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* I. <#1_1_1> * II. <#1_1_2> * The Chosen Vessel. <#1_1_3> -----------------------------------------------------------------------A Dreamer. A SWIRL of wet leaves from the night-hidden trees decorating the little station beat against the closed doors of the carriages. The porter hurried along holding his blear-eyed lantern to the different windows, and calling the name of the township in language peculiar to porters. There was only one tic et to collect. Passengers from far up-country towns have importance from their rarity. He turned his lantern full on this one, as he too her tic et. She loo ed at him too, and listened to the sound of his voice, as he spo e to the guard. Once she had nown every hand at the station. The porter new everyone in the district. This traveller was a stranger to him. If her letter had been received, someone would have been waiting with a buggy. She passed through the station. She saw nothing but an ownerless dog, huddled, wet and shivering, in a corner. More for sound she turned to loo up the straggling street of the township. Among the sheoa s, bordering the river she new so well, the wind made ghostly music, unheeded by the sleeping town. There was no other sound, and she turned to the dog with a feeling of inship. But perhaps the porter had a message! She went bac to the platform. He was loc ing the office door, but paused as though expecting her to spea . "Wet night!" he said at length, brea ing the silence. Her question resolved itself into a request for the time, though this she already new. She hastily left him. She drew her cloa tightly round her. The wind made her umbrella useless for shelter. Wind and rain and dar ness lay before her on the wal of three bush miles to her mother's home. Still it was the home of her girlhood, and she new every inch of the way. As she passed along the sleeping street, she saw no sign of life till
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A Dreamer. <#1_0_2> Squea er's Mate. <#1_0_3> Scrammy 'And. <#1_0_4> Billy S ywon ie. <#1_0_5> Bush Church. <#1_1>
near the end. A light burned in a small shop, and the sound of swift tapping came to her. They wor late tonight, she thought, and, remembering their gruesome tas , hesitated, half-minded to as these night wor ers, for whom they laboured. Was it someone she had nown? The long dar wal ? she could not? and hastened to lose the sound. The zigzag course of the railway brought the train again near to her, and this wayfarer stood and watched it tunnelling in the teeth of the wind. Whoof! whoof! its steaming breath hissed at her. She saw the rain spitting viciously at its red mouth. Its speed, as it passed, made her realize the tedious difficulties of her journey, and she quic ened her pace. There was the silent tenseness that precedes a storm. From the branch of a tree overhead she heard a watchful mother-bird's warning call, and the twitter of the disturbed nestlings. The tender care of this bird-mother awo e memories of her childhood. What mattered the lonely dar ness, when it led to mother. Her forebodings fled, and she faced the old trac unheedingly, and ever and ever she smiled, as she foretasted their meeting. "Daughter!" "Mother!" She could feel loving arms around her, and a mother's sacred isses. She thrilled, and in her impatience ran, but the wind was angry and too her breath. Then the child near her heart stirred for the first time. The instincts of motherhood awa ened in her. Her elated body quivered, she fell on her nees, lifted her hands, and turned her face to God. A vivid flash of lightning flamed above her head. It dulled her rapture. The lightning was very near. She went on, then paused. Was she on the right trac ? Bac , near the bird's nest, were two roads. One led to home, the other was the old bulloc -dray road that the railway had almost usurped. When she should have been careful in her choice, she had been absorbed. It was a long way bac to the cross-roads, and she dug in her mind for land mar s. Foremost she recalled the "Bendy Tree", then the "Sisters", whose entwined arms tal ed, when the wind was from the south. The apple-trees on the cree split flat, where the cows and calves were always to be found. The wrong trac , being nearer the river, had clumps of sheoa s and groups of pines in places. An angled line of lightning illuminated everything, but the violence of the thunder distracted her. She stood in uncertainty, near-sighted, with all the horror of the un nown that this infirmity could bring. Irresolute, she waited for another flash. It served to convince her she was wrong. Through the bush she turned. The s y seemed to crac with the lightning; the thunder's suddenness shoo her. Among some tall pines she stood awed, while the storm raged. Then again that indefinite fear struc at her. Restlessly she pushed on till she stumbled, and, with hands outstretched, met some object that moved beneath them as she fell. The lightning showed a group of terrified cattle. Tripping and falling, she ran, she new not where, but eeping her eyes turned towards the cattle. Aimlessly she pushed on, and unconsciously retraced her steps.
She struc the trac she was on when her first doubt came. If this were the right way, the wheel-ruts would show. She groped, but the rain had levelled them. There was nothing to guide her. Suddenly she remembered that the little clump of pines, where the cattle were, lay between the two roads. She had gathered mistletoe berries there in the old days. She believed, she hoped, she prayed, that she was right. If so, a little further on, she would come to the "Bendy Tree". There long ago a runaway horse had crushed its drun en rider against the bent, distorted trun . She could recall how in her young years that tree had ever after had a weird fascination for her. She saw its croo ed body in the lightning's glare. She was on the right trac , yet dreaded to go on. Her childhood's fear came bac . In a transient flash she thought she saw a horseman galloping furiously towards her. She placed both her hands protectingly over her heart, and waited. In the dar interval, above the shrie of the wind, she thought she heard a cry, then crash came the thunder, drowning her call of warning. In the next flash she saw nothing but the tree. "Oh, God, protect me!" she prayed, and diverging, with a shrin ing heart passed on. The road dipped to the cree . Louder and louder came the roar of its flooded waters. Even little Dog-trap Gully was proudly foaming itself hoarse. It emptied below where she must cross. But there were others that swelled it above. The noise of the rushing cree was borne to her by the wind, still fierce, though the rain had lessened. Perhaps there would be someone to meet her at the ban ! Last time she had come, the night had been fine, and though she had been met at the station by a neighbour's son, mother had come to the cree with a lantern and waited for her. She loo ed eagerly, but there was no light. The cree was a ban er, but the trac led to a plan , which, lashed to the willows on cither ban , was usually above flood-level. A churning sound showed that the water was over the plan , and she must wade along it. She turned to the sullen s y. There was no gleam of light save in her resolute, white face. Her mouth grew tender, as she thought of the husband she loved, and of their child. Must she dare! She thought of the grey-haired mother, who was waiting on the other side This dwarfed every tie that had parted them. There was atonement in these difficulties and dangers. Again her face turned heavenward! "Bless, pardon, protect and guide, strengthen and comfort!" Her mother's prayer. Steadying herself by the long willow branches, an le-deep she began. With every step the water deepened. Malignantly the wind fought her, driving her bac , or snapping the brittle stems from her s inned hands. The water was nee-deep now, and every step more hazardous. She held with her teeth to a thin limb, while she unfastened her hat and gave it to the greedy wind.
From the cloa , a greater danger, she could not in her haste free herself; her numbed fingers had lost their cunning. Soon the water would be deeper, and the support from the branches less secure. Even if they did reach across, she could not hope for much support from their wind-driven, fragile ends. Still she would not go bac . Though the roar of that rushing water was ma ing her giddy, though the deafening wind fought her for every inch, she would not turn bac . Long ago she should have come to her old mother, and her heart gave a bound of savage rapture in thus giving the sweat of her body for the sin of her soul.
Despair shoo her. With one hand she gripped those that had served her so far, and cautiously drew as many as she could grasp with the other. The wind savagely snapped them, and they lashed her unprotected face. Round and round her bare nec they coiled their stripped fingers. Her mother had planted these willows, and she herself had watched them grow. How could they be so hostile to her! The cree deepened with every moment she waited. But more dreadful than the giddying water was the distracting noise of the mighty wind, nurtured by the hollows. The frail twigs of the opposite tree snapped again and again in her hands. She must release her hold of those behind her. If she could ma e two steps independently, the thic er branches would then be her stay. "Will you?" yelled the wind. A sudden gust caught her, and, hurling her bac wards, swept her down the stream with her cloa for a sail. She battled instinctively, and her first thought was of the letter- iss she had left for the husband she loved. Was it to be his last?p She clutched a floating branch, and was swept down with it. Vainly she fought for either ban . She opened her lips to call. The wind made a funnel of her mouth and throat, and a wave of muddy water cho ed her cry. She struggled desperately, but after a few mouthfuls she ceased. The weird cry from the "Bendy Tree" pierced and conquered the deep-throated wind. Then a sweet dream-voice whispered "Little woman!" Soft, strong arms carried her on. Wea ness aroused the melting idea that all had been a mista e, and she had been fighting with friends. The wind even crooned a lullaby. Above the angry waters her face rose untroubled. A giant tree's fallen body said, "Thus far!" and in vain the athletic furious water rushed and strove to throw her over the barrier. Driven bac , it tried to ta e her with it. But a jagged arm of the tree snagged
The she was the
water was deeper and swifter, and from the sparsity of the branches new she was nearing the middle. The wind unopposed by the willows more powerful. Strain as she would, she could reach only the tips of opposite trees, not hold them.
Midway the current strengthened. Perhaps if she, deprived of the willows, were swept down, her clothes would eep her afloat. She too firm hold and drew a deep breath to call her child-cry, "Mother!"
her cloa and held her. Bruised and half-conscious she was left to her deliverer, and the bac -bro en water crept tamed under its old foe. The hammer of hope awo e her heart. Along the friendly bac of the tree she crawled, and among its bared roots rested. But it was only to get her breath, for this was mother's side. She breasted the rise. Then every horror was of the past and forgotten, for there in the hollow was home. And there was the light shining its welcome to her. She quic ened her pace, but did not run? motherhood is instinct in woman. The rain had come again, and the wind buffeted her. To breathe was a battle, yet she went on swiftly, for at the sight of the light her nameless fear had left her. She would tell mother how she had heard her call in the night, and mother would smile ha grave smile and stro e her wet hair, call her "Little woman! My little woman!" and tell her she had been dreaming, just dreaming. Ah, but mother herself was a dreamer! The gate was swollen with rain and difficult to open. It had been opened by mother last time. But plainly her letter had not reached home. Perhaps the bad weather had delayed the mail-boy. There was the light. She was not daunted when the bar of the old dog brought no one to the door. It might not be heard inside, for there was such a torrent of water falling somewhere close. Mechanically her mind located it. The tan near the house, fed by the spouts, was running over, cutting channels through the flower beds, and flooding the paths. Why had not mother diverted the spout to the other tan ! Something indefinite held her. Her mind went bac to the many times long ago when she had ept alive the light while mother fixed the spout to save the water that the dry summer months made precious. It was not li e mother, for such carelessness meant carrying from the cree . Suddenly she grew cold and her heart trembled. After she had seen mother, she would come out and fix it, but just now she could not wait. She tapped gently, and called, "Mother!" While she waited she tried to ma e friends with the dog. Her heart smote her, in that there had been so long an interval since she saw her old home that the dog had forgotten her voice. Her teeth chattered as she again tapped softly. The sudden light dazzled her when a stranger opened the door for her. Steadying herself by the wall, with wild eyes she loo ed around. Another strange woman stood by the fire, and a child slept on the couch. The child's mother raised it, and the other led the now panting creature to the child's bed. Not a word was spo en, and the movements of these women were li e those who fear to awa en a sleeper. Something warm was held to her lips, for through it all she was conscious of everything, even that the numbing horror in her eyes met answering awe in theirs. In the light the dog new her and gave her welcome. But she had none for him now.
with sudden energy. the men called her. and whispered softly to its mother. The saw rasped through a few inches. she new the man. the tree's wounded edges closed on it li e a vice. "It's nigh tuc er-time. the man had the billy and clean tuc er-bags. but if she new what they said. "It's fallin'. "Squea er's mate". and the light fell on the face of the sleeper who would dream no dreams that night. though her grey eyes were as een as a blac 's. you go on with the axe. The man. and when she dissented. There was a "settling" quiver on its top branches. "Come on." she encouraged the man. "There's another bee! Wait." he reminded her. loo out. he exclaimed. which the woman heard and understood. Squea er's Mate. With a shivering groan the tree fell. She noticed how." She was waiting with the greased saw. and as she sprang aside. The daughter parted the curtains. She could not see the bee he spo e of. She was taller than the man. He shouted gleefully." From the bag she too the axe. and the equability of her body. THE woman carried the bag with the axe and maul and wedges. while he loo ed for a shady spot for the billy and tuc er-bags. and these agreed that she was the best long-haired mate that ever stepped in petticoats. He came. Aloft the woman held the candle and turned away her head. accentuated the difference. and how the light-bearer led the way so noiselessly. She drew out the saw. a thic worm-eaten branch snapped at a joint and silently she went down under it. the cross-cut saw lin ed them. However. then he stopped and loo ed at the sun. Long and steadily and in secret the worm had been busy in the heart. if the blazing wood crac ed. "Come on. the women started nervously. as with a crowbar.When she rose one of the women lighted a candle. it neither turned nor troubled Squea er's mate. and with the axe began wea ening the inclining side of the tree. and ring-bar ed a preparatory circle. they had already followed one and located the nest. had returned with an armful of stic s for the billy. The selectors' wives pretended to challenge her right to womanly garments. Suddenly the axe blade san softly. "let's tac le it. how she who lighted the candle did not stri e the match but held it to the fire. and . Nine prospective posts and maybe sixteen rails? she calculated this yellow gum would yield." But she waited to free the axe." he said. contrasting with his indolent slouch. and her tolerance was of the mysteries. encouraged by the sounds of the axe. She reached her mother's room. an' I'll trac 'im. "I tole yer t' loo out." As they came. spat on her hands. how the disturbed child pointed to her bruised face.
grunting earnestly. slowly roasted the flesh and smouldered the clothes. when she was not wor ing? Why did she not eep the flies out of her mouth and eyes? She'd have . she had tried to save. for only last wee she had patiently chipped out the old bro en head. and loo ed at the burnt arm. He wondered a little." She tried moving her arms and the upper part of her body. then gradually wor ed it into a position." He thrust it into her hand that dropped helplessly across her chest. "Did yer jam yer tongue?" he as ed. "Pipe. therefore he passed her silence. The lighted stic . there was blood on the stem. falling between her bare arm and the dress. He put it out. he new. and waited expecting some ac nowledgment of his exertions. but she was silent. but she made no movement after the first. her lips were grimly apart. He rescued their dinner. pelted his dog out of sight? hers was lying near her head? put on the billy. pic ed up a coal and puffed till it was alight? then he filled hers. shoo out the ashes. "Feel bad?" he inquired at length." she replied with slac lips. He lost patience with the swaying hand that tried to ta e the light. with his foot he drew it nearer. He told her that her dress was on fire. if she "didn't shift". he directed. He was impatient. he forced it up. and a strange greyness was upon her face. because for once he had actually to use his strength. His share of a heavy lift usually consisted of a ma e-believe grunt. till it acted as a stay to the lever. The hand she raised shoo and closed in an uncertain hold. do that. Do this. He too his. then came bac to her. and put in a new handle. "Now get out quic . "Li e a drin er tea? Asleep?" He bro e a green branch from the fallen tree and swished from his face the multitudes of flies that had descended with it. In a heavy way he wondered why did she sweat. lay with the fallen trun across it. Yet he hardly cared to let it again fall on her. He laid her on her bac when he drew her out. She too no heed. filled it. then with intentness at her. though he told her he would. "Quic . that damn dog's at the tuc er. The pipe had fallen from her lips. he told her. Near him lay a piece bro en short. She always ignored trifles. She cared almost tenderly for all their possessions and treated them as friends. delivered at a critical moment. Both pipes lay in the for of a near tree. and the sweat-beads were mixing. Ta ing a small firestic he handed her the pipe. Her eyes were turned unblin ingly to the heavens. but she managed by a great effort to get it to her mouth." he said "quic . and as she did not notice that the axe. But the half-buried bro en axe did not affect her.
and speculated a little as to whether she would again pic out the bac -bro en handle or burn it out in his method. as the billy began to boil. he threw the pieces to hers. There was no water in her honey whether boiled or merely strained. If she was asleep. and went to town for the doctor. He examined the worm-dust in the stump and limbs of the newly-fallen tree. if it did spoil the temper of the blade. and by and by she would. Together these men stripped a sheet of bar .bungy eyes. then loo ed overhead at the sun and calculated that she must have been lying li e that for "close up an hour". But a brace of wrin les either side the brute's closed mouth demonstrated determined disobedience. Then a "goanner" crawling up a tree attracted him. "Come on. ept loo ing bac as if fearing she would . and in every erosene-tin the weight of honey was to an ounce as she said. So reluctantly Squea er led to where she lay. if she didn't liven up. when he found that Squea er's mate was "'avin' a sleep out there 'cos a tree fell on her". the white tilt of a cart caught his eye. He gathered various missiles and tried vainly to hit the seemingly grinning reptile." he said. He whistled tunelessly his one air. "There's Red Bob goin' t'our place fur th' 'oney. Squea er followed in the rear with the billy and tuc er. he left her. and as it did not come to his whistle. and follow and thwart him. He noticed that the axe handle was bro en in two places. mounted it and loo ed round the plain." he commanded her dog. carried her to her hut. his mate limited both his and her own tobacco. slapping his thigh and pointing to the sheep. He jumped up. This changed his "chune" to a call for his hiding dog. and laying her with pathetic tenderness upon it. He lighted his pipe and illed half an hour smo ing. then swished away the flies from her till help came. There was no wor to shir . Red Bob the dealer was. "I'll go an' weigh it an' get the gonz" (money). She was straight and square too. Late that night at the bac of the old hut (there were two) he and others who had heard that she was hurt. squatted with unlighted pipes in He ran for the cart. and ate his dinner. The dog would go if she told him. and compassionately poured a little from his flas down her throat. in a business way. Red Bob too his horse from the cart. why did she not close them?p But asleep or awa e. so he must not smo e all afternoon. Besides he was suspicious and diffident of paying the indecently eager Squea er before he saw the woman. With many fierce oaths Red Bob sent her lawful protector for help. beating his own time with a stic on the toe of his blucher. With the frugality that hard graft begets. ole feller." He whistled further instructions. The sheep were straggling in a manner that meant wal ing wor to round them. She was the best honey-strainer and boiler that he dealt with. that would not leave her head to reach them. if she didn't. His dog had disappeared. which was less trouble. made the tea. and while he was smo ing. "Fetch 'em bac . He came bac and snea ed a fill of her tobacco. and he supposed he would have to yard them tonight. greatly concerned. so time began to drag. He loo ed down at unenlivened her.
she was not fanciful. . yer jes' ther same as a sna e w'en ees bac 's bro e. Yer bac 's bro e. cos I can't be doin' everythin'. injoory t' th' spine. I'll 'ev t' go t' town. but after man's fashion to eliminate all virtue. was silent. and she tried to sit up. Him they called "a nole woman". and with a loo seen only on bush faces. and yer won't never wal no more. now. then fur 'im. though white witnesses. Squea er's mate was not a favourite with them? a woman with no leisure for yarning was not li ely to be. Why she had allowed it to be ta en up in his name. and with a cowardly loo towards where she lay. li e shadows these men made for their homes. agreeing that it must be miserable for him. "t' pay me. Squea er would go through it in no time. when the money had been her own. and being a bush scholar new 'twas a dingo. After he had given it and gone. she did not complain. when a long whine came from the scrub on the s irts of which lay the axe under the worm-eaten tree. the hard luc of that woman who alone had hard-grafted with the best of them for every acre and hoof on that selection. "Erh. was also for them among the mysteries. her uncompromising independence. gradually circled her brow and temples. not because he was hanging round the honey-tins." A wild loo grew on her face. But day after day she tested her strength. their plea to their husbands. No good not t' tell yer. and explaining his mate's injury. for her the long. and he could hear her heart beating when she let her head fall bac a few moments. They bec oned him." said Squea er laconically." She gasped. cautioned him to eep from her the nowledge that she would be for ever a cripple. Always her dog? wa eful and watchful as she? patiently waiting for her to be up and about again. she told her complaining mate. Next day the women came. "Yer won't. on'y yer don't bite yerself li e a sna e does w'en 'e carnt crawl." said he. "see! yer carnt. and whatever the result. halo-wise. After the first day they left her severely alone. Yer did bite yer tongue w'en yer fell. and still said that was the doctor's mista e. but without a word of parting. If it were miserable and lonely for his mate. "That's wot's wrong er yer." They told him in whispers what they thought of him. Doctor says that means bac 's bro e. The flour bespattering Squea er's now neglected clothes spo e eloquently of his clumsy efforts at damper ma ing. long days would give place to longer nights? those nights with the pregnant bush silence suddenly cleft by a bush voice. "Jus' th' same.their mouths. It is in the ordering of things that by degrees most husbands accept their wives' views of other women. though she wiped her wet forehead with the bac of her hand. they discussed in whispers." pointing to Red Bob. However. That would be soon. That quivering wail from the billabong lying mur ily mystic towards the East was only the cry of the fearing curlew. waiting to hear the doctor's verdict. The women gave him many a feed.
the doctor says yer won't never wor no more. and she noticed that what little interest he seemed to share went to the sheep. and carried the tools. and told her to "double up yer ole bro e bac an' bite yerself". one could run the wire through easily."'Tisn't as if yer was agoin' t' get better t'morrer. leading a pac -horse for supplies. reserving the great till she was well. She wearily watched him idling his time. The sheep waited till next day. a billy of tea and scraps of salt beef and damper (her dog got the beef). reminded him that the wire lying near the fence would rust. often swore. had when necessary made these trips into town. She spo e of many other things that could be done by one. He d----d him. So he was selling her sheep to the town butchers. He went into town one Saturday afternoon soon after. she would help strain and fasten it. later said he wasn't goin' t' go wirin' or nothin' else by 'imself if every other man on the place did. wal ing both ways. He threw things about. She. and round his nec a sil . and later both left in charge of a little mob. dull as he was. he? the billy and tuc er. and together they ept watch on their movements till dawn. For a few days he wor ed a little in her sight. At last the wor worry ceased to exercise her. She never failed to indulge him in a half pint? a pipe was her luxury. Why. Her supplies. made a long-range feint of ic ing her threatening dog. Her dog rounded and yarded the sheep when the sun went down and there was no sign of him. He wore a flash red shirt. new saddle and bridle. She was mindful not to spea of this care to him. not much? he never did. and her dog could not unpen them. and when this was inconvenient. many had been pets. Sometimes he whistled while she spo e. nursing his head till he slept. he found the "Go and bite yerself li e a sna e". In the middle of the next wee he came from town with a fresh horse. nowing he would have left it for them to do constantly. but she firmly refused to thin of such a monstrous proposal. for it was summer and droughty. for many reasons. Of them and her dog only she spo e when he returned. would instantly silence her. so did she. was soon demonstrated. Through the crac s her ever watchful eyes one day saw the dust rise out of the plain. It was she who always lifted the heavy end of the log. an' I can't be coo in' an' wor in' an' doin' everythin'!" He muttered something about "sellin' out". and when she got up in a day or so. though that was as nothing to her compared with the bleat of the penned sheep. At first he pretended he had done it. then sat outside in the shade of the old hut. and for night to bring him home was a rare thing. gave out the first day. and did not return till Monday. Their "Baa-baas" to her were cries for help. Nearer it came till she saw him and a man on horsebac rounding and driving the sheep into the yard. and d----d her. generally went out.
in connection with the selection. Several of the men who sometimes in passing too a loo in.hand erchief. When he rode swiftly towards the town. He stood to say this where she could not see him. Her nostrils quivered with her suppressed breathing. He came bac at dus next day in a spring cart? not alone? he had another mate. her dog leaped on the bun .. and her lips tightened. His eagerness had tripped him. He offered to carry her into the other. She loo ed at Squea er as he filled his pipe from his pouch. and not sell the place? He promised instantly with additions. and whispered the promise . Would he put a bun there for himself. Quite bris ly he went in and out. She did not feel cold. He too off his hat. When it was finished he had a smo e. and joined a refrain to her lamentation. and though she called him. and when he returned slept in the new bun . not bluchers. and she would be up in no time. and left her. He was away four days that time. and heard the squea of the new boots. would be fulfilled. would have made up her loss had they nown. and it would be better than this one. which served for tools and other things which sunlight and rain did not hurt. She compromised. She could see him through the crac s carrying a narrow strip of bar . She as ed for a drin . etc. and she would not go. gasping and dazed. he was ma ing a bun . She heard him hammering in the old hut at the bac . However he was inder to her this time. She saw him run up and yard his horse. trying to eep in front of the new hut. offering a fill of his cut tobacco. he would not answer nor come. and though he did not try to display the dandy meerschaum. Finally he came to a crac near where she lay. and. but the cat too to the bush. There were months to run before all the Government conditions of residence. On the next occasion she smelt scent. still she thought perhaps he was trying to sell out. said he was roastin'. wasn't she? She was. She saw her though he came a roundabout way. allowed him to ma e a fire that would roast a sheep. and that she would never get well in it. she saw it. he would put a new roof on it in a day or two. "Try could yer crawl yerself?" he coaxed. then came to her and fidgetted about. and laboriously drew her round. submitting to his mood. he rolled her on the sheet of bar that had brought her home. eep out of town. but she did not attempt to move. but no word of complaint passed her lips. fanning himself. to her sympathetic dog. he said this hut was too cold. It was evident some great purpose actuated him. he had long ceased to eep her supplied. There were noises of moving many things from the cart to the hut. and understood. and. loo ing at her bul . but he would not meet her eyes. but. After attempts to carry and drag her. slipped out. he placed her billy and tin pint besides the bun . seemingly dreading something.
and said she had come to coo and ta e care of her. for she ept silent always. She was quiet. more and better. The settling sounds suddenly ceased. she lay with her face turned to the wall. Neither was it clear how much she ate. and her figure evinced imminent motherhood. went into the bush and waited. at the woman. She brought meat. together with the shod clatter of the rapidly disappearing intruder. loo ed steadily at her. seemed to have a disturbing effect on the pair in the new hut. The old mate. and that he would set her hut afire if she didn't. was placed near her? but.of many good things to her if she ept quiet. though the new mate said to Squea er one day that she believed that the dog would not ta e a bite more than its share. One circumstance was apparent? ah! bitterest of all bitterness to women? she was younger. he need not have feared. at her dog. The cripple saw his dog. and her dog growled menacingly at the stranger. Her red hair hung in an uncurled bang over her forehead. what the sic woman thought was not definite. though she understood all about an ewe and lamb. the face was turned that way. who new this sna e-bite tric from its inception. Bread and butter the woman brought. Food. The cripple loo ed at it. and thrust its head in the door in a domesticated fashion. maybe. and told Squea er what people might say and do if she died. the lower part of her face had robbed the upper. and how much she gave to her dog. dumb and motionless. The new woman was uneasy. The bread and butter was not for the dog. However. She went to the door. turning her head slowly. All next day the man ept hidden. But there was an end of this pretence when at dus he came bac with a show of haste. His entrance caused great excitement to his new mate. and that her dog would not leave her. She would rather have abuse. and a finger of his right hand bound and ostentatiously prominent. for that time she was past it. She was not learned in these matters. and the cripple heard the stranger close the door. The thic hair that fell from the brow of the woman on the bun white now. despite Squea er's assurances that the woman in the old hut could not move from her bun to save her life. was . The released horse came stumbling round to the old hut. especially when alone. The disabled woman. The cripple's silence told on the stranger. and new he was about. He scared at the "do". She was not much to loo at. realized how useless were the terrified stranger's efforts to rouse the snoring man after an empty pint bottle had been flung on the outside heap. Bread and butter for a dog! but the stranger did not understand till she saw it offered to the dog. not the crac . she was stunned. new by calculation the paternity was not Squea er's. though it is doubtful if the barren woman. Her dog promptly resented this straggler mista ing their hut for a stable. noting this. And the dog's angry dissent.
and after the first day would not go within reach. She sul ed and pretended to pac up. He fastened a cas on a sledge and. So that now. and? an equally rare occurrence? Squea er placed across his shoulders the yo e that his old mate had fashioned for herself. There is no sound so human as that from the riven souls of these tree people. for in a mind so free of fancies. Squea er began to wor about a little burning-off. and his mole-s ins had been as white as snow without aid of blue. Nothing he could urge would induce the stranger to trudge to the cree . till a bright idea struc Squea er. where thirst-sla ed sna es lay waiting for someone to bite. that caused the younger woman's thic lips to part grinningly till he came too close. and the flash that passed between this bac -bro en woman and her dog might have been the spirit of these slain tree fol . but her dog filled that space. There was no bun on the side of the hut to which her eyes turned. Still. as he had promised. Towards noon. So if he spo e of what they would do by and by when his time would be up. With utter disregard of the heat and Squea er's sweating brow. which with bread and beef Squea er carried to her. perhaps contrasting the old mate's methods with the new. Under her commands he brought them. or the trembling sighs of their upright neighbours whose hands in time will meet over the victim's fallen body. his new mate said. on the clothes-line many strange garments fluttered. Squea er struc . and next day a clothesline bridged the space between two trees near the bac of the old hut. though sullenly. but both only partly filled the tub. His old mate had periodically carried their washing to the cree . at times. after one load of water next morning. Squea er's dog sniffed and bar ed joyfully around them till his lic ing efforts to bottom a salmon tin sent him careering in a muzzled frenzy. hitched him . However. and he able to sell out. on hearing her estimate that three more would put her own things through. It seemed to be understood that neither woman nor dog in the old hut required them. it was so wondrous ghostly. but every morning made a billy of tea. with two erosene-tins attached. long before sundown. harnessing the new horse. bac ed by bodily strength. and brought them filled with water from the distant cree . with jam and fish tins from the table in the new hut. When the sun went down she could have seen the assiduous Squea er lower the new prop-stic s and considerately stoop to gather the pegs his inconsiderate new mate had dropped. The remaining sheep were regularly yarded. She did tell him she was afraid of "her". two more now for the blue water. suggestive of a taunt to the barren woman.Eagerly she counted the days past and to pass. and forgetful of self she would almost call to Squea er her fears that certain bees' nests were in danger. hope died slowly. for the first time. a new purchase. Then bac to the town. The rubbish heap was adorned. His old mate heard him whistle as he did it. even after another trip. was the call from some untimely falling giant. she listened in uninterested silence. he had no place in her plans for the future. added to the other bush voices. She told no word of that hope to Squea er. He went into town one day and returned. the practical in her would be dominant.
Getting a long for ed propstic . and besides there were only a few holes where water was. but the hanging bed-clothes hid the billy. She went to the door.to it. very far. and. loomed two spec s: the distance between them might be gauged. she tried to reach it from the door. thin ing she had not used that water. Oh. springing free. Almost half was sorrowfully baled out. but the dog sprang at the stic . Had he snea ed off to town. but the old horse repudiated such a burden even under Squea er's unmerciful welts. and then slept till morning. on the plain that met the horizon. She had drained the new tea-pot earlier. he bestrode the spiritless brute. another had left her. There was the cree . coiled affectionately round the terrified horse's hoc s. or not caring whether or no? She did not trust him. Had she drun all hers?p It was half full. He partly filled it. Towards noon she laid this joint and bread on the rough table. for Squea er. and the sna es. and. and hoped and waited for thirsty minutes that seemed hours. Desperation drove her bac to the door. It too s ill and patience to rig the cas again. she couldn't. Anticipating a plentiful supply and lac ing in bush caution. but even babes soon now on whom to impose. under the approving eyes of his new mate. Dared she? No. and. Instinctively she new that the eyes of the woman were upon her. How far? she wondered. she new. avoiding the bun loo ed at the billy. the new mate used the half-buc et of water to boil the salt mutton. She recalled the evening he came from hiding in the scrub with a string round one finger. . and under a rain of whac s the horse shifted it a few paces. and. with a desire to shine in her eyes. then watched anxiously in the wrong direction for Squea er. and said a sna e had bitten him. but the cas tilted and the thirsty earth got its contents. He had drun the pint of brandy she had brought for her sic ness. She dropped it and ran. She tried to see at long range through the crac s. Anyhow no use to cry with only that silent woman to hear her. though. the rusty wire fastening the cas to the sledge snapped with the strain. A scraggy growth fringed the edge of the plain. when she went inside. Despite the sledge (the cas had been soon disposed of) that old town horse's pace then was his record. He had various mishaps. led off to the cree . She turned away. but she placed the spout to her thirsty mouth again. Hours after. was continually telling her of sna es? vicious and many ? that daily he did battle with. All Squea er's adjectives over his wasted labour were as unavailing as the cure for spilt mil . She continued loo ing for him for hours. any one of which would have served as an excuse to his old mate. for the larger was Squea er. With an energy new to him he persevered and filled the cas . just as success seemed probable. Besides she judged Squea er by his treatment of the woman who was lying in there with wide-open eyes.
to which she must creep so softly. Besides if that dog? certainly watching her? wanted to bite her (her dry mouth opened) it could get her any time. She measured the space between where she had first stood and the billy. The dog. but he passed seemingly oblivious of her. bounding across the plain. she went swiftly out. she would reach it. and. and felt fairly secure. was it because she on the bun did not want him?p She did not loo for Squea er this time. no dog would stand that. She was not so advanced as before. Then he must now Squea er had gone to town. then withdrew her eyes. She waited till her heart quieted. Was she asleep? The stranger's heart leapt. Now just one more. the dog would not stand that. began rounding the sheep. She rated this dog's intelligence almost human. yet she was hardly in earnest as she tip-toed billy-wards. She would bend right down. and went again to the door. and she might hear and open her eyes. for the woman's eyes were still turned to the wall. by bending and stretching her arm. She of the bun lay with closed eyes. that were getting red. and how delicious a few mouthfuls would be? swallowing dry mouthfuls. she had given him up. although next day he had to dig for the string round the blue swollen finger. While she waited for her breath to steady. and won't hurt her. There was no brandy to cure her if she were bitten. and so tightly closed she could not possibly see where she was. The head of the woman on the bun had fallen towards the wall as in deep sleep." Abruptly she loo ed at her. slept and . then at the dog. Could she now? She tried to encourage herself by remembering how close on the first day she had been to the woman. Slower. Her throat clic ed noisily. Stay! Her heart beat violently. she entered. eyed her steadily. but showed no opposition. loud breaths. crouching with head between two paws. She cried a little in self-pity. Two more steps. and besides the handle would rattle. it was turned from the billy. Could she get anything to draw it to her? No. and try and reach it from where she was. The thought of those sun en eyes suddenly opening made her heart bound. from many of its actions in omission and commission in connection with this woman. and again crept to the door. "I want to be friends with you. he was not worse than the many she had seen at the Shearer's Rest suffering a recovery. then. Loo ing bac fearfully. She made a rush to the new hut. She made dumb show. He was motionless and emotionless. from caution and deadly earnestness. to her relief and surprise the dog came out.True. Oh! she must breathe? deep. from the outlying cree . She regretted the pole.
Her lips had drawn bac from her teeth. twice. As a wounded. then her screams were piercing. Once." He indicated his new mate who. the prostrate one held her with a hold that the other did not attempt to free herself from. that side of the victim was free. Then he had to face and rec on with his old mate's maddened dog. bro e the stic across the dog. The dog suffered the shrie ing woman to pass. but though Squea er. she was not daunted." she repeated it again. then pic ed up the pole." he implored. "Ta e me from her. "It's orl er doin'. It fell with a thud across the arms which the tightening sinews had turned into steel. to rouse her sympathy. But when. down she drew her. he would have laid his hand on her.She bent. "Quic . still ran in unreasoning terror. 'e's eatin' me. nothing else. journeying at rare intervals to the distant township. as though all the plain led to the desired town. and at a point where . Still shrie ing "Ta e me from her. ta e me from her". "Ta e me from her. and if the tigress saw him enter. Her exultation was so great that she could only gloat and gasp." shrie ed the terrified one. the dog's teeth fastened in it and pulled him bac ." But with stony face the woman lay motionless. She was frozen with horror for a moment." he pleaded. Down. It was so swift and sudden. thrice. Panting with victory. His eyes followed an indistinct trac that had been cut by the cart. she beat on the closed door till Squea er opened it." He hastily fastened the door and said something that the shrie s drowned. At dawn some wee s bac it had crea ed across the plain. and hold with a tension that had stopped the victim's circulation. Then the one that got the fullest force bent. "Call 'im orf. in bitten agony. "Oh corl 'im orf. she held and loo ed. that the closed door had baffled. The pole had snapped. and her breath almost scorched the face that she held ? so close for the staring eyes to gloat over. Scrammy 'And. Another blow with a bro en end freed the other side. he was forced to give the savage brute best. that she had not time to scream when those bony fingers had gripped the hand that she prematurely reached for the billy. robbed tigress might hold and loo . "Sool 'im on t' 'er. ALONG the selvage of the scrub-girt plain the old man loo ed long and earnestly. Mary. springing on the bun beside his old mate. Neither heard the swift steps of the man. ta e me from her.
'twarn't Scrammy. No woman could. you never see a real one on a ship in yer life!" There was an inaudible disparaging reference to "imperdent erloneyals" which seemed to crush the dog. The're no good." he muttered. "An' . "No use pennin' up ther calf. Loyally they stood till a grey quilt swathed them. a star-shaped button that the woman had wor ed for him. the old man. In their eyes glistened luminous tears materialized from an atmosphere of sighs." The dog did not dispute this condemnation. tal ed to the listening dog. and in the dog. and round them a gang of crows cawed noisily. "Thet's no an er!" The dog subtly indicated that there was another side to the button. there was a suggestion of the dog in his movements. and the last mar . "'Twon't do!" he shouted with the emphasis of deafness. He uncovered a cabbage-tree hat ? his tas of the past year? and laid upside down. He querulously accused the dog of "rushin' 'em. His body jer ed. steaming mouth of an engine. To mollify him the man got on his nees and. showed that time was up. "I tole 'er ter put a an er jes' there. Every wee since that morning had been carefully notched by man and dog. the husband had stopped the horse while the woman parted the tilt and waved goodbye to the bent. The dog admitted it would not. cut three nights past. Won't do it termorrer night. on the centre of the crown. see!" The dog said he did. the old man returned to the button for reminiscences. Beyond the hut a clump of myalls loomed spectral and wraith-li e. Beside the calf-pen near it." But the gloom of fear settled on his wizened face as he shuffled stiffly towards the sheepyard." shouted the old man." For two pins he would "smash 'em up with ther axe". Noting this. Twice this evening he thought he saw the dust rise as he loo ed. A little resentment would have served the dog. irresponsive old man and his dog. 'stead er allowin' Billy" (the leader) "to lead 'em". bending his nec . "An' she done it li e thet. "There ain't. Through its open door a fire gleamed li e the red. The eyes of the sheep reflected the haze-opposed glory of the setting sun. She done it outa jealersy. but he was too eager for peace. "Calf must 'ave got 'is 'ed through ther rails an' suc ed 'er. more than a suggestion of his master. The wide plain gauzed into a sea on which the hut floated lonely. irreverent of the great silence. It was her impending motherhood that made them see the comparative civilization of the township. as he rounded up the sheep. "when they don't come. "What do you now about an an er. and the tenderness of her womanhood brought the old man closer to her as they drove away. cos I was ma in' it for 'im." He watched anxiously along the scrub. showed the dog a faded anchor on the top of the cabbage-tree hat on his head. No one else can't 'ave done it. but longer scrutiny showed only the misty evening light. But she can't ma e a 'at li e thet. ter spile it on me er purpus. a cow gave answer and greeting to the penned calf.the scrub curved. "It's orl wrong." he continued. "Some un 'ad been meddlin' with 'em. He pointed to the middle of the button which he still held upside down. Scrammy's gorn. Could 'ave done it better meself. still querulous. Inside the hut. When they were yarded he found fault with the hurdles. He turned to where a house stood out from a bac ground of scrub. though I'm no 'and at fancy stitchin'.
yer now yer don't. repeated the prophecy. and when poor Loo faced that way. flinging up his arms in clumsy feigned surprise. "On'y mist. he closed his own. "Yes. "'Ere she comes with ther babby. When the distressed Loo. You on 'er side? Yer are. But "Loo" was ever sorrowfully reminiscent. an' orlways. "I believe ye'll fool roun'. They're stuc away down there an' us orl alone 'ere by ourselves with only ther sheep. Wish I 'ad er gorn down thet time 'e too their sheep. Warder?" meant serious business. "Carn't do nothin' with it." He had accidentally turned the button. he drew his feet under him on the bun and faced the wall. See's there any signs er 'em comin' bac !" While the dog was out he hastily tried to fix the button. stay down there an' nuss ther babby. but failed. "What's thet. I'd er seen no woman didn't grab 'im." he cried. to stifle remorse at the eloquent dumb appeal. His master turned round. was silent. ez it? Well better fer I ter be a liar 'n fer you ter lose yer manners? Sir. His master. slowly and with some additions. "'e won't come bac no more. the master He loo ed sternly at the unagreeing dog. am I! Yit's come ter thet. War!" meant mutual understanding and perfect fellowship. and stood still. continerally they gets a man inter trouble.yet you thort at fust a thing li e thet would do. "An' wot's more. orl thet time! What does 'e care about me an' you. sure to be! Women are orlways 'avin' gals. It'll be a gal sure enough. "W'ere's 'e now?" he as ed abruptly. Loo!" so! Course yer . Scrammy sez 'e wouldn't stay if 'e wus me. "Yer now yer did? Sir. "Now then. Usually their little differences too some time to evaporate. ye'll fool aroun' 'er wusser nor ever w'en she comes bac with ther babby." The dog's name was "Warderloo" (Waterloo) and had three abbreviations. now 'e's got 'er! 'E was fust rate afore 'e got 'er. The dog indicated the route ta en by the cart. caught his eye through the crac s. "Yer don't thin don't. And accordingly Loo was now much affected and disconcerted by the steady accusing eyes of the old man. Loo was not deceived. "An' 'ow long as 'e bin away?" The dog loo ed at the tally stic hanging on the wall. he reversed it loo ing swiftly at the dog. either from dignity or injury. "Oh I'm a ole liar. and intimated that he would prefer to have that past buried." he continued. "No fear. A thing li e thet! Might as well fling it in the fire!" He put it carefully away. when his messenger returned. "None er thet now. from outside the hut. An' wot's more yer don't bar at 'er li e yer used ter!" The dog was uneasy. no dust?" he as ed." Bending the button he continued. and again the dog gave him only silent attention." There was a sign of dissent from the dog." At this grave charge the dog. It'll be a gal too." he growled." In vain Loo protested. "They can't never do anythin' right.
Two hasty squints revealed his departure. and brought in half. put 'em out!" Warder did so. "I thin . He advised War to lie down "an' 'ave a spell". now!" He jumped down. gently extricating the lamb from between his legs. After this surrender his excitement was so great that the dog shared it. and when he came bac his master explained to him that the thing that "continerally an' orlways" upset him was "thet dam old yeo". and under the circumstances. "Will thet do yer?" he as ed. "Warder. silent mother. an' then you s iddy addy. he told War. His legs grew cramped. still he did not care to ma e the first move. they's orlright now. there's some er that or er'd little dam' fool's grub lef'. about "yeos" with barren udders." For that was her third lamb he had had to poddy. "Wantin' ter get blood outer a stone!" He shambled round. and from a series of flat poc ets hanging on the wall he too thread. He too off the cloth and placed the button right side up and in its proper place. He coughed and affected not to hear. He threw it on the fire for a bac -log." he shouted. then his better nature prevailed. He carried the lamb outside. thet ole yeo. "Jes' loo at me. who coughed and waited. "An' 'twarn't as though she didn't now. but for once expected too much from poor Loo. his fist at the ." Through these proceedings the ewe and lamb followed him. probably on the loo out for such foes. and beeswax. though it had been "worritin'" him all day. But not another bite would he give this one. He hung a white cloth in a way that defined the eye of the needle which he held at long "None er yer sauce. but from the expression of her eyes she still had an open mind towards him. went to the door." There was something in the Bible. needle. War. and calling to War not to "worrit. and more than blan y bastard. an' firm as a roc . each time stopping to hammer down the hurdles noisily. moved to the end of the hut nearest the sheep." he said. to the old man. He filled and trimmed his slush-lamp.sul ed with his silent mate till some daring feat with sna e or dingo on the dog's part mollified him." he said to the ewe. loo ed out and said the mist was gone. but not his whereabouts. covered the cabbage-tree hat and the despised woman-wor ed button carefully. "'er imperdence? 'er blarsted imperdence? " in unceremoniously intruding on his privacy with her blan y blind udder. and in strong agitation he went round the sheep-yard twice. "an' it'll on'y spile. cut in two a myall log. was something he could not and would not stand. but the dog re-as ed. He had nothing further to say to the ewe. He had made up his mind now. "Warder. It was a godsend when an undemonstrative ewe and demonstrative lamb came in. the lamb? lamb fashion? mixing itself with his legs. first scraping the live coals and ashes to a heap for his damper. "See 'ere!" and there was that in his voice that indicated a moral victory. It was the only sorrow he had or ever would have in life." showing his lamb-bitten fingers. Both went with him inside the hut. Jes' this once 'an no more. for he would not finger-suc le it that night before Waterloo. min' yer. "She wusn't nat'ral. From his bun -head he too an axe. Before that ewe he held the whole of her disgraceful past. Loo. Were they intruders? the dog as ed. and shoo unashamed.
At the finish his master's "Eny?" referred to bones." This was the dog's opinion. "No bones!" He had ta en great care to omit them. too off his belt. tenderly. "Neow!" As ever. Then there was the honest count straight through. yet another. Gimme appertite. The old man chuc led. Boiled mutton was in one. said War. "Ole 'en gets more b' scratchin'. A jer . and opened his nife to cut the stitching. li e ter see 'em after supper?" Comradeship was never by speech better demonstrated. moving to the door. and the heel of a damper in another. or doubts as to the number? doubts never laid except by a double count. spread a angaroo-s in on the floor. War too his word. light. But the dog had heard an outside sound. tenderly calculated. "Es fer me.range. "All?" no? still the upraised paw. Needle. he told War. and in a strange uncertainty went towards and from the fire with it. Then together they closed the door. everything was wrong. for it was wax thread. and after still further sha ing. ehm. Ehm. that he forgot his mate. and put the slush-lamp where the light fell on it. brought another among the seductive heap." "Never is neow!" had reference to a trouble War had had with one long ago. War. turned it carefully. funny ef me t' ferget!" He held his head for a moment. but after a few attempts he shir ed it. w'ile it biles us'll count 'em. War!" he said in gratitude to the grizzled old dog. and had been crossed and recrossed. "No more?" Certainly more. and. he caught and swallowed instantly several pieces flung to him. "Not a one. The old man counted each as it rolled out. "There ain't no change in you neither. "Never mind. thread. "Tell yer wot. and the dog tallied with a paw. the needle in the other. next the side show with its pretence of "disrememberin'". From the middle beam the old man untied two bags. Then came the chin of the coins falling. and he promised that he would rise betimes tomorrow and sew on the button by daylight. It was now time for his own supper. so intent was the man. "Blest if I evven fergot t'bile th' billy. This was a tedious process. but critically noted the resting place of two disturbed "bloweys". then filled the billy. The man sat down. But he felt that War had been disappointed at his failure. so did War. "All?" and with ridiculous sincerity his solemn eyes and dropped paw said "All". War. eh?" the dog loo ed at the meat uncritically. waited . though his relief in being good friends again had made him ignore his fear. but vary as he would from long to longest the thread remained in one hand. and a series of little undulations produced another. War was as ed with ridiculous insincerity. In the first. War! See any change?" War said there had been no change observable to him. War's grateful eyes twin led. and in the end War thought there was no sense at all in putting it so far from the blaze when it had to boil. "No blowey carn't get in there. then a Lord I en see an' year's well's ever I could. War?" War thought "countin' 'em" was the tonic.
cos 'e was stony bro e after blueing 'is cheque at ther shanty sixty miles away." he continued. Warder!" But Warder's pric ed cars doing double duty showed he was unconvinced. "An' yer thort yer see 'im lars' night!" He was right again. ma ing a pretence of even then hearing and distinguishing the sound. With dumb show he as ed several questions of his sentinel. "They ain't so fur away. He on'y jes' came ter see us cos 'e was a ole friend. He as ed the dog to go with him to the table to feed and trim the slush-lamp." he said. He said how sorry he was for "poor ole Scrammy. "Poor ole Scrammy! 'Twarn't 'im shoo the tommy. missing all the pleasure and excitement of a final recount. and too answers from his eyes. He lay face downward. relieved. his . loudly. An' yer thort 't must 'ave bin 'im shoo the evinced that he had not altered this opinion. "Thort it mighter bin ther blac s outside. he thrust them bac hurriedly. With a pretence of unconcern he attempted to hum. Both were silent. "Scrammy 'and. Those quavering shadows along the wall were caused by its sizzling flare flic ering in the dar ness. Only its bul in his life of solitariness could have conceived its hiding place. But his mate's tense body proclaimed him on duty. He was gone along ways ter loo fur wor . but his master had none to offer. And as the dog ept watch. then the man piled wood on the fire. when Warder. "thet I couldn't lend 'im eny cos I 'ad sent all my little bit a money" (he whispered "money") "to ther ban be ther boss. Then. 'twas 'possum. but bro e off frequently to listen. Scrammy wouldn't 'urt er mers eeter. gone long ways now. Warder! Scrammy's gone. Warder!" The dog seemed to be waiting for the suggestion of another thief having unseen crept into their isolated lives. But round his waist the belt did not go that night. At this stage the man missed his mate's eyes. "No fear.for certainty." "I tole 'im. He was plainly afraid of the dog's een ears missing something. Didn' I?" Emphatically his mate intimated "An' yer thort 'twas 'im when we was shepherdin'. covering his treasure." He spo e unusually loudly. cos Scrammy wouldn't 'urt no one. the old man with forced confidence chaffed him. He hoped they wouldn't catch "poor ole one-'anded Scrammy ". or a "goanner" on the roof. when he realized that his friend was uneasy." the man said. I now! 'Twar them illed ther lamb down in ther cree . the dog explained. and suggested dingoes at the sheepyard. yet he spo e very loudly. He sought refuge from his own fears by trying to banish the dog's." he continued in an altered voice. remar ing that he was going to sit up all night. tommy!" The dog's manner The old man's heart beat that 'ad bin ramsa in' the place yesterday. ehm?" He had guessed correctly. Warder!" They were sitting side by side. "Well. He bustled around as one having many tas s. but these he did aimlessly. "I now who yer thort 'twas. began to wal about. "'Sides.
Into the gnarled uncontrolled hand swaying over the bun the dog laid his paw. "Pint a tea. and his hat fell off as he rolled into the bun . for a bile it first. even before same as 'er does. and that he must see about ma ing them a damper." and that a watched pot never boiled. "I'll day I rain. you can go every Sunday evenin' an' see if 'tis a boy!" He turned over on his side. or any of the blac s.that this was the case. "Thin they'll orl come. and altered his mind. cos I want ter give 'im ther 'at soon as he comes. Altogether there was an unusualness about him tonight that distressed his mate. he remar ed that their master was a better trac er than "Saddle-strap Jimmy ". and he lay down again. The silence soothed him. He sat up after a few moments. He bent his mouth to the dog's ear and whispered. then. eh!" Every movement of the dog was in accord with this plan. and said. pointed his cars and raised his head. "Might be a boy arter orl. for once unheeded. and threw bac his head. "'twarn't bilin'. abruptly raising his voice. not being quite sure of his master's mind. He made no effort to replace it. "Tell yer wot. then rain? it without no tilt on the cart. listening strainingly for outside sounds. Never before had the dog seen its baldness. A faded loo was in his eyes. War. S'pose they'll orl come!" He had sat down again. See th' mist t's even! Two more. He loo ed at the tally stic . He loo ed at the muddy-coloured water in the buc et near the wall. He got up and began laboriously to mix soda and salt with the flour. War. "Thort I 'eard bells? church bells. with his face to the wall. jes' t' warm ther worms an' lif' me 'art. cos jus' neow an' then t' e. "Tell yer wot. and. before replying. . comes over dizzy-li an' them two out in moment. The change from night-cap to hat had always been effected out of his sight. he didn't put on his hat nor even pic it up. He rested a while silently with his floury hands covering his face. His master loo ed at the billy. Warder. a violent effort jer ed him. He held his head in his sha ing hands. and suddenly announced that he new for a certainty that the boss and his wife would return that night or early next morning. ain't coc y sure it'll be a gal?" The dog discreetly or modestly dropped his eyes." he said to the dog loo ing up too. "Warder!" Warder loo ed at him. The old man's hand rested on the dog's nec . Loo?" Loo would not commit himself about "orl". He was silent for a few moments. but his master had not done with concessions. and complained to the dog of having "come ova dizzy". "War. When the old man got up. The old man's mouth twitched. the fire flic ered on his polished head. War. and seemed to whistle his words. w'ile it's bilin' I'll 'ave another go at ther button. ain't coc y sure!" His head wagged irresponsibly." He sat down he dusted his ungoverned floury hands.
and. He stumbled over the lamb's feeding-pan lying in the hut's shadow. The man grabbed the weapon swiftly. until the billy boiled he was going to have a little snooze. "No. loo tommy'aw 's gone ter!" Then he said. He explained to the intent dog that the hole was stopped up. cautiously. and "suddint death". but could not find the opening. No church bells in the bush. Ain't 'eard 'em since I lef' th' ole country. and was dreaming of shadowy days. "Thet's for sic ness. and followed the dog's eyes to a little smo e-stained bottle on the shelf.but at him. "My Gord. "Ah!" His jaw fell but only for a moment. and his floury face grew ghastly. and very slowly and clumsily stripped the edge of a cabbage-tree frond hanging from the rafter. his eyes scintillating with menace through the crac s drove from them a crouching figure who turned hastily to grip the axe near the myall logs. sna e-bite. which the watchful dog immediately challenged. no. "'Cline our 'earts ter eep this lawr. Then he groped for his bun . He stood still. War!" he said. He brought his palms together after a while. No. but he had another in one of those little poc ets. he went through a list of diseases. The dog was to eep quiet until the billy boiled. The old man motioned for silence." he whispered. and he suggested they ing at his mate. "dropersy". and as subtly the dog replied. before he would be justified in ta ing the last of his pain. And though soon after there was a sinister sound outside. then turned to the dog. His pipe was in his hidden belt. He clung to the table and bec oned the dog with one croo ed finger. and terribly human. the dog.iller. He had left his dog and the hut. He placed it under the bun where he sat. One thing the dog did when he saw his master's face even by that indifferent light. rubbed his eyes. no!" he said. and lay with his eyes fixed on the billy. the man on the bun lay undisturbed. "Funny w'ere ther missed the axe. then fell stiffly on his bun . Warder. Then a steely grimness too possession. . His head ept wagging at the billy. indicating outside. said "'twouldn't draw'r". and between bro en breaths he complained of the bad light. all his faculties seemed paralysed for a time. growling savagely. "I lef' the axe outside. and tried to push it through the stem. and for a moment his eyes rested on the hiding place. But he had planned to fix the dog. and that the mist had come again. he bar ed low. The moonlight glittering on the blade recalled the menace of the dog's eyes. Warder!" he clean forgot it!" This discovery alarmed should bring it in. his mouth open. He tried it. went along the bac wall of the hut. and the Involuntarily he murmured. He raised himself from the bun . He would unpen the sheep. mus' be a lot worser'n wot I am!" Breathing noisily. but it didn't matter. despite the semi-dar ness. "Scrammy?" cunningly. "Couldn't 'ave." He turned his best ear to the fancied sound. Quite suddenly he staggered to his feet. "No. among which were palsy. but even with it he felt the chances were unequal. because first he would "'ave a swig er tea".
the noise of the nearer sheep illed it. Nothing counted now. he rushed to where he could see the door. straightened himself to reach. He crept after them. His mind wor ed his body. He covered the blade of the axe and went in a circuit to the sheep. and the blaze showed the old man's eyes set on the billy. baffled. he would be no match for the dog even with the axe. He bac ed from the yard to the myall's scant screen. Never were they noisier. caught one. But if there was any movement inside. but his head bobbing above them to watch the still closed door. Then they rushed through in an impatient struggling crowd. and they all made for the light. still watching. his ears straining for sound. However it served his purpose. and listened. for as he crouched there. but that the dog or the old man should not steal upon him unawares. exposed. Twice he raised it and struc . regardless of exposing himself. but not for the effect upon himself. but although the leader noted the freed exit. came man and dog never so early. he unexpectedly saw them file out. he and those he led were creatures of habit. Even if the man slept. He new that the sheep would not go through while he was there. would prove wor for the dog. The dog loo ed into . The door was still closed. From under his coat the handle of the axe protruded. He held out his one hand and was convinced. though he stood there a conspicuous object. No call for "Warder!" came from it. He had calculated for this. Heedlessly. and they were unused to feeding at night. but could hear nothing. though in the morning. and ran it ic ing through the opening. The whole of the night seemed pregnant with eyes. fear-driven. then with the hoo on his handless arm. He must ris letting out the sheep. He crept away. Round the yard and past the gateway he drove them again and again. long since. and got over the yard on the side opposite to the hut. None were hungry. They rushed from him and huddled together. with its man calmly watching every movement. Hugging the axe. But the hurdles of the yard faced the hut. He stooped. When he "barrowed" out the first. drew bac an imaginary bolt. All the shadows were slanting the wrong way. and had seen an old ewe and lamb run to it and bunt the closed door. It was easy enough out there. and crept towards the sheepyard. Inside. and stooping entered. and the way those thousand eyes reflected the rising moon was disconcerting. Every moment he persuaded himself that he could see more plainly. Even they had moulted with age. It would be dawn before it set. he had ept his eyes on the hut.lur ing dingoes. He crouched silently to again deceive this man and dog. He crept forward and loosened the hurdles. Could they in the hut see him. yet even in imagination his s in was wet and his mouth was dry. coming up from the cree to worry the lambs. they were waiting. the bac -log had split with an explosion that scattered the coals near enough to cause the billy to boil. he was sure. They were all round the hut. there was the dog. While he watched he saw an ewe lamb ma e for the hut's shelter. rushed among them. for above it hung the moon. With the axe in readiness he crept to the bun . He straightened himself. he crept towards some object. although stooping. It came bac the moment he freed it. each fearing to be last with this invader. leaving him. and the moon was facing him. He began to feel impotently frenzied in the fear that the extraordinary lightness meant that daylight must be near.
then stepped bac . He whined softly and went bac to his post at the door. He sent an assurance of help to the importunate ewe and lamb. And the absent man might return. and understood. He went to the shutter. beat the ground with his tail. He must act quic ly. The only weapon that the old fellow had was the useless butcher's nife. He had no need for both. and soon shelter would be impossible. he could see the colour of the blood in the veins. It would be all right if the door would open. He lay flat on the ground and tried to puzzle it out. Why. pushed it in. Still he would have sacrificed half of the coveted wealth to be absolutely certain of what their silence meant. Yet he had grown cold and dejected. raised his head to a level with his master's. and with him re. He stood. He spread out the fingers of his one hand. then gloatingly as him where was the chin y crow by day. He had the axe. Right and left the sheep parted. they heard it before it could reach a lamb.them. It was surely almost daylight. he new the defensive resources of the hut. and bar ed softly. and the stolen tomahaw was stuc in the for of those myalls. and that was why they were letting the dingoes play up with the sheep. he was appealing to his master. and unconsciously he felt his stiffened beard. It was getting daylight. He waited. he ran to the bun . He breathed without movement. and. still watching his master's face. his master and mate did not as him any questions as to the cause of these calling sheep. his body stiffened with determination. The sheep were all round the hut. watching both door and shutter. for the hostility of the dog told him that he could be seen. and felt for the first time the weight of the axe. Man and dog inside must hear them. Mechanically he went to the door. In his mind he saw them waiting for him to attac the door. none should see him go! Why didn't that old fellow wa e tonight? for now. . To encourage himself. this he did not debate nor alter. he could hear the whining dog. then laid his head between his paws. As the sheep neared the hut. Why did he not rise. or snea ing dingo by night. If only he had nown then what he new now! His hold on the axe tightened. when a dingo came that night he camped with them.yard them. They were waiting for him. nor the final compromise of a dead-heat?p The silence puzzled the man outside sorely. and despite the eager light in his intelligent face. he crouched. ran the axe's edge along the hide hinges. and this time he felt the edge of the axe. No one had seen him come. or he would have to hide about for another day. Both inside must now. and then demand from his four-footed trusty mate the usual straightforward answer? Was there to be no discussion as to which heard the noise first. That was the reason they did not openly show fight. his teeth bared. his eyes snapping flintily. as he crept nearer the hut. the old man come out and send the dog to round up the sheep. He crept towards the hut. Along his bac the hair rose li e bristles. There was no sound now from man or dog. The sheep had rushed bac disorganized and were again near the hut and yard. There was nothing to be gained now in crawling. that was any match for them. he tried to imagine the possession of that glittering heap that he had seen them counting on the mat. They were preparing for him. His eyes protruded.
and by the dull light of the fire searched the hut. The dog stood at the doorway of the hut. Suddenly it struc him that the old man might be creeping along with the sheep? they were so used to him. setting him thin ing of the lin s of that convict gang chain long ago. He saw no one but the dog. He brandished an axe circuit. He saw this as he passed through the sheep on his way to search the cree . ic ing and thrusting the axe through the thic est parts. The dog was dreadfully distressed. for the bolt still held it.Immediately flinty fire between his despite the the dog's head appeared. Lord. Face to face they met? determined battle in the dog's eyes met murder in the man's. had loc ed him in. But this was only what a child would consider a barrier. He was half minded to try to invite the dog's confidence and cooperation by yarding them. He struc a side blow that sent it along the bun . This he noted between his blows at the dog. nor among the myall clump where he had practised his bloody plot. The whole plot bro e on him quite suddenly! The cunning old miser. and he had wasted all this time bar ing up the wrong tree. but the from his eyes and the heat of his suppressed breath. revealed to Scrammy that in this contest. He would ill him by day or night. The memory of that chin ing belt-hidden pile dominated greedily. and the moonlight's undulating white scales across their shorn bac s brought out the fresh tar brand 8. hissing bared fangs. driving them swiftly bac to the yard. The bushman outside thought the cause the fallen door. He traversed it with his eyes. He growled no protest. axe. He had not hidden there. then stood bac swinging the axe in readiness. He would have done the old man to death that minute with fifty brutal blows. He moulded his mind to that. Unless his master was under the bun . nowing his dog would show his flight by following. With the first blow his senses quic ened. He ran and headed them. . The cree split the plain. There was no perceptible change in the light. scenting danger. and it would be useless to search them. he had escaped. The door fell across the head of the bun . as he loo ed for his victim. The een edge of the axe severed the hide-hinged door. his one hand was a serious handicap. how light it must be for him to see that! He held out his hand again. he had slipped out? He recalled the dog's warning when his master was counting his hoard. It did not fall. Had the old man escaped? He would search the hut. He loo ed at them. He rushed it. It was strange the old fellow did not show fight! Where was he hiding? Was it possible that. The slush-lamp had gone out and there was no hint of daylight inside. One blow with the axe-head smashed the bolt. the end partly bloc ing the entrance. what were fifty dogs' teeth? In close quarters he would do for him with one blow. He ran round the brush sheepyard. Before they were in he new he was wrong. There were no li ely hiding places among the trees. craned his nec . He was breathing now in deep gasps. and along it here and there a few sheoa blots defined it. There were hours yet before daylight.
The door lay as it had fallen along the bun . no human being was in sight. it was only when he wor ed near the horizontal door. hitched the axe on one of the desired poles and was up in a moment. because only there would the dog hold his ground. Oh. The dog was still there. In bitten agony. He nelt and carefully eyed the interior. that if he did get one home. He lifted the door and shielded himself with it as he bac ed out. and in no way appeased by the yarding or the sheep. "Oh. Besides. At the doorway he waited to see that the fleeing man had no further designs on the sheep. but felt no impulse to search it. Quite unaccountably the man's muscles relaxed. There was only the clump of myalls. He let go the axe and it fell on the door. All he had to face was a pared of noisy jac asses and a bar ing dog! He would soon silence the dog. sounding li e the first earth on a coffin. He sprang up and faced the East. and cast about for a gibber to throw. A sapling would save him! Seven or eight myall logs lay near for firewood. and in that light the power of those open eyes set in that bald head. To reach either would mean a dangerous delay. Encircling a rafter with his hoo ed arm. The dog's glittering eyes met his. and the few stunted sheoa s bordering the distant cree .Again he turned and scanned the cree . yet feared. His quic ened senses guessed at the reason. One thing he noticed. he dropped on the door that instantly up-ended. Slowly. He could hear the cabbage fronds hanging from the rafters shiver with the vibration. because. The fire was lightless. till from the myalls quite close the jac asses chorused. but strain as he would he could not balance his body. he had it! These poles eeping down the bar roof. He ripped off another sheet of bar . he made an eye circuit round the plain. then turned to the traitorous faded moon. and chop him in two. why did the dog stay at the door unless on guard? He ran bac to the hut. and smashed away a batten that bro e his swing. his feet pressing another just over the bun . but there was no other protest from inside. One blow well directed got home. flat. was mightier than the dog. It was half a mile from the hut. if the old man were under. by God. He must get to close quarters with the dog. He swore at the threatening brute. From his post the dog sent them a signal. It was daylight. but all were too thic to be wielded. . The daylight had come. or brain him with the axe. putting his foot in it. but stones were almost un nown there. He too the pole and made a jab at the whelping brute. But that was not all the dog wanted. part of it crumbled and fell inside on the prostrate door. in a way that the dog particularly resented. He could have shifted the door easily with his pole. yet he could see more plainly. His unmaimed hand had the strength of both. or that he could have reached the more distant house. He gripped with his hand the rafter nearest. and the dog sprang at him and dragged him down. and. but the cause was not manifest. He hung over the door. He planted his feet firmly. he would expose himself to two active enemies. he lay. cut a step in a slab. dropping the pole. The sweat stung his quivering body. He shifted a sheet of rotten bar . It was impossible that the old man could have got there. He ran to the bac of the hut. Christ!" he said. fixed on the billy beside the dead fireplace. and made another with such tremendous force that his support snapped.
but immediately came out to assure himself that his wife had not moved. some . stopping the horse some distance away. but the lamb did. She did not drin . Throughout that day he gave them undisputed right. but it turned that way. then moved to the dead fireplace. Again the ewe leisurely dran . so with due regard to the possibility of the drought-dulled sheep attempting to chew it. Several times that day the ewe and lamb came in. It rounded the scrub. and without interest descended. stopping occasionally. yet the straggling unguarded sheep were running in mobs to and from the cree .It was time they were feeding. The sight inside of that bro en-ribbed dog's fight with those buzzing horrors. and the reproach in his wild eyes. The hut was hidden. Billy S ywon ie. He waited for commands from his. but despite his uneasiness he tried to persuade her that the mist absorbed it. but they had to be content with it. The lamb sniffed the water. From the water's edge the mother ewe called. but did not drin . THE line was unfenced. the train crept cautiously along. Both saw the bro en roof of the hut. Hastily the mother's head went to the water. the dog would not allow either to touch it. That was for tea when his master awo e. and. the dog was their master. and baaed. she was wiser now. baaing faintly. even from the doorway. and the lamb followed. Through the thic er mist that afternoon a white tilted cart sailed joltingly. they crossed to tender grass in the billabong. In the carriage nearest the cattle-vans. It was past sundown. complained. ta ing its bearings from the various landmar s rather than from the undefined trac . From the ban the lamb loo ed at her. baaing disconsolately. then faced round to the hut. gave the woman the reins and bade her wait. There was another circumstance. where the cree was dry. Though the hurdles were down. The lamb loo ed at her vacantly. to clear it from the listless starving brutes. She told her husband that there was no smo e from the nearer shepherd's hut. This time the lamb's lips touched the water. The ewe bent and dran sparingly. unsatisfied. The lamb bunted several irresponsive objects? never its dam's udder? baaing listlessly. Though the first day the ewe had loo ed at the bun . and the woman. ept watch for the first glimpse of her home beyond the cree . meaningly. loo ed without speculation at the figure on the bun . Around that dried dish outside the lamb sniffed. Those blowflies were welcome to the uncovered mutton. Next day the ewe and lamb came again. trotted a few paces bac . without warning. then joined the floc for the first time. though sheep are slow to learn. and. and bar ed them bac till noon. Higher up. was a memory that the man was not willing she should share. and the man. Adroitly the ewe led the way to the cree . But though the water in the billy was cold. He entered the hut through the bro en doorway. Into its mouth raised to bleat a few drops fell. with her baby.
he told her. But the language used by this bushman to the guard. yet she had twice emptied the water bottle "shogging" in the iron brac et. she had heard some of the obscene jo es. The woman passenger as ed him the name of the place. The train dragged its weary length again. with blasphemous emphasis. "Ta e yer time. and with it in motion. The green slimy odour penetrated to the cattle. Beside them it squatted on its hun ers. Before dawn that day the train had stopped at a siding to truc them. as he helped to remove a ton of fencing-wire topping his new saddle. he told his mates. She realized the sufferings of the emaciated cattle. The tireless." he added derisively. an' dyin' from suerside. the player thrust his head from the carriage window. pointing to the cattle. "Whips er time? don't bust yerself fer no one.drovers and scrub-cutters were playing euchre. in a carriage between the drover and the bagman. made her draw bac her head. It was barely noon. At various intervals during the many halts of the train. I'll wa e yer up ther day after termorrer. clashing their horns and bellowing a hollow request. Suddenly the engine cleared its throat in shrill welcome to two iron tan s." He laughed noisily and waved his hat at the seething bag-man. and in the light that even now seemed old and worn. ole die-'ard." defended the bushman." He craned his nec to see into the nearest cattle-van. that they would probably lose half before getting them to the scrub country. It was nine miles further. and she closed her eyes from the monotony of the dead plain. "Brea in' ther 'earts. and in nervous fear she as ed the bagman if this was Gooriabba siding. A long-bearded bushman was standing on the few slabs that formed a siding. and spasmodically chorusing the shrill music from an uncertain concertina. and she presently saw him throw his flattened saddle into it and drive off. a commercial traveller remonstrated with the guard." yelled the drover to the guard. though she loo ed anxiously after him. When the train stopped. and added another to the list of the fallen. Four were down. Near the siding was a spring cart. that the night had hidden. snatches of lewd songs from the drovers' carriage. The lustiest of these stamped feebly. In patriotic anger he passed to the guard-van without answering her question. There was no one else in sight. . any'ow. cos they lef' it. while gulping yards of water. the desolation of the barren shelterless plains. hoisted twenty feet and blazing li e evil eyes from a vanished face. appalled her. "This is ther Never-Never? ther lars' place Gord made. "Go an' 'ave a snooze." answered one of the drovers who were crowding the windows. The listening woman passenger. From one nearer the engine. and hissed through its closed teeth li e a snared wild-cat. concerning the snail's pace and the many unnecessary halts. Wot's orl the worl' to a man w'en his wife's a widder. placed a blac ened thumb on its pipe. and she had watched with painful interest these drought-tamed brutes being driven into the crowded vans. who remar ed. "Better'n ther 'ell 'ole yous come from. with a stoc whip coiled li e a sna e on his arm. heard a thud soon after in the cattle-truc . greedy sun had swiftly followed the grey dawn.
There was that wonderful margin of loose shirt between waistcoat and trousers. "Was it a house eeper?" He was the rouseabout. "What a lot of frogs seem to be in that la e!" He laughed. who had not come. "That's ther Nine Mile Dam!" He laughed again after a little? an intelligent. She was ghastly with bilious sic ness? the result of an over-fed brain and an under-fed liver. A drover inquired as the train left her standing by her portmanteau. complacent laugh. Her face flushed muddily. and the raucous "I'll? 'ave 'is? eye? out". "but there'll be a 'ell of a row somew'ere. "Damned if I it's all right! Got any traps?p now. "Are yer travellin' on yer lonesome. She new that. elevated his pipe. Get up then an' 'ole the Neddy while I get it. which all swagger bushies affect. his pipe was still in his mouth though not alight. but as she neared it the driver got in and made to drive off. Suddenly he withdrew his hands and said again. but a buggy waited near the sliprails. were worn in the centre. he was from Gooriabba Station." They drove a mile or 60 in silence. Worn stepping-stones. and driven out twelve miles. for when he went she would be alone with the bush all round her." he said with a snort.The engine lifted its thumb from its pipe "Well? well to? be sure. He thrust forward his lower jaw. and only the sound of the hoarse croa ing of the frogs from the swamp near. She spo e once only. It was apparently some un nown law that suspended them. then put his hands as far as he could reach into his poc ets? from the position of his trousers he could not possibly reach bottom. brawling unmusically." She noticed that the discoloured teeth his bush grin showed so plainly. as if in shoc ed remembrance of its being hours late for its appointment there. wearing his best clothes with awful unusualness. he was loo ing at her sideways. well? well? to? be? sure. of the crows. Subordinate to nothing decorative was the flaring sil hand erchief. S'pose . and wrin led across the bac with his bush slouch. It must be for her. "Damned if I now. According to Sydney arrangements she was to be met here. and as he was silent. and met at both sides with the pipe between the front. She saw no one on the next siding." it puffed. and squirted a little tobacco juice towards his foot that was tracing semicircles in the dust. from under the brim of the hat he wore over his eyes. drawn into a sailor's not round his nec . He got out and fixed the win ers. her mind insisted. and had come to meet a young "piece" from Sydney." She went towards the buggy. she seemed to herself to be intently listening to the croa of the frogs and the threat of the crows. that it was "A flowwer from me angel mother's gerrave. or on'y goin' somew'ere!" and another flung a twist of paper towards her. She ran and called. The coat was too long in the sleeve. Yes. She loo ed away towards the horizon where the smo e of the hidden train showed faintly against a clear s y.
and she told him. "Loo at 'em!" he said. but Gord A'mighty nows w'en it's ever goin' ter rain any more! I dunno!" This was an important admission. and lighting his pipe. puts in thet there ole dead un. "No sign er rain! No lambin' this season. the painter doodle. an' eep 'em so's 'e en put 'em in ther picshure An' 'e drors ther Dam an' ther trees. "Scoffin' out ther eyes!" He pointed to where the crows hovered over the bogged sheep. "Thet's wot thet there blo e. And the nose of this little hairy horror. preferring closer quarters. An' 'e goes ter dror it. her mettle saved her from the impulse to cover her face with both hands. and remar ed. "La e!" he sniggered and loo ed sideways at his companion. soon as they're dropt we'll 'ave ter noc 'em all on ther 'ead!" He shouted an oath of hatred at the crows following after the tottering sheep that made in a straggling line for the water. Never had she seen anything so grotesquely mon eyish. the "Kon ". an' 'e puts in ther 'orses right clost against ther water w'ere the frogs is. to baffle him. Away to the left along a side trac his eyes travelled searchingly. slung with bush s ill round his nec . At last the silence was bro en by the driver drawing a match along his leg. 'E puts them in too. She experienced a strange desire to extend her hand. . jes' as I got out an' done it!" The "Kon " cantered to them. "if 'e was 'ere t' open ther gate! But I'm not goin' t' blan y well wait orl day!" He reluctantly got out and opened the gate. When surprise lessened. The hairy creature safely arranged a pair of emu eggs. an' 'e sez wot 'e 'll give me five bob if I'll run up ther horses. his horse's hoofs padded by the dust-cushioned earth. for he was a great weather prophet." Between his closed teeth he hissed a bush tune for some miles. The driver drew bac . so as not to impede the newcomer's view. "an' I'll collar thet one 'cos it's a good li erness of ther 'orses? you'd now their 'ide on a gum-tree? an' that mean mongrel never paid me ther five bob. an' ther frogs' spit on it! Li ely yarn ther 'orses ud drin ther water with ther blan y frogs' spit on it! Fat lot they now about ther bush! Blarsted nannies!" Presently he inquired as to the place where they ept pictures in Sydney. called it. Unsophisticated bush wonder in the man's face met the sophisticated in the girl's. brought his horse round to the left. the Art Gallery. He stood in the buggy and loo ed again. After a moment or two. as they came to a gate. blotted the landscape and dwarfed all perspective. "'Ere 'e is. He snorted resentfully. and he had just ta en his seat when a "Coo-ee" sounded from his right. "They putty well lives on eyes! 'Blan y bush Chin ies!' I call 'em. "Promised ther 'Kon ' t' leave 'im 'ave furst squint at yer." he continued. but ceased to loo at the s y. No one carn't tell 'em apart!" There was silence again. "Well some of these days I'm goin' down ter Sydney." he muttered. as he slewed his nec to loo into her face. heralded by a dusty pillar. an' damned if 'e don't dror ther 'orses drin in' ther water with ther frogs."It used ter be swarmin' with teal in a good season. except for a remar that he could spit all the blan y rain they had had in the last nine months.
He tilted his pipe and shoo his head as he prepared to drive. he turned. Billy stayed his horse and turned expectantly. and slashing his horse he drove rapidly away. too out the whip." laughed the "Kon ". The aptness of the question too the sting out of his having had to open the gate. There were two trac s. This explained her earlier desire to extend her hand. though he did not flog the beast. he drove along one for a few hundred yards. his gorilla mouth agape. eh?" he as ed. He gave a farewell jer . If the "Kon " had been a horse she would have stro ed his nose." he snarled." The "Kon " received the intimation incredulously. "Goin' ter wash yer nec ?" shouted the man with the nose. Billy S ywon ie uncrossed his legs. to show that he understood to a fraction the price of Sally Ah Too. a blob glittered dazzlingly through "Yes." he said. This was a seemingly final parting. as he stro ed his nose. or wait till yer get 'em?" "Goin' ter sit on 'em yerself?" sneered the driver. "Your blan y jealersey 'll get yer down. abruptly drove across to the other. "Mob er sheep can camp in the shadder of it. He continually drew his whip along the horse's bac . give 'em ter me fer Lizer. drawing down his notted veil. "Well. "Wot are yer givin' us. an' I'll give yer ther first egg ther coc lays. from the gate. an' worry yer yet." he presently remar ed to his companion. "Stin in' Roger!" he yelled. He turned his horse's head bac to the gate "I say. "Oh. "Not if I now it. and finding the "Kon " out of sight. "Mic ey ther Kon ." he continued. "easy plough a cultivation paddoc with it!" At the next gate he seemed in a mind and body conflict. but suddenly the "Kon " wheeled round. Boundless scope for shadows on that sun-smitten treeless plain! "Ma e a good plough-shere. and both started." "Will yer 'ave 'em now."Ain't yer goin' to part?" enquired the driver. After a few miles on the new trac . and haste seemed the object of the movement. Billy S ywon ie! Wot price Sally Ah Too. Billy!" he shouted. "W'en's it goin' ter rain?" The driver's face dar ened. . In bush parlance this was equal to emphatic disbelief. indicating his companion as the recipient. wot do yer ta e me fur?" said the "Kon " indignantly. Then stopping.
"Mag!" he shouted. bluein' 'is cheque fer s ins". ole coc . pic ed up his rifle. Under their scanty shade groups of dejected fowls stood with bea s agape. and poured the contents into the open mouth and over the face of the "dosed" man. Though the buggy wheels almost reached them. bush fashion. Every drop had the reputation of "bitin' orl ther way down". A dog. He too the sil hand erchief from his nec . the man groaned. He tilted his hat. as the girl came to the door and gave her close scrutiny. lay on the veranda. they were motionless but for quivering gills. recognizing the dog. With the dirty itchen towel she succeeded in noc ing off his hat. and. They made some reference to her she new. yer couldn't 'it a woolshed! Yer been ta ing ther sun!" He too the rifle and pushed the subdued Jerry into the chimney corner. apathetically blind and dumb. "By cripes. thumping the bar (a plan supported by two cas s). He could neither overta e nor .the glare. It was the iron roof of the wine shanty? the Saturday night and Sunday resort of shearers and rouseabouts for twenty miles around. "My oath! Square din um!" she answered. wiping the flour from her face with a itchen towel. and his hands began to search for his burning head. and round and round the house she ran with it dexterously dodging the s in-pegs. Most of its spirits was made on the premises from bush recipes. "Jerry can't be far off. going behind the bar. The rouseabout laughed unconcernedly. and lay his head on his swag. there 'e is? goosed already. she laughed loudly. A sapling studded with bro en horse-shoes seemed to connect two lonely crow stone trees. But the scorching sun was conquering. "Jerry. li e a fallen star. till. There had been a little shade on that side in the morning. of which bluestone and tobacco were the chief ingredients. "Eh?" enquired the rouseabout. Then. Jerry fought this friendliness vigorously. The fumes from the shanty grog baffled the flies. it "'ung on one 'air". Jerry ther angaroo-shooter. He stood up in the buggy." said Billy S ywon ie." he said to her. His swag had been thoroughly "gone through". staggering to his feet. and he had been sober enough to select it. Billy S ywon ie explained to his companion that it was "thet fool. and playfully tried to flic the corner into her eye. then at the terrified woman in the buggy. an' 'e on'y got 'is cheque lars' night. and raised him into a sitting posture. and also his singlet and trouser-poc ets. lifeless save for eyelids blin ing in antagonism to the besieging flies. The ground both sides of the shanty was decorated with tightly-pegged angaroo-s ins. and went inside the shanty. He too the water bag under the buggy. and too drun en aim at his rescuer." On the chimney side of the shanty a man lay in agitated sleep beside his rifle and swag. sha ing her head till her long brass earrings swung li e pendulums. "'E thin s we're blan y angaroos. Mag was used to such delicate attentions and well able to defend herself. He had emptied the bottle lying at his feet since then. The woman in the buggy saw a slatternly girl with doughy hands come from the bac .
ma ing a barricade of closed lips and teeth to the multitude of apparently wingless mosquitoes thriving in its green tepidity. and as the now merry driver. came. When she held out her claw. "Loo at Mag goin' through 'er ole woman!" Mag had the old woman's head between her nees. and. whose mouth and eyes seemed to dishonour her draggled grey hair. that. "Gord!" he cried excitedly.outwit her with any dodge. and flopped whining in the dust. dentist? fashion. Her tones suggested her having forgotten an important matter. thet slues yer!" They had not gone far before he loo ed round again. but the woman in the buggy could not understand till she pointed to her toothless mouth (the mission of which seemed to be." Billy turned again. one in a billy. She as ed for water. A blue bag under each eye aggressively tic ed li e the gills of the fowls. With the fascination of horror the woman loo ed at this creature. she moistened her mouth and throat. With cat-li e movements she stole on till within reach of Jerry's empty poc ets. the woman understood and felt for her purse. and seemed to concentrate upon her victim's mouth. and he turned eagerly. whose feeble impotence was soon demonstrated by the operator releasing her. with her ear turned to where the girl and the rouseabout were still at horse-play. Billy!" called Mag as he drove off. Billy. and triumphantly raising her hand. "Go an' crawl inter a 'oller log!" he shouted angrily. she shoo a warning claw at the giver. to fill its cavernous depths with the age-loosened s in above and below). followed by Mag. He placed the bottle in the boot of the buggy. on ther booze again!" The bottle bulging from his coat poc et made speech with him intelligible. What the finger and thumb held the woman new and the other guessed. She turned her terrible face to the woman in the buggy. He gave in. "W'en's it goin' ter rain?" she shrie ed. again prostrate in the corner. a bent old woman. despite the impeding coin. "Give my love to yaller Lizer. "'Ello Biddy. and the sinews of the nec strained into basso-rilievo. . Keeping wide of the front door. "I caught 'er jus' now swiggin' away with ther tap in 'er mug!" He as ed his companion would she li e a wet. I say. a stump of purple tongue made efforts at speech. She paused. convulsed with merriment. her hands ostentatiously open and wiping dry eyes. crept towards the man. turning to Mag. "Oh. She was importuning for something. Entrenched behind the absorbed s in-terraces. From the bac of the shanty. and ransomed his hat with the "shouts" she demanded. Wolfishly the old hag snatched and put into her mouth the coin. said "Give ther poor ole cow a dose!" "Yes. or laid her notted fingers on the blue bags in pretence of wiping tears. and so great was her need. she came to the further side of the buggy. Alternately she pointed to her mouth. almost on all fours. "No. but truly. as if in expectation of sympathy. anything else might ma e her sic !" said Mag.
an' I'd as soon tac le a gin as a chow anyways!" On his next visit to the bac of the buggy she heard the crash of glass . thet's not me! I'm li e ther boss. Jimmy Fernatty 'as too up with a yaller piece an' is livin' with 'er. not a fly!" he said. ain't it? No flies on Mag." But the boss it seemed was a "terrer for young uns. more'n on ther way I come this mornin'. "bloody" the bea s of the glutted crows. Little matters became distorted. It seemed to ta e a long time to close it. He ept his hand on hers when she gave him the reins."By Gord. "See me an' 'er?" he as ed. admiringly. 'less ther boss 'e wus with 'im. not a win 'bout 'er!" He chuc led in tribute. "No flies on Mag. His tone suggested no need to reply. 'e never 'ad no show with Mag. "Someone would soon buc up ter 'er if their boss wusn't on. Though she had withdrawn her hand. starving. and he had to fix the bac of the buggy before he opened it. "I en get as many w'ite gins as I wanter. and after it was closed." Presently he gave her the reins with instructions to drive through one. and the greater shrivelled. 'stead er goin' ther short cut ? ther way I come this mornin'. An' yet 'e'd go down there! It wus two mile furder this way." he continued "? ther blan y fool. He told her with sudden anger that any red blac -gin was as good as a half chow any day. an' I stuc up nea'ly 'arf a quid! An' there's four gates" (he flogged the horse and painted them crimson when he remembered them) "this way. yet damned if ther blan y fool wouldn't come this way every time. and his listener did not. After getting out several times in quic succession to fix the bac of the buggy when there was no gate. and the oaths and adjectives so freely used were surely coined for such circumstances. thet's me! No yeller satin for me!" He watched for the effect of this degree of taste on her. he ept win ing at her. and she had to move her feet to the edge of the buggy to prevent his pressing against them. and the s eleton fingers of the drooping myalls seemingly pointed to them. and bade her " eep up 'er pec er". "Ther wus thet damned flash fool. "Damned" the wretched. "See me an' Mag?" he as ed again. He was now more communicative. But not me. "blarsted" the whole of the plain they drove through! Gaping crac s suggested yawning graves. An' every time Mag ud ma e 'im part 'arf a quid! I was on'y there jus' 'bout five minits meself. Jimmy Fernatty. and starved sheep loo ed and were. more 'air on 'is chest fer doin' so" (stri ing his own). he seemed to forget the extra distance. Eh! thet's prime. She felt she had lost her mental balance. and leave her there to wait for the train to ta e her bac to civilization. A giddy unreality too the sting from everything. as he drove on. even from her desire to beseech him to turn bac to the siding. and it was no use gammoning for he new what she was. "If Billy S ywon ie 'ad ter string onter yaller Lizer.
Under her orders both got down. "Yes s'elp me. Neither the shanty nor Mag had mention. nor ther lars'. "Fill 'er mug with this!" The shut fist he shoo was more than a mugful. and loo ed under the mat. After a few snatches of song he lighted his pipe. The rest of the journey was done in silence." In an indefinable way the woman felt that both of them were guilty. and by degrees she understood that the wasted time of which Lizer complained was supposed to have been dissipated in flirtation. breathing heavily. . Lizer?" There was contrition and propitiation in his voice. When they came to the homestead gate he said his throat felt as though a "goanner" had crawled into it and died. and without even a peep at the s y. "Mag's a fair terror!" He was greatly troubled till the braggart in him gave an assertive flic er. "You've bin a nice blan y time." said his missus. he shoo his head in calm. lifted his feet. He as ed her for a pin and clumsily dropped it in his efforts to draw the collar up to his ears. and waited for no surmises. his shoulders ma ing indly efforts to hide his ears. "Mag's snavelled it! Lizer 'll spot thet's gone soon's we get 'ithin coo-ee of 'er!" Against hope he turned and loo ed along the road. shoc ed surprise. soon's she's off ther booze. His sympathies were unmista ably with Lizer. an' no 'arm meant. 'e ain't. said she had not seen it since his visit to the shanty. hurriedly. he offered her his hand. and said." But the anticipation seemed little comfort to him. Billy S ywon ie. felt every poc et. 'll see thet she gets it!" Then he missed his sil hand erchief. "No 'arm done. she gave respectful attention to the still rapidly flowing tirade. and as he too his seat after closing the gate. an' don't let on ter my missus? thet's 'er on the verander? thet we come be ther shanty. "Ghost!" he said. and grew sorrowfully reminiscent. and to hide from her part of the reproof was mean and cowardly. but through it she saw that the woman was dus y too. "Know wot I'll do ter Lizer soon's she begins ter start naggin' at me?" He intended this question as an insoluble conundrum. "Boss in. he sat silent and listening respectfully.brea ing against a tree. and with that assumption of having mastered the situation in all its bearings through his thorough nowledge of the English tongue. in reply. nea'ly 'arf a quid! An' thet coloured ole 'og of a cow of a mother. but had better luc with a hair-pin. "slavin' an' graftin' an' sweatin' from mornin' ter night. The woman in the buggy thought that the volubility of the angry half-caste's tongue was the nearest thing to perpetual motion. and from a seat under the open window in the little room to which Lizer had motioned." It was dus . "an' luc y fer you." With bowed head. "My Gord!" he said. The offence had been some terrible injustice to a respectable married woman. From a itchen facing the yard a Chinaman came at intervals. He appeared suddenly subdued and sober. for a slungin' idlin' lazy blaggard. "'Twouldn' be ther first time I done it. His companion. The half-caste from time to time included her.
"You come Sydiney? Ah! You mally? Ah! Sydiney welly ni' place. and. and as long as the light lasted she watched it. She was trying to eat when a dog ran into the dining-room. This early meal was soon over. all rode off. and across the freshly cut side the dog drew its tongue. it's a bloo'y shame!" Maybe it was a sense of what was in his mind that made the quivering woman hide her face when virtuous Ching Too came to loo at her. watching. whose morning began at four. and various other aids to nature evidenced her predecessor's frailty. had the effect of a galvanic ba ery on her dying body. Above the clatter of plates in the itchen she could hear the affected drawl of the Chinaman tal ing to Lizer. There was neither haste nor anxiety in the singer's tones. and the clamour of the men as they caught and saddled them. He ept on his hat." It was salt. and despite the violent beating of her heart. Before the itchen fire." she said. "How old?" She made no reply. then snapped at the flies. inert from his morning's opium. "What an infernal chee you had to come! Who sent you?" he as ed stormily. give me answer do!" itchen. It was mustering? bush stoc ta ing? and all the stationhands were astir. saw curiosity and surprise change into anger as he loo ed at her. He began energetically Spasmodic bars of "A Bicycle Built for Two" came from the "Mayly. It was only nine. This placee welly dly? too muchee no lain? welly dly. stood and faced him. The ringing of a bell slung outside in the for of a tree awo e her before dawn. an' she ses she's the one. On a bloc lay a flitch of bacon. "By Cli' Billy. "No!" answered the coo . but this was well on in the day for Ching. an' she's in ther dinin'room 'avin' a tuc -in." She was watching his dog. and added that she had no intention of remaining. she heard the rouseabout tell the boss as he unsaddled his horse. but she turned her mournful eyes on him. as in disgust he strode out. stood the Chinaman coo . and she. and with the dogs snapping playfully at the horses' heels. She trod heavily along the passage. she had tried it for brea fast. Empty powder-boxes and rouge-pots littered the dressing-table. His last thrust. From a coign in its fastness a blac spider eyed her malignantly. Her bedroom was rec ing with a green heavy scent. . supporting herself by the table. "The on'y woman I see was a 'alf chow. She told him. "'E no eat 'em? too saw." She was too giddy to stand when the boss entered. He ceased his song as she entered. preparing the boss's brea fast. "That dog will eat the bacon. oblivious to the heat. There was a noise of galloping horses being driven into the stoc yard. Mayly.and he many times demonstrated his grip of the grievance by saying.
on to the few inches of plan that she considerately left for him. She as ed him where was the rouseabout who had driven her in yesterday. her pace ept him fully occupied to hold his seat. fascinated. She saw the rouseabout rattle into the yard in a spring cart. Sir. he continued: "I wanter go ter ther shanty? on'y ter get me 'an erchief. The dog went to the greasy door. He let down the bac board and dumped three sheep under a light gallows. She noticed that the sheep lay passive. and s ilfully danced an edge on the nife. you wus ter sling yer 'oo . I say!" No notice from the dog "Go ou' si'. Their two front feet were strapped to one behind. "So bundle yer duds tergether quic an' lively! Liza's down at ther tan . The old mare dran leisurely. The parson followed her and than fully grabbed the reins. saw that the hens sitting on the bed were quietly laying eggs to go with the bacon. or she'll ma e yer swaller yer chewers. "Go insi' then. and that the glitter of the nife was reflected in its eye Bush Church.something about. The parson bumping along on old Rosey. "Ther boss 'e tole me this mornin' thet I wus ter tell you. who had smelt the water of the "Circler Dam". By Cli' no 'alf cas? too muchee longa jlaw. To do a get. With the bit in her teeth. He seemed breathless with haste. "Go ou' si'. After several . and waited for applause. began. I. "Oh. reminiscent of "las' a night"." He laughed and shoo his head. The dog stood and snapped. 'e mally alri'! Lizer 'im missie!" He went on to hint that affection there was misplaced. with humped bac and hoofs close together. then bac ed off with the same precaution. who from time to time continued to ta e "saw " with his flies. washin'. Billy S ywon ie." said the coo in a spirit of rivalry. THE hospitality of the bush never extends to the loan of a good horse to an inexperienced rider. The dog leisurely sat down and loo ed at his master with mild reproof. But." Lowering his voice. she still watched the dog. The parson's protests ended in his slipping over the arched nec of the wilful brute. to avoid the treacherous mud. old Rosey. with its head bac till its nec curved in a bow." He bent and strained bac a sheep's nec . and came bac . At the edge of the Dam. to wal along the plan that pier-wise extended to the deeper water. and stood switching the flies with her stunted tail." he explained. I say!" he called out to her. "Go ou' si'. was powerless to eep the cunning experienced brute from diverting from the trac . any bloo'y si' you li'!" but pointing to their joint bedroom with the lighted stic . Le'ss get away afore she sees us. I tella you!" stamping his slippered feet and ta ing a fire-stic . drew the nife and steel from his belt. but that he himself was unattached. "Oh. "by an' by me getty mally.
pulled up abruptly. in a ma e-believe of shade from a sic ly gum-tree. tipping Ned an intelligent win . and there was no fun to be got out of the pups. gave a voiceless sidelong nod in recognition of the parson's greeting. The water would soon be too hot for the billy to drin . and was employed in permitting an aged billy-goat to bring his nose within an inch of the simmering water in the buc et slung over the fire. he led the exacting animal to a log. "Mum's gorn ter Tilly Lumber's ter see t' ther id. to hold a service at a grazier's homestead some miles distant. who was not on spea ing terms with his sister-in-law. She had a long stic . they wouldn't try to get it out of boiling water. he saw her interest in his personality was gone. Under Ned's sympathetic guidance he pulled up at the sliprails of a coc ey's selection to announce these tidings. with a saddle strap defining its long nec . A group of half-na ed children lay entangled among several angaroo pups. He had come to their remoteness. It was at this stage that "flash" Ned Stennard. and the pups were yelping mildly at its contents. An older girl. but she didn't divide her attention. but Ned. bare-footed and dressed in a petticoat and old hat. Paddy was punching and blaspheming a nine-mile day out of his bulloc s. made a pretence of searching through a dusty past. rode on and waited. as they rode along. and she let him advance the prescribed limit before she made the jab that she enjoyed so thoroughly. but Paddy. "Are your parents in?" he as ed. These were straining their load along with heads bent close to the dust-padded trac . and lic ing the few drops of blood that fell. "Are your mother and father in?" The thirsty billy was snea ing up again to the water. Old Rosey. "You ain't ole Keogh?" said the girl. who had his day's wor cut out to a minute." He made nown his mission to the girl. hung from a bough. and went on driving his team. was standing near a fire before the wide opening that served as a doorway to the humpy. and along the dusty trac they jogged. And he had frequently to assure the bushman that it would be useless for him to search in his clerical poc ets for tobacco.attempts to get up on the wrong side. as he didn't smo e. The parson's part in the dialogue was chiefly remonstrative as to the necessity of Ned's variegated adjectives. so that Rosey might recognize him as her erstwhile rider. and. For when she too the salt por out of the canvas bag and put it in the buc et. rode up and gave him lurid instructions and a leg up. mainly catechismal. always with time to ill and a tongue specially designed for the purpose. would have been yea-and-nay nods. The parson saw the children rub the swarming flies from their eyes and turn to loo at him. He removed the veil he wore as a protection from the stic y eye-eating flies. but for catching Ned's eye when the parson as ed if he were married. for all the whip-weals. It was Ned's brother's place. he told Ned. At the Horse Shoe Bend they overtoo hairy Paddy Woods of eighteen withering summers. A canvas bag. When he admitted that he wasn't. silent. an inveterate yarner. Doubtful of his success. the parson rejoined Ned. Paddy struc an attitude of aged responsibility. but for a cough to free their mouths and nostrils from dust. Probably his share of the conversation. and . and ther rester them's gorn ter ther Circler Dam.
Ned stayed with Paddy long enough to tell him that. an' then 'ammer 'ell outer 'im. and possibility of increase among the mares. As they rode along. The parson. It was only when Ned had exhausted the certainty. He added that the green veil he wore over his eyes was a "mast" (mas ).replied that he thought he was. but that it didn't deceive him. by adding that he would ride after this disguised Inspector. Soon there was but little un nown to Ned's listener of the inner history? and with such additions as contrasted unfavourably with his own? of every selector on this sun-suc ed run. Paddy. but Ned." But even this serious threat against the parson's stoc -in-trade had no fruitful result. but promised that as soon as he delivered his load of wool he would have a day's "musterin' an' draftin' an' countin' an' ear-mar in'" and send him the returns. In order of infamy Ned placed the lessee first. The disgusted parson was trying to urge Rosey onward. Ned was more than a match for them all. when he turned again to the narratives of his coc ey brethren. and their common enemy. and nannies of his and the other coc ies' floc s and herds. From time to time they sighted the coc ies' humpies. newly initiated into the mysteries of bush craft. ewes. still with an eye on Ned. To emphasize his thoroughness. cows. the Land Agent ten times more unscrupulous. were "dummy" selectors occupying every acre. intent on ma ing the most of his amazed listener. Tobacco-less Ned tried further to arouse practical admiration from pouch-full Paddy. and the parson found that impending probability and possibility entered largely into Ned's computation of these. inquired if there were any children for baptism. But the wonder expressed in his eyes. in his opinion.the lessee of the run. ept him on the trac to his destination by promising to call at all the selections on his way bac . that he would "on'y tell two sorts? them wot arsts me. but Rosey refused to have her pleasant company till Ned brought his switch across her bac . the parson in admiration watched the wiry little bushman dexterously win ing both eyes to the confusion of the flies. that he would descend to the human statistics. as he watched this new labourer in the vineyard cantering bris ly away to bear the glad tidings. At a later stage of their journey. an' them wot don't. po in' an' prowlin' roun' fur ole Keogh" ." And this clerical brother. he added. "pump 'im dry as a blow'd bladder. another circumstance stood out. with a win of bush freemasonry. most of the conversation related by Ned as having ta en place between the parson and him would have been as new to the former as it was to Ned's audience. probability. that were the lessee ten times richer. giving him the benefit of the doubt. and tell them that there was to be a service tomorrow morning. he galloped after his companion. and. would have changed to awe could he have heard the varied versions Ned gave to the scattered families as to the need of their being at the grazier's homestead the first thing next day. For the adjectives with which . a good second came the Land Agent in the little township whence this pilgrim parson had come But this fact was made clear to him. could not have found a better messenger. putting his empty pipe bac . Moreover. rec oned that the number of his offspring was uncertain. and listened to the substitution of words of his own coinage dropped red-hot into the conversation in place of the sulphurous adjectives. the blac -coated parson was "nothin' but a snea in' Inspector. Ned's loud laugh and "Good old Paddy" had not the effect on its young-old recipient's well-filled tobacco pouch that he had hoped.
and place it in the left. and the dogs. but he new that many of them must have seen him riding past with a blac -coated stranger. and. despite all the perspiring activity of Liz. His reputation for startling discoveries was against him. his missus. the result generally seemed satisfactory till a careful analysis showed a letter or so missing. Ned would tear out a cheque. It was bad for Liz and her own boy Joey when either of these accidents occurred. what was worse to her. the ids. he could use a pen to the extent of putting his name to a cheque. Those who were at home left their dinners. since she must either be coming from mischief or going to it. As to his flashness. Wild pigs caught and illed by the women ma e the chief flesh food. had tried to force his example on the male community by impressing upon them his philosophy. despite Ned's protests anent insufficient space. drive the fowls a mile from the house. and. ever resourceful and now hungry. and came outside to tal to him. with the dogs and the ids. When he tried to write small and straight. but. given an uncertain number of favouring circumstances. but after his dar . But on this occasion Ned. and he trusted to that to support the story his ingenious imagination had ready for them. refused to be led to a log. or. This was partly from his being "flash". A visitor at mealtimes is always met outside the humpy. Certainly before he would attempt this. It was shearing time. sprin led with salt. and not only could he spell by ear. had to pen up the goats. And Ned too these favours as his due. his cheque-boo would give out or his pen brea . bodeful hints as to the necessity of their attending service at the grazier's homestead next day. and. And in addition Ned was no favourite among the women. moreover. that it was the proper thing to hit a woman every time you met her. as the men feed at the sheds. the ban did not approve of part of the signature being placed on the bac of the cheque. some of the fowls would ma e their way home to roost on the hut when night came For allowing him to be disturbed "jes as I wus gettin' me 'and in" he would "ta e it outer" Liz. excluding the STENNARD and. He had been twice to Sydney. he was invited inside and a place was cleared for him at the table. for he would fire no gun. drawing a hand across a greasy mouth. place a bloc of wood on the bottom edge of the paper. "outer" Joey. Sometimes he would be so intent on trying to eep the EDWARD on the line. nursing the belief that how they live is quite un nown to one another. shut the hut. Liz. They came ungraciously. leads the way to the nearest log. to eep his hand from travelling off it to the table below. Quite rec lessly they plied him with pints of tea and damper and dip. Then he had to tie his wrist to the left side of his belt? he was left-handed ? in such a manner that his hand could not stray to the foreign region above the cheque. he considered he had something to be flash about. being also the middle of the wee . Or just as success seemed probable. and. and the host. most of the men were away. though he . and eep them there till Ned fired a gun. Left to himself. but more from his reputation for flogging his missus. but these are often scarce in the dry season. Mutton at shearing time is a rarity. The women of the bush have little to share. in the pen with his right hand. that it would run to the end of the paper.he flavoured the parson's share proved him to have readily and fluently mastered the lurid bush tongue. Two of the daily meals consist mainly of sliced damper dipped in a pan of fat. lay it on the table. Authoritatively he demanded in each case to see the missus. they have no inclination to entertain a caller. and in some extravagant instances with pepper. Ned. But even then the tas was often unaccomplished. that always hangs over the fire.
"Sis wants er ride in thet ther coc 'orse yer in. She gave the chair a lurch that sent the parson's feet in the air. we nigh bust oursels at ther way yer legs stuc out. All of these documents Ned inspected upside down or otherwise. To avoid the threatened repetition he gripped both sides and planted his feet firmly on the boards. Next morning the minister was sitting in the roc ing-chair on the veranda of the grazier's house He had a prayer-boo in one hand and a hand erchief in the other. He saw a flat. "Sis" had wor ed her head in by this. Yer rides jes' li e er Chinymun. II. registered cattle brands. whose sole aim was "ter etch 'em win in'" and then forfeit the selection. with nondescript hair and eyes." said the minister mildly. Those of the men who had swapped horses with passing drovers. the head craned upwards. with which he lazily disputed the right of the flies to roost on his veil. A wisp of dried grass hung from the wide mouth. held in the position of a butting animal." The dar one did all the tal ing. Me an' Sis giv' 'em ther slip. letters from Government Departments. came in view. She was fair. with blac beady eyes set either side of a bridgeless nose. were busy all afternoon trumping up witnesses. "Have you come alone?" "The ether uns er comin'. Flogging and flashness were lost sight of by these anxious women.new he was no favourite. and pointing to the opening opposite the door. and pronounced with unlegal directness that "a squint et them 'ud fix 'im if thet's wot 'e's smellin' after". as they listened to all he had to say. an' undo this. "Ridey it an' let 'er see it. He saw a pair of brown hands part the awning enclosing the veranda. and she was "chawrin'"." she continued." commanded Jinny. shrewd face. . This gave an undulating motion to the chair which was very soothing after old Rosey's bumping. Didn' yer see me an' ther billy? Gosh. He told them to bring them next day. ejecting the grass with considerable force in his direction. "Come round to the front. Fust I thort yer wus ole Keogh. without the exchange of receipts. with hoods hanging by the strings down their bac s. for the chair was not roc ing. Then a blac head. "Wer's ther coc 'orse. Jinny?" she as ed. for land receipts. marriage lines." said the mouth. and every other equipment that protects the poor coc ey from a spiteful and revengeful Government. They came in and wal ed up to him. They coaxed him to wait while they searched among the few spare clothes in the gin-cases with hide-hinged lids. sheep ear-mar s." "How far have you wal ed?" "Yer parst our place yesserday mornin'. "Our Sis wants er ride in this. Free of the screen. we didn' wanter 'ump ther dash id.
"We wus loo in' fer you an' Alic . Jyne's teeth saluted them but without any good nature." answered Jyne. to turn the conversation. You gammon ter them we ain't cum. The most pronounced feature of Jyne's face was her mouth. Without further introduction she slewed her head to one side. especially of the top row." sniffed Jyne. "They belong to the lily tribe. "So they is. and it seemed proud of its teeth. "an' we'll snea roun' ther bac . "Yer orter seen me an' gran'dad th' ether mornin'. I snea s up to ther billy an' gives 'im er jab. Lawr ter see 'im rush et ole Alex an' bunt 'im! 'E'd er illed th' ole feller on'y fer me. for she was the only "Rabbit Ketcher" this side of the township. He sat down without removing his hat. "Yes. and said to the staring minister. he sprang up. and the elder child leapt in. The bewildered minister. "Ther ain't a win about Jinny. and smiling good-naturedly at the parson and at the grazier and his wife. Eh. Jinny and Sis snea ed in behind their mother. "D'y ter yous. To bring a qualified midwife from civilization would have represented a crippling expenditure to these coc ies. Sis?" Mammy and Daddy? commonly called "Jyne" and "Alic " even by their offspring? came in with four children. despite the size of her mouth. ta ing off her hood." Her voice. Jinny peeped through the awning.The younger one po ed a stem of dried grass from her mouth through the mesh of the veil in a line with his left ear. being styled by the fol themselves "Rabbit Ketcher"." "Wile hunyions. which." said Jinny to her mother. means midwife. Jinny." said Alic . 'E wus mil in' ther nannies. Without any apparent effort. an' ther billy you seen 'e wus jes dose agen 'im. ma ing no attempt to conceal her contempt ." warned Sis. came through her nose." said the hostess. Jyne's moderate fees were usually four-legged." said mum in a proud voice. shut one eye nowingly. "ty e this chile this minute. She was a great power in the bush." she said to the parson. and. "You young tin ers. Thoroughly routed. I thin . And the airs Jyne gave herself were justifiable. "'Ere they cum. and win ing at the parson." The unblin ing daughter instantly offered an illustration of her wa efulness. all younger than Jinny and Sis. w'en they arsts yer. too a vase of wild-flowers. blin ing his bungy eyes. you wus? with ther 'oo . Wou'dn' 'e. translated. She put the baby on the floor. mopped her face with the inside of her print dress." cried Jyne. the last tooth there was always visible. "They are bulbous. Jyne carried the youngest straddled across her hip. mum?" "Yer a bol' gal.
A pound of lollies for her and the ids from a dealer's cart when one came round. Wil' pigs eatin' 'er as I cum along. "Better corl me a liar at onct. "Ow's Polly!" inquired Liz. For it was not every day that Ned tried to sign a cheque or that the sheep got boxed. . News of such catastrophes soon spread in the bush. was now in her safe eeping. an' 'er thet way. and was evading a threatened hiding that was to remove both s in and hair." "No!" said Liz. invited him inside. blew with his breath on the seat." snapped Jyne. and from time to time dexterously located his step-father. This privilege had been extended to all the women whose curiosity and envy had brought them to Liz's place. Jyne. There was between Jyne and Ned the opposition that is instinctive between commanding spirits. as she new to her cost. Even then before sitting he raised the tails of the coat he had been married in so long ago. and he did not beat her or Joey unless they did. "Arst 'im. she always said she had been married. He had run in the wrong horse for his step-father that morning. but she and the children had overhauled it many times and tried it on. would ma e her thin him the best husband in the world. But the boy. But for all this Liz thought she was fairly happy. It was the first tune Liz had worn it. or rather Jyne had hers. but her interference. at a warning glance from his mother. Until Ned's Sydney purchase his had been the only decorative coat in the district. This also was one of Ned's Sydney purchases. and wiped it carefully with the hand erchief he had ta en from his hat. The old woman rode on a horse astride a man's saddle. slun further bac . He was followed by Liz with their family of five Joey stayed outside. He had his hat on one side." snarled Jyne. they were as unli e as brothers sometimes are Ned greeted the parson with bush familiarity. Liz yielded obedience first to Ned then to Jyne. "Ma in' 'er dror three casts er worter ten mile. or that his horse refused to be caught. Nor did it always rain when he wanted it fine. Things did not go wrong every day. Next to arrive were Jyne's mother and Alic 's father. and the missing end of the white feather. her countenance showing the gravity of the question. Liz would gladly have ta en the hiding herself in place of Joey. baring her fangs and loo ing at uneasy shuffling Alic . who thought so much of herself that she always brought a nurse from town. The old man led it. though she had nown it all yesterday. Perched on Liz's head was a draggled hat that a month ago had been snow?white. and was wearing a sil Sydney coat that reached to his heels. both of whom lived with Jyne. Jinny had called on her way to church. would mean one for herself without saving the boy. Then came Alic 's brother. She had Jyne's mouth. after being lic ed of its tic lesomeness. He was Liz's child by an early marriage? at least.for this cur of a woman. but the teeth were gone The old man greeted the parson reverently. catching sight of Joey. "Flash" Ned.
w'en I wus too with Drary" (short for Adrarian) "thin I could fin' ther sissers?" Jyne. but Jyne's "wot I dun w'en Jun" (John) "wur six feet of him. answered with a subterranean laugh. "Ow's Polly this mornin'?" gravely inquired Tilly. His shirt front bulged li e a wallet with his clients' papers. He had been chosen by them for his size and strength to do battle on their behalf. But they had entrusted their precious documents to Jim's powerful eeping. "Ah. assisted in many minor details by Jinny. She repeated a well. stopping short with a nervous clic in her voice. Spry little Tilly got the credit of having done all the courting. and loo ing at Ned." said Liz. When Jyne finished. grinning with a mercifully hidden by a straggled rate the mother mildly for "wal in' mother interposed with a recital of two days old. she began eagerly on an experience of her own. Jyne was not to be outdone even by her own mother. fully mouth bigger than Jyne's. Jim. lisping from the size of the plug he had just bitten. He had his own registered brand tied up in a spotted hand erchief. and they had been afraid to come. Ned's effort to frighten those women whose husbands were away shearing into the necessity of attending service had over-reached itself. nodding at the baby. "Well. He had a fatherly interest in all Jyne's "rabbit etchin'". "W'en yer wus too with Joey?" "No. followed. but moustache. He came as the representative of the several families across the cree . "Ow's ther iddy maroo?" said Alic to Jim. what a lorse!" said the sympathetic Tilly. sha es of the head. a seat . and began to seven mile ser soon". Jim was the champion concertina player and bulloc driver in the district. who new that the recital of a daring feat was coming.Tilly and Jim Lumber." quavered Jyne's mother. "Well. Even after marriage she had always done his share of the tal ing. However. aged eleven. left little to be desired in the way of hardihood. "Noo bit er flesh. poor Polly. till he resembled a quadruped. and other signs indicative of admiration and astonishment. Liz ept her teething baby respectfully silent by industriously rubbing its lower gum with a dirty thumb. with their ten-days-old baby. He was over six feet. This he dropped with a clan beside him as he sat sheepishly and gingerly on the edge of a chair.nown story of the bu'stin' of a poley cow last year. The next item was ventriloquizing by Jyne per medium of Tilly's uneasy Jyne too the baby. and the narrative of her last. inquired. and sparing Jyne by telling of Polly's untimely end. I'm blest." John was present. as she too near Jyne. whom energetic Ned had rounded up the day before." said Ned. but he sat with his head almost between his nees. She expressed her surprise at Jyne's phenomenal endurance by little clic s of the tongue. who never used his voice except to drive his bulloc s. He slyly too stoc of those assembled.
"whybut you bid 'er to quet?" "You orter be in er glars' ban' box w'er ther ain't no children. "My Gawd. In was a commodity un nown in Jinny's home and all the un nown is edible to the bush child. "not ole Alic . The child loo ed at him wonderingly. and. No wunny. bade his grand-daughters beseechingly to "quet". "Loo w'er 'er little belly-bands is? nearly un'er 'er arms. and his nervous manner. who was from the North of Ireland. blushing and getting his boo s in order. the drooping corners of her mouth nearly covering her upper teeth." he whispered. For a few minutes the adults listened and watched intently. meanwhile. she sez. they added it to the long score they owed him. thrust in a groping hand. appealing to Jinny's mother. "I says you's gran'-dad. ole Tommy Tolbit's dead. 'ith me cosey all o'a hoo. but loo ing directly at the clergyman." Turning his glistening face to Liz in momentary forgetfulness. who came to him promptly and sat on his nee Presently her brown hand stro ed his old chee . too a swift loo at him and turned to Tilly. soon convinced them that they had nothing to fear from him. The children wandered about the room. "The nowledge of this chile!" . "Gran'-dad. and with his congregation of ten adults and eighteen children he began. she sez." she explained. Ned had been "po in' bora " at them again. he said solemnly. whereupon Jinny showed him quite two inches of in y tongue. reverently." She had been examining the baby's undergear. Alic 's father. but the gentle voice of the parson. Tilly!" she cried. she sez. "Gran'-dad. Jinny and Sis invited their little sister to "Cum an' see ther pooty picters in the man's boo . an intricate part of the little one's anatomy in another minute would "'a bust out a bleedin' an' not all ther doctors in ther worl' couldn' astoppt it. It had been settled between them that she was to do the tal ing Alic . "Dearly beloved brethren? " Jim Lumber gripped his bulloc brand." He laid his white head on hers. And. and at this stage her tone of baby banter suddenly changed to one of professional horror. probably to the company. thet's w'er you orter be. with true professional acumen. she sez." she said. yer dot me all o'a hoo. "My mammy." The minister was very busy. with Alic 's face. had also brought his valuable documents in his shirt front.baby. who. "Choot. and encouraged by Jyne's remar that "they'd eat nothin'". "Woman!" he said." and they assisted the minister to turn over the leaves of his Bible. had not lost his reverence for the cloth. despite his father's efforts to enlighten him as to the nature of a church service. darlin'." she repeated. she sez. she intimated that had she not been on the spot." answered Jyne. for all his forty years in the bush. me can't eep goody. He bec oned to one straggler. a girl of six.
instantly diverted." said the bridegroom. Another offered to the baby Liz was nursing a pincushion she brought from the bedroom. and were busy po ing faces at two of Liz's children. In shambled Tommy. "Made a start!" he remar ed. "Not ter day. The smaller children wandered in and out of the bedrooms. He was a bridegroom of a month's standing. His breathless and perspiring state had been caused by his "going on" to capture one of the wild suc ers that had been eating Polly. and trying to of her voice. His voice gave the impression that he did not mind their not waiting for him. and the nowledgeable child had been surprising him so." called Jinny from the veranda. You wus right. considering the grandfather's position an "No!" said Jyne. and Alic 's father nelt. and had recently ta en up a selection on the run." murmured the minister. the usual process of assimilation had not ta en place "Ow's Polly?" he inquired. let me never be confounded. The nowledgeable child. moist and panting. But Jinny and Six had drawn the now disabled roc ing-chair up to the window. His host. "Go on!" said the bridegroom. Bravely he began again. "Jyne. hostess. she loo ed triumphantly at Alic her husband." said the minister. putting him under fire. flattened against the glass. trying to atone to Jyne for overloading Polly." said Jyne. Jyne. One of these made a vicious smac with a hair-brush at Jinny's tongue. who were standing on the couch inside. carrying their spoils with them. He had been a drover. "'ere cums young Tommy Tolbit by 'isself. with well feigned astonishment. "Coo ed." one of Liz's children tugged at his trousers."Ole Talbert" had been dead for two years. Just as he read the last line of the Te Deum. with a muzzled request that his teeth might be freed from a square of pin soap. "Let us pray. but the rest sat as usual. is she? Didn' eat a very 'earty brea fuss this mornin'?" And a further remar suggested that even if the meal had been hearty. His missus had been a servant at one of the hotels in the township. "Oh Lord in Thee have I trusted. The ensuing crash stopped even the parson for a moment. then at all but Ned. "Ain't very well. "Missus ain't comin'?" inquired Alic . she ain't cummin'!" Even Jyne's gums gleamed. but his voice intimated that in all probability she would have been able to come tomorrow. at Liz. at least twice a wee . eep the crow out . "We have erred and strayed from Thy ways li e lost sheep. He paused occasionally for a sudden subterranean laugh to cease or to put one boo after another on the shelf behind him out of the children's reach.
"some wimmen is li e cows. and opening and shutting his hands in rhythmic up and down movements. always for peace. even this attention ceased. he pursued his than less tas . Some of his audience." For a short space only the voice of the preacher sounded. was appeased by her promise to "brea ther young faggit's bac w'en I get 'ome. Arnie" (Auntie) from Liz's children being chee ed by Jyne with "Go an' play an' doan' 'ave ser much gab. The vigorously. Jyne." from her own children." There was a wail of anguished hunger from Liz's empty children that aroused paternal sympathy in Ned. remembering his threats and warnings against the parson. but it was no easy tas bac . and aiming at the flies in the fireplace with the juice." he said. climbed on his hand erchief round the old fellow's sides. Liz leant across to Tilly Lumber and as ed." she said. "Sep me Gord. Occasionally they loo ed at him to see "'oo 'e wus spea in' ter"." Jyne tossed her head and. What would follow was graphically illustrated by Ned's dropping his head. thought this pantomime must have an ominous meaning for the preacher. and that he and an old man he had pic ed up "wus readin' 'em". It was his intention to absorb such an amount of nowledge that all he would have to do with the lessee of the run? an ex-barrister? would be to put him in a bail." Alic ." he said. was given to Jinny and she was told to do "ther sharin'". as. Such interruptions as "Jinny won't gimme nun. expressed the opinion that "It 'ed fit sum people better if ther munny wasted in buyin' flash coats an' rediclus 'ats wus spent in flour bags. . gripping an imaginary buc et between his nees. but finding nothing directly personal. But sceptical Jyne was not impressed." Ned told how he had brought home a number of law boo s from Sydney. li e yer father. shifting his plug of tobacco from one side to the other. This.The clergyman gave out his text. together with two tin tots and a bottle of goat's mil . "Comin' along jes' now. "we 'as a yarn with Mic Byrnes. in studied stoicism. Ma ing a bridle of the nec . 'E 'as ther luc of er lousy calf. invitation to mount. with a derisive laugh." "Thet greedy wretch uv er Jinny is guzzlin' all ther mil inter 'a. "Upon me soul. stepped into the breach. she tal ed horse to him. "Fowl layin'?" "Ketch 'em er layin' et Chrissermus. Jyne's children commenced to complain of being "'ungry" and a fair-sized damper was ta en from a pillow?slip. They'll give ther own calf a suc . but if anyone else's calf cums anigh 'em they lif' their leg an' ic it ter blazes. The hostess as ed Jyne in a whisper to send them to the veranda. and for a time there was comparative quiet. and the sermon began. 'E sez 'e got eightpence orl roun' fer 'ees angaroo-s ins. and digging two heels into his protesting old man buc ed to throw her. "sum people is the biggest lyin' blowers that ever coc t er lip.
" This plan seemed commendable to Alic . Mr Stennard. "I'd smash 'er ugly jawr." Jyne slewed hers to an awful angle in his direction." The minister still preached. "gammonin' I'm on er reserve. "ter get a good lot. "Oh indeed. who had been peering round that door." 'e sez. Jyne never. "I've paid me deposit." Jyne ceased sniffing. with her eyes on the ceiling and apparently appealing to the flies. She heard Jinny's hoarse whisper. "By Goey. "you ner ther Lan' Agent won' frighten me orf. was listening intently to Ned's account of how he nearly made the squatter ta e a "sugar doodle" (bac somersault) when he heard that he had been to Sydney." A loo of agony came into the eyes of the grazier's wife as she heard the door of the dining-room open." On the dining-room table was the cold food prepared for the clergyman's dinner. but he had only old Alic for a listener. don't let on 'oo yer are. but here she remar ed. "Sum people 'ud eep runnin' ter Sydney till 'e 'asen' er penny ter fly with." I sez." I sez. "Mr Stennard. "I put me name ter a cheque." I sez. "Gawd. Joey. to laugh long and loudly. Joey." sez I." sez I. "an'?--." 'e sez. Slip down yerself." snorted Jyne. ." said Ned. "Orl of yez wait an' I'll bring yer sumsin'." I sez. belonged ter me." "If sum people with ser much jawr." sez I. "I didn' now you 'ad any lan' about 'ere. "'Oo 'ave I ther 'oner of spea in' ter?" sez 'e. "'Day Keogh. go ter ther sale. He. "I'd li e ter see yer try it. "Wot 'erbout sech game-coc s bullyin' w'en we fust em out 'ere?" Ned went hastily out at the front door "ter squint at ther jumbuc s". Esquire. "No one ain't game ter 'it yer w'en I'm 'ere." I sez. that she new they were up to mischief. an' er mouth es big es 'er torn poc et." said Ned. sen' 'em down ter them Sydney blo es." 'e sez. "w'en are yer goin' ter ta e yer flamin' jumbuc s orf my lan'?" I sez. She loo ed across at her husband with dumb entreaty." "Now a good plan 'ed be. an' I've been ter Sydney. now appeared at the bac . "Oh. "Your lan'. didn' yer." 'e sez." he said.Damned if I can. "Come in. showed? the slightest interest or attention when Ned was spea ing. The children were so quiet. "Never mind no blarsted acquaintance. Thet's wot I'll do with my wool nex' year. on any occasion. an' run 'em up li e blazes. three miles away. "'very 'appy ter ma e yer acquaintance. his mild eyes blin ing. with eyes devoutly on the carpet. unless to sniff and lay bare her bottom teeth. eh!" she said.
maliciously. The snoozer's mother wondered if they had shut the dining-room door.The hostess's mental picture of Jinny "sharin'" her dinner for three among that voracious brood was distracting. Soon the noise of the fowls scattering the croc ery told her they had not." said sympathetic Jyne." said Jyne. lurching giddily towards her to merrily twirl her fist in the snoozer. promptly. "Liz." said Liz." Jinny laid her giddy head on the floor. I'm tired. The sermon was over. But for these dwellers in the bush the calendar had no significance. "What is its age?" "About two year." This was too vague for him. and with the front of her dress wine-stained." said Liz. and the worried minister began the christening. The mother thought it might be in November. and went to sleep. "You go. "But Lawd. but listened to Sis lic ing her fingers. He remembered Jyne's awful discovery of a little while bac . "What is this child's name?" "Adrarian. an' I'd ter eep Teddy at 'ome ter do ther wor . until his hostess spelt "Adrian". and he pressed for dates. "Cos it wus shearin'." Teddy was "about ten"." said Jinny dreamily. an exception being Tilly Lumber's baby of under a fortnight. for she immediately grudged Sis's efforts to chase the fowls out of the dining-room. "Thum busted fowls is eatin' orl yer dinner. An old shepherd reading to her a love-story had so pronounced the hero's name. Thet's ther noo name fer it. "wot did it matter fer a brat of er boy?" She had a family of six. A cowardly loo came into the minister's eyes as he turned to this grotesque atom already in the short coat stage. laughing dutifully. "Wot's thet there flower?" pointing to the vase "Wile huniyon. "'Unt 'em out an' shet ther door. and shir ed the duty of holding it even for a moment. and as ed." She loo ed at the grazier's wife and laughed ironically. He then drew towards him a child of about two years. Sis. thet is. and all were girls. Presently Jinny set that doubt at rest by coming in odorous. There was much the same difficulty with all the others." as Jyne remar ed to ease his perplexity. "Bulbers! yer goat. Only the fear of suffering in the clergyman's mind as one of "them" ept her to her seat. The naming of the hostess's baby was plain sailing. and wondered if it was the vinegar or the wine that caused Jinny's cough. is it? Thet's orl yer now." said Liz. It staggered the minister. Thet's a bulbers. From these uncertainties the clergyman had to supply the dates for his official returns to the Government. She could give the sermon no attention. The christening was a ma er that had some personal interest for the . "Er. "Little 'un snoozin'!" Jinny remar ed.
but the woman's husband was angry. The Chosen Vessel. The grazier's wife appeared for a moment to bec on him to go round the house into the dining-room. he shoo hands with all the adults. but then there was baby. laughing at her white face. In many things he was worse than the cow. brandishing a stic . Feed along the cree was plentiful. She advised the silent lad "ter get a waddy ther nex' time anyone bigger'n yer goes ter 'it yer". but she had felt so restless all day. stri ing the mossy bac of Alic 's old father.elders. and tell her who had blac ened his poor eye. This satisfied the cow. its circuit suddenly diverting in a line with Ned's s ull. Bridegroom Tommy. suggested that he and Jyne's mother should get spliced. who had been awa ened for the christening. She used to run at first when it bellowed its protest against the penning up of its calf. and their presence no longer required. and she wondered if the same rule would apply to the man." she said to Liz's eldest girl. and if the cow turned on her out on the plain. It was he who forced her to run and meet the advancing cow. and both were lying down. and called her? the noun was cur. listening intently to the sounds the hostess made in trying to scrape together a meal for the clergyman. She had plenty of time to go after it. He spo e with a show of concern of how very hot they would find the wal home. He sat down to the remains of the dinner the children had left. and he expressed the opinion of the fruitfulness of such union within record time as a set-off dig at Jyne. he gave them a hint that "church" was out. but she did not want the cow to now it. As the whole congregation still sat on. This perhaps was an ac nowledgement that Sis had already dined. and to further emphasize his meaning. and the end of the wee that would bring her and baby the . It was long past noon when the ceremony was ended. loo ed round the door. SHE laid the stic and her baby on the grass while she untied the rope that tethered the calf. also the calf. "Our Sis wants ter now w'en's 'er supper's goin' ter be!" she said. At that moment Jinny. who was brushing the christening water from her hair. for if she did not. The length of the rope separated them. and wal ed to the veranda. and she with baby? she had been a town girl and was afraid of the cow. "That's the way!" the man said. Ned's stepson she invited to come nearer. miss. and heaved a deep sigh. it would stray with the cow out? on the plain. and every day she found a fresh place to tether it. mopped his face. And she gave him directions by twirling an imaginary waddy swiftly. since tether it she must. The cow was near the calf. "Stop scratchin' yer 'ed. Apparently they all meant to stay the day. Without the slightest concern they sat on. Partly because it was Monday. and uttering threatening words till the enemy turned and ran. and they grouped round the minister. She instantly balanced matters between herself and the incautiously smiling Liz and the laughing unfilial Ned. anyone 'ud thin there wus anythin in it. The minister drained his glass of water. but she was not one to provo e s irmishes even with the cow. It was early for the calf to go "to bed"? nearly an hour earlier than usual.
and he had grinned. moved to the left towards the cree . was so far off. At last he had gone. Then he as ed for money. for it had once been a wine shanty. and when he came to it she lost sight of him. as if the man had called it. going to. and the blade between the crac s in the flooring boards. She had given him bread and meat. and there were crac s in some places. because there was a bro en clay pipe near the wood-heap where he stood. watching through the crac s. terrified her. and beside it laid the big brooch that had been her mother's. But she was young. since that was so usual. Ah! that was why she had penned up the calf so early! She feared more from the loo of his eyes. saw him when about a quarter of a mile away. Then the prop-stic . She ate a few mouthfuls of food and dran a cup of mil . very young. she saw the man's dog chasing some sheep that had gone to the cree for water. than from the nife that was sheathed in the belt at his waist. Long before nightfall she placed food on the itchen table. drun en little township. More than once she thought of ta ing her baby and going to her husband. He had wal ed round and round the house. and she. But she lighted no fire. as he watched her newly awa ened baby beat its impatient fists upon her covered breasts. and she had gone in from the itchen to the bedroom. held the top.companionship of its father. she had nothing to fear through them. and saw it slin bac suddenly. . against it she piled the table and the stools. She need not flatter herself. was sic . She had none to give him. as the spade held the middle. there ought to have been tobacco. The cree made a bow round the house. she told him. and he dran it on the wood-heap. Hours after. Fifteen miles as the crow flies separated them. he had taunted and sneered at her. And she left the itchen door wide open. It was the only thing of value that she had. Her husband. but crept with her baby to bed. The doors inside she securely fastened. He was a shearer. turn and loo bac at the house. and had gone to his shed before daylight that morning. or worse. and if there were a man inside. no candle. that anybody would want to run away with her. cut into lengths. watching intently for signs of smo e. when she had dared to spea of the dangers to which her loneliness exposed her. and when night came. He had stood so for some moments with a pretence of fixing his swag. Underneath the loc of the front door she forced the handle of the spade. One had called at the house today. coming from the dismal. But in the past. and a swagman came. and as ed questions and replied to them in the best man's voice she could assume Then he had as ed to go into the itchen to boil his billy. and a few travellers passed along at intervals. What wo e her? The wonder was that she had slept? she had not meant to. a day's journey beyond. and after the last time he had as ed for tobacco. There was a trac in front of the house. She was not afraid of horsemen. but swagmen. and as ed for tuc er. but women in the bush never have money. The windows were little more than portholes. Beside the bolt in the bac one she drove in the steel and scissors. he had coarsely told her. Perhaps the shrin ing of the galvanized roof? yet hardly. and the gleam of his teeth. She always said that when she was alone. but she gave him tea. apparently satisfied. and then.
She thought of the nife. and gleaming nife would enter. don't cry!" Stealthily the man crept about. She prayed as she gently raised herself with her little one in her arms. Perhaps he expected the slab to fall. He was trying every slab. little baby. Then she had both round it. So she prayed. Then a protesting growl reached her.Something had set her heart beating wildly. because of the vibration that his feet caused as he wal ed along the veranda to gauge the width of the little window in her room. when the slab. and she prayed. Still his motive puzzled her. but now bounded with tumultuous throbs that dulled her . Noiselessly she crossed to the other side. but the great fear of wa ening baby again assailed her. don't wa e!" The moon's rays shone on the front of the house. and she saw one of the open crac s. Then she saw him find it. One side of the slab tilted. but how much he saw she could not tell. and stood where she could see and hear. She new he had his boots off. What if he should discover that! The uncertainty increased her terror. She plainly heard the thud of something stri ing the dog's ribs. only she put her arm over her baby. quite close to where she lay. She waited motionless. she saw the shadow dar en every crac along the wall. and wondered why. and the resistance of the front door. She felt she must watch. She suddenly recalled that one of the slabs on that side of the house had shrun in length as well as in width. Then he went to the other end. and she could watch and listen. Even its little feet she covered with its white gown. don't wa e. for she was so still and quiet. and the uncertainty of what he was doing became unendurable. But the sound of her voice would wa e baby. unless he held it. She thought of many things she might do to deceive him into the idea that she was not alone. Ah! what sound was that? "Listen! Listen!" she bade her heart? her heart that had ept so still. She new by the sounds that the man was trying every standpoint that might help him to see in. held tightly to her breast. and shielded her child's body with her hands and arms. but not be seen. and she moved even closer. and she dreaded that as though it were the only danger that threatened her. and the brush of his clothes as he rubbed the wall in his movements. far safer. She new when he ceased. and baby never murmured? it li ed to be held so. She stood well concealed. "Little baby. and the long flying strides of the animal as it howled and ran. and had once fallen out. and was very near to that with the wedge under it. though she new that in another few minutes this man with the cruel eyes. and bent her body the better to listen. It was held in position only by a wedge of wood underneath. dar en with a shadow. while he was close. She heard his jer ed breathing as it ept time with the cuts of the nife. she new he could not see her. and heard the sound of the nife as bit by bit he began to cut away the wooden support. and that he would not fear if he did. lascivious mouth. with her baby pressed tightly to her. but she lay quite still. She had felt safer. would fall outside. and she could fancy she heard the man turn hastily. that she did not even tremble. "Little baby. Still watching. yet she heard him move cautiously away. he had only to cut away the remaining little end.
If through the partition. and after the manner of lambs of its ind did not now its mother when the light came. but for the hand that still clutched its little gown. still flying li e the wind with the speed that deadly peril gives. but when the sounds came under the door. "Oh. and he had dared promise his vote to another. Yes. for once in his life. save him!" The grief in her old face made the morning meal so bitter. even a dingo will spare a lamb sometimes. for they were very close before she could ma e sure. and watched the crows that were circling round and round. and there's more down in the cree ? a ewe and a lamb. Yet he was uneasy. that to avoid her he came late to his dinner. with outstretched arms that caught her as she fell. "Mary. He cantered bris ly along the great stretch of plain that had nothing but stunted cottonbush to play shadow to the full moon. that Peter Hennessey's reason. and laid its little head on her bosom. And when she ceased. when it loo ed at the swollen disfigured face. He told afterwards how the little child held out its arms to him. God!" she cried. and flew shrie ing over the horseman's head. She turned to the door. I'll bet. and when she reached the cree her prayers turned to wild shrie s. and how he was forced to cut its gown that the dead hand held. * * * * * "By God!" said the boundary rider. when the boundary rider galloped down. that he could not say goodbye to her. nearing the earth one moment. and running madly along.ears. Nearer and nearer came the sounds. By that he new the lamb must be alive. She new he was offering terms if she ceased to struggle and cry for help. God! Oh. he rode off secretly. and the crows were close. He had thirty miles to ride to the township to record his vote. God! Oh. the startled curlews too up the awful sound. covering his eyes. which glorified a . he new she was praying in her bed. to the mother's wide-open eyes. She called to him in Christ's name. it wept and would have crept away. Out she darted at last. Then. and the next shooting s ywards. and as usual the priest had selected a candidate. and slept till the morn. and the lamb's alive!" And he shut out the s y with his hand. for there crouched the man she feared. "it's been a dingo right enough! Eight illed up here. Mother of Christ! save my son! Save him!" prayed she in the dairy as she strained and set the evening's mil ing "Sweet Mary! for the love of Christ. * * * * * It was election time. It came through the partition. and every time he wo e in the night (and it was often) he heard the murmur of his mother's voice. "Jesus Christ!" he said. It made him so cowardly. so close. Sleep was nodding its golden head and swaying its small body. and with her baby in her arms tore frantically at its bolts and bars. saw the horseman beyond her in the distance. she was on her nees before the little altar in the corner that enshrined the statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child. till the welcome thud of a horse's hoof rang out clearly. in her babe's name. It had suc ed the still warm breasts. and when night fell on the eve of the election day. that the cry of "Murder" came from her lips. though louder and louder did she cry for it. or under the door. But the distance grew greater and greater between them. the lamb was alive. had over-ridden superstition. His choice was so obviously in the interests of the squatter. but it was only when the man's hand gripped her throat.
Again Hennessey sought him. good Catholic that once more he was. Hennessey would not go near the public-houses. Gliding across a ghostly patch of pipe-clay. "Great God!" shouted the priest. The half-parted lips of the Virgin were smiling with compassionate tenderness. and led him into the dimly-lighted study. "and you did not stop to save her! Have you not heard?" * * * * * Many miles further down the cree a man ept throwing an old cap into a waterhole the dog would bring it out and lay it on the opposite side to where the man stood. He sat at home. feeling as a repentant chastened child. He fell on his nees in adoration. he put spurs to his horse's sides and galloped madly away. Transfixed. as he stood in the graveyard crossing himself with reverent awe. Then he sought the priest at home. At that moment. but for the Virgin and Child of his mother's prayers. came Christ's name to him? called loudly in despairing accents. but he was preoccupied with his present act of revolt. Still. she was praying. he saw a white-robed figure with a babe clasped to her bosom. the house. His seat was immediately opposite a large picture. His mother's prayers were answered. he felt sure. Peter?" said the priest. he heard in the gathering twilight the roar of many voices crying the name of the victor at the election. mingled with the adoration. but wandered about the outs irts of the town for hours. Vividly he saw his mother's agony when she would find him gone. He was subdued and mildly ecstatic. eeping apart from the townspeople. who awaits only the iss of peace. The bruised incense of the flowering clover rose up to him.eeper said. half unconsciously. . her eyes seemed to beam with the forgiveness of an earthly mother for her erring but beloved child. though it was only to wash the blood of the sheep from his mouth and throat. and fasting as penance. It was well with the priest. The moonlight on the gleaming clay was a "heavenly light" to him. peacefully. All the superstitious awe of his race and religion swayed his brain. but would not allow the man to catch him. but found that he was out rallying the voters. Then. "And hast Thou chosen me?" "What is it. for. under the influence of his blessed vision. the wondering priest stood. and as the house eeper turned up the lamp. and the glory of the night appealed vaguely to his imagination." he answered reverently. and with loosened tongue he poured forth the story of his vision.s y of earliest spring. "For Christ's sa e! Christ's sa e! Christ's sa e!" called the voice. Good Catholic that he had been. for the sight of blood made the man tremble. And at last. "Mary! Mother of Christ!" He repeated the invocation. once more the face of the Madonna and Child loo ed down on him. he crossed himself before he dared to loo bac . and he new the white figure not for flesh and blood. "My Lord and my God!" was the exaltation. And suddenly. out of the stillness. but this time silently. Hennessey was the first to record his vote? for the priest's candidate. "Father.
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