Page:While the Billy Boils, 1913.djvu/349

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The chaps in the bar of Stiffner's Shanty were talking about Macquarie, an absent shearer,―who seemed, from their conversation, to be better known than liked by them.

'I ain't seen Macquarie for ever so long,' remarked Box-o'-Tricks, after a pause. 'Wonder where he could 'a' got to?'

'Gaol, p'r'aps―or hell,' growled Barcoo. 'He ain't much loss, any road.'

'My oath, yer right, Barcoo!' interposed 'Sally' Thompson. 'But, now I come to think of it, Old Awful Example there was a mate of his one time. Bless'd if the old soaker ain't comin' to life again!'

A shaky, rag-and-dirt-covered framework of a big man rose uncertainly from a corner of the room, and, staggering forward, brushed the staring thatch back from his forehead with one hand, reached blindly for the edge of the bar with the other, and drooped heavily.

'Well, Awful Example,' demanded the shanty-keeper. 'What's up with you now?'

The drunkard lifted his head and glared wildly round with bloodshot eyes.