194 THE ROVER OF THE PLAIN
his wood, where you may hide yourself. But the other fields are his mother's, so beware lest you touch them.'
'I will beware,' answered the buffalo; and, patting his head, the girl left him.
Oh, how much better a servant he was than any of the little girls the bride had refused to bring with her! If she wanted water, she had only to cross the patch of maize behind the hut and seek out the place where the buffalo lay hidden, and put down her pail beside him. Then she would sit at her ease while he went to the lake and brought the bucket back brimming over. If she wanted wood, he would break the branches off the trees and lay them at her feet. And the villagers watched her return laden, and said to each other:
'Surely the girls of her country are stronger than our girls, for none of them could cut so quickly or carry so much!' But then, nobody knew that she had a buffalo for a servant.
Only, all this time she never gave the poor buffalo anything to eat, because she had just one dish, out of which she and her husband ate; while in her old home there was a dish put aside expressly for the Rover of the Plain. The buffalo bore it as long as he could; but, one day, when his mistress bade him go to the lake and fetch water, his knees almost gave way from hunger. He kept silence, however, till the evening, when he said to his mistress:
'I am nearly starved; I have not touched food since I came here. I can work no more.'
' Alas!' answered she, ' what can I do ? I have only one dish in the house. You will have to steal some beans from the fields. Take a few here and a few there; but be sure not to take too many from one place, or the owner may notice it.'
Now the buffalo had always lived an honest life, but if his mistress did not feed him, he must get it for himself. So that night, when all the village was asleep, he came