THE INQUISITIVE WOMAN
HERE was once a woman who was so very inquisitive that she wished to know everything. She was never happy unless she was poking her nose into some mystery, and the less a matter concerned her the more curious she was about it.
One day the Lord gathered together all the insects in the world, all the beetles, bugs, bees, mosquitoes, ants, locusts, grasshoppers, and other creatures who fly or hop or crawl, and shut them up in a huge sack well tied at the end. What a queer, squirming, muffled-buzzing bundle it made, to be sure!
Then the Lord called the woman to him and said, “Woman, I would have you take this sack and throw it into the sea. But be sure and do not untie the end of it to look inside; for the sack must on no account be opened, even for a single minute.”
The woman took the sack, wondering very much at the queer size and shape and feeling of it, and especially at the strange noises which came from the inside.
“What can be in the sack?” she said to herself. “Oh, I wish I knew! Oh, how I wish I knew! Oh, how very, very much I wish I knew!” Her curiosity increased every minute as she went step by step towards the sea, until when she had gone scarcely a hundred paces she stopped short and said, “I must know what is inside this sack before I go any farther. I will take just one tiny little peep, and He will never know it.”
Very carefully she untied the neck of the sack. Buzz! Whirr! Hum! Zim! She had opened it but a tiny little crack when out crawled and hopped and flew the millions and swarms and colonies of all kinds of insects, and away they scattered in every direction. Such a noise as filled the air about the astonished woman’s head! Such a wriggling and squirming and hopping in the grass about her feet!
“Oh, now I know what was in the sack!” she cried. “But I wish I had not looked. Oh, whatever shall I do? He told me to throw the bag into the ocean without looking in. But now the horrid creatures have escaped everywhere and He will know what I have done. Oh, what will He do to punish me?”
She began to run hither and yon like a crazy woman, picking up the bugs and jumping for the fluttering insects, trying to put them back into the bag. They stung her and bit her and got into her eyes until she screamed with pain. As fast as she caught one another escaped, and she soon saw that it was a hopeless task. She could never catch the millions of creatures who had scattered away to their homes in every corner of the world.
Then the Lord came to her and said very sternly, “O Woman, you have disobeyed me, just as did the very first woman of all. And you must be punished both for your disobedience and for your inquisitiveness which has led you into the worse sin. Not until you have gathered up every one of these insects which you have permitted to escape back into the world shall you be happy. But I will give you wings to help you in the task. You shall become a Woodpecker, and it shall be your task to hunt, hunt for the insects which hide away so slyly at your approach. Not till the last one of these is gobbled up from the earth shall you return to your own shape and be a woman once more.”
Then the Lord changed the inquisitive woman into a restless Woodpecker, and with a “tut-tut!” she darted away in pursuit of the insects which had brought her into such trouble.
And that is why to this day one sees the Woodpecker pecking so frantically on the tree trunks, anxious lest a single insect should escape. For she is very tired of being a bird, and is longing to become a woman once more. But it will be a very long time, I fear, before she gathers up all the wriggling, squirming, hopping, buzzing, stinging, biting things that make life in the country so varied, exciting, and musical.
Another bird story will be posted tomorrow morning (and every morning through the entire month of March in honor of National Reading Month AND birds)…
Project Gutenberg's The Curious Book of Birds, by Abbie Farwell Brown This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Curious Book of Birds Author: Abbie Farwell Brown Illustrator: E. Boyd Smith Release Date: June 27, 2005 [EBook #16140] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1