voices from the past


The Red Kangaroo

by Ethel Castilla (1861- ?)

. . . the story continues . . .

The children scampered out upon the lawn.
“I have your gun ready, Crystal,” said Jack Forsythe, gently, coming up to the girl's chair, “and Mat is saddling Bayard.”

Crystal smiled sweetly at this handsome son of Anak. Jack Forsythe was undeniably good-looking, though a costume consisting of a loose holland coat, a soft shirt, secured at the waist by a cartridge belt, shabby tweed trousers and old leggings, was not calculated to enhance his beauty. He had fine dark eyes, a good nose, and a particularly handsome moustache. This ornament hid a rather coarse and sensual mouth, but Crystal shared in the common opinion of Jack Forsythe, that he was a fine young Queenslander, and twice the man his bookish elder brother Theyre appeared likely to become. Jack was only 23, but he had developed quickly in the forcing Queensland climate, and was reputed the best shot and scrub rider on the Downs. Old Forsythe grumbled equally at all his children, but he had been heard to own that he “liked a lad with a spark of the devil in 'im, and Jack 'ad more 'n one.”

Crystal went over to the schoolroom piano and sat down, beginning to play a dreamy waltz.

“I don't know that I want to go. It's cruel work shooting kangaroos. Poor beasties.”

“It's too bad,” said the young man, impatiently. “I got up this kangaroo drive for you. And you promised to ride with me.” He paused, and added jealously, “I believe you want to stay behind with Theyre.”

A quiet voice at the door interrupted him. “The old man is asking for you, Jack; the Mountfords are come,” and Theyre Forsythe came into the schoolroom.

Jack frowned, whistled to his dog, and went reluctantly away.

“The Lily” was Jack's nickname for his elder brother. Jack had a hearty contempt for the products of Rugby and Oxford, and had firmly refused to enter either of those seats of learning. Theyre had gone to both, and had taken a B.A. degree at Oxford. He was slighter and shorter than Jack, and his smooth-shaven face, with its delicately-cut features, was less tanned than his brother's. He had been born and bred on Maroondah, and was not deficient in manly accomplishments, though he could not compete with Jack either as a shot or a rider. He looked well in his brown riding suit, made by a London tailor.

“Aren't you ready for the slaughter, Crystal?” he asked lightly.

“I'm not coming,” answered the girl, turning round on her music-stool.

“Why, you were keen on this drive yesterday.”

“Yesterday isn't to-day.”

“Well, I was only going because you were. I thought it would please you.” The young man bent over the capricious creature and spoke with feeling. “Am I never to please you, Crystal?”

“If you got me a red kangaroo skin,” said the girl, slowly, as though the wish was the result of long thought, though it was but the caprice of the moment, “I would like it. I have wanted one for a rug for my room for an age. Di Mountford has a beauty.”

Now, a red kangaroo is a rare beast, and Crystal knew it.

“Come to the drive and ride with me, and I swear I'll shoot one for you,” said Theyre with sudden energy.

“Done!” cried the girl gaily. And she tripped across the lawn and into the house, while Theyre made his way to the stables.

. . . the story continues . . .

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