How Polly Paid for her Keep

written by

« Reload image

Do I know Polly Brown? Do I know her? Why, damme!You might as well ask if I know my own name!It's a wonder you never heard tell of old Sammy,Her father, my mate in the Crackenback claim.

He asks if I know little Poll! Why, I nursed herAs often, I reckon, as old Mother BrownWhen they lived at the Flats, and old Sam went a bursterIn Chinaman's Gully, and dropped every crown.

My golden-haired mate, ever brimful of follyAnd childish conceit, and yet ready to restContented beside me: 'twas I who taught PollyTo handle four horses along with the best.

'Twas funny to hear the small fairy discoursingOf horses and drivers! I'll swear that she knewEvery one of the nags that I drove to the Crossing--Their voices, and paces, and pedigrees too.

She got a strange whim in her golden-haired noddleThat a driver's high seat was a kind of a throne:I've taken her up there before she could toddle,And she'd talk to the nags in a tongue of her own.

Then old Mother Brown got the horrors around her:(I think it was pineapple rum drove her daft)She cleared out one night, and next morning they found her,A mummified mass, in a forty-foot shaft.

And Sammy? Well, Sammy was wailing and weeping,And raving, and raising the devil's own row:He was only too glad to give into our keepingHis motherless babe--we'd have kept her till now;

But Jimmy Maloney thought proper to court her:Among all the lasses he loved but this one:She's no longer Polly, our golden-haired daughter;She's Mrs. Maloney, of Packsaddle Run.

Our little girl Polly's no end of a swell (youMust know Jimmy shears fifty thousand odd sheep)--But I'm clean off the track: I was going to tell youThe way in which Polly paid us for her keep.

It was this way: My wife's living in Tumbarumba,And I'm down at Germanton yards, for a sale,Inspecting coach-horses (I wanted a number)When they flashed down a message that made me turn pale.

'Twas from Polly, to say that the old wife had fallenDown-stairs, and in falling had fractured a bone:There was no doctor nearer than Tumut to call on,So she and the blacksmith had set it alone.

They'd have to come down by the coach in the morning,As one of the two buggy ponies was lame:Would I see the old doctor, and give him fair warningTo keep himself decently straight till they came?

I was making good money those times, and a fiverPer week was the wages my deputy got;A good, honest worker, an out-and-out driver--But, like all the rest, a most terrible sot.

So, just on this morning--which made it more sinful--With my women on board, the unprincipled skunkHung round all the bars till he loaded a skinfulOf grog, and then started his journey--dead drunk!

Drunk! with my loved ones on board--drunk as Chloe!He might have got right by the end of the tripHad he rested contented and quiet; but no, heMust pull up at Rosewood, for one other nip.

That finished him off quick, and there he sat, dozingLike an owl on his perch, half awake, half asleep,Till a lurch of the coach came, when, suddenly losingHis balance, he fell to earth all of a heap;

While the coach, with its four frightened horses, went sailingDownhill to perdition and Carabost break--Four galloping devils, with reins loosely trailing,And passengers falling all roads in their wake.

Two bagmen, who sat on the box, jumped togetherAnd found a soft bed in the mud of the drain;The barmaid from Murphy's fell light as a feather--I think she got off with a bit of a sprain;

While the jock, with his nerves most decidedly shaken,Made straight for the door, never wasting his breathIn farewell apologies: basely forsaken,My wife and Poll Brown sat alone with grim Death.

While the coach thundered downward, my wife fell a-praying;But Poll in a fix, now, is dashed hard to beat:She picked up her skirts, scrambled over the swayingHigh roof of the coach, till she lit on the seat,

And there looked around. In her hand was a pretty,Frail thing made of laces, with which a girl strivesTo save her complexion when down in the city--A lace parasol! yet it saved both their lives.

Oh, Polly was game, you may bet your last dollar!She leans on the splashboard, and stretches and strainsWith her parasol, down by the off-sider's collar,Until she contrives to catch hold of the reins.

They lay quite secure in the crook of the handle,She clutched them--the parasol fell underneath.I tell you no girl ever could hold a candleTo Poll, as she hung back and clenched her white teeth.

The bolters sped downward, with nostrils distended,She must get a pull on them ere they should reachThe fence on the hill, where the road had been mended ...The blocks bit the wheels with a scroop and a screech;

The little blue veins in her arms swelled and blackened;The reins were like fiddle-strings stretched in her grip;When the break hove in sight, the mad gallop had slackened:She had done it, by God! they were under the whip.

They still had the pace on; but Polly was ableTo steer 'twixt the fences with never a graze:They flashed past the change, where the groom at the stableJust stood with his mouth open, dumb with amaze.

On the level she turned them--the best bit of drivingThat ever was done on this side of the range--And trotted them back up the hill-side, arrivingWith not a strap broken in front of the change.

And the wife? Well, she prayed to the Lord till she fainted:I reckon He answered her prayers: all the same,He must have helped Polly, It's curious now, ain't it?To see a thin slip of a girl be so game.

Did I summons the driver? I had no occasionThe coroner came with his jury instead,Who found that he died from a serious abrasion--Both wheels of the coach had gone over his head.

© Barcroft Henry Thomas Boake