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The Hypnotized Township
by [?]

They said that Harry Chatswood, the mail contractor would do anything for Cobb & Co., even to stretching fencing-wire across the road in a likely place: but I don’t believe that–Harry was too good-hearted to risk injuring innocent passengers, and he had a fellow feeling for drivers, being an old coach driver on rough out-back tracks himself. But he did rig up fencing-wire for old Mac, the carrier, one night, though not across the road. Harry, by the way, was a city-born bushman, who had been everything for some years. Anything from six-foot-six to six-foot-nine, fourteen stone, and a hard case. He is a very successful coach-builder now, for he knows the wood, the roads, and the weak parts in a coach.

It was in the good seasons when competition was keen and men’s hearts were hard–not as it is in times of drought, when there is no competition, and men’s hearts are soft, and there is all kindness and goodwill between them. He had had much opposition in fighting Cobb & Co., and his coaches had won through on the outer tracks. There was little malice in his composition, but when old Mac, the teamster, turned his teams over to his sons and started a light van for parcels and passengers from Cunnamulla–that place which always sounds to me suggestive of pumpkin pies–out in seeming opposition to Harry Chatswood, Harry was annoyed.

Perhaps Mac only wished to end his days on the road with parcels that were light and easy to handle (not like loads of fencing wire) and passengers that were sociable; but he had been doing well with his teams, and, besides, Harry thought he was after the mail contract: so Harry was annoyed more than he was injured. Mac was mean with the money he had not because of the money he had a chance of getting; and he mostly slept in his van, in all weathers, when away from home which was kept by his wife about half-way between the half-way house and the next “township.”

One dark, gusty evening, Harry Chatswood’s coach dragged, heavily though passengerless, into Cunnamulla, and, as he turned into the yard of the local “Royal,” he saw Mac’s tilted four-wheeler (which he called his “van”) drawn up opposite by the kerbing round the post office. Mac always chose a central position–with a vague idea of advertisement perhaps. But the nearness to the P.O. reminded Harry of the mail contracts, and he knew that Mac had taken up a passenger or two and some parcels in front of him (Harry) on the trip in. And something told Harry that Mac was asleep inside his van. It was a windy night, with signs of rain, and the curtains were drawn close.

Old Mac was there all right, and sleeping the sleep of a tired driver after a long drowsy day on a hard box-seat, with little or no back railing to it. But there was a lecture on, or an exhibition of hypnotism or mesmerism–“a blanky spirit rappin’ fake,” they called it, run by “some blanker” in “the hall;” and when old Mac had seen to his horses, he thought he might as well drop in for half an hour and see what was going on. Being a Mac, he was, of course, theological, scientific, and argumentative. He saw some things which woke him up, challenged the performer to hypnotize him, was “operated” on or “fooled with” a bit, had a “numb sorter light-headed feelin’,” and was told by a voice from the back of the hall that his “leg was being pulled, Mac,” and by another buzzin’ far-away kind of “ventrillick” voice that he would make a good subject, and that, if he only had the will power and knew how (which he would learn from a book the professor had to sell for five shillings) he would be able to drive his van without horses or any thing, save the pole sticking straight out in front. These weren’t the professor’s exact words–But, anyway, Mae came to himself with a sudden jerk, left with a great Scottish snort of disgust and the sound of heavy boots along the floor; and after a resentful whisky at the Royal, where they laughed at his scrooging bushy eyebrows, fierce black eyes and his deadly-in-earnest denunciation of all humbugs and imposters, he returned to the aforesaid van, let down the flaps, buttoned the daft and “feekle” world out, and himself in, and then retired some more and slept, as I have said, rolled in his blankets and overcoats on a bed of cushions, and chaff-bag.