IN those days when our Lord and St. Peter wandered
upon earth, they came once to an old wife's house, who
sat baking. Her name was Gertrude, and she had a red
mutch on her head. They had walked a long way, and
were both hungry, and our Lord begged hard for a
bannock to stay their hunger. Yes, they should have it.
 So she took a tiny little piece of dough and rolled it out,
but as she rolled it, it grew and grew till it covered the whole griddle.
Nay, that was too big; they couldn't have that. So she took a tinier
bit still; but when that was rolled out it covered the whole griddle
just the same, and that bannock was too big, she said; they couldn't
have that either.
The third time she took a still tinier bit—so tiny you could scarce see
it; but it was the same story over again—the bannock was too big.
"Well," said Gertrude, "I can't give you anything; you must just go
without, for all these bannocks are too big."
Then our Lord waxed wroth, and said,—
"Since you love me so little as to grudge me a morsel of food, you
shall have this punishment,—you shall become a bird, and seek your food
between bark and bole, and never get a drop to drink save when it rains."
He had scarce said the last word before she was turned into a great
black woodpecker, or Gertrude's bird, and flew from her kneading-trough
right up the chimney; and till this very day you may see her flying
about, with her red mutch on her head, and her body all black,
because of the soot in the chimney; and so she hacks and taps away at
the trees for her food, and whistles when rain is coming, for she is ever
athirst, and then she looks for a drop to cool her tongue.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics