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Kowhai Gold

[B. E. Baughan]

page 162

The Hill
Fine fresh mornin'; a real Spring day; Alps a smother of snow,
Sea like a jolly good laugh spread out mile upon mile below,
Kowhai all yellow wi' blossom.… Nor'-east? Nor'-west it'll be, from here.…
Ay!—Sharp and sudden, an' bitter as ever, yonder the Hill stands clear.

…Nothin' to see! Nor there couldn't be anythin' now—only tongueless dust,
Snug and deep down under the tussock.—Keep guard all the same I must!
Never had nerve to revisit the place; nor I'll ever get nerve to quit
Here, where I can have it before me, an' see an' make sure of it.

Snow's the safest; in storms I'm easy; days o' the runnin' fire,
I bother a bit—but it licks the crag, an' never creeps up no higher.
Musterin' days—that's the terrible time!—Sickish I turn an' cold.…
Men—an' dogs!—nosin' over and over … an' what if you up an' told?

Well, you ain't gone back on me yet, old Hill! Nobody's ever knew,
Only me, an' the stars an' sea, in the twenty year—an' you.
page 163 Twenty year! an' only in rains (which I reckoned would help him rot),
Bet you there ain't been more than ten minutes together when I've forgot.

…Winter's evenin' an' wet: an' we'd swagged it twenty-five mile an' more,
An' there was the lights at last, but far; an' he grizzled an' growled an' swore.
An' I was cold, an' I was starvin', an' there, on top o' the Hill,
He angered me so as I struck—By God! but I never meant to kill!

—Here I came, for, wherever you turns, here's the view of It, up an' down,
An' I'm near enough for the papers to tell if anythin's told in town.
Here I've lived, way back in the Bush—dunno what the others think.
They come, an' they go; but my whare's away by itself, an' I don't dare drink.

Men as I've known 'ud ha' carried it off—married, an' started sheep.
Couldn't,—just think o' the woman. … Besides, what if I talk asleep?
Back in the whare there's none to hear, an' the wind it bellows and blows—
Lord! it's lonesome and eerie enough—but it's safe, though. Nobody knows!

page 164

In the dead o' night, arthe very hour, often I wake, an'—Hark!…
Nothin'l only the dreadful sea, tellin' the dreadful dark;
An' they terrible stars a-pointin' at me, witnessin', layin' bare—
An' yet, there's a kind o' little relief that they know, like the Hill: they share.

But I couldn't ha' done wi' lambs, I couldn't ha' stood the face of a child—
There's little kiddies live hereabouts that pretty well drives me wild.
When I have to pass by the schoolhouse door my eyes get sneakin' away;
Turn o' themselves to their own place, there!—waitin' across the Bay.

It's a rummy thing, how the Spring can start, an' the sun keep shinin' still,
Year after year,—an' all the time, That laid up in the Hill.
An' the stars go on, an' the sea goes on, an' the lambs can be born an' be.
You'd ha' thought 'twould ha' changed the world.—It has: but only for him, an' me.

Ay! him in the Hill, an' me outside,—we ain't very far apart;
For the shade o' you shadows my eyes, old Hill, an' the weight o' you tears my heart.

page 165

I struck but once; for twenty years you've held my neck to the knife.
Whether you tell in the end or not,—ain't he had his "life for a life"?

Was that a shake? … Thank God, it wasn't!
Shakes turn me silly with fright,
For then's your chance, if you've got a grudge, to
spit him up into the light.
Well, what if you did, eh? Whiles I fancy hangin' could be no worse.…
Dunno if you been my best o' friends all the while, or my bitterest curse.

Here's the way out, now—over the Point, where the sea-birds swing and dive;
The Hill 'ud be hidden. … An' what do I get, anyway, by bein' alive?
Jump over an' finish it!…
Can't! I can't! I've never had pluck to tell.
I haven't the pluck to hurry that smallest o' steps—from here to Hell.

Well, some day it'll finish itself. I've written it all, so then
Everybody on earth'll know; but I shall ha' done with men.
Poor old Jack, and his Maker to face … but—one bit o' the torment past:
No Hill! —all, everythin', known, an' open, an' public at last!