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The Animals' Dam

“Ach! it was dry,” said Outa, “as dry as last year’s springbok biltong. For a long time the Old Man in the sky shot down strong light and sucked all the water out of the veld. From morning to night he poured down hotness on the world, and when he rolled round to sleep, a hot wind blew—and blew—and blew—till he woke to shine again. The karroo bushes dried up, the rivers had no water, and the poor animals began to die from thirst. It was such a drought, my little masters, as you have never seen.

“At last Oom Leeuw called the animals together to make a plan.

“The Sun had gone under, and the Lady Moon was sailing in the sky—beautiful, as she always is, and looking down on the hot world. Oom Leeuw sat under a krantz on the morning side of a kopje, where it was a little cool, and the others sat round him like a watermelon slice. Leopard, Hyena, Babiaan, Jakhals, Hare and Tortoise were in front; they were the chief ones. The smaller ones, like Dassie, Mierkat, and Hedgehog, were at the sides; and Zebra, Springbok, Ostrich and Giraffe waited in the veld to hear the news. They pretended to be eating, but all the time their ears went backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards—so, my baasjes,—to catch every little sound, and they were ready at the first sign of danger to race away, kicking up the dust so that Oom Leeuw would not be able to see them.

“But they needn’t have been afraid. Oom Leeuw was too hot and tired and weak to catch anything. He just sat against the krantz with his dry tongue hanging out, and the others just lay round about in the watermelon slice with their dry tongues hanging out, and every time they looked at the sky to see if any clouds were coming up. But no! The sky was just like a big, hot soap-pot turned over above their heads, with the Lady Moon making a silver road across it, and the little stars shining like bits broken off the big, hot Sun. There was nothing that even looked like a cloud.

“At last Oom Leeuw pulled in his tongue and rolled it about in his mouth to get the dryness off.

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