The Magic Pudding
Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)
. . . the story continues . . .
What a murderous attack!' he exclaimed. 'O, what a brutal attempt to burn a man alive!' and as some hot cinders had got down his back he gave a sharp yell and ran off, singeing and smoking. Bill, distracted with rage, ran after the Possum, then changed his mind and ran after the Wombat, so that, what with running first after one and then after the other, they both had time to get clean away, and disappeared over the skyline.
'I see it all,' shouted Bill, casting himself down in despair. 'Them low puddin'-thieves has borrowed a fireman's helmet, collared a hose, an' set fire to a cowshed in order to lure us away from the Puddin'.'
'The whole thing's a low put-up job on our noble credulity,' said Sam, casting himself down beside Bill.
'It's one of the most frightful things that's ever happened,' said Bill.
'It's worse than treading on tacks with bare feet,' said Sam.
'It's worse than bein' caught stealin' fowls,' said Bill.
'It's worse than bein' stood on by cows,' said Sam.
'It's almost as bad as havin' an uncle called Aldobrantifoscofornio,' said Bill, and they both sang loudly —
'It's worse than weevils, worse than warts,
'It's worse than beetles in the soup,
'It's worse than kerosene to boose,
Bunyip Bluegum reproved this despondency, saying, 'Come, come, this is no time for giving way to despair. Let us, rather, by the fortitude of our bearing prove ourselves superior to this misfortune and, with the energy of justly enraged men, pursue these malefactors, who have so richly deserved our vengeance. Arise!'
'Bravely spoken,' said Bill, immediately recovering from despair.
'The grass is green, the day is fair,
'Our Puddin' in some darksome lair
'Let gloom give way to angry glare,
'Then let's resolve to do and dare.
'Those gallant words have fired our blood,' said Sam, and they both shook hands with Bunyip, to show that they were now prepared to follow the call of vengeance.
'In order to investigate this dastardly outrage,' said Bunyip, 'we must become detectives, and find a clue. We must find somebody who has seen a singed possum. Once traced to their lair, mother-wit will suggest some means of rescuing our Puddin'.'
They set off at once, and, after a brisk walk, came to a small house with a signboard on it saying, 'Henderson Hedgehog, Horticulturist'. Henderson himself was in the garden, horticulturing a cabbage, and they asked him if he had chanced to see a singed possum that morning.
'What's that? What, what?' said Henderson Hedgehog, and when they had repeated the question, he said, 'You must speak up, I'm a trifle deaf.'
'HAVE YOU SEEN A SINGED POSSUM?' shouted Bill.
'I can't hear you,' said Henderson.
'Have you seen a SINGED POSSUM?' roared Bill.
'To be sure,' said Henderson, 'but the turnips are backward.'
'Turnips be stewed,' yelled Bill in such a tremendous voice that he blew his own hat off. 'HAVE YOU SEEN A SINGED POSSUM?'
'Good season for wattle blossom,' said Henderson. 'Well, yes, but a very poor season for carrots.'
'A man might as well talk to a carrot as try an' get sense out of this runt of a feller,' said Bill, disgusted. 'Come an' see if we can't find someone that it won't bust a man's vocal cords gettin' information out of.'
They left Henderson to his horticulturing and walked on till they met a Parrot who was a Swagman, or a Swagman who was a Parrot. He must have been one or the other, if not both, for he had a bag and a swag, and a beak, and a billy, and a thundering bad temper into the bargain, for the moment Bill asked him if he had met a singed possum he shouted back —
'Me eat a singed possum! I wouldn't eat a possum if he was singed, roasted, boiled, or fried.'
'Not ett—met,' shouted Bill. 'I said, met a singed possum.'
'Why can't yer speak plainly, then,' said the Parrot. 'Have you got a fill of tobacco on yer?'
He took out his pipe and scowled at Bill.
'Here you are,' said Bill. 'Cut a fill an' answer the question.'
'All in good time,' said the Parrot, and he added to Sam, 'You got any tobacco?'
Sam handed him a fill, and he put it in his pocket. 'You ain't got any tobacco,' he said scornfully to Bunyip Bluegum. 'I can see that at a glance. You're one of the non-smoking sort, all fur and feathers.'
'Here,' said Bill angrily. 'Enough o' this beatin' about the bush. Answer the question.'
'Don't be impatient,' said the Parrot. 'Have you got a bit o' tea an' sugar on yer?'
'Here's yer tea an' sugar,' said Bill, handing a little of each out of the bag. 'And that's the last thing you get. Now will you answer the question?'
'Wot question?' asked the Parrot.
'Have yer seen a singed possum?' roared Bill.
'No, I haven't,' said the Parrot, and he actually had the insolence to laugh in Bill's face.
'Of all the swivel-eyed, up-jumped, cross-grained, sons of a cock-eyed tinker,' exclaimed Bill, boiling with rage. 'If punching parrots on the beak wasn't too painful for pleasure, I'd land you a sockdolager on the muzzle that 'ud lay you out till Christmas. Come on, mates,' he added, 'it's no use wastin' time over this low-down, hook-nosed tobacco-grabber.' And leaving the evil-minded Parrot to pursue his evil-minded way, they hurried off in search of information.
The next person they spied was a Bandicoot carrying a watermelon. At a first glance you would have thought it was merely a watermelon walking by itself, but a second glance would have shown you that the walking was being done by a small pair of legs attached to the watermelon, and a third glance would have disclosed that the legs were attached to a Bandicoot.
They shouted, 'Hi, you with the melon!' to attract his attention, and set off running after him, and the Bandicoot, being naturally of a terrified disposition, ran for all he was worth. He wasn't worth much as a runner, owing to the weight of the watermelon, and they caught him up half-way across the field.
Conceiving that his hour had come, the Bandicoot gave a shrill squeak of terror and fell on his knees.
'Take me watermelon,' he gasped, 'but spare me life.'
'Stuff an' nonsense,' said Bill. 'We don't want your life. What we want is some information. Have you seen a singed possum about this morning?'
'Singed possums, sir, yes sir, certainly sir,' gasped the Bandicoot, trembling violently.
'What!' exclaimed Bill, 'do yer mean to say you have seen a singed possum?'
'Singed possums, sir, yes sir,' gulped the Bandicoot. 'Very plentiful, sir, this time of the year, sir, owing to the bush fires, sir.'
'Rubbish,' roared Bill. 'I don't believe he's seen a singed possum at all.'
'No, sir,' quavered the Bandicoot. 'Certainly not, sir. Wouldn't think of seeing singed possums if there was any objection, sir.'