The Quest for the Crumbly Bird.

 

He raised his hand,

and we stopped and quietly scanned

the dull, grey, forbidding land

in which our guide had lost us.

 

"You remember

"how we set out last December,

"and -" his eye glowed like an ember,

"no matter what it cost us,

 

"we all concurred

"that we'd find the Crumbly Bird -"

"May I," I said, "insert a word?

"Why is the bird so called?"

 

The guide looked grave,

and o'er his cheeks concave

a pallor revealed that he needed a shave.

He said, "The bird is bald.

 

"In a deep cave,

"where many a thieving knave,

"unthinkingly foolish or incredibly brave,

"has gone to try and catch it,

 

"it sits, grave,

"above the bones which pave

"the floor, and o'er its head doth wave

"a sharp serrated hatchet."

 

"But why -" I said.

"Quiet!" he cried. "And, fed

"upon the blood of the newly dead,

"it grows in size and power."

 

He chewed a crust,

and the bright gleam of lust

reddened his eye like iron rust;

"We'll be there in an hour!"

 

Bruised and pained,

the cave at last we gained,

and all our courage quickly drained

when we saw the iron door.

 

Our guide in haste

the giant bolt embraced,

moved it, and reverently paced

across the mouldering floor.

 

It stood alone,

on a raised golden throne,

a monstrous bird of skin and bone,

and wildly burning eye.

 

A pallid white,

it seemed to have no sight,

for it lived in the cage of eternal night.

Its wings seemed poised to fly.

 

It raised its hatchet.

"The only way to catch it,"

said he, "is to run up close and snatch it,

"and tightly pin its wings."

 

Dodging the blows

he grabbed it by the toes.

Startled it flapped its wings and rose.

The hatchet made wild swings.

 

The watchers froze.

He begged someone to close

the door in case his captor chose

to go outside to dine.

 

With deadly speed,

and greater haste than heed,

I did it. The guilt of the awful deed,

I must confess, is mine.

 

A heavy gust

as the closing door concussed

reduced the Crumbly Bird to dust.

The guide's eyes lost their flame.

 

"At least, I trust,"

he said, as with disgust

he brushed away some specks of must,

"you know how it got its name!"