SENKENPENG AND BULANE
 FOR many moons no rain had fallen, and the parched brown earth had ceased to yield its fruit. All the
fountains were dried up, and on the barren veld the lean cattle sought pasture in vain; the sight of
them with drooping heads, their bones showing beneath the shrunk hides, filled with grief the hearts
of the herd-boys.
Not a cloud hung in the bare blue dome overhead; at evening the sun dipped below the horizon in hot
and sullen splendour, and the wind of dawn brought no refreshment to the parched and weary earth.
The men no longer walked with head erect and swift of foot; while, hard pressed by thirst and
famine, the maidens drooped like flowers in the heat of noon.
It was the sunset hour, and within the village the mothers whose breasts had run dry tried in vain
 soothe the little ones whose fretful wailing disturbed the still air and reached the ears of the
Chief Rasenkepeng, who sat brooding over the sorrows of his people, not knowing how he might help
Day after day the Rain-maker had climbed the hill that rose behind the village, and had stood
through the long hot hours with rod lifted toward heaven, praying that the rain might fall and save
the people, but not a drop had descended upon the earth. Day by day Rasenkepeng, the Chief, had
waited at the base of the mountain, joining with his people in their prayers, and still the heavens
were as brass.
The time had come when the people must seek a new country or die, and Rasenkepeng sat alone
communing with his heart.
"Lo, my people die of thirst," said he, "and Bulane, the Water God, hears not our prayers. I will
therefore send forth my son Maphapho to seek a land watered by streams, and thither will I lead my
So he summoned Maphapho to his presence, and bade him go next day in search of a land through
 which ran rivers and where the mountain pools were filled with water.
And Maphapho, the tall, limber youth who drew to himself the eyes of all the maidens, obeyed gladly,
and chose from the young men of his father's people those who were to accompany him on his quest.
At sunrise the next day he set forth with his comrades equipped as if for a hunting expedition, and
wistfully the famine-stricken people watched them make their way across the veld toward the distant
The whole day they journeyed, but everywhere the land was parched and the river-beds dry, while
beneath their feet crackled the withered grass.
At the end of the long day Maphapho withdrew from his comrades and, gazing round him, saw gleaming
in the light of the setting sun a pool of water. He hastened thither and stooped to quench his
thirst, but as his lips touched the surface of the pool, all unseen, Bulane, the Water God, struck
him in the face, and would not let him drink.
 Then Maphapho filled the hollow of his hand with water and raised it to his lips, but Bulane again
struck him, and the water was dashed from his hand.
Wondering, Maphapho rose to his feet and said: "Why, O Lord of the Water, may I not quench my thirst
at this fountain?"
And the voice of Bulane made answer: "Tell Rasenkepeng, your father, that unless he send me his
daughter Senkenpeng, all his people shall die of thirst, and they and their cattle shall be wiped
off from the face of the earth."
Maphapho loved his sister dearly, and knew her to be the darling of her father's heart, so when he
heard these words he bowed his head in grief, but he answered Bulane, saying, "I will obey the
command of my Lord, but know that Senkenpeng is more precious to my father than all his lands and
his herds of cattle."
Then because he was faint from thirst and wearied with the long march, he stooped and drank his fill
from the cool spring. And when he was refreshed he filled
 the water-pots which he had brought with him and returned to his companions.
The young men, without seeking repose, retraced their steps and journeyed through the night until at
dawn they reached the village where Rasenkepeng and the headmen awaited their return. Maphapho told
his father how that Bulane, the Lord of the Water, had demanded that Senkenpeng should be sent to
him, and the Chief's look was overcast, for this daughter was dearer to him than life. He would have
withheld her from going, but the first among his warriors said: "Lo, thy people die of hunger and
thirst. Send for thy daughter and let her choose."
And when Senkenpeng stood in their midst and heard that Bulane, the Lord of the Water, had summoned
her, she said: "Surely my people shall not perish. I will go to Bulane that they may live."
And so next day, when the wind of dawn blew from the mountains, Maphapho led forth his sister, and
the young men and maidens of the village made ready to accompany her, as if she were setting forth
as a bride.
 Her mother wept bitterly at the parting, and her father, blessing her, said: "May you go softly all
your days, and may your face be as the morning sun!"
But Senkenpeng shed no tears; she went forth with Maphapho and her companions, until at sunset they
reached the pool whence had come the voice of Bulane.
Here they left her, and Senkenpeng stood solitary in the silence amid the hills.
The sun sank in red and golden splendour behind clouds of sullen darkness. The glory of the day gave
place to the sweet coolness of night; the stars shone in the vast dome overhead, and from behind the
hills the moon rose to sail in majesty across the heavens.
Wearied with her long march, Senkenpeng longed for rest.
"Where shall I sleep?" she asked.
obediently she spread her mantle of skins on the ground.
She slept till she was awakened by the falling rain
 and the scent of the earth refreshed by the welcome moisture. Then her heart rejoiced, for she knew
that salvation had come to her people.
The sky was dark with heavy rain-clouds and the moon and stars were hidden. The air was chill, and
Senkenpeng rose to seek shelter, saying, "It is raining. Where shall I sleep?" Again the voice
replied: "Here, just here." She lay down again, and drawing her mantle round her once more she
When she woke it was to find herself in a hut more magnificent than that in which her father dwelt.
It was furnished with rich skins, and on the walls hung shields and weapons of war. Near her stood
meat and drink, but she was alone, nor was there any sign of human life around her.
The rain was still falling, and Senkenpeng rejoiced; she knew that the watercourses in her father's
land were now filled, and that the earth would once more yield its increase.
The days passed, the earth grew green again, and Senkenpeng lived in her solitude with heart
 untroubled. In the ninth month a child came to her and to the unseen husband upon whose face she had
never looked. It was a man-child, whose strength and beauty surpassed that of all other children,
and Senkenpeng loved her son exceedingly.
Her solitary days were ended; for two happy years the hut was filled with the sound of happy
laughter and the soft crooning of lullabies.
Then one day Senkenpeng felt a great longing to see her people again and to show them her son.
"May I go home again?" she asked of her unseen husband, and a voice made answer: "Go."
The next day accordingly she set out with her boy and journeyed till she came to her father's
village, in which since the coming of the rain there had been joy and prosperity.
Senkenpeng was received with great joy, and her father's heart was full to overflowing at the sight
of his daughter. He rejoiced also in her beautiful child, but when he asked her about her husband
she would give no answer.
 At last the time came to return, and when Senkenpeng had made ready, her young sister asked that she
might accompany her, and Senkenpeng said: "Come with me, for I live alone."
So the sisters journeyed to the hut together, and took up their abode there; but with the coming of
the younger sister peace left the home. The girl did not love Senkenpeng's son, but chid him and was
fretted by his childish ways. And it happened that one day when his mother had gone to draw water
from the spring, she used him ill, striking him and saying, "Nobody knows who your father is, or
where he lives," and she continued to scold him.
But Bulane heard her reproaching his son, and when, shortly after, she left the hut, he entered it
and, taking the boy between his knees, sat down and played with him.
Presently the girl returned, and when she saw the great Chief, clad in a scaly mantle shining like
silver, seated in the hut, she trembled. Then, when he spoke, saying, "It is I who am the father of
the child whom
 you abuse," she was so smitten with fear that she fled from the hut and returned to her own people.
Meanwhile Senkenpeng had come back from the spring, and seeing a strange warrior playing with her
child, her heart was filled with fear; she shook like a leaf when he spoke to her, asking, "Who is
your husband, Senkenpeng?"
"Nay, my lord, I know not," was her reply.
"I am he," he answered—"Bulane, Lord of the Water, who demanded you from your people. This is
my son, whom your sister reproached because none had seen his father. Now you and he shall know me,
and I will leave you no more."
And Senkenpeng rejoiced to have Bulane at her side, for he was true to his word, and never left her.
He brought his people and their cattle to live near, and a village grew up round the hut which once
had been so solitary.