The Robin's Red Breast





It was very cold in the north country. The ice was thick and the snow

was deep.



The seal and the white bear were happy. They liked the ice, the snow,

and the cutting north wind, for their fur was thick and warm.



One night the great white bear climbed to the top of an immense

iceberg. He looked far across the country. The fields of snow and the

beautiful northern lights made the night almost as light as day.



The white bear saw no living thing save a few fur-clad animals and a

little gray robin chirping cheerily as it picked away at an old bone.



Again the white bear looked down. Almost at the foot of the iceberg

crouched a hunter and his little son. Between the two a tiny fire was

blazing.



When the white bear saw the hunter and the boy guarding the fire he

growled terribly. He leaped across from one iceberg to another. He

went into his icy cave still growling.



"It is the only fire in the whole north country," growled the white

bear to himself. "If I could only put out that fire the land of ice

and snow would be mine.



"Neither the hunter nor the hunter's son could live, without fire. I

will watch my chance. Perhaps some day I shall be so lucky as to put

the fire out."



Now the Eskimo night is weeks long. All through the long night the

hunter kept the fire. All through the long night the white bear

crouched near and growled deeply.



At length the hunter fell ill. The brave little boy kept the fire

burning. He also cared for his sick father.



The white bear crept closer now, and growled more loudly.



He longed to jump on the fire with his wet feet and tramp it out. But

he dared not. The boy's bright eyes watched faithfully. The hunter's

arrows were deadly, and the boy's aim was true.



But by and bye the boy could endure the long watch no longer. His head

drooped. His eyes closed. He slept.



The white bear's growl sounded like a hideous laugh. The little gray

robin twittered loudly in warning. But the poor tired little fellow

heard neither the white bear's growl nor the gray robin's twitter.



Then the white bear ran swiftly to the fire. He tramped upon it with

his cold wet feet. He rolled upon it with his cold wet fur. The

cheerful blaze died out.



When he arose the white bear saw only a little pile of gray ashes. He

laughed so loudly that the boy awoke and snatched up his bow and arrows.



But the white bear ran away to his cave, still growling laughingly. He

knew that no human being could live in that cruelly cold north country

without fire.



Now when the white bear was gone, the little gray robin hopped near.

Her chirp was quite sad. She, too, saw nothing but a little heap of

ashes as gray as her own feathers.



She hopped nearer. She scratched among the ashes with her cold little

claws. She looked eagerly at each cinder with her sharp little eyes.

She found--a tiny live coal.



It was only the tiniest spark! The least flake of the fast-falling

snow would put it out!



The little gray robin hovered over it that the cold wind might not

reach the spark. She fanned it softly with her wings for a long, long

time.



The gray robin hovered so close that the coal touched her gray breast.

As she fanned it glowed larger and redder. Her breast was scorched

quite red, as the coal grew.



But the robin did not leave until a fine red flame blazed up.



Then the robin with her poor scorched red breast flew away. She flew

wearily, for she was very tired. Now and again she touched the ground.



And wherever the robin's red breast touched the earth a fire was

kindled. Soon the whole north country was blazing with tiny fires over

which the Eskimos might cook their food and dry their clothes.



The white bear crept far, far back into his cave. He growled fiercely.

He knew now that he could never have the north country to himself.





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