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The Stories Of Oohoo The Wolf And Sher Abi The Crocodile

Source: The Sa'-zada Tales

"To-night," said Sa'-zada, the Keeper, "we shall have a story from
White Wolf of his home in the frozen North, and also one from Sher Abi,
the Crocodile, of the warm land in which he lived, Burma."

"I am glad there is to be a tale of the North-land," said Mooswa, "for
it's a lovely place."

"And Sher Abi is so stupid," added Magh the Orang, "that he's sure to
fall to boasting of some of his murders."

"There's little to choose between them in that respect," commented
Muskwa, "except that for cunning there is no one but Carcajou of the
same wit as Wolf."

"Thank you, Comrade," cried Oohoo, the Arctic Wolf; "those of my land
who are short of wit go with a lean stomach, I can tell you. But yet it
is just the sweetest place that any poor animal ever lived in."

"It is," concurred Mooswa; "forests of green Spruce trees----"

"Not so, Brother Tangle-leg," objected Oohoo; "true I have been within
the Timber Boundaries, but that was far to the south of my home. I
remember, once upon a time, thinking to better my condition, for it was
a year of scarce Caribou; I trailed down past Great Slave Lake to the
home of my cousin, Blue Wolf, who was Pack Leader of the Timber Wolves.
Ghurrh-h! but they led a busy life. Almost day and night they were on
the hunt, for their kill was small; a Grey Rabbit, or a Grouse, or a
Marten--a mere mouthful for a full-hungered Wolf.

"But in the Northland where one could travel for days and days over the
white snow and the hunt meant a free run with no chance of cover for
the prey, it was all a matter of strength and speed. Leopard has
boasted of the merit of his spotted coat for hiding in the sun-splashed
Jungle; and also Bagh has told how the stripes on his sides hide him in
the strong grass. But look at me, my Comrades----"

"You are pretty," sneered Magh.

"Here I am dirty brown," resumed Oohoo, paying no attention to the
taunt, "and what does that mean?"

"That you are dirty and a Wolf," answered Magh, innocently.

"It shows that I live in a dirty brown place," asserted Wolf. "We are
all dirty brown here."

"I'm not," objected Python.

"You would be if you didn't lie in the water all day; but, as I was
going to say, in that land of snow I was all white, and, by my cunning,
with a careful stalk I always got within a running distance of--of--I
mean anything I wanted to look at closely, you know."

"A Babe Caribou, I suppose," grunted Muskwa; "just to see how he was
coming on. Have I not said that he has the cunning of a great thief?"
Bear whispered to Hathi.

"But if he talks much the truth will come out," answered the Elephant.

"There were just three of us Plain Dwellers in all that great Barren
Land," proceeded Oohoo; "my kind, and Caribou, and Musk-Ox."

"Eu-yah! the Musk-Ox are cousins of mine," remarked Bison. "Queer taste
they have to live in that terrible land of rock and snow. What do they
eat, Oohoo? Surely the sweet Buffalo Grass does not grow there?"

"They do not mind the cold," answered Wolf; "they have the loveliest
long black hair you ever saw on any Animal. And under that again is the
soft grey fur----"

"Yes," interrupted Sa'-zada to explain, "the Musk-Ox seems to have
hair, and fur, and wool all on one pelt--much like a Sheep, and a Goat,
and a Bison combined."

"And as for eating," resumed Oohoo, the Wolf, "the rocks are thickly
covered with moss----"

"Engh-h-h! what a diet!" grunted Bison. "But you know of their manner
of life, Brother Wolf--you must have paid much attention to their ways.
Now in my land when Wolves came too close we gathered our Calves in the
center of the herd----"

"A most wise precaution," asserted Mooswa. "In the Calf time with us
the moan of the Wolf pack caused us to make ready for battle; the Grey
Runners seemed always in the way of a great hunger."

"And what of grass-eating for those cousins of mine, the Caribou--what
ate they?" sharply demanded Elk.

"Caribou have this manner of life," answered Oohoo. "Just at the end of
the great Cold Time all the Mothers go far into the Northland, for that
is the Calf time with them; and by the shores of the great Northland
water their Babe Caribou come forth in peace. And for food the Mothers
eat moss, even as Musk-Ox does, for there is nothing else. Near to the
coming of the Cold Time again the Mothers come back with their Calves,
and the Bulls, who have been in the Southland, meet them."

"Do you eat moss, Oohoo, the Wolf?" queried Magh.

"Am I a Grass-feeder? Did I eat my straw bedding and become ill, like a
wide-mouthed Monkey that I know of?"

"But have you not said, Brother Wolf, that in the Northland Musk-Ox and
Caribou eat moss because there is nothing else? Then what manner of
food do you find?"

"Ghurr-r-h! Eh, what?" gasped Oohoo, feeling that Magh had laid bare
his mode of life.

"Am I different from the others?" he snarled, seeing a broad grin
hovering about the mouth of even Sher Abi, the Crocodile. "Because I am
a Wolf, is there a law in the Boundaries that I shall not eat? Bagh,
and Pardus, and Python, and Sher Abi, they are the Blood Kind, and do
they eat moss or grass? Boar has said that all the evil of the Jungle
is fastened upon the Pig, and in my land it is the Wolf that is wicked.
This has been said by the Man, but are they not worse than we are? When
the hunger, which is not of my desire, comes strong upon me, I go forth
to seek food. I kill not Man; but if Caribou comes my way, and that
which is inside of me says to make a kill, shall I do so, or lie down
and die because of hunger? If a Wolf makes a kill, and feasts until his
hunger is dead, and lies down to sleep, and kills no more until he is
again hungered, it is all wrong, and evil words are spoken of him. But
the Men kill, and kill, never stopping to eat, showing that it is not
because of hunger--they kill until there is no living thing left; then
they boast together of the slaughter.

"I have seen this happening at Fond du Lac, which is a narrow crossing
between two lakes in my own land. There the Caribou pass when they go
to the Northland; and I have seen the Redmen killing these Moss-eaters
as they swam from land to land--killing them beyond all count. In the
Northland the Caribou were even as Buffalo on the Plains, they were
that many; and they came like a running river to the crossing at Fond
du Lac. The Men-kind were hidden behind stones, and when the Caribou
were in the water these Red Slayers followed in canoes, and killed with
their spears, and their knives, and their guns, until everything was
red with blood. Not that they needed the sweet flesh because of hunger,
for from many they took out the tongue, and left all the rest to rot.
We, who are Wolves, and of evil repute, are not so bad as the Men, I

"And also the killing of the Musk-Ox is by the Redmen," declared Oohoo.

"I am afraid we must believe that," muttered Magh, "for Musk-Ox is not
here, and it is a long way to the Northland for proof."

"Neither here nor in any other animal city are there Musk-Ox,"
explained Sa'-zada; "for none have been brought out alive."

"None!" added Wolf solemnly. "The Redmen say that if any are taken
alive the others will all pass to some other land as did Buffalo. Not
but that one of the White Men tried it once; but there is also a story
of Head-taking I could tell."

"Tell it," snapped Pardus; "one lie is as good as another when told of
a distant Jungle."

"Well I remember that year," began Oohoo. "It was colder than any
other time that I have memory of. We had gathered into a mighty Pack,
Comrades; all white we were--all but our Leader, who was Black Wolf.
And such hunger! E-u-uh, au-uh! I was almost blind because of the
hunger pains.

"The Caribou that should have passed did not come; why, I cannot say,
for it was their time of the year, the ending of the Cold Time."

"Were there no Musk-Ox?" insinuated Magh.

"A Wolf can make few kills of Musk-Ox," explained Oohoo, unguardedly;
"that is--I mean--a bad Wolf who might seek a Kill of that sort. They
are like Bison, or Arna, bunching up close in a pack with their
big-horned heads all facing out; and even if the circle is broken, what
then? their fur is so thick that it would take longer jaws than I have
to cut a throat."

"You've tried it, Oohoo," suggested Magh.

"No, I've heard of this matter," he answered. "But the story was this
way. That time two White Men came to the Big Lake----"

"Artillery Lake, I think," explained Sa'-zada.

"I know not, but it is a Big Water, and far north. And there they built
a shack."

"You were interested," remarked Muskwa.

"There were cousins of ours, the Train Dogs, with them, so I sometimes
went close for the chance of a chat----"

"The chance of a Pup, most likely," growled Gidar.

"Then one Man, with two Redmen and the Dog Train, went north after
Musk-Ox. Some of us followed, for we knew that where the Men were there
would be much killing, and much eating left for those of a lean
stomach. It might be that some of the Dogs would die of toil, and we
were that hungry, that starved, that even a Huskie would be sweet

"As you know, Comrades, there is no timber grows in all that land
beyond the Big Lake, so the Man carried a little wood in the Dog Sled
to make hot his drinking----"

"Tea," suggested Sa'-zada.

"Day after day he tramped to the North, not seeing anything to kill;
and all the time we were getting hungrier and leaner of stomach. At
night we would come close to the little tepee wherein the Hunter slept,
and I fear that something would have happened to him if it had not been
for the wisdom of our Leader, Black Wolf.

"'Wait, Pack Comrades,' he would say, 'there will surely be a kill of
many Musk-Ox. I know the way of the White Men--they come here but for
the shedding of blood.'

"But one night, being close to the edge of starvation, seeing one of
the Huskies come forth from the tepee, not knowing what I did--Ghur-rh!
I had him by the throat. Even now as I remember it, perhaps it was
another of the Pack that put his strong jaws on the Dog's gullet--yes,
I think it was another.

"'Ki, yi-i-i-i! E-e-eh!' he whined.

"'Buh!' loud the Firestick barked as the White Man smote at the Pack
with it.

"After a manner there was some eating that night, what with the Huskie
and three of our kind the Man slew with the Firestick."

"Cannibal!" exclaimed Magh in disgust.

"It was to save our lives," exclaimed Oohoo. "At last the White Man
came to a herd of Musk-Ox; but what think you of the temper Black Wolf
had when he saw that the Men-kind were not for making a big Kill at
all; just the matter of a Head or two to take back with them."

"Queer taste, sure enough," cried Cockatoo. "Now, if it had been a head
with a crest like mine----"

"Or even if it had been Magh's head," insinuated Pardus.

"Eu-wh, eu-u-u-h! to think that a Pack of famished Wolves had trailed
so far through the snow, holding back from a Kill of the Men-kind, and
to get--nothing! True, the Men killed for their own eating and the
Dogs', but what was that to a whole Pack? Buh-h-h! even now it makes me
laugh when I think of the manner we tore down the tepee one night, for
the Men had taken the eating inside to keep it from us.

"After that, having learned wisdom, they killed one of these fat
creatures for us each day. Ghurrh! but a bite!

"And from listening beside the tepee at night, I learned that the
Redmen were angry because of the Head-taking. These Forest-Dwellers
think, Comrades, that if they sell or give away the head of a Kill all
their strength in the hunt will depart."

"It's a wondrous good thing to believe, too," declared Coyote. "Many an
honest meal I've come by when I was woefully hungry through the matter
of a head stuck on a pole, or stump, as a gift to Matchi-Manitou. I
remember one particularly fat head of Muskwa--I mean--but you were
saying, Brother Oohoo, a most interesting happening of the Musk-Ox when
I interrupted you."

"So, when the Redmen knew that it was heads their White Comrade was
after, they were filled with anger, and a fear of the wrath of Manitou;
they declared that something of an evil nature would happen to them if
he took from that land the Heads. And, would you believe it, Comrades,
whether there was truth in the power of this Head-matter or not, I am
unable to say, being but Oohoo the Wolf, but two days from that time,
as they journeyed back toward the Big Water, they fell in with a large
Herd of the round-nosed Musk-Ox, and the Wind wrath came upon them. The
Redmen, thinking to stop the taking of Heads, talked to the
Moss-eaters in a loud voice, as though they were men, bidding them go
far over the Barren Lands and tell all the other Musk-Ox to keep away,
for here was a taker of Heads. But the White Man only laughed, and
killed a Bull Leader who had a beautiful long black beard, swearing
that such a Head was a prize indeed.

"Comrades, perhaps there is someone looking over the lives of Animals
who has power with the Wind and the White Storm. Of this I know not,
but it is a true tale that even as he cut the head from the dead
Moss-eater, such a storm as had not been in the memory of any Dweller
came with the full fury of a hungry Wolf Pack down upon that land. Like
Pups of one litter all of us Wolves huddled together, pulling the cover
of our tails over our noses to keep the heat in. We waited; and moved
not that day, nor that night, nor the next day, nor the night after
that again. Bitter as the storm was, I almost laughed at Black Wolf's
lament. 'Now the men will be dead and lost to us when we might have had
them,' he kept whimpering; 'there will be no more killing of Musk-Ox,
and we shall go hungry.'

"As we crawled out when the storm ceased, our Leader went to where the
snow was rounded up a little higher than the rest. 'Here is the
Musk-Ox,' said Black Wolf; 'let us eat.'

"I remember, as we dug at the snow there was a strong scent of Man. 'It
is the Hunter dead, I think,' Black Wolf said, poking his nose down
into the snow.

"But all at once, 'Buh!' came a hoarse call from the Firestick, and
Black Wolf, our Leader, 'E-e-he-uh!' fell over backward, dead. Then I
knew what it was. The Huntman had cut open the Musk-Ox, and crawling
inside, had kept his life warm through the fierce storm. But the Redmen
had gone. Whether they had died because of the storm, or trailed away
because of the Head-taking, I know not; but there they were not. Close
curled against the Musk-Ox had lain the Hunter's three Dogs, and they,
too, were alive.

"Then commenced such a trail of a Man, Comrades, as I, Wolf though I
am, never wish to see again. E-u-uh! eu-u-uh! but it was dreadful, for
in his face there was the Fear Look that Hathi has spoken of. Night and
day it was there, I think, for he dared not sleep as he hurried back
toward the Big Water. Being without a Leader, we were like a lot of
Monkeys, fighting and jangling amongst ourselves. Some were for killing
him, but others said, 'Wait, surely he will make a kill of Musk-Ox
again, and then we shall have eating--what is one Man to a Wolf Pack in
the way of food?'

"That day, coming up with a Herd, he shot two of the Moss-eaters, and,
as we ate of them, he trailed to the South; but that availed him
little, Comrades, for the swing of a Wolf's going is like the run of a
river; and when he camped that night we also camped there. And the next
day, and the next, it was the same; the Huntman pushing on with tiring
walk striving for his life, and, behind the Pack--some howling for a
Kill of the Man, and some fighting to save him that we might have
greater eating.

"It was the last day before we came to the Big Water. That day, being
full famished, for we had passed the land of the Musk-Ox--though to be
sure he had killed two Caribou for us--we ate his Dogs, and he was
fleeing on foot.

"I must say, Comrades, though I lay no claim to a sweet nature, yet I
wished not to make a Kill of the Man. But five times, as I remember it,
some of the Pack, eager for his life, closed in on him; and five times
with the Firestick he slew many of my Wolf Brethren. Comrades, he made
a brave fight to reach the shack."

"This is a terrible tale," cried Magh, excitedly. "Did he reach the
shack alive, Oohoo?"

"Yes, but would you believe it, Comrades, the White Man who had been
left behind, through being alone and through drinking much Firewater,
had become mad, even as I have seen a Wolf in the time of great heat;
and he knew not his Comrade, the Huntman, but called through the closed
door, 'Go away, go away!'

"'I am Jack,' called the Huntman.

"'Jack is dead!' yelped the Man who was mad. 'He is dead out in the
strong storm, and you are an evil spirit--go away! go away!'

"Oh, Hathi, it was dreadful, dreadful.

"'Let me in, Tom; I am Jack,' pleaded the Huntman who had come so far
through the snow; and, just beyond, we of the Wolf Pack waited, waited,

"Sa'-zada, the cry of the lone Wolf is not so dreadful as the yelpings
of the Man who was mad. Even we of the Wolf Pack moved back a little
when he called with a fierce voice. And he always answered: 'Go away!
You are an evil spirit. Jack is dead! But I did not kill him--Go away!'
And, Sa'-zada, though it is dreadful, yet it is true, he struck with
his Firestick full through the door, and killed the Man who was Jack.
And in the end he, too, died, and the Wolves buried them both after the
manner of Wolves."

"Chee-hough! it's a terrible tale," said Magh.

"It is true," answered White Wolf; "and all that is the way of my land
which is the Northland.

"In the Hot Time sometimes there are the little red flowers that are
roses, but in the long Cold Time it is as I have said, cold and a land
of much hunger. But it is my land--the Northland."

"Engh-h-hu!" sighed Sher Abi, opening his eyes as though just coming
out of a dream; "I had an experience one time very much like that,
Brother Wolf."

"Of a snow storm, Sher Abi?" queried Mooswa, doubtingly.

"No, my solemn friend, I know nothing of snow; I speak of having a Man
inside of one. As Sa'-zada has said, I think it's quite possible, and
I'm sure they must rest nice and warm, too."

"Did a Man cut you open, Magar?" sneered Magh.

"No, little Old Woman, he did not; he was busy that day taking off your
tail for stealing his plantains."

"Tell us about it, Magar," lisped Python. "Wolf's tale of his snow-land
makes me shiver."

"There is not much to tell," murmured Sher Abi, regretfully. "It was
all over in a few minutes, and all an accident, too; and, besides, it
was only one Man. You see, I was sunning myself on a mud bank in
Cherogeah Creek, when I heard 'thomp, thomp, thomp!' which was the
sound of a Boatman's paddle against the side of his log dug-out. I slid
backward into the water, keeping just one eye above it to see what
manner of traveler it might be. It was old Lahbo, a villager who often
went up and down that creek, so I started to swim across, meaning to
come up alongside of his canoe and wish him the favor of Buddha. As you
know, Comrades, all Animals love these Buddhists, for their Master has
taught them not to take the life of any Jungle Dweller.

"As I have said, I was swimming across the creek, when Lahbo, who must
have been asleep, suddenly ran his canoe up on my back. It was such a
light little dug-out, too, quite narrow, and being suddenly startled, I
jumped, and by some means Lahbo's canoe was upset. Poor old Lahbo! How
my heart ached for him when I heard him scream in the water."

"Oh, the evil liar!" whispered Magh in Hathi's ear.

"Hush-h!" whistled Elephant, softly, through his trunk; "Sher Abi was
ever like this; I know him well. It is just his way of boasting; he
knows nobody believes it."

"Poor Lahbo," continued Magar. "I swam quickly to help him, picked him
up tenderly in my jaws, and started for the shore. I would have saved
his life in another minute, but his cries had gone to the ears of some
Villagers, and they were now on the bank of the creek, and with two
Firesticks, also. I was in a terrible fix, Comrades; if I held my head
under water, poor Lahbo would drown; if I held it up, the Village Men
would kill me with the Firestick."

"How did it end, Saver of Life?" asked Pardus. "Did poor Lahbo ask you
to swallow him to save his life?"

"I really can't say what did happen," answered Sher Abi. "To this day
tears come into my eyes when I think of poor Lahbo. And it was all the
fault of the Villagers, for when the Firestick coughed, I think the
Man-fear, that Hathi has spoken of, came over him, for he commenced to
wriggle about so that I couldn't hold him. I was so careful, too, for
my teeth are sharp, and I was afraid of hurting him. But, anyway,
before I knew it, Ee-eh-he! he had slipped down my throat; poor Lahbo!
And do you know, Comrades, I'm a little afraid I'm not done with him
yet, for he had a big two-handed dah (sword) in his waist-band, and I
know that some of the pains I feel at times are due to that; there's
nothing so hard to digest as a Burmese dah. And to this day, Comrades,
sometimes when I'm jumping about it seems to me that bangles and rings
that are inside of me string themselves on that sword--I fancy at times
I can hear them jingle."

"How did you come to have bangles inside of you?" asked Magh most

"Engh-hu! little Moon-face, you make me very tired. If any one tells a
tale you try to put false words into his mouth."

"And bangles," snapped Magh.

"Who spoke of bangles?" asked Sher Abi. "I said not that they were
bangles, but that it was like that--the pains I mean. Perhaps even
Lahbo dropped the dah overboard, for all I know. And look here, little
one, Moon-faced Languar, if you doubt what I say, you may go inside and
see for yourself."

"How came you to this place, Sher Abi?" asked Mooswa. "Did the
Villagers catch you then?"

"Not that time. But once, hearing a Pariah Dog in great distress, I
thought he called to me for aid, even as poor Lahbo had done, so I swam
quickly to lend him help----"

"Poor Dog," jeered Magh.

"But it was all a vile trick of the Men-kind," declared Magar; "though
at the time, not knowing of this, I paid no heed to the matter. There
were two long rows of stakes in the water coming close together at one

"Lough-hu! I know," murmured Buffalo; "the walls of a stockade."

"Yes," sighed Sher Abi. "And as I pushed through the small end, the
poor Dog being just beyond, and in great distress, a big rope drew
tight about my neck, and before I could so much as object, many of the
Men-kind pulled me out on to the dry land. Then I was sent here to

"Well, well," murmured Hathi, "it seems to me that every Jungle-Dweller
thinks he's badly treated, but judging from all the tales I've heard I
think we've all got our faults--I think we're nearly as bad as the

"My people are not," objected Buffalo; "we never did harm to anyone."

"Neither did we," exclaimed Mooswa.

"Nor we," added Elk; and soon the clamor became general, all holding
that the Men-kind who killed almost every animal for the sake of
taking its life, and not because they were driven to it by lean
stomachs, were much worse than the Jungle-Dwellers.

"Well, well," decided Hathi, "it seems that most of you are against me,
anyway. I think Buffalo is right in what he says, but some of us have
done much wrong to the Men-kind----"

"Meaning me, of course," ejaculated Wild Boar. "I, who lay no claim to
being good, and who am counted the worst of all Animals, say, with
Buffalo, that the Men-kind have done more harm to me than I to them,
and have been of less benefit to me than I to them."

Then Sa'-zada spoke: "Comrades, this is a question that we can't
settle. If we were all like the Buddhists, and took no life except
because of great need, perhaps it would be better. But now you must all
go back to your cages and corrals to sleep."

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