His colonial oath
I lately met an old schoolmate of mine up-country. He was much changed. He was tall and lank, and had the most hideous bristly red beard I ever saw. He was working on his father’s farm. He shook hands, looked anywhere but in my face — and said nothing. Presently I remarked at a venture:
‘So poor old Mr. B., the schoolmaster, is dead.’
‘My oath!’ he replied.
‘He was a good old sort.’
‘Time goes by pretty quick, doesn’t it?’
His oath (colonial).
‘Poor old Mr. B. died awfully sudden, didn’t he?’
He looked up the hill, and said: ‘My oath!’
Then he added: ‘My blooming oath!’
I thought, perhaps, my city rig or manner embarrassed him, so I stuck my hands in my pockets, spat, and said, to set him at his ease: ‘It’s blanky hot to-day — I don’t know how you blanky blanks stand such blank weather! It’s blanky well hot enough to roast a crimson carnal bullock; ain’t it?’ Then I took out a cake of tobacco, bit off a quarter, and pretended to chew. He replied:
The conversation flagged here. But presently, to my great surprise, he came to the rescue with:
‘He finished me, yer know.’
‘Finished? How? Who?’
He looked down towards the river, thought (if he did think) and said: ‘Finished me edyercation, yer know.’
‘Oh! you mean Mr. B.?’
‘My oath — he finished me first-rate.’
‘He turned out a good many scholars, didn’t he?’
‘My oath! I’m thinkin’ about going down to the trainin’-school.’
‘You ought to — I would if I were you.’
‘Those were good old times,’ I hazarded, ‘you remember the old bark school?’
He looked away across the siding and was evidently getting uneasy. He shifted about, and said:
‘Well, I must be goin’.’
‘I suppose you’re pretty busy now?’
‘My oath! So long.’
‘Well, good-bye. We must have a yarn some day.’
He got away as quickly as he could.
I wonder whether he was changed after all — or, was it I? A man does seem to get out of touch with the bush after living in cities for eight or ten years.
Henry Lawson, While the Billy Boils, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1896, pages 203-204
blank = substitution for a swear word; “blank” was often used as a way to infer a swear word, without actually swearing; commonly used as a replacement for words such as “damn” or “bastard”
blanky = substitution for a swear word (such as “bloody”)
colonial = colonial oath, i.e. “bloody oath”
Vernacular spelling in the original text: