“What brought him here?” Harry asked, fiercely.
Mrs. Heathcote explained that he had called in a friendly way, and had said that if there were any fear of fire he would be happy himself to lend assistance.
Then the young squatter forgot himself in his wrath. “Confound his hypocrisy!” said Harry, aloud. “I don’t think he’s a hypocrite,” said the wife.
“I’m sure he’s not,” said Kate Daly.
Not a word more was spoken, and Harry immediately left the house. The two women did not as usual go to the gate to see him mount his horse, not refraining from doing so in any anger, or as wishing to exhibit displeasure at Harry’s violence, but because they were afraid of him. They had found themselves compelled to differ from him, but were oppressed at finding themselves in opposition to him.
The feeling that his wife should in any way take part against him added greatly to Heathcote’s trouble. It produced in his mind a terrible feeling of loneliness in his sorrow. He bore a brave outside to all his men, and to any stranger whom in these days he met about the run—to his wife and sister also, and to the old woman at home. He forced upon them all an idea that he was not only autocratic, but self-sufficient also—that he wanted neither help nor sympathy. He never cried out in his pain, being heartily ashamed even of the appeal which he had made to Medlicot. He spoke aloud and laughed with the men, and never acknowledged that his trials were almost too much for him. But he was painfully conscious of his own weakness. He sometimes felt, when alone in the bush, that he would fain get off his horse, and lie upon the ground and weep till he slept. It was not that he trusted no one. He suspected no one with a positive suspicion, except Nokes, and Medlicot as the supporter of Nokes. But he had no one with whom he could converse freely—none whom he had not been accustomed to treat as the mere ministers of his will— except his wife and his wife’s sister; and now he was disjoined from them by their sympathy with Medlicot! He had chosen to manage every thing himself without contradiction and almost without counsel; but, like other such imperious masters, he now found that when trouble came the privilege of dictatorship brought with it an almost unsupportable burden.
Old Bates was an excellent man, of whose fidelity the young squatter was quite assured. No one understood foot-rot better than Old Bates, or was less sparing of himself in curing it. He was a second mother to all the lambs, and when shearing came watched with the eyes of Argus to see that the sheep were not wounded by the shearers, or the wool left on their backs. But he had no conversation, none of that imagination which in such a time as this might have assisted in devising safeguards, and but little enthusiasm. Shepherds, so called, Harry kept none upon the run; and would have felt himself insulted had any one suggested that he was so backward