voices from the past


The Magic Pudding

Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)

. . . the story continues . . .

The trouble is,' said the Constable, 'that there are far too many rioters. One would have been quite sufficient. If there had been only one small undersized rioter, I should have quelled him with the utmost severity.'

'Constable,' said the Mayor, sternly, 'in the name of His Majesty the King, I call on you to arrest these rioters without delay.'

'Look here,' said Bill, 'you're labourin' under an error. This ain't a riot at all. This is merely two puddin'-thieves gettin' a hidin' for tryin' to steal our Puddin'.'

'Puddin'-thieves!' exclaimed the Mayor. 'Don't tell me that puddin'-thieves have come to Tooraloo.'

'It staggers me with pain and grief,
I can't believe it's true,
That we should have a puddin'-thief
Or two in Tooraloo.

'It is enough to make one dumb
And very pale in hue
To know that puddin'-thieves should come
To sacred Tooraloo.

'The Law's just anger must appear.
Ho! seize these scoundrels who
Pollute the moral atmosphere
Of rural Tooraloo.'

'We protest against these cruel words,' said the Possum. 'We have been assaulted and battered and snout-bended by ruffians of the worst description.'

'How can Your Worship say such things,' said the Wombat, 'and us a-wearin' bell-toppers before your very eyes.'

'If you've been assaulted and battered,' said the Mayor, 'we shall have to arrest the assaulters and batterers, as well.'

'What's fair to one is fair to all,' said the Constable. 'You'll admit that, of course?' he added to Bill.

'I admit nothin' of the sort,' said Bill. 'If you want to arrest anybody, do your duty and arrest these here puddin'-snatchers.

'If you're an officer of the Law,
A constant felon-catcher,
Then do not hesitate before
A common puddin'-snatcher.'

'We call on you to arrest these assaulters and batterers of people wearing top-hats,' said the puddin'-thieves;

'Our innocence let all attest,
We prove it by our hatter;
It is your duty to arrest
Not those in top-hats of the best
But those who top-hats batter.'

'It's very clear that somebody has to be arrested,' said the Mayor. 'I can't be put to the trouble of wearing my robes of office in public without somebody having to pay for it. I don't care whether you arrest the top-hat batterers, or the battered top-hatters; all I say is, do your duty, whatever happens —

'So somebody, no matter who,
You must arrest or rue it;
As I'm the Mayor of Tooraloo,
And you've the painful job to do,I call on you to do it.'

'Very well,' said the Constable, peevishly, 'as I've got to take all the responsibility, I'll settle the matter by arresting the Puddin'. As far as I can see, he's the ringleader in this disturbance.'

'You're a carrot-nosed poltroon,' said the Puddin' loudly. 'As for the Mayor, he's a sausage-shaped porous plaster,' and he gave him a sharp pinch in the leg.

'What a ferocious Puddin',' said the Mayor, turning as pale as a turnip. 'Officer, do your duty and arrest this dangerous felon before he perpetrates further sacrilegious acts.'

'That's all very well, you know,' said the Constable, turning as pale as tripe; 'but he might nip me.'

'I can't help that,' cried the Mayor, angrily. 'At all costs I must be protected from danger. Do your duty and arrest this felon with your hat.'

The Constable looked round, gasped, and summoning all his courage, scooped up the Puddin' in his hat.

'My word,' he said, breathlessly, 'but that was a narrow squeak. I expected every moment to be my last.'

'Now we breathe more freely,' said the Mayor, and led the way to the Tooraloo Court House.

'If this isn't too bad,' said Bill, furiously. 'Here we've had all the worry and trouble of fightin' puddin'-thieves night and day, and, on top of it all, here's this Tooralooral tadpole of a Mayor shovin' his nose into the business and arrestin' our Puddin' without rhyme or reason.'

As they had arrived at the Court House at that moment, Bill was forced to smother his resentment for the time being. There was nobody in Court except the Judge and the Usher, who were seated on the bench having a quiet game of cards over a bottle of port.

'Order in the Court,' shouted the Usher, as they all came crowding in; and the Judge, seeing the Constable carrying the Puddin' in his hat, said severely:

'This won't do, you know; it's Contempt of Court, bringing your lunch here.'

'An' it please you, My Lord,' said the Constable hurriedly, 'this here Puddin' has been arrested for pinching the Mayor.'

'As a consequence of which, I see you've pinched the Puddin',' said the Judge facetiously. 'Dear me, what spirits I am in to-day, to be sure!'

'The felon has an aroma most dangerously suggestive of beef gravy,' said the Usher, solemnly.

'Beef gravy?' said the Judge. 'Now, it seems to me that the aroma is much more subtly suggestive of steak and kidney.'

'Garnished, I think, with onions,' said the Usher.

'In order to settle this knotty point, just hand the felon up here a moment,' said the Judge. 'I don't suppose you've got a knife about you?' he asked.

'I've got a paper-knife,' said the Usher; and, the Puddin' having been handed up to the bench, the Judge and the Usher cut a slice each, and had another glass of port.

Bill was naturally enraged at seeing total strangers eating Puddin'-owners' private property, and he called out loudly:

'Common justice and the lawful rights of Puddin'-owners.'

'Silence in the Court while the Judge is eating,' shouted the Usher; and the Judge said severely—

'I really think you ought
To see I'm taking food,
So, Silence in the Court!
(I'm also taking port),
If you intrude, in manner rude,
A lesson you'll be taught.'

'An' it please Your Lordship,' said the Mayor, pointing to Bill, 'this person is a brutal assaulter of people wearing top-hats.'

'No insults,' said Bill, and he gave the Mayor a slap in the face.

The Mayor went as pale as cheese, and the Usher called out: 'No face-slapping while the judge is dining!' and the Judge said, angrily —

'It's really far from nice,
As you ought to be aware,
While I am chewing a slice,
To have you slapping the Mayor.
If I have to complain of you again
I'll commit you in a trice,
You'd better take my advice;
Don't let me warn you twice.'

'All very well for you to talk,' said Bill, scornfully, 'sittin' up there eatin' our Puddin'. I'm a respectable Puddin'-owner, an' I calls on you to hand over that Puddin' under threat of an action-at-law for wrongful imprisonment, trespass, and illegally using the same.'

'Personal remarks to the Judge are not allowed,' shouted the Usher, and the Judge said solemnly—

'A Judge must be respected,
A Judge you mustn't knock,
Or else you'll be detected
And shoved into the dock.
You'll get a nasty shock
When gaolers turn the lock.
In prison cell you'll give a yell
To hear the hangman knock.'

Here, the Usher took off his coat, as the day was warm, and hung it on the back of his chair. He then rapped on the bench and said —

'In the name of the Law I must request
Less noise while we're having a well-earned rest,
For the Judge and the Usher never must shirk
A well-earned rest in the middle of work.
It's the duty of both they are well aware
To preserve their precious lives with care;
It's their duty, when feeling overwrought,
To preserve their lives with Puddin' and Port.'

He sat down and tossed off a bumper of port to prove his words. 'Your deal, I think,' said the Judge, and they went on sipping and munching and dealing out cards. At this, Bill gave way to despair.

'What on earth's to be done?' he asked. 'Here's these legal ferrets has got our Puddin' in their clutches, and here's us, spellbound with anguish, watchin' them wolfin' it. Here's a situation as would wring groans from the breast of a boiled onion.'

'Why, it's worse than droppin' soverins down a drain,' said Sam.

'It's worse than catchin' your whiskers in the mangle,' said Bill.

By a fortunate chance, at this moment the Possum happened to put his snout within Bill's reach, and Bill hit it a swinging clout to relieve his feelings.

'It's unlawful,' shouted the Possum, 'to hit a man's snout unexpectedly when he isn't engaged puddin'-stealing.'

'Observe the rules,' said the Wombat solemnly. 'Be kind to snouts when not engaged in theft.'

'If it hadn't been for you two tryin' to steal our Puddin' all this trouble wouldn't have happened,' said Bill.

'It's the Mayor's fault for bringing us all here,' cried the Possum, angrily. 'If you was a just man, you'd clout him on the snout, too.'

'The Mayor's to blame,' said the Wombat. 'What about the whole lot of us settin' on to him?'

At this suggestion the Mayor trembled so violently that his hat fell off.

'What dreadful words are these?' he asked, and the Constable said hurriedly, 'Never set on to the Mayor while the local Constable is present. Let that be your golden rule.'

'That's all very well,' said Bill, 'but if you two hadn't come interferin' at the wrong moment, our Puddin' wouldn't have been arrested, and all this trouble wouldn't have happened. As you're responsible, the question now is, What are you going to do about it?'

'My advice is,' said the Constable, impressively, 'resign yourselves to Fate.'

'My advice,' said the Mayor in a low voice, 'is general expressions of esteem and friendship, hand-shaking all round, inquiries after each other's health, chatty remarks about the weather, the price of potatoes, and how well the onions are looking.'

Bill treated these suggestions with scorn. 'If any man in the company has better advice to offer, let him stand forth,' said he.

Bunyip Bluegum stood forth. 'My advice,' he said, 'is this: try the case without the Judge; or, in other words, assume the legal functions of this defaulting personage in the bag-wig who is at present engaged in distending himself illegally with our Puddin'. For mark how runs the axiom —

'If you've a case without a Judge,
It's clear your case will never budge;
But if a Judge you have to face,
The chances are you'll lose your case.
To win your case, and save your pelf,
Why, try the blooming case yourself!'

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