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Mou-Setsé: A Negro Hero; The Orphans' Pilgimage: A Story of Trust in God

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Mou-Setse - A Negro HeroThe Orphans' Pilgimage - A Story of Trust in GodBy L.T. MeadePublished by Wm. Isbister, Limited, London.This edition dated 1880.

  Mou-setse - A Negro hero, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________MOU-SETSE - A NEGRO HERO, BY L.T. MEADE.



  After all, his story began like any one else's--he came into the world.In a picturesque town in Africa he opened his eyes; and there is nodoubt that his mother was as proud of her little black baby as anyEnglish mother would be of her child with fair skin. So far, his storywas like any other person's story, but there, I think, the likeness cameto an end. He was an African boy, and knew nothing of what we Englishpeople call civilisation. Mou-Setse first opened his eyes on the worldin a clay hut; but this fact by no means denoted that his parents werepoor people; on the contrary, his father was one of the chief men of thetown, and a member of the king's council.

  Nor was the town a poor one. Perhaps I had better describe it a little,and also describe some of the strange actions of its inhabitants, beforeI really tell Mou-Setse's story.

  Though most of the houses were built of clay, the town of Eyeo wasconsidered very beautiful. It lay in the midst of a fertile and lovelycountry called Yarriba. The town measured fifteen miles round, and agreat deal of the ground was laid out in fields and gardens, so that,notwithstanding what we should call its want of civilisation, it lookedvery unlike many of the smoky, dirty towns at home, and very muchpleasanter to live in.

  There were walls round the town twenty feet high, built also of clay;and outside the walls there was a deep ditch. This ditch and this highwall were both necessary to protect the town from its enemies. Ofcourse, like all African towns, it had a great many enemies, but it wassupposed to be very well protected. The King of Yarriba lived in Eyeo.He had several wives, and his huts covered a whole square mile of thetown. He was an idolater, and he had a council of some of the chief mento help him to rule. The king and his people had a very strangereligion; each one of them had a god in his own house, and there werealso two chief idols, one called Korowah and the other Terbertaru. Oneof these gods was for the men, and the other for the women. The womenwere not allowed to look at the men's god; and when the chief priestoffered sacrifice to this god they dared not even glance at him. Theymight offer to their own god fowls, pigeons, and sometimes bullocks.

  These curious idolaters had also a very strange way of burying theirdead. All the dead man's riches, instead of going to his children, wereburied with him. If he happened to have been a very rich man, his deadbody was carried in procession round the town to the burying-place,_which was in the floor of his own room_. After he was buried therewith all his riches, his family went on living in the house and dailytrampled on his grave without the least concern.

  In this town, with its strange religion and its many odd customs, wasborn the little black baby who is to be the hero of this story. He wascalled Mou-Setse, and, though he had black skin and rather round andbeady eyes, and though certainly his thick, curling hair was also verywoolly, yet in his own way he was as fine a little baby as any fairEnglish child; and, as I have said before, his mother was just as proudof him. Mou-Setse had three brothers and one sister older than himself,so he had plenty of playfellows, and was a great pet, being the youngestof the family.

  The pretty little fellow used to sit on his mother's lap in the doorwayof the mud hut, and play with some very precious glass beads which werehung round her neck. As he grew older he mounted on his elder brother'sshoulders, and merrily would he and they laugh as they trotted up anddown together. And as he grew still older, and ceased to be a baby, andwas able to use his fat, strong legs, he and his brothers and sisterwent often outside the city walls, and walked through the maize fieldsbeyond and over the plain till they came to the foot of the hills.Then, high up among the rocks, they would wander about in the shade andgather oranges and tamarinds and figs.

  No English boys could have been happier than these little Africans onsuch occasions. Neither Mou-Setse nor his brothers thought of any darkdays that might come, and were, alas! only too near.



  I have said that sad days were not very far from poor little Mou-Setse.They came when he was still only a little boy not more than eight yearsold.

  The people of Eyeo had need of their high wall and their strongfortifications, for they were surrounded by enemies.

  One day the news reached them that a strong neighbouring tribe, callingthemselves Kakundans, were coming to attack them. The King of Eyeo hadnever done these people any harm, yet they wanted to conquer him, thatthey might take him and his subjects for slaves, and gain money byselling them to the Portuguese. This was very terrible news indeed; andgreat terror and great pain did it bring to the inhabitants of Eyeo.The poor mothers began to tremble as they clasped their babies in theirarms and reflected on the dreadful thought that soon they and thoselittle children so precious to them might be torn from each other. Thefathers, too, brave warriors as they were, looking in the frightenedfaces of wives and children, felt some of those heart-pangs which makemen resolute to conquer or to die. The king called a council, and itwas resolved at this council that all needful preparations for war wereto begin at once. Accordingly the priests offered sacrifices toKorowah, who was the men's god, while the women hastened to gain thefavour of Terbertaru, who belonged to them.

  The warriors busied themselves in polishing their knives and sharpeningtheir daggers and securing the handles of their axes. Even the littlechildren tried to help. The elder boys cleaned and brightened theweapons, while the younger went out to pick fruit, rice, and corn, incase the enemy should shut them up and they should be short of food.Little Mou-Setse was particularly busy in this way, and his activelittle feet were scarcely ever still.

  These many preparations were not made a moment too soon. The captain ofthe war, and the chief warrior who was to defend the city gate, wereonly just appointed when the terrible Kakundans were seen approachingtowards Eyeo. With their arms glittering in the sunbeams, on they came,nearer and nearer, trampling down the flourishing rice harvest, untilthe sound of their feet and the clanking of their weapons were heardjust outside the city walls.

  It was the intention of this cruel enemy to encamp round about the city,and to subdue it by famine. Oh, what trouble there was in Eyeo thatnight! What weeping and sorrow in many a hut! For though the childrenwere ignorant, and perhaps the wives had some hope, well did thewarriors know that they had little chance of escape. They weredetermined, however, to do what they could, and to defend their wivesand children at any cost.

  From the hour the Kakundans encamped round the city all was in confusionthere. There was nothing thought of but the war. Now and then bands ofmen used to go out and fight with the enemy, but the Eyeo men had veryfew successes and many failures. As the days went by they grew weakerand weaker. Alas! famine was making them weak. Famine was beginning totell on old and young alike in the unhappy city. Little Mou-Setse's fatlegs grew thin, and his round cheeks hollow, while his bright, blackeyes stared more and more out of his face every day. He was only one ofmany. He and his brothers and sister felt hunger, and even cried forbread, but they had not the terrible fear that pressed so heavily on thehe
arts of the grown people. That fear was to be realised all to soon.

  The Eyeo men could bear the dreadful famine no longer, so they consultedtogether what they should do to get food. The siege had now lastedseveral months. After thinking and consulting for a long time, theydecided on a very dangerous plan. It was this: the bravest of thewarriors determined to leave the city for a time, and to go into thecountry to try and get a supply of food. This was a most bold anddangerous plan. They themselves would be exposed to the attacks of theenemy, while the city would be left defenceless. Hunger, however, hadmade these brave men desperate. Anything, they thought, was better thantheir present condition. So the warriors went out in a strong band,leaving the little children, the sick, and the aged behind them.Mou-Setse's father and mother both went away. They bade their childrengood-bye cheerfully, and little Mou-Setse, as he clasped his arms roundhis mother's neck, even laughed at the prospect of the good food theyall might soon have. Alas! how little they guessed the dreadful