This story is absolutely true! I came upon it by accident, and I have been amazed at how many Australians have never heard of Jane Duff.
THE BRAVEST OF ALL!
My favourite heroine of them all
Was only nine years old.
And it's time her tale of bravery
To all the world was told.
It was in the eighteen-fifties,
All in the winter weather,
When Jane and Isaac and little Frank
Set off in the bush together.
Their Mother had called for slender twigs
In order to make a broom
So that she could sweep the floor
Of her dwelling's one poor room.
Jane was wearing her only dress,
The lilac hand-me-down
That she'd inherited, so it seems,
From some rich folk in the town.
Isaac was given the safety bell
And told to guard it well,
For many a child lost in the bush
Was saved by the safety bell.
The Highland terrain was dense and thick,
Stretching forever away,
Hundreds of miles till it reached the sea,
With cove and beach and bay.
Little Frank was only four,
While Isaac was seven years old,
But it is of Jane, the nine year old,
Our story must be told.
The children gathered the twigs, then played,
Running in and out the trees,
Until they sensed an evening chill
Descending on the breeze.
Imagine their dire predicament!
The night would bring a frost!
And the children suddenly realised
That the safety bell was lost!
Isaac's pocket was ragged,
And the bell had fallen through!
Without the bell to help them,
What could the children do?
This way and that they walked along,
Then turned and tried again,
The eucalyptus trees grew dense
Over ground not walked by men!
At home their parents agonised!
Where could their children be?
One night stretched into two nights!
Two nights stretched into three!
Assistance came from miles around,
The Trackers were called in;
Everyone had a thoery
But where could they begin?
After a week the parents wept
For children surely dead;
They viewed their childless future
With agony and dread.
But on the eighth day..... lo! A cry!
The children had been found!
Their bodies were lying lifeless
Upon the stony ground.
They'd wandered fifty miles or more,
Sustained by grubs and dew,
They were breathing very slightly
And their limbs were scratched and blue.
Jane was lying fully exposed
To the bitter winter weather.
The two boys were lying, arms entwined,
Close as they could, together.
Jane was wearing a flimsy shift,
Light as a scarf, no..... less.
But over the boys, so carefully draped,
Lay Jane's precious lilac dress.
In her awful extremity
She'd thought of her duty of care,
She'd covered the boys with her lilac dress,
While she had little to wear.
They all survived and led normal lives,
Often recounting the story
Which, in the annals of folk lore,
Covered young Jane with glory.
Jane kept the dress hanging on a hook,
For, in her adulthood
She realised that she'd been brave,
And selfless, strong and good.
Oh Nelson and Hercules and such
Were bold and brave enough,
But my favourite heroine of all time
Is that little girl,