I NEARLY fell fair in my tracks.
I’m trudgin’ homeward with my axe
When I come on her suddenly.
“I wonder if I’m lost?” says she.
“It’s risky on such roads as this.”
I lifts my hat an’ says, “Yes, miss.”
I knew ’twas rude for me to stare,
But, oh, that sunlight in her hair!
“I wonder if I’m lost?’ says she,
An’ gives a smile that staggers me.
“An’ yet, it wouldn’t matter much
Supposing that I was, with such
A glorious green world about,
With bits of blue sky peepin’ out.
Do you think there will be a fog?”
“No, miss,” says I, an’ pats my dog.
“Oh, what a dear old dog!” says she.
“Most dogs are pretty fond of me.”
She calls him to her, an’ he goes.
(He didn’t find it hard, I s’pose;
I know I wouldn’t if she called.)
“It’s wondrous how the tracks are walled
With these great trees that touch the sky
On either side.” “Yes, miss,” says I.
She fondles my old dog a bit;
I wait to make a bolt for it.
(There ain’t no call to stand an’ talk
With one who’d be too proud to walk
A half-a-yard with such as me.)
“The wind keeps workin’ up,” says she.
“Yes, miss,” says I, an’ lifts me hat.
An’ she just let’s it go at that.
She let me reach the dribblin’ ford—
That day to me it fairly roared.
(At least, that’s how the thing appears;
But blood was poundin’ in my ears.)
She waits till I have fairly crossed:
“I thought I told I was lost?”
She cries. “An’ you go walkin’ off,
Quite scornful, like some proud bush toff!”
She got me thinkin’ hard with that.
“Yes, miss,” I says, an’ lifts my hat.
But she just waits there on the track,
An’ lets me walk the whole way back.
“An’ are you reely lost?” says I.
“Yes, sir,” says she an’ drops her eye. . .
I wait, an’ wait for what seems days;
But not another word she says.
I pats my dog, an’ lifts my hat;
But she don’t seem to notice that.
I looks up trees an’ stares at logs,
An’ long for twenty hats an’ dogs.
“The weather’s kept reel good to-day,”
I blurts at last. Say she, “Hurray!”
“Hurray!” she says, an’ then, “Encore!”
An’ gets me wonderin’ what for.
“Is this the right road to ‘The Height?’”
I tell her it’s the road, all right,
But that the way she’s walkin’ ain’t.
At that she looked like she would faint.
“Then I was lost if I had gone
Along this road an’ walked right on—
An unfrequented bush track, too!
How fortunate that I met you!”
“Yes, miss,” I says. “Yes—what?” says she.
Says I, “Most fortunate . . . for me.”
I don’t know where I found the pluck
To blurt that out an’ chance my luck.
“You’ll walk,” she says, “a short way back,
So you can put me on the track?”
“I’ll take you all the way,” says I,
An’ looks her fair bang in the eye.
Later, I let myself right out,
An’ talked: an’ told her all about
The things I’ve done, an’ what I do,
An’ nearly all I’m hopin’ to.
Told why I chose the game I’m at
Because my folks were poor, an’ that.
She seemed reel pleased to hear me talk,
An’ sort of steadied up the walk.
An’ when I’d spoke my little bit,
She just takes up the thread of it;
An’ later on, near knocks me down
By tellin’ me she works—in town.
Works? her? I thought, the way she dressed,
She was quite rich; but she confessed
That makin’ dresses was her game,
An’ she was dead sick of the same.
When Good bye came, I lifts my hat;
But she holds out her hand at that.
I looked at mine, all stained with sap,
An’ told her I’m a reel rough chap.
“A worker’s hand,” says she, reel fine,
“An’ marked with toil; but so is mine.
We’re just two toilers; let us shake,
An’ be good friends—for labour’s sake.”
I didn’t care to say no more,
For fear of what she’d take me for—
But just Good bye, an’ turns away,
Bustin’ with things I had to say.
I don’t know how I got right home.
The wonder was I didn’t roam
Off in the scrub, an’ dream out there
Of her with sunlight in her hair.
At home I looks around the place,
An’ sees the dirt a fair disgrace;
So takes an’ tidies up a bit,
An’ has a shave; an’ then I sit
Beside my fire to have a think.
But my old dog won’t sleep a wink;
He fools, an’ whines, an’ nudges me,
Then all at once I thinks of tea.
I beg his pardon with a smile,
An’ talkin’ to him all the while,
I get it ready, tellin’ him
About that girl; but, “Shut up, Jim!”
He says to me as plain as plain.
“First have some food, an’ then explain.”
(I don’t know how she came to tell,
But I found out her name is Nell.)
We gets our bit to eat at last.
(An’, just for spite, he et his fast) . . .
I think that Nell’s a reel nice name . . .
“All right, old dog, I ain’t to blame
If you” . . . Just as I go to sup
My tea I stop dead, with my cup
Half up, an’ . . . By the Holy Frost!
I wonder was Nell reely lost?