Jim of the Hills

Murray’s Ride

C.J. Dennis

I SELDOM get to hatin’ men, nor had much cause to hate;
To me, it just a foolish game to play, at any rate.
    But it kills the hard thought in you, an’ forgiveness is complete,
    To see the man you hated once a maimed thing at your feet.

We’d had a meetin’ at the mill; the boss had said his say—
The good old boss, who stints himself to find the men their pay—
    He told us, fair an’ honest, he was up against the game
    Unless he got the timber out before the Winter came.

I’ll say this much for decent men—an’ decent men they were—
They saw the game that Murray played to give the boss a scare.
    We saw he’d pay near anything and Ben would do him brown;
    But a fair thing is a fair thing; so we turned Ben Murray down.

A truck was waitin’ in the yard, full-loaded for the trip.
Just an easin’ of the brake-rope was enough to let her rip
    For half a mile or more down-hill along atrack, rough-made,
    To where the horses wait to haul her up the other grade.

The talk was done, the numbers up, the boss had won the day,
An’ we were ready to go back an’ earn our bit of pay;
    When Murray in a mad black rage, goes on to rave an’ shout.
    “You’re sacked,” the old man tells him plain. “I’ve had enough. Get Out!”

For close on half a minute I expected Hell to pay;
But Murray glares around the mill—then turns an’ walks away.
    He stops beside the loaded truck; an’ each man in the mill
    Watched Murray with a sidelong look; an’ each man wished him ill.

I knew Ben Murray for a gab; I knew him for a fool—
A decent man enough at heart when he was calm an’ cool—
    Wild rage had hold on him that day, an’, maybe, madness too;
    An’ scorn in me changed to dismay at what I saw him do.

He sprang behind the timber load an’ leaped up to the back;
He loosed the rope to start the truck upon the down-hill track;
    An’ if he meant to jump or stay no man will ever know.
    “If I go out,” Ben Murray yelled, “this is the way I go!”

“Stop that mad fool!” howled old man Blair. “He’ll wreck the track below!”
But now the truck had gathered way, an’, as we watched her go,
    Ben Murray, with the brake-rope slack, cursed us with all his might.
    She took the curve behind the huts, an’ then went out of sight.

.     .     .     .     .

We found him near the wattle-clump, down in the little creek.
His head was by a coral fern, an’ blood was on his cheek,
    An’ blood was on the wooden rails, an’ he lay very still,
    The man who half an hour ago had meant to boss the mill!

“He’s livin’ yet” says old man Blair. “Boys, we must do our best.
Lay hold there, Jim, an’ you, young Dick, an’ heave that off his chest.
    Man, but he’s crushed! The crazy fool! Now treat him gently, lad.”
    “The track ain’t damaged much,” says Pike; “but, gosh, he’s got it bad!”

.     .     .     .     .

Red stains were on the wooden track an’ on the sunlight ground;
A wagtail twittered by the creek, an’ hopped an’ fussed around;
    The Laughin’ Jacks were wild with mirth; but very still he lay,
    As we took poor Ben Murray up an’ carried him away.

Jim of the Hills - Contents    |     The Reaper in the Bush

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