With the nearest doctor three hundred miles away in Darwin, and held there by hospital routine, the Maluka decided on bed and feeding-up as the safest course, and Cheon came out in a new character.
As medical adviser and reader-aloud to the patient, the Maluka was supposed to have his hands full, and Cheon, usurping the position of sick-nurse, sent everything, excepting the nursing, to the wall. Rice-water, chicken-jelly, barley-water, egg-flips, beef-tea junket, and every invalid food he had ever heard of, were prepared, and, with the Maluka to back him up, forced on the missus; and when food was not being administered, the pillow was being shaken or the bedclothes straightened. (The mattress being still on the ends of cows’ tails, a folded rug served in its place). There was very little wrong with the patient, but the wonder was she did not become really ill through over-eating and want of rest.
I pleaded with the Maluka, but the Maluka pleading for just a little more rest and feeding-up, while Cheon gulped and choked in the background, I gave in, and eating everything as it was offered, snatched what rest I could, getting as much entertainment as possible out of Cheon and the staff in between times.
For three days I lay obediently patient, and each day Cheon grew more affectionate, patting my hands at times, as he confided to the Maluka that although he admired big, moon-faced women as a feast for the eyes, he liked them small and docile when he had to deal personally with them. Until I met Cheon I thought the Chinese incapable of affection; but many lessons are learned out bush.
Travellers—house-visitors—coming in on the fourth day, I hoped for a speedy release, but visitors were considered fatiguing, and release was promised as soon as they were gone.
Fortunately the walls had many cracks in them—not being as much on the plumb as Johnny had predicted, and for a couple of days, watching the visitors through these cracks and listening to their conversation provided additional amusement. I could see them quite distinctly as, no doubt, they could see me; but we kept a decorous silence until the Fizzer came in, then at the Fizzer’s shout the walls of Jericho toppled down.
“The missus sick!” I heard him shout. “Thought she looked in prime condition at the Springs.” (Bush language frequently has a strong twang of cattle in it.)
“So I am now,” I called; and then the Fizzer and I held an animated conversation through the walls. “I’m imprisoned for life,” I moaned, after hearing the news of the outside world; and laughing and chuckling outside, the Fizzer vowed he would “do a rescue next trip if they’ve still got you down.” Then, after appreciating fervent thanks, he shouted in farewell: “The boss is bringing something along that’ll help to pass some of the time—the finest mail you ever clapped eyes on,” and presently patient and bed were under a litter of mail-matter.