Three Elephant Power and Other Stories
The Downfall of Mulligan's
The sporting men of Mulligan's were an exceedingly knowing lot; in fact, they had
obtained the name amongst their neighbours of being a little bit too knowing. They had
"taken down" the adjoining town in a variety of ways. They were always winning maiden
plates with horses which were shrewdly suspected to be old and well-tried performers in
When the sports of Paddy's Flat unearthed a phenomenal runner in the shape of a
blackfellow called Frying-pan Joe, the Mulligan contingent immediately took the trouble
to discover a blackfellow of their own, and they made a match and won all the Paddy's
Flat money with ridiculous ease; then their blackfellow turned out to be a well-known
Sydney performer. They had a man who could fight, a man who could be backed to jump
five-feet-ten, a man who could kill eight pigeons out of nine at thirty yards, a man who
could make a break of fifty or so at billiards if he tried; they could all drink, and they all
had that indefinite look of infinite wisdom and conscious superiority which belongs only
to those who know something about horseflesh.
They knew a great many things never learnt at Sunday-school. They were experts at cards
and dice. They would go to immense trouble to work off any small swindle in the
sporting line. In short the general consensus of opinion was that they were a very "fly"
crowd at Mulligan's, and if you went there you wanted to "keep your eyes skinned" or
they'd "have" you over a threepenny-bit.
There were races at Sydney one Christmas, and a select band of the Mulligan sportsmen
were going down to them. They were in high feather, having just won a lot of money
from a young Englishman at pigeon-shooting, by the simple method of slipping blank
cartridges into his gun when he wasn't looking, and then backing the bird.
They intended to make a fortune out of the Sydney people, and admirers who came to see
them off only asked them as a favour to leave money enough in Sydney to make it worth
while for another detachment to go down later on. Just as the train was departing a priest
came running on to the platform, and was bundled into the carriage where our Mulligan
friends were; the door was slammed to, and away they went. His Reverence was hot and
perspiring, and for a few minutes mopped himself with a handkerchief, while the silence
was unbroken except by the rattle of the train.
After a while one of the Mulligan fraternity got out a pack of cards and proposed a game
to while away the time. There was a young squatter in the carriage who looked as if he
might be induced to lose a few pounds, and the sportsmen thought they would be
neglecting their opportunities if they did not try to "get a bit to go on with" from him. He
agreed to play, and, just as a matter of courtesy, they asked the priest whether he would
take a hand.
"What game d'ye play?" he asked, in a melodious brogue.