And with that the old woman departed, and they never saw her more.
So the three soldiers travelled on till they came to a city where there was a princess, who was so proud of her card playing that she had agreed to marry any one who could beat her at cards. Now the sergeant was also very proud of his card playing, and he thought he would try his luck with the princess. So when he went up to the palace he offered to play a game with her, but she said to him:
"What are your stakes? If I lose I have to marry you. But if you lose what do you lose?"
So the sergeant said: "I'll stake my purse."
"Why, what's a purse with nothing in it!" said the princess.
"There may be nothing in it now," said the sergeant, "but see here," and he turned the purse upside-down and put his hand under it, and it kept on dropping gold pieces into his hand as long as he held it upside-down.
So the princess agreed to play for the purse. But she had arranged a mirror at the back of his head in which she could see all his cards. And so she won easily, and he had to give up the purse.
But this princess was so charming that the sergeant had fallen in love with her, and when he went back to his comrades he asked the corporal to lend him his tablecloth. And he went back to the princess and said to her:
"Will you play me for this tablecloth?"
And she said: "It may be a very beautiful tablecloth but it isn't quite equal to me."
Then he laid it on a table and said, "Cloth, cover thyself." And there was a most delicious dinner spread upon it.
But, as the princess knew she would be able to beat him, she agreed to play him for the tablecloth, and, sure enough, by means of the mirror, she won the tablecloth from him.
The same thing happened when he borrowed the whistle from the private and tried his luck with the princess again. But this time he watched what she was doing, and knew that she had cheated him though he dared not say so. He lost again and went back to his comrades and asked them to forgive him, but he could not help it as the princess had cheated him. So his friends forgave him, and they all went their various ways.
Now the sergeant wandered along, and wandered along, and wandered along, till he came to the bank of a stream on which there grew fig trees, white and black. And he gathered some of these figs from the different trees, and sat down by the bank to eat them. And he ate a black fig, and then, feeling thirsty, went down to the stream to drink some of the water, and as he looked in he found that he had two horns on the side of his head just like a goat, instead of two ears. He didn't know what to do; but as he was still hungry he ate one of the white figs; and when he went to drink again he found the horns had disappeared. So then he knew that the black figs brought the horns and the white figs took them away. So he gathered some more of them and went back to the palace of the princess, and sent her up some of the black figs as a present from an admirer.
And after a while there was a rumour spread around the city that the princess had horns in her head, and would give anything to any one who could remove them.
So the sergeant went up to the palace and presented himself before the princess and said to her:
"I can remove your horns, but I want my purse, and my tablecloth, and my whistle back."
Then she ordered them to be brought and promised to give them back to him as soon as the horns were removed.
So he gave her a white fig, and as soon as she had eaten it the horns disappeared; and he took up the purse, the tablecloth, and the whistle. Then he said to her:
"Now, will you marry me?"
"No," she replied, "why should I?"
"Because you didn't win these fairly."
"That may be, or that may not be, but I see no reason why I should marry you."
Thereupon he blew his whistle, and the palace was filled with a regiment of soldiers. And the sergeant said:
"If you do not marry me these men shall seize your father and I will seize his throne."
So the princess married him, and he sent for the corporal and the private and made them rich and prosperous, and they all lived fairly happily together.
A DOZEN AT A BLOW
A little tailor was sitting cross-legged at his bench and was stitching away as busy as could be when a woman came up the street calling out: "Home-made jam, home-made jam!"
So the tailor called out to her: "Come here, my good woman, and give me a quarter of a pound."
And when she had poured it out for him he spread it on some bread and butter and laid it aside for his lunch. But, in the summer-time, the flies commenced to collect around the bread and jam.
When the tailor noticed this, he raised his leather strap and brought it down upon the crowd of flies and killed twelve of them straightway. He was mighty proud of that. So he made himself a shoulder-sash, on which he stitched the letters: A Dozen at One Blow.
When he looked down upon this he thought to himself: "A man who could do such things ought not to stay at home; he ought to go out to conquer the world."
So he put into his wallet the cream cheese that he had bought that day and a favourite blackbird that used to hop about his shop, and went out to seek his fortune.
He hadn't gone far when he met a giant, and went up to him and said: "Well, comrade, how goes it with you?"
"Comrade," sneered the giant, "a pretty comrade you would make for me."
"Look at this," said the tailor pointing to his sash.
And when the giant read, "A Dozen at a Blow," he thought to himself: "This little fellow is no fool of a fighter if what he says is true. But let's test him."
So the giant said to the tailor: "If what you've got there is true, we may well be comrades. But let's see if you can do what I can do."
And he bent down in the road and took up a large stone and pressed it with his hand till it all crushed up and water commenced to pour out from it.
"Can you do that?" said the giant.
The tailor also bent down in the road, but took out from his wallet the piece of cheese and pretended to pick it up.
When he took it in his hand he pressed and pressed till the cream poured forth from it.
The giant said: "Well, you can do that fairly well. Let's see if you can throw."
He took another stone and threw it till it went right across the river by which they were standing.
So the little tailor took his blackbird in his hand and pretended to throw it, and of course when it felt itself in the air it flew away and disappeared.
The giant said: "That wasn't a bad throw. You may as well come home and stop with us giants, and we'll do great things together."
As they went along the giant said: "We want some twigs for our night fires. You may as well help me carry some home." And he pointed to a tree that had fallen by the wayside and said: "Help me carry that, will you?"
So the tailor said, "Why certainly," and went to the top of the tree, and said: "I'll carry these branches which are the heavier; you carry the trunk which has no branches."
And when the giant got the trunk on his shoulders the tailor seated himself on one of the branches and let the giant carry him along.
After a time the giant got tired and said: "Ho there, wait a minute, I'm going to drop the tree and rest awhile."
So the tailor jumped down and caught the tree around the branches again and said: "Well, you are easily tired."
At last they got to the giant's castle and there the giant spoke to his brothers and told them what a brave and powerful fellow this little tailor was. They spoke together and determined to get rid of him lest he might do them some harm. But they determined to kill him in the night because he was so strong and might kill twelve of them at a blow.
But the tailor saw them whispering together, and guessing that something was wrong went out into the yard and got a big bladder which he filled with blood and put it in the bed which the giants pointed out to him.
Then he crept under it, and during the night they brought their big clubs and hit the bed over and over again till the blood spurted out onto their faces.
Then they thought the tailor was dead and went back to sleep.
But in the morning there was the tailor as large as life. And they were so surprised to see him that they asked him if he had not felt anything during the night.
"Oh, I don't know, there seemed to be plenty of fleas in that bed," said the tailor. "I do not think I would care to sleep there again." And with that he took his leave of the giants and went on his way.
After a time he came to the King's court and fell asleep under a tree. And some of the courtiers passing by saw written upon his sash, "A Dozen at One Blow."
They went and told the King who said: "Why, he's just the man for us; he will be able to destroy the wild boar and the unicorn that are ravaging our kingdom. Bring him to us."
So they woke up the little tailor and brought him to the King, who said to him: "There is a wild boar ravaging our kingdom. You are so powerful that you will easily be able to capture it."
"What shall I get if I do?" asked the little tailor.
"Well, I have promised to give my daughter's hand and half the kingdom to the man who can do it, and other things."
"What other things?" said the little tailor.
"Oh, it will be time to learn that when you have caught the boar."
Then the little tailor went out to the wood where the boar was last seen, and when he came near him he ran away, and ran away, and ran away, till at last he came to a little chapel in the wood into which he ran, and the boar at his heels. He climbed up to a high window and got outside the chapel, and then rushed around to the door and closed and locked it.
Then he went back to the King and said to him: "I have your wild boar for you in the chapel in the woods. Send some of your men to kill him, or do what you like with him."
"How did you manage to get him there?" said the King.
"Oh, I caught him by the bristles and threw him in there as I thought you wanted to have him safe and sound. What's the next thing I must do?"
"Well," said the King, "there's a unicorn in this country killing everyone that he meets. I do not want him slain; I want him caught and brought to me."
So the little tailor said, "Give me a rope and a hatchet and I will see what I can do."
So he went with the rope and hatchet to the wood, where the unicorn had been seen. And when he came towards it he dodged it, and he dodged it, till at last he dodged behind a big tree, till the unicorn, in trying to pierce, ran his horn into the tree where it stuck fast.
Then the little tailor came forth and tied the rope around the unicorn's neck, and dug out the horn with his hatchet, and dragged the unicorn to the King.
"What's the next thing?" said the little tailor.
"Well, there is only one thing more. There are two giants who are destroying everybody they meet. Get rid of them, and my daughter and the half of my kingdom shall be yours."
Then the little tailor went to seek the giants and found them sleeping under some trees in the woods. He filled his box with stones, climbed up a tree overlooking the giants, and when he had hidden himself in the branches he threw a stone at the chest of one of the giants who woke up and said to his brother giant, "What are you doing there?"
And the other giant woke up and said, "I have done nothing."
"Well, don't do it again," said the other giant, and laid down to sleep again.
Then the tailor threw a stone at the other giant and hit him a whack on the chin. That giant rose up and said to his fellow giant, "What do you do that for?"
"Hit me on the chin."
"Well, take that for not doing it."
And with that the other giant hit him a rousing blow on the head. With that they commenced fighting and tore up the trees and hit one another till at last one of them was killed, and the other one was so badly injured that the tailor had no difficulty in killing him with his hatchet.
Then he went back to the King and said: "I have got rid of your giants for you; send your men and bury them in the forest. They tore up the trees and tried to kill me with them but I was too much for them. Now for the Princess."
Well, the King had nothing more to say, and gave him his daughter in marriage and half the kingdom to rule.
But shortly after they were married the Princess heard the tailor saying in his sleep: "Fix that button better; baste that side gore; don't drop your stitches like that."
And then she knew she had married a tailor. And she went to her father weeping bitterly and complained.
"Well, my dear," he said, "I promised, and he certainly showed himself a great hero. But I will try and get rid of him for you. To-night I will send into your bedroom a number of soldiers that shall slay him even if he can kill a dozen at a blow."
So that night the little tailor noticed there was something wrong and heard the soldiers moving about near the bedroom. So he pretended to fall asleep and called out in his sleep: "I have killed a dozen at a blow; I have slain two giants; I have caught a wild boar by his bristles, and captured a unicorn alive. Show me the man that I need fear."
And when the soldiers heard that they said to the Princess that the job was too much for them, and went away.
And the Princess thought better of it, and was proud of her little hero, and they lived happily ever afterwards.
THE EARL OF CATTENBOROUGH
Once upon a time there was a miller who had three sons, Charles, Sam, and John. And every night when the servant went to bed he used to call out:
"Good-night, Missus; good-night, Master; Good-night, Charles, Sam, John."
Now after a time the miller's wife died, and, soon after, the miller, leaving only the mill, the donkey, and the cat. And Charles, as the eldest, took the mill, and Sam took the donkey and went off with it, and John was left with only the cat.
Now how do you think the cat used to help John to live? She used to take a bag with a string around the top and place it with some cheese in the bushes, and when a hare or a partridge would come and try to get the piece of cheese—snap! Miss Puss would draw the string and there was the hare or partridge for Master Jack to eat. One day two hares happened to rush into the bag at the same time. So the cat, after giving one to Jack, took the other and went with it to the King's palace. And when she came outside the palace gate she cried out, "Miaou."
The sentry at the gate came to see what was the matter. Miss Puss gave him the hare with a bow and said: "Give this to the King with the compliments of the Earl of Cattenborough."
The King liked jugged hare very much and was glad to get such a fine present.
Shortly after this Miss Puss found a gold coin rolling in the dirt. And she went up to the palace and asked the sentry if he would lend her a corn measure.
The sentry asked who wanted it. And Puss said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough."
So the sentry gave her the corn measure. And a little while afterwards she took it back with the gold coin, which she had found, fixed in a crack in the corn measure.
So the King was told that the Earl of Cattenborough measured his gold in a corn measure. When the King heard this he told the sentry that if such a thing happened again he was to deliver a message asking the Earl to come and stop at the palace.
Some time after the cat caught two partridges, and took one of them to the palace. And when she called out, "Miaou," and presented it to the sentry, in the name of the Earl of Cattenborough, the sentry told her that the King wished to see the Earl at his palace.
So Puss went back to Jack and said to him: "The King desires to see the Earl of Cattenborough at his palace."
"What is that to do with me?" said Jack.
"Oh, you can be the Earl of Cattenborough if you like. I'll help you."
"But I have no clothes, and they'll soon find out what I am when I talk."
"As for that," said Miss Puss, "I'll get you proper clothes if you do what I tell you; and when you come to the palace I will see that you do not make any mistakes."
So next day she told Jack to take off his clothes and hide them under a big stone and dip himself into the river. And while he was doing this she went up to the palace gate and said: "Miaou, miaou, miaou!"
And when the sentry came to the gate she said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough, has been robbed of all he possessed, even of his clothes, and he is hiding in the bramble bush by the side of the river. What is to be done? What is to be done?"
The sentry went and told the King. And the King gave orders that a suitable suit of clothes, worthy of an Earl, should be sent to Master Jack, who soon put them on and went to the King's palace accompanied by Puss. When they got there they were introduced into the chamber of the King, who thanked Jack for his kind presents.
Miss Puss stood forward and said: "My Master, the Earl of Cattenborough, desires to state to your Majesty that there is no need of any thanks for such trifles."
The King thought it was very grand of Jack not to speak directly to him, and summoned his lord chamberlain, and from that time onward only spoke through him. Thus, when they sat down to dinner with the Queen and the Princess, the King would say to his chamberlain, "Will the Earl of Cattenborough take a potato?"
Whereupon Miss Puss would bow and say: "The Earl of Cattenborough thanks his Majesty and would be glad to partake of a potato."
The King was so much struck by Jack's riches and grandeur, and the Princess was so pleased with his good looks and fine dress that it was determined that he should marry the Princess.
But the King thought he would try and see if he were really so nobly born and bred as he seemed. So he told his servants to put a mean truckle bed in the room in which Jack was to sleep, knowing that no noble would put up with such a thing.
When Miss Puss saw this bed she at once guessed what was up. And when Jack began to undress to get into bed, she made him stop, and called the attendants to say that he could not sleep in such a bed.
So they took him into another bedroom, where there was a fine four-poster with a dais, and everything worthy of a noble to sleep upon. Then the King became sure that Jack was a real noble, and married him soon to his daughter the Princess.
After the wedding feast was over the King told Jack that he and the Queen and the Princess would come with him to his castle of Cattenborough, and Jack did not know what to do. But Miss Puss told him it would be all right if he only didn't speak much while on the journey. And that suited Jack very well.
So they all set out in a carriage with four horses, and with the King's life-guards riding around it. But Miss Puss ran on in front of the carriage, and when she came to a field where men were mowing down the hay she pointed to the life-guards riding along, and said: "Men, if you do not say that this field belongs to the Earl of Cattenborough those soldiers will cut you to pieces with their swords."
So when the carriage came along the King called one of the men to the side of it and said, "Whose is this field?"
And the man said, "It belongs to the Earl of Cattenborough."
And the King turned to his son-in-law and said, "I did not know that you had estates so near us."
And Jack said, "I had forgotten it myself."
And this only confirmed the King in his idea about Jack's great wealth.
A little farther on there was another great field in which men were raking hay. And Miss Puss spoke to them as before. So, when the carriage came up, they also declared that this field belonged to the Earl of Cattenborough. And so it went on through the whole drive. Then the King said, "Let us now go to your castle."
Then Jack looked at Miss Puss, and she said: "If your Majesty will but wait an hour I will go on before and order the castle to be made ready for you."
With that she jumped away and went to the castle of a great ogre and asked to see him. When she came into his presence she said:
"I have come to give you warning. The King with all his army is coming to the castle and will batter its walls down and kill you if he finds you here."
"What shall I do? What shall I do?" said the ogre.
"Is there no place where you can hide yourself?"
"I am too big to hide," said the ogre, "but my mother gave me a powder, and when I take that I can make myself as small as I like."
"Well, why not take it now?" said the cat.
And with that he took the powder and shrunk into a little body no bigger than a mouse. And thereupon Miss Puss jumped upon him and ate him all up, and then went down into the great yard of the castle and told the guards that it now belonged to her Master the Earl of Cattenborough. Then she ordered them to open the gates and let in the King's carriage, which came along just then.
The King was delighted to find what a fine castle his son-in-law possessed, and left his daughter the Princess with him at the castle while he drove back to his own palace. And Jack and the Princess lived happily in the castle.
But one day Miss Puss felt very ill and lay down as if dead, and the chamberlain of the castle went to Jack and said:
"My lord, your cat is dead."
And Jack said: "Well, throw her out on the dunghill."
But Miss Puss, when she heard it, called out: "Had you not better throw me into the mill stream?"
And Jack remembered where he had come from and was frightened that the cat would say. So he ordered the physician of the castle to attend to her, and ever after gave her whatever she wanted.
And when the King died he succeeded him, and that was the end of the Earl of Cattenborough.
THE SWAN MAIDENS
There was once a hunter who used often to spend the whole night stalking the deer or setting traps for game. Now it happened one night that he was watching in a clump of bushes near the lake for some wild ducks that he wished to trap. Suddenly he heard, high up in the air, a whirring of wings and thought the ducks were coming; and he strung his bow and got ready his arrows. But instead of ducks there appeared seven maidens all clad in robes made of feathers, and they alighted on the banks of the lake, and taking off their robes plunged into the waters and bathed and sported in the lake. They were all beautiful, but of them all the youngest and smallest pleased most the hunter's eye, and he crept forward from the bushes and seized her dress of plumage and took it back with him into the bushes.
After the swan maidens had bathed and sported to their heart's delight, they came back to the bank wishing to put on their feather robes again; and the six eldest found theirs, but the youngest could not find hers. They searched and they searched till at last the dawn began to appear, and the six sisters called out to her:
"We must away; 'tis the dawn; you meet your fate whatever it be." And with that they donned their robes and flew away, and away, and away.
When the hunter saw them fly away he came forward with the feather robe in his hand; and the swan maiden begged and begged that he would give her back her robe. He gave her his cloak but would not give her her robe, feeling that she would fly away. And he made her promise to marry him, and took her home, and hid her feather robe where she could not find it. So they were married and lived happily together and had two fine children, a boy and a girl, who grew up strong and beautiful; and their mother loved them with all her heart.
One day her little daughter was playing at hide-and-seek with her brother, and she went behind the wainscoting to hide herself, and found there a robe all made of feathers, and took it to her mother. As soon as she saw it she put it on and said to her daughter:
"Tell father that if he wishes to see me again he must find me in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon;" and with that she flew away.
When the hunter came home next morning his little daughter told him what had happened and what her mother said. So he set out to find his wife in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he wandered for many days till he came across an old man who had fallen on the ground, and he lifted him up and helped him to a seat and tended him till he felt better.
Then the old man asked him what he was doing and where he was going. And he told him all about the swan maidens and his wife, and he asked the old man if he had heard of the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon.
And the old man said: "No, but I can ask."
Then he uttered a shrill whistle and soon all the plain in front of them was filled with all of the beasts of the world, for the old man was no less than the King of the Beasts.
And he called out to them: "Who is there here that knows where the Land is East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?" But none of the beasts knew.
Then the old man said to the hunter: "You must go seek my brother who is the King of the Birds," and told him how to find his brother.
And after a time he found the King of the Birds, and told him what he wanted. So the King of the Birds whistled loud and shrill, and soon the sky was darkened with all the birds of the air, who came around him. Then he asked:
"Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?"
And none answered, and the King of the Birds said:
"Then you must consult my brother the King of the Fishes," and he told him how to find him.
And the hunter went on, and he went on, and he went on, till he came to the King of the Fishes, and he told him what he wanted. And the King of the Fishes went to the shore of the sea and summoned all the fishes of the sea. And when they came around him he called out:
"Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?"
And none of them answered, till at last a dolphin that had come late called out:
"I have heard that at the top of the Crystal Mountain lies the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon; but how to get there I know not save that it is near the Wild Forest."
So the hunter thanked the King of the Fishes and went to the Wild Forest. And as he got near there he found two men quarrelling, and as he came near they came towards him and asked him to settle their dispute.
"Now what is it?" said the hunter.
"Our father has just died and he has left but two things, this cap which, whenever you wear it, nobody can see you, and these shoon, which will carry you through the air to whatever place you will. Now I being the elder claim the right of choice, which of these two I shall have; and he declares that, as the younger, he has the right to the shoon. Which do you think is right?"
So the hunter thought and thought, and at last he said:
"It is difficult to decide, but the best thing I can think of is for you to race from here to that tree yonder, and whoever gets back to me first I will hand him either the shoes or the cap, whichever he wishes."
So he took the shoes in one hand and the cap in the other, and waited till they had started off running towards the tree. And as soon as they had started running towards the tree he put on the shoes of swiftness and placed the invisible cap on his head and wished himself in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he flew, and he flew, and he flew, over seven Bends, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain Moors, till at last he came to the Crystal Mountain. And on the top of that, as the dolphin had said, there was the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon.
Now when he got there he took off his invisible cap and shoes of swiftness and asked who ruled over the Land; and he was told that there was a King who had seven daughters who dressed in swans' feathers and flew wherever they wished.
Then the hunter knew that he had come to the Land of his wife. And he went boldly to the King and said:
"Hail O King, I have come to seek my wife."
And the King said, "Who is she?"
And the hunter said, "Your youngest daughter." Then he told him how he had won her.
Then the King said: "If you can tell her from her sisters then I know that what you say is true." And he summoned his seven daughters to him, and there they all were, dressed in their robes of feathers and looking each like all the rest.
So the hunter said: "If I may take each of them by the hand I will surely know my wife"; for when she had dwelt with him she had sewn the little shifts and dresses of her children, and the forefinger of her right hand had the marks of the needle.
And when he had taken the hand of each of the swan maidens he soon found which was his wife and claimed her for his own. Then the King gave them great gifts and sent them by a sure way down the Crystal Mountain.
And after a while they reached home, and lived happily together ever afterwards.
ANDROCLES AND THE LION
It happened in the old days at Rome that a slave named Androcles escaped from his master and fled into the forest, and he wandered there for a long time till he was weary and well nigh spent with hunger and despair. Just then he heard a lion near him moaning and groaning and at times roaring terribly. Tired as he was Androcles rose up and rushed away, as he thought, from the lion; but as he made his way through the bushes he stumbled over the root of a tree and fell down lamed, and when he tried to get up there he saw the lion coming towards him, limping on three feet and holding his fore-paw in front of him. Poor Androcles was in despair; he had not strength to rise and run away, and there was the lion coming upon him. But when the great beast came up to him instead of attacking him it kept on moaning and groaning and looking at Androcles, who saw that the lion was holding out his right paw, which was covered with blood and much swollen. Looking more closely at it Androcles saw a great big thorn pressed into the paw, which was the cause of all the lion's trouble. Plucking up courage he seized hold of the thorn and drew it out of the lion's paw, who roared with pain when the thorn came out, but soon after found such relief from it that he fawned upon Androcles and showed, in every way that he knew, to whom he owed the relief. Instead of eating him up he brought him a young deer that he had slain, and Androcles managed to make a meal from it. For some time the lion continued to bring the game he had killed to Androcles, who became quite fond of the huge beast.
But one day a number of soldiers came marching through the forest and found Androcles, and as he could not explain what he was doing they took him prisoner and brought him back to the town from which he had fled. Here his master soon found him and brought him before the authorities, and he was condemned to death because he had fled from his master. Now it used to be the custom to throw murderers and other criminals to the lions in a huge circus, so that while the criminals were punished the public could enjoy the spectacle of a combat between them and the wild beasts. So Androcles was condemned to be thrown to the lions, and on the appointed day he was led forth into the Arena and left there alone with only a spear to protect him from the lion. The Emperor was in the royal box that day and gave the signal for the lion to come out and attack Androcles. But when it came out of its cage and got near Androcles, what do you think it did? Instead of jumping upon him it fawned upon him and stroked him with its paw and made no attempt to do him any harm. It was of course the lion which Androcles had met in the forest. The Emperor, surprised at seeing such a strange behaviour in so cruel a beast, summoned Androcles to him and asked him how it happened that this particular lion had lost all its cruelty of disposition. So Androcles told the Emperor all that had happened to him and how the lion was showing its gratitude for his having relieved it of the thorn. Thereupon the Emperor pardoned Androcles and ordered his master to set him free, while the lion was taken back into the forest and let loose to enjoy liberty once more.
Now there was once a man at Bagdad who had seven sons, and when he died he left to each of them one hundred dirhems; and his fifth son, called Alnaschar the Babbler, invested all this money in some glassware, and, putting it in a big tray, from which to show and sell it, he sat down on a raised bench, at the foot of a wall, against which he leant back, placing the tray on the ground in front of him. As he sat he began day-dreaming and said to himself: "I have laid out a hundred dirhems on this glass. Now I will surely sell it for two hundred, and with it I will buy more glass and sell that for four hundred; nor will I cease to buy and sell till I become master of much wealth. With this I will buy all kinds of merchandise and jewels and perfumes and gain great profit on them till, God willing, I will make my capital a hundred thousand dinars or two million dirhems. Then I will buy a handsome house, together with slaves and horses and trappings of gold, and eat and drink, nor will there be a singing girl in the city but I will have her to sing to me." This he said looking at the tray before him with glassware worth a hundred dirhems. Then he continued: "When I have amassed a hundred thousand dinars I will send out marriage-brokers to demand for me in marriage the hand of the Vizier's daughter, for I hear that she is perfect in beauty and of surpassing grace. I will give her a dowry of a thousand dinars, and if her father consent, 'tis well; if not, I will take her by force, in spite of him. When I return home, I will buy ten little slaves and clothes for myself such as are worn by kings and sultans and get a saddle of gold, set thick with precious jewels. Then I will mount and parade the city, with slaves before and behind me, while the people will salute me and call down blessings upon me: after which I will go to the Vizier, the girl's father, with slaves behind and before me, as well as on either hand. When the Vizier sees me, he will rise and seating me in his own place, sit down below me, because I am his son-in-law. Now I will have with me two slaves with purses, in each a thousand dinars, and I will give him the thousand dinars of the dowry and make him a present of another thousand dinars so that he may recognize my nobility and generosity and greatness of mind and the littleness of the world in my eyes; and for every ten words he will say to me, I will answer him only two. Then I will return to my house, and if any one come to me on the bride's part, I will make him a present of money and clothe him in a robe of honour; but if he bring me a present I will return it to him and will not accept it so that they may know how great of soul I am." After a while Alnaschar continued: "Then I will command them to bring the Vizier's daughter to me in state and will get ready my house in fine condition to receive her. When the time of the unveiling of the bride is come, I will put on my richest clothes and sit down on a couch of brocaded silk, leaning on a cushion and turning my eyes neither to the right nor to the left, to show the haughtiness of my mind and the seriousness of my character. My bride shall stand before me like the full moon, in her robes and ornaments, and I, out of my pride and my disdain, will not look at her, till all who are present shall say to me: 'O my lord, thy wife and thy handmaid stands before thee; deign to look upon her, for standing is irksome to her.' And they will kiss the earth before me many times, whereupon I will lift my eyes and give one glance at her, then bend down my head again. Then they will carry her to the bride-chamber, and meanwhile I will rise and change my clothes for a richer suit. When they bring in the bride for the second time, I will not look at her till they have implored me several times, when I will glance at her and bow down my head; nor will I cease doing thus, till they have made an end of parading and displaying her. Then I will order one of my slaves to fetch a purse, and, giving it to the tire-women, command them to lead her to the bride-chamber. When they leave me alone with the bride, I will not look at her or speak to her, but will sit by her with averted face, that she may say I am high of soul. Presently her mother will come to me and kiss my head and hands and say to me: 'O my lord, look on thy handmaid, for she longs for thy favour, and heal her spirit,' But I will give her no answer; and when she sees this, she will come and kiss my feet and say, 'O my lord, verily my daughter is a beautiful girl, who has never seen man; and if thou show her this aversion, her heart will break; so do thou be gracious to her and speak to her.' Then she will rise and fetch a cup of wine, and her daughter will take it and come to me; but I will leave her standing before me, while I recline upon a cushion of cloth of gold, and will not look at her to show the haughtiness of my heart, so that she will think me to be a Sultan of exceeding dignity and will say to me: 'O my lord, for God's sake, do not refuse to take the cup from thy servant's hand, for indeed I am thy handmaid.' But I will not speak to her, and she will press me, saying: 'Needs must thou drink it,' and put it to my lips. Then I will shake my fist in her face and spurn her with my foot thus." So saying, he gave a kick with his foot and knocked over the tray of glass, which fell over to the ground, and all that was in it was broken.
There was once a man and he had three sons, and when he died they all had to go out to seek a living. So the eldest went out first, leaving his two brothers at home, and went to a neighbouring farmer to try and get work from him.
"Well, well, my man," said the farmer, "I can give you work but on only one condition."
"What is that?"
"I cannot abear any high talk on my farm. You must keep cool and not lose your temper."
"Oh, never bother about that," said the youngster, "I never lose my temper, or scarcely ever."
"Ah, but if you do," said the farmer, "I make it a condition that I shall tear a strip of your skin from your nape to your waist; that will make a pretty ribbon to tie around the throat of my dog there."
"That doesn't suit me," was the reply. "So fare thee well, master, I must try another place."
"Keep cool, keep cool," said the farmer. "I am a just man; what's good for the man I consider good for the master. So if I should lose my temper I am quite willing that you should take the ribbon of flesh from my back."
"Oh, if that's so," said the youngster, "I'll agree to stay. But we must have it in black and white."
So they sent for the notary and wrote it all down that if either lost his temper he should also lose a strip of skin from his back. But the eldest son had not been in the house a week when the master gave him so hard a task that he lost his temper and had to give up a strip of skin from his back. So he went home and told his brothers about it.
Well, the brothers were savage at hearing what he had suffered. And the second son went to the same man in the hope of getting revenge for his brother. But the same thing happened to him, and he had to come with a strip of skin from his back like his elder brother.
Now the third son, whose name was Jack, made up his mind he wouldn't be done like the other two. And he went to the man and he engaged himself to serve him for the same wage but on the same conditions that his two brothers had done.
The very first morning that Jack had to go out to work his master gave him a piece of dry bread and told him to mind the sheep.
"Is this all I'm to get to eat?" said Jack.
"Why, yes," said the master; "there'll be supper when you come home."
Jack was going to complain when his master called out to him, "Keep cool, Jack, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
So Jack swallowed his rage and went out into the field. But on his way he met a man, to whom he sold one of the sheep for five shillings, and went and bought enough to eat and drink for a whole week.
When he got home that evening his master began to count the sheep, and when he found one was missing, he said to Jack:
"You've let one of the sheep run away."
"No, no, sir," said Jack, "I sold him to a man passing along."
"You shouldn't have done that without my telling you; but where's the money?"
"Oh, with the money," said Jack, "I went and bought me some eats." And he showed him what he had bought.
The master was going to fly in a rage, but Jack said to him: "Keep cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back. So he remembered and said nothing more.
The next day Jack was ordered to take the pigs to market to sell them, and after he had cut off all their tails he sold them and pocketed the money; and then he went to a marsh near the farm and planted all the tails in the marsh.
When he got home the master asked him if he had sold the pigs.
He said: "No, they all rushed into the marsh at the foot of the valley."
"I don't believe you," said the master, and was going to get into a rage when Jack said to him:
"Keep cool, master, keep cool."
So he went with Jack to the marsh, and when he saw the pigs' tails all peeping out the marsh he went and plucked one of them out of the ground, and Jack said:
"There, you've torn the tail from the poor pig's back."
Then the master was going to get into a rage again but Jack said: "Keep cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
Next day the master didn't like sending Jack out with the animals or else he might sell them to get some dinner. So he said to him:
"Jack, I want you today to clean the horses and the stable within and without."
"Very well, master," said Jack, and went to the stable; and he whitewashed it within and he whitewashed it without. Then he went to the horses and killed them and took out their insides and cleaned them within; and then he washed their skins.
In the evening the master came to see how Jack had got on with his work and was delighted to find the stable looking so clean.
"But where are the horses?" he said; and Jack pointed to them lying dead on their backs.
"Why, what have you done?" said the master.
"You told me to clean them within and without and how could I clean them within without killing them?" said Jack.
Then the master was just going to fly into a rage, when Jack said to him: "Keep cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
So next day the master had sent Jack out with the sheep, but so that he should not sell any of them to get money for his lunch he sent his wife with them telling her to watch Jack from behind a bush, and if he tried to sell any of the sheep to stop him. But Jack saw her and didn't say anything or try and sell any of the sheep.
But next day, when he went out with them, he took with him his gun, and when the farmer's wife got behind the bush to watch him, he called out: "Ah, wolf, I see you," and fired his gun at her and hit her in the leg. She screamed out, and the master came running up and said:
"What's this, Jack, what's this?"
Then Jack said: "Why, master, I thought that was a wolf and I shot my gun at it and it turned out to be the missus."
"How dare you, you scoundrel, shoot my wife!" cried out the master.
"Don't be in a rage, master, don't be in a rage," said Jack.
"Anybody would be in a rage if his wife was shot," said the master.
"Well, then," said Jack, "I'll have that strip off your back." And as there were witnesses present the master had to let Jack take a strip of skin from his back.
And with that he went home to his brothers.
THE MASTER THIEF
There was once a farmer who had a son named Will, and he sent him out in the world to learn a trade and seek his fortune. Now he hadn't gone far when he was stopped by a band of robbers who called out to him:
"Your purse or your life!"
And he gave them his purse and said: "That is an easy way of getting money, I'd like to be a robber myself."
So they agreed to take him into their band if he could show he was able to do a robber's work. And the first person who went through the wood again they sent Will to see if he could rob him. So he went up to the man and said to him:
"Your purse or your life!"
The man gave him his purse, whereupon Will took all the money out of it and gave it back to the man and took the purse back to the robbers, who said:
"Well, what luck?"
"Oh, I got his purse from him quite easily; here it is."
"Well, what about the money?" said they.
"Well, that I gave back to him. You only asked me to say, 'Your purse or your life.'"
At that the robbers roared with laughter and said: "You'll never be a thief."
Will was quite ashamed of making such a fool of himself and determined he would do better next time.
So one day he saw two farmers driving a herd of cattle to market, and told the robbers that he knew a way to take the cattle from them without fighting for them.
"If you do that," said they, "you will be a Master Thief."
Then Will went a little way ahead of the robbers with a stout cord, which he tied under his armpits and then fixed himself upon a branch of a tree over the road so that it looked as if he had been hanged.
When the farmers came with their cattle they said: "There's one of the robbers hung up for an example," and drove their cattle on farther.
Then Will got down, and running across a bypath got again in front of the farmers and hung himself up as before on a tree by the side of the road.
When the farmers came up to him one of them said: "Goodness gracious me, why there's the same robber hanged up here again."
"Oh, that's not the same robber," said the other.
"Yes, it is," said the first, "for I noticed he had a white horn button on his coat, and see, there it is. It must be the same man."
"How could that be?" said the other. "We left that one hanging up dead half a mile back."
"I am sure it is."
"I am certain it isn't."
"Well, give a good look at him, and we'll go back and see if it isn't the same."
So the farmers went back to look, and Will took their cattle and drove them back to the robbers, who agreed that he was a Master Thief.
He stopped with them for several years and made much money, and then drove back in a carriage and pair to his father's farm.
When he came there his father came to the carriage and bowed to him and asked him, "What is your pleasure, sir?"
"Oh, I want to make some inquiries about a young fellow named William who used to be on this farm. What has become of him?"
"Oh, I don't know; he was my son and I have not heard from him for many years; I am afraid he has come to no good."
"Look at me closely and see if you see any resemblance to him."
Then the farmer recognized Will and took him into the farmhouse and called Will's mother to come and welcome him back.
"So, Will, you've come back in a carriage and pair," said she. "How have you earnt so much money?"
So Will told his mother that he had become a Master Thief but begged her not to mention it to any one, but to tell them that he had been an explorer and had found gold.
Well, the very next day a neighbouring gossip called in upon Will's mother and asked her to tell her the news about Will and what he had been doing.
So she said: "Oh, Will has been an exploiter, I mean explorer, but he really was a Master Thief. But you mustn't tell anybody; you'll promise, won't you?"
So the gossip promised, but of course the moment she got home she told all about Will being a Master Thief.
Now the lord of the village soon heard of this, and he called Will up to him and said: "I hear you are a Master Thief. You know that you deserve death for that. But if you can prove that you are really a master in your thievery I will let you go free. First let us see whether you can steal my horse out of my stable to-night."
To prevent his horse being stolen, the lord ordered it to be saddled and put a stable boy on it, telling him to stop there all night.
Will took two flasks of brandy into one of which he had poured a drug, and dressing himself as an old woman he went to the lord's stable late at night and asked to rest there as it was so cold and she was so tired.
The stable boy pointed to some straw in the corner and told the woman she might rest there for a time.
When she sat down she took one of the brandy flasks out of her pocket and drank it off, saying, "Ah, that warms one! Would you like to have a drink?"
And when the stable boy said "Yes," Will gave him the other flask, and as soon as he had drunk it he fell dead asleep.
So Will lifted him off of the horse and put him on the cross-bar of the stable as if he were riding, and then he got on the horse and rode away.
In the morning the lord went down to the stable and there he saw the stable boy riding the cross-bar and his horse gone.
Then Will rode up to the stable on the lord's horse and said: "Am I not a Master Thief?"
"Oh, stealing my horse was not so hard. Let us see if you can steal the sheet from off my bed to-night. But, look out, if you come near my bedroom I shall shoot you."
That night Will took a dummy man and propped it up on a ladder, which he put up to the lord's bedroom.
And when the lord saw the dummy coming in at the window he shot his pistol at it and it fell down. He rushed downstairs and out into the open air looking to see if he had shot Will.
Meanwhile Will went up to the lord's bedroom and, speaking in the lord's voice, said to his wife: "Give me the sheet, my dear, to wrap the body of that poor Master Thief in."
So she gave him the sheet and he went away.
Next morning Will brought up the sheet to the lord, who said: "That was a good trick, I must confess. But if you want really to prove that you are a Master Thief bring to me the priest in a bag, and then I will own your mastery."
So that night Will took a number of crabs and tied candle ends upon them, and taking them to the cemetery lit the candle ends and let them loose.
When the priest of the village saw these lights moving over the cemetery he came to the door and watched them and called out:
"What is that?"
Now Will had dressed himself up like an angel.
"It is the last day of judgment, and I have come for thee, Father Lawrence, to carry thee to heaven. Come within this bag, and in a short time thou wilt be in thine appointed place."
So Father Lawrence crept within the bag, and Will dragged him along, and when he bumped against the ground Father Lawrence said:
"Oh, we must be going through purgatory."
And then Will took him to the hen-coops and threw him in among the chickens and ducks and geese, and Father Lawrence said:
"We must be getting near the angels for I hear the rustling of their wings."
So Will went up to the lord's house and made him come down to the hen-coops and there showed him the priest in the bag, and the lord said:
"I do not know how you do these things. I cannot tell if you are really a Master Thief unless you take my horse from under me. If you can do that I will call you the Master of all Master Thieves."
Well, next day, Will dressed himself up as an old woman, and taking a cart with an old horse put in it a cask of beer, and then went driving along with his thumb in the bunghole.
Soon after he met the lord on horseback who asked him if he had seen a man like Will lurking about there in the forest.
"I think I have," said Will, "and could bring him to you if you wanted. But I can't leave this cask before the taps come out; I have to keep my thumb in the bunghole."
"Oh, I will do that," said the lord, "if you will only go and get that man. Take my horse and run him down."
So Will got on the lord's horse and rode off, leaving the nobleman with his thumb in the bunghole. He waited and he waited and he waited till at last he drove in the cart back to his house, and there he saw no less a person than Will himself riding his horse.
Then the noble said unto Will: "You are indeed a Master Thief. Go your way in peace."
THE UNSEEN BRIDEGROOM
Once upon a time there was a king and queen, as many a one has been, and they had three daughters, all of them beautiful; but the most beautiful of all was the youngest whose name was Anima. Now it happened one day that all three sisters were playing in the meadows, and Anima saw a bush with lovely flowers. As she wished to carry it home to plant in her own garden she plucked at the root and plucked and plucked again. At last it gave way, and she saw beneath it a stairway going down farther into the earth. Being a brave girl and very curious as to where this could lead to, without calling her sisters, she crept down the stairs for a long, long way, till at last she came out into the open air again in a country which she had never seen before, and not far away, in front of her, she saw a magnificent palace.
Anima ran towards it, and when she came to the door she knocked at the knocker and it opened without anybody being there. So she went in and found all inside richly bedecked with marble walls and rich trappings; and, as she went along, lovely music broke out and came with her wherever she went. At last she came to a room with cosy couches, and she threw herself into one because she was tired with her searching. Scarcely had she done so, when there appeared a table coming towards her on wheels, without anybody moving it, and upon the table were delightful fruits and cakes and cool drinks of all kinds. So Anima took as much as she needed and fell into slumber and did not awake till it was getting dark. And then appeared through the air two large candlesticks, each with three candles in them; and they swam through the air and settled upon the tables near her, so that she had plenty of light. But she cried out: "Oh, I must go back to my father and mother; how shall I go? How shall I go?"
Then a sweet voice near her spoke out and said: "Abide with me and be my bride, and thou shalt have all thy heart desires."
But Anima cried out in fear and trembling: "But who art thou? Who art thou? Come forth and let me see thee."
But the voice replied: "Nay, nay, that is forbidden. Never must thou look upon my face or we must part, for my mother, the Queen, wishes not that I should wed."
So sweet was his voice and so lonely did Anima feel, that she consented to become his bride, and they lived happily together, though he never came near her till all was dark, so that she could not see him. But after a time Anima became weary even with all these splendours and happiness, and wished to see her own people again, and said to her husband:
"Please may I go home and see my father and my mother and my dear sisters?"
"Nay, nay, child," said the voice of her husband, "ill will come of it if thou seest them again, and thou and I must part."
But she kept on begging him to let her return to her people for a visit, or at least to let them come and see her, till at last he consented and sent a message to her father and mother and sisters, asking them to come and spend some days with her, at a time when he himself would have to be absent.
So the King and Queen and Anima's two sisters came and wondered at the splendours of her new home, and, above all, was surprised to find that they were waited on by invisible hands, who did all for them that they could wish for. But Anima's sisters soon became both curious and envious; they could not guess who or what her husband was, and envied her having so wonderful a household.
So one of them said to her: "But Anima, how marry a man without ever seeing him? There must be some reason why he will not show himself; perhaps he is deformed, or maybe he is some beast transformed."
But Anima laughed and said: "He is no beast, that I am sure; and see how kind he is to me. I do not care if he is not as handsome as he does."
Still the sisters kept on insisting that there must be something wrong where there was something concealed, and at last they got their mother the Queen to say to her as she was leaving: "Now, Anima, I think it right to know who and what thy husband is. Wait till he is asleep and light a lamp, and then see what he is."
Soon after this they all departed. And the same night her husband came to Anima again, but she had already prepared a lamp of oil with a spark of fire ready to kindle it. And when she heard him sleeping by her side she lit the candle and looked at him. She was delighted to find that he was most handsome, with a strong and well-made body. But as she was looking at him her hand trembled with delight and three drops of oil fell upon his cheek from the lamp she was holding. Then he woke up and saw her, and knew that she had broken her promise, and said:
"Oh, Anima, oh, Anima, why hast thou done this? Here we part until thou canst persuade my mother the Queen to let thee see me again."
With that came a rumbling of thunder and her lamp went out, and Anima fell to the ground in a swoon. And when she awoke the palace had disappeared and she was on a bleak, bleak moor. She walked and she walked till she came to a house by the wayside where an old woman received her and gave her something to eat and drink, and then asked Anima how she came there. So Anima told all that had happened to her, and the old woman said:
"Thou hast married my nephew, my sister's son, and I fear she will never forgive thee. But pluck up courage, go to her and demand thy husband, and she'll have to give him up to thee if thou canst do all that she demands from thee. Take this twig; if she asks what I think she will ask, strike it on the ground thrice and help will come to thee."
Then she told Anima the way to her husband's mother, and, as it was far distant, gave her directions where she could find another sister of hers who might help her. So she came to another house along the way where she saw another old woman, to whom she told her story, and this old woman, the Queen's sister, gave her a raven's feather and told her how to use it.
At last Anima came to the palace of the Queen, the mother of her invisible husband, and when she came into her presence demanded to see him.
"What, thou low-born mortal," cried the Queen; "how didst thou dare to wed my son?"
"It was his choice," said Anima, "and I am now his wife. Surely you will let me see him once more."
"Well," said the Queen, "if thou canst do what I demand of thee thou shalt see my son again. And first go into that barn where my stupid stewards have poured together all the wheat and oats and rice into one great heap. If by nightfall thou canst separate them into three heaps perhaps I may grant thy request."
So Anima was led to the great barn of the Queen and there was a huge heap of grain all mixed together, and she was left alone, and the barn was closed upon her. Then she bethought herself of the twig that the Queen's sister had given her, and she struck it thrice upon the ground, whereupon thousands of ants came out of the ground and began to work upon the heap of grain, some of them taking the wheat to one corner, some the oats to another, and the rest carrying off the grains of rice to a third. By nightfall all the grain had been separated, and when the Queen came to let out Anima she found the task had been done.
"Thou hast had help," she cried; "we'll see to-morrow if thou canst do something by thyself."
Next day the Queen took her into a large loft at the top of the palace almost filled with feathers of geese, of eider ducks, and of swans, and from her cupboard she took twelve mattresses and said:
"See these mattresses; by the end of the day thou must fill four of them with swans' feathers, four of them with eider-down, and the rest with feathers of geese. Do that and then we will see."
With that she left Anima and closed and locked the door behind her. And Anima remembered what the other Queen's sister had given her, and took out the raven's feather and waved it thrice. Immediately birds, and birds, and birds came flying through the windows, and each of them picked out different kinds of feathers and placed them in the mattresses, so that long before night the twelve mattresses were filled as the Queen had ordered.
Again at nightfall the Queen came in, and as soon as she saw that the second task had been carried out, she said:
"Again thou hast had help; to-morrow thou shalt have something to do which thou alone canst carry out."
Next day the Queen summoned her and gave her a small flask and a letter and said to her:
"Take these to my sister, the Queen of the Nether-World, and bring back what she will give to thee safely, and then I may let thee see my son."
"How can I find your sister?" said Anima.
"That thou must find for thyself," and left her.
Poor Anima did not know which way to go, but as she walked along the voice of some one invisible to her said softly:
"Take with thee a copper coin and a loaf of bread and go down that deep defile there till thou comest to a deep river and there thou wilt see an old man ferrying people across the river. Put the coin between your teeth and let him take it from you, and he will carry you across, but speak not to him. Then, on the other side, thou wilt come to a dark cave, and at the entrance is a savage dog; give him the loaf of bread and he will let thee pass and thou wilt soon come to the Queen of the Nether-World. Take what she gives thee, but beware lest thou eat anything or sit down while thou art within the cave."
Anima recognized the voice of her husband and did all that he had told her, till she came to the Queen of the Nether-World, who read the letter she had handed to her. Then she offered Anima cake and wine, but she refused, shaking her head, but saying nothing. Then the Queen of the Nether-World gave her a curiously wrought box and said to her:
"Take this, I pray thee, to my sister, but beware lest thou open it on the way or ill may befall thee," and then dismissed her.
Anima went back past the great dog and crossed the dark river. When she got into the forest beyond she could not resist the temptation to open the box, and when she did so out jumped a number of little dolls, which commenced dancing about in front of her and around her and amused her much by their playful antics. But soon the night was coming on, and she wanted to put them into the box, and they ran away and hid behind the trees, and Anima knew that she could not get them back. So she sat down upon the ground and wept, and wept, and wept. But at last she heard the voice of her husband once more, who said:
"See what thy curiosity has again brought upon thee; thou canst not bring back the box to my mother just as my aunt the Queen of the Nether-World has given it to you, and so we shall not see one another again."
But at this Anima burst out into weeping and wailing so piteously that he took compassion on her and said:
"See that golden bough on yonder tree; pluck it and strike the ground three times with it and see what thou wilt see."
Anima did as she had been told, and soon the little dolls came running from behind the trees and jumped of their own accord into the box; and she closed it quickly and took it back to the Queen, her husband's mother.
The Queen opened the box, and when she found all the little dolls were in it laughed aloud and said:
"I know who has helped thee; I cannot help myself; I suppose thou must have my son."
And as soon as she had said this Anima's husband appeared and took her to him, and they lived happy ever afterwards.
There was once a king and a queen and they had a bonny boy whom they loved beyond anything. Now when he was grown up into a fine young prince, the King, his father, went a-hunting one day and lost his way in the forest, and when he came through it he found a raging stream between him and his palace. He did not know how to get home, when suddenly a huge giant came out of the forest and said:
"What would you give if I carried you across?"
"Anything, anything," said the King.
"Will you give me the first thing that meets you as you come to the palace gate?"
The King thought for a while and then remembered that whenever he came to the gate of the palace his favourite deerhound Bevis always came to greet him. So, though he was sorry to lose him, he thought it was worth while, and agreed with the giant.
Thereupon the giant took the King upon his shoulders and wading across the raging stream landed him on the farther bank and saying to him, "Remember what you have promised," went back again to the other side.
The King soon found his way towards the palace, but as he came to the palace gate it happened that his son Prince Edgar was standing there, and before Bevis the hound could dash out to greet his master, Prince Edgar had rushed towards his father and caught him by the hand. The King was rather startled but thought to himself:
"Oh, how will the giant know who met me? After all I intended to give him Bevis, and that's what I'll do when he comes."
The next day the giant came to the castle gates and asked to see the King, and when he was admitted to his presence he said:
"I come for your promise."
"Bring Bevis the hound," said the King to his attendants.
But the giant said: "I want no hound; give me your Prince."
The King was alarmed at finding that the giant knew who had met him; but he told him that the Prince was away, but he would send and summon him. Then he called his High Steward and told him to dress up the herd-boy of the palace in some of the Prince's clothes. And when this was done he gave him to the giant, who hoisted him on his shoulder and strode off with him.
When they had gone a little way along the herd-boy in the Prince's suit called out:
"Stop, stop, I am hungry; this is the time the herd rests and I have my luncheon."
Then the giant knew that he had been deceived and went back to the King's palace and said to him:
"Take your herd-boy and give me the Prince."
The King was again startled to find that the giant had found out his trick, but thought to himself:
"Well, he didn't find out at once; we'll have another try," and ordered his Steward to dress up the shepherd boy in the Prince's clothes and give him to the giant.
Again the giant strode off with the shepherd boy in Prince's clothes upon his shoulder, and they had not gone far when the boy called out:
"Stop, stop, it is time for lunch; this is when the sheep all rest."
Then again the giant knew that he had been tricked and rushed back in a rage to the King's palace and threw the shepherd boy to the ground and called out:
"Take your shepherd boy and give me the Prince you promised, or it will be worse for you."
This time the King dared not refuse and called Prince Edgar to him and gave him to the giant, who seized him as before and put him on his shoulder.
After they had gone a little way, the Prince called out:
"'Tis time to stop; this is the time I have always lunched with my father the King and my mother the Queen."
Then the giant knew that he had got the right Prince and took him home to his castle. When he got him there he gave him his supper and told him that he would have to work for him and that his first work would be next day to clean out the stable.
"That's not much," thought the Prince, and went to bed quite happy and comfortable.
Next day the giant took Edgar into the giant's stable, which was full of straw and dirt and all huddled up, and pointing to a pitchfork said:
"Clear all of this straw out of this stable by to-night," and left him to his task.
The Prince thought this was an easy thing to do, and before starting went to get a drink at the well, and there he saw a most beautiful maiden sitting by the well and knitting.
"Who are you?" said she.
And so he told her all that had happened and said:
"At any rate I have an easy master; all he has given me to do is to clear out the stable."
"That is not so easy as you think," said the maid. "How are you going to do it?"
"With a pitchfork."
"You will find that not so easy; if you try to use the pitchfork in the ordinary way, the more you shove the more there will be; but turn the pitchfork upside-down and push with the handle and all the straw and stuff will run away from it."
So Prince Edgar went back to the stable, and sure enough, when he tried to push the straw with the fork it only grew more and more, but if he turned the handle towards it the straw moved away from the fork and so he soon cleared it out of the stable.
When the giant came home the first thing he did was to go to the stable; and when he saw it had all been cleared out he said to the Prince:
"Ah, you've been talking to my Master-Maid. Well, to-morrow you'll have to cut down that clump of trees."
"Very well, Master," said Prince Edgar, and thought that would not be difficult.
But next morning the giant gave him an axe made of glass and told him that he must cut down every one of the trees before nightfall.
When he had gone away, the Prince went to the Master-Maid and told her what his task was.
"You cannot do that with such an axe, but never mind, I can help you. Sleep here in peace and when you wake up you will see what you will see."
So Prince Edgar trusted the Master-Maid and lay down and slept till late in the afternoon, when he woke up and looked, and there were the trees all felled and the Master-Maid was smiling by his side.
"How did you do it?" he said.
"That I may not say, but done it is, and that is all that you need care for."
When the giant came home, the first thing he did was to go to the clump of trees and found, to his surprise, that they had all been felled.
"Ah, you've spoken to my Master-Maid," he said once more.
"Who is she?" said the Prince.
"You know well enough," said the giant. "But for her you could not have cut down those trees with that glass axe."
"I do not know what you mean," said the Prince. "But at any rate, there you have your trees cut down, what more do you want?"
"Well, well," grumbled the giant, "we'll see to-morrow whether you can do what I tell you then," and would not say what his task should be next day.
When the morning came, the giant pointed to the tallest tree in the forest near them, and said:
"Do you see that birds' nest in the top of that tree? In it are six eggs; you must climb up there and get all those eggs for me before nightfall, and if one is broken woe betide you!"
At that Prince Edgar did not feel so happy, for there were no branches to the tree till very near the top, and it was as smooth, as smooth as it could be, and he did not see how possibly he could reach the birds' nest. But when the giant had gone out for the day he went at once to the Master-Maid and told her of his new task.
"That is the hardest of all," said the Master-Maid. "There is only one way to do the task. You must cut me up into small pieces and take out my bones, and out of the bones you must make a ladder, and with that ladder you can reach the top."
"That I will never do," said the Prince. "You've been so good to me, shall I do you harm? Before that, I should suffer whatever punishment the giant will give me for not carrying out the task."
"But all will be well," said the Master-Maid. "As soon as you have brought down the nest, all that you will have to do is to put the bones together and sprinkle on them the water from this flask, and then I shall be whole again just as before."
After much persuasion the Prince agreed to do what the Master-Maid had told him, and made a ladder out of her bones and climbed up to the top of the tree and took the birds' nest with the six eggs in it, and then he put the bones together, but forgot to put one little bone in its proper place.
So when he had sprinkled the water over the bones the Master-Maid stood up before him just as before, but the little finger of her left hand was not there. She cried and said:
"Ah, why did you not do what I told you—put all my bones together in their place? You forgot my little finger; I shall never have one all the days of my life."
When the giant came home, he asked the Prince:
"Where is the birds' nest?"
And the Prince brought it to him with the eggs all safe within it. And then the giant said:
"Ah, you have spoken to my Master-Maid."
"Whom do you mean by your Master-Maid?" said the Prince. "There are your eggs, what more do you want?"
But the giant said: "Well, as the Master-Maid has helped you so far she can help you always. You shall marry her today and sleep in my own four-poster."
The Prince was well content with that arrangement and went and sought the Master-Maid and told her what the giant had said.
The Master-Maid wept and said: "You know not what he means. His four-poster rolls up and would crush us and we would be dead before the morning. Let me think, let me think."
So the Master-Maid took an apple and divided it into six parts and put two at the foot of the bed and two at the door of the room and two at the foot of the stairs.
When night came, the Master-Maid and her Prince went up into the room with the four-poster, but as soon as it was dark crept down the stairs and went out to the stable and chose two of the swiftest horses there and rode away as quickly as they could.
The giant waited for some time after they had gone upstairs and then called out:
"Are you asleep?"
And the two apple shares near the bed called out:
"Not yet, not yet!"
So after waiting some time he called out again:
"Are you asleep?"
And the apple shares at the door called out:
"Not yet, not yet!"
And still a third time the giant called out:
"Are you asleep?"
And the apple shares on the stairs replied:
"Not yet, not yet!"
Then the giant knew that the voice was outside the bedroom, and rushed up to find Edgar and his bride, but found they were gone. He rushed to the stable and chose his great horse Dapplegrim and rode after Prince Edgar and the Master-Maid.
They had gone on a good way in front; but after a time they heard the trampling of the hoofs of the great horse Dapplegrim, and the Master-Maid said to Prince Edgar:
"That is the giant; he will soon overtake us if we do not do something." And she jumped off her horse and bade Prince Edgar do the same.
Then the Master-Maid took three twigs and threw them behind her with magic spells; and they grew and they grew and they grew, till they became a huge thick forest. And the Master-Maid and Edgar jumped upon their horses again and rode away as fast as they could.
But the giant, as soon as he came to the forest, had to take his axe from his side and hew his way through the thick trees, so that Edgar and the Master-Maid got far ahead. But soon they heard once more the trampling of Dapplegrim close behind them; and the Master-Maid took the glass axe that the giant had given Edgar on the second day, and threw it behind her with magic spells. And a huge glass mountain rose behind them, so that the giant had to stop and split his way through the glass mountain.
Edgar and the Master-Maid rode on at full speed, but once again they heard Dapplegrim trampling behind them, and the Master-Maid took the flask of water from her side and cast it down back of her, and out of it gushed a huge stream.
When the giant came up to the stream and tried to make Dapplegrim swim through it he would not; and then he lay down on the bank of the stream and commenced to drink up as much of it as he could. And he drank and he drank and he drank, till at last he swallowed so much that he burst; and that was the end of the giant.
Meanwhile Edgar and the Master-Maid had ridden on fast and furious till they came near where the palace of the King, Edgar's father, could be seen in the far distance. And Edgar said:
"Let me go on first and tell my father and mother all that you have done for me, and they will welcome you as their daughter."
The Master-Maid shook her head sadly and said:
"Do as you will, but beware lest any one kiss you before you see me again."
"I want no kisses from any one but you," said Prince Edgar, and leaving her in a hut by the roadside he went on to greet the King and Queen.
When he got to the palace gate everybody was astonished to see him, as they had all thought he had been destroyed by the giant. And when they took him to the Queen, his mother, she rushed to him and kissed him before he could say nay.
No sooner had his mother kissed him than all memory of the Master-Maid disappeared from his mind. And when he told his mother and his father what he had done in the giant's castle and how he had escaped, he said nothing of the help given him by the Master-Maid.
Soon afterwards the King and the Queen arranged for the marriage of Prince Edgar with a great Princess from a neighbouring country. And she was brought home with great pomp and ceremony to the King's palace. And one day after her marriage, when she was out, she passed by the hut in which the Master-Maid was dwelling.
Now the Master-Maid had put on that day a beautiful dress of rich silk, and when the Prince's wife saw it she went to the Master-Maid and said:
"I should like that dress. Will you not sell it to me?"
"Yes," said the Master-Maid, "but at a price you are not likely to give."
"What do you want for it?" said the Princess.
"I want to spend one night in the room of your bridegroom, Prince Edgar."
At first the Princess would not think of such a thing; but after thinking the matter over she thought of a plan, and said:
"Well, you shall have your wish," and took away with her the silken dress.
But at night, when the Master-Maid came to the palace and claimed her promise, the Princess put a sleep-giving drug in Edgar's cup.
When the Master-Maid came into Edgar's room she bent over his bed and cried:
"I cleaned the byre for thee, I swung the axe for thee, And now thou'lt not speak to me."
But still Edgar slept on, and in the morning the Master-Maid had to leave without speaking to him.
Next day, when the Princess went out to see what the Master-Maid had been doing, she found her dressed in a rich silver dress, and said to her:
"Will you sell that dress to me?"
And the Master-Maid said, "Yes, at a price."
Then the Princess said, "What price?"
"One night in Edgar's room," replied the Master-Maid.
The Princess knew what had happened the night before, so she agreed to let the Master-Maid pass still another night with her bridegroom. But all happened as before; and when the Master-Maid came into the room she bent over Edgar, lying upon the bed, and called out:
"I gave my bones for thee, I shared the apples for thee, And yet thou'lt not speak to me";
and had to leave him as before, without his waking up.
But this time Prince Edgar had heard something of what she said in his sleep. And when he woke up he asked his chamberlain what had happened during the night. And he told the Prince that for two nights running a maiden had been in his room and sung to him, but he had not answered.
Next day the Princess sought out the Master-Maid as before. And this time she was dressed in a dress of shining gold; and for that the Princess agreed to let her spend one more night in the Prince's room.
But this time the Prince, guessing what had happened, threw away the wine-cup, in which the Princess had placed the sleeping draught, and lay awake on his bed when the Master-Maid came in. She bent over him and cried:
"I grew the forest for thee, I made the glass mount for thee, For thee a stream flowed from my magic flask, And yet thou'lt not wake and speak to me."
But this time Prince Edgar rose up in bed and recognized the Master-Maid, and called in his father and his mother and told them all that had happened, which had now come back to him.
So the Princess was sent back to her home, and Edgar married the Master-Maid and lived happy ever afterwards.
A VISITOR FROM PARADISE
There was once a woman, good but simple, who had been twice married. One day when her husband was in the field—of course that was her second husband, you know—a weary tramp came trudging by her door and asked for a drink of water. When she gave it to him, being rather a gossip, she asked where he came from.
"From Paris," said the man.
The woman was a little bit deaf, and thought the man said from Paradise.
"From Paradise! Did you meet there my poor dear husband, Lord rest his soul?"
"What was his name?" asked the man.
"Why, John Goody, of course," said the woman. "Did you know him in Paradise?"
"What, John Goody!" said the man. "Him and me was as thick as thieves."
"Does he want for anything?" said the woman. "I suppose up in Paradise you get all you want."
"All we want! Why, look at me," said the man pointing to his rags and tatters. "They treat some of us right shabby up there."
"Dear me, that's bad. Are you likely to go back?"
"Go back to Paradise, marm; I should say! We have to be in every night at ten."
"Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind taking back some things for my poor old John," said the woman.
"In course, marm, delighted to help my old chum John."
So the woman went indoors and got a big pile of clothes and a long pipe and three bottles of beer, and a beer jug, and gave them to the man.
"But," he said, "please marm, I can't carry all these by my own self. Ain't you got a horse or a donkey that I can take along with me to carry them? I'll bring them back to-morrow."
Then the woman said, "There's our old Dobbin in the stable; I can't lend you mare Juniper cos my husband's ploughing with her just now."
"Ah, well, Dobbin'll do as its only till to-morrow."
So the woman got out Dobbin and saddled him, and the man took the clothes and the beer and the pipe and rode off with them.
Shortly afterwards her husband came home and said,
"What's become of Dobbin? He's not in the stable."
So his wife told him all that had happened. And he said,
"I don't like that. How do we know that he is going to Paradise? And how do we know that he'll bring Dobbin back to-morrow? I'll saddle Juniper and get the things back. Which way did he go?"
So he saddled Juniper and rode after the man, who saw him coming afar off and guessed what had happened. So he got off from Dobbin and drove him into a clump of trees near the roadside, and then went and laid down on his back and looked up to the sky.
When the farmer came up to him he got down from Juniper and said, "What are you doing there?"
"Oh, such a funny thing," said the man; "a fellow came along here on a horse with some clothes and things, and when he got to the top of the hill here he simply gave a shout and the horse went right up into the sky; and I was watching him when you came up."
"Oh, it's all right then," said the farmer. "He's gone to Paradise, sure enough," and went back to his wife.
Next day they waited, and they waited for the man to bring back Dobbin; but he didn't come that day nor the next day, nor the next. So the farmer said to his wife,
"My dear, we've been done. But I'll find that man if I have to trudge through the whole kingdom. And you must come with me, as you know him."
"But what shall we do with the house?" said the wife. "You know there have been robbers around here, and while we are away they'll come and take my best chiny."
"Oh, that's all right," said the farmer. "He who minds the door minds the house. So we'll take the door with us and then they can't get in."
So he took the door off its hinges and put it on his back and they went along to find the man from Paradise. So they went along, and they went along, and they went along till night came, and they didn't know what to do for shelter. So the man said,
"That's a comfortable tree there; let us roost in the branches like the birds." So they took the door up with them and laid down to sleep on it as comfortable, as comfortable can be.
Now it happened that a band of robbers had just broken into a castle near by and taken out a great lot of plunder; and they came under the very tree to divide it. And when they began to settle how much each should have they began to quarrel and woke up the farmer and his wife. They were so frightened when they heard the robbers underneath them that they tried to get up farther into the tree, and in doing so let the door fall down right on the robbers' heads.
"The heavens are falling," cried the robbers, who were so frightened that they all rushed away. And the farmer and his wife came down from the tree and collected all the booty and went home and lived happy ever afterwards.
It was and it was not.
A man was walking through the forest one day when he saw a funny black thing like a whip wriggling about under a big stone. He was curious to know what it all meant. So he lifted up the stone and found there a huge black snake.
"That's well," said the snake. "I have been trying to get out for two days, and, Oh, how hungry I am. I must have something to eat, and there is nobody around, so I must eat you."
"But that wouldn't be fair," said the man with a trembling voice. "But for me you would never have come out from under the stone."
"I do not care for that," said the snake. "Self-preservation is the first law of life; you ask anybody if that isn't so."
"Any one will tell you," said the man, "that gratitude is a person's first duty, and surely you owe me thanks for saving your life."
"But you haven't saved my life, if I am to die of hunger," said the snake.
"Oh yes, I have," said the man; "all you have to do is to wait till you find something to eat."
"Meanwhile I shall die, and what's the use of being saved!"
So they disputed and they disputed whether the case was to be decided by the claims of gratitude or the rights of self-preservation, till they did not know what to do.
"I tell you what I'll do," said the snake, "I'll let the first passer-by decide which is right."
"But I can't let my life depend upon the word of the first comer."
"Well, we'll ask the first two that pass by."
"Perhaps they won't agree," said the man; "what are we to do then? We shall be as badly off as we are now."
"Ah, well," said the snake, "let it be the first three. In all law courts it takes three judges to make a session. We'll follow the majority of votes."
So they waited till at last there came along an old, old horse. And they put the case to him, whether gratitude should ward off death.
"I don't see why it should," said the horse. "Here have I been slaving for my master for the last fifteen years, till I am thoroughly worn out, and only this morning I heard him say, 'Roger'—that's my name—'is no use to me any longer; I shall have to send him to the knacker's and get a few pence for his hide and his hoofs.' There's gratitude for you."
So the horse's vote was in favour of the snake. And they waited till at last an old hound passed by limping on three legs, half blind with scarcely any teeth. So they put the case to him.
"Look at me," said he; "I have slaved for my master for ten years, and this very day he has kicked me out of his house because I am no use to him any longer, and he grudged me a few bones to eat. So far as I can see nobody acts from gratitude."