“You told him of it too plain,” said the German.
“I did tell him—of course—as I should you. It has come to that now, that if a man robs you—your own man—you are not to dare to tell him of it! What would you think of me, Karl, if I were to find you out, and was to be afraid of speaking to you, lest you should turn against me and burn my fences?” Karl Bender shrugged his shoulders, holding his reins up to his eyes. “I know what you ought to think! And I wish that every man about Gangoil should be sure that I will always say what I think right. I don’t know that I ever was hard upon any man. I try not to be.”
“Thrue for you, Mr. Harry,” said the Irishman.
“I’m not going to pick my words because men like Nokes and Boscobel have the power of injuring me. I’m not going to truckle to rascals because I’m afraid of them. I’d sooner be burned out of house and home, and go and work on the wharves in Brisbane, than that.”
“My word! yes,” said Jacko, “and I too.”
“If the devil is to get ahead, he must, but I won’t hold a candle to him. You fellows may tell every man about the place what I say. As long as I’m master of Gangoil I’ll be master; and when I come across a swindle I’ll tell the man who does it he’s a swindler. I told Bos to his face; but I didn’t tell any body else, and I shouldn’t if he’d taken it right and mended his ways.”
They all understood him very well—the German, the Irishman, Medlicot’s foreman, Medlicot himself, and even Jacko; and though, no doubt, there was a feeling within the hearts of the men that Harry Heathcote was imperious, still they respected him, and they believed him.
“The masther should be the masther, no doubt,” said the Irishman.
“A man that is a man vill not sell hisself body and soul,” said the German, slowly.
“Do I want dominion over your soul, Karl Bender?” asked the squatter, with energy. “You know I don’t, nor over your body, except so far as it suits you to sell your services. What you sell you part with readily—like a man; and it’s not likely that you and I shall quarrel. But all this row about nothing can’t be very pleasant to a man with a broken shoulder.”
“I like to hear you,” said Medlicot. “I’m always a good listener when men have something really to say.”
“Well, then, I’ve something to say,” cried Harry. “There never was a man came to my house whom I’d sooner see as a Christmas guest than yourself.”
“It’s more than I could have said yesterday with truth.”
“It’s more than you did say.”
“Yes, by George! But you’ve beat me now. When you’re hard pressed for hands down yonder, you send for me, and see if I won’t turn the mill for you, or hoe canes either.”
“So ’ll I; my word! yes. Just for my rations.”