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 hearth.



Now, the good Saint was faint with fasting, and he asked if she would

give him one small cake wherewith to stay his hunger.



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 shelf.



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 feathers.



And now every country boy may see her in the woods, where she lives in

trees boring, boring, boring for her food.





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