Boolabong was about fourteen miles from Medlicot’s Mill. Nokes had walked this distance in the morning, and now retraced it at night— not going right across Gangoil, as he had falsely boasted of doing early in the day, but skirting it, and keeping on the outside of the fence nearly the whole distance. At about two in the morning he reached his cottage outside the mill on the river-bank; but he was unable to skulk in unheard. Some dogs made a noise, and presently he heard a voice calling him from the house. “Is that you, Nokes, at this time of night?” asked Mr. Medlicot. Nokes grunted out some reply, intending to avoid any further question. But his master came up to the hut door and asked him where he had been.
“Just amusing myself,” said Nokes.
“It’s very late.”
“It’s not later for me than for you, Mr. Medlicot.”
“That’s true. I’ve just ridden home from
“From Gangoil? I didn’t know you were so friendly there, Mr. Medlicot.”
“And where have you been?”
“Not to Gangoil, anyway. Good-night, Mr. Medlicot.” Then the man took himself into his hut, and was safe from further questioning that night.
“I wish you’d like me.”
All the Saturday night Heathcote had been on the run, and he did not return home to bed till nearly dawn on the Sunday morning. At about noon prayers were read out on the veranda, the congregation consisting of Mrs. Heathcote and her sister, Mrs. Growler, and Jacko. Harry himself was rather averse to this performance, intimating that Mrs. Growler, if she were so minded, could read the prayers for herself in the kitchen, and that, as regarded Jacko, they would be altogether thrown away. But his wife had made a point of maintaining the practice, and he had of course yielded. The service was not long, and when it was over Harry got into a chair and was soon asleep. He had been in the saddle during sixteen hours of the previous day and night, and was entitled to be fatigued. His wife sat beside him, every now and again protecting him from the flies, while Kate Daly sat by with her Bible in her hand. But she, too, from time to time, was watching her brother-in-law. The trouble of his spirits and the work that he felt himself bound to do touched them with a strong feeling, and taught them to regard him for the time as a young hero.
“How quietly he sleeps!” Kate said. “The fatigue of the last week must have been terrible.”
“He is quite, quite knocked up,” said the wife.
“I ain’t knocked up a bit,” said Harry, jumping up from his chair. “What should knock me up? I wasn’t asleep, was I?”
“Just dozing, dear.”
“Ah, well; there isn’t any thing to do, and it’s too hot to get out. I wonder Old Bates didn’t come in for prayers.”
“I don’t think he cares much for prayers,” said Mrs. Heathcote.