an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: Grandpa's Selection
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2400191h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: 2024
Most recent update: 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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Grandpa’s Selection

Steele Rudd




Chapter 1. - Jim Takes a Hand
Chapter 2. - About Relations
Chapter 3. - Uncle Dan
Chapter 4. - A Discovery
Chapter 5. - An Old Friend
Chapter 6. - Love Matters
Chapter 7. - A New Housekeeper
Chapter 8. - In Love with Nell
Chapter 9. - Regan’s Pigs
Chapter 10. - A Misunderstanding
Chapter 11. - A Surprise

* * * * * * * * *

Some Neighbors Of Grandpa’s
My First Battle
After Twenty Years
Alfred Alfreds


Chapter 1
Jim Takes A Hand

Farmers! We’re all farmers. Well off, too; real well off. Talk about land! You should see our land—the best in the district. Miles and miles of splendid country we have, and Grandpa often wishes we had a lot more.

“And it will all be left to you grand-children some day, to do with it as you please,” Pa and Mamma used to tell us whenever we sulked or spoke rebelliously of milking. Then we would smile and whistle tunes into the ears of the old cows, and urge Pa to bring in a lot more and let us at them. Too many cows, we reckoned, couldn’t be milked on the farmstead when we were to become the proprietors. And while in our enthusiasm we flowed the milk buckets over, Grandpa’s account flowed over at the local bank, and ran into several other banks.

And often on a frosty morning when we would be tugging at the last of the herd, and the waggon was waiting to convey the cans to the factory, Grandpa, after a good breakfast, would hobble to the yard in his carpet slippers and on two peach sticks, and, scowling through the rails, would run his eyes over the herd till he discovered one showing signs of having held back a mouthful of milk. Stars of heaven! how he would fly off at Pa, and accuse him of negligence!

And how Pa would fly back at him and challenge him to point to a single cow that wasn’t milked dry as a bone. Then angrily discarding one of the sticks, Grandpa would point to the whole herd, and to us, and bellow: “None o’ them have; not a d— one o’ them!”

Milk buckets in hand, we would rise from the blocks and stare, and wonder what Pa would do. But we were never left to wonder long. In a bound Pa would breast the rails and shout: “You ought to be ashamed, you ought! And after sweatin’ an’ slavin’ here for you all me life! If y’ ain’t pretty civil I’ll clear out an’ take th’ boys with me.”

“You pup! (Pa was 50). Clear out and take them with you. Who wants them? Did I say I wanted them (striking the rails with the stick)— did I? To th’ devil with th’ lot o’ you! I’ll sell off—sell every inch and stick and put th’ money in me pocket—put it in me pocket.”

“You can put it where you like,” Pa would answer.

Then, mumbling to himself, Grandpa would go off. And when he had gone a few yards would turn slowly round and shout: “If them cows ain’t milked dry to-morrow I’ll turn you all out—every d— one of you!”

“Pshaw!” Pa would grunt, and go on with the work. We always went on with it, too. But Jim, the eldest of us, grumbled sometimes.

“The old beggar!” he said one day, “he ought to be on a chain.”

“Now then, you,” Pa promptly objected, “stop that; none of your talkin’ about him! You’ve nothin’ to grumble at him for. He’s done a good lot for you in his time if you only knew it.”

“Oh, I know it,” Jim admitted; “but what’s that got to do with it?”

“Oh, ain’t it; it’s got a lot to do with it,” Pa argued; “and see y’ don’t forget it, that’s all.”

But Jim often forgot it.

“If I have to go for him with an axe some day, Mamma,” he declared one evening, “I’ll do it. I won’t stand his humbug.”

And Mamma went red in the face, and stared at Jim. Mamma was a generous, sympathetic soul, who always stood for peace.

“Don’t talk like that, my son,” she said; “you’re not old enough to understand everything yet; you shouldn’t take any notice of Grandpa. He’s getting childish now, and it does no harm to humor him a little. Everything will come out right in the end. I’m sure of that.”

“That’s all very fine, Mamma,” Jim blubbered, “but I don’t care (sob). If ever he starts shaking his stick and swearing at me again—I’ll—(sob) — straighten him out.”

“Jim! Jim!!” and Mamma looked alarmed.

“He needn’t think he’s going to have me soft any more,” Jim grumbled on, “to do everything for him for nothing (several sobs). He needn’t think that.”

But one morning when the milk-supply was falling off, Pa himself was forced to take notice of Grandpa. Grandpa struck Pa on the ear with one of his peach sticks, and prodded him in the stomach with the other.

“Now I’ll g-g-go!” Pa, writhing in pain, shouted. And deserting the milk-waggon, he came running home, swearing, and said he would never do another hand’s turn on the farm as long as he lived. He’d go and work for the neighbours for nothing a week before he would. “By cripes I will!” he yelled, stamping his foot hard on the verandah and frightening the baby.

And all that day he lay about the home repeating his resolution, while over at the “head-house” Grandpa paced the verandah like an aged lion, and kicked up such a shine that Grandma and Biddy started crying, and wanted to send for a doctor.

And next day, when Pa still remained on strike, Mamma put on her hat and said she would go “straight across and have it out with Grandpa.”

Pa got a great surprise.

“Oh-h,” he groaned; “you had better not. I wouldn’t if I was you! It’ll only make him worse!”

“But I will—I WILL!”

And tugging at her hat-strings, Mamma looked as mad as a suffragette.

“Well, if you go I’m going with you, Mamma!” And Jim put on his hat, too.

Mamma, tossing her head about, marched firmly down the steps, and directed her way to the head-house. Jim marched boldly beside her. All of us except Pa ran to the verandah to see them off. Pa remained on the sofa, groaning louder. Jim looked back at us and grinned. We waved encouragingly to him. We felt Jim would want encouragement before he returned. And while Mamma walked quickly on, Jim turned and struck a fighting attitude for our benefit. He delivered the atmosphere a variety of heavy punches and place kicks. We grinned approval. Jim grinned acknowledgment, then hurried after Mamma.

Mamma bounced into the head-house, and marched through on to the verandah, where Grandpa was leaning on his peach sticks, grunting things to himself.

“What do you mean by treating Dicky (Dicky was Pa’s name) the way you do?” She burst on him.

Grandpa glared at her.

“And treating the rest of us the way he does,” Jim prompted.

“Yes, and treating the boys the way you do?” Mamma added.

“What!” Grandpa burst out. “Are you comin’ here to give me insolence?” And he pounded the boards with both sticks.

“No, I’m not!” And Mamma gathered herself together.

“Then what th’ devil are y’ here for? Why ain’t y’ at home workin’?”

“So I am—I’m always at home workin’!” Mamma stammered excitedly. “It’s nothing but work I’m always doing.”

“You ain’t at home when you’re here, are y’?” And leaning down Grandpa shoved his face close to Mamma’s.

“I never said I was!” Mamma cried. “But that’s not it—”

“What’s not it?” shouted Grandpa.

“That’s not.”

Shut up!” and Grandpa pounded the floor again. “SHUT UP!”

Grandma and Biddy hurried to the verandah. “What is it? Are you quarrelling?” Grandma asked.

“No, I’m not quarrelling,” Mamma answered.

“But I want Grandpa to—to—”

“To what?” Grandpa interrupted with a howl.

“And so he will, dear, so he will; and when he goes, when we both go, you’ll all get everything,” Grandma chipped in, without waiting to hear the case.

“Yes, when he goes!” Mamma sneered. “That’s no use to us. We want something now.” And she began to sob.

Grandpa thumped the floor and howled: “I knew it! I KNEW it! They want me to die! Here, give me poison; give me poison!” And dropping his right stick, he stretched out his empty hand desperately.

Grandma and Biddy gathered round him, and cried:

“No! No! Grandpa! No, No!”

“They want me to die!” he insisted.

Then Mamma changed her attitude, and clung to his arm and moaned: “Not that, Grandpa, not that at all. No, no!”

“Yes,” he bellowed, stretching his hand further. “Give me poison; give it to me!”

Jim rushed inside, and rushed out again with a razor.

“There’s no poison, Grandpa,” he shouted, “but here’s your razor.”

Grandpa glared at the glistening blade. Then without any warning he hit Jim on the head with the stick, and Jim dropped on the door-mat.

“Th’ d— cub!” Grandpa said, in injured tones.

* * * * * * *

“What ever have y’ done?” Pa cried, when Jim, pale and blood-stained, was carried home for first aid.

“Oh, nothing, nothing!” Mamma answered, and hurried to procure a basin of warm water.

“What have y’ done?”’ Pa repeated, throwing his hands wildly about.

“We did nothing,” Jim murmured faintly. “Grandpa did it all.”


Chapter 2
About Relations

In his day Grandpa must have been a busy man —so Jim used to think. Not only did he collect more horses and cattle and sheep about him than anyone else in the district, but he became possessed of ten times more descendants. The whole district, and large parts of several other districts, was mostly Grandpa. People reckoned he should have been proud of his relations—especially of the relations themselves.

And how the relations haunted and hung round the head-house! No other place had any attraction for them. Any old excuse would bring them along in droves. No matter what it was, an accident, a death, a birth, a dog-fight or an elopement, they would fall over one another to be in first with the news. But never did they fall over anyone to be out and be off. They would loiter round till lunch or afternoon-tea, or whatever was on; then they’d make a great fuss and be in a hurry to leave. Of course, they would be asked to wait and have a cup of tea. Then they’d hesitate and look at the clock that was never going, and say it was getting late.

Eventually they would consent as a favour to remain and have “just a bite.” And when they had drained their cups several times and eaten up all that was put down, they would depart slowly, and as though they had no place on earth to lay their heads.

“Poor Grandma!” Mamma used to say, when from our verandah she would see the relations flocking to the head-house; “I wonder she never gets tired of them.”

“Well, they never get tired of her,” Pa would put in. “And none o’ them ever goes home without somethin’ stuck under their aprons where the old man won’t see it. They wouldn’t be always about if I had me way. By cripes they wouldn’t. I’d keep them off! But it’s a good job they don’t come here, anyway.”

But one day the relations did come to our place. And when we saw them coming we looked hard at Pa, and wondered what he would do about it. We didn’t wonder long. Pa rushed out bareheaded, and greeted them joyfully and took charge of their old sulkies, and proceeded to stuff their lean horses with good corn and chaff, and yelled to Jim to come and help. Then, in grieved disappointed tones, he inquired why a lot of the absent ones didn’t come too, and bring all their children. After that we lost confidence in Pa.

One day, Auntie Sara, with her first grandson in her big brown arms led an excited rush to the head-house. You’d think it was a gold rush. She showed the wonderful infant to Grandma and Biddy and Nell. Nell was Grandpa’s white-haired granddaughter, and lived at the head-house. And when they had all kissed it, and turned up its long calico clothes and looked at its red legs, and felt its weight, and told lies about its beauty, and predicted a great future for the brat, Auntie Sara expressed a wish to show it to Grandpa.

“Run, Nell, and tell him,” she said, “that I’m bringing his latest great little grandson to see him; and tell him, too, that he’s got to give him a present.”

Nell went to the verandah where Grandpa in a thick heavy coat and a slouch hat lay dozing and grunting in a large chair, and with a smile delivered the message.

“Great grandson? Whose great grandson?” Grandpa growled, waking up and feeling for his peach sticks.

“Mrs. Jim Jerrick’s little baby,” Nell answered; “such a sweet little thing, Grandpa.”

“Who’s Mrs. Jim Jerricks? What is she?” And raising himself, Grandpa took a firm grip of his stick. “Eh?”

Nell smilingly explained the relationship.

“Huh!” Grandpa grunted, and closed his eyes. “Auntie Sara brought it over to show you,” Nell explained.

“Oh, did she!” opening his eyes again. “Well, tell her to take it away; I don’t want to see any more babies.”

“The old sinner!” Auntie Sara said, when Nell returned shaking her head dismally. “We heard what he said. But he might be glad yet to see his great little grandson, so he might,” kissing the wonder on both cheeks.

Then a malicious idea occurred to her.

“Go back, Nell, and tell him,” she said, “that one of the draught mares has got a foal.”

The others protested.

“Yes, do,” Auntie Sara insisted. “And tell him it’s a filly foal, and a beauty.”

“That wouldn’t be true, Auntie,” Nell murmured.

“Oh, if you’re so p’tic’lar about a bit of a fib,” the other snapped, handing the precious infant over to its mother, “I’ll go and tell him myself.” And bouncing through the house, pushing doors open before her, she poked her head through a window and shouted:

“Bonnie has a young foal, Grandpa.”

“Has she?” and Grandpa sat up instantly.

“A beautiful filly foal with two white feet.”

“Has she?”

“A real model,” and chuckling triumphantly, Auntie Sara ran back to the dining-room.

The others looked alarmed.

“A filly foal is it,” Grandpa, stumping through the house, echoed. “I thought it would be this time, I thought it would be… Come along, Nell, an’ see what it’s like… Come along.”

Then as he descended the steps into the yard:

“A filly foal, eh… Oh, I thought it would be… I thought it would be.”


Chapter 3
Uncle Dan

After thirty long, lazy years Uncle Dan lost his wife, and thought he’d come and live at the head-house for a while, and give Pa a hand to look after things for Grandpa.

“I’m nothin’ to them, now,” he said, referring to his family. “They don’t want to be bothered with me. I ain’t good enough for them. ’N’ what bit o’ money me ’n’ her scraped together ’n’ put by for a rainy day was all banked in her name, and she’s left it all to them to do th’ grand on.”

And when we heard that Uncle Dan was coming we laughed. We knew Uncle Dan—knew how idle and useless and unreliable he was.

“He’ll be a great help, he will,” Jim said with a grin. “And he’ll look well about the head-house, too.”

We laughed more.

“Well, where else ought he to be?” Pa snapped.

Jim looked at us and said: “In the museum.”

“You’re funny, ain’t you,” Pa sneered at Jim; “and p’raps y’ think he ought to be let starve? An’ p’raps you wouldn’t be any better, if you went through all what he’s went through!”

Jim said he didn’t think Uncle Dan ever went through anything ’cept his wages and his pants.” We broke into loud merriment.

“Now just yous stop that, the lot of you,” Pa reprimanded. “Y’ mightn’t be so funny some o’ these bright sunny days.”

We stopped it.

* * * * * * *

Uncle Dan arrived. And the moment he set foot in the yard he rolled up his sleeves and commenced work. He plunged into this thing and that with a display of energy that provoked us all to mirth. Struggling across the yard between two empty buckets he encountered Grandpa.

“I’m going to give th’ dairy a real good cleaning out, governor,” he told him; “and it ain’t before time neither. Look at it—it’s not had a cleanin’ out since the day it was put up, and that’s a day or two ago.”

Grandpa looked him up and down.

“And what about pitchin’ th’ roof of it a bit higher?” Uncle Dan rattled on—“an’ cementin’ a couple o’ more drains? And them old sheds over there,” putting down the empty buckets, and pointing, “would look better pulled down altogether. . . . An’ that ’orseyard,” pointing again, “is no good the way it is.”

Grandpa clutched hard at his sticks.

“It ought to be shifted about 50 yards this way,” Uncle Dan continued. “It wouldn’t take long doing it neither. A couple of us could—”

“Damn him, he’s mad!” Grandpa roared, and was hurried away by Nell.

* * * * * * *

A couple of weeks passed. Uncle Dan cooled off a lot. Whenever anything was required to be done he was never to be found, and whenever he was to be found nothing wanted to be done.

When visitors came, though, he was always handy, and would pop out of most improbable places. No visitor ever approached the head-house without being challenged by Uncle Dan.

Henry Cook, the produce dealer, arrived one day in a gorgeous motor car. Uncle Dan crawled from under a sheet of tin in the wash house, and saluted him confidently.

“I’ll take charge of ’er,” he said, casting a careless eye on the car.

Cook nodded like a chief-justice and went off in search of Grandpa.

Uncle Dan climbed into the car, and hanging his feet over the front, sat and smoked.

Biddy, coming from the kitchen saw him. “I declares t’ heaven!” she gasped, and ran back.

Farm-hands entering the yard stood and lifted their hats to him.

Uncle Dan nodded stiffly.

Jim happened along, and cheerfully approached the car.

“What are y’ grinnin’ at?” Uncle Dan asked.

“I never saw you in a car before,” Jim answered.

“Didn’t y’; well I seen meself in one of’en enough,” and Uncle Dan discharged a lot of smoke.

“What about a spin in her?” Jim suggested.

“All right, jump up.” And Uncle Dan took down his feet.

Jim looked in the direction of the gaping farmhands collected at the stable, and waved to them. Then he took his seat.

“We might as well do it in style,” Uncle Dan said, lifting a dust cloak and a pair of goggles, and proceeding to disguise himself in them.

The farm-hands waved their hats.

“Now then, we’ll see what she’s made of.” And Uncle Dan began fumbling the works.

But the machine didn’t seem to be made of anything. It showed no signs of life.

Jim laughed and kicked his feet about.

Uncle Dan pulled and squeezed a lot of parts. Suddenly the horn went off “too-oo-t.”

Uncle Dan got a great start. So did Jim.

“That’s what they blow when they run over y’,” Uncle Dan explained.

Then Jim blew it just when Uncle Dan tried something else, and to the astonishment of both the car tooted and glided off like a living thing. The farm-hands jumped with joy.

Darting past the dairy Jim sounded the horn some more, then excitedly called on Uncle Dan to stop the car.

Uncle Dan tried hard, but failed. The car went faster. It upended a spring cart, and ran over the wheel-barrow. Jim stood up. He saw the stable a few lengths ahead, and the farm-hands flying from it. Then he jumped, and rolled about the yard. And while he was rolling the car struck the wall of the stable and left a big gaping hole in it. Out of the hole bounded the Clydesdale stallion, with mane on end and insanity in his eye. Talk about commotion! You’d think the farmstead was a fire station. Henry Cook, heading a procession from the house, arrived just when Uncle Dan, looking like Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, crawled from under the debris, spitting out dirt and staring through the goggles.

Cook threw up his hands and let go a string of curses.

Just then Grandpa arrived, and hit Uncle Dan behind the ear with his stick.

“My God!” Uncle Dan cried, and dodged behind the produce dealer.

“Who is he?” Grandpa howled. “Who is he?”

“Ain’t he your man?” from Henry Cook.

“Your son an’ heir,” Uncle Dan, taking off the goggles and grinning at Grandpa, answered:

Never, damn you, NEVER!” and Grandpa pursued Uncle Dan across the yard.

* * * * * * *

Next day Uncle Dan drove Cook’s motor car to the railway station. He drove it behind two of the oldest plough-horses.


Chapter 4
A Discovery

A bright afternoon. Pa and Jim mending the yard gate. Uncle Joe, cousin Sammy, his son, and the farm-hands chaff-cutting at the stack-yard; Uncle Dan poking about the stables with an egg in each hand and the yolk of another clinging to his whiskers.

Nell came from the house and called:

“Uncle, Grandpa wants you all inside—the men, too.”

“What’s happened, Nell?” and Pa put down the saw.

“That’s all he said, Uncle,” and Nell disappeared.

“There’s somethin’ up,” Pa murmured, and sent Jim to tell Uncle Joe and the men.

Then turning to Uncle Dan, who was wiping his whiskers on the sleeve of his shirt: “Did you hear that, Dan?”

Uncle Dan didn’t.

Pa repeated Nell’s message.

Uncle Dan whistled meaningly. “Thinks he must be nearin’ the end,” he said, “and wants to fix things up.”

“I hope it ain’t that—poor old fellow!” and tears started to come into Pa’s eyes.

Uncle Dan cracked an egg on the heel of his boot, and dividing the shell with his long fingers skilfully tossed the contents down his throat, oyster fashion.

“He’s had a good innin’s,” he drawled, smacking his lips, “an’ better ’n’ ever we’ll have.”

Uncle Joe and Sammy arrived in advance of the men.

“W-w-w-what’s th’ m-m-matter, Dicky?” Uncle Joe asked breathlessly.

Grandpa has sent for every one of us,” Pa answered solemnly, and added: “There’s somethin’ up, Joe,” and flicked a tear from his eye.

“Wh-wh-when did he take b-b-bad?” Sammy inquired excitedly.

Pa didn’t know.

“Is he very bub-bub-bad?” And Sammy turned to Uncle Dan.

Uncle Dan sampled the other egg. Then coughed and said: “Seems to me, Sammy, he wants to make his last testament.”

“D-d-don’t you w-w-witness it then, F-f-father,” turning to his parent. “Don’t you n-n-now. Billy S-s-smith witnessed his old m-m-man’s, and then couldn’t g-g-get any of it l-l-left to himself.”

“Oh, d-d-don’t I know?” his parent snapped.

“Y-yes, F-f-father, but in your s-s-sorrow you m-m-might forget,” Sammy argued.

“Oh, hold your t-t-t-tongue!” And Uncle Joe turned to the others.

Then the farm hands arrived.

“Ah, well,” Uncle Dan murmured, “if he leaves me a hundred or two and one of the old mares—I’ll be satisfied.”

“But s-s-suppose he don’t leave you anythin’?” Sammy asked curiously.

“Well in that case—(a pause), damn him!” And Uncle Dan sneezed violently.

“Don’t talk like that—you ought to know better!” Pa said reprovingly.

“C-c-course he ought,” and Uncle Joe frowned at the culprit.

Uncle Dan sneezed again, and said he was “gettin’ another rotten cold.”

Nell appeared at the garden gate and waved.

“Come on,” Pa said, leading the way. And in gloomy procession they looked like an extemporaneous funeral crossing the yard.

They entered the dining-room, and Grandpa, with a newspaper in his hand, rose from the couch.

Pa looked hard at him.

“Anythin’ ser’ous th’ matter?” he asked softly.

“I suppose there is!” Grandpa grunted. “I wouldn’t have wanted y’ if there wasn’t, would I? Is you all here?”

The funeral started to shed its gloom.

“Th’ cows is goin’ off a lot, ain’t they?”

“Cows?” and Pa frowned at Grandpa.

“Cows, o’ course; I didn’t say bulls, did I?” The funeral smiled.

“Oh, th’ cows—yairs,” Pa answered with a grin, “they’ve gone off a bit—only a bit, though; and only the ones that’s been in a good while.”

“And the ones that ain’t been in a good while,” Grandpa grunted.

“A few o’ them,” Pa admitted.

‘‘All o’ them!” Grandpa roared.

“Not all,” Uncle Dan put in—“I know one of ’em ain’t, anyway.”

“Which one of ’em ain’t?” And Grandpa glared at Uncle Dan.

“I don’t think you’d know her.”

“What—wouldn’t know my own cow? Wouldn’t know my own brand and ear-mark?”

“Oh, you might know them orright—” Uncle Dan agreed.

“And I’d know the cow they was on. I’d know her if she was skinned and covered over with bushes in th’ bottom of a butcher’s cart.”

The funeral grinned hard.

“But I thought there was somethin’ th’ matter?” Pa inquired.

“So there is—a lot th’ matter—a lot th’ matter!” And Grandpa rattled the newspaper.

The audience stared at the paper.

“I’ve been readin’ where it says here,” Grandpa explained, “if cows is holdin’ back their milk and people sings a chune to them they lets it all down and gives twice as much.”

The gathering looked surprised.

“Oh, that’s rot!” Pa said.

“It ain’t rot—not if y’ know how to sing,” and Grandpa glared over the paper.

Jim laughed.

“What are y’ laughin’ at, y’ snipe?” Grandpa shouted.

“It seems funny that singing should have such good effect on cows,” Jim answered.

“Course it seems funny—don’t all discoveries seem funny when they come out first?” from Grandpa.

“When first it was discovered that the world was round,” Uncle Dan put in wisely, “no one livin’ believed it.”

“ ’Course they didn’t—o’ course they didn’t,” Grandpa approved; “and it’s th’ same with singin’ to cows. Because it’s just been found out. No one thinks it’s true—’cept them who’s got th’ brains to see it.”

“Well, what th’ diggin’s did y’ bring us here for, anyway?” Pa asked impatiently.

“To sing!” Grandpa shouted. “What th’ devil else—if yous know how. If yous don’t someone else will have to milk my cows, that’s all.”

Uncle Dan scratched his head, the farm-hands and Jim grinned and started coughing. Pa looked at Uncle Joe, and Uncle Joe looked at Pa.

Grandpa shook the paper and shouted: “Damn it, don’t y’ understand?”

“Well, what will it be, governor, a hymn or—er —” Uncle Dan asked.

“A hymn ain’t singin’, is it? Sing somethin’ y’ understand, and I’ll see if it’s a chune or not. It’s no good if it ain’t a chune.” And Grandpa shifted position, and struck a listening attitude.

The choir grinned harder, and seemed puzzled.

“W-w-what about th’ W-w-wild Colonial?” Sammy suggested.

“That’s it,” Uncle Dan agreed. “The Wild Colonial Boy. Right into my hand. Some of y’ start it.”

Jim started it. The others joined in at irregular intervals.

Grandpa turned his head sideways, and made an ear trumpet of his hand.

“That’ll do! That’ll do!” he shouted. “I don’t want to hear any more o’ that!

But the choir didn’t hear him. It sang harder. “Shut up! damn y’, SHUT UP!” and Grandpa lifted a chair.

The choir shut up and grinned.

“Have y’ got no ears among th’ lot o’ you!” Grandpa grunted, putting the chair down.

“How was it, governor?” Uncle Dan, his face running with perspiration, inquired. “Good enough?”

“See y’ sings it like thet in th’ mornin’ to th’ cows what ain’t lettin’ their milk down, and sing it every mornin’ to them,” Grandpa answered. “An’ don’t go tellin’ everybody round th’ country about it either,” he added; “let them find things out for themselves same as I had to do, same as everyone has to do.”


Chapter 5
An Old Friend

Old Regan called one afternoon, shook hands with Pa, and asked for Grandpa.

“He’s on the verandah,” Pa said, “and he will be glad to see you, Mr. Regan. It’s a long time since you seed each other, ain’t it?”

“Ten year come Christmas, Dicky,” and taking off his hat Regan took a handkerchief from it and began wiping his face and neck. “And ye don’t think he have forgotten me?” he added.

“Not him!” Pa grinned.

“Cud I have a worrd wid yourself, Dicky?” And Regan lowered his voice.

Pa said he could.

“Do ye think Grandpa wud lind me a couple o’ hundred on me deeds?”

Pa got a start.

“Oh, I dare say he would, Mr. Regan,” Pa said with a grin, when he recovered himself.

“If I showed him me deeds?” Regan almost whispered.

“Oh, I think so—but I’ll tell him you want to see him if you like?” Pa said.

“I wud loike, then,” and the other started buttoning up his coat. “But don’t tell him for what, Dicky.”

“Oh, no,” and Pa went off, grinning.

Denis Regan?” Grandpa growled, sitting up in his verandah chair.

“He wants to see y’ if you’ve got a minute to spare,” Pa said.

“I ain’t got no minutes to spare. You ought to know that.”

“Well, will y’ or will y’ not see him?”

“There’s nothin’ lyin’ about is there?” and Grandpa looked all round his chair.

“ ’Cept it’s yourself,” Pa chuckled, and withdrew.

“It’s all right,” he said to Regan.

Regan clutched his hat and went in.

“Hel-hel-helloa, Grandpa!” he cried cheerfully.

Grandpa rose stiffly to greet him.

“Don’t shtir yourself mahn, don’t shtir,” Regan begged of him.

“Do y’ think I ain’t able to stir myself?” Grandpa answered, shaking hands. “I’m a lot younger ’n’ stronger ’n’ you yet, Regan.”

“The divil then, but I belaive ye are if looks have anything to do wid it.”

“Sit down man, sit down,” and Grandpa prodded Regan with a peach stick.

“I will then, and ’tis an honor to sit wid an old friend who have done so well that he have nearly all the country to his own cheek, and never a hand’s turn to do, nor a care, nor a worry, nor a sorrow wid it.”

Nothin’ to do!” Grandpa objected. “Do y’ say I’ve nothin’ to do? Why there’s nothin’ on this place that I don’t do. And I can work as well today as I could 40 years ago! I can do a day’s work with any man in the country—with any two men in the country.”

“Faith I belaive ye can. And I remimber how ye used to wor-ruk when ye had nothing to ate but a bit o’ wallaby, and —”

Who? ME?” interrupted Grandpa with a roar. “I never ate wallaby, man! Never! I alez had good meat o’ me own to eat, an’ lots of it!”

“Oh, not you—not you. I didn’t say you ate wallaby. But I did meself, and glad I were to get it.”

“Oh you might have—you might have!” Grandpa grunted, “but I never did, nor anyone belongin’ to me.”

“Anyway,” Regan shifted ground, “the youngsters of to-day wud think it th’ divil an’ all if they had to face half what we faced, eh?” And he shook his head.

“The youngsters of to-day,” Grandpa thundered, “ain’t worth their damn salt. All they thinks about is their clothes, and their stomachs, and borrowin’ an’ thievin’ from them who has worked and got some property together.”

“Of course there is exceptions,” Regan put in. “’Tis right enough to lind a pound or two, or a hundred may be, to a relation or a friend if he have his deeds.”

“No it ain’t,” Grandpa said firmly. “Let them go to a bank or to the buildin’ ’ciety. And never lend your money to a friend, Regan. If you do you’ll never see it again. And if y’ do see it again, he’ll be your worst enemy to the end o’ your days. He’ll cut your fences, throw burr seed on your land, and burn your grass on y’.”

Regan stared.

“You and me,” Grandpa went on, “can’t afford to run any risks at our time o’ life. Things is not th’ same as they used to be, Regan, and we don’t know what’s on ahead of us.”

“I know there’s nothin’ behind me, anyway,” Regan said.

“We’re here to-day, but where are we termorrer?” Grandpa continued.

“Dunwich is where I am to-morrow,” and Regan grinned.

“Besides, I never hed to borrow any money off o’ you, and you never hed to borrow any off o’ me, Regan,” Grandpa went on; “but we got on for all thet, and got on well—didn’t we?”

“I got on the rocks well,” and Regan grinned again.

“And we’ve alez been good friends.”

“The very besht,” Regan interrupted proudly. “And if ye were to axe me for a hundred or two to-morrow, there’s no mahn I wud lind it to quicker —if I had it.”

“But I don’t want to borrow any money off o’ you, Regan,” Grandpa rattled on, “an’ if I did I wouldn’t ask you for it any more ’n’ you’d ask me.” Regan bent down, and smoothed his head with his hand.

“Why, you’re as bald as a pig-melon,” Grandpa observed.

“I am that same,” Regan admitted; “and if I don’t kape me hat on th’ flies tickles th’ divil out o’ me.”

“Put plenty axle grease and sugar on it,” Grandpa advised, “and you’ll catch them all.”

“Make fly paper o’ me ould skull? It’s time I were leavin’ ye.” And Regan rose to go.

“Well, mind what I was tellin’ you, Regan,” said Grandpa, holding out his hand; “look after your money, Regan, and lend none of it to no one.”

“Divil the one will ever get the lind o’ my money. He’ll be clever if he do!” And Regan departed. Crossing the yard Pa intercepted him.

“How did you get on, Mr. Regan?” he asked with a grin.

“How did I get on?” Regan mumbled. “I couldn’ have got on better with the King of the Jews.”


Chapter 6
Love Matters

“It’s something more than business that brings Mr. Cook so often to see Grandpa,” Mamma, sitting sewing, remarked one evening.

“He’s everlastin’ pokin’ round,” Pa affirmed; “I wonder Grandpa stands him.”

“Well, Biddy can’t stand him,” Jim grinned meaningly.

Pa grinned too.

“If I’m not mistaken,” Mamma continued, “it’s Nell that’s the attraction.”

Jim’s bottom jaw suddenly dropped.

Him!” he gasped. “Attract Nell?”

We all looked hard at Jim.

“Why, does it worry y’?” Pa asked.

“Nuh—it don’t worry me!” Jim stammered. And seating himself near the fire he tried to whistle; but he looked miserable.

“Indeed, Nell wouldn’t have that flash townie,” observed Bertha, starting to set the table. “I’m sure she wouldn’t.

Jim brightened up.

“She thinks far too much of Tom Dailey,” Bertha added.

Jim bent down and started playing with the cat. The cat scratched him and slithered.

Willie, the youngest, laughed hard, and urged Jim to “go and catch him and do it again.”

Jim didn’t hear Willie.

* * * * * * * *

Some days later, Jim came home from a Farmers’ Union meeting, and said Henry Cook was a fraud.

“Who, Henry Cook?” and Pa grinned unbelievingly.

“Yes, Henry Cook!” Jim repeated firmly. “Do you know what’s been found out about him?”

Pa didn’t.

“He’s taken everyone down.”

“Pshaw!” from Pa.

“And he’s taken us down, too,” Jim shouted, “on those 500 bags of chaff sent him last week. “Here’s his account.” He produced an account and also a daily newspaper.

Pa stared.

 “Five hundred bags lucerne chaff sold at auction for 5s. cwt.,” Jim read.

“Well?” Pa mumbled.

“Well, just see now what the newspaper says,” Jim echoed.

“Five hundred bags prime lucerne on trucks from Fairport, realised 5s. 3d. per cwt.”

Pa opened his eyes.

“There, that’s Mr. Henry Cook for you!” and Jim proceeded to roll up the evidence.

“I’d never have thought he was that sort of man,” Pa said gravely.

“I never thought he was any other sort,” Jim sneered, “but of course you and Grandpa would never listen to the truth.”

“He’ll have to listen now. Here, give me those papers,” Pa burst out.

Jim handed him the documents. Pa rushed away to the head-house.

Mamma overhearing the conversation called softly to Jim. “Now, listen to me,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder, “don’t you be losing your head over Nell.”

“Me?” and Jim feigned surprise.

“You can’t hide it from me, Jim. I’ve noticed you a good deal lately. And now remember Nell is your cousin, and there should be nothing between you. Her mother would go crazy if she heard of anything—to say nothing about Grandpa!”

“Oh, there’s nothing, Mamma!” and Jim tried to laugh.

“Well, I thought it was my place to speak to you, that is all.”

“There was no need to, Mamma,” and Jim turned away with a sickly feeling in his throat.

* * * * * * * *

“Here, I’ve got somethin’ to tell you,” Pa stammered, blundering into the dining-room where Grandpa lay on the couch listening to Nell reading the newspaper. “But it’s only for yourself to hear,” looking meaningly at Nell.

Nell rose and left the room.

Grandpa sat up and stared.

“Do you own this house?” he howled at Pa.

“It don’t matter; I’ve somethin’ ser’ous to say about Henry Cook.”

“Oh, have y’! Well say it quick, an’ get out o’ here an’ do some work.”

Pa excitedly explained.

“What’s that? What’s that?” and leaving the couch Grandpa hobbled up and down the room.

“He’s been robbin’ us for years!” Pa declared.

“Who has?” and, stopping suddenly, Grandpa leaned on the table.

“Henry Cook has. He’s a scoundrel,” Pa answered.

“Who sez so?” loudly from Grandpa.

“Everyone sez so; them papers sez so,” throwing the evidence on the table. “Jim sez so; I sez so; old Biddy has sed so for years.”

“Oh, she has, has she?” and Grandpa thought hard.

“And she could tell you a lot more about him if she liked, too,” Pa added.

“Go and bring her here. Bring her here, and if she sez it to me I’ll break her neck!” And Grandpa struck the table.

“But she’s got nothin’ to do with it,” Pa protested.

“Bring her here!” and Grandpa struck the table again.

“Oh, I’ll bring her quick enough,” and out Pa ran in search of Biddy.

“A scoundref is he—a scoundrel!” Grandpa repeated to himself. Then taking a chair he sat facing the door.

The door gently opened, and Nell with tears in her eyes re-entered.

“But that chaff they were talking about mightn’t have been yours at all, Grandpa?” she pleaded. “It could have been sent to Mr. Cook by anyone in the district.”

“Of course it could, gal; o’ course it could. But what are y’ cryin’ for? What are y’ cryin’ for?”

“I’m not crying, Grandpa. I’m—I’m—”

“Come here gal; come here.”

Nell went to him and leaned on his shoulder.

“Don’t mind what they say,” he said kindly. “It’s all lies, gal; all lies.”

Nell took out her handkerchief.

“Go an’ sit be th’ window, gal; sit be th’ window an’ look out at th’ scenery.”

“Lots of farmers send chaff from Fairport as well as you, Grandpa,” and Nell advanced slowly to the window.

“Of course they do, gal; o’ course they do. Hundreds o’ them. But never chaff like mine. They can’t grow it like me, gal; nor never could in their lives. When they do happens to grow a bit they never chaffs it proper. They fills th’ bags with mud, an’ stones, an’ old boots, to make them weigh well, and calls Henry Cook a scoundrel if he don’t give them top price for it same as he gives me.”

Jim suddenly entered and faced Grandpa with fight in his eye.

“Has Pa been speaking to you?” he demanded boldly.

What?” loudly from Grandpa.

“Has Pa been here? Because if he hasn’t I’ve got something to tell you.”

“Y’ have, have y’?” Grandpa shouted. “Well, tell it quick and go out and do somethin’ for your livin.”

“Henry Cook is a scoundrel!” Jim cried.

Nell started.

“Oh, he is, is he?” and Grandpa glared at Jim.

“And long ago he ran away with Biddy’s youngest sister, and after promising to marry her he—”

“It’s a lie!” Nell screamed.

“He what?” roared Grandpa.

“He didn’t,” shouted Jim.

“Then why th’ devil didn’t you?” howled Grandpa irrelevantly.

“Me? Me? You’re mad!” stammered Jim.

Grandpa lifted a chair. Jim ran out.

Pa, dragging Biddy after him, entered.

“Here she is,” he said.

Biddy, with flour in her hair and dough on her fingers, grinned and gesticulated at Grandpa.

“Don’t be grinnin’; this is ser’ous!” Grandpa said.

Biddy took out a hair-pin, and started doing her hair up.

“So Henry Cook’s a scoundrel is he?” Grandpa began. “An’ he promised to marry your youngest sister and didn’t, didn’t he?”

Biddy started and stared. Her eyes opened wide and rolled in her head till they nearly rolled out.

“Promised to marry your youngest sister?” Grandpa repeated.

Biddy suddenly squealed, and her hands started working and twitching.

Grandpa sat back and gaped at her. Pa, staring hard, backed away from her. Nell, who seemed to understand, ran to her and stroked her forehead, and spoke soothingly to her. But Biddy wasn’t to be soothed.

Sh-h-h,” she hissed across the table at Grandpa. “Sh-h-h!” And struck a listening attitude.

“What th’ devil does she say?” Grandpa shouted excitedly to Pa.

But Pa couldn’t speak.

“Sh-h! … She’s there!She’s coming!” Biddy broke out again.

Jim, returning to the charge, rushed in without knocking.

“Now I’ll fight it out with you!” he began wildly.

“Look out! Look out!” And catching him by the arm, Pa pointed to Biddy.

Jim stopped and stared at Biddy.

You killed her!” Biddy hissed at Grandpa. “’Twas you!” and she started making passes at him. She moved nearer him. Grandpa shoved his chair back. It overbalanced, and he made a great noise falling out of it. Nell screamed and ran to his aid. Biddy turned and made passes at Pa and Jim.

“Cripes, look out! Look out!” And Pa rushed for the door. Jim rushed for it, too. They struggled with one another, but Jim got out first.

* * * * * * *

“Sure, and Oi pulled all yer legs,” Biddy said to Nell ten minutes later.


Chapter 7
A New Housekeeper

Medicine wouldn’t do her any good,” said the doctor who came to see Grandma; “take her to the seaside for a month. A holiday there would do you a lot of good, too.”

“A holiday!” Grandpa grunted; “what do anyone want wi’ a holiday? I never hed a holiday in me life! And ain’t there plenty o’ air here? Where would you get better scenery in the world, man, than that out there?” waving his hand at the landscape. “Change o’ air an’ scenery! Talk sense! Pills is what she wants—eight in th’ night an’ four in th’ mornin’—same as I gives meself. But she won’t take ’em, and that’s what’s th’ trouble wi’ her.”

The doctor smiled sourly.

“Air an’ scenery! How could thet cure anyone who were sick?” repeated Grandpa.

“Well, if you know so much about your wife’s complaint you had better prescribe for her,” and, pulling at his gloves, the doctor prepared to depart.

“Do you think I’ve lived all me life and never seed anyone sick? Look here,” and Grandpa cleared his throat, “I’ve hed more horses an’ cows down an’ dyin’ on me hands than all you doctors in the country ever see, an’ I brought ’em all round, every hoof of ’em, an’ stood ’em on their legs with nothin’ but crick water an’ oil an’ mallers, an’ fattened ’em, too, an’ got better prices for ’em than was ever got in th’ country before.”

“Well, bring your wife round and stand her on her legs!” And the doctor walked off the verandah.

“And look here,” Grandpa howled down the steps after him, “do you think I could have done thet be sendin’ ’em away for a change o’ air an’ scenery— do yer?”

For reply the doctor merely hurried to his car and motored away.

* * * * * * * *

“But you needn’t go yourself, Grandpa,” Mamma reasoned. “Nell and Biddy could go with Grandma, and Auntie Sara or some of us could come and keep house for you?”

“No they couldn’t. I don’t want any more women trottin’ in and out and pokin’ an’ cacklin’ about me any longer. It’s them that’s made your Grandma sick and is keepin’ her sick.”

Uncle Dan, standing behind Grandpa’s chair, winked at the others. The others waited gravely for Grandpa’s decision. They waited several minutes.

Then Grandpa’s mouth opened wide and he started snoring.

“Upon me soul, look at that! There! … Heigh!” Uncle Dan cried.

Grandpa woke with a start, and, staring at them, asked what they were doing there.

Mamma explained.

“Well, why don’t y’ keep quiet, and give me time to think about it,” he grumbled.

Uncle Dan took a tin matchbox from his pocket containing decayed blowflies, and dropped one on Grandpa’s bald crown. Grandpa rubbed his head with his hand. The blowfly trickled into his lap. He looked down at it, then up at the ceiling.

“Where did that d—n blowfly come from?” he asked.

Pa and Joe too looked up at the ceiling and grinned.

“When them coves starts fallin’ down dead it’s a sign o’ dry weather.”

“You’re right, Grandpa,” Uncle Dan agreed. “I’ve heard lots say the same,” and he dropped another fly on Grandpa.

The others frowned at Uncle Dan.

“Damn them things!” and Grandpa rubbed his head and looked at the ceiling again; “we don’t want any more infernal droughts.”

“Not like the last one, anyway,” Uncle Dan said.

“Th’ last wer’ nothin,” Grandpa remarked thoughtfully. “Nothin’—’56 was th’ wust of all droughts. … None o’ yous would remember thet!” A look of sadness came into his eyes, “none o’ yous would! … We was at Razorback then … at Razorback! … Your Grandma would remember.”

“Ah, yes, poor old Grandma would,” the others affirmed.

A short silence.

“Now, look here,” Uncle Dan interrupted confidently, “all that he’ll want is a bit o’ grub cooked and th’ house kep’ tidy, an’ his bed made now and again, and that sort 0’ thing; an’ I’ll undertake to do it if anyone’ll do my work outside.”

“Would that do, Grandpa?” the others asked eagerly.

“Will what do?” loudly and irritably.

“Uncle Dan to do the housework for you.”

“Damn ’im, I s’pose so! But lock everythin’ up, and don’t leave anythin’ lyin’ about.” And Grandpa leaned back and closed his eyes.

* * * * * * *

A week later, broom in hand, Uncle Dan entered the dining-room and commenced pushing the furniture about and raking into corners.

“What’s all that row about in there?” growled Grandpa, coming from his room in a gorgeous morning gown.

“Why, bless me,” Uncle Dan gasped, “I thought you was the Kaiser!”

“Did y’? Well, I thought you was a damn Uhlan broke into the house. Do you want to break everythin’ in the place, or what d’ y’ want?” Grandpa shouted.

“A fellow can’t get at th’ dirt without shiftin’ things, can he?”

“Get at what dirt?”

“At that dirt!” and, with a long stroke of the broom, Uncle Dan directed a cloud of dust and orange peel at Grandpa.

Grandpa threw up his hands and hobbled back to his room.

Uncle Dan peeped round the door after him. Then he gave the floor another touch with the broom and polkaed to the sideboard. Pausing, he listened. Then he cautiously removed the stopper from the whisky decanter with one hand. With the other he swept hard while he raised the decanter to his head and drank greedily. He paused for breath, then drank some more. Then he rubbed his shirt with the palm of his hand, and made faces at himself in the mirror.

“Dan, old (hic) man,” he said in a high-pitched voice, “you’re gettin’ damn ole lookin’.”

“Who’s thet you’ve got in there?” the voice of Grandpa shouted from the bedroom.

Uncle Dan laughed.

“Eh, who is it?” And the whole house started to creak under the heavy footsteps of Grandpa.

“A gen’lman, gen’l’m’n (hic) every ’spect, ’cept birth an’ (hic) bringin’ up,” Uncle Dan answered.

“Who did y’ say?” and, entering, Grandpa stared about the dining-room.

Beneath the window a hen cackled.

“Thash th’ li’le brown (hic) leg’orn,” Uncle Dan hiccoughed, “she’sh laid in new nesh.” And off he staggered to collect the egg.

Grandpa, scowling hard, approached the sideboard, and examined the decanter.

Uncle Dan, holding up the egg returned.

“Thash how to (hic) make ’em lay,” he said.

Grandpa glared at him.

“See thash egg? Besh you a ’un’ed (hic) quid, an’ yoush a scholar, yoush can’t (hic) tell me if it’s (hic) fer’ile—a ’un’ed quid?”

Still Grandpa only stared.

“Besh you two ’un’ed quid, yoush can’t (hic) do thish, ol’ f’ler.” And opening his mouth wide Uncle Dan inserted the egg in it.

“You’re drunk, man, drunk!” Grandpa roared, and went out.

“Drunksh or not drunksh, yoush owe me three (hic) ’un’ed quid.” And Uncle Dan sat on the floor and tried to balance the broom on his chin.

* * * * * *

Next day.

“What would y’ like for dinner, governor?” Uncle Dan, appearing on the verandah in a white apron of Biddy’s and a ’possum-skin cap of his own manufacture, enquired. “Cold beef, musherooms, bit o’ cold steak, or a egg?”

“What’s them pigs squealin’ for all day?” Grandpa growled; “are they goin’ to be let starve?”

“Pigs? I’ve nothin’ to do with pigs, now. I’ve me hands full lookin’ after th’ house,” Uncle Dan said.

“Lookin’ after th’ house. What house? Confound it, go and look after th’ pigs, man,” shouted Grandpa.

“But what was our understandin’?” and Uncle Dan fumbled with his apron.

“What understandin’? Dammit, what understandin’?” And Grandpa reached for his stick.

“The honorable understandin’ erbout—”

“Dam y’, you ain’t got any understandin’. Off with y’ an’ work!”

 Uncle Dan, making faces, withdrew to the kitchen, where he started eating the raisins.

Jim came for a jug of hot water.

“The old man’s been lookin’ for you,” Uncle Dan lied to him. “He’s been listenin’ to them pigs squealin’ and reckons y’ ain’t been feedin’ ’em.”

“Them’s what we bought from Regan yesterday,” Jim explained. “They’re only squealing to get out and go home.”

“I better go an’ tell him, if that’s th’ case, else he’ll be bobbing out here looking for you.” And Uncle Dan turned to leave the kitchen.

“Tell him we paid a pound a head for them, if he asks you,” Jim called out.

“Oh, them’s th’ pigs we bought yesterday, from Regan,” Uncle Dan told Grandpa. “They’re only squealin’ to get out an’ go home.”

“Well, go and see they don’t get out an’ go home,” Grandpa grunted without lifting his head.

Uncle Dan pulled more ugly faces and turned away again.

“Here!” Grandpa called out. “Here!”

Uncle Dan paused.

“What did they give Regan for them pigs?”

“Money, sir, money.”

“Well I didn’t expect they give him manure! How much money?” shouted Grandpa.

“Five bob a head,” Uncle Dan lied with a grin.

“Quite enough to give for ’em, too; quite enough,” and Grandpa closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Later in the day.

“Here you are, governor; a good cup o’ tea for y’. I know it’s what you fancy.” And placing the steaming beverage on a round table, Uncle Dan went off humming a tune.

Grandpa sipped at the tea, then looked up and frowned. He cautiously sipped some more, and blew it from him like a whale. Then cup in hand he rose and roared like a devil.

Pa heard him from the dairy and ran to the verandah.

“Send for th’ police; he’s poisoned me!” Grandpa bellowed.

Pa couldn’t understand.

Uncle Dan, calling: “I’m coming, governor,” sauntered leisurely through the house.

“He sez you’ve poisoned, him,” Pa exclaimed, jumping wildly on to the verandah.

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” Uncle Dan chuckled.

“Drink it yourself, then; drink it!” And Grandpa thrust the cup into Uncle Dan’s hand.

Uncle Dan took it and drank it boldly. Then he started to grin. But before the grin had time to expand much he gave a jump, and reaching for the verandah rail hung over and coughed violently.

Pa took fresh alarm. He seized hold of Uncle Dan and called out: “Salt! Salt! Bring some salt!”

“No, he don’t want that,” Grandpa grunted, settling down calmly in his big chair. “It were salt what were in th’ tea!”


Chapter 8
In Love With Nell

Grandma, Biddy, and Nell away at the seaside; Grandpa sitting alone in the dining-room, dozing in a big chair. Tom Bailey, miserable looking, slowly entered.

“Excuse me, Grandpa,” he said, in pleasing, Irish accents, “for coming in without knocking.”

“It’s you, is it Tom?” and Grandpa raised his head.

“I stepped across to ask how Grandma is getting on since she went away. She was always as kind to me as a mother, you know,” and Tom played nervously with the tips of his fingers.

“There ain’t much th’ matter wi’ her, Tom—there ain’t much th’ matter. A change o’ air an’ scenery wer’ all she wanted, an’ she’s gettin’ that now. Nell an’ Biddy, they went wi’ her. But I’m always here, Tom, if y’ wants anyone—I’m always here.”

Tom didn’t want Grandpa, though; Tom didn’t want anyone but Nell. Tom was madly in love with Nell. He had been in love with her for years, but no one knew anything about it, not even Nell herself.

“Would that I could have gone with her, too,” Tom mumbled.

“You?” Grandpa said sharply. “What would you want to go runnin’ about th’ country for? You ain’t got no time to waste runnin’ about when you’ve got a farm to look after, ain’t y’?”

“Yet often enough,” Tom said, “I’m doing nothing else over there but running about and wasting my time.” He paused and looked up at Nell’s picture on the wall, “And when I’m not running after old Regan’s pigs to hunt them off my potato patch, I’m chasing the lambs that Brady is fattening on my lucerne. And if I’m not doing either of those things, I’m running for my life after Logan’s bull to yard him and get my front gate off his horns.”

“Why don’t y’ impound him?” Grandpa grunted.

“I would, but I don’t like to be unneighbourly, Grandpa.”

“Shoot him then; shoot him!” and Grandpa closed his eyes.

Tom smiled up at Nell’s picture. Then after a silence:

“I hope Grandma comes back again in good health, Grandpa.”

“I know you do. You was alez a good chap, Tom,” Grandpa replied sleepily. “And you alez stuck to your farm and worked it proper. And y’ never went runnin’ round after this one an’ the other one, and spendin’ your money like lots o’ them do. And that’s what I likes to see in a young cove, Tom.”

“I might, though, go to the seaside for a day or two,” Tom remarked, looking at Nell’s picture again.

“What th’ devil will y’ want goin’ down there for? They don’t want y’ runnin’ about after their tails, do they?” And Grandpa sat tight up.

“Perhaps they don’t then—perhaps they don’t,” dreamily from Tom.

Grandpa sat back again, and grunted. Tom sighed.

Another silence.

“What I came to see you about, Grandpa,” Tom said slowly, “more than anything else was—was something con—concerning Nell.” And again his eyes wandered to her picture.

“Eh?” and Grandpa lifted his head. “What is it y’ want to say concerning Nell?”

“I would like you to understand first (pause) that no one ever sent me here—or—hinted at all that I—”

“Eh? What th’ devil is it y’ want to say?” Grandpa barked.

“Well, you know,” Tom looked down at his toes, “you know that Nell and I were always great chums, and were brought up together hereabout pretty well ever since we were boy and girl,”

“Y’ ain’t anythin’ more now, are y’?” loudly from Grandpa.

“Together we roamed those great grey plains outside,” Tom went on, “picking gum from the grass trees; pulling the wild flowers, and—”

“Shut up!” Grandpa howled, rising to his feet. “Shut up! Comin’ here mumblin’ like a damn lunatic! Who wants to hear o’ y’ loafin’ about th’ plains pullin’ flowers? Ain’t y’ got no corn to pull? If y’ have, go an’ pull it. If y’ ain’t go an’ grow some!” And he left the room.

Tom left too.


Chapter 9
Regan’s Pigs

Pa, Mamma, and Uncle Dan, breakfasting at the head-house. Old Regan, hat in hand, entered the room excitedly.

“While ye’re enjying yourselves here, do ye know what’s going on out beyant?” he asked.

“A fight among th’ men—I ’spected there would be.” And Uncle Dan rose, and started rolling up his sleeves.

“Whatever is the matter, Mr. Regan?” and Mamma rose.

Pa looked from one to the other.

“There’s two magpies up on ye’re windmill building in th’ cogs of it.”

“Oh, Mr. Regan,” and Mamma, relieved, sat down again and smiled.

“What! is them jolly magpies still buildin’ there?” Pa said.

“And goin’ at it like two carpenters,” Regan answered.

“Why it’s only the other day I knocked the nest all down,” Pa added.

“They have knocked it all up again, thin, and have only the roof to put on.”

“Roof!” Uncle Dan guffawed; “a magpie don’t have a roof.”

“No, but a jackass do!” Regan snapped; “and one that don’t let the rain in, neither.” And he looked up at the ceiling.

“By cripes, I’ll settle those wretches with a gun,” and Pa rose to fulfil the threat.

“One minute, Dicky,” Regan said, lowering his voice, and placing a hand on Pa’s shoulder.

Pa waited.

“About them pigs ye got from me yesterda’?”

“Yairs, Mr. Regan?” and Pa looked puzzled.

“Cud ye let me have a cheque for thim?”

Pa understood.

“Well, I could,” he said thoughtfully, “but y’ see, Grandpa ain’t out of his room yet.”

“Oh, I see, the bank ain’t open,” and Regan scratched his bald head.

“Well, y’ know he looks after all that part of the business,” Pa explained, “an’ we do th’ rest, if y’ understand?”

Regan grinned, and said he understood.

“It was twelve pigs, wasn’t it?” Pa inquired.

“It were then, and at a pound a nob. That were twelve pounds yes owe me.”

“Orright,” Pa agreed.

“And good, honest, well-bred pigs they were,” Regan went on. “Never were happier dispositioned pigs to be found anywhere. They’d ate out ov ye’re hand, so they wud. And they niver rooted loike other pigs; and there wer’ always a smile of pleasure on their faces.”

“Well, if y’ come in directly we’ll fix it up for you,” Pa broke in. Then to Uncle Dan, he added: “When Grandpa gets up, an’ I ain’t here, tell him them pigs we bought from Mr. Regan was a pound a head.”

“I’ll tell him they was twenty pounds a head, if y’ like, but I think I told him the other day.” And Uncle Dan started grinning and clearing away the breakfast things.

“And tell him,” Regan added, “that it’s sorry I am I sold thim, for I cud have got me two pound a nob for thim twenty minutes after they left the farrum.”

Uncle Dan turned and said: “I’m a bit of a liar meself.”

“Say that aga-ain?” Regan shouted.

Uncle Dan said it again.

“Put ’em up!” Regan yelled, striking a fighting attitude.

“Here—don’t take any notice of him,” Pa said, and taking Regan by the arm led him outside.

* * * * * * *

Regan looked in again, and found Grandpa sitting in his big chair.

“Sure, ’tis up early ye are, Grandpa,” he said.

“I’ve alez been up early,” Grandpa grunted, “all me life. No one ever seen me in bed after the stars was off the sky.”

“They wer’ a bit slow gettin’ off th’ sky, this mornin’, don’t ye think?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Is th’ bank open wid ye yet?” and Regan changed the subject.

“Is what bank open yet?”

Regan explained.

“Oh, them’s th’ pigs that’s been squealin’ all night?”

“Divil a squeal was ever heard from thim at my place,” Regan answered. “And such beautiful pigs they were, too, and lively as kittens.”

“Well what is it y’ want—th’ money for them, or what?” Grandpa growled.

“If ’tis convenient,” and Regan tried to look unconcerned.

“Five shillin’s a head weren’t it?” Grandpa asked. “Pwhat!” and Regan looked indignant. “A pound a nob it were, man—a pound!”

“Are you comin’ here to rob me in me own house?” and Grandpa glared at him.

“ ’Tis ye who wud be th’ robber!” shouted Regan.

“Three pounds, and not another penny do I owe you,” loudly from Grandpa.

“ ’Tis twelve pounds!” from Regan.

“ ’Tis three!”

“ ’Tis twelve!

Three, dammit, THREE!”

“Then I’ll summons ye to coort!”

“Summons me to court?” and Grandpa rose to his feet; “do you know that I’m a justice of the peace?”

“And ’tis a pity for the country ye are,” and Regan started rolling up his sleeves.

Uncle Dan appeared on the scene.

“Here,” Grandpa yelled to him, “arrest that man! Take him in charge!”

“He can’t! He can’t! He’s no warrant!”

Regan moved round the table.

But Uncle Dan didn’t want a warrant.

“Here,” he said to Regan, “come on!” and jerked his thumb towards the door like a policeman.

Arrest him!” howled Grandpa.

“If ye dare!” And folding his arms Regan looked Uncle Dan between the two eyes.

Pa returned.

“What th’ diggin’s is th’ matter?” he asked, staring at the situation.

Regan and Grandpa wildly explained at the same time.

“I give him a pound apiece for them,” Pa said, addressing the latter.

“Well if y’ did,” Grandpa bellowed, “ain’t thet enough? What do he want comin’ here askin’ me for more for?”

“Oh, I didn’t give th’ money to him—you know that. I told him to get it from you,” Pa explained further.

“What—a pound apiece?” roared Grandpa.

“And they’re well worth it, too,” Pa affirmed. “They’ll bring four quid when they’re topped off.”

“Oh,” and Grandpa subsided, “why didn’t y’ tell me that before?”

“It don’t matter,” Pa chuckled agreeably, “you owe him twelve pound.”

“Twelve, is it,” and taking out his purse, Grandpa counted the money.


Chapter 10
A Misunderstanding

Jim won’t stick to farming long,” Mamma, sitting at the sewing machine, said one day.

“Why won’t he?” and Pa frowned.

“I fancy he doesn’t like the hard work.”

“Well, if he don’t like to stick to it, he needn’t.” And off Pa rushed to mend a fence, or bring in a load of hay or something. Mending fences and bringing in hay were all that Pa seemed to live for. Nothing else mattered to him. The fate of everything depended on fences and hay, according to Pa. And he had scarcely gone when Jim, see-sawing his neck with a handkerchief, and grumbling about the heat and the dust and the flies, sauntered in.

“And this is our wonderful country,” he growled.

“Well, it’s the only country we know of, my son,” and Mamma bit the end of her thread.

Jim went to the front verandah and sat in a canvas chair, fanning himself with his hat, and slashing fiercely at the flies.

“Well, I don’t know!” he said, returning to Mamma, “but it’s hotter in here than out in the paddocks.”

“It’s no use your coming inside to look for a cool spot,” Mamma told him.

“What ever they took this country from the blacks for is a puzzle to me,” and moving out to the peach tree Jim returned with the water-bag.

“What did you want bringing it in here to make a mess for?” Mamma objected.

Jim silently filled a tumbler. He filled it four times.

“You’ll hurt yourself, boy, drinking so much when you’re hot,” Mamma protested.

Jim filled the tumbler again, then sat between doors to catch the breeze.

“No doubt, it’s a black’s country, right enough,” he said, opening the collar of his shirt. “A man can’t work in heat like this.”

“Well, we have all to put up with it,” Mamma said.

“Put up with it!” Jim repeated. “Between it and the flies and the deuce-knows-what, a fellow feels like a dog that’s scalded and smothered with fleas.”

“If you wait a minute, I’ll make a cup o’ tea,” Mamma suggested.

“Only makes you hotter,” and rising he visited the verandah again, and for a moment or two scowled at the shimmering plains. “No one should wear clothes weather like this,” he added, returning again to the dining-room and dropping heavily on the couch.

“Well, what should we wear,” Mamma asked.

“Nothing,” and Jim allowed his long brown arm to hang near the floor, and closed his eyes.

“We’d look well!” and Mamma rattled the machine.

Then after a silence. “I think I took too much blooming water,” said Jim, rubbing his stomach.

“I think you just did then,” and Mamma looked anxiously at him. “ ’Twas enough to kill you.”

“A fellow might just as well be killed as stewed to death!” and Jim closed his eyes again.

A horseman rode up to the front door and called out.

“That’s Ken Kerry,” Jim drawled, “I know his squeaky voice.”

“Well, jump up and see what he wants,” Mamma urged.

“No, you, Mamma. I’ve got appendicitus,” and Jim rubbed his stomach again.

“No blessed wonder—five glasses of water!” and Mamma left the machine and went out.

“The old Captain’s gone, Mrs. Dick,” Ken Kerry said, with tears in his voice.

Mamma got a shock. “What, dead, Ken?” she gasped.

“This mornin’ at breakfus’ time,” Ken answered.

Mamma expressed her sorrow, and asked if anything could be done.

“Well, everyone is busy harvestin’ just now,” Ken murmured, “but if I could get some one to give me a hand to bury him, to—er—dig—”

“Oh, of course you’ll get help,” Mamma hurriedly interrupted. “Just wait a minute.” And returning to Jim she told him that poor old Captain Kerry was dead, and suggested he help Ken to dig the grave.

Jim got a fright, and leaving the couch followed her back to the verandah.

“If you could come right away an’ give me a hand, Jim,” Ken drawled, “I’d be erbliged.”

“Wonder where Pa is!” and Jim stared across the glistening fields.

“Surely you don’t want your father to come and do it!” Mamma snapped.

“Only he’s done more of that sort of work,” Jim mentioned, “and there’s a knack in it.”

“Well, it’s no use waiting for your father,” Mamma insisted; “and if you don’t like doing it, I’ll go and help Ken myself.”

“Oh, all right,” Jim said; “get the tools ready and I’ll be after y’ in a minute.”

Ken nodded, and cantered away.

* * * * * * *

Jim started off via the head-house. Seeing Grandpa sitting on the verandah he shouted to him that Captain Kerry was dead.

“He never were a captain!” Grandpa grunted. “That wer’ th’ name he got when he wer’ bullock drivin’ 40 year ago.”

“Anyhow, it don’t much matter to him now,” Jim mumbled.

“How old wer’ he?” Grandpa inquired.


“He wer’ a young man,” and Grandpa leaned back in his chair.

“Only a colt,” and grinning hard, Jim passed on.

At the slip-rails he was met by Ken, who conducted him to the site selected.

“You’re going to bury him at home, then?” Jim remarked.

“Yairs, oh, yairs,” And taking the pick, Ken commenced digging.

For hours they toiled and sweated, picking and hacking out clods and stones. Out of respect for Ken’s feelings, Jim maintained a silence throughout. And Ken wasn’t one to talk unnecessarily himself.

Nearly sunset. The hole was down deeper than themselves. Ken climbed out of it and said he would go and bring a pot of tea from the house. Jim sat on the bottom of the cold, damp grave and rested. An evil, creepy feeling came over him. He shook himself and raised his eyes to the mouth of the hole. A face appeared and looked down at him and then disappeared. It was old Captain Kerry’s. Jim’s heart missed beats. Cold perspiration started from him. Some loose gravel tumbled down, then old Kerry’s face appeared again. Jim up and out of that grave. Without looking to left or right he ran—ran till he met Ken returning with the tea.

“What’s up?” Ken asked.

Jim told him whom he had seen.

“That’s nothing,” Ken assured him. “He was there all the time.”

“Then who the devil did we dig the grave for?” Jim asked wildly.

“Dig the grave for?” Ken repeated, puzzled looking. “Why for Captain, the old pet kanga.”


Chapter 11
A Surprise

Saturday afternoon; the farm-hands returning to the fields. Pa and Uncle Joe crouched beneath the seed drill unscrewing and screwing nuts, and maligning the man who invented the machine, and the manufacturer who made it, and the lying agent who induced Grandpa to buy it. Uncle Dan hunting round the sheds in search of eggs.

Grandpa hobbled from the house on a tour of inspection.

“Why ain’t y’ down th’ paddock doin’ somethin’ with that,” he said, looking at the drill, “instead o’ hammerin’ an’ foolin’ about it?”

“What’s th’ good of bein’ down th’ paddock with a thing that misses more than it sows, and that don’t cover what it do sow!” Pa said, crawling round the machine.

“This drill’s d-d-done,” Uncle Joe stuttered; “I could s-s-sow as well with me hand.”

“O’ course you could, o’ course you could! Anyone could!” Grandpa agreed. “I always said they was a waste o’ money them things, and what’s more they spoils th’ seed. (To Pa): Sow it wi’ your hand, boy, sow it wi’ your hand. Put a bag round your neck and sow it same as I used to.”

“Sow a ’undred and fifty acres with me hand?” and Pa grinned.

“Well, y’ wouldn’t do it wi’ your feet would y’?”

“I could just as well as with me hands,” and Pa grinned more.

“Sell thet thing,” Grandpa insisted, “sell it to someone who believes in ’em, for a pound or a couple o’ pound more ’n it cost if y’ can.”

Jim and Sammy, dressed in riding boots and breeches, and mounted on polo ponies pranced past. Grandpa leaned on his sticks and glared at them. “Where are they goin’?” he asked.

“Goin’ to have a game o’ polo,” Pa told him.

“A game o’ polo!” Grandpa gasped. “Ain’t there nothin’ about th’ place for ’em to do!”

“I s’pose there is if they like to look for it,” Pa chuckled.

“Look for it!” roared Grandpa. “Well, why th’ devil don’t they look for it?”—waving his stick— “Are they goin’ to ride off like jukes and governors in th’ middle of th’ day to wherever they like—are they?”

“Y’ needn’t lose y’r temper,” Pa said, crawling further under the drill.

“Needn’t lose my temper! Needn’t lose my temper!” Grandpa stammered. “Dammit, ain’t it everythin’ about th’ place I’ll be losin’ soon!”

“Now, look here!” and Pa poked his head through the hoes of the drill. “The young chaps as is growin’ up these days ain’t like what we used to be (meaning Uncle Joe and himself). They won’t work all night and all day, and every day, for y’. If they don’t get a bit o’ time to themselves they won’t work at all.”

“Won’t work at all!” and Grandpa struck one of the hoes with his stick, near Pa’s head, and Pa pulled his head back; “dammit, make them work, same as I used to do.”

“That was all very fine for you,” and Pa crawled from beneath the machine, “but it won’t do now.”

“You try and m-m-make Sammy work S-S-Saturday afternoon,” Uncle Joe, shoving his head through the spokes of the wheel, put in; “and s-s-see how y’ get on!”

“Damn Sammy!” Grandpa snorted.

And just then a motor-car appeared at the gate.

“There’s them members o’ Parliament back again lookin’ for y’,” Pa, pointing to the car, interrupted.

“Members o’ Parliament?” and Grandpa stared across the yard. “Is they?” Then off he strutted to meet them.

Pa and Uncle Joe went on mending the drill.

* * * * * *

Next morning.

“What were them members o’ Parliament wantin’, Nell?” Pa asked confidentially.

Nell shook her head and smiled, and said she thought “everyone would know it soon.”

And a week later everyone did know it. The whole country side knew it.

In bold type the newspapers announced:

“New appointment to the Upper House,” and gave Grandpa’s name and address in full.

Talk about a surprise! We did get a surprise. Pa’s hand wasn’t steady enough to hold the newspaper. Pa was proud of Grandpa.

“What do y’ think of the old man, now?” he cried, thumping Uncle Joe cheerfully on the back.

“I thought there was s-s-somethin’ in th’ w-w-wind,” Uncle Joe answered, “but I didn’t th-think it was th-that!”

Then Uncle Dan and Jim and Sammy and the farm-hands gathered round.

“Grandpa’s been made M.L.C.,” Pa informed them excitedly.

“And left me out of it again,” Uncle Dan observed, reaching for the newspaper.

The farm-hands laughed, and one said that Grandpa would be called “the honorable” all his life.

“And that’s what thousands would like to be called,” Pa claimed proudly.

Sammy asked what a M.L.C. had to do.

“Everythin’,” Pa said; “everythin’.”

“They sits in th’ House,” Uncle Dan, who voted Labor, explained cynically, “with long hats on, an’ chucks out everythin’ the Labor party brings in.”

“Not them,” Pa said, in defence of the House.

“What if they bring in a policeman?” Jim asked with a grin.

“He’d go out just the same,” Uncle Dan affirmed; “and so would St. Peter.”

Pa looked round and saw a stream of excited relations pouring into the head-house.

“There they go! They’ve heard about it,” he laughed. “And old Regan’s amongst them, too. Look at old Regan!”

“An’ not one o’ the lot o’ them thinks that about him!” and Uncle Dan snapped his fingers.

“Come on,” Pa grinned, “we’ll go and congratulate him, too.”

They went, and eagerly crowded the front verandah.

Nell touched the slumbering M.L.C. on the shoulder, and told him he was wanted.

“Who wants me?” and waking up out of his chair, Grandpa stared at the gathering.

“Now then, Mr. Regan,” Pa suggested, “you’re th’ best at talkin’.”

Regan removed his hat and fumbled with his feet, and puffing hard, faced the lion.

“Me ould frind,” he commenced, “th’ divil himself couldn’t feel a prouder mahn than ye yereself should be. ’Twere a wise gorvermint—”

“Oh, here,” Grandpa interrupted, waving his hand, “I don’t want to hear anythin’ about thet.” And turning to Nell, added: “Fetch some whisky, gal.”

Regan laughed, and as Nell hurried away, rubbed his hands together.

Then Uncle Dan, with great presence of mind, pushed forward.

“Well, governor,” he said, rising to his full height, “as your first born I —”

“Oh, give him one, too, gal! give him one,” Grandpa interrupted.

Uncle Dan bowed agreeably and took his place beside Regan, and poked Regan hard in the ribs. The others enjoyed the proceedings.

Pa grinned, and came forward nervously.

“And give Dicky a drop too, gal; give Dicky a drop,” Grandpa broke in.

“Here, I didn’t come for that!” Pa protested,” I come —”

“And put plenty o’ water with Dicky’s, gal; plenty o’ water,” Grandpa insisted.

Pa stood down.

Meanwhile Jim and Sammy had been. putting their heads together in consultation. Sammy shoved Jim, and Jim stepped boldly forward.

“Grandpa!” he commenced.

The others laughed.

“Go away, go away an’ ketch flies, or nurse some o’ them babies!” and Grandpa waved him off.

Jim turned red and crept back to Sammy.

Then Regan raised his glass and said: “Ladies an’ gentlemin—”

“Oh, drink it! Drink it!” Grandpa growled, “an’ don’t be spillin’ it.”

Regan drank it, so did Uncle Dan and Pa. But Pa choked and coughed a lot over his.

* * * * * * *

A month later.

The same crowd at the front gate to see Grandpa off to the city to take “his seat.”

“Everything is packed in your trunks,” Mamma said, when her turn came to give Grandpa a parting handshake. “I don’t think we have forgotten anything.”

With his large foot planted on the buggy step, the M.L.C. paused and looked at his luggage.

‘‘Did y’ put in a pair o’ blue blankets an’ a pillow?” he asked.

Mamma looked at Nell.

“Not blankets, surely, Grandpa?” Nell said with a smile.

“Blankets, yes, o’ course I wants blankets,” said Grandpa. “What would be th’ good o’ anyone goin’ to the Upper House without ’em. Dammit, y’ don’t expect me to sleep in me clothes, do y’?”


Some Neighbors Of Grandpa’s

A winter’s evening at McClure’s. A glowing fire and a large hanging lamp brightened the long dining-room. Before the fire sat Minnie McClure perusing a letter, and at intervals smiling over its contents. She turned her head and looked round suspiciously. No signs of anyone approaching, she began reading aloud:—

      My sweet dear little Duxie,
I am thinking of you every minute in the day. I would have wrote before now, only I was waiting for a chance to go to town first to buy the ring (she paused and smiled). I went yesterday and got it, and I’m bringing it to give to you to-night. And I made up my mind to ask your father for you this time no matter what happens. But I hope he won’t snort. Be on the look-out for me at 8 p.m. You must work the oracle so as I can see him by himself, and I hope your little brother won’t be poking his nose in the road. Of course, though, I like him nearly as much as I do my little Duxie herself, for all that he’s such a fool!
         Your lonely old Bertie.

Peter McClure, the little brother, who had been listening secretly at the door, knocked gently.

“That’s Bertie, now,” and stuffing the letter into her pocket, Minnie rose hurriedly. But instead of going into her pocket the letter found its way to the floor.

Minnie opened the door and admitted Peter. He grinned and said:

“Did ye think I was lovely old Bertie?”

Then there was trouble.

“Away y go out of here, y’ sneak; and stay in the kitchen. Cocking your ear and listening at the door! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Peter guffawed, and ran round the table. Minnie ran out for the broom.

Peter saw the letter on the floor; lifted it, looked at it, grinned and stuffed it inside his shirt.

Minnie returned waving the broom.

“Let me out! I’ll go!” Peter cried. And Minnie willingly permitted him to go. At the door Peter grinned triumphantly at her and disappeared.

Old Duncan and Mrs. McClure entered.

“What are ye fichtin’ aboot?” Duncan enquired.

“Nothing, Paw,” Minnie lied, and began knitting furiously at a sock.

The old folk seated themselves comfortably at the table, and Duncan grunted and said: “Cut for deal.” Mrs. McClure cut, and they started playing euchre.

Another knock at the door.

“Mr. Peter up to some more of his tricks,” and stealing stealthily across the room Minnie armed herself with the broom, and stood with it uplifted beside the door.

“Come in,” she said.

The door opened and the Poor Parson poked his head in. The broom descended with a “swish” and cleaved his hat off.

Minnie squealed, and threw down the broom, and made hysterical efforts to apologise.

“Oh, I’m very sorry—very sorry,” the Parson said, stooping and recovering his hat.

Duncan and Mrs. McClure suddenly put down the cards, and the former snatching up the family bible that was lying on the table bumped it down hard on top of the pack. Then both turned and loudly upbraided Minnie, and sympathised with the reverend visitor.

The Parson said there was no harm done: “None whatever! None whatever! And Minnie only did it in fun.”

“Shah! Her and her danged fun!” Duncan growled, “she’s a’ways at it!”

“Ye ken weel ye shouldna’, Minnie!” Mrs. McClure added, wagging her head. “And ye ha’e no richt tae be a’ways fichtin’ wi’ Peter the way ye do!”

Minnie didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry about it.

“There’s no bones broken! No bones broken,” and the Parson smiled soothingly.

Then he proceeded to state the purpose of his visit.

“Come alang to ma den, Parson,” Duncan said, “an’ we’ll ha’e a crack aboot it there.” And he prepared to lead the way to a room on the verandah.

But Mrs. McClure had a lot of questions to ask the Parson about his wife and the children.

Duncan, with one eye on the family bible that concealed the cards, urged the parson to hurry.

“Come on wi’ ye mon!” he said holding a side door open.

“Dinna’ be sae rude, Duncan!” Mrs. McClure threw back at him; then asked the Parson some more questions.

The parson’s eyes wandered to the bible on the table, and anticipating him Duncan fairly yelled:—

“Can ye no come on, mon?”

“Well did ever ye hear sic a man?” And Mrs. McClure glowered reproachfully at her husband.

“Oh, yes, yes. I beg your pardon,” the parson said. Then stepping quickly to the table. “But that’s a splendidly bound bible—”

“Dang it!” roared Duncan, “ha’e ye no time tae look at bibles when ye’re at hame?”

“Aye, it’s a gude yun!” proudly from Mrs. McClure.

Duncan raised his two arms above his head and seemed to be in a sort of fit.

The parson was about to lift the volume when Peter, waving Minnie’s letter, bounced in and diverted his attention and saved Duncan.

“A letter for you, sir; you dropped it outside near the door, sir,” Peter lied maliciously.

“A letter of mine?” the Parson said, taking the document. And while he examined it Duncan strode across to the table and skilfully secured the cards.

“No, I didn’t drop such a letter,” the Parson said with a grin, “may be it belongs to some of you?”

Peter lied again, and looked out the corner of his eye at Minnie. But Minnie was knitting hard at the sock and listening keenly for sounds at the door.

“What does it say, Parson?” Duncan asked good humouredly. “Sit ye doon an’ read it oot.”

The parson sat with his back to the table and cleared his throat for action, and read:—

“My sweet dear little Duxie.”

Minnie McClure looked up quickly, and clutched at her dress pockets. Peter lay flat on his stomach across the table and gaped and grinned over the Parson’s shoulder.

“I am thinking of you every minute in the day. I would have wrote before now only I was waiting for a chance to go to town first to buy the ring.”

The Parson paused and smiled, and rolled his eyes about. Minnie McClure stared in distress. Peter McClure laughed loud, Duncan and Mrs. McClure wrinkled their brows and started thinking hard.

“I went yesterday and got it, and I’m bringing it to give to you to-night.”

The Parson paused and grinned again.

“What th’ de’il sort o’ a letter is it at a’?” Duncan broke in loudly.

“Bless me, but it’s a love-letter!” Mrs. McClure discovered.

“I made up my mind to ask your father for you this time, no matter what happens—I hope he won’t— snort—”

“Her old man must be a bit of a brumby,” Peter interrupted, lifting his head and mocking at Minnie’s distress.

“What idiot would write sic a letter?” Duncan put in.

The Parson shook his head cheerfully, and proceeded :—

“— You must work the oracle for me so as I can see him by himself, and I hope your little brother won’t be poking his nose in.”

“Cripes, that’s bosker!” from Peter, who elevated his feet above his back and kicked his heels together.

“Peter! Peter!” And his mother pushed him off the table.

Peter frowned at her, and as soon as the Parson proceeded to read again promptly renewed his old position.

“Of course, I like him though, nearly as much as I do my dear little Duxie, herself, for all that he is such a fool.”

“That’s the part that tickles me most,” and Peter looked across again at Minnie.

“He doesna’ like her little brither,” from Duncan with a loud laugh.

Your lonely old Bertie,”and the Parson put down the letter and joined in the merriment.

“Oh, it does remind me o’ ma courting days,” Mrs. McClure sighed cheerfully, and wiped the tears of joy away from her cheeks.

Duncan turned suddenly upon her and said:—

“I never writ ye a letter like that, wumman?”

“I ken weel ye didna’!” and Mrs. McClure struck a haughty attitude.

Peter sat up and stared at her in amusement.

“Then I wasna’ the only pebble on the beach?” Duncan shouted.

“Of course ye wasna’,” and Mrs. McClure wagged her head about proudly.

Duncan looked at Peter and asked him what he thought of his mother.

“I think she had the lend o’ you, Paw,” Peter said.

“Maybe she hed,” and Duncan turned to the Parson again.

“Does anyone know the write?” the Parson asked, holding up the letter.

Duncan examined the caligraphy.

“It isna’ writin’ at a’, Parson,” he concluded, “it’s dra’in’.”

“Paintin’ in ink, that’s what it is,” from Mrs. McClure.

“Looks as if a beetle fell into the ink-pot and crawled over the paper,” and Peter glanced slyly at Minnie. Minnie scowled at him.

“They say a man’s write portrays his character,” Duncan added, “but that isna’ any write at a’.”

“Then he can’t have any character, Paw,” Peter guffawed.

“But what shall we do with it?” the Parson asked.

“Gi’ it tae Minnie tae light the fire wi’ in the morn. Come on, Parson!” and leaving the table Duncan led the way to his den again.

“And perhaps she may find an owner for it,” the Parson said, handing the letter to Minnie and following McClure.

Then Mrs. McClure went off to her room, and Peter found himself alone with Minnie.

“Now then!” she said, facing him with high explosives in her eye. Peter cleared three chairs in one jump and vanished. Minnie sat down and ground her teeth and thought evil of everyone in the house.

Black Lizzie with a broad grin stole softly in, and jerking a thumb over her shoulder jabbered:—

“Him been want it see you, Miss Minnie.”

Minnie looked puzzled.

“Who wants to see me?” she asked.

“You know, that fellow been wear him clothes all a same a rainbow. Him walk it like fat fellow pig.”

And Lizzie waddled round the room in imitation of a fat pig:.

Minnie looked more perplexed than before.

“All a same that fellow sit down alonga creek. Put it arm here (indicating the neck) and kiss him you— eh? Oh, by golly, I bin see him.” And the black girl laughed wildly.

Minnie understood. “Bertie? Oh, it’s Mr. Beatles, Lizzie! Is he here?” And jumping up she began tidying her hair.

“Beatle?” Lizzie repeated. “Him been call Beatle, eh, golly,” and she laughed again.

“Quick, tell Mr. Beatles to come in, Lizzie.”

“I been tell him. But why you call him beetle?”

“That’s his name, silly! But here, Lizzie (confidently), never you say to anyone that you saw Mr. Beatles kissing me. If you do big fellow come down and punish you.”

“By cripe, no,” Lizzie promised. “I been tell no fella. I keep him secret.”

Then she glided out the door, and Mr. Beatles, arrayed in a loud check suit and a flaring neck tie and twirling a bright straw hat in his hand with a gorgeous band around it, came in. He capered about the room smiling and bowing to Minnie. Minnie smiled and bowed to him, and called him Bertie, and invited him to sit down. He sat down and laughed, and pulled Minnie down beside him. Then they crooned and giggled and talked with their heads jambed against each other.

“I brought it,” Beatles whispered.

“Did you, Bertie?” Minnie whispered back.

Then he produced the ring and had just put it on Minnie’s finger when McClure and the Parson blundered back to the room talking loudly of the meanness and insincerity of one of the church people.

Minnie and Beatles separated hurriedly, and sat up straight and wide apart.

“I am afraid he is a hopeless quantity—a hopeless quantity,” was the Parson’s final judgment.

“I am afraid he’s a danged lear!” was Duncan’s. Then their eyes rested on the stranger.

“Helloa!” Duncan said, “wha’ ha’e ye here, Minnie?”

Beatles and Minnie both stood up. “This is Mr. Beatles, Paw,” she said. “My Paw, Mr. Beatles.”

“Beatles? did ye say? It’s a queer name. But how are ye (holding out his hand). Ye didna’ fly in through the window did ye?”

Minnie laughed.

“Perhaps you knew my father, sir?” Beatles inquired. “He was the pound-yard keeper for 45 years and six months.”

“I didna’!” and Duncan shook his head, “but had he been the gaol-yard keeper for six months I micht ha’e met him.”

“Mr. Beatles, Mr. McCullock,” Minnie said, ignoring her parent’s joke. “Mr. McCullock, our minister, Mr. Beatles.”

“I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Beatles,” the Parson said.

“I am sure you are, sir; I know you are, sir. I am the tick inspector for the Moogoola district, sir.”

“Aye, then you’re th’ permeet man?” Duncan interrupted with fresh interest.

“Yes, I issue permits, sir, to travel stock from one place to another,” Beatles confessed.

“And very often he has to write out as many as one hundred permits in a day,” Minnie added, smiling proudly upon the official wonder.

“Aye, and when a stockowner gets a permeet, Parson,” Duncan said disparagingly, “he can drove stock hanging wi’ ticks to the de’il if he likes; but if he droves a poddy calfie tae th’ creek an’ back wi’oot a permeet they’ll fine him fifty poon’.”

“But don’t blame me, sir, for that,” Beatles protested, “it’s the Department’s fault.”

“Of course,” Minnie put in wisely, “Mr. Beatles ain’t to blame for that.”

But Duncan wasn’t to be silenced. “Ye wouldna’ gi’ a person covered wi’ sins a permeet tae go tae heaven would ye, Parson,” he asked, “an’ sen’ a saint tae hell because he didna’ ask ye for one?”

The Parson avoided the question.

“But did you show our friend, Mr. Beatles, that quaint letter we were reading, Minnie?” he asked with a smile.

Minnie started; then forced a laugh, and said she didn’t.

“I am sure it would help you to entertain him,” continued the Church.

“Aye,” gravely from Duncan; “what did ye do wi’ you wunnerfu’ production?”

Minnie blushed, and said she tore it up.

“Ye shouldna’ ha’e destroyed sic’ a gran’ work,” Duncan observed.

Beatles became curious.

“A love-letter, was it, sir?” he asked with a grin.

“Only a lot of rubbish,” and Minnie laughed.

“Aye, flowing ower wi’ love,” and Duncan shook his head solemnly.

“I’ve missed something then, by coming late!” and Beatles smiled on Minnie.

“Ye couldna’ imagine just how much ye missed,” and Duncan shook his head again.

The Parson who had been scratching his head and thinking hard, said:—

“It ran something like this, Mr. Beatles:—‘My sweet, dear little Duxie,—I am thinking of you every moment in the day—’

Beatles jumped and turned and looked hard at Minnie.

I would have wrote before now, only I was waiting for a chance to go to town to buy the ring—.”

Beatles jumped again, and his eyes rolled round and round. Minnie shuddered, and turned away.

I went yesterday and got it—.”

Here the Parson’s memory failed him. “But,” he added, “the writer concluded by signing himself ‘your lonely old Bertie.’”

“He ought ta’e ha’e concluded by hangin’ hissel’,” Duncan observed.

Then the Parson wished everyone good-night and went out.

“I’ll see ye off the premises, Parson,” and Duncan went out, too.

Beatles turned and faced Minnie. “So I’ve found y’ out already!” he said, like a judge passing sentence on a burglar.

“Bertie! Don’t, don’t; wait till you hear all!” and Minnie advanced to him with outstretched arms.

“I’ve heard all I want to hear!” Beatles hissed through his teeth and stepped back from her.

“No! No! Bertie!” imploringly from Minnie.

“Showing my letter to a pair of silly old wowsers!” Beatles hissed again.

“I never,” Minnie said, “and they are not wowsers.”

“Well, then, they’re a pair of meddling d— old jackasses—and you to deceive me like this!”

Minnie’s attitude quickly changed.

“Oh, well,” she snapped, “if you don’t like to believe me when I tell you the truth, you needn’t, that’s all! But I didn’t show them your letter!”

“Dammit!” Beatles stamped his foot. “Do you think a man don’t know his own letter when he hears a grinning old sky-pilot reciting of it?”

“Well you ought to know yours, anyway,” with a sneer; “they’re such silly, stupid things!” and she laughed.

Beatles jumped, and grabbed his hat.

“Now, it’s all coming out of y’,” he gasped; “you’re just th’ sort I thought you was! You’re th’ first girl that’s had the loan o’ me, but by my old dead father, you’ll be th’ last!” and he moved towards the door.

“By your old dead father who was the pound-yard keeper!” Minnie laughed ironically.

“Dirt! Dirt! Dirt!” Beatles hissed from the door.

“Here’s some of your dirt!” throwing him back the ring. “I wouldn’t be seen wearing a brummyjim. It might poison me finger! Give it to someone who likes wearing cheap things—”

“I’m off!” Beatles choking, picking up the ring, “and I leave you for ever, a free man, thank God!”

“Why don’t you go to the war! A free fat little man like you ought to have been at the front long ago. Won’t mother let you go? (laughing) or are you frightened?”

“Rats! Rats!” and Beatles dragged open the door.

“Ticks! Ticks!” Minnie squealed, and next moment was alone.

“He’s gone! I’ve lost him!” she blubbered, “and all through my own silly foolish fault!”

Then throwing herself into a chair, and covering her face with her hands, she sobbed till—till Peter came creeping in again.


My First Battle

A sham fight they called it, but I reckon there was no sham whatever about it. And what a mob of us answered our country’s call! And without any compulsion, or route marches, or any of those sort of circus tricks, either! We simply rushed and flocked like mad to the colours.

And it took the buglers, and the majors, and the Captains, and the little corporals half a day to form us into marching order. But when they formed us we did them credit. The volunteers of those days were fine looking men. I know they were because I was one of them. But that has nothing to do with the battle.

Loaded almost to the ground with rifles, haversacks, water bottles, bayonets and great-coats we waited eagerly for the “Quick m-a-r-c-h!

Then off we went. The band blared forth “Men of Harlech,” and we stepped out briskly for the battlefield. Right into Queen Street we swung, where thousands of girls, dozens deep, crowded to watch us. We watched them, too. Then across Victoria Bridge, the one that was washed away; along Stanley Street and into Woolloongabba we marched without turning a hair. We felt we could go on marching to Eternity. But the girls suddenly thinned out, and scowling, cynical men, and milk carts, and lorries, filled their places. Then all at once the band stopped playing, and a rot set in. Turning the music off was fatal. It was like stopping a man’s credit without giving him any warning. We went to pieces, and the rifles felt heavier than crow-bars. We tripped, and brushed, and lost step. We were thirsty, too, and raised the water-bottles to our heads, and kept them there till they were sucked dry.

Left, left—left, left,” the officers called, and we responded with our right. But when the band recovered wind enough it struck up again, and we were saved. It played us to the top of Galloway’s Hill, Galloway’s Hill was the Pyramid of Brisbane, then. I don’t know what it is now. On top of it, and all over it, our army halted to bivouac. It bivouaced by pulling palings off fences and boiling billy-cans, and eating and drinking everything it brought with it. Then the rank and file joined in song and tobacco together. The officers collected in a tent, and conferred about the enemy and strategy. The enemy was the mounted infantry under Colonel Ricktickardo; and how to locate him and frustrate his tricks were the problems they had to solve.

At intervals they called for scouts to go out and see about him. And like the ravens that went from the ark, those scouts would brace themselves up and fearlessly go forth into the night, and never return. Others were then sent out to find traces of their fate, and they wouldn’t return either. Nearly half the strength of our forces was sent looking for the other half.

At last the first scout sent out stumbled back into camp with scarcely any uniform on, and wearing an enemy hat. And with a violent attack of hiccoughs complained that the “other (hic) blokes wash all drink (hic) in’ wish thenemy ash (hic) Pine-applesh pub.”

After that we were suddenly ordered to stand to arms. We stood to arms. Then the real excitement commenced. In hoarse whispers we were ordered to advance. We advanced down the hill on tip-toe, nervously feeling for each other all the while.

“Down on your knees, men, and crawl,” came the next order.

Down we dropped and crawled—crawled like kids and caterpillars through lantana, and holes in fences. In the excitement a number of us became detached from the main body and crawled over the edge of a water-hole containing mud and tins and decayed cats, and made a great noise. We got a great surprise too.

But we got out again all right. Frantically executing a series of flank movements we scrambled to the top, and like shags drying their feathers on dead wood, sat on the edge of the hole scraping mud off ourselves, and using bad language. Meanwhile the main body crept right away from us, and we were lost.

Someone suggested coo-ee-ing for the major, but the others, thinking of the enemy, threatened to throw him back into the hole if he did—and he didn’t. Then a lean, hollow-chested law-clerk said he knew the way to Norman Creek bridge, and explained that once there, we would be on the main road to Brisbane. We appointed that law-clerk our captain, and told him that wherever he led we would follow—so long as he led for the bridge, and Brisbane.

He rose and went off at the double, and we followed, breaking and crashing through the lantana like stampeding cattle. He led till a sickly light faintly flickered ahead.

“That’s the bridge,” he gasped over his shoulder. From that on he hadn’t pace enough to lead the slowest of us. On we thundered, our captain at our heels. We reached the bridge. We raced on to it. Half way across we felt it shake and tremble beneath us. We stopped suddenly, and stared through the dim, dead-of-night light. A dark mass of plumed heads bobbed up and down against the sky. Then the sound of horse-hooves rattled on the decking.

“Great Kangaroos!” our captain gasped, “it’s the enemy!”

The rest of us were struck speechless. We had not been thinking of the enemy. Now it was either fight or turn and fly for cover in the lantana. Our captain decided to give battle.

“Crouch down!” he whispered, “and load.”

We crouched and loaded.

On came the enemy—the colonel’s plumes wagging carelessly as he led the advance on his great chestnut charger. Another yard or two and we would be trampled through the floor of the bridge.

“Stand and fire!” cried our captain. We jumped to it and fired point blank at the colonel. Great Napoleon! The plunging and noise of those chargers slipping and gliding on the bridge was terrifying. And those that didn’t fall tried to jump right off. The colonel’s charger stood on its hind legs and waved its front ones at the stars. And while it pawed at the Southern Cross we poured in another volley. The colonel, clinging to the saddle, returned our fire with a round of military profanity. But we didn’t quail beneath it. We hurriedly loaded up again. Just then, we were unexpectedly attacked from the rear.

Our main body, attracted by the rifle fire, arrived at the double and rashly poured a volley into us. We were helpless. We had no way of escape. But we didn’t capitulate. We dropped our rifles hurriedly, and climbing the parapet became neutrals. Then talk about war! It was a war! Both sides began a desperate offensive, and everything sounded like hell. In the thick of it all someone poked the muzzle of his rifle up into the face of our captain astride the parapet. He ducked suddenly to avoid the explosion, and fell off into the dirty cold stream below, and dragged us with him! That was my first battle.


After Twenty Years

I met Steve on the verandah of the township pub. As boys we had been boon companions, and went to school together to Cornelius O’Brien, at Emu Creek. The school, changed in appearance now by time and the weather, and the addition of a back verandah and a flag pole, and a fir tree, still stands on the main stock route about four miles from the railway line.

We talked of old days, old selections, old selectors, and numerous other old things.

“For three years after I left school I stuck well to the old people,” Steve said; “stuck to them like grim death till I saw that it meant nothink but work, work, work, and never a sixpence for it! Then I got sick of it all, and cleared out. … That’s over twenty year ago, I s’pose, an’ I ain’t sin or heerd from them since. That’s what’s brought me back now.”

He paused to make a few asides to a blue cattle dog that affectionately poked its nose into his lap.

“But the old people have got on well since then?” I put in.

“Med tons o’ money, I’m told,” enthusiastically from Steve. “But then y’ see the ol’ man, himself, wuz worse nor a bullick to graft! An’ she wuz jist as bad. When y’ comes t’ look at it, though,” and Steve became philosophical, “everything is changed an’ different about here now, to what it wuz in them days. Look it all th’ cheese fact’ries, an’ th’ butter fact’ries that’s croppin’ up—like blanky musherooms. An’ see th’ markets there is for everythin’. Why there’s no comparasing. Anyone who’s got a beast now kin sell it twenty times over. But before I left, the bloomin’ butcher wouldn’t take a fat bullick from the ol’ man in payment for half a quid’s worth o’ meat.”

Steve paused again, and told the cattle dog to go to the devil.

“’Course I’d been better, a damn sight, if I’d stopped with the ol’ man; anyone kin see that now. Still I’ve had a good time for all that, an’ he ain’t any th’ worse for me leavin’ him.”

From the railway gates, opposite, where teams loaded with wheat, and chaff, and cheese were lumbering through, two aged, grizzly faced, yet sturdy old farmers emerged, and deep in conversation approached the pub.

“This is your old man coming along, now, Steve,” I said; “the one on the right. The other is the Squire of Ropedale.”

“Well, I be interned if it ain’t!” he answered with a broad, proud grin. “And the same blanky old walk on ’im that he alez had.” And he stood up to get a good view of his approaching parent.

Before mounting the pub verandah the old farmers paused to finally settle a point of difference concerning wool and the market for fat lambs.

“Hell,” Steve said in a burst of family pride and affection, “jist look at him—polished boots, an’ collar an’ tie on a week day. An’ a gold chain!”

The old farmers stepped on to the verandah and entered the bar.

Steve straightened himself up; tightened his belt, pulled the collar ends of his Crimean shirt together, but failed to button them because the button was missing, took off his old felt hat, looked inside it and clapped it hard on his head again.

“When ’e comes out I’ll word ’im, an’ he’ll git a ’ell of a surprise,” and Steve winked and chuckled gladly at me.

The old farmers came out.

Steve advanced and confidently touched his parent on the shoulder.

The parent turned and stared at him.

Steve squared up and grinned proudly and familiarly into Dad’s face.

“Got ’n advarntage o’ me mah mahn,” the latter said.

“Steve—your son,” the other exclaimed, joyfully removing his hat; “now do y’ know me?”

“No—ah have no son o’ thart name,” the parent answered indifferently. “There wer’ one whaht went away agen mah will when ah sed to ’im: ‘See here, lad, if yow goes mahnd now there us ends. Yow’l be no laanger a son o’ mine.”

And calmly turning away he rejoined the “squire” of Ropedale, and walked off.

With a grin of disappointment Steve turned to me and said:—

“Did ever y’ see sich a determint — ol’ ceow?”


Alfred Alfreds

A quiet, sleepy, slow-moving man was Alfred Alfreds, and he wore long hair and a stunted whisker.

At intervals he worked hard; other intervals he didn’t work at all. People who rushed and raced about the district as though they only had a few minutes to live, and wanted to make a fortune before dying, wondered how he managed to survive. Alfred, himself, never wondered anything at all about it. He just went on surviving.

Upon all matters Alfred was silent as the grave, and never complained or approved, or gave his opinion about anything. He wasn’t a talker; but a good listener. He would listen to other people for hours, for days, for ever if necessary. No argument was too profound or too senseless, or too pious, or too anything for Alfred to give ear to.

Once when Grady, a Labour politician, was arguing wildly with McCannister, a Liberal, the former appealed to Alfred to decide whether it was the Labour or Liberal party that created the fleet.

“Wasn’t it Andrew Fisher?” he yelled.

Alfred smiled, but didn’t give any decision.

“Wasn’t it the Liberal party—wasn’t it Joe Cook?” McCannister shouted at Alfred.

Alfred smiled on him, too, but didn’t say anything.

“There you are!” McCannister claimed, turning to his opponent, “he can’t say it wasn’t the Liberal party.”

“And he can’t say it wasn’t the Labour party!” And Grady appealed to Alfred again.

Alfred smiled some more.

“And you can’t say it wasn’t the Liberal party— isn’t that right?” McCannister repeated.

Alfred never said anything.

“I knew d— well he couldn’t!” McCannister grunted in self-satisfaction.

“And I knew d— well he couldn’t neither!” and Grady wagged his head triumphantly.

Then they both walked across to the pub and had a drink.

In his own way Alfred was a progressive person; never absented himself from public meetings or gatherings of any kind. If the object was to raise money for charities, or churches, or patriotic purposes, or for giving a presentation to someone leaving the district who didn’t deserve it, Alfred would be first to attend, and would sit in a front seat. But when the chairman would call upon those present to intimate the amount of their donations Alfred was never counted amongst the donators. And no one ever thought or suggested he should be. And no one but the local banker knew that Alfred was at least a hundred sovereigns richer than any other man in the district.

But the day when news arrived that war had broken out, Alfred for the first time in public said something.

Grady and McCannister, and Doyle and others collected at the township and discussed Germany’s chances of getting wiped out.

McCannister said the Kaiser could put nine millions of men in the field in twenty-four hours. Grady said he didn’t care if he could put ninety millions in the field, England still would lick her.

Doyle said he wasn’t so sure of that, and looked at Alfred.

“Well, they orter have good weather for it,” Alfred said, looking at the sky.


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