voices from the past


The Magic Pudding

Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)

. . . the story continues . . .


This is what I call satisfactory,' said Bill, as they sat at breakfast next morning. 'It's a great relief to the mind to know that them puddin'-thieves is sufferin' the agonies of remorse, and that our Puddin' is safe from bein' stolen every ten minutes.'

'You're a bun-headed old optimist,' said the Puddin' rudely. 'Puddin'-thieves never suffer from remorse. They only suffer from blighted hopes and suppressed activity.'

'Have you no trust in human nature, Albert?' asked Bill, sternly. 'Don't you know that nothin' gives a man greater remorse than havin' his face punched, his toes trod on, and eggs rubbed in his hair?'

'I have grave doubts myself,' said Bunyip Bluegum, 'as to the sincerity of their repentance'; and Ben Brandysnap said that, speaking as a market gardener, his experience of carrot catchers, onion snatchers, pumpkin pouncers, and cabbage grabbers induced him to hold the opinion that shooting them with pea-rifles was the only sure way to make them feel remorse.

In fact, as Sam said —

'The howls and groans of pain and grief,
The accents of remorse,
Extracted from a puddin'-thief
Are all put on, of course.'

'Then, all I can say is,' cried Bill, enraged, 'if there's any more of this business of puddin'-thieves, disguised as firemen, stealing our Puddin', and puddin'-thieves, not disguised at all, shovin' bags over our heads, blow me if I don't give up Puddin'-owning in despair and take to keepin' carrots for a livin'.'

The Puddin' was so furious at this remark that they were forced to eat an extra slice all round to pacify him, in spite of which he called Bill a turnip-headed old carrot-cruncher, and other insulting names. However, at length they set out on the road, Bill continuing to air some very despondent remarks.

'For what is the good of havin' a noble trustin' nature,' said he, 'for every low puddin'-thief in the land to take advantage of? As far as I can see, the only thing to do is to punch every snout we meet, and chance the odds it belongs to a puddin'-thief.'

'Come,' said Bunyip Bluegum, 'I see you are not your wonted, good-humoured self this morning. As a means of promoting the general gaiety, I call on you to sing the Salt Junk Sarah without delay.'

This was immediately effective, and Bill with the greatest heartiness roared out —

'Ho, aboard the Salt Junk Sarah
Rollin' round the ocean wide,
The bo'sun's mate, I grieve to state,
He kissed the bo'sun's bride.

'Rollin' home, rollin' home,
Home across the foam;
The bo'sun rose and punched his nose
And banged him on the dome.'

At about the fifteenth verse they came to the town of Tooraloo, and that put a stop to the singing, because you can't sing in the public streets unless you are a musician or a nuisance. The town of Tooraloo is one of those dozing, snoozing, sausage-shaped places where all the people who aren't asleep are only half awake, and where dogs pass away their lives on the footpaths, and you fall over cows when taking your evening stroll.

There was a surprise awaiting them at Tooraloo, for the moment they arrived two persons in bell-toppers and long-tailed coats ran out from behind a fence and fell flat on their backs in the middle of the road, yelling 'Help, help! thieves and ruffians are at work!'

The travellers naturally stared with amazement at this peculiar conduct. The moment the persons in bell-toppers caught sight of them they sprang up, and striking an attitude expressive of horror, shouted:

'Behold the puddin'-thieves!'

'Behold the what?' exclaimed Bill.

'Puddin'-thieves,' said one of the bell-topperers. 'For well you know that that dear Puddin' in your hand has been stolen from its parents and guardians, which is ourselves.' And the other bell-topperer added, 'Deny it not, for with that dear Puddin' in your hand your guilt is manifest.'

'Well, if this ain't enough to dumbfound a codfish,' exclaimed Bill. 'Here's two total strangers, disguised as undertakers, actually accusin' us of stealin' our own Puddin'. Why, it's outside the bounds of comprehension!'

'It's enough to stagger the senses,' said Sam.

'It's enough to daze the mind with horror,' said Bill.

'Come, come,' said the bell-topperers, 'cease these expressions of amazement and hand over the stolen Puddin'.'

'What d'yer mean,' exclaimed Bill, 'by calling this a stolen Puddin'? It's a respectable steak-and-kidney, apple-dumplin', grand digestive Puddin', and any fellers in pot-hats sayin' it's a stolen Puddin' is scoundrels of the deepest dye.'

'Never use such words to people wearing bell-toppers,' said one of the bell-topperers, and the other added, 'With that dear Puddin' gazing up to heaven, how can you use such words?'

'All very fine, no doubt,' sneered Bill, 'but if you ain't scoundrels of the deepest dye, remove them hats and prove you ain't afraid to look us in the eye.'

'No, no,' said the first bell-topperer. 'No removing hats at present on account of sunstroke, and colds in the head, and doctor's orders. My doctor said to me only this morning, "Never remove your hat." Those were his words. "Let it be your rule through life," he said, "to keep the head warm, whatever happens."'

'No singing "God save the King", neither,' said the other bell-topperer. 'Let your conduct be noble, and never sing the National Anthem to people wearing bell-toppers.'

'In fact,' said the first bell-topperer, 'all we say is, hand over the Puddin' with a few well-chosen words, and all ill-feeling will be dropped.'

Bill was so enraged at this suggestion that he dashed his hat on the ground and kicked it to relieve his feelings. 'Law or no law,' he shouted, 'I call on all hands to knock them bell-toppers off.'

All hands made a rush for the bell-topperers, who shouted, 'An Englishman's hat is his castle,' and Top-hats are sacred things'; but they were overpowered by numbers, and their hats were snatched off. 'THE PUDDIN'-THIEVES!' shouted the company.

Those bell-toppers had disguised that snooting, snouting scoundrel, the Possum, and his snoozing, boozing friend the Wombat! There was an immense uproar over this discovery, Bill and Sam flapping and snout-bending away at the puddin'-thieves, the puddin'-thieves roaring for mercy. Ben denounced them as bag snatchers, and Bunyip Bluegum expressed his indignation in a fine burst of oratory, beginning:

'Base, indeed, must be those scoundrels, who, lost to all sense of decency and honour, boldly assume the outward semblance of worthy citizens, and, by the pretentious nature of their appearance, not only seek the better to impose upon the noble credulity of Puddin'-owners, but, with dastardly cunning, strike a blow at Society's most sacred emblem — the pot-hat.'

The uproar brought the Mayor of Tooraloo hastening to the scene, followed by the local constable. The Mayor was a little, fat, breathless, beetle-shaped man, who hastened with difficulty owing to his robe of office being trodden on by the Constable, who ran close behind him in order to finish eating a banana in secret. He had some more bananas in a paper bag, and his face was one of those feeble faces that make one think of eggs and carrots and feathers, if you take my meaning.

'How now, how now!' shouted the Mayor. 'A riot going on here, a disturbance in the town of Tooraloo. Constable, arrest these rioters and disturbers.'

'Before going to extremes,' said the Constable, in a tremulous voice, 'my advice to you is, read the Riot Act, and so have all the honour and glory of stopping the riot yourself.'

'Unfortunately,' said the Mayor, 'in the haste of departure, I forgot to bring the Riot Act, so there's nothing else for it; you must have all the honour and glory of quelling it.'

4th Slice pages:   one   two   three   four (end of story)
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