STANDING all alone in the middle of a great plain is Mount Elgon. Long ago Mount Elgon was a volcano, and there is a crater on the top which is eight miles across.
Once upon a time a mischievous young wizard lived on Mount Elgon, and he stirred up the fire in the crater until the flames blazed up to the sky, and when the people who lived in the plains below were frightened and ran away the wizard threw great rocks after them; some of the rocks were as big as houses. You can see them lying about on the plains to this day. But as the wizard grew older he grew kinder, and left off throwing stones and let the fire die down in the crater till there was just a little left which puffed like a steam engine sometimes, but did no harm; and the people returned to the mountain and climbed up its beautiful green slopes and built houses and planted gardens and were quite happy, and the wizard sat on the top and was happy too.
One day the people in Uganda heard a queer sound like a storm in the distance, and a great black cloud was moving swiftly along, but it did not seem like the usual storms.
They ran out of their houses to look, and the old men said: "This is no storm; it is a flight of locusts."
Then the locusts settled down on the land and ate up everything. From province to province they went till there was nothing green left in the country.
When the wizard on Mount Elgon looked out over the land and saw how the locusts had spoiled it he was very angry, and he sent a hornet with a message to the wizard of the Sesse Islands telling him about it and said:
"If you will persuade the locusts to fly over the Great Lake I will raise a hurricane and blow them into the water."
When the wizard of the Sesse Islands heard about the locusts he was very angry, too, and he sent the hornet back with a message telling the wizard to get his hurricane ready for the next morning.
Then he called all the fireflies together and said: "Go over to the mainland and sing to the locusts all night while they are resting on the ground and persuade them to cross the Lake."
So the fireflies flew over at sunset, and all night they sang this song as they danced in and out of the shadows:
Over the water of sparkling blue,
Dancing in golden light,
Lie beautiful islands of every hue,
The Country of Heart's Delight.
Deep, cool forests and crystal streams,
Fruit trees and fields of gold,
These are the islands of boyhood's dreams,
Where no one ever grows old.
The locusts have no King to teach them wisdom, and they did not know how big the Lake was (for you could put Scotland into it), and they thought because they saw islands near the shore there would be more beautiful ones lying far out, so when they heard the fireflies' song they decided to go to the Country of Heart's Delight, and in the morning they rose up from the ground in bands and began to fly over the Lake.
Then the wizard from Mount Elgon hurled his hurricane upon them, and they were swept into the water and drowned, and millions and millions and millions of dead locusts were floating on the waters for days afterwards.
That is why the old people in Uganda still call the Lake the Locust-Killer, but the children learn to call it Lake Victoria, for that is its name on the map.