My Favourite Stories #46

Silver and the snake 

Many years ago now in a country then called Burma, now called Mayanmar, in the early 1900s, lived a very happy family. Enoch was just 8 years old, his two sisters, Sweet Sweet and Little Little were just a little older. Silver was their big sister who went away to school and only came home for vacations. When she came home they had great fun together.

They would play hide and seek in the mission compound, and tag, and hide and seek around the house, until Enoch said, “Eh I know, lets play hide and seek in the big trees in the jungle across the road.”

“Oh yes,” said the girls, so they went past the schoolhouse, climbed through the big fence and played hide and seek among the big trees in the jungle.

Suddenly Enoch held up his finger and said, “Shh, look” and he said it so loud that the girls stopped and looked to see what was going to happen next.

               “Look – over there!” whispered Enoch pointing with his finger. Do you see that hole in the tree, well I saw a little bird go in there? Now you stand real still while I go up and catch it.” And the three little girls stood still while Enoch crept up to the tree to catch it. The little bird inside must not hear him coming. If only he could stop breathing! He turned and help up a finger to make sure the girls would keep quiet and whispered “shh.” He was getting closer and closer and closer; he was nearly there. “Quick Silver, come and help me,” as he covered the hole with his hankercheif. But he need not have called, because the others were already racing up to his assistance, silver slide her hand in under the cloth and pulled out not one little bird but two, then three, then four tiny little birds with big yellow mouths. None were able to fly. The mother must have flown away without the children being able to see her.

      “When the mother bird comes back, she won’t be able to find her little babies,” said Sweet Sweet.

        “But we will come back and catch the mother bird tonight,” said Enoch

          “And she will think some bad people have got her, but then she will see her babies,” said Silver.

Quickly, they ran home and cried, “Mother, mother, look at the little birds we have found, and we are going back to get the mother bird tonight”

               But mother said, “You mustn’t go into the jungle and night, its dangerous. There are tigers and snakes in the jungle.” And though they answered not a word, Silver looked at Enoch, and Enoch looked a Silver and their eyes said to each other, “We will go wont we!” and at evening, when mother was putting the chickens to bed, they sneaked off, across the garden, past the schoolhouse, through the fence and into the jungle.

               “Its not a bit dangerous, is it?” said Enoch as they neared the tree. “Mothers think everything is dangerous! You wait here and I will go up to the tree.

Enoch got closer and closer and closer and closer. Then out came the cloth, and then he called, ”Come on Silver, I’ve got it, I’ve got it!”

Silver and her sisters came running up quickly. She put her hand under the cloth into the hole to get the little bird, but it was not there, but there was something there, soft and cold and , “Ohh” screamed Silver, for the soft cold thing in the nest was a big black snake and it had bitten Silver on the finger. “Ohhh” cried Silver, “What shall we do, and what will mother say?”

Three little faces went white with fear. Enoch quickly tied the cloth around Silver’s arm and got the end and twisted it as tightly as he could. Silver squeezed her finger above the bite as hard as she could and Sweet Sweet and Little Little took hold of her dress and led her back home; through the fence, past the school building, past the garden,  and up the bamboo ladder.

             “Oh, mother we are so sorry, but quick, a snake has bitten my finger,” cried Silver.

Poor mother, she had enough to worry about without this, but soon she had several rags tied tightly around the arm. Then mother said, “Quickly Enoch, run to the medicine house and call the nurse.” And in minutes, Jenny the nurse was there. She said, “I know what to do, I’ve seen the doctor do it lots of times, he cuts it with a knife.” So she cut the poor finger with a sharp knife; cut, cut, cut, cut. Oh, how it hurt and bled, and Silver cried and screamed so loud that the next door neighbour came running over, “What’s the matter, what’s the matter?” she said.

               “My poor finger” groaned Silver, “First the snake bit it and then the knife cut it and it still hurts, oh, oh.”

               Then the neighbour said, “I know what to do, you just take a stick of wood from the fire with a red-hot coal on the end, and then you burn the place where the snake bit it and the knife cut it.”

               “Oh no, no,” cried Silver, but it hurt so much, that at last she said, “All right, then do anything.” So, they held her tight while they took a stick with a red-hot coal on it and placed it where the snake had bitten the finger. Ohhh,” screamed Silver,” and she screamed so load that another neighbour came running in.

               “What’s the matter, what’s the matter?” said the neighbour.

               Oh my poor finger,” groaned Silver, “First the snake bit it, then the knife cut it, then the fire burned it and still it hurts, Oh, oh.”

Then the second neighbour said, “I know what to do – you just hold the finger in boiling water for a moment, and it makes a big blister and that drains all the poison out.”

               “Oh no, no,” cried Silver. But it hurt so much that at last she said, “All right then, do anything.” So, they put some water on the fire and when it was bubbling and boiling, they put Silvers finger into the bowl of boiling water.

               “Oh my poor finger,” screamed Silver, “First the snake bit it, then the knife cut it, then the fire burned it, and know the boiling water has cooked it. Oh, Oh, Oh.”

But do you know, it did make a big blister, and it did draw the poison out, and soon it began to feel better. But for days Silver was so sick that she could neither eat nor sleep, and it was more than a month before Silver’s finger was entirely well again. Silver carried a terrible scar on that finger for as long as she lived. And there were four little folk in Burma who didn’t disobey mother again, and their names were Enoch, Sweet Sweet, Little Little, and Silver.

PS – Silver lived to be 80 and she died in 1990.

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