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First EDITION (PUBLISHED ELSEWHERE).
Reprinted August, October, and November, 1890, 1891.
THE SQUATTER'S DREAM
A STORY OF AUSTRALIAN LIFE.
“Here in the sultriest season let him rest.
Fresh is the green beneath those aged trees ;
From heaven itself he may inhale the breeze.”—Byron.
Jack REDGRAVE was a jolly, well-to-do young squatter, who, in the year 185–, had a very fair cattle station in one of the Australian colonies, upon which he lived in much comfort and reasonable possession of the minor luxuries of life. He had, in bush parlance, “taken it up” himself, when hardly more than a lad, had faced bad seasons, blacks, bush-fires, bushrangers, and bankers (these last he always said terrified him far more than the others), and had finally settled down into a somewhat too easy possession of a couple of thousand good cattle, a well-bred, rather fortunate stud, and a roomy, cool cottage with a broad verandah all covered with creepers.
The climate in which his abode was situated was temperate, from latitude and proximity to the coast. It was cold in the winter, but many a ton of she-oak and box had burned away in the great stone chimney, before which Jack used to toast himself in the cold nights, after a long day's riding after cattle. He had plenty of books, for he did not altogether neglect what he called his mind, and he had time
to read them, as of course he was not always out on the run, or away mustering, or doing a small-sometimes very small ---bit of business at the country town, just forty miles off, or drafting or branding his cattle. He would work away manfully at all these avocations for a time, and then, the cattle being branded up, the business in the country town settled, the musters completed, and the stockmen gone home, he used to settle down for a week or two at home, and take it easy. Then he read whole forenoons, rather indiscriminately perhaps, but still to the general advantage of his intelligence. History, novels, voyages and travels, classics, science, natural history, political economy, languages —they all had their turn. He had an uncommonly good memory, so that no really well-educated prig could be certain that he would be found ignorant upon any given subject then before the company, as he was found to possess a fund of information when hard pressed.
He was a great gardener, and had the best fruit trees and some of the best flowers in that part of the country. At all odd times, that is, early in the morning before it was time to dress for breakfast, in afternoons when he had been out all day, and generally when he had nothing particular to do, he was accustomed to dig patiently, and to plant and prune, and drain and trench, in this garden of his. He was a strong fellow, who had always lived a steady kind of life, so that he had a constitution utterly unimpaired, and spirits to match. These last were so good that he generally rose in the morning with the kind of feeling which every boy experiences during the holidays--that the day was not long enough for all the enjoyable occupations which were before him, and that it was incumbent on him to rise up and enter into possession of these delights with as little loss of time as might be.
For there were so many pleasant things daily occurring, and, wonderful to relate, they were real, absolute duties. There were those cattle to be drafted that had been brought from the Lost Waterhole, most of which he had not seen for six months. There were those nice steers to ride through, now so grown and fattened-indeed almost ready for market. There were ever so many pretty little calves, white and roan and red, which he had never seen at all, following their mothers, and which were of course to be branded. It was not an unpleasant office placing the brand carefully upon their tender skins, an office he seldom delegated-seeing the J R indelibly imprinted thereon, with the consciousness that each animal so treated might be considered to be a fivepound note added to his property and possessions.
There was the wild-fowl shooting in the lagoons and marshes which lay amid his territory; the kangaroo hunting with favourite greyhounds; the jolly musters at his neighbours' stations—all cattle-men like himself; and the occasional races, picnics, balls, and parties at the country town, where resided many families, including divers young ladies, whose fresh charms often caused Jack's heart to bound like a cricket-ball. He was in great force at the annual race meetings. Then all the good fellows—and there were many squatters in those days that deserved the appellation—who lived within a hundred miles would come down to Hampden, the country town referred to; and great would be the joy and jollity of that week. Everybody, in a general way, bred, trained, and rode his own horses; and as everybody, in a general way, was young and active, the arrangement was productive of excellent racing and unlimited fun.
Then the race ball, at which everybody made it a point of honour to dance all night. Then the smaller dances, picnics, and riding parties-for nearly all the Hampden young ladies could ride well. While the “schooling” indulged in by Jack and his contemporaries, under the stimulus of ladies' eyes, over the stiff fences which surrounded Hampden, was “ delightfully dangerous," as one of the girls observed, regretting that such amusements were to her prohibited. At the end of the week everybody went peaceably home again, fortified against such dullness as occasionally invades that freest of all free lives, that pleasantest of all pleasant professions--the calling of a squatter.
Several times in each year, generally in the winter time, our hero would hold a great general gathering at Marshmead, and would “muster for fat cattle," as the important operation was termed. Then all the neighbours within fifty miles would come over, or send their stockmen, the case might be, and there would be great