"Wash me, and comb me, lay me on the bank to dry Softly and prettily to watch the passers-by."
"A likely story," says she. "I'm going to wash myself." And with that she gave the head such a bang with her bottle that it bobbed below the water. But it came up again, and so did a second head, singing as it came:
"Wash me, and comb me, lay me on the bank to dry Softly and prettily to watch the passers-by."
"Not I," scoffs she. "I'm going to wash my hands and face and have my dinner." So she fetches the second head a cruel bang with the bottle, and both heads ducked down in the water.
But when they came up again all draggled and dripping, the third head came also, singing as it came:
"Wash me, and comb me, lay me on the bank to dry Softly and prettily to watch the passers-by."
By this time the ugly princess had cleansed herself, and, seated on the primrose bank, had her mouth full of sugar and almonds.
"Not I," says she as well as she could. "I'm not a washerwoman nor a barber. So take that for your washing and combing."
And with that, having finished the Malaga sack, she flung the empty bottle at the three heads.
But this time they didn't duck. They looked at each other and said, "How shall we weird this rude girl for her bad manners?" Then the first head said:
"I weird that to her ugliness shall be added blotches on her face."
And the second head said:
"I weird that she shall ever be hoarse as a crow and speak as if she had her mouth full."
Then the third head said:
"And I weird that she shall be glad to marry a cobbler."
Then the three heads sank into the well and were no more seen, and the ugly princess went on her way. But, lo and behold! when she came to a town, the children ran from her ugly blotched face screaming with fright, and when she tried to tell them she was the King of Colchester's daughter, her voice squeaked like a corn-crake's, was hoarse as a crow's, and folk could not understand a word she said, because she spoke as if her mouth was full!
Now in the town there happened to be a cobbler who not long before had mended the shoes of a poor old hermit; and the latter, having no money, had paid for the job by the gift of a wonderful ointment which would cure blotches on the face, and a bottle of medicine that would banish any hoarseness.
So, seeing the miserable, ugly princess in great distress, he went up to her and gave her a few drops out of his bottle; and then understanding from her rich attire and clearer speech that she was indeed a King's daughter, he craftily said that if she would take him for a husband he would undertake to cure her.
"Anything! Anything!" sobbed the miserable princess.
So they were married, and the cobbler straightway set off with his bride to visit the King of Colchester. But the bells did not ring, the drums did not beat, and the people, instead of huzzaing, burst into loud guffaws at the cobbler in leather, and his wife in silks and satins.
As for the ugly Queen, she was so enraged and disappointed that she went mad, and hanged herself in wrath. Whereupon the King, really pleased at getting rid of her so soon, gave the cobbler a hundred pounds and bade him go about his business with his ugly bride.
Which he did quite contentedly, for a hundred pounds means much to a poor cobbler. So they went to a remote part of the kingdom and lived unhappily for many years, he cobbling shoes, and she spinning the thread for him.
Lady Mary was young and Lady Mary was fair, and she had more lovers than she could count on the fingers of both hands.
She lived with her two brothers, who were very proud and very fond of their beautiful sister, and very anxious that she should choose well amongst her many suitors.
Now amongst them there was a certain Mr. Fox, handsome and young and rich; and though nobody quite knew who he was, he was so gallant and so gay that every one liked him. And he wooed Lady Mary so well that at last she promised to marry him. But though he talked much of the beautiful home to which he would take her, and described the castle and all the wonderful things that furnished it, he never offered to show it to her, neither did he invite Lady Mary's brothers to see it.
Now this seemed to her very strange indeed; and, being a lass of spirit, she made up her mind to see the castle if she could.
So one day, just before the wedding, when she knew Mr. Fox would be away seeing the lawyers with her brothers, she just kilted up her skirts and set out unbeknownst—for, see you, the whole household was busy preparing for the marriage feastings—to see for herself what Mr. Fox's beautiful castle was like.
After many searchings, and much travelling, she found it at last; and a fine strong building it was, with high walls and a deep moat to it. A bit frowning and gloomy, but when she came up to the wide gateway she saw these words carven over the arch:
BE BOLD—BE BOLD.
So she plucked up courage, and the gate being open, went through it and found herself in a wide, empty, open courtyard. At the end of this was a smaller door, and over this was carven:
BE BOLD, BE BOLD; BUT NOT TOO BOLD.
So she went through it to a wide, empty hall, and up the wide, empty staircase. Now at the top of the staircase there was a wide, empty gallery at one end of which were wide windows with the sunlight streaming through them from a beautiful garden, and at the other end a narrow door, over the archway of which was carven:
BE BOLD, BE BOLD; BUT NOT TOO BOLD, LEST THAT YOUR HEART'S BLOOD SHOULD RUN COLD.
Now Lady Mary was a lass of spirit, and so, of course, she turned her back on the sunshine, and opened the narrow, dark door. And there she was in a narrow, dark passage. But at the end there was a chink of light. So she went forward and put her eye to the chink—and what do you think she saw?
Why! a wide saloon lit with many candles, and all round it, some hanging by their necks, some seated on chairs, some lying on the floor, were the skeletons and bodies of numbers of beautiful young maidens in their wedding-dresses that were all stained with blood.
Now Lady Mary, for all she was a lass of spirit, and brave as brave, could not look for long on such a horrid sight, so she turned and fled. Down the dark narrow passage, through the dark narrow door (which she did not forget to close behind her), and along the wide gallery she fled like a hare, and was just going down the wide stairs into the wide hall when, what did she see, through the window, but Mr. Fox dragging a beautiful young lady across the wide courtyard! There was nothing for it, Lady Mary decided, but to hide herself as quickly and as best she might; so she fled faster down the wide stairs, and hid herself behind a big wine-butt that stood in a corner of the wide hall. She was only just in time, for there at the wide door was Mr. Fox dragging the poor young maiden along by the hair; and he dragged her across the wide hall and up the wide stairs. And when she clutched at the bannisters to stop herself, Mr. Fox cursed and swore dreadfully; and at last he drew his sword and brought it down so hard on the poor young lady's wrist that the hand, cut off, jumped up into the air so that the diamond ring on the finger flashed in the sunlight as it fell, of all places in the world, into Lady Mary's very lap as she crouched behind the wine-butt!
Then she was fair frightened, thinking Mr. Fox would be sure to find her; but after looking about a little while in vain (for, of course, he coveted the diamond ring), he continued his dreadful task of dragging the poor, beautiful young maiden upstairs to the horrid chamber, intending, doubtless, to return when he had finished his loathly work, and seek for the hand.
But by that time Lady Mary had fled; for no sooner did she hear the awful, dragging noise pass into the gallery, than she upped and ran for dear life—through the wide door with
BE BOLD, BE BOLD; BUT NOT TOO BOLD
engraven over the arch, across the wide courtyard past the wide gate with
BE BOLD—BE BOLD
engraven over it, never stopping, never thinking till she reached her own chamber. And all the while the hand with the diamond ring lay in her kilted lap.
Now the very next day, when Mr. Fox and Lady Mary's brothers returned from the lawyers, the marriage-contract had to be signed. And all the neighbourhood was asked to witness it and partake of a splendid breakfast. And there was Lady Mary in bridal array, and there was Mr. Fox, looking so gay and so gallant. He was seated at the table just opposite Lady Mary, and he looked at her and said:
"How pale you are this morning, dear heart."
Then Lady Mary looked at him quietly and said, "Yes, dear sir! I had a bad night's rest, for I had horrible dreams."
Then Mr. Fox smiled and said, "Dreams go by contraries, dear heart; but tell me your dream, and your sweet voice will speed the time till I can call you mine."
"I dreamed," said Lady Mary, with a quiet smile, and her eyes were clear, "that I went yesterday to seek the castle that is to be my home, and I found it in the woods with high walls and a deep dark moat. And over the gateway were carven these words:
BE BOLD—BE BOLD."
Then Mr. Fox spoke in a hurry. "But it is not so—nor it was not so."
"Then I crossed the wide courtyard and went through a wide door over which was carven:
BE BOLD, BE BOLD; BUT NOT TOO BOLD,"
went on Lady Mary, still smiling, and her voice was cold; "but, of course, it is not so, and it was not so."
And Mr. Fox said nothing; he sate like a stone.
"Then I dreamed," continued Lady Mary, still smiling, though her eyes were stern, "that I passed through a wide hall and up a wide stair and along a wide gallery until I came to a dark narrow door, and over it was carven:
BE BOLD, BE BOLD; BUT NOT TOO BOLD, LEST THAT YOUR HEART'S BLOOD SHOULD RUN COLD.
"But it is not so, of course, and it was not so."
And Mr. Fox said nothing; he sate frozen.
"Then I dreamed that I opened the door and went down a dark narrow passage," said Lady Mary, still smiling, though her voice was ice. "And at the end of the passage there was a door, and the door had a chink in it. And through the chink I saw a wide saloon lit with many candles, and all round it were the bones and bodies of poor dead maidens, their clothes all stained with blood; but of course it is not so, and it was not so."
By this time all the neighbours were looking Mr. Fox-ways with all their eyes, while he sate silent.
But Lady Mary went on, and her smiling lips were set:
"Then I dreamed that I ran downstairs and had just time to hide myself when you, Mr. Fox, came in dragging a young lady by the hair. And the sunlight glittered on her diamond ring as she clutched the stair-rail, and you out with your sword and cut off the poor lady's hand."
Then Mr. Fox rose in his seat stonily and glared about him as if to escape, and his eye-teeth showed like a fox beset by the dogs, and he grew pale.
And he said, trying to smile, though his whispering voice could scarcely be heard:
"But it is not so, dear heart, and it was not so, and God forbid it should be so!"
Then Lady Mary rose in her seat also, and the smile left her face, and her voice rang as she cried:
"But it is so, and it was so; Here's hand and ring I have to show."
And with that she pulled out the poor dead hand with the glittering ring from her bosom and pointed it straight at Mr. Fox.
At this all the company rose, and drawing their swords cut Mr. Fox to pieces.
And served him very well right.
DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
More than five hundred years ago there was a little boy named Dick Whittington, and this is true. His father and mother died when he was too young to work, and so poor little Dick was very badly off. He was quite glad to get the parings of the potatoes to eat and a dry crust of bread now and then, and more than that he did not often get, for the village where he lived was a very poor one and the neighbours were not able to spare him much.
Now the country folk in those days thought that the people of London were all fine ladies and gentlemen, and that there was singing and dancing all the day long, and so rich were they there that even the streets, they said, were paved with gold. Dick used to sit by and listen while all these strange tales of the wealth of London were told, and it made him long to go and live there and have plenty to eat and fine clothes to wear, instead of the rags and hard fare that fell to his lot in the country.
So one day when a great waggon with eight horses stopped on its way through the village, Dick made friends with the waggoner and begged to be taken with him to London. The man felt sorry for poor little Dick when he heard that he had no father or mother to take care of him, and saw how ragged and how badly in need of help he was. So he agreed to take him, and off they set.
How far it was and how many days they took over the journey I do not know, but in due time Dick found himself in the wonderful city which he had heard so much of and pictured to himself so grandly. But oh! how disappointed he was when he got there. How dirty it was! And the people, how unlike the gay company, with music and singing, that he had dreamt of! He wandered up and down the streets, one after another, until he was tired out, but not one did he find that was paved with gold. Dirt in plenty he could see, but none of the gold that he thought to have put in his pockets as fast as he chose to pick it up.
Little Dick ran about till he was tired and it was growing dark. And at last he sat himself down in a corner and fell asleep. When morning came he was very cold and hungry, and though he asked every one he met to help him, only one or two gave him a halfpenny to buy some bread. For two or three days he lived in the streets in this way, only just able to keep himself alive, when he managed to get some work to do in a hayfield, and that kept him for a short time longer, till the haymaking was over.
After this he was as badly off as ever, and did not know where to turn. One day in his wanderings he lay down to rest in the doorway of the house of a rich merchant whose name was Fitzwarren. But here he was soon seen by the cook-maid, who was an unkind, bad-tempered woman, and she cried out to him to be off. "Lazy rogue," she called him; and she said she'd precious quick throw some dirty dishwater over him, boiling hot, if he didn't go. However, just then Mr. Fitzwarren himself came home to dinner, and when he saw what was happening, he asked Dick why he was lying there. "You're old enough to be at work, my boy," he said. "I'm afraid you have a mind to be lazy."
"Indeed, sir," said Dick to him, "indeed that is not so"; and he told him how hard he had tried to get work to do, and how ill he was for want of food. Dick, poor fellow, was now so weak that though he tried to stand he had to lie down again, for it was more than three days since he had had anything to eat at all. The kind merchant gave orders for him to be taken into the house and gave him a good dinner, and then he said that he was to be kept, to do what work he could to help the cook.
And now Dick would have been happy enough in this good family if it had not been for the ill-natured cook, who did her best to make life a burden to him. Night and morning she was for ever scolding him. Nothing he did was good enough. It was "Look sharp here" and "Hurry up there," and there was no pleasing her. And many's the beating he had from the broomstick or the ladle, or whatever else she had in her hand.
At last it came to the ears of Miss Alice, Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter, how badly the cook was treating poor Dick. And she told the cook that she would quickly lose her place if she didn't treat him more kindly, for Dick had become quite a favourite with the family.
After that the cook's behaviour was a little better, but Dick still had another hardship that he bore with difficulty. For he slept in a garret where were so many holes in the walls and the floor that every night as he lay in bed the room was overrun with rats and mice, and sometimes he could hardly sleep a wink. One day when he had earned a penny for cleaning a gentleman's shoes, he met a little girl with a cat in her arms, and asked whether she would not sell it to him. "Yes, she would," she said, though the cat was such a good mouser that she was sorry to part with her. This just suited Dick, who kept pussy up in his garret, feeding her on scraps of his own dinner that he saved for her every day. In a little while he had no more bother with the rats and mice. Puss soon saw to that, and he slept sound every night.
Soon after this Mr. Fitzwarren had a ship ready to sail; and as it was his custom that all his servants should be given a chance of good fortune as well as himself, he called them all into the counting-house and asked them what they would send out.
They all had something that they were willing to venture except poor Dick, who had neither money nor goods, and so could send nothing. For this reason he did not come into the room with the rest. But Miss Alice guessed what was the matter, and ordered him to be called in. She then said, "I will lay down some money for him out of my own purse"; but her father told her that would not do, for it must be something of his own.
When Dick heard this he said, "I have nothing whatever but a cat, which I bought for a penny some time ago."
"Go, my boy, fetch your cat then," said his master, "and let her go."
Dick went upstairs and fetched poor puss, but there were tears in his eyes when he gave her to the captain. "For," he said, "I shall now be kept awake all night by the rats and mice." All the company laughed at Dick's odd venture, and Miss Alice, who felt sorry for him, gave him some money to buy another cat.
Now this, and other marks of kindness shown him by Miss Alice, made the ill-tempered cook jealous of poor Dick, and she began to use him more cruelly than ever, and was always making game of him for sending his cat to sea. "What do you think your cat will sell for?" she'd ask. "As much money as would buy a stick to beat you with?"
At last poor Dick could not bear this usage any longer, and he thought he would run away. So he made a bundle of his things—he hadn't many—and started very early in the morning, on All-hallows Day, the first of November. He walked as far as Holloway, and there he sat down to rest on a stone, which to this day, they say, is called "Whittington's Stone," and began to wonder to himself which road he should take.
While he was thinking what he should do the Bells of Bow Church in Cheapside began to chime, and as they rang he fancied that they were singing over and over again:
"Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London."
"Lord Mayor of London!" said he to himself. "Why, to be sure, wouldn't I put up with almost anything now to be Lord Mayor of London, and ride in a fine coach, when I grow to be a man! Well, I'll go back, and think nothing of the cuffing and scolding of the cross old cook if I am to be Lord Mayor of London at last."
So back he went, and he was lucky enough to get into the house and set about his work before the cook came down.
But now you must hear what befell Mrs. Puss all this while. The ship Unicorn that she was on was a long time at sea, and the cat made herself useful, as she would, among the unwelcome rats that lived on board too. At last the ship put into harbour on the coast of Barbary, where the only people are the Moors. They had never before seen a ship from England, and flocked in numbers to see the sailors, whose different colour and foreign dress were a great wonder to them. They were soon eager to buy the goods with which the ship was laden, and patterns were sent ashore for the King to see. He was so much pleased with them that he sent for the captain to come to the palace, and honoured him with an invitation to dinner. But no sooner were they seated, as is the custom there, on the fine rugs and carpets that covered the floor, than great numbers of rats and mice came scampering in, swarming over all the dishes, and helping themselves from all the good things there were to eat. The captain was amazed, and wondered whether they didn't find such a pest most unpleasant.
"Oh yes," said they, "it was so, and the King would give half his treasure to be freed of them, for they not only spoil his dinner, but they even attack him in his bed at night, so that a watch has to be kept while he is sleeping, for fear of them."
The captain was overjoyed; he thought at once of poor Dick Whittington and his cat, and said he had a creature on board ship that would soon do for all these vermin if she were there. Of course, when the King heard this he was eager to possess this wonderful animal.
"Bring it to me at once," he said; "for the vermin are dreadful, and if only it will do what you say, I will load your ship with gold and jewels in exchange for it."
The captain, who knew his business, took care not to underrate the value of Dick's cat. He told His Majesty how inconvenient it would be to part with her, as when she was gone the rats might destroy the goods in the ship; however, to oblige the King, he would fetch her.
"Oh, make haste, do!" cried the Queen; "I, too, am all impatience to see this dear creature."
Off went the captain, while another dinner was got ready. He took Puss under his arm and got back to the palace just in time to see the carpet covered with rats and mice once again. When Puss saw them, she didn't wait to be told, but jumped out of the captain's arms, and in no time almost all the rats and mice were dead at her feet, while the rest of them had scuttled off to their holes in fright.
The King was delighted to get rid so easily of such an intolerable plague, and the Queen desired that the animal who had done them such a service might be brought to her. Upon which the captain called out, "Puss, puss, puss," and she came running to him. Then he presented her to the Queen, who was rather afraid at first to touch a creature who had made such a havoc with her claws. However, when the captain called her, "Pussy, pussy," and began to stroke her, the Queen also ventured to touch her and cried, "Putty, putty," in imitation of the captain, for she hadn't learned to speak English. He then put her on to the Queen's lap, where she purred and played with Her Majesty's hand and was soon asleep.
The King having seen what Mrs. Puss could do, and learning that her kittens would soon stock the whole country, and keep it free from rats, after bargaining with the captain for the whole ship's cargo, then gave him ten times as much for the cat as all the rest amounted to.
The captain then said farewell to the court of Barbary, and after a fair voyage reached London again with his precious load of gold and jewels safe and sound.
One morning early Mr. Fitzwarren had just come to his counting-house and settled himself at the desk to count the cash, when there came a knock at the door. "Who's there?" said he. "A friend," replied a voice. "I come with good news of your ship the Unicorn." The merchant in haste opened the door, and who were there but the ship's captain and the mate, bearing a chest of jewels and a bill of lading. When he had looked this over he lifted his eyes and thanked heaven for sending him such a prosperous voyage.
The honest captain next told him all about the cat, and showed him the rich present the King had sent for her to poor Dick. Rejoicing on behalf of Dick as much as he had done over his own good fortune, he called out to his servants to come and to bring up Dick:
"Go fetch him, and we'll tell him of his fame; Pray call him Mr. Whittington by name."
The servants, some of them, hesitated at this, and said so great a treasure was too much for a lad like Dick; but Mr. Fitzwarren now showed himself the good man that he was and refused to deprive him of the value of a single penny. "God forbid!" he cried. "It's all his own, and he shall have it, to a farthing."
He then sent for Dick, who at the moment was scouring pots for the cook and was black with dirt. He tried to excuse himself from coming into the room in such a plight, but the merchant made him come, and had a chair set for him. And he then began to think they must be making game of him, so he begged them not to play tricks on a poor simple boy, but to let him go downstairs again back to his work in the scullery.
"Indeed, Mr. Whittington," said the merchant, "we are all quite in earnest with you, and I most heartily rejoice at the news that these gentlemen have brought. For the captain has sold your cat to the King of Barbary, and brings you in return for her more riches than I possess in the whole world; and may you long enjoy them!"
Mr. Fitzwarren then told the men to open the great treasure they had brought with them, saying, "There is nothing more now for Mr. Whittington to do but to put it in some place of safety."
Poor Dick hardly knew how to behave himself for joy. He begged his master to take what part of it he pleased, since he owed it all to his kindness. "No, no," answered Mr. Fitzwarren, "this all belongs to you; and I have no doubt that you will use it well."
Dick next begged his mistress, and then Miss Alice, to accept a part of his good fortune, but they would not, and at the same time told him what great joy they felt at his great success. But he was far too kind-hearted to keep it all to himself; so he made a present to the captain, the mate, and the rest of Mr. Fitzwarren's servants; and even to his old enemy, the cross cook.
After this Mr. Fitzwarren advised him to send for a tailor and get himself dressed like a gentleman, and told him he was welcome to live in his house till he could provide himself with a better.
When Whittington's face was washed, his hair curled, and he was dressed in a smart suit of clothes, he was just as handsome and fine a young man as any who visited at Mr. Fitzwarren's, and so thought fair Alice Fitzwarren, who had once been so kind to him and looked upon him with pity. And now she felt he was quite fit to be her sweetheart, and none the less, no doubt, because Whittington was always thinking what he could do to please her, and making her the prettiest presents that could be.
Mr. Fitzwarren soon saw which way the wind blew, and ere long proposed to join them in marriage, and to this they both readily agreed. A day for the wedding was soon fixed; and they were attended to church by the Lord Mayor, the court of aldermen, the sheriffs, and a great number of the richest merchants in London, whom they afterwards treated with a magnificent feast.
History tells us that Mr. Whittington and his lady lived in great splendour, and were very happy. They had several children. He was Sheriff, and thrice Lord Mayor of London, and received the honour of knighthood from Henry V.
After the King's conquest of France, Sir Richard Whittington entertained him and the Queen at dinner at the Mansion House in so sumptuous a manner that the King said, "Never had Prince such a subject!" To which Sir Richard replied, "Never had subject such a Prince."
THE OLD WOMAN AND HER PIG
An old woman was sweeping her house, and she found a little crooked sixpence. "What," said she, "shall I do with this little sixpence? I will go to market, and buy a little pig."
So she bought a little pig; but as she was coming home, she came to a stile, and the piggy would not go over the stile.
She went a little further, and she met a dog. So she said to him, "Dog! dog! bite pig; piggy won't go over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the dog wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a stick. So she said, "Stick! stick! beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the stick wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a fire. So she said, "Fire! fire! burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the fire wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met some water. So she said, "Water! water! quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the water wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met an ox. So she said, "Ox! ox! drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the ox wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a butcher. So she said, "Butcher! butcher! kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the butcher wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a rope. So she said, "Rope! rope! hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the rope wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a rat. So she said, "Rat! rat! gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the rat wouldn't.
She went a little further, and she met a cat. So she said, "Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won't gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight." But the cat said to her, "If you will go to yonder cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the rat." So away went the old woman to the cow.
But the cow said to her, "If you will go to yonder haystack, and fetch me a handful of hay, I'll give you the milk." So away went the old woman to the haystack; and she brought the hay to the cow.
As soon as the cow had eaten the hay, she gave the old woman the milk; and away she went with it in a saucer to the cat.
As soon as the cat had lapped up the milk, the cat began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to drink the water; the water began to quench the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to bite the pig; the little pig squealed and jumped over the stile; and so the old woman got home before midnight.
THE WEE BANNOCK
Once upon a time there was an old man and his old wife who lived in a wee cottage beside a wee burnie. They had two cows, five hens, and a cock, a cat and two kittens. Now the old man looked after the cows, the cock looked after the hens, the cat looked after a mouse in the cupboard, and the two kittens looked after the old wife's spindle as it twirled and tussled about on the hearthstone. But though the old wife should have looked after the kittens, the more she said, "Sho! Sho! Go away, kitty!" the more they looked after the spindle!
So, one day, when she was quite tired out with saying, "Sho! Sho!" the old wife felt hungry and thought she could take a wee bite of something. So she up and baked two wee oatmeal bannocks and set them to toast before the fire. Now just as they were toasting away, smelling so fresh and tasty, in came the old man, and seeing them look so crisp and nice, takes up one of them and snaps a piece out of it. On this the other bannock thought it high time to be off, so up it jumps and away it trundles as fast as ever it could. And away ran the old wife after it as fast as she could run, with her spindle in one hand and her distaff in the other. But the wee bannock trundled faster than she could run, so it was soon out of sight, and the old wife was obliged to go back and tussle with the kittens again.
The wee bannock meanwhile trundled gaily down the hill till it came to a big thatched house, and it ran boldly in at the door and sate itself down by the fireside quite comfortably. Now there were three tailors in the room working away on a big bench, and being tailors they were, of course, dreadfully afraid, and jumped up to hide behind the goodwife who was carding wool by the fire.
"Hout-tout!" she cried. "What are ye a-feared of? 'Tis naught but a wee bit bannock. Just grip hold o' it, and I'll give ye a sup o' milk to drink with it."
So up she gets with the carders in her hands, and the tailor had his iron goose, and the apprentices, one with the big scissors and the other with the ironing-board, and they all made for the wee bannock; but it was too clever for them, and dodged about the fireside until the apprentice, thinking to snap it with the big scissors, fell into the hot ashes and got badly burnt. Then the tailor cast the goose at it, and the other apprentice the ironing-board; but it wouldn't do. The wee bannock got out at the doorway, where the goodwife flung the carders at it; but it dodged them and trundled away gaily till it came to a small house by the road-side. So in it ran bold as bold and sate itself down by the hearth where the wife was winding a clue of yarn for her husband, the weaver, who was click-clacking away at his loom.
"Tibby!" quoth the weaver. "Whatever's that?"
"Naught but a wee bannock," quoth she.
"Well, come and welcome," says he, "for the porridge was thin the morn; so grip it, woman! grip it!"
"Aye," says she, and reaches out her hand to it. But the wee bannock just dodged.
"Man!" says she, "yon's a clever wee bannockie! Catch it, man! Catch it if you can."
But the wee bannock just dodged. "Cast the clue at it, woman!" shouted the weaver.
But the wee bannock was out at the door, trundling away over the hill like a new tarred sheep or a mad cow!
And it trundled away till it came to a cowherd's house where the goodwife was churning her butter.
"Come in by," cried the goodwife when she saw the wee bannock all crisp and fresh and tasty; "I've plenty cream to eat with you."
But at this the wee bannock began dodging about, and it dodged so craftily that the goodwife overset the churn in trying to grip it, and before she set it straight again the wee bannock was off, trundling away down the hill till it came to a mill-house where the miller was sifting meal. So in it ran and sate down by the trough.
"Ho, ho!" says the miller. "It's a sign o' plenty when the likes of you run about the country-side with none to look after you. But come in by. I like bannock and cheese for supper, so I'll give ye a night's quarters." And with that he tapped his fat stomach.
At this the wee bannock turned and ran; it wasn't going to trust itself with the miller and his cheese; and the miller, having nothing but the meal to fling after it, just stood and stared; so the wee bannock trundled quietly along the level till it came to the smithy where the smith was welding horse-nails.
"Hullo!" says he, "you're a well-toasted bannock. You'll do fine with a glass of ale! So come in by and I'll give you a lodging inside." And with that he laughed, and tapped his fat stomach.
But the wee bannock thought the ale was as bad as the cheese, so it up and away, with the smith after it. And when he couldn't come up with it, he just cast his hammer at it. But the hammer missed and the wee bannock was out of sight in a crack, and trundled and trundled till it came to a farm-house where the goodman and his wife were beating out flax and combing it. So it ran in to the fireside and began to toast itself again.
"Janet," says the goodman, "yon is a well-toasted wee bannock. I'll have the half of it."
"And I'll take t'other half," says the goodwife, and reached out a hand to grip it. But the wee bannock played dodgings again.
"My certy," says the wife, "but you're spirity!" And with that she cast the flax comb at it. But it was too clever for her, so out it trundled through the door and away was it down the road, till it came to another house where the goodwife was stirring the scalding soup and the goodman was plaiting a thorn collar for the calf. So it trundled in, and sate down by the fire.
"Ho, Jock!" quoth the goodwife, "you're always crying on a well-toasted bannock. Here's one! Come and eat it!"
Then the wee bannock tried dodgings again, and the goodwife cried on the goodman to help her grip it.
"Aye, mother!" says he, "but where's it gone?"
"Over there!" cries she. "Quick! run to t'other side o' yon chair." And the chair upset, and down came the goodman among the thorns. And the goodwife she flung the soup spoon at it, and the scalding soup fell on the goodman and scalded him, so the wee bannock ran out in a crack and was away to the next house, where the folk were just sitting down to their supper and the goodwife was scraping the pot.
"Look!" cries she, "here's a wee well-toasted bannock for him as catches it!"
"Let's shut the door first," says the cautious goodman, "afore we try to get a grip on it."
Now when the wee bannock heard this it judged it was time to be off; so away it trundled and they after it helter-skelter. But though they threw their spoons at it, and the goodman cast his best hat, the wee bannock was too clever for them, and was out of sight in a crack.
Then away it trundled till it came to a house where the folk were just away to their beds. The goodwife she was raking out the fire, and the goodman had taken off his breeches.
"What's yon?" says he, for it was nigh dark.
"It will just be a wee bannock," says she.
"I could eat the half of it," says he.
"And I could eat t'other," quoth she.
Then they tried to grip it; but the wee bannock tried dodging. And the goodman and the goodwife tumbled against each other in the dark and grew angry.
"Cast your breeches at it, man!" cries the goodwife at last. "What's the use of standing staring like a stuck pig?"
So the goodman cast his breeches at it and thought he had smothered it sure enough; but somehow it wriggled out, and away it was, the goodman after it without his breeches. You never saw such a race—a real clean chase over the park, and through the whins, and round by the bramble patch. But there the goodman lost sight of it and had to go back all scratched and tired and shivering.
The wee bannock, however, trundled on till it was too dark even for a wee bannock to see.
Then it came to a fox's hole in the side of a big whinbush and trundled in to spend the night there; but the fox had had no meat for three whole days, so he just said, "You're welcome, friend! I wish there were two of you!"
And there were two! For he snapped the wee bannock into halves with one bite. So that was an end of it!
HOW JACK WENT OUT TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE
Once on a time there was a boy named Jack, and one morning he started to go and seek his fortune.
He hadn't gone very far before he met a cat.
"Where are you going, Jack?" said the cat.
"I am going to seek my fortune."
"May I go with you?"
"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."
So on they went, Jack and the cat. Jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt!
They went a little farther and they met a dog.
"Where are you going, Jack?" said the dog.
"I am going to seek my fortune."
"May I go with you?"
"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."
So on they went, Jack, the cat, and the dog! Jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt!
They went a little farther and they met a goat.
"Where are you going, Jack?" said the goat.
"I am going to seek my fortune."
"May I go with you?"
"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."
So on they went, Jack, the cat, the dog, and the goat. Jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt!
They went a little farther and they met a bull.
"Where are you going, Jack?" said the bull.
"I am going to seek my fortune."
"May I go with you?"
"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."
So on they went, Jack, the cat, the dog, the goat, and the bull. Jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt!
They went a little farther and they met a rooster.
"Where are you going, Jack?" said the rooster.
"I am going to seek my fortune."
"May I go with you?"
"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."
So on they went, Jack, the cat, the dog, the goat, the bull, and the rooster. Jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt!
And they went on jiggelty-jolting till it was about dark, and it was time to think of some place where they could spend the night. Now, after a bit, they came in sight of a house, and Jack told his companions to keep still while he went up and looked in through the window to see if all was safe. And what did he see through the window but a band of robbers seated at a table counting over great bags of gold!
"That gold shall be mine," quoth Jack to himself. "I have found my fortune already."
Then he went back and told his companions to wait till he gave the word, and then to make all the noise they possibly could in their own fashion. So when they were all ready Jack gave the word, and the cat mewed, and the dog barked, and the goat bleated, and the bull bellowed, and the rooster crowed, and all together they made such a terrific hubbub that the robbers jumped up in a fright and ran away, leaving their gold on the table. So, after a good laugh, Jack and his companions went in and took possession of the house and the gold.
Now Jack was a wise boy, and he knew that the robbers would come back in the dead of the night to get their gold, and so when it came time to go to bed he put the cat in the rocking-chair, and he put the dog under the table, and he put the goat upstairs, and he put the bull in the cellar, and bade the rooster fly up on to the roof.
Then he went to bed.
Now sure enough, in the dead of the night, the robbers sent one man back to the house to look after their money. But before long he came back in a great fright and told them a fearsome tale!
"I went back to the house," said he, "and went in and tried to sit down in the rocking-chair, and there was an old woman knitting there, and she—oh my!—stuck her knitting-needles into me."
(That was the cat, you know.)
"Then I went to the table to look after the money, but there was a shoemaker under the table, and my! how he stuck his awl into me."
(That was the dog, you know.)
"So I started to go upstairs, but there was a man up there threshing, and goody! how he knocked me down with his flail!"
(That was the goat, you know.)
"Then I started to go down to the cellar, but—oh dear me!—there was a man down there chopping wood, and he knocked me up and he knocked me down just terrible with his axe."
(That was the bull, you know.)
"But I shouldn't have minded all that if it hadn't been for an awful little fellow on the top of the house by the kitchen chimney, who kept a-hollering and hollering, 'Cook him in a stew! Cook him in a stew! Cook him in a stew!'"
(And that, of course, was the cock-a-doodle-doo.)
Then the robbers agreed that they would rather lose their gold than meet with such a fate; so they made off, and Jack next morning went gaily home with his booty. And each of the animals carried a portion of it. The cat hung a bag on its tail (a cat when it walks always carries its tail stiff), the dog on his collar, the goat and the bull on their horns, but Jack made the rooster carry a golden guinea in its beak to prevent it from calling all the time:
"Cock-a-doodle-doo, Cook him in a stew!"
There was once a woman who was very, very cheerful, though she had little to make her so; for she was old, and poor, and lonely. She lived in a little bit of a cottage and earned a scant living by running errands for her neighbours, getting a bite here, a sup there, as reward for her services. So she made shift to get on, and always looked as spry and cheery as if she had not a want in the world.
Now one summer evening, as she was trotting, full of smiles as ever, along the high road to her hovel, what should she see but a big black pot lying in the ditch!
"Goodness me!" she cried, "that would be just the very thing for me if I only had something to put in it! But I haven't! Now who could have left it in the ditch?"
And she looked about her expecting the owner would not be far off; but she could see nobody.
"Maybe there is a hole in it," she went on, "and that's why it has been cast away. But it would do fine to put a flower in for my window; so I'll just take it home with me."
And with that she lifted the lid and looked inside. "Mercy me!" she cried, fair amazed. "If it isn't full of gold pieces. Here's luck!"
And so it was, brimful of great gold coins. Well, at first she simply stood stock-still, wondering if she was standing on her head or her heels. Then she began saying:
"Lawks! But I do feel rich. I feel awful rich!"
After she had said this many times, she began to wonder how she was to get her treasure home. It was too heavy for her to carry, and she could see no better way than to tie the end of her shawl to it and drag it behind her like a go-cart.
"It will soon be dark," she said to herself as she trotted along. "So much the better! The neighbours will not see what I'm bringing home, and I shall have all the night to myself, and be able to think what I'll do! Mayhap I'll buy a grand house and just sit by the fire with a cup o' tea and do no work at all like a queen. Or maybe I'll bury it at the garden foot and just keep a bit in the old china teapot on the chimney-piece. Or maybe—Goody! Goody! I feel that grand I don't know myself."
By this time she was a bit tired of dragging such a heavy weight, and, stopping to rest a while, turned to look at her treasure.
And lo! it wasn't a pot of gold at all! It was nothing but a lump of silver.
She stared at it, and rubbed her eyes, and stared at it again.
"Well! I never!" she said at last. "And me thinking it was a pot of gold! I must have been dreaming. But this is luck! Silver is far less trouble—easier to mind, and not so easy stolen. Them gold pieces would have been the death o' me, and with this great lump of silver—"
So she went off again planning what she would do, and feeling as rich as rich, until becoming a bit tired again she stopped to rest and gave a look round to see if her treasure was safe; and she saw nothing but a great lump of iron!
"Well! I never!" says she again. "And I mistaking it for silver! I must have been dreaming. But this is luck! It's real convenient. I can get penny pieces for old iron, and penny pieces are a deal handier for me than your gold and silver. Why! I should never have slept a wink for fear of being robbed. But a penny piece comes in useful, and I shall sell that iron for a lot and be real rich—rolling rich."
So on she trotted full of plans as to how she would spend her penny pieces, till once more she stopped to rest and looked round to see her treasure was safe. And this time she saw nothing but a big stone.
"Well! I never!" she cried, full of smiles. "And to think I mistook it for iron. I must have been dreaming. But here's luck indeed, and me wanting a stone terrible bad to stick open the gate. Eh my! but it's a change for the better! It's a fine thing to have good luck."
So, all in a hurry to see how the stone would keep the gate open, she trotted off down the hill till she came to her own cottage. She unlatched the gate and then turned to unfasten her shawl from the stone which lay on the path behind her. Aye! It was a stone sure enough. There was plenty light to see it lying there, douce and peaceable as a stone should.
So she bent over it to unfasten the shawl end, when—"Oh my!" All of a sudden it gave a jump, a squeal, and in one moment was as big as a haystack. Then it let down four great lanky legs and threw out two long ears, nourished a great long tail and romped off, kicking and squealing and whinnying and laughing like a naughty, mischievous boy!
The old woman stared after it till it was fairly out of sight, then she burst out laughing too.
"Well!" she chuckled, "I am in luck! Quite the luckiest body hereabouts. Fancy my seeing the Bogey-Beast all to myself; and making myself so free with it too! My goodness! I do feel that uplifted—that GRAND!"—
So she went into her cottage and spent the evening chuckling over her good luck.
LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was called little Red Riding-Hood, because she was quite small and because she always wore a red cloak with a big red hood to it, which her grandmother had made for her.
Now one day her mother, who had been churning and baking cakes, said to her:
"My dear, put on your red cloak with the hood to it, and take this cake and this pot of butter to your Grannie, and ask how she is, for I hear she is ailing."
Now little Red Riding-Hood was very fond of her grandmother, who made her so many nice things, so she put on her cloak joyfully and started on her errand. But her grandmother lived some way off, and to reach the cottage little Red Riding-Hood had to pass through a vast lonely forest. However, some wood-cutters were at work in it, so little Red Riding-Hood was not so very much alarmed when she saw a great big wolf coming towards her, because she knew that wolves were cowardly things.
And sure enough the wolf, though but for the wood-cutters he would surely have eaten little Red Riding-Hood, only stopped and asked her politely where she was going.
"I am going to see Grannie, take her this cake and this pot of butter, and ask how she is," says little Red Riding-Hood.
"Does she live a very long way off?" asks the wolf craftily.
"Not so very far if you go by the straight road," replied little Red Riding-Hood. "You only have to pass the mill and the first cottage on the right is Grannie's; but I am going by the wood path because there are such a lot of nuts and flowers and butterflies."
"I wish you good luck," says the wolf politely. "Give my respects to your grandmother and tell her I hope she is quite well."
And with that he trotted off. But instead of going his ways he turned back, took the straight road to the old woman's cottage, and knocked at the door.
Rap! Rap! Rap!
"Who's there?" asked the old woman, who was in bed.
"Little Red Riding-Hood," sings out the wolf, making his voice as shrill as he could. "I've come to bring dear Grannie a pot of butter and a cake from mother, and to ask how you are."
"Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up," says the old woman, well satisfied.
So the wolf pulled the bobbin, the latch went up, and—oh my!—it wasn't a minute before he had gobbled up old Grannie, for he had had nothing to eat for a week.
Then he shut the door, put on Grannie's nightcap, and, getting into bed, rolled himself well up in the clothes.
By and by along comes little Red Riding-Hood, who had been amusing herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and picking flowers.
So she knocked at the door.
Rap! Rap! Rap!
"Who's there?" says the wolf, making his voice as soft as he could.
Now little Red Riding-Hood heard the voice was very gruff, but she thought her grandmother had a cold; so she said:
"Little Red Riding-Hood, with a pot of butter and a cake from mother, to ask how you are."
"Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."
So little Red Riding-Hood pulled the bobbin, the latch went up, and there, she thought, was her grandmother in the bed; for the cottage was so dark one could not see well. Besides, the crafty wolf turned his face to the wall at first. And he made his voice as soft, as soft as he could, when he said:
"Come and kiss me, my dear."
Then little Red Riding-Hood took off her cloak and went to the bed.
"Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma," says she, "what big arms you've got!"
"All the better to hug you with," says he.
"But, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big legs you have!"
"All the better to run with, my dear."
"Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big ears you've got!"
"All the better to hear with, my dear."
"But, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big eyes you've got!"
"All the better to see you with, my dear!"
"Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big teeth you've got!"
"All the better to eat you with, my dear!" says that wicked, wicked wolf, and with that he gobbled up little Red Riding-Hood.
Childe Rowland and his brothers twain Were playing at the ball. Their sister, Burd Helen, she played In the midst among them all.
For Burd Helen loved her brothers, and they loved her exceedingly. At play she was ever their companion and they cared for her as brothers should. And one day when they were at ball close to the churchyard—
Childe Rowland kicked it with his foot And caught it on his knee. At last as he plunged among them all, O'er the church he made it flee.
Now Childe Rowland was Burd Helen's youngest, dearest brother, and there was ever a loving rivalry between them as to which should win. So with a laugh—
Burd Helen round about the aisle To seek the ball is gone.
Now the ball had trundled to the right of the church; so, as Burd Helen ran the nearest way to get it, she ran contrary to the sun's course, and the light, shining full on her face, sent her shadow behind her. Thus that happened which will happen at times when folk forget and run widershins, that is against the light, so that their shadows are out of sight and cannot be taken care of properly.
Now what happened you will learn by and by; meanwhile, Burd Helen's three brothers waited for her return.
But long they waited, and longer still, And she came not back again.
Then they grew alarmed, and—
They sought her east, they sought her west, They sought her up and down. And woe were the hearts of her brethren, Since she was not to be found.
Not to be found anywhere—she had disappeared like dew on a May morning.
So at last her eldest brother went to Great Merlin the Magician, who could tell and foretell, see and foresee all things under the sun and beyond it, and asked him where Burd Helen could have gone.
"Fair Burd Helen," said the Magician, "must have been carried off with her shadow by the fairies when she was running round the church widershins; for fairies have power when folk go against the light. She will now be in the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland, and none but the boldest knight in Christendom will be able to bring her back."
"If it be possible to bring her back," said the eldest brother, "I will do it, or perish in the attempt."
"Possible it is," quoth Merlin the Magician gravely. "But woe be to the man or mother's son who attempts the task if he be not well taught beforehand what he is to do."
Now the eldest brother of fair Burd Helen was brave indeed, danger did not dismay him, so he begged the Magician to tell him exactly what he should do, and what he should not do, as he was determined to go and seek his sister. And the Great Magician told him, and schooled him, and after he had learnt his lesson right well he girt on his sword, said good-bye to his brothers and his mother, and set out for the Dark Tower of Elfland to bring Burd Helen back.
But long they waited, and longer still, With doubt and muckle pain. But woe were the hearts of his brethren, For he came not back again.
So after a time Burd Helen's second brother went to Merlin the Magician and said:
"School me also, for I go to find my brother and sister in the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland and bring them back." For he also was brave indeed, danger did not dismay him.
Then when he had been well schooled and had learnt his lesson, he said good-bye to Childe Rowland, his brother, and to his mother the good Queen, girt on his sword, and set out for the Dark Tower of Elfland to bring back Burd Helen and her brother.
But long they waited, and longer still, With muckle doubt and pain. And woe were his mother's and brother's hearts, For he came not back again.
Now when they had waited and waited a long, long time, and none had come back from the Dark Tower of Elfland, Childe Rowland, the youngest, the best beloved of Burd Helen's brothers, besought his mother to let him also go on the quest; for he was the bravest of them all, and neither death nor danger could dismay him. But at first his mother the Queen said:
"Not so! You are the last of my children; if you are lost, all is lost indeed!"
But he begged so hard that at length the good Queen his mother bade him God-speed, and girt about his waist his father's sword, the brand that never struck in vain, and as she girt it on she chanted the spell that gives victory.
So Childe Rowland bade her good-bye and went to the cave of the Great Magician Merlin.
"Yet once more, Master," said the youth, "and but once more, tell how man or mother's son may find fair Burd Helen and her brothers twain in the Dark Tower of Elfland."
"My son," replied the wizard Merlin, "there be things twain; simple they seem to say, but hard are they to perform. One thing is to do, and one thing is not to do. Now the first thing you have to do is this: after you have once entered the Land of Faery, whoever speaks to you, you must out with your father's brand and cut off their head. In this you must not fail. And the second thing you have not to do is this: after you have entered the Land of Faery, bite no bit, sup no drop; for if in Elfland you sup one drop or bite one bit, never again will you see Middle Earth."
Then Childe Rowland said these two lessons over and over until he knew them by heart; so, well schooled, he thanked the Great Master and went on his way to seek the Dark Tower of Elfland.
And he journeyed far, and he journeyed fast, until at last on a wide moorland he came upon a horse-herd feeding his horses; and the horses were wild, and their eyes were like coals of fire.
Then he knew they must be the horses of the King of Elfland, and that at last he must be in the Land of Faery.
So Childe Rowland said to the horse-herd, "Canst tell me where lies the Dark Tower of the Elfland King?"
And the horse-herd answered, "Nay, that is beyond my ken; but go a little farther and thou wilt come to a cow-herd who mayhap can tell thee."
Then at once Childe Rowland drew his father's sword that never struck in vain, and smote off the horse-herd's head, so that it rolled on the wide moorland and frightened the King of Elfland's horses. And he journeyed further till he came to a wide pasture where a cow-herd was herding cows. And the cows looked at him with fiery eyes, so he knew that they must be the King of Elfland's cows, and that he was still in the Land of Faery. Then he said to the cow-herd:
"Canst tell me where lies the Dark Tower of the Elfland King?"
And the cow-herd answered, "Nay, that is beyond my ken; but go a little farther and thou wilt come to a hen-wife who, mayhap, can tell thee."
So at once Childe Rowland, remembering his lesson, out with his father's good sword that never struck in vain, and off went the cow-herd's head spinning amongst the grasses and frightening the King of Elfland's cows.
Then he journeyed further till he came to an orchard where an old woman in a grey cloak was feeding fowls.
And the fowls' little eyes were like little coals of fire, so he knew that they were the King of Elfland's fowls, and that he was still in the Land of Faery.
And he said to the hen-wife, "Canst tell me where lies the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland?"
Now the hen-wife looked at him and smiled. "Surely I can tell you," said she. "Go on a little farther. There you will find a low green hill; green and low against the sky. And the hill will have three terrace-rings upon it from bottom to top. Go round the first terrace saying:
'Open from within; Let me in! Let me in!'
"Then go round the second terrace and say:
'Open wide, open wide; Let me inside.'
"Then go round the third terrace and say:
'Open fast, open fast; Let me in at last.'
"Then a door will open and let you in to the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland. Only remember to go round widershins. If you go round with the sun the door will not open. So good luck to you!"
Now the hen-wife spoke so fair, and smiled so frank, that Childe Rowland forgot for a moment what he had to do. Therefore he thanked the old woman for her courtesy and was just going on, when, all of a sudden, he remembered his lesson. And he out with his father's sword that never yet struck in vain, and smote off the hen-wife's head, so that it rolled among the corn and frightened the fiery-eyed fowls of the King of Elfland.
After that he went on and on, till, against the blue sky, he saw a round green hill set with three terraces from top to bottom.
Then he did as the hen-wife had told him, not forgetting to go round widershins, so that the sun was always on his face.
Now when he had gone round the third terrace saying:
"Open fast, open fast; Let me in at last,"
what should happen but that he should see a door in the hill-side. And it opened and let him in. Then it closed behind him with a click, and Childe Rowland was left in the dark; for he had gotten at last to the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland.
It was very dark at first, perhaps because the sun had part blinded his eyes; for after a while it became twilight, though where the light came from none could tell, unless through the walls and the roof; for there were neither windows nor candles. But in the gloaming light he could see a long passage of rough arches made of rock that was transparent and all encrusted with sheep-silver, rock-spar, and many bright stones. And the air was warm as it ever is in Elfland. So he went on and on in the twilight that came from nowhere, till he found himself before two wide doors all barred with iron. But they flew open at his touch, and he saw a wonderful, large, and spacious hall that seemed to him to be as long and as broad as the green hill itself. The roof was supported by pillars wide and lofty beyond the pillars of a cathedral; and they were of gold and silver, fretted into foliage, and between and around them were woven wreaths of flowers. And the flowers were of diamonds, and rubies, and topaz, and the leaves of emerald. And the arches met in the middle of the roof where hung, by a golden chain, an immense lamp made of a hollowed pearl, white and translucent. And in the middle of this lamp was a mighty carbuncle, blood-red, that kept spinning round and round, shedding its light to the very ends of the huge hall, which thus seemed to be filled with the shining of the setting sun.
Now at one end of the hall was a marvelous, wondrous, glorious couch of velvet, silk and gold, and on it sate fair Burd Helen combing her beautiful golden hair with a golden comb. But her face was all set and wan, as if it were made of stone. When she saw Childe Rowland she never moved, and her voice came like the voice of the dead as she said:
"God pity you, poor luckless fool! What have you here to do?"
Now at first Childe Rowland felt he must clasp this semblance of his dear sister in his arms, but he remembered the lesson which the Great Magician Merlin had taught him, and drawing his father's brand which had never yet been drawn in vain, and turning his eyes from the horrid sight, he struck with all his force at the enchanted form of fair Burd Helen.
And lo, when he turned to look in fear and trembling, there she was her own self, her joy fighting with her fears. And she clasped him in her arms and cried:
"Oh, hear you this, my youngest brother, Why didn't you bide at home? Had you a hundred thousand lives, Ye couldn't spare ne'er a one!
"But sit you down, my dearest dear, Oh! woe that ye were born, For, come the King of Elfland in, Your fortune is forlorn."
So with tears and smiles she seated him beside her on the wondrous couch, and they told each other what they each had suffered and done. He told her how he had come to Elfland. She told him how she had been carried off, shadow and all, because she ran round a church widershins, and how her brothers had been enchanted, and lay intombed as if dead, as she had been. Because they had not had the courage to obey the Great Magician's lesson to the letter, and cut off her head.
Now after a time Childe Rowland, who had travelled far and travelled fast, became very hungry, and forgetting all about the second lesson of the Magician Merlin, asked his sister for some food; and she, being still under the spell of Elfland, could not warn him of his danger. She could only look at him sadly as she rose up and brought him a golden basin full of bread and milk.
Now in those days it was manners before taking food from anyone to say thank you with your eyes, and so just as Childe Rowland was about to put the golden bowl to his lips, he raised his eyes to his sister's.
And in an instant he remembered what the Great Magician had said: "Bite no bit, sup no drop, for if in Elfland you sup one drop or bite one bit, never again will you see Middle Earth."
So he dashed the bowl to the ground, and standing square and fair, lithe and young and strong, he cried like a challenge:
"Not a sup will I swallow, not a bit will I bite, till fair Burd Helen is set free."
Then immediately there was a loud noise like thunder, and a voice was heard saying:
"Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a Christian Man. Be he alive or dead, my brand Shall dash his brains from his brain-pan."
Then the folding-doors of the vast hall burst open and the King of Elfland entered like a storm of wind. What he was really like Childe Rowland had not time to see, for with a bold cry:
"Strike, Bogle! thy hardest if thou darest!" he rushed to meet the foe, his good sword, that never yet did fail, in his hand.
And Childe Rowland and the King of Elfland fought, and fought, and fought, while Burd Helen, with her hands clasped, watched them in fear and hope.
So they fought, and fought, and fought, until at last Childe Rowland beat the King of Elfland to his knees. Whereupon he cried, "I yield me. Thou hast beaten me in fair fight."
Then Childe Rowland said, "I grant thee mercy if thou wilt release my sister and my brothers from all spells and enchantments, and let us go back to Middle Earth."
So that was agreed; and the Elfin King went to a golden chest whence he took a phial that was filled with a blood-red liquor. And with this liquor he anointed the ears and the eyelids, the nostrils, the lips, and the finger-tips of the bodies of Burd Helen's two brothers that lay as dead in two golden coffers.
And immediately they sprang to life and declared that their souls only had been away, but had now returned.
After this the Elfin King said a charm which took away the very last bit of enchantment, and adown the huge hall that showed as if it were lit by the setting sun, and through the long passage of rough arches made of rock that was transparent and all encrusted with sheep-silver, rock-spar, and many bright stones, where twilight reigned, the three brothers and their sister passed. Then the door opened in the green hill, it clicked behind them, and they left the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland never to return.
For, no sooner were they in the light of day, than they found themselves at home.
But fair Burd Helen took care never to go widershins round a church again.
THE WISE MEN OF GOTHAM
OF BUYING OF SHEEP
There were two men of Gotham, and one of them was going to market to Nottingham to buy sheep, and the other came from the market, and they both met together upon Nottingham bridge.
"Where are you going?" said the one who came from Nottingham.
"Marry," said he that was going to Nottingham, "I am going to buy sheep."
"Buy sheep?" said the other; "and which way will you bring them home?"
"Marry," said the other, "I will bring them over this bridge."
"By Robin Hood," said he that came from Nottingham, "but thou shalt not."
"By Maid Marion," said he that was going thither, "but I will."
"You will not," said the one.
Then they beat their staves against the ground, one against the other, as if there had been a hundred sheep between them.
"Hold in," said one; "beware lest my sheep leap over the bridge."
"I care not," said the other; "they shall not come this way."
"But they shall," said the other.
Then the other said, "If that thou make much to do, I will put my fingers in thy mouth."
"Will you?" said the other.
Now, as they were at their contention, another man of Gotham came from the market with a sack of meal upon a horse, and seeing and hearing his neighbours at strife about sheep, though there were none between them, said:
"Ah, fools! will you ever learn wisdom? Help me, and lay my sack upon my shoulders."
They did so, and he went to the side of the bridge, unloosened the mouth of the sack, and shook all his meal out into the river.
"Now, neighbours," he said, "how much meal is there in my sack?"
"Marry," said they, "there is none at all."
"Now, by my faith," said he, "even as much wit as is in your two heads to stir up strife about a thing you have not."
Which was the wisest of these three persons, judge yourself.
OF HEDGING A CUCKOO
Once upon a time the men of Gotham would have kept the Cuckoo so that she might sing all the year, and in the midst of their town they made a hedge round in compass and they got a Cuckoo, and put her into it, and said, "Sing there all through the year, or thou shalt have neither meat nor water." The Cuckoo, as soon as she perceived herself within the hedge, flew away. "A vengeance on her!" said they. "We did not make our hedge high enough."
OF SENDING CHEESES
There was a man of Gotham who went to the market at Nottingham to sell cheese, and as he was going down the hill to Nottingham bridge, one of his cheeses fell out of his wallet and rolled down the hill. "Ah, gaffer," said the fellow, "can you run to market alone? I will send one after another after you." Then he laid down his wallet and took out the cheeses and rolled them down the hill. Some went into one bush, and some went into another.
"I charge you all to meet me near the market-place," cried he; and when the fellow came to the market to meet his cheeses, he stayed there till the market was nearly done. Then he went about to inquire of his friends and neighbours, and other men, if they did see his cheeses come to the market.
"Who should bring them?" said one of the market men.
"Marry, themselves," said the fellow; "they know the way well enough."
He said, "A vengeance on them all. I did fear, to see them run so fast, that they would run beyond the market. I am now fully persuaded that they must be now almost at York." Whereupon he forthwith hired a horse to ride to York, to seek his cheeses where they were not; but to this day no man can tell him of his cheeses.
OF DROWNING EELS
When Good Friday came, the men of Gotham cast their heads together what to do with their white herrings, their red herrings, their sprats, and other salt fish. One consulted with the other, and agreed that such fish should be cast into their pond (which was in the middle of the town), that they might breed against the next year, and every man that had salt fish left cast them into the pool.
"I have many white herrings," said one.
"I have many sprats," said another.
"I have many red herrings," said the other.
"I have much salt fish. Let all go into the pond or pool, and we shall fare like lords next year."
At the beginning of next year following the men drew near the pond to have their fish, and there was nothing but a great eel. "Ah," said they all, "a mischief on this eel, for he has eaten up all our fish."
"What shall we do to him?" said one to the other.
"Kill him," said one.
"Chop him into pieces," said another.
"Not so," said another; "let us drown him."
"Be it so," said all. And they went to another pond, and cast the eel into the pond. "Lie there and shift for yourself, for no help thou shalt have from us"; and they left the eel to drown.
OF SENDING RENT
Once on a time the men of Gotham had forgotten to pay their landlord. One said to the other, "To-morrow is our pay-day, and what shall we find to send our money to our landlord?"
The one said, "This day I have caught a hare, and he shall carry it, for he is light of foot."
"Be it so," said all; "he shall have a letter and a purse to put our money in, and we shall direct him the right way." So when the letters were written and the money put in a purse, they tied it round the hare's neck, saying, "First you go to Lancaster, then thou must go to Loughborough, and Newarke is our landlord, and commend us to him, and there is his dues."
The hare, as soon as he was out of their hands, ran on along the country way. Some cried, "Thou must go to Lancaster first."
"Let the hare alone," said another; "he can tell a nearer way than the best of us all. Let him go."
Another said, "It is a subtle hare; let her alone; she will not keep the highway for fear of dogs."
On a certain time there were twelve men of Gotham who went fishing, and some went into the water and some on dry ground; and, as they were coming back, one of them said, "We have ventured much this day wading; I pray God that none of us that did come from home be drowned."
"Marry," said one, "let us see about that. Twelve of us came out." And every man did count eleven, and the twelfth man did never count himself.
"Alas!" said one to another, "one of us is drowned." They went back to the brook where they had been fishing, and looked up and down for him that was drowned, and made great lamentation. A courtier came riding by, and he did ask what they were seeking, and why they were so sorrowful. "Oh," said they, "this day we came to fish in this brook, and there were twelve of us, and one is drowned."
"Why," said the courtier, "count me how many of you there be"; and one counted eleven and did not count himself. "Well," said the courtier, "what will you give me if I find the twelfth man?"
"Sir," said they, "all the money we have."
"Give me the money," said the courtier; and he began with the first, and gave him a whack over the shoulders that he groaned, and said, "There is one," and he served all of them that they groaned; but when he came to the last he gave him a good blow, saying, "Here is the twelfth man."
"God bless you on your heart," said all the company; "you have found our neighbour."
Once upon a time, a long, long while ago, when all the world was young and all sorts of strange things happened, there lived a very rich gentleman whose wife had died leaving him three lovely daughters. They were as the apple of his eye, and he loved them exceedingly.
Now one day he wanted to find out if they loved him in return, so he said to the eldest, "How much do you love me, my dear?"
And she answered as pat as may be, "As I love my life."
"Very good, my dear," said he, and gave her a kiss. Then he said to the second girl, "How much do you love me, my dear?"
And she answered as swift as thought, "Better than all the world beside."
"Good!" he replied, and patted her on the cheek. Then he turned to the youngest, who was also the prettiest.
"And how much do you love me, my dearest?"
Now the youngest daughter was not only pretty, she was clever. So she thought a moment, then she said slowly:
"I love you as fresh meat loves salt!"
Now when her father heard this he was very angry, because he really loved her more than the others.
"What!" he said. "If that is all you give me in return for all I've given you, out of my house you go." So there and then he turned her out of the home where she had been born and bred, and shut the door in her face.
Not knowing where to go, she wandered on, and she wandered on, till she came to a big fen where the reeds grew ever so tall and the rushes swayed in the wind like a field of corn. There she sate down and plaited herself an overall of rushes and a cap to match, so as to hide her fine clothes, and her beautiful golden hair that was all set with milk-white pearls. For she was a wise girl, and thought that in such lonely country, mayhap, some robber might fall in with her and kill her to get her fine clothes and jewels.
It took a long time to plait the dress and cap, and while she plaited she sang a little song:
"Hide my hair, O cap o' rushes, Hide my heart, O robe o' rushes. Sure! my answer had no fault, I love him more than he loves salt."
And the fen birds sate and listened and sang back to her:
"Cap o' rushes, shed no tear, Robe o' rushes, have no fear; With these words if fault he'd find, Sure your father must be blind."
When her task was finished she put on her robe of rushes and it hid all her fine clothes, and she put on the cap and it hid all her beautiful hair, so that she looked quite a common country girl. But the fen birds flew away, singing as they flew:
"Cap-o-rushes! we can see, Robe o' rushes! what you be, Fair and clean, and fine and tidy, So you'll be whate'er betide ye."
By this time she was very, very hungry, so she wandered on, and she wandered on; but ne'er a cottage or a hamlet did she see, till just at sun-setting she came on a great house on the edge of the fen. It had a fine front door to it; but mindful of her dress of rushes she went round to the back. And there she saw a strapping fat scullion washing pots and pans with a very sulky face. So, being a clever girl, she guessed what the maid was wanting, and said:
"If I may have a night's lodging, I will scrub the pots and pans for you."
"Why! Here's luck," replied the scullery-maid, ever so pleased. "I was just wanting badly to go a-walking with my sweetheart. So if you will do my work you shall share my bed and have a bite of my supper. Only mind you scrub the pots clean or cook will be at me."
Now next morning the pots were scraped so clean that they looked like new, and the saucepans were polished like silver, and the cook said to the scullion, "Who cleaned these pots? Not you, I'll swear." So the maid had to up and out with the truth. Then the cook would have turned away the old maid and put on the new, but the latter would not hear of it.
"The maid was kind to me and gave me a night's lodging," she said. "So now I will stay without wage and do the dirty work for her."
So Caporushes—for so they called her since she would give no other name—stayed on and cleaned the pots and scraped the saucepans.
Now it so happened that her master's son came of age, and to celebrate the occasion a ball was given to the neighbourhood, for the young man was a grand dancer, and loved nothing so well as a country measure. It was a very fine party, and after supper was served, the servants were allowed to go and watch the quality from the gallery of the ball-room.
But Caporushes refused to go, for she also was a grand dancer, and she was afraid that when she heard the fiddles starting a merry jig, she might start dancing. So she excused herself by saying she was too tired with scraping pots and washing saucepans; and when the others went off, she crept up to her bed.
But alas! and alack-a-day! The door had been left open, and as she lay in her bed she could hear the fiddlers fiddling away and the tramp of dancing feet.
Then she upped and off with her cap and robe of rushes, and there she was ever so fine and tidy. She was in the ball-room in a trice joining in the jig, and none was more beautiful or better dressed than she. While as for her dancing...!
Her master's son singled her out at once, and with the finest of bows engaged her as his partner for the rest of the night. So she danced away to her heart's content, while the whole room was agog, trying to find out who the beautiful young stranger could be. But she kept her own counsel and, making some excuse, slipped away before the ball finished; so when her fellow-servants came to bed, there she was in hers in her cap and robe of rushes, pretending to be fast asleep.
Next morning, however, the maids could talk of nothing but the beautiful stranger.
"You should ha' seen her," they said. "She was the loveliest young lady as ever you see, not a bit like the likes o' we. Her golden hair was all silvered wi' pearls, and her dress—law! You wouldn't believe how she was dressed. Young master never took his eyes off her."
And Caporushes only smiled and said, with a twinkle in her eye, "I should like to see her, but I don't think I ever shall."
"Oh yes, you will," they replied, "for young master has ordered another ball to-night in hopes she will come to dance again."
But that evening Caporushes refused once more to go to the gallery, saying she was too tired with cleaning pots and scraping saucepans. And once more when she heard the fiddlers fiddling she said to herself, "I must have one dance—just one with the young master: he dances so beautifully." For she felt certain he would dance with her.
And sure enough, when she had upped and offed with her cap and robe of rushes, there he was at the door waiting for her to come; for he had determined to dance with no one else.
So he took her by the hand, and they danced down the ball-room. It was a sight of all sights! Never were such dancers! So young, so handsome, so fine, so gay!
But once again Caporushes kept her own counsel and just slipped away on some excuse in time, so that when her fellow-servants came to their beds they found her in hers, pretending to be fast asleep; but her cheeks were all flushed and her breath came fast. So they said, "She is dreaming. We hope her dreams are happy."
But next morning they were full of what she had missed. Never was such a beautiful young gentleman as young master! Never was such a beautiful young lady! Never was such beautiful dancing! Every one else had stopped theirs to look on.
And Caporushes, with a twinkle in her eyes, said, "I should like to see her; but I'm sure I never shall!"
"Oh yes!" they replied. "If you come to-night you're sure to see her; for young master has ordered another ball in hopes the beautiful stranger will come again; for it's easy to see he is madly in love with her."
Then Caporushes told herself she would not dance again, since it was not fit for a gay young master to be in love with his scullery-maid; but, alas! the moment she heard the fiddlers fiddling, she just upped and offed with her rushes, and there she was fine and tidy as ever! She didn't even have to brush her beautiful golden hair! And once again she was in the ball-room in a trice, dancing away with young master, who never took his eyes off her, and implored her to tell him who she was. But she kept her own counsel and only told him that she never, never, never would come to dance any more, and that he must say good-bye. And he held her hand so fast that she had a job to get away, and lo and behold! his ring came off his finger, and as she ran up to her bed there it was in her hand! She had just time to put on her cap and robe of rushes, when her fellow-servants came trooping in and found her awake.
"It was the noise you made coming upstairs," she made excuse; but they said, "Not we! It is the whole place that is in an uproar searching for the beautiful stranger. Young master he tried to detain her; but she slipped from him like an eel. But he declares he will find her; for if he doesn't he will die of love for her."
Then Caporushes laughed. "Young men don't die of love," says she. "He will find some one else."
But he didn't. He spent his whole time looking for his beautiful dancer, but go where he might, and ask whom he would, he never heard anything about her. And day by day he grew thinner and thinner, and paler and paler, until at last he took to his bed.
And the housekeeper came to the cook and said, "Cook the nicest dinner you can cook, for young master eats nothing."
Then the cook prepared soups, and jellies, and creams, and roast chicken, and bread sauce; but the young man would none of them.
And Caporushes cleaned the pots and scraped the saucepans and said nothing.
Then the housekeeper came crying and said to the cook, "Prepare some gruel for young master. Mayhap he'd take that. If not he will die for love of the beautiful dancer. If she could see him now she would have pity on him."
So the cook began to make the gruel, and Caporushes left scraping saucepans and watched her.
"Let me stir it," she said, "while you fetch a cup from the pantry-room."
So Caporushes stirred the gruel, and what did she do but slips young master's ring into it before the cook came back!
Then the butler took the cup upstairs on a silver salver. But when the young master saw it he waved it away, till the butler with tears begged him just to taste it.
So the young master took a silver spoon and stirred the gruel; and he felt something hard at the bottom of the cup. And when he fished it up, lo! it was his own ring! Then he sate up in bed and said quite loud, "Send for the cook!" And when she came he asked her who made the gruel.
"I did," she said, for she was half-pleased and half-frightened.
Then he looked at her all over and said, "No, you didn't! You're too stout! Tell me who made it and you shan't be harmed!"
Then the cook began to cry. "If you please, sir, I did make it; but Caporushes stirred it."
"And who is Caporushes?" asked the young man.
"If you please, sir, Caporushes is the scullion," whimpered the cook.
Then the young man sighed and fell back on his pillow. "Send Caporushes here," he said in a faint voice; for he really was very near dying.
And when Caporushes came he just looked at her cap and her robe of rushes and turned his face to the wall; but he asked her in a weak little voice, "From whom did you get that ring?"
Now when Caporushes saw the poor young man so weak and worn with love for her, her heart melted, and she replied softly:
"From him that gave it me," quoth she, and offed with her cap and robe of rushes, and there she was as fine and tidy as ever with her beautiful golden hair all silvered over with pearls.
And the young man caught sight of her with the tail of his eye, and sate up in bed as strong as may be, and drew her to him and gave her a great big kiss.
So, of course, they were to be married in spite of her being only a scullery-maid, for she told no one who she was. Now every one far and near was asked to the wedding. Amongst the invited guests was Caporushes' father, who, from grief at losing his favourite daughter, had lost his sight, and was very dull and miserable. However, as a friend of the family, he had to come to the young master's wedding.
Now the marriage feast was to be the finest ever seen; but Caporushes went to her friend the cook and said:
"Dress every dish without one mite of salt."
"That'll be rare and nasty," replied the cook; but because she prided herself on having let Caporushes stir the gruel and so saved the young master's life, she did as she was asked, and dressed every dish for the wedding breakfast without one mite of salt.
Now when the company sate down to table their faces were full of smiles and content, for all the dishes looked so nice and tasty; but no sooner had the guests begun to eat than their faces fell; for nothing can be tasty without salt.
Then Caporushes' blind father, whom his daughter had seated next to her, burst out crying.
"What is the matter?" she asked.
Then the old man sobbed, "I had a daughter whom I loved dearly, dearly. And I asked her how much she loved me, and she replied, 'As fresh meat loves salt.' And I was angry with her and turned her out of house and home, for I thought she didn't love me at all. But now I see she loved me best of all."
And as he said the words his eyes were opened, and there beside him was his daughter lovelier than ever.
And she gave him one hand, and her husband, the young master, the other, and laughed saying, "I love you both as fresh meat loves salt." And after that they were all happy for evermore.
THE BABES IN THE WOOD
Now ponder well, you parents dear, These words which I shall write; A doleful story you shall hear, In time brought forth to light. A gentleman of good account In Norfolk dwelt of late, Who did in honour far surmount Most men of his estate.
Sore sick he was and like to die, No help his life could save; His wife by him as sick did lie, And both possest one grave. No love between these two was lost, Each was to other kind; In love they lived, in love they died, And left two babes behind:
The one a fine and pretty boy Not passing three years old, The other a girl more young than he, And framed in beauty's mould. The father left his little son, As plainly did appear, When he to perfect age should come, Three hundred pounds a year;
And to his little daughter Jane Five hundred pounds in gold, To be paid down on marriage-day, Which might not be controlled. But if the children chanced to die Ere they to age should come, Their uncle should possess their wealth; For so the will did run.
"Now, brother," said the dying man, "Look to my children dear; Be good unto my boy and girl, No friends else have they here; To God and you I recommend My children dear this day; But little while be sure we have Within this world to stay.
"You must be father and mother both, And uncle, all in one; God knows what will become of them When I am dead and gone." With that bespake their mother dear: "O brother kind," quoth she, "You are the man must bring our babes To wealth or misery.
"And if you keep them carefully, Then God will you reward; But if you otherwise should deal, God will your deeds regard." With lips as cold as any stone, They kissed their children small: "God bless you both, my children dear!" With that the tears did fall.
These speeches then their brother spake To this sick couple there: "The keeping of your little ones, Sweet sister, do not fear; God never prosper me nor mine, Nor aught else that I have, If I do wrong your children dear When you are laid in grave!"
The parents being dead and gone, The children home he takes, And brings them straight unto his house, Where much of them he makes. He had not kept these pretty babes A twelvemonth and a day, But, for their wealth, he did devise To make them both away.
He bargained with two ruffians strong, Which were of furious mood, That they should take these children young. And slay them in a wood. He told his wife an artful tale He would the children send To be brought up in London town With one that was his friend.
Away then went those pretty babes, Rejoicing at that tide, Rejoicing with a merry mind They should on cock-horse ride. They prate and prattle pleasantly, As they ride on the way, To those that should their butchers be And work their lives' decay:
So that the pretty speech they had Made Murder's heart relent; And they that undertook the deed Full sore now did repent. Yet one of them, more hard of heart, Did vow to do his charge, Because the wretch that hired him Had paid him very large.
The other won't agree thereto, So there they fall to strife; With one another they did fight About the children's life; And he that was of mildest mood Did slay the other there, Within an unfrequented wood; The babes did quake for fear!
He took the children by the hand, Tears standing in their eye, And bade them straightway follow him, And look they did not cry; And two long miles he led them on, While they for food complain: "Stay here," quoth he, "I'll bring you bread, When I come back again."
These pretty babes, with hand in hand, Went wandering up and down; But never more could see the man Approaching from the town. Their pretty lips with blackberries Were all besmeared and dyed; And when they saw the darksome night, They sat them down and cried.
Thus wandered these poor innocents, Till death did end their grief; In one another's arms they died, As wanting due relief: No burial this pretty pair From any man receives, Till Robin Redbreast piously Did cover them with leaves.
And now the heavy wrath of God Upon their uncle fell; Yea, fearful fiends did haunt his house, His conscience felt an hell: His barns were fired, his goods consumed, His lands were barren made, His cattle died within the field, And nothing with him stayed.
And in a voyage to Portugal Two of his sons did die; And to conclude, himself was brought To want and misery: He pawned and mortgaged all his land Ere seven years came about. And now at last this wicked act Did by this means come out.
The fellow that did take in hand These children for to kill, Was for a robbery judged to die, Such was God's blessed will: Who did confess the very truth, As here hath been displayed: The uncle having died in jail, Where he for debt was laid.
You that executors be made, And overseers eke, Of children that be fatherless, And infants mild and meek, Take you example by this thing, And yield to each his right, Lest God with suchlike misery Your wicked minds requite.
THE RED ETTIN
There was once a widow that lived on a small bit of ground, which she rented from a farmer. And she had two sons; and by and by it was time for the wife to send them away to seek their fortune. So she told her eldest son one day to take a can and bring her water from the well, that she might bake a cake for him; and however much or however little water he might bring, the cake would be great or small accordingly, and that cake was to be all that she could give him when he went on his travels.
The lad went away with the can to the well, and filled it with water, and then came away home again; but the can being broken, the most part of the water had run out before he got back. So his cake was very small; yet small as it was, his mother asked him if he was willing to take the half of it with her blessing, telling him that, if he chose rather to take the whole, he would only get it with her curse. The young man, thinking he might have to travel a far way, and not knowing when or how he might get other provisions, said he would like to have the whole cake, come of his mother's malison what might; so she gave him the whole cake, and her malison along with it. Then he took his brother aside, and gave him a knife to keep till he should come back, desiring him to look at it every morning, and as long as it continued to be clear, then he might be sure that the owner of it was well; but if it grew dim and rusty, then for certain some ill had befallen him.
So the young man went to seek his fortune. And he went all that day, and all the next day; and on the third day, in the afternoon, he came up to where a shepherd was sitting with a flock of sheep. And he went up to the shepherd and asked him to whom the sheep belonged; and he answered:
"To the Red Ettin of Ireland Who lives in Ballygan, He stole King Malcolm's daughter, The king of fair Scotland. He beats her, he binds her, He lays her on a hand; And every day he strikes her With a bright silver wand. 'Tis said there's one predestinate To be his mortal foe; But sure that man is yet unborn, And long may it be so!"
After this the shepherd told him to beware of the beasts he should next meet, for they were of a very different kind from any he had yet seen.
So the young man went on, and by and by he saw a multitude of very dreadful, terrible, horrible beasts, with two heads, and on every head four horns! And he was sore frightened, and ran away from them as fast as he could; and glad was he when he came to a castle that stood on a hillock, with the door standing wide open to the wall. And he went in to the castle for shelter, and there he saw an old wife sitting beside the kitchen fire. He asked the wife if he might stay for the night, as he was tired with a long journey; and the wife said he might, but it was not a good place for him to be in, as it belonged to the Red Ettin, who was a very terrible monster with three heads, who spared no living man it could get hold of. The young man would have gone away, but he was afraid of the two-headed four-horned beasts outside; so he beseeched the old woman to hide him as best she could, and not tell the Ettin he was there. He thought, if he could put over the night, he might get away in the morning, without meeting with the dreadful, terrible, horrible beasts, and so escape.
But he had not been long in his hiding-hole, before the awful Ettin came in; and no sooner was he in, than he was heard crying:
"Snouk but! and snouk ben! I find the smell of an earthly man; Be he living, or be he dead, His heart this night shall kitchen my bread."
Well, the monster began to search about, and he soon found the poor young man, and pulled him from his hiding-place. And when he had got him out, he told him that if he could answer him three questions his life should be spared.
So the first head asked: "A thing without an end; what's that?"
But the young man knew not.
Then the second head said: "The smaller the more dangerous; what's that?"
But the young man knew not.