But enamel cups were no hardships to the bush-folk, and besides, nothing inconvenienced us that day—excepting perhaps doing justice to further triumphs at afternoon tea; and all we had to wish for was the company of Dan and the Fizzer.
To add to the general comfort, a gentle north-west breeze blew all through the day, besides being what Bett-Bett called a “shady day,” cloudy and cool; and to add to the general rejoicing, before we had quite done with “Clisymus” an extra mail came in per black boy—a mail sent out to us by the “courtesy of our officers” at the Katherine, “seeing some of the packages felt like Christmas.”
It came to us on the verandah. Two very full Mailbags borne by two very empty black boys, and in an incredibly short space of time there were two very full black boys, and two very empty mail-bags; for the mail was our delayed mail, and exactly what we wanted; and the boys had found all they wanted at Cheon’s hospitable hands.
But even Christmas days must come to an end; and as the sun slipped down to the west, Mac and Tam “reckoned it was time to be getting a move on “; and as they mounted amid further Christmas wishes, with saddle-pouches bursting with offerings from Cheon for “Clisymus supper,” a strange feeling of sadness crept in among us, and we wondered where “we would all be next Christmas.” Then our Christmas guests rode out into the forest, taking with them the sick Mac, and as they faded from our sight we knew that the memory of that Christmas day would never fade out of our lives; for we bush-folk have long memories and love to rest now and then beside the milestones of the past.
A Day or two after Christmas, Dan came in full of regrets because he had “missed the celebrations,” and gratified Cheon’s heart with a minute and detailed account of the “Clisymus” at Pine Creek. Then the homestead settled down to the stagnation of the Wet, and as the days and weeks slipped by, travellers came in and went on, and Mac and Tam paid us many visits, as with the weeks we slipped through a succession of anniversaries.
“A year to-day, Mac, since you sent those telegrams!” we said, near the beginning of those weeks; and, all mock gravity, Mac answered “Yes! And blocked that Goer!... Often wondered what happened to her!”
“A year to-day, gentlemen,” I added a few days later, “since you flung that woman across the Fergusson”; and as Mac enjoyed the reminiscence, the Maluka said: “And forgot to fling the false veneer of civilisation after her.”
A few days later again we were greeting Tam at the homestead. “Just a year ago, Tam,” we said, “you were...” but Tam’s horse was young and untutored, and, getting out of hand, carried Tam away beyond the buildings. “A Tam-o’-Shanter fleeing,” the Maluka once more murmured.
Then Dan filled in the days, until one evening just at sundown, when we said: