LONG, long ago the raven's feathers were white as snow. He was a beautiful bird, but the other birds did not like him because he was a thief. When they saw him coming, they would hide away the things that they cared for most, but in some marvelous way he always found them and took them to his nest in the pine-tree.
One morning the raven heard a little bird singing merrily in a thicket. The leaves of the trees were dark green, and the little bird's yellow feathers looked like sunshine among them.
"I will have that bird," said the raven, and he seized the trembling little thing.
The yellow bird fluttered and cried, "Help, help! Will no one come and help me!"
The other birds happened to be far away, and not one heard her cries. "The raven will kill me," she called. "Help, help!"
Now hidden in the bark of a tree was a wood-worm.
"I am only a wood-worm," he said to himself, "and I cannot fly like a bird, but the yellow bird has been good to me, and I will do what I can to help her."
When the sun set, the raven went to sleep. Then the wood-worm made his way softly up the pine-tree to the raven's nest, and bound his feet together with grass and pieces of birch-bark.
"Fly away," whispered the wood-worm softly to the little yellow bird, "and come to see me by and by. I must teach the raven not to be cruel to the other birds."
The little yellow bird flew away, and the wood-worm brought twigs, and moss, and birch-bark, and grass, and put them around the tree. Then he set them all on fire. Up the great pine-tree went the flames, leaping from bough to bough.
"Fire! fire " cried the raven. "Come and help me My nest is on fire!"
The other birds were not sorry to see him flutter. "He is a thief," said they. "Let him be in the fire."
By and by the fire burned the grass and the pieces of birch-bark that fastened his feet together, and the raven flew away. He was not burned, but he could no longer be proud of his shining white feathers, for the smoke had made every one of them as black as night.