Part 1 out of 2
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DOT AND THE KANGAROO
by Ethel C. Pedley
children of Australia
in the hope of enlisting their sympathies
for the many
beautiful, amiable, and frolicsome creatures
of their fair land,
whose extinction, through ruthless destruction,
is being surely accomplished
Little Dot had lost her way in the bush. She knew it, and was very
frightened. She was too frightened in fact to cry, but stood in the
middle of a little dry, bare space, looking around her at the scraggy
growths of prickly shrubs that had torn her little dress to rags,
scratched her bare legs and feet till they bled, and pricked her hands and
arms as she had pushed madly through the bushes, for hours, seeking her
home. Sometimes she looked up to the sky. But little of it could be seen
because of the great tall trees that seemed to her to be trying to reach
heaven with their far-off crooked branches. She could see little patches
of blue sky between the tangled tufts of her way in the and was very
drooping leaves, and, as the dazzling sunlight had faded, she began to
think it was getting late, and that very soon it would be night.
The thought of being lost and alone in the wild bush at night, took her
breath away with fear, and made her tired little legs tremble under her.
She gave up all hope of finding her home, and sat down at the foot of the
biggest blackbutt tree, with her face buried in her hands and knees, and
thought of all that had happened, and what might happen yet.
It seemed such a long, long time since her mother had told her that she
might gather some bush flowers while she cooked the dinner, and Dot
recollected how she was bid not to go out of sight of the cottage. How she
wished now she had remembered this sooner! But whilst she was picking the
pretty flowers, a hare suddenly started at her feet and sprang away into
the bush, and she had run after it. When she found that she could not
catch the hare, she discovered that she could no longer see the cottage.
After wandering for a while she got frightened and ran, and ran, little
knowing that she was going further away from her home at every step.
Where she was sitting under the blackbutt tree, she was miles away from her
father's selection, and it would be very difficult for anyone to find her.
She felt that she was a long way off, and she began to think of what was
happening at home. She remembered how, not very long ago, a neighbour's
little boy had been lost, and how his mother had come to their cottage for
help to find him, and that her father had ridden off on the big bay horse
to bring men from all the selections around to help in the search. She
remembered their coming back in the darkness; numbers of strange men she
had never seen before. Old men, young men, and boys, all on their
rough-coated horses, and how they came indoors, and what a noise they made
all talking together in their big deep voices. They looked terrible men,
so tall and brown and fierce, with their rough bristly beards; and they all
spoke in such funny tones to her, as if they were trying to make their
During many days, these men came and went, and every time they were more
sad, and less noisy. The little boy's mother used to come and stay,
crying, whilst the men were searching the bush for her little son. Then,
one evening, Dot's father came home alone, and both her mother and the
little boy's mother went away in a great hurry. Then, very late, her
mother came back crying, and her father sat smoking by the fire looking
very sad, and she never saw that little boy again, although he had been
She wondered now if all these rough, big men were riding into the bush to
find her, and if, after many days, they would find her, and no one ever see
her again. She seemed to see her mother crying, and her father very sad,
and all the men very solemn. These thoughts made her so miserable that she
began to cry herself.
Dot does not know how long she was sobbing in loneliness and fear, with her
head on her knees, and with her little hands covering her eyes so as not to
see the cruel wild bush in which she was lost. It seemed a long time
before she summoned up courage to uncover her weeping eyes, and look once
more at the bare, dry earth, and the wilderness of scrub and trees that
seemed to close her in as if she were in a prison. When she did look up,
she was surprised to see that she was no longer alone. She forgot all her
trouble and fear in her astonishment at seeing a big grey Kangaroo
squatting quite close to her, in front of her.
What was most surprising was the fact that the Kangaroo evidently
understood that Dot was in trouble, and was sorry for her; for down the
animal's nice soft grey muzzle two tiny little tears were slowly trickling.
When Dot looked up at it with wonder in her round blue eyes, the Kangaroo
did not jump away, but remained gazing sympathetically at Dot with a
slightly puzzled air. Suddenly the big animal seemed to have an idea, and
it lightly hopped off into the scrub, where Dot could just see it bobbing
up and down as if it were hunting for something. Presently back came the
strange Kangaroo with a spray of berries in her funny black hands. They
were pretty berries. Some were green, some were red, some blue, and
others white. Dot was quite glad to take them when the Kangaroo offered
them to her; and as this friendly animal seemed to wish her to eat them,
she did so gladly, because she was beginning to feel hungry.
After she had eaten a few berries a very strange thing happened. While Dot
had been alone in the bush it had all seemed so dreadfully still. There
had been no sound but the gentle stir of a light, fitful breeze in the
far-away tree-tops. All around had been so quiet, that her loneliness had
seemed twenty times more lonely. Now, however, under the influence of
these small, sweet berries, Dot was surprised to hear voices everywhere.
At first it seemed like hearing sounds in a dream, they were so faint and
distant, but soon the talking grew nearer and nearer, louder and clearer,
until the whole bush seemed filled with talking.
They were all little voices, some indeed quite tiny whispers and squeaks,
but they were very numerous, and seemed to be everywhere. They came from
the earth, from the bushes, from the trees, and from the very air. The
little girl looked round to see where they came from, but everything looked
just the same. Hundreds of ants, of all kinds and sizes, were hurrying to
their nests; a few lizards were scuttling about amongst the dry twigs and
sparse grasses; there were some grasshoppers, and in the trees birds
fluttered to and fro. Then Dot knew that she was hearing, and
understanding, everything that was being said by all the insects and
creatures in the bush.
All this time the Kangaroo had been speaking, only Dot had been too
surprised to listen. But now the gentle, soft voice of the kind animal
caught her attention, and she found the Kangaroo was in the middle of
"I understood what was the matter with you at once," she was saying, "for
I feel just the same myself. I have been miserable, like you, ever since
I lost my baby Kangaroo. You also must have lost something. Tell me what
"I've lost my way," said Dot; rather wondering if the Kangaroo would
"Ah!" said the Kangaroo, quite delighted at her own cleverness, "I knew
you had lost something! Isn't it a dreadful feeling? You feel as if you
had no inside, don't you? And you're not inclined to eat anything--not
even the youngest grass. I have been like that ever since I lost my baby
Kangaroo. Now tell me," said the creature confidentially, "what your way
is like. I may be able to find it for you."
Dot found that she must explain what she meant by saying she had "lost
her way," and the Kangaroo was much interested.
"Well," said she, after listening to the little girl, "that is just like
you Humans; you are not fit for this country at all! Of course, if you
have only one home in one place, you must lose it! If you made your home
everywhere and anywhere, it would never be lost. Humans are no good in
our bush," she continued. "Just look at yourself now. How do you compare
with a Kangaroo? There is your ridiculous sham coat. Well, you have lost
bits of it all the way you have come to-day, and you're nearly left in
your bare skin. Now look at my coat. I've done ever so much more hopping
than you to-day, and you see I'm none the worse. I wonder why all your
fur grows upon the top of your head," she said reflectively, as she looked
curiously at Dot's long flaxen curls. "It's such a silly place to have
one's fur the thickest! You see, we have very little there; for we don't
want our heads made any hotter under the Australian sun. See how much
better off you would be, now that nearly all your sham coat is gone, if
that useless fur had been chopped into little, short lengths and spread
all over your poor bare body. I wonder why you Humans are made so badly,"
she ended, with a puzzled air.
Dot felt for a moment as if she ought to apologise for being so unfit for
the bush, and for having all the fur on the top of her head. But, somehow,
she had an idea that a little girl must be something better than a
kangaroo, although the Kangaroo certainly seemed a very superior person;
so she said nothing, but again began to eat the berries.
"You must not eat any more of these berries," said the Kangaroo, anxiously.
"Why?" asked Dot, "they are very nice, and I'm very hungry."
The Kangaroo gently took the spray out of Dot's hand, and threw it away.
"You see," she said, "if you eat too many of them, you'll know too much."
"One can't know too much," argued the little girl.
"Yes you can, though," said the Kangaroo, quickly. "If you eat too many
of those berries, you'll learn too much, and that gives you indigestion,
and then you become miserable. I don't want you to be miserable any more,
for I'm going to find your lost way."
The mention of finding her way reminded the little girl of her sad
position, which, in her wonder at talking with the Kangaroo, had been
quite forgotten for a little while. She became sad again; and seeing how
dim the light was getting, her thoughts went back to her parents. She
longed to be with them to be kissed and cuddled, and her blue eyes filled
"Your eyes just now remind me of two fringed violets, with the morning dew
on them, or after a shower," said the Kangaroo. "Why are you crying?"
"I was thinking," said Dot.
"Oh! don't think!" pleaded the Kangaroo; "I never do myself."
"I can't help it!" explained the little girl. "What do you do instead?"
"I always jump to conclusions," said the Kangaroo, and she promptly
bounded ten feet at one hop. Lightly springing back again to her position
in front of the child, she added, "and that's why I never have a headache."
"Dear Kangaroo," said Dot, "do you know where I can get some water? I'm
"Of course you are," said her friend; "everyone is at sundown. I'm
thirsty myself. But the nearest water-hole is a longish way off, so we
had better start at once."
Little Dot got up with an effort. After her long run and fatigue, she was
very stiff, and her little legs were so tired and weak, that after a few
steps she staggered and fell.
The Kangaroo looked at the child compassionately. "Poor little Human,"
she said, "your legs aren't much good, and, for the life of me, I don't
understand how you can expect to get along without a tail. The water-hole
is a good way off," she added, with a sigh, as she looked down at Dot,
lying on the ground, and she was very puzzled what to do. But suddenly
she brightened up. "I have an idea," she said joyfully. "Just step into
my pouch, and I'll hop you down to the water-hole in less time than it
takes a locust to shrill."
Timidly and carefully, Dot did the Kangaroo's bidding, and found herself
in the cosiest, softest little bag imaginable. The Kangaroo seemed
overjoyed when Dot was comfortably settled in her pouch. "I feel as if I
had my dear baby kangaroo again!" she exclaimed; and immediately she
bounded away through the tangled scrub, over stones and bushes, over dry
water-courses and great fallen trees. All Dot felt was a gentle rocking
motion, and a fresh breeze in her face, which made her so cheerful that
she sang this song:--
If you want to go quick,
I will tell you a trick
For the bush, where there isn't a train.
With a hulla-buloo,
Hail a big kangaroo--
But be sure that your weight she'll sustain--
Then with hop, and with skip,
She will take you a trip
With the speed of the very best steed;
And, this is a truth for which I can vouch,
There's no carriage can equal a kangaroo's pouch.
Oh! where is a friend so strong and true
As a dear big, bounding kangaroo?
"Good bye! Good bye!"
The lizards all cry,
Each drying its eyes with its tail.
The scared little grasshoppers wail.
"They're going express
To a distant address,"
Says the bandicoot, ready to scoot;
And your path is well cleared for your progress, I vouch,
When you ride through the bush in a kangaroo's pouch.
Oh! where is a friend so strong and true
As a dear big, bounding kangaroo?
"Away and away!"
You will certainly say,
"To the end of the furthest blue--
To the verge of the sky,
And the far hills high,
O take me with thee, kangaroo!
We will seek for the end,
Where the broad plains tend,
E'en as far as the evening star.
Why, the end of the world we can reach, I vouch,
Dear kangaroo, with me in your pouch."
Oh! where is a friend so strong and true
As a dear big, bounding kangaroo?
"That is a nice song of yours." said the Kangaroo, "and I like it very
much, but please stop singing now, as we are getting near the waterhole,
for it's not etiquette to make a noise near water at sundown."
Dot would have asked why everything must be so quiet; but as she peeped
out, she saw that the Kangaroo was making a very dangerous descent, and
she did not like to trouble her friend with questions just then. They
seemed to be going down to a great deep gully that looked almost like a
hole in the earth, the depth was so great, and the hills around came so
closely together. The way the Kangaroo was hopping was like going down
the side of a wall. Huge rocks were tumbled about here and there. Some
looked as if they would come rolling down upon them; and others appeared
as if a little jolt would send them crashing and tumbling into the
darkness below. Where the Kangaroo found room to land on its feet after
each bound puzzled Dot, for there seemed no foothold anywhere. It all
looked so dangerous to the little girl that she shut her eyes, so as not
to see the terrible places they bounded over, or rested on: she felt sure
that the Kangaroo must lose her balance, or hop just a little too far or a
little too near, and that they would fall together over the side of that
terrible wild cliff. At last she said:
"Oh, Kangaroo, shall we get safely to the bottom do you think?"
"I never think," said the Kangaroo, "but I know we shall. This is the
easiest way. If I went through the thick bush on the other side, I should
stand a chance of running my head against a tree at every leap, unless I
got a stiff neck with holding my head on one side looking out of one eye
all the time. My nose gets in the way when I look straight in front," she
explained. "Don't be afraid," she continued, "I know every jump of the
way. We kangaroos have gone this way ever since Australia began to have
kangaroos. Look here!" she said, pausing on a big boulder that hung right
over the gully, "we have made a history book for ourselves out of these
rocks; and so long as these rocks last, long long after the time when
there will be no more kangaroos, and no more humans, the sun, and the moon,
and the stars will look down upon what we have traced on these stones."
Dot peered out from her little refuge in the Kangaroo's pouch, and saw the
glow of the twilight sky reflected on the top of the boulder. The rough
surface of the stone shone with a beautiful polish like a looking glass,
for the rock had been rubbed for thousands of years by the soft feet and
tails of millions of Kangaroos: kangaroos that had hopped down that way
to get water. When Dot saw that, she didn't know why it all seemed solemn,
or why she felt such a very little girl. She was a little sad, and the
Kangaroo, after a short sigh, continued her way.
As they neared the bottom of the gully the Kangaroo became extremely
cautious. She no longer hopped in the open, but made her way with little
leaps through the thick scrub. She peeped out carefully before each
movement. Her long soft ears kept moving to catch every sound, and her
black sensitive little nose was constantly lifted, sniffing the air.
Every now and then she gave little backward starts, as if she were going
to retreat by the way she had come, and Dot, with her face pressed against
the Kangaroo's soft furry coat, could hear her heart beating so fast that
she knew she was very frightened.
They were not alone. Dot could hear whispers from unseen little creatures
everywhere in the scrub, and from birds in the trees. High up in the
branches were numbers of pigeons--sweet little Bronze-Wings; and above all
the other sounds she could hear their plaintive voices crying, "We're so
frightened! we're so frightened! so thirsty and so frightened! so thirsty
and so frightened!"
"Why don't they drink at the waterhole?" whispered Dot.
"Because they're frightened," was the answer.
"Frightened of what?" asked Dot.
"Humans!" said the Kangaroo, in frightened tones; and as she spoke she
reared up upon her long legs and tail, so that she stood at least six feet
high, and peeped over the bushes; her nose working all round, and her ears
"I think it's safe," she said, as she squatted down again.
"Friend Kangaroo," said a Bronze-Wing that had sidled out to the end of a
neighbouring branch, "you are so courageous, will you go first to the
water, and let us know if it is all safe? We haven't tasted a drop of
water for two days," she said, sadly, "and we're dying of thirst. Last
night, when we had waited for hours, to make certain there were no cruel
Humans about, we flew down for a drink--and we wanted, oh! so little, just
three little sips; but the terrible Humans, with their 'bang-bangs,'
murdered numbers of us. Then we flew back, and some were hurt and
bleeding, and died of their wounds, and none of us have dared to get a
drink since." Dot could see that the poor pigeon was suffering great
thirst, for its wings were drooping, and its poor dry beak was open.
The Kangaroo was very distressed at hearing the pigeon's story. "It is
dreadful for you pigeons," she said, "because you can only drink at
evening; we sometimes can quench our thirst in the day. I wish we could
do without water! The Humans know all the water-holes, and sooner or
later we all get murdered, or die of thirst. How cruel they are!"
Still the pigeons cried on, "we're so thirsty and so frightened;" and the
Bronze-Wing asked the Kangaroo to try again, if she could either smell or
hear a Human near the water-hole.
"I think we are safe," said the Kangaroo, having sniffed and listened as
before; "I will now try a nearer view."
The news soon spread that the Kangaroo was going to venture near the
water, to see if all was safe. The light was very dim, and there was a
general whisper that the attempt to get a drink of water should not be
left later; as some feared such foes as dingos and night birds, should
they venture into the open space at night. As the Kangaroo moved
stealthily forward, pushing aside the branches of the scrub, or standing
erect to peep here and there, there was absolute silence in the bush.
Even the pigeons ceased to say they were afraid, but hopped silently from
bough to bough, following the movements of the Kangaroo with eager little
eyes. The Brush Turkey and the Mound-Builder left their heaped-up nests
and joined the other thirsty creatures, and only by the crackling of the
dry scrub, or the falling of a few leaves, could one tell that so many
live creatures were together in that wild place.
Presently the Kangaroo had reached the last bushes of the scrub, behind
which she crouched.
"There's not a smell or a sound," she said. "Get out, Dot, and wait here
until I return, and the Bronze-Wings have had their drink; for, did they
see you, they would be too frightened to come down, and would have to wait
another night and day."
Dot got out of the pouch, and she was very sorry when she saw how terrified
her friend looked. She could see the fur on the Kangaroo's chest moving
with the frightened beating of her heart; and her beautiful brown eyes
looked wild and strange with fear.
Instantly, the Kangaroo leaped into the open. For a second she paused
erect, sniffing and listening, and then she hastened to the water. As she
stooped to drink, Dot heard a "whrr, whrr, whrr," and, like falling leaves,
down swept the Bronze-Wings. It was a wonderful sight. The water-hole
shone in the dim light, with the great black darkness of the trees
surrounding it, and from all parts came the thirsty creatures of the bush.
The Bronze-Wings were all together. Hundreds of little heads bobbed by
the edge of the pool, as the little bills were filled, and the precious
water was swallowed; then, together, a minute afterwards, "whrr, whrr,
whrr," up they flew, and in one great sweeping circle they regained their
tree tops. Like the bush creatures, Dot also was frightened, and running
to the water, hurriedly drank, and fled back to the shelter of the bush,
where the Kangaroo was waiting for her.
"Jump in!" said the Kangaroo, "it's never safe by the water," and, a
minute after, Dot was again in the cosy pouch, and was hurrying away, like
all the others, from the water where men are wont to camp, and kill with
their guns the poor creatures that come to drink.
That evening the Kangaroo tried to persuade Dot to eat some grass, but as
Dot said she had never eaten grass, it got some roots from a friendly
Bandicoot, which the little girl ate because she was hungry; but she
thought she wouldn't like to be a Bandicoot always to eat such food. Then
in a nice dry cave she nestled into the fur of the gentle Kangaroo, and
was so tired that she slept immediately.
She only woke up once. She had been dreaming that she was at home, and
was playing with the new little Calf that had come the day before she was
lost, and she couldn't remember, at first waking, what had happened, or
where she was. It was dark in the cave, and outside the bushes and trees
looked quite black--for there was but little light in that place from the
starry sky. It seemed terribly lonesome and wild. When the Kangaroo
spoke she remembered every thing, and they both sat up and talked a little.
"Mo-poke! mo-poke!" sang the Nightjar in the distance. "I wish the
Nightjar wouldn't make that noise when one wants to sleep," said the
Kangaroo. "It hasn't got any voice to speak of, and the tune is stupid.
It gives me the jim-jams, for it reminds me I've lost my baby Kangaroo.
There is something wrong about some birds that think themselves musical,"
she continued: "they are well behaved and considerate enough in the day,
but as soon as it is a nice, quiet, calm night, or a bit of a moon is in
the sky, they make night hideous to everyone within ear-shot--'Mo-poke!
mo-poke!' Oh! it gives me the blues!"
As the Kangaroo spoke she hopped to the front of the cave.
"I say, Nightjar," she said, "I'm a little sad to-night, please go and
"Ah!" said the Nightjar, "I'm so glad I've given you deliciously dismal
thoughts with my song! I'm a great artist, and can touch all hearts.
That is my mission in the world: when all the bush is quiet, and everyone
has time to be miserable, I make them more so--isn't it lovely to be like
"I'd rather you sang something cheerful," said the Kangaroo to herself,
but out loud she said, "I find it really too beautiful, it is more than I
can bear. Please go a little further off."
"Mo-poke! mo-poke!!" croaked the Nightjar, further and further in the
distance, as it flew away.
"What a pity!" said the Kangaroo, as she returned to the cave, "the
Possum made that unlucky joke of telling the Nightjar it has a touching
voice, and can sing: everyone has to suffer for that joke of the Possum's.
It doesn't matter to him, for he is awake all night, but it is too bad for
his neighbours who want to sleep."
Just then there arose from the bush a shrill walling and shrieking that
made Dot's heart stop with fear. It sounded terrible, as if something was
wailing in great pain and suffering.
"Oh Kangaroo!" she cried, "what is the matter?" "That," said the Kangaroo,
as she laid herself down to rest, "is the sound of the Curlew enjoying
itself. They are sociable birds, and entertain a great deal. There is a
party to-night, I suppose, and that is the expression of their enjoyment.
I believe," she continued, with a suppressed yawn, "it's not so painful as
it sounds. Willy Wagtail, who goes a great deal amongst Humans, says they
do that sort of thing also; he has often heard them when he lived near
Dot had never been in the town, but she was certain she had never heard
anything like the Curlew's wailing in her home; and she wondered what
Willy Wagtail meant, but she was too sleepy to ask: so she nestled a
little closer to the Kangaroo, and with the shrieking of the Curlews, and
the mournful note of the distant Mo-poke in her ears, she fell asleep again.
When Dot awoke, she did so with a start of fear. Something in her sleep
had seemed to tell her that she was in danger. At a first glance she saw
that the Kangaroo had left her, and coiled upon her body was a young black
Snake. Before Dot could move, she heard a voice from a tree, outside the
cave, say, very softly, "Don't be afraid! Keep quite still, and you will
not get hurt. Presently I'll kill that Snake. If I tried to do so now it
might bite you; so let it sleep on."
She looked up in the direction of the tree, and saw a big Kookooburra
perched on a bough, with all the creamy feathers of its breast fluffed
out, and its crest very high. The Kookooburra is one of the jolliest
birds in the bush, and is always cracking jokes, and laughing, but this
one was keeping as quiet as he could. Still he could not be quite serious,
and a smile played all round his huge beak. Dot could see that he was
nearly bursting with suppressed laughter. He kept on saying, under his
breath, "what a joke this is! What a capital joke! How they'll all laugh
when I tell them." Just as if it was the funniest thing in the world to
have a Snake coiled up on one's body--when the horrid thing might bite one
with its poisonous fangs, at any moment!
Dot said she didn't see any joke, and it was no laughing matter.
"To be sure YOU don't see the joke," said the jovial bird. "On-lookers
always see the jokes, and I'm an on-looker. It's not to be expected of
you, because you're not an on-looker;" and he shook with suppressed
"Where is my dear Kangaroo?" asked Dot.
"She has gone to get you some berries for breakfast," said the Kookooburra,
"and she asked me to look after you, and that's why I'm here. That Snake
got on you whilst I flew away to consult my doctor, the White Owl, about
the terrible indigestion I have. He's very difficult to catch awake; for
he's out all night and sleepy all day. He says cockchafers have caused it.
The horny wing-cases and legs are most indigestible, he assures me.
I didn't fancy them much when I ate them last night, so I took his advice
and coughed them up, and I'm no longer feeling depressed. Take my advice,
and don't eat cockchafers, little Human."
Dot did not really hear all this, nor heed the excellent advice of the
Kookooburra, not to eat those hard green beetles that had disagreed with
it, for a little shivering movement had gone through the Snake, and
presently all the scales of its shining black back and rosy underpart
began to move. Dot felt quite sick, as she saw the reptile begin to
uncoil itself, as it lay upon her. She hardly dared to breathe, but lay
as still as if she were dead, so as not to frighten or anger the horrid
creature, which presently seemed to slip like a slimy cord over her bare
little legs, and wriggled away to the entrance of the cave.
With a quick, delighted movement, she sat up, eager to see where the
deadly Snake would go. It was very drowsy, having slept heavily on Dot's
warm little body; so it went slowly towards the bush, to get some frogs
or birds for breakfast. But as it wriggled into the warm morning sunlight
outside, Dot saw a sight that made her clap her hands together with
anxiety for the life of the jolly Kookooburra.
No sooner did the black Snake get outside the cave, than she saw the
Kookooburra fall like a stone from its branch, right on top of the Snake.
For a second, Dot thought the bird must have tumbled down dead, it was
such a sudden fall; but a moment later she saw it flutter on the ground,
in battle with the poisonous reptile, whilst the Snake wriggled, and
coiled its body into hoops and rings. The Kookooburra's strong wings,
beating the air just above the writhing Snake, made a great noise, and the
serpent hissed in its fierce hatred and anger. Then Dot saw that the
Kookooburra's big beak had a firm hold of the Snake by the back of the
neck, and that it was trying to fly upwards with its enemy. In vain the
dreadful creature tried to bite the gallant bird; in vain it hissed and
stuck out its wicked little spiky tongue; in vain it tried to coil itself
round the bird's body; the Kookooburra was too strong and too clever to
lose its hold, or to let the Snake get power over it.
At last Dot saw that the Snake was getting weak, for, little by little,
the Kookooburra was able to rise higher with it, until it reached the
high bough. All the time the Snake was held in the bird's beak, writhing
and coiling in agony; for he knew that the Kookooburra had won the battle.
But, when the noble bird had reached its perch, it did a strange thing;
for it dropped the Snake right down to the ground. Then it flew down
again, and brought the reptile back to the bough, and dropped it once
more--and this it did many times. Each time the Snake moved less and
less, for its back was being broken by these falls. At last the
Kookooburra flew up with its victim for the last time, and, holding it on
the branch with its foot, beat the serpent's head with its great strong
beak. Dot could hear the blows fall,--whack, whack, whack,--as the beak
smote the Snake's head; first on one side, then on the other, until it lay
limp and dead across the bough.
"Ah! ah! ah! Ah! ah! ah!" laughed the Kookooburra, and said to Dot, "Did
you see all that? Wasn't it a joke? What a capital joke! Ha! ha! ha!
ha! ha! Oh! oh! oh! How my sides do ache! What a joke! How they'll
laugh when I tell them." Then came a great flight of kookooburras, for
they had heard the laughter, and all wanted to know what the joke was.
Proudly the Kookooburra told them all about the Snake sleeping on Dot,
and the great fight! All the time, first one kookooburra, and then
another, chuckled over the story, and when it came to an end every bird
dropped its wings, cocked up its tail, and throwing back its head, opened
its great beak, and laughed uproariously together. Dot was nearly
deafened with the noise; for some chuckled, some cackled; some said,
"Ha! ha! ha!" others said, "Oh! oh! oh!" and as soon as one left off,
another began, until it seemed as though they couldn't stop. They all
said it was a splendid joke, and that they really must go and tell it to
the whole bush. So they flew away, and far and near, for hours, the bush
echoed with chuckling and cackling, and wild bursts of laughter, as the
kookooburras told that grand joke everywhere.
"Now," said the Kookooburra, when all the others had gone, "a bit of snake
is just the right thing for breakfast. Will you have some, little Human?"
Dot shuddered at the idea of eating snake for breakfast, and the Kookooburra
thought she was afraid of being poisoned.
"It won't hurt you," he said, kindly, "I took care that it did not bite
itself. Sometimes they do that when they are dying, and then they're not
good to eat. But this snake is all right, and won't disagree like
cockchafers: the scales are quite soft and digestible," he added.
But Dot said she would rather wait for the berries the Kangaroo was
bringing, so the Kookooburra remarked that if she would excuse it he would
like to begin breakfast at once, as the fight had made him hungry. Then
Dot saw him hold the reptile on the branch with his foot, whilst he took
its tail into his beak, and proceeded to swallow it in a leisurely way.
In fact the Kookooburra was so slow that very little of the snake had
disappeared when the Kangaroo returned.
The Kangaroo had brought a pouch full of berries, and in her hand a small
spray of the magic ones, by eating which Dot was able to understand the
talk of all the bush creatures. All the time she was wandering in the
bush the Kangaroo gave her some of these to eat daily, and Dot soon found
that the effect of these strange berries only lasted until the next day.
The Kangaroo emptied out her pouch, and Dot found quite a large collection
of roots, buds, and berries, which she ate with good appetite.
The Kangaroo watched her eating with a look of quiet satisfaction.
"See," she said, "how easily one can live in the bush without hurting
anyone; and yet Humans live by murdering creatures and devouring them.
If they are lost in the scrub they die, because they know no other way to
live than that cruel one of destroying us all. Humans have become so
cruel that they kill, and kill, not even for food, but for the love of
murdering. I often wonder," she said, "why they and the dingos are
allowed to live on this beautiful kind earth. The black Humans kill and
devour us; but they, even, are not so terrible as the Whites, who delight
in taking our lives, and torturing us just as an amusement. Every creature
in the bush weeps that they should have come to take the beautiful bush
away from us."
Dot saw that the sad brown eyes of the Kangaroo were full of tears, and
she cried too, as she thought of all that the poor animals and birds
suffer at the hands of white men. "Dear Kangaroo," she said, "if I ever
get home, I'll tell everyone of how you unhappy creatures live in fear,
and suffer, and ask them not to kill you poor things any more."
But the Kangaroo sadly shook her head, and said, "White Humans are cruel,
and love to murder. We must all die. But about your lost way," she
continued in a brisk tone, by way of changing this painful subject; "I've
been asking about it, and no one has seen it anywhere. Of course someone
must know where it is, but the difficulty is to find the right one to ask."
Then she dropped her voice, and came a little, nearer to Dot, and stooping
down until her little black hands hung close to the ground, she whispered
in Dot's ear, "They say I ought to consult the Platypus."
"Could the Platypus help, do you think?" Dot asked.
"I NEVER think," said the Kangaroo, "but as the Platypus never goes
anywhere, never associates with any other creature, and is hardly ever
seen, I conclude it knows everything--it must, you know."
"Of course," said Dot, with some doubt in her tone.
"The only thing is," continued the Kangaroo, once more sitting up and
pensively scratching her nose. "The only thing is, I can't bear the
Platypus; the sight of it gives me the creeps: it's such a queer creature!"
"I've never seen a Platypus," said Dot, "do tell me what it is like!"
"I couldn't describe it," said the Kangaroo, with a shudder, "it seems
made up of parts of two or three different sorts of creatures. None of us
can account for it. It must have been an experiment, when all the rest of
us were made; or else it was made up of the odds and ends of the birds and
beasts that were left over after we were all finished."
Little Dot clapped her hands. "Oh, dear Kangaroo," she said, "do take me
to see the Platypus! there was nothing like that in my Noah's ark."
"I should say not!" remarked the Kangaroo. "The animals in the ark said
they were each to be of its kind, and every sort of bird and beast refused
to admit the Platypus, because it was of so many kinds; and at last Noah
turned it out to swim for itself, because there was such a row. That's
why the Platypus is so secluded. Ever since then no Platypus is friendly
with any other creature, and no animal or bird is more than just polite
to it. They couldn't be, you see, because of that trouble in the ark."
"But that was so long ago," said Dot, filled with compassion for the
lonely Platypus; "and, after all, this is not the same Platypus, nor are
all the bush creatures the same now as then."
"No," returned the Kangaroo, "and some say there was no ark, and no fuss
over the matter, but that, of course, doesn't make any difference, for
it's a very ancient quarrel, so it must be kept up. But if we are to go
to the Platypus we had better start now; it is a good time to see it--so
come along, little Dot," said the Kangaroo.
"Good-bye, Kookooburra!" cried Dot, as they left the cave; and the bird
gave her a nod of the head, followed by a wink, which was supposed to mean
hearty good-will at parting. He would have spoken, only he had swallowed
part of the Snake, and the rest hung out of the side of his beak, like an
old man's pipe; so he couldn't speak. It wouldn't have been polite to do
so with his beak full.
Dot was so rested by her sleep all night that she did not ride in the
Kangaroo's pouch; but they proceeded together, she walking, and her friend
making as small hops as she could, so as not to get too far ahead. This
was very difficult for the Kangaroo, because even the smallest hops
carried her far in front. After a time they arranged that the friendly
animal should hop a few yards, then wait for Dot to catch her up, and then
go on again. This she did, nibbling bits of grass as she waited, or
playing a little game of hide-and-seek behind the bushes.
Sometimes, when she hid like this, little Dot would be afraid that she had
lost her Kangaroo, and would run here and there, hunting round trees, and
clusters of ferns, until she felt quite certain she had lost the kind
animal; when suddenly, clean over a big bush, the Kangaroo would bound
into view, landing right in front of her. Then Dot would laugh, and rush
forward, and throw her arms around her friend; and the Kangaroo, with a
quiet smile, would rub her little head against Dot's curls, and they were
both very happy. So, although it was really a long and rough way to the
little creek where the Platypus lived, it did not seem at all far.
The stream ran at the bottom of a deep gully, that had high rocky sides,
with strangely shaped trees growing between the rocks. But, by the stream,
Dot thought they must be in fairyland; it was so beautiful. In the dark
hollows of the rocks were wonderful ferns; such delicate ones that the
little girl was afraid to touch them. They were so tender and green that
they could only grow far away from the sun, and as she peeped into the
hollows and caves where they grew, it seemed as if she was being shown the
secret store-house of Nature, where she kept all the most lovely plants,
out of sight of the world. A soft carpet seemed to spring under Dot's
feet, like a nice springy mattress, as she trotted along. She asked the
Kangaroo why the earth was so soft, and was told that it was not earth,
but the dead leaves of the tree-ferns above them, that had been falling
for such a long, long time, that no Kangaroo could remember the beginning.
Then Dot looked up, and saw that there was no sky to be seen, or tops of
trees; for they were passing under a forest of tree-ferns, and their
lovely spreading fronds made a perfect green tent over their heads. The
sunlight that came through was green, as if you were in a house made of
green glass. All up the slender stems of these tall tree-ferns were the
most beautiful little plants, and many stems were twined, from the earth
to their feather-like fronds, with tender creeping ferns--the fronds of
which were so fine and close, that it seemed as if the tree-fern were
wrapped up in a lovely little fern coat. Even crumbling dead trees, and
decaying tree-ferns, did not look dead, because some beautiful moss, or
lichen, or little ferns had clung to them, and made them more beautiful
than when alive.
Dot kept crying out with pleasure at all she saw; especially when little
Parrakeets, with feathers as green as the ferns, and gorgeous red breasts,
came in flocks, and welcomed her to their favourite haunt; and, as she had
eaten the berries of understanding, and was the friend of the Kangaroo,
they were not frightened, but perched on her shoulders and hands, and
chatted their merry talk all together. The Kangaroo did not share Dot's
enthusiasm for the beauties of the gully. She said it was pretty,
certainly, but a bad place for Kangaroos, because there was no grass. For
her part, she didn't think any sight in nature so lovely as a big plain,
green with the little blades of new spring grass. The gully was very
showy, but not to her mind so beautiful as the other.
Then they came to a stream that gurgled melodiously as it rippled over
stones in its shallow course, or crept round big grey boulders that were
wrapped in thick mosses, in which were mingled flowers of the pink and red
wild fuchsia, or the creamy great blossoms of the rock lily. Dot ran down
the stream with bare feet, laughing as she paddled in and out among the
rocks and ferns, and the sun shone down on the gleaming foam of the water,
and made golden lights in Dot's wild curls. The Kangaroo, too, was very
merry, and bounded from rock to rock over the stream, showing what
wonderful things she could do in that way; and sometimes they paused, side
by side, and peeped down upon some still pool that showed their two
reflections as in a mirror; and that seemed so funny to Dot, that her
silvery laugh woke the silence in happy peals, until more green-and-red
Parrakeets flew out of the bush to join in the fun.
When they had followed the stream some distance, the gully opened out into
bush scrub. The little Parrakeets then said "Good-bye," and flew back to
their favourite tree-ferns and bush growth; and the Kangaroo said, that as
they were nearing the home of the Platypus, they must not play in the
stream any more; to do so might warn the creature of their approach and
frighten it. "We shall have to be very careful," she said, "so that the
Platypus will neither hear nor smell you. We will therefore walk on the
opposite shore, as the wind will then blow away from its home."
The stream no longer chattered over rocky beds, but slid between soft
banks of earth, under tufts of tall rushes, grasses, and ferns, and soon
it opened into a broad pool, which was smooth as glass. The clouds in the
sky, the tall surrounding trees, and the graceful ferns and rushes of the
banks, were all reflected in the water, so that it looked to Dot like a
strange upside-down picture. This, then, was the home of that wonderful
animal; and Dot felt quite frightened, because she thought she was going
to see something terrible.
At the Kangaroo's bidding, she hid a little way from the edge of the pool,
but she was able to see all that happened.
The Kangaroo evidently did not enjoy the prospect of conversing with the
Platypus. She kept on fidgeting about, putting off calling to the Platypus
by one excuse and another: she was decidedly ill at ease.
"Are you frightened of the Platypus?" asked Dot.
"Dear me, no!" replied the Kangaroo, "but I'd rather have a talk with any
other bush creature. First of all, the sight of it makes me so
uncomfortable, that I want to hop away the instant I set eyes upon it.
Then, too, it's so difficult to be polite to the Platypus, because one
never knows how to behave towards it. If you treat it as an animal, you
offend its bird nature, and if you treat it as a bird, the animal in it is
mighty indignant. One never knows where one is with a creature that is
two creatures," said the Kangaroo.
Dot was so sorry for the perplexity of her friend, that she suggested that
they should not consult the Platypus. But the Kangaroo said it must be
done, because no one in the bush was so learned. Being such a strange
creature, and living in such seclusion, and being so difficult to approach
was a proof that it was the right adviser to seek. So, with a half
desperate air, the Kangaroo left the little girl, and went down to the
Pausing a moment, she made a strange little noise that was something
between a grunt and a hiss: and she repeated this many times. At last
Dot saw what looked like a bit of black stick, just above the surface of
the pool, coming towards their side, and, as it moved forward, leaving two
little silvery ripples that widened out behind it on the smooth waters.
Presently the black stick, which was the bill of the Platypus, reached the
bank, and the strangest little creature climbed into view. Dot had
expected to see something big and hideous; but here was quite a small
object after all! It seemed quite ridiculous that the great Kangaroo
should be evidently discomposed by the sight.
Dot could not hear what the Kangaroo said, but she saw the Platypus
hurriedly prepare to regain the water. It began to stumble clumsily down
the bank. The Kangaroo then raised her voice in pleading accents.
"But," she said, "it's such a little Human! I have treated it like my baby
Kangaroo, and have carried it in my pouch."
This information seemed to arrest the movements of the Platypus; it had
reached the water's edge, but it paused, and turned.
"I tell you," it said in a high-pitched and irritable voice, "that all
Humans are alike! They all come here to interview me for the same purpose,
and I'm resolved it shall not happen again; I have been insulted enough by
"I assure you," urged the Kangaroo, "that she will not annoy you in that
way. She wouldn't think of doing such a thing to any animal."
As the Kangaroo called the Platypus an animal, Dot saw at once that it was
offended, and in a great huff it turned towards the pool again. "I beg
your pardon," said the Kangaroo nervously. "I didn't mean an altogether
animal, or even a bird, but any a--a--a----." She seemed puzzled how to
speak of the Platypus, when the strange creature, seeing the well-meaning
embarrassment of the Kangaroo, said affably, "any mammal or Ornithorhynchus
"Exactly," said the Kangaroo, brightening up, although she hadn't the
least idea what a mammal was.
"Well, bring the little Human here," said the Platypus in a more friendly
tone, "and if I feel quite sure on that point I will permit an interview."
Two bounds brought the Kangaroo to where Dot was hidden. She seemed
anxious that the child should make a good impression on the Platypus, and
tried with the long claws on her little black hands to comb through Dot's
long gleaming curls; but they were so tangled that the child called out at
this awkward method of hairdressing, and the Kangaroo stopped. She then
licked a black smudge off Dot's forehead, which was all she could to tidy
her. Then she started back with a hop, and eyed the child with her head
on one side. She was not quite satisfied. "Ah!" she said, "if only you
were a baby Kangaroo I could make you look so nice! But I can't do
anything to your sham coat, which gets worse every day, and your fur is
all wrong, for one can't get one's claws through it. You Humans are no
good in the bush!"
"Never mind, dear Kangaroo," said the little girl; "when I get home mother
will put me on a new frock, and will get the tangles out of my hair. Let
us go to the Platypus now."
The Kangaroo felt sad as Dot spoke of returning home, for she had become
really fond of the little Human. She began to feel that she would be
lonely when they parted. However, she did not speak of what was in her
mind, but bounded back to the Platypus to wait for Dot.
When the little girl reached the pool, she was still more surprised, on a
nearer view of the Platypus, that the Kangaroo should think so much of it.
At her feet she beheld a creature like a shapeless bit of wet matted fur.
She thought it looked like an empty fur bag that had been fished out of
the water. Projecting from the head, that seemed much nearer to the
ground than the back, was a broad duck's bill, of a dirty grey colour;
and peeping out underneath were two fore feet that were like a duck's also.
Altogether it was such a funny object that she was inclined to laugh, only
the Kangaroo looked so serious, that she tried to look serious too, as if
there was nothing strange in the appearance of the Platypus.
"I am the Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus!" said the Platypus pompously.
"I am Dot," said the little girl.
"Now we know one another's names," said the Platypus, with satisfaction.
"If the Kangaroo had introduced us, it would have stumbled over my name,
and mumbled yours, and we should have been none the wiser. Now tell me,
little Human, are you going to write a book about me? Because, if you
are, I'm off. I can't stand any more books being written about me; I've
been annoyed enough that way."
"I couldn't write a book," said Dot, with surprise inwardly wondering what
anyone could find to make a book of, out of such a small, ugly creature.
"You're quite sure?" asked the Platypus, doubtfully, and evidently more
than half inclined to dive into the pool.
"Quite," said Dot.
"Then I'll try to believe you," said the Platypus, clumsily waddling
towards some grass, amongst which it settled itself comfortably. "But
it's very difficult to believe you Humans, for you tell such dreadful
fibs," it continued, as it squirted some dirty water out of the bag that
surrounded its bill, and swallowed some water beetles, small snails and
mud that it had stored there. "See, for instance, the way you have all
quarrelled and lied about me! First one great Human, the biggest fool of
all, said I wasn't a live creature at all, but a joke another Human had
played upon him. Then they squabbled together one saying I was a Beaver;
another, that I was a Duck; another, that I was a Mole, or a Rat. Then
they argued whether I was a bird, or an animal, or if we laid eggs, or
not; and everyone wrote a book, full of lies, all out of his head.
"That's the way Humans amuse themselves. They write books about things
they don't understand, and keep the game going by each new book saying the
others are all wrong. It's a silly game, and very insulting to the
creatures they write about. Humans at the other end of the world, who,
never took the trouble to come here to see me, wrote books about me.
Those who did come were more impudent than those who stayed away. Their
idea of learning all about a creature was to dig up its home, and frighten
it out of its wits, and kill it; and after a few moons of that sort of
foolery they claimed to know all about us. Us! whose ancestors knew the
world millions of years before the ignorant Humans came on the earth at
all!" The Platypus spluttered out more dirty water, in its indignation.
The Kangaroo became very timid, as it saw the rising anger of the Platypus,
and whispered to Dot to say something to calm the little creature.
"A million years is a very long time," said Dot; unable at the moment to
think of anything better to say. But this remark angered the Platypus
more, for it seemed to suspect Dot of doubting what it said.
It clambered up into a more erect position, and its little brown eyes
became quite fiery.
"I didn't say a million; I said millions! I can prove by a bone in my body
that my ancestors were the Amphitherium, the Amphilestes, the
Phascolotherium, and the Stereognathus!" almost shrieked the little
Dot didn't understand what all these words meant, and looked at the
Kangaroo for an explanation; but she saw that the Kangaroo didn't
understand either, only she was trying to hide her ignorance by a calm
appearance, while she nibbled the end of a long grass she held in her fore
paw. But Dot noticed, by the slight trembling of the little black paw,
that the Kangaroo was very nervous. She thought she would try and say
something to please Platypus; so she asked, very kindly, if the bone ever
hurt it. But this strange creature did not seem to notice the remark.
Settling itself more comfortably amongst the grass, it muttered in calmer
tones, "I trace my ancestry back to the oolite age. Where does man
"I don't know," said Dot.
"Of course you don't replied the Platypus, contemptuously, Humans are so
ignorant! That's because they are so new. When they have existed a few
more million years, they will be more like us of old families; they will
respect quiet, exclusive living, like that of the Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus,
and will not be so inquisitive, pushing, and dangerous as now. The age
will come when they will understand, and will cease to write books, and
there will be peace for everyone."
The Kangaroo now thought it a good opportunity to change the subject, and
gently introduced the topic of Dot's lost way, saying how she had found
the little girl, and had taken care of her ever since.
The Platypus did not seem interested, and yawned more than once whilst the
"The question is," concluded the Kangaroo, "whom shall I ask to find it?
Someone must know where it is."
"Of course," said the Platypus, yawning again, without so much as putting
its web foot in front of its bill, which Dot thought very rude, or else
very ancient manners. "Little Human," it said, "tell me what kind of bush
creatures come about your burrow."
"We live in a cottage," she said, but seeing that the Platypus did not
like to be corrected, and that the Kangaroo looked quite shocked at her
doing so, she hurriedly described the creatures she had seen there. She
said there were Crickets, Grasshoppers, Mice, Lizards, Swallows, Opossums,
Flying Foxes, Kookooburras, Magpies, and Shepherd's Companions----
"Stop!" interrupted the Platypus, with a wave of its web foot; "that is
the right one."
"Who?" asked the Kangaroo and Dot anxiously, together.
"The bird you call Shepherd's Companion. Some of you call it Rickety Dick,
or Willy Wagtail." Turning to the Kangaroo especially, it continued,
"If you can bring yourself to speak to anything so obtrusive and gossiping,
without any ancestry or manners whatever, you will be able to learn all
you need from that bird. Humans and Wagtails fraternise together.
They're both post-glacial."
"I knew you could advise me," said the Kangaroo gratefully.
"Oh! Platypus, how clever you are!" cried Dot, clapping her hands.
Directly Dot had spoken she saw that she had offended the queer little
creature before her. It raised itself with an air of offended dignity
that was unmistakable.
"The name Platypus is insulting," it remarked, looking at the child
severely, "it means BROAD-FOOTED, a vulgar pseudonym which could only have
emanated from the brutally coarse expressions of a Human. My name is
Ornithorhyncus Paradoxus. Besides, even if my front feet can expand, they
can also contract; see! as narrow and refined as a bird's claw. Observe,
too, that my hind feet are narrow, and like a seal's fin, though it has
been described as a mole's foot."
As the Platypus spoke, and thrust out its strangely different feet, the
Kangaroo edged a little closer to Dot and whispered in her ear. "It's
getting angry, and is beginning to use long words; do be careful what you
say or it will be terrible!"
"I beg your pardon," said Dot; "I did not wish to hurt your feelings,
"ORNITHORHYNCHUS Paradoxus, if you please," insisted the little creature.
"How would you like it if your name was Jones-Smith-Jones, and I called
you one Jones, or one Smith, and did not say both the Joneses and the
Smiths? You have no idea how sensitive our race is. You Humans have no
feelings at all compared with ours. Why, my fifth pair of nerves are
larger than a man's! Humans get on my nerves dreadfully!" it ended in
"She did not mean to hurt you," said the gentle Kangaroo, soothingly.
"Is there anything we can do to make you feel comfortable again?"
"There is nothing you can do," Sighed the Platypus, now mournful and
depressed. "I must sing. Only music can quiet my nerves. I will sing a
little threnody composed by myself, about the good old days of this world
before the Flood." And as it spoke, the Platypus moved into an upright
position amongst the tussock grass, and after a little cough opened its
bill to sing.
The Kangaroo kept very close to Dot, and warned her to be very attentive
to the song, and not to interrupt it on any account. Almost before the
Kangaroo had ceased to whisper in her ear, Dot heard this strange song,
sung to the most peculiar tune she had ever heard, and in the funniest of
little squeaky voices.
The fairest Iguanodon reposed upon the shore
Extended lay her beauteous form, a hundred feet and more.
The sun, with rays flammivomous, beat on the blue-black sand;
And sportive little Saurians disported on the strand
But oft the Iguanodon reproved them in their glee,
And said, "Alas! this Saurian Age is not what it should be!"
Then, forth from that archaic sea, the Ichthyosaurus
Uprose upon his finny wings, with neocomian fuss,
"Oh, Iguanodon!" he cried, as he approached the shore,
"Why art thou thus dysthynic, love? Come, rise with me, and soar,
Or leave these estuarian seas, and wander in the grove;
Behold! a bird-like reptile fish is dying for thy love!"
Then, through the dark coniferous grove they wandered side by side,
The tender Iguanodon and Ichthyosaurian bride
And through the enubilious air, the carboniferous breeze,
Awoke, with their amphibious sighs, the silence in the trees.
"To think," they cried, botaurus-toned, "when ages intervene,
Our osseous fossil forms will be in some museum seen!"
Bemoaning thus, by dumous path, they crushed the cycad's growth,
And many a crash, and thunder, marked the progress of them both.
And when they reached the estuary, the excandescent sun
Was setting o'er the hefted sea; their saurian day was done.
Then raised they paraseline eyes unto the flaming moon,
And wept--the Neocomian Age was passing all too soon!
Oh, Iguanodon! oh, earth! oh, Ichthyosaurus
Oh, Melanocephalous saurians! Oh! oh! oh!
(Here the Platypus was sobbing)
Oh, Troglyodites obscure--oh! oh!
At this point of the song, the poor Platypus, whose voice had trembled
with increasing emotion and sobbing in each verse, broke down, overcome by
the extreme sensitiveness of its fifth pair of nerves and the sadness of
its song, and wept in terrible grief.
The gentle Kangaroo was also deeply moved, seeing the Platypus in such
sorrow, and Dot mastered her aversion to touching cold, damp fur, and
stroked the little creature's head.
The Platypus seemed much soothed by their sympathy, but hurriedly bade
them farewell. It said it must try and restore its shattered fifth pair
of nerves by a few hydrophilus latipalpus beetles for lunch, and a sleep.
It wearily dragged itself down to the edge of the pool, and looked
backwards to the Kangaroo and Dot, who called out "Good-bye" to it. Its
eyes were dim with tears, for it was still thinking of the Iguanodon and
ichthyosaurus, and of the good old days before the Flood.
"It breaks my heart to think that they are all fossils," it exclaimed,
mournfully shaking its head. "Fossils!" it repeated, as it plunged into
the pool and swam away. "Fossils!" it cried once more, in far, faint
accents; and a second later it dived out of sight.
For several moments after the Platypus had disappeared from view, the
Kangaroo and Dot remained just as it had left them. Then Dot broke the
"Dear Kangaroo," said she, "what was that song about?"
"I don't know," said the animal wistfully, "no one ever knows what the
Platypus sings about."
"It was very sad," said Dot.
"Dreadfully sad!" sighed the Kangaroo; "but the Platypus is a most learned
and interesting creature," she added hastily. "Its conversation and songs
are most edifying; everyone in the bush admits it."
"Does anyone understand its conversation?" asked Dot. She was afraid she
must be very stupid, for she hadn't understood anything except that Willy
Wagtail could help them to find her way.
"That is the beauty of it all," said the Kangaroo, "the Platypus is so
learned and so instructive, that no one tries to understand it; it is not
expected that anyone should."
"Now we must find Willy Wagtail," said the Kangaroo. "The chances are
Click-i-ti-clack, his big cousin who lives in the bush, will be able to
tell us where to find him; for he doesn't care for the bush, and lives
almost entirely with Humans, and the queer creatures they have brought
into the country now-a-days. We may have to go a long way, so hop into my
pouch, and we will get on our way."
Once more Dot was in the kind Kangaroo's pouch. It was in the latter end
of autumn, and the air was so keen, that, as her torn little frock was now
very little protection to her against the cold, she was glad to be back in
that nice fur bag. She was used now to the springy bounding of the great
Kangaroo, and felt quite safe; so that she quite enjoyed the wonderful and
seemingly dangerous things the animal did in its great leaps and jumps.
With many rests and stops to eat berries or grass on their way, they
searched the bush for the rest of the day without finding the big bush
Wagtail. All kinds of creatures had seen him, or heard his strange
rattling, chattering song; but it always seemed that he had just flown off
a few minutes before they heard of him. It was most vexatious, and Dot
saw that another night must pass before they would be able to hear of her
home. She did not like to think of that, for she could picture to herself
all those great men, on their big rough horses, coming back to her
father's cottage that night, and how they would begin to be quiet and sad.
She thought it would not be half so bad to be lost, if people at home
could only know that one was safe and snug in a kind Kangaroo's pouch; but
she knew that her parents could never suppose that she was so well cared
for, and would only think that she was dying alone in the terrible
bush--dying for want of food and water, and from fear and exposure. How
strange it seemed that people should die like that in the bush, where so
many creatures lived well, and happily! But then they had not bush
friends to tell them what berries and roots to eat, and where to get
water, and to cuddle them up in a nice warm fur during the cold night. As
she thought of this she rubbed her face against the Kangaroo's soft coat,
and patted her with her little hands; and the affectionate animal was so
pleased at these caresses, that she jumped clean over a watercourse,
twenty feet at least, in one bound.
It was getting evening time, and the sun was setting with a beautiful rosy
colour, as they came upon a lovely scene. They had followed the
watercourse until it widened out into a great shallow creek beside a
grassy plain. As they emerged from the last scattered bushes and trees of
the forest, and hopped out into the open side of a range of hills, miles
and miles of grass country, with dim distant hills, stretched before them.
The great shining surface of the creek caught the rosy evening light, and
every pink cloudlet in the sky looked doubly beautiful reflected in the
water. Here and there out of the water arose giant skeleton trees, with
huge silver trunks and contorted dead branches. On these twisted limbs
were numbers of birds; Shag, blue and white Cranes, and black and white
Ibis with their bent bills. Slowly paddling on the creek, with graceful
movements, were twenty or thirty black Swans, and in and out of their
ranks, as they passed in stately procession, shot wild Ducks and Moor Hens,
like a flotilla of little boats amongst a fleet of big ships. All these
birds were watching a pretty sight that arrested Dot's attention at once.
By the margin of the creek, where tufted rushes and tall sedges shed their
graceful reflection on the pink waters, were a party of Native Companions
"In these times it is seldom we can see a sight like this," said the
Kangaroo. "The water is generally too unsafe for the birds to enjoy
themselves. It often means death to them to have a little pleasure."
As the Kangaroo spoke, one of the Native Companions caught sight of her,
and leaving the dance, opened her wings, and still making dainty steps
with her long legs, half danced and half flew to where the Kangaroo was
"Good evening, Kangaroo," she said, gracefully bowing; "will you not come
a little nearer to see the dance?" Then the Native Companion saw Dot in
the Kangaroo's pouch, and made a little spring of surprise. "Dear me!"
she said, "what have you in your pouch?"
"It's a Human," said the Kangaroo, apologetically; "it's quite a little,
harmless one. Let me introduce you."
So Dot alighted from the pouch, and joined in the conversation, and the
Native Companion was much interested in hearing her story.
"Do you dance?" asked the Native Companion, with a quick turn of her head,
on its long, graceful neck. Dot said that she loved dancing. So the
Native Companion took her down to the creek, and all the other Companions
stopped dancing and gathered round her, whilst she was introduced, and her
story told. Then they spread their wings, and with stately steps escorted
her to the edge of the water, whilst the Kangaroo sat a little way off,
and delightedly watched the proceedings.
Dot didn't understand any of the figures of the dance; but the scenery and
the pink sunset were so beautiful, and the Native Companions were so
elegant and gay, that Dot caught up her ragged little skirts in both hands
and followed their movements with her bare brown feet as best she could,
and enjoyed herself very much. To Dot, the eight birds that took part in
the entertainment were very tall and splendid, with their lovely grey
plumage and greeny heads, and she felt quite small as they gathered round
her sometimes, and enclosed her within their outspread wings. And how
beautiful their dancing was! How light their dainty steps as their feet
scarcely touched the earth; and what fantastic measures they
danced--advancing, retreating, circling round--with their beautiful wings
keeping the rhythm of their feet! There was one figure that Dot thought
the prettiest of all--when they danced in line at the margin of the water;
stepping, and bowing, and gracefully gyrating to their shadows, which were
reflected with the pink clouds of evening on the surface of the creek.
Dot was very sorry, and hot, and breathless, when the dance came to an end.
The sun had been gone a long time, and all the pink shades had slowly
turned to grey; the creek had lost its radiant colour, and looked like a
silver mirror, and so desolate and sombre, that no one could have imagined
it to have been the scene of so much gaiety shortly before.
Dot hastily returned to the Kangaroo, and all the Native Companions came
daintily, and made graceful adieus to them both. Afterwards, they spread
their great, soft wings, and, stretching their long legs behind them,
wheeled upwards to the darkening sky. Then all the birds in the bare
trees preened their feathers, and settled down for the night; and the
Kangaroo took her little Human charge back to the bush, where there was a
cosy sheltering rock, under which to pass the night. Here they lay down
together, with the stars peeping at them through the branches of the trees.
They had slept for a long time, as it seemed to Dot, when they were
awakened by a little voice saying,
"Wake up, Kangaroo! You are in danger. Get away, as soon as possible!"
The moon was shining fitfully, as it broke through swift flying clouds.
In the uncertain light, Dot could see a little creature near them, and
knew at once that it was an Opossum.
"What is the matter?" said the Kangaroo, softly. "Blacks!" said the
Opossum. And as it spoke, Dot heard a sound as of a half dingo dog
howling and snapping in the distance. As that sound was heard, the
Opossum made one flying leap to the nearest tree, and scrambled out of
sight in a moment.
"I wish he had told us a little more," said the Kangaroo. "Still, for a
possum, it was a good-natured act to wake me up. They are selfish,
spiteful little beasts, as a rule. Now I wonder where these blacks are?
I shall have to go a little way to sniff and listen. I won't go far, so
don't be afraid, but stay quietly here until I come back."
It was terrible to Dot to see the Kangaroo hop off into the dark bush, and
to find herself all alone; so she crawled out from under the ledge of rock
into the moonlight, and sat on a stone where she could see the sky, and
watch the black ragged clouds hurry over the moon. But the bush was not
altogether quiet. She could hear an owl hooting at the moon. Not far off
was a camp of quarrelsome Flying Foxes, and the melancholy Nightjar in the
distance was fulfilling its mission of making all the bush creatures
miserable with its incessant, mournful "mo-poke! mo-poke!" As Dot could
understand all the voices, it amused her to listen to the wrangles of the
Flying Foxes, as they ate the fruit of a wild fig tree near by. She saw
them swoop past on their huge black wings with a solemn flapping. Then,
as each little Fox approached the tree, the Foxes who were there already
screamed, and swore in dreadfully bad language at the visitor. For every
little Fox on the tree was afraid some other Flying Fox would eat all the
figs, and as each visitor arrived he was assailed with cries of, "Get away
you're not wanted here!"
"This is my branch, my figs!"
"Go and find figs for yourself!"
"These figs are not half ripe like the juicy ones on the
other side of the tree!"
Then the new-comer Flying Fox, with a spiteful squeal, would pounce down
on a branch already occupied, and angry spluttering and screams would
arise, followed by a heavy fall of fighting Foxes tumbling with a crash
through the trees. Then out into the open sky swept dozens of black wings,
accompanied by abusive swearing from dozens of wicked little brown Foxes;
and, as they settled again on the tree, all the fighting would begin again,
so that the squealing, screaming, and swearing never ended.
As Dot was listening to the fighting of the Flying Foxes, she heard a
sound near her that alarmed her greatly. It was impossible to say what
the noise was like. It might have been the braying of a donkey mixed up
with the clattering of palings tumbled together, and with grunts and
snorts. Dot started to her feet in fright, and would have run away, only
she was afraid of being lost worse than ever, so she stood still and
looked round for the terrible monster that could make such extraordinary
sounds. The grunts and clattering stopped, and the noise died away in a
long doleful bray, but she could not see where it came from. Having
peered into the dark shadows, Dot went more into the open, and sat with
her back to a fallen tree, keeping an anxious watch all round.
"Perhaps," she thought, "It is the blacks. What would they do if they
found me? What will happen if they have killed my dear Kangaroo?" And she
covered her face with her hands as this terrible thought came into her head.
Soon she heard something coming towards her stealthily and slowly. She
would not look up she was so frightened. She was sure it was some fierce
looking black man, with his spear, about to kill her. She shut her eyes
closer, and held her breath. "Perhaps," she thought, "he will not see
me." Then a cold shiver went through her little body, as she felt
something claw hold of her hair, and she thought she was about to be
killed. She kept her eyes shut, and the clawing went on, and then to her
astonishment she heard an animal voice say in wondering tones:
"Why, it's fur! How funny it looked in the moonlight!"
Then Dot opened her eyes very wide and looked round, and saw a funny
native Bear on the tree trunk behind her. He was quite clearly to be seen
in the moonlight. His thick, grey fur, that looked as if he was wrapped
up to keep out the most terribly cold weather; his short, stumpy, big legs,
and little sharp face with big bushy ears, could be seen as distinctly as
in daylight. Dot had never seen one so near before, and she loved it at
once, it looked so innocent and kind.
"You dear little native Bear!" she exclaimed, at once stroking its head.
"Am I a native Bear?" asked the animal in a meek voice. "I never heard
that before. I thought I was a Koala. I've always been told so, but of
course one never knows oneself. What are you? Do you know?"
"I'm a little girl," replied Dot, proudly.
The Koala saw that Dot was proud, but as it didn't see any reason why she
should be, it was not a bit afraid of her.
"I never heard of one or saw one before," it said, simply. "Do you
burrow, or live in a tree?"
"I live at home," said Dot; but, wishing to be quite correct, she added,
"that is, when I am there."
"Then, where are you now?" asked the Koala, rather perplexed.
"I'm not at home," replied Dot, not knowing how to make her position clear
to the little animal.
"Then you live where you don't live?" said the Koala; "Where is it?" and
the little Bear looked quite unhappy in its attempt to understand what
"I've lost it," said Dot. "I don't know where it is."
"You make my head feel empty," said the Koala, sadly. "I live in the gum
tree over there. Do you eat gum leaves?"
"No. When I'm at home I have milk, and bread, and eggs, and meat."
"Dear me!" said the Koala. "They're all new to one. Is it far? I should
like to see the trees they grow on. Please show me the way."
"But I can't," said Dot; "they don't grow on trees, and I don't know my
way home. It's lost, you see."
"I don't see," said the native Bear. "I never can see far at night, and
not at all in daylight. That is why I came here. I saw your fur shining
in the moonlight, and I couldn't make out what it was, so I came to see.
If there is anything new to be seen, I must get a near view of it.
I don't feel happy if I don't know all about it. Aren't you cold?"
"Yes, I am, a little, since my Kangaroo left me," Dot said.
"Now you make my head feel empty again," said the Koala, plaintively.
"What has a Kangaroo got to do with your feeling cold? What have you done
with your fur?"
"I never had any," said Dot, "only these curls," and she touched her
"Then you ought to be black," argued the Koala. "You're not the right
colour. Only blacks have no fur, but what they steal from the proper
owners. Do you steal fur?" it asked in an anxious voice.
"How do they steal fur?" asked Dot.
The Koala looked very miserable, and spoke with horror. "They kill us
with spears, and tear off our skins and wear them, because their own skins
are no good."
"That's not stealing," said Dot; "that's killing;" and, although it seemed
very difficult to make the little Bear understand, she explained: "Stealing
is taking away another person's things; and when a person is dead he hasn't
anything belonging to him, so it's not stealing to take what belonged to
him before, because it isn't his any longer--that is, if it doesn't belong
to anyone else."
"You make my head feel empty," complained the Koala. "I'm sure you're all
wrong; for an animal's skin and fur is his own, and it's his life's
business to keep it whole. Everyone in the bush is trying to keep his
skin whole, all day long, and all night too. Good gracious! What is the
matter up there?"
A terrible hullabaloo between a pair of Opossums up a neighbouring gum
tree arrested the attention of both Dot and the Koala. Presently the
sounds of snarling, spitting, and screaming ended, and an Opossum climbed
out to the far end of a branch, where the moonlight shone on his grey fur
like silver. There he remained snapping and barking disagreeable things
to his mate, who climbed up to the topmost branch, and snarled and growled
back equally unpleasant remarks.
"Why don't you bring in gum leaves for to-morrow, instead of sleeping all
day and half the night too?" shouted the Opossum on the branch to his wife.
"You know I get hungry before daylight is over, and hate going out in the
"Get them yourself, you lazy loon!" retorted the lady Opossum. "If you
disturb my dreams again this way, I'll make your fur fly."
"Take care!" barked back her husband, "or I'll bring you off that branch
"You'd better try!" sneered his wife. "Remember how I landed you into the
billabong the other night!"
The taunt was too much for the Opossum on the branch; he scuttled up the
tree to reach his mate, who sprang forward from her perch into the air.
Dot saw her spring with her legs all spread out, so that the skinny flaps
were like furry wings. By this means she was able to break her fall, and
softly alighting on the earth, a moment after, she had scrambled up
another tree, followed by her mate. From tree to tree, from branch to
branch, they fled or pursued one another, with growls, screams, and
splutters, until they disappeared from sight.
"How unhappy those poor Opossums must be, living in the same tree," said
Dot; "why don't they live in different trees?"
"They wouldn't be happy," observed the Koala, "they are so fond of one
"Then why do they quarrel?" asked Dot.
"Because they live in the same tree of course," said the Koala. "If they
lived in different trees, and never quarrelled, they wouldn't like it at
all. They'd find life dull, and they'd get sulky. There's nothing worse
than a sulky possum. They are champions at that."
"They make a dreadful noise with their quarrelling," said Dot. "They are
nearly as bad as the Flying Foxes over there. I wonder if they made that
fearful sound I heard just before you came?"
"I expect what you heard was from me," said the Koala; "I had just
awakened, and when I saw the moon was up I felt pleased."
"Was all that sound and many noises yours?" asked Dot with astonishment,
as she regarded the shaggy little animal on the tree trunk.
The Koala smiled modestly. "Yes!" it said; "when I am pleased there is no
creature in the bush can make such a noise, or so many different noises at
once. I waken every one for a quarter of a mile round. You wouldn't
think it, to see me as I am, would you?" The Koala was evidently very
pleased with this accomplishment.
"It isn't kind of you to wake up all the sleeping creatures," said Dot.
"Why not?" asked the Koala. "You are a night creature, I suppose, or you
wouldn't be awake now. Well, don't you think it unfair the way everything
is arranged for the day creatures?"
"But then," said Dot. "there are so many more day creatures."
"That doesn't make any difference," observed the Koala.
"But it does," said Dot.
"How?" asked the native Bear.
"Because if you had the day it wouldn't be any good to you, and if they
had the night it wouldn't be any good to them. So your night couldn't be
their day, and their day couldn't be your night."
"You make my head feel empty," said the Koala. "But you'd think
differently if a flock of Kookooburras settled on your tree, and guffawed
idiotically when you wanted to sleep."
"As you don't like being waked yourself, why do you wake others then?"
"Because this is a free country," said the Koala. While Dot was trying to
understand why the Koala's reason should suffice for one animal making
another's life uncomfortable, she was rejoiced to see the Kangaroo bound
into sight. She forgot all about the Koala, and rushed forward to meet it.
"I'm so glad you have come back!" she exclaimed.
The Kangaroo was a little breathless and excited. "We are not in danger
at present," she said, "but one never knows when one will be, so we must
move; and that will be more dangerous than staying where we are."
"Then let us stay," said Dot.
"That won't do," replied the Kangaroo, "This is the conclusion I have
jumped to. If we stay here, the blacks might come this way and their
dingo dogs hunt us to death. To get to a safe place we must pass their
camp. That is a little risky, but we must go that way. We can do this
easily if the dogs don't get scent of us, as all the blacks are prancing
about and making a noise, having a kind of game in fact, and they are so
amused that we ought to get past quite safely. I've done it many times
before at night."
Dot looked round to say good-bye to the Koala, but the little animal had
heard the Kangaroo speak of blacks, and that word suggested to its empty
little head that it must keep its skin whole, so, without waiting to be
polite to Dot, it had sneaked up its gum tree and was well out of sight.
Without wasting time, Dot settled in the Kangaroo's pouch, and they
started upon their perilous way.
For some distance the Kangaroo hopped along boldly, with an occasional
warning to Dot to shut her eyes as they plunged through the bushes; but
after crossing a watercourse, and climbing a stiff hill, she whispered
that they must both keep quite silent, and told Dot to listen as she
stopped for a moment.
Dot could hear to their right a murmuring of voices, and a steady beating
"Their camp is over there," said the Kangaroo, "that is the sound of their
"Can't we go some other way?" asked Dot. "No," answered the Kangaroo,
"because past that place we can reach some very wild country where it
would be hard for them to pursue us. We shall have to pass quite close to
their playground." So in perfect silence they went on.
The Kangaroo seemed to Dot to approach the whereabouts of the black
fellows as cautiously as when they had visited the water-hole the first
night. Dot's little heart beat fast as the sound of the blacks' corroboree
became clearer and clearer, and they neared the scene of the dance. Soon
she could hear the stamping of feet, the beating of weapons together, and
the wild chanting; and sometimes there were the whimperings of dogs, and
the cry of children at the camp a little distance from the corroboree
The Kangaroo showed no signs of fear at the increasing noise of the blacks,
but every sound of a dog caused it to stop and twist about its big ears and
sensitive nose, as it sniffed and listened.
Soon Dot could see a great red glare of firelight through the trees ahead
of their track, and she knew that in that place the tribe of black men were
having a festive dance.
If they had gone on their way it is possible that they would have slipped
past the blacks without danger. But although the Kangaroo is as timid an
animal as any in the bush, it is also very curious, and Dot's Kangaroo
wished to peep at the corroboree. She whispered to Dot that it would be
nice for a little Human to see some other Humans after being so long
amongst bush creatures, and said, also, that there would be no great
danger in hopping to a rock that would command a view of the open ground
where the corroboree was being held. Of course Dot thought this would be
great fun, so the Kangaroo took her to the rock, where they peeped
through the trees and saw before them the weird scene and dance.
Dot nearly screamed with fright at the sight. She had thought she would
see a few black folk, not a crowd of such terrible people as she beheld.
They did not look like human beings at all, but like dreadful demons, they
were so wicked and ugly in appearance. The men who were dancing were
without clothes, but their black bodies were painted with red and white
stripes, and bits of down and feathers were stuck on their skin. Some had
only white stripes over the places where their bones were, which made them
look like skeletons flitting before the fire, or in and out of the
surrounding darkness. The dancing men were divided from the rest of the
tribe by a row of fires, which, burning brightly, lit the horrid scene
with a lurid red light. The firelight seemed to make the ferocious faces
of the dancers still more hideous. The tribe people were squatting in
rows on the ground, beating boomerangs and spears together, or striking
bags of skin with sticks, to make an accompaniment to the wailing song
they sang. Sometimes the women would cease beating the skin bags, to clap
their hands and strike their sides, yelling the words of the corroboree
song as the painted figures, like fiends and skeletons, danced before the
row of fires.
It was a terrifying sight to Dot. "Oh, Kangaroo!" she whispered, "they
are dreadful, horrid creatures."
"They're just Humans," replied the Kangaroo, indulgently.
"But white Humans are not like that," said Dot.
"All Humans are the same underneath, they all kill Kangaroos," said the
Kangaroo. "Look there! They are playing at killing us in their dance."
Dot looked once more at the hideous figures as they left the fire and
behaved like actors in a play. One of the black fellows had come from a
little bower of trees, and wore a few skins so arranged as to make him
look as much like a Kangaroo as possible, whilst he worked a stick which
he pretended was a Kangaroo's tail, and hopped about. The other painted
savages were creeping in and out of the bushes with their spears and
boomerangs as if they were hunting, and the dressed-up Kangaroo made
believe not to see them, but stooped down, nibbling grass.
"What an idea of a Kangaroo!" sniffed Dot's friend, "why, a real Kangaroo
would have smelt or heard those Humans, and have bounded away far out of
sight by now."
"But it's all sham," said Dot; "the black man couldn't be a real Kangaroo."
"Then it just shows how stupid Humans are to try and be one," said her
friend. Humans think themselves so clever, she continued, "but just see
what bad Kangaroos they make--such a simple thing to do, too! But their
legs bend the wrong way for jumping, and that stick isn't any good for a
tail, and it has to be worked with those big, clumsy arms. Just see, too,
how those skins fit! Why it's enough to make a Kangaroo's sides split with
laughter to see such foolery!" Dot's friend peeped at the black's acting
with the contempt to be expected of a real Kangaroo, who saw human beings
pretending to be one of those noble animals. Dot thought the Kangaroo had
never looked so grand before. She was so tall, so big, and yet so
graceful: a really beautiful creature.
"Well, that's over!" remarked the Kangaroo, as one of the blacks pretended
to spear the dressed-up black fellow, and all the rest began to dance
around, whilst the sham Kangaroo made believe to be dead. "Well, I
forgive their killing such a silly creature! There wasn't a jump in it."
After more dancing to the singing and noise of the on-lookers, a black
fellow came from the little bower in the dim back-ground, with a battered
straw hat on, and a few rags tied round his neck and wrist, in imitation
of a collar and cuffs. The fellow tried to act the part of a white man,
although he had no more clothes on than the old hat and rags. But, after
a great deal of dancing, he strutted about, pulled up the rag collar, made
a great fuss with his rag cuffs, and kept taking off his old straw hat to
the other black fellows, and to the rest of the tribe, who kept up the
noise on the other side of the fires.
"Now this is better!" said the Kangaroo, with a smile. "It's very silly,
but Willy Wagtail says that is just the way Humans go on in the town. Black
Humans can act being white Humans, but they are no good as Kangaroos."
Dot thought that if men behaved like that in towns it must be very strange.
She had not seen any like the acting black fellow at her cottage home.
But she did not say anything, for it was quite clear in her little mind
that black fellows, Kangaroos, and willy wagtails had a very poor opinion
of white people. She felt that they must all be wrong; but, all the same,
she sometimes wished she could be a noble Kangaroo, and not a despised
"I wish I were not a white little girl," she whispered to the Kangaroo.
The gentle animal patted her kindly with her delicate black hands.
"You are as nice now as my baby Kangaroo," she said sadly, "but you will
have to grow into a real white Human. For some reason there have to be
all sorts of creatures on the earth. There are hawks, snakes, dingoes and
humans, and no one can tell for what good they exist. They must have
dropped on to this world by mistake for another, where there could only
have been themselves. After all," said the kind animal, "It wouldn't do
for every one to be a Kangaroo, for I doubt if there would be enough
grass; but you may become an improved Human."
"How could I be that?" asked Dot, eagerly.
"Never wear kangaroo leather boots--never use kangaroo skin rugs,
and"--here it hesitated a little, as though the subject were a most
unpleasant one to mention.
"Never do what?" enquired Dot, anxious to know all that she should do,
so as to be improved.
"Never, never eat Kangaroo-tail soup!" said the Kangaroo, solemnly.
"I never will," said Dot, earnestly, "I will be an improved Hurnan."
This conversation had been so serious to both Dot and the Kangaroo, that
they had quite forgotten the perilousness of their position. Perhaps this
was because the Kangaroo cannot think, but it quickly jumped to the
conclusion that they were in danger.
Whilst they had been peeping at the corroborees, and talking, the dingo
dogs that had been prowling around the camp, had caught scent of the
Kangaroo; and, following the trail, had set up an angry snapping and
The instant this sound was heard by the Kangaroo, she made an immense
bound, and as she seemed to fly through the bush, Dot could hear the
sounds of the corroboree give place to a noise of shouting and disorder:
the dingo dogs and the Blacks were all in pursuit, and Dot's Kangaroo,
with little Dot in her pouch, was leaping and bounding at a terrific pace
to save both their lives!
It was fortunate that the Kangaroo could not think of all that might befall
them, or she never could have had courage for the wonderful feats of
jumping she performed. Poor little Dot, whose busy brain pictured all
kinds of terrible fates, was so overcome with fear that she seemed hardly
to know what had, happened; and the more she thought, the more terrified
The Kangaroo did not attempt to continue the upward ascent, but followed a
slope of the rugged hill, leaping from rock to rock. This was better than
trying to escape where the trees and shrubs would have prevented her
making those astonishing bounds. But the clouds had left the moon clear
for a while, so that the black fellows and dogs easily followed every
movement, as they pursued the hunt on a smoother level below. The blacks
were trying to hurry on, so as to cut off the Kangaroo's retreat at a spur
of the hill, where, to get away, she would have to leave the rocks and
descend towards them. In the meantime Dot's ears were filled with the
sounds of snarling snaps from the dingo dogs, and hideous noises from the
blacks, encouraging the animals to attack the Kangaroo. But what pained
her most were the gasps and little moans of her good friend, as she put
such tremendous power into every leap she made for their lives; crashing
through twigs, and scattering stones and pebbles, in the wild speed of
Then Dot's busy little brain told her another thing, which made her more
miserable. It was quite clear that the poor Kangaroo was getting rapidly
exhausted, owing to her having to bear Dot's weight. Her panting became
more and more distressing, and so did her sad moans and flecks of foam
from her straining lips fell on Dot's face and hands. Dot knew that her
Kangaroo was trying to save her at the risk of her own life. Without the
little girl in her pouch, she might get away safely; but, with her to
carry, they would both probably fall victims to the fierce blacks and
"Kangaroo! Kangaroo!" she cried, "put me down; drop Dot anywhere,
anywhere, but don't get killed yourself!"
But all Dot heard was a little hissing sound from the brave animal, which
sounded like, "Never again!"
"You will be killed," moaned Dot.
"Together!" said the little hissing voice, as another great bound brought
them to the spur of the hill; and then the Kangaroo had to pause.
In that moment Dot seemed to hear and see everything. They were perched
on a rock, and the moonlight lit all their surroundings like day. To the
right was a deep black chasm, with a white foaming waterfall pouring into
the darkness below. In front was the same wide chasm, only less wide, and
beyond it, on the other side of the great yawning cleft in the earth, was
a wild spread of morass country--a gloomy, terrible-looking place. To the
left was a steep slope of small rocks and stones, leading downwards to the
hollow of sedgy land that fringed the cliffs of the chasm. The only
retreat possible was to pass down this declivity, and try to escape by the
sedgy land, and this is what the black huntsmen had expected. It was a
very weird and desolate place; and everything looked dark and dismal,
under the moonlight, as it streamed between stormy black clouds. In that
light Dot could see the blacks hurrying forward. Already one of the dogs
had far outrun the others, and with wolfish gait and savage sounds, was
pressing towards their place of observation.
The panting, trembling Kangaroo saw the approaching dog, also, and leaped
down from the crag. As she dropped to earth, she stooped, and quickly
lifted Dot out of her pouch, and, almost before Dot could realize the
movement, she found herself standing alone, whilst the Kangaroo hopped
forward to the front of a big boulder, as if to meet the dog. Here the
poor hunted creature took her stand, with her back close to the rock.
Gentle and timid as she was, and unfitted by nature to fight for her life
against fierce odds, it was brave indeed of the poor Kangaroo to face her
enemies, prepared to do battle for the lives of little Dot and herself.
So noble did Dot's Kangaroo look in that desperate moment, standing erect,
waiting for her foe, and conquering her naturally frightened nature by a
grand effort of courage, that it seemed impossible that either dogs or men
should be so cruel as to take her life. For a moment the dingo hound
seemed daunted by her bravery, and paused a little way off, panting, with
its great tongue lolling out of its mouth. Dot could see its sharp,
wicked teeth gleaming in the moonlight. For a few seconds it hesitated to
make the attack, and looked back down the slope, to see if the other dogs
were coming to help; but they were only just beginning the ascent, and the
shouting black fellows were further off still. Then the dog could no
longer control its savage nature. It longed to leap at the poor Kangaroo's
throat--that pretty furry throat that Dot's arms had so often encircled
lovingly, and it was impatient to fix its terrible teeth there, and hold,
and hold, in a wild struggle, until the poor Kangaroo should gradually
weaken from fear and exhaustion, and be choked to death. These thoughts
filled the dog with a wicked joy. It wouldn't wait any longer for the
other dingo hounds. It wanted to murder the Kangaroo all by itself; so,
with a toss of its head, and a terrible snarl, it sprang forward
ferociously, with open jaws, aiming at the victim's throat.
Dot clasped her cold hands together. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and
her little voice, choking with sobs, could only wail, "Oh! dear Kangaroo!
my dear Kangaroo! Don't kill my dear Kangaroo!" and she ran forward to
throw herself upon the dog and try to save her friend.
But before the terrified little girl could reach the big rock, the dog had
made its spring upon her friend. The brave Kangaroo, instead of trying to
avoid her fierce enemy, opened her little arms, and stood erect and tall
to receive the attack. The dog in its eagerness, and owing to the nature
of the ground, misjudged the distance it had to spring. It failed to
reach the throat it had aimed at, and in a moment the Kangaroo had seized
the hound in a tight embrace. There was a momentary struggle, the dog
snapping and trying to free itself, and the Kangaroo holding it firmly.
Then she used the only weapon she had to defend herself from dogs and
men--the long sharp claw in her foot. Whilst she held the dog in her
arms, she raised her powerful leg, and with that long, strong claw, tore
open the dog's body. The dog yelped in pain as the Kangaroo threw it to
the ground, where it lay rolling in agony and dying; for the Kangaroo had
given it a terrible wound. The other dogs were still some distance below,
and the cries of their companion caused them to pause in fear and wonder,
while the black men could be seen advancing in the dim light, flourishing
their spears and boomerangs. It was impossible to retreat that way; and
where Dot and her Kangaroo were, they were hemmed in by a rocky cliff and
the deep black chasm. The Kangaroo saw at a glance where lay their only
chance of life. She picked up Dot, placed her in her pouch, and without a
word leaped forward towards that fearful gulf of darkness and foaming
waters. As they neared the spot, Dot saw that the hunted animal was going
to try and leap across to the other side. It seemed impossible that with
one bound she could span that terrible place and reach the sedged morass
beyond; and still more impossible that it should be done by the poor
animal with heavy Dot in her pouch. Again Dot cried, "Oh! darling
Kangaroo, leave me here, and save yourself. You can never, never do it
All she heard was something like "try," or "we'll die." She could not make
out what the Kangaroo said, for the crashing of the waterfall, the
whistling of the wind, and the scattering of stones as they dashed forward,
made such a storm of noises in her ears. She could see when they reached
the grassy fringe of the precipice, where the Kangaroo was able to quicken
her pace, and literally seemed to fly to their fate. Then came the last
bound before the great spring. Dot held her breath, and a feeling of
sickness came over her. Her head seemed giddy, and she could not see, but
she clasped her hands together and said, "God help my Kangaroo!" and then
she felt the fearful leap with the rush through the air.
Yes! they had reached the other side. No! they had not quite: what was the
matter? What a struggle! Stones falling, twigs and grasses wrenching, the
courageous Kangaroo fighting for a foothold on the very brink of the
precipice. What a terrible moment! Every second Dot felt sure they would
fall backward and drop deep into the gully below, to be dashed to pieces
on the rocks and the tree tops. But God did help Dot's Kangaroo; the
little reeds and rushes held tightly in the earth, and the poor struggling
animal, exerting all her remaining strength, gained the reedy slope safely.
She staggered forward a few reeling hops, and then fell to the earth like
a dead creature. In an instant Dot was out of the pouch and had her arm
round the poor animal's neck, crying, as she saw blood and foam oozing
from her mouth, and a strange dim look in her sad eyes.
"Don't die, dear Kangaroo! Oh, please don't die!" cried Dot, wringing her
hands, and burying her face in the fur of the poor gasping creature.
"Dot," panted the Kangaroo, "make a noise! Cry loud! Not safe yet!"
The little girl didn't understand why the Kangaroo wanted her to make a
noise, and she had, in her fear and sorrow, quite forgotten their pursuers.
But now she turned, and could hear the blacks, urging on their dogs as
they were making an attempt to skirt round the precipice, and gain the
other side of the chasm. So Dot did as she was told, and screamed and
cried like the most naughty of children; and the gasping Kangaroo told her
to go on doing so.
Then what seemed to Dot a very terrifying thing happened; for she soon
heard other cries mingle with hers. From the desolate morass, and from
the gully in darkness below, came the sound of a bellowing. She stopped
crying and listened, and could hear those awesome voices all around, and
the echoes made them still more hobgoblinish. The Kangaroo's eyes
brightened, as she restrained her panting, and listened also. "Go on,"
she said, "we're safe now," so Dot made more crying, and her noises and
the others would have frightened anyone who had heard them in that lonely
place, with the wind storming in the trees, and the black clouds flying
over the moon. It frightened the black fellows directly.
They stopped in their headlong speed, shouting all together in their
shrill voices, "The Bunyip! The Bunyip!" and they tumbled over one
another in their hurry to get away from a place haunted, as they thought,
by that wicked demon which they fear so much. At full speed they fled
back to their camp, with the sound of Dot's cries, and the mysterious
bellowing noise, following them on the breeze; and they never stopped
running until they regained the light of their camp fires. There they
told the gins, in awe-struck voices, how it had been no Kangaroo they had
hunted, but the "Bunyip", who had pretended to be one. And the black gins'
eyes grew wider and wider, and they made strange noises and exclamations,
as they listened to the story of how the "Bunyip" had led the huntsmen to
that dreadful place. How it had torn one of the dogs to pieces, and had
leaped over the precipice into Dead Man's Gully, where it had cried like a
picaninny, and bellowed like a bull. No one slept in the camp that night,
and early the next morning the whole tribe went away, being afraid to
remain so near the haunt of the dreaded "Bunyip."
Dot saw the flight of the blacks in the dim distance, and told the good
news to the Kangaroo, who, however, was too exhausted to rejoice at their
escape. She still lay where she had fallen, gasping, and with her tongue
hanging down from her mouth like that of a dog.
In vain Dot caressed her, and called her by endearing names; she lay quite
still, as if unable to hear or feel. Dot's little heart swelled within
her, and taking the poor animal's drooping head on her lap, she sat quite
still and tearless; waiting in that solitude for her one friend to
die--leaving her lonely and helpless.
Presently she was startled by hearing a brisk voice: "Then it was a human
picaninny, after all! Well, my dear, what are you doing here?"
Dot turned her head without moving, and saw a little way behind her a
brown bird on long legs, standing with its feet close together, with the
self-satisfied air of a dancing master about to begin a lesson.
Dot did not care for any other creature in the Bush just then but her
Kangaroo, and the perky air of the bird annoyed her in her sorrow. Without
answering, she bent her head closer down to that of her poor friend, to
see if her eyes were still shut, and wondered if they would ever open and
look bright and gentle again.
The little brown bird strutted with ail important air to where it had a
better view of Dot and her companion, and eyed them both in the same perky
manner. "Friend Kangaroo's in a bad way," it said; "why don't you do
something sensible, instead of messing about with its head?"
"What can I do?" whimpered Dot.
"Give it water, and damp its skin, of course," said the little Bird,
contemptuously. "What fools Humans are," it exclaimed to itself. "And I
suppose you will tell me there is no water here, when all the time you are
sitting on a spring."
"But I'm sitting on grass," said Dot, now fully attentive to the bird's
"Well, booby," sneered the bird, "and under the grass is wet moss, which,
if you make a hole in it, will fill with water. Why, I'd do it myself,
in a moment, only your claws are better suited for the purpose than mine.
Set about it at once!" it said sharply.
In an instant Dot did what the bird directed, and thrust her little hands