an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: Blinky Bill Joins The Army
Author: Dorothy Wall
eBook No.: 2301141h.html
Date first posted: October 2023
Most recent update: October 2023
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
View our licence and header
Chapter 1.- The News
Chapter 2.- Soldiers In The Bush
Chapter 3.- The Competition
Chapter 4.- Still The Competition
Chapter 5.- The Gymkhana
Chapter 6.- The Beauty Contest
Chapter 7.- The Winner Of The Beauty Contest
Chapter 8.- A Famous Occasion
Chapter 9.- The Farewell Concert: Part One
Chapter 10.- The Farewell Concert: Part Two
Chapter 11.- Blinky Becomes The Mascot
Once again the bushland was filled with excitement and chatter just as it was a few years ago when the news went round that Mrs. Koala had a baby. You all know Blinky Bill very well by now and again he is the cause of all this excitement.
And what do you think it is all about? You’d never guess. He’s been chosen as the mascot for the Australian soldiers—not to go overseas of course, as that would never be permitted. All koala bears are protected as no doubt you know, and no one, not even Royalty, is allowed to have one.
Why? I can hear you asking. I’ll tell you in a few words the reason.
These dear little creatures are very delicate. They catch cold very easily. So just imagine how quickly they’d die if sent from warm sunny Australia to a cold climate with snow and ice in the winter; and think of the bitter winds. Although the koalas have furry coats and look very cosy in the winter time, their coats would not be nearly warm enough to keep out the cold as a big ground bear’s does.
Apart from their coats, they’d die of hunger, as a koala must have his particular gum leaves for food. Not every gum leaf is suitable, and even in Australia the keepers of the parks where a few koalas are in captivity have a busy time scouring the bush for the particular leaves. They very often have to go miles inland to find the trees. There are very few of these dear little animals left in Australia now; so you see how very careful we must all be to guard and protect them.
The morning when the news went round that Blinky was to be the mascot, broke clear and crisply warm. Blue mists were rising from the hollows in the bush as the sun chased them away. Only on very special occasions were koalas abroad at this hour, for as a rule they played all night and slept all day, tucked away high up on the gum-trees where the warmth of the sun made them very drowsy and comfortable.
This particular morning was an exception. No one was more excited and farther from sleep than Blinky and Mrs. Koala, Nutsy was excited too; but feeling a little bit sad, because she was about to lose her playmate.
“But who told you the news, Mrs. Magpie?” Mrs. Koala was standing on a branch of the tree that was their home, looking very surprised as she listened to Mrs. Magpie’s story.
“No one told me. I heard it with my very own ears,” Mrs. Magpie replied. “I knew something very important was happening the way those telegraph wires were buzzing early this morning. They’ve become a dreadful nuisance lately and I’m thinking of moving to another tree. I rather liked to hear the wires humming when the men first put them up; but ever since the war’s broken out they buzz-buzz-buzz all night long without a minute’s silence. You know, Mrs. Koala, how annoying it is to be awakened just as you’ve gone into a deep snooze.”
“It’s scandalous—simply scandalous,” Mrs. Koala replied sympathetically.
“Well, my dear, that buzzing was extra loud this morning, and Mr. Magpie became so irritable over it, he nearly tossed me out of the nest with his twisting and squirming. At last I decided to get up, as sleep was impossible. I couldn’t sit there doing nothing, so I thought I’d see what all the buzzing was about. Mr. Magpie had always told me not to go near those wires, as they’ve killed more birds than enough. Besides, he said it was none of my business what went on in those wires. Men are so stupid sometimes, aren’t they, Mrs. Koala?”
“Mr. Koala wasn’t,” Mrs. Koala replied. “But go on, Mrs. Magpie, I’m very interested.”
“Well—after making sure Mr. Magpie was dozing, I hopped on to the wire. Certainly I felt frightened, because I did not know if I’d be alive the next moment. But nothing happened, so I put my ear to the wire and imagine my surprise when the very first words I heard were Blinky Bill. I nearly lost my balance… Oh dear! When I think of it now, I might have been—”
“Yes, yes,” Mrs. Koala interrupted, “but you’re still alive. Hurry up and tell me the rest.”
“I discovered that a man in Sydney was speaking to a man in Melbourne, and it appears that your Blinky has been chosen as the Army mascot out of all the hundreds of other animals, birds and insects that were simply dying to be the favoured one.”
“But how … how did it all happen?” Mrs. Koala asked in astonishment. “How did they know of Blinky? He’s never been out of the bush for months now—not since the war started. There must be some mistake.”
Mrs. Koala was pulling a leaf to bits as she gazed at Mrs. Magpie in agitation.
“Didn’t that young rascal tell you all about it?” Mrs. Magpie asked, just as surprised as Mrs. Koala had been.
“Not a word,” Mrs. Koala said rather crossly.
“And you his mother, too!” Mrs. Magpie rejoined, “Well it’s a sure sign he’s growing up when he doesn’t confide in his mother. They all do it, so I wouldn’t worry, Mrs. Koala. You’ll be awfully busy now. I’ve told the news to all our friends in the bush, and they’re preening their feathers and licking their paws and whiskers, making themselves look their very best before they come to offer you their congratulations.”
“That means there’s no sleep for me to-day,” Mrs. Koala replied.
“Of course not; but surely you don’t mind that? It’s such an honour for you to have your son chosen,” Mrs. Magpie said kindly as she began to preen her glossy black and white feathers.
“I’ll have to go and have a word with Blinky.”
Mrs. Koala asked her friend to excuse her for a short time, then climbing the old tree to its topmost branch, she found Blinky curled up in his favourite corner, sound asleep as she thought.
But Blinky was peeping through a half-closed eye under the protection of a furry paw cuddled over his nose. He could tell by the expression on his mother's face that something had happened. Her wrinkles were deeper and her nose was twitching in a funny jumpy way.
“S’pose she’s found out, and now I’m in for a scolding,” thought Blinky to himself, as his mother’s puffs came nearer. She was quite out of breath through climbing so quickly, and then the shock of the news had made her heart thump very loudly.
“Blinky!” she said in a stern voice, looking at her son with a deep frown. He made no reply, not even moving a hair.
“Blinky! wake up,” Mrs. Koala laid a paw on her son’s ear and gave it a sharp tug.
Blinky brushed it aside impatiently and curled his paw tighter than ever around his nose. He even pretended to snore.
“Wake up, Blinky! Wake up at once.” His mother shook him until not even Blinky could go on pretending he was asleep.
“Is the tree on fire?” Blinky asked innocently.
“No. But you’ll feel a bit warmer if you don’t tell me what all this fuss is about,” Mrs. Koala replied crossly.
Blinky sat up, rubbing his eyes and gave a big yawn
“What’s wrong?” he asked, blinking in the sunlight.
“Tell me all about this Army business,” his mother demanded. “Mrs. Magpie has just told me you’ve been chosen for a mascot. What’s the meaning of it all?”
“Gee! Me to be the mascot!” Blinky jumped up and down with excitement. “Gosh! won’t Snubby be mad!”
“Never mind about Snubby—tell me the truth at once. It’s a fine thing when every one in the bush knows all about this and your very own mother knows nothing —nothing.” Then Mrs. Koala began to cry.
“Oh—Gee! mother, I didn’t mean to make you cry and be cross—I kept it all for a surprise. Nutsy doesn’t know either so you’re not the only one in the bush that doesn’t know. You can’t tell girls secrets; they’d only blab.” Blinky stood looking at his mother very sorrowfully as she wiped her tears away with the corner of her apron.
“Is it really true, mother?” he asked timidly.
“Yes—Mrs. Magpie says she heard it over the telegraph this morning and all the bush folk are coming round to shake paws with us. And I don’t know a thing —not a single thing.” Mrs. Koala sat down on the bough with a deep sigh, folding her paws in her lap as she looked forlornly over the bushland.
“I’ll tell you all about it,” Blinky said, ashamed of himself for causing his mother all this worry.
“Sit down,” Mrs. Koala replied, moving along the branch to make room for her son.
Blinky cuddled up against the warm fur of his mother. She put her arms around him, giving him an affectionate pat, and there they sat while Blinky told his story.
I’ll take you away to the scene where all this happened and you can see with your own eyes just exactly what took place.
THE moon was shining brightly, almost as clear as daylight, when Blinky slid down the big gum-tree and scuttled as fast as his funny little legs would take him down the bush track to his favourite haunt. It was in a sheltered hollow with a stream running between banks of bracken and dried undergrowth.
Blinky liked these brown dry places much better than shady moss-covered dips, because the warm stones held all kinds of surprises under them: lizards, spiders, ants, centipedes, and other bush wonders.
The shady places were full of frogs and yabbies— and how he hated yabbies. One had grabbed his paw not long ago when he’d tried to fish it out from the stream. He’d yelled with pain and rage while the yabbie nipped all the harder. And when he shook it off, he found a piece of his paw missing and blood trickling from the wound.
“Cannibals!” he called them, and kept away from their creeks ever since that day.
He loved to play with the frogs. Although the Whoppers were down in the shady places, he found many bright green little ones in the bracken by his own dry place and stream. These he called the Littlies and had great games with them. There was father and mother Littlie and the little Littlies.
Besides the frogs there were the Taddies, They were always great fun.
And the rabbits were there in dozens. The rabbits were great friends of Blinky’s as they were always ready for a romp through the bracken. Best of all they liked playing soldiers.
But the finest soldiers of all were the bull-ants. “Gee! they can fight,” Blinky once told Nutsy, when describing his soldiers to her. ‘‘They kick and spit and shout,” he said, jumping about and trying to imitate his warriors.
“They don’t shout, Blinky,” Nutsy contradicted him. “You know they don’t shout, so I’m not going to get jealous. I don’t want to see your old soldiers.”
“They do shout,” Blinky replied indignantly, “I’ve watched them opening their mouths.”
“Poof! They’re yawning,” Nutsy scoffed, and waddled away to play by herself. “He can keep his old ants,” she growled to herself, “I’d much rather play with Mrs. Wombat’s baby. He doesn’t kick and spit and shout.”
So ever after Blinky had this particular place all to himself. And wasn’t he glad?
Ever since the news of the war had reached the bush folk he’d been extra busy drilling his soldiers. Not every night could he slip away from his mother’s watchful eye; but very very often he did, as Mrs. Koala was getting old and a bit tired of always keeping her son under view. She liked to wander off to other trees and have a chat with old friends. And on these occasions Blinky made the most of his opportunities.
Now, as he ran down the track to his favourite place, he thought of all the drilling those ants and rabbits were to do that night.
The rabbits were expecting him. They sat around in ones and twos, ears pricked, and whiskers gleaming in the moonlight.
“’Evening, soldiers!” Blinky said as he stopped and saluted.
“’Evening, sergeant!” a chorus of small voices replied as paws were raised in salute.
“Any complaints?” Blinky asked sternly.
“Yes, sergeant,” a tiny voice piped.
“What is it?” Blinky demanded gruffly. “Step two paces forward and make the complaint.”
A small grey rabbit with white paws hopped two paces towards Blinky.
“Please sir, Private Cotton-tail pulled out my best and longest whisker to-night and he says he’s going to keep it.”
“Private Cotton-tail!” Blinky shouted, “fall out,”
Private Cotton-tail stepped out looking terribly frightened.
“Have you got that whisker?” Blinky demanded.
One of Private Cotton-tail’s ears immediately flopped down—a sure sign that he was not speaking the truth. He tried to push it up with his paw; but it flopped again.
“Where’s that whisker?” Blinky said, advancing towards the soldier.
“Please, sir, I gave it to Miss Velvet Paws. She’s taking great care of it. She asked me for a keepsake in case I go to the war.” Poor Private Cotton-tail looked very nervous.
“The only way you’ll go to the war is in a tin,” Blinky said angrily. “Why didn’t you pull one of your own whiskers out instead of stealing someone else’s?”
“They’re not as long and shiny,” Private Cottontail replied in a very ashamed voice.
“Come here!” Blinky ordered, shouting in a loud tone.
Private Cotton-tail hopped up to Blinky, his large brown eyes wide with fear.
Blinky made a grab at his whiskers and, giving one a fierce tug, pulled it out.
“Take this to Miss Velvet Paws and bring the other one back!”
“Yes, sir,” Private Cotton-tail replied meekly.
“And when you see Miss Velvet Paws tell her no soldiers in future are allowed to give their whiskers away.”
“Yes, sir.” Private Cotton-tail hopped briskly away only too glad to escape from the giggles of all the other rabbits.
“Fall in!” Blinky commanded.
Immediately all the soldiers formed a column.
“Present arms!” Blinky shouted.
Every rabbit raised a stick and held it across his shoulder.
“Shoot!” the order rang out.
Down came the sticks as the rabbits held them out, each one closing an eye and looking along his gun.
“Stand at ease!”
Every soldier dropped his gun and stood on his four paws.
“Quick march!” Blinky’s order snapped.
Hop, hop, hop, round and round the well worn patch the bunnies went, their white tails bobbing up and down like puff-balls.
Instantly the rabbits stood still.
Blinky watched his soldiers, very proud of them as they gambolled over the rocks, in and out of the bracken and finally disappeared down their burrows.
Clapping his paws together he waited a moment or two and then six little green frogs presented themselves.
“’Evening, soldiers!” Blinky saluted.
“Croak! Croak!” came from six little throats.
“Fall in!” Blinky commanded.
A great deal of leaping and hopping went on, until at last the six little green frogs sat in a line watching with large eyes the furry sergeant with his big brown nose.
“Any complaints?” Blinky asked.
“Croak! Croak! Croak!” one of the frogs replied, hopping up to Blinky, and without permission gave an extra large hop and landed right on one of his large ears.
But Blinky was used to this. He’d found the Littlies much harder to train than the rabbits.
“What’s the matter?” he asked in the deepest voice he could manage.
“Please, sergeant, Hoppy Croak grabbed my biggest fly that had taken me hours to catch—and he’s swallowed it. That’s what’s making him bulge so much.”
“Hoppy Croak, come here,” Blinky ordered.
A fat little frog hopped over to Blinky, ogling him with big round eyes.
“Did you steal Greenie’s fly and swallow it?” Blinky asked severely.
“He gave it to me, sir,” Hoppy Croak answered.
“I never—I only promised him the legs,” Greenie piped.
“Get out of my ear!” Blinky ordered gruffly, flicking Greenie out with his paw.
“Look at his big bulge,” Greenie croaked indignantly.
“That’s a grasshopper,” Hoppy Croak answered.
“Your case is very suspicious,” Blinky said as he looked sternly at the culprit. “After drill you go down to the creek and catch three of the biggest flies and give them to Greenie.”
“Three!” Hoppy croaked in amazement.
“And three grasshoppers!” Blinky replied. “I’m going to make grasshopper soldiers as well as all the others,”
Hoppy opened his mouth and gave six large croaks; then tried to hide behind a tussock of grass. He was puffing with temper.
“Three flies and three grasshoppers! Wait till I get Greenie alone. I’ll give him grasshoppers.”
“Attention!” Blinky was calling out his orders again, so Hoppy had to join the others.
The six little green frogs held up six little blades of grass.
The six little blades of grass were held out in tiny hands as six little croaks swelled from six little green throats.
“Quick march!” Blinky accompanied his order with a rap on the ground.
Hop, hop, hop, over and over they went, jumping stones and small bushes in their strides.
“At the double!” Blinky shouted, and away went the little frogs, hopping like lightning over each other and over everything.
The little frogs squatted on the ground, their throats swelling in and out as they panted from the exertion.
Away they went, like tiny gleams of emeralds flashing in the moonlight, and six tiny splashes told Blinky they’d dived into the stream.
“Gee! I’ll make those grasshoppers jump when I get them,” he said half aloud. “I’ll make them into sentries. I’ll…”
“’Evening, sergeant!” A small voice interrupted Blinky’s thoughts.
“’Evening, corporal!” Blinky replied.
“Any drill to-night, sergeant?” the voice asked smartly.
Blinky was speaking to Corporal Bull-ant, one of his best soldiers.
“Yes, we’ll put them through their paces, corporal,” he replied puffing out his chest and looking his most important look. “Bring out the Blackies first.”
“Right you are, sergeant,” Corporal Bull-ant answered saluting with his antennae. Running out to a large mound of earth, he scratched the top with his hindleg.
In a flash the mound was covered with black bull-ants, all looking for fight on the instant.
“They’re the boys for me!” Blinky said as he watched them muster, “But I’m going to get a big stick all the same.”
Picking up a large stick from the ground he gave the order to march.
A long black column in perfect formation marched past him, each soldier saluting as he went. Not an ant was out of step; not one turned this way or that; every one of them looked straight ahead. And at their side marched the corporal.
“Left, right, left, right,” he chanted.
“Chins up, boys!”
“Halt!” Blinky gave the order.
Two hundred soldier ants never moved a muscle.
“Good soldiers!” Blinky said as he gripped his stick a little tighter. He’d seen them eat up Mrs. Snake a long while ago and he’d never forgotten it. They just might make up their minds suddenly to have a taste of him.
Their shiny bodies glittered rather terribly—they looked so dangerous and brave.
“Present arms!” Blinky called.
Two hundred bull-ants curved their stings over their backs.
And a tiny drop of fluid shot out of their stings.
“A waste of good stings,” the corporal muttered to himself.
“Quick march!” Blinky gave the order in a loud voice. Click-click-click-click—the ants marched past Blinky and over to their home.
In another second not a soldier was to be seen. They’d disappeared as suddenly as they had come: all but a poor old fellow who had fallen out of the ranks unseen by Blinky or his comrades. Sheltering behind a pebble he rubbed his legs with his mandibles, trying to stop the aching that his swollen joints produced.
Of course he should never have left his home underground; but he was an old soldier and had been a fierce fighter in his youth. It was very hard to sit back now and see the younger fellows go out to fight and not be able to take part in it. So Grandpa Bull-ant had smuggled his way into the company with sad results.
Of course he meant to crawl home as soon as his old legs would work and in the meantime he’d take it easy and have a rest.
But he didn’t know the red ants were now on parade and they were ten times fiercer than his kind. If he’d known he would have died of fear, or tried his hardest to burrow into the ground, hoping to escape their eyes and claws.
As he lay back against the pebble thinking all sorts of things that ants do, he was suddenly startled to hear the tramp, tramp of soldiers’ feet. Knowing his own company had gone home, horror seized him as he realized the red ants were on the march. His old legs wouldn’t move. His sting wouldn’t work and his jaws, once so strong, simply hung limp now with fear.
With a tremendous effort he managed to stand up just as the red horde was about to march on top of him. For a moment his poor old head shook with fright, then slowly raising a swollen front leg he gravely saluted.
Blinky who had been watching every movement of the red ants more from fear for his own safety than anything else, at once noticed the moment’s hesitation in the column.
“Something’s up,” he said to himself.
“Halt!” he shouted very bravely. “Corporal, what’s the matter down there?”
A very bristly fiery red ant waved his front legs about trying to signal to Blinky. At the same moment the whole company did the same thing.
“That’s their battle signal,” Blinky thought. “I s’pose I’ll have to go and see what the trouble is.”
By the time he reached the column, poor Grandpa Bull-ant was nearly collapsing with fright. Two big red ants held him in their grip, while the corporal only waited until Blinky arrived to give the order of death.
“What’s all this about?” Blinky asked pointing to the two red ants who held old Grandpa.
“He’s an enemy, sir,” the corporal replied. “Shall we kill him?”
“Don’t you dare!” Blinky cried angrily. “Take your nippers off that soldier.”
“But he’s our worst enemy,” the corporal persisted.
“He’s one of my best soldiers,” Blinky replied, “and no soldier of mine is going to be killed.”
All the red ants looked terribly annoyed. They waved their legs about more fiercely than ever; but Blinky was not afraid now. He felt so sorry for the old black ant that he’d have faced the whole company of red ants to protect him.
“Fall back!” he ordered sternly.
The red ants retreated a few paces. Then, placing his stick on the ground beside Grandpa, Blinky spoke to him kindly and told him to crawl on the stick and he’d save him.
Poor old Grandpa Bull-ant struggled vainly to climb on to the stick; but he was too weak.
“Wait a jiffy—I’ll give you a leg up,” Blinky said as he helped the old fellow with a twig to climb on to the stick.
“You’re safe now,” he said gently, “but I only saved you in the nick of time.”
The old ant waved his head from side to side as if to thank Blinky for his kindness.
Carrying him carefully over to the mound he placed the stick gently down. Old Grandpa lost no time in finding his way down to safety.
“He won’t come to the next parade.” Blinky thought. “Or the next, or the next after that.”
He was right. For deep down in the earth the old ant was content to live quietly after that experience, and often he took the baby ants on his knees and told them his thrilling story of adventure.
Blinky drilled the red ants at a safe distance. They were clearly very annoyed at his interference, and when he shouted his final order to dismiss, he felt much happier.
“Nasty creatures,” he said aloud. “But they’re good soldiers!”
“You’re just the young fellow we’re looking for,” a big deep voice said as a man in uniform with shiny buttons on his tunic grabbed Blinky round the tummy.
It all happened so suddenly that Blinky was too surprised even to think for a moment. But when he realized that he was a captive, he behaved like the wildest tiger. He bit and clawed and scratched. His behaviour was simply shocking.
No man was going to take him again from the bush-land—not in that manner. If he went, he’d go when he wanted to and not before.
“Let the young fellow go—he’s as wild as a snake,” a second deep voice said.
“He’s just what we want for a mascot,” the first man replied.
“He a mascot!” the other man laughed. “He’s a bundle of wild cats. You’ll never tame him. Let him go and maybe we’ll come across a nice gentle specimen later
“I guess you’re right,” the big man said dropping Blinky suddenly as he got an extra savage scratch.
“I guess you’re right, too,” Blinky said aloud in deep angry grunts as he rushed away up the track.
“’Spicable animals,” he growled as he climbed the old gum-tree and quietly crawled past his mother, up into his own favourite branch. There he sat for a long time, too angry to sleep—and very frightened. But when the sun rose, it shone on a little bear, safely and snugly cuddled up in the arms of the old tree.
ALL the next day and the next night and many nights after that Blinky thought of his adventure and escape. The men said he would do for a “mascot.” Whatever was that? He’d never heard of it before. Perhaps it was a new sort of pie.
“They won’t put me in a pie!” he growled, “I’m going to be a soldier.”
The more he thought of it, the more decided he became. At last he made up his mind to go and speak to Splodge, the big kangaroo and his closest friend, about it.
Splodge would tell him what to do. He knew all sorts of things—when it was going to rain, when there was to be a drought (the thing most feared by all animals, excepting fire), when a thunderstorm was on its way, when the day was to be fine, and a hundred and one other marvellous things.
So Blinky, waiting until he knew Splodge was in the neighbourhood—for the kangaroo travelled far at times—slipped down from the tree one night and went in search of his friend.
“He’s probably over at old Father Wombat’s,” Blinky thought, for Splodge and young Wally Wombat were close pals.
Young Wally would dearly love to leave the bush for a while and see the township over the hills; but he never could just make up his mind to go, so he waited for Splodge’s visits to hear all the wonderful news.
Padding his way quickly along the track to the wombat’s home, Blinky became quite excited at the thought of becoming a real soldier.
“I’ll have a real gun that makes real bangs and real smoke’ll come out of its nose,” he said aloud.
“And who says so?” a voice suddenly asked.
“Oh!…Blinky stopped dead. “Oh!” He couldn’t move or say another word. He almost began to cry with fright.
“Perhaps it was that big man with the shiny buttons again,” he thought.
“You’re very brave, aren’t you? A fine soldier you’ll make.”
“Shurup,” Blinky said rudely for he now recognized Splodge’s voice.
“Beg pardon,” Splodge replied, hopping out on to the track and blocking Blinky’s way. “Did you say ‘Good evening’ or was I mistaken?”
“I was just talking to myself,” Blinky replied uneasily. Although Splodge was such an old friend of his, he still felt a little bit nervous when he got ratty. ‘‘He’s got such big kickers,” Blinky once confided to Nutsy.
“I thought I must be mistaken,” Splodge replied. “And where are you off to, Master Blinky Bill?”
“Over to Father Wombat’s to see you,” Blinky remarked.
“Well—I was just on my way there, so we may as we’ll go together,” Splodge said. “And what do you want to see me about? Have you been into more scrapes and want me to go and ask your mother not to whack you? Or are you thinking of getting married to Nutsy and want me to be best man?”
“I wouldn’t marry any one—I’m never going to get married,” Blinky answered indignantly. “Specially Nutsy—she’s mad, and she kicks when she’s ratty. And I’ve not been up to anything—you’re mad too.”
‘I’ll get mad in a minute, my lad, if I hear any more of that impudent rubbish.” Splodge replied as he gave Blinky a shake. “Do you know my great grandfather was the champion kicker of Australia and that a bit of his kicking has been handed down to me?” Splodge gave Blinky another shake.
“Don’t do that—I’ve got a headache,” Blinky whimpered.
Splodge placed the naughty little bear on the ground. He was the kindest kangaroo in all bushland; but Mr. Blinky had to be taught a lesson now and again.
“Come on,” he said sharply, “Walter Wombat is waiting to see me,”
Walter Wombat’s home was a dark large hole under the stump of a burnt out gum-tree. A few tussocks of grass grew around the entrance; but apart from them no other greenery was near. Everything had the appearance of being well chewed and clawed. Hanging like a curtain over the entrance were the dead roots of the gum-tree matted with lumps of clay and rock. But it suited the wombat family very well as it was so secluded and off the bridle track that the cattle men used.
“You’re not going inside, Splodge, are you?” Blinky asked as they stood at the entrance. The sight of that dark hole made him sick with fear.
“Not me!” Splodge replied with a decisive shake of his head. “That tunnel will fall in one of these days and kill the whole family. I’m always telling them about it; but they take no notice.”
“It’s a terribly dark place, isn’t it, Splodge?” Blinky shivered.
“That’s where bad little bears go when they get cheeky,” Splodge replied.
Blinky ran back a few yards. “I think I’ll wait over here, Splodge. I want to sit down.”
Splodge did not reply, but thudded the ground loudly with his hind foot.
“Hullo! Hullo! Who’s there?” Old Father Wombat came waddling out of the hole.
“Well, bless my whiskers, if it isn’t Splodge. Wait till I call Wally.”
Father Wombat gave a series of harsh grunts, then a distant plomping about inside the hole heralded Wally’s appearance.
A fine-looking young wombat poked his head around the entrance. He was wearing ear-phones and yards of tangled roots, not unlike wire, seemed to be mixed up with his ears, eyes, hair and whiskers.
“Hullo, Wally!” Splodge said with a laugh. “I see you’re listening in. How’s the set working?”
“Not too good,” Wally replied, looking a bit worried.
“You know that cat’s whisker you bought me?— well, I’ve lost it, and I’ve been out night after night trying to catch a wild cat to grab another from him. But the critters seem to know what I’m after and they’re hiding. Miss Velvet Paws lent me a soldier rabbit’s whisker last night—but it bends—it’s no good at all. I’ve been thinking a koala’s whisker would be better.”
“They haven’t got any worth speaking about,” Splodge replied… “Here, take this.”
Flicking out one of his own whiskers, Splodge presented it to Wally.
“Gee!’’ Blinky sighed— “That was a close go for me.” Feeling braver, he pattered over to Wally.
“Good night, Wally, How are you?’’
“Oh—pretty good, pretty good, young fellow. Like to listen in? There’s lots of noises going on to-night, crackles and bangs galore.”
“No thank you, Wally,” Blinky replied in his very best manner. “I’ve come to talk to Splodge.”
“And now I come to think of it, so you did,” Splodge remarked. “Don’t mind Wally—go ahead,”
“What’s a mascot?” Blinky asked promptly.
“A mascot! Never heard of it before,” Splodge replied looking puzzled, “Sure you’ve got the right name?”
“Pos-tive,” Blinky said.
“Isn’t it one of those new veg-tables farmers are planting at present?” Wally interrupted.
“It’s not a veg-table at all,” Blinky contradictedr ‘‘it’s something to do with soldiers and the army.”
“Nonsense!’’ Wally said sharply… “By the way, Splodge, I heard they’re going to hold a competition over in the township for animals and birds and all us bush people—something about choosing someone to bring good luck to the soldiers in Australia.”
“Oh,” said Splodge, rubbing his nose. “That’s the first I’ve heard about it. Who told you?’’
“Heard it on the rabbit’s whisker,” Wally said with a superior air.
“Is it open for all competitors?’’ Splodge inquired.
“Not for the orniary people,” Wally answered. “No snakes or trap-door spiders, or goannas, or dingoes or foxes. They specially said they didn’t want those brutes.”
“Did they say that?” Splodge looked surprised.
“’Pon my word of honour,” Wally answered.
“What about koalas?” Blinky asked excitedly. “Would they let me go in for the competition?”
‘‘Believe they would,” Wally said seriously, looking at Blinky. “But I don’t think you’d have a hope. Your little friend Nutsy might though.”
“Poof—her!” Blinky said disgustedly. “She’s not a soldier. She’s frightened of guns and cannons.”
“Well—you’d better ask your mother about it,” Wally said off-handedly. “I’ll take no ’sponsibility whatever.”
“Oh—don’t tell her. She’d be as cross as the red ants if she knew I was going,” said Blinky hastily.
“Please yourself,” Wally remarked. “I’m a fellow wot keeps information to myself—eh, Splodge?”
“Well, if Blinky really wants to go in for the competition I don’t see that there’s anything wrong in it,” Splodge answered, ignoring Wally’s last remark.
“S’pose not; s’pose not,” Wally replied with a grunt. “But don’t go telling every one far and wide about it. They specially said, it’s to be secret.”
Blinky was dancing with excitement. He asked Splodge a hundred and one questions on the way home, and poor Splodge found himself unable to answer half of them. Blinky said good night to him in a whisper. “And you won’t forget to take me to-morrow night, will you?” were his parting words.
“I’ll be here, cobber,” Splodge whispered in reply.
Blinky hardly slept a wink all that day. He watched the shadows of the sun as first of all the dear old tree cast long shades on the ground in early morning. Then, as the sun rose higher, the shadows shortened until they lay right under the tall branches. Later on, they chased one another round to the opposite side of the tree, growing longer and longer and thinner and thinner, until at last the hot sun sank behind the hills, and the shadows slipped away just as quietly as they had come.
Mrs. Koala awoke. So did Nutsy. And as Blinky was already scrambling about, there was no need to call him to tea.
“These leaves seem to be losing their taste lately,” Mrs. Koala remarked, as she nibbled one slowly. “We need the rain—that’s what it is.”
“I hate rain,” Blinky said, with a growl.
“You’re a bad boy to talk like that,” his mother scolded. “If it wasn’t for the rain, we’d starve and die. And not only us; but all the other bush folk too.”
“We could eat Farmer Brown’s veg-tables,” Blinky retorted.
“That’s stealing,” Nutsy said in a shocked voice.
“’Tisn’t,’’ Blinky contradicted. “It’s only taking,”
“And how do you think Farmer Brown would grow his potatoes and cabbages without rain?’’ Mrs. Koala asked.
“He waters them with a big can—I’ve seen him— he doesn’t use rain,” Blinky replied.
“Stupid!” Nutsy scoffed.
“Now—now,” Mrs. Koala chided. “I won’t have any quarrelling. I’m going to see Mrs. Grunty. You may come with me, Nutsy; but I want you to stay at home, Blinky, I just can’t stand the way you and Snubby have been fighting lately. It’s disgraceful.”
“I’d rather stay home anyway,” Blinky remarked at once. “Snubby makes me all fighty and growly.”
“Goodness knows what sort of a bear you’ll be when you’ve grown up,” Mrs. Koala sighed.
“Grumbly and nasty,” Nutsy answered.
“I won’t have any girls for children anyway,” Blinky replied. “They tell tales and cry if you punch them on the nose.
“I wish I could make hers bleed,” he growled in an undertone.
“That’s enough of that,” Mrs. Koala said sternly. “Come along Nutsy, well go early and get home early.”
“Gee!” Blinky thought to himself, “I hope Splodge won’t be late,”
Mrs. Koala and Nutsy were scarcely out of sight when Blinky heard the familiar thud, thud, of his friend’s large feet.
“Golly—he’s just missed them,” and scrambling down the tree Blinky greeted his friend with a whoop of delight.
“Shake it up, Splodge,” he said excitedly, “Mother and Nutsy have gone over to Mrs. Grunty’s and they won’t be long away.”
“I feel I’m doing the wrong thing,” Splodge replied. “But I can’t see any harm in it,”
Blinky chattered away like a monkey, as he rode on Splodge’s back to the township. The moon rose, the tiny animals of the bush scampered about, very busy indeed, as they chased here and there, stopping for a moment to look at Blinky and Splodge with looks of surprise. But they didn’t pause for long, as Blinky was always doing something that no other animal would dream of doing.
With long loose hops Splodge soon covered the ground to the township. The hall where the competition was to be held was easily found, as it stood in the middle of a small paddock with lights streaming from its windows. Flags fluttered over the doorway, and the township’s band was playing outside.
Splodge hopped up to the entrance.
“Are you a competitor?” a stern voice asked him.
Splodge nodded his head. He explained to Blinky afterwards that “it wasn’t nearly so bad to nod stories as to tell them.”
“Here’s your badge,” the man handed one to him. “And how about the little chap on your back?”
“I’m one too,” Blinky said before Splodge could reply.
“That’s great!” the man exclaimed, as he handed out another badge.
Inside the hall everything was noise and excitement.
Splodge and Blinky had hardly entered when a man shouted that the Grand March would commence.
Bang! A big drum crashed, and the music started.
Splodge pushed Blinky into the centre of the procession and then hid behind some tall palms standing in pots at the end of the hall. He had a good view of everything as he could peep between the leaves and—better still—not be noticed.
On a raised platform at the other end of the hall sat several important looking men with medals and shiny buttons on their coats. They fussed a lot with a pile of papers and made notes as the competitors marched past. Splodge knew enough of the outside world to realize they were soldiers. The judges, too, were soldiers.
“I hope they don’t choose Blinky,” he thought sorrowfully, for a moment. “I’d miss him terribly—but then I’d be so proud if they did,” he thought again.
People clapped and shouted with glee as the procession filed past.
First of all came Madam Swan. She looked beautiful, and didn’t she know it? Her glossy black feathers gleamed like metal. She opened her wings just as she passed the judges and flapped them majestically, arching her neck and hissing proudly.
“I’m glad I’m not near her flappers,” Blinky said to himself as he watched the display. “And she hisses like an old goanna.”
The judges seemed very impressed with Madam Swan and made hurried notes just as the next competitor stepped past. It was the brush turkey. How he spread his handsome tail!—throwing back his head, marching with his legs held high and gobble-gobbling in his very best manner.
“I wish I had his gobbles,” Blinky thought. “I’d give Nutsy a dreadful fright when she’s asleeep.”
Then came Mr. Peacock, strutting like a prince, flashing his tail, his head scarcely moving as he marched with half closed eyes of disdain.
“He’s not an Australian!” someone called out.
A great deal of noise and talk ensued, and the procession halted while the judges told Mr. Peacock he was disqualified. Still holding his head very high, looking neither to right nor left, he strutted out of the hall, hissing as he reached the door.
“That’s tails for you,” Blinky remarked to a dear little wallaby who marched beside him, “it’s best not to have one.”
“You’re very rude,” the little wallaby replied. “All the best birds and animals have tails.”
“Rubbish!” Blinky said rudely. “They’re only good for getting in traps and being stamped on.”
The little wallaby ignored his remark.
A beautiful native companion was now daintily stepping in front of the judges. Trying to impress them, she danced a few stately steps, her pretty grey and pink feathers ruffling with the movement.
“She’s showing off,” Blinky remarked again to his little companion. “I bet she’s a girl bird. They all show off.”
“She’s beautiful,” the little wallaby replied.
“She’s silly,” Blinky retorted.
The judges watched the lovely bird with smiles of approval. And then came Mr. Lyre-bird.
“Oh!” a gasp of admiration broke from every one’s lips, as the glorious feathers of his tail displayed the graceful design. The soft fawn feathers, almost grey under the lights, looked like velvet. Mr. Lyre-bird started to talk. He mimicked the kookaburra, the thrush, the butcher-bird, and the owl. Then, just to show that he was even cleverer, he barked like a dog, and gave the long-drawn wail of the dingo.
“He’s got bats!” Blinky grunted.
“You couldn’t do it,” the little wallaby replied.
“Don’t want to—I hate dingoes and dogs.”
The judges gave a short clap and then Mr. Lyre-bird moved on.
After him came Mrs. Pelican. She stuck out her chest as she advanced, her large webbed feet going flip-flop over the floor, and just as she stood right in front of the judges, she opened her mouth as wide as she could, stretched her wings and flapped loudly. Ah! that great big mouth! All the little birds began to flutter with fright as snap—her bill closed together like an enormous nut-cracker.
“I wish I had a mouth like that with that scooper on it,” Blinky remarked. “I’d scoop up all the yabbies in one go.”
“That’s her shopping bag,” the little wallaby answered. “She puts all her fish in that.”
Before any further argument took place, a loud long chuckling laugh echoed down the hall. Every one cheered, as Jacko, the kookaburra, bowed to the judges. Throwing back his head, he chuckled for a moment, then the gay laughter rang out again. And still he laughed, until all the little birds joined in with song and cheeping.
“He’s a friend of mine,” Blinky said proudly. “We play games down by the creek. I dig out grubs for him and he laughs for me.”
“That’s a silly game,” the little wallaby scoffed, “I play games of hops—they’re awfully exciting.”
“With grasshoppers?” Blinky asked.
“No, with other wallabies and baby kangaroos.”
“How absurd!” Blinky said. “Fancy playing with babies! They’re always crying and having to be washed.”
“Ssh!” the little wallaby whispered, as a glorious note of song broke out.
“Poof! It’s only Mr. Butcher-bird,” Blinky replied. “He’s another friend of mine.”
Mr. Butcher-bird sang and sang. Without a doubt his song was the sweetest of all. The notes floated like liquid sunshine through the hall, as clear as the crystal streams of the bush, and ringing with joy like the peals from a bell.
Then followed the lovely grey thrush from the hills. Her song was quieter than Mr. Butcher-bird’s, but just as sweet.
Willie Wagtail came next. And didn’t he twist and twirl! his dear little voice sounding as gay as the voices of any of the other birds.
All this time the judges were making notes.
Each bird sang his sweetest and best. Even the white cockatoo with his yellow crest and the galah with his pretty grey and pink plumage screeched in tones that became quite musical. The tiny brilliant finches and the gleaming green budgerigar twittered in delightful chorus. And so it went on until the very last little bird had sung his song and danced his dance.
STIR and flutter of excitement ran through the hall as the judges announced that the animals would now march past.
“Pick up your tail; it’ll only get stamped on,” Blinky advised the little wallaby.
“It’s my tail and I’ll do as I like with it,” was the reply he got.
“Well I hope it gets stamped and stamped and stamped on,” Blinky said rudely.
“Oh gee! Look who’s here. I didn’t know Wally was coming!”
Even Splodge was surprised as he peeped through the palms and saw his friend. “Now what chance does he think he’s got?” he thought to himself.
But Wally Wombat thought he had a very good chance of being chosen. He’d brushed up his coat until it looked really beautiful. His whiskers were polished and his nails cleaned. Certainly he was not a very handsome fellow; but he was an Australian, and well known too. He lolloped along and, as he stood in front of the judges, placed a grubby old root on the stand. He was thanked for his gift. But several of the other animals objected to this gesture and murmurs of disapproval were heard quite distinctly.
“That’s bribe-ry,” Blinky said crossly.
“It’s a root—stupid,” the little wallaby replied.
The animals were moving forward and Blinky had no time to reply. But he felt very annoyed with Wally, and made up his mind to tell him so afterwards.
A big red kangaroo hopped along next. He thumped his tail with very big thumps, hoping to impress the judges. They openly admired him—that was plain to see.
But he’d hardly finished his fourth thump when he was nearly pushed out of place by Mr. Tree Kangaroo. He was handicapped in having no tree to climb, just to show how clever he was at that stunt, but he was very impressive all the same.
Then followed the Rock Wallabies and all their relations. Such a lot of them. Their soft brown eyes glistened with excitement as their turn came to pass the judges.
Mrs. Rock Wallaby even opened her pouch to show her baby inside. Of course, this was a great thrill for every one and it looked as though the competition would end there and then, because every one admired and wanted to pat the baby. Nobody else had brought a baby, so Mrs. Wallaby got extra points for that from the judges.
“Fancy bringing the baby,” Blinky said with a nasty little grunt. “She’s only done it to put on side. She’s a shower-off! I could have brought my soldiers, only I couldn’t be bothered.”
“You’re jealous!” the little wallaby exclaimed, “’cause you haven’t a baby too.”
Then Blinky did a terrible thing. He stamped his hardest on the little wallaby’s tail just as she was about to hop up before the judges.
“Oh—!” The poor little animal gave a cry of pain and surprise and tried to pick up her tail between her front paws.
The ceremony came to a halt while inquiries were made as to the cause of the trouble.
“He did it—he stamped on my tail,” the little wallaby wailed as she wiped a tear from her eye.
“I never,” Blinky shouted. “Her tail got in my way and I just tripped over it by mistake.”
“You stamped on it,” the little wallaby cried crossly. “And now it’s all aching.”
“I never—I never—I never,” Blinky shouted back.
“Dear, dear, this won’t do,” one of the judges remarked. “It must have been an accident. I’m sure that dear little koala wouldn’t do anything so spiteful. Come now, let us forget all about it and go on with the competition. Your tail will soon be right, and it’s just as pretty as ever.”
The judge gave the little wallaby a kindly pat, fondled her pretty soft nose and brought smiles to her eyes again.
“Fancy calling her tail pretty!” Blinky thought with a grumble. “It’s a very or’inary tail—it’s not even fat.”
As Blinky was thinking all these nasty things the little wallaby stood before the judges. She put both her pretty front paws up over her eyes and began to rub them. Then she washed her nose and one ear. She’d no wonderful gifts to display like some of the birds; but she showed every one just what she could do. And really she looked very sweet.
Blinky’s heart began to thump as he watched this little performance. He’d no tricks in particular; but he’d try to do a jump like the Littlies.
So as the little wallaby moved away, Blinky took a few steps forward and instantly the judges seemed extra interested. They walked right to the front of the platform with audible sighs of “Ah!” and “Oh!”
“Silly things,” Blinky thought, and then becoming very nervous and embarrassed he did a thing that surprised even himself. He turned a somersault. His fat little body rolled over like a ball, his big ears and furry paws all mixed up together. This performance delighted every one, and Splodge became so excited he knocked over a palm, pot and all.
Fortunately every one was too interested in Blinky to take any notice of Splodge’s exhibition, and he gave a grunt of satisfaction as he grabbed the palm and stuck it in place again.
The judges held up the competition while they asked Blinky his name—where he lived, and who was his mother.
Blinky hung his head and all he would say was, “Don’t know. Don’t know.”
“He’s Blinky Bill,” a big black rabbit explained. “He plays with my cousins and all their cousins. He drills soldiers in the bush and shows the frogs how to shoot.”
“Nonsense!” one of the judges remarked.
“’Tisn’t,” Blinky growled as he walked away. “I wish I’d brought my catapult, I’d give old ‘nonsense’ a shoot on the nose.”
“Ssh! he’ll hear you,” a voice whispered by his side. It was the black rabbit.
“Aren’t you in the competition?” Blinky asked very surprised.
“’Course not,” his friend replied, “there might be farmer soldiers and they’d make me into a pie in two minutes if they saw me.” The black rabbit looked very knowing and intelligent.
“Does your mother know you’re here to-night?” he asked, looking at Blinky inquisitively.
“She’s out,” Blinky replied.
“You’d better get home quickly, and the quicker the better,” the black rabbit said sternly. “She’d be ramping cross if she knew you were here, in fact as I came along the track tonight I passed her with Nutsy going to Mrs. Grunty’s and at that moment she was saying she’d ‘get as cross as a hot-cross bun one of these days with you.’” The black rabbit looked at Blinky, hoping he’d made him feel just a little teeny wee bit frightened.
“Poof! When mother gets cross she only shakes her paws at me and quivers all over,” Blinky said screwing up his nose. “But—but, can a hot-cross bun get very hot and savage?”
“As savage as Farmer Brown when he sees me in his carrot bed,” the black rabbit replied.
“Well, p’raps I’d better go home; p’raps it’s best,” Blinky said looking a little frightened.
“P’raps you had,” the black rabbit said severely, “or p’raps you’ll be sorry all to-morrow that you didn’t.”
Blinky began to think all kinds of things. He’d had a good few whackings lately, and recalled the last one very clearly. His mother’s paws seemed to be getting fatter and stronger.
Just as he began to feel really frightened Splodge appeared, and lost no time in getting Blinky on to his back. Then it was only a matter of an hour, and they were once more at the old gum-tree.
Mrs. Koala and Nutsy were still away. Blinky’s heart gave a bound with joy as he said good night to Splodge after getting his promise to keep his secret.
Back in the hall, the competition still progressed. The dear little field-mice, the bandicoots, the kangaroo rats, the lizards, squirrels, bats, spiders, praying mantises, beetles and all the other bush people paraded one by one.
And every animal, bird and insect went home with the hope that he or she would be chosen for the good-luck emblem of the soldiers. And every one thought he or she was the best. All except Splodge.
“Blinky’s the best of the lot,” he said to himself as he hopped home after seeing his little friend safely tucked away in the old tree… “But I hope they don’t choose him—Oh! I hope they don’t. But it would be wonderful if they did.”
AS Mrs. Koala listened to Blinky’s story she became more and more amazed.
“Good gracious! Is that true, Blinky? You’re not telling me a fib?” and, “My, my, what next!” were some of the exclamations she made while listening to his description of the competition.
“Fancy Wally Wombat entering! I don’t think he’d be chosen. His nose and paws are always muddy through rooting and grubbing about.”
“He’d licked them clean as clean,” Blinky replied.
“Goodness!” Mrs. Koala said, still hardly able to believe all this.
“And to think that you’ve been chosen!” Mrs. Koala sighed, a big deep sigh. “Well, Blinky, I feel sad that my only son is going to leave me; but I must feel proud also. I’ve still got Nutsy, and she’ll keep me company. You must change your ways, my son. Keep your paws clean; brush your ears; and for goodness sake rub your claws over every morning. They’re disgraceful at times.”
“Yes, mother,” replied Blinky politely.
Before Mrs. Koala had time to give further advice, Mrs. Magpie reappeared, all her feathers ruffling with excitement.
“Hurry up! Mrs. Koala. You and Blinky and Nutsy are wanted down on Wattle Flat. There’s going to be a gymkhana for Blinky.”
“A what?” Mrs. Koala asked, quite flustered and puzzled.
“A circus! a circus!” Blinky cried jumping and dancing with excitement.
“Yes, it’s like a circus,” Mrs. Magpie replied. “Hurry up, please, they’re all waiting.”
“Where’s Nutsy?” Mrs. Koala asked looking around.
“She’s down there; she and Snubby and Mrs. Grunty,” Mrs. Magpie replied. “And I must be off. I’m in the married ladies’ race; and you’ll be too, if you hurry, Mrs. Koala.”
“Goodness,” was all Mrs. Koala could say, as she began to pat her apron into place, tuck a few stray hairs over her ears, rub her nose, and then look for Blinky to give him a few orders. But he was already at the bottom of the tree, nearly breathless with joy.
“A circus! Gee—a circus!” he kept repeating aloud. Carefully Mrs. Koala slid to the ground, and pattered down the track after him.
“Goodness! That Blinky,” she said over and over again.
On reaching Wattle Flat she became quite speechless at the sight in front of her.
“You’ve come at last,” Mrs. Grunty said, as she took Mrs. Koala’s paw.
“I don’t know what it’s all about, I’m sure; but I know my Blinky’s all mixed up in it.”
“Of course if I’d known about it, Mrs. Koala, I’d have put Snubby in the competition too,” Mrs. Grunty said a little peevishly.
“I didn’t put Blinky there,” Mrs. Koala retorted, “He put himself.”
The scene down in Wattle Flat was enthralling. All the wattle-trees were in full bloom at this time of the year. Great golden splashes of colour smothered the greenery of the trees, seeming to turn the dry brown earth into a softer place for little animals to scamper over, as many of the blooms had fallen, making carpets of gold under the boughs.
Mrs. Koala and Mrs. Grunty sat down on one of these patches to watch the gymkhana, and also to rest. Dozens and dozens of animals and birds had gathered together. For they all loved fun, and the news of Blinky’s success had been a very good reason to hold a gymkhana. Everything had been most hurriedly arranged; but that was all the more fun.
Splodge had consented to be master of ceremonies, and at the moment was making a speech. Beside him Blinky stood.
Splodge rapped the tree stump in front of him with a large knobbly stick.
“Silence, please!” He cleared his throat “You all know Blinky Bill has been chosen to go to Sydney. He’s to be the mascot for the soldiers.”
“Mascot!” Blinky shouted, interrupting Splodge.
“I’m not going to be a mascot—I’m going to be the good luck for the soldiers.”
“It’s all the same,” Splodge replied, “I found out from Grandmother Owl what ‘mascot’ meant. It isn’t a pie at all. Don’t interrupt me.
“As I was saying, every one, Blinky’s been chosen, and I’m opening the gymkhana to send him off. Please take your places for the nut and stick race.”
There was a wild scramble at once. Every one seemed to be in the nut and stick race. Some of the birds even had entered for the race, and Mrs. Blue Tongue Lizard as well. She and the birds held their sticks in their mouths.
“One, two, three!” Splodge shouted as he gave a loud whack with his stick.
Off they started.
Wally Wombat and the black rabbit were the first to get away. Then came several wallabies. Mrs. Koala and Mrs. Grunty, who had not entered for the race, were delighted to see Angelina there.
“I thought she’d be too busy with her new baby to come to-day,” Mrs. Grunty remarked.
“She wouldn’t miss seeing Blinky in the gymkhana,” Mrs. Koala answered. “You remember she was his nurse.”
“Oh! Look at Mrs. Pelican! Fancy her in the race,” Mrs. Grunty cried, as she rocked with laughter.
Mrs. Pelican was half-running and half-flying along. No sign of her nut and sticks could be seen as she had them safely tucked away in her shopping bag.
“She’ll be disqualified for that,” Mrs. Grunty announced, folding her paws tightly across her chest.
“But she’s carrying them,” Mrs. Koala replied.
“Might as well carry them in a bucket,” her friend snapped. “What chance has Snubby against her?”
Clouds of dust swirled in the air as the race was run. Blinky was in the middle of the crowd with Nutsy and Snubby a long way behind. Wally Wombat dropped his sticks and had to fall out, so did Miss Emu. She opened her beak to shout at a big kangaroo who pushed her, and out fell the sticks.
Being a very bad-tempered bird at the best of times, Miss Emu’s temper now rose completely. It ran through every feather of her body, up her neck and into her eyes, making them blaze, and down into her legs. She stood on the side of the track and kicked dust all over the other racers as they passed her.
Shouts went up from everybody. Splodge bounded over and had to give her a good shake before she’d stop.
Of course the race was held up. Presently it started again.
But Blinky had not bothered to stop. He knew Miss Emu quite well, and had had a shower of dust from her on more than one occasion when he was cheeky. Having gained a good few yards, he raced right in front of all the others. But Mrs. Pelican and the big kangaroo were flying along now.
Then Blinky, who heard them right on his heels, did another dreadful thing in a flash. He turned a somersault right under Mrs. Pelican’s big webby feet.
Down she came with a squawk and screech, her wings flapping like sails, and right over her flopped the big kangaroo. Fortunately he’d used his tail as a brake on the instant and was able to flop sideways as he fell, Blinky, who seemed to move like lightning, rolled out of the muddle and sat on the ground rubbing his nose. He was out of the race, as he’d dropped his sticks and nut. But he didn’t care, as he told Splodge afterwards, “’cause Mrs. Pelican was a cheater.”
Now the shouts went up louder than ever from the onlookers as Angelina Wallaby dashed to the front and, taking a leap over a log that marked the winning place, was declared the winner.
The prize was a small bundle of grass. There had been great difficulty in getting this prize. Splodge had gone many miles through the bush searching for it.
“Thank you so much,” Angelina said sweetly. “My baby’s been losing weight lately; but this will make him better very quickly. He’s had such pains in his tummy through eating the hard dry grass.”
Before hurrying home with the lovely grass, she went over to Blinky and rubbed her soft nose against his dusty one; then hopped across to Mrs. Koala to tell her how pleased she was and proud of Blinky.
Then hugging her precious bundle tightly in her paws she raced home to her baby.
The next item on the programme was the hole digging competition. The rules had been carefully drawn up, as some animals had to be handicapped on account of their size, and some had much larger holes to dig than others.
The competitors lined up in front of Splodge once more. There was the big kangaroo, Wally Wombat, Peter Possum, Billy Bandicoot, Winnie Wallaby, the little kangaroo rat, four tiny field-mice and the black rabbit.
“One, two, three!” Splodge brought his stick down with a whack.
“Off they go!” the crowd shouted as the competitors started to dig like mad. Great clods of earth came flying through the air as the big kangaroo worked his powerful paws and claws.
Wally Wombat, whose hole was next to the kangaroo’s, also sent out lumps and rocks in all directions.
Peter Possum and Billy Bandicoot raced for their lives; and Winnie Wallaby was going her hardest too.
The little animals sent clouds of dust flying into the air as their tiny feet worked like lightning.
“Go it, Wally!” Blinky shouted in encouragement as he seemed to be a little in the lead. His funny face was smothered in dirt and he looked terribly hot. The black rabbit’s legs worked like an engine.
As so much dirt and dust filled the atmosphere, Splodge, who was judge, had to stand very close to the competitors and of course Blinky had to be there too, as he couldn’t miss anything.
“One minute to go!” Splodge cried out at the top of his voice, and the competitors put an extra spurt into their digging.
“Half a minute to go!” he called.
Tails bobbed and feet worked at an amazing speed. Rocks, dirt and pebbles flew everywhere.
“Stop!” Splodge shouted.
Most of the competitors flopped on the ground, thoroughly worn out with the exertion. All of them were puffing and panting. Splodge waited until the dust cleared away and then started to inspect the holes. The tiny animals and the black rabbit were complimented on the neatness of their digging. So was Winnie Wallaby. But as Splodge came to Wally Wombat’s burrow, he shook his head with dismay.
“It’s untidy and terribly rough,” he remarked. “No method used at all.”
“You gave me such a rocky piece of ground,” Wally protested, feeling very downcast.
“It’s all in the handicap,” Splodge replied, “and you must abide by the rules.”
“It’s not fair—there’s favouritism in this competition,” Wally mumbled as he flung himself on the ground and sat with his head in his paws.
“Don’t be downhearted,” Mrs. Koala said kindly as she came up and patted Wally’s shoulder.
“It’s all one-sided,” Wally growled. “I never win anything!”
Splodge took no notice of Wally’s remarks. As he explained beforehand—the judge’s decision was final. He moved on to the big kangaroo’s hole, and gave him a most friendly smile as he looked at his work.
“See that!” Wally cried indignantly. “The judge is smiling at him. That’s ’cause they’re both kangaroos. I told you it was all one-sided, and not fair.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” Mrs. Grunty remarked. Splodge began to examine the big kangaroo’s diggings.
‘‘It’s splendid!” he said with decided approval. “So tidy, so round, and so smooth. It looks so safe, any animal would be proud of a home like that. He’d be safe from all danger in there.”
Whack! a big stone hit Splodge right on the chest.
“Where did that come from?” he asked angrily.
“Out of the hole,” a chorus went up from the onlookers.
Whack! another hit Splodge on the nose; and whack! whack! two more followed in rapid succession.
Every one scattered in all directions as the stones still came flying out.
“There must be a dingo or a bunyip in there,” Splodge said rubbing his nose. “Someone must go in and root him out. I can’t give my decision until I know what’s in that hole, because I’ve got to inspect it.”
“Go in yourself,” several onlookers shouted.
“Not me!” Splodge replied sternly. “Who’s going to volunteer?”
Not a voice replied.
“How about you?” Splodge said turning to the big kangaroo.
“I’d rather not,” he replied timidly.
“The big coot!” Wally Wombat said aloud. “He’s scared stiff.”
“Well, how about you going in?” Splodge said curtly.
“I will for two kicks of a rabbit’s foot,” Wally said puffing out his chest.
“Go on! Go on!” the shout went up.
Wally felt he could not ignore this challenge. And, although deep down in his tummy rumbles of fright ran round and round, he decided to go.
Stalking up to the hole, with all the onlookers and other competitors close on his heels, he gave a loud cough and entered. It was fairly dark inside, and smelled very earthy and damp. Wally gave another cough.
Immediately a deep growl answered him.
“Oh, my goodness!” Wally cried, shaking with fear.
“Don’t be a silly goat!” a voice replied. “Can’t you see it’s me?”
“Blinky!” Wally exclaimed in amazement and joy. “How did you get in here?”
“I just slided in when the others were watching Splodge judge the mouses’ and rabbits’ holes. And I’ve still got two more stones left,” Blinky whispered excitedly. “I wish I’d got the kangaroo on the nose.”
“Ssh!” Wally said warningly, “they’ll hear you. What am I going to do now? They’ll be terribly angry when they know you’re in here and threw the stones. Whatever will I do?”
“Tell them there’s a big bunyip in here,” Blinky replied. “They’re all too scared to come in and look.”
“You stay here till I tell you to come out then,” Wally whispered hurriedly. “I’ll be back later.”
Wally rushed out of the hole looking terrified. He pretended to stumble and fell with a big flop at Splodge’s feet. His eyes were turning round and round in a most alarming manner, while he panted for breath.
“What’s wrong? What’s there?” every one asked at once. Wally groaned and shivered.
“There’s the biggest, enormousest, ugliest bunyip I’ve ever seen in my life in that hole,” Wally cried, “And he says he’ll eat the first one that goes in after this. He’s got a terribly big nose, and the hugest ears and growls like a lion,”
The bush folk were terrified. Not waiting to hear any more they fled to the other side of Wattle Flat, falling over one another in their haste, the big animals grabbing up the little ones and racing for dear life. And Wally ran too.
Once on the opposite side of Wattle Flat they felt much braver and more secure; but large round eyes and twitching noses told of the dreadful fright every one had received.
Gradually confidence came back to the little bush folk. They began to chatter again, and talk about the next event.
“But the hole digging competition hasn’t been decided.” Wally Wombat spoke up bravely. “Somebody’s got to win.”
Instantly the crowd buzzed with excitement again.
“Who’s the winner? Who’s the winner?” they shouted.
“The prize goes to Wally Wombat,” Splodge announced. “Considering the rocky ground he had to dig, and the time taken, he was the fastest worker. By rights it should have gone to Robert Kangaroo; but owing to the unfortunate incident, and not being able to inspect the digging inside, I can only give him a consolation prize.”
“Sorry, Robert,” Splodge whispered to his friend who stood at his side.
The big kangaroo looked very annoyed, as he chewed a few stalks of dry grass, glancing angrily at Wally.
“Your prize, Wally,” Splodge announced as he handed him two large sweet potatoes, stolen from Farmer Brown’s garden.
A great noise drowned his next words. The animals shouted with delight and the birds sang as Wally solemnly took the prize.
“He deserves it,” Mrs. Koala remarked with a smile on her face.
“I must say I think so too,” Mrs. Grunty replied.
Robert Kangaroo was presented with a cabbage leaf, also from Farmer Brown’s garden.
“Thanks!” he growled sulkily, and immediately began to munch it, still looking angrily at Wally.
There was no time for further talk about the hole digging result, as already the hop, skip and jump event was starting.
As every one’s attention was now drawn to that race, Wally decided it would be safe to go and tell Blinky he could come out.
Ambling over to the hole, he poked his head inside and called out, “Come on, Blinky, They’ve gone!”
Blinky crawled out still holding the two stones in his paws.
“Drop them!” Wally said sharply. “If they see you with those in your paws—well, goodness knows what will happen.
“Here, take this,” he handed Blinky one of his sweet potatoes.
“Gee! Wally, did you get the prize?” Blinky danced with glee.
“’Course I did,” Wally replied. “It was the best hole in the competition.”
“’Course it was,” Blinky replied as he trotted beside Wally over to the crowd.
Nobody had noticed his absence as every one was too interested in the hop, skip and jump.
Only the frogs and grasshoppers were in this event, A row of stones had been placed at intervals along the ground and as Splodge gave the word “Go!” barracking at once broke out.
“Go it Greenie! Go it Bulgie! Go it Croaky! Shake a leg, Springy!” and a dozen other names were called upon to do their best.
The grasshoppers lost time, as they paused on each stone for a second to prepare for the next hop.
But the frogs hopped over the stones like corks bobbing up and down, not pausing for a moment.
Bulgie, the big fat green frog, won the event and was presented with a large fly. It was a most popular win judging by the clapping of paws and croaking of the other frogs.
Then the biggest event of all was announced.
“All those taking part in the tree climbing competition line up,” Splodge shouted.
There was a rush at once over to the tall trees skirting Wattle Flat. Great red gums whose branches towered towards the sky had been chosen for the competitors to climb.
“It’s no use you small animals entering for this event,” Splodge said sharply as the little ones pushed for places. “Only the best and fastest climbers can enter.”
Of course, wails of disappointment were heard all around. But Splodge was determined and wouldn’t listen to any arguments about the affair.
“Must abide by the rules,” he said curtly as he lined up the competitors. There were eight entrants. Two to a tree. Blinky had to climb with Mrs. Possum, Mrs. Grunty with Mr. Goanna, Mrs. Koala with Mr. Tree Kangaroo, and Nutsy with Snubby.
Each competitor had to climb the tree on opposite sides and the first one to reach the top would be declared the winner.
“Clear the ground,” Splodge shouted, pushing back the onlookers who crowded round the climbers.
“Get to your places.” he called, as the contestants each chose a tree.
“One, two, three!” and the scramble began. Wallabies and kangaroos jumped in the air with excitement; frogs croaked; grunts and shouts rose above the chirping of the birds. Even the kookaburra’s laugh was drowned in the noise.
Mrs. Grunty was the first to strike trouble. She made frantic signs to Splodge to intervene; but he shook his head.
Mr. Goanna was behaving disgracefully. Whenever Mrs. Grunty came level with him on the opposite side of the tree, he poked his head round and hissed at her, frightening the life out of her. Every time he did this, she slipped down a whole leg’s length, and then had to double her energy to get even again.
“Shame! Shame!” the onlookers cried angrily, “Disqualify him.” But Splodge refused.
Nutsy and Snubby started to quarrel, scratching and clawing each other round the trunk of the tree. Mrs. Koala was making rapid progress, as every time Mr. Tree Kangaroo passed her, he waited until she was level with him then, swinging round to her side, pushed her up as far as he could before he began to climb again.
Every one thought this wonderful. But then Mr. Tree Kangaroo was noted for his good manners when it suited him. There were times when he could be very nasty if he liked. Blinky knew all about that.
Mrs. Possum and Blinky were also making good progress, they were even with one another all the time, each behaving in the very best manner.
Time was nearly up. Mrs. Koala and Mr. Tree Kangaroo were only a few feet from the nearest branch. The bush folk went wild with excitement. Splodge dashed about from one tree to the other, peering up into the branches.
All at once a horrified cry broke from the onlookers. Mrs. Koala was just about to grab the branch and become the winner when a snake thrust his head over the top, and poked out his tongue at her.
At the same instant a flash through the branches and a loud chuckle caused the bush folk to shout and screech with delight. Jacko Kookaburra shot like an arrow on to the snake, whacking him on the tree and breaking his back. Thump! thump! thump! The snake hung limp like a piece of rope, then was hurled to the ground.
But this terrible incident lost Mrs. Koala the race. She was too terrified to continue climbing. So was Mr. Tree Kangaroo. They slid down the tree to the ground, much quicker than they had climbed up.
Nutsy and Snubby hadn’t a hope of winning. They were only half way up when the winner was declared.
Mrs. Grunty was almost on the branch, when Mr. Goanna gave an extra loud and long hiss, and the poor thing slipped down fully three feet with fright. But Mr. Goanna didn’t win. Splodge was forced to disqualify him as the bush folk were almost rioting.
Blinky and Mrs. Possum were even, just as the branch touched their heads. But they had yet to climb on to it before the race was over.
Mrs. Possum was noted for her quickness and agility when it came to swinging on to branches, and Blinky knew this only too well.
Like a flash he swung round the tree and grabbing Mrs. Possum’s long tail gave it a tremendous tug. Down she fell, fully a quarter the length of the tree, before she recovered her balance. And up on to the branch Blinky climbed, heaving his fat little body over, and then standing up to wave to the crowd.
“That’s all the good of tails!” he growled to himself, while down on the ground every one leaped, jumped and shouted with joy.
“Blinky Bill wins! Blinky wins!” The chorus went up from dozens of throats.
“It’s outrageous! Scandalous! Wicked!” Mrs. Possum shouted as she entered a protest.
But Splodge said: “It was quite fair, she should have kept her tail out of the way.”
When Blinky climbed down, he was rushed and congratulated by every one. Wally Wombat was extra pleased over it all. Still, he demanded his sweet potato back, explaining to Blinky that he’d get a prize and it wasn’t fair to keep half of his as well.
But Blinky refused to part with the sweet potato. He’d hidden it safely away.
Splodge hopped up with a beautiful bunch of the freshest and youngest white-gum leaves, tied round with grass, and with a posy of wattle blooms right in the centre. Blinky snatched them.
Mrs. Koala, who stood beside him looking very proud and slightly nervous, suddenly sprang to life.
“Blinky! Don’t snatch like that. And say ‘thank you.’”
“What for?” he asked.
“For the lovely prize,” Mrs. Koala said, looking very uncomfortable.
“But I won it!” Blinky exclaimed in a loud voice, “and there’s no need to say ‘thank you.’”
“Tsh! It’s really not necessary,” Splodge said good-naturedly, trying to soothe Mrs. Koala. “We’re so glad Blinky has won a prize as we’re holding the gymkhana for him.”
So the incident was forgotten in further excitement, for other competitions were in progress all round the Flat. The nest building caused a great flutter among the birds.
Mrs. Magpie won that event, as her nest was considered the most original, having not only grass and twigs in it, but bits of wire and hair.
Mrs. Thrush was very angry over the result, She had even laid an egg in her nest—just to show how soft and downy the nest really was.
But Splodge gave no extra points for that, remarking that it was a nest building competition, not an egg laying one.
Then there was the wood pecking and hunt-the-beetle events. Also the games for the tiny animals; such as see-saws and merry-go-rounds.
At last everything came to an end, and very tired and sleepy birds and animals went home to rest. Blinky and Nutsy padded along the track with Mrs. Koala.
Splodge went off in another direction to his home. “I’ll see you to-morrow night,” he said, when parting with his friends.
TOMORROW night came round too quickly for Mrs. Koala but too slowly for Blinky. Already he’d been down the tree fossicking about for information as to what was going to happen next; but it was a close secret among the bush animals, and not even Mrs. Magpie chattered a word. So Blinky had to curb his impatience and just wait till the appointed time.
“Can’t you stop fidgeting and scrabbling about?” Mrs. Koala remarked irritably. “I sometimes wonder how a bit of skin manages to grow on your paws.”
“It doesn’t grow, it only came with me when I was a baby,” Blinky scoffed.
“’Course it grows,” Nutsy corrected, “same as your fur and nose.”
“Didn’t,” Blinky shouted. “Furs and noses are parts of babies—you’ve got them always. They don’t grow on you afterwards like scratches and tears.”
‘‘What’s that?” Mrs. Koala motioned to the children to be quiet. With her ear pressed to the tree-trunk she listened for a moment or two, while Blinky stood watching her with very round eyes.
“Someone’s coming at an awful bat,” Mrs. Koala spoke excitedly, “I wonder what’s wrong?”
“I’ll go down and see,” Blinky said starting to slide down the tree; but his mother grabbed him by an ear before he could escape.
“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” she snapped. “Stay here and wait.”
“But it might be another circus coming,” Blinky said excitedly.
“Hush! I can hear music,” Mrs. Koala cried.
“Gee! It’s a band. Trumpets and drums like they had at the zoo when we were there.” Blinky nearly fell off the tree as he hopped and danced about.
“What ridiculous nonsense you talk,” Mrs. Koala said impatiently. “Can’t you hear it’s our own gum leaf band?”
“Golly! I’m going down.’’ And before his mother could grab him a second time, Blinky was half way down the tree.
The bush band came in sight as Mrs. Koala and Nutsy reached the ground.
It was headed by Splodge who waved a big stick about in his paws, much the same as the brave-looking gentleman who marches in front of a real band swaggering his staff.
Then came Wally Wombat, the big kangaroo just behind him, then the wallabies, rabbits, bush rats and dear little mice. All of them held gum leaves between their teeth, blowing their hardest and making the most confused din.
Of course the birds added to the noise; but their music was sweet. Even Mrs. Kookaburra’s laugh was toned down to mingle with the thrush’s mellow notes.
“Golly!” Blinky was speechless for once as he stared at the oncoming musicians.
‘‘Halt!” Splodge’s order rang out.
In a long file the band came to attention as Splodge bowing low advanced towards the koalas.
“Silly,’’ Blinky said with a grunt. “You look like a pigeon walking that way.”
Mrs. Koala grabbed her son and administered a cuff over the ears.
Splodge took no notice whatever; but advanced right up to Mrs. Koala.
“We’re holding a beauty contest,” he whispered quietly, “And we want Blinky to be the judge as he’s the most important animal in the bush to-night There’s been a lot of haggling going on for some time now as to who’s the most beautiful animal. So we all decided to hold a contest before Blinky goes away,”
“He’s sure to muck it up,” Nutsy remarked. “He doesn’t know what’s beautiful and what’s not,”
Blinky, fortunately, was having an argument with Wally Wombat, trying to grab his gum leaf, and did not hear Nutsy’s remark.
“For goodness sake don’t ask him to judge,” Mrs. Koala said in an agitated manner. “He’ll upset every one and pass rude remarks.”
“Well—some of them need it,” Splodge answered, “because some of them who’ve entered for the contest are just too silly for words.”
“Dear, dear, how foolish of them!” Mrs. Koala replied.
“Yes. Just look at Madam Hare. She calls herself a glamour girl—Goodness knows what that means; but I do happen to know she isn’t a girl. She’s old—very old—but all done up in her whiskers and fur.
“Isn’t she a bit snappy?” Mrs. Koala inquired in an undertone. “Or have I been misinformed?”
“Terribly snaky when she likes,” Splodge returned. “And knows how to use her hind legs as far as the kicking goes.”
“Keep Blinky away from her. There’ll be a fight, sure as owls,” Mrs. Koala whispered.
“Where is he?” Splodge turned to find Blinky at the head of the band waving his sticks about.
“Drop those!” Splodge ordered sternly, hopping over to the culprit.
Blinky dropped the sticks like hot cakes. He knew when Splodge had a certain gleam in his eyes that it was better to obey him.
“Will the koalas please take their places at the head of the band?” Splodge called out in a dignified voice.
From nowhere Mrs. Grunty and Snubby appeared, much to Mrs. Koala’s surprise, and proceeded to take their places with Blinky, Nutsy and their mother.
“This is a surprise,” Mrs. Grunty remarked. “I wish I’d had time to lick my coat up a bit. And Snubby isn’t his best to-night either.”
“A bit of dirt’s neither here nor there,” Mrs. Koala replied kindly. “It’s personality that counts.”
“What’s that?” Mrs. Grunty asked in a puzzled manner.
“All of you: your bad manners—good manners— cross looks—clean toe-nails and things you think about others but don’t say,” Mrs. Koala explained.
“I think a lot; but don’t say,” Mrs. Grunty replied. “Certain animals in this march wouldn’t be here if I had a say.”
“That’s nasty personality,” Mrs. Koala returned, “and nobody with that will win the beauty contest.”
“Come on Snubby, keep with me.” Mrs. Grunty’s tone was stern as she ordered her son to her side.
Blinky marched just behind Splodge in spite of the order to join the koalas. Quickly, when Splodge’s attention was on other matters, he’d picked up a large stick and followed Splodge’s actions, swishing it this way and that, twirling it in the air, then out and around.
On they went down to the stream where the pale blue bush iris peeped through the green tussocky grass that fringed the water. The stream glittered in the moonlight like a gown of silver brocade splashed here and there with spangles of dew.
Timothy Spider had been patiently fishing for an hour in a secluded corner of a rock overhanging a sheltered pool—his line temptingly swaying on the almost still water, hoping to snare an unwary mosquito or gnat. Now, as the bush people came down to the stream, laughing, singing and chattering, Timothy felt distinctly annoyed. He puckered up his face and snatched in his line.
“Pesky creatures,” he growled. “All the bush to themselves and that’s not big enough for them. No! they must come and disturb my fishing.
“And as for that koala child! He’s the one that pokes sticks down my home hoping to see me get ratty and come out bristling to fight with him. I’ll nip him on his most feeling part one of these nights. Perhaps to-night if I get the chance.”
Timothy slid into his crack in the rock growling and grumbling all about fishing and koalas.
Splodge motioned to every one to be seated, then proceeded to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen—we’re going to hold a beauty contest.”
“Ha-ha-ha!” Blinky shouted with laughter. Splodge scowled in his direction.
“There’s been a lot of ill-feeling lately amongst us and tonight’s going to decide who is the most beautiful animal. All must go down to the stream and wash off any make-up beforehand, as this is to be just a skin and fur decision. Of course teeth and eyes, whiskers, claws, tails and foot pads will be considered,”
“Who’s judging?” the shout went up. “Not you!”
“No, the honour goes to Blinky,” Splodge replied.
A general commotion broke out.
“Him!” Mrs. Grunty shouted. “Well, I’m stepping out and my Snubby too.”
“That’s a good idea,” Mrs. Koala returned sharply. “You couldn’t hope to win ’cause you look so cross,”
“The whole thing’s rubbish. Not fit for respectable people,” Mrs. Grunty returned. “Snubby! come here.” But Snubby was down at the stream splashing water all over himself and Nutsy too, until they looked like a pair of drowned rats.
Blinky was missing too. When the moment came to call the competitors together Splodge and Mrs. Koala had to commence a hunt for him.
They found him down at Timothy Spider’s home poking a stick down the doorway, while Timothy, ramping mad, was tugging viciously at the other end.
“Blinky!” Mrs. Koala called sternly. “Come out of that at once.”
“He’s madder than the maddest snake,” Blinky shouted.
“Come out of it!” Splodge ordered. “They’re waiting for you to do the judging.”
“Me!” Blinky was surprised. “Mrs. Grunty’s not going to get a prize—not for the beautifullest animal— she’s the ugliest.”
“What did I tell you?” Mrs. Koala said looking at Splodge.
“We’ll have to hope for the best,” Splodge replied.
“The very best,” Mrs. Koala agreed.
Blinky regretfully left Timothy Spider to a little peace.
“They’re all lined up ready and waiting for you,” said Splodge, “and for goodness sake don’t pick Wally Wombat.”
“He’s my second best friend,” Blinky said reprovingly.” …I think he’s the best.”
“Nonsense!” Mrs. Koala exclaimed. “No one could call him handsome. You must judge every one with an im-im-impartial mind.”
“What’s that?” Blinky asked.
“Take each part separately,” Splodge announced.
“Paws and everything,” Mrs. Koala added.
By this time they had joined the gathering where a great deal of chattering and fluttering, scrambling and scuffling was taking place.
“Line up for the judging,” Splodge called, while Blinky climbed on to an old tree stump.
The competitors sat round in a semicircle, big animals at the back, and the tiny ones in front.
“We’d better take the small animals first,” Splodge whispered to Blinky.
“No! I want the big ones first,” Blinky replied. “They’re most important.”
“Very well,” Splodge snapped. Then calling out in a loud voice he told the kangaroos and wallabies to hop forward.
“Noses and teeth first,” Blinky ordered. “Please twitch your noses and show your teeth.”
A display of twitching soft brown noses and gleaming teeth took place.
“Angelina Wallaby’s got the best nose and cleanest teeth,” Blinky called out. “Put your front paws up for ’spection,”
A row of soft padded feet flew up, as each owner glanced at his neighbour’s out of the corner of his eye.
“Angelina Wallaby’s got the cleanest and best paws,” Blinky announced.
“Don’t say her all the time,” Splodge whispered. “There’ll be awful trouble if you do.”
“She’s my friend,” Blinky growled. “I don’t like the others.”
Splodge heaved a sigh.
“Open your eyes wide,” Blinky called out.
Large beautiful brown eyes opened their widest.
“Angelina Wallaby’s got the beautifullest,” came the announcement.
“Hey you—up there! What sort of a show is this? It’s all cheating and best friends,” a big rusty coloured kangaroo shouted out.
“You’re out of it for being rude,” Blinky shouted back.
A shower of dust flew up in the air as the big kangaroo gave a violent kick and hopped into the bush.
This caused a great deal of dusting and licking to go on amongst the contestants, amid angry mutterings.
“Show your pouches!” Blinky ordered.
Of course, only the ladies were able to take part in this display.
“That’s not fair,” one of the gentlemen whispered to his neighbour.
“Wait until it comes to tails—that’s where we’ll score,” his friend remarked.
“Nobody’s got the best pouch,” Blinky shouted, much to every one’s surprise. “They’re silly things and don’t count at all,”
“I beg your pardon!” Mrs. Kangaroo cried indignantly. “Let me tell you I’ve carried eighteen babies, one at a time, in my pouch. Silly indeed! You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your mother’s pouch.”
“You’d better tell her her’s is the best. There’s going to be a row,” Splodge whispered anxiously.
Blinky was just on the point of saying something cheeky when he glanced at Mrs. Kangaroo and saw her advancing towards him with a vicious look all over her.
“Yours is the best,” he shouted, “’Cause it’s the oldest.”
“You cheeky young cub!” Mrs. Kangaroo retorted, hopping right up to Blinky, while the rest of the animals turned very pale.
“Don’t be rude to the judge,” Splodge warned. “And remember—he’s a soldier now. You can’t say what you like to him now.”
“Dustpools!” Mrs. Kangaroo exclaimed angrily. “Judge, soldier or anything else I’ll box his ears if he’s rude to me again. Anyhow, this beauty show’s no good. It’s only for scatterbrains and I’m off home.”
“Good-o!” Blinky shouted—but not till Mrs. Kangaroo was out of hearing.
“We’d better get down to tail now,” Splodge advised.
“Show tails!” Blinky ordered.
Every animal swung round, presenting his tail for inspection.
“Thump them!” the order rang out.
Thump, thump, thump. Down came the tails and up went the tails, dust smothering the owners.
“Fatty Kangaroo’s makes the most dust; but Angelina Wallaby’s is the best shape… And her’s wins the first prize,” Blinky gave his decision.
“Aw!” Fatty Kangaroo sounded very disappointed, but he was too much of a gentleman to complain loudly.
“How about tying them for ‘first place?” Splodge suggested, feeling very sorry for Fatty.
“It’d make a fat knot and all quivery,” Blinky replied.
“I don’t mean knotting them,” Splodge remarked irritably, “I mean—make them even.”
“But Angelina’s is shorter,” Blinky scoffed.
“Oh, dear! Let it go—let it go,” Splodge sighed.
“Who’s the beautifullest?” Every bush animal was impatient to hear the decision.
“Angelina Wallaby,” Blinky announced.
A great deal of clapping greeted his decision, and although favouritism may have crept in, Angelina was so loved by every one that no one growled or grumbled. Indeed, all were very pleased.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the first part of the contest is over; but we still have the smaller animals to judge. Don’t think you all haven’t a chance—’cause you have. The judge will decide and his decision will be final. Take your places please.”
Splodge helped to arrange the smallest animals so that they stood an equal chance amongst their larger friends.
MRS. GRUNTY, who had changed her mind about going home, was an entrant. Also Snubby, Mrs. Koala, Nutsy, Wally Wombat, the whole possum family, the flying squirrels, the bandicoots, the rabbits (not forgetting the big black rabbit) and the teenies. All the rat family were in it, and the mice too.
Tiny wee mice that lived in the wheat fields had pricked up their pretty little ears when the news went round that a beauty competition was to be held. Although so small they knew they were very pretty to look upon, so they decided to show off their glossy coats and sparkling eyes.
“Aha! This is where I stand a chance,” the big black rabbit said to himself as he heard the news. All day long he sat in the sunshine outside his burrow, licking and brushing his coat until it shone like satin. His whiskers were wiped one by one between his paws, then rubbed up and rolled round and round until they fairly gleamed like silver wire. Then his ears came in for attention. Licking his paws, he wiped them over his ears, wiped and wiped until he was tired.
“Oh dear—my poor arms! How they ache!” Then resting a few moments he started all over again.
His nose was rubbed next, and then each claw separately nibbled and tugged at until all were an even length. He looked so handsome. In fact, if a fairy had come along and waved her wand over him, surely a silk top hat would have appeared on his head and a frock coat over his glossy fur.
But sad to relate, the big black rabbit had a big brown worry. His tail was not the best. It looked scrappy and worn. Certainly it had plenty of bobs in it and worked as well as any other rabbit’s tail; but it would be a severe drawback in a beauty contest.
“It won’t get me down!” he exclaimed aloud. ‘‘After all the tail end is last. It’s whiskers that count.”
All the same he was seriously worried and went into his burrow to do a think.
Madam Hare was up to her tricks too. “I’ll show those young rabbits what beauty is!” she chattered away to herself, while combing her coat. “I used to be the hare belle, and I’ll be it again if I’m not mistaken.”
Lick, lick, lick. Over and over her coat and face went the paws.
“Great thistlesticks! my coat is moulting.” With annoyance she gazed at the clumps of loose fur that lay on the ground, never dreaming for one moment that the big black rabbit was watching her.
“The old goat!” he muttered between his two long front teeth. ‘‘But I’ll make use of her moulted beauty.”
“Goodness! My whiskers are going grey,” Madam Hare sighed. “But I’ll soon fix them up. What’s a few whiskers in a beauty contest? It’s the tail that comes first, and mine’s beyond compare.” Twisting her head around she washed her tail until it fluffed up like a “four o’clock.”
Wally Wombat had been busy too.
“Oh! for goodness sake give up that cissy business,” his old father had growled. “Lick, lick, lick, the saliva’s fairly running to waste; and I’m all on edge watching you squirming about this way and that. Makes me sick to think a son of mine should carry on like a peacock.”
“I wish I had a tail,” Wally sighed. “It’d make such a difference in points.”
“A tail!” his father exclaimed. “Now get that rubbish out of your head. That’s what comes of listening in on wireless sets. All the new fangled rubbish and ideas you’ve mopped up lately makes me disgusted.”
“But they’re so handsome! The really good tails are,” Wally remarked in a half-ashamed voice.
“Rats!” Old Father Wombat shouted. “Half of them are mangy and the other half dragging in the dust till they look like Farmer Green’s cow-shed broom. And that’s no beauty, I can tell you, my lad, as I felt it once round my hindquarters.”
“All the same I wish I had a tail,” Wally persisted.
“Go out and dig up a few potatoes. Get your mind on to something useful—something to eat,” his father growled.
Wally immediately rolled on his back, wriggling about like a snake then doubling himself up in a ball. On to his feet he sprang and shook himself violently, his glossy coat sheening in the dim light.
“Ugh!” Old Father Wombat could stand it no longer and stamped out of the burrow.
“Do you think I stand a chance, Mrs. Koala? I’m not thinking any nasty thoughts now,” Mrs. Grunty said as she stood beside her friend.
“Of course you stand a chance. As big a chance as any one else,” Mrs. Koala replied.
“And what about Snubby?”
‘‘Well—he’s got to compete against Nutsy and me,” Mrs. Koala remarked, “and I must say Nutsy looks sweet to-night.”
“Snubby looks beautiful,” Mrs. Grunty snapped.
“Of course, of course; but I think a lady will win the contest,” Mrs. Koala spoke quietly, as she tried to pacify her friend.
“Line up! Line up!” Splodge called out briskly. “All licking and brushing must cease as the contest is on.” Quick final pats were put to many toilettes, then the judging began.
“Ears first—show your ears!” Blinky ordered.
Two rows of ears shot up. From the largest that belonged to the koala entrants down to the teeniest mouse.
“Flop them,” Blinky called.
Flip-flop—the ears flapped in all directions.
“Mr. Black Rabbit has the bestest ears,” Blinky shouted.
“They’re common! Dozens of them around here. The judgment should go to me.”
It was Madam Hare who spoke so rudely, and all the animals turned to stare at her.
“‘You’ve got bald patches on yours,” Blinky shouted.
“You’d have a bald patch, my lad, if I was your mother—and not on your ears either,” Madam Hare was as mad as a March hare although her birthday was in October.
“She’s dotty—don’t take any notice of her,” Splodge whispered to Blinky.
But Blinky was staring at Madam Hare very hard.
“She’s got black whiskers on,” he muttered to Splodge, “and her natural ones are white.”
“Ay! What’s that?” Splodge pulled himself up with a jerk as he stared at Madam Hare. “There’s treachery here!” he exclaimed. “I’ll investigate.” Bounding over to Madam Hare he placed a paw on her shoulder.
“Keep your paws off me!” Madam Hare shouted, pushing Splodge’s paw away.
“You follow me or there’ll be a shindy,” Splodge growled as he gritted his teeth. “What are you doing with those whiskers?”
“They’re my own,” Madam Hare replied indignantly.
“Follow me and no back-chat,” Splodge scowled at the culprit.
Needless to say a commotion arose amongst the other animals. A chorus of whispering broke out with many audible remarks such as; “What did I tell you!” and, “Fancy her with dyed whiskers!”
“Bring her here!” Blinky demanded growling very loudly.
Madam Hare tossed her ears up and didn’t look a bit ashamed or sorry as she marched up to Blinky.
“What’s that on your whiskers?” he asked gruffly.
“Natural,” Madam Hare boldly replied.
“Shame on her!” Wally Wombat called out.
“She’s telling a lie!” the black rabbit shouted. “I saw her do it.”
“Do what?” Blinky asked sternly.
“I saw her rubbing burnt black cinders from a tree on them,” the black rabbit replied, while a shout of “Oh!” went up from the crowd.
“’Spicable animal,” Blinky said crossly. “Wipe it off.”
Madam Hare gave a scream of rage as she flew at Blinky, administering a nasty kick with her strong hindleg, then tore for her life away into the bush.
“Disqualified!” Splodge shouted.
“Disgusting!” Mrs. Grunty remarked.
“She’s got snakes!” Blinky growled as he proceeded to continue judging.
“Whiskers next!” he ordered.
One could almost hear the whiskers frisking as they twitched in all directions.
“Mrs. Bush Rat’s whiskers are the best!” The decision was received well, as no doubt Mrs. Bush Rat had a lovely shiny set.
“All my work for nothing,” the black rabbit said to himself. “But we’ve still got the tails to come.”
“He hasn’t noticed us yet,” Mrs. Grunty remarked a trifle discontentedly.
“Now for noses!” Blinky called.
Some of the competitors even sniffed to attract attention, and Wally Wombat gave a loud sneeze.
“None of that!” Splodge shouted sternly. “It’s appearance that counts—not noise.”
“All the same Wally Wombat’s got the bestest nose,” Blinky called. “It’s far the bestest smeller in the bush.”
Wally threw himself in the air with joy.
“Ridickilus!” the black rabbit exclaimed. “It’s all fat and lumpy!”
“Silence!” Splodge rapped his tail on the ground to restore order.
“Tails next!” Blinky shouted.
Around all the competitors swung. Little tails and big tails swished about for judgment.
“The black rabbit’s is a fake,” someone called out. The black rabbit immediately swung round so that his tail was hidden.
“Stand out!” Blinky ordered. “Go and ’spect it, Splodge.”
“Hey! What’s all this about? Where did you get hold of that rubbish?”
Splodge pointed to a funny looking bunch of grey hair tied with grass on to the black rabbit’s tail, while the poor bunny hung his head in shame.
“Explain it!” Splodge thundered.
“I—I—saw it going to waste, so I thought I’d use it,” he whimpered.
“Whose is it?” Splodge demanded angrily.
“It’s Madam Hare’s moults,” the black rabbit whispered. “I hate to see good fur going to waste.” He shivered with fright as he looked up into Splodge’s big brown eyes.
“Better explain to the judge,” Splodge said feeling sorry for the wrongdoer.
So the black rabbit was marched up to Blinky and explained his lapse of bad behaviour.
“Doesn’t matter,” Blinky remarked shortly. “That silly old hare shouldn’t leave her moults about for people to pick up. Serves her right for losing it.”
“Am I disqualified?” the black rabbit asked anxiously.
“’Course not,” Blinky remarked. “But Wally Wombat wins the tails too.”
“He’s got none! He’s cheating! He’s got somebody else’s!” The cries of dissension were deafening.
“Heck! So he has!” Splodge shouted.
Blinky stared hard at Wally’s back view and sure enough he had a long beautiful bushy tail, whisking it about in quite an angry manner. Suddenly it disappeared and a very, very angry possum dashed into the foreground.
“He was sitting on me!” the possum panted angrily.
“What’s that?” Blinky asked, his eyes opening wide.
“He sat on me so’s my lovely tail poked out,” the possum explained indignantly.
“Is that correct?” Splodge demanded of Wally.
“’Spose so,” he replied sulkily.
“Cheater! Cheater!” Poor Wally was hissed on all sides.
“I’m going home—I’m sick of it!” he cried defiantly. “How can I win the tails when I haven’t got one?”
“Yes—how can we?” Mrs. Grunty chimed in.
“There is no tail prize,” Blinky said with emphasis. “They’re too silly to win prizes.”
“Aw—that’s ’cause he hasn’t one,” the teenies growled amongst themselves.
“Don’t go home, Wally,” Blinky called out to his friend who was already ambling away. “I think you’ll win if you stay.”
“My goodness—that’s favouritism for you!” Mrs. Grunty exclaimed angrily.
“Ssh!” Mrs. Koala whispered. “Remember what I said about personality.”
“It’s judging coats next!” Blinky shouted.
This seemed to soothe the animals, and they forgot the past commotions in the general excitement of the present event.
As they stood there on their hindlegs with paws neatly crossed and heads erect, their glossy coats were certainly a credit to the owners.
Brown, grey and black, all shone in the moonlight with tiny toes and claws peeping from beneath them.
“Mrs. Possum wins the coats and the first prize for the small animals,” Blinky announced.
“Hooray!” every one shouted, even Mrs. Grunty and Wally Wombat, for really Mrs. Possum’s coat was beautiful.
“That means the beauty contest has to be decided between Angelina Wallaby, winner of the first part, and Mrs. Possum,” Splodge explained.
Now the real excitement began as every one sat round on the ground waiting for the final decision.
Angelina and Mrs. Possum smiled at one another, looking a tiny bit nervous as their particular friends called out encouraging remarks to each.
“Hope you win, Angelina!”
“Good luck, Mrs. Possum!”
And many more were added.
“Well—we’re out of it; but all the same I don’t mind a scrap,” Mrs. Grunty remarked gaily, “’cause Angelina’s really a lovely lady.”
“Beautiful,” Mrs. Koala agreed.
Blinky now prepared to give his final verdict. A hush fell over the whole bushland. Even the birds ceased twittering, and the frogs behind stones stopped croaking; the insects were silent, and the breeze died down. Everything and every one awaited the verdict. Blinky placed his paws over his eyes and began to count.
“One, two, three!
“My mother wins the beauty contest as she’s the beautifullest animal in all the world.”
A moment’s silence followed Blinky’s decision and then the bushland went wild with joy. Birds sang as no human being has ever heard them sing. Animals grunted with joy hopping over rocks and mounds, clapping their paws together in excitement, while the frogs and insects croaked and chirped their delight.
“’Gratulations!’’ Mrs. Grunty growled softly. “I’m glad Blinky loves his mother so much. Strange that he never shows it.”
“He loves me deep down,” Mrs. Koala answered, “but he’s so furry his feelings just can’t pop through and be seen.”
Blinky was the centre of attraction as he stood on the tree stump with every one applauding his decision. And didn’t he like it?—until a most unlooked-for incident upset everything.
With a howl of surprise and temper he swung round just in time to see Timothy Spider disappearing over the side of the stump after having nipped him savagely on a hind foot.
Every one hunted for Timothy, calling out loudly what they’d do to him if they caught him. But Timothy had scrambled under the bark of the stump, and as he listened to the animals’ threats he repeated over and over again to himself: ‘“Serves him right! Serves him right!”
THE time for Blinky’s departure was growing near. One more night in the bush and then away to join the soldiers in Sydney. This last night was to be a famous occasion, one to be remembered and spoken of for a long, long time to come amongst the bush folk.
The place chosen for the concert was a small clearing made by a bush fire some years ago. The undergrowth had sprung up again; but the big trees still valiantly fought for recognition. Many huge boulders were dumped in the clearing, making excellent seats for the smaller animals who were not tall enough to view the stage from the ground. All these seats had been “bagged” with much arguing and in some cases, I am sorry to say, a little bribery went on.
Croaky Frog for instance promised Jumper Frog his largest fly if he’d swap places with him; but Jumper was cunning and asked for his fly in advance.
“What! Gobble up my best and biggest fly before I even get a look?” Croaky squeaked with indignation.
“You’re doing the asking—not me,” Jumper said rudely. “And those are my terms.”
Croaky looked very downcast for a minute; then a brilliant idea entered his froggy mind.
“I’ll let you have the wings and legs until the first part of the concert is over, and then when the second part starts you can have the head; but you’re not getting the body part till the concert is ended.”
Jumper did not wish to miss such a fine supper, so agreed to give his seat up on these terms. That is why Croaky had such a fine view of the performance, and he didn’t pay up until forced. His first installment was paid one leg at a time after each item, much to Jumper’s disgust. And Jumper kept count of the legs too. As each one was handed to him he made a note of it by placing a blade of grass on the stone.
Five blades of grass lay side by side, and when the sixth item was over, Croaky handed his friend a wing. “’Nother leg please,” Jumper said coldly.
“There are no more,” Croaky replied sulkily. “You’ve had the lot.”
“’Scuse me, I’ve had only five,” Jumper contradicted, “Hand over the other.”
“He had only five,” Croaky replied, swiftly swallowing something.
“Flies have six legs and I want the other,” Jumper said doggedly.
“He was a cripple and had only five,” Croaky returned, not moving an inch.
“Well hop down while I have a look at the concert for the sixth leg,” Jumper demanded angrily.
So Croaky had to give way for one item; and as he hopped down breathed heavily all over Jumper.
“Smells ’strordinary like flies’ legs,” Jumper remarked as he gave Croaky a push and flopped on to the rock.
That was only one instance of bribery and a very blatant case it was too.
Farther round the clearing another shameful performance was taking place in regard to seats.
Porky, the largest porcupine in the bush, was arguing with Miss Jerboa Rat (a pretty little creature) about her possie.
“Come on—I want that place,” Porky assumed a bullying manner.
“I got it first. It’s mine,” Miss Jerboa Rat answered angrily.
“What’s the price of it?” Porky asked, getting closer to the little rat.
“It’s not for sale,” she replied.
“Well—if you won’t make a deal with me—take the consequences,” Porky said rudely.
And then, just as the concert was about to start and Miss Jerboa Rat was comfortably settled with a splendid view of the stage, and seated next to her best friend the field-mouse, a shadowy form edged in between them very quietly. Intent on watching the stage, neither took much notice until Miss Jerboa Rat felt a sharp prick in her side.
Jumping up in alarm, she was nearly beside herself with rage to find Porky quickly snapping up her seat and then—out came all his spines.
“I’ll report you to the manager,” Miss Jerboa Rat cried as she raced away to lay her complaint. In a few minutes Blinky was on the scene.
“Get out of it. Porky. That’s not your seat.” Blinky had a big stick between his paws.
“It’s mine till I’m shifted,” Porky replied spreading his spines out to their fullest.
Without another word Blinky pushed his stick under Porky’s tummy and threw him into the air.
With squeaks and screams the audience scattered in all directions, not knowing where the ball of prickles would land.
He landed right in Mrs. Grunty’s lap.
“Snake’s teeth!” she cried in a frightful temper. Then, wriggling herself free of the unwelcome intruder, turned to grab a big stone. Porky lost no time burrowing under a thick spiky bush. By the time Mrs. Grunty was ready to fight he’d disappeared from sight.
Then every one had to wriggle down again and get their special places sorted out once more.
While this interruption had been ably settled, Splodge was busy restoring order still farther round the clearing. Sad to say, old Father Wombat was the disturber. Wally had carefully chosen a special rock all for himself, earlier in the day; but when old Father Wombat saw it, he was clearly dissatisfied.
“You’ve put me amongst the people who don’t matter,” he complained. “Why can’t I sit with the wallabies and kangaroos?’’
“But the lizards are the very best people,” Wally said, trying to overcome the difficulty.
“Bunkum!” old Father Wombat growled irritably.
“I’m an animal and I’m going to sit with the animals— not with the reptiles.”
“Well, grab your own possie,” Wally replied impatiently. “I’m taking part in the concert and I can’t waste time looking for another place for you.”
Old Father Wombat was very angry. He rumbled all over with deep guttural growls while lolloping around the rocks looking for a good place to sit.
As he drew near to a group of wallabies, they deliberately spread their haunches out, closing up the smallest space, eyeing old Father Wombat with I-hope-he-doesn’t-push-in-here looks. As he moved away, the wallabies made more space again. Out of the corner of his eye old Father Wombat noticed these things, and decided he’d push that wallaby crowd out before the concert started. He’d brought his supper with him as luck would have it, thinking he’d have a nice quiet spot to himself where he could munch and look on at the proceedings at the same time.
Waddling around he spotted three wallabies with a fallen log all to themselves. There was ample room for old Father Wombat up there too; but, as usual, they began to spread out.
“Any room?” he asked with a surly growl.
“No—we’re sorry, Father Wombat; but we’re crowded out as it is.”
“Move up! I’ll just rest my old paws over the log.” His words sounded very much like a command.
“But we’re crammed already,” a wallaby started to complain.
“Move up!” he repeated, taking no notice of the complaint.
Pushing his front paws in between two widely spread haunches, he then squeezed his old rough head in and began to push sideways. Growls and angry exclamations were hurled at him; but he took no notice, pushing and wedging until he got one hindleg up. It was only a matter of minutes before the other hindleg was up too.
A great deal of pushing and squeezing began; but old Father Wombat dug his long powerful claws into the log and refused to budge an inch. The rudest remarks were loudly spoken as one wallaby reached right across the front of old Father Wombat and remarked to her friend: “It’s a long time since some people had a bath,” Old Father Wombat took no notice whatever. He’d got where he wanted and was determined to stay there.
Scrabbling about in the pockets of his old coat he pulled out a large brown onion and began to eat it. This was the supper he’d so carefully carried along.
As he ate, the wallabies began to look at one another with disgusted looks. They moved farther away, crowding up to each end of the log. Old Father Wombat spat out the skin and that was the sign for general action.
“Disgusting behaviour!” one lovely looking little wallaby announced.
“Old pig!” another exclaimed angrily.
“Noxious weed!” a third remarked loudly. He’d often listened to the farmers discussing blackberries and knew from the way they spoke, a noxious weed was just about the most hated thing in the bush or farmlands.
With four disgusted kicks at the log, four disgusted wallabies hopped swiftly away to look for other seats, leaving old Father Wombat in sole charge of the log.
“Huh, huh!” he grunted with satisfaction. “A fellow’s only to use tacks and he gets anything he wants. This onion’s the worsted taste I’ve ever tasted.”
With a disgusted growl he threw his supper away then settled down to enjoy the concert, wiping his whiskers with his paws and trying to get the horrible taste from his mouth.
Whack! Whack! Whack! Splodge brought a big stick down on the ground calling every one to attention.
“Animals and birds, reptiles and insects. This is a farewell concert to Blinky Bill. He leaves to-morrow night to join the soldiers, so this is the last time you’ll see him or hear him for a very long time,”
“Aw!” Every one expressed his sorrow.
“Just a word,” Splodge added, “We want this concert to be a success. Don’t growl and kick up a noise if you don’t like an item. It’s got nothing to do with you. If you like the concert shout and clap as much as you like—but no throwing stones and sticks about, and no biting and kicking.”
Hand clapping of paws and thumps of tails greeted this announcement.
The stage was a large bare patch of ground and as the first item was about to start, two kangaroos rolled a log into the middle of it.
Blinky, Mrs. Koala, and Nutsy had been given seats of honour, right in the very front row of stones.
“The first item will be acrobats,” Splodge called out. “Ladies and gentlemen—the Springing Spinsters.”
WHAT’S spinsters?” Blinky asked his mother.
“Ladies without husbands,” Mrs. Koala replied.
“Are you a springing spinster?” Blinky spoke very loudly and several nearby animals looked quite shocked.
“’Course I’m not!” Mrs. Koala said shortly. “Be quiet and watch the concert.”
“But you haven’t a husband,” Blinky persisted. “You must be a springing spinster.”
“Will you be quiet?” Mrs. Koala gave him a pinch.
“That hurts!” Blinky cried out.
“Good job!” Nutsy piped up.
Fortunately at that moment the Springing Spinsters appeared on the stage.
“Poof! they’re only possums,” Blinky remarked with disappointment. But the next instant he was cracking with laughter.
The two possums somersaulted over the log then sprang in the air meeting with a bang. Down they came leap-frogging over each other, grabbing tails and springing over and over the log.
This performance was repeated again and again while the audience clapped and stamped with joy. Then, with a polite bow and kissing their paws to their friends the possums scrambled off the stage.
“The next item will be a song by Madam Hare,” Splodge announced.
The best animals clapped; but somewhere away back in the bush a noise of booing was distinctly heard.
“Gracious goodness!” Mrs. Koala exclaimed. “I didn’t know she could sing.”
Madam Hare swept on to the stage rolling her eyes around in a vain manner, and arching her whiskers.
Every one clapped to give her encouragement. She held a flannel flower between her front paws and with this waved to the audience for silence as her accompanist made his appearance.
It was Green Grocer Locust. She had tried very hard to enlist the services of the Black Prince, but he declined, explaining that his services were only available for Royalty.
Green Grocer Locust tuned up his drums, then struck the opening notes of the song “Nellie Bly.”
The frogs immediately showed their approval of this number by croaking loudly and Madam Hare had to wait until the din subsided before commencing her song.
Caught a fly
Hung it up to dry.
“A waste!—they’re no good dried,” a frog croaked above Madam Hare’s beautiful notes.
“Bag him!” someone shouted. A scuffle took place and once more Madam Hare began her song.
Took it down
Cut it up
Made a mutton pie.
A deafening applause followed.
“Encore! More! More!”
Taking Green Grocer Locust by a leg Madam Hare drew him to the front of the stage, both bowing and smiling their acknowledgments.
Whispering something to Green Grocer Locust, Madam Hare then told the audience she would sing “The Grasshopper’s Lullaby.”
She sang the song with great feeling, flopping her ears about, closing her eyes, and rocking her paws.
The Grasshopper sang,
The baby cried
A witch flew down
The Grasshopper sighed.
Here Green Grocer Locust made a long drawn out noise on his drums.
The Grasshopper sang
The baby howled,
“Smack him on the pants”
The old witch growled.
The audience went wild, clapping and grunting, shouting and whistling, pushing and shoving as excited onlookers fell off their seats and scrambled back madly before the seats were pinched.
Repeated calls for more were in vain. Madam Hare was presented with a bouquet of wild flowers and immediately began to nibble the stalks.
“I don’t think she’s good at all,” Blinky said rudely.
“She shows her teeth too much when singing,” Mrs. Koala remarked to a neighbour. ‘‘It’s a pity, ’cause I couldn’t help looking at them instead of listening to the song.”
“That’s her hare-lip—she can’t help it,” her friend answered in a whisper.
“Oh! I didn’t mean to be personal,” Mrs. Koala returned. “I hope you won’t tell her what I said.”
“’Course not! I never repeat things,” her neighbour answered, “unless they come out by accident.”
A pebble shot through the air and hit Madam Hare right on the tail, just as she’d turned to make her exit.
She leaped into the air more from surprise than pain.
“Mind the step!” some rude animal called out. It sounded very much like Fatty Kangaroo’s voice.
“This is an insult!” Madam Hare shouted. “I’m glad I didn’t sing six songs as I intended to.”
“So am I!” Blinky shouted.
“Ssh! Ssh!” Every one “sshed.” Madam Hare held her head very high and made her interrupted exit.
“Blinky! Give me that catapult.”
Mrs. Koala’s voice was cold and stern as she grasped her son’s arm.
“But she shouldn’t have showed off,” Blinky began to argue.
“Give me that catapult!” Mrs. Koala insisted, tightening her grip.
“It’s my very best one,” Blinky began again, “and I mightn’t get another now I’m going to be a soldier.”
“Oh—very well. But this is your last chance. Don’t let me see you do that again.” Mrs. Koala gave a deep sigh and turned to watch the stage.
Splodge bounded forward.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the next item on the programme is Wo-Wo the Magician.”
“Hurrah! Hurrah!” the bush folk shouted, throwing sticks and clumps of grass into the air. In fact the whole audience went wild with excitement.
“Gee!’’ Blinky shouted as he danced round on his rock. “A magician!”
“Could he turn us into snakes?” Nutsy asked with alarm.
“Yes. Snakes and goannas and centipedes,” Blinky replied, still dancing around, “He’s only to say ‘Boof’ and you’d be a dingo.”
“Ridickilus nonsense!” Mrs. Koala retorted sternly.
There was no time for argument as the magician made his appearance.
“Hey! it’s Wally,” Blinky yelled with glee. “Wallo —I’m here, right in the front row.”
“Wally! Old Wally! Good old Wally!” the shouts and cries mingled with calls and grunts. The birds twittered with joy and Mrs. Kookaburra laughed until she fell from her branch.
“The brainless yam!” old Father Wombat growled as he saw his son advance on to the stage. “That wireless business accounts for this! Cat’s whiskers and wire all over the place—no wonder his brain’s gone bad. I never saw the like of the like before! Tinkering about with air and noises instead of rooting up potatoes and carrots. That’s why Farmer Green had a good crop, as he says to his neighbours.”
Wally started his performance, “’Scuse me—but I want a gentleman from the audience to step on to the stage please.”
“Me! Me!” With a whoop of glee Blinky bounced off his rock and stood beside Wally before he’d finished his request.
“Isn’t he bold?” Nutsy whispered to Mrs. Koala, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.
“Pushing!” Mrs. Koala retorted. “Goodness knows where he gets it from. Certainly not from me and not from his father.”
“Must have just growed on him like his ears,” Nutsy remarked.
“It’s something he’s picked up,” Mrs. Koala replied.
“Now ladies and gentlemen,” Wally began, “I’m going to produce something out of nuffing.”
“O-o-o-h!” a long expectant sigh broke from the audience.
“I’m not going to touch a thing,” Wally proceeded. “This gentleman beside me can prove that.”
“Hurry up!” Blinky whispered.
Bending over a stone Wally uttered some magic words as he waved his paws to and fro. Then pausing a moment, turning his paws this way and that to show the audience he had nothing in them, he bent down and lifted the stone.
With a shout of surprise he held up a tiny kicking field-mouse by the tail.
“Golly—!” Blinky said quietly, as he gazed in amazement at the squirming mouse.
“A lot o’ mud larks,” old Father Wombat growled, secretly feeling very proud of his son. “I’ll get him to fetch out some peanuts from under the stones in our burrow. Here have I been grubbing for years—and all the time I needn’t have.”
“That’s nuffing,” Wally remarked a little shyly when the sustained applause died down. “I can make things come out of the earth what never went into the earth.”
“Show us! Show us!” every one shouted.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this great magic needs time to work. It has to go right under the ground and mix up with witches and turnips before the magic begins to work. I must ask you to keep very quiet while the mixing is going on.” Splodge bowed and a hush fell over the audience.
“Witches!” Nutsy whispered to Mrs. Koala.
“Yes! and there’s young Blinky standing right on top of them. Blinky! Come here at once!” Mrs. Koala stood up as she shouted and waved to her son.
“Keep quiet, please!” Wally ordered as he scowled at Mrs. Koala.
“But Blinky’s right on top of the witches,” Mrs. Koala shouted back.
“That’s nuffing,” Wally replied. So poor Mrs. Koala had to sit down again.
“Stand out here please, where the magic is working,” Wally motioned Blinky to a loose mound of earth. “Stand right on top of it, please.”
Very reluctantly Blinky moved to where he was directed, casting a doubtful look at his mother.
“Come back before you’re blown up!” Mrs. Koala called as she began to climb down off her rock.
“Ssh!” Wally said very sternly. “Keep back, please. Women spoil magic.”
Mrs. Koala hesitated, then Splodge came to assure her that everything would be perfectly safe as long as she kept quiet.
“Um-um-um,” Wally growled as he waved his paws over Blinky’s head.
Slowly but very clearly the earth round Blinky’s feet began to heave and he began to run away.
“Don’t! Don’t move, or goodness knows what’ll happen,” Wally shouted. “The witches’ll all bounce out if you move.”
It all happened in a second. Wally gave a sharp shout —Blinky fell backwards on to the stage, the earth flew up in all directions and out of the hole stepped the big black rabbit, rubbing his eyes and shaking the dust from his body and ears.
Yells and screams of astonishment and delight deafened Wally’s words as he tried to speak. Wave after wave of clapping added to the din. Blinky picked himself up looking more astonished than any one, and the big black rabbit waved his paw to the audience, then disappeared. Blinky cautiously took a look into the hole, surprised more than ever to find it was so shallow, while Wally nearly broke in half through bowing so low and often to the audience.
“More! More!” came the cry.
“Do it again, Wally!”
Wally shook his head. “The witches won’t do it twice,” he announced seriously. “But I’ll show you something now that the fairies can do with the help of my magic.”
Blinky had had enough of magic and sneaked off the stage back to his mother.
“Did the magic burn?” Nutsy asked in awe.
“Yes—it got terribly awfully hot. That’s why I fell over,” Blinky answered bravely.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” Mrs. Koala remarked. “Witches are bad dreadful things—all covered with flames and long teeth.”
“I know. I saw one—that’s why I fell over,” Blinky replied.
“Goodness!” His mother turned quite pale.
“Now ladies and gentlemen, this is a magic turn that needs special magic,” Wally started to explain, “and I need a lady from the audience to help me. Please step this way, lady.”
But no lady made a move.
“There’s nothing to be frightened about,” Wally explained. “No witches—only fairies. How about you, Nutsy?”
“No! Certainly not!” Mrs. Koala replied immediately. “One child’s been nearly killed already,”
Still no lady came forward.
“Well—there’s no more magic,” Wally announced peevishly, and started to walk off the stage.
“I’ll come!” a voice piped up. And who should it be but Mrs. Grunty!
Of course another burst of clapping broke out as Mrs. Grunty waddled towards the stage.
“She’ll be killed for sure—and who’s to take care of Snubby then?” Mrs. Koala said with alarm.
Mrs. Grunty reached the stage blushing and folding and unfolding her paws.
“Step this way, madam,” Wally ordered politely, as he placed Mrs. Grunty right in the centre of the stage. “Now just a moment while I get my magic.”
He lolloped off the stage and returned carrying a big orange-coloured pumpkin between his front paws.
Mrs. Grunty eyed it nervously.
The pumpkin was tied round with long reeds, crisscrossed all over its surface.
“It’s an explosion!” Blinky called out, terrifying poor Mrs. Grunty.
“’Tisn’t,” Wally said crossly. “It’s a fairy’s house.”
“Rats!” old Father Wombat shouted from his log in the back row.
“Any more disgustin’ remarks and I’ll stop the magic,” Wally shouted back, not realizing his father was the cause of the interruption.
Old Father Wombat growled deeply, muttering away to himself all about magic and rats; but he decided to keep quiet as he was really enjoying the magician’s show.
“And now we’ll see the magic work,” Wally announced.
“Please walk round the pumpkin three times, Mrs. Grunty, and say over and over again, ‘Pumpkin and fairies make magic.”
Solemnly Mrs. Grunty did as she was told, then awaited the result.
Wally bent his ear to the pumpkin, then shook his head.
“’Tisn’t ready,” he remarked solemnly.
“Um-um-um.” Waving his paws over the pumpkin he then stepped back a pace or two.
“Undo the strings,” he said to Mrs. Grunty. But she shook her head.
“That’ll mix all the magic up if you don’t,” Wally remarked crossly.
“I’ll do it!”
Again Blinky rushed on to the stage.
“’Tisn’t the right thing to do,” Wally growled; “but in the circumstances, I s’pose it will work. I’ll have to magic again as the other is wasted now.”
So, saying his magic words over again, “Um-um-um—,” and waving his paws over the pumpkin, he ordered Blinky to untie the strings.
Grabbing the reeds in his paws, he bit the knots through with his teeth as Wally’s warning shout of “Stand back” rang through the air.
Blinky bounded away in fear.
“Stay there! Stay there! The magic and fairies have gone,” Wally called out reassuringly, as he advanced towards the pumpkin. Carefully placing his paws over the top half he lifted it—and lo and behold, six beautiful little blue wrens flew into the air.
“Ah!”—Blinky and the audience gasped with joy and surprise. Then the clapping and shouting started all over again.
It was a great show. And when Wally finally walked off the stage with a large turnip, given him by an admirer, held between his paws, every one declared “Wally was terribly clever.”
After the magician’s act the orchestra performed. In it Double Drummers, Green Grocers, Yellow Mondays, crickets, bees, and every bird in bushland was represented. Then little Tommy Bandicoot gave a recitation all about a garden and how delicious everything in that garden tasted. He was very shy and nervous, breaking down and forgetting his lines until someone in the audience prompted him.
Then came the interval. The gentlemen strolled about discussing the weather and hunting, while the ladies remained seated talking about the new babies and the ailments of their children—sometimes discussing their neighbours too.
PART two of the concert began with a thrilling event. Fatty Kangaroo was in a boxing contest with Rusty Kangaroo. There were no gloves or rounds in this match—just a straight-out boxing match with feet and tails taking a prominent part. Fatty was the first to appear on the stage. Splodge, who was acting as umpire, rushed over to him and began fanning him with a branch of gum leaves. Jeers and shouts came from the audience.
“Give him time to warm up!” old Father Wombat yelled scornfully. “Is this a cissies’ fight?”
Someone gave old Father Wombat a crack on the head for trying to start a disturbance. After that he was quiet for a time.
Rusty Kangaroo made his debut with a tremendous bound, landing a few feet away from Fatty.
“We’re off!” Splodge shouted, and at once the match began.
Fatty sparred up to Rusty, whispering under his breath, “You’ll need a set of false teeth when I’ve done with you.”
Rusty gave Fatty a nasty smack across the nose for this remark and added, “You’ll need a new face when I’ve finished with you!”
Splodge, overhearing these remarks, became alarmed, as this was not to be a free fight.
Swishing his gum branch in the two boxers’ faces, he spoke hurriedly.
“I forgot to tell you to shake paws before you began —that’s to show you’re friends.”
“But we’re not!” Fatty exclaimed.
“Doesn’t matter. It has to be done for the look of things,” Splodge replied sternly.
Holding up an arm to silence the audience who also wished to take part in the discussion, he ordered the contestants to shake.
Sulkily both shook paws, glaring at one another like two tom-cats.
Cheers came from the onlookers and the boxers bowed. Then—like a flash of lightning Fatty, taking his opponent unawares while he was still bowing, gave him a terrific kick on the hindquarters sending him sprawling to the other side of the stage.
Yells and shouts greeted this neat bit of work. Animals jumped up, blocking the view of smaller ones behind, and cries of ‘‘Sit down!” came from everywhere.
Rusty quickly recovered from this onslaught. But I’m sorry to say his temper recovered too. With a spring through the air he landed on top of Fatty, and Splodge, who had been busy with his fan again, crashed to the ground under both boxers. Nothing could be seen but legs and tails kicking and lashing, thumping and banging in all directions. Dust and gum leaves, fur and stones flew in a shower all over the stage. Ladies in the audience screamed while the gentlemen clapped and shouted encouragement.
“Put in the feet!” old Father Wombat yelled, beating the log with his paws in excitement. He got a dig in the back for this remark from a wallaby with long toenails.
“Keep quiet, you old interferer, This is a perfessionals’ fight not a rabbits’.”
“‘Keep your kickers out of my back and mind your business,” old Father Wombat retorted savagely.
The muddle on the stage began to separate, as Splodge wriggled out of the line of battle—but only for a few seconds, as Fatty let out another tremendous kick sending Rusty head-over-heels down the stage again.
Splodge rushed in holding up a paw to let every one know that part of the match was won by Fatty. Out came his branch again. He fanned Fatty madly then dashed down to Rusty repeating the operation.
“Good on you, Fatty!” Blinky shouted, clapping his paws and jumping up and down.
Fatty acknowledged Blinky’s remark with a tilt of a paw to his forehead.
“Sit down and still your tongue,” Mrs. Koala commanded, “Next thing you’ll be mixed up in the fight.”
Splodge gave the signal and the contest was on again.
The two boxers met with a loud bang as they each bounded for one another. Locked together, they rocked and clawed, grunted, and smacked wildly about with their tails.
“Bite him! Bite him, Fatty!” Blinky yelled at the top of his voice.
This was too much for Mrs. Koala. Springing at her son, she placed her paws on his shoulders and forced him down on to the rock.
“Will you sit down?” she growled savagely. “Making exhibitions of yourself all over the place.”
Blinky looked at his mother from the corner of his eye, scowling sulkily.
“Old ratty!” he mumbled quietly to himself. Then forgot the incident immediately as roars of protest from the audience drew his attention to the stage.
Rusty had Fatty down on the ground punching his tummy for all he was worth. Fatty seemed winded as he coughed and spluttered for breath, flinging his arms about helplessly in the air.
Splodge dashed in, and at the same moment a little furry shape scrambled across the stage and stamped with all his might on Rusty’s tail.
“My goodness! Look at Blinky!”
Mrs. Koala was off her rock quicker than it takes me to tell you. Nutsy sat with eyes like saucers.
“Now he’ll get it!” She held her breath, clasping her paws in a tight grip. Mrs. Koala waddled straight up on to the stage, grabbing part of Splodge’s fan as she went to the attack.
“Keep out of it! Stand back!” Splodge shouted. “I’m the umpire!”
“And I’m the rump-pire!” Mrs. Koala said angrily as she gave Blinky a whack where his tail should have been.
The general commotion that followed drowned all orders from Splodge. The audience danced and shouted and stamped with excitement. Things began to fly through the air. Sticks, bits of suppers, clumps of earth, and even a bird’s nest. Grabbing Blinky by the ear, Mrs. Koala managed to pull him back to her stone.
“Disgusting behaviour,” she panted.
“It’s only a fight,” Blinky whimpered. “And I was just getting ready to bite when you spoilt it all.”
By this time Splodge had given Rusty a kick that winded him for a minute and Fatty was able to rise on his legs.
Splodge declared Fatty the winner because Rusty had used unfair tactics. Cheers for Fatty came from every one except Mrs. Koala.
Rusty refused to shake paws with Fatty, and sent a shower of dust over him and Splodge as he departed from the stage.
“Only a cissies’ fight!” old Father Wombat growled disgustedly. “There’s no blood—no nuffing!”
It took some time for the audience to settle down. Fortunately the next item restored them to peace and order.
Splodge, with an eye that looked swollen, introduced Mr. Double Drummer, the bass singer, and Miss Nibble Mouse, the soprano, to the bush folk. They were to sing a duet.
“I hate sings,” Blinky growled, “specially lady songers.”
Mrs. Koala said nothing. She was still feeling too ruffled to say anything.
Nutsy cuddled up to her and patted her paws gently. Mr. Double Drummer cleared his throat, placed a leg over his heart and began to sing.
“Thrum, thrum, thrum.” Then his notes came in a deep mellow tone.
Miss Nibble Mouse twitched her whiskers nervously as she waited to sing her notes. Her voice was clear and piping. The song had been composed (and written) especially for this occasion by Professor Owl. So that the bush folk could follow the words of the song, he’d kindly written out a dozen copies on paper-bark, and these were passed around the audience as the duet began.
Please will you marry me beautiful mouse?
Yes—if you’ll buy me a marble house.
A marble house with a jewelled bath,
And a garden of flowers with a mossy path.
I’ll buy you a house in a gum-tree high,
For marble walls you’ll have the sky,
For a glittering bath, the rain and dew,
The garden of Rowers will be pretty you.
It seems very grand to a mouse like me,
I’ll patch your wings and hunt your tea,
But the moment you scold, I’ll leave your house.
I’ll never do that! My beautiful mouse.
Cheers and cheers greeted this number. Then a tiny field-mouse stepped forward from the audience and handed Miss Nibble Mouse two ears of wheat. No persuasion would entice the singers to perform again.
So Splodge was forced to announce the next number.
“It’s a classical number,” he remarked. “Much work and brains have been required to produce it, and I want every one to behave while the dancers perform. Ladies and gentlemen—the Green Balley.”
The cricket orchestra and the finch quartette struck the first notes of the dance. From out of the grass fringing the back of the stage twelve lovely green praying mantises sprang to the foreground. “Click—click” and off they started. Delicate green legs danced in formation, twirling and stepping with dainty actions. The high kicking was wonderful; also the scissors step.
“I’ll meet you round the back of the stage,” Croaky Frog shouted, his eyes bulging with excitement, as he thought of the delicious supper he’d have without hunting for it.
The ballet became panic-stricken and tore for the exit, in spite of Splodge’s assurance that he’d deal with Croaky. Nothing would bring them back—in fact they just vanished into the unknown.
You may imagine how popular Croaky was after this piece of unforgivable behaviour.
“Put him out! Put him out!” The bush folk began to hunt for the offender. But Croaky, being a pretty wise gentleman, put himself out before he was assisted.
The final item on the programme was now to take place. It had been kept a great secret. Only the management knew what it was to be. Blinky had not been told, as after a discussion it was considered better to keep him out of the secret, seeing the concert was for him, and surprises were one of the things he loved. So the audience sat expectantly waiting.
“As long as it’s not snakes,’’ Mrs. Koala remarked.
Splodge appeared again announcing the final item:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most marvellous performance you’re now about to see. It has never appeared in the bush before—and as far as I know never will again. It’s all specially for Blinky. You will see in a few minutes the marvellous creature himself. His name is Know-all and he’ll tell you anything you want to know from how many babies a worm has, to what’s in a yabbie’s mind. Excuse me—I must see if he’s ready.”
“Oh!” Such a big exclamation went up from the audience.
“Ridiculous nonsense!” Mrs. Koala grunted, “All a yabbie’s got in his head is mud!”
“And big nippers,” Blinky joined in.
A burst of clapping and calls broke out, as a queer-looking creature hopped on to the stage. He wore an old felt hat, had a pipe in his mouth, sprouted straw whiskers all round his face and had an extremely long nose and big brown eyes.
His legs were in old patched and torn trousers, his coat dragged on the ground, and his feet were in a very large pair of slippers.
“Poof! It’s only Farmer Green’s scarecrow!” Blinky said with disappointment in his voice.
“Haw! Haw!” Loud shouts and rude remarks were flung at Know-all.
“As if we’re scared of you! I gave you a kick on the tail only last night,” the big black rabbit shouted.
“And we sit in his whiskers,” several birds called out.
“I’ve pulled his nose!” Blinky cried as loudly as he could. “And he’s got no teeth—I had a look—his mouth’s always full of straw.”
“Be quiet!” Mrs. Koala growled.
“And he can’t talk—can’t say nuffing,” old Father Wombat shouted. “I rooted taters right out under his nose and all he did was flap.”
“Pardon me—you’re all wrong,” Know-all remarked politely.
“Goodness! He’s alive,” Mrs. Koala exclaimed in alarm.
“It wasn’t your nose I pulled,” Blinky shouted, “Must have been somebody else’s.”
“No! It wasn’t my nose,” Know-all replied. “Yours wouldn’t be on your face to-night, you cub, if it had been mine.
“And you didn’t dig taters under my feet, old Father Wombat. You’re only skiting.”
“Start the show!” someone called out. “We all know about old Father Wombat—he’s dippy.”
“Yes—ladies and gentlemen—we mustn’t waste time. My time is valuable and I’m here only for this extra special occasion. Now I’m going to tell you things you’ve never heard before. First of all—would you like to know what Farmer Green’s doing this very minute?”
“Yes, yes!” came the response.
“He’s setting traps down in the cabbage patch and what do you think he’s going to catch?”
“Nuffing!” old Father Wombat shouted.
“You’re wrong,” Know-all replied. “He’s going to catch the worst cold he’s ever caught in his life.”
“Hurray!” The animals went wild with delight. “And when he catches that cold—I mean when he’s all sick with sneezes and coughs and Mrs. Green’s running in and out pegging hankies on the line—when you see her picking lemons off the tree-go into his garden and eat and eat.
“But here’s where I see things with double eyes— here’s where I say a word of warning ’cause my name’s Know-all. Some of you are going to have big up and down pains in your tummies, and some big round and round pains. Those are the animals wot are greedy.
“And some of the birds too. Cherries and apricots and peaches and tomatoes—they’re all there waiting to be etten right up; but the greedy birds will all huddle up with square pains with corners on them.”
A hush fell over the audience. Many animals and birds looked slyly at their neighbours.
“Now would you like to know what old Father Wombat’s thinking about this very minute?”
“Yes!” came the shout. And before old Father Wombat could utter a growl, Know-all started to speak: “He’s thinking this very minute that, as soon as the concert’s over, he’ll hurry down to Farmer Green’s vegetable garden and have a good gobble before the rest of you get there.”
“You’re a ’spicable nuffing!” old Father Wombat shouted in anger. “Such fings never entered my mind.”
‘‘He’s not speaking the truth,” Know-all replied, as the bush folk began to shout all sorts of unkind remarks. “But never mind—people who don’t speak the truth are punished. And old Father Wombat’s going to get a dreadful surprise—a nasty surprise—in a minute if he doesn’t get off that log where he’s sat all night by himself.”
“It’s my log and I’m staying here,” old Father Wombat shouted. “If any one comes near me I’ll kick him.”
“Well—perhaps you’ll do a bit of kicking in any case,” Know-all remarked coolly. “I can see with my double eyes a great big black snake with red underneaths, coiled up in the middle of that very log you’re sitting on, and he’s waking up now, yawning and sticking out his poisoners.”
With a yell old Father Wombat sprang off the log, running as fast as his wobbly old legs would carry him. He didn’t stop running until he reached his home, a thoroughly frightened old wombat.
This piece of news made every one jittery. Birds and animals took nervous glances all around them, peeping in cracks and under rocks.
“And what’s more,” Know-all continued, “I’ve got the biggest and fattest surprise of the evening for you. My double eyes have just seen something not a soul knows about.”
“Tell us! Tell us!” every one shouted at once.
Know-all cleared his throat just to emphasize his words and wisdom: “You’ll never believe me when I tell you.” he remarked, “but you can have a look at it yourselves. Mrs. Grunty’s got a new baby in her pouch!”
“Ridiculous nonsense!” Mrs. Koala exclaimed. But her remark was drowned in the uproar.
Every one pushed and jostled their way towards Mrs. Grunty—Blinky in the midst of it all. Snubby was dumbfounded. But not Mrs. Grunty. She was a quivering mass of anger. Protesting loudly she denied Know-all’s statement.
“Rubbishing nonsense!” she cried with indignation, while diving into her pouch.
She produced a large gum nut and held it up for every one to see.
“Poof! it’s only her chewing gum,” Blinky cried disgustedly, while all the animals muttered words of disappointment.
Mrs. Kookaburra sent a peal of hilarious laughter ringing through the trees.
No one was more astonished and crestfallen than Know-all.
“’Scuse me ladies and gentlemen,” he muttered in a nervous voice, “my time is precious. I must be going.”
“He’s a taker-down,” the cry went up. And to make matters worse, Know-all in his hurry to depart grabbed his coat around his body, turned his back on the audience and began to hop off the stage.
“It’s Splodge!” every one shouted.
Ping! A pebble whacked Splodge in the middle of his back.
“Cut that out, Blinky!” he shouted as he turned for a moment to glare at his little friend.
Another pebble found its mark on his whiskers. Just as Blinky was aiming for a third shot Mrs. Koala grabbed his catapult.
“Gee! a fellow can’t have anything,” Blinky said disgustedly.
“Break it up,” Nutsy advised.
“Aw! I hate girls,” Blinky cried rudely.
The concert was over. Every one began to make for home. Mrs. Koala stuffed the catapult in her pouch.
“Come along. It’s time you were both in bed. I’ve got a headache,”
As they padded their way through the bush towards the old gum-tree, Splodge came hopping along behind.
“Where’s that catapult, Blinky?” he demanded sternly.
“In my pouch,” Mrs. Koala replied, “and there it stays.”
“Would you mind lending it to me for to-night?” Splodge asked. He seemed quite frightened.
“What for?” Mrs. Koala asked.
“He can’t have it!” Blinky shouted. “That’s my bestest shooter.”
“Mrs. Grunty’s as mad as mad,” Splodge explained, “and she says she’s coming around to have an understanding with me.”
“In that case I’ll give you the catapult,” Mrs. Koala remarked, as she passed it over to Splodge.
Blinky was just about to cry out in protest when he saw Splodge wink at him.
Later on when “good nights” had been said and Mrs. Koala and Nutsy were half way up their old tree, Splodge quickly handed the catapult to Blinky.
“Fanks, Splodge,” Blinky said quietly.
“In future, my lad, you keep your shooting for enemies, not friends. See you to-morrow night.” Splodge rubbed his nose against his small friend’s and with a cheery call bounded away.
“Now get to bed quickly,’’ Mrs. Koala ordered. “Blinky, I want you to sleep beside me to-night.”
“But I like the toppest branch,” Blinky retorted.
“Well—I’ll come up there too,” his mother replied.
Three little bears were soon fast asleep. The old tree nodded and rustled her leaves with contentment.
ON the following night the moon rose without a cloud in the sky. The leaves of the old gum-tree sparkled in its beams as they rustled about more than usual.
“Now don’t forget to wash your paws every night.” Mrs. Koala was saying to Blinky, as she brushed his ears.
“And keep your claws clean,” Nutsy interjected.
“You be quiet!” Blinky said, glaring at Nutsy.
“Dear me,” Mrs. Koala sighed. “Fancy quarrelling right up to the last minute.”
A cough was heard. Mrs. Koala leaned out over the branches to have a peep.
“It’s Splodge,” she said placing a paw over her thumping heart. “It’s time for Blinky to go.”
“I don’t want him to go,” Nutsy started to whimper.
“Cry-baby!” Blinky said scornfully. Then calling out to Splodge that he was coming, he started to climb down the tree.
Mrs. Koala and Nutsy climbed down too.
“Aha! Here we are,” Splodge exclaimed, “And aren’t we proud to have a soldier with us?”
“Oh, do take care of him, Splodge,” Mrs. Koala begged, trying bravely to hide her tears. “And tell the big man when you see him to-night to bring him back soon.”
“Indeed I will,” Splodge replied as Blinky climbed up on his back, after being hugged almost to death by his mother. Nutsy went up to hug him too, but Blinky rushed over to Splodge.
“Poof! Fancy being hugged by a girl,” he said disgustedly. “I’d rather pull her ears.”
The final good-byes were said and Splodge bounded away.
Mrs. Koala and Nutsy waved until they turned the bend of the track and were out of sight.
“He’s very, very naughty,” Mrs. Koala sighed as she placed her arm around Nutsy. “But I can’t help loving him.”
“Me too,” Nutsy said sorrowfully.
Splodge hopped quickly along, as he knew the big man with the shiny buttons on his tunic would be waiting anxiously in the township. Little animals peeping from their homes waved their paws in farewell, as Splodge and Blinky passed. Some threw tiny bunches of wildflowers, and called out cheerful greetings and wishes for a speedy return.
Wally Wombat was waiting at a turn down the track and as his friends came in sight, waved frantically to them to stop.
Splodge pulled up with a jolt.
“Can’t spare more than a minute, Wally,” he explained, puffing and panting. “We’re late as it is.”
“I won’t keep you,” Wally replied, “I’ve just brought a present for Blinky,” Lifting a grubby paw he handed up to Blinky the sweet potato which he had won at the gymkhana.
“It’s all I’ve got,” Wally started to apologize, “but I saved it for you.”
The sweet potato had evidently been sacrificed after much thought and nibbling, for all over it were small teeth-marks and holes.
“Golly, it’s a marvellous surprise,” Blinky said as he reached down and took the present.
“Goo-day,’’ Wally answered and turned to go.
“I’ll be back shortly.” Splodge shouted as he hopped away. “I might be able to get you another cat’s whisker in the township.” He tried to cheer Wally up as he could see very plainly he was sad at the parting.
“Now don’t eat that potato in lumps,” he advised Blinky. “In fact, the best thing you can do with it is to give it to me.”
To Splodge’s amazement Blinky handed it over to him. Splodge was just about to pop it into his mouth when Blinky called out sternly:
“You’re not to eat it, Splodge. You’re to take it to my mother with my love.”
“Of course, of course,” Splodge replied hastily. “I really never intended to eat it. I was just going to carry it between my teeth.”
Very shortly Splodge and Blinky entered the township and, making straight for the hall where only a short time previously Blinky had carried off the coveted honour, they were welcomed by the same men who had been the judges.
Then a discussion arose. How were they to carry Blinky to Sydney? A large wicker basket had been carefully prepared, lined with grass and bracken fern, and into this one of the men tried to pop Blinky.
Well, he might just as well have tried to pop a panther in there. The basket went flying in one direction and Blinky in the other. The men looked worried.
“We mustn’t frighten the little fellow,” they said quietly, “but what on earth are we to do?”
Splodge decided to take a hand in matters. Hopping over to Blinky who stood glaring in a corner at the men and the basket, he spoke very sternly to his little friend:
“Look here, young fellow my lad—you can’t go on with that sort of behaviour. They’ll turn you down if you’re not careful and probably choose Snubby or Nutsy instead.”
“I’m not going in a basket or any tied up things,” Blinky said angrily. “S’pose they think I’m wild and will bite—and I will if they shut me up in parcels and boxes and things.”
“How about being carried just as you are?” Splodge suggested anxiously. He was beginning to get worried, too, for he knew how naughty Mr. Blinky could be when he liked.
“I’ll go that way s’long as they don’t keep rubbing my nose and saying stupid things,” Blinky replied, still looking very cross.
“Well, that’s settled,” Splodge heaved a deep sigh.
“Give us your paw, and for goodness sake try to behave.”
Hopping across the hall, holding Blinky by his paw, Splodge went up to the men, then picking his little friend up gently placed him in the arms of the biggest man who looked extremely surprised. He smiled with delight and at once made an attempt to pat Blinky on the head with the remark, “The poor little fellow is frightened,”
Frightened—instantly he got a kick and a scratch for his pains.
Splodge at once intervened. Shaking his head decidedly he brushed away the man’s hand, then shook his head again motioning to him not to stroke Blinky.
“Well I’ll be blowed!” the man laughed. “Don’t tell me after this that animals can’t speak.”
“All right cobber, we won’t stroke you,” he said kindly to Blinky. “And I take it that I’m to carry you. Well, I won’t mind. I’ve always had a feeling I’d like to cuddle one of you little chaps.”
Splodge was delighted and Blinky even gave a little growl of pleasure.
He rubbed his nose against Splodge as he said goodbye and was then taken to a motor-car.
Splodge did not go to see Wally on his way back. He went with all speed to tell Mrs. Koala and Nutsy all about Blinky’s departure. And he handed Mrs. Koala the sweet potato with Blinky’s message.
Mrs. Koala looked very happy when she heard all about the men and how kind they were. And when she and Nutsy went to sleep early that morning she whispered to the old gum-tree just beforehand: “Grow a lot of nice leaves please, ’cause Blinky will come back soon.” Sleeping contentedly, she was startled just at dawn by Mrs. Magpie flapping her wings and shouting at the top of her voice:
“A telegram, Mrs. Koala! A telegram! A message from Blinky.”
Instantly Mrs. Koala was awake. “Tell me, for goodness sake, tell me!” she cried excitedly.
“I’ve just been listening to the buzzing,” Mrs. Magpie said, her beak opening and shutting in between words as she tried to tell the news. She was terribly excited.
“Blinky was speaking and he told me to tell you he’s having a lovely time with all the soldiers, and he’ll be allowed to come home very often to see you. And when I said how delighted you’d be, he said ‘Okey-doke’ and I heard no more.”
“Now what in the world does ‘Okey-doke’ mean?” Mrs. Koala asked, clasping and unclasping her paws with joy, while her dear old face was wrinkled with smiles.
“I suppose it’s a new word he’s learned already,” Mrs. Magpie replied. “I always said Blinky was the cleverest animal in the bush. The darling young cub.”
Mrs. Magpie then said good-bye and flew off to spread the news through the bush; for if there was anything she liked, it was to be first with the news.
“I’m going to marry Blinky some day,” Nutsy said to herself as she curled up in the tree.
“I’m so glad he’s happy,” Mrs. Koala sighed as she snuggled down to sleep. “I hope he marries Nutsy some day, then he won’t want to go away again.”
“Gee! This is good,” Blinky grunted as he climbed up a gum-tree especially reserved for him at the camp, “I’m glad I’m a boy and a soldier, and I’m never going to get married ’cause I think girls are silly.”
Project Gutenberg Australia