The Tongue-cut Sparrow
: BIRD DAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY A. B. MITFORD (ADAPTED)
Once upon a time there lived a little old man and a little old woman.
The little old man had a kind heart, and he kept a young sparrow, which
he cared for tenderly. Every morning it used to sing at the door of his
Now, the little old woman was a cross old thing, and one day when she
was going to starch her linen, the sparrow pecked at her paste. Then she
flew into a great rage and cut the sparrow's tongue and let the bird fly
When the little old man came home from the hills, where he had been
chopping wood, he found the sparrow gone.
"Where is my little sparrow?" asked he.
"It pecked at my starching-paste," answered the little old woman, "so I
cut its evil tongue and let it fly away."
"Alas! Alas!" cried the little old man. "Poor thing! Poor thing! Poor
little tongue-cut sparrow! Where is your home now?"
And then he wandered far and wide seeking his pet and crying:--
"Mr. Sparrow, Mr. Sparrow, where are you living?"
And he wandered on and on, over mountain and valley, and dale and river,
until one day at the foot of a certain mountain he met the lost bird.
The little old man was filled with joy and the sparrow welcomed him with
its sweetest song.
It led the little old man to its nest-house, introduced him to its wife
and small sparrows, and set before him all sorts of good things to eat
"Please partake of our humble fare," sang the sparrow; "poor as it is,
you are welcome."
"What a polite sparrow," answered the little old man, and he stayed for
a long time as the bird's guest. At last one day the little old man said
that he must take his leave and return home.
"Wait a bit," said the sparrow.
And it went into the house and brought out two wicker baskets. One was
very heavy and the other light.
"Take the one you wish," said the sparrow, "and good fortune go with
"I am very feeble," answered the little old man, "so I will take the
He thanked the sparrow, and, shouldering the basket, said good-bye. Then
he trudged off leaving the sparrow family sad and lonely.
When he reached home the little old woman was very angry, and began to
scold him, saying:--
"Well, and pray where have you been all these days? A pretty thing,
indeed, for you to be gadding about like this!"
"Oh," he replied, "I have been on a visit to the tongue-cut sparrow, and
when I came away it gave me this wicker basket as a parting gift."
Then they opened the basket to see what was inside, and lo and behold!
it was full of gold, silver, and other precious things!
The little old woman was as greedy as she was cross, and when she saw
all the riches spread before her, she could not contain herself for joy.
"Ho! Ho!" cried she. "Now I'll go and call on the sparrow, and get a
pretty present, too!"
She asked the old man the way to the sparrow's house and set forth on
her journey. And she wandered on and on over mountain and valley, and
dale and river, until at last she saw the tongue-cut sparrow.
"Well met, well met, Mr. Sparrow," cried she. "I have been looking
forward with much pleasure to seeing you." And then she tried to flatter
it with soft, sweet words.
So the bird had to invite her to its nest-house, but it did not feast
her nor say anything about a parting gift. At last the little old woman
had to go, and she asked for something to carry with her to remember the
visit by. The sparrow, as before, brought out two wicker baskets. One
was very heavy and the other light.
The greedy little old woman, choosing the heavy one, carried it off with
She hurried home as fast as she was able, and closing her doors and
windows so that no one might see, opened the basket. And, lo and behold!
out jumped all sorts of wicked hobgoblins and imps, and they scratched
and pinched her to death.
As for the little old man he adopted a son, and his family grew rich and