voices from the past


The Magic Pudding

Written and Illustrated by Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969)

. . . the story continues . . .

Poisoned, said the Judge, feeling his stomach with trembling hands. 'Until this moment I was under the delusion that a somewhat unpleasant sensation of being, as it were, distended, was merely due to having eaten seven slices. But if —'

'If,' said the Usher, in a quavering voice —

'If you take a poisoned Puddin'
And that poisoned Puddin' chew
The sensations that you suffer
I should rather say were due
To the poison in the Puddin'
In the act of Poisoning You.
And I think the fact suffices
Through this dreadfulest of crimes,
As you've eaten seven slices
You've been poisoned seven times.'

'It was your idea having it up on the bench,' said the Judge, angrily, to the Usher. 'Now,

'If what you say is true,
That idea you'll sadly rue,
The poison I have eaten is entirely due to you.
It's by taking your advice
That I've had my seventh slice,
So I'll tell you what I'll do
Why, I'll beat you black and blue,'

and with that he hit the Usher a smart crack on the head with a port bottle.

'Don't strike a poisoned man,' shouted the Usher; but the Judge went on smacking and cracking him with the bottle, singing —

'The emotion of pity
Need never be sought
In a Judge who's been poisoned
By Puddin' and Port.'

In desperation, the Usher leapt off the bench, and landed head first in the dock, where he stuck like a sardine.

'Too bad, too bad,' shouted the puddin'-thieves. 'Crowding in here where there's only room for two.' Before they could get rid of the Usher, the Judge bounded over the bench and commenced whacking them with the bottle, singing —

'As I find great satisfaction
Hitting anybody who
Can offer that distraction,
Why, I'll have a go at you,'

and he went on bounding and whacking away with the bottle, while the puddin'-thieves kept roaring, and the Usher kept screaming. The uproar was deafening.

'Just listen to it,' said Bill, in despair. 'I'd like to know how on earth we are going to finish the case with all this umptydoodle rumpus going on.'

'Why,' said Bunyip, 'the simpler course is not to finish the case at all.'

'Solved, as usual,' said Bill and, seizing the Puddin' from the bench, he dashed out of Court, followed by Sam, Ben, and Bunyip Bluegum.

As they ran they could hear the Judge still whacking away at everybody, including the Mayor, and the Constable, whose screams were piercing. 'Indeed,' said Bunyip —

'I rather think they'll rather rue
The haste with which they sought to sue
Us, in the Court of Tooraloo.
For, mark how just is Fate!

'The whole benighted, blooming crew,
The Puddin'-thieves, the Usher too,
Are being beaten black and blue
With bottles on the pate.

'I rather think they will eschew,
In future, Puddin'-owners who
Pass through the simple rural view
About the town of Tooraloo.'

'And now,' said Bill, when they had run a mile or two beyond the town, 'and now for some brilliant plan, swiftly conceived, which will put a stop to this Puddin'-snatchin' business for ever. For the point is,' continued Bill, lowering his voice, 'here we are pretty close up to the end of the book, and something will have to be done in a Tremendous Hurry, or else we'll be cut off short by the cover.'

'The solution is perfectly simple,' said Bunyip. 'We have merely to stop wandering along the road, and the story will stop wandering through the book. This, too, will baffle the puddin'-thieves, for while we wander along the road, our Puddin' is exposed to the covetous glances of every passing puddin'-snatcher. Let us, then, remove to some safe, secluded spot and settle down to a life of gaiety, dance, and song, where no puddin'-thief will dare to show a sacrilegious head. Let us, in fact, build a house in a tree. For, mark the advantages of such a habitation —

'Up on high
No neighbours pry
In at the window,
On the sly.

'Up in a tree
You're always free
From bores and bailiffs,
You'll agree.

'Up on high
Bricks you shy
At bores and bailiffs
Passing by.

'Up in the leaves
One never grieves
Over the pranks
Of puddin'-thieves.

'If you would be
Gay and free,
Take my tip and
Live in a tree.'

'We will, we will,' shouted the Puddin'-owners; but the Puddin' said sourly: 'This is all very well, all this high falutin'. But what about the dreadful news of being poisoned at ten-thirty this morning?'

'You ain't poisoned, Albert,' said Bill. 'That was only a mere ruse de guerre, as they say in the noosepapers.'

'A what?' demanded the Puddin', suspiciously.

'Let words be sufficient, without explanation,' said Bill, severely. 'And as we haven't time to waste talkin' philosophy to a Puddin', why, into the bag he goes, or we'll never get the story finished.'

So Puddin' was bundled into the bag, and Bill said, hurriedly: 'Brilliant as our friend Bunyip had proved himself with his ready wit, it remains for old Bill to suggest the brightest idea of all. Here is our friend Ben, a market gardener of the finest description. Very well. Why not build our house in his market garden. The advantages are obvious. Vegetables free of charge the whole year round, and fruit in season. Eggs to be had for the askin', and a fine, simple, honest feller like Ben, to chat to of an evening. What could be more delightful?'

Ben looked very grave at this proposal and began: 'I very much doubt whether there will be enough bed clothes for four people, let alone the carrots are very nervous of strangers—' when Bill cut him short with a hearty clap on the back.

'Say no more,' said Bill, handsomely. 'Rough, good-humoured fellers like us don't need apologies, or any social fal-lals at all. We'll take you as we find you. Without more ado, we shall build a house in your market garden.'

And, without more ado, they did.

The picture overleaf saves the trouble of explaining how they built it, and what a splendid house it is. In order that the Puddin' might have plenty of exercise, they made him a little Puddin' paddock, whence he can shout rude remarks to the people passing by; a habit, I grieve to state, he is very prone to.

Of course, at night they pull up the ladder in case a stray puddin'-thief happens to be prowling around. If a friend calls to have a quiet chat, or to join in a sing-song round the fire, they let the ladder down for him.

And a very pleasant life they lead, sitting of a summer evening on the balcony while Ben does his little market-garden jobs below, and the Puddin' throws bits of bark at the cabbages, and pulls faces at the little pickle onions, in order to make them squeak with terror.

On winter nights there is always Puddin' and hot coffee for supper, and many's the good go in I've had up there, a-sitting round the fire.

I didn't mean to let on that I knew their address, on account of so many people wanting to have a go at the Puddin'. However, it's out now.

When the wind blows and the rain comes down, it's jolly sitting up aloft in the snug tree-house, especially when old Bill is in good form and gives us the Salt Junk Sarah, with all hands joining in the chorus.

'Oh, rolling round the ocean,
From a far and foreign land,
May suit the common notion
That a sailor's life is grand.

'But as for me, I'd sooner be
A-roaring here at home
About the rolling, roaring life
Of them that sails the foam.

'For the homeward-bounder's chorus,
Which he roars across the foam,
Is all about chucking a sailor's life,
And settling down at home.

'Home, home, home,
That's the song of them that roam,
The song of the roaring, rolling sea
Is all about rolling home.'

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