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First in the Field A Story of New South Wales   By: (1831-1909)

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First in the Field, by George Manville Fenn.

Here we have another Manville Fenn book, full of realistic characters who get into positions of great suspense the usual formula for this excellent author.

The time of the story is the early part of the nineteenth century, and the place is, for most of the book, a sheep and cattle station in New South Wales. The owner is a former Doctor who had practised in London, and who had driven himself to illness with his work: the only possibility for him was a new outdoor life. There are various people working on the farm, including three "tame" aborigines; old Samson, full of wisdom; Brookes, a younger farm servant; and Mayne, known as Leather, who is a convict whose good behaviour so far has meant that he can be trusted to work on a farm. There are also Mrs Braydon, and Nic's two sisters, Nic being the protagonist of the story.

Nic, who had been left behind aged ten in an English suburban boarding school, is collected from there when he was fifteen, and brought out to Australia on the Northumbrian, an East Indiaman. After an "uneventful" voyage, they arrive in Sydney. The main part of the book concerns the doings of Nic and the farm workers on The Bluff, along with some upsetting interventions from the man farming a nearby sheep and cattle station, The Wattles.

As always, a dramatic story, well worth reading or listening to. NH




"I say, don't, Green: let the poor things alone!"

"You mind your own business. Oh! bother the old thorns!"

Brian Green snatched his hand out of the quickset hedge into which he had thrust it, to reach the rough outside of a nest built by a bird, evidently in the belief that the hawthorn leaves would hide it from sight, and while they were growing the thorns would protect it from mischievous hands.

But the leaves opened out slowly that cold spring, and a party of boys from Dr Dunham's school, the Friary, Broadhurst, Kent, was not long in spying out the unlucky parents' attempt at house building and nursery. Still, the thorns did their duty to some extent when Brian Green of the red head leaped across the big dry ditch, rudely crushing a great clump of primroses and forcing them down the slope, for when the freckled faced lad thrust his hand in to grasp the nest a sharp prick made him withdraw it, while this action brought it in contact with a natural chevaux de frise , scarified the back, and made a long scratch on his thumb.

"I wish you'd keep your tongue inside your teeth, Nic Braydon!" cried the boy fiercely. "You won't be happy till I've given you another licking. Look here what you've made me do!"

"I didn't make you do it," said the first speaker. "Why don't you let the birds alone?"

"Because, if you please, Miss Braydon," said the bigger lad mincingly, "I'm not so good as you are. Oh dear, no! I'm going to take that nest of young blackbirds because I want them to bring up and keep in a cage. I'm going to transport them to the shed in the playground."

The first boy winced sharply at his companion's words, and the four lads present burst into a derisive laugh at his annoyance; but he smothered it down, and said quietly: "Then you may as well leave them alone, for they're not blackbirds."

"Yes, they are, stoopid."

"No, they're not."

"How do you know?"

"Because I found the nest when it was first built, and saw the eggs and the old bird sitting."

"Oh, that's it, is it? Oh, I say, isn't he a nice, good little boy? He doesn't want me to take the young birds because he wants to steal them himself."

The others laughed in their thoughtlessness as their schoolfellow winced again, and Brian Green still hung on to the bank, sucking the scratches on his bleeding hand and grinning with satisfaction at the annoyance his innuendoes caused... Continue reading book >>

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