AUSTRALIAN LEGENDARY TALES
FOLK-LORE OF THE NOONGAHBURRAHS
AS TOLD TO THE PICCANINNIES
COLLECTED BY MRS. K. LANGLOH PARKER
WITH INTRODUCTION BY ANDREW LANG, M.A.
DEDICATED TO PETER HIPPI KING OF THE NOONGAHBURRAHS
PREFACE INTRODUCTION, BY ANDREW LANG, M.A. 1 DINEWAN THE EMU, AND GOOMBLEGUBBON THE BUSTARD 2 THE GALAH, AND OOLAH THE LIZARD 3 BAHLOO THE MOON, AND THE DAENS 4 THE ORIGIN OF THE NARRAN LAKE 5 GOOLOO THE MAGPIE, AND THE WAHROOGAH 6 THE WEEOOMBEENS AND THE PIGGIEBILLAH 7 BOOTOOLGAH THE CRANE AND GOONUR THE KANGAROO RAT, THE FIRE MAKERS 8 WEEDAH THE MOCKING BIRD 9 THE GWINERBOOS THE REDBREASTS 10 MEAMEI THE SEVEN SISTERS 11 THE COOKOOBURRAHS AND THE GOOLAHGOOL 12 THE MAYAMAH 13 THE BUNBUNDOOLOOEYS 14 OONGNAIRWAH AND GUINAREY 15 NARAHDARN THE BAT 16 MULLYANGAH THE MORNING STAR 17 GOOMBLEGUBBON, BEEARGAII, AND OUYAN 18 MOOREGOO THE MOPOKE, AND BAHLOO THE MOON 19 OUYAN THE CURLEW 20 DINEWAN THE EMU, AND WAHN THE CROWS 21 GOOLAHWILLEEL THE TOPKNOT PIGEONS 22 GOONUR, THE WOMAN-DOCTOR 23 DEEREEREE THE WAGTAIL, AND THE RAINBOW 24 MOOREGOO THE MOPOKE, AND MOONINGUGGAHGUL THE MOSQUITO BIRD 25 BOUGOODOOGAHDAH THE RAIN BIRD 26 THE BORAH OF BYAMEE 27 BUNNYYARL THE FLIES AND WURRUNNUNNAH THE BEES 28 DEEGEENBOYAH THE SOLDIER-BIRD 29 MAYRAH, THE WIND THAT BLOWS THE WINTER AWAY 30 WAYAMBEH THE TURTLE 31 WIRREENUN THE RAINMAKER NATIVE TEXT OF THE FIRST TALE (APPENDIX) GLOSSARY
A neighbour of mine exclaimed, when I mentioned that I proposed making a small collection of the folk-lore legends of the tribe of blacks I knew so well living on this station, "But have the blacks any legends?"—thus showing that people may live in a country and yet know little of the aboriginal inhabitants; and though there are probably many who do know these particular legends, yet I think that this is the first attempt that has been made to collect the tales of any particular tribe, and publish them alone. At all events, I know that no attempt has been made previously, as far as the folklore of the Noongahburrahs is concerned. Therefore, on the authority of Professor Max Muller, that folk-lore of any country is worth collecting, I am emboldened to offer my small attempt, at a collection, to the public. There are probably many who, knowing these legends, would not think them worth recording; but, on the other hand, I hope there are many who think, as I do, that we should try, while there is yet time, to gather all the information possible of a race fast dying out, and the origin of which is so obscure. I cannot affect to think that these little legends will do much to remove that obscurity, but undoubtedly a scientific and patient study of the folk-lore throughout Australia would greatly assist thereto. I, alas! am but an amateur, moved to my work by interest in the subject, and in the blacks, of whom I have had some experience.
The time is coming when it will be impossible to make even such a collection as this, for the old blacks are quickly dying out, and the young ones will probably think it beneath the dignity of their so-called civilisation even to remember such old-women's stories. Those who have themselves attempted the study of an unknown folk-lore will be able to appreciate the difficulties a student has to surmount before he can even induce those to talk who have the knowledge he desires. In this, as in so much else, those who are ready to be garrulous know little.
I have confined this little book to the legends of the Narran tribe, known among themselves as Noongahburrahs. It is astonishing to find, within comparatively short distances, a diversity of language and custom. You may even find the same word in different tribes bearing a totally different meaning. Many words, too, have been introduced which the blacks think are English, and the English think are native. Such, for example, as piccaninny, and, as far as these outside blacks are concerned, boomerang is regarded as English, their local word being burren; yet nine out of ten people whom you meet think both are local native words.
Though I have written my little book in the interests of folk-lore, I hope it will gain the attention of, and have some interest for, children—of Australian children, because they will find stories of old friends among the Bush birds; and of English children, because I hope that they will be glad to make new friends, and so establish a free trade between the Australian and English nurseries—wingless, and laughing birds, in exchange for fairy godmothers, and princes in disguise.
I must also acknowledge my great indebtedness to the blacks, who, when once they understood what I wanted to know, were most ready to repeat to me the legends repeating with the utmost patience, time after time, not only the legends, but the names, that I might manage to spell them so as to be understood when repeated. In particular I should like to mention my indebtedness to Peter Hippi, king of the Noongahburrahs; and to Hippitha, Matah, Barahgurrie, and Beemunny.
I have dedicated my booklet to Peter Hippi, in grateful recognition of his long and faithful service to myself and my husband, which has extended, with few intervals, over a period of twenty years. He, too, is probably the last king of the Noongabburrahs, who are fast dying out—, and soon their weapons, bartered by them for tobacco or whisky, alone will prove that they ever existed. It seemed to me a pity that some attempt should not be made to collect the folk-lore of the quickly disappearing tribe—a folk-lore embodying, probably, the thoughts, fancies, and beliefs of the genuine aboriginal race, and which, as such, deserves to be, indeed, as Max Muller says, "might be and ought to be, collected in every part of the world."
The legends were told to me by the blacks themselves, some of whom remember the coming of Mitchellan, as they call Major Mitchell, the explorer of these back creeks. The old blacks laugh now when they tell you how frightened their mothers were of the first wheel tracks they saw. They would not let the children tread on them, but carefully lifted them over, lest their feet should break out in sores, as they were supposed to do if they trod on a snake's track. But with all their fear, little did they realise that the coming of Mitchellan was the beginning of their end, or that fifty years afterwards, from the remnant of their once numerous tribe, would be collected the legends they told in those days to their piccaninnies round their camp-fires, and those legends used to make a Christmas booklet for the children of their white supplanters.
I can only hope that the white children will be as ready to listen to these stories as were, and indeed are, the little piccaninnies, and thus the sale of this booklet be such as to enable me to add frocks and tobacco when I give their Christmas dinner, as is my yearly custom, to the remnant of the Noongahburrahs.
K. LANGLOH PARKER, BANGATE, NARRAN RIVER, NEW SOUTH WALES, June 24th, 1895.
Australia makes an appeal to the fancy which is all its own. When Cortes entered Mexico, in the most romantic moment of history, it was as if men had found their way to a new planet, so strange, so long hidden from Europe was all that they beheld. Still they found kings, nobles, peasants, palaces, temples, a great organised society, fauna and flora not so very different from what they had left behind in Spain. In Australia all was novel, and, while seeming fresh, was inestimably old. The vegetation differs from ours; the monotonous grey gum-trees did not resemble our varied forests, but were antique, melancholy, featureless, like their own continent of rare hills, infrequent streams and interminable deserts, concealing nothing within their wastes, yet promising a secret. The birds and beasts—kangaroo, platypus, emu—are ancient types, rough grotesques of Nature, sketching as a child draws. The natives were a race without a history, far more antique than Egypt, nearer the beginnings than any other people. Their weapons are the most primitive: those of the extinct Tasmanians were actually palaeolithic. The soil holds no pottery, the cave walls no pictures drawn by men more advanced; the sea hides no ruined palaces; no cities are buried in the plains; there is not a trace of inscriptions or of agriculture. The burying places contain relics of men perhaps even lower than the existing tribes; nothing attests the presence in any age of men more cultivated. Perhaps myriads of years have gone by since the Delta, or the lands beside Euphrates and Tigris were as blank of human modification as was the whole Australian continent.
The manners and rites of the natives were far the most archaic of all with which we are acquainted. Temples they had none: no images of gods, no altars of sacrifice; scarce any memorials of the dead. Their worship at best was offered in hymns to some vague, half-forgotten deity or First Maker of things, a god decrepit from age or all but careless of his children. Spirits were known and feared, but scarcely defined or described. Sympathetic magic, and perhaps a little hypnotism, were all their science. Kings and nations they knew not; they were wanderers, houseless and homeless. Custom was king; yet custom was tenacious, irresistible, and as complex in minute details as the etiquette of Spanish kings, or the ritual of the Flamens of Rome. The archaic intricacies and taboos of the customs and regulations of marriage might puzzle a mathematician, and may, when unravelled, explain the less complicated prohibitions of a totemism less antique. The people themselves in their struggle for existence had developed great ingenuities. They had the boomerang and the weet-weet, but not the bow; the throwing stick, but not, of course, the sword; the message stick, but no hieroglyphs; and their art was almost purely decorative, in geometrical patterns, not representative. They deemed themselves akin to all nature, and called cousins with rain and smoke, with clouds and sky, as well as with beasts and trees. They were adroit hunters, skilled trackers, born sportsmen; they now ride well, and, for savages, play cricket fairly. But, being invaded by the practical emigrant or the careless convict, the natives were not studied when in their prime, and science began to examine them almost too late. We have the works of Sir George Grey, the too brief pamphlet of Mr. Gideon Lang, the more learned labours of Messrs. Fison and Howitt, and the collections of Mr. Brough Smyth. The mysteries (Bora) of the natives, the initiatory rites, a little of the magic, a great deal of the social customs are known to us, and we have fragments of the myths. But, till Mrs. Langloh Parker wrote this book, we had but few of the stories which Australian natives tell by the camp-fire or in the gum-tree shade.
These, for the most part, are KINDER MARCHEN, though they include many aetiological myths, explanatory of the markings and habits of animals, the origin of constellations, and so forth. They are a savage edition of the METAMORPHOSES, and few unbiased students now doubt that the METAMORPHOSES are a very late and very artificial version of traditional tales as savage in origin as those of the Noongahburrah. I have read Mrs. Parker's collection with very great interest, with "human pleasure," merely for the story's sake. Children will find here the Jungle Book, never before printed, of black little boys and girls. The sympathy with, and knowledge of beast-life and bird-life are worthy of Mr. Kipling, and the grotesque names are just what children like. Dinewan and Goomblegubbon should take their place with Rikki Tikki and Mr. Kipling's other delightful creatures. But there is here no Mowgli, set apart in the jungle as a man. Man, bird, and beast are all blended in the Australian fancy as in that of Bushmen and Red Indians. All are of one kindred, all shade into each other; all obey the Bush Law as they obey the Jungle Law in Mr. Kipling's fascinating stories. This confusion, of course, is not peculiar to Australian MARCHEN; it is the prevalent feature of our own popular tales. But the Australians "do it more natural:" the stories are not the heritage of a traditional and dead, but the flowers of a living and actual condition of the mind. The stories have not the ingenious dramatic turns of our own MARCHEN. Where there are no distinctions of wealth and rank, there can be no CINDERELLA and no PUSS IN BOOTS. Many stories are rude aetiological myths; they explain the habits and characteristics of the birds and beasts, and account in a familiar way for the origin of death ("Bahloo, the Moon, and the Daens"). The origin of fire is also accounted for in what may almost be called a scientific way. Once discovered, it is, of course, stolen from the original proprietors. A savage cannot believe that the first owners of fire would give the secret away. The inventors of the myth of Prometheus were of the same mind.
On the whole the stories, perhaps, most resemble those from the Zulu in character, though these represent a much higher grade of civilisation. The struggle for food and water, desperately absorbing, is the perpetual theme, and no wonder, for the narrators dwell in a dry and thirsty land, and till not, nor sow, nor keep any domestic animals. We see the cunning of the savage in the devices for hunting, especially for chasing honey bees. The Rain-magic, actually practised, is of curious interest. In brief, we have pictures of savage life by savages, romances which are truly realistic. We understand that condition which Dr. Johnson did not think happy—the state from which we came, and to which we shall probably return. "Equality," "Liberty", "Community of Goods," all mean savagery, and even savages, if equal, are not really free. Custom is the tyrant.
The designs are from the sketch-book of an untaught Australian native; they were given to me some years ago by my brother, Dr. Lang, of Corowa. The artist has a good deal of spirit in his hunting scenes; his trees are not ill done, his emus and kangaroos are better than his men and labras. Using ink, a pointed stick, and paper, the artist shows an unwonted freedom of execution. Nothing like this occurs in Australian scratches with a sharp stone on hard wood. Probably no other member of his dying race ever illustrated a book.
* * * * *
1. DINEWAN THE EMU, AND GOOMBLEGUBBON THE BUSTARD
Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was acknowledged as king by the other birds. The Goomblegubbons, the bustards, were jealous of the Dinewans. Particularly was Goomblegubbon, the mother, jealous of the Diriewan mother. She would watch with envy the high flight of the Dinewans, and their swift running. And she always fancied that the Dinewan mother flaunted her superiority in her face, for whenever Dinewan alighted near Goomblegubbon, after a long, high flight, she would flap her big wings and begin booing in her pride, not the loud booing of the male bird, but a little, triumphant, satisfied booing noise of her own, which never failed to irritate Goomblegubbon when she heard it.
Goomblegubbon used to wonder how she could put an end to Dinewan's supremacy. She decided that she would only be able to do so by injuring her wings and checking her power of flight. But the question that troubled her was how to effect this end. She knew she would gain nothing by having a quarrel with Dinewan and fighting her, for no Goomblegubbon would stand any chance against a Dinewan, There was evidently nothing to be gained by an open fight. She would have to effect her end by cunning.
One day, when Goomblegubbon saw in the distance Dinewan coming towards her, she squatted down and doubled in her wings in such a way as to look as if she had none. After Dinewan had been talking to her for some time, Goomblegubbon said: "Why do you not imitate me and do without wings? Every bird flies. The Dinewans, to be the king of birds, should do without wings. When all the birds see that I can do without wings, they will think I am the cleverest bird and they will make a Goomblegubbon king."
"But you have wings," said Dinewan.
"No, I have no wings." And indeed she looked as if her words were true, so well were her wings hidden, as she squatted in the grass. Dinewan went away after awhile, and thought much of what she had heard. She talked it all over with her mate, who was as disturbed as she was. They made up their minds that it would never do to let the Goomblegubbons reign in their stead, even if they had to lose their wings to save their kingship.
At length they decided on the sacrifice of their wings. The Dinewan mother showed the example by persuading her mate to cut off hers with a combo or stone tomahawk, and then she did the same to his. As soon as the operations were over, the Dinewan mother lost no time in letting Goomblegubbon know what they had done. She ran swiftly down to the plain on which she had left Goomblegubbon, and, finding her still squatting there, she said: "See, I have followed your example. I have now no wings. They are cut off."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Goomblegubbon, jumping up and dancing round with joy at the success of her plot. As she danced round, she spread out her wings, flapped them, and said: "I have taken you in, old stumpy wings. I have my wings yet. You are fine birds, you Dinewans, to be chosen kings, when you are so easily taken in. Ha! ha! ha!" And, laughing derisively, Goomblegubbon flapped her wings right in front of Dinewan, who rushed towards her to chastise her treachery. But Goomblegubbon flew away, and, alas! the now wingless Dinewan could not follow her.
Brooding over her wrongs, Dinewan walked away, vowing she would be revenged. But how? That was the question which she and her mate failed to answer for some time. At length the Dinewan mother thought of a plan and prepared at once to execute it. She hid all her young Dinewans but two, under a big salt bush. Then she walked off to Goomblegubbons' plain with the two young ones following her. As she walked off the morilla ridge, where her home was, on to the plain, she saw Goomblegubbon out feeding with her twelve young ones.
After exchanging a few remarks in a friendly manner with Goomblegubbon, she said to her, "Why do you not imitate me and only have two children? Twelve are too many to feed. If you keep so many they will never grow big birds like the Dinewans. The food that would make big birds of two would only starve twelve." Goomblegubbon said nothing, but she thought it might be so. It was impossible to deny that the young Dinewans were much bigger than the young Goomblegubbons, and, discontentedly, Goomblegubbon walked away, wondering whether the smallness of her young ones was owing to the number of them being so much greater than that of the Dinewans. It would be grand, she thought, to grow as big as the Dinewans. But she remembered the trick she had played on Dinewan, and she thought that perhaps she was being fooled in her turn. She looked back to where the Dinewans fed, and as she saw how much bigger the two young ones were than any of hers, once more mad envy of Dinewan possessed her. She determined she would not be outdone. Rather would she kill all her young ones but two. She said, "The Dinewans shall not be the king birds of the plains. The Goomblegubbons shall replace them. They shall grow as big as the Dinewans, and shall keep their wings and fly, which now the Dinewans cannot do." And straightway Goomblegubbon killed all her young ones but two. Then back she came to where the Dinewans were still feeding. When Dinewan saw her coming and noticed she had only two young ones with her, she called out: "Where are all your young ones?"
Goomblegubbon answered, "I have killed them, and have only two left. Those will have plenty to eat now, and will soon grow as big as your young ones."
"You cruel mother to kill your children. You greedy mother. Why, I have twelve children and I find food for them all. I would not kill one for anything, not even if by so doing I could get back my wings. There is plenty for all. Look at the emu bush how it covers itself with berries to feed my big family. See how the grasshoppers come hopping round, so that we can catch them and fatten on them."
"But you have only two children."
"I have twelve. I will go and bring them to show you." Dinewan ran off to her salt bush where she had hidden her ten young ones. Soon she was to be seen coming back. Running with her neck stretched forward, her head thrown back with pride, and the feathers of her boobootella swinging as she ran, booming out the while her queer throat noise, the Dinewan song of joy, the pretty, soft-looking little ones with their zebra-striped skins, running beside her whistling their baby Dinewan note. When Dinewan reached the place where Goomblegubbon was, she stopped her booing and said in a solemn tone, "Now you see my words are true, I have twelve young ones, as I said. You can gaze at my loved ones and think of your poor murdered children. And while you do so I will tell you the fate of your descendants for ever. By trickery and deceit you lost the Dinewans their wings, and now for evermore, as long as a Dinewan has no wings, so long shall a Goomblegubbon lay only two eggs and have only two young ones. We are quits now. You have your wings and I my children."
And ever since that time a Dinewan, or emu, has had no wings, and a Goomblegubbon, or bustard of the plains, has laid only two eggs in a season.
2. THE GALAH, AND OOLAH THE LIZARD
Oolah the lizard was tired of lying in the sun, doing nothing. So he said, "I will go and play." He took his boomerangs out, and began to practise throwing them. While he was doing so a Galah came up, and stood near, watching the boomerangs come flying back, for the kind of boomerangs Oolah was throwing were the bubberahs. They are smaller than others, and more curved, and when they are properly thrown they return to the thrower, which other boomerangs do not.
Oolah was proud of having the gay Galah to watch his skill. In his pride he gave the bubberah an extra twist, and threw it with all his might. Whizz, whizzing through the air, back it came, hitting, as it passed her, the Galah on the top of her head, taking both feathers and skin clean off. The Galah set up a hideous, cawing, croaking shriek, and flew about, stopping every few minutes to knock her head on the ground like a mad bird. Oolah was so frightened when he saw what he had done, and noticed that the blood was flowing from the Galah's head, that he glided away to hide under a bindeah bush. But the Galah saw him. She never stopped the hideous noise she was making for a minute, but, still shrieking, followed Oolah. When she reached the bindeah bush she rushed at Oolah, seized him with her beak, rolled him on the bush until every bindeah had made a hole in his skin. Then she rubbed his skin with her own bleeding head. "Now then," she said, "you Oolah shall carry bindeahs on you always, and the stain of my blood."
"And you," said Oolah, as he hissed with pain from the tingling of the prickles, "shall be a bald-headed bird as long as I am a red prickly lizard."
So to this day, underneath the Galah's crest you can always find the bald patch which the bubberah of Oolah first made. And in the country of the Galahs are lizards coloured reddish brown, and covered with spikes like bindeah prickles.
3. BAHLOO THE MOON AND THE DAENS
Bahloo the moon looked down at the earth one night, when his light was shining quite brightly, to see if any one was moving. When the earth people were all asleep was the time he chose for playing with his three dogs. He called them dogs, but the earth people called them snakes, the death adder, the black snake, and the tiger snake. As he looked down on to the earth, with his three dogs beside him, Bahloo saw about a dozen daens, or black fellows, crossing a Creek. He called to them saying, "Stop, I want you to carry my dogs across that creek." But the black fellows, though they liked Bahloo well, did not like his dogs, for sometimes when he had brought these dogs to play on the earth, they had bitten not only the earth dogs but their masters; and the poison left by the bites had killed those bitten. So the black fellows said, "No, Bahloo, we are too frightened; your dogs might bite us. They are not like our dogs, whose bite would not kill us."
Bahloo said, "If you do what I ask you, when you die you shall come to life again, not die and stay always where you are put when you are dead. See this piece of bark. I throw it into the water." And he threw a piece of bark into the creek. "See it comes to the top again and floats. That is what would happen to you if you would do what I ask you: first under when you die, then up again at once. If you will not take my dogs over, you foolish daens, you will die like this," and he threw a stone into the creek, which sank to the bottom. "You will be like that stone, never rise again, Wombah daens!"
But the black fellows said, "We cannot do it, Bahloo. We are too frightened of your dogs."
"I will come down and carry them over myself to show you that they are quite safe and harmless." And down he came, the black snake coiled round one arm, the tiger snake round the other, and the death adder on his shoulder, coiled towards his neck. He carried them over. When he had crossed the creek he picked up a big stone, and he threw it into the water, saying, "Now, you cowardly daens, you would not do what I, Bahloo, asked you to do, and so forever you have lost the chance of rising again after you die. You will just stay where you are put, like that stone does under the water, and grow, as it does, to be part of the earth. If you had done what I asked you, you could have died as often as I die, and have come to life as often as I come to life. But now you will only be black fellows while you live, and bones when you are dead."
Bahloo looked so cross, and the three snakes hissed so fiercely, that the black fellows were very glad to see them disappear from their sight behind the trees. The black fellows had always been frightened of Bahloo's dogs, and now they hated them, and they said, "If we could get them away from Bahloo we would kill them." And thenceforth, whenever they saw a snake alone they killed it. But Babloo only sent more, for he said, "As long as there are black fellows there shall be snakes to remind them that they would not do what I asked them."
4. THE ORIGIN OF THE NARRAN LAKE
Old Byamee said to his two young wives, Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee, "I have stuck a white feather between the hind legs of a bee, and am going to let it go and then follow it to its nest, that I may get honey. While I go for the honey, go you two out and get frogs and yams, then meet me at Coorigel Spring, where we will camp, for sweet and clear is the water there." The wives, taking their goolays and yam sticks, went out as he told them. Having gone far, and dug out many yams and frogs, they were tired when they reached Coorigel, and, seeing the cool, fresh water, they longed to bathe. But first they built a bough shade, and there left their goolays holding their food, and the yams and frogs they had found. When their camp was ready for the coming of Byamee, who having wooed his wives with a nullah-nullah, kept them obedient by fear of the same weapon, then went the girls to the spring to bathe. Gladly they plunged in, having first divested them selves of their goomillahs, which they were still young enough to wear, and which they left on the ground near the spring. Scarcely were they enjoying the cool rest the water gave their hot, tired limbs, when they were seized and swallowed by two kurreahs. Having swallowed the girls, the kurreahs dived into an opening in the side of the spring, which was the entrance to an underground watercourse leading to the Narran River. Through this passage they went, taking all the water from the spring with them into the Narran, whose course they also dried as they went along.
Meantime Byamee, unwitting the fate of his wives, was honey hunting. He had followed the bee with the white feather on it for some distance; then the bee flew on to some budtha flowers, and would move no further. Byamee said, "Something has happened, or the bee would not stay here and refuse to be moved on towards its nest. I must go to Coorigel Spring and see if my wives are safe. Something terrible has surely happened." And Byamee turned in haste towards the spring. When he reached there he saw the bough shed his wives had made, he saw the yams they had dug from the ground, and he saw the frogs, but Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee he saw not. He called aloud for them. But no answer. He went towards the spring; on the edge of it he saw the goomillahs of his wives. He looked into the spring and, seeing it dry, he said, "It is the work of the kurreahs; they have opened the underground passage and gone with my wives to the river, and opening the passage has dried the spring. Well do I know where the passage joins the Narran, and there will I swiftly go." Arming himself with spears and woggarahs he started in pursuit. He soon reached the deep hole where the underground channel of the Coorigel joined the Narran. There he saw what he had never seen before, namely, this deep hole dry. And he said: "They have emptied the holes as they went along, taking the water with them. But well know I the deep holes of the river. I will not follow the bend, thus trebling the distance I have to go, but I will cut across from big hole to big hole, and by so doing I may yet get ahead of the kurreahs." On swiftly sped Byamee, making short cuts from big hole to big hole, and his track is still marked by the morilla ridges that stretch down the Narran, pointing in towards the deep holes. Every hole as he came to it he found dry, until at last he reached the end of the Narran; the hole there was still quite wet and muddy, then he knew he was near his enemies, and soon he saw them. He managed to get, unseen, a little way ahead of the kurreahs. He hid himself behind a big dheal tree. As the kurreahs came near they separated, one turning to go in another direction. Quickly Byamee hurled one spear after another, wounding both kurreahs, who writhed with pain and lashed their tails furiously, making great hollows in the ground, which the water they had brought with them quickly filled. Thinking they might again escape him, Byamee drove them from the water with his spears, and then, at close quarters, he killed them with his woggarahs. And ever afterwards at flood time, the Narran flowed into this hollow which the kurreahs in their writhings had made.
When Byamee saw that the kurreahs were quite dead, he cut them open and took out the bodies of his wives. They were covered with wet slime, and seemed quite lifeless; but he carried them and laid them on two nests of red ants. Then he sat down at some little distance and watched them. The ants quickly covered the bodies, cleaned them rapidly of the wet slime, and soon Byamee noticed the muscles of the girls twitching. "Ah," he said, "there is life, they feel the sting of the ants."
Almost as he spoke came a sound as of a thunder-clap, but the sound seemed to come from the ears of the girls. And as the echo was dying away, slowly the girls rose to their feet. For a moment they stood apart, a dazed expression on their faces. Then they clung together, shaking as if stricken with a deadly fear. But Byamee came to them and explained how they had been rescued from the kurreahs by him. He bade them to beware of ever bathing in the deep holes of the Narran, lest such holes be the haunt of kurreahs.
Then he bade them look at the water now at Boogira, and he said:
"Soon will the black swans find their way here, the pelicans and the ducks; where there was dry land and stones in the past, in the future there will be water and water-fowl, from henceforth; when the Narran runs it will run into this hole, and by the spreading of its waters will a big lake be made." And what Byamee said has come to pass, as the Narran Lake shows, with its large sheet of water, spreading for miles, the home of thousands of wild fowl.
5. GOOLOO THE MAGPIE, AND THE WAHROOGAH
Gooloo was a very old woman, and a very wicked old woman too, as this story will tell. During all the past season, when the grass was thick with seed, she had gathered much doonburr, which she crushed into meal as she wanted it for food. She used to crush it on a big flat stone with small flat stones—the big stone was called a dayoorl. Gooloo ground a great deal of the doonburr seed to put away for immediate use, the rest she kept whole, to be ground as required.
Soon after she had finished her first grinding, a neighbouring tribe came along and camped near where she was. One day the men all went out hunting, leaving the women and the children in the camp. After the men had been gone a little while, Gooloo the magpie came to their camp to talk to the women. She said, "Why do you not go hunting too? Many are the nests of the wurranunnahs round here, and thick is the honey in them. Many and ripe are the bumbles hanging now on the humble trees; red is the fruit of the grooees, and opening with ripeness the fruit of the guiebets. Yet you sit in the camp and hunger, until your husbands return with the dinewan and bowrah they have gone forth to slay. Go, women, and gather of the plenty that surrounds you. I will take care of your children, the little Wahroogabs."
"Your words are wise," the women said. "It is foolish to sit here and hunger, when near at hand yams are thick in the ground, and many fruits wait but the plucking. We will go and fill quickly our comebees and goolays, but our children we will take with us."
"Not so," said Gooloo, "foolish indeed were you to do that. You would tire the little feet of those that run, and tire yourselves with the burden of those that have to be carried. No, take forth your comebees and goolays empty, that ye may bring back the more. Many are the spoils that wait only the hand of the gatherer. Look ye, I have a durrie made of fresh doonburr seed, cooking just now on that bark between two fires; that shall your children eat, and swiftly shall I make them another. They shall eat and be full ere their mothers are out of sight. See, they come to me now, they hunger for durrie, and well will I feed them. Haste ye then, that ye may return in time to make ready the fires for cooking the meat your husbands will bring. Glad will your husbands be when they see that ye have filled your goolays and comebees with fruits, and your wirrees with honey. Haste ye, I say, and do well."
Having listened to the words of Gooloo, the women decided to do as she said, and, leaving their children with her, they started forth with empty comebees, and armed with combos, with which to chop out the bees' nests and opossums, and with yam sticks to dig up yams.
When the women had gone, Gooloo gathered the children round her and fed them with durrie, hot from the coals. Honey, too, she gave them, and bumbles which she had buried to ripen. When they had eaten, she hurried them off to her real home, built in a hollow tree, a little distance away from where she had been cooking her durrie. Into her house she hurriedly thrust them, followed quickly herself, and made all secure. Here she fed them again, but the children had already satisfied their hunger, and now they missed their mothers and began to cry. Their crying reached the ears of the women as they were returning to their camp. Quickly they came at the sound which is not good in a mother's ears. As they quickened their steps they thought how soon the spoils that lay heavy in their comebees would comfort their children. And happy they, the mothers, would feel when they fed the Wahroogahs with the dainties they had gathered for them. Soon they reached the camp, but, alas! where were their children? And where was Gooloo the magpie?
"They are playing wahgoo," they said, "and have hidden themselves."
The mothers hunted all round for them, and called aloud the names of their children and Gooloo. But no answer could they hear and no trace could they find. And yet every now and then they heard the sound of children wailing. But seek as they would they found them not. Then loudly wailed the mothers themselves for their lost Wahroogahs, and, wailing, returned to the camp to wait the coming of the black fellows. Heavy were their hearts, and sad were their faces when their husbands returned. They hastened to tell the black fellows when they came, how Gooloo had persuaded them to go hunting, promising if they did so that she would feed the hungry Wahroogahs, and care for them while they were away, but—and here they wailed again for their poor Wahroogahs. They told how they had listened to her words and gone; truth had she told of the plenty round, their comebees and goolays were full of fruits and spoils they had gathered, but, alas! they came home with them laden only to find their children gone and Gooloo gone too. And no trace could they find of either, though at times they heard a sound as of children wailing.
Then wroth were the men, saying: "What mothers are ye to leave your young to a stranger, and that stranger a Gooloo, ever a treacherous race? Did we not go forth to gain food for you and our children? Saw ye ever your husbands return from the chase empty handed? Then why, when ye knew we were gone hunting, must ye too go forth and leave our helpless ones to a stranger? Oh, evil, evil indeed is the time that has come when a mother forgets her child. Stay ye in the camp while we go forth to hunt for our lost Wahroogahs. Heavy will be our hands on the women if we return without them."
The men hunted the bush round for miles, but found no trace of the lost Wahroogahs, though they too heard at times a noise as of children's voices wailing.
But beyond the wailing which echoed in the mothers' ears for ever, no trace was found of the children. For many days the women sat in the camp mourning for their lost Wahroogahs, and beating their heads because they had listened to the voice of Gooloo.
6. THE WEEOONIBEENS AND THE PIGGIEBILLAH
Two Weeoombeen brothers went out hunting. One brother was much younger than the other and smaller, so when they sighted an emu, the elder one said to the younger: "You stay quietly here and do not make a noise, or Piggiebillah, whose camp we passed just now, will hear you and steal the emu if I kill it. He is so strong. I'll go on and try to kill the emu with this stone." The little Weeoombeen watched his big brother sneak up to the emu, crawling along, almost flat, on the ground. He saw him get quite close to the emu, then spring up quickly and throw the stone with such an accurate aim as to kill the bird on the spot. The little brother was so rejoiced that he forgot his brother's caution, and he called aloud in his joy. The big Weeoombeen looked round and gave him a warning sign, but too late, Piggiebillah had heard the cry and was hastening towards them. Quickly big Weeoombeen left the emu and joined his little brother.
Piggiebillah, when he came up, said: "What have you found?"
"Nothing," said the big Weeoombeen, "nothing but some mistletoe berries."
"It must have been something more than that, or your little brother would not have called out so loudly."
Little Weeoombeen was so afraid that Piggiebillah would find their emu and take it, that he said: "I hit a little bird with a stone, and I was glad I could throw so straight."
"It was no cry for the killing of a little bird or for the finding of mistletoe berries that I heard. It was for something much more than either, or you would not have called out so joyfully. If you do not tell me at once I will kill you both."
The Weeoombeen brothers were frightened, for Piggiebillah was a great fighter and very strong, so when they saw he was really angry, they showed him the dead emu.
"Just what I want for my supper," he said, and so saying, dragged it away to his own camp. The Weeoombeens followed him and even helped him to make a fire to cook the emu, hoping by so doing to get a share given to them. But Piggiebillah would not give them any; he said he must have it all for himself.
Angry and disappointed, the Weeoombeens marched straight off and told some black fellows who lived near, that Piggiebillah had a fine fat emu just cooked for supper.
Up jumped the black fellows, seized their spears, bade the Weeoombeens quickly lead them to Piggiebillah's camp, promising them for so doing a share of the emu.
When they were within range of spear shot, the black fellows formed a circle, took aim, and threw their spears at Piggiebillah. As the spears fell thick on him, sticking out all over him, Piggiebillah cried aloud: "Bingehlah, Bingeblah. You can have it, you can have it." But the black fellows did not desist until Piggiebillah was too wounded even to cry out; then they left him a mass of spears and turned to look for the emu. But to their surprise they found it not. Then for the first time they missed the Weeoombeens.
Looking round they saw their tracks going to where the emu had evidently been; then they saw that they had dragged the emu to their nyunnoo, which was a humpy made of grass.
When the Weeoombeens saw the black fellows coming, they caught hold of the emu and dragged it to a big hole they knew of, with a big stone at its entrance, which stone only they knew the secret of moving. They moved the stone, got the emu and themselves into the hole, and the stone in place again before the black fellows reached the place.
The black fellows tried to move the stone, but could not. Yet they knew that the Weeoombeens must have done so, for they had tracked them right up to it, and they could hear the sound of their voices on the other side of it. They saw there was a crevice on either side of the stone, between it and the ground. Through these crevices they, drove in their spears, thinking they must surely kill the brothers. But the Weeoombeens too had seen these crevices and had anticipated the spears, so they had placed the dead emu before them to act as a shield. And into its body were driven the spears of the black fellows extended for the Weeoombeens.
Having driven the spears well in, the black fellows went off to get help to move the stone, but when they had gone a little way they heard the Weeoombeens laughing. Back they came and speared again, and again started for help, only as they left to hear once more the laughter of the brothers.
The Weeoombeens finding their laughter only brought back the black fellows to a fresh attack, determined to keep quiet, which, after the next spearing, they did.
Quite sure, when they heard their spear shots followed by neither conversation nor laughter, that they had killed the Weeoombeens at last, the black fellows hurried away to bring back the strength and cunning of the camp, to remove the stone.
The Weeoombeens hurriedly discussed what plan they had better adopt to elude the black fellows, for well they knew that should they ever meet any of them again they would be killed without mercy. And as they talked they satisfied their hunger by eating some of the emu flesh.
After a while the black fellows returned, and soon was the stone removed from the entrance. Some of them crept into the hole, where, to their surprise, they found only the remains of the emu and no trace of the Weeoombeens. As those who had gone in first crept out and told of the disappearance of the Weeoombeens, others, incredulous of such a story, crept in to find it confirmed. They searched round for tracks; seeing that their spears were all in the emu it seemed to them probable the Weeoombeens had escaped alive, but if so, whither they had gone their tracks would show. But search as they would no tracks could they find. All they could see were two little birds which sat on a bush near the hole, watching the black fellows all the time. The little birds flew round the hole sometimes, but never away, always returning to their bush and seeming to be discussing the whole affair; but what they said the black fellows could not understand. But as time went on and no sign was ever found of the Weeoombeens, the black fellows became sure that the brothers had turned into the little white-throated birds which had sat on the bush by the hole, so, they supposed, to escape their vengeance. And ever afterwards the little white-throats were called Weeoombeens. And the memory of Piggiebillah is perpetuated by a sort of porcupine ant-eater, which bears his name, and whose skin is covered closely with miniature spears sticking all over it.
7. BOOTOOLGAH THE CRANE AND GOONUR THE KANGAROO RAT, THE FIRE MAKERS
In the days when Bootoolgah, the crane, married Goonur, the kangaroo rat, there was no fire in their country. They had to eat their food raw or just dry it in the sun. One day when Bootoolgah was rubbing two pieces of wood together, he saw a faint spark sent forth and then a slight smoke. "Look," he said to Goonur, "see what comes when I rub these pieces of wood together—smoke! Would it not be good if we could make fire for ourselves with which to cook our food, so as not to have to wait for the sun to dry it?"
Goonur looked, and, seeing the smoke, she said: "Great indeed would be the day when we could make fire. Split your stick, Bootoolgah, and place in the opening bark and grass that even one spark may kindle a light." And hearing wisdom in her words, even as she said Bootoolgah did. And lo! after much rubbing, from the opening came a small flame. For as Goonur had said it would, the spark lit the grass, the bark smouldered and smoked, and so Bootoolgah the crane, and Goonur the kangaroo rat, discovered the art of fire making.
"This we will keep secret," they said, "from all the tribes. When we make a fire to cook our fish we will go into a Bingahwingul scrub. There we will make a fire and cook our food in secret. We will hide our firesticks in the openmouthed seeds of the Bingahwinguls; one firestick we will carry always hidden in our comebee."
Bootoolgah and Goonur cooked the next fish they caught, and found it very good. When they went back to the camp they took some of their cooked fish with them. The blacks noticed it looked quite different from the usual sun-dried fish, so they asked: "What did you to that fish?"
"Let it lie in the sun," said they.
"Not so," said the others.
But that the fish was sun-dried Bootoolgah and Goonur persisted. Day by day passed, and after catching their fish, these two always disappeared, returning with their food looking quite different from that of the others. At last, being unable to extract any information from them, it was determined by the tribe to watch them. Boolooral, the night owl, and Quarrian, the parrot, were appointed to follow the two when they disappeared, to watch where they went, and find out what they did. Accordingly, after the next fish were caught, when Bootoolgah and Goonur gathered up their share and started for the bush, Boolooral and Quarrian followed on their tracks. They saw them disappear into a Bingahwingul scrub, where they lost sight of them. Seeing a high tree on the edge of the scrub, they climbed up it, and from there they saw all that was to be seen. They saw Bootoolgah and Goonur throw down their load of fish, open their comebee and take from it a stick, which stick, when they had blown upon it, they laid in the midst of a heap of leaves and twigs, and at once from this heap they saw a flame leap, which flame the fire makers fed with bigger sticks. Then, as the flame died down, they saw the two place their fish in the ashes that remained from the burnt sticks. Then back to the camp of their tribes went Boolooral and Quarrian, back with the news of their discovery. Great was the talk amongst the blacks, and many the queries as to how to get possession of the comebee with the fire stick in it, when next Bootoolgah and Goonur came into the camp. It was at length decided to hold a corrobboree, and it was to be one on a scale not often seen, probably never before by the young of the tribes. The grey beards proposed to so astonish Bootoolgah and Goonur as to make them forget to guard their precious comebee. As soon as they were intent on the corrobboree and off guard, some one was to seize the comebee, steal the firestick and start fires for the good of all. Most of them had tasted the cooked fish brought into the camp by the fire makers and, having found it good, hungered for it. Beeargah, the hawk, was told to feign sickness, to tie up his head, and to lie down near wherever the two sat to watch the corrobboree. Lying near them, he was to watch them all the time, and when they were laughing and unthinking of anything but the spectacle before them, he was to steal the comebee. Having arranged their plan of action, they all prepared for a big corrobboree. They sent word to all the surrounding tribes, asking them to attend, especially they begged the Bralgahs to come, as they were celebrated for their wonderful dancing, which was so wonderful as to be most likely to absorb the attention of the firemakers.
All the tribes agreed to come, and soon all were engaged in great preparations. Each determined to outdo the other in the quaintness and brightness of their painting for the corrobboree. Each tribe as they arrived gained great applause; never before had the young people seen so much diversity in colouring and design. Beeleer, the Black Cockatoo tribe, came with bright splashes of orange-red on their black skins. The Pelicans came as a contrast, almost pure white, only a touch here and there of their black skin showing where the white paint had rubbed off. The Black Divers came in their black skins, but these polished to shine like satin. Then came the Millears, the beauties of the Kangaroo Rat family, who had their home on the morillas. After them came the Buckandeer or Native Cat tribe, painted in dull colours, but in all sorts of patterns. Mairas or Paddymelons came too in haste to take part in the great corrobboree. After them, walking slowly, came the Bralgahs, looking tall and dignified as they held up their red heads, painted so in contrast to their French-grey bodies, which they deemed too dull a colour, unbrightened, for such a gay occasion. Amongst the many tribes there, too numerous to mention, were the rose and grey painted Galabs, the green and crimson painted Billai; most brilliant were they with their bodies grass green and their sides bright crimson, so afterwards gaining them the name of crimson wings. The bright little Gidgereegahs came too.
Great was the gathering that Bootoolgah, the crane, and Goonur, the kangaroo rat, found assembled as they hurried on to the scene. Bootoolgah had warned Goonur that they must only be spectators, and take no active part in the corrobboree, as they had to guard their combee. Obedient to his advice, Goonur seated herself beside him and slung the comebee over her arm. Bootoolgah warned her to be careful and not forget she had it. But as the corrobboree went on, so absorbed did she become that she forgot the comebee, which slipped from her arm. Happily, Bootoolgah saw it do so, replaced it, and bade her take heed, so baulking Beeargah, who had been about to seize it, for his vigilance was unceasing, and, deeming him sick almost unto death, the two whom lie was watching took no heed of him. Back he crouched, moaning as he turned, but keeping ever an eye on Goonur. And soon was he rewarded. Now came the turn of the Bralgahs to dance, and every eye but that of the watchful one was fixed on them as slowly they came into the ring. First they advanced, bowed and retired, then they repeated what they had done before, and again, each time getting faster and faster in their movements, changing their bows into pirouettes, craning their long necks and making such antics as they went through the figures of their dance, and replacing their dignity with such grotesqueness, as to make their large audience shake with laughter, they themselves keeping throughout all their grotesque measures a solemn air, which only seemed to heighten the effect of their antics.
And now came the chance of Beeargah the hawk. In the excitement of the moment Goonur forgot the comebee, as did Bootoolgah. They joined in the mirthful applause of the crowd, and Goonur threw herself back helpless with laughter. As she did so the comebee slipped from her arm. Then up jumped the sick man from behind her, seized the comebee with his combo, cut it open, snatched forth the firestick, set fire to the heap of grass ready near where he had lain, and all before the two realised their loss. When they discovered the precious comebee was gone, up jumped Bootoolgah and Goonur. After Beeargah ran Bootoolgah, but Beeargah had a start and was fleeter of foot, so distanced his pursuer quickly. As he ran he fired the grass with the stick he still held. Bootoolgah, finding he could not catch Beeargah, and seeing fires everywhere, retired from the pursuit, feeling it was useless now to try and guard their secret, for it had now become the common property of all the tribes there assembled.
8. WEEDAH THE MOCKING BIRD
Weedah was playing a great trick on the black fellows who lived near him. He had built himself a number of grass nyunnoos, more than twenty. He made fires before each, to make it look as if some one lived in the nyunnoos. First he would go into one nyunnoo, or humpy, and cry like a baby, then to another and laugh like a child, then in turn, as he went the round of the humpies he would sing like a maiden, corrobboree like a man, call out in a quavering voice like an old man, and in a shrill voice like an old woman; in fact, imitate any sort of voice he had ever heard, and imitate them so quickly in succession that any one passing would think there was a great crowd of blacks in that camp. His object was to entice as many strange black fellows into his camp as he could, one at a time; then he would kill them and gradually gain the whole country round for his own. His chance was when he managed to get a single black fellow into his camp, which he very often did, then by his cunning he always gained his end and the black fellow's death. This was how he attained that end. A black fellow, probably separated from his fellows in the excitement of the chase, would be returning home alone passing within earshot of Weedah's camp he would hear the various voices and wonder what tribe could be there. Curiosity would induce him to come near. He would probably peer into the camp, and, only seeing Weedah standing alone, would advance towards him. Weedah would be standing at a little distance from a big glowing fire, where he would wait until the strange black fellow came quite close to him. Then he would ask him what he wanted. The stranger would say he had heard many voices and had wondered what tribe it could be, so had come near to find out. Weedah would say, "But only I am here. How could you have heard voices? See; look round; I am alone." Bewildered, the stranger would look round and say in a puzzled tone of voice: "Where are they all gone? As I came I heard babies crying, men calling, and women laughing; many voices I heard but you only I see."
"And only I am here. The wind must have stirred the branches of the balah trees, and you must have thought it was the wailing of children, the laughing of the gouggourgahgah you heard, and thought it the laughter of women and mine must have been the voice as of men that you heard. Alone in the bush, as the shadows fall, a man breeds strange fancies. See by the light of this fire, where are your fancies now? No women laugh, no babies cry, only I, Weedah, talk." As Weedah was talking he kept edging the stranger towards the fire; when they were quite close to it, he turned swiftly, seized him, and threw him right into the middle of the blaze. This scene was repeated time after time, until at last the ranks of the black fellows living round the camp of Weedah began to get thin.
Mullyan, the eagle hawk, determined to fathom the mystery, for as yet the black fellows had no clue as to how or where their friends had disappeared. Mullyan, when Beeargah, his cousin, returned to his camp no more, made up his mind to get on his track and follow it, until at length he solved the mystery. After following the track of Beeargah, as he had chased the kangaroo to where he had slain it, on he followed his homeward trail. Over stony ground he tracked him, and through sand, across plains, and through scrub. At last in a scrub and still on the track of Beeargah, he heard the sounds of many voices, babies crying, women singing, men talking. Peering through the bush, finding the track took him nearer the spot whence came the sounds, he saw the grass humpies. "Who can these be?" he thought. The track led him right into the camp, where alone Weedah was to be seen. Mullyan advanced towards him and asked where were the people whose voices he had heard as he came through the bush.
Weedah said: "How can I tell you? I know of no people; I live alone."
"But," said Mullyan, the eagle hawk, "I heard babies crying, women laughing, and men talking, not one but many."
"And I alone am here. Ask of your cars what trick they played you, or perhaps your eyes fail you now. Can you see any but me? Look for yourself."
"And if, as indeed it seems, you only are here, what did you with Beeargah my cousin, and where are my friends? Many are their trails that I see coming into this camp, but none going out. And if you alone live here you alone can answer me."
"What know I of you or your friends? Nothing. Ask of the winds that blow. Ask of Bahloo the moon, who looks down on the earth by night. Ask of Yhi the sun, that looks down by day. But ask not Weedah, who dwells alone, and knows naught of your friends." But as Weedah was talking he was carefully edging Mullyan towards the fire.
Mullyan, the eagle hawk, too, was cunning, and not easy to trap. He saw a blazing fire in front of him, lie saw the track of his friend behind him, he saw Weedah was edging him towards the fire, and it came to him in a moment the thought that if the fire could speak, well could it tell where were his friends. But the time was not yet come to show that he had fathomed the mystery. So he affected to fall into the trap. But when they reached the fire, before Weedah had time to act his usual part, with a mighty grip Mullyan the eagle hawk seized him, saying,
"Even as you served Beeargah the hawk, my cousin, and my friends, so now serve I you." And right into the middle of the blazing fire he threw him. Then he turned homewards in haste, to tell the black fellows that he had solved the fate of their friends, which had so long been a mystery. When he was some distance from the Weedah's camp, he heard the sound of a thunder clap. But it was not thunder it was the bursting of the back of Weedah's head, which had burst with a bang as of a thunder clap. And as it burst, out from his remains had risen a bird, Weedah, the mocking bird; which bird to this day has a hole at the back of his head, just in the same place as Weedah the black fellow's head had burst, and whence the bird came forth.
To this day the Weedah makes grass playgrounds, through which he runs, imitating, as he plays, in quick succession, any voices he has ever heard, from the crying of a child to the laughing of a woman; from the mewing of a cat to the barking of a dog, and hence his name Weedah, the mocking bird.
9. THE GWINEEBOOS THE REDBREASTS
Gwineeboo and Goomai, the water rat, were down at the creek one day, getting mussels for food, when, to their astonishment, a kangaroo hopped right into the water beside them. Well they knew that he must be escaping from hunters, who were probably pressing him close. So Gwineeboo quickly seized her yam stick, and knocked the kangaroo on the head; he was caught fast in the weeds in the creek, so could not escape. When the two old women had killed the kangaroo they hid its body under the weeds in the creek, fearing to take it out and cook it straight away, lest the hunters should come up and claim it. The little son of Gwineeboo watched them from the bank. After having hidden the kangaroo, the women picked up their mussels and started for their camp, when up came the hunters, Quarrian and Gidgereegah, who had tracked the kangaroo right to the creek.
Seeing the women they said: "Did you see a kangaroo?"
The women answered: "No. We saw no kangaroo."
"That is strange, for we have tracked it right up to here."
"We have seen no kangaroo. See, we have been digging out mussels for food. Come to our camp, and we will give you some when they are cooked."
The young men, puzzled in their minds, followed the women to their camp, and when the mussels were cooked the hunters joined the old women at their dinner. The little boy would not eat the mussels; he kept crying to his mother, "Gwineeboo, Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo. Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo."
"There," said Quarrian. "Your little boy has seen the kangaroo, and wants some; it must be here somewhere."
"Oh, no. He cries for anything he thinks of, some days for kangaroo; he is only a little boy, and does not know what he wants," said old Gwineeboo. But still the child kept saying, "Gwineeboo. Gwinceboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo." Goomai was so angry with little Gwineeboo for keeping on asking for kangaroo, and thereby making the young men suspicious, that she hit him so hard on the mouth to keep him quiet, that the blood came, and trickled down his breast, staining it red. When she saw this, old Gwineeboo grew angry in her turn, and hit old Goomai, who returned the blow, and so a fight began, more words than blows, so the noise was great, the women fighting, little Gwineeboo crying, not quite knowing whether he was crying because Goomai had hit him, because his mother was fighting, or because he still wanted kangaroo.
Quarrian said to Gidgereegah. "They have the kangaroo somewhere hidden; let us slip away now in the confusion. We will only hide, then come back in a little while, and surprise them."
They went quietly away, and as soon as the two women noticed they had gone, they ceased fighting, and determined to cook the kangaroo. They watched the two young men out of sight, and waited some time so as to be sure that they were safe. Then down they hurried to get the kangaroo. They dragged it out, and were just making a big fire on which to cook it, when up came Quarrian and Gidgereegah, saying:
"Ah! we thought so. You had our kangaroo all the time; little Gwinceboo was right."
"But we killed it," said the women.
"But we hunted it here," said the men, and so saying caught hold of the kangaroo and dragged it away to some distance, where they made a fire and cooked it. Goomai, Gwineeboo, and her little boy went over to Quarrian and Gidgereegah, and begged for some of the meat, but the young men would give them none, though little Gwineeboo cried piteously for some. But no; they said they would rather throw what they did not want to the hawks than give it to the women or child. At last, seeing that there was no hope of their getting any, the women went away. They built a big dardurr for themselves, shutting themselves and the little boy up in it. Then they began singing a song which was to invoke a storm to destroy their enemies, for so now they considered Quarrian and Gidgereegah. For some time they chanted:
"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May, Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."
First they would begin very slowly and softly, gradually getting quicker and louder, until at length they almost shrieked it out. The words they said meant, "Come hailstones; come wind; come rain; come lightning."
While they were chanting, little Gwineeboo kept crying, and would not be comforted. Soon came a few big drops of rain, then a big wind, and as that lulled, more rain. Then came thunder and lightning, the air grew bitterly cold, and there came a pitiless hailstorm, hailstones bigger than a duck's egg fell, cutting the leaves from the trees and bruising their bark. Gidgereegah and Quarrian came running over to the dardurr and begged the women to let them in.
"No," shrieked Gwineeboo above the storm, "there was no kangaroo meat for us: there is no dardurr shelter for you. Ask shelter of the hawks whom ye fed." The men begged to be let in, said they would hunt again and get kangaroo for the women, not one but many. "No," again shrieked the women. "You would not even listen to the crying of a little child; it is better such as you should perish." And fiercer raged the storm and louder sang the women:
"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May, Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."
So long and so fierce was the storm that the young men must have perished had they not been changed into birds. First they were changed into birds and afterwards into stars in the sky, where they now are, Gidgereegah and Ouarrian with the kangaroo between them, still bearing the names that they bore on the earth.
10. MEAMEI THE SEVEN SISTERS
Wurrunnah had had a long day's hunting, and he came back to the camp tired and hungry. He asked his old mother for durrie, but she said there was none left. Then he asked some of the other blacks to give him some doonburr seeds that he might make durrie for himself, But no one would give him anything. He flew into a rage and he said, "I will go to a far country and live with strangers; my own people would starve me." And while he was yet hot and angry, he went. Gathering up his weapons, he strode forth to find a new people in a new country. After he had gone some distance, he saw, a long way off, an old man chopping out bees' nests. The old man turned his face towards Wurrunnah, and watched him coming, but when Wurrunnah came close to him he saw that the old man had no eyes, though he had seemed to be watching him long before he could have heard him. It frightened Wurrunnah to see a stranger having no eyes, yet turning his face towards him as if seeing him all the time. But he determined not to show his fear, but go straight on towards him, which he did. When he came up to him, the stranger told him that his name was Mooroonumildah, and that his tribe were so-called because they had no eyes, but saw through their noses. Wurrunnah thought it very strange and still felt rather frightened, though Mooroonumildah seemed hospitable and kind, for, he gave Wurrunnah, whom he said looked hungry, a bark wirree filled with honey, told him where his camp was, and gave him leave to go there and stay with him. Wurrunnah took the honey and turned as if to go to the camp, but when he got out of sight he thought it wiser to turn in another direction. He journeyed on for some time, until he came to a large lagoon, where he decided to camp. He took a long drink of water, and then lay down to sleep. When he woke in the morning, he looked towards the lagoon, but saw only a big plain. He thought he must be dreaming; he rubbed his eyes and looked again.
"This is a strange country," he said. "First I meet a man who has no eyes and yet can see. Then at night I see a large lagoon full of water, I wake in the morning and see none. The water was surely there, for I drank some, and yet now there is no water." As he was wondering how the water could have disappeared so quickly, he saw a big storm coming up; he hurried to get into the thick bush for shelter. When he had gone a little way into the bush, he saw a quantity of cut bark lying on the ground.
"Now I am right," he said. "I shall get some poles and with them and this bark make a dardurr in which to shelter myself from the storm I see coming."
He quickly cut the poles he wanted, stuck them up as a framework for his dardurr. Then he went to lift up the bark. As he lifted up a sheet of it he saw a strange-looking object of no tribe that he had ever seen before.
This strange object cried out: "I am Bulgahnunnoo," in such a terrifying tone that Wurrunnah dropped the bark, picked up his weapons and ran away as hard as he could, quite forgetting the storm. His one idea was to get as far as he could from Bulgahnunnoo.
On he ran until he came to a big river, which hemmed him in on three sides. The river was too big to cross, so he had to turn back, yet he did not retrace his steps but turned in another direction. As he turned to leave the river he saw a flock of emus coming to water. The first half of the flock were covered with feathers, but the last half had the form of emus, but no feathers.
Wurrunnah decided to spear one for food. For that purpose he climbed up a tree, so that they should not see him; he got his spear ready to kill one of the featherless birds. As they passed by, he picked out the one he meant to have, threw his spear and killed it, then climbed down to go and get it.
As he was running up to the dead emu, he saw that they were not emus at all but black fellows of a strange tribe. They were all standing round their dead friend making savage signs, as to what they would do by way of vengeance. Wurrunnah saw that little would avail him the excuse that he had killed the black fellow in mistake for an emu; his only hope lay in flight. Once more he took to his heels, hardly daring to look round for fear he would see an enemy behind him. On he sped, until at last he reached a camp, which he was almost into before he saw it; he had only been thinking of danger behind him, unheeding what was before him.
However, he had nothing to fear in the camp he reached so suddenly, for in it were only seven young girls. They did not look very terrifying, in fact, seemed more startled than he was. They were quite friendly towards him when they found that he was alone and hungry. They gave him food and allowed him to camp there that night. He asked them where the rest of their tribe were, and what their name was. They answered that their name was Meamei, and that their tribe were in a far country. They had only come to this country to see what it was like; they would stay for a while and thence return whence they had come.
The next day Wurrunnah made a fresh start, and left the camp of the Meamei, as if he were leaving for good. But he determined to hide near and watch what they did, and if he could get a chance he would steal a wife from amongst them. He was tired of travelling alone. He saw the seven sisters all start out with their yam sticks in hand. He followed at a distance, taking care not to be seen. He saw them stop by the nests of some flying ants. With their yam sticks they dug all round these ant holes. When they had successfully unearthed the ants they sat down, throwing their yam sticks on one side, to enjoy a feast, for these ants were esteemed by them a great delicacy.
While the sisters were busy at their feast, Wurrunnah sneaked up to their yam sticks and stole two of them; then, taking the sticks with him, sneaked back to his hiding-place. When at length the Meamei had satisfied their appetites, they picked up their sticks and turned towards their camp again. But only five could find their sticks; so those five started off, leaving the other two to find theirs, supposing they must be somewhere near, and, finding them, they would soon catch them up. The two girls hunted all round the ants' nests, but could find no sticks. At last, when their backs were turned towards him, Wurrunnah crept out and stuck the lost yam sticks near together in the ground; then he slipt back into his hiding-place. When the two girls turned round, there in front of them they saw their sticks. With a cry of joyful surprise they ran to them and caught hold of them to pull them out of the ground, in which they were firmly stuck. As they were doing so, out from his hiding-place jumped Wurrunnah. He seized both girls round their waists, holding them tightly. They struggled and screamed, but to no purpose. There were none near to hear them, and the more they struggled the tighter Wurrunnah held them. Finding their screams and struggles in vain they quietened at length, and then Wurrunnah told them not to be afraid, he would take care of them. He was lonely, he said, and wanted two wives. They must come quietly with him, and he would be good to them. But they must do as he told them. If they were not quiet, he would swiftly quieten them with his moorillah. But if they would come quietly with him he would be good to them. Seeing that resistance was useless, the two young girls complied with his wish, and travelled quietly on with him. They told him that some day their tribe would come and steal them back again; to avoid which he travelled quickly on and on still further, hoping to elude all pursuit. Some weeks passed, and, outwardly, the two Meamei seemed settled down to their new life, and quite content in it, though when they were alone together they often talked of their sisters, and wondered what they had done when they realised their loss. They wondered if the five were still hunting for them, or whether they had gone back to their tribe to get assistance. That they might be in time forgotten and left with Wurrunnali for ever, they never once for a moment thought. One day when they were camped Wurrunnah said: "This fire will not burn well. Go you two and get some bark from those two pine trees over there."
"No," they said, "we must not cut pine bark. If we did, you would never more see us."
"Go! I tell you, cut pine bark. I want it. See you not the fire burns but slowly?"
"If we go, Wurrunnah, we shall never return. You will see us no more in this country. We know it."
"Go, women, stay not to talk. Did ye ever see talk make a fire burn? Then why stand ye there talking? Go; do as I bid you. Talk not so foolishly; if you ran away soon should I catch you, and, catching you, would beat you hard. Go I talk no more."
The Meamei went, taking with them their combos with which to cut the bark. They went each to a different tree, and each, with a strong hit, drove her combo into the bark. As she did so, each felt the tree that her combo had struck rising higher out of the ground and bearing her upward with it. Higher and higher grew the pine trees, and still on them, higher and higher from the earth, went the two girls. Hearing no chopping after the first hits, Wurrunnah came towards the pines to see what was keeping the girls so long. As he came near them he saw that the pine trees were growing taller even as he looked at them, and clinging to the trunks of the trees high in the air he saw his two wives. He called to them to come down, but they made no answer. Time after time he called to them as higher and higher they went, but still they made no answer. Steadily taller grew the two pines, until at last their tops touched the sky. As they did so, from the sky the five Meamei looked out, called to their two sisters on the pine trees, bidding them not to be afraid but to come to them. Quickly the two girls climbed up when they heard the voices of their sisters. When they reached the tops of the pines the five sisters in the sky stretched forth their hands, and drew them in to live with them there in the sky for ever.
And there, if you look, you may see the seven sisters together. You perhaps know them as the Pleiades, but the black fellows call them the Meamei.
11. THE COOKOOBURRAHS AND THE GOOLAHGOOL
Googarh, the iguana, was married to Moodai, the opossum and Cookooburrah, the laughing jackass. Cookooburrah was the mother of three sons, one grown up and living away from her, the other two only little boys. They had their camps near a goolahgool, whence they obtained water. A goolahgool is a water-holding tree, of the iron bark or box species. It is a tree with a split in the fork of it, and hollow below the fork. After heavy rain, this hollow trunk would be full of water, which water would have run into it through the split in the fork. A goolahgool would hold water for a long time. The blacks knew a goolahgool, amongst other trees, by the mark which the overflow of water made down the trunk of the tree, discolouring the bark.
One day, Googarh, the iguana, and his two wives went out hunting, leaving the two little Cookooburrahs at the camp. They had taken out water for themselves in their opossum skin water bags, but they had left none for the children, who were too small to get any from the goolahgool for themselves, so nearly perished from thirst. Their tongues were swollen in their mouths, and they were quite speechless, when they saw a man coming towards them. When he came near, they saw it was Cookooburrah, their big brother. They could not speak to him and answer, when he asked where his mother was. Then he asked them what was the matter. All they could do was to point towards the tree. He looked at it, and saw it was a goolahgool, so he said: "Did your mother leave you no water?" They shook their heads. He said: "Then you are perishing for want of a drink, my brothers?" They nodded. "Go," he said "a little way off, and you shall see how I will punish them for leaving my little brothers to perish of thirst." He went towards the tree, climbed up it, and split it right down. As he did so, out gushed the water in a swiftly running stream. Soon the little fellows quenched their thirst and then, in their joy, bathed in the water, which grew in volume every moment.
In the meantime, those who had gone forth to hunt were returning, and as they came towards their camp they met a running stream of water. "What is this?" they said, "our goolahgool must have burst," and they tried to dam the water, but it was running too strongly for them. They gave up the effort and hurried on towards their camp. But they found a deep stream divided them from their camp. The three Cookooburrahs saw them, and the eldest one said to the little fellows: "You call out and tell them to cross down there, where it is not deep." The little ones called out as they were told, and where they pointed Googarh and his wives waded into the stream. Finding she was getting out of her depth, Cookooburrah the laughing jackass cried out: "Goug gour gah gah. Goug gour gah gah. Give me a stick. Give me a stick."
But from the bank her sons only answered in derision: "Goug gour gah gah. Goug gour gah gah." And the three hunters were soon engulfed in the rushing stream, drawn down by the current and drowned.
12. THE MAYAMAH
The blacks had all left their camp and gone away to attend a borah. Nothing was left in the camp but one very old dog, too old to travel. After the blacks had been gone about three days, one night came their enemies, the Gooeeays, intending to surprise them and kill them.
Painted in all the glory of their war-paint came the Gooeeays, their hair tied in top-knots and ornamented with feathers and kangaroos' teeth. Their waywahs of paddy, melon, and kangaroo rat skins cut in strips, round their waists, were new and strong, holding firmly some of their boomerangs and woggoorahs, which they had stuck through them.
But prepared as they were for conquest, they found only a deserted camp containing naught but one old dog. They asked the old dog where the blacks were gone. But he only shook his head. Again and again they asked him, and again and again he only shook his head. At last some of the black fellows raised their spears and their moorillahs or nullah-nullahs, saying:
"If you do not tell us where the blacks are gone, we shall kill you."
Then spoke the old dog, saying only: "Gone to the borah."
And as he spoke every one of the Gooeeays and everything they had with them was turned to stone. Even the waywahs round their waists, the top-knots on their heads, and the spears in their hands, even these turned to stone. And when the blacks returned to their camp long afterwards, when the borah was over, and the boys, who had been made young men, gone out into the bush to undergo their novitiate, each with his solitary guardian, then saw the blacks, their enemies, the Gooeeays, standing round their old camp, as if to attack it. But instead of being men of flesh, they were men of stone—they, their weapons, their waywahs, and all that belonged to them, stone.
And at that place are to be found stones or mayamahs of great beauty, striped and marked and coloured as were the men painted.
And the place of the mayamah is on one of the mounts near Beemery.
13. THE BUNBUNDOOLOOEYS
The mother Bunbundoolooey put her child, a little boy Bunbundoolooey, who could only just crawl, into her goolay. Goolay is a sort of small netted hammock, slung by black women on their backs, in which they carry their babies and goods in general. Bunbundoolooey, the pigeon, put her goolay across her back, and started out hunting.
When she had gone some distance she came to a clump of bunnia or wattle trees. At the foot of one of these she saw some large euloomarah or grubs, which were good to cat. She picked some up, and dug with her yam stick round the roots of the tree to get more. She went from tree to tree, getting grubs at every one. That she might gather them all, she put down her goolay, and hunted further round.
Soon in the excitement of her search, she forgot the goolay with the child in it, and wandered away. Further and further she went from the Dunnia clump, never once thinking of her poor birrahlee, or baby. On and still on she went, until at length she reached a far country.
The birrablee woke up, and crawled out of the goolay. First he only crawled about, but soon he grew stronger, and raised himself, and stood by a tree. Then day by day he grew stronger and walked alone, and stronger still he grew, and could run. Then he grew on into a big boy, and then into a man, and his mother he never saw while he was growing from birrahlee to man.
But in the far country at length one day Bunbundoolooey, the mother, remembered the birrablee she had left.
"Oh," she cried, "I forgot my birrahlee. I left my birrablee where the Dunnias grow in a far country. I must go to my birrahlee. My poor birrahlee! I forgot it. Mad must I have been when I forgot him. My birrahlee! My birrahlee!"
And away went the mother as fast as she could travel back to the Dunnia clump in the far country. When she reached the spot she saw the tracks of her birrablee, first crawling, then standing, then walking, and then running. Bigger and bigger were the tracks she followed, until she saw they were the tracks of a man. She followed them until she reached a camp. No one was in the camp, but a fire was there, so she waited, and while waiting looked round. She saw her son had made himself many weapons, and many opossum rugs, which he had painted gaily inside.
Then at last she saw a man coming towards the camp, and she knew he was her birrahlee, grown into a man. As he drew near she ran out to meet him, saying:
"Bunbundoolooey, I am your mother. The mother who forgot you as a birrahlee, and left you. But now I have come to find you, my son. Long was the journey, my son, and your mother was weary, but now that she sees once more her birrahlee, who has grown into a man, she is no longer weary, but glad is her heart, and loud could she sing in her joy. Ah, Bunbundoolooey, my son! Bunbundoolooey, my son!"
And she ran forward with her arms out, as if to embrace him.
But stern was the face of Bunbundoolooey, the son, and no answer did he make with his tongue. But he stooped to the ground and picked therefrom a big stone. This swiftly he threw at his mother, hitting her with such force that she fell dead to the earth.
Then on strode Bunbundoolooey to his camp.
14. OONGNAIRWAH AND GUINAREY
Oongnairwah, the diver, and Guinarey, the eagle hawk, told all the pelicans, black swans, cranes, and many others, that they would take their net to the creek and catch fish, if some of them would go and beat the fish down towards the net.
Gladly went the pelicans, black swans, and the rest to the creek. In they jumped, and splashed the water about to scare the fish down towards where Oongnairwah and Guinarey were stationed with their net. Presently little Deereeree, the wagtail, and Burreenjin, the peewee, who were on the bank sitting on a stump, called out, "Look out, we saw the back of an alligator in the water." The diver and eagle hawk called back, "Go away, then. The wind blows from you towards him. Go back or he will smell you."
But Deereeree and Burreenjin were watching the fishing and did not heed what was said to them. Soon the alligator smelt them, and he lashed out with his tail, splashing the water so high, and lashing so furiously, that all the fishermen were drowned, even Deereeree and Burreenjin on the bank—not one escaped, And red was the bank of the creek, and red the stump whereon Deereeree and Burreenjin had sat, with the blood of the slain. And the place is called Goomade and is red for ever.
15. NARAHDARN THE BAT
Narahdarn, the bat, wanted honey. He watched until he saw a Wurranunnah, or bee, alight. He caught it, stuck a white feather between its hind legs, let it go and followed it. He knew he could see the white feather, and so follow the bee to its nest. He ordered his two wives, of the Bilber tribe, to follow him with wirrees to carry home the honey in. Night came on and Wurranunnah the bee had not reached home. Narahdarn caught him, imprisoned him under bark, and kept him safely there until next morning. When it was light enough to see, Narahdarn let the bee go again, and followed him to his nest, in a gunnyanny tree. Marking the tree with his comebo that he might know it again, he returned to hurry on his wives who were some way behind. He wanted them to come on, climb the tree, and chop out the honey. When they reached the marked tree one of the women climbed up. She called out to Narahdarn that the honey was in a split in the tree. He called back to her to put her hand in and get it out. She put her arm in, but found she could not get it out again. Narahdarn climbed up to help her, but found when he reached her that the only way to free her was to cut off her arm. This he did before she had time to realise what he was going to do, and protest. So great was the shock to her that she died instantly. Narahdarn carried down her lifeless body and commanded her sister, his other wife, to go up, chop out the arm, and get the honey. She protested, declaring the bees would have taken the honey away by now.
"Not so," he said; "go at once."
Every excuse she could think of, to save herself, she made. But her excuses were in vain, and Narahdarn only became furious with her for making them, and, brandishing his boondi, drove her up the tree. She managed to get her arm in beside her sister's, but there it stuck and she could not move it. Narahdarn, who was watching her, saw what had happened and followed her up the tree. Finding he could not pull her arm out, in spite of her cries, he chopped it off, as he had done her sister's. After one shriek, as he drove his comebo through her arm, she was silent. He said, "Come down, and I will chop out the bees' nest." But she did not answer him, and he saw that she too was dead. Then he was frightened, and climbed quickly down the gunnyanny tree; taking her body to the ground with him, he laid it beside her sister's, and quickly he hurried from the spot, taking no further thought of the honey. As he neared his camp, two little sisters of his wives ran out to meet him, thinking their sisters would be with him, and that they would give them a taste of the honey they knew they had gone out to get. But to their surprise Narahdarn came alone, and as he drew near to them they saw his arms were covered with blood. And his face had a fierce look on it, which frightened them from even asking where their sisters were. They ran and told their mother that Narahdarn had returned alone, that he looked fierce and angry, also his arms were covered with blood. Out went the mother of the Bilbers, and she said, "Where are my daughters, Narahdarn? Forth went they this morning to bring home the honey you found. You come back alone. You bring no honey. Your look is fierce, as of one who fights, and your arms are covered with blood. Tell me, I say, where are my daughters?"
"Ask me not, Bilber. Ask Wurranunnah the bee, he may know. Narahdarn the bat knows nothing." And he wrapped himself in a silence which no questioning could pierce. Leaving him there, before his camp, the mother of the Bilbers returned to her dardurr and told her tribe that her daughters were gone, and Narahdarn, their husband, would tell her nothing of them. But she felt sure he knew their fate, and certain she was that he had some tale to tell, for his arms were covered with blood.
The chief of her tribe listened to her. When she had finished and begun to wail for her daughters, whom she thought she would see no more, he said, "Mother of the Bilbers, your daughters shall be avenged if aught has happened to them at the hands of Narahdarn. Fresh are his tracks, and the young men of your tribe shall follow whence they have come, and finding what Narahdarn has done, swiftly shall they return. Then shall we hold a corrobboree, and if your daughters fell at his hand Narahdarn shall be punished."
The mother of the Bilbers said: "Well have you spoken, oh my relation. Now speed ye the young men lest the rain fall or the dust blow and the tracks be lost." Then forth went the fleetest footed and the keenest eyed of the young men of the tribe. Ere long, back they came to the camp with the news of the fate of the Bilbers.
That night was the corrobboree held. The women sat round in a half-circle, and chanted a monotonous chant, keeping time by hitting, some of them, two boomerangs together, and others beating their rolled up opossum rugs.
Big fires were lit on the edge of the scrub, throwing light on the dancers as they came dancing out from their camps, painted in all manner of designs, waywahs round their waists, tufts of feathers in their hair, and carrying in their hands painted wands. Heading the procession as the men filed out from the scrub into a cleared space in front of the women, came Narahdarn. The light of the fires lit up the tree tops, the dark balahs showed out in fantastic shapes, and weird indeed was the scene as slowly the men danced round; louder clicked the boomerangs and louder grew the chanting of the women; higher were the fires piled, until the flames shot their coloured tongues round the trunks of the trees and high into the air. One fire was bigger than all, and towards it the dancers edged Narahdarn; then the voice of the mother of the Bilbers shrieked in the chanting, high above that of the other women. As Narahdarn turned from the fire to dance back he found a wall of men confronting him. These quickly seized him and hurled him into the madly-leaping fire before him, where he perished in the flames. And so were the Bilbers avenged.
16. MULLYANGAH THE MORNING STAR
Mullyan, the eagle hawk, built himself a home high in a yaraan tree. There he lived apart from his tribe, with Moodai the opossum, his wife, and Moodai the opossum, his mother-in-law. With them too was Buttergah, a daughter of the Buggoo or flying squirrel tribe. Buttergah was a friend of Moodai, the wife of Mullyan, and a distant cousin to the Moodai tribe.
Mullyan the eagle hawk was a cannibal. That was the reason of his living apart from the other blacks. In order to satisfy his cannibal cravings, he used to sally forth with a big spear, a spear about four times as big as an ordinary spear. If he found a black fellow hunting alone, he would kill him and take his body up to the house in the tree. There the Moodai and Buttergab would cook it, and all of them would eat the flesh; for the women as well as Mullyan were cannibals. This went on for some time, until at last so many black fellows were slain that their friends determined to find out what became of them, and they tracked the last one they missed. They tracked him to where he had evidently been slain; they took up the tracks of his slayer, and followed them right to the foot of the yaraan tree, in which was built the home of Mullyan. They tried to climb the tree, but it was high and straight, and they gave up the attempt after many efforts. In their despair at their failure they thought of the Bibbees, a tribe noted for its climbing powers. They summoned two young Bibbees to their aid. One came, bringing with him his friend Murrawondah of the climbing rat tribe.
Having heard what the blacks wanted them to do, these famous climbers went to the yaraan tree and made a start at once. There was only light enough that first night for them to see to reach a fork in the tree about half-way up. There they camped, watched Mullyan away in the morning, and then climbed on. At last they reached the home of Mullyan. They watched their chance and then sneaked into his humpy.
When they were safely inside, they hastened to secrete a smouldering stick in one end of the humpy, taking care they were not seen by any of the women. Then they went quietly down again, no one the wiser of their coming or going. During the day the women heard sometimes a crackling noise, as of burning, but looking round they saw nothing, and as their own fire was safe, they took no notice, thinking it might have been caused by some grass having fallen into their fire.
After their descent from having hidden the smouldering fire stick, Bibbee and Murrawondah found the blacks and told them what they had done. Hearing that the plan was to burn out Mullyan, and fearing that the tree might fall, they all moved to some little distance, there to watch and wait for the end. Great was their joy at the thought that at last their enemy was circumvented. And proud were Bibbee and Murrawondah as the black fellows praised their prowess.
After dinner-time Mullyan came back. When he reached the entrance to his house he put down his big spear outside. Then he went in and threw himself down to rest, for long had he walked and little had he gained. In a few minutes he heard his big spear fall down. He jumped up and stuck it in its place again. He had no sooner thrown himself down, than again he heard it fall. Once more he rose and replaced it. As he reached his resting-place again, out burst a flame of fire from the end of his humpy. He called out to the three women, who were cooking, and they rushed to help him extinguish the flames. But in spite of their efforts the fire only blazed the brighter. Mullyan's arm was burnt off. The Moodai had their feet burnt, and Buttergah was badly burnt too. Seeing they were helpless against the fire, they turned to leave the humpy to its fate, and make good their own escape. But they had left it too late. As they turned to descend the tree, the roof of the humpy fell on them. And all that remained when the fire ceased, were the charred bones of the dwellers in the yaraan tree. That was all that the blacks found of their enemies; but their legend says that Mullyan the eagle hawk lives in the sky as Mullyangah the morning star, on one side of which is a little star, which is his one arm; on the other a larger star, which is Moodai the opossum, his wife.
17. GOOMBLEGUBBON, BEEARGAH, AND OUYAN
Goomblegubbon the bustard, his two wives, Beeargah the hawk, and Ouyan the curlew, with the two children of Beeargah, had their camps right away in the bush; their only water supply was a small dungle, or gilguy hole. The wives and children camped in one camp, and Goomblegubbon a short distance off in another. One day the wives asked their husband to lend them the dayoorl stone, that they might grind some doonburr to make durrie. But he would not lend it to them, though they asked him several times. They knew he did not want to use it himself, for they saw his durrie on a piece of bark, between two fires, already cooking. They determined to be revenged, so said:
"We will make some water bags of the opossum skins; we will fill them with water, then some day when Goomblegubbon is out hunting we will empty the dungle of water, take the children, and run away! When he returns he will find his wives and children gone and the dungle empty; then he will be sorry that he would not lend us the dayoorl."
The wives soon caught some opossums, killed and skinned them, plucked all the hair from the skins, saving it to roll into string to make goomillahs, cleaned the skins of all flesh, sewed them up with the sinews, leaving only the neck opening. When finished, they blew into them, filled them with air, tied them up and left them to dry for a few days. When they were dry and ready to be used, they chose a day when Goomblegubbon was away, filled the water bags, emptied the dungle, and started towards the river.
Having travelled for some time, they at length reached the river. They saw two black fellows on the other side, who, when they saw the runaway wives and the two children, swam over to them and asked whence they had come and whither they were going.
"We are running away from our husband Goomblegubbon, who would lend us no dayoorl to grind our doonburr on, and we ran away lest we and our children should starve, for we could not live on meat alone. But whither we are going we know not, except that it must be far away, lest Goomblegubbon follow and kill us."
The black fellows said they wanted wives, and would each take one, and both care for the children. The women agreed. The black fellows swam back across the river, each taking a child first, and then a woman, for as they came from the back country, where no creeks were, the women could not swim.