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Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems

 

Taking His Chance

 

They stood by the door of the inn on the rise;

May Carney looked up in the bushranger's eyes:

'Oh! why did you come? - it was mad of you Jack;

You know that the troopers are out on your track."

A laugh and a shake of his obstinate head -

'I wanted a dance, and I'll chance it,' he said.

 

Some twenty-odd bushmen had come to the ball,

But Jack from his youth had been known to them all,

And bushmen are soft where a woman is fair,

So the love of May Carney protected him there.

Through all the short evening - it seemed like romance--

She danced with a bushranger taking his chance.

 

'Twas midnight - the dancers stood suddenly still,

For hoof-beats were heard on the side of the hill!

Ben Duggan, the drover, along the hillside

Came riding as only a bushman can ride,

He sprang from his horse, to the dancers he sped -

'The troopers are down in the gully!' he said.

 

Quite close to the shanty the troopers were seen.

'Clear out and ride hard for the ranges, Jack Dean!

Be quick! said May Carney - her hand on her heart -

'We'll bluff them a while, and twill give you a start.'

He lingered a moment - to kiss her, of course -

Then he ran to the trees where he'd hobbled his horse.

 

She ran to the gate, and the troopers were there -

The jingle of hobbles came faint on the air -

Then loudly she screamed: it was only to drown

The treacherous clatter of sliprails let down.

But troopers are sharp, and she saw at a glance

That someone was taking a desperate chance.

 

They chased, and they shouted, 'Surrender Jack Dean!'

They called him three times in the name of the Queen,

Then came from the darkness the clicking of locks;

The crack of a rifle was heard on the rocks!

A shriek, and a shout, and a rush of pale men -

And there lay the bushranger, chancing it then.

 

The sergeant dismounted and knelt by the sod -

'Your bushranging's over - make peace, Jack, with God!'

The dying man laughed - not a word he replied,

But turned to the girl who knelt down by his side.

He gazed at her eyes as she lifted his head:

'Just kiss me - my girl - and - I'll chance it, he said.

 

Henry lawson  

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