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Be- sides, he had an affection for his belching and liairy father, and quite sincerely cried when the blacksmith finally died of the rum bottle and a stroke.
Then, more than at any time, the nostalgia of permanence and the fiend of motion fought inside the boy, right there at the moment when his life was ending and beginning.
The red dog, who had been lying with his nose on his paws, crawled forward on his belly and nuzzled and licked at the wrist of the man, who pushed him away on principle. The cold air flowing sluiced the branches of trees, surged through the standing tnmks, and lay coldly mounting in the gully. In the saucers that pocked the face of stone, water tightened and cracked.
A frosty, bloody hole, complained the man, from out of the half- sleep in which he had become involved, and twitched the bags tighter round his body. He knew that where his cart had stopped, he would stop. He would make the best of this cell in which he had been locked. He was neither a preacher nor a teacher, as his mother had hoped he might still become, almost up to the moment when they put her under the yellow grass at the bend in Willow Creek. He had driven a mob of skeleton sheep, and a mob of chafing, satin cattle; he had sunk a well in solid rock, and built a house, and killed a pig; he had weighed out the sugar in a country store, and cobbled shoes, and ground knives.
Already the walls of their wooden house were being folded back.
The pepper tree invaded his pillow, and the dust of the road was at his feet.
In the streets of towns the open windows, on the dusty roads the rooted trees, filled him with the melancholy longing for permanence. Ah, here, the sun said, and the persistent flics, is the peace of permanence; all these shapes arc known, act opens out of act, the days are continuous.
There was the young man her son, for instance, who now lay with his head on a horse’s collar, beside his bit of a fire, the son had thrown off the lid.
These were the dominant trees in that part of the bush, rising above the in- volved scrub with the simplicity of true grandeur. Then the man took an axe and struck at the side of a hairy tree, more to hear the sound than for any other reason. I'he man struck the tree, and struck, till several wliitc chips had fn lien. More quickly then, as if deliberately breaking with a dream, he took the harness from the horse, leaving a black pattern of sweat. In that light of late evening, tinder the wliite sky, the black limbs of trees, the black and brooding scrub, were being folded into one. And inside the circle of its light the man’s face was unconcerned as he rubbed tobacco in the palms of his hard hands, a square of tinkling paper stuck to his lower lip. In the light of the fire the bristles of his muzzle glistened. She con- tinued because, apart from the story, literature brought with it a kind of gentility for which slie craved. So Miss Noakes had become Mrs Parker, became idso, in a way, more frightened than before.
So die cart stopped, grazing the hairy side of a tree, and the horse, shaggy and stolid as the tree, sighed and took root. He rubbed his hands to- gether, because already it was cold, a curdle of cold cloud in a pale sky, and copper in the west. As the man rubbed his hands, the friction of cold skin intensified the coldness of the air and the solitude of that place. He hobbled the strong fetlocks of the cobby little horse and stuck the nosebag on his bald face. Because he had 9 nothing to hide, he did perhaps appear to have forfeited a little of his strength. ‘Stan,’ said his mother once, ‘you must promise to love God, and never to touch a drop.’ ‘Yes,* said the boy, for he had had experience of neither, and the sun was in his eyes.
Birds looked from twigs, and the eyes of animals were drawn to what was happening. The man made a lean-to with bags and a few saplings. He sighed at last, because the lighting of his smdl fire had kmdled in him the first warmth of content. That particular part of the bush had been made his by the entwining fire. By this time also die red dog had come and sat at the fire, near, though not beside the man, who was not intimate with his animals. It was enough for them to be there, at a decent distance. His face had grown sharp with attention, and with a longing for food, for the tucker box that had not yet been lifted from the cart. Hunger had caused him to place his paws delicately. In the drowsy bosom of the fire that he had made the young man remembered his parents and his mother’s (jod, who was a pale-blue gentleness.
His yellow eyes consumed the man in the interval before meat. He had tried to see her God, in actual feature, but he had not.