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HOW THE DWARFS LIVE.
“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 homes.
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' time.
“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 himself.
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