THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE 255
' If I die, I die,' said the boy, ' but I will not leave you.'
And the bird saw it was no use talking, and went down to the earth again.
' Here you are at home, so let me go my way,' it begged once more; ' or at least make a covenant with me.'
' What covenant? ' said the boy.
' Save me from the sun,' replied the bird, ' and I will save you from rain.'
' How can you do that, and how can I tell if I can trust you ?'
' Pull a feather from my tail, and put it in the fire, and if you want me I will come to you, wherever I am.'
And the boy answered, ' Well, I agree; go your way.'
' Farewell, my friend. When you call me, if it is from the depths of the sea, I will come.'
The lad watched the bird out of sight; then he went straight to the date tree. And when he saw the dates his heart was glad, and his body felt stronger and his eyes brighter than before. And he laughed out loud with joy, and said to himself, ' This is my luck, mine, Sit-in-the-kitchen! Farewell, date tree, I am going to lie down. What ate you will eat you no more.'
The sun was high in the sky before the head-man, whose business it was, came to look at the date tree, expecting to find it stripped of all its fruit, but when he saw the dates so thick that they almost hid the leaves he ran back to his house, and beat a big drum till everybody came running, and even the little children wanted to know what had happened.
' What is it? What is it, head-man?' cried they.
'Ah, it is not a son that the master has, but a lion! This day Sit-in-the-kitchen has uncovered his face before his father! '
' But how, head-man? '
' To-day the people may eat the dates.'