THREE ELEPHANT POWER
AND OTHER STORIES
by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson
[Australian Poet, Reporter—1864-1941.]
[Note on text: These stories appeared originally
THREE ELEPHANT POWER
THE CAST-IRON CANVASSER
THE MERINO SHEEP
THE DOWNFALL OF MULLIGAN'S
THE AMATEUR GARDENER
DAN FITZGERALD EXPLAINS
SITTING IN JUDGMENT
THE DOG—AS A SPORTSMAN
CONCERNING A STEEPLECHASE RIDER
CONCERNING A DOG-FIGHT
DONE FOR THE DOUBLE, By Knott Gold
Chapter I.—WANTED, A PONY
Chapter II.—BLINKY BILL'S SACRIFICE
Chapter III.—EXIT ALGY
Chapter IV.—RUNNING THE RULE
Chapter V.—THE TRICKS OF THE TURF
THREE ELEPHANT POWER
"Them things," said Alfred the chauffeur, tapping the speed indicator with
his fingers, "them things are all right for the police. But, Lord, you
can fix 'em up if you want to. Did you ever hear about Henery, that used
to drive for old John Bull—about Henery and the elephant?"
Alfred was chauffeur to a friend of mine who owned a very powerful car.
Alfred was part of that car. Weirdly intelligent, of poor physique, he
might have been any age from fifteen to eighty. His education had been
somewhat hurried, but there was no doubt as to his mechanical ability.
He took to a car like a young duck to water. He talked motor, thought
motor, and would have accepted—I won't say with enthusiasm, for Alfred's
motto was 'Nil admirari'—but without hesitation, an offer to drive in
the greatest race in the world. He could drive really well, too; as for
belief in himself, after six months' apprenticeship in a garage he was
prepared to vivisect a six-cylinder engine with the confidence of a
diplomaed bachelor of engineering.
Barring a tendency to flash driving, and a delight in persecuting slow
cars by driving just in front of them and letting them come up and enjoy
his dust, and then shooting away again, he was a respectable member of
society. When his boss was in the car he cloaked the natural ferocity of
his instincts; but this day, with only myself on board, and a clear run
of a hundred and twenty miles up to the station before him, he let her
loose, confident that if any trouble occurred I would be held morally
As we flew past a somnolent bush pub, Alfred, whistling softly, leant
forward and turned on a little more oil.
"You never heard about Henery and the elephant?" he said. "It was dead
funny. Henery was a bushwacker, but clean mad on motorin'. He was wood
and water joey at some squatter's place until he seen a motor-car go
past one day, the first that ever they had in the districk.
"'That's my game,' says Henery; 'no more wood and water joey for me.'
"So he comes to town and gets a job off Miles that had that garage at the
back of Allison's. An old cove that they called John Bull—I don't know
his right name, he was a fat old cove—he used to come there to hire
cars, and Henery used to drive him. And this old John Bull he had lots
of stuff, so at last he reckons he's going to get a car for himself, and
he promises Henery a job to drive it. A queer cove this Henery was—half
mad, I think, but the best hand with a car ever I see."
While he had been talking we topped a hill, and opened up a new stretch of
blue-grey granite-like road. Down at the foot of the hill was a
teamster's waggon in camp; the horses in their harness munching at their
nose-bags, while the teamster and a mate were boiling a billy a little
off to the side of the road. There was a turn in the road just below the
waggon which looked a bit sharp, so of course Alfred bore down on it
like a whirlwind. The big stupid team-horses huddled together and pushed
each other awkwardly as we passed. A dog that had been sleeping in the
shade of the waggon sprang out right in front of the car, and was
exterminated without ever knowing what struck him.
There was just room to clear the tail of the waggon and negotiate the
turn. Alfred, with the calm decision of a Napoleon, swung round the bend
to find that the teamster's hack, fast asleep, was tied to the tail of
the waggon. Nothing but a lightning-like twist of the steering-wheel
prevented our scooping the old animal up, and taking him on board as a
passenger. As it was, we carried off most of his tail as a trophy on the
brass of the lamp. The old steed, thus rudely awakened, lashed out good
and hard, but by that time we were gone, and he missed the car by a
quarter of a mile.
During this strenuous episode Alfred never relaxed his professional
stolidity, and, when we were clear, went on with his story in the tone
of a man who found life wanting in animation.
"Well, at fust, the old man would only buy one of these little eight-horse
rubby-dubbys that go strugglin' up 'ills with a death-rattle in its
throat, and all the people in buggies passin' it. O' course that didn't
suit Henery. He used to get that spiked when a car passed him, he'd
nearly go mad. And one day he nearly got the sack for dodgin' about up a
steep 'ill in front of one o' them big twenty-four Darracqs, full of
'owlin' toffs, and not lettin' 'em get a chance to go past till they got
to the top. But at last he persuaded old John Bull to let him go to
England and buy a car for him. He was to do a year in the shops, and
pick up all the wrinkles, and get a car for the old man. Bit better than
wood and water joeying, wasn't it?"
Our progress here was barred by our rounding a corner right on to a flock
of sheep, that at once packed together into a solid mass in front of us,
blocking the whole road from fence to fence.
"Silly cows o' things, ain't they?" said Alfred, putting on his emergency
brake, and skidding up till the car came softly to rest against the
cushion-like mass—a much quicker stop than any horse-drawn vehicle could
have made. A few sheep were crushed somewhat, but it is well known that
a sheep is practically indestructible by violence. Whatever Alfred's
faults were, he certainly could drive.
"Well," he went on, lighting a cigarette, unheeding the growls of the
drovers, who were trying to get the sheep to pass the car, "well, as I
was sayin', Henery went to England, and he got a car. Do you know wot he
"No, I don't."
"'E got a ninety," said Alfred slowly, giving time for the words to soak
"A ninety! What do you mean?"
"'E got a ninety—a ninety-horse-power racin' engine wot was made for some
American millionaire and wasn't as fast as wot some other millionaire
had, so he sold it for the price of the iron, and Henery got it, and had
a body built for it, and he comes out here and tells us all it's a
twenty mongrel—you know, one of them cars that's made part in one place
and part in another, the body here and the engine there, and the
radiator another place. There's lots of cheap cars made like that.
"So Henery he says that this is a twenty mongrel—only a four-cylinder
engine; and nobody drops to what she is till Henery goes out one Sunday
and waits for the big Napier that Scotty used to drive—it belonged to
the same bloke wot owned that big racehorse wot won all the races. So
Henery and Scotty they have a fair go round the park while both their
bosses is at church, and Henery beat him out o' sight—fair lost him—and
so Henery was reckoned the boss of the road. No one would take him on
A nasty creek-crossing here required Alfred's attention. A little girl,
carrying a billy-can of water, stood by the stepping stones, and smiled
shyly as we passed. Alfred waved her a salute quite as though he were an
ordinary human being. I felt comforted. He had his moments of relaxation
evidently, and his affections like other people.
"What happened to Henry and the ninety-horse machine?" I asked. "And where
does the elephant come in?"
Alfred smiled pityingly.
"Ain't I tellin' yer," he said. "You wouldn't understand if I didn't tell
yer how he got the car and all that. So here's Henery," he went on,
"with old John Bull goin' about in the fastest car in Australia, and old
John, he's a quiet old geezer, that wouldn't drive faster than the
regulations for anything, and that short-sighted he can't see to the
side of the road. So what does Henery do? He fixes up the
speed-indicator—puts a new face on it, so that when the car is doing
thirty, the indicator only shows fifteen, and twenty for forty, and so
on. So out they'd go, and if Henery knew there was a big car in front of
him, he'd let out to forty-five, and the pace would very near blow the
whiskers off old John; and every now and again he'd look at the
indicator, and it'd be showin' twenty-two and a half, and he'd say:
"'Better be careful, Henery, you're slightly exceedin' the speed limit;
twenty miles an hour, you know, Henery, should be fast enough for
anybody, and you're doing over twenty-two.'
"Well, one day, Henery told me, he was tryin' to catch up a big car that
just came out from France, and it had a half-hour start of him, and he
was just fairly flyin', and there was a lot of cars on the road, and he
flies past 'em so fast the old man says, 'It's very strange, Henery,' he
says, 'that all the cars that are out to-day are comin' this way,' he
says. You see he was passin' 'em so fast he thought they were all comin'
"And Henery sees a mate of his comin', so he lets out a notch or two, and
the two cars flew by each other like chain lightnin'. They were each
doin' about forty, and the old man, he says, 'There's a driver must be
travellin' a hundred miles an hour,' he says. 'I never see a car go by
so fast in my life,' he says. 'If I could find out who he is, I'd report
him,' he says. 'Did you know the car, Henery?' But of course Henery, he
doesn't know, so on they goes.
"The owner of the big French car thinks he has the fastest car in
Australia, and when he sees Henery and the old man coming, he tells his
driver to let her out a little; but Henery gives the ninety-horse the
full of the lever, and whips up alongside in one jump. And then he keeps
there just half a length ahead of him, tormentin' him like. And the
owner of the French car he yells out to old John Bull, 'You're going a
nice pace for an old 'un,' he says. Old John has a blink down at the
indicator. 'We're doing twenty-five,' he yells out. 'Twenty-five
grandmothers,' says the bloke; but Henery he put on his accelerator, and
left him. It wouldn't do to let the old man get wise to it, you know."
We topped a big hill, and Alfred cut off the engine and let the car swoop,
as swiftly and noiselessly as an eagle, down to the flat country below.
"You're a long while coming to the elephant, Alfred," I said.
"Well, now, I'll tell you about the elephant," said Alfred, letting his
clutch in again, and taking up the story to the accompaniment of the
rhythmic throb of the engine.
"One day Henery and the old man were going out a long trip over the
mountain, and down the Kangaroo Valley Road that's all cut out of the
side of the 'ill. And after they's gone a mile or two, Henery sees a
track in the road—the track of the biggest car he ever seen or 'eard of.
An' the more he looks at it, the more he reckons he must ketch that car
and see what she's made of. So he slows down passin' two yokels on the
road, and he says, 'Did you see a big car along 'ere?'
"'Yes, we did,' they says.
"'How big is she?' says Henery.
"'Biggest car ever we see,' says the yokels, and they laughed that silly
way these yokels always does.
"'How many horse-power do you think she was?' says Henery.
"'Horse-power,' they says; 'elephant-power, you mean! She was three
elephant-power,' they says; and they goes 'Haw, haw!' and Henery drops
his clutch in, and off he goes after that car."
Alfred lit another cigarette as a preliminary to the climax.
"So they run for miles, and all the time there's the track ahead of 'em,
and Henery keeps lettin' her out, thinkin' that he'll never ketch that
car. They went through a town so fast, the old man he says, 'What house
was that we just passed,' he says. At last they come to the top of the
big 'ill, and there's the tracks of the big car goin' straight down
ahead of 'em.
"D'you know that road? It's all cut out of the side of the mountain, and
there's places where if she was to side-slip you'd go down 'undreds of
thousands of feet. And there's sharp turns, too; but the surface is
good, so Henery he lets her out, and down they go, whizzin' round the
turns and skatin' out near the edge, and the old cove sittin' there
enjoyin' it, never knowin' the danger. And comin' to one turn Henery
gives a toot on the 'orn, and then he heard somethin' go 'toot, toot'
right away down the mountain.
"'Bout a mile ahead it seemed to be, and Henery reckoned he'd go another
four miles before he'd ketch it, so he chances them turns more than
ever. And she was pretty hot, too; but he kept her at it, and he hadn't
gone a full mile till he come round a turn about forty miles an hour,
and before he could stop he run right into it, and wot do you think it
I hadn't the faintest idea.
"A circus. One of them travellin' circuses, goin' down the coast; and one
of the elephants had sore feet, so they put him in a big waggon, and
another elephant pulled in front and one pushed behind. Three
elephant-power it was, right enough. That was the waggon wot made the
big track. Well, it was all done so sudden. Before Henery could stop, he
runs the radiator—very near boiling she was—up against the elephant's
tail, and prints the pattern of the latest honeycomb radiator on the
elephant as clear as if you done it with a stencil.
"The elephant, he lets a roar out of him like one of them bulls bellerin',
and he puts out his nose and ketches Henery round the neck, and yanks
him out of the car, and chucks him right clean over the cliff, 'bout a
thousand feet. But he never done nothin' to the old bloke."
"Well, it finished Henery, killed him stone dead, of course, and the old
man he was terrible cut up over losin' such a steady, trustworthy man.
'Never get another like him,' he says."
We were nearly at our journey's end, and we turned through a gate into the
home paddocks. Some young stock, both horses and cattle, came frisking
and cantering after the car, and the rough bush track took all Alfred's
attention. We crossed a creek, the water swishing from the wheels, and
began the long pull up to the homestead. Over the clamour of the
little-used second speed, Alfred concluded his narrative.
"The old bloke advertised," he said, "for another driver, a steady,
reliable man to drive a twenty horse-power, four-cylinder touring car.
Every driver in Sydney put in for it. Nothing like a fast car to fetch
'em, you know. And Scotty got it. Him wot used to drive the Napier I was
tellin' you about."
"And what did the old man say when he found he'd been running a racing
"He don't know now. Scotty never told 'im. Why should he? He's drivin'
about the country now, the boss of the roads, but he won't chance her
near a circus. Thinks he might bump the same elephant. And that
elephant, every time he smells a car passin' in the road, he goes near
mad with fright. If he ever sees that car again, do you think he'd know
Not being used to elephants, I could not offer an opinion.
No tram ever goes to Randwick races without him; he is always fat, hairy,
and assertive; he is generally one of a party, and takes the centre of
the stage all the time—collects and hands over the fares, adjusts the
change, chaffs the conductor, crushes the thin, apologetic stranger next
him into a pulp, and talks to the whole compartment as if they had asked
for his opinion.
He knows all the trainers and owners, or takes care to give the impression
that he does. He slowly and pompously hauls out his race book, and one
of his satellites opens the ball by saying, in a deferential way:
"What do you like for the 'urdles, Charley?"
The Oracle looks at the book and breathes heavily; no one else ventures to
"Well," he says, at last, "of course there's only one in it—if he's
wanted. But that's it—will they spin him? I don't think they will.
They's only a lot o' cuddies, any'ow."
No one likes to expose his own ignorance by asking which horse he refers
to as the "only one in it"; and the Oracle goes on to deal out some more
wisdom in a loud voice.
"Billy K—— told me" (he probably hardly knows Billy K—— by sight) "Billy
K—— told me that that bay 'orse ran the best mile-an'-a-half ever done
on Randwick yesterday; but I don't give him a chance, for all that;
that's the worst of these trainers. They don't know when their horses
are well—half of 'em."
Then a voice comes from behind him. It is that of the thin man, who is
crushed out of sight by the bulk of the Oracle.
"I think," says the thin man, "that that horse of Flannery's ought to run
well in the Handicap."
The Oracle can't stand this sort of thing at all. He gives a snort, wheels
half-round and looks at the speaker. Then he turns back to the
compartment full of people, and says: "No 'ope."
The thin man makes a last effort. "Well, they backed him last night,
"Who backed 'im?" says the Oracle.
"In Tattersall's," says the thin man.
"I'm sure," says the Oracle; and the thin man collapses.
On arrival at the course, the Oracle is in great form. Attended by his
string of satellites, he plods from stall to stall staring at the
horses. Their names are printed in big letters on the stalls, but the
Oracle doesn't let that stop his display of knowledge.
"'Ere's Blue Fire," he says, stopping at that animal's stall, and swinging
his race book. "Good old Blue Fire!" he goes on loudly, as a little
court collects. "Jimmy B——" (mentioning a popular jockey) "told me he
couldn't have lost on Saturday week if he had only been ridden
different. I had a good stake on him, too, that day. Lor', the races
that has been chucked away on this horse. They will not ride him right."
A trainer who is standing by, civilly interposes. "This isn't Blue Fire,"
he says. "Blue Fire's out walking about. This is a two-year-old filly
that's in the stall——"
"Well, I can see that, can't I," says the Oracle, crushingly. "You don't
suppose I thought Blue Fire was a mare, did you?" and he moves off
"Now, look here, you chaps," he says to his followers at last. "You wait
here. I want to go and see a few of the talent, and it don't do to have
a crowd with you. There's Jimmy M—— over there now" (pointing to a
leading trainer). "I'll get hold of him in a minute. He couldn't tell me
anything with so many about. Just you wait here."
He crushes into a crowd that has gathered round the favourite's stall, and
overhears one hard-faced racing man say to another, "What do you like?"
to which the other answers, "Well, either this or Royal Scot. I think
I'll put a bit on Royal Scot." This is enough for the Oracle. He doesn't
know either of the men from Adam, or either of the horses from the great
original pachyderm, but the information will do to go on with. He
rejoins his followers, and looks very mysterious.
"Well, did you hear anything?" they say.
The Oracle talks low and confidentially.
"The crowd that have got the favourite tell me they're not afraid of
anything but Royal Scot," he says. "I think we'd better put a bit on
"What did the Royal Scot crowd say?" asks an admirer deferentially.
"Oh, they're going to try and win. I saw the stable commissioner, and he
told me they were going to put a hundred on him. Of course, you needn't
say I told you, 'cause I promised him I wouldn't tell." And the
satellites beam with admiration of the Oracle, and think what a
privilege it is to go to the races with such a knowing man.
They contribute their mites to the general fund, some putting in a pound,
others half a sovereign, and the Oracle takes it into the ring to
invest, half on the favourite and half on Royal Scot. He finds that the
favourite is at two to one, and Royal Scot at threes, eight to one being
offered against anything else. As he ploughs through the ring, a
Whisperer (one of those broken-down followers of the turf who get their
living in various mysterious ways, but partly by giving "tips" to
backers) pulls his sleeve.
"What are you backing?" he says.
"Favourite and Royal Scot," says the Oracle.
"Put a pound on Bendemeer," says the tipster. "It's a certainty. Meet me
here if it comes off, and I'll tell you something for the next race.
Don't miss it now. Get on quick!"
The Oracle is humble enough before the hanger-on of the turf. A bookmaker
roars "10 to 1 Bendemeer;" he suddenly fishes out a sovereign of his
own—and he hasn't money to spare, for all his knowingness—and puts it on
Bendemeer. His friends' money he puts on the favourite and Royal Scot as
arranged. Then they all go round to watch the race.
The horses are at the post; a distant cluster of crowded animals with
little dots of colour on their backs. Green, blue, yellow, purple,
French grey, and old gold, they change about in a bewildering manner,
and though the Oracle has a cheap pair of glasses, he can't make out
where Bendemeer has got to. Royal Scot and the favourite he has lost
interest in, and secretly hopes that they will be left at the post or
break their necks; but he does not confide his sentiment to his
They're off! The long line of colours across the track becomes a shapeless
clump and then draws out into a long string. "What's that in front?"
yells someone at the rails. "Oh, that thing of Hart's," says someone
else. But the Oracle hears them not; he is looking in the mass of colour
for a purple cap and grey jacket, with black arm bands. He cannot see it
anywhere, and the confused and confusing mass swings round the turn into
Then there is a babel of voices, and suddenly a shout of "Bendemeer!
Bendemeer!" and the Oracle, without knowing which is Bendemeer, takes up
the cry feverishly. "Bendemeer! Bendemeer!" he yells, waggling his
glasses about, trying to see where the animal is.
"Where's Royal Scot, Charley? Where's Royal Scot?" screams one of his
friends, in agony. "'Ow's he doin'?"
"No 'ope!" says the Oracle, with fiendish glee. "Bendemeer! Bendemeer!"
The horses are at the Leger stand now, whips are out, and three horses
seem to be nearly abreast; in fact, to the Oracle there seem to be a
dozen nearly abreast. Then a big chestnut sticks his head in front of
the others, and a small man at the Oracle's side emits a deafening
series of yells right by the Oracle's ear:
"Go on, Jimmy! Rub it into him! Belt him! It's a cake-walk! A cake-walk!"
The big chestnut, in a dogged sort of way, seems to stick his body clear
of his opponents, and passes the post a winner by a length. The Oracle
doesn't know what has won, but fumbles with his book. The number on the
saddle-cloth catches his eye—No. 7; he looks hurriedly down the page.
No. 7—Royal Scot. Second is No. 24—Bendemeer. Favourite nowhere.
Hardly has he realised it, before his friends are cheering and clapping
him on the back. "By George, Charley, it takes you to pick 'em." "Come
and 'ave a wet!" "You 'ad a quid in, didn't you, Charley?" The Oracle
feels very sick at having missed the winner, but he dies game. "Yes,
rather; I had a quid on," he says. "And" (here he nerves himself to
smile) "I had a saver on the second, too."
His comrades gasp with astonishment. "D'you hear that, eh? Charley backed
first and second. That's pickin' 'em if you like." They have a wet, and
pour fulsome adulation on the Oracle when he collects their money.
After the Oracle has collected the winnings for his friends he meets the
"It didn't win?" he says to the Whisperer in inquiring tones.
"Didn't win," says the Whisperer, who has determined to brazen the matter
out. "How could he win? Did you see the way he was ridden? That horse
was stiffened just after I seen you, and he never tried a yard. Did you
see the way he was pulled and hauled about at the turn? It'd make a man
sick. What was the stipendiary stewards doing, I wonder?"
This fills the Oracle with a new idea. All that he remembers of the race
at the turn was a jumble of colours, a kaleidoscope of horses and of
riders hanging on to the horses' necks. But it wouldn't do to admit that
he didn't see everything, and didn't know everything; so he plunges in
"O' course I saw it," he says. "And a blind man could see it. They ought
to rub him out."
"Course they ought," says the Whisperer. "But, look here, put two quid on
Tell-tale; you'll get it all back!"
The Oracle does put on "two quid", and doesn't get it all back. Neither
does he see any more of this race than he did of the last one—in fact,
he cheers wildly when the wrong horse is coming in. But when the public
begin to hoot he hoots as loudly as anybody—louder if anything; and all
the way home in the tram he lays down the law about stiff running, and
wants to know what the stipendiaries are doing.
If you go into any barber's shop, you can hear him at it, and he
flourishes in suburban railway carriages; but he has a tremendous local
reputation, having picked first and second in the handicap, and it would
be a bold man who would venture to question the Oracle's knowledge of
racing and of all matters relating to it.
THE CAST-IRON CANVASSER
The firm of Sloper and Dodge, publishers and printers, was in great
distress. These two enterprising individuals had worked up an enormous
business in time-payment books, which they sold all over Australia by
means of canvassers. They had put all the money they had into the
business; and now, just when everything was in thorough working order,
the public had revolted against them.
Their canvassers were molested by the country folk in divers strange bush
ways. One was made drunk, and then a two-horse harrow was run over him;
another was decoyed into the ranges on pretence of being shown a
gold-mine, and his guide galloped away and left him to freeze all night
in the bush. In mining localities the inhabitants were called together
by beating a camp-oven lid with a pick, and the canvasser was given ten
minutes in which to get out of the town alive. If he disregarded the
hint he would, as likely as not, fall accidentally down a disused shaft.
The people of one district applied to their M.P. to have canvassers
brought under the "Noxious Animals Act", and demanded that a reward
should be offered for their scalps. Reports appeared in the country
press about strange, gigantic birds that appeared at remote selections
and frightened the inhabitants to death—these were Sloper and Dodge's
sober and reliable agents, wearing neat, close-fitting suits of tar and
In fact, it was altogether too hot for the canvassers, and they came in
from North and West and South, crippled and disheartened, to tender
their resignations. To make matters worse, Sloper and Dodge had just got
out a large Atlas of Australasia, and if they couldn't sell it, ruin
stared them in the face; and how could they sell it without canvassers?
The members of the firm sat in their private office. Sloper was a long,
sanctimonious individual, very religious and very bald. Dodge was a
little, fat American, with bristly, black hair and beard, and quick,
beady eyes. He was eternally smoking a reeking black pipe, and puffing
the smoke through his nose in great whiffs, like a locomotive on a steep
grade. Anybody walking into one of those whiffs was liable to get
Just as things were at their very blackest, something had turned up that
promised to relieve all their difficulties. An inventor had offered to
supply them with a patent cast-iron canvasser—a figure which (he said)
when wound up would walk, talk, collect orders, and stand any amount of
ill-usage and wear and tear. If this could indeed be done, they were
saved. They had made an appointment with the genius; but he was
half-an-hour late, and the partners were steeped in gloom.
They had begun to despair of his appearing at all, when a cab rattled up
to the door. Sloper and Dodge rushed unanimously to the window. A young
man, very badly dressed, stepped out of the cab, holding over his
shoulder what looked like the upper half of a man's body. In his
disengaged hand he held a pair of human legs with boots and trousers on.
Thus burdened he turned to ask his fare, but the cabman gave a yell of
terror, whipped up his horse, and disappeared at a hand-gallop; and a
woman who happened to be going by, ran down the street, howling that
Jack the Ripper had come to town. The man bolted in at the door, and
toiled up the dark stairs tramping heavily, the legs and feet, which he
dragged after him, making an unearthly clatter. He came in and put his
burden down on the sofa.
"There you are, gents," he said; "there's your canvasser."
Sloper and Dodge recoiled in horror. The upper part of the man had a waxy
face, dull, fishy eyes, and dark hair; he lounged on the sofa like a
corpse at ease, while his legs and feet stood by, leaning stiffly
against the wall. The partners gazed at him for a while in silence.
"Fix him together, for God's sake," said Dodge. "He looks awful."
The Genius grinned, and fixed the legs on.
"Now he looks better," said Dodge, poking about the figure—"looks as much
like life as most—ah, would you, you brute!" he exclaimed, springing
back in alarm, for the figure had made a violent La Blanche swing at
"That's all right," said the Inventor. "It's no good having his face
knocked about, you know—lot of trouble to make that face. His head and
body are full of springs, and if anybody hits him in the face, or in the
pit of the stomach—favourite places to hit canvassers, the pit of the
stomach—it sets a strong spring in motion, and he fetches his right hand
round with a swipe that'll knock them into the middle of next week. It's
an awful hit. Griffo couldn't dodge it, and Slavin couldn't stand up
against it. No fear of any man hitting him twice.
"And he's dog-proof, too. His legs are padded with tar and oakum, and if a
dog bites a bit out of him, it will take that dog weeks to pick his
teeth clean. Never bite anybody again, that dog won't. And he'll talk,
talk, talk, like a suffragist gone mad; his phonograph can be charged
for 100,000 words, and all you've got to do is to speak into it what you
want him to say, and he'll say it. He'll go on saying it till he talks
his man silly, or gets an order. He has an order-form in his hand, and
as soon as anyone signs it and gives it back to him, that sets another
spring in motion, and he puts the order in his pocket, turns round, and
walks away. Grand idea, isn't he? Lor' bless you, I fairly love him."
He beamed affectionately on his monster.
"What about stairs?" said Dodge.
"No stairs in the bush," said the Inventor, blowing a speck of dust off
his apparition; "all ground-floor houses. Anyhow, if there were stairs
we could carry him up and let him fall down afterwards, or get flung
down like any other canvasser."
"Ha! Let's see him walk," said Dodge.
The figure walked all right, stiff and erect.
"Now let's hear him yabber."
The Genius touched a spring, and instantly, in a queer, tin-whistly voice,
he began to sing, "Little Annie Rooney".
"Good!" said Dodge; "he'll do. We'll give you your price. Leave him here
to-night, and come in to-morrow. We'll send you off to the back country
with him. Ninemile would be a good place to start in. Have a cigar?"
Mr. Dodge, much elated, sucked at his pipe, and blew through his nose a
cloud of nearly solid smoke, through which the Genius sidled out. They
could hear him sneezing and choking all the way down the stairs.
Ninemile is a quiet little place, sleepy beyond description. When the
mosquitoes in that town settle on anyone, they usually go to sleep, and
forget to bite him. The climate is so hot that the very grasshoppers
crawl into the hotel parlours out of the sun, climb up the window
curtains, and then go to sleep. The Riot Act never had to be read in
Ninemile. The only thing that can arouse the inhabitants out of their
lethargy is the prospect of a drink at somebody else's expense.
For these reasons it had been decided to start the Cast-iron Canvasser
there, and then move him on to more populous and active localities if he
proved a success. They sent up the Genius, and one of their men who knew
the district well. The Genius was to manage the automaton, and the other
was to lay out the campaign, choose the victims, and collect the money,
geniuses being notoriously unreliable and loose in their cash. They got
through a good deal of whisky on the way up, and when they arrived at
Ninemile were in a cheerful mood, and disposed to take risks.
"Who'll we begin on?" said the Genius.
"Oh, hang it all," said the other, "let's make a start with Macpherson."
Macpherson was a Land Agent, and the big bug of the place. He was a
gigantic Scotchman, six feet four in his socks, and freckled all over
with freckles as big as half-crowns. His eyebrows would have made
decent-sized moustaches for a cavalryman, and his moustaches looked like
horns. He was a fighter from the ground up, and had a desperate "down"
on canvassers generally, and on Sloper and Dodge's canvassers in
Sloper and Dodge had published a book called "Remarkable Colonials", and
Macpherson had written out his own biography for it. He was intensely
proud of his pedigree and his relations, and in his narrative made out
that he was descended from the original Fhairshon who swam round Noah's
Ark with his title-deeds in his teeth. He showed how his people had
fought under Alexander the Great and Timour, and had come over to
Scotland some centuries before William the Conqueror landed in England.
He proved that he was related in a general way to one emperor, fifteen
kings, twenty-five dukes, and earls and lords and viscounts innumerable.
And then, after all, the editor of "Remarkable Colonials" managed to mix
him up with some other fellow, some low-bred Irish McPherson, born in
Dublin of poor but honest parents.
It was a terrible outrage. Macpherson became president of the Western
District Branch of the "Remarkable Colonials" Defence League, a fierce
and homicidal association got up to resist, legally and otherwise,
paying for the book. He had further sworn by all he held sacred that
every canvasser who came to harry him in future should die, and had put
up a notice on his office-door, "Canvassers come in at their own risk."
He had a dog of what he called the Hold'em breed, who could tell a
canvasser by his walk, and would go for him on sight. The reader will
understand, therefore, that, when the Genius and his mate proposed to
start on Macpherson, they were laying out a capacious contract for the
Cast-iron Canvasser, and could only have been inspired by a morbid
craving for excitement, aided by the influence of backblock whisky.
The Inventor wound the figure up in the back parlour of the pub. There
were a frightful lot of screws to tighten before the thing would work,
but at last he said it was ready, and they shambled off down the street,
the figure marching stiffly between them. It had a book tucked under its
arm and an order-form in its hand. When they arrived opposite
Macpherson's office, the Genius started the phonograph working, pointed
the figure straight at Macpherson's door, and set it going. Then the two
conspirators waited, like Guy Fawkes in his cellar.
The automaton marched across the road and in at the open door, talking to
itself loudly in a hoarse, unnatural voice.
Macpherson was writing at his table, and looked up.
The figure walked bang through a small collection of flower-pots, sent a
chair flying, tramped heavily in the spittoon, and then brought up
against the table with a loud crash and stood still. It was talking all
"I have here," it said, "a most valuable work, an Atlas of Australia,
which I desire to submit to your notice. The large and increasing demand
of bush residents for time-payment works has induced the publishers of
"My God!" said Macpherson, "it's a canvasser. Here, Tom Sayers, Tom
Sayers!" and he whistled and called for his dog. "Now," he said, "will
you go out of this office quietly, or will you be thrown out? It's for
yourself to decide, but you've only got while a duck wags his tail to
decide in. Which'll it be?"
"—— works of modern ages," said the canvasser. "Every person subscribing
to this invaluable work will receive, in addition, a flat-iron, a
railway pass for a year, and a pocket-compass. If you will please sign
Just here Tom Sayers came tearing through the office, and without waiting
for orders hitched straight on to the canvasser's calf. To Macpherson's
amazement the piece came clear away, and Tom Sayers rolled about on the
floor with his mouth full of a sticky substance which seemed to surprise
The long Scotchman paused awhile before this mystery, but at last he
fancied he had got the solution. "Got a cork leg, have you?" said
he—"Well, let's see if your ribs are cork too," and he struck the
canvasser an awful blow on the fifth button of the waistcoat.
Quicker than lightning came that terrific right-hand cross-counter.
Macpherson never even knew what happened to him. The canvasser's right
hand, which had been adjusted by his inventor for a high blow, had
landed on the butt of Macpherson's ear and dropped him like a fowl. The
gasping, terrified bull-dog fled the scene, and the canvasser stood over
his fallen foe, still intoning the virtues of his publication. He had
come there merely as a friend, he said, to give the inhabitants of
Ninemile a chance to buy a book which had recently earned the approval
of King O'Malley and His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Genius and his mate watched this extraordinary drama through the
window. The stimulant habitually consumed by the Ninemilers had induced
in them a state of superlative Dutch courage, and they looked upon the
whole affair as a wildly hilarious joke.
"By Gad! he's done him," said the Genius, as Macpherson went down, "done
him in one hit. If he don't pay as a canvasser I'll take him to town and
back him to fight Les Darcy. Look out for yourself; don't you handle
him!" he continued as the other approached the figure. "Leave him to me.
As like as not, if you get fooling about him, he'll give you a clout
that'll paralyse you."
So saying, he guided the automaton out of the office and into the street,
and walked straight into a policeman.
By a common impulse the Genius and his mate ran rapidly away in different
directions, leaving the figure alone with the officer.
He was a fully-ordained sergeant—by name Aloysius O'Grady; a squat, rosy
little Irishman. He hated violent arrests and all that sort of thing,
and had a faculty of persuading drunks and disorderlies and other
fractious persons to "go quietly along wid him," that was little short
of marvellous. Excited revellers, who were being carried by their mates,
struggling violently, would break away to prance gaily along to the
lock-up with the sergeant. Obstinate drunks who had done nothing but lie
on the ground and kick their feet in the air, would get up like birds,
serpent-charmed, to go with him to durance vile.
As soon as he saw the canvasser, and noted his fixed, unearthly stare, and
listened to his hoarse, unnatural voice, the sergeant knew what was the
matter; it was a man in the horrors, a common enough spectacle at
Ninemile. He resolved to decoy him into the lock-up, and accosted him in
a friendly, free-and-easy way.
"Good day t'ye," he said.
"—— most magnificent volume ever published, jewelled in fourteen holes,
working on a ruby roller, and in a glass case," said the book-canvasser.
"The likenesses of the historical personages are so natural that the
book must not be left open on the table, or the mosquitoes will ruin it
by stinging the portraits."
It then dawned on the sergeant that this was no mere case of the
horrors—he was dealing with a book-canvasser.
"Ah, sure," he said, "fwhat's the use uv tryin' to sell books at all, at
all; folks does be peltin' them out into the street, and the nanny-goats
lives on them these times. Oi send the childer out to pick 'em up, and
we have 'em at me place in barrow-loads. Come along wid me now, and
Oi'll make you nice and comfortable for the night," and he laid his hand
on the outstretched palm of the figure.
It was a fatal mistake. He had set in motion the machinery which operated
the figure's left arm, and it moved that limb in towards its body, and
hugged the sergeant to its breast, with a vice-like grip. Then it
started in a faltering and uneven, but dogged, way to walk towards the
"Immortial Saints!" gasped the sergeant, "he's squazin' the livin' breath
out uv me. Lave go now loike a dacent sowl, lave go. And oh, for the
love uv God, don't be shpakin' into me ear that way;" for the figure's
mouth was pressed tight against the sergeant's ear, and its awful voice
went through and through the little man's head, as it held forth about
the volume. The sergeant struggled violently, and by so doing set some
more springs in motion, and the figure's right arm made terrific swipes
in the air. A following of boys and loafers had collected by this time.
"Blimey, how does he lash out!" was the remark they made. But they
didn't interfere, notwithstanding the sergeant's frantic appeals, and
things were going hard with him when his subordinate, Constable Dooley,
appeared on the scene.
Dooley, better known as The Wombat because of his sleepy disposition, was
a man of great strength. He had originally been quartered at Sydney, and
had fought many bitter battles with the notorious "pushes" of Bondi,
Surry Hills and The Rocks. After that, duty at Ninemile was child's
play, and he never ran in fewer than two drunks at a time; it was
beneath his dignity to be seen capturing a solitary inebriate. If they
wouldn't come any other way, he would take them by the ankles and drag
them after him. When the Wombat saw the sergeant in the grasp of an
inebriate he bore down on the fray full of fight.
"I'll soon make him lave go, sergeant," he said, and he caught hold of the
figure's right arm, to put on the "police twist". Unfortunately, at that
exact moment the sergeant touched one of the springs in the creature's
breast. With the suddenness and severity of a horse-kick, it lashed out
with its right hand, catching the redoubtable Dooley a thud on the jaw,
and sending him to grass as if he had been shot.
For a few minutes he "lay as only dead men lie". Then he got up bit by
bit, wandered off home to the police-barracks, and mentioned casually to
his wife that John L. Sullivan had come to town, and had taken the
sergeant away to drown him. After which, having given orders that
anybody who called was to be told that he had gone fifteen miles out of
town to serve a summons on a man for not registering a dog, he locked
himself up in a cell for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, the Cast-iron Canvasser, still holding the sergeant tightly
clutched to its breast, was marching straight towards the river.
Something had disorganised its vocal arrangements, and it was now
positively shrieking in the sergeant's ear, and, as it yelled, the
little man yelled still louder.
"Oi don't want yer accursed book. Lave go uv me, Oi say!" He beat with his
fists on its face, and kicked its shins without avail. A short,
staggering rush, a wild shriek from the officer, and they both toppled
over the steep bank and went souse into the depths of Ninemile Creek.
That was the end of the matter. The Genius and his mate returned to town
hurriedly, and lay low, expecting to be indicted for murder. Constable
Dooley drew up a report for the Chief of Police which contained so many
strange statements that the Police department concluded the sergeant
must have got drunk and drowned himself, and that Dooley saw him do it,
but was too drunk to pull him out.
Anyone unacquainted with Ninemile might expect that a report of the
occurrence would have reached the Sydney papers. As a matter of fact the
storekeeper did think of writing one, but decided that it was too much
trouble. There was some idea of asking the Government to fish the two
bodies out of the river; but about that time an agitation was started in
Ninemile to have the Federal Capital located there, and nothing else
The Genius discovered a pub in Sydney that kept the Ninemile brand of
whisky, and drank himself to death; the Wombat became a Sub-Inspector of
Police; Sloper entered the Christian ministry; Dodge was elected to the
Federal Parliament; and a vague tradition about "a bloke who came up
here in the horrors, and drownded poor old O'Grady," is the only memory
that remains of that wonderful creation, the Cast-iron Canvasser.
THE MERINO SHEEP
People have got the impression that the merino is a gentle, bleating
animal that gets its living without trouble to anybody, and comes up
every year to be shorn with a pleased smile upon its amiable face. It is
my purpose here to exhibit the merino sheep in its true light.
First let us give him his due. No one can accuse him of being a ferocious
animal. No one could ever say that a sheep attacked him without
provocation; although there is an old bush story of a man who was
discovered in the act of killing a neighbour's wether.
"Hello!" said the neighbour, "What's this? Killing my sheep! What have you
got to say for yourself?"
"Yes," said the man, with an air of virtuous indignation. "I am
killing your sheep. I'll kill any man's sheep that bites me!"
But as a rule the merino refrains from using his teeth on people. He goes
to work in another way.
The truth is that he is a dangerous monomaniac, and his one idea is to
ruin the man who owns him. With this object in view he will display a
talent for getting into trouble and a genius for dying that are almost
If a mob of sheep see a bush fire closing round them, do they run away out
of danger? Not at all, they rush round and round in a ring till the fire
burns them up. If they are in a river-bed, with a howling flood coming
down, they will stubbornly refuse to cross three inches of water to save
themselves. Dogs may bark and men may shriek, but the sheep won't move.
They will wait there till the flood comes and drowns them all, and then
their corpses go down the river on their backs with their feet in the
A mob will crawl along a road slowly enough to exasperate a snail, but let
a lamb get away in a bit of rough country, and a racehorse can't head
him back again. If sheep are put into a big paddock with water in three
corners of it, they will resolutely crowd into the fourth, and die of
When being counted out at a gate, if a scrap of bark be left on the ground
in the gateway, they will refuse to step over it until dogs and men have
sweated and toiled and sworn and "heeled 'em up", and "spoke to 'em",
and fairly jammed them at it. At last one will gather courage, rush at
the fancied obstacle, spring over it about six feet in the air, and dart
away. The next does exactly the same, but jumps a bit higher. Then comes
a rush of them following one another in wild bounds like antelopes,
until one overjumps himself and alights on his head. This frightens
those still in the yard, and they stop running out.
Then the dogging and shrieking and hustling and tearing have to be gone
through all over again. (This on a red-hot day, mind you, with clouds of
blinding dust about, the yolk of wool irritating your eyes, and,
perhaps, three or four thousand sheep to put through). The delay throws
out the man who is counting, and he forgets whether he left off at 45 or
95. The dogs, meanwhile, have taken the first chance to slip over the
fence and hide in the shade somewhere, and then there are loud
whistlings and oaths, and calls for Rover and Bluey. At last a
dirt-begrimed man jumps over the fence, unearths Bluey, and hauls him
back by the ear. Bluey sets to work barking and heeling-'em up again,
and pretends that he thoroughly enjoys it; but all the while he is
looking out for another chance to "clear". And
this time he won't be discovered in a hurry.
There is a well-authenticated story of a ship-load of sheep that was lost
because an old ram jumped overboard, and all the rest followed him. No
doubt they did, and were proud to do it. A sheep won't go through an
open gate on his own responsibility, but he would gladly and proudly
"follow the leader" through the red-hot portals of Hades: and it makes
no difference whether the lead goes voluntarily, or is hauled struggling
and kicking and fighting every inch of the way.
For pure, sodden stupidity there is no animal like the merino. A lamb will
follow a bullock-dray, drawn by sixteen bullocks and driven by a profane
person with a whip, under the impression that the aggregate monstrosity
is his mother. A ewe never knows her own lamb by sight, and apparently
has no sense of colour. She can recognise its voice half a mile off
among a thousand other voices apparently exactly similar; but when she
gets within five yards of it she starts to smell all the other lambs
within reach, including the black ones—though her own may be white.
The fiendish resemblance which one sheep bears to another is a great
advantage to them in their struggles with their owners. It makes it more
difficult to draft them out of a strange flock, and much harder to tell
when any are missing.
Concerning this resemblance between sheep, there is a story told of a fat
old Murrumbidgee squatter who gave a big price for a famous ram called
Sir Oliver. He took a friend out one day to inspect Sir Oliver, and
overhauled that animal with a most impressive air of sheep-wisdom.
"Look here," he said, "at the fineness of the wool. See the serrations in
each thread of it. See the density of it. Look at the way his legs and
belly are clothed—he's wool all over, that sheep. Grand animal, grand
Then they went and had a drink, and the old squatter said, "Now, I'll show
you the difference between a champion ram and a second-rater." So he
caught a ram and pointed out his defects. "See here—not half the
serrations that other sheep had. No density of fleece to speak of.
Bare-bellied as a pig, compared with Sir Oliver. Not that this isn't a
fair sheep, but he'd be dear at one-tenth Sir Oliver's price. By the
way, Johnson" (to his overseer), "what ram is this?"
"That, sir," replied the astounded functionary—"that is Sir Oliver,
There is another kind of sheep in Australia, as great a curse in his own
way as the merino—namely, the cross-bred, or half-merino-half-Leicester
animal. The cross-bred will get through, under, or over any fence you
like to put in front of him. He is never satisfied with his owner's run,
but always thinks other people's runs must be better, so he sets off to
explore. He will strike a course, say, south-east, and so long as the
fit takes him he will keep going south-east through all
obstacles—rivers, fences, growing crops, anything. The merino relies on
passive resistance for his success; the cross-bred carries the war into
the enemy's camp, and becomes a living curse to his owner day and night.
Once there was a man who was induced in a weak moment to buy twenty
cross-bred rams. From that hour the hand of Fate was upon him. They got
into all the paddocks they shouldn't have been in. They scattered
themselves over the run promiscuously. They visited the cultivation
paddock and the vegetable-garden at their own sweet will. And then they
took to roving. In a body they visited the neighbouring stations, and
played havoc with the sheep all over the district.
The wretched owner was constantly getting fiery letters from his
neighbours: "Your blanky rams are here. Come and take them away at
once," and he would have to go nine or ten miles to drive them home. Any
man who has tried to drive rams on a hot day knows what purgatory is. He
was threatened every week with actions for trespass.
He tried shutting them up in the sheep-yard. They got out and went back to
the garden. Then he gaoled them in the calf-pen. Out again and into a
growing crop. Then he set a boy to watch them; but the boy went to
sleep, and they were four miles away across country before he got on to
At length, when they happened accidentally to be at home on their owner's
run, there came a big flood. His sheep, mostly merinos, had plenty of
time to get on to high ground and save their lives; but, of course, they
didn't, and were almost all drowned. The owner sat on a rise above the
waste of waters and watched the dead animals go by. He was a ruined man.
But he said, "Thank God, those cross-bred rams are drowned, anyhow."
Just as he spoke there was a splashing in the water, and the twenty rams
solemnly swam ashore and ranged themselves in front of him. They were
the only survivors of his twenty thousand sheep. He broke down, and was
taken to an asylum for insane paupers. The cross-breds had fulfilled
The cross-bred drives his owner out of his mind, but the merino ruins his
man with greater celerity. Nothing on earth will kill cross-breds;
nothing will keep merinos alive. If they are put on dry salt-bush
country they die of drought. If they are put on damp, well-watered
country they die of worms, fluke, and foot-rot. They die in the wet
seasons and they die in the dry ones.
The hard, resentful look on the faces of all bushmen comes from a long
course of dealing with merino sheep. The merino dominates the bush, and
gives to Australian literature its melancholy tinge, its despairing
pathos. The poems about dying boundary-riders, and lonely graves under
mournful she-oaks, are the direct outcome of the poet's too close
association with that soul-destroying animal. A man who could write
anything cheerful after a day in the drafting-yards would be a freak of
The typical Australian bullock—long-horned, sullen-eyed, stupid, and
vindictive—is bred away out in Queensland, on remote stations in the
Never Never land, where men live on damper and beef, and occasionally
eat a whole bottle of hot pickles at a sitting, simply to satisfy their
craving for vegetable food. Here, under the blazing tropic sun, among
flies and dust and loneliness, they struggle with the bullock from
year's end to year's end. It is not to be supposed that they take up
this kind of thing for fun. The man who worked cattle for sport would
wheel bricks for amusement.
At periodical intervals a boom in cattle-country arises in the cities, and
syndicates are formed to take up country and stock it. It looks so
beautifully simple—on paper.
You get your country, thousands of miles of it, for next to nothing. You
buy your breeding herd for a ridiculously small sum, on long-dated
bills. Your staff consists of a manager, who toils for a share of the
profits, a couple of half-civilized white stockmen at low wages, and a
handful of blacks, who work harder for a little opium ash than they
would for much money. Plant costs nothing, improvements nothing—no
woolshed is needed, there are no shearers to pay, and no carriage to
market, for the bullock walks himself down to his doom. Granted that
prices are low, still it is obvious that there must be huge profits in
the business. So the cattle start away out to "the country", where they
are supposed to increase and multiply, and enrich their owners. Alas!
for such hopes. There is a curse on cattle.
No one has ever been able to explain exactly how the deficit arises. Put
the figures before the oldest and most experienced cattleman, and he
will fail to show why they don't work out right. And yet they never do.
It is not the fault of the cattle themselves. Sheep would rather die
than live—and when one comes to think of the life they lead, one can
easily understand their preference for death; but cattle, if given half
a chance, will do their best to prolong their existence.
If they are running on low-lying country and are driven off when a flood
comes, they will probably walk back into the flood-water and get drowned
as soon as their owner turns his back. But, as a rule, cattle are not
suicidal. They sort themselves into mobs, they pick out the best bits of
country, they find their way to the water, they breed habitually; but it
always ends in the same way. The hand of Fate is against them.
If a drought comes, they eat off the grass near the water and have to
travel far out for a feed. Then they fall away and get weak, and when
they come down to drink they get bogged in the muddy waterholes and die
Or Providence sends the pleuro, and big strong beasts slink away by
themselves, and stand under trees glaring savagely till death comes. Or
else the tick attacks them, and soon a fine, strong beast becomes a
miserable, shrunken, tottering wreck. Once cattle get really low in
condition they are done for. Sheep can be shifted when their pasture
fails, but you can't shift cattle. They die quicker on the roads than on
the run. The only thing is to watch and pray for rain. It always
comes—after the cattle are dead.
As for describing the animals themselves, it would take volumes. Sheep are
all alike, but cattle are all different. The drovers on the road get to
know the habits and tendencies of each particular bullock—the one-eyed
bullock that pokes out to the side of the mob, the inquisitive bullock
that is always walking over towards the drover as if he were going to
speak to him, the agitator bullock who is always trying to get up a
stampede and prodding the others with his horns.
In poor Boake's "Where the Dead Men Lie" he says:
Only the hand of Night can free them—
That's when the dead men fly!
Only the frightened cattle see them—
See the dead men go by!
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
Bidding the stockman know no leisure—
That's when the dead men take their pleasure!
That's when the dead men fly!
Cattle on a camp see ghosts, sure enough—else, why is it that, when
hundreds are in camp at night—some standing, some lying asleep, all
facing different ways—in an instant, at some invisible cause of alarm,
the whole mob are on their feet and all racing in the same direction,
away from some unseen terror?
It doesn't do to sneak round cattle at night; it is better to whistle and
sing than to surprise them by a noiseless appearance. Anyone sneaking
about frightens them, and then they will charge right over the top of
somebody on the opposite side, and away into the darkness, becoming more
and more frightened as they go, smashing against trees and stumps,
breaking legs and ribs, and playing the dickens with themselves
generally. Cattle "on the road" are unaccountable animals; one cannot
say for certain what they will do. In this respect they differ from
sheep, whose movements can be predicted with absolute certainty.
All the cussedness of the bovine race is centred in the cow. In Australia
the most opprobious epithet one can apply to a man or other object is
"cow". In the whole range of a bullock-driver's vocabulary there is no
word that expresses his blistering scorn so well as "cow". To an
exaggerated feminine perversity the cow adds a fiendish ingenuity in
A quiet milking-cow will "plant" her calf with such skill that ten
stockmen cannot find him in a one-mile paddock. While the search goes on
she grazes unconcernedly, as if she never had a calf in her life. If by
chance he be discovered, then one notices a curious thing. The very
youngest calf, the merest staggering-Bob two days old, will not move
till the old lady gives him orders to do so. One may pull him about
without getting a move out of him. If sufficiently persecuted he will at
last sing out for help, and then his mother will arrive full-gallop,
charge men and horses indiscriminately, and clear out with him to the
thickest timber in the most rugged part of the creek-bed, defying man to
get her to the yard.
While in his mother's company he seconds her efforts with great judgment.
But, if he be separated from her, he will follow a horse and rider up to
the yard thinking he is following his mother, though she bellow
instructions to him from the rear. Then the guileless agriculturist,
having penned him up, sets a dog on him, and his cries soon fetch the
old cow full-run to his assistance. Once in the yard she is roped,
hauled into the bail, propped up to prevent her throwing herself down,
and milked by sheer brute-force. After a while she steadies down and
will walk into the bail, knowing her turn and behaving like a
Cows and calves have no idea of sound or distance. If a cow is on the
opposite side of the fence, and wishes to communicate with her calf, she
will put her head through the fence, place her mouth against his ear as
if she were going to whisper, and then utter a roar that can be heard
two miles off. It would stun a human being; but the calf thinks it over
for a moment, and then answers with a prolonged yell in the old cow's
ear. So the dialogue goes on for hours without either party dropping
There is an element of danger in dealing with cattle that makes men smart
and self-reliant and independent. Men who deal with sheep get gloomy and
morbid, and are for ever going on strike. Nobody ever heard of a
stockman's strike. The true stockrider thinks himself just as good a man
as his boss, and inasmuch as "the boss" never makes any money, while the
stockman gets his wages, the stockman may be considered as having the
better position of the two.
Sheepmen like to think that they know all about cattle, and could work
them if they chose. A Queensland drover once took a big mob from the
Gulf right down through New South Wales, selling various lots as he
went. He had to deliver some to a small sheep-man, near Braidwood, who
was buying a few hundred cattle as a spec. By the time they arrived, the
cattle had been on the road eight months, and were quiet as milkers. But
the sheep-man and his satellites came out, riding stable-fed horses and
brandishing twenty-foot whips, all determined to sell their lives
dearly. They galloped round the astonished cattle and spurred their
horses and cracked their whips, till they roused the weary mob. Then
they started to cut out the beasts they wanted. The horses rushed and
pulled, and the whips maddened the cattle, and all was turmoil and
The Queensland drovers looked on amazed, sitting their patient leg-weary
horses they had ridden almost continuously for eight months. At last,
seeing the hash the sheep-men were making of it, the drovers set to
work, and in a little while, without a shout, or crack of a whip, had
cut out the required number. These the head drover delivered to the
buyer, simply remarking, "Many's the time you never cut-out
As I write, there rises a vision of a cattle-camp on an open plain, the
blue sky overhead, the long grass rustling below, the great mob of
parti-coloured cattle eddying restlessly about, thrusting at each other
with their horns; and in among the sullen half-savage animals go the
light, wiry stock-riders, horse and man working together, watchful,
quick, and resolute.
A white steer is wanted that is right in the throng. Way!—make way! and
horse and rider edge into the restless sea of cattle, the man with his
eye fixed on the selected animal, the horse, glancing eagerly about him,
trying to discover which is the wanted one. The press divides and the
white steer scuttles along the edge of the mob trying to force his way
in again. Suddenly he and two or three others are momentarily eddied out
to the outskirts of the mob, and in that second the stockman dashes his
horse between them and the main body. The lumbering beasts rush hither
and thither in a vain attempt to return to their comrades. Those not
wanted are allowed to return, but the white steer finds, to his dismay,
that wherever he turns that horse and man and dreaded whip are
confronting him. He doubles and dodges and makes feints to charge, but
the horse anticipates every movement and wheels quicker than the
bullock. At last the white steer sees the outlying mob he is required to
join, and trots off to them quite happy, while horse and rider return to
cut out another.
It is a pretty exhibition of skill and intelligence, doubly pleasant to
watch because of the undoubted interest that the horses take in it. Big,
stupid creatures that they are, cursed with highly-strung nerves, and
blessed with little sense, they are pathetically anxious to do such work
as they can understand. So they go into the cutting-out camp with a
zest, and toil all day edging lumbering bullocks out of the mob, but as
soon as a bad rider gets on them and begins to haul their mouths about,
their nerves overcome them, and they get awkward and frightened. A horse
that is a crack camp-horse in one man's hands may be a hopeless brute in
the hands of another.
Buckalong was a big freehold of some 80,000 acres, belonging to an
absentee syndicate, and therefore run in most niggardly style. There was
a manager on 200 pounds a year, Sandy M'Gregor to wit—a hard-headed old
Scotchman known as "four-eyed M'Gregor", because he wore spectacles. For
assistants, he had half-a-dozen of us—jackaroos and
colonial-experiencers—who got nothing a year, and earned it.
We had, in most instances, paid premiums to learn the noble art of
squatting—which now appears to me hardly worth studying, for so much
depends on luck that a man with a head as long as a horse's has little
better chance than the fool just imported. Besides the manager and the
jackaroos, there were a few boundary riders to prowl round the fences of
the vast paddocks. This constituted the whole station staff.
Buckalong was on one of the main routes by which stock were taken to
market, or from the plains to the tablelands, and vice versa. Great mobs
of travelling sheep constantly passed through the run, eating up the
grass and vexing the soul of the manager. By law, sheep must travel six
miles per day, and they must be kept to within half-a-mile of the road.
Of course we kept all the grass near the road eaten bare, to discourage
travellers from coming that way.
Such hapless wretches as did venture through Buckalong used to try hard to
stray from the road and pick up a feed, but old Sandy was always ready
for them, and would have them dogged right through the run. This bred
feuds, and bad language, and personal combats between us and the
drovers, whom we looked upon as natural enemies.
The men who came through with mobs of cattle used to pull down the paddock
fences at night, and slip the cattle in for refreshments, but old Sandy
often turned out at 2 or 3 a.m. to catch a mob of bullocks in the
horse-paddock, and then off they went to Buckalong pound. The drovers,
as in duty bound, attributed the trespass to accident—broken rails, and
so on—and sometimes they tried to rescue the cattle, which again bred
strife and police-court summonses.
Besides having a particular aversion to drovers, old M'Gregor had a
general "down" on the young Australians whom he comprehensively
described as a "feckless, horrse-dealin', horrse-stealin', crawlin' lot
o' wretches." According to him, a native-born would sooner work a horse
to death than work for a living any day. He hated any man who wanted to
sell him a horse.
"As aw walk the street," he used to say, "the fouk disna stawp me to buy
claes nor shoon, an' wheerfore should they stawp me to buy horrses? It's
'Mister M'Gregor, will ye purrchase a horrse?' Let them wait till I ask
them to come wi' their horrses."
Such being his views on horseflesh and drovers, we felt no little
excitement when one Sunday, at dinner, the cook came in to say there was
"a drover-chap outside wanted the boss to come and have a look at a
horse." M'Gregor simmered a while, and muttered something about the
"Sawbath day"; but at last he went out, and we filed after him to see
The drover stood by the side of his horse, beneath the acacia trees in the
yard. He had a big scar on his face, apparently the result of collision
with a fence; he looked thin and sickly and seemed poverty-stricken
enough to disarm hostility. Obviously, he was down on his luck. Had it
not been for that indefinable self-reliant look which drovers—the
Ishmaels of the bush—always acquire, one might have taken him for a
swagman. His horse was in much the same plight. It was a ragged, unkempt
pony, pitifully poor and very footsore, at first sight, an absolute
"moke"; but a second glance showed colossal round ribs, square hips, and
a great length of rein, the rest hidden beneath a wealth of loose hair.
He looked like "a good journey horse", possibly something better.
We gathered round while M'Gregor questioned the drover. The man was
monosyllabic to a degree, as the real bushmen generally are. It is only
the rowdy and the town-bushy that are fluent of speech.
"Guid mornin'," said M'Gregor.
"Mornin', boss," said the drover, shortly.
"Is this the horrse ye hae for sale?"
"Ay," and M'Gregor looked at the pony with a businesslike
don't-think-much-of-him air, ran his hand lightly over the hard legs,
and opened the passive creature's mouth. "H'm," he said. Then he turned
to the drover. "Ye seem a bit oot o' luck. Ye're thin like. What's been
"Been sick with fever—Queensland fever. Just come through from the North.
Been out on the Diamantina last."
"Ay. I was there mysel'," said M'Gregor. "Hae ye the fever on ye still?"
"Yes—goin' home to get rid of it."
A man can only get Queensland fever in a malarial district, but he can
carry it with him wherever he goes. If he stays, it will sap his
strength and pull him to pieces; if he moves to a better climate, the
malady moves with him, leaving him by degrees, and coming back at
regular intervals to rack, shake, burn, and sweat its victim. Gradually
it wears itself out, often wearing its patient out at the same time.
M'Gregor had been through the experience, and there was a slight change
in his voice as he went on with his palaver.
"Whaur are ye makin' for the noo?"
"Monaro—my people live in Monaro."
"Hoo will ye get to Monaro gin ye sell the horrse?"
"Coach and rail. Too sick to care about ridin'," said the drover, while a
wan smile flitted over his yellow-grey features. "I've rode him far
enough. I've rode that horse a thousand miles. I wouldn't sell him, only
I'm a bit hard up. Sellin' him now to get the money to go home."
"Hoo auld is he?"
"Is he a guid horrse on a camp?" asked M'Gregor.
"No better camp-horse in Queensland," said the drover. "You can chuck the
reins on his neck, an' he'll cut out a beast by himself."
M'Gregor's action in this matter puzzled us. We spent our time crawling
after sheep, and a camp-horse would be about as much use to us as
side-pockets to a pig. We had expected Sandy to rush the fellow off the
place at once, and we couldn't understand how it was that he took so
much interest in him. Perhaps the fever-racked drover and the old
camp-horse appealed to him in a way incomprehensible to us. We had never
been on the Queensland cattle-camps, nor shaken and shivered with the
fever, nor lived the roving life of the overlanders. M'Gregor had done
all this, and his heart (I can see it all now) went out to the man who
brought the old days back to him.
"Ah, weel," he said, "we hae'na muckle use for a camp-horrse here, ye ken;
wi'oot some of these lads wad like to try theer han' cuttin' oot the
milkers' cawves frae their mithers." And the old man laughed
contemptuously, while we felt humbled in the sight of the man from far
back. "An' what'll ye be wantin' for him?" asked M'Gregor.
"Reckon he's worth fifteen notes," said the drover.
This fairly staggered us. Our estimates had varied between thirty
shillings and a fiver. We thought the negotiations would close abruptly;
but M'Gregor, after a little more examination, agreed to give the price,
provided the saddle and bridle, both grand specimens of ancient art,
were given in. This was agreed to, and the drover was sent off to get
his meals in the hut before leaving by the coach.
"The mon is verra harrd up, an' it's a sair thing that Queensland fever,"
was the only remark M'Gregor made. But we knew now that there was a soft
spot in his heart somewhere.
Next morning the drover got a crisp-looking cheque. He said no word while
the cheque was being written, but, as he was going away, the horse
happened to be in the yard, and he went over to the old comrade that had
carried him so many miles, and laid a hand on his neck.
"He ain't much to look at," said the drover, speaking slowly and
awkwardly, "but he's white when he's wanted." And just before the coach
rattled off, the man of few words leant down from the box and nodded
impressively, and repeated, "Yes, he's white when he's wanted."
We didn't trouble to give the new horse a name. Station horses are
generally called after the man from whom they are bought. "Tom Devine",
"The Regan mare", "Black M'Carthy" and "Bay M'Carthy" were among the
appellations of our horses at that time. As we didn't know the drover's
name, we simply called the animal "The new horse" until a still newer
horse was one day acquired. Then, one of the hands being told to take
the new horse, said, "D'yer mean the new new horse or the old
"Naw," said the boss, "not the new horrse—that bay horrse we bought frae
the drover. The ane he said was white when he's wanted."
And so, by degrees, the animal came to be referred to as the horse that's
white when he's wanted, and at last settled down to the definite name of
White-when-he's-wanted didn't seem much of an acquisition. He was sent out
to do slavery for Greenhide Billy, a boundary-rider who plumed himself
on having once been a cattle-man. After a week's experience of "White",
Billy came in to the homestead disgusted. The pony was so lazy that he
had to build a fire under him to get him to move, and so rough that it
made a man's nose bleed to ride him more than a mile. "The boss must
have been off his head to give fifteen notes for such a cow."
M'Gregor heard this complaint. "Verra weel, Mr. Billy," said he, hotly,
"ye can juist tak' ane of the young horrses in yon paddock, an' if he
bucks wi' ye an' kills ye, it's yer ain fault. Ye're a cattleman—so ye
say—dommed if ah believe it. Ah believe ye're a dairy-farmin' body frae
Illawarra. Ye ken neither horrse nor cattle. Mony's the time ye never
rode buckjumpers, Mr. Billy"—and with this parting-shot the old man
turned into the house, and White-when-he's-wanted came back to the head
For a while he was a sort of pariah. He used to yard the horses, fetch up
the cows, and hunt travelling sheep through the run. He really was lazy
and rough, and we all decided that Billy's opinion of him was correct,
until the day came to make one of our periodical raids on the wild
horses in the hills at the back of the run.
Every now and again we formed parties to run in some of these animals,
and, after nearly galloping to death half-a-dozen good horses, we would
capture three or four brumbies, and bring them in triumph to the
homestead to be broken in. By the time they had thrown half the crack
riders on the station, broken all the bridles, rolled on all the
saddles, and kicked all the dogs, they would be marketable (and no great
bargains) at about thirty shillings a head.
Yet there is no sport in the world to be mentioned in the same volume as
"running horses", and we were very keen on it. All the crack nags were
got as fit as possible, and fed up beforehand; and on this particular
occasion White-when-he's-wanted, being in good trim, was given a week's
hard feed and lent to a harum-scarum fellow from the Upper Murray, who
happened to be working in a survey camp on the run. How he did open our
He ran the mob from hill to hill, from range to range, across open country
and back again to the hills, over flats and gullies, through hop-scrub
and stringybark ridges; and all the time White-when-he's-wanted was on
the wing of the mob, pulling double. The mares and foals dropped out,
the colts and young stock pulled up dead beat, and only the seasoned
veterans were left. Most of our horses caved in altogether; one or two
were kept in the hunt by judicious nursing and shirking the work; but
White-when-he's-wanted was with the quarry from end to end of the run,
doing double his share; and at the finish, when a chance offered to
wheel them into the trapyard, he simply smothered them for pace, and
slewed them into the wings before they knew where they were. Such a
capture had not fallen to our lot for many a day, and the fame of
White-when-he's-wanted was speedily noised abroad.
He was always fit for work, always hungry, always ready to lie down and
roll, and always lazy. But when he heard the rush of the brumbies' feet
in the scrub he became frantic with excitement. He could race over the
roughest ground without misplacing a hoof or altering his stride, and he
could sail over fallen timber and across gullies like a kangaroo. Nearly
every Sunday we were after the brumbies, until they got as lean as
greyhounds and as cunning as policemen. We were always ready to back
White-when-he's-wanted to run-down, single-handed, any animal in the
bush that we liked to put him after—wild horses, wild cattle, kangaroos,
emus, dingoes, kangaroo-rats—we barred nothing, for, if he couldn't beat
them for pace, he would outlast them.
And then one day he disappeared from the paddock, and we never saw him
again. We knew there were plenty of men in the district who would steal
him; but, as we knew also of many more who would "inform" for a pound or
two, we were sure that it could not have been local "talent" that had
taken him. We offered good rewards and set some of the right sort to
work, but heard nothing of him for about a year.
Then the surveyor's assistant turned up again, after a trip to the
interior. He told us the usual string of back-block lies, and wound up
by saying that out on the very fringe of settlement he had met an old
"Who was that?"
"Why, that little bay horse that I rode after the brumbies that time. The
one you called White-when-he's-wanted."
"The deuce you did! Are you sure? Who had him?"
"Sure! I'd swear to him anywhere. A little drover fellow had him. A little
fellow, with a big scar across his forehead. Came from Monaro way
somewhere. He said he bought the horse from you for fifteen notes."
The King's warrant doesn't run much out west of Boulia, and it is not
likely that any of us will ever see the drover again, or will ever again
cross the back of "White-when-he's-wanted".
THE DOWNFALL OF MULLIGAN'S
The sporting men of Mulligan's were an exceedingly knowing lot; in fact,
they had obtained the name amongst their neighbours of being a little
bit too knowing. They had "taken down" the adjoining town in a variety
of ways. They were always winning maiden plates with horses which were
shrewdly suspected to be old and well-tried performers in disguise.
When the sports of Paddy's Flat unearthed a phenomenal runner in the shape
of a blackfellow called Frying-pan Joe, the Mulligan contingent
immediately took the trouble to discover a blackfellow of their own, and
they made a match and won all the Paddy's Flat money with ridiculous
ease; then their blackfellow turned out to be a well-known Sydney
performer. They had a man who could fight, a man who could be backed to
jump five-feet-ten, a man who could kill eight pigeons out of nine at
thirty yards, a man who could make a break of fifty or so at billiards
if he tried; they could all drink, and they all had that indefinite look
of infinite wisdom and conscious superiority which belongs only to those
who know something about horseflesh.
They knew a great many things never learnt at Sunday-school. They were
experts at cards and dice. They would go to immense trouble to work off
any small swindle in the sporting line. In short the general consensus
of opinion was that they were a very "fly" crowd at Mulligan's, and if
you went there you wanted to "keep your eyes skinned" or they'd "have"
you over a threepenny-bit.
There were races at Sydney one Christmas, and a select band of the
Mulligan sportsmen were going down to them. They were in high feather,
having just won a lot of money from a young Englishman at
pigeon-shooting, by the simple method of slipping blank cartridges into
his gun when he wasn't looking, and then backing the bird.
They intended to make a fortune out of the Sydney people, and admirers who
came to see them off only asked them as a favour to leave money enough
in Sydney to make it worth while for another detachment to go down later
on. Just as the train was departing a priest came running on to the
platform, and was bundled into the carriage where our Mulligan friends
were; the door was slammed to, and away they went. His Reverence was hot
and perspiring, and for a few minutes mopped himself with a
handkerchief, while the silence was unbroken except by the rattle of the
After a while one of the Mulligan fraternity got out a pack of cards and
proposed a game to while away the time. There was a young squatter in
the carriage who looked as if he might be induced to lose a few pounds,
and the sportsmen thought they would be neglecting their opportunities
if they did not try to "get a bit to go on with" from him. He agreed to
play, and, just as a matter of courtesy, they asked the priest whether
he would take a hand.
"What game d'ye play?" he asked, in a melodious brogue.
They explained that any game was equally acceptable to them, but they
thought it right to add that they generally played for money.
"Sure an' it don't matter for wanst in a way," said he—"Oi'll take a hand
bedad—Oi'm only going about fifty miles, so Oi can't lose a fortune."
They lifted a light portmanteau on to their knees to make a table, and
five of them—three of the Mulligan crowd and the two strangers—started
to have a little game of poker. Things looked rosy for the Mulligan
boys, who chuckled as they thought how soon they were making a
beginning, and what a magnificent yarn they would have to tell about how
they rooked a priest on the way down.
Nothing sensational resulted from the first few deals, and the priest
began to ask questions.
"Be ye going to the races?"
They said they were.
"Ah! and Oi suppose ye'll be betting wid thim bookmakers—betting on the
horses, will yez? They do be terrible knowing men, thim bookmakers, they
tell me. I wouldn't bet much if Oi was ye," he said, with an affable
smile. "If ye go bettin' ye will be took in wid thim bookmakers."
The boys listened with a bored air and reckoned that by the time they
parted the priest would have learnt that they were well able to look
after themselves. They went steadily on with the game, and the priest
and the young squatter won slightly; this was part of the plan to lead
them on to plunge. They neared the station where the priest was to get
out. He had won rather more than they liked, so the signal was passed
round to "put the cross on". Poker is a game at which a man need not
risk much unless he feels inclined, and on this deal the priest stood
out. Consequently, when they drew up at his station he was still a few
"Bedad," he said, "Oi don't loike goin' away wid yer money. Oi'll go on to
the next station so as ye can have revinge." Then he sat down again, and
play went on in earnest.
The man of religion seemed to have the Devil's own luck. When he was dealt
a good hand he invariably backed it well, and if he had a bad one he
would not risk anything. The sports grew painfully anxious as they saw
him getting further and further ahead of them, prattling away all the
time like a big schoolboy. The squatter was the biggest loser so far,
but the priest was the only winner. All the others were out of pocket.
His reverence played with great dash, and seemed to know a lot about the
game, so that on arrival at the second station he was a good round sum
He rose to leave them with many expressions of regret, and laughingly
promised full revenge next time. Just as he was opening the carriage
door, one of the Mulligan fraternity said in a stage-whisper: "He's a
blanky sink-pocket. If he can come this far, let him come on to Sydney
and play for double the stakes." Like a shot the priest turned on him.
"Bedad, an' if that's yer talk, Oi'll play ye fer double stakes
from here to the other side of glory. Do yez think men are mice because
they eat cheese? It isn't one of the Ryans would be fearing to give any
man his revinge!"
He snorted defiance at them, grabbed his cards and waded in. The others
felt that a crisis was at hand and settled down to play in a dead
silence. But the priest kept on winning steadily, and the "old man" of
the Mulligan push saw that something decisive must be done, and decided
on a big plunge to get all the money back on one hand. By a dexterous
manipulation of the cards he dealt himself four kings, almost the best
hand at poker. Then he began with assumed hesitation to bet on his hand,
raising the stake little by little.
"Sure ye're trying to bluff, so ye are!" said the priest, and immediately
The others had dropped out of the game and watched with painful interest
the stake grow and grow. The Mulligan fraternity felt a cheerful
certainty that the "old man" had made things safe, and regarded
themselves as mercifully delivered from an unpleasant situation. The
priest went on doggedly raising the stake in response to his
antagonist's challenges until it had attained huge dimensions.
"Sure that's high enough," said he, putting into the pool sufficient to
entitle him to see his opponent's hand.
The "old man" with great gravity laid down his four kings, whereat the
Mulligan boys let a big sigh of relief escape them.
Then the priest laid down four aces and scooped the pool.
The sportsmen of Mulligan's never quite knew how they got out to Randwick.
They borrowed a bit of money in Sydney, and found themselves in the
saddling-paddock in a half-dazed condition, trying to realize what had
happened to them. During the afternoon they were up at the end of the
lawn near the Leger stand and could hear the babel of tongues, small
bookmakers, thimble riggers, confidence men, and so on, plying their
trades outside. In the tumult of voices they heard one that sounded
familiar. Soon suspicion grew into certainty, and they knew that it was
the voice of "Father" Ryan. They walked to the fence and looked over.
This is what he was saying:—
"Pop it down, gents! Pop it down! If you don't put down a brick you can't
pick up a castle! I'll bet no one here can pick the knave of hearts out
of these three cards. I'll bet half-a-sovereign no one here can find the
Then the crowd parted a little, and through the opening they could see him
distinctly, doing a great business and showing wonderful dexterity with
There is still enough money in Sydney to make it worth while for another
detachment to come down from Mulligan's; but the next lot will hesitate
about playing poker with priests in the train.
THE AMATEUR GARDENER
The first step in amateur gardening is to sit down and consider what good
you are going to get by it. If you are only a tenant by the month, as
most people are, it is obviously not of much use for you to plant a
fruit orchard or an avenue of oak trees. What you want is something that
will grow quickly, and will stand transplanting, for when you move it
would be a sin to leave behind you the plants on which you have spent so
much labour and so much patent manure.
We knew a man once who was a bookmaker by trade—and a Leger bookmaker at
that—but had a passion for horses and flowers. When he "had a big win",
as he occasionally did, it was his custom to have movable wooden
stables, built on skids, put up in the yard, and to have tons of the
best soil that money could buy carted into the garden of the premises
which he was occupying.
Then he would keep splendid horses, and grow rare roses and show-bench
chrysanthemums. His landlord passing by would see the garden in a blaze
of colour, and promise himself to raise the bookmaker's rent next
However, when the bookmaker "took the knock", as he invariably did at
least twice a year, it was his pleasing custom to move without giving
notice. He would hitch two cart-horses to the stables, and haul them
right away at night. He would not only dig up the roses, trees, and
chrysanthemums he had planted, but would also cart away the soil he had
brought in; in fact, he used to shift the garden bodily. He had one
garden that he shifted to nearly every suburb in Sydney; and he always
argued that the change of air was invaluable for chrysanthemums.
Being determined, then, to go in for gardening on common-sense principles,
and having decided on the shrubs you mean to grow, the next
consideration is your chance of growing them.
If your neighbour keeps game fowls, it may be taken for granted that
before long they will pay you a visit, and you will see the rooster
scratching your pot plants out by the roots as if they were so much
straw, just to make a nice place to lie down and fluff the dust over
himself. Goats will also stray in from the street, and bite the young
shoots off, selecting the most valuable plants with a discrimination
that would do credit to a professional gardener.
It is therefore useless to think of growing delicate or squeamish plants.
Most amateur gardeners maintain a lifelong struggle against the devices
of Nature; but when the forces of man and the forces of Nature come into
conflict Nature wins every time. Nature has decreed that certain plants
shall be hardy, and therefore suitable to suburban amateur gardeners;
the suburban amateur gardener persists in trying to grow quite other
plants, and in despising those marked out by Nature for his use. It is
to correct this tendency that this article is written.
The greatest standby to the amateur gardener should undoubtedly be the
blue-flowered shrub known as "plumbago". This homely but hardy plant
will grow anywhere. It naturally prefers a good soil, and a sufficient
rainfall, but if need be it will worry along without either. Fowls
cannot scratch it up, and even the goat turns away dismayed from its
hard-featured branches. The flower is not strikingly beautiful nor
ravishingly scented, but it flowers nine months out of the year;
smothered with street dust and scorched by the summer sun, you will find
that faithful old plumbago plugging along undismayed. A plant like this
should be encouraged—but the misguided amateur gardener as a rule
The plant known as the churchyard geranium is also one marked out by
Providence for the amateur; so is Cosmea, which comes up year after year
where once planted. In creepers, bignonia and lantana will hold their
own under difficulties perhaps as well as any that can be found. In
trees the Port Jackson fig is a patriotic one to grow. It is a fine
plant to provide exercise, as it sheds its leaves unsparingly, and
requires the whole garden to be swept up every day.
Your aim as a student of Nature should be to encourage the survival of the
fittest. There is a grass called nut grass, and another called
Parramatta grass, either of which holds its own against anything living
or dead. The average gardening manual gives you recipes for destroying
these. Why should you destroy them in favour of a sickly plant that
needs constant attention? No. The Parramatta grass is the selected of
Nature, and who are you to interfere with Nature?
Having decided to go in for strong, simple plants that will hold their
own, and a bit over, you must get your implements of husbandry.
The spade is the first thing, but the average ironmonger will show you an
unwieldy weapon only meant to be used by navvies. Don't buy it. Get a
small spade, about half-size—it is nice and light and doesn't tire the
wrist, and with it you can make a good display of enthusiasm, and earn
the hypocritical admiration of your wife. After digging for half-an-hour
or so, get her to rub your back with any of the backache cures. From
that moment you will have no further need for the spade.
A barrow is about the only other thing needed; anyhow, it is almost a
necessity for wheeling cases of whisky up to the house. A rake is useful
when your terrier dog has bailed up a cat, and will not attack it until
the cat is made to run.
Talking of terrier dogs, an acquaintance of ours has a dog that does all
his gardening. The dog is a small elderly terrier with a failing memory.
As soon as the terrier has planted a bone in the garden the owner slips
over, digs it up and takes it away. When that terrier goes back and
finds the bone gone, he distrusts his memory, and begins to think that
perhaps he has made a mistake, and has dug in the wrong place; so he
sets to work, and digs patiently all over the garden, turning over acres
of soil in the course of his search. This saves his master a lot of
The sensible amateur gardener, then, will not attempt to fight with Nature
but will fall in with her views. What more pleasant than to get out of
bed at 11.30 on a Sunday morning; to look out of your window at a lawn
waving with the feathery plumes of Parramatta grass, and to see beyond
it the churchyard geranium flourishing side by side with the plumbago
and the Port Jackson fig?
The garden gate blows open, and the local commando of goats, headed by an
aged and fragrant patriarch, locally known as De Wet, rushes in; but
their teeth will barely bite through the wiry stalks of the Parramatta
grass, and the plumbago and the figtree fail to attract them, and before
long they stand on one another's shoulders, scale the fence, and
disappear into the next-door garden, where a fanatic is trying to grow
After the last goat has scaled your neighbour's fence, and only De Wet is
left, your little dog discovers him. De Wet beats a hurried retreat,
apparently at full speed, with the dog exactly one foot behind him in
frantic pursuit. We say apparently at full speed, because experience has
taught that De Wet can run as fast as a greyhound when he likes; but he
never exerts himself to go faster than is necessary to keep just in
front of whatever dog is after him.
Hearing the scrimmage, your neighbour comes on to his verandah, and sees
the chase going down the street.
"Ha! that wretched old De Wet again!" he says. "Small hope your dog has of
catching him! Why don't you get a garden gate like mine, so that he
won't get in?"
"No; he can't get in at your gate," is the reply; "but I think his
commando are in your back garden now."
Then follows a frantic rush. Your neighbour falls downstairs in his haste,
and the commando, after stopping to bite some priceless pot plants of
your neighbour's as they come out, skips easily back over the fence and
through your gate into the street again.
If a horse gets in his hoofs make no impression on the firm turf of the
Parramatta grass, and you get quite a hearty laugh by dropping a chair
on him from the first-floor window.
The game fowls of your other neighbour come fluttering into your garden,
and scratch and chuckle and fluff themselves under your plumbago bush;
but you don't worry. Why should you? They can't hurt it; and, besides,
you know that the small black hen and the big yellow one, who have
disappeared from the throng, are even now laying their daily egg for you
behind the thickest bush.
Your little dog rushes frantically up and down the front bed of your
garden, barking and racing, and tearing up the ground, because his rival
little dog, who lives down the street, is going past with his master,
and each pretends that he wants to be at the other—as they have
pretended every day for the past three years. The performance he is
going through doesn't disturb you. Why should it? By following the
directions in this article you have selected plants he cannot hurt.
After breakfasting at noon, you stroll out, and, perhaps, smooth with your
foot, or with your spade, the inequalities made by the hens; you gather
up casually the eggs they have laid; you whistle to your little dog, and
go out for a stroll with a light heart.
Travellers approaching a bush township are sure to find some distance from
the town a lonely public-house waiting by the roadside to give them
welcome. Thirsty (miscalled Thursday) Island is the outlying pub of
When the China and British-India steamers arrive from the North the first
place they come to is Thirsty Island, the sentinel at the gate of Torres
Straits. New chums on the steamers see a fleet of white-sailed pearling
luggers, a long pier clustered with a hybrid crowd of every colour,
caste and creed under Heaven, and at the back of it all a little
galvanized-iron town shining in the sun.
For nine months of the year a crisp, cool south-east wind blows, the
snow-white beach is splashed with spray and dotted with the picturesque
figures of Japanese divers and South Sea Island boatmen. Coco-nut palms
line the roads by the beach, and back of the town are the barracks and a
fort nestling among the trees on the hillside. Thirsty Island is a nice
place—to look at.
When a vessel makes fast the Thirsty Islanders come down to greet the
new-comers and give them welcome to Australia. The new-chums are
inclined to patronise these simple, outlying people. Fresh from the
iniquities of the China-coast cocktail and the unhallowed orgies of the
Sourabaya Club, new-chums think they have little to learn in the way of
drink; at any rate, they haven't come all the way to Thursday Island to
be taught anything. Poor new-chums! Little do they know the kind of
people they are up against.
The following description of a night at Thursday Island is taken from a
new-chum's note book:
"Passed Proudfoot shoal and arrived at Thursday Island. First sight of
Australia. Lot of men came aboard, all called Captain. They are all
pearl-fishers or pilots, not a bit like the bushmen I expected. When
they came aboard they divided into parties. Some invaded the Captain's
cabin; others sat in the smoking room; the rest crowded into the saloon.
They talked to the passengers about the Boer War, and told us about
pearls worth 1000 pounds that had been found lately.
"One captain pulled a handful of loose pearls out of a jar and handed them
round in a casual way for us to look at. The stewards opened bottles and
we all sat down for a drink and a smoke. I spoke to one captain—an
oldish man—and he grinned amiably, but did not answer. Another captain
leaned over to me and said, 'Don't take any notice of him, he's boozed
all this week.'
"Conversation and drink became general. The night was very hot and close,
and some of the passengers seemed to be taking more than was good for
them. A contagious thirst spread round the ship, and before long the
stewards and firemen were at it. The saloon became an inferno of drink
and sweat and tobacco smoke. Perfect strangers were talking to each
other at the top of their voices.
"Young MacTavish, who is in a crack English regiment, asked the captain of
a pearling lugger whether he didn't know Talbot de Cholmondeley in the
"The pearler said very likely he had met 'em, and no doubt he'd remember
their faces if he saw them, but he never could remember names.
"Another passenger—a Jew—was trying to buy some pearls cheap from the
captains, but the more the captains drank the less anxious they became
to talk about pearls.
"The night wore on, and still the drinks circulated. Young MacTavish slept
"One passenger gave his steward a sovereign as he was leaving the ship,
and in half an hour the steward was carried to his berth in a
fit—alcoholic in its origin. Another steward was observed openly
drinking the passengers' whisky. When accused, he didn't even attempt to
defend himself; the great Thursday Island thirst seemed to have
communicated itself to everyone on board, and he simply had to
"About three in the morning a tour of the ship disclosed the following
state of affairs: Captain's room full of captains solemnly tight;
smoking-room empty, except for the inanimate form of the captain who had
been boozed all the week, and was now sleeping peacefully with his feet
on the sofa and his head on the floor. The saloon was full of captains
and passengers—the latter mostly in a state of collapse or laughing and
singing deliriously; the rails lined with firemen who had business over
the side; stewards ditto.
"At last the Thursday Islanders departed, unsteadily, but still on their
feet, leaving a demoralized ship behind them. And young MacTavish, who
has seen a thing or two in his brief span, staggered to his berth,
saying, 'My God! Is all Australia like this place?'"
When no ships arrive, the Islanders just drop into the pubs, as a matter
of routine, for their usual evening soak. They drink weird
compounds—horehound beer, known as "lady dog", and things like that.
About two in the morning they go home speechless, but still able to
travel. It is very rarely that an Islander gets helplessly drunk, but
strangers generally have to be put to bed.
The Japanese on the island are a strong faction. They have a club of their
own, and once gave a dinner to mark the death of one of their members.
He was shrewdly suspected of having tried to drown another member by
cutting his airpipe, so, when he died, the club celebrated the event.
The Japanese are not looked upon with favor by the white islanders. They
send their money to Japan—thousands of pounds a year go through the
little office in money-orders—and so they are not "good for trade".
The Manilamen and Kanakas and Torres Strait islanders, on the other hand,
bring all the money they do not spend on the pearling schooner to the
island, and "blow it in", like men. They knife each other sometimes, and
now and again have to be run in wholesale, but they are "good for
trade". The local lock-up has a record of eighteen drunks run in in
seven minutes. They weren't taken along in carriages-and-four, either;
they were mostly dragged along by the scruff of the neck.
Billy Malkeela, the South Sea diver, summed up the Japanese
question—"Seems to me dis Islan' soon b'long Japanee altogedder. One
time pa-lenty rickatta (plenty regatta), all same Isle of Wight. Now no
more rickatta. All money go Japan!"
An English new-chum made his appearance there lately—a most undefeated
sportsman. He was put down in a diving dress in about eight feet of
water, where he bubbled and struggled about in great style. Suddenly he
turned, rushed for the beach, and made for the foot of a tree, which he
tried to climb under the impression that he was still at the bottom of
the ocean. Then he was hauled in by the life-line.
The pearlers thought to get some fun out of him by giving him an oyster to
open in which they had previously planted a pearl; he never saw the
pearl and threw the oyster into the scuppers with the rest, and the
pearlers had to go down on all fours and grope for that pearl among the
stinking oysters. It was funny—but not in the way they had intended.
The pearlers go out in schooners called floating stations (their enemies
call them floating public-houses) and no man knows what hospitality is
till he has been a guest on a pearling schooner. They carry it to
extremes sometimes. Some pearlers were out in a lugger, and were passing
by one of these schooners. They determined not to go on board, as it was
late, and they were in a hurry. The captain of the schooner went below,
got his rifle and put two bullets through their foresail. Then they put
the helm down and went aboard; it was an invitation almost equivalent to
a royal command. They felt heartily ashamed of themselves as they slunk
up on deck, and the captain of the schooner eyed them reproachfully.
"I couldn't let you disgrace yourselves by passing my schooner," he said;
"but if it ever happens again I'll fire at the deck. A man that would
pass a schooner in broad daylight is better dead."
There is a fort and garrison at Thirsty Island, but they are not needed.
If an invading fleet comes this way it should be encouraged by every
possible means to land at the island; the heat, the thirst, the
horehound beer, and the Islanders may be trusted to do the rest.
DAN FITZGERALD EXPLAINS
The circus was having its afternoon siesta. Overhead the towering canvas
tent spread like a giant mushroom on a network of stalks—slanting beams,
interlaced with guys and wire ropes.
The ring looked small and lonely; its circle of empty benches seemed to
stare intently at it, as though some sort of unseen performance were
going on for the benefit of a ghostly audience. Now and again a guy rope
creaked, or a loose end of canvas flapped like faint, unreal applause,
as the silence shut down again, it did not need much imagination to
people the ring with dead and gone circus riders performing for the
benefit of shadowy spectators packed on those benches.
In the menagerie portion matters were different; here there was a free and
easy air, the animals realising that for the present the eyes of the
public were off them, and they could put in the afternoon as they chose.
The big African apes had dropped the "business" of showing their teeth,
and pretending that they wanted to tear the spectators' faces off. They
were carefully and painstakingly trying to fix up a kind of rustic seat
in the corner of their cage with a short piece of board, which they
placed against the wall. This fell down every time they sat on it, and
the whole adjustment had to be gone through again.
The camel had stretched himself full length on the tan, and was enjoying a
luxurious snooze, oblivious of the fact that before long he would have
to get up and assume that far-off ship-of-the-desert aspect. The
remainder of the animals were, like actors, "resting" before their
"turn" came on; even the elephant had ceased to sway about, while a
small monkey, asleep on a sloping tent pole, had an attack of nightmare
and would have fallen off his perch but for his big tail. It was a land
of the Lotus-eater
"In which it seemed always afternoon."
These visions were dispelled by the entry of a person who said, "D'ye want
to see Dan?" and soon Dan Fitzgerald, the man who knows all about the
training of horses, came into the tent with Montgomery, the ringmaster,
and between them they proceeded to expound the methods of training
"What sort of horse do we buy for circus work? Well, it depends what we
want 'em for. There are three sorts of horses in use in a circus—ring
horses, trick horses, and school horses; but it doesn't matter what he
is wanted for, a horse is all the better if he knows nothing. A horse
that has been pulled about and partly trained has to unlearn a lot
before he is any use to us. The less he knows, the better it is."
"Then do you just try any sort of horse?"
"Any sort, so long as he is a good sort, but it depends on what he is
wanted for. If we want a ring horse, he has to be a quiet sober-going
animal, not too well-bred and fiery. A ring horse is one that just goes
round the ring for the bareback riders and equestriennes to perform on.
The human being is the "star", and the horse in only a secondary
performer, a sort of understudy; yes, that's it, an understudy—he has to
study how to keep under the man."
"Are they hard to train?"
"Their work all depends on the men that ride them. In bareback riding
there's a knack in jumping on the horse. If a man lands awkwardly and
jars the horse's back, the horse will get out of step and flinch at each
jump, and he isn't nearly so good to perform on. A ring horse must not
swerve or change his pace; if you're up in the air, throwing a
somersault, and the horse swerves from underneath you—where are you?"
"Some people think that horses take a lot of notice of the band—is that
"Not that I know of. If there are any horses in the show with an ear for
music, I haven't heard of them. They take a lot of notice of the
"Does it take them long to learn this work?"
"Not long; a couple of months will teach a ring horse; of course, some are
better than others."
"First of all we teach them to come up to you, with the whip, like
horsebreakers do. Then we run them round the ring with a lunging rein
for a long time; then, when they are steady to the ring, we let them run
with the rein loose, and the trainer can catch hold of it if they go
wrong. Then we put a roller on them—a broad surcingle that goes round
the horse's body—and the boys jump on them and canter round, holding on
to the roller, or standing up, lying down, and doing tricks till the
horse gets used to it."
"Well, you give 'em a couple of hours of it, perhaps, and then dry them
and feed them, and give them a spell, and then bring them out again.
They soon get to know what you want; but you can't break in horses on
the move. The shifting and worry and noise and excitement put it all out
of their heads. We have a fixed camp where we break them in. And a horse
may know his work perfectly well when there is no one about, but bring
him into the ring at night, and he is all abroad."
"Do you have to give them much whip?"
"Not much. If a horse doesn't know what you want him to do, it only ruins
him to whip him. But once he does a thing a few times, and then won't do
it, then you must whip him."
"What about trick horses?"
"A trick horse rolls a barrel, or lies down and goes to bed with the
clown, or fires a pistol—does any trick like that. Some small circuses
make the same horses do both trick and ring work, but it isn't a good
line. A horse is all the better to have only one line of business—same
as a man."
"How do you teach them tricks?"
"Oh, it takes a long time and a lot of hard work and great patience. Even
to make a horse lie down when he's ordered takes a couple of months
sometimes. To make a horse lie down, you strap up one leg, and then pull
his head round; after a while he gets so tired of the strained position
that he lies down, after which he learns to do it at command. If you
want him to pick up a handkerchief, you put a bit of carrot in it, and
after a while they know that you want them to pick it up—but it takes a
long time. Then a strange hand in the ring will flurry them, and if
anything goes wrong, they get all abroad. A good active pony, with a bit
of Arab blood in him, is the best for tricks."
"What's a school horse?"
"Ah, that's a line of business that isn't appreciated enough out here. On
the Continent they think a lot of them. A school horse is one that is
taught to do passaging, to change his feet at command, to move sideways
and backwards; in fact, to drill. Out here no one thinks much of it. But
in Germany, where everyone goes through military riding schools, they
do. The Germans are the best horse-trainers in the world; and the big
German circus-proprietors have men to do all their business for them,
while they just attend to the horses."
"How long does it take to turn out a school horse?"
"Well, Chiarini was the best trainer out here, and he used to take two
years to get a horse to his satisfaction. For school horses, you must
have thoroughbreds, because their appearance is half their success. We
had a New Zealand thoroughbred that had raced, and was turning out a
splendid school horse, and he got burnt after costing a year's training.
That's the luck of the game, you know. You keep at it year after year,
and sometimes they die, and sometimes they get crippled—it's all in the
luck of the game. You may give fifty pounds for a horse, and find that
he can never get over his fear of the elephant, while you give ten
pounds for another, and find him a ready-made performer almost."
We passed out through the ghostly circus and the menagerie tent down to
the stable tent. There, among a lot of others, a tranquil-looking animal
was munching some feed, while in front of him hung a placard, "Tiger
"That's a new sort! What is he, ring, trick, or school horse?"
"Well, he's a class by himself. I suppose you'd call him a ring horse.
That's the horse that the tiger rides on."
"Did it take him long to learn that?"
"Well, it did not take this horse long; but we tried eleven others before
we could get one to stand it. They're just like men, all different. What
one will stand another won't look at. Well, good-bye."
Just like men—no doubt; most men have to carry tigers of various sorts
through life to get a living.
Most people think that the cat is an unintelligent animal, fond of ease,
and caring little for anything but mice and milk. But a cat has really
more character than most human beings, and gets a great deal more
satisfaction out of life. Of all the animal kingdom, the cat has the
most many-sided character.
He—or she—is an athlete, a musician, an acrobat, a Lothario, a grim
fighter, a sport of the first water. All day long the cat loafs about
the house, takes things easy, sleeps by the fire, and allows himself to
be pestered by the attentions of our womenfolk and annoyed by our
children. To pass the time away he sometimes watches a mouse-hole for an
hour or two—just to keep himself from dying of ennui; and people get the
idea that this sort of thing is all that life holds for the cat. But
watch him as the shades of evening fall, and you see the cat as he
When the family sits down to tea, the cat usually puts in an appearance to
get his share, and purrs noisily, and rubs himself against the legs of
the family; and all the time he is thinking of a fight or a love-affair
that is coming off that evening. If there is a guest at table the cat is
particularly civil to him, because the guest is likely to have the best
of what is going. Sometimes, instead of recognizing this civility with
something to eat, the guest stoops down and strokes the cat, and says,
"Poor pussy! poor pussy!"
The cat soon tires of that; he puts up his claw and quietly but firmly
rakes the guest in the leg.
"Ow!" says the guest, "the cat stuck his claws into me!" The delighted
family remarks, "Isn't it sweet of him? Isn't he intelligent? He
wants you to give him something to eat."
The guest dares not do what he would like to do—kick the cat through the
window—so, with tears of rage and pain in his eyes, he affects to be
very much amused, and sorts out a bit of fish from his plate and hands
it down. The cat gingerly receives it, with a look in his eyes that
says: "Another time, my friend, you won't be so dull of comprehension,"
and purrs maliciously as he retires to a safe distance from the guest's
boot before eating it. A cat isn't a fool—not by a long way.
When the family has finished tea, and gathers round the fire to enjoy the
hours of indigestion, the cat slouches casually out of the room and
disappears. Life, true life, now begins for him.
He saunters down his own backyard, springs to the top of the fence with
one easy bound, drops lightly down on the other side, trots across the
right-of-way to a vacant allotment, and skips to the roof of an empty
shed. As he goes, he throws off the effeminacy of civilisation; his gait
becomes lithe and pantherlike; he looks quickly and keenly from side to
side, and moves noiselessly, for he has so many enemies—dogs, cabmen
with whips, and small boys with stones.
Arrived on the top of the shed, the cat arches his back, rakes his claws
once or twice through the soft bark of the old roof, wheels round and
stretches himself a few times; just to see that every muscle is in full
working order; then, dropping his head nearly to his paws, he sends
across a league of backyards his call to his kindred—a call to love, or
war, or sport.
Before long they come, gliding, graceful shadows, approaching
circuitously, and halting occasionally to reconnoitre—tortoiseshell,
tabby, and black, all domestic cats, but all transformed for the nonce
into their natural state. No longer are they the hypocritical, meek
creatures who an hour ago were cadging for fish and milk. They are now
ruffling, swaggering blades with a Gascon sense of dignity. Their fights
are grim and determined, and a cat will be clawed to ribbons before he
Even young lady cats have this inestimable superiority over human beings,
that they can work off jealousy, hatred, and malice in a sprawling,
yelling combat on a flat roof. All cats fight, and all keep themselves
more or less in training while they are young. Your cat may be the
acknowledged lightweight champion of his district—a Griffo of the feline
Just think how much more he gets out of his life than you do out of
yours—what a hurricane of fighting and lovemaking his life is—and blush
for yourself. You have had one little love-affair, and never had a good,
all-out fight in your life!
And the sport they have, too! As they get older and retire from the ring
they go in for sport more systematically; the suburban backyards, that
are to us but dullness indescribable, are to them hunting-grounds and
trysting-places where they may have more gallant adventure than ever had
King Arthur's knights or Robin Hood's merry men.
Grimalkin decides to kill a canary in a neighbouring verandah. Consider
the fascination of it—the stealthy reconnaissance from the top of the
fence; the care to avoid waking the house-dog, the noiseless approach
and the hurried dash, and the fierce clawing at the fluttering bird till
its mangled body is dragged through the bars of the cage; the exultant
retreat with the spoil; the growling over the feast that follows. Not
the least entertaining part of it is the demure satisfaction of arriving
home in time for breakfast and hearing the house-mistress say: "Tom must
be sick; he seems to have no appetite."
It is always levelled as a reproach against cats that they are more fond
of their home than of the people in it. Naturally, the cat doesn't like
to leave his country, the land where all his friends are, and where he
knows every landmark. Exiled in a strange land, he would have to learn a
new geography, to exploit another tribe of dogs, to fight and make love
to an entirely new nation of cats. Life isn't long enough for that sort
of thing. So, when the family moves, the cat, if allowed, will stay at
the old house and attach himself to the new tenants. He will give them
the privilege of boarding him while he enjoys life in his own way. He is
not going to sacrifice his whole career for the doubtful reward which
fidelity to his old master or mistress might bring.
SITTING IN JUDGMENT
The show ring was a circular enclosure of about four acres, with a spiked
batten fence round it, and a listless crowd of back-country settlers
propped along the fence. Behind them were the sheds for produce, and the
machinery sections where steam threshers and earth scoops hummed and
buzzed and thundered unnoticed. Crowds of sightseers wandered past the
cattle stalls to gape at the fat bullocks; side-shows flourished, a
blase goose drew marbles out of a tin canister, and a boxing showman
displayed his muscles outside his tent, while his partner urged the
youth of the district to come in and be thumped for the edification of
Suddenly a gate opened at the end of the show ring, and horses, cattle,
dogs, vehicles, motor-cars, and bicyclists crowded into the arena. This
was the general parade, but it would have been better described as a
general chaos. Trotting horses and ponies, in harness, went whirling
round the ring, every horse and every driver fully certain that every
eye was fixed on them; the horses—the vainest creatures in the
world—arching their necks and lifting their feet, whizzed past in
bewildering succession, till the onlookers grew giddy. Inside the
whirling circle blood stallions stood on their hind legs, screaming
defiance to the world at large; great shaggy-fronted bulls, with dull
vindictive eyes, paced along, looking as though they were trying to
remember who it was that struck them last. A showground bull always
seems to be nursing a grievance.
Mixed up with the stallions and bulls were dogs and donkeys. The dogs were
led by attendants, apparently selected on the principle of the larger
the dog the smaller the custodian; while the donkeys were the only
creatures unmoved by their surroundings, for they slept peaceably
through the procession, occasionally waking up to bray their sense of
In the centre of the ring a few lady-riders, stern-featured women for the
most part, were being "judged" by a trembling official, who feared to
look them in the face, but hurriedly and apologetically examined horses
and saddles, whispered his award to the stewards, and fled at top speed
to the official stand—his sanctuary from the fury of spurned beauty. The
defeated ladies immediately began to "perform"—that is, to ask the
universe at large whether anyone ever heard the like of that! But the
stewards strategically slipped away, and the injured innocents had no
resource left but to ride haughtily round the ring, glaring defiance at
All this time stewards and committee-men were wandering among the
competitors, trying to find the animals for judgment. The clerk of the
ring—a huge man on a small cob—galloped around, roaring like a bull:
"This way for the fourteen stone 'acks! Come on, you twelve 'and
ponies!" and by degrees various classes got judged, and dispersed
grumbling. Then the bulls filed out with their grievances still
unsettled, the lady riders were persuaded to withdraw, and the clerk of
the ring sent a sonorous bellow across the ground: "Where's the jumpin'
From the official stand came a brisk, dark-faced, wiry little man. He had
been a steeplechase rider and a trainer in his time. Long experience of
that tricky animal, the horse, had made him reserved and slow to express
an opinion. He mounted the table, and produced a note-book. From the bar
of the booth came a large, hairy, red-faced man, whose face showed
fatuous self-complacency. He was a noted show-judge because he refused,
on principle, to listen to others' opinions; or in those rare cases when
he did, only to eject a scornful contradiction. The third judge was a
local squatter, who was overwhelmed with a sense of his own importance.
They seated themselves on a raised platform in the centre of the ring, and
held consultation. The small dark man produced his note-book.
"I always keep a scale of points," he said. "Give 'em so many points for
each fence. Then give 'em so many for make, shape, and quality, and so
many for the way they jump."
The fat man looked infinite contempt. "I never want any scale of points,"
he said. "One look at the 'orses is enough for me. A man that judges by
points ain't a judge at all, I reckon. What do you think?" he went on,
turning to the squatter. "Do you go by points?"
"Never," said the squatter, firmly; which, as he had never judged before
in his life, was strictly true.
"Well, we'll each go our own way," said the little man. "I'll keep points.
Send 'em in."
"Number One, Conductor!" roared the ring steward in a voice like thunder,
and a long-legged grey horse came trotting into the ring and sidled
about uneasily. His rider pointed him for the first jump, and went at it
at a terrific pace. Nearing the fence the horse made a wild spring, and
cleared it by feet, while the crowd yelled applause. At the second jump
he raced right under the obstacle, propped dead, and rose in the air
with a leap like a goat, while the crowd yelled their delight again, and
said: "My oath! ain't he clever?" As he neared the third fence he
shifted about uneasily, and finally took it at an angle, clearing a
wholly unnecessary thirty feet. Again the hurricane of cheers broke out.
"Don't he fly 'em," said one man, waving his hat. At the last fence he
made his spring yards too soon; his forelegs got over all right, but his
hind legs dropped on the rail with a sounding rap, and he left a little
tuft of hair sticking on it.
"I like to see 'em feel their fences," said the fat man. "I had a bay
'orse once, and he felt every fence he ever jumped; shows their
"I think he'll feel that last one for a while," said the little dark man.
"What's this now?"
"Number Two, Homeward Bound!" An old, solid chestnut horse came out and
cantered up to each jump, clearing them coolly and methodically. The
crowd was not struck by the performance, and the fat man said: "No
pace!" but surreptitiously made two strokes (to indicate Number Two) on
the cuff of his shirt.
"Number Eleven, Spite!" This was a leggy, weedy chestnut, half-racehorse,
half-nondescript, ridden by a terrified amateur, who went at the fence
with a white, set face. The horse raced up to the fence, and stopped
dead, amid the jeers of the crowd. The rider let daylight into him with
his spurs, and rushed him at it again. This time he got over.
Round he went, clouting some fences with his front legs, others with his
hind legs. The crowd jeered, but the fat man, from a sheer spirit of
opposition, said: "That would be a good horse if he was rode better."
And the squatter remarked: "Yes, he belongs to a young feller just near
me. I've seen him jump splendidly out in the bush, over brush fences."
The little dark man said nothing, but made a note in his book.
"Number Twelve, Gaslight!" "Now, you'll see a horse," said the fat man.
"I've judged this 'orse in twenty different shows, and gave him first
prize every time!"
Gaslight turned out to be a fiddle-headed, heavy-shouldered brute, whose
long experience of jumping in shows where they give points for pace—as
if the affair was a steeplechase—had taught him to get the business over
as quickly as he could. He went thundering round the ring, pulling
double, and standing off his fences in a style that would infallibly
bring him to grief if following hounds across roads or through broken
"Now," said the fat man, "that's a 'unter, that is. What I say is, when
you come to judge at a show, pick out the 'orse you'd soonest be on if
Ned Kelly was after you, and there you have the best 'unter."
The little man did not reply, but made the usual scrawl in his book, while
the squatter hastened to agree with the fat man. "I like to see a bit of
pace myself," he ventured.
The fat man sat on him heavily. "You don't call that pace, do you?" he
said. "He was going dead slow."
Various other competitors did their turn round the ring, some propping and
bucking over the jumps, others rushing and tearing at their fences; not
one jumped as a hunter should. Some got themselves into difficulties by
changing feet or misjudging the distance, and were loudly applauded by
the crowd for "cleverness" in getting themselves out of the difficulties
they had themselves created.
A couple of rounds narrowed the competitors down to a few, and the task of
deciding was entered on.
"I have kept a record," said the little man, "of how they jumped each
fence, and I give them points for style of jumping, and for their make
and shape and hunting qualities. The way I bring it out is that Homeward
Bound is the best, with Gaslight second."
"Homeward Bound!" said the fat man. "Why, the pace he went wouldn't head a
duck. He didn't go as fast as a Chinaman could trot with two baskets of
stones. I want to have three of 'em in to have another look at 'em."
Here he looked surreptitiously at his cuff, saw a note "No. II.",
mistook it for "Number Eleven", and said: "I want Number Eleven to go
The leggy, weedy chestnut, with the terrified amateur up, came sidling and
snorting out into the ring. The fat man looked at him with scorn.
"What is that fiddle-headed brute doing in the ring?" he said.
"Why," said the ring steward, "you said you wanted him."
"Well," said the fat man, "if I said I wanted him I do want him. Let him
go the round."
The terrified amateur went at his fences with the rashness of despair, and
narrowly escaped being clouted off on two occasions. This put the fat
man in a quandary. He had kept no record, and all the horses were
jumbled up in his head; but he had one fixed idea, to give the first
prize to Gaslight; as to the second he was open to argument. From sheer
contrariness he said that Number Eleven would be "all right if he were
rode better," and the squatter agreed. The little man was overruled, and
the prizes went—Gaslight, first; Spite, second; Homeward Bound, third.
The crowd hooted loudly as Spite's rider came round with the second
ribbon, and small boys suggested to the fat judge in shrill tones that
he ought to boil his head. The fat man stalked majestically into the
stewards' stand, and on being asked how he came to give Spite the second
prize, remarked oracularly: "I judge the 'orse, I don't judge the
rider." This silenced criticism, and everyone adjourned to have a drink.
Over the flowing bowl the fat man said: "You see, I don't believe in this
nonsense about points. I can judge 'em without that."
Twenty dissatisfied competitors vowed they would never bring another horse
there in their lives. Gaslight's owner said: "Blimey, I knew it would be
all right with old Billy judging. 'E knows this 'orse."
The dog is a member of society who likes to have his day's work, and who
does it more conscientiously than most human beings. A dog always looks
as if he ought to have a pipe in his mouth and a black bag for his
lunch, and then he would go quite happily to office every day.
A dog without work is like a man without work, a nuisance to himself and
everybody else. People who live about town, and keep a dog to give the
children hydatids and to keep the neighbours awake at night, imagine
that the animal is fulfilling his destiny. All town dogs, fancy dogs,
show dogs, lap-dogs, and other dogs with no work to do, should be
abolished; it is only in the country that a dog has any justification
for his existence.
The old theory that animals have only instinct, not reason, to guide them,
is knocked endways by the dog. A dog can reason as well as a human being
on some subjects, and better on others, and the best reasoning dog of
all is the sheep-dog. The sheep-dog is a professional artist with a
pride in his business. Watch any drover's dogs bringing sheep into the
yards. How thoroughly they feel their responsibility, and how very
annoyed they get if a stray dog with no occupation wants them to stop
and fool about! They snap at him and hurry off, as much as to say: "You
go about your idleness. Don't you see this is my busy day?"
Sheep-dogs are followers of Thomas Carlyle. They hold that the only
happiness for a dog in this life is to find his work and to do it. The
idle, 'dilettante', non-working, aristocratic dog they have no use for.
The training of a sheep-dog for his profession begins at a very early age.
The first thing is to take him out with his mother and let him see her
working. He blunders lightheartedly, frisking along in front of the
horse, and his owner tries to ride over him, and generally succeeds. It
is amusing to see how that knocks all the gas out of a puppy, and with
what a humble air he falls to the rear and glues himself to the horse's
heels, scarcely daring to look to the right or to the left, for fear of
committing some other breach of etiquette.
He has had his first lesson—to keep behind the horse until he is wanted.
Then he watches the old slut work, and is allowed to go with her round
the sheep; and if he shows any disposition to get out of hand and frolic
about, the old lady will bite him sharply to prevent his interfering
with her work.
By degrees, slowly, like any other professional, he learns his business.
He learns to bring sheep after a horse simply at a wave of the hand; to
force the mob up to a gate where they can be counted or drafted; to
follow the scent of lost sheep, and to drive sheep through a town
without any master, one dog going on ahead to block the sheep from
turning off into by-streets while the other drives them on from the
How do they learn all these things? Dogs for show work are taught
painstakingly by men who are skilled in handling them; but, after all,
they teach themselves more than the men teach them. It looks as if the
acquired knowledge of generations were transmitted from dog to dog. The
puppy, descended from a race of sheep-dogs, starts with all his
faculties directed towards the working of sheep; he is half-educated as
soon as he is born. He can no more help working sheep than a born
musician can help being musical, or a Hebrew can help gathering in
shekels. It is bred in him. If he can't get sheep to work, he will work
a fowl; often and often one can see a collie pup painstakingly and
carefully driving a bewildered old hen into a stable, or a stock-yard,
or any other enclosed space on which he has fixed his mind. How does he
learn to do that? He didn't learn it at all. The knowledge was born with
When the dog has been educated, or has educated himself, he enjoys his
work; but very few dogs like work "in the yards". The sun is hot, the
dust rises in clouds, and there is nothing to do but bark, bark,
bark—which is all very well for learners and amateurs, but is beneath
the dignity of the true professional sheep-dog. When they are hoarse
with barking and nearly choked with dust, the men lose their tempers and
swear at them, and throw clods of earth at them, and sing out to them
"Speak up, blast you!"
Then the dogs suddenly decide that they have done enough for the day.
Watching their opportunity, they silently steal over the fence, and hide
in any cool place they can find. After a while the men notice that
hardly any are left, and operations are suspended while a great hunt is
made into outlying pieces of cover, where the dogs are sure to be found
lying low and looking as guilty as so many thieves. A clutch at the
scruff of the neck, a kick in the ribs, and they are hauled out of
hiding-places; and accompany their masters to the yard frolicking about
and pretending that they are quite delighted to be going back, and only
hid in those bushes out of sheer thoughtlessness. He is a champion
hypocrite, is the dog.
Dogs, like horses, have very keen intuition. They know when the men around
them are frightened, though they may not know the cause. In a great
Queensland strike, when the shearers attacked and burnt Dagworth shed,
some rifle-volleys were exchanged. The air was full of human
electricity, each man giving out waves of fear and excitement. Mark now
the effect it had on the dogs. They were not in the fighting; nobody
fired at them, and nobody spoke to them; but every dog left his master,
left the sheep, and went away to the homestead, about six miles off.
There wasn't a dog about the shed next day after the fight. The noise of
the rifles had not frightened them, because they were well-accustomed to
* The same thing happened constantly with horses in the
South African War. A loose horse would feed contentedly
while our men were firing, but when our troops were being
fired at the horses became uneasy, and the loose ones would
trot away. The excitement of the men communicated itself to
Dogs have an amazing sense of responsibility. Sometimes, when there are
sheep to be worked, an old slut who has young puppies may be greatly
exercised in her mind whether she should go out or not. On the one hand,
she does not care about leaving the puppies, on the other, she feels
that she really ought to go rather than allow the sheep to be knocked
about by those learners. Hesitatingly, with many a look behind her, she
trots out after the horses and the other dogs. An impassioned appeal
from the head boundary rider, "Go back home, will yer!" is treated with
the contempt it deserves. She goes out to the yards, works, perhaps half
the day, and then slips quietly under the fences and trots off home,
THE DOG—AS A SPORTSMAN
The sheep-dog and the cattle-dog are the workmen of the animal kingdom;
sporting and fighting dogs are the professionals and artists.
A house-dog or a working-dog will only work for his master; a professional
or artistic dog will work for anybody, so long as he is treated like an
artist. A man going away for a week's shooting can borrow a dog, and the
dog will work for him loyally, just as a good musician will do his best,
though the conductor is strange to him, and the other members of the
band are not up to the mark. The musician's art is sacred to him, and
that is the case with the dog—Art before everything.
It is a grand sight to see a really good setter or pointer working up to a
bird, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to see if the man with the
gun has not lost himself. He throws his whole soul into his work,
questing carefully over the cold scent, feathering eagerly when the bird
is close, and at last drawing up like a statue. Not Paganini himself
ever lost himself in his art more thoroughly than does humble Spot or
Ponto. It is not amusement and not a mere duty to him; it is a sacred
gift, which he is bound to exercise.
A pointer in need of amusement will play with another dog—the pair
pretending to fight, and so on, but when there is work to be done, the
dog is lost in the artist. How crestfallen he looks if by any chance he
blunders on to a bird without pointing it! A fiddler who has played a
wrong note in a solo is the only creature who can look quite so
discomfited. Humanity, instead of going to the ant for wisdom, should
certainly go to the dog.
Sporting dogs are like other artists, in that they are apt to get careless
of everything except their vocation. They are similarly quite unreliable
in their affections. They are not good watch dogs, and take little
interest in chasing cats. They look on a little dog that catches rats
much as a great musician looks on a cricketer—it's clever, but it isn't
Hunting and fighting dogs are the gladiators of the animal world. A
fox-hound or a kangaroo-dog is always of the same opinion as Mr.
Jorrocks:—"All time is wasted what isn't spent in 'untin'."
A greyhound will start out in the morning with three lame legs, but as
soon as he sees a hare start he must go. He utterly forgets his
sorrows in the excitement, just as a rowing-man, all over boils and
blisters, will pull a desperate race without feeling any pain. Such dogs
are not easily excited by anything but a chase, and a burglar might come
and rob the house and murder the inmates without arousing any excitement
among them. Guarding a house is "not their pidgin" as the Chinese say.
That is one great reason for the success of the dog at whatever branch
of his tribe's work he goes in for—he is so thorough. Dogs who are
forced to combine half-a-dozen professions never make a success at
anything. One dog one billet is their motto.
The most earnest and thorough of all the dog tribe is the fighting dog.
His intense self-respect, his horror of brawling, his cool
determination, make him a pattern to humanity. The bull-dog or
bull-terrier is generally the most friendly and best-tempered dog in the
world; but when he is put down in the ring he fights till he drops, in
grim silence, though his feet are bitten through and through, his ears
are in rags, and his neck a hideous mass of wounds.
In a well-conducted dog-fight each dog in turn has to attack the other
dog, and one can see fierce earnestness blazing in the eye of the
attacker as he hurls himself on the foe. What makes him fight like that?
It is not bloodthirstiness, because they are neither savage nor
quarrelsome dogs: a bulldog will go all his life without a fight, unless
put into a ring. It is simply their strong self-respect and stubborn
pride which will not let them give in. The greyhound snaps at his
opponent and then runs for his life, but the fighting dog stands to it
Just occasionally one sees the same type of human being—some quiet-spoken,
good-tempered man who has taken up glove-fighting for a living, and who,
perhaps, gets pitted against a man a shade better than himself. After a
few rounds he knows he is overmatched, but there is something at the
back of his brain that will not let him cave in. Round after round he
stands punishment, and round after round he grimly comes up, till,
possibly, his opponent loses heart, or a fluky hit turns the scale in
his favour. These men are to be found in every class of life. Many of
the gamest of the game are mere gutter-bred boys who will continue to
fight long after they have endured enough punishment to entitle them to
You can see in their eyes the same hard glitter that shows in the
bulldog's eyes as he limps across the ring, or in the eye of the
racehorse as he lies down to it when his opponent is outpacing him. It
is grit, pluck, vim, nerve force; call it what you like, and there is no
created thing that has more of it than the dog.
The blood-lust is a dog-phase that has never been quite understood. Every
station-owner knows that sometimes the house-dogs are liable to take a
sudden fit of sheep-killing. Any kind of dog will do it, from the collie
downward. Sometimes dogs from different homesteads meet in the paddocks,
having apparently arranged the whole affair beforehand. They are very
artful about it, too. They lie round the house till dark, and then slink
off and have a wild night's blood-spree, running down the wretched sheep
and tearing their throats open; before dawn they slink back again and
lie around the house as before. Many and many a sheep-owner has gone out
with a gun and shot his neighbour's dogs for killing sheep which his own
wicked, innocent-looking dogs had slain.
CONCERNING A STEEPLECHASE RIDER
Of all the ways in which men get a living there is none so hard and so
precarious as that of steeplechase-riding in Australia. It is bad enough
in England, where steeplechases only take place in winter, when the
ground is soft, where the horses are properly schooled before being
raced, and where most of the obstacles will yield a little if struck and
give the horse a chance to blunder over safely.
In Australia the men have to go at racing-speed, on very hard ground, over
the most rigid and uncompromising obstacles—ironbark rails clamped into
solid posts with bands of iron. No wonder they are always coming to
grief, and are always in and out of hospital in splints and bandages.
Sometimes one reads that a horse has fallen and the rider has "escaped
with a severe shaking."
That "shaking", gentle reader, would lay you or me up for weeks, with a
doctor to look after us and a crowd of sympathetic friends calling to
know how our poor back was. But the steeplechase-rider has to be out and
about again, "riding exercise" every morning, and "schooling" all sorts
of cantankerous brutes over the fences. These men take their lives in
their hands and look at grim death between their horses' ears every time
they race or "school".
The death-record among Australian cross-country jockeys and horses is very
great; it is a curious instance of how custom sanctifies all things that
such horse-and-man slaughter is accepted in such a callous way. If any
theatre gave a show at which men and horses were habitually crippled or
killed in full sight of the audience, the manager would be put on his
trial for manslaughter.
Our race-tracks use up their yearly average of horses and men without
attracting remark. One would suppose that the risk being so great the
profits were enormous; but they are not. In "the game" as played on our
racecourses there is just a bare living for a good capable horseman
while he lasts, with the certainty of an ugly smash if he keeps at it
And they don't need to keep at it very long. After a few good "shakings"
they begin to take a nip or two to put heart into them before they go
out, and after a while they have to increase the dose. At last they
cannot ride at all without a regular cargo of alcohol on board, and are
either "half-muzzy" or shaky according as they have taken too much or
Then the game becomes suicidal; it is an axiom that as soon as a man
begins to funk he begins to fall. The reason is that a rider who has
lost his nerve is afraid of his horse making a mistake, and takes a
pull, or urges him onward, just at the crucial moment when the horse is
rattling up to his fence and judging his distance. That little, nervous
pull at his head or that little touch of the spur, takes his attention
from the fence, with the result that he makes his spring a foot too far
off or a foot too close in, and—smash!
The loafers who hang about the big fences rush up to see if the jockey is
killed or stunned; if he is, they dispose of any jewellery he may have
about him; they have been known almost to tear a finger off in their
endeavours to secure a ring. The ambulance clatters up at a canter, the
poor rider is pushed in out of sight, and the ladies in the stand say
how unlucky they are—that brute of a horse falling after they backed
him. A wolfish-eyed man in the Leger-stand shouts to a wolfish-eyed pal,
"Bill, I believe that jock was killed when the chestnut fell," and Bill
replies, "Yes, damn him, I had five bob on him." And the rider, gasping
like a crushed chicken, is carried into the casualty-room and laid on a
little stretcher, while outside the window the bookmakers are roaring
"Four to one bar one," and the racing is going on merrily as ever.
These remarks serve to introduce one of the fraternity who may be
considered as typical of all. He was a small, wiry, hard-featured
fellow, the son of a stockman on a big cattle-station, and began life as
a horse-breaker; he was naturally a horseman, able and willing to ride
anything that could carry him. He left the station to go with cattle on
the road, and having picked up a horse that showed pace, amused himself
by jumping over fences. Then he went to Wagga, entered the horse in a
steeplechase, rode him himself, won handsomely, sold the horse at a good
price to a Sydney buyer, and went down to ride it in his Sydney races.
In Sydney he did very well; he got a name as a fearless and clever rider,
and was offered several mounts on fine animals. So he pitched his camp
in Sydney, and became a fully-enrolled member of the worst profession in
the world. I had known him in the old days on the road, and when I met
him on the course one day I enquired how he liked the new life.
"Well, it's a livin'," he said, "but it's no great shakes. They don't give
steeplechase-riders a chance in Sydney. There's very few races, and the
big sweepstakes keep horses out of the game."
"Do you get a fair share of the riding?" I asked.
"Oh, yes; I get as much as anybody. But there's a lot of 'em got a notion
I won't take hold of a horse when I'm told (i.e., pull him to prevent
him winning). Some of these days I'll take hold of a horse when they
don't expect it."
I smiled as I thought there was probably a sorry day in store for some
backer when the jockey "took hold" unexpectedly.
"Do you have to pull horses, then, to get employment?"
"Oh, well, it's this way," he said, rather apologetically, "if an owner is
badly treated by the handicapper, and is just giving his horse a run to
get weight off, then it's right enough to catch hold a bit. But when a
horse is favourite and the public are backing him it isn't right to take
hold of him then. I would not do it." This was his whole code of
morals—not to pull a favourite; and he felt himself very superior to the
scoundrel who would pull favourites or outsiders indiscriminately.
"What do you get for riding?" I asked him.
"Well," he said, looking about uneasily, "we're supposed to get a fiver
for a losing mount and ten pounds if we win, but a lot of the
steeplechase-owners are what I call 'battlers'—men who have no money and
get along by owing everybody. They promise us all sorts of money if we
win, but they don't pay if we lose. I only got two pounds for that last
"Two pounds!" I made a rapid calculation. He had ridden over eighteen
fences for two pounds—had chanced his life eighteen times at less than
half-a-crown a time.
"Good Heavens!" I said, "that's a poor game. Wouldn't you be better back
on the station?"
"Oh, I don't know—sometimes we get laid a bit to nothing, and do well out
of a race. And then, you know, a steeplechase rider is somebody—not like
an ordinary fellow that is just working."
I realised that I was an "ordinary fellow who was just working", and felt
"I'm just off to weigh now," he said—"I'm riding Contractor, and he'll run
well, but he always seems to fall at those logs. Still, I ought to have
luck to-day. I met a hearse as I was coming out. I'll get him over the
"Do you think it lucky, then, to meet a hearse?"
"Oh, yes," he said, "if you meet it. You mustn't overtake it—that's
unlucky. So is a cross-eyed man unlucky. Cross-eyed men ought to be kept
He reappeared clad in his racing rig, and we set off to see the horse
saddled. We found the owner in a great state of excitement. It seemed he
had no money—absolutely none whatever—but had borrowed enough to pay the
sweepstakes, and stood to make something if the horse won and lose
nothing if he lost, as he had nothing to lose. My friend insisted on
being paid two pounds before he would mount, and the owner nearly had a
fit in his efforts to persuade him to ride on credit. At last a backer
of the horse agreed to pay 2 pounds 10s., win or lose, and the rider was
to get 25 pounds out of the prize if he won. So up he got; and as he and
the others walked the big muscular horses round the ring, nodding gaily
to friends in the crowd, I thought of the gladiators going out to fight
in the arena with the cry of "Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute
The story of the race is soon told. My friend went to the front at the
start and led nearly all the way, and "Contractor!" was on every one's
lips as the big horse sailed along in front of his field. He came at the
log-fence full of running, and it looked certain that he would get over.
But at the last stride he seemed to falter, then plunged right into the
fence, striking it with his chest, and, turning right over, landed on
his unfortunate rider.
A crowd clustered round and hid horse and rider from view, and I ran down
to the casualty-room to meet him when the ambulance came in. The limp
form was carefully taken out and laid on a stretcher while a doctor
examined the crushed ribs, the broken arm, and all the havoc that the
horse's huge weight had wrought.
There was no hope from the first. My poor friend, who had so often faced
Death for two pounds, lay very still awhile. Then he began to talk,
wandering in his mind, "Where are the cattle?"—his mind evidently going
back to the old days on the road. Then, quickly, "Look out there—give me
room!" and again "Five-and-twenty pounds, Mary, and a sure thing if he
don't fall at the logs."
Mary was sobbing beside the bed, cursing the fence and the money that had
brought him to grief. At last, in a tone of satisfaction, he said, quite
clear and loud: "I know how it was—There couldn't have been any dead
man in that hearse!"
And so, having solved the mystery to his own satisfaction, he drifted away
into unconsciousness—and woke somewhere on the other side of the big
fence that we can neither see through nor over, but all have to face
sooner or later.
We were training two horses for the Buckatowndown races—an old grey
warrior called Tricolor—better known to the station boys as The
Trickler—and a mare for the hack race. Station horses don't get trained
quite like Carbine; some days we had no time to give them gallops at
all, so they had to gallop twice as far the next day to make up.
One day the boy we had looking after The Trickler fell in with a mob of
sharps who told him we didn't know anything about training horses, and
that what the horse really wanted was "a twicer"—that is to say, a
gallop twice round the course. So the boy gave him "a twicer" on his own
responsibility. When we found out about it we gave the boy a twicer with
the strap, and he left and took out a summons against us. But somehow or
other we managed to get the old horse pretty fit, tried him against
hacks of different descriptions, and persuaded ourselves that we had the
biggest certainty ever known on a racecourse.
When the horses were galloping in the morning the kangaroo-dog, Victor,
nearly always went down to the course to run round with them. It amused
him, apparently, and didn't hurt anyone, so we used to let him race; in
fact, we rather encouraged him, because it kept him in good trim to hunt
kangaroo. When we were starting for the meeting, someone said we had
better tie up Victor or he would be getting stolen at the races. We
called and whistled, but he had made himself scarce, so we started and
forgot all about him.
Buckatowndown Races. Red-hot day, everything dusty, everybody drunk and
blasphemous. All the betting at Buckatowndown was double-event—you had
to win the money first, and fight the man for it afterwards.
The start for our race, the Town Plate, was delayed for a quarter of an
hour because the starter flatly refused to leave a fight of which he was
an interested spectator. Every horse, as he did his preliminary gallop,
had a string of dogs after him, and the clerk of the course came full
cry after the dogs with a whip.
By and by the horses strung across to the start at the far side of the
course. They fiddled about for a bit; then down went the flag and they
came sweeping along all bunched up together, one holding a nice position
on the inside. All of a sudden we heard a wild chorus of
imprecations—"Look at that dog!" Victor had chipped in with the
racehorses, and was running right in front of the field. It looked a
guinea to a gooseberry that some of them would fall on him.
The owners danced and swore. What did we mean by bringing a something
mongrel there to trip up and kill horses that were worth a paddockful of
all the horses we had ever owned, or would ever breed or own, even if we
lived to be a thousand. We were fairly in it and no mistake.
As the field came past the stand the first time we could hear the riders
swearing at our dog, and a wild yell of execration arose from the
public. He had got right among the ruck by this time, and was racing
alongside his friend The Trickler, thoroughly enjoying himself. After
passing the stand the pace became very merry; the dog stretched out all
he knew; when they began to make it too hot for him, he cut off corners,
and joined at odd intervals, and every time he made a fresh appearance
the people in the stand lifted up their voices and "swore cruel".
The horses were all at the whip as they turned into the straight, and then
The Trickler and the publican's mare singled out. We could hear the
"chop, chop!" of the whips as they came along together, but the mare
could not suffer it as long as the old fellow, and she swerved off while
he struggled home a winner by a length or so. Just as they settled down
to finish Victor dashed up on the inside, and passed the post at old
Trickler's girths. The populace immediately went for him with stones,
bottles, and other missiles, and he had to scratch gravel to save his
life. But imagine the amazement of the other owners when the judge
placed Trickler first, Victor second, and the publican's mare third!
The publican tried to argue it out with him. He said you couldn't place a
kangaroo-dog second in a horse-race.
The judge said it was his (hiccough) business what he placed, and
that those who (hiccough) interfered with him would be sorry for it.
Also he expressed a (garnished) opinion that the publican's mare was no
rotten good, and that she was the right sort of mare for a poor man to
own, because she would keep him poor.
Then the publican called the judge a cow. The judge was willing; a rip,
tear, and chew fight ensued, which lasted some time. The judge won.
Fifteen protests were lodged against our win, but we didn't worry about
that—we had laid the stewards a bit to nothing. Every second man we met
wanted to run us a mile for 100 pounds a side; and a drunken shearer,
spoiling for a fight, said he had heard we were "brimming over with
bally science", and had ridden forty miles to find out.
We didn't wait for the hack race. We folded our tents like the Arab and
stole away. But it remains on the annals of Buckatowndown how a
kangaroo-dog ran second for the Town Plate.
CONCERNING A DOG-FIGHT
Dog-fighting as a sport is not much in vogue now-a-days. To begin with it
is illegal. Not that that matters much, for Sunday drinking is
also illegal. But dog-fighting is one of the cruel sports which the
community has decided to put down with all the force of public opinion.
Nevertheless, a certain amount of it is still carried on near Sydney,
and very neatly and scientifically carried on, too—principally by
gentlemen who live out Botany way and do not care for public opinion.
The grey dawn was just breaking over Botany when we got to the
meeting-place. Away to the East the stars were paling in the faint flush
of coming dawn, and over the sandhills came the boom of breakers. It was
Sunday morning, and all the respectable, non-dog-fighting population of
that odoriferous suburb were sleeping their heavy, Sunday-morning sleep.
Some few people, however, were astir. In the dim light hurried
pedestrians plodded along the heavy road towards the sandhills. Now and
then a van, laden with ten or eleven of "the talent", and drawn by a
horse that cost fifteen shillings at auction, rolled softly along in the
same direction. These were dog-fighters who had got "the office", and
knew exactly where the match was to take place.
The "meet" was on a main road, about half-a-mile from town; here some two
hundred people had assembled, and hung up their horses and vehicles to
the fence without the slightest concealment. They said the police would
not interfere with them—and they did not seem a nice crowd to interfere
One dog was on the ground when we arrived, having come out in a hansom cab
with his trainer. He was a white bull-terrier, weighing about forty
pounds, "trained to the hour", with the muscles standing out all over
him. He waited in the cab, licking his trainer's face at intervals to
reassure that individual of his protection and support; the rest of the
time he glowered out of the cab and eyed the public scornfully. He knew
as well as any human being that there was sport afoot, and looked about
eagerly and wickedly to see what he could get his teeth into.
Soon a messenger came running up to know whether they meant to sit in the
cab till the police came; the other dog, he said, had arrived and all
was ready. The trainer and dog got out of the cab; we followed them
through a fence and over a rise—and there, about twenty yards from the
main road, was a neatly-pitched enclosure like a prize-ring, a
thirty-foot-square enclosure formed with stakes and ropes. About a
hundred people were at the ringside, and in the far corner, in the arms
of his trainer, was the other dog—a brindle.
It was wonderful to see the two dogs when they caught sight of each other.
The white dog came up to the ring straining at his leash, nearly
dragging his trainer off his feet in his efforts to get at the enemy. At
intervals he emitted a hoarse roar of challenge and defiance.
The brindled dog never uttered a sound. He fixed his eyes on his adversary
with a look of intense hunger, of absolute yearning for combat. He never
for an instant shifted his unwinking gaze. He seemed like an animal who
saw the hopes of years about to be realised. With painful earnestness he
watched every detail of the other dog's toilet; and while the white dog
was making fierce efforts to get at him, he stood Napoleonic, grand in
his courage, waiting for the fray.
All details were carefully attended to, and all rules strictly observed.
People may think a dog-fight is a go-as-you-please outbreak of
lawlessness, but there are rules and regulations—simple, but effective.
There were two umpires, a referee, a timekeeper, and two seconds for
each dog. The stakes were said to be ten pounds a-side. After some talk,
the dogs were carried to the centre of the ring by their seconds and put
on the ground. Like a flash of lightning they dashed at each other, and
the fight began.
Nearly everyone has seen dogs fight—"it is their nature to", as Dr. Watts
put it. But an ordinary worry between (say) a retriever and a collie,
terminating as soon as one or other gets his ear bitten, gives a very
faint idea of a real dog-fight. But bull-terriers are the gladiators of
the canine race. Bred and trained to fight, carefully exercised and
dieted for weeks beforehand, they come to the fray exulting in their
strength and determined to win. Each is trained to fight for certain
holds, a grip of the ear or the back of the neck being of very slight
importance. The foot is a favourite hold, the throat is, of course,
fashionable—if they can get it.
The white and the brindle sparred and wrestled and gripped and threw each
other, fighting grimly, and disdaining to utter a sound. Their seconds
dodged round them unceasingly, giving them encouragement and
advice—"That's the style, Boxer—fight for his foot"—"Draw your foot
back, old man," and so on. Now and again one dog got a grip of the
other's foot and chewed savagely, and the spectators danced with
excitement. The moment the dogs let each other go they were snatched up
by their seconds and carried to their corners, and a minute's time was
allowed, in which their mouths were washed out and a cloth rubbed over
Then came the ceremony of "coming to scratch". When time was called for
the second round the brindled dog was let loose in his own corner, and
was required by the rules to go across the ring of his own free will and
attack the other dog. If he failed to do this he would lose the fight.
The white dog, meanwhile, was held in his corner waiting the attack.
After the next round it was the white dog's turn to make the attack, and
so on alternately. The animals need not fight a moment longer than they
chose, as either dog could abandon the fight by failing to attack his
While their condition lasted they used to dash across the ring at full
run; but, after a while, when the punishment got severe and their
"fitness" began to fail, it became a very exciting question whether or
not a dog would "come to scratch". The brindled dog's condition was not
so good as the other's. He used to lie on his stomach between the rounds
to rest himself, and several times it looked as if he would not cross
the ring when his turn came. But as soon as time was called he would
start to his feet and limp slowly across glaring steadily at his
adversary; then, as he got nearer, he would quicken his pace, make a
savage rush, and in a moment they would be locked in combat. So they
battled on for fifty-six minutes, till the white dog (who was apparently
having all the best of it), on being called to cross the ring, only went
half-way across and stood there for a minute growling savagely. So he
lost the fight.
No doubt it was a brutal exhibition. But it was not cruel to the animals
in the same sense that pigeon-shooting or hare-hunting is cruel. The
dogs are born fighters, anxious and eager to fight, desiring nothing
better. Whatever limited intelligence they have is all directed to this
one consuming passion. They could stop when they liked, but anyone
looking on could see that they gloried in the combat. Fighting is like
breath to them—they must have it. Nature has implanted in all animals a
fighting instinct for the weeding out of the physically unfit, and these
dogs have an extra share of that fighting instinct.
Of course, now that militarism is going to be abolished, and the world is
going to be so good and teetotal, and only fight in debating societies,
these nasty savage animals will be out of date. We will not be allowed
to keep anything more quarrelsome than a poodle—and a man of the future,
the New Man, whose fighting instincts have not been quite bred out of
him, will, perhaps, be found at grey dawn of a Sunday morning with a
crowd of other unregenerates in some backyard frantically cheering two
of them to mortal combat.
Greenhide Billy was a stockman on a Clarence River cattle-station, and
admittedly the biggest liar in the district. He had been for many years
pioneering in the Northern Territory, the other side of the sun-down—a
regular "furthest-out man"—and this assured his reputation among
station-hands who award rank according to amount of experience.
Young men who have always hung around the home districts, doing a job of
shearing here or a turn at horse-breaking there, look with reverence on
Riverine or Macquarie-River shearers who come in with tales of runs
where they have 300,000 acres of freehold land and shear 250,000 sheep;
these again pale their ineffectual fires before the glory of the
Northern Territory man who has all-comers on toast, because no one can
contradict him or check his figures. When two of them meet, however,
they are not fools enough to cut down quotations and spoil the market;
they lie in support of each other, and make all other bushmen feel mean
and pitiful and inexperienced.
Sometimes a youngster would timidly ask Greenhide Billy about the 'terra
incognita': "What sort of a place is it, Billy—how big are the
properties? How many acres had you in the place you were on?"
"Acres be d——d!" Billy would scornfully reply; "hear him talking about
acres! D'ye think we were blanked cockatoo selectors! Out there we
reckon country by the hundred miles. You orter say, 'How many thousand
miles of country?' and then I'd understand you."
Furthermore, according to Billy, they reckoned the rainfall in the
Territory by yards, not inches. He had seen blackfellows who could jump
at least three inches higher than anyone else had ever seen a
blackfellow jump, and every bushman has seen or personally known a
blackfellow who could jump over six feet. Billy had seen bigger
droughts, better country, fatter cattle, faster horses, and cleverer
dogs, than any other man on the Clarence River. But one night when the
rain was on the roof, and the river was rising with a moaning sound, and
the men were gathered round the fire in the hut smoking and staring at
the coals, Billy turned himself loose and gave us his masterpiece.
"I was drovin' with cattle from Mungrybanbone to old Corlett's station on
the Buckadowntown River" (Billy always started his stories with some
paralysing bush names). "We had a thousand head of store-cattle, wild,
mountain-bred wretches that'd charge you on sight; they were that handy
with their horns they could skewer a mosquito. There was one or two
one-eyed cattle among 'em—and you know how a one-eyed beast always keeps
movin' away from the mob, pokin' away out to the edge of them so as they
won't git on his blind side, so that by stirrin' about he keeps the
"They had been scared once or twice, and stampeded and gave us all we
could do to keep them together; and it was wet and dark and thundering,
and it looked like a real bad night for us. It was my watch. I was on
one side of the cattle, like it might be here, with a small bit of a
fire; and my mate, Barcoo Jim, he was right opposite on the other side
of the cattle, and had gone to sleep under a log. The rest of the men
were in the camp fast asleep. Every now and again I'd get on my horse
and prowl round the cattle quiet like, and they seemed to be settled
down all right, and I was sitting by my fire holding my horse and
drowsing, when all of a sudden a blessed 'possum ran out from some
saplings and scratched up a tree right alongside me. I was half-asleep,
I suppose, and was startled; anyhow, never thinking what I was doing, I
picked up a firestick out of the fire and flung it at the 'possum.
"Whoop! Before you could say Jack Robertson, that thousand head of cattle
were on their feet, and made one wild, headlong, mad rush right over the
place where poor old Barcoo Jim was sleeping. There was no time to hunt
up materials for the inquest; I had to keep those cattle together, so I
sprang into the saddle, dashed the spurs into the old horse, dropped my
head on his mane, and sent him as hard as he could leg it through the
scrub to get to the lead of the cattle and steady them. It was brigalow,
and you know what that is.
"You know how the brigalow grows," continued Bill; "saplings about as
thick as a man's arm, and that close together a dog can't open his mouth
to bark in 'em. Well, those cattle swept through that scrub, levelling
it like as if it had been cleared for a railway line. They cleared a
track a quarter of a mile wide, and smashed every stick, stump and
sapling on it. You could hear them roaring and their hoofs thundering
and the scrub smashing three or four miles off.
"And where was I? I was racing parallel with the cattle, with my head down
on the horse's neck, letting him pick his way through the scrub in the
pitchy darkness. This went on for about four miles. Then the cattle
began to get winded, and I dug into the old stock-horse with the spurs,
and got in front, and began to crack the whip and sing out, so as to
steady them a little; after awhile they dropped slower and slower, and I
kept the whip going. I got them all together in a patch of open country,
and there I rode round and round 'em all night till daylight.
"And how I wasn't killed in the scrub, goodness only knows; for a man
couldn't ride in the daylight where I did in the dark. The cattle were
all knocked about—horns smashed, legs broken, ribs torn; but they were
all there, every solitary head of 'em; and as soon as the daylight broke
I took 'em back to the camp—that is, all that could travel, because I
had to leave a few broken-legged ones."
Billy paused in his narrative. He knew that some suggestions would be
made, by way of compromise, to tone down the awful strength of the yarn,
and he prepared himself accordingly. His motto was "No surrender"; he
never abated one jot of his statements; if anyone chose to remark on
them, he made them warmer and stronger, and absolutely flattened out the
"That was a wonderful bit of ridin' you done, Billy," said one of the men
at last, admiringly. "It's a wonder you wasn't killed. I suppose your
clothes was pretty well tore off your back with the scrub?"
"Never touched a twig," said Billy.
"Ah!" faltered the inquirer, "then no doubt you had a real ringin' good
stock-horse that could take you through a scrub like that full-split in
the dark, and not hit you against anything."
"No, he wasn't a good un," said Billy decisively, "he was the worst horse
in the camp. Terrible awkward in the scrub he was, always fallin' down
on his knees; and his neck was so short you could sit far back on him
and pull his ears."
Here that interrogator retired hurt; he gave Billy best. After a pause
another took up the running.
"How did your mate get on, Billy? I s'pose he was trampled to a mummy!"
"No," said Billy, "he wasn't hurt a bit. I told you he was sleeping under
the shelter of a log. Well, when those cattle rushed they swept over
that log a thousand strong; and every beast of that herd took the log in
his stride and just missed landing on Barcoo Jimmy by about four
The men waited a while and smoked, to let this statement soak well into
their systems; at last one rallied and had a final try.
"It's a wonder then, Billy," he said, "that your mate didn't come after
you and give you a hand to steady the cattle."
"Well, perhaps it was," said Billy, "only that there was a bigger wonder
than that at the back of it."
"What was that?"
"My mate never woke up all through it."
Then the men knocked the ashes out of their pipes and went to bed.
DONE FOR THE DOUBLE
by Knott Gold
Author of "Flogged for a Furlong", "Won by a Winker", etc., etc.
Chapter I.—WANTED, A PONY
Algernon de Montgomery Smythers was a merchant, wealthy beyond the dreams
of avarice. Other merchants might dress more lavishly, and wear larger
watch chains; but the bank balance is the true test of mercantile
superiority, and in a trial of bank balances Algernon de Montgomery
Smythers represented Tyson at seven stone. He was unbeatable.
He lived in comfort, not to say luxury. He had champagne for breakfast
every morning, and his wife always slept with a pair of diamond earrings
worth a small fortune in her ears. It is things like these that show
Though they had been married many years, the A. de M. Smythers had but one
child—a son and heir. No Christmas Day was allowed to pass by his doting
parents without a gift to young Algy of some trifle worth about 150
pounds, less the discount for cash. He had six play-rooms, all filled
with the most expensive toys and ingenious mechanical devices. He had a
phonograph that could hail a ship out at the South Head, and a
mechanical parrot that sang "The Wearing of the Green". And still he was
Sometimes, in spite of the vigilance of his four nurses and six
under-nurses, he would escape into the street, and run about with the
little boys he met there. One day he gave one of them a sovereign for a
locust. Certainly the locust was a "double-drummer", and could deafen
the German Band when shaken up judiciously; still, it was dear at a
It is ever thus.
What we have we do not value, and what other people have we are not strong
enough to take from them.
Such is life.
Christmas was approaching, and the question of Algy's Christmas present
agitated the bosom of his parents. He already had nearly everything a
child could want; but one morning a bright inspiration struck Algy's
father. Algy should have a pony.
With Mr. Smythers to think was to act. He was not a man who believed in
allowing grass to grow under his feet. His motto was, "Up and be
doing—somebody." So he put an advertisement in the paper that same day.
"Wanted, a boy's pony. Must be guaranteed sound, strong, handsome,
intelligent. Used to trains, trams, motors, fire engines, and motor
'buses. Any failure in above respects will disqualify. Certificate of
birth required as well as references from last place. Price no object."
Chapter II.—BLINKY BILL'S SACRIFICE
Down in a poverty-stricken part of the city lived Blinky Bill, the
His yard was surrounded by loose-boxes made of any old timber, galvanized
iron, sheets of roofing-felt, and bark he could gather together.
He kept all sorts of horses, except good sorts. There were harness horses,
that wouldn't pull, and saddle horses that wouldn't go—or, if they went,
used to fall down. Nearly every animal about the place had something the
matter with it.
When the bailiff dropped in, as he did every two or three weeks, Bill and
he would go out together, and "have a punt" on some of Bill's ponies, or
on somebody else's ponies—the latter for choice. But periodical punts
and occasional sales of horses would not keep the wolf from the door.
Ponies keep on eating whether they are winning or not and Blinky Bill
had got down to the very last pitch of desperation when he saw the
advertisement mentioned at the end of last chapter.
It was like a ray of hope to him. At once there flashed upon him what he
He must make a great sacrifice; he must sell Sausage II.
Sausage II. was the greatest thirteen-two pony of the day. Time and again
he had gone out to race when, to use William's own words, it was a blue
duck for Bill's chance of keeping afloat; and every time did the gallant
race pony pull his owner through.
Bill owed more to Sausage II. than he owed to his creditors.
Brought up as a pet, the little animal was absolutely trustworthy. He
would carry a lady or a child, or pull a sulky; in fact, it was quite a
common thing for Blinky Bill to drive him in a sulky to a country
meeting and look about him for a likely "mark". If he could find a fleet
youth with a reputedly fast pony, Bill would offer to "pull the little
cuddy out of the sulky and run yer for a fiver." Sometimes he got
beaten; but as he never paid, that didn't matter. He did not believe in
fighting; but he would always sooner fight than pay.
But all these devices had left him on his uppers in the end. He had no
feed for his ponies, and no money to buy it; the corn merchant had
written his account off as bad, and had no desire to make it worse.
Under the circumstances, what was he to do? Sausage II. must be sold.
With heavy heart Bill led the pony down to be inspected. He saw Mr.
Algernon de Montgomery Smythers, and measured him with his eye. He saw
it would be no use to talk about racing to him, so he went on the other
He told him that the pony belonged to a Methodist clergyman, who used to
drive him in a "shay". There are no shays in this country; but Bill had
read the word somewhere, and thought it sounded respectable. "Yus, sir,"
he said, "'e goes lovely in a shay," and he was just starting off at
twenty words a second, when he was stopped.
Mr. A. de M. Smythers was brusque with his inferiors, and in this he made
a mistake. Instead of listening to all that Blinky Bill said, and
disbelieving it at his leisure, he stopped his talk.
"If you want to sell this pony, dry up," he said. "I don't believe a word
you say, and it only worries me to hear you lying."
Fatal mistake! You should never stop a horse-dealer's talk. And call him
anything you like, but never say you doubt his word.
Both these things Mr. Smythers did; and, though he bought the pony at a
high price, yet the insult sank deep into the heart of Blinky Bill.
As the capitalist departed leading the pony, Blinky Bill muttered to
himself, "Ha! ha! Little does he know that he is leading Sausage II.,
the greatest 13.2 pony of the century. Let him beware how he gets
alongside anything. That's all! Blinky Bill may yet be revenged!"
Chapter III.—EXIT ALGY
Christmas Day came. Algy's father gave orders to have the pony saddled,
and led round to the front door. Algy's mother, a lady of forty summers,
spent the morning superintending the dinner. Dinner was the principal
event in the day with her. Alas, poor lady! Everything she ate agreed
with her, and she got fatter and fatter and fatter.
The cold world never fully appreciates the struggles of those who are
fat—the efforts at starvation, the detested exercise, the long,
miserable walks. Well has one of our greatest poets written, "Take up
the fat man's burden." But we digress.
When Algy saw the pony he shouted with delight, and in half a minute was
riding him up and down the front drive. Then he asked for leave to go
out in the street—and that was where the trouble began.
Up and down the street the pony cantered, as quietly as possible, till
suddenly round a corner came two butcher boys racing their horses. With
a clatter of clumsy hoofs they thundered past. In half a second there
was a rattle, and a sort of comet-like rush through the air. Sausage II.
was off after them with his precious burden.
The family dog tried to keep up with him, and succeeded in keeping ahead
for about three strides. Then, like the wolves that pursued Mazeppa, he
was left yelping far behind. Through Surry Hills and Redfern swept the
flying pony, his rider lying out on his neck in Tod Sloan fashion, while
the ground seemed to race beneath him. The events of the way were just
one hopeless blur till the pony ran straight as an arrow into the yard
of Blinky Bill.
Chapter IV.—RUNNING THE RULE
As soon as Blinky Bill recognised his visitor, he was delighted.
"You here," he said, "Ha, ha, revenge is mine! I'll get a tidy reward for
taking you back, my young shaver."
Then from the unresisting child he took a gold watch and three sovereigns.
These he said he would put in a safe place for him, till he was going
home again. He expected to get at least a tenner ready money for
bringing Algy back, and hoped that he might be allowed to keep the watch
into the bargain.
With a light heart he went down town with Algy's watch and sovereigns in
his pocket. He did not return till daylight, when he awoke his wife with
"Can't give the boy up," he said. "I moskenoed his block and tackle, and
blued it in the school." In other words, he had pawned the boy's watch
and chain, and had lost the proceeds at pitch and toss.
"Nothing for it but to move," he said, "and take the kid with us."
So move they did.
The reader can imagine with what frantic anxiety the father and mother of
little Algy sought for their lost one. They put the matter into the
hands of the detective police, and waited for the Sherlock Holmeses of
the force to get in their fine work. There was nothing doing.
Years rolled on, and the mysterious disappearance of little Algy was yet
unsolved. The horse-dealer's revenge was complete.
The boy's mother consulted a clairvoyant, who murmured mystically "What
went by the ponies, will come by the ponies;" and with that they had to
Chapter V.—THE TRICKS OF THE TURF
It was race day at Pulling'em Park, and the ponies were doing their usual
Among the throng the heaviest punter is a fat lady with diamond earrings.
Does the reader recognize her? It is little Algy's mother. Her husband
is dead, leaving her the whole of his colossal fortune, and, having
developed a taste for gambling, she is now engaged in "doing it in on
the ponies". She is one of the biggest bettors in the game.
When women take to betting they are worse than men.
But it is not for betting alone that she attends the meetings. She
remembers the clairvoyant's "What went by the ponies will come by the
ponies." And always she searches in the ranks of the talent for her lost
Here enters another of our dramatis personae—Blinky Bill, prosperous once
more. He has got a string of ponies and punters together. The first are
not much use to a man without the second; but, in spite of all
temptations, Bill has always declined to number among his punters the
mother of the child he stole. But the poor lady regularly punts on his
ponies, and just as regularly is "sent up"—in other words, loses her
To-day she has backed Blinky's pair, Nostrils and Tin Can, for the double.
Nostrils has won his race, and Tin Can, if on the job, can win the
second half of the double. Is he on the job? The prices are lengthening
against him, and the poor lady recognises that once more she is "in the
Just then she meets Tin Can's jockey, Dodger Smith, face to face. A
piercing scream rends the atmosphere, as if a thousand school children
drew a thousand slate pencils down a thousand slates simultaneously. "Me
cheild! Me cheild! Me long-lost Algy!"
It did not take long to convince Algy that he would be better off as a son
to a wealthy lady than as a jockey, subject to the fiendish caprices of
"All right, mother," he said. "Put all you can raise on Tin Can. I'm going
to send Blinky up. It's time I had a cut on me own, anyway."
The horses went to the post. Tons of money were at the last moment hurled
on to Tin Can. The books, knowing he was "dead", responded gamely, and
wrote his name till their wrists gave out. Blinky Bill had a half-share
in all the bookies' winnings, so he chuckled grimly as he went to the
rails to watch the race.
They're off. And what is this that flashes to the front, while the howls
of the bookies rise like the yelping of fiends in torment? It is Dodger
Smith on Tin Can, and from the grandstand there is a shrill feminine
yell of triumph as the gallant pony sails past the post.
The bookies thought that Blinky Bill had sold them, and they discarded him
Algy and his mother were united, and backed horses together happily ever
after, and sometimes out in the back yard of their palatial mansion they
hand the empty bottles, free of charge, to a poor old broken-down
bottle-O, called Blinky Bill.