Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo


Roland and May-Bird

THERE was once a poor man who went every day to cut wood in the forest. One day as he went along he heard a cry like a little child’s; so he followed the sound till at last be looked up a high tree, and on one of the branches sat a very little girl. Its mother had fallen asleep, and a vulture had taken it out of her lap and flown away with it and left it on the tree. Then the wood-cutter climbed up, took the little child down, and said to himself, ‘I will take this poor child home and bring it up with my own son Roland.’ So he brought it to his cottage, and both grew up together ! and he called the little girl May-bird, because he had found her on a tree in May; and May-bird and Roland were so very fond of each other that they were never happy but when they were together. But the wood-cutter became very poor, and had nothing in the world be could call his own, and indeed be had scarcely bread enough for his wife and the two children to eat. At last the time came when even that was all gone, and he knew not where to seek for help in his need. Then at night, as he lay on his bed and turned himself here and there, restless and full of care, his wife said to him, ‘Husband, listen to me, and take the two children out early tomorrow morning; give each of them a piece of bread, and then lead them into the midst of the wood where it is thickest, make a fire for them, and go away and leave them alone to shift for themselves, for we can no longer keep them here.’ ‘No, wife,’ said the husband, ‘I cannot find it in my heart to leave the children to the wild beasts of the forest who would soon tear them to pieces.’ ‘Well, if you will not do as I say,’ answered the wife, ‘we must starve together:’ and she let him have no peace until he came into her plan. Meantime the poor children too were lying awake restless, and weak from hunger, so that they heard all that their mother said to her husband. ‘Now,’ thought May-bird to herself, ‘it is all up with us:’ and she began to weep. But Roland crept to her bed-side, and said, ‘Do not be afraid, May-bird, I will find out some help for us.’ Then he got up, put on his jacket, and opened the door and went out. The moon shone bright upon the little court before the cottage, and the white pebbles glittered like daisies on the green meadows. So he stooped down, and put as many as he could into his pocket, and then went back to the house. ‘Now, May-bird,’ said he, ‘rest in peace;’ and he went to bed and fell fast asleep. Early in the morning, before the sun had risen, the woodman’s wife came and awoke them. ‘Get up, children,’ said she, ‘we are going into the wood; there is a piece of bread for each of you, but take care of it and keep some for the afternoon.’ May-bird took the bread and carried it in her apron, because Roland had his pocket full of stones, and they made their way into the wood. After they had walked on for a time, Roland stood still and looked towards home, and after a while turned again, and so on several times. Then his father said, ‘Roland, why do you keep turning and lagging about so? move your legs on a little faster.’ ‘Ah! father,’ answered Roland, ‘I am stopping to look at my white cat that sits on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me.’ ‘You little fool!’ said his mother, ’that is not your cat; ‘tis the morning sun shining on the chimney top.’ Now Roland had not been looking at the cat, but had all the while been staying behind to drop from his pocket one white pebble after another along the road. When they came into the midst of the wood, the wood-man said, ‘Run about, children, and pick up some wood, and I will make a fire to keep us all warm.’ So they piled up a little heap of brush-wood, and set it a-fire; and as the flame burnt bright, the mother said, ‘Now set yourselves by the fire and go to sleep, while we go and cut wood in the forest; be sure you wait till we come again and fetch you.’ Roland and May-bird sat by the fire-side till the afternoon, and then each of them ate their piece of bread. They fancied the woodman was still in the wood, because they thought they heard the blows of his axe; but it was a bough which he had cunningly hung upon a tree, so that the wind blew it backwards and forwards, and it sounded like the axe as it hit the other boughs. Thus they waited till evening; but the woodman and his wife kept away, and no one came to fetch them. When it was quite dark May-bird began to cry; but Roland said, ‘Wait awhile till the moon rises.’ And when the moon rose, he took her by the hand, and there lay the pebbles along the ground, glittering like new pieces of money, and marked the way out. Towards morning they came again to the woodman’s house, and he was glad in his heart when he saw the children again; for he had grieved at leaving them alone. His wife also seemed to be glad; but in her heart she was angry at it. Not long after there was again no bread in the house, and May-bird and Roland heard the wife say to her husband, ‘The children found their way back once, and I took it in good part; but there is only half a loaf of bread left for them in the house; to-morrow you must take them deeper into the wood, that they may not find their way out, or we shall all be starved.’ It grieved the husband in his heart to do as his wife wished, and be thought it would be better to share their last morsel with the children; but as he had done as she said once, he did not dare to say no. When the children had heard all their plan, Roland got up and wanted to pick up pebbles as before; but when he came to the door be found his mother had locked it. Still he comforted May-bird, and said, ‘Sleep in peace, dear May-bird; God is very kind and will help us.’ Early in the morning a piece of bread was given to each of them, but still smaller than the one they had before. Upon the road Roland crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still, and threw a crumb upon the ground. ‘Why do you lag so behind, Roland?’ said the woodman; ‘go your ways on before.’ ‘I am looking at my little dove that is sitting upon the roof and wants to say good-bye to me.’ ‘You silly boy!’ said the wife, ‘that is not your little dove, it lathe morning sun that shines on the chimney top.’ But Roland went on crumbling his bread, and throwing it on the ground. And thus they went on still farther into the wood, where they had never been before in all their life. There they were again told to sit down by a large fire, and sleep; and the woodman and his wife said they would come in the evening and fetch them away. In the afternoon Roland shared May-bird’s bread, because he had strewed all his upon the road; but the day passed away, and evening passed away too, and no one came to the poor children. Still Roland comforted May-bird, and said, ‘Wait till the moon rises; then I shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewed, and they will show us the way home.’ The moon rose; but when Roland looked for the crumbs, they were gone; for thousands of little birds in the wood had found them and picked them up. Roland, however, set out to try and find his way home; but they soon lost themselves in the wilderness, and went on through the night and all the next day, till at last they lay down and fell asleep for weariness: and another day they went on as before, but still did not reach ...