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MARY- GRANT- BRUC E
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
MARY GRANT BRUCE'S
WARD, LOCK & CO., LTD.
A LITTLE BUSH MAID
TIMOTHY IN BUSHLAND
MATES AT BILLABONG
FROM BILLABONG TO
NORAH OF BILLABONG
JIM AND WALLY
DICK LESTER OF KURRA-
BACK TO BILLABONG
" 'No small beast did that,' he said. 'You are lucky to
be alive, Tullum.' " (Page 15.)
The Stone Axe of Uurkamiikk]
THE STONE AXE OF
MARY GRANT BRUCE
ILLUSTRATED BY J. MACFARLANE
WARD. LOCK & CO., LTD.
LONDON AND MELBOURNE
YEAR by year the old black tribes are dying
out, and many of their legends and beliefs
are d3ang with them. These legends deal with
the world as the blacks knew it ; with the Bush
animals and birds ; the powers of storm, flood,
fire, thunder, and magic, and the beings who they
thought controlled these powers ; with the sun,
moon and stars ; and with the life and death of
men and women.
Many of the old tales are savage enough, but
through them runs a thread of feeling for the nobler
side of life, so far as these wild people could grasp
it. The spirit of self-sacrifice is seen in them, and
greed, selfishness and cruelty are often punished as
they deserve. We are apt to look on the blacks
as utter barbarians, but, as we read their own old
stories, we see that they were boys and girls, men
and women, not so unlike us in many ways, and
that they could admire what we admire in each other,
and condemn what we would condemn. The folk-
tales of a people are the story of its soul, and it
would be a pity if the native races of our country
were to vanish altogether before we had collected
enough of their legends to let their successors know
what manner of people lived in Australia for thou-
sands of years before the white man came. Some
valuable collections have indeed been made, but
they are all too few ; and there must even to-day
be many people, especially in the wilder parts of
Australia, who are in touch with the aborigines,
and could, if they would, get the old men and
women to tell them the stories which were handed
down to them when they were children.
In the hope of persuading all young Australians
who have the opportunity to collect and preserve
what they can of the ancient life and legends of
Australia, I have put into modern English a few
of the tales which may still be had from some old
blackfellow or gin.
M. G. B.
I The Stone Axe of Burkamukk
II Waung, the Crow .
HI The Emu who would Dance .
IV BOORAN, THE PELICAN
V The Story of the Stars
VI How Light Came
VII The Frog that Laughed .
VIII The Maiden who found the Moon
IX MiRRAN AND WARREEN
X The Daughters of Wonkawala
XI The Burning of the Crows
XII KuR-BO-ROO, the Bear
XIII WuRiP, the Fire-Bringer
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
THE camp lay calm and peaceful under the
spring sunlight. Burkamukk, the chief, had
chosen its place well : the wurleys were built in
a green glade well shaded with blackwood and
boobyalla trees, and with a soft thick carpet of
grass, on which the black babies loved to roll. Not
a hundred yards away flowed a wide creek ; a creek
so excellent that it fed a swamp a little farther
on. The blacks loved to be near a swamp, for it
was as good as a storehouse of food : the women
used to go there for lily-pads and sedge-roots, and
the men would spear eels in its muddy waters,
while at times big flocks of duck settled on it, besides
other water-fowl. Burkamukk was a very wise
chief, and all his people were fat, and therefore
As blacks count wealth, the people of Burkamukk
were very well off. They had plenty of skin rugs,
so that no one went cold, even in the winter nights ;
and the women had made them well, sewing them
together with the sinews of animals, using for their
needles the small bone of a kangaroo's hind-leg,
10 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
ground to a fine point. It was hard work to sew
these well, but the men used to take pains to get
good skins, pegging them out with tea-tree spikes
and dressing them with wood-ashes and fat, which
they rubbed in until the skins were soft and supple ;
and so the women thought that the least they could
do was to sew them in the very best way. Being
particular about the rugs made the women par-
ticular about other things as well, and they had a
far better outfit than could be found in most camps.
Each woman had a good pitchi, a small wooden
trough hollowed out of the soft wood of the bean-
tree, in which food was kept. When the tribe went
travelling the pitchi was as useful as a suit-case is
to a white Australian girl ; the lubras packed
them with food, and carried them balanced on
their heads, or slung to one hip by a plait of human
hair, or a fur band ; and sometimes a big pitchi
was made by a proud father and beautifully carved
with a stone knife, and used as a cradle for a fat
black baby. Then the women used to weave
baskets made of a strong kind of rush, ornamented
with coloured patterns and fancy stitches, and
each one had, as well, a bag made of the tough
inner bark of the acacia tree, or sometimes of a
messmate or stringy bark, in which she kept food,
sticks and tinder for starting a fire, wattle-gum for
cement, shells, tools, and all sorts of charms to
keep off evil spirits. They had a queer kind of
cooking-pot, in which they used to dissolve gum
and manna. These pots were made out of the big
rough lumps that grow out of old gum-trees, hoi-
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK ii
lowed out by a chisel made of a kangaroo's thigh-
bone. The women used to put gum and manna
in these and place them near the fire, so that the
water gradually heated without burning the wood.
There was no pottery among the blacks, and so
they could never boil food, but they contrived to
make pleasant warm drinks in these wooden pots.
When it came to baking, however, the women
of the tribe were well able to turn out toothsome
roasts. Their ovens were holes in the ground,
plastered with mud, and then filled with fire until
the clay was very hot. When the temperature was
right the embers were taken out, and the holes
lined with wet grass. The food — flesh, fish, or
roots — was packed in rough rush baskets and
placed in the ovens, and covered with more wet
grass, hot stones, gravel, and earth, until the holes
were quite air-tight. The women liked to do this
in the evening, so that the food cooked slowly all
night ; and often all the cooking was done in a
few big ovens, and next morning each family came
to remove its basket of food. And if you had
come along breakfastless just as the steaming
baskets were taken out, and had been asked to
join in eating a plump young bandicoot or wallaby
or a fat black fish — well, even though there were
no plates or knives or forks, I do not think you
would have grumbled at your meal.
The men of Burkamukk's tribe were well armed.
Their boomerangs, spears and throwing-sticks were
all of the best, and they had, in addition, knives
made of splinters of flint or sharpened mussel-shell,
12 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
lashed into handles. Some had skinning knives
made of the long front teeth of the bandicoot,
with the jaw left on for a handle ; and they worked
kangaroo bones into all kinds of tools. But Burka-
mukk himself had a wonderful weapon, the only
one in all that district — a mighty axe. It was
made of green stone, wedge-shaped, and sharply
ground at one edge. This was grasped in the bend
of a doubled piece of split sapling, and tightly
bound round with kangaroo sinews ; and the
handle thus formed was additionally strengthened
by being cemented to the head by a mixture of
gum and shell lime. It was not a very easy matter
to make that cement. First, mussel shells were
burned to make the lime, and pounded in a hollow
stone. Then wattle-gum was chewed for a long
time and placed between sheets of green bark,
which were laid in a shallow hole in the ground
and covered with hot ashes until the gum was
dissolved, when it was kneaded with the lime into
a tough paste. The blacks would have been
badly off without that cement, but not all of them
would go to the trouble of making it as thoroughly
as did the men of Burkamukk's tribe. All the
best workmanship had gone to the manufacture of
Burkamukk's axe, and the whole tribe was proud
of it. Sometimes the chief would lend it to the
best climbers among his young men, who used it
to cut steps in the bark of trees when they wanted
to climb in search of monkey-bears or 'possums ;
or he would let them use it to strip sheets of bark
from the trees, to make their wurleys. Those to
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 13
whom the axe was lent always showed their sense
of the honour done them by making payment in
kind— the fattest of the game caught, or a finely-
woven rush mat, would be laid at the chief's door.
If this had not been done Burkamukk would prob-
ably have looked wise next time some one had
wished to borrow his axe, and would have remarked
that he had work for it himself.
Even though he occasionally lent the axe, Burka-
mukk never let it go out of his sight. It was far
too precious a possession for that. He, too, went
hunting when the axe went, or watched it used to
prise great strips of thick bark off the trees, and
he probably worried the borrower very much by
continually directing how it should be handled. Not
that the young men would have taken any risks
with it. It was the chief's axe, but its possession
brought dignity upon the whole tribe. Other chiefs
had axes, more or less excellent, but there was
no weapon in all the countryside so famous as
the axe of Burkamukk. I doubt whether the
Kings of England have valued their Crown Jewels
so highly as Burkamukk valued his stone treasure
with the sapling handle. Certainly they cannot
have found them half so useful.
On this spring afternoon Burkamukk was coming
up from the swamp where he had been spearing
eels. He had been very successful : Koronn, his
wife, walked behind him carrying a dozen fine speci-
mens, and thinking how good a supper she would
be able to cook, and how delighted her little boy
Tumbo would be ; for of all things Tumbo loved
14 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
to eat eel. Just at the edge of the camp Burka-
mukk stopped, frowning.
A hunting-party of young men had evidently
just returned ; they were the centre of a group in
the middle of the camp, and still they were carrying
their spears and throwing-sticks. They were talk-
ing loudly and gesticulating, and it was clear that
those who listened to them were excited and dis-
tressed ; there were anxious faces and the women
were crying " Yakai ! " (Alas !). The chief strode
up to the group.
" What is the matter ? " he asked.
The men turned, saluting him respectfully.
" We have fallen upon evil times, Chief," their
leader answered. " Little game have we caught,
and we have lost Kon-garn."
" Lost him ! How ? "
" There is a great and terrible beast in the country
to which we went," answered Tullum, the young
warrior. " The men of the friendly tribe we passed
told us of him, but we thought they were joking
with us, for it seemed a foolish tale, only fit to
make women afraid. They told us of a great
kangaroo they call Kuperee, larger than a dozen
kangaroos and fiercer than any animal that walks
on the earth ; and they warned us not to go near
" A kangaroo as large as a dozen ! " said Burka-
mukk. " Ky ! but I would like to see such a beast
The whole tribe could feed on him."
" Ay, they might, if one had the luck to be able
to kill him," said Tullum sorrowfully. " But a
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 15
kangaroo of that size is no joke to encounter."
" What ! " said Burkamukk. " Do you mean
me to beheve that there is truly such a kangaroo ? "
" There is indeed," Tullum answered. " We also
did not believe. We went on, thinking that the
other tribe merely wished to keep us away from
a good hunting-ground. We took no precautions,
and we came upon him suddenly."
" And he was a big kangaroo, do you say ? "
Tullum flung out his hands.
" There are no words to tell you of his bigness,
O, Chief ! " he said — and his voice shook with
terror. " Never has such an animal been seen
before. Black is he, and huge, and fierce ; and
when he saw us he roared and rushed upon us.
There was no time to do battle : he was on us almost
before one could fling a spear. Kon-garn was
nearest, and he went down with one blow of the
monster's foot, his head crushed. Me he struck
at, but luckily for me I was almost out of his reach.
Still, he touched me — see ! " He moved aside his
'possum-skins, and showed long wounds, running
from his shoulder to his wrist — wounds that looked
as though they had been made by great claws.
Burkamukk looked at them closely.
" No small beast did that," he said. " You
are lucky to be alive, Tullum."
" Ay," said Tullum briefly. " Indeed, I thought
for a while that I was as dead as Kon-garn.
But I managed to dodge behind a tree, and
the bush was thick, so that by great good fortune
I got away. Kuperee gave chase, but we all
i6 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
scattered, and luckily the one he chose to follow
was Woma, who is the swiftest of us all ; and Woma
gave him the slip without much trouble, for Kuperee
is so great that he cannot get through the trees
quickly. So we came together again after a day
and a night, and travelled home swiftly,"
" And none of you went back to avenge Kon-
garn ? " the chief asked, sternly.
Tullum looked at him with a curious mixture of
shame and defiance.
" Nay," he said. " None of us have ever been
reckoned cowards — and yet we did not go back.
An ordinary enemy would not have made us afraid,
but there is something about Kuperee that turns
the very heart to water. We hated ourselves —
we hate ourselves still — for not going back. The
blood of Kon-garn cries out to us for vengeance
on his slayer, and in our sleep we see our comrade,
with his head crushed by that terrible foot. And
yet we could not turn. We have come home to
you like frightened children, and shame is on our
heads. We know not how to face Kon-garn's wife,
who sits there and cries ' Yakai ! ' before her
Another of the warriors, Woma the Swift-footed,
spoke up, with sullen anger in his voice.
" We are shamed," he said, " but there is Magic
in it. No true animal is Kuperee, but an evil
spirit. No man could possibly stand before him."
To put anything they could not understand down
to the score of Magic and evil spirits was the usual
custom of the blacks ; but this time it seemed more
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 17
than usually likely to be true. The Meki-gar, or
medicine-men, nodded wisely, and the women all
shuddered and wailed afresh, while the men looked
anxious and afraid. Burkamukk thought for a
moment before replying. He was a very wise chief,
and while he was just as afraid of Magic as any other
blackfellow, still he had the safety of his tribe to
" That is all very well," he said, at length.
" Very likely it is true. But it may not be true
after all : Kuperee may be no more than a very
wonderful kangaroo who has managed to grow to
an enormous size. If that is so, he will want much
food, and gradually he will hunt farther and farther,
all over the country, until at last he will come here.
Then we shall all suffer."
" Ay," said the men. " That is true. But what
can we do ? "
" I will not sit down quietly until I know for
certain that Kuperee is Magic," said Burkamukk,
striking the ground with the butt of his eel-spear.
" If indeed he be Magic, then it will be the part
of the Mcki-gar to deal with him. But first I would
have my young men prove whether they cannot
avenge Kon-garn. It is in my mind that this
Kuperee is no more than a huge animal ; and I
want his blood. Who will shed it for me ? "
There was no lack of brave warriors among the
men of Burkamukk. A shout went up from them,
and immediately forty or fifty sprang before him,
waking all the Bush echoes with their yells of defiance
against Kuperee or any other giant animal, whether
i8 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
kangaroo or anything else. Only Tullum and the
hunters who had been with him hung back ; and
they were unnoticed in the general excitement.
" Ye are too many," Burkamukk said, surveying
them proudly. " Ten such men should be a match
for any kangaroo," He ran his eye over them
rapidly and counted out half a score by name.
Then he bade the other volunteers fall back, so
that the chosen warriors were left standing alone.
"It is well," he said. " Namba shall be your
leader, and you will obey him in all things. Find
out from Tullum where to look for this Kuperee,
and see that you go warily, and that your weapons
are always ready. Go ; seek Kuperee, and ere
seven sleeps have gone, bring me his tail to eat ! "
He stalked towards his wurley. The young men,
shouting yells of battle, rushed for their weapons.
In ten minutes they had gone, running swiftly over
the plain, and the camp was quiet again, save for
the cries of Kon-garn's wife as she mourned for
But alas ! within a few days the wife of Kon-
garn was not the only woman to bewail her dead.
In less than a week the hunting-party was back,
and without three of its bravest warriors. The
survivors told the same story as Tullum and his
men. They had found Kuperee, this time roaming
through the Bush in search of food ; and he had
uttered a roar and rushed upon them. They had
fought, they said, but unavailingly : spears and
thro wing-sticks seemed to fall back blunted from
the monster's hide, and two of the men had been
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 19
seized and devoured, while the third, Namba,
who rushed wildly in, frantically endeavouring to
save them, had been crushed to earth with one
sweeping blow. Then terror, overwhelming and
unconquerable, had fallen on the seven men who
remained, and they had fled, never stopping until
they were far away. Weaponless and ashamed,
they crept back to the camp with their miserable
Burkamukk heard them in silence. Other chiefs
might have been angry, and inflicted fierce punish-
ments, but he knew that to such men there could
be no heavier penalty than to return beaten and
afraid. He nodded, when they had finished.
" Then it would surely seem that Kuperee is
Magic," he said. " Therefore no man can deal
with him, save only the medicine-men. Go to your
wurleys and rest."
The Meki-gar were not at all anxious for the task
of ridding the earth of Kuperee, but since their art,
like that of all medicine-men, consisted in saying
as little as possible, they dared not show their dis-
inclination. Instead, they accepted Burkamukk's
instructions in owl-like silence, making themselves
look as wise as possible, and nodding as though
giant kangaroos came their way — and were swept
out of it — every day in the week. Then they with-
drew to a lonely place outside their camp and
began their spells. They lit tiny fires and burned
scraps of kangaroo-hide, throwing the ashes in the
air and uttering terrible curses against Kuperee.
Also they secretly weaved many magic spells.
20 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
sitting by their little fires and keeping a sharp
look-out lest any of the tribe should see what they
were doing — an unnecessary precaution, since the
tribe was far too terrified of Magic to go anywhere
near them. When they had been at work for what
they considered a sufficient length of time, they
packed up all their charms in skin bags, and returned
to the camp, where they told Burkamukk that
Kuperee was probably dead, as a result of their
incantations. " But if he is not," said their head
man, " then it is because we have nothing belonging
to Kuperee himself to make spells with. If we had
so much of a hair of his tail, or even one of the
bones that he has gnawed, then we could make
such a spell that nothing in the world could stand
against it. As it is, we have done wonderful things,
and he is very likely dead. Certainly no other
Meki-gar could have done as much."
Burkamukk thanked the Meki-gar very respect-
fully. He did not understand their Magic at all,
and he was badly afraid of all Magic ; still, he knew
that the Meki-gar did not always succeed in their
undertakings, and he felt that though their spells
were, no doubt, strong, there was quite a chance
that Kuperee was stronger. He would have felt
much happier had the Meki-gar been able to prove
that the enemy was dead. " If I could give them
a hair of his tail," thought he, " there would be no
need for spells, since Kuperee will certainly be dead
before he allows anyone to meddle with his tail."
It was with some bitterness that he dismissed the
wise men, giving them a present of roasted wallaby.
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 21
It was not long before proof came that the
Magic of the Meki-gar had been at fault. Burka-
miikk's young men, out hunting, met a hunting-
party of a friendly tribe, from whom they learned
that the great kangaroo was fiercer and more
powerful than ever, and had slain many men in
the country to the north. As Burkamukk had
foreseen, he was ranging farther and farther afield,
so that no district could feel safe from him. It
could be only a question of time before Kuperee
would wander dowT. to his country.
Burkamukk held a council of war that night, at
which all the warriors and the Meki-gar were
present. The chief wanted to lead his best men
against the monster, but the Meki-gar opposed the
suggestion vigorously, saying that it was not right
for the head of the tribe to run into a danger such
as this. An ordinary battle was all very well, but
this was Magic, and against it chiefs were just as
ordinary men : and where would the tribe be
without its mighty head ? The warriors supported
the Meki-gar, and they all argued about it until
Burkamukk was ready to lose his temper. He had
no wish to see his best hunters grow fewer and
fewer — already two expeditions had ended in dis-
aster and loss. The discussion was becoming an
angry one when suddenly the chief's tw^o eldest
sons, Inda and Pilla, rose and spoke. They were
young men, but already they were renowned hunters,
famous at tracking and killing game : and besides
their skill with weapons, it was said that they had
learned from the Meki-gar much wisdom beyond
22 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
the knowledge of ordinary men. Straight and tall
as young rushes, they faced their father.
" Let us go," Inda said — " Pilla and I. Numbers
are useless against Kuperee ; it is only cunning that
will slay him, and for that two men are better than
a score. Give us a trial, and if we fail, then will
be time enough to talk of a great expedition."
The chief looked at them with angry unhappiness.
" And if you fail ? " he said. " Then I shall have
lost my sons."
" What of that ? " asked Pilla. " You have other
sons, and we will have died for the tribe. That is
the right of a chief's son. Other men's sons have
tried, and some of them have died. Now it is our
A murmur of dissent ran round the circle, for Pilla
and Inda were much loved ; and they were very
young. But Burkamukk looked at them proudly,
though his face was very sad.
" They say rightly," he said. " They are the
chief's sons, and it is their privilege, if need be,
to die for the tribe. Go, then, my sons, and may
Pund-jel make your hearts cunning and your aim
steady when you meet Kuperee."
" There is one thing we desire," Inda said. " Will
you lend us your stone axe, my father ? It seems
to us that Kuperee will fall to no ordinary weapon,
and a dream has come to us that bids us take the
axe. But that is for you to say. It is a great
thing to ask ; but if we live we will bring it back
to you in safety."
Burkamukk signed to a young man who stood
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 23
near him, and bade him fetch the axe from his
wurley. When it came, he handed it to his sons.
" It is a great treasure, but you are my sons, and
you are worthy to bear it," he said. " Never before
has it left my sight in the hands of any warrior, and
I would that I were the one to wield it against
Kuperee. Good luck go with it and with you, my
sons ! "
So Inda and Pilla made themselves ready to go,
preparing as if they were to take part in a splendid
corroboree. They painted themselves with white
stripes, and over and under their eyes and on their
cheeks drew streaks of red ochre. Round their
heads they wore twisted bands of fur, and in these
bands they stuck plumes, made of the white quill
feathers of a black swan's wing. Kangaroo teeth
were fastened in their hair, and necklaces of the
same teeth hung down upon their breasts. From
their shoulders hung the tails of yellow dingos.
They wore belts and aprons of wallaby skin, and,
fastened behind to these belts, stiff upright tufts of
the neck feathers of the emu, like the tail of a cock.
They bore many weapons, and each took it in turn
to carry the stone axe of Burkamukk. The whole
tribe came out to watch them go, and while the men
were envious, the women wailed sadly, for they were
young, and it seemed that they were going forth to
24 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
PiLLA and Inda travelled swiftly through the Bush
for the first two days of their journey. They passed
through good hunting country, where they were
tempted by the sign of much game, but they would
not allow themselves to turn aside, greatly as they
longed for fresh meat. They carried a little food
with them, and were fortunate in finding much
boombul, which the white people afterwards called
manna — a sweet white substance rather like small
pieces of loaf-sugar, with a very delicate flavour.
Boombul drops from the leaves and small branches
of some kinds of gum-trees, and the blacks loved to
eat it, so Pilla and Inda thought themselves very
They met friendly blacks now and then, as they
travelled, and heard many stories of the ferocity of
Kuperee. Some of the reports were very terrifying.
It was difficult to find out how huge he was, for he
seemed to grow in size according to the terror of the
men who had seen him : some of whom said he was
as large as any gum-tree. But all were agreed as
to his fierceness. He devoured men in a single gulp :
he struck them down as one might strike a yurkurn,
or lizard : his swiftness in pursuit was terrible to
see. The man he chased had no chance whatever,
unless he managed to reach thick timber, where
Kuperee's size prevented his taking the gigantic
leaps which so quickly ended a chase on open ground.
And about all the tales hung the sense of blind fear
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 25
which the great beast seemed to inspire. No matter
how brave a fighting-man might be, the sight of
Kuperee seemed to turn his heart to water, making
him long only to flee like a frightened child. Their
voices shook with terror as they spoke of him.
" It seems to me," said Inda, as they journeyed
on, after having talked to some of these hunters,
"that our first thought should be for ourselves.
All these men have thought themselves very brave,
and have gone out to meet Kuperee, never doubting
that they would not be afraid : and they have
become very afraid indeed. Now you and I are no
cowards in ordinary fighting, and we have had no
fear of ourselves. But I think we had better make
up our minds that we certainly shall become afraid,
and decide what to do. I do not wish to lose my
senses and run away like a beaten pickaninny."
" That is good sense," said Pilla. " Perhaps if
we managed to keep our heads during our first terror
it might pass after a time, so that we should again be
" That is my idea," Inda answered. " And if
Kuperee did not happen to see us while we were
afraid, so much the better for us. I do not believe
that fear will be with us always, but still, we are
no better than all these other men. I believe we
will get an attack of it, and then it will pass off,
like an attack of sickness, if we treat it properly."
" Yes," said Pilla, nodding. " But if we run
away we shall be afraid for ever — always supposing
we are not dead."
" If we run away, the one that Kuperee runs after
26 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
will certainly be dead," Inda said. " Therefore, let
us go very warily, and perhaps we can manage so
that he does not see us during our first fear."
"It is a queer thing," Pilla said, laughing, " for
hunters to go out making certain of being afraid."
" I think it is a safe thing just now," said Inda
shortly. " This hunting is not like other hunting."
So they went on, keeping a very sharp look-out,
and having their weapons always ready. The stone
axe of Burkamukk was rather troublesome to them,
for their hands were encumbered with spears and
throwing-sticks, and they were not used to carrying
an axe : so, at last, Inda twisted strings of bark and
slung it across his shoulders, where it felt much
more comfortable. Soon they came upon traces
of the great beast they sought. The forest began
to be full of his tracks, and the saplings had been
pulled about and gnawed by some creature larger
than anything they had ever seen. And then, one
evening, they heard running feet, and, leaping to
one side, spear in hand, they saw half a dozen men,
racing through the Bush, blind with terror. One
slipped and fell near where they were standing, and
rolled almost to their feet. Pilla and Inda drew
him into a thicket.
" Is Kuperee after you ? " they asked.
The man rolled his eyes upwards.
" He has slain two of us, and is now in pursuit of
us all," he panted. " Let me go ! " He scrambled
to his feet and dashed away.
Pilla and Inda crouched low in the thicket, seeing
nothing. But presently they heard a mighty
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 27
pounding through the trees fifty yards away : and
though nothing was visible, the sound of those
great leaps was so terrifying in itself that they
found themselves trembling. The pounding died
away in the direction in which the blacks had gone.
" Ky ! what a tail he must have, that makes the
earth shake as he goes ! " Inda muttered. " Never
have I heard anything like it ! Art afraid, Pilla ? "
" Very much, I believe," said Pilla. " But it will
pass, I feel sure. Brother, it seems to me that
Kuperee's den must be not far off, and it would be
safe to try to find it, since he has gone southward
for his hunting : and most likely he will return
slowly. Let us push on, while we can go quickly."
" That is good talk," Inda answered. " Perhaps
we can hide ourselves near his den, and watch him
without being seen. I should like to get my terror
over in a high tree."
"I, too," said Pilla. " I fancy the attack might
pass more quickly. Let us hurry."
They pushed onward as fast as possible. It
was not hard to find the way, for the blacks had
fled too madly to trouble about leaving tracks, and
the marks of their running made a clear path, to
native eyes. Soon, too, they came upon Kuperee's
tracks — great footprints and deep depressions in
the earth where his enormous tail had hit the
ground at every bound. Then the Bush became
more and more beaten down, as though some great
animal roamed through it constantly ; and at last
they found the body of a hunter, struck down from
behind as he ran.
28 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
" It was no playful tap that killed him," said
Pilla, with a shudder. " The other, I suppose,
was eaten as Kuperee loves to eat men, in one
gulp. See, Inda— is not that where he sleeps ? "
They were near a cleared space, where the ground
was much trampled. Bones lay here and there,
and in the shadow of a dense lightwood tree in the
middle the grass showed clearly where a great body
had often lain. No kangaroo has any kind of hole,
for they love the Bush to sleep in, and Kuperee
was evidently like other kangaroos in this. Probably
he changed his home often ; but this was a good
place, ringed about with bushes that made it quiet
and hard to find, so that no enemy was likely to
come upon him too suddenly ; while, from his lair
under the lightwood, he could see anything approach.
" Men, or animals, or leaves — it does not seem to
matter to him what he eats," said Inda, looking at
the lair. " No wonder he grows huge. Pilla, I
am very afraid, but I feel I will not always be
afraid. Let us climb up into the lightwood tree ;
he will never see us among its thick leaves. Then
he will come home tired, and perhaps we can spear
him as he sleeps."
They climbed up into the dense branches, mount-
ing high, and choosing stout limbs to lie on where
they could peer down below ; and they fixed their
spears and other weapons so that they could use
them easily. The stone axe of Burkamukk was
much in Inda's way in climbing, and finally he
untied it from his shoulders.
" I do not see how I can use this in the tree," he
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 29
said. " See, I will strike it into the trunk, so that
we can get at it handily if we need it."
He smote it against the trunk, and the wood
held it fast. Then he and Pilla took their places,
and watched for the coming of Kuperee.
They had not long to wait. Presently came,
far off, the sound of great bounds and breaking
saplings ; not, as they had heard it last, in the
fierceness of pursuit, but slowly, as a man may
return home after successful hunting. The brothers
felt their hearts thumping as they waited. Nearer
and nearer came the sound, and soon the bushes
parted and a mighty kangaroo hopped into the
So huge was he, so black and fierce, that they
caught at each other in terror. Never had they
dreamed of any kangaroo like this. His fur was
thick and long, and of a glossy black ; his head
carried proudly aloft, his great tail like the limb of
a tree. And in his gleaming eyes, and on his fierce
face, was an expression of cunning and ferocity
that, even more than his size, made him unlike
any animal the Bush had ever known. Something
of mystery and terror seemed to surround him ; it
was indeed clear that he was Magic. Pilla and Inda
trembled so that they feared that the lightwood
would shake and reveal them to the monster.
He sat down, out on the clear space, and rubbed
his mouth with his forepaws, snifhng at the air so
that they fell into a further terror, thinking he had
smelt them out. But one blackfellow smells much
like another, and Kuperee had recently dealt with
30 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
three blacks : if he noticed any unusual odour he
put it down to his late meal. He felt sleepy and
well-fed ; he had enjoyed both his run and his
meal. Now, he only wanted sleep.
He hopped towards the lightwood, and at his
coming Pilla and Inda felt themselves gripped by
overmastering fear. Their teeth chattered ; their
dry tongues seemed to choke them. They clung
to their boughs, dreading lest their trembling hold
should loosen, bringing them tumbling at his feet.
So, gripping with toes and fingers, with sweating
cheeks pressed closely to the limbs, with staring
eyes that peered downwards, they watched the
dreadful beast come.
He came in under the tree and lay down, stretch-
ing himself out to sleep ; and in a few moments
his heavy breathing showed that he had passed
quietly into slumber. As they watched, some-
thing of their terror left the brothers. Asleep,
Kuperee was not so horrible ; he looked, indeed,
not so unlike any other kangaroo, with his fierce
eyes veiled and the strength of his great body
" I believe my time of fear is passing," Inda
whispered. "He is but a kangaroo, after all."
" Yes, but what a terrible one ! " murmured
Pilla, as well as his chattering teeth would let him.
" Still, we are mighty hunters, and no fools : unless
he is really Magic we should be able to subdue him.
I am beginning to feel a man again."
" We do not know for certain that he is Magic.
Let us believe, then, that he is not, and that will
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 31
help us," Inda whispered. " Why should we not
spear him as he lies ? "
" We might easily do it. Let us creep to the
lower boughs, where we shall have more room to
move our arms. Art afraid any longer, Inda ? "
" Not as I was," Inda replied, " At least, not
white he sleeps."
" Then let us try to arrange that he shall never
wake," Pilla murmured.
Very softly, with infinite caution, they crept
down the tree, until they came to the great lower
limbs. Here they had space to swing their arms,
and they made their weapons ready. Below, the
huge kangaroo never stirred. His deep breathing,
telling of sound slumber, was music in the ears
of the brothers. They nodded a signal to each
other as they poised their first spears.
So swiftly did they throw that before Kuperee
was aroused from his sleep a shower of throwing-
sticks and spears had hurtled through the air.
Not one missed ; the mark w^as easy, and the
brothers were proved hunters. The weapons sped
fast and true. But a terrible thing happened.
Each point, as it struck Kuperee's fur, became
blunt, and, instead of piercing him in fifty places,
the weapons fell back from him, spent and useless.
With a groan of fear, the brothers grasped at
the branches and swung themselves aloft. Below,
Kuperee's roar of fury drowned all other sounds.
He sprang to his feet, his eyes blazing. He had
received no injury, but he had been touched— that
in itself was an indignity he had never suffered
32 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
before. With another earth-shaking roar he looked
about for his foes.
To be attacked from the air was a new experience
for Kuperee. All his other enemies had come
upon him out of the Bush, and it never occurred to
him, in his rage, to look upward, where the shaking
of the branches would certainly have revealed the
terrified Pilla and Inda. Instead, seeing nothing,
Kuperee made sure that the trees concealed the
attackers. He roared again, dreadfully, and
bounded across the clearing. The Bush closed
behind him, but the sky rang with the echo of his
terrible voice and the thud of the leaps that carried
him rapidly away.
Kuperee sleeping and Kuperee awake and angry
were two very different beings, and with the first
movement of the monster all their fear had come
back to Pilla and Inda. As roar succeeded roar they
became more and more weak with terror. Their
grip on the boughs relaxed with the trembling of
their hands, and even as Kuperee bounded away
they lost their hold and tumbled bodily out of the
It was not far to the ground, but Pilla happened
to fall first, and Inda fell on top of him, and they
managed to hurt each other a good deal. They
were in that excited and over-wrought state when
anything seems an injury, and each lost his temper.
" You did that on purpose ! " Pilla said, striking
at his brother. " Take that ! "
" Would you ! " said Inda, between his teeth.
" I'll teach you to hit me ! "
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 33
He stooped and picked up one of the throwing-
sticks and flung it at his brother. It hit Pilla
violently on the nose, and made him furiously
angry. He gathered an armful of the fallen spears,
and, running back, threw them at Inda so swiftly
that there was no time to dodge. They hit him all
over his body, and though they had all become
blunt, they hurt very badly. The blood was
streaming from Pilla's nose, and when he had thrown
all his spears he stopped to wipe it off with a tuft
of grass. The pause gave them time to think, and
they stared at each other. Suddenly they burst
" What fools we are ! " they said.
" Yes, we are indeed fools," said Inda, rubbing
his bruises. " Kuperee may be back at any moment,
and here we will be found, fighting each other like a
couple of stupid boys. I am sorry I hurt you,
" You have certainly done that," said Pilla,
caressing his nose gently. " There will be a dint
down my nose for ever — the bone is broken, I think.
Why don't you hit Kuperee as hard as that ? "
" I will, if I get the chance," Inda said. " And
you yourself are no child when it comes to throwing
spears — a good thing for me that they were blunt.
Yes, brother, we are the biggest fools in the Bush.
Now what are we to do ? "
" Save yourself ! " screamed Pilla. " Here comes
Kuperee ! "
The great kangaroo came bounding back tlirough
the bushes, and the brothers, wild with terror,
S A.B. c
34 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
flung themselves at the lightwood tree. Up they
went, but only just in time. Inda's heel was
grazed by Kuperee's claw as he gained the safety of
the lower branches. He. climbed up swiftly, and,
clinging together, they looked down at their foe.
" He cannot climb ! " gasped Pilla.
" No, but he will have the tree down ! " cried his
Kuperee was flinging himself against the tree,
until it rocked beneath the blows of his great body.
Again and again came the dull thud as he drew
himself back and came dashing against the trunk.
Gradually it yielded, beginning to lean sidewards.
Lower and lower it came, and Kuperee, rising high
on his hind-legs and tail, clawed upward at Inda.
As the hunter, with a cry of despair, tried to pull
himself higher, Pilla, leaning from an upper branch,
thrust something into his hand.
"It is the stone axe of our father," he gasped.
" Strike with it, brother ! "
Inda grasped the handle, and smote downward with
all his might. The keen edge of the stone caught
Kuperee in the forehead, and sank into his head.
He fell back, wrenching the axe from Inda's hand.
One more terrific roar rent the air — a cry of pain and
anger fearful to hear. Then, with a dull groan the
monster sank sidewards to the grass. He was dead.
It was long before Pilla and Inda dared to quit
the shelter of the leaning tree. They could scarcely
believe that their enemy was dead, until they saw
the mighty limbs stiffen, and beheld a crow perch,
unmolested, on Kuperee's head. Then the brothers
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 35
came down from the tree and clasped each other's
" That was a good blow of yours," said Pilla.
" Ay, but it would never have been struck had
you not put the axe into my hands," said Inda. " I
had forgotten all about it . Our names will live long,
" That will be agreeable, but I wish my nose were
not so sore," said Pilla. " And your bruises— how
are they ? "
" Sore enough — but I had almost forgotten them.
Ky, but I am hungry, Pilla ! "
" I, too," said Pilla, looking with interest at the
great dead body. " Well, at least we have plenty of
food — Burkamukk said long ago that Kuperee should
be enough for the whole tribe. Let us skin him
carefully, for his hide will be a proud trophy to take
back to our father — if we can but carry it."
" We shall eat him while it is dr3ang," Inda said.
" Then the skin will be lighter, and we shall be
exceedingly strong. Come, brother — my hunger
They fell to work on the huge carcass with their
sharp skinning-knives, made of the thigh-bones of
kangaroos. And then befel the most wonderful
thing of all.
Inda and Pilla took off the black hide of Kuperee,
and pegged it out carefully with sharp sticks.
Then they came back to the body, and their eyes
36 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
glistened with satisfaction. Meat is the best thing
in the world to a blackfellow, and never before had
either seen so much meat. It was almost staggering
to think that it was theirs, and to be eaten. All
they had feared and suffered became as nothing
in the prospect of that tremendous feast.
" Yakai ! " mourned Pilla. " We shall never
finish it all before it goes bad, not though we eat
day and night without ceasing — as I mean to do."
"And I also," agreed Inda. "Let us make
ovens before we begin to cut him up — we shall
waste less time that way. Some of him will cer-
tainly go bad, but we will do our best."
They were turning aside to gather sticks when Pilla
suddenly caught at his brother's arm. He happened
to seize a bruised part, and Inda was justly annoyed.
" Take care, blockhead ! " he said, shaking him
off roughly. " I ache all over — is it not enough
for you ? "
Pilla took no notice. He wa^ staring at the
skinned body of Kuperee, with eyes that were
almost starting from his head.
" Look ! " he gasped. " Look ! He moves ! "
Inda leaped to one side.
" Moves ! " he uttered. " Are you mad ? "
" I saw his side move," Pilla repeated. " See
— there it is again ! "
Something bulged under the stripped skin of
the monster. The brothers leaped backward.
" But he is certainly dead," gasped Inda. " Have
we not skinned him ? Can a skinned animal move
— even if he be Kuperee ? "
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 37
" Let us leave him and go home," muttered
Pilla. "He is very bad Magic."
But that was more than Inda could bring himself
" Leave him ! " he exclaimed. " Leave the
most wonderful feast ever heard of in all the Bush !
No, I will not. Magic or no Magic, he is dead, and
I will see what moves."
He sprang forward, knife in hand, and with a
quick movement slit open the body. Out popped
a head — a black head, with fear and pain and
bewilderment on its features. Inda sprang back,
raising his knife to defend himself.
" Let me out ! " begged the head. " It is horrible
in here — no air, no light, nothing but dead men !
Let me out, I say ! "
" Are you Magic ? " gasped Inda.
" Magic ? I ? " The wild eyes rolled in aston-
ishment. "I am Kanalka, of the Crow Tribe,
But an hour ago Kuperee swallowed me at a gulp,
when he came upon me in the forest. I do not
know why I am not dead — but I live yet, though
I was wishing to die when suddenly you let the
light in to my prison. Make your hole larger,
friend, and let me out."
" Do you say there are dead men there ? "
"He is full of them. I only am alive, I sup-
pose because I was the last eaten. Be quick ! be
quick ! "
Half doubting, half afraid, Inda opened the
great body, and helped Kanalka out. He staggered
38 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
and fell helplessly to the ground, Pilla and Inda
did not trouble about him. One after another, they
took from Kuperee ten black hunters, laying them
in a row upon the grass. Last of all they took
out Kon-garn and three others of their own tribe,
and they wailed over them.
Kanalka, who had somewhat recovered, came
and looked curiously at the row of men.
" Would you not say that they were alive ? "
he asked. " They do not look as though they
were anything but asleep."
" I think it is Magic," said Inda, very much
afraid. " Two moons have gone by since Kon-garn,
who lies there, was eaten, and yet he looks as though
asleep. Kuperee was a strange host, truly, to keep
you all in such good condition ! "
The gaze of Kanalka wandered to the stone axe
of Burkamukk, which lay on the grass near Kuperee.
Instantly he became interested. He had seen many
dead men, but no such axe as this had come his
" Is that the mighty axe of which all the tribes
have heard ? " he asked eagerly. " Ky ! what a
beauty ! Never have I seen such a one ! I should
like to handle it."
He picked it up and tested its weight, while PiUa
and Inda watched him carefully, for they knew
that the axe was a treasure beyond anything in
the Bush, and that a man would risk almost anything
to possess it. They need not, however, have feared
Kanalka. He was a simple-minded fellow, and
was merely lost in admiration.
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 39
" A beauty, indeed ! " he exclaimed. " It will
be something to tell my people, that in the one
day I escaped from the body of Kuperee and handled
the stone axe of Burkamukk ! Was it with this
that you killed the monster ? "
" Ay," said Inda. " It clove his skull — one
blow was enough, though our spears had fallen
blunted from his hide."
" A marvel, indeed ! " cried Kanalka. " It
would be a mighty weapon at close quarters in a
fight. One would swing it round — thus — and bring
it down upon the enemy's head "
He illustrated his meaning, swinging the axe
aloft and bringing it down over the head of the
silent form of Kon-garn. Just before it reached
the head he checked it, letting it do no more than
touch Kon-garn — a touch no heavier than the sweep
of a butterfly's wing.
Kon-garn yawned, sneezed, and sat up.
With a yell of terror the three blacks started
backwards, tripped over each other, and fell in a
heap. Kon-garn surveyed the strugghng mass
" Where am I ? " he asked. " And what is all
this about ? Is it you, Pilla and Inda ?
They struggled to their feet and looked at him
" You are dead," said Pilla firmly " Why do
you talk ? "
" I do not know why, indeed, since it is e\'ident
that I am talking to fools," said Kon-garn rudely.
" What has happened to you, that you and this
40 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
stranger have suddenly gone mad ? Ky ! how
hungry I am ! Have you food ? "
The brothers suddenly began to laugh help-
" Food ! " said Inda. " There is more food
than ever you saw before, Kon-garn, and a few
minutes ago you were part of it."
" That is a riddle I am too tired to guess," said
Kon-garn crossly. " I only wish that any food
were part of me, for I feel as though I had never
eaten in my life."
"It is certainly two moons at least since last
you ate," Pilla told him.
" I said already that you were mad, and I grow
more sure of it every minute," said poor Kon-garn.
" Who are these who lie beside me ? "
" They are dead men ; and a moment ago you
too were dead," Inda said.
Kon-garn became afraid, as well as cross. It
was clear that everybody was mad, and he had
heard that it was wise to humour mad people, or
they might do you an injury. So he hid his feelings
and looked at the brothers as kindly as his bewilder-
ment and hunger would let him.
" Dead, was I ? " he said. " Then how did I
come to life ? "
" This man touched you with the stone axe of
Burkamukk," Inda answered.
" Dear me, how simple ! " said Kon-garn. " None
of our Meki-gar know anything half so easy. But
why does he not go on, and bring all these other
dead men to life too ? "
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 41
" Indeed," said Kanalka suddenly, " I do not
He flung himself upon the stone axe, which he
had let fall in his terror, and touched another still
form with it. Instantly the black hunter came to
life. Kanalka uttered a wild yell of amazement
and triumph. Then Inda snatched the axe from
him and ran along the line, touching one man after
another ; and when he had come to the end there
were ten blackfellows sitting up and rubbing their
eyes, and most of them were asking eagerly for
food. The brothers drew back a few paces and
looked at them.
"It is clear," said Pilla, " that Kuperee was
Magic, and that when our father's stone axe entered
his skull it became Magic too. More than ever
we must guard it carefully, since it seems to have
the power of life and death." He lowered his voice,
speaking to Inda. " I will lash it to your shoulders,
brother — we are among strangers, and it will be
He lashed the axe to Inda's shoulders firmly,
and the other men looked on. Each knew exactly
why he was doing it, and respected him for his
caution, since each knew that had chance thrown
in his way tlie mighty stone axe he would not have
been proof against the temptation of trying to get
possession of it. Then they all talked together,
and were very amazed at what had happened to
them ; but since they were able to put everything
down to Magic, nothing worried them much, and
they were quite relieved to find themselves alive,
42 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
and to think of seeing their wives and children again.
More than anything, they were overjoyed at the
magnificent feast that awaited them.
And what a feast it was ! Never again in all their
lives did such a chance come to them. The wild
black never asked for any trimmings with his food :
he would, indeed, eat anything that came his way,
but meat, meat only, and still more meat, was
what his soul most desired. And now meat awaited
them, in a huge mountain ; and they were hungry
" We will cut up Kuperee," said Pilla and Inda,
" since we alone have knives. The rest of you must
make fire, and prepare ovens."
The men scattered to their tasks. Some gathered
sticks ; others scooped out holes in the ground for
the ovens ; others teased dry messmate bark for
tinder for the man who was making the fire. This
was Kon-garn, and he did it very quickly. Pilla
lent him one of his most useful household necessaries,
which he always carried with him — a piece of dry
grass-tree cane, having a hole bored through to the
pith on its upper side, and a pointed piece of soft
wood ; and these were just as useful to the blacks
as a box of matches would be to you. Kon-garn
sat down on the ground, holding the bit of grass-tree
firmly down with his feet, and pressed the point
of the soft wood into the little hole. Then he held
it upright between his palms and twirled it rapidly.
Within two minutes smoke began to curl round
the twirling point, and another man carefully put
some teased bark, soft and dry, round the hole and
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 43
blew on it. A moment more and a thin tongue of
flame licked through the tinder ; more and more
was fed to it, and then leaves and twigs ; and in
five minutes there was a blazing fire, while Kon-
gam restored to Pilla his two fiame-making sticks,
very little the worse for wear.
The blacks did not usually light a large fire, after
the fashion of white men, who like to make a camp-
fire so big that they roast their faces while their
backs remain cold. The way the blacks preferred
was to make two little fires, and to sit between
them, so that they were kept warm on both sides.
But on this occasion they made a very big blaze,
so that they should quickly have enough fire to
heat the ovens ; and then they made the big fire
long and narrow, so that they could sit on each
side of it and cook. While the ovens were getting
hot they took small pieces of the Kangaroo meat
and speared them on green sticks, holding them
before the coals. They were all so desperately
hungry that they did not care much whether the
meat was properly cooked — as soon as the first
pieces were warmed through they stuffed them
into their mouths, and then ran to Pilla and Inda
for more. Pilla and Inda were working hard at
cutting up Kuperee, and though they did not mind
the hungry men beginning without them, they
became annoyed when they came again and again
" Do not forget that we are hungry too," Pilla
growled. " We have travelled far before we killed
Kuperee and let you all out, and now we are cutting
44 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
up your meat for you. If you do not bring us
some cooked pieces we must go and cook for our-
That made the others afraid, for the cutting-up
of so huge an animal as Kuperee was no light work,
and none of them had knives. So they fed the
brothers with toothsome morsels as they worked,
and the cutting went on unchecked, until the ovens
were hot and there was a pile of joints ready to be
put in. This was done, wrapping the joints in green
leaves. Then they carried to the fire the great heap
of small pieces of meat left from the cutting-up, and
cooked and ate, and ate and cooked, all through
Even in ordinary life it would have astonished
you to see how much meat a black could eat — a
well-fed blackfellow, with a wife who kept his wurley
well supplied with roots and grubs and all the other
pleasant things they loved. But these blacks had
had no food, some of them for weeks, and it seemed
that they would never stop. The great pile of
pieces dwindled until there were none left, and
then they hacked more off, and cooked and ate until
the ovens were ready and the smoking joints came
out. They were so hot that you would not have
cared to touch them without a knife and fork ; but
the blacks seized them and tore them to pieces and
gnawed them, until nothing remained but well-
picked bones. And then they cooked more.
Pilla and Inda were the first to give in, and they
had eaten enough for twenty white men. They
waddled off to a thicket and flung themselves under
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 45
a bush, sleeping back to back, so that the stone axe
of Burkamukk was safe between them. But the
others had no thought for anything but Kangaroo,
and even the mighty axe could not have tempted
them from that tremendous gorge. They ate on,
all through the day. Towards night some of them
gave in ; then, one by one, they could eat no more,
and most of them went to sleep where they sat
before the fire. But dawn on the next day showed
the steadfast Kon-garn, rotund beyond belief, and
eating still. And by that time Pilla and Inda had
slept off their light repast, and were ready to begin
all over again.
They camped for more than a week by the carcass
of Kuperee, and ate it until it was no longer pleasant
to eat, even for a blackfellow. Then they began
to think it was time to return to their tribes. So
they greased their bodies comfortably all over, and
set off through the forest, a peaceful and happy
band, far too well-fed to think of quarrelling. When
they came near the head-quarters of each tribe they
marched to its camp in a proud procession, returning
the warriors who had been mourned as dead : and
great were tlie rejoicings throughout the country,
and rich rewards of furs and weapons and food were
showered upon Inda and Pilla. The stone axe of
Burkamukk became more famous than ever, and
every one wanted to look at the wonderful weapon
that had slain Kuperee. Songs were made about
the two heroes, and for ages afterwards mothers
used to tell their children about them, and hope that
their boys would be as brave as Burkamukk 's sons.
46 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
At last they drew near to their own camp. They
halted the night before a few hours' journey away,
and by good luck they met a couple of boys out
hunting, and sent them in to tell the tribe that they
were coming. They had no idea of coming in un-
heralded, for they knew they had done a great deed,
and they meant to return in state. Besides, although
the rescued men were with them, the load of pre-
sents they had received was far too heavy to be
They got up early and painted themselves in
stripes and put on their finest feathers and furs.
Inda carried the stone axe of Burkamukk, and Pilla
had only a spear. Long before they were ready
to start they were met by some of the men of the
tribe who had come out to welcome them. These
loaded themselves with the gifts, and with Pilla
and Inda stalking in front, and the rescued men
behind, they formed themselves into a procession
and marched for home.
Near the camp another procession came out to
meet them : Burkamukk, their father, marching
at the head of all his tribe. First came the Meki-
gar, very solemn, and inwardly very disgusted that
the honour of slaying Kuperee had not fallen to
them ; then came all the warriors and the old men,
then the boys, and lastly the women and children.
They were shouting greetings and praises and singing
songs of welcome. Burkamukk halted as his sons
drew near. They came up to him and knelt before
him and Inda laid the stone axe at his feet.
" We bring you back your mighty weapon, my
THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 47
father," he said. " It has slain your enemy."
Then all the tribe shouted afresh, and the warriors
leaped in the air, and the whole country was filled
with the sound of their rejoicings. And they bore
Pilla and Inda home in triumph, naming them the
most famous heroes of all the tribes of the Bush.
But the Magic of Kuperee was not done with
They feasted late that night, and the sun was
high overhead before they woke next day. They
were in a wurley by themselves, but outside the
boys of the tribe were clustered, peeping in to see
the mighty warriors. Pilla stretched himself, and
flung out an arm, which struck Inda.
" Take care ! " Inda said, angrily, waking up.
" You hurt me."
" Why, I hardly touched you," Pilla answered.
" You must have been dreaming."
" Well, it is no dream that I am very sore,"
said Inda. " All my body seems covered with
bruises, just as it was after our fight under the tree
" That is queer," said Pilla, " for my nose also
feels terribly sore. That must have been a mighty
blow that you dealt it." He felt it tenderly. " It
feels queer, too. Does it look curious ? "
" There is a furrow down it, but then there always
has been, since our fight," said Inda. " You look
not much worse than usual. But I — see, is there
anything wTong with me ? "
He flung off his wallaby-skin rug, and sat up.
Pilla uttered a cry.
48 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK
" Ky ! you are all over spots ! Did I really
hit you in all those places ? "
" You must have done so," said Inda, crossly.
" Lucky for me that the spears were blunt ! "
" I feel most extraordinary," said Pilla, suddenly.
" It is just as though I were shrinking — and indeed,
I have no cause to shrink, seeing how much I ate
last night. But my skin is getting all loose."
" And mine too ! " cried Inda, faintly. " There
is Magic at work upon us, my brother ! "
Then a mist drifted over the wurley, and strange
cries came out of it. The boys, watching outside,
clutched at each other in fear. And presently,
when the mist blew away, Pilla and Inda were not
to be seen, nor were they ever seen more. Instead,
within the wurley crouched two little animals,
new to the blacks, which uttered faint squeaks and
scurried away through the camp into the Bush.
There they live now, and through them are the
sons of Burkamukk remembered. Pilla is the
plump 'possum, who has always a furrow down his
nose ; and Inda is the native-cat, whose skin is
covered all over with spots. For the Magic of
Kuperee lived after him, so that the blunt weapons
that had struck him had strange power, just as
there was power of life in the stone axe that had
killed him. But though they lived no longer as
men, the names of Pilla and Inda were always held
in great honour, since through their courage and
wisdom the tribes lived in security, free from the
wickedness of Kuperee.
WAUNG, THE CROW
VERY long ago — so long that the oldest blacks
could not remember anything about it them-
selves — there was a legend of the first coming of
Fire came with a group of seven strange women,
the Kar-ak-ar-ook, who brought it from some un-
known country. They dwelt with the blacks, and
showed them how to use the new and wonderful
thing : but they were very selfish, and would give
none away. Instead, they kept it in the end of
their yam-sticks, and when the people begged for it,
they only laughed at them. They alone knew how
to make it, and they never told the secret to
So the blacks took counsel together.
" We might as well have never learned that there
was Fire at all," said one.
" Better," said another. " Before it came, we
were content : but now, every one is sighing for it,
and cannot get it."
" My wife is a weariness to me," said a third.
" Always she pesters me to bring Fire to her, and
S.A.B. 49 D
50 WAUNG, THE CROW
makes my mouth water by telling me of the beau-
tiful food she could cook if she had it. It is almost
enough to make a man lose his appetite ! "
" But who that has once tasted cooked food can
ever forget it ? " another said, licking his lips.
" Such flavour ! Such juiciness ! Twice the Kar-
ak-ar-ook gave Fire to my wife, and let her roast
wallaby and snipe — and since those glorious meals
it is hard to eat them raw."
" Ay, that is so," said one. "To my woman
also, they gave Fire twice, and she cooked me wom-
bat and iguana. Ky ! how much I ate, and how
sick I was afterwards ! But it was worth it."
" And fish ! " said another. " No one who eats
raw fish can imagine what a difference Fire makes
to it. It is indeed a wonderful thing. The first
time I saw it, I picked it up, admiring its pretty
colour, and it stung me severely. In my wrath I
kicked it, but its sting was still there, and it gave
me a very sore foot. Now I know that it is Magic,
and must not be touched, save with a stick — andthen
the stick becomes part of it. It is all very curious."
" It is worse than curious that such a thing should
be, and be held only by the power of women," said
an old man, angrily. "If we had fire, the winter
cold would not strike so keenly to old bones. Why
should we submit to these women, the Kar-ak-ar-
ook ? Let us kill them, if necessary, and take it
from them for ourselves."
But no one moved, and all looked uneasy.
" The women are Magic," said one, at length.
" The magic-men know that."
WAUNG, THE CROW 51
" Yes, and the women's Magic is stronger than
theirs," another answered. " They have weaved
spells, but what good have they done ? "
" Now, they say that unless they let some Fire
drop by accident, we can never get it from them :
and if they do let it fall, then they will be just like
other women, and have no power at all. I would
like to see that ! " said a big fellow, eagerly. " It
would be very good for them, and they would make
useful wives for some of us, for they know all about
cooking food. I would not mind marrying one
of them myself ! " he added, in a patronizing tone,
at which everybody laughed.
Another big man spoke. His name was Waung,
and he was tall and powerful.
" It is all very ridiculous," he said. " No woman
lives in the world who can get the better of a
man. I have half a mind to get Fire from them
" You ! " said the others, and they all joined in
roars of laughter. For Waung was a lazy man,
and had never done much good for himself. " You !
You would go to sleep instead of finding a way to
get the better of the Kar-ak-ar-ook ! "
This made Waung very angry.
" You arc all fools ! " he said, rudely. " I will
certainly take the trouble to get Fire, and will
make one of the women my wife, and she shall
cook in my wurley. But then I will have their
Magic, and none of you will get any Fire from me,
of that you may be sure. Then you will all be
sorry ! " But this only made the men laugh more.
52 WAUNG, THE CROW
and the noise of their mirth set the laughing-jack-
asses shouting in the trees. Very seldom had the
camp heard so fine a joke.
Waung was filled with fury. He strode away
from them, with his head in the air, shouting fierce
threats. No one took the least notice of them,
because he was known to be a boaster and a talker ;
but it was very amusing to see him go, and the blacks
were always glad of a chance for laughter. Even
after Waung had gone into his wurley, he could
hear the echo of their merriment ; and whenever
two or three went past, they were still talking about
him and laughing. " A pity Waung is such a
fool ! " they said. " But perhaps it is as well, for
if there were no fools we would not have such good
jokes ! " And that did not make Waung feel any
Next day he went to the Kar-ak-ar-ook's wur-
ley, and met them going out to dig for yams. Their
dilly-bags were on their shoulders ; and they held
their yam-sticks, and he could see Fire gleaming
in the hollow tops. Waung looked at the digging
ends of the sticks, and saw that they were very
blunt. He said : "I will sharpen your yam-sticks
The Kar-ak-ar-ook thanked him, with a twinkle
in their eyes. They knew there was some reason
for such politeness from Waung. So they held
the yam-sticks for him to cut, and though once
or twice he tried to make them fall, as if by acci-
dent, so long as they had even a finger upon them
they did not move. So Waung reaHzcd that Fire
WAUNG, THE CROW 53
was not to be obtained in that way. When he
had finished the points, he stood up.
" I am sick of the tribe," he said, angrily. " They
are silly people, and they turn me into a joke. If
you like, I will come out and help you to get food
— and, I can tell you, I know where to hunt. Will
you hunt with me ? "
Now the Kar-ak-ar-ook were suspicious of Waung,
but they were lazy women. It did not amuse
them at all to go hunting by themselves every day,
for they were not clever at it, and it took them a
long time to find enough game to cook. Moreover,
they were fond of food, and never had enough.
They knew that no one could take away their yam-
sticks so long as they held them ; and so they were
not afraid of Waung.
" Perhaps what you say is true," one answered
slowly. " At any rate, I do not care. You may
come with me if you wish, and sometimes we will
give you some cooked food."
So the camp got used to the sight of Waung
and the women going out to hunt together ; and
after a while they forgot that they used to laugh
at them, and they had to find another joke. They
envied Waung very much if they saw him eating
scraps of cooked meat given him by the women :
and you may be sure that Waung did not give any
scraps away. He became quite good friends with
the women, though they were always suspicious
of him, and gave him no chance of handling their
yam-sticks. The fire in the hollow tops never went
out. Waung could not guess how they managed
54 WAUNG, THE CROW
tok eep it alive there, and it puzzled him very much.
But he never forgot that he had vowed to take
it from them, and he made many plans that came
to nothing, because the Kar-ak-ar-ook were always
At last Waung hit upon an idea. Out in the
scrub he found a nest of young snakes, and these
he managed to tame, for he was a very cunning
man. Even when they were nearly full-grown they
would do his bidding, and he taught them many
queer tricks. Then he went in search of an ant-
hill, and sought until he found a very large one.
For the Kar-ak-ar-ook had told him that they loved
ants' eggs more than any kind of food.
One night, Waung took his snakes, and buried
them in the ant-hill, saying, " Stay there until I
send to let you out." They looked at him with
their fierce, beady eyes, and wriggled round until
they made themselves nests in the soft earth, which
caused the ants very great inconvenience and alarm.
Then Waung covered them up and went home,
taking the Kar-ak-ar-ook a little kangaroo-rat that
he had killed.
The women were hungry, and the sight of Waung's
offering did not please them.
" It is very small," they said, discontentedly.
" What is the matter with you ? You have brought
us scarcely any food for three days."
Waung laughed, swinging his spear.
" Hunting has been bad," he said, carelessly.
" I have been lazy, perhaps — or the game was
scarce. But I have a treat for you to-morrow."
WAUNG, THE CROW 55
" What is that ? " they asked, eagerly, looking
up from skinning the kangaroo-rat.
" What would you say to ants' eggs ? "
" We like them more than anything else," they
cried. " Have you found some ? "
" I have found a very big hill," Waung said.
" It should be full of eggs."
" And you will take us there ? "
Waung did not want to seem too eager. He
" I do not want the eggs," he said, at length.
" A man wants something he can bite — eggs are for
women. But will you cook me a wallaby if I take
you there ? "
" Where is the wallaby ? " asked the Kar-ak-ar-
" I have not caught it yet. But I have set a
snare in a track I know — and while you dig ants'
eggs I have no doubt I can get one. That does
not matter, however — I can get one some time.
Will you cook it for me, if I show you the ants'
nest ? "
The Kar-ak-ar-ook promised, for the tempta-
tion of the ants' eggs was very strong. They ate
all the kangaroo-rat, and found it quite too small
for their appetites : so they went to sleep hungry,
and were still hungrier when they awoke in the
morning. They had only a few yams for breakfast,
and so they were very eager to start when Waung
sauntered up to their wurley.
They all went a little way into the Bush, and
then came upon the great ant-hill. At the sight.
56 WAUNG, THE CROW
the Kar-ak-ar-ook ran forward, with their sticks
ready to dig.
Waung said :
" I will go on to my snare, and come back to
But he went slowly. The women had not taken
any notice of what he said. They plunged their
yam-sticks into the hill, and began throwing out
the earth quickly. Then they uttered a loud
scream, for the snakes came tumbling out of the
loosened earth and ran this way and that, hissing
fiercely — and some ran at them.
Waung turned back at their cries.
" Hit them with your sticks ! " he shouted. " Kill
The Kar-ak-ar-ook hit furiously at the snakes
with the pointed end of their yam-sticks. But a
stiff, pointed stick is not much use for killing snakes,
as Waung well knew, and he called to them roughly :
" That is no good — use the thick ends ! "
The women swung their sticks round at his cry,
and brought the thick ends down across the snakes'
backs. The blows were so strong that many of
the snakes were killed at once — but that was not
the only thing that happened. Fire flew out of
the hollow ends of the sticks, and, in great coals,
rolled down the side of the ant-hill. The coals
met and joined, so that they were all one very
Waung had been watching like a cat. He had
picked up two flat pieces of green stringy-bark ;
and now he leaped forward, snapped up Fire between
WAUNG, THE CROW 57
them, and fled. Behind him came the Kar-ak-
ar-ook, screaming. But as Waung stole the Fire,
their Magic left them, and they were helpless.
Then Bellin-Bellin, the Musk-Crow, who carries
the whirlwind in his bag, heard the voice of Pund-
jel speaking to him out of the clouds, commanding
him to let loose his burden. So Bellin-Bellin, obedi-
ent, but greatly afraid, untied the strings of his bag,
and the whirlwind leapt out with a wild rush. It
caught the Kar-ak-ar-ook, and whirled them up
into the sky, where you may still see them, clustered
together, for they were turned into stars. Now
they are called the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. But
the blacks know that they are the Kar-ak-ar-ook
women, and that they live together in the sky,
still carrying Fire on the ends of their yam-sticks.
Waung went proudly back to the tribe, and when
they saw that he had actually stolen Fire from
the women, they were both glad and astonished,
and clustered round him, calling him many pleasant
things. Waung was quite ready to listen to them ;
but he had no intention of being generous now
that he had brought Fire with him. He saw his
way to a lazy life, and he was not the man to lose
such a good chance.
So after they had praised him very loudly and
sung loud songs about his bravery and wit, he went
off into his wurley, and put Fire in a hole in the
58 WAUNG, THE CROW
ground. Then he sat in the doorway and carved
The people looked at each other, not knowing
what to do next.
" How is this ? " they said. " Will he not give
Fire to us all ? "
No one could answer this question. They chat-
tered together for a while. Then one said, " What
is worth having is worth asking for " ; and he went
up to Waung's wurley and greeted him civilly.
" Good-day, Waung," he said. " Will you give
me some fire to do my cooking ? "
" I have only enough for myself," said Waung,
and went on with his carving.
" But Fire grows, if you will let it," said the
man. " Will you not make it grow, so that each
of us may have some ? "
" I cannot spare any," was all that Waung would
answer. So the man went back to his friends, and
told them what Waung said. Then one after
another came to Waung, and begged him for a
little bit of Fire. But the reply was always the
same, and they went away, very sorry that they
had ever laughed at Waung. For now he remem-
bered the laughter, and he determined to have his
In the morning, when the tribe was astir they
found that Waung had made a very large oven
in front of his wurley, and had hid Fire there. Also
he had caught a wallaby in his snare, and all the air
was full of the fragrant smell of cooking. It made
all the people's mouths water, and they hated
WAUNG, THE CROW 59
Waung exceedingly. But they feared that with
the Kar-ak-ar-ook's Fire Waung had also captured
their Magic, and so they did not dare to attack
So they held a council together, and all talked
very fast and angrily : but at the end of it, there
was nothing accomplished. Talking did not mend
the matter at all, and against Magic, what could
anyone do ? Then a woman came running, and
said she had a message, and though women were
not supposed to speak in council, she was told to
deliver it at once.
" Waung says he will cook our food ! " said she,
and stopped for breath. A great shout of joy went
up from the men.
" But he will not do it for nothing," went on
the woman. At this all their faces lengthened
suddenly. The blacks stopped in the middle of
their joyful shout, and waited with their mouths
wide open to hear what was to follow,
" He says he will cook for us. But we are to
supply him with food, and firewood, and all that
he wants, and he will keep for himself all the food
he likes best. And if we do not perform all that
he tells us to do, he will take Fire away altogether."
There was silence when the woman had finished
speaking, and then a deep groan of anger went
up from the people. They all talked very fast
again, each trying to speak more loudly than the
others, all except the husband of the woman who
had brought the news, and he was busy beating
her with his waddy because she had brought so
6o WAUNG, THE CROW
insolent a message, and had allowed them to think
at first that it was good news. The poor lubra
tried to say that they had not given her time to
say it all at once, but the husband was too busy to
Hsten. But neither talking nor beating made the
matter any better.
So Waung became the real ruler of the tribe,
in everything but name, since food is the most
important thing in the world to the blacks, and the
greater part of their food became dependent upon
him. Nothing could be cooked unless Waung
would do it, and they soon found that unless he
were in a good temper he would not do it at all.
He took the best parts of all that they brought to
him to cook, so that no man knew what he would
get back ; and when one took a fat young wallaby
or a black duck it was quite likely that Waung
would give him something tough and stringy when
he went back for his cooked meal, declaring that
it was what he had left in his oven. Neither would
he take any trouble over the cooking. The people
brought their food, and put it in the oven themselves,
and Waung took it out when it pleased him. Some-
times he did not take it out until it was burned
black and tasteless, while at others they would find
it only half-cooked, and cold. But no amount of
talking would make Waung alter his ways, and at
last he became so proud that if anyone argued with
him he would refuse to cook for a week, except for
himself. This naturally stopped all argument in
the camp, but it did not make the people love
Waung any better.
WAUNG, THE CROW 6i
He grew very fat and lazy, for he ate huge quan-
tities of food, and very seldom went out of his wur-
ley. When he did, he carried Fire with him in a
little hollow stick, and no one dared go near him,
or near his wurley, for fear of his enchantments.
As a matter of fact, Waung had no enchantments
at all, and no Magic. But he was very cunning,
and he knew how easy it was to make the blacks
think he had amazing powers. The magic-men,
too, found that none of their spells had any effect
upon Waung, and so they told the tribe that he
certainly had magic help. It was very convenient to
be able to say this when they were beaten, for Magic
was a thing that could not possibly be argued about.
The months went by, and the people became
very unhappy. Waung's evil temper made them
all miserable and afraid. There have been many
bad kings in history, but only Waung ever had
the power of depriving all his people of their dinner,
if they failed to please him. It is a very terrible
punishment when it is inflicted often, especially
when dinner is the only meal of the day. Now
that the people had grown used to cooked food,
they did not like raw meat ; so they depended on
Waung's mercy. And Waung had very little mercy.
It amused him greatly to see the people hungry
and to have them come begging to him to cook
their food. He would laugh loud and long, remind-
ing them of the time when they had jeered at him
about Fire. Afterwards, he would go into his wur-
ley and sleep, saying, " Fire is asleep to-day, and
I cannot wake it."
62 WAUNG, THE CROW
At last, Pund-jel, Maker of Men, looked down
at the world and saw how unhappy the blacks
were under the cruelties of Waung. It made him
very angry. He was stern and hard himself, but
he saw no reason why this fellow, lazy and ill-
natured, should make his people hungry and miser-
able. So he sent a message to the ear of each man
in the tribe, telling him what to do.
The blacks thought they had dreamed the mes-
sage. They woke in the morning, confused and
angry, they hardly knew why ; and each man said
to his neighbour, " I have dreamed about Waung,"
and the other would answer, " I, too, have dreamed
about him." They gathered into groups, talking
about Waung and about the dream that had come
to them ; and then the groups began to drift towards
Waung looked out, and saw them coming. At
once he became uneasy, for he knew that he had
never seen such threatening faces and angry eyes.
It made him afraid, and he began to put Fire
to heat his oven, which had been cold for five
The blacks came close to the wurley, growling
and muttering. They circled round, still half-
afraid. Then one, suddenly becoming brave,
shouted a word of angry abuse at Waung ; and
that was all the others wanted. They joined the
first man in loud and threatening shouts and fierce
abuse, casting at him every evil name they could
think of, and saying that the time had come for
him to answer for his bad deeds. Then one picked
WAUNG. THE CROW 63
up a stone and flung it at him, hitting him on the
Waung had no weapons outside his wurley. He
became terrified, gazing round him with hopeless
eyes that saw no way of escape. Then he stooped
to his oven, and saw that Fire lay there in a mass
of red coals.
" I will give you back Fire ! " he shouted.
He thrust a flat stone into the coals, and with
it flung Fire far and wide among the blacks. Some
of it hit the men and burned them, as he hoped,
but others picked it up and ran with it to their
wurleys, so that they might never again be without
it in their homes. To and fro in the air the burn-
ing pieces flew as Waung hurled them from him.
So fast they fell that the people were almost afraid
again. It seemed as though Waung were making
Fire, so that he might fight them with it.
And then a strange thing happened.
All the coals that had fallen in the dry grass
nearest the wurley turned and began to burn back
towards Waung. They met in a circle of flame.
Gradually it burned until it came to the wurley,
and there it wrapped Waung, and his oven, and
all that belonged to him, in a sheet of flame. Out
of it came Waung 's dreadful cries for help ; but
no man dared go near the fire, nor would anyone
have lifted a finger to help Waung.
The people huddled together, watching, in great
fear. Soon the cries ceased, and then the smoke
and flame died away, so that they saw the body of
Waung, lying across the stones of his oven. He was
64 WAUNG, THE CROW
quite black, like a cinder. The tribe uttered a long
shout of triumph, for they knew that he could
trouble them no more.
Then they heard the voice of Fund- j el, speaking
to the thing that lay across the stones.
" Fire has made you black," said the voice.
" Now you shall be black for ever, and no longer
a man. Instead, you shall be a crow, to fly about
for ever and utter cries, so that when the people
see you they will remember how they were foolishly
in bondage to you and your cruelties."
The people cast themselves down, in terror at
the voice. A drifting cloud of smoke floated from
the smouldering ashes of the wurley and blotted
\Vhen they looked again, it had lifted, and blown
away into the skies. The thing that had lain on
the stones was no longer there. But from the limb
of a boobyalla tree close by came a harsh croak and,
looking, they saw a big black crow that flapped its
wings, and looked at them with sullen eyes. Then
it said, " Waa-a-a ! Waa-a-a-a ! " and, rising from
the tree, it flew lazily across to a great blackbutt,
where it perched on the topmost bough, still croak-
ing evilly. And the people, glad, yet afraid, clus-
tered together, muttering, " See ! It is Waung ! "
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
LONG ago, Kari, the Emu, was superior to
all other birds. She was so superior that
she would not live on the earth. Instead, she had
a home up in the clouds, and from there she used
to look dowTi at the earth and the queer antics of
all the things that lived there. It gave her much
food for thought.
At that time there were no human beings at all.
All the earth was inhabited by animals, birds, and
reptiles, and they lived very happily together, as
a rule. There were no wars, and every one had
enough to eat. While there were no men. Fear
did not live on earth either. All the world was
a big feeding-ground, where even the smallest and
weakest could find a peaceful home,
Kari, sitting in her great nest up in the clouds,
watched the animals below, both night and day.
She thought them strange creatures, and won-
dered very much how they could be so contented
with so many other creatures about them. She
was so used to living alone that it seemed to her
rather unpleasant to have one's solitude broken
upon by others, all of whom might be peculiar
S.A.B. 65 E
66 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
enough to think their little affairs as interesting
as one's own. Kari thought that nothing could
possibly be so interesting as her great lonely nest
in the clouds. In reality, it was a very dull old
nest, and she was a big, dull bird. She knew no
one, and spoke to no one, and thought only her own
queer thoughts. But she did not know she was
dull, and so she was quite happy.
One day she sat in her nest, watching the cloud-
masses drift about between her and the world.
They cleared away after a while, and she looked
down upon a great forest over which she found
herself, for, as her nest was in a cloud, it used to
float about, and so she never knew what country
she might see when she looked down. Sometimes
it was a lake, sometimes a mountain, and sometimes
the great, rolling sea, which always made her feel
rather giddy, because it would not keep still for a
But on this day it was a wide forest, green and
peaceful. Kari's sight was very keen, and she
looked through the tree-tops to the ground below
and saw all the animals. It was really almost as
good as a circus, but then Kari knew nothing about
such a thing as a circus. She watched them with
great interest, leaning her long neck over the edge
of the cloud in which her nest was built.
Suddenly she saw a sight that made her lean
forward so far that she very nearly overbalanced
and fell out. Far below her was an open space
near a bright spot that she knew was water in a
little swampy place in a hollow. The grass there
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE 67
was green and soft ; there were trees all round it,
and it was a very secluded place, except for anyone
looking from above, like the inquisitive Kari.
But Kari was not looking only at green grass
and shining water. She saw a little group of birds
that had come out of the swamp, where they had
been wading, and had begun to dance. They were
Native Companions — Puralkas — but Kari did not
know that. All she knew was that they were very
beautiful creatures, the most beautiful, she thought,
that she had ever seen : and they were doing the
most interesting things.
Very gracefully they danced to and fro on the
patch of green grass. They were tall, slim birds,
looking a kind of dim grey colour when seen so
far away. Their legs were very long and thin,
for they belonged to the tribe of birds called Waders,
who get their food by walking in swamps and mor-
asses, and they had neat bodies, not fluffy like some
of Kari's own feathers — with which she immedi-
ately felt very dissatisfied. Their queer thin heads,
with long beaks, were carried on long necks, which
twisted about as they danced. They pranced up
and down, giving little runs backwards and for-
wards, marching and stepping in the most curious
manner. Never had Kari seen so charming a sight.
It made her suddenly envious. Until now, she
had regarded all the animals and birds as so much
beneath her in every way that it never occurred
to her to wish to be like them, or to do anything
that they did. But this was the first time that
she had seen the Native Companions dance.
68 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
Karl's cloud drifted away presently, and she
could no longer see the queer grey company of
long-legged birds prancing on the green spot in
the forest. But nothing that now came within her
sight interested her at all. She saw the lyre-birds
building their mounds in the Bush, and making
them gay with all sorts of odd things : bright
stones, bits of quartz, gay feathers ; and they also
danced on their mounds, but it did not please Kari
as much as the dance of the Puralkas. The moon
showed her the animals that come out at night —
wombat, wallaby, wild dogs, and opossums ; native
bears climbing up the highest trees, and flying-
foxes that trailed like clouds between her and the
tree-tops. She saw the lizards that live in rocks
and on the ground, and the hideous iguanas that
run up the trees. Great flocks of screaming cocka-
toos made the air white, as they flew, the sun
gleaming on their yellow crests. There were snakes,
too, in the Bush : great carpet-snakes, evil-looking
brown and black fellows, and the wicked tiger-
snake, with its yellow-patterned back and its quick
cruel movements. Once it had amused Kari very
much to see the jackass, Merkein, swoop down upon
a snake and carry it, struggling, back into a tree.
The jackass was a silent bird then, and never made
any fuss over his captures : still, it was exciting to
see him catch snakes. But now Kari found that
none of these things interested or amused her any
more. All she wanted to see again was the Puralkas
come out of their swamp and dance upon the grass.
She watched for a long time, hoping always to
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE 69
catch sight of them again ; but though her cloud
drifted over all kinds of country, she could not
find the Puralkas until at last, one day, as she
leaned out, to her great joy the little green space
came below her again ; and there were the long-
legged birds, dancing backwards and forwards as
they had done before.
She watched them breathlessly, until her cloud
began to float away ; and then she decided in her
mind that she could not bear to let them go again.
Indeed, she knew now that unless she could do
as they did, she would never feel happy any more.
" I have seen all there is in the world," she said,
" and nothing is half so beautiful as dancing. I
know I could dance far better than the Puralkas,
if I only knew the way. I will go dowTi and get
them to teach me how to dance. Then I can fly
back to my cloud, and for ever after I shall not
need to look at the world, for I shall be too happy
dancing on the clouds."
So Kari spread her great wings and floated down
the sky until she came over the little green space
among the trees. Then she dropped gently, and
finally landed in the swamp, which she did not like
at all, because she had never before had her feet
wet, nor were they made for wading in the soft
mud of a swamp. She scrambled out as quickly
as she could, folding her wings over her back.
The Puralkas had run back to the edge of their
little dancing-ground when they saw the great
brown bird coming down from the sky. At first
they were inclined to fly away, but they were
70 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
inquisitive birds, and they waited to see what she
would do, though they were quite prepared for
flight if she proved to be alarming. But the Emu
looked so simple and meek, and she was so comi-
cally upset at getting her feet wet, that the Pural-
kas saw at once that there was no cause for fear.
As they were not afraid, they became rather angry,
for they did not like strangers to see them dancing.
So they clustered together and watched her with
unfriendly eyes as she struggled out of the mud and
wiped her feet upon the grass.
" How are you ? " she said, rather breathlessly.
" I have been watching you all from my home in
the clouds, and I think you are nice little birds ! "
Now, this made the Puralkas exactly seventeen
times more angry than before. They believed
that they were quite the most beautiful birds that
ever wore feathers, and it made them furious to
be addressed in this patronizing manner. Who
was this awkward brown monster of a bird, to
drop out of nowhere and talk to them as if she were
a Queen ? They chattered among themselves in a
" She is as ugly as a Jew-lizard," said one.
" Did ever anyone see such great coarse feet ? "
another whispered. ' ' And her legs ! — he-he ! Why,
they are as thick as the trunk of a tree-fern ! "
" And what a great silly head ! "
" She is larger than a big rock, but she is more
foolish than a coot," said another. " One look at
her will tell you that she has no sense."
" And what is that ridiculous thing she said
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE 71
about a home in the clouds ? " one asked. " As if
we did not know that there is nothing in the clouds
except rain ! "
" Why, the big Eagle flew up nearly to the sun
the other day ; and yet he saw nothing of nests in
the clouds," said another. " She must think we
are very simple, to come to us with such a tale."
" No one could possibly think us simple, unless
she were mad," said another, " Every one knows
that we are the wisest birds in all the Bush. She
means to insult us ! " And they all glared at the
Emu, much as if she were a tiger-snake.
Poor Kari felt very puzzled and unhappy. She
felt that she had done a kind and condescending
thing in coming down to earth and talking so
sweetly to these smaller birds ; and she could not
make out why they should look at her with such
angry eyes. She rubbed her muddy feet on the
grass, and began to wish that she had never left
her nest in the cloud.
" Do you not speak my language ? " she asked
at last. " WTiy do you not answer me ? "
The Puralkas put their heads together again,
and whispered. Finally an old Puralka stepped
forward with mincing steps and looked her up
and down, so that Kari actually blushed.
" We know what you say, but we do not know
why you say it," said the old Puralka. " Why
should you want to know how we are ? and how
dare you call us nice little birds ? We do not
know what you are — you are something like a
bird, to be sure, but in most ways you are a kind
72 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
of freak. At any rate, we have no love for
The unfortunate Kari moved her big head from
side to side, and looked at the bad-tempered old
Puralka in amazement. Her beak opened slowly,
but she was too surprised to speak. Nothing like
this had ever occurred to her when she lived in the
" As for your extraordinary remark about a
home in the clouds, we would like to remind you
that we were not hatched yesterday," went on the
old Puralka. " Not even the swallows nest in the
clouds. You are only wasting your time, and we
have none to waste on you. Would you mind
going away ? We want to get on with our danc-
Kari did not know what to say. Her bewil-
dered eyes glanced from one Puralka to another,
and, finding no friendly face, came back to the old
bird who stood waiting for her to answer or go
away. She had never dreamed of anything like
this, among her drifting clouds, and her first in-
stinct was to spread her wings and fly back until
she found her own peaceful nest. But the Pural-
ka's mention of dancing reminded her of what
had brought her to earth, and she felt again all
the old longing to watch the grey birds dance. So
she summoned up her courage, of which she pos-
sessed surprisingly little, considering her size.
"I'm sure I don't know why you should be so
annoyed," she said meekly. " I mean well, and
it grieves me that I have offended you It was
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE ^^
because I thought you were nice Httle birds that
I called you so, but of course I do not think so
now— that is, I mean, I " She broke off, for
the old Puralka had uttered something like a
snort, and was regarding her with a fixed expres-
sion of wrath, and all the other Puralkas had
bristled alarmingly. " Oh, I don't know what I
really do mean ! " said poor Kari helplessly.
" You all look at me so unpleasantly. And it is
quite true that I have a nest in the clouds — if you
will come up, I will show it to you. I live there
always, and I have only come down because I
hoped that you would teach me to dance ! "
There was silence for a moment, and then all
the Puralkas began to laugh. They laughed so
much that they could not stand — they went reel-
ing round the little green patch, and at last they
sat down, with their legs sticking out straight in
front of them, and laughed more and more. Mean-
while, Kari stood looking at them stupidly. She
felt that it was not pleasant laughter.
At last they ceased to laugh, and, putting all
their heads together, began to whisper. This
went on so long that after a while Kari grew tired
of standing, and so she sat down and watched
them, feeling very unhappy. Overhead a jackass
perched on a big gum-tree, and looked at the
group, with his wise old head on one side.
When they had whispered for a long time, the
Puralkas got up and stood in a row, with their
wings tightly folded over their backs. The old
Puralka came forward.
74 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
" You must excuse us for laughing," she said.
Her voice was not rude now, but there was some-
thing in it that made Kari feel as uncomfortable
as she had felt when she had been rude before.
" We did not mean to hurt your feelings — but we
all thought of something funny we saw last month,
and so we had to laugh."
If Kari had been less simple, she would have
known that this was only said out of politeness,
but she was very anxious to make friends, so she
looked gratefully at the old Puralka and said,
timidly, that she was glad they were so merry.
" Quite so," said the Puralka. "It is a poor
heart that never rejoices. But about dancing —
that is a different matter. You see, you have
" Eh ? " said the Emu stupidly. " Why, of
course, I have wings. Why not ? "
" Well, that is the difficulty," said the Puralka.
" Dancing like ours is the most beautiful thing in
the world, of course. But no one with wings can
learn it. You see, we have none ourselves."
The Emu gave a quick look at the Puralkas,
standing in a row. They had folded their wings
so tightly over their neat bodies that it looked as
though they had really none at all ; and she looked
so hard at their bodies that she did not notice
how cunning their eyes were.
" Why, I never noticed that yours were gone,"
she said. " Dear me ! how sad ! Do you not find
it very uncomfortable and awkward ? "
" No ; why should we ? " snapped the Puralka.
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE 75
" Wings are really not much use when you once
get accustomed to doing without them. Dancing
is much better,"
" But why cannot one have both ? " asked Kari.
" Simply because, " said the old Puralka crossly.
" We do not know why these things are, and we
never ask foolish questions about them. But if
you wish to learn our beautiful dancing, you must
give up your wings first."
" Give up my wings ! I could never do that,"
" Well, dancing is better. But it is for you to
say," said the old Puralka.
As she spoke, she made a sign to the others,
and they began to dance, swaying forward until
they almost touched Kari, and then backwards
again. Then the line broke up into circles and
figures, and they danced round the Emu until her
head grew dizzy with their movements, and she
felt that to dance so well was even better than to
have wings. To and fro they went, faster and
faster, until she could scarcely distinguish one
from another, and their long thin legs she could
hardly see at all. Then, quite suddenly, they all
stopped ; and Kari blinked at them, and could not
" Well ? " asked the old ^uralka, watching her
closely. " Do you not think that wings are only a
small price to pay for such dancing ? "
" Could you teach me ? " Kari asked.
" Easily, if you give up your wings."
Kari gave a great sigh.
76 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
" Very well," she said. " I cannot live without
knowing how to dance as you do."
" Then, spread your wings out on this stone,"
said the Puralka.
So Kari spread her great wings across the stone,
and the Puralkas cut them off quite close to her
body with their sharp beaks.
Then they said,
" Stand up."
Kari stood up, feeling very naked and queer
without her wings. Then the Puralkas began to
dance again, faster and faster ; and they danced
upon her wing-feathers that had been cut off, scat-
tering them with their feet until there were not
two left together, and the wind came and took
the feathers, so that they floated away over the
tops of the trees and mounted out of sight. Then
the Puralkas laughed again, just as they had laughed
before, until Kari's head rang with the noise of it.
" When will you teach me ? " she asked timidly.
" Teach you ! " cried the Puralkas. " What a
joke ! What a joke ! " They burst out laughing
again. Then, to Kari's amazement, they unfolded
their wings and shook them in her face. The whole
green patch of grass was full of the fluttering of the
long grey wings.
" You said you had none ! " she cried.
" What a joke ! What a joke I " screamed the
Puralkas, flapping her with their wings. They
spun round and round her, their long legs dancing
madly, and their wings quivering and fluttering.
Then they suddenly mounted into the air, circled
THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE 77
about her once or twice, and flew away through
the trees. The sound of their wicked laughter
grew fainter and fainter until it died away.
Kari sat down and put her head dowTi on the
ground. After a while she got up and tried to
fly, but the little stumps of her wings would not
raise her an inch from the earth, and very soon
she ceased to try. She sat down again.
Later on, she stood up and began to try to dance
as the Puralkas had done. She moved her great
feet in the same way, and tried to sway about ;
but it was useless. She looked so comical, hop-
ping round on her thick legs, that the Jackass,
which had all the time sat in the gum-tree over-
head, broke into a great shout of laughter, and
all the Bush rang with the sound. " Ha-ha-ha-ha !
— ho-ho-ho-ho ! " screamed the Jackass. " Kari is
trying to dance — look at her ! There never was
anything half so funny — ha-ha-ha ! ho-ho-ho ! "
Then Kari knew that she had lost her wings
for nothing ; that she could never dance like the
Puralkas, and that — worst of all — she could never
go back to her nest in the clouds. She could
not bear the harsh laughter of the Jackass, and
so she ran away, her long legs taking great strides,
crashing into the undergrowth of the Bush. Then
the Jackass flew away, still chuckling to himself
that anyone couJd be so stupid. Soon the little
green patch of grass was quite deserted ; until the
sun set, when the cruel Puralkas came flying back
to it and danced again. But Kari never came to it.
So the Emu lives on earth, and has forgotten
78 THE EMU WHO WOULD DANCE
all about the nest she once had in the drifting
clouds. She has no friends among the birds,
for though she is a bird herself, she has no wings,
and cannot fly. She has taught herself to run
very fast, and to kick with her big feet, so that it
is not wise to make her angry. Because she used
to live in the clouds and had no proper training, she
will eat the most extraordinary things— stones, and
nails, and pieces of iron and glass, which the blacks
have brought into the Bush — but they never seem
to disagree with her. She is not a very happy bird,
for all the time she keeps hoping that her wings
will grow long again and that she will be able to
fly back to find her cloud-nest. But they never
Always since then, Merkein, the Jackass, has
been able to laugh. He is called the Laughing
Jackass, because of this. He has been a merry
fellow ever since he sat on the gum-tree and watched
Kari trying to dance, after the cruel Puralkas had
robbed her of her wings and left her far away from
her nest in the white clouds.
BOORAN, THE PELICAN
LONG ago, black people were scattered all
over the earth, and the forests and plains
were full of them. But a great flood came. For
weeks it rained all day and all night, until nearly
all the plains were great swamps. Then the
snow was washed from the hills, and the rivers
and creeks overflowed their banks, and swept over
the country. There was scarcely anything to be
seen except the tops of the tallest trees sticking
out of the waters that covered the land. All the
camps were washed away, and nearly all the people
In one tribe, the only people left alive were a
man and three women. Their camp was near a
river ; and when the flood came and the river rose
and washed away the wurleys, they clung to a
great log that lay upon the bank. It was so huge
a log that they did not think any flood would ever
move it. But they had seen only little floods, and
they did not know what the river could do when
it rose in its wrath.
The water crept higher and higher as they clung
8o BOORAN, THE PELICAN
to the log, and at length they felt its great length
give a little shiver beneath them. Presently it
shifted a little, and the water slipped below it ;
and soon it swung right round until one end pointed
over the bank. Still the flood came rising and
rising, and presently a wave flowed right over
the log and washed off some of the people who
were clinging to it. But the man and the three
women dug their fingers into knot-holes and cracks,
and held on desperately.
Then a fresh rush of water took the log, and
it bumped heavily three times on the bank and
slid off into the water. At first, its weight took
it under the surface, and the four blacks, feeling
the cold dark water close over their heads, made
sure that Death had come for them. Still they
gripped the log, and presently it rose, and the
current whirled it round and sent it off down-
stream. It bumped heavily on a snag, and one
of the women fell off, crying for help as she went.
The man leaned over quickly and by good chance
gripped her by the hair. Somehow, half pulled,
half climbing, she managed to scramble back, and
got another grip upon the sodden wood. Then
the flood carried them into the darkness.
All through the cold blackness of the night they
held to their rocking place of refuge. Some-
times it went aground, with a jar that shook it
through its great length, and hung awhile before
a fresh spurt of water washed it off again, to float
away into the storm-riven night once more. Then
there would come bends in the river, when the
" It caught tlie Kar-ak-ar-ook. and whirled them up into
The Slone Axe of Burkamukk] [Pagf '57
' Oh, tliere will be no food,' Karwin answered "
The Stone Axe of Burkamukk] [Page Sz
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 8i
current would fail to take the log round quickly
enough, because it was so long ; and it would sail
on and ram its nose into the bank, running so far
into the soft mud that perhaps an hour would
creep past before the washing of the water worked
it loose again. Then the log would swing right
round, shaking in the eddies, until it seemed that
numbed fingers could hold no longer. But still
the terrified blacks held on, while their raft spun
down the stream once more, with the cold waves
splashing over their shivering bodies.
Dawn broke slowly, in the mist of driving rain,
and showed them a country covered as far as they
could see with water. On either side of the river,
the topmost ridge of the high banks still could
be seen : but soon these were almost submerged
and the log floated in the midst of a great brown sea.
About two hours after sunrise a sudden swirl
of water took the log and floated it out upon the
top of the left-hand bank. It came to rest \\'ith
a shock, and one of the women loosened her grip
and fell off, with a mournful little cry that she
could hold on no more. But to her surprise, the
water was only up to her knees, and the log lay
at rest beside her, its voyage over.
The man, whose name was Karwin, grunted as
he straightened his stiffened limbs, slipping down
into the water beside the woman
" That was good luck for you, Murla," he said.
" If the water had been any deeper you would
have gone for ever, for there is no strength left in
me to pull you out."
82 BOORAN. THE PELICAN
" I thought it was the end," said Murla, her
teeth chattering with cold. " And, as far as I can
see, it might as well have been the end, for it is
better to die quickly than slowly, and we shall
never get out of this dreary place."
" That is very likely," said Karwin. " But still
I am glad to be able to let go of that shaking log
and stand upright once more."
The other women had scrambled to a sitting
position on the log, and were rubbing their stiffened
" I think those who stayed in camp will have
died more comfortably than we shall," said one.
" How are we to get any food ? "
" Oh, there will be no food," Karwin answered.
" Unless the flood goes down very quickly, we
shall certainly starve. I do not even know where
we are, and I have no weapons. Ky ! none of
our forefathers ever knew such a flood ! It is
something to have seen it ! "
" That will not do us much good when we are
lying dead in the mud," said Murla shortly. " I
would rather have a piece of kangaroo now than
see the biggest flood that ever was in the world.
I have had enough of floods ! Do you think the
water will come any higher ? "
" How can I tell ? " answered Karwin shortly.
Then, because they were all tired, and frozen,
and hungry, they quarrelled about it, and became
almost warm in the discussion. After awhile,
" If I had a waddy I would give all three of you
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 83
something to argue over," he said. " What is the
use of becoming angry when there is nothing to
be gained by it ? It will not take us off this bank,
that is certain."
" No, but it keeps us from thinking," Murla
said. " When I was angry just now I quite forgot
that I was hungry."
" All women are a little mad," said Karwin
scornfully. " No amount of talking could ever
make tne forget that I was hungry. It is the
most important thing in the world."
He looked about him. Behind the ridge of the
river bank, on which their log lay, the current of
the flooded stream swept by, deep and swift. Be-
fore, the sea of brown water stretched as far as
he could see, broken only by clusters of storm-
washed leaves, that were the tops of submerged
trees. There, no current ran ; but the wind fled
along the surface of the water and blew it into
ripples and little waves.
" I wonder how deep that is," said Karwin
thoughtfully. " I will go and see."
He took a few careful steps forward. Then
his foot slipped, and he slid off the mud of the
crest of the bank, and immediately disappeared
with a loud splash. The women set up a dreadful
screaming, crying " Come back ! " — which, under
the circumstances, was a very stupid thing to say.
For a long moment the world seemed empty before
Then Karwin 's head suddenly popped up out
of the water, with his face very wet and angry.
84 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
He swam to the ridge, but it was not easy to get
upon it, for the crest was sharp, and very sUp-
pery, as Karwin already knew to his cost. Several
times he clawed at it, only to slide back into the
deep water, spluttering and wrathful.
" Hold on to the log," said Murla, quickly, to
one of the women. " Then give your sister your
other hand, and she can hold mine."
The three formed a chain and found that, by
stretching as far as they could reach, Murla could
just touch Karwin with her hand. He made
a great effort and caught it in a firm grip, and
then they pulled all together, and so managed to
tug him over the edge of the ridge.
Karwin was very angry, and not at all grateful
" You might have thought of that sooner," he
growled. " Ky ! the water is cold, and I sank
down into a clump of prickly bushes, so that I am
stuck with prickles all over. There is no getting
away from this bank, that is certain."
" We had suspected that," said Murla, laugh-
ing. At this Karwin became worse-tempered
than ever, for a blackfellow does not like to be
laughed at by a woman, any more than a white
man likes it. He threatened to beat them all,
and even struck out at one of the women who
was grinning, but Murla spoke to him severely.
" Don't do that ! " she said boldly. " We are
all in the same fix together, and we will not be
beaten by you. If you strike one of us we will
all push you off into the deep water — and this
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 85
time we will not pull you back. Therefore, you
had better be warned."
Murla looked so fierce as she spoke that Kar-
wdn stopped the hand he was lifting to strike the
woman, and scratched his head with it instead.
It was quite a new experience for a blackfellow to
be ordered about by a lubra, and you can fancy
that he did not like it. Still, the other women
were clearly prepared to back up Murla ; and he
did not forget how he had struggled in the water
at the edge of the bank before they pulled him in.
So, instead of hitting the woman, he growled un-
pleasantly and waded to one end of the log, where
he sat dowTi and gave himself up to very bad tem-
per. This time, however, he kept it inside him,
and so it did not hurt anyone.
The sisters looked at Murla with great respect,
but Murla only laughed at them. She was a pretty
woman, for a lubra. Her hair was long and very
black and curly, and she was much fairer than
most of her tribe, with a fine flat nose and a merry
smile. None of her teeth had been knocked out,
which happens to many lubras, and so there were
no holes in her smile. She was little more than a
girl, but she was tall and strong, and very clever.
And she was not at all afraid of Karwin.
For two days the four castaways sat on their
log and watched the flood. Once it rose higher,
when a fresh mass of snow was washed from the
distant hill-tops, and came dovvn to swell the river ;
and they thought their log was again about to
be carried down-stream, and gave themselves up
86 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
for lost, for they knew that now they were too
weak to hold on for very long. But the log held
firm upon the bank, and the danger passed. It
was very cold. They plastered themselves all
over with a thick coating of mud, hoping that
when it dried it would keep them warmer ; and
this helped them against the cold wind, though
it was not at all comfortable in other ways.
But worst of all was hunger. On the second
day they began to break pieces off the log and
chew them, and that, as you can imagine, did
very little good. Karwin became more and more
bad-tempered, and looked at the women as if it
was their fault. Also, he was very sore from
the prickles, and the two sisters and Murla spent
quite a long time in picking them out of his back,
though he was only a little grateful to them.
On the second day, the water began to go down.
The river still roared and raced past them, bear-
ing on its breast all kinds of things : trees, logs,
bushes, interlaced fragments of ruined wurleys,
drowned animals, and even dead blacks ; but its
water slipped back from the bank where their log
lay, until it left them on a little mud island, with
the brown sea still rippling about them in every
direction. The tops of the trees came farther
and farther out of the water, and new tree-tops
came into view, with their boughs laden with mud.
Often they saw little living animals in the brush-
wood that went drifting by them in the river ;
and nearly all the floating rubbish was alive with
snakes that had taken refuge from the flood. Some-
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 87
times the brushwood would break up in the cur-
rent, and they would see the snakes swimming
wildly until the river carried them out of sight.
Two came ashore on their island, and Karwin
killed them with a stick he had taken out of the
river. They ate them, and felt a little better.
But they knew that they must soon die if they
did not get more food. They watched the river
anxiously, hoping that it might bring them some-
Towards evening, they were gazing up-stream,
when Murla cried out suddenly.
" What is that ? " she said, pointing to a dark spot
on the water.
" It is a bush," said one of the women, in a dull
" No, I am certain it is an animal," Murla said.
" It is floating towards us. Let us try to get it."
So they held hands, as they had done when
Karwin fell in, and Karwin slipped into the
current, holding Murla's hand tightly. He had
found a stick with a sharp hook on one end, where
a branch had broken off, and when the dark
object came bobbing down-stream he thrust at it
fiercely, savage with hunger. The hook caught
in it, and very carefully they drew it ashore, and
managed to get it on their island. It was a harder
matter to get Karwin back, but they managed
that too, and then they all lay on the mud and
panted, and, except for Murla's fair face, they
looked as if they were part of the mud.
Their find was a plump young wombat, and it
88 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
probably saved their lives. Of course they had
no way of cooking it, but at the moment that
scarcely troubled them ; neither did they at all
object to the fact that it had been dead for a good
while. They ate it all, and long after the moon
had come out to cast her white light into the flood
it showed them sitting on the log, happily crunching
BooRAN was a very clever bird. He was bigger
than most of the water-fowl, and very strong.
He was also very proud, partly because of his
great wings, which would carry his heavy body
skimming over the lakes and swamps, and partly
because of his beautiful white plumage. All his
feathers were perfectly white, and he was so vain
about it that he scorned every bird that had
coloured or dark plumage. He used to look at
his reflection in deep pools, and murmur, " How
beautiful I am ! " If by any mischance he got a
mud-stain on his feathers he was quite unhappy
until he had managed to wash it off. Some people
might not think a pelican a very lovely bird, but
Booran was completely satisfied with himself.
Besides being beautiful and white, Booran at
that time owned a bark canoe. It made him
prouder than ever. It was not a very big canoe,
but it was as much as a pelican could comfortably
manage. He used to sit in it and paddle it along
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 89
with his strong wings. There was really no rea-
son why he should have had a canoe at all, for he
was quite able to swim about in the water with
far less labour than it needed to paddle his boat
with his wings. It was only part of his great pride.
Still, no other bird had ever thought of having
a canoe, so it pleased Booran to think himself
superior to them all. No other bird wanted one
at all, but he forgot that. The Emu laughed at
him openly, and when Booran offered him a trip
in his canoe he asked rudely what Booran thought
he could do with his long legs in such a cockle
shell ? That made Booran more indignant than
he had ever been since two black swans had risen
suddenly under the canoe one day and upset both
it and Booran in a very muddy part of a lake.
He vowed that no other bird should ever enter it.
Sometimes a meek little bird, such as a honey-
eater or a bell-bird, would perch on the edge of
the canoe and ask to be ferried about ; but Booran
never would allow it. He used to catch fish, and
when he had stored all he could in his pouch he
would put the rest in the canoe, so that soon it
became all one dreadful smell. Not that any
people in the country of the blacks were likely to
object to that. They were brought up on smells.
Wlien the big flood came, Booran enjoyed him-
self thoroughly. The river was too swift for him
to attempt in his canoe at first, but he paddled
about in the water that covered the plains, and
poked into a great many things that did not con-
cern him in the least. Sometimes he ran aground.
90 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
when it was always an easy matter for him to
jump overboard and push the canoe off with his
great beak. He found all kinds of new things to
eat, floating round in the flood- water ; and some
of them gave him indigestion rather badly. But
on the whole it was a very interesting time, and
he was very glad that he had a canoe so that he
could go about in a stylish manner.
It was on the afternoon of the third day after
the water had begun to go down, that Booran was
first able to try the canoe on the river. The cur-
rent was still swift, but he kept in the quieter water
near each bank, and did not find much difficulty
in getting about. He saw a number of strange
blacks on a rise near the water, busily building
wurleys ; but they did not see him, for he dodged
under cover of the wattle-trees fringing the bank.
Then he pulled down-stream for a little while,
until he came to where the banks were lower, and
not m^any trees were to be seen out of the water.
He rounded a bend, and came upon Karwin and
Booran's first instinct was to get out of sight.
He was afraid of all blackfellows, especially when
they had spears and throwing-sticks. But before
he could go, the woman Murla saw him, and uttered
a great cry of astonishment. At once they believed
that it was Magic — so many strange things could
be explained that way. They watched the big
white bird in his bark canoe, and waited to see
what would happen, hoping that he was not an
evil spirit who would do them any harm.
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 91
Seeing them so quiet, and realizing that they
were unarmed, Booran allowed his natural curi-
osity to get the better of him. He paddled across
the river, swept down a little by the current, and
stopped his canoe in a quiet pool near the mud
island, where the castaways sat miserably on their
log. They looked so forlorn and unhappy that
even his cold and fishy heart was stirred.
" Good day," he said.
" Good day," Karwin answered.
" This is a big flood," Booran remarked.
" Yes, it is a very big one. All the land has gone
" Yes, but it will come back. Fish are scarce,
now that the river is high."
" That is very likel}^" said Karwin.
Then, having made all these stupid remarks,
as all men do before they come to business, they
stopped, and looked at the sky, and Booran said,
" I wonder if more rain will come ! "
Murla struck in suddenly.
" Men are very strange," she said. " They are
always ready to jabber. How is it that you go
about in that little boat ? "
" Because I like it," said Booran shortly, for
he did not approve of women talking so freely,
neither did he like the question about his canoe.
Murla laughed. " You look very funny when
you are cross," she said. " I never saw such a
dignified pelican." The other women shuddered,
for they thought that Booran might be an evil
spirit, in which case he would certainly object to
92 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
such free-and-easy remarks. But Booran looked
at Murla, and saw how pretty she was, and sud-
denly he did not wish to be angry. Instead, he
smiled at her ; and no one who has not seen it
can imagine how pecuUar a pelican looks when he
" It is a very useful canoe," he said. " I have
been all over the flood-waters in it, and have seen
many wonderful things."
" Have you any food ? " asked Murla eagerly.
" No, for I have eaten it all. But I may come
across some at any time. Would you hke
" Like it ! " said Murla. " Why, we have only
had two snakes and a wombat between us for
four days — and the wombat was only a little one.
I could eat the quills of a porcupine ! "
" Dear me," said Booran, looking at her with
his foolish Httle eyes very wide. " That would be
very unpleasant, would it not ? I quite regret
that I ate an old fish that I found in the stern of
my canoe this morning. Not that it would have
made much of a meal for four people."
" It would have given me a breakfast," said
Karwin rudely. " But as there is no food, there
is no use in talking about it. Tell me. Pelican,
have you seen any of our people ? We do not
know if there are any left alive."
" I have seen some blacks, but I do not know if
they are your people," Booran answered. " They
are across the river, where they are building them-
selves new huts."
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 93
" Can't you go and see if they belong to our
Booran shook his big head decidedly.
" Not I," he said. " Most blacks are very
uncivil to pelicans, and these had weapons close
at hand. I have no wish to be found with a spear
sticking in my heart, or in any other part of
" Did you notice what they were like ? " Murla
" 1 saw a fat woman, and a thin man," said
Booran stupidly. " How should I know what
they were like ? They are not beautiful like peli-
cans. Oh, and I saw a very tall man, with a red
bone through his nose. He was sitting idly on a
stump while the others worked."
" That was my husband ! " said Murla with a
faint shriek. " Alas, I thought he was drowned !
And the fat woman may be your wife, Goomah,"
she said to Karwin.
" Very likely," said Karwin. " Did you notice
if they had food ? "
" I do not know. But it is likely, for they had
fire, and there was a pleasant smell."
" If my wife Goomah has food and fire, while
I have nothing, there will be trouble," said Karwin
" That may be, but we will die here without ever
knowing," Murla said. " Long before the water
goes down we will have starved to death, and
then nothing will matter." She broke off a bit of
wood and flung it into the swirling river. " I
94 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
wish we had never tried to save ourselves, or seen
that hateful log ! "
Now, Booran had been watching Murla, and
he thought she looked very capable, and he thought
that she could be very useful to him if he could
get her away to some place where she could
catch fish for him, so that he might spend all his
time admiring himself and paddhng about in his
But he did not quite know how to manage it.
Karwin and the woman went on wrangling.
They had not been happy before Booran came
with his tidings ; but now they could only think
of their fellow-blacks feasting and making a warm
and comfortable camp, and it made them feel
very much worse than they had felt before. They
shouted long and loudly in the hope of making
the others hear ; but no answer came, and the
river rushed by them without pity, and they hated
their little mud island.
All the time, Booran gazed at Murla, and at
last he made up his mind that he could not pos-
sibly do without her. Whatever happened, he
must get her away, and sail with her in his bark
canoe to an island where the blacks could never
find her. The others were talking so fast that
he had time to think out a plan, and when they
stopped for lack of breath, he spoke.
" I think, if you sat very still and got in and
out very carefully, that I could take you across
the river, one at a time," he said, speaking in a
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 95
" That thing would sink," said Karwin sulkily,
looking at the little canoe with eyes of scorn.
" No, it does not sink easily. You would have
to be very careful, but it would be safe."
Karwin looked at the canoe, and then he looked
at the trees that showed round the bend, when
the high banks were quite clear of water. It was
very tempting to think of getting there — such a
little way ! He thought hard. Then he said :
" You can take Kari first — she is the lightest,
and if the canoe does not sink with her, perhaps
I will go."
Booran did not care which he took first, so long
as it was not Murla. But the woman Kari
objected very strongly, and made a great outcry,
for she thought she would be drowned. How-
ever, the others were all agreed that she should
go, so there was no use in objecting, and she had
to give in. Crjdng and trembling, she stepped
into the canoe, which Booran brought close to the
The canoe went down a good deal, but it did
not sink, and Booran paddled gently up the stream,
keeping very close to the bank, so that the cur-
rent did not sweep him down. He disappeared
round the bend, and for awhile Karwin and the
two women who were left w^atched anxiously,
fearing to see the upturned canoe float back empty.
But in about ten minutes they saw Booran turn
the corner and paddle swiftly down, evidently
very pleased with himself. When he got near
the mud island he called out, "All is well! I
96 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
landed her easily on the bank, and she has run to
That made the others eager, and Murla stepped
forward to get into the canoe. But Booran stopped
her, saying, " Not now — next time ! " — and before
she could argue, Karwin twisted her out of his
way, and stepped into the canoe so hurriedly
that it nearly sank, and Booran called out very
angi-ily to him to mind what he was doing. How-
ever, the canoe righted itself, and presently Booran
had paddled it out of sight again.
Murla began to feel a little uneasy, though
she scarcely knew why. There was something
wrong about the way that Booran looked at her,
with his cold eyes that were so like a fish's. She
felt she would be glad when she was out of his
canoe, and safely on the same side as her people.
She did not want to get into the canoe at all ; but
as it was necessary to do so, she decided to get it
over as soon as possible. So she said to the other
black woman, " I will go next, Meri."
" All right," said Meri, shivering under her little
'possum rug and her coat of mud. " But tell
the Pelican to hurry back, or I shall certainly die of
Murla waited impatiently until Booran ap-
peared, and when the canoe came alongside the
bank she was ready. But Booran looked at her
queerly, and said, " Not now — next time ! "
"Why?" asked Murla angrily, "This is my
" Not now — next time ! " was all Booran would
BOORAN, THE PELICAN 97
say ; and he beckoned to Meri, who was not slow
to obey, for she was very tired of waiting. She
stepped in, and the canoe moved away from the
Suddenly Murla was very much afraid, although
as a rule she did not know what fear meant. She
felt that she must not get into Booran's canoe
— that there was danger coming very close to her.
In a few minutes he would be back for her. A
quick resolve came to her mind. Whatever hap-
pened, Booran must not find her there when he
She sHpped off her 'possum rug and wrapped it
round a log that had come ashore on their island.
It was just as long as she was, and when the rug
was wrapped about it, it looked as if she were
lying asleep. Then she slipped into the river, and
began to swim across.
Booran and Meri were out of sight round the
bend, and what she wanted to do was to get to
the other side before the canoe came back. But
it was not an easy matter. The current was
swift, and though she was a very strong swimmer,
it took her down-stream ; and once she thought
that she must be drowned. However, just as she
was on the point of giving up, she felt the ground
under her feet, and scrambled out upon a bank
that was nearly all under water. Then she waded
along it until she got near the bend.
Just then she heard the noise of Booran's wings
brushing in the water. She flung herself down on
her face — just in time, for the canoe came round
98 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
the bend, and passed quite close to her. Booran
heard the swirl in the water, and glanced round,
seeing the ripples ; but just then he caught sight of
what looked like Murla, lying on the mud island,
and he said, " Oh, it was only a water rat ! " and
Murla lay still in the water, holding her breath,
until he had floated downi the stream. Then she
got up very quietly and waded, sinking in the soft
mud of the bank until it grew higher, and trees
and dry land could be seen. She ran then, cast-
ing her eyes wildly about until she saw ahead a
little drift of smoke ; and presently, toihng up a
steep rise in the bank, she came upon the blacks,
where already Karwin and Meri and Kari were
jabbering loudly, telling all their experiences and
hearing those of the others at the same time. They
cried out with astonishment when they saw Murla
coming along the bank, and asked her why Booran
had not brought her in his canoe.
When she told them she had been afraid of
him, they all laughed at her. But her husband,
the tall man with the red bone through his nose,
was very angry because she had left her 'possum
rug behind, and asked her if she thought rugs
like that grew on wild cherry-trees. He went off
at once to see if he could get it back, telling her
as he went that if he failed, she need not think
she was going to have his. Of course, Murla had
known that already.
Meanwhile, Booran had paddled down to the
mud island, and, seeing the form in the 'possum
BOORAN. THE PELICAN 99
rug, lying under the shelter of the great log, he
called to it several times, saying, " Come on, now.
It is your turn." But no movement came, and at
last he grew angry, and hopped out of the canoe
and went on to the island, still calling. There was
no answer, and he lost his temper and kicked the
figure very hard — with the result that he hurt
his foot very much. Then he pulled the rug off
roughly, and found only a log underneath.
Booran became furious. He had been made to
look a fool. For awhile he stamped about the
island, screaming in his rage, and when the blacks
got to the opposite bank that is how they saw him.
Then Booran made up his mind that he would
" look out fight," as the blacks do, and kill the
husband of the woman.
So he took some mud and smeared it on himself
in long lines, so that he might be striped as the
blacks are when they go fighting : for a black-
fellow does not consider himself dressed for battle
until he has painted himself in long white streaks
with pipeclay. He was so busy painting, and
planning how he would slay Murla's husband,
that he did not see a black shadow in the sky. It
was another pelican, and he came nearer, puzzled
to know what could be this strange thing, so like
a pelican and yet striped like a fighting man. He
could not make it out, but he decided it could not
be right ; and so he drove at Booran and struck
him in the throat with his great beak, killing him.
Then he flew away.
Now the blacks say, there are no black pelicans
100 BOORAN, THE PELICAN
any more. They are all black and white, just as
Booran was when his Death came to him suddenly
out of the sky.
The blacks across the river were very much
amazed. But when the great black Pelican had
sailed away, Murla's husband swam across and
got her 'possum rug, which he brought back, tied
on top of his head. He gave it back to Murla,
and then beat her with his waddy for having been
so careless as to leave it behind. So they lived
happily ever after.
But the river took Booran's little canoe and
whisked it away. It bobbed upon the brown
water like a walnut shell, spinning in the eddies,
and sailing proudly where the water was clear and
free. At each mile the river grew wider and
fuller, and the little canoe sped onwards on its
breast. Then ahead came a long line of gleaming
silver, and the river sang that it had nearly reached
the sea. The light canoe rocked over the waters
of the bar, but came safely through them ; and
then it floated away westward, into the sunset.
But the tide brought it back to shore, and the
breakers took it and flung it on the rocks, pound-
ing it on their sharp edges until it was no longer
a canoe, but only a twisted bit of bark. The waves
went back and left it lying on the beach ; and some
blacks who came along, hungry and cold, were
very glad to find it and use it to start their fire,
when it was dry. So Booran's canoe was useful to
the blacks until the very end.
THE STORY OF THE STARS
PUND-JEL, who was Maker of Men, sat in his
high place one day and looked at the world.
The blacks believed that in the very long ago he
had made the first men and women out of clay ;
and from there they had spread over all the earth.
Fund- j el had made them to be good and happy,
and for a long while he had been satisfied with
them. But now it was different, and he was
All over the world he could see his black people.
They had grown tall and strong, and he thought
them beautiful. They were skilled in hunting, and
fierce in battle : the women were clever at making
rugs of skins, at cooking, at weaving curious mats
and baskets of phant rushes. The forests were full
of game for them — birds, beasts and reptiles, all
good to eat : there were fish in the lakes and rivers,
fat mud-eels in the creeks and swamps, and gum
and manna to be found on every hill-side. The
world was a good, green world, and there should
have been only happiness. But the people them-
selves had grown wicked.
Fund- j el bent his brows with anger as he looked
102 THE STORY OF THE STARS
down upon them. Instead of being peaceful and
content, his people had grown fierce and savage.
They thought only of fighting and conquest, and
were too lazy to work. The laws that he had made
for them were as naught in their eyes. They said,
" Oh, Pund-jel is very far away. He will never
come down into our world to see what we do. Why
should we obey him ? " So they did just as they
pleased, and all the world was evil because of their
Pund-jel thought gravely as he looked down into
his world, and all the sky was dark with the black-
ness of his frown.
" My people have grown too many," he said.
" When they were few, each helped the other :
there was no time for feuds or fighting, for all had
to work together in order to live. Now all is changed.
They are many and powerful, and they over-run
the world, and each man hates his brother. It
were better if I made them fewer, and scattered
them far and wide. I will send my whirlwinds upon
So Pund-jel caused storms and fierce winds to
arise often, and they swept across the world. In
the flat lands there came suddenly whirlwinds of
great force, that twisted and eddied through the
plains, carrying men aloft in their choking embrace,
and letting them fall, broken and dead, miles away
from the places where they had lived. On the
mountains great hurricanes blew shrieking from peak
to peak, tearing up the largest trees by their roots,
and tossing them down into the fern-strewn gullies
THE STORY OF THE STARS 103
far below. Huge boulders were loosened and went
crashing down ; and often a landslip followed them,
when all the soil would be stripped from a hill-side
and fall, thundering, carrying with it hundreds of
people and leaving the bare rock behind it, like a
scar upon the side of the mountain. Thunder and
lightning came and shook the world with terror :
mighty trees were riven and shattered, and fires
swept through forest and plain, leaving blackness
and desolation behind. Then came floods, that
covered the low-lying parts of the earth, and made
of the rivers roaring torrents, that ran madly to
the sea. The world trembled in the terror of the
wrath of Fund- j el.
And yet, men had grown so wise and cunning
that not very many died. "WTien the whirlwinds
and hurricanes came, they crept into holes in the
hill-sides, or sheltered themselves in deep gullies.
They strengthened their houses, so that the wind
should not blow them away. Sometimes they
floated down the rivers in bark canoes ; and a great
number found refuge in caves. Those who were
killed were the careless ones, who would not take
the trouble to protect themselves against the fury
of the storms, thinking that they would only be
ordinary gales ; but though they died, innumerable
people were left.
Just for a little while, they were afraid. They
knew they were wicked, and that Pund-jel must be
angry with them ; and the thought that possibly
the storms were the message of his wrath made
them careful for awhile. But as time passed they
104 THE STORY OF THE STARS
forgot the storms and whirlwinds, and the fate of
their brothers and sisters who had been killed ; and
they went back to their wickedness, becoming worse
than they had been before.
And then there came a day when Pund-jel's anger
One morning a blackness came out of the sky,
and in the blackness a flame of gleaming fire. The
people clustered together, in terror, and there were
cries of " Fund- j el ! Fund- j el is coming ! " Then
the magic-men began to chatter and make Magic,
hoping to turn the wrath of the Maker of Men ;
and the people flung themselves upon the ground,
crying aloud, and calling upon the good Spirits to
The blackness swooped down upon the earth. In
the air were strange whisperings and mutterings, as
if even the rustling leaves and the boughs of the
trees were crying, " Fund- j el is coming ! " And
then, out of the glowing heart of the cloud came
Fund- j el himself, that he might see these men and
women that he had made. He spoke no word. His
glance was like lightnings, playing about the stricken
eyes of those that gazed. But he trod among the
black multitudes, and the noise of the trampling
of his feet shook the earth.
In his hand he carried his great stone knife, and
the sight of it was very terrible. Those who looked
upon it fell back blindly. But as he walked on he
cut his way among the people, with great sweeps of
the cruel weapon, sparing none that came in his
way, and cutting them into small fragments. And
THE STORY OF THE STARS 105
then the blackness of the cloud received him again,
and hid him from the people of the world.
But the pieces of the slain were not dead. Each
fragment moved, as Tur-ror, the worm, moves ; and
from them rose a cry. It came from the fragments
of those who had been good men and good women,
yet who had met Death at the knife of Pund-jel
with the guilty ones.
Then a great and terrible storm came out of the
sky, sweeping over the places where Pund-jel had
trod ; and with it a whirlwind, that gathered up
the pieces of those who had been men, women and
children, and they became like flakes of snow, white
and whirlmg in the blackness of the air. They were
carried away into the clouds.
And when they came to where Pund-jel sat, once
more looking down upon the world, he took the
flakes that had been bad men and women, and with
his hand scattered them so far over the earth that
no man could say where they fell. So they passed
for ever from the sight of man, and now they lie in
the waste places of the world, where there is neither
light nor day.
But Pund-jel took the snowflakes that had been
good men and women, and he made them into stars.
Right up into the blue sky he flung them ; and the
sky caught them and held them fast, and the light
of the sun fell upon them so that they caught some
of his brightness. There they stay for ever, and
you would not know that they are in any way
different from the other stars that twinkle at you
on a frosty night when the sky is all blue and silver.
io6 THE STORY OF THE STARS
Only the magic-men, who know everything, can tell
you which among the stars were once good men,
women and children, before Fund- j el left his high
seat to punish the wickedness of the world.
HOW LIGHT CAME
THE blacks believed that the earth was quite
flat, with the sky arched above it. They
had an idea that if anyone could get beyond the
edge of the sky he would come to another country,
with rivers and trees, where live the ghosts of all
the people who have died. Some thought that there
was water all round the edge of the earth. They
were taught that at first the sky had lain fiat on
the ground, so that neither sun, moon, nor stars
could move, but the magpies came along and propped
it up with long sticks, resting some parts on the
mountains near the edge. And sometimes word
was sent from tribe to tribe, saying that the props
were growing rotten, and unless the people sent up
tomahawks to cut new props, the sky would fall.
In its falling it would burst, and all the people
would be drowned. This used to alarm the blacks
greatly, and they would make the magic-men weave
charms so that the sky should not fall.
At first, all the earth was in darkness ; and at
that time there lived among the blacks a man called
Dityi. In his tribe was a very beautiful woman
whose name was Mitjen ; and she became Dityi 's wife.
io8 HOW LIGHT CAME
At first Dityi and Mitjen were very happy. They
had plenty to eat, and the camp was warm and
comfortable, and they loved each other very much.
There were no white men, at that time : the blacks
ruled all their country, which they thought was the
whole world. The forests were full of game, and
the rivers of fish : every one had enough, so there
was no fighting. And Dityi thought he was the
luckiest man in the world, because he had won the
love of Mitjen.
But a stranger came to the camp : a tall dark-
eyed man named Bunjil. He told stories of far-
away forests and wonderful things to be found there.
The other blacks used to listen to him, greatly
interested ; and no one listened more attentively
than Mitjen, for she had a great longing to see the
wonderful places of which Bunjil spoke. When she
heard him tell stories of these strange lands of the
Bush, she burned to leave her quiet home and go
exploring. Dityi could not understand this feeling
at all. It interested him to hear Bunjil's tales, but
he had no wish to do more than hear them. He
was very well satisfied with his life, and thought
that his own home was better than any other place
could possibly be.
But Bunjil soon noticed the dark-eyed girl who
never lost a word of his stories. It amused him to
see her face light up and her eyes sparkle at his
talk ; and so he told more and more stories, and
did not always trouble to make them true, so long
as he could make Mitjen look interested. Some-
times he would meet her wandering alone outside
HOW LIGHT CAME 109
the camp, and then he would tell her, as if he were
sorry for her, that this quiet camp was no place for
her at all. " You are so beautiful," he would say,
" that you should be far away in my wonderful
country, where you would see many great men and
lovely women ; but none more lovely than Mitjen,
In this dull hole you are buried alive."
None of this was true, but Bunjil spoke exactly
as if it were, and after a time Mitjen began to be
very discontented. The simple happy life in the
Bush pleased her no longer ; she only wanted the
exciting things of which Bunjil told. At home,
everybody was good to her and liked her, but she
was only a girl who had to obey other people all
the time, and no one but Dityi had ever troubled
about telling her that she was beautiful. Moreover,
she could see that Bunjil did not think much of
Dityi. He called him one day to Mitjen, " an
ignorant black fellow," and though Mitjen could
not imagine any people who were not black, it
sounded very uncomplimentary, and she could not
forget it. As soon as he had said it, Bunjil apolo-
gized, saying that it was only a slip of the tongue
— but in her heart Mitjen knew this was not true.
It made her look down on Dityi a little, and wonder
if he were reallj^' worthy of her.
One day she asked him if he would take her to
Bunjil's country, and his surprise prevented him
from speaking for some time. He could only look
at her, with his mouth open.
" Go away from home ! " he said at last. " WTiy ?
What is there to go for ? "
no HOW LIGHT CAME
" To see the world," said Mitjen, tossing her head.
"I do not want to stay for ever in this weary
" But it is the world — or most of it," returned
Dityi. " I do not know where Bunjil's country is
— but the men there cannot be up to much if they
are like him, for he is more useless than anyone
I ever saw. He cannot throw a boomerang better
than a girl, and with a spear I could beat him with
my left hand ! "
" You are boastful," said Mitjen coldly. " Throw-
ing weapons is not ever3rthng."
" Well, I don't know how things are managed
in Bunjil's country, but it is very important in ours
that a man should know how to throw," said Dityi.
" Perhaps Bunjil's game comes close to him to be
killed, but here a man has to hunt it. Did Bunjil
mention if it came ready cooked too ? I don't
suppose you would want to do any work in that
country of his ! "
This made Mitjen very angry, and she quarrelled
fiercely with Dityi for making fun of her ; and then
Dityi lost his temper and beat her a little, which
was quite a usual thing to happen to a woman
among the blacks. But Mitjen had been told by
Bunjil that in his country a man never raised his
hand against a woman. So it made her furious to
be beaten by Dityi, though he cared for her too
much really to hurt her, and she broke away from
him and ran to the camp, sobbing that she hated
him and did not want to see him any more.
Near the camp she met Bunjil, who asked her
HOW LIGHT CAME iii
why she was crying ; and when she told him, he
was kind to her, patting her gently, and pretend-
ing to be very angry with Dityi. He was safe in
doing this, for Dityi had gone off whistling into
the Bush — not sorry that he had beaten Mitjen,
if it should make her sensible again, but sorry that
she was unhappy, and resolved to bring her back
a snake or something equally nice for supper. So
Bunjil ran no risk in abusing him, and he did it
heartily. When they had finished talking, Mitjen
walked away from him into the camp with a very
determined face. She went straight to her wurley,
and though Dityi brought her home a beautiful
young snake and a lace-lizard, she would eat no-
thing and refused to come out of the wurley to speak
to him. So Dityi went back to the young men's
huts, angry and offended, and Mitjen lay down,
turning her face to the wall. She was just as
determined ; but only her owti heart knew how
much she was afraid.
When the people of the camp awoke, she was
gone. Nowhere was there any trace of her. And
when the blacks went to look for Bunjil, in his
wurley, he was gone, too. Then they fell into a
great rage, and the young men painted themselves
in white stripes with pipeclay, and went forth in
pursuit, carrying all their arms, and led by Dityi.
But though they looked for many days, they could
never come upon a track ; and so at last the other
young men gave up the search, and went back to
the camp. But Dityi did not go back. There was
nothing for him at home now that he had lost
112 HOW LIGHT CAME
Mitjen ; and so he went on, hunting through the
dark forests for his lost love.
Bunjil and Mitjen had fled far into the Bush.
For a long time they walked in the creek, so that
they would leave no tracks, and if they came to
deep holes, they swam them. They were far away
from Mitjen's country before they dared to leave
the water, and already the girl was tired. But
Bunjil would not let her stop to rest, for he knew
that they would be pursued. He hurried her on,
forgetting now to be gentle when he spoke to her
It was not many days before Mitjen realized the
terrible mistake she had made. They fled deeper
and deeper into the Bush, but no wonderful country
came in sight. She was often cold and hungry,
and Bunjil made her work harder than she had ever
worked before, doing not only the woman's work,
but a large share of the man's. She found out that
he was almost too lazy to get food, and if she had
not hunted for game herself, she would never have
had enough to eat. Bunjil had told her that he
loved her, but very soon she knew that this was not
true, and that all he had wanted was a woman to
cook for him and help him procure food.
At first she used to ask him when they would
come to his own country, and he would put her off,
saying, " Presently — pretty soon." But before long
she found that it made him angry to be asked about
it ; and at last, if she spoke of it, he beat her cruelly.
So Mitjen did not ask any more.
Then all the memories of Dityi and his love came
crowding upon her, and her heart quite broke She
HOW LIGHT CAME 113
did not want to live any more. She lay down under
a big log, and when Bunjil spoke to her there was
no answer. So he kicked her, and left her. But
after he had slept, he went to see why she lay so
still ; and he found that she was dead.
As he looked at her, a great storm came out of
the Bush and whirled him away. It flung him far
up in the sky, where you may see him now, if you
look closely : a lonely, wandering star, finding no
rest anywhere, and no mate. Always he must
wander on and on, and never stop, no matter how
tired he may be ; and the other stars shrink from
him, hurrying away if they cross his path.
The storm took Mitjen also, and carried her gently
into the sky ; and there she saw Dityi, who lit it
all up, for he had been turned into the Sun, and
was giving light to the earth. But always, the
blacks say, he is seeking Mitjen. Like a great fire,
he leaps through the sky, mourning for his love and
going back and forth in ceaseless quest of her. His
wurley is in Nganat, just over the edge of the earth ;
and the bright colour of sunset is caused by the
spirits of the dead going in and out of Nganat, while
Dityi looks among them for his lost love. But he
never finds her ; and so next day he begins to hunt
again, and goes tramping across the sky. Some-
times he shouts her name — " Mitjen ! Mitjen ! " —
and it is then that we hear Thunder go rolling round
the world. But Mitjen never answers.
She has been made the Moon, and always she
mourns far away and alone. WTien she sees the
glory of the Sun, and hears his trampling feet, she
114 HOW LIGHT CAME
hides herself, for now she is ashamed to let him
find her. She only comes from her hiding-place
when he sleeps ; and then she hurries through the
sky, so that she may have the comfort of going in
his footsteps, though she knows now that she can
never hope to overtake him. Sometimes she sighs,
and then a soft breeze flutters over the earth ; and
the big rain is the tears that relieve her grief.
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
BEFORE Pund-jel, Maker of Men, peopled the
earth with the black tribes, and very long
before the first white man came to Australia, the
animals which inhabited the land fell into a great
trouble. And this is how it happened. Old Conara,
the black chief, told it to me while we were fishing
for cod in the Murray one hot night ; and he had
it from his father, whose mother had told him about
it ; while to her the story had come from her grand-
father, who said he was a little boy when his grand-
father had told him, saying he had had the story
from Conara, the magpie, after whom he was named.
And the magpies learn everything, so you see he
ought to know.
Conara said that once in the long-ago time, all
the animals were living very cheerfully together,
when suddenly all the water disappeared. They
went to sleep with the creeks and swamps full, and
the rivers running ; and when they woke up, every-
thing was dry. Of course, this was the most terrible
thing that could happen to the animals, for though
they can manage with very little food in Australia,
at a pinch, they must always have plenty of water.
ii6 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
They searched everywhere for it, through the scrub
and over the plains ; and the birds flew great dis-
tances, always seeking with their eyes for a gleam
of water. But it had quite gone.
So the animals held a council of war, and Mirran,
the Kangaroo, spoke to them. At a council, some
one must always speak first, to tell those present
what they know already ; and Mirran did this very
thoroughly, so that little Kur-bo-roo, the Native
Bear, went to sleep and began to climb up the legs
of the Emu in his sleep, thinking she was a tree.
This led to a disturbance, and it was some time
before Mirran could go on again with his speech.
Then he found he had forgotten the rest of what
he meant to say, so he contented himself by asking
them all what they meant to do about it, and remark-
ing that the matter was now open for discussion.
This is a remark often made at meetings.
Then Mirran sat down thankfully, but in his relief
at finishing his speech he sat on Kowern, the Por-
cupine ; and Kowern is the most uncomfortable
seat in the Bush. Mirran got up more quickly than
he had sat down, and again there was disorder in
the meeting, especially as the Jackass was unfeeling
enough to laugh.
When matters were more quiet, Kellelek, the
Cockatoo, made a long speech, but it was hard to
understand what he said, because all his brothers
would persist in speaking at the same time. Every
one knew that he wanted water, but as every one
was in the same fix, it did not seem to help along
matters to have him say so. Booran, the Pelican,
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 117
was even more troubled about it than Kellelek, for
of course he Hvcd on the water, and he wanted fish
badly. All the fish had disappeared, and the eels
had buried themselves deep in the soft mud of
the beds of the rivers and creeks, and none of the
water-fowl had any food. The Red Wallaby, Waat,
and old Warreen, the bad-tempered Wombat,
made speeches, and so did Meri, the black Dingo,
and Tonga, the 'Possum, and a great many other
animals. But not one could suggest any means of
getting water back, or form an idea as to how
it had gone away.
They were all talking together, getting rather hot
and excited, and very thirsty, when they heard a
sudden whirr of wings overhead, and a bird came
dropping down into their midst. It was Tarook,
the Sea Gull, and though at first they were inchned
to be angry at his sudden appearance, they soon
saw that he had news to communicate, and so they
crowded round him and begged him to speak.
Tarook was a proud bird, and did not often leave
his beloved sea ; so they knew that something
important must have brought him so far inshore.
He stood in their midst, dainty and handsome,
with his snowy feathers and scarlet legs, and care-
fully brushed a fragment of grass from his wing
" Waga, the Fish-Hawk, came along this morn-
ing — in a shocking temper, too — and told me of
your difficulties," he said. " Well, we of the sea
know what has caused them ! "
There was an instant hubbub. All the animals
Ii8 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
and birds cried out at once, saying, " What is it ? "
Tarook looked at them all calmly.
" If you make such a clatter, how can I tell
you ? " he asked crossly. " I have not much time
either, because my mate and I have youngsters to
look after, and it is nearly time I got back to find
The animals became silent at once, and looked at
" Three nights ago," said Tarook, " Tat-e-lak, the
big Frog, came out of the sea. Every one knows
he lives there, but none of us had ever seen him —
and he is as large as many wurleys. All the sea
was troubled at his coming, and big waves rolled in
and beat upon the shore, so that we could scarcely
see the rocks for spray. A hollow booming sound
came from under the sea, and all our young ones
were very much alarmed. Then a wave larger than
all the rest put together crashed into the beach,
and when it began to roll back we saw Tat-e-lak
waddling up the shore. Most frogs hop, but he is
so huge that he gets along in a kind of shuffle."
" But where did he go ? " cried Kadin, the
" He waddled away into the plains beyond, and
when I flew in to look for him, for awhile I could
not find him. Then I heard a strange noise of
water sucking, and I flew to where it came from.
There was a hollow in the creek bank, and Tat-e-
lak was sitting there, with his head in the water,
sucking it all up ; and as he sucked, he swelled. It
was not a nice sight, and soon I flew away."
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 119
" But where is he now ? And what did he do ? "
asked the animals anxiously.
" I did not watch him any more. But the West
Wind knows all about him, and he told me when
I was out fishing last night. It seems that Tat-e-
lak lives under the sea, because of his former sins,
and that is why he has grown so huge. But he
always wants to come back to land, and some-
times he breaks away from his prison under the sea
and gets up to the surface — and a great stir his
coming makes : it's very annoying if you're fishing,
for it scares all the fish away into the farthest corners
of the rocks. But the salt water he has drunk for
so long makes him terribly thirsty, and unless he
can get fresh water to drink he has to go back to
" Then that is why he has drunk all of ours ! "
cried the animals.
Tarook nodded very hard.
" Yes," he said. " It is very seldom that he gets
a chance of coming up ; and his last three landings
have been made in the desert, where he has had
no water at all, and has been forced to hurry back
meekly to the sea. So he is now more thirsty than
he ever was before. The West Wind says he did
not stop drinking until this morning — and now
there is no water anywhere, as you know."
" Then how shall we ever get any more ? Are
we to die of thirst ? "
" Well, that I do not know. I have told you all
that I know," said Tarook. " Tat-e-lak is some-
where on shore, and so far as I can tell, all the
120 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
water is inside him. But I do not know where he
is, nor if you can do anything. Now I must go
back to my young ones, for they will certainly be
hungry, and my mate will be cross." He bowed
to the Kangaroo, and flew up into the air. Then
he went skimming over the forest to the sea.
When he had gone, the animals talked again,
but there was great grief among them, and they
did not know what to do. At last it was agreed
that Malian, the Eaglehawk, should fly to the shore
and find out anything he could about Tat-e-lak.
So huge a Frog, they thought, could not hide him-
self from the eyes of an Eaglehawk, which can see
even a little shrew-mouse in the grass as he flies.
So Mirran, the Kangaroo, bade MaHan be as quick
as possible, and he flew off, while all the people
awaited his return as patiently as they could. But
they were too thirsty to be very patient.
It was evening when Malian returned. The day
had seemed very long, and he was tired, for it is
not easy to fly for a long while without water.
" Tat-e-lak is the most terrible Frog you could
imagine," he said. " He is squatting on a rise not
far from the sea, and he has drunk so much that
he cannot move. His body is swelled up so that
he is bigger than anything that ever existed : bigger
than the little hill on which he sits. Nothing could
possibly be so large as he is. He does not speak
" But what is to be done ? " cried the other
" I asked every one I met, but they coiild not
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 121
tell me. So at last I found old Blook, the Bull-
frog, for it struck me that he would know more
of the ways of other Frogs than anyone else. I
found him with great difficulty, and for a long
time he was too angry to speak, for he has now no
water to remain in, and none to drink. But he
knows all about Tat-e-lak. He says that now he
has inside him all the waters that should cover the
waste places of the earth, but that we shall never
have water unless he can be made to laugh ! "
" To laugh ! " cried the animals. " Who can
make a Frog laugh ? "
" Blook knows he cannot, so that is why he is
angry," answered MaHan. " But that is the only
way. If Tat-e-lak laughs, all the water will run
out of his mouth, and there will once more be plenty
for every one. But unless he laughs he will sit there
for ever, unable to move ; and soon we shall all
die of thirst."
The animals talked over this bad news for a long
time, and at last they agreed that every one who
could be at all funny must go and try to make
Tat-e-lak laugh. A great many at once said that
they could be funny ; but when they were tried,
their performances were so dull that most of those
who looked on were quite annoyed, and refused to
let them go near the Frog, for fear he should lose
his temper instead of laughing. However, every
one was too thirsty to wait to try all those willing
to undertake to make him merry : and they set off
through the Bush in a queer company, the animals
running, hopping or walking, the snakes and reptiles
122 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
crawling, and the birds flying overhead. " The
water will run back to you before we do ! " they
cried to the wives and young ones they were leaving
behind. But that was just a piece of brave talk,
for in reality they did not feel at all sure about it.
They hurried through the scrub, getting more
and more scattered as they went along, for the
swift ones would not wait for those who were slower.
In the early morning the leaders came out of the
trees, and found themselves on a swampy plain
leading to the sea. All the water had dried up,
and a creek that had its course through it was also
dry. It was a very dreary-looking place.
Not far from the beach there was a little hill ;
and, sitting on it, they saw the monster Frog. He
was a terrible creature in appearance, for he was so
immense that the hill was lost under him, just like
a hugely fat man sitting on a button mushroom.
He was so swelled up that it seemed that if any-
thing pricked him he would burst like a balloon ;
but when they came near him they saw how thick
his skin was, and knew that no prick would go
through it. His beady eyes were bulging out, and
though they tried to attract his attention, he only
gazed out to sea and took no notice of them at all.
" Well, he has certainly had a great drink, but
he does not look as if he had enjoyed it," remarked
Mirran, hopping round him.
" I should think he would find himself more
comfortable under the sea than sitting on that poor
little hill ! " said Merkein, the Jackass.
" He will probably go back to the sea," the Native
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 123
Companion answered. " Let us hope he will not
take all the water with him."
" How uncomfortable he must be ! — why, he is
like a mountain ! " hissed Mumung, the Black Snake.
" May I not go and bite him ? "
" Certainly not ! " said Mirran hastil3^ " It
might make him angry ; or he might die, and we
do not want the water poisoned. Unless you can
make him laugh, you had better get into your
hole ! " So Mumung subsided, muttering angrily
Then the animals began to try to make the Frog
laugh. It was the first circus that ever was in
Australia. They danced and capered and pranced
before him, and the birds sang him the most ridicu-
lous songs they could think of, and the insects sat
on his head and told him the funniest stories they
had gathered in flying round the world : but he
did not take the smallest notice of any of them.
His bulging eyes saw them all, but not a word did
It is very hard to be funny when nobody laughs,
and the animals soon became rather disheartened.
But Mirran would not let them stop. He himself
did most wonderful jumps before the Frog, and
once hopped right over the Emu, who looked so
comical when she saw the great body sailing over
her that all the animals burst out laughing ; but
the Frog merely looked as though he would like to
go to sleep. Then Menak, the Bandicoot, brought
his brothers, and performed all kinds of antics ;
and the 'Possums climbed up a little tree and hung
124 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
from its boughs, and were very funny in their
gymnastics ; and the Dingo and his tribe held a
coursing match round the hill on which the Frog
sat, going so fast that no one could see where one
yellow dog ended and the next began ; but none of
these things amused the Frog at all. He stared
straight in front of him, and, if possible, he looked
a little more bulgy. But that was all.
The animals held another council, and tried to
think of other funny things. Mirran remembered
how the Jackass had laughed when he had sat down
on Kowern, the Porcupine, and though that had
been a most unpleasant experience for him, he
bravely offered to do it again. Kowern, however,
did not like the idea, and scuttled away into a
hole, and they had great difficulty in finding him
— and when they did find him, it was quite another
matter to make him come out. At last they induced
him to appear, and to let Mirran sit on him. But
it was not a successful experiment. Perhaps Mirran
was nervous, for he knew how it felt to sit on
Kowern's quills ; and so he let himself down gently,
and Kowern gave a heavy groan, but no one even
smiled. As for the Frog, he was heard to snore.
It was all rather hard on Mirran, for the experi-
ment hurt him just as much as if it had been quite
So the day went on, and when it was nearly
evening, the animals could do no more : and still
Tat-e-lak sat and stared stupidly before him, and
looked more and more huge and bulgy in the gather-
ing darkness ; and Waat, the Red Wallaby, declared
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 125
that the little hill he sat on was beginning to flatten
under his weight. They were quite hopeless, at
last. All were so tired and thirsty that they could
not have attempted more antics, even had they
known any, but, indeed, they had done everything
they knew. They sat in a half-circle round the
great Frog and looked at him sadly ; and the Frog
sat on his hill and did not look at anything at all.
Just about this time, Noy-Yang, the great Eel,
woke up. He was lying in a deep crack in the
muddy bed of the creek, and when the mud dried
and hardened it pinched him, and he squirmed and
woke. To his surprise, there was no water any-
where. Noy-Yang wriggled out of his crack, very
astonished and indignant.
He found all the creek-bed dry, as you know ;
so he wriggled across it and up the bank, and came
out on a little mud-flat by the sea. There he looked
about him. On one side the sea rippled, but Noy-
Yang knew that its water was no good for him.
On the other was only dry land — the swampy
ground he knew and loved, but now there was no
water in it. It was very puzzling to a sleepy Eel.
He looked a little farther and saw the great Frog
sitting on his hill. But he looked so huge that
Noy-Yang thought the hill had simply grown bigger
while he slept ; and though that was surprising, it
was not nearly so surprising as finding no water.
Then he saw all the animals sitting about him, but
he took no notice of them. All he cared for was
to get away from this hot, dry mud, and find a cool
creek running over its soft bed.
126 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
So he wriggled on, making very good time across
the flat. Nobody saw him, for all the animals were
looking miserably at the Frog.
Kowern, the Porcupine, had felt very sore and
bruised after Mirran had sat on him for the second
time. He was a sulky fellow, and he did not want
to be sat on any more, even if it were for the good
of all the people. " Mirran will be making a habit
of this soon," he said crossly ; "I will get out of
the way." So he hurried off, and got into the
nearest hole, which happened to be near the edge
of the mud-flat. There he went to sleep.
Noy-Yang came wriggling along, hating the hard
ground, and only wanting to get to a decent creek.
He was in such a hurry that he did not see Kowern,
and he wriggled right across him — and it seemed to
him that each of Kowern 's spines found a different
place in his soft body.
Noy-Yang cried out very loudly and threw him-
self backwards to get off those dreadful spikes. He
was too sore to creep at all : the only part of him
that was not hurt was the very point of his tail,
and he stood up on that and danced about in his
wrath and pain, with his body wriggling in the air,
and his mouth wide open. And when the monster
Frog caught sight of the Eel dancing on his tail on
the mud-flat, he opened his mouth and let out such
a great shout of laughter as had never been heard
before in the world or will ever be heard again.
Then all the waters came rushing out of the Frog's
mouth, and in a moment the dry swamp was filled
with it, and a sheet of water rushed over the mud-
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 127
flat where Noy-Yang was dancing, and carried him
away — which was exactly what Noy-Yang hked,
and made him forget all his sores. It was not so
nice for Kowern, the Porcupine, for he was swept
away, too, and as he could not swim, he was drowned.
But he was so bad-tempered that nobody cared
Tat-e-lak went on laughing, and the water kept
pouring out of his open mouth ; and as he laughed
he shrank and shrank, and his skin became flabby
and hung in folds about him. He shrank until he
was only as large as a few ordinary frogs put
together : and then he gave a loud croak, and dived
off into the water. He swam away, and none of
the animals ever saw him again.
At that moment the animals were much too busy
with their own affairs to think much about Tat-e-lak.
When the water first appeared they rushed at it
eagerly, and each drank as much as he could. Then
they felt better, and looked about them. Mirran,
the Kangaroo, was the first to make a discovery.
" Ky ! It will be a flood ! " said he.
" A flood — nonsense ! " said Warreen, the
Wombat. " Why, ten minutes ago it was a
drought ! "
" Yes, and now it will be a flood," said Mirran,
watching keenly. " Look ! "
The water had run all over the plain, filling up
the swamp, and already the creek showed like a
line of silver where but a few moments ago there
had been only dry mud. But it was plain that the
water could not get away quickly enough. All the
128 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
plain was like a sea, and there were big waves wash-
ing round the little hills.
" Save yourselves ! " cried Mirran, to the people.
" Soon there will be no dry land at all ! "
He set off with great bounds, thinking of his
mate and the little ones he had left in the forest.
Behind him came all the people, running, jumping
and crawling ; and behind them came the water,
in one great wave. Some reached the high ground
of the forest first, and found safety, and others took
refuge on hills, while those that could climb fled
up trees. But many could not get away quickly,
and the waters caught them, and they were drowned
Next morning the animals who were saved
gathered at the edge of the forest and looked over
the flood. It stretched quite across the plain, and
between it and the sea was only the yellow line of
the sand-hummocks. Nearer to the forest were a
few little hills, and on these could be seen forlorn
figures, huddling together for warmth — for the air
had become very cold.
" There are some of our people ! " cried Mirran
in a loud voice. " How are we to rescue them ? "
No one could answer this question. None of the
animals could swim, and if they had been able to
do so, they had still no way of getting the castaways
to dry land. They could only look at them and
weep because they were so helpless.
After awhile, Booran, the Pelican, came flying
up, in a state of great excitement.
" Have you seen them ? " he cried. " Waat is
there, and little Tonga, the 'Possum, and old
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 129
Warreen, and a lot of others ; and soon they will
die of cold and hunger if they are not saved. So
I must save them."
" You ! " said all the animals.
" There's no need to say it in that tone ! " said
Booran angrily. " I can make a canoe and sail
over quite easily. It will please me very much
to save the poor things."
So Booran cut a big bark canoe, which he called
Gre. He was very proud of it, and would not let
anyone touch it or help him at all ; and when it
was finished he got in and paddled over to the little
islands where the animals shivered and shook, with
soaked fur and heavy hearts. They grew excited
when they saw Booran coming, and when he arrived,
with his canoe, they nearly tipped it over by all
trying to get in at once. This was repeated at each
island, and at last Booran lost his temper altogether
and threatened to leave them all where they were.
This dreadful idea made them very meek, and they
were quite silent as Booran paddled them towards
Now, Booran had not a pleasant nature. It
did not suit him to find people meek, for it at once
made him conceited and inclined to be a bully.
He felt very important, to be taking so many animals
back in his boat ; and so he began to say rude things
to them, and in every way to be unpleasant. The
animals bore this quietly for a time, for they were
too cold to want to dispute with him, and besides,
they were really very grateful for being saved. But
after a while, he became so overbearing that Waat,
130 THE FROG THAT LAUGHED
the Red Wallaby, answered him back sharply, and
others joined in. Before they got to shore, they
were all quarrelling violently, and when they had
only a few yards to go Booran suddenly stopped
paddling, and jumped out so quickly that he upset
the canoe, and threw all the animals into the water.
He swam off, chuckling, and saying, " That will
help to cool your bad tempers ! "
The water was not deep, and the animals escaped
with only a ducking. They struggled to the dry
land, very wet and miserable.
" That was a mean trick to play on us," said
little Tonga, his teeth chattering. " I would like
to fight Booran, if only he would come ashore.
But he will keep out of our way now."
" Ky ! Look at him ! " said Waat.
They looked, and they saw Booran coming in
rapidly, as though he were floating on the water,
and had no power to stop himself. His eyes were
fixed and glassy, and his great beak wide open. A
wave brought him right up on the shore, and blew
over him in a cloud of spray. When the spray had
gone, Booran had gone, too ; and where he had lain
on the bank was a big rock, shaped something like a
That was the story old Conara told me, as we
fished for Murray cod together. He said that all
his people knew the rock, and called it the Pelican
Rock ; and it stood on the plain long after Booran
and his children's children's children were almost
forgotten. To-day the plain is dry, and no water
ever lodges there ; but when the blacks see the
THE FROG THAT LAUGHED 131
Pelican Rock they think of the time when it was
all in flood, when Tat-e-lak, the great Frog, nearly
caused all the animals to die of thirst, and when
Noy-Yang, the Eel, saved them by dancing on his
tail on a mud-flat by the sea.
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
VERY long ago, before the white man came to
conquer the land, a tribe of black people
lived in a great forest. Beyond their country was
a range of mountains which separated them from
another tribe of fierce and warlike blacks, and on one
side they were bounded by the sea. They were a
prosperous tribe, for not only was there plenty of
game in the forest, to give them food and rugs of
skins for clothing, but the sea gave them fish : and
fish were useful both to eat and for their bones.
The blacks made many things out of fish-bones,
and found them very useful for tipping spears and
Being so powerful a tribe, they were not much
molested by other blacks. The mountains to the
north were their chief protection. No wandering
parties of fighting men were likely to cross them
and surprise the tribe, for they were steep and rugged
and full of ravines and deep gullies that were difficult
to cross, unless you knew the right tracks. The
nearest tribe had come over more than once, and
great battles had taken place ; but the sea-tribe
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 133
was always prepared, for the noise of their coming
was too great to be hidden. There had been great
fights, but the sea-tribe had always won. Now they
were too strong to fear any attack. So strong were
they, indeed, that they did not trouble about fight-
ing, but only wished to be peaceful. Their life
was a very simple and happy one, and they did not
want anything better.
The tribe was called the Baringa tribe, and the
name of its chief was Wadaro. He was a tall,
silent man, very proud of his people and their
country, and of his six big sons — all strong fighting-
men, like himself— but most of all, he was proud of
his daughter, Miraga.
Miraga was just of woman's age, and no girl in
all the tribe was so beautiful. She was straight and
supple as a young sapling, lissom as the tendrils of
the clematis, and beautiful as the da\Mi striking on
the face of the waters. Her deep eyes were full of
light, and she was always merry. The little children
loved her, and used to bring her blossoms of the
red native fuchsia, to twine in her glossy black hair.
Most blacks, men and women, look on everything
they meet with one thought. They ask, " Is it good
to eat ? " But Miraga was different . She had made
friends with many of the little animals of the Bush,
and they were her playmates : bandicoots, shrew-
mice, pouch-mice, kangaroo-rats, and other tiny
things. They were quite easy to tame, if anyone
tried ; even snappy little Yikaura, the native cat,
with its spotted body and fierce sharp head, became
quite gentle with Miraga, and did not try to touch
134 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
her other pets. She begged the tribe not to eat the
animals she loved, and they consented. Of course,
in many tribes it would have been necessary to go
on using them for food, and any woman who tried
to save them would only have been laughed at.
But the Baringa folk had so much food that they
could easily afford to spare these little furry things.
Besides, it was Miraga who asked, and was she not
the chief's daughter ?
However, it was not only because she was the
chief's daughter that the people loved Miraga and
did what she asked them. She was always kind and
merry, and went about the camp singing happily,
generally with a cluster of children running after
her. If anyone were sick she was very good, bring-
ing food and medicines. Being the daughter of
Wadaro, the chief, she might have escaped all work ;
but instead, she did her share, and used to go out
digging for yams and other roots with the other
girls of the tribe, the happiest of them all.
The tribe beyond the northern hills was called
the Burrin. They were very fierce and had many
fighting-men ; but their country was not so good as
that of the Baringa, and they were very jealous of
the happy sea-tribe. One time they came to the
conclusion that it was long since they had had a
fight — and that it would be a very good thing to
try and win the Baringa country. They did not
want to go over the mountains unprepared. So
they sent a picked band of young men, telling them
to cross into the land of the Baringas and find out
if they were very strong, and if there were still much
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 135
game in the forest. They were not to fight, but
only to prowl in the forest and watch the sea-tribe
stealthily. Then they were to return over the
mountains with their report, so that the head-men
of the Burrin could decide whether it were wise to
send all their fighting-men over to try and conquer
The little band of Burrin men set off with great
pride. Their leader was the chief's son, Yurong,
who was stronger than any man of his tribe, and of
a very fierce and cruel nature. He was not yet
married, although that was only due to an accident.
Once he had been about to take a wife, and had gone
to her camp and hit her on the head with a waddy,
which was one of the blacks' customs in some tribes,
before carrying her to his own wurley. But he hit
too hard, and the poor girl died — which caused
Yurong a great deal of inconvenience, because her
parents wanted to kill him too. It was only because
he was the chief's son that he escaped with his life.
Now he was still unmarried, because no girl would
look at him. It made Yurong more bad-tempered
than he was naturally, and that is saying a good deal.
He had great hopes from the expedition into the
Baringa country. If he came back successful, and
won a name for himself as a fighter, he thought that
all the maidens of his tribe would admire him, and
forget that he had been so ready with his stick when
he w^as betrothed first.
Yurong and his band left the plain where the
Burrin tribe roamed, and journeyed over the
mountains. They did not find any great difficulties,
136 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
for they had been told where to find the best tracks,
and they had scarcely any loads to hamper them.
It was summer-time, and the lightest of rugs served
them for covering at night, even in the keener air
of the hills. There was no difficulty in finding food
or water, and the stars were their guides.
When they came to the country of the Baringas
they went very cautiously, for they did not wish to
encounter any of Wadaro's men. In the daytime
they hid themselves in gullies or in bends of the creek,
only coming out when their scouts knew that no
enemies were near ; but at night they travelled fast,
and before long they climbed up a great hill that
lay across their path, and from its topmost peak
they saw the gleaming line of the sea. Then, watch-
ing, they saw camp-fire smoke drifting over the trees ;
and they knew they had found Wadaro's camp.
They became more careful than ever, knowing
that now was their greatest danger. Sometimes
they hid in trees, or in caves in the rocks, all the
time watching, and noting in their memories the
number of the men they saw and the signs of abun-
dance of game. There was no doubt that this was
a far better country than their own, and they thirsted
to possess it. At the same time they could see how
strong the Baringas were. Even their womenfolk
were tall and straight and strong, and would help
to fight for their land and their freedom. The
Burrin men used to see them when they went out to
dig in the Bush, a merry, laughing band. Always
with them was a beautiful girl with red flowers in
her hair. Yurong would watch her closely from his
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 137
hiding-place, and he made up his mind that when
the fighting was over this girl should be the chief
part of his share of the spoils. He was so conceited
that he never dreamed that his tribe would not win.
But misfortune fell upon Yurong and his little
band. They were prowling round the outskirts
of Wadaro's camp one night when a woman, hush-
ing her crying baby to sleep, caught a glimpse of
the black forms flitting among the trees. She gave
the alarm silently, and silently the fighting-men of
the Baringas hurled themselves upon the intruders.
There was no time to flee : the Burrin men fought
fiercely, knowing that escape was hopeless. One by
one, they were killed.
Yurong was the last left alive. He turned and
ran, when the last of his comrades fell, a dozen
Baringas at his heels. The first he slew, turning
on him and striking him down ; then he ran on
wildly, hearing behind him the hard breathing of
the pursuing warriors.
Suddenly the ground under his feet gave way.
He fell, down, down, into blackness, shouting as
he went ; then he struck icy water with a great
splash. WTien he came to the surface he could see
the moonlight far above him, and hear the voices of
the Baringa men, loud and excited. Then he went
under once more.
On the river-bank, steep and lofty, the Baringas
watched the black pool where Yurong had dis-
appeared. There was no sign of life there.
" He is gone," they said at last. " No man ever
came alive out of that place. Well, it is a good
138 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
thing." They watched awhile longer, and then
turned back to the camp, where songs of victory
were ringing out among the trees.
But Yurong did not die.
When he sank for the second time, he did it on
purpose. The fall had not hurt him, and his mind
worked quickly, for he knew that only cunning could
save him. He swam under water for a few moments,
letting himself go with the current. But presently
a kind of eddy dragged him down, and he found
himself against a wall of rock, which blocked the
way, so that there seemed to be no escape. But
even in his agony he remembered that so long as
the current ran there must be some way out ; and
he dived deeply into the eddy. It took him through
a hole in the rock, far under the water, scraping him
cruelly against the edges ; but still, he was through,
and on the other side he rose, gasping. Here the
river was wider and shallower, and not so swift.
Yurong let it carry him for awhile ; then he
scrambled out on one side, and found a hiding-place
under a great boulder. He rubbed himself down
with rushes, shivering. Then, crouching in his hole,
When he awoke, he knew that now he should not
lose a moment in getting back to his tribe. He
had learned the fighting strength of the Baringas,
with all else that he had come to find out ; but.
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 139
besides that, he had now the deaths of his comrades
to avenge. And yet, three days later, Yurong was
still in hiding near the enemy's camp. He had
made up his wicked mind that when he went away
he would take with him the beautiful girl he had so
often seen in the forest with her companions.
Quite unconscious of her danger, Miraga went
about her daily work. The sight of her, and the
beauty of her, burned into Yurong's brain ; often
in the forest he dogged her footsteps, but the other
girls were always near her, and he dared not try
to carry her away. He knew now she was the chief's
daughter, and he smiled to think that through her
he could deal the cruellest blow to Wadaro, besides
gaining for himself the loveliest wife in all the
But out in the scrub the girls clustered about
Miraga, and in the camp the young men were
never far from her. There was not one of them who
would not have gladly taken her as his bride, but
she told her father that she was too young to think
of being married, and Wadaro was glad enough
to keep her by his side. But Yurong, fiercely
jealous, could see that there was one man on whom
Miraga's eyes would often turn when he was not
looking in her direction — a tall fellow named Kona-
warr — the Swan — who loved her so dearly that
indeed he scarcely gave her a chance to look at him,
since he so rarely took his gaze from her ! He was
the leader of the young fighting-men, and a great
hunter ; and Yurong thirsted to kill him, as the
kangaroos thirst for the creeks in summer, when
140 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
Drought has laid his withering hand upon the waters.
So five days went by. In the forest Yurong hid,
L /ing on very Httle food — for he dared not often
go hunting — and always watching the camp ; and
Miraga, never dreaming of the danger near her,
lived her simple, happy life. The children always
thronged round her when she moved about the
camp, and she would pause to fondle the little naked
black babies that tumbled round the wurleys,
tossing them in the air until they shouted with
laughter. Yurong saw with amazement how the
little animals came to her and played at her feet,
and it impressed him greatly with a sense of the
wealth of the Baringa tribe. " Ky ! " he said to
himself, " they are able to use food for playthings ! "
Never before had he dreamed of such a thing.
One evening the girls went out into the scrub,
yam-digging, each carrying her yam-stick and
dilly-bag — the netted bag into which the black
women put everything, from food to nose-orna-
ments. Miraga's was woven of red and white
rushes, with a quaint pattern on one side, and she
was very proud of it, for it had been Konawarr's
gift. She was thinking of his kind eyes as she
walked through the trees, brushing aside tendrils
of starry clematis and wild convolvulus, and finding
a way through musk and hazel thickets. He had
looked at her very gently when he gave her the
bag, and she knew that she could trust him. She
was very happy as she wandered on — so happy that
she did not notice for a while that she had strayed
some distance from the other girls, and that already
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 141
the shadows were creeping about the forest to make
" I am too far from camp," she said aloud. " I
must hurry back, or my father will be angry."
She turned to retrace her steps, pausing a moment
to make sure of her direction. Then, from the
gloom of a tall clump of dogwood, something sprang
upon her and seized her. She struggled, sending
a stifled cry into the forest— but it died as a heavy
blow from a waddy took away her senses. Yurong
carried her swiftly away.
Day came, and found them still fleeing, Miraga
a helpless burden in her captor's arms. Days and
nights passed, and still they travelled northwards,
across the rivers, the forest, and the mountains.
They went slowly, for at length Yurong could carry
the girl no farther, and at first she was too weak
to walk much. Even when she grew stronger she
still pretended to be weak, doing all in her power to
delay their flight— always straining her ears in the
wild hope that behind her she might hear the feet
of the men coming to save her — led by Wadaro and
by Konawarr. Somewhere, she knew, they were
searching for her. But as the days went by, and
no help came, her heart began to sink hopelessly.
Yurong was not unkind to her. He treated her
gently enough, telling her she was to be his wife,
but she hated him more and more deeply each hour.
Thinking her very weak, he let her travel slowly,
and helped her over the rough places, though she
shrank from his touch. But he took no risks with
her. He kept his weapons carefully out of her
142 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
reach, and at night, when they slept, he bound her
feet and hands with strips of kangaroo-hide, so that
she might not try to escape.
Then they came to the topmost crest of the
mountains, and below them Yurong could see the
country of his people. At that, Miraga gave up
all hope. They camped on the ridge that night ;
and for the first time she sobbed herself to sleep.
She woke up a while later, with a sound of little
whispers in her ears. It was quite dark inside
the wurley ; but she heard a patter of tiny, scurry-
ing feet, and a few faint squeaks. Miraga lay very
still, trembling. Then a shrill little voice came,
very close to her.
" Mistress — oh, mistress ! "
" Who is it ? " she whispered.
" We are your Little People," came the faint
voice. " Lie very still, and we will set you free ! "
On her hand, Miraga felt a patter of tiny feet,
Uke snowflakes falling. They ran all over her
body ; she felt them down at her bare ankles, and
near her face. She knew them now, though it was
dark— little Padi-padi, the pouch-mouse, and Punta,
the shrew-mouse, and Kanungo, the kangaroo-rat,
with the bandicoot, Talka. They were all her
friends— her Little People. Dozens of them seemed
to be there in the dark, nibbling furiously at the
strips of hide on her wrists and ankles.
How long the time seemed as she lay, trembling,
in great fear lest Yurong should awaken ! The very
sound of her own breathing was loud in her ears, and
the faint rustlings of the Little People seemed a
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 143
noise that must surely wake the sleeping warrior.
But Yurong was tired, and he slept soundly : and
the Little People worked hard. At last the bonds
fell apart and she was free.
Gliding like a snake, she crept out of the wurlcy,
and ran swiftly into the forest that clothed the
mountains. But scarcely had she gone when Yurong
woke and found she was not there.
He sprang to his feet with a shout, grasping his
weapons, and rushed outside. There was no sign
of Miraga — but his quick ear caught the sound of
a breaking twig in the forest, and he raced in pursuit.
Again he heard it, this time so close that he knew she
could not be more than a few yards away. Then
he found himself suddenly on the edge of a great
wall of rock, and there was no time to stop. He
shouted again, in despair, as he fell — down, down.
Then no more sounds came.
But just on the edge of the precipice three bandi-
coots came out of a heap of dry sticks, laughing.
" That was easily done," said one. " It was
only necessary to jump up and down among the
sticks and break a few, and the silly fellow made
sure it was Miraga."
" Well, he will not make any more foolish mis-
takes," said his brother. " But is it not surprising
to find how simple these humans are ! "
" All but our mistress," the first said. " Come
— we must make haste to follow her, or else we shall
have another long hunt. And nobody knows what
mischief she may fall into, if we are not there to look
after her ! "
144 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
MiRAGA ran swiftly into the heart of the forest,
glancing back in terror, lest at any moment she
should see Yurong. She heard him shout, and the
crash of his feet in pursuit as he plunged out of the
wurley ; and for a moment she gave herself up for
lost. He was so swift and so strong : she knew that
she could never escape him, once he was on her
Another cry reached her presently, not so close.
It gave her her first throb of hope that Yurong
had taken the wrong turning among the trees. Still
she was far too terrified to slacken speed. She fled
on, not knowing where she was going.
A great mountain peak loomed before her, and
she fled up it. It was hard climbing, but it seemed
to her safer than the dark forest, where at any
moment Yurong's black face might appear. Here,
at least, she might be safe ; at least, he would not
think of looking for her in this wild and rugged place.
Perhaps, if she hid on the mountain for a few days
he would grow tired of looking for her, and go away,
back to his own people ; and then she could try to
find her way home. At the very thought of home,
poor Miraga sobbed as she ran : it seemed so long
since the happy days in the camp by the sea.
The way was strange. She climbed up, among
great boulders and jagged crags of rock. Above
her the peaks seemed to pierce the sky. Deep
ravines were here and there, and she started away
Then slie knew tliat in lier journeyings she had found
the Moon ! "
The Sttmc Axe of Burkainukk]
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 145
from their edges : somewhere, water fell swiftly,
racing down some narrow bed among the rocks.
So she went on, and the moonlight grew stronger
and stronger, until it flooded all the mountain. She
fought her way, step by step, up the last great
peak. And, suddenly, in the midnight, she came
out upon a great and shining tableland : then she
knew that in her journeyings she had found the
She wandered on, in doubt and fear — fear, not
of this strange new land, but of the men she dreaded
to find there. But for a long time she saw no people.
Only in the dim hours, when the earth-world glowed
like a star, but all the moon -country was dark, there
came about her the Little People that she knew^ and
loved— Padi-padi, and Punta, Talka and Kanungo.
And because she was very lonely, and a lonely
woman loves the touch of something small and soft,
she took some of them up and carried them with her
in her dilly-bag.
" How did you know I was lost ? " she asked
" How did we know ? " they said, laughing at
her. " Wliy, all the forest sang of it ! The mag-
pie chattered it in the dewy mornings, and Moko-
Moko, the Bell-Bird, told all about it to the creeks
in the gullies. Moko-Moko w^ould not leave his
quiet places to tell the other animals, but he knew
the creeks would carry the story. Soon there was
no animal in all the Bush that did not know where
you had gone. Only we could not tell your own
stupid people, for they w^ould not understand."
146 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
" And are they looking for me ? " Miraga asked.
" They seek for you night and day. Your father
has led a party of fighting-men to the east, and
Konawarr has gone north with all his friends. They
never rest — all the time they seek you. And the
women are wailing in the camp, and the little
children crying, because you are gone."
That made Miraga cry, too.
" Can you not take me back ? " she begged. " I
can go if you will show me the way."
But the Little People shook their heads.
" No, we cannot do that," they said. " We can
help you, and we can talk to you, but we may not
take you back. You must find the way yourself."
So Miraga wandered on through the Moon-
Country. It was very desolate and bare, strewn
with rocks and craggy boulders, and to walk long
upon it was hard for naked feet. There were no
rivers, and no creeks, but a range of mountains rose
in one place, and were so grim and terrible that
Miraga would not try to climb them. She found
stunted trees, bearing berries, which she ate, for she
was very hungry.
" Perhaps they are poisonous, and will kill me,"
she said. " I do not think that greatly matters,
for I begin to feel that I shall never get home."
But the berries were not poisonous. Indeed,
Miraga felt better when she had eaten them. Her
strength came back to her, and her limbs grew less
weary. She put some of the berries into her dilly-
bag for the Little People. Then she set off on her
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 147
She did not know how long she had been in the
Moon-Country, after a while. It seemed that she
had never done anything but find her way across its
rugged plains, seeking ever for the track back to the
green Earth- World. So silent and strange was it
that she began to think there was no living being
upon it but herself and the Little People she carried
One day, wandering along a rocky edge, she
quite suddenly came upon the camp of the Man-
Who-Dwells-In-The-Moon. She cried out in fear,
and fled. But he was awake, and when he saw this
beautiful girl, he rose and gave chase.
But Miraga was fleet of foot ; and the Man-
Who-Dwells-In-The-Moon was a fat man, and heavy :
for, as the blacks know, he never goes hunting, as
men do, but always sits down in the shadow of his
mountains. Presently, he saw that the girl was
escaping ; she drew farther and farther ahead,
running like a dingo, and already he was puffing
and panting. So he stamped his foot and called to
his dogs, and they came out of the holes of the hills —
great savage brutes, lean and hungry-looking, of a
dark colour. They came, running and growling,
and sniffing angrily at the air. Their master waved
his hand, and they uttered a long howl and followed
swiftly after Miraga.
Now, indeed, she thought that her end had come.
Mists swam before her eyes, and her feet stumbled :
she, whose limbs were so lithe and strong, tottered
like a weary old woman. Behind her, the long howls
of the dogs woke terror in her heart. They drew
148 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
nearer ; almost she could feel their hot panting
breath. But just as she was about to sink down,
exhausted, the Little People in thedilly-bag chattered
and called to her. " Mistress ! Oh, Mistress ! " they
cried. " Let us out, that we may save you ! "
She heard them, and fumbled with shaking fingers
at the fastening of the bag. It slipped from her
shoulders, and fell to the ground ; and as it fell, the
animals burst out and fled in many directions, some
here and some there, squeaking and chattering.
And when the fierce Dogs of the Moon saw them,
they forgot to pursue Miraga, but turned and coursed
swiftly after the animals.
Behind them the Man-Who-Dwells-In-The-Moon
shouted vainly to them. There are no animals in
the Moon- Country, and so the Dogs have no chance
of hunting ; but the sight of the scampering Little
People woke their instincts, and they dashed after
them wildly. They caught some, and swiftly slew
them ; others dodged, and leaped, and twisted,
escaping into little rockholes, where the dogs could
not follow them. The noise of the hunting and the
deep baying of the Dogs echoed round the Moon
and made thunder boom among the Stars.
But Miraga ran on, stumbling for weariness.
She knew that the Dogs were no longer close upon
her, but she dreaded to hear them again at any
moment, for she did not see how such feeble Little
People could keep them off for long. So she ran,
and as she went, her tears fell for the little friends
who had given their lives for her. At last, too tired
to see where her stumbling feet had led her, she came
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 149
to the brink of a great precipice, and fell down and
down, until her senses left her.
But when she opened her eyes again, it was to
meet those of Konawarr ; and he was holding her
in his arms and calling her name over and over, with
his voice full of pity and love ; and behind him were
his friends — all the band who had been seeking her
with him. They were all smiling to her, with wel-
come and joy on each friendly face. For in her fall
she had come back to the dear Earth-World once
more, and her sorrows were at an end.
So, when the tribes look up to the sky on moonht
nights and see the great shape that looms across
the brightness, they say it is the mighty Man-Who-
D wells- in- The-Moon ; who, Hke themselves, is black,
but grown heavy and slothful with much idleness
and sitting-down. The parents scare idle children
with his name, saying that if they do not bestir
themselves they, too, will become fat and useless
like him. But Miraga used to tell her children
another story, and when she told it her eyes would
brim with tears. It was the story of the Little
People she loved, who followed her to the Moon-
Country, and there gave up their lives for her, saving
her first from Yurong, and then from the teeth of
the Dogs of the Moon. And the cliildren would
shiver a little, clustering more closely — aU save little
Konawarr, who would grasp his tiny boomerang
and declare that he would kill anything that dared
to hurt his mother.
The great dogs still crouch around the Man-Who-
DweUs-ln- The-Moon, waiting to do his bidding. You
150 THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON
can see them, if you look closely — dark spots, near
the huge figure in the midst of the brightness. They
are the fierce Dogs that guard the lonely country
in the sky : the Dogs that long ago hunted, howhng,
after Miraga the Beautiful, across the shining spaces
of the Moon.
MIRRAN AND WARREEN
MIRRAN, the Kangaroo, and Warreen, the
Wombat, were once men. They did not
belong to any tribe, but they lived together, and
were quite happy. Nobody wanted them, and they
did not want anybody. So that was quite satis-
Warreen was the first. All his tribe had been
drowned in a flood, leaving him quite alone. So he
found a good camping-place, where there were both
shelter and water, and he made himself a camp
of bark, which he called, in the language of his
tribe, a willum. He was not in a hurry when he
was making it, so he did it well, and no rain could
possibly come through it. One side of it was a
big rock, which made it very strong, so that no
wind was likely to blow it away. Overhead a
beautiful clump of yellow rock-lilies drooped grace-
fully. Not that Warreen cared for lilies ; and this
particular clump annoyed him, for the rock was too
steep for him to climb up and eat the lily-roots.
He had been living there for some time, very
lazy and contented, when one day Mirran appeared.
At first Warreen thought he meant to fight, and
152 MIRRAN AND WARREEN
that also annoyed him, because he hated fighting.
But Mirran soon showed him that he only wanted
to be friends ; and then Warreen discovered that
he was very glad to have some one with whom he
could talk. So after the manner of men, they sat
down and yarned all day.
Several times during the day Mirran said, " I
must be going." But Warreen always answered,
" Oh, don't go yet " ; and they went on talking
harder than ever. Night came, and Mirran said,
" It is really time I made a move." Warreen said,
" Why not stay the night ? I can put you up."
They talked it over for a while, and then it was
quite too late for Mirran to go. So he stayed all
night, and in the morning Warreen said, " Why not
spare me a few days, now that you are here ? "
Mirran willingly agreed to this, for he had nothing
to do, and he thought it very nice of Warreen to
put the invitation that way.
They became great friends. Mirran was tall and
thin and sinewy, while Warreen was very short
and dumpy, and exceedingly fat. Also, he was lazy,
and he liked having some one to help him get food,
at which Mirran was very quick and clever.
Mirran also was the last of his tribe. The others
had been killed by warlike blacks, and Mirran would
have been killed also, but that he managed to swim
across a river and get away into the scrub. He
was very active and fleet of foot, and delighted in
running, which was an exercise that bored Warreen
very badly. Soon they made an arrangement by
which Mirran did all the hunting, while Warreen
MIRRAN AND WARREEN 153
dug for yams and other roots, and prepared the
food, just as a woman does. It suited them both
Mirran had one peculiarity that Warreen at
first thought exceedingly foolish. He did not like
to sleep indoors. It was summer time when he
came, and he would not build himself a willum, but
slept upon a soft bed of grass under the stars. If a
cold night came, or even a rainy one, he rolled
himself in his 'possum rug and slept just as happily.
Warreen began by thinking he was mad. But as
time went on he often slept outside with Mirran,
himself, especially on those nights when they were
talking very hard and did not want to leave off.
Warreen used to grumble at the hardness of the
ground, but he was really very much better for stay-
ing outside, in the fresh night-air. His little willum
was a very stuffy place.
Sometimes he would think about the Winter,
and say to Mirran :
" When are you going to build your willum ? "
" Oh, there is plenty of time," Mirran would
" The cold weather will be here, and then what
will you do ? "
" Oh, I expect I shall have my camp ready in
time. It will not take me long to build it, when
the time comes."
" If you are not very careful, you will find your-
self caught by the Winter, and 3^ou will not like
that," said Warreen. But Mirran onl}' laughed
and talked about something else. He hated build-
154 MIRRAN AND WARREEN
ing, and was anxious to put it off as long as
Warreen had a very suspicious mind, and it
often made him believe very stupid things. He
was the kind of man who was best living alone,
because so often he got foolish ideas into his head
about other people, and imagined he had cause for
offence when there was really none at all. So he
began to wonder why Mirran would not build a
camp, and the thought came to him that perhaps
he did not intend to build at all, but meant to take
possession of his own willum. Of course, that was
ridiculous, for Mirran was only lazy, and kept say-
ing to himself, " To-morrow I will build " ; and
when to-morrow came, he would say, "Oh, it is
beautiful weather ; I need not worry about building
for a few days yet." So he went on putting it off,
and Warreen went on being suspicious, until some-
times he felt sorry he had ever asked Mirran to live
with him. But Mirran sang and joked, and hunted,
and had no idea that Warreen was making himself
uneasy by such stupid thoughts.
One night, clouds came drifting over the sky,
after a hot day, and Warreen said, " I am not going
to sleep outside to-night."
" I don't think it will rain," said Mirran. " It
is much cooler out here."
" Yes, but one soon forgets that when one is
asleep. I hate getting wet," said Warreen.
" Well, just as you like," Mirran answered. " For
my part, I am too fond of the stars to leave them."
So he spread his 'possum rug in a soft place, and
MIRRAN AND WARREEN 155
lay down. In a few minutes he was fast asleep, and
Warreen went off to bed feeling rather bad-tempered,
though he could not have told why.
In the night, heavy rain came, and the air grew
rapidly very cold. Mirran woke up, grumbled a
little at the weather, rolled himself in his 'possum
rug and crept into the most sheltered corner he could
find by the rock, not liking to disturb Warreen by
going into the willum. It was too cold to sleep, so
he soon uncovered the ashes of their camp fire, and
put sticks on it ; and there he crouched, shivering,
and wishing Warreen would wake up and invite
him to sleep in the shelter.
But the rain came more and more heavily and
a keen wind arose ; and a sudden squall put out
Mirran's fire. Soon, little channels of water were
finding their way in every direction over the hard
ground, so that Mirran became very wet and half-
frozen. Then he noticed a red glow inside the
" That is good," he said, joyfully, " Warreen is
awake, and has made himself a fire. Now he will
ask me to go and lie down in his hut."
He crouched close by the rock for a long time,
thinking each moment that Warreen would ask him
in. But no sound came, and after a while he came
to the conclusion that Warreen could not know he
was awake. So he got up and went over to the
door of the willum and looked in. The little fire
was burning redly, and all looked very cosy and
inviting to poor, frozen Mirran, Warreen lay near
the fire, and looked at him suspiciously.
156 MIRRAN AND WARREEN
" Ky ! what a night ! " said Mirran, his teeth
chattering. " You were right about the weather,
Warreen, and I was wrong. I have been very sorry
for the last hour that my camp is not built. May
I come in and sit in that corner ? "
There was not much vacant space in Warreen's
little willum, but it was quite big enough for two
at a pinch. In the corner to which Mirran pointed
there was nothing. But Warreen looked at him
suspiciously, and grunted under his breath.
" I want that corner for my head," he said,
at last. And he turned over and laid his head
Mirran looked rather surprised.
" Never mind ; this place will do," he said, point-
ing to another corner.
" I want that place for my feet," Warreen said.
And he moved over and laid his feet there.
Still Mirran could not understand that his friend
meant to be so churlish.
" Well, this place will suit me famously,"
he said, pointing to where Warreen's feet had
But that did not please Warreen either.
" You can't have that place — I may want it later
on," he said, with a snarl. And he turned and lay
down between the fire and Mirran, and shut his
Then Mirran realized that Warreen did not mean
him to have any warmth or shelter, and he lost his
temper. He rushed outside into the wet darkness,
and stumbled over a big stone. That was not a
MIRRAN AND WARREEN 157
lucky stumble for Warreen, for all that Mirran
wanted at the moment was a weapon.
He picked up the stone and ran back into the
willum. Warreen lay by the fire and he flung the
stone at him as hard as he could. It hit Warreen
on the forelicad, and immediately his forehead went
" That's something for you to remember me by ! "
said Mirran angrily. " You can keep your dark
little hole of a willum and live in it always, just cis
you can keep your flat forehead. I have done with
you ! "
He turned and ran out of the hut, for he was
afraid that if he stayed he would kill Warreen.
Behind him, Warreen staggered to his feet and
caught hold of his spear, which leaned against the
wall near the doorway. He did not make any reply,
but he drove the spear into the darkness after
Mirran, and it hit him in the back and hung there.
Mirran fell down without a word. The light from
the fire shone on him as he lay there in the rain, with
the spear behind him.
Wan-een laughed a Httle, holding by his door-post.
" I shall have a flat forehead, shall I ? " he said.
" Well, you will have more than that. Where that
spear sticks, there shall it stick always, and it will be
a tail for you. You will never run or jump without it
again — and never shall you have a willum." Then
he had no more strength left, so he crept back and
lay beside his fire, while Mirran lay in the pouring
No one saw Warreen and Mirran again as men.
158 MIRRAN AND WARREEN
But from that time two new animals came into the
Bush, and the Magpie and the Minah, those two
inquisitive birds who know everything, soon found
out their story and told it to all the black people.
So everybody knows that Warreen, the Wombat,
and Mirran, the Kangaroo, were once men and lived
together. They do not live together now, nor do
they like each other. The Wombat is fat and surly
and lazy, and he lives in a dark, ill-smelling hole in
the ground. His forehead is fiat, and he does not
go far from his hole ; and he is no more fond of
working for his living than he was when he lived in a
willum as a man. The Kangaroo lives in the free
open places, and races through the Bush as swiftly
as Mirran used to race long ago. But always behind
him he carries Moo-ee-boo, as the blacks call his
tail, and it has grown so that he has to use it in
running and jumping, and now he could not get on
without it. He is just as quick and gentle as ever,
but when he is angry he can light with his forepaws,
just as a man fights with his hands.
Other animals of the Bush have holes and hiding-
places, but the Kangaroo has none. He does not
look for shelter, but sleeps in the open air. It is
difficult to see him, for when he is eating young leaves
and grass his skin looks just the same colour as the
trees, and you are sometimes quite close to him
before his bright eyes are seen watching you eagerly.
Then he turns and hops away, faster than a horse
can gallop, in great bounds that carry him yards
at every stride, with Moo-ee-boo, his long tail,
thumping the ground behind him. He has learned
MIRRAN AND VVARREEN 159
to use it — to balance on it and make it help him in
those immense leaps that no animal in the Bush can
equal. So Warreen did not do him so bad a turn
as he hoped when he threw his spear at him that
rainy night long ago.
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
THE Chief Wonkawala was a powerful man,
who ruled over a big tribe. They were a
fierce and warlike people, always ready to go out
against other tribes ; and by fighting they had
gained a great quantity of property, and roamed
unmolested through a wide tract of country — which
meant that all the tribe was well-fed.
Wonkawala had not always been a chief. He had
been an ordinary warrior, but he was fiercer and
stronger than most men, and he had gradually
worked his way up to power and leadership. There
were many jealous of him, who would have been
glad to see his downfall ; but Wonkawala was wary,
as well as brave, and once he had gained his position,
he kept it, and made himself stronger and stronger.
He had several wives, and in his wurleys were fine
furs and splendid weapons and abundance of grass
mats. Every one feared him, and he had all that
the heart of a black chief could desire, except for one
thing. He had no son.
Five daughters had Wonkawala, tall and beau-
tiful girls, skilled in all women's work, and full of
high courage, as befits the daughters of a chief.
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA i5i
Yillin was the eldest, and she was also the bravest
and wisest, so that her sisters all looked up to
her and obeyed her. Many young warriors had
wished to marry her, but she had refused them all.
" Time enough," she said to her father. " At
present it is enough for me to be the daughter of
Her father was rather inclined to agree with her.
He knew that her position as the eldest daughter of
the chief — without brothers — was a fine thing, and
that once she married she would live in a wurley
much like any other woman's and do much the same
hard work, and have much the same hard time. The
life of the black women was not a very pleasant one
— it was no wonder that they so soon became
withered and bent and hideous. Hard work, the
care of many babies, little food, and many blows :
these were the portion of most women, and might
well be that even of the daughter of a chief, when
once she left her father's wurley for that of a young
warrior. So Wonkawala, who was unlike many
blacks in being very fond of his daughters, did not
urge that Yillin should get married, and the suitors
had to go disconsolately away.
But there came a time when Wonkawala fell ill,
and for many weeks he lay in his wurley, shivering
under his fur rugs, and becoming weaker and weaker.
The medicine-men tried all kinds of treatment for
him, but nothing seemed to do him any good. They
painted him in strange designs, and cut him with
shell knives to make him bleed : and when he com-
plained of pain in the back they turned him on his
i62 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
face and stood on his back. So Wonkawala com-
plained no more ; but the back was no better.
After the sorcerers had tried these and many
other methods of heaUng, they declared that some one
had bewitched Wonkawala. This was a favourite
device of puzzled sorcerers. They had made the
tribes believe that if a man's enemy got possession
of anything that had belonged to him — even such
things as the bones of an animal he had eaten,
broken weapons, scraps of furs he had worn, or, in
fact, anything he had touched— it could be employed
as a charm against him, especially to produce
illness. This made the blacks careful to burn up
all rubbish before leaving a camping-place ; and
they were very keen in finding odd scraps of property
that had belonged to an unfriendly tribe. Anything
of this kind that they found was given to the chief,
to be carefully kept as a means of injuring the
enemy. A fragment of this description was called
a wuulon, and was thought to have great power
as a charm for evil. Should one of the tribe wish to
be revenged upon an enemy, he borrowed his
wuulon from the chief, rubbed it with a mixture
of red clay and emu fat, and tied it to the end of a
spear-thrower, which he stuck upright in the ground
before the camp-fire. Then all the blacks sat
round, watching it, but at some distance away, so
that their shadows should not fall upon it, and
solemnly chanted imprecations until the spear-
thrower fell to the ground. They believed that it
would fall in the direction of the enemy to whom
the wuulon belonged, and immediately they all
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 163
threw hot ashes in the same direction, with hissing
and curses, and prayers that ill-fortune and disease
might fall upon the owner.
The sorcerers tried this practice with every
wuulon in Wonkawala's possession ; but whatever
effect might have been produced on the owners of
the wuulons, Wonkawala himself was not helped
at all. He grew weaker and weaker, and it became
plain that he must die.
The knowledge that they were to lose their chief
threw all the blacks into mourning and weeping, so
that the noise of their cries was heard in the wurley
where Wonkawala lay. But besides those who
mourned, there were others who plotted, even
though they seemed to be crying as loudly as the
rest. For, since Wonkawala had no son, some other
man must be chosen to succeed him as chief, and
there were at least half a dozen who thought they
had every right to the position. So they all gathered
their followings together, collecting as many sup-
porters as each could muster, and there seemed
every chance of a very pretty fight as soon as
Wonkawala should breathe his last.
The dying chief was well aware of what was
going on. He knew that they must fight it out
between themselves, and that the strongest would
win ; but what he was most concerned about was
the safety of his daughters. Their fate would
probably be anything but pleasant. Once left
without him, they would be no longer the leading
girls of the tribe, and much petty spite and jealousy
would probably be visited upon them by the other
i64 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
women. Or they might be made tools in the fight
for the succession to his position, and mixed up in
the feuds and disputes which would ensue : indeed,
it might easily happen that they would be killed
before the fighting settled down. In any case it
seemed to Wonkawala that hardship and danger
were ahead of them.
He called them to him one evening, and made
them kneel down, so close that they could hear him
when he spoke in a whisper.
" Listen," he said. " I am dying. No, do not
begin wailing now — there will be time enough for
that afterwards. My day is done, and it has
been a good day : I have been a strong man and
my name will be remembered as a chief. What
can a man want more ? But you are women, and
my heart is uneasy about you."
" Nothing will matter to us, if you die ! " said
" You may think so now," said the chief, looking
at her with affection in his fierce eyes. " But my
death may well be the least of the bad things that
may happen to you. You will be as slaves where
you have been as princesses. Even if I am in the
sky with Pund-jel, Maker of Men, I shall be unhappy
to see that. Therefore, it seems to me that you
must leave the tribe."
" Leave the tribe ! " breathed Yillin, who always
spoke for her sisters. " But where should we go ? "
" I have dreamed that you shall go to the east,"
said her father. " What is to happen to you I
do not know, but you must go. You may fall into
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 165
the power of another tribe, but I believe they would
be kinder to you than your own would be, for there
will be much fighting here after I have gone to
Pund-jel. I think any other tribe would take you
in with the honour that is due to a chief's daughters.
In any case, it is better to be slaves among strangers
than in the place where you have been rulers."
" I would rather die than be a slave here ! " said
" Spoken like a son ! " said the old chief, nodding
approval. " Get weapons and food ready secretly,
all that you can carry : and when the men are away
biu-ying me, make your escape. They will be so
busy in quarrelling that they will not notice soon
that you have gone ; and then they will be afraid
to go after you, lest any should get the upper hand
during their absence. Go to the east, and Pund-jel
will decide your fate. Now I am weary, and I wish
So Yillin and her sisters obeyed, and during the
next few days they hid weapons in a secret place
outside the camp, and crammed their dilly-bags
with food, fire-sticks, charms, and all the things
they could carry. Already they could see that
there was wisdom in their father's advice. There
was much talk that ceased suddenly when they
came near, and the women used to whisper together,
looking at them, and bursting into rude laughter.
YilHn and her sisters held their heads high, but
there was fierce anger in their hearts, for but a
week back no one would have dared to show them
i66 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
At last, one evening, Wonkawala died, and the
whole tribe mourned for him. For days there was
weeping and wailing, and all the time the chief's
daughters remained within their wurley, seeing no
one but the women who brought them food. As
the time went on, the manner of these women
became more and more curt, and the food they
brought less excellent, until, on the last day of
mourning, Yillin and her sisters were given worse
meals than they had ever eaten before.
" Our father spoke truth," said Yillin. " It is
time we fled."
" Time, indeed," said Peeka, the youngest sister.
" Did you see Tar-nar's sneering face as she threw
this evil food in to us ? "
" I would that Wonkawala, our father, could
have come to life again to see it," said Yillin with
an angry sob. " He would have withered her with
his fury. But our day, like his, is done — in our own
tribe. Never mind — we shall find luck elsewhere."
After noon of that day the men of the tribe bore
the body of Wonkawala away, to bury it with
honour. The women stayed behind, wailing loudly
as long as the men were in sight ; but as soon as
the trees hid them from view they ceased to cry out,
and began to laugh and eat and enjoy themselves.
They fell silent, presently, as the five daughters of
Wonkawala came out of their wurley and walked
slowly across the camp. They were muffled in their
'possum-rugs, scarcely showing their faces.
For a moment there was silence, and then one of
the women said something to another at which
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 167
both burst into a cackle of laughter. Then another
called to the five sisters, in a famihar and insolent
" Where do you go, girls ? "
" We go to mourn for our father in a quiet place,"
answered Yillin haughtily.
" Oh — then the camp is not good enough for you
to mourn in ? " cried the woman with a sneer.
" But do not be away too long — there will be plenty
of work to do, for you, now. Remember, you are
no longer our mistresses."
" No — it is your turn to serve us, now," cried
another. " Bring me back some j^ams when you
come — then perhaps there will not be so many
beatings for you ! " There was a yell of laughter
from all the women, amidst which Yillin and her
sisters marched out of the camp, with disdainful
When they drew near their hiding-place they
kept careful watch, in case anyone had followed
them. As a matter of fact, all the women were by
that time busily engaged in ransacking their wurley,
and dividing among them the possessions the
sisters had not been able to carry away ; so that
they were quite safe. They collected their weapons
and hurried off into the forest.
They had obeyed their father and gone east, and
the burial-place was west of the camp, so they met
nobody, and their flight was not discovered that
night. The men came back to the camp in the
evening, hungry and full of eagerness about the
fight for the leadership of the tribe, and the women
i68 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
were kept busy in looking after them. The first
fight took place that very evening, and though it
was not a very big one, it left no time for anyone
to wonder what had become of the five sisters.
Not until next day did the tribe realize that they
had run away ; and then, as Wonkawala had
foreseen, no one wanted to run after them. Certain
young warriors who had thought of marrying them
were annoyed, but they could only promise them-
selves to pursue and capture them when the tribe
should again have settled down under new leader-
The five sisters were very sad when they started
on their journey, for the Bush is a wide and lonely
place for women, and there seemed nothing ahead
of them but difficulty and danger. They wept as
they hurried through the forest, nor did they dare
to sleep for a long time. Only when they were so
weary that they could scarcely drag themselves
along, did they fling themselves down in a grassy
hollow, where tall ferns made a screen from any
prying eyes, and a stream of water gave them
refreshment. They slept soundly, and dreamed
gentle dreams ; and when they awoke in the
morning it seemed that a great weight had been
lifted from their hearts.
" I feel so happy, sisters," said YilHn, sitting up
and rubbing her eyes. " Our father came to me in
my sleep, and told me to be of good courage and to
smile instead of weeping."
" He came to me, also," said Peeka, " and told
me there was good luck ahead."
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 169
" After all," said another of the girls, " what
have we to fret about ? It is a fine thing to go out
and see the world. I am certain that we are going
to enjoy ourselves."
" It will be interesting, at any rate," said Yillin.
" But we must hurry onward, for we are not yet
safe from pursuit — though I do not think it will
They made as much haste as possible for the next
few days, until it seemed certain that no one was
tracking them down ; and with each dawn they
felt happier and more free from care. They were
lucky in finding game, so that they w-ere well-fed ;
and on the fifth day they came upon trees loaded
with mulga apples, which gave them a great feast.
They roasted many of the apples and carried them
with them in their food-bowls. Sometimes they
came to little creeks, fringed with maidenhair fern,
where they bathed ; sometimes they passed over
great, rolling plains, where they could see for
miles, and where kangaroos were feeding in little
mobs, dotted here and there on the kangaroo-grass
they loved. Flocks of white cockatoos, sulphur-
crested, flew screaming overhead, and sometimes they
saw the beautiful pink and grey galahs, wheeling
aloft, the sunlight gleaming on their grey backs
and rose-pink crests. Then they went across a little
range of thickly-wooded hills, where the trees were
covered with flocks of many-coloured parrots, and
the purple-crowned lorikeets flew, screeching —
sometimes alighting, like a flock of great butterflies,
on a gum-tree, to hang head downwards among the
170 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
leaves, licking the sweet eucalyptus honey from the
flowers with their brush-like tongues.
Sometimes, when they had lain very quietly
through a hot noon-tide hour, they saw the lyre
bird, the shyest bird of all the Bush, dancing on
the great mound — twenty or thirty feet high —
which it builds for its dome-shaped nest ; mocking,
as it danced, the cries of half the birds in the country,
and waving its beautiful lyre-shaped tail. The
magpie woke them in the dawn with its rich gurgling
notes ; the beautiful blue-wren hopped near them,
proud of his exquisite plumage of black and bright
blue, chirping his happy little song. They passed
swamps, where cranes and herons fished, stalking
in the shallows, or flew lazily away with dangling
legs ; and sometimes they heard the booming of the
bittern, which made them very much afraid. At
evening they would hear a harsh, clanging cry, and,
looking up, they would see a long line of black
swans, flying into the sunset. There were other
birds too, more than any white boy or girl will ever
know about : for these were the old days of Australia,
long before the white men had come to settle the
country and destroy the Bush with their axes.
But there were no rabbits, and no thistles, for
Australia was free from them until the white men
Gradually the daughters of Wonkawala lost all
fear. They were perfectly happy, and the Bush
no longer seemed lonely to them ; they had enough
to eat, they were warm at night, and so strong and
active, and so skilled in the use of weapons, had
THE DAUGHTERS OF VVONKAWALA 171
their woodland life made them, that they did not
seem to mind whether they met enemies or not.
They often danced as they went on their way, and
made all the echoes of the forest ring with their
At last, one day, they found their way barred
by a wide river which flowed from north to south.
They could, of course, all swim ; but it was not easy
to see how to get their furs across. They were
talking about it, wondering whether they could
make a canoe or a raft, when they heard a friendly
hail, and, looking across, they saw five girls standing
on the opposite bank,
" Who are you ? " shouted the strangers.
" We are the daughters of Wonkawala," they
cried. " WTio are you ? "
" We are girls of the Wapiya tribe, out looking
" Why, so are we, and we have found many."
They shouted questions and answers backwards and
forwards, until they began to feel acquainted.
" What do you eat ? " " What furs have you ? "
" What songs do you sing ? " That led to singing,
and they sang all their favourite songs to each
other, beating two boomerangs together as an
accompaniment. When they had finished they felt
a great desire to travel together.
"It is really a great pity that the river flows
between us," cried the daughters of Wonkawala.
" How can we join you ? "
The Wapiya girls laughed.
" That is quite easy," they answered. " This is
172 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
a magic river, and when once your feet have touched
it you will be Magic too. Dance straight across ! "
" You are making fun of us," cried Yillin.
" No, indeed, we are not. We cannot cross to
you, for on your side there is no Magic. But if
you will trust us, and dance across, you will find
that you will not sink."
This was hard to believe, and the sisters looked at
each other doubtfully. Then YilHn took off her
rug and handed it to Peeka.
" It will be easy enough to try, and at the worst
I can only get a wetting," she said. " Follow me if
I do not sink."
She went down to the water and danced out upon
its surface. It did not yield beneath her ; the
surface seemed to swing and heave as though it
were elastic, but it supported her and she danced
across with long, sliding steps. Behind her came
her sisters ; and so delightful was it to dance on the
swinging river-top that they burst into singing, and
so came, with music and laughter, to the other side.
The Wapiya girls met them with open arms.
" Ky ! You are brave enough to join us ! " they
cried. " Now we can all go in quest of adventure
together, and who knows what wonderful things
may befall us ! "
So they told each other all their histories, and they
held a feast ; and after they had all eaten, they
danced off to the east together, for they were all so
happy that their feet refused to walk sedately.
Presently they came to an open space where were
many tiny hillocks.
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 173
" This is Paridi-Kadi, the place of ants," said the
Wapiya girls. " Here we have often come before,
to gather ants' eggs."
" Dearly do we love ants' eggs," said little Peeka,
licking her lips.
" And these are very good eggs," said the eldest
of the Wapiya girls, whose name was Nullor. " But
the ants defend them well, and those who take
them must make up their minds to be bitten."
" Ants' eggs are worth a few bites."
" Certainly they are. Now let us see if you are
really as brave as you say."
They attacked the hillocks with their digging-
sticks, and unearthed great stores of plump eggs,
which they eagerly gathered. But they also
unearthed numbers of huge ants of a glossy dark
green colour, and these defended their eggs bravely,
springing at the girls and biting them whenever they
" Ky 1 " said Yillin, shaking one off her arm.
" It is as well that these eggs are so very good, for
the bites are certainly very bad. We have no ants
like these in our country."
" Have you had enough ? " asked Nullor, laughing.
" Enough bites, yes ; but not enough eggs," said
Yillin, laughing as well. " The eggs are worth the
pain." She thrust her digging-stick into a hillock
so energetically that she scattered earth and eggs
and ants in all directions, and one ant landed on
Nullor 's nose and bit it severely — whereat Nullor
uttered a startled j^ell of pain, and the daughters of
Wonkawala laughed very much.
174 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
" Who is brave now ? " cried little Peeka.
Nullor rubbed her nose with a lump of wet earth,
which, as she was black, did not have such a curious
effect as it would have had on you.
" I was taken by surprise," she said, somewhat
shamefacedly. " And indeed, my nose is not
used to such treatment, for I do not usually poke
it into ants' nests ! "
They ate all the eggs, and rubbed their bites with
chewed leaves, which soon took away the stings ;
and then they danced away together. After a
time, Yillin saw an eagle flying low, carrying some-
thing in its talons. She flung a boomerang at it,
and so well did she aim that she broke its neck, and
the great bird came fluttering down. It fell into a
pool of water and Yillin jumped in to rescue its
prey, for she could see that it was alive. It turned
out to be a half-grown dingo, a fine young dog,
which was too bewildered, between flying and
drowning, to make any objection to being captured.
Yillin secured it with a string which she plaited of
her own hair and as much of Peeka's as Peeka was
willing to part with, and fed it with bits of wallaby ;
and the dog soon became friendly and licked her
" He is a lovely dog," she said, " and I will always
keep him. I will call him Dulderana."
" I think he will be rather a nuisance," said Nullor.
" Anyway, he will soon leave you and go back into
" I do not think he will," Yilhn said.
" Well, you cannot teach him to dance or sing,"
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 175
said Nullor, laughing, "so he will have to run
" Of course he will ; and he will be very useful in
hunting," said Yilhn. " We should not have lost
that 'possum yesterday if we had had a dog."
Dulderana very soon made himself at home, and
became great friends with all the girls. It amused
him very much when they danced, and though he
could not dance himself, he used to caper wildly
round them, uttering short, sharp barks of dehght.
But their singing he did not Hke at all, and when
they began, he used to sit down with his nose pointing
skywards, and howl most dismally, until the girls
could not sing for laughing. Then they would pelt
bits of stick at him until he was sorry. By degrees
he learned to endure the singing in silence, but he
never pretended to enjoy it.
One day, as they went along, they saw in the far
distance a silvery gleam.
" What is that ? " asked Yilhn.
" It looks like the duntyi, or silver bush," said
the Wapiya girls, doubtfully.
" That does not grow in our country," said Yillin.
" Let us go and look at it."
But when they drew near, they saw that it was
not a bush at all. Instead, it was a man, a very old
man. He had no hair on his head, but his great
silver beard hung straggling to his knees, and when
the breeze blew it about it was so large that it was
no wonder they had mistaken it for a bush. No
word did he speak, but he sat and looked at them in
silence, and when they greeted him respectfully he
176 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
only nodded. Something about him made them
feel afraid. They clustered together, looking at him
At last he spoke.
" I have come too soon," he said. " You are not
ready for me yet. Go on."
At that Dulderana howled very dismally indeed,
and rushed away with his tail between his legs.
The girls quite understood how he felt, and they also
ran away, never stopping until they were far from
the strange old man.
" Now, who was that ? " Yillin said.
Nullor looked uneasy.
" I do not know," she said. " This is a strange
country, and there is much Magic in it. We will
hurry on, or he may perhaps come after us."
So they hastened on into the forest, forgetting, for
a while, to dance ; but then their fear left them, and
again their songs rang through the Bush. They
passed a clump of black wattle, the trunks of which
were covered with gum, in great shining masses, so
that they had a splendid feast ; for the gum was
both food and drink, and what they could not eat
they mixed with water and drank, enjoying its sweet
flavour. With their bags filled with gum they went
on, and one evening they camped among a grove
of banksia trees, near a pool of quiet water. It was
not very good water to drink, but the Wapiya girls
showed the five sisters how to suck it up through
banksia cones, which strained out any impurities
and gave it a very pleasant taste. They were tired,
and laj^ down early.
In the night a great wind sprang up, and with
" Her body and legs were thickly coyered with shining scales,
so that she gleamed like siUer."
The Sloite Axe of Burkamukk]
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 177
it came a curious booming noise. It woke the
daughters of Wonkawala, and they sat up in alarm.
" Ky ! that must be a huge bittern," said Peeka.
" It is not Hke a bittern," YilHn said. " I have
never heard any sound Hke it. Perhaps it is the
Bunyip, of whom our mother used to tell us when we
were little — a terrible beast who lives in swamps,
and whose voice fills every one with terror."
The Wapiya girls woke up, and they also listened.
Then they laughed among themselves, but they did
not let the sisters see that they were laughing. They
seemed to think little of the noise.
" It is only the wind howling," they said. " Lie
down and sleep, you five inlanders ! "
" What do you mean by that ? " demanded Yillin.
But the Wapiya girls only giggled again, and lay
down, declaring that no Bunyip was going to spoil
their sleep. And as they wer j so cheerful, the sisters
came to the conclusion thac they might as well do
When they awoke it was day, and the booming
was still going on, and the wind felt fresh and wet.
The Wapiya girls were already up, and they greeted
them with laughter.
" We have a surprise for you," said they. " Shut
your eyes, and let us lead you."
The sisters did so, and felt themselves led forward.
Presently the earth became soft and yielding under
their feet, and they cried out in alarm, but the others
laughed again, and said, " Never mind, you are
In a moment more they said, " Now, open your
178 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
eyes ! " The sisters did so, and lo ! they stood
before a great sheet of water with high, tumbhng
waves. Blue and sparkling was the water, and the
big waves came rolling in, gathering themselves up
slowly with their tops a mass of foam, which slowly
rose and curled over until it plunged down, crashing
in a smother of breaking bubbles. The daughters
of Wonkawala had never seen anything like it before,
and they gasped in amazement.
" Ky ! what a river ! " they cried. " Where is
the other side ? "
The Wapiya girls shouted with laughter.
" The other side ! " they gasped, when they
could speak. " Why, there is no other side. This
is the vSea, and it is the end of all things. Have you
never heard of it ? "
" Is /^a/ the Sea ? " The five sisters stared. "We
have heard stories of it from the old men and women,
but we never imagined that it was like this. No
one could imagine it without seeing it. Have you
known it before ? "
" Oh, yes. We have often camped here with
our tribe. Come nearer."
They took the sisters down to the edge of the
water, and presently a great wave rolled in, broke
in a thunderous roar, and came dashing up the sand.
The sisters stared at it in amazed admiration at
first, and then, as it came nearer. Fear fell upon
them, and they screamed and turned to fly. They
ran as fast as they could in the yielding sand, but
the wave came faster and the water caught them,
at first round their ankles and then swiftly mounting
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 179
to their knees. Then it went back, and the sisters
thought that they were sHpping back with it, and
screamed louder than ever. The Wapiya girls,
themselves weak with laughter, caught hold of them.
" The Sea ! " screamed the sisters. " The Sea is
carrying us away ! "
The others led them up on higher sand and laughed
at them until they began to laugh at themselves.
" Never before have I seen water that runs back-
wards and forwards, as though a great giant were
shaking it in a bowl," said Yillin. " We are sorry
to have been afraid, but it is all very peculiar and
unexpected. Are you sure it is not Magic ? "
" I do not think anyone can be sure of that about
the Sea," said Nullor. "It is strange water, and
indeed I often think that it is very great Magic
indeed. But if it is, it is a good Magic, and we are
not afraid of it."
" And this queer yellow earth, that slips away
under the feet — is that Magic too ? "
" Oh— the sand. Perhaps it is— who knows.
But it will not hurt you. Come on, let us bathe in
the Sea, for that is one of the most beautiful things
in the world."
The daughters of Wonkawala hung back at first,
for they were very doubtful of trusting themselves
to the magic water. But the others laughed and
persuaded them, and they ventured in, paddling at
first, until they became used to the rushing breakers.
But soon they gained confidence, and before long not
even the Wapiya were bolder than they, and they
would dive into a breaker and be carried in on its
i8o THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
curling top, laughing and playing like so many
mermaids : so that the Wapiya girls soon lost any
feeling of superiority, and only regained it once,
when Peeka, feeling thirsty, scooped up some of a
passing wave in her cupped hands and took a deep
draught. For the next two minutes Peeka was
coughing and spluttering and spitting, while the
other girls yelled with laughter.
" That is certainly very bad Magic," said Peeka
angrily, when she could speak. " What has made
the water turn bad ? "
That set the Wapiya girls off into fresh peals of
mirth, and it was some time before they could
explain that the water was always salt. Peeka
was annoyed, but presently she laughed too.
" Oh, well, if that is the worst of its Magic, there
is not much to grumble at," she said. " Come on,
girls, let us dive into this next one ! " And the
next moment Peeka's merry black face was half
hidden in the flying spray as the breaker bore her
They stayed by the Sea for some days, for the
inland girls were too fascinated to leave it, and when
they were not bathing in it, they were wandering
along the shore, wildly excited over finding shells
and seaweed and all the other treasures of the sands.
Then one day a great black cloud came up, obscuring
all the sky, and instead of being sparkling blue and
silver, the water turned to a dull grey and looked
dead and oily. The other girls were afraid of it,
and would not go into the cold, dark breakers :
but Yillin, who loved bathing more than any of
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA i8i
them, would not be persuaded, and plunged in for
a swim. She did not stay long, for the water felt
more and more uncomfortable each moment ; so
she let a big, sullen breaker carry her in, and, wading
out, ran up the beach to the other girls.
They started back when they saw her, looking at
her with amazement and fear.
" What have you done to yourself ? " cried
" I ? Nothing. What are you looking at ? "
NuUor pointed a shaking forefinger at her body,
and looking down, Yillin uttered a bewildered cry
No longer was she smooth-skinned and black. Her
body and legs were thickly covered with shining
scales, so that she gleamed like silver.
"It is the water ! " she stammered. " It must
" Does it feel pleasant ? " inquired Nullor. " It
looks quite beautiful."
" I do not feel anything at all," Yillin answered.
" But it certainly does look well." She gazed at
her shining self with interest, and turned round so
that the others might see if her back were similarly
ornamented. It was, and the other girls grew a
" Jump in, and see if the Magic will come upon
you, too," cried Yillin.
They did not lose a moment. Flinging their fur
aprons from them, they rushed down the beach and
plunged into the dark waves. And lo ! when they
emerged, they too were covered with silver scales.
They stood together on the sand, a shining company
i82 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
" Let us walk along the shore, and see what else
will befall us," said Yillin.
They gathered up their property and set off
eastwards again. The shore curved out after a time,
forming a rocky cape. They rounded this, and
found themselves on the coast of a little bay, round
which they hurried, anxious to explore some great
rocks at the farther point. But when they reached
them, they found their way barred. The rocks
were a solid wall : a great black cliff that rose sheer
from the water, running far out beyond even the
farthest line of the breakers. Nowhere was there
any way of advancing : the bay was ringed with
the dark, smooth cliffs. The little dog Dulderana
whimpered as if in fear.
" Let us go back ! " said the Wapiya girls. " This
is not a good place."
For a moment the daughters of Wonkawala were
inclined to agree. Then there came to them sud-
denly the vision of their father, who had said, " Go
to the east," and they knew they must obey.
" We are not afraid," they said. " Go you back,
if you wish."
" We do not wish to leave you," the Wapiya said
" Nor do we wish to lose you, for we have loved
you very much," said the sisters. " But we must
go forward. Will you not come ? "
The Wapiya girls shook their heads.
" No," they said. " Something tells us that we
must return, and never see you more. But we will
always watch for you, and perhaps some day we may
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 183
hear you coming, singing our old songs, and we will
run to meet you."
They embraced each other, weeping, and slowly
the Wapiya girls went back until the rocky promon-
tory hid them from sight. Then Yillin dashed her
" Come, my sisters ! " she cried.
They took hands and danced together towards
the wall of rock that loomed before them, black,
unbroken, forbidding. Yillin was at the end, and
as she reached the rock she raised her Wona, or
digging-stick, and struck the rock. It split open,
and they danced through the cleft. Before them
was no more the Sea, but a green country dotted
with trees, and covered with thick grass. A little
way from them was a low mound, towards which
they danced. As they drew near, they saw that some
one was sitting on it — a very old man, whose silv^er
beard swept below his feet. He sat motionless, save
that his hands were always busy, pulling the long
silver hairs from his beard and twisting them into
" It is the old man we met long ago ! " whispered
Somehow, the fear that they had felt when they
met him with the Wapiya girls was upon them no
longer : and the little dog Dulderana, who had fled
from him howling, now ran up to him gaily, frisking
round him. The old man put out his hand and
fondled him, and Dulderana snuggled against him ;
then, nestling down with his head on his fore-paws, he
looked at Yillin as if to say, " This is my master."
i84 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
Yillin understood the look in his eyes.
" Do you hke him, Master ? " she asked, " We
bring him to you as a gift."
" That is a good gift," said the old man, looking
much pleased. ' ' And you are welcome, my children.
I think that this time I have not met you too soon.
Are you weary with all your wanderings ? "
" No, we are never weary," said Yillin. " We
have danced, and hunted, and bathed, and sung ;
and we have forgotten all our sorrows. Our father,
Wonkawala, bade us come east, and we obeyed him."
" And so you found friends and happiness," said
the old man. " Sit down, and tell me of all that you
They sat down in a semi-circle before him, and,
speaking one after another, they told him the story
of their long journey. He heard them in silence,
nodding now and then : and all the time his fingers
moved ceaselessly, plaiting the silver hairs into a
long cord. It lay in great shining coils at his feet.
The little dog nestled beside him, and sometimes,
when he paused to adjust a fresh coil, his fingers
rested for a moment on its head.
He smiled at the sisters when they had finished
" It was indeed a great journey ; and the Sea has
clothed you in silver, so that you are more glorious
than any chief's daughters have ever been before,"
he said. " And now comes the greatest adventure
He rose, as he spoke, pointing to the sky. The
sisters looked up, and cried out in awe. For as they
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 185
looked, the clouds parted, and they saw behind
them Arawotya, who lives in the sky : a great and
gentle Being whose face seemed to have hght behind
it. He looked down at them kindly, and beckoned.
Then he began to lower a long cord, made, like that
of the old man, of plaited hair. It reached almost
to the top of the mound where they stood.
" You are to go up," said the old man. " You
first, I last of all. But first we will send up the little
dog, that you may see how safe it is."
He took his silver cord and tied it round the body
of Dulderana, then joining it to the magic cord
from the sky. Then Arawotya pulled it up, so
gently that the little dog never seemed frightened,
and he disappeared behind a cloud. Presently
the cord came back again, and one after another
the old man tied the girls with it, and Arawotya
drew them up to himself. Yillin was the last of
the sisters to go, but as she was being pulled up she
cut her hand with her digging-stick, and her Pirha,
or food-bowl, fell. It was a very beautiful carved
Pirha, and, because it had been her father's, Yillin
felt very sad. Even when Arawotya had gently
received her, and, untying the cord, placed her by
her sisters, she peered over the edge of the cloud,
trying to see where it had fallen.
The old man was being drawn up, and just as he
reached the clouds Yillin caught sight of her Pirha,
lying on the mound.
" See ! " she whispered to Peeka. " My Pirha —
it lies below. I will just slide down the cord and
get it, for it belonged to our father, Wonkawala.
i86 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
Arawotya will forgive me and pull me up again."
She slid hurriedly down the cord and joyfully
seized the bowl. But when she turned to climb
up again she uttered a cry of despair, for the cord
was out of her reach. Arawotya had drawn it up.
As she looked, it disappeared, and then the cloud-
masses swept together, blotting out everything
above. She was alone.
All that day and night Yillin lay on the mound,
weeping, and begging Arawotya to forgive her and
take her up to her sisters. But all the clouds had
gone, and there was only a clear blue sky, bright
with moonlight and dotted with a million stars :
and there was no sign of those whom she had lost.
She gave herself up to despair.
" Yakai \" she moaned. " Better that I had
remained a slave in the camp of Wonkawala than
have come to this lonely land to die ! "
Towards morning, exhausted, she fell into a
troubled sleep. And in her sleep her father came to
her, and his face was grave and kind.
"Alas, my daughter!" he said. "You have
lost your chance of happiness for the sake of a
worthless Pirha. What ! did you imagine that
you would need a Pirha in the sky ? "
" No— but because it was yours, my father," she
sobbed in her sleep.
Wonkawala's face shone with a great light.
" Always you were my dear and faithful daughter,"
he said. " Because of that, there is yet happiness
for you. Go forward, and no matter what shall
befall you, be of good courage."
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 187
Then the vision faded, and after that Yilhn's
sleep was no longer troubled. She woke refreshed
in the morning, and although she was lonely for her
sisters, there was hope in her heart. She took her
weapons and went forward.
It was a quiet country. There seemed no men
and women in it, nor even any animals ; and even
the birds were strange to her. She passed over a
great rocky plain, making for a green line of trees
that seemed to mark the windings of a creek, for
she was very thirsty. She found it, a clear wide
stream, and drank deeply : then she wandered along
its banks. And here at length there was a touch
of home, for there were many crimson parrots in
the trees, and the noise of their harsh crying to
each other was as music in her ears. They had
their mates, and to see them made her feel less
She found some roots and berries, which she ate,
hoping they were good for food : and when night
came, she curled into a hollow under a rock and
slept deeply, waking refreshed, eager to go on her
way. Then for many days she wandered, following
the course of the creek, for she was afraid to go far
from water. She was a strange figure in her silvery
scales. Whenever she caught sight of herself,
mirrored in the water as she bent to drink, it gave
her a new throb of amazement.
She was wandering along one day when a rustling
in the bushes made her glance aside. To her
surprise, a dog was looking at her, and she could
see that it was a tame one. Yillin had always
i88 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
loved dogs, and she whistled to this one, trying to
coax it to play with her. But the dog was sus-
picious, and backed away from her, growling :
then it uttered a few short barks and raced off into
Two black hunters, who were ranging through
the Bush a little way off, stopped, hearing the
" My dog has started game of some kind," said
one. " He does not bark for nothing."
" Let us go and look," said the other. They
turned aside in the direction of the sound, and
presently came upon the dog, who bounded to his
master and licked his hand.
" What have you been barking for ? " demanded
his master, patting him. The dog wagged his tail
vigorously and ran a few paces into the bushes.
" I believe there is something in that direction,"
the hunter said. " We might as well go and see,
They moved noiselessly through the scrub, and
presently Chukeroo caught his friend's arm.
" See, Wonga," he whispered. " There is a
demon ! Let us fly ! "
Wonga looked, and saw a strange, glittering
figure standing by a tree. He was just as afraid
as his friend, but he was also full of curiosity.
" It seems to be a woman-demon," he whispered
back. " See ! it has long hair, and the face is the
face of a woman." He pondered, watching the
strange apparition. " And it carries weapons —
strange, that a demon should go armed, Chukeroo.
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 189
I should like to get hold of those weapons. They
would be worth having in a fight."
" You may try, if you like, but I have no fancy for
fighting demons," said Chukeroo.
" I do not know that I have, either," said Wonga.
" Perhaps, though, a woman-demon would not be
so terrible to fight. Look how she glitters when
she moves ! She would be a startling wife for a
man to take home to his wurley, Chukeroo."
" Every one to his fancy," returned his friend.
" Personally I prefer mine black."
" You are used to yours, but I have none yet,"
said Wonga, laughing, for he was a cheerful youth.
" Come, I am going to get a nearer look at the
demon. Are you afraid ? "
" Very much, but I suppose I had better come,"
said Chukeroo grumblingly. " You are a mad-
headed fellow, Wonga, and you will get into trouble
if you do not take care. I only hope that this is
not the sort of demon that the sorcerers tell us about,
who can blast men to cinders with a wave of the
He followed his friend, and they crept through
the bushes until they found a place where they
could see the strange being more closely. In their
excitement they had forgotten the dog, and suddenly
it gave a loud bark. The shining figure turned
sharply and ran towards them.
" Save yourself ! " uttered Chukeroo. " It has
seen us ! "
They turned to run, but in crossing a clear space
Chukeroo caught his foot in a trail of clematis and
igo THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA
fell headlong, scattering his weapons. Wonga pulled
himself up, and raced back to help his friend.
Before they could gather all the fallen spears the
strange being was upon them.
Yillin was as astonished as the black hunters —
and as afraid. But she had learned to defend
herself, and so she flung her digging-stick at Wonga.
It grazed his leg, and made him so angry that he
forgot all about being afraid of this demon, and
hurled his spears at her. But his fear returned when
he saw them glance off her shining scales as though
she were covered with glass, and then fall harmlessly
to the ground. Chukeroo joined in the fight : but
though the aim of both hunters was true, nothing
seemed to pierce those magic scales. Moreover,
the strange being, having lost her digging-stick,
picked up the fallen spears and flung them at their
owners so rapidly that they thought themselves
lucky in being able to dodge behind trees with
" She is indeed a demon ! " gasped Chukeroo.
" She may be, but she is very like a woman,"
said Wonga. " And I am not going home to tell
the other warriors that a woman has stolen my
spears, even if she does happen to be a demon.
Besides, you know as well as I do that they will not
believe us. Even your own wife will laugh at you,
and she will not believe."
" That is true enough," said Chukeroo gloomily.
"What are we to do ? "
" I will make you armour," said Wonga. " Then
we will go back, and when the demon throws the
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA 191
spears at you they will stick in the armour, and I
will rush in and secure them."
"I do not know that it is much of a plan, but
at least I have no better," said Chukeroo. " Be
quick, or the demon may come and fmd us un-
So Wonga broke off young saplings, and lashed
them round his friend with strips of twisted stringy
bark fibre, until nothing of him could be seen, and
he had great difficulty in moving. Then, slowly
and cautiously, they made their way back to the
open space where they had fought.
Yillin was standing wearily by a tree with the
spears in her hand. She jumped round as they
came, and while she flung spear after spear at
Chukeroo, Wonga ran through the trees and came
behind her. His foot struck against her own
digging-stick, and he picked it up and rushed at her.
The point caught in her shining scales, and ripped
them up as though they were paper. They fell in
tatters about her.
" Do not kill me ! " she cried. " I am a chief's
daughter ! "
" A chief's daughter, are you ? " said Wonga.
Suddenly his angry face grew soft with pity. ' ' Why,
I thought you a demon," he said — " and lo ! you are
only a poor, frightened little girl ! "
So the wanderings of Yillin came to an end, and
though she missed happiness with Arawotya in the
sky, yet, as Wonkawala had said in her vision, she
192 THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKA WALA
found it elsewhere. For Wonga took her home and
married her, and his tribe treated her with honour
because she was the daughter of a mighty chief ;
and later on, Wonga became the chief of his own
tribe, and she helped him to rule it in wisdom. Very
often she was lonely for her four sisters, especially
for little Peeka, whom she had loved best of all :
but she comforted herself by thinking that they
were happy with Arawotya in the sky, and that
some day she would find them again. Then,
together, they would go at the last to Pund-jel,
Maker of Men, and join their father Wonkawala.
There were five stars in the southern sky that she
liked to watch, for she grew to believe that they
were her sisters, and that the tiniest of the five was
her little dog Dulderana. They are the stars of the
Southern Cross. And it seemed to Yillin that they
looked down at her and smiled.
Otherwise, Yillin was never lonely, for many
children came to her and Wonga, and her wurley
always seemed full of jolly black babies and wee
lasses and lads. Yillin did not mind however many
there were, especially as she did not have to worry
about clothes for them. They grew into strong,
merry boys and girls, who loved dancing and songs
and laughter just as she had always loved them.
She used to tell them the story of her wanderings,
and when she came to the part about the silver
scales that had once covered her, they would pretend
to hunt for them on her black skin, and would laugh
very much because they could never find any. And
Wonga would laugh too, and say, " Ah, well, many
THE DAUGHTERS OF WONKAWALA igj
men find their wives demons after they have married
them, so I was lucky in only thinking that of mine
beforehand — and then finding I had made a
mistake ! "
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
NO one in the Bush ever had a good word to
say for the Crows. From the very earhest
times they were a noisy, mischievous race, always
poking their strong beaks into what did not concern
them, and never so happy as when they were annoy-
ing other people. Whatever a mother Crow taught
her chickens, civility and good manners were not in-
cluded in the lessons ; they were accomplishments
for which none of the family had the slightest use.
It did not at all trouble the Wokala, as the Crows
were called, that they were unpopular. Indeed,
they rather gloried in the amount of ill-feeling they
were able to excite among the Bush folk. They
were powerful birds, well able to hold their own in
any quarrel with birds of their own size, and so
quick and daring that they would even steal from
animals, or attack weak ones, secure in the advan-
tage given them by their strong wings. They made
so many enemies, however, that they took to going
about in flocks, so that no one dared molest them —
not even Wildoo, the Eagle, or Kellelek, the
Especially did Wildoo hate the Wokala. He
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 195
was always proud, as the King of the Birds has
every right to be, and among all birds that fly his
word was law. He liked to keep good order, and if
any bird displeased him, a few quiet words, possibly
accompanied by a discreet peck, or a blow from
one of his great wings, was more than enough to
bring the offender to his senses. One day he had
occasion to punish one of the Wokala, who had
stolen the meal laboriously provided by the wife of
Wook-ook, the Mopoke, for her husband, who was
ill. The Wokala, battered and furious, flew away
and told his story to the other Crows ; who, equally
furious, flew in a mob to the high crag where Wildoo
had his nest. There was no one there, for it was
too late in the season to find chickens : so the
Wokala amused themselves by scattering the nest
to pieces, and when Wildoo and his wife came home
from hunting they hid among the bushes and
screamed all sorts of insulting things at them.
Wildoo took no notice, openly. It would have been
beneath his dignity to go hunting smaller birds in
thick bushes — which the Wokala very well knew.
He merely folded his wings and, with his wife,
perched on the edge of the rocky shelf where his
nest had been, and stared out across the tossing
green sea of gum-trees that clothed the rolling hills
below, his yellow eyes full of silent anger. Gradually
the Wokala grew tired of screaming, and, becoming
hungry, flew away.
After that the Wokala became more insolent
than ever. Even Wildoo was afraid of them, they
said ; and they kept together in a mob, and lost
196 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
no chance of being rude to him. More and more
they attacked and insulted the other birds, until
no one felt safe if there were any chance of the evil
Wokala coming near. Again and again complaints
came to Wildoo of their wicked doings, and Wildoo
heard them in silence, nodding his head, with his
brain busy behind his yellow eyes. But he said
nothing : until at length the other birds began to ask
themselves was it really true that Wildoo was afraid ?
Wildoo was not at all afraid of a flock of squawk-
ing Wokala. But he was very much afraid of being
made to look ridiculous. H2 had no intention of
making a false step, and he d^d not quite know what
to do. There was no one for him to talk to, for the
Eagle is a lonely bird — not like Chirnip, the Magpie-
Lark, or Tautani, the Cormorant, with dozens and
dozens of friends. He is a king, and therefore he is
lonely : and, being naturally silent, he does not talk
much, even to his wife. All by himself he had to
think out the problem of what to do about the
Wokala ; and, meanwhile, the Wokala perched
above his nest and insulted him, and dropped bits
of stick down upon his rocky shelf, and screamed
rude things at his wife, until she said crossly to
Wildoo, " I cannot think why you do not make an
end of those abominable little white birds. They
are a disgrace to any decent Kingdom, and you
have not the spirit of a Bandicoot ! " This annoyed
and hurt Wildoo, but he said nothing — only looked
at her until she caught a gleam of fire in the depths
of his yellow eyes.
Perhaps you did not know that in the very early
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 197
times all the Wokala were white ? They were the
whitest of all the birds of the Bush, without a single
grey or coloured feather in all their bodies : so that
there was a saying in the Bush, " As white as a
Wokala." They were very proud of it, too, and
thought it quite a disgrace if one of their chickens
showed a sign of being even creamy in colour, once
he was nearly fledged. They kept themselves very
clean, going often to bathe ; and when they flew
about in a flock their dazzling whiteness almost
hurt the eye, while, if they perched in a dead gum-
tree, they looked like big snowflakes against the
grey branches. Even Kellelek, the Cockatoo, was
dingy compared to the gleaming whiteness of the
Wokala. Somehow, it seemed to make their bad
behaviour worse, since no one would expect a
beautiful bird like pohshed marble to have the
manners of a jungle pig.
Summer ended early that year, with a great
thunder-storm, followed by a month of wild wind
and driving rain : and all the birds were rather
uncomfortable because the moulting season was
scarcely over. Most of all, the Wokala were annoyed.
They liked their white feathers so much, and were
so proud of their smart appearance, that they always
delayed moulting as long as ever they could ; and
now the bad weather caught them in a worse state
than the other birds. When the rains ended, early
frosts came, and found the Wokala without any
of their new feather cloaks ready. They used to
huddle together among the thickest trees, shivering
igS THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
In that part of the country there is a great black
ironstone hill, treeless and forbidding. Few birds
go there, for there is nowhere to perch, and but little
food except the tiny rock-lizards that sun them-
selves in the hot mornings. Wildoo knew it well,
for he often flew over it, and occasionally he was
accustomed to stand on a shelf at the mouth of a
cave near the top — a black hole in the hillside where
no one but an Eagle would willingly perch alone.
He took refuge in the cave one morning, during a
fierce hail-storm ; and it was there that an idea
came to him.
That night as he came flying homewards, he
brought in his great talons a bundle of dry sticks,
and as he flapped his way over the black iron-
stone hill, he dropped down on the ledge and made
a heap of his sticks on the floor of the cave.
The next morning he did the same : and so it
went on for many days, until he had a big pile of
smooth sticks, something like a great nest. His
wife came with him one evening, and was very
" Why have you taken to playing with sticks ? "
she asked, laughing. " I never saw such a funny
heap. Is it a game ? " But Wildoo only looked
at her sourly, and said, " Be quiet, woman ! " after
the manner of husbands : and since she was more
sensible than most wives, she was quiet.
It was after his heap of sticks was ready that
Wildoo went to look for the Wokala. They had
been far too uncomfortable lately to continue to be
rude to him, and, in fact, were keeping out of the
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 199
way of every one ; so that he had some difficulty
in finding them, and might have given it up but
for Corridella, the Eagle-hawk, who remembered
having seen them near a sheltered gully between
" They are cold," said Corridella, laughing, " oh,
so cold, and so sorry for themselves. There is no
impudence left in them."
" Cold indeed must be the night that chills the
impudence of the Wokala," said Wildoo.
" It is going to be a very cold night," said
Corridella. " Already there is a sharp nip of frost
in the air. I think that some of the Wokala will
be dead before morning, for none of them have
their new feather cloaks nearly ready." He
chuckled. " Well, no one in the Bush will mourn
for them. Perhaps they will realize now that it
does not pay to make enemies of every one."
" The Wokala will never learn a lesson," answered
Wildoo. " They are always satisfied with them-
selves : and even though some may die, the others
will forget all about it, once they have their shining
white cloaks and can flock into the tree-tops again.
But possibly they may not be so lucky — who can
tell ? " He also chuckled, looking as wise as an
owl. But when Corridella asked him what he
meant, he pretended to go to sleep : and Corridella,
who knew better than to pester an Eagle with too
many questions, said good evening and sailed
homeward across the tree-tops.
Left to himself, Wildoo waited until no bird was
in sight, and then flapped heavily away from his
200 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
rocky shelf, and dived downward to the gully. It
did not take him long to find the Wokala. They
did not gleam with the whiteness of snow, for they
were moulting and very shabby, and a few were
dressed mainly in pin-feathers ; but their voices
were just as harsh as ever, and guided Wildoo to
where they were huddling among some she-oak
trees. Already a cold wind was whistling down
between the hills, sighing and moaning in the she-
oak branches. There is no tree in all Australia so
mournful as the she-oak on a cold night, when each
long needle seems to sing a separate little song of
woe. Already the miserable Wokala were sorry
that they had chosen to roost there.
Suddenly, great wings darkened the evening sky
above them, and, looking up, they saw Wildoo. He
perched on a limb of a dead gum-tree far overhead,
and looked down at them, laughing. There seemed,
to the shivering Wokala, something very terrible
in the sound of his laughter.
" Kwah ! " they whispered. " Wildoo has found
us. Now he will be revenged." They knew they
could not fly swiftly enough to escape him, and
they began to creep downwards, hoping to hide
among the bracken fern that clothed the gully.
But Wildoo called to them, and, to their astonish-
ment, his voice sounded friendly.
"Oh, Wokala ! " he cried. " Are you very
cold ? "
" Ay, we are cold," said the Wokala, as well as
they could, for their beaks were chattering with
fear and shivering.
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 201
" No wonder, seeing how little you have on,"
said Wildoo. " A pity you did not get your new
white feather cloaks ready earlier, instead of spend-
ing your time in annoying honest folk. Well,
perhaps you will have more sense next year."
" Doubtless we shall, if we live," said the oldest
Wokala. " But it seems likely that not many of
us will live, for we are nearly frozen already."
" How distressing for you ! " said Wildoo —
" especially as it will be far colder before morning
than it is now. These gullies are the chiUiest
places in the Bush on a frosty night."
The beaks of the Wokala chattered anew.
" We came for shelter," said the old Wokala
miserably. " But you say truth, Wildoo : I think
the Frost-Spirit has his home down here. Is it any
warmer where you are ? "
" Very little," said Wildoo — " and the wind is
singing through these branches. But I know of a
sheltered place, for all that."
" Kwah ! " said the Wokala, all together. " A
sheltered place ! Oh, Wildoo, you are great and —
and — and beautiful. W^ill you not tell us where it
" Great and beautiful, am I ? " said Wildoo,
with a chuckle. " That is not the sort of thing you
have been calling me all these months. However,
it is lucky for you that I am also good-natured i I
would not willingly see any of my people die of cold,
not even the Wokala, who deserve little of anyone."
" Then you will tell us where is the sheltered
place ? " chattered the Wokala.
202 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
" Fly across to the Black Mountain," said Wildoo.
" There is an ironstone wurley near the top — I will
guide you to it, if you like. It is big enough for
you all, and there is a fine heap of sticks on which
to perch. The wind will not blow inside it, and the
morning sun will shine right into it."
" It sounds too wonderful to be true," said the
Wokala. "Is it dry, this ironstone wurley ? "
" Dry as old bones," answered Wildoo. " Oh,
you would be in luck to get there — you would forget
all your troubles."
" One would think that impossible," shivered the
old Wokala — he was very sorry for himself. " But
if you will really guide us there, then be quick,
Wildoo, or none of us will be able to fly at all."
" Very well," Wildoo answered. " I will go
slowly, as I suppose you are all stiff. Follow me,
and come down when you see me perch."
He spread his great wings and looked down at
them for a moment with a little smile ; and if they
had not been so eager and so cold they might have
hesitated at the expression in his yellow eyes. But,
as usual, the Wokala thought only of themselves,
and as they had learned to believe that Wildoo was
afraid of them, they never suspected that he might
be leading them into a trap. They cried " Kwah !
Kwah ! " and rose into the air after him as soon as
the flapping of the mighty wings told them that he
had left the gum-tree. Even to fly slowly was
difficult, so stiff with cold were they : but they all
persevered, except one young hen — a pretty young
thing, whose weary wings would not do their duty.
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 203
She made a brave attempt to rise, but before the
flight had cleared the big dead gum-tree she had to
drop back — thankful to find a secure perch on a
" Ky ! " she whimpered. " I can never fly all
the way to the Black Mountain. I must die
She crept along the limb until she came to the
trunk, and there luck awaited her. In the fork
was an old 'possum-hole which had not been used
for many seasons. It was dry and warm — sheltered
from the bitter wind, and soft underfoot with
rotting leaves, pleasant to the touch. The young
Wokala hopped in thankfully, and it seemed the
last touch to her wonderful good fortune that she
immediately met a fine fat grub. She promptly
ate it for her supper, tucked her head under her
wing, nestled into the farthest corner, and went to
sleep, remarking drowsily, " This is better than all
Wildoo's ironstone wurleys ! "
The other Wokala did not notice that the young
hen had dropped back — or if they did they did not
worry about her. Weary as they were, it took all
their strength to keep Wildoo in sight, even though
he kept his word and flew slowly. They were
thankful when at length he sank lower and came
to rest on a big boulder by the mouth of the cave
near the mountain-top. The Wokala followed him
in a straggling line, and perched on the shelf outside
" There you are," Wildoo said, nodding towards
the yawning hole in the hillside. " That is your
204 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
ironstone wurley, and I will promise you that you
will find it dry and free from draughts."
" There is nothing living there ? " asked the old
Wokala, looking a little doubtfully at the cave.
" Nothing at all. All you will find there is a
heap of dry sticks ; you can perch there and keep
each other warm. Stay there, if you like it well
enough, until your new feather cloaks are '"eady —
you are really scarcely fit for decent society now."
Wildoo cast a half-contemptuous glance at the
shivering, half-fledged birds, as they clustered on
the rocky shelf. Then he flew off again into the
" Whatever is Wildoo about ? " asked Kellelek,
the Cockatoo, of his hens. " He seems to be leading
all the Wokala round the sky. A funny nurse he
looked, and with a funny lot of chickens ! "
" No wonder he waited for dusk before he would
be seen with them," said one of his wives con-
temptuously. " I flew by their tree to-day, and
really, they were a positive disgrace. And they
always think themselves so smart ! "
" Oh, they'll be smart enough again," said
Kellelek, laughing. " Wait until they have their
new feathers on, and you will be just as jealous of
them as ever you were. There is no doubt that
the Wokala are smart— that is, for people who
prefer plain white. I like a good sulphur crest
myself — but then, it's all a matter of opinion."
" Well, don't let the Wokala know that you
admire them, or they will be worse than ever," said
his wives, ruffling their feathers angrily.
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 205
Meanwhile, the Wokala had hesitated just for
a moment before entering the cave. Then a fresh
blast of cold wind swept across the face of the
mountain, and they waited no longer, but fluttered
in before it, in a hurrying, jostling flock. It was
just as Wildoo had told them : warm and dry,
and with a big heap of dry sticks in the middle —
just the thing for them to perch on. They
hopped up eagerly, huddling together for warmth,
scrambling and fighting for the best places. Soon
they were all comfortably settled, and at last
warmth began to steal back into their shivering
" A good thing we made Wildoo afraid of us,"
said one sleepily. " Otherwise we should never
have known of this splendid wurley." The others
uttered drowsy murmurs of " Kwah ! " as they
drifted into slumber.
But far away on his mountain shelf Wildoo sat
and waited, his yellow eyes wide and wakeful. The
dusk deepened into night, and far off, from his
perch on a tall stringy bark tree, old Wook-ook,
the Mopoke, sent out his long cry, " Mo— poke !
Mo — poke ! " Presently came a dim radiance in
the east and Wildoo stirred a little.
" Peera comes," he muttered.
Peera, the Moon, came up slowly, until all the
Bush was flooded with her dim light, falling into
shadow now and then, when dark clouds drifted
across her face. Wildoo waited until she was above
the tree-tops, with her beams falling upon the iron-
stone mountain. Then he took a fire-stick in his
2o6 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
talons and flew swiftly away, never pausing until he
alighted on the shelf before the cave.
He laid the fire-stick down and went softly to
the dark opening, listening. There came only the
sound of the breathing of the Wokala, with now
and then a muffled caw as one dreamed, perhaps,
of cold and hunger. As his eyes grew accustomed
to the light, Wildoo could see them — a huddled
white mass upon the heap of sticks. That was all
he wanted, and he went back swiftly for his fire-
stick, and with it went into the cave. Very softly
he slipped it into the dry heart of the heap of sticks
below the sleeping Wokala. He waited until little
smoke- wreaths began to curl up, and a faint glow
came from within the heap.
" Now 370U will be warm enough, my friends ! "
he muttered. He hurried out of the cave, and flew
slowly to the nearest tree, on the hill opposite the
Black Mountain. There he perched and waited.
Very soon all the dark mouth of the cave was
filled with glowing radiance, and clouds of smoke
came billowing out and rolled down the hill. Then
came loud and terrified cawing, and Wildoo thought
he could see dark forms fluttering out through the
smoke. His yellow eyes gleamed at the sight. And
then clouds came suddenly across the face of the
Moon, and a fierce wind blew, with driving rain that
beat into the mouth of the cave. It blotted out
the glow, and the wind carried away the cries.
When all was quiet Wildoo flapped off to his nest.
He was back next morning on the boulder outside
the cave, and with him all the birds of the Bush,
THE BURNING OF THE CROWS 207
whom he had collected as he came, saying to them,
" Come and see what happens to those who insult
Wildoo." The black mouth of the ironstone cave
looked grim and forbidding, and, peering in, the
birds could see the charred ends of the dry sticks,
scattered on the floor round a heap of ashes. Then,
from the inner recesses of the cave came a strange
procession, and at the sight the Kooka burra burst
into a peal of laughter. For it was the Wokala.
They came slowly — but where were their white
feathers, of which they had been so proud ? All
were gone, singed off close to their bodies ; and
their bodies were blackened with smoke. Queer,
naked birds they looked, creeping out into the sun-
shine, and there was no pride left in them. They
looked up and saw Wildoo and the laughing birds
of all the Bush ; and with a loud miserable cawing
they fled back into the cave.
No one saw the Wokala again for a time. But
after a long while they came out again, this time
with all their feathers fully grown. No longer,
however, were they white — the whitest of all birds.
Their new feathers were a glossy black !
They looked at each other for a moment with a
kind of horror. Then they rose into the air with
a swift beating of their jet-black wings, and, calling
" Kwah ! Kwah ! " they fled across the sky. And
as they flew another cawing was heard, and a white
bird rose and flew to meet them — the Wokala hen
who had been left behind, and who had taken refuge
in the 'possum-hole. She was now the only white
Wokala left in all the world. They met in mid-air.
2o8 THE BURNING OF THE CROWS
and at sight of the strange black birds with the
familiar voices the white Wokala uttered a scream
and fled away, never to be seen again.
Since then, always the Crows have been black.
They found their old impudence again after a while,
and became what they had been when they were
white — always the nuisances of the Bush, vagabonds
and robbers and bullies. But still the terror of the
ironstone wurley is upon them, and they never
venture into caves, but live in the big trees, where
they can see far and wide, and where no creeping
enemy can come upon them in the darkness. And
Wildoo, the King of the Birds, never finds them
near his nest, nor need he ever speak to them. One
glance from him is enough for the Wokala : they
would fly to the deepest recesses of the Bush rather
than face the gleam of his yellow eyes.
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
KUR-BO-ROO was a little black boy baby.
His father and mother had no other children,
and so they were very proud of him, and he always
had enough to eat. It is often very different when
there are many hungry pickaninnies to be fed —
especially in dry seasons, when roots and yams and
berries are hard to find, and a black mother's task
of filling her dilly-bag becomes more difficult every
day. Then it may happen that the children are
quite often hungry, and their ribs show plainly
through their black skins : and they learn to pick
up all kinds of odd food that white children would
consider horrible— insects, grubs, and moths, and
queer fungi, which may sometimes give them bad
pains — although it is not an easy thing to give a
black child indigestion.
But Kur-bo-roo had not known any hard times.
He was born a cheerful, round baby, quite light
in colour at first ; and as he darkened he became
rounder and jollier. His hair curled in tight little
rings all over his head, and his nose was beauti-
fully fiat — so flat that his mother did not need to
S.A.B. 209 o
210 KUR-BO-ROO. THE BEAR
press it down to make him good-looking, as most
of the black mothers do to their babies. He was
very strong, too, with a straight little back and
well-muscled limbs ; and when his teeth came they
could crunch up bones quite easily, or even the
hard nardoo berries. His mother thought he was
the most beautiful pickaninny that was ever born,
which is an idea all mothers have about their babies.
But Kur-bo-roo's mother knew that she was right.
He had so many good things to eat that he grew
fatter and fatter. His father brought home game —
wallaby, wombat, iguana, lace-lizards, porcupines,
bandicoots, opossums ; and though it was polite
to give away a good deal to his wife's father, there
was always plenty for little Kur-bo-roo. Then
delicious bits of snake came his way, and long
white tree-grubs, as well as all the native fruits and
berries that the black women find ; and he had
plenty of creek water to drink. So long as you
give a wild blackfellow good water he will always
manage to forage for food.
Kur-bo-roo did not have to forage. It inter-
ested his father and mother tremendously to do
all that they could for him, and watch him grow.
As soon as he could toddle about, his father made
him tiny throwing-sticks and a boomerang, and
tried to teach him to throw them ; and his mother,
squatting in the shade of the wurley, would laugh
to see the baby thing struggling with the weapons
of a man. And, while she laughed, she was prouder
than ever. She used to rub his limbs to make
them supple and strong. He did not wear any
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 211
clothes at all, so that she was never worried about
keeping his wardrobe in order. Instead, she was
able to give all her time to making him into what
she thought to be the best possible kind of boy.
And, however that may have been, it is quite certain
that there never was a happier pickaninny.
It was when Kur-bo-roo was nearly six years
old that the evil spirit of Trouble came to him.
Sickness fell upon the tribe. No one knew how
it came, and the medicine-men could not drive it
away. First of all, the people had terrible head-
aches, and the Meki-gar, or doctor, used to treat
them in the usual manner — he would dig out a
round sod of earth and, making the patient lie
down with his head in the hole, would put the sod
on his head, and stand on it, or sit on it, to squeeze
out the pain. If this were not successful, he would
tie a cord tightly round the patient's head, and
cut him with a sharp shell or flint, beating his head
with a little stick to make the blood flow freely.
These excellent measures had in the past cured
many severe headaches. But they could not cure
the sickness now.
So the Meki-gar had the patient carried out of
the camp. The bearers carried him slowly, sing-
ing a mournful chant ; and behind them came all
the sick man's friends, sweeping the ground with
boughs, to sweep away the bad power that had
caused the disease. This bad power was, the Meki-
gar said, the work of a terrible being called Bori.
But, whether it was Bori's fault, or whether the
tribe had simply brought sickness on themselves
212 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
by allowing the camp to become very dirty, the
Meki-gar could not drive away the sickness. It
grew worse and worse, and people died every day.
Kur-bo-roo was only a little lad, but he was un-
happy and frightened, although he did not under-
stand at all. The air was always full of the sound
of the groaning and crying of those people who
were ill, and of lamenting and mourning for the
dead. Everybody was terribly afraid. The blacks
believed that their bad spirits were angry with them,
and that nothing could do them any good ; and so,
many died from sheer fright, thinking that once
they were taken ill they were doomed, and that
it was no good to make a fight against the mysteri-
ous enemy. That was stupid, but they did not
know any better.
Then there came a heavy rain, and after it was
over, and the sun had come out to smile upon a
fresh, clean world, the sickness began to get better
and pass away. But just at the last, it came to the
wurley where Kur-bo-roo lived with his father and
Kur-bo-roo could not understand why his parents
could not get up and go to find food. They lay
in the wurley together, shivering under all the
'possum rugs and talking quickly in queer, high
voices that he could not make out at all. They
called often for water, and he brought it to them
in his little tarnuk, or drinking- vessel, going back-
wards and forwards to the creek, and up and down
its banks, until his little legs were very tired. Long
after he was tired he kept on going for water. Then
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 213
there came a time when they could not lift the
tarnuk, and he tried to hold it to their lips, so that
they could drink ; but he was not very successful,
and much of the water was spilt. You see, he was
only a very little, afraid boy.
He woke up one morning, cold and hungry.
There was no more food in the wurley, and no
voices : only a great silence. He crept under the
'possum rug to his father and mother, but they
were quite still, and when he called to them, they
did not answer. He rubbed their cold faces with
a shaking little hand, but no warmth came to them.
Then he broke into loud, frightened crying, like
any other lonely little boy.
Presently some of the blacks came to the wur-
ley and pointed at the quiet bodies under the 'pos-
sum rug, and jabbered very hard, beckoning to
others to come. Kur-bo-roo heard them say " tum-
ble-down " a great many times, and he knew that
it meant " dead " ; but he did not know that his
father and mother would never speak to him any
more. Only when an old woman picked him up
and carried him away he understood that a terrible
thing had happened to him, and he cried more
bitterly than ever, calhng to his mother. She had
always run to him when he called. But now she
did not come.
214 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
After that, hard times came upon little Kur-bo-
roo. There were none of his own family left, for
the sickness had taken them all. His father and
mother had been the last to die, and that made
the blacks think that very probably Bori, the Evil
Spirit, had been especially angry wth Kur-bo-roo's
family, because so many of them had died and the
last terrible blow of the disease had fallen on their
wurley. Indeed, for awhile they argued as to
whether it would not be better to kill Kur-bo-roo
too, so that so troublesome a family should be quite
stamped out, with no further chance of annoying
Bori and bringing trouble upon the tribe. They
did not spare him out of any idea of pity ; but
because so many men and boys had died that the
tribe had become seriously weakened, and it seemed
foolish to kill a strong and healthy fellow like Kur-
bo-roo. It was very important for a tribe to keep
up its fighting strength, for there was always a
chance that another band of blacks might come
upon them and want to fight : in which case the
weaker tribe might be swallowed up. So boy babies
were thought a good deal of, and for that reason
the blacks did not make an end of little Kur-bo-roo.
But he had a very bad time, for all that. No
one wanted him. He was nobody's boy ; and that
hurts just the same whether a boy be black or white.
Never was there so lonely a little fellow. The
other children were half afraid of him, because the
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 215
fear of Bori's anger yet hung about him ; they
would not let him join in their games, and took a
savage dehght in hunting him away from their
wurleys. Another black family had taken posses-
sion of his father's wurley, and no home was left
to him. He used to wander about miserably, often
sleeping in the open air, curled up in the shadow of
a bush, or in a hollow tree-stump. If it were cold
or wet, he would creep noiselessly into a hut when
he thought every one would be asleep — and quite
often he was kicked out again.
He was always hungry now. His father and
mother had taken such care of him, and had loved
so much to keep him fed, that he had never learned
how to find food for himself. He would wander
about in the Bush, looking for such things as his
mother had brought him, but he knew so little that
often he ate quite the wrong things, which made him
very sick. He learned a good deal about food in
that way, but the learning was not pleasant work.
It was a bad year for food. Dry weather had
come, and game was scarce ; it was hard for the
fighting-men to bring home enough for their own
children, without having to provide for a hungry
boy of six who belonged to nobody. Kur-bo-roo
used to hang about the cooking-places in the hope
of having scraps of food thrown to him, but not
many came his way. When so many were hungry
the food was quickly eaten up. Sometimes a
woman, pitying the shrinking little lad, would
hastily toss him a bone or a fragment of meat ; and
though you would not have cared for the way it
2i6 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
was cooked, Kur-bo-roo thought that these morsels
were the most delicious he had ever tasted.
You see, a wild blackfellow has not much to think
about except food. He has no schools, no daily
papers, no market days, or picture shows, or tele-
phones. The wild Bush is his, and all he asks or
expects of it is that it shall supply him with food.
He knows that it means strength to him, and that
strength means happiness, as a rule, when all that
he has depends upon his own ability to keep it for
himself. He does not reason things that way, for
the blackfellow is simple, but he just eats as much
as he can whenever he can get it, and that seems
to agree with him excellently. That was the prin-
ciple on which Kur-bo-roo had been brought up,
and it had made him the round, black, shiny baby
that he had been until his parents died.
He was not nearly so round and shiny now.
His little body was thin and hard, and he did not
look so strong as before. It was not altogether
lack of food that had weakened him — the want
of happiness had a great deal to do with it.
He had found out that the tribe did not like
him. Not only was he nobody's boy, but he was
the object of a kind of distrust that he could feel
without at all understanding it ; and he had learnt
to shrink and cringe from blows and bitter words.
Once he had found a lace-lizard asleep on a rock,
and, grasping his tiny waddy, had stolen up to it
very carefully, all the instinct of the hunter blaz-
ing in his dark, sad eyes. The lizard, when it
woke, was quick, but Kur-bo-roo was quicker — the
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 217
stick came down with all the force of his arm, and
he carried off his prey in triumph, meaning to ask
a woman who had sometimes been kind to him
if she would cook it for him. But just outside the
camp three big boys had come upon him as he was
carrying his prey, and that had been the last that
Kur-bo-roo had seen of his lizard. He had fought
for it like a little tiger — quite hopelessly, of course,
but to fight had been a kind of dismal satisfaction
to him, even though he was badly beaten in addition
to losing his dinner ; and that was specially unfor-
tunate, for blacks think lizard a very great delicacy
indeed. The boys ran off with it, jeering at the
sobbing little figure on the ground ; and they called
him names that, even in his angry soreness, made
him think. They said something to do with an
evil spirit — he pondered over it, creeping into a
clump of bushes. Why should they call him that ?
Blacks always want a reason for any happen-
ing. Sometimes they are satisfied with very foolish
reasons ; but they must have something to explain
occurrences, especially if they are unpleasant ones.
The sickness that had fallen on their tribe they put
down to Bori, as the medicine-man told them ;
but when the sickness had gone, it seemed only
reasonable to believe that Bori was satisfied and
would leave them alone for awhile. So they could
not understand why misfortune should still pursue
them. Another tribe had stolen part of their
country, and they had been too weakened by the
sickness to fight for it ; and now had come the
drought, making food harder than ever to obtain.
2i8 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
and causing some of the babies to fall sick and die.
They turned to the magic-men or sorcerers for
explanation, and these clever people performed a
great many extraordinary tricks to make things
better. Then, as they were really hard up for some
object on which to throw the blame of their failure,
it occurred to them to turn suspicion towards little
Kur-bo-roo went on with his unhappy little life,
quite ignorant of the storms gathering round his
woolly head. No one was ever kind to him, and
he could scarcely distinguish one day from another ;
although he gathered a vague idea that in some
way they were linking his name with the Evil Spirit,
he did not understand what that meant. He kept
on hunting round for food and water, and dodging
blows and angry faces. If he had guessed that the
magic-men were busily persuading the people that
his family and he were the cause of the terrible
year through which they had passed, he might have
been more uneasy ; but, in any case, he was only a
very little boy, and perhaps he would not have
understood. He had enough troubles to think of
without looking out for more.
Then the worst part of the drought happened,
for the creek began to run dry.
Day after day it ran a little more slowly, and
the deep holes at the bends shrank and dwindled
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 219
away. The fish disappeared completely, having
swum down-stream to where deeper waters awaited
them ; and so another source of food was lost to
the tribe. There only remained the black mud-
eels, and soon it was hard to find any of these, try
as they might. That was bad, but it was nothing
in comparison to the loss of the water supply. With-
out the creek, the tribe could not exist, for the only
other drinking-places in their country were swamps
and morasses, and these, too, were dried up and
useless. So the magic-men and head-men became
very anxious, and many were the black glances
cast upon the unconscious Kur-bo-roo as he slunk
round the camp or hunted for food in the scrub.
Then the head-men issued a command that no
one should drink from the creek itself, lest the little
water remaining should be stirred up and made
muddy, or lest anyone should drink too much.
Instead of going to the creek to drink, they were
permitted to fill their tarnuks, or drinking-vessels,
each morning ; and then no one was allowed to
approach the creek again that day. So in the
mornings a long procession of women went down to
the bank, where a head-man watched them fill the
tarnuks, remaining until the last had hurried away,
very much afraid of his fierce eyes.
But the new law fell very heavily on Kur-bo-roo,
for he had now no tarnuk. The little one made for
him by his father long ago had disappeared when
he lost everything, and since then he had always
been accustomed to drink at the creek. Now,
however, he could not do so, and no one would give
220 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
him a tarnuk, or let him drink from theirs. He
would have stolen it very readily, for he was now
not at all a well-brought-up little boy, but the
tarnuks were hung far beyond his reach.
Of course, the magic-men knew how the new
law would affect the little fellow. They knew that
now it would be impossible for Kur-bo-roo to drink,
and after a little he would " tumble-down " and
be dead ; and then, perhaps, the Evil Spirit would
be satisfied, and go away from the tribe. They
watched him carefully, and were glad that he be-
came weak and wretched. They had uttered such
savage penalties against drinking from the creek
that it never occurred to them that he would dare
to disobey. But sometimes in the darkness Kur-
bo-roo used to creep down for a drink, being, indeed,
as desperate as a boy can be, and quite sure that
unless he went he must die ; and he had become so
stealthy in his movements that he was never caught.
It did not satisfy his thirst, of course, for it was the
hottest part of the summer, and all the blacks were
accustomed to drinking a great deal : still, it was
something. At least, it kept him alive.
Then, one morning, came news of a number of
kangaroo feeding two miles away by the creek, and
all the camp fell into a state of tremendous excite-
ment at the very idea of such a chance of food.
All the men and big boys dashed off at once, and
presently the women made up their minds that
they would follow them, as it was not at all unlikely
that if the men had good luck in their hunt they
might immediately sit down and eat a great portion
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 221
of the game they had killed — in which case there
was only a poor look-out for those left in camp. So
they gathered up their dilly-bags and sticks, slung
the babies on their backs, and ran off into the Bush
after the men, leaving the camp deserted.
Now, it chanced that Kur-bo-roo knew nothing
of all this. He had not spent the night in camp,
because, on the evening before, he had been sav-
agely beaten by two big boys, who had caught him
alone in the scrub, and when they had finished
with him he was too sick and sore to crawl back
to the wurleys. He had crept under a bush, and
slept there uneasily, for the pain of his bruises kept
waking him up. The sun was quite high in the sky
before he made up his mind to go back to the camp,
in the faint hope that some one would give him
food. So he limped slowly through the Bush,
wincing when the harsh boughs rubbed against his
He stopped at the edge of the camp and rubbed
his fists into his eyes, blinking in surprise. No
one was in sight ; instead of the hum and bustle
of the camp, the men sitting about carving their
spears and throwing-sticks, the women chattering
round the wurleys, the babies rolling on the ground
and playing with the dogs, there was only desola-
tion and silence. He approached one hut after
another, and poked in a timid head, but he saw no
one, and the stillness seemed almost terrible to him.
Then, in a corner of one wurley he saw a rush-basket,
and from it came a smell that would have been dis-
gusting to anyone but a black, but was pure delight
222 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
to Kur-bo-roo. His fear vanished as he seized
upon the food and ate it ravenously.
He came out presently, his thin little body not
nearly so hollow as before, and looked about him.
The food had made him feel better, but he was
terribly thirsty. And then he saw, with a little glad
shout, that all about the camp were drinking- vessels,
brimming with water— put down wherever their
owners had happened to be when they had rushed
away to the hunt. Kur-bo-roo did not know any-
thing about that, of course ; he only knew that here
was water enough to make him forget that he had
ever been thirsty. He ran eagerly to the nearest
tarnuk and drank and drank until he could drink no
And with that drink, so the blacks say, a great
change came upon little Kur-bo-roo.
Kur-bo-roo put down the tarnuk and stood up-
right, throwing his head back in sheer bodily happi-
ness at once more having had enough to eat and
drink. All his bruises and soreness had suddenly
gone ; he was no longer tired and lonely and un-
happy, but strong and well and glad. How wonder-
fully strong he felt ! A new feeling ran through all
" I am stronger than anybody ever was before ! "
he said aloud. And he believed that it was true.
He glanced round the deserted camp. It was
quiet now, but he felt sure that soon the blacks
would come hurrying back. Perhaps they would
be there in a moment : Kur-bo-roo listened, half
dreading to hear the quick pad-pad of bare feet over
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 223
the hard, baked ground. No sound came. But
he knew that they would return : and then, what
would awaii him ?
His new strength seemed to burn him. He
stretched his arms out, wondering at their hard
muscles, although he felt that the drink had been
Magic, and so he need not wonder at anything at
all. Some good Spirit, perhaps sorry for lonely
little boys, had evidently come to help him. Fear
suddenly left him altogether, and with its going
came a mighty desire for revenge. He did not
know what he was going to do, but the new power
that was in him urged him on.
A little tree grew in front of him. He began
to gather up all the drinking-vessels, and, one by
one, to hang them upon the boughs. There were
very many, and it took a long time, but at last the
task was completed, and not a tarnuk was left
in the camp. He looked in the wurleys, and found
many empty vessels, and these also he hung up in
the tree. Then he took the biggest tarnuk of all,
and a little tarnuk, and went do\Mi to the creek :
and with the little tarnuk he filled the big one,
dipping up all the water from the creek, until there
was none left. There was much water, yet still
the big tarnuk held it all, and only the mud of the
creek-bed remained where tlie stream had been
rippling past. Even as he looked, that grew dry
and hard. Then Kur-bo-roo turned and carried
his burden up the bank to his tree, and from the
big tarnuk he filled all the empty ones. They held
a great deal, and yet the big tarnuk remained quite
224 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
full. For now there was Magic in everything that
He climbed up into the little tree and seated him-
self comfortably in a fork, where he could see every-
thing, and yet lean back comfortably. A quiver
ran through the tree, as if something far under-
ground had shaken it ; and suddenly it began to
grow. It grew and grew, spreading wide arms
to the sky, until it was as large as very many
big trees all put together : and its trunk was tall
and straight and very smooth. All the time, Kur-
bo-roo sat in the fork and smiled.
When the tree had finished growing, he heard
a sound of voices far below him, and, looking down,
he saw the tribe hurrying back through the scrub
to their camp. Their hunt had been unsuccessful,
for all the kangaroo had got away into the country
of another tribe, where they dared not follow : so
they were returning, hungry and thirsty, and in a
very bad temper, for they had not found any water
in the places where they had been. They came
angrily back to the camp, and from his seat in the
fork of the great tree Kur-bo-roo looked down at
them and smiled.
The blacks were far too thirsty to look up at
any tree. They hurried to the wurleys. Then
the first said, " Where is my tarnuk ? " and another
said, " Wah ! my tarnuk has gone ! " and a third,
" Who has taken all our tarnuks ? " They became
very angry, and beat their wives because they
could find no drinking-vessels and no water : then,
becoming desperate because of their thirst, they
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 225
hurried to the creek. And lo ! the creek was dry !
They came back from the creek, jabbering and
afraid, believing that the Evil Spirits had done
this wonderful thing. Presently one saw the big
tree, and cried out in astonishment.
" Ky ! What tree is that ? " he exclaimed.
They gathered round, staring in amazement at
the huge tree : and so they saw all their tarnuks
hanging in its branches, and little Kur-bo-roo sitting
smiling in the fork.
" Wah ! is that you ? " they called. " Have
you any water ? "
" Yes, here am I, and I have plenty of water,"
said Kur-bo-roo. " But I will not give you one
drop, because you would give me none, although
I died of thirst."
Some threatened him, and some begged of him,
and the women and children wailed round the
base of the tree. But Kur-bo-roo smiled down at
them, and took no heed of all their anger and their
crying. Then a couple of young men took their
tomahawks of stone and began to climb the tree,
although they were afraid, because it was so big.
Still, thirst drove them, and so they came up the
tree, cutting notches for their fingers and toes in
the smooth trunk, and coming wonderfully quickly.
But Kur-bo-roo laughed, and let fall a little water
on them from a tarnuk ; and as soon as the water
touched them, they fell to the ground and were
Again and again other men tried to climb the
tree, becoming desperate with their own thirst and
226 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
the crying of the women and children ; but
always they met the same fate. Always Kur-bo-
roo smiled, and splashed a few drops of water upon
them : only a drop on each of them, but as the
drops touched them their hold loosened, the grip
of their toes relaxed, and they fell from the great
height, to meet their death on the ground below.
So it went on until nearly all the men of the tribe
were gone : and Kur-bo-roo sat in the fork of the
tree and smiled.
And it still went on, all through the moonlit
night. But in the dawn two men came back from
hunting : Ta-jerr and Tarrn-nin, the sons of Pund-
jel, Maker of Men. They were very cunning, as
well as being very brave, and after they had taken
counsel together, they began to climb the tree.
But they did not climb as the other men had done,
straight up the long line of the smooth trunk.
Instead, they climbed round and round, as the
clematis creeps when it throws its tendrils about
Kur-bo-roo laughed, just as he had laughed at
the others, and waited until they had ascended to
a great height. Then he took water, and let it
fall — but the men were no longer in the same place,
but on the other side, climbing round and round,
and he missed them. Again and again he ran
to get more, and poured it down ; they were very
quick, circling about the trunk, and always man-
aged to escape the falling drops. They came to the
place where the trunk forked, and swung themselves
into the high boughs.
KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 227
Then little Kur-bo-roo began to cry in a terri-
fied voice. But they seized him, not heeding, and
beat him until all his bones were broken, and then
threw him down. The other blacks uttered a
great shout of triumph, and ran to kill him.
But the Magic that had helped him came to the
aid of little Kur-bo-roo once more, and so he did
not die. Suddenly, just as the angry blacks were
upon him, with uplifted waddies and threatening
faces, he changed under their gaze ; and where
there had been a little black boy there lay for a
moment a Native Bear, his grey fur bristling, and
fear filling his soft eyes. Then, very swiftly, he
gathered himself up and ran up a tree, until he was
out of sight among the branches.
Just then the blacks were too thirsty to pursue
him. Overhead, Ta-jerr and Tarrn-nin were cutting
at the branches of the great tree that held the
tarnuks ; and all the water came out and flowed
back to the creek, and again the creek became wide
and clear, running swiftly in its bed so that there
was drink for all. Then Ta-jerr and Tarrn-nin came
down to the ground, and the tribe hailed them
as heroes. But when they looked for little Kur-bo-
roo, the Native Bear, he had fled into another tree,
and had disappeared.
From that time, the Native Bears became food
for the black people. But it is law that they must
not break their bones when they kill them, nor
must they take off their skin before they cook
them. So they take them carefully, hitting them
on the head ; and they cook them by roasting them
228 KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR
whole in an oven of stones, sunk in the ground. If
the law were broken, Kur-bo-roo would again become
powerful, the magic-men say ; and the first thing
he would do would be to dry up all the creeks.
Now, Kur-bo-roo lives near the creeks and water
holes, so that if the people broke the law he might
at once carry away the water. He is not very wise,
because he was only quite a little boy before he became
a Native Bear, and so had not much time to gain
wisdom : but he is soft, and fat, and gentle, unless
you interfere with him when he wants to climb a
tree, and then he can scratch very hard with his
sharp claws. All he can do is to climb, and he does
not see very well in the daytime : therefore, he
thinks that whatever he meets is a tree, and at
once he tries to climb it. If the blacks throw things
at him when he is sitting in the fork of a tree, he
blinks down at them, and sometimes you might
think he smiles. But if they climb his tree and
come near to knock him down, he cries always,
very terribly — just as he cried long ago, when he
was Magic and Ta-jerr and Tarrn-nin climbed his
great tree and threw him to the people far below.
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
ONCE there was a time when the blacks had
no fire. They had not learned the way to
make it by rubbing two sticks together ; or if they
had once known the way, they had forgotten it.
And they were very miserable, for it was often cold
and wintry, and they had no fire to warm them,
nor any way of cooking food.
Fire had been theirs once. But there came two
women upon the Earth ; strange women, speaking
in unknown tongues, with great eyes in which there
was no fear. They did not love the blacks. They
lived in their camps for a time, and built for them-
selves a wurley, coming and going as they pleased ;
but always there was hatred in their wild eyes, and
the blacks feared them exceedingly. Because they
feared them, although they hated them, they gave
them food, and the women cooked it for themselves,
for at that time the fire blossomed at the door of
But one day, the blacks awoke to find the women
gone. They had gone in the night, silently, and
with them they took all the fire that the blacks had.
230 WURIP. THE FIRE-BRINGER
There was not even a coal left to start the hearth-
blaze for the shivering people.
The fighting-men made haste to arm themselves,
and started in pursuit of the women. They travelled
through swamps and morasses, across boggy lands
and creeks fringed with reeds and sedges ; all the
time seeing nothing of the women, but knowing
that they were on the right track, by the faint
smell of fire that still hung in the air. " They have
gone this way, carrying Fire ! " they said. " Soon
we shall overtake them." And they pressed on,
going faster and faster as the smell of burning wood
became stronger and stronger.
At last they came out upon a little open space,
and, looking across it, they saw a new wurley made
of bushes interlaced with reeds. In front of it
smoke curled up lazily, and they caught the gleam
of red coals, and yellow flame. The two women
sat by the fire, motionless. The fighting-men broke
into a run, shouting : " Now we will make an end
of these women ! " they cried fiercely to each other,
as they ran, gripping their spears and throwing-
The women sat by the fire taking no heed. So
little did they seem to notice the running warriors
that it seemed that they did not see them ; or, if
they did see them, they cared no more than for a
line of black swans flying westward into the sun-
set. One stirred the fire gently, and laid across
the red embers a dried stick of she-oak. The other
weaved a mat of rushes in a curious device of green
and white ; and as she twisted them in and out,
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 231
she smiled. Even when the long shout of the fight-
ing-men sent its echoes rolling round the sky, they
did not look up. The glow of the flames shone
reflected deep in their eyes.
So the fighting-men came on, grim and relent-
less, burning with the anger of all their long chase
and the hot desire for revenge. They tightened
their grip on their waddies, since there was no-
thing to be gained by risking a throwing-stick or a
spear when the enemy to be slain was only two
women, weak and unarmed. For such defenceless
creatures, a blow with a waddy would be sufficient.
But, half a spear's cast from the wurley, something
they could not see brought them to a sudden, gasp-
ing halt. It was as though a wall were there, soft
and invisible, but yet a wall. They could not
touch it to climb over it, neither could they force
their way through. They struck at it, and it was
as if their sticks struck the empty air. There was
nothing to see but the wurley, and the fire, and
the quiet women, and the air was clear and bright.
But no step farther could they advance.
They circled about the camp, trying at every
step to get nearer to the wurley. It was all to no
purpose : always the wall met them, though they
could not see it. So they came back to the point
whence they had started, breathless, angry, and
a little afraid. They were brave men, and used
to battle, but it is easier to fight a visible enemy
than one that lurks, unseen, in the air. It was
Magic, and they knew it. Still, their anger burned
furiously within them, and one lifted a spear tipped
.;,32 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
with poisoned bone, and flung it at the women.
To see him lift his hand was enough for the band.
A storm of spears went hurtling through the air.
For a few yards the spears flew straight and true.
But then they stopped suddenly in mid-flight, as
though an unseen wall had met them. For a moment
they seemed to hang in the air, then they fell in a
jangling heap among the tussocks. And beyond
them, while the terrified warriors shrank together,
gesticulating and trembling, the women laid more
sticks upon the fire, and smiled.
The fighting-men were cunning, and they did not
give in easily. Not only were they smarting with
the fury of defeat, but the tale was not one they
wished to carry back to the tribe, lest they should
become a laughing-stock even to the women and
young boys. So they drew off, thinking under cover
of night to renew the attack in the hope that when
the women slept their Magic would also sleep. So,
when darkness had fallen, they crept up again, on
noiseless feet. But the invisible wall was there,
and they could find no gap in its circle ; while, all
the time, the fire burned redly before the wurley,
and the women sat by it, feeding it, and weaving
their mats of white and green.
At length the warriors became weak for want of
food, and weary of the useless struggle ; and so
they gave up the fight and slowly made their way
back, across swamp-land and morass, to the tribe
that waited for them, shivering and tireless, in the
shadow of the hills.
Great and bitter were the lamentations at the
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 233
news of their defeat. They had been eagerly watched
for ; and when they came slowly back to the camp,
trailing their spears, a long cry of angry disappoint-
ment rent the air. It was difficult to believe their
story. Who could imagine a wall, strong enough
to stop warriors, yet that could not be seen ? So
they found themselves coldly looked upon, and their
wives said unpleasant things to them in their wur-
leys that night. Quite a number of wives had sore
heads next morning — since it was easier to deal
with a talkative wife by means of a waddy than by
argument. But the wives had the last word, for
all that, and the small boys of the tribe used to call
jeering words at the disgraced warriors, from the
safe concealment of a clump of dogwood, or fern.
Meanwhile, there was no cooked food. The tribe
was very far from being happy.
Then a band of young men, who were not picked
warriors, but were anxious to distinguish themselves,
made up their minds that they would go forth to
find the Fire- Women and slay them, and bring back
Fire to the tribe. They were very young men, and
so they were confident that they could succeed
where the warriors had failed ; and for at least a
week before they started they went about the camp
telling every one how they meant to do it. WTien
they were not doing this, or singing songs about the
great deeds they meant to perform — and very queer
songs they were— they were polishing their weapons
and making new ones, and talking together, at a
great rate, of their secret plans. When they were
ready, at last, they painted themselves with as much
234 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
pipe-clay as they were allowed to use, and gathered
together to start.
" When we have killed the Fire- Women," they
said to the tribe, " some of us will turn home-
wards and wait here and there along the way. Then
the others will run with the fire-stick, and as they
grow tired those that have gone ahead will take it
and run very swiftly back to you. In three days
the tribe will be cooking food with the fire which
we shall bring. Then we shall get married and have
wurleys and fires of our own."
All the blacks listened gravely, except the fight-
ing-men who had not brought back anything at
all. These men laughed a little, but no one took
any notice of their laughter, because they had
failed, and it is the way of the world not to think
well of failures. The girls thought the band of
young warriors wonderfully noble, and smiled upon
them a great deal as they marched out of the camp.
Of course, the boys were much too proud to smile
back again — but then, the girls did not expect them
to, and were quite content to do all the smiling.
So the little band marched off with a great flourish,
and the Bush swallowed them up.
" May they come back soon ! " said one girl, as
she and her companions dug for yams next day.
" Ay ! " said the others. " We are weary of
eating things which are not cooked."
" I am weary of being cold," said one. " There
is but one 'possum rug in our wurley, and my father
takes it always."
" There will be great feasting and joy when they
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 235
bring Fire back," said another. " Perhaps some of
us will be married, too." And they laughed and
made fun of each other, after the fashion of girls of
But the three days had not past when the young
men returned : and when they came, they sneaked
back quietly into the camp and tried to look as if
they had not gone at all. They had washed the
pipe-clay from their bodies, and were all quite
anxious to work very hard and make themselves
exceedingly useful to the older men ; nor were they
at all anxious to talk. They gave severe blows to
the young boys who clustered round them, clamour-
ing for news, and told them to go and play. But
when they were summoned before the leaders, they
hung their heads and told the same story as the
warriors. They had seen the Fire-Women, they
said, and they still sat before their wurley and fed
the fire ; but the young men could not come near
them, nor could any of their weapons reach them.
And when they were wearied with much throwing,
and their arms had grown stiff and sore, a great
fear came suddenly upon them, and they turned
and fled homeward through the scrub, never stop-
ping until they came upon the huts they knew.
Now they were very much ashamed, and the girls
mocked at them, but the warriors shook their heads
" To fight is no good," they said. " Unless the
magic-men can tell us how to beat down the magic
wall and conquer the Fire-Women, the tribe will
go for ever without Fire. We are wonderfully
236 WURIP. THE FIRE-BRINGER
brave, but we cannot fight witchcraft. Let the
magic-men undertake the task, for indeed it is a
thing beyond the power of simple men. But is it
not for such matters that we keep the magic-men ? "
Then all the tribe said, " Yes, that is what we
have been thinking all along." And they looked
expectantly at the magic-men, demanding that they
should at once accomplish the business, without any
further trouble. Every one became quite pleased
and hopeful, except the magic-men themselves —
and they were in a very bad temper, because they
did not like the task.
Still they held their heads high, and made little
of the matter, because to do anything else would
have been imprudent : and they looked as wise as
possible — a thing they had trained themselves to
do, whether they knew anything about a matter
or not. All kinds of wise men can do this, and it
is a very handy habit, because it makes people
think them even wiser than they are. They went
away by themselves, with dreadful threats of what
might happen if the people came near them — not
that there was any need for them to take such
precautions, for the blacks were much too terrified
by them to venture near when they were working
any kind of Magic.
A great deal of what the blacks called Magic
would seem very stupid to you if you watched it
now ; but they all believed in it firmly, and even
those who knew that they deceived others still
thought that Magic was a real thing, and that it
could be practised upon them. The magic-men shut
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 237
themselves up for a time ; and then they told the
men that they had made themselves into crows,
and had flown over to watch what the Fire-Women
were doing. As all the tribe believed that they
could turn themselves into any animal they chose,
and be invisible, nobody thought of doubting this.
The magic-men then began to weave spells. They
chopped the branches from a young she-oak tree,
and cleared away grass and sticks in a circle round
it. Then they sharpened the end of the trunk, and
drew on the ground the figure of a woman, with
the lopped tree growing out of her chest. After-
wards they rubbed themselves all over with char-
coal and grease, and danced and sang songs round
the tree for some days, expecting the Fire-Women
to feel their Magic, so that they would have to rise
from their camp and walk, as if in a sleep, to the
place of the dance. But the women did not come,
and so the magic-men told themselves that they
were not yet strong enough. Meanwhile, the tribe
clustered some distance off, very frightened and
respectful, and also very cold.
The magic-men tried other plans, although they
were much hampered because many of their spells
needed the use of Fire, and there was none to be had.
They tried to kill the women by pointing magic
things in the direction of their camp, such as bones,
and pieces of quartz-crystal, which were believed
to be very deadly ; and, going to their old wurley,
they put sharp fragments of bone in any footprints
they could find, thinking that the women would
fall ill and become very lame, and so lose their
238 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
power. But nothing happened. So they sent one
of their number secretly through the Bush, and he
returned to tell them that the women were well and
unharmed, and that the invisible wall about their
camp was just as strong as ever.
Then the magic-men knew that they could do no
more. They told the people that the only spells
that would conquer the Fire- Women were spells in
which Fire formed a part ; and until they could
bring them Fire, they must not expect to be freed
from the power of the women. The tribe did not
like this, and much lamentation went up ; but they
were much too afraid of the magic-men to object
openly to anything they did.
At this time there lived in the tribe a man called
He was not a lucky man. Once, in a big tribal
fight, most of his relations had been killed ; and
when he was still quite a young man, his wife died
of a mysterious sickness, before they had been
married very long. Then, one night, he tripped
and fell into a big fire, burning himself terribly.
He got better, but his left arm and hand were quite
twisted and withered, and were of very little use to
Had he been a different kind of man, it is not
unlikely that he would have been killed by the
tribe, for the blacks had no use for maimed or
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 239
deformed persons. But Wurip was strong, apart
from his twisted arm ; and also he had a way of
muttering to himself that rather frightened people.
It was only a habit, but the blacks were always
afraid of what they could not understand. So they
left him alone.
He lived in a little wurley by himself, and though
he was lonely, and would have liked to take another
wife, he knew that no girl would want a man whose
arm and hand were not like those of other men.
So he did not try to get married, and gradually he
became very solitary. He thought the other men
disliked him, and he would go away by himself on
hunting expeditions, and wander through the scrub
alone. Although he was half a cripple, he soon
learned to know the Bush more thoroughly than
any man in the tribe, and he trained his shrivelled
arm to do a great deal, although at first it had
seemed that it must be useless for ever. The other
blacks at first gave him nick-names about his arm,
but he did not like them, and his eyes were so fierce
that they did not let him hear them any more, and
to his face only called him by his own name, Wurip,
which means " a little bird."
Now, Wurip loved his tribe. He had no special
friends in it, which was partly his own fault, for he
had grown very unsociable, but he was proud of
the tribe itself, because it was brave and owned
good country, and had been successful in many
fights. It made him sore at heart to see it suffering
from the want of Fire, and also it hurt his pride
that it should have been beaten by women. So he
240 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
made up his mind that he would try to recover Fire
from the wicked Fire- Women. He thought about
it for a long time, and laid his plans very carefully.
One day he left the camp, carrying no weapons,
but only a single waddy. The other blacks said to
" Where are you going ? "
Wurip said, " I go to try to get Fire back."
" You ! " they said. " A little man, and crippled !
That is very funny." And all the people laughed
Wurip hesitated, and a gleam came into his eyes,
so quick and fierce that those who had laughed
shrank back. Then he turned on his heel and walked
off into the scrub, and the blacks said, " Let him
go. He is mad, and he will most likely be killed ;
and it really does not matter. He is not much use."
Into the wild Bush Wurip went, taking short
noiseless strides. He was a little man, but he had
the quick movements of many little men, and at
all times he could move rapidly through the Bush,
scarcely making a sound as he went.
He passed through the scrub, and came to boggy
lands and morasses ; his light feet carried him over
swamps and across creeks fringed with reeds and
sedges. Then he saw a light curl of smoke going
lazily skywards, and at the sight his heart gave a
leap, for it was long since he had seen Fire.
Until then he had travelled very quickly. But
now he slackened his speed and went slowly across
the plain towards the Fire- Women's camp. As he
drew near he could see them, sitting in front of
r \ /
.1 .MAc^ayjunf _ ^^
" They rubbed themselves all over with charcoal and grease,
ami dancetl and sang songs round the tree."
The S'oiie Ave of liurkamukk]
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 241
the wurley and weaving their rushes. They did not
look up as he came, and he advanced so near them
that he began to think that the magic wall could be
there no longer. Just as he was wondering if this
were indeed true, one of the Fire- Women glanced
up and saw him ; and almost immediately Wurip
felt some invisible object blocking his way, and
knew he could go no farther.
He stopped, and burst out laughing, and at the
sound of his merriment the other Fire-Woman
glanced up sharply from her weaving, and the first
one paused, with a stick of she-oak wood in her
hand, and looked at him in blank astonishment.
So silent was the place that Wurip's shout of laughter
echoed like a thunderclap. The Fire- Women looked
at the little black figure standing among the harsh
tussocks of swamp-grass, and he waved to them
with his withered arm. But they took no further
notice, going on scornfully with their work.
Wurip had expected nothing else, and he was
not discouraged. He began collecting sticks and
brushwood for a wurley, singing as he went about
his work, in full view of the two women. He made
no further attempt to get through the invisible wall.
There was not much timber about, and to find suit-
able material for his wurley was a difficult task.
He walked slowly, using his crippled arm very little,
because he hoped that the women would be less
careful about him if they regarded him as a one-
armed man. Sometimes he felt that they were
looking at him, and then he would work with par-
ticular awkwardness. Always, however, he sang,
242 WURIP. THE FIRE-BRINGER
and went about with a merry countenance, as if he
had not a single care in the world.
He built his wurley and went off into the swamp
to hunt, returning with some lizards and grubs, and
a duck that he had caught just as it settled on a
sedgy pool. Standing a little way back from the
wall, he called out and threw the duck towards the
file where the women sat. But it fell before it
reached them, meeting the unseen obstacle.
" What a pity — it is for you ! " called Wurip,
slowly, so that they could hear easily. "It is a
fat duck." And saying this he laughed again, and
went into his wurley, where he ate his supper con-
tentedly — although it was not cooked — and went to
In the morning, the women were sitting as before.
But the duck had gone, and, looking closely across
the little space, Wurip saw that there were feathers
lying about near their fire. Also there was a plea-
sant smell of cooking in the air. This gladdened
his heart, for it showed that the women did not
mind making him useful, and that was exactly what
So the days went by, and Wurip lived in his
wurley, and the women in theirs. He never saw
them away from it. Neither did he try any more
to go near it. From time to time he made them
friendly signals, or called cheerful greetings to them,
but that was all. Each day he went hunting, and
good luck always attended him, because it was the
time when waterfowl are plentiful, and as no others
hunted there, the birds were not afraid. It was
WURIP. THE FIRE-BRINGER 243
quite easy to fill the bag he had made out of rushes.
And each evening he put the best of the game on a
big stone some distance from his wurley, and in the
morning it was always gone.
This went on for fourteen days. When he was
not hunting, Wurip lay about his camp, always
singing contentedly as he carved himself boomerangs
or whittled heads for throwing-spears that he never
used. Once he carved a bowl from a root that he
found, and this also he put on the stone, for the
Fire- Women, and they took it. He gathered bundles
of the rushes that women of the tribes use in weaving,
and left them too. So that he became very useful
to them, although he had never heard their voices.
Then, after fourteen days, Wurip pretended that
he had fallen sick. He did not go out hunting any
more, neither did he place offerings upon the big
stone. In his wurley he had hidden sufficient food
for himself to last him for several days, but he did
not let the Fire- Women see him eating. Instead,
he crawled out, dragging himself along the ground,
and cried out, sorrowfully, waving his withered arm
to them. He crawled back into his wurley and ate
and slept ; but they did not come, as he had hoped
Next day he did not go out into the open at all.
He kept close within his wurley, and all the exercise
he took was to groan very mournfully. He groaned
nearly all day, and by the time it was evening he
was more tired than if he had hunted for three days.
Because he was tired he ate nearly all that remained
of his food, after which he felt discouraged, for he
244 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
realized that it would soon be necessary to go out
hunting again, and he wanted to seem ill. So he
groaned more loudly than ever, and once or twice
cried out as if in pain. Then he fell asleep.
The Fire- Women were fierce creatures, but still
they were women. It troubled them that this
crippled little blackfellow should be ill, too ill to
bring them gifts or to busy himself, singing and
laughing about his camp. To sit over a fire and
weave mats of white and green may, in time, become
dull ; and it cheered the women to see Wurip and
listen to his songs. When he did not appear they
took counsel together, agreeing that so small a
fellow, with a withered arm, could not be dangerous.
So, in the morning, Wurip heard steps, and open-
ing his eyes, he saw one of the women entering his
wurley. He almost jumped up ; then, remember-
ing, he groaned heavily, and looked at her with a
stupid stare. She spoke to him, asking what was
the matter, but he only moaned in answer. So she
picked him up — it was not difficult, for she was
very powerful, and Wurip was quite light — and
carried him over to where her sister sat. There
seemed to be no invisible wall now : the Fire-
Woman walked to the fire, and put Wurip down
before it. He nearly shouted, it was so long since
he had been near a fire : but, luckily, he remem-
bered to turn the shout into a groan.
For some days Wurip pretended to be very ill,
and the Fire- Women nursed him — not in the harsh
fashion of the medicine-men, but in gentler manner,
feeding him, and giving him a comfortable bed to
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 245
lie on. Wiirip was only too glad to lie still and be
fed, and it was not hard for him to pretend to be
ill, because, being black, he was not required to look
pale. Moreover, to taste cooked food once more
nearly made him weep with joy. He was very
grateful to the Fire- Women, and told them that he
was an outcast from the tribe, because of his crippled
arm, and he begged that, when he grew better, they
would allow him to serve them.
The Fire-Women were not sorry to have a ser-
vant. Getting food and firewood was not very
entertaining for them, and the gathering of rushes
was a long and laborious task, which they hated.
There could, they thought, be no risk in taking so
harmless a person as Wurip to work for them. Still,
they were stern with him. They told him that when
he was well he must live in his own wurley and only
come near theirs when it was necessary. Also, they
assured him that if he were unfaithful to them their
Magic would strike him dead immediately. This
made Wurip think very hard, for he did not want
to meet such an unpleasant fate, although he was
quite determined to take Fire back to his tribe.
He showed great horror at the idea of being
unfaithful, and when he thought it was prudent to
get better he recovered his strength— not too quickly,
for it was very pleasant to be nursed — and then
began his duties. The Fire- Women found him an
excellent servant. He was always at hand when
he was wanted, and he did his work well. There
was plenty of food at all times, and very long fine
rushes that he found when he was hunting far from
246 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
the camp. Wood he brought also, but the Fire-
Women would never allow him to go near the fire.
He laid the sticks at a little distance away : and
they tended the fire and cooked the food, giving
him a share. Altogether, they were very happy
and comfortable, and if he had been able to forget
the shivering tribe, Wurip would have been content.
Although he was only a servant, he was less lonely
than he had been in the company of the other blacks.
The Fire- Women were stern with him, but they
never made him remember that his arm was crippled
— and when he had been with the tribe he could
not forget for an instant that he was different to
Sometimes in the evenings, as he lay in his wurley,
the thought came to him that it would be better
to forget the tribe and stay with the Fire- Women.
After all, they were good to him in their fierce
fashion, and he remembered that he had very little
to look forward to, in returning to the big camp.
Even if he took back the long-lost Fire, they might
be grateful to him for a little while, but he would
never be as the other men were.
And then Memory would come to him, bringing
back pictures of the tribe, half starved and shiver-
ing ; of the little children who were dying for want
of proper food and warmth, and of the cold hearth-
stones of his people. However they might treat
him, he could not forget that they were his own
people. He knew that he must go back to them.
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 247
WuRiP lay on his back in the shade of a golden wattle
and listened idly to the Bush voices talking round
him. He heard far more than you would ever
hear — voices of whispering leaves and boughs, of
rustling grass, and softly-moving bodies. Not a.
grasshopper could brush through a tussock but
Wurip knew that it had passed. Overhead, birds
were twittering gaily in the branches. He knew
them all — had he been hungry he might have wanted
to set snares for some of the little chirping things,
but just then he was too well-fed and lazy to trouble
about such tiny morsels. He bit long grass-stems
lazily, and tried to sleep.
A pair of jays flew into a tree close by, and began
to chatter to each other, and suddenly Wurip
found that he knew what they were saying. Some-
how, it did not seem surprising that he should know.
Afterwards he wondered if he had dreamed it, but
at the moment nothing was strange to him. The
jays, eager and chattering, did not notice the little
black figure in the grass. They were too full of
" The Fire-Women have nearly finished their
weaving," said one. " Soon the last mat will be
done. They have worked very quickly since Wurip
brought them rushes."
" And then they will go away," said the
" Yes, then they will go quite away, and tliere
248 VVURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
will be no more Fire for ever. He-he ! what would
the tribe say ! "
" And Wurip ! "
" Yes, Wurip also. What will he do when they
have gone ? "
" He will go back to his people, I suppose. He
cannot go with the Fire- Women. I think, brother,"
said the smaller jay, " that they mean to sail away
on their mats to another country, taking Fire with
" Certainly they mean to go, and to take Fire
with them ; did we not hear them talking about it
while we perched on their wurley ? " said the other.
" As for sailing away on their mats, I do not see
how that can be. Mats are not like wings. You
are a foolish young bird."
" Well, why do they make them so strong and
large, and how else will they get away ? " asked
the other, looking down his beak in an abashed way,
but still sticking to his point. " You cannot tell
me those things."
" I do not care to know," said the big jay ; and
that was untrue, because jays are very inquisitive.
" What does it matter ? They are only humans.
But I wonder what Wurip would say, if he knew."
" Wurip thinks he will take Fire back to the tribe.
But I do not think he will ever get it. The Fire-
Women watch him too closely — and anyhow, he is
only a little cripple."
" He would be excited if he knew what we heard
them say — that if they lost any of it now, all the
rest would go out, and then their power would leave
VVURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 249
them, so that they could work no more Magic."
" He-he-he ! " chattered the other jay. " But
he will never know that. They do not talk when he
" No, they are wise. It is a very foolish thing to
talk," said his brother solemnly. Yet they chat-
tered for a little while longer, and then they flew
Wurip lay motionless under the wattle-tree, and
forgot to bite grass-stems any more. He was not
sure whether he was awake or dreaming ; and he
did not greatly care, because he felt that the warning
that had come to him was true, whether he had
dreamed it or not.
It fitted in with little things he had noticed.
Lately the Fire-Women had been very busy at their
weaving, working night and day, so that he could
hardly bring them rushes quickly enough. A great
pile of mats lay ready in a corner of their wurley,
and now they were working together at the largest
of all. They had seemed restless and excited, too,
and talked earnestly together, although they were
careful not to let him hear anything, and never to
let him go near the fire. Not that they seemed to
fear now that he would try to approach it. Wurip
had been very careful, never even glancing towards
it as he worked about the camp. He was allowed
to place his firewood at a certain spot, and took
great pains not to go beyond it. In every way in
his power he used to try to make them think that
he was afraid of Fire and dreaded to go too close to
it since he had burned his arm. By this means he
250 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
seemed to have put their suspicions to sleep, and
they regarded him as a harmless little fellow, of
whom they need have no fear.
He made his way back to the camp, slowly, think-
ing hard. If the Fire-Women were really going
away, he must act, and act quickly. At any time
they might finish their work ; and then they would
disappear for ever, and there would be no more Fire
to warm the people of the earth. Wurip drew up
his thin little body as he walked, and clenched his
fist. He made up his mind that he would act that
He found the camp just as usual, with the Fire-
Women working at their greatest mat of all, weaving
it in and out in a curious device of green and white.
One held the white strands, and the other the green ;
and their black hands worked so quickly that Wurip
could scarcely see to which woman they belonged.
He looked at it with great admiration, and ventured
a timid word of praise. Then he went a little way
off and began to skin the native cats and bandicoots
that he had brought home.
When he had prepared them for cooking, he laid
them carefully on crossed sticks and put them in a
shady corner. It was growing dusk, and he hurried
off to find firewood. All the time, he was turning
many plans over and over in his mind, and rejecting
one after another as useless. Well, he thought, he
must trust to luck.
He came back to the camp with his bundle of
wood, and began to heap it in the accustomed
place, keeping a respectful distance from the Fire,
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 251
and bending down his eyes, lest their burning desire
should be seen. Already the sun had gone away over
the edge of the world, and darkness was coming fast.
The Fire-Women had been forced to stop weaving,
for the pattern of the great mat was too fine to
weave by firelight. Generally, when they had
finished, one carried the work into the wurley while
the other remained outside to watch Wurip and
begin the cooking. But the great mat was now too
heavy for one to lift, and so they rolled it up, and
carried it away together.
Wurip, crouching over his heap of firewood, felt
his body suddenly stiffened like a steel spring.
Under his brows he watched them ; and as the
wurley hid them, he darted forward, snatched a
big lire-stick from the glowing coals, and fled, with
great noiseless bounds that carried him in a moment
far into the dusk. Behind him he heard a sudden
loud anguished cry, and knew that the Fire-Women
had found out his theft.
For a moment he feared that the magic wall
would spring up to bar his way, and he ran as he
had never run before. But it did not come ; and
into his mind swept the words of the jay, that if
Fire were taken from the Women, they would lose
their power of Magic. He hardly dared to think
that could be so — but as he ran on, finding no unseen
obstacle in his way, hope surged over him. Magic
was a thing against which no man could fight. But
if he had only ordinary women to deal with, he was
A few hundred yards from the wurley, he glanced
252 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
back, and saw that their fire no longer sent its red
gleam into the dusk. His heart leapt with joy, for
it seemed as if the jays' story must be true ; and if
so, the Fire-Women's hearth was cold, and already
the only Fire in the world was what he carried.
The greatness of the thought caught his breath —
surely such an honour should be for the bravest
warrior of the tribe, and not for a half-crippled,
undersized weakling like him. And behind him
came a sudden trampling of running feet, and a cry
of such terrible anger that the very waterfowl in the
swamps hid themselves in fear. The Fire-Women
were on his track.
Wurip ran forward, leaping from tussock to tus-
sock, sometimes slipping into bog-holes, and scratch-
ing his bare limbs on great chimps of sword-grass.
In his withered hand he clutched the fire-stick ;
the other held his waddy, and sometimes he was glad
to use it to help himself over rough places. Luckily,
he knew the ground well — there was no part of it
that he had not studied on his days out hunting,
knowing that at any time he might have to make
his dash for home. He hid the glow of the fire-
stick as much as he could, holding it so close to him
that his skin was scorched by it ; but his precautions
could not conceal it altogether, and to the Fire-
Women behind him it was like a red star, twinkling
low down upon earth.
They came after Wurip swiftly. At first they
had uttered savage cries of wrath, and fierce threats
of what they would do to Wurip when they caught
him ; but soon it seemed that they knew that shouts
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 253
and threats were useless, and after that they hunted
him silently, only the quick pad of their feet being
heard in the darkness. They were terribly quick
feet. Wurip had not dreamed that women could
run so fast. Sometimes, as the moon rose, he could
see them in pursuit, grim and revengeful, looking
like giants in the darkness. His soul was full of
terror at the thought of what they would do if they
caught him, for he knew that he would be but a
little child in their hands.
They crossed the swamps and morasses, and the
reed-fringed creeks— and here Wurip lost ground,
for he had to go very carefully, lest he should slip
and so drown the precious fire-stick that he held
close to him. Only a blackfellow could have kept
it alight so long ; but Wurip knew just how to hold
it so that the air fanned it enough to keep the dull
coals glowing, without letting it burn too quickly
away. He heard the Fire- Women splash through
the creeks, not far behind him. Then they came
into the scrub-country, all running at their wildest
speed, for this was the last part of the journey back
to the tribe.
Then Wurip knew that he must be beaten. He
was nearly done— his breath came unevenly, and
his limbs were like lead, and would no longer do
his bidding. Fierce and untired, close behind him,
came the Fire-Women. A little ahead, he knew
of a bed of green bracken fern in a gully, and he set
his teeth in the resolve to get thus far.
They were quite near him when the dark line of
the gully showed, somewhat to his left. He threw
354 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
all his remaining strength into a last spurt of energy,
and then, turning from the straight line towards the
camp of the tribe, he crept through the scrub to
the gully, holding both hands over the fire so that
it might not guide the Fire-Women to his place of
refuge, and heedless of the cruel burning. He
reached the gully safely, and flung himself face
downwards among the rank ferns and nettles, pant-
ing as if his heart would burst from his body. He
heard the Women run past, tirelessly swift ; there
came to him their angry voices, calling softly, lest
they should miss each other in the dim scrub. They
had not seen him swerve— that was clear ; and
Wurip hugged himself with joy to think that for the
moment he was safe.
When they had passed, and the sound of their
feet had died away, he crept from his gully and fled
in a northerly direction. He ran all through the
dark hours, with long trotting strides, as a dingo
runs, and circling round so that he might miss the
Fire- Women and come upon the camp from the
other side. Sometimes he paused to rest, listening
for the sound of the other hastening feet — but they
did not come, and at last he believed that he had
He was very tired — so tired that at last he lost
something of the blackfellow's keenness that guides
him through even unknown country in the dark.
Something seemed to have broken in his chest, from
the time of his last mad spurt from the Fire- Women,
and now each breath stabbed him. Perhaps it was
because he was so tired that at last he became con-
WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 255
fused altogether, and swerved from the track he
had mapped out for himself to get back to the camp ;
and when dawn broke he was back in the direction
where he might expect to meet pursuit. Even as
this dawned upon him, he looked up and saw the
Fire-Women running silently towards him, their
fierce eyes gleaming.
Wurip knew it was the end. He fled, knowing
as he went that he could not run far. Behind him
came the Women, tireless as though they had not
spent the night in fruitless chase. He clutched the
fire-stick to him, scarcely knowing that it burned
his hands and his naked chest.
Rounding a clump of saplings, a sob burst from
his labouring chest. Before him he saw the familiar
camp, the wurleys clustered together ; it seemed to
smile at him in home-like fashion. So near home,
to fail ! He spurred himself to the last effort.
Then from the camp burst a knot of fighting-
men, racing towards him. He caught the glint of
the rising sun on their spears and throwing-sticks ;
and he waved to them, for he could not shout. They
came on with great strides : there was music in the
sound of their trampling feet. When they came to
him, they divided, running past him, and Wurip
staggered through the lane they formed. He heard
fierce cries and blows behind him, but he did not
Before him the camp lay, and never had it smiled
to him a welcome so sweet. There were people
running out to meet him ; men, women, and little
children : he could hear their voices, amazed and
256 WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER
rejoicing — " Wurip ! It is Wurip, bringing us
Fire ! " He tried to smile at them, but his lips
would not move. So he staggered in to the circle
of the huts, and there fell upon his face, still grasp-
ing the red fire-stick in his blistered hand. It was
all red now, for it had burned down to the last few
Then, as they clustered round him, lifting him
with gentle hands and blessing his name, he smiled
at them a little, and died peacefully, happy that he
had brought back Fire to his own people.
But to the people he did not die. Ever after
they honoured his name, calling him the benefactor
of the tribe : so that in death he found that honour
that forgot he had ever been little and weak, and a
cripple. And when you see the little Fire-tailed
Finch that hops about so fearlessly, with the bright
red feathers making a patch of flame on its sober
plumage, you are looking at Wurip, the Fire-bringer,
who gave his life to vanquish the wicked Fire-
Women and to lay Fire once more upon the hearth-
stones of his tribe.
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