And then the third head asked: "The dead carrying the living? riddle me that."
But the young man knew not.
So the lad not being able to answer one of these questions, the Red Ettin took a mallet from behind the door, knocked him on the head, and turned him into a pillar of stone.
Now on the morning after this happened the younger brother took out the knife to look at it, and he was grieved to find it all brown with rust. So he told his mother that the time was now come for him to go away upon his travels also. At first she refused to let him go; but at last she requested him to take the can to the well for water, that she might make a cake for him. So he went, but as he was bringing home the water, a raven over his head cried to him to look, and he would see that the water was running out. Now being a young man of sense, and seeing the water running out, he took some clay and patched up the holes, so that he brought home enough water to bake a large cake. And when his mother put it to him to take the half cake with her blessing, he took it instead of having the whole with her malison.
So he went away on his journey with his mother's blessing. Now after he had travelled a far way, he met with an old woman who asked him if he would give her a bit of his cake. And he said, "I will gladly do that"; so he gave her a piece of the cake. Then the old woman, who was a fairy, gave him a magic wand, that might yet be of service to him, if he took care to use it rightly; and she told him a great deal that would happen to him, and what he ought to do in all circumstances; and after that, she vanished in an instant, out of his sight. Then he went on his way until he came up to the old man who was herding the sheep; and when he asked him to whom the sheep belonged, the answer was:
"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 band; And every day he strikes her With a bright silver wand. But now I fear his end is near, And death is close at hand; For you're to be, I plainly see, The heir of all his land."
So the younger brother went on his way; but when he came to the place where the dreadful, terrible, horrible beasts were standing, he did not stop nor run away, but went boldly through amongst them. One came up roaring with open mouth to devour him, when he struck it with his wand, and laid it in an instant dead at his feet. He soon came to the Ettin's castle, where he found the door shut, but he knocked boldly, and was admitted. Then the old woman who sat by the fire warned him of the terrible Ettin, and what had been the fate of his brother; but he was not to be daunted, and would not even hide.
Then by and by the monster came in, crying as before:
"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, he quickly espied the young man, and bade him stand forth on the floor, and told him that if he could answer three questions his life would be spared.
So the first head asked: "What's the thing without an end?"
Now the younger brother had been told by the fairy to whom he had given a piece of his cake what he ought to say; so he answered:
Then the first head frowned, but the second head asked:
"The smaller the more dangerous; what's that?"
"A bridge," says the younger brother, quite fast.
Then the first and the second heads frowned, but the third head asked:
"When does the dead carry the living? riddle me that."
At this the young man answered up at once and said:
"When a ship sails on the sea with men inside her."
When the Red Ettin found all his riddles answered, he knew that his power was gone, so he tried to escape, but the young man took up an axe and hewed off the monster's three heads. Then he asked the old woman to show him where the king's daughter lay; and the old woman took him upstairs, and opened a great many doors, and out of every door came a beautiful lady who had been imprisoned there by the Red Ettin; and last of all the ladies was the king's daughter. Then the old woman took him down into a low room, and there stood a stone pillar; but he had only to touch it with his wand, and his brother started into life.
So the whole of the prisoners were overjoyed at their deliverance, for which they thanked the younger brother again and again. Next day they all set out for the king's court, and a gallant company they made. Then the king married his daughter to the young man who had delivered her, and gave a noble's daughter to his brother.
So they all lived happily all the rest of their days.
THE FISH AND THE RING
Once upon a time there lived a Baron who was a great magician, and could tell by his arts and charms everything that was going to happen at any time.
Now this great lord had a little son born to him as heir to all his castles and lands. So, when the little lad was about four years old, wishing to know what his fortune would be, the Baron looked in his Book of Fate to see what it foretold.
And, lo and behold! it was written that this much-loved, much-prized heir to all the great lands and castles was to marry a low-born maiden. So the Baron was dismayed, and set to work by more arts and charms to discover if this maiden were already born, and if so, where she lived.
And he found out that she had just been born in a very poor house, where the poor parents were already burdened with five children.
So he called for his horse and rode away, and away, until he came to the poor man's house, and there he found the poor man sitting at his doorstep very sad and doleful.
"What is the matter, my friend?" asked he; and the poor man replied:
"May it please your honour, a little lass has just been born to our house; and we have five children already, and where the bread is to come from to fill the sixth mouth, we know not."
"If that be all your trouble," quoth the Baron readily, "mayhap I can help you: so don't be down-hearted. I am just looking for such a little lass to companion my son, so, if you will, I will give you ten crowns for her."
Well! the man he nigh jumped for joy, since he was to get good money, and his daughter, so he thought, a good home. Therefore he brought out the child then and there, and the Baron, wrapping the babe in his cloak, rode away. But when he got to the river he flung the little thing into the swollen stream, and said to himself as he galloped back to his castle:
"There goes Fate!"
But, you see, he was just sore mistaken. For the little lass didn't sink. The stream was very swift, and her long clothes kept her up till she caught in a snag just opposite a fisherman, who was mending his nets.
Now the fisherman and his wife had no children, and they were just longing for a baby; so when the goodman saw the little lass he was overcome with joy, and took her home to his wife, who received her with open arms.
And there she grew up, the apple of their eyes, into the most beautiful maiden that ever was seen.
Now, when she was about fifteen years of age, it so happened that the Baron and his friends went a-hunting along the banks of the river and stopped to get a drink of water at the fisherman's hut. And who should bring the water out but, as they thought, the fisherman's daughter.
Now the young men of the party noticed her beauty, and one of them said to the Baron, "She should marry well; read us her fate, since you are so learned in the art."
Then the Baron, scarce looking at her, said carelessly: "I could guess her fate! Some wretched yokel or other. But, to please you, I will cast her horoscope by the stars; so tell me, girl, what day you were born?"
"That I cannot tell, sir," replied the girl, "for I was picked up in the river about fifteen years ago."
Then the Baron grew pale, for he guessed at once that she was the little lass he had flung into the stream, and that Fate had been stronger than he was. But he kept his own counsel and said nothing at the time. Afterwards, however, he thought out a plan, so he rode back and gave the girl a letter.
"See you!" he said. "I will make your fortune. Take this letter to my brother, who needs a good girl, and you will be settled for life."
Now the fisherman and his wife were growing old and needed help; so the girl said she would go, and took the letter.
And the Baron rode back to his castle saying to himself once more:
"There goes Fate!"
For what he had written in the letter was this:
"Take the bearer and put her to death immediately."
But once again he was sore mistaken; since on the way to the town where his brother lived, the girl had to stop the night in a little inn. And it so happened that that very night a gang of thieves broke into the inn, and not content with carrying off all that the innkeeper possessed, they searched the pockets of the guests, and found the letter which the girl carried. And when they read it, they agreed that it was a mean trick and a shame. So their captain sat down and, taking pen and paper, wrote instead:
"Take the bearer and marry her to my son without delay."
Then, after putting the note into an envelope and sealing it up, they gave it to the girl and bade her go on her way. So when she arrived at the brother's castle, though rather surprised, he gave orders for a wedding feast to be prepared. And the Baron's son, who was staying with his uncle, seeing the girl's great beauty, was nothing loth, so they were fast wedded.
Well! when the news was brought to the Baron, he was nigh beside himself; but he was determined not to be done by Fate. So he rode post-haste to his brother's and pretended to be quite pleased. And then one day, when no one was nigh, he asked the young bride to come for a walk with him, and when they were close to some cliffs, seized hold of her, and was for throwing her over into the sea. But she begged hard for her life.
"It is not my fault," she said. "I have done nothing. It is Fate. But if you will spare my life I promise that I will fight against Fate also. I will never see you or your son again until you desire it. That will be safer for you; since, see you, the sea may preserve me, as the river did."
Well! the Baron agreed to this. So he took off his gold ring from his finger and flung it over the cliffs into the sea and said:
"Never dare to show me your face again till you can show me that ring likewise."
And with that he let her go.
Well! the girl wandered on, and she wandered on, until she came to a nobleman's castle; and there, as they needed a kitchen girl, she engaged as a scullion, since she had been used to such work in the fisherman's hut.
Now one day, as she was cleaning a big fish, she looked out of the kitchen window, and who should she see driving up to dinner but the Baron and his young son, her husband. At first she thought that, to keep her promise, she must run away; but afterwards she remembered they would not see her in the kitchen, so she went on with her cleaning of the big fish.
And, lo and behold! she saw something shine in its inside, and there, sure enough, was the Baron's ring! She was glad enough to see it, I can tell you; so she slipped it on to her thumb. But she went on with her work, and dressed the fish as nicely as ever she could, and served it up as pretty as may be, with parsley sauce and butter.
Well! when it came to table the guests liked it so well that they asked the host who cooked it. And he called to his servants, "Send up the cook who cooked that fine fish, that she may get her reward."
Well! when the girl heard she was wanted she made herself ready, and with the gold ring on her thumb, went boldly into the dining-hall. And all the guests when they saw her were struck dumb by her wonderful beauty. And the young husband started up gladly; but the Baron, recognising her, jumped up angrily and looked as if he would kill her. So, without one word, the girl held up her hand before his face, and the gold ring shone and glittered on it; and she went straight up to the Baron, and laid her hand with the ring on it before him on the table.
Then the Baron understood that Fate had been too strong for him; so he took her by the hand, and, placing her beside him, turned to the guests and said:
"This is my son's wife. Let us drink a toast in her honour."
And after dinner he took her and his son home to his castle, where they all lived as happy as could be for ever afterwards.
There was an old woman, as I've heard tell, She went to the market her eggs for to sell; She went to the market, all on a market-day, And she fell asleep on the king's highway.
There came by a pedlar, whose name it was Stout, He cut all her petticoats all round about; He cut her petticoats up to the knees, Which made the old woman to shiver and freeze.
When this old woman first did awake, She 'gan to shiver, she 'gan to shake; She 'gan to wonder, she 'gan to cry— "Lawkamercyme! this is none of I!
"But if it be I, as I do hope it be, I've a little dog at home, and sure he'll know me; If it be I, he'll wag his little tail, And if it be not I, then he'll bark and wail."
Home went the old woman, all in the dark; Up got the little dog, and he began to bark, He began to bark, and she began to cry— "Lawkamercyme! this is none of I!"
MASTER OF ALL MASTERS
A Girl once went to the fair to hire herself for servant. At last a funny-looking old gentleman engaged her and took her home to his house. When she got there, he told her that he had something to teach her, for that in his house he had his own names for things.
He said to her, "What will you call me?"
"Master or mister, or whatever you please, sir," says she.
He said, "You must call me 'master of all masters.' And what would you call this?" pointing to his bed.
"Bed or couch, or whatever you please, sir."
"No, that's my 'barnacle'. And what do you call these?" said he, pointing to his pantaloons.
"Breeches or trousers, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call them 'squibs and crackers.' And what would you call her?" pointing to the cat.
"Cat or kit, or whatever you please, sir.'
"You must call her 'white-faced simminy' And this now," showing the fire, "what would you call this?"
"Fire or flame, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call it 'hot cockalorum'; and what this?" he went on, pointing to the water.
"Water or wet, or whatever you please, sir."
"No, 'pondalorum' is its name. And what do you call all this?" asked he, as he pointed to the house.
"House or cottage, or whatever you please, sir."
"You must call it 'high topper mountain.'"
That very night the servant woke her master up in a fright and said, "Master of all masters, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers. For white-faced simminy has got a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail, and unless you get some pondalorum high topper mountain will be all on hot cockalorum...."
MOLLY WHUPPIE AND THE DOUBLE-FACED GIANT
Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who were not over rich. And they had so many children that they couldn't find meat for them; so, as the three youngest were girls, they just took them out to the forest one day, and left them there to fend for themselves as best they might.
Now the two eldest were just ordinary girls, so they cried a bit and felt afraid; but the youngest, whose name was Molly Whuppie, was bold, so she counselled her sisters not to despair, but to try and find some house where they might get a night's lodging. So they set off through the forest, and journeyed, and journeyed, and journeyed, but never a house did they see. It began to grow dark, her sisters were faint with hunger, and even Molly Whuppie began to think of supper. At last in the distance they saw a great big light, and made for it. Now when they drew near they saw that it came from a huge window in a huge house.
"It will be a giant's house," said the two elder girls, trembling with fright.
"If there were two giants in it I mean to have my supper," quoth Molly Whuppie, and knocked at a huge door, as bold as brass. It was opened by the giant's wife, who shook her head when Molly Whuppie asked for victuals and a night's lodging.
"You wouldn't thank me for it," she said, "for my man is a giant, and when he comes home he will kill you of a certainty."
"But if you give us supper at once," says Molly craftily, "we shall have finished it before the giant comes home; for we are very sharp-set."
Now the giant's wife was not unkindly; besides, her three daughters, who were just of an age with Molly and her sisters, tugged at her skirts well pleased; so she took the girls in, set them by the fire, and gave them each a bowl of bread and milk. But they had hardly begun to gobble it up before the door burst open, and a fearful giant strode in saying:
"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the smell of some earthly one."
"Don't put yourself about, my dear," said the giant's wife, trying to make the best of it. "See for yourself. They are only three poor little girlies like our girlies. They were cold and hungry so I gave them some supper; but they have promised to go away as soon as they have finished. Now be a good giant and don't touch them. They've eaten of our salt, so don't you be at fault!"
Now this giant was not at all a straightforward giant. He was a double-faced giant. So he only said,
and remarked that as they had come, they had better stay all night, since they could easily sleep with his three daughters. And after he had had his supper he made himself quite pleasant, and plaited chains of straw for the little strangers to wear round their necks, to match the gold chains his daughters wore. Then he wished them all pleasant dreams and sent them to bed.
Dear me! He was a double-faced giant!
But Molly Whuppie, the youngest of the three girls, was not only bold, she was clever. So when she was in bed, instead of going to sleep like the others, she lay awake and thought, and thought, and thought; until at last she up ever so softly, took off her own and her sisters' straw chains, put them round the neck of the ogre's daughters, and placed their gold chains round her own and her sisters' necks.
And even then she did not go to sleep, but lay still and waited to see if she was wise; and she was! For in the very middle of the night, when everybody else was dead asleep and it was pitch dark, in comes the giant, all stealthy, feels for the straw chains, twists them tight round the wearers' necks, half strangles his daughters, drags them on to the floor, and beats them till they were quite dead; so, all stealthy and satisfied, goes back to his own bed, thinking he had been very clever.
But he was no match, you see, for Molly Whuppie; for she at once roused her sisters, bade them be quiet, and follow her. Then she slipped out of the giant's house and ran, and ran, and ran until the dawn broke and they found themselves before another great house. It was surrounded by a wide deep moat, which was spanned by a drawbridge. But the drawbridge was up. However, beside it hung a Single-Hair rope over which any one very light-footed could cross.
Now Molly's sisters were feared to try it; besides, they said that for aught they knew the house might be another giant's house, and they had best keep away.
"Taste and try," says Molly Whuppie, laughing, and was over the Bridge of a Single Hair before you could say knife. And, after all, it was not a giant's house but a King's castle. Now it so happened that the very giant whom Molly had tricked was the terror of the whole country-side, and it was to gain safety from him that the drawbridge was kept up, and the Bridge of a Single Hair had been made. So when the sentry heard Molly Whuppie's tale, he took her to the King and said:
"My lord! Here is a girlie who has tricked the giant!"
Then the King when he had heard the story said, "You are a clever girl, Molly Whuppie, and you managed very well; but if you could manage still better and steal the giant's sword, in which part of his strength lies, I will give your eldest sister in marriage to my eldest son."
Well! Molly Whuppie thought this would be a very good downsitting for her sister, so she said she would try.
So that evening, all alone, she ran across the Bridge of One Hair, and ran and ran till she came to the giant's house. The sun was just setting, and shone on it so beautifully that Molly Whuppie thought it looked like a castle in Spain, and could hardly believe that such a dreadful, double-faced giant lived within. However, she knew he did; so she slipped into the house unbeknownst, stole up to the giant's room, and crept in behind the bed. By and by the giant came home, ate a huge supper, and came crashing up the stairs to his bed. But Molly kept very still and held her breath. So after a time he fell asleep, and soon he began to snore. Then Molly crept out from under the bed, ever so softly, and crept up the bed-clothes, and crept past his great snoring face, and laid hold of the sword that hung above it. But alas! as she jumped from the bed in a hurry, the sword rattled in the scabbard. The noise woke the giant, and up he jumped and ran after Molly, who ran as she had never run before, carrying the sword over her shoulder. And he ran, and she ran, and they both ran, until they came to the Bridge of One Hair. Then she fled over it light-footed, balancing the sword, but he couldn't. So he stopped, foaming at the mouth with rage, and called after her:
"Woe worth you, Molly Whuppie! Never you dare to come again!"
And she, turning her head about as she sped over the One Hair Bridge, laughed lightly:
"Twice yet, gaffer, will I come to the Castle in Spain!"
So Molly gave the sword to the King, and, as he had promised, his eldest son wedded her eldest sister.
But after the marriage festivities were over the King says again to Molly Whuppie:
"You're a main clever girl, Molly, and you have managed very well, but if you could manage still better and steal the giant's purse, in which part of his strength lies, I will marry my second son to your second sister. But you need to be careful, for the giant sleeps with the purse under his pillow!"
Well! Molly Whuppie thought this would be a very good downsitting, indeed, for her second sister, so she said she would try her luck.
So that evening, just at sunsetting, she ran over the One Hair Bridge, and ran, and ran, and ran until she came to the giant's house looking for all the world like a castle in the air, all ruddy and golden and glinting. She could scarce believe such a dreadful double-faced giant lived within. However, she knew he did; so she slipped into the house unbeknownst, stole up to the giant's room, and crept in below the giant's bed. By and by the giant came home, ate a hearty supper, and then came crashing upstairs, and soon fell a-snoring. Then Molly Whuppie slipped from under the bed, and slipped up the bed-clothes, and reaching out her hand slipped it under the pillow, and got hold of the purse. But the giant's head was so heavy on it she had to tug and tug away. At last out it came, she fell backward over the bedside, the purse opened, and some of the money fell out with a crash. The noise wakened the giant, and she had only time to grab the money off the floor, when he was after her. How they ran, and ran, and ran, and ran! At last she reached the One Hair Bridge and, with the purse in one hand, the money in the other, she sped across it while the giant shook his fist at her and cried:
"Woe worth you, Molly Whuppie! Never you dare to come again!"
And she, turning her head, laughed lightly:
"Yet once more, gaffer, will I come to the Castle in Spain."
So she took the purse to the King, and he ordered a splendid marriage feast for his second son and her second sister.
But after the wedding was over the King says to her, says he:
"Molly! You are the most main clever girl in the world; but if you would do better yet, and steal me from his finger the giant's ring, in which all his strength lies, I will give you my dearest, youngest, handsomest son for yourself."
Now Molly thought the King's son was the nicest young prince she had ever seen, so she said she would try, and that evening, all alone, she sped across the One Hair Bridge as light as a feather, and ran, and ran, and ran until she came to the giant's house all lit up with the red setting sun like any castle in the air. And she slipped inside, stole upstairs, and crept under the bed in no time. And the giant came in, and supped, and crashed up to bed, and snored. Oh! he snored louder than ever!
But you know he was a double-faced giant; so perhaps he snored louder on purpose. For no sooner had Molly Whuppie began to tug at his ring than ... My!...
He had her fast between his finger and thumb. And he sate up in bed, and shook his head at her and said, "Molly Whuppie, you are a main clever girl! Now, if I had done as much ill to you as you have done to me, what would you do to me?"
Then Molly thought for a moment and she said, "I'd put you in a sack, and I'd put the cat inside with you, and I'd put the dog inside with you, and I'd put a needle and thread and a pair of shears inside with you, and I'd hang you up on a nail, and I'd go to the wood and cut the thickest stick I could get, and come home and take you down and bang you, and bang, and bang, and bang you till you were dead!"
"Right you are!" cried the giant gleefully, "and that's just what I'll do to you!"
So he got a sack and put Molly into it with the dog and the cat, and the needle and thread and the shears, and hung her on a nail in the wall, and went out to the wood to choose a stick.
Then Molly Whuppie began to laugh like anything, and the dog joined in with barks, and the cat with mews.
Now the giant's wife was sitting in the next room, and when she heard the commotion she went in to see what was up.
"Whatever is the matter?" quoth she.
"Nothing, 'm," quoth Molly Whuppie from inside the sack, laughing like anything. "Ho, ho! Ha, ha! If you saw what we see you'd laugh too. Ho, ho! Ha, ha!"
And no matter how the giant's wife begged to know what she saw, there never was any answer but, "Ho, ho! Ha, ha! Could ye but see what I see!!!"
At last the giant's wife begged Molly to let her see, so Molly took the shears, cut a hole in the sack, jumped out, helped the giant's wife in, and sewed up the hole! For of course she hadn't forgotten to take out the needle and thread with her.
Now, just at that very moment, the giant burst in, and Molly had barely time to hide behind the door before he rushed at the sack, tore it down, and began to batter it with a huge tree he had cut in the wood.
"Stop! stop!" cried his wife. "It's me! It's me!"
But he couldn't hear, for, see you, the dog and the cat had tumbled one on the top of the other, and such a growling and spitting, and yelling and caterwauling you never heard! It was fair deafening, and the giant would have gone on battering till his wife was dead had he not caught sight of Molly Whuppie escaping with the ring which he had left on the table.
Well, he threw down the tree and ran after her. Never was such a race. They ran, and they ran, and they ran, and they ran, until they came to the One Hair Bridge. And then, balancing herself with the ring like a hoop, Molly Whuppie sped over the bridge light as a feather, but the giant had to stand on the other side, and shake his fist at her, and cry louder than ever:
"Woe worth you, Molly Whuppie! Never you dare to come again!"
And she, turning her head back as she sped, laughed gaily:
"Never more, gaffer, will I come to the castle in the air!"
So she took the ring to the King, and she and the handsome young prince were married, and no one ever saw the double-faced giant again.
THE ASS, THE TABLE, AND THE STICK
A lad named Jack was once so unhappy at home through his father's ill-treatment, that he made up his mind to run away and seek his fortune in the wide world.
He ran, and he ran, till he could run no longer, and then he ran right up against a little old woman who was gathering sticks. He was too much out of breath to beg pardon, but the woman was good-natured, and she said he seemed to be a likely lad, so she would take him to be her servant, and would pay him well. He agreed, for he was very hungry, and she brought him to her house in the wood, where he served her for a twelvemonths and a day. When the year had passed, she called him to her, and said she had good wages for him. So she presented him with an ass out of the stable, and he had but to pull Neddy's ears to make him begin at once to hee-haw! And when he brayed there dropped from his mouth silver sixpences, and half-crowns, and golden guineas.
The lad was well pleased with the wage he had received, and away he rode till he reached an inn. There he ordered the best of everything, and when the innkeeper refused to serve him without being paid beforehand, the boy went off to the stable, pulled the ass's ears, and obtained his pocket full of money. The host had watched all this through a crack in the door, and when night came on he put an ass of his own for the precious Neddy belonging to the youth. So Jack, without knowing that any change had been made, rode away next morning to his father's house.
Now I must tell you that near his home dwelt a poor widow with an only daughter. The lad and the maiden were fast friends and true-loves. So when Jack returned he asked his father's leave to marry the girl.
"Never till you have the money to keep her," was the reply.
"I have that, father," said the lad, and going to the ass he pulled its long ears; well, he pulled, and he pulled, till one of them came off in his hands; but Neddy, though he hee-hawed and he hee-hawed, let fall no half-crowns or guineas. Then the father picked up a hayfork and beat his son out of the house.
I promise you he ran; he ran and ran till he came bang against a door, and burst it open, and there he was in a joiner's shop. "You're a likely lad," said the joiner; "serve me for a twelvemonths and a day and I will pay you well." So he agreed, and served the carpenter for a year and a day. "Now," said the master, "I will give you your wage"; and he presented him with a table, telling him he had but to say, "Table, be covered," and at once it would be spread with lots to eat and drink.
Jack hitched the table on his back, and away he went with it till he came to the inn. "Well, host," shouted he, putting down the table, "my dinner to-day, and that of the best."
"Very sorry, sir," says the host, "but there is nothing in the house but ham and eggs."
"No ham and eggs for me!" exclaimed Jack. "I can do better than that.—Come, my table, be covered!"
So at once the table was spread with turkey and sausages, roast mutton, potatoes, and greens. The innkeeper opened his eyes, but he said nothing, not he! But that night he fetched down from his attic a table very like the magic one, and exchanged the two, and Jack, none the wiser, next morning hitched the worthless table on to his back and carried it home.
"Now, father, may I marry my lass?" he asked.
"Not unless you can keep her," replied the father.
"Look here!" exclaimed Jack. "Father, I have a table which does all my bidding."
"Let me see it," said the old man.
The lad set it in the middle of the room, and bade it be covered; but all in vain, the table remained bare. Then, in a rage, the father caught the warming-pan down from the wall and warmed his son's back with it so that the boy fled howling from the house, and ran and ran till he came to a river and tumbled in. A man picked him out and bade him help in making a bridge over the river by casting a tree across. Then Jack climbed up to the top of the tree and threw his weight on it, so that when the man had rooted the tree up, Jack and the tree-head dropped on the farther bank.
"Thank you," said the man; "and now for what you have done I will pay you"; so saying, he tore a branch from the tree, and fettled it up into a club with his knife. "There," exclaimed he; "take this stick, and when you say to it, 'Up, stick, and bang him,' it will knock any one down who angers you."
The lad was overjoyed to get this stick, for he had begun to see he had been tricked by the innkeeper, so away he went with it to the inn, and as soon as the man appeared he cried:
"Up, stick, and bang him!"
At the word the cudgel flew from his hand and battered the old fellow on the back, rapped his head, bruised his arms, tickled his ribs, till he fell groaning on the floor; and still the stick belaboured the prostrate man, nor would Jack call it off till he had got back the stolen ass and table. Then he galloped home on the ass, with the table on his shoulders, and the stick in his hand. When he arrived there he found his father was dead, so he brought his ass into the stable, and pulled its ears till he had filled the manger with money.
It was soon known through the town that Jack had returned rolling in wealth, and accordingly all the girls in the place set their caps at him.
"Now," said Jack, "I shall marry the richest lass in the place; so to-morrow do you all come in front of my house with your money in your aprons."
Next morning the street was full of girls with aprons held out, and gold and silver in them; but Jack's own sweetheart was among them, and she had neither gold nor silver; nought but two copper pennies, that was all she had.
"Stand aside, lass," said Jack to her, speaking roughly. "Thou hast no silver nor gold—stand off from the rest." She obeyed, and the tears ran down her cheeks, and filled her apron with diamonds.
"Up, stick, and bang them!" exclaimed Jack; whereupon the cudgel leaped up, and running along the line of girls, knocked them all on the heads and left them senseless on the pavement. Jack took all their money and poured it into his true-love's lap. "Now, lass," he exclaimed, "thou art the richest, and I shall marry thee."
THE WELL OF THE WORLD'S END
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it wasn't in my time, nor in your time, nor any one else's time, there was a girl whose mother had died, and her father had married again. And her stepmother hated her because she was more beautiful than she was. And she was very cruel to her; she used to make her do all the servant's work, and never let her have any peace. At last, one day, the stepmother thought to get rid of her altogether; so she handed her a sieve and said to her:
"Go, fill it at the Well of the World's End and bring it home to me full, or woe betide you." For she thought she would never be able to find the Well of the World's End, and, if she did, how could she bring home a sieve full of water?
Well, the girl started off, and asked every one she met to tell her where was the Well of the World's End. But nobody knew, and she didn't know what to do, when a queer little old woman, all bent double, told her where it was, and how she could get to it. So she did what the old woman told her, and at last arrived at the Well of the World's End. But when she dipped the sieve in the cold cold water, it all ran out again. She tried and she tried again, but every time it was the same; and at last she sate down and cried as if her heart would break.
Suddenly she heard a croaking voice, and she looked up and saw a great frog with goggle eyes looking at her and speaking to her.
"What's the matter, dearie?" it said.
"Oh dear! oh dear!" she said, "my stepmother has sent me all this long way to fill this sieve with water from the Well of the World's End, and I can't fill it no how at all."
"Well," said the frog, "if you promise me to do whatever I bid you for a whole night long, I'll tell you how to fill it."
So the girl agreed, and then the frog said:
"Stop it with moss and daub it with clay, And then it will carry the water away";
and then it gave a hop, skip, and jump, and went flop into the Well of the World's End.
So the girl looked about for some moss, and lined the bottom of the sieve with it, and over that she put some clay, and then she dipped it once-again into the Well of the World's End; and this time the water didn't run out, and she turned to go away.
Just then the frog popped up its head out of the Well of the World's End, and said, "Remember your promise."
"All right," said the girl; for, thought she, "what harm can a frog do me?"
So she went back to her stepmother, and brought the sieve full of water from the Well of the World's End. The stepmother was angry as angry, but she said nothing at all.
That very evening they heard something tap-tapping at the door low down, and a voice cried out:
"Open the door, my hinny, my heart, Open the door, my own darling; Remember the words that you and I spoke, At the World's End Well but this morning."
"Whatever can that be?" cried out the stepmother.
Then the girl had to tell her all about it, and what she had promised the frog.
"Girls must keep their promises," said the stepmother, who was glad the girl would have to obey a nasty frog. "Go and open the door this instant."
So the girl went and opened the door, and there was the frog from the Well of the World's End. And it hopped, and it hopped, and it jumped, till it reached the girl, and then it said:
"Lift me up, my hinny, my heart, Lift to your knee, my own darling; Remember the words that you and I spoke, At the World's End Well but this morning."
But the girl would not do the frog's bidding, till her stepmother said, "Lift it up this instant, you hussy! Girls must keep their promises!"
So she lifted the frog up on to her lap, and it lay there comfortably for a time; till at last it said:
"Give me some supper, my hinny, my heart, Give me some supper, my darling; Remember the words you and I spoke, At the World's End Well but this morning."
Well, that she did not mind doing, so she got it a bowl of milk and bread, and fed it well. But when the frog had finished, it said:
"Take me to bed, my hinny, my heart, Take me to bed, my own darling; Remember the promise you promised to me, At the World's End Well but this morning."
But that the girl refused to do, till her stepmother said harshly:
"Do what you promised, girl; girls must keep their promises. Do what you're bid, or out you go, you and your froggie."
So the girl took the frog with her to bed, and kept it as far away from her as she could. Well, just as the day was beginning to break, what should the frog say but:
"Chop off my head, my hinny, my heart, Chop off my head, my own darling; Remember the promise you promised to me, At the World's End Well but this morning."
At first the girl wouldn't, for she thought of what the frog had done for her at the Well of the World's End. But when the frog said the words over and over again in a pleading voice, she went and took an axe and chopped off its head, and, lo and behold! there stood before her a handsome young prince, who told her that he had been enchanted by a wicked magician, and he could never be unspelled till some girl would do his bidding for a whole night, and chop off his head at the end of it.
The stepmother was surprised indeed when she found the young prince instead of the nasty frog, and she was not best pleased, you may be sure, when the prince told her that he was going to marry her stepdaughter because she had unspelled him. But married they were, and went away to live in the castle of the king, his father; and all the stepmother had to console her was, that it was all through her that her stepdaughter was married to a prince.
THE ROSE TREE
Once upon a time, long long years ago, in the days when one had to be careful about witches, there lived a good man, whose young wife died, leaving him a baby girl.
Now this good man felt he could not look after the baby properly, so he married a young woman whose husband had died leaving her with a baby boy.
Thus the two children grew up together, and loved each other dearly, dearly.
But the boy's mother was really a wicked witch-woman, and so jealous that she wanted all the boy's love for herself, and when the girl-baby grew white as milk, with cheeks like roses and lips like cherries, and when her hair, shining like golden silk, hung down to her feet so that her father and all the neighbours began to praise her looks, the stepmother fairly hated her, and did all in her power to spoil her looks. She would set the child hard tasks, and send her out in all weathers to do difficult messages, and if they were not well performed would beat her and scold her cruelly.
Now one cold winter evening when the snow was drifting fast, and the wild rose tree in the garden under which the children used to play in summer was all brown and barren save for snowflake flowers, the stepmother said to the little girl:
"Child! go and buy me a bunch of candles at the grocer's. Here is some money; go quickly, and don't loiter by the way."
So the little girl took the money and set off quickly through the snow, for already it was growing dark. Now there was such a wind blowing that it nearly blew her off her feet, and as she ran her beautiful hair got all tangled and almost tripped her up. However, she got the candles, paid for them, and started home again. But this time the wind was behind her and blew all her beautiful golden hair in front of her like a cloud, so that she could not see her steps, and, coming to a stile, had to stop and put down the bundle of candles in order to see how to get over it. And when she was climbing it a big black dog came by and ran off with the bunch of candles! Now she was so afraid of her stepmother that she durst not go home, but turned back and bought another bunch of candles at the grocer's, and when she arrived at the stile once more, the same thing happened. A big black dog came down the road and ran away with the bunch of candles. So yet once again she journeyed back to the grocer's through wind and snow, and, with her last penny, bought yet another bunch of candles. To no purpose, for alas, and alack-a-day! when she laid them down in order to part her beautiful golden hair and to see how to get over the stile, a big black dog ran away with them.
So nothing was left save to go back to her stepmother in fear and trembling. But, for a wonder, her stepmother did not seem very angry. She only scolded her for being so late, for, see you, her father and her little playmate had gone to their beds and were in the Land of Nod.
Then she said to the child, "I must take the tangles out of your hair before you go to sleep. Come, put your head on my lap."
So the little girl put her head on her stepmother's lap, and, lo and behold! her beautiful yellow-silk hair rolled right over the woman's knees and lay upon the ground.
Then the beauty of it made the stepmother more jealous than before, so she said, "I cannot part your hair properly on my knee, fetch me a billet of wood."
So the little girl fetched one. Then said the stepmother, "Your hair is so thick I cannot part it with a comb; fetch me an axe!"
So the child fetched an axe.
"Now," said that wicked, wicked woman, "lay your head down on the billet while I part your hair."
And the child did as she was bid without fear; and lo! the beautiful little golden head was off in a second, by one blow of the axe.
Now the wicked stepmother had thought it all out before, so she took the poor little dead girl out to the garden, dug a hollow in the snow under the rose tree, and said to herself, "When spring comes and the snow melts if people find her bones, they will say she lost her way and fell asleep in the snow."
But first, because she was a wicked witch-woman, knowing spells and charms, she took out the heart of the little girl and made it into two savoury pasties, one for her husband's breakfast and one for the little boy's, for thus would the love they bore to the little girl become hers. Nevertheless, she was mistaken, for when morning came and the little child could not be found, the father sent away his breakfast barely tasted, and the little boy wept so that he could eat nothing.
So they grieved and grieved. And when the snow melted and they found the bones of the poor child, they said, "She must have lost her way that dark night going to the grocer's to buy candles." So they buried the bones under the children's rose tree, and every day the little boy sate there and wept and wept for his lost playmate.
Now when summer came the wild rose tree flowered. It was covered with white roses, and amongst the flowers there sate a beautiful white bird. And it sang and sang and sang like an angel out of heaven; but what it sang the little boy could never make out, for he could hardly see for weeping, hardly hear for sobbing.
So at last the beautiful white bird unfolded its broad white wings and flew to a cobbler's shop, where a myrtle bush hung over the man and his last, on which he was making a dainty little pair of rose-red shoes. Then it perched on a bough and sang ever so sweetly:
"Stepmother slew me, Father nigh ate me, He whom I dearly love Sits below, I sing above, Stick! Stock! Stone dead!"
"Sing that beautiful song again," said the cobbler. "It is better than a nightingale's."
"That will I gladly," sang the bird, "if you will give me the little rose-red shoes you are making."
And the cobbler gave them willingly, so the white bird sang its song once more. Then with the rose-red shoes in one foot it flew to an ash tree that grew close beside a goldsmith's bench, and sang:
"Stepmother slew me, Father nigh ate me, He whom I dearly love Sits below, I sing above, Stick! Stock! Stone dead!"
"Oh, what a beautiful song!" cried the goldsmith.
"Sing again, dear bird, it is sweeter than a nightingale's."
"That will I gladly," sang the bird, "if you will give me the gold chain you're making."
And the goldsmith gave the bauble willingly, and the bird sang its song once more. Then with the rose-red shoes in one foot and the golden chain in the other, the bird flew to an oak tree which overhung the mill stream, beside which three millers were busy picking out a millstone, and, perching on a bough, sang its song ever so sweetly:
"My stepmother slew me, My father nigh ate me, He whom I dearly love Sits below, I sing above, Stick!—"
Just then one of the millers put down his tool and listened.
"Stock!" sang the bird.
And the second miller put aside his tool and listened.
"Stone," sang the bird.
Then the third miller put aside his tool and listened.
"Dead!" sang the bird so sweetly that with one accord the millers looked up and cried with one voice:
"Oh, what a beautiful song! Sing it again, dear bird, it is sweeter than a nightingale's."
"That will I gladly," answered the bird, "if you will hang the millstone you are picking round my neck."
So the millers hung it as they were asked; and when the song was finished, the bird spread its wide white wings and, with the millstone round its neck and the little rose-red shoes in one foot, the golden chain in the other, it flew back to the rose tree. But the little playmate was not there; he was inside the house eating his dinner.
Then the bird flew to the house, and rattled the millstone about the eaves until the stepmother cried, "Hearken! How it thunders!"
So the little boy ran out to see, and down dropped the dainty rose-red shoes at his feet.
"See what fine things the thunder has brought!" he cried with glee as he ran back.
Then the white bird rattled the millstone about the eaves once more, and once again the stepmother said, "Hearken! How it thunders!"
So this time the father went out to see, and down dropped the golden chain about his neck.
"It is true," he said when he came back. "The thunder does bring fine things!"
Then once more the white bird rattled the millstone about the eaves, and this time the stepmother said hurriedly, "Hark! there it is again! Perhaps it has got something for me!"
Then she ran out; but the moment she stepped outside the door, down fell the millstone right on her head and killed her.
So that was an end of her. And after that the little boy was ever so much happier, and all the summer time he sate with his little rose-coloured shoes under the wild rose tree and listened to the white bird's song. But when winter came and the wild rose tree was all barren and bare save for snowflake flowers, the white bird came no longer and the little boy grew tired of waiting for it. So one day he gave up altogether, and they buried him under the rose tree beside his little playmate.
Now when the spring came and the rose tree blossomed, the flowers were no longer white. They were edged with rose colour like the little boy's shoes, and in the centre of each blossom there was a beautiful tuft of golden silk like the little girl's hair.
And if you look in a wild rose you will find these things there still.