The Red Kangaroo
by Ethel Castilla (1861- ?)
The Red Kangaroo is the story of a kangaroo hunt that goes wrong in more ways than one.
The spring sunshine was lighting up the Maroondah schoolroom. It was a cheerful room in a cross-curtained out-building, separated from the homestead by a lawn. The Maroondah gardens skirted a Queensland river, and from the schoolroom could be seen great, green-haired willows, dipping into the shining water, and making a delicious background for snowy fruit trees, and orange-groves, and glorious masses of roses, crimson, white, and golden. Beyond the river ran level green plains to the horizon. The sunbeams danced in at the open schoolroom windows, and the soldier birds sang “Sweet! “Sweet!” up the musical scale, making it difficult for the occupants of the room to take a keen interest in “Little Arthur's History of England.”
In a cushioned armchair sat an exceedingly pretty girl of 20. Her dark blue cotton gown exactly matched the tint of her laughing eyes, and her curling hair made an aureole of gold about her head. Her cheeks had the colouring of rosy shells. A red-haired boy of eight, sturdy, tanned, and inconceivably freckled sat on a low chair on her right. On her left nestled against her a pretty rosy girl of seven, whose red curls and greenish-grey eyes were the only points she had in common with her brother. The governess held a copy of Lady Callcott's “Little Arthur's History of England” in one beautiful, white hand. The boy was droning out from another copy of that celebrated work.
“Although the poor – Britons were al-most na-ked, and had – very – bad – swords, and very weak spares and bows, and arrers – and small shields, made of bas-ket work – covered – with – leather – they were – so – brave – that – they fought a great – many – battles – against – the kangaroos.”
“Jim!” cries the teacher, laughing.
“Well, Crystal, I really can't 'tend. I'm thinking of the drive all the time. And we do fight the kangaroos, anyway.”
“There were none in ancient Britain, Jim.”
“Crikey! What a slow time the boys must have had there!”
And Jim went on stumbling over Lady Callcott's historical facts.
Crystal Wilton was the eldest daughter of a widowed squatter, who had failed and died, leaving four girls on the world's charity. John Forsythe, the owner of Maroondah had taken Crystal as a governess, chiefly because he got what he called “edication” for his children, cheap. Old Forsythe was as economical as he was wealthy and illiterate. The homestead had no mistress. John Forsythe had lost two wives. The first had left two sons. Jim and Margaret, usually calld Midget, were the children of the second marriage. The house was managed by Mrs. Daggert, a grim, middle-aged housekeeper. John Forsythe was a clever man, who had made Maroondah one of the show sheep stations of the district, but he was entirely unconscious that both his sons were the slaves of the blue-eyed governess.
Jim had not been long occupied in slow and painful tracking of the ancient Britons, when there was a loud rap at the schoolroom door.
“Come in,” said Crystal. And a tall young man carrying a gun strode into the room, with a fine black-and-tan collie at his heels.
“Drive's on in ten minutes,” he cried, in a ringing voice. “Look sharp, Rufus and Midget.”
. . . the story continues . . .
About the Author
See our page on Ethel Castilla.