George Alfred Applecrop owner and proprietor of the bush guest house set in a forest clearing, lolled back in his hammock ingeniously constructed of two chaff bags and swung between two trees. He regarded his sniffing friend with tolerant amusement.
"Karasene," he announced at last. "That's just plain ordin'ry karasene wot you're smellin'. You can have all your doctor's an' chemist's dope; but when my back gits real bad gimme some good ole karasene. It cured me oldest brother Albert of knobs on his liver, fixed his kids' whoopin' corf an' growed a noo crop of hair on me ole man's head wot had been bald as a boiled egg for donkey's years. External for nooritis, sprains, rhewmatics, bad backs; internal for lungs, liver, heart an' cetra, you can't beat good ole karasene, the bushman's best friend."
"Funny thing, ain't it, how my back always gits worse after the holiday season when my wife, Em'ly, for some queer reason, has to go turnin' the house inside out, sweepin' an' scourin' an' scrubbin' an' drubbin' just because she feels that way.
"But there you are. Women has strange idears. 'Specially about husban's with bad backs. Sometimes you'd think I'd gone an' got it a purpose an' was injoyin' it, the suspicious way she looks at a bloke.
"I reckon it gits worse 'count of the nervis strain through tryin' to think up a few more extrees to shove in boarders' bills. Runnin' a guets house ain't near as easy as bein' a lawyer whose extrees don't take much thinkin' up - things like: 'To seein' you across street an' crossin' street an' findin' out it was not you: one guinea.' Runnin' a good guest house is lots harder than that.
"Wot's that? No, that ain't no motor bike choonin' up wot you hear. That's Em'ly sloppin' around in a pair of my ole boots takin' up carpits for young Dick to beat. Fair restless that woman is. When she gits to heaven, which I hope she will, but not for a long time yet, she'll start straight in scrubbin' the golden pavement an' dustin' the star dust off the pearly gates.
"But it's good for her some ways. Keeps her from worritin' over financial matters, like I have to, an' reelizin' that there ain't never been but two men ever made any money outer the bush. An' one was Ned Kelly an' the other was Syd Sparker wot took to butcherin' round these parts in the old days.
"You see, Syd was a pretty fly bloke, an' when he started sellin' meat under town prices an' givin' long credit we all nacherly turns over to him.
"Well, everything's goin' great for everyone till one day ole Tom Tuttle breaks a front tooth on a green bead wot he finds among others in a bit of Syd's prime rump steak.
"'Funny thing,' thinks Tom. An' then he remembers how, some time back, havin' no shot for his ole muzzle-loader, he had put a charge of green beads into one of his own steers wot he mistook for one of his neighbor's trespassin'.
"Tom Tuttle spreads the story, an' a lot of other people begins to remember that it's a long time since they seen some of their own stores an' prime steers an' dry cows wot was runnin' loose in the bush; so they begins keepin' an eye on Syd.
"Well, the upshot of it was Syd gits eighteen munce for cattle duffin'; an' as most of us had some pretty big unpaid bills 'count of Syd sellin' us back our own beasts in the form of steaks an' sirloins, the districk was content to call it a fair deal.
"But when Syd comes out he starts in to summons all them wot won't pay their butcher's bills, an', believe it or not, he gits his money - enough to start him in a good startin' price business in town. An' he ain't looked back since.
"'Longside Syd, Ned Kelly was a muddler wot got hisself hung. Syd Sparker bought hisself a happy an' prosperous fucher at the cost of eighteen munce quod an' board free. It takes a bit of brains to do that.
"Would you mind dodgin' up to the house an' arstin' Em'ly to let you have a bit more karasene in that there bottle?
"Ar, come orf!" said George Alfred Applecrop, when his friend returned. "Never mind my back. Spinkle some of that karasene on the hammick. It is the fumes does the trick; an' when Em'ly comes to help me up to the house, the smell will be sorter convincin'."
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003|