Chapter 71286337

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Chapter NumberV.
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71286337
Full Date1898-05-14
Page Number10
Corrections0
Word Count1497
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleA Rose Among Cornstalks
article text

A Rose Among Cornstalks.

7. (By Ruby Whittell.)

(Affectionately dedicated to Uncle DICK.) * . CHAPTER V.

' 'A week passed, ánd things grew terribly strain ed between the cousins. They despised Rose, and they found that she washed with oatmeal vo prevent sunburn, after going about the farm. Jack 'said it was dirty and vain, and could scarcely Coree himself to be civil to her, for, besides, hef imag ined Moola was getting influenced a little, too.

She never climbed and rode bareback, and went, about without a hat now, and tried to copy the j ¡wai Rose did her hair. Though the girls were

Betrat all inseparable, there always seemed to be j something between them. They never confided inVjeach other as most girls do-Moola could not * tra'tferstand Rose's cold calm, and Rose could not

change her nature. One day they all went for a picnic to a creek.in the mountain gully; Jack ar ranged it, and Moola made little cakes and.pies, and helped in every way she could. It was a beau tiful day, and they had a cool walk through the lavender and musk scented undergrowth of the in.puntain, and at last arrived at the creek-a blue, dtíep, little snake of a thing, with tree ferns and babbage palms bending to it from mossy banks. Rose, of course, had to be helped over logs, and th ought every lizard was a serpent, and insisted on bringing a parasol, which Jack had to carry. And then, when she was crossing a narrow bit of the creek ¡with all the others, on a fallen log, she thought she saw a snake, and clutched at Moola and nearly overbalanced her, and dropped a bas ket she wes carrying with the cakes and the {matches iuto the water below, and they could not get it again, for it sank. So they had to go tealess at dinner time, because they had no more matches, and could not light a Are. After dinner they pro posed a ramble to the tip-top of the mountain.

"It isn't very far," said Moola, standing on a mossy log and looking down at Rose, with hor gen tle, dark eyes. "And there is a most beautiful view. One can see as far as the sea. Won't you come?" * . ' Rose «hook her head in her decided way.

\ "No," she answered; "it is so very hot, and I

am rather tired. I will stay and rest."

Moola's glowing face fell, and Jack scowled in his fiercest way.

.?¿ÍTíhen I will stay with you," she said, quietly, "while the others go;, though I do think you will like* "the view."

"Let Babette stay," said Jack, 'masterfully. "She is pretty tired,'I expect, and she and Rose eau stay and rest till we come back." . j

Moola looked doubtful, and somehow she did not

.like the idea of leaving the small siBter. I

"I don't know," she said, hesitatingly-she did not wish to offend Jack-"though, of course, she jwill be all right with Rose. You will iook after her, won't you?"

"I will stay," said little Babette, eagerly. "I "¡hates the' mountain-top'.* I stay wiv Rose." And she settled down by her cousin contentedly.

'Moola hesitated a little .still; then Jack pulled her by the arm, and led her away. "

"You'd better be careful," called- Girlie, as they all turned up the steep mountain-side, leaving .Rose and Babette sitting under a tree-fern in some deep shade. "Don't you go near the creek, Ba-, (bette, and if a bulldog ant stings you, rub fern

root on it; and don't forget to have something! Toady for us to eat when we come home; and don't you pick the little cross-bars off that pastry tart, Babette. You did once;'and-"

"Oh, shut up," said Jack for her advice became monotonous. And their footsteps died away in thc rustling-ferns-though they cooeed and halloo ed to the others at intervals for nearly half-an kour. "I sleepy," said Babette presently, with a lazy little yawn, and her forget-me-not eyes were misty and drooping, for she always slept during the day.

. "It is drowsy air," said Rose, nestling among the cool green ferns in a lazy, but perfectly neat, .little position. The folds of her skirt were as (Wonderful as ever, and her hair nothing seemed to - ruffle or disturb.

"Cooee," called Moola's shrill, sweet tones, fol lowed by a more boyish "Halloa!" from Jack. And the four returned to the blue creek, and the pic . nie baskets, with ferns in their arms and in their hats, and Ted had found a parrot's brilliant wing for his.

Rose started from her dreamy sleep at the noise, and looked round, and then she gave a cry, for Moola was staring at her with eyes that burned, and with a face that was white and passionate.

"Where's Babette?" she demanded. "Where has she'gone to?"

... The flush of sleep faded from Rose's cheeks. She .iwa's frightened at Muriel's intensity.

"We both went asleep. She-she was here a little while ago," she faltered, sitting up and looking round. Moola spun round in the direction of the creek fiercely.

"Don't be silly," said Jack, frowning-. ."Let us call her. I expect she's about . here sen ewhere," and he "lifted up his lungs."

. and shouted "Babette" in a voice which made

íEedj, who happened to be standing near, cower

away, and put his fingers into his ears. They all called, and looked about, thinking she might hove falle» asleep somewhere, but never a sign of tho

little thing.

Rose seemed a little . dazed, . and ... sat still, while they, searched; white and miserable, a thousand indistinct fears at her heart. At last, Moola turned on her, the softness gone from ber voice* and face, and a queer hard resentment there instead. "I should think you might help instead of sitting there^l' she said. "You might have looked after her better, Rose, sne was in your charge."

"She may have gone home," said the Microbe, with sudden inspiration. "Suppose I run home to Skillagalee, and see."

Moola looked thoughtful.

"You mustn't let mother know if she isn't there," she began slowly. "In fact, you mustn't let her know that you have come home at all; it wculd alarm her terribly. And, oh, Ted dear, be

quick!"

Quick! He was in the position for running before she spoke, and long before she finished was 01". and disappearing in the deep mountain growth, leaving them still calling to Babette, and search

ing.

"I expect she has gone home," said Rose. "I feel sure you are alarmed for nothing, Moola."

Meela looked at her a moment silently, then turned away. She scarcely knew what she feared -but one of her thoughts was that Babette might have strayed away, and lost herself in the wild place-and there was a tale told about that moun tain, and a tiny child who was lost there long ago, beating itself word fer word into Moola's brain. It was a farmer's only daughter who had been lost, and they found her after many days, poison ed by a wild apple the poor little thing had eaten in her starvation. And Moola knew of the dan gerous and tempting wild fruits growing on the mountain-and grew white, and called more vigo rously than ever. Jack had gone far away search ing. Girlie kept near Moola, and Rose watched timm .silently. In about half-an-hour Ted came back panting. She was not at home, he had looked everywhere and asked Bridget-besides the little gale they had to pass through was fastened exact ly as they had left it, so she could not have come that way.

"What ie to be done?" cried Girlie, tearfully. "She's losted completely, I expect, by now. Oh, Rose! you oughtn't to have let her go.."

"It seems impossible that she should have, wan dered so far that she cannot hear us calling," said Jack; "and no"-as Moola glanced'^earfully at the creek-"she couldn't have fallen in there, for one thing, Babette is always very frightened of water -besides, there is no trace of her going lhere. It jolly well seems to me all we can do is search and search lill we find her. She may have fallen asleep somewhere."

Rose started up feverishly. She saw they blamed her for uot looking after Babette a little better, and wished to help. She could not reàlise as they did the danger of a little child wandering among that wild bush, but she saw they were very distressed, and felt that she should never have slept, even though Babette slept beside her.

They searched and searched, and^the afternoon faded into twilight, and the twilight sank into night, and Jack sent the girls home, telling them to send some of the men to help him, and to tell Mrs. Darvall as quietly as possible.

(To be continued.)