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Kitty McCrae - A Galloping Rhyme

The Western sun, ere he sought his lair,
  Skimm’d the treetops, and glancing thence,
Rested awhile on the curling hair
  Of Kitty McCrae, by the boundary fence;
Her eyes looked anxious, her cheeks were pale,
For father was two hours late with the mail.

Never before had he been so late,
  And Kitty wondered and wished him back,
Leaning athwart the big swing gate
  That opens out on the bridle-track,
A tortuous path that sidled down
From the single street of a mining town.

With her raven curls and her saucy smile,
  Brown eyes that glow with a changeful light,
Tenderly trembling all the while
  Like a brace of stars on the breast of night,
Where could you find in the light of day
A bonnier lassie than Kitty McCrae?

Born in the saddle, this girl could ride
  Like the fearless queen of the silver bow;
And nothing that ever was lapped in hide
  Could frighten Kitty McCrae, I trow.
She would wheel a mob in the hour of need
If the Devil himself were in the lead.

But now, in the shadows’ deepening
  When the last sun-spark had ceas’d to burn,
Afar she catches the sullen ring
  Of horse-hoofs swinging around the turn,
Then painfully down the narrow trail
Comes Alex McCrae with the Greytown mail.

"The fever-and-ague, my girl," he said,
  "'Twas all I got on that northern trip,
When it left me then I was well-nigh dead,
Has got me fast in its iron grip;
And I'd rather rot in the nearest gaol
Than ride to-night with the Greytown mail.

"At Golden Gully they heard to-day -
  'Twas a common topic about the town -
That the Mulligan gang were around this way,
  So they wouldn't despatch the gold-dust down,
And Brown, the manager, said he thought
'Twere wise to wait for a strong escort.

"I rode the leaders, the other nags
  I left with the coach at the “Travellers' Rest”.
Kitty, my lass, you must take the bags -
  Postboy, I reckon's about the best;
'Tis dark, I know, but he'll never fail
To take you down with the Greytown mail."

It needed no further voice to urge
  This dutiful daughter to eager haste;
She donned the habit, of rough blue serge,
  That hung in folds from her slender waist,
And Postboy stood by the stockyard rail,
While she mounted behind the Greytown mail.

Dark points, the rest of him iron-grey,
  Boasting no strain of expensive blood,
Down steepest hill he could pick his way,
  And never was baulked by a winter flood -
Strong as a lion, hard as a nail,
Was the horse that carried the Greytown mail;

A nag that really seemed to be
  Fit for a hundred miles at a push,
With the old Manaro pedigree,
  By “Furious Rising,” out of “The Bush,”
Run in when a colt from a mountain mob
By Brian O'Flynn and Dusty Bob.

And Postboy's bosom was filled with pride
  As he felt the form of his mistress sway,
In its easy grace, to his swinging stride
  As he dashed along down the narrow way.
No prettier Mercury, I'll go bail,
Than Kitty ere carried a Guv’nment mail.

Leaving the edge of O'Connor's Hill,
  They merrily scattered the drops of dew
In the spanning of many a tiny rill,
  Whose bubbling waters were hid from view:
In quick-step time to the curlew's wail
Rode Kitty McCrae, with the Greytown mail.

Sidling the Range, by a narrow path
  Where towering mountain ash-trees grow,
And a slip meant more than an icy bath
  In the tumbling waters that foamed below;
Through the white fog, filling each silent vale,
Rode Kitty McCrae, with the Greytown mail.

The forest shadows became less dense,
  They fairly flew down the river fall,
As out from the shade of an old brush-fence
  Stepped three armed men with a sudden call,
Sharp and stern came the well-known hail:
"Stand! for we want the Greytown mail!"

Postboy swerved with a mighty bound,
  As an outlaw clung to his bridle rein,
A hoof-stroke flattened him on the ground
  With a curse that was half a cry of pain,
While Kitty, trembling and rathe
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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