184 MOHAMMED WITH THE MAGIC FINGER
And so they started, driving the goats in front of them.
When they reached the pasture the boy said to his uncle: ' Dear uncle, this night my father means to kill you. While we are away he will creep into your room and hide in the straw. Directly we get home my mother will say to you, " Take that straw and give it to the sheep," and, if you do, he will bite you.'
' Then what am I to do?' asked the man.
' Oh, do not be afraid, dear uncle! I will kill my father myself.'
' All right,' replied the uncle.
As they drove back the goats towards the house, the sister cried : ' Be quick, dear brother, go and get me some straw for the sheep.'
' Let me go,' said the boy.
'You are not big enough; your uncle will get it,' replied she.
' We will both get it,' answered the boy ; ' come, uncle, let us go and fetch that straw! '
'All right,' replied the uncle, and they went to the door of the room.
' It seems very dark,' said the boy; ' I must go and get a light;' and when he came back with one, he set fire to the straw, and the serpent was burnt.
Then the mother broke into sobs and tears. ' Oh, you wretched boy! What have you done? Your father was in that straw, and you have killed him!'
' Now, how was I to know that my father was lying in that straw, instead of in the kitchen?' said the boy.
But his mother only wept the more, and sobbed out, ' From this day you have no father. You must do without him as best you can ! '
' Why did you marry a serpent? ' asked the hoy. ' I thought he was a man! How did he learn those odd tricks?'
As the sun rose, she woke her brother, and said, ' Go and take the goats to pasture!'