[Editor: This poem by Barcroft Boake was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]
Skeeta.her of his shame).
But never, though long time she waited, did her faith in the faithless grow weak ;
And each time the outer door grated, an eager flush sprang to her cheek:
’T was n’t him, and it died with a flicker; and then what I ’d long dreaded came :
I was serving two drovers with liquor when one of them mentioned his name.
“Oh, yes!” said the other one, winking, “on the Paroo I saw him ; he ’d been
In Eulo a fortnight then, drinking, and driving about with ‘The Queen,’
While the bullocks were going to glory, and his billet was not worth a damn !”
I told him to cut short the story, as I pulled-to the door with a slam.
Too late! for the words were loud-spoken, and Skeeta was out in the hall :
Then I knew that a girl’s heart was broken, as I heard a low cry and a fall.
And then carne a day when the doctor went home, for the truth was avowed ;
And I knew that my hands, which had rocked her in childhood, would fashion her shroud :
I knew we should tenderly carry and lay her where many more lie —
Ah, why will the girls love and marry, when men are not worthy? — ah, why?
She lay there a-dying, our Skeeta : not e’en did she stir at my kiss :
In the next world, perchance, we may greet her; but never, ah, never in this !
Like the last breath of air in a gully, that sighs as the sun slowly dips.
To the knell of a heart beating dully her soul struggled out on her lips ;
But she lifted great eyelids and pallid, while once more beneath them there glowed
The fire of old Love, as she rallied at sound of hoofs out on the road.
They rang sharp and clear on the metal : they ceased at the gate in the lane :
A pause ! and we heard the beats settle in long, swinging cadence again.
With a rattle, a rush, and a clatter, the rider came down by the store,
And neared us ; but what did it matter? he never pulled rein at the door ;
But over the brow of the hill he sped on with a low, muffled roll —
’T was only young Smith on his filly : he passed — and so too did her soul.
Weeks after, I went down one morning to trim the white rose that had grown
And clasped, with its tender adorning, the plain little cross of white stone.
In the lane dusty drovers were wheeling dull cattle, with turbulent sound ;
But I paused as I saw a man kneeling, with his forehead pressed low on the mound.
Already he ’d heard me approaching ; and slowly I saw him up-rise
And move away, sullenly slouching his cabbage-tree over his eyes.
I never said anything to him as he mounted his horse at the gate :
He didn’t know me; but I knew him — the husband who came back, too late !
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 170-176
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