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Udea and Her Seven Brothers
by [?]

Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who had seven boys. The children lived in the open air and grew big and strong, and the six eldest spent part of every day hunting wild beasts. The youngest did not care so much about sport, and he often stayed with his mother.

One morning, however, as the whole seven were going out for a long expedition, they said to their aunt, ‘Dear aunt, if a baby sister comes into the world to-day, wave a white handkerchief, and we will return immediately; but if it is only a boy, just brandish a sickle, and we will go on with what we are doing.’

Now the baby when it arrived really proved to be a girl, but as the aunt could not bear the boys, she thought it was a good opportunity to get rid of them. So she waved the sickle. And when the seven brothers saw the sign they said, ‘Now we have nothing to go back for,’ and plunged deeper into the desert.

The little girl soon grew to be a big girl, and she was called by all her friends (though she did not know it) ‘Udea, who had driven her seven brothers into strange lands.’

One day, when she had been quarrelling with her playmates, the oldest among them said to her, ‘It is a pity you were born, as ever since, your brothers have been obliged to roam about the world.’

Udea did not answer, but went home to her mother and asked her, ‘Have I really got brothers?’

‘Yes,’ replied her mother, ‘seven of them. But they went away the day you were born, and I have never heard of them since.’

Then the girl said, ‘I will go and look for them till I find them.’

‘My dear child,’ answered her mother, ‘it is fifteen years since they left, and no man has seen them. How will you know which way to go?’

‘Oh, I will follow them, north and south, east and west, and though I may travel far, yet some day I will find them.’

Then her mother said no more, but gave her a camel and some food, and a negro and his wife to take care of her, and she fastened a cowrie shell round the camel’s neck for a charm, and bade her daughter go in peace.

During the first day the party journeyed on without any adventures, but the second morning the negro said to the girl, ‘Get down, and let the negress ride instead of you.’

‘Mother,’ cried Udea.

‘What is it?’ asked her mother.

‘Barka wants me to dismount from my camel.’

‘Leave her alone, Barka,’ commanded the mother, and Barka did not dare to persist.

But on the following day he said again to Udea, ‘Get down, and let the negress ride instead of you,’ and though Udea called to her mother she was too far away, and the mother never heard her. Then the negro seized her roughly and threw her on the ground, and said to his wife, ‘Climb up,’ and the negress climbed up, while the girl walked by the side. She had meant to ride all the way on her camel as her feet were bare and the stones cut them till the blood came. But she had to walk on till night, when they halted, and the next morning it was the same thing again. Weary and bleeding the poor girl began to cry, and implored the negro to let her ride, if only for a little. But he took no notice, except to bid her walk a little faster.

By-and-by they passed a caravan, and the negro stopped and asked the leader if they had come across seven young men, who were thought to be hunting somewhere about. And the man answered, ‘Go straight on, and by midday you will reach the castle where they live.’