THE big grey elephant and the hare were great friends, and they decided to make a wheat farm together on the hare's land.
But when they began the work was too heavy for the little hare, and he said: "You do all the clearing and I will sow the seed."
So the elephant cleared the land with his trunk, and ploughed it with his tusks, and broke up the big lumps of earth with his feet, and when the ground was ready he gave the hare the corn to sow. But the hare's hands were so small he could not manage it, and he said: "You sow the seed, I will do the weeding." So the elephant did the sowing; but when it came to weeding the hare was so slow that the elephant said: "I will do the weeding; you shall do the harvesting." And when the harvest was ripe the hare had fever, so the elephant did all the work and they sold the corn in the market for a good price.
Then the hare said: "How can I take my share when I did none of the work? Give me some corn and I will go and trade with it."
So the elephant gave him a handful of corn, and he put it into his little white bag and went off on the road to the capital to make his fortune. The first person he met was a very hungry guinea-fowl, and directly he showed him the corn he gobbled it up.
Then the hare sat down and pretended to cry: "Oh, what shall I do? That corn was not mine; it belonged to the big grey elephant." Then the guinea-fowl said: "I will give you an egg; go and trade with that, it is more valuable than the corn."
So the hare went on till he came to a place where wild plums grew, and some men had made a heap of stones and were throwing them up at the plums.
The hare put the egg carefully down on the heap of stones and went to pick up plums, when one of the men, without looking, picked up the egg and threw it instead of a stone, and it broke. The hare pretended to cry: "Oh, what shall I do? The egg was not mine; the guinea-fowl gave it to me because he ate the corn which belonged to the big grey elephant. What shall I trade with now?" The men said: "You may keep the plums you have picked up and trade with them."
So the hare went on till he came to a hornbill sitting on the branch of a cedar-tree by the roadside, and making the most awful noise, like three old crows cawing together.
Now once upon a time the hornbill had quite a nice voice, but she was so vain about it, and was always trying to sing such high top notes, that her voice broke, and unfortunately all her children inherited it, and now they are for ever telling the other birds and animals what a beautiful voice their mother once had, and how much it was admired, and all the jungle is tired of hearing about it.
The hare greeted her politely and told her of his adventures, and the hornbill said: "Well, you won't get much for wild plums in this country; give them to me and take in exchange two of my beautiful tail feathers."
She gave him two large black-and-white feathers, and while the hare was tucking them into his bag she began: "Once I had an exquisite voice and was much admired." The little hare didn't wait to hear the old story all over again; he just waved his hand and ran down the road. Before long he came to a river, and as he stooped down to drink the feathers fell out of his bag into the water and were carried away by the current.
The hare wrung his hands on the bank. "Oh, river," he cried, "give me back my feathers!" But the Fairy of the River far below in the deep water called back to him: "A river is like the life of man; it never returns. What is past is done; take some of my pure water and trade with that."
So the hare filled his little water-bottle and went on till he came to a blacksmith's forge, but the blacksmiths were all sitting under a tree and doing no work. "Why do you not work?" asked the hare.
"We have no water for the forge," answered the blacksmiths. "Give us the water in your bottle, and you shall have an axe."
So the hare gave them the water and went on his way, carrying the axe, until he came to a market-place where the butcher had killed a cow, but he could not cut up the meat, for his knife was broken.
"Give me your axe," he cried when he saw the hare, "and I will give you the cow's head."
So the hare gave him the axe and went on down the road dragging the cow's head after him till he came to a marsh on the borders of a big river. On the banks were herds of cattle, and the herdsmen were resting under the palm-trees near the marsh.
The little hare was hot and weary, and tired of dragging the heavy head, so he sat down and thought out a trick to make his fortune. He pulled the cow's head after him over the marsh and fixed it firmly between two tufts of reeds.
Then he ran along the river bank, crying: "Help! Help! Help!" The herdsmen came running up when they heard his cries.
"Look!" cried the hare, "the cow is drowning in the marsh. I am the servant of the big grey elephant, and that is his cow. I was going to trade with it, but now it is drowning. What shall I do?"
The herdsmen were very sorry for him, but they said: "We cannot cross the marsh to pull it out, we shall sink in ourselves, but you can run across with a rope and tie it to the cow's horns and then we will pull it out for you."
So one of them ran for a rope, and the hare crossed the marsh lightly to the cow's head and tied it to the horns, and the herdsmen pulled and suddenly the head came out with a jerk. "See what you have done!" cried the little hare. "You have pulled the head off the big grey elephant's cow." But the herdsmen laughed very much, for they saw the trick he had played on them, and they said: "Oh, little hare, we have often heard of you; stay with us in the kraals to-night and tell us stories of the jungle and forest, and to-morrow we will give you a cow."
So the hare slept that night in the kraals with Kasanke the little red bird whom the cows love, and told the herdsmen many strange tales of life in the Mabira Forest, and the next morning they gave him a beautiful white cow with long horns.
And he went home driving his cow before him, and the big grey elephant was pleased and praised him very much, and they were greater friends than ever.