The Owl and the Raven

by Lenore Elizabeth Mulets

Once upon a time the owl and the raven were fast friends.

They lived beside the same stream. They built their nests in a tree side by side. They sang the same songs. They ate the same food. They wore dresses of the same pale gray.

There was nothing that these friends would not do for each other. So great was their friendship that each was always finding ways to surprise and please the other.

At one time the raven was absent for two whole days.

"What can he be doing?" said the owl to herself. "I know he is planning some new surprise for me."

When, on the third day, the raven returned, the owl knew from his contented looks that the present must be unusually fine.

"It is something more than a beetle or a field-mouse this time," she thought. "Now what can I do for him? He is always so kind to me!"

Then the owl began to look about for something to do for her friend the raven.

On the shore near their home tree a huge whale had once been caught and cut up by the Eskimo hunters. Some of the bones still lay upon the sandy beach.

"Oh," said the owl, as she chanced upon these whalebones, "I know the very thing which will please my dear friend the raven!

"I will make for him a pair of beautiful whalebone boots! With them he can walk over the sharp rocks and the icy cliffs in comfort and safety!"

Thereupon the owl sat down in the sand and went to work. It was not long until the boots were finished. They were beautifully smooth and slender and graceful.

"The raven cannot help being pleased," she said, as she carried the boots toward the home tree. "I wonder if he is in!"

As she drew near the owl heard the raven calling her name. Answering loudly, she hurried to the place where he waited. But before the raven saw her she hid the whalebone boots among the grasses, that she might surprise him later.

She found the raven hopping impatiently about and calling loudly.

"Here—here I am!" she cried. "I have been away for but a short time—but you were away for days!"

"Oh, owl, dear," replied the raven, "though I have been absent I have thought only of you!

"See! here is a beautiful new dress which I have made for you!" And the raven spread before his friend a beautiful dress of dappled black and white.

It was made of the softest, most beautiful feathers, lovely enough to delight the heart of any bird.

"Oh, how very beautiful!" cried the owl. "How kind you are to me! How did you ever think of anything so lovely?"

The raven smiled, well pleased with himself.

"Try it on," he said. "I am sure it will become you. I am certain that when you see how lovely you look, you will never again wish to wear anything but black and white."

Quickly the owl slipped from her old gray dress into the splendid new one. Gently she fluttered about and ruffled the soft black and white feathers.

"Where did you get them?" she said, circling about and looking at her tail for the twentieth time.

"Sit down," commanded the raven, "and I will tell you!" So the owl settled down on the branch beside the raven.

"I found the feathers on that steep, rocky cliff beside the sea," he said. "The stones were sharp and the winds were wearying, but at last I finished the dress just as I planned.

"I am glad that you are pleased. I am very tired now, and must sit still and rest."

So delighted was the owl that for a moment she had forgotten the whalebone boots. Now as she looked at the raven she saw that in scratching about for the feathers he had broken one of his pink toes.

With a little cry of pity she flew to the grasses where the boots were hidden. Quickly she snatched them up and flew back to the poor tired raven.

"Here," she cried, "here!—I thought of you while you were away. Now you shall put your tired feet into these strong whale-bone boots. The stones and the ice cannot hurt you again."

"Oh, oh!" croaked the raven. "They are the very things for which I have been longing!"

"Put them on! Put them on!" cried the owl. "See how they will rest you! They will make you feel quite young again!"

The raven slipped his tired feet into the whalebone boots. Straight away the old tired ache left him. He hopped gaily about and croaked cheerfully.

"How graceful!" he said. "How perfectly they fit! How comfortable."

"Now I shall make a coat for you," said the owl. "It shall be pure white. The feathers shall be the shiniest and the loveliest that I can find!"

By and bye the raven's white coat was ready to be fitted.

"Come," commanded the owl. "Come and stand still while I fit your coat."

The raven came, but so delighted was he with the whalebone boots that he could not stand still. As the owl worked over him he kept hopping and dancing about.

"Stand still!" cried the owl. "I can do nothing with you hopping about so. I shall stick the pin-feathers into you!"

For an instant the raven stood still, looking down at the boots. Then he jumped so suddenly that the owl dropped a whole clawful of the soft white feathers with which she was finishing the neck.

Then the owl grew very angry.

"Stand still!" she hooted. "If you jump another time I will throw the oil from the lamp on you!"'

Now the lamp was filled with whale-oil. In it wicks of moss and twisted grass had been burned. With time and many wicks the oil had become as black as soot.

The raven looked at the black, sooty oil and then at his new white coat. He really stood still for as much as two minutes.

Just as the owl was trying to decide whether or not the coat should be longer, to cover the tops of the new boots, the raven caught sight of his own reflection in the clear water below.

So pleased was he with his appearance that he flapped his wings, and jumped up and down.

The loose white feathers flew in every direction. The pin-feathers dropped to the ground. The angry owl gasped for breath.

Then in a rage she seized the lamp. She flung it at the raven. Alas, for the poor fellow! The oil struck him full on the head. It ran down before. It ran down behind! There was not a dry feather on him!

"Quag! Quag!" croaked he, the oil dripping down on all sides. "Quag! Quag! I shall never speak to you again!"

"No," cried the owl. "Do not speak to me again. I would not have such a sooty friend as you!" and she flew far away.