ISABEL MAUD PEACOCKE
Author of "Songs of the Happy Isles." "My Friend Phil." "Robin of the Round House." "The Bonny Books of Humorous Verse," etc.
Illustrated by TREVOR LLOYD
WHITCOMBE & TOMBS LIMITED
Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington, N.Z. Melbourne and London
MY LITTLE GOD-DAUGHTER
TE KUITI, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
If your heart is pure, and your eyes are clear, And you come the one right day of the year, And eat of the fruit of the Magic Tree The wee Bush Folk you will surely see.
* * * * *
In the green and woody places, Thickets shady, sunlit spaces, Have you never heard us calling, When the golden eve is falling— When the noon-day sun is beaming— When the silver moon is gleaming? Have you never seen us dancing— Through the mossy tree-boles glancing? Have you never caught us gliding Through the tall ferns? laughing—hiding? We are here, we are there— We are everywhere; Swinging on the tree tops, floating in the air; Hush! Hush! Hush! Creep into the Bush, You will find us everywhere.
If you would see, First bathe your eyes, In dew that lies On the bracken tree.
* * * * *
If you would hear Our elfin mirth To Mother Earth Lay down your ear.
* * * * *
A-many have come with their bright eyes clear, And their young hearts pure, but—alas! Oh dear! They've made a mistake in the day of the year.
CHRISTMAS TREE. (Pohutukawa).
Long ago the Piccaninnies didn't have a rag to their backs except a huia feather which they wore in their hair. They were the jolliest, tubbiest, brownest babies you ever saw with tiny nubbly knobs on their shoulders, as if they had started to grow wings and then changed their minds about it, and little furry pointed ears, as all wild creatures have. Only these were not wild, but very, very shy.
Where did they live? Oh, just anywhere—all about; among the fern, in the long grass, down on the sands, in all the places babies love to roll about in.
And then People began to come about, so tiresome! They began to make houses, sell things in shops, tear about in big boxes on wheels, and send great, clattering, shrieking, puffing monsters rushing through the country, dropping smoke and cinders like anything. There was such a clatter and a chatter, such gabbling and babbling, such hammering and banging and laughing and crying, and hurry and scurry and rush that it was enough to drive one crazy. There was such a fuss, the Piccaninnies simply couldn't stand it, and they fled to the Bush. Well, wouldn't you, with all that going on?
And there they lived a long time. What fun they had swinging on the giant fern leaves, climbing the trees, chasing the fantails, riding the kiwis, who are very good-natured, though shy, and teasing the great, sleepy round-eyed morepork, who is so stupid and owlish in the daytime.
And then People came into the Bush! Did you ever!
The Piccaninnies took to the trees altogether then, and no wonder!
And then one day some one in a picnic party left a scrap of paper blowing about—you know the horrid way picnic parties have!—and a Piccaninny found it.
As luck would have it, it was a girl Piccaninny; had it been a boy he would simply have torn it up and made paper darts with it to throw at the other boys, and no harm would have been done. But girls are different!
She smoothed it out and looked at it carefully, and then she called the other girls to look at it. And soon there was such a clattering and chattering that the boys came racing that way to see if the girls had found anything good to eat. You know boys!
The scrap of paper was a page out of a fashion book, and there were pictures on it of horrid little smug-faced boys in sky-blue suits bowling hoops in a way no real little boy ever bowled a hoop in his life, and simpering little girls in lace frocks holding dolls or sun-shades in un-natural attitudes.
But the Piccaninnies were delighted. To be sure they were looking at the pictures upside down, but that made no real difference.
They decided they must have clothes too.
Of course the boys said pooh they wouldn't! It's much easier to slide down a fern-leaf, or jump off the end of a branch if you haven't any clothes—everyone knows that.
But when the girls, after being absent for hours, came back all in darling little crimson kilts made out of blossoms from the Christmas tree, the boys simply couldn't bear to think the girls had something they hadn't got. You know what boys are!
After laughing at the girls in the hopes they'd throw away their pretty little frocks, the boys went off together. They simply had to think of something, and it would never do to copy the girls. They came back later with the quaintest little breeches, made out of broad flax leaves, stitched together with the points downwards. It was clever of the boys! They had also stuck some of the red-brown flowers in their hair. The girls were vexed that they hadn't thought of that, but they went one better. They made strings of the scarlet nikau berries and hung them round their necks. (Trust the girls!)
And that was how Fashions came to be started in the Bush.
Of course fashions change, and no one need be surprised to find that crimson kilts were soon "out," while the Piccaninny girls were to be seen walking about in pretty little white, frilly petticoats made out of clematis blossoms, and sun hats of the same flowers.
The hats were rather silly, because the Piccaninnies lived so deep in the Bush that the sun couldn't hurt them, but then fashions are absurd. (Look at the ladies who wear fur coats in hot climates!)
The boys made no change because their kind of fashion doesn't change, except sometimes you take great pains to iron the crease out of them, and other times you iron it in most carefull-ee.
For some reason the boys didn't like the girls' change of frocks. Of course, they said, the girls would never play with them now, but the girls said oh yes, they would. The boys said:
"You'd be scared to play berry fights like we used to."
But the girls said, as brave as could be:
And the boys answered:
"Let's see you then!"
So they all ran off and collected puriri berries, big purply red ones, rather squashy. Then the boys all yelled in chorus:
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! Tenei te tangata puhuru huru Na na nei i tiki mai— whaka whiti te ra! Upane! Upane! Upane! kaupani whiti te ra!
which means something very warlike, and the girls answered shrilly:
Ka whawhai tonu! Ake! Ake! Ake!
They said that because they had heard that someone had said that sometime about something, and it means "we will fight for ever and ever."
But they didn't! At the very first volley the berries stained their dainty frocks, and the girls fled, screaming angrily:
"You horrid things! You've ruined our frocks!"
And the boys grinning delightedly, and rolling their black eyes, thumped their little brown heels on the ground, and beat their little bare, brown knees and chanted all together:
"Akarana Mototapu Rangitoto Ra!"
And of course you all know what that means! You don't? Well, I'm not quite sure myself, because I couldn't find it in the dictionary (so careless of Mr. Webster!) but it really doesn't matter.
Little Swanki, the Piccaninny girl, and Tiki, the Piccaninny boy, were up in a karaka tree eating the pulp of the ripe berries. When I was young I was told I would die if I ate the karaka berries, but I suppose Piccaninny tummies are different.
Anyhow, there they were, skinning the soft yellow pulp, which does took nice, off the hard inside of the berry with their sharp little white teeth, and throwing the hard part at a kiwi wandering about below their tree, and thinking it great fun to watch his surprised face as he tried to dodge the berries.
Swanki had just eaten her fourteenth berry and was reaching for the fifteenth, when she sighed discontentedly.
"Oh, Tiki," she said, "aren't you sick and tired of eating the same old foods for ever and ever? Berries—berries—berries! Roots—roots—roots! And only a few leaves that are worth eating."
But Tiki was a contented little boy, and he couldn't think of anything nicer to eat than a handful of ripe puriri berries, or the root of a young fern.
"But what else could we eat?" he asked, "There isn't anything else!"
"Of course there is—lots and lots," answered Swanki. "There's mince pie and ham sandwiches and jam tarts and vinegar and plum duff and cakes and pickled cabbages."
Tiki stared at Swanki in amazement; he had never even heard of these foods, and thought she must be wonderfully clever to know all about them.
Sly little Swanki did not tell him that she had lately been hidden in a hollow tree stump near a picnic party which had come into the bush, and that she had heard the people offering these strange foods to one another, and they sounded as though they might be more interesting than just berries—berries—berries—roots—roots—roots.
And that is always the way,—something we haven't got always seems more worth having than the things we have.
When Tiki had recovered from his surprise he remembered one familiar word in Swanki's list of things to eat, and as he was always ready to please, he said:
"Swanki, I don't know where the mince pie and plum duff and—and vinegar trees grow, but I can show you the pickled cabbage trees all right."
"Oh, Tiki, can you?" cried Swanki. "Then let's go at once. I'm longing for some pickled cabbage."
"It's a long way," said Tiki, doubtfully, "a long, long way to go;" (though he'd never heard of the popular song, which shows how easy it must be to write those songs).
But Swanki said it didn't matter how far it was; the sooner they started, the sooner they'd be there, which was true in a way.
They slid down the tree, and having persuaded the kiwi to give them a lift, which was pretty cool of them, considering, they set off and travelled in fine style for some way.
But as they arrived near the edge of the bush and the trees grew thinner, the kiwi, who hates the open country for his own reasons, refused to go any farther, and the Piccaninnies had to get off and trudge the rest of the way on foot.
And crossing a little green glade they met Miss Fantail darting round and round the glade after flies. Now, Miss Fantail is a friendly and harmless little bird, but she's the most inquisitive creature in the bush, and a regular little gossip.
The Piccaninnies knew that if she got wind of where they were going it would soon be all over the bush, and they made up their minds to dodge her. So they pretended to be little brown lizards crawling through the moss, but Miss Fantail wasn't taken in for a moment, but flitted down to them and put her head on one side in her bright-eyed inquisitive way.
"Now she'll begin to ask questions," muttered Swanki, and sure enough Miss Fantail began in her usual manner:
"Whit—Whit—Whit—What? What? What? What? Where are you two off to? Whit! What are you after? What? When are you coming back? Why are you going so fast? Whit—Whit—Whit—What? What? What?"
And when they wouldn't answer she persisted in following them, flitting in her restless way from tree to tree, sometimes darting ahead of them, sometimes circling round them, and never ceasing to cry inquisitively:
"Whit—Whit—Whit—What? What? What? What?"
On the very edge of the bush, however, she hesitated. She had been born in the bush, and was used only to its cool green shade, and the glare of the sun on the outside world rather scared her. So after hanging about for a time to see what the Piccaninnies intended doing, she flitted away after a large blue fly, and while she was busy Tiki and Swanki gave her the slip. They, too, had been rather dismayed at the glare of the sun and the shelterless look of the outside world, but Tiki said that the Pickled Cabbage trees were not far away; he had seen them once when he had climbed to the top of a rata tree, and a bush pigeon had told him the name of them.
So, shrinking a little and keeping a sharp look-out for enemies in case they had need to "drop dead" and pretend to be a dead stick or leaf, they ran on hand in hand, and came after a time to the edge of the swamp.
"There!" said Tiki proudly, "there are the Pickled Cabbage trees."
There were quite a number of them, tall slim trees with long bare trunks and a crown of long, narrow leaves at the top.
"We must climb to the top to find the cabbages," said Swanki; but though they had done a lot of climbing in their day, it was usually up trees with plenty of branches and twigs to help them.
They found it very hard to get a grip with their little, bare, brown knees on the long, smooth trunks, and Tiki frowned thoughtfully at his tree as he slid down for the fifth time.
"You give me a leg up first," said Swanki, "and when I'm up I'll give you one," which was rather a silly thing to say when you come to think of it.
However, you can do most things if you try hard enough, and Swanki, seeing how the last year's jackets of the cicadas, which they had quite grown out of, were clinging to the Cabbage trees with their tiny claws, slipped her hands and feet into a set of them and through this clever idea of hers was able to climb right up the trunk, followed by Tiki, who was busy all the time trying to explain that he had just been going to think of the plan himself.
When they were at last nestled in the crown of leaves they began to look about for the cabbages, but could find nothing resembling Swanki's idea of a cabbage, which wasn't very clear, but quite different from anything they found in that tree.
They nibbled some of the leaves which were bitter and stringy, and tried some of last year's flowers, which were very little better, and then Swanki cried out in disappointment:
"You've played me a trick, Tiki. These are not cabbages."
She gave him an angry little push, and to her surprise he fell backward out of the tree splash into the swamp, where she saw him struggling in the muddy water.
Very frightened Swanki hurried down the tree and ran to the edge of the water, where she held out her hands to Tiki who grabbed them tightly.
But just as she was drawing him to land the boggy piece of ground on which she was standing gave way, and she, too, fell into the water.
Luckily it was not very deep, and a friendly old frog gave them a leg up the bank, and very wet and muddy and miserable they started back for the bush.
The worst of it was that tiresome Miss Fantail had spread it all abroad that they had left the bush, and on the way home they met her and all her relations, and all the Piccaninnies too, setting out on a search party.
How they stared and questioned and teased the poor little tired travellers, standing before them so wet and grimy and weary, and when they had heard the whole story how they all laughed at Swanki and Tiki!
And glad, indeed, were those two Piccaninnies to sit down to a delicious tea of fern root, young nikau, and assorted berries, and never again did any one hear Swanki complain of just "berries—berries—berries—roots—roots—roots."
One of the Piccaninnies had a horrid adventure one day. He had heard a tui that morning singing in the Bush, and had made up his mind to speak to it, because he was sulking with the other Piccaninnies.
You know they say a tui can be made to talk, but it's hard to get near enough to one to find out, but perhaps if you did get close and surprised it, it would be so mad at you that it would answer back.
The Piccaninny followed his tui up and up, but it flitted from tree top to tree top, and he could hear it tolling a bell and cracking a whip, and chuckling at him, and finally it flew away, and that was the last of it.
The Piccaninny, tired out, climbed up into a tea tree bush, and swung himself gently to-and-fro until he rocked himself to sleep among the pretty little starry flowers, a thing he should never have done unless a Piccaninny Boy Scout had been posted near by in case of danger. He was so drowsy, that he never heard a voice saying:
"Oh! look here, George, this is a lovely spray!" nor felt the spray on which he was sleeping torn from its mother-bush, and carried away. It was taken into a big room in a big house, and there on a big table it was placed in a silver vase.
It was then the Piccaninny woke up because the bough had ceased to sway gently up and down. At first he was very surprised, and then, poking his little brown head out, he was horribly frightened. Instead of the green leafy arch above him, he saw a flat white thing, and all around him were enormous strange objects. Craning out still farther he over-balanced himself and fell thud! upon a hard, polished flat plain. He tried to scramble to his feet, but the ground under him was so slippery that he could only crawl gingerly on all fours and flounder about on it.
Someone exclaimed suddenly:
"Oh, look at that horrid brown insect. It must have come from the tea tree. Fetch the brush and dustpan."
And someone else cried excitedly:
"Kill it! Kill it!"
But a third someone said quite calmly:
"Nonsense! It's quite harmless!"
Then a huge bristly thing fell upon him, and smothered and gasping he felt himself swept along, and then flying through the air. Again he fell with a thud upon something hard, but it was only the hardness of the good brown earth, and the tall green grass closed protectingly over him.
You may be sure he lost no time in scuttling back to the bush, and he didn't hunt tuis again for many a long day.
The Bush Babies lie In cradles of gold; They haven't a stitch, But they never take cold; For the golden flowers, And the golden sun, And the golden smiles Upon everyone— Keep the world warm and bright And flooded with light For the Bush Babies In their cradles of gold.
The Bush Babies come out of the kowhai flowers. They are the prettiest little things—fair as lilies with golden ringlets, and little golden peaked caps, bent over like a horn upon their heads. I don't think they wear anything else much, just an odd little fluff of green here and there, like stray feathers that have stuck to them.
The Piccaninnies love to play with them; indeed, they're favourites with everyone, and it's the prettiest sight in the world at early morning, to see each Bush Baby crawling out of its cradle flower on its little tummy, yawning or smiling or stretching, or blinking at the light with round sleepy eyes.
But you would never get up early enough to see that.
They tell a story in the Bush about a Bush Baby and a Piccaninny—and laugh about it to this day. The Piccaninny told the Bush Baby that he would find some honey for her. Now the Bush Babies love honey better than anything else in the world, so she put her hand in his sweetly and off they set.
They came to the edge of the swamp where the tall branching flax flowers grow (the flax is not in flower when the kowhai is, but I can't spoil my story for that), and every flax flower was alive with birds, dipping, and sipping the honey, so the two little creatures wandered off again.
The Piccaninny led the Bush Baby to several other flowers, but at every one some bird or insect would edge them away, crying out:
"We got here first!"
At last the Bush Baby began to cry. They are very young and tender things, these Babies, and this one had been caught and scratched by the Bush Lawyer, the most spiteful plant in the Bush, and had nearly fallen into a creek, and the peak of its cap was dangling into its eye, and it was a long way from home.
To comfort it the Piccaninny put his little brown arms right round it and loved it, and they both sat down on a fallen tree to rest while he wiped its eyes with a soft green leaf—they didn't know about pocket handkerchiefs yet.
Oh! The next moment out of a hole in the tree flew a swarm of angry bees, with humming wings and large fierce eyes and tails curved down to strike.
The Bush Baby was so astonished that she fell off the log, and there she lay face down on the green moss, so still that the bees took her for a fallen kowhai blossom and droned away from her.
But the Piccaninny ran for his life, with all the bees after him, and when the noise of their angry buzzing had died away, the Bush Baby got up and had a rare feast of honey, and went back home very sticky and blissful and contented.
As for the Piccaninny, who had escaped the bees, by lying down and pretending to be a Tea Tree Jack (they call that camouflage now), he only sniffed when they told him about it, and said:
"Pooh! I knew that honey was there all the time. I said I'd find her some and I did!"
How like a boy!
When the tree of gold Turns a tree of green, The dear Bush Babies Are no more seen. To fields of gold They have gaily run, And are lost in the light Of the golden sun; Or caught in the mist Of gold that lies Like a net of dreams On Day's sleepy eyes. But behold! next year They are here! They are here! They come trooping back Down the wander-track, Like rays of light In the forest old, And the green tree turns To a tree of gold.
Do you know the Lovely Ladies of the Bush? They swing on the tips of the Hoheria tree, with their floating white gowns and tossing silvery ringlets, and are so light and graceful that they float on the wind as they swing. If you could only see the Lovely Ladies dancing! But very few have been lucky enough for that!
They dance on the wind, holding to the tips of the Hoheria and their white gowns flutter and swirl, and their ringlets float and sway, and sometimes in the joy of the dance a Lovely Lady lets go of her branch and comes fluttering down to earth.
Then she can dance no more, but lies very still. It is rather sad, because once she has let go she may not go back and dance on the tree for a whole long year, and it is looked on rather as a disgrace to be the first to fall.
However, she has not to wait long for company. For one by one, the Lovely Ladies, wild with the joy of the mazy dance, the soft rush of the wind and the laughing and clapping of the little leaves, loose their hold, and drift to earth light as thistle-down, and that is the end of their dancing for that year. Where do they go to while the year goes by? I have never found out, but I think it most likely that they go to the place they came from.
The Lovely Ladies have a song which they and the wind sing together as they dance, and the way it is sung makes everyone that hears it, mad to dance too. This is it:
"The wind is shaking the Hoheria tree, Cling, Maidens, cling!" "I'll dance with you if you'll dance with me, Swing, Maidens, swing!" "So up with a windy rush we go, Floating, fluttering, to and fro," "Sing for the joy of it, Maidens, Oh! Sing, Maidens, sing!"
The Piccaninnies simply love to watch the Lovely Ladies dancing, and long to be able to dance in the same way. When they hear the song, their little brown toes go fidgeting among the moss and leaves, and their heads nod-nodding to the air.
Once they found a Hoheria tree after all the Lovely Ladies had left it, and now, they thought, was their chance. They swarmed all over the tree, clutched the tips of the delicate branches, and began working themselves up and down like mad.
It was great fun, but with their chubby little brown bodies, short legs, and shock heads, it did not look quite the same thing, and three Bush Babies riding that way on a good-natured kiwi, laughed so much (and even the kiwi, which is a grave bird, looked up and smiled) that the Piccaninnies, feeling rather foolish, dropped to the the ground and ran away and hid in the fern.
THE GREAT RED ENEMY.
One day one of those tiresome picnic parties came again to the bush, and after a great deal of stupid and rather terrifying noise, during which every Piccaninny and Bush Baby and all the other bush folk lay hidden away in utter silence, the people all went away again, and the Wee Folk were free to come out of their hiding places and turn over curiously the few things the party had left.
There was an empty meat tin which flashed so brightly that the Piccaninnies took it for a helmet, and each in turn tried to wear it; but it was so big that it simply hid them altogether, so very regretfully they had to throw it away. Then there were a few crusts of bread which quite by accident one of the boys discovered to be good to eat. They finished every crumb of the bread and enjoyed it, but on the whole agreed that fern root tasted nicer. There was an empty bottle that nobody dared go near, for they thought it was some kind of gun, and a baby's woollen bootee, which the Piccaninnies found most useful as an enormous bag to be filled with berries. But most mysterious, and therefore most interesting, though a little frightening, was a large heap of grey smoking ashes where the picnic fire had been.
The Piccaninnies circled round and round this queer grey pile wondering what on earth it could be. One boy venturing a little nearer than the others trod on a live cinder, for the fire was not as dead as it ought to have been, and jumped back howling and hopping round and round on one foot, holding the other.
When they crowded round him asking what had happened he cried in fear:
"The Red Enemy bit me. He lives under that grey mound, and I saw his red eye flash as I went near. That is his breath you see rising up through the trees."
The Piccaninnies looked frightened and backed away from the grey mound, but all the rest of that evening they came again and again to stare upon the Red Enemy, and each time they came his red eyes seemed to flash brighter, his thick white breath to grow denser as it wound up through the trees, and he seemed to be purring and growling to himself.
When the Piccaninnies went to bed that night they were very uneasy and could not sleep well. The sound of the Red Enemy's breathing seemed to fill the bush with a low roaring, and his breath stole in and out of the trees like a reddish mist; the air was very hot and dry. One of the Piccaninnies, a brave little fellow, said that he would go and see what their strange new enemy was doing, and sliding down his sleeping-tree he set off.
He had not gone far before the heat and the stifling air drove him hack, and rushing back to his friends he cried:
"Run for your lives! Quick! Quick! The Great Red Enemy is coming. He is roaring with anger and tearing the trees down as he comes. None of us can hope to escape him, for he has a million bright red eyes which he sends flying through the bush in all directions to find us, and his breath is so thick that we will be lost in it if we don't run now. Run! Run!"
The Piccaninnies did not wait to be told twice. Without waiting to pack up they slid down the trees and started to run through the dark bush, and soon there were hundreds of little bush creatures all joining in the race for life.
On, on they ran in fear and excitement, hearing the angry roaring of the Great Red Enemy behind them, feeling his hot breath scorching them as it writhed and twisted through the trees in reddish-black billows. Some of his millions of angry, red searching eyes flew or drifted past them, but they never stopped for a moment. And now they had left the trees behind them and were running over clear ground, and before long they reached the edge of the swamp, lying dark and cool before them.
In their haste and fear they all plunged in headlong and found the water so fresh and cool and delightful after their heat and hurry, that they burrowed deeper into it, only leaving their little black heads sticking out.
All that night they lay and watched the Great Red Enemy in his wrath worrying and tearing their poor trees to pieces, and all next day and the next it lasted, and then nothing was left of their beautiful bush but a few black, ugly stumps and a great grey waste of ashes.
And from the ashes rose the smoking dense breath of the Red Enemy, and every now and then he flashed an angry red eye. The Piccaninnies who had lived in that part of the bush could never again return to the cool green shades of the forest, never slide down a fern leaf, or swing on the branches, or pick puriri berries, or pelt the morepork in the daytime.
What could they do? Where could they go? Poor, poor little Piccaninnies!
Well, this is what they did. Having no home to go to, and finding the water very delightful they decided to make their home in it. At first they would only stay timidly near the edges where the water was not deep, but by-and-by through living entirely in the water they grew webbed-toes (you try it!) and became as much at home in the swamp as any other water-creature. Some of them even grew elegant little tails (believe me or not, as you choose!) and they became known in the swamp as the Teenywiggles, and some day you may hear something more of the doings of the Teenywiggles.
* * * * *
Charming Booklets by Isabel Maud Peacocke (illustrated by Trevor Lloyd)
a bewitchingly fanciful and humorous fairy story in a setting of New Zealand plant and bird life. 1/6
Bonny Books of Humorous Verse
These two booklets of amusing verses on topics peculiar to childhood will delight both young and old. 1/6
Miss Peacocke's quaint humour is delightfully engaging, and Mr. Lloyd's drawings are no less droll and pleasing.
* * * * *
Dainty Booklets by Edith Howes (illustrated by Alice Poison)
Wonderwings, and other Fairy Stories
Three entrancing fairy stories by New Zealand's popular author of juvenile literature. 1/6
a companion booklet to "Wonderwings," also containing three delightful fairy stories. 1/6
Miss Howes's stories are at once entertaining and uplifting. Every one is written with a lofty purpose.