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í| "WILDERNESS |

ORPHAN" I

I _ I

The Story Of j ! Chut, I I The Kangaroo.

Dorothy Cottrell j

î A SPLENDID ANIMAL STORY. |

CHAPTER I.

Thc big moon poked up through tb< dead trees at thc head of the backwaal of Toni Kenton's dam; its deeply golder face reflected in thc still waters. As il rose the landscape took on pale colours: grey and silver, lilac and faint green.

The stars were paled by the pervading splendour of tho moon, but they wert still faintly reflected in the water ol the dam. The wild lilies all along thc semi arid, sloping blink of the waterway were like brighter star-reflections on thc dry earth; their scent filled the night like some invisible, stilly tide through whose intangible flood the two men crept down to the shelter of a pile of weather-bleached mulga logs. There were faint clicks e; the bunters threw

up the cartridges in their rifles and set the safety catches. Then silence again.

A little dusty path ran up from the water's edge, to lose itself in the tall bleached-silver grass nt the bank top, and presently down this path came an " old man " kangaroo, followed by his harem of six does and severs] small, fat joeys. They moved leisurely, with a tranquil undulating motion, on hoppers and hands, taking their weight alter- nately on their long hind hocks and the strong arch of their tails and their sturdy little hands.

The " old man " was a big " red " : velvet-furred and coloured almost a pale chestnut acroBs hack and thighs, snsd ing to longer fur of tawny cream down cheat and belly. Be weighed some three hundred pounds, and stood seven feet when he rose upright upon toes and

tail

His wives were much smaller and, with the exception of one, who was a beautiful dove-blue, all were furred in brownish mouse-colour. Their ears were large and quivering, and sensitive as weather-vanes; their eyes immense and liquidly dark, deerlikc and seeming deeply sad. Yet in reality they were most happy creatures.

As they moved down to the green picking along the dam edge, they "chit- ted" conversationally, and caught with little dark hands at one another's heavy, muscular tails dragging in the dust. Then they came out upon the open sward by the water, and moved to the margin to drink.

While the blue doc stooped to the water, ever-increasing chirrups issued from her pouch, and it was just after the drink WBB finished that Chut took his first good look at the world. From this it must not be gathered that he was doing anything as exciting as being bom. On the contrary, he had lived in his mother's pouch for a long time, changing there from the semblance of a rather undressed pink mouse to a plump, small, ten-pound creature of an exquisitely delicate loveliness. He was confiding, velvety, with huge dark eyes

connoing, velvety, wnn nuge uaijt «jen

and little dark clutching halide.

Tonight /or the first time he was dis- satisfied with the warra, musky security of the pouch. His legs felt suddenly in need of stretching.

"Chut!" he called sharply. "Chutl" His mother, the little blue doe, an- swered with a reproving "chit," and drew shut her'pouch moith with mat- ronly severity. But Chut wanted to get outl He kicked, he clawed, making strange commotions beneath bis mother's cream-velvet pinafore until at last she lifted him out and set bim on the grass.

He staggered clumsily, clutched at bis mother's fur, tried to steady him- self upon his slender hoppers, wabbled, and fell on his back, bis legs striking up absurdly. After a moment he tenta- tively grasped at one of his hoppers, and looked about with bright, knowing

eyes.

The little doe herself experienced a sense of freedom from the warm nestl- ing burden in her pouch. She sat up to ber full height, like a girl mother pleased by recovered slenderness. She .grasped playfully at a passing elephsnt I moth. Then she, too, lay down and

I rolled. Another doe came and rolled be-

side her. They grappled; they turned I and twisted. They leaped up and play-

ed tag.

And then the blue doe found herself at thc edge of the lily patch where thc " old man " was pulling up a lily stalk

with Bli white blossoms at its crown and the young blue doe took it away

from him.

One of the bunters rested his rifle across the fallen mulga beads, 50 yards up the bank. The moon gleamed coldly on the barrell. . . . And the frivolous doc with thc lily was thc first to see it.

She drew herself up, holding her hands as a dog docs in begging, her body rigid and backward-curving, her ears fluted in interrogation. Her snicker of dan- ger brought every animal to ita feet, poised tensely.

The man looked along the luminous sights, steadied for the slow squeeze on the trigger. ... He wanted the "old man " for a specimen skin.

Tlie shot rent thc crystal night, a jarring agony of sound. Thc "old man" staggered, reared high on magni- ficent toes and arching tail. Upi As he stood in a hundred lights. Then he was quiveringly convulsed and fell crashing into the dead twigs behind

him.

The frivolous doe dropped her coquet- tish lily and fled chitting towards Clint, Other mothers scooped small fat babies into their pouches; boxed larger babies into bouncing flight. Then thc mob was off, 30 feet nt a bound, away through

the moonlit bush.

(Continued Tomorrow.)

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