The Magic Pudding
Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)
. . . the story continues . . .
You're a poltroon,' shouted Bill. 'You're a slaverin', quaverin', melon-carryin' nincompoop. There's no more chance of getting information out of you than out of a terrified Turnip.'
Leaving the Bandicoot to pursue his quavering, melon-humping existence, they set off again, Bill giving way to some very despondent expressions.
'As far as I can see,' he said, 'if we can't find somethin' better than stone-deaf hedgehogs, peevish parrots, and funkin' bandicoots we may as well give way to despair.'
Bunyip Bluegum was forced to exert his finest oratory to inspire them to another frame of mind. 'Let it never be said,' he exclaimed, 'that the unconquerable hearts of Puddin'-owners quailed before a parrot, a hedgehog, or a bandicoot.'
'Let hedgehogs deaf go delve and dig,
'Shall puddin'-owners bow the head
'Let courage high resolve inflame
'Bravely sung,' exclaimed Bill, grasping Bunyip Bluegum by the hand, and they proceeded with expressions of the greatest courage and determination.
As a reward for this renewed activity, they got some useful information from a Rooster who was standing at his front gate looking up and down the road, and wishing to heaven that somebody would come along for him to talk to. They got, in fact, a good deal more information than they asked for, for the Rooster was one of those fine up-standing, bumptious skites who love to talk all day, in the heartiest manner, to total strangers while their wives do the washing.
'Singed possum,' he exclaimed, when they had put the usual question to him. 'Now, what an extraordinary thing that you should come along and ask me that question. What an astounding and incredible thing that you should actually use the word "singed" in connexion with the word "possum". Though mind you, the word I had in my mind was not "singed", but "burning". And not "possum", but "feathers". Now, I'll tell you why. Only this morning, as I was standing here, I said to myself "somebody's been burning feathers". I called out at once to the wife—fine woman, the wife, you'll meet her presently —"Have you been burning feathers?" "No", says she. "Well," said I, "if you haven't been burning feathers, somebody else has." At the very moment that I'm repeating the words "feathers" and "burning" you come along and repeat the words "singed" and "possum". Instantly I call to mind that at the identical moment that I smelt something burning, I saw a possum passing this very gate, though whether he happened to be singed or not I didn't inquire.'
'Which way did he go?' inquired Bill excitedly.
'Now, let me see,' said the Rooster. 'He went down the road, turned to the right, gave a jump and a howl, and set off in the direction of Watkin Wombat's summer residence.'
'The very man we're after,' shouted Bill, and bolted off down the road, followed by the others, without taking any notice of the Rooster's request to wait a minute and be introduced to the wife.
'His wife may be all right,' said Bill as they ran, 'but what I say is, blow meetin' a bloomin' old Rooster's wife when you haven't got a year to waste listenin' to a bloomin' old Rooster.'
They followed the Rooster's directions with the utmost rapidity, and came to a large hollow tree with a door in the side and a notice-board nailed up which said, 'Watkin Wombat, Esq., Summer Residence'.
The door was locked, but it was clear that the puddin'-thieves were inside, because they heard the Possum say peevishly, 'You're eating too much, and here's me, most severely singed, not getting sufficient', and the Wombat was heard to say, 'What you want is soap', but the Possum said angrily, 'What I need is immense quantities of puddin'.'
The avengers drew aside to hold a consultation.
'What's to be done?' said Bill. 'It's no use knockin', because they'd look through the keyhole and refuse to come out, and, not bein' burglars, we can't bust the door in. It seems to me that there's nothin' for it but to give way to despair.'
'Never give way to despair while whiskers can be made from dry grass,' said Bunyip Bluegum, and suiting the action to the word, he swiftly made a pair of fine moustaches out of dried grass and stuck them on with wattle gum. 'Now, lend me your hat,' he said to Bill, and taking the hat he turned up the brim, dented in the top, and put it on. 'The bag is also required,' he said to Sam, and taking that in his hand and turning his coat inside out, he stood before them completely disguised.
'You two,' he said, 'must remain in hiding behind the tree. You will hear me knock, accost the ruffians and hold them in conversation. The moment you hear me exclaim loudly, "Hey, Presto! Pots and Pans", you will dart out and engage the villains at fisticuffs. The rest leave to me.'
Waiting till the others were hidden behind the tree, Bunyip rapped smartly on the door which opened presently and the Wombat put his head out cautiously.
'Have I the extreme pleasure of addressing Watkin Wombat, Esq.?' inquired Bunyip Bluegum, with a bow.
Of course, seeing a perfect stranger at the door, the Wombat had no suspicions, and said at once, 'Such is the name of him you see before you.'
'I have called to see you,' said Bunyip, 'on a matter of business. The commodity which I vend is Pootles's Patent Pudding Enlarger, samples of which I have in the bag. As a guarantee of good faith we are giving samples of our famous Enlarger away to all well-known Puddin'-owners. The Enlarger, one of the wonders of modern science, has but to be poured over the puddin', with certain necessary incantations, and the puddin' will be instantly enlarged to double its normal size.' He took some sugar from the bag and held it up. 'I am now about to hand you some of this wonderful discovery. But,' he added impressively, 'the operation of enlarging the puddin' is a delicate one, and must be performed in the open air. Produce your puddin', and I will at once apply Pootles's Patent with marvellous effect.'
'Of course it's understood that no charge is to be made,' said the Possum, hurrying out.
'No charge whatever,' said Bunyip Bluegum.
So on the principle of always getting something for nothing, as the Wombat said, Puddin' was brought out and placed on the ground.
'Now watch me closely,' said Bunyip Bluegum. He sprinkled the Puddin' with sugar, made several passes with his hands, and pronounced these words —
'Who incantations utters
Out sprang Bill and Sam and set about the puddin'-thieves like a pair of windmills, giving them such a clip-clap clouting and a flip-flap flouting, that what with being punched and pounded, and clipped and clapped, they had only enough breath left to give two shrieks of despair while scrambling back into Watkin Wombat's Summer Residence, and banging the door behind them. The three friends had Puddin' secured in no time, and shook hands all round, congratulating Bunyip Bluegum on the success of his plan.
'Your noble actin',' said Bill, 'has saved our Puddin's life.'
'Them puddin'-thieves,' said Sam, 'was children in your hands.'
'We hear you,' sang out the Possum, and the Wombat added, 'Oh, what deceit!'
'Enough of you two,' shouted Bill. 'If we catch you sneakin' after our Puddin' again, you'll get such a beltin' that you'll wish you was vegetarians. And now,' said he, 'for a glorious reunion round the camp fire.'
And a glorious reunion they had, tucking into hot steak-and-kidney puddin' and boiled jam roll, which, after the exertions of the day, went down, as Bill said, 'Grand'.
'If them puddin'-thieves ain't sufferin' the agonies of despair at this very moment, I'll eat my hat along with the Puddin',' said Bill, exultantly.
'Indeed,' said Bunyip Bluegum, 'the consciousness that our enemies are deservedly the victims of acute mental and physical anguish, imparts, it must be admitted, an additional flavour to the admirable Puddin'.'
'Well spoken,' said Bill, admiringly. 'Which I will say, that for turning off a few well-chosen words no parson in the land is the equal of yourself.'
'Your health!' said Bunyip Bluegum.