an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: Stout Fellows
Author: Dorothy Wall
eBook No.: 2301101h.html
Date first posted: 2023
Most recent update: 2023
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
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Chum is a fellow, not very big,
Angelina is a wallaby guide,
Um is an animal. Sh! he’s a pig,
Flip is a nuisance—read inside.
Chapter 1. - Who’s Who And His Friends
Chapter 2. - Junket And Sixty Years Ago
Chapter 3. - The Bush Fire
Chapter 4. - Back To Long Ago And A Surprise
“This is scandalous!” Angelina Wallaby said in an angry voice. Something very dreadful must have happened to upset her, for Angelina was the quietest and gentlest creature in all bushland.
“My shoes stolen! My very best shoes, too; and I’d like to know where I’ll get another pair!”
Angelina scratched away the grass from under her feet, looked into secret corners round the rocks, peered up into the trees, then sat back on her tail with a very worried look on her face.
“I’m sure I put them just there. I know I did,” she said, staring at a small bush in front of her.
Suddenly she pricked her ears, listened most attentively for a moment or two, then bounded off into the bush. But she did not go far—just as far as the wattle patch. There, among the pale green wattles, lying on the grass that had the softest touch on account of its being sheltered from the sun, lay a little boy fast asleep, with Angelina’s best shoes on his feet,
“My goodness!” Angelina said. “What next?”
She hopped a little closer, peered curiously at the tiny boy, then, not knowing exactly what to do, gave a loud thump with her tail.
“My shoes!” she said in a loud voice, as the little boy opened his eyes and jumped up with fright, intending to run away.
“My shoes!” Angelina repeated, pointing to the little boy’s feet.
“Wallabies don’t wear shoes—they’re mine. I found them,” the little boy replied as he took the shoes from his feet and tucked them under his arm.
“I tell you they’re mine. I had them made specially, on account of my corns,” Angelina said indignantly as she thumped her tail, just to show how angry she was.
“Oh! do let me see your corns!” the little boy cried. “I’m sure they must be funny.”
“Funny, indeed,” Angelina growled. “Look here—just look at my poor feet.” She lifted a hind foot for inspection.
“Oh, dear me. That’s dreadful,” the little boy said. “May I feel them?”
“Well, just pat them gently; I can’t stand jabs,” Angelina said, rather condescendingly.
The little boy patted Angelina’s feet then looked up with a worried frown.
“I believe those are pads on your feet—not corns,” he said knowingly.
“Pads!” Angelina said, looking very puzzled. “What are pads?”
“Those things on your feet,” the little boy replied. “Grandpa is the only person with corns,”
“Who is Grandpa and what does he do with corns,” Angelina asked, more surprised than ever.
“Oh, Grandpa’s just Grandpa, and he paints his corns,” the little boy replied.
“What tush!” Angelina snapped. “Whoever heard of any one painting corns. What’s your name, and why did you steal my shoes?”
“I’m Chum, and I didn’t steal your shoes. I just took them,” the little boy replied, hugging the shoes tighter than ever.
“Where do you live?” Angelina asked.
“With Grandpa,” Chum answered.
“Goodness me, what an annoying child you are,” Angelina sighed. “Can’t you tell me where you live? Is it over there—or over here—or that way—”
“Oh! You mean where did I come from?” Chum said hurriedly. “Over there; but I’ve been a long time lost.”
“Give me my shoes, and we’ll go along to see Who’s Who. He’ll tell me where you live and what to do,” Angelina said as she grabbed a shoe.
“Can’t I keep this one?” Chum asked pleadingly, “Grandpa needs a new pair of slippers so badly.”
“They’re magic slippers,” Angelina said, grabbing the other. “Who’s Who gave them to me. He told me never to lose them or my tail would fall off.”
“It’s only lizards who drop their tails,” Chum scoffed.
“Oh, come along and don’t argue with me,” Angelina said impatiently, as she made a bound into the bush. Chum ran as fast as his legs would carry him, but Angelina’s great bounds left him breathless.
“Wallaby! Wallaby!” he called. “Wait for me.”
“Dear me, haven’t you learned to hop yet?” Angelina said, as Chum came running along beside her.
“How can I without a tail?” he panted.
“Tails are not in it. We don’t use our tails to hop with, as so many people think,” Angelina said impatiently. “Look at Flip —he has no tail and he’s the finest hopper I know of.”
“Who is Flip?” Chum inquired.
“What! You’ve never heard of Flip? He’s the biggest and bulgiest frog in the bush. One hop and he’s out of sight,” Angelina said, waving a paw excitedly.
“One hop and he’s back again,” croaked a voice right beside them.
There at their feet sat a very large green frog, grinning from ear to ear, or should I say grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Oh!” Chum gasped. “Is this Flip?”
“That’s me!” Flip said, taking one hop—and there he was, on Chum’s shoulder. “And that’s me!” he repeated as with another hop he landed on the ground again.
“Golly, I wish I could hop like that,” Chum said, gazing at Flip in surprise.
“Have you ever tried?” Flip asked.
“No—at least I don’t remember ever trying,” Chum replied.
“Well, how about it now?” Flip said eagerly, “Just balance yourself on your toes, swell out a bit and wait till that wriggly feeling comes, then—hop!”
“I’ll try,” Chum said, standing on the tips of his toes, while Angelina and Flip took their positions, one on each side of him.
“Swell out! Swell out!” Flip called.
Chum took a deep breath, while his face grew redder and redder.
“Go!” Flip croaked very loudly, at the same moment taking a hop that landed him yards away, while Angelina gracefully leaped ahead, coming to rest on a big rock.
Poor Chum—he took a hop, stumbled, and fell only a foot away from where he had stood.
“There’s something wrong with his puffer,” Flip remarked in a concerned tone.
“I haven’t got a puffer, and I don’t want one,” Chum said indignantly, as he picked himself up, “and I’m glad I can’t hop. Yon both looked so silly.”
“Well! that’s what I call rude,” Flip said, looking at Angelina.
“Rude is no name for it,” she answered. “But the trouble is, I’ve got to get him to Who’s Who.”
“We’d better hop along beside him. You take one hand and I’ll follow,” Flip advised.
Angelina hopped back to Chum, not feeling too pleased.
“Come along; give me your hand, and do your best to keep up with us. I’d no idea that legs could be such stupid things. They wouldn’t be nearly as bad if you had a puffer. Has your Grandpa one?”
“He puffs a dreadful lot, but he can’t hop. I’ve never seen him do it,” Chum replied.
“Perhaps he hops when you’re not looking, or perhaps his puffer is old and won’t work properly. You know I’ve seen some wallabies puff and puff and they can’t hop a scrap. Who’s Who says they are old, and worn out.” While Angelina had been speaking Chum had been fairly flying along, his hand tightly grasped in Angelina’s paw, his toes just touching the ground now and then, while Flip hopped behind raising little clouds of dust as each hop came.
“Are we nearly there?” Chum asked, realizing his little legs were becoming tired,
“It’s just round the corner,” Angelina answered.
“Just round the corner” took some time to reach; but, when it came into view, such a queer place confronted Chum. A small hut made from sticks and stones, with a thatched roof, cuddled amongst the trees, while the most amazing sight of all was a big fat pig sleeping soundly in front of the doorway.
“Good day, Um-Pig!” Flip croaked loudly.
Um-Pig opened an eye, gave a grunt; then lurched to his feet.
“How do!” he grunted.
“Where’s Who’s Who?” Angelina inquired.
“He’s busy thinking,” Um-Pig answered. “He said no one was to disturb him.”
“This is most important and we must see him,” Angelina replied.
“You’ll spoil his thinking if you disturb him,” Um-Pig said with a grunt.
“What kind of thinking is he doing to-day?” Flip inquired.
“Serious ones,” Um-Pig answered.
“What are they like?” Chum ventured to ask. Everything seemed so strange, and Um-Pig looked so funny as he gazed at his visitors,
“I’ve never seen them. They’re what Who’s Who calls ‘inspirations,’” Um-Pig replied. “All I know is, that if he has to do a lot of thinking he gets very cranky and says ‘I wish you’d grow fur on your skin,’ or ‘I wish you’d bark and not grunt.’ Meaning me, of course.”
“I’m really sorry for you,” Flip remarked, “but tell him we must see him. It’s urgent.”
Um-Pig uncurled his tail, then curled it up again.
“I’m afraid I can’t. It’s more than I’d dare to do,” he grunted sorrowfully.
“Such nonsense!” Angelina said impatiently, hopping towards the doorway. Then poking her nose in she called in a loud voice: “Come out Who’s Who; we want to see you. It’s most important.”
“I can’t til I straighten it!” a thin old voice called back.
“Do hurry up, I’ve such a lot to ask you,” Angelina replied.
To Chum’s surprise an old man hobbled out of the doorway, muttering to himself: “It’s no use. It’s no use. It’ll have to stay as it is,”
“We’re sorry to disturb you,” Angelina apologized, “but can you tell us where Chum lives?”
“I was in the middle of thinking the most important things. Didn’t Um-Pig tell you?” Who’s Who asked. He was not exactly cross; but not exactly pleased.
“Yes, he did,” Flip answered, “but this is so very urgent.”
“Well, I was just thinking all about Um-Pig’s crumpled nose and how I could straighten it so that it would stay straight. I’d just finished and found that it really didn’t matter, because his tail isn’t straight, and if I had to make that straight I’d find that didn’t matter either, so you see I needn’t have been thinking to-day.”
“What a worry for you,” Angelina said softly.
“You want to know where Chum lives?” Who’s Who asked, changing the subject.
“Yes please,” they all replied at once.
“That’s the question,” Who’s Who said thoughtfully.
“Do hurry and tell us,” Flip croaked.
“Let me see now—um—yes—Chum is the little boy who lives in the Long Ago.” Who’s Who looked at Chum, nodding his head as he gazed. “Yes—that’s right—he lives in the Long Ago,”
“How far is it?” Angelina asked.
“I should say about one hundred years. It’s a long, long journey from here, and the first part of the road is unpleasant. I know. I came that way myself.” Who’s Who gave a deep sigh and brushed his hand across his old eyes.
“Yes, a hundred years is a long way off,” Angelina said thoughtfully. “Do you think Chum can travel so far?”
“Why not—he is young; but he can’t go barefooted. I must see if I can find him a pair of shoes,” Who’s Who replied kindly. “I’ve a pair tucked away on the top shelf that my own little boy wore. He dropped them fifty years away, but I picked them up, hoping he would come to find them some day; but he didn’t.”
He hobbled inside his hut to look for the shoes while Flip, Angelina, and Chum waited outside.
Um-Pig slowly walked towards them, then hastily grabbing one of Angelina’s paws between his two front feet he pleaded with tears in his eyes:
“For goodness sake take me with you. Please, please. I’m so tired of having my nose and tail altered. It’s more than I can stand. He’s always telling me I’ll be bacon some day. It’s too dreadful for words.”
“How can you come without shoes?” Chum said kindly, wiping Um-Pig’s tears away with the corner of his coat.
“I don’t know—but perhaps I’ll grow wings if I wish very hard,” Um-Pig replied, sniffling.
“Shucks! You grow wings! What next!” Flip retorted rudely. “It would be much better for you to borrow one of Angelina’s shoes.”
“Will you lend him one?” Chum asked Angelina. “We can’t leave the poor thing here when he’s so sad.”
“I suppose I could; but it will be most inconvenient travelling with him. He?s so fat—and besides—he —he—well, he SMELLS!”
“Oh, never mind that!” Flip said cheerfully. “He can’t help it—he was born that way.”
Um-Pig stood silently by, listening’ to the discussion and twisting and untwisting his tail. He was very worried.
“I suppose we had better take him,” Angelina said ungraciously. “Run away and hide. If Who’s Who finds that you have run away he will be annoyed.”
Um-Pig snuffled, wiped his tears away with a shake of his head, and ambled into the bush out of sight.
“A nice pickle we’ll be in,” Angelina growled, “and all through a pig’s trotters.”
“Grandpa doesn’t like pig’s trotters either,” Chum whispered.
“Well, that’s not Um-Pig’s fault,” Flip snapped. “All the same I hope he doesn’t like frog’s legs!”
Just when matters seemed to be growing personal Who’s Who came through the door-way with a pair of bright green shoes under his arm.
“How will these do?” he asked, offering them to Chum.
“They’re sweet,” Chum replied. “Shall I put them on now?”
“Yes, do so; but you must put them on back to front you know,” Who’s Who said, placing them on the ground.
“Why must I do that?” Chum asked in surprise.
“Well, you have to go back to Long Ago, and, if you put them on toes to the front, they’ll carry you to the future.”
“How funny,” was all Chum could say. It was certainly a strange place to be in with pigs and wallabies, and now shoes on back to front.
“After fifty years you’ll find the journey much easier,” Who’s Who remarked. “You’ll come to the hills and trees where you can rest. There will be few dusty roads, the air will he fresher, the birds will sing for you joyously, and you’ll meet the bush folk —the little koalas and possums that we’ve missed so sadly down here. Tell them I miss them—tell them I cry for the days when I knew them—tell them—please tell them to go far far away, even to the Long Ago where man with his cruel gun cannot reach them.”
“How sad you are to-day,” Angelina said sympathetically.
“Yes, I grow old; and each year more of my little friends depart. My magpies—my kookaburras—my satin-birds and finches. They are leaving me one by one. I have seen the cities creep over the hills like a slow advancing wave, driving my birds and animals away, or man trapping and shooting them until few remain. Too late he will realize his folly. But I must not be so sad when you are starting out on your journey, or you may carry my sadness with you. That would never do.” Bending down he fastened Chum’s shoes on his feet, and, strange to say, they were most comfortable.
“Well, good-bye to you all. I wish I were going too.” Who’s Who waved his hand as if to hasten them off.
“You’ll be here when we come back?” Angelina inquired.
“I don’t think so,” Who’s Who replied. “When the last bird leaves I shall go too. I am weary, and Um-Pig’s tail and nose give me a headache whenever I look at them. He’s a good fellow, but his grunt becomes monotonous. I know his future will be bacon so I do all I can to make things easy for him now,”
Angelina, Chum, and Flip hurried away. To Chum’s great joy he found he could hop with great speed. Through the bush they went, quite forgetting Um-Pig until a grunt from the sideway attracted their attention.
“Why! Here’s old trotters!” Flip said cheerily.
“Um-Pig is my name,” the pig said haughtily.
“Well, we’re all here now and must hurry on to our first resting-place—twenty years away,” Angelina said, handing Um-Pig a shoe.
“Thank you!” Um-Pig took the shoe and tied it to one of his feet.
“Couldn’t you possibly leave the ‘smell’ behind?” Angelina asked him kindly. “I’m sure you won’t need it as we travel,”
“I’ve had it for so long I really don’t know what I’d do without it now,” Um-Pig said meekly, “Does it annoy you?”
“It’s dreadful!” Chum and Flip cried together.
“Perhaps we could frighten it away, or leave it under a bush,” Angelina advised.
“You can try frightening it if you like,” Um-Pig said slowly. “I wouldn’t like to leave it under a bush. It would miss me.”
“We’ll frighten it then,” Angelina replied, with a withering look at her piggy friend.
“When I call out, ‘One, two, three,’ all shout at the top of your voices, ‘Bacon and eggs!’
“Bacon and eggs! Bacon and eggs!” They howled as loudly as they could, while Um-Pig stood with his snout in the air sniffing quickly.
“Has it gone?” he inquired anxiously.
Angelina shook her head.
“Let us try ‘Sausages,” she commanded, “and you, Um-Pig, shout with us too. How can you expect it to go when you don’t frighten it?
“Now then—One, two, three!”
“Sausages!” they shouted at the top of their voices.
“Pork sausages!” Angelina yelled, while Um-Pig stood trembling with emotion.
“It’s gone!” he whimpered. “I felt it go, and I’ve had it for so long. I hope it won’t be angry with me. Do you think I’ll catch a cold now?”
“Cold! What nonsense,” Flip remarked. “Don’t you feel pinker without it?”
“You mean paler?” Um-Pig inquired.
“Yes, if you like; although we felt paler when it was here.”
“We can’t waste any more time,” Angelina interrupted. “Let us go. We must be over the hill by daylight.”
Over the hill was really a pretty place. On the way Angelina, Chum, Flip, and Um-Pig had passed a dusty city. Although they travelled along the outskirts, and the noise and smoke, it still remained an ugly journey. Rows and rows of houses packed closely together, jostling each other for breathing space, and finally blowing their breath up through tall chimneys. Fences and fences with sullen looks, as much as to say ‘‘Hurry up and pass—we’ve no room here for you.” Then the motor-cars that dashed along the road, rushing off to nowhere really; but all so dreadfully mad on getting there in time. And so the first twenty years were passed until “over the hill” was reached. Here, things seemed quieter—just a little; but in place of a packed city wide spaces with a few trees were to be seen. Farm-houses had settled on the earth with a contented look, and cattle lay in the clear sunshine; but, even so, a noisy tractor turned up the soil, disturbing the peace that should have been,
‘‘I should meet my little Joey here,” Angelina said anxiously, looking this way and that.
“Where did you leave him?” Chum asked. “And who is he?”
“Don’t you know—stupid,” Flip remarked. “Haven’t you ever heard of Angelina’s baby?”
“No! Ah, have you a baby? How lovely!” Chum cried excitedly, “I love babies. Can I nurse it?”
‘‘He was so tiny,” Angelina replied. “I must pop him back in my pouch when I find him,”
“Do you think I’ll find my wife and children here?” Um-Pig inquired as he uttered little grunts of delight.
“Did you lose them also?” Chum asked.
“I didn’t exactly lose them. They were taken away from me to be pickled, so I heard.” Poor Um-Pig burst into tears at the memory of the dreadful day.
“Oh, cheer up, Um,” Flip said, hopping on to his friend’s back. “We’re bound to meet them sooner or later—that is, of course, if they were not sewn up in muslin bags and hung up to ‘cure.’”
“Don’t! Don’t! I can’t bear it,” Um-Pig sobbed. “And, by the way, get off my back. Your cold clammy feet give me the shudders.”
“But it’s your turn to carry him,” Chum said with a laugh. “You know he has no shoes and we all have to take our turn.”
“I wish we’d never frightened Smell away,” Um-Pig grunted. “Then he’d never come near me,”
“Stop arguing!” Angelina ordered. “Don’t you remember what Who’s Who said about kindness, and if we are not kind to one another our shoes will start to hurt, and then where will we be?”
“Well, make him sit down and keep still. This hopping about from one spot to another on my back makes me cold all over. If he stays in one place it’s not so bad, as the other places keep warm,” Um-Pig grumbled.
“He’s so bristly I can’t keep still,” Flip complained. “Every time I hop I land on a bristle.”
“Come here!” Angelina said sternly, grabbing Flip by a leg. “Sit in my pouch and stop quarrelling.”
“Well don’t bend so much when you spring—it squashes me up,” Flip retorted.
Angelina promptly cuffed him over the head, and ended any further arguments that may have been developing in his froggy head.
“Where will we find your baby, Angelina? Do you think it is very near?” Chum asked,
“Yes; we’re nearly there; over by that clump of rocks and scrub I lost him. I’m sure he’s waiting. Let us hurry.”
Angelina breathed excitedly as she took extra large leaps. “Did he run away?” Chum asked, rushing along as fast as his shoes would carry him.
“No, no! My dear little Joey would never do that,” Angelina replied. ‘‘One evening we were playing in and out the rocks, while the dear little fellow was learning to jump, and I was so excited and happy that I did not notice a man creeping up with his gun. Oh dear! it was terrible. Bang! went the gun and my poor little baby fell over the rocks—dead,”
“How cruel of the man,” Chum said, shocked almost beyond words, “Will we find him dead?”
“Oh, dear me, no!” Angelina smiled. “We’ve passed the place on the road where he would have been dead. We’re going to the place where we used to romp, and there I’ll find him alive.”
“Will my wife and piglets be there too?” Um-Pig asked excitedly.
“Most likely,” Angelina answered. “How many piglets were there?”
“I really forget,” Um-Pig answered, with a worried frown.
“My wife was always bringing new ones home, and they’d just begin to reach the interesting stage when they’d disappear.”
“You’ll never see them again—they’re bacon and eggs now,” Flip said, popping his head out of Angelina’s pouch as far as it would go.
“You be quiet!” Angelina said, poking his head in again.
“What’s that on top of the rock over there?” Chum cried, pointing to a small animal hopping about.
“It’s my Joey! My little Joey!” Angelina cried with joy, and bounding through the air she reached the rock in a few moments.
Such a greeting took place. Angelina hugging and squeezing her baby while Chum and Um-Pig jumped for joy, Um-Pig looked very comical as his fat podgy little legs hopped about in a most amazing manner.
“I’ll place you in my pouch where you’ll be safe,” Angelina said, picking Joey up by the scruff of his neck. “I’ll take you all the way back to Long Ago where there are no guns.” And so saying she popped Joey in her pouch.
“For the sake of all the frogs in Tim-buck-too let me out!” Flip cried. “I’m smothered and squashed to death.”
“Mummy! Mummy! Take me out,” little Joey called. “There’s something kicking me.”
“’Pon my soul, I forgot Flip was in there,” Angelina exclaimed. “Out you come you nuisance.”
Flip appeared slightly flattened and gasping for breath. “You’ll never put me in your kitchen again,” he said crossly, blinking his large eyes at Angelina.
All this trouble and commotion caused a serious delay, and with a word of advice to Flip upon the way a frog should behave Angelina gave the word to advance.
Another hill was climbed and the top reached from where the travellers gazed down on more grass lands.
“Where are we now?” Chum inquired.
“That place is Forty Years Ago,” Angelina replied. “How pretty everything looks,”
A few old grey houses sat on the grassy slopes. Wisps of smoke straggled upwards from the chimneys, giving the houses a most contented look. There was nothing gay about them. They had passed through the ups and downs of many years, and were now happy to sit there, just opening their windows during the sunshine, and closing them at night when the air grew chilly. Horses trudged homewards with the ploughs. No motor tractors disturbed the peace here, and cattle lay contentedly on Mother Earth’s carpet.
“Do you think my wife and children will be here?” Um-Pig asked. He had been so patient as he trotted along, and now it seemed to him that the time must be near when he’d meet his family.
“We’ll ask at this farm-house,” Chum said as they neared an old home overgrown with creepers.
“You ask,” Um-Pig said nervously.
“Very well,” Chum replied.
The strange little companions went through the gate and up the pathway to the door of the house.
Chum knocked softly on the door. It was opened by an old woman in a grey shawl and white bonnet.
“Good evening!” Chum said, as he saw the startled look on the old woman’s face.
“My goodness me!” she exclaimed, raising her hands in surprise. “What is this? Are you a circus?”
“No, we are travellers on the road to Long Ago,” Chum said, “and we’e looking for Mrs. Um-Pig, Have you seen her anywhere?”
“There’s Bridget down in the sty. Would it be her?” the old woman asked. “But she’s not for sale. We’re fattening her for market.”
Um-Pig caught his breath with fear. If it was his wife he’d have to rescue her. His tail curled and uncurled with agitation.
“Could we have a look at her?” Angelina suggested.
‘‘Well, maybe you can. There’s no harm in that,” the old woman replied. “Come this way.”
She led the way through the house. The table in the kitchen was set for tea. A bowl of junket and a large plate of pancakes made the visitors’ eyes gleam,
“They smell good,” Flip remarked, and instantly received a pinch from Angelina. “Can’t you behave?” she whispered between her teeth.
“What’s that?” the old lady said, placing her hand to her ear as she was slightly deaf.
“I only said we’re all starving and I wish you’d ask us to tea,” Flip replied, looking defiantly at Angelina and hopping out of her way.
“Don’t be rude!” Chum and Um-Pig said in one breath.
“Stay to tea. I’ll be very pleased,” the old woman replied.
“Have you any hundreds and thousands?” Chum politely asked.
“Yes, yes,” the old woman replied. “But they’re all in the bank.”
“She’s a bit dippy!” Flip exclaimed in a low whisper to Um-Pig.
“Did you speak?” the old woman asked, looking from one to the other.
“Yes! Have you any flies, or pork pies?” Flip spoke at the top of his voice.
Poor Um-Pig turned very pale at the mention of pork pies, and Chum rushed for a chair, placing him on it and fanning him with his handkerchief.
“Poor fellow. He looks very seedy,” the old woman remarked. “I’ll get my smelling-salts.”
“Oh! don’t do that please,” Angelina said, “He had the greatest trouble getting rid of his smell. We really couldn’t stand any more of them.”
Um-Pig became paler and paler, while his nose lost its fresh pink look altogether. He closed his eyes and prepared to swoon, “Quick! Quick!” Angelina cried. “He’s fainting.”
“He needs air!” Flip remarked. “Hasn’t any one a fan?” Like lightning Angelina grabbed a pancake and began flapping it in front of Um-Pig. She fanned and fanned until the colour gradually reappeared in the patient’s nose.
“How distressing!” the old woman remarked kindly. “Does he get those turns often?”
“No,” Angelina replied. “But for goodness sake don’t mention anything about pork to him. He’s very sensitive.”
‘‘We’ll have a cup of tea. That will make him feel better,” the old woman said as she helped Um-Pig to the table. “Sit down and help yourselves.”
Such a clatter and jabbering ensued as the little people drew their chairs to the table.
“May I have a little junket for Joey?” Angelina asked very nicely. The bowl was pushed across the table towards her, whereupon she dipped her paw in it and then offered her paw to Joey to lick.
Chum feasted on pancakes, while Um-Pig just sipped his cup of tea between deep grunts.
“He’s off his oats,” Flip remarked loudly,
“You’ll be off your chair in a minute if you don’t behave,” Angelina threatened.
“Have you any good recipes?” the old woman asked Chum.
“Yes, I know how to make boiled eggs,” Chum replied proudly.
“No! No! I mean recipes” the old woman said hastily. “You know—thing’s to eat for supper. My husband will be home soon, and I’ve been trying to cook his supper all day.”
“What are you making?” Chum asked, anxious to help.
“It hasn’t turned into anything yet. I don’t know whether to fry it or grill it,” the old woman said in a worried voice,
“I’d boil it if I were you,” Chum advised.
“What kind of a thing are you trying to make?” Angelina inquired.
“Toad in a hole!” the old woman answered.
Yip! A loud creak that sounded very like a scream came from Flip. He sprang in the air with fright and came down splash— right in the middle of the junket bowl.
“Pigs and frogs!” the old woman exclaimed in horror, while chairs were tipped over as every one tried to rush from the table. Joey fell out of his mother’s pouch, was quickly grabbed and poked in again, while Um-Pig caught one of his legs in the table-cloth, dragging everything on to the floor—Flip and the junket included.
“Dear—dear—” the old woman exclaimed when she had recovered from the shock, “this is most upsetting,”
“I think we’d better go,” Chum said politely.
Flip in the meanwhile had hopped outside, as he feared the look in Angelina’s eyes.
“May I see Bridget before we go?” Um-Pig asked.
“Yes, of course. We were on our way to see her when the tea-party took place,” the old woman said, bustling through the doorway, She took a lantern down from a nail on the wall, lit it, and showed the way down to Bridget’s apartment.
“Pooh! I don’t think that’s your wife,” Chum said as they drew near the sty.
“Why?” Um-Pig asked anxiously.
“I think this pig is a very common one,” Chum replied.
“Why?” Um-Pig asked again, looking very puzzled.
“Don’t you notice anything?” Chum asked, feeling very uncomfortable.
“No, do you?” Um-Pig replied.
“What colour was your wife?” Chum inquired.
“A beautiful pale pink,” Um-Pig said proudly.
“Well, I’m sure it’s not her, A beautiful pale pink pig would have a beautiful pale pink—smell.” Chum whispered the last word very quietly until it sounded very small.
‘‘Oh! I understand,” Um-Pig said, sniffing the air. “I’m sure that’s not her now. I’m sure that’s a black pig.”
“Here she is!” the old woman said, raising her lantern over the sty. “Bridget, I’ve a surprise for you. Your husband has come to see you,”
A loud raucous grunt came from the sty.
“I don’t think I’ll come any closer,” Um-Pig said nervously. “My wife hadn’t a grunt like that.”
Another grunt came from the sty louder than before.
“She wants to see you,” the old lady said. “Do come and say something to her.”
“I will,” Flip croaked, and before any one could stop him he had hopped on to the rails of the sty.
“You’re not Mrs. Um-Pig, and it’s time you were made into pork and beans.”
“Oh!” every one gasped, while grunt after grunt came from the sty.
“Let us run away,” Um-Pig whispered to Chum and Angelina. It needed no second bidding, as already the little people were running and hopping towards the gate. Outside Angelina paused. “We can’t run away like this. We must go back and thank the dear old woman for giving us our supper,”
“I hate junket and I’m not going back,” Flip remarked.
“Nor me!” Um-Pig rejoined. “I don’t feel well, and besides —she might make me look at that pig!”
“I’ll go back and thank her,” Chum said. “Wait for me. I won’t be a minute.”
Back to the cottage door he ran and tapped lightly.
The old woman opened it,
“Thank you very much indeed for the nice supper,” Chum smiled.
“I was glad of the company,” the old woman replied. “When you call again do bring me a recipe of seedy-cake. I’ve lost mine.”
“I’ll get one in Long Ago for you,” Chum answered, and waving good-bye hurried down the pathway to his friends. All night long they travelled the road, passing the fifty-years post towards dawn. Many possums came out from the trees to peer at the strangers. They were happy little creatures, unafraid and trusting, for back in Fifty Years Ago man had not been so ruthless, or perhaps he was too busy farming his land to take much notice of little possums.
“Where will we meet the koalas?” Angelina inquired of one.
“Not far from here,” he replied. “If you go to the sixty-years land you’ll meet many.”
“I’ll meet all my friends there too,” Angelina said. “We’ll find shelter and food as well.”
“Junket and Mrs. Um-Pig?” Flip inquired.
A stony silence greeted his remark.
Flocks of sheep grazed on the country-side, while the birds in the trees sang for the very joy of being alive. No bird cages and traps were along the road to Sixty Years Ago. The kookaburras laughed their loudest, the magpies carolled, the wee finches came close to the travellers, looking at them most inquisitively. And now—here were the koalas. Dear little things, peeping out of the tall gum-trees, with the most surprised looks on their faces. They had never seen a little boy before, and came closer to have a good look at the stranger.
“Are you Who’s Who’s friends?” Chum inquired.
“Do you mean the kind friend we knew many years ago?” one little koala asked.
“Yes!” Chum answered. “He told me to tell you to go back to Long Ago, Never come any nearer, as man with his guns will kill you “
“Is that what has happened to all our children?” the little koala asked.
“Most of them have been killed. A few are in places called zoos and parks—but none are left in the bush,” Chum replied.
“But we were so many! Surely our children, who were so harmless, could not have been killed,” the little koala said, grasping the limb of the tree very firmly as he peered into Chum’s face.
“They were such stupid men,” Chum said sadly. “They called it ‘sport’ to shoot your children. Now they are sorry, so take Who’s Who’s advice and hide in Long Ago,”
“If we go back farther we will meet the bush-fire, so I think we’ll stay here a little longer until it passes by,” the little koala replied. “All the bush folk will be coming this way shortly for shelter. It is a dreadful fire.”
“Did the koala say something about a bush fire?” Angelina asked anxiously.
“Yes! Isn’t it terrible—what will we do?” Chum said in a frightened voice.
‘I’ll dig in,” Flip remarked; “but what will we do with Um-Pig? I don’t like crackling; perhaps Chum does.”
“This is no time to be cheeky, Flip,” Angelina said crossly. “We must hurry on to the river and lie in the water until the fire passes over. Poor little Joey will be so frightened.”
“Could I carry him for you?” Chum asked.
“I think he’s safer in my pouch. He will have protection there,” Angelina said.
Um-Pig hurried along with his companions, all eager to reach the river in time for safety.
Over the hills a great pall of smoke hung low in the sky.
Sparks and flames shot up reddening the clouds, and great trees crashed to the earth with a mighty roar.
The air was suffocating,
“Hurry, hurry,” Angelina cried as they raced along.
The river was not far away, but every moment seemed a very long time to the frightened little people.
At last, reaching the river-bank, Chum fell on his knees, too tired to go any farther. Just for a moment he rested as the great flames across the water crept nearer and nearer.
“Quickly Chum! Follow me,” Angelina panted.
Um-Pig trotted and galloped as fast as he could, while Flip hopped by mistake on to his back instead of on to Chum’s shoulder, as he had intended to do.
“Your crackling’s getting hot!” he exclaimed with a loud croak.
Um-Pig gave a frightened squeal and fell head over heels into the river. Fortunately the river was shallow, so he just lay there on his back, his four legs in the air, grunting deeply as the cool water ran over his body.
Flip, of course, was glad to be in the water, and dived down into a crevice between two rocks.
Chum and Angelina crouched down in a pool, Joey was safe in his mother’s pouch.
To those of you who have never seen a bush fire it will be hard to imagine the terror of such a scene, and the anguish that accompanies it. Both for animals and birds. We will say nothing about the feelings of human beings, for they, at least, can usually find some means of escape. But just picture, if you can, thousands of birds racing ahead of the flames, leaving their nests and babies behind; animals, in hundreds, fleeing with pathetic eyes from the horror. Wallabies and kangaroos are the most fortunate, and the emu too, for they at a pinch can run and hop at fifty or sixty miles an hour. A bush fire with the wind behind it will travel at alarming speed, especially over grassy plains. What chance have the koalas and possums in such an event as this? The poor wombats dig their tunnels a little deeper and take cover until the fire is past; but then, when that danger is over, where are they to look for food? Everything has been burnt, A few roots may be dug up certainly, but that is poor fare. The snakes and lizards crawl under rocky ledges, mostly to be roasted alive, while the insects die in millions. If you understand a little of the terrors of the bush fire you will realize the feelings of Chum, Angelina and Co. There, in the midst of the heat and smoke, they looked towards the other side of the river, watching the flames advancing at terrific speed.
“We must lie down in the water as soon as the fire reaches the other bank,” Angelina said quietly. “It may not cross the river.”
Just as she finished speaking, above the roar of the flames another noise could be heard. Thump! thump! thump!
It came nearer and nearer. Then suddenly—dozens and dozens of wallabies and kangaroos bounded into the river. Dingoes came too—howling pathetically—and even a few little koalas and possums. Flocks of parrots flew overhead. They were safe. Their screeching told of the terror in their hearts. The animals cried with fright, pushing and jostling one another in vain attempts to find safety. They waded across the shallow waters until they surrounded Chum and Angelina. Um-Pig scrambled to his feet, astonished beyond grunts to find himself in the centre of strange animals. A pale pink pig surrounded by coughing and jabbering creatures was a strange sight; but none seemed to notice the pig, so great was their terror. Flip peeped out from between the rocks and puffed up a few bubbles.
“This being a frog is not so bad after all,” he thought. “Now, what if I’d been a pound of butter?”
Angelina was very worried, for little Joey felt the heat in her pouch, and scratched impatiently to hop out,
“Keep still!” she said softly, “for just a little while longer.”
“But it’s so stuffy in here,” Joey wailed; “can’t I just poke my nose out.”
“Let him poke his nose out,” Chum pleaded. “It’s awful to be in bed with hot blankets over you.”
“No!” Angelina said with a stern look in her eyes. “If I let him poke his nose out, that means his paws come next, then his tail and all of him.”
“Oh, very well; you know best,” Chum said with a sigh as he looked at the kicks in Angelina’s pouch; “but I’m afraid he’ll burst you if you don’t. Are you done up with hooks and eyes or zippers?”
“I really don’t know,” Angelina replied, with a worried look at her pouch; “but I wish I had a sheet of brown paper and string with me at this moment.”
“Whatever for?” Chum exclaimed.
“I’d wrap Joey up in it,” Angelina replied impatiently.
An extra large kick from her pouch caused her to hop with surprise, and then—out bounded Joey.
“He’s out! He’s out!” Chum called in alarm.
Angelina made a swift swoop with her paw, grabbing Joey just as he was preparing to jump again.
“Of all the trying children,” she sighed. “What am I to do?”
At that moment, when everything seemed to be at its very worst, a loud clamour arose from the animals.
“Look! Look!” Chum cried, clapping’his hands. “The fire is turning.”
Could it be true? Yes, it was turning. As so often happens, the wind had changed round in the opposite direction, and slowly but surely, the fire was creeping back from where it came, licking up the few remaining green things it had missed in its mad rush towards the river. It appeared like some hungry dragon, turning to devour the victims that had eluded its grasp in its first awful swoop.
Excitement broke out among all the animals. They were saved. Not understanding why or how the wonderful happening had taken place, they leaped in and out of the water, knocking each other over in their joy.
Um-Pig stood dazed, in a pool that reached his knees (or knuckles we say when alluding to pork, but don’t let him hear you). This hopping and bounding over his head and body made him feel quite giddy, and his tail seemed to be quite uncomfortable as it curled and uncurled like a corkscrew.
Chum and Angelina came running down to where he stood, Joey held tightly down in the pouch again.
“How are you, Um-Pig?” Chum asked.
Um-Pig grunted weakly as he struggled out of the water. Close on his heels came Flip, as fresh and cool as any frog could be.
“He looks like cooked ham to me!” Flip remarked, eyeing Um-Pig all over.
“Oh—oh—Please don’t say that,” Um-Pig wailed,
“I wish we’d left you with Who’s Who,” Angelina remarked, frowning at Flip. “You’ve been the rudest frog all the time.”
“Let us pretend he’s not here,” Chum said.
“A very good idea,” Angelina answered.
“When are we going on again?” Um-Pig asked, anxious to get away from the crowd of strange animals.
“We can’t go on for some time,” Angelina answered. “The ground will be too hot to travel over.”
“And who wants to eat grilled pig’s trotters?” Flip shouted rudely.
“Can’t we do something to stop him?” Chum asked, patting Um-Pig’s nose.
“It’s a pity he was not on the other side of the river when the wind changed,” Angelina remarked, “then he would have been left cross-eyed, or his eyes would have turned inside out”
“That would be handy,” Flip said coolly. “I’d be able to see what the flies were doing that I swallowed for lunch.”
“Don’t speak to him again,” Chum said, turning his head away.
“We can’t sit here for days and days,” Um-Pig said wisely. “What are we to do?”
“I know!” Chum exclaimed. “We can follow the river down to the edge of the fire and then continue our journey.’”
“That’s a good idea,” the little people cried together; Flip also.
“You’re not coming with us,” Chum said crossly.
“I am,” Flip replied. “You just wait and see.” With a hop he splashed back in the water.
“Quickly—let’s go while he’s away,” Um-Pig said with a relieved look on his face.
“I’m sure Who’s Who wouldn’t like us to leave him behind,” Angelina said in a worried voice, “but he deserves it. Anyway, we can’t wait for him, so he’ll have to stay there.”
Nobody noticed what was hopping to Chum’s coat as it lay on the grass behind him, and in fact it was nearly forgotten in the excitement of starting. It was a new coat that Grandpa had given him.
“Aren’t you taking your coat?” Um-Pig asked Chum as they made a start. He was a thoughtful old pig.
“Dear me, I nearly forgot it,” Chum said picking it up. “I really don’t need it, I’d much rather run without a coat on.”
“Perhaps you would be kind enough to loan it to me. I’ve a headache,” Um-Pig remarked.
“Of course you may have it,” Chum said kindly. “Wait a moment while I spread it over your head.”
Um-Pig stood patiently while Chum arranged the coat, tying the sleeves underneath his chin.
“You do look sweet. It suits you beautifully,” he said, patting the coat down at the back.
“It is most restful,” Um-Pig replied with gratitude, “although it’s a little bit heavy on one side.”
“P’raps you’ve a bigger headache on that side,” Chum remarked sympathetically.
“I don’t suppose you have an aspro?” Um-Pig inquired. “Who’s Who used to take them when his thinking made his head ache.”
“I’m sorry,” Chum replied. ‘‘Grandpa used up all he had before I left—and besides, I’ve never had a headache.”
“You’ll feel better when you get away from this smoke and heat,” Angelina said cheerfully. “Now, are we ready? Well, let us start.”
Um-Pig gave a last look at the river where Flip had disappeared.
“I don’t like to leave without him, although he’s been so rude to me,” he said with a catch in his voice.
“He’ll be quite happy there,” Chum replied. “He has all the river to himself and lots and lots to eat,”
“I’m really glad he’s gone,” Angelina chimed in. “He would be a bad influence for Joey later on. I must think of his future, and he’d be sure to pick up all Flip’s rude remarks. My word—if Joey ever told me I looked like cooked ham, I’d—I’d—”
Angelina was beyond further words, so bounded away in great haste. She was “all worked up.”
Away the little people went, down the river, following its course for many miles, until the edge of the fire was reached. Farther on they went, looking for a shallow place to cross.
A strange noise attracted their attention. It was ahead, still farther down the river. Voices rose every now and again, then the sound of tin cans. Tin cans could be doing anything, as their noise is always a mystery until it is explained. Then it is a simple matter as a rule, with a big noise.
“Whatever can it mean?” Chum asked, his eyes very wide open with surprise.
The voices became louder as the little travellers advanced— men’s voices—some laughing—some growling, but all in a feverish excitement by the sound of things.
“Hide Joey,” Chum whispered. “They’re men.”
“Ah, how dreadful,” Angelina sighed. “Where can we be? I thought we’d left men behind us.”
“And nags too!” cried Flip, as he hopped from the pocket of Chum’s coat and landed in front of Um-Pig.
“Upon my soul!” Angelina cried.
“Shiver my timbers!’’ Chum laughed.
“I knew I had a badder headache one side,” Um-Pig said mournfully, looking at Flip.
“There’s a fine view from the pocket, and it’s a very comfortable place to sit in,” Flip croaked loudly. “But I got sick of looking over Um-Pig’s nose.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll have to put up with you again,” Angelina said.
“He’s not riding in the coat again,” Um-Pig growled and grunted.
“I don’t want to, I’m off to see the prospectors,” Flip replied.
“Prospectors!” Angelina said with surprise. “Have we travelled so far? Why! We’re in Eighty Years Ago.”
“Prospectors!” Chum repeated. “Why, what are they, Angelina?”
“They are the men who hunt for gold—goodness knows why. They can’t eat it,” Angelina said with a sniff.
“Do you think we could have a look at them? I’d love to see ‘prospectors,’” Chum said with excitement.
“We could creep along the river-bank very quietly, and see what they’re doing. But don’t cough or sneeze, as they’d chase us at once if they saw us,” Angelina replied. Quietly creeping along the bank through the undergrowth the travellers drew nearer and nearer to the prospectors. Then, turning a bend of the river, the whole busy scene lay before them. Hundreds of men were working, digging among the rocks, shovelling dirt into tin dishes they held in their hands, then washing it in the water. Intense interest seemed to surround this last process, as men gazed earnestly into the dishes when the washing was done.
“Fancy looking at mud!” Um-Pig said with a scornful grunt.
“You’d rather bathe in it I suppose,” Flip remarked.
“Now, don’t start again, please,” Angelina sighed, “Besides, they’re not looking for mud. They’re looking for gold.”
Occasionally a man threw his hat into the air and called out at the top of his voice: “Luck! Luck! Gold!” Then a mad scramble ensued. All rushed to look in the dish. Some laughed, some growled, then turned back to their own picks and shovels with more haste than ever.
“It seems so silly to me!” Chum exclaimed.
“Grandpa has told me about these men. He said some became very rich; but they did not keep their riches. They wasted them thinking they could go back and find more gold. He said many of them were disappointed and decided to give up gold-digging and farm the land instead.”
“Was your Grandpa a farmer?” Um-Pig inquired curiously, screwing up one eye and looking at Chum intently with the other.
“Yes, he was,” Chum replied.
“Well, don’t mention his name again, please,” Um-Pig said shortly. “My wife and I and the piglets belonged to a farmer once, and I have very vivid recollections of that farmer’s fat face looking at me over the walls of our sty for hours at a time, sometimes discussing us with a neighbour. I became sick of it all. They talked and talked and gazed and gazed,”
“What for?” Chum inquired,
Um-Pig gave a disgusted grunt, “What for! Why, I’d hear these words, ‘That one over there in the corner is a fine porker, and the one next to him will bring a few shillings.’ I knew what that meant!”
“What?” Chum asked, full of curiosity.
“Bacon and eggs!” Flip croaked rudely.
Ignoring his remark Um-Pig said in a low voice:
“It meant a bereavement in our family,”
“How dreadful,” Chum murmured sorrowfully.
“What’s a bereavement?” Flip asked, appearing to be very interested in the story.
“It means someone is dead,” Chum explained. “When Grandma died people called her deceased.”
“I knew pigs were diseased,” Flip said, with a satisfied look on his face.
“D-e-c-e-a-s-e-d—” Chum replied angrily. “Hop away or I’ll pinch you where your tail ought to be—then you’ll hop,”
“I wish we could get rid of him,” Um-Pig sighed.
“We’d better hurry on our way instead of quarrelling,” Angelina remarked, “or we’ll find ourselves lost.”
“How will we cross the river?” Chum inquired.
“There should be a bridge somewhere near,” Angelina replied. “Men always build bridges as soon as they come to a river,”
So farther on the little travellers walked, very quietly, watching the men as they went, fearful lest they should make the slightest noise and attract attention.
It was just as Angelina said. As they left the gold-diggers behind, many tents came into view, and a small bridge made from rough logs spanned the river in front of them.
“They’ll see us crossing the bridge,” Chum said in a whisper.
“No, they are all too busy looking for gold,” Angelina replied. “We’ll cross now, before they come to their tents for tea,”
Very carefully they crossed, one by one. It was an easy matter for them all, except Um-Pig. His feet slipped this way and that, causing the others to hold their breath in alarm. He seemed to make such a clatter.
“Pity he hasn’t rubber tyres on his trotters!” Flip said as he hopped over Um-Pig’s back and landed right in front of him, giving Um-Pig such a fright, that he very nearly lost his balance and toppled over into the river.
Chum and Angelina waited on the river-bank, having crossed safely, and were now softly calling advice to Um-Pig.
“Don’t look at the water. Look straight ahead, then you won’t get giddy,” Chum advised.
“Use your tail for a balance,” Angelina called. But Um-Pig’s tail was too busy twirling this way and that to hear the advice. It seemed to be very agitated, while the look on its owner’s face was enough to frighten ten tails.
“Oh, come on, come on!” Angelina said rather impatiently. “We’ll never get on at this rate.”
Um-Pig made a desperate spurt, and with a loud grunt stumbled off the end of the bridge and fell with a thud on the grass. No! not in the river as I am sure you all expected.
It was a great relief to all, now that the ordeal was over, and full of good spirits they proceeded up the track and past the men’s tents. But danger lay ahead. The last tent happened to belong to the cook, and sounds very disquieting came from that direction. A knife was being sharpened. Smoke curled up from a fire outside the tent door, and a large black pot hung over the flames.
“Don’t breathe!” Angelina whispered, “or we’ll all be wallaby soup.”
“Speak for yourself!” Flip whispered back, hopping behind Angelina so that he could not be seen. Angelina was overcome with rage. She gave one of her hind legs a terrific kick and sent Mr Flip flying through the air, only to land on Um-Pig’s back “Oh! Oh! Save me!” Um-Pig squealed. He had no idea what had happened and became quite unnerved.
Um-Pig’s squeal of distress was disastrous.
The cook poked his head out of the tent; his eyes nearly fell out with amazement at the sight in front of him.
“Well, if this doesn’t beat the band!” he exclaimed, coming out into the open.
“A little boy, a wallaby, a frog, and a PIG! Won’t the boys be delighted with their dinner!”
“Wallaby-tail soup! Frog’s legs and roast pork! Now—if only I had a few apples for sauce!”
“But you can’t kill them!” Chum protested loudly, “They are my friends and they’re taking me home to Long Ago,”
“What nonsense!’’ the cook exclaimed. “Whoever saw a little boy with such strange friends—and Long Ago, where is that?”
“Away over the hills,” Angelina said very excitedly. She’d poked Joey right down as far as he’d go in her pouch,
“There’s nothing way back there,” the cook said scornfully, “only miles and miles of timber and a few rough roads.”
“I know, I know, and that’s where we have to go,” Angelina cried. “Who’s Who told us about it.”
“Who’s Who!” the cook said, looking more bewildered than ever. “I think you’re all a bit mad—that’s what I think.”
“You’re mad yourself!” Flip croaked, as he hopped right m front of the cook.
“What’s that?” the cook roared. “You, an impudent frog, to talk to me like that!”
And stretching out his big boot he tried to squash Flip.
“Fidgets!” Flip exclaimed, as he hopped in the air just a second too soon for the big boot. “You’re a bad tempered man.”
“I’ll eat you myself when I catch you,” the cook yelled as he grabbed empty spaces where Flip had been a moment before. Away he raced, round the back of the tent and into the undergrowth, quite forgetting in his rage Chum, Angelina, and Um-Pig.
“Quickly! Quickly! Let us run,” Chum said, terrified at the thought of what might happen to them when the cook came back.
“Use your trotters,” Angelina said excitedly to Um-Pig, “and for goodness sake don’t stumble.”
As fast as ever a pig could run, Um-Pig did. Chum and Angelina raced ahead in a breathless flight.
“Don’t bump so much,” Joey whimpered from inside his mother’s pouch; but Angelina was too frightened to take notice of his complaints.
Um-Pig panted along behind, crashing into bushes and trees, until all were thoroughly exhausted and flung themselves on the ground for rest.
“I think we’re safe!” Angelina gasped.
“What about poor Flip?” Chum said with tears in his eyes.
“He’ll take care he’s not caught,” Angelina replied. “Flip will be here soon, if I know anything about him.”
In the meantime Flip was having a most exciting time. In and out of the bushes he hopped, closely pursued by the cook, who used the most dreadful words Flip had ever heard.
“I’ll bake you to a cinder when I catch you,” he roared as he fell headlong over a stump.
“When you do!” Flip called back cheekily, as he made straight back to the river. By the time the cook had regained his feet and breath, Flip was safely under the water. There he lay until night-fall, puffing up a few bubbles now and then, and occasionally poking his head out of the water to see if all was clear. The cook still walked around his tent and fire, looking over his shoulder every few minutes, and growling loudly. All his fine menu had vanished, and all through a frog!
As night fell, Flip hopped out of the water and up to the cook’s tent. At a safe distance he stood and looked inside. There stood the cook, a big knife in his hand, demonstrating to a number of men how he would have killed a fat pig for supper.
Roars of laughter greeted his actions, and Flip, bursting with merriment, croaked his very loudest. Out dashed the cook, waving his knife as he came, followed by all the men, who were anxious to see the fun.
“Slippery legs! I’ll get you for supper, and if it’s too late I’ll get you for breakfast.” But it was too dark for the cook to follow Flip. He raged and made a fearful noise, and produced nothing.
Flip went like the wind. Things were just a little too exciting for him, and following the trail through the bush, chiefly made by Um-Pig, he came upon his friends, who were by now in a state of grief. So long it seemed to them that Flip had been away, that all thought the same thing—he had been cooked for dinner.
With a last extra springy hop, intending to land on Um-Pig’s back of course, he misjudged his distance, probably on account of puffing so hard all the way, and to his own surprise landed on Um-Pig’s tail, which happened to be curled at the moment.
“Ugh!” Um-Pig screamed. “My tail’s unhooked.”
“You’re lucky it’s still uncooked!” Flip croaked, and he grinned at Chum and Angelina who stood open-mouthed, too surprised to say anything for an instant.
“It’s Flip!” Chum said, clapping his hands a moment later. “We thought you were killed.”
“What a relief!” Angelina sighed with a big breath.
“Don’t put him in here,” Joey piped, popping his tiny head out of the pouch.
“And for glory’s sake get off my tail!” Um-Pig growled as he gave that part of his anatomy a savage flick.
“Beg pardon!” Flip replied as he was whisked on the ground. “I thought it was a corkscrew!”
The little travellers were tired. Eighty years was a long way to travel, and their little feet ached.
“When we reach the top of this hill we will see Long Ago in the distance,” Angelina said as they plodded up the steep side of a thickly timbered hill.
“Do you think they will know us in Long Ago?” Chum asked. “We’ve been away for so long.”
“The people of Long Ago don’t forget,” Angelina said consolingly. “They are so kind and thoughtful. Everything is quiet there—no noises, no rushing, no smoke and dust, just peace and the beautiful hills with clear streams where my friends drink.”
With these words of encouragement the little travellers pushed ahead until the top of the hill was reached. What a wonderful sight met their eyes. At the foot of the hill a rough road wound its way through the tall trees. Over ground that rose sharply and then fell away in a flowing curtsy, the road ran on. Through open spaces that rolled and swelled on a velvety covering of green, dappled with brown and ochre. On and on the road ran, sometimes lost to view as it greeted the tall trees of the forest, then plunging ahead through a curtain of dense purple and green it suddenly reappeared, dipping farther away into a silver stream that twinkled in the sunlight. A violet haze on the horizon gradually enveloped the road and there, all mystery, lay Long Ago.
Standing on top of the hill, the little group looked pathetic and strange. It was such a big world to gaze upon, and each wondered what wonderful things lay ahead. Would Angelina meet her friends, or had they gone farther back, perhaps into Very Long Ago. That would be sad, after travelling so far. And would little Chum meet his mother and father? They must have missed him and had probably grown tired of looking and waiting for him. Um-Pig had his own private thoughts. They were very private, so we won’t probe into those piggy thoughts.
“I hope they still have a few mosquitoes and flies left,” Flip said thoughtfully. “I’ve no time for fly-papers and sprays. The people in Who’s Who’s land never think of frogs. Sprays! You’ve no idea how a fly tastes after it’s been sprayed. Have you tried one?” Flip looked at Chum with a worried frown.
“No, I haven’t, and I don’t want to,” Chum said shortly.
“Well, have you tasted a mosquito that’s been living in a pool all puddled up with kerosene?”
“No, I haven’t; and please don’t ask me any more stupid questions,” Chum replied, giving Flip a push.
“They’re ghastly!” he croaked. “I feel I want to be sick just on this patch of grass when I think of them.”
Um-Pig jumped up with a startled squeal from the particular patch of grass that Flip had his eyes on. “He’s disgusting!” Um-Pig growled, looking maliciously at Flip.
“We can’t stay here arguing,” Angelina interrupted. “Flip, you go ahead; then perhaps we’ll travel in comfort.”
“I’m the rear-guard,” Flip said, hopping behind Um-Pig, “and besides, I like the back view of Um-Pig’s tail. It’s very inspiring.”
“Ah! Come on, leave him alone,” Chum said, making a dash at Flip—and he caught him.
“Great blue-bottles!” Flip gasped. “Don’t pinch me.”
“You impudent cold flipper!” Chum said crossly. “You’ll stay in my hands now—” but zip!—and off hopped Flip, croaking indignantly.
“Leave him! Leave him!” Angelina advised as she bounded down the hill, Chum and Um-Pig following close behind, and the rearguard hopping as close to Um-Pig’s feet as he dared.
“Don’t kick up such a dust,” he complained, as Um-Pig’s feet galloped ahead.
The descent of the hill was rapid, and soon the travellers found themselves close to the road.
Wheel-ruts in the dust caused a little consternation to them. What could it mean? They were in Ninety Years Ago, and from the top of the hill nothing had been seen on the road; but here were the marks telling that somewhere ahead man was travelling, and all gaiety fled from the little group as they peered along the road.
“They may have passed many weeks ago,” Angelina said slowly, examining the wheel-ruts. “There has been no rain for some time to wash away the marks.”
“How do you know?” Flip inquired.
“Well, you haven’t given us a croaking concert since we started, and if you’re a real frog you’d have had to croak whether you wanted to or not.”
“True—” Flip replied. “My skin has been particularly dry since we started. I always know when rain is near, as my skin softens when the air becomes moist.”
“I think your intelligence does too!” Um-Pig grunted.
Good gracious! Every one blinked and looked at Um-Pig. What was happening to him? As a rule he could not think of anything nasty to say—that is, in time,
‘‘Well—how about these wheel-ruts?” Flip said, turning the conversation from himself.
“They are past; anyway, that is some comfort,” Chum rejoined. “We can follow them. Perhaps they will lead us to Long Ago.”
So setting out again they hurried ahead.
The Ninety-five Years land was reached, and what a surprise for the little people! Just where the road entered the tall trees a bullock-team grazed upon the grass skirting the edge of the forest. Farther on a man was chopping down timber to complete the rough home that stood half-finished. Slabs of rough wood had been put up to make a shelter for himself and his family. Openings in the side of the hut were left for windows and doors, while the chimney was in course of erection, that being made of mud and stones. Further slabs provided the roof. The floor was of mud. No such things as mats and rugs gave comfort to this dwelling. It was a pioneer’s. A few goats straggled about, as if too timid to venture far from the man and his home, while three little children played and sang, running in and out of the hut, chasing one another, totally unaware that others were watching.
A woman came to the doorway, flung a few grains of corn to fowls waiting expectantly, as fowls always do, then looking up at the sky, her eyes shaded from the sun by her hand, she laughed, turned, and re-entered the hut singing happily.
“Keep away. Let us go around to the back of the hut,” Angelina warned. “They would make a rug of my skin, and brushes from Um-Pig’s bristles if they caught us.”
“Oh dear, I thought we would be quite safe in this land,” Chum sighed. “I wish men didn’t want to kill so much and make so many things.”
Into the bush they crept out of sight, and slowly made the circuit round the clearing. Then on once more into country that was silent and undisturbed. Flocks of parrots, families of magpies and all other birds known so well to the bush of Long Ago greeted the little people as they hurried on.
What was that strange object in the distance? Something grey, that moved very slowly, stumbling, then going on with a weary movement.
“It must be a very old friend of mine,” Angelina said as she stood still, watching the grey object. “Only my friends hop; this thing is walking,’’
“Could it be my wife?” Um-Pig asked, as he too stopped to gaze at the curious object, raising a front leg to shield his eyes from the glare of the road.
“Perhaps it’s Flip’s wife grown very large,” Chum suggested.
“I’m a bachelor!” Flip replied indignantly.
“Well, perhaps it’s old Grandpa come back to Long Ago,” Chum answered.
The grey object sat down beside the roadway, looking this way, then that.
“We’d better hide,” Chum said in a frightened voice,
“No, there is no need to hide now,” Angelina replied happily. “We are just about to enter the land of Long Ago, and every -one is kind there. They hurt nobody. Can’t you see how happy the birds are, how gaily they sing, and see—there are animals all round us.”
It was as Angelina said: animals were everywhere. In the bush, the grass, and the trees. Flying squirrels were very busy (it looked like shopping day as they bustled from one tree to another), possums, koalas, wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, and the tiny rat-kangaroo, all were to be seen. They looked at the little travellers with curiosity and one big wallaby actually came up to Angelina and smelled her nose. Angelina returned the compliment, then her friend hopped away.
“Oh, you should just have seen how funny you looked,” Chum remarked, as he and Um-Pig looked on with amusement. Flip was interviewing a tree frog who had a great deal to say, if croaking is any sign of frog conversation, and of course it is.
‘‘That was my mother-in-law,” Angelina explained. “She told me my husband is still waiting for me in Long Ago.”
“Well, we’d better hurry,” Chum said excitedly. “He might hop away if we don’t.”
The small grey figure slowly moved down the road towards the travellers, until he could be distinguished. A bent old man in grey tattered clothes, with a bunch of rosemary clasped in his withered hands, greeted them with a smile.
“Welcome! My little friends,” he said quietly. “I’ve waited a long, long time to greet you.”
“We’re glad to see you,” Angelina replied. “But who are you?”
“Why! Have you forgotten me? Don’t you remember that I’m the Spirit of Long Ago? I wait here day after day to greet those who come back. I read their faces, and some I have to turn away. They have been cruel to the birds and animals while living over the hills. I could never allow them to enter Long Ago, as we have so many bush folk there and it is my duty to help to protect them.”
“I’ve never hurt even a fly,” Chum said clasping his hands.
“Didn’t you ever swat one?” Flip asked frowning at Chum.
“Don’t think so. I—I—don’t remember exactly,” Chum replied, fidgeting with his coat while he gazed at the old man very earnestly,
“A fly or two won’t exempt you from entering Long Ago,” he replied. “I must admit flicking a few in my time.”
“I’ve bitten one, but it was annoying me terribly,” Um-Pig said bravely. “If my tail had been longer, and I could have flicked it off, I’d never, never have bitten it.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever killed a fly,” Angelina said.
This interview was most embarrassing.
“How about you, Flip?” Chum asked, looking at him with a “now don’t tell a story” look in his eye.
“N-e-v-e-r! Never in my life have I killed a fly,” Flip replied, ogling Chum with a threatening look.
“O-O-O-H!” They all gasped.
“Well, we won’t talk about flies any more,” the old man said. “They really don’t count, and I can see you are all kind people. Pass along into Long Ago. You will meet all your friends there,”
So the last stage of the journey was nearing completion. Another year passed and the little people found it to be the last. The ninety-nineth year was entered through a gate that hung on rickety hinges, all worn and weather-beaten, while on each side of it grew tall bushes of rosemary. The travellers entered and found themselves in a garden of pansies. Pansies of every colour imaginable. Over the first garden a notice hung. In blue letters the little folk read these words:
KIND THOUGHTS OF LONG AGO
Um-Pig bent his head and sniffed the flowers.
“What are yon doing?” Flip inquired, “You mustn’t smell those—they’re most precious,”
“I’m only trying to sniff some kind thoughts of you up my nose,” Um-Pig replied icily.
Farther along the pathway they came to a garden of roses, then on to forget-me-nots.
Here Flip paused a moment, plucked a bloom, and hopping up to Um-Pig offered him the flower,
“Here’s a ‘don’t you forget me,’” he said meekly; but Um-Pig gave a grunt, tossed his head in the air and trotted on.
The last year was now at an end, and the little people became very quiet as they each thought of what lay behind a high wall in front of them. It was smothered in honeysuckle, while myriads of bees and butterflies fluttered from one bloom to another. The perfume was exquisite. A fragrance of Long Ago itself. There was no gate; but in its place an old, old stile, made from stones, overgrown with the greenest of moss. The stones bore traces of age, as each huddled against its neighbour. They had been together for a hundred years, and no gaps were visible where one might have drawn apart from its companion as if dissatisfied.
Ever so gently Chum, Angelina, and Um-Pig climbed over the stile, for to tread heavily on those stones and hurt the moss was a thing undreamed of.
Flip had other ideas of crossing. Gathering himself in a tense position, he judged the distance for a second and—plop! he sprang right over and into Long Ago. The little people expected to find a place as quiet as quiet could be, but to their surprise things were quite different.
An old white horse stood near the stile. He lifted his head to gaze at the visitors. It was so long since any one had stepped over the stile. He looked at Chum, then flicking his old tail, whinnied softly with delight and trotted up to him.
“Why! It’s old Snowball!” Chum cried, dancing up and down with joy. “I must get on his back; but he’s grown so tall. How am I to get up?”
“Climb on my back first,” Angelina said, “then it will be an easy matter.”
It was not such an easy matter to climb on Angelina’s back as she thought; but eventually Chum succeeded, and Snowball stood patiently alongside waiting for his little master. Once on his back, he kicked up his old heels and away he galloped, right up to the door of a house.
Angelina, Um-Pig, and Flip followed as quickly as they could, while Joey popped his head out to see what all the bumping was about.
The house had once been white, like Snowball; but now it was a pearly grey. Shutters that had vied with the grass in colour bothered no longer about such trifles. They hung higgledy-piggledy against the windows, drowsing in the sun. They never worked now, as their old hinges creaked and were rusty, so opening and shutting was a thing of the past to them. The door that had once known what it was to be slammed in a bushranger’s face now stood quietly open. It never closed at night now, except in the middle of winter, then it felt more comfortable as the cold rain the wind could whip one side only of its old panels. The roof had seen many storms come and go. Each storm tore a few shingles from it, but what did it matter—the old man who lived in the house climbed a ladder the next day and laid a few stones and logs over the gaping rents. The chimney was still proud of itself, and although it had lost that jaunty air it once possessed, it still puffed away content with all its surroundings. Cobbles had fallen, mud had crumbled, and its cowl was sandy black; but it had an air as much as to say ‘I’ll smoke for a good while yet!”
Snowball’s galloping made the rickety old veranda shake with fright, while the clatter of his hoofs brought an excited old lady to the door.
“Chum! Chum!” she cried. “It’s our own little Chum.”
“Oh, Grandma! I’m back—I’ve come back,” Chum exclaimed. “Where are mother and father?”
“Why, they’re down in the garden, waiting for you to return, You’ve been such a long time away. Where is Grandpa?”
“He’s over the hills with his birds. He said he must stay with them until the last one flies away. Don’t you remember? You came with us the day we went for our walk, but you grew so tired Grandma, and you turned home again.”
“I remember, I remember,” the old lady said sadly. “I grew so tired of the journey. The birds and animals were killed. I missed them and longed to come back home.”
“Grandpa will come soon,” Chum said squeezing her old hand. “He says he is tired too.”
“Ah! Then I’ll wait here for him,” the old lady sighed contentedly.
By this time Angelina, Um-Pig, and Flip had arrived, and while listening to Chum, the old lady had not noticed them. Now—she beamed with joy,
“Why! There’s Angelina and little Joey. And Um-Pig, and, ’pon my soul, Flip!”
“Is Claude still down in the paddock?” Angelina asked anxiously.
“Bless you, yes! and if ever a husband missed his wife he has,” Grandma laughed as she stroked Angelina’s nose. “And Joey’s here too! Well, what a surprise for Claude.”
“Are my wife and piglets here?” Um-Pig asked, with an excited grunt.
“You mean Rebecca?” the old lady said clapping her hands with glee. “Of course she’s here. Down by the turnip patch with as many babies as you can count on your trotters twice over.”
Um-Pig gave a squeal of delight, and with a final kick in Flip’s direction galloped off with Angelina and Joey closely following.
“He’s too flighty for words!” Flip said with a scornful croak. “He should have been bacon and eggs years ago.”
“Don’t you want to see your wife?” Chum asked turning to him.
“I told you once before I’m a bachelor,” Flip answered impatiently, “but I’d like to see if that little froglet I used to know called ‘Cutie’ is still in the old tank,”
“She’s there all right, and haven’t I blessed her at night when she’s kept me awake, croaking for you,” the old lady replied with a chuckle.
“Well, I’m off!” Flip called as he hopped away in the direction of the rusty old tank. ‘‘I only hope she’s saved me a few mosquitoes.”
“Take me to mother and father, please Grandma; I’ve missed them so much.”
“Give me your hand, child. I find my eyes are not as good as they used to be, and the cobbles hurt my old feet.”
So together Chum and his Grandma walked down the path to the garden, followed by old Snowball. A man and woman were standing arm-in-arm looking down at a bed of flowers. It had been Chum’s garden, and in it were the plants that all little boys love so much. Even a few radishes had sprung up, not ashamed to be growing amongst the Sweet William, Granny Bonnets, and Dusty Millers.
“Mother! Mother!” Chum cried, running to meet outstretched arms.
“Chum! My little boy,” his mother replied, hugging him tightly, kissing his face and hair. “My little man. Where have you been?”
“Oh, Father,” Chum said between tears and smiles, “I’ve been with Grandpa for a long time; but I had to leave him to come back home again.”
“Dear little chap,” his father said patting his hand gently. “Where is your Grandpa? You and Grandma went with him to gather wild flowers, and as you know Grandma came back. She was tired.”
“I left him to chase a locust and lost my way,” Chum replied. “Angelina found me, and took me to Who’s Who to find out where I lived.”
“And who is Who’s Who?” his father asked.
“I know. I know now!” Chum cried excitedly. “Who’s Who must be Grandpa, and I didn’t know him. He’d, grown so old on the way.”
“Well, we’ll go back to the house and listen to the story you must have to tell us,” his father said as he picked Chum up and, laughing, carried him on his shoulders.
“I knew Chum would come back,” his mother said lovingly, “He is a dear child.”
As they neared the house and looked towards the stile whence Chum had gone so many years ago, two figures appeared, one gently helped an old man over the stones, then waving a grey misty hand turned back the way he had come. It was the Spirit of Long Ago, helping a tired traveller over the last stile of his journey.
The old man came up the path slowly, then pausing for a moment’s rest, looked up and waved his hand.
“It’s Who’s Who!” Chum cried gladly.
“It’s Grandpa!” his mother smiled, waving her hand in welcome.
Project Gutenberg Australia