Dot and the Kangaroo
by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)
. . . the story continues . . .
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 wagging.
"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.