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Vicissitudes of Bush Life in Australia and New Zealand

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXII.

My experience of life since I arrived at manhood had been on the whole a dreary one. Shut in by the rude surroundings of bush life without the refining effects of female society, whose gentle associations form by far the happiest experiences in the life of man, the deeper feelings of my nature had been left to harden and con tract from the want of sympathy to exercise and keep them expanded; and my late experience of such happy fellowship with a high type of womanhood, such as I had lately enjoyed, was so unlike the general monotony of my previous life that, in contemplating it now, it appeared like a bright star shining through the bank of dark clouds, that elsewhere obscured the sky.

“Truly,” was my sad meditation, with reference to that bright view, “life's clouds had then a silver lining for me.”

And now the brightness of the firmament was again overcast, in the sudden and final eclipse of my hopes. And she, whose beams had shone the brightest of all that fair group that I had so lately contemplated, had now by the clouds of fate been finally withdrawn from my gaze.

A black-edged letter that I about this time received from Scotland announcing the death of my only remaining parent, my noble-hearted mother—for whose sake, with the hope of one day making her in her declining years a partaker of my comforts, I had conjured up many a bright vision—added considerably to my depression and sense of deep loneliness.

In this unhealthy state of mind I continued to go through the dreary round of station duties for some time, until I was at length enabled to procure a sovereign remedy for my mental distemper in more active employment.

Although the lambing season would not come on for months, I roused myself to set about getting all my preparations afoot for developing the plan I had in view for the better management of this operation when the time arrived. I, therefore, at once despatched the station hands, that is, the two bushmen, Billy Stack, the bullock driver, and two other extra hired men, with Charlie Knight, the cook, and with them the bullock team loaded with provisions, tent, and implements to the back country where the ewe flocks, four in number, were to be all lambed. page 143 Macalister, one of these bushmen, a short, stoutly built man, with red bushy whiskers, had served his full term of apprenticeship at a carpenter's bench, and was even accounted an adept at his trade, though preferring the rough-and-ready work of a bush carpenter, at which work, moreover in those days, there was fully as much money to be made in this part of the country as at the more regular work in one of the town workshops. His companion was a tall, muscularly built man named Crawford, or fighting Tom Crawford, as he was more familiarly called from his prowess in pugilistic encounters. He had curly light brown hair, with rather well-formed features, and a complexion that, though at one time probably clear, was now bronzed from long exposure to the Australian sun, and a rather intelligent expression in his face. The pleasing effect of his features was, however, rather neutralised by a recklessness of manner that, almost amounting to rowdyism, made him usually assert a sort of leadership over whatever group of men he happened to be associated with, unless, indeed, with Lilly, whom even Crawford slightly deferred to. He was indeed a splendid specimen of a colonial frontiersman with his reckless daring; a man who regarded with supreme contempt the feather-bed and law-protected amenities of civilised life, and was ever to be found in the foreground of newly occupied territories, securing to himself thereby a higher wage from his life of hazard in such a post, exposed as it was to the truculent attacks of untamed savages; and thus living a life more congenial to his own natural love of adventure and impatience of restraint. He was at bottom a generous-hearted man; such a one as would readily part with all that he possessed to relieve the sufferings of another; yet with his impetuosity of temper, on the other hand, easily engaged in a quarrel; the kind of man, in fact, who, under an overbearing explorer, would be swift to head a mutiny. He was, moreover, a handy, all-round workman, good at any sort of duty required on a station, the chief of these being sheep-shearing, bullock driving, and bush work, as rough carpentry is termed on a station.

Amongst other needful articles I sent out two double-barrelled guns with some powder and shot, more with the object of shooting wild ducks than from any idea of protection against any treacherous proceedings on the part of the natives, from whom, although till then perfect strangers, we indeed apprehended no sort of danger.

This absence of fear on their account was chiefly owing, I believe, to the appearance of the natives themselves. Not only did they appear to be insignificant as to numbers, but those that were there were also insignificant specimens as regards physique, page 144 as is indeed usually the case with the Australian aborigine who inhabits regions where game, and consequently food, is sparsely distributed and difficult of access.

Along with the team there also went a station black fellow to guide them to the place where I designed that they should pitch their tent. This place he knew from having been out there already with me some time before, when I marked the most favourable position for a sheep yard and camp by the side of a deep water-hole, of which there were several others, all being parts of a chain of several deeper bottoms along the line of a shallow watercourse that, with these exceptions, was unable to survive the evaporation caused by the summer sun.

On the third morning after the departure of the dray and men Lilly and I started after them. We had waited until then so as to give them time to reach the camp as soon as we did, for, as the distance was only about forty miles, we concluded we could easily do so in one day.

On the way there a rather amusing episode occurred. We had taken another station black fellow along with us on horseback, with the idea of making him assist in building the brush-yards and other useful jobs that he could turn his hand to. Well, we were approaching the hut where Bellamy lived, at about the middle of the run, rather more than twenty miles from the home station, where we intended stopping to get some luncheon from Mrs. Bellamy, when Lilly, the corners of his eyes deeply wrinkling, as their manner was when any humorous idea crossed his mind, proposed to me to halt in the timber whence a view of anything going on in front of Bellamy's door could be easily obtained, whilst we should remain screened ourselves by the intervening trees, and that we should then send the black fellow forward whilst we watched the scene that Lilly's acquaintance with Mrs. Bellamy's habits made him confidently anticipate would occur between that good woman and black Billy.

Nor was his confidence in this expectation misplaced, for, acquainted with the inordinate bump of curiosity and love of gossip that Mrs. Bellamy was possessed of, the amusement be proposed to rue and to himself was to listen to the torrent of questions that she was sure to put to the black fellow, whose command of English for the carrying on of such a conversation was of the most limited range. Hence the baffled curiosity of the woman, and the spectacle of ludicrous imbecility in the man, constituted the very cream of the entertainment that we now prepared ourselves to enjoy Nor were we disappointed. Shut out, as Mrs. Bellamy was, from intercourse with other women, of whom there were two in other parts of the run—shepherds' page 145 wives—the sight at her door of a station black fellow on horseback, whom she could closely interrogate as to her neighbours' concerns without the necessity of veiling her eagerness by an assumption of indifference, was an occasion for indulging her penchant in that respect that she there and then gratefully availed herself of.

Without even waiting to see if there were any one in Billy's company, or even waiting for the black fellow to dismount from his horse, her exclamation on opening the door as the sound of Billy's approaching horse fell on her ear, was, “Good day, Billy, you come from the station?”

“Yes, me come from station, missus.”

“You want 'em some tea? me give 'em you directly; you see white lubra(woman) Mrs. Campbell?”

“Yes,” said Billy smilingly, “me see 'em.”

“And you see white lubra Mrs. Crow?”

“Yes, me see 'em,” said Billy, now grinning very broadly.

“Me hear 'em Mrs. Campbell no like 'em Mrs. Crow. You hear 'em that?” pursued Mrs. B. eagerly.

“Yes,” said Billy again, smiling approvingly at Mrs. Bellamy.

“What for Mrs. Campbell no like 'em? Mrs. Crow been making some remarks about her, as usual, I suppose,” answered Mrs. Bellamy again, in her keen desire for full particulars on this important subject gradually advancing into a current of English that was completely beyond the depth of Billy's comprehension; but he, feigning the clearest perception of all her ideas on the subject, nodded his head in gracious assent, and with as broad a grin as before.

“Mrs. Crow been saying Mrs. Campbell no good?” Mrs. Bellamy ejaculated, interpreting this nod in the direction of her own thoughts, and putting an eagerly suggestive question in the hopes of information.

“Mrs. Camly no good,” repeated Billy, with evidently very little conception of what the conversation was all about.

“What Mrs. Campbell say?” queried Mrs Bellamy, now moved to an intense pitch of friendly interest in the matters at issue between these two worthy females.

“Mrs. Camly say,” replied Billy, with a rather disappointingly vacant look.

“What?” inquired Mrs. Bellamy in keen expectation.

“Yes;” hereupon Billy again nodded in a highly intelligible manner.

“Mrs. Campbell said something about Mrs. Crow?” interrogated Mrs. Bellamy here, rather sharply.

“Crow,” again repeated Billy, with the evident idea that page 146 Mrs. Bellamy was desiring him to pronounce that word as a slight exercise in English.

“You know Mrs. Crow white lubra—ca, ca,” cried Mrs. Bellamy in a tone of remonstrance, and endeavouring by the utterance of these sounds to direct a ray of light into the darkened mind of Billy, whereby he might apprehend that she was speaking of the woman whose name had a strong connection with the bird.

“Ca, ca, cr-r-a,” answered Billy, giving a decidedly more accurate imitation of the voice of the bird that these sounds represented, and smilingly pointed with his finger to a number of these sable plumaged fowls that were roosting and cawing lustily in some of the neighbouring tree branches, thereby showing how clearly he apprehended what Mrs. Bellamy was talking to him about.

For a moment Mrs. Bellamy's face, as she looked at Billy, presented a good picture of hopeless defeat, then quickly rallying, and assuming a look of great determination, she seized hold of the astonished black fellow by his bare shoulder, for he had by this time dismounted from his horse, and actually shook him, as if with the frantic idea of literally shaking all the information she desired out of him, whilst she shouted to him almost at the top of her voice:—

“What for not you tell me news? What for not you tell me all about white lubra? What for not you tell 'em me what Mrs. Crow say about Mrs. Campbell, and what Mrs. Campbell say about Mrs. Crow? You hear? What for you big one stupid? You tell 'em me what Mrs. Crow——”

Here a loud guffaw from Lilly, unable any longer to control himself at the Judiciousness of this scene, with the spectacle of Mrs. Bellamy thus shaking and shouting to the bewildered and half-frightened black fellow, made her for the first time aware of our proximity, at which she was so much disconcerted, that, quitting her hold of Billy, she hurriedly retreated into the hut. But not for long did she remain in that mood, for, like most talkative persons, she was not easily extinguished; so she soon rallied her courage, and received us with sufficient urbanity as we both entered the hut, having first slipped off the bridles and saddles to let our horses have the benefit of a roll and a feed in a small paddock alongside, whilst we were regaling our own inner men with Mrs. Bellamy's tastefully cooked if but simple fare.

“Well, Mrs. Bellamy,” Lilly remarked on entering the hut, “you seem to have had a hard job in getting any news out of Billy?”

“Dearie me, yes,” she answered, though still a little red in page 147 the face from her late confusion. “I feel so lonely here all by myself and not another white woman within miles of me. So I just wanted to know how Mrs. Crow and Mrs. Campbell were geting on, but I might just as well have talked to a post as to that black fellow, there was no getting him to understand one word that I said to him, till I felt quite provoked with him at last, and got hold of him, and was shaking him, as you and Mr. Farquharson saw me do when you rode up. But I really could not help myself. My friend Mrs. Williams used to say that I was one of the meekest of God's creatures until my spirit was roused, and then, says she, it is ‘stand clear,’ for Mrs. Bellamy's spirit will not be kept in a bottle always, meek as she is generally. ‘And then as for silly gossiping, I do detest it. I never saw a woman like you in my life, Mrs. Bellamy,’ Mrs. Williams used to say; ‘you never seem to concern yourself about any strangers' business at all, as long as you know that your friends are all right in their healths and their private affairs; you might as well live the life of a hermit in the midst of a wilderness, for all the interest you seem to take in the people round you.’ And that's just the way with me, sir, and I am now living in a wilderness sure enough, little as Mrs. Williams thought as I ever should, when she made that remark. As long as I know that my friends and neighbours are well, and not falling out with one another, I never trouble myself about them. Although when I do hear of anything being amiss with them I like to know all about it, so that I may be able to put in a neighbourly word like, or speak my mind out when I know any one is acting contrary to her duty and not keeping herself to herself, and having untidy houses and dirty children. These are things I don't like, and I say so too to the women's faces, as well as behind their backs. Mrs. Williams always used to tell me, ‘I can never go to any house that is so tidy and well kept and the children so clean as in your house, Mrs. Bellamy’; and of course I always try to keep both my house, and children, and husband tidy, for I think this is a woman's duty, and not gossiping, and idling about, and neglecting what they ought to be looking after at home.”

“You are right there, Mrs.,” replied Lilly, when Mrs. Bellamy's voluble exposition of her various intrinsic qualities, as verified by the testimony of her friend, Mrs. Williams, had at last been exhausted; “you are right, Mrs.,” he continued, though in a tone of light sarcasm, that the other however did not observe, “a man might well excuse any amount of talking in a woman, who can show him such a clean wife to look at in herself, and such tidiness in her house as this;” and he glanced at the same time from the spotless figure of the comely but loquacious page 148 matron, to the apartment in which we were then sitting at table; and the room was well worth looking at; for every article in it was clean and tidy, and the tinware and even the iron hoops on the wash-tub, and barrel-churn were scoured and shining like polished steel. In every direction, indeed, our eyes were gratified, though their pleasure was paid for by the trial to the ears. Mrs. Bellamy had three children, quiet, chubby, curly-headed little urchins, whose sameness of dress and heavy, stolid phlegmatic features prevented there being any visible difference between them, though I believe one of them was a girl. Bellamy himself was out in the run. After thanking this good woman for her savoury meal, Lilly and I, accompanied by Billy, who had not been neglected by Mrs. Bellamy, in spite of her late sense of exasperation against him, mounted our horses and resumed our journey.

Instead of holding a straight course from Bellamy's hut towards our destination, we inclined our horses a little to one side; as there was a shepherd's hut about four miles from Bellamy's place that I wanted to visit, as I was desirous of having some conversation with the hntkeeper.

This hutkeeper was none other than Lilly's simple-hearted friend, William Lampiere, to whom the reader has already been introduced; and for whom I bad, shortly after his coming to the station, procured this occupation. The occupation of hut-keeping, that is in reality the laziest and commands the least pay on a sheep station, had been chosen by Lampiere in preference to that of a shepherd (the choice having been offered him) and that too by Lilly's express advice, who recommended that course to him for a short time, so as to have a proper opportunity of getting his hand in at cooking, and thereby gaining some sort of practical knowledge of a subject, that makes an important item in the education of a good all-round bushman, as Lilly expressed it.

My idea was now to promote Lampiere in his wages and office at the same time. He had now been over six months at this employment, quite sufficient, with Lilly and Cabbagetree Jack's previous instructions, to enable him to have put into practice their rules for all the requirements of good bush cooking. I knew, therefore, that he himself was by this time anxious for an opportunity of gaining some other experience of the duties that help to constitute a handy man on a station.

As the shepherd for whom be was hutkeeping was tending a flock of ewes that were soon to be shifted out to the back country to which we were then journeying to prepare for their arrival, I bad resolved to ask Lampiere to take part in the coming lambing operations, and as the work I designed for page 149 him there—viz., tending the ewes with lambs—was one more suited to qualities that Lampiere seemed by nature endowed with, that is, patience and gentleness, rather than to require any amount of previous experience as shepherd, I thought he would be very well adapted for this post. His weakness of eyesight was indeed a serious drawback, but this unfortunate defect of nature I felt assured would be amply compensated for by his conscientious attention to his duty in other respects.

Moreover, Lilly, with whom I had first spoken, ere deciding upon this step (for the reader must know that for the coming operations I was taking with me none but carefully selected hands), warmly approved of my suggestion, and ventured to guarantee that after Lampiere had received some hints from himself for his guidance in the management of his new charge that I should have reason for feeling as fully, if not more, satisfied with my choice of Lampiere than of any other man I should have with me at the work. At this point, I may state, without troubling the reader with details, that for my success in my lambing operations, my chief dependence was on the security of all my yards, which with great pains I had made thoroughly dog proof. I also conceived the original idea of having all ewes with twin lambs tended separately, from which in the event of a death, I readily supplied the loss with a twin lamb, covered with the skin of a dead one. Also the four ewe flocks were lambed at two separate stations, that is, two at each—the flocks being timed to lamb in rotation to suit this arrangement. These lambing stations were put each under the charge of an efficient manager. Of these two managers, one was a new arrival, named Mulray, who had been highly recommended to me for the post by Lilly, who was well acquainted with him; the other was one of the married shepherds on the station, named Campbell. With Campbell was the other married man, Crow, in attendance with one of the ewe flocks, and another station shepherd with the other, while Burrell and another shepherd were with Mulray — with whom also Lampiere went to tend the stronger lambs—while a new man named Harvey did the like for Campbell, Besides these, there were blacks engaged to look after the younger lambs at both stations.

A half-hour's ride brought us to Lampiere's hut, on nearing which we observed him sitting outside on a log, and closely engrossed in the perusal of a novel. So interested was he in it that he did not observe us until we were close up to where he was sitting. On his attention being at last aroused by the sound of the trampling of our horses, when we were so near him that, short-sighted as he was, he was able to at once recognise who we were, he first gave a hurried glance over to his water bucket, page 150 which, proving to be empty, he instantly seized, and sprang down towards the water-hole with such nervous haste, that his foot caught in the root of a tree, and he was sent sprawling headlong down a rather steep bank to the water's edge. “Evidently Lampiere has not forgotten your injunction to endanger his very neck rather than be slow to attend to a traveller's wants,” I remarked with a smile to Lilly, on witnessing this extraordinary feat. “The soft greenhorn,” replied Lilly, the crow's-feet again deeply indenting and radiating from the corners of his eyes, in his intense amusement at this proof of Lampiere's faithful attentions to his injunctions on the matter of hospitality to all callers at his hut, “he swallows everything like gospel truth that a cove chooses to stuff him with, but he's a good-hearted, honest chap for all that.” “Hilloa, young fellow, what do you mean by going head-foremost down the bank like that? do you want to break your silly neck? Take your time, man, we're all right. I am glad to see that you were paying such attention to the directions I gave you, about slinging your billy the moment you saw any callers coining to your hut; but I did not mean you to break your neck altogether, though I told you to do it. How are you getting on, lad?” Whilst shaking him heartily by the hand, Lampiere's face bore testimony to the unfeigned pleasure which Lilly's presence gave him. Lilly continued, on entering the hut: “Oh, you seem to have things pretty tidy and clean; that's right, you will make a good all-round hand on a station yet, but you needn't bother making tea, Mr. Farquharson and I have just had dinner about half-an-hour ago, at Bellamy's hut, Bellamy was away with rations to one of the huts; we didn't see him. Let me see what sort of bread you are making.”

On this Lampiere handed him a cut loaf of hop manufacture, that Lilly critically examined and tasted, and then said approvingly, “Yes, that will do; not bad at all; no man need complain of such bread as that; you are doing very well, lad”.

Lampiere's hut, like the generality of huts of this kind, was simple and rude enough in its description. It was in size 10 × 12 feet, built of logs laid horizontally upon one another, and plastered in the crevices with mud. The ample fireplace, almost like another smaller apartment joined on to the end of the hut, and its chimney, when seen from a distance, together with the hut's retreating hip-bark roof, really appeared to have no connection with the body of the building. The floor of the hut was simply the clayey ground, worn into large hollows by the friction of feet and other causes, but kept cleanly swept with a brush broom. The furniture, that consisted of a table page 151 and two forms, was of the rudest description, being made of slabs smoothed by the adze, and further polished by long usage. I spoke to Lampiere about the purpose for which I had come to see him, and asked him if he was agreeable to this change of duty. For this work the pay that I proposed giving the men was £1 5s. a week; besides, by attention to their work, they had the opportunity of making, in the liberal percentage I was allowing them, 2s. for every lamb over ninety to every hundred ewes. My offer Lampiere very thankfully accepted.

Although I always avoided any appearance of haughtiness in my manner with the men, always making it a rule to speak to them quietly and straight to the point in connection with their duties, yet I always preserved a due distance between us such as became my superior office, though the line that marked that distance was never of so frigid a character as to prevent a kindly greeting or the exchange of an occasional jest between us. But I observed of Lampiere, with some inward amusement, that he never seemed to be able to overcome a sort of respectful awe in my presence, and never ventured to address me or reply to my remarks save in a tone of the most deferential respect; yet I shrewdly surmised that this deference was occasioned as much by gratitude for the boon I had been able to confer upon him in providing him with work when he was in such indigence, as from any feeling of inferiority or meanness of spirit. Of course, mentally and by education and family he was quite on an equal footing with me, and, indeed, in the latter respect, rather above me. But he seemed to be naturally of a diffident and sensitive disposition. This, however, only the more recommended him to my inward regard, and made me resolve to quietly encourage and favour him whenever I saw an opportunity of so doing. With Lilly, on the other hand, to whose kindness he in reality owed the most, as it was he who had brought him first under my notice, and whose recommendation had prevented my regarding him as only one of the many hard-up swaggers to whose earnest solicitings for a job I was obliged to turn a deaf ear, with him, I say, Lampiere experienced no such feelings of diffidence. But Lilly, having no official position to maintain (he would have ignored the necessity for it if he had), assumed airs of superiority over no one. A plain man by nature as well as in his surroundings, the highest flights of fortune would only have left Lilly as he was, as he himself expressed it when observing any indications in a new man to show him any deference in virtue of his confidential position on the station. “I'm a working man like yourself, mate, and I want to be nothing else but a working man.” And, indeed, a persistent page 152 disposition in any man to “Mister” or “Sir” him only provoked Lilly's contempt, as he regarded it as but a sign of toadyism or “crawling,” to which he had a peculiar aversion. Out of the sheer force of his character he could make the most refractory looking man, when under him, do his bidding without a word.

With Lilly, therefore, Lampiere was always quite at home, whilst with me he was always on the very tip-top of respectful attention.

“What is this, Lampiere?” I demanded, on concluding my business conversation with him. This sudden query referred to some sheets of writing I happened to observe at the head of his bunk, and on which, as being softer than the form, I had taken the liberty of sitting. By the regular appearance of the lines of the writing I at once concluded it to be some form of verse. “Has the muse been visiting you lately?”

“Oh, sir,” replied Lampiere shyly, “I don't know that it is worthy of such a pretentious character; it is just some verses I have been writing lately to while away the time.”

“May I look at them?” I asked, at the same time taking up one of the sheets in my hand.

“Oh, certainly, sir.”

“Yes, read it out, Mr. Farquharson,” Lilly eagerly requested.

“Well, just allow me to glance over the lines myself first, that I may be able to read them better on a second trial.”

This I did, and found it no very difficult task either, as Lampiere wrote a very legible hand. The matter, too, I thought by no means indifferent. However, the reader may judge for himself.

As I read, Lilly signified his satisfaction at the contents by sundry slaps with his hand on the table and such comments as “Well, that's jolly good!” “Capital!” “Why, Burns couldn't beat that!” etc.

The subject was indeed one that Lilly could fully appreciate, the poem being entitled

A Hutkeeper's Addres to a Traveller.
The sun is sinking in the west,
Then, mate, lay down your swag;
Here you will find both food and rest,
No thanks for that I beg.

My ration bag just now contains
Both plenty and to spare;
But while one single pound remains,
That pound I'll freely share.

page 153

Then if your things with dirt look done,
In going be not rash;
For I have soap, if yon have none;
Then stay with me and wash.

Tobacco, too, I have to spare,
With which you may make free;
Then come, sit down, draw in your chair,
And fill your pint with tea.

Affairs look worse now every day,
Wages are falling fast;
Australia's sun has set for aye,
Her golden days are past.

The rich have now the upper hand,
A power that they will keep;
That they will use throughout this land
To make the poor man weep.

The grinding, avaricious crew,
Their fellow-creatures' bane,
Who still their mammon god pursue;
All hope from them is vain.

Hear ye not how the heathen rage,
And mark their bitter frown—
Their endless cry, “The poor man's wage,
Still, still let us bring down!”

But rest you, mate, awhile with me,
And shake off your fatigue,
For you will travel yet, I fear,
Full many a weary league.

“Well, I be blowed,” remarked Lilly on my concluding, “if that isn't as fine a poem as ever I heard. I have only one fault to find with it, and that is where the hutkeeper asked the traveller to draw in his chair. Now there are no chairs in shepherds' huts, and consequently that remark is not natural, and looks like an idea that has no right to be there. But all the rest is so natural, that I could fancy I could hear the hutkeeper speaking, and saying things that I should most likely have said myself—only a heap nicer put—to a poor, hard-up traveller. Now, Mr. Farquharson, you who are a good scholar, and know when a poem is properly made, don't you think that there is true genius in that poem? It seems to be so well metred, too.”

I replied that I certainly thought this performance very creditable, and, for the occasion, very natural.

“Did you ever send any of your verses to the newspapers for insertion, Lampiere?” I asked.

page 154

“I, sir?” replied Lampiere with an astonished look, as if to such a pinnacle of ambitious distinction he had never dared, even in his fondest thoughts, to soar. “No, I've never dreamt of such a thing. You surely don't think, sir, that an editor would put such verses as those into the poets' comer of his paper?”

“Well, if you have no objections to trust them to me, I shall be better able to answer your question a few weeks hence; meanwhile, I think them good enough for the poets' corner of the Sydney Morning Herald, to which I will send them when I return from the back country. I think I have seen worse verses than these in the same journal.”

“I shall feel extremely obliged to you, sir, if you will be so kind.”

“Then you had better take a copy of them in case they should be rejected and consigned to the waste-paper basket, if you do not wish to lose them altogether after your trouble in composing them.”

“Oh! no danger of that, sir, I have them securely stowed away in the safe store-house of memory.”

“Why, Bill,” demanded Lilly in surprise at this statement, “do you mean to say that you can keep all your poetry in your head after you have written it down?”

“Well, yes, Lilly, I can mostly do so.”

“You must have a wonderful mind then, sure.”

“Oh no, I don't see how that should follow. Don't you see I never commit my verses to paper, till I have them thoroughly fixed in my mind; so that all the time I am composing them I am actually committing them to memory, just as I should do any other poetry, by repeating it over, and over again, till my mind is made thoroughly familiar with them.”

Lilly still seemed to think it a wonderful proof of the power of his mind in spite of that, and he said so.

“What does your companion Burrel think of your taste for poetry? I suppose you show him your verses sometimes?” I now asked Lampiere.

“Oh, yes, sir, Burrel and I get on very well together on this subject; he is a poet himself.”

“Barrel a poet!” I repeated with some surprise, as I recalled the grave, but shrewd looking countenance of the person in question; “why nothing would be further from my mind than to imagine him guilty of such a weakness, with his dry, caustic, way of speaking; I should be rather inclined to think he was made out of the stuff that cynic philosophers are fashioned from.”

“Oh, that is only his way, sir,” replied Lampiere smiling, page 155 “but below that unpromising surface, there is a soft enough vein of poetry for all that. I was very much surprised on my first discovery of his poetic taste, that he kept very quiet, until he noticed me scribbling away at some verses one night, when on looking over what I had been writing, he all at once came out of his shell, and we have got on capitally together, with our mutual weakness for poetry, ever since then. But he affects more of the Tennysonian style, and writes a good deal about old ruins, and other such like dreamy subjects.”

“Stuff and rubbish!” ejaculated Lilly contemptuously, “give me something that has some grit in it, and that I can understand, like your ‘Hutkeeper's Address’; that's the sort of poetry I like, such as Burn's ‘Man was made to mourn’ or better still, his ‘Tarn o' Shanter,’ or his ‘Twa Dogs,’ before all the moonshine that these dreamy poets rave and sicken about. It may be all very well for young boarding-school misses, to read such sentimental stuff as that; but there's not enough grit in such subjects for the brains of common working men like me to lay hold of.”

The effect of this interesting discussion, of which the part here recorded is a fair sample, was, that on our attention being at length called to the business we had on hand, we found that we had insensibly allowed the afternoon to wear away to a considerable extent—as, on going to the door, our lengthened shadows (the bushman's clock) testified—so that the idea of continuing our journey that day, where there was no road, with a moonless night coming on, was voted impracticable.

Lampiere, to ensure us ample comfort, if we would consent to pass the night where we were, instantly volunteered to surrender his own bed to me, and ventured to promise as much for his friend, on Lilly's behalf, as he said they could make up a shakedown on the floor for themselves, with the blankets we had on our saddles.

This course was eventually agreed upon, both Barrel and Lampiere over-ruling all our objections to the idea of their vacating their comfortable beds for our sakes.

Having decided upon staying, we at once ungirthed our saddles, and hobbling the three horses, let them feed about the hut, giving Billy a charge to keep his eyes on their movements the last thing at night, so as no unnecessary time might be lost in the morning in seeking them.

The sun was dipping beneath the glowing horizon as Burrel put his sheep in the yard and shortly afterwards entered the hut, and he was not a little surprised at finding guests for the night. He, as I have already remarked, was a quiet, but extremely shrewd looking man, of a slight build, with rather a warm page 156 complexion. He might have been about five and twenty years of age. Looking at him now with more interest, in the light of the knowledge of his latent tastes, I observed that his forehead, though not uncommon in size, was well proportioned, with the organs of ideality well defined.

Well, we passed the night there very agreeably. Burrel was one of my favourite shepherds, whom I had always noted for his regularity, and the uniformly thriving appearance which his sheep always presented. During the evening he was induced to recite some of his poetical compositions. These appeared to be of a very thoughtful cast, and the lines particularly smoothly measured, a feature not so characteristic of Lampiere's productions, though these latter to my mind seemed to lay claim to a greater degree of rugged strength than those of his friend.

Even Lilly, despite his repugnance to this class of poetry, inclined at last to think favourably of Burrel's talents, though still far and away preferring Lampiere's “Hutkeeper's Address” to the best of them. But then of course Lilly judged by mere impressions. Of artistic rules of criticism he was wholly ignorant, “and willing to remain so,” he emphatically remarked. Yet, I doubt if he really spoke what he thought when he ventured to compare the last verses of Lampiere's “Hutkeeper's Address” to Burns' wondrous dirge, “Man was made to mourn”.

We in time retired to our beds—Lilly and I to Lampiere's and Burrel's comfortable bunks, and the latter in our blankets, and stretched on some sheepskins on the floor, while at the further end of the hut, next the fire, Billy, to his own entire satisfaction, lay coiled up on two more sheepskins. Sheepskins, indeed, at that period might have been termed the staple material for bush mattresses, though bushmen since then have awakened to the knowledge of their unhealthy properties, and have begun to object to their use.