28. The Serpent Eagle
Once there lived two boys whose mother sent them every day to the forest to get wood for her fires. Each morning, as they started out, she gave them some food for their trip, but it was always poor and there was little of it, and she would say, “The wood that you brought yesterday was so poor that I cannot give you much to eat today.”
The boys tried very hard to please her, but if they brought nice pine wood she scolded them, and if they brought large dry reeds she said:
“These are no good for my fire, for they leave too many ashes in the house.”
Try as they would, they failed to satisfy her; and their bodies grew very thin from working hard all day and from want of enough to eat.
One morning when they left for the mountains the mother gave them a bit of dog meat to eat, and the boys were very sad. When they reached the forest one of them said, “You wait here while I climb the tree and cut off some branches.”
He went up the tree and soon called down, “Here is some wood,” and the bones of his arm dropped to the ground.
“Oh,” cried his brother, “it is your arm!”
“Here is some more wood,” cried the other, and the bones of the other arm dropped to the ground.
Then he called again, and the bones of his leg fell, then those of his other leg, and so on till all the bones of his body lay on the ground.
“Take these home,” he said, “and tell the woman that here is her wood; she only wanted my bones.”
The younger boy was very sad, for he was alone, and there was no one to go down the mountain with him. He gathered up the bundle of wood, wondering meanwhile what he should do, but just as he finished a serpent eagle called down from the tree tops, “I will go with you, Brother.”
So the boy put the bundle of wood on his shoulder, and as he was going down the mountain, his brother, who was now a serpent eagle, flew over his head. When he reached the house, he put down the bundle and said to his mother, “Here is your wood.”
When she looked at it she was very much frightened and ran out of the house.
Then the serpent eagle circled round and round above her head and called, “Quiukok! quiukok! quiukok! I do not need your food anymore.”