Previously: Wainaina lives alone unable to understand why he cannot find a good woman to share his life with. Why did all the girls in the village not want to speak to him?
One day he is working in the field…
“Mmmmm,” said Wainaina when he came to the water.
“It is so peaceful here.”
But not for long. Suddenly from the overhanging branch of a mugumo tree came the oh-cook cook-oo-oo of a laughing dove.
Wainaina looked up: was it the one he’d seen earlier. The bird bobbed and cooed and seemed to catch his eye. Then it flew off down the path and perched in a flame tree. Oh-cook cook-oo-oo.
Wainaina followed - which was when he heard the tumble of laughter that out-sang any dove. He pushed through the reeds to the water’s edge: who could be making those sweet, sweet sounds?
Wainaina soon saw. Across the stream a young woman was gathering her washing from the bank where it had been drying. She was laughing at the yellow butterflies that had settled on her wrap.
And though Wainaina had come silently, she glanced back at once, coyly smiling over her shoulder. Then she arched her neck in the most beguiling way.
His heart missed a beat. And why? She was just a woman like any other, a little plump perhaps. In fact, she rather reminded him of the dove. He waded into the stream,
“Don’t go,” he said.
The woman lodged the wash bucket on her hip. “And why shouldn’t I?”
“Because I--I want--I want to pay you my respects,” Wainaina fumbled. So much conversation and all at once. Perhaps it meant he had a chance...?
“Well begin,” said the woman, bowing her head to one side as the dove had done.
And so Wainaina did, and this is how he found his love. And this is where he met his love again and again in the weeks that followed. She said her name was Njeri, but Wainaina having a fanciful streak, said “No.
Never! You are Princess Laughing Dove,” which only made her laugh the more. Then one day as Wainaina was weeding his crops he decided to ask Njeri to marry him.
For wasn’t it the best time for a man to take a wife - his maize store full to bursting, his beans and pumpkins fattening in the field?
He dropped his hoe and ran down to the stream, but then he thought, “What if she refuses me?” and for a long time he hid in the reeds, screwing up his courage. But as he crouched beside the stream, he saw his face reflected in a pool.
At first he didn’t realise, but then the pain. He couldn’t stop the cry, “Am I really so ugly?”
“Oh much worse,” came the laughing voice of Princess Laughing Dove from across the stream.
“Which means you won’t marry me!” Wainaina wailed.
“Well not if you don’t ask me....”
“But I’m so ugly. That’s why no girl would speak with me...”
“Then they were foolish...”
“You have a good heart, Wainaina. It’s all that counts.”
So Njeri, Princess Laughing Dove, married Wainaina and went to live in his house on the edge of the forest. Each morning they woke to the blue spires of Mount Kenya. Each night they went to bed happy with their day’s work.
And when one day Njeri told Wainaina there would soon be a child, he thought he would burst with joy. He told everyone he met the mountain too: “A child coming! Just think. I must work harder. “