The First Man in the Southern Cross

Baiame once travelled far across the land he had made, and was lonely because there was no one to talk with. He scraped red earth up in his hands and fashioned it into the shape of human beings. Two men he made, and then there was only enough earth left to make a single woman. It was asking for trouble, but Baiame did not know enough about the children of of his creation to realize this. He lived with them, teaching them what plants were good to eat, how to dig roots from the ground, and where the best grubs were to be found.

"With these, and water to drink, you can live, and your bellies will never be empty," he said.

After that he left them, and returned to his home in the sky. For some time the three people lived happily togeyther, but after a while there came a long and severe drought. The plants withered, roots were difficult to find, and their grubs seemed to have disappeared.

"We must find something to eat, or we will starve," the woman said.

"But there is nothing left."

"There are animals. We must hunt them, and then there will be flesh to eat and blood to drink."

The men looked at her in consternation.

"The Father Spirit has not given us permission to kill the animals he made," they objected.

"But he didn't say we were not to kill them," she replied. "I am sure he expects us to think for ourselves."

One of the men was convinced. He stalked a small kangaroo and killed it with a sharp stone.

"Now what will we do?" he asked.

"I will show you," the woman said.

She dug a shallow hole and burnt wood in it till a glowing heap of embers and hot stones lay at the bottom. She singed the fur of the kangaroo and roasted the flesh.

"There we are," she said. "Let us fill our bellies with the good food that Baiame has provided."

The hunter squatted down beside her, and they sank their teeth in the half-cooked meat.

"It is good!" the man said, his eyes alight with appreciation. "Come and taste the new food," he called to his companion.

The other man moved away.

"This is not what Baiame taught us. A dreadful thing will happen because you have done this thing. I would rather starve than eat one of Baiame's children.

Nothing they could say would make him change his mind. The smell of roasted flesh nauseated him, and he ran across the plain. The others followed him at a distance. He was faint with hunger, and presently he fell at the foot of a white gum tree and lay still.

The others looked at him in astonishment which changed to fear when a dark spirit with flashing eyes dropped down from the branches of the tree. It picked up the body of their friend and threw it so that it fell into the trunk of a hollow tree. Then it sprang after the body. Two white cockatoos, disturbed by the movements of the evil spirit, screeched and fluttered round in circles.

The tree groaned, the soil was disturbed as the roots were jerked out of the ground. It rose up in the air, followed by the cockatoos, and dwindled in the infinite space of the sky. Darkness fell, and nothing could be seen but the white specks that were the cockatoos, and four fiery eyes which glared out of the hollow trunk. They were the eyes of their friend and the evil spirit.

The tree was not lost to sight, but the four points of light, which were the eyes of the man and the spirit, and the white wings of the cockatoos mounted up into the sky. The eyes remained inside the white gum tree which is known as Yaraan-do, and became the stars of the constellation of the Southern Cross, while the white cockatoos, which followed them, are the Pointers.

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