The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.

: 1866-1939), Saturday 16 December 1899, page 12 OF

It was



before Christmas

Eve, 18—,



the road from Blank's station

in the


country, riding behind

a title


800 boy who
It was


Brown and I and by ths euphonious hot day. The


Nigger Jim.



shirts, wen

with heated fervour, and the sweat rolled down

faces and





quite early and home North, his gone occasion knowledge of homanity confined mostly to The dry road swearing bushies and half-naked niggers. He to extend them beyond a walk. would have made a fine fellow if he had had a shimmered with a fierce white glan, and the chance, for then nn beneath his rough exterior cattle raised clouds of dust which well-nigh a vein of sympathy and tenderness that flashed choked us, and at times we almost lost sight of out occasionally like a bit of quarts glinting in the sunlight from out of the dirt around it. all socking at our half of them. We wen We pushed on as fast as possible that day, pipes, and I'll swear that except when our lips for by the next evening we wanted, to at camo had cleaned the dust off you would have taken Blengfell Falls, when we could gut a bit of good our good old blocks for new-shaped clays. feed and a shady rest for a few hours on the day following—Christmas Day—and have a bath Along each side of the road was the came old scene that we had viewed for days and in the lagoon that was always full of the dear, days—the long lank gums with their miserable cold water that fell from fifty feet above on to foliage that seemed to throw no shadow, and a big, flat rock, and then dribbled down into here and then a patch of tea-tree swamp with the pool beyond. It was its skeleton-like sentinels standing in the slimy abont 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the mud. And save in the early morn, whan the next day when we left the road for the Falls, freshness had hardly departed, every bush bird and half an hour later the tired beasts were seemed dumb and too laay to fly, hiding away thrusting their noses into the water, wading in it, till splashing in it, and shoving each somewhen the sun had nearly gone down. other about till all had had a fill. The "doll gray" of the bush is monotonous The old black billy was hung on a stick over weird and melancholy. I verily think —nay, the fln as uaual, and just as the bubbling of if he had not would go mad a man a mate near indicated the time for tea-making him on a drive like that, with the muffled the water my attention was attracted to Nigger Jim. He seem shuffle of the bullocks' feet in the dust ahead of him, and naught but his horse's steady walk ed dreadfully uneasy. He would squat down for all the bit and then get up with a jerk, and You don't feel a to keep him from dreaming. while his big bloodshot eyes wen turned in the inclined to talk much. You feel too lasy, and direction of the lagoon, whioh was fast getting if you open your mouth you can grind your teeth the next second on the grit that floats in, dim as the eventide dnw apace. " Wbat'H the matter, Jim?" I asked him. and no chance to spit it out when you'n as dry "Ghost 'long lagoon, boee," he made answer; As for drinking, you might empty as a bone. " Skinny Dick (one of Blank's station hands) you water-bag befon you'd gone a couple of tell me long time ghost five then." miles, and then have to do without for perhaps I nplied. "Don't talk tommy ••Goon!" the next twenty-eight or thirty. rot, heathen." it you black Billy Brown wa* Whan good oompany. by. Billy Brown was lying stretched out near cattle wen to sundown, and ths came "on ••Did you never hear about the ghost?" he camp," ho ooold tell many a varu or crack a good joke after the junk and damper of the ••don't believe "Not much," I uuwind; evening meal. But he was a devil for drink. Id them." Every penny he earned went in a raaile, and • Well," he uid, •• I don't know that I do the blue-devils wen the as familiar to him as either. Bat the yarn goes that some poor


already soaked.

The horses

saddle he hoisted on his horse every morning at daylight. Sometimes he would be all of a for a week after he had come tremble back from a " soak," and hi* voice would get a pipe in it that had cauesd But I many a laugh. believe he was good at heart. Many a night, when we had lain down with our heads on our saddles and our blankets over us to keep off beastly hot, he would the dew, though it was talk away of the hepes hs had for a happy futun, when he would give up the drink and settle down somewhen. Poor Billy t Born in a cooky's humpy down South, he had left

streaked, although

had had

National Library of Australia


poor goes that some here bjttie blaoks many ipeand a Christmas Eve, I believe yean ago on a—on it and it's said that every time a nigger was, the yarn





his faoe here the ghost appears and bad look to him and any fellows that

he's with." ••Oh, well," I said with a laogb, •• I don't give a blow for spooks. We'U have to tell the chaps when wo get back that we oamped here



all right. a nigger and got on Billy sat op. •• Don't orow awhile yet," he said solemnly. ain't oamped hero afore on a Christmas We





I laughed, It was orow.
ever seen

as solemn as a but Billy was the first time, I think, I had him looking so glum, ezoept after a

'•bender." I tried to start a conversation on something Alter a else, but Billy wm strangely eileni. while I began to feel a bit queer, too, and that btt of stick in my memory as a yarn seemed to half-cooked damper sticks in one's giiaard

when swallowed suddenly. Wo turned in fairly tarty that, night. Billy took the first watch over the oattfe; and saddled rid* roan* them jusi as up his bores to have a I lay down for a sloop, the night was pretty dark, though the stars, shining from an un bright enough to dimly clouded sky, were show everything close around as wall as the misty lagoon in the distance. and slept soundly. I fell asleep quickly walking abont mo Jim woke Ones Nigger 1 gruffly told him to be quiet, «nd nervously. oft* when I heard Billy riding had just doasd I guessed he stopped, and back. He his horse bslorc must have been unsaddling coming to wake me for m# watch. I heard his steps coming towards me A. second for a while, then they ttoppod. of horror, and after Nigger Jim gave a scream I heard Billy aing out: ••Great heavens! the ghost!" sick If 7 heart gave a sudden lump, and a
came over

but before I could walk bounded my standing I where I thought Billy was over to heard a sound that made me jump for my nag, which was hobbled and ne»r at hand, and slip the hobbles off his fast and the bridle over his " mains." head like lightning. The cattle were I jumped on his back without waiting to saddle

me feet,









time, for that matter-


Straight for me I could see the mob of bullocks heading, and sticking my heals in my horse's little sides I made a dash for a bit of scrub a

little sides I made a dash for a bit of scrub a off from the lagoon, and right in front or way that rushing mob, in hope* that the dose timber would divert them and enable me to

escape. it, I forced mv nag into I hardly knew of creepers.



a tangle I did, un

nerved as I was by hearing Nigger Jim's scrtech If I had stayed where I was and Billy's about. first I should have been knocked down and at I knew it was useless to attempt trampled, and to stop the rush. Fortunately the frightened animals want wide of the edge of the scrub, and I was safe I rode back I shouted tor Billy and When I got off and Nigger Jim, but got no answer. saddle, for my hunted around in the dark that Billy and Jim, eiperieared as thinking they both were at the game, had gone after the if they could. I search mob to round them up ed about in the dark tor awhile without finding anything. Than just ahead of mo I saw some little closer, and thing dark on the ground. A Billy, motionless. there I found What a^tate Heavens! I struck a match. t cattle had been over hi* and in The he was pounded him to death. Another figw* lay a ther* was little way off, and when I want over, off him, Nigger Jim with hie clothes torn almost anThis head trampled to a icily. of I reeled and nearly felK Then ihe hem run and I made* the thing swept over me,

md then—l don't know what prompted me —I looked over towards the lagoon. Floating that a something over the water we* a Shape glowered huge and misty and whitawthat term. Tnsff was looked like a great human it that oatosod a colf-sweat an awfulaess about chill to ooae out of my pone, and sent a cold experienced me such as I had never through
before. A bigger tnan

for my




in my






could nOV swal



turned away suddenly, with that motnfhtary view burned into my mind deeper than the newly-burned brand on an unbroken colt, and springing on my nag 1 rode like mad towards Galloping wildly, and urging, my the road. horse with heels and voice, I went like a whirl wind through the bosh, sometimes just missing a tree trunk, and then getting a swipe across the face from a low-down branch. Onie on The dust faster still. the open road I went in a white cloud behind—for I few it ones rose I glancsd back, fearful lest something when was following—and soon the foam fleck* from the hone's mouth bespattered my moleskins.

I hardly dared look to either side, for every ssam,sd a grinning shadow with a mist startled a curlew, by behind, and ones when the horse's gallop, rose suddenly and erosssd the road in front with a weird cry I nearly yelled in my terror. of the ride, or I don't remember-much mon I told the fellows at the township when what I got there. For nearly a fortnight I had brain fever, or something of that kind, and I had been on the bunt. the fellows all swore The local J.P. told me I was cracked when I

the yarn to him on my recovery, and spun spitting on the floor he left suddenly to soothe his feelings at a neighbouring bar. they found Billy and Nigger Jim, Of course As for and put it all down to a cattle rush. what started the cattle going—such things often happened, they said, and not a few reckoned that if we had all been sober Billy and Nigger Jim would have got away all right. Sometimes I fancy that the Shape I saw was manufactured by my excited brain out of a puxiled to know lump of fog, but then I am what my mate and Nigger Jim yelled for. At any rate this I do know—there's not a drover betwixt Melbourne and the Gulf that would camp at Blengfell Falls on a Christmas Eve, ghost or no ghost.

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