The Magic Pudding
Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)
. . . the story continues . . .
After our experience of yesterday,' said Bill Barnacle as the company of Puddin'-owners set off along the road with their Puddin', 'we shall have to be particularly careful. For what with low puddin'-thieves disguising themselves as firemen, and low Wombats sneakin' our Puddin' while we're helpin' to put out fires, not to speak of all the worry and bother of tryin' to get information out of parrots and bandicoots an' hedgehogs, why, it's enough to make a man suspect his own grandfather of bein' a puddin'-snatcher.'
'As for me,' said Sam Sawnoff, practising boxing attitudes as he walked along, 'I feel like laying out the first man we meet on the off-chance of his being a puddin'-thief.'
'Indeed,' observed Bunyip Bluegum, 'to have one's noblest feelings outraged by reposing a too great trust in unworthy people, is to end by regarding all humanity with an equal suspicion.'
'If you ask my opinion,' said the Puddin' cynically, 'them puddin'-thieves are too clever for you; and, what's more, they're better eaters than you. Why,' said the Puddin', sneering at Bill, 'I'll back one puddin'-thief to eat more in a given time than three Puddin'-owners put together.'
'These are very treacherous sentiments, Albert,' said Bill sternly. 'These are very ignoble and shameless words,' but the Puddin' merely laughed scornfully, and called Bill a bun-headed old beetle-crusher.
'Very well,' said Bill, enraged, 'we shall see if a low puddin'-thief is better than a noble Puddin'-owner. When you see the terrible suspicions I shall indulge in to-day you'll regret them words.'
To prove his words Bill insisted on closely inspecting everybody he met, in case they should be puddin'-thieves in disguise.
To start off with, they had an unpleasant scene with a Kookaburra, a low larrikin who resented the way that Bill examined him.
'Who are you starin' at, Poodle's Whiskers?' he asked.
'Never mind,' said Bill. 'I'm starin' at you for a good an' sufficient reason.'
'Are yer?' said the Kookaburra. 'Well, all I can say is that if yer don't take yer dial outer the road I'll bloomin' well take an' bounce a gibber off yer crust,' and he followed them for quite a long way, singing out insulting things such as, 'You with the wire whiskers,' and 'Get onter the bloke with the face fringe.'
Bill, of course, treated this conduct with silent contempt. It was his rule through life, he said, never to fight people with beaks.
The next encounter they had was with a Flying-fox who, though not so vulgar and rude as the Kookaburra, was equally enraged because, as Bill had suspicions that he was the Possum disguised, he insisted on measuring him to see if he was the same length.
'Nice goings on, indeed,' said the Flying-fox, while Bill was measuring him, 'if a man can't go about his business without being measured by total strangers. A nice thing, indeed, to happen to Finglebury Flying-fox, the well-known and respected fruit stealer.'
However, he was found to be six inches too short, so they let him go, and he hurried off, saying, 'I shall have the Law on you for this, measuring a man in a public place without being licensed as a tailor.'
The third disturbance due to Bill's suspicions occurred while Bunyip Bluegum was in a grocer's shop. They had run out of tea and sugar, and happening to pass through the town of Bungledoo took the opportunity of laying in a fresh supply. If Bunyip hadn't been in the shop, as was pointed out afterwards, the trouble wouldn't have occurred. The first he heard of it was a scream of 'Help, help, murder is being done!' and rushing out of the shop, what was his amazement to see no less a person than his Uncle Wattleberry bounding and plunging about the road with Bill hanging on to his whiskers, and Sam hanging on to one leg.
'I've got him,' shouted Bill. 'Catch a hold of his other leg and give me a chance to get his whiskers off.'
'But why are you taking his whiskers off?' inquired Bunyip Bluegum.
'Because they're stuck on with glue,' shouted Bill. 'I saw it at a glance. It's Watkin Wombat, Esq., disguised as a company promoter.'
'Dear me,' said Bunyip, hurriedly, 'you are making a mistake. This is not a puddin'-thief, this is an Uncle.'
'A what?' exclaimed Bill, letting go the whiskers.
'An Uncle,' replied Bunyip Bluegum.
'An Uncle,' roared Uncle Wattleberry. 'An Uncle of the highest integrity. You have most disgracefully and unmercifully pulled an Uncle's whiskers.'
'I can assure you,' said Bill, 'I pulled them under the delusion that you was a disguised Wombat.'
'That is no excuse, sir,' bellowed Uncle Wattleberry. 'No one but an unmitigated ruffian would pull an Uncle's whiskers.
'Who but the basest scoundrel, double-eyed,
'If I've gone too far,' said Bill, 'I apologize. If I'd known you was an Uncle I wouldn't have done it.'
'Apologies are totally inadequate,' shouted Uncle Wattleberry. 'Nothing short of felling you to the earth with an umbrella could possibly atone for the outrage. You are a danger to the whisker-growing public. You have knocked my hat off, pulled my whiskers, and tried to remove my nose.'
'Pullin' your nose,' said Bill, solemnly, 'is a mistake any man might make, for I put it to all present, as man to man, if that nose don't look as if it's only gummed on.'
All present were forced to admit that it was a mistake that any man might make. 'Any man,' as Sam remarked, 'would think he was doing you a kindness by trying to pull it off.'
'Allow me to point out also, my dear Uncle,' said Bunyip Bluegum, 'that your whiskers were responsible for this seeming outrage. Let your anger, then, be assuaged by the consciousness that you are the victim, not of malice, but of the misfortune of wearing whiskers.'
'How now,' exclaimed Uncle Wattleberry. 'My nephew Bunyip among these sacrilegious whisker-pluckers and nose-pullers. My nephew, not only aiding and abetting these ruffians, but seeking to palliate their crimes! This is too much. My feelings are such that nothing but bounding and plunging can relieve them.'
And thereupon did Uncle Wattleberry proceed to bound and plunge with the greatest activity, shouting all the while—
'You need not think I bound and plunge
'An Uncle's rage must seek relief,
'I bound and plunge, I seethe with rage,
Seeing that there was no possibility of inducing Uncle Wattleberry to look at the affair in a reasonable light, they walked off and left him to continue his bounding and plunging for the amusement of the people of Bungledoo, who brought their chairs out on to the footpath in order to enjoy the sight at their ease. Bill's intention to regard everybody he met with suspicion was somewhat damped by this mistake, and he said there ought to be a law to prevent a man going about looking as if he was a disguised puddin'-thief.
The most annoying part of it all was that when the puddin'-thieves did make their appearance they weren't disguised at all. They were dressed as common ordinary puddin'-thieves, save that the Possum carried a bran bag in his hand and the Wombat waved a white flag.
'Well, if this isn't too bad,' shouted Bill, enraged. 'What d'you mean, comin' along in this unexpected way without bein' disguised?'
'No, no,' sang out the Possum. 'No disguises to-day.'
'No fighting, either,' said the Wombat.
'No disguises, no fighting, and no puddin'-stealing,' said the Possum. 'Nothing but the fairest and most honourable dealings.'
'If you ain't after our Puddin', what are you after?' demanded Bill.
'We're after bringing you a present in this bag,' said the Possum.
'Absurd,' said Bill. 'Puddin'-thieves don't give presents away.'
'Don't say that, Bill,' said the Possum, solemnly. 'If you only knew what noble intentions we have, you'd be ashamed of them words.'
'You'd blush to hear your voice a-utterin' of them,' said the Wombat.
'I can't make this out at all,' said Bill, scratching his head. 'The idea of a puddin'-thief offering a man a present dumbfounds me, as the saying goes.'
'No harm is intended,' said the Possum, and the Wombat added: 'Harm is as far from our thoughts as from the thoughts of angels.'
'Well, well,' said Bill, at length. 'I'll just glance at it first, to see what it's like.'
But the Possum shook his head. 'No, no, Bill,' he said, 'no glancing,' and the Wombat added: 'To prove that no deception is intended, all heads must look in the bag together.'
'What's to be done about this astoundin' predicament?' said Bill. 'If there is a present, of course we may as well have it. If there ain't a present, of course we shall simply have to punch their snouts as usual.'
'One must confess,' said Bunyip Bluegum, 'to the prompting of a certain curiosity as to the nature of this present'; and Sam added, 'Anyway, there's no harm in having a look at it.'