|Chapter Title||LOST IN THE SCRUB.(Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||Studies in Bush Life. On a Gippsland Selection|
LOST IN THE SCRUB.
"Dugald, dear, will you drive me to Miyal- lam to meet Aunt Manly ?" Mrs. Campbell said at Saturday's dinner table. Now Aunt Manly was the children's bete noire. Vivien leaned on her broom, as she swept
the back verandah after dinner, to watch the dog cart rattle between the pine rows. " Mollie, fill Aunt Manly's water jug, will you, when you've done that ? It will be for- gotten else, and there will be a row," she said. " We must he tidy, too, by 5 o'clock," Mol- lie said. "She's very critical." " What odds if she is?" said Vivien. "I think it is very indecent for people to criti- cise those who are doing their best to enter- tain them." " So it is," Effie agreed, virtuously ; "we wouldn't do it, would we, Vivien ? Look, suppose we clear out, regularly run away, and have a little afternoon picnic ?" " I have a great mind to," Vivien said laughingly. "Will you come, Mollie?" "No, and I don't think you ought to go either. I'm afraid mother might be vexed, and at any rate one of us must stay and have a cup of tea ready for them." " "Mollie," Vivien said, solmenly, when they were going, "we are fleeing from tempta- tion. We don't want to tell lies about being glad to see Aunt Manly, and they are sure to slip out if we are here. Don't you think you ought to come too ?" Mollie laughed. "Go to, you Sophists," she cried, throwing the scrubbing brush after them. "Let's walk right through the maize," Effie said, as they went down the lane. "It's so nice when you're in the middle, it keeps talking all the time." They made a diagonal through the maize paddocks. Long, low whispers dreamed over the sea of ribbon leaves, that softly tapped and scratched each other, but Ellie could not tell what they were saying. "How far shall we go ?" Vivien said, as they gained the road and swung into step. " As far as we'll be able to get back before dark. Vivien, when shall I be able to draw as well as Phil May?" "When you have his genius, my dear. Don't cry for the moon, Effie." "Well, you think you will be able to paint as well as— as— Michael Angelo." "Oh, do I ? Judging from report his produc- tions are pretty excellent. I don't mind hav- ing him as a standard." " Then I'll have Phil. May."
" I think time must be getting on judging by the sun," Effie said, when they were far away from home. "Suppose we turn." " I'll tell yon what, Effie ; you see we have made a big round coming by the road. I vote we go across country through the bush. It will make a fine short cut, save at least a mile. I don't feel nearly so fresh as when we started, and we must get home for milk- ing. Have you thought of a euphuistic way of telling Aunt Manly you don't want to see her ?" " No, I'd forgotten her. Oh, I am so thirsty," observed Effie. " I say, though, Viv., can you find the way ? " We'll get very low in the gullies here ; we shan't be able to see anything to guide us." " Oh, we can't go wrong. Punmanitel is directly over there, and we have only to make a bee line to it."
An hour after. " The track is getting very indefinite," said Effie, "and the sun is getting very low." " Daylight for an hour yet, lassie, and it is only because the scrub is so thick on this bit of flat. It will be all right when we are on the rise again. I shall have a stick, though, for snakes." She broke a branch from the head of a fallen gum, and stripped off the dead leaves. "This will be a tough bit to get through, Effie ; I only hope the snakes will behave themselves," she said. "I don't like your short cuts," Effie said. " We don't seem any nearer home than when we started. We'd have been nearly home if we'd stuck to the road." " I believe we should," Vivien returned ; " but it is too late to turn back now. Here is a wallaby truck or something." She was beating the scrub to frighten the
snakes. " Are you going first," Effie asked, in a very casual and indifferent tone, as she sur- veyed the vague and narrow rent in the level walls of desolate, grey, swamp fed scrub. Vivien laughed. " I suppose you think it is my right to scrape first acquaintance with any straying reptiles. Very well, come then." They brushed their way through for a time, then the tracks gradually gave out. The scrub was thickly netted over with a crinkled, leafless, threadlike creeper with little blue flowers. " We've got into the Flatterer's net," groaned Effie, "Oh, isn't it hot down here — and the mosquitoes."
Vivien pushed on, tearing the net, and leaving the threads hanging in rags. The closed in forest was as silent as a place of graves. "Talk about heat," she said ; " you come first, Effie, then you will be able to define it accurately. You only walk in the track I make." Effie evinced no mad desire ; she was busy investigating the source of every prick she felt through her stockings. Hitherto it had only been ti-tree or a pointed sword grass blade, but each time she looked down in horrified expectance of the sight of a little wicked head and a lithe shining body. They scrambled over logs ; they crawled under barricades of creeper netted ti-tree stems, they went by devious ways of walla- bies. When they had crossed the flat the sun had set. Twilight fell soon in the green tim- ber, but fortunately the hill scrub was thin. But the dead silence of it, the solemn, grey green gloom, the dusky trees and the shadows that gathered in the long perspec- tives of straight, pale trunks — not a touch
of color anywhere, save for the blue eyes of a belated patch of lobelias. From far away there came the wild, burst- ing melody of a magpie's song, floating from the very heart of the gold sunset. The summer twilight ended. A star twinkled through the foliage above. Vivien began to feel active misgivings. She there- fore hummed a tune to show Effie how en- tirely at ease she was. Two minutes after she heard Effie humming as she tramped steadily behind. Vivien thought she recog- nised a similarity of motive, and began to laugh. " What on earth are you laughing at ?" Effie demanded, irritably. Mirth seemed out of place in this primeval waste. " Oh, Effie, we are a funny pair." Effie could not see why, also she could not see that they were getting any nearer home. Sud- denly the darkness fell to a deeper shade. Effie stopped short. " Vivien, I tell you we're hushed. There isn't a sign of a fence or a track, and I'm tired to death." " No, we are not, Effie. It is only because it is such slow travelling. We can't help but come out on our back paddocks." " Why are we so long, then ?" " I don't know ; I'm tired, too." A harsh, sudden, short chuckle above their heads made Effie start violently. "Only a jackass, Effie," Vivien said. "Why, what a nervous child." (To be continued.)