Over the Sliprails
The Selector's Daughter
She rode slowly down the steep siding from the main road to a track in the bed of the
Long Gully, the old grey horse picking his way zig-zag fashion. She was about
seventeen, slight in figure, and had a pretty freckled face with a pathetically drooping
mouth, and big sad brown eyes. She wore a faded print dress, with an old black riding
skirt drawn over it, and her head was hidden in one of those ugly, old-fashioned white
hoods, which, seen from the rear, always suggest an old woman. She carried several
parcels of groceries strapped to the front of the dilapidated side-saddle.
The track skirted a chain of rocky waterholes at the foot of the gully, and the girl glanced
nervously at these ghastly, evil-looking pools as she passed them by. The sun had set, as
far as Long Gully was concerned. The old horse carefully followed a rough bridle track,
which ran up the gully now on one side of the watercourse and now on the other; the
gully grew deeper and darker, and its sullen, scrub-covered sides rose more steeply as he
The girl glanced round frequently, as though afraid of someone following her. Once she
drew rein, and listened to some bush sound. "Kangaroos," she murmured; it was only
kangaroos. She crossed a dimmed little clearing where a farm had been, and entered a
thick scrub of box and stringy-bark saplings. Suddenly with a heavy thud, thud, an "old
man" kangaroo leapt the path in front, startling the girl fearfully, and went up the siding
towards the peak.
"Oh, my God!" she gasped, with her hand on her heart.
She was very nervous this evening; her heart was hurt now, and she held her hand close
to it, while tears started from her eyes and glistened in the light of the moon, which was
rising over the gap ahead.
"Oh, if I could only go away from the bush!" she moaned.
The old horse plodded on, and now and then shook his head -- sadly, it seemed -- as if he
knew her troubles and was sorry.
She passed another clearing, and presently came to a small homestead in a stringy-bark
hollow below a great gap in the ridges -- "Deadman's Gap". The place was called
"Deadman's Hollow", and looked like it. The "house" -- a low, two-roomed affair, with
skillions -- was built of half-round slabs and stringy-bark, and was nearly all roof; the
bark, being darkened from recent rain, gave it a drearier appearance than usual.