254 THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE
But the boy entreated, saying, ' Father, if you and I and mother be alive to-morrow, you shall eat the dates.'
' Go then,' said his father.
When the boy reached the garden, he told the slaves to leave him, and to return home themselves and sleep. When he was alone, he laid himself down and slept fast till one o'clock, when he arose, and sat opposite the date tree. Then he took some Indian corn out of one fold of his dress, and some sandy grit out of another. And he chewed the corn till he felt he was growing sleepy, and then he put some grit into his mouth, and that kept him awake till the bird came.
It looked about at first without seeing him, and whispering to itself, ' There is no one here,' fluttered lightly on to the tree and stretched out his beak for the dates. Then the boy stole softly up, and caught it by the wing.
The bird turned and flew quickly away, but the boy never let go, not even when they soared high into the air.
'Son of Adam,' the bird said when the tops of the mountains looked small below them, 'if you fall, you will be dead long before you reach the ground, so go your way, and let me go mine.'
But the boy answered, ' Wherever you go, I will go with you. You cannot get rid of me.'
' I did not eat your dates,' persisted the bird, ' and the day is dawning. Leave me to go my way.'
But again the boy answered him: ' My six brothers are hateful to my father because you came and stole the dates, and to-day my father shall see you, and my brothers shall see you, and all the people of the town, great and small, shall see you. And my father's heart will rejoice.'
' Well, if you will not leave me, I will throw you off,' said the bird.
So it flew up higher still — so high that the earth shone like one of the other stars.
' How much of you will be left if you fall from here?' asked the bird.