Henry Lawson

17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales

The Ghost At The Second Bridge

You'd call the man a senseless fool,—
A blockhead or an ass,
Who’d dare to say he saw the ghost
Of Mount Victoria Pass;
But I believe the ghost is there,
For, if my eyes are right,
I saw it once upon a ne’er-
To-be-forgotten night.
’Twas in the year of eighty-nine—
The day was nearly gone,
The stars were shining, and the moon
Is mentioned further on;
I’d tramped as far as Hartley Vale,
Tho’ tired at the start,
But coming back I got a lift
In Johnny Jones’s cart.

’Twas winter on the mountains then—
The air was rather chill,
And so we stopped beside the inn
That stands below the hill.
A fire was burning in the bar,
And Johnny thought a glass
Would give the tired horse a spell
And help us up the Pass.

Then Jimmy Bent came riding up—
A tidy chap was Jim—
He shouted twice, and so of course
We had to shout for him.
And when at last we said good-night
He bet a vulgar quid
That we would see the “ghost in black”,
And sure enough we did.

And as we climbed the stony pinch
Below the Camel Bridge,
We talked about the “Girl in black”
Who haunts the Second Bridge.
We reached the fence that guards the cliff
And passed the corner post,
And Johnny like a senseless fool
Kept harping on the ghost.

“She’ll cross the moonlit road in haste
And vanish down the track;
Her long black hair hangs to her waist
And she is dressed in black;
Her face is white, a dull dead white—
Her eyes are opened wide—
She never looks to left or right,
Or turns to either side.”

I didn’t b’lieve in ghosts at all,
Tho’ I was rather young,
But still I wished with all my heart
That Jack would hold his tongue.
The time and place, as you will say,
(’Twas twelve o’clock almost)—
Were both historically fa-
Vourable for a ghost.

But have you seen the Second Bridge
Beneath the “Camel’s Back”?
It fills a gap that broke the ridge
When convicts made the track;
And o’er the right old Hartley Vale
In homely beauty lies,
And o’er the left the mighty walls
Of Mount Victoria rise.

And there’s a spot above the bridge,
Just where the track is steep,
From which poor Convict Govett rode
To christen Govett’s Leap;
And here a teamster killed his wife—
For those old days were rough—
And here a dozen others had
Been murdered, right enough.

The lonely moon was over all
And she was shining well,
At angles from the sandstone wall
The shifting moonbeams fell.
In short, the shifting moonbeams beamed,
The air was still as death,
Save when the listening silence seemed
To speak beneath its breath.

The tangled bushes were not stirred
Because there was no wind,
But now and then I thought I heard
A startling noise behind.
Then Johnny Jones began to quake;
His face was like the dead.
“Don’t look behind, for heaven’s sake!
The ghost is there!” he said.

He stared ahead—his eyes were fixed;
He whipped the horse like mad.
“You fool!” I cried, “you’re only mixed;
A drop too much you’ve had.
I’ll never see a ghost, I swear,
But I will find the cause.”
I turned to see if it was there,
And sure enough it was!

Its look appeared to plead for aid
(As far as I could see),
Its hands were on the tailboard laid,
Its eyes were fixed on me.
The face, it cannot be denied
Was white, a dull dead white,
The great black eyes were opened wide
And glistened in the light.

I stared at Jack; he stared ahead
And madly plied the lash.
To show I wasn’t scared, I said—
“Why, Jack, we’ve made a mash.”
I tried to laugh; ’twas vain to try.
The try was very lame;
And, tho’ I wouldn’t show it, I
Was frightened, all the same.

“She’s mashed,” said Jack, “I do not doubt,
But ’tis a lonely place;
And then you see it might turn out
A breach of promise case.”
He flogged the horse until it jibbed
And stood as one resigned,
And then he struck the road and ran
And left the cart behind.

Now, Jack and I since infancy
Had shared our joys and cares,
And so I was resolved that we
Should share each other’s scares.
We raced each other all the way
And never slept that night,
And when we told the tale next day
They said that we were—intoxicated.
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