While he was speaking, a rough-looking lad, about sixteen years of age, came through the parlor to the veranda, dressed very much like his master, but unwashed, uncombed, and with that wild look which falls upon those who wander about the Australian plains, living a nomad life. This was Jacko—so called, and no one knew him by any other name—a lad whom Heathcote had picked up about six months since, and who had become a favorite. “The old woman says as you was wanting me?” suggested Jacko. “Going to be fine to-night, Jacko?”
Jacko went to the edge of the veranda and looked up to the sky. “My word! little squall a-coming,” he said.
“I wish it would come from ten thousand buckets,” said the master.
“No buckets at all,” said Jacko. “Want the horses, master?”
“Of course. I want the horses, and I want you to come with me. There are two horses saddled there; I’ll ride Hamlet.”
A night’s ride.
Harry jumped from the ground, kissed his wife, called her “old girl,” and told her to be happy, and got on his horse at the garden gate. Both the ladies came off the veranda to see him start. “It’s as dark as pitch,” said Kate Daly.
“That’s because you have just come out of the light.”
“But it is dark—quite dark. You won’t be late, will you?” said the wife.
“I can’t be very early, as it’s near ten now. I shall be back about twelve.” So saying, he broke at once into a gallop, and vanished into the night, his young groom scampering after him.
“Why should he go out now?” Kate said to her sister.
“He is afraid of fire.”
“But he can’t prevent the fires by riding about in the dark. I suppose the fires come from the heat.”
“He thinks they come from enemies, and he has heard something. One wretched man may do so much when every thing is dried to tinder. I do so wish it would rain.”