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Full text of "The stone axe of Burkamukk"

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MARY- GRANT- BRUC E 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 



MARY GRANT BRUCE'S 

POPULAR STORIES 

Published by 
WARD, LOCK & CO., LTD. 



A LITTLE BUSH MAID 
TIMOTHY IN BUSHLAND 
MATES AT BILLABONG 
FROM BILLABONG TO 
LONDON 

GLEN EYRE 

NORAH OF BILLABONG 

GRAY'S HOLLOW 

JIM AND WALLY 

•POSSUM 

DICK 

CAPTAIN JIM 

DICK LESTER OF KURRA- 

JONG 
BACK TO BILLABONG 




" 'No small beast did that,' he said. 'You are lucky to 
be alive, Tullum.' " (Page 15.) 



The Stone Axe of Uurkamiikk] 



[Frontispiece- 



THE STONE AXE OF 
BURKAMUKK 



BY 

MARY GRANT BRUCE 



ILLUSTRATED BY J. MACFARLANE 



WARD. LOCK & CO., LTD. 
LONDON AND MELBOURNE 
1922 



f -K 



FOREWORD 

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 



14515.29 



6 FOREWORD 

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. 



CONTENTS 



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 



page 
9 

49 

65 

79 

lOI 

107 
115 
132 

151 
160 
194 
209 
229 



I 

THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 
Chapter I 

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 
contented. 

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, 

9 



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 
his country." 

" 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 
wurley." 

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 
consider. 

" 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 

S.A.B, B 



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 
her husband. 

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 
story. 

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 
turn." 

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 
die. 



24 THE STONE AXE OF BURKAMUKK 



Chapter II 

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 
lucky. 

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 
as men." 

" 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 



I 



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 
clearing. 

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 
relaxed. 

" 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 
tree. 

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 
out laughing. 

" 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, 
brother." 

" 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 
brother. 

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 
hands. 

" 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, 
brother." 

" 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 
grows worse." 

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. 

Chapter III 

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 
to do. 

" 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 ? " 
demanded Pilla. 

"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 
way. 

" 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 
calmly. 

" 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 
distrustfully. 

" 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- 
lessly. 

" 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 
know." 

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 
safer so." 

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 
beyond belief. 

" 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 
for fragments. 

" 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- 
selves." 

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 
the night. 

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 
carried comfortably. 

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 
them yet. 

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 
of Kuperee." 

" 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. 



II 

WAUNG, THE CROW 
Chapter I 

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. 

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 
anyone. 

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 
myself." 

" 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 
better. 

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 
for you." 

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 
watchful. 

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 
hesitated. 

" 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- 
00k. 

" 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 
you." 

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 
them." 

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 
large coal. 

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. 



Chapter II 

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 
a boomerang. 

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 
revenge. 

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 
him. 

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's wurley. 

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 
days. 

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 
shoulder. 

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 
everything out. 

\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 ! " 



Ill 

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 
moment. 

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 
whisper. 

" 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 
strangers." 

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 
sky. 

" 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- 

ing." 

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 
wings." 

" 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," 
cried Kari. 

" 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 
speak. 

" 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 
grow. 

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. 



IV 

BOORAN, THE PELICAN 
Chapter I 

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 
were drowned. 

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 

79 



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 




l.-^ 




" It caught tlie Kar-ak-ar-ook. and whirled them up into 

the sky." 
The Slone Axe of Burkamukk] [Pagf '57 




Xt?^«»lm>p__^^ ff 










' 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." 

S.A.B. F 



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 
limbs. 

" 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, 
Karwin laughed. 

" 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 
them. 

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 
to them. 

" 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- 
thing else. 

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 
voice. 

" 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 
the bones. 



Chapter II 

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 
his companions. 

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 
away." 

" 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 
smiles. 

" 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 

it? " 

" 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 
tribe? " 

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 
me." 

" Did you notice what they were like ? " Murla 
asked eagerly. 

" 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 
wrathfully. 

" 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 
canoe. 

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 
great hurry. 



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 
bank. 

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 
the camp." 

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 
cold." 

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 
turn." 

" 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 
mud island. 

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 
came back. 

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 

S.A.B. G 



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 
paddled on. 

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. 



V 

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 
angry. 

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 

101 



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 
wickedness. 

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 
the earth." 

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 
broke anew. 

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 
save them. 

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. 



VI 

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. 

107 



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 
place." 

" 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 

S.A.B. H 



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. 






VII 
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. 

115 



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 
before replying. 

" 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 
their dinner." 

The animals became silent at once, and looked at 
him anxiously. 

" 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 
Inguana-lizard. 

" 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 
his sea-prison." 

" 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 
at all." 

" But what is to be done ? " cried the other 
animals. 

" 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 
to himself. 

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 
he say. 

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 
successful. 

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 
very much. 

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 
the shore. 

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, 

s.A.B, 1 



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 
pelican. 

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. 



VIII 
THE MAIDEN WHO FOUND THE MOON 

Chapter I 

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 
other weapons. 

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 

132 



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 Baringa. 

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. 



Chapter II 

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, 
he slept. 

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 
Bush. 

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 
the darkness. 

" 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 



Chapter III 

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 
track. 

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 



^, 



\! 



...^ 




\ 






XMJgxlferl 



a<v« 



Then slie knew tliat in lier journeyings she had found 
the Moon ! " 



The Sttmc Axe of Burkainukk] 



[Page 145 



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 
Moon ! 

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 
them. 

" 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." 

S.A.B. K 



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 
wanderings again. 



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 
with her. 

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. 



IX 

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- 
factory. 

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 

151 



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 
very well. 

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 
say. 

" 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 
possible. 

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 
willum. 

" 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 
there. 

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 
been. 

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 
eyes. 

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 
quite flat. 

" 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 
rain. 

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. 



X 

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. 

160 



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 
Wonkawala." 

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 

S.A.B, L 



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 
YiUin. 

" 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 
Yillin proudly. 

" 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 
to sleep." 

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 
any disrespect. 



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 
manner. 

" 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 
glances. 

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- 
ship. 

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 
come." 

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 
came. 

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 
songs. 

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 
for adventures." 

" 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 
could. 

" 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 
hand. 

" 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 
the Bush." 

" 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 
behind us." 

" 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] 



[Page iSi 



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 
the same. 

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 
quite .safe." 

In a moment more they said, " Now, open your 

S.A.B. M 



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 
ashore. 

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 
NuUor. 

" 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 
be! " 

" 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 
little jealous. 

" 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 
sadly. 

" 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 
tears away. 

" 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 
a cord. 

" It is the old man we met long ago ! " whispered 
the sisters. 

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 
have seen." 

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 
their story. 

" 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 
of all." 

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 
lonely. 

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 
the scrub. 

Two black hunters, who were ranging through 
the Bush a little way off, stopped, hearing the 
barking. 

" 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, 
Chukeroo." 

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 
hand." 

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 
whole skins. 

" 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- 
armed." 

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 ! " 



S.A.B. N 



XI 

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 
Cockatoo. 

Especially did Wildoo hate the Wokala. He 

194 



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 
and untidy. 



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 
much amused. 

" 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 
two hills. 

" 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 
is?" 

" 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 
jutting limb. 

" Ky ! " she whimpered. " I can never fly all 
the way to the Black Mountain. I must die 
here." 

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 
the cave. 

" 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 
gathering darkness. 

" 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 
bodies. 

" 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. 



XII 

KUR-BO-ROO, THE BEAR 
Chapter I 

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 
mother. 

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 



Chapter II 

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. 

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. 



Chapter III 

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 
sore limbs. 

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 
more. 

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 
his body. 

" 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 
Kur-bo-roo touched. 

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 
killed. 

Again and again other men tried to climb the 
tree, becoming desperate with their own thirst and 

S.A.B. P 



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 
a branch. 

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. 



XIII 

WURIP, THE FIRE-BRINGER 

Chapter I 

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 
every hut. 

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. 

229 



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- 
sticks. 

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 
any colour. 

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 
understandingly. 

" 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. 



Chapter II 

At this time there lived in the tribe a man called 
Wurip. 

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 
him. 

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 
him : 

" 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 
at him. 

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 



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.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] 



[Page 237 



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, 

S.A.B. Q 



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 
sleep. 

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 
he wanted. 

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 
they would. 

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 
the others. 

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 



Chapter III 

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 
their subject. 

" 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 
other. 

" 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 
them." 

" 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 
is near." 

" 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 
away. 

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 
very night. 

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 
not afraid. 

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 
escaped pursuit. 

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 
stop. 

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 
inches. 

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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