The Baby from the Eagle's Nest (Part 1)
The Baby from the Eagle's Nest (Part 1)
Once there was a girl named Gretchen who lived in a big stone house in the woods with a kindly old wizard; but unfortunately he was so old and absent-minded that he paid little attention to her or to his household from one day to the next. Still he treated her well, asked little work of her, and let her read to her heart's content in old books and scrolls in his library, and even let her practice a few of the simpler spells; though nothing as dangerous as buckets and brooms, of course.
Now one day while the wizard was gathering herbs in the woods, from a tall tree he heard a child crying. Using one of his spells, he flew to the top of the tree and found there a large bird's nest, which was empty except for a beautiful little boy. "Whatever are you doing here?" the wizard said.
"An eagle stole me from my mother," said the boy. But he was too young to remember the name of his family or village, and the wizard could get no sense from him.
So the wizard carried the boy home; there he called Gretchen to him and said, "I have brought you a playmate. I found him in an eagle's nest, so we will call him Nestor." At once the little boy went to Gretchen, and they became the dearest of friends. So for a long time Gretchen and Nestor lived happily, studying the easiest of the wizard's spells and running and playing about the house and garden.
As he grew older, Nestor showed a great talent for growing fruits and vegetables and cooking wonderful savory stews and pies. "Perhaps", the wizard said one night after dinner, "soon we can retire the cook" - who was a very cross and disagreeable old man named Crumppet - "and let Nestor take over the kitchen."
"That would be wonderful," said Gretchen, for the cook was always boxing people's ears with the serving spoon, which she thought rather unsanitary.
And Nestor said, "I would like that very much."
But old Crumppet, the cook, overhearing this, became angry and jealous, and determined to get rid of Nestor. He thought about it for a long time. He knew he would have to do something extraordinary, or the wizard's spells would quickly find out what had become of the boy.
The cook also began reading in the wizard's library, and finally determined on a plan: he would kill the boy and cook his body in a stew.
So, when next the wizard set out on a journey, Crumppet got out a very big iron kettle and filled it with water; then he fell asleep and Gretchen heard him muttering: "Tomorrow I'll kill the boy and cook him, tomorrow that Nestor will be stew."
Gretchen could scarcely believe her ears! What could she do? The wizard was away for several days. The other servants would never believe such a crazy story. There was nothing to do but run away; she hoped she could persuade Nestor to believe her.
Gretchen packed all the food she could carry, and put on rough outdoor clothing, and then went to the library. She didn't dare light a candle, but chose the three shortest scrolls she could find; hoping they would turn out to have useful spells.
At first light of day she went to Nestor's room and woke him. "Do you trust me?" she said. "Will you go with me wherever I take you?"
Nestor hugged her. "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."
"I will never leave you," said Gretchen. Then she told him about Crumppet's plan, and together they snuck out of the house and took a path toward the woods.
Now as soon as old Crumppet awoke, he built a fire under his kettle, and while it was heating he went to Nestor's room to get the boy. But he found the bed empty. Crumppet ran to Gretchen's room and found her gone also.
Now Crumppet flew into a fit of rage and determined to find and boil both children! So he began shouting "Thief, thief!" and roused the servants. "Those children have stolen the wizard's scrolls and run away!" he told them. "Search for them in all directions!"
So the servants set out in all directions, with three footmen running toward the woods along the same path that Gretchen and Nestor were walking.
Gretchen heard the servants coming, but there was no place to hide; they were still a long way from the woods. So she took out the first scroll. For Transformation To A Rose-Tree, it said. "I hope it can do us both," said Gretchen. "Hold my hand."
Nestor held her hand tight and said, "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."
"I will never leave you," said Gretchen, then recited the words on the scroll.
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she became a beautiful rose-tree, and Nestor became a red rose growing upon it.
The three footmen ran straight by with scarcely a second glance. They searched for a while, then gave up and went home, scarcely stopping to smell the rose as they passed the rosebush. "We could not find the children," they told the cook. All the other servants who had been looking reported the same thing.
"Idiots!" said the cook. "They must have been hiding. Didn't you see anything unusual?"
"Well, there was a rose-tree with one rose...."
To be continued….
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