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Title: Mpuke, Our Little African Cousin
Author: Wade, Mary Hazelton Blanchard, 1860-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Our Little African Cousin


Little Cousin Series


    Each volume illustrated with six or more full-page plates in
    tint. Cloth, 12mo, with decorative cover,
    per volume, 60 cents



(unless otherwise indicated)

  =Our Little African Cousin=
  =Our Little Alaskan Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Arabian Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little Armenian Cousin=
  =Our Little Australian Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Brazilian Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Brown Cousin=
  =Our Little Canadian Cousin=
          By Elizabeth R. MacDonald
  =Our Little Chinese Cousin=
           By Isaac Taylor Headland
  =Our Little Cuban Cousin=
  =Our Little Dutch Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little Egyptian Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little English Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little Eskimo Cousin=
  =Our Little French Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little German Cousin=
  =Our Little Greek Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Hawaiian Cousin=
  =Our Little Hindu Cousin=
                 By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little Hungarian Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Indian Cousin=
  =Our Little Irish Cousin=
  =Our Little Italian Cousin=
  =Our Little Japanese Cousin=
  =Our Little Jewish Cousin=
  =Our Little Korean Cousin=
                 By H. Lee M. Pike
  =Our Little Mexican Cousin=
               By Edward C. Butler
  =Our Little Norwegian Cousin=
  =Our Little Panama Cousin=
                 By H. Lee M. Pike
  =Our Little Persian Cousin=
                    By E. C. Shedd
  =Our Little Philippine Cousin=
  =Our Little Porto Rican Cousin=
  =Our Little Russian Cousin=
  =Our Little Scotch Cousin=
                By Blanche McManus
  =Our Little Siamese Cousin=
  =Our Little Spanish Cousin=
            By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
  =Our Little Swedish Cousin=
                By Claire M. Coburn
  =Our Little Swiss Cousin=
  =Our Little Turkish Cousin=

    New England Building,     Boston, Mass.

[Illustration: MPUKE]

    Our Little African Cousin

    Mary Hazelton Wade

    _Illustrated by_
    L. J. Bridgman


    L. C. Page & Company

    _Copyright, 1902_



    _All rights reserved_

    Published, June, 1902
    Sixth Impression, August, 1908
    Seventh Impression, October, 1909


FAR away, toward the other side of the round earth, far to the east and
south of America, lies the great continent of Africa. There live many
people strange to us, with their black skins, kinky, woolly hair, flat
noses, and thick lips. These black people we call Africans or negroes,
and it is a little child among them that we are going to visit by and

Different as these African people of the negro race are from us, who
belong to the white race, they yet belong to the same great family, as
we say. Like all the peoples of all the races of men on this big earth,
they belong  to the human family, or the family of mankind. So we shall
call the little black child whom we are going to visit our little black

We need not go so far away from home, indeed, to see little black
children with woolly, kinky hair and flat noses like the little African.
In the sunny South of our own land are many negro children as like the
little negro cousin in Africa as one pea is like another. Years and
years ago slave-ships brought to this country negroes, stolen from their
own African homes to be the slaves and servants of the white people
here. Now the children and great-grandchildren of these negro slaves are
growing up in our country, knowing no other home than this. The home of
the great negro race, however, is the wide continent of Africa, with its
deserts of hot sand, its parching winds and its tropical forests.

So, as we wish to see a little African cousin in his own African home,
we are going to visit little black Mpuke instead of little black Topsy
or Sammy, whom we might see nearer by.

It's away, then, to Africa!


    CHAPTER                         PAGE
       I. THE BOY                     9
     III. WORK AND PLAY              23
      IV. THE ELEPHANT HUNT          28
       V. SONG AND STORY             35
      VI. THE BATTLE FEAST           46
    VIII. THE GORILLA                60
      IX. THE GORILLA HUNT           70
       X. THE RACE OF DWARFS         76
      XI. HOW THE DWARFS LIVE        79
     XII. SPIDERS                    85
    XIII. LAND-CRABS                 93

List of Illustrations


  MPUKE                                              _Frontispiece_
  THE VILLAGE                                                   21
  HUNTING ELEPHANTS                                             29
  "HE SAT DOWN ON HIS HAUNCHES"                                 74

Our Little African Cousin



ARE you ready for a long journey this morning? Your eyes look eager for
new sights, so we will start at once for Mpuke's strange home. We will
travel on the wings of the mind so as to cross the great ocean in the
passage of a moment. No seasickness, no expense, and no worry! It is a
comfortable way to travel. Do you not think so?

Yes, this is Africa. Men call it the "Dark Continent" because so little
has been known of it. Yet it is a very wonderful land, filled with
strange animals and queer people, containing  the oldest monuments, the
greatest desert, the richest diamond mines, in the world.

Some of the wisest people in the world once lived here. Large libraries
were gathered together, thousands of years ago, in the cities of this

Yet the little negro whom we visit to-day is of a savage race. He is
ignorant of civilised ways and customs. He knows nothing of books and
schools. I doubt if he even knows when his birthday draws near; but he
is happy as the day is long; his troubles pass as quickly as the April

Let us paint his picture. We must make his eyes very round and bright
and black. The teeth should be like the whitest pearls. His head must be
covered with a mass of curly black wool. His lips are red and thick,
while his skin is black and shining. He is tall and straight, and has
muscles of which any boy might well be proud. He is not bothered by
stiff collars or tight shoes. He is not obliged to stay in the house
when he has torn a hole in his stocking, or ripped his trousers in
climbing a tree, because he does not own any of these articles of

From morning until night, and from night until morning again, he is
dressed in the suit Mother Nature provided for him,--his own beautiful
glossy skin. She knew well that in the hot land near the equator, where
Mpuke was born, he would never feel the need of more covering than this.

One of the first things Mpuke can remember is the daily bath his mother
gave him in the river. In the days of his babyhood he did not like it
very well, but gave lusty screams when he was suddenly plunged into the
cold water. Yet other babies and other mothers were there to keep him
company. It is the custom of his village for the women to visit the
shore every morning at sunrise to bathe their little ones. What a
chattering and screaming there is as one baby after another receives his
ducking! Then, spluttering and choking and kicking, he is laid up on the
bank to wriggle about on the soft grass, and dry in the sunshine. Now
comes a toss upon mother's back, and the procession of women and babies
hastens homeward through the shady pathway.

It lies in the very heart of Africa, this home of Mpuke's. The houses
are so nearly alike that we almost wonder how the black boy can tell his
own from his neighbour's. It can more properly be called a hut than a
house. It has low walls made of clay, and a high conical roof thatched
with palm leaves. There is not a single window; the narrow doorway faces
the one street running through the village. A high wall is built all
around the settlement. There are two reasons for this: in the first
place, the wild animals must be kept out, and secondly, the village is
protected in case another tribe of black people should come to make war
upon it. It is sad that it is so, but we know that the negroes spend
much of their time in fighting with each other.

There is a small veranda in front of Mpuke's home. It is roofed with the
long grasses which are so plentiful in this country, and is a
comfortable place for the boy to lie and doze during the hours of the
hot midday. The house itself nestles in a grove of banana-trees and
stately palms. It makes a beautiful picture. I wish we could take a good
painting of it home to our friends.

Look! here comes Mpuke's father. He is the chief of the village, and all
the people bow before his greatness and power. We must show proper
respect to such an important person, so please don't laugh, although he
is certainly an amusing sight.

He is a strong, well-built man, but his body is coloured in such a
ridiculous fashion with white and yellow chalk that it reminds us of the
clowns at the circus. The braids of wool on his chin look like rats'
tails, and others stick out at the sides of his head from under his tall
hat of grass. He has a string of charms hanging around his neck; he
thinks these will protect him from his enemies, for he is a great
warrior. His only clothing is a loin cloth made from the leaves of the
pineapple-tree. His good wife wove it for him. His eyebrows are
carefully shaved. As he walks along, talking to himself (the negroes are
always talking!) he is trying to pull out a hair from his eyelashes with
his finger-nail and knife.

This odd-looking man was chosen by the people to be their chief because
he is so brave in fighting and so skilful in hunting. He has had many a
battle single-handed with an angry elephant or furious panther. He has
killed the cobra and the gorilla. He could show you the skulls of the
enemies he has slaughtered in battle. He bears many scars beneath that
coat of chalk, the marks of dangerous wounds he has received.

Mpuke honours and fears his father, and hopes in his boyish heart that
he may grow up to be a chief like him, and have as many daring
adventures. His greatest pleasure is in the mock battles which he has
with the other boys of the village. Each one must be provided with a
wooden spear and a blunt knife before he is ready for the game. Then the
boys gather in the open field they use for a playground. This sport is a
serious thing; it is a training for the hard fighting which is sure to
come later in their lives. The boys rush at each other as if in dead
earnest. Hours sometimes pass before either side gains a victory.



WHEN the first rays of the morning sun find their way through the
tree-tops, the village wakes up. It is the best part of the day in any
land, but especially in all tropical countries. The women come hastily
out of the doorways, and prepare to get breakfast. All the cooking must
be done out-doors, and soon a row of fires can be seen burning brightly
in front of the houses. Mpuke's mother is very busy. She must boil the
manioc pudding and bake some hippopotamus meat for a hearty meal.

Manioc takes the place of flour with the black man. It looks somewhat
like the potato, but the bulbs are not ready to gather till the plant
is about fifteen months old. It is a very stringy vegetable. The women
gather it in baskets and sink them in the river for a few days. They
must stay there until the vegetables have fermented. This fermentation
makes them mealy; it also makes it easy to draw out the tough fibres.
The manioc is afterward kneaded into dough and made into round puddings,
which are boiled several hours.

Mpuke's mother is a careful cook. When her manioc pudding is taken from
the fire it is snowy white. It is a wholesome dish, and Mpuke is very
fond of it. You may not agree with him unless you like sour milk; for
the pudding has a flavour very much like that.

As soon as the meat is cooked, it is cut up and placed in earthen jars,
a quantity of pepper is added, and palm oil poured over it to make a
rich gravy.

The men eat their breakfast first. When it is finished they sit around
under the trees while the women and children satisfy their hunger. The
manner in which these people eat is not at all nice, but we must always
remember they have never been taught a better way.

There is no table to set; no knives, or forks, or spoons. The savages
use only the kind they carry around with them, furnished by Mother
Nature when they were born.

They gather around the jars and take out the pieces of meat with their
fingers, sopping up the gravy with the manioc bread. Now for some palm
wine to quench their thirst. The meal is quickly over. We are glad, for
it has not been pleasant to watch.

Both men and women join in a friendly smoke. From the laughing and
chattering they must be having a merry time.

But it is growing warm as the sunshine finds its way through the
foliage, and there is much work to do before the stifling noon hours.

[Illustration: THE VILLAGE]

The women and children hurry away to their plantations of sweet
potatoes, or groundnuts (peanuts), or tobacco. Some of the men get their
spears and bows and arrows for hunting. Others prepare nets for fishing
in the river. Every one is so busy that the village suddenly becomes

We will follow Mpuke on his way to the blacksmith, who is also the
dentist in this little settlement. "What," we say, "is it possible that
a savage knows how to fill teeth?" We discover that his work is of a
very different kind from that of any dentist we ever met in white man's
land. His business is to grind the beautiful white teeth of the people
till they are wedge-shaped. Mpuke is going to his hut to-day for this
very purpose. His father has a small looking-glass he bought from the
white traders, and when Mpuke is a good boy he is allowed to take it and
look at himself for a few minutes. He will take great delight in
viewing his teeth after they have been ground to the fashionable
shape. There is some danger of his growing vain over the compliments he
will receive. In the eyes of his own people he is a handsome boy, and
needs only the finishing touch to his teeth to make him a beauty.

It is to be hoped that he will not become a dandy when he grows up. His
mind, however, is very busy in thinking of warfare and hunting, and he
is inclined to scorn the men who think too much of their looks.

See! There is one of the village dandies, now. He is strutting along
like a peacock, and expects every one to stop and look at him. He has
spent a long time in plastering his hair with clay well mixed with palm
oil. The oil is fairly dripping from his face and neck now. We certainly
can't admire this style of beauty, so we will turn our attention to the
hut on the other side of the road.

The man in the doorway is busy at his work. He is shaping jars and
dishes out of clay. Some of the jars are beautiful in shape. Wouldn't
you like to buy one of them? A few beads or a bit of bright calico would
pay him well, according to his ideas.

Hark! There is the sound of a hammer. Let us take a peep inside of this
next hut; we must discover what is being done here. A metal-worker is
making armlets and anklets of copper. They will find a ready sale in the
village, for no woman considers herself well-dressed unless she is able
to wear a number of such ornaments. She is willing to work very hard on
the plantation if she can earn enough jewelry to make a rattling noise
and a fine display as she walks along.



THE dentist works steadily for an hour or so upon Mpuke's teeth; but he
grows warm and tired, and says he has done enough filing for one
morning. The boy has been very patient and has not uttered a sound of
complaint during the painful operation. But now he is delighted to be
free, and hurries off to the shore of the river to work on the canoe he
is building. His father helped him cut down a large tree, but he is
doing all the rest of the work alone. He has worked many days in
hollowing out the trunk of the tree. He has shaped it into a narrow,
flat-bottomed boat. The paddles are beautifully carved, and there is
very little left to be done now except the making of the sail.

That is easy work. The long grasses are already gathered, and he sits on
the bank of the river weaving them into a large, firm mat. This will
serve as well as canvas for the sail.

What pleasure he will take in this canoe! Many a day he will spend in
it, sailing along under the shade of the tall trees which line the
river's banks. Many a fish he will catch and bring to his mother for the
next meal. He delights in the sport, and does not seem to mind the
myriads of gnats and mosquitoes which would send us home in a hurry.

But the black boy's life is not all play. He has had regular work to
perform from the time when he began to walk alone. He must learn to make
the rattan war shields, shape spears for battle, and weave nets for
trapping fish and game. In fact, Mpuke must be ready to help his elders
in all their occupations.

The boy has a sister who is nine years old. She looks very much like her
brother, and has the same happy disposition. She has many duties, but
they are quite different from her brother's.

She is a good cook, young as she is. She can broil a buffalo steak to
perfection; it is her work to gather the insects and caterpillars which
are considered dainties at the feasts of the black people. She weaves
the mats on which the family sleep at night. She helps her mother raise
the tobacco, and gathers the peanuts and stores them away for the rainy

But let us go back to the river, where Mpuke is giving the finishing
touch to his sail. As he turns his head to get a cooling breeze, it
brings to his nostrils the smell of the dinner cooking in the village.
He knows he must not be late at meal-time, and, besides, he has a good
appetite for each of the day's three hearty meals.

He hurries down the path, thinking of the favourite dish his mother has
promised him to-day. Do you care to taste it? It is boiled crocodile.
The broth is seasoned with lemon juice and Cayenne pepper. "How kind my
mother is," thinks Mpuke, "to cook such savoury messes. There are few
boys so fortunate as I am. I will try to be a good son, and, if the
white traders ever come this way again, I will buy her a chain of beads
long enough to wind three times around her neck."

With these thoughts the boy reaches home, but the whole village is in a
state of much excitement; great news has just been brought by one of the
men. He has discovered a herd of elephants feeding in a forest swamp
only a few miles distant. He says that he counted at least a hundred of

The black people know that the elephant's sleeping time is from about
eleven in the morning till three or four in the afternoon. It is the
time that the people themselves take for rest; but to-day there is no
noonday nap for Mpuke's village.

Dinner is eaten in haste. The men rush in and out of the houses getting
their spears, bows, and poisoned arrows in readiness. The chief orders
his assistants to get out his treasured elephant gun. It is the most
valuable possession in the village. A small fortune (as the black people
count) was given for it to the white traders. The chief's eyes shine, as
he says to himself: "This shall bring down an elephant to-day."



MPUKE is wildly delighted when he finds that he may go on the hunt. But
he is warned to be very quiet; he must not even whisper as the party
creeps through the dense forest.


The hunt will be a failure unless the elephants are taken by surprise
while they are sleeping. The men know that the wind is in their favour,
since it is blowing from the elephants toward them. Otherwise, the
keen-scented creatures would quickly discover the approach of their

Listen! do you hear that queer noise? It is the champing sound the
elephants make in their throats when they are asleep. The hunters creep
nearer and nearer; more and more and more carefully, if possible,
they turn aside the thick undergrowth of trees and bushes. Ah! Mpuke's
father is within a dozen yards of the herd. He looks keenly about till
he discovers a huge tusker; he gives a signal to two of his followers to
bring up the gun. It is carefully placed and aimed at a spot in the
elephant's forehead about four inches above the eyes. It is a vital
spot. Two of the best marksmen of the party direct their poisoned arrows
at the heart. If all succeed in reaching the parts aimed at there will
be nothing to fear. But if the huge creature is only slightly wounded,
woe to Mpuke and this company of men who are taking their lives in their
hands at this moment! A maddened elephant is a fearful creature to

Hush! Steady now! Bang! sounds the gun. At the same moment the arrows
are let loose from the bows. The bullet was aimed well. It enters the
exact spot intended. The arrows do their work. The king of the forest
rolls over on his side without a sound. There is not even a death
struggle, but there is a sudden commotion among the rest of the herd; it
is as though a whirlwind had arisen. Every animal is instantly awake;
the herd closes together like a great army. There is an angry uproar, a
tremendous trumpeting and bellowing; the forest echoes and re-echoes
with the sound. The ground shakes beneath their feet. Madly plunging
through the forest, the elephants flee in an opposite direction from the
men. As they rush onward, great limbs of trees are torn off as though
they were only straws.

Suppose they had turned toward the hunters, instead of from them! It is
useless to think of it,--for this time, at least, no one has been
harmed. And now the men gather around their prey lying lifeless on the

"Owi?" ("Is it dead?") Mpuke anxiously whispers. His father assures him
of the fact, and allows the boy to take part in cutting the flesh away
from the monstrous prize.

In a few moments the women of the village appear, carrying baskets. They
have followed the party at a distance; they knew their help would be
needed if any prey were secured.

The hunt has been a marvellous success. It often happens that hunters
are obliged to wait in the underbrush for hours before they can get near
enough for a good shot, or to gain such a position as to be able to cut
the sinews of the sleeping elephant's legs with their spears, for this
makes the animal helpless.

But the safest and most common way of hunting elephants is to dig
immense pits near their feeding-grounds. These are covered over with
branches. The unwary elephant who comes this way makes a false step,
and falls helpless into the pit. It is an easy matter then for the men
to approach and kill him, either with their spears or bows and arrows.

But we must turn again to Mpuke and his companions. It is not long
before the busy workers have removed all the flesh, and packed it in the
big baskets. The monstrous ears must be saved; they will be useful to
take the place of carts in harvest time. Two of the strongest men are
loaded with the ivory tusks; they must be kept to sell to the traders.

The party hurries homeward, chattering in childish delight over the fun
they will have this evening. They leave behind them only the skeleton of
the huge animal which two hours since was so powerful.

As soon as they reach the village the boys are put to work. They must
dig a pit, and bring wood to fill it. A fire must be kindled and kept
burning till the sides of this earthen oven are thoroughly heated. After
this the fire is put out, and one of the elephant's legs is laid in the

The women bring green wood and fresh grass to lay over the roast, after
which the hole is plastered tightly with mud. But the queer oven is not
yet closed tightly enough. The loose earth taken from the pit is piled
high above it, so that no heat can possibly escape.

You wonder how long the people must wait before their roast can be
served. It will be a day and a half, at least; but when the time does
come to open the pit the cooks will find enough tender, juicy meat to
furnish every one in the village with a hearty meal.

The leg of an elephant is the most eatable portion of the animal; the
rest of the flesh is tough and fibrous, although the negroes eat it,
and enjoy it very much. The women smoke it, much as our people smoke
ham, and in this way they can keep it a long time for use.



IT has been a busy day for every one. In the short twilight the people
gather about under the trees for music and story-telling. Mpuke runs to
his house for his xylophone, and begins to play a sweet, sad air. One by
one his neighbours join in an accompaniment with their rich voices. The
African is a natural lover of music; he uses it to express all his

It is a weird sight,--this group of black people rocking their bodies to
and fro to keep time with the music. As they enter more deeply into the
spirit of the evening song the expressions of their faces change; they
seem to forget themselves, and become a part of the music itself.

And now the frogs add their voices to the chorus. The crickets and
cicadas pipe their shrill notes, while at short intervals a hoarse
sound, between a groan and a whining bark, is wafted upwards from the
river. It comes from a lonely crocodile who, no doubt, would like to
join the company. It is much better for their comfort that he remains
where he is.

Mpuke's xylophone is made of strips of soft wood, differing in length,
fastened over a set of calabashes. In each calabash a hole has been
carefully bored and covered over with spider's web. Perhaps you mistook
the calabash for a gourd, which looks much like it. It is a curious
growth which forms on the trunks of certain trees near Mpuke's home.

Our little friend makes sweet liquid music on his crude instrument. He
calls it a marimba. The village metal-worker made it for the boy in
return for many presents of fish.

"That is a good lad," said the man, "he is thoughtful and generous. I
will make him happy."

After the people have finished their songs, there is music on other
instruments besides Mpuke's. Look at that big fellow blowing into an
ivory horn. He needs to have a strong pair of lungs if he is going to
continue very long. What a dirge-like noise he makes! But when the
tom-tom begins to sound, everybody is roused and joins in a wild dance.

The people wind in and out among the trees, round and round again,
laughing, shouting, and singing, until they sink out of breath on the

Mpuke is so tired he can hardly keep his eyes open. He drags himself
into the hut where his sister lies on her mat, already sound asleep.
Listen! what is that scuttling noise among the dried leaves in the
corner? Mpuke's bright black eyes are helped by the moonlight streaming
through the doorway. He discovers that it is a green lizard, which he
knows to be quite harmless. But it is always wise to be watchful.

One night, not many moons ago, as the black boy counts time, he found a
centipede close to his bare feet when he woke up suddenly in the night.
He is quite sure that a good spirit roused him to save his life.

At another time a lizard of the most deadly kind must have shared the
boy's mat with him through the night. At any rate, he found the lizard
at his side when his eyes opened to the morning light.

But Mpuke is too sleepy to think about unpleasant things, and in another
moment he is dreaming of the roasted elephant that will make to-morrow's

A week passes by. We will visit Mpuke once more as he is eating his
early breakfast.

A messenger from the next village comes rushing in to the people. He has
run ten miles this morning through the forest paths, and has brought
word to Mpuke's father from his own chief. The two men are
blood-brothers, and have promised to stand by each other in all troubles
and dangers. "Blood-brothers," you say, "what does that mean?" When the
chiefs were only boys they went through a sacred ceremony together. An
arm of each was cut till the blood ran, then the two arms were pressed
together, and the blood was allowed to mingle.

They must never quarrel again. No cruel words or deeds should ever pass
between them, because they are now bound together by the strongest of
all ties.

But what is the message that causes such a state of excitement? It tells
that enemies are approaching. It means war, and preparation for awful
deeds. Mpuke's father is asked to come to the help of his blood-brother.
Will he join him to meet the advancing foes?

There is only one answer possible; not a moment must be lost. The order
is given to sound the war-drums; the people burst into an exciting
battle-song; blasts from ivory trumpets can be heard throughout the
village; the men cover their faces with charcoal and hastily seek the
medicine-man. He must provide them with charms to protect them from
danger. Poor fellow, he is the busiest one of all the people, making
little packages of beads, shells, and stones for each soldier to wear as
a talisman.

The women are at work getting the spears and arrows together; they must
also sharpen the knives for their husbands and sons.

These ignorant savages make a hideous sight to our eyes when the fury
of war seizes them. It is such a pitiful thing that they are ready to
take the lives of their brother blacks for the slightest reason, and
that they delight so greatly in war.

Now the men hurry down to the river's side. They jump into their canoes,
and are out of sight as soon as they pass a bend in the banks of the
stream. Mpuke watches them with glistening eyes; he longs to follow
them, but he has been told to remain at home to protect his mother and
sisters in case of danger.

He knows already what war means; it was only last year that his own
village was attacked. Young as he was, he stood all day behind the
spiked wall, sharpened spear in hand, doing his part to defend his home.
He was wounded in the leg on that terrible day, and for a long time
afterward lay sick with fever. His sister was so good to him during
that trying time; hour after hour she sat at his side on the veranda,
and kept the flies and mosquitoes from his wound with a broom she made
of an elephant's tail.

Mpuke thinks of this as he goes home through the forest path. Suddenly
he stops quite still; his eyes roll in terror. A huge serpent lies
coiled but a few feet away; he does not notice Mpuke, for his beadlike
eyes are fastened on a monkey standing on the ground in front of him.
The snake is charming it. He will force it to its own death, and yet he
does not stir; it is the monkey that moves. It comes nearer and nearer
to the monster; it makes a frightened cry as it advances.

Mpuke knows he cannot save its life, as he has no weapon with which to
attack the serpent. He would like to run, but does not stir until the
monkey, having come close to its charmer, is suddenly strangled in the
folds of its powerful body. The boy does not wait to see the snake
devour his prey, but hurries homeward, without once daring to turn

The fires have all been put out. The women and children are talking in
whispers. They wish to make as little noise as possible while the men
are away, lest they be attacked by wild beasts or some passing band of

Night comes; there is no sound of returning warriors. Mpuke sits in the
doorway of his home, listening; his mother and sister are beside him. It
draws near midnight, and yet there is no sleep for the anxious watchers.

Hark! faintly at first, then more and more plainly, the fighting song of
the returning warriors is borne to them on the evening wind. And now
they can hear the sound of paddles and shouts of boisterous laughter.

The men must have been victorious or they would not come home so gaily.
There are but a few more minutes of waiting before the black heroes
enter the village. We call them heroes, for that is the way their
families think of them.

The men are tired, excited, and stained with blood. They are bringing
home two of their comrades wounded, and the dead body of another. They
have six prisoners taken from the enemy. These poor wretches are bound
with ropes; they know their fate too well. They are now slaves, and must
hereafter do the hardest work for their new masters.

The customs of their own settlement are different from those of Mpuke's
village. They will suffer from homesickness, and will have many new
things to which they must get used.

It seems strange to us that in travelling a short distance in the heart
of Africa the people are found to differ from each other so much in
language, habits, and even dress. For, scanty as it is, the style of
decoration of one tribe varies greatly from that of another.

For instance, in Mpuke's home we know it is the fashion to have
wedge-shaped teeth, while not far away the people think that a really
beautiful person must have the teeth pointed. In one village the women
wear wooden skewers pierced through their noses; in another, their
principal ornaments consist of metal rings in the ears, and metal
armlets, anklets, and bracelets.

Among some tribes, the men's hair is braided in queer little tails,
while others have it knotted at the back of the head and at the chin in
tight bunches.



IT is the day after the battle. Mpuke's father orders his people to
celebrate the victory. He tells them to prepare a great feast, as his
blood-brother, Ncossi, is invited to come and bring his people.


A great deal of work must be done before the feast is ready. Some of the
villagers prepare their nets to catch a certain fish that is rare and
delicate. Others get their canoes ready for a hippopotamus hunt; still
others search for young monkeys. They must also get a kind of snake that
makes a delicious stew.

The children are sent through the fields and woods to gather the rarest
and choicest insects. The country is scoured in all directions. The
feast will surely be "fit for a king," at least an African king.

The great day comes at last, and the chief Ncossi arrives. He is dressed
in the greatest splendour. A chain of leopards' teeth is wound around
his neck; a great war knife hangs at his side. One of his cheeks is
painted red and the other yellow. The heads of wild animals are tattooed
upon his arms. He wears on his head a tall, tattered, beaver hat, for
which he must have paid a great price to some trader. He is a hideous
object, yet, as he struts along, his followers look upon him with the
greatest admiration, and keep exclaiming: "Look at our beautiful chief!
Look at our beautiful chief!"

The mouths of the visitors water as they behold the pots boiling over
the great fires, and the savoury odours of the meats greet their

How glad they are that they have been invited to the fine banquet
promised here! They act like happy children out for a holiday. There is
no sign in their faces of the cruel side of their natures which showed
itself in the battle a few days ago.

And now they gather in a circle on the grass, and begin to devour the
good things the cooks spread before them.

Will you share with them this dish of boiled smoked elephant? It is
coarse and stringy; I fear you will not care for a second piece,
although every one pronounces it delicious. The roasted monkey is fat
and tender. You will enjoy it more if you do not allow yourself to think
of its resemblance to a baby. The stewed buffalo ribs served with lemon
juice and Cayenne pepper are fine, while we should not disdain the
turtle soup if it were brought us in the best hotel in America.

The side dishes at this feast are the queerest we have ever
seen,--frizzled caterpillars, paste of mashed ants, and toasted
crickets. Palm oil has been freely used in the crocodile stew and
elephant gravy.

Mpuke's friends and relatives are enjoying themselves hugely. They
gobble the good things in the most remarkable manner. They are so busy
that they are almost silent. They drink large quantities of palm wine as
well as the fermented juice of the baobab-tree. Palm wine is very
pleasant and refreshing when it is first made. To-morrow, after the
visitors have left, Mpuke will show us how to obtain it. He is an
obliging little fellow, and will willingly climb a tall palm-tree to the
very top, bore deep holes in the wood, and fasten gourds into which the
juice will drip. We should drink it at once, before it changes into the
sour, intoxicating liquor drunk so freely at the feast.

Not many days after the celebration, the rainy season began. During
this period the rain does not fall all day long, but comes down in
torrents for an hour or two every morning.

Very little hunting is done now, but there are such good supplies of
smoked elephant and buffalo meat it is not necessary.

Mpuke wakes up one morning with great pain in his head, and it does not
go away after he gets up. He says to himself, "I am afraid some bad
spirit bewitched me while I was dreaming last night." But he says
nothing about his bad feelings to his mother. He is afraid she will
think of the sleeping sickness. He does not want her to worry, so he
will wait awhile and perhaps the pain will go away.

The sleeping sickness is the most terrible visitor in an African home.
There is little hope for the one who has it. Sometimes the sufferer is
ill for a few weeks only, but again he may linger for a year before
death comes.

The illness begins with a severe headache; next comes swelling of the
body, like dropsy; in the last stage, the dying person dozes or sleeps
all of the time.

With our little Mpuke, a day and a night pass and his headache grows
worse and worse. His body is first hot and feverish, then shivering with
a chill. His mother begins to notice how slowly he moves, and how hard
it seems for him to do his work.

"You must lie on your mat in the hut, my dear one," she says to the boy.
"The charm doctor shall be sent for; he will drive away the evil spirit
that is making my child so sick."

The black woman has a strange belief; she thinks that evil beings are
always near, ready to work harm. She spends much time in protecting her
family and herself from these evil powers by repeating charms and going
through queer ceremonies.

She teaches her children to fear spirits in the air, in the water, in
the trees, in the ground; at every movement they look for possible
trouble from beings they cannot see, yet imagine to be following them.
If it were not for such a foolish belief, the black people would be very
happy; but they have one protector to whom they turn in all their
troubles. They believe that he can drive away the evil spirits; he can
bring health to the sick man; he can make charms to ward off the attacks
of wild beasts; he can even control the winds and the waters.



WHEN the crops begin to dry up, it is the medicine-man who has the power
to bring rain; when fever visits the settlement, his herbs and charms
are alone of any use in relieving suffering. Therefore, when Mpuke
becomes ill, the medicine-man is immediately visited.

His hut stands a little apart from the others in the village. It is very
seldom that an outsider is allowed to enter the sacred (?) place. After
Mpuke's mother has wrapped up her little son, and placed him on his mat,
she hastens to the home of the charm doctor, carrying an offering of
tobacco and palm wine to the great man.

As she draws near the hut, he appears in the doorway. He wears many
chains of metal rings about his body. Funny little packages are tied to
the rings, and are supposed to possess the power of working wonders.
Feathers of different kinds of birds are sticking out of the packages,
while a doleful clanging is made by iron bells at every movement of the

When told of Mpuke's sickness, he goes back into the hut and puts on his
tall hat of panther's skin. He takes some herbs and wonder-working
charms from a dark corner, and comes out looking very solemn and quiet.
He rarely speaks to Mpuke's mother as she reverently follows him to her
own home.

In a few moments he is standing by the black boy's side. He makes some
weird and mysterious motions, and tells Mpuke that he is driving away
the evil spirit that has taken hold of his body. He gives the anxious
mother a charm made from the hairs of an elephant's tail; this is to be
fastened around the boy's neck. She is told to repeat certain words many
times a day, and to draw a circle with ashes around the hut to keep bad
spirits from returning.

But this is not all that is to be done for the cure of the boy; for the
doctor really does know many good uses of herbs. He has discovered that
the use of one of these is almost sure to break up a fever like Mpuke's,
so he steeps a large dose of this medicine, to be taken during the next
three days. Then he goes away as quietly and solemnly as he came; the
villagers bow before him in awe as they pass him on his way.

Mpuke is soon strong and well. What cured him? Did the doctor really
have the power to drive spirits away? Or was it the medicine the boy
swallowed? Of course, his mother believes nothing could have been done
without the magic charms, but those who are wise must see that if the
herb tea had not been made and swallowed, Mpuke would most likely be
still burning with fever.

But Mpuke is now well and strong, glad to be out once more in his canoe;
eager to look for honey in the wild bees' nests; chasing the monkeys
from the banana-trees; feeding his chickens, and doing a hundred other
things beside all these.

But the chickens we hardly recognise as such, they are such poor,
scrawny things, with their bodies and feathers all awry; and when
Mpuke's mother prepares a chicken stew, the meat is so dry and tasteless
that it seems scarcely worth eating. What can be the reason that the
African chicken is so much poorer than the American bird? Perhaps it is
because it is tormented by such numbers of insects.

This reminds me of something that once happened at Mpuke's home. One
night, in the midst of sound sleep, they were suddenly attacked by an
army. There were millions, yes, billions, in that army, yet it made no
sound as it drew near. It had travelled many miles through fields and
forests, and Mpuke's home happened to be in the line of march. That is
the reason it was attacked.

For a few moments the sleepers were in a state of great excitement.
There was much scuffling, screaming, scratching, and running about. Then
all was quiet once more, and the family returned to their mats and

The strange army was not one of human beings, but, nevertheless, it
caused fear and trembling while it stayed. It was composed of ants, much
larger than any we have ever seen in our own country. They were under
the orders of generals who marched at the sides of the advancing
columns. Each ant knew his place and duty. He was ready to bite any
living creature that barred his way; and it was a fierce bite, too, for
a piece of flesh was taken out each time before he let go.

For some reason unknown to us, the ants were changing their
camping-ground and moving to another part of the forest. Such a small
thing as Mpuke's home must not be allowed to stand in their way, so they
passed through it, and took the people inside by surprise.

"Ouch!" screamed Mpuke, as he woke up to find himself covered by these
wise but uncomfortable insects. Then, one after another, the boy's
father, that brave warrior, his mother, his sister, and himself, fled
from the hut as though a pack of hyenas were after them.

When morning came the ants had departed, but not an insect was left
alive in the house. The fat spiders that had spun comfortable webs in
the dark corners were now skeletons, a baby lizard lay lifeless in the
doorway, and many crickets had fallen victims to the resistless
invaders. Worse still! when Mpuke looked for his pet chicken, nothing
was left of it save bones and feathers.

Paul Du Chaillu, an African explorer, has written very interesting
accounts of the ants found in that country. The wisdom of these little
creatures fills us with wonder. Small as they are, they travel in such
numbers that even the wild beasts of the forest hasten to get out of
their way. They are not fond of the sunlight, and when marching in the
day-time they prefer to stop in their journey and dig a tunnel
underground rather than pass over an open plain.



BUT we will leave the ants and their wonderful ways for the present, as
we wish to follow Mpuke, whose mother has sent him a long way from home
to gather some pineapples. The boy's sister carries a large basket on
her head to hold the fruit. Pineapples allowed to ripen fully where they
grow are much nicer than those picked while still a little green in
order to stand the long journey to us. They are so tender that when
Mpuke has cut off the top of one he can scoop out the pulp and eat it as
though it were oatmeal porridge. And it is so sweet and juicy! It is no
wonder the children were glad to go on their errand.

They play hide and seek among the bushes as they run along; they laugh
and chatter and joke without a thought of fear, they are so used to the
forest. Besides, Mpuke carries a bow and arrow in his hand to be ready
in case of need.

They soon reach the place, but discover that some one has been there
before them. The fruit lies scattered over the ground. The children look
about them in alarm; they speak in low tones instead of the noisy
chatter of the moment before.

"Mpuke, do you think a gorilla is near us?" whispers his sister, and the
next instant there is a loud crackling and trampling of the bushes.

Ten yards away stands the fiercest, wildest looking creature one can
imagine. She is covered with dark, almost black, hair; standing on her
short hind legs she is taller than most human beings.

How long her arms look, as she beats her breast in anguish! She does
not notice the children hiding behind the trunk of a tree. She is
looking down on the ground where her dead baby is lying. Has a passing
hunter shot it during its mother's absence, or did it sicken and die? We
do not know; we can only listen, breathless, to the mother's cry, too
horrible to be described. See! she lifts the dead body in her arms and
moves away.

When travellers in the Dark Continent first brought home accounts of
this largest and most fearful of the ape family, people could scarcely
believe in the truth of their statements, but now every one admits the
gorilla to be the king of the African forest.

As soon as the frightened children reach home and tell their adventure,
a party of the best huntsmen starts into the forests. If there is one
gorilla in the neighbourhood, there must be more. No fruit is safe now;
the village itself is not secure so long as the dreaded brutes are
near. Besides these reasons for killing them, the people consider the
brain of a gorilla the most powerful charm that can be used against
one's enemies.

While the hunters are gone, we will listen to a legend Mpuke's mother is
telling her children. It shows how the power of a man's mind can conquer
even the strength of a gorilla.


My children, this is a story of a far-distant tribe of our race. It was
told me by my mother, and she in turn listened to it at her mother's
knee. I cannot tell you how old it is, but it is very ancient.

Once upon a time there was a certain king who was very rich and
powerful. He had many children, but they were all daughters, and this
made him feel exceedingly sad. He longed for a son to take his place
when he should die. At length, after many years, he was delighted at the
birth of a baby boy.

The child grew rapidly into a strong, bright little fellow, and the
king's heart was wrapped up in him. His father strove to gratify his
smallest wish, and even divided with him his power over the kingdom. Of
course the boy became proud and vain. He was quite spoiled by the
flattery of his subjects and his father's lavish presents.

One day, as he was sitting under a tree with a circle of youths about
him, he said:

"Oh, how fortunate a boy I am; there is nothing my father would refuse
to give me. There is not another youth in the world like me!"

He had no sooner finished speaking than one of his boy subjects dared to
make answer: "Sir Prince, there is one thing your father would refuse
to give you, if you should ask for it, because he could not do it."

"What do you mean?" asked the proud prince, indignantly.

"It is the moon," was the answer.

The young prince went at once to the king and said: "My dear father, you
have never in my life refused me anything, and yet I have even now been
taunted that if I were to ask it, you would not be able to get the moon
for me. Must I endure this? Say that you will obtain it."

The king was troubled. It seemed that it would be impossible for him to
satisfy his child for the first time, and he could not bear it. He sent
criers throughout the country to call the wise men of his kingdom
together, that he might ask their advice.

When they were all assembled, and heard that the king desired them to
find a way by which the moon might be brought down to the prince, they,
too, were troubled. They feared the king was going crazy; at least all
of the wise men but the one who seemed to be the youngest. He turned to
the king and slowly said:

"O King, there is a way by which this thing may be done, but it requires
long and great work. All the men of the country will be needed in
cutting down the forest and shaping timber. All the women will be needed
to plant the gardens, raise crops, and cook food for the men. All the
children will be needed to make bark rope to tie the timbers in place,
and to hand things to the builders. For, O King, this is my plan:

"Yonder mountain is very high, and I propose that a scaffold be built to
cover its entire top; that a smaller scaffold be built on that; a still
smaller, on that; and so on, until the moon is reached. Then it can be
lifted down and brought to your son."

The king did not hesitate as to what he should do. He began at once to
act upon the wise man's plan.

All the men in the country went to work cutting down the forest and
putting up the scaffold. All the women set to work to cook for the
workmen and to plant new gardens. All the children were kept busy making
the bark rope and in running errands for their parents.

A month passed; the first scaffold had been built, and yet another upon

Two months,--and now the top of the tower could no longer be seen by the
multitude at the foot, for the people of all the countries round about
had gathered there to watch the strange work.

Three months, four months, five months were gone, and the head workmen
sent word down that now the moon was within easy reach.

At last it was whispered that the king, who had climbed to the top, was
about to seize the moon and bring it down to earth. More people, from
still greater distances, gathered at the foot to behold the great event.

What happened, my children? At first the moon could not be budged from
its place; but then more force was applied. Lo! there was a cracking and
snapping, as of a tremendous explosion. A river of fire came flowing
down the scaffolds, which were quickly burned, together with all the
people upon them, and most of those gathered at the foot of the

Most wonderful of all, those few grown people who did escape were
changed into gorillas, while the children that were saved were
transformed into monkeys.

My children, when you look at the moon on bright nights, you will notice
dark spots upon it, where the shoulders of the strong man who tried to
move it from its place were pressed against it.

Let this lesson be learned from my story: It is not well to gratify all
the wishes of children; but only such as the parents think wise and good
for them.



AFTER many hours the hunters return. They have a wonderful tale to tell
of what they have seen and done. Mpuke's father is the story-teller. The
black faces of the listeners are very still, and all eyes are turned
toward him as he speaks. He says:

"My people, we hunters went away from this village very quietly, as you
all know. We did not wish the creatures of the forest to hear us as we
crept along, one behind another. Our enemies, the gorillas, must not
learn of our approach.

"We went on and on, farther and farther to the east. There was no path;
we broke off twigs and leaves from the trees and scattered them along
on the ground, so we should be able to find our way home again."

Here the whites of the chief's eyes grew larger and rounder as he rolled
them about in his head, and looked from one to another of his listeners.
Then he continued:

"As we moved on through the forest, we stopped from time to time to
listen. But there was no sound of the great gorillas' feet stamping upon
the ground. There was no shaking of the limbs of trees. They could not
be there.

"At last we came out of the forest into a wooded marsh. The mud was so
deep that our feet sank far in at every step. It was a very bad place
for us if we should need to run, but it was the very spot gorillas would
like if they were in search of dinner, for there were great numbers of
bushes loaded with berries, of which, you know, the fierce gorilla is
very fond, as well as of other fruits and nuts.

"Hark! there was a sound of tramping feet. The ground trembled, and
straight ahead of me I counted one, two, three full-grown gorillas. Two
of their children were following them. They were moving along through an
open space in the bog. Now they went on all fours, and again they would
raise their great bodies and walk along, even as we do ourselves.

"They looked around, now and then, turning their ugly, wrinkled faces
toward me, but they had not discovered us. How sharp and wicked their
eyes were! What long and powerful arms they had! They stopped beside the
bushes and began to eat the berries.

"Mpuke, you would have enjoyed watching a mother gorilla feed her child.
She would pick a berry, and then make a queer kind of chuckle to call
her little one. He would run to her, and spring up into her arms. She
would show her love by moving her thin black hand over his body, and
pressing him to her breast. Then down he would jump again, or squat
between her legs, while she picked more berries and handed them to him.

"Oh, those gorillas are strange and fearful creatures! But the time had
come to let them know we were near by. Bang! went my gun, and the shot
went straight into the breast of the mother gorilla. She fell over on
her side, with a sharp cry. All the rest fled among the trees except a
father gorilla, who rose up on his hind legs. At the same time he gave a
fearful roar, and beat his breast, as though he were daring us to attack
him. Before he had a chance to spring among us, whizz! flew the arrows
from the bows of our brave hunters, and a moment after he lay lifeless
on the ground.

"We waited a long time in the place, hoping the other gorillas would
come back, but not a single one appeared. The sun was getting low in
the sky, so we started homeward. It would not be wise to stay in that
damp, wild place after dark.


"We returned to the forest, and began to pick out our way. It was hard
to find the tracks we had made on our way east. We had not gone far
before I saw a dark object moving toward a high tree ahead of us. I gave
the sign to halt. Was it another gorilla? No, it was not large enough,
and I could see it had a bald, black, shiny head.

"It must be a chimpanzee. He reached the tree and climbed it, hand over
hand. When he had found a comfortable crotch, he sat down on his
haunches, and put one long arm around a branch of the tree, to hold
himself in place. He must have come up here to rest for the night.

"He was just about to close his eyes, when one of our hunters made a
slight noise in the bushes. Before we could fire, the startled
chimpanzee had sprung from the tree and disappeared into the darkness of
the forest. You well know how shy the creatures are. They are not as
bold as gorillas, and will never fight if they can avoid doing so.

"But our story is not yet ended. I am very tired. Gombo, will you tell
my people what we discovered as we nearly reached the village?"



THE great chief leaned back against a tree-trunk, while Gombo went on
with the tale of the day's adventures.

He told the astonished company that not a mile away was a camp of the
strangest beings his eyes had ever beheld. He had heard of them and
their ways from his own parents, but they had never wandered into this
part of the country before.

They belonged to the race of dwarfs, and the very tallest one among them
was hardly more than four feet high. Their hair grew in little tufts, or
bunches, all over their heads; that of the women was no longer than the
men's. Their upper lips were thick, and hung out over their mouths.
Their skin was a reddish black, and their cheek-bones were high. And the
children! They were such tiny, tiny things.

When they saw Mpuke's people, they huddled together like a pack of dogs,
and hid their heads. A mother pigmy held a baby. She looked like a
child, while it seemed as though the baby must be a doll in her arms.

These queer little people were cutting down branches and making ready to
build their huts. The men came out to meet the hunters, carrying tiny
bows and arrows. They made signs that they would like to become friends.
They had heard of the banana plantation in Mpuke's village. They were
willing to help the chief in his wars and catch game for his people if
they could be paid in bananas.

Do you suppose the black hunters laughed at the idea of help from this
group of tiny people? Indeed not. They had heard many stories of the
great skill of the dwarfs with the bow and arrow, and of their great
daring. They had heard, too, how much harm they could do if they took a
dislike to a tribe or person. They knew it was wise to make friends with
the little people.

Although they were very tired, they joined in a dance to show their
good-will. But the pigmies had no music. One of their number beat time
by striking a bow with an arrow while the others strutted around in a
circle. They looked comical enough, for they kept their legs very stiff
and made their faces as solemn as possible. The hunters would have
laughed if they dared. It was certainly odd to call that dancing. They
pitied the tiny savages, with no musical instruments and no idea of
tunes or songs.



"HOW do these queer little people sleep?" asks Mpuke, as Gombo stops for
a moment in his story. "Don't they have any houses to protect them
during the storms? And what kind of clothes do the men and women wear? I
don't see that they have a chance to make many things, since they move
from place to place so often."

"Dear me," answers the hunter, "you forget, Mpuke, what I said about
their house-building when we found them. People of other tribes have
told me that their houses are like beehives. They gather long, elastic
branches, and bend them over into a curved roof for the house, fastening
the ends to the ground. The longest branches are placed over the middle
of the house. Shorter ones are laid on each side, and afterward the
whole roof is covered with leaves.


"The doorway is so low one has to creep into the house on his hands and
knees, and all he finds inside is a bed made of sticks. That cannot be
very comfortable or soft, can it, Mpuke?

"Their only clothing is an apron of palm leaves, which is very easily
made. Oh, these queer little folk have an easy time of it, but I should
not wish to live as they do. They have no bread, for they plant no
manioc. They keep a fire burning as long as they stay in a place, so
they can roast the game they shoot or trap. But that is the only cooking
they ever do."

"How do they light their fires?" asks the curious Mpuke.

"They hunt around in the ground till they find two pieces of flint,
and strike them together till they get sparks, just as I would myself,"
the hunter answers.

"Do you think they will steal from us unless we watch carefully?" asks
one of the women, anxiously. "If they are thievish, I must hide my
ornaments in the ground when we are to be away from the village."

"Do not be afraid," Gombo quickly replies, "for every one says they are
very honest, and scorn a theft. To be sure, it would not be a strange
thing for a pigmy to shoot his arrow into the centre of a cluster of
bananas, as a sign that when it ripens it shall be picked by him alone.
But if he should do such a thing he would bring you enough game to pay
for it. On the other hand, it would not be well for you to dare to pick
a bunch that he has marked in this way, even though it is on your own
tree, and he has never asked you for it. He would feel insulted if you
should touch it, once he has claimed it for his own.

"These little people are good friends, but bad enemies, and we must show
ourselves kind neighbours. As to your bracelets and anklets, you need
have no fear whatever. The dwarfs do not seem to care for ornaments.
Even their women do not try to look beautiful."

Gombo stops a moment to rest. He notices that the night is growing late.
The chief rises and gives a signal for the people to scatter to their

Mpuke is soon in the land of dreams; but he is awake bright and early
next morning. He is anxious to visit his new neighbours, and get
acquainted with the children of the dwarfs. As soon as his early
breakfast is over, the black boy hurries away over the forest path, and
soon reaches the camp of the pygmies.

There is a fire in the hollow of a tree-trunk which the children are
tending. The men and women are busy making their little huts. There are
about thirty people in all. Mpuke makes signs of friendship, and smiles
at the boys and girls who are so tiny beside himself. They soon get over
their shyness, and show him their bows and arrows. One of the boys is
very proud of his skill, and well he may be. Mpuke envies him when he
sees him shoot one, two, three arrows in succession, so rapidly that the
third one leaves the bow before the first one reaches the mark. Mpuke is
a skilful archer, but he cannot shoot as well as the little dwarf.

"How do you fish?" he asks the children. "Do you use nets, or catch the
fish with hooks?"

They take their fishing-rods and go down to the river with him. He is
very much surprised when he sees them tie pieces of meat on the ends of
their lines, and dangle them in the water.

"They must be silly creatures," thinks Mpuke, "to believe they can catch
fish in any such way as that."

But he finds they are not silly. They are very skilful little fishermen;
they are so clever in their motions, and they give such quick pulls at
just the right moment, that they land fish after fish in a few minutes'

"I can learn a good many things from the dwarfs," thinks the boy. "I
will spend all the time I can with them as long as they stay in this
part of the country."

He bids them a pleasant good-bye, and scampers homeward to tell his
mother what he has seen. Our little black cousin soon reaches an open
space where the trees have been cut down. The grass is high and thick,
but he hurries along, trampling it under foot as he makes a path for



SUDDENLY Mpuke has a queer feeling about his bare legs, as though he
were caught in a net. Has any one been setting a snare here for birds or
rabbits? Surely not, or Mpuke would have heard of it. The boy's bright
eyes discover in a flash that he has entered the palace of an immense
black and yellow spider. At the moment of discovery he receives a sharp
sting on one of his bare legs.

"Ouch! ouch!" he cries, and jumps about in great distress.

Wicked as Mr. Spider looks, his bite is not dangerous, and Mpuke hurries
home all the faster now to get some cooling herbs from his mother. They
will soon take away the pain, and make the swelling go down.

Mpuke has watched the ways of spiders many times before, but always at a
safe distance. This king of spiders spins so strong a web that he can
even trap birds in it. He kills them by sucking their blood in the same
way he treats his other prey. As for beetles, flies, and wasps, it is
mere sport for him to end their lives, once they enter his castle.

It was only last week that Mpuke discovered a spider he had never heard
of before. It had its home in a burrow in the earth, shaped like a
tunnel. As the boy was lying under a tree, half curled up in the bright
sunshine, he saw a spider suddenly appear on the ground near by. It had
no web. It seemed as though the earth must have opened to let it out.

Mpuke was wide awake in an instant, for, as you know, he is always ready
to learn a lesson from his kind teacher, Mother Nature. He watched the
spider disappear into the earth again, at the very spot where it had
come out.

"Aha!" said the boy to himself, "I understand now, Mr. Spider. Your home
is underground, and you have made a trapdoor that swings as you push it.
You have covered it with earth so no one can find out where you live.
When you hear a noise of some one coming you creep out upon your prey."
At this moment the spider appeared again, and pounced upon a poor clumsy
caterpillar who was making his way slowly past his enemy's home. The
caterpillar was many times larger than the spider, but what of that? The
spider was quick and cunning in his motions; the caterpillar was strong,
yet clumsy. There were several minutes of hard fighting, during which
the spider gave several sharp bites and drew blood from his enemy.
Then, seizing him from behind, he drew him backwards down into his cell

Mpuke waited awhile before he dug open the spider's burrow. He found it
lying quite still and stupid; the caterpillar was dead and partly eaten.
Perhaps the spider felt dull after a big dinner; perhaps he was only
startled at having his home suddenly destroyed and laid bare in the

Many little gray spiders spin their webs in Mpuke's home, but his mother
would not destroy them for the world. They are great helpers in
destroying the insects which make it hard to rest comfortably at night.
There are ants of different kinds, mosquitoes in abundance, swarms of
flies, besides the great African cockroaches that make the walls creak
as they travel along their sides.

Mr. Spider is a real friend to the people because he is not afraid of
these creatures, although they are his enemies as well as Mpuke's.

The boy sometimes lies in bed and watches the battles fought by the
spiders. There is one old fellow whose web is spun near Mpuke's head. He
must be quite old, yet he is very quick, and always on the watch for his

"I believe he never sleeps," thinks the boy, "at least I never yet saw
his eyes closed. And, oh, my! what an appetite he has; although he eats
so much, yet he does not seem to grow any fatter."

Mpuke likes to tell his playmates of the way in which this old gray
spider mastered an immense roach. The roach was walking grandly along
one day, with no thought of any one interfering with his dignity, when
out pounced Mr. Spider from behind and jumped upon his back. It would
have been easy enough for the roach to walk off with his enemy, if the
spider had not clung with its hairy hind feet to the wall. They seemed
to have hooks on the ends and dug into the bark, holding the spider and
its prey in the spot where the attack was first made.

Now the battle began in earnest. They fought as fiercely as two
panthers. It sometimes seemed as though the roach would win the victory
and carry off the spider, but the latter managed to reach over to his
enemy's neck and give him a severe bite. The pain must have been great.
He grew weaker and weaker, and, after two or three more bites, he gave
up the battle. Mr. Spider had won a prize.

Some people say that it will be fair weather to-day because there are so
many fresh cobwebs on the grass. They do not know why that is a good
sign, but Mpuke knows. He has often watched spiders at work, and seen
the half-liquid substance drawn out from tiny tubes in the body. As it
reaches the air it hardens into the silk threads which are guided into
place by the spider's hind legs. This odd substance is made in an organ
called the spinneret, at the very end of the spider's body. He can draw
it out as he pleases, but it takes time to make it, so he is never
wasteful. He therefore does not spin a web unless he feels quite sure
the winds and rains will not spoil it. He has wonderful senses by which
he hears and feels things which are not heard or felt by human beings.
He rarely makes a mistake in his judgment of the probable weather.

Did you ever see a spider's web propped up by a tiny twig? The threads
are quite elastic, and after a time become stretched so that the web
sags. Then the clever little workman feels that it can be made to last
longer if it is strengthened. He looks around until he discovers the
right kind of prop, and puts it into place much as a carpenter
straightens a leaning building. The spider has certainly learned many
things in Mother Nature's workshop.

But how does Mpuke spend the afternoon after he has returned from the
camp of the dwarfs? He finds the women of the village starting on an
excursion after land-crabs.

"Would you like to go?" asks his mother.



THE black men are very fond of the meat of the crabs, but they think it
is woman's work to kill them. Mpuke is not so old, however, but that he
is willing to go with his mother. It is great sport to get the crabs
excited, and to see them, scuttling around, ready to attack their foes.
Their anger is really amusing, and Mpuke is not the least bit afraid of

There are many kinds of these land-crabs. Some have beautiful red
shells, while others are of a bright blue, but the ones best for eating
are gray.

The party carry baskets and sharp knives, and, going down to the river,
are soon paddling merrily along in their canoes. Mpuke entertains the
women by singing a funny song, and mimicking the ways of the little

Hark! what is that slow, swishing sound of the water? It may be a herd
of hippopotami bathing in the river. The women do not care to meet them,
so they look anxiously ahead. They see the heads of the hippopotami
reaching out of the water, but they are a long way ahead. They will
reach the island where the land-crabs are found before they come too
near the great beasts. The boats are soon drawn up on the low shore.
Each one carries a knife and basket, and the hunt begins.

The feet sink into the black mud at every step, but there are no fine
shoes to be spoiled, nor long dresses to hold up. The black women do not
seem to be troubled by the difficult walking, for no harm can befall

Mpuke goes ahead, and is the first one to find traces of the crabs. He
discovers a number of their burrows close together in the muddy soil.
And, look! here comes an old grandfather crab to meet him. The old
fellow brandishes one of his huge claws like a club, as if to say,
"Don't dare to touch me, sir, or I'll knock you down."

Back of the old grandfather comes a whole army of crabs, some big, some
little. There are fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, children, and
grandchildren. Some stand ready to fight, others run away in terror.
Mpuke and the women are as busy as bees, chasing and catching their

Watch our black cousin as he rushes upon this big crab. He strikes the
back of the creature with a stout stick, and partially stuns it by the
blow. At the same moment he seizes one of its great claws and tears it
skilfully from the body. It is done in an instant, and Mr. Crab is now
at his mercy.

But the next time Mpuke is not so successful. He strikes a good blow,
but the crab manages to get away, and scuttles toward his own burrow.
Mpuke springs forward, and knocks in his home, to the great amazement of
the crab. What shall he do? Every moment is precious. He rushes to the
burrow of a neighbour and tries to enter, but he is met by a pair of
claws as big as his own.

"How dare you enter my house in such a rude manner?" perhaps the other
exclaims, in crab language. His whole clumsy body follows the claws
outside, and Mpuke holds his sides and laughs as the two crabs enter
into a desperate fight.

At this moment there is a scream from one of the women. Her hand is held
tightly in the claw of the crab she has attacked. Mpuke rushes up to
her, and with one stroke of his knife cuts away the claw from the crab's
body. But, even now, the hand is held tightly, for the muscles of the
claw have not loosened their hold. The woman is faint with the pain,
and keeps on screaming until the claw has been pried open, and her
bruised hand bound in cooling leaves.

As for the crab, he hurries away as fast as possible to his own dark,
quiet home. There he probably consoles himself with the thought that a
new claw will grow in course of time, and take the place of the old one.

After an hour or two of busy work the baskets are filled, and the party
make their way safely to their homes. There were no accidents, and not a
single hippopotamus was seen.

The men are all home, and have great news to tell. Word has reached the
village that white traders are coming this way. Every one is excited.
The stores of ivory must be collected; the skins of the wild animals
must be collected together; while Mpuke and his young friends will spend
every spare moment in catching parrots and paroquets, and making cages
for them. The traders may buy them to carry to children in far-distant

Yes, Mpuke is delighted, above all else, that he may now be able to buy
some beads for his precious mother.

Perhaps the traders will tell such stories of their own country that
Mpuke will long to see it. It is even possible that they will grow fond
of the black boy during their stay in this village, and will invite him
to come to America with them. And perhaps he will accept the invitation.
Who knows?



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