Page:Triangles of life, and other stories.djvu/149

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LETTERS TO JACK CORNSTALK 137

"Now look here!" I said one day to one of them. "You mustn't go by appearances." (He bowed with humility.) "I'm not so delicate as I might look; I'm thin, but most Australians are—I'm thin, but I'm wiry." (He bowed again.) "I've been used to hard work" (they call "graft" work in England); "I've camped out all winter in a tent on a telegraph line in New Zealand; I've probably done more hard graft than any man in this village, and as for walking and carrying, I've tramped five hundred miles at a trip in the drought, across some of the driest and hottest country Out Back in Australia, and carried a heavy swag and a load of sorrow all the way." (He bowed.) "And now," I said, "can't you understand that I'm able and willing to carry home that quarter of a pound of borax? My wife is waiting for it; it won't hurt me. I'll get home sooner than your man can, and you can save him to send to a weaker customer. Now, be sensible; it will save you trouble, and save me trouble, and save up your man, and save my wife inconvenience. She'll want to argue with me if I go home without that borax I—promised to bring it home—don't make me break my word! What's the matter with the arrangement, anyway?"

He bowed and smiled in a scared sort of a way; my speech didn't seem to convey the ghost of an understanding to his mind; but he let me have the borax—or rather I got out of the shop with it before he pulled himself together.

There's a grocer just round the corner from where we live; he is newly started in business; his prices are