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

‘This is what I call satisfactory,’ said Bill, as they sat at breakfast next morning. ’It’s a great relief to the mind to know that them puddin’-thieves is sufferin’ the agonies of remorse, and that our Puddin’ is safe from bein’ stolen every ten minutes.’

‘You’re a bun-headed old optimist,’ said the Puddin’ rudely. ’Puddin’-thieves never suffer from remorse. They only suffer from blighted hopes and suppressed activity.’

‘Have you no trust in human nature, Albert?’ asked Bill, sternly. ’Don’t you know that nothin’ gives a man greater remorse than havin’ his face punched, his toes trod on, and eggs rubbed in his hair?’

‘I have grave doubts myself,’ said Bunyip Bluegum, ’as to the sincerity of their repentance’; and Ben Brandysnap said that, speaking as a market gardener, his experience of carrot catchers, onion snatchers, pumpkin pouncers, and cabbage grabbers induced him to hold the opinion that shooting them with pea-rifles was the only sure way to make them feel remorse.

In fact, as Sam said

’The howls and groans of pain and grief,
The accents of remorse,
Extracted from a puddin’-thief
Are all put on, of course.’

‘Then, all I can say is,’ cried Bill, enraged, ’if there’s any more of this business of puddin’-thieves, disguised as firemen, stealing our Puddin’, and puddin’-thieves, not disguised at all, shovin’ bags over our heads, blow me if I don’t give up Puddin’-owning in despair and take to keepin’ carrots for a livin’.’

The Puddin’ was so furious at this remark that they were forced to eat an extra slice all round to pacify him, in spite of which he called Bill a turnip-headed old carrot-cruncher, and other insulting names. However, at length they set out on the road, Bill continuing to air some very despondent remarks.

‘For what is the good of havin’ a noble trustin’ nature,’ said he, ’for every low puddin’-thief in the land to take advantage of? As far as I can see, the only thing to do is to punch every snout we meet, and chance the odds it belongs to a puddin’-thief.’

‘Come,’ said Bunyip Bluegum, ’I see you are not your wonted, good-humoured self this morning. As a means of promoting the general gaiety, I call on you to sing the Salt Junk Sarah without delay.’

This was immediately effective, and Bill with the greatest heartiness roared out

’Ho, aboard the Salt Junk Sarah
Rollin’ round the ocean wide,
The bo’sun’s mate, I grieve to state,
He kissed the bo’sun’s bride.

‘Rollin’ home, rollin’ home,
Home across the foam;
The bo’sun rose and punched his nose
And banged him on the dome.’

At about the fifteenth verse they came to the town of Tooraloo, and that put a stop to the singing, because you can’t sing in the public streets unless you are a musician or a nuisance. The town of Tooraloo is one of those dozing, snoozing, sausage-shaped places where all the people who aren’t asleep are only half awake, and where dogs pass away their lives on the footpaths, and you fall over cows when taking your evening stroll.

There was a surprise awaiting them at Tooraloo, for the moment they arrived two persons in bell-toppers and long-tailed coats ran out from behind a fence and fell flat on their backs in the middle of the road, yelling ‘Help, help! thieves and ruffians are at work!’

The travellers naturally stared with amazement at this peculiar conduct. The moment the persons in bell-toppers caught sight of them they sprang up, and striking an attitude expressive of horror, shouted:

‘Behold the puddin’-thieves!’

‘Behold the what?’ exclaimed Bill.

‘Puddin’-thieves,’ said one of the bell-topperers. ’For well you know that that dear Puddin’ in your hand has been stolen from its parents and guardians, which is ourselves.’ And the other bell-topperer added, ’Deny it not, for with that dear Puddin’ in your hand your guilt is manifest.’

‘Well, if this ain’t enough to dumbfound a codfish,’ exclaimed Bill. ‘Here’s two total strangers, disguised as undertakers, actually accusin’ us of stealin’ our own Puddin’. Why, it’s outside the bounds of comprehension!’

‘It’s enough to stagger the senses,’ said Sam.

‘It’s enough to daze the mind with horror,’ said Bill.

‘Come, come,’ said the bell-topperers, ’cease these expressions of amazement and hand over the stolen Puddin’.’

‘What d’yer mean,’ exclaimed Bill, ‘by calling this a stolen Puddin’? It’s a respectable steak-and-kidney, apple-dumplin’, grand digestive Puddin’, and any fellers in pot-hats sayin’ it’s a stolen Puddin’ is scoundrels of the deepest dye.’

‘Never use such words to people wearing bell-toppers,’ said one of the bell-topperers, and the other added, ‘With that dear Puddin’ gazing up to heaven, how can you use such words?’

‘All very fine, no doubt,’ sneered Bill, ’but if you ain’t scoundrels of the deepest dye, remove them hats and prove you ain’t afraid to look us in the eye.’

‘No, no,’ said the first bell-topperer. ’No removing hats at present on account of sunstroke, and colds in the head, and doctor’s orders. My doctor said to me only this morning, “Never remove your hat.” Those were his words. “Let it be your rule through life,” he said, “to keep the head warm, whatever happens."’

‘No singing “God save the King”, neither,’ said the other bell-topperer. ’Let your conduct be noble, and never sing the National Anthem to people wearing bell-toppers.’

‘In fact,’ said the first bell-topperer, ’all we say is, hand over the Puddin’ with a few well-chosen words, and all ill-feeling will be dropped.’

Bill was so enraged at this suggestion that he dashed his hat on the ground and kicked it to relieve his feelings. ‘Law or no law,’ he shouted, ‘I call on all hands to knock them bell-toppers off.’

All hands made a rush for the bell-topperers, who shouted, ’An Englishman’s hat is his castle,’ and Top-hats are sacred things’; but they were overpowered by numbers, and their hats were snatched off. ’THE PUDDIN’-THIEVES!’ shouted the company.

Those bell-toppers had disguised that snooting, snouting scoundrel, the Possum, and his snoozing, boozing friend the Wombat! There was an immense uproar over this discovery, Bill and Sam flapping and snout-bending away at the puddin’-thieves, the puddin’-thieves roaring for mercy. Ben denounced them as bag snatchers, and Bunyip Bluegum expressed his indignation in a fine burst of oratory, beginning:

’Base, indeed, must be those scoundrels, who, lost to all sense of decency and honour, boldly assume the outward semblance of worthy citizens, and, by the pretentious nature of their appearance, not only seek the better to impose upon the noble credulity of Puddin’-owners, but, with dastardly cunning, strike a blow at Society’s most sacred emblem the pot-hat.’

The uproar brought the Mayor of Tooraloo hastening to the scene, followed by the local constable. The Mayor was a little, fat, breathless, beetle-shaped man, who hastened with difficulty owing to his robe of office being trodden on by the Constable, who ran close behind him in order to finish eating a banana in secret. He had some more bananas in a paper bag, and his face was one of those feeble faces that make one think of eggs and carrots and feathers, if you take my meaning.

‘How now, how now!’ shouted the Mayor. ’A riot going on here, a disturbance in the town of Tooraloo. Constable, arrest these rioters and disturbers.’

‘Before going to extremes,’ said the Constable, in a tremulous voice, ’my advice to you is, read the Riot Act, and so have all the honour and glory of stopping the riot yourself.’

‘Unfortunately,’ said the Mayor, ’in the haste of departure, I forgot to bring the Riot Act, so there’s nothing else for it; you must have all the honour and glory of quelling it.’

‘The trouble is,’ said the Constable, ’that there are far too many rioters. One would have been quite sufficient. If there had been only one small undersized rioter, I should have quelled him with the utmost severity.’

‘Constable,’ said the Mayor, sternly, ’in the name of His Majesty the King, I call on you to arrest these rioters without delay.’

‘Look here,’ said Bill, ‘you’re labourin’ under an error. This ain’t a riot at all. This is merely two puddin’-thieves gettin’ a hidin’ for tryin’ to steal our Puddin’.’

‘Puddin’-thieves!’ exclaimed the Mayor. ’Don’t tell me that puddin’-thieves have come to Tooraloo.’

’It staggers me with pain and grief,
I can’t believe it’s true,
That we should have a puddin’-thief
Or two in Tooraloo.

’It is enough to make one dumb
And very pale in hue
To know that puddin’-thieves should come
To sacred Tooraloo.

’The Law’s just anger must appear.
Ho! seize these scoundrels who
Pollute the moral atmosphere
Of rural Tooraloo.’

‘We protest against these cruel words,’ said the Possum. ’We have been assaulted and battered and snout-bended by ruffians of the worst description.’

‘How can Your Worship say such things,’ said the Wombat, ’and us a-wearin’ bell-toppers before your very eyes.’

‘If you’ve been assaulted and battered,’ said the Mayor, ’we shall have to arrest the assaulters and batterers, as well.’

‘What’s fair to one is fair to all,’ said the Constable. ’You’ll admit that, of course?’ he added to Bill.

‘I admit nothin’ of the sort,’ said Bill. ’If you want to arrest anybody, do your duty and arrest these here puddin’-snatchers.

’If you’re an officer of the Law,
A constant felon-catcher,
Then do not hesitate before
A common puddin’-snatcher.’

’We call on you to arrest these assaulters and batterers of people wearing top-hats,’ said the puddin’-thieves;

’Our innocence let all attest,
We prove it by our hatter;
It is your duty to arrest
Not those in top-hats of the best
But those who top-hats batter.’

‘It’s very clear that somebody has to be arrested,’ said the Mayor. ’I can’t be put to the trouble of wearing my robes of office in public without somebody having to pay for it. I don’t care whether you arrest the top-hat batterers, or the battered top-hatters; all I say is, do your duty, whatever happens

’So somebody, no matter who,
You must arrest or rue it;
As I’m the Mayor of Tooraloo,
And you’ve the painful job to do,
I call on you to do it.’

‘Very well,’ said the Constable, peevishly, ’as I’ve got to take all the responsibility, I’ll settle the matter by arresting the Puddin’. As far as I can see, he’s the ringleader in this disturbance.’

‘You’re a carrot-nosed poltroon,’ said the Puddin’ loudly. ’As for the Mayor, he’s a sausage-shaped porous plaster,’ and he gave him a sharp pinch in the leg.

‘What a ferocious Puddin’,’ said the Mayor, turning as pale as a turnip. ’Officer, do your duty and arrest this dangerous felon before he perpetrates further sacrilegious acts.’

‘That’s all very well, you know,’ said the Constable, turning as pale as tripe; ‘but he might nip me.’

‘I can’t help that,’ cried the Mayor, angrily. ’At all costs I must be protected from danger. Do your duty and arrest this felon with your hat.’

The Constable looked round, gasped, and summoning all his courage, scooped up the Puddin’ in his hat.

‘My word,’ he said, breathlessly, ’but that was a narrow squeak. I expected every moment to be my last.’

‘Now we breathe more freely,’ said the Mayor, and led the way to the Tooraloo Court House.

‘If this isn’t too bad,’ said Bill, furiously. ’Here we’ve had all the worry and trouble of fightin’ puddin’-thieves night and day, and, on top of it all, here’s this Tooralooral tadpole of a Mayor shovin’ his nose into the business and arrestin’ our Puddin’ without rhyme or reason.’

As they had arrived at the Court House at that moment, Bill was forced to smother his resentment for the time being. There was nobody in Court except the Judge and the Usher, who were seated on the bench having a quiet game of cards over a bottle of port.

‘Order in the Court,’ shouted the Usher, as they all came crowding in; and the Judge, seeing the Constable carrying the Puddin’ in his hat, said severely:

’This won’t do, you know; it’s Contempt of Court, bringing your lunch here.’

‘An’ it please you, My Lord,’ said the Constable hurriedly, ’this here Puddin’ has been arrested for pinching the Mayor.’

‘As a consequence of which, I see you’ve pinched the Puddin’,’ said the Judge facetiously. ‘Dear me, what spirits I am in to-day, to be sure!’

‘The felon has an aroma most dangerously suggestive of beef gravy,’ said the Usher, solemnly.

‘Beef gravy?’ said the Judge. ’Now, it seems to me that the aroma is much more subtly suggestive of steak and kidney.’

‘Garnished, I think, with onions,’ said the Usher.

’In order to settle this knotty point, just hand the felon up here a moment,’ said the Judge. ‘I don’t suppose you’ve got a knife about you?’ he asked.

‘I’ve got a paper-knife,’ said the Usher; and, the Puddin’ having been handed up to the bench, the Judge and the Usher cut a slice each, and had another glass of port.

Bill was naturally enraged at seeing total strangers eating Puddin’-owners’ private property, and he called out loudly:

‘Common justice and the lawful rights of Puddin’-owners.’

‘Silence in the Court while the Judge is eating,’ shouted the Usher; and the Judge said severely

’I really think you ought
To see I’m taking food,
So, Silence in the Court!
(I’m also taking port),
If you intrude, in manner rude,
A lesson you’ll be taught.’

‘An’ it please Your Lordship,’ said the Mayor, pointing to Bill, ’this person is a brutal assaulter of people wearing top-hats.’

‘No insults,’ said Bill, and he gave the Mayor a slap in the face.

The Mayor went as pale as cheese, and the Usher called out: ’No face-slapping while the judge is dining!’ and the Judge said, angrily

’It’s really far from nice,
As you ought to be aware,
While I am chewing a slice,
To have you slapping the Mayor.
If I have to complain of you again
I’ll commit you in a trice,
You’d better take my advice;
Don’t let me warn you twice.’

‘All very well for you to talk,’ said Bill, scornfully, ‘sittin’ up there eatin’ our Puddin’. I’m a respectable Puddin’-owner, an’ I calls on you to hand over that Puddin’ under threat of an action-at-law for wrongful imprisonment, trespass, and illegally using the same.’

‘Personal remarks to the Judge are not allowed,’ shouted the Usher, and the Judge said solemnly

’A Judge must be respected,
A Judge you mustn’t knock,
Or else you’ll be detected
And shoved into the dock.
You’ll get a nasty shock
When gaolers turn the lock.
In prison cell you’ll give a yell
To hear the hangman knock.’

Here, the Usher took off his coat, as the day was warm, and hung it on the back of his chair. He then rapped on the bench and said

’In the name of the Law I must request
Less noise while we’re having a well-earned rest,
For the Judge and the Usher never must shirk

A well-earned rest in the middle of work.
It’s the duty of both they are well aware
To preserve their precious lives with care;
It’s their duty, when feeling overwrought,
To preserve their lives with Puddin’ and Port.’

He sat down and tossed off a bumper of port to prove his words. ’Your deal, I think,’ said the Judge, and they went on sipping and munching and dealing out cards. At this, Bill gave way to despair.

‘What on earth’s to be done?’ he asked. ’Here’s these legal ferrets has got our Puddin’ in their clutches, and here’s us, spellbound with anguish, watchin’ them wolfin’ it. Here’s a situation as would wring groans from the breast of a boiled onion.’

‘Why, it’s worse than droppin’ soverins down a drain,’ said Sam.

‘It’s worse than catchin’ your whiskers in the mangle,’ said Bill.

By a fortunate chance, at this moment the Possum happened to put his snout within Bill’s reach, and Bill hit it a swinging clout to relieve his feelings.

‘It’s unlawful,’ shouted the Possum, ’to hit a man’s snout unexpectedly when he isn’t engaged puddin’-stealing.’

‘Observe the rules,’ said the Wombat solemnly. ’Be kind to snouts when not engaged in theft.’

‘If it hadn’t been for you two tryin’ to steal our Puddin’ all this trouble wouldn’t have happened,’ said Bill.

‘It’s the Mayor’s fault for bringing us all here,’ cried the Possum, angrily. ‘If you was a just man, you’d clout him on the snout, too.’

‘The Mayor’s to blame,’ said the Wombat. ’What about the whole lot of us settin’ on to him?’

At this suggestion the Mayor trembled so violently that his hat fell off.

‘What dreadful words are these?’ he asked, and the Constable said hurriedly, ’Never set on to the Mayor while the local Constable is present. Let that be your golden rule.’

‘That’s all very well,’ said Bill, ’but if you two hadn’t come interferin’ at the wrong moment, our Puddin’ wouldn’t have been arrested, and all this trouble wouldn’t have happened. As you’re responsible, the question now is, What are you going to do about it?’

‘My advice is,’ said the Constable, impressively, ’resign yourselves to Fate.’

‘My advice,’ said the Mayor in a low voice, ’is general expressions of esteem and friendship, hand-shaking all round, inquiries after each other’s health, chatty remarks about the weather, the price of potatoes, and how well the onions are looking.’

Bill treated these suggestions with scorn. ’If any man in the company has better advice to offer, let him stand forth,’ said he.

Bunyip Bluegum stood forth. ‘My advice,’ he said, ’is this: try the case without the Judge; or, in other words, assume the legal functions of this defaulting personage in the bag-wig who is at present engaged in distending himself illegally with our Puddin’. For mark how runs the axiom

’If you’ve a case without a Judge,
It’s clear your case will never budge;
But if a Judge you have to face,
The chances are you’ll lose your case.
To win your case, and save your pelf,
Why, try the blooming case yourself!’

’As usual, our friend here solves the problem in a few well-chosen words,’ said Bill, and preparations were made at once for trying the case. After a sharp struggle, in which it was found necessary to bend the Possum’s snout severely in order to make him listen to reason, the puddin’-thieves were forced into the dock. Their top-hats and frock-coats were taken away, for fear the jury might take them for undertakers, and not scoundrels. The Mayor and the Constable were pushed into the jury box to perform the duties of twelve good men and true, and the others took seats about the Court as witnesses for the prosecution.

There was some delay before the proceedings began, for Bill said, ‘Here’s me, the Crown Prosecutor, without a wig. This’ll never do.’ Fortunately, a wig was found in the Judge’s private room, and Bill put it on with great satisfaction.

‘I’m afraid this is unconstitutional,’ said the Mayor to the Constable.

‘It is unconstitutional,’ said the Constable; ’but it’s better than getting a punch on the snout.’

The Mayor turned so pale at this that the Constable had to thrust a banana into his mouth to restore his courage.

‘Thank you,’ said the Mayor, peevishly; ’but, on the whole, I prefer to be restored with peeled bananas.’

‘Order in the jury box,’ said Bill, sharply, and the Mayor having hurriedly bolted his banana, peel and all, proceedings commenced.

‘Gentlemen of the Jury,’ said Bill, ’the case before you is one aboundin’ in horror and amazement. Persons of the lowest morals has disguised themselves in pot-hats in order to decoy a Puddin’ of tender years from his lawful guardians. It is related in the archives of the Noble Order of Puddin’-owners that previous to this dastardly attempt a valuable bag, the property of Sir Benjimen Brandysnap, had been stolen and the said Puddin’-owners invited to look at a present inside it. The said bag was then pulled over their heads, compelling the Puddin’-owners aforesaid to endure agonies of partial suffocation, let alone walkin’ on each other’s corns for several hours. Had not Sir Benjimen, the noble owner, appeared like a guardian angel and undone the bag, it is doubtful if Sir Samuel Sawnoff’s corns could have stood the strain much longer, his groans bein’ such as would have brought tears to the eyes of a hard-boiled egg.’

‘A very moving story,’ said the Constable, and the Mayor was so affected that the Constable had to stuff a banana into his mouth to prevent him bursting into tears.

’I now propose to call Sir Benjimen Brandysnap as first witness for the prosecution,’ said Bill. ’Kindly step into the witness-box, Sir Benjimen, and relate the circumstances ensuin’ on your bag bein’ stole.’

Benjimen stepped into the box, and, taking a piece of paper from his egg basket, said solemnly: ’I was very busy that morning, Gentlemen of the Jury, owing to the activity of the vegetables, as hereunder described

’On Tuesday morn, as it happened by chance,
The parsnips stormed in a rage,
Because the young carrots were singing like parrots
On top of the onions’ cage.

’The radishes swarmed on the angry air
Around with the bumble bees,
While the brussels-sprouts were pulling the snouts
Of all the young French peas.

’The artichokes bounded up and down
On top of the pumpkins’ heads,
And the cabbage was dancing the highland fling
All over the onion beds.

’So I hadn’t much time, as Your Honour perceives,
For watching the habits of puddin’-thieves.’

‘Tut, tut, Sir Benjimen,’ said Bill, ’stir up your memory, sir; cast your eye over them felons in the dock, and tell the Court how you seen them steal the bag.’

‘The fact is,’ said Benjimen, after studying the puddin’-thieves carefully, ’as they had their backs turned to me when they were engaged in stealing the bag, I should be able to judge better if they were turned round.’

‘Officer,’ said Bill to Bunyip Bluegum, ‘kindly turn the felons’ backs to the witness.’

The Possum and the Wombat objected, saying there wasn’t room enough in the witness-box to turn round, so it was found necessary to twist their snouts the opposite way.

‘From this aspect,’ said Ben, ’I have no hesitation in saying that those are the backs that stole the bags.’

‘Make a note of that, Gentlemen of the Jury,’ said Bill, and the Constable obligingly made a note of it on his banana bag.

‘The identity of the bag-stealers bein’ now settled,’ went on Bill, ’I shall kindly ask Sir Benjimen to step down, and call on Sir Samuel Sawnoff to ascend the witness-box.’

Sam stepped up cheerfully, but, as the witness-box was the wrong size for Penguins, they had to hand him a chair to stand on.

‘Now, Sir Samuel,’ said Bill, impressively, ’I am about to ask you a most important leadin’ question. Do you happen to notice such a thing as a Puddin’ in the precinks of the Court?’

Sam shaded his eyes with his flapper and, seeing the Puddin’ on the bench, started back dramatically.

‘Do my eyes deceive me, or is yon object a Puddin’?’ he cried.

‘Well acted,’ said the Mayor, and the Constable clapped loudly.

‘I am now about to ask you another leadin’ question,’ said Bill. ’Do you recognize that Puddin’?’

‘Do I recognize that Puddin’?’ cried Sam in thrilling tones. ’That Puddin’, sir, is dearer to me than an Uncle. That Puddin’, sir, an’ me has registered vows of eternal friendship and esteem.

‘That Puddin’, sir, an’ me have sailed the seas,
Known tropic suns, and braved the Arctic breeze,
We’ve heard on Popocatepetl’s peak
The savage Tom-Tom sharpenin’ of his beak,
We’ve served the dreadful Jim-Jam up on toast,
When shipwrecked off the Coromandel coast,
And when we heard the frightful Bim-Bam rave,
Have plunged beneath the Salonican wave.
We’ve delved for Bulbuls’ eggs on coral strands,
And chased the Pompeydon in distant lands.
That Puddin’, sir, and me, has, back to back,
Withstood the fearful Rumty Tums’ attack,
And swum the Indian Ocean for our lives,
Pursued by Oysters, armed with oyster knives.
Let me but say, e’er these adventures cloy,
I’ve knowed that Puddin’ since he were a boy.’

‘All lies,’ sang out the Puddin’, looking over the rim of his basin. ’For well you know that you and old Bill Barnacle collared me off Curry and Rice after rolling him off the iceberg.’

‘Albert, Albert,’ said Bill, sternly. ’Where’s your manners: interruptin’ Sir Samuel in that rude way, and him a-performin’ like an actor for your deliverance!’

‘How much longer do you expect me to stay up here, bein’ guzzled by these legal land-crabs?’ demanded the Puddin’.

’You shall stay there, Albert, till the case is well and truly tried by these here noble Peers of the Realm assembled,’ said Bill, impressively.

‘Too much style about you,’ said the Puddin’, rudely, and he threw the Judge’s glass of port into Bill’s face, remarking: ’Take that, for being a pumpkin-headed old shellback.’

There was a great uproar over this very illegal act. The Judge was enraged at losing his port, and the Mayor was filled with horror because Bill wiped his face on the mayoral hat. Sam had to feign amazement at being called a liar, and the puddin’-thieves kept shouting: ’Time, time; we can’t stand here all day.’

In desperation, Bill bawled at the top of his voice: ’I call on
Detective Bluegum to restore order in the Court.’

Bunyip ran into the witness-box and, with a ready wit, shouted: ’I have dreadful news to impart to this honourable Court.’

All eyes, of course, turned on Bunyip, who, raising his hand with an impressive gesture, said in thrilling tones: ’From information received, it has been discovered that the Puddin’ was poisoned at ten-thirty this morning.’

This news restored order at once. The Judge turned pale as lard, and the Usher, having a darker complexion, turned as pale as soap. The Puddin’ couldn’t turn pale, so he let out a howl of terror.

‘Poisoned,’ said the Usher, feebly. ‘How, how?’

‘Poisoned,’ said the Judge, feeling his stomach with trembling hands. ’Until this moment I was under the delusion that a somewhat unpleasant sensation of being, as it were, distended, was merely due to having eaten seven slices. But if ’

‘If,’ said the Usher, in a quavering voice

‘If you take a poisoned Puddin’
And that poisoned Puddin’ chew
The sensations that you suffer
I should rather say were due
To the poison in the Puddin’
In the act of Poisoning You.
And I think the fact suffices
Through this dreadfulest of crimes,
As you’ve eaten seven slices
You’ve been poisoned seven times.’

‘It was your idea having it up on the bench,’ said the Judge, angrily, to the Usher. ’Now,

’If what you say is true,
That idea you’ll sadly rue,
The poison I have eaten is entirely due to you.
It’s by taking your advice
That I’ve had my seventh slice,
So I’ll tell you what I’ll do
Why, I’ll beat you black and blue,’

and with that he hit the Usher a smart crack on the head with a port bottle.

‘Don’t strike a poisoned man,’ shouted the Usher; but the Judge went on smacking and cracking him with the bottle, singing

’The emotion of pity
Need never be sought
In a Judge who’s been poisoned
By Puddin’ and Port.’

In desperation, the Usher leapt off the bench, and landed head first in the dock, where he stuck like a sardine.

‘Too bad, too bad,’ shouted the puddin’-thieves. ’Crowding in here where there’s only room for two.’ Before they could get rid of the Usher, the Judge bounded over the bench and commenced whacking them with the bottle, singing

’As I find great satisfaction
Hitting anybody who
Can offer that distraction,
Why, I’ll have a go at you,’
and he went on bounding and whacking away with the bottle, while the puddin’-thieves kept roaring, and the Usher kept screaming. The uproar was deafening.

‘Just listen to it,’ said Bill, in despair. ’I’d like to know how on earth we are going to finish the case with all this umptydoodle rumpus going on.’

‘Why,’ said Bunyip, ’the simpler course is not to finish the case at all.’

‘Solved, as usual,’ said Bill and, seizing the Puddin’ from the bench, he dashed out of Court, followed by Sam, Ben, and Bunyip Bluegum.

As they ran they could hear the Judge still whacking away at everybody, including the Mayor, and the Constable, whose screams were piercing. ‘Indeed,’ said Bunyip

’I rather think they’ll rather rue
The haste with which they sought to sue
Us, in the Court of Tooraloo.
For, mark how just is Fate!

’The whole benighted, blooming crew,
The Puddin’-thieves, the Usher too,
Are being beaten black and blue
With bottles on the pate.

’I rather think they will eschew,
In future, Puddin’-owners who
Pass through the simple rural view
About the town of Tooraloo.’

‘And now,’ said Bill, when they had run a mile or two beyond the town, ’and now for some brilliant plan, swiftly conceived, which will put a stop to this Puddin’-snatchin’ business for ever. For the point is,’ continued Bill, lowering his voice, ’here we are pretty close up to the end of the book, and something will have to be done in a Tremendous Hurry, or else we’ll be cut off short by the cover.’

‘The solution is perfectly simple,’ said Bunyip. ’We have merely to stop wandering along the road, and the story will stop wandering through the book. This, too, will baffle the puddin’-thieves, for while we wander along the road, our Puddin’ is exposed to the covetous glances of every passing puddin’-snatcher. Let us, then, remove to some safe, secluded spot and settle down to a life of gaiety, dance, and song, where no puddin’-thief will dare to show a sacrilegious head. Let us, in fact, build a house in a tree. For, mark the advantages of such a habitation

’Up on high
No neighbours pry
In at the window,
On the sly.

’Up in a tree
You’re always free
From bores and bailiffs,
You’ll agree.

’Up on high
Bricks you shy
At bores and bailiffs
Passing by.

’Up in the leaves
One never grieves
Over the pranks
Of puddin’-thieves.

’If you would be
Gay and free,
Take my tip and
Live in a tree.’

‘We will, we will,’ shouted the Puddin’-owners; but the Puddin’ said sourly: ‘This is all very well, all this high falutin’. But what about the dreadful news of being poisoned at ten-thirty this morning?’

‘You ain’t poisoned, Albert,’ said Bill. ’That was only a mere ruse de guerre, as they say in the noosepapers.’

‘A what?’ demanded the Puddin’, suspiciously.

‘Let words be sufficient, without explanation,’ said Bill, severely. ‘And as we haven’t time to waste talkin’ philosophy to a Puddin’, why, into the bag he goes, or we’ll never get the story finished.’

So Puddin’ was bundled into the bag, and Bill said, hurriedly: ’Brilliant as our friend Bunyip had proved himself with his ready wit, it remains for old Bill to suggest the brightest idea of all. Here is our friend Ben, a market gardener of the finest description. Very well. Why not build our house in his market garden. The advantages are obvious. Vegetables free of charge the whole year round, and fruit in season. Eggs to be had for the askin’, and a fine, simple, honest feller like Ben, to chat to of an evening. What could be more delightful?’

Ben looked very grave at this proposal and began: ’I very much doubt whether there will be enough bed clothes for four people, let alone the carrots are very nervous of strangers ’ when Bill cut him short with a hearty clap on the back.

‘Say no more,’ said Bill, handsomely. ’Rough, good-humoured fellers like us don’t need apologies, or any social fal-lals at all. We’ll take you as we find you. Without more ado, we shall build a house in your market garden.’

And, without more ado, they did.

The picture overleaf saves the trouble of explaining how they built it, and what a splendid house it is. In order that the Puddin’ might have plenty of exercise, they made him a little Puddin’ paddock, whence he can shout rude remarks to the people passing by; a habit, I grieve to state, he is very prone to.

Of course, at night they pull up the ladder in case a stray puddin’-thief happens to be prowling around. If a friend calls to have a quiet chat, or to join in a sing-song round the fire, they let the ladder down for him.

And a very pleasant life they lead, sitting of a summer evening on the balcony while Ben does his little market-garden jobs below, and the Puddin’ throws bits of bark at the cabbages, and pulls faces at the little pickle onions, in order to make them squeak with terror.

On winter nights there is always Puddin’ and hot coffee for supper, and many’s the good go in I’ve had up there, a-sitting round the fire.

I didn’t mean to let on that I knew their address, on account of so many people wanting to have a go at the Puddin’. However, it’s out now.

When the wind blows and the rain comes down, it’s jolly sitting up aloft in the snug tree-house, especially when old Bill is in good form and gives us the Salt Junk Sarah, with all hands joining in the chorus.

’Oh, rolling round the ocean,
From a far and foreign land,
May suit the common notion
That a sailor’s life is grand.

’But as for me, I’d sooner be
A-roaring here at home
About the rolling, roaring life
Of them that sails the foam.

’For the homeward-bounder’s chorus,
Which he roars across the foam,
Is all about chucking a sailor’s life,
And settling down at home.

’Home, home, home,
That’s the song of them that roam,
The song of the roaring, rolling sea
Is all about rolling home.’