Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn't it be nice to be a detective? Most of us will never have the chance to make that dream come true. Detectives, you see, are born that way. Right from the beginning they just know that this is what they want to be. And right from the beginning they show that solving mysteries is something they can do rather well.
This is the story about a girl who becomes a detective. Her name is Precious.
Precious smiled a lot. She often smiled even when she was not thinking about anything in particular. Nice people smile a lot, and Precious Ramotswe was one of the nicest girls in Botswana. Everyone said so.
Botswana was the country she lived in. It was down toward the bottom of Africa. She lived in a wide dry land, which had a lot of amazing things to see.
There was the Kalahari Desert, a great stretch of dry grass and thorn trees that went on and on into the distance, farther than any eye can see. Then there was the great river in the north, which flowed the wrong way. It did not flow into the ocean, as rivers usually do, but back into the heart of Africa. When it reached the sands of the Kalahari, it drained away, just like water disappears down the drain of a bath.
But most interesting, of course, were the wild animals. There were many of these in Botswana: lions, elephants, leopards, monkeys—the list goes on. Precious had not seen all of these animals, but she had heard about most of them. Her father, a kind man whose name was Obed, often spoke about them, and she loved the tales he told.
"Tell me about the time you were nearly eaten by a lion," she would ask. And Obed, who had told her that story perhaps a hundred times before, would tell her again. And it was every bit as exciting each time he told it.
"I was a young man then," he began.
"How young?" asked Precious.
"About eighteen, I think," he said. "I went up north to see my uncle, who lived way out in the country, or the bush as we call it in Africa, very far from everywhere."
"Did anybody else live there?" asked Precious. She was always asking questions, which was a sign that she might become a good detective. Do you like to ask questions? Many people who ask lots of questions become detectives, because that is what detectives do. They ask a lot of questions.
"It was a very small village," Obed said. "It was just a few huts, really, and a fenced place where they kept the cattle. They had this fence, you see, which protected the cattle from the lions at night."
This fence had to be quite strong. A few strands of wire cannot keep lions out. That is hopeless when it comes to lions—they would just knock down such a fence with a single blow of their paw. A proper lion fence has to be made of strong poles, from the trunks of trees.
"So there I was," Obed said. "I had gone to spend a few days with my uncle and his family. They were good to me and I liked my cousins. There were six of them—four boys and two girls. We had many adventures together.
"I slept in one of the huts with three of the boys. We did not have beds in those days—we had sleeping mats made out of reeds, which we laid out on the floor of the hut. They were nice to sleep on. They were much cooler than a bed and blankets in the hot weather, and easier to store too."
Precious was quiet now. This was the part of the story that she liked the best.
"And then," her father said, "and then one night I woke up to a strange sound. It was like the sound a large pig will make when it's sniffing about for food, only a little bit quieter."
"Did you know what it was?" she asked, holding her breath as she waited for her father to reply. She knew what the answer would be, of course. She had heard the story so many times. But it was always exciting, always enough to keep you sitting on the very edge of your seat.
He shook his head. "No, I didn't. And that was why I thought I should go outside and find out."
Precious closed her eyes tight. She could hardly bear to hear what was coming.
"It was a lion," her father said. "And he was right outside the hut, standing there, looking at me from underneath his great dark mane."