But now he had made another enemy—an enemy of a man who had declared to him that he knew the movements of “that chap,” meaning Nokes! How hard the world was! It seemed that all around were trouble to him. He turned his horse back, and made again for the spot which was his original destination. As he cantered on among the trees, twisting here and there, and regulating his way by the stars, he asked himself whether it would not be better for him to go home and lay himself down by his wife and sleep, and await the worst that these men could do to him. This idea was so strong upon him that at one spot he made his horse stop till he had thought it all out. No one encouraged him in his work. Every one about the place, friend or foe, Bates, his wife, Medlicot, and this Boscobel, spoke to him as though he were fussy and fidgety in his anxiety. “If fires must come, they will come; and if they are not to come, you are simply losing your labor.” This was the upshot of all they said to him. Why should he be wiser than they? If the ruin came, let it come. Old Bates had been ruined, but still had enough to eat and drink, and clothes to wear, and did not work half as hard as his employer. He thought that if he could only find some one person who would sympathize with him and support him, he would not mind. But the mental loneliness of his position almost broke his heart.
Then there came across his mind the dim remembrance of certain old school words, and he touched his horse with his spur and hurried onward: “Let there be no steps backward.” A thought as to the manliness of persevering, of the want of manliness in yielding to depression, came to his rescue. Let him, at any rate, have the comfort of thinking that he had done his best according to his lights. After some dim fashion, he did come to recognize it as a fact that nothing could really support him but self-approbation. Though he fell from his horse in utter weariness, he would persevere.
As the night wore on he came to the German’s hut, and finding it empty, as he expected, rode on to the outside fence of his run. When he reached this he got off his horse, and taking a key out of his pocket, whistled upon it loudly. A few minutes afterward the German came up to him.
“There’s been no one about, I suppose?” he asked.
“Not a one,” said the man.
“You’ve been across on Brownbie’s run?”
“We’re on it now, Mr. ’Eathcote.” They were both on the side of the fence away from Gangoil station.
“I don’t know how that is, Karl. I think Gangoil goes a quarter of a mile beyond this. But we did not quite strike the boundary when we put up the fence.”
“Brownbie’s cattle is allays here, Mr. ’Eathcote, and is knocking down the fence every day. Brownbie is a rascal, and ’is cattle as bad as ’isself.”
“Never mind that, Karl, now. When we’ve got through the heats, we’ll put a mile or two of better fencing along here. You know Boscobel?”