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THE POOR LITTLE TURKEY GIRL
All alone in a very old cottage near the border of a village lived a little girl who herded turkeys for a living. She was very, very poor. Her clothes were patched and tattered. Little was ever given to her except the food she lived on from day to day, and now and then a piece of old worn-out clothing.

But the child had a winning face and bright eyes. She had also a very loving disposition. She was always kind to the turkeys which she drove to and from the plains every day, giving to them the affection she longed for but which she herself never received from anyone. The turkeys loved their little mistress in return. They would come immediately 198at her call and they would go willingly anywhere she wished to send them.

One day as the little girl went along, driving her turkeys to the plains, she heard a great commotion in the village. She stopped to see the cause of the excitement and found it to be a herald who was proclaiming from the house top, “The great festival will take place in four days. Come youths and maidens. Come one, come all. Join in the Dance of the Sacred Bird!”

Now this child had never been permitted to join in or even watch this great festivity of the people, and she longed with all her heart to see it.

“My dear turkeys, how I should love to watch this blessed festival, particularly the Dance of the Sacred Bird!” It was her custom to talk matters over with her turkeys, for they were the child’s only companions. She told them day after day of the wonderful festival that was to be, and how happy she would feel if she could join in the dance with the others. “But it is impossible, my beloved turkeys, ugly and ill-clad as I am,” she would say, when she saw the people of the village busy in cleaning their houses and preparing their clothes, laughing and talking as they made ready for the greatest holiday of the year.
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201The poor child never dreamed that her turkeys understood every word she said to them. But they did, and more.

The fourth day came, and all the people of the village went to join in the festivities. All but one, and that one was the poor little turkey girl who wandered about alone with her beloved flock. Soon she sat down upon a stone to rest, for she was sad at the thought of all the merrymaking while she was alone on the plains.

Suddenly it seemed to the little girl that one of her big gobblers, making a fan of his tail, and skirts of his wings, strutted up to her and, stretching out his neck said, “Little Mother, we know what your thoughts and wishes are and we are truly sorry for you. We wish that you, like all the other people 202of the village, might enjoy this holiday. Many times we have said to ourselves at night, after you had safely placed us in our house, that you are as worthy to enjoy these gayeties as anyone in the village. Little Mother, would you like to see this dance and even join in it and be merry with the rest?”

The poor child was at first surprised, then it all seemed so very natural that her turkeys should talk to her as she had always done to them, that she looked up and said, “My dear Gobbler, how glad I am that we may speak together. But tell me what it all means.”

“Listen well, then, for I speak the speech of my people. If you will drive us in early this afternoon, when the dance is most gay and the people are happiest, we will help you to make yourself so pretty and so beautifully dressed that no man, woman, or child among all those assembled at the dance will know you. Are you willing to do as we turkeys say?”

“Oh, my dear turkeys, why should you tell me of things that you well know I long 203to do but cannot by any possible means in the world?”

“Trust in us,” said the old gobbler. “When we begin to call and gobble and gobble and turn toward home, follow us and we will show you what we can do for you: Only let me tell you one thing. Much happiness and good fortune may come to you through the chance for pleasure which we turkeys are going to give you. But if, through your own great happiness, you forget us, who are your friends and who depend so much upon you, we shall think that our Little Mother, though so humble and poor, deserves her hard life. We shall think that, since good fortune came to her, she does unto others as others now do to her.”

“Come, then,” said the old gobbler, and the little girl followed him. All the turkeys of their own accord followed the old gobbler and their Little Mother homeward. They knew their places well and ran to them as soon as they could. When they had all gone into their home the old gobbler called out, “Come in.” The little girl went in. “Now 204sit down and give me and my companions your articles of clothing one by one. You will see what we can do with them.”

The little girl took off the ragged old shawl that covered her shoulders and laid it upon the ground in front of the old gobbler. He seized it in his beak and spread it out. Then he picked and picked at it and trod upon it, and, lowering his wings, strutted back and forth, back and forth over the old worn-out garment. Once more he took it in his beak and strutted and puffed and puffed and strutted, until he finally laid it at the feet of the little girl—a beautiful white cloak, all silk-embroidered.

Then another gobbler came forward and took an article of the little girl’s clothing which he made over into a beautiful gown of golden cloth. Then another gobbler came, and another and another, until each garment the little girl had worn was new and more beautiful than any owned by the richest woman of the land.

The little girl began to dress herself in the 205beautiful clothes, but before she finished her turkeys circled around her, singing and singing and clucking and clucking, and brushing her with their wings until she was clean and her face was as smooth and bright as that of the fairest maiden in the village. Her hair was soft and wavy and her cheeks were full of dimples and her eyes danced with smiles, for now she knew how true were the words of her beloved turkeys. At last one old turkey came forward and said, “You shall have rich jewels, Little Mother; we turkeys have keen eyes and have picked up many valuable things in our wanderings. Wait a moment.” He spread out his wings and strutted off, but he soon returned with a beautiful necklace in his beak. “See, this is for you.” The little girl could scarcely believe her own eyes. “And this, too,” said another turkey, as he came up and laid a pair of earrings in her hand.

With these beautiful things the Little Mother decorated herself and, after thanking her beloved turkeys again and again, she started to go. As she did so all the turkeys seemed to 206call out in one voice: “Oh, Little Mother, we love you and we would bring you to good fortune. Leave our door open, for who knows whether you will remember your turkeys when your fortunes are changed. Perhaps you will grow ashamed that you have been our Little Mother. Remember us and do not tarry too long.”

“I will surely remember, O my turkeys,” and with that she was on her way to the great festival. Hastily she ran down the river path toward the village until she came to a long covered way that led into the great dance court. When she came just inside the court she could see the crowd of villagers making merry in the great dance. She drew nearer as if to join the others, when every eye at once seemed to catch sight of her beauty and the richness of her dress. “Who is this beautiful maiden?” they asked one another. “Where did she come from?”

“She is the most beautiful maiden I have ever seen,” said a prince. “She shall lead the dance with me.”

207With a smile and a toss of her hair over her eyes the little girl accepted the prince’s invitation and stepped forward into the circle. Her heart became light and her feet merry, and she danced and danced until the sun sank low in the west. But alas! so great was her own happiness that she thought little about her turkeys at home and her promise to them. “Why should I go away from all this pleasure, to my flock of gobbling turkeys?” she said to herself. “I will stay a little longer at least. Just before the sun sets I’ll run back to them. Then these people will never know who I am, and I shall like to hear them talk day after day and wonder who the little girl was who joined in their dance.”

So the time sped on and another dance was called, and another, and never a moment did the little girl stop. At last she noticed that the sun had set. Then, suddenly breaking away, she ran out of the dance court down the long covered way, up the river path toward home, before any one could see where 208she had gone or which path she had taken. All breathless, she arrived at the door of the turkeys’ house and looked in. Not one turkey was there. The little girl called and called them. She ran into their house, she looked around, but not one of her beloved turkeys was to be seen. “Where are they?” she kept saying to herself, at the same time calling them with all the voice she had, “Come my turkeys, come, come.” But there was no answer. “I must trail them. Perhaps they have gone back to the plains.” She ran to the plains, then on to the valley, but her flock of turkeys was far, far away.

After a long, long trail over the plains, up and down the valleys, she came within sound of their voices. “I hear them, I hear my turkeys.” Faster and faster ran the little girl until she caught sight of her beloved flock hurrying away toward the woods, round the mountain and on up the valley. She could hear them saying something over and over again. As she drew nearer she called and called to them, but it was all of no use. 209They only quickened their steps and spread their wings to help them along. “She has forgotten us,” they kept saying. “She is not worthy of better things than those she has been accustomed to. Let us go to the mountains. Our Little Mother is not as good and true as we once thought her.” Then they spread their wings and fluttered away over the plains above and were soon lost from sight. The poor little turkey girl put her hands over her face, then she looked down at her dress. Alas! what did she see? Her old clothes, patched and tattered. She was a poor little turkey girl again. Sad at heart she looked toward the valley and gave one loud call, “Oh, my turkeys come back to me, come back.”

“Gobble, gobble, gobble,” she heard beside her. The poor little girl sat up, rubbed her eyes and looked about her. There were her beloved turkeys gathered around her calling “Gobble, gobble, gobble!” They wanted to go home, for the sun was ready to set and the village people were returning from the festival.

210“Oh, my beloved turkeys,” said the little girl, when she understood it all. “I would not part with you for all the fine dresses and festivals in the whole world. How glad I am it was only a dream!”


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