How An Orphan Won a Village and Exchanged It For an Egg
Pardoo Orphan lived in a fine village, but he was the poorest of men. He had no land, no house, no clothes, not even a cooking pot; and he had no family no one cared for him. He begged for food and was driven form the village.
He went to live in the forest, and his health became so poor that blindness closed his eyes and he barely lived by groping on the ground for rotten fruit and nuts. When he was nearly dead he heard a voice which said:
“Pardoo, if I help you, will you promise to help me?”
“Oh yes,” cried Pardoo, not knowing if the voice belonged to man or spirit. He would have promised anything to anyone – for what had he to lose?
“Then lift your face towards the sky.”
Pardoo turned his face towards the sky, and some drops of burning liquid fell on his sightless eyes. Then his eyes were opened: the precious gift of sight had been restored to him, and his heart was filled with joy.
“Close your eyes, Pardoo,” said the voice. Pardoo closed his eyes. “Now open them.”
He saw a bright new town before him where only trees had been.
“This town is yours,” the voice said.
“Thank you. But there are no people.”
He was commanded to close his eyes again, and when he open them the town was stocked with animals and people.
“You have one hundred wives,” the voice went on, “five hundred slaves and a thousand warriors; and such gold as few men ever see. Go, dwell in your town and be chief.”
Pardoo was suddenly clean and clothed in chiefly garments; and he went into his town. Here he lived as Chief in a fine big house; he lived with every comfort and happiness for three full years, and fathered twenty girls and one man-child. He loved his son above all other things.
One day as he was walking beneath a giant cotton tree nearby his house, Chief Pardoo heard a voice above him call:
“Oh Pardoo! Chief Pardoo!”
He looked up, and saw a large white bird upon a branch.
“Pardoo,” said a bird, “I helped you once. Will you now help me?”
Pardoo agree at once. He would have promised anything to this fabulous bird.
“Here is my nest,” the bird went on, “I have an egg. A single egg. I have no other egg, and treasure this one as you treasure you only son. But now I must leave on a long journey to another place, and wish you to take care of my egg.”
Pardoo promised he would guard the egg as he guarded his only son.
“If the egg should break, fall prey to a snake, be boiled or spoiled or stolen,” said the bird, “a strange and helpless thing will happen to you. Remember this, Pardoo.”
Pardoo set guards about the tree, and the white bird flew away. The bird was away for several seasons; and one day Pardoo’s son saw the egg in the cotton tree. He ran to his father and said he wanted an egg to eat.
His father brought him a hen’s egg.
“Not a hen’s egg, Father,” said the boy.
Pardoo brought a pigeon’s egg.
“Not a pigeon’s egg, Father.”
Pardoo brought eagles’ eggs, hawks’ eggs, palm birds’ eggs and crows’ eggs, but none of them would do.
“Then what kind of an egg do you want?” he cried.
“I want the egg in the cottonwood tree, Father.”
Pardoo turned pale. He dared no touch that egg. “It would give you stomach pains. It is a special egg I have promised to keep safe.”
The lad began to cry. He would not eat and he refused to speak to his father except to say: “If you love that egg better than you love me then just tell me so, and I’ll go and live in a tree myself, somewhere in the forest. Then everyone will be sorry!”
Finally Pardoo weakened, and reluctantly agreed to break his promise. He had the egg brought to him, boiled it, and gave it to his son. His son, who had been spoiled by royal favor, just laughed and threw the egg down on the ground.
The white bird had left a little fly to watch the egg, and now the fly flew away and reported that the egg had been stolen, boiled, and broken. The great bird flew on flapping wings north to the cottonwood tree, and there it came to rest upon a branch. It stood there for a long time gazing at its empty nest, and down at Pardoo’s house, and wept. Then it called Pardoo and said:
“O weak and foolish Pardoo, you have broken your word and killed my egg. You are weak, Pardoo, you cannot keep a promise; and he who makes and breaks a promise has not the right or might to be a chief!”
Pardoo was suddenly blind again, a beggar in evil-smelling rags; and his tongue was twisted so he could not speak. His own son threw stones at him, his people drove him from the town, and he wandered in the forests till he died.
Never make a promise unless it can be kept; then keep it well.