Two of the beds against the verandah were gaily flourishing, others “coming on,” and outside the broad pathway a narrow bed had been made all round the garden for an hibiscus hedge; while outside this bed again, one at each corner of the garden, stood four posts—the Maluka’s promise of a dog-proof, goat-proof, fowl-proof fence. So far Tiddle’ums had acted as fence, when we were in, at the homestead, scattering fowls, goats, and dairy cows in all directions if they dared come over a line she had drawn in her mind’s eye. When Tiddle’ums was out-bush with us, Bett-Bett acted as fence.
Johnny, generally repairing the homestead now, admired the garden and declared everything would be “A1 in no time.”
“Wouldn’t know the old place,” he said, a day or two later, surveying his own work with pride. Then he left us, and for the first time I was sorry the house was finished. Johnny was one of the men who had not “learnt sense” but the world would be a better place if there were more Johnnies in it.
Just as we were preparing to go out-bush for reports, Dan came in with a mob of cattle for branding and the news that a yard on the northern boundary was gone from the face of the earth.
“Clean gone since last Dry,” he reported; “burnt or washed away, or both.”
Rather than let his cattle go, he had travelled in nearly thirty miles with the mob in hand, but “reckoned” it wasn’t “good enough.” “The time I’ve had with them staggering bobs,” he said, when we pitied the poor, weary, footsore little calves: “could ’av brought in a mob of snails quicker. ’Tisn’t good enough.”
The Maluka also considered it not “good enough,” and decided to run up a rough branding wing at once on to the holding yard at the Springs; and while Dan saw to the branding of the mob the Maluka looked out his plans.
“Did you get much hair for the mattress?” I asked, all in good faith, when Dan came down from the yards to the house to discuss the plans, and Dan stood still, honestly vexed with himself.
“Well, I’m blest!” he said, “if I didn’t forget all about it,” and then tried to console me by saying I wouldn’t need a mattress till the mustering was over. “Can’t carry it round with you, you know,” he said, “and it won’t be needed anywhere else.” Then he surveyed the house with his philosophical eye.
“Wouldn’t know the old place,” Johnny had said, and Dan “reckoned” it was “all right as houses go.” Adding with a chuckle, “Well, she’s wrestled with luck for more’n four months to get it, but the question is, what’s she going to use it for now she’s got it?”
For over four months we had wrestled with luck for a house, only to find we had very little use for it for the time being, that is, until next Wet. It couldn’t be carried out-bush from camp to camp, and finding us at a loss for an answer, Dan suggested one himself.