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How the First Letter Was Written_Just So Stories for Little Children

 ONCE upon a most early time was a Neolithic man. He was not a Jute or an Angle, or even a Dravidian, which he might well have been, Best Beloved, but never mind why. He was a Primitive, and he lived cavily in a Cave, and he wore very few clothes, and he couldn’t read and he couldn’t write and he didn’t want to, and except when he was hungry he was quite happy. His name was Tegumai Bopsulai, and that means, ‘Man-who-does-not-put-his-foot-forward-in-a-hurry’; but we, O Best Beloved, will call him Tegumai, for short. And his wife’s name was Teshumai Tewindrow, and that means, ‘Lady-who-asks-a-very-many-questions’; but we, O Best Beloved, will call her Teshumai, for short. And his little girl-daughter’s name was Taffimai Metallumai, and that means, ‘Small-person-without-any-manners-who-ought-to-be-spanked’; but I’m going to call her Taffy. And she was Tegumai Bopsulai’s Best Beloved and her own Mummy’s Best Beloved, and she was not spanked half as much as was good for her; and they were all three very happy. As soon as Taffy could run about she went everywhere with her Daddy Tegumai, and sometimes they would not come home to the Cave till they were hungry, and then Teshumai Tewindrow would say, ‘Where in the world have you two been to, to get so shocking dirty? Really, my Tegumai, you’re no better than my Taffy.’

Now attend and listen!

One day Tegumai Bopsulai went down through the beaver-swamp to the Wagai river to spear carp-fish for dinner, and Taffy went too. Tegumai’s spear was made of wood with shark’s teeth at the end, and before he had caught any fish at all he accidentally broke it clean across by jabbing it down too hard on the bottom of the river. They were miles and miles from home (of course they had their lunch with them in a little bag), and Tegumai had forgotten to bring any extra spears.

‘Here’s a pretty kettle of fish!’ said Tegumai. ‘It will take me half the day to mend this.’

‘There’s your big black spear at home,’ said Taffy. ‘Let me run back to the Cave and ask Mummy to give it me.’

‘It’s too far for your little fat legs,’ said Tegumai. ‘Besides, you might fall into the beaver-swamp and be drowned. We must make the best of a bad job.’ He sat down and took out a little leather mendy-bag, full of reindeer-sinews and strips of leather, and lumps of bee’s-wax and resin, and began to mend the spear.

Taffy sat down too, with her toes in the water and her chin in her hand, and thought very hard. Then she said —‘I say, Daddy, it’s an awful nuisance that you and I don’t know how to write, isn’t it? If we did we could send a message for the new spear.’

‘Taffy,’ said Tegumai, ‘how often have I told you not to use slang? “Awful” isn’t a pretty word, but it could be a convenience, now you mention it, if we could write home.’

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