Harry got on his horse without a word, and rode away through the forest, taking a direction different from that by which he had come, and the boy followed him. He was by no means certain that this young fellow might not turn against him; but it had been a part of his theory to make no difference to any man because of such fears. If he could make the men around him respect him, then they would treat him well; but they could never be brought to respect him by flattery. He was very nearly right in his views of men, and would have been right altogether could he have seen accurately what justice demanded for others as well as for himself. As far as the intention went, he was minded to be just to every man.
It seemed, as they were riding, that the heat grew fiercer and fiercer. Though there was still the same moaning sound, there was not a breath of air. They had now got upon a track very well known to Heathcote, which led up from the river to the wool-shed, and so on to the station, and they had turned homeward. When they were near the wool-shed, suddenly there fell a heavy drop or two of rain. Harry stopped and turned his face upward, when, in a moment, the whole heavens above them and the forest around were illumined by a flash of lightning so near them that it made each of them start in his saddle, and made the horses shudder in every limb. Then came the roll of thunder immediately over their heads, and with the thunder rain so thick and fast that Harry’s “ten thousand buckets” seemed to be emptied directly over their heads.
“God A’mighty has put out the fires now,” said Jacko.
Harry paused for a moment, feeling the rain through to his bones—for he had nothing on over his shirt—and rejoicing in it. “Yes,” he said; “we may go to bed for a week, and let the grass grow, and the creeks fill, and the earth cool. Half an hour like this over the whole run, and there won’t be a dry stick on it.”
As they went on, the horses splashed through the water. It seemed as though a deluge were falling, and that already the ground beneath their feet were becoming a lake.
“We might have too much of this, Jacko.”
“My word! yes.”
“I don’t want to have the Mary flooded again.”
“My word! no.”
But by the time they reached the wool-shed it was over. From the first drop to the last, there had hardly been a space of twenty minutes. But there was a noise of waters as the little streams washed hither and thither to their destined courses and still the horses splashed, and still there was the feeling of an incipient deluge. When they reached the wool-shed, Harry again got off his horse, and Jacko, dismounting also, hitched the two animals to the post and followed his master into the building. Harry struck a wax match, and holding it up, strove to look round the building by the feeble light which it shed. It was a remarkable edifice, built in the shape of a great T, open at the sides, with a sharp-pitched timber roof covered with felt, which came down within four feet of the ground. It was calculated to hold about four hundred sheep at a time, and was divided into pens of various sizes, partitioned off for various purposes. If Harry Heathcote was sure of any thing, he was sure that his wool-shed was the best that had ever been built in this district.