Chapter 139738303

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139738303
Full Date1897-02-20
Page Number22
Corrections5
Word Count1329
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2019-02-21
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleHis Especial Fear
article text

THE STORYTELLER,|

HIS "ESPECIAL FEAR."

By E. MILLS.

Rudyard Kipling says somewhere that every human being has his or her ''especial fear." One will dread the rush of seething

waters and do deeds of heroism in the face of

of fire. Another will risk his life in the stormiest seas and be unnerved to helpless- ness by the hiss and crackle of flames. My story is of a man who was accounted

"brave, because in the course of an ordinary life the danger from cold steel" seldom takes undue prominence. Once in his child- hood he had been reduced to a state of panic bordering on lunacy, because he had

caught up a knife by its blade in the dark. He had only cut himself slightly, but for many nights afterwards he dreamed that he

was falling down the smooth granite

of a sky-reaching cliff, from whose polished surface projected a single sharp sword blade. Far below him the light glinted on

the up-raised points of other sharp, two-

edged swords, and, to save himself from fall- ing on these, he had clutched the single

blade with both hands, and had felt it cut through the skin and muscles until it grated on the bone. It was only a dream, although

an unpleasant one, and at this point he usually awoke, much surprised not to find

his fingers severed from his hands and the bed-clothes sopping with his life's blood. But this happened long ago, and was for- gotten, with other childish things. And if you had asked any of Jeff Wardlaw's fellow jackaroos on Maxworth Downs for his cha- racter, they would have given him a good one for courage, and, moreover, could add that he was a jolly companion, never shirked his share of work, and was not un- duly proud because he had the handsomest

face and figure and the most "winning" ways with women of any fellow in the dis-

trict.

The boss of Maxworth Down had an only daughter called Barbara, a pretty little flirt who prided herself upon a certain gentle hard-heartedness; in fact, she had to wish to lose her heart and lay aside the merry life which had been hers for the last few years. She had many admirers, of course, chief amongst them a bank clerk from the neighbouring bush town. He was a tall thin fellow, with sable? hair, large ears, and an honest ugly face, whose one redeeming feature was a pair of kindly quizzical grey eyes. Barbara knew? Fred Rodwell fairly well, but she looked down on him not a little because of his utter want of knowledge of riding, shooting, swimming, &c., for he had been brought up within sound of Bow Bells, and had worked hard at his desk since his boybood, with no time for athletics or recreations of any sort. Now he was in Australia he was learning to ride, and Barbara had been witness of his attempts many times when he came out to her father's station. He had failed her, too, in a critical moment, viz, when she had sent her dog into a lagoon to fetch out a stick. The poor animal became entangled in the weeds. Rodwell was with her, but could do no good, for he was unable to swim, and had not Jeff Wardlaw, the new jackaroo, appeared on the scene, Skiff's earthly pilgrimage would have been over. Jeff slipped off his coat

and boots, and lightly clad in moleskins and shirt went to the rescue, and anyone who knows the treacherous weed lagoons "out west" understands that this is no easy or safe thing to do. But Wardlaw would have risked his life again every day of the year (in the same way) for the smile and thanks Barbara gave him when he returned the exhausted and half-drowned Skiff to his mistress's arms. Jeff was handsome enough not to look ridiculous even with so much superfluous mud and water about him, and Rodwell felt with a queer sad- ness at his heart that to be insignificant and plain in looks is handicap enough in

the dace of life without the added burden of a poverty-stricken youth which had kept him bound to a musty desk when he might have been learning to ride and swim and develop his muscles with the larger half of

England's unthinking boyhood. _

That happened a month ago, however, and now that the show was on in little country town Bodwell had been more in it, for there were two balls, and he was a good dancer, which Jeff was not, and it almost seemed as if fickle Barbara's fancy was wavering again, The day after the ball she

was sitting with a girl friend in the station

trap watching the buck-jumping contest,

which so far, the famous "outlaw from ?son's Creek had got the best of it, for he had kicked and bitten and plunged to so much pupose that no one had been able

to mount him.

Barbar's ? her face in her hand and tembled, ? Barbara watched the contest with ?ing cheeks and excited blue eyes. The warm sun gleamed on her curls of red brown hair beneath her white hat, and showed the "snowiness" of her muslin ?. ?," she cried, "how can they let the ? beat them. Where is

that Wardlaw ? He could ride it, I am sure."

Her girl friend gave a faint little shriek,

for she too felt the fascination of

Jeff Wardlow's individuality. "Oh, Bar-

bara, do not ? such a thing. Why,

? killed one ? and disabled another for

life before they gave up trying to break the

horse in. "What is the use of it all?" says Rod

well,? ing on the near wheel; "I should say discretion is the better part or valour ?" "There he is," cried

Barbara as a tall figure appeared

through the crowd. "I knew he would

rule the horse.

There was a good deal of the primitive woman about Barbara.

Wardlaw was on his mettle, and deter- mined to ? the outlaw, who kicked

and bit with ears well laid back, and the whites of ?of as ?ced an eye as ever a horse possessed ? dangerously. Jelf looked a fine fellow ? as he battled with the animal. and the crowd yelled anpreciatingly then after a long struggle, he succeeded in swinging agilely into the saddle and settled ? Innisi I: for the contest. The out

law bucked, of course, but Jeff did not mind that; he could ride well. However, the horse seemed to go mad with rage at being beaten, and Barbara paled suddenly, as taking the bit in its teeth, the outlaw playfully tried to rub Jeff off against the rails of the cattle pens, and then made a clean bolt for the river, which ran between ?reeky banks bordering the western end of the show ground. The crowd scattered right and left as the horse dashed through, and then closed again to follow the mad fight, Barbara sprang out of the buggy and

ran also.

However, more by good luck than good management, Jeff managed to get free, and threw himself off just as the horee plunged madly over the steep banks to be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Jeff was only a little shaken and bruised, and told Rod- well to take Barbara away while they got a gun to end the miseries of the headstrong outlaw. He was happy, indeed, for he had seen a look in the girl's blue eyes which told him his hopes were not vain. And he was not mistaken, for Barbara admired courage in more than any other quality. "He is a plucky? fellow," said Rodwell gene rously. "He does not know what fear is,"

answered? the girl.