day, “you’d get six or seven shillings a-piece for them, just now.”

“Tut, tut,” Dad answered—“pigs’ll be valuable directly, man; hold on awhile.”

We held on for twelve months. Then the newspapers began to talk about pigs, and about a “bacon industry,” till at last factories sprang up in the city, and agents came round on the heels of each other buying up “porkers.”

They came to Dad.

“Yes,” Dad grunted, “I’ve a few,” and reluctantly parted with forty of them for £100. He just as reluctantly promised to have forty more ready in three months’ time. Dave and Joe couldn’t understand it. They said they had no idea pigs would ever be worth anything.

“Pshaw!” Dad answered, “anyone with brains would have known. It was clear enough t’ me. I could see it years ago.”

Dave and Joe smiled placidly. So much foresight on Dad’s part was a novelty to them.

Pigs went up in our estimation. We treated them with kindness and respect now. To disparage their presence or heave a stone at them was as much as one’s life was worth.

Dad spent a few pounds in proper paling yards, and made extensive additions to the sties, and as much care was bestowed on the pigs as on the dairy cows. All the wasters were weeded out, boars of the best blood introduced, and breeding carried on with care and discrimination.

When corn was selling cheap in the markets, Dad gave every grain we grew to the pigs, and every month, as regular as clock-work, sold a score or more, and pocketed thirty and forty, and sometimes fifty pounds. Money! Dad was making heaps of it.

Mother worried Dad for a change of diet. Salt beef every day of the year, she reckoned, was injurious.

“It gets sickening,” she said, and Dad, after brooding over the matter for about three months, decided to kill a pig. Killing a pig for our own use was a big sacrifice for Dad to make. To him it was throwing good money away. But we were ready to eat the lot of them.

We were to kill the pig one Saturday, and from the excitement and preparations that were made you would think there was to be a wedding.

A cask was emptied and cleaned; the salting bench renovated and scrubbed; a huge fire kindled in the yard beneath a boilerful of water, and the knives touched up on the grindstone. When evening came all of us left work, and, headed by Dad carrying the axe, proceeded to the sty.

“The black one with th’ white foot ought t’ do,” Dad said, in answer to Dave.

“You stun ’im, then,” Dave said, “an’ we’ll stick ’im.”

But it wasn’t an easy matter to stun the brute. All of them seemed seized with a presentiment of evil, and when Dad entered the sty, they raced round in confusion, and fought with each other. Dad couldn’t get a hit in on the black one with the white foot, at all. He knocked a piece of ear off one of the others, and roused its ferocity.

Joe made a suggestion.

“Come out,” he said to Dad, “and stand off a yard or two; and when I fetch a dish of corn they’ll put their front feet on the top rail an’ look over. Then go up quietly, an’ y’ll get him.”

Dad complied.

Joe went away and returned with the corn. The pigs placed their front feet on the top rail, and stared and clamoured as he approached.

Joe rattled the corn to show there was no deception.

Dad became excited. He gripped the axe, and moved stealthily by inches.

Dave grinned, sitting on his haunches.

“Not yet,” Joe said in a low tone, “wait till I get a bit closer.”

Joe stood within a foot or two of the sty, and held the dish out invitingly. The pigs strained to reach it.

“Now,” he said, turning the corners of his eyes round at Dad.

Dad stepped up cautiously, and swung the axe with force enough to knock a house down. He hit the black pig on its white foot. You never heard anything like the squeals that came from that pig! It went fairly mad, and rushed about on three legs trying to get out. Dad bounced into the sty with a determined look in his eye, and in mistake struck an old boar hard on the back. There was commotion then!

“Look out! look out!” Dave shouted. But it was too late. The old boar shoved his head between the rails and burst the side of the sty away, and out they all rushed.

Joe pursued the brute that Dad had maimed. So did Dave. The dogs took to the boar, and fell over each other fighting for a hold of his ear. Dad swore and yelled at them to desist.

Joe captured the black pig with the white foot in the middle of the yard, and held on to his hind legs barrow fashion.

The pig poked its nose in the dirt, opened its mouth, and squealed appallingly. You’d think it knew it was to die. The cries of the brute drove Mother and Sarah into the house with their fingers in their ears. Joe felt like a murderer. He was on the verge of reprieving the animal when Dad rushed up waving the axe wildly. The pig struggled in a circle, and fought for liberty. Dad aimed a heavy blow at its forehead, and drove the axe up to the handle in the ground. He became exasperated, and danced round excitedly.

“Take y’r time,” yelled Joe.

Dad missed again, and sunk another hole in the earth.

“Use th’ back—th’ back,” angrily from Joe.

Dad reversed arms, swung again, and this time the pig went out.

Then there was confusion. Success depended on prompt and proper bleeding.

“Th’ knife, quick,” Joe cried, placing a foot on the neck of the fallen, and holding out his hand.

Dad jumped round.

“Where’re th’ knives?” he roared to Dave.

You had them,” Dave answered, looking anxiously about, “what did y’ do with them?”

Damn it!” and Dad ran toward the sties.

Joe called inquiringly to Sarah.

Dad kicked the earth up near the sties, threw his arms about, and yelled more profanity.

Dave rushed away to search the kitchen.

Mother called out that she “saw father with them.”

All at once Joe became engaged in a new struggle. The pig recovered, jumped up, and filled the air with his screams again.

Dad ran back calling out, “Hold ’im.”

Joe held him.

“Here they are,” Dave cried, having discovered the knives—“y’ left them on the post.”

But Dad’s attention was all on the pig.

“Give the axe t’ Dave,” Joe shouted, holding the animal by the hind legs again.

Dad sparred murderously with the weapon.

“Now, now!” Joe jerked out—“while he’s quiet.”

Then down came the axe, and once more the pig was silenced.

Joe seized the long knife, and probed and poked till the brute was bled successfully, and it was almost dark when we dragged its form across the yard, and spread it on the bench that Dad had prepared.

Dad yelled for a light. Sarah brought one. Then we rushed about, procured buckets, and poured gallons of hot water on the hog, scalded it from head to foot—and it never flinched!

And while Mother and Sarah stood round holding lighted candles, Dad took an old knife, and Dave and Joe the lids of saucepans, and the three of them scraped till there wasn’t a hair left on any part of that pig.

When it was dressed and hung up you wouldn’t have known it—it made a lovely corpse, smooth and white as marble, except in patches where Dad had bruised it with the axe.

“Fine bit o’ pork,” Dad said, holding up a candle and eyeing the carcass closely—“plenty of bacon now for a while.”

Then we collected the knives and the buckets and the saucepan lids, tied the dogs up, cleaned ourselves, and went inside and had tea.


Chapter 5
Sarah’s Gold Watch

Dad went to town, and came home with several black puddings in his pocket, and a gold watch and chain packed in a small cardboard box, which he presented to Sarah—the gold watch and chain, not the black puddings.

It was a great surprise to Sarah. Her eyes shone like stars, and her breath nearly left her.

“For me!” she cried, “for me!” and danced round the dining room flashing the gold before the eyes of the rest of us. We got a surprise, too; but it affected us differently to Sarah. Somehow, it didn’t bring us the same joy that it brought her; we didn’t share her delight in the matter at all.

“’N’ did y’ buy that for ’er?” Bill asked of Dad, in sulky tones of disapproval, and frowning heavily on his sister.

Dad ignored Bill.

“Be careful with it; be careful!” Dad yelled, as Sarah, attempting to open the lid, almost dropped the timepiece on the floor.

“Mind don’t break it, now,” Mother put in smilingly.

“Look at ’er,” Bill sneered, “she dersn’t even know which end to open.”

Bill never possessed a watch himself, but it was wonderful how much he knew about watches.

“Show it to me, girl,” Dad said, reaching for the costly time o’ day. “I’ll open it.”

Sarah trembled excitedly, and hesitated. Sarah wasn’t quite sure if the watch could be safely entrusted to Dad. Dad got impatient.

“Confound it, girl,” he roared, “let me see it.”

“Don—don—don’t let it fall, then,” Sarah gasped, handing it over reluctantly to her parent.

Damn it!” Dad yelled, “do you think I never had the thing in my hand before?”

“I know—but—Oo! Oo! don’t drop it.” And Sarah, with both hands raised, and her fingers working nervously, shepherded Dad round the room.

Dad groaned wisely, and moved to the door to commence operations.

“There y’ are,” he said triumphantly as he forced open the front of the case with his big blunt thumb. “See? You open that one when you want to see the time and this one—”

Dad contorted his features as if he had suddenly been attacked with appendicitis, and levered hard at the back of the case, but his thumb-nail was too thick, and kept slipping off.

“The deuce take it! It opened alright when he gave it to me.” Dad’s thumb-nail slipped again, and rattled the watch; and Sarah squealed and clutched at his arm.

“Keep away!” Dad bellowed—“how th’ deuce can I do it if you won’t let me alone.” And he swung away, and turned his back on Sarah.

Sarah fluttered round Dad, and faced him again with her hands up.

“Bring me a table knife,” Dad said in a determined voice.

“No, no, no!” Sarah whined, “you’ll break it on me; give it back, and I’ll do it myself.” And she clutched Dad’s coat sleeve again.

“Oh! to th’ devil with it,” Dad broke out in disgust, “take it away,” and he shoved the watch into Sarah’s hand again, and went and sat down, and started reading the paper.

“She is a goat,” Bill sneered, eyeing Sarah enviously.

But Sarah rejoiced. She snapped the cardboard off the table, and hurried to her room, where she remained for hours examining and admiring her jewellery. She might have stayed there admiring it till now, only that Joe, who had just come in, strolled along to her door, and asked permission to gaze on the priceless present. Sarah invited him in, and Joe admired the treasure, and said it was “all right.” Joe was an unselfish brother. He handled and fondled the jewellery delicately too, and wondered how it would look on him. Sarah smiled a pleased smile, and adjusted the long chain round Joe’s neck, and inserted the watch in his pocket, and told him to look at himself in the glass. Sarah put a lot of confidence in Joe. Joe looked at himself in the glass, and grinned. Then, without giving Sarah any warning, he suddenly turned, and bolted out the door. Sarah screamed and rushed after him. Joe clumsily bounded into the dining-room door just when Dad was coming out to sit on the verandah, and knocked Dad backwards, and Dad sat on the floor. Joe sat on the floor, too; and they faced each other.

“D— y’,” Dad roared, glaring at Joe, “what th’ deuce do you mean, feller?”

And while Dad reviled Joe, who sat grinning apologetically, Sarah rescued her valuables, and disappeared again in triumph.

“She thinks more of that watch than you do of the farm,” Mother said, one day, when speaking to Dad of Sarah.

“Well, she had better take care of it,” Dad remarked threateningly, “for she’ll never get another.” Then he went down the paddock to witness an alleged well-sinker manipulating a divining rod. Dad didn’t believe in divining rods much himself, but Dave believed in them all the way. Dad, in fact, didn’t know what a divining rod was —neither did Dave.

“And that lump o’ stick,” said Dad, pessimistically, when the expert, who had an artesian flow of language, explained all about “geology” and  “subterranean streams,” and “branch streams”, and “junctions ”— “will point out exactly where water is?”

“In my hands it will,” the man answered confidently, “and furthermore, if there’s water anywhere about here, sir, it will take me to it, and past it I won’t be able to go— not a step.”

“Talk sense,” Dad said, “do you think I haven’t got any intelligence?”

The man grinned and wagged his head, and talked a lot more about geology, and said Dad was like everybody else. “Because y’ don’t understan’ a thing yourself,’’ he chuckled, “you think by that that no one else do.”

Dad showed symptoms of fight, but Dave threw oil on him. Dave said calmly—

“Give the chap a chance; he might be able to do it ’orright.”

“Well, go ahead, then,” Dad said, cooling down, “find some water here.”

The expert grasped the prongs of a fork stick that he had cut from our willow tree, and holding it out before him started off at a trot. We all followed him with broad grins on our faces. We cheerfully approved of the presence of that water diviner in our paddock. He was as good as a holiday to us. Every now and then he would stop to call Dave’s attention to the antics of the magic wand.

“See how it’s trying to point downwards?” he’d say, and clenching his teeth he’d strain hard to prevent the willow stick from turning in his hands. And Dave would gape and answer, “Yairs! by jove, yairs.” There was no doubt about Dave’s belief in the divining rod.

“A branch stream here,” the man said, pausing; then off he went again in search of the other branch. All at once he stopped dead; he was suddenly pulled up, and he wriggled and screwed and contorted his face, and stamped his feet, in wild frantic efforts to control the piece of willow. We began to feel apprehensive. We thought some kind of a fit was coming on him, and that we might have to tie him down.

“The other branch stream is here,” he gasped, “It won’t let me cross, but I’ll foller it up to the junction, and get on the main creek.” And away he went some more.

We were amazed.

“By crikey, he’s all right,” Dave enthused, and followed at the magician’s elbow. Dave now believed in water spiritualism more than ever.

The diviner zig-zagged along, following the bends of the creek, now and again pausing to pass carefully over a waterfall, until he got right back to the spot where Dad was standing. And somehow when within a few yards of Dad he lost the scent, the water ran out, and the stick went limp, and refused to take any further interest in its work. The diviner frowned. He looked baffled, and began to think hard, and study the surroundings.

Dad laughed discouragingly.

“By crikey, then,” Dave mumbled in undertones full of faith and assurance, “you should have seen the job he had to hold it, back there, when he struck the branch of a creek.”

Dad laughed more, and said to Dave—

“You’re just as big a fool as he is.”

Then Dad chuckled to himself, and looked about the paddock for a while.

Suddenly he exhibited some enthusiasm.

“Here,” he said, addressing the diviner and pointing to a green bush beside some new land that the men were breaking up, “try over that way.”

The expert moved in the direction indicated, and Dad, with a broad smile, followed him closely.

The diviner brushed the green bush with his trouser-leg and a swarm of yellow butterflies flew up.

“Think there’s any?” Dad asked, hurrying along.

“None whatever,” the expert answered, and continued his course without looking around.

“There ain’t?” And Dad lifted a bucket of water that the men were using for drinking purposes, from the green bush. “Well, what do you call that, then?” And he heaved the contents of the vessel over the diviner, and washed his hat away, and wet all his whiskers.

The diviner for a moment lost his breath; he seemed to think he had fallen through the ground into a waterfall.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” he gasped, then jumped round and glared, and threw off like a whale at Dad. And for a while he looked as if he would assault Dad with the piece of willow tree. But Dad, armed with the empty bucket, was an ugly-looking foe, and the expert changed his mind.

“That’s a nice thing to do!” he whined, wringing his wet beard with his hand, and jerking the water from his fingers.

“Go away with you, man,” Dad answered, waving the bucket about, “be off, an’ don’t be playing the fool here any longer!”

The man stared, and Dad turned away, and strode back to the house.

That afternoon Dad was searching the sitting-room for a letter from the Divisional Board Office that he had left there, and came upon Sarah’s gold watch and chain lying on the round table. Sarah had taken it off after returning from a visit to Mrs. Gray, and placed it there while she ran out to give the woman, whom Mother had employed to assist in the house work, a hand to bring in the clothes.

Dad was in a playful mood that afternoon, and a humorous idea took possession of him. He lifted the watch with a grin, dropped it into the pocket of his old mole-skins, and went on searching for his letter. He failed to find the letter though, and his fit of good humour suddenly vanished. He went out on to the back verandah, and yelled and stormed at Mother. Mother put aside her work, and flew round, and turned everything upside down, but without any success.

Sarah came along, and joined in the hunt, and turned everything over again that Mother had tumbled about,

“It’s not anywhere here,” they both said, ceasing operations, and looking nervously at Dad.

“If it had been left where I put it,” Dad bellowed, tossing more things about, “it would be there.”

“Where was it that you left it?” Sarah rejoined humbly

“Where was it?” from Dad, with great violence. “Where th’ devil do you think it was? Do you think I can tell you?” And in disgust Dad hobbled out into the yard, and left Mother and Sarah to renew the search.

“Oh, he’s got it stuck about him, somewhere,” Sarah said, giving the matter up. “He never knows where he puts a thing half a moment after.”

And Mother was proceeding calmly to agree with Sarah, when the latter suddenly turned pale, and began fingering and fumbling the front of her blouse. She darted into the sitting room, then hurried to her own room, and returned to Mother, looking several points paler.

“I’ve lost me watch!” she said, staring at Mother.

It was Mother’s turn to go pale now.

“Surely, never!” she gasped.

“I have!” Sarah gasped in turn.

Then placing her palm to her forehead she walked round the room thinking.

“I fancy I can remember taking it off when I came back,” she murmured, pausing and looking interrogatively at Mother.

“I’m sure you did.” And Mother started to think, too. “And you put it on one of the tables—either this one (they were in the dining-room) or on the one in there (indicating the round table in the sitting-room.)”

“That’s it,” Sarah broke out, “now I remember,” and burst into the sitting-room again, and once more turned everything inside out.

“Now, I wonder—”

An ugly suspicion entered Sarah’s mind, but she hesitated before voicing it to Mother.


“Now, who’s been in the sitting-room, altogether?” she asked.

Mother reflected, but made no reply. Mother was always a just and cautious woman.

Sarah answered the question herself.

“That woman was in for the tea-things,” she said, eyeing Mother like the foreman of a jury when he’s announcing a verdict of “guilty.”

“And your father,” Mother said, with emphasis; then instantly added, “but he wouldn’t touch it; and you had better not let him know it’s lost either, till you find it again.”

And Sarah didn’t.

For days Mother and Sarah searched and re-searched the house and yards from end to end for the watch, and in confidence Joe and Dave and the rest of us were interrogated on the matter and sworn to silence.

“That woman’s got it,” Sarah said one day, with large tears in her eyes. “I’m sure she has, from the way she goes about, and I’m going to ask her to give it up.”

“That wouldn’t do any good,” Joe argued, counselling his sister, “not a bit o’ good. She’d only drop it down the well if you do, to get rid of it.”

Sarah shuddered at the thought, and shed more tears. “The best thing to do,” Joe went on, “is to tell Fitzgibbon about it, and let him get it from her.”

Fitzgibbon was a wise constable, stationed at the township.

“But what about Dad?” Sarah whined apprehensively.

“Tell him all about it, of course—but not until the policeman’s here.” Joe said.

Sarah, after a while, approved of the suggestion, and Joe rode into the township, and interviewed Constable Fitzgibbon.

“I know her,” Mr. Fitzgibbon said, before Joe had hardly told him anything, “they’re a d— bad lot.”

And when Joe returned and repeated the bobby’s words to Mother and Sarah they wanted to sit up all night, and keep an eye on the woman, lest she might steal more things or murder some of us.

On the following day Fitzgibbon rode up to our place, and was barked at by the dogs, and received hospitably by Dad, and invited inside by Mother.

“And what brings you up this way?” Dad asked. And while Mother and Sarah became restless and turned different colours, and stared through the windows and door, the policeman with the aid of his notebook, began to explain the object of his visit.

Whaht!” Dad yelled, and jumped to his feet, and raged round the room, and would have rushed off to throw the woman out of the house, only the policeman held him back.

“Just leave her to me, Mr. Rudd,” Fitzgibbon said with great emphasis. “I’ll fix her.” And he seated himself again, and sat back in his chair with the air of a Supreme Court judge, and said—

“Call her in.”

Then turning to Dad—

“You keep patient now, and leave her to me.”

Sarah called the woman, and, in fear and trembling, the unfortunate creature stood staring from one to the other.

“Look here, young woman” (she was about forty-nine), the Law said, “Miss Rudd’s gold watch have been stolen from this r-room, and from infor-rmation received—”

A loud hysterical squeal came from the woman, and down she fell in a dead faint and a limp heap on the floor.

“Oh, Lorrd! Oh, Lorrd.!” the Bobby cried, and picked the “case” up in his arms, and called out for water.

Sarah, in her excitement, brought in a jug of milk which Dad seized, and splashed into the face of the helpless victim, and made a mess of her.

“Oh, good Lorrd!” the bobby groaned, when he saw flakes of cream floating about, “it isn’t warrter!”

“Never mind, it’ll do,” Dad said, soaking it up, “it’ll do.”

The woman came round, but as soon as she opened her eyes, and saw the bobby looking down on her, she squealed some more, and went off again.

“She’ll come to, quicker,” Fitzgibbon said, “if I’m not here. I’ll come back to-morrow, and conclude the investigation.”

But he didn’t come back. He wasn’t required any more. Joe rode in and told him how Dad had changed his pants and found the missing jewellery—and then remembered all about it.

“Well,” Fitzgibbon said, “did ever ye hear of such an old fool!”


Chapter 6
Sarah’s Courtship

When Dad kicked Billy Bearup out our door, and broke up a dance with him, and some days later chased him through the sliprails at the point of a loaded gun, Billy didn’t come back to see Sarah any more—at least not while Dad was about. But whenever Dad was away somewhere, Billy would turn up in clean clothes and a broad smile. How Billy could tell when Dad was to be absent from home we never could understand; it was a mystery to us. “Intuition” Joe suggested one day, when we were discussing Billy and Sarah at the plough. But Tom suspected Sarah herself. “She lets him know,” he said. Bill discredited Tom’s theory. “No,” Bill said, “I’ve been there when he’s come along and she’s alluz been more surprised to see him than anyone.”

“Bosh!” Joe sniggered,— “She surprised!”

Joe was an authority on girls and their funny little ways. Joe courted a girl once himself—courted her hard and earnestly for two years—courted her until she accepted a ring and a side-saddle from him—and got married to another fellow.

Time went by and Sarah became discontented. She grew bad tempered, too, and made the place miserable. She complained bitterly to Mother one evening of Dad’s inhospitable attitude towards Billy; said she couldn’t see why Billy shouldn’t be allowed to come to the house like anyone else, and shed a lot of big tears over him.

“And he’s going to come,” she blubbered desperately, “and if father dares to say another word to him or does anything against him again I’ll go away—I’ll leave home— I—won’t stay in the place—I won’t put up with it, I won’t, I—won’t.”

“Nonsense, child,” Mother said kindly, “don’t be a foolish girl. I’ll speak to your father about it, and I’m sure he won’t mind.”

And Mother was always as good as her word. She went straight away and spoke to Dad.

Dad was sitting on the verandah reading the paper when Mother started to speak to him. Before she had finished he was standing on tiptoes glaring at her like an infuriated old man kangaroo.

“Never!” he roared, “Never! To th’ devil with him!”

Mother came away from Dad and sought Sarah again.

“Leave it be for a while,” she whispered nervously, “and I’ll see him to-morrow.”

Sarah left it for a while—left it for months. Mother left it altogether.

Dad went to town one morning intending to stay there a couple of days. He was barely out of sight when Billy Bearup rode up to the house and sat on his horse talking to Sarah. Sarah was pleased to see Billy, and asked him if wasn’t he going to get off.” Billy looked at the sun and said he thought he’d hardly have time to.

“Got to go all the way down to Peterson’s Pocket yet,” he added, “looking for a couple of steers we lost.” Then Billy looked down along the road that Dad had taken, and satisfied that Dad was well out of sight, dismounted and fastened his horse to the front palings and followed Sarah inside. After a while the sun and the lost steers went out of Billy’s mind, and he waited for dinner. He waited till the afternoon. He lounged about the house, sometimes talking to Mother, but more often to Sarah. At intervals Mother would look out of the door, and noticing the unfortunate horse standing in the broiling sun, stamping holes in the earth with his hoofs, and flick-flicking at the flies with his bit of a tail, would invite Billy to put the animal in the stable and give him a feed; and Billy would drawl, “Oh, he’s orright, Mrs. Rudd, I’ll be goin’ in a minute, anyway.”

About three o’clock Mother left Bill and Sarah together in the dining room, and said she’d go and do some ironing. Mother had no ironing to do; it had all been done the day before. But Mother was always considerate where young people were concerned. Mother had been young herself once. And Billy and Sarah when Mother departed were sitting far apart. Several chairs and a corner of the table divided them. But distance didn’t lend any enchantment to Billy’s view of Sarah. It only made him uncomfortable. It made Sarah uncomfortable, too.

“Them’s big geraniums,” Billy said, drawing Sarah’s attention to some withered flowers that had been standing in a vase on the table for nearly a week. Any other time Billy wouldn’t have wasted words on the finest flowers that ever grew.

“Aren’t they pretty?” Sarah answered, jumping out of her chair and leaning on the table, and tenderly fingering the drooping geraniums as though she really admired them. Billy left his chair and leaned on the table, too, and fingered the geraniums. He also fingered Sarah’s hair caressingly. And when Sarah didn’t mind, Billy stole his arm quietly round her waist and squeezed her, and made her sigh; and his cheek rested against hers, and he was murmuring things to her when a heavy footstep was heard ascending the front verandah steps. And a voice said, “Hello, Rowdy,” in greeting to the dog. Billy and Sarah suddenly separated.

“Heavens!” Sarah gasped, jumping round and shoving Billy from her.

Pen couldn’t describe the look that came into Billy’s face.

“How can I get out?” he gasped, dancing round the table.

There were only two ways for Billy to get out, one through the door leading into Mother’s bedroom, the other through the door leading into Dad’s open arms.

“Under the table—quick,” Sarah said, seeing Billy hesitate.

But Billy had no courage or presence of mind when in a tight place; he had no courage or presence of mind when in any kind of place. He darted at the door leading to Mother’s room and threw it open, and rushed recklessly in. Mother was in the room. She was changing her clothes. She got a great start, and screamed. Billy got a great start, too, when he saw Mother, and rushed out again.

“The table—the table,” Sarah gasped again.

But Billy was deaf and blind and furious. His wild, staring eyes rested on the open door and on the form of Dad pausing on the mat to pat the dog. He bounded for the door. Dad at the same moment turned from the dog, and his burly form blocked the way. Billy didn’t hesitate.

Whaht?” Dad roared, recognising Billy as the latter bore down upon him, “You here?”

Then there was a great thud. Billy went for Dad, low; dived between his legs, and knocked him out on to the verandah. Dad got a great surprise, and yelled and clutched for Billy; but Billy slipped through Dad’s arms and bounded down the steps, and mounting the horse, galloped away. Dad got up off his back and bellowed, and, throwing bad language about, rushed inside to procure the gun. But before he could drag the weapon from its place on the wall Billy had disappeared over the horizon.

“I’ll shoot him yet—th’d—scoundrel,” Dad raved, putting the weapon away again, “I’ll shoot him like a wallaby.”

And Sarah in her room, hiding behind the curtains of her bed, trembled like a leaf, and broke out into large lumps of perspiration.

Three months passed away.

Dad, walking under the clothes line one day after Sarah had hung out the washing, picked up a piece of notepaper with writing and perfume on it. Dad turned the paper over and over, and looked at the address and signature, then frowned fiercely on it. “Th’ devil,” he muttered, and went on to the verandah, and, sitting in an easy chair, began to spell through the curious document.

My dearest, sweatest Sara (it said), it’s foar nites sins we seen each uther, and I’m longen to see you once moare. Meet me after supper too nite deer at the wite gait. Doant forget; doent disuppoin me. When do the ole chap go off some plaise agen.

“Aha,” Dad broke out, growing interested, “Aha!” Then he continued to spell:

I ope the ole bare stays away altogether nex time. (Dad grew very red in the face.) Giv the ole dog me luv.

“D— his insolence,” Dad snorted.

an’ take the saime yerself, and doant forget to be at the gait to meat your trooest Billy. ’Ow did yer like me fofo I sent you.

“The d— scoundrel,” Dad said, savagely, “I’ll meet him—I’ll meet him.”

Then, muttering murderous threats, Dad made his way to the clothes-line again, and threw Sarah’s love letter down where he had found it, and went away swearing to himself. He had scarcely left the spot when Sarah, bareheaded, and rummaging her dress pockets, came running out with an anxious look on her face. You would think she had just received word that some bank in which she had a million of money deposited had failed. With her eyes fixed on the ground, she tracked herself to the barn and back, then to the woodheap, and to the water-tank, and back to the barn again.

Dad scowled, and watched Sarah out of the corner of his eye. Sarah crossed the yard several times.

“What’s th’ matter with y’?” Dad growled at last.

“Dropped an old brooch somewhere, that’s all,” Sarah murmured, colouring to the ears.

“I thought maybe it wer’ y’ head,” and Dad turned away. But he looked round again just in time to see Sarah pounce on the paper, and stuff it hurriedly into her bosom.

Sarah had supper ready early for us that night, and displayed a lot of anxiety to get the meal over.

“Hurry up and let me get cleared away,” she said, when Bill and Tom hung over their tea arguing about horses; “I’ve a lot of work to do to-night—and you haven’t anything.”

Dad looked hard at Sarah and said nothing. And when everyone had finished, Sarah rushed the things away to the kitchen, and starting to sing and whistle alternately, waded in to the washing-up.

After supper Dad walked up and down the verandah for a long while thinking hard. Then he called Barty, and told him to go and find the greenhide whip.

“What do you want it for, Dad?” Barty asked, arriving with a short heavy “slogger” belonging to Joe.

“Never mind, never mind; leave it there.” And Dad walked up and down some more.

Barty threw the whip on a chair and went off wondering. Then Dad stepped quietly off the verandah, and armed with the greenhide “slogger” sauntered down towards the white gate.

There was a cold easterly wind blowing. The moon came up over the great dividing range like a huge ball of fire, and the dogs barked and howled dismally at it.

’Possums squawked in the box trees that fringed the corn paddock, and flying foxes on noiseless wings circled round and round the garden. The big white gate creaked on its hinges and opened wide, and someone came through it leading a horse. Dad paused for a moment to listen, then, grasping the greenhide, firmly hurried forward. The horse’s rump was turned towards Dad; the person leading the animal turned to fasten the gate. At Dad’s approach the horse twisted nervously about and pulled on the reins. The man left the gate, and held firmly to the bridle.

“You—scoundrel! I’ve got you now!”

Dad exclaimed, bringing the greenhide down on the man’s face, head, and shoulders with a “swish! swish! swish!”

The affrighted animal pulled violently away and galloped off. A roar that surprised and startled Dad came from the man. Then a round of heavy blows rained on Dad, and next moment there was a struggle on the grass. Dad did all the struggling. Dad was underneath. Sarah came stealthily upon the scene, and staring through the pallid light called timidly: “Is that you, Willie?” But when oaths mingled with sounds of violence were the only replies she received, she took alarm and fled back to the house. Billy Bearup came cantering along down the lane and pulled up at the gate. Heavy kicks and gurgling and stifled cries of “Murder! Robber! Coward!” surprised him, and wheeling round he put spurs to his horse, and broke his appointment with Sarah.

“Who th’ devil are you, you crawler?” the man gasped, squeezing Dad’s throat—“Speak or I’ll strangle you.”

Dad gurgled out his identity, and the man, who was big Andy Daley, the butcher from Crawley’s Crossing, coming to pay Dad a cheque for some bullocks, exclaimed: “Good heavens!” and jumped off Dad, and pulled him to his feet, and stared into his bruised face. “Why, what in th’ name—(here he panted and puffed)—What th’ deuce did you mean?”

For a while Dad staggered about in the moonlight like a drunken man till he got his wind. Then he explained.

“D—them!” Daley said, rubbing one of his eyes which Dad had nearly cut out with the whip; “I wish they’d made their appointment somewhere else.” And Dad agreed with Daley, and sat down on the grass and spat some teeth out.

It’s years ago since then, and Dad never bothers-about Billy Bearup now. Neither does Sarah. Billy went to see Nellie Thompson one Sunday, and Sarah gave him up.


Chapter 7
The Rifle Range

All the single men of Saddletop, and a large percentage of the married ones, gathered at the local public-house one evening to form a rifle club. It was an enthusiastic gathering. The publican “shouted” all round, and the club promised to be a great success. Officers were appointed, and all that remained to be settled was the selection of a suitable range. There was only one locality in the district that they knew of where a rifle could be discharged with safety, and that was on private property. And the property belonged to Dad.

“It would be a lovely range,” they said, “if we could only get it,” and they looked questioningly at one another.

The publican, who was chairman, interrogated Dave with a long steady stare.

“You might get it,” Dave said, slowly, “he might give it to you.” Dave was thinking of Dad. Dave never made rash promises where Dad’s approval was required.

“Do you think the old man would let us have it if we asked him?” the publican said, in the voice of a man who wanted something definite to go on.

Dave wasn’t quite sure.

“Might,” he said.

“If you strike the old devil in the humour he was in the other morning when Charley Roebuck asked him for the loan of a harrow,” Tommy Regan put in, “he’ll chase you right off the premises.”

The meeting laughed merrily at Regan, also at Dave, who stroked his beard, and smiled.

“Well, I’ll approach him for one,” the publican said, “if some of you’ll come with me?”

“Not me, anyway,” firmly from Regan, “I’ve been in the hospital once; that’s enough for me.”

The meeting laughed some more at Regan, and Dave changed colour, and became restless.

Finally, the schoolmaster volunteered to accompany the publican when school would be out next day, and the meeting dispersed.

The dogs barked, and rushed to the gate. Sarah went to the door.

“Here’s Mr. Brown and Mr. Rice,” she said, addressing Dad.

Dad rose from the couch in the dining room, and, with a groan, met them at the verandah.

“We can’t stay very long, Mr. Rudd,” the publican said, in reply to Dad’s invitation to step inside. “What we’ve come to see you about is just this: We’ve started a bit of a rifle club down at the township, and your sons are joining it like the rest of—”

Whaht!” Dad interrupted, suddenly, “my sons!”

“Well, it’s just a quiet little club,” the publican resumed, “to give us a little practice with the rifle—there’s no expense much attached to it, Mr. Rudd, or anything like that—but our greatest trouble in getting it going is that we haven’t a piece of ground to make a suitable range.”

The publican paused, and looked hopefully at Dad.

Dad looked at the schoolmaster.

“There’s not a piece of Government ground in the district at all suitable,” the schoolmaster began, “and we thought, Mr. Rudd—”

“Yes, we thought,” the publican broke in again, “that you might let us have the use—”

Whaht?” Dad bellowed.

“The use of your paddock,” the publican concluded, moving back a pace.

“Do you think I want my horses and cattle shot?” Dad yelled, and turned to go inside.

The publican made a pathetic appeal to Dad to stay and give them a hearing.

“I don’t want to hear you,” Dad growled, “and I don’t want my horses and cattle shot, either. Go off with you.”

And Dad turned away again.

“But, Mr. Rudd—” the schoolmaster commenced.

“If you have nothing better to do,” Dad shouted at him, “go away into the bush, and fire off your rifles. Go away to your school, man.”

Dad closed the door on them, and the delegates turned away, and laughed and swore alternately.

A tall formidable-looking military man in khaki, and long-necked spurs and a bunch of drooping emu feathers, stepped on to the railway platform one Saturday, and was met by all the members of the new rifle club.

The military man was a major, and had come from Brisbane in his official capacity to select and mark out a suitable site for the rifle range. The members took charge of him, and drove him round the district, and showed him all the localities likely to make a suitable shooting ground, but the major shook his head, and condemned them all in turn as useless and dangerous. He sat down at last, and discussed the position with the club, and explained his ideas of a proper rifle range. The members spoke of the natural formation of Dad’s paddock. They also made him acquainted with Dad’s views on the matter, and gave Dad a bad character.

“We’ll have a look at it, anyway,” the major said, hopefully, and the club crawled through the barb-wire, and conducted him across Dad’s paddock towards the mountain. The major was delighted with the site they pointed out to him; it was Canaan to him, and he said that nature had intended it for a rifle range, and nothing else.

“But how are we going to get it?” the schoolmaster asked, mournfully.

“If you think my presence would have any influence on the old gentleman,” the major resumed, “we’ll form a deputation, and wait on him right away!”

The schoolmaster brightened up, and said he believed the major’s uniform would be a powerful argument to use on Dad, but Tommy Regan shook his head sceptically again, and said he reckoned it wouldn’t have any more effect than a goat skin.

The major smiled in his military way at Regan, and proceeded to form the deputation.

Headed by the major, the deputation started off, and called at the wind-mill for Dave, and enquired from him what objections Dad was likely to raise.

Dave grinned, and said he didn’t know.

“Well, will you come with us?” the major asked.

Dave hesitated:

“I dunno,” he drawled, “I don’t think it would be much use.”

The major thought Dave’s presence on the deputation would be a lot of use.

“Besides,” he added, persuasively, “you’re a member of the club, Rudd.”

“Oh, orright,” Dave said, slowly, and like a lamb going to the slaughter, went along with them.

The deputation met Dad half way between the house and the barn, and the major saluted him as though he were a commandant, and looked round for Dave to introduce the party. But Dave wasn’t with the party just then. Dave had gone over to the dog kennel to give one of the greyhounds a drink of water. Dave was a long while giving that greyhound a drink of water.

The schoolmaster stepped into the breach.

“This is Major Nockpin, Mr. Rudd,” he said, “he’s just come from Headquarters, and this is his first trip up to these parts.”

Dad glared contemptuously at the emu feathers, and at the long-necked spurs, and said nothing.

Then the major proceeded cautiously to state his case.

Dad immediately threw up his hands, as if he were horrified.

“Are you sober, man?” he roared. “Have you no sense? Do you think I would turn my paddock into a—”

The major appealed for a hearing.

“To th’ devil with your bullets and your butts,” Dad foamed, “who wants them?”

But the major persisted calmly and politely.

“Won’t you hear what I have to say, Mr. Rudd,” he said. “before you refuse? Just listen to me for one moment.” Dad paused and glared angrily at him.

The major referred to Dad as the leading man of the district, and then went largely into questions of defence. He drew imaginary pictures of an army of Japs, invading Australia, and overrunning Dad’s farm-lands and milking his dairy cows.

“And where will we be,” he concluded, “if the young men of the country have not been trained in the use of the rifle? And if leading men like yourself won’t encourage them, who will, Mr. Rudd?”

Dad opened his mouth, and glared at each member of the deputation.

“Why,” he broke out in tones of indignation, “that’s a different thing altogether—you never told me that that was what you wanted it for?”

The schoolmaster made an effort to explain apologetically, but the major winked slyly at him, and followed up his advantage.

“I thought there must have been some mistake,” he said, addressing Dad again, “because I have always heard you spoken of, Mr. Rudd, as one of our most patriotic and philanthropic farmers—”

“Look here, colonel,” Dad answered, waving his hand contemptuously at the publican and the schoolmaster, “they come here to ask fer things, and don’t know what the d—l they come to ask fer. They told me ’twas fer firin’ at trees and killin’ time they wanted it.” (He walked away several paces to show his disgust, and returned to the major again.) “Pshaw!” and he waved his hands at the publican, and walked about some more.

“’Twas merely a mistake on their part,” the major said, soothingly.

“Bah! ’twasn’t a mistake, captain!—’twas foolishness!”

Then Dad for a few seconds turned his eyes in the direction of the paddock, and reflected.

“What ground is it you want, major?” he said, turning to the major.

The major, with the assistance of the deputation, hurriedly explained the situation of the coveted site.

“Pshaw!” Dad said, “there’s a better place than that, this side of the mountain—far better and nearer here, too,” and taking them to the open gate, pointed with enthusiasm to the locality.

“I saw that,” the major said; “I saw that; but it would mean firing right across one of your cultivation paddocks, Mr. Rudd, which was more than I had the courage to ask of you.”

“What the deuce do it matter?” Dad replied, promptly. “Haven’t I often fired shots over it meself? Don’t they always be firing over it? Take it—take it, General.”

“You’re a Briton,” the major said, and took Dad by the hand and shook it warmly.

“Come in,” Dad said, with more enthusiasm. “Come in; come on, all of you.” And he led the way to the house.

The major said he’d have a little whisky—so did the schoolmaster and the publican. They drank success to the new rifle club—drank it several times; then made Dad president, and drank to him.


Chapter 8
A Dead Horse and a Live One

A good old horse Prince was, and how we revered him! He was our slave—our black labour. All of us took a turn out of Prince, and drove him and rode him about without mercy. He was a great favourite of Dad’s—also of Mother’s. Mother wouldn’t drive behind any other horse but Prince. He was the only quadruped Mother would trust her life with. For twenty years we worked Prince hard on the farm, but one night he lay down behind the barn, and died, and we didn’t work him any more. Barty found him when he was dead, and while we were having breakfast rushed in, and broke the news.


“Prince is dun fer,” he shouted wildly, “he’s pegged out.”

Dad let fall his knife and fork.

Whaht? the horse?” he said, with a look of astonishment. Dad spoke as though he thought a horse should live on for ever.

“Not Prince?” Mother gasped, putting down her tea-cup.

“Surely never!” Sarah broke out.

“Dead!” Joe chuckled—“lyin’ down, I ’spect.”

“Come an’ see, then,” Barty shouted. “His legs is stiff, anyhow, and he’ll let y’ put y’ foot right on him.”

Dad rose from the table, and, bareheaded, went out to investigate. We rose and followed Dad. Barty was delighted with the commotion he had raised. It wasn’t often we took so much notice of Barty. He rushed into the lead, and disappeared behind the barn, and when the rest of us turned the corner he was standing triumphantly on the corpse, waving his hand about and looking like the statue of Captain Cook.


Dad stopped suddenly when he saw Barty, and murmured—

“Well, well; well, well!”

Dad seemed satisfied that the horse was dead. So did Mother.

“Poor, poor Prince,” she moaned; “poor Prince.”

“Dead alright,” Joe said laconically, walking round and scrutinizing the body.

“Didn’t I tell y’ he were,” Barty chuckled cheerfully, and going off the brute’s ribs, as he would off a spring board, jumped in the air, and, landing on the carcase again, squeezed a melancholy groan out of Prince.

“Confound you, get down off him!” Dad burst out angrily, “get down, you scamp!”

Barty got down in a hurry.

“Clear away out of this altogether,” Dad added, lifting a heavy stick from the ground. Barty bolted off like a hunted emu.

“You tinker!” and Dad heaved the stick after Barty, but it went wide of the mark.

Dad turned to Prince again, and once more said—

“Well, well; well, well!”

Mother and Sarah sighed some more, then turned away, and we all went back to finish breakfast. We didn’t eat any more, though. We sat and talked of our bereavement.

“It’ll be hard to replace him,” Dad said sorrowfully, and left the table again.

Dave and Joe were harnessing up to go ploughing.

“Better hook a couple of the horses to old Prince,” Dad said, “and drag him away somewhere. It won’t take long.”

Then taking Joe’s pair by the head Dad himself led them round to yoke them to the body. Both animals rattled their chains about, and slouched dreamily along behind Dad until suddenly confronted with the motionless form of the dead. They stopped short then, and stretched out their necks, and stared and snorted.

“Come on with y’,” Dad growled, “did y’ never see him before?”

Nigger and Nugget stared as though they had not. There seemed to be a lot of superstition about Nigger and Nugget.

“You old fools, come on,” and Dad tugged hard at their heads.

Nigger and Nugget yielded a little. They advanced a short step, and stretched their necks out further. They stretched them till they smelt Prince, and were convinced he was dead. Then they snorted again and jumped away, and reared up, and fell back in a heap, and got mixed up in each other’s harness.

“What th’ deuce is th’ matter with y’?” Dad roared, clutching at the reins as the animals recovered their footing. “Stan’ up,” and he kicked Nugget, and jerked the bit in his mouth, and the animals backed in a circle of confusion, snorting all the while, until their heels were right up against Prince.

“Wa—ay, then, will y’?” Dad shouted, shaking his fist in their faces. They both “wa—ayed,” and in fear and trembling stood stealing glances from behind their winkers at each other.

“Wa—ay, now,” and Dad released their heads, and stood by in readiness to grab them again should the brutes show signs of disobedience. They were restless and continued to suspect each other of being the one that was dead.

“Wa—ay,” Dad drawled coaxingly, and slipping behind the brutes quickly fastened a spare chain round the neck of Prince. Then he lifted the swingle-trees, and had just hooked the horses on when Nugget turned his head right round, and located Prince. He snorted loudly, and startled his companion, and both of them bounded off, reefing and rushing and ploughing the dust up with the dead horse. “Wa-ay,” Dad shouted; but the rigid limbs of the dead horse mowed him down, and he somersaulted over the carcass.

“What the deuce is he up to?” Joe cried, as he turned the corner of the barn, and witnessed all the confusion.

“Wa—ay, Nugget, wa—ay, boy,” he shouted, giving chase to the bolting horses. But terror had taken complete possession of Nugget and Nigger, and, heading for the gate, they scrambled across several heavy sleepers that had been drawn from the range, and lay in the yard dressed for the foundation of a new barn; but the corpse refused to follow. Prince’s nose, which had been cutting through the dust like the coulter of a plough, became jambed under one of the sleepers.


“Wa—ay, lads, wa—ay,” Joe continued to shout, as he followed in pursuit. But Nigger and Nugget, flying from the dead, were in a hurry. They swayed and swerved, and doubling themselves into the collars tore the ground up with their toes, and shifted the sleepers, and pulled Prince’s head clean off, and galloped through the gate, and round the lucerne paddock with it flying up behind them like a football. Joe, with folded arms, stood and looked round at Dad, and grinned.

“Confound it, fellow!” Dad roared, coming along, his hat in his hand and dust in his hair; “Why haven’t you them horses trained properly?”

“They ain’t jibs, anyway,” Joe answered, pointing to the headless form of Prince as evidence.

“D—n it!” Dad gasped, “d—n it!”

Prince was missed a lot from the farm, especially by Mother and Dad, and there was no other horse fit to take his place. They were all too flighty or too clumsy for general use.

“Must get one somewhere,” Dad used to say, “can’t go on like this.”

And one day he went to town, and after spending a lot of time at the sale yards, came home leading a fat, well-groomed grey horse. We all ran out, and stood round admiring Prince’s successor. Joe took him by the head, and looked in his mouth, and gravely announced his age as “eight and a-half.”

“Rubbish!” Dad said. “Why he ain’t shed his foal’s teeth yet.”

Dave came forward then, and opened the grey’s mouth.

“He ain’t an old horse, anyway,” he said.

“Old! ’’ Dad grunted, “he’s only a colt, man.”

Then Dave walked all round the quadruped, and examined it closely, and Barty, who had been making friends with the animal while the others were discussing its qualities, planked his big toe on the side of the brute’s knee, and attempted to climb on its back, but Dad, anticipating Barty, stepped back and brought the end of the halter, which had a big knot in it, down hard on the fleshy part of Barty, and Barty changed his mind suddenly.

“Just what he was looking for,” Joe said, approving of Dad’s action, and Barty, rubbing himself and wearing a wounded look on his face, rushed into the open.

“Well,” Dad asked, when Dave had finished examining the grey, “what do y’ think of him?”

“Not a bad little ’orse as fur as looks go,” Dave drawled.

“They tell me he’s a lot better than he looks,” Dad said proudly, “an’ he were cheap.”

“’Ow much?” Dave asked.

“What would y’ think?” Dad answered with a grin.

Dave bit big pieces out of his moustache, and considered hard.

“Twelve pounds?” he said.

Dad laughed.

“Three ten!”

“Jerusalem!” And Dave eyed the grey all over again.

“That was all, then,” Dad repeated triumphantly, and led the grey over to the trough, and gave it a drink. Then he put the brute in the yard, and threw as much oaten hay out to him as would satisfy a mob of horses.

Next morning.

“We’ll put him in the cart, an’ see how he goes,” Dad said, referring to the new horse. And while Mother and Sarah and the rest of us assembled in the yard to witness the trial, Dad and Joe threw some harness on the grey, and dragged the new spring cart out of the shed.

“He doesn’t take much notice of the harness, anyway,” Joe remarked hopefully, and taking the animal by the head he started to shove him back.

“He backs well,” Joe added approvingly, as the grey willingly went between the shafts.

“Oh, my word!” Dad said, assisting to buckle the gear. “He’s alright—an’ he were cheap.”

“Cheap right enough,” Joe muttered, gathering the reins together, and climbing into the cart.

“Isn’t he pretty,” Mother remarked admiringly, and Sarah said she “loved grey horses.”

“Jump up!” Joe said, “and we’ll take him as far as the railway station, and bring back the rock salt that’s there.” And Dad let down the tail board of the cart, and got in the back way.

“Now, Greygo,” Joe shouted, standing up, and addressing the horse encouragingly, “show us what you’re made of.” And he touched the brute with the reins. Greygo put down his head, and shook it till the winkers nearly fell off, but showed no inclination to tighten the traces.

Joe laughed suspiciously.

“Take him gently,” Dad yelled, “take him gently.”

Joe lifted a greenhide whip from the bottom of the cart, and brought it down heavily on Greygo. Greygo responded instantly. He rushed backwards at an alarming pace, and Joe, taken by surprise, fell forward on to the animal’s back, and only saved himself from accident by getting astride it.

Mother and Sarah squealed, and ran to escape being run over.

“Woh, woh! Where th’ devil are y’ going t’?” Dad shouted, clutching the sides of the cart, and looking wildly round.

Joe struggled hard to force Greygo to reverse action.

He dug his heels into him, then struck him between the ears with the handle of the whip. But Greygo went backwards all the faster.

“Confound it!” Dad roared, and drew in his legs just in time to save them from being amputated as the back of the cart, with a hard bang, crashed into the water tank, and made a big hole in it, and let all the water out.

It squirted in every direction, and filled the cart, and wet Dad to the skin before he could scramble out over the wheel.

“Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!” Mother whined, when she saw the water flying about.

And Dad in angry tones roared at Joe—

“What th’ devil did y’ let him do that fer?”

And Joe, who had jumped from the back of the horse, stood staring and grinning at the damage.

Then Dad jumped forward, and kicked Greygo several times in the ribs. Greygo sat back in the breeching again, and shoved the cart further into the tank.

“Leave him alone! Leave him alone!” Joe shouted advisedly; but Dad didn’t take any notice of Joe. Dad delivered Greygo several more kicks, and Greygo shoved the tank right off the stand, and it rolled away down the yard.

“I told y’ to leave him alone,” Joe said reprovingly.

“Leave him alone,” Dad bellowed, “th’ rubbish!” And he kicked Greygo again. Then Dad seized the brute savagely by the ear, and pulled it, and Greygo threw his head about, and struck Dad with it in the chest, and knocked him down.

It was too much for Joe. He concealed himself behind the cart, and held his sides, while Dad got his wind back.

I’ll stop yer runnin’ back,” Dad said, after recovering. And he hobbled over to the barn, and returned to the scene of action with a piece of barbed wire, which he proceeded to wrap round the breeching.

“Try him now,” Dad said, when the wrapping was finished, and Joe, with a broad smile, mounted the cart again, and cracked the whip. Greygo promptly sat in the breeching again, then bounded into the collar, and tore down the yard, with the cart rattling behind him. Dad stood and laughed. Dad was delighted.

“Come on!” Joe called out, steadying Greygo, while Dad hurried to catch up. “He’ll go now alright.”

When Dad had crawled into the cart again, Joe touched Greygo with the whip once more, and the brute sat back in the breeching as before, then bolted off again.

Dad laughed some more.

“Soon knock the jibbing out of him,” Dad said, as the grey, pulling hard on Joe, stepped it out down the lane.

Coming to a steep cutting leading into the creek, Dad called out—

“Take it steady here,” and Joe pulled on the reins, and took it steady. But when Greygo, starting to descend, tried to hold the cart back, the barbed wire found him out more than ever, and he seemed to think he was required to break into another gallop. He made off, but Joe held him back. Then he started to kick. He kicked all the way down the cutting. He kicked the bottom right out of the new cart, and emptied Joe and Dad out on the flat rocks, and raced along the bed of the creek with the cart on its back, and climbed up one of the steep banks without it. Then he rolled in the grass several times, and got up without any harness on.

Dad wouldn’t have any more to do with Greygo. Dad got rid of him. He swapped him to young Regan for a red heifer that had a cold, and a kangaroo dog. The red heifer gave four of our best cows tuberculosis, and the kangaroo dog killed twenty-five of our fowls and fourteen turkeys belonging to Thompson, and involved Dad in a law suit.


Chapter 9
Marvin Mulcahy’s Pigs

Two buyers were scouring our district, giving high prices for fat pigs. They purchased thirty-four from us, and six from Martin Mulcahy, a bachelor eking out a hard lonely existence out on the hot, sweltering plains of the Darling Downs. Martin got excited over his prospects—’twas the first lot of porkers he had raised—and rushed into our yard early next morning to know if Dave or Joe or someone could give him a hand to cart them to the railway yard and truck for the buyers. Dave was sorry he couldn’t assist him—so was Joe. Their hands were full with the handling of our own. Martin was in distress, and stood scratching his head through his thin felt hat.

Dad came out and asked what was the matter.

Joe explained.

“Well,” Dad said, “I’ll help him.”

Martin demurred.

“I wouldn’t expect it from you, Mr. Rudd,” he said, remembering Dad had once been a Member of Parliament. But Dad was not a snob.

“Tut, tut,” he said, and went inside, and put on an old hat.

“You’re the man for the country,” Martin said, when Dad returned. (Martin had a flattering way with him when he liked.)

Then they both went off together.

As they crossed the paddocks Martin explained that he had kept his horses in the yard all night, and would have been able to make an early start, only that old Regan passing by before daylight, saw them, and thinking they had been left there by mistake, threw the sliprail down and let them out.

“They’re down be the grass trees,” Martin added, “an’ if you don’t mind, we’ll go round that way, an’ drive them up before us.”

“Very well, very well,” Dad answered cheerfully, and followed Martin on a four-mile tramp through long wet grass, over broken gullies and melon holes, and amongst acres and acres of Bathurst burr and Scotch thistles, and beds of weeds and rubbish where snakes and hares and kangaroo rats and all the vermin of the earth abounded in any number.

Dad began to get tired.

“Confound it!” he would break out at intervals, as he stumbled along after Martin; “what th’ devil did the feller want letting th’ horses out for?”

And Martin, without pausing or turning his head, would explain the reason all over again.

“But he had no right,” Dad would shout out, “to throw down another man’s sliprails, and let his horses out.” And Martin would agree with Dad, and to keep him in good humour would curse old Regan fluently and with violence. There were times when Martin used to show a lot of tact.

At last they found the horses, and hunted them to the yard just about dinner time. The brutes were in a sportive mood, and raced up and stood waiting with their tails elevated. Martin urged Dad to run so as to be up in time to block them coming out of the yard. But they didn’t come out of the yard. They didn’t go into the yard. They couldn’t get in. Someone had been there since Martin had left, and put the rails up. Martin struck himself on the thigh with the palm of his hand, and swore earnestly. Dad grunted, and said that the sliprails of a yard should always be left down.

“Well, it’s a holy terror,” Martin murmured. Then, after thinking hard, he told Dad to walk up quietly and throw the sliprails down again, and he would block the horses himself if they broke back. Dad stalked up quietly, and threw one rail down. The sound of it startled the animals, and away they went at full gallop. Martin threw up his arms and shouted at them to stop. They went faster. They nearly ran over Martin, and raced down the plain till they were only dim specks moving in the distance. Martin followed in pursuit. Dad fixed the sliprails, and hobbled along after Martin with an angry scowl on his face.

Another hour and they were back with the horses, and this time secured them in the yard.

“If I’d known it meant all this runnin’ about,” Dad said, removing his hat, and wiping the perspiration from his forehead with a large coloured handkerchief—“I wouldn’t ’a come for fifty poun’.”

“Ah, we’ve got ’em now, Mr. Rudd,” Martin answered soothingly, “and I’ll have ’em caught and harnessed while you’re lookin’, an’ in half an hour we’ll be loaded an’ away.”

But Martin didn’t catch the horses with the ease he anticipated. The black mare had not had a pair of winkers on since she had had the foal, and she snorted and rushed and poked her head into the cow bail and into every hole and corner of the yard for a good solid hour—until Dad wanted to know “what th’ devil was th’ use of thinkin’ of takin’ pigs to the railway with a fool of a thing like her.” But Martin explained it was the foal that was doing it, and assured him she would be as right as rain when they got loaded and going.

They didn’t get loaded for another hour—not until Dad had wasted a lot of profanity on the pigs, and had fallen down several times under them in the sty, and broken several waddies on them, and left the imprint of his big right foot on the ribs of almost every porker. And they didn’t get going until the black mare had bucked all round the humpy in the shafts, and buried the point of one in the hindquarters of the leader, and run the wheel of the dray through the water cask, and bumped the side out of the dwelling with the tail board; and not until Martin had found some wire and greenhide, and mended all the harness again.

“How th’ devil do you expect to get to the railway to-night with a mad mare like that?” Dad raved, “She’ll never pull.”

But Martin reckoned she would be “orright drekeley,” and patted the trembling beast on the neck.

“She’s collar proud, that’s all. She’ll settle down soon as we get outer the gate,” he said. Martin had a lot of confidence in the black mare.

He adjusted the reins, and patting the brute again, turned to Dad.

“Now, if you jump up behind the pigs (the pigs were enclosed in a rough paling frame open at the top like a small garden, and which was as deep as Dad was tall) I’ll walk and drive.”

Dad hesitated and suspiciously eyed the ricketty old dray, with its extravagant bandages of wire and greenhide; then looked at the horses, and said—

“Maybe it would be better if I drove.”

But Martin wouldn’t hear of Dad driving.

“No, no, no,” he said, “’tis a long distance to—(wa-ah) —walk is eight mi—(wa-ah)—miles; you jump up.”

Dad looked askance at the feverish, restless black mare, and again at the fractured shafts and plugged wheels; then slowly and reluctantly crawled up into the back of the dray and stood behind the “cage.”

“Now then,” Martin said, addressing the horses, and touching them lightly with the reins. Both animals started, the leader at a prance, the black mare with a bound and a buck. Martin ran beside them holding the reins and keeping their heads straight for the open gate. Dad got a feeling into his head that the whole turnout was going to pieces under him, and became alarmed.

“Confound it! Hold them! hold them, man!” he yelled.

Martin was doing his best—so were the horses.

Dad glanced round to see if there was any chance of jumping off with safety. There was no chance. Then, he appealed to the animals.

“Wa-ay, horses, wa-ay there,” he shouted. Just then one of the wheels struck the gatepost with a loud bang, and the dray and the pigs and Dad were for a moment on the verge of eternity.

“Stop them, man, and let me down! Confound you!” Dad roared, clinging to the “cage.” But Martin swung the horses round into the road, and kept them going, and with nothing before her but open plain the black mare settled down.

“She’s orright now,” Martin called out, looking up at Dad with a grin, “good little puller?”

But Dad didn’t pass any compliments upon the black mare, or upon her prancing companion either. He saw nothing but the steep banks of the creek looming ahead, and was thinking of his neck.

Martin eased up when he came to the creek to let the horses get their wind.

“Do you reckon they can take it up that other bank?” Dad asked, staring at the cutting with deep concern.

Martin in his own heart had a deal of doubt about it, but said they would “manage it easy,” then started them into it.

“Careful, now,” Dad shouted, as the dray began to descend, “careful.”

“Right, right, right,” Martin answered, hanging on to the mare’s head.

The pigs tumbled and rolled about and crowded to the front (the low end going down hill) of the “cage,” and the black mare staggered under the extra weight, but got safely down. The water in the bed of the creek was a couple of feet deep, and at the edge of it, Martin called “Wa-ay.” The animal “wa-ayed,” and puffed and pawed the water into foam.

Martin looked at Dad, and said—

“Get in with the pigs, and keep them from coming back when we’re going up the other side. Keep them well up in front of the “cage.”

Dad demurred again.

“Damn it,” he growled, “can’t you manage without me getting in there?”

“You see,” Martin said persuasively, “the pigs ’ll come back to the tail end going up the bank, and the weight might lift the mare off her feet.”

“It’s a fool of a way to bring pigs to a railway, anyhow,” Dad grunted, and climbed up stiffly, and entered the “cage.”

Then Martin didn’t lose any time. He gathered the reins together again, and jumped on the back of the black mare.

“What th’ devil are you doing?” Dad yelled down at him.

“She’s quiet,” Martin answered calmly, “and I might as well get over dry as soakin’ wet.”

“Confound it! Hold on till I get down, you fool of a fellow.” And Dad made an effort to descend. But Martin spoke to the horses, “Git erp,” he said, and the black mare, who had never been broken to saddle, feeling something astride her, bounded through the water and started up the opposite bank at full gallop. Martin clung to her like an ourang-outang, and yelled at the leader for not keeping in front.

Dad hung on to the “cage,” and kicked at the porkers, and reviled Martin at the top of his voice.


Another bound or two from the black mare, and the dray would have landed safely out of the cutting, but somehow or other, just when it was in the steepest place the catch of it—it was a tip dray—got loose, and up it went without any warning, and the “cage” and Dad and all the pigs toppled back and landed in the water.

“Good girl, good girl,” Martin called out, complimenting the mare on her performance, as she reached the top. Then he said, “Wa-ay,” and looked smilingly round to see how Dad was getting on. But he saw Dad wasn’t on at all.

“Oh my, my!” he murmured, and dismounted, and rushed down the cutting. Dad was there wrestling with a heavy porker right in the middle of the stream. The other pigs were promiscuously poking about the bank.

Martin took in the situation at a glance.

“Hold him, hold him,” he shouted, “till I bring a rein.”

“Hold him be dashed,” Dad answered, releasing his grip of the porker’s ear, and delivering the brute a farewell kick in the flanks. Then he waded out of the water, and called Martin a lunatic, and said he should be in the asylum.

“Well, I can’t understand how it happened,” Martin murmured, returning to the dray.

“It happened,” Dad snorted, “because a fool was driving.”

Martin said no more but straightened the dray in silence, and waited till Dad cooled down, and was amenable to reason. Then he made a suggestion.

 “Ryan’s place,” he said “is not far along. We’ll get the pigs together, and if you drive them, I’ll take the dray along, and we can load them there.”

Dad swore some more at Martin, then sulkily went with him after the pigs.

At Ryan’s—with the assistance of two other men— they reloaded the porkers and started again, and reached the railway without further mishap.

The buyers had finished trucking, and were just turning away.

“Back your dray up to that truck there,” one of them said, pointing to a waggon that was almost packed with pigs—and lift them in carefully.”

The buyers then crossed over to the hotel.

Martin, after a lot of pushing and grunting and swearing, in which Dad joined heartily, worked the dray into position. Then he pushed back the sliding door of the truck, and commenced trucking. Everything went smoothly. There was only one more pig to lift in.’

“The last, thank God,” Dad said, as Martin caught the brute by the ear. Then Dad gripped the other ear, and locked hands with Martin under the brute’s belly.

“Now then,” Martin said, and they were just going to heave it into the truck when something disturbed the black mare, and she jumped forward, and Dad and Martin and the porker fell in a struggling heap on the ground.

“Wa-ay,” Martin shouted to the mare.

The pig found its legs first, and made off up the line. Martin rose and pursued it. Dad pulled himself together and hobbled after Martin.

After running about two hundred yards, Martin gave up and turned round. Nothing but pigs met his eyes.

“Oh hang it! Why didn’t you shut the door?” he shouted to Dad, who was still hobbling along.

Dad looked round then, and saw a long coloured line of pigs—about fifty in all—reaching from within a couple of yards of himself to the door of the railway truck.

Dad’s two arms went up like a pair of railway signals, and his mouth and eyes opened wide. Then he turned with a savage glare to Martin. But Dad didn’t speak. He couldn’t. His mouth closed with a snap like a spring trap, and he rushed through the fence, and left.


Chapter 10
Dave Brings Home a Wife

All was joy and merriment at Ruddville. There was no grumbling, no dissension, no dissatisfaction of any kind. Even Dad took things cheerfully, and became frisky and light-hearted as a fat lamb. The longest days seemed short hours, and home was simply heaven. Dave was the cause of all the love and felicity. Dave got married, and brought his wife home to live with us. A fine wife she was, too—a slim, jolly girl with red hair. Lily White was her name, and we took a great liking to her. So did Dave. Lots of young fellows down at Prosperity had tried hard to win Lily, but she rejected them all with contumely. Dave thought all the more of her on that account.

The welcome we gave to Lily when she arrived seemed to add twenty years to Dave’s life. Our display of affection quite overpowered him; swelled his breast with gratitude, and filled his eyes with tears as large as hailstones. All of us except Bill and Tom and me met them at the gate, and kissed Lily freely. We hesitated when it came to hugging her, but Sarah shoved us forward, and said—


“Ain’t y’ goin’ t’ kiss Lily? She’s your sister now.” Then we took courage and waded in—though we wouldn’t have hugged Sarah, herself, for a fortune, unless it was on her solemn assurance that she was going far from home, and would never return.

 After us Dad stepped forward.

“Well,” he said, removing his hat to expedite the performance, “if she be your sister, she be my daughter,” and he commenced vigorously where we had left off. When Dad finished with Lily, Sarah took possession of her, and hugged her again, and put an arm round her waist, and conducted her up the verandah steps into Dave’s little room, where she took her hat off for her, and kissed her some more, and showed her the newly-papered walls— papered for her special comfort, and a new bed curtain and draping, and a coloured pincushion and a pair of flower vases and a wardrobe and other knicknacks and pieces of furniture which Sarah had robbed her own room of to surprise Lily with and make her happy.

And Lily was happy. She sat on the bed, and said so. She spoke fondly of Dave, too.

“It was hard parting with Mother,” she murmured, “but I don’t mind when I know I have a good husband.” And tears came into her eyes, and Sarah kissed them away, and said—

“No one knows it better than I do, dear. He was always my favourite brother,” (which was a fib, because Sarah always reckoned Dave a nuisance, and never tired of wishing him married). She seemed to think that a wife was the worst infliction she could wish Dave. Then Sarah broke into tears, and Lily kissed them away.

“There, my sister,” she said, and changed the subject.

She turned it on to Sarah’s future, and they became very confidential. Sarah smiled happily at Lily, and said she couldn’t say for certain when it was to be; it might be at Easter twelve months or the following Christmas.

It all depended. But Lily wasn’t to mention it to a soul— not even to Dave. And when Lily had given her solemn word not to divulge the secret, they kissed each other again, and said,— “We’re sisters now for ever.” Then they returned to the verandah, where Mother and Dad and the rest of us were trying to entertain Dave. But Dave was a hard bridegroom to entertain. He didn’t hear a word we had to say to him.

“Thought you was lost,” he said, eagerly grabbing Lily by the arm, and leading her inside to sit on the sofa.

Four weeks passed, and the home was merrier than ever. And Lily and Dave were as happy looking as a garden. Dave was proud of his Lily. He rarely ever left her side. Lily knew the run of the house, too, now, and understood our ways, and addressed us all by our Christian names, and called Dad “Father.” Lily was never untidy, either, and always came to her meals in a neat dress, and sat beside Dave with a buttercup in her hair. And she would talk cheerfully all the time, and point out resemblances between Mother’s eyes and Dave’s, or Dad’s nose and Bill’s. Lily was an observant young woman.

In the afternoons Sarah would take Lily for a walk. Often they would go down to the paddock, and keep Dave company till nearly tea time. On other occasions they would go visiting together, and sometimes they would ride to the store or to the railway station. And Sarah would give her side-saddle to Lily, and ride in a man’s saddle herself. Sarah was fond of Lily. She couldn’t do half enough for her. And Lily loved Sarah. Mother said she never knew two young people to be so devoted to each other. And Dad reckoned it was fortunate for Dave that Sarah wasn’t Joe.

Four more weeks elapsed. Sarah and Lily were not so fond of each other now. They didn’t go anywhere together at all. Somehow they avoided one another; and Lily would go down the paddock alone, and remain with Dave till he knocked off work. Mealtimes, too, lost all their cheerfulness. All the good-fellowship had gone from them. There was scarcely any conversation carried on at the table, and Sarah was nearly always absent from it. While we were eating she would be working and banging things about in the kitchen. Sometimes Dad would miss her, and looking up at Mother, he would ask, “Where’s Sarah?” and Mother would change colour, and mumble a clumsy apology, which would make Lily fidget, and look along her nose; and frequently Lily would refuse a second cup of tea, which she was badly in need of, and leave the table before she had finished, and, with Dave, at her heels, would retire to her room. But Dad was not a man to notice little things, and sometimes he would add with a yell, “Well, why th’ devil doesn’t she come and get her tea?”

Dave and Lily isolated themselves; spent a lot of time in their room, and we wondered what was the matter. We couldn’t make it out, and Joe asked Sarah one night what it was all about. Sarah, who had her sleeves rolled up making bread, dug her fists deep into the dough, and said, “Pshaw! the little cat!” Then she turned the dough over, and slapped it down hard on the table, and punched it with her other fist. Joe chuckled, and said he could never understand why women couldn’t agree.

“Could you agree with anyone,” Sarah snapped, “who expects you to do all the cooking and washing and slaving, and to run about and clean up after them, while they sit down and act the lady?”

“That’s nothing,” Joe said flippantly. Joe enjoyed Sarah when she was angry.

“Oh, isn’t it nothing?” And Sarah leaned on the dough with both hands, and glared at him after the manner of Dad. “Then let her do it if it isn’t. I’m not going to stay here and scrub and wash her dirt for her any more; that’s one thing. Anyway, the least she might do is to clean out her own room, and make her own bed of a morning, instead of titivating herself as soon as she gets up; scenting herself, too! And dolling her old red hair to come out and sit down to breakfast, as if she was Lady Muck or somebody!”

And Sarah waded into the bread again.

Joe grinned some more, and said—

“You’re jealous, Sal.”

“Jealous! What of?” Sarah fired up. “Of that cat? . . . with her red hair. . . . Pooh! if it was mine, I’d get some lamp black and change its colour.”

Joe went away smiling, and Dave, with a warlike look on his face, entered the kitchen. Dave was looking for fight.

Sarah didn’t look at Dave.

“Any matches here?” Dave asked, maneuvering for an opening.

“There’s some there,” Sarah jerked out, walloping the dough as though it were a carpet.

Dave glanced round the room for a second or two, then rested his eyes on Sarah.

“What have you been doing to Lily?” he drawled at last.

“Who says I’ve been doing anything to Lily?” And Sarah flashed her big eyes on Dave.

“Well, I know you insulted her,” Dave replied.

“Well, if asking her to do her own dirty work is insulting her,” Sarah snorted, facing Dave with a big cake of dough in her hand, “then I did . . . and I’ll do it again . . . and what’s more you can tell her so.”

“You’re very funny,” Dave sneered, and walked out. Dave was no match for Sarah in a row.

Dave went across to the barn where the husking was being carried on by lamplight, and confided his troubles to Dad, and, in the interests of peace, suggested building a house for himself.

“Leave them alone,” Dad said, “don’t take any notice of them; they’re all the same; they’ll drive you mad if you do.”

Dad didn’t look upon the idea of building another house with favour. Dad never approved of ideas that cost money. And for the time being Dave took his advice.

But one evening, when loud screams issued from the house, and we all stampeded from the milking yard, and found Sarah mauling and clawing Lily, and trailing her about over the backs of chairs, matters were brought to a head.



“It’s not a bit of good,” Dave moaned to Dad, after peace was restored, “I must have a house of my own, or else I’ll clear out and look for work somewhere else.”

“Well,” Dad answered slowly, “I’ll see if I can’t get a bit of timber somewhere and put you one up.” Then realising to what length he had committed himself in the way of expenditure, he exclaimed, “Dash th’ women, they’re always fighting about something or other.”

After tea Dad sat on the verandah and cooled down and ruminated for a long time. Then he called Dave and Joe together, and discussed the position with them.

“There were a house down on that old farm of Grogan’s,” Dad said, “Is that there yet?”

“Some of it’s standing” Dave drawled. And Joe remarked, with a chuckle, that he was once “nearly putting it all in the dray and bringing it home for a calf pen.”

“Tut! tut! not at all, not at all,” Dad said in disapproval. “That were a snug little place when Grogan lived there first—forty-five year ago, believe me.”

“Forty-five year ago?” from Dave.

Joe chuckled again.

“Yes,” Dad said sententiously, “I don’t think it’s any older than that. Let me see (he made a mental calculation in the dark). Yes . . . No . . . Yes . . . . No—no, it’s not more than forty-two.”

“Just about time for the sap to dry,” Joe sniggered.

“When it’s pulled down and trimmed a bit with the adze, and put up again,” Dad went on enthusiastically, “it’ll look a different place. It’ll look just as well as this— believe me.”

“But you’ll want some new timber,” Dave put in anxiously.

“Well, yes, maybe,” Dad grunted “but not much, you’ll find, not much. There’s a lot of material in that house when you come to go over it all. I remember it well.”

Then he said he would go with the dray in the morning, and bring the building home; and that night Dave and Lily went to bed in a happy mood, and lay awake for hours evolving and discussing plans and specifications for their new home.


Chapter 11
Dave’s New House

Dad kept faith with Dave, and, accompanied by Bill and Cranky Jack, went with the dray to remove the house that was on Grogan’s abandoned selection. It was an easy house to knock down—what was standing of it; but it was tedious work gathering it all up, and a lot of it was hard to find. The building, in its old age, had become dislocated—got away from itself, and lay scattered here and there in the long grass, like the bones of a dead beast. The two doors and the window were missing altogether, and their absence gave Dad a lot of anxiety.



“Wonder what th’ devil’s become of them,” he said, after searching the paddock for hours, in vain, “they should be here somewhere.” But Bill fancied there “never were any.” He couldn’t remember having seen them, and he’d often been in the old house; got wet under its roof many a time when seeking shelter in it from the rain.

“Rubbish,” Dad snorted, “don’t I recollect the place long before any of you was born. Forty-two years ago I stayed in it a night with Grogan, and there was two good doors to it then, and a window in front made of sawn timber. I remember them well.”

“They’re not here now, anyway,” Bill answered, concluding the argument, and approaching the loaded dray.

“If I could get the hinges,” Dad murmured, rooting up the remains of an ancient fire with the toe of his boot, “it wouldn't matter so much. . . . . Can easy knock up a door or two.”

Dad had to abandon the search, and start home with the dray.

Dad made two trips to Grogan’s, and when he arrived with the second load. Dave, who had just come in for dinner, visited the scene of action to give a hand to unload.

“Well, what do you think of it?” Dad asked cheerfully, as he arranged the timber on the ground according to the lengths.

“Pretty old, some of it,” Dave replied, staring hard at the pile of rubbish.

“Old?” Dad answered. “Why, bless me soul, it’s all the better for that. It’s your green timber that’s the ruin of half the houses, man. I’d never dream of building a house out of green timber meself. Look at Daly’s place; nearly every slab in it is tumblin’ out; they’ve got that short that you could put your head between some o’ them; and when it was put up first, I don’t suppose there was a better-fitted house in the country. And it’s all because the timber was green.”

Dave pointed to a corner post that was mostly eaten away, out of the pulpy remains of which grass was growing luxuriantly.

“That only wants a bit of adzing,” Dad said, “and you’ll find it’s as sound as a bell.”

Dave was doubtful.

“Dunno,” he drawled.

“Certain of it,” Dad answered, plucking some of the grass from the post, “just upend it, and feel the weight.”

But Dave’s eyes had wandered to several slabs with large holes morticed in them, and slices burnt off the ends and edges of them, and he stooped, and turned one over.

“Well, yes,” Dad admitted reluctantly, “they’ve been knocked about a little. Some fool of a traveller, no doubt,” he went on in explanation, “has been letting his fire burn too near to them . . . . But they’ll come in handy, you’ll find. They’ll do very well for the partition; with a bit o’ paper put over them holes, no one will ever see them.”

Dad didn’t believe in carting timber three or four miles just to throw it away.

Next day Dave suggested giving a hand to erect the house. Dave was anxious it should be built according to the plans and specifications he and Lily had decided upon. But Dad wouldn’t hear of it. “Leave it to me,” he said, “and you get on with the ploughing. I know exactly the sort of house she wants, and I’ll make a good job of it, believe me.”

Then Bill and Dad searched for the crowbar, and when they had given the axe and the adze a touch-up on the grindstone, the new house started to go up. It went on going up—and coming down—for weeks. Dad used to come down with it, too, sometimes. He came down along with a lot of it one day, and lay under the ridge pole till Bill stopped laughing, and extricated him. Then Dad cursed Bill for not “watching it properly,” and they fell out, and Bill was ordered off the job. Bill went cheerfully, and Dad put Barty on in his place. But Barty did not turn out a success. Barty had never been engaged on a building before, and had no confidence in himself. He had no confidence in Dad either; he was afraid of Dad, and became confused, and did the wrong thing whenever Dad shouted at him. And Barty was no good unless someone did shout at him. And he hadn’t been twenty minutes on the job when Dad, mounted on the wall, said, pointing the hammer—

“Hand me that batten” (there were a dozen or so lying about).

Barty was anxious to please Dad, and, with rare alacrity, handed him the wrong batten.

“No, no,” and Dad wagged his head impatiently, “th’ one be’ind y’.” (They were all behind Barty.)

Barty dropped the batten he had in his hand, and seized another, and poked the end of it hurriedly at Dad.

“Damn it!” Dad yelled, “Why can’t y’ look where I’m pointin’? . . . There . . . You’re standin’ on it.” (Barty’s foot covered three or four battens.)

Dropping the second batten, Barty pointed to another.

“This one, then?” he whined.

“Yes, that one,” Dad roared, “it’s big enough ter see, ain’t it?” Barty snatched up another.

“No, confound it, no,” Dad howled, “the other one . . . that one.” And he let fly the hammer viciously at the batten he required, and struck Barty hard on the foot.

“Oo-h—ow-h—wah-h-h,” Barty suddenly bellowed, and danced round the heap of timber on one leg.

“Well, why th’ devil didn’t you keep your eyes open?” Dad growled.

“Oh—h! Oh—h!” Barty blubbered in a lower key, placing the toe of the maimed foot lightly to the ground, and breaking into a limp.

“D—n it!” from Dad. “Am I goin’ t’ stop here all day? Hand me back that hammer, and stop y’r hoppin’ about.”

“Oo-h!” and Barty, lifting the tool, stood with it in his hand, staring up in terror at Dad.

Hand me that hammer,” Dad fairly yelled .



“Oo—h!” Barty shuddered.

“Do y’ hear?” from Dad louder than ever.

“You’ll h—h—hit me with it. . . . Oo—h!”

Dad let out another howl, and started to descend, and Barty, forgetting his injured limb, turned and fled. He also forgot to leave the hammer.

Dad followed in pursuit.

“Where is he?” he yelled, stamping through our house, “where the devil—”

“Good day, Mr. Rudd.”

It was the soft voice of the parson that spoke. He had dropped in on his rounds, and was enjoying a cup of tea, along with Mother and Lily in the sitting room.

“Oh!” Dad jerked out, stopping abruptly, “it’s you.” And the parson rose, and warmly shook hands with Dad, and asked him if he was enjoying good health. And Mother, taking advantage of the opportunity to calm Dad, asked him to have a cup of tea. Before Dad could answer, Lily jumped to her feet to hand him the beverage, and revealed the terrified form of Barty crouching behind her chair.

“You dog!” Dad roared, his eyes ablaze with anger.

But Barty sprang behind the parson, and clung to the tails of his long black coat, and ducked from side to side, sparring for a chance to make a dash for the open door. The door was behind Dad.



“You tinker!” Dad howled, grabbing round one side of the astonished cleric for a grip of Barty, and kicking out on the other side of him whenever Barty dodged that way.

“Dear me, calm yourself, calm yourself, Mr. Rudd,” the parson exclaimed, holding up his two hands in front of Dad to implore peace, while Mother called—

“Father, don’t be foolish.”

But Dad was bent on securing some of Barty at any cost, and aimed another heavy circular kick at him, and bruised the parson’s shins.

The parson dropped his hands, and screwed his face about, and cried—

“Good gracious me!”

“Keep out of the way, then,” Dad foamed apologetically into the clergyman’s ear, “or I can’t ’elp ’urtin’ y’!”

Then the parson thought it wise to free himself of Barty, and made an effort to desert, but Barty kept a firm grip of his coat, and used it as a lever to keep him in position. At last Dad’s wrath overcame his judgment, and in his haste he stumbled forward against the table, and gave Barty an opening. Barty flashed through the door like a wallaby. And Dad made a late kick at him, and fell heavily on the floor, and rattled the crockery in the kitchen.

“Dear, Oh dear! Oh dear!” the parson said angrily. And Dad roared—

“You imp of a feller,” and rose and hobbled after Barty. But he might just as well have remained on the floor.

Next day Joe joined Dad, and between them—Joe rattling the hammer on the roof of the new house, and Dad belting slabs into position with the back of the axe—they kept up a great noise. You’d think they were building the Federal capital.

Occasionally Dad, with the axe on his shoulder, would stand some yards off from the building to take observations —just as he would when making a hay-stack.

“How does she look?” Joe would ask, and Dad would answer—

“Capital; it will be a neat little place when it’s finished.”

Then he’d walk round it, and adze splinters from the walls, and ram the loose earth tight against the foot of the slabs with the heel of his boot.

Frequently the neighbours passing by would ride in through the gate, and ask Dad what it was he was putting up, and Dad would tell them, and ask what they thought of it, and invite them to look through it. Most of them smiled, and thought it a very nice place—at least, that’s what they told Dad. But young Regan rode in one day, and sat on his horse, and grinned disparagingly at the new house.

“Well,” Dad said sulkily, “what th’ devil’s th’ matter with you?” Dad had no love for the Regans.

“I wuz jus’ wunderin’,” young Regan answered, “if there wuz anythin’ th’ matter wi’ you; an’ if this is a private asylum y’ puttin’ up fur y’self t’ get into when it’s finished.”

“Look here!” and Dad rushed round in search of a batten, but young Regan had gone before he could secure one from the pile.

Dave and Lily came along one evening, and Dad put down the axe, and showed them over the place. Lily looked inside, and stared at the grass on the ground floor, and the large holes burnt in the partition, and said nothing. Most young wives go into raptures over their first new house; exaggerate its beauty, and do their best to make others believe it’s a grander place than the architect meant it to be. But Lily wasn’t one of those; she hadn’t much enthusiasm in her at all. Dad, though, discoursed volubly about it.

“A strong built little place,” he said, walking from one room to the other. (There were two rooms in the new house.) “And every bit of it’s well-nailed—all new nails, too; an’ it’ll be a queer storm that shifts it, believe me. These holes are nothing,” he went on, putting his foot through one in the partition, and looking at Lily. “Paste a bit of paper over them, or (his enthusiasm increased) you can stand the safe there, and no one will ever see them— you will never know they’re there y’self after a while.” And Dad smiled in admiration of his own originality.

“But won’t there be any floor boards at all?” Lily murmured, with a sickly look at Dave, who was standing gloomily beside her.

Dave looked at Dad.

“It’ll all be done in good time,” Dad said encouragingly, “but y’ can’t do everything at once. All the best houses round the district had ground floors in them when they were first put up. And,” he added, tramping the floor hard with both feet, “this is very solid here, firm as a rock an’ when the grass comes off, and there’s a little sand and cow dung put on—I’ll mix a bucketful to show y’ how it’s done—it’ll be as good as any boards—every bit, and better.”

Lily made an effort to say something, but a lump seemed to stick in her throat.

“Them are fine slabs,” Dad rattled on, drawing Dave’s attention to the walls; “there’s no timber to be got in the country like that nowadays—must be eighteen inches wide, them slabs,” proceeding to span one with his big hand, “fully that,” he concluded, “if not more.”

Dave didn’t say anything. Dad didn’t give him an opportunity.

“Now, then,” Dad continued, turning to the end of the building, “what about a fireplace? Are y’ going to have one, or will we put up a place outside in the front for y’ to cook under?” And he looked hard at Lily.

“Oh—h,” Lily whined feebly, clutching Dave by the shirt sleeve, “we must have a fireplace.”

“Well,” Dad said advisingly, “they’re not always an advantage, you know. In summer they make a room that hot that there’s no livin’ in a place where there’s one; and when the westerly winds are blowin’ in the winter the smoke from some of them would drive a man cranky. I’d never have one in a house meself if I were buildin’ again.”

“Oh—h, what would be th’ good of it without a fireplace?” Lily whined again, appealing to Dave.

“Very well then, very well then,” Dad put in, “it’s you that will have to put up with it—not me.”

“I think it would be better,” Dave drawled, supporting Lily’s idea.

“Orright! Orright!” Dad said, frowning, “I’ll look what timber there is, and if there’s enough we’ll see about it.”

Dad did look some days after, but there wasn’t enough timber.

After walking round the outside of the house in silence, Lily and Dave turned away from it as if it were a morgue they had been inspecting, and left in silence.

When about fifty yards off they turned and took another look at it.



“I thought it was to be a different place to that,” Lily moaned, “and no verandah on it, either!” Then she started to cry, and said she would be ashamed to take anyone to such an ugly den.

Dave began to wake up.

“Well, if you don’t think y’ will like it, Lil,” he said, finding some courage, “I’ll go back, and tell him to knock it down. I ain’t afraid to say so.”

“No, no,” Lily answered, wiping her eyes hurriedly. “I don’t mind now. I don’t care a bit—it’ll do. . . But we’ll get a better one soon, won’t we?”

“Oh, he can’t get out of it,” Dave drawled, “I’ve his word for it.”

Lily was satisfied, and clung lovingly to Dave’s arm, and walked on smiling. But Lily didn’t know Dad then. She knows him a lot better now.

At last the house was finished, and Dad gathered up the tools one evening, and said—

“There, they can go into it now as soon as they like.” Then Dave and Lily pulled down their bed, and collected all the miscellaneous pieces of furniture, and pots and pans and things about the place which Mother said she didn’t want—and a good many things she didn’t say anything at all about—and left us, and took possession of their new home.


Chapter 12
Dave and Lily Start Housekeeping

Dave and Lily, when they shifted into their new house, didn’t give a ball or a party of any kind to commemorate the occasion. They didn’t believe in wasting money; they went straight to work, and put up the bed, and arranged the odd pieces of furniture they had gathered and annexed from our place. Then they sat down and wiped the perspiration off themselves, and looked at one another across the table, and silently contemplated their new surroundings.

“We’ve no rations in yet,” Lily said, after a while, “or I’d put a fire on, and make you a cup of tea.”

Then Dave strolled down to Mother (it was nearly a quarter of a mile from Dave’s house to ours), and procured some tea and sugar, and a bottle of melon jam, and a supply of bread and meat, which he carried back in a flour sack, and dumped down on the table.

“There y’ are,” he said, “make your tea, and we’ll have a feed.”

Hardly a day passed but what Dave made several trips to our place in quest of something or other. If it wasn’t meat or a jug of milk, or the loan of a dish for Lily to bake something in, that he came for, it would be for a few potatoes, or a clothes prop, or the axe to cut a bit of wood with. In fact, every article for use or consumption that they required, Dave came to us for the loan of—even to Bill’s bridle and Joe’s saddle, until there was scarcely anything to be found at our place at all.

“Confound the fellow!” Dad used to break out, when he’d find the hammer or the axe was missing, “why th’ devil doesn’t he bring the things back?” Then he would yell for Barty. And Barty would trudge up to Dave’s place, and ask Dave if he had the axe.

“Yairs,” Dave would drawl from the sofa, where he’d be employed studying an Australian song book, “it’s out there ain’t it, near the woodheap?”

Barty would carefully search for the woodheap first, then for the axe, and finally call out, “Tain’t anywhere here.”

“Isn’t up here at all, then,” Dave would answer, with calm indifference, and proceed to spell over more songs.

But Lily, who had a good memory, would recollect having seen it over near the tree. (The tree was about a hundred yards off.) And in loud shrill tones would inform Barty of its whereabouts. Dave then would remember where it was, too.

“Yairs,” he would call out, “that’s where it is. But bring it back when you’ve done with it. I want it again.”

“He wants it again,” Barty would murmur, when delivering the axe to Dad. And Dad would snort—

“D—n him! . . . . to the deuce with him! . . . . let him get a axe of his own.”

Often Lily would require a few little things for the house, and she’d come along herself, and borrow them from Mother. Frequently it was a needle she would require—the one she had was broke or perhaps it would be a bit of black cotton to patch Dave’s dark trousers with—she always had a good supply of white cotton. Sometimes she had two reels of it—ours and her own. And whenever Lily would come, Sarah would never show out, but when she was gone again, Sarah would emerge from one of the rooms, and say to Mother—

“What in the name of goodness is she after now? That’s the third time this morning.

“Just a little black thread, that’s all,” Mother would answer kindly. “She’s mending Davie’s dark tweeds.” Then Sarah would snigger:

“And isn’t it nearly time? He’s been going about with a big tear in those trousers, I’m sure, for the last fortnight—a thing he never can say he had to do when he was here.”

“I never noticed it,” Mother would put in, seeking to excuse Lily, “and he was here with them on only yesterday.”

“No, of course, you didn’t,” and Sarah would grin wickedly. “He had his coat on.” Sarah had a good eye for seeing things.

But it was humping water that kept Dave more in touch with our place than anything else. Dave was always coming for water; when he wasn’t coming for a bucket of water he was marching off with one. The bucket was rarely out of Dave’s hand. But he might have saved himself a good many trips, though, if he had had a method. But there was never anything methodical about Dave. The wonder is Dave ever was born. Twice a day—when coming in for dinner, and after knocking off at night—he would walk right through our place to get a drink at the tank, and after gulping down two or three pints he’d proceed leisurely home; then come back for a bucketful for Lily.

Rarely did we ever sit down to a meal without hearing someone at the tap. And we always knew it was Dave getting a bucket of water. Dad used to wonder what Dave wanted so much water for.

“Confound it,” he’d sometimes growl, “he’ll have the tank empty soon . . . . why th’ deuce doesn’t he go to the well?”

The well was only about a mile and a-half away, too, but Dave never went near it. Somehow he’d rather draw on us for the last drop of our water than make one trip to the well.

Now and again Lily would give Dave a spell at humping water, and come herself with a small new billy-can; but she only came on washing days. She washed on the same day that Mother and Sarah did, but never at the same hour. She always started later. She used to have to wait till they had finished with the tub. And always when she came with the billy she would enquire when the tub would be available, and tell Mother to give it to Dave when he would be passing through for dinner. Mother always forgot to give the tub to Dave, and he would stroll home empty-handed, and run back for it when Lily asked him where it was.

The tub was a humbug to Dave. And he always had to put his head and whiskers inside it to carry it. He couldn’t manage it any other way, because he always took two buckets of water with him as well. Those were the only occasions when Dave showed any ingenuity. And a beautiful figure he cut, too, hobbling along the track under the tub! People passing down the road used to shout derisively to him, but Dave would never look round.

Joe witnessed Dave’s departure one day, and armed himself with a lot of old potatoes to give him a send-off. And when Dave started to stagger away, Joe struck the tub with a potato, at which Barty guffawed. Dave stopped and swung steadily round like a large vessel turning in a river, and swore inside the tub. Dad came round the corner of the house, and saw Dave and laughed. Dad was in a good humour that day. He had just received a cheque for £240 from the sale of some bullocks.

“Hoo—hoo—hoo!” Dad rumbled, and on the strength of Dad’s merriment Joe aimed another potato at Dave and struck the front of the tub. Then Dad changed his manner. We never knew anyone to change his manner so rapidly and completely as Dad used.

“D—n it!” he roared at Joe, “what th’ devil are y’ wasting good potatoes for? Confound it! Go away, man, and do something.”

And Dave said—

“By heavens! if any of them hits me some o’ you will remember it.” And he swung round again and ploughed up the track, irrigating both sides of it with spray from the buckets as he wobbled along.”

And during washing-days Sarah, though she wasn’t speaking to Lily, kept a close eye on the latter’s clothes line. And when Lily would be hanging out her things, Sarah, from the back verandah, would take stock of them, then go inside, and say to Mother—

“Two shirts of Dave’s, a quilt, a handkerchief and two or three little things of her own is all she put through, I declare; and she’s been all the evening doing that much.”

And when Mother wouldn’t encourage further disparagement of Lily’s labours, Sarah would return to the verandah, and view the line again and soliloquise—

“When y’ had me t’ do it for y’ me lady, you could put out big enough washings, so y’ could!”

Sarah had all the qualifications of a generous woman.

Dave and Lily became accustomed to their new house, and forgot all about its size and shapelessness. Dave began to take a pride in the establishment, too, and in his spare moments dug up some ground in front of the door to make a flower garden. But no flowers ever grew in Dave’s garden. They never got any encouragement to grow. Dave never put any in. And people going in and out of the house paid no respect to the ground that was dug up; they always tramped across it as if it were a grass paddock, till it got flattened down and became harder than it was before Dave cultivated it. Then Dave thought it “wasn’t good enough,” and decided to let it slide.

“It’s no use thinkin’ about it,” he said, “till I get some palings to put round it, and keep the people off.”

Dad put in an appearance one Sunday morning at Dave’s place while Dave was away, watering cows at the windmill.

“Well,” Dad said to Lily, “how do you like the new house, now?”

“It’s alright, Father,” Lily answered contentedly, “except that the door gets jambed a little somehow lately. It won’t shut like it used to.”

“Ha!” Dad said, taking hold of the elegant door he had manufactured from some light slabs, and hung with green-hide hinges, “h’m.” And he shoved it shut with his two hands, and violently dragged it open again; then he got down on his knees, and scratched some of the ground floor away, and blew into the excavation with his mouth, and examined the bottom hinge with both his eyes.

“Bless me soul,” he exclaimed, “no wonder. Someone’s taken the nails out of the hide.”

Lily bent down, and peered over Dad’s shoulder at the hinge.

“No one took them out, Father,” she said meekly; “they must have worked out themselves.”

“Tut, tut,” Dad snarled, “those nails would never work out, woman—I drove them in meself.”

“They must have, though, Father,” Lily persisted humbly.

“Now, ’ow in th’ devil could they?” Dad yelled, jumping to his feet, and facing his “daughter’’ with murder in his eye.

Lily was startled and tottered back against the table, and clutched the edge of it, and stared at Dad. That was the first real taste Lily got of Dad.

“How could they?” Dad repeated. “If they could, then why th’ devil haven’t all of them that I put in the slabs and the rafters and the shingles worked out?”

Dad, glaring at Lily, paused for an explanation.

“I don’t know,” she faltered.

“No, y’ don’t,” Dad shouted, “then I’ll tell y’—because they couldn’t for one thing, and because no one has ever touched them for another.”

Lily stared in silence and confusion at the floor, and wished Dave would come.

“Worked out!” Dad growled contemptuously, turning round to the action of the door again, “rubbish.”

Then after a pause—

“Have y’ got th’ hammer here?” turning the whites of his eyes up at Lily.

“Y—yes, I think—” (Lily paused, and looked nervously about the room). “No, it isn’t,” she jerked out faintly, “you have it at your own place.”

“It’s the first time it’s ever been there, then,” Dad growled “if I were down there, and wanted it a hundred times it would be up here.” And pulling open the door again, he went off to procure the hammer.

But Dad never returned to fix the door. He found Grey waiting for him when he reached his own house, and took him round to show him some young pigs.


Chapter 13
Lily’s Mother Arrives

Lily came one morning and borrowed our pen and ink, and wrote a letter to her Mother.

Dear Mother (it ran), I’ve been expecting to hear from some of yous every day, and I have not got a letter yet. It’s just five munce to-morrer, dear Mother, since we got married, and it only seems like a week. When are you coming to see us. Make up your mind when you come and stay a month. And Cissy could come and stay another month after you go back. I am sure she will enjoy herself. It would be a change for her, and we would be glad to have her with us. This is a real nice place. We have got our own house now, dear Mother, which is ever so much nicer than being in someone else’s, where you never felt you could do what you liked, though they were all very kind and all that, except Sarah, who is Dave’s sister and is getting to be an old maid. But Dave said for me not to take any notice of her, and I never do now. Dear Mother, I have not much news to tell you, and I have Dave’s dinner to get. He is chaff-cutting to-day, and will soon be coming. Dear Mother, there is some very nice people here, and we often have them for company. A Mrs. Pills, whose husband knows Father, lost her baby yesterday, and it is to be buried to-day. The day before it took sick there was nothing whatever the matter with it, but it took convulshuns, and before Mr. Pills could get enough hot water to put it in the poor little thing was dead. It was Mrs. Pill’s first baby too, and everyone about is so sorry over it.

P.S.—Dave is here now, and he has brought some eggs and a young kitten. With love to all at home.
          I remain, dear Mother,
                Your affectionate daughter,
                       LILY RUDD

And in due course Lily’s mother sent an answer, saying she “hoped it would find Lily and Dave quite well and in good health and spirits as it left her at present, thank God,” and accepted the invitation to stay a month, and named the day on which she would arrive at the railway station, and hoped Dave would meet her.

When the day came round Lily was all impatience and excitement. She rose a couple of hours earlier than usual, and began making preparations; decorated the place—nailed bags, and newspaper pictures, and things all over the inside of it. She came to Mother during the morning, too, for some baking soda, and went back, and made a dishful of burnt scones. Altogether, she came to Mother about sixteen times during the morning for one thing and another, and every time told her how pleased she was that “Mother was coming,” and discoursed about her parent’s age and the colour of her hair before it turned gray, and the length of it, and the good teeth she had, and promised to bring her down some evening to see Mother. Lily didn’t tell Sarah anything about her parent, though. Sarah was never present when Lily was about, but Sarah was interested in the old lady’s visit for all that.

Sarah used to listen to everything Lily said, and when the latter had left would drop in with a broom in her hand, and sweep vigorously round Mother where there was no dirt or dust. After putting in a few useless strokes with the broom Sarah would toss her loose hair back, and leaning on the handle remark—

“A wonderful thing, isn’t it—her Mother coming? . . . You’d think no one else ever had a mother.”

But Mother wouldn’t encourage Sarah to ridicule her sister.

Mother had been young herself once, and understood the peculiarities of women. And women’s peculiarities are many and varied—especially young women.

At midday Dave left the chaff-cutting, and yoked a horse in the spring cart to go to the railway station for his mother-in-law.

Dad, on a round of inspection, entered the yard.

“Why, what’s up now?” he asked, staring in astonishment at Dave perched in the cart when he should have been employed cutting chaff.

“Goin’ to the railway for Mother,” Dave said.

“For who?” Dad yelled.

“Mother,” Dave repeated, “she’s comin’ ter-day, didn’t y’ know?”

Dad swung his two hands about as if he were engaged in a hammer-throwing competition, and, hobbling round the cart, looked up hard at Dave from the other side.

“Are y’ mad, feller?” he roared, “why, bless me soul, ain’t y’ Mother in th’ house?” And Dad tried to force a grin.

“Pshaw! I don’t mean her,” Dave sniggered, “me other Mother—Lill’s ol’ woman.”

For a second or two Dad just stared at Dave with all his eyes and mouth. Then—

“Well, if you’ve got so many d— mothers that you’ve got to waste a whole day runnin’ about at their tails with a horse and cart, then the sooner y’ go and work with some of them altogether th’ better.”

Dave was hurt in his dignity.

“By cripes, then,” he growled, “if y’r not careful, I will.” And he drove off.

Dave had to drive to the yard gate, then wheel round, and come down along the fence to reach the road. Dad cut across to intercept him, and, hanging over the wires, yelled—

“Then who’s goin’ to look after my chaff while you’re runnin’ about the d— country?”

You can,’’ Dave shouted, “you’re so beggarin’ smart.” And he rattled on to the road, leaving nothing but dust and wheel tracks behind for Dad to swear at.

While Dave was away at the railway station Lily swept up the ground in front of the new house, and gathered the loose chips and bones and empty tins that were lying about and stacked them in a heap; then she sat back near the door and hummed tunes, and watched the road for signs of the cart’s return.

Towards sundown Dave, with a sinewy, talkative, little woman beside him in the cart, came trotting up to the big white gate.

“Is this the place?” the little woman, who was Dave’s mother-in-law, asked, fixing her small brown eyes in an admiring kind of way on our place with all the fruit trees and barn and outbuildings and yards and haystacks about it.

“Nuh,” Dave said cheerfully, “that’s th’ ol’ chap’s— our’s is the new place further up.” And he swung the whip round his head, indicating pretty well every part of the compass.

Dave’s place, sitting among the grass, was plain enough for Mrs. White to see as they drove up, but the fact didn’t occur to her that it was a dwelling, and she looked over the top of it, straining her eyes at Grey’s big house, the roof of which was just visible in the dim distance. But when Dave suddenly cried, “Woh,” and pulled up in front of his door, and Lily rushed to the wheel to greet her, Mrs. White noticed it was a residence, and her countenance took a turn. It changed suddenly. The look of joyous, lively expectation it had worn all the way from the railway station left it, and she seemed inclined to remain in the cart, as if the drive hadn’t lasted half long enough for her.

Dave, with the air of an advance agent for a circus, hopped out as nimble and light-footed as a goat. You’d think it was the Queen, or Melba, or a gold escort he was in charge of, not his mother-in-law at all.

“Give us a hold of y’, Mother,” he said, extending his big hairy hand to the amazed-looking passenger, “an’ I’ll help y’ out.” (And she looked as if she wanted helping out some, too.) And without uttering a word—without even taking her eyes off the house, Mrs. White scrambled to the ground. Then Lily pounced on her, and hugged her hard and repeatedly, and told her how pleased she was to see her again. And Dave said—

“Look out for y’selves there,” and started the horse again, and drove to the stable to take the brute out of the cart, and left his mother-in-law’s handbag in it.

“You don’t mean to tell me, girl,” Mrs. White said, when Lily took her inside, “that this is the place you’re living in?” And she stared all round with misery and tears in her eyes.

“Well, it is,” Lily answered apologetically, “but you know, Mother, we couldn’t get on very well together in the other house, and this was put up in a great hurry when they were all so busy. But it’s only for a while—Mr. Rudd means to have a real good house built for us soon.”

Mrs. White wrinkled her brow, and stared disparagingly at the inoffensive-looking furniture.

“It’s no place for a man to bring his wife to,” she said warmly, “and I’m sure you’re not happy in it, girl. I’d sooner see you camping under a dray, so I would.”

“But it’s not for long, Mother,” Lily said, with an effort to appear cheerful, “we might be out of it anytime, now.” But Lily’s mother, though weedy-looking and grey, was a stubborn little person, and had some deep-rooted convictions as to what a comfortable dwelling should be like.

“Even if it had been put up well enough,” she snapped, gazing at the coalition roof—a mixture of decayed shingle and kerosine-tin flattened out with a hammer—“it’s not big enough for a pigeon box.”

Then, after lowering her eyes and making further discoveries—

“Dear, oh dear! why there isn’t a board on the floor.”

“Well, I wanted them to put—”

“Lily, it’s a shame,” Mrs. White squealed, interrupting: her daughter, “and if they can’t afford a better house for you to live in than this, then you must come back home. . . . , I never saw such a place. . . . It’s worse than a lock-up—I’d sooner be in a lock-up. . . . . It’s a pig-sty. . . . To take you away from your good home, too, and dump you here in such a kennel! Oh dear, dear, what a sin! (lifting her voice to a shriek). It’s a crime; and if you catch your death of cold in it, my girl, it will be murder . . . . and I’ll tell him as soon as he comes in.” And Mrs. White would have walked up and down, too, she was so angry, but there wasn’t any room for exercising in Dave’s house. Dave’s house wasn’t built for a gymnasium.

“Now, Mother,’’ Lily pleaded, the tears running down her cheeks, “don’t—don’t do that—don’t say anything to Dave about it. It’s not his fault. He has done all he can do. It’s old Mr. Rudd’s.”

“Then I’ll tell him what I think of the house he has put you into—and what I think of him, too!” Mrs. White, screeched, shaking her head angrily. “How would he like to see his own daughter—”

Here Lily heard Dave coming along whistling up the track, and silencing her Mother, hurried to lay the table for supper.

“Well, Mother,” Dave said, bowling in with a broad grin on his bearded face, “what d’ y’ think of our castle?”

The blood rushed to Mrs. White’s cheeks, but she kept down her emotions pretty well, and with a fair amount of composure said—

“Well, I hope you don’t intend to live in it all your life, that’s all.”

“Oh, by Jove, no,” Dave answered with glad assurance, “a new five-roomed place soon—out of the next barley. Th’ ol’ man was talking about it only this morning.”

“Well, I know what old men are, and I’d keep him to it,” Mrs. White said, with another shake of her head, and she said it in a disagreeably pleasant way, too. Mrs. White had a lot of intuition about her. She had never seen Dad in her life, yet she seemed to know the kind of man he was just by studying Dave’s house.

“Well, come on,” Dave said, changing the subject, “and we’ll have something to eat.” And “we” gathered round, and sat at supper, and the meal passed off almost in silence. Dave, never a brilliant conversationalist, was too hungry to talk, and Lily was kept too busy pouring out tea for him to say much, while the odd scraps of furniture and the poverty-stricken appearance of the walls, and the patched roof, with the moon and stars peeping through at her, absorbed most of Mrs. White’s troubled thoughts. Now and then she would glance uneasily from the little broken-down couch on which she sat, to the entrance to the bedroom, which was screened by a dangling sack, as though the solution of some serious problem was agitating her mind—whether she was to seek repose for the night on the couch or under Dave’s bed, or on the top of the house? But she didn’t reveal her thoughts.

Dave finished eating and broke in on the silence.

He said—

“Got another £250 cheque for bullocks this morning, Lil,” and leaned back as if he were Jimmy Tyson, the millionaire.

“Goodness,” Lily answered, opening her eyes in astonishment, “Another £250, that’s £500 the last fortnight.”

“Yairs,” Dave drawled, stooping down and handing the cat a plug of meat on the end of a fork. Then turning slowly to Mrs. White—

“That’s a good price I got, Mother—£500 for sixty three-year-old bullocks, and I’ll have more ready in a month.” Dave’s mother-in-law’s countenance underwent another change; her eyes lit up, and she stared at her son-in-law as though she had suddenly discovered he was an unpretentious millionaire.

“And who’s is all that money?” she asked, to make certain her surmise was correct.

“Oh, ours,” Dave said, “my colonial!” and helped the cat to more meat.

Then Mrs. White stared harder than ever at Dave, and looked around again at the miserable wretched furniture, and smiled an incredulous smile, until Lily thought it proper to make an explanation.

“At least, we don’t get all that money, Dave,” Lily said, looking at her husband.

“Oh, no,” Dave drawled, addressing his mother-in-law— “th’ ol’ man gets it . . . but we all make it, you know . . . . it belongs to the lot of us . . . . when we want anything,” he went on for her general information, “we get it; don’t matter what it is—a horse or a cart; trip to town; beef or rations; a few bob; anythin’. It’s always there. Lil gets what she wants, too, just the same (turning to Lil with a grin). I’m goin’ down in the mornin’ to ask th’ ol’ man for a quid. Wonder what he’ll say?”

“And your father has everything, then?” Mrs. White said, this time with a pained, puzzled expression.

“Oh, yes,” Dave answered, “everything—’cept Lil,” and then he grinned.

But Mrs. White didn’t join in Dave’s joke. She scowled and sat considering hard. And after awhile she looked compassionately at Lily, and said—

“Well, I don’t know where you’re going to put me, child, but I feel quite done up, and must go to bed somewhere or other.”

Lily explained that Dave would sleep on the floor in the front room, and that her Mother could take his place in her bed. Then apologising to Dave for leaving him in the dark she took the lamp, and showed her Mother the way in. Dave, with his boots off, and his feet resting on the table, sat planning the programme for the morrow’s work.

After a while Lily called out—

“Did you take a bag of Mother’s out of the cart, Dave?” Dave reflected.

“Nuh,” he said, “I never.”

“Well, it must be in it yet,” Lily answered anxiously, coming out of the room, “an’ she wants it. Her nightgown is in it.”

“Huh,” Dave grunted, “wish I’d known before pullin’ off me boots. Those coves have had the cart out since, too, gettin’ green stuff for the pigs.”

Then dragging his bluchers on again he trudged off to the shed.

Dave struck a match and searched the cart, but no bag was there. Flaring lights and a lot of noise and rioting going on in the barn attracted him. He went to the door and looked in. Joe was there careering round in the night-dress, and swinging the hand-bag about, while Bill and Tom and Barty laughed and husked cobs, and threw them at him.

“Here,” Dave said indignantly, stepping in and approaching Joe, “I’m looking for that; why couldn’t y’ leave it where it was?”

“Oh,” Joe chuckled, dragging the garment over his hat,, “it’s yours, is it? Is that what you wear when you get married?”

The huskers laughed.

“Do all married coves have to wear them?”

More mirth.

“Never mind,” Dave answered seriously, snatching the long white robe from Joe, and marching off with it over his arm like a coat, and carrying the bag in his hand. And as he went out a cob of corn struck the side of the door in close proximity to his head, scattering grains all around like a charge of shot, one of which stung Dave in the ear.

Dave jumped round.

“Now, who th’ deuce was that?” he said, running his eye over the others.

Bill and Tom dropped their heads between their knees and giggled and husked vigorously. Joe, standing in the middle of the floor, gave a short laugh, and Barty, with a guilty look on his face, rose to his feet, and began looking for openings in the wall.

“You crawler!” Dave said, rushing at Barty, and flogging him round the barn with the ornamental end of the nightdress. Unable to escape, Barty turned in a corner, and stood at bay.

“Fling another o’ y’ cobs at me, will y’?” Dave hissed, slashing again at him.

Barty showed his teeth, and seized hold of the garment, and clung to it. Dave gave a fierce wrench to release it, and all the frills came away with a rip and a tear, and remained with Barty.

“By heavens, you’ve tore it,” Dave said, alarmed-looking, and he paused to examine the damage. Then Barty left the corner with a bound, and bolted for the door; loud boisterous laughter rang after him, and the north and south ends of him were hit hard with cobs and small pumpkins as he dived through into the darkness,

“Did you get it?” Lily asked, as Dave strode in with the habiliment in his hand.

“Yairs, I got it alright,” Dave said, tossing the garment to her.

Lily stared.

“Goodness me, you needn’t have opened it,” she said.

“I didn’t open it,” Dave answered, starting to pull off his boots again, and Lily turned, and went in to her Mother.

“What on earth has happened to it?” Mrs. White exclaimed, “it was rolled in brown paper in my bag. . . . I do declare the dogs or something have been at it.”

“Two-leg-ged d-o-r-g-s,” Dave drawled, planting his big stockinged feet on the table again, and leaning back contentedly. And as he reflected on the episode the humour of it all seemed to strike him, and lifting his voice, he added—

“It wer’ Joe—the geoat! He had it on when I went down.”

And a low rumbling noise, intended for a laugh, came from him.

“Had it on,” Mrs. White shrieked from the bedroom, “my nightgown! . . . Who—why—what? Oh, the savages; take it away, Lily; I wouldn’t have it near me— take it away, child, and give me my petticoat. . . . My gracious me, what kind of barbarians are you amongst at all?”

“Are y’ in, Dave?” a harsh voice called from outside.

Dave recognising it, shouted—

“Come on in, Jimmy . . . what are y’ after?”

And Jimmy Regan, the wild harum-scarum of the district, groped his way in at the door.

“Find a seat somewhere there, Jimmy,” Dave said, hospitably, “light’ll be here directly.”

“Won’t stay long,” Jimmy rejoined, speaking in a loud voice, and leaning against the wall, “got to go round to old Gray yet to see if he’ll stump out the couple of days he owes me brother for thrashing. But what I’ve come for is the loan of a nag. . . . Can y’ lend us one to go to town on to-morrer, Dave?”

Dave required some time to consider, and Jimmy rattled on—

“Saw y’ flyin’ along from the railway this evenin’, Dave, but you were too high up to look my way. . . . Who was the ol’ girl with all the ribbons and things on that you was buckin’ up t’ in the cart?”

Dave shuffled his feet uneasily.

“The thinnest armful I ever see.”

Dave tried to shove the table down to make a noise, but it was built into the ground.

“By heavens, she were a freak. And the way she—’’

But Jimmy was suddenly interrupted.

“What is that brute saying, Lily?” came in shrill tones from the interior of the bedroom.

Dave didn’t wait to hear any more. He sprang to his feet, and kicked over a gin case, which hardly made any noise, either, and groped in the dark for Jimmy, and said quietly—

“Come out ’ere.”

Jimmy followed Dave, and they walked a short distance from the house.

“What th’ devil’s th’ matter,” Jimmy asked, standing and staring into Dave’s face.

“She heerd y’,” Dave answered, in low cautious tones, “dash y’, she heerd everythin’ y’ said.”

“But that weren’t th’ wife’s voice,” Jimmy replied, more mystified than ever.

“No,” from Dave, “it’s me mother-in-law though. Didn’t y’ know it was her I was bringin’ in th’ cart? ’’

Jimmy jumped in the air.

Jimmy was enlightened.

“’Oly!” he exclaimed, stepping back a pace and looking more concerned than ever, “ain’t I put me foot in it? Why didn’t y’ give us a ’int?”

Then Dave, in his own agreeable fashion, excused Jimmy; told him it didn’t matter, and added that he could have the loan of a horse in the morning if he came up for it before the old man was up.

“’Eavens!” Jimmy chuckled, at the sound of Mrs. White’s voice again, “she’s rearin’ yet.” And turning to go away, he said, “I wouldn’t go in there again, Dave, without a gun, for the best horse you’ve got in the paddock, and a billet all the year round.”

Dave grinned in the dark, and without any gun, went inside and faced the music for nothing.


Chapter 14
Lily’s Mother Meets Dad

Tired and all as Mrs. White was, and notwithstanding she shared the best bed in the house, she hardly slept a wink that night, and blamed Dave for her bad night’s rest.

“I never heard such a man to snore,” she said complainingly to Lily in the morning—“the whole blessed night he simply roared and groaned. It was hideous. I don’t know how on earth you stand it, girl.”

“Ah, yes, but he’s always so tired, Mother, after his hard day’s work,” Lily answered, putting on her clothes, “and see how early he goes to the yard. He has always to dress himself by lamplight. But I never notice him snoring much now. He’s not nearly so bad as he used to be.” And she went out to prepare the breakfast.

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. White sighed, and turned over in the bed.

A glorious early autumn morning; the air clear and crisp; all was life and stir at Ruddville; families of cockatoos clambered and chattered up the gully; small birds chirped and “tweeked” from the trees and the fence tops; a stock whip cracked at intervals in the big grass paddock; the horses came galloping and careering in; a mob of cows of every colour gathered at the yard, and a hundred calves were bellowing in the pens.

Mrs. White rose, and went out into the fresh air, and stood studying the scene. At intervals she would turn from the picture that our place, with the green trees and rows of great haystacks about it, presented, to Dave’s grotesque little house, the grim ludicrous aspect of which was accentuated by the light of day, and shake her grey head, and murmur plaintively, “Dear, dear, dear!”

A number of cows that had been milked and released in the yard wandered up and surrounded Dave’s place, sniffing and licking the ground where Lily had thrown the salt dish water. All sleek, well-bred cows, too, with roomy fleshless udders, and Mrs. White was admiring them when Dave staggered up the track, carrying a jug of milk for the breakfast in one hand, a bucket of water in the other, a leg rope, that he was to mend, over one arm, a half coil of wire to make a clothes line out of, round his neck, a billy of ripe tomatoes which Mother brought to the yard for him to give to Lily, in his teeth, and a large crown pumpkin on his head.

“Mornin’, Mother!” Dave said, through his nose, “them’s good milkers,” and he staggered inside, breathing noisily, and unloaded himself.

Dave poured some of the water into a dish, and sluiced himself with it. Then he joined Mrs. White, and rubbing his face and beard hard with the towel to dry himself, said, looking at the cattle—

“You don’t often see cows like them, Mother . . . That’s the little milker (pointing to a red beast): if you had a thousand like her you’d be worth something. Twenty-five quarts a day she’s been givin’ for the last eleven munce, an’ I got her for ten poun’s . . . . Woh, Beauty . . . poor little Beauty . . . . (approaching the brute, and nibbing and scratching her back affectionately). That’s the sort of cow, Mother can milk her anywhere. Know anything about a cow, Mother? (Dave stepped back from the cow, and grinned a learned sort of grin). ’Tain’t everyone does. Th’ ol’ man’s been among cattle all his life, and he can’t tell one yet.” Running his eye through the cattle, “You’d think that one there’d give a good lot o’ milk, wouldn’t y’?” pointing out a strawberry with a low dragging udder.

Mrs. White thought the cow would.

“Well, she don’t give enough to keep a kid,” Dave chuckled. “See that little cow there? (Mrs. White did.) Well, you wouldn’t think that that big brindle bullock just coming up here was a son of hers?” And Dave grinned an admiring kind of grin.

“Break-fust!” Lily called from the house, and Dave, giving his hairy arms a final scrub with the towel, started to lead the way in.

“That’s ‘Th’ Queen,’” he said, “shooing” an old warrior out of the way, as he approached the door. “She’s the cow that poked Mother. . . . I was nearly shooting her, too, for it . . . . th’ ol’ devil.”

They sat down to breakfast, and Dave piled sufficient salt junk and fried potatoes on his Mother-in-law’s plate to satisfy several men. Dave was not a mean man with meat.

“That’s a good bit o’ meat, Mother,” Dave said, munching ravenously himself, “a great little bullock that came off o’.” Mrs. White merely nodded.

“Kill all our own beef, Mother,” Dave went on, with pride in his eye, “them spuds is all our own growin’, too. . . . ’Spose y’ don’t see many spuds like them down your way, eh, Mother?”

Mrs. White remarked that the potatoes they got at Prosperity were very good, indeed.

“Oh, but, though,” Dave enthused, “y’ want to see th’ ones we have in the bottom paddick—they’re whoppers. (Turning to his wife with hunger still lurking in his eye) “Any o’ th’ melon jam left, Lil.?”

Lily produced a pickle bottle half full.

“This is all our own makin’, Mother,” Dave continued, upending the bottle, and raking the contents into his plate with a table knife.

Mrs. White stared at Dave’s plate, then at the empty bottle, but didn’t say anything. She didn’t help herself to any jam, either.

“Well,” Dave yawned, contentedly, rising from the table, and stretching out his arms, which reached from one wall to the other, “think I’ll go down now, and tackle th’ ol’ chap for that pound, Lil.”

“There’s no hurry for it,” his wife answered, carelessly, “I won’t be wanting it for a day or two yet.”

“Might as well get it, and be done with it, though, while I think of it,” Dave replied, and putting on his hat, went off whistling.

“That old man must be making piles of money,” Mrs. White said reflectively, standing at the door when Dave had departed, and gazing again over Ruddville.

“You’ve no idea how much he’s getting, Mother!” Lily said, her cheeks starting to glow with pride of relationship to Dad. “Ninety pounds a month Dave says he gets for milk. I forget what the cheque was he got this year for wheat—whether it was four hundred or five. There was five hundred pounds I know for bullocks, and sixty or eighty for pigs. Then look at all the chaff and other things he sells; and he has ever so much land—I don’t know how many thousand acres.”

“And yet,” Mrs. White sighed, with a gloomy shake of the head, “with all that money this is the kind of place he puts up for his son to live in. What a mean, miserable old vagabond he must be.” And she turned her head, and cast another sickly glance at the interior of Dave’s castle.

Lily turned crimson. Her enthusiasm suddenly left her, and she plunged into the breakfast things to clear them away.

In half an hour Dave returned, but he wasn’t whistling. He was pale as a ghost, and in a violent temper.

“Cripes,” he said, dropping on the couch and striking the table hard with his old felt hat,” “he’s an old dog . . . by Christopher!”

“What on earth has happened?” Lily asked, alarmed-looking.

“Happened? . . . . By cripes! A good job for him he’s not someone else’s father, or something would have happened By the war!”

“Surely to goodness you haven’t been quarrelling over that blessed pound?” Lily put in apprehensively.

“If he offered me ten pounds I wouldn’t take it now,” Dave yelled striking the table again with his hat. “By heavens! he’s a thankless old wretch. . . . By cripes!”

“I wouldn’t take any notice of him, Dave, I’d just—”

“Oh, he’s an old devil!”

“But I wouldn’t have asked him for anything this morning, Dave, if he was in a tem—”

“By cripes, he’ll wait a long time before I’ll ask him for anything again! By holy!”

Then Dave put on his hat, and walked round the house several times muttering “By cripes! By holy!” and when the torrent of his wrath subsided took the coil of wire, and went off to erect the clothes line.

An hour later. Dad appeared. He approached the spot where Dave was struggling with the clothes line, and roared—

“How much more d—time are y’ goin’ to waste up here?”

“That’s old Mr. Rudd,” Lily, terrified-looking, whispered to her Mother, on hearing Dad’s voice.

“Where’s my hat?” Mrs. White cried, glancing hurriedly about the room, with fire flashing from her eyes.

“I wouldn’t go out, Mother, I wouldn’t; he’s in a fearful temper,” Lily pleaded, “now, don’t.”

But Mrs. White snatched up the hat nearest to her, an old one of Lily’s, and out she stepped.

“Is the hay to be left there rotting while you’re idling and humbugging—”

Dad stopped short, and glared round on hearing the voice of a female beside him.

“You’re Mr. Rudd?” Mrs. White said, with a tremor in her voice, squaring herself in front of Dad, and looking up into his angry face.

Dad glowered down at Mrs. White in the way that a bulldog, in the act of worrying something, might turn to contemplate the unexpected presence of a cat.

“I’m Lily’s mother” (throwing a swift glance back at the house, in the open door of which stood Lily with her hands clasped before her).

“Well,” Dad growled, “what if you are?”

“Then I want to ask you if you think that a humpy like that (Mrs. White pointed her lean finger contemptuously at Dave’s house) is a fit place for a woman to live in?”

Dad was astounded. He opened his mouth and eyes, and for a moment or two glared in astonishment.


“Why, what in the devil have you to do with it?” he bellowed, bending down and poking his beard right into Mrs. White’s face.

“A great deal—a great deal—I have everything to do with it,” Mrs. White screeched, stamping her little foot and clenching her bony fists, “and just don’t you think you can frighten me; and don’t you use your low language on me, either. I am that girl’s mother, and if you think any old pig-sty of a place that doesn’t cost you anything to put up is good enough to throw her into, then I tell you it’s like your impudence.”

“Is it your place?” Dad shouted. “Did I put it up for you?

“It isn’t my place, and I wouldn’t have—”

“Then, what th’ devil brings y’ here talkin’ t’ me about it for? Be off with you, woman, and mind your own business.” And Dad threw up his arms to wave her away.

“It is my business, and I won’t be off, not a single inch,” Mrs. White shrieked, stamping her foot again, “when I see the wretched shed that you ask my daughter to live in, it’s my business to tell you that you ought to be well ashamed of yourself, so you ought. Look at it (pointing her finger again at Dave’s house). Look at it—look at the hole you ask her to live in—not a chimney—not even a verandah, nothing but a pile of dirty old slabs and shingles that would never keep out a drop of rain. They’re not even nailed on properly.”

“Get away with your insolence, woman,” Dad broke out, violently. “Confound you!”

“It isn’t fit to house calves in. There’s are hundreds of calf-pens palaces in comparison with it.”

“D— it,” Dad yelled, “clear out with you, or I’ll go and pull the whole thing down.”

“And well you might,” Mrs. White hissed, “and well you might. It wouldn’t be hard. It wouldn’t want much pulling to fetch it down. The wonder is it hasn’t fallen down on their heads long ago. Hooh! the pile of rubbish that it is.”

“Look here,” Dad howled, with indignation and murder in his eye, “do you know whose property this is you’re standin’ on, woman?”

“I know whose property it wouldn’t be if everyone had their own; if your son had his due for all that he has done for you, it would be his.”

“You’re a liar, woman.”

“It would,” Mrs. White shouted, “it would, and you know it. But he hasn’t—he hasn’t anything. You give him nothing. You take everything out of him, and grind and grind him down, and drive him and use him, and starve him, as if he was nothing more than a working bullock to you, and when he dares to ask you for a paltry pound you blackguard him and you abuse him. You do—so you do.”

Whaht?” Dad yelled, jumping into the air, “Whaht!

“You’re not a man,” Mrs. White rattled on, “there’s nothing of the man about you, and you’re not a Christian. You’re a mean, selfish old screw, so you are! You are! You are!” stamping her foot after every “are.”

“To the devil out of this—to the devil with your screaming, you—you—runt of a woman—you—you—tomcat,” Dad howled, placing his big hands on Mrs. White’s shoulders, and shoving her from him, “out of here, or I’ll throw you into the road.”

“Keep your hands off,” Mrs. White shrieked, “keep your hands off o’ me. Dare you strike a woman?” And she turned and lifted a huge gum stick that was lying at her feet, and struck at Dad, and hissed “Cur” and “Coward” at every stroke. Dad foamed and moved backwards for a while, receiving the blows manfully on his uplifted arm.

“D—you,” he said at last, and turned from his assailant with his back humped. Then Mrs. White brought the stick down hard on his shoulders, squealing in accompaniment, “Brute! would you curse a respectable woman?”

Then Dad started to run. And Mrs. White ran, too. she pursued him for twenty yards or more, then gave up, and heaved the stick after him, squealing, “Coward, coward, COWARD!”

Dad didn’t stop or make any attempt to retire gracefully, or under cover of fire. Dad made straight for his own house. Dad had met his Waterloo.

And Dave, who all through the combat had stood open-mouthed, and with awe on his face, expecting every moment to witness a tragic end to his mother-in-law, regarded the result of the encounter with the liveliest satisfaction. He dropped in the grass, and wriggled and chuckled, and scratched and kicked up earth at Dad’s ludicrous retreat.

Mrs. White, pale and perspiring, her fragile frame trembling with excitement and anger, returned to Lily.

“Get me some water, child,” she gasped. “Oh, my gracious!” and she flopped down in a heap on the couch, holding her two hands over her heart. “It’ll kill me, child—I’ll drop—I’ll drop— Oh, that brute of a man to upset me so.”

Lily rushed in with a cup of water, and her mother eagerly swallowed it all up, then lay back on the couch, moaning: “It’ll kill me, oh, it’ll kill me.”

Dad reached the garden in safety, and slammed the hand-gate behind him with violence. He swore at the top of his voice, too, at the dog, and kicked at the brute when it bounded up at him and whimpered affectionately as if congratulating him on his escape. Dad hurried up the steps, and tripped against a rocking chair, and turned and used violent language to it, and booted it along the verandah; and when it didn’t go to pieces, lifted it in his hand, and heaved it into the top of a peach tree.

“Whatever is the matter?” Mother said, coming on the scene.

“Don’t come near me, don’t come near me, woman,” Dad yelled, “I’m in a terrible temper.” And away he hobbled to his room.

Mother followed, puzzled looking, but Dad closed the door, and locked himself in. And for an hour or more nothing but blasphemy, mingled with heavy groans, came from Dad’s room. Dad was a bad loser.


Chapter 15
Dad Holds a Post Mortem

While Dad was sulking in his room a valuable Jersey cow, that had cost us fifteen pounds, tried to jump into the lucerne near the house and got caught in the wires, and hung by the legs straining and kicking and tearing strips of flesh from every limb in her frantic efforts to get free.

Mother ran to Dad’s door, and called out excitedly.

“Let her die there,” Dad bellowed back, “pity they’re not all stuck in it.”

“Oh, dear, dear,” Mother murmured, joining Sarah, who, with the axe in her hand, approached the troubled beast. “She’ll kill herself, she will, and not one of the boys about!”

Sarah hacked at the fence until she severed the wire, then the cow struggled on to her feet, and ran on the lucerne, and began eating ravenously.

Then Dad appeared on the verandah.

“What th’ devil did y’ want destroying the fence for?” he yelled.

“What else could we do?” Sarah answered, angrily.

“You could have undone it,” Dad yelled louder.

“Undone it!” Sarah sneered, “why didn’t y’ come then and undo it y’self.”

“You hussy, if you give me any impertinence.” Here Dad, with a determined stride, moved towards the steps as though he meant to descend and swallow Sarah, axe, and all, but when half-way down he stopped, and waving his hand, roared—

“Are y’ going to leave her there to bust herself on the confounded lucerne?”

Sarah ran round the cow, and drove her out, and proceeded to barricade the gap in the fence with some sticks that were lying about. Then Dad, growling to himself, returned to his room and locked himself in again.

Half an hour later. Willie Wiley, McDonald’s orphan boy, rushed on to the verandah in a state of excitement.

“Where’s Mr. Rudd?” he said to Mother. “They wants him at Walker’s. Sam Walker has hung hisself with a leg-rope.”

“Hung hisself?” Mother and Sarah exclaimed in the same breath.

“Yes, hung hisself,” Willie gasped, “just now—this mornin’.”

“Oh, his poor wife!” Mother moaned.

“And they’re not three months married!” Sarah sighed.

“They wants Mr. Rudd to come quick,” Willie added, “’cause he’s hangin’ yet.”

“Oh, gracious me!” And Mother hurried to Dad’s room again.

“What has it to do with me—what do I want with him?” Dad howled, “let him hang . . . the devil take him —pity there wasn’t some more hangin’ with him.”

Mother pleaded through the keyhole with Dad, and reminded him that he was a justice of the peace.

“To th’ devil with the justice of the peace,” Dad shouted. “I don’t know what on earth’s come over the man,” Mother groaned, returning to the verandah.

Then she sent Sarah down the paddock to summon one of the boys.

“Who is it wanted me?” Dad growled, coming from his room at last.

“They want you over at Walker’s,” Mother explained quietly, “the poor man has hanged himself with a rope.”

“The best thing that could happen him,” Dad grunted, descending the steps slowly, “the best thing.”

At the garden gate he loitered a while, then glancing along the lucerne paddock fence, called out—

“Is that panel fixed up?”

Mother said that Sarah had seen to it.

“Seen to it!” Dad shouted, “those bits of sticks wouldn’t keep a hen out. Tell some of those fellows when they come in to mend it properly.”

“Very well, very well,” Mother answered, and Dad directed his steps towards Walker’s.

He had hardly covered ten yards of the way when his restless eyes settled on the new spring cart standing in the glaring hot sun.

“D—it all,” he muttered, snapping his fingers, “confound it, look at that!” and he hurried back to the garden fence, “Who th’ deuce left that cart out there?” he roared. Mother hadn’t the slightest idea.

“Well, tell them to put it in, or I’ll put a stop to them touching it at all.”

Mother said she would.

Dad, grunting, turned away again and tripped over a long-handled shovel lying in the grass.

“The deuce take those devils of fellows! . . . . Who left this here?” he howled.

Mother looked puzzled.

Then Dad lifted the implement and heaved it savagely into the garden, and broke the handle against a peach tree.

“If they had to do their work without implements at all,” he grumbled, “they’d know how to look after things better than they do,” and again he headed for Walker’s.

As he passed out the big white gate little Mary Murphy, barefooted, and picking her way tenderly through the prickly tufts of dead Bathurst burr strewn over the hard road, shyly accosted him.

“Please, Mr. Rudd,” Mary said, glancing up timidly from beneath a large calico bonnet, “me mother says would you oblige Father with a lend of th’ spring cart to go to town in to-morrer?”

“No, I won’t—I’ll lend no spring cart. D— th’ spring cart,” Dad blurted out, “I didn’t buy it to lend round th’ country.” Then he went on again, leaving Mary standing on the road with her head down and her finger in her mouth.

When about fifty yards from the gate a thin voice screeched after Dad—

“Keep your dirty old cart!”

Dad jumped round, and saw Mary, regardless of bare feet and Bathurst burr, running for dear life.

When Dad arrived at Walker’s farm quite a crowd of sad helpless-looking spectators had gathered in sympathy there.

“What’s up?” Dad asked abruptly, pushing his way through them like a policeman.

“Sam’s thrown his sponge up,” young Regan answered,, pointing to the body dangling in the doorway of the shed that served as a dairy. “Slipped his win’.”

The others grinned mournfully at Regan.

Dan contemplated the grim spectacle in silence for a moment or two, just as he might have regarded a sheep on the gambol.


“Made a nice picture of himself,” he growled, and taking off his hat, poked his head in between the hanging body and the door post to survey the interior of the dairy.

Dad was more interested in milk dishes than he was in suicides.

“Will I cut him down?” young Regan asked, advancing to the hanging form with an open pocket knife in his hand, “ought to be nearly time now.”

“Not at all,” Dad yelled, authoritatively. “Leave him where he be until the police come, unless y’ want t’ be suspected of havin’ a hand in it.”

“Supposin’ th’ chap ain’t dead, but—?” Regan persisted.

“Well, supposin’ he ain’t,” Dad answered, “it won’t make any difference. He’ll have to hang there just the same; it’s the law.”

“A law I don’t see much sense in, then,” the other sneered, closing his knife with a look of disappointment.

“No, of course, y’ don’t,” Dad replied, “you wouldn’t see any sense in being hanged y’self if y’ killed a man, would y’?”

Then Dad grinned triumphantly on the crowd, all of whom grinned in turn at Regan’s discomfiture.

Regan said, “Rot,” and slunk away.

Then Dad, seeing Mrs. Walker grieving beside the water cask, approached her. Dad didn’t put his arms round Mrs. Walker. He didn’t condole with her, either, or offer her any words of encouragement at all. Dad was present in his official capacity.

“What put it into his head to play th’ fool like that?” he asked, pointing to the corpse.

Mrs. Walker couldn’t offer any reason for the deed at all.

“Sure y’ wasn’t naggin’ at him,” Dad said, sternly, “like all of y’ do?”

“No, no,” the woman sobbed, “my husband was fond of me—he always said he loved me so much.”

“Yes,” Dad mumbled, turning away from her, “it looks like it, doesn’t it?”

Then giving final injunctions to all present not to interfere with the body or anything about the place till the police arrived, Dad said he’d “send a wire,” and retraced his steps home.


Chapter 16
Dad Relents

For two days after his encounter with Mrs. White Dad was unapproachable. He moped on the verandah, sulking and brooding like a bear with a bad head. If you went near him or ventured to ask him anything he’d break into violent language and roar at you to clear “to the devil.” But one evening he went for a short walk, and after returning, cooled down, and took Mother into his confidence. They talked about Dave’s house.

“Well, it’s not a good enough one for them, Father,” Mother said, persuasively, “not nearly—not when we have so much money, and you can so well afford to pay for a better one.”

“Very well, then, very well,” Dad said, “they can have whatever they like. It makes no difference to me. The carpenters at Gray’s will be finished there in a day or so, and I’ll see what they’ll put one up for.”

“A four-roomed house,” Mother suggested, “with a verandah all round would be good enough.”

“Whatever they like,” Dad answered, “whatever they like. They can have a ten-roomed one for all I care.” Mother smiled at Dad, and said—

“And what you should also do, Father, is to allow Dave, now that he is married, something a week, and let him keep his wife and his own house out of it. It would be more satisfactory for them.”

Dad conceded cheerfully to Mother’s suggestion.

“If he’d rather it that way, certainly. Why not? He could have had it long ago if he’d said so. It would have been all the same to me.”

Then after reflecting—

“What’ll we give him?” Dad’s generosity was running away with him.

“Thirty shillings a week, or two pounds, would be enough,” Mother suggested.

“Give him two pounds, or two pounds two,” Dad answered.

Mother smiled again.

“Yes, make it two pounds two,” and Dad rose, and was walking up and down the verandah, when suddenly he gave a loud roar.

“Confound it,” he exclaimed, coming to a standstill, “confound it.”

“Whatever is the matter?” Mother said, staring after Dad.

“Bless my soul!” and Dad started walking fast.

“What on earth is wrong, man?”

Mother followed Dad along the verandah with an alarmed look on her face.

“The devil take it,” stopping and swinging his clenched fist about, “the devil take it . . . . that wire,” and Dad snapped his fingers, and looked at Mother; but to Mother Dad was unintelligible.

“ Are y’ going crazy, man?” she asked.

“I forgot to send it, woman—to send it to the police.”

Mother understood.

“Oh, dear, dear!” she moaned, “th’ poor woman. Oh my! And all this time!” and Mother looked reproachfully at Dad.

“Tom, Tom!” Dad bellowed through the house. Then turning to Mother—“And the fools, I suppose, have left him hangin’ there all this time. . . . Bill, Bill!’’

To Mother again—

“They wouldn’t have sense enough to cut him down, I suppose. . . . Tom . . Bar-tay . . Bill!

But there was no response to Dad’s yells.

“Where th’ devil have they got to at all?” he raved. “Bill . . Tom!

Joe, with a tired walk, strolled in from the paddock where he had been ploughing all day.

“Why th’ deuce ain’t some o’ you about when you’re wanted?” Pad yelled to him.

Joe stared wonderingly at Dad, then broke into a smile. “Don’t stand there grinning like a wild cat,” Dad roared, “get a horse, fellow, and go to the railway and send a telegram for the police at once.’’

“Police?’’ Joe answered, puzzled-looking, “what th’ deuce do you want with the police?”

“Confound it, get the horse,” and Dad threw out his two arms and stamped his foot at Joe.

Joe continued to smile.

Pshaw, you eejit, will you stand there all day.”

“That poor man,” Mother put in for Joe’s information, “is still hanging.’’ And there was a pale, piteous look in Mother’s face.

Joe gave a short snigger.

“Bah,” he said, “we buried him days ago,” and he turned away.

Wha-at?” Dad yelled, breaking into a fresh fit of frenzy, and hobbling after Joe. “Wha-at! .... Buried him? Who dared to? Who told y’ to?”

“Hang it, I did meself,” Joe snapped, turning and facing Dad again.

You did? . . . you meddled with the law? You eejit; you—you—do you know—”

“Look here,” Joe said, interrupting Dad, “I think you’d better send a wire for a warder; that’s what y’ want.” Then he left Dad, and went off to feed the horses.


Chapter 17
Dad Forgets the Past

“I think you’re a good deal to blame, y’selves,” Mrs. White said, when Lily and Dave told her of Dad’s generosity; “I do, indeed; and I really believe you’d have had a good house from the very beginning if you had only had the courage to stick out for it.”

“It takes you to talk to him, Mother,” Dave drawled, in cheerful admiration of his mother-in-law.

“And so could you talk to him—so could anyone if they had a bit of go in them,” Mrs. White snapped. “After all, I believe your father’s the best man of the lot of you. He’s only what you’ve all made him.”

Dave grinned a hard, senseless sort of grin, and mumbled—

“Well, I dunno.”

“But I do know,” his mother-in-law retorted, “anyone with half an eye would know.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” Lily put in pleasantly, “we’re to get a good house and an allowance, and that’s everything, Mother.”

“Yairs, that’s th’ main thing,” Dave said, and went off for a bucket of water.

Sarah was the only one who disapproved of Dad building another house for Dave and Lily.

“I don’t know what they want with a place like that,” she said, when Dad at dinner, one day, was boasting of having let the contract for three hundred pounds; “th’ one they’re living in ought to be quite good enough for them.”

Mother made an effort to console Sarah, but Sarah was a hard girl to silence when she felt she had a grievance.

“I don’t know,” she sneered, tossing the spoons recklessly into the cups, and making a lot of unnecessary noise with them, “some people seem to be able to get anything they want, while others can’t get anything at all, no matter what they do for it.”

“What’s up with you—what th’ deuce do you want now?” Dad said, savagely.

“There’s a great many things I want, but I don’t seem to be able to get any of them.” And Sarah flashed her eyes on Dad.

“Well, what ’n th’ devil are they?”

“P—plenty (here Sarah broke into tears)—I’ve not had a d—de—(sobbing)—decent dress that I could go out in f—f—for I don’t know w—w—when.”

“God bless my soul,” Dad roared, “what the deuce do I know about your dress?”

“Don’t be silly, girl,” Mother said, soothingly to Sarah.

“And the sah—sah—saddle I’ve got to ruh—ruh—ride in, guh, guh—go and look at it—”

“Go and get yourself a better one, then,” Dad bellowed, “confound it, do you think I carry everything about in my pocket with me?”

Again Mother pleaded with Sarah.

“Others can guh—guh—get houses,” Sarah blubbered, “and—”

“To th’ mischief with you,” Dad yelled desperately, and lumped up and bolted from the table.

In less than a week the carpenters had the timber on the ground, and once more a new house was going up for Dave. Dad used to leave the yard or the paddock, or wherever he happened to be, about twenty times a day, and stroll up to see how the building was getting along. And he’d yarn and stare about, and examine nails and putty and things lying around, and get in the way of the men and keep them back.

“I used to do a bit of carpenting myself once,” Dad said boastingly to the contractor one evening; and the contractor, a quiet man with hard immovable features, said—

“Yes, I saw you putting up that place there,” and he pointed with a chisel to Dave’s little gunyah.

“Yes—yes—quite so—quite so,” Dad answered, colouring a little, “but I only meant that to stand till this one went up.”

“Well, I think it’ll do that” the contractor said quietly, “unless the wind happens to rise within the next few weeks.”

Then Dad cleared his throat, and went away to attend to the cows. Dave’s humpy was a subject which Dad didn’t care to discuss much with strangers.

“Well, how y’ enjoyin’ y’self?” Dad said cheerfully, saluting Mrs. White, who was standing in Dave’s doorway one afternoon.

Mrs. White nearly fell down with surprise, and before she could recover control of her feelings Dad had invited her to come and look at the new building.

“Come on,” he said, “come on, I want to show it to you.”

Mrs. White, in her haste to secure a hat, fouled Lily, and knocked a dish of cream out of her hand, and forgot to apologise or pick any of it up.

“I think you’ll like it,” Dad said, proudly, as they stepped across the grass.

Tears came into Mrs. White’s eyes, and her breath seemed to leave her. Dad’s magnanimity was too much for her.

“There y’ are,” he said, indicating the frame work with a sweep of his hand, “there’s th’ bedroom, and this here is where they’ll eat.”

“It’ll be lovely,” Mrs. White said, gazing round, “and I’m sure they should be grateful to you, Mr. Rudd.”

“S’ long as they’re satisfied,” Dad said, in an off-handed sort of way, “I am; it don’t matter a straw to me.”

Then, taking up the plans, he explained the architecture of the building in detail; and, in the interests of convenience, Mrs. White suggested several alterations, all of which Dad, though he didn’t exactly see the sense of them, readily accepted, and he instructed the contractor to carry them out, and raised consultations and angry discussions amongst the men.

“When are y’ going away?” Dad enquired, on taking leave of Mrs. White.

Mrs. White thought she wouldn’t be going home for a few days—“not till Saturday.”

“Well,” Dad said, “come with us to the races to-morrow, and on Saturday morning I’ll drive you to the railway station in the buggy.”

And that night, while Mrs. White at tea eulogised Dad to Dave and Lily, and said he was a “fine old man,” Dad, at our table, spoke of no one but Mrs. White, “A splendid woman,” he said, “a woman of the world—a woman with a business head, believe me.”


Chapter 18
The Races

The milking was over, and we were all preparing to start for the races. Joe and Tom and Bill and Barty rode and led Honeysuckle. Honeysuckle was a racehorse. She was also a mare—a very fast mare, too— so Joe reckoned. We bred her ourselves. We bred her mother also, and her grandmother. Dad used to plough with her grandmother.

Dave and Lily were to drive in the sulky, and Mrs. White was to occupy a seat in the buggy. When Sarah heard that Mrs. White was to go in the buggy, she went cold on the races, and became disagreeable. She said she had a good mind not to go at all. Mother remonstrated with Sarah, and told her not to be foolish. Mrs. White, Mother thought, was a nice little woman. Mother had met Mrs. White at Dave’s place one evening, and made friends with her.

“There’s no room in the buggy as it is,” Sarah snapped, “and I don’t see where you’re going to put any more. It’s a wonder Dave and his wife isn’t poked into it, too.”

“Let her sit on my knee,” Dad suggested, cheerfully.

“Well, she won’t sit on mine, that’s one thing,” and Sarah threw her new hat recklessly on the table, and knocked several flowers out of it.

“Ah,” Dad exclaimed as Dave appeared conducting Mrs. White up the stairs, “here she be now.”

And Mrs. White, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, tripped in as light and airy as a magpie. She shook hands with Dad and Mother, and was introduced to Sarah and Miss Grey. Miss Grey was Sarah’s guest, and she, too, was to have a seat in the buggy.

An effusive talker was Mrs. White, and when she entered into conversation with Sarah, which she did by making complimentary remarks about the latter’s new hat, and let her eloquence loose on skirts and blouses and bonnets and things, Sarah was dazzled. She felt herself curling up like a piece of green bark, and all her antipathy to Dave’s mother-in-law disappeared. Sarah bobbed and nodded her head, and said, “Yes” and “No” to everything Mrs. White said.

“Well, we’ll get along!” Dad said, and leading the way to the buggy, he began handing the ladies in.

“Do you think it will hold us all?” Mrs. White asked, with an amused look at the crowded vehicle, as she paused with her foot on the step.

“Oh, this is nothing,” Sarah said, “it carried ten of us to the picnic at Easter, besides baskets and all kinds of things.”

Mrs. White was satisfied, and up she climbed, and wedged her frail form in between Sarah and Miss Grey, and nearly shoved them over the edge, and away the buggy rolled.

“Be a big day,” Dad remarked, enthusiastically, as his eyes rested on a crowd of horsemen tearing down the lane. It was always a “big” day at the Saddletop Races, and mostly a long one. Sometimes it lasted for forty-eight hours, sometimes for a week. And if it wasn’t for the shearing or milking it would often have lasted all the year. The sport always commenced early in the day, too. It commenced as soon as those who had horses to ride got outside their sliprails. And nearly all of them had horses. Those who hadn’t, owned animals similar in their habits, but shaped like cows. And they would race one another on them for miles, and at every junction in the road, and there were many, where the inhabitants of Empty Gully and Crow’s Nest and Bandy Andy joined in, fresh flutters and “finishes” followed, till like an army of lunatics let loose on quadrupeds, they streamed on to the unfenced course.

“Hurry up, we’re waiting,” the Committee shouted when Dad arrived, and drew up under a tree. Dad waved his whip to them in response, and got out. Dad’s presence was important. Dad was to be the judge. Dad was a good and just judge, too.

“Have a drink before we commence,” Mulrooney said, and Dad, along with Mulrooney, and eight or ten others, went and had one. Before coming away they had two.

Four events were run, and there was only one accident; a boy fell off in one race, and was carried away on a hurdle.

Everyone was full and merry, and the sports were going off delightfully.

“Saddle up for the Empty Gully Handicap!” they called out, and Joe and Bill and Tom became active. They tightened the girths round Honeysuckle, and lifted Barty into the saddle. Barty took some lifting, too.

“Now remember what I told y’,” Joe said, warningly, referring to some injunction he had been drumming into Barty for several weeks past, as to “getting way at the jump and keeping the mare on the posts.” But Barty didn’t hear Joe—Barty was thinking of the boy who had been taken home on a hurdle; and, crouched in the saddle, and holding the mare with a short rein as he walked her slowly to the starting post, he looked the embodiment of caution.

Dad took his place in the judge’s box. The judge’s box was made of a gin case. But Dad didn’t get inside the case. He stood right up on it. Two “spielers” from town, who had a horse called Cardigan running, lifted their voices, and shouted, “Two to one, Cardigan,” and “Ten to one, Honeysuckle.” Joe and Bill and Tom put their heads together, and held a hurried consultation.

“Ten to one, Honeysuckle,” the spielers yelled repeatedly.

“Take ’im,” Bill urged, excitedly, as Joe thoughtfully contemplated a new half-sovereign that nestled in the palm of his big hand.

“Suppose she don’t win?” Joe murmured, with a faraway look in his eye.

“How can she lose?” Bill asked.

“What if she do?” from Tom.

“Well, I’ll drop me half quid,” and Joe turned the coin over affectionately again.

There was a false start, and Barty, hanging well out over Honeysuckle’s neck, raced up the straight as far as the winning post, then pulled up, and walked the mare slowly back again.

Mother became alarmed at sight of Barty, and from the buggy called warningly to Dad that the boy would get killed.

“Ten to one, Honeysuckle,” the spielers called again, and Joe and Bill and Tom held another consultation.

“Well, put five bob on,” Tom said; and Joe looked at the coin once more, then pushed his way to the “book, maker,” and made a wager.

Several of the spectators applauded Joe.

“Good man, young Rudd,” they said, “good man.”

They seemed to take Joe for the Jubilee Plunger. And old Jim Mahoney, a friend of Dad’s, spurred his horse close beside the spieler, and with a savage glare in his eye, said—

“Here, I’ll take five bob wid you, too, on the mare,” adding as a sort of proviso, “An’ if you attimpt to lave th’ course widout payin’ me, me shaver, I’ll break every bone in y’ body.”

The crowd laughed, and turned to watch the horses.

Another false start, and Barty, all on his own, sailed past the winning post again.

“Oh, dear, dear, look at the child!” Mother moaned, and Mrs. White shared Mother’s apprehensions. Mrs. White said she would “never, never, let a son of hers risk his life in a horse race—not for a million of money.” And she made Mother ill.

Joe ran out, and took hold of Honeysuckle by the head to lead her back to the starter.

“Hold on, bhoi,” Mahoney cried, kicking his old horse out of the crowd, and brushing up beside Barty. “Take this wid you, an’ give me that switch you have,” shoving a heavy lump of cow-hide that he used as a riding-whip into Barty’s hand, and relieving him of a quince stick which Joe had armed him with. “And here put this on your feet,” and he removed an old iron spur from his boot, and buckled it to one of Barty’s. And Barty, his eyes all agog, his hands trembling, and beads of perspiration rolling off him, was scarcely conscious of what was going on.

The horses drew into line again, with Barty on the outside.

“D—it, keep out a bit,” the rider of Cardigan yelled viciously at Barty. Barty felt for the reins to “keep out.”

“Go!” the starter said, and away they all went—all but Honeysuckle. She stood broadside on. But Barty soon shifted her. He hit her with the hide, and she bounded off, and followed the others, Barty heeling and flogging her all the way up the straight. Barty heeled and flogged her all the way round the course.

Joe and Bill and Tom dropped their heads and took no further interest in the race. They seemed disappointed in their brother as a jockey. But Dad kept his eyes on his son all the time.

“Cardigan! Trance! Cardigan!” the crowd yelled as the horses turned into the straight.

“By damn, look at the mare!” Mahoney cried, excitedly, as Barty belted her past one or two of the stragglers.

“She’s coming, no mistake of it!” Dad shouted, and from the top of the gin case he started working his hands and helping Barty to ride the mare.

Then came a loud burst of “Cardigan!” “Trance!” “Trance!” “Dead heat!” And the horses flashed past the box.


The rest of Dad’s remarks were drowned in an angry howl of dissatisfaction.

“Stand back, and let the judge decide,” one of the committee shouted.

The mob stood back and waited.

“Five pounds to nothing Cardigan won by a nose,” one of the spielers bellowed, shoving five sovereigns into Dad’s hand. Dad closed on the gold in an unconscious sort of way, and began to address the crowd—

“Well, upon my soul, I couldn’t say any more than the rest of you,” he said, “I was watching Honey—”

“A—swindle! . . . Thieves! . . . Robbers!” they yelled, jumping in the air, and someone kicked the gin case from under Dad’s feet, and he fell heavily on his back. Then there was bloodshed. Old Mahoney, who was Irish, plunged his horse into the thick of it, and everywhere he saw a bare head he hit at it with a stick. Six or seven men, with torn shirts and roaring like wild animals, surrounded Mahoney, and dragged him off his horse, and got him down, and hit and kicked at him. And in turn they were knocked down and kicked by some more who rushed in to take a hand.

Dad defended himself with the gin case. Dad fought with the gin case until all he held in his hand was a scrap of painted pine—until Mother and Sarah and Mrs. White, screaming frantically, gathered round him and pulled him into the buggy. Then Mother took charge of the reins, and whipped up the horse, and they left the course.

“It’s nothing,” Dad said, striving to make light of the riot, and mopping blood and perspiration off himself as the buggy reached the road— “nothing at all.”


Then Dad suddenly became conscious of the sovereigns that were glued to his clammy palm.

“Now, where’n th’ devil did I get these?” he said, glaring in surprise at the gold. But none of the females were interested in money just then. They were all offering up prayers for having escaped with their lives, and loudly declaring to Providence that they would never be seen on a racecourse again as long as they lived. And they never were.

When Saturday came round Dad put the horse in the buggy again, and called for Mrs. White. And as they rattled away and passed out through the big white gate, Lily, standing at her door beside Dave, waved her apron, and shed tears.

“No one would ’a expected to see that a few days ago,” Dave said, thoughtfully. Then they both turned away, and went inside.


Chapter 19
Norah Comes Home

It was twelve years since we had seen Norah, and ever since she had been removed from Cooktown to Brisbane we had been looking forward to her home-coming. Sandy and Kate with a cart load of their offspring, drove over from Sandy Creek to be present when Norah would arrive, and Dave and Lily, when the day came round, closed their house and came to our place after supper.

We all sat up and watched the clock, and listened eagerly for the rattle of the buggy. Mother was all impatience and excitement, Dad restless and silent. Sarah hustled in and out, arranging and disarranging things in the sitting room, and supplying her own room, which Norah was to share, with new towels and linen, and goodness knows what. At regular intervals Kate, when her offspring grew sleepy and started whimpering, would silence them with the warning that their “Aunty Norah was coming.” And how the youngsters would brighten up! They expected big things from their Aunty Norah. But as the clock went round they seemed to lose confidence in her, and would whine harder than before. And Dad, when we would prick our ears, and say “Listen!” couldn’t hear for the noise, and he’d scowl at the bellowing brats, and yell “Damn it!” Then Sandy would lean forward from his place on the sofa, and stare reproachfully at poor careworn-looking Kate, and inquire what it was they wanted. Sandy was a sensitive parent, and didn’t like any of his family to be thought a nuisance in another’s house.

“They want a good slap,” Kate would snap, “that’s what they want, the whole lot of them. They’ve been like that the whole day long.”

Then Sandy, with the feeling that he had done his duty as a fond parent and husband, would lean back contentedly, and eye the clock again.

“There they are!” Dave exclaimed, when at last all the dogs started barking vigorously in chorus, and rushing in the direction of the white gate.

“That’s them,” Sandy added, and up we all jumped, and rushed out into the dark.

“Hello!” Joe cried from the buggy, “did y’ think we were lost?”

Then down the steps all of us went (all but Sandy and Lily—they had never met Norah, and hung back), and crowded round the wheels of the buggy, clamouring “Norah! How are y’, Norah? Hello, Norah!” And before her feet had hardly touched the ground, Mother and Sarah and Kate were all holding her and hugging her. And when Dad and Barty and the rest of us had groped for her, Mother and Sarah and Kate renewed the attack and hugged her some more. Ah, it was grand to see the reception Norah got! It made some of us long to be made school-teachers, and to go far away from home, and to come back again after a lot of years.

One after the other we trooped into the dining room, and in the lamplight stared long and closely at Norah to see if she had altered at all, and what she was like. But none of us would ever have known her—not even Mother; she was nothing like the Norah we used to know—nothing like the Norah who used to run bareheaded and barefooted about Shingle-hut, and straddle old Bess without a saddle, and use the stockwhip on her like a man. Ah, no! Norah had changed since then. She had graduated. Norah was a city woman now—an old maid, with fine-fitting clothes, and jewellery glistening all about her. She wore a gold chain as long as a leg rope, looped round her neck, and two gold bangles on each arm, and numerous gold rings, with all kinds of coloured stones in them, on her fingers, and a gold comb like a piece of a rainbow in the back of her hair, and gold pince-nez on her nose; and when she smiled she showed a lot of gold in her teeth. Altogether, Norah looked like a valuable gold mine.



“My word,” Mother said, as Sarah hurried Norah away to the bedroom to take her hat and things off, “there’s a lady for you! And she’s second head teacher!” Ah! yes! Mother was proud of her talented daughter.

“Well, me an’ Lily haven’t been introduced yet,” Sandy drawled, grinning sheepishly across the room at Dave’s wife.

“So they haven’t!” Kate ejaculated, grieved looking.

“Well! Well! Well!” And Mother clasped her hands together sorrowfully, and looked apologetically at Lily, and then at Sandy. “But why didn’t you speak to her yourselves?”

“It’s all right, Mother,” Sandy answered, lightly, “there’s plenty of time—wait till she comes over to spend a day or two with us among the wallabies.” And Kate laughed at the humour of her husband.

Sarah and Norah returned to the dining room—Norah with a solemn face and a stately step, and carrying herself as though she were entering a church, or being received at Government house.

“You haven’t met Sandy, Norah,” Mother said, “we quite forgot.”

“Hello, Norah,” Sandy responded, advancing in his shirt sleeves and a broad grin, and with his hand extended.

“How d’ you do?” Norah said, bowing stiffly, and giving Sandy the tips of her fingers to squeeze.

Sandy stared. Sandy was taken aback a bit.

“Pretty middlin’,” he stammered—“how’s yerself?” And he knocked over a chair, and stood on the cat, getting back to his corner.

“And this is Lily,” Mother added, turning to Dave’s wife.

“Oh—h,” Norah said, bowing and smiling coldly across the room at her sister-in-law.

Lily started to cross the floor, but hesitated when she received no encouragement from her new relation, and went different colours.

“How do you like living at Saddletop?” Norah asked formally.

“I—I like it,” Lily mumbled, dropping down on the sofa beside Dave.

Then it was Dad’s turn.

“Well,” he said, running his eye over Norah’s finery, “what sort of a trip did you have coming up?”

“De—light—ful,” Norah answered, seating herself at the table, and displaying her bangles. “It was a most enjoyable time. We had Dr. and Mrs. Winchester, and the Honourable J. C. Bigbelt and his two daughters, in our party, and Mr. Peter Penny, who is studying for the Bar. And the author of ‘Boughs and Brambles’ got into our carriage at Ipswich—a most unassuming young fellow. It was a perfect treat all the way up. The doctor is such a gentleman, and the Misses Bigbelts are the most charming girls imaginable —especially Miss Mary —she’s an ex-cellent conversationalist —really wonderful. Oh, I’d love you to meet her—” looking at Sarah.

Dad scratched his head, and said, “Huh.” Mother simply beamed on Norah with pride; Sandy sat stolidly staring at her; Lily curled her lip, and stole a meaning glance at Dave; Kate eyed her as though she seemed to doubt her sister’s identity.

“They weren’t proud, then?” Sarah said, growing interested in Norah’s acquaintances.

Norah shrugged her shoulders, and rolled her eyes about and said:

“Well, of course, they’re all very well-to-do people, you know.”

Sarah knew.

“Do you ever see Bill Smith down there?” Dad broke in.

Norah seemed perplexed, and threw up her eyebrows, and rolled her eyes about again—

“The Honourable J. F. Smith?” she queried.

“No—damn ’im—Bill Smith, who gave up his selection at Shingle Hut, and went to Brisbane eight year ago to drive a ’bus,” Dad grunted.

Sandy and Dave chuckled.

“I don’t suppose I would know him,” Norah answered.

“What? Old Smith? Why all the dogs knows him.”

“Ha! ha! ha! Ho! ho! ho!” from Dave and Sandy; and some of Kate’s offspring wished to share their parents’ boisterous mirth, but Kate shook them, and whispered warningly, “Sh’, Tommy! . . . Ellen!” and they desisted like good children.

Kate and Lily exchanged smiles on the quiet, and Dad grunted several times, and looked at the clock, and told Barty to go out and see if there were any clouds about.

Mother and Sarah then engaged Norah in a chat, and Norah was playing with her bangles and rolling her eyes about more than ever, and punctuating her conversation with “my profession” and “my dentist,” and “my medical adviser,” when Joe bounded in after taking the horse out of the buggy.

“Well, Norah,” he said, sitting opposite her, and interrupting her discourse—”see any difference between this place and the old caboose we all used to puddle in at Shingle hut?”

Norah eyed Joe curiously, laughed a few mirthless bars, and showed the gold in her teeth.

“Huh!” Dad said, and took out his spectacle case.

“Remember the day you put on Dad’s pants, Norah?” Joe asked, with a big cheerful grin, “and old Anderson caught y’?”

Lily and Kate shrieked suddenly. Dave and Sandy let out another “Ha! ha! ha!” and a “Ho! ho! ho!” and Bill yelled, “Oh crikey!” and fell off a chair.

Norah blushed, and in indignant tones, said—

“Such a question, Joseph!”

“You did, though,” Joe persisted, mirthfully, “I remember it well.” And he appealed to Dave. Dave always agreed with Joe.

“What, my pants?” Dad asked, putting on his specs, and waking up to the fact that his wardrobe had been abused without his knowledge.

“Yes, yours,” Joe repeated, grinning across the table at Dad.

“Where was I thun?” Dad asked gravely.

“I suppose you were in bed,” Joe answered, and the house nearly came down.

Joe fixed his eyes on Norah again.

“Well,” he asked, “do you remember the time when you and Kate invited Mary and Lizzie Anderson over for an afternoon tea-party?”

Norah looked confused, and Kate broke into another loud shriek, and hugged her infant close. Kate’s memory seemed to be better than Norah’s.

We stared cheerfully at Joe.

“They asked the two Andersons,” Joe went on, turning round and addressing Lily, “to come over for a feed one day, and forgot all about it until they saw their guests coming, dressed up, and there wasn’t anything in the house for them to eat, and these two weren’t clean themselves, and they hadn’t any boots on, and I don’t think they had any to put on—”

There was another loud laugh;

“Nonsense,” Mother said, smiling and turning the same colour as Norah. Mother seemed to remember something about the incident.

“They hadn’t a scrap of bread,” Joe rattled on, and the two of them bundled poor old Mother into bed, and made her have the measles.” And Joe placed his two hands caressingly on Mother’s shoulders.

“Ha! ha! ha!” Sandy yelled above the rest, and fell off the sofa.

“And when they got to the door,” Joe continued, “Kate was giving Mother a drink, and Norah was mopping her brow with a wet rag to bring down her temperature.”

Sandy mounted the sofa, holding his sides, and said, “Lord save us!” and fell off it again.

“Don’t be such a silly, Joe,” Mother cried, and broke into a loud laugh herself.

Another mirthless bar or two escaped Norah, who seemed very uncomfortable, and she said—

“Well, this is a pantomine.”

When we had all recovered, Joe wiped some tears from his eyes, and addressed Norah again.

“Do you recollect the night old Murphy hoisted the sheet?” he said.

Kate recollected. She burst into another shriek. Kate seemed to anticipate Joe.

“I didn’t know I had such a ridiculous brother,” Norah snorted, and turned to look at Dad.

“Hoisted th’ sheet?” Sandy interrogated, cheerfully. Sandy was enjoying Joe.

“Yes,” Joe said, “these two”—indicating Norah and Kate—“walked about five miles one evening to see Mrs. Murphy and old Tim—”

“Murphy at the Five Mile?” Dad put in gruffly.

“Yes, old Tim, who used to sing ‘The Van Van Vock.’”

“Th’ d—scoundrel,” from Dad, and loud hilarity from the rest of us.

“And when they were there a storm came on, and they had to stay all night,” Joe continued, looking at Lily, while Sandy and Dave sat with their eyes open and mouths agape ready to laugh more. “There was only one long room in Murphy’s house, and only one bed; but they had two mattresses—”

Kate couldn’t contain herself in a sitting position any longer, and rose and walked about shaking with mirth, while Norah stared hard and curiously at Joe.

“And Mrs. Murphy put one of the mattresses on the floor for these two, and Murphy hoisted a sheet between his bed and theirs, and made two rooms—”

“A sheet?” Sandy roared.

“Yes, a sheet,” Joe said, “with a big hole in it.”

Lily was seized with a violent fit of coughing, and Dave hammered her on the back.

“No; not with a hole,” Kate cried, putting Joe right.

“For goodness sake, stop it, Joe,” Sarah cried, gasping for breath.

Joe stopped it, and laid his head on the table, and laughed with the rest of us.

When all the hilarity had died down, Dave and Lily, with broad grins on their faces, rose and put on their hats, and said, “they must be going,” and promised to come over again the next night.

“And you don’t remember any of those things, Norah?” Joe asked, raising his head, when Dave and Lily had gone.

“You’re a fool, Joseph!” Norah snapped, and went off to bed with Sarah.


Chapter 20
Norah’s Holiday

We all rose early the morning after Norah arrived, and waited breakfast patiently till nearly seven o’clock.

Joe looked at the clock, then turned his eyes restlessly to the draught horses standing at the barn, with their harness on.

Dad, for the second or third time, came in from the milking yard.

“Damn it,” he said, “ain’t she ready yet?”

“In a moment,” Mother replied, softly, “in a moment.” And Sarah called—

“Breakfast, Norah.”

The “moment” went by, and the form of Norah, in a gorgeous morning gown, glided past the dining room door in search of the bath.

“We can’t wait here all day,” Dad said, angrily, seating himself at the head of the table, and proceeding to carve.

“She won’t be a moment now if you have a little patience,” Mother pleaded, with a kindly smile at Dad.

“What th’ devil do you call a moment?” Dad growled, slashing into the hot steaming steak, “half th’ day’s gone now. “Here”—shoving a plate loaded to the brim along the table, and looking at Joe and Bill— “make a start.” Joe and Bill hesitated, and looked at Mother.

Just then Norah’s voice came from the bathroom.

“Sar—ah, would you bring me my scented soap—it’s on the top of my portmanteau?”

“Pshaw!” Dad blurted out, and slashed viciously at the steak on Bill’s account.

Joe and Bill chuckled, and decided to proceed with their breakfast.

“And my toothbrush, Sarah, please.”

Dad stopped carving, and shook his head contemptuously. Joe and Bill chuckled again, and Joe said, looking at his parent—

“We’ll have to go in for some scented soap, too, Dad.”

“Go in for some sense,” Dad grunted, turning his eyes in the direction of the bathroom. ... “Scented soap and toothbrushes!” he added, scornfully, and Joe and Bill laughed merrily.

Norah was ready at last, and when Dad and Joe and Bill had gone into the yard, she came to the table with a glow on her face like the flush of dawn, and wearing a bright new dress of the latest fashion.

“Do you always have breakfast so early?” she said, with a surprised look at the clock. (You’d think Norah had never been on a selection before).

“Earlier, sometimes,” Mother answered.

“Good gracious me, why we never dream of getting up at my hotel until half-past eight.”

“Half-past eight!” Sarah echoed.

“Yes, at eight o clock the maid brings me a cup of tea and a bit of toast; then I go to my bath. I’m generally last breakfast. Then, at nine, I’m ready for school.”

“Goodness! we have a day’s work done nearly by that time,” Sarah said, looking at Mother.

“Yes, my dear,” from Norah, “but yours is only housework, which is very different. If your head was taxed every day with a severe mental strain like mine, you would require much more sleep to rest the brain.”

“Ah, yes,” Mother said, “I’m sure it must be hard, so much learning.”

“Hard! You can’t imagine, Mother, how hard it is. Some days I fancy I’ll just collapse.” And Norah carefully adjusted her serviette, and, taking a spoon in her finger tips, proceeded to sup a plate of porridge in a most polite and dainty fashion.

“Isn’t that a lovely blouse?” Sarah said, drawing Mother’s attention to Norah’s finery.

“Do you like it?” Norah said, with all the pride and vanity of a teacher in her eye.

Sarah thought it was “just lovely,” and expressed a wish to take a pattern of it.

“Well, I was inclined to be displeased with it at first,” Norah went on, glancing in admiration along the sleeves of the garment, “but so many people have admired it since, that I’m beginning to think I owe an apology to my dressmaker.”

“Oh, I think it suits you so well,” Mother murmured, moving round the table, and examining the lace that dangled from the blouse like a lot of blossoms.

“Do you, indeed?” And Norah blushed and sipped another spoonful of porridge to conceal her feelings. “Miss Blunt,” she went on, “makes all my things. She makes for nearly all the society people in Brisbane, but I rather fancy she is not taking so much pains as she used—she doesn’t finish nearly so well. But there’s a young lady in the Valley who makes charmingly—a Miss Cholomondley. Her brother manages a bank at Charters Towers. I have given her the dress I am going to wear at the Hospital Ball. She makes for the Misses Bigbelt, whom I was telling you about, and the Mayoress, and she’s making Miss Pearlie Pothouse’s wedding dress.”

Neither Mother nor Sarah knew who Pearlie Pothouse was. Norah told them all about her.

“She’s the prettiest girl in Brisbane,” she said, “a daughter of Judge Pothouse, and she’s such a dear little thing. A delightful singer, and composes, and plays the banjo beautifully. She’s to marry an English gentleman who’s enormously wealthy, and he simply dotes on Pearlie.”

Dad trudged in with a black look on his face, and a big rent in the leg of his trousers, from which a long strip of moleskin dangled down past his knee.

“How much longer are you going to be before you clean those milk dishes?” he said to Sarah.

“I’ve not finished my breakfast yet,” Sarah answered.

“Well, ain’t it nearly time, unless you want to sit supping and cackling here till night?”

“What on earth have you been doing to your clothes?” Mother broke in, eyeing the rent in Dad’s pants.

“Doing!” he grunted. “What th’ devil am I always doing—doing everyone’s work as well as my own.” And Dad reached over Norah’s shoulder, and lifting the butter knife from the table, amputated the dangling remnant from his trouser leg.

Norah gasped, and looked in astonishment at Mother, then at Sarah, then at the knife which Dad replaced.

“Hello,” Dad said, noticing Norah for the first time. “You up?”

“Good morning, Father,” Norah answered, turning her face to him.

“Nearly the middle of the day, ain’t it?” And Dad went out again.

After breakfast, Norah went out with Sarah, and strolled round the farmyard, holding her skirts up, and admiring the cows and the haystacks; and she expressed astonishment at the number of coloured pigs that were running about, and said the air was “simply delightful.” Air seemed everything to Norah.

“I suppose you’ve forgotten the way to put a legrope on a cow, now, Norah?” Joe said, bailing up Silky, who had been missing during the early part of the morning.

Norah forced a short laugh, and, turning to Sarah, said—

“Isn’t the air just lovely.”

“Better try your hand at milking,” Dad said, inviting Norah into the yard.

“Oh, dear me,” Norah answered, “wouldn’t I look well sitting under that cow in these clothes?” And she laughed another short laugh, and pulled her skirts up an inch higher.

“Here, tie this round you,” and Dad lifted several yards of greasy, dusty bagging that hung on the rails of the yard, and tossed it carelessly to Norah. The bagging settled on Norah’s head, and mixed itself up with her hair and her blouse, and put dust in her eyes.

“Oh, Father,” Sarah said, indignantly, “look what you’ve done.”

Norah tore the bagging from her head, and threw it angrily on the ground, and stamped on it, and went crimson.

“Foolish, unmannerly thing to do,” she said, “you’ve destroyed my blouse.”

“Tie it round y’,” Dad said, ignoring Norah’s display of temper, “it’ll keep you clean.”

Norah turned away in disgust, and was greeted by Dad’s big black dog that had just returned from the grass paddock with wet feet. The dog took a sudden liking to Norah, and bounded caressingly up at her, and planted his two large moist paws on her blouse. Norah threw up her hands, and shrieked, “The brute! Go down!’’ and dodged round Sarah to evade the canine.

Bluey!” Sarah said, reprovingly, “Bluey!” But the brute seemed to grow fonder of Norah, and barked at her feet, then tried to climb up on to her shoulder, and wiped his paws on her back.

“Hunt the wretch off, Sarah,” Norah cried, frantically. “He’s destroying all my dress.”

Sarah kicked Bluey, and said—

“Hooh! Be off! Go away, Bluey!”

“Damn it, he won’t hurt you,” Dad shouted, “he’s only playing.”

Norah rushed across the yard. Bluey bounded after her, barking joyously. He seized hold of the tail of her dress, and hung back like a horse in the breeching. Norah shrieked appallingly. Dad laughed. Sarah ran up, and kicked Bluey hard in the rear, and ordered him to desist. Bluey, with the tail of the skirt firm in his teeth, raced round Norah, and pulled her off her feet. Norah lay on her back, and screamed blue murder, and kicked at the brute with both feet.

“Knock him down with something,” Joe called advisingly to Sarah, then started laughing.

“Don’t be afraid of him, he won’t bite. . . . Come here, dog,” Dad said, advancing to the rescue. Bluey took hold of Norah’s ankle, and growled and shook it affectionately. Norah kicked him in the eye with the shoe that was free. Bluey released her ankle, and seized the offending shoe. It came off, and he ran away with it in his mouth, and lay down near a haystack, and started gnawing it triumphantly. Dad and Joe laughed. They were proud of Bluey. Norah, dishevelled and pale-looking, struggled to her feet, and poured a torrent of unexpected abuse on Dad.

Sarah made efforts to console her sister. Dad hobbled after the dog. The dog thought to enlist Dad in the sport, and raced towards the yard with the trophy still in his teeth. Dad let out a few bars of profanity, intelligible to canines, and Bluey dropped the shoe, and slunk off, crestfallen.

“I wish I’d never come near any of you,” Norah said, when Dad restored her property to her. “I’m ashamed. So I am.” And she returned to the house blubbering on Sarah’s arm.

“You old fool,” Dad growled, addressing the dog, “I’ll warm you if you don’t mind yourself.” Then Joe laughed feelingly at Dad, and went on milking the cow.

Mother and Sarah sympathised with Norah, and assisted her to repair the damaged apparel, and examined her ankle for her.

“It’s a miracle he didn’t tear my flesh, the savage brute,” she groaned. “And I can never wear that blouse again.”

Mother tried to assure her that it was not injured to any serious extent, but Norah had her own ideas on the matter, and went and changed it for another.

When Norah calmed down she sat in the parlour for a couple of hours, and in confidence told Mother and Sarah a lot of things that they never knew before about city life, and the doings of well-to-do people there.

“You’d be just shocked,” she said, “if you knew some of the things that go on; and amongst people that you would think were just perfect.”

“I’ve heard it said,” Mother put in, “that some of the men—”

“Oh, and the women,” Norah interrupted quickly, “they’re just as bad . . . and worse, some of them.” Then leaning forward, as if afraid someone might be listening outside, she recounted, in low, confidential tones, the doings of numerous people who were “talked about.”

Mother was amazed.

“It’s true—perfectly true,” Norah said. “You hardly know who you’re talking to sometimes. There’s one married woman I know—” (Norah turned and stared at the windows and doors, then drawing closer to Mother and Sarah, detailed a lot of things in a cautious whisper about that married woman).

“Oh dear, dear, dear,” Mother moaned, and Sarah blushed and coughed.

“It’s really awful,” Norah said, screwing her face about, and throwing up her eyebrows, “and some of the men who you’d think were perfect gentlemen to look at, are the most horrible creatures living, when you come to know them. They’re just brutes the way they address young girls, and you can’t insult them, because they won’t take an insult. You wouldn’t believe it. There’s one—an ugly, fat brute he is, with a pug nose, and always in the street, and at the theatres and the races, and a married man! He’s—”

(Norah’s voice dropped to a whisper again).

“No, surely, surely not,” Mother said.

“Upon my soul, he does; it’s a positive fact, Mother.”

“And has he ever said anything to you, Norah?” Sarah asked, with a look of alarm on her face.

“Oh—h, he knows better. . . . Oh, doesn’t he! I’d spit in his face if he dared to address me—the pig!” Norah answered. “But the scamp had the impudence to raise his hat one evening to a young lady friend of mine, whom he had never been introduced to, and right in Queen Street, too! And she told me this, in strict confidence, herself—” (Again Norah whispered her information).

“Dear, oh, dear,” from Mother, and “What horrible men they must be!” from Sarah.

‘‘ Of course, they are not all bad like that,” Norah added, “but there are a great many of them. You would be amazed. And I could tell you lots of—”

Here Dad appeared, and interrupted the conversation.

“The horse and sulky is there doing nothing,” he said to Sarah, “take it whenever you want it, and drive your sister out somewhere.”

“How delightful!” Norah exclaimed. “That ’ll be charming.”

And in the afternoon Sarah took the sulky, and drove Norah all round the district. She took it every afternoon, and drove Norah to different places; took it until Dad put his foot down one day, and yelled—

“D—it, do you think the horse has nothing to do but drag the two of you about the country from morning till night? Can’t you walk sometimes to some of the places you want to go to? You are well enough able to—the two of you.”

After that Norah got tired of home, and went back to school again.


Chapter 21
The Harvest Home

The Harvest Home at Ruddville had been talked about for several months. It was to commemorate a season of prosperity; to be the queen event of a great and memorable year. Everyone in the district had often shared the joys of picnics, kangaroo hunts, dances, and riding parties, but none could recall to their memory the pleasures of a Harvest Home; not even the “oldest inhabitant.” Dad himself couldn’t, and few things were there on earth, from fashions and social customs, to cutting down trees and capturing bushrangers, that Dad didn’t profess to know a good deal about.

The whole country side were invited to the Harvest Home; Dad made no distinctions; there was no “upper ten” in Dad’s circle of society. To him Cranky Jack was as good as old Grey, and old Grey no better than old Regan or a member of Parliament. And when Dave went with the dray for the cargo of town-made pastry and the soft drinks and things that had arrived at the railway station, the news travelled everywhere, and Dad became a Carnegie.

Dad made elaborate preparations for the Harvest Home; marked out a ground, and cleaned the logs and rubbish from it. It was to be held in a hollow in the top paddock, where a clump of apple trees grew, and where the cattle used to camp during the hot summer days. While the preparations were being carried out, Tom Grey and Jim Brown and the young Regans felt dull, and found it difficult to work on their own farms. After dinner they put aside their hoes and came over and joined Dave and Joe, and gave them a hand. They climbed trees and erected swings; yoked themselves to big logs, and dragged them away; manufactured a cricket pitch; marked out a hundred-and-fifty-yards’ racing track; carried a lot of water from the well, and collected a large pile of firewood. Then they sat in the shade and perspired, and talked prophetically of the fun they’d have on the day, and how, if they got a chance, they’d swing long Mary Merton over the top of the trees, and laughed merrily in anticipation of her discomfiture, and hoped they wouldn’t meet Billy Doyle or Young Anderson in their heats, and called up memories of the match between Jack Smith and Jim Billingham for five shillings a side, till the sound of Barty’s stockwhip and the sight of the cows gathering at the yard, reminded Dave that it was time to start milking.

A bright summer day. A strong eastern breeze sprang up, and stirred the boughs of the big trees, and rustled the long blades of the tall corn-stalks. A blue sky, with here and there a streak of crimson cloud slashed across it, was overhead. Green-tinted lucerne paddocks and golden-topped maize fields, breasting each other with draught-board regularity, stretched as far as the eye could see. Grass waved luxuriantly everywhere; down by the headlands and along the lanes it raised itself as high as a horse. The very wheel tracks that had been deepening and widening for thirty years and more were reclaimed again, and hidden with foliage. The horse paddocks were wild forests of herbage and blossoms and wild flowers. Everything was grand. It was the time of Plenty. Prosperity was everywhere, and all the Darling Downs was a glorious sight—a gigantic garden good to see.

“Here they come,” Dad said cheerfully, as the first cart containing the Thompsons, from A. to Z., drew up to the big front gate. We got very excited, and Sarah rushed about with ribbons in her hands, and whined and murmured that she “wasn’t half ready.”

“Some more,” Bill cried, catching sight of several horsemen turning the corner of Wilkie’s lane, about two miles away.

“But look at the lot coming this way,” Barty yelled, pointing to a procession of vehicles approaching from the rear. “Look at ’em! Look at ’em!”

“Hold your tongue,” Dad said, “and don’t make such a noise.”

But Barty couldn’t hold his tongue. The strain and excitement were too great.

“Hoo-ra-ay!” he shouted, and waved his hat.

“Damn you, Sir,” from Dad.

Barty humped his back, and, like a calf after a shower of rain, bucked joyously round Dad. Dad again said, “Damn you, Sir,” and kicked Barty hard. Then Barty bolted for the “ground.”

People began to arrive till it was dinner-time—till it was three o’clock—till the ground was surrounded with carts and buggies and sulkies and drays—till the small horse-paddock near the house was full of strange, sweat-marked horses, rolling, biting, kicking, and trotting round and round in search of a broken panel. It was a lively and exciting scene. You’d think a gold-mine had broken out at Ruddville, and the “rush” had arrived all at once. Dad was in his element. He hobbled about, and in a loud homely voice, greeted this one and that one, and inquired of the married women the number of children they had, and how old the youngest was, and if all of them were present. And the married women expressed their delight in loud cheerful shrieks, and reminded Dad that he hadn’t done half bad himself. Then they looked about, and beckoned in every direction through the crowd of noisy youngsters and called Jamesy and Johnny and Jack, and Patsy, and Mary, and Rosey Ann, and all the rest of their offspring to their sides, and explained to Dad the order of their ages; told him which were born at The Crossing, which at the Gap or The One Mile, and pointed to those that had left school and the one that had been bitten by a snake; recounted with enthusiasm and confusion all their peculiar ways, their characteristics, their aspirations, and family distinctions. And Dad, in a glance at the circles of restless progeny, recognised the likeness of old Mahoney in one, the image of Maloney in another, and the “dead spit” of Andy McPherson in some more; and some of the married women said Dad was right, and some said he was wrong, while all of them expressed their increased delight in a series of renewed shrieks. And Dad shook hands with all the single girls and the old maids, and called Mary Maloney “Bridget,” and Cissy Thompson “Sarah,” and asked them why they were not married, and when they were going to get married, and directed their attention to Jim Smith, and Jack Coulter, and Fred Flaherty, and some more standing close by, with grins on their faces, and spoke of them as lonely young fellows (some of them were fifty and more) wanting wives to look after them, and raised sickly little smiles on the faces of the old maids, and pandemonium amongst the single girls. Then Dad, in a general way, enjoined them all to enjoy themselves, and took a tin of lollies under his arm, and yelled for the youngsters to follow him; and while the latter panted and fought round, he threw the contents of the tin at them in fistfuls, and fed them like fowls.

The swings were put in motion; modest young girls with pocket handkerchiefs tied round their ankles to keep their skirts from flying away, were propelled high into the air by big brown-armed men. “Wet or dry,” Joe, tossing up a bat, shouted to young Grey, and started picking “sides” for the cricket match. “Another couple wanted” came lustily from beneath an apple-tree, where a “first set” was in formation, and a concertina hard and earnestly at work on “The Billy Boil Over.” In the vicinity of another apple-tree Dave, with his horny palms, patted Jim Smith’s naked calves, and Tom Billigum and the Johnsons, with their pants rolled up, practised “starts” in their socks. Then baskets full of cakes, and tea by the bucket, and sacks bulging with melons, and bananas in bunches, were passed round extravagantly, and the Harvest Home was in full swing.

Barty, with a half-pealed banana in one hand, was about to swing Mary Thompson with the other, when suddenly he became interested in the movements of Dad.

“Oo, Oo!” he shouted, “Dad’s going to fly the kite,” and dropping the rope bounded away, and left Mary to work her own passage.

“Dad’s going to fly the kite,” he shouted again, this time for the information of the spectators generally, and the next moment a hundred excited youngsters were scampering from all parts of the ground to gather round Dad. They were followed by numerous big people; and old Talty, and old Thompson, and Andy McGladrigan and some more, who were mooching about the paddock admiring our dairy cows, strolled back to see what Dad “was up to.”

“Stand back,” Dad said, placing the kite flat on the ground to adjust its tail, “stand back—you’ll all see it directly.”

It was a magnificent kite—as big as the side of a house, and wonderfully well made. Dad made it himself; made it at night. A gorgeous kite it was, too— painted all over— Sarah painted it pink— and its tail was as long as a catching rope, and ornamented at regular intervals with yellow and red rosettes. Mother made the rosettes. The crowd stared long and hard at that kite; none of them had ever seen one like it before; none of them had ever seen a kite of any kind before, except the schoolmaster, and he grinned and reckoned it was worth a place in a Chinese procession.

“Now, then,” Dad said, when he’d fastened about two-miles of cord, strong enough to hold a shark, to it—“we’ll get away from the trees,” and carefully lifting the huge curiosity, and putting it on his back, strolled out into an open patch where there was no timber—where there was nothing but a well. The amused-looking spectators followed him closely. The visitors’ horses exhibited a lot of interest in the proceedings, too; and, with heads elevated, breasted the wire fences, and stared across at Dad. Some of them snorted timidly when Dad turned the kite broadside on, and, wheeling round, trotted excitedly in a half-circle, and returning, breasted the fence again.

The day had changed. There was now a stiff wind blowing; the boughs of the big trees were lashing each other furiously; and everything was wildly favourable to Dad’s exhibition.

“Now then,” he called out, warningly, when all the paraphernalia was carefully adjusted, “Stand clear.”

Mothers and fathers grabbed hold of their excited offspring, and dragged them to one side to make room for Dad.

Dad, holding the kite in position, emerged from the crush; he ran with it for several yards in the direction of the small horse-paddock, then let it go. The cord whistled through his hands, and the kite went up for about 100 feet, then took a sudden dip, and, like a great hawk, swooped right at the staring horses. Sport! no one expected half so much. Those horses couldn’t leave the fence nearly quick enough. Three of them fell down turning round, and got trampled on by the others. The crowd enjoyed that. They yelled and laughed derisively. The horses, bunched together, raced madly across the small enclosure with the kite spearing them in the rear. The crowd yelled louder. The horses raced faster as they approached the fence on the other side. The crowd suddenly ceased jeering, and turned pale. “Worp! worp!” old Thompson murmured, to steady the animals but they couldn’t hear him. “Got bless me! dey vill be on der vire!” old Heinrick cried, with grave apprehension. And old Heinrick was a good prophet. Next moment they were on the wire—and through it, and under it, and over it, and some of them were taking a lot of it away with them round their legs, while others remained fast in it kicking and squealing for liberty.

“Never mind, never mind,” Dad said, in tones of forgiveness, as a score or so of the horse-owners rushed away to know the worst that had happened their property, “that’s nothing; a couple of new posts and a slice or two will soon put it right. Dad wasn’t thinking of the horses. Then, followed by a multitude of shouting juveniles, Dad crawled into the horse paddock, and carried the kite back to the well.

“The tail’s a bit heavy,” he said, in explanation to the crowd, and taking out his pocket-knife amputated several joints.

“Now then,” and once more Dad took a short run with the kite. This time she rose like a powerful bird, and went up till her massive dimensions diminished to a vague and distant speck. The audience said “it was fine, it was grand,” and sat down on the grass watching the speck till their necks became stiff. Then Dad started to haul the kite back. He pulled away until it came well into view; then the thing became as refractory as a young horse. It kicked and swayed and plunged and bucked, and nearly jerked Dad’s arms out, and dragged him all about the place. The people were delighted. Dad’s hands got heated and sore from friction with the cord, and he showed signs of exhaustion.

“Bring me the gloves that I pull up burr with,” he gasped over his shoulder to Barty.

Barty bounded off to the house, and returned with a pair of large leather gloves that were made to fit Dad by the saddler.

Several willing spectators offered to assist Dad in hauling the kite in, but Dad, panting and puffing, declined their aid. It was Dad’s show, and he was selfish about it.

“Can you hold her just till I pull the gloves on,” he gurgled, looking round at Dave.

“I’ve got ’er,” Dave answered, picking up the end of the slack. Dad released his hold. The kite dashed heavenwards with great suddenness. The slack cord whistled past Dad’s ears in coils, and somehow a ring of it got hitched round his neck, and took him off his feet, and nearly cut his throat. Dad bellowed in a husky sort of voice, and rose and jumped in the air. He clutched the cord above his head, and arrested the strain till he rescued his neck. Then he let go the cord, and with eyeballs projecting, made a rush at Dave. Dave abandoned his post, and dodged through the crowd. Dad, roaring loud, pursued him. The kite took advantage of their absence, and made for the constellations with great rapidity.

“It’ll be away,” Tommy Johnson cried, grabbing at the swishing cord. It burnt his hands, and he let go. Some more youths snapped at it, and danced away again. Little Eddy Anderson, in his excitement, somehow got astride the cord, and made his attempt just as the slack was spent. To the end of the slack Dad had tied a short piece of stick. The stick left the ground like a piece of whalebone, and caught little Eddy where his pants were slack, and made a seat for him, and took him with it; and up he went, holding fast to the cord a few inches above his head. He looked very surprised, but rose gracefully. The spectators lost interest in Dad and Dave—Dad and Dave lost interest in themselves—and loud yells of alarm mingled with bursts of merriment went up after little Eddy. Some yelled to him, “Let go! let go!” Others cried, “No! no!” and Billy Brown and Johnny Jackson, overcome with delight, inflicted a lot of bruises on themselves by throwing handsprings. Little Eddy, kicking his thin legs about and bawling tremendously, soared steadily up until he was on a level with the tops of the bending, bellying boughs of the apple trees; for a few moments he hovered there, falling slightly, then rising. It was a grand spectacle; and no one but those who saw it would believe it ever happened. Dad, with open mouth, just stood and glared up at it. Dad, for a while, couldn’t understand how little Eddy got there. Anderson and Mrs. Anderson wrung their hands, and implored Providence and everyone about them to do something to restore their child.

“If he let’s go we could catch him,” Hanly said, hopefully.

“If he do he’s done fer,” Maloney answered, and turned away. Maloney was a Job’s comforter. All at once little Eddy went off in an easterly direction. A howl of woe and alarm went up, and the crowd followed in order to catch him in something should he happen to fall. But he didn’t fall. He hovered round some more, then shot northwards, and took a big sweep round the tops of all the trees, and another howl went forth, and the crowd hurriedly shifted ground. Once more little Eddy took root in the air, then rapidly ascended. There were loud groans. Hope seemed to forsake everyone but Dad. “It’ll let him back directly,” he murmured, steadily watching the antics of his handiwork. A moment more of suspense, and little Eddy came back with a run of twenty or thirty feet, and calmly anchored above a fire.

“My child! my child!” Mrs. Anderson cried, and fell up against Anderson, and Anderson, shouting “Susan! Susan!” supported her in his arms. Little Eddy drifted towards the horse paddock, and came down another ten feet, and anchored once more. Great excitement! A hundred hands went up, and made useless efforts to reach him. There he floated while a babel of tongues implored him to let go. But little Eddy seemed bereft of reason.

“Here,” Jim Maloney shouted, bending down “leapfrog” fashion, “some of you get on me back.” About eight of them made a wild dash to get on Jim’s back, and fell over themselves. “Let one of ye!” Maloney roared disapprovingly, and used bad language, between his legs. Then some presence of mind was displayed, and Joe was allowed to elevate himself on the broad of Maloney’s back. Meanwhile little Eddy had gone up another foot or two. Joe eyed him for a second, and measured the distance. Then, like a kangaroo-dog bounding for a piece of hanging meat, he made a great spring, and securing little Eddy round the waist, bore him to earth. Wild shouts of joy and great triumphing. Dad pounced on the piece of stick, and, while the women embraced little Eddy, began playing the kite with renewed vigour. “It’ll not get away any more,” he said sternly, and started hauling it in again. He hauled away till about fifty feet or so of slack cord had collected at his feet. Then Maloney snatched up the end of it, and, running to the well, fastened it to the windlass, and started winding vigorously. The spectators laughed. Dad, feeling the strain, looked round. “Well done,” he cried approvingly, and hobbled back, and joined Maloney. “Wind away,” Dad said encouragingly, “and I’ll keep it straight.” And he stood on the door of the well, and manipulated the coiling cord with both hands. Just then the kite descended suddenly, and much slack cord fell about the windlass. “Wind quick,” Dad shouted, “before she goes up again.” But the kite swept up at a terrific pace, and snapped the cord, and. took a piece off one of Dad’s fingers away.

“Dam, but she’s gone,” Maloney cried, looking up.

And the crowd realising the fact, exclaimed, “Ah—h!”

Dad, holding the wounded finger under his arm, danced silently round the well for quite a long interval. When he spoke it was in a loud certain voice, but the kite was then out of sight.

Then the sun went down on the apple trees and the green grasslands; hands gripped hands, good-byes were said, a hundred carts strung out through the big white gate, and the Harvest Home was over.


Chapter 22
A Jolly Good Fellow

Dave’s second house, with its verandahs all round, and iron pallisading adorning it, and new tanks and iron roof glistening in the sun, was a princely-looking palace when completed. And the furniture that Dad ordered from town to put in it was luxurious enough for Government House.

“It’s far too good,” Mother said, when she saw it, “a long way too good, Father,” and she shook her head disapprovingly.

“Not a bit of it,” Dad answered, “not a bit of it . . . let them have it.”

And when Sarah saw it she thought Dad had gone stark staring mad.

“Plush chairs,” she sneered, “good gracious me . . . for Dave to be putting his big feet on. . . . Why they won’t last a month.”

Then she laughed a nasty jealous sort of laugh.

But after reflection Sarah was inclined to take a different view of things.

“Well, at any rate,” she added, patronisingly, “I hope he’ll treat the rest of us the same way when we’re getting married.”

Mother had no doubt Dad would, and Sarah was satisfied.

“We want you all to come over for tea, to-morrow evening,” Dave said, dropping in one morning while we were at breakfast, “we’re thinkin’ of havin’ a bit of a party.”

“Very good,” Dad said, “very good, we’ll come across.” And Bill, with his mouth full of fried potatoes, tried to raise a cheer, but Dad promptly silenced him.”

“Hold your noise, you donkey,” Dad said, and we grinned at Bill.

“And you’ll come, too, Sarah,” Dave added, with a significant look at his sister.

“I expect so,” Sarah mumbled, feigning an indifference she didn’t feel, “if they’re all going.”

“Well, you won’t forget, now?” And Dave glanced at all of us again, and then went away.

“I’ve a real good mind not to go,” Sarah remarked to Mother during the afternoon, “so I have.”

“Nonsense, girl,” Mother said, “why shouldn’t you go?” Then Sarah went and ransacked her wardrobe, and spent hours searching for ribbons to convert into bows, with which she decorated her best white muslin dress to wear on the occasion.

It was scarcely dark next evening, and we had only just come in after hurrying from the paddocks, when we heard someone playing an accordion in tune at the new house, and knew it wasn’t Dave. Our hearts beat fast at the sound of that music. Somehow, music always had a charm for our family. Then a rush and a scrimmage for collars and shirts and clean socks set in, and loud and confused enquiries were made for studs and sleeve links, and in a few moments everything was thrown into disorder.

“Oh, look for them y’selves,” Sarah snapped from the depths of her own room. “All y’ things were left on your beds for y’ . . . go and find them . . . I’ve enough to do to find things for myself.”

“Things, y’ call them,” Bill shouted back from his end of the establishment, “y’ left a pair of trousers here that I wouldn’t go milkin’ in.”

“Don’t wear them, then, and don’t bother me,” Sarah retorted, adjusting her dress before a glass and fixing bows on herself.

“Here,” Tom howled, seizing Barty by the neck, “that’s my stud you’ve on, and I’ve been huntin’ everywhere for it.”

“It’s me own,” Barty bellowed, dodging Tom in and out among the furniture, “Dave give it to me.”

Then there was a fight and two chairs less to sit on next day. Joe, without having experienced any difficulty whatever in habilitating himself, and without having taken any part in the row over lost wearing apparel, stole quietly away from his room, and was moving stealthily off when Bill, with a lighted candle in his hand, intercepted him.

“Here,” Bill said, detaining Joe with one hand, and holding the candle up to him with the other, “that’s my tie—that’s the one I’ve been lookin’ for all night. Off with it; come on. No wonder you’ve been so quiet, me noble.”

“This? This?” Joe said, placing his hand on the decoration; “’tain’t, you’re wrong. There’s two th’ very same.”

“Well, where’s the other, then?” Bill demanded.

“On the looking glass,” and Joe hurried his brother off to procure it. Then he hurried himself off; jumped from the verandah, and ran to reach Dave’s place before Bill could pursue him.

The rest of us didn’t go in a body to Dave’s place,—we marched off as we got ready, and, like Brown’s cows, arrived on the heels of each other, Dad and Sarah bringing up the rear.

A great surprise awaited Dad and the rest of us when we went inside. The appearance of the dining room suggested a sumptuous banquet. The long table, decorated with serviettes and ferns and flowers, was laden with almost every kind of dish and dainty. A lot of Dad’s old friends were congregated there: Anderson, from Shingle Hut, Grey, Mulrooney, Watkins, Fahey, Charley Thompson, old Fraser, and their wives and daughters. And Dad greeted them with great delight.

Lily and Sarah forgot past feuds, too, and once more met as sisters again. Sarah enthusiastically eyed the things on the table, and promptly proceeded to re-arrange the ferns and flowers. She re-arranged the whole table, even to the placing of the chairs, and in a few seconds was running the whole party.

“Well, now,” Dave said, coming forward, “you’re all here. We’ll make a start,” and the company rose and collected merrily round the table.

Anderson was put at the head. Dad was given the place of honour on Anderson’s right, and Dave sat on his left.

As the meal proceeded they chatted cheerfully about Dave’s house; admired its tall lofty rooms, and compared its convenience and comfort with the wretched old humpies of days gone by. And a spirit of friendliness and good feeling was over all.

Lily and Sarah passed round glasses and various kinds of wine; and we wondered what was coming next.

Then Anderson rose and said he had a toast to propose. Glancing down at Dad, he said that Mr. Rudd was his oldest and best friend. He had known Dad for more than forty years—had known him before he took up land on Shingle Hut in the hard old days, and he could say that if ever there was a man who deserved to get on and be happy in this world that man was Murtagh Joseph Rudd.

The Greys and Watkins and old Fraser and the rest rattled their glasses, and cried, “Hear, hear,” while we stared in surprise and admiration at our parent.

“If ever there was a man who won his way,” Anderson went on, “by industry and hard work, and honesty, that man was my old neighbour and my old friend.”

Anderson placed his hand affectionately and dramatically upon Dad’s grey head. And the glasses rang and rattled again, and old Fraser, above the din, called out feelingly, “Aye, but he’s honest.”

Then Anderson told of the trials and struggles that Dad went through in the early days, and brought sad memories to Mother’s heart and tears to her eyes, and filled the rest of us with a new and strange pride in Dad. We felt that his virtues were only now being revealed to us.

“And I ask you,” Anderson said, “to fill your glasses and drink to the health of Mr. Rudd.”

They filled their glasses, and as they held them high above their heads, and lifted their voices and sang, “He’s a jolly good fellow,” Dad remained seated, his broad chest heaving with emotion, his head bowed down, and his eyes fixed on the things before him. And—there let us leave him.


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