an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: Stocking Our Selection
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2400091h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2024
Most recent update: March 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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Stocking Our Selection

Steele Rudd




Chapter 1. - Dad’s Fortune
Chapter 2. - We Embark in the Bear Industry
Chapter 3. - Nell and Ned
Chapter 4. - The Cow We Bought
Chapter 5. - The Parson and the Scone
Chapter 6. - Callaghan’s Colt
Chapter 7. - The Agricultural Reporter
Chapter 8. - A Lady at Shingle Hut
Chapter 9. - The Man with the Bear-skin Cap
Chapter 10. - One Christmas
Chapter 11. - How Dad Fell Out with Daly
Chapter 12. - Dad’s Trip to Brisbane
Chapter 13. - The Great Metropolis
Chapter 14. - Seeing the City
Chapter 15. - The Return Home
Chapter 16. - Old Uncle
Chapter 17. - The Wattle-blossom Bride


Chapter 1
Dad’s “Fortune”

Dad used to say that Shingle Hut was the finest selection on Darling Downs; but we never could see anything fine about it—except the weather in drought time, or Dad’s old saddle mare. She was very fine. The house was built in a gully so that the bailiffs (I suppose) or the blacks—who were mostly dead—couldn’t locate it. An old wire-fence, slanting all directions, staggered past the front door. At the rear, its foot almost in the back door, sloped a barren ridge, formerly a squatter’s sheep-yard. For the rest there were sky, wallaby-scrub, gum-trees, and some acres of cultivation. But Dad must have seen something in it, or he wouldn’t have stood feasting his eyes on the wooded waste after he had knocked off work of an evening. In all his wanderings—and Dad had been almost everywhere; swimming flooded creeks and rivers, humping his swag from one end of Australia to the other; at all games going except bank-managing and bushranging—he had seen no place timbered like Shingle Hut.

“Why,” he used to say, “it’s a fortune in itself. Hold on till the country gets populated, and firewood is scarce, there’ll be money in it then—mark my words!”

Poor Dad! I wonder how long he expected to live?

At the back of Shingle Hut was a tract of Government land—mostly mountains—marked on the map as the Great Dividing Range. Splendid country, Dad considered it—beautiful country—and part of a grand scheme he had in his head. I defy you to find a man more full of schemes than Dad was.

The day had been hot. Inside, the mosquitoes were bad; and, after supper, Dad and Dave were outside, lying on some bags. They had been grubbing that day, and were tired. The night was nearly dark. Dad lay upon his back, watching the stars; Dave upon his stomach, his head resting on his arms. Both silent. One of the draught-horses cropped the couch-grass round about them. Now and again a flying-fox circled noiselessly overhead, and “Mopoke!—mopoke!” came dismally from the ridge and from out the lonely-looking gully. A star fell, lighting up a portion of the sky, but Dad did not remark it. In a while he said:

“How old are you, Dave?” Dave made a mental calculation before answering.

“S’pose I must be eighteen now … Why?”

A silence.

“I’ve been thinking of that land at the back—if we had that I believe we could make money.”

“Yairs—if we had.”

Another silence.

“Well, I mean to have it, and that before very long.”

Dave raised his head, and looked towards Dad.

“There’s four of you old enough to take up land, and where could you get better country than that out there for cattle? Why” (turning on his side and facing Dave) “with a thousand acres of that stocked with cattle and this kept under cultivation we’d make money—we’d be rich in a very few years.”

Dave raised himself on his elbow.

“Yairs—with cattle,” he said.

“Just so” (Dad sat up with enthusiasm), “but to get the land is the first thing, and that’s easy enough only” (lowering his voice) “it’ll have to be done quietly and without letting everyone ’round know we’re going in for it.” (“Oh! yairs, o’ course,” from Dave.) “Then” (and Dad lifted his voice and leaned over) “run a couple of wires round it, put every cow we’ve here on it straight away; get another one or two when the barley’s sold, and let them breed.”

“’Bout how many’d that be t’ start ‘n?”

“Well, eight good cows at the least—plenty, too. It’s simply wonderful how cattle breed if they’re let alone. Look at Murphy, for instance. Started on that place with two young heifers—those two old red cows that you see knocking about now. They’re the mothers of all his cattle. Anderson just the same … Why, God bless my soul! we would have a better start than any one of them ever had—by a long way.”


Dave sat up. He began to share Dad’s enthusiasm.

“Once get it stocked, and all that is to be done then is simply to look after the fence, ride about among the cattle every day, see they’re right, brand the calves, and every year muster the mob, draft out the fat bullocks, whip them into town, and get our seven and eight pounds a head for them.”

“That’d suit me down to the ground, ridin’ about after cattle,” Dave said.

“Yes, get our seven and eight pounds, maybe nine or ten pounds a-piece. And could ever we do that pottering about on the place?” Dad leaned over further and pressed Dave’s knee with his hand.

“Mind you!” (in a very confidential tone) “I’m not at all satisfied the way we’re dragging along here. It’s utter nonsense, and, to speak the truth” (lowering his voice again) “I’ve been sick of the whole damn thing long ago.”

A minute or two passed.

“It wouldn’t matter,” Dad continued, “if there was no way of doing better; but there is. The thing only requires to be done, and why not do it?” He paused for an answer.

“Well,” Dave said, “let us commence it straight off—t’morror. It’s the life that’d suit me.”

“Of course it would … and there’s money in it … no mistake about it!”

A few minutes passed. Then they went inside, and Dad took Mother into his confidence, and they sat up half the night discussing the scheme.

Twelve months later. The storekeeper was at the house wanting to see Dad. Dad wasn’t at home. He never was when the storekeeper came; he generally contrived to be away, up the paddock somewhere or amongst the corn—if any was growing. The storekeeper waited an hour or so, but Dad didn’t turn up. When he was gone, though, Dad walked in and asked Mother what he had said. Mother was seated on the sofa, troubled-looking.

“He must be paid by next week,” she said, bursting into tears, “or the place’ll be sold over our heads.”

Dad stood with his back to the fire-place, his hand locked behind him, watching the flies swarming on the table.

Dave came in. He understood the situation at a glance. The scene was not new to him. He sat down, leant forward, picked a straw off the floor and twisted it round and round his finger, reflecting.

Little Bill put his head on Mother’s lap, and asked for a piece of bread … He asked a second time.

“There is no bread, child,” she said.

“But me wants some, mumma.”

Dad went outside and Dave followed. They sat on their heels, their backs to the barn, thoughtfully studying the earth.

“It’s the same thing”—Dad said, reproachfully—“from one year’s end to the other … alwuz a bill!”

“Thought last year we’d be over all this by now!” from Dave.

“So we could … Can now … It only wants that land to be taken up; and, as I’ve said often and often, these cows taken—”

Dad caught sight of the storekeeper coming back, and ran into the barn.

Six months later. Dinner about ready. “Take up a thousand acres,” Dad was saying; “take it up—”

He was interrupted by a visitor.

“Are you Mister Rudd?” Dad said he was.

“Well, er—I’ve a fi. fa. against y’.”

Dad didn’t understand.

The Sheriff’s officer drew a document from his inside breast-pocket and proceeded to read:

“To Mister James Williams, my bailiff. Greeting: By virtue of Her Majesty’s writ of fieri facias, to me directed, I command you that of the goods and chattels, money, bank-note or notes or other property of Murtagh Joseph Rudd, of Shingle Hut, in my bailiwick, you cause to be made the sum of forty pounds ten shillings, with interest thereon,” &c.

Dad understood.

Then the bailiff’s man rounded up the cows and the horses, and Dad and the lot of us leant against the fence and in sadness watched Polly and old Poley and the rest for the last time pass out the slip-rails.

“That puts an end to the land business!” Dave said gloomily.

But Dad never spoke.



Chapter 2
We Embark in the Bear Industry

When the bailiff came and took away the cows and horses, and completely knocked the bottom out of Dad’s land scheme, Dad didn’t sit in the ashes and sulk. He wasn’t that kind of person. He did at times say he was tired of it all, and often he wished it far enough, too! But, then, that was all mere talk on Dad’s part. He loved the selection. To every inch—every stick of it—he was devoted. ’Twas his creed. He felt certain there was money in it—that out of it would come his independence. Therefore, he didn’t rollup and, with Mother by the hand and little Bill on his back, stalk into town to hang round and abuse the bush. He walked up and down the yard thinking and thinking. Dad was a man with a head.

He consulted Mother and Dave, and together they thought more.

“The thing is,” Dad said, “to get another horse to finish the bit of ploughing. We’ve got one; Anderson will lend the grey mare, I know.”

He walked round the room a few times.

“When that’s done, I think I see my way clear; but that’s the trouble.”

He looked at Dave. Dave seemed as though he had a solution. But Joe spoke.

“Kuk-kuk-couldn’t y’ b-reak in some kang’roos, Dad? There’s pul-lenty in th’ pup-paddick.”

“Couldn’t you shut up and hold your tongue and clear out of this, you brat?” Dad roared. And Joe hung his head and shut up.

“Well, y’ know”—Dave drawled—“there’s that colt wot Maloney offered us before to quieten. Could get ’im. ’E’s a big lump of a ’orse if y’ could do anythin’ with ’im. They gave ’im best themselves.”

Dad’s eyes shone.

“That’s th’ horse,” he cried. “Get him! To-morrow first thing go for him! I’ll make something of him!”

“Don’t know”—Dave chuckled—“he’s a—”

“Tut, tut; you fetch him.”

“Oh, I’ll fetch ‘im.” And Dave, on the strength of having made a valuable suggestion, dragged Joe off the sofa and stretched himself upon it.

Dad went on thinking awhile. “How much,” he at last asked, “did Johnson get for those skins?”

“Which?” Dave answered. “Bears or kangaroos?”


“Five bob, wasn’t it? Six for some.”

“What, a-piece?


“Why, God bless my soul, what have we been thinking about? Five shillings? Are you sure?”

“Yairs, rather.”

“What, bear-skins worth that and the paddock here and the lanes and the country over-run with them—full of the damn things—hundreds of them—and we, all this time—all these years—working and slaving and scraping and—and” (he almost shouted), “Damn me! What asses we have been, to be sure.” (Dave stared at him.) “Bear-skins five shillings each, and—”

“That’s all right enough,” Dave interrupted, “but—”

“Of course it’s all right enough now,” Dad yelled, “now when we see it.”

“But look!” and Dave sat up and assumed an arbitrary attitude. He was growing suspicious of Dad’s ideas. “To begin with, how many bears do you reckon on getting in a day?”

“In a day”—reflectively—“twenty at the least.”

“Twenty. Well, say we only got half that, how much d’ y’ make?”

Make?” (considering). “Two pounds ten a day … fifteen or twenty pounds a week … yes, twenty pounds, reckoning at that even. And do you mean to tell me that we wouldn’t get more than ten bears a day? Why we’d get more than that in the lane—get more up one tree.”

Dave grinned.

“Can’t you see? Damn it, boy, are you so dense?

Dave saw. He became enthusiastic. He wondered why it had never struck us before. Then Dad smiled, and we sat to supper and talked about bears.

“We’ll not bother with that horse now,” said Dad; “the ploughing can go; I’m done with it. We’ve had enough poking and puddling about. We’ll start this business straightaway.” And the following morning, headed by the dog and Dad, armed with a tomahawk, we started up the paddock.

How free we felt! To think we were finished for ever with the raking and carting of hay—finished tramping up and down beside Dad, with the plough-reins in our hands, flies in our eyes and burr in our feet—finished being the target for Dad’s blasphemy when the plough or the horses or the harness went wrong—was delightful! And the adventure and excitement which this new industry promised operated strongly upon us. We rioted and careered like hunted brumbies through the trees, till warned by Dad to “keep our eyes about;” then we settled down, and Joe found the first bear. It was on an ironbark tree, around the base of which we soon were clamouring.

“Up y’ go!” Dad said, cheerfully helping Dave and the tomahawk into the first fork.

Dave ascended and crawled cautiously along the limb the bear was on and began to chop. We armed ourselves with heavy sticks and waited. The dog sat on his tail and stared and whined at the bear. The limb cracked, and Dave ceased chopping and shouted “Look out!” We shouldered arms. The dog was in a hurry. He sprang in the air and landed on his back. But Dave had to make another nick or two. Then with a loud crack the limb parted and came sweeping down. The dog jumped to meet it. He met it, and was laid out on the grass. The bear scrambled to its feet and made off towards Bill. Bill squealed and fell backwards over a log. Dad rushed in and kicked the bear up like a football. It landed near Joe. Joe’s eyes shone with the hunter’s lust of blood. He swung his stick for a tremendous blow—swung it mightily and high—and nearly knocked his parent’s head off. When Dad had spat blood enough to make sure that he had only lost one tooth, he hunted Joe; but Joe was too fleet, as usual.



Meanwhile, the bear had run up another tree—about the tallest old gum in the paddock. Dad snapped his fingers angrily and cried: “Where the devil was the dog?

“Oh, where the devil wuz the dorg?” Dave growled, sliding down the tree—“where th’ devil wuz you? Where wuz the lot o’ y’?”

“Ah, well!” Dad said “—there’s plenty more we can get. Come along.” And off we went. The dog pulled himself together and limped after us.

Bears were plentiful enough, but we wandered far before we found another on a tree that Dave could climb, and, when we did, somehow or other the limb broke when he put his weight on it, and down he came, bear and all. Of course we were not ready, and that bear, like the other, got up another tree. But Dave didn’t. He lay till Dad ran about two miles down a gully to a dam and filled his hat with muddy water and came tearing back with it empty—till Anderson and Mother came and helped to carry him home.

We didn’t go out any more after bears. Dave, when he was able, went and got Maloney’s colt and put him in the plough. And, after he had kicked Dad and smashed all the swingle-trees about the place, and got right out of his harness a couple of times and sulked for two days, he went well enough beside Anderson’s old grey mare.

And that season, when everyone else’s wheat was red with rust—when Anderson and Maloney cut theirs for hay—when Johnson put a firestick in his—ours was good to see. It ripened; and the rain kept off, and we reaped 200 bags. Salvation!



Chapter 3
Nell and Ned

That harvest of two hundred bags of wheat was the turning-point in the history of our selection. Things somehow seemed to go better; and Dad’s faith was gradually justified—to some extent. We accumulated out-buildings and added two new rooms to the hut, and Dad was able to lend old Anderson five pounds in return for a promise to pay seven pounds ten shillings in six months’ time. We increased the stock, too, by degrees; and—crowning joy!—we got a horse or two you could ride to the township.

With Nell and Ned we reckoned we had two saddle-horses—those were their names, Nell and Ned, a mare and a colt. Fine hacks they were, too! Anybody could ride them, they were so quiet. Dad reckoned Ned was the better of the two. He was well-bred, and had a pedigree and a gentle disposition, and a bald-face, and a bumble-foot, and a raw wither, and a sore back that gave him a habit of “flinching”—a habit that discounted his uselessness a great deal, because, when we weren’t at home, the women couldn’t saddle him to run the cows in. Whenever he saw the saddle or heard the girth-buckles rattle he would start to flinch. Put the cloth on his back—folded or otherwise—and, no matter how smart you might be, it would be off before you could cover it with the saddle, and he wouldn’t have flicked it with his tail, or pulled it off with his teeth, or done anything to it. He just flinched—made the skin on his back—where there was any—quiver. Throw on the saddle without a cloth, and he would “give” in the middle like a broken rail—bend till his belly almost touched the ground, and remain bent till mounted; then he’d crawl off and gradually straighten up as he became used to you. Were you tender-hearted enough to feel compunction in sitting down hard on a six-year-old sore, or if you had an aversion to kicking the suffering brute with both heels and belting his hide with a yard or two of fencing-wire to get him to show signs of animation, you would dismount and walk—perhaps, weep. We always rode him right out, though.

As a two-year-old Ned was Dad’s hope. Pointing proudly to the long-legged, big-headed, ugly moke mooching by the door, smelling the dust, he would say: “Be a fine horse in another year! Little sleepy-looking yet; that’s nothing!”

“Stir him up a bit, till we see how he canters,” he said to Joe one day. And when Joe stirred him up—rattled a piece of rock on his jaw that nearly knocked his head off—Dad took after Joe and chased him through the potatoes, and out into the grass-paddock, and across towards Anderson’s; then returned and yarded the colt, and knocked a patch of skin off him with a rail because he wouldn’t stand in a corner till he looked at his eye. “Wouldn’t have anything happen to that colt for a fortune!” he said to himself. Then went away, forgetting to throw the rails down. Dave threw them down a couple of days after.

We preferred Nell to Ned, but Dad always voted for the colt. “You can trust him; he’ll stand anywhere,” he used to say. Ned would! Once, when the grass-paddock was burning, he stood until he took fire. Then he stood while we hammered him with boughs to put the blaze out. It took a lot to frighten Ned. His presence of mind rarely deserted him. Once, though, he got a start. He was standing in the shade of a tree in the paddock when Dad went to catch him. He seemed to be watching Dad, but wasn’t. He was asleep. “Well, old chap,” said Dad, “how are y’?” and proceeded to bridle him. Ned opened his mouth and received the bit as usual, only some of his tongue came out and stayed out. “Wot’s up w’ y’?” and Dad tried to poke it in with his finger, but it came out further, and some chewed grass dropped into his hand. Dad started to lead him then, or rather to pull him, and at the first tug he gave the reins Ned woke with a snort and broke away. And when the other horses saw him looking at Dad with his tail cocked, and his head up, and the bridle-reins hanging, they went for their lives through the trees, and Blossom’s foal got staked.

Another day Dad was out on Ned, looking for the red heifer, and came across two men fencing—a tall, powerful-looking man with a beard, and a slim young fellow with a smooth face. Also a kangaroo-pup. As Dad slowly approached, Ned swaying from side to side with his nose to the ground, the elder man drove the crowbar into the earth and stared as if he had never seen a man on horseback before. The young fellow sat on a log and stared too. The pup ran behind a tree and growled.

“Seen any cattle round here?” Dad asked.

“No,” the man said, and grinned.

“Didn’t notice a red heifer?”

“No,” grinning more.

The kangaroo-pup left the tree and sniffed at Ned’s heels.

“Won’t kick, will he?” said the man.

The young fellow broke into a loud laugh and fell off the log.

“No,” Dad replied—“he’s perfectly quiet.”

“He looks quiet.”

The young fellow took a fit of coughing.

After a pause. “Well, you didn’t see any about, then?” and Dad wheeled Ned round to go away.

“No, I didn’t, old man,” the other answered, and snatched hold of Ned’s tail and hung back with all his might. Ned grunted and strained and tore the ground up with his toes; Dad spurred and leathered him with a strap, looking straight ahead. The man hung on. “Come ’long,” Dad said. The pup barked. “Come ’long with yer!” Dad said. The young fellow fell off the log again. Ned’s tail cracked. Dad hit him between the ears. The tail cracked again. A piece of it came off; then Ned stumbled and went on his head. “What the devil—!” Dad said, looking round. But only the young fellow was laughing.


Nell was different from Ned. She was a bay, with yellow flanks and a lump under her belly; a bright eye, lop ears, and heavy, hairy legs. She was a very wise mare. It was wonderful how much she knew. She knew when she was wanted; and she would go away the night before and get lost. And she knew when she wasn’t wanted; then she’d hang about the back-door licking a hole in the ground where the dish-water was thrown, or fossicking at the barn for the corn Dad had hidden, or scratching her neck or her rump against the cultivation paddock slip-rails. She always scratched herself against those slip-rails—sometimes for hours—always until they fell down. Then she’d walk in and eat. And how she could eat!

As a hack, Nell was unreliable. You couldn’t reckon with certainty on getting her to start. All depended on the humour she was in and the direction you wished to take—mostly the direction. If towards the grass-paddock or the dam, she was off helter-skelter. If it wasn’t, she’d go on strike—put her head down and chew the bit. Then, when you’d get to work on her with a waddy—which we always did—she’d walk backwards into the house and frighten Mother, or into the waterhole and dirty the water. Dad said it was the fault of the cove who broke her in. Dad was a just man. The “cove” was a union shearer—did it for four shillings and six pence. Wanted five bob, but Dad beat him down. Anybody else would have asked a pound.

When Nell did make up her mind to go, it was with a rush, and, if the slip-rails were on the ground, she’d refuse to take them. She’d stand and look out into the lane. You’d have to get off and drag the rails aside (about twenty, counting broken ones). Then she’d fancy they were up, and would shake her head and mark time until you dug your heels into her; then she’d gather herself together and jump high enough for a show—over nothing!

Dave was to ride Nell to town one Christmas to see the sports. He hadn’t seen any sports before, and went to bed excited and rose in the middle of the night to start. He dressed in the dark, and we heard him going out, because he fell over Sandy and Kate. They had come on a visit, and were sleeping on the floor in the front room. We also heard him throw the slip-rails down.

There was a heavy fog that morning. At breakfast we talked about Dave, and Dad “s’posed” he would just about be getting in; but an hour or two after breakfast the fog cleared, and we saw Dave in the lane hammering Nell with a stick. Nell had her rump to the fence and was trying hard to kick it down. Dad went to him. “Take her gently; take her gently, boy,” he shouted. “Pshaw! take her gently!” Dave shouted back. “Here”—he jumped off her and handed Dad the reins—“take her away and cut her throat.” Then he cried, and then he picked up a big stone and rushed at Nell’s head. But Dad interfered.


But the day Dad mounted Nell to bring a doctor to Anderson! She started away smartly—the wrong road. Dad jerked her mouth and pulled her round roughly. He was in a hurry—Nell wasn’t. She stood and shook her head and switched her tail. Dad rattled a waddy on her and jammed his heels hard against her ribs. She dropped her head and cow-kicked. Then he coaxed her. “Come on, old girl,” he said; “come on,”—and patted her on the neck. She liked being patted. That exasperated Dad. He hit her on the head with his fist. Joe ran out with a long stick. He poked her in the flank. Nell kicked the stick out of his hands and bolted towards the dam. Dad pulled and swore as she bore him along. And when he did haul her in, he was two hundred yards further from the doctor. Dad turned her round and once more used the waddy. Nell was obdurate, Dad exhausted. Joe joined them, out of breath. He poked Nell with the stick again. She “kicked up.” Dad lost his balance. Joe laughed. Dad said, “St-o-op!” Joe was energetic. So was Nell. She kicked up again—strong—and Dad fell off.

“Wot, could’n’ y’ s-s-s-stick to ’er, Dad?” Joe asked.

Stick be damned—run—catch her!—d—n y’!”

Joe obeyed.

Dad made another start, and this time Nell went willingly. Dad was leading her!

Those two old horses are dead now. They died in the summer when there was lots of grass and water—just when Dad had broken them into harness—just when he was getting a good team together to draw logs for the new railway line!


Chapter 4
The Cow We Bought

When Dad received two hundred pounds for the wheat he saw nothing but success and happiness ahead. His faith in the farm and farming swelled. Dad was not a pessimist—when he had two hundred pounds.

“Say what they like,” he held forth to Anderson and two other men across the rails one evening—“talk how they will about it, there’s money to be made at farming. Let a man work and use his head and know what to sow and when to sow it, and he must do well.” (Anderson stroked his beard in grave silence; he had had no wheat). “Why, once a farmer gets on at all he’s the most independent man in the whole country.”


“Yes! Once he does!” drawled one of the men,—a weird, withered fellow with a scraggy beard and a reflective turn of mind.

“Jusso,” Dad went on, “but he must use his head; it’s all in th’ head.” (He tapped his own skull with his finger). “Where would I be now if I hadn’t used me head this last season?”

He paused for an answer. None came.

“I say,” he continued, “it’s a mistake to think nothing’s to be made at farming, and any man” (“Come to supper, D—ad!”—’twas Sal’s voice) “ought t’ get on where there’s land like this.”

Land!” said the same man—“where is it?”

“Where is it?” Dad warmed up—“where isn’t it? Isn’t this land?” (Looking all round.) “Isn’t the whole country land from one end to the other? And is there another country like it anywhere?”

“There isn’t!” said the man.

“Is there any other country in th’ world” (Dad lifted his voice) “where a man, if he likes, can live” (“Dad, tea!”) “without a shilling in his pocket and without doing a tap of work from one year’s end to the other?”

Anderson didn’t quite understand, and the weird man asked Dad if he meant “in gaol.”

“I mean,” Dad said, “that no man should starve in this country when there’s kangaroos and bears and”—(Joe came and stood beside Dad and asked him if he was deaf)—“and goannas and snakes in thousands. Look here!” (still to the weird man), “you say that farming”—(Mother, bare-headed, came out and stood beside Joe, and asked Anderson if Mrs. Anderson had got a nurse yet, and Anderson smiled and said he believed another son had just arrived, but he hadn’t seen it)—“that farming don’t pay”—(Sal came along and stood near Mother and asked Anderson who the baby was like)—“don’t pay in this country?”

The man nodded.

“It will pay any man who—”


Anderson’s big dog had wandered to the house, and came back with nearly all that was for supper in his mouth.

Sal squealed.

Drop it—drop it, Bob!” Anderson shouted, giving chase. Bob dropped it on the road.

Damn it!” said Dad, glaring at Mother, “wot d’ y’ all want out ‘ere? . . . Y-you brute!” (to the dog, calmly licking its lips).

Then Anderson and the two men went away.

But when we had paid sixty pounds to the storekeeper and thirty pounds in interest; and paid for the seed and the reaping and threshing of the wheat; and bought three plough-horses, and a hack for Dave; and a corn-sheller, and a tank, and clothes for us all; and put rations in the house; and lent Anderson five pounds; and improved Shingle Hut; and so on; very little of the two hundred pounds was left.

Mother spoke of getting a cow. The children, she said, couldn’t live without milk and when Dad heard from Johnson and Dwyer that Eastbrook dairy cattle were to be sold at auction, he said he would go down and buy one.

Very early. The stars had scarcely left the sky. There was a lot of groping and stumbling about the room. Dad and Dave had risen and were preparing to go to the sale.

I don’t remember if the sky was golden or gorgeous at all, or if the mountain was clothed in mist, or if any fragrance came from the wattle-trees when they were leaving; but Johnson, without hat or boots, was picking splinters off the slabs of his hut to start his fire with, and a mile further on Smith’s dog was barking furiously. He was a famous barker. Smith trained him to it to keep the wallabies off. Smith used to chain him to a tree in the paddock and hang a piece of meat to the branches, and leave him there all night.

Dad and Dave rode steadily along and arrived at Eastbrook before mid-day. The old station was on its last legs. “The flags were flying half-mast high.” A crowd of people were there. Cart-horses with harness on, and a lot of tired-looking saddle-hacks, covered with dry sweat, were fastened to cart-wheels, and to every available post and place. Heaps of old iron, broken-down drays and buggies and wheel-barrows, pumps and pieces of machinery, which Dad reckoned were worth a lot of money, were scattered about. Dad yearned to gather them all up and cart them home. Rows of unshaven men were seated high on the rails of the yards. The yards were filled with cattle—cows, heifers, bulls, and calves, all separate—bellowing, and, in a friendly way, raking skins and hair off each other with their horns.

The station-manager, with a handful of papers and a pencil behind his ear, hurried here and there, followed by some of the crowd, who asked him questions which he didn’t answer. Dad asked him if this was the place where the sale was to be. He looked all over Dad.

A man rang a bell violently, shouting, “This way for the dairy cows!” Dad went that way, closely followed by Dave, who was silent and strange. A boy put a printed catalogue into Dad’s hand, which he was doubtful about keeping until he saw Andy Percil with one. Most of the men seated on the rails jumped down into an empty yard and stood round in a ring. In one corner the auctioneer mounted a box, and read the conditions of sale, and talked hard about the breed of the cattle. Then:


“How much for the imported cow, Silky? No.1 on the catalogue. How much to start her, gentlemen?”

Silky rushed into the yard with a shower of sticks flying after her and glared about, finally fixing her gaze on Dad, who was trying to find her number in the catalogue.

“A pure-bred ‘Heereford,’ four years old, by The Duke out of Dolly, to calve on the eighth of next month,” said the auctioneer. “How much to start her?”

All silent. Buyers looked thoughtful. The auctioneer ran his restless eyes over them.

Dad and Dave held a whispered consultation; then Dad made a movement. The auctioneer caught his eye and leant forward.

Five bob!” Dad shouted. There was a loud laugh. The auctioneer frowned. “We’re selling cows, old man,” he said, “not running a shilling-table.”

More laughter. It reached Dave’s heart, and he wished he hadn’t come with Dad.

Someone bid five pounds, someone else six; seven-eight-nine went round quickly, and Silky was sold for ten pounds.

“Beauty” rushed in.

Two station-hands passed among the crowd, each with a bucket of beer and some glasses. Dad hesitated when they came to him, and said he didn’t care about it. Dave the same.

Dad ran “Beauty” to three pound ten shillings (all the money he had), and she was knocked down at twelve pounds.

Bidding became lively.

Dave had his eye on the men with the beer—he was thirsty. He noticed no one paid for what was drunk, and whispered his discovery to Dad. When the beer came again, Dad reached out and took a glass. Dave took one also.

“Have another!” said the man.

Dave grinned, and took another.

Dad ran fifteen cows, successively, to three pounds ten shillings.

The men with the beer took a liking to Dave. They came frequently to him, and Dave began to enjoy the sale.

Again Dad stopped bidding at three pounds ten shillings.

Dave began to talk. He left his place beside Dad and, hat in hand, staggered to the middle of the yard. “Woh!” he shouted, and made an awkward attempt to embrace a red cow which was under the hammer.

Sev’n poun’—Sev’n poun’—Sev’n poun’,” shouted the auctioneer, rapidly. “Any advance on sev’n poun’?”

Wenny (hic) quid,” Dave said.

“At sev’n poun’ she’s going?”

“Twenny (hic) two quid,” Dave said.

“You haven’t twenty-two pence,” snorted the auctioneer.

Then Dave caught the cow by the tail, and she pulled him about the yard until two men took him away.

The last cow put up was, so the auctioneer said, station-bred and in full milk. She was a wild-looking brute, with three enormous teats and a large, fleshy udder. The catalogue said her name was “Dummy.”

“How much for ‘Dummy,’ the only bargain in the mob—how much for her, gentlemen?”

Dad rushed “Dummy.” “Three poun’ ten,” he said, eagerly.

The auctioneer rushed Dad. “Yours,” he said, bringing his hammer down with a bang; “you deserve her, old man!” And the station-manager chuckled and took Dad’s name—and Dad’s money.

Dad was very pleased, and eager to start home. He went and found Dave, who was asleep in a hay-stack, and along with Steven Burton they drove the cow home, and yarded her in the dark.

Mother and Sal heard the noise, and came with a light to see Dad’s purchase, but as they approached “Dummy” threatened to carry the yard away on her back, and Dad ordered them off.

Dad secured the rails by placing logs and the harrow against them, then went inside and told Mother what a bargain he’d made.

In the morning Dad took a bucket and went to milk “Dummy.” All of us accompanied him. He crawled through the rails while “Dummy” tore the earth with her fore-feet and threw lumps of it over the yard. But she wasn’t so wild as she seemed, and when Dad went to work on her with a big stick she walked into the bail quietly enough. Then he sat to milk her, and when he took hold of her teats she broke the leg-rope and kicked him clean off the block and tangled her leg in the bucket and made a great noise with it. Then she bellowed and reared in the bail and fell down, her head screwed the wrong way, and lay with her tongue out moaning.

Dad rose and spat out dirt.

“Dear me!” Mother said. “it’s a wild cow y’ bought.”

“Not at all,” Dad answered; “she’s a bit touchy, that’s all.”

“She tut-tut—tutched you orright, Dad,” Joe said from the top of the yard.

Dad looked up. “Get down outer that!” he yelled. “No wonder the damn cow’s frightened.”

Joe got down.

Dad brought “Dummy” to her senses with a few heavy kicks on her nose, and proceeded to milk her again. “Dummy” kicked and kicked. Dad tugged and tugged at her teats, but no milk came. Dad couldn’t understand it. “Must be frettin’,” he said.

Joe owned a pet calf about a week old which lived on water and a long rope. Dad told him to fetch it to see if it would suck. Joe fetched it, and it sucked ravenously at “Dummy’s” flank, and joyfully wagged its tail. “Dummy” resented it. She plunged until the leg-rope parted again, when the calf got mixed up in her legs, and she trampled it in the ground. Joe took it away. Dad turned “Dummy” out and bailed her up the next day—and every day for a week—with the same result. Then he sent for Larry O’Laughlin, who posed as a cow doctor.

“She never give a drop in her life,” Larry said. “Them’s blind tits she have.”

Dad one day sold “Dummy” for ten shillings and bought a goat, which Johnson shot on his cultivation and made Dad drag away.



Chapter 5
The Parson and the Scone

It was dinner-time. And weren’t we hungry!—particularly Joe! He was kept from school that day to fork up hay—work hard enough for a man—too hard for some men—but in many things Joe was more than a man’s equal. Eating was one of them. We were all silent. Joe ate ravenously. The meat and pumpkin disappeared, and the pile of hot scones grew rapidly less. Joe regarded it with anxiety. He stole sly glances at Dad and at Dave and made a mental calculation. Then he fixed his eyes longingly on the one remaining scone, and ate faster and faster… Still silence. Joe glanced again at Dad.

The dogs outside barked. Those inside, lying full-stretch beneath the table, instantly darted up and rushed out. One of them carried off little Bill—who was standing at the table with his legs spread out and a pint of tea in his hand—as far as the door on its back, and there scraped him off and spilled tea over him. Dad spoke. He said, “Damn the dogs!” Then he rose and looked out the window. We all rose—all except Joe. Joe reached for the last scone.

A horseman dismounted at the slip-rails.

“Some stranger,” Dad muttered, turning to re-seat himself.

“Why, it’s—it’s the minister!” Sal cried—“the minister that married Kate!”


Dad nearly fell over. “Good God!” was all he said, and stared hopelessly at Mother. The minister—for sure enough it was the Rev. Daniel Macpherson—was coming in. There was commotion. Dave finished his tea at a gulp, put on his hat, and left by the back-door. Dad would have followed, but hesitated, and so was lost. Mother was restless—“on pins and needles.”

“And there ain’t a bite to offer him,” she cried, dancing hysterically about the table—“not a bite; nor a plate, nor a knife, nor a fork to eat it with!” There was humour in Mother at times. It came from the father’s side. He was a dentist.

Only Joe was unconcerned. He was employed on the last scone. He commenced it slowly. He wished it to last till night. His mouth opened and received it fondly. He buried his teeth in it and lingered lovingly over it. Mother’s eyes happened to rest on him. Her face brightened. She flew at Joe and cried:

“Give me that scone!—put it back on the table this minute!”

Joe became concerned. He was about to protest. Mother seized him by the hair (which hadn’t been cut since Dan went shearing) and hissed:

“Put—it—back—sir!” Joe put it back.

The minister came in. Dad said he was pleased to see him—poor Dad!—and enquired if he had had dinner. The parson had not, but said he didn’t want any, and implored Mother not to put herself about on his account. He only required a cup of tea—nothing else whatever. Mother was delighted, and got the tea gladly. Still she was not satisfied. She would be hospitable. She said:

“Won’t you try a scone with it, Mr. Macpherson?” And the parson said he would—“just one.”

Mother passed the rescued scone along, and awkwardly apologised for the absence of plates. She explained that the Andersons were threshing their wheat, and had borrowed all our crockery and cutlery—everybody’s, in fact, in the neighbourhood—for the use of the men. Such was the custom round our way. But the minister didn’t mind. On the contrary, he commended everybody for fellowship and good-feeling, and felt sure that the district would be rewarded.

It took the Rev. Macpherson no time to polish off the scone. When the last of it was disappearing Mother became uneasy again. So did Dad. He stared through the window at the parson’s sleepy-looking horse, fastened to the fence. Dad wished to heaven it would break away, or drop dead, or do anything to provide him with an excuse to run out. But it was a faithful steed. It stood there leaning on its forehead against a post. There was a brief silence.

Then the minister joked about his appetite—at which only Joe could afford to smile—and asked, “May I trouble you for just another scone?”

Mother muttered something like “Yes, of course,” and went out to the kitchen just as if there had been some there. Dad was very uncomfortable. He patted the floor with the flat of his foot and wondered what would happen next. Nothing happened for a good while. The minister sipped and sipped his tea till none was left …


Dad said: “I’ll see what’s keeping her,” and rose—glad if ever man was glad—to get away. He found Mother seated on the ironbark table in the kitchen. They didn’t speak. They looked at each other sympathisingly.

“Well?” Dad whispered at last; “what are you going to do?” Mother shook her head. She didn’t know.

“Tell him straight there ain’t any, an’ be done with it,” was Dad’s cheerful advice. Mother several times approached the door, but hesitated and returned again.

“What are you afraid of?” Dad would ask; “he won’t eat y’.” Finally she went in.

Then Dad tiptoed to the door and listened. He was listening eagerly when a lump of earth—a piece of the cultivation paddock—fell dangerously near his feet. It broke and scattered round him, and rattled inside against the papered wall. Dad jumped round. A row of jackasses on a tree near by laughed merrily. Dad looked up. They stopped. Another one laughed clearly from the edge of the tall corn. Dad turned his head. It was Dave. Dad joined him, and they watched the parson mount his horse and ride away.

Dad drew a deep and grateful breath. “Thank God!” he said.


Chapter 6
Callaghan’s Colt

It was the year we put the bottom paddock under potatoes. Dad was standing contemplating the tops, which were withering for want of rain. He shifted his gaze to the ten acres sown with corn. A dozen stalks or so were looking well; a few more, ten or twelve inches high, were coming in cob; the rest hadn’t made an appearance.

Dad sighed and turned away from the awful prospect. He went and looked into the water-cask. Two butterflies, a frog or two, and some charcoal were at the bottom. No water. He sighed again, took the yoke and two kerosene-tins, and went off to the springs.

About an hour and a half after he returned with two half-tins of muddy, milky-looking water—the balance had been splashed out as he got through the fences—and said to Mother (wiping the sweat off his face with his shirt-sleeve)—

“Don’t know, I’m sure, what things are going t’ come t’; … no use doing anything … there’s no rain … no si—” he lifted his foot and with cool exactness took a place-kick at the dog, which was trying to fall into one of the kerosene-tins, head first, and sent it and the water flying. “Oh you —!” The rest is omitted in the interests of Poetry.

Day after. Fearful heat; not a breath of air; fowl and beast sought the shade; everything silent; the great Bush slept. In the west a stray cloud or two that had been hanging about gathered, thickened, darkened.

The air changed. Fowl and beast left the shade; tree-tops began to stir—to bend—to sway violently. Small branches flew down and rolled before the wind. Presently it thundered afar off. Mother and Sal ran out and gathered the clothes, and fixed the spout, and looked cheerfully up at the sky.

Joe sat in the chimney-corner thumping the ribs of a cattle-pup, and pinching its ears to make it savage. He had been training the pup ever since its arrival that morning.

The plough-horses, yoked to the plough, stood in the middle of the paddock, beating the flies off with their tails and leaning against each other.

Dad stood at the stock-yard—his brown arms and bearded chin resting on a middle-rail—passively watching Dave and Paddy Maloney breaking-in a colt for Callaghan—a weedy, wild, herring-gutted brute that might have been worth fifteen shillings. Dave was to have him to hack about for six months in return for the breaking-in. Dave was acquiring a local reputation for his skill in handling colts.

They had been at “Callaghan”—as they christened the colt—since daylight, pretty well; and had crippled old Moll and lamed Maloney’s Dandy, and knocked up two they borrowed from Anderson—yarding the rubbish; and there wasn’t a fence within miles of the place that he hadn’t tumbled over and smashed. But, when they did get him in, they lost no time commencing to quieten him. They cursed eloquently, and threw the bridle at him, and used up all the missiles and bits of hard mud and sticks about the yard, pelting him because he wouldn’t stand.

Dave essayed to rope him “the first shot,” and nearly poked his eye out with the pole; and Paddy Maloney, in attempting to persuade the affrighted beast to come out of the cow-bail, knocked the cap of its hip down with the milking-block. They caught him then and put the saddle on. Callaghan trembled. When the girths were tightened they put the reins under the leathers, and threw their hats at him, and shouted, and “hooshed” him round the yard, expecting he would buck with the saddle. But Callaghan only trotted into a corner and snorted. Usually, a horse that won’t buck with a saddle is a “snag.” Dave knew it. The chestnut he tackled for Brown did nothing with the saddle. He was a snag. Dave remembered him and reflected. Callaghan walked boldly up to Dave, with his head high in the air, and snorted at him. He was a sorry-looking animal—cuts and scars all over him; hip down; patches and streaks of skin and hair missing from his head. “No buck in him!” unctuously observed Dad, without lifting his chin off the rail. “Ain’t there?” said Paddy Maloney, grinning cynically. “Just you wait!”

It seemed to take the heart out of Dave, but he said nothing. He hitched his pants and made a brave effort to spit—several efforts. And he turned pale.

Paddy was now holding Callaghan’s head at arms’-length by the bridle and one ear, for Dave to mount.

A sharp crack of thunder went off right overhead. Dave didn’t hear it.

“Hello!” Dad said, “We’re going to have it—hurry up!”

Dave didn’t hear him. He approached the horse’s side and nervously tried the surcingle—a greenhide one of Dad’s workmanship. “Think that’ll hold?” he mumbled meekly.

“Pshaw!” Dad blurted through the rails—“Hold! Of course it’ll hold—hold a team o’ bullocks, boy.”

“’S all right, Dave; ’s all right—git on!” From Paddy Maloney, impatiently.

Paddy, an out-and-out cur amongst horses himself, was anxious to be relieved of the colt’s head. Young horses sometimes knock down the man who is holding them. Paddy was aware of it.

Dave took the reins carefully, and was about to place his foot in the stirrup when his restless eye settled on a wire-splice in the crupper—also Dad’s handiwork. He hesitated and commenced a remark. But Dad was restless; Paddy Maloney anxious (as regarded himself); besides, the storm was coming.

Dad said: “Damn it, what are y’ ’fraid o’, boy? That’ll hold—jump on.”

Paddy said: “Now, Dave, while I’ve ’is ’ead round.”

Joe (just arrived with the cattle-pup) chipped in.

He said: “Wot, is he fuf-fuf-fuf-f-rikent of him, Dad?”

Dave heard them. A tear like a hailstone dropped out of his eye.

“It’s all damn well t’ talk,” he fired off; “come in and ride th’—horse then, if y’ s’—game!

A dead silence.

The cattle-pup broke away from Joe and strolled into the yard. It barked feebly at Callaghan, then proceeded to worry his heels. It seemed to take Callaghan for a calf. Callaghan kicked it up against the rails. It must have taken him for a cow then.

Dave’s blood was up. He was desperate. He grabbed the reins roughly, put his foot in the stirrup, gripped the side of the pommel, and was on before you could say “Woolloongabba.”

With equal alacrity, Paddy let the colt’s head go and made tracks, chuckling. The turn things had taken delighted him. Excitement (and pumpkin) was all that kept Paddy alive. But Callaghan didn’t budge—at least not until Dave dug both heels into him. Then he made a blind rush and knocked out a panel of the yard—and got away with Dave. Off he went, plunging, galloping, pig-jumping, breaking loose limbs and bark off trees with Dave’s legs. A wire-fence was in his way. It parted like the Red Sea when he came to it—he crashed into it and rolled over. The saddle was dangling under his belly when he got up; Dave and the bridle were under the fence. But the storm had come, and such a storm! Hailstones as big as apples nearly—first one here and there, and next moment in thousands.



Paddy Maloney and Joe ran for the house; Dave, with an injured ankle and a cut head, limped painfully in the same direction; but Dad saw the plough-horses turning and twisting about in their chains and set out for them. He might as well have started off the cross the continent. A hailstone, large enough to kill a cow, fell with a thud a yard or two in advance of him, and he slewed like a hare and made for the house also. He was getting it hot. Now and again his hands would go up to protect his head, but he couldn’t run that way—he couldn’t run much any way.

The others reached the house and watched Dad make from the back-door. Mother called to him to “Run, run!” Poor Dad! He was running. Paddy Maloney was joyful. He danced about and laughed vociferously at the hail bouncing off Dad. Once Dad staggered—a hail-boulder had struck him behind the ear—and he looked like dropping. Paddy hit himself on the leg, and vehemently invited Dave to “Look, look at him!” But Dad battled along to the haystack, buried his head in it, and stayed there till the storm was over—wriggling and moving his feet as though he were tramping chaff.

Shingles were dislodged from the roof of the house, and huge hailstones pelted in and put the fire out, and split the table, and fell on the sofa and the beds.

Rain fell also, but we didn’t catch any in the cask—the wind blew the spout away. It was a curled piece of bark. Nevertheless, the storm did good. We didn’t lose all the potatoes. We got some out of them. We had them for dinner one Sunday.



Chapter 7
The Agricultural Reporter

It had been a dull, miserable day, and a cold westerly was blowing. Dave and Joe were at the barn finishing up for the day.

Dad was inside grunting and groaning with toothache. He had had it a week, and was nearly mad. For a while he sat by the fire, prodding the tooth with his pocket-knife; then he covered his jaw with his hand and went out and walked about the yard.

Joe asked him if he had seen Nell’s foal anywhere that day. He didn’t answer.

“Did y’ see the brown foal any place ter-day, Dad?”

“Damn the brown foal!”—and Dad went inside again.

He walked round and round the table and in and out the back room till Mother nearly cried with pity.

“Isn’t it any easier at all, Father?” she said commiseratingly.

“How the devil can it be easier? … Oh-h!”

The kangaroo-dog had coiled himself snugly on a bag before the fire. Dad kicked him savagely and told him to get out. The dog slunk sulkily to the door, his tail between his legs, and his back humped as if expecting another kick. He got it. Dad sat in the ashes then, and groaned lamentably. The dog walked in at the back door and dropped on the bag again.


Joe came in to say that “Two coves out there wants somethink.”

Dad paid no attention.

The two “coves”—a pressman, in new leggings, and Canty, the storekeeper—came in. Mother brought a light. Dad moaned, but didn’t look up.

“Well, Mr. Rudd,” the pressman commenced (he was young and fresh-looking), “I’m from the (something-or-other) office. I’m—er—after information about the crops round here. I suppose—er—”

“Oh-h-h!” Dad groaned, opening his mouth over the fire, and pressing the tooth hard with his thumb.

The pressman stared at him for awhile; then grinned at the storekeeper, and made a derisive face at Dad’s back. Then—“What have you got in this season, Mr. Rudd? Wheat?”

“I don’t know… Oh-h—it’s awful!”

Another silence.

“Didn’t think toothache so bad as that,” said the man of news, airily, addressing Mother. “Never had it much myself, you see!”

He looked at Dad again; then winked slyly at Canty, and said to Dad, in an altered tone: “Whisky’s a good thing for it, old man, if you’ve got any.”

Nothing but a groan came from Dad, but Mother shook her head sadly in the negative.

“Any oil of tar?”

Mother brightened up. “There’s a little oil in the house,” she said, “but I don’t know if we’ve any tar. Is there, Joe—in that old drum?”


The Press looked out the window. Dad commenced to butcher his gums with the pocket-knife, and threatened to put the fire out with blood and saliva.

“Let’s have a look at the tooth, old man,” the pressman said, approaching Dad.

Dad submitted.

“Pooh!—I’ll take that out in one act!” ... To Joe—“Got a good strong piece of string?”

Joe couldn’t find a piece of string, but produced a kangaroo-tail sinew that had been tied round a calf’s neck.

The pressman was enthusiastic. He buzzed about and talked dentistry in a most learned manner. Then he had another squint at Dad’s tooth.

“Sit on the floor here,” he said, “and I won’t be a second. You’ll feel next to no pain.”

Dad complied like a lamb.

“Hold the light down here, missis—a little lower. You gentlemen” (to Canty and Dave) “look after his legs and arms. Now, let your head come back—right back, and open your mouth—wide as you can.” Dad obeyed, groaning the whole time. It was a bottom-tooth, and the dentist stood behind Dad and bent over him to fasten the sinew round it. Then, twisting it on his wrist, he began to “hang on” with both hands. Dad struggled and groaned—then broke into a bellow and roared like a wild beast. But the dentist only said, “Keep him down!” and the others kept him down.


Dad’s neck was stretching like a gander’s, and it looked as if his head would come off. The dentist threw his shoulders into it like a crack oarsman—there was a crack, a rip, a tear, and, like a young tree leaving the ground, two huge, ugly old teeth left Dad’s jaw on the end of that sinew.

“Holy!” cried the dentist, surprised, and we stared. Little Bill made for the teeth; so did Joe, and there was a fight under the table.

Dad sat in a lump on the floor propping himself up with his hands; his head dropped forward, and he spat feebly on the floor.

The pressman laughed and slapped Dad on the back, and asked “How do you feel, old boy?” Dad shook his head and spat and spat. But presently he wiped his eyes with his shirt-sleeve and looked up. The pressman told Mother she ought to be proud of Dad. Dad struggled to his feet then, pale but smiling. The pressman shook hands with him, and in no time Dad was laughing and joking over the operation. A pleased look was in Mother’s face; happiness filled the home again, and we grew quite fond of that pressman—he was so jolly and affable, and made himself so much at home, Mother said.

“Now, sit over, and we’ll have supper,” said Dad, proud of having some fried steak to offer the visitors. We had killed a cow the evening before—one that was always getting bogged in the dam and taking up much of Dad’s time dragging her out and cutting greenstuff to keep her alive. The visitors enjoyed her. The pressman wanted salt. None was on the table. Dad told Joe to run and get some—to be quick. Joe went out, but in a while returned. He stood at the door with the hammer in his hand and said:

“Did you shift the r-r-r-rock-salt from where S-Spotty was lickin’ it this evenin’, Dave?”

Dave reached for the bread.

“Don’t bother—don’t bother about it,” said the pressman. “Sit down, youngster, and finish your supper.”

“No bother at all,” Dad said; but Joe sat down, and Dad scowled at him.

Then Dad got talking about wheat and wallabies—when, all at once, the pressman gave a jump that rattled the things on the table.

“Oh-h-h! . . . I’ve got it now!” he said, dropping his knife and fork and clapping his hands over his mouth. “Ooh!”

We looked at him. “Got what?” Dad asked, a gleam of satisfaction appearing in his eyes.

“The toothache!—the d—d toothache! … Oh-h!”

“Ha! ha! Hoo! hoo! hoo!” Dad roared. In fact, we all roared—all but the pressman. “Oh-h!” he said, and went to the fire. Dad laughed some more.

We ate on. The pressman continued to moan.

Dad turned on his seat. “What paper, mister, do you say you come from?”

Oh-h! … Oh-h, Lord!”

“Well, let me see; I’ll have in altogether, I daresay, this year, about thirty-five acres of wheat—I suppose as good a wheat—”

“Damn the wheat! … ooh!

“Eh!” said Dad, “why, I never thought toothache was thet bad! You reminds me of this old cow we be eatin’. She moaned just like thet all the time she was layin’ in the gully, afore I knocked ’er on the head.”

Canty, the storekeeper, looked up quickly, and the pressman looked round slowly—both at Dad.

“Here,” continued Dad—“let’s have a look at yer tooth, old man!”

The pressman rose. His face was flushed and wild-looking. “Come on out of this—for God’s sake!” he said to Canty—“if you’re ready.”

“What,” said Dad, hospitably, “y’re not going, surely!” But they were. “Well, then—thirty-five acres of wheat, I have, and” (putting his head out the door and calling after them) “Next year—next year, all being well, please God, I’ll have sixty!



Chapter 8
A Lady at Shingle Hut

Miss Ribbone had just arrived.

She was the mistress of the local school, and had come to board with us a month. The parents of the score or more of youngsters attending the school had arranged to accommodate her, month about, and it was our turn. And didn’t Mother just load us up how we were to behave—particularly Joe.

Dad lumbered in the usual log for the fire, and we all helped him throw it on—all except the schoolmistress. Poor thing! She would have injured her long, miserable, putty-looking fingers! Such a contrast between her and Sal! Then we sat down to supper—that old familiar repast, hot meat and pumpkin.

Somehow we didn’t feel quite at home; but Dad got on well. He talked away learnedly to Miss Ribbone about everything. Told her, without swearing once, how, when at school in the old country, he fought the schoolmaster and leathered him well. A pure lie, but an old favourite of Dad’s, and one that never failed to make Joe laugh. He laughed now. And such a laugh!—a loud, mirthless, merciless noise. No one else joined in, though Miss Ribbone smiled a little. When Joe recovered he held out his plate.

“More pumpkin, Dad.”

“If—what, sir?” Dad was prompting him in manners.

If?” and Joe laughed again. “Who said ‘if’?—I never.”

Just then Miss Ribbone sprang to her feet, knocking over the box she had been sitting on, and stood for a time as though she had seen a ghost. We stared at her. “Oh,” she murmured at last, “it was the dog! It gave me such a fright!”

Mother sympathised with her and seated her again, and Dad fixed his eye on Joe.

“Didn’t I tell you,” he said, “to keep that useless damned mongrel of a dog outside the house altogether—eh?—didn’t I? Go this moment and tie the brute up, you vagabond!”

“I did tie him up, but he chewed the greenhide.”

“Be off with you, you—” (Dad coughed suddenly and scattered fragments of meat and munched pumpkin about the table) “at once, and do as I tell you, you—”

“That’ll do, Father—that’ll do,” Mother said gently, and Joe took Stump out to the barn and kicked him, and hit him against the corn-sheller, and threatened to put him through it if he didn’t stop squealing.

He was a small dog, a dog that was always on the watch—for meat; a shrewd, intelligent beast that never barked at anyone until he got inside and well under the bed. Anyway, he had taken a fancy to Miss Ribbone’s stocking, which had fallen down while he was lying under the table, and commenced to worry it. Then he discovered she had a calf, and started to eat that. She didn’t tell us though—she told Mrs. Macpherson, who imparted the secret to mother. I suppose Stump didn’t understand stockings, because neither Mother nor Sal ever wore any, except to a picnic or somebody’s funeral; and that was very seldom. The Creek wasn’t much of a place for sport.

“I hope as you’ll be comfortable, my dear,” Mother observed as she showed the young lady the back-room where she was to sleep. “It ain’t s’ nice as we should like to have it f’ y’; we hadn’t enough spare bags to line it all with, but the cracks is pretty well stuffed up with husks an’ one thing an’ ’nother, and I don’t think you’ll find any wind kin get in. Here’s a bear-skin f’ your feet, an’ I’ve nailed a bag up so no one kin see-in in the morning. S’ now, I think you’ll be pretty snug.”

The schoolmistress cast a distressed look at the waving bag-door and said:

“Th-h-ank you-very much.”

What a voice! I’ve heard kittens that hadn’t their eyes open make a fiercer noise.



Mother must have put all the blessed blankets in the house on the school-teacher’s bed. I don’t know what she had on her own, but we only had the old bag-quilt and a stack of old skirts, and other remnants of the family wardrobe, on ours. In the middle of the night, the whole confounded pile of them rolled off, and we nearly froze. Do what we boys would—tie ourselves in knots and coil into each other like ropes—we couldn’t get warm. We sat up in the bed in turns, and glared into the darkness towards the schoolmistress’s room, which wasn’t more than three yards away; then we would lie back again and shiver. We were having a time. But at last we heard a noise from the young lady’s room. We listened—all we knew. Miss Ribbone was up and dressing. We could hear her teeth chattering and her knees knocking together. Then we heard her sneak back to bed again and felt disappointed and colder than ever, for we had hoped she was getting up early, and wouldn’t want the bed any longer that night. Then we too crawled out and dressed and tried it that way.

In answer to Mother at breakfast, next morning, Miss Ribbone said she had “slept very well indeed.”

We didn’t say anything.

She wasn’t much of an eater. School-teachers aren’t as a rule. They pick, and paw, and fiddle round a meal in a way that gives a healthy-appetited person the jim-jams. She didn’t touch the fried pumpkin. And the way she sat there at the table in her watch-chain and ribbons made poor old Dave, who sat opposite her in a ragged shirt without a shirt-button, feel quite miserable and awkward.

For a whole week she didn’t take anything but bread and tea—though there was always plenty good pumpkin and all that. Mother used to speak to Dad about it, and wonder if she ate the little pumpkin-tarts she put up for her lunch. Dad couldn’t understand anyone not eating pumpkin, and said he’d tackle grass before he’d starve.

“And did ever y’ see such a object?” Mother went on. “The hands an’ arms on her! Dear me! Why, I do believe if our Sal was to give her one squeeze she’d kill her. Oh, but the finery and clothes! Y’ never see the like! Just look at her!” And Dad, the great oaf, with Joe at his heels, followed her into the young lady’s bedroom.

“Look at that!” said Mother, pointing to a couple of dresses hanging on a nail—“she wears them on week-days, no less; and here” (raising the lid of a trunk and exposing a pile of clean and neatly-folded clothing that might have been anything, and drawing the articles forth one by one)—“look at them! There’s that—and that—and this—and—”

“I say, what’s this, Mother?” interrupted Joe, holding up something he had discovered.

“And that—an’—”


“And this—”

“Eh, Mother?”

“Don’t bother me, boy, it’s her tooth-brush,” and Mother pitched the clothes back into the trunk and glared round. Meanwhile, Joe was hard at his teeth with the brush.


“Oh, here!” and she dived at the bed and drew a night-gown from beneath the pillow, unfolded it, and held it up by the neck for inspection.

Dad, with his huge, ungainly, hairy paws behind him, stood mute, like the great pitiful elephant he was, and looked at the tucks and the rest—stupidly. “Where before did y’ever see such tucks and frills and lace on a night-shirt? Why, you’d think ’twere for goin’ to picnics in, ’stead o’ goin’ to bed with. Here, too! here’s a pair of brand new stays, besides the ones she’s on her back. Clothes!—she’s nothin’ else but clothes.”

Then they came out, and Joe began to spit and said he thought there must have been something on that brush.

Miss Ribbone didn’t stay the full month—she left at the end of the second week; and Mother often used to wonder afterwards why the creature never came to see us.



Chapter 9
The Man with the Bear-Skin Cap

One evening a raggedly-dressed man, with a swag on his back, a bear-skin cap on his head, and a sheath-knife in his belt, came to our place and took possession of the barn. Dad ordered him off. The man offered to fight Dad for the barn. Dad ran in and got the gun. Then the man picked up his swag and went away. The incident caused much talk for a few days, but we soon forgot all about it; and the man with the bear-skin cap passed from our minds.

Church service was to be held at our selection. It was the first occasion, in fact, that the Gospel had come to disturb the contentedly irreligious mind of our neighbourhood. Service was to open at 3 p.m.; at break-of-day we had begun to get ready.

Nothing but bustle and hurry. Buttons to be sewn on Dave’s shirt; Dad’s pants—washed the night before and left on the clothes-line all night to bleach—lost; Little Bill’s to be patched up generally; Mother trotting out to the clothes-line every minute to see if Joe’s coat was dry. And, what was unusual, Dave, the easy-going, took a notion to spruce himself up. He wandered restlessly from one room to another, robed in a white shirt which wasn’t starched or ironed, trying hard to fix a collar to it. He hadn’t worn the turn-out for a couple of years, and, of course, had grown out of it, but this didn’t seem to strike him. He tugged and fumbled till he lost patience; then he sat on the bed and railed at the women, and wished that the shirt and the collar, and the church-service and the parson, were in Heaven. Mother offered to fasten the collar, but when she took hold of it—forgetting that her hands were covered with dough and things—Dave flew clean off the handle! And when Sal advised him to wear his coloured shirt, same as Dad was going to do, and reminded him that Mary Anderson mightn’t come at all, he aimed a pillow at her and knocked Little Bill under the table, and scattered husks all over the floor. Then he fled to the barn and refused dinner.

Mid-day, and Dad’s pants not found. We searched inside and outside and round about the pig-sty, and the hay-stack, and the cow-yard; and eyed the cows, and the pet kangaroo, and the draught-horses with suspicion; but saw nothing of the pants. Dad was angry, but had to make the most of an old pair of Dave’s through the legs of which Dad thrust himself a lot too far. Mother and Sal said he looked well enough in them, but laughed when he went outside.

The people commenced to arrive on horseback and in drays. The women went on to the verandah with their babies; the men hung round outside and waited. Some sat under the peach-tree and nibbled sticks and killed green-heads; others leant against the fence; while a number gathered round the pig-sty and talked about curing bacon.

The parson came along. All of them stared at him; watched him unsaddle his horse and hunt round for a place to fasten the beast. They regarded the man in the long black coat with awe and wonder.

Everything was now ready, and, when Dad carried in the side-boards of the dray and placed them on boxes for seat accommodation, the clergyman awaited his congregation, which had collected at the back-door. Anderson stepped in; the rest followed, timid-looking, and stood round the room till the clergyman motioned them to sit. They sat and watched him closely.

“We’ll now join in singing hymn 499,” said the parson, commencing to sing himself. The congregation listened attentively, but didn’t join in. The parson jerked his arms encouragingly at them, which only made them the more uneasy. They didn’t understand. He snapped his arms harder, as he lifted his voice to the rafters; still they only stared. At last Dad thought he saw through him. He bravely stood up and looked hard at the others. They took the hint and rose clumsily to their feet, but just then the hymn closed, and, as no one seemed to know when to sit again, they remained standing.

They were standing when a loud whip-crack sounded close to the house, and a lusty voice roared:

“Wah Tumbler! Wah Tumbler! Gee back, Brandy! Gee back, you—!—!!—!!!”

People smiled. Then a team of bullocks appeared on the road. The driver drawled, “Wa-a-a-y!” and the team stopped right in front of the door. The driver lifted something weighty from the dray and struggled to the verandah with it and dropped it down. It was a man. The bullock-driver, of course, didn’t know that a religious service was being conducted inside, and the chances are he didn’t much care. He only saw a number of faces looking out, and talked at them.


“I’ve a — cove here,” he said, “that I found lying on the — plain. Gawd knows what’s up with him—I don’t. A good square feed is about what he wants, I reckon.” Then he went back for the man’s swag.

Dad, after hesitating, rose and went out. The others followed like a flock of sheep; and the “shepherd” brought up the rear. Church was out. It gathered around the seeming corpse, and stared hard at it. Dad and Dave spoke at the same time.

“Why,” they said, “it’s the cove with the bear-skin cap!” Sure enough it was. The clergyman knelt down and felt the man’s pulse; then went and brought a bottle from his valise—he always carried the bottle, he said, in case of snake-bite and things like that—and poured some of the contents down the man’s throat. The colour began to come to the man’s face. The clergyman gave him some more, and in a while the man opened his eyes. They rested on Dad, who was bending benignly over him. He seemed to recognise Dad. He stared for some time at him, then said something in a feeble whisper, which the clergyman interpreted—“He wishes you—” looking at Dad—”to get what’s in his swag if he dies.” Dad nodded, and his thoughts went sadly back to the day he turned the poor devil out of the barn.

They carried the man inside and placed him on the sofa. But soon he took a turn. He sank quickly, and in a few moments he was dead. In a few moments more nearly everyone had gone.

“While you are here,” Dad said to the clergyman, in a soft voice, “I’ll open the swag.” He commenced to unroll it—it was a big blanket—and when he got to the end there were his own trousers—the lost ones, nothing more. Dad’s eyes met Mother’s; Dave’s met Sal’s; none of them spoke. But the clergyman drew his own conclusions; and on the following Sunday, at Nobby-Nobby, he preached a stirring sermon on that touching bequest of the man with the bear-skin cap.



Chapter 10
One Christmas

Three days to Christmas; and how pleased we were! For months we had looked forward to it. Kate and Sandy, whom we had only seen once since they went on their selection, were to be home. Dave, who was away shearing for the first time, was coming home too. Norah, who had been away for a year teaching school, was home already. Mother said she looked quite the lady, and Sal envied the fashionable cut of her dresses.



Things were in a fair way at Shingle Hut; rain had fallen and everything looked its best. The grass along the headlands was almost as tall as the corn; the Bathurst-burr, the Scotch-thistles, and the “stinking Roger” were taller. Grow! Dad never saw the like. Why, the cultivation wasn’t large enough to hold the melon and pumpkin vines—they travelled into the horse-paddock and climbed up trees and over logs and stumps, and they would have fastened on the horses only the horses were fat and fresh and often galloped about. And the stock! Blest if the old cows didn’t carry udders like camp-ovens, and had so much milk that one could track them everywhere they went—they leaked so. The old plough-horses, too—only a few months before dug out of the dam with a spade, and slung up between heaven and earth for a week, and fed and prayed for regularly by Dad—actually bolted one day with the dray because Joe rattled a dish of corn behind them. Even the pet kangaroo was nearly jumping out of its skin; and it took the big black “goanna” that used to come after eggs all its time to beat Dad from the barn to the nearest tree, so fat was it. And such a season for butterflies and grasshoppers, and grubs and snakes, and native bears! Given an ass, an elephant, and an empty wine-bottle or two, and one might have thought Noah’s ark had been emptied at our selection.


Two days to Christmas. The sun getting low. An old cow and a heifer in the stock-yard. Dad in, admiring them; Mother and Sal squinting through the rails; little Bill perched on one of the round posts, nursing the steel and a long knife; Joe running hard from the barn with a plough-rein.

Dad was wondering which beast to kill, and expressed a preference for the heifer. Mother said, “No, kill the cow.” Dad inspected the cow again, and shook his head.

“Well, if you don’t she’ll only die, if the winter’s a hard one; then you’ll have neither.” That settled it. Dad took the rope from Joe, who arrived aglow with heat and excitement, and fixed a running noose on one end of it. Then—

“Hunt ’em round!” he cried.

Joe threw his hat at them, and chased them round and round the yard. Dad turned slowly in the centre, like a ring-master, his eye on the cow; a coil of rope was in this left hand, and with the right he measuredly swung the loop over and over his head for some time. At last the cow gave him a chance at her horns, and he let fly. The rope whizzed across the yard, caught little Bill round the neck, and brought him down off the post. Dad could hardly believe it. He first stared at Bill as he rolled in the yard, then at the cow. Mother wished to know if he wanted to kill the boy, and Joe giggled and, with a deal of courage, assured Dad it was “a fine shot.” The cow and the heifer ran into a corner, and switched their tails, and raked skin and hair off each other with their horns.

“What do you want to be always stuck in the road for?” Dad growled, taking the rope off little Bill’s neck. “Go away from here altogether!” Little Bill went away; so did Mother and Sal—until Dad had roped the cow, which wasn’t before he twice lassoed the heifer—once by the fore-leg and once round the flanks. The cow thereupon carried a panel of the yard away, and got out and careered down the lane, bucking and bellowing till all the cattle of the country gathered about her.

Dad’s blood was up. He was hanging on to the rope, his heels ploughing the dust, and the cow pulling him about as she liked. The sun was setting; a beautiful sunset, too, and Mother and Sal were admiring it.

“Did y’ never see th’ blasted sun go—go down be—” Dad didn’t finish. He feet slid under a rail, causing him to relax his grip of the rope and sprawl in the dust. But when he rose!


“Are y’ going t’ stand staring there all night?” They were beside the rails in an instant, took the end of the rope which he passed to them, put it once round the gallows-post, and pulled-pulled like sailors. Dad hung on close to the cow’s head, while Joe kicked her with his bare foot and screwed her tail.

“Steady!” said Dad, “that’ll about do.” Then, turning to the women as he mounted a rail and held the axe above the cow’s head: “Hang on there now!” They closed their eyes and sat back. The cow was very patient. Dad extended himself for a great effort, but hesitated. Joe called out: “L-l-ook out th’ axe dud-dud-don’t fly and gug-gug-get me, Dad!” Dad glanced quickly at it, and took aim again. Down it came, whish! But the cow moved, and he only grazed her cheek. She bellowed and pulled back, and Mother and Sal groaned and let the rope go. The cow swung round and charged Joe, who was standing with his mouth open. But only a charge of shot could catch Joe; he mounted the rails like a cat and shook his hat at the beast below.

After Dad had nearly brained her with a rail the cow was dragged to the post again; and this time Dad made no mistake. Down she dropped, and, before she could give her last kick, all of us entered the yard and approached her boldly. Dad danced about excitedly, asking for the long knife. Nobody knew where it was. “Damn it, where is it?” he cried, impatiently. Everyone flew round in search of it but Joe. He was curious to know if the cow was in milk. Dad noticed him; sprang upon him; seized him by the shirt collar and swung him round and trailed him through the yard, saying: “Find me th’ knife; d’ y’ hear?” It seemed to sharpen Joe’s memory, for he suddenly remembered having stuck it in one of the rails.

Dad bled the beast, but it was late before he had it skinned and dressed. When the carcase was hoisted to the gallows—and it seemed gruesome enough as it hung there in the pallid light of the moon, with the night birds dismally wailing like mourners from the lonely trees—we went home and had supper.

Christmas Eve. Mother and Sal had just finished papering the walls, and we were busy decorating the place with green boughs, when Sandy and Kate, in their best clothes—Kate seated behind a well-filled pillow-slip strapped on the front of her saddle; Sandy with the baby in front of him—came jogging along the lane. There was commotion! Everything was thrown aside to receive them. They were surrounded at the slip-rails, and when they got down—talk about kissing! Dad was the only one who escaped. When the hugging commenced he poked his head under the flap of Kate’s saddle and commenced unbuckling the girth. Dad had been at such receptions before. But Sandy took it all meekly. And the baby! (the dear little thing) they scrimmaged about it, and mugged it, and fought for possession of it until Sandy became alarmed and asked them to “Mind!”

Inside they sat and drank tea and talked about things that had happened and things that hadn’t happened. Then they got back to the baby and disagreed on the question of family likeness. Kate thought the youngster was the dead image of Sandy about the mouth and eyes. Sal said it had Dad’s nose; while Mother was reminded of her dear old grandmother every time the infant smiled. Joe ventured to think it resembled Paddy Maloney far more than it did Sandy, and was told to run away and put the calves in. The child wasn’t yet christened, and the rest of the evening was spent selecting a name for it. Almost every appellation under the sun was suggested and promptly rejected. They couldn’t hit on a suitable one, and Kate wouldn’t have anything that wasn’t nice, till at last Dad thought of one that pleased everybody—“Jim!”



After supper, Kate started playing the concertina, and the Andersons and Maloneys and several others dropped in. Dad was pleased to see them; he wished them all a merry Christmas, and they wished him the same and many of them. Then the table was put outside, and the room cleared for a dance. The young people took the floor and waltzed, I dare say, for miles—their heads as they whirled around tossing the green bushes that dangled from the rafters; while the old people, with beaming faces, sat admiring them, and swaying their heads about and beating time to the music by patting the floor with their feet. Someone called out “Faster!” Kate gave it faster. Then to see them and to hear the rattle of the boots upon the floor! You’d think they were being carried away in a whirlwind. All but Sal and Paddy Maloney gave up and leant against the wall, and puffed and mopped their faces and their necks with their pocket-handkerchiefs.

Faster still went the music; faster whirled Sal and Paddy Maloney. And Paddy was on his mettle. He was lifting Sal off her feet. But Kate was showing signs of distress. She leaned forward, jerked her head about, and tugged desperately at the concertina till both handles left it. That ended the tussle; and Paddy spread himself on the floor, his back to the wall, his legs extending to the centre of the room, his chin on his chest, and rested.

Then enjoyment at high tide; another dance proposed; Sal trying hard to persuade Dad to take Mother or Mrs. Maloney up; Dad saying “Tut, tut, tut!”—when in popped Dave, and stood near the door. He hadn’t changed his clothes, and was grease from top to toe. A saddle-strap was in one hand, his Sunday clothes, tied up in a handkerchief, in the other, and his presence made the room smell just like a woolshed.

“Hello, Dave!” shouted everyone. He said “Well!” and dropped his hat in a corner. No fuss, no kissing, no nothing about Dave. Mother asked if he didn’t see Kate and Sandy (both were smiling across the room at him), and he said “Yairs”; then went out to have a wash.

All night they danced—until the cocks crew—until the darkness gave way to the dawn—until the fowls left the roost and came round the door—until it was Christmas Day!




Chapter 11
How Dad Fell Out With Daly

Daly had been to Brisbane, and returned bursting with enthusiasm and information. He called at Ruddville to unburden himself to Dad. Daly was a welcome visitor at our place, and always got on well with Dad.

Besides Daly, Dad was the only man on Saddletop acquainted with the capital. Dad posed as an authority on the geography of Brisbane—knew every hole and corner of it, and could tell you exactly where Cribb’s, and Junkaway’s, and Toppin’s, and Winship’s, and old Bartley’s places were. It was no credit to him, though, because he had worked there a whole month nearly forty-five years before.

“You wouldn’t know it now, man,” Daly said, deprecatingly, “you ’d get lost!”

Dad wasn’t so sure.

“Don’t know,” he said, thoughtfully stroking his long grey beard.

“Why, it’s all built on fer miles—houses everywhere; an’ streets!—y’ don’t know where th’ divil y’ are fer them… It’s a fact!” (turning aggressively on Joe, who displayed an inclination to doubt) “yer can smile!” (Then to Dad) “And people! By gad!”

Daly couldn’t convey any idea of the population. Language failed him.

Sarah instanced the crowd that attended old Mrs. Delaney’s funeral by way of comparison.

“Be damned!” (Daly was not a polite man). “Pshaw! Nothing! … You’ve seen big mobs of sheep, haven’t y’?” (All of us had.) “Well, they’re simply nothing to th’ crowds y ’ll see in the main street on a Saturd’y night. S’ ’elp me goodness!” (addressing Mother—his mouth, eyes, and hands all working) “I never thought there was so many people in the world, Mrs. Rudd!” Dad reflected.

“Must go down when th’ wheat’s in, an’ see it again,” he said.

“If yer do”—Daly went on—  “stay at Mrs. O’Reilly’s, in Roma-street. Best place in th’ whole town, an’ on’y thirteen bob a week. Tip-top table and two all-right girls waits on y’. Look after yer as if y’ wer’ a juke; no mistake; an’ look here” (turning excitedly to Mother) “polish yer boots every bloomin’ mornin’, and” (Daly paused to cough) “an’ fetch tea inter th’ bed t’ y’!”

All of us laughed, except Sarah. She turned up her nose and went out. Sarah was a Sunday-school teacher now.

“Who, the girls?” Joe shouted, above the noise.

“‘O’ course.”

“Go on with you!” Mother said, looking on the floor. She didn’t believe Daly.

“My colonial!” Daly said.

“That’s th’ place for us, David, when we go down!” Joe put in, poking Dave hard in the ribs. Dave grinned his long slow grin.

“You go t’ Reilly’s,” Daly continued, addressing Dad again, “ask fer—”

“There were a place,” Dad mused, interupting Daly, “on the crick, where I used t’ stay; near—”

“Crick!” Daly guffawed. “Crick! … there isn’t any crick … Damme, I tell y’ it’s all built on, man; all houses—miles and miles of ’em. Th’ river’s wot you mean!” And he laughed cheerfully.

“Nonsense!” Dad snapped, turning red in the face; “there’s a crick as well. Mulcahy’s place is on th’ bank. Did you see Mulcahy’s place?”

Tears ran from Daly’s eyes. “What part of Brisbane d’ y’ mean?” he asked of Dad, in a voice that implied ridicule.

“Confound it, feller!” Dad broke out; “do y’ think I’ve never been there?”

“Now, don’t get angry over it,” Mother interposed, in her quiet, kind way. But Dad would never suffer a contradiction.

“Here!” he shouted, violently displacing a portion of the tablecloth and brandishing his pocket-knife— “here’s Brisbane, ain’t it?” (He savagely scratched a tracing, something like a square, on the table, which annoyed Mother.)

Daly smiled and, when Dad glared round at him, nodded assent. “There’s th’ river!”—raking the knife through the square, and making Mother jump.

Daly, watching closely over Dad’s shoulder, chuckled acquiescence.

“An’ that ’s th’ bridge?”—gashing the river in two.

“Correct,” Daly said, grinning more.

“Here’s Windmill Hill; here’s Rafferty’s pub in South Brisbane” (Dad dug a hole in the table to mark the pub, and Mother shuddered); here, just behind Rafferty’s, is a ridge, an’ a waterhole where me an’ Andrew Rafferty got our water, an’ a lot o’ scrub runnin’ right along this way (hacking another channel in the cedar).

“Bah!” Daly exclaimed in disgust— “waterhole! … scrub! … Wot ’n th’ devil ’re y’ talkin’ about? Don’t I tell y’ th’ place is all houses!”

“Houses be d—d!” Dad roared, showing all his teeth (he only has three now), “there’s no houses there” (prodding the knife into South Brisbane). “Here’s where th’ houses is” (he stabbed North Brisbane hard and angrily), “all along here … And this, runnin’ up here” (more mutilations which pained Mother), “is th’ crick.”

“Pshaw! Crick! … That” (Daly struck the tracing with his fist, and didn’t notice he shook Sarah’s flower-vase off the table), “that’s all shops.”

“Shops!” Dad yelled, plunging the knife into the cedar and snapping the blade, “are y’ mad? How th’ devil can there be shops in a crick?”

Daly turned green with rage. “Yer don’t know ennerthin’ about it,” he said, taking up his hat, “yer know nothing!” Mother pleaded for peace, and Joe grinned at Dave.

“Look here,” Dad roared, following Daly to the verandah; “I was in Brisbane before you or y’r father, or any one o’ y’ ever saw the country.”

“Yer might,” Daly sneered, “yer might, but yer know d—n little about it all the same!” And then he went away.


Chapter 12
Dad’s Trip To Brisbane

The wheat was in, and Dad decided to take a trip to Brisbane. For seven or eight years he had been thinking of that trip, but something or other always came to prevent his going. According to Dad himself, the farm would suffer if he went away for a month; there would be no one to look after it, no one to manage. According to us there would be no one to look on while the cows were being milked; no one to stand in the paddock all day while the hay was being raked and carted and stacked; no one to fuss round and be a nuisance to Dave while he sold a draft of fats to a butcher, or drove a profitable deal with the pig-buyers; no one to yell boisterously for the whereabouts of any of us when we chanced to be concealed from view for a moment or two by a dray, or a hay-stack, or something; no one to annoy the men who worked hardest, and to incite them to strike and seek employment elsewhere; no one to molest Regan’s bull when it came round our way; no one to take the gun down when little Billy Bearup came to see Sarah; no one to sool the dogs on to travelling stock and challenge the big dusty drovers to get down and be obliterated; and no one to aggravate Dave and Joe to blasphemy and rebellion.

Yes; we would miss Dad when he went away. Still, we encouraged him to go. We were not selfish. We said it would be a pleasant change to him. We said nothing of the pleasure it would be to ourselves. We thought only of Dad. Some families never think of their father at all. We never forgot Dad for a day. He was never out of our minds.

Mother was to accompany Dad to the city, and Bill, with the buggy, was waiting at the door to take them to the train. We admired the tall hat that Sarah had bought Dad for a Christmas present.

“Don’t f’get, now,” Dad adjured Dave for the hundredth time, “ter start chaff-cuttin’ t’morrer, an’ look out th’ milk doesn’t be late at th’ fact’ry—an’ see Regan sends that collar back t’day—an’ if thet feller comes for pigs, have them all ready for ’im—an’ min’ if Thompson”—(Sarah exchanged kisses with Mother and hoped she would have a good time, and sent her love to Norah)— “wants th’ lend o’ th’ filly, he carn’t git her; d—n ye, weh, horse!”—(the animal had switched its tail just when Dad placed his foot on the buggy step)— “don’t f’get now ter—” (“Won’t you put your hat straight, Dad?” from Sarah)— “ter start chaff-cuttin’ first thing—WEH! Will yer—an’ see th’ men ain’t loafin’ about all day.”

“It’ll be orl right,” Dave answered; then Bill stirred the horse up, and the buggy started.

“So-long!” Dave said. Sarah waved her hand. “Take care of y’selves,” Joe called out;— “remember me to Henry Norman, and watch you don’t get run in!”

Dad turned his head and shouted back, “Don’t leave th’ cows too long in th’ luce’ne.”

“Bust th’ cows!”—cheerfully, from Joe.

“Don’t leave th’ cows too long in th’ luce’ne,” Dad yelled again.

“Or-right!” Dave shouted between his hands, loud enough to be heard in Parliament. “Or-right!” from Joe, louder even than Dave. “Poor Dad!” Sarah mused, “the cows are a worry to him.”

A few turns of the wheels and the buggy stopped. Dave wondered. “Changed his mind,” said Joe. Sarah laughed.

“Hadn’t y’ better put them out now!” Dad shouted.

“For Heaven’s sake, get them out,” Joe advised, “or he won’t go.”

“Yairs, yairs,” Dave bawled, and packed Tom off to turn the brutes out.

Then the buggy disappeared round the corner, and Dave and Joe and Sarah and the rest of us marched inside and looked round. All of us rejoiced. We had never had so much freedom at home before, and we felt would never have again.

Joe pulled on an old faded smoking-cap of Dad’s that lay on the parlour table, and declared himself king. In a voice like Dad’s he ordered Bill to “Clear t’ th’ devil, an’ do some work.” Bill disobeyed. Joe took him by the neck. Bill resisted, and a brilliant engagement took place on the new carpet. They tumbled and rolled about like bullocks, broke the legs of two chairs, and shook down from the wall an enlarged picture of Dad’s father that had cost a lot of money. Sarah flew into a passion; said she wouldn’t stay another hour in the house if that was the way they were going to carry on. And when the combatants fell under the table and rose with it on their backs, and tilted it with a loud crash against the piano, she appealed distractedly to Dave.

“Steady there, now, you fellers!” Dave said; “steady!”

“It’s only th’ pedigree,” Joe answered, puffing hard, and restoring grandfather to the shattered frame.

Sarah was irate. But Tom’s voice announcing the approach of Billy Bearup calmed and conciliated her.

“He’s not!” she said, eagerly turning to the door. Then, changing colour, she cast an eye over her attire, and fled to doll herself up.

A new idea occurred to Joe. “See me startle Bearup!” he said, and pulling the smoker on again he slipped away. Robing himself in a familiar old rag of Dad’s, he took down the gun and hobbled forth to welcome Bearup, who at the moment was bending from his horse to open the gate.

“T’ ’ell outer this!” Joe roared at a range of sixty yards. Bearup looked up and saw the gun. He didn’t wait for anything more; he didn’t wait to open the gate again either. He spurred his horse and galloped down the headland. Joe fired the weapon off, and yelled as Dad several times had yelled before.

Bearup made a wide circuit through the stubble, doubled back on Joe, reached the gate at racing-speed, and while we wildly rejoiced from the verandah, disappeared down the lane and was lost in dust.

“You’re nothing but an ass!” Sarah said when Joe returned. “You’re a fool! I’ll let father know your carryings-on when he comes back.”

Then we went cheerfully to work.


Chapter 13
The Great Metropolis

Dad and Mother arrived in Brisbane at dusk and alighted at the Central railway-station. Dad took his bag, and, with Mother laden with parcels, went to seek lodgings.

They were welcomed to a boarding-house on Wickham Terrace that Norah had recommended to them. A daughter of the woman who kept it taught in Kangaroo Point school with Norah. ’Twas a large house and a lively place to stay at. Twelve boarders in it; twelve gentlemen boarders of different degrees and dress and dispositions. One was born with a gift for music, and had the patience and courage to develop it. He used to spend his nights thumping “Alice, where art thou?” out of the piano. Another constantly mortified the landlady, and made her miserable and unhappy. He would stay in on evenings she had company, reading the newspaper; and when the room was silent would straighten himself up and read aloud the house advertisements, dwelling on the “comforts” and “accommodation” with emphasis that made it sound like an indictment for perjury.

And there was a luxurious lodger who always had a ball or something to go to, and used to return late in the night or at early morning in a cab, and fly up the stairs pursued by the cabman. The others were harmless, quiet-living fellows, who only growled about their shirts every week and gave notice to leave.

Sweeney, a cheerful, red-haired lodger, coming from the bath, discovered Dad and Mother mooching about the balcony. He didn’t say “Good-morning” to them, or anything. He stared with all his eyes, and darted into a room as if they alarmed him. Then he and three of the quiet, harmless boarders poked their heads through a half-open door and grinned and grimaced at Dad and Mother.

But Dad didn’t notice them. Nor did he notice that they stole into the room of Doonan (the nasty member of the house). Doonan, who had lost a lot of sleep, was angry. In a loud voice he abused Dad and Mother, and accused them of tramping about all night, and asked if they were elephants. Then he took observations of them, and hammered on the wall of his room, and called lustily for Jacobs, another lodger, to come and see Esau.

The bell rang, and a host of gentlemen boarders with high collars and stiff shirts and soft hands trooped in to breakfast. The lady of the house, stout and stately, sat at the head of the table guarding a dish of sausages.

“See you’ve new lodgers, Mrs. Foley?” said one, a thin, satirical lawyer.

The others sniggered; the lady coloured slightly, smiled, and asked Mr. O’Rourke what he would take.

“Sausages, I expect,” Mr. O’Rourke said, sadly, seeing no second dish.

“Sausages for choice,” the lawyer added, and there was more sniggering, and fresh colour came into the lady’s face.

Doonan bounced in.

“Hello!” he exclaimed, “where’s Esau?”

Sweeney spluttered, and lost some of his tea. A small, big-footed girl, pouring out tea at a side table, giggled into the cups and scalded herself.

The lady rebuked her.

“Mary!” she said; “Mary, behave!”

Mary bent forward to place a cup of tea beside the lawyer, and broke out again in his ear and emptied a quantity of the boiling beverage into his lap. He sprang up and said “Blast it!” and Mary was sent to the kitchen.

Then came a noise as if someone was leading horses down the stairs, and Dad and Mother wandered in, looking as though they were afraid of being turned out again.

“Makin’ a start?” Dad said, pushing Mother to the front and removing his “other” hat, a broad-leafed felt trimmed with white calico.

The gentlemen boarders looked up, then dropped their heads like curlews hiding in the grass, and at intervals stole glances at each other and at Mrs. Foley.

Mother showed signs of uneasiness in the presence of so many strangers, and sat on the chair as though she distrusted it. She had no appetite, and would take only a cup of tea. But Dad squared himself and breathed noisily and took sausages every time.

Conversation flagged. The rattle of cutlery was the only sound for a good while—until Dad stirred his tea with a knife and started to drink. Then Sweeney, who had no self-control, lost some more of his tea.

Mrs. Foley looked distressed, but Doonan, who always knew when to say something, relieved her.

“Was that you walking about early this morning?” he asked of the lawyer, sitting opposite.

The lawyer smiled and reached for the jam.

“Where was it,” Dad joined in; “up here?” pointing his fork, with a sausage impaled on it, at the ceiling.

Doonan chuckled and said “Yes.”

“Thet wer’ me,” Dad answered proudly; “but it weren’t early”—(turning to Mother)— “weren’t it after four?”

Mother said timidly she thought it must have been.

“I expect you are used to early rising, Mr. Rudd?” said the landlady to Dad.

“Well”—stowing away the sausage he had been pointing at the ceiling— “middlin’, mum; ’bout three mostly. Dave, he gits up fust; then Joe an’ Bill they gets the cans ready, an’ Sarah she sees ter th’ tea fer th’ yard an’—”

The boarder with the mania for music suddenly left the table. “A minute or two to spare,” he said, addressing no one in particular, and threw himself down at the piano.

The others swallowed their breakfast hurriedly and left. Dad had another sausage, some more bread, and his fourth cup of tea. Encouraged by the music or the absence of the boarders, Mother tackled some bread and butter.

Dad finished, and shifted his chair beside the piano and stared into the face of the musician. The man of music became flustered and struck wrong notes. He wasn’t used to being admired.

“Wot ’s thet th’ chune o’?” Dad asked.

Without shifting his eyes the other shook his head as though he didn’t know.

“Wot are y’ playin’?”

No response excepting a violent conglomeration of sounds.

Dad waited till the storm was over, then put the question again.

“Al’ce ’r’ art Thou,” the musician hissed, striking a run of discords, and poking among the keys for the lost notes.

“C’n y’ play th’ ‘Wil’ Colonial Boy’ on thet?” Dad inquired.

“Play th’ deuce!” the musician said, savagely, and jumped up and ran away. In the hall he encountered Mrs. Foley. “What is it?” he asked, turning his thumb in the direction of Dad; then went out into the street, working all his fingers in imaginary manipulation of the keyboard.

Dad and Mother thought they would “mooch about” a bit, and strolled into Queen-street. They stood at the Courier corner for half-an-hour, staring in wonder. The people, the traffic, trams going and trams coming, and the row and rattle of it all bewildered them. Dad confessed that Brisbane had changed a bit since he knew it fifty years ago. They strained their eyes and ears trying to absorb everything, and got headaches.

“Look here! look here! look here! Eighteen lovely epples fer wan shellen’, and put ’em in a baag!” Dad felt his pocket. Twenty newsboys rushed him, pushing and scrimmaging, shoving their wares into his hands and into his face, and claiming his custom. Mother smiled compassionately on Dad, and they both moved with the throng.

A female astride a bike attracted Dad; he grabbed Mother by the arm. “Look at thet ’un!” he exclaimed; and both of them stood staring and grinning after the wheeling female until she was lost to them in the traffic.

Three more pedalled past. “Another!” Dad gasped, tugging violently at Mother again— “two—three of ’em, be d—d!”

The excitement was too much for Dad. He was compelled to rest. He leaned against a verandah-post and reflected on the scene around. “Never see th’ like,” he said to Mother. “They’re thicker’n wallabies!” And a cheerful growl rumbled from him.

They walked Queen-street most of the day, and went without lunch. Dad was not a success on the pavement. The city people claimed all the space. They got in his way, pushed him about, collided with him, and whenever he stood a moment to stare back at anything, they carried him off his feet. Dad got sick of it all, and took to the street. The street was wider, and more in Dad’s line. He got on well there, could see everything, and was striding along, his hands locked behind his back, one eye on Mother, the other on some girls hanging out of a window in a top storey, when a ’bus driver yelled— “Heigh there!—heigh!” and cracked his whip.

Dad felt the moist breath of a broken-winded horse on his neck, and had just danced safely to one side when a fat, perspiring female, moving in the same direction on a bike, spurted to pass the ’bus, and drove her front wheel fair between Dad’s legs, and lifted him up in front of her. Then, like a woman, she let the handles go and screamed, and turned the bicycle over on the wood blocks, and mixed Dad up in her skirts. Dad was more bewildered than ever. He didn’t know what had attacked him until he regained his feet; then he scowled on the fallen female, struggling and kicking at the machine like a horse in a fence, and clutching her skirts to hide her great, black-stockinged calves, and said—

“One o’ them damn things!” and returned to the footpath.

Dad joined Mother again, and together they purchased some fruit and explored George-street. Several barristers wearing wigs, their gowns ballooning in the wind, issued from the Supreme Court and swept by. Mother watched them till they were swallowed up in Burnett-lane, then said she supposed they would be bishops.

Dad shook his head. “Might be Judges,” he remarked; “ain’t bishops, or they’d be in tights.”

Assembled at the gates of the courts were a number of legal lights. Among them Dad recognised the lawyer from the boarding-house. Dad was delighted.

“Hello!” he said, “this where y’ are?”

The Law resented Dad with a look. But looks were nothing to Dad. The rest of the fraternity smiled and smoked.

“Have some o’ these,” Dad said, producing a fistful of bananas from a large brown paper parcel that Mother was hugging.

The lawyer frowned. “No, thanks,” he snapped, turning his back on Dad.

“Put ’em in yer pocket,” said Dad, amiably, proceeding to load his reluctant beneficiary with the fruit.

Fire flashed from the lawyer’s eyes. He drew back fiercely, and shouted: “Go to the devil!” His learned brethren laughed, and they all moved away, leaving Dad staring perplexedly at Mother.

Dad and Mother got tired of the streets, and made their way back to the boarding-house. Dad took the lead and found Wickham Terrace without any trouble. Dad was a good bushman. The bump of locality was strong in Dad. Then he stalked into a private dwelling courageously, dragging Mother after him, wandered among the furniture looking for the stairs, and alarmed the inmates. A man with a capacious stomach hanging to him like a staghorn, and wearing glasses, came and saw them both off the premises again, and remained on the steps till they closed the gate and departed.

Mother remonstrated with Dad in the street for being “a stoopid.”

“I could ’a’ sworn thet wer’ it,” Dad said, staring back at the place. Then, after eyeing a house a few doors up, “Ah! this is the one.”

He placed his hand on the gate, and opened it eagerly. Mother hesitated. She wasn’t going to follow Dad any more. She wasn’t quite sure of him. Dad chuckled. “You’re bushed!” he said, mounting the steps heavily and striding in at the open door. Inside Dad saw himself revealed in a large mirror, and was confused. He stood staring and trying to remember the surroundings.

“Well?” from a sonorous voice in a corner of the room. Dad glanced round, and saw another fat man with glasses on, looking hard at him from behind a book.

“Ain’t this Mrs. Brown’s boarding-house?” Dad asked.

“Three doors up,” the voice said.

“Dammit!” Dad said, and rushed out.

Finally Mother recognised Mary grinning from a balcony, then Dad knew the place and rejoiced. They wandered in and mounted the stairs and found their room. Dad said he would have a wash. He threw off his coat and shirt and splashed and bubbled noisily in a basin, and made a great mess of the wall and the floor. When he dried himself he pulled his boots off, and like a horse that had been ploughing or ridden hard all day, rolled heavily on the bed and groaned.

He had scarcely stretched himself when Mrs. Foley, pale and looking as though she had seen a ghost or buried a boarder, appeared at the door of the room, and asked Dad if he’d thrown any water over the balcony.

“No,” Dad answered, sitting up, “On’y what I jest washed meself in.”

“Good gracious me!” Mrs. Brown exclaimed, putting her palms together, “then it went all over a lady an’ gentleman passing in the street!”

“It dud?” Dad said, jumping up and going to the balcony for verification. Below he saw a tall swell holding a wet silk hat in one hand, while with a handkerchief in the other he mopped splashes from the skirts of a gorgeous female. At intervals the swell glared wickedly at the walls of the house and made threatening remarks.

“Wot!” Dad called out apologetically, “dud thet go on y’?”

The swell looked up.

“Was it you threw that watah, fellah?”

Dad turned to the room, snatched up the towel he had dried himself in and rolled it into a lump.

“Here,” he shouted—hanging over the balcony again— “wipe ’er with thet!” And he threw the towel down. It opened in its flight like a fan, and spread itself over the swell’s head and shoulders and blindfolded him.

“Blackguard!” the swell cried, dragging the moist rag from his head— “damn your insolence!” And he looked up fiercely.

“John!” the lady interposed, “don’t get exasperated, my dear!”



Then they moved away and left Dad staring from the balcony.


Chapter 14
Seeing The City

Next day, Saturday, Dad and Mother were out early enough to gather mushrooms. They wandered through the streets again, for hours, and finally found their way to the Museum. At first they saw only collections of stones and a lot of bones and things, and Dad felt disappointed, and was loudly condemning the institution when they happened on a family of dingoes and a number of kangaroos, and an eagle-hawk standing tragically on the neck of a cowering old bear.

Dad opened his eyes. He guffawed excitedly and looked from one to the other. Dad could have slept in the Museum then—he could have died happily there. He spoke cheerfully to the kangaroos, hooted the dingo, looked down with a grin on the form of the native bear, and said, “Well, I’m d—d!”

Dad was always glad to meet anyone from the Bush.

A man came along—a man with long, ragged coat sleeves and boots with hardly any heels or soles to them—a man who trembled as though he were addicted to eating indigo—and stood beside Dad and looked at the kangaroos, too. Dad told him the sort they were, and explained how high they could jump, and showed him the toe they ripped dogs with.

“And which one do they rip men with?” the man asked in a harsh, unsympathetic voice.

“Oh, same one, same one!” Dad answered.

“Oh, they do!” the man shrieked. “I thought perhaps they stung them with their tails!” Dad laughed merrily.

“Y’r thinkin’ o’ death-adders,” he broke out; “they stings with th’ tail!”

“Same as bears?”—and the man made an effort to button his coat, but there were no buttons on it.

Dad laughed more.

“Bears?” he yelled, in an amused tone, “they haven’t got a tail … Here’s a bear!”—turning and pointing to the one the hawk was standing guard over— “no tail—see?”

But the man didn’t pay any attention to Dad. He pointed triumphantly to the dingo and asked, “Hasn’t that one got a tail?”

The laugh Dad made went all over the Museum.

“That’s not a bear, man,” he cried, when he got his breath; “that’s-ha!-that’s-ha, ha-a-ha! ha! ha! a dingo—a nater dorg.”

An ancient official came along and asked Dad to be quiet.

“Or y’ll frighten the kangaroos,” the ragged man added, turning his back and slinking away a step.

“Well, thet chap,” Dad chuckled, “calls this”—(lifting his big boot and placing it against the glass case and indicating the dingo)— “a bear!”

The official smiled and disappeared.

Dad laughed some more to himself. Then the man returned and, stepping up to Dad, motioned him with his head as though he wished to confide something to him.

Dad ceased laughing and bent down and placed his ear close to the man’s mouth.

The man spoke in a low, reverent tone. He said:

“Have y’a bob about y’?”

Dad had. Then the man glided out like a ghost and disappeared too. Dad and Mother struck the boarding-house for dinner. At the table Dad led the conversation.

He spoke enthusiastically of the ’roos and dingoes in the Museum, and, waving his fork with a potato on it, advised everyone to go and see them.

“Y’d split y’self laughin’,” he said, addressing the boarding-house keeper— “t’ see th’ ol men sittin’ there as if they was up in the bloomin’ Bush.”

“What about the young one?” Mother chirped, smiling shyly.

“Ah; I f’got”—and Dad chewed hurriedly— “Yes, an’ they’ve a big she there standin’ up starin’ at y’”—(Dad threw back his head, opened his eyes and mouth and displayed a lot of chewed meat and made himself wild-looking)— “an’ a big lump of a joey hanging out of ’er pooch and cockin’ its head all round the place, as cunnin’ lookin’ as y’ like!”

Most of the boarders burst out laughing. The lady of the house smiled, then got red in the face, and smiled again when the lawyer asked Dad whether kangaroos were better to eat than bears. But a young lady, a school teacher, sitting opposite Dad, asked to be excused, and bounced away from the table leaving her dinner almost untouched.

A dead silence followed. The lawyer grinned at O’Rourke.

“She don’t eat much,” Dad said, following the teacher with his eyes. “If she had nothin’ but kangaroo for a while she’d eat more than that!” The boarders roared some more, and when they left the table they collected in Jacob’s room, and yelled again, and the lawyer said Dad was “worth a quid.”

Afternoon. Mother rested herself, and Dad stalked out alone. He found Queen-street almost empty. The crowds of chattering, jawing females flaunting their frills and furbelows were gone. (Thank God!) And the “blokes” with their sticks hanging to their arms, and their panamas pushed up behind—and the contented-looking aldermen with their ponderous stomachs—and the politicians arguing at corners and waving umbrellas and folded newspapers about—and the long-coated divine tapping a book with his lean forefinger and interpreting Solomon to an anxious disciple—and the wild-looking, unshorn “man about town,” with the long stride and heavy boots—and the rowing men flying their colours in their coats and talking “clean blades” and “dirty oars” and “getting y’r hands away”—and the swaggering footballers with coloured handkerchiefs thrown about their necks—and the “toffs” and the “dudes” and the “Johnnies” and the straw-hat push—all were gone.

Dad stood on the kerbing and gazed down the almost deserted street. A ’bus drawn by four stiff, starved-looking horses, laden with footballers in caps and overcoats, went by. The footballers hung out of the ’bus and waved a flag, and clamoured and called derisively to Dad. Dad smiled.

“Pum! pum! pum!” Dad jumped round and stared up the street. A brass band burst violently upon the air. It blared out “Men of Harlech.” Behind it a regiment of foot volunteers, armed with rifles and waterbags and haversacks and helmets, marched fearlessly.

They were a dashing lot of chaps—brave, formidable-looking fellows, too. A grand galaxy. Some were tall as gum trees; some just beginning to sprout; some old and hoary and hump-backed; some all stomach and head; others all helmet and no head or stomach at all; one without a uniform; one with two rifles; one with an eye-glass; and one dead lame—but he managed to keep up.

As the band approached him, belching music out of itself, Dad began to prance like an old horse. Dad had been a soldier himself. He nearly went to the Crimea—so he said. He often regretted not having gone, too. Sometimes we regretted too.

Just opposite Dad the officer in command—a heavily-medalled person—sitting cautiously astride a well-polished horse—lifted his voice and yelled: “Shoul-dah-UM!” And “Shoulder arms!” was yelled all along the line. Those who had been in engagements before manoeuvred their rifles calmly—others dropped them in the street and excitedly groped for them again, and brought trouble and confusion to the ranks.

Dad was carried away with enthusiasm. He stepped from the pavement and joined the volunteers. He walked beside the band, carrying his hat in his hand. The volunteers marched down George-street and entered the Botanic Gardens. A crowd, composed mostly of girls and old women and noisy, ragged youngsters of the street, followed.

In the gardens there was great excitement. A lot of big guns were there mounted on wheels, all pointing steadily at the people on Kangaroo Point. And talk about soldiers! talk about Aldershot or the handful of men Bonaparte dropped returning from Moscow! The grounds were swarming with them. They were moving in all directions, marching in file, in line, in groups, and marching right at each other. And the generals, and majors, and sergeant-majors, and adjutants and lieutenant-colonels that were there! You’d wonder how they all found uniforms.

The generals careered round on horseback, flopping and bumping about in the saddle and shouting out orders. They were all in authority. Some yelled “Left batal-yarn!” at one end of the field, another “Compa-n aay lead-ahs!” at the other end. Several others— “Second di-visharn, r-right incline—for-r-ward—harlt—dress up!” Several score others— “R-r-rightwhee-YEL!” And all at the same time. ’Twas a stirring scene—a memorable sight. Dad reckoned he would never forget it.

Finally the forces combined and formed a huge square, two deep. They prepared to fire a feu de joie. The majors and colonels and all the rest galloped about inside the square. You’d think word had just been received of an invasion.

After numerous warnings and words of advice from different officers, the order was given to “Pre-sent!”

Every rifle in the lines was instantly pointed at the clouds—except about half-a-dozen in the rear ranks. They were unconsciously levelled at the head of the man in front. Several youthful warriors, when their fingers felt the triggers, trembled with excitement, and one let his rifle go off before it was time and made a gorgeous officer swear and the spectators laugh.

“Fire!” was the next order, and the rifles went off like a lot of crackers— “bang!—bang!—bang!” all along the line. Some of the horses reared; several officers fell out of their saddles; a man in the front rank reeled about and fell down; the man behind had shot him in the ear, blowing it all away and blackening his neck and jaw with powder. Two others grew confused and couldn’t pull the triggers at all, but they persisted and got their weapons to go off when the rest had finished firing.

The wounded soldier was taken away by the ambulance, and Dad followed “to see what they were going to do to him.”

The forms of Dad and Mother became familiar to residents of Wickham Terrace. When they were passing people used to stare out at them and grin, and some would run out and lean over the garden fence and watch them going along. With the boys round there, too, Dad became a great favourite. They used to call him “Ironbark” and advise him to get his hair cut, and often they would follow him along and aim orange peel at him till he turned and glared. Then they would pretend to be frightened, and skedaddle.

One evening at dusk Dad and Mother, after spending an enjoyable day in Queen-street, were mooching along the Terrace making for the boardinghouse. Dad was carrying a pair of glass vases Mother had purchased for Sarah, and was wondering how Dave and Joe were getting along at home. Mother had a new umbrella in one hand and a brown paper parcel in the other.

Suddenly a snake wriggled across the footpath, almost from under their feet. Dad got a great start. He jumped back, tugging Mother with him. “A snake!” he said in a surprised tone. Mother clutched Dad’s arm. But Dad never allowed a snake to escape him. He looked round for something to attack it with. Nothing was handy. Several men and a girl on a verandah near by watched interestedly. Dad placed his hand on a white fence and tried to move some of it, but all the palings were firmly nailed.

The snake glided slowly along. There was no time to lose. Dad snatched Mother’s new umbrella from her hand and pounced on the reptile. The snake didn’t take any notice of the blows Dad rained on it. It headed leisurely for the other side of the street, where there was some long grass and a park inside a fence. Dad jumped after it and walloped it all the way across, and smashed the umbrella into a lot of pieces, and didn’t hear the roar that came from the men on the verandah. The snake reached the grass, and as it disappeared Dad heaved the vases at it, which made a great crash.

Then a lot of small boys jumped up and fled with the snake on a string. Dad stared after them. They looked round, but kept running.

“Well, I’m damned!” Dad said, turning to Mother.


Chapter 15
The Return Home

Dad and Mother tramped about Brisbane for three weeks, and but for meeting old Delaney dodging through the crowd one evening they might have been strolling about there yet. Dad and old Delaney were enemies at home, but when they met in Queen-street they gripped hands and rejoiced as though they were never to part any more. Dad laughed and said he didn’t know Delaney was down, and inquired where he was staying. “An’ how’re them boys o’ mine doin’?” he asked.

“Doin’ splendid,” Delaney said.

Dad was pleased.

“They guve great raices in yur paddick a week come Winsdy.”

Dad stared and struggled for breath.

“An’ they’re to guve a ball to-morrer.”

“Whaht?” Dad shouted, opening wide his mouth and attracting much notice— “Whaht?”

Next moment Dad was stumping up Edward-street in advance of Mother, who was compelled to trot to keep in sight. The great metropolis had no more charms for Dad. At nine o’clock the following night Dad and Mother arrived at Saddletop. Gray’s cart happened to be at the station, and they were given a lift to the gate. Mother thanked the man and gave him a banana, but Dad was thinking heavily.

Sounds of music floated on the peaceful air and provoked Dad to profanity. He threw wide the big white gate, leaving Mother to close it. Dogs barked and bounded down the track, at first threatening to eat Dad, but then, recognising him, jumped for joy, and climbed and clawed all over him, heedless of kicks and curses.

Dad expressed no pleasure at seeing the house again—you would never think he had been away at all. A large area of newly-ploughed land discernible in the moonlight, and a number of fresh lucerne stacks that changed the whole aspect of Ruddville, failed to attract his eye. He noticed nothing till he came to a long line of saddle-horses fastened to the fence. One had its nose in a bit of hay. Dad spotted that horse and, like a plain-turkey taking wing, threw out his arms and rushed on to the verandah.

Inside the “Prince of Wales Schottische” had just ended, and the perspiring party stood round the ball-room, ablaze with candles, listening attentively to the voices of Miss Tod and the schoolmaster’s wife blending pathetically in song together.

“After the ball is o-ver,” they were screeching just when Dad burst into the room.

“Wot th’ devil’s this?” he bellowed. (They stopped like a clock.) “Who brought all you into my house?” (Consternation.) “Out of here! out o’ this—th’ whole damn lot o’ you.”

“Dad!” Sarah gasped, her voice scarcely audible.

Dad’s enraged eye rested on the trembling form of Billy Bearup by her side. Such a howl! A brown paper parcel he held in his hand, containing a pair of heavy boots, flew at Bearup’s head and struck big Mrs. McManus on the chest.

Commotion! screams! and a wild rush to escape. In the stampede Bearup was left behind, and while the little fellow frantically fought and sparred for an opening, Dad kicked at him as if he were a wallaby fast in a fence.

“Stop it!” Dave cried angrily, “don’t make a fool o’—”

But Dad silenced Dave.

“Clear out!” he roared, shoving him; “leave my house.”

Dave was inclined to resist.

“Leave th’ place,” Dad yelled in a wild, broken voice, “or I’ll send for th’ p’lice.”

“Pshaw!” Dave hissed, and walked out.

The ejected guests secured their horses in haste and left in disorder.

Sarah and Dave and Joe, bareheaded, stood in the yard and silently stared after them. The last one passed out and the gate closed. Voices and hoof-beats died away. The neighs of a horse and the “whoop, whoop” of a night-bird came from the ironbark ridge.

“Robbed—ruined!” from the house.

The clock struck two.

“Ruinin’ me! ruinin’ me!” from the house again.

“Mo-poke, mo-poke,” from out the gully on the reserve.

The clock struck three.

The moon ceased to shine, and Dad to shout. Sarah dried her eyes and stole quietly to her room.

“Ah, well!” Dave said, “let it rip,” and he and Joe turned to the barn and camped with the men.


Chapter 16
Old Uncle

It was about three months after the tremendous excitement of Dad’s trip to Brisbane. Things had gradually got back into their old routine; and by degrees we had patched up a peace with all our insulted guests. We were quite calm and happy. Then, one day suddenly, trouble came.

Often we had wondered if Dad had any relations in Australia. As a rule Dad rarely discussed his pedigree or bragged of his native country. Unlike hundreds of others who left home to better their condition, Dad wasn’t given to boasting of the place and the people he had left behind. Dad was honest and generous.

“They’re all dead now,” Dad said one day, referring to his family— “all dead—but one.” Then he changed the subject. Occasionally, though, he would talk freely of those who were dead, and tell us if we resembled any of them, and laugh over things they used to do. But about the surviving one Dad was reticent. He seemed to value the dead more than the living.

Harvesting in full swing; all of us busy; Dad digging potatoes to feed the men on.

An oldish, odd-looking little man with scars, a faded, famished beard, tender feet, boots of hard wrinkled leather that turned up at the toes and collected roley-poley grass, and a small calico swag on his back, greeted Dad cheerfully across the fence.

Dad straightened up and stared.

“You was diggin’ a dam, last time I saw you Murty,” the stranger said, crawling through the fence.

They shook hands—the odd-looking one hard and heartily, Dad almost reluctantly.

The stranger was delighted to see Dad. He complimented him on his looks and the way he carried his age. “You’ve got awfully like the ol’ man,” he said, looking at Dad again with weak eyes full of affection or something.

Dad wasn’t moved much. He hardly said anything. He seemed to be thinking of a lot of things at once. The presence of the stranger appeared to flood Dad’s mind with all his past errors and omissions or debts or things of that kind.

The little man cast his eyes about and in a surprised tone asked Dad if he owned “all this!”

“Oh—yes,” Dad drawled restlessly.

Just then Mother came out, carrying a dish.

“Hello!” the little fellow said, “there’s Ellen!” and he hastened to meet her.

“Lookin’ younger than y’ did twenty year ago,” he remarked, joyously shaking Mother’s hand.

“Bless me!” Mother answered, staring hard at him, “is it Peter?”

“All that’s left of him!” And “Peter” placed his hands on his hips and gazed down at his boots, the tops of which were several inches below the legs of his soiled, sorrowful-looking moleskins.

Mother was pleased to meet “Peter,” and was asking where he had been all the years he was away, when Sarah, just returned from the store, came along in a riding-habit and leading her horse.

“Norah, if I ain’t mistaken,” Peter said warmly, extending his hand to Sarah.

Sarah hesitated, blushed, looked at Mother, then smiled.

“Doesn’t know ’er old Uncle!” Peter said with a deep grin.

Mother confirmed his claim to relationship.

“Brother to your father,” she said, looking at Sarah. Then our Uncle held out his hand again and Sarah gave him hers, for Dad’s sake. Uncle shook vigorously, and, looking Sarah in the eyes, said he’d have known her from Mother if he had met her in the dark.

“You’d better come inside,” Dad said to his brother in passing with a load of potatoes on his back, and without turning his head to look at him.

Uncle followed along with Mother. Sarah went and let her horse go.

Dad didn’t remain in the house any time. He left his brother in Mother’s charge and went down the paddock and quarrelled with Joe.

In the evening, as we came in from work, Sarah, with a broad smile, met us in the yard and asked us to guess who was inside. It wasn’t the parson or the pig-man or the governor. So we gave it up.

“Dad’s brother,” she said, “and he’s no more like Dad than a crow!”

“Thank God for that, anyway,” Joe said, pulling the harness angrily from off the draught horses and heaving it from him. We laughed.

“What do y’ call him?” Dave asked, chuckling— “Uncle?”

We laughed again.

When we were ready and reached the door of the house we felt nervous—we were almost afraid to enter. We expected to see a man with a presence—an imposing personality—a stern old warrior like Dad himself. But when we saw the man he was all our composure suddenly returned.

Our Uncle didn’t look anything except poor and dirty. We had seen plenty of him going along the roads every day of our lives. We tried to think what he could be. He looked like a “sundowner,” but he might have been a burr-cutters’ cook. Being a relation, we were inclined to favour him. We decided he was a cook.

“Don’t remember any of this lot,” he said, limping across the room to shake hands with us.

We grinned and gave him ours.

“How are y’, Uncle?” Joe said, shaking him several times violently; “pleased t’ meet y’; glad you’ve”—(Uncle hollered and pulled to free himself from Joe’s grip)— “come to see us!”

“Lord Harry!” Uncle said, and returned to his corner with tears in his eyes. Then we all took our places at the table and stared at our Uncle and grinned at one another.

Mother and Sarah engaged Uncle Peter in conversation. Dad didn’t take any notice of him. We couldn’t make Dad out. We expected he would be overcome with joy. But he didn’t show any delight at all. He looked morose and surly.

“You going to have meat?” he asked, glaring at Bill.

Bill didn’t hear him. Bill was gaping at Uncle.

“You going to have meat?” Dad’s voice shook the things on the table and made Mother nervous.

Joe laughed. Dad glared at Joe, but suppressed his wrath when Mother called “Father,” and savagely slashed at the joint.

Dad didn’t ask his brother what he would have. He just piled meat and potatoes on a plate and sent it along to him.

In the middle of the meal Uncle apologised to Mother for the old clothes he was wearing. “Out west,” he explained between mouthfuls, “we ain’t so p’tic’lar; no one thinks o’ clothes there. He can tell y’ that,” pointing to Dad with his fork. But Dad neither endorsed nor denied Uncle’s explanation.

When Uncle had finished he didn’t sit back and talk old times with Dad. He strolled out and stretched himself on the verandah, and at intervals made remarks about the stars. After a while he found fault with the verandah boards.

“Too ’ard f’ me!” he said, and crept down the steps and lay on the grass.

A useless old cattle-dog of Dad’s joined him, and they made friends. He said he had seen the time when he would have given ten pounds for Rover. Joe offered him the brute for five bob.

Mother prepared a bed for Uncle, and came and told him where to find the room when he was ready to turn in.

Uncle laughed. Mother’s idea of hospitality seemed to amuse him.

“A bed,” he chuckled. “I hav’n’t slep’ in one for forty year!”

Old Uncle went off to the barn and made a bed for himself out of the empty bales. In the morning he was out early and watched the milking going on. After breakfast he dodged about and took an interest in the place. Different from other people who came to see us, Uncle required no waiting on or running after. Whenever he saw anyone at work he made for the spot and offered to give a hand. When he finished helping one he went to the next. We had never seen anyone so willing. But Dave wouldn’t accept any assistance from him. Dave said it was a mean thing to let him work when he was only on a visit. Joe didn’t hold the same views as Dave. Joe had Uncle almost bursting himself during the heat of the day, and in the afternoon he handed him his pitchfork and asked him “if he didn’t mind” to fork-up while he went up the paddock to run a horse in.

“Certainly,” old Uncle said, and went at it like a young colt.

With the first sheaf he tossed up, Uncle nearly knocked off the dray the man who was loading. The man glared down at Uncle, but didn’t say anything. Next attempt Uncle put a prong of the fork into the man’s leg. The man yelled; then he swore and nearly unloaded the dray throwing sheaves at Uncle’s head.

Dave smoothed matters over and Uncle continued. But he seemed to have no wind. He began to flounder. The sheaves got heavier and heavier, till at last Uncle couldn’t put them on the dray at all. He kept looking anxiously round to see if Joe was returning. But Joe didn’t get the horse in till night.

Next day Uncle didn’t go into the paddocks. He found a lot of things required attention about the house, and put in some time in the kitchen. The day following he put in all his time in the kitchen.

Three weeks went by, and we began to wonder how long Uncle intended staying. We asked Mother, but she hadn’t any idea.

Three months passed. Old Uncle was still with us. He mostly lived in the kitchen now. Took all his meals there in company with the dog, and waited on himself. From the dining-room we could hear him chuckling and talking to Rover. To us he became the subject of remark and amusement; to Dad he was an irritant. Sometimes Mother would show compassion for him, and in a half-hearted sort of way she’d reproach Dad for not inviting him to the table.

“Did I tell him to eat there?” Dad would snort. “If he likes it, let ’im!”

Now and again, though, Dad would relent. “What d’ y’ want buryin’ y’self out here f’?” he’d say to Uncle; “why th’ devil can’t y’ eat inside like anyone else?”

But old Uncle would only shake his head and say, “Go on, go on; it’s all right.”

If any one else asked him why he ate in the kitchen, though, he would sneer and say he hadn’t a dress suit.

Years went by. Uncle Peter was one of us. He owned the kitchen and most of the barn. Somehow we were not proud of our Uncle. We knew we should have loved him and all that sort of thing, and sometimes felt remorse; but when Sarah, who taught Sunday school and believed in loving her enemies, couldn’t endear herself to him, we were consoled. Uncle was a bigger nuisance to us than the Bathurst burr. The burr we had to eradicate, but there was no way of ridding ourselves of old Uncle. He wouldn’t ride on a flash horse or go about where any trees were likely to fall, and we didn’t like to murder a relation. He was always in good spirits, though, and nothing ever seemed to go wrong with him. It was all the same to Uncle whether corn was bringing five shillings or five pence. He took his meals just as heartily.

Old Uncle was always at his best when any visitors came to the house. He would be first to show out—with patches and long stitches all over him, too! He would take charge of the visitors’ horses if they had any, and fasten them to the fence. When they were settled inside having tea, he would hobble in and ask if their horses had had water or if any of them would pull away. Then he’d loiter at the door and pass remarks about the crops and the weather, till Mother felt forced to ask him to have a cup of tea. Uncle would. Then he’d sit down to it and be one of the company, and lead the conversation into family history, and rake up things that needn’t have been mentioned at all, and make Sarah uncomfortable.

In Uncle, Sarah had an everlasting grievance. We could forget him sometimes, but with Sarah he was always present.

“Can’t you give him something to do that will keep him down the paddock?” she said to Dad one day.

“Do?” Dad yelled; “what th’ devil can he do? Could he ever do anything?”

Joe sympathised with Sarah. He said: “Get him to crawl up a hollow log after something, Sal: then you run and block the hole!”

There were times, though, when old Uncle might have been useful to us—when he might have harnessed a horse or chopped wood or chased calves out of the greenstuff. But he never did any of these things; he was a hopeless waster, not worth his salt.

Uncle caught a heavy cold one winter, and for several weeks we were all anxious about him. We wondered if he would die. But he didn’t. He cured himself with a medicine he made from a common herb growing round the barn.

It was a great blow to us. We cut down every scrap we could find of that herb, and burnt it.

For seven years old Uncle stayed with us. Stayed till one Christmas Sandy and Kate came to spend the week. Uncle liked their style, so he said, and decided to go back to Sleepy Creek with them. When we saw he really was going we felt that for once, anyway, the Lord had remembered us. But we were sorry for Sandy and Kate!


Chapter 17
The Wattle-Blossom Bride

There was to be a wedding at Sandy’s place, at Sleepy Creek, and the neighbours got excited over it. Wild Dick Saunders, from Saddletop, who had selected on Sleepy, and lived by himself in a disorderly humpy nearly large enough to hold several dray-loads of corn, and did his own cooking and washing, decided to get married.

Dick would have got married two or three times while he was at Saddletop, but for the girls that were there. Not that they wouldn’t have him; but they were all sentiment and formality—there was no business about any of them; their idea of matrimony was seven or eight years’ hugging and mugging and riding about on Sunday, then a ring and a ceremony and a big dance, and off up the country.

Dick wasn’t a cove to shilly-shally about things and waste time; he was imperative and impatient, and couldn’t fool and poke round anyone’s place to find out if he was liked by the old man and the brothers and the little sister and the dog and the pet kangaroo, and approved by the old woman, before telling the girl what he was after.

On two or three occasions Dick got disgusted with himself and single life, and knocked off work in the middle of the day, and rode straight to a place where there was a marriageable daughter, and hung his horse to the fence and walked right in, and regardless of the presence of the parents and two strangers asked the girl in a loud voice if she would have him, and with an ugly frown on his face stood waiting her answer. And when the girl opened her eyes and stared and blushed and giggled, and shook her head, and referred him to Mary Molloy or someone of The Gap, he drew nasty comparisons between himself and other young chaps in the district, and warned her that she might “do a d—n sight worse,” and went home and remained single.

But Minnie Simpson, a one-eyed girl with two front teeth missing and a large head of faded, straggled hair and a round fat face, employed in the hotel at Sleepy Creek township, saw something in Dick one day and risked him. Dick risked her too.

Kate took great interest in Dick’s wedding. Mad on weddings, Kate was. Most women are; that’s why so many of them get married. Kate placed all her house at Dick’s disposal, and spent days cleaning and cooking—making sandwiches and pumpkin pies and prickly-pear tarts; and, because there was no wood chopped, grumbled and growled all the time at Sandy and Uncle.

Sandy got tired of Kate’s nagging at last, and the day before the wedding he chopped a whole dray load of wood; and everything Kate cooked that day got burnt and was no good. She perspired, too, every time she took a batch of stuff from the oven, and walked in and out slashing her apron about, and whined, and asked Sandy if he had tried to bring the very worst wood there was in the paddock. It’s always the way with a woman!—leave her no wood, and she’ll cook anything; give her plenty of it and she’ll burn the inside out of the oven.

Kate papered the walls of the house, too, and put a new cover on the sofa—in fact, made the place look new. You’d think Kate was to be the bride herself!

Everyone on Sleepy Creek was invited to Dick Saunders’s wedding, and all of them turned up and brought their families and their dogs. They came early, too, and hung round looking at things, at intervals engaging Sandy in fragments of conversation, and wondering how much longer the old clergyman would be turning up.

Dick himself was the only person who seemed unconcerned about the clergyman or about the arrangements, or the wedding itself for that matter. He remained on the sofa all the while with Minnie sitting on his knee, mauling her neck with his big hands and listening to her tearing the inside out of a concertina that he was getting along with her. They promised to be a devoted couple, did Dick and Minnie.

About noon the clergyman showed in sight, crawling along on a poor, downhearted-looking animal which might once have been a horse.

Sandy, in a clean shirt and a tweed coat, stepped forward and welcomed him and introduced him to his friends. The friends seemed more taken up with the steed, and stared it all over. But it didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t a sensitive animal. It seemed glad it had arrived, though. ’Twas a rare piece of horseflesh: it looked like the last of its tribe. There it stood without leaning against anything—its head down and its eyes closed, until you felt solemn and reverent and inclined to take your hat off.

Uncle, who had not had time to clean himself, hobbled up like a disreputable hotel-groom, saluted the clergyman, and taking hold of the bridle-reins with both hands pulled the animal across to the shed, and quarrelled with it because it showed signs of life when it saw hay there and shoved him about with its shapeless head when he started to take the bridle off. But when one of Sandy’s old mares approached to see what it was, and the skeleton put its ears back skittishly and assumed a rakish attitude, Uncle took kindly to it. He chuckled and threw it a bundle of hay.

It did eat, too!—looked as if it would have tackled a feed of bark or bottles with gratitude. When Uncle saw the appetite it had he gathered up the cart-saddle and winkers and some bags that were lying about, and put them in the shed. Then, with an old rag of a coat of his own hanging on his arm, he returned to the company.

Dick Saunders, with his long hair and whiskers combed, came out.

“This is the chap!” Sandy said, and the clergyman smiled and extended his soft white hand to Dick and asked how he was.

Dick claimed to be “tip-top,” but didn’t know how he would feel directly.

Uncle guffawed and made several suggestive remarks about weddings. Dick frowned on Uncle and called him a turnip. Fire and water came into Uncle’s little red eyes, and if Dick had been a small man and less like a bushranger there might easily have been an inquest in place of a wedding. The clergyman spoke to Sandy, and they both went inside. Dick and the others strolled over to the shed, smoking. When Dick set eyes on the clergyman’s horse he stood spell-bound!

“Holy!” he said. Then he walked up to it and said “Shoo!” and threw up his arms. But it wasn’t a nervous beast; it didn’t lift its head from the hay.

“Should have been kept for a sire!” Dick remarked. The others laughed.

Then Dick stole the hay and ran round the yard with it. The brute wearily pursued him, whinnying imploringly for the fodder. It was a grand entertainment. Dick kept it going until Sandy called out from the back door that they were waiting; then he threw the hay to the brute and walked off, hitching his trousers and girthing himself up as he approached the door.

Inside was a great crowd. Dick could scarcely get in. At the table sat the clergyman, calm, composed; a leather bag, some papers, and a bottle of ink rested innocently before him. The guests, expectant and reverent-looking, stared at him nervously—only their breathing was audible.

“Where’s she?” Dick said, glaring all round the room.

Riley, who could never keep his tongue quiet, ejaculated, “Elorped!” and made Mrs. Riley and Daley’s wife shriek, and destroyed the solemnity.

The clergyman motioned Dick into position. Dick, who had been coached for several weeks in the ceremony by Sandy, dropped on his knees; but Daley, who had been married three times and knew more of the business than Sandy did, poked him up again. Dick stared and looked awkward, and stumbled about like a horse being shunted in a truck. At last Mrs. Harris and Kate, in charge of the bride, processioned from the bedroom.

Everyone got a surprise—even Dick. You wouldn’t have known Minnie in the rig-out she had accumulated round herself. Her hair was curled, and she wore a white dress all tucks and bespattered with ribbon and bows of different colours. Her head was a mass of wattle blossom, and she carried a huge bunch of it in her hand. She smelt of wattle blossom—you could scarcely see her dress for it—she was all wattle blossom, in fact; it was a distinct triumph of Nature over Art. A more interesting bride couldn’t be presented to anyone’s imagination. She would have looked well in a garden.

The bride took her place beside her Dick, and dropped her head modestly and giggled. Dick fumbled about with his big hairy paw till he found her hand and clung to it. And there they stood, the embodiment of love and courage. Our opinions differed as to which of the two was the more courageous.

Riley, in a loud whisper, reminded the guests of the “fust kiss,” but none shifted or made any preparations to rob Dick of his rights. Perhaps it was because they knew Dick. Perhaps because they knew Minnie.

The clergyman took the floor, and the marriage proceeded. Save the cleric’s resonant voice, not a sound was heard inside. But outside, beneath the window and under the verandah roof—there were no floor-boards connected with Sandy’s verandah—Uncle commenced rattling a tin-dish about.

A short prayer was concluded while Uncle splashed and bubbled in a dish of water.

“You take this woman to—”

Uncle, stripped to the waist, and holding his hands wide and his head low to the ground, while water ran off him, appeared at the front door and made efforts to catch Kate’s eye.

“—to be your wedded wi—”

“The old bloke wants a towel,” Dick jerked out across his shoulder to Kate, who was behind him.

The guests grinned, and strained their necks to see where Uncle was. But Kate paid no attention—she had eyes only for the bride.

Uncle withdrew, growling, and splashed more water over himself.

The clergyman repeated his question.

“I do!” Dick responded with decision, then said things after the cleric.

Uncle showed himself at the door again with soap in his eyes and on his whiskers, and more water dripping off him.

“For better, for worse—”

Uncle beckoned Kate with his wet finger. Kate had no respect for Uncle.

“—richer, for poorer?”

“Just as she stands!” Dick said.

Uncle broke into a loud interested chuckle. “Just as she stands!” he echoed noisily, then turned away and laughed with himself under the window.

The clergyman’s horse sauntered round to see what was going on. It stood with its head under the verandah, looking in casually.

The clergyman asked for the ring. Dick stared at him, then released the bride’s hand and felt himself all over; finally he said he hadn’t one. It looked as if something would go wrong. But Kate, always good in emergency, slipped her wedding-ring off and handed it to Dick.

“Where’ll I put it?” Dick asked— “on her thumb?”

The guests laughed; the bride tittered and held out the proper finger to receive the ring. Uncle, with a glow on his face like fresh meat, came to the door again, smiling, and wiping himself on a bag.

The clergyman began to bless the alliance. Uncle lowered his head devotionally. The horse reached out behind Uncle, dipped its nose into the dish of water, and made a noise like a pump. Uncle turned round and kicked it in the ribs. The brute backed and threw up its head and struck it hard against the verandah roof, and the whole structure fell down on top of Uncle and the dogs.

There was great excitement then! Some of the guests rushed to congratulate the happy couple, and some of them ran out to extricate Uncle. Uncle was unconscious for a few minutes, and when he came to he coughed violently. He coughed up cobwebs and dust and scraps of bark. The horse walked a few yards away and took a fit of coughing too. It coughed up the soap.

When the “breakfast” was over, Dick and his bride left. The guests chased them out the slip-rails with old boots and bags and things. After that I don’t know how they got on. We left too.


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