It was impossible to stand against such flattery. Billy Muck was hastily consulted, and out of his generous heart voted two of the mossy boulders to the white folk, keeping only one for “black fellow all about.” “Poor old Billy!” He was to pay dearly for his leaning to the white folk.
Nothing was amiss now but Dan’s non-appearance; and the egg-beater whirring merrily on, by Christmas Eve, the Dandy and Jack, coming in with wild duck for breakfast and the Vealer, found the kitchen full of triumphs and Cheon wrestling with an immense pudding. “Four dozen egg sit down,” he chuckled, beating at the mixture. “One bottle port wine, almond, raisin, all about, more better’n Pine Creek all right “; and the homestead taking a turn at the beating “for luck,” assured him that it “knocked spots off Pine Creek.”
“Must have money longa poodin’!” Cheon added, and our wealth lying also in a cheque book, it was not until after a careful hunt that two threepenny bits were produced, when one, with a hole in it, went in “for luck,” and the other followed as an omen for wealth.
The threepenny bits safely in, it took the united efforts of the homestead to get the pudding into a cloth and thence into a boiler, while Cheon explained that it would have been larger if only we had had a larger boiler to hold it. As it was, it had to be boiled out in the open, away from the buildings, where Cheon had constructed an ingenious trench to protect the fire from rain and wind.
Four dozen eggs in a pudding necessitates an all-night boiling, and because of this we offered to share “watches” with Cheon, but were routed in a body. “We were better in bed,” he said. What would happen to his dinner if any one’s appetite failed for want of rest? There were too few of us as it was, and, besides, he would have to stay up all night in any case, for the mince pies were yet to be made, in addition to brownie and another plum-pudding for the “boys,” to say nothing of the hop-beer, which if made too soon would turn with the thunder and if made too late would not “jump up” in time. He did not add that he would have trusted no mortal with the care of the fires that night.
He did add, however, that it would be as well to dispatch the Vealer over night, and that an early move (about fowl-sing-out) would not be amiss; and, always obedient to Cheon’s will, we all turned in, in good time, and becoming drowsy, dreamed of “watching” great mobs of Vealers, with each Vealer endowed with a plum-pudding for a head.
At earliest dawn we were awakened by wild, despairing shrieks, and were instinctively groping for our revolvers when we remembered the fatted fowls and Cheon’s lonely vigil, and turning out, dressed hastily, realising that Christmas had come, and the pullets had sung their last “sing-out.”