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BlackEagle Girls

Chapter 12 - Have you ever been to Hedgeley Dene?

'No, you don't have to wear your uniforms for this outing to Hedgeley Dene,' said Rachael, admiring the two girls, who had decided to try on their navy blue skirts with the cream blouses and navy jackets for the umpteenth time since bringing them home some days before. 'I know you both look very smart, but having had a word on the phone to Miss Poe, she informs me that this morning's picnic is to be informal and casual wear is quite acceptable. You will be required to wear the uniform at the orientation day next Friday.'

'Gee Mum, did you actually use the telephone to ring somebody?' said Henry innocently, arriving and looking in at the bedroom door.

'Well yes I...Never you mind, Henry Black, off you go you cheeky little devil. You're supposed to knock when you come to the girls room, you know that. You might have barged in while they were in a state of undress. Where are your manners?'

'Hard to knock when the door's wide open,' said Henry, turning on his heel, 'besides I just might get lucky one day, and anyway KNOCK KNOCK!' he shouted over his shoulder.

'Who's there?' Priscilla called back.


'Martin who?'

'Martin from Martin, Bartin and Far...GO!' Came the reply, followed by a peal of laughter. Priscilla suppressed a giggle, Monique looked slightly unsure.

'He can be a crass little boy at times. I'm sure he gets it from his Father,' Rachael said, then smiling, she helped Monique out of her jacket, 'Oh I do like the colours, these soft gold hoops on the sleeves give the ensemble a rather...er...'

'Classy?' suggested Priscilla.

'What? Oh no, something more than that...Regal, perhaps...'

'Yes Mum, of course, regal, that's the word,' Priscilla nodded, just a little too enthusiastically, and caught Monique's broad grin half hidden by the brim of her hat.

'Now you both know what's expected of you,' said Mathew Black, as the two girls piled out of the car. 'Even though you're not in uniform yet, you are representing Hopewell Hall and I don't want to hear of any silly incidents. Do whatever the teachers tell you and remember to hang on to that car rug. Henry and I will be back before four o'clock...' he turned toward Henry, sitting beside him, now looking suitably forlorn...'after we get those attic steps sort...'

'Ah, good morning! How are we and who are we?' said a gay voice. The person bobbed into view as Mathew looked back over his shoulder. 'Girls, you would be? enquired the prim, slim man now standing beside the car, looking rather odd in ironed, pale blue denim jeans and a pink cotton shirt, almost as if the items had been specially bought for the occasion.

'I'm Priscilla Black and this is my friend...'

'Monique Bateleur...'

'And this is my Dad, Mathew Black and my Brother Henry,' finished Priscilla, rather breathlessly.

'Ah yes, Mister Black, very pleased to make your acquaintance, my name is Roger Dance, I am History teacher at Hopewell Hall.' Dance extended his hand and Mathew shook it, withdrawing his own with a slightly stunned look on his face, almost as if he had just shaken a recently expired mullet. 'I shall take both girls into my care now, Mister Black, rest assured that they will be looked after during this morning and afternoon's activities.'

'Yes, err...There are other teachers here?' Mathew queried, glancing about the broad sweep of the extended gardens.

'But of course,' replied Roger Dance. He smiled and looked about, 'Why over there is our Head, Miss Poe, and our English teacher, Donald Gannon, and in the distance I spy Barry Garland and Peter Brooks along with Jane Aderley, our librarian. We have the situation well in hand. You may get on with your days' activities and return this afternoon with the secure knowledge that the girls will have had a fulfilling experience amongst the First Years for Hopewell.'

'Thankyou, Mister Dance,' said Mathew, realizing that he was being dismissed, 'my son Louis, who has been an in-house pupil of Hopewell's last year told me that he has been well taken care of, in school.'

'Quite so,' Roger beamed. 'Come girls, and welcome to Hedgeley Dene, now the sausage sizzle is happening down there at the barbeques...'

'Looks like we're done here Dad,' said Henry, yawning. ' I s'pose you want to get the wood for the attic steps now?'

Mathew frowned, watching Priscilla and Monique wander off in company with Roger Dance. 'Yes Henry...But we'll be back...'

'WE'LL BE BAAACKK!' Henry droned in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation as the car slowly coasted away.

By midday the girls had been introduced to several of their teachers and some of the other First Year students and were happily biting into hamburgers and sausages wrapped in slices of fresh bread. 'What do you think of Mister Dance?' Priscilla asked, between mouthfuls.

Monique giggled and took a sip of orange juice through her straw. 'I bet he will not be dressed in those clothes at school, did you see the look on your Father's face when they shook hands?'

Priscilla nodded, 'Umm, like he'd just shaken hands with a baby's full nappy. Miss Poe seems alright, sort of a bit jolly for what I expected though. Probably underneath it she's more a tall, thin version of Granny Black.'

'If that is so, then she will have a kind heart,' Monique replied dreamily, her eyes drifting toward the tanned, well-built figure of the school's sports and physical education master Barry Garland, (in tight fitting shorts and tee shirt ) who was busy directing the incoming new students toward the food area.

'Five cents for your thoughts,' said Priscilla, following Monique's gaze.

'Oh, you know, I bet he's all the girl's...how do you say...pin-up boy?'

'Heart-throb for the older ones probably,' said Priscilla, smiling and munching away like mad.

Later that afternoon, when the gathering of several hundred was slowly beginning to disperse, the two girls were standing at an information sign near the little lake, looking at the map and reading the history of Hedgeley Dene.

'The Wurundjeri were using the water before European settlement. Wurundjeri? Wasn't that the first name of the house?' asked Monique.

'Yes, there are probably lots of houses in these areas that have aboriginal names like that. I guess they were the main tribe around here. Eighteen Seventy-four. And then Nineteen Hundred and Two it became a dairy farm for the Maidment family. Maidment's lakes...holes were used as water hazards for a golf club, gee...'

'And it was in Nineteen Twenty-four that Hedegley Dene Gardens were formed and one year later the lake-this lake behind us-was excavava...' Monique was cut short by a raised voice, then a sudden scream, followed by a splash.

Turning, the girls had a brief glimpse of a figure running through the bushes and trees at the left side of the lake where a tiny wooden bridge spanned a corner of it.

'Come on!' cried Priscilla, 'Let's take a look!'

The girls sprinted around the water's edge, ducks and other birds squawking and crowding together away from the ripples emerging from the overhanging screen of undergrowth at the lake edge. Running down a short path, the pair came to the area of the bridge.

'Whoever was here,' puffed Priscilla, 'has gone...'

'No, look!' said Monique aghast. 'In the water there!'

Without a second thought, both girls splashed in, sending even more furious ripples foaming out amidst a renewed cacophony of bird calls. In waist high water, they struggled to reach the small form, lying face down, and began to drag the bobbing body toward the bank.

'Here,' panted Monique, as they hauled the limp figure of a little girl up out of the lake, 'Priscilla, help me to turn her over! Do you know how to...'

'I'll do that!' said a sharp voice from above.

In a moment Barry Garland bent and lifted the child, then laid her down on dry ground and began to pump her lungs free of water. Priscilla and Monique dragged themselves out of the mire and flopped down, both breathing heavily from their efforts and streaming lake water from their sodden jeans. People were gathering around: other children, parents and teachers.

'This is no good! She's not responding!' shouted Garland between his frantic exertions. 'Get an ambulance! I think she might have hit her head on a stone!'

'Already happening,' said Sonia Poe with cool efficiency, leaning over Barry and looking closely at the white face of the child. 'Not one of our First Years...too young. Perhaps just a visitor today...'

'I think I've lost her!' sobbed Garland, administering mouth to mouth without any sign of life. 'Ohh, come on...come on! Come on, child, breath!'

'It was them! Those two girls there! They were holding her under!' said a shrill voice amongst the crowd. 'I saw them!'


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