Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Brighten’s Sister-In-Law
by [?]

Jim was born on Gulgong, New South Wales. We used to say ‘on’ Gulgong–and old diggers still talked of being ‘on th’ Gulgong’–though the goldfield there had been worked out for years, and the place was only a dusty little pastoral town in the scrubs. Gulgong was about the last of the great alluvial ‘rushes’ of the ‘roaring days’–and dreary and dismal enough it looked when I was there. The expression ‘on’ came from being on the ‘diggings’ or goldfield–the workings or the goldfield was all underneath, of course, so we lived (or starved) ON them–not in nor at ’em.

Mary and I had been married about two years when Jim came—-His name wasn’t ‘Jim’, by the way, it was ‘John Henry’, after an uncle godfather; but we called him Jim from the first–(and before it)–because Jim was a popular Bush name, and most of my old mates were Jims. The Bush is full of good-hearted scamps called Jim.

We lived in an old weather-board shanty that had been a sly-grog-shop, and the Lord knows what else! in the palmy days of Gulgong; and I did a bit of digging (‘fossicking’, rather), a bit of shearing, a bit of fencing, a bit of Bush-carpentering, tank-sinking,–anything, just to keep the billy boiling.

We had a lot of trouble with Jim with his teeth. He was bad with every one of them, and we had most of them lanced–couldn’t pull him through without. I remember we got one lanced and the gum healed over before the tooth came through, and we had to get it cut again. He was a plucky little chap, and after the first time he never whimpered when the doctor was lancing his gum: he used to say ‘tar’ afterwards, and want to bring the lance home with him.

The first turn we got with Jim was the worst. I had had the wife and Jim out camping with me in a tent at a dam I was making at Cattle Creek; I had two men working for me, and a boy to drive one of the tip-drays, and I took Mary out to cook for us. And it was lucky for us that the contract was finished and we got back to Gulgong, and within reach of a doctor, the day we did. We were just camping in the house, with our goods and chattels anyhow, for the night; and we were hardly back home an hour when Jim took convulsions for the first time.

Did you ever see a child in convulsions? You wouldn’t want to see it again: it plays the devil with a man’s nerves. I’d got the beds fixed up on the floor, and the billies on the fire–I was going to make some tea, and put a piece of corned beef on to boil over night–when Jim (he’d been queer all day, and his mother was trying to hush him to sleep)–Jim, he screamed out twice. He’d been crying a good deal, and I was dog-tired and worried (over some money a man owed me) or I’d have noticed at once that there was something unusual in the way the child cried out: as it was I didn’t turn round till Mary screamed ‘Joe! Joe!’ You know how a woman cries out when her child is in danger or dying–short, and sharp, and terrible. ‘Joe! Look! look! Oh, my God! our child! Get the bath, quick! quick! it’s convulsions!’

Jim was bent back like a bow, stiff as a bullock-yoke, in his mother’s arms, and his eyeballs were turned up and fixed–a thing I saw twice afterwards, and don’t want ever to see again.

I was falling over things getting the tub and the hot water, when the woman who lived next door rushed in. She called to her husband to run for the doctor, and before the doctor came she and Mary had got Jim into a hot bath and pulled him through.