186 MOHAMMED WITH THE MAGIC EIXGER
But the uncle cried. • No, no. my boy. we will keep together always.'
• Alas ! that cannot be.' said the boy; 'so tell me which wav you will go.'
' I will go to the west.' said the uncle.
' One word before I leave you,' continued the boy. ' Beware of any man who has red hair and blue eyes. Take no service under him.'
' All right,' replied the uncle, and they parted.
For three days the man wandered on without any food, till he was very hungry. Then, when he was almost fainting, a stranger met him and said, ' Will you work for me ?'
' By contract?' asked the man.
• Yes. by contract,' replied the stranger, 'and whichever of us breaks it. shall have a strip of skin taken from his body.'
'All right.'replied the man; 'what shall I have to do?'
• Every day you must take the sheep out to pasture, and carry my old mother on your shoulders, taking great care her feet shall never touch the ground. And, besides that, you must catch, every evening, seven singing birds for my seven sons.'
' That is easily done,' said the man.
Then they went back together, and the stranger said, ' Here are your sheep : and now stoop down, and let my mother climb on your back.'
'Very good.' answered Mohammed's uncle.
The new shepherd did as he was told, and returned in the evening with the old woman on his back, and the seven singing birds in his pocket, which he gave to the -even boys, when they came to meet him. So the days passed, each one exactly like the other.
At Last, one night, he began to weep, and cried : ' Oh, what have I done, that I should have to perform such hateful tasks ?'