Once there was a very poor man, named Haamdaa′nee, who begged from door to door for his living, sometimes taking things before they were offered him. After a while people became suspicious of him, and stopped giving him anything, in order to keep him away from their houses. So at last he was reduced to the necessity of going every morning to the village dust heap, and picking up and eating the few grains of the tiny little millet seed that he might find there.
One day, as he was scratching and turning over the heap, he found a dime, which he tied up in a corner of his ragged dress, and continued to hunt for millet grains, but could not find one.
“Oh, well,” said he, “I’ve got a dime now; I’m pretty well fixed. I’ll go home and take a nap instead of a meal.”
So he went to his hut, took a drink of water, put some tobacco in his mouth, and went to sleep.
The next morning, as he scratched in the dust heap, he saw a countryman going along, carrying a basket made of twigs, and he called to him: “Hi, there, countryman! What have you in that cage?”
The countryman, whose name was Moohaad′eem, replied, “Gazelles.”
And Haamdaanee called: “Bring them here. Let me see them.”
Now there were three well-to-do men standing near; and when they saw the countryman coming to Haamdaanee they smiled, and said, “You’re taking lots of trouble for nothing, Moohaadeem.”
“How’s that, gentlemen?” he inquired.
“Why,” said they, “that poor fellow has nothing at all. Not a cent.”
“Oh, I don’t know that,” said the countryman; “he may have plenty, for all I know.”
“Not he,” said they.
“Don’t you see for yourself,” continued one of them, “that he is on the dust heap? Every day he scratches there like a hen, trying to get enough grains of millet to keep himself alive. If he had any money, wouldn’t he buy a square meal, for once in his life? Do you think he would want to buy a gazelle? What would he do with it? He can’t find enough food for himself, without looking for any for a gazelle.”
But Moohaadeem said: “Gentlemen, I have brought some goods here to sell. I answer all who call me, and if any one says ‘Come,’ I go to him. I don’t favor one and slight another; therefore, as this man called me, I’m going to him.”
“All right,” said the first man; “you don’t believe us. Well, we know where he lives, and all about him, and we know that he can’t buy anything.”
“That’s so,” said the second man. “Perhaps, however, you will see that we were right, after you have a talk with him.”
To which the third man added, “Clouds are a sign of rain, but we have seen no signs of his being about to spend any money.”
“All right, gentlemen,” said Moohaadeem; “many better-looking people than he call me, and when I show them my gazelles they say, ‘Oh, yes, they’re very beautiful, but awfully dear; take them away.’ So I shall not be disappointed if this man says the same thing. I shall go to him, anyhow.”
Then one of the three men said, “Let us go with this man, and see what the beggar will buy.”
“Pshaw!” said another; “buy! You talk foolishly. He has not had a good meal in three years, to my knowledge; and a man in his condition doesn’t have money to buy gazelles. However, let’s go; and if he makes this poor countryman carry his load over there just for the fun of looking at the gazelles, let each of us give him a good hard whack with our walking-sticks, to teach him how to behave toward honest merchants.”
So, when they came near him, one of those three men said: “Well, here are the gazelles; now buy one. Here they are, you old hypocrite; you’ll feast your eyes on them, but you can’t buy them.”
But Haamdaanee, paying no attention to the men, said to Moohaadeem, “How much for one of your gazelles?”
Then another of those men broke in: “You’re very innocent, aren’t you? You know, as well as I do, that gazelles are sold every day at two for a quarter.”
Still taking no notice of these outsiders, Haamdaanee continued, “I’d like to buy one for a dime.”
“One for a dime!” laughed the men; “of course you’d like to buy one for a dime. Perhaps you’d also like to have the dime to buy with.”
Then one of them gave him a push on the cheek.
At this Haamdaanee turned and said: “Why do you push me on the cheek, when I’ve done nothing to you? I do not know you. I call this man, to transact some business with him, and you, who are strangers, step in to spoil our trade.”
He then untied the knot in the corner of his ragged coat, produced the dime, and, handing it to Moohaadeem, said, “Please, good man, let me have a gazelle for that.”
At this, the countryman took a small gazelle out of the cage and handed it to him, saying, “Here, master, take this one. I call it Keejee′paa.” Then turning to those three men, he laughed, and said: “Ehe! How’s this? You, with your white robes, and turbans, and swords, and daggers, and sandals on your feet—you gentlemen of property, and no mistake—you told me this man was too poor to buy anything; yet he has bought a gazelle for a dime, while you fine fellows, I think, haven’t enough money among you to buy half a gazelle, if they were five cents each.”
Then Moohaadeem and the three men went their several ways.
As for Haamdaanee, he stayed at the dust heap until he found a few grains of millet for himself and a few for Keejeepaa, the gazelle, and then went to his hut, spread his sleeping mat, and he and the gazelle slept together.
This going to the dust heap for a few grains of millet and then going home to bed continued for about a week.
Then one night Haamdaanee was awakened by some one calling, “Master!” Sitting up, he answered: “Here I am. Who calls?” The gazelle answered, “I do!”
Upon this, the beggar man became so scared that he did not know whether he should faint or get up and run away.
Seeing him so overcome, Keejeepaa asked, “Why, master, what’s the matter?”
“Oh, gracious!” he gasped; “what a wonder I see!”
“A wonder?” said the gazelle, looking all around; “why, what is this wonder, that makes you act as if you were all broken up?”
“Why, it’s so wonderful, I can hardly believe I’m awake!” said his master. “Who in the world ever before knew of a gazelle that could speak?”
“Oho!” laughed Keejeepaa; “is that all? There are many more wonderful things than that. But now, listen, while I tell you why I called you.”
“Certainly; I’ll listen to every word,” said the man. “I can’t help listening!”
“Well, you see, it’s just this way,” said Keejeepaa; “I’ve allowed you to become my master, and I can not run away from you; so I want you to make an agreement with me, and I will make you a promise, and keep it.”
“Say on,” said his master.
“Now,” continued the gazelle, “one doesn’t have to be acquainted with you long, in order to discover that you are very poor. This scratching a few grains of millet from the dust heap every day, and managing to subsist upon them, is all very well for you—you’re used to it, because it’s a matter of necessity with you; but if I keep it up much longer, you won’t have any gazelle—Keejeepaa will die of starvation. Therefore, I want to go away every day and feed on my own kind of food; and I promise you I will return every evening.”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to give my consent,” said the man, in no very cheerful tone.
As it was now dawn, Keejeepaa jumped up and ran out of the door, Haamdaanee following him. The gazelle ran very fast, and his master stood watching him until he disappeared. Then tears started in the man’s eyes, and, raising his hands, he cried, “Oh, my mother!” Then he cried, “Oh, my father!” Then he cried, “Oh, my gazelle! It has run away!”
Some of his neighbors, who heard him carrying on in this manner, took the opportunity to inform him that he was a fool, an idiot, and a dissipated fellow.
Said one of them: “You hung around that dust heap, goodness knows how long, scratching like a hen, till fortune gave you a dime. You hadn’t sense enough to go and buy some decent food; you had to buy a gazelle. Now you’ve let the creature run away. What are you crying about? You brought all your trouble on yourself.”
All this, of course, was very comforting to Haamdaanee, who slunk off to the dust heap, got a few grains of millet, and came back to his hut, which now seemed meaner and more desolate than ever.
At sunset, however, Keejeepaa came trotting in; and the beggar was happy again, and said, “Ah, my friend, you have returned to me.”
“Of course,” said the gazelle; “didn’t I promise you? You see, I feel that when you bought me you gave all the money you had in the world, even though it was only a dime. Why, then, should I grieve you? I couldn’t do it. If I go and get myself some food, I’ll always come back evenings.”
When the neighbors saw the gazelle come home every evening and run off every morning, they were greatly surprised, and began to suspect that Haamdaanee was a wizard.
Well, this coming and going continued for five days, the gazelle telling its master each night what fine places it had been to, and what lots of food it had eaten.
On the sixth day it was feeding among some thorn bushes in a thick wood, when, scratching away some bitter grass at the foot of a big tree, it saw an immense diamond of intense brightness.
“Oho!” said Keejeepaa, in great astonishment; “here’s property, and no mistake! This is worth a kingdom! If I take it to my master he will be killed; for, being a poor man, if they say to him, ‘Where did you get it?’ and he answers, ‘I picked it up,’ they will not believe him; if he says, ‘It was given to me,’ they will not believe him either. It will not do for me to get my master into difficulties. I know what I’ll do. I’ll seek some powerful person; he will use it properly.”
So Keejeepaa started off through the forest, holding the diamond in his mouth, and ran, and ran, but saw no town that day; so he slept in the forest, and arose at dawn and pursued his way. And the second day passed like the first.
On the third day the gazelle had traveled from dawn until between eight and nine o’clock, when he began to see scattered houses, getting larger in size, and knew he was approaching a town. In due time he found himself in the main street of a large city, leading direct to the sultan’s palace, and began to run as fast as he could. People passing along stopped to look at the strange sight of a gazelle running swiftly along the main street with something wrapped in green leaves between its teeth.
The sultan was sitting at the door of his palace, when Keejeepaa, stopping a little way off, dropped the diamond from its mouth, and, lying down beside it, panting, called out: “Ho, there! Ho, there!” which is a cry every one makes in that part of the world when wishing to enter a house, remaining outside until the cry is answered.
After the cry had been repeated several times, the sultan said to his attendants, “Who is doing all that calling?”
And one answered, “Master, it’s a gazelle that’s calling, ‘Ho, there!’”
“Ho-ho!” said the sultan; “Ho-ho! Invite the gazelle to come near.”
Then three attendants ran to Keejeepaa and said: “Come, get up. The sultan commands you to come near.”
So the gazelle arose, picked up the diamond, and, approaching the sultan, laid the jewel at his feet, saying, “Master, good afternoon!” To which the sultan replied: “May God make it good! Come near.”
The sultan ordered his attendants to bring a carpet and a large cushion, and desired the gazelle to rest upon them. When it protested that it was comfortable as it was, he insisted, and Keejeepaa had to allow himself to be made a very honored guest. Then they brought milk and rice, and the sultan would hear nothing until the gazelle had fed and rested.
At last, when everything had been disposed of, the sultan said, “Well, now, my friend, tell me what news you bring.”
And Keejeepaa said: “Master, I don’t exactly know how you will like the news I bring. The fact is, I’m sent here to insult you! I’ve come to try and pick a quarrel with you! In fact, I’m here to propose a family alliance with you!”
At this the sultan exclaimed: “Oh, come! for a gazelle, you certainly know how to talk! Now, the fact of it is, I’m looking for some one to insult me. I’m just aching to have some one pick a quarrel with me. I’m impatient for a family alliance. Go on with your message.”
Then Keejeepaa said, “You don’t bear any ill will against me, who am only a messenger?”
And the sultan said, “None at all.”
“Well,” said Keejeepaa, “look at this pledge I bring;” dropping the diamond wrapped in leaves into the sultan’s lap.
When the sultan opened the leaves and saw the great, sparkling jewel, he was overcome with astonishment. At last he said, “Well?”
“I have brought this pledge,” said the gazelle, “from my master, Sultan Daaraa′ee. He has heard that you have a daughter, so he sent you this jewel, hoping you will forgive him for not sending something more worthy of your acceptance than this trifle.”
“Goodness!” said the sultan to himself; “he calls this a trifle!” Then to the gazelle: “Oh, that’s all right; that’s all right. I’m satisfied. The Sultan Daaraaee has my consent to marry my daughter, and I don’t want a single thing from him. Let him come empty-handed. If he has more of these trifles, let him leave them at home. This is my message, and I hope you will make it perfectly clear to your master.”
The gazelle assured him that he would explain everything satisfactorily, adding: “And now, master, I take my leave. I go straight to our own town, and hope that in about eleven days we shall return to be your guests.” So, with mutual compliments, they parted.
In the meantime, Haamdaanee was having an exceedingly tough time. Keejeepaa having disappeared, he wandered about the town moaning, “Oh, my poor gazelle! my poor gazelle!” while the neighbors laughed and jeered at him, until, between them and his loss, he was nearly out of his mind.
But one evening, when he had gone to bed, Keejeepaa walked in. Up he jumped, and began to embrace the gazelle, and weep over it, and carry on at a great rate.
When he thought there had been about enough of this kind of thing, the gazelle said: “Come, come; keep quiet, my master. I’ve brought you good news.” But the beggar man continued to cry and fondle, and declare that he had thought his gazelle was dead.
At last Keejeepaa said: “Oh, well, master, you see I’m all right. You must brace up, and prepare to hear my news, and do as I advise you.”
“Go on; go on,” replied his master; “explain what you will, I’ll do whatever you require me to do. If you were to say, ‘Lie down on your back, that I may roll you over the side of the hill,’ I would lie down.”
“Well,” said the gazelle, “there is not much to explain just now, but I’ll tell you this: I’ve seen many kinds of food, food that is desirable and food that is objectionable, but this food I’m about to offer you is very sweet indeed.”
“What?” said Haamdaanee. “Is it possible that in this world there is anything that is positively good? There must be good and bad in everything. Food that is both sweet and bitter is good food, but if food were nothing but sweetness would it not be injurious?”
“H’m!” yawned the gazelle; “I’m too tired to talk philosophy. Let’s go to sleep now, and when I call you in the morning, all you have to do is to get up and follow me.”
So at dawn they set forth, the gazelle leading the way, and for five days they journeyed through the forest.
On the fifth day they came to a stream, and Keejeepaa said to his master, “Lie down here.” When he had done so, the gazelle set to and beat him so soundly that he cried out: “Oh, let up, I beg of you!”
“Now,” said the gazelle, “I’m going away, and when I return I expect to find you right here; so don’t you leave this spot on any account.” Then he ran away, and about ten o’clock that morning he arrived at the house of the sultan.
Now, ever since the day Keejeepaa left the town, soldiers had been placed along the road to watch for and announce the approach of Sultan Daaraaee; so one of them, when he saw the gazelle in the distance, rushed up and cried to the sultan, “Sultan Daaraaee is coming! I’ve seen the gazelle running as fast as it can in this direction.”
The sultan and his attendants immediately set out to meet his guests; but when they had gone a little way beyond the town they met the gazelle coming along alone, who, on reaching the sultan, said, “Good day, my master.” The sultan replied in kind, and asked the news, but Keejeepaa said: “Ah, do not ask me. I can scarcely walk, and my news is bad!”
“Why, how is that?” asked the sultan.
“Oh, dear!” sighed the gazelle; “such misfortune and misery! You see, Sultan Daaraaee and I started alone to come here, and we got along all right until we came to the thick part of the forest yonder, when we were met by robbers, who seized my master, bound him, beat him, and took everything he had, even stripping off every stitch of his clothing. Oh, dear! oh, dear!”
“Dear me!” said the sultan; “we must attend to this at once.” So, hurrying back with his attendants to his house, he called a groom, to whom he said, “Saddle the best horse in my stable, and put on him my finest harness.” Then he directed a woman servant to open the big inlaid chest and bring him a bag of clothes. When she brought it he picked out a loin-cloth, and a long white robe, and a black overjacket, and a shawl for the waist, and a turban cloth, all of the very finest. Then he sent for a curved sword with a gold hilt, and a curved dagger with gold filigree, and a pair of elegant sandals, and a fine walking-cane.
Then the sultan said to Keejeepaa, “Take some of my soldiers, and let them convey these things to Sultan Daaraaee, that he may dress himself and come to me.”
But the gazelle answered: “Ah, my master, can I take these soldiers with me and put Sultan Daaraaee to shame? There he lies, beaten and robbed, and I would not have any one see him. I can take everything by myself.”
“Why,” exclaimed the sultan, “here is a horse, and there are clothes and arms. I don’t see how a little gazelle can manage all those things.”
But the gazelle had them fasten everything on the horse’s back, and tie the end of the bridle around his own neck, and then he set off alone, amidst the wonder and admiration of the people of that city, high and low.
When he arrived at the place where he had left the beggar-man, he found him lying waiting for him, and overjoyed at his return.
“Now,” said he, “I have brought you the sweet food I promised. Come, get up and bathe yourself.”
With the hesitation of a person long unaccustomed to such a thing, the man stepped into the stream and began to wet himself a little.
“Oh,” said the gazelle, impatiently, “a little water like that won’t do you much good; get out into the deep pool.”
“Dear me!” said the man, timidly; “there is so much water there; and where there is much water there are sure to be horrible animals.”
“Animals! What kind of animals?”
“Well, crocodiles, water lizards, snakes, and, at any rate, frogs; and they bite people, and I’m terribly afraid of all of them.”
“Oh, well,” said Keejeepaa, “do the best you can in the stream; but rub yourself well with earth, and, for goodness’ sake, scrub your teeth well with sand; they are awfully dirty.”
So the man obeyed, and soon made quite a change in his appearance.
Then the gazelle said: “Here, hurry up and put on these things. The sun has gone down, and we ought to have started before this.”
So the man dressed himself in the fine clothes the sultan had sent, and then he mounted the horse, and they started; the gazelle trotting on ahead.
When they had gone some distance, the gazelle stopped, and said, “See here: nobody who sees you now would suspect that you are the man who scratched in the dust heap yesterday. Even if we were to go back to our town the neighbors would not recognize you, if it were only for the fact that your face is clean and your teeth are white. Your appearance is all right, but I have a caution to give you. Over there, where we are going, I have procured for you the sultan’s daughter for a wife, with all the usual wedding gifts. Now, you must keep quiet. Say nothing except, ‘How d’ye do?’ and ‘What’s the news?’ Let me do the talking.”
“All right,” said the man; “that suits me exactly.”
“Do you know what your name is?”
“Of course I do.”
“Indeed? Well, what is it?”
“Why, my name is Haamdaanee.”
“Not much,” laughed Keejeepaa; “your name is Sultan Daaraaee.”
“Oh, is it?” said his master. “That’s good.”
So they started forward again, and in a little while they saw soldiers running in every direction, and fourteen of these joined them to escort them. Then they saw ahead of them the sultan, and the vizirs, and the emirs, and the judges, and the great men of the city, coming to meet them.
“Now, then,” said Keejeepaa, “get off your horse and salute your father-in-law. That’s him in the middle, wearing the sky-blue jacket.”
“All right,” said the man, jumping off his horse, which was then led by a soldier.
So the two met, and the sultans shook hands, and kissed each other, and walked up to the palace together.
Then they had a great feast, and made merry and talked until night, at which time Sultan Daaraaee and the gazelle were put into an inner room, with three soldiers at the door to guard and attend upon them.
When the morning came, Keejeepaa went to the sultan and said: “Master, we wish to attend to the business which brought us here. We want to marry your daughter, and the sooner the ceremony takes place, the better it will please the Sultan Daaraaee.”
“Why, that’s all right,” said the sultan; “the bride is ready. Let some one call the teacher, Mwaalee′moo, and tell him to come at once.”
When Mwaaleemoo arrived, the sultan said, “See here, we want you to marry this gentleman to my daughter right away.”
“All right; I’m ready,” said the teacher. So they were married.
Early the next morning the gazelle said to his master: “Now I’m off on a journey. I shall be gone about a week; but however long I am gone, don’t you leave the house till I return. Good-bye.”
Then he went to the real sultan and said: “Good master, Sultan Daaraaee has ordered me to return to our town and put his house in order; he commands me to be here again in a week; if I do not return by that time, he will stay here until I come.”
The sultan asked him if he would not like to have some soldiers go with him; but the gazelle replied that he was quite competent to take care of himself, as his previous journeys had proved, and he preferred to go alone; so with mutual good wishes they parted.
But Keejeepaa did not go in the direction of the old village. He struck off by another road through the forest, and after a time came to a very fine town, of large, handsome houses. As he went through the principal street, right to the far end, he was greatly astonished to observe that the town seemed to have no inhabitants, for he saw neither man, woman, nor child in all the place.
At the end of the main street he came upon the largest and most beautiful house he had ever seen, built of sapphire, and turquoise, and costly marbles.
“Oh, my!” said the gazelle; “this house would just suit my master. I’ll have to pluck up my courage and see whether this is deserted like the other houses in this mysterious town.”
So Keejeepaa knocked at the door, and called, “Hullo, there!” several times; but no one answered. And he said to himself: “This is strange! If there were no one inside, the door would be fastened on the outside. Perhaps they are in another part of the house, or asleep. I’ll call again, louder.”
So he called again, very loud and long, “Hul-lo, th-e-re! Hul-lo!” And directly an old woman inside answered, “Who is that calling so loudly?”
“It is I, your grandchild, good mistress,” said Keejeepaa.
“If you are my grandchild,” replied the old woman, “go back to your home at once; don’t come and die here, and bring me to my death also.”
“Oh, come,” said he, “open the door, mistress; I have just a few words I wish to say to you.”
“My dear grandson,” she replied, “the only reason why I do not open the door is because I fear to endanger both your life and my own.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that; I guess your life and mine are safe enough for a while. Open the door, anyhow, and hear the little I have to say.”
So the old woman opened the door.
Then they exchanged salutations and compliments, after which she asked the gazelle, “What’s the news from your place, grandson?”
“Oh, everything is going along pretty well,” said he; “what’s the news around here?”
“Ah!” sighed the old creature; “the news here is very bad. If you’re looking for a place to die in, you’ve struck it here. I’ve not the slightest doubt you’ll see all you want of death this very day.”
“Huh!” replied Keejeepaa, lightly; “for a fly to die in honey is not bad for the fly, and doesn’t injure the honey.”
“It may be all very well for you to be easy about it,” persisted the old person; “but if people with swords and shields did not escape, how can a little thing like you avoid danger? I must again beg of you to go back to the place you came from. Your safety seems of more interest to me than it is to you.”
“Well, you see, I can’t go back just now; and besides, I want to find out more about this place. Who owns it?”
“Ah, grandson, in this house are enormous wealth, numbers of people, hundreds of horses, and the owner is Neeo′ka Mkoo′, the wonderfully big snake. He owns this whole town, also.”
“Oho! Is that so?” said Keejeepaa. “Look here, old lady; can’t you put me on to some plan of getting near this big snake, that I may kill him?”
“Mercy!” cried the old woman, in affright; “don’t talk like that. You’ve put my life in danger already, for I’m sure Neeoka Mkoo can hear what is said in this house, wherever he is. You see I’m a poor old woman, and I have been placed here, with those pots and pans, to cook for him. Well, when the big snake is coming, the wind begins to blow and the dust flies as it would do in a great storm. Then, when he arrives in the courtyard, he eats until he is full, and after that, goes inside there to drink water. When he has finished, he goes away again. This occurs every other day, just when the sun is overhead. I may add that Neeoka Mkoo has seven heads. Now, then, do you think yourself a match for him?”
“Look here, mother,” said the gazelle, “don’t you worry about me. Has this big snake a sword?”
“He has. This is it,” said she, taking from its peg a very keen and beautiful blade, and handing it to him; “but what’s the use in bothering about it? We are dead already.”
“We shall see about that,” said Keejeepaa.
Just at that moment the wind began to blow, and the dust to fly, as if a great storm were approaching.
“Do you hear the great one coming?” cried the old woman.
“Pshaw!” said the gazelle; “I’m a great one also—and I have the advantage of being on the inside. Two bulls can’t live in one cattle-pen. Either he will live in this house, or I will.”
Notwithstanding the terror the old lady was in, she had to smile at the assurance of this little undersized gazelle, and repeated over again her account of the people with swords and shields who had been killed by the big snake.
“Ah, stop your gabbling!” said the gazelle; “you can’t always judge a banana by its color or size. Wait and see, grandma.”
In a very little while the big snake, Neeoka Mkoo, came into the courtyard, and went around to all the pots and ate their contents. Then he came to the door.
“Hullo, old lady,” said he; “how is it I smell a new kind of odor inside there?”
“Oh, that’s nothing, good master,” replied the old woman; “I’ve been so busy around here lately I haven’t had time to look after myself; but this morning I used some perfume, and that’s what you smell.”
Now, Keejeepaa had drawn the sword, and was standing just inside the doorway; so, when the big snake put his head in, it was cut off so quickly that its owner did not know it was gone. When he put in his second head it was cut off with the same quickness; and, feeling a little irritation, he exclaimed, “Who’s inside there, scratching me?” He then thrust in his third head, and that was cut off also.
This continued until six heads had been disposed of, when Neeoka Mkoo unfolded his rings and lashed around so that the gazelle and the old woman could not see one another through the dust.
Then the snake thrust in his seventh head, and the gazelle, crying: “Now your time has come; you’ve climbed many trees, but this you can not climb,” severed it, and immediately fell down in a fainting fit.
Well, that old woman, although she was seventy-five years of age, jumped, and shouted, and laughed, like a girl of nine. Then she ran and got water, and sprinkled the gazelle, and turned him this way and that way, until at last he sneezed; which greatly pleased the old person, who fanned him and tended him until he was quite recovered.
“Oh, my!” said she; “who would have thought you could be a match for him, my grandson?”
“Well, well,” said Keejeepaa; “that’s all over. Now show me everything around this place.”
So she showed him everything, from top to bottom: store-rooms full of goods, chambers full of expensive foods, rooms containing handsome people who had been kept prisoners for a long time, slaves, and everything.
Next he asked her if there was any person who was likely to lay claim to the place or make any trouble; and she answered: “No one; everything here belongs to you.”
“Very well, then,” said he, “you stay here and take care of these things until I bring my master. This place belongs to him now.”
Keejeepaa stayed three days examining the house, and said to himself: “Well, when my master comes here he will be much pleased with what I have done for him, and he’ll appreciate it after the life he’s been accustomed to. As to his father-in-law, there is not a house in his town that can compare with this.”
On the fourth day he departed, and in due time arrived at the town where the sultan and his master lived. Then there were great rejoicings; the sultan being particularly pleased at his return, while his master felt as if he had received a new lease of life.
After everything had settled down a little, Keejeepaa told his master he must be ready to go, with his wife, to his new home after four days. Then he went and told the sultan that Sultan Daaraaee desired to take his wife to his own town in four days; to which the sultan strongly objected; but the gazelle said it was his master’s wish, and at last everything was arranged.
On the day of the departure a great company assembled to escort Sultan Daaraaee and his bride. There were the bride’s ladies-in-waiting, and slaves, and horsemen, and Keejeepaa leading them all.
So they traveled three days, resting when the sun was overhead, and stopping each evening about five o’clock to eat and sleep; arising next morning at day-break, eating, and going forward again. And all this time the gazelle took very little rest, going all through the company, from the ladies to the slaves, and seeing that every one was well supplied with food and quite comfortable; therefore the entire company loved him and valued him like the apples of their eyes.
On the fourth day, during the afternoon, many houses came into view, and some of the folks called Keejeepaa’s attention to them. “Certainly,” said he; “that is our town, and that house you see yonder is the palace of Sultan Daaraaee.”
So they went on, and all the company filed into the courtyard, while the gazelle and his master went into the house.
When the old woman saw Keejeepaa, she began to dance, and shout, and carry on, just as she did when he killed Neeoka Mkoo, and taking up his foot she kissed it; but Keejeepaa said: “Old lady, let me alone; the one to be made much of is this my master, Sultan Daaraaee. Kiss his feet; he has the first honors whenever he is present.”
The old woman excused herself for not knowing the master, and then Sultan Daaraaee and the gazelle went around on a tour of inspection. The sultan ordered all the prisoners to be released, the horses to be sent out to pasture, all the rooms to be swept, the furniture to be dusted, and, in the meantime, servants were busy preparing food. Then every one had apartments assigned to him, and all were satisfied.
After they had remained there some time, the ladies who had accompanied the bride expressed a desire to return to their own homes. Keejeepaa begged them not to hurry away, but after a while they departed, each loaded with gifts by the gazelle, for whom they had a thousand times more affection than for his master. Then things settled down to their regular routine.
One day the gazelle said to the old woman: “I think the conduct of my master is very singular. I have done nothing but good for him all the time I have been with him. I came to this town and braved many dangers for him, and when all was over I gave everything to him. Yet he has never asked: ‘How did you get this house? How did you get this town? Who is the owner of this house? Have you rented all these things, or have they been given you? What has become of the inhabitants of the place?’ I don’t understand him. And further: although I have done nothing but good for him, he has never done one good thing for me. Nothing here is really his. He never saw such a house or town as this since the day he was born, and he doesn’t own anything of it. I believe the old folks were right when they said, ‘If you want to do any person good, don’t do too much; do him a little harm occasionally, and he’ll think more of you.’ However, I’ve done all I can now, and I’d like to see him make some little return.”
Next morning the old woman was awakened early by the gazelle calling, “Mother! Mother!” When she went to him she found he was sick in his stomach, feverish, and all his legs ached.
“Go,” said he, “and tell my master I am very ill.”
So she went upstairs and found the master and mistress sitting on a marble couch, covered with a striped silk scarf from India.
“Well,” said the master, “what do you want, old woman?”
“Oh, my master,” cried she, “Keejeepaa is sick!”
The mistress started and said: “Dear me! What is the matter with him?”
“All his body pains him. He is sick all over.”
“Oh, well,” said the master, “what can I do? Go and get some of that red millet, that is too common for our use, and make him some gruel.”
“Gracious!” exclaimed his wife, staring at him in amazement; “do you wish her to feed our friend with stuff that a horse would not eat if he were ever so hungry? This is not right of you.”
“Ah, get out!” said he, “you’re crazy. We eat rice; isn’t red millet good enough for a gazelle that cost only a dime?”
“Oh, but he is no ordinary gazelle. He should be as dear to you as the apple of your eye. If sand got in your eye it would trouble you.”
“You talk too much,” returned her husband; then, turning to the old woman, he said, “Go and do as I told you.”
So the old woman went downstairs, and when she saw the gazelle, she began to cry, and say, “Oh, dear! oh, dear!”
It was a long while before the gazelle could persuade her to tell him what had passed upstairs, but at last she told him all. When he had heard it, he said: “Did he really tell you to make me red millet gruel?”
“Ah,” cried she, “do you think I would say such a thing if it were not so?”
“Well,” said Keejeepaa, “I believe what the old folks said was right. However, we’ll give him another chance. Go up to him again, and tell him I am very sick, and that I can’t eat that gruel.”
So she went upstairs, and found the master and mistress sitting by the window, drinking coffee.
The master, looking around and seeing her, said: “What’s the matter now, old woman?”
And she said: “Master, I am sent by Keejeepaa. He is very sick indeed, and has not taken the gruel you told me to make for him.”
“Oh, bother!” he exclaimed. “Hold your tongue, and keep your feet still, and shut your eyes, and stop your ears with wax; then, if that gazelle tells you to come up here, say that your legs are stiff; and if he tells you to listen, say your ears are deaf; and if he tells you to look, say your sight has failed you; and if he wants you to talk, tell him your tongue is paralyzed.”
When the old woman heard these words, she stood and stared, and was unable to move. As for his wife, her face became sad, and the tears began to start from her eyes; observing which, her husband said, sharply, “What’s the matter with you, sultan’s daughter?”
The lady replied, “A man’s madness is his undoing.”
“Why do you say that, mistress?” he inquired.
“Ah,” said she, “I am grieved, my husband, at your treatment of Keejeepaa. Whenever I say a good word for the gazelle you dislike to hear it. I pity you that your understanding is gone.”
“What do you mean by talking in that manner to me?” he blustered.
“Why, advice is a blessing, if properly taken. A husband should advise with his wife, and a wife with her husband; then they are both blessed.”
“Oh, stop,” said her husband, impatiently; “it’s evident you’ve lost your senses. You should be chained up.” Then he said to the old woman: “Never mind her talk; and as to this gazelle, tell him to stop bothering me and putting on style, as if he were the sultan. I can’t eat, I can’t drink, I can’t sleep, because of that gazelle worrying me with his messages. First, the gazelle is sick; then, the gazelle doesn’t like what he gets to eat. Confound it! If he likes to eat, let him eat; if he doesn’t like to eat, let him die and be out of the way. My mother is dead, and my father is dead, and I still live and eat; shall I be put out of my way by a gazelle, that I bought for a dime, telling me he wants this thing or that thing? Go and tell him to learn how to behave himself toward his superiors.”
When the old woman went downstairs, she found the gazelle was bleeding at the mouth, and in a very bad way. All she could say was, “My son, the good you did is all lost; but be patient.”
And the gazelle wept with the old woman when she told him all that had passed, and he said, “Mother, I am dying, not only from sickness, but from shame and anger at this man’s ingratitude.”
After a while Keejeepaa told the old woman to go and tell the master that he believed he was dying. When she went upstairs she found Daaraaee chewing sugar-cane, and she said to him, “Master, the gazelle is worse; we think him nearer to dying than getting well.”
To which he answered: “Haven’t I told you often enough not to bother me?”
Then his wife said: “Oh, husband, won’t you go down and see the poor gazelle? If you don’t like to go, let me go and see him. He never gets a single good thing from you.”
But he turned to the old woman and said, “Go and tell that nuisance of a gazelle to die eleven times if he chooses to.”
“Now, husband,” persisted the lady, “what has Keejeepaa done to you? Has he done you any wrong? Such words as yours people use to their enemies only. Surely the gazelle is not your enemy. All the people who know him, great and lowly, love him dearly, and they will think it very wrong of you if you neglect him. Now, do be kind to him, Sultan Daaraaee.”
But he only repeated his assertion that she had lost her wits, and would have nothing further of argument.
So the old woman went down and found the gazelle worse than ever.
In the meantime Sultan Daaraaee’s wife managed to give some rice to a servant to cook for the gazelle, and also sent him a soft shawl to cover him and a pillow to lie upon. She also sent him a message that if he wished, she would have her father’s best physicians attend him.
All this was too late, however, for just as these good things arrived, Keejeepaa died.
When the people heard he was dead, they went running around crying and having an awful time; and when Sultan Daaraaee found out what all the commotion was about he was very indignant, remarking, “Why, you are making as much fuss as if I were dead, and all over a gazelle that I bought for a dime!”
But his wife said: “Husband, it was this gazelle that came to ask me of my father, it was he who brought me from my father’s, and it was to him I was given by my father. He gave you everything good, and you do not possess a thing that he did not procure for you. He did everything he could to help you, and you not only returned him unkindness, but now he is dead you have ordered people to throw him into the well. Let us alone, that we may weep.”
But the gazelle was taken and thrown into the well.
Then the lady wrote a letter telling her father to come to her directly, and despatched it by trusty messengers; upon the receipt of which the sultan and his attendants started hurriedly to visit his daughter.
When they arrived, and heard that the gazelle was dead and had been thrown into the well, they wept very much; and the sultan, and the vizir, and the judges, and the rich chief men, all went down into the well and brought up the body of Keejeepaa, and took it away with them and buried it.
Now, that night the lady dreamt that she was at home at her father’s house; and when dawn came she awoke and found she was in her own bed in her own town again.
And her husband dreamed that he was on the dust heap, scratching; and when he awoke there he was, with both hands full of dust, looking for grains of millet. Staring wildly he looked around to the right and left, saying: “Oh, who has played this trick on me? How did I get back here, I wonder?”
Just then the children going along, and seeing him, laughed and hooted at him, calling out: “Hullo, Haamdaanee, where have you been? Where do you come from? We thought you were dead long ago.”
So the sultan’s daughter lived in happiness with her people until the end, and that beggar-man continued to scratch for grains of millet in the dust heap until he died.
If this story is good, the goodness belongs to all; if it is bad, the badness belongs only to him who told it.
Notes: Contains 10 folktales told by natives of the East Coast of Africa.
Translator: George W. Bateman
Publisher: A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago