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Австралийский диалект английского языка
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Австралийский диалект английского языка

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Dad and the Donovans

A very hot summer afternoon. A heat that curled and dried everything. Mother and Sal ironing, wiping their faces with a towel and telling each other how hot it was. The dog stretched out near the door. A child's hat on the floor - the child out in the sun. Two men on horses approaching the gate. Dad had gone to look after our best horse, Farmer, who had been sick for four days. Dad had built a covering over him, made of branches, to keep the sun off. Two or three times a day Dad cut grass for Farmer, which the cows ate. Dad carried water to Farmer but he refused to drink it.

This afternoon, as Dad approached his patient, he suddenly put down the bucket of water that he was carrying and ran, shouting angrily. Some large black birds flew away from Farmer and settled on a tree close by. Dad was excited, and when he saw that one of the animal's eyes was gone and a stream of blood ran down over its nose he sat down and hid his face in his big rough hands.

"Caw, caw!" came from the tree. Dad rose and looked up. "Curse you!" he said. "You black birds from hell!" "Caw, caw, caw!" He ran towards the tree as if he wanted to throw it to the ground, and the birds flew away. Joe arrived. "Were they hurting him, Dad?" "Oh, you son of the Devil" he began. "You worthless dog, you! Look there! Do you see that?" He pointed at the horse. "Didn't I tell you to look after him? Didn't?!" "Yes, Dad." "Go away!" And Dad threw a piece of wood at Joe, which hit him on the back as he ran away.

Dad returned to the house, still very angry, swearing to take the gun and shoot Joe. But when he saw two horses tied up to the fence he hesitated and would have gone away again if Mother had not called out that he was wanted. He went in unwillingly.

Red Donovan and his son Mick were there. Donovan was a rich man, although some people said that what he owned did not all properly belong to him. He was a man who knew everything - or imagined he knew everything - from the law to being a horse doctor. People could make money out of farming, he said, if they only knew how to make it - most of them, in Donovan's opinion, didn't know enough to get under a tree when it rained. He was a hard man, never giving more than ?10 for a ?20 animal, or selling a ?10 one for less than ?20. And few people knew Donovan better than Dad did, or had been tricked by him more often; but this time Dad was in no mood to be kind or easy. He sat down and they talked of crops and the weather, and then Donovan said, "Have you any cows to sell?" Dad hadn't. "But," he added, "I can sell you a horse." "Which one?" asked Donovan, for he knew the horses as well as Dad did - perhaps better. "Farmer." "How much?" "Seven pounds." Now Farmer was worth ?14 if he was worth a penny - that is, before he got sick - and Donovan knew it well. "Seven," he repeated. "Give you six."

Never before had Dad shown himself to be such a good actor. He shook his head and enquired if Donovan would like the horse for nothing. "Make it six and a half." Dad rose and looked out of the window. "There he is now," he said sadly, "down near the river." "Well, what's it to be - six and half pounds or nothing?" asked Donovan. "All right, then," Dad replied, "take him!"

The money was paid there and then and receipts written. Then, saying that Mick would come for the horse on the day following, and after offering a little free advice, the Donovans left. Mick came the next day and Dad showed him Farmer. He wasn't dead, because when Joe sat on him he moved. "There he is," said Dad, grinning. Mick remained seated on his horse, staring first at Farmer, then at Dad. "Well?" Dad remarked, still grinning. Then Mick spoke with feeling. ‘You old thief!' he said, and rode away quickly. It was a good thing for him that he left so fast. For long after that we put the horses and cows into the little paddock at night, and if ever the dog barked Dad jumped up and ran out in his shirt.

We put them back in the big paddock again, and the first night they were there two cows got out and went away, taking with them the rope that tied up the gate. We never saw them again, but Dad remembered them in his heart. Often, he would think out plans for getting revenge on the Donovans - we knew it was the Donovans. Then the Donovans got into "trouble" and were reported to be in prison. That pleased Dad; but the revenge was a little indirect. He wanted to catch them.

Four years passed. It was after supper and we were all working by lamplight. Old Anderson and young Tom and Mrs Maloney were helping us. We were going to help them the next week. Mrs Maloney was arguing with Anderson when the dogs started barking loudly. Dad went out into the dark night. He told the dogs to be quiet, and they barked louder. Then a voice from the darkness said, ‘Is that you, Mr Rudd?' Dad failed to recognize it and went to the fence where the visitor was. He remained there talking for a full half-hour. Then he returned and said it was the young Donovan. "Donovan? Mick Donovan?" asked Anderson. And Mother and Mrs. Maloney and Joe echoed, "Mick Donovan?" They were surprised.

"He's not very welcome," said Anderson, thinking of his horses and cows. Mother agreed with him, while Mrs Maloney repeated over and over again that she had thought that Mick Donovan was in prison with his bad old father. Dad didn't say much. There was something on his mind. He waited till the visitor had gone, then talked with Dave. They were outside in the dark. Dad said in a low voice, "He's come a hundred miles today, ‘n' his horse is exhausted, ‘n' he wants to take one on his way tomorrow. He wants to leave this one here. What do you think?" Dave seemed to think rather a lot; he said nothing.

"Now," continued Dad, "it's my opinion the horse isn't his; it's one he's stolen - and I have an idea." Then he went on to instruct Dave in the idea. Then Dad called Joe and taught him the idea too. That night young Donovan stayed at the house. In the morning Dad was very kind. He asked Donovan to come and show him his horse, as he must see it before thinking of taking it. They went to the paddock together. The horse was standing under a tree, looking tired. Dad stood and looked at Donovan for fully half a minute without speaking. Then he said, "That's my own horse…" Donovan told him he was making a mistake.

"Mistake?" Dad asked, walking round the horse. "There's no mistake here." Just then Dave appeared, as was planned. "Do you know this horse?" Dad asked him. "Yes, of course," he answered, surprised, with his eyes open wide. "There you are!" said Dad, grinning happily. Donovan seemed uncomfortable. Joe in his turn appeared. Dad put the same question to him. Of course Joe knew the horse - "the one that got stolen". There was a silence. "Now," said Dad, looking very serious, "what have you got to say? Who did you get him from? Show us your receipt."

Donovan had nothing to say; he preferred to be silent. "Then," Dad went on, "go away as fast as you can, and think yourself lucky!" Donovan went away, but on foot. Dad looked after him and, as he left the paddock, said, "I was too clever for you that time, Mick Donovan!" Then to Dave, who was still looking at the horse, "He's a stolen one right enough, but he's a beauty, and we'll keep him. If the owner ever comes for him, well - if he is the owner - he can have him, that's all."

We had the horse for eighteen months or more. One day Dad rode him to town. He was no sooner there than a man came up and said that he owned the horse. Dad protested. The man went off and brought a policeman. "All right!" Dad said, "take him!" The policeman took him. He took Dad too. The lawyer got Dad off; but it cost us five bags of potatoes. Dad didn't care, because he thought we'd had good value. Besides, he was even with the Donovans for the two cows.

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