Skeeta was married, our Skeeta! the tomboy and
pet of the place,
No more as a maiden we'd greet her, no more would
her pert little face
Light up the chill gloom of the parlour; no more would
her deft little hands
Serve drinks to the travel-stained caller on his way to
more southerly lands;
No more would she chaff the rough drovers and send
them away with a smile,
No more would she madden her lovers, demurely, with
womanish guile -
The "prince" from the great Never-Never, with light
touch of lips and of hand
Had come, and enslaved her for ever - a potentate bearded
From the land where the white mirage dances its dance
of death over the plains,
With the glow of the sun in his glances, the lust of the
West in his veins;
of long drought-stricken stretches when the tongue
rattled dry on the lips;
Of his fights with the niggers, poor wretches, as he
sped on his perilous trips.
A supple-thewed, desert-bred rover, with naught to commend
him but this,
That he was her idol, her lover, who'd fettered her heart
with a kiss.
wed, and he took her to Warren, where she
with his love was content;
But town-life to him was too foreign, so back to the droving
A man away down on the border of “Vic.” bought some
cattle from “Cobb,”
And gave Harry Parker the order to go to “the Gulf”
for the mob:
And he went, for he held her love cheaper than his wish
to re-live the old life,
Or his reason might have been deeper - I called it deserting
morning his horses were mustered, the start
on the journey was made -
A clatter, an oath through the dust heard, was the last
of the long cavalcade.
As we stood by the stockyard assembled, poor child, how
she strove to be brave!
But yet I could see how she trembled at the careless farewell
that he gave.
We brought her back home on the morrow, but none of
us ever may learn
Of the fight that she fought to keep sorrow at bay till
her husband's return.
He had gone, but the way of his going, ‘twas that which
she dwelt on with pain -
Careless kiss, though there sure was no knowing, when
or where he might kiss her again.
He had ridden away and had left her a woman, in
all but in years,
Of her girlhood’s gay hopes had bereft her, and left
in their place nought but tears.
still, as the months passed, a treasure was brought
her by Love, ere he fled,
And garments of infantile measure she fashioned with
needle and thread;
She fashioned with linen and laces and ribbons a nest
for her bird,
While colour returned to her face as the bud of maternity
It blossomed and died; we arrayed it in all its soft splendour
And sorrowing took it and laid it in the earth whence
it sprung, out of sight.
She wept not at all, only whitened, as Death, in his
Leant over her pillow and tightened the throat of the child
at her breast.
not, her soul was too tired, for waiting is harrowing
And then I bethought me and wired away to the agents
'Twas little enough I could glean there; 'twas little enough
that they knew -
They answered he hadn't been seen there, but might in
a week, perchance two.
She wept not at all, only whitened with staring too long
at the night:
There was only one time when she brightened, that time
when red dust hove in sight,
And settled and hung on the backs of the cattle, and altered
While the horses swept up, with their packs of blue blankets
and jingling pots.
She always was set upon meeting those boisterous cattle-men,
Her husband had sent her a greeting by one of them, in
from the West.
Not one of them ever owned to him, or seemed to remember
(The truth was they all of them knew him, but wouldn't
tell her of
But never, though long time she waited, did her faith in
the faithless grow weak,
And each time the outer door grated, an eager flush sprang
to her cheek –
he, and it died with a flicker, and then what
I had long dreaded came:
I was serving two drovers with liquor when one of them
mentioned his name.
"Oh, yes!" said the other one, winking, "on the Paroo
I saw him, he'd been
In Eulo a fortnight then, drinking, and driving about
with "The Queen"
While the bullocks were going to glory, and his billet
was not worth a G --- d --- ;”
I told him to cut short the story, as I pulled-to the door
with a slam -
Too late! for the words were loud-spoken, and Skeeta was
out in the hall,
Then I knew that a girl's heart was broken, as I heard
a low cry and a fall.
came a day when the doctor went home, for
the truth was avowed;
And I knew that my hands, which had rocked her in childhood,
would fashion her shroud,
I knew we should tenderly carry and lay her where many
Ah, why will the girls love and marry, when men are not
worthy, ah, why?
She lay there a-dying, our Skeeta; not e'en did she stir
at my kiss,
In the next world perchance we may greet her, but never,
ah, never, in this.
Like the last breath of air in a gully, that sighs as the
sun slowly dips,
To the knell of a heart beating dully, her soul struggled
out on her lips.
But she lifted great eyelids and pallid, while once more
beneath them there glowed
The fire of Love, as she rallied at sound of hoofs out
on the road;
They rang sharp and clear on the metal, they ceased at
the gate in the lane,
A pause, and we heard the beats settle in long, swinging
With a rattle, a rush, and a clatter the rider came down
by the store,
And neared us, but what did it matter? he never pulled
rein at the door,
But over the brow of the hill he sped on with a low
"Twas only young Smith on his filly; he passed, and so
too did her soul.
after, I went down one morning to trim the white
rose that had grown
And clasped, with its tender adorning, the plain little
cross of white stone.
In the lane dusty drovers were wheeling dull cattle, with
But I paused as I saw a man kneeling, with his forehead
pressed low on the mound;
Already he'd heard me approaching, and slowly I saw
And move away, sullenly slouching his “cabbage- tree”
over his eyes,
I never said anything to him, as he mounted his horse at
He didn't know me, but I knew him, the husband who
came back too late.