“Do the squatters suffer much from fires?” he said.
“Heathcote has been talking to you about that,” said the man.
“Can’t you say Mr. Heathcote when you speak of a gentleman whose bread you have eaten?”
“Mr. Heathcote, if you like it. We ain’t particular to a shade out here as you are at home. He has been telling you about fires, has he?”
“Well, he has.”
“And talking of me, I suppose?”
“You were talking of having a turn at mining some day. How would it be with you if you were to be off to Gympie?”
“You mean to say I’m to go, Mr. Medlicot?”
“I don’t say that at all.”
“Look here, Mr. Medlicot. My going or staying won’t make any difference to Heathcote. There’s a lot of ’em about here hates him that much that he is never to be allowed to rest in peace. I tell you that fairly. It ain’t any thing as I shall do. Them’s not my ways, Mr. Medlicot. But he has enemies here as’ll never let him rest.”
“Who are they?”
“Pretty nigh every body round. He has carried himself that high they won’t stand him. Who’s Heathcote?”
“Name some who are his enemies.”
“There’s the Brownbies.”
“Oh, the Brownbies. Well, it’s a bad thing to have enemies.” After that he left the sugar-house and went across to the cottage.
Two days and two nights passed without fear of fire, and then Harry Heathcote was again on the alert. The earth was parched as though no drop of rain had fallen. The fences were dry as tinder, and the ground was strewed with broken atoms of timber from the trees, each of which a spark would ignite. Two nights Harry slept in his bed, but on the third he was on horseback about the run, watching, thinking, endeavoring to make provision, directing others, and hoping to make it believed that his eyes were every where. In this way an entire week was passed, and now it wanted but four days to Christmas. He would come home to breakfast about seven in the morning, very tired, but never owning that he was tired, and then sleep heavily for an hour or two in a chair. After that he would go out again on the run, would sleep perhaps for another hour after dinner, and then would start for his night’s patrol. During this week he saw nothing of Medlicot, and never mentioned his name but once. On that occasion his wife told him that during his absence Medlicot had been at the station.