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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.
HOW THE GORILLA CAME.
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 that.
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 mountain.
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.
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