The Moving Finger –by: Mary Gaunt
First Page:THE MOVING FINGER
"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on; nor all your piety and wit Shall lore it back to cancel half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it."
METHUEN & CO. 36 ESSEX STREET, W.C. LONDON 1895
A Trotting Christmas Eve at Warwingie Lost! The Loss of the "Vanity" Dick Stanesby's Hutkeeper The Yanyilla Steeplechase A Digger's Christmas
"Hi hey hold up there, mare, will you? What did you say, mister? A light? Yes. That 's Trotting Cob, that is. The missus 'll give us a cup of tea, but that's about all. Devil fly away with the mare. What is it? Something white in the road? Water by . Thank the Lord, they Ve had plenty of rain this year. But they do say there's a ghost hereabouts a Trotting Cob, with a man in white on him? Lord, no, that's an old woman's tale. But the girl she walks she walks they say, and mighty good reason too if all tales be true. Hosses always shy here if they Ve at all skittish. Got that letter, Jack, and the tobacco? That's right! Rum, isn't it, to get all your news of the world at dead of night? Reg'ler as clockwork we pass a little after one, and the coach from Deniliquin she passes an hour or so earlier.
"Anybody else? Well, no, not as a rule. It's the stock route? you see, between Hay and Deniliquin, so there's bound to be stock on the way; but sheep, bless you! they travel six miles a day, and cattle they ain't so much faster, so we brings 'em all the news. The Company has stables here, and feed, and we change horses. The old man and old woman keep it, with a boy or two. Mighty dull for the old woman, I should think, with on'y the ghost to keep her company. She was her cousin or her aunt or somethin', the ghost was, and, Lord, women is fools an' no mistake." It was July, and the winter rains had just fallen, so that the plains, contrary to custom, were a regular sea of mud.
The wheels sank axle deep in it. The horses floundered through it in the darkness, and every now and then the lamps were reflected in a big pool of shallow water. The wind blew keen and cold, but the coach was full inside and out, and so, though it was pitch dark, I kept my seat by the driver.
A light gleamed up out of the darkness.
"Trotting Cob!" said he, and discoursed upon it till he pulled up his horses on their haunches exactly opposite a wide open door, where the lamplight displayed a rudely laid table and a bright fire, which seemed hospitably to beckon us in. The whole place was as wide awake as if it were noon instead of midnight.
Ten minutes' stay, and we were off again into the darkness, and then I prevailed upon the driver to tell me the tale of Trotting Cob. He told it in his own way. He interlarded his speech with strange oaths. He stopped often to swear at the road, to correct the horses, and he was emphatic in his opinions on the foolishness of women, so I must e'en do as he did, and tell the tale of Trotting Cob in my own way.
A flat world possibly to English eyes an uninteresting, desolate, dreary world; but to those who knew and loved them, they had a weird charm, all their own, those dull, gray plains that stretched away mile after mile till it seemed the horizon, unbroken by hill or tree, must be the end of the world. Trotting Cob was Murwidgee then, Murwidgee Waterhole, where all the stock stopped and watered; but from the slab hut, which was the only dwelling for miles, no waterhole was visible; the creek was simply a huge crack in the earth, and at the bottom, twenty feet below the level of the plain, was the water hole. One waterhole in summer, and in winter a whole chain of them, but the creek seldom if ever flowed, except in a very wet season. It was a permanent waterhole Murwidgee, fed by springs, and the white cockatoos and screaming corellas came there and bathed in its waters, and the black swans, and the wild duck, and teal rested there on their way south, when summer had laid his iron hand on the northern plains...