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XIX. The Return Home

Steele Rudd

DAD and Mother tramped about Brisbane for three weeks, and but for meeting old Delaney dodging through the crowd one evening they might have been strolling about there yet. Dad and old Delaney were enemies at home, but when they met in Queen-street they gripped hands and rejoiced as though they were never to part any more. Dad laughed and said he didn’t know Delaney was down, and inquired where he was staying. “An’ how’re them boys o’ mine doin’?” he asked.

“Doin’ splendid,” Delaney said.

Dad was pleased.

“They guve great raices in yur paddick a week come Winsdy.”

Dad stared and struggled for breath.

“An’ they’re to guve a ball to-morrer.”

“Whaht?” Dad shouted, opening wide his mouth and attracting much notice—“Whaht?”

Next moment Dad was stumping up Edward-street in advance of Mother, who was compelled to trot to keep in sight. The great metropolis had no more charms for Dad. At nine o’clock the following night Dad and Mother arrived at Saddletop. Gray’s cart happened to be at the station, and they were given a lift to the gate. Mother thanked the man and gave him a banana, but Dad was thinking heavily.

Sounds of music floated on the peaceful air and provoked Dad to profanity. He threw wide the big white gate, leaving Mother to close it. Dogs barked and bounded down the track, at first threatening to eat Dad, but then, recognising him, jumped for joy, and climbed and clawed all over him, heedless of kicks and curses.

Dad expressed no pleasure at seeing the house again you would never think he had been away at all. A large area of newly- ploughed land discernible in the moonlight, and a number of fresh lucerne stacks that changed the whole aspect of Ruddville, failed to attract his eye. He noticed nothing till he came to a long line of saddle-horses fastened to the fence. One had its nose in a bit of hay. Dad spotted that horse and, like a plain-turkey taking wing, threw out his arms and rushed on to the verandah.

Inside the “Prince of Wales Schottische” had just ended, and the perspiring party stood round the ball-room, ablaze with candles, listening attentively to the voices of Miss Tod and the schoolmaster’s wife blending pathetically in song together.

“After the ball is o-ver,” they were screeching just when Dad burst into the room.

“Wot th’ devil’s this?” he bellowed. (They stopped like a clock.) “Who brought all you into my house?” (Consternation.) “Out of here! out o’ this—th’ whole damn lot o’ you.”

“Dad!” Sarah gasped, her voice scarcely audible.

Dad’s enraged eye rested on the trembling form of Billy Bearup by her side. Such a howl! A brown paper parcel he held in his hand, containing a pair of heavy boots, flew at Bearup’s head and struck big Mrs. McManus on the chest.

Commotion! screams! and a wild rush to escape. In the stampede Bearup was left behind, and while the little fellow frantically fought and sparred for an opening, Dad kicked at him as if he were a wallaby fast in a fence.

“Stop it!” Dave cried angrily, “don’t make a fool o’—” But Dad silenced Dave.

“Clear out!” he roared, shoving him; “leave my house.”

Dave was inclined to resist.

“Leave th’ place,” Dad yelled in a wild, broken voice, “or I’ll send for th’ p’lice.”

“Pshaw!” Dave hissed, and walked out.

The ejected guests secured their horses in haste and left in disorder.

Sarah and Dave and Joe, bareheaded, stood in the yard and silently stared after them. The last one passed out and the gate closed. Voices and hoof-beats died away. The neighs of a horse and the “whoop, whoop” of a night-bird came from the ironbark ridge.

“Robbed—ruined!” from the house. The clock struck two.

“Ruinin’ me! ruinin’ me!” from the house again.

“Mo-poke, mo-poke,” from out the gully on the reserve.

The clock struck three.

The moon ceased to shine, and Dad to shout. Sarah dried her eyes and stole quietly to her room.

“Ah, well!” Dave said, “let it rip,” and he and Joe turned to the barn and camped with the men.

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