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His Masterpiece
by [?]

“Whoop!Before you could say Jack Robertson, that thousand head of cattle were on their feet, and made one wild, headlong, mad rush right over the place where poor old Barcoo Jim was sleeping. There was no time to hunt up materials for the inquest; I had to keep those cattle together, so I sprang into the saddle, dashed the spurs into the old horse, dropped my head on his mane, and sent him as hard as he could leg it through the scrub to get to the lead of the cattle and steady them. It was brigalow, and you know what that is.

“You know how the brigalow grows,” continued Bill; “saplings about as thick as a man’s arm, and that close together a dog can’t open his mouth to bark in ’em. Well, those cattle swept through that scrub, levelling it like as if it had been cleared for a railway line. They cleared a track a quarter of a mile wide, and smashed every stick, stump and sapling on it. You could hear them roaring and their hoofs thundering and the scrub smashing three or four miles off.

“And where was I?I was racing parallel with the cattle, with my head down on the horse’s neck, letting him pick his way through the scrub in the pitchy darkness. This went on for about four miles. Then the cattle began to get winded, and I dug into the old stock-horse with the spurs, and got in front, and began to crack the whip and sing out, so as to steady them a little; after awhile they dropped slower and slower, and I kept the whip going. I got them all together in a patch of open country, and there I rode round and round ’em all night till daylight.

“And how I wasn’t killed in the scrub, goodness only knows; for a man couldn’t ride in the daylight where I did in the dark. The cattle were all knocked about—horns smashed, legs broken, ribs torn; but they were all there, every solitary head of ’em; and as soon as the daylight broke I took ’em back to the camp—that is, all that could travel, because I had to leave a few broken-legged ones. ”

Billy paused in his narrative. He knew that some suggestions would be made, by way of compromise, to tone down the awful strength of the yarn, and he prepared himself accordingly. His motto was “No surrender”; he never abated one jot of his statements; if anyone chose to remark on them, he made them warmer and stronger, and absolutely flattened out the intruder.

“That was a wonderful bit of ridin’ you done, Billy,” said one of the men at last, admiringly. “It’s a wonder you wasn’t killed. I suppose your clothes was pretty well tore off your back with the scrub?”

“Never touched a twig,” said Billy.

“Ah!” faltered the inquirer, “then no doubt you had a real ringin’ good stock-horse that could take you through a scrub like that full-split in the dark, and not hit you against anything. ”

“No, he wasn’t a good un,” said Billy decisively, “he was the worst horse in the camp. Terrible awkward in the scrub he was, always fallin’ down on his knees; and his neck was so short you could sit far back on him and pull his ears. ”

Here that interrogator retired hurt; he gave Billy best. After a pause another took up the running.

“How did your mate get on, Billy?I s’pose he was trampled to a mummy!”

“No,” said Billy, “he wasn’t hurt a bit. I told you he was sleeping under the shelter of a log. Well, when those cattle rushed they swept over that log a thousand strong; and every beast of that herd took the log in his stride and just missed landing on Barcoo Jimmy by about four inches. ”