TANGA THE CHILD OF NIGHT
 LONG ago there lived a woman who had no children, and her husband never ceased to reproach her on this
account. Her grief was bitter, and she suffered much from his unkindness, until he left her. In her
loneliness she was happier than in the days when she had to bear his harsh words.
Left to herself, she often lingered by the river, and when at night the moonlight turned the surface
of the stream into a silver mirror, she would sit for hours on its banks. Her favourite
resting-place was beneath a spreading date-palm, and there she would remain through the quiet hours
listening to the plash of the waters till the sun came up in glory over the world's edge.
Sometimes she wept, thinking of the child which would never now be hers. One night when her tears
 had fallen fast she heard the piping of a bird, and looking round saw a little wag-tail hopping
about restlessly in front of her. She held out her hand; the bird perched on her finger, and then
sprang to her shoulder straining to reach her ear. It was clear that he had something to say to her,
so she bent her head to catch his message. Before long, he twittered softly, she would possess a
baby girl, fairer than any other that had gladdened a mother's heart. She was to be named Tanga, and
lest ill should befall her, she must never leave the shelter of the hut from the rising of the sun
until its setting. Under the starlit sky, in the gracious moonlight, she would grow more beautiful
than the moon herself.
The woman's heart sang with gladness, and night after night she sat beside the river thinking of the
joy that was to be hers. The little bird came always to share her happiness, but when at last her
babe was born it vanished and was heard no more.
Now began happy days for the mother. Through the hours when the sun, the Eye of Day, ruled in the
 heavens, she kept the child safe within the hut, but when night fell she took her to her
resting-place beneath the date-palm, and watched her grow in beauty, softly bright, like unto the
moon and stars.
Years passed, till Tanga was a full-grown maiden. The fame of her beauty spread about the
countryside till it reached the ears of her father, who, filled with remorse and a longing to see
his fair daughter, returned to his wife. He gave a great feast, to which were bidden all the Chiefs
from the neighbouring kraals, and among them were many suitors for Tanga's hand. The girl's choice
fell upon a youth who for strength and courage was worthy of her.
When the wedding feast was over, Tanga took leave of the mother who loved her so tenderly, and left
the home of which she had long been the joy.
The bridal procession set forth under the stars, for the bridegroom had been warned that evil would
befall his wife if she went abroad by day, and had sworn to shield her from harm.
Tanga would have been happy and blessed in her
 new home, for her husband loved her with a great love, but for his father's hatred. From the first
he had distrusted this strange bride, who kept within the shelter of the hut while the sun ruled and
wandered forth only at night. He called her harsh names and gave her cold looks; nor was he kinder
when her child was born, but continued to lash her with his tongue, in spite of his son's
When the boy was but a few months old, Tanga's husband had to go upon a long journey. After his
departure her troubles increased, for the old man grew more cruel every day. Knowing that Tanga
dared not venture into the daylight, he plotted to make her leave her hut before sunset, and one
morning commanded her to fetch him water from the spring. In vain she begged him not to send her; he
swore that if she did not go he would beat her.
In her hut there was water standing in a calabash; this Tanga sent to him, as if she had fetched it
from the stream. But the old man, who had been watching, knew that she had not ventured into the
 and flung it to the ground, saying that it was not fresh. Going in anger to her hut, he raised his
stick and compelled her to leave its shelter. Tanga weepingly took the pot to the river, but when
she leaned over the bank to fill it, the Water Spirit rose and dragged it from her hand.
She returned to the kraal with the empty pot, but though she told the tyrant what had happened, he
drove her back again. This time when the Water Spirit rose, he seized her and bore her to his home
beneath the waters, where he dwelt in state. Wooing Tanga very tenderly, he begged her to be his
wife, bringing her chains of rare shells to hang round her neck and crowning her with garlands of
blue water-lilies. But Tanga said nay to all his entreaties, and wept ceaselessly for the child whom
she had left.
There was sorrow and consternation in the kraal at her disappearance, and the old man began to fear
his son's anger. None of the women could still her babe's cries, and when night fell the nurse took
him in her arms and carried him to the stream. The
 sound of his weeping reached Tanga beneath the water, and she rose to the surface, holding out her
arms. The little thing knew her, and with a gurgle of delight he stretched out his own in return.
Fairer than ever in her garland of blue lilies, with the chain of gleaming shells round her neck,
Tanga took him to her heart and held him in a close embrace till the night faded and the sun rose
over the horizon. Then she gave him to the nurse, bidding her return at sunset.
Each night the girl came back with the child, and soothed by the hours spent with his mother, he
throve, and ceased to fret in the daytime.
The old man, suspecting that Tanga was alive and in hiding, questioned the girl as to where she went
when she was out with the child. She answered that she walked in the woods and fed him on wild
berries, which satisfied his hunger.
Time passed, and at last Tanga's husband returned and demanded to know what had become of her. When
he learnt what had happened his anger knew
 no bounds; he would listen to none of his father's excuses. Seeing, however, that the child throve,
he also questioned the nurse, who told him all.
That evening he too went down to the river and hid himself among the reeds. As Tanga rose to the
surface of the water at the sound of her baby's cries, he came out and flung round her a rope he had
brought. But the Water Spirit, who knew all she did, seized her and dragged her down again, with a
roar of anger causing the waters to rise till they over-flowed the banks. So enraged was he that the
tide was red as blood, and followed the man back even as far as the kraal.
For many moons Tanga was not seen again, and the child wept uncomforted. But night after night she
was heard singing beneath the waters, and her husband, seated on the river-bank, heard her voice
raised in pleading:
"Why do they not send to my father and mother?" she chanted sadly. "Here I lie a captive, but my
mother could bring me back to earth." Then
 the singing ended; and there was no sound, none save that of weeping.
As her husband went back to the kraal, wondering whom he could send to her parents as a messenger, a
cock stepped in front of him, saying, "Master, send me. They will heed what I say."
"Go," he replied, "and luck be with you."
For two days and two nights the cock journeyed till he came to the kraal where Tanga's parents
As he entered, the boys threw stones at him, but he lifted his wings and flew on to the roof of the
Chief's hut, where he crowed so loudly that all the people came running to know what might be the
meaning of the disturbance.
All having assembled, he told the story of Tanga's captivity and of the cruel father-in-law. When he
had ended he was fed with corn, and Tanga's parents treated him with great honour. With him for a
guide, they set out to rescue her; for, be it known, Tanga's mother was a worker of spells and
When they reached the village where dwelt
 Tanga's husband, her mother ordered an ox to be slain—an ox which bore her daughter's name,
and was for her use alone. The beast having been slain, she cut up its flesh into pieces, muttering
charms as she did so. These pieces she flung into the river; as they sank, Tanga rose to the surface
and swam to the bank, for now the power of the Water Spirit was ended for ever.
Her husband was waiting there to receive her, holding their child in his arms. In triumph the lost
wife was led back to the village, where the rest of her days were spent in peace and happiness with
those she loved.
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