Apart from the mystery of the side-saddle,
and the joke of seeing her in an enormous mushroom hat, there was the
interest of the mounting itself; Jackeroo having spread a report that the
Maluka held out his hands, while the missus ran up them and sat herself
upon the horse's back.
"They reckon you have escaped from a "Wild West Show," Dan said, tickled
at the look of wonder on some of the faces as I settled myself in the
saddle. We learned later that Jackeroo had tried to run up Jimmy's hands
to illustrate the performance in camp, and, failing, had naturally blamed
Jimmy, causing report to add that the Maluka was a very Samson in
"A dress rehearsal for the cattle-musters later on," Dan called the
walk-about, looking with approval on my cartridge belt and revolver; and
after a few small mobs of cattle had been rounded up and looked over, he
suggested "rehearsing that part of the performance where the missus gets
lost, and catches cows and milks 'em."
"Now's your chance, missus," he shouted, as a scared, frightened beast
broke from the mob in hand, and went crashing through the undergrowth.
"There's one all by herself to practice on." Dan's system of education,
being founded on object-lessons, was mightily convincing; and for that
trip, anyway, he had a very humble pupil to instruct in the "ways of
telling the signs of water at hand."
All day as we zigzagged through scrub and timber, visiting water-holes
and following up cattle-pads, the solitude of the bush seemed only a
pleasant seclusion; and the deep forest glades, shady pathways leading to
the outside world; but at night, when the camp had been fixed up in the
silent depths of a dark Leichhardt-pine forest, the seclusion had become
an isolation that made itself felt, and the shady pathways, miles of dark
treacherous forest between us and our fellow-men.