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Our Little
African Cousin

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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?”

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