Cobwort and Cow trundled through the woods, grabbing at whatever they could find with their grubby little hands.
“I found a fistful of berries!” Cobwort cried.
“I found a bunch of shiny green leaves!” Cow replied.
Neither was happy with what he had found, and both were continually trying to outdo the other. They continued to crash through the woods, grabbing and taking, shoving and squawking, until they at last came upon a great knobby pine.
The brothers stared up at it as their mouths hung open. Then Cobwort shoved Cow as he cried, “First!” and then put his hands to the knobby bark as he climbed the tree.
Cow stumbled and then grabbed Cobwort’s foot. He held on to his brother’s shoe, tightening his grip as Cobwort kicked and tried to wriggle himself free. Then a pinecone fell through the branches and landed on Cobwort’s head. The boy cried out and lost his grip, landing atop Cow in a heap of oomphs and ouches.
Cow pushed Cobwort off of him and got to his feet. Cobwort pushed him back, and then the boys tussled as their grunts and yelps echoed through the woods.
Another pinecone fell from the tree, narrowly missing Cow’s sweat-slicked head. The boys peered up, meeting the gaze of a sprite staring back at them. It was no bigger than a man’s hand, and wore a garment that looked of dried leaves.
“Greedy boys,” the sprite hissed. “Grabbing and taking and wrecking the woods. You’ll take one lump on the head, and then you’ll take no more.”
“Take what?” Cow said, his mouth hanging open. The sprite threw down another cone and it pelted Cow square on his pate.
Cobwort sniggered as Cow put a hand to his head. “Your head’s all red and bumpy.”
Cow pushed Cobwort. “So’s yours.”
The boys tussled again and carried on until the shadows grew long and the forest darkened with twilight. The headed home and, as they did, Cobwort grabbed a handful of moss from a nearby rock. He started to show his spoils to Cow when Cobwort then shriveled up into a pale and spindly weed.
Cow cried out and jumped back. Then, taking a breath, he examined the weed. His hand lingered on it, tempted to yank it up and out of the earth, but the lump on his head throbbed with pain, and he let it alone.
With his hands stuffed in his pockets, Cow returned home. He never took anything from the woods ever again.