Sister Night & Sister Day


September 12, 2001|By Beth Norling

Editor's note: This story gives one explanation for why weather can be unpredictable.

Ruby and Rose were twins. They looked alike, but in their hearts they were as different as night and day. Ruby was kind and hardworking, while Rose thought of no one but herself and was always quick with an excuse not to help. So while Rose played, Ruby sat alone by the well spinning mountains of fleece into thread.

One afternoon while she was spinning, Ruby pricked herself on the spindle and her finger began to bleed. She went to wash the blood from the spindle but it slipped out of her hand and sank to the bottom of the well.

Ruby ran to her mother in tears, but her mother had no kind words. She was angry and sent Ruby away, shouting, "Don't come back until you have found my spindle!"

Crying, Ruby ran back to look for the spindle, but the well was too deep and too dark. "It's lost," whispered Ruby, her tears falling one by one into the cold water below. With a sigh she climbed to the edge of the well and threw herself in. Sinking softly, slowly, she slipped into a dream.

Ruby woke in a shining meadow. Through the grass ran a path. An old apple tree stood with its branches hanging over the path.

"Shake me! Oh, shake me or my boughs will break!" cried the tree, "For my apples are heavy and ripe!"

Ruby shook the tree till the apples fell like rain, and gathered them together, every last one, then went on her way.

It was dark when she came to a strange little house and tiptoed to the window. Inside sat a woman unlike any Ruby had ever seen. She wore a coat of night and a dress of day, which filled the room with sunbeams and moonlight.

"Don't be afraid," the woman said. "You are here to learn the work of my house. But take care, for what is done inside my house will also be done upon the earth."

"Who are you?" asked Ruby in a small voice.

"I am Mother Earth."

So Ruby went to work.

All that Ruby did was good. On the earth the seasons were mild, days were long and warm, there was plenty to eat and everyone was content.

Then one morning Ruby began to think of home.

"I have been happy here," she said to Mother Earth, "but now I must go back to be with my sister Rose."

Mother Earth led Ruby to her door. As Ruby stood on the threshold, thread upon glittering thread fell around her until she was covered in a golden cloth that shone like the sun.

The door closed and Ruby found herself by the well at her mother's house.

Seeing Ruby's golden dress, Mother and Rose hurried to greet her.

"Where did you find this glorious cloth?" said Mother. "My Rose must have some too."

At once Rose was sent to the well, but she was too lazy to spin. She pricked her finger on a thorn so that it bled, tossed the spindle into the well, and jumped in after it.

Rose woke in the shining meadow, and followed the very same path that Ruby had trod. Rose came to the old apple tree and it cried out again, "Oh shake me, shake me or my boughs will break. My apples are heavy and ripe!"

The lazy girl replied, "Break if you like. I won't have apples fall on my pretty head!"

It was still day when she came to the strange little house.

"Such a small house will be easy to keep," she said to herself. And she marched in to tell Mother Earth she had come.

On the first day Rose worked hard, thinking of all the gold that would soon be hers. On the second day she did half as much work, and on the third day half as much again until the day came when she didn't bother to get out of bed at all.

Snow fell on the earth and did not thaw in time for spring. Days were bitterly cold and the nights seemed as if they would last forever. Nothing would grow and people went hungry.

Mother Earth could bear it no longer and told the girl that she must go. Rose was eager to leave, and thought, "Now I'll be covered in gold!"

Mother Earth led her to the same door and Rose waited on the threshold. But it was not gold that fell. A shower of thistles and thorns rained down upon her until she was all but covered in prickles.

Rose soon found herself back by the well at her mother's house.

Mother was too shocked to speak. But Ruby was glad to see her sister again and said, "Rose, come in and help me bake some bread."

Rose paused for a moment.

"Maybe I will," she said.

Excerpt from SISTER NIGHT & SISTER DAY by Beth Norling. Text and illustrations copyright 2000 Beth Norling. Reprinted by the permission of publisher Allen & Unwin (distributed by IPG). Available in hardback from bookstores nationwide.

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