With this cordial understanding they set about preparing the camp fire, and the heartiest expressions of friendship were indulged in while the Puddin’ was being passed round. As Bunyip aptly remarked:
“All Fortune’s buffets he can surely pardon her, Who claims as guest our courteous Market Gardener.”
To which Benjimen handsomely replied—
“Still happier he, who meets three Puddin’-owners,
Whose Puddin’ is the equal of its donors.”
And, indeed, a very pleasant evening they had round the camp fire.
“This is what I call satisfactory,” said Bill, as they sat at breakfast next morning. “It’s a great relief to the mind to know that them puddin’-thieves is sufferin’ the agonies of remorse, and that our Puddin’ is safe from bein’ stolen every ten minutes.”
“You’re a bun-headed old optimist,” said the Puddin’ rudely. “Puddin’-thieves never suffer from remorse. They only suffer from blighted hopes and suppressed activity.”
“Have you no trust in human nature, Albert?” asked Bill, sternly. “Don’t you know that nothin’ gives a man greater remorse than havin’ his face punched, his toes trod on, and eggs rubbed in his hair?”
“I have grave doubts myself,” said Bunyip Bluegum, “as to the sincerity of their repentance; “and Ben Brandysnap said that, speaking as a market gardener, his experience of carrot catchers, onion snatchers, pumpkin pouncers, and cabbage grabbers induced him to hold the opinion that shooting them with pea-rifles was the only sure way to make them feel remorse.
In fact as Sam said:—
The howls and groans of pain and grief,
The accents of remorse,
Extracted from a puddin’-thief
Are all put on, of course.”
“Then, all I can say is,” cried Bill, enraged, “if there’s any more of this business of puddin’-thieves, disguised as firemen, stealing our Puddin’, and puddin’-thieves, not disguised at all, shovin’ bags over our heads, blow me if I don’t give up Puddin’-owning in despair and take to keepin’ carrots for a livin’.”
The Puddin’ was so furious at this remark that they were forced to eat an extra slice all round to pacify him, in spite of which he called Bill a turnip-headed old carrot-cruncher, and other insulting names. However, at length they set out on the road, Bill continuing to air some very despondent remarks.
“For what is the good of havin’ a noble trustin’ nature,” said he, “for every low puddin’-thief in the land to take advantage of? As far as I can see, the only thing to do is to punch every snout we meet, and chance the odds it belongs to a puddin’-thief.”
“Come,” said Bunyip Bluegum, “I see you are not your wonted, good-humoured self this morning. As a means of promoting the general gaiety, I call on you to sing “The Salt Junk Sarah” without delay.”