After the first greetings were over, and they were once more moving towards Stratton, Paul described how he had been attacked by bush-rangers, whom he had beaten off, and his narrow escape from the flood. Paul, as may be supposed, was received with joyful welcome by the family.
As he was anxious to cross the river before noon, he invited the visitors to stay for dinner, assuring them that before starting the herd in the afternoon, he would throw the cattle together for their inspection. Flood made himself very agreeable, inquiring into cattle and range matters in general as well as the stage of water in the river ahead.
Some think there will be merely a flood over the surrounding paths and the kitchen garden, but for myself I believe that we are promised something much bigger than that. A man with such a broad and friendly outlook towards rain-gauges will be sure to arrange something striking when the great moment arrives.
His unequalled wisdom lightening the three worlds, giving eyes that all the world might see, now suddenly the world is blind again, bewildered, ignorant of the way; in a moment fallen the bridge of truth that spanned the rolling stream of birth and death, the swelling flood of lust and rage and doubt, and all flesh overwhelmed therein, forever lost."
His tracery of bark and branch, and drooping bough held down with weight of dew, are startlingly true. The great roots of giant trees, denuded by storm and flood, lie exposed to view; and deep vistas are given of shadowy glade and swift-running mountain torrent.
Indeed, so completely was she overcome on receiving it, that the moment it was placed in her hands, her eyes seemed to have been changed into light, her limbs trembled with the agitation of a happiness so intense; and she at length sank into an ecstacy of joy, which was only relieved by a copious flood of tears.
It was as my father had hoped; the flood was running out with the tide; and as the cause was over we had every prospect of being set at liberty before many hours had passed. It was the apparent certainty of this hope which enabled us to bear patiently the rest of our imprisonment, and the pangs of hunger.
So saying, she pops the still-born into an earthen pot, and with that in her left hand and a sword in her right, makes for the margin of a deep stream, where, with an approved imprecation upon the fiend and a savage slash at the manikin, she tosses the pot and its untimely contents into the flood. By such witches as this, sorceries of all kinds are practised for fee.
Once aweigh, the captain thought it best to turn out of the Downs, which we did, working through the Straits, and anchoring under Dungeness, as soon as the flood made. Here we lay until near sunset, when we got under way to try our hand upon the ebb. I believe the skipper had made up his mind to tide it down to the Land's End, rather than remain idle any longer.
The twilight turned into night, clear, dry and bright. Unless it was raining in the mountains the flood in the Potomac could not be increasing. Here, at last, the conditions were all that he wished. The captured haversack still contained plenty of food, and, as he rode, he ate. He had learned long ago that food was as necessary as weapons to a soldier, and that one should eat when one could.