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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "The Bargain for the Little Silver Fishes"

The Bargain for the Little Silver Fishes

The youngest of the three children had brought in a tortoise from the spruit behind the house, and was half-indignant and half-amused at the stolid refusal of Mr Tortoise to put out his head in response to any stroking of his shell, or to any shaking or bumping on the ground. “He’s just that cunning, Ou’ Ta’, I never did see anything like him,” cried the little boy to Old Hendrik.

“Well, he is tink hisse’f mighty cunnin’ sometimes,” answered the old Hottentot genially. “But dere was once now, when Klein Hahsie want him to ketch him de little silver fis’es.”

“Oh, but that Klein Hahsie—that Little Hare—he is just such a skellum!” broke in Annie.

“Well,” hesitated Old Hendrik, “Little Hahsie he is a bit smart, but den he don’t get nob’dy’s bones broke anyhow. An’ besides, Ou’ Sculpat dere—de Tortoise—he was yust too lazy for ornament, let alone use.

“It was a’ dis way. Little Hahsie he was a-hoppin’ an’ a-floppin’ along down de spruit one day, an’ he come to where de water was a-runnin’ clear an’ fine, an’ what should he see in de big water-hole but all de little silver fis’es yust a-glintin’ an’ a-twinklin’. Allah Crachty! he fair squot right down an’ watch ’em, dey look dat good an’ fine.

“But Little Hahsie ain’t yust like a otter in de water, dough dere ain’t no otter of ’em all could beat him at wantin’ dem fis’es. So he squot, an’ he study, an’ he tink till at last he see Ou’ Sculpat a-danderin’ down, an’ makin’ no mo’ to do but fair flop right in to de water, an’ sort o’ hang in dere wid his nose yust out, like a bird might be a-hangin’ in de air wid his beak catchin’ on to a cloud.

“Little Hahsie fair cock his one year at dat to see Ou’ Sculpat do it so easy, an’ so twenty-shillin’s-in-de-pound comfy like. ‘By jimminy, Sculpat, you looks at home all right,’ ses he.

“‘I is,’ ses Sculpat, an’ he don’t take so much trouble as to turn his head when he speak to Little Hahsie behind him, much less to turn his body. He sort o’ shift one eye half-way round, an’ dat’s quite enough too, tink he.

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