THERE is a land wherein lies a haunted pool, one fraught with peril to those who trust themselves to its waters, for in its depths there dwells a terrible monster whom all men fear.
Now, in the days long passed, there ruled a King over this country, whose daughter, the stately Untombinde, was taller than any other maiden, and who was so bold that she knew not fear. She had heard of the pool and of the danger lurking beneath its still waters; nevertheless one day when the rains had fallen and the rivers were in flood she said to her father and mother: "I am going to the haunted pool," but they laid a command upon her that she should not go, and she yielded to their will.
But next year when the streams were full and overflowed their banks she again made ready to depart, and again her parents restrained her, but the third time, seeing that her heart was set upon the adventure, they let her go.
Then Untombinde went to the girls of the village and chose from among them two hundred to accompany her, and they took rank as if for a wedding procession, one hundred to the right of the path and one hundred to the left, and set forth laughing and singing on their way.
By and by they met a company of traders upon the road, and they stopped them and gathered round the men, asking, "Which among us all is the fairest?"
And the merchants made answer: "All are fair, but there is none of you to compare with the Princess Untombinde, who is as beautiful as the good green grass after rain, and who is as stately as a tree of the forest."
So angry were the other girls whose charms were thus slighted that they fell upon the merchants and slew them, and then went on their way. It was a goodly sight to see the procession as it made its way across the veld, for the sun shone upon the girls' armlets and anklets of brass and upon the ornaments on their breasts and glinted from the many-coloured beads of their petticoats.
Before sunset they came to the haunted pool, and, hot and tired with their long march, they hastily flung off their gay gear and plunged into its depths. As its cool waters flowed over their smooth brown limbs they shouted with delight, and tossed their arms above their heads, and sported till they were weary.
The youngest of the maidens was the first to leave the pool, and when she came to the spot where she had left her petticoat and her ornaments of brass she found that they were no longer there. In vain she sought them, and in her despair she sat down and lamented. One after another, as the girls came forth from the pool, they found that their garments and their ornaments had disappeared, and they were in sore straits.
Untombinde was the last to leave the pool, and when she stood upon the bank the maidens clustered round her, saying, "What shall we do? The Lord of the Pool has stolen our petticoats, our bracelets and our anklets I "and their tears flowed freely.
But Untombinde did not join in their wailing, and towered above them in disdainful silence while they made their complaint.
One said peevishly, "It is Untombinde who has brought us into this trouble "; and another, "Let us beg the monster to restore our clothes and our jewels."
"Beg for them if you will," said the Tall Princess, "but I, a King's daughter, ask no favour of man or monster," and she turned aside scornfully while the girls one after another pleaded, saying, "Lord of the Pool, give us back our raiment and our ornaments, that we may depart; for it is Untombinde, the King's daughter, who has brought this trouble upon us."
One by one, in answer to their prayer, the girls received back from the monster their possessions, and clad themselves, and made ready to depart. But Untombinde stood with folded arms and refused to make supplication, when her companions besought her to ask the monster to restore her clothes. In reply she answered haughtily: "I, the King's daughter, beg from no one." And these words so angered the Lord of the Pool that he seized her and dragged her beneath the waters.
Then the terrified girls made their way back to the village and, weeping, went into the presence of the King and told him of the fate of the Princess.
"I warned her of what might befall," he answered mournfully, "but she would not heed my words, and now she will never return to my house." Nevertheless, he desired to avenge his daughter, and, gathering together his army, he bade them go forth and slay the Lord of the Pool.
In full battle array the warriors set forth upon their quest, and before long they encountered the monster, who had risen from the pool to meet them. At sight of the warriors the creature opened his mighty jaws and swallowed every man of them, even as he had swallowed Untombinde. Then, swollen with his prey, the Lord of the Pool pressed forward until he came to the village, devouring all that lay in his path.
Then the King went forth to meet the monster, and grasping his sharpest spear he stood up to do battle with the slayer of his people where, distended to the girth of a mountain, it lay crouching upon the ground. With a sure stroke he pierced its great side and all whom it had devoured came forth, and among them was Untombinde, the fearless Princess. Then amid the sound of great rejoicing he took his daughter back to the kraal, where her mother awaited her coming.