Yes; we would miss Dad when he went away. Still, we encouraged him to go. We were not selfish. We said it would be a pleasant change to him. We said nothing of the pleasure it would be to ourselves. We thought only of Dad. Some families never think of their father at all. We never forgot Dad for a day. He was never out of our minds.
Mother was to accompany Dad to the city, and Bill, with the buggy, was waiting at the door to take them to the train. We admired the tall hat that Sarah had bought Dad for a Christmas present.
“Don’t f’get, now,” Dad adjured Dave for the hundredth time, “ter start chaff-cuttin’ t’morrer, an’ look out th’ milk doesn’t be late at th’ fact’ry—an’ see Regan sends that collar back t’day—an’ if thet feller comes for pigs, have them all ready for ’im—an’ min’ if Thompson”—(Sarah exchanged kisses with Mother and hoped she would have a good time, and sent her love to Norah)—“wants th’ lend o’ th’ filly, he carn’t git her; d—n ye, weh, horse!”—(the animal had switched its tail just when Dad placed his foot on the buggy step)—“don’t f’get now ter—” (“Won’t you put your hat straight, Dad?” from Sarah)—“ter start chaff-cuttin’ first thing—WEH! Will yer—an’ see th’ men ain’t loafin’ about all day.”
“It’ll be orl right,” Dave answered; then Bill stirred the horse up, and the buggy started.
“So-long!” Dave said. Sarah waved her hand. “Take care of y’selves,” Joe called out;—“remember me to Henry Norman, and watch you don’t get run in!”
Dad turned his head and shouted back, “Don’t leave th’ cows too long in th’ luce’ne.” “Bust th’ cows!”—cheerfully, from Joe.
“Don’t leave th’ cows too long in th’ luce’ne,” Dad yelled again.
“Or-right!” Dave shouted between his hands, loud enough to be heard in Parliament. “Or-right!” from Joe, louder even than Dave. “Poor Dad!” Sarah mused, “the cows are a worry to him.”
A few turns of the wheels and the buggy stopped. Dave wondered. “Changed his mind,” said Joe. Sarah laughed.
“Hadn’t y’ better put them out now!” Dad shouted.
“For Heaven’s sake, get them out,” Joe advised, “or he won’t go.”
“Yairs, yairs,” Dave bawled, and packed Tom off to turn the brutes out.
Then the buggy disappeared round the corner, and Dave and Joe and Sarah and the rest of us marched inside and looked round. All of us rejoiced. We had never had so much freedom at home before, and we felt would never have again.
Joe pulled on an old faded smoking-cap of Dad’s that lay on the parlour table, find declared himself king. In a voice like Dad’s he ordered Bill to “Clear t’ th’ devil, an’ do some work.” Bill disobeyed. Joe took him by the neck. Bill resisted, and a brilliant engagement took place on the new carpet. They tumbled and rolled about like bullocks, broke the legs of two chairs, and shook down from the wall an enlarged picture of Dad’s father that had cost a lot of money. Sarah flew into a passion; said she wouldn’t stay another hour in the house if that was the way they were going to carry on. And when the combatants fell under the table and rose with it on their backs, and tilted it with a loud crash against the piano, she appealed distractedly to Dave.
“Steady there, now, you fellers!” Dave said; “steady!”
“It’s only th’ pedigree,” Joe answered, puffing hard, and restoring grandfather to the shattered frame.
Sarah was irate. But Tom’s voice announcing the approach of Billy Bearup calmed and conciliated her.
“He’s not!” she said, eagerly turning to the door. Then, changing colour, she cast an eye over her attire, and fled to doll herself up.
A new idea occurred to Joe: “See me startle Bearup!” he said, and pulling the smoker on again he slipped away. Robing himself in a familiar old rag of Dad’s, he took down the gun and hobbled forth to welcome Bearup, who at the moment was bending from his horse to open the gate.
“T’ ’ell outer this!” Joe roared at a range of sixty yards. Bearup looked up and saw the gun. He did n’t wait for anything more; he didn’t wait to open the gate again either. He spurred his horse and galloped down the headland. Joe fired the weapon off, and yelled as Dad several times had yelled before.
Bearup made a wide circuit through the’ stubble, doubled back on Joe, reached the gate at racing-speed, and while we wildly rejoiced from the verandah, disappeared down the lane and was lost in dust.
“You’re nothing but an ass!” Sarah said when Joe returned. “You’re a fool! I’ll let father know your carryings-on when he comes back.”
Then we went cheerfully to work.