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THE LEGEND OF THE WOODPECKER
C. S. B. Adapted from Phœbe Cary's poem.
THERE was once a little old woman who lived all alone
at the top of a hill. She was the tiniest, neatest
little old woman you ever saw, and she always wore a
shiny black dress, and a gay little red bonnet on her
head, and a big white apron with a floppy white bow
But because she lived alone, and thought of no one but
herself, this little old woman had grown very selfish.
She never invited any one to drink a cup of tea with
her, and she never gave presents to anybody.
One day, when the little old woman was baking round
cakes with plums in them, a tired, hungry man came up
the hill and rapped at her door.
"May I have a cake?" he asked. "I am hungry, and I
have no money to pay you, but whatever you wish for,
that shall you have."
The little old woman looked at her cakes, and she
decided that they were too large and plump to give
away. So she broke off a wee little bit of dough, and
 put it in the oven to bake. It puffed and
swelled; and when it was done she decided that this
cake, also, was too nice and brown for the hungry man.
She broke off a tinier bit of dough, and then one
smaller still, but each came out of the oven as fat and
brown a cake as the first, and she set them all on a
high cupboard shelf, because she thought they were too
good to be given away. Then, at last, she took a bit
of dough as wee as the head of a pin, and put it in the
oven to bake, but this, too, came out a fine, large,
crisp cake; so the old woman hid it in the cupboard
with the others, and brought out a dry crust of bread
for the hungry man.
The poor man just looked at the crust, and then he was
gone, before you could wink your eye. But the little
old woman began to feel sorry to think how unkind and
selfish she had been.
"I wish I were a bird!" she said. "Then I could fly to
that hungry man with the largest cake on the shelf."
And, all at once, the little old woman began to grow
smaller and smaller. Her nose changed to a beak, her
arms stretched out until they were wings, and her feet
became claws. She was really the bird she had wished
to be, and the wind whisked her up the chimney and over
the hill to the woods.
If you look, you may see her to-day. She still wears
her shiny black dress, her white apron, and the gay
little red bonnet upon her head; but all day long she
must run up and down the trunks of the trees, pecking
her food from the hard bark. Listen, and you will hear
her tap, tap, tapping away; the selfish little old
woman who was changed to the red-headed woodpecker.