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I "WILDERNESS I
j The Story Of Chut, j
The Kangaroo. [ ! By I
! Dorothy Cottrell \
One day they bumped towards a little town of Mew South Wales through tho (iery heat of midsummer. ÍShorty drove the truck which liad- supplanted the pony wagon. Chut lay prisoned in the stuffy box of tile truck body. The heat was frightful.
Chut panted, and at times rose and went to his empty water tin. Then he
would come back and lie down to suffer out another hour. His one comfort was
that his toe nails were growing again Shortv had been too continuously drunk to bother about trimming them.
At long intervals they stopped at nome wayside shanty, and lie heard voices, .'int he vas never given water
As the day passed his thirst be- came maddening, a terrible, ceaseless misery. By night bis one thought was
water. He was in torment.
But when Shorty opened the truck doors it was only to lead Chut into a hot show tent and to a glaring sawdust ring.
Water! Waterl Chut looked about for it, in dumb anguish. He hardly noticed when thc swaying Shorty fast- ened the gloves on his fore- paws.
Water ! . . . . Then he smelled it. Outside the tent, across the dry, burr patched expanse of the town common, a little bore drain flowed gleaming in the twilight. Chut moved to go to it, and Shorty stood before him. Water, running between narrow borders of purple-seeded couch trass, as the water had run in the house enclosure ot Tom Henton's when the world was sweet t
Chut moved sideways. He could easily jump the ropes nf the ring, end then be out in thc cool air. As ha moved, Shorty hit him viciously in the
Suddenly all the eupprrssed and futile rage, all thc pain of the last years, burned in Chut like molten, scalding metal, searing his brain, trebling his strength. He knew that this man had taken him away from all the sweet things of twilight and run- ning water. This man had killed Blue rtaby. This man had beaten and humiliated him, Chut; this man stood now in Chut's way, keeping him from reaching the water for which he died.
He ripped off the ill-fastened gloves. Ile clutched at Shorty McGee's shoul- ders, clutching, ripping, tearing with his new-grown toenails. Madly he slashed the shrieking thing before him I
He chutted with rage. His fur, his claws, were wet and red-and the ex- citement of thc scent of blood was bi his nostrils I
And then the crowd waa on him, heating bim with bits of plank.
Chut turned and saw a gap through the crowd-and beyond it the twilight sky. He twisted free. He gathered his mighty strength, and .rose over the rope railings ami tho nearer benches; descended majestically, and in hopping, deliberate flight was gone, hot and bruised and sore-but tri- umphant-into the night.
As soon as he waa fir enough from the tent for safety he turned to the little stream and drank, deeply and exquisitely. With the touch of the
clear-running water, and the strange .
artesian odour of it, something stirred in him. Up through the red mist of long hatreds and long suffering and loneliness, he increasingly remembered. Many things; lilies by the still water of a sleeping dara; grey moths' wings in tlic moonlight; dusty paths through the tall, bleached silver of the Queens-
land grass. ... He wanted south-west; Queensland 1
He was too deeply hurt, too deeply wronged, to want any more of men,
even Tom Henton or Tom Benton's wife.,
He was too weary to want his own! kind. Since the IOBS of Blue Baby he. had ceased to call at nights.
But he wanted the west, the place where he had been born. Wanted a certain lonely water-way, where his mother had first lifted him from the pouch.
Away across the burr-patched com-
mon a crimson streak marked the last of sunset. Deliberately Chut turned towards it-a little north of it. De- liberately he thudded on through the night.
He was SOO miles from home. There were fences and rivers and innumer-
able deadly perils between. But he
did not doubt that he would see the dom again, where the moon rose in deep gold immensity.
The newspaper headlines screamed : "Savage Kangaroo Mutilates Trainer." "Man-killing 'Roo nt large." But thert was really nothing sinister about thc worn traveller who was going home to find thc dam where the white spider lilies grew up thc banks and (herc was starry silence.
Chut was free-but there was a price upon his head. For ho had killed I Shorfy McGee in the Eilly sawdust ring! Because of this thc band of every man ' was against him, and his gleaming
brass collar was a damning ideutiflca j lion mark. But Chut did not know this;
he simply knew that he was free.
He was no longer " Step Right Up, thc Hosing Kangaroo Marvel." He could lie down, or hop this way or that, or dexterously scratch his car with his hind foot-and it was nobody's busi- ness. But his life with Shorty McGee bad left marks upon him, not only in the weals beneath his velvet fur, but
upon his inmost make-up. In the last mad hour of vengeance ne had thrown Shorty McficB screaming and bloody upon thc floor of thc show tcrlt-but Shorty McGee hid taken the gladness
out of Chut.
He was plea Bed to bc free ; pleased
tvilh thc blue silence of radiant noou
heating down upon a dry swamp that Finelled of hay. He was pleased with thc abundance of sweet sun-dried fod-
der ; rlensed with the running, whisper- ing Artesian drains, where he could drink in the twilight. But be was only pleased with all these things as a con- trast to the side show-not pleased with the foolish ond almost inextinguishable gladness of living which is a wild (bing's birthright
With his liberty his coat returned to its soft, velvet beauty. His eyes were again darkly limpid. His muscles rc rounded to their swelling, deep-curved trace. But there was little corrc«pond ing healing of thc spirit. He never
played ; and when a kangaroo will not play there ia something very wrong.
Nor waa this wrongness born ol a loneliness foi' his own kind. He had several times since his escape come upon the signs of kangaroos by a stream, but he hod shown no interest in them. Soli-
tary and dignified, he travelled on, al- ways north and west.
He crossed the west of New South Wales, worming his way through wire fences and jumping rabbit nettings. Sometimes he was stopped for days by some seven-foot dog fence. But be al- ways got through the barrier at last.
In the late summer he crme to the
boundary of Willdoon, near the Queens- land border. The manager's pride was his dog fence. It was perhaps the stout- est fence in New South Wales.
Chut travelled aloug that fence for fifty miles-and found no break, so he came back. Gates are unintelligible things to a wild kangaroo. But Chut knew all about them, and be knew that his only chance of getting through that fence was by way of the great gates on the stock route.
He tried for an hour to open them himself, thrusting a busy, dark hand through the latch hole, and twittering with annoyance. But the fastening de- fied his efforts. So he settled down to wait for a man to come along. For, al- though he had feared Shorty, and of late had avoided ail men, he was not afraid of thc common run of men, and he knew nothing about firearms.
Thus he waited by the gate with far more pomposity and self-assurance than his circumstances* justified-and had no realisation of his good fortune when a drover who was about to shoot him hap- pened to see his brass collar.
As ithe rest of the drovers clattered Up, the first man nhontpd . " Hey, hare's a pct 'roo !"
And as they had not heard of the fate of Shorty McGee, they adopted Chut as a member of the camp-and he went with them because they were going in the direction in which lie wished to go, and because he knew that gates pre- sented no difficulties to men. Also, these were thc men whom he liked, rough, burned western men, such SB he had seen years before at Tom Henton's.
He permitted them no familiarities,
but he accepted with dignity the scraps I which they gave him. During the day he hopped tirelessly behind the cook's wagon, for although the cook did not like him he hared not show his dislike, and the cook's assistant doted on any- thing furred or feathered.And something in Chut began to heal a little. Men were kind again. His memory of Shorty began to blur slightly.
Theic came a time when he nctuslly let the cook's assistant scratch his ears.
As the days passed in sun-flooded monotony of rumbling, dusty progress, he began to feel inclined to ploy a little.
But luck was against him. As the plant began to roll its dusty way into tho grey mulga forests of south-west Queensland the cook received a box of eatables from his wife, all of which were, rolled in old newspapers.
Literature is scarce in the west. Thc cook read * divorce case greasily wrapped about a ham, then he read some sticky polities from sround the marmalade, and some sports items whUh had swathed a pound cake,
(Continued tomorrow )