Why The Hare's Nose Is Slit





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."





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