“Nothing to what we can do sometimes,” every one agreed. “We do things in style up here—often run half-a-dozen storms at once. You see, when you are weather-bound, you might as well have something worth looking at.”
The storm lasted nearly three hours, and when it cleared Mac went over to the Telegraph, where some confidential chatting must have taken place, for when he returned he told us that the Dandy was starting out for the homestead next day to “fix things up a bit.” The Head Stockman however, waited back for orders.
The morning dawned bright and clear, and Mac advised “making a dash for the Fergusson.” “We might just get through before this rain comes down the valley,” he said.
The Creek was most enthusiastic with its help, bustling about with packbags and surcingles, and generally “mixing things.”
When the time came to say good-bye it showed signs of breaking down; but mastering its grief with a mightily audible effort, it wished us “good luck,” and stood watching as we rode out of the little settlement.
Every time we looked back it raised its hat, and as we rode at the head of our orderly little cavalcade of pack horses, with Jackeroo the black “boy” bringing up the rear, we flattered ourselves on the dignity of our departure. Mac called it “style,” and the Maluka was hoping that the Creek was properly impressed, when Flash, unexpectedly heading off for his late home, an exciting scrimmage ensued and the procession was broken into fragments.
The Creek flew to the rescue, and, when order was finally restored, the woman who had defied the Sanguine Scot and his telegrams, entered the forest that fringes the Never-Never, sitting meekly upon a led horse.
Bush chivalry demanding that a woman’s discomfiture should be ignored, Mac kept his eyes on the horizon for the first quarter of a mile, and talked volubly of the prospects of the Wet and the resources of the Territory; but when Flash was released, and after a short tussle settled down into a free, swinging amble, he offered congratulations in his own whimsical way.
“He’s like the rest of us,” he said, with a sly, sidelong look at the Maluka, “perfectly reconciled to his fate.”
Although it was only sixty-five miles to the Katherine it took us exactly three days to travel the distance. Mac called it a “tip-top record for the Wet,” and the Maluka agreed with him; for in the Territory it is not the number of miles that counts, but what is met with in those miles.
During the first afternoon we met so many amiable-looking watercourses, that the Sanguine Scot grew more and hopeful about crossing the Fergusson that night. “We’ll just do it if we push on,” he said, after a critical look at the Cullen, then little more than a sweet, shady stream. “Our luck’s dead in. She’s only just moving. Yesterday’s rain hasn’t come down the valleys yet.”