Read First Slice of The Magic Pudding , free online book, by Norman Lindsay, on ReadCentral.com.

This is a frontways view of Bunyip Bluegum and his Uncle Wattleberry. At a glance you can see what a fine, round, splendid fellow Bunyip Bluegum is, without me telling you. At a second glance you can see that the Uncle is more square than round, and that his face has whiskers on it.

Looked at sideways you can still see what a splendid fellow Bunyip is, though you can only see one of his Uncle’s whiskers.

Observed from behind, however, you completely lose sight of the whiskers, and so fail to realize how immensely important they are. In fact, these very whiskers were the chief cause of Bunyip’s leaving home to see the world, for, as he often said to himself

’Whiskers alone are bad enough
Attached to faces coarse and rough;
But how much greater their offence is
When stuck on Uncles’ countenances.’

The plain truth was that Bunyip and his Uncle lived in a small house in a tree, and there was no room for the whiskers. What was worse, the whiskers were red, and they blew about in the wind, and Uncle Wattleberry would insist on bringing them to the dinner table with him, where they got in the soup.

Bunyip Bluegum was a tidy bear, and he objected to whisker soup, so he was forced to eat his meals outside, which was awkward, and besides, lizards came and borrowed his soup.

His Uncle refused to listen to reason on the subject of his whiskers. It was quite useless giving him hints, such as presents of razors, and scissors, and boxes of matches to burn them off. On such occasions he would remark

’Shaving may add an air that’s somewhat brisker,
For dignity, commend me to the whisker.’

Or, when more deeply moved, he would exclaim

’As noble thoughts the inward being grace,
So noble whiskers dignify the face.’

Prayers and entreaties to remove the whiskers being of no avail, Bunyip decided to leave home without more ado.

The trouble was that he couldn’t make up his mind whether to be a Traveller or a Swagman. You can’t go about the world being nothing, but if you are a traveller you have to carry a bag, while if you are a swagman you have to carry a swag, and the question is: Which is the heavier?

At length he decided to put the matter before Egbert Rumpus Bumpus, the poet, and ask his advice. He found Egbert busy writing poems on a slate. He was so busy that he only had time to sing out

’Don’t interrupt the poet, friend,
Until his poem’s at an end.’

and went on writing harder than ever. He wrote all down one side of the slate and all up the other, and then remarked

’As there’s no time to finish that,
The time has come to have our chat.
Be quick, my friend, your business state,
Before I take another slate.’

‘The fact is,’ said the Bunyip, ’I have decided to see the world, and I cannot make up my mind whether to be a Traveller or a Swagman. Which would you advise?’

Then said the Poet

’As you’ve no bags it’s plain to see
A traveller you cannot be;
And as a swag you haven’t either
You cannot be a swagman neither.
For travellers must carry bags,
And swagmen have to hump their swags
Like bottle-ohs or ragmen.
As you have neither swag nor bag
You must remain a simple wag,
And not a swag- or bagman.’

‘Dear me,’ said Bunyip Bluegum, ’I never thought of that. What must I do in order to see the world without carrying swags or bags?’

The Poet thought deeply, put on his eyeglass, and said impressively

’Take my advice, don’t carry bags,
For bags are just as bad as swags;
They’re never made to measure.
To see the world, your simple trick
Is but to take a walking-stick
Assume an air of pleasure,
And tell the people near and far
You stroll about because you are
A Gentleman of Leisure.’

‘You have solved the problem,’ said Bunyip Bluegum, and, wringing his friend’s hand, he ran straight home, took his Uncle’s walking-stick, and assuming an air of pleasure, set off to see the world.

He found a great many things to see, such as dandelions, and ants, and traction engines, and bolting horses, and furniture being removed, besides being kept busy raising his hat, and passing the time of day with people on the road, for he was a very well-bred young fellow, polite in his manners, graceful in his attitudes, and able to converse on a great variety of subjects, having read all the best Australian poets.

Unfortunately, in the hurry of leaving home, he had forgotten to provide himself with food, and at lunch time found himself attacked by the pangs of hunger.

‘Dear me,’ he said, ’I feel quite faint. I had no idea that one’s stomach was so important. I have everything I require, except food; but without food everything is rather less than nothing.

’I’ve got a stick to walk with.
I’ve got a mind to think with.
I’ve got a voice to talk with.
I’ve got an eye to wink with.
I’ve lots of teeth to eat with,
A brand new hat to bow with,
A pair of fists to beat with,
A rage to have a row with.
No joy it brings
To have indeed
A lot of things
One does not need.
Observe my doleful plight.
For here am I without a crumb
To satisfy a raging tum
O what an oversight!’

As he was indulging in these melancholy réflexions he came round a bend in the road, and discovered two people in the very act of having lunch. These people were none other than Bill Barnacle, the sailor, and his friend, Sam Sawnoff, the penguin bold.

Bill was a small man with a large hat, a beard half as large as his hat, and feet half as large as his beard. Sam Sawnoff’s feet were sitting down and his body was standing up, because his feet were so short and his body so long that he had to do both together. They had a pudding in a basin, and the smell that arose from it was so delightful that Bunyip Bluegum was quite unable to pass on.

‘Excuse me,’ he said, raising his hat, ’but am I right in supposing that this is a steak-and-kidney pudding?’

‘At present it is,’ said Bill Barnacle.

‘It smells delightful,’ said Bunyip Bluegum.

‘It is delightful,’ said Bill, eating a large mouthful.

Bunyip Bluegum was too much of a gentleman to invite himself to lunch, but he said carelessly, ’Am I right in supposing that there are onions in this pudding?’

Before Bill could reply, a thick, angry voice came out of the pudding, saying

’Onions, bunions, corns and crabs,
Whiskers, wheels and hansom cabs,
Beef and bottles, beer and bones,
Give him a feed and end his groans.’

‘Albert, Albert,’ said Bill to the Puddin’, ‘where’s your manners?’

‘Where’s yours?’ said the Puddin’ rudely, ’guzzling away there, and never so much as offering this stranger a slice.’

‘There you are,’ said Bill. ‘There’s nothing this Puddin’ enjoys more than offering slices of himself to strangers.’

‘How very polite of him,’ said Bunyip, but the Puddin’ replied loudly

’Politeness be sugared, politeness be hanged,
Politeness be jumbled and tumbled and banged.
It’s simply a matter of putting on pace,
Politeness has nothing to do with the case.’

‘Always anxious to be eaten,’ said Bill, ’that’s this Puddin’s mania. Well, to oblige him, I ask you to join us at lunch.’

‘Delighted, I’m sure,’ said Bunyip, seating himself. ’There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good go in at steak-and-kidney pudding in the open air.’

‘Well said,’ remarked Sam Sawnoff, patting him on the back. ’Hearty eaters are always welcome.’

‘You’ll enjoy this Puddin’,’ said Bill, handing him a large slice. ’This is a very rare Puddin’.’

‘It’s a cut-an’-come-again Puddin’,’ said Sam.

‘It’s a Christmas, steak, and apple-dumpling Puddin’,’ said Bill.

‘It’s a Shall I tell him?’ he asked, looking at Bill. Bill nodded, and the Penguin leaned across to Bunyip Bluegum and said in a low voice, ‘It’s a Magic Puddin’.’

‘No whispering,’ shouted the Puddin’ angrily. ’Speak up. Don’t strain a Puddin’s ears at the meal table.’

‘No harm intended, Albert,’ said Sam, ’I was merely remarking how well the crops are looking. Call him Albert when addressing him,’ he added to Bunyip Bluegum. ‘It soothes him.’

‘I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Albert,’ said Bunyip.

‘No soft soap from total strangers,’ said the Puddin’, rudely.

‘Don’t take no notice of him, mate,’ said Bill. ’That’s only his rough and ready way. What this Puddin’ requires is politeness and constant eatin’.’

They had a delightful meal, eating as much as possible, for whenever they stopped eating the Puddin’ sang out

’Eat away, chew away, munch and bolt and guzzle,
Never leave the table till you’re full up to the muzzle.’

But at length they had to stop, in spite of these encouraging remarks, and, as they refused to eat any more, the Puddin’ got out of his basin, remarking ’If you won’t eat any more here’s giving you a run for the sake of exercise’, and he set off so swiftly on a pair of extremely thin legs that Bill had to run like an antelope to catch him up.

‘My word,’ said Bill, when the Puddin’ was brought back. ’You have to be as smart as paint to keep this Puddin’ in order. He’s that artful, lawyers couldn’t manage him. Put your hat on, Albert, like a little gentleman,’ he added, placing the basin on his head. He took the Puddin’s hand, Sam took the other, and they all set off along the road. A peculiar thing about the Puddin’ was that, though they had all had a great many slices off him, there was no sign of the place whence the slices had been cut.

‘That’s where the Magic comes in,’ explained Bill. ’The more you eats the more you gets. Cut-an’-come-again is his name, an’ cut, an’ come again, is his nature. Me an’ Sam has been eatin’ away at this Puddin’ for years, and there’s not a mark on him. Perhaps,’ he added, ’you would like to hear how we came to own this remarkable Puddin’.’

‘Nothing would please me more,’ said Bunyip Bluegum.

‘In that case,’ said Bill, ‘let her go for a song.’

’Ho, the cook of the Saucy Sausage,
Was a feller called Curry and Rice,
A son of a gun as fat as a tun
With a face as round as a hot-cross bun,
Or a barrel, to be precise.

’One winter’s morn we rounds the Horn,
A-rollin’ homeward bound.
We strikes on the ice, goes down in a trice,
And all on board but Curry and Rice
And me an’ Sam is drowned.

‘For Sam an’ me an’ the cook, yer see,
We climbs on a lump of ice,
And there in the sleet we suffered a treat
For several months from frozen feet,
With nothin’ at all but ice to eat,
And ice does not suffice.

’And Sam and me we couldn’t agree
With the cook at any price.
We was both as thin as a piece of tin
While that there cook was busting his skin
On nothin’ to eat but ice.

’Says Sam to me, “It’s a mystery
More deep than words can utter;
Whatever we do, here’s me an’ you,
Us both as thin as Irish stoo,
While he’s as fat as butter.”

’But late one night we wakes in fright
To see by a pale blue flare,
That cook has got in a phantom pot
A big plum-duff an’ a rump-steak hot,
And the guzzlin’ wizard is eatin’ the lot,
On top of the iceberg bare.’

‘There’s a verse left out here,’ said Bill, stopping the song, ‘owin’ to the difficulty of explainin’ exactly what happened, when me and Sam discovered the deceitful nature of that cook. The next verse is as follows

‘Now Sam an’ me can never agree
What happened to Curry and Rice.
The whole affair is shrouded in doubt,
For the night was dark and the flare went out,
And all we heard was a startled shout,
Though I think meself, in the subsequent rout,
That us bein’ thin, an’ him bein’ stout,
In the middle of pushin’ an’ shovin’ about,
He must have fell off the ice.’

‘That won’t do, you know,’ began the Puddin’, but Sam said hurriedly, ‘It was very dark, and there’s no sayin’ at this date what happened.’

‘Yes there is,’ said the Puddin’, ’for I had my eye on the whole affair, and it’s my belief that if he hadn’t been so round you’d have never rolled him off the iceberg, for you was both singin’ out “Yo heave Ho” for half an hour, an’ him trying to hold on to Bill’s beard.’

‘In the haste of the moment,’ said Bill, ’he may have got a bit of a shove, for the ice bein’ slippy, and us bein’ justly enraged, and him bein’ as round as a barrel, he may, as I said, have been too fat to save himself from rollin’ off the iceberg. The point, however, is immaterial to our story, which concerns this Puddin’; and this Puddin’,’ said Bill patting him on the basin, ‘was the very Puddin’ that Curry and Rice invented on the iceberg.’

‘He must have been a very clever cook,’ said Bunyip.

‘He was, poor feller, he was,’ said Bill, greatly affected. ’For plum duff or Irish stoo there wasn’t his equal in the land. But enough of these sad subjects. Pausin’ only to explain that me an’ Sam got off the iceberg on a homeward bound chicken coop, landed on Tierra del Fuego, walked to Valparaiso, and so got home, I will proceed to enliven the occasion with “The Ballad of the Bo’sun’s Bride".’

And without more ado, Bill, who had one of those beef-and-thunder voices, roared out

’Ho, aboard the Salt Junk Sarah
We was rollin’ homeward bound,
When the bo’sun’s bride fell over the side
And very near got drowned.
Rollin’ home, rollin’ home,
Rollin’ home across the foam,
She had to swim to save her glim
And catch us rollin’ home.’

It was a very long song, so the rest of it is left out here, but there was a great deal of rolling and roaring in it, and they all joined in the chorus. They were all singing away at the top of their pipe, as Bill called it, when round a bend in the road they came on two low-looking persons hiding behind a tree. One was a Possum, with one of those sharp, snooting, snouting sort of faces, and the other was a bulbous, boozy-looking Wombat in an old long-tailed coat, and a hat that marked him down as a man you couldn’t trust in the fowlyard. They were busy sharpening up a carving knife on a portable grind-stone, but the moment they caught sight of the travellers the Possum whipped the knife behind him and the Wombat put his hat over the grindstone.

Bill Barnacle flew into a passion at these signs of treachery.

‘I see you there,’ he shouted.

‘You can’t see all of us,’ shouted the Possum, and the Wombat added, ‘’Cause why, some of us is behind the tree.’

Bill led the others aside, in order to hold a consultation.

‘What on earth’s to be done?’ he said.

‘We shall have to fight them, as usual,’ said Sam.

‘Why do you have to fight them?’ asked Bunyip Bluegum.

‘Because they’re after our Puddin’,’ said Bill.

‘They’re after our Puddin’,’ explained Sam, ’because they’re professional puddin’-thieves.’

‘And as we’re perfessional Puddin’-owners,’ said Bill, ’we have to fight them on principle. The fighting,’ he added, ’is a mere flea-bite, as the sayin’ goes. The trouble is, what’s to be done with the Puddin’?’

‘While you do the fighting,’ said Bunyip bravely, ’I shall mind the Puddin’.’

‘The trouble is,’ said Bill, ’that this is a very secret, crafty Puddin’, an’ if you wasn’t up to his game he’d be askin’ you to look at a spider an’ then run away while your back is turned.’

‘That’s right,’ said the Puddin’, gloomily. ’Take a Puddin’s character away. Don’t mind his feelings.’

‘We don’t mind your feelin’s, Albert,’ said Bill. ’What we minds is your treacherous ‘abits.’ But Bunyip Bluegum said, ’Why not turn him upside-down and sit on him?’

‘What a brutal suggestion,’ said the Puddin’; but no notice was taken of his objections, and as soon as he was turned safely upside-down, Bill and Sam ran straight at the puddin’-thieves and commenced sparring up at them with the greatest activity.

’Put ’em up, ye puddin’-snatchers,’ shouted Bill. ’Don’t keep us sparrin’ up here all day. Come out an’ take your gruel while you’ve got the chance.’

The Possum wished to turn the matter off by saying, ’I see the price of eggs has gone up again’, but Bill gave him a punch on the snout that bent it like a carrot, and Sam caught the Wombat such a flip with his flapper that he gave in at once.

‘I shan’t be able to fight any more this afternoon,’ said the Wombat, ‘as I’ve got sore feet.’ The Possum said hurriedly, ’We shall be late for that appointment’, and they took their grindstone and off they went.

But when they were a safe distance away the Possum sang out: ’You’ll repent this conduct. You’ll repent bending a man’s snout so that he can hardly see over it, let alone breathe through it with comfort’, and the Wombat added, ‘For shame, flapping a man with sore feet.’

‘We laugh with scorn at threats,’ said Bill, and he added as a warning

’I don’t repent a snout that’s bent,
And if again I tap it,
Oh, with a clout I’ll bend that snout
With force enough to snap it.’

and Sam added for the Wombat’s benefit

’I take no shame to fight the lame
When they deserve to cop it.
So do not try to pipe your eye,
Or with my flip I’ll flop it.’

The puddin’-thieves disappeared over the hill and, as the evening happened to come down rather suddenly at that moment, Bill said, ‘Business bein’ over for the day, now’s the time to set about makin’ the camp fire.’

This was a welcome suggestion, for, as all travellers know, if you don’t sit by a camp fire in the evening, you have to sit by nothing in the dark, which is a most unsociable way of spending your time. They found a comfortable nook under the hedge, where there were plenty of dry leaves to rest on, and there they built a fire, and put the billy on, and made tea. The tea and sugar and three tin cups and half a pound of mixed biscuits were brought out of the bag by Sam, while Bill cut slices of steak-and-kidney from the Puddin’. After that they had boiled jam-roll and apple-dumpling, as the fancy took them, for if you wanted a change of food from the Puddin’, all you had to do was to whistle twice and turn the basin round.

After they had eaten as much as they wanted, the things were put away in the bag, and they settled down comfortably for the evening.

‘This is what I call grand,’ said Bill, cutting up his tobacco. ‘Full-and-plenty to eat, pipes goin’ and the evenin’s enjoyment before us. Tune up on the mouth-organ, Sam, an’ off she goes with a song.’

They had a mouth-organ in the bag which they took turns at playing, and Bill led off with a song which he said was called

SPANISH GOLD

’When I was young I used to hold
I’d run away to sea,
And be a Pirate brave and bold
On the coast of Caribbee.

’For I sez to meself, “I’ll fill me hold
With Spanish silver and Spanish gold,
And out of every ship I sink
I’ll collar the best of food and drink.

’"For Caribbee, or Barbaree,
Or the shores of South Amerikee
Are all the same to a Pirate bold,
Whose thoughts are fixed on Spanish gold.”

’So one fine day I runs away
A Pirate for to be;
But I found there was never a Pirate left
On the coast of Caribbee.

’For Pirates go, but their next of kin
Are Merchant Captains, hard as sin,
And Merchant Mates as hard as nails
Aboard of every ship that sails.

’And I worked aloft and I worked below,
I worked wherever I had to go,
And the winds blew hard and the winds blew cold,
And I sez to meself as the ship she rolled,

’"O Caribbee! O Barbaree!
O shores of South Amerikee!
O, never go there: if the truth be told,
You’ll get more kicks than Spanish gold."’

‘And that’s the truth, mate,’ said Bill to Bunyip Bluegum. ’There ain’t no pirates nowadays at sea, except western ocean First Mates, and many’s the bootin’ I’ve had for not takin’ in the slack of the topsail halyards fast enough to suit their fancy. It’s a hard life, the sea, and Sam here’ll bear me out when I say that bein’ hit on the head with a belayin’ pin while tryin’ to pick up the weather earing is an experience that no man wants twice. But toon up, and a song all round.’

‘I shall sing you the “Penguin Bold",’ said Sam, and, striking a graceful attitude, he sang this song

’To see the penguin out at sea,
And watch how he behaves,
Would prove that penguins cannot be
And never shall be slaves.
You haven’t got a notion
How penguins brave the ocean
And laugh with scorn at waves.

’To see the penguin at his ease
Performing fearful larks
With stingarees of all degrees,
As well as whales and sharks;
The sight would quickly let you know
The great contempt that penguins show
For stingarees and sharks.

’O see the penguin as he goes
A-turning Catherine wheels,
Without repose upon the nose
Of walruses and seals.
But bless your heart, a penguin feels
Supreme contempt for foolish seals,
While he never fails, where’er he goes,
To turn back-flaps on a walrus nose.’

‘It’s all very fine,’ said the Puddin’ gloomily, ’singing about the joys of being penguins and pirates, but how’d you like to be a Puddin’ and be eaten all day long?’

And in a very gruff voice he sang as follows:

‘O, who would be a puddin’,
A puddin’ in a pot,
A puddin’ which is stood on
A fire which is hot?
O sad indeed the lot
Of puddin’s in a pot.

‘I wouldn’t be a puddin’
If I could be a bird,
If I could be a wooden
Doll, I would’n say a word.
Yes, I have often heard
It’s grand to be a bird.

‘But as I am a puddin’,
A puddin’ in a pot,
I hope you get the stomach ache
For eatin’ me a lot.
I hope you get it hot,
You puddin’-eatin’ lot!’

‘Very well sung, Albert,’ said Bill encouragingly, ’though you’re a trifle husky in your undertones, which is no doubt due to the gravy in your innards. However, as a reward for bein’ a bright little feller we shall have a slice of you all round before turnin’ in for the night.’

So they whistled up the plum-duff side of the Puddin’, and had supper. When that was done, Bill stood up and made a speech to Bunyip Bluegum.

‘I am now about to put before you an important proposal,’ said Bill. ‘Here you are, a young intelligent feller, goin’ about seein’ the world by yourself. Here is Sam an’ me, two as fine fellers as ever walked, goin’ about the world with a Puddin’. My proposal to you is Join us, and become a member of the Noble Society of Puddin’-owners. The duties of the Society,’ went on Bill, ’are light. The members are required to wander along the roads, indulgin’ in conversation, song and story, eatin’ at regular intervals at the Puddin’. And now, what’s your answer?’

‘My answer,’ said Bunyip Bluegum, ‘is, Done with you.’ And, shaking hands warmly all round, they loudly sang

THE PUDDIN’-OWNERS’ ANTHEM

’The solemn word is plighted,
The solemn tale is told,
We swear to stand united,
Three puddin’-owners bold.

’When we with rage assemble,
Let puddin’-snatchers groan;
Let puddin’-burglars tremble,
They’ll ne’er our puddin’ own.

’Hurrah for puddin’-owning,
Hurrah for Friendship’s hand,
The puddin’-thieves are groaning
To see our noble band.

’Hurrah, we’ll stick together,
And always bear in mind
To eat our puddin’ gallantly,
Whenever we’re inclined.’

Having given three rousing cheers, they shook hands once more and turned in for the night. After such a busy day, walking, talking, fighting, singing, and eating puddin’, they were all asleep in a pig’s whisper.