64 HOW BALL-CARRIER FINISHED HIS TASK
when last she had come that way. No one was about, so she ventured to peep in, and her surprise was increased at seeing, heaped up in one corner, a quantity of food of all sorts, while a little robin redbreast stood perched on a beam looking down upon her.
' It is my father, I am sure,' she cried; and the bird piped in answer.
From that day, whenever they wanted food they went to the hut, and though the robin could not speak, he would hop on their shoulders and let them feed him with the food they knew he liked best.
When the man came back he found the girl looking so much prettier and fatter than when he had left her, that he insisted that they should be married on the spot. And the mother, who did not know how to get rid of him, gave in.
The husband spent all his time in hunting, and the family had never had so much meat before ; but the man, who had seen for himself how poor they were, noticed with amazement that they did not seem to care about it, or to be hungry. ' They must get food from somewhere,' he thought, and one morning, when he pretended to be going out to hunt, he hid in a thicket to watch. Very soon they all left the house together, and walked to the other hut, which the girl's husband saw for the first time, as it was hid in a hollow. He followed, and noticed that each one went up to the redbreast, and shook him by the claw; and he then entered boldly and shook the bird's claw too. The whole party afterwards sat down to dinner, after which they all returned to their own hut.
The next day the husband declared that he was very ill, and could not eat anything; but this was only a pretence so that he might get what he wanted. The family were all much distressed, and begged him to tell them what food he fancied.
' Oh! I could not eat any food,' he answered every time, and at each answer his voice grew fainter and