Barcroft Henry Boake

Here you will find the Long Poem Skeeta ( An Old Servant's Tale ) of poet Barcroft Henry Boake

Skeeta ( An Old Servant's Tale )

Our Skeeta was married, our Skeeta! the tomboy
 and pet of the place,
No more as a maiden we'd greet her, no more
 would her pert little face
Light up the chill gloom of the parlour; no more
 would her deft little hands
Serve drinks to the travel-stained caller on his way
 to more southerly lands;
No more would she chaff the rough drovers and 
 send them away with a smile,
No more would she madden her lovers, demurely,
 with womanish guile -
The "prince" from the great Never-Never, with
 light touch of lips and of hand
Had come, and enslaved her for ever - a potentate
 bearded and tanned
From the land where the white mirage dances its
 dance of death over the plains,
With the glow of the sun in his glances, the lust of 
 the West in his veins;

His talk of long drought-stricken stretches when the
 tongue rattled dry on the lips;
Of his fights with the niggers, poor wretches, as
 he sped on his perilous trips.
A supple-thewed, desert-bred rover, with naught to 
 commend him but this,
That he was her idol, her lover, who'd fettered her
 heart with a kiss.

They were wed, and he took her to Warren, where
 she with his love was content;
But town-life to him was too foreign, so back to the 
 droving he went:
A man away down on the border of ?Vic.? bought 
 some cattle from ?Cobb,?
And gave Harry Parker the order to go to ?the
 Gulf? for the mob:
And he went, for he held her love cheaper than his
 wish to re-live the old life,
Or his reason might have been deeper - I called it
 deserting his wife.

Then one morning his horses were mustered, the 
 start on the journey was made -
A clatter, an oath through the dust heard, was the
 last of the long cavalcade.
As we stood by the stockyard assembled, poor child,
 how she strove to be brave!
But yet I could see how she trembled at the careless
 farewell that he gave.
We brought her back home on the morrow, but none
 of us ever may learn
Of the fight that she fought to keep sorrow at bay
 till her husband's return.
He had gone, but the way of his going, `twas that
 which she dwelt on with pain -
Careless kiss, though there sure was no knowing,
 when or where he might kiss her again.
He had ridden away and had left her a woman,
 in all but in years, 
Of her girlhood?s gay hopes had bereft her, and 
 left in their place nought but tears.

Yet still, as the months passed, a treasure was 
 brought her by Love, ere he fled,
And garments of infantile measure she fashioned
 with needle and thread;
She fashioned with linen and laces and ribbons a 
 nest for her bird,
While colour returned to her face as the bud of
 maternity stirred.
It blossomed and died; we arrayed it in all its soft
 splendour of white,
And sorrowing took it and laid it in the earth
 whence it sprung, out of sight.
She wept not at all, only whitened, as Death, in 
 his pitiless quest,
Leant over her pillow and tightened the throat of the 
 child at her breast.

She wept not, her soul was too tired, for waiting is
 harrowing work,
And then I bethought me and wired away to the
 agents in Bourke;
'Twas little enough I could glean there; 'twas little 
 enough that they knew -
They answered he hadn't been seen there, but might
 in a week, perchance two.
She wept not at all, only whitened with staring too 
 long at the night:
There was only one time when she brightened, that
 time when red dust hove in sight,
And settled and hung on the backs of the cattle, and 
 altered their spots,
While the horses swept up, with their packs of blue
 blankets and jingling pots.
She always was set upon meeting those boisterous
 cattle-men, lest
Her husband had sent her a greeting by one of them,
 in from the West.
Not one of them ever owned to him, or seemed to
 remember the name
(The truth was they all of them knew him, but
 wouldn't tell her of his shame)
But never, though long time she waited, did her faith
 in the faithless grow weak,
And each time the outer door grated, an eager flush
 sprang to her cheek ?

'Twasn't he, and it died with a flicker, and then
 what I had long dreaded came:
I was serving two drovers with liquor when one of 
 them mentioned his name.
"Oh, yes!" said the other one, winking, "on the 
 Paroo I saw him, he'd been 
In Eulo a fortnight then, drinking, and driving
 about with "The Queen"
While the bullocks were going to glory, and his
 billet was not worth a G --- d --- ;?
I told him to cut short the story, as I pulled-to the
 door with a slam -
Too late! for the words were loud-spoken, and Skeeta
 was out in the hall,
Then I knew that a girl's heart was broken, as I
 heard a low cry an