voices from the past


The Magic Pudding

Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)

. . . the story continues . . .

That won't do, you know,' began the Puddin', but Sam said hurriedly, 'It was very dark, and there's no sayin' at this date what happened.'

'Yes there is,' said the Puddin', 'for I had my eye on the whole affair, and it's my belief that if he hadn't been so round you'd have never rolled him off the iceberg, for you was both singin' out "Yo heave Ho" for half an hour, an' him trying to hold on to Bill's beard.'

'In the haste of the moment,' said Bill, 'he may have got a bit of a shove, for the ice bein' slippy, and us bein' justly enraged, and him bein' as round as a barrel, he may, as I said, have been too fat to save himself from rollin' off the iceberg.

The point, however, is immaterial to our story, which concerns this Puddin'; and this Puddin',' said Bill patting him on the basin, 'was the very Puddin' that Curry and Rice invented on the iceberg.'

'He must have been a very clever cook,' said Bunyip.

'He was, poor feller, he was,' said Bill, greatly affected. 'For plum duff or Irish stoo there wasn't his equal in the land. But enough of these sad subjects. Pausin' only to explain that me an' Sam got off the iceberg on a homeward bound chicken coop, landed on Tierra del Fuego, walked to Valparaiso, and so got home, I will proceed to enliven the occasion with "The Ballad of the Bo'sun's Bride".'

And without more ado, Bill, who had one of those beef-and-thunder voices, roared out —

'Ho, aboard the Salt Junk Sarah
We was rollin' homeward bound,
When the bo'sun's bride fell over the side
And very near got drowned.
Rollin' home, rollin' home,
Rollin' home across the foam,
She had to swim to save her glim
And catch us rollin' home.'

It was a very long song, so the rest of it is left out here, but there was a great deal of rolling and roaring in it, and they all joined in the chorus. They were all singing away at the top of their pipe, as Bill called it, when round a bend in the road they came on two low-looking persons hiding behind a tree. One was a Possum, with one of those sharp, snooting, snouting sort of faces, and the other was a bulbous, boozy-looking Wombat in an old long-tailed coat, and a hat that marked him down as a man you couldn't trust in the fowlyard. They were busy sharpening up a carving knife on a portable grind-stone, but the moment they caught sight of the travellers the Possum whipped the knife behind him and the Wombat put his hat over the grindstone.

Bill Barnacle flew into a passion at these signs of treachery.

'I see you there,' he shouted.

'You can't see all of us,' shouted the Possum, and the Wombat added, ''Cause why, some of us is behind the tree.'

Bill led the others aside, in order to hold a consultation.

'What on earth's to be done?' he said.

'We shall have to fight them, as usual,' said Sam.

'Why do you have to fight them?' asked Bunyip Bluegum.

'Because they're after our Puddin',' said Bill.

'They're after our Puddin',' explained Sam, 'because they're professional puddin'-thieves.'

'And as we're perfessional Puddin'-owners,' said Bill, 'we have to fight them on principle. The fighting,' he added, 'is a mere flea-bite, as the sayin' goes. The trouble is, what's to be done with the Puddin'?'

'While you do the fighting,' said Bunyip bravely, 'I shall mind the Puddin'.'

'The trouble is,' said Bill, 'that this is a very secret, crafty Puddin', an' if you wasn't up to his game he'd be askin' you to look at a spider an' then run away while your back is turned.'

'That's right,' said the Puddin', gloomily. 'Take a Puddin's character away. Don't mind his feelings.'

'We don't mind your feelin's, Albert,' said Bill. 'What we minds is your treacherous 'abits.' But Bunyip Bluegum said, 'Why not turn him upside-down and sit on him?'

'What a brutal suggestion,' said the Puddin'; but no notice was taken of his objections, and as soon as he was turned safely upside-down, Bill and Sam ran straight at the puddin'-thieves and commenced sparring up at them with the greatest activity.


'Put 'em up, ye puddin'-snatchers,' shouted Bill. 'Don't keep us sparrin' up here all day. Come out an' take your gruel while you've got the chance.'

The Possum wished to turn the matter off by saying, 'I see the price of eggs has gone up again', but Bill gave him a punch on the snout that bent it like a carrot, and Sam caught the Wombat such a flip with his flapper that he gave in at once.

'I shan't be able to fight any more this afternoon,' said the Wombat, 'as I've got sore feet.' The Possum said hurriedly, 'We shall be late for that appointment', and they took their grindstone and off they went.

But when they were a safe distance away the Possum sang out: 'You'll repent this conduct. You'll repent bending a man's snout so that he can hardly see over it, let alone breathe through it with comfort', and the Wombat added, 'For shame, flapping a man with sore feet.'

'We laugh with scorn at threats,' said Bill, and he added as a warning —

'I don't repent a snout that's bent,
And if again I tap it,
Oh, with a clout I'll bend that snout
With force enough to snap it.'

and Sam added for the Wombat's benefit —

'I take no shame to fight the lame
When they deserve to cop it.
So do not try to pipe your eye,
Or with my flip I'll flop it.'

The puddin'-thieves disappeared over the hill and, as the evening happened to come down rather suddenly at that moment, Bill said, 'Business bein' over for the day, now's the time to set about makin' the camp fire.'

This was a welcome suggestion, for, as all travellers know, if you don't sit by a camp fire in the evening, you have to sit by nothing in the dark, which is a most unsociable way of spending your time. They found a comfortable nook under the hedge, where there were plenty of dry leaves to rest on, and there they built a fire, and put the billy on, and made tea. The tea and sugar and three tin cups and half a pound of mixed biscuits were brought out of the bag by Sam, while Bill cut slices of steak-and-kidney from the Puddin'. After that they had boiled jam-roll and apple-dumpling, as the fancy took them, for if you wanted a change of food from the Puddin', all you had to do was to whistle twice and turn the basin round.

After they had eaten as much as they wanted, the things were put away in the bag, and they settled down comfortably for the evening.

'This is what I call grand,' said Bill, cutting up his tobacco. 'Full-and-plenty to eat, pipes goin' and the evenin's enjoyment before us. Tune up on the mouth-organ, Sam, an' off she goes with a song.'

They had a mouth-organ in the bag which they took turns at playing, and Bill led off with a song which he said was called —

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