[Editor: This poem by R.A.F. was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]
At the Diggings Store.
Old diggings mates, who met once more, —
He ’d been away and learned to shear ;
She knew him ere he reached the door,
Though parted now for many a year.
But he ’d forgotten — those forget
Who go away — until the name
Called up her face and some regret :
She was the same, and not the same.
Was this girl, now sedate and fair.
The same brown Kate who stole with him,
And rode all day old Frenchy’s mare —
The chestnut mare that worked the whim ?
Who helped him hunt for sugar-bags,
Quicker than he to spot the trees ?
Who made a smoke from burning rags,
Whilst he chopped out the buzzing bees ?
And, talking, they went once again
Hunting for specks all down the creek,
And found once more in tropic rain
The two-ounce slug that lucky week.
“You bought a filly with your share ;
My colt died out on the Paroo.”
“Why, Dan, that ’s she tied over there —
Grown such a beauty.” “So have you !
“I swore from out the Golden West
A hundred wondrous things to bring ;
But from that land, fly-, drought-distressed,
Have only brought this golden ring.
“Don’t care for it ? Won’t take a ring ?”
“A ring has ever murdered love !”
“Take these, then ; hide — pear-gray ’s the thing —
Those pretty fingers in a glove.
“But what for me in our new times ?
A kiss, at least, my old-time mate !
Although for me no love-bell chimes,
’T would show I ’m not forgotten, Kate.”
She laughed, and shook her sunny head —
Laughter from gates of rose and pearl.
“Look in the cook-book, Dan,” she said;
“To kiss, you first must catch your girl !”
And as away with streaming tail
Across the flat her pony flies,
She turns a moment. Through the veil
He saw the challenge in her eyes,
And quick into the saddle sprang,
And flew as clouds fly when they pass ;
The hoofs upon the roadway rang,
Then deadened on the short, green grass.
On broken ground at such a pace
Is surely riding for a spill ;
The girl is down ! That ends the race ;
Her, horse is up — the girl lies still.
Ah, joy has speech, but here with Death
What words avail ? Her eyes o’er-ran :
He stooped to catch the last faint breath . . .
“You ’ve — caught — me — won’t you — kiss me — Dan ?”
A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 85-87
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