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Told by One of the Other Drovers by Henry Lawson

 

`Talkin' o' Poisonous Jimmy, I can tell you a yarn about him. We'd brought a mob of cattle down for a squatter the other side of Mulgatown. We camped about seven miles the other side of the town, waitin' for the station hands to come and take charge of the stock, while the boss rode on into town to draw our money. Some of us was goin' back, though in the end we all went into Mulgatown and had a boose up with the boss. But while we was waitin' there come along two fellers that had been drovin' up north. They yarned a while, an' then went on to Poisonous Jimmy's place, an' in about an hour one on 'em come ridin' back with a can of beer that he said Poisonous had sent for us. We all knew Jimmy's little games — the beer was a bait to get us on the drunk at his place; but we drunk the beer, and reckoned to have a lark with him afterwards. When the boss come back, an' the station hands to take the bullocks, we started into Mulgatown. We stopped outside Poisonous's place an' handed the can to the girl that was grinnin' on the verandah. Poisonous come out with a grin on him like a parson with a broken nose.

`"Good day, boys!" he says.

`"Good day, Poisonous," we says.

`"It's hot," he says.

`"It's blanky hot," I says.

`He seemed to expect us to get down. "Where are you off to?" he says.

`"Mulgatown," I says. "It will be cooler there," and we sung out, "So-long, Poisonous!" and rode on.

`He stood starin' for a minute; then he started shoutin', "Hi! hi there!" after us, but we took no notice, an' rode on. When we looked back last he was runnin' into the scrub with a bridle in his hand.

`We jogged along easily till we got within a mile of Mulgatown, when we heard somebody gallopin' after us, an' lookin' back we saw it was Poisonous.

`He was too mad and too winded to speak at first, so he rode along with us a bit gasping: then he burst out.

`"Where's them other two carnal blanks?" he shouted.

`"What other two?" I asked. "We're all here. What's the matter with you anyway?"

`"All here!" he yelled. "You're a lurid liar! What the flamin' sheol do you mean by swiggin' my beer an' flingin' the coloured can in me face? without as much as thank yer! D'yer think I'm a flamin' ——!"

`Oh, but Poisonous Jimmy was wild.

`"Well, we'll pay for your dirty beer," says one of the chaps, puttin' his hand in his pocket. "We didn't want yer slush. It tasted as if it had been used before."

`"Pay for it!" yelled Jimmy. "I'll —— well take it out of one of yer bleedin' hides!"

`We stopped at once, and I got down an' obliged Jimmy for a few rounds. He was a nasty customer to fight; he could use his hands, and was cool as a cucumber as soon as he took his coat off: besides, he had one squirmy little business eye, and a big wall-eye, an', even if you knowed him well, you couldn't help watchin' the stony eye — it was no good watchin' his eyes, you had to watch his hands, and he might have managed me if the boss hadn't stopped the fight. The boss was a big, quiet-voiced man, that didn't swear.

`"Now, look here, Myles," said the boss (Jimmy's name was Myles) — "Now, look here, Myles," sez the boss, "what's all this about?"

`"What's all this about?" says Jimmy, gettin' excited agen. "Why, two fellers that belonged to your party come along to my place an' put up half-a-dozen drinks, an' borrered a sovereign, an' got a can o' beer on the strength of their cheques. They sez they was waitin' for you — an' I want my crimson money out o' some one!"

`"What was they like?" asks the boss.

`"Like?" shouted Poisonous, swearin' all the time. "One was a blanky long, sandy, sawny feller, and the other was a short, slim feller with black hair. Your blanky men knows all about them because they had the blanky billy o' beer."

`"Now, what's this all about, you chaps?" sez the boss to us.

`So we told him as much as we knowed about them two fellers.

`I've heard men swear that could swear in a rough shearin'-shed, but I never heard a man swear like Poisonous Jimmy when he saw how he'd been left. It was enough to split stumps. He said he wanted to see those fellers, just once, before he died.

`He rode with us into Mulgatown, got mad drunk, an' started out along the road with a tomahawk after the long sandy feller and the slim dark feller; but two mounted police went after him an' fetched him back. He said he only wanted justice; he said he only wanted to stun them two fellers till he could give 'em in charge.

`They fined him ten bob.'

 
 
 

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