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The Glory Of The Morning
by [?]

According to his temperament a man’s memory of travel and the strange wild places of the earth deals chiefly with one set of reminiscences or with another. For me the remembered mornings of the wide and lonely world, whether in the bush, or on the prairie, or the veldt, or at sea, are my chiefest delight. For in them, as in the morning even now, is something especial and peculiar which recalls and recreates youth: which breaks up the dead customs of to-day, and sends one back again to the swift, sweet hours of experiment and change. Assuredly the nights had their charm, whether they were spent by some great camp-fire on the winding Lachlan, in the darkness of a pine forest in British Columbia, or on the fo’c’sle-head of a ship upon the sea; and yet the night was the night, the prelude to sleep, and not to activity, the chief joy of man.

I can recall how a morning broke for me once which was the morning of a kind of freedom almost appalling to the child of cities. This was the morning of youth, or rather of earliest manhood, when I was timid and yet unafraid, curious, and, after a manner, innocent, when I had slept by my first camp-fire, on the Bull Plains of Australia’s Riverina. And yet I can remember nothing of those hours clearly. Rather is there in my mind as typical of the Australian dawn such hours as those I spent away beyond the Murray, the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan, on a station on the banks of the Willandra Billabong. It was early summer and shearing time for a hundred thousand sheep, whose fleeces were destined for Lyons and the North of England. I had dropped off a wearied horse close upon midnight, and yet by half-past three I was up once more. I stumbled sleepily in the starry darkness to the mare that was kept up, one Beeswing by name, a mare so swift and keen for a little while that to ride her was a delight. She whinnied and muzzled me all over as I put the saddle on her and drew the girths tight. Then I swung across her, and for some minutes she went gingerly, for she was unsound and wanted warming for the hot task before her. Yet it was her only work in the long day and she delighted in it even as I did. We picked our way across the shadows of big salt-bush and the rounded humps of cotton-bush, then brown and leafless, to the paddock, a mile square, where the other horses were at pasture, and as I rode sleep dropped away from me and my eyes opened and my lips grew moist as I sucked in the air of dawn. In the east the pale ghost of the day’s forerunner stood waiting. The wind in that hot season came from the north; it had no intoxicating quality save that of comparative coolness after the furnace of yesterday. Yet how sweet it was, when I remembered the burning noon, the hot labours of the stock-yard and its dust as the ten thousand of that day’s driving entered reluctantly. And in the darkness the plain stretched before me without a break for a thousand miles save for the Barrier Ranges. With no map on the whole station I knew not even of them, and as far as eye could reach not a rolling sand-dune marred the calm oceanic level of that brown sea of land.

And now upon this morning, that yet was night, I was adrift upon a horse with a definite task in the great circle of immensity. The rest of the world was nothing, and I rode delicately over the rotten grey ground till the starshine dwindled and the day came up like a slow diver through dark waters. The pallid air was odorous as I rode with rolled-up sleeves and open breast, and I sang a little, for the night was out of me and my throat was sweet. And Beeswing warmed, and under me grew nimble, with the swing and easy spring of the dancer, and she reached out to feel the bit lightly with an unspoiled mouth and to feel my hands, and she raised her lean head and sniffed the air for her own kind that we were after. Were we not horse-hunting? She bent her neck and went as delicately as ever Agag went, and then bounded lightly over a hole in the rotten ground of the great horse-paddock. She and I were partners in the morning as the dawn came up. And now, indeed, the morning tide broke over the eastern bar, and was like a pale grey flood moving over level earth. Then she whinnied low as though she spoke to me in a whisper, and I saw one dark, moving shadow, and another, as she broke into a gallop. Oh, but out of seven alarmed shadows, fearful of work, I needed three, and neither Beeswing nor her rider could endure in their pride to drive in seven when a special chosen three were enough. The dawn’s game began, and though it was yet dawn’s dusk we went at a gallop. For Beeswing and I together were the swiftest two, or the swiftest one, on that great station by the Willandra. But though the night was not gone there was enough light to see which horses I needed and which horses I had to discard, and to note how they broke apart cunningly. For two went this way, and one that; and four split into units as I swung round the outside edge of them in a wide circle. The rottenness of the ground gave chances, and made it hazardous. But Beeswing knew her work and the paddock, and now she was warm and as keen as fire, and any touch of lameness went away from her. She stretched out her fine lean head, and her eyes were quick; her open nostrils almost smelt and swept the ground as her head swung to and fro. Beneath me she was live steel, tense and wonderful as she sprang to this side and that of danger, and yet galloped. Again and again she swerved, and then, as a ten-foot hole showed before her, she leapt it in her stride. And again, another and another, for here the ground was crumbling, patchy, sunken, with little rims of hard earth in between cup-like openings. And as we went, and the day came, I swung my long stock-whip and shouted when it cracked. I was on them, into them, and they broke back, being over-pressed. But Beeswing was a bred stock-horse, she knew the game and loved it. Back she swung right upon her haunches, and was away upon the hunt after a great raking mare called Mischief. We galloped almost side by side, and then Mischief quailed and turned coward. As Beeswing swung again I brought the whip down on my quarry’s quarters.