THE OLD WOMAN WHO BECAME A WOODPECKER
BY PHOEBE CARY (ADAPTED)
 AFAR in the Northland, where the winter days are so short
and the nights so long, and where they harness the reindeer
to sledges, and where the children look like bear's cubs in
their funny, furry clothes, there, long ago, wandered a good
Saint on the snowy roads.
He came one day to the door of a cottage, and looking in saw
a little old woman making cakes, and baking them on the
Now, the good Saint was faint with fasting, and he asked if
she would give him one small cake wherewith to stay his
So the little old woman made a very small cake and placed it
on the hearth; but as it lay baking she looked at it and
thought: "That is a big cake, indeed, quite too big for me
to give away."
Then she kneaded another cake, much smaller, and laid that
on the hearth to cook, but when she turned it over it looked
larger than the first.
So she took a tiny scrap of dough, and rolled it out, and
rolled it out, and baked it as thin as a wafer; but when it
was done it looked so large that
 she could not bear to part with it; and she said: "My cakes
are much too big to give away,"—and she put them on the
Then the good Saint grew angry, for he was hungry and faint.
"You are too selfish to have a human form," said he. "You
are too greedy to deserve food, shelter, and a warm fire.
Instead, henceforth, you shall build as the birds do, and
get your scanty living by picking up nuts and berries and by
boring, boring all the day long, in the bark of trees."
Hardly had the good Saint said this when the little old
woman went straight up the chimney, and came out at the top
changed into a red-headed woodpecker with coal-black
And now every country boy may see her in the woods, where
she lives in trees boring, boring, boring for her food.