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sacred milk of Koumongoe.

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Now Masilo had fallen in loved with Thakane the moment he saw her. At first he did not know what to make of this strange feeling, for all his life he had hated women, and had refused several brides whom his parents had chosen for him. However, they were so anxious that he should marry, that they willingly accepted Thakane as their daughter-in-law, though she did bring any marriage portion with her. After some time a baby was born to her, and Thakane thought it was the most beautiful baby that ever was seen. But when her mother-in-law saw it was a girl, she wrung her hands and wept, saying: 'O miserable mother! Miserable child! Alas for you! why were you not a boy!' Thakane, in great surprise, asked the meaning of her distress; and the old woman told her that it was the custom in that country that all the girls who were born should be given to the ogre to eat. Then Thakane clasped the baby tightly in her arms, and cried: 'But it is not the customer in MY country! There, when children die, they are buried in the earth. No one shall take my baby from me.' That night, when everyone in the hut was asleep, Thakane rose, and carrying her baby on her back, went down to a place where the river spread itself out into a large lake, with tall willows all round the bank. Here, hidden from everyone, she sat down on a stone and began to think what she should do to save her child. Suddenly she heard a rustling among the willows, and an old woman appeared before her. 'What are you crying for, my dear?' said she. And Thakane answered: 'I was crying for my baby--I cannot hide her for ever, and if the ogre sees her, he will eat her; and I would rather she was drowned than that.' 'What you say is true,' replied the old woman. 'Give me your child, and let me take care of it. And if you will fix a day to meet me here I will bring the baby.'

Then Thakane dried her eyes, and gladly accepted the old woman's offer. When she got home she told her husband she had thrown it in the river, and as he had watched her go in that direction he never thought of doubting what she said. On the appointed day, Thakane slipped out when everybody was busy, and ran down the path that led to the lake. As soon as she got there, she crouched down among the willows, and sang softly: Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out! And in a moment the old woman appeared holding the baby in her arms. Dilah had become so big and strong, that Thakane's heart was filled with joy and gratitude, and she stayed as long as she dared, playing with her baby. At last she felt she must return to the village, lest she should be missed, and the child was handed back to the old woman, who vanished with her into the lake. Children grow up very quickly when they live under water, and in less time than anyone could suppose, Dilah had changed from a baby to a woman. Her mother came to visit her whenever she was able, and one day, when they were sitting talking together, they were spied out by a man who had come to cut willows to weave into baskets. He was so surprised to see how like the face of the girl was to Masilo, that he left his work and returned to the village. 'Masilo,' he said, as he entered the hut, 'I have just beheld your wife near the river with a girl who must be your daughter, she is so like you. We have been deceived, for we all thought she was dead.' When he heard this, Masilo tried to look shocked because his wife had broken the law; but in his heart he was very glad. 'But what shall we do now?' asked he. 'Make sure for yourself that I am speaking the truth by hiding among the bushes the first time Thakane says she is going to bathe in the river, and waiting till the girl appears.'

For some days Thakane stayed quietly at home, and her husband began to think that the man had been mistaken; but at last she said to her husband: 'I am going to bathe in the river.' 'Well, you can go,' answered he. But he ran down quickly by another path, and got there first, and hid himself in the bushes. An instant later, Thakane arrived, and standing on the bank, she sang: Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out! Then the old woman came out of the water, holding the girl, now tall and slender, by the hand. And as Masilo looked, he saw that she was indeed his daughter, and he wept for joy that she was not lying dead in the bottom of the lake. The old woman, however, seemed uneasy, and said to Thakane: 'I feel as if someone was watching us. I will not leave the girl to-day, but will take her back with me'; and sinking beneath the surface, she drew the girl after her. After they had gone, Thakane returned to the village, which Masilo had managed to reach before her. All the rest of the day he sat in a corner weeping, and his mother who came in asked: 'Why are you weeping so bitterly, my son?' 'My head aches,' he answered; 'it aches very badly.' And his mother passed on, and left him alone. In the evening he said to his wife: 'I have seen my daughter, in the place where you told me you had drowned her. Instead, she lives at the bottom of the lake, and has now grown into a young woman.' 'I don't know what you are talking about,' replied Thakane. 'I buried my child under the sand on the beach.' Then Masilo implored her to give the child back to him; but she would not listen, and only answered: 'If I were to give her back you would only obey the laws of your country and take her to your father, the ogre, and she would be eaten.'

But Masilo promised that he would never let his father see her, and that now she was a woman no one would try to hurt her; so Thakane's heart melted, and she went down to the lake to consult the old woman. 'What am I to do?' she asked, when, after clapping her hands, the old woman appeared before her. 'Yesterday Masilo beheld Dilah, and ever since he has entreated me to give him back his daughter.' 'If I let her go he must pay me a thousand head of cattle in exchange,' replied the old woman. And Thakane carried her answer back to Masilo. 'Why, I would gladly give her two thousand!' cried he, 'for she has saved my daughter.' And he bade messengers hasten to all the neighbouring villages, and tell his people to send him at once all the cattle he possessed. When they were all assembled he chose a thousand of the finest bulls and cows, and drove them down to the river, followed by a great crowd wondering what would happen. Then Thakane stepped forward in front of the cattle and sang: Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out! And Dilah came from the waters holding out her hands to Masilo and Thakane, and in her place the cattle sank into the lake, and were driven by the old woman to the great city filled with people, which lies at the bottom.


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