Dot and the Kangaroo
by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)
. . . the story continues . . .
"I never had any," said Dot, "only these curls," and she touched her little head.
"Then you ought to be black," argued the Koala. "You're not the right colour. Only blacks have no fur, but what they steal from the proper owners. Do you steal fur?" it asked in an anxious voice.
"How do they steal fur?" asked Dot.
The Koala looked very miserable, and spoke with horror. "They kill us with spears, and tear off our skins and wear them, because their own skins are no good."
"That's not stealing," said Dot; "that's killing;" and, although it seemed very difficult to make the little Bear understand, she explained: "Stealing is taking away another person's things; and when a person is dead he hasn't anything belonging to him, so it's not stealing to take what belonged to him before, because it isn't his any longer — that is, if it doesn't belong to anyone else."
"You make my head feel empty," complained the Koala. "I'm sure you're all wrong; for an animal's skin and fur is his own, and it's his life's business to keep it whole. Everyone in the bush is trying to keep his skin whole, all day long, and all night too. Good gracious! What is the matter up there?"
A terrible hullabaloo between a pair of Opossums up a neighbouring gum tree arrested the attention of both Dot and the Koala. Presently the sounds of snarling, spitting, and screaming ended, and an Opossum climbed out to the far end of a branch, where the moonlight shone on his grey fur like silver. There he remained snapping and barking disagreeable things to his mate, who climbed up to the topmost branch, and snarled and growled back equally unpleasant remarks.
"Why don't you bring in gum leaves for to-morrow, instead of sleeping all day and half the night too?" shouted the Opossum on the branch to his wife. "You know I get hungry before daylight is over, and hate going out in the light."
"Get them yourself, you lazy loon!" retorted the lady Opossum. "If you disturb my dreams again this way, I'll make your fur fly."
"Take care!" barked back her husband, "or I'll bring you off that branch pretty quickly."
"You'd better try!" sneered his wife. "Remember how I landed you into the billabong the other night!"
The taunt was too much for the Opossum on the branch; he scuttled up the tree to reach his mate, who sprang forward from her perch into the air. Dot saw her spring with her legs all spread out, so that the skinny flaps were like furry wings. By this means she was able to break her fall, and softly alighting on the earth, a moment after, she had scrambled up another tree, followed by her mate. From tree to tree, from branch to branch, they fled or pursued one another, with growls, screams, and splutters, until they disappeared from sight.
"How unhappy those poor Opossums must be, living in the same tree," said Dot; "why don't they live in different trees?"