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   Chapter 21 GOOD-BYE, GOOD-BYE

An Australian Lassie By Lilian Turner Characters: 8100

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

All was ready very early in the morning, for Dot was to start upon her journey at ten o'clock.

The little school trunk and the family portmanteau stood side by side in the hall, labelled and ready to go forth-neat clean labels, bearing the inscription in Dot's best hand-writing-

Miss Bruce,

Passenger to Katoomba,

Blue Mountains."

A strange excitement was upon Dot. She had never before in her life been upon a railway journey.

The household generally, from her father down to little Nancy, treated her with gentle politeness as a newly arrived and just departing guest.

At breakfast the bread was handed to her without her once asking for it; Nancy watched her plate eagerly, that she did not run out of butter; Mary ran in with a nicely poached egg just at the right moment; Mrs. Bruce kept her cup replenished without once asking if it was empty.

"Don't do any view hunting or gully climbing alone," said Mr. Bruce. "It's the easiest thing in life to be lost in the bush. Besides, no girl should roam about alone."

"Oh, don't be too venturesome, darling!" said Mrs. Bruce. "Just think if you fell down one of those valleys or gaps or falls!"

Yet Dot had never been "too venturesome" in her life.

"A little more bread?" inquired Cyril; "don't bother to eat that crusty bit; we can, and I'll give you some fresh."

"More butter?" piped Nancy; then taking a leaf from Cyril's book-"Don't bover to eat it if it's nasty; we will. Have some jam astead."

And Betty, in the silence of her bedroom, was drinking cold water and eating dry bread, without any one asking solicitously "if she would have a little more, or leave that if she did not like it, and have something nicer."

"Yet I was trying to earn money for them all," she said aloud. "I won't try any more. Dot only spends it, but they love her more than me."

It was while these thoughts were busy in her mind that Dot ran down the passage and opened the door suddenly. Such a dainty pretty Dot, in her new blue muslin dress that almost reached to the ground, and fitted closely to her slender little figure, and a new white straw hat with a new white gossamer floating out behind waiting to be tied when the kisses were all given and taken.

The girl's face was like a tender blush rose; her eyes were shining with actual excitement (rare thing in placid Dot), and her hair hung down her back in a thick plait tied with blue ribbon.

It was the plait which caught Betty's attention.

"Oh!" she cried in disappointment, and then stopped, remembering the silence that had been imposed upon her.

Dot ran to her and kissed her.

"It's all right," she said. "You may talk to me. I asked mother, and she says yes until I go."

"I can't when you're gone," said Betty; but she brightened up very much.

And she thought it very kind of Dot to have asked her mother to break the rule of silence, if it were only for an hour.

"I thought you were going to wear your hair on the top of your head," she said, surveying Dot's plait somewhat contemptuously.

"Mother won't let me," said Dot; "she says sixteen's too young."

"Why sixteen is old," said Betty, "and you've left school."

"I know. And mother was married at sixteen. But she says she wants me to keep my girlhood a little longer than she kept hers."

"Hem," said Betty.

"I don't want to," said Dot, and added virtuously, "but we can't do just as we like even with our own hair."

"I shall," said Betty, and gave her morsel of a plait a convincing pull. "Wasn't my hair as long as yours once; and didn't I cut it off because I wanted to?"

Then Dot bethought her of the wisdom of sixteen, and the foolishness of twelve and a bit, and she slipped her arm as lovingly around her little sister as she was wont to do around any of her friends at Westmead House.

"Dear little Betty," she said, "promise me, you poor little thing, to be good all the time I am away."

But Betty, unused to caresses, slipped away.

"You always are away," she said. "I'll be as good as I wa

nt to. I wonder how good you'd be if suddenly you had to stay at home and wash up and dust."

The picture was quite unenticing to Dot. Wash up and dust and stay at home! She moved slowly to the door, feeling very sorry for Betty.

"I must go now," she said. "All this is just a finish up to my school time. Afterwards I shall have to stay at home and be eldest daughter while you have your time. Mother says you may come to the gate and see me off if you like."

But she was genuinely sorry for Betty all the way down the hall to the front door, and her heart gave her an unpleasant pang when Betty sprang after her and thrust a shilling into her hand.

"It's my own," whispered Betty; "take it; it will buy something; I earned it. Don't be afraid; I'll earn plenty more some day," and she ran away down the path to the gate.

"Dear little Betty," said Dot, and slipped the shilling into her purse. "I'll buy something for her with it."

They all came down to the gate to see the little traveller off.

Mr. Bruce wore his best suit-well brushed-because he was going to accompany his eldest daughter as far as Redfern station. As the others were saying good-bye to her, he occupied himself by counting his money, to make sure he had enough for a first-class return ticket for her, and the three half-sovereigns he had decided to slip into her purse before they reached the station.

Mrs. Bruce, slight and small almost as Dot herself, put Baby down on the brown-green grass at the gate, while she put a few quite unnecessary finishing touches to her eldest daughter.

"I went away from my home for a visit when I was sixteen," she said-"to Katoomba, too!" Then she took Dot into her arms and held her closely for a minute. "Come back to us the same little girl we are sending away," she said as she let her go.

Cyril was waiting on the bush track, with the home-made "go-cart" piled up with Dot's luggage. He had to push it to the corner of the road and help it on the coach.

He was very anxious to get home again, for he had heard a few words whispered pleadingly by Dot, then a whispered consultation between Mr. and Mrs. Bruce. He knew what it was about. Even before his father patted Betty's head and told her to start afresh from that minute, and his mother kissed her and said, "Be a good madcap Betty, and we'll commence now instead of to-morrow morning."

Whereat Cyril became anxious to get home again to discover his sister's plans for the day.

Nancy was crying and clinging to Dot's skirt.

"Be quick and come home again," she said. "You look so nice in that hat!"

Betty climbed over the gate instead of going through it.

"I'm going down to the road to wave my handkerchief to you," she said. "Oh, mother, will you lend me yours. Mine's gone."

When she reached the road corner, a dog-cart flashed by, almost upsetting Cyril's equilibrium as he laboured along the road.

In the dog-cart were Captain Carew and big John Brown. John looked steadily at the horse's head, fearing an explosion of wrath from his grandsire if he smiled at his fellow fortune-seeker. He, too, was going to the mountains for his holidays, preparation to commencing life at a Sydney Grammar School.

But the Captain himself looked at Betty, and his grim face smiled. And there are not many who can translate a smile, so that we may take it that he was not altogether displeased with the little singer.

Down the road went Dot, after her father and Cyril-a little maid fresh from school-dainty and fresh and crying gentle tears that would not hurt her eyes, and yet must come because of all these partings.

Perhaps we shall see her again some day when she comes back again to try to be an elder sister. Perhaps we shall see Betty, too, in her new position as one of the "young ladies" of Westmead House.

But just now she has climbed an old tree-stump, and is standing there bare-headed and waving her handkerchief to cry-"Good-bye, good-bye."

* * *

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London

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