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