Karl Wiener

Hospitality

 
Amidst of the forest in a lonely clearing, where fox and hare meet in the moonlight, there stood an old oak tree whose leaves were tinted with the colour of autumnal gold. Many a storm had tousled the foliage and many a cold winter had wrinkled the bark. But the knotted roots had clung firmly to the soil so that the tree withstood any bad weather that came the way. So large was the trunk of this old tree that even the largest animal was able to hide behind it. No one who lived in the forest knew the age of the tree or could imagine that once its place had stood empty. But long, long ago even this old tree must have been young and full of expectation for the things that life would hold in store. Although there wasnt a living soul from near or far that could remember the trees childhood, the oak didnt feel lonely, for it offered refuge to many an animal, and so it never stayed alone.
A family of mice had built their home beneath the roots, and a folk of ants had made their hill at the foot of the tree. The ants gathered all kinds of twigs, pine needles and blades of grass to reinforce their high fortress with a tower. A woodpecker found many a titbit in the crevices of the old bark and a dead branch offered him the chance to demonstrate his skill as a carpenter. Two playful squirrels chased each other in the shadow of the widespread foliage and an owl sat blinking sleepily in a hollow that age had carved in the gnarled trunk. At the very top of the tree where the branches were at their thinnest and stretched out to reach the sun, a flock of birds were chattering away in preparation of their long flight to the South. Like that you have to imagine the place where the following incidents happened.
One day a strange event disturbed this well-ordered world. Far in the North the winter had begun prematurely, bringing cold winds and snow to that region. The animals living there were caught by surprise, and they still hadnt finished gathering their supplies for the cold season. They decided they had to set out for a warmer region so as to survive the coming winter. It was for this reason that a small group of hungry and exhausted refugees eventually came across the clearing. A mole, a family of hedgehogs with six children and two rabbits asked for shelter. The native dwellers, considering the clearing as their own hereditary home, didnt welcome the unexpected newcomers. They feared they would have to share their ample food stocks with them. To gloss over their hard-hearted behaviour they lamented a little, claiming not to have enough food and shelter for their own families.
The oak-tree shook angrily the foliage, and the feathers on the old owl high up in the tree bristled when she heard all this nonsense. "I know you think I'm sleeping all day up here in my home", she shouted, " but I've watched your greed. Youll all get stomach aches if you yourselves devour all the food youve hoarded these past months. All the commotion down below made the birds speechless. They recalled the hospitality, given them by others during their long flights to the South. They had seen the world, and they knew that above all poor people share their last piece of bread with a hungry guest. After recovering from the shock at the behaviour of their hard-hearted and self-righteous neighbours, they spoke of the hardships they had endured. They told of their thirst as they crossed the desert, and how the native animals of those regions never refused them from their watering places when they needed refreshment. The birds reported this and other stories of the help they received in far from here. The animals which had led such a comfortable life had never before reflected on the thought of being forced to rely on aid from elsewhere, so they listened attentively to all that was said. Finally they realised how selfish they had been and bade the newcomers welcome.

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Karl Wiener.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/19/2008.

 

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