THERE was once a pair of Sparrows that lived in a tree. They used to hop about all over the place, picking up seeds or anything they could find to eat. One day, when they came back with their pickings, the Cock had found some rice, and the Hen a few lentils. They put it all in an earthen pot, and then proceeded to cook their dinner. Then they divided the mess into two equal parts.
The Cock was rather greedy, so he would not wait while his wife put out the fire and got ready to join in the meal. No! he gobbled up his share at once, before she could begin.
When at last the poor Hen came up, her greedy mate would not let her rest even then. "Go and get me a drink of water," said he quite rudely.
She was a very kind wife, so without taking any notice of his rudeness, off she went for the water.
While she was gone the Cock-sparrow's eyes fell on his wife's share of the dinner. "Ah," thought he, "how I should like another bit! Well, why shouldn't I have it? A man does all the work, and women don't want much to eat at any time." So without any more ado, he just set to, and gobbled up his wife's share.
Back came the Hen-sparrow with a drink of water for her husband. When he had drunk it up (and I am afraid he forgot to say thank you), she turned round to look for her dinner. Lo and behold! there was none. What could have become of it? As she was wondering, she happened to look at her husband; he looked so guilty that there could be no manner of doubt where her dinner was.
"You greedy bird," said she, "why have you eaten my dinner?"
"I haven't touched your dinner," said the Cock angrily.
"I'm sure you have," said she, "or you would not look so guilty. Why, you are actually blushing." And so indeed he was; the tip of his beak was quite red.
However, he still denied it, and grew angrier and angrier, as people do when they know they are in the wrong. They had a terrible quarrel. At last the Hen-sparrow said, "Well, I know a way to find out whether you are telling lies or not. You come along with me." And she made him go with her to the well.
Across the top of the well she stretched a piece of string, and she sat on the middle of the string, and began to chirp, "If I am telling lies, I pray I may fall in." But though she sat there a long time, chirping away, she did not fall in.
Then came the Cock-sparrow's turn. He perched on the string and began to chirrup, "If I am telling lies, may I fall into the well;" but hardly had he got the words out of his mouth, when--splash! down he went.
Then the Hen was very sorry that she had proposed this plan; she began to weep and cheep, and said--"Alas, alas, why didn't I leave it alone? What does it matter if he eats my dinner, so long as I have my dear husband? Now I have killed him by my folly."
Just at that moment up came a Cat.
"What's the matter?" said the Cat.
"Cheep, cheep, cheep," went the Hen-sparrow. "My husband has fallen into the well, and I don't know how to get him out."
"If I get him out," said the Cat, "will you let me eat him?"
"Of course you may," said the Hen-sparrow.
So the Cat climbed down, and pulled out the Cock-sparrow. When she had brought him to the edge of the well, said she, "Now I'm going to eat him as you promised."
"Oh, all right," said the Hen. "But stop a minute, your mouth is dirty. I am sure you have been eating mice. Now haven't you?"
"Why, yes," said the Cat, "so I have."
"Well," said the Hen-sparrow, "you must get yourself clean. We birds are clean creatures, and you must positively wash your mouth before you begin."
Away went the Cat, and washed her mouth clean, and came back again.
The Hen-sparrow looked at her carefully. "You have not washed your whiskers," said she; "they are still dirty."
The Cat went obediently and washed her whiskers.
Meanwhile the Cock-sparrow had been sitting on the
edge of the well in the sun, and by this time his feathers
were quite dry. So his Hen chirped to him, "Now,
dear, you can fly, let's be off." And off
they flew together, and the Cat was
left licking her chops and
wishing she had not