88 ANIMAL LANGUAGE.
king mourning over the danger to his community. "These human beings," he said, " ride by on awkward animals without the least thought. Here's a stupid horse coming along, no doubt with his heavy hoofs he will tread down our people unmercifully."
But the rider turned his horse aside, and the ant-king cried out, " I will often think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded."
Then the king's messenger travelled on till he reached a wood, and there he saw two ravens, a father and mother, and heard them say as they stood by their nest: " Go along with you, we cannot feed you any more; you are fat enough and must now provide for yourselves and the old birds threw the young ones out of the nest as they spoke.
The poor little birds lay on the ground fluttering and beating their little wings and crying, " Oh ! we poor helpless children, we have to provide for ourselves and we cannot even fly; there is nothing left for us but to die of hunger."
Then the good young man dismounted, killed his horse with his dagger and left it there for the young ravens to feed on. They hopped upon it and began to feast themselves, crying out, " We will always think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded."
He was now obliged to use his own legs instead of riding, so he walked on for a long distance till at last he came to a large town. There was a great noise in the streets and crowds of people, and presently a man on horseback rode up and made a proclamation that the king's daughter was seeking a spouse, but that he who was a candidate for her hand must first perform completely a very difficult task, and if he undertook it and did not succeed he would forfeit his life. The young man had at first no wish to be a suitor to such a great lady, but he had no sooner seen the young princess than he became quite dazzled with her beauty, and promised to do everything she wished.
Then he was admitted by the king as her suitor, and sailed very soon after on a voyage to enable him to accomplish the undertaking she required. One day as he was seated on deck, he saw a gold ring fall before him, as if thrown by a hand. He took great care of it, and on his return gave it to the king, who at once ordered him to throw the ring back into the sea and dive after it, adding, " Every time you come up without it you shall be thrust back into the waves till they overwhelm you,"