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Title: Five Little Bush Girls
Author: Ryan, E. Lee
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Five Little Bush Girls" ***

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produced from scans of public domain works at The National
Library of Australia.)

                        FIVE LITTLE BUSH GIRLS.

                       Dedicated to the Memory of
                            My Dear Mother.
                                                             THE AUTHOR.

                      First Print, October, 1918.

[Illustration: “It’s about the hardest thing I ever tried.”]

                              FIVE LITTLE

                              E. LEE RYAN,

                     Illustrated by Betty Paterson.

                     AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS’ AGENCY,
                     237 COLLINS STREET, MELBOURNE.

                 This Book was Printed in Australia by
                      BRUCE & Co., 434 Bourke St.,
                      and the Blocks were made by
                        Patterson, Shugg & Co.,
                             21 Burns Lane,


  Chapter.                                                         Page.
  I. THE CONSULTATION                                                  7
  II. “GILLGONG”                                                      20
  III. THE LETTER                                                     29
  IV. “TEDDO”                                                         36
  V. THE REPLY                                                        42
  VI. A SURPRISE                                                      51
  VII. FRANK                                                          61
  VIII. THE STORM                                                     67
  IX. ANTICIPATION                                                    71
  X. MOSMAN                                                           77
  XI. HOME AGAIN                                                      88
  XII. WILLIE                                                         95
  XIII. A SYNDICATE                                                  102
  XIV. LESSONS                                                       110
  XV. EILEEN’S RETURN                                                118
  XVI. CONVERSATIONS                                                 126
  XVII. THE GOVERNESS                                                133
  XVIII. THE SUBSCRIPTION                                            141
  XIX. POETS                                                         154
  XX. GOOD-BYE TO “TEDDO”                                            162
  XXI. INTERCESSION                                                  169
  XXII. A HERO                                                       175
  XXIII. LETTERS                                                     180
  XXIV. A NEW ARRIVAL                                                186
  XXV. NEW PEOPLE                                                    193
  XXVI. SOME MERRY MEETINGS                                          202
  XXVII. THE INVITATION                                              209
  XXVIII. THE PARTY                                                  219
  XXIX. A WEEK ON THE RIVER                                          225
    CONCLUSION                                                       234

                               CHAPTER I.
                           THE CONSULTATION.

“I’m just about sick of it all,” said Eileen.

“So am I,” murmured Mollie, almost under her breath.

“Me, too,” said Eva.

“An’ me, too,” agreed Doris. “I’m weal sick of it.”

“Me tick, too,” cried Baby, looking round at the disconsolate faces,
and, putting two fat hands to her eyes, she cried lustily.

“Stop that, Baby,” cried Eileen, severely. “Stop at once.”

But Baby only cried the louder.

“Wait a bit, Baby. Here’s a nice piece of bread and jam,” said Mollie,
and the cries ceased instantly.

“I’m goin’ to ask Mum to let’s all have bread and jam for tea,” said
Doris. “I’m sick o’ old drippin’—weal sick!”

“So am I,” agreed Eileen. “Other people can have butter and jam
together, while we’re scraping along with old dripping. I’m just sick of

“So am I.”

“And so am I.”

“And so am I.”

“And so am I.”

And then five very disconsolate little girls swung five pairs of very
disconsolate legs vigorously as they sat in a row on the wooden
verandah. At least, Baby tried to swing hers in unison with the others,
but she only succeeded in giving a rather weak kick now and again, as
she watched the other legs and tried to munch her bread and jam at the
same time.

“Let’s count up all the bad luck we’ve had this year,” said Eileen.

“Oh, yes, let’s count,” they all cried excitedly, and instantly they sat
erect, all except Baby, who still solemnly swung one leg and then the
other, and hung tenaciously on to the last piece of crust.

“Go on, Eileen. Speak up.”

“First the two cows died, and one of the calves, and didn’t we have
trouble with the other one?” she said with a sigh.

“And then the big horse died,” chimed in another.

“So it did, and then——”

“Old Star’s foal died,” said Mollie.

“So it did,” cried Eileen. “Old Star’s beautiful foal died.”

“Me want Tar’s foal,” cried Baby.

“Oh, stop that noise, Baby! You never let us have a nice quiet talk,”
said Eileen. “What next?”

“The sheep got poisoned weed,” said Eva.

“And the dingoes came,” answered Doris.

“So they did,” cried Eileen, ticking off the events on her fingers.
“That’s six. Can’t we make twelve?”

“Say that lot over again,” said Doris, “and we might think of more.” She
sat down and prepared to enjoy herself listening to their bad luck.

“Yes,” answered Eileen, with hands in the air. “There’s the two cows and
the calf—oh! by the way, I didn’t count the calf last time; that’s
three, and the horse—that’s four; and old S-t-a-r-’s f-o-a-l” (spelling
it aloud, so that Baby would not go into a fresh paroxysm of grief)
“makes five, and there’s the poisoned weed and the dingoes. That makes
seven. We nearly have twelve—we might think of more by night,” she went
on hopefully.

“Oh! I know another—one you haven’t thought of—very near the biggest of
them all,” shouted Doris.

“Oh! Doris, darling, tell us!”

“What about the haystack being burnt down?” she exclaimed triumphantly.

“Oh, yes!” they shouted; “very near the worst of all, because if the
wind was blowing the other way and the house was a lot nearer the stack,
it would have been burnt, too.”

“Fancy me thinkin’ of it, and you not, and me very near the youngest,”
said Doris proudly, as she folded her hands complacently, with a look of

“That’s eight!” shrieked Eileen. “I knew more would come. We’ll get the
twelve yet.”

“Oh, look at the beautiful sunset!” cried Eva. “Just like a big crimson

“Beautiful grandmother!” grumbled Eileen. “What’s the use of a beautiful
sunset, I’d like to know? I’m just about sick of seeing the old
sunset—the same old thing every day, with a few more colours dashed into
it at times. I’ve seen enough sunsets to last me to the end of my days,
after all the old droughty ones we’ve been seeing for months.”

“Were’s de tun-tet? Me want te tun-tet!” screamed Baby, as she clutched
her fingers towards the paling pink sky.

“Yes, dearie, you’ll get it, too,” answered Eileen. “You’ll get tons of
sunset if you keep on living here. You’ll get days and days and days of
it, till you’ll wish the old sun would never rise again, so as you
wouldn’t see him set again.”

Eva remained quietly watching the departing glory of the evening sky.
Sometimes Eva got “fits of goodness,” as Eileen called them, and then
she was “unbearable.” She sincerely hoped she was not going to get one
now, and spoil their nice grumbling evening, for of all things that
Eileen liked at times it was to grumble to her heart’s content,
especially when she had an audience, so she plunged back to the theme
before the “goodness” seized Eva.

“Well, we’ve counted eight. There must be more. Oh! yes—didn’t old Dave

“So he did!” shouted Doris wildly. “Poor old Dave died, and didn’t Dadda
have trouble fixing up about the funeral and lettin’ the policeman know,
and all that?” and she folded her hands importantly again. “It’s a
wonder we didn’t think of him first of all the troubles, being a man,
you know. Say them all over again, Eileen, and we might think of more.”

Doris was enjoying herself thoroughly. She was five, and fat and chubby,
and she swung her fat legs excitedly and held up her fat fingers to tick
off the events.

“Well, cut them short this time,” said Eva, “and let’s get on to
something else.”

“Indeed, it’s nice to talk about ’em,” answered Doris. “Two cows, calf,
big horse, f-o-a-l, weed, dingoes, fire, and old Dave—nine bits of bad
luck in one year!”

“What about Frank cutting his foot that time?” cried Eva, who was
getting warmed up to the subject.

“Oh, what a bit of luck!” gurgled Doris. “Ten, ten——”

“Oh, yes!” cried Eileen. “Frank cutting his foot, and having stitches
put in, and wasn’t he a cripple for weeks? That’s ten, sure enough.
Fancy ten big accidents in one year, besides the drought and old hot
sunsets, and dripping for butter, and long, lonely days when no one
comes. I’m real sick of it all. I wish I was rich and had pretty
clothes, and could travel about and have lots of fun. There’s Enid
Davis, and she’s not a bit prettier or better than us, and she wears
beautiful dresses and lovely silky stockings.” She extended her shapely
leg. “Fancy that in one of Enid’s silks! Why, it would be a different

Then they all laughed merrily for a time, but discontent was in the air.

“I think Enid’s just lovely,” said Doris, with a sigh.

“We’d all be if we had pretty dresses like her, and no work to do. She
has no right to be richer and happier than any of us. She happens to be
lucky. I don’t know why ever there’s such a difference between people.
If Enid wants a drive, she just has to call for the car. If we want one,
it’s either the broken-down buggy, or the jolting sulky, or ‘Shanks.’ I
think, if I were God, I’d have things fixed up differently.”

“Oh, Eileen, don’t say that!” said Mollie. “Don’t bring God’s name into

Mollie was the eldest, and at times, for all her natural gaiety, felt
her responsibilities.

“Now, don’t get sermony, Mollie. Let’s have a good straight-out talk
sometimes. I do wonder why God doesn’t send rain, when the ground and
all around is as black as the ace of spades.”

“I s’pose poor God’s busy,” said little Doris. “Goodness! we’re busy
enough without havin’ the world to look after.”

“Yes,” put in Eva, eagerly. “Just think of all the big world He has to
look after. I wonder He can manage it at all. There’s all the country
and all Sydney, and all other towns, and all other parts of the world.
Do you remember, when we were trying to learn geography, all the places
we had to think of? To think He has to look after them all! I just don’t
know how He manages at all.”

But Eileen’s shapely legs still swung vigorously to and fro, in silent

“I wish we were all big men, and could go out and work and make money,
and get real rich, and buy lovely homes, and—and—all that. And I wish
Mamma would never have to work again, and that Frank could go away and
get rich and—and—oh! anything different to this.”

They all looked up the long, white, dusty road that stood out clear and
distinct in the gathering twilight, and for a time were very quiet, with
rebellion in their hearts.

At last Mollie, with a bright light of resolve shining in her eyes,
turned to them.

“Do you know what I’ve been thinking? I don’t know if I ought to tell

“Oh, do, Mollie—do!” They all crowded round her. “Whatever is it?”

“It’s something I’ve been thinking over for three whole days.”

“Three whole days, Mollie? How ever did you manage not to tell us?”

“It’s a big plan—it might be too big, but—I think we ought to try. Come
on, I’ll tell you!”

They all gathered together with big wonder-eyes and listened. And
Mother, who had spent the afternoon down under the shade of the friendly
bluegums on the creek, darning and patching, wondered what was keeping
her little girlies so quiet up on the wooden verandah.

“You know, Dadda has a very rich brother somewhere in the world, and, of
course, he’s our uncle. So, at that rate, we have a Rich Uncle!”

“A Rich Uncle,” they all murmured.

“A smart lot of good he is to us,” put in Eileen. “That’s the last we’ll
hear of him.”

“Wait a bit,” went on Mollie. “I’ve been thinking we ought to write to

“Write to him,” in chorus, “but we don’t know him!”

“That doesn’t matter. We’ll write to him.”

“Write to him,” repeated Eileen. “A lot of good that will do. I suppose
he’d never answer the letter. Anyhow, where is he?”

“I don’t know. But I think we can find him.”

“How, Mollie—how?”

“Well, he travels a lot in Europe, but he’s in a big firm in Melbourne,
and if we write there they’re sure to forward it on to him. But keep
this a secret—a great big secret.”

“Oh, yes!” they all gasped.

“We’re all in it, you know. We’ll all sign our names.”

“Yes—oh, yes!” they all gasped again. “But how did you find him out,

“I heard Mamma and Dadda talking about him nearly a year ago. They had a
Melbourne paper, with a lot about a big firm in it, and they said he
pretty well owned it. Langdon and Ross is the name—Collins Street. And
Mamma said what a very rich man he was, and then she sighed and said how
different things were.”

“What a pity you didn’t think about the letter then,” sighed Eileen. “We
might be rich to-day.”

“I think I must have thought something then,” said Mollie, slowly; “but
it was only a few days ago, when I saw Mother looking so tired, that the
letter flashed across my mind.”

“And I never knew Dadda had a brother,” said Eva.

“You knew you had an uncle somewhere,” put in Eileen.

“Yes, but I never thought of whose brother he was. You can know a lot of
things without knowing much about them,” declared Eva, stoutly.

“Melbourne! That’s the capital of Victoria, isn’t it?”

“Oh, never mind what it is!” snapped Eileen. “Go on, Mollie.”

“The worst of it is,” went on Mollie, “he and Dadda have not been good
friends since they were boys. Of course, they might not be real bad
friends, but they quarrelled when they were young, and never write to
each other at all, and I suppose he’s nearly forgotten he has a brother
while he’s travelling all over the world.”

“Oh! dear, aren’t people a nuisance to go quarrelling, especially when
one of them’s rich?” said Eileen. “I do wish he was friendly with us: he
might help us. I don’t suppose Mamma and Dadda would take anything—it’d
be too much like begging.”

“Well, we’ll just write from ourselves,” said Mollie. “From five little
bush girls—his five little nieces that he doesn’t know—and we’ll all
sign our own names.”

“Good! Grand! Splendid! Oh, Mollie, you’re a brick! Let’s start the
letter straight away. Oh, Mollie! what’ll we say? I wonder when he’ll
get it.”

“But I hope he don’t write and tell Dadda that his five
little—little—what are we?—nieces, wrote to him,” said Eva.

“Oh, no! we’ll tell him not to,” declared Mollie. “It’ll be a hard
letter to write; I’ve been thinking over it for the last three days.”

“Three days!” again murmured Eva. “I don’t know how you’ve thought of it
for three days without telling us,” she said admiringly. “I’d have to
have told us all straight away. Oh, Mollie, you’re real clever! I’d have
never thought of our Rich Uncle.”

“Oh, Mollie, do let’s find him!” said little Doris; “let’s find him
quick! He might bring us lollies and candy and—and dolls——”

“And nice dresses and books and pictures and—” said Eva.

“And pocket-money and trips,” put in Eileen.

“I hope he ain’t got poor before we find him,” said Doris.

“Oh!” There was a chorus of exclamations, while their faces clouded. “I
hope not.”

“We don’t want any more poor ones in the family,” said Eileen, quickly.

“He’s not poor,” said Mollie. “We’ll all write and tell him about
ourselves and the drought and the bad times, and how Dadda has to

“Yes, how Dadda has to struggle,” repeated Eileen.

“And all about our losses—and about Mamma. What’ll we say about Mamma?”

“Say she’s a brick,” shouted Eileen, “and she’s always cheery and never
gives in——”

“And she makes all our clothes,” said Doris.

“And we often know she’s real tired, and she keeps on sewing,” said Eva.

“And when I get a big woman I’m going to take care of her,” said Doris,
quite carried away.

“Never mind when you’re a woman—we want help now,” said Eileen.

“And we’ll say she tries to make time to teach us,” said Mollie, “and
bring us up nicely, and we’re afraid she’ll tire herself to death before
we grow up, and we’d like him to write to us if he can spare the time.”

“Yes, spare the time,” repeated Eileen.

“And-and—we’d like him to come and see us——”

“Come and see us!” they repeated aghast. “Oh, Mollie! you’re not going
to ask him over here, are you?”

“Yes. What else can we do?”

“But if he’s such a big, rich man, and travelled such a lot—oh, Mollie!
our place won’t be grand enough, will it?”

“Yes, of course it will. It’s nice and clean, and we’ll all help to tidy
it up and make things as nice as possible. And it’s the only thing to
do—to ask him here, and let him see for himself how Mamma and Dadda have
to work while he’s tripping round.”

“Yes, while he’s tripping round,” echoed Eva.

“He’ll have to be very hard-hearted if he sees us like this, and does
not help us,” went on Mollie. “We’ll pay him back when we grow up. We
don’t want to be common beggars, but we do want money now.”

“Oh, Mollie! and I never thought you used to think like this,” declared
Eileen, in a low voice. “I never thought you wanted to be rich like I

“It’s not for myself so much as others,” cried Mollie. “I’m not going to
see Mother toiling from daylight to dark, and trying to keep nice and
pleasant, and Father and Frank nearly too tired to talk when they come
in of a night, and nothing but loneliness staring us in the face, when
all the time we might be able to make things a little better. We’ll
write that letter and post it by next mail,” she went on in a low voice.
“Mother is going to see Mrs. Smith to-morrow, so we’ll write it then.
But we must keep it a great big secret.”

“Well, this has been a wonderful evening,” said Eileen, “and I’m dying
for to-morrow to come.”

“It’s been a wonderful, bootiful evenin’,” bubbled Doris, clasping her
fat hands. “Bad luck and good together.”

“I hope it will be good luck,” said Mollie as she flew inside to set the
table, for away across the distance she saw the men returning slowly
from their day’s toil, while Eileen and Eva hurried off to feed the
lambs, and the two toddlers trudged off to the creek to meet Mamma.

“If only we can manage it! If only we can manage it!” was the thought
that filled Mollie’s mind as she hurried hither and thither from the
kitchen to the dining-room. “If only Uncle gets that letter and comes
straight away and fixes up things and gives us all a fresh start. If
only we can manage it!”

Outside in the gathering darkness Eileen and Eva fed and petted the
lambs while they laughed and talked, for a gleam of new hopes and
anticipations had come to them.

Late that night, when darkness and silence had descended on the
homestead, three pairs of bright eyes peered at the stars, while Mollie,
Eileen and Eva talked over the wonderful letter that was to be posted by
the next mail.

                              CHAPTER II.

Up till the evening that they had “put their heads together” and planned
that wonderful letter, the Hudsons had lived much the same lives as
other little bush girls, although, on the whole, it was much quieter.
Just at the present it was very dull on account of the drought, and also
their one neighbour, with a big family, had sold out of “Wilga” Station,
and gone further west, and that had put an end to the half-time school
that had flourished for twelve months between the Hudsons and Jenkins.
Now only a caretaker and his wife lived at Jenkin’s homestead, so the
little girls were very short of playmates. Sometimes Enid Davies, from
Myall, would call to see them, or they would pay a visit to her place,
but as Enid was away so much they seldom could count on her.

“Besides, Enid is so rich,” Mollie would say sometimes, “although she is
real nice, but I don’t like a lot of her friends.”

Already Mollie could feel the restraint of “class” in the air.

“Things are going from bad to worse,” Eileen would often grumble. “I do
wish people with big families wouldn’t sell out. There should be a law
to prevent it. We could have some fun and games when the Jenkins were
near, and we did have some fun at school, even if it was a bit of a
nuisance at times,” and then she would sigh as she thought of the little
weather-board school-house, where their teacher—a bright, fresh-faced
young man from the Department—had been so keen about studies and
competitions and games.

It was with regret that they all bade him good-bye, although there had
been days and days when they had all felt like throwing slates and books
at him—days when they could not manage columns of figures or dictation
or dates, and Eileen would wish the teacher “at the bottom of the sea,”
or “at the end of the world” or any other far-off place.

But he had left with words of kindly encouragement, telling them not to
forget their lessons, and to read and study, till such time as they
could obtain another teacher; and for a while they had tried, but it was
very hard to keep up anything without someone to supervise, as they all
discovered, although Mother tried her best to teach them a little every

“What’s the good of learning old sums?” said Eileen. “We’ll never use

“Oh, you never know!” Mother would say, hopefully.

“Yes, I know,” declared Eileen. “I’ll just live and die here, like I’m
going on, and nothing will ever happen, and I’ll never want sums or
nothing else.”

“You might get married and go away,” said Mollie.

“No, I won’t. If I do get married, I suppose it’ll be to some cockie
about here, so I don’t want to know anything for that!”—emphatically.

“You mustn’t call them ‘cockies,’” said Mollie, severely. “They’re all
selectors or lessees about here.”

“Well, whatever they are, I won’t marry any of them. I’ll die an old
maid, or go right away and marry a rich man and have a motor-car.” Which
showed that Eileen was not very consistent, and would say anything for
argument’s sake.

Things had been going from bad to worse on the Hudsons’ selection for
the past year. A run of bad luck seemed to have struck them, and
sometimes after a long day of toil Mr. Hudson would sit far into the
night, under the silent stars, smoking grimly, while he wondered how
long he could stand it. Already he was deep in debt to the bank, and the
loss of some valuable stock during the year had made things look
blacker. He was of a hopeful nature, and determined to stick to his land
through thick and thin till better times came. But to the children the
good times seemed a very long while coming.

Mollie was fourteen, and had big, deep blue eyes and red-gold hair. She
was bright and animated and fond of fun, and eagerly grasped any little
brightness that came within her reach, and in her kind, tender way,
eager to share it with others.

Eileen, with her big dark eyes and thick brown hair, was fond of luxury,
only she never had a chance to gratify her wishes. Her greatest wish was
to become “a fine lady,” with everything at her command.

Eva, with her nine years of experience, was somewhat old-fashioned. She
desired very much to be clever, and “some day” meant to learn
everything. Then came Doris and Baby, who never did much except play
with dolls and sticks and tins and bottles.

A big fat porter bottle, with a red ribbon round its neck, was Doris’s
pet “dog,” and she would tie a string to the ribbon and lead “him”
everywhere. Although she had many favourites among her dolls, her
special pet was “Rose,” a big rag doll, with a very dirty face and eyes
like two “daubs of the blue-bag,” as Eileen often said. For all her
dirty face and “blue-bag” eyes, she was taken everywhere, and even slept
with her fond little mother. When the annual picnic was held in the
little township Doris disgusted them all by rigging out Rose in the wax
doll’s white muslin and pink ribbons, and carrying her to the picnic. It
was a very dirty-faced Rose and a very draggled muslin frock that they
found in the bottom of the buggy on their return, for, in the excitement
of meeting new people, Doris had quite forgotten her treasure for the
time being.

Then they had “stick” horses, which came in for a lot of care, and
during the drought Doris daily placed little nose-bags, filled with
sawdust (for chaff), on their heads, after she had dipped their heads
into a pail of water. “’Cause the poor things are like ourselves, and
get so thirsty,” she would murmur, as she ran backwards and forwards,
attending to their wants.

“When God sends the rain, we’ll have nice green couch-grass for youse,”
she would tell the sticks, as she laid them away for the night. There
was Rattler and Robin and Tommie and Bally, and while Baby could only
jog round the house on hers, Doris would scamper over the paddock.

Frank Lynton had lived with the Hudson family for the last five years.
His mother had been Mr. Hudson’s favourite cousin, and on her death-bed
she had given her son into his care.

“I know you will be good to him, Robert,” she had murmured. “You know,
his father was a ne’er-do-well, but I’m sure my boy will not follow in
his steps.”

So Frank became one of the family, and tried to settle down and do his
very best, although as the years went on he knew that the land was not
for him, and, try as he would, he could never build up any interest or
eagerness in the work. This only made him try the harder to help and
please “Uncle and Aunt,” as he always called them, for he had a great
sense of gratitude, and he gave his fresh young strength and energies to
help them in their needs, while all the time deep in his heart was an
unsatisfied longing for something different.

“If only things would change for the better, and I could leave Uncle,”
he would murmur, as he went about his work. “But I must not let them
know—not yet awhile; but I’ll have to later on. I’m not going to waste
my life doing things I hate.”

Then he would work grimly on, with determination on his young face. And
no one at “Gillong” ever guessed the unsatisfied longings in the boy’s
heart—no one but Mollie.

It came about in this way. It had been a very hot, trying day, and Frank
had left home at five in the morning and returned at twilight, after
mustering and drafting sheep the whole day long. He was utterly weary
and worn out as he rode to the hayshed and pulled the saddle and bridle
off his horse, and there Mollie met him.

“Oh, Frank! a man came down from Myall to say there’s a big draft there
to-morrow. Travelling sheep were going through, and they didn’t give
notice, and all the sheep are boxed, and they want you up, first light.”

“Oh, hang it all!” cried Frank, wrathfully. “I’ve been at it every day
this week. It’s nothing but drafting from morning till night. I’m just
about sick of the whole turn-out.”

“Yes, it is hard,” said Mollie, slowly.

“Hard! It’s deadly. A fellow might as well be dead as be tied up here,
week after week, grinding his life away. I’m just sick of it.” And he
threw himself on a big bale of hay.

“Oh, Frank! I’m so sorry,” said Mollie, softly.

“It’s no use being sorry, Mollie,” he answered, with a hard laugh. “A
fellow has to go through it, I suppose—for a while, at any rate. But you
don’t know how hard it is, Mollie, when a fellow hates the very thought
of the work he’s tied to, and is always longing for something else he
knows he’d be better at. What’s the use of throwing your life away in
those paddocks, when there’s something else you’re dying to get at and
know you’ll be a success at it? You know that there’s hundreds of people
just fit for this kind of work, and could do it better than I can——”

“Oh, Frank! I am sorry; I always thought you didn’t like this,” said
Mollie, “but you’re always so cheerful and so bright, and——”

“It’s the least I can do, Mollie, and I shouldn’t grumble now. I’d be a
real cad if I were not grateful to you all. You mustn’t think I’m not

“I know you are,” answered Mollie, warmly, “and I’d like you to tell me
more,” she went on, hesitatingly, “if—if you would.”

For the first time in his life Frank poured out his heart and told her
all his dreams and wishes.

“And I’m saving up for it this ever so long. And you know, Mollie,” he
concluded, “my father was a ne’er-do-well, and if I go on up here
without my heart in my work I suppose people will put me down the same,
and all the time I’m out of my sphere. I’m sixteen now, Mollie, and it’s
time I was at it; but here I am, and there seems no chance. Look here,”
he cried, “as soon as we get rain and things are a little better I’ll
tell Uncle all about it.”

The stars had come out one by one as they talked, and now the sky was a
mass of flickering points, as Mollie, with a sad heart, gazed into the
twinkling depths, wondering what on earth she could do to help her loved
Frank, and suddenly there flashed into her mind the thought of that
wonderful letter.

Yes, that would be it! She would write to that rich uncle that she knew
so little of. He was rich, and he might help Frank. He might help them
all. But she must never let Frank know—Frank, nor Mother, nor Father.
Surely it would not be wrong to write on the quiet for a good cause like
this. For three days she had thought and thought and worried, before she
told her sisters of her plan.

“I’m glad you’ve told me all this, Frank, and I think you’re—you’re
splendid,” cried Mollie, dashing away the tears; “and I only wish I
could do something for you. You’ll have to keep on hoping and wishing,
and some day something good may happen.”

“Yes, some day,” echoed Frank. “I hope so. But we’d better go in to tea,
Mollie,” he said, cheerfully, “and then I’m going to bed early, to get
ready for a big day to-morrow.”

Frank never knew that, long after he was asleep, Mollie went to his box
and carefully examined his clothes, noting all the patched and darned
shirts and socks, and wondering if he could make those last until he
could go away.

“If only he could go before he has to get any more new clothes, and then
he could get a nice new supply for his studies,” thought Mollie with
shining eyes. “Oh, I do hope that I can manage to fix up things!”

Frank slept calmly on—the sleep of the tired, never dreaming that any
factors were at work to bring him nearer his heart’s desire.

                              CHAPTER III.
                              THE LETTER.

“Whatever shall we say?”

They had been trying for the last three hours, and were getting quite
out of patience.

“Go on, Mollie, have another try.”

“‘My dear Uncle’—no, we can’t put ‘my,’ because he’s ‘ours,’” said
Mollie, crossing out the “my.” “Just—‘Dear Uncle Henry.’”

“He mightn’t like ‘Henry,’” suggested Eva.

“No, he might rather be called Harry,” said Eileen. “Let’s leave his
name out.”

“All right. Just ‘Dear Uncle’——”

“He mightn’t know it’s for him if you just put that,” cried Doris, and
then they all laughed.

“All right, just ‘Dear Uncle,—You will no doubt be astonished to hear
from us’——”

“No, from the five undersigned,” put in Eileen. “It’s more

“All right—‘from the five undersigned. No doubt you do not know that you
have five little nieces away up in the bush in New South Wales——’”

“Australia,” put in Eva.

“We don’t want Australia,” cried Eileen in disgust. “Yes, ‘New South
Wales.’ Go on, Mollie.”

“Let me see—‘and we would very much like to meet you. We have no idea
where you are now, but hope this letter will reach you.’”

“Yes, that’s right!”

“‘We live up here in the bush, and have a very quiet time’—quiet time,”
she repeated, tapping her pencil.

“‘And we’re poor,’” put in Doris, “‘and would like some money.’”

“No, we can’t put it that way.”

“Well, hurry up, then, and ask for the money.”

“We’re not asking for money,” said Mollie, severely. “We’re going to ask
him to come and see us, and then——”

“And then we’re hoping he’ll give us some,” cried Eva.

“No!” cried Eileen, excitedly. “We’ll trust to his generosity——”

“Oh, yes! put in ‘generosity’—it sounds so well,” said Eva.

“‘For some years Father has had very hard times,’” went on Mollie, “‘and
we’re all struggling’——”

“‘But things get no better,’” blurted out Eileen, “‘worse—if anything.’”

“‘All struggling,’” went on Mollie, “‘but things are still very black.’”

“‘And there don’t seem a chance of a silver lining,’” chimed in Eva.

“Silver lining, be hanged!” said Eileen. “He’s the only hope we’ve got
of a silver lining.”

“‘And as we’ve heard, Uncle, that you are very, very wealthy’——perhaps I
ought to say ‘we’ve heard by accident,’” said Mollie, perplexedly; “you
see, he might think Father and Mother are always talking about him if I

“Yes, ‘by accident,’” agreed Eileen.

“‘By accident, that you are very wealthy; we’ve been hoping to meet you
and tell you all our troubles.’”

“Don’t forget about the foal and the fire and——”

“Oh, shut up, Doris!” snapped Eileen.

“‘And perhaps you can set matters right for us. We don’t want to beg,
Uncle. We only ask you if you could give us a loan.’ We’ll have to
mention money, girls,” said Mollie; “we can’t wait till he
comes——‘perhaps you could give us a loan by helping Father and Mother
(who work so hard), and when we grow up we’ll pay back every penny of
it. We’re all strong and healthy and willing to work.’”

“‘And we’re as clever as most people,’” put in Eileen.

“Yes, ‘and we can assure you that we would be quite clever if we got a
chance, and would be all willing to take up something to make money to
pay you back, if you would only let us have a loan soon.’”

“Oh, Mollie, you are clever,” said Eva, “to write all that!”

“Yes, I’m pretty good at letters,” answered Mollie. “‘If possible, we
would like you to come and see us.’”

“Tell him he can have the verandah room,” said Doris.

“‘And then you could decide for yourself if you would care to help us.’”

“Don’t forget to tell him not to tell Father and Mother that we wrote,”
warned Eva.

“Oh, no!” they all cried.

“‘And now, Uncle, we have a big favour to ask of you. _Don’t, please,
let Mother and Father know we wrote to you, on any account_, because
they would be fearfully annoyed. It’s because they’re working so hard
and try to do their best, and are so cheerful about all the bad times,
that we’re writing to you.’”

“I think we ought to write another one all over again, and tell him
right at the beginning it’s a secret,” said Eileen.

“Oh! do you think so?” asked Mollie, wearily. “I wonder ought we? I’m
just about sick of it. It’s about the hardest thing I ever tried.”

“Oh, it’s sickening!” declared Doris.

“Ugh!” grunted Baby.

“I’ve scribbled about a hundred already, and we’re just as far off as
when we started,” said Mollie. “I wish he’d ride up this very instant
and save us all this trouble.” And she looked away and sighed. “Oh,
well! I suppose we’ll only have to do it. We’ll have to stick at it till
we do get something to suit.”

“Yes, we’ll have to have it ready for to-morrow’s mail,” said Eileen.

“Oh, yes, it has to be done! Let’s have another go.”

They had a great many “goes” before they managed one to satisfy them,
but at last they all gathered round while Mollie read the last one out
aloud, and they declared that would have to do.

  Dear Uncle,—

  No doubt you will be surprised to hear from us. We are your five
  little Bush Nieces. We live away up in the North-West of New South
  Wales, on a selection, in a wooden house on the bank of the Gillongi
  Creek, and our father is your brother Robert.

“Won’t that s’prise him?” chuckled Doris, clasping her fat hands.

Eileen gave her a withering look, to command silence.

  Of course we are all strangers to you, but we would like very much to
  know you. We don’t know where you are now, but hope this letter will
  reach you, and we would like you to come and see us as soon as

  The five of us now have a very big secret to tell you, and we hope for
  our sakes you will keep it. Father and Mother don’t know we are
  writing to you, and we never want them to know, because they would be
  very, very much annoyed and angry, and might think that you will think
  that we are beggars. But we would not think of begging; only as we are
  very poor, and Mother and Father are always struggling and working
  hard, we are hoping that you might lend us some money, and we’ll pay
  back every penny of it when we grow up. We are all willing to work to
  make money, and if we get the chance we are sure we would be quite
  clever. But we would like to see you and talk to you, and as we heard
  by accident that you are very rich and travel a great deal, we hope
  that you will come up here very soon. Our house is only a wooden
  place, but it is very clean, and we’ll all do our very best to make
  you happy; but we do hope that you will keep our secret.

  We have a very lonely life up here. I suppose you don’t know what
  loneliness is, as you are so rich and travel so much; but if you woke
  up day after day and saw only the hot sunshine and a few pet lambs and
  people working hard, and no one new and fresh to talk to, and the
  night comes on, and there’s another day gone, and nothing done.

  If you think you would care to meet us when you read this letter, we
  would like you to write to us to the undermentioned address, and we’ll
  ask the mailman to give it into our hands, as we would not like to
  hurt Mother’s and Father’s feelings by letting them know we wrote; and
  we are sure you are clever enough to fix up a way of coming here
  without letting them know we asked you. If we can only talk to you, we
  are sure we can make you understand.

  If you think you wouldn’t like to meet us, please burn this letter,
  and oblige,

                            Yours very faithfully,

  Mollie Hudson, aged 14 years, blue eyes and goldeny hair.

  Eileen Hudson, aged 12 years, dark eyes and hair.

  Eva Hudson, aged 9 years, grey eyes and dark hair.

  Doris Hudson, aged 5 years, blue eyes and fair hair.

  Baby Hudson (X, her mark), aged 2 years, blue eyes and fair hair.

  PS.—We give you a description of ourselves, as it might interest you.

                                                                B.H. (X)

  Address: Misses Hudson,
                Bragan Junction,
                    N.W. Line,

  P.S.—The above address will always find us.
                                          M., E., E., D., and B. Hudson.

  To H. Hudson, Esq.,
      C/o the Firm of
          Langdon & Ross,
              Collins Street,

“That ought to be plain enough,” said Mollie, anxiously. “He ought to
understand just what we mean.”

“Understand? Of course he’ll understand! He ought to go and bury himself
if he doesn’t,” declared Eileen, vehemently. “Why, a man with one eye
and a wooden leg would understand that. I’m glad it’s over,” she went
on; “it’s the hardest bit of work I ever tackled!”

                              CHAPTER IV.

And now the trouble was to square Ted, the mailman. He jogged up about
four o’clock the next day, with his packhorse and mailbags, and the
girls hovered round while he had a cup of tea and told all the news.
Strange to say, Ted seemed to stay longer than ever that day, and Mother
would persist in talking to him and asking him questions, and Mollie and
Eileen were nearly distracted. There was no chance of giving him the
letter while Mother was there, so they tried to get Ted away out to his

“My word, your horses look well, Ted! You must feed them very well,”
said Eileen.

“Yes, a mailman wants good horses,” he answered, well pleased. “That’s
one thing about me, I always look after my nags. Why, I’d rather go
short myself than see ’em hungry!”

“Fancy!” said Mollie.

“Yes, as long as Ted’s on the line, you’ll never see poor mail horses. I
couldn’t be like some of them other chaps you see knocking round, with
horses like bags of bones; I always say the gee-gees first.”

“Fancy!” said Mollie again, not taking a bit of interest in Ted’s

“Do you remember old Dave, Mrs., that used to run this mail last year?
Why, he was always eight or ten hours late. Recollect?”

“Yes, indeed, I do,” said Mother, coming out to view Ted’s wonderful
“nags,” much to the little girls’ disgust, for another day she would not

“We’ll never get it away,” whispered Eileen.

“Let’s have a stroll,” said Mollie, as she saw Ted drawing out pipe and
tobacco, preparatory to filling his pipe before he continued his
journey. So the two of them strolled round the “bend,” to wait till Ted
came along.

“Of all the bad luck,” grumbled Mollie. “Another day Mother wouldn’t see
Ted at all, and we could have just given him the letter without any

“It’s always the way,” sighed Eileen.

Then they heard the welcome thud of horses’ hoofs and the clink of
harness and buckles as Ted appeared.

“Oh, Ted! here’s a letter we want you to post, please,” cried Mollie,
“and here’s a penny for the stamp; and, Ted, don’t tell anyone at home
about this, please—because—because it’s a secret, and if a reply comes,

“Hello! what’s the game?” asked Ted, suspiciously.

“No ‘game’ at all,” said Eileen, indignantly. “It’s a business letter.”

“It’s not a boy you’re writing to on the sly, is it?” asked Ted, with a

“No, we don’t write to boys,” snapped Eileen. “It’s a very important
letter, Ted, and there’s nothing wrong about it. It’s—it’s for a good

“Oh! a charity affair?” said Ted. “Righto, give’s it here. I’ll post him
for you all right.”

“Oh! and, Ted, a reply might come, addressed to the Misses Hudson——”

“Mrs. Hudson—your Mother?”

“No, to the Miss Hudsons—us—you know. I suppose it will be M-i-s-s-e-s,
so we want you to keep it back, and give it into my hands,” said Mollie.

“Righto! give it into your hands,” repeated Ted, as he pocketed the
letter. “And when do you expect the blooming reply?”

“Oh, we don’t know, Ted! It might be a week, or it might be a month——”

Ted whistled. “Whey! Righto, I’ll watch for it, and give it into your
hands when it does come. You can stake your life on Teddo!”

“Oh, thanks so much, Ted! I’m sure we can trust you. And, Ted, if you
don’t mind, we’d like you to take this sixpence and have a drink with
it—from the five of us, because we’re all in this letter.”

“Chase the ducks!” exclaimed Ted in surprise. “Keep your sixpence,
little Missie, and thank you, all the same; you’re little bricks!”

“But we’d like you to take it, Ted; we would, really.”

“We’d love you to take it, Ted,” put in Eileen.

“Run away and play,” cried Ted. “If Teddo can’t do a favour without
taking drinking silver, he ought to be shot! So long; you can trust your
life with Teddo.”

For the shock-headed “Teddo” was a good-natured lad, and many a one “on
the line” had reason to be grateful to him.

“Thank you so much, Teddy,” they all cried. “Thanks so much.”

“That’s all right!” answered Ted, riding off. “So long.”

“So long, Teddy,” called out Eileen, and they watched him till he
disappeared from view round the next “bend.”

“Queer little cusses!” muttered Teddy to himself. “I wonder what’s their
little game. Nothing wrong, though, I’ll be bound.”

As soon as Teddy was lost to view the girls had misgivings.

“I wonder ought we have sent it,” said Mollie.

“Oh, well! it’s too late to cry about it now,” answered Eileen, who was
also feeling a bit “scared.”

“I do hope it’s all right,” said Mollie, anxiously. “I wonder whatever
he’ll think.”

“Goodness knows!” declared Eileen, solemnly, shaking her head. “I do
hope he’s not a grumpy old man. What a terrible thing it would be,
Mollie, if he sent it back to Mamma and Dadda!”

“Oh, dear! I never thought of that,” cried Mollie.

And then they were joined by the other children, who had overheard the
last remarks, and who looked very woe-begone.

“I hope he don’t send us to gaol,” said Eva, and Doris burst into tears.

“I wish we never wrote the ole letter; I wish we never had an ole

“Oh, he might never get it!” said Eileen, hopefully.

“Oh, I hope he does!” answered Mollie, quickly, who was beginning to get
over her misgivings. “Now, no more crying; let’s laugh instead,
and—remember—not one word about this! Let’s try and forget it for a
week, whatever.”

“Yes, mum’s the word,” said Eileen, solemnly.

“Yes, mum’s the word,” declared Eva.

And then, led by Mollie, they all went back home, singing and laughing.

In a big private office, with oak fittings and crimson carpets, in the
suite of offices of Langdon and Ross, Melbourne, a tall man, with
iron-grey hair and keen, dark eyes, read the letter a fortnight later.

“Bless their hearts! Little Bush Nieces! Want a loan! Pay back every
penny when they grow up! Keep our secret! Try and make me happy! Come
and see us soon! By Jove! they’re original, right enough. Bless the
children! Robert’s five little girls, and they’re lonely—and they think
I don’t know what loneliness is, because I’ve got plenty of money and
have travelled a lot. Ah! little girls, you have yet to learn that money
and travel can’t always banish loneliness. Five little Bush girls!” he
mused, laying down the letter, and leaning his head on his hands.

Then that very keen business man who had only just returned from the
Continent, and was preparing to go off again very soon, did something
very unusual for him. He sat for a whole hour, thinking! and then seized
pen and paper and wrote for the rest of the morning, and his private
secretary and clerk wondered what on earth had come to the head of the
firm; and when the letter was finished, he sealed and stamped it, and
marched down to the Post Office and posted it himself, and the big
office with the oak fittings and crimson carpets saw no more of him that
day, and his big sheaf of correspondence was left till the following

                               CHAPTER V.
                               THE REPLY.

“I don’t suppose he’ll ever get it.” For over a fortnight Eileen had
been saying that. “If an answer doesn’t come to-morrow, I’ll say it’s
gone astray. I didn’t think he’d get it from the moment we sent it.”

“Oh, nonsense, Eileen! We can’t expect an answer straight away,”
answered Mollie.

“Straight away,” echoed Eileen. “I like your ‘straight away.’ It’s
eighteen days since we posted the letter, and I’m just about sick of
waiting. But I suppose there’s nothing else to do,” she added,
disconsolately, as she kicked her heels against the verandah steps. “I’m
sorry now that we wrote such a long letter. What we should have done was
just to have written a very short note—just ‘Dear Uncle,—We are your
five Bush Nieces, and we’re very poor, so please handy up some
cash.—Yours respectfully,’ and then all our names. That’s what we ought
to have done. But, anyhow, I suppose if he does come, the first thing
he’ll want to do is to pack us off to school, to an old governess or to
an old teacher of some sort. I suppose he’ll be like that big
‘Commercial’ that said we were raw.”

“That said we were what?” cried Mollie.

“Raw. I heard that big ‘Commercial,’ with the red shiny boots, who
stayed here last week, say to that other traveller that we were raw

“Raw material!” repeated Eva, in disgust. “What did he mean?”

“That we wanted schooling, I suppose,” said Eileen.

“Ugh!” said Eva, with her head in the air. “I’d rather be raw than be
cooked looking like him. But where did he say it, and when and how?”

“Oh!” said Eileen, impatiently, “he said that we were nice children, but
raw material, and it was a pity that we were running wild. That’s just
what he said, and if you want to know what he meant you’d better write
and ask him. I do hate saying word for word what people have said, and
after today I’ll never do it again. I suppose Uncle will say the very
same thing—that is, if he comes; and, of course, I don’t expect him. I
don’t expect to ever hear another word about that old letter, and I
expect to live here to the end of my days. I suppose I’ll just grow up
and go into long dresses and put my hair up, and—and go on till I’m
thirty and forty and fifty and sixty, and then die here, just working
about a bit, and feeding lambs, and watching the shearing, and seeing
the wool go away, and never go for a trip myself, and then die.”

She looked so dismal and drew such a forlorn picture of herself that
Mollie burst into laughing, for Eileen had fits of the blues and
grumbles in the one instant, and the next was flying round the house in
high good temper, the gayest of the gay.

Every mail day now they watched for Teddy with wild eagerness and
suppressed excitement, but Teddy came and Teddy went in the same old
way, handing out letters that didn’t “count,” fishing out papers and
telling scraps of news, and riding off again without gladdening their

But an eventful day arrived, when he lingered longer than usual over his
cup of tea; when he strapped and buckled and unbuckled the pack-saddles,
and fixed and arranged the mail-bags until the coast was clear, and then
across a great stack of canvas bags he beckoned to Mollie.

“Here,” he said, as he whipped a letter out of his pocket; “here you
are, and don’t say that Teddo failed you.”

“Oh, Teddy!” murmured Mollie, growing almost faint with excitement—“at

“Yes, at last, right enough,” answered Teddy, “and I hope it brings you
luck,” he said as he rode off.

Mollie stood with the precious letter in her hand, almost too dazed to
speak. She must tell the others and get them all away together—away down
in the bed of the creek, under the big gum tree, where all their picnics
were held. They must all get away together, where no one could hear
them, and she must not open the precious letter till the others were
with her.

Mother was lying down reading the paper, and the men had gone out again,
so she called softly to the others, who came out with curiosity stamped
on their faces. Mollie beckoned and pointed to the road down the creek,
and then with her fingers on her lips to denote silence she held up the
magic letter.

“Sh! No noise, creep out quietly, and not a word!”

Once out of the house and garden, they scampered as fast as they could
down the track to the creek, Eva making up the rear with Baby, who
puffed and stumbled; but not a word did she utter after that warning
glance of Mollie’s.

“Oh, Mollie, it’s come!” cried Eileen.

“Yes, it’s come,” she answered, “and I’m afraid to open it.”

She looked at the stamp, she looked at the address again, and turned the
envelope over and over. “I wonder whatever is inside it. I do wonder
what he says.”

“Let’s see the writing,” said Eva; so the letter was handed round to the

“Go on, Mollie, tear it open,” said Eileen; and Mollie ripped the flap
of the envelope.

“Oh, what beautiful thick paper!” she murmured.

Doris looked eagerly to see if any money fell out, but there was
nothing—only thick sheets of paper.

“Are you all ready?” asked Mollie.

“Yes, we’re ready,” they answered, clustering round.

“Very well, then——”

She smoothed out the pages and cleared her throat.

“‘My dear little Bush Nieces’——”

“Oh, dear! does he say that?” asked Eva.

“Yes. ‘My dear little Bush Nieces.’”

“Oh, well! it’s all right, then?—go ahead, Mollie,” cried Eileen. “It
sounds well to start with—go ahead and see what else he says.”

And then Mollie read right on—

  My Dear Little Bush Nieces,—

  Pleasant surprises are the best things in the world, for they wake a
  person up thoroughly and make him think of people and things that he
  hasn’t thought of for years, and add a new zest and interest to life;
  and your letter is one of the most pleasant surprises, if not the very
  best, I have ever received.

Chorus of “Oh’s!”

  I shall be delighted to meet my little unknown bush nieces.

Another chorus of “Oh’s!”

  But first of all I must assure you that I shall keep your secret for
  ever if you wish, or until such time as it pleases you to release me
  from secrecy.

“Oh! isn’t he nice?” gurgled Doris, while all the others clasped their
hands in delight.

  Far from wishing to burn your letter, as you suggest, I shall keep it
  as one of my treasures.

Chorus of “Oh’s!” again.

  I have not long returned from the Continent——

The letter dropped from Mollie’s hand at this, but she picked it up

“Where’s the Continent?” asked Doris, eagerly.

“Oh, any old place!” said Eileen. “Go on, Mollie.”

  and as soon as I overlook matters in connection with my firm, I shall
  be ready to pay a visit to “Gillong”——

The letter fell again while they all gazed at each other.

“Here! He’s coming here?”

“Goodness me, he’s coming!” gasped Eva. “I hope he don’t tell.”

“Don’t tell?” echoed Eileen, scornfully. “Didn’t he give his word?”

  In the course of a week or so I shall write to your father, but don’t
  be afraid, my dears, that anything I say shall arouse suspicion. I am
  going to be as smart and as clever as my little Bush Nieces and
  concoct a letter that will make everything right. Thank you so much
  for your offer of happiness; you will find me a willing subject to
  take all you offer in that respect——

“Oh, dear!” cried Eileen; “and we haven’t any to offer him!”

“Yes, but we promised we would,” said Eva. “Whatever will we do?”

“I didn’t think he’d come,” moaned Eileen.

“He can play with Rose sometimes,” declared Doris, making a great

“Play with Rose and ride the stick horses——” commenced Eileen,
witheringly; but Mollie gave her a warning glance.

“Yes, Doris, we’ll all do our best.”

“Oh, dear! I wish we had a gramophone,” sighed Eva, “to play for him.”

“I suppose he won’t stay long,” said Mollie, hopefully, “and he can talk
a lot of the time.”

“What a pity the creek wasn’t up, and he could go fishing,” said Eva.

“Yes, and sail boats,” continued Doris.

“Tail boats!” echoed Baby.

“Sail fiddlesticks!” snapped Eileen. “Go on, Mollie. What was the last?”

“Let me see—ah——”

  in that respect. And so you are often lonely? Well, I don’t wonder, as
  you seem quite isolated; but I think you will find as you go through
  life that a great, great many people are lonely, even when everything
  seems prosperous and bright; so you must not despair on that score,
  and perhaps things will change for the better before very long, and
  brighter days may be in store. What a great, great deal we will have
  to talk about when we meet! And re the little loan——

“Did he send it?” asked Doris, jumping up.

“Sh! Go on, Mollie,” from Eva.

  which you are so anxious to pay back when you grow up. Well, we shall
  arrange that, too, and for the present, adieu, my newly-found nieces.
  With love and good wishes to Mollie, Eileen, Eva, Doris and Baby, from
                         Your affectionate Uncle,
                                                           Henry Hudson.

“Oh! isn’t it lovely?” gasped Eva.

“Bosker!” agreed Eileen.

“Bueful, bueful,” gurgled Doris.

“It’s just splendid,” said Mollie, with shining eyes. “Three cheers for

They all joined hands and danced wildly round Baby, who had fallen
asleep on a heap of bushes in the shade of the gum tree.

“And to think that he’s coming! In about another week’s time Dadda will
get a letter from him to say he’s coming,” cried Eileen. “Oh, dear! oh,
dear! I’m that excited that I feel silly. It’s the only excitement we’ve
had since old Dave died. But it’s lots better. Oh, dear! oh, dear! it’s
just grand! I won’t know whatever to do to put in the time till Dadda’s
letter comes. And I do hope we’re not about when he gets it,” cried
Eileen. “Oh, dear! whatever will he say? I do hope that he won’t guess
that we’ve been writing. I do hope that Teddo never splits. Do you know
what I’ll do when he comes? I’ll give Teddo a whole pound to spend as he
likes, and I’ll ask him to take it. Oh, dear! I wish we had about a
dozen rich uncles, and we’d never see a poor day again! Hooray!”

“Hooray! Hooray!” shouted Eva and Doris, till Baby woke up, looking
silly and stupid, blinking in the sun.

“Clap hands, Baby,” shouted Doris, and Baby clapped away while she
yawned and woke up properly.

“Do you know what you’re clapping for?” asked Doris. “Well, it’s because
our rich uncle’s coming, and we’ll all be rich by-and-bye,” and then she
hoorayed at the top of her voice again.

“I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up till the next letter comes.
Oh, dear! it will be so hard just going about in the same old way,
knowing what we know,” said Eileen. “We’ll have to be awfully careful. I
know I’ll be dying to talk about it, and to sing and laugh and shout and
hooray when Dadda and Mamma are about. I’ll be glad when the other
letter comes, so as I can give way to my feelings.”

“So will I,” said Mollie. “It will be hard to pretend we know nothing.”

And hard it was, and they often had to get away by themselves to talk
the matter over and wonder and surmise, and give three cheers for Uncle.

                              CHAPTER VI.
                              A SURPRISE.

The letter had come at last. Ted was late, and they were all waiting for
him as he rode up to “Gillong,” and when he fished a thick, square
envelope out of his pocket, and handed it to Father, Mollie and Eileen
thought their last hour had come.

“It’s it,” whispered Mollie, and she turned and fled, with Eileen close
at her heels. They couldn’t face the ordeal yet. Later on they would be
called to listen to the wonderful news, but even a brief respite was

“Oh, I hope they never guess!” said Mollie, anxiously.

“Guess? How can they?” asked Eileen, scornfully; but, all the same, she,
too, was anxious.

“What on earth is this about?” said Father, as he tore the envelope
open; and then he gasped. “Harry! From Harry! Good gracious! Vera,
Vera,” he called to his wife. “Look at this—a letter from Harry!”

“From Harry?” cried Mother, in amazement. “Harry?”

“Yes, Harry! Wonders will never cease! It’s the last thing in the world
I expected.”

“What on earth does he say, after all these years?”

Then they both read the letter.

“And he’s coming here? Coming here? Well, wonders will never cease!”
cried Mother. “Coming here! Dear, dear! just when things are at their
worst, with the drought on and not a decent thing to give him to eat....
But fancy writing after all these years!...”

“What does he say there, again?”

Mother read aloud:

  It’s wonderful how memories of the old days come back to one, and I
  would very much like to see you and Vera again, so if you can put me
  up for a week or so I shall be delighted to come. I know you are
  suffering from a very severe drought up there, but I trust that that
  will not make any difference, as I have to go away again shortly, and
  wish to see you and the children before I commence my journey.

  I have about a week to spare, so I hope you can put me up for that
  time. We will have much to talk over when we meet. I suppose I can go
  by coach from the nearest township, and please don’t go to any trouble
  on my account.

And there was very much more in the same strain that Mother read with
exclamations of wonder and amazement.

“Well, it’s the last thing I’d have thought of!” declared Father.

“It’s next week he means to come,” cried Mother. “Why, we’ll have to
wire him.”

“So we will,” said Father. “I suppose you can manage it all right?” he
asked. “About fixing up things?”

“Oh, yes! we’ll manage it,” said Mother, cheerfully. “I must let the
children know. Won’t they be surprised? I suppose they hardly know they
have an uncle,” and she called aloud, while Father marched off to the
stable, marvelling at the wonderful news, and already building castles
in the air.

The five children were together at the usual gum tree meeting ground
when they heard the call, and they looked at each other in dismay.

“Look surprised, Doris, do you hear, when Mother tells us. We must all
look surprised, and, for goodness sake, ask questions—somebody and
everybody. It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as we’re talking,
and let’s all look astonished. Oh, dear! it’s dreadful!” wailed Mollie.

“Yes, we must all help,” declared Eileen, staunchly. “Everybody must ask
questions and ask all sorts of things, so as it won’t look funny.”

“If only we didn’t know, and didn’t have to pretend!” wailed Eva.

“If we didn’t know, there’d be no surprise,” answered Eileen, “for
there’d be no letter, no uncle, or anything.”

“Come on, we’d better run,” said Mollie; “there’s Mother calling again.
Come on, let’s run, and we’ll be out of breath when we get up, and it
won’t be so bad then if we don’t ask questions straight away.”

And then they took to their heels, and Baby was puffing like a pair of
bellows when they reached the house.

Presently five breathless little girls stood in front of Mother, who was
looking very pleased and important, as she smiled at the open letter in
her hand.

“I have a very, very big surprise for you, my dears. We’ve just heard
from your uncle in Melbourne, and—and you’ll hardly believe it—but he’s
coming to see us next week!”

They never remembered quite how they got through it. They only knew that
for a space there was dead silence, and then a Babel of voices as they
all asked questions together, scarcely heeding Mother’s replies. They
only knew that they had come through the ordeal all right, that they had
all acted their parts well, and that Mother had never guessed; and as
Mollie noted the look of pleasure on her Mother’s face, she was repaid
for all her anxiety about the letter she had worried over so much.

Then they all commenced to work and clean up the house for Uncle. They
scrubbed and scoured and polished and shone, till every door-knob looked
like burnished gold and the window-panes gleamed like diamonds. They
swept up all round the house and garden and away outside the gate, till
there was not a speck or a straw or a leaf to be seen. Dear me! the
house was like a new pin, and the little room on the end verandah was
transformed. The washstand out of Mother’s room was put there, and
snow-white curtains on the little iron bedstead, and the strip of carpet
that Mother always kept away in case of emergency was spread on the
floor. A snowy cloth was on the little wooden dressing-table, and a
glass vase waiting for the day that Uncle would arrive, when it would be
filled with pepper leaves and berries, as there were no flowers left.

They all helped; even Baby was found going round with bits of rag,
polishing the already shining door-knobs, or busy, with a saucer of
water and rag, “washing” the floors; and Eva and Doris even took the
broom down to the bed of the creek and swept up around the favourite gum
tree, and threw away twigs and sticks and bushes off the path, and did
all in their power to make things spick and span for Uncle.

They all laughed and sang and shouted and talked a lot those days, now
that they could speak openly of Uncle’s coming.

“I hope we never have a secret again as long as we live,” said Eva.

“So do I,” said Eileen. “I hope it’s my first and only one. Why, I feel
years older since I’ve been keeping this one.”

“I’ll have no more,” declared Doris.

“Me, too,” said Baby, looking solemn.

“Oh, well! anyway, the worst is over,” said Mollie, cheerfully.

“I don’t know whether it is or not,” declared Eileen, dubiously. “I
don’t know how we’re all going to face Uncle, knowing that he knows what
he knows, and we’ll all have to look so innocent, and pretend things—oh,
it will be awful!——”

“Oh, yes!” agreed Eva, “I believe my face will burn off with shame.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” declared Mollie, stoutly, although
she, too, was quailing at the thought of the ordeal.

“Oh, but the pretence!” said Eva.

“Well, it’s for a good cause,” answered Mollie. “Why, look how bright
Father and Mother have been since they got that letter. Oh, whatever we
do, we must never let them know! We’ll just have to act again, and
pretend for all we’re worth, when Uncle comes.”

“Oh, we’ll face it when the time comes—never fear!” said Eileen; “but
the thought of it is worse than—worse than——”

“Castor oil,” said Doris.

“Yes, castor oil,” agreed Eileen, as she couldn’t think of anything
worse at the moment.

The great day arrived at last, and they were nearly sick with
excitement. Everything was in readiness. The pet lambs all had new red
strings round their necks, the stick horses had been “fed” early, and
were tied up with narrow strips of bright blue print; the porter-bottle
“dog” had a new ribbon, and Rose was decked out in her best finery; so
nothing remained to be done but to wait.

Father had borrowed the station buggy and driven to Bragan Junction to
meet him, and they knew they would soon hear the “top-top-top” of the
horses’ hoofs on the creek bridge.

“My, but ain’t he a swell!” said Old Joe, as a tall man, dressed in
grey, alighted from the buggy at the gate.

Old Joe had been with the family for years, and so was privileged.

“My! but ain’t he?” gasped Eileen, unconsciously lapsing into Joe’s

Mother had hurried forward to greet him, and for an instant Mollie’s
heart sank. How could they ever approach this tall, stylish man, who
looked so smart and alert, and so well groomed from the crown of his hat
to the sole of his boot; and to think that they had written to him and
asked him to come! Dear me! he was the smartest and most business-like
man she had ever seen, and he looked rather stern and severe, too,
although his eyes lit up with a smile as he shook hands with Mother.

They wished for an instant that he was just the ordinary, every-day,
common or garden variety kind of a man; but it couldn’t be helped—they’d
have to face the inevitable.

And then he glanced towards them.

“And these are your little girls, Vera?”

“Yes; come along, children, and meet your Uncle.”

They all came forward bravely, and were introduced to their new uncle;
and he was a real “sport,” and never let on that he had even heard of
them before. He asked their names and ages, as though there were no such
thing in the world as a letter. They soon gained courage, and returned
his smiles.

“I suppose you are real little bush girls?” he asked, with a twinkle in
his eye.

Mother answered, “Yes, real little bush girls,” and then they laughed
outright, because they knew what he meant.

Oh! all the talk there was at “Gillong” that night! Long after the
children had gone to bed the two brothers sat out on the verandah and
talked of many things, while the kindly moonlight cast a glamour over
the parched, dried earth, making the white road gleam like a silver

It wasn’t until the second day that they had a chance of a confidential
talk with Uncle, and then they had a meeting at the usual
meeting-ground—the old gum tree, and sat round, solemn and important

“Well, children, we had better discuss this proposition of a loan.”

The children looked more important and solemn than ever.

“Oh, yes!” said Mollie, anxiously; “of course, we don’t know much about
money, and all that, but we do know that we want it badly.”

“And about how many hundreds do you think you will require?” Uncle was
enjoying the meeting immensely.

“Oh, dear! we don’t know—do we, Mollie?” asked Eileen, anxiously. “You
see, we don’t know much about it.”

“You see,” put in Mollie, eagerly; “Mother and Father and Frank have to
work so hard, and have so much worry, and we’re always having such bad
luck, and we thought if we only had more money things would be ever so
much easier——”

“Yes, money can oil the wheels,” agreed Uncle.

“Yes, oil the wheels,” repeated Eileen, “and there are plenty of rusty
ones about here.”

“Yes, things are about at a standstill,” said Mollie, “and of course it
would have to be to Father you would lend money, and I suppose he won’t
want to take it, because he’ll think it will be such a long time before
he can pay it all back; but we will pay you back—in time; but, of
course, we can’t let Father know we mean to pay. We’ll work and work
till we pay back every penny. In about two years’ time I’ll be able to
go out as ladyhelp, and if Eileen could get some education she could go
out as governess later on, and we’d both save up to pay you back. Oh,
Uncle! you don’t know how we’d save and scrape, if we can only get money

“And I have three pet lambs that I’ll sell when the drought breaks,”
said Eileen, “and that will be a help towards it.”

“And Dadda gave me old Jennie’s foal, and I’ll sell it when it grows
up,” said Eva, eagerly; “and then I’ll go out to work, too.”

“You are clever little girls,” said Uncle, gravely. “Don’t you think you
would rather be something else than ladyhelps and governesses?”

“Oh, yes!” cried Mollie, “but we’ll do anything to make money if you
will only help us now.”

“Yes, and later on I might be an actress,” said Eileen, calmly.

“Would you like that?” asked Uncle.

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind! It would be an easy way of making a living, and
I’d have plenty of fun and chocolates, and pretty dresses.”

“Some day I’d like to be a rich lady,” said Doris, “and I’d give all
little girls a real nice time.”

“Me be pitty lady,” said Baby.

And then they all laughed.

“Uncle, we want to thank you for writing to us, and thank you for
coming. You’ve made everything brighter already, and Mother and Father
are so much happier-looking since you came, and they don’t seem to be
always thinking of the old drought and hard times and debts——”

Uncle let them go on, for just then he couldn’t speak. But by-and-by he
turned to the little group of upturned faces, and addressed them very

“My dear little children, you have thanked me, and now I wish to thank

“Thank us!” they exclaimed.

“Yes, for many things.... Later on you will understand, but I’m very
glad you sent me that letter, because I may be able to do some good for
your Father before it is too late. I think you may safely leave the
matter with me. I managed that letter to your Father all right, didn’t

“Oh, yes, Uncle—beautifully!”

“Well, leave this to me, and don’t bother your young heads about
repaying me. I’ll see to that. Father and I will fix that up....”

“Oh, Uncle, you are good! But we will feel so mean if we don’t pay you
something,” blurted out Mollie.

“No, don’t you worry about money and debts. Be happy, careless children
as long as you can.”

                              CHAPTER VII.

It was very quiet up at the house the next afternoon. Mother and the
children had gone down to see the overseer’s wife at Jenkin’s old place.
The children liked the overseer’s wife; she always made nice little hot
cakes when she saw them coming, and she always had some English papers
with big pictures in them, and she had boxes of sea-shells that she let
them play with every time they went. They always knew just what was
going to happen. First she would come out and welcome them all—and she
was nice and plump and had rosy cheeks and nice blue eyes—and then when
she had a little talk she would introduce the papers to the children,
and then the wonderful sea-shells, which they never got tired of
admiring, and they would empty them out and run their fingers through
them, and wonder when they would go to the wonderful far-off beaches and
play with the glistening shells and stones. They almost forgave the
overseer’s wife for not having any children for them to play with, while
they played with the shells. And then she and Mother would talk such a
lot, that they would try and make believe that it was just as good as
having the Jenkins back.

Only Mollie was at home, and she hurried about her work and set the
table for tea, darkened the dining-room to keep it cool, and then, with
one last look round, she hurried out and tied her shady hat on.

“Now everything is ready, I’ll slip down and tell Uncle.”

Mollie had another secret, and it was harder to tell and try and fix up
than the letter.

Then down the track to the river she sped.

“I do hope he’ll understand it all,” was the burden of her thoughts as
she sped on, lest her courage should fail her. Down under the oak trees
Uncle was reading a book, and he looked round with surprise at Mollie’s
flushed face.

“Oh, Uncle! I want to talk to you. I’ve got a lot more to tell you, but
I couldn’t say it when the others were about.”

Then she poured forth Frank’s story into Uncle’s listening ear.

“And, Uncle, he goes about his work when his heart’s not in it, and
people up here will be saying that he’s slow and dull, when all the time
he’s not in his right place. He’s a round peg in a square hole, or a
square peg in a round hole, or some such thing, and he’s helping to
fight the drought and do the work he hates, and never complains, because
he says he’d be a cad if he did, and all the time he’s dying to be an
electrical engineer. He’s saving his money, but he doesn’t get much
wages, and I believe he’ll be too tired whenever the time does come for
him to go away—but if he only has a chance, Uncle—a chance while he’s
young and dying to get to work, he’d be clever; I’m sure he would.”

Mollie’s cheeks were flaming now, and her eyes were shining again.

“He’s never told anyone but me, Uncle—and I’ve thought about it ever
since. When I see the big Brown and Smith boys going about here and
thinking they’re smarter than Frank—because they never think of anything
else, and only live for land and stock—I get that wild, Uncle, to think
that Frank might never have the chance to show them how smart he could
be—but you won’t tell him I’ve told you, because he would be so annoyed.
I want you to pretend you’ve found out for yourself and give him a
chance, Uncle—or tell him you will later on. Oh, if he only knew that
there was a chance of his getting to his loved studies, and a chance to
make a name for himself later on, this work wouldn’t be half so hard,
because he’d have something to live for—and if you will help him, Uncle,
tell him soon, please,” Mollie rattled on; “tell him to-night if you
can, because there’s a big sheep draft to-morrow, and I know he hates
them, and if you tell him it will help and cheer him through the heat
and dust of the day.”

“Well, well, Mollie, you’ve given me something to think about. So Frank
wants to be an electrical engineer, does he? Well—well——”

Then Uncle gazed away into space, and sat so long silent that Mollie
became anxious.

“It’s awfully mean of us to trouble you so much, Uncle, because you have
money—but—but you’ll never be sorry for helping Frank—and——”

“Well, well, Mollie, so that’s his dream, is it? I had dreams, too, when
I was a youngster, and I had no one to help me. I’m rich now, but my
dream has never been realised—but—the boy must have his chance; we must
get the square peg out of the round hole—and we must do it soon!”

“Oh, Uncle!” was all Mollie could gasp, and then almost before she was
aware of it she had thrown her arms round his neck and kissed him; then
sped away through the trees towards home, with a great, singing gladness
in her heart. And Uncle, left alone, threw his book down and gazed into

“God bless you, little Mollie,” he murmured. “You’re smoothing the way
for others. Frank must have his chance; I knew he was out of his groove
here—and I’ll tell him to-night to cheer him—through the heat and dust
of the day.... Ah! Jean! Jean! if only you’d been true and cheered me
through the heat and dust of the years!”

Late that night, when the moon was shedding its glory over the Gillong
garden, and glinting on the shining pepper leaves, Mollie stole out to
where she saw a figure pacing to and fro among the moonbeams and

“Oh, Mollie! Mollie! Mollie!” cried Frank; “you’d never guess what’s
happened! My dream’s coming true—at last! Uncle Harry is going to send
me away after Christmas to learn the engineering! What do you think,
Mollie—he said he knew I was out of my groove here, and he’s sending me
off next year! Oh, Mollie! Mollie! I can’t believe it’s true.”

The boy’s voice was jerky, as he told the wonderful news.

“To think it’s nearly all over, Mollie—all the tons and tons of work
that I’ve hated! Oh, Mollie! I’m glad you came! I felt I couldn’t wait
till morning to tell you.”

Loyal little Mollie commenced to tell him how glad she was, but she
burst out crying and told him between her sobs how much they would miss

“You’re the only brother we’ve ever had, Frank, except little Jim, and
we hardly remember him.”

For little Jim had come and gone like the glint of a star, and only a
little white cross on his tiny grave under the wilga tree in the paddock
told that a little life had been kindled for a space, and was then
wafted to its long home. But deep in the mother’s heart was a wild
abiding desire for her only son that not even the presence of five
little girls could quite banish.

“It’ll be so lonely without you, Frank. I don’t know whatever we will
do—we’ll all miss you always.”

Then Frank tried to comfort her.

“But I’ll come back sometimes, Mollie, and when I’m rich you must all
come and live with me. Oh! and I’ll write to you often, Mollie, and you
must try not to miss me too much, because I’m going to work hard and get
on, and then——”

For to Frank everything seemed possible, once the great desire of his
heart was about to be gratified, and Mollie did her best to try and
think of the good times ahead.

                             CHAPTER VIII.
                               THE STORM.

All day long the air was thick and murky. All day long there were signs
of a gathering storm. Great big banks of fierce, sullen clouds began to
bank up in the afternoon, and far-off, ominous sounds of thunder were
heard. At first it was a mere growl, and the edges of the great jagged
clouds were illumined by lightning. By-and-bye the thunder grew louder,
and cruel forked and chain lightning began to play in the heavens.

The children wandered round the verandah and looked at the sky, and
wondered and wondered again would it rain.

“I believe it’ll be the end of the drought,” said Mother, hopefully. Eva
had a rug ready to cover her head when the thunder grew louder, for she
was terrified of storms; and Baby and Doris would squeal that they were

Mollie and Eileen, too, hung in the background, blinking at each flash
and sincerely hoping that it would soon be over. Old Joe was in his
element, and talked volubly to Mother and Uncle.

“I said all along it’d break this way, same as the ’82 druith. There’s
the same bank of clouds down west, and another storm abrewin’ over ’ere.
They’ll meet directly, and there’ll be the deuce of a smash. Shouldn’t
wonder if the creek ain’t up to-night——”

“Oh, Joe! wouldn’t it be lovely?” chimed in the children.

“An’ it’s more’n likely she will be. I recollect the time the ’82 broke.
Why, all the rivers and creeks and gullies and gilgies and swamps were
runnin’ mountains high!”

A low moaning sound reached their ears, and they looked at each other in

“Oh, Joe! what’s that?” asked Eva, creeping up to him.

“It’s the wind. It’s comin’ this time, right enough. Got the windows
closed? She’s comin’ strong,” said Joe, who dearly loved a storm, and
had no fear of even the “dizziest” chain lightning, much to the little
girls’ admiration.

“I wonder will it hurt us, Joe?” asked Eva.

“’Urt you? ’Ow could it ’urt you?” asked Joe, with fine scorn. “Just you
watch the lightning play up in them clouds directly; it’ll be real

But already Eva’s head was enveloped in her rug.

“Sakes alive! you’ll be smothered before it’s over!” cried Joe.

The moaning sound grew louder and louder, and the leaves began to
tremble and the branches to sway, while great flights of bush birds
winged their way hurriedly away to the east.

“Look at ’em!” cried Joe—“same as the ’82!”

At last, with a sudden gust of fury, the trees were tossed and bent
before the weight of the gale.

“Oh, dear! oh, dear! I wish the others were in,” cried Mother anxiously,
and then away across the paddock Father and Frank were seen coming at
full speed. They pulled the saddles and bridles off their horses and
turned them loose, and then rushed into the house as a blinding flash of
lightning lit up the gathering darkness.

“Ah, here we are!” cried Frank’s ringing voice, for ever since the
evening that Uncle had spoken he had been a different Frank, and his
laugh rang clear and gay on every possible pretext. For such is the
power of a gleam of hope.

How the storm raged and tore! Clap after clap and flash after flash!
Away in the distance a tree was heard to crash to the ground, and then
great drops of rain began to fall, banging on to the iron roof as though
they would come through. Then it fell in blinding sheets, and fairly
danced on the hard glazed ground.

“The same as the ’82,” said Joe again, as he lit his pipe; “all the
creeks’ll be down in the mornin’, and we’ll have to move them sheep,” he
went on complacently.

Sure enough, when morning came, the creeks and gullies were roaring with
thick, muddy waters, and thousands of frogs were croaking lustily. And
what a time the children had, wading through the muddy streams, and
finding all the ruins of the trees that had fallen, and making
“ridey-horses” out of the great branches that had once reared themselves
so proudly in the air. For the rain had poured steadily all night, and
the cruel drought was ended.

                              CHAPTER IX.

“Well, of all the things that could ever happen, this is far and away
the best, and I’ll never grumble again,” said Eileen. “To think we’re
all going to Sydney for a holiday. Oh, it’s nearly too good to be true!
When did he tell you, Mamma?”

“Only last night, and I shouldn’t have told you so soon, for I know
you’ll do nothing but talk about it for the next month; but I couldn’t
resist telling you,” said Mother.

Uncle had left that morning. He had changed his plans, and had stayed
longer at Gillong than he had intended, and before he left he had made
Mrs. Hudson promise that she would bring the children down to Sydney for
the remainder of the summer.

“I will take a cottage,” he said. “You all need a change of air, Vera,
and will come back with renewed energy to cope with bush life.”

And at last Mother had consented.

Oh, the preparation and excitement at Gillong for the next few weeks!
Mrs. Grey, the overseer’s wife, came down and insisted on helping. She
brought with her a sheaf of fashion books and patterns, and cut out
little frocks of the very latest design, and took them home and ran them
up on her new machine. She also helped and gave hints about everything,
for she had spent a good deal of time in Sydney. And, oh! the questions
she was plied with by the eager children!

“Do you get sea-sick going to Mosman?” asked Eva. “Because that’s where
Uncle’s going to take the cottage; and it’d be terrible if we were
sea-sick every time we went to town.”

“I’m dying to see the crowds and crowds of people,” said Eileen. “But
it’ll be hard not to talk to them. Up here people would think you funny
if you didn’t speak to them, even if they are strangers.”

“I wish we could take the sticks,” sighed Doris.

“Pretty sights they’d be!” said Eileen. “You couldn’t ride them down
there. You’ll be able to ride boats and trams instead.”

So the stick horses were laid away, rolled up in paper, till their
little owners returned.

Already Eileen felt quite the “lady,” as she was fitted for her new
frocks, and talked nothing but Sydney.

“Did you hear we’re going to spend the rest of the summer in Sydney,
Teddy?” she remarked, carelessly, to the mailman, as he drank his tea.

“In Sydney?” gasped Ted. “Bli’ me, I never heard a word about it.”

“Yes, we’re going the week after next,” she replied, coolly, as though
going to Sydney were the most usual thing in the world. “Mamma and all
of us, and later Dadda and Frank are coming for a while.”

“Bli’ me!” gasped Ted again. “The bloomin’ family’s going! Well, this is
news! I suppose that’s why I’ve been carrying so many parcels for you
lately,” he said, a light suddenly dawning on him. “Where are you goin’
to stay down there?”

“Oh, Uncle’s taking a cottage!” put in Eva.

“Oh, that big swell cove that was staying here? Bli’ me, your luck’s

“We’ll tell you all about it when we come back, Teddy,” said Doris. “And
I’ll bring you home sea-shells and all sorts of pretty things.”

“Right you are, little ’un!” said Ted, as he finished his tea and
commenced to fill his pipe. “I’ll tell you what you can get me, if you
don’t mind—some real good sorts of straps; you know the sort,” he said,
turning to Eileen, “same as them I strap the bags on with. Last time I
sent to one of them Sydney firms they sent bad buckles. Here, I’ll give
you the money now,” and he pulled out a pound note.

“Oh, Teddy! it’ll do when we come back,” said Eileen, not taking the
proffered note. “They won’t be near that much.”

“No, take the note now and give us the change when you come back. ‘Pay
as you go’—that’s Teddo’s motto.”

And every mail day Teddo’s list of requirements grew bigger, until it
seemed as though the pound note would not meet them; and Eileen would
jot them in her little notebook.

“You see, you know me, and know just what I want,” he would say,

“I’ll tell you what I would like,” he said one day after he had fixed
and patted and arranged the mailbags ever so many times—“a tie like that
your Uncle used to wear; sort o’ black with little silvery streaks in

“Oh, but, Teddy, that was real dear!” said Eileen, quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind price!” he answered; “when Teddo sets his heart on
anything, he don’t mind paying up.”

“Righto!” said Eileen, making a note.

So the time flew away, and one day, to their surprise, Enid Davis dashed
up in the big new car from the station.

“Why, we thought you had gone for the summer,” said the children, in

“No, we’re home for a month or so,” she answered, “and I felt a bit
lonely, so I popped down here.”

“Oh, well! I’m afraid we won’t be company much longer,” said Eileen, as
she straightened herself in her chair and put on the “real lady style,”
as Mollie said afterwards.

“Why—how is that? I love coming here,” answered Enid.

“Oh, we’ve decided to spend the rest of the summer in Sydney!”

“Oh!” Enid looked astonished, but was too polite to say so. “That will
be nice,” she went on.

“Yes, it’s just as well to enjoy yourself while you’re young,” said
Eileen, calmly. She always felt a bit jealous of Enid’s fine clothes and
pleasant times. “Our Uncle is going to the Continent later on, and he is
anxious for us to spend a little time with him in Sydney.”

“Oh, yes! Dadda met your Uncle at the railway, and said he was such a
nice man.”

“Yes, we think a lot of him,” answered Eileen. “So your Dadda met him?”
she asked, eagerly, for she was glad to know that Enid’s father had seen
their nice Uncle.

“Yes, they had dinner together just before the down train left, and
Dadda said he was sorry he was not at home while your Uncle was here,
because they could have had some nice chats.”

“Oh, Uncle was kept pretty busy chatting with us,” answered Eileen.

But Mollie hastily added that it would have been real nice for the two
men to have met often.

“We’re going back to Sydney in about six weeks’ time,” said Enid.
“Perhaps we’ll meet down there.”

“Yes, if we’re not too busy sight-seeing,” put in Eileen.

“Oh, we’d love to see you!” said Mollie.

“Yes, we’d love it,” chimed in Doris, as she stroked Enid’s pretty silky
dress. “And I’ll give you some pretty sea-shells if you haven’t got

“Oh, thank you, Doris! I’d love to have some if you can spare them.”

They talked on for an hour or so, and Enid rose to go.

“So it’s next week you’re going?”

“Yes, Monday, and this is Friday; so we haven’t much time,” said Mollie.

“I’m glad she knows we’re going,” said Eileen, as the car hooted away.

“Oh, Eileen; you’re not a bit nice to Enid!” said Mollie.

“I always think she’s showing off,” put in Eileen.

“Well, she’s not, then. It’s you that’s jealous,” replied Mollie.

“Jealous? I don’t think!” snapped Eileen.

The next day Mr. Davis called and asked to be allowed to send his car to
take them to the railway on Monday, as Enid had told him of their
anticipated trip, and, to the children’s delight, the car was accepted.

“Won’t it be beautiful,” screamed Eileen, “to be bowling along in that
grand new car, and won’t the people at the railway look? I’m sorry I
said that about Enid now, because I’m sure she asked her Dadda to lend

And so on Monday a car-load of merry, excited young people, and Mother
looking pleased and excited, too, were bowled away to the big iron horse
that was to land them in the wonderful city.

                               CHAPTER X.

“I never thought it could be so nice,” said Eileen.

“I never thought there were so many people in the world,” said Eva.
“Why, we must have seen millions and millions and millions to-day!”

“The sea was just lovely this morning. I could watch it all day long.
We’re going out again the first moonlight night,” said Mollie.

“I gave de ole organ man two pennies while you was away,” said Doris,
“and he played all the choones I liked best.”

“And I gave a penny to the old blind man near the Savings Bank,” said

“And I bought a dear, darling little duck of a lace collar for
sixpence,” said Eileen, displaying it.

“Oh, I wish I’d saved my pennies for one,” said Doris, regretfully.

“Never mind, you enjoyed the music,” said Eileen, consolingly.

“Yes, but it’s all over now, and you’ve got the collar and I haven’t got

Every evening they met and talked over the events of the day. They had
been in Sydney a month, and were enraptured with all they saw. They had
quite run out of a stock of adjectives. Everything was lovely, or
beautiful, or great or grand! They had gone to the beaches and gathered
great bags of shells. They had dipped in the surf and shouted with glee
as the big white-topped waves dashed over them. They had gone to the
garden and gallery, and Zoo and picture shows over and over again, and
could go through the whole programme cheerfully again, till Mother
remonstrated with Uncle.

“You are spoiling them. Let them stay in and play in the garden,” she

But Uncle only smiled. He knew the months of loneliness those little
girls had put in in the country, and was determined to give them a feast
of enjoyment.

“I think Mosman must be the dearest place in all the world,” Mollie
would say, as she gazed at the pretty homes nestling in their well-kept

Their cottage was only about five minutes’ walk from the ferry, and when
nothing better was on they would race down the hill and watch the boats
come in and go out, and talk and wonder about all the people. They
became quite familiar little figures on the Mosman wharf—the five of
them together—as they sat and criticised and compared notes.

They grew quite familiar with the postboy, and told him all about Teddy,
and made him wish he was a country mailman.

“It’s a wonder you don’t ride round with your letters,” said Eileen.

“Ride round? I’d like to see a horse climbing these steps and hills.
It’d have to be a different horse to any I’ve ever seen,” answered the

“Oh, yes, of course!” said Eileen. “I’d forgotten that. You see, up
where we live there’s no hills or steps. It’s all as flat as—as the
verandah here.”

“I wish you’d bring some of your land to Mosman,” grinned the post-boy.

They became quite friendly with the tradesmen, too—the baker and butcher
and milkman.

“It’s so funny to have you all coming here,” confided Eileen, “because
up the country we bake our own bread and kill our own sheep, and old Joe
milks the cows.”

They grew to know the people in the post office, too, as they would call
in occasionally to see if a country letter happened to be delayed or
missed in the sorting. At first the officials glared at them, but
by-and-by they came to know the merry faces of the bush children, and
only smiled at their questions.

They had only been a week in Mosman when they chummed up with the little
boy next door.

“I wonder who our neighbors are,” Mollie had said the day after they had
arrived and finished unpacking. “I’d love to talk to them.”

“Would you?” asked Mamma. “Well, we’ll have to wait a while. Sydney
people are different to country; they know so many people that they
mightn’t have time for more friends.”

“There’s a real nice-looking girl in there I’d love to know,” said
Eileen, “and if she doesn’t soon speak I’ll speak to her.”

“And we want to know the little boy,” said Doris.

A few days later Doris and Baby spoke to the little, well-dressed boy,
as he was coming down the steps on his way to school.

“Dood-day,” said Doris.

“Day,” said Baby.

“Good-morning,” said the little boy, politely.

“We’se your new neighbors,” said Doris.

“Yes,” said the little boy.

“And we’se been waiting for you to speak to us. Don’t you speak to new

“Oh, I don’t know!” said the little boy. “I want to speak to you,

“Did you always live in Sydney?”

“Yes, all my life.”

“Wasn’t you ever away up in the country, ’undreds and ’undreds of

“No, never!”

“Well, that’s where we live.”

“Do you?” gasped the little boy. “Oh, do tell us all about it,” he went
on, eagerly, and he listened and asked questions till he found he was
late for school, and jumped up and seized his books.

“Oh, dear, I’m late! Whatever’ll teacher say?”

“Oh, leave ole school!” said Doris, quickly, “and come and play with

“I can’t. But I’ll come in after school, if Mamma will let me.”

“Oh, yes, do! Good-bye—good-bye.”

Then a friendship sprang up, and little Willie spent most of his time
with his new friends. He could listen for hours and hours about the
horses and sheep and rabbits, and he asked such funny questions that the
children would scream with laughter.

“Oh, Willie! you ought to come up with us, and see it all,” they said
one day. “It’ll be all pretty and green now, and you could learn to

“Learn to ride!”

Willie closed his eyes for sheer joy at the thought. Would ever such
good luck come his way?

“Oh! I wonder could I?” he gasped.

“’Course you could!” said Doris. “I can ride ole Brownie when she walks

“Sometimes Mamma lets me ride on the baker’s cart up to the Spit
Junction, but it’s only very seldom,” he added with a sigh, “and I have
to walk back.”

“Our horses are better’n the baker’s,” said Doris.

“Oh, lots!” said Eva; “an’ you’d soon learn to ride on ole Brownie.”

“Oh, dear! do ask Mamma to let me go. Let’s beg and beg and beg, all of
us,” pleaded Willie.

“All right, we’ll all ask,” they promised.

After that he haunted them like a shadow.

“Ask yet?” he would say a dozen times a day.

At first his Mamma wouldn’t even listen to it. What! let her little
boy—her little Willie—go up to that outlandish place hundreds and
hundreds of miles away: oh, she couldn’t hear of it! And Willie was

“Why, there’s no doctor within miles of your place, is there?” she asked

“No, we don’t want doctors; nobody ever dies up there.”

“Nobody ever dies?” echoed Marcia, Willie’s sister.

“No. We’ve seen more funerals since we came to Sydney than we ever saw
in our lives. And I believe Mamma only saw about three funerals up
there, and she’s been there for years and years!” said Eileen, proudly.

“Dear me! However does that happen?” asked Marcia.

“Well, you see there’s hardly anyone up there, so I suppose that
accounts for some of it,” went on Eileen.

“Oh, well! no thanks to them for not dying if there’s no one there,”
said Marcia, disdainfully. “I thought there might have been hundreds of
people living to be about a thousand.”

“Oh! but those that are there don’t die—well, hardly ever, except old
Dave and a few more I know of,” went on Eileen. “And if a lot of old
people I know keep on living for a long time yet, they’ll very likely be
about a hundred when they do die.”

But this argument did not move Mrs. Taylor in favor of Willie’s going.
One day Willie came in with a very determined face.

“I know what! If Mamma doesn’t let me go, I’ll run away!”

“What! Run away to sea?” asked Eva, eagerly.

“No, run away to the country, up to your place, silly!”

“It’s too far to run,” said the practical Doris.

“’Course, I don’t mean to run all the way. Whoever heard of such a

“Well, dat’s what you said,” persisted Doris.

“Ugh! just like a girl. If you were a lot of boys now, you’d run away
with me—just to show ’em that you’re not afraid of anything. I mean to
clear out and walk up to your place, and when I’m gone Mamma might be
sorry she didn’t let me go with you in the train,” said Willie, almost
on the verge of tears; “and I might starve and die on the track,” he
went on, with tears of self-pity welling into his eyes.

“So you might,” agreed Eva, mournfully.

“You just might,” said Doris, ready to cry; “and we’d never see you
again, and you’d never see us,” she went on, bursting into tears; “and
the dingoes might come and eat you up.”

At that Baby cried, too.

Then Willie grew grave. “I’ll tell you what!” he said, suddenly struck
with a bright idea. “Go and ask Mamma while you’re both crying.
Quick—don’t leave off! You cry real hard, Baby!”

And up the “next door” steps the two young rascals went, and cried
copiously when Willie’s mother opened the door.

“Why, my dears, what is wrong?” she asked, in dismay, as she drew them

“We—we—wa-nt—Willie,” sobbed Doris.

“Want Willie!” echoed Baby, and cried out loudly.

“But he’s not at home, my dears. Isn’t he in at your place?”

“Ye-es, but we wa-wa-nt him up the country with us, an’ if you
do-do-don’t let him come, he’ll—he’ll run away to sea,” went on Doris,
getting mixed up in her story; “an’—an’—die on the track—an’—an’ the
dingoes’ll eat him all up.”

Then Baby roared real genuine tears of distress.

“Dear, dear!” said Mrs. Taylor, “he’d never do that, would he?”

For she saw through their conspiracy and guessed that Willie was waiting
next door, all impatience to hear how his two little champions got on.

“Ye-es, he’s goin’ to run away soon,” went on Doris.

“An’ he’ll die!” shrieked Baby.

Then Willie’s mother talked quietly to them. “Well, well, we’ll see
about it. Perhaps I’ll let him go with you, after all.”

And then, because Willie’s Mamma had a sense of humor and guessed that
her small son was waiting to hear the news, she kept the little girls
for quite a time, and gave them lollies and dates, and they quite forgot
about Willie waiting to hear the answer.

Willie met them with a very angry face when they trudged up their own
steps ever so long after.

“It’s a wonder you ever came back,” he said, sarcastically. “Did you
forget I was waiting? What did she say? Quick!”

“She said, she said——”

“Go on! what did she say?”

“She said p’raps, an’ she’d see. An’ I think she means to let you come.”

“Is that all she said, all the time you were in there? ‘P’raps, and
she’d see!’ A lot of sense there is in that! Didn’t she say anything
else, Baby?”

“She gave us lollies.”

“Oh, hang the lollies!” cried Willie, in despair. “Did you cry when you
got in there, or did you chew lollies?”

“But she means to let you come, I do believe, Willie,” said Doris,

“Oh, yes, Willie! If she said perhaps and she’d see, I think she means
to let you go. Another time she wouldn’t listen to us,” put in Eva.

“Yes, I believe she means to let me go, too,” said Willie, hopefully.
“Oh, if I could only go, I’d stay there months and months!”

“You might get lonely,” said Mollie, who had just come in.

“No, I wouldn’t get lonely. I’d never get lonely if I stayed there all
my life,” said Willie. “And I might stay there all my life, too. I might
grow up a big man up there, and I might never come back.”

“Might never come back?” asked Eva.

“No, I might stay there and help your father with the horses and sheep,
and after a while I might buy your place.”

“No, you won’t!” said Doris, stoutly.

“All right, then—but I might, all the same,” he went on under his

“I’ll tell you what!” cried Eileen. “Let’s get Mamma to go in and ask
your Mother while she’s thinking about letting you come.”

“Oh, yes! let’s ask your Mother to go in right away,” cried Willie.

So Mother was persuaded to go and ask, and in the end she won the day.

A great friendship had struck up between Eileen and Marcia. Eileen
admired Marcia’s dainty dresses and ribbons and hats, and took to
copying her. And then they commenced to go out together to little tennis
parties, for Marcia had many school friends who had musical evenings and
little entertainments, and she always asked Eileen to go with her, and
Eileen enjoyed them all immensely. It was nice to sit in the beautiful
drawing-rooms and lounges and have ices and salads and coffee handed to
you, and to be asked all kinds of questions about country life, and to
be considered someone wonderful because you could ride so well, when up
the country they took it as a matter of course. And Eileen, like many
another girl, began to wish that this kind of life would last for ever.
Marcia was kept very busy at school, and had many studies. She was very
keen on physical culture, and perhaps some day would become an
instructor. She would come in and give demonstrations in Hudsons’
drawing-room or kitchen, and have them all twisting and turning
furiously, trying to manage exercises that she could go through so

Then one day an idea came to Mrs. Taylor. Why not ask Eileen to stay
with them, while Willie went to the country? So the question was put,
and it was agreed that Eileen would remain for a few months with Marcia.

                              CHAPTER XI.
                              HOME AGAIN.

They were all back again at Gillong. All except Eileen and Frank, for
Frank had gone to Sydney early in March, to commence his studies; and
they were all glad of Willie’s company, for he filled up to some extent
the blanks left by Eileen and Frank.

After their splendid holiday they were all glad to be back again, for
the ground was covered with a carpet of greenery, and there was plenty
of water in the creeks and gullies, and the children raced up and down
the banks and shouted for sheer gladness and lightness of heart. Mollie
would mount her horse and canter away across the paddocks, singing as
she went, for hadn’t everything gone well lately? Frank had his darling
wish gratified, and Mother and Father looked so well and happy because
their burdens were lightened. Uncle sent them cards from every port; and
she would recall Uncle’s last words as he stood on the deck of the big
ship that bore him to England (for they had all gone to see him off):

“Good-bye, Mollie, dear; and the next time I go I hope you will be with
me. It is you I thank for this reunion; and, remember, Mollie, it is
through you that Frank has got his chance while he is still young and
keen—God bless you, little girl!”

After that she felt she could never be very unhappy again, and she would
think of a time that might come when she would stand on the deck of a
big out-going ship and plunge away through the rollicking, dancing
waves, out past the Heads, where the snow-capped breakers foamed and
tossed and tumbled, and away o’er the trackless ocean, till wonderful
new lands were reached!

Willie declared that the country was the best place in all the world,
and he would never, never, never go back to “old” Sydney again!

“Pshaw! I hate all the rows and rows and rows of houses, and no big
paddocks and no mobs of sheep or horses, and I hate all the old
cart-horses now, the old baker’s and butcher’s and milkman’s, and I hate
all the cab-horses, and all the horses in Hordern’s and Lassetter’s
vans, and I hate the trams, and I hate everything in Sydney! I wish
Mamma would come up here and live!”

“What a pity we couldn’t get a nice little house built in the little
paddock for your Mother,” said Eva.

“Oh, yes! wouldn’t it be grand?” cried Willie. “Or a tent would do.”

“A tent?” cried Eva, in disgust. “Oh, no!”

“Yes, we lived in a tent for weeks once at Narrabeen.”

“Oh, but that’s different! That was picnic-like.”

“Well, we can make it picnic-like up here,” declared Willie, “and Dadda
could come up when he gets his holidays.”

“Oh, no, Willie! they could never live in a tent up here,” said Eva,
decidedly. “It’s real different to Narrabeen.”

“I don’t see any difference,” declared Willie, “except there’s no surf.
That’s the only difference. Besides,” he added brightly, “we could be
nearly always at your place. We needn’t spend much time at all in the

Just now Willie was more in love than ever with the country, for they
were to have a short shearing at Gillong while the days were still warm.
It would be only for a week or so, but Willie had visions of snow-white
sheep being driven away from the woolshed, of great thick fleeces being
tossed on the wool-table, and all the noise and excitement and bustle of
shearing time. And perhaps he could drive the sheep up from the paddocks
to the yards sometimes, and he was looking forward to a real good time.

Willie was perfectly happy. He was actually driving sheep from the creek
paddock to the woolshed, all by himself. Mounted on old Brownie, he rode
slowly backwards and forwards behind the sheep.

“You’re sure you know your way, Willie?” Mr. Hudson had asked.

“Know my way?” repeated Willie, with fine scorn. “’Course I do. You’ve
only got to ride across the bridge and turn down the creek, and round
the bend, and round ’em all up and drive ’em back to the slip-rails, and
let ’em through, and you’re there,” he went on, jauntily.

“That’s right!” answered Mr. Hudson. “Of course, you can’t get lost. You
can’t get out of the paddock, anyhow, only by the slip-rails. But mind
you don’t get ‘bothered’ like some new chums do, and ride away from the
place you want to go to.”

But Willie wasn’t afraid. He had set off whistling blithely. He’d let
them shearing fellows see how he could drive a mob of sheep to the
yards, even if he were only a city boy! The sheep were scattered about
in all directions, so he rounded them up quietly and “headed” them
towards the creek. He had gone much further down the swamps and gullies
than he ever had before, but he didn’t notice that as he whistled and
shouted to bring the sheep scampering up from the bends. After driving
them along slowly for some distance he “hit” the creek, and suddenly
discovered that the bends and turns seemed unfamiliar; but he kept on
steadily, trying to keep down a rising fear.

“We’ll soon come to that old leany tree,” he said aloud, although he
began to have a horrible fear that he was getting lost. The next bend
was still unfamiliar, and then a panic seized him. Where was he? Off the
track? And with no chance of finding it again. He wondered if he were
going the right way, and a wild desire seized him to race up to the
front of the mob and wheel them back. He just didn’t know where he was.
He had twisted and turned so many times while mustering. It was all very
well for the Hudsons to say there was no chance of getting lost in the
creek paddock. There was. Why, he was lost now. He didn’t know whether
to let the sheep go on or turn them back; he didn’t know exactly where
he had brought them from, and where he had “hit” the creek. Then, like
most other new chums, he completely lost his head. Here he was, out in
the big paddock, with not the slightest idea where to turn; and the
worst of it was, they wouldn’t give him a thought till all hours, as he
was supposed to drive the sheep slowly, and perhaps he’d be miles and
miles and miles away by then—perhaps he’d be dead! What a fool he was to
come alone!

He pulled up and stared at his surroundings. Nothing but blue-grey gum
trees everywhere, with a monotonous sameness about them. Nothing
whatever to guide him. Just the same all round, and the sheep were
beginning to camp now that it was growing warm. He was sorry he ever saw
them. He never saw such silly old things as sheep! He was sorry he ever
came out into the silly old paddock. Where was he? Why, every place
looked strange and new! Yes, he was lost—lost—lost! and he put his head
down on the pummel of the saddle and burst into tears. Why did he ever
leave Sydney? He wished now that he was alongside the G.P.O. clock; he
wished he could see a big, friendly, blue-clad policeman, to point out
the way. He wished they had policemen up here in these silly old
paddocks, to show a man the proper track, and he wished—oh, he wished
he’d never come alone! If he lived to be a hundred thousand years, he’d
never come out like this again! Here he was, under the blue sky,
surrounded by blue gums and acres and acres of grass, and he might stay
here all night, and perhaps they’d find him dead in the morning! Of
course, they’d be sure to find him dead! He wondered what his mother
would say when she heard of her poor little Willie, and then he
commenced to sob. He wondered whatever Dadda would say. He wondered
would he give up his office work for a time, and would he wear a black
band round his arm; and what would all the other men say when they saw
Dadda going in so pale and quiet every morning. He could just imagine
them all getting together and speaking of poor little Willie, who got
lost in the bush, and how he was found—dead! And then suddenly a wild
fear seized him. Supposing the story should come true—supposing he were
out all night, and the dingoes did come! Oh, horror! He wished he had
never seen the horrid old country. If ever he got back to dear old
Sydney again, he would never, never leave it. No! not for a million
thousand Hudsons, or a million thousand horses and sheep and dogs, or a
million thousand paddocks! Sydney was the best old place in all the
world. No getting lost there! No chance of it with million thousands of
people to ask the way! If you were in the least doubt you simply had to
just ask the first person you met, and they’d give you all the
information you needed. Good old Sydney! Oh! what would he do?

Just then he heard a whip crack. Oh, joy! Away in the distance, through
the trees, he saw Big Tom from “Myall” riding slowly towards him. His
heart gave a great bound. Saved at last! Safe again! But he must never
let Tom know he’d been afraid. He must never let him know that he’d been
crying. He liked Big Tom because he called him Bill sometimes, and
treated him like a man. So he slipped from his pony and dashed his hands
and face into the water and slipped his handkerchief under his hat, as
he had often seen the men do on the hot days; and he was glad to have it
flapping round his face in case Tom might notice the tell-tale tears.

Then he mounted hurriedly and shouted to the sheep, and began to muster
them up again; and, lo! there was the “leany” tree, and the old familiar
bend not twenty yards off from where he had been hopelessly sobbing! and
there, just round the bend, Gillong was in sight; and he could even see
Doris and Baby playing out on the flat. All within cooee of him all the
time! Dear me! All his worrying for nothing! What would they say if they
knew? But he would never, never, never tell them!

And so no one ever knew that Willie had given up hope that fine morning,
and thought he was lost for ever in the creek paddock.

                              CHAPTER XII.

It was three days later.

“Oh, do let us bring the sheep in from the Gums paddock!” cried Willie.
“We can drive them up—really we can. You’ll come, won’t you, Eva?”

“Yes, I’ll come,” cried Eva, who was getting much more fond of the
outdoor life. “We’ll just show them, Willie, how smart we are, and that
we can bring them in; and it’ll save sending a man.”

“All right,” said Mr. Hudson. “Off you go!”

“And we’ll take Gussie,” said Willie.

“All right, please yourself, but he’s no good. He knows no more about
sheep than a kitten.”

“All the same, he’s a nice dog,” said Willie to himself, as he and Eva
and Gussie started off.

They found the sheep down in the far corner of the paddock, feeding

“Now, then, come along,” said Willie, “and get your woolly coats off,”
and he tried to whistle and called to Gussie, and soon had the sheep
heading towards the gate.

“Easy, isn’t it?” he cried to Eva, who had been picking the pretty
feathery grass.

“Oh, yes! the easiest thing in the world,” she answered back.

“I’d love to be a drover,” said Willie. “Sometimes I’d like big mobs of
cattle, especially when they all broke away and I’d have to gallop after
them. And sometimes I’d like mobs of sheep, too, especially when I had
good dogs. I think I’ll break Gussie to be a real good sheep-dog, and
have him for one of my best when I grow up.”

“But he’s no good. Dadda says he’s not, and he ought to know; and he
said if he lives to be a hundred he’ll never be any better.”

“Hah, rubbish,” said Willie, with all a new chum’s self-assurance. “I’ll
bet I could break him in. Here, Gus, where are you?” For Gussie had
disappeared, but presently came rushing up from the creek, barking and

“Here, Gusso, good dog,” cried Willie.

But Gussie was frisky, and scampered round barking and yelping.

“Lie down, you fool!” shouted Willie. But, like a streak of lightning,
Gussie was off after the sheep that were just nearing the gate, rushing
in front of them and turning them back to the creek.

“Here, Gussie, Gussie, Gussie. Here, boy, come back here, you black
animal!” shouted Willie, excitedly, as he and Eva raced after the dog.
“Here, Gussie, Gussie, lie down, you brute!”

Away went Gussie, yelping excitedly and sending the sheep helter-skelter
back to where they’d been driven from.

“Let’s open this gate, Willie,” cried Eva, who was hot and flushed.
“That’s what we ought to have done first, and then they’d have rushed
through. Let’s open this fool of a gate, and we’ll have to round them up

They tugged and tugged and shoved and sighed and grunted, but all to no
purpose. The springs were broken, and refused to budge.

“Come on, shake it again,” said Eva, but all to no purpose.

“Oh, damn the gate!” cried Willie.

“Oh, Willie!”

“Yes, damn the gate, and damn the dog, and damn the dashed old paddock!”

“Oh, Willie, you’re swearing! Swearing!” cried Eva, aghast. “I never
thought you’d swear. When you came up here you wouldn’t think of such a

“Well, I’ll think of it now, and I know hundreds more, too. All men
swear,” answered Willie, with two red streaks in his cheeks. “All men
swear, and I’m going to, too. I’m not going to be an old ninny.”

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Willie!” said Eva.

“Well, I’m not, then. I’m not a bit ashamed, and another thing, I wish
you’d stop calling me Willie. It’s nothing but Willie, Willie, Willie,
all over the place. Willie’s an old woman’s name. It’s just like an old
woman with half a dozen kids.”

“Willie, I’m shocked at you. I never thought you were so—so—ugly.”

“Well, I don’t care if I’m ugly or not. You call me Will, if you want to
call me anything—not Willie, or little Willie, any more.”

“And I’ll tell them at home that you swore, too.”

“Tell ’em; tell ’em anything you like. Anyhow, it’s not a real
swear—nothing to what I’ll say when I grow up.”

“I hope I don’t see you when you grow up, if that’s the kind of man
you’re going to be.”

“Ugh! you’re not a sport. You’re not a sport’s boot-lace,” continued
Willie, assuming a lordly air.

“I wouldn’t be anyone’s boot-laces,” answered Eva, disdainfully.
“And—and I’ll never come out with you again. You’re a rude boy!”

“Oh, a rude boy, am I?” mimicked Willie. “If you were a man I’d fight

“Yes, I suppose you would,” said Eva, still disdainfully. “That’s what
you’ll be, I suppose, when you’re grown up—a fighter, and a drinker, and
a smoker, and a swea——”

Just then a whip cracked in the distance, and they turned in dismay.

“Oh, Willie, the sheep! I do hope Gussie hasn’t killed them.”

“Great snakes!” shouted Willie. “Let’s after them,” and away they
scampered, forgetting their anger for the time being.

Away across the paddock the sheep were coming slowly towards them,
driven by Big Tom from “Myall.”

“Hello!” he cried in his loud, hearty voice. “I thought you were
supposed to be taking this lot to the shed.”

“So we were, Tom; but Gussie chased them away from the gate, and we’ve
been trying ever since to open the old thing,” announced Willie,

“And is it open now?”

“No. It refused to open,” said Willie, with all his manners laid on

“Refused to open,” chuckled Tom under his breath. “All right,” he cried,
cheerily, “you two get behind this mob, and just walk along slowly, and
I’ll fix up that gate in one act. I’ll take this mongrel with me,” he
continued, as he tied his whip through Gussie’s collar. “No use of three
new chums being together,” and he rode off.

The children had time to get cool again, and Willie was a bit ashamed of
his outbreak; and, another thing, supposing Eva did tell at home, they
might send him back to Sydney. They might pack him back by the next
mail. Good gracious! that would be dreadful, just when he was learning
to ride well and knew all the dogs and horses—and—right in the beginning
of the shearing, too! He didn’t want to go back to Sydney for months and
months yet. He must try and conciliate himself with Eva somehow.

“My word, this is a pretty paddock, Eva.”

“Yes,” answered Eva, shortly.

“Real nice flowers down there, too. Nice yellow ones.”

“Yes,” answered Eva.

“I’ll get you a bunch if you like—a great big bunch, and—I’ll tell you
what—I’ll carry them home myself.”

“Oh, I think it’s too hot!” said Eva, languidly. “They’d all fade.”

“Do you think so? What a pity!”

He didn’t know what else to say for a time.

“I’ll tell you what; I’ll come back when it’s cool, if you like, and get
you a great big bunch.”

“No, thanks, give them to your boot-laces, if you want to gather some,”
said Eva, coolly.

“Give ’em to my boot-laces?” echoed Willie, blankly.

“Yes, you’ve got such a lot to say about boot-laces,” answered Eva,
hardly knowing what to say.

“Oh, sport’s boot-laces!” said Willie, with a light suddenly dawning on
him. “I didn’t mean anything nasty, Eva. I often say that. Goodness me!
it’s a great Sydney saying. Why, I often tell my mother she’s not a
sport’s boot-lace, and she don’t care a bit. Why, she wouldn’t care if I
called her a sport’s boot-lace every day,” he went on, hardly knowing
what he was saying in his excitement to get on a friendly footing again.
“No, my mother wouldn’t care one bit——”

“Now, then, you two—don’t go mooning there; round ’em up,” shouted Tom.

And then Willie rushed off, and Eva, too, woke up, for what a time
they’d get when they reached the woolshed if the sheep got away again.
Why, they’d be laughed at, and it was a terrible punishment to be
laughed at.

They were received with a cheer at the woolshed, and hailed as the
“amateur drovers,” and Tom never told how he came to the rescue. He was
what Willie would term a “sport.”

For the next few days Willie was anxious, wondering if Eva told. But
things went on in the same old smooth way, and he grew content.

On the third evening Eva found a great big bunch of yellow flowers on
her table, and she guessed who was the giver and the reason why they
were sent. So she accepted the peace offering.

                             CHAPTER XIII.
                              A SYNDICATE.

There was a conspiracy at the homestead. Great whispering and talking
and planning among the younger set. Great fossicking among old tins and
gardening implements; and then, one fine day, a party of four set off to
the river, down to the Rocky Bend. It was nearly a quarter of a mile to
the Namoi from the Gillong gate, and they all trudged across the track,
each carrying bulky parcels. Down at the river Willie turned and
addressed the company in a pompous voice:

“Yes, I believe there’s gold here—any amount of it. Why, look at them
rocks—they’re shining again! I bet we’ll knock gold dust out of ’em
before long.”

“Oh, Willie!” they all gasped. “Do you really think so?”

“’Course I do. It’s a wonder all you people never thought of it before.
Why, there’ll be a gold-field on your place yet,” he went on, with his
eyes shining. “Yes, a great big diggings, and I’ll be the one that found

“Oh, Willie! wouldn’t it be lovely?” they all shrieked.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” he went on, “to have monster big diggings and
crowds and crowds of people and miners’ huts and tents and all that up
here, all through me finding out a gold-field——”

“Oh, Willie!” they all shrieked again.

“Why, look at that sand there! Why, there’s gold in it, sure enough!”

“Oh, Willie! however’ll we set about getting it out?” cried Eva.

“We’ll fix it up,” said Willie, confidently. “We’ll get it out somehow.
I’ve seen chaps in pictures with old dishes, and they wash the sand and
strain off the water, and the gold dust’s left behind, or something like
that. Anyhow, we’ll have a try at it.”

“Oh, yes, let’s try!” they cried in chorus.

Then the four of them set to work with little dishes, and scooped up
sand and washed and strained the water off, and looked very important,

“We’ll ex—ex—periment,” said Willie.

“Yes, we’ll ’speriment,” said Doris.

“Periment,” said Baby, as she swung an old tin pint wildly in the air.

They worked patiently for an hour, without results, and then Doris
shouted out that she had found some.

“Where, Doris, where?”

“Look at this—it’s a lot shinier than the other.”

“I believe it is,” said Willie.

“I believe it is,” echoed Eva.

So they emptied it on to an old tin tray to dry, and set to work again
with a will. By-and-by the others shouted that they had struck gold,
too, and more shining yellow sand was poured on to the tray.

They looked round for Baby, but she was busy building sand castles and
wells and filling them up with water from the old pint. She made dozens
and dozens of trips to the water’s edge, and filled the old pint to
carry back to the wells; and as the pint was leaking, there was only
about a quarter left when she reached the wells. But Baby didn’t care.
The more trouble she had, the better she seemed to like it.

“Look at her,” said Willie, in tones of disgust. “A smart lot of good
she’d be on a gold-field! Let her build her old castles and her old
wells—a smart lot of good they’ll do her!” Then he went on working
harder than ever.

“Do you know,” he cried a minute later; “I believe there’s another
way—chopping up rocks and stones, and getting it out like ore or
something. Let’s try it.”

“Oh, yes, let’s!” cried Doris, who was getting tired of this slow old
way. “There’ll be more fun chopping up rocks than washing old sand.”

“And we’ll send the ore away to Sydney for some of them chaps to look at
and tell us what it’s worth.”

“Oh!” they cried in the one breath. “Won’t that be grand? Let’s start

[Illustration: “She made dozens of trips to the water’s edge.”]

“Wait a bit, there’s only one tomahawk,” cried Willie. “Let me go first,
’cause I thought of it,” and he slashed with a will into the shining
rocks, and before half an hour great blisters had risen on his soft

“Let’s have a hit at it,” cried Eva, and she took the tomahawk and
bashed into the stone. Then they heard the thud of horses’ hoofs up on
the bank, and Eva dropped the tomahawk and looked up as Big Tom rode to
the top of the bank.

“Hullo! making mud pies?” he cried, as he dismounted.

“Ye-es,” shouted Willie, and they all exchanged telegraphic glances.
They mustn’t let Big Tom into the secret. They mustn’t let anyone know
until gold was discovered, and those wonderful Sydney men had examined
it and told them what it was worth. Then they would tell their wonderful
news, and then the rush to the gold-fields would begin!

“Yes, the sand’s lovely down here,” cried Eva.

“Oh, lovely!” said Doris.

“Lovely!” echoed Willie.

“Lubly tand!” cried Baby.

“Nearly as good as the sand on the beaches, eh, young man?” said Tom, as
he came down the bank.

“Ye-es,” said Willie, as he made a sign to Eva to sit on the tomahawk,
and she hastily hid it in the sand and then sat on it.

“Yes, it’s nearly as good,” went on Willie. “I mean I believe it’s
better, Tom; it’s real yellow, and the beach sand is white.”

“Oh, this is richer sand than yours!” said Tom, as he stooped down to
the water’s edge and took a long drink.

“Richer?” cried Willie, looking round at the others. Had Tom guessed
there was gold lying about in the gleaming sand?

“Yes,” chuckled Tom, “richer. It’s like yellow butter and white
butter—which would you rather have?”

“Oh, the yellow, Tom!” they cried, quite relieved, for now they knew
that Tom didn’t mean anything about gold when he said rich, and their
secret was still safe.

“Why, Baby’s got the best castles of the whole lot of you!” said Tom,
surveying Baby’s buildings, “and wells and roads and all.”

“Oh, yes, Tom!” they all agreed. “We’ve only been fooling.”

Then Tom sat on the sand and talked. Another time they would have liked
talking to Tom, but to-day they did want to go on with their
prospecting. At last he rose to go, and Willie accompanied him up the
bank, and stayed there till Tom was almost out of sight, and then he
dashed into the work again.

“Hello! is this where you are?” a fresh young voice called out from the
top of the bank, and they glanced up to see Mollie’s laughing face. Oh,
dear, dear! what bad luck! They didn’t mean to tell Mollie, and now
they’d have to, because she’d wonder what they were working so hard at
and why their hands were blistered. In fact, she’d ask all kinds of
questions, and here she was coming down the steep bank! What a sickening
place it was! They couldn’t even have a secret to themselves. First Tom,
and then Mollie. The river was miles and miles long. Why ever didn’t
they keep away from the Rocky Bend just for that evening?

“Here, Mollie, you promise not to laugh at us?” cried Willie, sturdily.

“Of course I won’t laugh,” said Mollie.

“And promise not to tell?”

“No, I never tell, either. But what are you doing?” and she commenced to
sink down on the sand near the wonderful tray.

“Mind the specimens!” cried Willie.

“Specimens?” cried Mollie.

“Yes, we’re mining—gold-mining!” said Willie, stubbornly.

“Oh, playing mines?” said Mollie.

“No, not playing, either. We’re serious. We think we’ve struck a patch,
and we’re going to work——”

“And later on,” chimed Doris, “there’ll be tents and huts and camps, and
hundreds and thousands of men here, minin’.”

Mollie laughed gaily.

“There, I said you’d laugh, and you promised not to,” said Willie, in

“Oh, I couldn’t help it!” cried Mollie. “Who ever heard of such a

“Because they’re all too silly to see it,” cried Willie, hotly. “Why,
any fool with common eyesight would know that there was gold in this
sand and in those rocks!”

By-and-by Mollie grew serious, and listened.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said at last. “Why don’t you ask someone?”

“Ask someone?” said Willie, witheringly. “Who’s to ask?”

“Why, old Joe; he was years and years and years on the gold-fields when
he was young.”

“So he was,” cried Eva.

“Oh, Mollie! was he?” cried Willie. “Oh, he ought to know!”

“Yes, let’s ask him,” cried Eva.

“Oh, let’s!” gasped Doris, “quick as ever we can. Let’s hurry home and
ask him before he has his tea.”

“No, you don’t!” cried Willie. “I’ll ask him, ’cause I found the gold
and did all the work. I’ll do the asking.”

“Yes, we’ll wait till after tea,” said Mollie, “when he’s smoking. Let’s
all go over to the stable and ask him.”

“Oh, yes, let’s!” agreed Doris again.

It was nearly sunset, so they hurried and gathered up their
treasures—the “gold dust” and “specimen ore”—and trudged off home; and
after tea a deputation of five waited on Joe, who listened attentively,
and then with the aid of a kerosene lantern examined the specimens.

“So you think you’ve struck gold in the Namoi River, eh? Gold at the
Rocky Bend? Why, there’s no more gold in that sand than there is in my

But some dreams die hard, and Willie and his little band still worked
away at their gold-field. Teddo was again pressed into the service, and
one day posted a small tin of “dust” away to Willie’s father, to be
examined by an expert, and the verdict came back on very official
looking paper—“Just ordinary sand from the river-bed.”

                              CHAPTER XIV.

Eileen had been overjoyed at the thought of staying in Sydney, and she
commenced school duties with a will. She was almost a beginner in many
of the subjects that Marcia was proficient in, but she was naturally
bright, and soon acquired a knowledge of everything.

On Saturday afternoons they played tennis, and on Sundays they had long
walks, and Eileen used to write home glowing accounts of how she spent
her time.

But learning music was her one trial.

“It’s such a good chance,” Mrs. Hudson had said, “for Eileen to get a
good foundation.”

So the young visiting teacher at the College had Eileen placed on his
list, and after a few lessons he marked her down as a “non-trier.”

Up the country she used to play by “ear” on an old piano that had long
since seen its best days, and now scales and such like were doubly

“No, Miss Eileen, not that way. Wrong! Wrong!” the teacher would cry,
impatiently, as wrong notes were struck or hands were placed in the
wrong position; and Eileen, who simply hated the humdrum, hammering
exercises, would grow sullen and wade through the rest of the lesson.

Things reached a climax after about a month of lessons.

“No, Miss Eileen, you’re no better now than when you commenced. It’s
agonising to have to listen to you. No time, no expression—you simply
have no ‘soul,’ no ear for tone, no——”

But Eileen turned on him with flashing eyes. “No soul,” “No ear,”
rankled in her mind.

“I’ve got as much soul and as much ear as you have!” she cried. “You
think yourself, with your old music, don’t you? Well, let me tell you
that there’s plenty of cleverer people than you that don’t know a note
of music, and if I can’t play I can do lots of other things—yes, I
can!—and I’d like to see you up the country, trying to ride a horse, and
see where your ‘soul’ and ‘ear’ would come in.”

She banged up her music and jumped up from the piano.

The teacher was simply petrified. To be spoken to like that by a little
country girl! Preposterous!

“Really, Miss Eileen, you forget yourself.”

“No, I don’t,” answered Eileen, “but I’m just sick to death of ‘soul’
and ‘tone’ and ‘finish’ and ‘melody,’ and all the rest of it, and I
would just like to see you up the country on a horse—and not old
Brownie, either!” and she marched out of the room before the time was

“Really, a most extraordinary girl,” murmured the teacher, as he sat
there and waited for his next pupil. He was only newly appointed to the
teaching staff, and did not have the knack of imparting sympathy and
enthusiasm to his pupils.

“I hate that old musical box,” said Eileen that evening to Marcia.

“What old box?” asked Marcia, perplexedly.

“The music teacher, with all the musical letters to his name,” went on
Eileen, calmly.

“Why?” asked Marcia, opening her eyes very wide. “I think he’s
beautiful, and he has such glorious dark eyes.”

“Ugh! dash his old eyes—they’re as silly as the rest of him. He sits
there goggling and screwing and beating time like an old—old
Jack-in-the-box,” concluded Eileen.

“Oh, Eileen! I don’t believe I can ever take another lesson from him,”
laughed Marcia. “I’ll laugh when I see him ‘goggling and screwing’——”

“Yes, and bending down when the music’s soft, and sitting up straight
and flapping his hands when the music’s loud. Ugh! it sickens me; I’m
sorry I commenced to learn.”

“Oh, Eileen! you are funny,” laughed Marcia again. “And all the girls
think he’s lovely; why, I’m just dying to tell them what you’ve said,
only it might get back to his ears.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter!” said Eileen, with her head high in the air. “I
told him this morning what I thought of him.”

“You—told—him—this—morning—what—you—thought—of—him!” gasped Marcia.

“Yes,” answered Eileen, and then she detailed the conversation.

“And you left him before the lesson was over?” cried Marcia.

“Yes, I left him sitting there, gasping.”

“Oh, Eileen! you are brave; I’d never have done it. I’m real nervous at
my lesson.”

“Pshaw! I’m never nervous, and I’m never going to be, either. I mean to
be an actress some day, you know, and it won’t do for me to be nervous.
Thank goodness, actresses don’t have to know music, and if I have a
dozen children I’ll never let one of them learn a note unless they want
to. Playing by ear’s good enough for me, and it’ll be good enough for my

Then Marcia went off into another peal of laughter. “Oh, Eileen, I wish
you’d stay here for ever!” she cried. “I’ll miss you dreadfully when
you’re gone. But I do wish you’d try hard at your music.”

“Oh, I suppose I’ll have to! But I’m more satisfied now that I’ve said
all that about ‘soul’ and ‘ear.’”

About a week later Eileen got a most unaccountable fit of home-sickness.
She had received long letters telling her about the clover paddocks, and
the dew glistening on them first thing in the morning, and how fat the
horses were; and all of a sudden Sydney grew distasteful.

Sitting at her desk, the thought of those long green stretches would
come to her; the thought of the green-clothed gullies, with the children
racing up and down on their ponies; the thought of the big blue gums
along the creek, waving long brown strips of bark wildly in the wind,
and the big fire of myall logs burning brightly in the Gillong
dining-room at night, and the gleaming white frost on the corn cobs in
the cultivation paddock shining under the rays of the wintry sun. And
one day she put her head on the desk and burst into tears. She wanted to
be there straight away. After all, there was no place like home, and she
wanted to go right up and mount her horse and race all over the
paddocks. The teacher was astonished.

“But there’s nothing to stop you from going home, is there?” she asked

“N—no!” blurted Eileen, “but I didn’t want to go until now, and it just
came on real sudden, like a bad tooth-ache, and I couldn’t help
c-crying. I’m—I’—m not coming back to school any more. I’ll get ready
and go straight home.”

There was consternation in the Taylor household when they heard of
Eileen’s resolution.

“No, I’ve been real happy with you, Mrs. Taylor, and I’ll miss you all
dreadfully, but I’m real home-sick—you know, I think country people
suffer from home-sickness,” she went on apologetically, “and I just
can’t wait another day. Every time I hear the thud of a horse’s hoof it
makes me lonely, and you’ve all been real kind—and—I’ll always like
you—but—all the same, I must go home.”

Mrs. Taylor just knew how she felt, and helped her to pack up, and was
as kind as her Mother, and Marcia was almost heart-broken.

“You must come back again as soon as you can, Eileen. Oh, dear! I won’t
have half the fun now that you’ve gone. No one to talk to about people
and the music teacher or anything else.”

Then Mrs. Taylor fell to worrying about Willie. She wondered was her
little boy home-sick, too, and didn’t like to say; and she wrote him a
very long letter, and told him to be sure and come straight away if he
felt like it, and how she thought he ought to come home now in any case,
and how she missed him. And the heartless little Willie, when he
received it, grunted and said, “Just like a woman!” Then he sat down and
wrote her a long letter to satisfy her, and to let her see “once and for
all” that her little boy was not in the least home-sick, or even likely
to be.

And one afternoon Eileen boarded the North-West train, and with many
promises of letter-writing and much fluttering of pocket handkerchiefs
and farewell messages she was whirled away to the far North-West

And the same train that brought her home carried Willie’s letter back to
his Mother:

  My Dear Mother,

  I am very, very happy up here, and I am not at all home-sick like
  Eileen is, because you see I am kept pretty busy. Mr. Hudson doesn’t
  know how ever he can get on without me again. I am a great help to
  him. Every evening I bring in the cows and pen up the carves. They are
  little beauties—five spotted ones and a rone, and a red. If he was a
  foal they would call him bay, but they don’t have bay carves—only red,
  so you will know that whenever you are talking about them; but foals
  are bay, not red, and they’d all know you came from Sydney if you
  started calling them the wrong names. I am a good rider now, and I can
  yard sheep and drive horses and do thousands of other things. Tell Dad
  not to go troublin’ about getting me into an office later on, because
  I mean to take a job of handy man on a station—that is, if ever I
  leave here again. Mr. Hudson calls me his handy man, and I am sure I
  am a great help to him. It wouldn’t be very nice of me to leave him
  when I am such a help, and, besides, I’m not a bit home-sick. If you
  feel you want to see me very bad you ought to come up here. It isn’t
  so very far—only about 420 miles from Sydney; and if you are a good
  sleeper you can go to sleep just after you leave Sydney and wake up
  just before you get to the last station here, and you wouldn’t know
  you’d been travelling all the time, so you wouldn’t feel a bit tired.

  I hope you won’t be writing for me to go home for a long time yet, as
  I want to spend the winter up here, and then the spring, because
  thousands of birds will build their nests in the bush trees, and I
  want to see the young ones, and it will be very hard luck if I don’t
  see them after coming all this way; and I want to see the everlasting
  daisies all over the paddocks, and I am sure you will be nice and kind
  and let me stay; and I wish you were here now to have a good old roll
  in the clover—it’s great! I’m sure Dad would like it, ’specially if he
  had his old gardening suit on, and it don’t matter if it gets covered
  with green.

  The shearing was great. I wish we could have months of it. There is
  going to be another one in the spring, and I’m going to be tar-boy and
  general useful in the shed, and Mr. Hudson is going to pay me some
  wages. I told him not to bother, but he says he will; so I’ll send you
  a check when I get enough to make one, and you ought to have a trip to
  the mountains with it. I wish you were up here to see me working.

  Well, Mother, I have written you a nice long letter. Excuse any
  mistakes in spelling and grammar and stops, but I don’t think there’s
  very many, because I’ve kept singing out to Mollie and asking her how
  to spell a lot of words. I don’t think I want much more schooling. I
  think a man can make plenty of money without, and it’s no use spending
  money on books when you don’t want ’em.

  I hope now that you will know that I’m not home-sick. I don’t think
  boys do get home-sick much, ’cept when their hungry; and with love to
  you and Dad from your loving and grateful and happy son,

  P.S.—Love to Marcia. I nearly forgot her. A man does soon forget his
  sisters when he’s away from them. Tell her I’ll take her home a
  present when I go—a kangaroo or emu or some sort of bird.
                               Yours truly,

Willie’s mother, when she received this, shook her head and said, “Well,
well, I suppose I had better let him stay; he seems so happy, but I do
wish he missed me a bit,” she added with a sigh.

“He’s too young yet to understand things,” laughed Dad, as he re-read
the letter. “So Willie’s just got into double figures, and he thinks he
has had enough schooling, and wants to start money-making. Well, well,
boys will be boys,” and he pocketed the letter to show to some of his
cronies at the Club, while Mother spent the best part of the morning
hunting for it to show it to Auntie Grace, never dreaming that it had
already gone the rounds of the Club, where it had raised many a hearty
laugh, as seasoned business men recalled again their lost youth and
young ideas.

                              CHAPTER XV.
                            EILEEN’S RETURN.

Eileen’s head was craned far out of the train as it drew into the
station, where Teddy, with a broad smile on his face, was waiting for
the mail and any stray passengers.

“Anyone here to meet me, Ted?” she asked as she bounded out.

“You have to come with me in the sulky,” answered Ted.

“Go with you? Oh, I say, I am disappointed!”

“That’s a nice greeting for a man!” said Teddy.

“Oh, Teddy, I didn’t mean anything against you!” she declared, “but, you
know, I was looking forward to seeing some of them, and what about my

“Logan’s van’s comin’ over to-day, and it’ll bring them.”

“Oh, dear! oh, dear! I do hope it gets there to-night. I’d hate my boxes
to have a night out on the roads, and there’s some pretty things in
them, too.”

“I suppose he’ll get there,” said Ted, cheerfully.

“Oh, I’m not so sure about that. Don’t you remember when he was bringing
that case of porter over, and he broke into it, and had a whole day and
night on the road, and lost a good many parcels, too?”

“Got many traps?” asked the good-natured Teddy.

“Only three, but one is so small you’d hardly count it, but it’s pretty
heavy,” she went on, doubtfully, “and then there’s another big one, but
it’s as light as anything. It’s that light you’d hardly feel it, and the
other—well, the other’s a bit solid.”

“Let’s see the little one,” said Ted; “we might stow it in.”

“Oh, Ted, you’re splendid!” gushed Eileen, as she hurried him along the
platform. “There it is—the little heavy one, and there’s the big light
one I was telling you about; just lift it, Teddo, and see for yourself
how light it is.”

“It’s light, right enough,” agreed Teddy, as he glanced down at the
waiting sulky. “I think I could hoist this big chap on to the back.”

“Oh, Teddy, if you only could!” gasped Eileen. “I’m sure Logan’s old van
will be late coming over, and I do want to unpack as soon as I get

“Well, keep your eye on them mailbags, till I come back,” ordered Teddy,
as he hurried off with the big light one; and Eileen sat on the wooden
bench and watched him rope it on to the back.

“There’s no doubt Teddy is good,” she thought, “and I’m glad now that I
brought him that tie instead of spending the money on that check ribbon
for myself that I felt I wanted so badly; but I couldn’t get them both,
so I am glad now that I decided on the tie for Teddo.”

“You’ve got it fixed on beautifully,” she said, as Teddy hurried back to
get the mail and the second box; but he was too important, and hurried
to answer her as he rushed round, strapping on boxes and bags.

“All aboard,” he called at last, and Eileen climbed up on to the seat
beside him.

“Oh, it’s lovely to be back again. Teddo!—just lovely, and everything
looks so big and so wide and so breezy, and there is such a lot of
space, and I bet they’ll be glad to see me at home again.”

“My word, they will!” agreed Teddy, “and so you got lonely down there?”

“Yes, real lonely. I just couldn’t stay a day longer. Goodness me,
Teddo, I just felt inclined to take to my heels and run and run till I
got here, and I just felt that I loved everything and everybody up here.
Why, I believe I’ll fairly kiss the old cows and hug the pet lambs and
dogs and chickens when I get home, and—but what’s the matter, Teddo?”

For Teddo had gone off into a fit of laughter—he was so hugely

“And before you’re home a week you’ll be sick of them all,” he said at

“Indeed, I won’t,” she answered, indignantly. “I’m much older than when
I went away you must remember, Teddy, and I see things in a very
different light,” and she sat up very straight.

“Yes, you’re a few months older,” guffawed Teddy, “but, all the same,
you’ll always have a hankering after Sydney—all women and girls do. I
bet the first hot day that comes next summer you’ll be wanting to get
back to that there surf and the boat trips and all the rest of it; and
you’ll take to your heels then and never stop running till you get
there.” And then he laughed again till he nearly rolled out of the

“Really, Teddy, it doesn’t take much to amuse you.” said Eileen, and so
they talked and argued all through the drive, while Teddy pulled up at
the different mail-boxes, which were sometimes boxes nailed on a tree,
or a kerosene tin sitting on a stump and secured there by a long nail.
Papers and letters were thrown in and sometimes a parcel or a pound of
butter or a loaf of bread, for Teddy acted as a general shopper at the
little railway township. Then the horses would trot along again through
the fresh clover that flicked, flicked, flicked against their hoofs, and
filled the air with a crushed fresh smell of greenery, and Eileen drew
in long, deep breaths and said it was “lovely.”

“Cripes!” said Ted, as he turned the horses sharply, and wheeled back to
a mail-box off the road.

“Oh. Ted! Whatever are you turning back for?”

“Forgot to leave old Payne’s tobacco,” said Teddy.

“Oh, never mind it this time!” pleaded Eileen; “let him smoke tea-leaves
or bark, or anything; why, it’s ever so far back!”

“No, I promised I’d fetch it,” declared Teddy, stoutly, “and a promise
is a promise, even if it’s only made to old Payne,” and Teddy looked
quite pleased with himself after this statement, while Eileen sat back
in a resigned manner.

At last the little bridge near the homestead came in sight through the
trees, and Eileen shouted aloud for joy.

“Thought you were going on the stage down there?” said Teddy, giving a
parting shot.

“Oh, that’ll come later on!” said Eileen, loftily. “I’m too young yet. I
want a little more home life before I leave for the stage.”

Then Teddy made a grimace and murmured under his breath.

“Stage!—I don’t think!”

There was shouting and commotion when the sulky drew up at the gate, and
Eileen sprang to the ground. Then a babel of voices filled the air as
everyone tried to speak at the same time.

“Oh, I am glad to see you all again!” Eileen told them over and over,
and Mother actually had tears in her eyes, though she couldn’t for the
life of her tell you why.

And Doris and Baby, with fat, happy faces and the roses of winter on
their cheeks, danced round the new-comer.

“I have a little new pet lamb; you can have a nurse of it if you like
when you have had a wash.”

“Oh, thank you, Doris, but I don’t think I will this evening!”

“And dere’s dear little puppies over at de shed,” volunteered Baby.

“There’s Willie, and goodness me if he’s not riding! Doesn’t he look
funny?” shrieked Eileen.

Willie overheard the remark, and looked daggers at Eileen. Then he
dismounted and walked slowly up to her with a great stockwhip wound
round his arm.

“Good evening, Eileen; how did you leave them all in Sydney?” he asked,

“My goodness, but you do look funny!” answered Eileen. “You are
different; why, your Mother wouldn’t know you—you’ve grown that tall,
and you’re getting fat, too, and fancy you being able to ride!”

“Oh, it doesn’t take a fellow long to learn that!” he answered,

“I’ve got some nice presents for you from your mother,” said Eileen.

“Presents?” gasped Willie, with his eyes lighting up and his grown-up
manner completely gone.

“Yes, a pair of stockings and a muffler and some tooth-paste and scented

“Ugh! Presents. I don’t call them presents,” said Willie, in tones of
disgust. “Anything else?”

“What did you think I’d have?” asked Eileen, hotly. “A motor-car or a
carriage and pair?”

“Come off,” said Willie, “I thought you might have a cricket bat or a
football, or something that would be of some use and fun to a fellow,
instead of old tooth-paste and old scenty soap; none of the men up here
use scenty soap, I bet.”

“No, and it might be all the better if they did,” flashed Eileen; “and,
another thing, I think you’ve got real spoilt since you came up here,
with your stuck up, grown-up airs, for a kid of your age.”

“Oh, come in Eileen, before you two start fighting!” said Mollie, with a

“Fighting!” echoed Willie. “Pshaw, I wouldn’t fight with a girl!”

They all met again before teatime, and chased round with the pet lambs,
and climbed the fence of the calf-pen, and gazed at the little calves,
and tried to coax out the chickens from under their mother’s wing, where
they were nestled for the night.

“They’re such little beauties,” said Mollie. “Little fluffy golden ones
and speckled and snowy white and brown, and some are real black.”

“Oh, the darlings!” said Eileen; “I’ll see them all in the morning.”

“An’ tometimes we ’as fosts in de mornin’s,” said Baby, clasping her
chubby hands; “no fosts in Tidney?”

“No, you darling,” cried Eileen, “it’s as mild as butter down there. Oh!
but I’m glad to be back again, for all Sydney’s niceness, and I’ll
never, never, never grumble any more at the bush or the quietness or the
work or anything else. I’m never going to grumble again as long as ever
I live.”

“Oh, dear!” gasped Doris, shaking her head solemnly and looking in
wonder at Eileen.

“Oh, dear!” said Eva, in tones of surprise.

“Oh, dear!” cried Mollie, in mocking tones of unbelief.

And “Oh, dear me! whoever is talking?” cried Willie, in sarcastic tones.

Baby’s teeth were stuck fast in some toffee that Eileen had brought her,
so she could not say anything.

                              CHAPTER XVI.

A governess coming! What, a governess coming just when things were at
their best. Just when the paddocks were green and the horses were
rolling fat, and everything was free and easy, and everyone felt
inclined for fun and gaiety and jollification. A governess coming to
keep them in musty old school, and make them study dry old books and
lessons and figures. They never thought Mother could be so hard-hearted
and so cruel and so mean.

“And I’m just sick and tired of old school. I got enough of it in Sydney
to last me a lifetime. I did think I would be free from it now and get a
rest at home,” sighed Eileen.

“I wish there were no such things as governesses,” wailed Doris.
“Governesses and old school!”

“I ’ate old tool!” roared Baby.

“Oh, dear, sometimes I wish I was dead!” went on Doris.

“A smart lot of good being dead would do you,” snapped Eileen.

“Goin’ to school’s worse nor bein’ dead sometimes,” said Doris.

“It’s not so bad if you learn your lessons,” said Eva, who was rather
glad of the idea of the governess, but daren’t say so in the presence of
the others for fear they’d laugh at her.

“Who wants to learn old lessons?” cried Doris. “I want to play all day
and feed the chickens and watch the little ducks in the water, and catch
crayfish and bully-frogs, and there won’t be any time for all that with
a governess—boo-hoo!”

“It’s sickening,” declared Mollie, looking away over the green paddocks;
“there’s always something turning up just when things are going good.”

“Don’t you like her coming, either, Mollie?” asked Eva, breathlessly.

“No,” answered Mollie, “not just yet. I want to ride and ride while the
horses are fat. I don’t want old school and lessons any more than you

“Oh, why didn’t you tell Mother that?” cried Eileen, breathlessly; “she
might have listened to you. She thinks you are so sensible.”

“What’s the use of talking?” snapped Mollie. “She’ll come, no matter
what we say.”

“And I’ll bet she’ll be old and scotty and prim and particular,” said

“Yes, and wear glasses, and will always be losing them, and will hardly
ever smile, and read a lot,” said Eva.

“Yes, dry old books—all about good people that were never in the world
at all,” finished Eileen, “and expect us to be like them. She needn’t
think she’s going to make me like any of her old good people in books.”

“Nor me, either!” said Doris.

“Me, eder!” said Baby.

“And I bet she won’t be able to ride!” went on Eileen, “and knows
nothing about bush life.”

“And I bet she don’t like little ducks and chickens,” put in Doris.

“I wonder what will she be like, and what’ll her name be,” said Mollie.

“I bet she’ll be tall and thin!” said Eva.

“Oh, sure to!” said Eileen. “I can see her now, getting round with her
head in the air, turning her long nose up at everything,” and then
Eileen walked round, sniffing contemptuously, and they all laughed

“Dear, oh, dear! I do wonder what she’ll be like!” said Eva, sobering

“Who?” asked Willie, who just then came through the gate.

“The new governess,” they cried in one breath.

“What! heard any more about her?” he asked, eagerly.

“No, we’re just wondering——”

“Ugh! Just wondering—just like girls; that’s all you’re good

Then there was an uproar, and five pairs of feet chased him round the
verandah, and five pairs of arms imprisoned him.

“You’re always wondering yourself,” they cried, “and you’re too
conceited to let on.”

“Yes, ’course he is, ’course he is.”

Then Willie set to wondering in real earnest, and he bet she’d be cross
as two sticks, and wear ugly old dresses and couldn’t understand a
fellow liking sheep-mustering, and drafting and all that, and he bet
she’d never go for a swim in the river with them, and he bet she’d never
fish, or if she did catch one she wouldn’t be able to take it off the
line, and she’d be calling all over the place for him to do it, and
she’d always be wanting him to put the bait on. Well, she needn’t get
calling for him, for he just wasn’t going to stand it; if a fellow went
fishing, he was going to fish and not go baiting a line for an old

“Yes, and I’ll bet she’ll hate country life,” declared Eileen, eagerly.

“Of course she will,” echoed Willie. “She won’t know a thing about it. I
say,” he went on, growing brighter, “we might have some fun with the old
party”—(for Willie was sadly deteriorating in his manners lately); “yes,
we might have some fun, you know, if we get her mounted on old Nigger
and teach her to ride——”

They all laughed again, at the spectacle of the governess on Nigger.

“And I’ll crack the whip behind old Nigger, and, gee-whizz, won’t he
go?” roared Willie, and the five other little sinners joined in the

“We might have some fun yet,” they agreed, hopefully.

“Yes, leave it to me,” went on Willie. “I’ll see to that. I didn’t come
all the way from Sydney to shut myself up in old school. We’ll have some
fun right enough.”

“But she might be nice,” said Eva, timidly.

“Nice?” echoed Willie. “Nice? What are you talking about?”

“I’ve often read of real nice governesses,” went on Eva.

“Read?” said Willie, scornfully. “Yes, you might read about ’em, but you
seldom see ’em. No, they might live in books, but not in life, and don’t
you forget it!”

“Oh, dear, it’s a hard life!” sighed Eileen, “just when things seemed to
be going right, too; but it’s no use wishing or expecting or hoping for
things to go right, because they never will.”

“No, they never will,” echoed Eva.

“No, dey never will,” agreed Doris.

“Never, never, never,” said Willie. “A fellow just thinks everything is
goin’ on great, and something comes along to upset him.”

“Yes,” they all agreed, eagerly.

“Like the day I rode Dandy,” he went on. “I was that glad about it
because I was goin’ to have him for my hack, and then he must go and get
a stake in his leg that very night! Oh, it’s no use wishing for
anything, because you never, never get it!”

“No, never!” they all agreed, mournfully.

“Oh, my goodness me, here comes the mail! There might be a letter about

Then there was a general scatter and excitement. Sure enough there was a
thick, important looking letter from the College for Mother, and they
all crowded round her while she read it.

Her name was Miss Gibson, and she would arrive at “Gillong” on the
following Wednesday.

“And here it is Friday now! Oh, dear!” they cried, in consternation.
“Let’s make hay while the sun shines.”

They all rushed madly round for the next few days, trying to crowd all
the outdoor life they could into their lives. One would think to see
them that their school-days would begin at six in the morning and not
end till six in the evening, so eagerly did they snatch up every minute
and spend it outside.

“There’ll soon be old lessons and figures to take up all our time,” they
would say, mournfully; and then set to enjoying themselves with a will.

“On Saturday and Sunday I’ll get up at 5 o’clock,” said Willie, “and
ride all day. Yes, I’ll ride till it’s dark. I’ll let her see that she
can’t keep me in all the time!”

So they all nursed a grudge against the governess who was coming into
their lives.

“I’ll let her see that Saturday and Sunday belong to myself, and I’ll
hardly as much as say good-morning to her on them days. I’ll let her
see! And, another thing, I’m not going to ride about with her if she
wants to learn to ride, so you need never ask me to. If she wants to
learn to ride you can go with her—Mollie or Eileen.”

“Oh, dear, how very kind you are!” answered Eileen. “It’s not so long
since you learned to ride yourself, and I heard about the day old
Brownie nearly threw you.”

“Nearly threw me,” echoed Willie, in fine scorn. “I simply slipped off
her, because she would go round one side of the fence when I wanted her
to go the other. I wasn’t going to let her best me, so I just slid off
and let her go on her own, and I caught her afterwards and took her back
and rode her round the way I wanted her to go. She didn’t best me.”

Just then Eva burst into tears.

“Whatever’s wrong?” they asked, anxiously.

“We’ll—we’ll never have time to—to—go down to the bend and gather the
mushrooms, and—and—I do love mushrooms!”

“We’ll have time, silly,” answered Willie. “You leave it to me; I’ll see
that she gives us time to gather mushrooms.”

He stalked off with the air of a conqueror.

                             CHAPTER XVII.
                             THE GOVERNESS.

Down the long flat road bowled the buggy that was bringing the governess
from the station, for Father had gone over the night before to meet the
train; and now the children, in a state of wild excitement, were grouped
together, and wondered. Even Willie let all his eagerness and excitement
be seen. Just for the moment the grown-up, careless, sang froid manner
that he usually adopted was quite cast aside, and he was a little,
eager, natural boy again.

“I’ll bet you anything that she’s lame and’ll wear glasses,” he said,
looking round at the others. “There you are now. I’ll bet before I see

“Oh, sure to be!” they agreed. “Oh, dear! I wish she wasn’t coming. If
only she wasn’t coming, wouldn’t it be lovely?”

The buggy drew up at the gate, and Mother went forward to meet the

“By Jove, she don’t look bad!” cried Willie, as he peeped through the
dining-room window.

“Why, she looks real young,” cried Mollie.

“She’s just like a girl,” cried Eva.

“What’d you expect her to be?” asked Willie, “a bloomin’ old man?”

“Oh, but I mean a real nice young girl!” explained Eva.

“Just you wait a bit,” he replied.

“Oh, she looks real nice!” said Eileen.

“Ugh! looks are nothing,” grunted Willie, who was somewhat disappointed
at all his predictions coming to nothing. “Wait till she starts
teaching, and see if she looks so pretty then. She’s got her best
manners on now.”

“And what a pretty hat,” said Mollie.

“Oh, lovely!” agreed Eileen, “and a real pretty dress, too. Look, she’s
taking her dust-coat off!”

“Oh! who wants to see her old dress?” snapped Willie, who felt somewhat
out in the cold.

“They’re coming in. Let’s all go out the back way,” and off they

Later on they were all introduced, and Miss Gibson was so bright and
friendly and took such an interest in everything that they found
themselves quite drawn to her. Even Willie said grudgingly, in his most
grown-up way, that “she wasn’t half a bad sort, and if they carried
things out properly they might knock out a good many holidays.”

They took her out to see the pets, and she asked their names and seemed
to know all about pet lambs and even chickens, and she could actually
ride. Then when they found out she used to live in the bush when she was
a child they took her to their hearts straight away.

“Yes, I am a real bush girl,” she smiled, “but I’ve been in Sydney for
the last four years, teaching at College. I just used to long for the
bush, and the horses and the rides, and the wide, free, open spaces, and
solitude when you wanted it, and to get up early and watch the sun rise,
and then to watch the stars twinkle into space, and then just to gaze
and gaze at the sky until there seemed nothing else in the world but
yourself and the starshine.”

“Really, it was wonderful,” the children declared, “to think that a nice
girl who knew all about the bush and who knew pet lambs and could ride
had come to teach them, and to think that they had had all their trouble
and worry for nothing, thinking and wondering about her.” Eileen said it
would be a lesson to her, and she would never, never worry again.

So five very happy little bush girls went to bed that night, with the
suspense of the last few weeks quite gone from their minds. And Willie,
too, was quite jubilant.

“Anyhow, it’s better than having a cross, prim old dame that won’t let a
fellow have a joke,” he said, as he lit his candle in the hall, “and
we’ve only got to work things all right and I’ll bet we’ll get plenty of
holidays. One thing, she can’t expect a man to be always stuck at

And so school life commenced, and went on very smoothly, although now
and then the children felt it a bit irksome, for they had been used to
so much freedom that it was something quite new to have to answer bells
and keep rules and silence in school hours, and sometimes they simply
longed to tear out over the green paddocks just in the midst of a
history or geography lesson. Their minds would wander away from names
and dates down to the clover patch or to the river bend or some other
well-known patches, and as soon as school was over they would rush off
with wild hurrahing and run wild for an hour or two.

Miss Gibson, though kind, was firm, and insisted on good work and
attention, and sometimes, as much as they liked her, they would get
together and discuss her, and then perhaps they would come in and find
her chatting brightly with Mother or helping her to make scones and
cakes, and all their ill-feeling would vanish, for Mother looked so much
brighter and happier since the governess came, and they would rush off
to see if they, too, couldn’t help.

Sometimes in the afternoons Miss Gibson would let them off an hour
earlier, and would take a walk with them. She had sometimes noticed
traces of discontent in her little charges, and wished to imbue them
with the love of Nature.

“Do you know, children,” she said one day, “I really don’t think you
realise how well off you are.”

“Well off?” echoed the children, for they were in a discontented mood
that day, and nothing seemed to go right.

“Yes—well off. Just think what you inherit. Those vast wide spaces, and
the great blue dome of the sky for a roof, the beautiful sunbeams, or at
night the silver-specked vault, and at your feet a great, green velvet
carpet fit for kings to walk on.”

“Dear me, that sounds beautiful!” cried Mollie. “I often think we’re
lucky, but I can’t think things like you.”

“Tell us more,” begged Eva, who regarded it as a story, and she linked
her arm through Miss Gibson’s.

Miss Gibson laughed merrily.

“Very well, dear. Did you ever think what a world of wonder we live in?”

“Oh, that’s all right when you’re rich and travel about!” said Eileen.
“You’re sure to see a lot of wonderful things then.”

“Why, my dear, they surround you.”

Eileen looked round. “I don’t see anything so very wonderful.” Eileen
was in the mood for argument.

“Look at those lights and shades down in the gullies; look at those
twinkling little golden clover flowers. Look at the sunlight flickering
on those great snow-white gum trees; and later on this evening we will
watch the sunset, with all its glorious colours that artists rave about
and try in vain to seize for their canvas. Think of all the beauty and
wonder of the seasons, the coming and going, the birth and bloom and
fading and decaying and silence and rest of our wonder world. We ought
to all try and keep young at heart, and enjoy and love the big open book
of Nature that is flung open all around us. Think of the glorious
moonlight nights and the beautiful glowing sunrises, or that pearly
glimpse we get of the world just before dawn, when it all seems wrapped
in mystery. I want you to become lovers of Nature, and you will never be
quite lonely. Think of the joy of watching tiny leaflets and buds
opening into beauty and watching and tending their growth. Think of the
wonders along the river banks, where the wild ducks dip and glide and
dive, and the dear little fluffy ducklings, with bright, beady eyes,
fluttering about in the water, imitating their elders. Don’t you ever
think what a grand thing it is to have your sight, just to see all the
beauties around you?”

“Ye-es,” said Eileen, somewhat reluctantly; “it is all beautiful and

“Yes, it is so,” they all agreed.

“Dear me, it’s nice to think about it,” said Mollie. “You do make
everything sound nice, and you make one glad to be alive and living in
the country. Let’s have lessons outside sometimes, Miss Gibson,” she
went on. “Oh, I’d love it!”

“So would I!” and “So would I,” they all shouted.

“Very well,” answered Miss Gibson, delighted to see them so
enthusiastic. “We shall have lessons outside sometimes, and excursions
to the river and different parts of the paddocks, and in the years to
come you will look back with pleasure on those Nature studies, I am
sure. Why, you might all develop into writers or artists or poets if you
will only open your minds to the beauties about you.”

“Oh, dear!” sighed Eva. “If I could only be an artist!”

“I want to be a poet,” declared Doris.

“And I’d love to write,” said Mollie.

“I’d like to be all,” declared Eileen, “and I might be some day once I
start and put my mind to things.”

“I don’t think,” jeered Willie. “It’s as much as you’ll manage to be one
of ’em.”

“I’m goin’ to write poetry,” declared Doris.

After that the children grew most enthusiastic, and were always bringing
in specimens and plants and leaves, and watching butterflies and ants
and calling each other to watch the sunsets, and discovering new
beauties in everything. But one day Mother said they were carrying
things too far, when Doris came home sopping wet and her boots and socks
caked with black mud; and Eva nearly as bad, for she had just pulled
Doris out of the creek, where she slipped in while trying to catch a
little wild duck that was playing at the water’s edge.

“Such a little beauty!” cried Doris, as she dragged her socks off. “I
wanted it for spessiman.”

“You’d better leave ‘specimens’ alone,” said Mother, “if you can’t
manage any better than that.”

“Yes, I better leave ‘spessmans’ alone a bit,” agreed Doris, as she
shook her socks, for she generally agreed with anyone.

“Of course, you can gather flowers and plants,” said Mother, relenting
somewhat, “out in the paddock, where you’re safe.”

“Yes, out where I’m safe,” echoed Doris.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                           THE SUBSCRIPTION.

“It’s a wonder you ever left the country, if you are so very fond of
it,” said Eileen one day to the governess. “You tell us to like it, and
yet you went away to Sydney,” she went on, somewhat defiantly.

Miss Gibson paused a while, and then said slowly:

“It was compulsory. My father was once a very wealthy man, but a big
smash came, and I was obliged to earn my living, so I went to a City
College, and——”

“Oh!” they all murmured, “we are sorry.”

“What was the smash—a motor-car?” cried Willie, eagerly.

Miss Gibson smiled.

“No, Willie; speculations and other things.”

“If it was a motor-car I’d never ride in one again,” declared Eva.

“Oh, dear! it must be awful to be real rich once and then get poor,”
said Eileen. “I don’t know how you stand it.”

“It is hard for a while; but, after all, there are some things better
than money.”

“Name them,” said Eileen, in mock despair.

“While we have health and strength and capacity for simple enjoyments
left, we can never be unhappy long, and work is a great tonic.”

“Oh, dear!” sighed Eileen. “It’s a funny old world, and you seem as
happy as anyone, although you were rich once and have to earn your
living now. It wouldn’t suit me.”

That evening Eileen called a meeting, and they all talked in low tones.

“We ought to get up a subscription for her.”

“Oh, yes, let’s!” cried Doris, clapping her hands. She always loved
anything fresh or exciting. “Let’s get it up quick!”

“Has anyone got any money? A subscription’s no good without money.”

“I have two shillings,” said Mollie.

“And I have ninepence,” said Eva; “it’s all in pennies, but I don’t
suppose that makes any difference.”

“Not a bit, and I know Baby has sixpence. You’ll let us have your
sixpence for nice Miss Gibson, won’t you, Baby, darling?”

“Ess,” said Baby, solemnly.

“That’s right, and I have one-and-ninepence——”

“And I have two-and-six,” cried Willie, as he rushed off and brought it
back, balancing it on his fingers. “I did mean to buy a big knife with
it, like old Joe’s,” he said, as he handed it to Eileen, somewhat
reluctantly, “but you can have it.”

“Don’t give it if you’d rather not, Willie,” said Eileen, quickly.

“Yes, take it; I might be rich myself some day, and then get poor, and
I’d like someone to get up a subscription for me.”

“Yes; and, besides, you can always get the loan of old Joe’s knife,”
said Eileen, consolingly.

“Yes; and, besides, the very next half-crown I get I’ll buy one with it,
so I suppose a fellow can wait a while,” he said, trying to appear

“You’re leal dood,” said Doris.

“Perhaps you ought to only give half,” said Eva, “because you see you’re
a visitor here, and oughtn’t to give so much as us.”

“No, half a crown or nothing,” said Willie grandly; “besides, I’m the
only man that’s giving, so I ought to give most.”

“How much have you got, Doris?” asked Eileen.

“A penny,” she said, handing it to her.

“Is that all? Where’s the threepence you had last week?”

“I let it fall in the creek the day I chased the duck.”

“Oh, dear, dear, you are careless!”

“And de oder sixpence I give Teddy to bwing me lollies wif.”

“No wonder you were so pleased about a subscription when you had nothing
to give. Let’s count how much we’ve got.”

And they all got slates and pencils and added up the sums.

“What do you get?” asked Eileen of Willie.

“Seven and seven pence,” answered Willie.

“Yes, that’s right. What a pity we couldn’t make it eight shillings.”

“Suppose we ask old Joe,” said Eva.

“Oh, no, Miss Gibson mightn’t like it. Now we’d better write out a
little speech.”

“Oh, yes, let’s,” cried Doris again. “What’ll we say?”

She sat back in her chair and prepared to enjoy herself.

“We’ll write it out real nicely, and you’ll paint flowers round it,
won’t you, Eva?”

“Oh, yes, do,” shrieked Doris; “roses and pansies an’——”

“Oh, no, they’re too hard,” said Eva. “Nice green leaves and berries, I
think—nice red berries.”

“Oh, yes!” they all cried.

“Yes, yes,” shrieked Doris, “green leaves and wed berries,” and she
clapped her hands loudly.

“You do the writing, Mollie, and we’ll all sign our names,” continued

“Yes,” shrieked Doris again; “but what about Baby?”

“Oh, I’ll hold her hand,” said Eileen.

“Lovely,” cried Doris, subsiding again into her chair.

So Mollie set to work to write out a speech, and they all tried to help
her, and after a lot of trials and a few fights they managed one.

“Let’s hear it,” said Eileen, and they sat down while Mollie read aloud.

  Dear Miss Gibson,

  Your six pupils wish you to take the enclosed money as a little
  present, because we are sorry that you were once rich and lost so much
  money, and hope you will soon be rich again, and that you will always
  be very happy.

                                                       YOUR FOND PUPILS.

“That’s all right,” said Eileen.

“No, there’s another word for ‘take,’” said Willie; “it would sound
better. Let’s see, what is it now?—oh, I know!—‘except’—yes, except the

“No, not ‘except,’” said Mollie. “‘Accept,’ I think.”

“Anyhow, there’s only the difference of a letter or two,” answered
Willie, “and it sounds better. Put one of them in and chance it.”

“Oh, no! we’ll have to look it up and make sure,” said Mollie with a
sigh, “and if there’s anything I do hate doing it’s looking up a

“Oh, bother the dictionary—I hate ’em, too!” said Willie.

“And so do I,” agreed Eileen; “but we’ll have to look for it.”

They got the dictionary and hunted till they found it.

“Ah, ‘accept’—that’s it!” cried Mollie.

“Anyhow, I was pretty near it,” said Willie, well pleased.

“Now, write it out to-night, and to-morrow Eva can paint it.”

“Oh, dear! I wish to-morrow morning was here,” said Doris, who hated

So to-morrow morning Eva rose bright and early and painted a spray of
very bright green leaves and very bright red berries on the card, and
called them to put their names on it. Willie came first, because he was
in a hurry to have a ride round the paddock before school time. He
hurriedly seized a pen and ducked it into the ink.

“Let’s sign, and get away,” he said, importantly.

“Oh, do be careful!” said Eva.

“Careful? Who’s not careful, I’d like to know,” he answered, and just
then a great big blot of ink splashed on the page.

“Oh, look what you’ve done!” cried Eva, almost in tears.

“Oh, bother the old card!” cried Willie, in a temper, and then there was
a battle-royal.

“I knew you’d blot it. There! it’s all spoilt now, and I’ll have to do
another one.”

“What did you call me for? You knew I was in a hurry. I’m sorry I signed
my old name now. Why didn’t some of the others write it for me? I
haven’t got time for fooling about writing on old cards.”

“You’ve got as much time as any of us, and you’re real ugly—that’s what
you are.”

“Oh! ugly, am I? Well, I’ve got plenty of mates, and I’m sorry I gave my
half-crown now.”

“All right, then; I’ll tell Eileen what you said, and she’ll give it
back to you.”

She jumped up to run off and find Eileen.

“No, you don’t!” cried Willie, now ashamed of himself. “You know I
didn’t mean it. Just like a girl—running off to tell tales, and
pretendin’ you think a fellow means what he says; here, let’s see if we
can’t fix it up. I’ll get the loan of old Joe’s knife, and we’ll scrape
the blot out.”

“No, that wouldn’t do.”

“Well, what about wiping it up with blotting paper?”

“No, no good; it would all smear.”

“What about painting something over the blot—some more leaves or

“No; they’d look silly down there.”

“Well, what about painting a big butterfly over it, flying up to the
berries, eh? That’d look grand.”

“No, I’ll have to do it all over again.”

“I’m real sorry,” said Willie. “I wish I could paint, and I’d do it for
you. Square dink, I would!”

“Oh! never mind; I’ll do another to-day, and we’ll sign our names
to-night, and we’ll have to give it to her to-morrow.”

“Righto!” said Willie, as he marched off.

Meanwhile Eileen had been very busy thinking. She actually hadn’t slept
much the night before for thinking. Seven-and-sevenpence wasn’t much to
give Miss Gibson. If she only had some more! If she could only make some
money; but there was no way—yes, there was just one way that flashed
into her mind as she tossed about in bed. Tomorrow Mr. Smith, the
butcher from Bragan Junction, would call for killing sheep. Supposing
she sold him Ronald, her big pet lamb. He would be sure to give fifteen
shillings to sixteen shillings for him, and she’d give ten shillings of
it to Miss Gibson. Yes, that’s what she would do. She didn’t care if
Ronald were a pet and if she’d miss him. He’d only go out to the
paddocks after a while, and get mixed up with the rest of the flock, and
very likely be sent away to Homebush, or perhaps he’d be killed at home
for their own table later on. Ugh! she couldn’t bear to think of that!
No, the best thing to do would be to sell him to Mr. Smith. She’d be
brave, and she’d see Mr. Smith the first thing to-morrow, and she’d tell
him that she had a big fat lamb for sale. She’d be real business-like,
and she’d take the money, and then she’d get away somewhere quickly,
where she couldn’t see Ronald being driven off with the other sheep. She
knew it would be dreadfully lonesome for a while without Ronald, but—she
didn’t care. She would sell him.

So when Mr. Smith came she was the first to see him.

“Yes, Mr. Smith, father’s down in the gums paddock, but I have a fine
big fat pet lamb I want to sell.”

“Righto!” said the genial butcher. “How much?”

“Oh! er—about sixteen shillings.”

“Let’s have a look at him.”

Eileen led the way to the little back paddock, where quite a flock of
young fat sheep were grazing.

“That’s him with the red ribbon round his neck.”

“Righto! I’ll give you sixteen bob for him. I’ve got the silver now, and
I’d better carry him down to the gums and put him with the others there.
Them pets don’t like leaving home, and—but what’s wrong?” For Eileen was
crying fit to kill herself.

“I—I—don’t think I can let him go.”

“’Pon my goodness, don’t take on like that! What! don’t want to sell

“N-o—o. I wanted the money to give to—to—someone for a sub—a
subscription, but—they’ll have to do without.”

“Righto, little woman; I won’t take him, but he’s prime,” said the
butcher, casting a regretful glance at the fat lamb. “But, listen! Let
me give something towards that subscription,” and he drew out a handful
of silver. “Here, take five bob. I don’t want to know what it’s for. I’m
not curious, but I want you to take it because I’m sure it’s a good

“Oh, it is, it is!” cried Eileen, “but I can’t take your money, Mr.
Smith. I’d feel too mean.”

“You must. I’ll be hurt if you don’t take it. There you are, real hurt,
and I don’t wonder at you not being able to sell the pet; but all the
same, I’d ha’ liked to have had him,” he said, as he mounted his horse
and cast another regretful glance at the prime lamb. “Good luck to you,
my girl!” he shouted as he rode off.

Eileen stood gazing at the five shillings.

“Oh, dear! I’m a great big baby—that’s what I am, and I don’t know how
I’m going to tell the others. Supposing I don’t tell them. But I’ll have
to; they’ll want to know where I got the five shillings. Supposing I say
it was given to me in secret. Oh, no, that would never do! They’d always
be asking me about it. Supposing I say I picked it up. Oh! but that
would be too mean—I must let them know about the nice butcher. It
wouldn’t be fair to him if I didn’t. No, I’ll race up and tell them
now—now, while I feel I can. I’ll just take to my heels and run and tell
them as soon as I get up there.”

She was as good as her word, and ten minutes later an excited crowd had
gathered round a hot, flushed Eileen, who told them hurriedly of the
good kind Mr. Smith.

“Ain’t he lovely?” said Doris, admiringly. “He’s a nice kind man, and
I’ll pway for him to-night. We’ll all pway for him.”

“Do you mean to say you meant to sell Ronald? I don’t know how ever you
could think of such a thing,” cried Eva.

“Oh, well! you see I couldn’t when it came to the time,” said Eileen. “I
just tried my best to, and I couldn’t.”

“And I shouldn’t think you could,” said Eva, in tones of finality.

“But of course he’ll have to go some day,” said Mollie. “Still, all the
same, I couldn’t bear to see the butcher carrying him off to kill him,”
she continued, quickly.

“Me, either.”

“Me, either.”

“Me, eder,” they all chimed in.

At last the list was finished, and Mr. Smith’s five shillings was
entered “from a kind, unknown friend,” and the next step was the

“You’re the boss of the show, Eileen; you give it,” said Willie, “and
you’ll have to make the speech, too.”

“Oh, dear, I don’t know whatever to say!” said Eileen, nervously.

“Go on, there’s nothing to be frightened of,” said Willie, bravely.
“You’ll have to think of something. You always say you’re goin’ on the
stage: this will be practice. Go on, let’s hear you before you go on the
stage,” and he stuck his two thumbs in his leather belt and marched
round the room.

“Oh, dear! I suppose I’ll have to say something,” said Eileen. “Let’s
see, now,” and she walked round and round and rehearsed speech after

“How’ll we give her the money?” asked Willie, all of a sudden.

“I never thought of that,” said Eileen.

“No, of course you didn’t. It takes a man to think of those things. It’s
a good thing for you I’m here. Why, that’s the very first thing you
should have thought of.”

“No, not the first,” said Eileen.

“What, then?” he demanded.

“Collecting the money, of course.”

“Oh, any fool would know that!” answered Willie; “so you’re not so smart
as you think.”

“We’d better put it on a little tray,” said Eva.

“Or a little bag,” said Mollie.

“Oh, no, loose! Let’s have it loose,” said Willie, “so’s it’ll look a
lot and we can hear it clink.”

“Do you think so?” asked Mollie. “I think we ought to have it in a
little purse, like a purse of sovereigns.”

“Only, of course, it won’t be sovereigns,” said Eileen. “You have a
little muslin bag, Mollie—just the very thing.”

“So I have—just the very thing,” and she ran off to get it. “You can see
the money through it, too; it will be just right,” she cried, as she
returned with it.

“Here, let’s put it in,” cried Willie, and he stuffed the silver and
copper in. “It’s real nice and fat, too. My word, she’ll think she’s
getting a fortune,” he went on, delightedly. “Good thing I thought of
the bag.”

“You thought of the bag?” cried Eileen, in sarcastic tones. “Why, you
wanted it given up loose, all scattered over a tray.”

“Anyway, only for me you wouldn’t ha’ thought anything about how you
were going to give it to her and you’d ha’ been scooping it up out of
your hands and very likely letting it fall all over the floor if I
hadn’t spoken about it, so there!”

After a great many more arguments and a great deal of talking,
everything was decided on at last.

That evening, while Miss Gibson was sitting quietly correcting exercise
books, the deputation waited on her, and she received the surprise of
her life. In they marched, with Eileen at their head, who made a
sweeping bow, and the others tried to follow suit. Baby was so much
taken with the proceeding that she kept on bowing and ducking for the
rest of the evening. She bowed to each and every one of them. She
marched off to the kitchen and bowed to old Joe, till he asked her if
she had turned silly, and she bowed to all the pictures and chairs; and,
in fact, enjoyed herself immensely.

“Dear Miss Gibson, we wish you to—to——”

“Accept,” whispered Mollie.

“Accept this little token—a little picture and a small bag of money,
which we wish was much bigger, and all our good wishes,” said Eileen,
with another sweeping bow.

“Really, children, this is a surprise—a little picture and a bag of

“Yes, you see, ’cause you lived in the country once——” began Doris,
while all the others chimed in to explain matters.

“And we all hope you’ll be rich again some day, and if you put the
little bag of money in the bank it might be a help in years to come.”

“Yes, and, besides, we might all be real poor ourselves some day, and
have no one to help us,” chimed in Willie.

“And we all like you very much for telling us all the nice things about
the country, and we’ll never forget you,” said Eva.

“And if you’d rather buy lollies, ’undreds and thousan’s, or anything
you like with it, you can,” said Doris.

Then Baby returned from the kitchen, where she had visited Joe, and
bowed solemnly to them all, and sent them into shrieks of laughter.

“So I have an unknown friend?” said Miss Gibson, reading the list.

“Yes, it’s Smith, the butcher at Bragan Junction,” cried Willie. “Didn’t
know he knew you, did you?”

“Willie, stop at once!” cried Eileen, and then she told the story to
Miss Gibson; “and he doesn’t know who the subscription’s for, or nothing
about it; it’s just because he’s kind that he gave it, and he wasn’t a
bit inquisitive, and if ever I get real rich I’ll send him a nice
present,” she continued.

So the evening passed merrily away, and Miss Gibson was much touched by
the evidence of kindness and thoughtfulness on the part of the children,
and the little picture, with its vivid green leaves and bright berries,
was put away among her treasures.

                              CHAPTER XIX.

All the children got the writing craze at “Gillong.” They all wanted to
be poets or authors, and there was one continual scribble. Papers and
books and slates were covered with little scraps of verses, till Mother
declared she could never read another bit of poetry.

Sometimes Eileen would come along with fourteen verses of very much the
same kind of jingle, and ask them to listen and criticise.

“Oh, you said all that before!” Willie would say, in disgust—“away up
there in the third verse.”

“Yes, but, Willie, don’t you see it’s put in different words, and you
have to keep saying the same thing over—only a little bit different to
fill up.”

“Ugh! you’re a sickening old poet; you’d make a fellow tired.”

But Eileen was not daunted. Only lately she had taken to looking very
important, and had kept quiet about her work, but, all the same, she
scribbled like grim death.

“Some day she’ll come in with about a million verses and make a fellow
listen to them,” Willie would grumble.

Sure enough, one day she came to them with a fat note-book, and asked
them to listen to the very best she had ever written—quite a gem, she
considered—so they all sat down to hear it:

  The moon-beams shine through the summer night,
      All on a garden fair,
  And the perfume of the flowers arise
      All on the fresh night air.

  The moon-beams play with the shining leaves,
      And the flowers nod and sway,
  And the stars look down with gentle eyes
      All night till the dawn of day.

There were about eight more verses in this strain, and then it went on:

  The children play in the garden fair,
      All through the summer hours,
  And the birds they sing and the butterflies wing
      Among the fruits and flowers.

“Butterflies wing? What’s that?” asked Willie.

“Oh! that means they fly; a poet can say anything, and it’s all right.”
Then she went on with about twenty more verses.

“Beautiful!” cried Doris, clapping in ecstasy.

“Very nice, but too long, I think,” said Mollie.

“Oh, I don’t think so!” said Eileen. “I’m going to send it to one of the
Sydney papers. It’s as nice a bit of poetry as ever I read in my life.”

“Are you goin’ to give it to a paper?” asked Doris.

“Give it? No; they’ll have to pay me for it, and pretty well, too, or I
won’t part with it.”

So the precious MS. was sent away, and Eileen waited with what patience
she could for a reply.

Then all the others became keener than ever on writing. Doris tried to
compose, but she couldn’t make the lines “fit,” and would get in a rage
and tear up the paper, and she nearly drove them all crazy asking how to
spell words and getting them to help her.

“Oh, do leave it off—you’ll never be a poet! You don’t even know what
words go with each other,” said Willie one day when she was begging his

“Oh, come on—help me! It’s all about pwetty bluebells and daisies and my

“Hang the bluebells and daisies and your old doll!” answered Willie.

“You’re real ugly; you’re stopping at my place, and you won’t help me,”
said Doris, in a temper.

“All right, then; go on.”

“I love my little Dolly.”

“I do, I do, I do,” chimed in Willie.

“No, that won’t do,” called out Doris. “I love my little dolly, I do; I
love her so; and she is nice and pwetty——”

“As everyone must know,” said Willie.

“Oh, yes! beautiful. ‘As everyone must know.’ Write it down, Willie.”

And Willie wrote down the first verse.

“She plays with the bluebells down along the crick.”

“And she’ll tumble in the water if you give her a good kick,” quoth

“Oh, Willie! You’re nasty. You mustn’t say that about Rose.”

“All right, then. Go ahead.”

“Down along the crick,” repeated Doris, “where the daisies and the

“Grow so very thick,” added Willie.

“Beauful!” she cried again.

“There, that’s two verses,” said Willie; “that’s enough for one day. All
good poets never make more than two verses in a day.”

“Don’t dey?” said Doris.

“No, and you ought to leave it alone now for a week, and you’ll be a
real good poet when you start again.”

“That’ll be beauful!” she cried again, clapping her hands.

Eva used to write a lot about sunsets and moonbeams, and fleecy clouds
and brilliant birds. She used to use the dictionary a great deal those
days, finding out big words to make her poems sound grand. She always
called them poems, and she would copy them out neatly and paint little
sprays of flowers round them, and would only occasionally let them be
read. Mollie tried poetry for a time, but soon gave it up and dashed
into prose, and wrote nice articles and essays.

“There’s more sense in yours than all the rest put together,” said
Willie. “It’s a lot nicer reading than old poetry.”

Meanwhile Eileen waited for a reply about her precious MS.

“Not in yet?” she would say, as she scanned the paper every mail day.

“Oh, you might have to write a lot before you get it in print!” Mollie
would say.

“There’s no doubt about mine,” Eileen would answer.

One day a big envelope came, and Eileen tore off the wrapper, to find
“Not suitable” in big letters across her cherished manuscript.

“I’ll never try again,” she cried, almost on the verge of tears.
“They’re a mean, horrid old lot, those paper people. I’m sure it is as
good as the old stuff they print. It’s just because I’m not known.”

They all tried to console her. In fact, Willie went so far as to say
he’d call and see those paper chaps when he went back to Sydney, and
give them a bit of his mind. Although he did not like Eileen’s poetry,
he was very loyal, and sympathised most heartily with Eileen.

“I’d like to chop every one of ’em up!” said Doris. And so by degrees
Eileen’s keen disappointment wore off.

Just a week later there was great shouting and commotion over the page
of a Sydney daily, for there was one of Mollie’s articles in cold print,
with her name (“Mollie Hudson”) shining at the foot. Oh, the joy and

“How ever did you think of it, Mollie?” and “Oh, it’s beautiful!” came
in choruses, for the little article, entitled “The Old Picnic Tree,”
breathed of the fresh air of the paddocks and the leafy shade of an old
gnarled, knotted tree.

“Mollie’s a writer, Mollie’s a writer,” they all shouted, dancing round
her; and then they had to have a half-holiday in her honour, and spent
the afternoon at the old tree that she had written of; and they had
billy tea and nice little hot cakes that Mother had made in honour of
the occasion. They spent a wild, happy time, weaving fancies and
romances about the time when they should be all famous.

“Perhaps we’ll all be real rich and clever when we grow up,” said
Eileen. “Wouldn’t it be lovely if the five of us were all writers or
artists or musicians, or something of that sort, and had nice big
studios and plenty of money, and—and—have a real grand jolly life.”

Of course, they all agreed with her, and thought perhaps things might
turn out in that fashion; and then Willie said that he “might very
likely beat them all—he didn’t speak much about what he was going to
be,” he said, “but, all the same, he might surprise them all some day;
so they needn’t be too surprised if he, too, became rich and famous.”

“Oh, tell us all about it, Willie!” they begged.

But he said he hadn’t quite finished thinking things out; but, all the
same, they needn’t be too surprised if they heard of him later on being
very famous! Then he tried to look very important, although until that
moment the thought of being famous had never entered his head.

Then the shades grew long in the paddock, and they all scampered off
home to the welcome glowing fire of myall.

In an office in Sydney a man looked forward eagerly to the arrival of
the mail from the North-West, for an eager enthusiast would write in
glowing terms of the bushland. Miss Gibson would take her writing tablet
to the paddocks, and write quickly page after page:

  My Dear Basil,

  We are in the depths of winter, and you know what winter in the
  country can be like at times. Well, it is just delightful. The clover
  spreads far and wide like a great green velvet carpet, up and down the
  gullies and away across the paddocks. The deep tints of the clover,
  the vivid green of the crowsfoot and wild carrot mingle in a study of
  lights and shades, while the little blue flower of the crowsfoot and
  the golden one of the clover vie in scrolling floral effects on that
  vast green carpet. How I revel in the wealth of sunshine out here in
  the paddocks, but as evening draws in the chill air rises, and I hurry
  back home through the clear cutting freshness, and there a glowing
  fire awaits one. When the evenings are dull or rainy I sit there and
  gaze into the glowing, gleaming coals, and you never saw such
  beautiful, haunting colours as you see among the myall coals!—one can
  weave all kinds of fancies. Great sheafs of snow-white ashes fall
  silently on the hearth, like snow-white pall, and then I take the
  poker and stir up the glowing heart of the fire again, and amber and
  red lights gleam among the dancing flames. Some people think that I
  must have a very lonely life up here, but I assure you that the time
  simply flies.

  I often gather the children round the fireside and tell them stories,
  and just to see their eager faces is payment enough, for, do you know,
  it always seems wonderful to me to watch the growing mind of a child
  and hear their impressions of life, etc.? And I have been trying to
  instil into them a love for and a very big interest in the beauties
  and wonders of nature; for in after years, if empty and lonesome days
  will come (as they too often come), they will have something to fall
  back upon, and perhaps find solace in, for it is wonderful how keen a
  joy we can find in the out-of-door pursuits if we have a love for and
  an appreciation of the beauties of nature.

  And, oh, those glorious moonlight nights we have up here in the
  winter! Why, it is quite vivid. Trees and shrubs stand out clearly,
  and their shadows stand out blackly under the rays of the serene
  silver moon that swings high in the sky. Everything is transformed by
  the kindly rays into things of beauty, and sometimes I stand and gaze
  away across the paddocks bathed in the silver light and marvel at the
  stillness. And, do you know, as much as I love those moonlight nights,
  they make me feel lonely? I just don’t know why—only that it has that
  effect; and sometimes I almost welcome a rainy night, when the rain
  drops beat a wild tattoo on the iron roof, and I draw up my chair to
  the glowing fire and sit there and dream.

  I am looking forward to the spring-time. I have promised to paint a
  big picture representing the Springtime in the North-West for old
  Professor Dawson, and I am all eagerness to begin.

  Till then, adieu, for it will not be long ere “the whole world will
  wake and sing.”

                              CHAPTER XX.
                          GOOD-BYE TO “TEDDO.”

They were all under a shadow at “Gillong.” Teddo was leaving the line.
Teddo, whom they remembered as long as they remembered anybody, was
going to leave the district. His contract had run out, and a new man
would soon take over the coach line, and a coach and four would take the
place of Teddy’s sulky, for many passengers were travelling by the new
railway line, and were clamouring for better accommodation than Teddy’s
line of vehicles. Miss Gibson had hinted pretty plainly that there was
to be no holiday in connection with Teddy’s departure.

“I do certainly think we ought to get a holiday the day he leaves,” said

“Yes, indeed, he has been a good friend to us,” sighed Mollie.

“Yes, Teddo’s been a good friend to us,” agreed Eva.

“Yes, Teddo’s been a weal good fwiend to us,” echoed Doris.

Then Baby burst into tears, and said that she wanted Teddo to “tay wit

“I’ll never forget that letter,” said Eva.

“And how well he kept the secret,” said Mollie.

“And how he never even as much as hinted that he had a secret,” went on
Eileen; “never by a word or a look did he ever mention that letter.”

“No, he can’t be beaten,” said Mollie. “We’ve got a lot to thank Teddo
for. Fancy asking a new man to post a letter like that and keep our

“It couldn’t be done,” said Eileen, in tones of finality. “And to think
we can’t get a measly holiday in honour of his going.”

“What did Miss Gibson say?” asked Eva. “Did you ask for one, Mollie?”

“I didn’t exactly ask,” said Mollie; “but I mentioned something about
it, and she said we had too many holidays; that she only taught about
half the time she should, and that birthdays were always coming along,
and that there was to be no more holidays or no more birthdays till the
end of the year.”

“End of the year!” they all echoed in amazement.

“Why, it’s only August now, and my birthday comes in September,”
declared Eileen.

“And mine comes in November, an’ I’m goin’ to have one whether she likes
it or not,” said Doris, on the verge of tears.

“What! no more holidays?” asked Willie, as he came in. He always came
and joined the group when he thought there was anything extra on.

“No, dere’s to be no more birthdays or no more excuses for holidays till
the end of the year, and it’s only de middle now!” cried Doris.

“Oh, dear! and mine’s at the end of this month!” cried Willie, “and I
suppose she won’t let me have one, either. Jolly hard on a fellow when
he comes all the way from Sydney, and don’t get a holiday on his
birthday.” He looked very glum.

“I’ll tell you what!” cried Eileen, excitedly. “I’ll give up my birthday
for Teddo—there you are! Surely we can get one day between now and the
end of the year, so we’ll beg off one for Teddo.”

“Oh, Eileen! will you?” they all cried. “That’ll be lovely!”

“That will be great!” said Willie. “But I’ll tell you what—mine comes
sooner than yours, so I’ll give mine up. There you are!”

“Oh, Willie, you’re splendid!” cried Eva. “Do you really mean it? True?”

“Of course it’s true. We’ll all go to old school on my birthday, same’s
if it was just any other day,” he said, stoutly.

“‘Oh, no, Willie!’ I said first, and perhaps when it comes to the time
you might be sorry and want yours,” said Eileen. “You can ‘cry off’ if
you don’t want to give yours.”

“No, I won’t cry off,” said Willie, stoutly. “I’ll stick to my word.”

“You’re grand, Willie,” cried Eva.

“I didn’t think it was in you,” cried Eileen. “Here, shake hands.”

They all solemnly shook hands, and Willie felt quite a hero.

“Oh, you don’t know me yet,” he said, cheerfully.

“An’ p’raps, after all, you might get yours given to you just the same,
Willie,” said Doris, hopefully.

“No,” answered Willie. “I won’t take it. I give up all claims to it.
It’s only fair to give Teddo a day when he’s leaving the district.”

Then he marched out of the room, and felt like a martyr for a good

After all, they got the holiday, and the funny part of it was that Teddo
wasn’t there until the evening; so they played all day, and prepared a
big tea in Teddo’s honour for the evening. Just all the children and
Teddo were present, and speeches were made and toasts were given till
Teddo was almost in tears and wondered whatever he had done to win such
regard from the assembly.

“Good luck to you, Teddo! Wherever you go you will carry all our good
wishes with you, and may you never lose your kind heart,” cried Eileen.

“Never forget that five little bush girls are in your debt, Teddo,”
cried Mollie. “We’ll never forget you.”

“Good old Teddo!” cried Doris.

“Good luck to you, Teddo—all your life!” said Eva.

“I’ll let oo take my ole dollie, Teddo, if oo like,” said Baby, as she
solemnly held her spoon in the air.

“Bless your little heart an’ soul, Baby,” cried Teddo. “I wouldn’t take
it from you for the world. But I’ll tell you what I’ll do—I’ll send you
a beauty from Queensland.”

“Oh, dood Teddo, dood Teddo!” chuckled Baby; “send me a pitty noo

“We’ll all miss you dreadfully, Teddo,” said Mollie. “There’ll be no one
to tell us all the news on mail days now.”

“And no one to tell us when the little Smith girls down the creek have
new dresses,” said Eva.

“Or no one to tell us about the buck-jumping horses at the station,”
said Willie. “Ugh! it’ll be a bit off without you.”

For Teddo had always brought along a little fund of news for each one.

“By Jove, Teddo, old man, we will miss you!” went on Willie. “We’ll hate
coach days to come, and not see you rattling down the road. It won’t
seem the same at all without you. Good luck, wherever you go!”

They all cheered Willie’s speech, and then Teddo rose to his feet.

“I’m not much of a hand at a speech,” he said, “but I must say a few
words and thank everyone of you for the nice things you have said. I
think the five of you are the nicest little girls in the world, and
Willie’s one of the nicest chaps, and wherever I go I’ll never forget
you. It was real bosker of you to give me this spread, and Teddo never
forgets old friends—never. I’ll always remember the lot of you; and I’m
not much of a hand with the pen, but I’ll write you all a letter from
Queensland—you see if I don’t!”

“Me, too, Teddo,” said Baby.

“Ess, you, too, Baby.”

“Oh, do, Teddo, do!” came a chorus of voices. “We’d love to get your

“Yes, I’ll write, right enough. Teddo don’t make promises to break

There was great cheering then, and cries of “Hear, hear.”

“We know that, Teddo—we know that,” came the chorus again.

“And I say again that I’ll never forget you,” he went on, “and I hope
you’re always happy and contented and get on real well all your lives.”

They filled the room with shouts and cheering when Teddy finished his
speech, and Willie waved a big handkerchief and shouted, “God save the
King”; and then Mother, Dad and Miss Gibson came in, and Teddo’s health
was drunk in lemon syrup by all. After some more talking, he bade them
all good-bye, and rode through the silver moonlight away through the
frosty air under the sparkling stars of the winter’s night. The
children’s voices followed him, singing “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,”
“Good-bye, Sydney Town,” and any other songs that came to their minds at
the time; and after each song there would be “Three cheers for Teddo.”

So Teddo started the first stage of his journey that took him away among
strangers in the big State of Queensland, and his little bush friends
would not see him again for many years to come. But as they grew up they
all retained memories of the kindly red-headed Teddo, and from time to
time a very carefully-written letter would come from him from some
far-off town with a most outlandish name, and many a time the map of
Queensland was searched to find “where Teddo was now”; and, though other
mailmen came and went, there was never another such as Teddo on the

[Illustration: “A letter had come for Willie from his Mother.”]

                              CHAPTER XXI.

A letter had come for Willie from his mother, saying that he really must
come home; he ought to be satisfied now, and they missed him very much,
and he really must return to school, and ever so many more reasons why
he should come home. Willie felt very downhearted.

“’Course I’d like to see them again, and I think a terrible lot of them,
and all that, but I do want to stay longer. I asked Mamma ever so long
ago to let me stay till November, and she nearly promised she would, but
a woman never can keep her word,” he went on, dashing away a tear.

“We’ll write and beg and beg for you,” said Eva.

“Will you? Good! Write and say you can’t part with me, that I’m a—a—a
real decent chap, and say—oh, say anything at all you like, only do get
her to let me stay till November. Say it’s a long way up here, and it’s
no use coming for a little while. Let’s see—how long have I been here
now? About seven months—well, say that a person ought to stay nine or
ten months, but that I’ll be real satisfied to go home in November, and
to be sure and let me stay till then.”

“Yes, we’ll say all that and a lot more.”

“Righto! and I’ll pay for the stamps,” said Willie. “Whatever it costs,
let me know.”

Then a letter was concocted, and to read it one would think that Willie
was a little angel upon earth:

  We much regret that you want Willie back so soon [they wrote]. You
  know, it is such a long way up here, and once he gets home it may be
  years and years and years till he comes back. He means to work and
  study so hard when he goes home to make up for this long holiday, and
  we would love him to stay till November; and then he will be quite,
  quite satisfied to go. But if he went now we would all miss him so
  much, because he’s such a help and such good company, and Dadda would
  miss him fearfully, and so would Mamma and Miss Gibson and all of us.
  He studies real well for Miss Gibson, considering that he is out so
  much and loves riding so much, and, you know, in Sydney he’ll never
  get a ride; so now, while the horses are fat, he ought to stay and
  ride a real lot, and I am sure if you will only let him he will grow
  up to bless you.

“How will that much suit?” asked Eva, who took the composition on
herself and read it aloud to him.

“By cripes, it’s real good!” answered Willie. “Go on a few more pages
like that, and she must let me stay.”

“Well, if you say that word any more I won’t write at all.”

“What word?” asked Willie, trying to appear innocent.

“You know quite well; you got it from old Joe, and you needn’t bother
copying him. Oh, dear! Whatever else can I say?”

“Let’s see; you said I was nice and cheerful, didn’t you? Well, say—oh!
say that I look real well, and I’m getting real fat.”

“But you said that in your last letter, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but you say it, too.”

  Willie looks so well and is getting real fat, and has a lovely colour
  now, and he’s so nice and cheerful and pleasant and kind that we would
  all love him to stay longer; so I am sure, dear Mrs. Gray, that you
  will not refuse our request, and that Willie will never forget you for

There was much more in the same strain, and then signatures were
attached; but I think it was a little note that Mother enclosed that
made Mrs. Grey decide to let her little boy remain till November, and
there was great rejoicing when the decision arrived.

“We’re real good at writing letters,” said Eva, somewhat proudly.

“Yes, that was a bonser one about me. I don’t know how you thought of it

“Oh, we can think all right,” said Eileen. “I wouldn’t wonder if we made
some money some day thinking out inventions and patents and all those
kind of things.”

“Well, when I grow up I’ll help you,” declared Willie. “If you want any
money just come along to me.”

He felt very grateful for that letter, as he thought of the good free
time before him.

“How will you make the money?” asked Eileen.

“Oh, I’ll manage that, all right! I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll have
it so you needn’t be afraid to come for a loan. I won’t forget old

Willie was very polite for quite a long time after that. He was always
offering his chair to Mother or one of the girls, and he was continually
asking Mother if she felt a draught, and would she like windows or doors
closed? And he actually tried to study at night time to please Miss
Gibson. The thought of staying till November pleased him so much.

“I wonder how much money it would take to buy Myall?” he said to Joe, as
they were riding round the paddock.

“Pretty near a million, I reckon,” answered Joe.

“A million!” gasped Willie. “Oh, dear!” he groaned. “I’ll never manage

“Was you thinkin’ of buyin’ it?” asked Joe.

“I was wondering if I ever could,” said Willie. “If I went to work and
started to save up my money straight away; but, oh, dear! I’ll never
manage it. A million’s a terrible lot of money, isn’t it, Joe?”

“I reckon so,” answered Joe. “I wouldn’t like the counting of it.”

“No, ’specially if you were sleepy,” said Willie.

“You take it from me, young man, I wouldn’t be sleepy if I ’ad the
’andlin’ of a million of money. Why, I’d be thinkin’ every noise was a
burgular after it. No, old Joe’d be pretty wide awake if ’e ’ad the
’andlin’ of a million of money!”

“Of course I wouldn’t care if I didn’t have a very big place,” went on
Willie. “I wouldn’t care if it was just one little paddock on the corner
of the creek. As long as it was land and belonged to me, and I could
live up here and ride. That’s all I want.”

“Just enough to run a horse on, like?” said Joe.

“Yes,” said Willie, eagerly. “Do you think I could buy a place like

“Well, of course, you’d have to make a livin’ somehow,” answered Joe,
“and you couldn’t make much of a livin’ on a one-horse run; and I
wouldn’t like it to be said that old Joe ever put the idea into your
’ead about it. But some day you might win a lease, or buy a piece of
land—enough to run a few hundred sheep on, and by degrees you might buy
a little more, and get on that way. But you want a bit o’ money to start
with, or else you’ll have to work very ’ard. ’Course, though, the banks
would lend you money, and you might be able to make a do of it.”

“That’s what I’ll do. I’ll get the banks to lend me money. I never
thought about them. Why, it’ll be real easy. I’ll go to a lot of
different banks and get them all to lend me a little; and I won’t let
any of ’em know that I’ve been to the other one—see? My word! won’t
Mother be surprised when she hears I’ve got a bit of land?”

“Hey, steady there!” said Joe, a bit afraid. “You’re too young yet—a
long way too young to think about it. Well, you can think, but don’t go
trying to git land right away. You’ve got a few years ahead of you yet.”

“Yes, that’s the worst of being young,” sighed Willie.

“Well, it’s funny, the difference in boys,” soliloquised Joe; “here’s
you dyin’ to be on the land, and there was Frank dyin’ to be off it.”

“Yes, funny, isn’t it?” agreed Willie.

From that time he commenced to build castles in the air, in which
figured prominently a green stretch of paddock with a gurgling creek
running through it; a dear little cottage nestling on its banks, and a
flock of big woolly sheep, some fine horses, and a few dogs to make up
the sum total of his possessions.

“And, of course, I must have some cattle,” he would think, when
completing the picture in his mind’s eye; “and a dear little pony and
sulky to meet them at the railway station when they come up to stay with

“They” represented Mamma, Dadda, and Marcia.

                             CHAPTER XXII.
                                A HERO.

Mrs. Grey, the overseer’s wife, at Jenkin’s old place, was very ill. It
was something unusual for Mrs. Grey to be ill. Mother spent a lot of
time with her, and Miss Gibson would go down and read aloud to her by
the hour. But she grew gradually worse, till at last Mother and the
governess took it in turns to stay with her, following out the doctor’s
instructions, which were written or wired daily from the far-off town.

The children rather liked the novelty of Mrs. Grey being ill at first,
because they had broken time at school, but as time went on they grew
tired of it. It was too lonesome in the house without Mother at night
time, and they missed Miss Gibson, too. So old Joe came to the rescue,
and told them yarns.

“Did you ever hear tell of the time youse were nearly burnt to death,
and your Mother saved you?” he asked one afternoon about dusk.

“Oh, no, Joe!” gasped Doris, with wide-open eyes. “Tell’s.”

“Oh, you wasn’t in the world then!” answered Joe. “Little Eva was a

Then Baby cried because Eva was ever a baby.

“Oh, tell’s about it!” cried Willie, eagerly.

“You never heard tell of it, then?”

“No, never,” cried Willie. “As true as anything, I didn’t.”

“We have, but we’d love to hear it again,” said Eileen.

“Righto!” and Joe tapped his pipe on his boot, preparatory to filling

“Oh, dear! are you going to fill your pipe first?” asked Willie. “Come
on, I’ll help you.”

“No, thanks, young man; I don’t care about the way you cut baccy.”

“Oh, dear, start telling us, Joe, while you’re cutting the tobacco!”
said Willie, all eagerness to hear the story.

“Hold ’ard, hold ’ard!” said Joe, calmly, as he went on with his work.
At last the pipe was filled and lit, and Joe proceeded.

“Yes, we was all away draftin’ at the yards down at the back of
‘Coolabah,’ and a fire broke out down along the crick, about four mile
from here. There was tons of dry grass lying about, and it blazed like
fury. Your Mother seen it light up, and you can bet she got the shock of
her life. Not a man within miles, and all youse little ones with her.
She knew if it came this far the house and all would go, and very likely
you and her’d be burnt to death. So she rushed out to the paddock and
catches old Dolly and whipped her into the spring-cart, and she put all
youse in, an’ she rushed round and gathers up a little brood of chickens
that she couldn’t bear to think of bein’ burnt to death, and put ’em in
a box and jumps out into the cart and sent old Dolly like—like blazes,
down the Myall road, and all the time the flames was comin’ nearer an’
nearer, and she was hardly game to look back, fearin’ she would see the
house on fire.”

“Oh, dear!” gasped the children. “Wasn’t it awful?”

“Yes, and she sent old Dolly as fast as she could go down the road, and
just as she turned the bend, lo and behold youse! she sees a pack of
horsemen galloping down towards her!”

“Oh!” they gasped again in relief.

“Yes, they’d seen the fire, and knew it was near your place, so they
rushed off from the yards and got here just in time to save the
’omestead. My! wasn’t your Mother glad? She just sat and cried after the
shock; but, my word, she must have rushed round to have got you all safe
away, for the fire was no time coming up the crick, and it swallowed all
before it! Yes, she just sat and cried, for it was an awful shock to
her, because she thought the fire might overtake you and you’d all be
burnt to death alive.”

“Oh!” they all gasped again. “But wasn’t Mother brave?”

“Brave!” echoed Joe. “Why, I call your Mother a hero!”

“A hero—yes, that’s what she is!” they declared.

“Yes, she’s a regular hero,” declared Willie, stoutly.

“Oh, dear, I’m glad we’re saved!” said Eileen, “and were not burnt to
death alive.”

“Do you know what I’d ha’ done, if I’d been there?” asked Willie.

“No,” said Joe, quietly.

“I’d ha’ got the scythe, and I’d ha’ cut all the grass down round the
house, and I’d ha’ raked it all away out so’s there’d be nothing for the
fire to burn near the house—see? And I’d ha’ got wet bags and hung them
all round——”

“Yes, and what’d the fire be doing all this time?” asked old Joe,
sarcastically. “Do you think it would wait for you to cut the grass and
rake it all away, and find the bags, and all the rest of it? Oh, no,
young man, you wouldn’t ha’ been alive to tell the tale to-day if you
had started on them lines, and don’t you forget it! No, you couldn’t ha’
done better than your Mother,” he added, turning to the other children.
“I always said, and I always will say, that your Mother’s a hero.”

“Oh, dear! isn’t it lovely to have your Mother a hero?” gasped Doris....

“Here she comes now,” said Joe. “I wonder what’s the news.”

“I say, let’s give her a cheer,” said the children.

“Well, I’d like you to, and I’d like to join in; but it mightn’t be in
keepin’ with the time, seeing as how Mrs Grey is so ill.”

“Oh, yes! a good thing you thought of that, Joe,” said Mollie.

“Old Joe can think sometimes,” said Joe, well pleased.

Then Mother came in with the good news that Mrs. Grey was much better,
and that a friend of hers would arrive to-morrow to look after her. Then
the children cheered to their heart’s content, both because Mrs. Grey
was better and because their Mother was a hero.

                             CHAPTER XXIII.

  My dear Basil,

  I am in the North-West, and it is spring time! The fresh, warm-tinged
  air of the open spaces sends new life through the frame, waking old
  ambitions, recalling lost ideals and dreams of youth. The North-West
  world is a vast temple filled with the incense of the wattle, and the
  gladsome carols of feathered songsters. Just to lie on those verdant
  carpets and gaze into the twinkling depths of the blue sky; just to
  gaze and gaze and wonder and wonder again at the beauty and space and
  gladness of it all!

  At night the sky is a silver-specked vault, charged with the silver of
  the Milky-Way, or flooded with the light of the moon. What a great,
  great pity it is that our minds and hearts ever grow old! If only we
  could go through life with wonder eyes, what delights and wonderments
  we would find in this old prosaic world. And we could, if we would,
  retain this sacred possession of perennial youth. It is not always the
  years that count. One of the youngest persons I know is a man of
  forty-five, and the oldest person I ever met was a boy of fourteen!
  Ah, those young-hearted folk! How delightful it is to meet them! Don’t
  they seem to make life worth while?

  Down in the scrub a field of beauty stretches before me. The tall blue
  gums stretch towards the sky with their snow-white branches gleaming
  among the shadows and filtering sunlight, and here and there a mighty
  giant of the forest waves long, tattered, shroud-like strips of brown
  bark that have been cruelly stripped from their branches by the forest
  storms. But already the healing has come; the smooth new bark gleams
  and glistens in the warmth of the kindly sunlight, and the tattered
  shrouds wave a tender farewell to those new spirits born of their

  I climb and scramble through forests of slender saplings, over fallen
  logs and stumps, among blue-grey vegetation or, in the next instant,
  among vivid green trees that grow in symmetrical beauty, as though
  tended by a gardener. Fancy, if one had the planning out of a bush
  garden in that North-West forest! What a labour of love, what a
  fascinating theme to work on! Clearing and thinning and “lopping”;
  guarding with tender and jealous care some forest beauty that now
  gleams tenderly through darkening, choking growth. What winding paths
  and avenues and clumps and groves would be formed, with here and there
  a cleared space for masses of garden flowers. But a haunting, elusive
  perfume steals gently on a slight breeze from the inner depths of the
  forest, and I hasten thither to be met by fresh delights. The air is
  filled with the cloying sweetness of budah, nipand, wild orange, and
  clematis blossoms.

  The wild orange, or bumble, or “moogiel” (the aboriginal name) stands
  somewhat aloof from their neighbours. Who knows? Perhaps in the days
  of old they held pride of place in that vast scrub, and, mayhap, the
  dusky maidens twined bridal wreaths from their creamy blossoms; but
  howe’er it may be they stand aloof with their crown of glossy leaves
  and creamy blossoms and tender green fruit. Perhaps black fingers,
  long since stilled, wove hopes and shy thoughts among garlands of
  tender blossoms in the days ere the white usurper set foot on
  Australian shores.

  I don’t know what you will think of it all, Basil, but you asked me to
  send along these descriptions of the North-West, and I am seeing it at
  its best, so you must make allowances if I enthuse. I know all about
  the long, drear, desolate droughts, but “why think about to-morrow if
  to-day be sweet,” and so I give way to keen delight of the beauty and
  freshness of the surroundings, and trust that I draw a vivid
  pen-picture of this lovely forest.

  My dear Basil,

  Oh, those wattle groves of the North-West! How can I describe their
  tender, haunting loveliness?

  To-day I stood on a red, sandy road, and gazed down a long, glowing
  vista, where, like gold-crowned maidens, the wattle trees stretched
  for miles on either side, as though guarding that long avenue from
  destruction. A slight breeze stirred the branches, and the fluffy
  balls nodded in welcome, and scattered a shower of golden, powdery
  dust on to the shimmering sand. I stole almost reverently through that
  golden avenue, for a sense of benediction was in the air.

  A burst of melody broke on the stillness, and I stood stock-still.
  Surely such a pæan of praise might the angels sing! The liquid notes
  swelled higher and clearer as the black and white feathered songster
  continued his gladsome song. I stole quietly through the bushes and
  watched the singer who filled the scrub with melody. Just a black and
  white bird (a magpie) standing on the dead branch of a tree—no stage
  setting here. With head thrown back he trills and “cadenzas” and
  warbles as though his heart would burst, and a sea of throbbing melody
  surrounds me. And then the song dies away, and I am left with a sense
  of loneliness, for a hush fills the auditorium of the forest; but it
  is soon broken, for other birds awake the echoes, chirping, calling,
  singing and chattering and fluttering hurriedly around, as though the
  very universe depended on their exertions. The scrub is filled with
  baby-birds in different stages of growth. Some are merely very
  unattractive little morsels, that open hungry beaks as Mother-bird
  appears; some half-fledged and unattractive, too; some are just wee,
  fluffy balls, with bright, beadlike eyes; and others are at the
  interesting stage of learning their first “steps.” Up among the
  friendly branches they flutter and screech as they try their little
  wings, with alternate chattering and scolding and encouragement and
  comments from Ma and Pa. I pause and ponder. Next year those tiny,
  helpless morsels will have their homes among the leafy branches, and
  they, too, will be builders. Think of it! In one short year’s time the
  birds will have commenced their life-work, and what about we humans?
  Year after year we are watched and tended. Year after year our
  education goes on, and yet I doubt then if we are as faithful builders
  as those feathered songsters. But adieu till next week, when I will
  tell you more about the fields and paddocks.

  How I wish you could have a whole free week up here to revel in the
  green gladness and wonderful space!

  My dear Basil,

  The paddocks are full of young life. Out on the green the foals frisk
  and gambol, while their mothers, with admonishing whinnies, try to
  coax them back to their side. To-day a wee foal of but a few weeks old
  came and stared at me with wonder eyes. Standing daintily on its slim
  legs and tiny black hoofs it stared at “the stranger within the
  gates.” I longed to pat its soft nose, to stroke its silky ears, to
  embrace its shining, satiny neck, but—I didn’t dare to move, for I
  knew there would be a startled glance, a scamper of hoofs, a wild rush
  and the mob would be off, leaving a trail of trampled greenery in
  their wake, and with me a sense of desolation. So I sat still and
  gazed into those wonder eyes, as the little creature came nearer and
  nearer with cautious steps, and was joined by its curious little
  mates, till there were seven high-bred, dainty animals gazing at the
  solitary human. A shining bay, with black points, held pride of place
  as it reared its head daintily, and two little chestnuts followed
  closely; a wicked little shining black satin-coated one already showed
  the whites of its eyes, and a brown and a roan completed the number.
  They stood about solemnly, those seven little critics, and I wondered
  at their verdict. There and then I resolved that they should find a
  place on my canvas, and I seized my brush, when suddenly the roan
  foal, becoming frisky, gambolled and tossed its head, and, with
  playful leaps, dashed across the paddock, the others following
  helter-skelter. I don’t think I shall ever forgive that roan foal for
  breaking up the party, and I’ll feel a grudge against every roan horse
  I see, whether roaming free in the paddocks or harnessed to work. And
  then the whole mob scampered off; with tossing mane and head held high
  in the air, they galloped and pranced and gambolled and frisked for
  very lightness of heart, and revelled in their glorious sense of
  freedom and the intoxication of that spring morning. In the next
  paddock the unbroken horses heard their revels, and they, too, started
  on a wild stampede. I could hear the thud, thud, thud of galloping
  hoofs as they disappeared away in the distance, and the muffled sound
  of the return, as with flashing eyes, waving mane and distended
  nostrils those young, untamed creatures raced and raced for very joy
  of living. I thought of tired, spiritless cab-horses standing day by
  day in unbroken monotony, of cart-horses, whose only glimpses of
  greenery is the common at night time, and I sighed that I could not
  transport those weary, spiritless animals, who have surely forgotten
  (if ever they did know) those free, wild stretches, that unbroken
  spirit, those wild stampedes through a wealth of greenery in company
  with a gay, care-free mob, intoxicated with the freedom and beauty of
  early spring mornings.

  All the children joined me in my afternoon walk, and we took the track
  to the Namoi river. Among the bull-rushes and weeds along the water’s
  margin, the shy, slim, graceful water-hens rush noiselessly. The
  children gathered bunches of bull-rushes, clad in their goldeny-brown
  plush top-coats, and then we gathered shells and mussels, and then
  placed the mussels all back again in the water, for high above our
  heads, in one of the river bends, we saw a bed of wild buttercups, and
  as we hastened through the reeds a brood of ducks floated out—darling
  little, tiny fluffy balls, with bead-like eyes, drifted along the
  deep, still waters, with the important mother-ducks leading the way.
  There were faint, little cries and chirps as they glide along and were
  joined by flocks of others, young and grown, gliding peacefully down
  the still, deep river, through patches of sunshine and stretches of

  The children find new beauties every day in the bush life. “Why, we
  never used to notice half those things till you came here,” said
  Eileen the other day. “I think we must have been going about with our
  eyes shut half the time.” But I know, of course, that it is because
  the gift of observation has been cultivated lately, and everything
  appeals to them now, and where once the paddocks and the river banks
  were delightful places to run about and play in, now there are fresh
  points of interest in tree and flower and plant life.

  To-morrow I commence my picture, and I shall work very constantly at
  it till it is quite finished, so don’t expect too many letters in the
  weeks to come.

                             CHAPTER XXIV.
                             A NEW ARRIVAL.

Mother had gone away. In all the years of their life they had never
known Mother to leave them before. But she had gone now for a whole
fortnight, and her letters were very constant.

Miss Gibson and Mollie were housekeepers, and all the others helped. At
first they were most particular, and Eileen and Eva would sweep and tidy
their room most scrupulously every morning, and Doris would tidy up her
doll’s clothes and wash and paint up old Rose’s face every morning, and
Baby would wander round and get in everybody’s way.

“I’m just about sick of work,” Eileen said one day. “I’m only going to
do our room every other morning now, Eva, and the day Mother comes home
we’ll give it a monstrous cleaning.”

“All right,” agreed Eva, who was a bit tired of it, too.

“An’ I’ll only wash Rose’s face once a week,” declared Doris.

Miss Gibson was extra kind to Baby those days, and would nurse and talk
to her for ever so long.

“Why, you’re making her a real baby again,” said Eileen. “She’ll be
getting too lazy to walk. I suppose it’s because Mother’s away that you
pet her so much.”

“Poor old Baby!” laughed Miss Gibson, “she won’t be a baby for ever, you

“No, and sometimes I wished I’d died when I was a baby.”

“Why?” asked Miss Gibson, for she knew that Eileen was in one of her
discontented moods, and would probably talk and talk till she talked
herself all unconsciously out of it.

“Oh! ’cause there’s nothing much to live for, only learning old lessons
and things that don’t interest you, and growing up and being
disappointed, and—and all sorts of things.”

“Never mind, there might be a bright time coming.”

“No, there’s no bright time coming. People always say, ‘There’s a bright
time coming.’ But it’s a very slow old traveller, for it never gets this
far. ‘A bright time coming’——”

“Well, what about the time that Uncle came? That was a bright time.”

“Yes, but that’s all over now, and we might go all our lives waiting for
a bright time that will never come,” and so, talking, grumbling, and
arguing, she talked herself into quite a good temper again.

Meanwhile another fortnight flew by, and then a letter came to Miss
Gibson, and there was a hurried consultation with Mollie. Then Eileen
was let into the secret, and then the others were told.

“A little brother, a little brother!” they shouted. “Well, isn’t it

“Well, of all the things that ever would happen, I thought that would be
the last!” said Eva.

“Dear, dear, dear!” cried Doris, jumping round and clapping her hands.
“Won’t we have fun with him?”

“Won’t we?” screamed Eva. “I hope he’s pretty, and I’ll paint a picture
of him.”

“I suppose he’ll be cross, and will always want someone to nurse him,”
grumbled Eileen.

“Jingo! I wish he was older,” said Willie; “he’d be great sport for me.”

Then Baby set up a roar, and said she wanted him now; and Miss Gibson
lifted her up and talked to her.

“He’ll soon be here now, Baby, and you won’t be Baby any more.”

“Is that why you was always nursing her?” asked Doris. “And did you
know, and never tell us?” and then she cried, too. “If you’d told me I’d
ha’ made him some little dresses, ’stead of makin’ them all up for

“Don’t cry, dear; we’ll all sew for him when he comes home, and Baby can
play with him when he gets older.”

“Oh, dear! won’t it be funny having a little brother?” said Mollie. “Oh,
dear, I wish he’d soon come home!”

“I’m going to have first nurse,” said Eileen. “I said first.”

“No, I am!” cried Eva, and then there was a quarrel about it.

“I know what I’ll do,” said Willie, slyly. “I’ll ride up to Hogan’s
letter box the day your Mother’s coming home, and get her to let me have
first nurse. There!”

“No, you won’t—you’ll do nothing of the kind!” cried Eileen, stamping
her foot.

“No, he’s not your brother,” cried Eva.

“No!” roared Doris, “he’s not your brother, and I’ll hit you, too.”

She rushed at him, and there was a wild stampede, while they all chased
Willie; and the governess let them have their fight out, for she knew
how excited they were.

By-and-bye they all came back good friends, and had promised Willie he
could have fourth nurse, because Baby wasn’t old enough to care, and she
could have the last one.

“By Jove! won’t he laugh when he grows up, and I tell him that I nursed
him when he was little?” said Willie, proudly.

“Oh, he might die!” said Doris, bursting into tears. “He might never
grow up—he might die.”

Then Miss Gibson had to pacify her and promise her she would make toffee
for tea, and so peace was restored again.

For the next few weeks nothing was talked of excepting the new baby, and
while they were supposed to be studying or doing their homework they
would wonder what colour eyes it would have, and if “it” would be cranky
or good, and if “it” would like bush life or rather go to Sydney and
study like Frank. It would nearly fill a book with their wonderings, and
all the time the time was drawing near when “it” would be home with

“I suppose ‘it’ won’t be very pretty,” Eileen would say. “It will be too
little for a long time yet.”

“I wonder what’ll we call it,” said Eva.

They ran through hundreds of names, but none of them would suit.

“What about Teddo?” asked Doris, struck by a bright inspiration.

“Oh, yes, let’s call him Teddo!” cried Willie.

“Oh, no!” said Eileen—“not Teddo. Teddo’s all right—for—well—for Teddo,
but it won’t do for our little brother.”

“I think it’s real nice,” said Doris, “and Teddo was a real nice man.”

“Oh, yes, I know! but, all the same, we’re not going to call it after

“I like Ronald,” said Eva.

“No, my pet lamb’s named Ronald. He can’t have that,” answered Eileen.
“I don’t know whatever we can call him,” she went on, anxiously.

So they went through a lot more names till they became quite cross, and
they decided to leave the old name, and let someone else find one. And
so the days wore on till the wonderful brother arrived.

And then the joy and the criticisms.

“Isn’t he a darling, and a little dear, and a beauty?” and all kinds of
endearing terms were lavished on him, and he was just like some of them
thought he would be, and real different to what others thought, and he
proved a great entertainment to them.

“Why, he’s got a little red face just like Teddo’s,” cried Doris.

“He hasn’t,” cried Eileen. “He has a lovely, pinkish face.”

“He’s just like a little angel,” said Eva, “and I’m sure Teddo wasn’t
like an angel.”

“But he’s like Teddo, all the same,” persisted Doris, “an’ we ought to
call him Teddo.”

Then Mother asked what about calling him after Uncle Harry, and they
were all thunderstruck to think they had not thought of that before.

“Of course we will!” cried Mollie.

“Yes, ’cause only for Uncle he might never be here,” said Doris,
seriously; “’cause everything’s different since Uncle came.”

So it was decided to call him Henry, which would, of course, mean
“Harry,” or “Hal,” or “Har.” But he was nearly always called “The Baby,”
and so Baby still kept her name as merely “Baby.”

Dadda made him a cart—a box with wooden wheels—and it was fitted up with
cushions, and the baby spent many hours there as the weeks went on, and
would lie and coo and laugh for ever so long, and the children would
crowd round and talk to him. They declared that he answered them, and
they were sure he knew each and every one of them and was the most
wonderful baby that ever lived. Doris declared that he called her
“Doris” one morning as plain as anything; and she said that she loved
babies, and when she grew up she would like to have about a hundred.

“Ugh! they’ll be like rabbits!” Eileen answered. “It would be awful to
have that many.”

But Doris said she didn’t care.

Willie would beg to be allowed to drag the cart down the road and give
the “little chap” a ride, and sometimes Mother would let him, until she
found out that he would sometimes leave the cart with her precious
treasure and rush off after a bright-winged bird or butterfly.

“But look here, Mrs. Hudson, it’s only for a minute or two, and the baby
doesn’t mind—not a bit! He’s great chums with me——”

“Yes, but supposing something knocked the cart over, or supposing—oh,
hundreds of things; so you may just wheel him down the road in sight of
the house sometimes.”

And Willie said that was very tame.

                              CHAPTER XXV.
                              NEW PEOPLE.

The weeks sped by. Sometimes the children would say the time dragged. At
others they wouldn’t have half enough time, and wished the days were
twenty-four, instead of twelve, hours long. It just depended upon the
mood they were in whether the time dragged or flew.

Every Tuesday afternoon they did the week’s darning, and would sit out
on the verandah, with the darning basket or other mending, and work
away, sometimes grumbling, sometimes laughing and talking or listening
to Miss Gibson’s stories or reading.

“I don’t know why we wear stockings,” said Eileen one day, as she mended
an exceptionally big tear in Baby’s sock. “We ought to wear
leggings—yes, leather leggings; and there’d be none of this old stitch,
stitch, stitching. Do you hear, Baby?—you’ll have to get a little pair
of leather leggings made at the saddler’s.”

Baby roared, and declared she “wouldn’t wear ’em, an’ she was tightened
of the tadder,” and was just going off into fresh cries of grief, till
Eileen assured her that she would let her off.

“But, all the same, it would be a good idea,” she went on, digging the
needle into her sewing. “I’m sure it would be lovely to run about
without boots and socks——”

“What about bindies?” asked Doris, triumphantly.

“Oh, well! people’d only have to use their eyes,” said Eileen, coolly.
“Anyhow, I’m sick of mending and darning and patching—I’d like to live
in trees like the Swiss Family Robinsons——”

“Or monkeys,” said Willie, teasingly.

“You speak for yourself,” answered Eileen, and then the laugh was turned
on Willie.

“I say, we never had that week on the river yet,” cried Mollie.

“Oh, no! wouldn’t it be grand? Let’s ask about it now. Come on!”

“Oh, yes, let’s!” shrieked Doris.

Then needles, darning wool, cotton, and stockings were scattered all
over the verandah, while they rushed away to find Mother.

At first she thought they had taken leave of their senses, but they
begged and pleaded so hard that at last she consented to think about it.

“Yes, we’ll have a great time. We’ll swing the hammocks in the big
trees, and, oh—it’ll be great!” cried Mollie.

“What about waiting till Frank comes back? You know, he expects to have
a short holiday in the early spring time.”

“Oh, so he does, so he does!” they fairly shrieked. “We’ll wait till
then. Frank will enjoy it, and he’ll be such a help, putting up the
hammocks and fixing up the fires, and all that.”

“Huh! That’s a nice way to talk about a fellow,” said Willie; “just want
him to work!”

“We don’t want him to work,” declared Mollie. “We’re real glad to have
him, and we know he’ll love helping us.”

“Oh, I could lend you a hand if you want help,” said Willie.

“Of course you can, and we’ll be real glad to have your help.”

“Yes, there’s not much I can’t do in the fixing up line,” went on
Willie, boastfully.

“Oh, no, you’re all right for your age,” said Eileen, “but of course
you’re so very young.”

If there was anything Willie hated it was to be called young.

“I’m not so very young, either,” he answered. “Now, I call Doris and
Baby young. I’ll surprise you all when it comes to fixing up camp.”

“Yes, you’re real good at fixing up,” agreed Eva.

“Oh, dear! won’t it be grand?” they all echoed again, and just then
Dadda came in.

“I have some good news for you, children.”

“Good news!” they cried. “Whatever is it? Oh, tell us!”

“Tell us, quick!” cried Doris.

“Mr. and Mrs. Grey are leaving soon, and the manager and his wife and
children are coming to live there.”


The darning, which had been taken up again, was fairly banged on to the
verandah now, and scissors and wool were scattered far and wide, while
Eva threw a reel of cotton high in the air.

“Children coming! Playmates! Hurrah!”

“When are they coming, and who are they, and how many, and how old are
the children, and are they nice?”

“Are you glad?” asked Dadda.

“Glad?” repeated Eileen. “Glad’s not in it! We’re overjoyed. Of course
we all like Mrs. Gray; she can make lovely little cakes, and keep her
house lovely and clean, but—little cakes and a clean house are not
playmates. And when we’re dying for fun and playmates, cakes and houses
don’t count!”

“No, dere no good,” declared Doris, in tones of finality.

“Oh! won’t it be fine?” cried Eva. “I hope they’re nice.”

“I hope so,” said everyone, in tones of concern. “If they’re not nice,
won’t it be awful?”

“Worse nor cakes an’ a house,” said Doris.

They all went off into peals of laughter at the worried look on Doris’s

“Oh, I think they’re sure to be nice,” said Mollie, hopefully.

“But supposing they’re not,” groaned Eileen. “Supposing we wish the
Greys were back again?”

“We’ll fix ’em up,” said Willie. “If they’re not nice when they come,
we’ll make ’em nice.”

“Well, young man, they’re coming the day after to-morrow, so you’ll have
to get ready for your task very soon.”

“The day after to-morrow!”

They all sat still for a while, with the wonder of it.

“I didn’t think it would be for another week, whatever. The day after

“I wonder will they go past here, and will we get a look at them?” cried

“No, they’re coming past Frazer’s old place.”

“Oh, bother them!” she cried. “We mightn’t see them for weeks. I’ve a
good mind to camp at Frazer’s old place, just to get the first look at
them. I wonder how many children there are, and do they like the
country, and can they ride, and what are their names? Did Mrs. Grey tell
you anything about them?”

“No, she doesn’t know them at all.”

“Oh, dear! I don’t know how ever I can live till they come,” groaned
Eileen. “I bet I’ll dream about them to-night.”

Sure enough she did, and she recounted her dream to a wondering group
next morning.

“Yes, there were five of them, and what do you think—they were all
exactly the one size?”


“And they all had red hair. Real red hair, everyone of them.”

“Oh, they must have looked funny!”

“All the one size?” asked Eva.

“Yes, the five of them; all the one size, with little red heads.”

“They must have all been twins,” shrieked Doris.

“Twins!” echoed Willie, in tones of disgust. “Triplets, you mean!”

“Triplets—oh, listen!” cried Eva. “Fourlets or fivelets, more like.”

“Oh, dear, they must have looked like five little carrots!” said Doris.

“Yes, that’s what they looked like—five little carrots, all dressed up.”

There were shrieks of laughter at this, but the dream made them all the
more anxious to see the new people. As the days sped on, they grew
nearly frantic with curiosity.

“See them?” they’d ask Dadda and old Joe, as they came in, in the
evening. But they were always doomed to disappointment.

But one day old Joe had good news.

“Yes, I seen ’em to-day,” he said, as he unsaddled his horse. “I called
there with a sheep notice.”

“Oh, Joe! How many—what are they like? What did they say?”

A volley of questions were hurled at him.

“She seems a nice lady——”

“But the children, Joe—what about——”

“Children?” echoed Joe. “Who said there was children?” he went on, in
his most tantalising manner.

“Oh, Joe! but there are, aren’t there? Oh, tell us, Joe.”

“If there’s no children, I’ll go—I’ll go and drownd myself,” cried
Doris, bursting into tears. “I will—I’ll go and drownd myself——”

“Steady, there—yes, there’s children. Well, there’s none real
little—least, not what I seen.”

“Oh, tell’s all about them!” cried Doris, with the tears still standing
in her eyes.

“There’s a boy looks about fifteen—a nice lad, he seems, with red hair.”

They all gasped.

“Red hair! Oh!”

“You didn’t see five of them, did you, Joe? Five of them with red hair?
Because, if you did, that’s my dream out.”

“Dream? Who’s talkin’ about dreams?” answered Joe, testily, for he was
always cantankerous till he had his tea. “If you’re goin’ to start
talkin’ about dreams, I’ll tell you no more about them.”

“Oh! go on, please, Joe.”

“Yes, a nice lad he seems, and his hair ain’t real red; leastways, not
that bad-tempered ginger red. It’s more like the reddish-brown colour of
a myall log just where it’s chopped.”

“Yes, I know the shade,” said Eva, eagerly.

“He’s got a nice fresh face, and he seems a real nice lad. And there’s a
girl about the size of Eileen there, and there’s another one in a sort
of a pram or chair.”

“Oh, she must be the baby!” they gasped.

“No, she ain’t the baby, but I think she must be delicate. She looked
about nine or ten.”

“Oh! Any more?”

“No, that’s all I seen.”

“You didn’t hear any more laughing or—crying anywhere, did you, Joe?”

“No,” he answered, testily; “of course I didn’t. Wouldn’t I know there
was more if I heerd ’em laughing or crying?”

“Oh, the poor little delicate one. I’d love to see her. What a pity she
won’t be able to join in our fun!” said Eileen.

“Now, that’s all I know about ’em,” said Joe. “So don’t you ever mention
the new people to me again. If you want to find out any more go and see
’em for yourself, and don’t let on I said anything about the little
delicate one—for there’s no knowin’ how they’ll take it.”

“All right, Joe—all right,” they shouted after him. “But what a pity!”
they said among themselves, “there’s not more of them. If there were
only five or six.”

“I wish dere was a tousand,” declared Doris.

“Why don’t you say a million thousand while you’re at it?” asked Willie.

“Well, anyhow, it’s time Mother went to see them,” said Eileen.

“Yes, of course it is,” they all agreed. “Let’s go and tell her to go

“Wait a while. Who’ll go with her?”

There was a pause.

“Whose turn is it? It isn’t mine, because I went to Bragan Junction last
week,” said Eileen. “I suppose Mother and Miss Gibson will go and one of
us. Let’s see—it’s Eva’s turn.”

“Oh, no! you go, Eileen; you go first, and tell us all about them.”

“But supposing I don’t like them. You go, Mollie.”

“Oh, no! you always get more news than any of us. You go first.”

“Yes,” agreed Willie and Doris. “And, another thing,” went on Willie; “I
don’t see what Miss Gibson wants to go for. Mollie ought to go instead.”

“Oh, no, Miss Gibson must go,” said Mollie, hastily. “It wouldn’t be
nice to leave her at home.”

“No, and, besides, let them see we have a governess,” said Eileen. “It’s
just as well to let people know you can afford it.”

“I never thought of that,” agreed Willie. “I hope your Mother wears her
best dress.”

“Of course she will,” they chorussed. “And now let’s find Mother, and
get her to name a day, because once the day’s named half the trouble’s

Off they scampered to find Mother.

                             CHAPTER XXVI.
                          SOME MERRY MEETINGS.

The visit was paid at last, and Eileen went as a kind of “scout,” to
seek news and information, and the others waited with what patience they
could for their return. But the time seemed very long as they watched up
the road, long before there could be any possibility of them appearing;
and at last Eva suggested that they should walk up and meet them. Willie
joined them, and they all marched forth and walked to the Big White
Gate, a mile and a half from home, before they met them. Eileen sprang
out to tell them everything.

“I’ll walk home,” she said, “because I’ve got such a lot to tell them.”

“Won’t you get in and have a drive, Doris?” asked Mother.

“No, tanks,” answered Doris. “I want to hear about ’em.”

“Oh, they’re boskers! A lot better than I thought, and we’ll be able to
have great fun together. What do you think—there’s five of them. Old Joe
must have missed two the day he was there.”

“That’s great!” they cried.

“There’s Colin, about sixteen. He’s nice, and his hair’s hardly red at
all, although there’s a bit of red in it, and he can ride and shoot and
skate and——”

“Does he wear long pants?” asked Willie.

“Yes, and he had a lovely Norfolk suit on, and looked like the nice
fellows on the catalogues.”

“I wish I was in long pants,” grumbled Willie.

“What! A boy like you? A nice sight you’d be in long pants. Why, you’ve
got five years to go yet. It isn’t long since Colin took to them.”

“Did you call him Colin?” asked Eva.

“Yes, of course I did, and he said we must all call him Colin. We’re all
going to meet them to-morrow down at the river bridge, because Colin’s
promised to take Meta there, and it’ll be great fun. Meta’s the delicate
one. She’s not always delicate, but she hurt the spine of her back, and
she has to have a long rest. That’s why she has an invalid’s chair, but
she’s real nice and cheerful. Then there’s Edith—she’s next to Colin. I
should have said her before Meta; and there’s two little boys—Keith and
Kossie. They are little dears, but very wild. I mean they chase round
and make a noise, but they’re lovely looking. And they’re twins.”

“Oh, dear, I wish to-morrow would come soon!” said Doris.

“It won’t be long,” said Eileen, consolingly.

The next afternoon they met, and became firm friends. They told each
other their ages and dates of their birthdays, and their favourite names
and favourite flowers, and they made up their minds to be friends
always, no matter what happened.

“You look real nice in that chair,” said Eva to Meta, impulsively.

“Do I?” she laughed. “Well, I’ll be real glad when I can leave it.
Sometimes since I have come up here I’ve had some nice little short
walks, and it is just lovely to be on my feet again. I never knew how
nice it was to walk till I’ve been lying down so long.”

“I’ll read all my poems to you some day, if you like,” went on Eva.

“I’d love it,” Meta answered.

“Yes, I have a nice collection of stamps,” Colin was saying to Mollie,
“and some of them are very valuable, and I have some beautiful foreign
post-cards, too——”

“Any money in post-cards?” asked Willie, with his hands deep in his

“Oh, no, it’s just a hobby.”

“I believe in money-making,” asserted Willie. “Some day I’m going to
start and make a big lot of it.”

“Good luck to you,” laughed Colin. “You’re thinking of it early.”

“A man has to start young,” answered Willie, as he strode off with his
fishing line. He would have dearly loved to have a game of chasings with
the two little boys and Doris, but just on the first meeting he wanted
to appear dignified.

“He’s a queer little chap,” laughed Colin to Mollie.

“He thinks he’s a man when he talks like that,” said Mollie, hastily.
“He’s a real nice little boy when he’s natural.”

Meanwhile the two little boys were becoming unmanageable. They would
race backwards and forwards over the bridge, like two young horses, and
up and down the steep banks of the river, until they became more daring,
and started to jump from one stone to another across the water.

“Come out at once, you young rascals!” commanded Colin, “and don’t
attempt to go in there again.”

So for a time there was peace while they played at making houses with
sticks with Doris and Baby. Then Mollie looked up and saw a sight that
made her blood run cold, for, perched high on a tree overhanging the
deepest part of the river, were the twins far out on a slender branch
that swayed with their weight. One false move, and they would be dashed
into the gurgling water that lapped round the cruel sharp stones just
beneath them. Colin saw them, too, and his face blanched.

“Not a word, Mollie,” he gasped. “Go and talk to Meta. Talk for all
you’re worth, and don’t let her see them, whatever you do.”

Mollie never quite knew how she reached Meta, and what she talked about
to make her laugh so; but she caught hold of the invalid’s chair and
wheeled it away down the road and around the bend, out of sight of the
fatal tree, after she had whispered to Edith and Eileen to go to Colin.

The twins could see their danger, and looked appealingly to those on the
river bank, for they had all joined Colin by this, and Doris and Baby
waved and clapped their hands in fear.

“Keep still, the pair of you!” commanded Colin, “and I’ll come up to

He tore off his coat and boots, and attempted to climb the tree. They
were a long way out, but it was easy enough to reach them if they would
only keep still. At last Colin, lying on a strong branch, put out his
hand and drew Keith back to safety, and when halfway down handed him to
the watchers on the bank. He then went back again for Kossie, who was
beginning to cry and getting restive. Suddenly one of the branches he
was clinging to broke, and the next instant Kossie would have been
tossed into the water, had not Colin, with a mighty effort, grasped him.
For a minute he swung in mid air, and then he was drawn back to the
branch. For a time the two of them hung there. The watchers on the bank
held their breath. If the branch should snap, and send the two clinging
figures into the stony depths below! A few twigs and bushes broke off
and dropped into the gurgling water, and the watchers shuddered.
Supposing it should have been Colin or Kossie! But at last the tension
was over, and Colin slowly descended, with Kossie in his arms. Then
Doris, Baby, and the others rushed the twins and kissed and hugged them,
and told them never to do it again, and gave them all kinds of advice
and warnings.

“No, never do it again,” said Colin, sternly, facing the culprits. “You
might have been floating down the river now—two little corpses. I’ve a
good mind to——”

But his words were drowned in the wail the twins set up at the thought
of being two little corpses, and it was long ere they could pacify them.

“Me don’t want to be corpse,” shouted Kossie.

“Me don’t, eder,” cried Keith. “Me want to wide me po—o-ny.”

“Well, you’ll never ride your pony again, you’ll never see your pony, if
you go doing things like that,” said Colin. “Come on, let’s have some
billy tea to cheer us up, and then it will be time for home.”

“Oh, what a pity it’s nearly over!” said Doris. “I wish it was just

“Never mind, we’ll soon meet again,” said Colin, as he threw a stack of
twigs and bushes on the fire that crackled and blazed merrily. They all
had a parting cup of tea, and gave three cheers for Colin and three
cheers for all themselves; then Doris said:

“Three cheers for the twins!”

“They don’t deserve it,” said Colin, but he joined in the cheer, and
caps and hats were thrown high in the air.

“What a beueful day it was,” said Doris, as they walked home across the

“Yes, lovely. Nearly an accident and all,” said Eileen. “It was just
like what you’d read about. Oh, it was a lovely day, and I love the
twins, although they’re wild and a bit bold.”

“Pity Kossie didn’t fall in and didn’t get hurt. It would have been
great to talk about,” said Willie. “If he only fell in and sailed down
the river a bit. It would have been real great!”

“Ye—es. As long as he didn’t get hurt,” agreed Eva.

“Yes. I wish he fell in and sailed away,” said Doris, briskly. “It
wouldn’t ha’ hurt him, an’ we’d had great fun. Pity Colin didn’t push
him in,” she cried, warming to the subject.

“Oh, well, anyhow, he nearly fell in, and it was real exciting, so we
can’t grumble,” said Eileen, and they all agreed.

They all walked home through the cold, sharp-tinged gloaming, very
pleased with themselves and the world in general.

As time went on there were many merry meetings, and the twins had some
hairbreadth escapes, and the Gillong children wondered how ever they had
lived so long without the Garlands, and the Garlands wondered the same
about the Hudsons. Sometimes they would go fishing, and the twins would
throw stones and sticks in the water, just to see the circles growing
wider and wider. Colin would chase them up the bank with his rod,
because he said they hunted the fish away; and then they would climb
trees and “hoot-toot” among the branches and declare they were owls or
other birds.

They were a source of never-ending joy to Doris, who dearly loved to
watch them at their tricks, and she wished and wished that she knew a
million thousand boys like them.

                             CHAPTER XXVII.
                            THE INVITATION.

“Oh, dear, I wish something nice would happen!” sighed Eileen. “It’s a
terrible long time since anything real nice happened.”

“Yes, not since Uncle came,” said Eva.

“Oh, wha—what about the baby?” gasped Doris, in amazement.

“Oh, yes, of course—the baby—well, the baby’s all right, but, still, I
want some real fun. I’m sick of everything again, and I know the
Garlands are great, and we’re lucky to have them; but I’d like something
real different and real surprising to happen.”

“Yes, I wish something exciting would happen, too,” said Mollie.
“Something real nice and exciting——”

“Yes, not Mrs. Grey getting sick, or anything like that,” said Eva.

“Oh, no, Mrs. Grey getting sick is not the kind of fun—er, I mean
excitement—I want,” said Eileen; “that was right enough for a time, but
I want real fun now.”

“So do I,” said Mollie.

“And so do I,” said Eva.

“And me, too,” agreed Doris. “I want some real fun—not Mrs. Gray, or the
baby, or old Rose, or anything else.”

“Me, too,” chimed in Baby, who was beginning to feel quite grown up
since the other baby came.

“Pity somethin’ wouldn’t happen to the twins or something,” said Doris.
“Not too bad—only somethin’ or other, I don’t know what.”

“But, of course, nothing will happen,” said Eileen, dismally.

“No, of course it won’t,” agreed Eva.

“No, it never does,” went on Eileen. “It’s the same old thing over and
over. Go to bed, get up, have your meals; go to bed again, get up, have
your meals,” she repeated like a parrot, and she might have kept on
repeating it for another hour or two, only that they saw the mailman
coming in the distance, and they wondered if he would bring any letters;
but “of course he wouldn’t,” Eileen said; he never did bring letters to
them, only once in a blue moon, so what was the use of wondering about
him or looking for him or anything else.

“If he don’t bwing letters I—I don’t know what I’ll do,” said Doris. “I
wish—I wish a letter’d come to take us away to some place we never heard
of,” she went on, not knowing what to wish for.

“Oh, yes, and it might be worse than here!” answered Eileen. “A lot of
good that will do you!”

“I don’t know what I’d like,” said Mollie, “but something where we could
have plenty of laughing and talking and great fun.”

“I wish we had another noo uncle,” sighed Doris. “He was the best
’sprise we ever had. Pity we hadn’t some more.”

“Oh, you’d soon get sick of uncles,” grumbled Eileen.

“There might be a letter from Uncle to-day,” said Mollie, brightly.
“It’s a long while since we heard from him. I wouldn’t be a bit
surprised if there was one from him to-day.”

“I’ll bet there won’t be,” croaked Eileen, “so don’t be thinking there
might, because you’ll only be disappointed.”

Mother opened the mail-bag, and out dropped some square thick envelopes.

“Oh, letters!” called Mother, and there was a scramble to see whom they
were for.

“Mother and Dadda, Miss Gibson, and the Misses Hudson, and one for
Willie, in the same writing,” she cried.

“I hope it’s not a bill for that whip of mine,” said Willie, as he tried
to appear careless about getting a letter.

“A likely thing a bill would come in an envelope like that,” said
Eileen, sharply.

Then there was excitement indeed, for the letters were invitations to a
party at “Myall,” and not merely a party, but a plain and fancy dress
party. There was great excitement at “Gillong,” as they discussed their
dresses and “characters.”

“I think I’ll go as a Cowboy,” said Willie, as he swaggered round.

“Oh, no; go as something nice,” said Eileen.

“Nice? What do you call nice?” asked Willie. “There’s nothing nicer than
a cowboy. You ought to see ’em at the pictures.”

“Oh, no! Go as Lord Somebody, or Sir Someone, or somebody grand. You can
be an old cowboy any day.”

“No, thanks, I don’t want to be any of your grand chaps. I might be a
footballer, or a cricketer, or a stockman; but none of your grand men
that wear silk and satin. Ugh! And I might be a Red Indian yet. Yes,
that’s what I’ll be—a Red Indian,” he cried, excitedly. “Oh! it will be
fun rigging it up. Let’s come and make a start at it now. I’ll have
feathers all over my head, and I’ll get the loan of that dingo skin of
your Mum’s, and—oh, it will be fun!”

“No, you won’t be a Red Indian,” cried Eileen. “No one will dance with

“Dance with me?” echoed Willie. “I don’t want ’em to dance. I want to
have some fun. I thought you were all wishing for fun, and now it’s
coming you want to dress up in fine clothes. Ugh!”

“What about Little Lord Fauntleroy? Oh, Willie, you’d look pretty!”

“Little Lord Fauntleroy!” gasped Willie. “Ugh! Do you think I want to
look pretty? Do you think a man wants to look _pretty_? Ugh!”

For the next week excitement and disorder held sway at “Gillong,” for
there was so much trouble in choosing costumes.

One day Eva would decide on “Flower Girl,” another on “Erin” or “Rule,
Britannia,” or some other character; and they were all the same, till
Mother and the governess were nearly distracted.

“I don’t think I’ll go,” said Eileen one evening.

“Why?” they all asked in chorus.

“Because I don’t know what to be, and it’s too much trouble deciding.
And, besides, it’s silly going in fancy dress, fixing up everything; and
I’d rather go in a real pretty silk dress and nice silk stockings and
pretty shoes and a fan, and all sorts of nice things; and I’m not rich
enough for that, so I’ll stay at home.”

“Oh, nonsense!” cried Mollie. “It’s lovely to be going in fancy dress.”

“Oh, its all right for you—you’ve decided!”

“Well, why don’t you decide?”

“I can’t. Every day makes it harder, and I get more mixed; so I’ll just
give the lot up and stay at home;” and she looked very disconsolate.

“What about a gipsy?” asked someone.

“Or a queen, or a mermaid, or—oh, lots of things!”

“Now, look here, Eileen; you’ll have to decide,” said Mollie, firmly.
“Let’s fix it up now.”

So, after a great deal of talk, she decided on “Gipsy Queen.”

Then there was work getting their dresses ready. Mollie was “Night,” and
the soft black dress, with the half-moon and stars cut out of silver
paper, suited her splendidly. Across her red-gold hair she had a black
velvet band, with a quaint little half-moon slanting across it.

The “Gipsy Queen” looked fine in her red dress, with slashes of gold
paper and touches of black velvet, and coins and berries placed
cunningly here and there. In the make-ups everyone helped, and the tags
off tobacco were even pressed into service. Even old Joe would sit at
the kitchen table after tea and cut out hundreds of stars and other
shapes out of silver and gold paper; and many the argument he and Willie
had over correct sizes, etc., and how many stars were in the sky, and
thousands of other things; and, of course, the arguments were never
decided, because they were both sure that they were right, and left it
at that.

Eva was “Flower Girl,” and had a pretty white muslin frock, decked with
flowers, and carried a wand (made by Old Joe) wreathed with flowers.
Doris was “Winter,” and looked radiant in her red dress, bordered with
wadding for fur, and a little white wadding cap trimmed with red
berries. Baby was “Red Riding Hood,” and fancied herself in her little
blue frock and white pinafore and red cape and hood; only when she had
been at the party a while she grew tired of the cape and hood, and threw
it off, and was just plain Baby in her little blue frock for the rest of
the evening. At the last Willie had decided to go as a “Scout,” and his
mother had to hurriedly post him a suit from Sydney; and Mollie fixed up
one of Frank’s felt hats for him, and he was very pleased with his “rig
out,” as he called it.

Two days before the party a letter came from Frank to say that he was
coming home for a short holiday. “Just a week or ten days,” he wrote,
“and I am looking forward to it. What a lot we will have to talk about!
Tell Doris and Baby I’ll expect them to give me a picnic under the old
picnic tree.”

They were all silent for a while, overjoyed at the great news, and then
their tongues were loosened, and a babel of voices filled the air.

“Well, if it’s not the very best thing that could happen,” cried Eileen.
“I’ve been wishing that Frank could be here to see us in our fancy
dresses, and now he’ll be here. Hooray!”

“Oh, dear, dear! whatever’ll he go as?” cried Doris. “I wish he’d be old
Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas, indeed!” cried Eileen. “I fancy I see him!”

“Yes, an’ he’d be a mate for me, then,” said Doris. “He could have a red
coat with fur on it and berries, and he’d look real nice.”

“Pity I didn’t know he was coming sooner,” said Willie. “I’d have saved
postage on my suit. He could have brought it up.”

“So he could,” they agreed. “What a pity!”

“Oh, it’s all right,” said Willie, lordly. “A fellow doesn’t have much
use for money up here.”

They danced round Frank when he arrived, and all wanted to tell him all
the news at once. They admired him, and said he looked “lovely” and
“beautiful,” and all kinds of nice things, till Frank laughingly
declared he’d grow too shy to talk.

But he was a different Frank to the boy who had left “Gillong” only
about eight months ago. He was so alert and bright and keen, and his
eyes were dancing as he talked and laughed. For he had found his niche,
and was working hard at his heart’s desire: and Mollie thought
gratefully of “Uncle,” who had put it in his power to take up the work
he liked.

“I’m getting on fine, Mollie,” he confided later on, “and I’m sure as
the time goes on that I’ll reach the top. Oh, it’s fine to be at
something that you like—something that you can put all your energies
into and use your brain power. Sometimes I think of the long, long days
that used to seem so hopeless, and I shudder. But it’s great to be back
among it all again for a while, and I’ll enjoy every minute of my

They showed Frank their dresses, and there was much whispering and
laughing among them.

“Guess what this used to be once,” cried Eileen, holding up Doris’s
jaunty little “winter” cap.

“Couldn’t in a lifetime,” laughed Frank.

“The wadding out of the old tea cosy,” she cried.

“And Baby’s red cape and hood are made from an old cloak Mamma had when
she was a girl. Do you see this wand? Well, old Joe made it, and we
covered it with gold paper.”

“Marvellous!” cried Frank. “What a pity I wasn’t here sooner to rig
myself out in something.”

“I’ll tell you what—go as a Red Indian,” cried Willie. “I wanted to, but
couldn’t manage it.”

But Frank decided he would go in plain clothes.

The new baby came in for a lot of attention, too.

“Well, little chap, I wonder what you’ll want to be when you grow up,”
said Frank, leaning over his little cart. “I wonder will you be fond of
bush life, or will you have a hankering after other things.”

The new baby smiled up at him, as though it didn’t care what became of
it in the future.

“Anyhow, I’ll keep an eye on you and find out what you do want, and see
that you get it.”

Frank meant it, for in his heart was a great gladness, and life seemed
worth while. He grew quite excited over the prospect of the party, too.

“Won’t Enid be surprised?” said Eva. “Won’t she be glad, too? You look
lovely, Frank, and that suit of yours is beautiful. I bet you’ll be the
nicest-looking grown-up boy there, and I’m real glad you’re here to come
with us. What a pity you’re not a poet, Frank,” she concluded.

“A poet? One of those chaps that forgets to have his meals?” cried
Frank, teasingly.

“No, a real nice, clever poet, and write big books of poems, and have
pretty pictures in them. You know, I could paint the pictures later on,
because I’m going to be an artist.”

“Oh, well, I’ll think about it,” laughed Frank, “and perhaps we’ll bring
out a book in conglomeration—Eva Hudson and Frank Lynton.”

“Wouldn’t it be lovely?” she gasped.

“Oh! let’s talk about the party,” pleaded Doris. “Don’t be an old poet,
’cause it’s real hard gettin’ words to go, an’ you’d be always writin’
and writin’, an’ you’d never have time for games or anything. A party’s
better’n poems a lot.”

They all fell to wondering what the Garlands would wear.

“Of course there’ll only be Colin and Meta there, I suppose, unless
Edith goes to look on.”

“No, they’re all going,” said Mollie. “Even the twins.”

“What! the twins going? Oh, that’ll be better than ever!” they cried.
“The twins will give us some fun. Oh, Frank, you’ll love the twins!”

“I’m not too sure about that,” said Frank.

“It’s the best news I ever heard,” cried Doris, dancing round.

“The twins will be there. The dear, darlin’, bold, noisy, darlin’

                            CHAPTER XXVIII.
                               THE PARTY.

They all went from “Gillong” except old Joe, and he came out to see them
off, and told them that there wouldn’t be anyone as nice as them there,
and to fly round and enjoy themselves. The station was a blaze of light
as they drove up, and buggies were coming from all directions, and
motor-cars and a few horsemen.

“Oh, dear, I’m getting shy!” said Eva. “I do hope I don’t keep like it,
or I won’t enjoy myself a bit.”

They were all too excited to feel shy when they alighted, and were led
off to take off their wraps.

“What do you think?” gasped Eileen, as she took off her cloak before
going down to the party room. “I’ve seen four gipsies already. I’m sorry
I’m not old Queen Elizabeth or Mary of Scots, or some of them.”

“Never mind, I’m sure you’ll look as nice as any of them,” said Miss
Gibson. “Come along, now, and forget any grievances and enjoy yourself
right merrily.”

Enjoy themselves they did, and after a while Eileen didn’t care if there
were forty gipsies there. They danced and sang and played games in the
moonlit garden, and there were such a lot of nice boys and girls; and
how they did talk!

Young Harry Egerton, from a big station further north, danced a lot with
Mollie, and he quite beamed when she told him she liked his name. When
he asked her why, and she told him it was because she had a nice Uncle
named Harry he didn’t look half so pleased.

“And we’re going to Sydney to stay with him again this summer,” she went
on. “He’ll soon be back from the Continent now.”

Then Harry said he was going to Sydney for the summer, too, and they’d
meet down there.

Enid was so pleased to see Frank again that she had the second dance
with him, and then fat George Blackston came up and said she promised it
to him a long time ago. She smiled sweetly, and begged to be excused,
because Frank had been so long away, and was only staying up the country
for a little time.

So George marched off and secured another partner, and said he didn’t
think the party was going to be much good.

“Why?” asked his partner with wide-open eyes, for she had just been
thinking how “lovely” it was.

All the evening the fun was kept going. At first Willie strolled round
and watched them all; but after a while he, too, joined in the
merriment, and what a time they had!

Doris was romping round, and tore the wadding on her dress, and after
that little pieces of white fur were scattered all over the room. But
she didn’t care, with her head thrown back, her eyes and cheeks glowing,
she pranced round and said it was the beautifullest party she was ever
at. And Eva, too, put away her flower-wreathed wand and joined in the

Mother and a lot more grown ups looked on and smiled and talked about
the costumes, and the baby slept through it all, never knowing the good
time he was missing.

“You know,” confided Eileen to one of her partners, “we ought to have a
lot of parties like this.”

“Of course we ought,” he agreed.

“Yes, every week or every fortnight, whatever,” and he agreed again.

What a crowd were there—nearly all in fancy costume! Gipsies and Flower
Girls and Queens and Shepherds and Stockmen and Soldiers and Sailors
joined in the throng.

Harry Egerton told Mollie that “Night” was the prettiest costume there,
and Frank told Enid that “Dawn” was. For Enid was arrayed in a pretty
costume of goldeny shade, merging into the rose-pink of dawn.

Colin came as a courtier, and Eileen said she would never have believed
that Colin could look so nice, if she hadn’t seen him with her very own
eyes. He picked her out at once, and said that the Gipsy Maid must dance
with the Count, as in “the days of old.” So the merry Gipsy Girl danced
happily with the gorgeous Count.

Meta was a Scotch Lassie, and the twins were the Little Princes in the
Tower, and looked angelic in their dear little black velvet suits, lace
collars, and patent shoes and buckles; and Edith enjoyed herself
immensely looking on, and a very merry party of boys and girls gathered
round her chair.

“Next party I hope you’ll be able to join in all the fun,” said Eileen,
kissing her.

“Oh, yes! of course, later on I will,” answered Edith, brightly, for she
had learnt while still young the great lessons of patience and

Then supper was announced, and Enid suggested that they should have a
grand march in full regalia to the supper table, and they all agreed
heartily. Wands and baskets of flowers, etc., were hastily gathered
together, and Baby made a wild rush for her cap and hood, which were
thrown aside; and they all marched out to the big covered-in verandah,
where the supper was spread.

On they went, two by two, laughing and joking and making a pretty
picture of color and brightness in their varied costumes. And if the fun
had been bright and gay all the evening, it became even better at the
supper table. There were jests and jokes and ripples of merry laughter,
and Eileen confided to her partner that she was just finding life worth

“I wonder where’s the twins?” said Colin, looking round the table.

“Oh, yes—the twins!” echoed Eileen, and just then she gave a little
scream. “Oh, dear! what’s that?” and on the other side of the table
someone else gave a little shriek.

“Oh, a dog!” they cried.

“What? Where?”

“Under the table, and he bit my leg!” cried a little fair-haired girl.

“Oh, dear, you’ll go silly!” cried someone. “If he’s a mad dog, you’ll
get hy—dro—pho—bia.”

“Oh!” the girl shrieked.

“And he’s bit me, too!”

“And me—and me——”


Then there was a scramble. A lot climbed into their chairs, while heads
were ducked under the table, to find—the twins! Yes, the twins,
chuckling fit to kill themselves!

“We noo we’d fighten you,” they cried, as they popped out. “We noo you’d
sing out. We was sittin’ under there ever so long.”

“You ought to be sent home,” cried Colin, hotly; but all the others

“Did you think we was mad dogs?” they cried, in great glee. “We said
we’d fighten you a long time ago.”

Then they patted their little velvet suits and straightened their little
lace collars, and looked nicer than ever. Then everyone roared with
laughter, and the supper went on merrily, as though there was no such
thing in the world as drought or hard times.

And when the buggies came round for the homeward return there were
laughing good-byes and all kinds of promises, while the waiting horses
champed at their bits, or a big motor throbbed as if in protest at being
kept so long. Good-byes were flung back across the cold night air, as at
last they rolled away home, saying it was the nicest party that ever

                             CHAPTER XXIX.
                          A WEEK ON THE RIVER.

The time had come at last, and a merry party gathered to go off to the
river. They had chosen a spot a few miles from “Gillong.” The Hudsons,
the Garlands, Enid and some of her friends, and the governess made up
the party.

Old Joe drove the cart with the tents, hammocks, and bags and boxes, and
after a lot of persuasion he let the twins and Doris drive with him.

“But, mind you, none of your tricks or nonsense,” he threatened. “Doris
is as bad as the pair of you now.”

“Oh, Joe, we’ll be good!” declared the twins, with their
innocent-looking faces.

“All right, then, none of your pranks! D’you hear?”

“Yes, Joe.”

“Well, mind you ’eed,” he answered, as he started off.

For the first mile they were all right, and then they grew restive. When
Joe wasn’t looking Keith would hang on to the tailboard of the cart with
his legs swinging in the air, and execute a high kick now and again,
much to the delight of the other two. Then, like a flash of lightning,
he would be back in his place if old Joe glanced round. But he played
the game once too often, and just in the middle of a high kick the cart
wheeled round the bend, and he was thrown far out on to the soft clover.

“Oh, Joe, Joe, pull up quick!” cried Doris. “You’ve thrown him out.”

“Who? What?” cried Joe. “Threw him out!” and he pulled up with a jerk.

“Yes, Keith, round the last bend.”

“Sakes alive, you’d send a man crazy, so you would. I ’ope he ain’t
’urt,” and he turned back quickly, to see our hero racing along and
crying at the top of his voice.

“Come ’ere and jump in. How did you fall out?”

“The c-a—rt bumped me—o—ut,” sobbed Keith.

“Where was you sittin’?”

“N—o—t far from de others.”

“Show me the spot,” said Joe, sternly. “You must ha’ been up to some of
your tricks. Where was you sittin’?”

“I was near the back of the ole cart,” said Keith, sulkily.

“Was you hangin’ out of it?”

No reply.

“Come on, out with it! Was you hangin’ out of the cart?”

“Yes,” said Keith, defiantly.

“Well, serves you right for fallin’. You might ha’ broken your leg,
fallin’ like that. You’ll never drive with me again as long’s my name’s

Then he lit his pipe and drove on and didn’t speak to them again till
they reached the river; but the young rascals were whispering and
giggling together long before then—up to some fresh roguery.

Such a gay crowd set to work to pitch the tents and swing the hammocks,
and soon the fresh smell of cut timber and bruised leaves filled the
air, while laughter and merry voices were heard on every side.

The hammocks were mostly bags slung up with wire, and in some cases
sheets of wire-netting, with a rug thrown over them. But they swung
among the leafy branches under the fresh-smelling leaves, and there were
never better beds in the world! It was delightful to wake in the early
morning under a canopy of leaves, and see the sun peeping forth,
transforming the dew-tipped leaves and grass and gossamer spider-webs
into glistening jewel-like splendour. To hear the birds chirping and
twittering along the river, or watch them plunge into the stream. To
hear the flap of the fish as they sprang out of the water, and then to
hear the fire crackling merrily. At times like this they all wished they
were gipsies.

Then breakfast would come, with fish fresh from the river and potatoes
cooked in their jackets, and there was nothing but goodwill and
merriment from morning to night.

They would have tea as the evening shadows were creeping along the
river, and hear the birds fluttering and cooing among the branches, or
far along the river strange calls and chirps would be heard from strange
wild bush birds. Then the merry jackasses would give forth their jolly,
rollicking laugh, and wake up all the echoes; and the children would
join with them, till there was perfect pandemonium. And by-and-bye a
great golden moon would swing in the sky, lighting up the scene into
fairy-like splendour, making the tents stand out whitely and
transforming the broad stretch of water into a golden sheen. This was
the time for stories, and they would gather round the camp fires and
listen while the “grown-ups” talked; and sometimes they would declare
that they could see gnomes and fairies high among the glistening gum
leaves, and even hear them chattering.

One night they found Keith and Kossie, armed with two little tomahawks,
just about to try and climb a great gum that had gnarled and knotted
branches, and they declared they were going up to give the gnomes the
fright of their lives.

“We wadn’t goin’ to hurt ’em; we was only goin’ to have some fun,” they
answered when Miss Gibson protested with them.

“When I grow up I’ll settle some of dem old gnomes,” said Keith, shaping
up to fight, “and I’m goin’ to find de ole wolf dat nearly killed Red
Riding Hood and shoot him,” he ended up, tragically.

“Oh, but the woodmen shot him!” cried Doris.

“Well, den I’ll kill his brudder,” declared Keith.

“That’s right, you’ll kill someone if you’re not careful,” said Frank,
with a hearty laugh. For Frank’s laugh rang out gay and clear these
days, and oftimes Mother and Father would look at him and marvel at the

“I don’t think we did right by the lad, keeping him so long with us at
the work he must have hated,” said Father.

“Oh, well! it will make him appreciate his good fortune all the more
now,” said Mother. “And I don’t think Frank regrets the time he spent
with us now, but it’s nice to see him so happy.”

The last evening came, as last evenings will, no matter how we try to
stay their progress. The last evening of a happy, care-free week—a week
to which many looked back in after years with a sigh or a smile, but
always with a tender memory.

“I wonder will we ever have another week here. I wonder where we’ll all
be this time next year.” And a great, great many more wonders were
voiced, as they gathered round the camp fire for the last time. And how
they did talk! The things they had meant to say for ever so long were
said to-night. Fresh stories and jokes were recounted, and from being at
first a somewhat saddened party, with the thought of the “break-up” in
the morning, they became noisy and gay. Just in the midst of the
laughter two little figures bounded up before them.

“Good gracious! Whatever’s that? The twins!”

Sure enough it was the twins—the twins, smothered in mud and dirty
water, with dead leaves sticking to the mud that covered them, and
dirty, muddy water streaming from their clothes.

“Where have you been? I thought you were in bed?” and other questions
were put to them.

“So we wad, and we seen a rabbit and we jumped out an’ chased him, and
Kossie fell in the river and I pulled him out——”

“An’ den he fell in——” chipped in Kossie, “an’ I pulled him out, and

“He fell in again!” shouted Keith, roaring with laughter at the thought.

“Dear, oh, dear! I thought you were the gnomes or the wild men of the
woods,” cried Eva. “You do look funny.”

“An’ de rabbit got away——”

“Of course it did,” said Colin. “It had more sense than you two.”

Then they had to be bathed and put to bed and given a lecture, which
took no more effect on them than the proverbial water on the duck’s

There was more talking, followed by supper, and they climbed into their
hammocks, to sleep under the open skies, under a star-specked dome, for
the last time for many a month to come.

They were back again at “Gillong” a week after the week on the river.
They sat on the wooden verandah, the five of them, and gazed at the
great green stretch before them. Mother and Frank had driven to Bragan
Junction that morning, and they should be back any time now. Inside, the
governess wrote letters to Sydney.

“It’s only a year ago that we sat here, drought-stricken,” said Mollie.
“What a big, big difference in one year! Then we didn’t know Uncle, and
we didn’t know Sydney or Miss Gibson, or——”

“And Frank was here, working hard and sick of the drought, and——”

“And we didn’t know the twins,” chimed in Doris.

“No, and we didn’t think we’d be going to Sydney again this year. Why,
in two months’ time we’ll be down there again, and Uncle will tell us
all about his wonderful trip—my word, I must look up my geography,” said

“And we didn’t know Willie,” shrieked Doris, at the top of her voice, “a
year ago.”

“No, and now he’s nearly our brother,” said Eva.

“What a lot of good things have happened! I believe if we counted up
we’d get a dozen.”

“And we didn’t have the baby,” shrieked Doris, louder still.

“Oh, no—no baby brother! I’d forgotten him,” said Eileen.

“I think we often forget him—for a little while,” said Eva. “We’re so
used to talking about the five of us.”

“Let’s count all the good things; let’s count quick!” shrieked Doris,
holding up her chubby fingers.

Baby held both her hands up.

“First—Uncle. Second——”

“Here they are. Here’s Mother and Frank,” called Eileen, “and whoever’s
that with them? Why, it’s Uncle! It’s Uncle!” she shrieked. Sure enough
it was Uncle, smiling and smart and distinguished looking.

“Uncle, Uncle!” they shouted, and the five of them were hanging round
him, all asking questions at the one time.

“You didn’t think your old Uncle could come up here without you knowing
all about it, did you? Well, Uncle is trying to be as clever as his
little bush nieces, and your Mamma and Frank kept the secret well.”

“How long have you known? How long, Mum and Frank?”

“Ever since Frank came home,” smiled Mother, “but I wanted to surprise

“Ever since Frank came home?” they repeated, blankly. “However could you
keep the secret that long?”

“Why, couldn’t you?” asked Uncle, looking knowingly at the five of them.
Then they all shrieked with laughter.

“It’s the best thing in the world that could have happened,” said Eva,
“just to have you back here again.”

“Yes, and I want you all to hurry up and get ready to come to Sydney.
Can you manage in a month? I’ve taken a beautiful big house with
grounds, so I’ll be looking out for you.”

“Ready!” they cried. “Of course, we’ll be ready. Oh, it will be
beautiful! Beautiful! Three cheers for Uncle!” they cried, dancing round

It was late that night before the lights were out at “Gillong.”

“I’ll never grumble again as long as ever I live,” said Eileen, as she
blew out the candle and slipped into bed.

“Oh, you’ve said that hundreds of times,” said Mollie, sleepily.

“Yes, but I really mean it this time. I’ll—never—grumble—again—as long
as—ever—I—live,” she repeated, as she fell off to sleep.

The moon rose slowly over “Gillong”—a great golden moon—and sailed high
in a cloudless sky. Its rays lingered lovingly on the children in their
little white beds on the verandah. It flickered on the quivering leaves
of the gum trees in the garden, where Frank and Willie were wrapped in a
dreamless sleep in their swinging hammocks. Then it sailed serenely on,
casting its magic glow over the paddocks and scrubs and creeks on
“Gillong,” till it paled before the glow of dawn in the eastern sky.


  My dear Basil,

  The days are growing longer. There is a tinge of summer warmth and
  drowsiness in the air. The corn paddock at “Myall,” which has been a
  picture of vivid green, with the pale gold corn cobs peeping out of
  their golden tresses and swathing of tenderest green, is turning to
  rich, deep green, with red-gold and burnished cobs raising themselves
  proudly erect or swaying in the breeze. The wheat field, too, is
  turning to yellow with the rustling ears breathing ever a slight
  cadence to the breeze. And with the growing length of days my picture,
  too, is growing apace. I stand back and gaze at it ere I place my
  brushes away for to-morrow’s work. It is a picture of joyous young
  life, of early blossom and fresh born greenery, of tender leaflet and
  bud, of wattle’s gold and a glimpse of road winding among forest
  giants, and the spirit of the early tenderness and benediction of
  Spring time breathes over all. If in the years to come I shall ever
  again gaze on that picture, my thoughts shall go rushing back to
  glorious, fresh-tinged days when all the world seemed young; to
  lilting, joyous song of birds; to the gambols of those merry foals; to
  the teeming, indescribable hum of insect life among those forest
  trees; to the haunting perfume of that golden wattle—in fine, to all
  the charm and allurement of Spring time in the open spaces.

  The end of the year is not far off, and on the whole it has been a
  year of interest, of pleasure. When one studies human nature, as well
  as the great open Book of Nature around one, then the time flies by
  all too quickly.

  Soon I shall take a short holiday in Sydney, and just for a space
  become one of the busy, hustling crowd, and revel in the glimpses of
  shining water and twinkling fairy barques and harbour lights and
  white-winged yachts, and then back again to the life of the Bushland,
  and the pleasant task of teaching the dearest, funniest children I
  have ever met—Five Little Bush Girls.



                          Transcriber’s Notes

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