Chapter 196515073

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Chapter NumberX.(Continued.)
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Full Date1899-02-25
Page Number42
Word Count1209
Last Corrected2021-01-05
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleStudies in Bush Life. On a Gippsland Selection
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The next evening Vivien and the children were on the front verandah shelling peas. Geordie had shelled three pods, and eaten the contents of a dozen more.

Vivien by back in the hammock. Her basin was rather fuller than Geordie's. "Here's Tom Watts meandering up the orchard," he said. "How are you, Tom ?" said Dugald, shak- ing hands vigorously. "First rate, thanks — first rate. Well, Effie, 'ot enough for you ?" " Hullo, Tom," said Dugald ; "what's the row between Spooner und Billy Spadger ? Hedley Marsh was telling me, but I don't think he understood himself. I couldn't make head or tail of it." " Well," cried Tom, slapping his knee, "there's been a big disturbance. Somebody's been nailin' up Billy's sliprails, when he was takin' his 'orses through. Enough to make a feller mad, I say. Well, he caught young Wilfred Spooner goin' past this mor- nin' with a tommyock, and 'e jumps to the conclusion it was Wilf had done it, and 'e tanned him spiffin'. Wilf says 'e 'adn't a thing to do with the nailin' — never dreamt of doin' it. Pa Spooner's mad with Billy, and says 'e'll 'ave the law of 'im. Mr. Mac- donnell advises 'em to make it up quietly. It'll ruin 'em to take nothin' like that into court. But they're both Paddies— hot 's fire. I don't think Wilf's skitin', so Billy, ought to apologise. I pity the real chap when 'e gets hold of 'im. My word, he'll cop out. If you wasn't good friends I'd say it was you, Dugald, old feller. You live as close as Spooners do." Effie and Geordie were staring at each other with horrified eyes. They slipped quietly away. " I'm going straight over to tell Billy it was me," Geordie said. "Oh, Geordie, where's the use ?" Effie cried. "It's too late now." "If he knows it isn't Wilf, he'll apologise. Not that it'll hurt young Wilf to have a hiding, but if they're going to make such a foolish fuss, we'll have to own up." " I don't see the use," she said, dismally. "Billy will murder us. He has a fearful temper." " You needn't come. Eff. I'll tell him It was me." "No, you don't, Geordle. I'll die with you, If you must." "Come on, then," he said. "Let's go be- fore it gets dark." He caught her hand, and dragged her down the hill. They ran across the pad- docks. In the dusk Effie's foot went into a crab hole, and she fell flat. "You did that on purpose to make the time spin out," said Geordie. "I didn't," she said. "I fell accident- ally." " Accidentally done on purpose. Anyhow, keep your weather eye open now." They walked considerably slower when they came in sight of Billy's cottage. Loud voices were on the still sultry evening air. Effie grew alarmed again. "Don't go on, Geordie, listen how loud Billy is talking. There's no knowing what he'll do."

"Well, you stay here, Eff, and I'll go on." That brought Effie on again. " Mr. Macdonnell and Mr. Humphries are there," he said, as they peeped through the currant bushes round the picket fence. " It's all right. Billy won't do anything while they're there. Listen to old Spooner. He and Billy 're going it two-forty. The purple visaged men had nearly come to blows. Even at that critical moment Effie made a note of the contrast of the quiet gentlemanly faces of the other men. They pushed back the gate, and came up through the long tangled grass. Mr. Hum- phries surveyed them with a merry twinkle in his eye. Mr. Macdonnell turned on them severely. " What do you want here, Effie?" he said, looking sternly at the child. " Please, sir,'' piped up Geordie, resuming his school manners in the presence of the master, " I nailed up Billy's slip rails." " So did I," struck in Effie. Mr. Hum- phries threw his head back with a silent laugh. There was an answering gleam in Effie's eyes. Geordie kept his gaze stead- fastly on the master's face. " What's this," Mr. Macdonnell said. " Billy, listen here a minute." " The combatants turned fiercely on Geordie, who began a very muddled, breathless little tale. When it was finished Billy seemed ani- mated with a desire to wipe the children from the face of the earth. Mr. Spooner's countenance beamed triumphantly, and Mr. Humphries burst into a hearty laugh. "Hold on, Billy," he said, "don't annihi- late the youngsters. Suppose you let them off this time, since they've owned up so handsomely." Billy seemed as if he must vent his rage on Effie and Geordie. Daylight had failed, and the last jackass voices were dying away. The children were in a hurry to go home. Supported by Mr. Humphries's genial presence they were not afraid. Geordie marched up to Billy and held out his hand. " Say we're quits, Billy," he said. " You made us late for school, and we nailed up your sliprails." He smiled sweetly. Billy Spadger was only a man. He could not resist the dear little face. He gripped Geordie's hand, and bent down and glared into his face in the twilight. " I'll let you off this time, young man," he said, "but don't you be cuttin' up tricks again. I ain't goin' to let you off next time." Not a whit cared Geordie for next time. "Effie, let's go home," he said, taking her hand. " Oh, and Mr. Spooner, just tell Will I'm awfully sorry he got a hiding. I hope it didn't hurt much." They went down the path, and left Billy and Mr. Spooner to square accounts as best they could. " I'm going to see you and your sister home, young man," Mr. Humphries said, striding after them, and catching Geordie by the suitor collar. "The native bears will be devouring you in the dark bush." " I had a native bear for months once," said Geordie, calmly, "and it got in a trap,' and I had to shoot it, and Dugald's got it stuffed in Vivien's studio." " Well, perhaps it will be dingoes then," Mr. Humphries said, laughing. " Why, bless you, the dingoes are very timid of man. I thought everyone knew that," said Geordie. " I'm not sure that they object to little boys and girls, though," said the man. "I'm afraid your mother will be alarmed at your being out so late." " Mother is in bed, she's not well," Geordie said ; "and Vivien isn't the girl to worry if a fellow isn't exactly up to time." " Go on, you're the coolest kid I know," said Mr. Humphries, shaking him by the neck. " There's a wallaby. See it ? Wouldn't you have been frightened if you saw that in the dark alone ?" " I wouldn't be frightened of ten thousand millions of billions of trillions of walla- bies ——" " Here's your gate. Run home. Goodbye," Mr. Humphries said, cutting short his large boastfulness. " It's wise to confess," Geordie said, as they ran along the drive. " We'd have been in fear and trembling over that now, if we hadn't owned up."