SANDY got five tons of hay from the cut of lucerne. He sold it all to the storekeeper, and received in return a bag of sugar and a few little things for Jimmy, some dress material for Kate, a shirt and trousers for himself, and a sovereign. The balance went to square Sandy’s account with the storekeeper.
After tea, Kate tore open the brown paper parcel and admired the dress material, and tried Jimmy’s new hat on him, and Sandy put on the new shirt and trousers to see if they were a good fit.
“Just the thing,” he said.
“You can wear them tomorrow,” Kate said, admiring the clothes, “and I’ll wash the others for you in the morning.”
Sandy was delighted. He took the sovereign from the pocket of his discarded pants and tossed it about affectionately.
“Wish we’d a couple o’ thousand o’ them,” he said.
“So we might have some day,” Kate answered, “if things go on all right.” And she quoted the Wilsons of Appletree. “They were worse off than we are, and look at them now,” she said.
Kate was a hopeful woman.
Then they sat at the table and reckoned up the wealth the selection would yield by the end of the season; and, while the wind blew outside, and the ’possums squawked, and the night birds whooped in the trees, they plotted and planned things for the future.
Next morning Sandy was grubbing at the bottom of the paddock. A man chained by the leg to a log came along, carrying the log under his arm. Sandy stared at him, and thought of gaol and the police.
“Got an axe?” the stranger asked. Sandy nodded, and the’stranger lifted the implement, and, resting his leg on the log, smashed the steel band from his ankle.
“You c’n have these,” he said, tossing the end of the chain to Sandy. Sandy stared. The stranger stared at Sandy, too.
“Those clothes o’ yours would look well on me,” he said. “Sling them off, mate, and you can have mine.” And he proceeded to undress in the open.
Sandy asked him if he was mad. The stranger pointed a revolver at Sandy’s head and said: “Take them off, and be quick about it!——”
Sandy hurriedly divested himself of his new shirt and trousers. The man reached for them and threw his old rags to Sandy. Sandy suddenly remembered the sovereign in the trousers pocket, and asked the stranger to return it. The stranger took it out, spat on it, and put it back again. Then he lifted Sandy’s billy-can and began to drink. Sandy, acting on an inspiration, snatched up the revolver.
“Off with my clothes!’ he shouted, shoving the barrel close against the bottom of the billy. “Off with them, y’ cur, or I’lls blow your brains out!”
Sandy meant it, too. But the stranger continued to drink.
“Before I count three,” Sandy said. “One— two—th——”
The stranger lowered the billy from his head, squirted water into Sandy’s eye, and turned and went calmly away.
Tears were on Sandy’s cheeks when he told Kate about it.
“By heavens!” he said, “I’ve a good mind t’ foller that cove!”
But Kate easily restrained him.