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TIME AND HIS MOTHER
WHEN the pilgrim finished speaking, Channa climbed the mountain and arrived in the vicinity of the castle quite out of breath. There she waited till Time came out. He was an old man with a long beard, he wore a cloak and carried a scythe, and he had large wings that bore him swiftly out of sight.
Channa now entered the castle, and though she gave a start of fright when she saw the strange old woman, she hastened to seize the weights of the clock and tell what she wanted.
The old woman at once called loudly to her son, but Channa said, “You will not see your son while I hold these clock-weights.”
Thereupon the old woman began to coax Channa, saying: “Let go of them, my dear. Do not stop my son’s course. No one has ever done that before. Let go of the weights, and may Heaven reward you.”
“You are wasting your breath,” Channa responded. “You must say something better than that if you would have me quit my hold.”
“Well then,” the old woman said, “hide behind the door, and when Time comes home I will make him tell me all you wish to know. As soon as he goes out again you can depart.”
Channa let go the weights and hid behind the door. Presently Time came flying in, and his mother repeated to him the maiden’s questions.
In reply he said: “The oak tree will be honored as it was of yore when men find the treasure that is buried among its roots. The mice will never be safe from the cat unless they tie a bell to her neck to warn them when she is coming. The ants will live a hundred years if they will dispense with flying, for when an ant is going to die it puts on wings. The whale should make friends with the sea-mouse, who will serve as a guide so that the monster will never go astray. The doves will resume their former shape when they fly and alight on the column of riches.”
So saying, Time went forth to run his accustomed race. Then Channa bade the old woman farewell and descended the mountain. She arrived at the foot just as the seven doves arrived there. Her long absence had made them anxious, and they had come to look for her. They alighted on the horn of a dead ox, and at once they changed to the handsome youths they had been formerly.
While they were marveling at this transformation Channa greeted them and told them what Time had said. Then they understood that the horn, as the symbol of plenty, was what he called the column of wealth.
Now they all started on the return journey, taking the same road by which Channa had come. When they arrived at the old oak and she informed the tree of what Time had said, the oak begged them to take away the treasure from its roots. So the seven brothers borrowed tools in a neighboring village and dug till they unearthed a great heap of gold money. This they divided into eight parts and shared it between themselves and their sister.
After according to the oak tree the honor it so much desired they again tramped along the homeward road, and when they became weary lay down to sleep under a hedge.
Presently they were seen there by a band of robbers who tied them hand and foot, and carried off their money.
They bewailed the loss of their wealth which had so soon slipped through their fingers, and they were anxious lest they should perish of starvation or be devoured by wild beasts. As they were lamenting their unhappy lot the mouse whom Channa had met appeared. She told it what Time had said about getting rid of the tyranny of the cats, and the grateful mouse nibbled the cords with which they were bound till it set them free.
Somewhat farther on they encountered the ant which listened eagerly while Channa repeated Time’s advice. Then it asked her why she was so pale and downcast.
So she related how the robbers had tricked them.
“Cheer up,” the ant said. “Now I can requite the kindness you have done me. I know where those robbers hide their plunder. Follow me.”
The ant guided them to a group of tumble-down houses and showed them a pit which the brothers entered. There they found the money which had been stolen from them, and off they went with it to the seashore. The whale came to speak with them, and was rejoiced to learn what Time had said.
While they were talking with the whale, they saw the robbers coming, armed to the teeth.
“Alas, alas!” they cried, “now we are lost.”
“Fear not,” the whale said. “I can save you. Get on my back and I will carry you to a place of safety.”
Channa and her brothers climbed on the whale who carried them to within sight of Naples. There it left them on the shore and they returned to their old home safe and sound and rich. Thereafter they enjoyed a happy life, in accord with the old saying, “Do all the good you can and make no fuss about it.”