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Agaliha
October 30th, 2008, 06:39 AM
The Bunyip



Long, long ago, far, far away on the other side of the world,
some young men left the camp where they lived to get some food
for their wives and children. The sun was hot, but they liked
heat, and as they went they ran races and tried who could hurl
his spear the farthest, or was cleverest in throwing a strange
weapon called a boomerang, which always returns to the thrower.
They did not get on very fast at this rate, but presently they
reached a flat place that in time of flood was full of water, but
was now, in the height of summer, only a set of pools, each
surrounded with a fringe of plants, with bulrushes standing in
the inside of all. In that country the people are fond of the
roots of bulrushes, which they think as good as onions, and one
of the young men said that they had better collect some of the
roots and carry them back to the camp. It did not take them long
to weave the tops of the willows into a basket, and they were
just going to wade into the water and pull up the bulrush roots
when a youth suddenly called out: 'After all, why should we waste
our time in doing work that is only fit for women and children?
Let them come and get the roots for themselves; but we will fish
for eels and anything else we can get.'

This delighted the rest of the party, and they all began to
arrange their fishing lines, made from the bark of the yellow
mimosa, and to search for bait for their hooks. Most of them
used worms, but one, who had put a piece of raw meat for dinner
into his skin wallet, cut off a little bit and baited his line
with it, unseen by his companions.

For a long time they cast patiently, without receiving a single
bite; the sun had grown low in the sky, and it seemed as if they
would have to go home empty-handed, not even with a basket of
roots to show; when the youth, who had baited his hook with raw
meat, suddenly saw his line disappear under the water.
Something, a very heavy fish he supposed, was pulling so hard
that he could hardly keep his feet, and for a few minutes it
seemed either as if he must let go or be dragged into the pool.
He cried to his friends to help him, and at last, trembling with
fright at what they were going to see, they managed between them
to land on the bank a creature that was neither a calf nor a
seal, but something of both, with a long, broad tail. They
looked at each other with horror, cold shivers running down their
spines; for though they had never beheld it, there was not a man
amongst them who did not know what it was-- the cub of the awful
Bunyip!

All of a sudden the silence was broken by a low wail, answered by
another from the other side of the pool, as the mother rose up
from her den and came towards them, rage flashing from her
horrible yellow eyes. 'Let it go! let it go!' whispered the
young men to each other; but the captor declared that he had
caught it, and was going to keep it. 'He had promised his
sweetheart,' he said, 'that he would bring back enough meat for
her father's house to feast on for three days, and though they
could not eat the little Bunyip, her brothers and sisters should
have it to play with.' So, flinging his spear at the mother to
keep her back, he threw the little Bunyip on to his shoulders,
and set out for the camp, never heeding the poor mother's cries
of distress.

By this time it was getting near sunset, and the plain was in
shadow, though the tops of the mountains were still quite bright.
The youths had all ceased to be afraid, when they were startled
by a low rushing sound behind them, and, looking round, saw that
the pool was slowly rising, and the spot where they had landed
the Bunyip was quite covered. 'What could it be?' they asked one
of another; ' there was not a cloud in the sky, yet the water had
risen higher already than they had ever known it do before.' For
an instant they stood watching as if they were frozen, then they
turned and ran with all their might, the man with the Bunyip run-
ning faster than all. When he reached a high peak over- looking
all the plain he stopped to take breath, and turned to see if he
was safe yet. Safe! why only the tops of the trees remained
above that sea of water, and these were fast disappearing. They
must run fast indeed if they were to escape. So on they flew,
scarcely feeling the ground as they went, till they flung
themselves on the ground before the holes scooped out of the
earth where they had all been born. The old men were sitting in
front, the children were playing, and the women chattering
together, when the little Bunyip fell into their midst, and there
was scarcely a child among them who did not know that something
terrible was upon them. 'The water! the water!' gasped one of
the young men; and there it was, slowly but steadily mounting the
ridge itself. Parents and children clung together, as if by that
means they could drive back the advancing flood; and the youth
who had caused all this terrible catastrophe, seized his
sweetheart, and cried: 'I will climb with you to the top of that
tree, and there no waters can reach us.' But, as he spoke,
something cold touched him, and quickly he glanced down at his
feet. Then with a shudder he saw that they were feet no longer,
but bird's claws. He looked at the girl he was clasping, and
beheld a great black bird standing at his side; he turned to his
friends, but a flock of great awkward flapping creatures stood in
their place He put up his hands to cover his face, but they were
no more hands, only the ends of wings; and when he tried to
speak, a noise such as he had never heard before seemed to come
from his throat, which had suddenly become narrow and slender.
Already the water had risen to his waist, and he found himself
sitting easily upon it, while its surface reflected back the
image of a black swan, one of many.

Never again did the swans become men; but they are still
different from other swans, for in the night-time those who
listen can hear them talk in a language that is certainly not
swan's language; and there are even sounds of laughing and
talking, unlike any noise made by the swans whom we know.

The little Bunyip was carried home by its mother, and after that
the waters sank back to their own channels. The side of the pool
where she lives is always shunned by everyone, as nobody knows
when she may suddenly put out her head and draw him into her
mighty jaws. But people say that underneath the black waters of
the pool she has a house filled with beautiful things, such as
mortals who dwell on the earth have no idea of. Though how they
know I cannot tell you, as nobody has ever seen it.

[From Journal of Anthropological-Institute.]