Dot and the Kangaroo
by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)
. . . the story continues . . .
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 Kangaroo spoke.
"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, Para — Pa — ra — dox — us."