So it was at last decided, much to Harry’s own astonishment, much to his wife’s delight. Kate, therefore, when she lay awake, thinking of the one word that had been spoken, knew that there would be an opportunity for another word.
Medlicot drove his mother home safely, and, after he had taken her into the house, encountered Nokes on his return from Boolabong, as has been told at the close of the last chapter.
“I do wish he would come!”
On the Monday morning Harry came home as usual, and, as usual, went to bed after his breakfast. “I wouldn’t care about the heat if it were not for the wind,” he said to his wife, as he threw himself down.
“The wind carries it so, I suppose.”
“Yes; and it comes from just the wrong side—from the northwest. There have been half a dozen fires about to-day.”
“During the night, you mean.”
“No; yesterday—Sunday. I can not make out whether they come by themselves. They certainly are not all made by incendiaries.”
“Well, yes. Somebody drops a match, and the sun ignites it. But the chances are much against a fire like that spreading. Care is wanted to make it spread. As far as I can learn, the worst fires have not been just after midday, when, of course, the heat is greater, but in the early night, before the dews have come. All the same, I feel that I know nothing about it—nothing at all. Don’t let me sleep long.”
In spite of this injunction, Mrs. Heathcote determined that he should sleep all day if he would. Even the nights were fearfully hot and sultry, and on this Monday morning he had come home much fatigued. He would be out again at sunset, and now he should have what rest nature would allow him. But in this resolve she was opposed by Jacko, who came in at eleven, and requested to see the master. Jacko had been over with the German; and, as he explained to Mrs. Heathcote, they two had been in and out, sometimes sleeping and sometimes watching. But now he wanted to see the master, and under no persuasion would impart his information to the mistress. The poor wife, anxious as she was that her husband should sleep, did not dare in these perilous times to ignore Jacko and his information, and therefore gently woke the sleeper. In a few minutes Jacko was standing by the young squatter’s bedside, and Harry Heathcote, quite awake, was sitting up and listening. “George Brownbie’s at Boolabong.” That at first was the gravamen of Jacko’s news.
“I know that already, Jacko.”
“My word!” exclaimed Jacko. In those parts Georgie Brownbie was regarded almost as the Evil One himself, and Jacko, knowing what mischief was, as it were, in the word, thought that he was entitled to bread and jam, if not to a nobbler itself, in bringing such tidings to Gangoil.