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For the Children's Hour by  Carolyn S. Bailey


 

 

HOW THE ROBIN'S BREAST BECAME RED

Adapted from Cook's "Nature Myths."

[179] LONG ago, in the far Northland, where it is very cold, there was, once upon a time, a great, blazing fire. All day and all night a hunter and his little boy took care of it and kept it burning brightly. There was no other fire in the whole world, and the squirrels and the rabbits, and the chipmunks crept near to warm their toes before they hurried away for their winter stores, and all the Indians came for coals, that they might cook their food.

But one day the hunter became very ill, and he was obliged to leave his son quite alone tending the fire. For days and days, and nights and nights, the little boy bravely kept it burning, running off to the woods for twigs, and hastening back to toss them upon the blaze. But at last he was too tired to keep his eyes open any longer; so his head began nodding, and he fell fast asleep on the ground.

In the deep woods of the Northland lived a wicked old white bear. With his bright eyes he had been peering out from behind the pine trees, and watching the fire. He hated all warm things, and he wished to put the fire out, but he was afraid of the hunter's sharp-pointed arrows. When the little boy closed his eyes, the bear laughed to himself and began to step softly nearer, and nearer, and nearer the fire.

"Now is my chance!" he said. 'We will have no fire in the Northland."

Then he jumped with his big, wet feet upon the logs, and trod on the coals, and tramped back and forth, until he could not see a spark. Then he went [180] back to his cave in the woods again, for he thought the fire was quite dead.

But up in a hemlock tree sat the little gray robin who lives in the Northland, and she felt very sorry when she saw what the white bear had done. She fluttered down to the ground, and over to the place where the fire had been, and she found—what do you think?—one tiny spark of flame that was still burning, and one little red coal! then the gray robin began hopping about, and flapping her little, gray wings, and fanning the tiny spark to make it burn brighter. And the red coal began to crackle, and the flames to burn higher and higher, until they scorched the poor robin's breast; but she never minded at all, she was so happy that the fire was beginning to blaze again.

When it was burning away cheerily once more, as if nothing had happened, the little boy awoke, and the robin flew back to the hemlock tree, but the old white bear just growled and growled, to think that the fire was safe. And the robin, who had always been only a gray color all over, looked down where the flames had burned her breast, and it had turned a beautiful golden red. After that every gray robin had a pretty red breast, too, for the bird who kept the fire was the grandmother of them all.

The people in the Northland love the robin very much indeed, and this is the story they tell of how she came to have her red breast.


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