[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
Taking His Chance
They stood by the door of the Inn on the Rise;
May Carney looked up in the bushranger’s eyes:
‘Oh! why did you come? — it was mad of you, Jack;
You know that the troopers are out on your track.’
A laugh and a shake of his obstinate head —
‘I wanted a dance, and I’ll chance it,’ he said.
Some twenty-odd bushmen had come to the ‘ball,’
But Jack from his youth had been known to them all,
And bushmen are soft where a woman is fair,
So the love of May Carney protected him there;
And all the short evening — it seems like romance —
She danced with a bushranger taking his chance.
’Twas midnight — the dancers stood suddenly still,
For hoofs had been heard on the side of the hill!
Ben Duggan, the drover, along the hillside
Came riding as only a bushman can ride.
He sprang from his horse, to the shanty he sped —
‘The troopers are down in the gully!’ he said.
Quite close to the homestead the troopers were seen.
‘Clear out and ride hard for the ranges, Jack Dean!
‘Be quick!’ said May Carney — her hand on her heart —
‘We’ll bluff them awhile, and ’twill give you a start.’
He lingered a moment — to kiss her, of course —
Then ran to the trees where he’d hobbled his horse.
She ran to the gate, and the troopers were there —
The jingle of hobbles came faint on the air —
Then loudly she screamed: it was only to drown
The treacherous clatter of slip-rails let down.
But troopers are sharp, and she saw at a glance
That someone was taking a desperate chance.
They chased, and they shouted, ‘Surrender, Jack Dean!’
They called him three times in the name of the Queen.
Then came from the darkness the clicking of locks;
The crack of the rifles was heard in the rocks!
A shriek and a shout, and a rush of pale men —
And there lay the bushranger, chancing it then.
The sergeant dismounted and knelt on the sod —
‘Your bushranging’s over — make peace, Jack, with God!’
The bushranger laughed — not a word he replied,
But turned to the girl who knelt down by his side.
He gazed in her eyes as she lifted his head:
‘Just kiss me — my girl — and — I’ll — chance it,’ he said.
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 103-105
[Editor: Added closing quotation mark to the end of ‘Surrender, Jack Dean!’.]