The Story of the First Ants
"THIS jar is full of smoked flesh," said one voice.
"This has fish, this is full of honey, and that one is almost running over with oil," said another voice. "We shall have all that we need to eat for many days to come."
These are the words that a villager coming home from his work heard his mother and his sister say.
"They have often played tricks on me," he said to himself, "and now I will play one on them." So he went into the house and said, "Mother, I have found that I have a wonderful sense of smell, and by its help I can find whatever is hidden away."
"That is a marvelous story," cried the sister.
"If you can tell me what is in these jars," said his mother, "I shall think you are really a magician. What is it now?"
"This is flesh, this fish, this honey, and this jar is full of oil," said the man.
"I never heard of such a marvel in all my life," cried the mother; and in the morning she called her friends and said, "Only think what a wonderful sense of smell my son has! He told me what was in these jars when they were closed."
It was not long before the people all through the country heard of the wonderful man, and one day word came that the king wished to see him at once.
The man was afraid, for he did not know what would happen to him, and he was still more afraid when the king said, "A pearl is lost that I had in my hand last night. They say you can find things that are lost. Find my pearl, or your head will be lost."
The poor man went out into the forest. "Oh, how I wish I had not tried to play tricks," he wailed. "Then this sharp sorrow, this dire trouble, would not have come upon me."
"Please, please do not tell the king," said two voices in the shadow of the trees.
"Who are you?" asked the man.
"Oh, you must know us well," said a man coming out into the light. "My name is Sharp, and that man behind the tree is named Dire, but please do not tell the king. We will give you the pearl; here it is. You called our names, and we saw that you knew us. Oh, I wish I had not been a thief!"
The man gave the pearl to the king, and went home wishing that no one would ever talk to him again of his sense of smell.
In three days word came from the queen that he must come to her at once. She thought his power was only a trick, and to catch him she had put a cat into a bag and the bag into a box.
When the man came, she asked sharply, "What is in this box? Tell me the truth, or off will go your head."
"What shall I do?" thought the man, "Dire death is upon me." He did not remember that he was before the queen, and he repeated half aloud an old saying, "The bagged cat soon dies."
"What is that?" cried the queen.
"The bagged cat soon dies," repeated the man in great terror.
"You are a marvelous man," said the queen. "There is really a bag in the box and a cat in the bag, but no one besides myself knew it."
"He is not a man; he is a god," cried the people, "and he must be in the sky and live among the gods;" so they threw him up to the sky. His hand was full of earth, and when the earth fell back, it was no longer earth, but a handful of ants. Ants have a wonderful sense of smell, and it is because they fell from the hand of this man who was thrown up into the sky to live among the gods.