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Pivi and Kabo
by [?]

When birds were men, and men were birds, Pivi and Kabo lived in an island far away, called New Claledonia. Pivi was a cheery little bird that chirps at sunset; Kabo was an ugly black fowl that croaks in the darkness. One day Pivi and Kabo thought that they would make slings, and practice slinging, as the people of the island still do. So they went to a banyan tree, and stripped the bark to make strings for their slings, and next they repaired to the river bank to find stones. Kabo stood on the bank of the river, and Pivi went into the water. The game was for Kabo to sling at Pivi, and for Pivi to dodge the stones, if he could. For some time he dodged them cleverly, but at last a stone from Kabo’s sling hit poor Pivi on the leg and broke it. Down went Pivi into the stream, and floated along it, till he floated into a big hollow bamboo, which a woman used for washing her sweet potatoes.

‘What is that in my bamboo?’ said the woman. And she blew in at one end, and blew little Pivi out at the other, like a pea from a pea-shooter.

‘Oh!’ cried the woman, ‘what a state you are in! What have you been doing?’

‘It was Kabo who broke my leg at the slinging game,’ said Pivi.

‘Well, I am sorry for you,’ said the woman; ‘will you come with me, and do what I tell you?’

‘I will!’ said Pivi, for the woman was very kind and pretty. She took Pivi into a shed where she kept her fruit laid him on a bed of mats, and made him as comfortable as she could, and attended to his broken leg without cutting off the flesh round the bone, as these people usually do.

‘You will be still, won’t you, Pivi?’ she said. ‘If you hear a little noise you will pretend to be dead. It is the Black Ant who will come and creep from your feet up to your head. Say nothing, and keep quiet, won’t you, Pivi?’

‘Certainly, kind lady,’ said Pivi, ‘I will lie as still as can be.’

‘Next will come the big Red Ant–you know him?’

‘Yes, I know him, with his feet like a grasshopper’s.’

‘He will walk over your body up to your head. Then you must shake all your body. Do you understand, Pivi?’

‘Yes, dear lady, I shall do just as you say.’

‘Very good,’ said the woman, going out and shutting the door.

Pivi lay still under his coverings, then a tiny noise was heard, and the Black Ant began to march over Pivi, who lay quite still. Then came the big Red Ant skipping along his body, and then Pivi shook himself all over. He jumped up quite well again, he ran to the river, he looked into the water and saw that he was changed from a bird into a fine young man!

‘Oh, lady,’ he cried, ‘look at me now! I am changed into a man, and so handsome!’

‘Will you obey me again?’ said the woman.

‘Always; whatever you command I will do it,’ said Pivi, politely.

‘Then climb up that cocoa-nut tree, with your legs only, not using your hands,’ said the woman.

Now the natives can run up cocoa-nut trees like squirrels, some using only one hand; the girls can do that. But few can climb without using their hands at all.

‘At the top of the tree you will find two cocoa-nuts. You must not throw them down, but carry them in your hands; and you must descend as you went up, using your legs only.’

‘I shall try, at least,’ said Pivi. And up he went, but it was very difficult, and down he came.

‘Here are your cocoa-nuts,’ he said, presenting them to the woman.

‘Now, Pivi, put them in the shed where you lay, and when the sun sets to cool himself in the sea and rise again not so hot in the dawn you must go and take the nuts.’