|Chapter Title||ULOLO STATION.|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Our Bush Parson, and the Great Flood of the Darling River.|
Our Bush Parson, AND THE Great Flood of the Darling River.
(Written for the Christmas Number of the Queenslander.)
CHAPTER I. ULOLO STATION.
BY "A BUSH NATURALIST."
IT was evening-time at Ulolo: dinner was over, a cup of tea had been handed round, and we were all sitting in the verandah to enjoy the cool breeze of this summer's night. I say we,
yet I, the narrator of this little domestio history, although a keen observer, was but an unimportant unit in the passing events. Ulolo station is situated on the shores of one of those fine lakes, so many of which are to be found in the level interior of Aus- tralia; the lake was filled by an ana- branch of the Darling River, and the liquid word Ulolo was the aboriginal name for this lovely sheet of water. The owner of this large station was Mr. Mason, and the company now assembled on the verandah comprised the pro- prietor and his kindhearted wife, their two daughters, Adelaide and Ethel; Jack, the eldest of the children and the only son, and the chronicler of events—myself. The refinements of civilisation had penetrated to Ulolo, notwithstanding that it was in what was then considered rather outside country; but money was plentiful, and it had not been grudged when comfort was the object. The homestead had once been one of the three- roomed slab hut, bark-roofed, kind of squatters' houses, where you sit down to dinner with- out a coat, and rum and hospitality are dispensed out of a pannikin | but now the house was substantially built of brick and the roof was of iron. Very pretty did the place look this fine moonlight night, I had thought as I strolled up the sand ridge upon which it was built, and, turning, caught the glistening of the white roof among the many trees that surrounded it; the whole being in harmony with the silvery ripples of the gently quivering waters of the lake. Refinement had not diminished the proverbial hospitality of the owner—that cardinal virtue of every Australian settler, whether squatter, farmer, or bushman— and there seldom passed a night but some one, and generally two or three strangers were enter- tained and welcomed. Now we find the bush public-house established wherever there is a pos- sibility of carriers or stockdrovers camping; and, doubtless, this has its advantages, for the stranger who does not like to intrude can there get accommodation instead of trespassing upon the hospitality of the neighboring station, but I am afraid that it is tending to drive away the old generous spirit in which strangers used to be entertained in former days. We were chatting about the coming gala day at Christmas—it was a novelty in the dis- trict, and there was to be a canoe race on the lake, which would be sure to afford infinite fun through the many capsizes that would occur; then there was to be a swimming match for a silver cup, given by Mr. Mason, for he said 'No man should take to bush life who could not swim well;' and of course there was to be a dance in the evening—when our talk was in terrupted by the man cook entering and saying, 'The mailman, sir, from Wentworth; here are the letters; he wants to know if he can keep his new horse in the little paddock to-night.' 'Certainly, Dan; but tell him there is not much grass; he can get a feed of hay from the loft if he likes.' The arrival of the mail is always a great event upon a station; it is the connecting link with civilisation, and letters and papers are eagerly opened. Our host had opened and was reading his share of the packet, while the ladies were looking at the illustrated papers. Mr. Mason presently broke the silence by saying, ' Mary, dear, here is a letter from the Bishop about our bush parson ; he comes immediately, it seems. Here, Adelaide, read it aloud.' 'Oh, papa, I thought that the Bishop in his last letter to you said that he could not find a suitable man, but I suppose he has at last met with someone who has impressed him as being the man who can lead us barbarians into civili- sation and goodness.' ' For shame, Addie,' said her mother ; ' you must learn to give up always making fun of his Lordship and this clergyman, whom your father and myself have endeavored to get sent into the district. I am sure you girls are wild enough to need twenty clergymen to reclaim you. However, read the letter, and let us hear what the Bishop says.' This latest fancy of their papa's of having a clergyman in the district, and whose head- quarters were to be at Ulolo, had caused much discussion between the two girls. To tell the truth, the young ladies did not relish the idea.
They were bush-born girls, but had had a fairly good education in a private school near Mel- bourne, where they had at anyrate learned to behave in a ladylike way. Addie, the elder, was 19, and Ethel just 17 years old. Of religious training, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, they had had little; true they had attended church when at school at St. Kilda, and also whenever they had visited Melbourne with their parents, but at Ulolo they were never troubled with any catechism or sermons, and on Sundays it was usual for them to go for a grand scamper on horseback with their brother, or to visit a neighboring station, or, if the weather were too hot, a quiet read of some novel in the verandah. Now they were afraid that all this would be stopped, and that Sunday would be made a dreary day of sermons and restraint. ' Bother the parson,' Addie had privately said to her sister, and the feeling was reciprocated, for the reply had been,' Well,I intend to get Jack to put some Bathurst burr under his saddle-cloth, and then watch his long face get longer when his usually quiet old crawler of a horse begins bucking.' It was therefore with intense curi- osity, yet with considerable disgust, that Ade- laide took up the letter, and, in an assumed pompous tone, read aloud,— 'Bishopscourt, Melbourne, Dec. 14, 18—. ' To J. Mason, Esq., J.P., Ulolo. 'My very dear sir,—In reference to the pro- position from your remote and hitherto neglected district, asking if I could appoint a clergyman as an itinerant, and to which I replied that I could find no one whom I considered suitable, I now hasten to say that is the person of the Rev. Mr. Calley I think I have hit upon the man who of all others is most suitable for your region. If he has a fault, it is that he is too young and inexperienced, but he is highly educated, and his heartfelt desire is to do good to his fellow man. He and I differ on many doctrinal points, but that doubtless will not trouble you. Mr. Calley's pecuniary affairs are such as to relieve him from that feeling of restraint which he might have were he to be absolutely dependent upon the very handsome stipend which your noble-hearted district has placed at my disposal. Still the income will be acceptable, you may be certain. Hearing of your intended Christmas festivities, I have urged Mr. Calley to reach Ulolo by that time, so that he may be enabled to at once make the acquaintance of many of his parishioners, if I may be allowed to use the term. One word of caution to the fair daughters of your district: I have every reason to believe that Mr. C. is engaged to a young lady in Melbourne, so they must not lose their hearts to the "young minister."—Yours very sincerely, 'MELBOURNE.' 'Well! I do declare!' exclaimed Addie; 'the idea of our falling in love with this paragon of a parson! I wonder if his Lordship thinks we are as susceptible to clerical influence as his own nincompoop town girls are. Fall in love, in- deed! Why, I - ' 'Hush, hush, Addie,' said her mother. 'I think it a very wise precaution on the part of the Bishop, for I myself once made a pair of slippers for a young curate. That was before I met your father, girls.' 'Ah! ah!' laughed Mr. Mason, 'I never heard of that before. The cat is coming out of the bag at last.' 'Oh, Papa, what a bit of fun it would have been if you had been a parson,' said Ethel. ' But this interesting curate was another man, pussy. You forget that.' ' Well,' said Addie, ' there is no fear of my falling in love with this suitable young parson. Suitable indeed! I wonder what sort of a man the Bishop considora suitable for us. I fancy I can see him as he makes his first appearance through tbe gate there, his horse hardly able to walk, knocked up quite through having been cantered all day as long as he could canter ; his reverence himself sitting like a bag of flour, and with a crook on his back like Montgomery when he played " Richard III." at the Royal; a big swag in front, a pair of spectacles on his nose, and dressed in a long black coat, a bell- topper on his head, and the inevitable meek- looking white necktie.' 'Well done, Addie,' laughingly said Ethel. ' Mamma, dear,' resumed Addie, 'I think you had better get out that big bag of turkey feathers you have stored up, and let us re-stuff tbe chairs, for his reverence may be unable to sit upon anything hard. Oh! isn't it vexing,' she continued,' that he should come at Christ- mas. He will spoil our fun. Does not dance, of course; says round dances are wicked. I do wish the Bishop had kept his goose for his own Christmas dinner.' 'Never you mind,' said Jack; 'leave him to me. I'll get him to ride Battler, and if Mr. Calley does not break his neck he will his leg, and that will stop him preaching at anyrate.' 'Jobn,' said Mr. Mason, 'you are now a young man and not a boy. Don't let me hear
such talk from you again. Remember that Mr. Calley will be our guest; and, girls, I am sorry to have to remind you also that courtesy is an essential attribute equally of a lady as of a gentleman.' 'I should so like to know what he is really like,' said Addie to Ethel upon retiring to their room that night. 'A horrid fright, I'll be bound,' was the reply. ' Yes, I expect so. I wonder who that Mel- bourne girl of his is? Is it not strange, dear Ettie, how those town girls do run after these young parsons ? Just fancy one eternal round of tea-parties, Sunday-school, and sermons! Give me a squatter for a husband, and a good horse to ride, and I shall be happy.' ' Amen, and amen!' replied Ethel laughing. And the two young girls both dreamed of the— young parson.
CHAPTER II. EXPECTANCY AND ASTONISHMENT. It was the third day before Christmas Day, No guests had as yet arrived, and the younger folk of the household did little else than specu- late as to who would come; whether handsome Ned Stratheley, the manager of Boko, would ride 200 miles to their festivities, as he had pro- mised he would do the last time he went up the river just before shearing time. Adelaide said he would be too lazy; but Ethel, pretty little Ethel, in her heart thought otherwise. Then there was the newly-appointed police-magistrate for Bourke, who was on his road up the river, and might arrive that night; he had been captain in the army, and was unmarried, and the girls had heard that he was handsome; and Adelaide had caught herself thinking about him, but strangely, most strangely, her thoughts would keep running off to this horrid parson who was coming to turn bright Ulolo into a chapel. The lake Ulolo was about three miles in diameter, and the road from 'down the river ' followed round the shores for several miles before the homestead was reached, so that the approach of any visitor from that direction could be seen from the house for a long time before his arrival. The girls were in the garden col lecting flowers—for although gardening is indeed a difficulty in that dry climate, yet by irrigation a small garden was kept up, and the flowers were the especial care of the two girls—when they were startled by hearing their brother call out,' I say, Addie, here must be the new police magistrate coming, for I see a four-in-hand buggy rattling along, and no one but he would have such a turn-out. By Jove, just watch how nicely he drives through that clump of old mallee stumps at the washpool yards!' Ethel went into the house for the opera glass, which the girls always kept handy for the pur pose of overhauling approaching visitors. Ade laide, however, took it from her with, 'Let me have it first, Ettie, dear;' and, after a few minutes' gaze, she said, 'Why he is indeed a handsome fellow,' at which Jack laughed and said, ' How you girls do run after the handsome men'—Jack was himself good-looking, and was talking from experience— 'but who ever is that perched up. behind ?' he continued. 'That is a diminutive black boy,' replied Addie, ' and he keeps his arms folded like an orthodox groom in town. I say, Jack, you will have to mind your Ps and Qs, for the P.M. is an awful swell.' ' Oh! bother take him, Addie,' answered Jack; 'if he thinks we all must wait upon him he is mightily mistaken, although he is a P.M. and a captain to boot.' 'I wish it had been Ned— I mean Mr. Stratheley—that is, I thought it was he, for he generally drives four horses,' said Ethel rather confusedly. 'Yes, but his is only an old station rig, and not a swell turn-out like this,' replied her brother, who, to Ethel's relief, did not notice her confusion. Mr. and Mrs. Mason were by this time on the verandah, the latter a little flustered and wondering where she should put him. 'Addie,' she said, 'if Mr. Calley does not come to-night, I think we might venture to put Captain Percy in his room.' 'The parson, dear mother,' said Jack, ' will have lost too much leather to have got beyond Wentworth by this time.' The girls said, ' For shame, Jack ;' but their mother did not notice the remark, for the vehicle had by this time entered the paddock gates and was rapidly approaching the house. Now, it is the fashion at most station home steads for the new arrival to ride or drive straight to the stables or back door of the establishment, for the front of the home is generally fenced off by a bit of a garden, or is facing the river or water, and so access by that way is difficult; but Mr. Mason rather prided himself on his stable ar rangements and propriety, and so had a carriage drive through the garden by the front of the house and on to the stables, and when any strangers arrived they were expected to drive round in front as became gentlemen andud
guests. Also, there was a groom part of whose duty it was to keep a look- out for visitors—a piece of courtesy but seldom, until in later days, to be met with in the bush. The groom had consequently opened the garden gate, and was indicating to the driver the road to come. In the old-world countries it would seem a strange way of wel coming an unknown guest for the whole family to assemble on the verandah; but in Australia people are so accustomed to live in the verandah that it is considered at much a room as is any apartment in the house, so these free manners of bush life, added to a feeling of curiosity to see the new P.M. and the owner of such a stylish turnout, kept all the members of the family eagerly awaiting the new arrival. After passing through the outer paddock-gate the driver—like Cobb and Co.'s coachmen when they approach a township—smartened up his horses and came along at a rattling pace; he dashed by the woolshed, and when passing the men's huts gave a sharp cut to the off-leader, who had made a nasty shy at a pet sheep, which of course popped out just when it ought not to have done. This caused the team to put up their mettle, and it was with considerable dash that the garden gates were shot through and the buggy pulled up in front of the verandah. The groom having at once got the leaders by the head, from the buggy there alighted a well- made, handsome, active-looking young man, who at once snatched his watch from his waistcoat pocket, and said aloud—''Six- thirty—that makes 7 hours 15min. 35sec. from old Slattery's station. I bet Captain Percy a new saddle that I would do it under seven and a-half, but'— and taking off his hat and bowing to the ladies — 'I beg pardon, sir; allow me to introduce myself. My name is Calley, of whom you have doubtless heard from his Lordship the Bishop.' At this announcement astonishment almost upset the confidence of the host, and as for Mrs. Mason and the girls they were indeed thunderstruck, and could get out no reply as their father presented the Rev. Mr. Calley to them. Jack glanced at Addie as much as to say,' What about the bag of flour and the old crawling horse ?' Adelaide had only time to notice that the new parson was remarkably handsome, and that he wore neither a white necktie nor bell- topper, that he had dark eyes, dark brown hair, and cultivated a moustache, when the atten tion of the whole oompany was attracted to the furious galloping of another fresh arrival. It was soon seen that he was the up-river mailman, and the racing speed at which he was coming made Mr. Mason exclaim, 'Something must be amiss, for—good heavens! the man surely is not drunk?' The horseman did not slacken bis speed even by the huts, where he usually stopped, but came straight up through the garden gate, for he had caught sight of the owner; then pulling up, he hurriedly and ex citedly said, 'Mr. Mason, your old waggon driver has met with an awful smash. I found him lying on the road some eight miles off, near the crossing of the billabong. The horses must have bolted, knocked him down, and trampled on him.' 'Is he alive, Ben ?' enquired Mr. Mason. 'Yes, he was groaning, so I got off, put my coat under his head, and then, thinking the best thing I could do was to tell you, I tied up my packhorse and galloped here. I noticed the tracks of the runaway waggon turning into the mallee about a mile this side of the accident, but I could see nothing of it or the horses.' 'Dear me, this is indeed a bad business,' said the owner,' and there is no one here who un derstands these things.' 'Have you no doctor near ?' asked Mr. Calley. 'Not nearer than Wentworth, and that is 150 miles away; it would take a week before he could possibly reach here.' 'Heigh! stop taking out those horses,' shouted Mr. Calley to the groom, who was un harnessing the leaders prior to driving round to the stables ; 'I will go and see this poor man.' ' You, Mr. Calley! I could not think of letting you; and besides, Tim, poor fellow, is a noted old reprobate and detests parsons, and if he is sensible would shock and insult you with the terribly strong language he uses, and I fear too that he will not be in a fit state to be talked to.' 'My dear sir,' said the new parson, 'you mightily mistake your clergyman if you think that he is going to preach to a poor fellow who wants surgical attendance, not spiritual; and as far as his strong language goes, that will not hurt me. My mission is to help my fellow man in any way I can, and in order to qualify my self to do so more effectively I went through a course of medical study, and also for two years intended the Melbourne Hospital, so I hope that I may now be of great use to this poor fellow.' 'But, Mr. Calley, you must be tired,' said Mrs. Mason. 'Not a bit of it, madam, I am still young and strong.'
'But the horses,' added Mr. Mason; 'won't it be as well to get fresh ones ?' 'Oh no, mine are not at all knocked up. I drove them judiciously, although I did win my bet; and, besides, a delay of half-an-hour to get horses may be fatal to poor Tim. But, madam,' he continued, 'I shall be obliged if you will get me some soft lint or cotton wool all you hare—and some linen or calico, also a sponge,' and then turning to the mailman, who, in answer to his enquiry as to whether there was any water near, replied that there was not, 'Then, Mr. Mason, we must take a keg with us; also, please put up a little brandy. Should any of his limbs be broken, I have splints in my portmanteau. I little thought they would be wanted so soon.' 'Will you take a glass of spirits, Mr. Calley?' 'No thank you. I never touch them except I need them, and that, thank God, is very sel dom. Young men don't need spirits. How ever, I daresay this good fellow, who has ridden so hard, would have no objection to a little.' To this proposition the mailman made no demur, and next day when he went down the river he told about bis adventure to every shepherd he passed, and the parson was voted—of the right sort.
CHAPTER III. THE GOOD SAMARITAN. 'I think that, as my buggy is not large enough to bring the man home, if you would order a dray, or, better still, a spring waggon to follow us, it would be as well, and let a mattress of some sort be put in it; and, Miss Mason, if you can find an old feather pillow it may be a great comfort to the poor man.' The clergyman had no sooner said these words than Mr. Mason turned to Jack and said, 'Get up Bet and Pat; they are in the home paddock; and follow us with the ration waggon. I will go with Mr. Calley, but if you look alive you will, with those two smart mares, very nearly overtake us.' 'I doubt it,' laughingly remarked the clergy man; 'however, lose no time, for the poor man may be in great pain.' 'That will do nicely,' he continued, as Mrs. Mason brought the cotton, &c. 'Just the very thing; and here comes Miss Mason with the pillow.' It was with a twinge of conscience that Ade laide had gone for that bag of feathers, and when she handed it to the new parson, and saw Ethel's glance, it was only by a great effort that she managed to maintain her gravity. She then slipped into the house, and almost immediately returned with a cup of tea, which she handed to Mr. Calley, saying, ' You are very good to go away again after this poor man; but do drink this cup of tea, it will refresh you after this long hot day's drive.' 'Thank you, Miss Mason. I confess to the clerical weakness for tea;' and then for the first time he noticed the handsome face and tall figure of the fine young girl beside him. A thought—quick, cutting as the lightning flash—went through his soul; but no, it would never do, and it was quenched as soon as created. He took the cup; accidentally his hand touched hers ; he looked up, and the lustrous brown eyes of the fair girl met his gaze; there was a second's pause, then over her beautiful face there spread a flush which, as it gradually suffused, crimsoned the shapely neck, gave to the delicate ears a tint like unto the petals of the rose, and dyed the cheeks with a color comparable only to Aurora's glorious banner as the gay goddess of day greets the rising of our bright Australian Christmas sun. Poor, poor Adelaide, many a long day and sorrowful night will henceforth be your lot! 'This will never do,' thought the young clergyman, so springing on to the box he gathered up the reins, and Mr. Mason seated himself beside him; but little knew the latter of the cause of that smart double cut of the whip on to both leaders with which the team was started. Through the gates they dashed, and as they galloped by the men's huts the pet sheep hurried away, the dogs sprang out bark ing, the milking cows with their calves looked up and wondered; the young stockman stared, and thought it 'a mighty fine thing to be a par son;' the blear-eyed old hutkeeper came out, and, as he shaded his blight-ruined eyes with his hand from the glare of the setting sun, remarked to tho bullock driver that he was ' a flash 'un and no mistake;' and I, the 'Jackaroo,' think ing I might be of service, usurped the seat of the little black groom behind. It is not my intention to detail the events of this errand of mercy. I would fain do so, for from that day a friendship sprang up between our bush parson and myself which even now has not ended, and to dwell on the excellences of my friend is a temptation; but this story is to be short, so I will content myself with saying that the sick man was found alive, but in a terrible condition. It was evident the horses had bolted, that he had jumped in front to stop them, had been knocked down, and that the heavy foot of
the shafter having been planted upon the up turned face, had smashed in the nose and mouth; and a leg and an arm were broken. It was 10 o'clock that night before we sat down to the evening meal, for not a thought would our new parson give to himself till he had got a comfortable bed made up in the groom's room for the poor sufferer, where he had dressed the lacerated scalp, set the broken limbs, and left poor rough Tim insensible to what had happened, yet as comfortable as it was possible for him to be. 'Will he live?' asked Mr. Mason as we sat smoking our pipes in the verandah after supper. 'Yes, he will live; but he is a sad wreck; he will be but a pensioner for the rest of his life'. Then, after a pause, our young parson added a remark which none ever afterwards forgot, it was so touchingly tender. He said : 'Mr. Mason, I do hope you do not sell your old worn-out horses ?' 'No, lad,' he replied; for the kindly way of this young man had broken down all stiffness between them, and the old squatter felt as if he had almost found a son, he that his heart warmed towards this manly young fellow. 'No, lad; Tim has been a good servant; he has been with me over ten years; he is rough in his manner, but he once saved my wife and daughters from the blacks. I shall never neglect him, you may bo certain.' And he did not. Poor, crippled, broken-down, strong-lan guaged Tim! I watched by his bedside some five years after; he died as he lived, consistent to the last—with an oath upon his lips. And Adelaide dreamed again of the young parson and his goodness.
CHAPTER IV. ETTIE'S TURN TO BLUSH. It was the third day after the events just narrated, and it was Christmas Day and a Sunday. Mr. Calley had intimated to his hostt that he would like to inaugurate his ministra tions by a Christmas service, and the woolshed was determined to be the place best suited for accommodating so many, for our numbers had considerably increased since the date of my last chapter. A stranger to the bush is puzzled to know where people can come from, for when journeying he has seen no houses and met no people. But folk do manage to turn up at a station when any attraction is about; the secret is that all daily pursuits being of an equestrian nature distance is thought nothing of; it is only so much time; to ride 100 or 150 miles occu pies but two or three days, and business, except at shearing or branding time, never is so ex acting upon the squatter but that he can leave his place for a week and go in for a little enjoy ment. Besides, the fame of the new arrival and of his jolly manners, as well as reports of his surgical skill, had already spread far and wide. While one mailman had been taking invitations from Mr. Mason to people up the river, the other mailman had rendered similar service for those down the river; and, on Ulolo, all the sheep flocks being on the frontage at this season of the year, a black boy had been sent out to each shepherd to relieve him for two or three days, for—the first Christian service ever cele brated upon the Darling was to be held on that Christmas Day! Besides, there was to be a bit of fun at the Boxing Day sports, and a drop of good whisky would doubtless be about, and folk to be seen and talked to; in fact, there was the prospect of a change for once from the eternal sameness of occupation usual in that rather dismal country. Further, the young squatters, the sta tion managers, the drovers of the river's length were always glad of an excuse to stay at Ulolo to spend a pleasant evening and have a flirta tion with its fair inmates. Ned Stratheley had come from his station 200 miles away up the river, as Ettie knew he would, and the happy girl in the fulness of her joy had made him and some other young swells who were clustering round her roar with laughter as she described the gloomy contemplations of the new parson's arrival that they had indulged in, and com pared them with the reality of his dashing turn out, and his actually asking for a bag of feathers; ' And, do you know, Ned—l mean Mr. Stratheley,' she said prettily—' I really believe that after all our talk Addie is com pletely smitten with him.' At which comical speech, Ned, winning most devoutly that it could be his happiness to inspire such a fate with the lively girl beside him, involuntarily gave her such an impassioned look that little Ettie bolted away; for, as she told Addie when in their bedroom that night, she ' felt so hot and red,' whereupon Addie kissed her and replied, 'Never mind, Etrie dear, he is a really good fellow, and 1 should so like him for a brother-in-law.' And Ettie hid her face in herr sister's lap and cried for very happiness.
CHAPTER V. CHRISTMAS SERVICE IN THE WOOLSHED. Christmas Day in Australia is generally hot. In the Darling River district it is always so; therefore it was arranged that service should begin at 9 o'clock, and thus be over before the full heat of the day. The woolshed was one of the old sort, with rough slab sides, and a bark roof which sloped on all sides nearly to the ground; but it had been well cleaned out, seats provided by boards being put across the rails of the sheep pens, a table placed in front of the woolpress, and the whole interior of the shed decorated with the beautiful and graceful pyramidal tops of the dark green pines that so often grow at the edge of the mallee scrubs. Our young clergyman had been up early, for he had knocked at the door of my room just as the sun appeared, and together we had gone down to the lake and there had a refreshing swim in its cooling waters. Those early morning swims, in that district of hot unbreathable nights, how refreshing they are, and how their memory clings to one's soul even now, although years have elapsed! Mr. Calley had been asking me as to the cha racter of his congregation; said he had pre pared no sermon—indeed never did provide a set sermon—and that he had waited until that day to see what sort of people he would have to address. He added that he felt a little nervous, but he hardly knew why, for he never felt that sort of thing before a large town audience. It seemed strange, considering how short a time this man had been among us, how quickly he had gained our esteem and regard, even almost our affection; he had entered so thoroughly into all the proposed sports, was so anxious to know everything and every one, and so ready to help, that no wonder we had already begun to like him. It was no common assembly which gathered in the old woolshed on that Christmas Day. Chairs had been placed around the wool-press for the especial accommodation of the ladies of the house and their lady visitors; behind these could be seen the owner of the station, the new police-magistrate, and other squatting neighbors and 'swells.' Then, after they were seated, had dropped in one by one, in that stealthy manner which betokened a feeling of being 'out of their element,' the various overseers, drovers, and others; next, the young smoothed-faced, long- haired, slab-looking, Australian-born stock men and bullock drivers took heart and crept in,—men who had never been in any church or seen any religious ser vice, or even heard the name of God pronounced except at an oath, and who now nervously twiddled with their cabbage-tree hats and secretly felt that they would far rather be riding a buckjumper than be there; then by some strange fellow-sympathy, in one corner sheep-pen, had grouped themselves together the shepherds of the station—white-haired, rheumatic-struck, drink-ruined, yet game old veterans, some of them remnants of those cursed times, the convict days of these colonies; men whose only thought was the annual or bi annual spree at the bush public-house; they had been in church many a time, but it was by compulsion, and at the prison chapel; now they entered voluntarily, and their thoughts ran back to the little ivy-covered church of their boyish days, and there came upon them recollections of their home and of their long- forgotten mothers. At the doorway and at the port-holes, through which the shorn sheep are turned out, were to be seen the ebony bodies, dark gleaming eyes, and merry faces of some of the younger of the tame blacks upon the station; those semi-clothed represen tatives of the Adamic days, whose curiosity had been greatly excited by the thought of seeing "whitefellow corrobboree." It was with a strange feeling that the young clergyman took his place at the woolshed pulpit, the whole surroundings were so totally different to anything that he had ever previously experi enced. Here was no altar, neither were there gothic columns, windows, or arches; no fashion ably-dressed people sitting in regular rows were then before him. He felt nervous, was anxious to impress and to instruct, for amongst his hearers were the very sort of men be most longed to try and benefit—those outcasts of the bush, the runaways from civilisation—yet be did not know how. He had thought out, since daybreak, the skeleton of a discourse, but it did not please him, and he felt at a loss. Then as his eye wandered over the quaint-looking building it fell upon the group of gray-headed old shepherds, and the thought flashed through him of the appropriateness of the day to these men who formed part of his, audience, and of the place, the homely ugly old shed, to the manger of the stable of Bethlehem. He felt he had got his clue, that he was in harmony with his audience; then all hesitation vanished, and with a voice clear and pleasantly musical he be
gan the beautiful service of the Anglican Church. That Christmas service in the old wool-shed church, how long it was remembered, how re markable its effect upon those who took part in it! At this day, although it is long years ago, and I have grown from youth to age, the whole scene comes vividly before me; the attentive look of the educated portion of the party due to the pleasure which is experienced in listening to natural eloquence from a speaker whose theme is congenial, for our young parson had taken for his text the oft-told tale, ' Unto you this day is born a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.' In the minds of those who were from across the seas, old recollections were stirred up; it was with them as with the old shepherds—the parish church, the homes of their youth, the counsels of parents long forgotten were remembered and associated hereafter with this Christmas service. The preacher won the hearts of the working men among his listeners by his kindly allusion to poor Tim, and expressing the pleasure it had given him to have been able to help him in his day of sore distress; he caused tears of joy to trickle down the furrowed face of one world-weary old shepherd by describing the advent of the hea venly angels announcing the birth of the Lord, and how that the wealthy, the great, even kings, had been thrust aside, and, to quote the preacher's words, 'the shepherds, the men who like you tended their flocks on the plains, and who, like you, dwell not in palaces or mansions, but who are always out under the free canopy of heaven, and who live in communion with living nature,' were the men favored by the choice of the Almighty to be the first told of this good tidings of glad joy; and he counselled his elderly hearers—who, by the natural course of things must soon leave this earth—to remember this story, and, when their turn came to lie down to die, to put their trust in the Almighty Creator of all things; 'and depend upon it,' he said, 'the good God will again remember the worn-out tired old shepherd and his longings for rest.' At these wonderful words, at the absence of the threat of damnation, which, as convicts, so many of them had had dinned into their ears till they had learned to associate it as a neces sary part of a sermon, astonishment could be detected in their countenances; the blear-eyed old hutkeeper eagerly bent forward, the young stockmen forgot their nervousness, and, when the teacher ceased, for a time there was a dead silence—the shaft of comfort had gone home, the words of hope had been told never again to be forgotten. Then magical was the effect when from the same lips were heard, in a well-modu lated and ringing voice, the cheering words of the old, old Christmas carol— Shepherds, rejoice! lift up your heads, And send your fears away; News from the region of the sky: The Saviour's born to-day; And, as with outstretched hands our young clergyman pronounced the blessing of Heaven on those present, all bent their heads and felt that it would come. [To be continued.]