A Sydney-Side Saxon


‘Bandra Jim,’ Loquitur

Rolf Boldrewood

‘CHRISTMAS TIME, and old Mr. Claythorpe, of Bandra, Willendoon, Yugildah, and a lot of other stations—for he’s a well-in squatter, that took up runs or bought them cheap before free selection, and land-boards, and rabbits, and all the other bothers that turn a chap’s hair gray before his time. But where was I? I’m riding ahead of my cattle. Well, the old man’s having a regular countmuster of his sons and daughters, and their children and off-side relatives, that is by marriage—in fact, the whole boiling, for he always keeps the Christmas week in regular slap-up style. My word! Bandra House is big enough to hold as many again on a pinch, besides the cottage and strangers’ room, and the barracks that might be stretched to carry most any number.

‘It’s pretty well known through the country that the old gentleman rose up by degrees like—had to work for wages when he first came to the country, like many another good man; but, instead of spending his money as soon as he got it, saved it for the start, bought a few cattle or sheep, and picked up a block of country here and there for a trifle, gradually doing better and better, through dealing a bit now and then, and using his brains as well as his four bones.

‘I’ve heard tell that the biggest punch he ever made was by tendering for a big block of country that laid back from the frontage runs on the Logan, which the first men on the river were too dashed careless or screwy to take up. When water was got on it—dams and so on—and it was fenced, it was good to carry no end of sheep.

‘Bandra Estate is where he’s always lived of late years, and he bought all the land on it after he got married, and, I stick to it, There’s where he got the best bargain of all (the missis, not the run). No man could help doing well that married a woman like Mrs. Claythorpe; he must have had cheek enough to ask her, but women like a man all the better for that. There’s no doubt he’s made her a stunning good husband, and there isn’t a finer family on the Sydney-side. Ten of ’em, yes, ten—six sons, every man-Jack of ’em six foot high, all married and with children of their own. They can work and ride, and take their own part, hold their own too at cricket and football, shearing and stock-riding, in a cattle yard, or outside of a horse, with any chaps in the land. And the daughters—well, I won’t say much about them, it ain’t my place, but we young chaps about all think a lot. Every one says they’re the pick of the country side. They’re all married, of course, but one, the youngest, and to my fancy the handsomest of the lot. She’s tall and dark, and got eyes like a flying doe—soft like, and yet bright—but what’s the use of me pitching. I might as well wish for one of the Princesses of Wales. Hold on, though; didn’t the old man tell me one day that he was as low down in the world as me when he began, more so, indeed, and that if I’d save my money, keep away from the grog, and look about for a chance now and then, I might be as well off as him some day. And suppose I did make a rise, say in two or three years, at a diggings or anywhere, I wonder what he would say if I up and asked him for Miss Cissie. When she and I were a few years younger, and she was a slip of a girl, I broke in her first pony for her, and a regular “nut” he was, as full of mischief as a pet dingo, but she could ride him, and anything else for that matter. She had first-class hands for this start and nerve—no end. When she used to say, “Thank you, Jim, what a lot of trouble you must have taken with him, and what lovely paces he’s got,” I used to feel as if I could go and break my neck straight away off the worst buck-jumper on the station for such another look and a sweet smile from her. When she went away to school in Sydney, she came back regular changed somehow—more stand-off like. I dursn’t look at her a’most, let alone talk. But one day the buggy horse made a bolt of it when a new-chum Englishman was driving her, and if I hadn’t been pretty near, and on a horse that could go and was handy too, they’d have been smashed into matchwood. Then she looked at me so like the old way, and smiled a bit serious as she said, “You’re always to be depended on, Jim, whatever happens.”

‘“Nothing’ll ever happen to you, Miss Cissie, while I am there or thereabouts,” says I, quiet and sudden like. She smiled again, and the Englishman stared and put up his eyeglass. But she took the reins and drove home, telling him she couldn’t afford to have her neck broke just yet.

‘Well—well, I’ll have a try, I may as well run my chance like another. There’s worse looking chaps than Jim Thornhill in the bush, and I might have a streak of luck at these new diggings. I’m off after the holidays, and who knows what may turn up.

‘Why, what’s all this? All the girls and young people have crowded round the boss, and he’s going to tell ’em his history, right out from the beginning. It’ll take more than one evening, or two either, still he’ll get through in time. We’re all welcome to come and hear it, he says, and my word he’ll hide nothing, and give it ’em straight out from the shoulder.

‘There he sits in his easy chair in the verandah, with the missis close by, and what a country he can look over, every acre of it his own. Such cattle and sheep and horses; the quality of ’em and the numbers too!

‘Now he’s making a start, I must close up. I’d not like to lose a word of it.’

A Sydney-Side Saxon - Contents    |     Chapter I - Job Claythorpe, of Applegate, Ploughman

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