― 143 ―

He Let His Heart Go.

THE wind whistled, and every now and then threw a splash of sleety rain against the fissured face of a bleached, grey rock. A cavity in its centre looked to the south-west, whence wind and rain came; and although the hole extended a good way, the chill gusts occasionally reached the farthest corner. Gyp Pringle crawled back as far as possible and built up a barricade of coarse packing-paper which he had carried on his back from Sydney ware-houses.

Dog-weariness made him sleep. He had tramped town and suburbs all day in search of work—the gate to bread and beef and, mayhap, ale. As he closed his eyes the rattle of reed and brass music was borne across the Domain from the precincts of Government House.

Soon he dreamed. What a heaven of gratifications spread before him! Beef, potatoes, ale, whisky, tobacco. He stretched out a hungry hand. Alas! he awoke.

Realising the cruel hoax, he kicked viciously. To his surprise his foot struck something soft, a composite of flesh and blood, and a plaintive whine made humble protest.

“Now, then,” said Gyp, “who the devil are you? This hole's mine. No doubt you're a Socialist. Well, clear out! I didn't slope roun' town an' hump this here swag o' old paper an' root out this bloomin' marble hall for the benefit o' the community at large. I done it for meself. I'm an individualist—I am. So take yerself to gaol or glory out o' this.”

Only heavy breathing answered.

“D'ye want me to bash yer? G'up to Guv'ment House, can't yer? They're singin' and coortin' up there, I believe, an' ye might

  ― 144 ―
be able to collar a fan or spoon when nobody's lookin'. Clear out, I say!”

This time the whine became a subdued bark, and a cold nose was thrust into his hollow hand.

“Me bloomin' 'ead! ye're a dawg! An' I took ye all the time for a Socialist! I beg parding humbly. All the same though—out ye go. If a coal-heaver snooked into 'Ampden's, out he 'd go. An' as this hole's my castle, out you go! An' if you had a kennel an' I attempted to snook in, out I'd go. See? We're all individualists.”

He kicked.

“Sometimes though, notwithstanding me logic, I've thought that if those on top were a bit kinder to the folk below, it might be better all round. It's not me brain says that; it's me heart.”

He kicked again.

“If, when a coal-heaver snooked into Governor 'Ampden's, 'Ampden gave 'im time to draw breath before firin' 'im out; or when I snooked into the coal-heaver's, or when this outcast dawg snooked in here——”

He drew up his foot smartly.

“Well, now,” he said, sitting up, “dammut, but I'll give me heart her way for onst. Let her go, Gallagher!”

When daylight came Gyp examined his partner in adversity, and recognised that the dog belonged to a lady in whose garden he had done a couple of days' work a week or two before. This he considered an extremely gratifying discovery.

“Me bloomin' 'ead!” he exclaimed; “this means a big reward, if it doesn't lead to a constant job, with a liberal pension for me old age!”

Laying hold of a piece of rope and looping it round the famished creature's neck, he continued:

“It's a pound if it's a thankee. No doubt the dawg's been lost for a time, for his hair's peelin' off. He's seen the inside o' Belmore more 'n onst, I'll go bail. An' to think I struck this patch o' luck the first time I let me heart go! This'll make a different

  ― 145 ―
man o' me for the future. ‘Do a kind hact’ will be my motter. I venture to say most people with that motter found a dawg to start them. Come along, old boy; off to Darlin' Point to reap the reward o' virtue! Yer mistress'll be that glad to see yer face that she'll likely keep me for dinner an' fit me in a suit o' good, dry clothes.”

“What have you to say?” asked the spectacled magistrate.

“That dawg came to me under a rock in the Domain, an'——”

“There's too much of this going on. You obtained work in this lady's garden with the clear intention of making friends with the dog. You were seen about the place several times since. Then you induce the dog off and keep him in your low haunts until a reward is offered. Sydney is cursed with loafers of your stamp. Three months' hard labour.”

Said Gyp: “This is the first time I ever let me heart go, an' if ever ——”

But he was hauled away, crying at the top of his voice: “I'm an individualist for the rest o' me bloomin' life, I am!”