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Il "WILDERNESS !
|| ORPHAN" j
I The Story Of Chut, j
I BY j
J Dorothy Cottrell j
As thc evening meal was ending, he liiirst in upon the eating men. " Listen to this!" lie cried. "What did I tell you about that 'roo Î "
Men laid down their knives to listen, and Chut sat solemnly at the edge ot the firelight tidying up his left car The cook read shrilly from the discoloured paper: "'Savage Kangaroo Assaults Trainer. Step Right Up, the Boxing Marvel, Kills Shorty, McGee. Murder- ous Attack While Show is in Progress.' An' here's his description," said the cook. " ' Step Right Up, or Chut as he is sometimes called, is a giant red kan- garoo with pronounced cream under faody, and he is wearing a wide brass collar with his name "Chut," inscribed upon it. The trainer died almost in- stantly.' "
There was an astonished murmur of voices,
"Well," said the bearded drover at last, " I don't like doing it, but I guess it's got to bc done I" He rose and went to the wagon for his rifle.
" I wouldn't shoot him," said the cook's offsider eagerly. "We don't know whet that Shorty bloke may have done to him. He's a friendly cuss if he's treated right."
But he was unheeded. The drover slowly loaded the rifle; raised it. Chut looked up as the rifle cockell.
"Hey, wait! Give him a chance'" said the cook's assistant.
"He ain't fit to be loose," said tho cook.
The cook's assistant grasped a stone. Tien, as the drover steadied the rifle for tile Ansi squeeze on the trigger, the assistant gave a whoop and let ny with bis stone. It caught Chut full in the chest, staggering him.
As he rose, chutting with rage, the as- sistant ran at him flapping a bit of
Chut would have faced most things.
But the apparition of the ghost-white tent, following on the unexpected blow, was too much for him. With a great bound he waa gone into the dark.
''He's going to have a chance, any- way!" said the cook's assistant, through his teeth. When the clamour of voices quieted, the cook rose.
"I'm going to get Monty's hound dogs," Baid the cook. " Monty's over at Blister with a broken leg, hut he'll lend us the dogs."
Bruised and angry and hurt, Chut held on through the night. He had liked the drovers. He had been so well be- haved-never once raiding the tempt- ing tucker-box. And this was the way they bad treated him!
With a soft-cushioned thudding of boundless, rhythmic strength, he moved surely through the dark. And ns he went something told him that he was at Inst near the place of his desire. That somewhere, not many miles away, WEB a long winding dam, with lily-Bet banks and little trails running down to it through the high grey grass.
Dawn came in a thin wash of strange silver up the sky; then red, and the songs of birds. Chut was travelling
About mid-morning he heard the sounds of dogs, far behind him- He halted and listened, and, although he had never been hunted by dogs, he knew that these dogs werè following him.
He resumed his motion, but at inter- vals ho listened to the cries of the
pack. They were coming closer. He had never feared dogs, but there was a rhythmical menace in the cry of UICBC
Chut increased his pace, so that in- stead of covering 10 feet at a bound he covered fifteen. At that the cries of the dogs no longer crept up on him-but at tho same time he could not shake them
off. As the hours passed he began to grow hot and angry. Then he halted to lick bis arms and breathe heavily-and nt'once the dog-voices came closer. Thc musical, unnerving "Boo-oo-oo" of bounds on a strong scent. He went on with his arms hut half licked.
Sometimes he would gain, in his seem- ingly deliberate progress-for 15 feet at a hound is still an unhurried pace for a kangaroo. When he no longer heard his pursuers he would snatch a little dry picking, or a drink, if a drain was near. And then he would catch a far, thin sound, which gathered distinctness and became again the menace .nf the pack.
All day he heard them, and all day ? he heard the silent whisper telling him
that home, home, home was near! For live hundred miles he had followed the blind sense of place that led him north and west. Now, as surely as he had known where home was, he knew that it was near.
At sunset he came down to a wide, shallow swamp, its still, muddy water mirroring the sky. He crossed it-and threw the dogs off his trail, BO that they ran whimpering among the puddles and ash-grey cane-grass tufts. A narrow M ream they would have crossed without hesitation, but the great swamp puzzled them. They waded out into its wan expanse, sniffed among the sedges. They came back to dry ground, whim- pering in their embarrassment.
The men came up and tried to urge thc dogs across. But the hounds were confused. Finally the men swore and gave up the chase-and the dogs snuffed and whimpered alone.
Then the leader, coasting a little far- ther into thc swamp, picked up a scent on a mud bar and gave tongue. Con- vinced that their quarry had crossed, they swept on!
At midnight Chut awoke from brief rest to hear them baying. He scrambled to his feet with panic-pitching heart.
Then he went on: faster than ever now, hut still with dignity.
He was still forging forward as a new dawn broke. But his chest was heaving desperately now, and he was not judging his distances quite so well, so that he bruised his feet upon thc tangled mulga beads. And the pack was coming closer.
Through the piare of noon Chut came out upon a long Bilver-grassed glade among the dead mulga treeB. His body had lost its spring. He was coming down heavily at the end ol each leap. As he reached thc farther end of the glade he looked back, and for the first time Baw Hie dogs ns they burst out of the distant limber! there were twelve of them. hip. heavy, half-bred hounds, their tongues lolling, their ryes glazed with thc ecstasy of pur-
suit and the strain of exhaustion.
At sight of their quarry they bruke into a new nole, and increased their ' reilinjj Fpeed. Running low, huddled
teether, they came down the glade, all thc force of their horeditr and their
training impelling them to drag down this thing which fled before them.
'"Boo-oo-ooo-ii-ii-ii!" Chut turned to
go on, but he itumbled ignominiously.
Tbrn ho wheeled with his back to a
forked tree, drew himself up to his regal height, and waited.
Tile dogs closed in with a rush, their jaws working, their pyes malevolent willi the impprsonftl fury of the chase.