Chapter 196511714

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Chapter NumberVIII.
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Full Date1899-02-18
Page Number43
Word Count1593
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. A DEEPLY MEDITATIVED REVENGE.

Billy Spadger's jeering laugh rankled in the children's minds. " He'll be up again this evening," Effie said. "Duguld was saying he had been burnt out at his other place, so he is bringing his horses up in lots to the grass back here." Effie's brown, stretched thumb indicated the direction. "So, Geordie, that's just what we'll do. My conscience, won't he be wool- ...." "Ee, my word, yes," said Geordle, and felt quite cheered. They were 10 minutes late, and a few min- utes' conversation with Mr. Macdonnell re- vealed the fact that a quarter of an hour's detention would be their fate after school. Effie's head ached with running in the sun. She thought she would become distracted as the swarming infants in the gallery wail- ed, "Oh, dear, what can the matter be ?" in harmony more than doubtful. She had a few Byronic lines to analyse, and she fervently wished that freedom's bat- tle had never been begun, and drew a little ske of the bleeding sire and son. The principal sentence was an unknown and un- discoverable quantity. So she copied in her exercise the physiolo- gy diagrams and vigorously colored plates, of Australia's poisonous snakes hanging on the walls. She looked about for fresh pastures for her catholic pen, and drew an accurate portrait of Timothy Watts, a large boy with freckles like pennies and redness indiscri- minately patched over his face, who sat in a class of little fellows, like a trout among the minnows. Tom, in comparison with Tim, was an Adonis. Mr. Macdonnell felt an electric shock of amusement as he saw Tim's portrait, but he crushed it down with wrath, but Effie found she must endure further "keeping in" to finish her work. Geordie toiled through his extra quarter of an hour of compound addition, then went out to wait for Ellie. He and a few other boys tried to play marbles, but the heat gruelled even playing energy, and they stuck in a row against the wall. Geordie took a bit of looking glass from his pocket, and threw sunlight in the boys' eyes. Tim Watts peeped in at the window. Mr. Macdonnell was correcting Effie's analysis. There were a few disconsolate youths and maidens scattered at the desks. "Throw it in his eye," suggested Timothy. "Shall I, eh ?" said Geordie. Then a bright flash half blinded Mr. Macdonnell, just as he was becoming irate over Effie's remark-

able statements. Reflected sunshine of 160 deg. has not a soothing effect. He screwed his eyes wildly and nearly dropped the slate, and she gave an irrepres- sible giggle. Down clanged the slate on Effie's desk, and the master was among the boys in an instant. "Who did that ?" Silence for a moment, then —— "Please, sir, it was me," said Geordie, looking scared. "Then come inside, Campbell." "Please, sir, it was me suggested it," mur- mured Timothy Watts. Mr. Macdonnell looked at him with a flash of amusement, then his face grew stern again. "Why are you all waiting here ? Why don't you go home ?" There arose a chorus. "Please, sir, I was waitin' for Jimmy." "Please, sir, me mother told me not to go home without me little sister." "Very well," said the master, and strode in to the school with unwilling Geordie at his heels. The boy came out five minutes later with Effie. His friends waited with ready sym- pathy. "Did he give you the cuts ?" Tim asked anxiously. Geordie refused to answer, but kept his face hidden as he picked up his bag and climbed the post and rail fence without troubling the gate. Effie followed him. They hurried home with the afternoon's accumulation of wrong waiting to be avenged on Billy Spadger. At the Punmanitel entrance gate they stopped. " Dash up to the tool house, Geordie—bring the tomahawk and nails — don't let anyone see you—good 4-inch nails, mind. Dash, Geordie, it must be all but five." Geordie was fading over the road slope through the pines when Effie finished her in- junctions. It was soon enough even for her impatience that he reached the gate again. "Ten past five—peeped in kitchen — com- ing past," he panted. "And Billy always goes past before we be- gin milking. We must fly. Got your breath ?" Geordie soon announced that he had re- covered that indispensable article, and they hurried up the way to Billy Spadger's. Slip rails and a fence suddenly crossed the track at right angles. The timber was all green here. Huge, straight stemmed white gums and blackbutts towered to a sheer three hundred feet. There was the half shade that gum trees cast. The road was red and dusty. On the gully slopes fern trees clustered thickly. Water fern, oak fern and maidenhair half buried the fallen logs. Cle- matis, with a feathery blur of seed, hung from the tall, straight hazel stems. "Now, then, here goes," said Effie. "Wil- liam Spadger, Esquire, will have his work to get through after we've done, I'm think- ing." Some nails, hammering that echoed down the gullies, two damaged little thumbs, and Billy's slip-rails were an impassable barrier to whatsoever things were large and unused to climbing or jumping. Then they retreated, and backed among the ferns till a feeling of security should de- velop. Geordie put his foot through a low grow- ing fern tree, whose fronds waved graceful little salutations. He trusted that solid ground would be, revealed. Wildly slipping, blindly clutching, he suddenly vanished from sight with a little frightened cry. Ellie saved herself by grasping a fern frond. A thud, a splash, revealed that he had reached something tangible. She hooked her feet round a fern stump, and pushed aside the fronds and peered down into the sha- dow. Geordie was on his feet, looking up. " Hurt ?" Effie cried. "Not a bit. It's a dreadful shock to the nervous system though. How'll I get out ? It's a snaky kind of a hole down here." It was a deep bend of the creek, hollowed out in some long ago flood time. The in- curved walls were high and mossy, with lit- tle, dewy fern sprays sprouting here and there. Great naked water washed roots of the gums above twisted in rough net work. The fern trees overhead made an umbrella roof. A tiny trickle of water had washed up little ramparts of bark and leaves among the moss. " Be ready to lend's a hand," Geordie call- ed. He breathed on his hands and rubbed them together. Then he crawled up a slippery root, caught an upper one by his hands, brought his heels to their level, then caught a high root again till a grasp at the fringing tussocks and a strong grip from Effie brought him to upper air once more. " Thanks awfully," he said. "Billy'll be here in a shake ; we'd better plant quickly. This place is suitable to our purpose." He dropped on his knees behind the veil of a soft, ferny clump. Effie knelt by him, and he employed the interval by rubbing the mud from his knickerbockers with his hand- kerchief. The crack of a stockwhip fell on their ears, then the trampling of many hoofs and Billy Spadger's stentorian tones. "Hold on !" Keep still," said Gordie, drag- ging Effie down, as she nearly stood up in her excitment. The horses welled up against the fence and unsuspectingly Billy rode through to let down the rails. He leaned over from his saddle and tugged at the top bar. It did not move, and he, imagining it to be wedged, dis- mounted impatiently and jerked his shoul- der underneth it. The pair behind the ferns were convulsed with laughter as Billy gazed angrily at the immovable rail and rubbed his bruised shoulder. He pulled at the lower rails, then saw they were nailed. He glared furiously round and

the two made themselves as small as pos- sible. His language was heterodox. Then Effie took some mental notes for her next sketch. Billy recovered a little presently, and mounted his horse and took a flying leap over the sliprails, and galloped up the road to his house far off in the bush. " Now then," said Effie, " let's drive them into the scrub and everywhere." "Oh, no," Geordie said quickly. "Yes, come on, let's do the thing properly. Whurroo ! woosh ! shoo ! get out— come on, Geordie, go for them." She danced and waved her arms wildly among the horses. Geordie threw sticks rather half-heartedly, "and said, "Get on !" feebly. " You're not half doing it," she said, "but there, they're gone." She wiped her face in her sleeve. A few snorts from the gully were the sole evidence of the existence of Billy's horses. " You're a maiden all tattered and torn, anyhow," Geordie said. " Vivien'Il have to be putting a new front in that pinny again." " What odds ; let's hurry home, they'll be milking," she said, looking where the sun was crimsoning the smoky west. " I'm thinking we'll be hearing of this again," Geordie said as they ran.