“What was the difficulty?” he asked, and listened to the explanation attentively. “Bunday!” he exclaimed at the finish, showing he had fully grasped the situation. Of course he knew all about Bunday! Wasn’t it so many weeks after the Chinaman’s New Year festival? And in a jargon of pidgin-English he swept aside all moon discussions, and fixed the date of “Bunday” for the twenty-eighth of March, “which,” as Dan wisely remarked, “proved that somebody was right,” but whether the Maluka or the Dandy, or the moon, he forgot to specify. “The old heathen to beat us all too,” he added, “just when it had got us all dodged.” Dan took all the credit of the suggestion to himself. Then he looked philosophically on the toughness of the problem: “Anyway,” he said, “the missus must have learnt a bit about beginning at the beginning of things. Just think what she’d have missed if any one had known when Easter was right off!”
“What she’d have missed indeed. Exactly what the townsman misses, as long as he remains in a land where everything can be known right off.”
But a new idea had come to Dan. “Of course,” he said, “as far as that goes, if Johnny does turn up she ought to learn a thing or two, while he’s moving the dining-room up the house”; and he decided to welcome Johnny on his return.
He had not long to wait, for in a day or two Johnny rode into the homestead, followed by a black boy carrying a cross-cut saw. This time he hailed us with a cheery:
“Now we shan’t be long.”
It had taken over six weeks to “get hold of little Johnny “; but as the Dandy had prophesied, once he started, he “made things hum in no time.”
“Now we shan’t be long,” he said, flourishing a tape measure; and the Dandy was kept busy for half a day, “wrestling with the calculating.”
That finished, the store was turned inside out and a couple of “boys” sent in for “things needed,” and after them more “boys” for more things; and then other “boys” for other things, until travellers must have thought the camp blacks had entered into a walking competition. When everything necessary was ordered, “all hands” were put on to sharpen saws and tools, and the homestead shrieked and groaned all day with harsh, discordant raspings. Then a camp was pitched in the forest, a mile or so from the homestead; a sawpit dug, a platform erected, and before a week had passed an invitation was issued, for the missus to “come and see a tree felled.” “Laying thee foundation-stone,” the Maluka called it.
Johnny of course welcomed us with a jovial “Now we shan’t be long,” and shouldering a tomahawk, led the way out of the camp into the timber.
House-hunting in town does not compare favourably with timber-hunting for a house, in a luxuriant tropical forest. Sheltered from the sun and heat we wandered about in the feathery undergrowth, while the Maluka tested the height of the giant timber above us with shots from his bull-dog revolver bringing down twigs and showers of leaves from the topmost branches, and sending flocks of white cockatoos up into the air with squawks of amazement.