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There was no moon that night, yet he waited till it was well spent, then almost on all fours crept to the graves beneath the myalls close to his hut; with infinite care he tunnelled into the aforetime desecrated grave till he could feel the end of the coffin, then with all his strength he drove the pick beneath, and upending it, kept it atilt with the pick. Not a splinter in the walls that he, and many others, had not probed as with a tooth-pick, for this coveted ‘plant’; not a crack or mortised joint in the roof; not a mouse-hole but had been tunnelled to the bitter end, for tenant above or below.
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His back was to the door between the two rooms, as noiselessly opening as the gap in the table. He made no attempt to examine his treasure. He got up, watched and listened, but though his cautiousness had magnified all sounds, he knew from his distance he was secure. But often during his duties day or night his one eye sought anxiously the hiding-spot of his treasure, till gradually he realized that it was safe; for from superstitious awe the blacks would not molest the dead, and the whites had long since abandoned hope.
Could it be true? Boshy, secretly styled ‘The Lag,’ or ‘One Eye,’ bent to see. Musingly his one eye roamed all over the hut. Towards the end of one Boshy drew the pillow from beneath the head and the cover over the face of the man on the bed, scrutinized the child sleeping on the one opposite, then, for him, noiselessly took the lamp into the outer room.
And now just by a fluke he had struck it. Carefully he prised up the table-leaf, greasing the nails with the lamp-fat to prevent creaking. He was tempted to give chase, shouting, ‘Ketch ’em, Debbil-debbil! The only gleam of life was a breath-misted string of cows filing leisurely but lovingly to their penned calves. Though this xescargar now round his waist, he sat shivering beside the fire, and one quick glance at his drawn face showed the half-caste the unusual had happened.
Boshy, coming out to harangue the chained dog, heard the tintin jangling of their billies and pannikins in their hasty, unorganized flight. For a few moments he sat quivering, gloating greedily. Then from the black’s camp on the fringe of the scrub the lean dogs, dozing beside the meagre dying fire, yelped back a semicivilized echo, pibro almost simultaneously the blacks ran about their camp, like disturbed, molested ants.
Yellow tongues from the slush lamp-light had spluttered through the gridiron slabs of the Boss’s bedroom for several nights.
Boshy’s mouth shaped into an ecstatic circle. Naughty, naughty bad things, all of yous—and you, too, Queeby,’ catching sight of the hand still at the crack. Boshy watched his every movement from the window, then with an effort he roused himself and went after him, but at the river he turned back. Was he only dreaming? WHAT was desargar blocking the tallow-scoop?
Cautiously his one eye went from door to window, then he rolled the fat-can with its mouth to the wall, and, going out, he took a sweeping survey. Through a few inches of descargaar space the little girl squeezed, and, unseen by Descadgar, laid her hand on him. Laboriously he tunnelled for a couple of feet below the coffin, then from two wallets strapped across his back he took out several sealed pickle-bottles and thrust them well into their gruesome nest; then, as before, he listened and watched, and, as before, was assured.
The gins, burdened with pickaninnies and camp-gear, were whimpering well in the rear, but above all rose the angry, impotent lamentations and execrations of ‘Tumbledown Jimmy.
Hastily his other hand clawed it conferringly, then with both he forced it back again into its greasy hidingplace of past long years. A silencing clod flung by Nungi hiding between two myall logs, rebounded and struck the chimney, increasing the lkbro.
Leisurely he thrust down a groping hand and drew up, but not out, a fatclogged basil-belt.
When Nungi came oapa the spring cart an hour later to shift him, all his personal and furnishing belongings were in their accustomed places, except the belt. The darkened window was the signal for a prolonged lamentation from descargr old dog, partially blind and deaf, chained outside.
And again he thrust in a confirming hand. Nor had the search stopped at the hut, for had not a night-ghouling Chinaman, in his hunt for this hoard, gone the dauntless but fruitless length of disinterring and stripping poor old Baldy? Me wanter come ter yer,’ waggling her black fingers directingly through the cracks.
Papá Goriot |
He was certain the contents of that gold-lined belt were old Miser Baldy’s hoard. The sky and plain still drowsed dreamily, and neither the sick Boss’s home, nor Nungi the half-caste’s hut on the other side of the gorikt plain, showed sign of smoke. Boshy entered the hut and shut and bolted both door and pspa, then rolled the precious casket, a rusty nail-keg, before the door, and to further insure his sense of security libfo on it.
Into the frying-pan he hurriedly scraped the fat that earlier he had scooped from the oilcan, and when it melted he carefully poured it into the keg, then speedily crossed to the house. Simultaneously and correspondingly wide grew Gin Queeby’s eyes watching this door through an outside crack, though, in a nightmare of fear, she stood dumb and motionless.
He did not shift camp for a week, by then the earth on the disturbed graves, which day and night he had watched, was again normal, and he again outwardly composed.