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CHAPTER II HUGH

THE boy sitting on the gate-post looked lonely. To be perched upon a gate-post is in the nature of things a solitary occupation, unless there is some one on the other post: and in this case not only was the second post untenanted, but no living thing was in sight. Behind him was a small house, half-hidden in a scrubby orchard where stunted apples clung among yellowing leaves. In front the road ran east and west: a bush road, very wide, the ribbon of rutty track winding snake-like among low gum-trees that hid the wire fence on the further side. Like everything else, the track was lonely.

The apple-orchard clothed the ridge on which the house stood—if so dreary a little orchard could be said to clothe anything. Beyond it the ground sloped gently down to a valley where a slender creek trickled among bowlders. At one place it had been laboriously widened to catch water enough to make a drinking-spot for cattle, since in summer the creek was apt to trickle away altogether. But no cattle were visible, although there were tracks in the soft

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