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|The Captain of the Polestar||Arthur Conan Doyle|
The Parson Of Jackman's Gulch
|Page 3 of 9||
"Yes, I'll come back. Maybe I'll be away three weeks, maybe a month. I want some clothes, master, and my bloomin' boots are well-nigh off my feet."
"How much, Jimmy?" asks his master, taking up his pen.
"There's sixty pound screw," Jimmy answers thoughtfully; "and you mind, master, last March, when the brindled bull broke out o' the paddock. Two pound you promised me then. And a pound at the dipping. And a pound when Millar's sheep got mixed with ourn;" and so he goes on, for bushmen can seldom write, but they have memories which nothing escapes.
His master writes the cheque and hands it across the table. "Don't get on the drink, Jimmy," he says.
"No fear of that, master," and the stockman slips the cheque into his leather pouch, and within an hour he is ambling off upon his long-limbed horse on his hundred-mile journey to town.
Now Jimmy has to pass some six or eight of the above-mentioned roadside shanties in his day's ride, and experience has taught him that if he once breaks his accustomed total abstinence, the unwonted stimulant has an overpowering effect upon his brain. Jimmy shakes his head warily as he determines that no earthly consideration will induce him to partake of any liquor until his business is over. His only chance is to avoid temptation; so, knowing that there is the first of these houses some half-mile ahead, he plunges into a byepath through the bush which will lead him out at the other side.
Jimmy is riding resolutely along this narrow path, congratulating himself upon a danger escaped, when he becomes aware of a sunburned, black-bearded man who is leaning unconcernedly against a tree beside the track. This is none other than the shanty-keeper, who, having observed Jimmy's manoeuvre in the distance, has taken a short cut through the bush in order to intercept him.
"Morning, Jimmy!" he cries, as the horseman comes up to him.
"Morning, mate; morning!"
"Where are ye off to to-day then?"
"Off to town," says Jimmy sturdily.
"No, now--are you though? You'll have bully times down there for a bit. Come round and have a drink at my place. Just by way of luck."
"No," says Jimmy, "I don't want a drink."
"Just a little damp."
"I tell ye I don't want one," says the stockman angrily.
"Well, ye needn't be so darned short about it. It's nothin' to me whether you drinks or not. Good mornin'."
"Good mornin'," says Jimmy, and has ridden on about twenty yards when he hears the other calling on him to stop.
"See here, Jimmy!" he says, overtaking him again. "If you'll do me a kindness when you're up in town I'd be obliged."
"What is it?"
"It's a letter, Jim, as I wants posted. It's an important one too, an' I wouldn't trust it with every one; but I knows you, and if you'll take charge on it it'll be a powerful weight off my mind."
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|The Captain of the Polestar
Arthur Conan Doyle
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