Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MAC'S HALF-CASTE, by E. S. EMERSON



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MAC'S HALF-CASTE, by            
First Line: Mac's half-caste wife was all the talk
Last Line: And back to her old wild haunts go.
Alternate Author Name(s): White, Milky
Subject(s): Aborigines, Australian; Betrayal; Marriage; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


MAC'S half-caste wife was all the talk
From Derby miles along the coast;
You wouldn't meet in ten years' walk
A fitter subject for a toast.

The daughter of a golden zone
Where warm lights always seem to dwell,
She had a beauty all her own—
A tropic charm remembered well.

Her eyes were bright as Pomeroy
That sparkles in the cups we hold,
And pleasing as is to the boy
His first long-dreamed-of find of gold.

Her lips, a luscious deep-red rose,
Half opened to the morning air
That gentle sun-smiles might disclose
Her teeth—the dewdrops clustered there.

Her hair was "crisp and black and long;
Her skin a dusky shade of white;
Her figure, like a faery song,
All flowing curves and wondrous light.

And, altogether she was just
A chunk of nature thick with charms;
A Venus chiselled out by Lust,
And birthmarked with the night's alarms.

Well, Mac (he was a cunning cuss,
A canny Scot who kept a store
Of things most miscellaneous,
And sometimes one "wee drappie" more)—

Well, Mac had seen her in a crowd
Of other gins, and laid a claim,
And just as soon as things allowed,
He hitched her up with his own name;

And, having deep experience
With gins and half-castes and that crew
In matters of concupiscence,
He knew exactly what to do.

No skirts of silk, no costly prints
She got to clothe her nakedness;
He fixed her up in some old chintz
And one unsaleable old dress.

For Mac was certain that before
A month was up his sweet young wife
Would sicken of the grimy store
And go back to her former life;

Would go away, however dressed,
To wander in the bush again,
And, to some duskier bosom pressed,
Laugh at her cast-off lover's pain.

And, knowing this, he made the best
Of his short time to bill and coo;
And, though an old 'un, 'twas confest
He knew a trifle how to woo.

And so the time went pleasantly
Till half the month had flitted past,
And even Mac was charmed to see
Her patience likely still to last.

But, ah! one morning Fancy Fred
Dropped in as he was riding by,
And straightway lost his empty head
On catching Mac's young half-caste's eye.

Now Fancy Fred was English and
A Simon Pure of Johnniedom—
The leader of a masher band
Before he left his friends at home.

And, even on our red-hot sands,
He never, by the worst mischance,
Forgot to glove his naked hands
Or reef a half-mast on his pants.

And even when a crowd of gins
In native nakedness went by,
He'd summon up his sweetest grins
And ogle them with eye-glassed eye.

But all the same the luckiest cuss
Who ever put a hand to pick
Was Fancy Fred, the amorous,
When mining-mates with Dead-Eyed Dick.

Well, on the morning Fancy Fred
Caught Mac's young half-caste's beaming eye,
His pathway to the township led
To bank a pile with old Mackie.

But that one soft, unconscious glance
Bound Freddy fairly to the store;
He couldn't leave by any chance
Till he had seen a little more.

So Dick and he both went inside
To broach a demijohn with Mac,
Fred meanwhile making for the bride
With quick and amorous attack.

But as the drink-fumes filled his head
('Twas Mac's own make and K.S.D.),
His scanty senses straightway fled
And made him just a bit too free.

Now, Mac could stand a real coarse jest
Where business skies were keeping fine
But when his half-caste's lips were pressed
He thought it time to draw the line.

So, with the strength of Hercules
(He stood six feet and rather stout),
He caught Fred up by neck and knees
And rather roughly fired him out.

And Dead-Eyed Dick he simply said,
"Good-oh, ole chap; it served him right;
You ought t'ave broke his blanky head,
He didn' even show yer fight."

Now though the sacred Scriptures say
That "Thou shalt covet no man's wife,"
In climates such as W.A.
Most people knock that out of life.

And so, as Fancy Fred did ride
With Dead-Eyed Dick from old Mac's store,
He wished the old 'un's half-caste bride
Was his, and his for evermore.

And saying so to Dead-Eyed Dick,
The latter growled "Gor' bli' me, kid!
You'd make a bleedin' feller sick—
You'll buy her all fer seving quid."

"What? Buy a wife! Bai Jove! haw—no!
You don't do things like that out heah!
It's simply awful—don't-cher-know—
Just fancy! Weally? The ideah!"

But, all the same, the Johnnie thought,
And came to the conclusion clear—
If Mac's half-caste was to be bought
He'd buy her, howsoever dear.

And, turning round, he rode straight back
(The whisky fumes were in his brain),
And, galloping along the track,
Was soon inside the store again.

He broached the matter in a trice
When greeted by Mac's fiercest frown,
And offered him Dick's upset price,
Whereat Mac brought the whisky down.

Just seven pounds! the tough old Scot
Looked at the deal in every light;
But, even adding value got,
Still thought the offer much too slight.

The Johnnie sprung another quid;
Mac softly shook his shaggy head.
He wasn't taking any kid,
"It's no' enough," he simply said.

Nine—ten—eleven—fefteen pounds,
Then sixteen—twenty—twenty-two—
Mac thought he'd nearly reached the bounds
But still hung out for all he knew;

And, when they got to thirty-three,
He rushed the little half-caste in,
"Eh! mak' it foorty, lad," said he,
"Ten oonces doon and she's your gin."

"The devil's in a beaming eye,"
The Johnnie's blood like fire-flames felt;
"Bai Jove! she's mine!" he made reply,
And handed Mac his gold-lined belt.

Mac weighed the gold out rapidly,
A smile upon each shaggy cheek;
"I'd bet the half of it," thought he,
"She won't stop with him for a week."

Well, Fancy Fred bought dresses fine,
And, basking in the half-caste's smile,
Spent near enough to float a mine
To rig her out in proper style;

But, when a week had flitted past
(The Johnnie, happier than a fay,
Still thinking it was sure to last
The same old ever and a day)—

A band of greasy, scant-clad blacks
Swift journey to the ranges made,
And Fred's half-caste picked up their tracks,
Keen as a lover long delayed.

She left him there without a word,
For as she panting fled away
The low voice of the bush she heard
Calling her home—how could she stay?

And, lonely and disconsolate,
The Johnnie sought her near and far,
While Dead-Eyed Dick, his quondam mate,
Laughed at his pain across each bar.

So, finally, when ne'er a sign
Of his lost darling could be found,
He sank his sorrows on the wine,
And shipped at Derby—homeward bound.

And, just to put a finish on
A story not untold before,
Three months could scarcely yet have gone
When back the half-caste came once more.

The satin dress the Johnnie gave
Was thick with dirt and torn to rags;
But Mac, the grey, ungodly knave,
Just fixed her up with two old bags.

And now she's putting in a spell
In her own lawful husband's arms,
But Mac himself can't even tell
How long she'll bless him with her charms;

For just as soon as she shall wake
To hear the great bush calling low,
Tracks of her own tribe she will take
And back to her old wild haunts go.





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