Send Round the Hat by Henry Lawson
Now this is the creed from the Book of the Bush—
Should be simple and plain to a dunce:
“If a man's in a hole you must pass round the hat
Were he jail-bird or gentleman once.”
“Is it any harm to wake yer?”
It was about nine o'clock in the morning, and, though it was Sunday
morning, it was no harm to wake me; but the shearer had mistaken me for
a deaf jackaroo, who was staying at the shanty and was something like
me, and had good-naturedly shouted almost at the top of his voice, and
he woke the whole shanty. Anyway he woke three or four others who were
sleeping on beds and stretchers, and one on a shake-down on the floor,
in the same room. It had been a wet night, and the shanty was full of
shearers from Big Billabong Shed which had cut out the day before. My
room mates had been drinking and gambling overnight, and they swore
luridly at the intruder for disturbing them.
He was six-foot-three or thereabout. He was loosely built, bony,
sandy-complexioned and grey eyed. He wore a good-humoured grin at most
times, as I noticed later on; he was of a type of bushman that I always
liked—the sort that seem to get more good-natured the longer they
grow, yet are hard-knuckled and would accommodate a man who wanted to
fight, or thrash a bully in a good-natured way. The sort that like to
carry somebody's baby round, and cut wood, carry water and do little
things for overworked married bushwomen. He wore a saddle-tweed sac
suit two sizes too small for him, and his face, neck, great hands and
bony wrists were covered with sun-blotches and freckles.
“I hope I ain't disturbin' yer,” he shouted, as he bent over my
bunk, “but there's a cove—”
“You needn't shout!” I interrupted, “I'm not deaf.”
“Oh—I beg your pardon!” he shouted. “I didn't know I was yellin'. I
thought you was the deaf feller.”
“Oh, that's all right,” I said. “What's the trouble?”
“Wait till them other chaps is done swearin' and I'll tell yer,” he
said. He spoke with a quiet, good-natured drawl, with something of the
nasal twang, but tone and drawl distinctly Australian—altogether apart
from that of the Americans.
“Oh, spit it out for Christ's sake, Long'un!” yelled One-eyed Bogan,
who had been the worst swearer in a rough shed, and he fell back on his
bunk as if his previous remarks had exhausted him.
“It's that there sick jackaroo that was pickin'-up at Big
Billabong,” said the Giraffe. “He had to knock off the first week, an'
he's been here ever since. They're sendin' him away to the hospital in
Sydney by the speeshall train. They're just goin' to take him up in the
wagonette to the railway station, an' I thought I might as well go
round with the hat an' get him a few bob. He's got a missus and kids in
“Yer always goin' round with yer gory hat!” growled Bogan. “Yer'd
blanky well take it round in hell!”
“That's what he's doing, Bogan,” muttered Gentleman Once, on the
shake-down, with his face to the wall.
The hat was a genuine “cabbage-tree,” one of the sort that “last a
lifetime.” It was well coloured, almost black in fact with weather and
age, and it had a new strap round the base of the crown. I looked into
it and saw a dirty pound note and some silver. I dropped in half a
crown, which was more than I could spare, for I had only been a
green-hand at Big Billabong.
“Thank yer!” he said. “Now then, you fellers!”
“I wish you'd keep your hat on your head, and your money in your
pockets and your sympathy somewhere else,” growled Jack Moonlight as he
raised himself painfully on his elbow, and felt under his pillow for
two half-crowns. “Here,” he said, “here's two half-casers. Chuck 'em in
and let me sleep for God's sake!”
Gentleman Once, the gambler, rolled round on his shake-down,
bringing his good-looking, dissipated face from the wall. He had turned
in in his clothes and, with considerable exertion he shoved his hand
down into the pocket of his trousers, which were a tight fit. He
brought up a roll of pound notes and could find no silver.
“Here,” he said to the Giraffe, “I might as well lay a quid. I'll
chance it anyhow. Chuck it in.”
“You've got rats this mornin', Gentleman Once,” growled the Bogan.
“It ain't a blanky horse race.”
“P'r'aps I have,” said Gentleman Once, and he turned to the wall
again with his head on his arm.
“Now, Bogan, yer might as well chuck in somethin ,” said the
“What's the matter with the —-jackaroo?” asked the Bogan, tugging
his trousers from under the mattress.
Moonlight said something in a low tone.
“The —-he has!” said Bogan. “Well, I pity the —-! Here, I'll chuck
in half a —-quid!” and he dropped half a sovereign into the hat.
The fourth man, who was known to his face as “Barcoo-Rot,” and
behind his back as “The Mean Man,” had been drinking all night, and not
even Bogan's stump-splitting adjectives could rouse him. So Bogan got
out of bed, and calling on us (as blanky female cattle) to witness what
he was about to do, he rolled the drunkard over, prospected his pockets
till he made up five shillings (or a “caser” in bush language), and
“chucked” them into the hat.
And Barcoo-Rot is probably unconscious to this day that he was ever
connected with an act of charity. The Giraffe struck the deaf jackaroo
in the neat room. I heard the chaps cursing “Long-'un” for waking them,
and “Deaf-'un” for being, as they thought at first, the indirect cause
of the disturbance. I heard the Giraffe and his hat being condemned in
other rooms and cursed along the veranda where more shearers were
sleeping; and after a while I turned out.
The Giraffe was carefully fixing a mattress and pillows on the floor
of a wagonette, and presently a man, who looked like a corpse, was
carried out and lifted into the trap.
As the wagonette started, the shanty-keeper—a fat, soulless-looking
man—put his hand in his pocket and dropped a quid into the hat which
was still going round, in the hands of the Giraffe's mate, little Teddy
Thompson, who was as far below medium height as the Giraffe was above
The Giraffe took the horse's head and led him along on the most
level parts of the road towards the railway station, and two or three
chaps went along to help get the sick man into the train.
The shearing-season was over in that district, but I got a job of
house-painting, which was my trade, at the Great Western Hotel (a
two-story brick place), and I stayed in Bourke for a couple of months.
The Giraffe was a Victorian native from Bendigo. He was well known
in Bourke and to many shearers who came through the great dry scrubs
from hundreds of miles round. He was stakeholder, drunkard's banker,
peacemaker where possible, referee or second to oblige the chaps when a
fight was on, big brother or uncle to most of the children in town,
final court of appeal when the youngsters had a dispute over a
foot-race at the school picnic, referee at their fights, and he was the
“The feller as knows can battle around for himself,” he'd say. “But
I always like to do what I can for a hard-up stranger cove. I was a
green-hand jackaroo once meself, and I know what it is.”
“You're always bothering about other people, Giraffe,” said Tom
Hall, the shearers' union secretary, who was only a couple of inches
shorter than the Giraffe. “There's nothing in it, you can take it from
me—I ought to know.”
“Well, what's a feller to do?” said the Giraffe. “I'm only hangin'
round here till shearin' starts agen, an' a cove might as well be doin'
something. Besides, it ain't as if I was like a cove that had old
people or a wife an' kids to look after. I ain't got no
responsibilities. A feller can't be doin' nothin'. Besides, I like to
lend a helpin' hand when I can.”
“Well, all I've got to say,” said Tom, most of whose screw went in
borrowed quids, etc. “All I've got to say is that you'll get no thanks,
and you might blanky well starve in the end.”
“There ain't no fear of me starvin' so long as I've got me hands
about me; an' I ain't a cove as wants thanks,” said the Giraffe.
He was always helping someone or something. Now it was a bit of a
“darnce” that we was gettin' up for the girls; again it was Mrs Smith,
the woman whose husban' was drowned in the flood in the Began River
lars' Crismas, or that there poor woman down by the Billabong—her
husband cleared out and left her with a lot o' kids. Or Bill Something,
the bullocky, who was run over by his own wagon, while he was drunk,
and got his leg broke.
Toward the end of his spree One-eyed Began broke loose and smashed
nearly all the windows of the Carriers' Arms, and next morning he was
fined heavily at the police court. About dinner-time I encountered the
Giraffe and his hat, with two half-crowns in it for a start.
“I'm sorry to trouble yer,” he said, “but One-eyed Bogan carn't pay
his fine, an' I thought we might fix it up for him. He ain't half a bad
sort of feller when he ain't drinkin'. It's only when he gets too much
booze in him.”
After shearing, the hat usually started round with the Giraffe's own
dirty crumpled pound note in the bottom of it as a send-off, later on
it was half a sovereign, and so on down to half a crown and a shilling,
as he got short of stuff; till in the end he would borrow a “few
bob”—which he always repaid after next shearing-"just to start the
There were several yarns about him and his hat. 'Twas said that the
hat had belonged to his father, whom he resembled in every respect, and
it had been going round for so many years that the crown was worn as
thin as paper by the quids, half-quids, casers, half-casers, bobs and
tanners or sprats—to say nothing of the scrums—that had been chucked
into it in its time and shaken up.
They say that when a new governor visited Bourke the Giraffe
happened to be standing on the platform close to the exit, grinning
good-humouredly, and the local toady nudged him urgently and said in an
awful whisper, “Take off your hat! Why don't you take off your hat?”
“Why?” drawled the Giraffe, “he ain't hard up, is he?”
And they fondly cherish an anecdote to the effect that, when the
One-Man-One-Vote Bill was passed (or Payment of Members, or when the
first Labour Party went in—I forget on which occasion they said it
was) the Giraffe was carried away by the general enthusiasm, got a few
beers in him, “chucked” a quid into his hat, and sent it round. The
boys contributed by force of habit, and contributed largely, because of
the victory and the beer. And when the hat came back to the Giraffe, he
stood holding it in front of him with both hands and stared blankly
into it for a while. Then it dawned on him.
“Blowed if I haven't bin an' gone an' took up a bloomin' collection
for meself!” he said.
He was almost a teetotaller, but he stood his shout in reason. He
mostly drank ginger beer.
“I ain't a feller that boozes, but I ain't got nothin' agen chaps
enjoyin' themselves, so long as they don't go too far.”
It was common for a man on the spree to say to him:
“Here! here's five quid. Look after it for me, Giraffe, will yer,
till I git off the booze.
“His real name was Bob Brothers, and his bush names, 'Long-'un,'
'The Giraffe,' 'Send-round-the-hat,' 'Chuck-in-a-bob,' and
Some years before, camels and Afghan drivers had been imported to
the Bourke district; the camels did very well in the dry country, they
went right across country and carried everything from sardines to
flooring-boards. And the teamsters loved the Afghans nearly as much as
Sydney furniture makers love the cheap Chinese in the same line. They
love 'em even as union shearers on strike love blacklegs brought
up-country to take their places.
Now the Giraffe was a good, straight unionist, but in cases of
sickness or trouble he was as apt to forget his unionism, as all
bushmen are, at all times (and for all time), to forget their creed.
So, one evening, the Giraffe blundered into the Carriers' Arms—of all
places in the world—when it was full of teamsters; he had his hat in
his hand and some small silver and coppers in it.
“I say, you fellers, there's a poor, sick Afghan in the camp down
there along the—-”
A big, brawny bullock-driver took him firmly by the shoulders, or,
rather by the elbows, and ran him out before any damage was done. The
Giraffe took it as he took most things, good-humouredly; but, about
dusk, he was seen slipping down towards the Afghan camp with a billy of
“I believe,” remarked Tom Hall, “that when the Giraffe goes to
heaven—and he's the only one of us, as far as I can see, that has a
ghost of a show—I believe that when he goes to heaven, the first thing
he'll do will be to take his infernal hat round amongst the
angels—getting up a collection for this damned world that he left
“Well, I don't think there's so much to his credit, after all,” said
Jack Mitchell, shearer. “You see, the Giraffe is ambitious; he likes
public life, and that accounts for him shoving himself forward with his
collections. As for bothering about people in trouble, that's only
common curiosity; he's one of those chaps that are always shoving their
noses into other people's troubles. And, as for looking after sick
men—why! there's nothing the Giraffe likes better than pottering round
a sick man, and watching him and studying him. He's awfully interested
in sick men, and they're pretty scarce out here. I tell you there's
nothing he likes better—except, maybe, it's pottering round a corpse.
I believe he'd ride forty miles to help and sympathize and potter round
a funeral. The fact of the matter is that the Giraffe is only enjoying
himself with other people's troubles—that's all it is. It's only
vulgar curiosity and selfishness. I set it down to his ignorance; the
way he was brought up.”
A few days after the Afghan incident the Giraffe and his hat had a
run of luck. A German, one of a party who were building a new wooden
bridge over the Big Billabong, was helping unload some girders from a
truck at the railway station, when a big log slipped on the skids and
his leg was smashed badly. They carried him to the Carriers' Arms,
which was the nearest hotel, and into a bedroom behind the bar, and
sent for the doctor. The Giraffe was in evidence as usual.
“It vas not that at all,” said German Charlie, when they asked him
if he was in much pain. “It vas not that at all. I don't cares a damn
for der bain; but dis is der tird year—und I vas going home dis
year—after der gontract—und der gontract yoost commence!”`
That was the burden of his song all through, between his groans.
There were a good few chaps sitting quietly about the bar and veranda
when the doctor arrived. The Giraffe was sitting at the end of the
counter, on which he had laid his hat while he wiped his face, neck,
and forehead with a big speckled “sweatrag.” It was a very hot day.
The doctor, a good-hearted young Australian, was heard saying
something. Then German Charlie, in a voice that rung with pain:
“Make that leg right, doctor—quick! Dis is der tird pluddy
year—und I must go home!”
The doctor asked him if he was in great pain. “Neffer mind der
pluddy bain, doctor! Neffer mind der pluddy bain! Dot vas nossing. Make
dat leg well quick, doctor. Dis vas der last gontract, and I vas going
home dis year.” Then the words jerked out of him by physical agony:
“Der girl vas vaiting dree year, und—by Got! I must go home.”
The publican—Watty Braithwaite, known as “Watty Broadweight,” or,
more familiarly, “Watty Bothways”—turned over the Giraffe's hat in a
tired, bored sort of way, dropped a quid into it, and nodded resignedly
at the Giraffe.
The Giraffe caught up the hint and the hat with alacrity. The hat
went all round town, so to speak; and, as soon as his leg was firm
enough not to come loose on the road German Charlie went home.
It was well known that I contributed to the Sydney Bulletin
and several other papers. The Giraffe's bump of reverence was very
large, and swelled especially for sick men and poets. He treated me
with much more respect than is due from a bushman to a man, and with an
odd sort of extra gentleness I sometimes fancied. But one day he rather
“I'm sorry to trouble yer,” he said in a shamefaced way. “I don't
know as you go in for sportin', but One-eyed Bogan an' Barcoo-Rot is
goin' to have a bit of a scrap down the Billybong this evenin', an'—-”
“A bit of a what?” I asked.
“A bit of fight to a finish,” he said apologetically. “An' the chaps
is tryin' to fix up a fiver to put some life into the thing. There's
bad blood between One-eyed Bogan and Barcoo-Rot, an' it won't do them
any harm to have it out.”
It was a great fight, I remember. There must have been a couple of
score blood-soaked handkerchiefs (or “sweat-rags") buried in a hole on
the field of battle, and the Giraffe was busy the rest of the evening
helping to patch up the principals. Later on he took up a small
collection for the loser, who happened to be Barcoo-Rot in spite of the
advantage of an eye.
The Salvation Army lassie, who went round with the War Cry,
nearly always sold the Giraffe three copies.
A new-chum parson, who wanted a subscription to build or enlarge a
chapel, or something, sought the assistance of the Giraffe's influence
with his mates.
“Well,” said the Giraffe, “I ain't a churchgoer meself. I ain't what
you might call a religious cove, but I'll be glad to do what I can to
help yer. I don't suppose I can do much. I ain't been to church since I
was a kiddy.”
The parson was shocked, but later on he learned to appreciate the
Giraffe and his mates, and to love Australia for the bushman's sake,
and it was he who told me the above anecdote.
The Giraffe helped fix some stalls for a Catholic Church bazaar, and
some of the chaps chaffed him about it in the union office.
“You'll be taking up a collection for a joss-house down in the
Chinamen's camp next,” said Tom Hall in conclusion.
“Well, I ain't got nothin' agen the Roming Carflics,” said the
Giraffe. “An' Father O'Donovan's a very decent sort of cove. He stuck
up for the unions all right in the strike anyway.” (“He wouldn't be
Irish if he wasn't,” someone commented.) “I carried swags once for six
months with a feller that was a Carflick, an' he was a very straight
feller. And a girl I knowed turned Carflick to marry a chap that had
got her into trouble, an' she was always jes' the same to me after as
she was before. Besides, I like to help everything that's goin' on.”
Tom Hall and one or two others went out hurriedly to have a drink.
But we all loved the Giraffe.
He was very innocent and very humorous, especially when he meant to
be most serious and philosophical.
“Some of them bush girls is regular tomboys,” he said to me solemnly
one day. “Some of them is too cheeky altogether. I remember once I was
stoppin' at a place—they was sort of relations o' mine—an' they put
me to sleep in a room off the verander, where there was a glass door
an' no blinds. An' the first mornin' the girls—they was sort o'
cousins o' mine—they come gigglin' and foolin' round outside the door
on the verander, an' kep' me in bed till nearly ten o'clock. I had to
put me trowsis on under the bed-clothes in the end. But I got back on
'em the next night,” he reflected.
“How did you do that, Bob?” I asked.
“Why, I went to bed in me trowsis!”
One day I was on a plank, painting the ceiling of the bar of the
Great Western Hotel. I was anxious to get the job finished. The work
had been kept back most of the day by chaps handing up long beers to
me, and drawing my attention to the alleged fact that I was putting on
the paint wrong side out. I was slapping it on over the last few boards
“I'm very sorry to trouble yer; I always seem to be troublin' yer;
but there's that there woman and them girls—-”
I looked down—about the first time I had looked down on him—and
there was the Giraffe, with his hat brim up on the plank and two
half-crowns in it.
“Oh, that's all right, Bob,” I said, and I dropped in half a crown.
There were shearers in the bar, and presently there was some
barracking. It appeared that that there woman and them girls were
strange women, in the local as well as the Biblical sense of the word,
who had come from Sydney at the end of the shearing-season, and had
taken a cottage on the edge of the scrub on the outskirts of the town.
There had been trouble this week in connection with a row at their
establishment, and they had been fined, warned off by the police, and
turned out by their landlord.
“This is a bit too red-hot, Giraffe,” said one of the shearers.
“Them —-s has made enough out of us coves. They've got plenty of
stuff, don't you fret. Let 'em go to —-! I'm blanked if I give a
“They ain't got their fares to Sydney,” said the Giraffe. “An',
what's more, the little 'un is sick, an' two of them has kids in
“How the —-do you know?”
“Why, one of 'em come to me an' told me all about it.”
There was an involuntary guffaw.
“Look here, Bob,” said Billy Woods, the rouseabouts' secretary,
kindly. “Don't you make a fool of yourself. You'll have all the chaps
laughing at you. Those girls are only working you for all you're worth.
I suppose one of 'em came crying and whining to you. Don't you bother
about 'em. You don't know 'em; they can pump water at a moment's
notice. You haven't had any experience with women yet, Bob.”
“She didn't come whinin' and cryin' to me,” said the Giraffe,
dropping his twanging drawl a little. “She looked me straight in the
face an' told me all about it.”
“I say, Giraffe,” said Box-o'-Tricks, “what have you been doin'?
You've bin down there on the nod. I'm surprised at yer, Giraffe.”
“An' he pretends to be so gory soft an' innocent, too,” growled the
Bogan. “We know all about you, Giraffe.”
“Look here, Giraffe,” said Mitchell the shearer. “I'd never have
thought it of you. We all thought you were the only virgin youth west
the river; I always thought you were a moral young man. You mustn't
think that because your conscience is pricking you everyone else's is.”
“I ain't had anythin' to do with them,” said the Giraffe, drawling
again. “I ain't a cove that goes in for that sort of thing. But other
chaps has, and I think they might as well help 'em out of their fix.”
“They're a rotten crowd,” said Billy Woods. “You don't know them,
Bob. Don't bother about them-they're not worth it. Put your money in
your pocket. You'll find a better use for it before next shearing.”
“Better shout, Giraffe,” said Box-o'-Tricks.
Now in spite of the Giraffe's softness he was the hardest man in
Bourke to move when he'd decided on what he thought was “the fair thing
to do.” Another peculiarity of his was that on occasion, such for
instance as “sayin' a few words” at a strike meeting, he would
straighten himself, drop the twang, and rope in his drawl, so to speak.
“Well, look here, you chaps,” he said now. “I don't know anything
about them women. I s'pose they're bad, but I don't suppose they're
worse than men has made them. All I know is that there's four women
turned out, without any stuff, and every woman in Bourke, an' the
police, an' the law agen 'em. An' the fact that they is women is agenst
'em most of all. You don't expect 'em to hump their swags to Sydney!
Why, only I ain't got the stuff I wouldn't trouble yer. I'd pay their
fares meself. Look,” he said, lowering his voice, “there they are now,
an' one of the girls is cryin'. Don't let 'em see yer lookin'.”
I dropped softly from the plank and peeped out with the rest.
They stood by the fence on the opposite side of the street, a bit up
towards the railway station, with their portmanteaux and bundles at
their feet. One girl leant with her arms on the fence rail and her face
buried in them, another was trying to comfort her. The third girl and
the woman stood facing our way. The woman was good-looking; she had a
hard face, but it might have been made hard. The third girl seemed half
defiant, half inclined to cry. Presently she went to the other side of
the girl who was crying on the fence and put her arm round her
shoulder. The woman suddenly turned her back on us and stood looking
away over the paddocks.
The hat went round. Billy Woods was first, then Box-o'-Tricks, and
Billy contributed with eloquent silence. “I was only jokin',
Giraffe,” said Box-o'-Tricks, dredging his pockets for a couple of
shillings. It was some time after the shearing, and most of the chaps
were hard up. “Ah, well,” sighed Mitchell. “There's no help for it. If
the Giraffe would take up a collection to import some decent girls to
this God-forgotten hole there might be some sense in it. . . . It's bad
enough for the Giraffe to undermine our religious prejudices, and tempt
us to take a morbid interest in sick Chows and Afghans, and blacklegs
and widows; but when he starts mixing us up with strange women it's
time to buck.” And he prospected his pockets and contributed two
shillings, some odd pennies, and a pinch of tobacco dust.
“I don't mind helping the girls, but I'm damned if I'll give a penny
to help the old—-,” said Tom Hall.
“Well, she was a girl once herself,” drawled the Giraffe.
The Giraffe went round to the other pubs and to the union offices,
and when he returned he seemed satisfied with the plate, but troubled
about something else.
“I don't know what to do for them for to-night,” he said. “None of
the pubs or boardin'-houses will hear of them, an' there ain't no empty
houses, an' the women is all agen 'em.”
“Not all,” said Alice, the big, handsome barmaid from Sydney. “Come
here, Bob.” She gave the Giraffe half a sovereign and a look for which
some of us would have paid him ten pounds—had we had the money, and
had the look been transferable.
“Wait a minute, Bob,” she said, and she went in to speak to the
“There's an empty bedroom at the end of the store in the yard,” she
said when she came back. “They can camp there for to-night if they
behave themselves. You'd better tell 'em, Bob.”
“Thank yer, Alice,” said the Giraffe.
Next day, after work, the Giraffe and I drifted together and down by
the river in the cool of the evening, and sat on the edge of the steep,
“I heard you saw your lady friends off this morning, Bob,” I said,
and was sorry I said it, even before he answered.
“Oh, they ain't no friends of mine,” he said. “Only four' poor
devils of women. I thought they mightn't like to stand waitin' with the
crowd on the platform, so I jest offered to get their tickets an' told
'em to wait round at the back of the station till the bell rung. . . .
An' what do yer think they did, Harry?” he went on, with an
exasperatingly unintelligent grin. “Why, they wanted to kiss me.”
“Yes. An' they would have done it, too, if I hadn't been so long. .
. . Why, I'm blessed if they didn't kiss me hands.”
“You don't say so.”
“God's truth. Somehow I didn't like to go on the platform with them
after that; besides, they was cryin', and I can't stand women cryin'.
But some of the chaps put them into an empty carriage.” He thought a
“There's some terrible good-hearted fellers in the world,” he
I thought so too. “Bob,” I said, “you're a single man. Why don't you
get married and settle down?”
“Well,” he said, “I ain't got no wife an' kids, that's a fact. But
it ain't my fault.”
He may have been right about the wife. But I thought of the look
that Alice had given him, and—-
“Girls seem to like me right enough,” he said, “but it don't go no
further than that. The trouble is that I'm so long, and I always seem
to get shook after little girls. At least there was one little girl in
Bendigo that I was properly gone on.”
“And wouldn't she have you?”
“Well, it seems not.”
“Did you ask her?”
“Oh, yes, I asked her right enough.”
“Well, and what did she say?”
“She said it would be redicilus for her to be seen trottin'
alongside of a chimbley like me.”
“Perhaps she didn't mean that. There are any amount of little women
who like tall men.”
“I thought of that too—afterwards. P'r'aps she didn't mean it that
way. I s'pose the fact of the matter was that she didn't cotton on to
me, and wanted to let me down easy. She didn't want to hurt me
feelin's, if yer understand—she was a very good-hearted little girl.
There's some terrible tall fellers where I come from, and I know two as
married little girls.”
He seemed a hopeless case.
“Sometimes,” he said, “sometimes I wish that I wasn't so blessed
“There's that there deaf jackaroo,” he reflected presently. “He's
something in the same fig about girls as I am. He's too deaf and I'm
“How do you make that out?” I asked. “He's got three girls, to my
knowledge, and, as for being deaf, why, he gasses more than any man in
the town, and knows more of what's going on than old Mother Brindle the
“Well, look at that now!” said the Giraffe, slowly. “Who'd have
thought it? He never told me he had three girls, an' as for hearin'
news, I always tell him anything that's goin' on that I think he
doesn't catch. He told me his trouble was that whenever he went out
with a girl people could hear what they was sayin'—at least they could
hear what she was sayin' to him, an' draw their own conclusions, he
said. He said he went out one night with a girl, and some of the chaps
foxed 'em an' heard her sayin' `don't' to him, an' put it all round
“What did she say `don't' for?” I asked.
“He didn't tell me that, but I s'pose he was kissin' her or huggin'
her or something.”
“Bob,” I said presently, “didn't you try the little girl in Bendigo
a second time?”
“No,” he said. “What was the use. She was a good little girl, and I
wasn't goin' to go botherin' her. I ain't the sort of cove that goes
hangin' round where he isn't wanted. But somehow I couldn't stay about
Bendigo after she gave me the hint, so I thought I'd come over an' have
a knock round on this side for a year or two.”
“And you never wrote to her?”
“No. What was the use of goin' pesterin' her with letters? I know
what trouble letters give me when I have to answer one. She'd have only
had to tell me the straight truth in a letter an' it wouldn't have done
me any good. But I've pretty well got over it by this time.”
A few days later I went to Sydney. The Giraffe was the last I shook
hands with from the carriage window, and he slipped something in a
piece of newspaper into my hand.
“I hope yer won't be offended,” he drawled, “but some of the chaps
thought you mightn't be too flush of stuff—you've been shoutin' a good
deal; so they put a quid or two together. They thought it might help
yer to have a bit of a fly round in Sydney.”
I was back in Bourke before next shearing. On the evening of my
arrival I ran against the Giraffe; he seemed strangely shaken over
something, but he kept his hat on his head.
“Would yer mind takin' a stroll as fur as the Billerbong?” he said.
“I got something I'd like to tell yer.”
His big, brown, sunburnt hands trembled and shook as he took a
letter from his pocket and opened it.
“I've just got a letter,” he said. “A letter from that little girl
at Bendigo. It seems it was all a mistake. I'd like you to read it.
Somehow I feel as if I want to talk to a feller, and I'd rather talk to
you than any of them other chaps.”
It was a good letter, from a big-hearted little girl. She had been
breaking her heart for the great ass all these months. It seemed that
he had left Bendigo without saying good-bye to her. “Somehow I couldn't
bring meself to it,” he said, when I taxed him with it. She had never
been able to get his address until last week; then she got it from a
Bourke man who had gone south. She called him “an awful long fool,”
which he was, without the slightest doubt, and she implored him to
write, and come back to her.
“And will you go back, Bob?” I asked.
“My oath! I'd take the train to-morrer only I ain't got the stuff.
But I've got a stand in Big Billerbong Shed an' I'll soon knock a few
quid together. I'll go back as soon as ever shearin's over. I'm goin'
to write away to her to-night.”
The Giraffe was the “ringer” of Big Billabong Shed that season. His
tallies averaged a hundred and twenty a day. He only sent his hat round
once during shearing, and it was noticed that he hesitated at first and
only contributed half a crown. But then it was a case of a man being
taken from the shed by the police for wife desertion.
“It's always that way,” commented Mitchell. “Those soft,
good-hearted fellows always end by getting hard and selfish. The world
makes 'em so. It's the thought of the soft fools they've been that
finds out sooner or later and makes 'em repent. Like as not the Giraffe
will be the meanest man out back before he's done.”
When Big Billabong cut out, and we got back to Bourke with our dusty
swags and dirty cheques, I spoke to Tom Hall:
“Look here, Tom,” I said. “That long fool, the Giraffe, has been
breaking his heart for a little girl in Bendigo ever since he's been
out back, and she's been breaking her heart for him, and the ass didn't
know it till he got a letter from her just before Big Billabong
started. He's going to-morrow morning.”
That evening Tom stole the Giraffe's hat. “I s'pose it'll turn up in
the mornin',” said the Giraffe. “I don't mind a lark,” he added, “but
it does seem a bit red hot for the chaps to collar a cove's hat and a
feller goin' away for good, p'r'aps, in the mornin'.”
Mitchell started the thing going with a quid.
“It's worth it,” he said, “to get rid of him. We'll have some peace
now. There won't be so many accidents or women in trouble when the
Giraffe and his blessed hat are gone. Any way, he's an eyesore in the
town, and he's getting on my nerves for one. . . . Come on, you
sinners! Chuck 'em in; we're only taking quids and half-quids.”
About daylight next morning Tom Hall slipped into the Giraffe's room
at the Carriers' Arms. The Giraffe was sleeping peacefully. Tom put the
hat on a chair by his side. The collection had been a record one, and,
besides the packet of money in the crown of the hat, there was a
silver-mounted pipe with case—the best that could be bought in Bourke,
a gold brooch, and several trifles—besides an ugly valentine of a long
man in his shirt walking the room with a twin on each arm.
Tom was about to shake the Giraffe by the shoulder, when he noticed
a great foot, with about half a yard of big-boned ankle and shank,
sticking out at the bottom of the bed. The temptation was too great.
Tom took up the hair-brush, and, with the back of it, he gave a smart
rap on the point of an in-growing toe-nail, and slithered.
We heard the Giraffe swearing good-naturedly for a while, and then
there was a pregnant silence. He was staring at the hat we supposed.
We were all up at the station to see him off. It was rather a long
wait. The Giraffe edged me up to the other end of the platform.
He seemed overcome.
“There's—there's some terrible good-hearted fellers in this world,”
he said. “You mustn't forgit 'em, Harry, when you make a big name
writin'. I'm—well, I'm blessed if I don't feel as if I was jist goin'
I was glad he didn't. The Giraffe blubberin' would have been a
spectacle. I steered him back to his friends.
“Ain't you going to kiss me, Bob?” said the Great Western's big,
handsome barmaid, as the bell rang.
“Well, I don't mind kissin' you, Alice,” he said, wiping his mouth.
“But I'm goin' to be married, yer know.” And he kissed her fair on the
“There's nothin' like gettin' into practice,” he said, grinning
We thought he was improving wonderfully; but at the last moment
something troubled him.
“Look here, you chaps,” he said, hesitatingly, with his hand in his
pocket, “I don't know what I'm going to do with all this stuff. There's
that there poor washerwoman that scalded her legs liftin' the boiler of
clothes off the fire—-”
We shoved him into the carriage. He hung—about half of him—out the
window, wildly waving his hat, till the train disappeared in the scrub.
And, as I sit here writing by lamplight at midday, in the midst of a
great city of shallow social sham, of hopeless, squalid poverty, of
ignorant selfishness, cultured or brutish, and of noble and heroic
endeavour frowned down or callously neglected, I am almost aware of a
burst of sunshine in the room, and a long form leaning over my chair,
“Excuse me for troublin' yer; I'm always troublin' yer; but there's
that there poor woman. . . .”
And I wish I could immortalize him!