‘Because they’re robbers. The price per cube is set, but they crib on the measurements, and once the log is milled or on sold there’s no come back. And to make things worse I’ve already paid my two workers their share based on my calculation.’

The banker thought for a moment and then suggested hiring an independent assessor. James cast him a glance which clearly told that one fox in the henhouse was enough.

‘Then, should we take them to task about the payments?’ he asked.

‘No, that would be throwing good money to the wind,’ countered James. He put forward an alternative. ‘For years I’ve thought of marketing the logs myself; either store them in a logging yard and go to Sydney once a year to supervise the sale or, better still, get a buyer to come north. The Mossman River cedar is superior to most other that is being logged at present and should command a premium. This in itself should be enough inducement for them to send a buyer. They’re filthy rich as you well know!’

The banker, taking the last comment as a reference to Partridge & Company, abided by the bank’s policy of not divulging information about account holders. Instead he reiterated the bank’s offer to help where it could. James understood and digressed to other matters, such as letters of credit and what he expected to harvest next season. They conversed at length and James invited the manager to lunch with him at his hotel. They enjoyed an extended lunch at a corner table, consuming a few bottles of wine before the manager excused himself. James stayed on, drinking alone till soon after the evening meal when he put himself to bed.

Next morning he visited Pacific Stevedoring to be greeted by the manager sitting on a stack of barrels. Business had been good both ways, with all provisions arriving safely and prompt payment being made. James told of the new arrangement, with two natives replacing Alex, and that he might hire more natives, so the amounts ordered might fluctuate.

James left Pacific Stevedoring and set about finalising his shopping. He bought a new diary and pen and ink for himself and then thought of his friends back at the camp. For Nganka, Marku and Dari he bought shirts and trousers, hair clips and a mirror each. With Bajal showing so much interest in axes he bought him the best axe available.

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