B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

Grif. A story of Australian life online

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GRIF ***

Produced by Transcribed by Charles Bowen from page images
provided by the Web
(University of California Libraries)

Transcriber's Notes:
1. Page scan source:
(University of California Libraries)
2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe]; the letter "i"
with a macron by [=i], and the letter "e" with a macron by [=e].



* * * * *
In Crown 8vo, handsome cloth gilt.
* * * * *

GRIF. An Australian Story. 3s. 6d.
AARON THE JEW. 3s. 6d.

* * * * *


A Story of Australian Life







* * * *

I. _Grif related some of his experiences_.

II. _Husband and Wife_.

III. _Grif loses a friend_.

IV. _The Conjugal Nuttalls_.

V. _The Moral Merchant entertains his friends at dinner_.

VI. _Father and Daughter_.

VII. _Grif promises to be honest_.

VIII. _Grif is set up in life as a moral shoeblack_.

IX. _A Banquet is given to the Moral Merchant_.

X. _On the road to El Dorado_.

XI. _Welsh Tom_.

XII. _The new rush_.

XIII. _Old Flick_.

XIV. _Little Peter is provided for_.

XV. _A hot day in Melbourne_.

XVI. _Poor Milly_.

XVII. _Bad luck_.

XVIII. _Honest Steve_.

XIX. _The Welshman reads his last chapter in the old Welsh

XX. _The tender-hearted Oysterman traps his game_.

XXI. _The Moral Merchant calls a meeting of his creditors_.

XXII. _Alice and Grif meet friends upon the road_.

XXIII. _The story of Silver-headed Jack_.

XXIV. _Mrs. Nicholas Nuttall takes possession_.

XXV. _Mrs. Nicholas Nuttall receives visitors_.

XXVI. _A night of adventures_.

XXVII. _Grif bears false witness_.





In one of the most thickly populated parts of Melbourne city, where
poverty and vice struggle for breathing space, and where narrow lanes
and filthy thoroughfares jostle each other savagely, there stood,
surrounded by a hundred miserable hovels, a gloomy house, which might
have been likened to a sullen tyrant, frowning down a crowd of abject,
poverty-stricken slaves. From its appearance it might have been built
a century ago; decay and rottenness were apparent from roof to base:
but in reality it was barely a dozen years old. It had lived a wicked
and depraved life, had this house, which might account for its
premature decay. It looked like a hoary old sinner, and in every
wrinkle of its weather-board casing was hidden a story which would
make respectability shudder. There are, in every large city,
dilapidated or decayed houses of this description, which we avoid or
pass by quickly, as we do drunken men in the streets.

In one of the apartments of this house, on a dismally wet night, were
two inmates, crouched before a fire as miserable as the night. A deal
table, whose face and legs bore the marks of much rough usage; a tin
candlestick containing a middle-aged tallow candle, the yellow light
from which flickered sullenly, as if it were weary of its life and
wanted to be done with it; a three-legged stool; and a wretched
mattress, which was hiding itself in a corner, with a kind of
shamefaced consciousness that it had no business to be where it
was: - comprised all the furniture of the room. The gloominess of the
apartment and the meanness of the furniture were in keeping with one
another, and both were in keeping with the night, which sighed and
moaned and wept without; while down the rickety chimney the wind
whistled as if in mockery, and the rain-drops fell upon the embers,
hissing damp misery into the eyes of the two human beings who sat
before the fire, bearing their burden quietly, if not patiently.

They were a strange couple. The one, a fair young girl, with a face so
mild and sweet, that the beholder, looking upon it when in repose,
felt gladdened by the sight. A sweet, fair young face; a face to love.
A look of sadness was in her dark brown eyes, and on the fringes,
which half-veiled their beauty, were traces of tears. The other, a
stunted, ragged boy, with pockmarked face, with bold and brazen eyes,
with a vicious smile too often playing about his lips. His hand was
supporting his cheek; hers was lying idly upon her knee. The fitful
glare of the scanty fire threw light upon both: and to look upon the
one, so small and white, with the blue veins so delicately traced; and
upon the other, so rough and horny, with every sinew speaking of
muscular strength, made one wonder by what mystery of life the two had
come into companionship. Yet, strange as was the contrast, there they
sat, she upon the stool, he upon the ground, as if they were
accustomed to each other's society. Wrapt in her thoughts the girl
sat, quiet and motionless, gazing into the fire. What shades of
expression passed across her face were of a melancholy nature; the
weavings of her fancy in the fitful glare brought nothing of pleasure
to her mind. Not far into the past could she look, for she was barely
nineteen years of age; but brief as must have been her experience of
life's troubles, it was bitter enough to sadden her eyes with tears,
and to cause her to quiver as if she were in pain. The boy's thoughts
were not of himself; they were of her, as was proven by his peering up
at her face anxiously every few moments in silence. That he met with
no responsive look evidently troubled him; he threw unquiet glances at
her furtively, and then he plucked her gently by the sleeve. Finding
that this did not attract her attention, he shifted himself uneasily
upon his seat, and in a hoarse voice, called, -


"Yes," she replied vacantly, as if she were answering the voice of her

"What are you thinkin' of, Ally?"

"I am thinking of my life," she answered, dreamily and softly, without
raising her eyes. "I am trying to see the end of it."

The boy's eyes followed the direction of her wistful gaze.

"Blest if I don't think she can see it in the fire!" he said, under
his breath. "I can't see nothin'." And then he exclaimed aloud,
"What's the use of botherin'? Thinkin' won't alter it."

"So it seems," she said, sadly; "my head aches with the whirl."

"You oughtn't to be unhappy, Ally; you're very good-looking and very

"Yes, I am very young," she sighed. "How old are you, Grif?"

"Blest if I know," Grif replied, with a grin. "I ain't agoin' to
bother! I'm old enough, I am!"

"Do you remember your father, Grif?"

"Don't I! He was a rum 'un, he was. Usen't he to wallop us, neither!"

Lost in the recollection, Grif rubbed his back, sympathetically.

"And your mother?" asked the girl.

"Never seed her," he replied, shortly.

Thereafter they fell into silence for a while. But the boy's memory
had been stirred by her questions, and he presently spoke again:

"You see, Ally, father is a ticket-of-leave man, and a orfle bad un he
is! I don't know what he was sent out for, but it must have been
somethin' very desperate, for I've heerd him say so. He was worse nor
me - oh, ever so much; but then, of course," he added, apologetically,
as if it were to his discredit that he was not so bad as his convict
parent, "he was a sight older. And as for lush - my eye! he could lush,
could father! Well, when he was pretty well screwed, he used to lay
into us, Dick and me, and kick us out of the house. Dick was my
brother. Then Dick and me used to fight, for Dick wanted to lay into
me too, and I wasn't goin' to stand that. We got precious little to
eat, Dick and me; when we couldn't get nothin' to eat at home, we went
out and took it. And one day I was trotted up afore the beak, for
takin' a pie out of a confetchoner's. They didn't get the pie, though;
I eat that. The beak he give me a week for that pie, and wasn't I
precious pleased at it! It was the first time I'd ever been in quod,
and I was sorry when they turned me out, for all that week I got
enough to eat and drink. I arksed the cove to let me stop in another
week, so that I might be reformed, as the beak sed, but he only larfed
at me, and turned me out. When I got home, father he ses, 'Where have
you been, Grif?' And I tells him, I've been to quod. 'What for?' he
arks. 'For takin' a pie,' I ses. Blest if I didn't get the worst
wallopin' I ever had! 'You've been and disgraced your family,' he sed;
'git out of my sight, you warmint; _I_ was never in quod for stealin'
a pie!' And with that he shied a bottle at my 'ead. I caught it, but
there was nothin' in it! I was very savage for that wallopin'! 'What's
disgrace to one's family,' thought I, 'when a cove want's grub?' I was
awful hungry, as well as savage; so I made for the confetchoner's and
took another pie. I bolted the pie quick, for I knew they would be
down on me; and I was trotted up afore the beak agin, and he give me a
month. Wasn't I jolly glad! When I come out of quod, father had cut
off to the gold-diggins; and as I wanted to get into quod agin, I went
to the confetchoner's, and took another pie. The beak, wasn't he
flabbergasted! 'What!' he ses, 'have you been and stole another pie!'
and then he looks so puzzled that I couldn't help larfin'. 'What do
you go and do it for?' ses he. 'Cos I'm hungry, your washup,' ses I.
But the beak didn't seem to think nothin' of that; the missus of the
shop, she ses, 'Pore boy!' and wanted him to let me off; but he
wouldn't, and I wasn't sorry for it. I was five times in quod for
takin' pies out of that confetchoner's shop. Next time I was nabbed,
though. The old woman she knew I was jist come out, so she hides
herself behind the door; and when I cuts in to git my pie, she comes
out quick, and ketches 'old of me by the scruff. 'You little warmint,'
she ses; 'you shan't wear my life out in this here way! Five times
have I been before that blessed magerstrate, who ain't got no more
heart than a pump! I wouldn't go,' she ses, keepin' hold of my collar,
and looking me 'ard in the face - 'I wouldn't go, but the ploesemen
they make me. I ain't goin' agin, that I'm determined on. Here! Here's
a pie for you!' and she 'olds out a big un. 'That's a rum start,' I
thort, as I looked at the pie in her hand. 'It won't do, though. If I
take her pie in a honest way, where's my blanket to come from?' But
the old woman looked so worried, that I thort I'd make her a offer.
'If I take your pie, missus,' I ses, 'will you let me sleep under the
counter?' 'What do you mean?' she ses. Then I tells her that it's no
use her givin' me a pie, for I hadn't no place to sleep in; and that
she'd better let me take one while she looked another way. 'When I've
eat it,' I ses, 'I'll cough, very loud, and then you turn round as if
you was surprised to see me, and give me in charge of a peeler.'
'What'll be the good of that?' she arks. 'Don't you see?' I ses. 'Then
I shall have the pie, and I shall get my blanket at the lock-up as
well!' She wasn't a bad un, by no manner of means. 'My pore boy,' she
ses, 'here's the pie, and here's a shillin'. Don't steal no more pies,
or you'll break my 'art. You shall have a shillin' a week if you'll
promise not to worry me, and whenever you want a pie I'll give you one
if you arks for it.' Well, you see, Ally, I thort that was a fair
offer, so I ses, 'Done!' and I took my pie and my shillin'. I don't
worry her more than I can help," said Grif; "when I'm very hungry I go
to the shop. She's a good old sort, she is; and I gets my shillin' a
week reglar."

"And have you not heard of your father since he went away?" asked the

"No, 'cept once I was told permiskusly that he was cut tin' some rum
capers up the country. They did say he was a bush-ranging, but I ain't
agoin' to bother. I was brought up very queer, I was; not like other
coves. Father he never give us no eddication; perhaps he didn't have
none to give. But he might have give us grub when we wanted it."

"Yours is a hard life, Grif," the girl said, pityingly.

"Yes, it is 'ard, precious 'ard, specially when a cove can't get
enough to eat. But I s'pose it's all right. What's the use of
botherin'? I wonder," he continued, musingly, "where the rich coves
gets all their money from? If I was a swell, and had lots of tin, I'd
give a pore chap like me a bob now and then. But they're orfle stingy,
Ally, is the swells; they don't give nothin' away for nothin'. When I
was in quod, a preacher chap comes and preaches to me. He sets hisself
down upon the bench, and reads somethin' out of a book - a Bible, you
know - and after he'd preached for arf an hour, he ses, 'What do you
think of that, 'nighted boy?' 'It's very good,' I ses, 'but I can't
eat it.' 'Put your trust above,' he ses. 'But s'pose all the grub is
down here?' ses I. 'I can't go up there and fetch it.' Then he groans,
and tells me a story about a infant who was found in the bulrushes,
after it had been deserted, and I ups and tells him that I've been
deserted, and why don't somebody come and take _me_ out of the
bulrushes! Wasn't he puzzled, neither!" Grif chuckled, and then,
encouraged by his companion's silence, resumed, -

"He come agin, did the preacher cove, afore I was let out, and he
preaches a preach about charity. 'Don't steal no more,' he ses, 'or
your sole 'll go to morchal perdition. Men is charitable and good;
jist you try 'em, and give up your evil courses.' 'How can I help my
evil courses?' I ses. 'I only wants my grub and a blanket, and I can't
get 'em no other way.' 'You can, young sinner, you can,' he ses. 'Jist
you try, and see if you can't.' He spoke so earnest-like, and the
tears was a runnin' down his face so hard, that I promised him I'd
try. So when I gets out of quod, I thort, I'll see now if the preacher
cove is right. I waited till I was hungry, and couldn't get nothin' to
eat, without stealin' it. I could have took a trotter, for the
trotter-man was a-drinkin' at a public-house bar, and his barsket was
on a bench; but I wouldn't. No; I goes straight to the swell streets,
and there I sees the swells a-walkin' up and down, and liftin' their
'ats, and smilin' at the gals. They was a rare nice lot of gals, and
looked as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths; but there wasn't
one in all the lot as nice as you are, Ally! I didn't have courage at
first to speak to the swells, but when I did, send I may live! they
started back as if I was a mad dawg. 'You be awf,' they ses, 'or
you'll be guv in charge.' What could a pore beggar like me do, after
that? I dodged about, very sorry I didn't take the trotter, when who
should I see coming along but the preacher chap. 'Here's a slant!' ses
I to myself. 'He's charitable and good, he is, and 'll give me
somethin' in a minute. He had a lady on his arm, and they both looked
very grand. But when I went up to him he starts back too, and ses,
'Begawn, young reperrerbate!' When I heerd that, I sed, 'Charity be
blowed!' and I goes and finds out the trotter-man, and takes two
trotters, and no one knows nothin' about it."

Before he had finished his story, the girl's thoughts had wandered
again. A heavy step in the adjoining apartment roused her.

"Who is that?"

"That's Jim Pizey's foot," replied the boy; "they're up to some deep
game, they are. They was at it last night."

"Did you hear them talking about it, Grif?" she asked, earnestly.

"A good part of the time I was arf asleep, and a good part of the time
I made game that I was asleep. I heerd enough to know that they're up
to somethin' precious deep and dangerous. But, I say, Ally, you won't
peach, will you? I should get my neck broke if they was to know that I

"Don't fear me, Grif," said the girl; "go on."

"Jim Pizey, of course, he was at the 'ead of it, and he did pretty
nearly all the talkin'. The Tenderhearted Oysterman, he put in a word
sometimes, but the others only said yes and no. Jim Pizey, he ses, 'We
can make all our fortunes, mates, in three months, if we're game.
It'll be a jolly life, and I know every track in the country. We can
"stick-up"[1] the gold escort in the Black Forest, and we don't want
to do nothin' more all our lives. Forty thousand ounces of gold,
mates, not a pennyweight less?' Then the Tenderhearted Oysterman ses
he didn't care if there was forty million ounces, he wouldn't have
nothin' to do with it, if Jim wanted to hurt the poor coves. Didn't
they larf at him for sayin' that!"

- - - - - - - - - -

[Footnote 1: "Sticking-up" is an Australian term for burglary and
highway Robbery.]

- - - - - - - - - -

"Is he a kind man, Grif?"

"The Tenderhearted Oysterman, do you mean, Ally?" asked the boy, in

"Yes, is he really tenderhearted?"

"He's the wickedest, cruellest, of all the lot, Ally. They call
him the Tenderhearted Oysterman out of fun. He's always sayin' how
soft-hearted he is, but he would think as much of killin' you and me
as he would of killin' a fly. After that I falls off in a doze, and
presently I hears 'em talkin' agin, between-whiles, like, 'If the
escort's too strong for us,' ses Jim Pizey, 'we can tackle the
squatters' stations. Some of the squatters keeps heaps of money in
their houses.' And then they called over the names of a lot of
stations where the squatters was rich men."

"Did you hear them mention Highlay Station, Grif?" the girl asked,

"Can't say I did, Ally."

The girl gave a sigh of relief.

"Who were there, Grif, while they were talking?"

"There was Jim Pizey, and Ned Rutt, and Black Sam, and the
Tenderhearted Oysterman, and - " but here Grif stopped, suddenly.

"Who else, Grif?" laying her hand upon his arm.

"I was considering Ally," the boy replied, casting a furtive look at
her white face, "if there _was_ anybody else. I was 'arf asleep, you

The girl gazed at him with such distress depicted in her face that
Grif turned his eyes from her, and looked uneasily upon the ground.
For a few moments she seemed as if she feared to speak, and then she
inquired in a voice of pain, -

"Was my husband there, Grif?"

Grif threw one quick, sharp glance upon her, and, as if satisfied with
what he saw, turned away again, and did not reply.

"Was my husband there, Grif," the girl repeated.

Still the boy did not reply. He appeared to be possessed with some
dogged determination not to answer her question.

"Grif," the girl said, in a voice of such tender pleading that the
tears came into the boy's eyes, "Grif, be my friend!"

"Your friend, Ally!" he exclaimed, in amazement, and as he spoke a
thrill of exquisite pleasure quivered through him. "Me! A pore beggar
like me!"

"I have no one else to depend upon - no one else to trust to - no one
else to tell me what I must, yet what I dread to hear. Was my husband
there, Grif?"

"Yes, he was there," the boy returned, reluctantly; "more shame for
him, and you a sittin' here all by yourself. I say, Ally, why don't
you cut away from him? What do you stop here for?"

"Hush! Was he speaking with them about the plots you told me of?"

"No, he was very quiet. They was a tryin' to persuade him to join 'em;
but he wouldn't agree. They tried all sorts of games on him. They
spoke soft, and they spoke hard. They give him lots of lush, too, and
you know, Ally, he _can_ - " but Grif pulled himself up short, dismayed
and remorseful, for his companion had broken into a passionate fit of

"I didn't mean to do it, Ally," he said sorrowfully. "Don't take on
so. I'll never say it agin. I'm a ignorant beast, that's what I am!"
he exclaimed, digging his knuckles into his eyes. "I'm always a
puttin' my foot in it."

"Never mind, Grif," said the girl, sobbing. "Go on. Tell me all you
heard. I _must_ know. Oh, my heart! My heart!" and her tears fell
thick and fast upon his hand.

He waited until she had somewhat recovered herself, and then proceeded
very slowly.

"They was a-tryin' to persuade him to join 'em. They tried all sorts
of dodges, but they was all no go. The Tenderhearted Oysterman, he
comes the tender touch, and ses, 'I'm a soft-hearted cove, you know,
mate, and I wouldn't kill a worm, if I thort I should 'urt him; if
there was any violence a-goin' to be done, I wouldn't be the chap to
have a 'and in it.' 'Then why do you have anythin' to do with it?'
arks your - you know who I mean, Ally? 'Because I think it'll be a
jolly good spree,' ses the Oysterman, 'and because I know we can make
a 'cap of shiners without nobody bein' the worse for it.' But they
couldn't get him to say Yes; and at last Jim Pizey he gets up in a
awful scot, and he ses, 'Look here, mate, we've been and let you in
this here scheme, and we ain't a-goin' to have it blown upon. You make
up your mind very soon to join us, or it will be the worse for you.'"

"And my husband - "

"I didn't hear nothin' more. I fell right off asleep, and when I woke
up they was gone."

"Grif", said the girl, "he must not join in this plot. I _must_ keep
him from crime. He has been unfortunate - led away by bad companions."

"Yes; we're a precious bad lot, we are."

"But his heart is good, Grif," she continued.

"What does he mean by treatin' you like this, then?" interrupted Grif,
indignantly. "You've got no business here, you haven't. You ought to
have a 'ouse of your own, you ought."

"I can't explain; you would not understand. Enough that he is my
husband; it is sufficient that my lot is linked with his, and that
through poverty and disgrace I must be by his side. I can never desert
him while I have life. God grant that I may save him yet!"

The boy was hushed into silence by her solemn earnestness.

"He is weak, Grif, and we are poor. It was otherwise once. Those who
should assist us will not do so, unless I break the holiest tie - and
so we must suffer together."

"I don't see why you should suffer," said Grif, doggedly; "you don't
deserve to suffer, you don't."

"Did you ever have a friend, my poor Grif," the girl said, "whom you
loved, and for whose sake you would have sacrificed even the few
sweets of life you have enjoyed?"

Grif pondered, but being unable to come to any immediate conclusion
upon the point, did not reply.

"It is so with me," Alice continued. "I would sacrifice everything for
him and for his happiness: for I love him! Ah! how I love him! When he
is away from me he loses hope for my sake, not for his own, I know. If
he is weak, I must be strong. It is my duty."

She loved him. Yes. No thought that he might be unworthy of the
sacrifice she had already made for him tainted the purity of her love,
or weakened her sense of duty.

"I've got a dawg, Ally," Grif said, musingly, after a pause. "He ain't
much to look at, but he's very fond of me. Rough is his name. The
games we have together, me and Rough! He's like a brother to me, is
Rough. I often wonder what he can see in me, to be so fond of me - but
then they say dawgs ain't got no sense, and that's a proof of it. But
if he ain't got sense, he got somethin' as good. Pore old Rough! One

Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonGrif. A story of Australian life → online text (page 1 of 27)