Mpuke, Our Little African Cousin

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Our Little African Cousin

Little Cousin Series
Each volume illustrated with six or more full-page plates in tint. Cloth, 12mo, with decorative cover, per volume, 60 cents

By Mary Hazelton Wade

(unless otherwise indicated)

Our Little African Cousin
Our Little Alaskan Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Arabian Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little Armenian Cousin
Our Little Australian Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Brazilian Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Brown Cousin
Our Little Canadian Cousin
By Elizabeth R. MacDonald
Our Little Chinese Cousin
By Isaac Taylor Headland
Our Little Cuban Cousin
Our Little Dutch Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little Egyptian Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little English Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little Eskimo Cousin
Our Little French Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little German Cousin
Our Little Greek Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Hawaiian Cousin
Our Little Hindu Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little Hungarian Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Indian Cousin
Our Little Irish Cousin
Our Little Italian Cousin
Our Little Japanese Cousin
Our Little Jewish Cousin
Our Little Korean Cousin
By H. Lee M. Pike
Our Little Mexican Cousin
By Edward C. Butler
Our Little Norwegian Cousin
Our Little Panama Cousin
By H. Lee M. Pike
Our Little Persian Cousin
By E. C. Shedd
Our Little Philippine Cousin
Our Little Porto Rican Cousin
Our Little Russian Cousin
Our Little Scotch Cousin
By Blanche McManus
Our Little Siamese Cousin
Our Little Spanish Cousin
By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Our Little Swedish Cousin
By Claire M. Coburn
Our Little Swiss Cousin
Our Little Turkish Cousin
New England Building,             Boston, Mass.

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Our Little African Cousin

Mary Hazelton Wade

Illustrated by
L. J. Bridgman


L. C. Page & Company

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Far away, toward the other side of the round earth, far to the east and south of America, lies the great continent of Africa. There live many people strange to us, with their black skins, kinky, woolly hair, flat noses, and thick lips. These black people we call Africans or negroes, and it is a little child among them that we are going to visit by and by.

Different as these African people of the negro race are from us, who belong to the white race, they yet belong to the same great family, as we say. Like all the peoples of all the races of men on this big earth, they belong to the human family, or the family of mankind. So we shall call the little black child whom we are going to visit our little black cousin.

We need not go so far away from home, indeed, to see little black children with woolly, kinky hair and flat noses like the little African. In the sunny South of our own land are many negro children as like the little negro cousin in Africa as one pea is like another. Years and years ago slave-ships brought to this country negroes, stolen from their own African homes to be the slaves and servants of the white people here. Now the children and great-grandchildren of these negro slaves are growing up in our country, knowing no other home than this. The home of the great negro race, however, is the wide continent of Africa, with its deserts of hot sand, its parching winds and its tropical forests.

So, as we wish to see a little African cousin in his own African home, we are going to visit little black Mpuke instead of little black Topsy or Sammy, whom we might see nearer by.

It’s away, then, to Africa!


I. The Boy 9
II. Blacksmith and Dentist 17
III. Work and Play 23
IV. The Elephant Hunt 28
V. Song and Story 35
VI. The Battle Feast 46
VII. The African Medicine-man 53
VIII. The Gorilla 60
IX. The Gorilla Hunt 70
X. The Race of Dwarfs 76
XI. How the Dwarfs Live 79
XII. Spiders 85
XIII. Land-Crabs 93

List of Illustrations

The Village21
Hunting Elephants29
“His followers look upon him with the greatest admiration”47
“He sat down on his haunches”74
“Afterward the whole roof is covered with leaves”80

Our Little African Cousin



Are you ready for a long journey this morning? Your eyes look eager for new sights, so we will start at once for Mpuke’s strange home. We will travel on the wings of the mind so as to cross the great ocean in the passage of a moment. No seasickness, no expense, and no worry! It is a comfortable way to travel. Do you not think so?

Yes, this is Africa. Men call it the “Dark Continent” because so little has been known of it. Yet it is a very wonderful land, filled with strange animals and queer people, containing the oldest monuments, the greatest desert, the richest diamond mines, in the world.

Some of the wisest people in the world once lived here. Large libraries were gathered together, thousands of years ago, in the cities of this continent.

Yet the little negro whom we visit to-day is of a savage race. He is ignorant of civilised ways and customs. He knows nothing of books and schools. I doubt if he even knows when his birthday draws near; but he is happy as the day is long; his troubles pass as quickly as the April showers.

Let us paint his picture. We must make his eyes very round and bright and black. The teeth should be like the whitest pearls. His head must be covered with a mass of curly black wool. His lips are red and thick, while his skin is black and shining. He is tall and straight, and has muscles of which any boy might well be proud. He is not bothered by stiff collars or tight shoes. He is not obliged to stay in the house when he has torn a hole in his stocking, or ripped his trousers in climbing a tree, because he does not own any of these articles of clothing.

From morning until night, and from night until morning again, he is dressed in the suit Mother Nature provided for him,—his own beautiful glossy skin. She knew well that in the hot land near the equator, where Mpuke was born, he would never feel the need of more covering than this.

One of the first things Mpuke can remember is the daily bath his mother gave him in the river. In the days of his babyhood he did not like it very well, but gave lusty screams when he was suddenly plunged into the cold water. Yet other babies and other mothers were there to keep him company. It is the custom of his village for the women to visit the shore every morning at sunrise to bathe their little ones. What a chattering and screaming there is as one baby after another receives his ducking! Then, spluttering and choking and kicking, he is laid up on the bank to wriggle about on the soft grass, and dry in the sunshine. Now comes a toss upon mother’s back, and the procession of women and babies hastens homeward through the shady pathway.

It lies in the very heart of Africa, this home of Mpuke’s. The houses are so nearly alike that we almost wonder how the black boy can tell his own from his neighbour’s. It can more properly be called a hut than a house. It has low walls made of clay, and a high conical roof thatched with palm leaves. There is not a single window; the narrow doorway faces the one street running through the village. A high wall is built all around the settlement. There are two reasons for this: in the first place, the wild animals must be kept out, and secondly, the village is protected in case another tribe of black people should come to make war upon it. It is sad that it is so, but we know that the negroes spend much of their time in fighting with each other.

There is a small veranda in front of Mpuke’s home. It is roofed with the long grasses which are so plentiful in this country, and is a comfortable place for the boy to lie and doze during the hours of the hot midday. The house itself nestles in a grove of banana-trees and stately palms. It makes a beautiful picture. I wish we could take a good painting of it home to our friends.

Look! here comes Mpuke’s father. He is the chief of the village, and all the people bow before his greatness and power. We must show proper respect to such an important person, so please don’t laugh, although he is certainly an amusing sight.

He is a strong, well-built man, but his body is coloured in such a ridiculous fashion with white and yellow chalk that it reminds us of the clowns at the circus. The braids of wool on his chin look like rats’ tails, and others stick out at the sides of his head from under his tall hat of grass. He has a string of charms hanging around his neck; he thinks these will protect him from his enemies, for he is a great warrior. His only clothing is a loin cloth made from the leaves of the pineapple-tree. His good wife wove it for him. His eyebrows are carefully shaved. As he walks along, talking to himself (the negroes are always talking!) he is trying to pull out a hair from his eyelashes with his finger-nail and knife.

This odd-looking man was chosen by the people to be their chief because he is so brave in fighting and so skilful in hunting. He has had many a battle single-handed with an angry elephant or furious panther. He has killed the cobra and the gorilla. He could show you the skulls of the enemies he has slaughtered in battle. He bears many scars beneath that coat of chalk, the marks of dangerous wounds he has received.

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