Besides Daly, Dad was the only man on Saddletop acquainted with the capital. Dad posed as an authority on the geography of Brisbane—knew every hole and corner of it, and could tell you exactly where Cribb’s, and Junkaway’s, and Toppin’s, and Winship’s, and old Bartley’s places were. It was no credit to him, though, because he had worked there a whole month nearly forty- five years before.
“You wouldn’t know it now, man,” Daly said, deprecatingly, “you ’d get lost!”
Dad wasn’t so sure.
“Don’t know,” he said, thoughtfully stroking his long grey beard.
“Why, it’s all built on fer miles—houses everywhere; an’streets!—y’ don’t know where th’ divil y’ are fer them. . . . It’s a fact!” (turning aggressively on Joe, who displayed an inclination to doubt) “yer can smile!” (Then to Dad) “And people! By gad!”
Daly couldn’t convey any idea of the population. Language failed him.
Sarah instanced the crowd that attended old Mrs. Delaney’s funeral by way of comparison.
“Be damned!” (Daly was not a polite man). “Pshaw! Nothing! . . . You’ve seen big mobs of sheep, haven’t y’?” (All of us had.) “Well, they’re simply nothing to th’ crowds y’ll see in the main street on a Saturd’y night. S’ ’elp me goodness!” (addressing Mother—his mouth, eyes, and hands all working) “I never thought there was so many people in the world, Mrs. Rudd!” Dad reflected.
“Must go down when th’ wheat’s in, an’ see it again,” he said.
“If yer do”—Daly went on—“stay at Mrs. O’Reilly’s, in Roma-street. Best place in th’ whole town, an’ on’y thirteen bob a week. Tip-top table and two all-right girls waits on y’. Look after yer as if y’ wer’ a juke; no mistake; an’ look here” (turning excitedly to Mother) “polish yer boots every bloomin’ mornin’, and” (Daly paused to cough) “an’ fetch tea inter th’ bed t’ y’!”
All of us laughed, except Sarah. She turned up her nose and went out. Sarah was a Sunday-school teacher now.
“Who, the girls?” Joe shouted, above the noise.
“Go on with you!” Mother said, looking on the floor. She didn’t believe Daly.
“My colonial!” Daly said.
“That’s th’ place for us, David, when we go down!” Joe put in, poking Dave hard in the ribs. Dave grinned his long slow grin.
“You go t’ Reilly’s,” Daly continued, addressing Dad again, “ask fer—”
“There were a place,” Dad mused, interupting Daly, “on the crick, where I used t’ stay; near—”
“Crick!” Daly guffawed. “Crick! . . . there isn’t any crick. . . . Damme, I tell y’ it’s all built on, man; all houses—miles and miles of ’em. Th’ river’s wot you mean!” And he laughed cheerfully.
“Nonsense!” Dad snapped, turning red in the face; “there’s a crick as well. Mulcahy’s place is on th’ bank. Did you see Mulcahy’s place?”
Tears ran from Daly’s eyes. “What part of Brisbane d’ y’ mean?” he asked of Dad, in a voice that implied ridicule.
“Confound it, feller!” Dad broke out; “do y’ think I’ve never been there?”
“Now, don’t get angry over it,” Mother interposed, in her quiet, kind way. But Dad would never suffer a contradiction.
“Here!” he shouted, violently displacing a portion of the tablecloth and brandishing his pocket-knife—“here’s Brisbane, ain’t it?” (He savagely scratched a tracing, something like a square, on the table, which annoyed Mother.)
Daly smiled and, when Dad glared round at him, nodded assent. “There’s th’ river!”—raking the knife through the square, and making Mother jump.
Daly, watching closely over Dad’s shoulder, chuckled acquiescence.
“An’ that ‘s th’ bridge?”—gashing the river in two.
“Correct,” Daly said, grinning more.
“Here’s Windmill Hill; here’s Rafferty’s pub in South Brisbane” (Dad dug a hole in the table to mark the pub., and Mother shuddered); “here, just behind Rafferty’s, is a ridge, an’ a waterhole where me an’ Andrew Rafferty got our water, an’ a lot o’ scrub runnin’ right along this way (hacking another channel in the cedar).
“Bah!” Daly exclaimed in disgust—“waterhole! . . . scrub! . . . Wot’n th’ devil ’re y’ talkin’ about? Don’t I tell y’ th’ place is all houses!”
“Houses be d—d!” Dad roared, showing all his teeth (he only has three now), “there’s no houses there” (prodding the knife into South Brisbane). “Here’s where th’ houses is” (he stabbed North Brisbane hard and angrily), “all along here. . . . And this, runnin’ up here” (more mutilations which pained Mother), “is th’ crick.”
“Pshaw! Crick! . . . That” (Daly struck the tracing with his fist, and didn’t notice he shook Sarah’s flower-vase off the table), “that’s all shops.”
“Shops!” Dad yelled, plunging the knife into the cedar and snapping the blade, “are y’ mad? How th’ devil can there be shops in a crick?”
Daly turned green with rage. “Yer don’t know ennerthin’ about it,” he said, taking up his hat, “yer know nothing!” Mother pleaded for peace, and Joe grinned at Dave.
“Look here,” Dad roared, following Daly to the verandah; “I was in Brisbane before you or y’r father, or any one o’ y’ ever saw the country.”
“Yer might,” Daly sneered, “yer might, but yer know d—n little about it all the same!” And then he went away.