voices from the past


Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

Dot nearly screamed with fright at the sight. She had thought she would see a few black folk, not a crowd of such terrible people as she beheld. They did not look like human beings at all, but like dreadful demons, they were so wicked and ugly in appearance. The men who were dancing were without clothes, but their black bodies were painted with red and white stripes, and bits of down and feathers were stuck on their skin. Some had only white stripes over the places where their bones were, which made them look like skeletons flitting before the fire, or in and out of the surrounding darkness. The dancing men were divided from the rest of the tribe by a row of fires, which, burning brightly, lit the horrid scene with a lurid red light. The firelight seemed to make the ferocious faces of the dancers still more hideous. The tribe people were squatting in rows on the ground, beating boomerangs and spears together, or striking bags of skin with sticks, to make an accompaniment to the wailing song they sang. Sometimes the women would cease beating the skin bags, to clap their hands and strike their sides, yelling the words of the corroboree song as the painted figures, like fiends and skeletons, danced before the row of fires.

It was a terrifying sight to Dot. "Oh, Kangaroo!" she whispered, "they are dreadful, horrid creatures."

"They're just Humans," replied the Kangaroo, indulgently.

"But white Humans are not like that," said Dot.

"All Humans are the same underneath, they all kill Kangaroos," said the Kangaroo. "Look there! They are playing at killing us in their dance."

Dot looked once more at the hideous figures as they left the fire and behaved like actors in a play. One of the black fellows had come from a little bower of trees, and wore a few skins so arranged as to make him look as much like a Kangaroo as possible, whilst he worked a stick which he pretended was a Kangaroo's tail, and hopped about. The other painted savages were creeping in and out of the bushes with their spears and boomerangs as if they were hunting, and the dressed-up Kangaroo made believe not to see them, but stooped down, nibbling grass.

"What an idea of a Kangaroo!" sniffed Dot's friend, "why, a real Kangaroo would have smelt or heard those Humans, and have bounded away far out of sight by now."

"But it's all sham," said Dot; "the black man couldn't be a real Kangaroo."

"Then it just shows how stupid Humans are to try and be one," said her friend. Humans think themselves so clever, she continued, "but just see what bad Kangaroos they make such a simple thing to do, too! But their legs bend the wrong way for jumping, and that stick isn't any good for a tail, and it has to be worked with those big, clumsy arms. Just see, too, how those skins fit! Why it's enough to make a Kangaroo's sides split with laughter to see such foolery!" Dot's friend peeped at the black's acting with the contempt to be expected of a real Kangaroo, who saw human beings pretending to be one of those noble animals. Dot thought the Kangaroo had never looked so grand before. She was so tall, so big, and yet so graceful: a really beautiful creature.

"Well, that's over!" remarked the Kangaroo, as one of the blacks pretended to spear the dressed-up black fellow, and all the rest began to dance around, whilst the sham Kangaroo made believe to be dead. "Well, I forgive their killing such a silly creature! There wasn't a jump in it."

Chapter 7 pages:  one   two   three
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