12. Chapter

Devil's Valley



The sun was just setting, bathing the sky in glorious red. The children got up after a nap and looked at the sky, spellbound. In the background kangaroos were playing and everything looked peaceful.


“Just the day to save the world”, Elfrida commented.


Prof. Hurry had talked with Pooku and now came back.


“Good news, my friends, we need not walk.”
“Of course not, we’ll take the jeep”, Rosy said.
“Nonsense! The witches would hear us for miles. Pooku had the idea to take kangaroos. They are tamed and often get fodder from him and his folks. Pajima knows the kangaroo language and explained to the animals what we have in mind. They agree and will take us to and fro.”


Now also Pajima arrived, followed by nine kangaroos.


“Nine animals only?” Bernie wondered. “Will Pajima not come with us? She’s the one to talk to the kangaroos.”
“Pajima will join you, if you don’t mind”, Prof. Hurry explained. “I however will remain here. With my hand I’m handicapped. I only can give you a radio and stay at the receiver. If you need help, I shall do what I can.”


The children agreed and entered the kangaroo bags. For a start the kangaroos hopped around in the village so that the children got used to them.


“Berta, how do you feel?” Elfrida shouted.


“I’m glad there was no cream tart as dessert or we’d have to clean the poo kangaroo now…”


They all laughed and Pajima with Elfrida took the lead. The ride into the sinking sun began. If you have been on horseback, you will know the up and down but it is much worse with a kangaroo who tends to jump far and high. That is the best way to get over the deep sand. By now the sun was behind the horizon and the first stars became visible. After riding – or hopping – northward for a time, they took a rest.


“Oo, look at, I’ve never seen so many stars!”


“Right ahead of us is the constellation of Libra, Rosy”, Pajima explained. “The bright star above it belongs to the sign of Scorpio. They seem to direct us.”
“I think, at home we cannot see these constellations”, Bernie said.
“How far is it?” Berta wanted to know. “I really do not feel very well.”
“About an hour northwards and we are there.”


Groaning, Berta scrambled into the kangaroo bag once more and the last part of the journey started. After a while the path became rocky and they approached a mound. By and by the dim light of the stars showed them a few rocks left and right of the path.


“Pajima, how are we to find our way in the darkness?” Jenny inquired.
“Don’t worry, the moon will be up in a few minutes. We’ll leave the kangaroos behind and walk. It’s too steep for the animals and moreover we may be made out easily with them in the moonlight.”
“That means, we have to sneak along for the rest of the way?”


Pajima nodded and made her kangaroo stop. She dismounted and said something to the animal.
“He is to wait for us here with the others and we now go to Devil’s Valley.”


Even while she was speaking, over the horizon the moon rose. All others were busy to arrange their clothes and bind their shoes tightly but Rosy stared with big eyes at the rising moon.


“But moon is lying on its back!”


Bernie laughed and explained: “We’re on the other side of Earth, from here the moon does look like lying on the back.”
Rosy still glared up, fascinated.


“Do not look into the light or you can no longer see in the dark.”


Pajima slung her pouch across her shoulder and they started the descent. Carefully they put one foot in front of the other. The Aborigines girl took the lead because she knew this part of the world best. Now and then she made a sign to halt and listened. There were noises in the air like the children had never heard before.


“Stop, there’s a snake on the path!” Pajima paused and took up a stick.
“I don’t see any snake”, Elfrida said, stepping up to Pajima.
“My eyes can see better than yours here. Moreover I can smell the snake.”


Elfrida goggled at her. What skills some people had! It took some time until the snake seemed to disappear and they could walk on. Again and again there was cracking in the brushwood along the path. Cold shivers were running down their backs and then...


“Look!” Pajima whispered, pointing at the sky.


First it looked like a big black bird and Dr. Einstein ducked in fright. After a time they could make it out: A witch was flying across the night sky! They could see clearly how the witch flew down into the valley and disappeared.


“Can’t be far”, Elfrida whispered, then suddenly something blocked their path.
“A bear!” Berta screeched and quickly Jenny covered her mouth before she could scream on.
“A wombat”, Pajima explained. “It’s only a wombat. He’s hungry but he’s a plant eater and will not harm us.”
Relieved, the children walked on, the wombat sniffed and paused at the wayside. When after a while Elfrida looked back, the wombat was still there. He followed them like a dog.


“Say, are those wombats always that attached?” she asked Pajima.
“No, they are shy rather, except... Did someone feed the animal?”
They all looked at each other, only Rosy was intensely studying the stars.
“She gave him a piece of chocolate, I’ve seen it!”
“You’re such a snitch, Berta, let me tell you that!”
“Well, if you don’t have the guts!”
“I do have the guts all right, my dear Berta, I was just about to say it.”
“To whom, dearest Rosy, to the stars perhaps?”
“Now stop quarrelling”, Pajima groaned and Elfrida grinned. “Fact is: If you feed a wombat, it will follow you. The animals are quite clingy.”
“Wombat-dearest!”


“Dr. Einstein, keep your beak out of this”, Elfrida giggled. “It’s quite enough to have that furry chap with us to the witches.”
“If everybody has told his story, may we silently sneak on?” Pajima asked, a bit stressed.


On they walked the dark, spooky landscape. The path made a bend to the left and they saw how fortunate it had been to take Pajima. She faced no problem finding her way here. Suddenly she made a sign to stop, lifting her left hand. Ahead of them the path came to an end, a mighty abyss barred their way. Slowly they crept to the edge of the abyss and saw that they had reached their goal: the meeting point of the witches! Large fires were blazing down there, they could hear the ugly laughter of the witches. The children felt their hairs standing at their ends. There were much more witches than they had supposed. And they could see what was really happening down there. The fires were arranged around a hole in the ground. The witches were standing around the hole in a circle and pointed downwards with their magic wands. By united witchcraft the hole became deeper and deeper.


“That will be the tunnel to the Magic Forest!” Elfrida gasped, horrified. “When it is finished, we can do nothing.”
“So we have to act quickly – but how?” Bernie asked.


Elfrida was just going to say something, when suddenly everything came thick and fast. Rosy sneezed and they all glared at her. Also the witches had heard it and all of a sudden stopped laughing. The wombat was so shocked by the sneeze that he lost his balance and rolled down the abyss. He cannoned towards the screeching witches and Elfrida saw their chance.


“We need reinforcements.”


She looked at Pajima. The native girl let out a whistle and drew a piece a wood from her belt.


“Cangaroos like to box and also my boomerang is helpful in close combat!”


Elfrida nodded cheerfully. “Bernie, fire some crackers!”


No need to tell the lad twice. Jenny handed him a lighter and the first cracker sailed into the abyss. A second one followed and a third and the explosion of the crackers mixed with the terrified yelling of the witches. Now also the kangaroos came hopping.


“Attack!” Elfrida yelled and jumped down the slope. Everybody followed her, the kangaroos skilfully mastering the steep way down. Swiftly they hopped left and right until they reached the witches. While beside her crackers were bursting and howling, Elfrida saw that Pajima had already hit several witches with her boomerang. Fascinating to see how the bent wood sailed through the night, hit a witch and returned to the Aborigines-girl. At first the witches had receded but now they attacked furiously. One of them snatched Rosy and tried to throw her into the deep hole but the wombat stopped her. With all his strength he bit the calf of the black-clad figure. Another one tried to get at Bernie with a club but he jumped aside quickly. The kangaroos even seemed to have fun. One witch after the other was hurtled through the air when they tried to attack the animals.


“Dr. Einstein, try to take their wands from them!”
“Einstein-ready-to-go!”


The witches were so throng that they did not notice how the little budgie nicked one wand after the other and took them to a nearby bush. When Elfrida saw that the witches fled, she knew that the battle was won.


“Quick, fetch the magic wands and throw them into the fire”, she shouted. “And then we must see that we are off.”


Her friends made fast and a few minutes later they were on their way back. They scrambled into the kangaroos and noticed what apt climbers these animals were. With their last strength they reached the edge of the abyss. Arrived, they paused and now saw was down there was happening.
Giant fire pillars rose, the air smelled foul. This was what Elfrida had expected. All the evil in the magic wands was burning away in the flames.
Pajima loudly clicked her tongue and with long jumps the kangaroos raced back to the Aborigines village. When they arrived, all inhabitants had assembled in front of their cottages. They all had been able to watch the spectacle from the distance and the children were welcomed with loud cheers. Prof. Hurry looked absolutely groggy, he had been devilishly afraid for the children. Again and again he embraced one child after the other. However, when by mistake he also embraced a kangaroo and kissed it, he found himself flying through the air.
“Kangaroos don’t like kisses”, Pajima laughed and helped him up.


Now a party followed like the village of the Aborigines had never seen before. While the natives performed their dances, Pooku took a long piece of wood, held it to his mouth and deep, spooky sound was to be heard. Terrified, Rosy jumped up and ran into an eucalyptus tree. Groaning, she got up again.


“What a horrible sound was that?”
Profdoc laughed and said: “That is a didgeridoo, a music instrument of bamboo.”


Rosy scratched her head. “But why is it called dip-in-the-loo?”


Now they all toppled over with laughter and Pooku rose to tell the story of this curious instrument:


“Once upon a time a native walked over the land to look for firewood. To transport the wood he had fastened a basket to his back and put in twigs and branches. When he came into a canyon blown by the wind, he heard some peculiar dark noise: wrrooouuummm. He was frightened and thought that some spirit had been caught in a hollow branch. To free him, he blew into the hollow branch. Now he thought that the spirit was talking to him and blew on and on.”


In this night the friends heard a lot more stories. This lasted the night long and only at dawn the last one lay down to sleep.
Next day it was time to say good-bye. The children decided first to travel back to the farm of the professor. Pajima made a gift of her boomerang to Elfrida and asked:
“How will you get home again?”


Elfrida thoughtfully bent her head and told her new friend about the magic bottle and the missing stopper. Pajima’s eyes glinted, she fumbled in her poach and fished something out.


“Do you mean this cork? I found it when fighting the witches and thought that it belonged to them.”


Happily, Elfrida received the stopper and hurried to her friend to tell them the good news.


“Now say, where is Dr. Einstein?” Bernie and the others looked around but the bird was nowhere to be seen. Bernie climbed out of the jeep which he had already boarded and shouted loudly: “Einstein! Where are you?”
“I think”, Pooku said, “I saw him flying to the nearby water place. He probably wanted to drink.”
The children quickly ran through the village to the small pond. In the end they found their friend. He was sitting in a high tree with a number of budgies and twittered excitedly.


“Hey, Dr. Einstein, we are off. We are waiting for you!”


At once one of the birds came down to the children and landed at their feet.


“Einstein-stays-here. Einstein-found-his-family. Bye-bye, dearest-friends!”


Somewhat perplexed the children walked back through the village to the jeep.


“Perhaps it’s better for him to stay here”, Daisy said. “He found his family…”
“And I can keep my promise because I told my Daddy that the bird will be with us for one week only”, Elfrida added.


When they had eaten some corn bread at the farm, Prof. Hurry said: “Good-bye, my friends. Please give my regards to my brother in his funny light house. Tell him, I’ll certainly visit him next year. We’ll all meet again then…”
These last words hardly reached the children. Much looking forward to get home, Elfrida had already put the stopper to the magic bottle. Suddenly all around them was a thick mist, the world seemed to whirl, faster and faster. By and by the fog lifted, the whirling stopped and they were back in their beloved Magic Forest.


“As to me”, Rosy said, “I’ll sleep through the next three days.”
“O well, everyone to his best abilities.”
“Please, what do you mean by that, my dear Berta?”
“By pure chance I know, dearest Rosy, that you are a slugabed.”
“Do you, Rosy? And do you know what I know? For example I knew exactly…”
“Stop, stop”, Jenny laughed. “I can hear that we are back home.”
“Just so”, Bernie added. “If pigs quarrel, they are happy.”
“Look at, garlic is growing all over the place! The plants are wonderfully tall. If you ask me, no witch will dare to show her face here”, Elfrida laughed.

And so they walked down the narrow path to the bus stop. Today they were the happiest children of the world.


END