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Rover of the Plain
by [?]

A long way off, near the sea coast of the east of Africa, there dwelt, once upon a time, a man and his wife. They had two children, a son and a daughter, whom they loved very much, and, like parents in other countries, they often talked of the fine marriages the young people would make some day. Out there both boys and girls marry early, and very soon, it seemed to the mother, a message was sent by a rich man on the other side of the great hills offering a fat herd of oxen in exchange for the girl. Everyone in the house and in the village rejoiced, and the maiden was despatched to her new home. When all was quiet again the father said to his son:

‘Now that we own such a splendid troop of oxen you had better hasten and get yourself a wife, lest some illness should overtake them. Already we have seen in the villages round about one or two damsels whose parents would gladly part with them for less than half the herd. Therefore tell us which you like best, and we will buy her for you.’

But the son answered:

‘Not so; the maidens I have seen do not please me. If, indeed, I must marry, let me travel and find a wife for myself.’

‘It shall be as you wish,’ said the parents; ‘but if by-and-by trouble should come of it, it will be your fault and not ours.’

The youth, however, would not listen; and bidding his father and mother farewell, set out on his search. Far, far away he wandered, over mountains and across rivers, till he reached a village where the people were quite different from those of his own race. He glanced about him and noticed that the girls were fair to look upon, as they pounded maize or stewed something that smelt very nice in earthen pots–especially if you were hot and tired; and when one of the maidens turned round and offered the stranger some dinner, he made up his mind that he would wed her and nobody else.

So he sent a message to her parents asking their leave to take her for his wife, and they came next day to bring their answer.

‘We will give you our daughter,’ said they, ‘if you can pay a good price for her. Never was there so hardworking a girl; and how we shall do without her we cannot tell! Still– no doubt your father and mother will come themselves and bring the price?’

‘No; I have the price with me,’ replied the young man; laying down a handful of gold pieces. ‘Here it is–take it.’

The old couple’s eyes glittered greedily; but custom forbade them to touch the price before all was arranged.

‘At least,’ said they, after a moment’s pause, ‘we may expect them to fetch your wife to her new home?’

‘No; they are not used to travelling,’ answered the bridegroom. ‘Let the ceremony be performed without delay, and we will set forth at once. It is a long journey.’

Then the parents called in the girl, who was lying in the sun outside the hut, and, in the presence of all the village, a goat was killed, the sacred dance took place, and a blessing was said over the heads of the young people. After that the bride was led aside by her father, whose duty it was to bestow on her some parting advice as to her conduct in her married life.

‘Be good to your husband’s parents,’ added he, ‘and always do the will of your husband.’ And the girl nodded her head obediently. Next it was the mother’s turn; and, as was the custom of the tribe, she spoke to her daughter:

‘Will you choose which of your sisters shall go with you to cut your wood and carry your water?’

‘I do not want any of them,’ answered she; ‘they are no use. They will drop the wood and spill the water.’