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Billy, 1 February 1904
PHEN Billy was a kid he was as q.uiet and wellbehaved a little chap as you could imagine, which, was a wonder when you come to consider that he had been caught wild, still, of course, he was very small then, only a few days old in fact, which was too tender an age to show much bad behaviour. His mother had been sjiot during a hunting trip, and it was not until after the fatal shot had been fired that 'Billy was discovered, lying snugly hidden away under a manuka bush. He looked such a pretty, wee chap, with his silky black and white coat, brown eyes, and four littlei pointed black hoofs terminating, his slender legs,, that we took compassion on him, and taking it in turns to carry him, conveyed him safely through the broken bush country to our camp on the sea coast. Here we kept him snugly enough until the time came to break up camp, feeding him the while on the milk supply which we received daily from the nearest homestead.- The way he
grew was truly surprising, you could almost see him sprout. Every time the billy of milk arrived, tie frisked round and wagged his tail so fast that it looked just like a white blur. Then, when he got his head down into it, he would keep going for all he was worth, his little lagsquivering with the joy of it, and his sides swelling visibly, until they rounded out hard for all the world like an inflated football. But it was after he had finished his feed that the fun began, he would get so frisky and lively that there w,&s jio holding him. First he would put down his head like a professional old fighter, and charge around amongst us indiscriminately, until he persuaded us to get down on our hands and knees and play with him. It was great sport for us, but the dogs didn't half like it. It was the fun of the world to see old Rajah, our champion pig-dog, back away with his tail down, looking most disgusted, whenever the little chap made a playful prod at him. The big half-mastiff Jack, too, the dog that had done more goat-hunting than any of . them, used to disappear quietly during the progress of the meal, and stow himself away in
one of the tents, lie couldn't stand such foolishness at any price, it was beneath his dignity altogether. The only one of our kuris that didn't mind much,, was the curly old spaniel Rip Van Winkle ; he took the matter in a proper spirit, and seemed to look upon it all as a huge joke. He< would allow our little pet to chase him till further orders, but he knew enough never to let him quite catch up. He would streak around the camp with his 'big ears flapping wildly, and the little chap bounding after him at a great pace ; then as soon as the kid began to gain on him, the wily old dog would double swiftly with a terrifying growl that would make the little fellow jump four feet in the air. Then back round the other way they would go as if their lives depended on it, repeating the game until the kid got tired of it and lay down. When the day came at last for us to strike camp, we decided to take our pet home with us, and bring him up in civilization. We had no trouble getting him along to the bay where the steamer' called, for the little chap followed us like one of the dogs, trotting along as prettily as a young fawn, and he was : undoubtedly the hero of the hour when we boarded the steamer for our trip- home across the harbour. We took him up on the promenade deck among the women and the children, and there he frisked around to his heart's content. But he nearly, frightened: one old lady into hysterics with his antics. tShe was sitting back in a deck-chair, deep in her book, when young Billy, no doubt mistaking the green stuff that she had in her bonnet for something edible, bounded lightly from the deck to her knees, and seizing hold of the green trimming, dragged her bonnet down over her ejyes. The poor old lady thinking, no doubt, that the funnel 'had collapsled and fallen upon her, let out a scream ■like a steam whistle, at which Billy fled for ihis life, leaving; the old dame speechless, with fright, to the care of her friends, who brought her
round with a liberal application of smelling salts and water. Barring, this little disturbance a.nd a thrill- 1 ing encounter with the ship's cat,, commenced in play but ending otherwise, we got him across safely enough, and landing on the wharf,, inarched him off amid a fast increasing crowd of juvenile admirers.
When we got him fairly settled at homo with a neat little shed to camp in at night, and plenty' of room to roam around during the day, he was as happy as the oftquoted Larry. In the paddock where we kept him were some low konini trees, and up these he used to shin like lightning whenever the humour for climbing seemed to strike him. Talk about a goat's sure-footedness, it was no name for his performances, he'd stand on a branch where you wouldn't think there was foothold for a rat, and browse away on the leaves quite* calmly with a thirty-foot drop straight under him. He never slipped that we ever noticed, and we used to watch hi;m pretty closely in those days.
It wes in his second year, however, that Billy first took to roaming about much. Sometimes he managed to get out on the main road, and trie youngsters coming home from school used to pet him and play with him. Not content with this some of the boys began to tease him, and it was this that finally led to his undoing. He took it in good part for a time, then the constant worrying and teasing of thsser yotrng-sters spoilt, his temper, and he started chasing them in retaliation.
Often enough you would see him. bowl a youngster over in the dust, and stand over him until the other boys tempted him of? after them, then he would be kept going, first treeing, one boy, then chasitng another through a fence, and all the while the rest of the young reprobates, (perched safely out of dangeron the. top of the road cutting, or on the far side of a fence, would be
heaving rocks and all manner of missiles at him.
After a while the neighbours round about began to interview us. They complained that he had frightened their children so that they could not induce them to go to school, and we perceived that there was trouble ahead for our pet.
We tried shutting him up in the yard after this, but he pined so much in close quarters, that we had to give him the run of the paddock to keep up his spirits. By this time he was a fine-grown, handsome, young Billy, with quite a formidable pair of horns ; and as soon as he discovered the full use of these ornaments there was no holding him.
The first time that he made effective use of his new weapons was ono day when the baker was on his rounds. Billy was feeding quietly in the paddock when the man got through the rails, and made for the back door ; but as soon as he observed that the baker was well away from any cover he ceased his peaceful occupation, and arching his neck aggresively, gave vent to a defiant bleat, and bore down on the hapless tradesman like a shot out of a gun. That worthy, recognising his danger, started off on a record sprint for the house, but long before he reached it a sudden terrific shock in the rear sent him headlong to earth, amid a shower of crispbrown loaves. Sadly shaken and blown, he staggered to his feet, when Billy, with the light of victory in his eye, made for him again.
This time, however, the man had his wits about him> and met Master Billy fair on the tip of the nose with the toe of his boot. The shock was so sudden and unexpected, that Billy had all the fight taken out of him in one act, and retired slowly across the field, bleating in a heartbroken manner.
As for the baker, after ruefully gathering up his scattered loaves, he came limping heavily across to the back door, groaning at every step,
and declaring in gasps that his back was broken.
He handed in the bread to the girl in angry silence, and. then making, his way round to the front of thei house, declared in a loud voice his solemn intention of (( having the law on us for keeping a savage beast on the premises.''' It took the united efforts of the whole household, and a liberal presentation in hard cash, to deter him from performing this uncharitable action. Finally, however, his injured dignity was somewhat appeased by our promises to keep the savage beast under proper control in the future, and he retired still limping to his carty keeping a sharp look out en route for the enemy, who fortunately,was too busy cooling his inflamed nose in the long grass to notice him.
For a full week after this, Billy did penance in his yard, always appearing ■ very meek and docile when approached by any member of the family. Then he began- to go off his feed, and thinking that perhaps he had by this time seen the error of his ways, we let him out for a run every afternoon. He quickly recovered his spirits, and lor a time became a quiet, respectable member of society once more. Then all of a sudden, for apparently no reason whatever, he took it into his head one fine afternoon to revert to his old bad practices. The girl had gone out to the drying ground to fetch in the clothes, and was busy unpegging them from the line. At one end the clothes-line was tied pretty high up on the trunk of an old gum tree, and here the girl had to climb on to an up-ended kerosene; box in order to reach the ,pegs. It was while balancing herself in this
precarious position that she attracted the notice of Billy. Be took in the situation \at a glance, and was utterly unable to resist the tempting opportunity, so suddenly risingr on his llind legs, and giving out his war cry, he Ibore down on the helpless girl like a destroying avalanche. With a miighty crash hisr
head struck the box fair in the middle, knocking it into a cocked hat, and the girl, grabbing, wildly into space, luckily caught hold of the clothes-line where she hung dangling, and screamed frantically for help. A rescue party, sallied hastily forth from the house, and arriving on the scene just as her strength was. giving,, out, succeeded in putting the enemy to rout before he could make a fresh attack. That day the girl gave us notice that she would leave unless we immediately got rid of the goat, so with heavy
hearts we once more placed the offender under lock and key, until we could settle on some, /place to which to exile him, where, he would be effectually out of the reach of temptation. The very next day, however, Billy, settled matters for himself by managing to escape from the yard. Wandering up to the house, fury filled his eye as he discovered the kitchen door open, and inside at the table the hated figure of the girl busy among her cooking utensils. This was too much, the balance of
Billy's equilibrium was completely upset. Racking silently off, lie got steam up, and raising his bit of a tail defiantly erect, he came in iihrough the door with a terrific rush. He caught the girl jusit behind the knees with a bang that sent her feet flying from under her. Down she came crash on her back, over went the talble with thef shock of the impact, holus 'bolus, whilst pots and pans flew in all directions with a clatter calculated to rouse the seven sleepers.
I think that Billy himself --was considerably appalled at the magnitude of the disaster,- for in his intense anxiety to escape, he mistook the window for an open doorway, and leapt clean through it with a second mighty crash of tjreaking glass that brought the whole household rushing to, the scene of action in the greatest consternation.
The fir sit sight, that met our\ eyes was the poor girl weeping hysterically amid the ruins of the table and the kitchen crockery which it contained, the large double-paned Mtchen-window had been shattered from frame to frame, and the. general wrack and ruin was apaliing. It was not without a feeling of genuine pain, that we took down the Winchester carbines,, and loaded them. There was nothing else for it, our pet was outlawed, and an outlaw he died ere the day was many hours older. Whenever we relate the famous Billy's exploits now, we take our listeners intoi the front hall, and point with mingled feelings of sorrow and pride to a magnificent black and white rug that adorns the floor. That is all thati now remains of our erstwhile handsome pet. Poor Billy !
Billy, 1 February 1904
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