MOHAMMED WITH THE MAGIC FINGER 191
put a scorpion into the hand of each, and it stung him, and he died. But to the youngest only he gave a bird.
As soon as he saw the boys lying dead on the ground, Mohammed lifted up his voice and cried loudly : ' Help, help! the children are dead !'
And the people came running fast, saying: 'What has happened ? How have they died ? '
And Mohammed answered: ' Jt was your own fault! The boys had been accustomed to birds, and in this bitter cold their fingers grew stiff, and could hold nothing, so that the birds flew away, and their spirits flew with them. Only the youngest, who managed to keep tight hold of his bird, is still alive.'
And the father groaned, and said, ' I have borne enough! Bring no more birds, lest I lose the youngest also!'
' All right,' said Mohammed.
As he was driving the sheep out to grass he said to his master: ' Out there is a splendid pasture, and I will keep the sheep there for two or, perhaps, three days, so do not be surprised at our absence.'
' Very good !' said the man ; and Mohammed started. For two days he drove them on and on, till he reached his uncle, and said to him, ' Dear uncle, take these sheep and look after them. I have killed the old woman and the boys, and the flock I have brought to you! '
Then Mohammed returned to his master; and on the way he took a stone and beat his own head with it till it bled, and bound his hands tight, and began to scream. The master came running and asked, ' What is the matter? '
And Mohammed answered: ' While the sheep were grazing, robbers came and drove them away, and because I tried to prevent them, they struck me on the head and bound my hands. See how bloody I am ! '
' What shall we do? ' said the master; ' are the animals far off?'