For days, the lark stayed close to the Tree hoping that it would speak again. She could only flutter from one place to another dragging her lifeless legs behind her. For some time she was careful, wary of the Tree’s curse. But so obsessed had she become with her voice that she simply had to hear it again. And Oh how beautiful it was! What a joy to her ears!
No sooner had she finished however than the wood from her legs began to creep upwards. She felt each feather stiffen as the life drained out of her left wing. And soon it was nothing more than a piece of smooth, carved wood. The lark vowed then and there never to sing again. But her resolve was weak and she could not resist the temptation for long. So it happened that the lark was one step away from becoming a little wooden bird.
Only her head remained soft and warm and alive. She stood in a little hollow in the roots of the Great Tree- the place where her last wing had turned to wood. There she stood, forlorn and alone, while the other birds swooped and dived in the blue patch of sky visible. The Tree brought her berries and she drank the water that trickled down the inside of the hollow. She watched as the night slipped into day, autumn faded to winter and winter melted into spring. She watched and waited. And she thought.
One day, towards the end of spring, the lark heard footsteps approaching. It was easy for her to keep still so she listened to the human moving outside, wondering what he or she could be doing so deep in the woods. Suddenly the human was outside the hollow, crouching down, and a hand came towards her. Unable to move an inch, the lark could only watch in horror as the hand groped about and finally closed around her body. The lark’s fear soon vanished for the girl had a plain but kind face and her hands were very gentle. She was very surprised to find a half- wooden bird in her hand.
“Why!” she exclaimed. “What a curious little thing you are. How did you come to be so?”
“Never mind my story,” said the lark, who could tell by her tear-streaked face that the girl had been crying. “Tell me yours. What has made you cry?”
For a moment the girl did not speak. Then she said, “For six years my heart has ached for one person. For six years he did not once look my way. But things changed a few months ago and I know now that he loves me as deeply as I love him. Then a few nights ago he fell ill. No one can cure him; no one knows what is wrong. I have come so deep into the woods in the hope of finding something, some herb perhaps that will make him better. He lies there, not living, not dead, and I don’t know what to do.”
Here the girl stopped and her tears splashed on the lark’s head and ran down her wooden body. At length, she dried her eyes and said to the bird, “You must be lonely, standing here all by yourself.”
“Indeed I am,” said the lark sadly, for none of the woodland creatures stopped to talk to her or even bid good morning.
“I feel lonely at times too,” said the girl. “Will you come back and keep me company?”
The lark was tired of the old hollow and was eager to see more of the world, so she agreed and the girl carried her home.
The lark could not wonder at the girl’s infatuation. Standing on the bedside table, she gazed at the unconscious face on the pillow. He was by far the handsomest person she had ever seen.
His skin was as pale and smooth as marble. He lay with a slight frown on his brow- the only thing distorting his arrogant features. The girl sat by his side day and night. She held his hand in her own delicate ones and sometimes, when she thought the lark was asleep, she spoke to him just as if he could hear he could hear her.
The few moments she slept, she did so with her head on his pillow and her brow against his. She worked uncomplainingly, always hopeful, always thinking of a bright future.
A story by me