“No good?” he said to the creditor, looking critically at the piece of paper in his hands. “Must have been writ wrong. Well, you’ve only yourself to blame, seeing you wrote it”; then added magnanimously, mistaking the creditor’s scorn: “Never mind, write yourself out another. I don’t mind signing ’em.”
The foreman and the creditor spent several hours trying to explain banking principles, but Dick “couldn’t see it.” “There’s stacks of ’em left!” he persisted, showing his book of fluttering bank cheques. Finally, in despair, the foreman took the cheque-book into custody, and Dick found himself poor once more.
But it was only for a little while. In an evil hour he discovered that a cheque from another man’s book answered all purposes if it bore that magic tracery, and Happy Dick was never solvent again. Gaily he signed cheques, and the foreman did all he could to keep pace with him on the cheque-book block; but as no one, excepting the accountant in the Darwin bank, knew the state of his account from day to day, it was like taking a ticket in a lottery to accept a cheque from Happy Dick.
“Real glad to see you,” Happy Dick said in hearty greeting to us all as he dismounted, and we waited to be entertained. Happy Dick had his favourite places and people, and the Elsey community stood high in his favour. “Can’t beat the Elsey for a good dog-fight and a good game of cribbage,” he said, every time he came in or left us, and that from Happy Dick was high praise. At times he added: “Nor for a square meal neither,” thereby inciting Cheon to further triumphs for his approval.
As usual, Happy Dick “played” the Quarters cribbage and related a good dog-fight—“Peter’s latest “—and, as usual before he left us, his pockets were bulging with tobacco—the highest stakes used in the Quarters—and Peter and Brown had furnished him with materials for a still newer dog-fight recital. As usual, he rode off with his killers, assuring all that he would “be along again soon,” and, as usual, Peter and Brown were tattered and hors-de-combat, but both still aggressive. Peter’s death lunge was the death lunge of Brown, and both dogs knew that lunge too well to let the other “get in.”
As usual, Happy Dick had hunted through the store, and taken anything he “really needed,” paying, of course, by cheque; but when he came to sign that cheque, after the Maluka had written it, he entered the dining-room for the first time since its completion.
With calm scrutiny he took in every detail, including the serviettes as they lay folded in their rings on the waiting dinner-table, and before he left the homestead he expressed his approval in the Quarters:
“Got everything up to the knocker, haven’t they ?” he said. “Often heard toffs decorated their tables with rags in hobble rings, but never believed it before.”
Happy Dick gone, Cheon turned his attention to the health of the missus; but Dan, persuading the Maluka that “all she needed was a breath of fresh air,” we went bush on a tour of inspection.