Once upon a time there was a young girl, who had the pretty name of Oello. I say, once upon a time, because I do not know when the time was,–nor do I know what the place was,–though my story, in the main, is a true story. I do not mean that I sat by and saw Oello when she wove and when she spun. But I know she did weave and did spin. I do not mean that I heard her speak the word I tell of; for it was many, many hundred years ago. But I do know that she must have said some such words; for I know many of the things which she did, and much of what kind of girl she was.
She grew up like other girls in her country. She did not know how to read. None of them knew how to read. But she knew how to braid straw, and to make fish-nets and to catch fish. She did not know how to spell. Indeed, in that country they had no letters. But she knew how to split open the fish she had caught, how to clean them, how to broil them on the coals, and how to eat them neatly. She had never studied the “analysis of her language.” But she knew how to use it like a lady; that is, prettily, simply, without pretence, and always truly. She could sing her baby brother to sleep. She could tell stories to her sisters all day long. And she and they were not afraid when evening came, or when they were in any trouble, to say a prayer aloud to the good God. So they got along, although they could not analyze their language. She knew no geography. She could count her fingers, and the stars in the Southern Cross. She had never seen Orion, or the stars in the Great Bear, or the Pole-Star.
Oello was very young when she married a young kinsman, with whom she had grown up since they were babies. Nobody knows much about him. But he loved her and she loved him. And when morning came they were not afraid to pray to God together,–and when night came she asked her husband to forgive her if she had troubled him, and he asked her to forgive him,–so that their worries and trials never lasted out the day. And they lived a very happy life, till they were very old and died.
There is a bad gap in the beginning of their history. I do not know how it happened. But the first I knew of them, they had left their old home and were wandering alone on foot toward the South. Sometimes I have thought a great earthquake had wrecked their old happy home. Sometimes I have thought there was some horrid pestilence, or fire. No matter what happened, something happened,–so that Oello and her husband, of a hot, very hot day, were alone under a forest of laurels mixed with palms, with bright flowering orchids on them, looking like a hundred butterflies; ferns, half as high as the church is, tossing over them; nettles as large as trees, and tangled vines, threading through the whole. They were tired, oh, how tired! hungry, oh, how hungry! and hot and foot-sore.
“I wish so we were out of this hole,” said he to her, “and yet I am afraid of the people we shall find when we come down to the lake side.”
“I do not know,” said Oello, “why they should want to hurt us.”
“I do not know why they should want to,” said he, “but I am afraid they will hurt us.”
“But we do not want to hurt them,” said she. “For my part, all I want is a shelter to live under; and I will help them take care of their children, and