|Chapter Title||"AND IT WAS THE SABBATH DAY."|
|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||Studies in Bush Life. On a Gippsland Selection|
STUDIES IN BUSH LIFE.
ON A GIPPSLAND SELECTION.
By A. Mabel Stocks.
Oh, girls are girls, and boys are boys. And have been so since Abel's birth. —Eugene Field. CHAPTER III. " AND IT WAS THE SABBATH DAY." A cracked cow bell rang up and down the passage. Mollie believed in early rising, and was not tolerant enough to allow another
creed in others. Still, when she had lit the fire there was yet a sleepy silence in the house. Dugald had a veritable genius for sleep, and Vivien and Effie were little better. Mollie took the bell and clanged it wildly inside the boy's bedroom door. " Clear out !" came in a growl from under the clothes, intimating that Dugald was at least awake, if in no amiable mood. She went into Vivien's room and rang the bell close to her head. Vivien never moved. " Vivien, it's 5 o'clock," Mollie shouted in her eye. Not an eyelid stirred. " Oh, dear, talk of the seven sleepers," sighed Mollie, as she went to the washstand and dipped the sponge in water, and gently squeezed it over Vivien's face. "Well, I know she must be awake, only of course she's too proud to let on. Now for Effie." Mollie had no intention of wasting her time on Effie. She simply caught her by the arm and pulled her, wrathful and protest- ing, out of bed, and fled before a torrent of abuse. She had breakfast ready for them by the time they reached the kitchen. Bread and butter, corned beef and coffee disap- peared at a rate to make a hygienist shudder.
But there was equal haste in every farm in Miyallam North. The settlers took the milk to the district creamery, and it was the aim of each one not to be the last arrival, for as they filled their cars in turn from the separated milk tank it was difficult for each man to remember exactly how much milk he had brought with him, and as a rule he generally gave himself the benefit of the doubt, so that the last comer usually had greatly reduced measure to carry back to his pigs and calves. Thanks to Mollie Dugald was generally among the first arrivals at the creamery. Mrs. Inverarity came by the time they had adjourned to the yard with a mighty rattle of buckets. " How is Mr. Inverarity getting on, Mrs. Inverarity ?" said Mollie, whose tongue was apt at gymnastics. She peered round her cow to catch sight of the broad back in the stall in front. The shoulders of it relaxed despondently. " Not no good at all if you ast me," Mrs. Inverarity said. " I tell him every letter he'd best come 'ome, where I can look after 'im decent. He'll be laid up with typhud next." Mrs. Inverarity's husband was "tracking Fortune in the melancholy West," and never yet had he caught up with that fast-fleeing lady, who led him a wild dance over the dusty Coolgardie deserts, and very seldom gave him a cheque to send to his wife in the East ; so she kept the pot boiling by
milking at Punmanitel. She stayed on Mon- day and Friday to wash and scrub. " Oh, Mrs. Inverarity, I do hope he will be successful soon," Mollie answered. " Don't let Geordie hear you ; he despises pessi- mists." " H'm," said Mrs. Inverarity, briefly, as she turned the cow out and drove in an- other. "Nice mornin,' ain't it, after the rain ?" " Delicious," Mollie said, looking up at the rich, rain-washed blue. A fresh buoyant breeze came rollicking up from the Southern Ocean, ruffling endless miles of eucalyptus forests into dancing, sparkling life. The rain had washed away the smoke, and the dark blue Baw Baws lay clear cut against the sky. Little, ragged, quick fly- ing mist clouds threaded the mountain gul- lies and brushed against their slopes. The magpies were mad with delight, and sang till they burst into ringing shouts. Effie and Geordie fed the pigs while Du- gald was at the creamery. Effie loved pigs " Geordie," she said, " Just look at the lovely expression on that dear, wee, little mite of a dump's face." Geordie shovelled the feed into the troughs with unsentimental haste. " Lovely," he echoed. " Horrid, you mean. Look at their bleared eyes, and the noise they make when they eat. Fowls are much better." Effie leaned over the railing till she was nearly in among them. "Pooh ! Fowls !" she said, scornfully. " Your great, greedy lump of an Annie Amelia for example, I sup- pose." Geordie suddenly caught her legs, and tip- ped her in to the midst of the heaving, swiny mass. " There, now ; don't you insult my Annie Amelia again." Effie jumped back over the railing like a frightened flash, and Geordie wriggled up the pole to the bark roof to escape her wrath. " You're a downright dirty pig, Geordie Campbell," she cried. "One would think Annie Amelia was your sweetheart, the way you flare up. You just come down from there and I'll give you something." " Now then, children ; no fighting," cried Mollie, as she came from the chicken coops, beating Old Hundredth on the fowls' kero- sene tin. " Oh, Geordie," said Effie, suddenly forget- ting her injuries, " the pink eyes— he pigs in this sty—gave a party last night. Irene Shorttail— see her?—played, and the youngs- ters danced. Billy Pinkeye—that's this one —ate ever so much too much. You can see he looks dull and heavy this morning. His mother was trotting round all night because he was ill." She leaned on the rails and looked at them thoughtfully, with dreamy recollection in her eyes. " Afterwards, Irene and Tommy Pinkeye took a turn in the garden. As soon as they got behind some lemon trees, Tommy flop- ped on his knees and said, 'Irene, my love, be mine!' and Irene said, 'Yes, Tommy !' " Geordie was blinking with fascinated in- terest. " When's the wedding?" he asked, with swift flight to the obvious conclusion. " Next week, because Tommy just came over from Johannesburg for the holidays, and he will have to be getting back soon. Rev. Billy Dapple is going to marry them. He is this little chap, with the straight tail." Effie tenderly scratched a black, hairy back. " Mr. Pinkeye says he never knew a preacher like that young fellow Dap- ple—such vigor, such force, earnest- ness, unction." Mr. Dapple's quali- ties dropped from Effie's lips with deliberate emphasis, and an accentuating thump of her fist on the rail. She went on slowly— " Billy Pinkeye's father has promised him a bike, but he says he can't get them guaranteed for more than a certain weight, so that if Billy will persist in eating so much—" Geordie cut short the recital by trotting off to cater for the breakfast of his young life's first love.
This was a fowl, Annie Amelia by name. The euphonious alliteration was the result of an inspired moment on the part of Du- gald. She was so unlovable and unbeautiful
a creature that Effie recommended the pot as her only possible end. Then Geordie took her to his heart and loved her—enormous beak, sprawling feet, sheenless feathers, in- satiable appetite and all. He gave her a dozen of her own eggs when she sat, from which she initiated into the mystery of life three lively images of herself. She was dwelling in a wire netting coop under the cherry tree, and thither went Geordie with a cocoa tin of soaked bread and pollard. He lay flat on the ground and watched every mouthful disappear with exquisite and unselfish pleasure. When he found the chickens were being deprived of their fair share he remonstrated gently. " Annie Amelia, my darling, give the chil- dren some," he said. Then he went for fresh water, and filled the little wooden trough. He found a couple of Annie Amelia's cast off feathers, and made them into a choice bouquet of doubt- ful fragrance, and fastened in his button- hole. Dugald also had a pet fowl. She was christened Rebecca Sharp, but was popularly known as Becky, only Dugald called her Little mother. When he chopped wood she waited close by for the white ants ; when he dug she pecked at the grubs; when he sacrificed trotted behind the horse. In fact, she fol- lowed Dugald as much as ever did Mary's immortal lamb her mistress. " Girls, make haste, and get ready for church," called Vivien, as she scraped a plateful of breakfast debris to the nine cats
that sprawled on the back verandah steps, and in the shade of the dairy. Vivien's services as lady's maid were in great requisition for the next half hour. She just had her mother's bonnet satisfactorily adjusted, and Mollie and Effie inside their pink crepon dresses, when Dugald's voice sounded imperiously up the passage. " Vivien, do come here." Vivien came. " For goodness sake, see if you can button on this collar. I don't know why on earth you starch 'em so stiff. It's enough to choke a fellow." Vivien pressed a hair pin into the service, and fastened the refractory button. " You look very nice, my boy," she said, and she straightened his tie. " If I'm not a martyr to fashion," he grumbled, as he went off to harness up. They filled up the dog cart, and drove off. Vivien was in the kitchen, peeling pota- toes when Geordie came in with Annie Amelia under his arm, two chickens on her back, and the third perched on his own head. " Just a bit of cake for her, Viv., for a lark," he entreated. " Then come and learn your catechism, Geordie," she said, as Annie Amelia made short work of the cake. (To be Continued.)