The Little Black Princess_ A True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land
The Little Black Princess
Chapter 1.- Bett-Bett
Chapter 2.- ‘Shimy Shirts’
Chapter 3.- ‘Shut-Him-Eye Quickfellow’
Chapter 4.- ‘Me King Alright’
Chapter 5.- ‘Goodfellow Missus’
Chapter 6.- The ‘Debbil-Debbil’ Dance
Chapter 7.- ‘Mumma A’ And ‘Mumma B’
Chapter 8.- A ‘Walkabout’
Chapter 9.- The Coronation ‘Playabout’
Chapter 10.- ‘Looking-Out Lily-Root’
Chapter 11.- ‘Newfellow Piccaninny Boy
Chapter 12.- Goggle-Eye Sung ‘Deadfellow’
Chapter 13.- Bett-Bett Is ‘Bush-Hungry’
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Frontispiece. — Old ‘No-More-Hearem’ Fishing
Page 3. — Bett-Bett And Sue
Page 5. — The Homestead
Page 6. — Belts Of Red Feathers To Please ‘Mr. Thunder-Debbil-Debbil—Bett-Bett’s ‘Shimy-Shirt’ Bag—Sticks For Procuring Fire
Page 17. — ‘Goggle-Eye Turned To Laugh’
Page 27. — ‘Dilly-Bags’ Used By Blackfellow Women In The Bush
Page 33. — Bett-Bett’s Favourite Quart Pot—Hank Of Hair For A Son-In-Law’s Use — Hobbles For The Horses
Page 37. — Dressing For The Debbil-Debbil Dance
Page 39. — Making His Legs Look Exactly Like The Figure 4
Page 41. — Goggle-Eye’s Belt And Tassel—Heads Of Bull-Roarers Or Corrobboree Sticks
Page 43. — The ‘Great-Great-Greatest Grandfather’ Of The Kangaroo Men
Page 45. — The ‘Great-Great-Greatest Grandfather’ Of The Iguana Men
Page 60. — Sea-Going Crocodiles Are ‘Cheeky-Fellow’
Page 63. — A Few Old Men At Home
Page 73. — A ‘ Poolooloomee’—Jimmy’s Union-Jack Apron—His ‘Gammon Letter-Stick’
Page 79. — Coolamuns
Page 81. — Murraweedbee At Home
Page 82. — Blackfellows’ Spears And Boomerangs
Page 87. — ‘Topsy’
Page 89. — Tonald’s Cradle
Page 91. — Boomerang And Throwing-Stick
Page 95. — ‘My Word, Missus! You Cheeky-Fellow Alright’
Page 101. — All Goggle-Eye’s Possessions, Which Were Buried With Him
Page 103. — Tree-Burial, South Of The Roper
Page 107. — Bett-Bett’s Wonderful, Lonely Palace
Page 109.— Map
The Little Black Princess
Bett-Bett must have been a Princess, for she was a King’s niece, and if that does not make a Princess of any one, it ought to do so!
She didn’t sit—like fairy-book princesses—waving golden sceptres over devoted subjects, for she was just a little bush nigger girl or “lubra,” about eight years old. She had, however, a very wonderful palace—the great lonely Australian bush.
She had also: one devoted subject—a little speckled dog called Sue; one big trouble—“looking out tucker”; and one big fear—Debbil-debbils!
It wasn’t all fun being a black Princess, for nobody knew what terrible things might happen any minute—as you will see!
Once, when Bett-Bett and Sue were camped with some of the tribe on the Roper River, they were suddenly attacked by the Willeroo blacks, who were their very fiercest enemies. Everybody “ran bush” at once to hide, with the Willeroos full chase after them. In the fright and hurry-scurry Bett-Bett fell into the river, and at once decided to stay there, for in spite of crocodiles it was the safest place she could think of. She swam under the water to the steep banks, and caught hold of the roots of an old tree. Standing on this, she stuck her nose and mouth out of the water, in the shelter of a water-lily leaf, and there she stood for a long, long time without moving a muscle, her little naked black body looking exactly like one of the shadows.
When all was quiet and it was getting dark, she crept out, thinking she would be safe for the night. Sue at once came out from her hiding-place, and licking Bett-Bett’s hand, seemed to say:
“My word, that was a narrow escape, wasn’t it!” Bett-Bett spoke softly to her, and the two of them then hunted about to see if any “tucker” had been left behind.
Sue very soon found a piece of raw beef, and Bett-Bett made a fire in the scrub, so that nobody could see the smoke; then, while the supper was cooking, they crouched close to the warmth, for they felt very cold.
By and by the steak caught fire, and Bett-Bett picked it up between two sticks, and tried to blow it out. Finding she could not manage this, she laid it on the ground and threw a handful of earth on it, and at once the flames died away. She and Sue then grinned at each other as if to say, “Aren’t we clever? we know how to manage things, don’t we?” and were just settling down to enjoy their supper, when a dreadful thing happened—somebody grabbed Bett-Bett from behind and shouted out, “Hallo! what name you?”
Did you ever see a terribly frightened little black princess? I did, for I saw one then. I was “the Missus” from the homestead, and with the Boss, or “Maluka” (as the blacks always called him), was “out bush,” camping near the river. We had arrived just about sunset, and seeing nigger tracks had decided to follow them, and found Bett-Bett! Big Mac, one of the stockmen, was with us, and it was he who had caught hold of her, but if it had been an army of Debbil-debbils she could not have been more frightened.
“Nang ah! piccaninny,” I said, meaning “come here, little one.” I spoke as kindly as I could, and Bett-Bett saw at once that I was a friend.
She spoke to Sue and came, saying: “Me plenty savey Engliss, Missus!”
This surprised us all, for she looked such a wild little nigger. I asked her where she had learnt her “plenty savey Engliss,” and she answered, “Longa you boys,” meaning she had picked it up from our homestead boys.
After a little coaxing she told us the story of the Willeroos, and said “Dank you please, Missus,” very earnestly when I asked if she would like to sleep in our camp.
As we went up the bank I was amused to see that she was munching her beef. It takes more than a good fright to make a blackfellow let go his only chance of supper. After a big meal of “damper” and honey— “sugar-bag” she called it—she went to a puddle and smeared herself all over with mud, and when I asked why she did this she said: “Spose skeeto come on, him bite mud, him no more bite me meself,” and I thought her a very wise little person.
As soon as it became dark, she and Sue curled themselves up into a little heap near the fire, and fell asleep for the night.
In the morning I gave her a blue and white singlet that I had taken from one of the boys’ “swags”. She dressed herself in it at once, and looked just like a gaily-coloured beetle, with thin black arms and legs, but she thought herself very stylish, and danced about everywhere with Sue at her heels. All nigger dogs are ugly, but Sue was the ugliest of them all. She looked very much like a flattened out plum-pudding on legs, with ears like a young calf, and a cat’s tail!
As we sat at breakfast I asked Bett-Bett if any mosquitoes had bitten her in the night, “No more,” she said, and then added with a grin: “Big mob bin sing out, sing out.” She seemed pleased to think how angry they must have been when they found a mouthful of mud, instead of the juicy nigger they expected.
When we were ready to start for the homestead I asked Bett-Bett if she and Sue would like to come and live with me there. “Dank you please, Missus!” she answered, grinning with delight.
So Bett-Bett found a Missus, and I—well, I found a real nuisance! !
For at least a week after we reached the homestead, Bett-Bett was kept busy protecting Sue from the station dogs. We hadn’t been home an hour before we heard a fearful yell, and running to see what could have happened, found that all the dogs on the place had set on the poor little beast, and were trying to worry her to death.
With a shriek Bett-Bett flew to the rescue. As she ran she picked up a thick stick, and with it fought and hammered and screamed her way into the biting, yelping mob of dogs; then picking up the dusty little speckled ball, she fought and hammered and screamed her way out again to a place of safety. There she sat and crooned over Sue, who licked her face and tried to say—“How good you are, Bett-Bett.”
I don’t know how many fights we had altogether, for the dogs kept at it till they were tired of the fun, which was not before Sue was nearly in tatters.
While Bett-Bett was fighting these battles I was busy sewing, making clothes for her. To begin with, I made her a bright blue dress which pleased her very much, and the singlet was kept for a night-dress, for she would not part with it altogether. Then I made some little white petticoats which she called “Shimy Shirts.” When these were finished I began to make a red dress; but oh dear, the fuss she made! and the fright she got into! In funny pidgin English and with much waving of her arms, she said that if you had on a red dress when there was a thunderstorm the Debbil-debbil who made the thunder would “come on” and kill you “dead-fellow.” When I heard this, of course I made a pink dress, as I didn’t want the Thunder-Debbil-debbil to run off with her. Besides, he might have been angry with me for making red dresses for little native girls.
This Debbil-debbil is a funny sort of person, for although he gets furious if he sees a lubra dressed in red, it pleases him wonderfully to see an old blackfellow with as much red on as he can find. Do you know, if this Thunder-Debbil-debbil is roaring dreadfully, and happens to catch sight of an old man with plenty of red handkerchiefs, and scarves of red feathers tied round him, it puts him into such a good temper that he can’t help smiling, and then nobody gets hurt. But sometimes even a blackfellow with yards of red stuff wound round him can do nothing to quiet this raging Debbil-debbil; then everybody knows that the lubras have been wearing red dresses. Such wicked, selfish people deserve to be punished, and it’s quite a comfort to think that very soon