Bravely the worn, bowed shoulders took up the burden of life again, and, as they squared to their load, we slipped back to our anniversaries—once more Jack went bush for the schooling of his colts, once more Mac and Dan went into the Katherine to “see about the ordering of stores,” Tam going with them; and as they rode out of the homestead, once more we slipped, with the Dandy, into the Land of Wait-a-while—waiting once more for the wet to lift, for the waggons to come, and for the Territory to rouse itself for another year’s work.
Full of bright hopes, we rested in that Land of Wait-a-while, speaking of the years to come, when the bush-folk will have conquered the Never-Never and lain it at the feet of great cities; and, waiting and resting, made merry and planned plans, all unconscious of the great shadow that was even then hovering over us.
There is little more to tell. Just that old, old story—that sad refrain of the Kaffir woman that we British-born can conquer anything but Death.
All unaware, that scourge of the Wet crept back to the homestead, and the great Shadow, closing in on us, flung wide those gates of Death once more, and turning, before passing through, beckoned to our Maluka to follow. But at those open gates the Maluka lingered a little while with those who were fighting so fiercely and impotently to close them—lingering to teach us out of his own great faith that “Behind all Shadows standeth God.” And then the gates gently closing, a woman stood alone in that little home that had been wrested, so merrily, out of the very heart of Nature.
That is all the world need know. All else lies deed in the silent hearts of the Men of the Never-Never, in those great, silent hearts that came in to the woman at her need; came in at the Dandy’s call, and went out to her, and shut her in from all the dangers and terror that beset her, quietly mourning their own loss the while. And as those great hearts mourned, ever and anon a long-drawn-out, sobbing cry went up from the camp, as the tribe mourned for their beloved dead—their dead and ours—our Maluka, “the best Boss that ever a man struck.”