After their meal the men came back on to the veranda, and there were more smoking and sleeping, more boasting and snarling. Different allusions were made to the spirit jar, especially by the old man; but they were made in vain. The “Battle-Axe” was Jerry’s own property, and he felt that he had already been almost foolishly liberal. But he had an object in view. He was quite sure that Boscobel and Nokes had not come to Boolabong on the same Sunday by any chance coincidence. The men had something to propose, and in their own way they would make the proposition before they left, and would make it probably to him. Boscobel intended to sleep at Boolabong, but Nokes had explained that it was his purpose to return that night to Medlicot’s Mill. The proposition no doubt would be made soon—a little after seven, when the day was preparing to give way suddenly to night. Nokes first walked off, sloping out from the veranda in a half-shy, half-cunning manner, looking nowhither, and saying a word to no one. Quickly after him Boscobel jumped up suddenly, hitched up his trowsers, and followed the first man. At about a similar interval Jerry passed out through the big room to the yard at the back, and from the yard to a shed that was used as a shambles. Here he found the other two men, and no doubt the proposition was made.
“There’s something up,” said the old man, as soon as Jerry was gone.
“Of course there’s something up,” said Joe. “Those fellows didn’t come all the way to Boolabong for nothing.”
“It’s something about young Heathcote,” suggested the father.
“If it is,” said Jack, “what’s that to you?”
“They’ll get themselves hanged, that’s all about it.”
“That be blowed,” said Jack; “you go easy and hold your tongue. If you know nothing, nobody can hurt you.”
“I know nothing,” said Joe, “and don’t mean. If I had scores to quit with a fellow like Harry Heathcote, I should do it after my own fashion. I shouldn’t get Boscobel to help me, nor yet such a fellow as Nokes. But it’s no business of mine. Heathcote’s made the place too hot to hold him. That’s all about it.” There was no more said, and in an hour’s time Jerry returned, to the family. Neither the father nor brother asked him any questions, nor did he volunteer any information.