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!

The Bush Undertaker
by [?]

“Five Bob!”

The old man shaded his eyes and peered through the dazzling glow of that broiling Christmas Day. He stood just within the door of a slab-and-bark hut situated upon the bank of a barren creek; sheep-yards lay to the right, and a low line of bare, brown ridges formed a suitable background to the scene.

“Five Bob!” shouted he again; and a dusty sheep-dog rose wearily from the shaded side of the but and looked inquiringly at his master, who pointed towards some sheep which were straggling from the flock.

“Fetch ’em back,” he said confidently.

The dog went off, and his master returned to the interior of the hut.

“We’ll yard ’em early,” he said to himself; “the super won’t know. We’ll yard ’em early, and have the arternoon to ourselves.”

“We’ll get dinner,” he added, glancing at some pots on the fire. “I cud do a bit of doughboy, an’ that theer boggabri’ll eat like tater-marrer along of the salt meat.” He moved one of the black buckets from the blaze. “I likes to keep it jist on the sizzle,” he said in explanation to himself; “hard bilin’ makes it tough–I’ll keep it jist a-simmerin’.”

Here his soliloquy was interrupted by the return of the dog.

“All right, Five Bob,” said the hatter, “dinner’ll be ready dreckly. Jist keep yer eye on the sheep till I calls yer; keep ’em well rounded up, an’ we’ll yard ’em afterwards and have a holiday.”

This speech was accompanied by a gesture evidently intelligible, for the dog retired as though he understood English, and the cooking proceeded.

“I’ll take a pick an’ shovel with me an’ root up that old blackfellow,” mused the shepherd, evidently following up a recent train of thought; “I reckon it’ll do now. I’ll put in the spuds.”

The last sentence referred to the cooking, the first to a blackfellow’s grave about which he was curious.

“The sheep’s a-campin’,” said the soliloquizer, glancing through the door. “So me an’ Five Bob’ll be able to get our dinner in peace. I wish I had just enough fat to make the pan siss; I’d treat myself to a leather-jacket; but it took three weeks’ skimmin’ to get enough for them theer doughboys.”

In due time the dinner was dished up; and the old man seated himself on a block, with the lid of a gin-case across his knees for a table. Five Bob squatted opposite with the liveliest interest and appreciation depicted on his intelligent countenance.

Dinner proceeded very quietly, except when the carver paused to ask the dog how some tasty morsel went with him, and Five Bob’s tail declared that it went very well indeed.

“Here y’are, try this,” cried the old man, tossing him a large piece of doughboy. A click of Five Bob’s jaws and the dough was gone.

“Clean into his liver!” said the old man with a faint smile. He washed up the tinware in the water the duff had been boiled in, and then, with the assistance of the dog, yarded the sheep.

This accomplished, he took a pick and shovel and an old sack, and started out over the ridge, followed, of course, by his four-legged mate. After tramping some three miles he reached a spur, running out from the main ridge. At the extreme end of this, under some gum-trees, was a little mound of earth, barely defined in the grass, and indented in the centre as all blackfellows’ graves were.

He set to work to dig it up, and sure enough, in about half an hour he bottomed on payable dirt.

When he had raked up all the bones, he amused himself by putting them together on the grass and by speculating as to whether they had belonged to black or white, male or female. Failing, however, to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion, he dusted them with great care, put them in the bag, and started for home.