THE SACRED MILK OF KOUMONGOE 149
custom in that country that all the girls who were born should be given to the ogre to eat.
Then Thakane clasped the baby tightly in her arms, and cried :
' But it is not the custom in my country ! There, when children die, they are buried in the earth. No one shall take my baby from me.'
That night, when everyone in the hut was asleep, Thakane rose, and carrying her baby on her back, went down to a place where the river spread itself out into a large lake, with tall willows all round the bank. Here, hidden from everyone, she sat down on a stone and began to think what she should do to save her child.
Suddenly she heard a rustling among the willows, and an old woman appeared before her.
' What are you crying for, my dear ? ' said she.
And Thakane answered : ' I was crying for my babyŚ I cannot hide her for ever, and if the ogre sees her, he will eat her; and I would rather she was drowned than that.'
' What you say is true,' replied the old woman. ' Give me your child, and let me take care of it. And if you will fix a day to meet me here I will bring the baby.'
Then Thakane dried her eyes, and gladly accepted the old woman's offer. When she got home she told her husband she had thrown it in the river, and as he had watched her go in that direction he never thought of doubting what she said.
On the appointed day, Thakane slipped out when everybody was busy, and ran down the path that led to the lake. As soon as she got there, she crouched down among the willows, and sang softly :
Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out!
And in a moment the old woman appeared holding the baby in her arms. Dilah had become so big and strong,