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The Red Kangaroo

by Ethel Castilla (1861- ?)

. . . the story continues . . .

Theyre made for a paddock holding a great V-shaped disused kangaroo-yard. During the last drive he thought he had seen a red “old man” kangaroo lurking in the bushes by the sapling fence. The yard was about five miles from the homestead, and was overgrown with wallaby bush and baby eucalypts. It had not been used for ten years, when there had been a great kangaroo-hunt, and many hundred kangaroos had been driven into it and despatched with iron bars.

As Theyre reached it, the largest red kangaroo he had ever seen hopped out of the bushes. He fired, but the creature had seen him and disappeared. He dashed into the scrub after it, but failed to find it. He came back to the yard, having lost his hat, cursing his luck that he should have seen the prize he desired for one maddening minute and then have lost it. He lingered about the kangaroo yard, without any result, and then rode aimlessly from one belt of scrub to another until he was tired. He hobbled Pegasus and lay down beneath a grove of scrub oaks, whose needle-like foliage piled in masses on the ground made a pleasant pillow. He fell asleep and dreamed that Crystal was laughing at him because he had come home without a red kangaroo.

The plains were flushed by the light of the setting sun when he awoke. He mounted Pegasus to go home. On his way he again passed the kangaroo-yard, and cast a longing glance into it. Once more he caught a glimpse of what seemed the identical red kangaroo, half hidden by a clump of wallaby bushes. Theyre fired and wounded him. The beast did not fall at once, but limped slowly into the inner pen of the yard and crouched among the scrub. The young man leaped from his horse. Dropping his gun, he seized a rusty iron bar that lay at his feet, and ran up to the dying beast to put him out of his misery.

The kangaroo was not dying. He reared himself to his full height and faced Theyre, towering over him. In a flash the brute had rushed upon the young man and jerked the bar from his hand. Theyre staggered, and the kangaroo, holding him with its fore-paws, tore his clothes to ribbons with his cruel hind-paws. Again and again Theyre tried to clutch the iron bar, that lay just beyond his reach. “Cooee! Cooee!” he cried, but his strength was fast going, and he was answered only by the harsh “qua-aah!” of the carrion crows and the mocking laughter of the jackasses. The beast tore his flesh, until he was sick and faint from pain. He closed his eyes and ceased to struggle at last, and wondered weakly if the carrion crows would pick out his eyes after he was dead – or before.

The thud of a horse's hoofs roused him. There was a crashing of boughs as a horseman made his way through the scrub, and in the fading light he recognised Dr. Allworth on his big grey mare. The grey-haired, gaunt bush doctor, whom everyone liked, rose to the emergency with characteristic nerve. In a few moments the kangaroo had received his death-blow from a hand that could be as gentle as a woman's.

. . . the story continues . . .

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