The Dandy out of sight, Johnny went back to his work, which happened to be hammering the curves out of sheets of corrugated iron.
“Now we shan’t be long,” he shouted, hammering vigorously, and when I objected to the awful din, he reminded me, with a grin, that it was “all in the good cause.” When “smoothed out,” as Johnny phrased it, the iron was to be used for capping the piles that the house was built upon, “to make them little white ants stay at home.”
“We’ll smooth all your troubles out, if you give us time,” he shouted, returning to the hammering after his explanation with even greater energy. But by dinnertime some one had waddled into our lives who was to smooth most of the difficulties out of it, to his own, and our complete satisfaction.
Just as Sam announced dinner a cloud of dust creeping along the horizon attracted our attention.
“Foot travellers!” Dan decided; but something emerged out of the dust, as it passed through the sliprails, that looked very like a huge mould of white jelly on horse-back.
Directly it sighted us it rolled off the horse, whether intentionally or unintentionally we could not say, and leaving the beast to the care of chance, unfolded two short legs from somewhere and waddled towards us—a fat, jovial Chinese John Falstaff.
“Good day, boss! Good day, missus! Good day, all about,” he said in cheerful salute, as he trundled towards us like a ship’s barrel in full sail. “Me new cook, me—” and then Sam appeared and towed him into port.
“Well, I’m blest!” Dan exclaimed, staring after him. “What have we struck?”
But Johnny knew, as did most Territorians. “You’ve struck Cheon, that’s all,” he said. “Talk of luck! He’s the jolliest old josser going.”
The “jolliest old josser” seemed difficult to repress; for already he had eluded Sam, and, reappearing in the kitchen doorway, waddled across the thoroughfare towards us.
“Me new cook!” he repeated, going on from where he had left off. “Me Cheon!” and then, in queer pidgin-English, he solemnly rolled out a few of his many qualifications:
“Me savey all about,” he chanted. “Me savey cook ‘im, and gard’in’, and milk ‘im, and chuckie, and fishin’ and shootin’ wild duck.” On and on he chanted through a varied list of accomplishments, ending up with an application for the position of cook. “Me sit down? Eh boss?” he asked, moon-faced and serious.
“Please yourself!” the Maluka laughed, and with a flash of white teeth and an infectious chuckle Cheon laughed and nodded back; then, still chuckling, he waddled away to the kitchen and took possession there, while we went to our respective dinners, little guessing that the truest-hearted, most faithful, most loyal old “josser” had waddled into our lives.
Cheon rose at cock-crow ("fowl-sing-out,” he preferred to call it), and began his duties by scornfully refusing Sam’s bland offer of instruction in the “ways of the homestead.”