Dot and the Kangaroo/Chapter IX

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The Kangaroo, hopping very weakly, and little Dot trudging over the oozy ground, followed the Bittern's directions and found the cave, which proved a very snug retreat. Here they lay down together, full of happiness at their escape, and being worn out with fatigue and excitement, they were soon fast asleep.

The next day, before the sun rose, the Bittern visited the cave. "Hullo, you precious lazy pair! I've been over there," and it tossed its beak in the direction of the Black's camp. "They're off northward. Too frightened to stay. I thought you might like the news brought you, since you're too lazy to get it for yourselves!" and off it went again without saying good-bye.

"Now isn't he a kind little fellow?" said the Kangaroo. "That's his way of telling us that we are safe."

"Thanks, Bittern! thanks!" they both cried, but the creamy brown bird paid no attention to their gratitude: it seemed absorbed in looking for frogs on its way.

All that day the Kangaroo and Dot stayed near the cave, so that the poor animal might get quite well again. The Kangaroo said she did not know that part of the country, and so she had better get her legs again before they faced fresh dangers. Neither of them was so bright and merry as before. The weather was showery, and Dot kept thinking that perhaps she would never get home, now she had been so long away, and she kept remembering the time when the little boy was lost and everyone's sadness.

The Kangaroo too seemed melancholy. "What makes you sad?" asked Dot.

"I am thinking of the last time before this that I was hunted. It was then I lost my baby Kangaroo," she replied.

"Oh! you poor dear thing!" exclaimed Dot, "and have you been hunted before last night?"

"Yes," said the Kangaroo with a little weary sigh. "It was just a few days before I found you. White Humans did it that time."

"Tell me all about it," said Dot, "how did you escape?"

The Bittern helps Dot

"I escaped then," said the Kangaroo, settling herself on her haunches to tell the tale, "in a way I could have done last night. But I will die sooner than do it again."

"Tell me," repeated Dot.

"There is not much to tell," said the Kangaroo. "My little Joey was getting quite big, and we were very happy. It was a lovely Joey. It was so strong, and could jump so well for its size. It had the blackest of little noses and hands and tail you ever saw, and big soft ears which heard more quickly than mine. All day long I taught it jumping, and we played and were merry from sunrise to sunset. Until that day I had never been sad, and I thought all the creatures must be wrong to say that in this beautiful world there could be such cruel beings as they said White Humans were. That day taught me I was wrong, and I know now that the world is a sad place because Humans make it so; although it was made to be a happy place. We were playing on the side of a plain that day, and our game was hide-and-seek in the long grass. We were having great fun, when suddenly little Joey said, 'Strange creatures are coming, big ones.'

"I hopped up the stony rise that fringed the plain, and thought as I did so I could hear a new sound on the breeze. Joey hid in the grass, but I went boldly into the open on the hillside to see where the danger was. I saw, far off, Humans on their big animals that go so quickly, and directly I hopped into the open, they raised a great noise like the Blacks did last night, and I could see by the movement in the grass that they had those dreadful dogs they teach to kill us: they are far worse than dingoes. Joey heard the shouting and bounded into my pouch, and I went off as fast as I could. It was a worse hunt than last night, for it was longer, and there was no darkness to help me. I gradually got ahead in the chase, and I knew if I were alone I could distance them all; for we had seen them a long way off. But little Joey was heavy, though not so heavy as you are, and in the long distance I began to feel weak, as I did last night.

"I knew if I tried to go on as we were, that those cruel Humans, sitting quietly on those big beasts (which have four legs and never get tired) would overtake us, and their dogs (which carry no weight and go so fast) would tear me down before their masters even arrived, for I was going gradually slower. So I asked Joey if I dropped him into a soft bush whether he would hide until I came back for him. It was our only chance. I had an idea that if I did that he would be safe—even if I got killed; as they would be more likely to follow me, and never think I had parted from my little Joey. So we did this, and I crossed a creek, which put the hounds off the scent, and I got away. In the dusk I came back again to find Joey, but he had gone, and I could not find a trace of him. All night and all day I searched, but I've never seen my Joey since," said the Kangaroo sadly, and Dot saw the tears dim her eyes.

Dot could not speak all she felt. She was so sorry for the Kangaroo, and so ashamed of being a Human. She realized too, how good and forgiving this dear animal was; how she had cared for her, and nearly died to save her life, in spite of the wrongs done to her by human beings.

"When I grow up," she said, "I will never let anyone hurt a bush creature. They shall all be happy where I am."

"But there are so many Humans. They're getting to be as many as Kangaroos," said the animal reflectively, and shook her head.