SOBAH had gone with his boat on a trading trip to Freetown, but he was a thoughtful husband and father, and had left a generous supply of rice and dried fish.
Mammy Mamenah and Konah were leisurely preparing their evening meal, for once alone. No, not entirely alone, for in their kitchen, which was also the back-yard, was gathered just at this time a strangely assorted group of creatures more or less intimately connected with the household. By mutual consent, some precedence of rights seemed to be granted to the two human beings, but they did not seem to be inclined to exercise their rights to any oppressive degree. In dress and bearing they were almost as simple and blissfully unconscious as the other creatures that shared their back-yard space with them. Konah's sole attire was a string of beads fastened around her waist, while Mammy Mamenah had the conventional piece of cloth, three feet wide, wrapped around her body, tucked deftly beneath her arms, and extending to her knees. Chickens roamed over the place with the air of rightful ownership. Goats nibbled the bits of grass that grew around the edge of the bare spot, and climbed over or peered into anything that appealed to their curiosity. A monkey, limited in his activities by the length of string fastened around his slender body, was going through various evolutions in the endeavor to reach the tail feathers of a parrot that was shrilly scolding at a mangy little dog. The furnishings of the kitchen were few and simple in the extreme. The stove consisted of three stones so arranged as to support a pot of rice, and at the same time to allow a fire to be kindled beneath. A large pot for the rice, a smaller one for the stew, some calabashes and a large mortar and pestle for pounding the rice, completed the outfit. The rice had been set to boil, and Mammy Mamenah had nothing to do but wait for it to cook. She had seated herself upon one end of a small log, the other end of which was in the fire. Konah had squatted upon the ground in front of her mother, and by artful and suggestive questions was endeavoring to draw out a story about some of her animal friends. A heathen mother does not concern herself about the pleasure of her child, and takes no trouble for the child's happiness, unless there is some amusement in it for herself, but Konah was the third child, the two older ones having died of small-pox, and on that account was treated more nearly with indulgence than were other children. A spirit of comradeship, almost of affection, had grown up between this black mother and her story-loving child. The many hours they had passed together had tended to deepen the feeling of fellowship and sympathy.
Finally Konah put her desire in the form of a direct entreaty, 'Mammy, do yah (please) pull story.'
In response Mammy Mamenah drew the child's head down upon her lap, and, loosening the kinky wool, proceeded to replait it in innumerable little braids that caused the jet-black hair on the shapely head to stand out in regular rows like the ridges of a cantaloupe.
"'Yo' lek story too much,' she said reprovingly; then, repenting almost immediately, added: 'Wey t'ing yo' wan'?'
The question was unnecessary, for the child's very pronounced preference for Cunning Rabbit, above all the creatures of her fairy world, was well known to her mother. So in a low crooning voice she began the story of [CUNNING RABBIT AND HIS WELL.]