voices from the past

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Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

"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 sing elsewhere."

"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 that?"

"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 the town."

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.

Chapter 2 pages:   one   two   three   four
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