18.THE SARANGA BIRDS
the gatekeeper said: "There is no place here for a childless man" and turned him back. He was then born as a saranga bird and lived with a female companion named Jarita. She laid four eggs. Then he left Jarita and wandered in the woods with another female companion, Lapita. The four eggs of Jarita hatched in time and they were the four birds mentioned above. As they were the children of a rishi they could cheer and encourage their mother in the way they did. The mother bird told her children: "There is a rat-hole by the side of this tree. I shall put you there. You can get into the hole and escape the fire. I shall close the mouth of the hole with earth and the fire will not touch you. When the fire dies down I shall let you out." The children would not agree. They said: "The rat in the hole will devour us. It is better to perish in the flames than to die ignobly by being eaten up by rats." The mother bird tried to relieve the fears of the children and said: "I saw an eagle devour the rat. There is now no danger for you inside the hole." But the children said: "There are sure to be other rats in the hole. Our danger is not ended by the killing of one rat by the eagle. Kindly save your life by flying before the fire reaches us and this tree catches fire. We cannot get into the rat- hole. Why should you sacrifice your life for our sake? How have we merited it, who have done nothing for you? We have only brought you unhappiness since we came into the world. Take another mate and live happily." The fire which destroyed the whole forest, mercifully left the baby birds unscathed. When the fire had subsided, the mother bird came back and saw with wonder that her children were safe and chirping merrily. She embraced them and was intensely happy. While the fire was raging, the male bird, anxious for the safety of his young ones, had expressed his fears to his new love- bird Lapita.