voices from the past


Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

"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 creature.

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 come in?"

"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."

Chapter 4 pages:   one   two   three   four   five   six   seven   eight
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