voices from the past


The Red Kangaroo

by Ethel Castilla (1861- ?)

. . . the story continues . . .

Afew minutes later they joined the hunting party outside the garden gate. There were a score of horsemen at the gate, each wearing a cartridge belt and carrying a gun, and a couple of led horses were laden with cartridges. Away to the west was a line of white-trunked gum trees, girdied with scrub. Towards this a string of horsemen, armed with stockwhips, were galloping over the plains. John Forsythe, a short, thickset, bandy-legged man, with a large head and a red, rugged face, half buried in a grey beard, was standing by his strong brown horse, Adept. He did not notice Crystal or Theyre, through the girl was conspicuous on the showiest horse in the Maroondah stables, Bayard, a bright chestnut, with a white star on his forehead. Theyre was the one well-dressed man of the party, as Crystal observed, as she rode up to the Mountfords' buggy to exchange gushing confidences with Gawne Mountford's two rosy-cheeked, dashing daughters. He looked well on his bay thoroughbred, which he had named Pegasus, greatly to the puzzlement of Mat, the groom. That worthy wondered “Why Mr. Theyre put a mare's name on a 'oss.” Peg the horse remained in the stables, and out of them, until he was gathered to his fathers.

Theyre and Crystal cantered away from the rest until they reached a little creek, shaded by a fragrant tangle of musk-trees and golden wattles. They followed its windings, letting their horses walk. The college-bred man, “with loads of learned lumber in his head,” was many fathoms deep in love with this untravelled girl. For her sake he was ready to comply with his father's wishes and stay upon the Downs.

“Crystal,” he said, after a long silence, “I've been trying for the last week to get the old man to stock Kareen.”

Now, Kareen was the cattle station adjoining Maroondah, left to her elder son by the first Mrs. Forsythe.

“And he won't?” asked Crystal, sympathetically.

“Not he! He argued in his own obstinate way that it won't pay. I think he likes to keep me dependent on him, when I want to strike out on my own. I was at Kareen yesterday. It has such a nice cosy little homestead. We could be so happy there.”

“Indeed!” said Crystal, laughing. “You seem sure that I want to go there.”

“I am sure of nothing,” said the young man, flushing angrily.

“Don't let us quarrel on this heavenly day,” cried Crystal, and she cantered away towards the scrub, where the party were dismounting.

The horses were tied in a line to a wire fence when Crystal reached it. She slipped from Bayard, tied him up, and took her gun from the buggy to join the shooters, who had taken their stations behind trees, with their guns at their shoulders. Behind the scrub resounded loud shouts of “Ooay! Ooay!” and the sharp cracking of stockwhips. There was a pause, and then a mob of soft-eyed, brownish-grey kangaroos came hopping out of the underwood, and seemed to dance round the shooters. Guns went off in all directions, and the pretty creatures fell. The slaughter continued till the belt yielded no more game, when the sportsmen disappeared into the bush to get the big skins and tails, which were fastened on the led horses.

“We take Kooray Paddock next,” shouted John Forsythe, in his harsh voice.

. . . the story continues . . .

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