The Woodpecker said nothing, but flying on the tree he drew out several fine raccoons. "Here," said he, "this is the way we do" and left him in disdain, carrying his bill high in the air, and stepping over the doorsill as if it were not worthy to be touched by his toes.
THE BOY AND THE WOLVES
Retold by Andrew Lang
ONCE upon a time an Indian hunter built himself a house in the middle of a great forest, far away from all his tribe; for his heart was gentle and kind and he was weary of the treachery and cruel deeds of those who had been his friends. So he left them and took his wife and three children, and they journeyed on until they found a spot near to a clear stream, where they began to cut down trees and to make ready their wigwam. For many years they lived peacefully and happily in this sheltered place, never leaving it except to hunt the wild animals, which served them both for food and clothes. At last, however, the strong man fell sick, and before long lie knew he must die. So he gathered his family round him and said his last words to them.
"You, my wife, the companion of my days, will follow me ere many moons have waned to the island of the blessed. But for you, 0 my children, whose lives are but newly begun, the wickedness, unkindness, and ingratitude from which I fled are before you. Yet I shall go hence in peace, my children, if you will promise always to love each other and never to forsake your youngest brother."
"Never!" they replied, holding out their hands. And the hunter died content.
Scarcely eight moons had passed when, just as he had said, the wife went forth and followed her husband; but before leaving her children she bade the two elder ones think of their promise never to forsake the younger, for he was a child and weak. And while the snow lay thick upon the ground they tended him and cherished him; but when the earth showed green again the heart of the young man stirred within him, and he longed to see the wigwams of the village where his father's youth was spent.
Therefore he opened all his heart to his sister, who answered: "My brother, I understand your longing for our fellow-men, whom here we cannot see. But remember our father's words. Shall we not seek our own pleasures and forget the little one?"
But he would not listen, and, making no reply, he took his bow and arrows and left the hut. The snows fell and melted, yet he never returned, and at last the heart of the girl grew cold and hard and her little boy became a burden in her eyes, till one day she spoke thus to him: "See, there is food for many days to come. Stay here within the shelter of the hut. I go to seek our brother, and when I have found him I shall return hither."
But when, after hard journeying, she reached the village where her brother dwelt and saw that he had a wife and was happy, and when she, too, was sought by a young brave, then she also forgot the boy alone in the forest and thought only of her husband.
Now as soon as the little boy had eaten all the food which his sister had left him, he went out into the woods and gathered berries and dug up roots, and while the sun shone he was contented and had his fill.
But when the snows began and the wind howled, then his stomach felt empty and his limbs cold, and he hid in trees all the night and only crept out to eat what the wolves had left behind. And by and by, having no other friends, he sought their company, and sat by while they devoured their prey, and they grew to know him and gave him food. And without them he would have died in the snow. But at last the snows melted and the ice upon the great lake, and as the wolves went down to the shore the boy went after them. And it happened one day that his big brother was fishing in his canoe near the shore, and he heard the voice of a child singing in the Indian tone:
"My brother, my brother!
I am becoming a wolf,
I am becoming a wolf!"
And when he had so sung he howled as wolves howl. Then the heart of the elder sank and he hastened toward him, crying: "Brother, little brother, come to me;" but he, being half a wolf, only continued his song. And the louder the elder called him, "Brother, little brother, come to me," the swifter he fled after his brothers the wolves and the heavier grew his skin, till, with a long howl, he vanished into the depths of the forest.
So, with shame and anguish in his soul, the elder brother went back to his village, and with his sister mourned the little boy and the broken promise till the end of his life.
THE INDIAN WHO LOST HIS WIFE
Retold by Andrew Lang
ONCE upon a time there was a man and his wife who lived in the forest far from the rest of the tribe. Very often they spent the day in hunting together, but after awhile the wife found that she had so many things to do that she was obliged to stay at home; so he went alone, though he found that when his wife was not with him he never had any luck. One day, when he was away hunting, the woman fell ill, and in a few days she died. Her husband grieved bitterly and buried her in the house where she had passed her life; but as the time went on he felt so lonely without her that he made a wooden doll about her height amid size for company and dressed it in her clothes. He seated it in front of the fire and tried to think he had his wife back again. The next day he went out to hunt, and when he came home the first thing he did was to go up to the doll and brush off some of the ashes from the fire which had fallen on its face. But he was very busy now, for he had to cook and mend, besides getting food, for there was no one to help him.
And so a whole year passed away.
At the end of that time he came back from hunting one night and found some wood by the door and a fire within. The next night there was not only wood and fire, but a piece of meat in the kettle, nearly ready for eating. He searched all about to see who could have done this, but could find no one. The next time he went to hunt he took care not to go far and came in quite early. And while he was still a long way off he saw a woman going into the house with wood on her shoulders. So he made haste and opened the door quickly, and instead of the wooden doll his wife sat in front of the fire. Then she spoke to him and said:
"The Great Spirit felt sorry for you because you would not be comforted, so he let me come back to you, but you must not stretch out your hand to touch me till we have seen the rest of our people. If you do I shall die."
So the man listened to her words, and the woman dwelt there and brought the wood and kindled the fire, till one day her husband said to her:
"It is now two years since you died. Let us now go back to our tribe.
Then you will be well and I can touch you."
And with that he prepared food for the journey, a string of deer's flesh for her to carry and one for himself; and so they started. Now, the camp of the tribe was distant six days' journey, and when they were yet one day's journey off it began to snow, and they felt weary and longed for rest. Therefore they made a fire, cooked some food, and spread out their skins to sleep.
Then the heart of the man was greatly stirred and he stretched out his arms to his wife, but she waved her hands and said:
"We have seen no one yet. It is too soon."
But he would not listen to her and caught her to him, and behold! he was clasping the wooden doll. And when he saw it was the doll he pushed it from him in his misery and rushed away to the camp and told them all his story. And some doubted, and they went back with him to the place where he and his wife had stopped to rest, and there lay the doll, and besides, they saw in time snow the steps of two people, and the foot of one was like the foot of the doll. And the man grieved sore all the days of his life.
By E. Frere
ONCE upon a time there was a Raja who had seven beautiful daughters.
They were all good girls; but the youngest, named Balna, was more clever than the rest. The Raja's wife died when they were quite little children, so these seven poor Princesses were left with no mother to take care of them.
The Raja's daughters took it by turns to cook their father's dinner every day, while he was absent deliberating with his Ministers on the affairs of the nation.
About this time the Prudhan died, leaving a widow and one daughter; and every day, when the seven Princesses were preparing their father's dinner, the Prudhan's widow and daughter would come and beg for a little fire from the hearth. Then Balna used to say to her sisters, "Send that woman away; send her away. Let her get the fire at her own house. What does she want with ours? If we allow her to come here, we shall suffer for it some day."
But the other sisters would answer, "Be quiet, Balna; why must you always be quarreling with this poor woman? Let her take some fire if she likes." Then the Prudhan's widow used to go to the hearth and take a few sticks from it; and while no one was looking, she would quickly throw some mud into the midst of the dishes which were being prepared for the Raja's dinner.
Now the Raja was very fond of his daughters. Ever since their mother's death they had cooked his dinner with their own hands, in order to avoid the danger of his being poisoned by his enemies. So, when he found the mud mixed up with his dinner, he thought it must arise from their carelessness, as it did not seem likely that anyone should have put mud there on purpose; but being very kind he did not like to reprove them for it, although this spoiling of the curry was repeated many days.
At last, one day, he determined to hide, and watch his daughters cooking, and see how it all happened; so he went into the next room, and watched them through a hole in the wall.
There he saw his seven daughters carefully washing the rice and preparing the curry, and as each dish was completed, they put it by the fire ready to be cooked. Next he noticed the Prudhan's widow come to the door, and beg for a few sticks from the fire to cook her dinner with. Balna turned to her, angrily, and said, "Why don't you keep fuel in your own house, and not come here every day and take ours? Sisters, don't give this woman any more wood; let her buy it for herself."
Then the eldest sister answered, "Balna, let the poor woman take the wood and the fire; she does us no harm." But Balna replied, "If you let her come here so often, maybe she will do us some harm, and make us sorry for it, some day."
The Raja then saw the Prudhan's widow go to the place where all his dinner was nicely prepared, and, as she took the wood, she threw a little mud into each of the dishes.
At this he was very angry, and sent to have the woman seized and brought before him. But when the widow came, she told him that she had played this trick because she wanted to gain an audience with him; and she spoke so cleverly, and pleased him so well with her cunning words, that instead of punishing her, the Raja married her, and made her his Ranee, and she and her daughter came to live in the palace.
Now the new Ranee hated the seven poor Princesses, and wanted to get them, if possible, out of the way, in order that her daughter might have all their riches, and live in the palace as Princess in their place; and instead of being grateful to them for their kindness to her, she did all she could to make them miserable. She gave them nothing but bread to eat, and very little of that, and very little water to drink; so these seven poor little Princesses, who had been accustomed to have everything comfortable about them, and good food and good clothes all their lives long, were very miserable and unhappy; and they used to go out every day and sit by their dead mother's tomb and cry- and say:
"O mother, mother, cannot you see your poor children, how unhappy we are, and how we are starved by our cruel stepmother?"
One day, while they were thus sobbing and crying, lo and behold! a beautiful pomelo tree grew up out of the grave, covered with fresh, ripe pomeloes, and the children satisfied their hunger by eating some of the fruit, and every day after this, instead of trying to eat the bad dinner their stepmother provided for them, they used to go out to their mother's grave and eat the pommels which grew there on the beautiful tree.
Then the Ranee said to her daughter, "I cannot tell how it is, every day those seven girls say they don't want any dinner, and won't eat any; and yet they never grow thin nor look ill; they look better than you do. I cannot tell how it is." And she bade her watch the seven Princesses, and see if anyone gave them anything to eat.
So next day, when the Princesses went to their mother's grave, and were eating the beautiful pomeloes, the Prudhan's daughter followed them, and saw them gathering the fruit.
Then Balna said to her sisters, "Do you not see that girl watching us?
Let us drive her away, or hide the pomeloes, else she will go and tell her mother all about it, and that will be bad for us."
But the other sisters said, "Oh no, do not be unkind, Balna. The girl would never be so cruel as to tell her mother. Let us rather invite her to come and have some of the fruit." And calling her to them, they gave her one of the pomeloes.
No sooner had she eaten it, however, than the Prudhan's daughter went home and said to her mother, "I do not wonder the seven Princesses will not eat the dinner you prepare for them, for by their mother's grave there grows a beautiful pomelo tree, and they go there every day and eat the pomeloes. I ate one, and it was the nicest I have ever tasted."