The Snake Charmer - Henri Rousseau
There once was a child whose mother gave her a bowl of milk and bread every afternoon. Each afternoon the mother warned the child not to go too far from the house and to beware of strangers with sweet voices, whose siren song might lure her astray.
The child took the bowl into the deepest part of the garden, where she sat down in the shade of an old oak tree and spooned her bread and milk, before she fell asleep, leaning against the broad tree trunk. Sometimes, she didn't finish her treat and left a little milk in the bowl, but when she woke up, the milk had gone.
This happened so often that the child became curious. She decided to find out who was drinking her milk. On one particular afternoon she came out as usual with her bowl, but this time she left a much bigger drink, put the bowl down and pretended to fall asleep. Keeping very still, she peeked from under the very end of her lashes and by and by she saw a beautiful white snake slithering towards the bowl, lifting its sleekly elegant head and dipping a delicate tongue into the milk.
"Ha, caught you, you thief", cried the child, and grabbed the snake's head. "Steal my milk, would you? I'll teach you to rob me, my mother warned me against creatures such as you." The child was about to smash the snake's head with a stone when it spoke.
"If you grant me life, you shall have all the treasures of the earth you desire", the snake sang, "every day I shall return and bring you silver trinkets and golden chains, pearls and bright stones and all the toys my kind can fashion in the halls under the roots of the oak".
The child didn't trust the snake. After all, didn't snakes have a reputation for being false?
"Swear that you will keep your word and I shall let you live", the child said. The snake did.
Every afternoon from then on the child and the snake met at the bottom of the oak tree and exchanged gifts, milk for the snake and ever more precious and wondrous treasures from the halls beneath the roots of the oak for the child. Soon the child had amassed a large hoard, which she kept secret from her mother. Hadn't her mother always warned her against taking gifts from strangers?
And once again the child became curious. If the snake could bring her a gift each time and promised to continue to do so for as long as the child would come to meet it by the oak tree, how much more was there hidden under the roots?
The next time they met she said to the snake: "This is getting very boring, one little gift every time. Bring me more gifts, many at a time, or I shall stop being kind to you; I'll probably not even bother to come out and you can go and get your milk elsewhere."
Now the snake had known all along that the child would become greedy. Snakes know these things instinctively. It had a plan all worked out.
"If you want more gifts, why don't you come with me into the halls underneath the roots", the snake sang, "then you can see for yourself what there is and you may choose whatever you want to take."
The child hardly hesitated at all. It had got used to the snake, the snake had kept its promise, they had spent many a pleasant afternoon playing and eating bread and milk in the shade of the ancient oak tree. Blinded by the promise of untold riches the child followed the snake where it led.