― 34 ―

A Bush-Bred Youngster

There's a lonely gorge in the mountains,
Where the lyre-bird builds its nest;
Where the mid-day sun scarce lingers,
And the shadows love to rest;
Where, amid the rocks and boulders,
The struggling waters leap,
And there, 'mid the ferns and shadows,
A hero is laid to sleep.

He sought not for death or glory,
'Mid the battle's pomp and din,
Where the grave awaits the vanquished,
And the laurel those who win.
It was duty alone that called him,
Not the sound of the drum or fife,
But he answered the call of duty,
And he gave - all he had - his life.

  ― 35 ―
Little Bess was the widow's darling,
Her solace and only joy,
Since Heaven had taken her other loves,
Her husband and bright-eyed boy.
Little Bess was a fair-haired lassie
Of five, and she used to play,
And sing, as she weaved her wild flowers
Into posies bright and gay.

Young Jim was a bush-bred youngster,
Just a great, strong, awkward lad,
Very much like other mortals
Neither very good nor bad.
But he loved the fair-haired Bessie,
And he cleared the gate at a bound
When the widow called that her darling
Had strayed, and could not be found.

Jim vow'd that he'd seek and find her,
As, with feverish eagerness,
He packed in a well-worn satchel
Some food and some fruit for Bess.
Then he followed the path by the willows,
And he searched for her tracks, until
The shadows were long in the valleys
And the sun sank behind the hill.

  ― 36 ―
But just as the day was waning,
And the vanishing light grew less,
Jim found a small posy of wild flowers,
Which he knew had been plucked by Bess.
Then he eagerly searched the gully,
Whose every path he knew,
And he spied near a stunted fern-tree,
The print of a tiny shoe.

And the night crept down the valley
With its solitude and its gloom,
And the breeze that swayed the tree-tops
Seemed like murmurings from a tomb.
In vain did Jim call and “Cooey”,
And shout through the gathering night,
For the rocks replied to his calling,
Like the voice of a mocking sprite.

Jim was only a bush-bred youngster,
Who had never been taught to pray,
Yet, never was prayer more earnest
Than Jim's, for the light of day.
And never more pure thanksgiving
Ascended the Throne of Grace,
Than his, when he saw the first grey dawn
Illumine the lonesome place.

  ― 37 ―
Then step by step he tracked her,
Through many a rocky dell,
Through bush, and fern he traced her,
By the signs that he knew so well.
Sometimes would the footprints vanish
And the signs wax faint and dim,
But a broken twig, or a grass blade bent,
Was sufficient guide for him.

He was footsore and tired and weary,
He was hungry and dinnerless,
For the food that he bore in the satchel
He had sacredly kept for Bess.
His fingers were scratched and bleeding,
But he knew he was on her track,
And he cared not for wounds nor hunger,
If he carried his darling back.

There's a spot in the Corang Mountains,
Where the cliff hangs high and steep,
And frowns o'er a rocky basin
Whose waters are cold and deep,
And Jim as he scanned the valley,
Espied near a moss-grown rock,
The glint of a white sun-bonnet,
And the gleam of a scarlet frock.

  ― 38 ―
Then he called again to his darling,
And his eyes grew moist and dim,
When, instead of the mocking echoes,
Her baby voice called “Jim!”
Then from rock to rock he bounded
With the speed of a mountain deer,
What mattered the cuts and scratches
Now dear little Bess was near?

She rose from her sweet child slumbers,
And clapped her small hands with glee,
And she cried “I've been lost so long, Jim,
But I knew you would come for me.
I was tired, and I fell asleep, Jim,
And while sleeping I dreamt of you,
And I thought I could hear you ‘Cooey’,
Then I woke, and my dream was true!”

But her wee voice froze with horror,
And the smile died on her face,
For a rock that Jim had leapt on,
Was tumbling from its place.
She saw him clutching madly
At a fern. She saw him cling
To stones and grass and creepers,
And to every fragile thing.

  ― 39 ―
She heard his cry of anguish,
Then - rocks and stones and grass,
Came crashing down the hill-side,
In one commingling mass.
She saw him fall beside her,
She heard a crushing sound,
And the stone had rolled across his knees,
And pinned him to the ground.

Three long and weary days and nights
Jim lay in helplessness.
Though faint for food he would not eat,
But gave it all to Bess.
He was only a rough, bush youngster,
And hunger is hard to bear,
But Jim preferred to starve outright
Than eat of her scanty fare.

And at length, when the searchers found them,
Little Bessie sat close to him,
And raising her tiny finger,
She said, “Hush! you'll awaken Jim!”
But Jim was beyond awakening,
And Jim's was the greater gain,
For, as love had subdued his hunger,
So death had now vanquished pain.

  ― 40 ―
There are cenotaphs, grand and stately,
In many a sacred fane,
Recording the deeds of heroes,
In the turmoil of battle slain.
To kill men may be heroic,
But, as noble and good and brave,
Is the hero who freely gives his life,
Another's life to save.

Jim was only a bush-bred youngster,
But his courage was strong and real;
His head was not crammed with knowledge,
But his heart was as true as steel.
And when God shall command his heroes
To appear and be judged by Him,
We shall find engrossed on the Sacred Scroll
The name of the bush-bred Jim.