On the borders of the Forest of Munza-mulgar lived once an old grey fruit-monkey of the name of Mutt-matutta. She had three sons, the eldest Thumma, the next Thimbulla, and the youngest, who was a Nizza-neela, Ummanodda. And they called each other for short, Thumb, Thimble, and Nod. The rickety, tumble-down old wooden hut in which they lived had been built 319 Munza years before by a traveller, a Portugall or Portingal, lost in the forest 22,997 leagues from home. After he was dead, there came scrambling along on his fours one peaceful evening a Mulgar (or, as we say in English, a monkey) named Zebbah. At first sight of the hut he held his head on one side awhile, and stood quite still, listening, his broad-nosed face lit up in the blaze of the setting sun. He then hobbled a little nearer, and peeped into the hut. Whereupon he hobbled away a little, but soon came back and peeped again. At last he ventured near, and, pushing back the tangle of creepers and matted grasses, groped through the door and went in. And there, in a dark corner, lay the Portingal's little heap of bones.
The hut was dry as tinder. It had in it a broken fire-stone, a kind of chest or cupboard, a table, and a stool, both rough and insect-bitten, but still strong. Zebbah sniffed and grunted, and pushed and peered about. And he found all manner of strange and precious stuff half buried in the hut—pots for Subbub; pestles and basins for Manaka-cake, etc.; three bags of great beads, clear, blue, and emerald; an old rusty musket; nine ephelantoes' tusks; a bag of Margarita stones; and many other things, besides cloth and spider-silk and dried-up fruits and fishes. He made his dwelling there, and died there. This Mulgar, Zebbah, was Mutta-matutta's great-great-great-grandfather. Dead and gone were all.
Now, one day when Mutta-matutta was young, and her father had gone into the forest for Sudd-fruit, there came limping along a most singular Mulgar towards the house. He was bent and shrunken, shivering and coughing, but he walked as men walk, his nut-shaped head bending up out of a big red jacket. His shoulder and the top of his head were worn bare by the rubbing of the bundle he carried. And behind him came stumbling along another Mulgar, his servant, with a few rags tied round his body, who could not at first speak, his tongue was so much swollen from his having bitten in the dark a poison-spider in his nuts. The name of his master was Seelem; his own name was Glint. This Seelem fell very sick. Mutta-matutta nursed him night and day, with the sourest monkey-physic. He was pulled crooked with pain and the shivers, or rain-fever. The tips of the hairs on his head had in his wanderings turned snow-white. But he bore his pain and his sickness (and his physic) without one groan of complaint.
And Glint, who fetched water and gathered sticks and nuts, and helped Mutta-matutta, told her that his master, Seelem, was a Mulla-mulgar—that is, a Mulgar of the Blood Royal—and own brother to Assasimmon, Prince of the Valleys of Tishnar.
He told her, also, that his master had wearied of Assasimmon's valley-palace, his fine food and dishes, his music of shells and strings, his countless Mulgar-slaves, beasts, and groves and gardens; and that, having chosen three servants, Jacca, Glutt, and himself, he had left his brother's valleys, to discover what lay beyond the Arakkaboa Mountains. But Jacca had perished of frost-bite on the southern slopes of the Peak of Tishnar, and Glutt had been eaten by the Minimuls.
He was very silent and gloomy, this Mulla-mulgar, Seelem, but glad to rest his bruised and weary bones in the hut. And when Mutta-matutta's father died from sleeping in the moon-mist at Sudd-ripening, Seelem untied his travelling bundle and made his home in the hut....