Woodland Tales

Woodland Tales

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INTRODUCTION Mother Carey

All-mother! Mater Cara! I have never seen you, but I hungered so to know you that I understood it when you came, unseen, and silently whispered to me that first time in the long ago.

I cannot tell the children what you look like, Mother Carey, for mortal eye hath never rested on your face; and yet I can offer them a portrait, O strong Angel of the Wild Things, neither young nor old—Oh! loving One that neither trembles nor relents!


A mink he was, a young mink and foolish. One of a happy brood, who were seeing the world with their mother—a first glimpse of it. She was anxious and leading, happy and proud, warning, sniffing, inviting, loving, yet angersome at trivial disobedience, doling out her wisdom in nips and examples and shrill warnings that all heeded; except this one, the clever fool of the family, the self-satisfied smart one. He would not be warned, the thing smelt so good. He plunged ahead. Mother was a fool; he was wiser than Mother. Here was a merry feasting for him. Then clank! The iron jaws of a trap sprang from the hiding grass, and clutched on his soft young paws. Screams of pain, futile strainings, writhings, ragings and moanings; bloody jaws on the trap; the mother distraught with grief, eager to take all the punishment herself, but helpless and stunned, unable to leave; the little brothers, aghast at this first touch of passion, this glimpse of reality, skurrying, scared, going and coming, mesmerized, with glowing eyes and bristling shoulder-fur. And the mother, mad with sorrow, goaded by the screaming, green-eyed, vacant-minded, despairing—till a new spirit entered into her, the spirit of Cara the All-mother, Mother Carey the Beneficent, Mother Carey the wise Straightwalker. Then the mother mink, inspired, sprang on her suffering baby. With all the power of her limbs she sprang and clutched; with all the power of her love she craunched. His screams were ended; his days in the land were ended. He had not heeded her wisdom; the family fool was finished. The race was better, better for the suffering fool mink; better for the suffering mother mink.

The spirit left her; left her limp and broken-hearted. And away on the wind went riding, grimly riding her empire.

Four swift steeds for riding, has she, the White Wind, the West Wind, the Wet Wind and the Waking Wind. But mostly she rides the swift West Wind.

She is strong, is Mother Carey, strong, wise, inexorable, calm and direct as an iceberg. And beneficent; but she loves the strong ones best. She ever favours the wise ones. She is building, ceaselessly building. The good brick she sets in a place of honour, and the poor one she grinds into gravel for the workmen to walk on.

She loves you, but far less than she does your race. It may be that you are not wise, and if it seem best, she will drop a tear and crush you into the dust.

Three others there be of power, like Mother Carey: Maka Ina who is Mother Earth; El Sol, the Sun in the Sky, and Diablo the Evil Spirit of Disease and Dread....