“It won’t be very cheery, Bender,” he said to the German; “but we shall have to make a night of it till they disturb us again.”
The German made a motion with his arms intended to signify his utter indifference. One place was the same as another to him. Jacko uttered his usual ejaculation, and then, having hitched his horse to the fence, threw himself on his back upon the grass.
No doubt they all slept, but they slept as watchers sleep, with one eye open. It was Harry who first saw the light which a few minutes later made itself visible to the ladies at the home station. “Karl,” he exclaimed, jumping up, “they’re at it again—look there.”
In less than half a minute, and without speaking another word, they were all on their horses and riding in the direction of the light. It came from a part of the Boolabong run somewhat nearer to the river than the place at which they had stationed themselves, where the strip of ground between Harry’s fence and the acknowledged boundary of Brownbie’s run was the narrowest. As they approached the fire, they became aware that it had been lighted on Boolabong. On this occasion Harry did not ride on up to the flames, knowing that the use or loss of a few minutes might save or destroy his property. He hardly spoke a word as he proceeded on his business, feeling that they upon whom he had to depend were sufficiently instructed, if only they would be sufficiently energetic.
“Keep it well under, but let it run,” was all he said, as, lighting a dried bush with a match, he ran the fire along the ground in front of the coming flames.
A stranger seeing it all would have felt sure that the remedy would have been as bad as the disease, for the fire which Harry himself made every now and again seemed to get the better of those who were endeavoring to control it. There might perhaps be a quarter of a mile between the front of the advancing fire and the line at which Harry had commenced to destroy the food which would have fed the coming flames. He himself, as quickly as he lighted the grass, which in itself was the work but of a moment, would strain himself to the utmost at the much harder task of controlling his own fire, so that it should not run away from him, and get, as it were, out of his hands, and be as bad to him as that which he was thus seeking to circumvent. The German and Jacko worked like heroes, probably with intense enjoyment of the excitement, and, after a while, found a fourth figure among the flames, for Mickey had now returned.
“You saw them,” Harry said, panting with his work.
“They’s all right,” said Mickey, flopping away with a great bough; “but that tarnation Chinese has gone off.”
“My word! Sing Sing. Find him at Boolabong,” said Jacko.
The German, whose gum-tree bough was a very big one, and whose every thought was intent on letting the fire run while he still held it in hand, had not breath for a syllable.