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Why The Hare's Nose Is Slit






Source: Outa Karel's Stories

The curtains had not yet been drawn nor the shutters closed, and little
Jan looked with wide serious eyes at the full moon sailing serenely in
the cold sky. Then he sighed as though thoughts too big for expression
stirred within him, and turned absently towards the purring fire.

"And why does the big man make such a sighing?" asked Outa Karel. "It
is like the wind in the mealie land at sun-under."

Little Jan's eyes slowly withdrew their gaze from some inward vision
and became conscious of the old native. "Outa," he said, "why is the
moon so far away, and so beautiful, and so golden?"

"Ach! to hear him now! How can Outa tell? It is maar so. Just like
grass is green and fire is hot, so the Moon is far away and beautiful
and golden. But she is a cruel lady sometimes, too, and it is through
her that the poor Little Hare runs about with a slit in his nose
to-day."

"Tell us, Outa." Little Jan dropped on to the rug beside the basket
of mealie-cobs, and the others edged nearer.

"And why do you call the Moon a lady?" asked Pietie of the inquiring
mind.

"But doesn't baasje know that the Moon is a lady? O yes, and for all
her beauty she can be cross and cruel sometimes like other ladies,
as you will hear."

"Long, long ago, when the world was quite young, the Lady Moon wanted
someone to take a message to Men. She tried first one creature and then
another, but no! they were all too busy, they couldn't go. At last
she called the Crocodile. He is very slow and not much good, but the
Lady Moon thought she would pinch his tail and make him go quickly. So
she said to him: 'Go down to Men at once and give them this message:
"As I die and, dying, live, so also shall you die, and, dying, live."'

"Baasjes know how the Moon is sometimes big and round----so"--and
Outa's diminutive hands described a wide circle and remained
suspended in the air--"like she is now in the sky. Then every night
she gets smaller and smaller, so--so--so--so--so----till----clap!"--the
crooked fingers come together with a bang--"there's no more Moon: she
is dead. Then one night a silver horn hangs in the sky--thin, very
thin. It is the new Moon that grows, and grows, and gets beautiful
and golden." By the aid of the small claw-like hands the moon grew to
the full before the children's interested eyes. "And so it goes on,
always living, and growing, and dying, and living again.

"So the Lady Moon pinched old Oom Crocodile's tail, and he gave one
jump and off he started with the message. He went quickly while the
Moon watched him, but soon he came to a bend in the road. Round
he went with a great turn, for a Crocodile's back is stiff like
a plank, he can't bend it; and then, when he thought he was out
of sight, he went slower and slower--drif-draf-drippity-drif-draf,
drif-draf-drippity-drif-draf, like a knee-haltered horse. He was toch
too lazy.

"All of a sudden there was a noise--sh-h-h-h-h--and there was the
Little Hare. 'Ha! ha! ha!' he laughed, 'what is the meaning of this
drif-draf-drippity-drif-draf? Where are you going in such a hurry,
Oom Crocodile?'

"'I can't stop to speak to you, Neef Haasje,' said Oom Crocodile,
trying to look busy and to hurry up. 'The Lady Moon has sent me with
a message to Men.'

"'And what is the message, Oom Crocodile?'

"'It's a very important one: "As I die and, dying, live, so also
shall you die and, dying, live."'

"'Ach, but that is a stupid message. And you can't ever run, Oom,
you are so slow. You can only go drif-draf-drippity-drif-draf like
a knee-haltered horse, but I go sh-h-h-h-h like the wind. Give the
message to me and I will take it.'

"'Very well,' said the lazy Crocodile, 'but you must say it over
first and get it right.'

"So Neef Haasje said the message over and over, and
then--sh-h-h-h-h--he was off like the wind. Here he was! there he
was! and you could only see the white of his tail and his little
behind legs getting small in the distance.

"At last he came to Men, and he called them together and said:
'Listen, Sons of the Baboon, a wise man comes with a message. By
the Lady Moon I am sent to tell you: "As I die and, dying, perish,
so shall you also die and come wholly to an end."'

"Then Men looked at each other and shivered. All of a sudden the
flesh on their arms was like goose-flesh. 'What shall we do? What
is this message that the Lady Moon has sent? "As I die and, dying,
perish, so shall you also die and come wholly to an end."'

"They shivered again, and the goose-flesh crept right up their backs
and into their hair, and their hair began to rise up on their heads
just like--ach no, but Outa forgets, these baasjes don't know how it
is to feel so." And the wide smile which accompanied these words hid
the expression of sly teasing which sparkled in Outa's dancing black
eyes, for he knew what it was to be taken to task for impugning the
courage of his young listeners.

"But Neef Haasje did not care. He danced away on his behind legs,
and laughed and laughed to think how he had cheated Men.

"Then he returned again to the Moon, and she asked: 'What have you
said to Men?'

"'O, Lady Moon, I have given them your message: "Like as I die and,
dying, perish, so also shall you die and come wholly to an end,"
and they are all stiff with fright. Ha! ha! ha!' Haasje laughed at
the thought of it.

"'What! cried the Lady Moon, 'what! did you tell them that? Child of
the devil's donkey! [7] you must be punished.'

"Ach, but the Lady Moon was very angry. She took a big stick, a
kierie--much bigger than the one Outa used to kill lions with when he
was young--and if she could have hit him, then"--Outa shook his head
hopelessly--"there would have been no more Little Hare: his head would
have been cracked right through. But he is a slim kerel. When he saw
the big stick coming near, one, two, three, he ducked and slipped away,
and it caught him only on the nose.

"Foei! but it was sore! Neef Haasje forgot that the Moon was a Lady. He
yelled and screamed; he jumped high into the air; he jumped with all
his four feet at once; and--scratch, scratch, scratch, he was kicking,
and hitting and clawing the Moon's face till the pieces flew.

"Then he felt better and ran away as hard as he could, holding his
broken nose with both hands.

"And that is why to-day he goes about with a split nose, and the
golden face of the Lady Moon has long dark scars.

"Yes, baasjes, fighting is a miserable thing. It does not end when
the fight is over. Afterwards there is a sore place--ach, for so
long!--and even when it is well, the ugly marks remain to show what
has happened. The best, my little masters, is not to fight at all."





Next: How The Jackal Got His Stripe

Previous: The Stars And The Stars' Road



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