THE SACRED MILK OF KOUMONGOE 145
home panting from the heat of the sun, ' what have you been doing? Why did Koumongoe come to us in the fields instead of staying in the garden ? '
' It was Koane's fault,' answered Thakane. ' He would not take the cattle to feed until he drank some of the milk from Koumongoe. So, as I did not know what else to do, I gave it to him.'
The father listened to Thakane's words, but made no answer. Instead, he went outside and brought in two sheepskins, which he stained red and sent for a blacksmith to forge some iron rings. The rings were then passed over Thakane's arms and legs and neck, and the skins fastened on her before and behind. When all was ready, the man sent for his servants and said:
' I am going to get rid of Thakane.'
' Get rid of your only daughter ? ' they answered, in surprise. ' But why ? '
' Because she has eaten what she ought not to have eaten. She has touched the sacred tree which belongs to her mother and me alone.' And, turning his back, he called to Thakane to follow him, and they went down the road which led to the dwelling of an ogre.
They were passing along some fields where the corn was ripening, when a rabbit suddenly sprang out at their feet, and standing on its hind legs, it sang:
Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair ?
' You had better ask her,' replied the man, ' she is old enough to give you an answer.'
Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:
I gave Koumongoe to Koane,
Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts ;
For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows :
Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut;
That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father.
And when the rabbit heard that, he cried : ' Wretched