Chapter 196509712

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Chapter NumberVII.
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Full Date1899-02-11
Page Number42
Word Count1360
Last Corrected2021-01-04
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleStudies in Bush Life. On a Gippsland Selection
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Oh, girls are girls, and boys are boys, And have been so since Abel's birth. —Eugene Field. THE SCHOOLBOY CRAWLS UNWILL- INGLY TO SCHOOL.

Geordie went round with a martyr's re- signation, trying to find his scattered school books. His "Third Royal Reader" turned up in a very dusty condition under his bed, whi- ther he had thrown it in the bliss of the Christmas breaking up. His spirits expe- rienced a momentary elevation while he animadverted on Vivien's sweeping. He had dried tomato seeds on his slate, which therefore had to be delivered to Vi- vien to be well scalded before it could be used. In his school bag there was a holi- day's collection of crumbs and fish hooks, dead worms and cicadas, loquat and peach stones. He sat on his bag in the middle of the kitchen floor, and dolefully rubbed what was left of his newly-cropped hair. " Is it the Education department that says we're got to go to school ?" he asked, looking up at Vivien. " The Education department, my son," she assented. " Then I'd like to run them through with an improvised sail needle. I don't believe it's proper for people to study till after Feb- ruary—it's too hot, it's bad for the consti- tution." " Come on, Geordie, don't be lazy," Vivien said, cheerily. " Here's your slate. Jump up, and be a man." He relaxed into a despondent heap. " I wish I didn't have to live any longer. Life's only worth living In holidays." " Now, Geordie, this is foolish. You will be quite reconciled by to-morrow, if you set off in a sprightly way to-day. Life is work, not a holiday." " It ought to be then," he groaned. " I'm going, Geordie, if you're not quick," said Effie, coming to the door, with a clean, white, frilled pinafore, and almost tidy hair. "Coming ?" " No." " Well, I'm off then." Effie ran away. Geordie pulled out his handkerchief, rolled a corner of it into a hard lump and gently sponged a tear that welled in his eye. " Good gracious," said Vivien, "Geordie, you're surely not crying — crying ! And you're nine and going to be put up in the fourth soon. I am ashamed." " Be ashamed then, I ain't." Vivien dropped her dish cloth, and stood looking at him. "Old man," she said, " life is a neck-and- neck race. Loafers and lazy ones get life behind." " It's all very well to preach. Yon haven't to go to the wretchedest old school in Aus tralia and do the stupidest old reduction sums that the stupidest old teacher ever set. Where's the good of sums ?" " Geordie, haven't you gone to school yet ? You'd better be off, youngster. It's over half-past eight," said Dugald, sternly, as he paused in the doorway, shouldering a spade. " Look, Geordie boy," said Vivien. " I'll give you sixpence to-night it you'll run off to school at once and be happy." Geordie jumped up. " I'm afraid you can't afford it." " Oh yes, if you'll promise to be happy. You must mind that." " It's a rash promise," said Geordie.

" Never mind, though, I'll do it. So-long." He caught up his hat and vanished. " Bribery and corruption," said Dugald. " You old Spartan. Why it's just a little oiling to set the machinery going. He's a bit rusty now, he'll be all right with a fair start." It was an awful road that Geordie and Effie took to the school. All the way they ran the gantlet of bushrangers that swarm- ed in the scrub as thickly as stumps. Sometimes the hold bushrangers were en- camped by the road side— to the simple they looked like innocent swagmen, boiling their billies, but Effie and Geordie were too old birds to be caught with chaff, and perilous times they had to pass without being bailed up. Often after escaping the bushrangers, they would be bailed up by Mr. Macdonnel for late attendance, and the results would be so unpleasant that the road would be unac- countably clear for a few days, till the shock wore off. There dawned a day which valiantly strove to attain record heat. At dinner time Mrs. Campbell debated the advisability of allowing the children to stay home for the afternoon. Dugald officiously stated that there was a little breeze straying round which rendered the atmosphere half a degree cooler than in the morning. " Interfering thing !" said Effie. " What business is it of yours ?" Mrs. Campbell finally thought they would come to no harm if they kept in the shade and walked slowly. " Ain't a bit of shade in Gippsland," sulked Geordie. They dragged off, with a deep grudge in their souls against Dugald and all the world. Outside the boundary fence on the road, their way was blocked by a mob of horses. Far behind the surging mass arose the rubi- cund countenance of Billy Spadger. Effie and Geordie had a whole-hearted de- testation for Billy Spadger. In days when they were younger, he would crack his stock- whip round their heads and pretend to ride them down. He was a racehorse breeder, and the slip rails that formed the entrance to his land blocked the end of the Campbell's side track. " Clear off the road, you're scarin' the 'orses," Billy shouted. Chances of revenge were few. Effie and Geordie seized this one with quick hands. She danced in front of the horses, with a wild confusion of flying hair and legs. He halloed like a mad boy, and waved his hat by its puggaree. The horses swept back on Billy like the back wash of a live wave. They came to a frightened standstill as he howled and whipped at them. Billy emitted some sulphurous comments. The horses wavered, then the leader headed for a gap in the fence, where a tree had fallen across and broken the wires. Billy, Effie and Geordie howled in unison ; but within one minute the majority of the herd had wheeled into the scrub of Pun- manitel. Now were the biters bit. Effie and Geordie being nearly concerned in Punmanitel could not but stay to assist in the ejection of so ravenous and grass-eating a multitude. The horses galloped wildly up an uncleared rise of poor land, where prickly Moses and wil- low scrub were regnant. Billy Spadger threw the stockwhip to Geordie, galloped off and headed the horses down the hill. They swerved past Effie, and turned again up hill near Geordie. " Don't let 'em get in the scrub again," shouted Billy. " Crack the whip at 'em, boy ! Crack the whip at 'em !" Geordie dashed through the scrub, reck- less of snakes, but painfully mindful of the growing lateness of the hour. He tried to crack the whip, but that in the scrub was an impossibility for a small, unskilled per- son, who needed the clear yard and calmly collectcd faculties before he could attain to anything like a decent sound. Instead, the huge whip curled round his legs. The sting of it made him wild with wrath. Under its stimulus he rushed up hill, made a detour, and came behind the horses stopping on the hill crest and gaz- ing fearfully round. " Holler at 'em, boy ; holler at 'em !" yelled Billy ; but Geordie was past "hollering." He crashed through the scrub, and sent the mob flying pell-mell down the slope. Billy wheeled them round ; Effie kept them from passing the gap. With infinite manoeuvring they gradually filtered out on the road again, and galloped off the way they had come. Billy shot after them, and after a few differences of opinion in the scrub across the road, he persuaded the horses to con- tinue their journey in the proper direction. Geordie wrapped the thong round the handle, and threw the whip with all his strength at Billy. Billy Spadger caught it, and laughed. " Be late for school, me dears. Better run along," he said. " Yah !" cried Geordie, with concentrated hate and fury. Billy Spadger laughed again, and rode on. The hot, perspiring pair trudged sulkily schoolward, and laid plans of revenge.