voices from the past


Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

In an instant Dot did what the bird directed, and thrust her little hands into the soft grass roots and moss, out of which water pressed, as if from a sponge. She had soon made a little hole, and the most beautiful clear water welled up into it at once. Then, in the hollows of her little hands, she collected it, and dashed it over the Kangaroo's parched tongue, and, further instructed by the kindly though rude little bird, she had soon well wetted the suffering animal's fur. Gradually the breathing of the Kangaroo became less of an effort, her tongue moistened and returned to the mouth, and at last Dot saw with joy the brown eyes open, and she knew that her good friend was not going to die, but would get well again. Whilst all this took place, the little brown bird stood on one leg, with its head cocked on one side, watching the Kangaroo's recovery with a comic expression of curiosity and conceit. When it spoke to Dot, it did so without any attempt at being polite, and Dot thought it the strangest possible creature, because it was really very kind in helping to save the Kangaroo's life, and yet it seemed to delight in spoiling its kind-heartedness by its rudeness. Afterwards the Kangaroo told her that the little Bittern is a really tender-hearted fellow, but he has an idea that kindness in rather small creatures provokes the contempt of the big ones. As he always wants to be thought a bigger bird than he is, he pretends to be hard-hearted by being rough; consequently, nearly all the Bush creatures simply regard him as a rude little bird, because bad manners are no proof of being grown-up; rather the contrary.

"How do you feel now?" asked the Bittern, as the Kangaroo presently struggled up and squatted rather feebly on her haunches, looking about in a somewhat dazed way.

"I'm better now," said the Kangaroo, "but, dear me, how everything seems to dance up and down!" She shut her eyes, for she felt giddy.

"That was rather a good jump of yours," said the Bittern, patronizingly, as if jumps for life like that of Dot's Kangaroo were made every day, and he was a judge of them!

"Ah, I remember!" said the Kangaroo, opening her eyes again and looking round. "Where is Dot?"

"Umph, that silly!" exclaimed the Bittern, as Dot came forward, and she and the Kangaroo rejoiced over each other's safety. "Much good she'd have been to you with the blacks, and their dogs after you, if we Bitterns hadn't played that old trick of ours of scaring them with our big voices. He! he! he!" it chuckled, "how they did run when we tuned up! They thought the Bunyip had got them this time. Didn't we laugh!"

"It was very good of you," said the Kangaroo gratefully, "and it is not the first time you have saved Kangaroos by your cleverness. I didn't know you Bitterns were near, so I told Dot to make a noise in the hope of frightening them."

The Bittern was really touched by the Kangaroo's gratitude, and was delighted at being called clever, so it became still more ungracious. "You needn't trouble me with thanks," it said indifferently, "we didn't do it to save you, but for our own fun. As for that little stupid," it continued, with a nod of the head towards Dot, "her squeals were no more good than the squeak of a tree frog in a Bittern's beak."

"But you were very kind," said Dot, "and showed me how to get water to save Kangaroo's life."

The Bittern was greatly pleased at this praise, and in consequence it got still ruder, and making a face at Dot, exclaimed, "Yah!" and stalked off. But when it had gone a few steps it turned round and said to the Kangaroo, roughly, "If you hop that way, keeping to the side of the sedges, and go half a dozen small hops beyond that white gum tree, you'll find a little cave. It's dry and warm, and good enough for Kangaroos." And without waiting for thanks for this last kind act, it spread its wings and flew away.

Chapter 8 pages:  one   two   three   four   five
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