Page:While the Billy Boils, 1913.djvu/352

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320
MACQUARIE'S MATE

'Macquarie wasn't a coward,' remonstrated the drunkard, softly, but in an injured tone.

'What's up with you, anyway?' yelled the publican. 'What yer growling at? D'ye want a row? Get out if yer can't be agreeable!'

The boozer swung his back to the bar, hooked himself on by his elbows, and looked vacantly out of the door.

'I've got―another point for the defence,' he muttered. 'It's always best―it's always best to keep the last point to―the last.'

'Oh, Lord! Well, out with it! Out with it!' 'Macquarie's dead! That's―that's what it is!'

Everyone moved uneasily: Sally Thompson turned the other side to the bar, crossed one leg behind the other, and looked down over his hip at the sole and heel of his elastic-side―the barman rinsed the glasses vigorously―Longbones shuffled and dealt on the top of a cask, and some of the others gathered round him and got interested―Barcoo thought he heard his horse breaking away, and went out to see to it, followed by Box-o'-Tricks and a couple more, who thought that it might be one of their horses.

Someone―a tall, gaunt, determined-looking bushman, with square features and haggard grey eyes―had ridden in unnoticed through the scrub to the back of the shanty and dismounted by the window.

When Barcoo and the others re-entered the bar it soon became evident that Sally Thompson had been thinking, for presently he came to the general rescue as follows:―

'There's a blessed lot of tommy rot about dead