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A Wild Irishman
by [?]

About seven years ago I drifted from Out-Back in Australia to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, and up country to a little town called Pahiatua, which meaneth the ‘home of the gods’, and is situated in the Wairarappa (rippling or sparkling water) district. They have a pretty little legend to the effect that the name of the district was not originally suggested by its rivers, streams, and lakes, but by the tears alleged to have been noticed, by a dusky squire, in the eyes of a warrior chief who was looking his first, or last–I don’t remember which–upon the scene. He was the discoverer, I suppose, now I come to think of it, else the place would have been already named. Maybe the scene reminded the old cannibal of the home of his childhood.

Pahiatua was not the home of my god; and it rained for five weeks. While waiting for a remittance, from an Australian newspaper–which, I anxiously hoped, would arrive in time for enough of it to be left (after paying board) to take me away somewhere–I spent many hours in the little shop of a shoemaker who had been a digger; and he told me yarns of the old days on the West Coast of Middle Island. And, ever and anon, he returned to one, a hard-case from the West Coast, called ‘The Flour of Wheat’, and his cousin, and his mate, Dinny Murphy, dead. And ever and again the shoemaker (he was large, humorous, and good-natured) made me promise that, when I dropped across an old West Coast digger–no matter who or what he was, or whether he was drunk or sober–I’d ask him if he knew the ‘Flour of Wheat’, and hear what he had to say.

I make no attempt to give any one shade of the Irish brogue–it can’t be done in writing.

‘There’s the little red Irishman,’ said the shoemaker, who was Irish himself, ‘who always wants to fight when he has a glass in him; and there’s the big sarcastic dark Irishman who makes more trouble and fights at a spree than half-a-dozen little red ones put together; and there’s the cheerful easy-going Irishman. Now the Flour was a combination of all three and several other sorts. He was known from the first amongst the boys at Th’ Canary as the Flour o’ Wheat, but no one knew exactly why. Some said that the right name was the F-l-o-w-e-r, not F-l-o-u-r, and that he was called that because there was no flower on wheat. The name might have been a compliment paid to the man’s character by some one who understood and appreciated it–or appreciated it without understanding it. Or it might have come of some chance saying of the Flour himself, or his mates–or an accident with bags of flour. He might have worked in a mill. But we’ve had enough of that. It’s the man–not the name. He was just a big, dark, blue-eyed Irish digger. He worked hard, drank hard, fought hard–and didn’t swear. No man had ever heard him swear (except once); all things were ‘lovely’ with him. He was always lucky. He got gold and threw it away.

‘The Flour was sent out to Australia (by his friends) in connection with some trouble in Ireland in eighteen-something. The date doesn’t matter: there was mostly trouble in Ireland in those days; and nobody, that knew the man, could have the slightest doubt that he helped the trouble–provided he was there at the time. I heard all this from a man who knew him in Australia. The relatives that he was sent out to were soon very anxious to see the end of him. He was as wild as they made them in Ireland. When he had a few drinks, he’d walk restlessly to and fro outside the shanty, swinging his right arm across in front of him with elbow bent and hand closed, as if he had a head in chancery, and muttering, as though in explanation to himself–