Bill turned in by-and-by, and looked like a sleeping innocent in the moonlight. I sat up late, and smoked, and thought hard, and watched Bill, and turned in, and thought till near daylight, and then went to sleep, and had a nightmare about it. I dreamed I chased Stiffner forty miles to buy his pub, and that Bill turned out to be his nephew.
"So I took aside a chap that I knowed and bit his ear for ten bob, and gave it to Bill to mind, for I thought it would be safer with him than with me. "Hang on to that," I says, "and don't lose it for your natural life's sake, or Stiffner'll stiffen us." We put up about nine bob's worth of drinks that night me and Bill and Stiffner didn't squeal: he was too sharp. He shouted once or twice.
Quids ain't so easily picked up, nowadays; and, besides, we need stuff more'n Stiffner does, and so " "And did he know you had the stuff?" I gasped. "Oh, yes, that's the fun of it. That's what made him so excited. He was in the parlour all the time I was playing. But we might as well have a drink! "We did. I wanted it."
The meanest blank if he is a man at all will do that." "Oh, to blazes with the old sot!" shouted Barcoo. "I gave my opinion about Macquarie, and, what's more, I'll stand to it." "I've got I've got a point for the defence," the old man went on, without heeding the interruptions. "I've got a point or two for the defence." "Well, let's have it," said Stiffner.
Stiffner turned his back, and Barcoo spat viciously and impatiently. "Yes," drivelled the drunkard, "I've got another point for for the defence of my mate, Macquarie " "Oh, out with it! Spit it out, for God's sake, or you'll bust!" roared Stiffner. "What the blazes is it?" "HIS MATE'S ALIVE!" yelled the old man. "Macquarie's mate's alive! That's what it is!"
He was meaner than a gold-field Chinaman, and sharper than a sewer rat: he wouldn't give his own father a feed, nor lend him a sprat unless some safe person backed the old man's I.O.U. We knew that we needn't expect any mercy from Stiffner; but something had to be done, so I said to Bill: "Something's got to be done, Bill! What do you think of it?"
Anyhow, the risk would be about the same, or less, for I might have the spirit to run harder the more I had to run for the more spirits I had to run for, in fact, as it turned out so I says: "I think I'll take one of them there flasks of whisky to last us on the road." "Right y'are," says Stiffner. "What'll ye have a small one or a big one?"
Now, I'll go into the bar and ask for the swags, and carry them out on to the veranda, and then go back to settle up. You keep him talking all the time. You dump the two swags together, and smoke like sheol. That's all you've got to do." I went into the bar, got the swags front the missus, carried them out on to the veranda, and then went back. Stiffner came in. "Good morning!"
Now he slipped quietly in. "Keep the old fool off, or he'll get hurt," snarled Barcoo. Stiffner jumped the counter. There were loud, hurried words of remonstrance, then some stump-splitting oaths and a scuffle, consequent upon an attempt to chuck the old man out. Then a crash.
The name stuck to him closer than misfortune did, for when he rose to the proud and independent position of landlord and sole proprietor of an out-back pub he was Stiffner still, and his place was "Stiffner's" widely known. They do say that the name ceased not to be applicable that it fitted even better than in the old dingo days, but well, they do say so.