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Jerry (who had learned men in eight years of war) had known Bethune's type at once when meeting him tramping across the paddock with his swag. Here was one of that mysterious wandering gentleman-army which scribbled French, Latin, and even Greek on the whare walls when halting for the night before going on among the other vagabonds now infesting the Plains. Jerry could read the stupid, plaintive, and often foul scribbling of thieves and gaol-birds and other passing shadows; but he couldn't read the Greek and Latin, which, said Hutton, was as well. “All damned souls, these) gentlemen tramps,” said Hutton, and Jerry was always tender with damned souls.

“Come far?” he asked pleasantly, reining his horse in.

“Buckingham Palace. Oxford before that,” said the man, looking up with a faint grin on his thin tired face. Jerry offered his pouch without patronage. He looked Oxford anyway.

“Have a pipe with me? Jolly cold, isn't it?”

“Thanks.” Those trembling hands lighting up were too eager, told too clearly how long the privation had been. “God! That's good. Any chance of a job? I'm set for a month … more if you can hold my cheque back.”

Drink, of course. But they wanted fencers. Jerry said: “Go up to the house and ask for Lady Calthorpe. Say Mr Lovel sent you. What's your name?”

“Bethune … among friends. In gaol or the Salvation Army, I'm Smith.”

Shameless? Or more likely so eaten by shame that he had to flaunt it at everyone. I hope Darien takes him, thought Jerry, riding on round the sheep cropping frozen turnips in the road-paddock. Ploughing was still timid on the Plains since the nor'wester had a way of getting under page 438 the furrow and lifting all the earth into the next paddock. But horses must have oats and barley, and sheep must have winter feed. And with wheat the price it was everyone was defying the nor'westers. Bendemeer had six hundred acres in wheat this year. Shelter-plantations and fences are helping a lot, thought Jerry, feeling very friendly to the sheep. Their sharp clattering hooves and little grating coughs gave them a queer faint personality.

Darien had taken Bethune and, because she firmly refused to give him his cheque, he had stayed on through the hunting-weather, the windy spring, and into shearing-time, becoming so vigorous in the process that, despite his tiresome gentleman-ways, the men liked him to work with. How he had first met and talked to Prue he didn't remember. Probably he had been mending a gate and thinking of another woman when she rode by, pausing to ask a question.

Such questions she asked, this sleek-haired girl with her long eyes full of fire and wonder. So famished for knowledge that she would take it from a tramp. Good Lord, what are her folk about to let such innocence and ignorance run loose, thought Bethune, talking with Prue while digging post-holes near the Durdans boundary, or clearing a slip on the river-cutting where sheep were driven for water, or strolling after the day's work beside a gum-plantation, as the long evenings drew on.

Prue, slipping off for a lonely gallop when she could avoid her sisters and her duties, found her head filling, from Bethune's talk, with wonderful entrancing affairs. Bugles calling and kilts swinging on the heights of Stirling Castle, knights fighting in the steep Perugia streets until the cobbles ran with blood, Don Quixote wandering with his white floating hair, scraps of the romance languages wherein Petrarch sang of Laura, Roland shouted to his men before he blew his horn, D'Artagnan diced and laughed, the lovers of Seville went wooing….

“Tell me more of Spain,” commanded Prue, who only page 439 needed fan and mantilla to be Spain herself. So Bethune told her of the Alhambra gardens where the little fountains and the nightingales sang the warm night through, and of the towers upon the walls, each haunted by the languorous amorous ghosts of some fair lady waiting in solitude for her Moorish lord.

Yet Prue had the strong crude fibre of this land in her too, telling him how ashamed he should be of remaining a station-hand when he knew so much….

“Perhaps I am ashamed,” said Bethune, straining up a wire to the post.

“Go away, then,” said Prue, finding the words stab her heart.

“With a big cheque? I'd be in gaol in a week. I drink, you know.” He straightened up, looking at her under his dark brows, pleased to see her painful flush at his brutality. But she met him fiercely.

“Any man should be able to control himself. I'm learning to, and I'm just a girl.”

“That's why. You haven't been tempted….” He watched her. Soon he would tempt her … and she'd prove no stronger than another. “You don't have to find your comfort in mental saturnalias, Miss Prue,” he said, gathering up his tools and going on to the next post, while Prue rode home, her mind gloriously tapestried with the loveliness of the ancient world.