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A Bush Publican’s Lament
by [?]

. . . For thirst is long and throats is short
Among the sons o’ men. M. J. C.
I Wish I was spifflicated before I ever seen a pub!

You see, it’s this way. Suppose a cove comes along on a blazin’ hot day in the drought–an’ you ought to know how hell-hot it can be out here–an’ he dumps his swag in the corner of the bar; an’ he turns round an’ he ses ter me, “Look here boss, I ain’t got a lonely steever on me, an’ God knows when I’ll git one. I’ve tramped ten mile this mornin’, an’ I’ll have ter tramp another ten afore to-night. I’m expectin’ ter git on shearin’ with of Baldy Thompson at West-o’-Sunday nex’ week. I got a thirst on me like a sun-struck bone, an’, for God sake, put up a couple o’ beers for me an’ my mate, an’ I’ll fix it up with yer when I come back after shearin’.”

An’ what’s a feller ter do? I bin there meself, an–I put it to you! I’ve known what it is to have a thirst on me.

An’ suppose a poor devil comes along in the jim-jams, with every inch on him jumpin’ an’ a look in his eyes like a man bein’ murdered an’ sent ter hell, an’ a whine in his voice like a whipped cur, an’ the snakes a-chasing of him; an’ he hooks me with his finger ter the far end o’ the bar–as if he was goin’ ter tell me that the world was ended–an’ he hangs over the bar an’ chews me lug, an’ tries to speak, an’ breaks off inter a sort o’ low shriek, like a terrified woman, an’ he says, “For Mother o’ Christ’s sake, giv’ me a drink!” An’ what am I to do? I bin there meself. I knows what the horrors is. He mighter blued his cheque at the last shanty. But what am I ter do? I put it ter you. If I let him go he might hang hisself ter the nex’ leanin’ tree.

What’s a drink? yer might arst–I don’t mind a drink or two; but when it comes to half a dozen in a day it mounts up, I can tell yer. Drinks is sixpence here–I have to pay for it, an’ pay carriage on it. It’s all up ter me in the end. I used sometimes ter think it was lucky I wasn’t west o’ the sixpenny line, where I’d lose a shillin’ on every drink I give away.

An’ supposen a sundowner comes along smokin’ tea-leaves, an’ ses ter me, “Look her, boss! me an’ my mate ain’t had a smoke for three days!” What’s a man ter do? I put it ter you! I’m a heavy smoker meself, an’ I’ve known what it is to be without a smoke on the track. But “nail-rod” is ninepence a stick out here, an’ I have ter pay carriage. It all mounts up, I can tell yer.

An’ supposen Ole King Billy an’ his ole black gin comes round at holiday time and squats on the verander, an’ blarneys an’ wheedles and whines and argues like a hundred Jews an’ ole Irishwomen put tergether, an’ accuses me o’ takin’ his blarsted country from him, an’ makes me an’ the missus laugh; an’ we gives him a bottl’er rum an’ a bag of grub ter get rid of him an’ his rotten ole scarecrow tribe–It all tells up. I was allers soft on the blacks, an’, beside, a ole gin nursed me an’ me mother when I was born, an’ saved me blessed life–not that that mounts to much. But it all tells up, an’ I got me licence ter pay. An’ some bloody skunk goes an’ informs on me for supplyin’ the haboriginalls with intossicatin’ liquor, an’ I have ter pay a fine an’ risk me licence. But what’s a man ter do?