"Not that one!" she said. "Give him the old one that leaks, and hangs there at the end. The Hillmen are tidy little folk and very nimble with a job of tinkering. They'll have to mend it before they use it and so it will come home whole. We can oblige the Fairy Folk and save sixpence at the same time."
The maid-servant was sorry to do her mistress's bidding, for it was the oldest and blackest saucepan of all, hung there to wait for the next time when the tinker stopped at the house. She gave it to the little Hillman, though, who thanked her and went off with the leaky saucepan hung over his back.
One morning, not long after that, they found the saucepan, returned, on the doorstep. It was neatly mended, ready for use.
When it was supper time, the maid-servant filled the pan with milk and set it over the fire to heat it for the children's supper. She had scarcely done this, though, when there was a great sizzling and sputtering, and the milk was burned so badly that not even the pigs would eat it.
"Look what you have done!" the housewife said, scolding the maid-servant. "You have ruined a quart of rich milk with your carelessness, a whole quart of milk with the cream, all gone at once!"
"And that's twopence!" said a shrill, whining voice that seemed to come from the chimney.
They went to the door and looked up on the roof, and they looked up the chimney, but they could see no one. At last they decided that it must have been the wind they had heard; and the housewife, herself, filled the saucepan with milk once more and set it over the fire. She only turned around, though, when the milk boiled over. Again, it was just as burned and spoiled as it had been before.
"Well, this is no fault of mine," the housewife said. "The saucepan must be dirty; but now there are two quarts of rich milk with the cream, all wasted."
"And that's fourpence!" said the strange voice, speaking again, and this time it seemed to come from out of the fire itself.
They looked behind the bellows and back of the chimney, but they could see no one. They made up their minds at last that it must have been the creaking of the fire logs that they had heard. The housewife washed, and scrubbed, and scoured the saucepan, and then she filled it for a third time with all the milk that she had left. She set it for the third time over the fire, and both she and the maid-servant watched it to see that nothing happened to it.
Then, before their very eyes, the milk burned and boiled over for a third time. It was hopelessly spoiled. The housewife began to cry at the waste. "I never had anything like this befall me in my life!" she bemoaned. "I have wasted three quarts of milk for one meal!"
"And that's sixpence," said the voice that seemed now to be right at her elbow. "You didn't save the price of the tinkering after all."
She turned and there was the Hillman, standing right beside her, his little green cap in his hand, and laughing with all his might. Before she could catch him, he was off and out through the kitchen door.
But after that the saucepan was just as good as any other one.
THE TOP THAT COULD SING
Once upon a time there was a little painted tin top that lay in a toy shop window. It was a most beautiful tin top with a painted stripe of red, and a painted stripe of yellow, and a painted stripe of green. The tin of which it was made was as bright and shining as silver, and it had one little pointed toe upon which it could dance most merrily when its string was unwound.
But more wonderful than the colors of the tin top, or the shine of it, or its one little tin toe, was its voice. The very moment that it began to dance it began, too, to sing in a sweet, cheerful humming kind of way. And it kept on singing as long as it kept on dancing, and its voice was never less sweet or less cheerful.
One day Gerald came to the toy shop with his mother because it was his birthday and he was to select a new toy. A boy who is to have a new toy should smile, but Gerald frowned. He had so many toys at home that he could not decide which new one to choose.
"Will you have a box of toy soldiers?" asked his mother.
"No, I'm tired of soldiers," Gerald said crossly.
"Will you have a new ball?" asked the toy man.
"I don't want any more balls," Gerald replied quite crossly.
"Oh, see this game!" said his mother.
"Games are stupid," Gerald answered most crossly.
"Then, listen!" said the toy man taking the little tin top from its place, winding it up, pulling off the string and then setting it down upon the floor. Away danced the bright little top upon its one little tin toe and as it danced it sang its sweet, cheerful, humming song.
Gerald listened. Then the ugly frown left his face and in its place there came a happy smile. He clapped his hands as the little tin top circled, and whirled, and tripped, and hopped around his feet.
"May I buy the top that sings?" he asked and his mother said that he might. So they paid a bright ten cent piece for it and the toy man put the little tin top into Gerald's hands. As they left the toy shop, Gerald still smiled and he hopped along beside his mother as he remembered how the little tin top had hopped. And his mother made up a song about it that they hummed softly together:
"To and fro, on its little tin toe, Singing and dancing the top will go. Spinning and singing it seems to say, 'Children should always be glad and gay.'"
So they went on until they came to a big building that was a hospital, and at one of the front windows a sick-a-bed child was propped up on pillows and looking out. Gerald looked in; then he motioned for the nurse who stood near to open the window, and he wound the little tin top and started it spinning on the sidewalk. It could spin and sing indoors or outdoors. Round and round it danced and it seemed to be saying:
"To and fro on my little tin toe, Singing and spinning, oh, see me go! This is the song that I sing to-day, 'Children should always be glad and gay.'"
The sick-a-bed child watched the little tin top, its whirling colors looking like a rainbow in the sunlight. She listened to its sweet, cheerful, humming song. Then her sick-a-bed, tired face changed to a happy, smiling face, and she clapped her hands and laughed so loudly that Gerald could hear her, for she had heard what the little tin top sang.
Then they went on a little farther and they came to a boy who sold newspapers on the street corner. He had just seen another boy who sold newspapers coming and he had decided to have a fight with him, for he did not want him to sell his papers on that corner. An ugly frown covered his face, but suddenly he saw Gerald with his little top in his hands.
"Can you spin it?" he asked of Gerald.
"Watch and see!" Gerald answered.
So Gerald wound the little tin top and started it spinning by the newsboy's pile of papers. It could spin and sing anywhere, even on a street curbing. Round and round it danced, and it seemed to be saying again:
"To and fro on my little tin toe, Singing and spinning, oh, see me go! This is the song that I sing to-day, 'Children should always be glad and gay.'"
The newsboy listened to the sweet, cheerful humming song of the little tin top. Then he, too, laughed and he motioned to the other newsboy to come and see the top.
"Put your papers down here by mine," he said as Gerald picked up the top and started on.
They were almost home now, and just as they reached their own street he heard the voices of his two friends, Peter and Polly, and they were very loud, cross voices indeed.
"It's my turn to ride in the cart," shouted Peter.
"No, it's my turn to ride in the cart!" shouted Polly.
"Peter and Polly, look; see what I have for my birthday," said Gerald. Then Gerald wound the little tin top and started it spinning in front of Peter and Polly. It could sing and spin anywhere, even in front of a little quarreling brother and sister. Round and round it whirled, and it seemed to be saying once again:
"To and fro on my little tin toe, Singing and spinning, oh, see me go! This is the song that I sing to-day, 'Children should always be glad and gay.'"
"Oh, the pretty top!" shouted Peter and Polly as they listened to its sweet, cheerful, humming song. Then Peter said to Polly:
"It's your turn to ride in the cart, Polly."
But Polly said to Peter: "Oh, no, it's your turn to ride in the cart, Peter."
And that was the wonderful secret of the little tin top; wherever it took its spinning, singing way it made little children glad and gay.
THE MONEY PIG
In the nursery a number of toys lay strewn about. High up, on the cupboard, stood the money box, made of clay in the shape of a little pig. The pig had by nature a slit in his back, and this slit had been so enlarged with a knife that whole silver dollars could slip through. Indeed, two dollar pieces had slipped into the box beside a number of pennies. The money pig was stuffed so full that he could no longer rattle, and that is the highest point of perfection a money pig can attain.
There he stood upon the cupboard, high and lofty, looking down upon everything else in the room. He knew very well that what he had in his stomach would have bought all the toys.
The others thought of that, too, even if they did not say it, for there were many other things to speak of. One of the drawers was half pulled out and there lay a great handsome doll, although she was somewhat old, and her neck had been mended. She looked out and said,
"Now we'll play at being men and women."
And then there was a general uproar. Even the framed pictures on the wall turned round to show that they had a wrong side; but that was not because they objected.
It was late at night. The moon shone through the window frames and afforded the most economical light. The game was now to begin and all, even the children's go-cart, which certainly belonged to the coarser playthings, were invited to take part in the fun.
"Each of us has his own peculiar value," said the go-cart. "We cannot all be noblemen. There must be some who work."
The money pig was the only one of the toys who received a written invitation, for he was of high standing and great pride, and they were afraid he would not accept a verbal invitation. Indeed he did not answer to say whether he would come, nor did he come. They understood that if he were to take a part, he must enjoy the sport from his own home. The others must arrange things accordingly, and so they did.
The little toy theatre was set up in such a way that the money pig could look directly in. They wanted to begin with a play, and afterward there was to be a party and a little conversation among themselves. They began with this latter part immediately. The rocking horse talked about training and racing, and the go-cart of railways and steam power, for all this belonged to their professions and it was quite right that they should speak of it.
The toy clock talked politics—tick—tick—and knew what was the time of day, although it was whispered that he did not go correctly. The little boy's cane stood there, stiff and straight, for he was conceited about his brass tip and his silver handle. On the sofa lay two embroidered cushions, pretty and stupid.
And then the play began.
They all sat and looked on. The play was not very good, but the actors did their part. These were little card-board figures who turned their painted side to the audience. They were so made that they should only be looked at from that side, and not from the other. They all played wonderfully well, coming out beyond the footlights because the wires were a little too long, but that only helped them to come out the more.
The worsted doll enjoyed the play so much that she became quite exhausted from excitement. She laughed so hard that she burst at the darned place in her neck. And the money pig was so enchanted in his way that he decided to do something for one of the players in his will.
It was a great deal of fun. They gave up all thoughts of having tea, and just played and talked together. That was what they called playing at being men and women, and there was nothing wrong in it for they were only playing. Each one thought, however, of what the money pig might think; and the money pig thought of his own riches and of making his will. This seemed to him a long way farther on.
When might it come to pass? Certainly far sooner than was expected.
Crack! The money pig fell from the cupboard—fell to the floor and was broken to pieces. All the money came out. The pennies hopped and danced about in a comical fashion; the little ones spun around like tops, and the bigger coins rolled away, particularly one great silver dollar that wanted to go out into the world. It came out into the world and so did they all.
And the pieces of the money pig were put into the dustbin. The next day a new money pig was standing on the cupboard. It had not a penny in its stomach and so it could not rattle, and in this it was like the other. And that was a beginning—and with that we will make an end.
THE GIANT'S PLAYTHING
Long ago, giants lived among the lonely mountains. Now there was a great castle, called Burg Niedeck, that stood on top of the highest mountain of Alsace, and here the most powerful of the giants lived with his wife and family. He had one child, named Freda.
Freda was as tall as a church steeple. She was a curious child, and very fond of prying about and looking at things which she had been told to leave alone. She was allowed to roam all about the mountains, and to play in the woods and forest, but she was not allowed to go down into the valley where the little people lived.
These little peasants tilled the ground, and planted corn and wheat and barley, and pruned their vines, and dug ditches, things the giants could not do. And the giants lived by taking what the little people raised. Now, it was said that the first time a peasant found his way up into Burg Niedeck it would be the end of the giants. But Burg Niedeck was very high and difficult to reach and no peasant had ever thought of trying to get there.
One day Freda was playing outside the castle gates in the sunshine. The valley looked so cool and green and shady that, seeing no one about, she went down the mountain-side to find out what was below.
Presently she saw, in a field in which she was standing, a peasant plowing. He had two horses and the iron of the plow shone and glistened.
With a cry of delight Freda knelt down.
"What a dear little toy!" she said. "I will take it home to play with."
Spreading out her handkerchief on the ground, she carefully lifted the plow and the horses and the poor peasant and set them down in the middle. Then, taking the corners of the handkerchief in her hand, she ran up the mountain-side, skipping and jumping for pleasure. It was like the coming of an earthquake.
Her father met her at the gate.
"Well, little one," he said, "what is pleasing you so?"
"Look!" said Freda, spreading out her handkerchief. "I have found a most wonderful new toy." And she lifted out the plow and the peasant.
The old giant frowned, and shook his head in anger.
"What have you done, thoughtless one?" he stormed. "That is no toy. Have you not heard that as soon as a peasant comes to Burg Niedeck there will be an end of the giants forever? Take it back instantly to the valley and perhaps the spell will not break."
Sadly Freda took the plow and the horses and the peasant back and set them in the field. But it was too late. That night all the giants disappeared, and in the morning Burg Niedeck stood in ruins. And to this day no giant has ever been seen there.
The old clock that hung in the tower of the town hall struck one.
It was dark, except for a few twinkling stars like bright eyes in the night sky. All the town was asleep. It was cold, and white snow lay over every thing. But as the clock struck one, the baker awoke and went down to his kitchen to light his ovens. It was time for the fire to glow and burn for his baking when the clock struck one o'clock.
Two struck the clock in the tower of the town hall.
As the clock struck two the baker put on his white apron and rolled up his sleeves. He bent over his great mixing bowl and began kneading the dough and shaping the loaves of bread that were to be baked in the oven.
It was time at two o'clock for the loaves of bread to go into the oven to bake in the fire that glowed and burned so early in the morning.
Three struck the clock in the tower of the town hall.
The dairyman poured rich milk into his shining bottles and packed them into the milkman's wagon. It was still dark, although the stars were not so bright and the sky was just beginning to be streaked with pink. It was very cold, but the dairyman knew that it was time at three o'clock to measure the milk that must go to town for the children to drink as they ate the bread that the baker had mixed and baked.
Four struck the clock in the old town hall. Now the sky was light enough for the milkman's team to start out, driving over the hard, frosty roads. No other people were out, but the milkman knew that he must start to town at four o'clock and begin delivering his milk that the dairyman had measured so early in the morning. The children must have it to drink as they ate the bread that the baker had mixed at two, and baked in the fire that had been lighted at one o'clock.
Five struck the clock in the town hall. A wintry wind blew out of the east. It bit the nose and ears of the baker's boy who started out with a basket of fresh loaves of bread on his arm for delivering at the kitchen doors. He ran and whistled to try and keep warm. He did not stop to think of anything, though, except that five o'clock was time to deliver a loaf of bread at every house where the milkman had left a bottle of milk.
Six struck the clock in the town hall.
Jack's mother came downstairs and raised the house curtains to let in the first sunshine, and then she put on her apron to begin the work of the day. She spread a clean cloth over the table and laid the knives and forks and spoons, and set the cups and bowls and plates in their places. She knew that six o'clock was time to make the house ready for breakfast. The baker's boy had started at five, and the milkman had brought the milk at four. The dairyman had measured the milk at three for the children to drink when they ate the bread that the baker had mixed at two, and baked in the fire he had lighted at one.
Seven struck the clock in the town hall. The tea kettle on the kitchen stove sang. The sun shone in brightly, and Jack knew that it was time to get up. But Jack was sleepy. He pulled the blankets up over his nose and buried his head in his pillow so that he should not hear the sound of the clock. It was a holiday, and Jack had decided to do nothing but sleep and play.
Ting-a-ling; what was that? Jack jumped out of bed and into his clothes when he heard the loud ring at the house door. Then he heard his mother's voice.
"Good morning, Tom; you are out early, are you not? And here are all my groceries; the butter, and the sugar, and the fruit, and the eggs! Now I shall be able to make a cake to-day."
Jack knew who it was that had come through the cold, before he was up in the morning, with a basket of groceries. It was Tom, the grocer's boy.
Then Jack heard other sounds as he went downstairs and ate his breakfast. He heard the sound of the baker kneading his bread, and the drip of the milk as the dairyman measured it. He heard the rattle of the milkman's cart and the sound of the baker's boy whistling as he delivered his loaves in the cold. He saw Tom coming down the street again with his empty basket on his arm. He was going back to the grocery store for another load.
Jack put on his hat and coat and ran out.
"Wait, Tom!" he called, "I have a holiday and I'll help you deliver the groceries this morning."
NILS AND THE BEAR
Nils had been exploring the mining districts a whole day.
"I must try and climb up to earth again," he said at last, "otherwise, I fear my companions won't find me."
The boy was about to go up the mountain when he heard a gruff voice growl in his ear, "Who are you?"
He thought at first that he was facing a huge rock covered with brownish moss. Then he noticed that the rock had broad paws to walk with, a head, two eyes, and a growling mouth.
He could not pull himself together to answer, nor did the big bear appear to expect it of him, for he knocked him down, rolled him back and forth with his paws and nosed him. The bear seemed just about ready to swallow him when the boy had a thought. Quick as a flash he dug into his pocket and brought forth some matches,—his sole weapon of defence,—lighted one on his leather breeches, and thrust the burning match into the bear's open mouth.
Father Bear snorted when he smelled the sulphur, and with that the flame went out.
"Can you light many of those little blue roses?" asked Father Bear.
"I can light enough to put an end to the whole forest," replied the boy, for he thought that in this way he might scare Father Bear.
"Perhaps you could also set fire to houses and barns," said Father Bear.
"Oh, that would be nothing for me," boasted the boy.
"Good!" exclaimed the bear. "You shall render me a service. Now I'm very glad that I did not eat you!"
Father Bear carefully took Nils between his paws and climbed up from the pit. As soon as he was up, he speedily made for the woods. Then he ran along until he came to a hill at the edge of the forest. Here he lay in front of Nils, holding him securely between his forepaws.
"Now look down at that big noise-shop!" he commanded.
The great iron works, with many tall buildings, stood at the edge of the waterfall. High chimneys sent forth dark clouds of smoke, blasting furnaces blazed, and light shone from all the windows. Within, hammers and rolling mills were going with such force that the air rang with their clatter and boom. All about the workshops were immense coal sheds, great slag heaps, warehouses, wood piles, and tool sheds. Just beyond were long rows of workingmen's houses, as quiet as if they were asleep. The earth around them was black while the works, themselves, were sending out light and smoke, fire and sparks. It was the grandest sight the boy had ever seen.
"Could you set fire to a place like that?" Father Bear asked doubtfully.
The boy stood wedged between the beast's paws, thinking the only thing that might save him would be that the bear should have a high opinion of his power.
"It's all the same to me," he answered with a superior air. "Big or little, I can burn it down."
"Then I'll tell you something," said Father Bear.
"My forefathers lived in this region from the time that the forests first sprang up. From them I inherited hunting grounds and pastures, lairs and retreats. In the beginning I wasn't much troubled by the human kind. They dug in the mountains and picked up a little ore down here by the rapids. They had a forge and a furnace, but the hammer sounded only a few hours each day, and the furnace was not fired more than two moons at a stretch.
"But these last years, since they have built this noise-shop, there is racket day and night. I thought I should have to move away, but now I have discovered a better way."
Father Bear took Nils up again and lumbered down the hill. He walked fearlessly between the workshops, and climbed to the top of a slag heap. There he sat up on his haunches and held the boy up high between his paws.
"Try to look into the shop," he said.
The boy saw a workman take a short, thick bar of iron at white heat from a furnace opening, and place it under a roller that flattened and extended it. Immediately another workman seized it and placed it beneath a heavier roller. Thus it was passed from roller to roller until, finally, it curled along the floor like a long red thread. Continuously fresh threads followed it like hissing snakes.
"I call that real man's work!" the boy said to himself.
Father Bear then let him have a peep at the forge, and he became more and more astonished as he saw how the blacksmiths handled iron and fire.
"Those men have no fear of heat and flames," he thought.
"They keep this up day after day," Father Bear said as he dropped wearily on the ground. "One gets tired of that kind of thing. I'm glad that at last I can put an end to it."
The boy was all of a shiver now.
"If you will set fire to the noise-shop, I'll spare your life," said Father Bear.
Just beyond them lay a pile of chips and shavings, and beside it was a wood pile that almost reached the coal shed. The coal shed extended over to the workshops, and if that once caught fire, the flames would soon fly over to the iron foundry. The walls would fall from the heat, and the machinery would be destroyed.
"Will you or won't you?" demanded Father Bear.
"You mustn't be so impatient," the boy said. "Let me think a moment."
"Very well," said Father Bear, tightening his hold on the boy.
They needed iron for everything, Nils knew. There was iron in the plough that broke up the field, and in the axe that felled the tree for building houses, in the scythe that mowed the grain, and in the knife that could be turned to all sorts of uses. There was iron in the horse's bit, and in the lock on the door, in the nails that held the furniture together, and in the sheathing that covered the roof. Iron covered the men-of-war that he had seen in the harbor, the locomotives steamed through the country on iron rails. The needle that had stitched the boy's coat was made of iron, the shears that clipped the sheep, and the kettle that cooked the food. The rifle which drove away wild beasts was made of iron. Father Bear was perfectly right. He knew that the coming of iron to the forest had given the human kind their mastery over the beasts.
"Will you or won't you?" demanded Father Bear.
The boy shrank back. He swept his hand across his forehead. He could see no way of escape, but this much he knew, he did not wish to do any harm to the iron which was useful to so many people in the land.
"I won't!" he said.
Father Bear squeezed him a little harder but said nothing.
"You'll not get me to destroy the ironworks," defied the boy. "The iron is so great a blessing that it will never do to harm it."
"Then of course you don't expect to be allowed to live very long," said the bear.
"No, I don't expect it," replied the boy, looking the bear straight in the eye.
Father Bear gripped him still harder. It hurt so that the boy could not keep the tears back, but he did not cry out or say a word.
"Very well, then," said Father Bear, raising his paw very slowly, hoping that the boy would give in at the last moment.
But just then the boy heard something click very close to them, and saw the muzzle of a rifle two paces away.
"Father Bear! Don't you hear the clicking of a trigger?" cried the boy. "Run, or you will be shot!"
Father Bear grew terribly hurried. He gave himself time, though, to pick up the boy and carry him along. As he ran, a couple of shots sounded; the bullets grazed his ears, but he escaped.
When Father Bear had run some distance into the woods, he paused and set Nils down on the ground.
"Thank you, little one," he said. "I dare say those bullets would have caught me if you hadn't been there. Now I want to do you a service in return. If you should ever meet with another bear, just say to him this—which I shall whisper to you—and he won't touch you."
Father Bear whispered a word or two into the boy's ear and then hurried away.
THE GIANT ENERGY AND THE FAIRY SKILL
Long, long ago, when there were giants to be seen, as they might be seen now if we only looked in the right place, there lived a young giant who was very strong and very willing, but who found it hard to get work to do.
The name of the giant was Energy, and he was so great and clumsy that people were afraid to trust their work to him.
If he were asked to put a bell in the church steeple, he would knock the steeple down before he finished the work. If he were sent to reach a broken weather vane, he would tear off part of the roof in his zeal. So, at last, people would not employ him and he went away to the mountains to sleep; but he could not rest, even though other giants were sleeping as still as great rocks under the shade of the trees.
Young Giant Energy could not sleep for he was too anxious to help in the world's work; and he went down into the valley, and begged so piteously for something to do that a good woman gave him a basket of china to carry home for her.
"This is child's play for me," said the giant as he set the basket down so hard that every bit of the china was broken.
"I wish a child had brought it for me," answered the woman, and the young giant went away sorrowful. He climbed the mountain and lay down to rest; but he could not stay there and do nothing, so he went back to the valley to look for work.
There he met the good woman. She had forgiven him for breaking her china, and had made up her mind to trust him again; so she gave him a pitcher of milk to carry home.
"Be quick in bringing it," she said, "lest it sour on the way."
The giant took the pitcher and made haste to run to the house; and he ran so fast that the milk was spilled and not a drop was left when he reached the good woman's house.
The good woman was sorry to see this, although she did not scold; and the giant went back to his mountain with a heavy heart.
Soon, however, he was back again, asking at every house:
"Isn't there something for me to do?" and again he met the good woman, who was here, there, and everywhere, carrying soup to the sick and food to the hungry.
When she met the young Giant Energy, her heart was full of love for him; and she told him to make haste to her house and fill her tubs with water, for the next day was wash day.
Then the giant made haste with mighty strides towards the good woman's house, where he found her great tubs; and, lifting them with ease, he carried them to the cistern and began to pump.
He pumped with such force and with so much delight, that the tubs were soon filled so full that they ran over, and when the good woman came home she found her yard as well as her tubs full of water.
The young giant had such a downcast look, that the good woman could not be angry with him; she only felt sorry for him.
"Go to the Fairy Skill, and learn," said the good woman, as she sat on the doorstep. "She will teach you, and you will be a help in the world after all."
"Oh! how can I go?" cried the giant, giving a jump that sent him over the tree tops, where he could see the little birds in their nests.
"Don't go so fast," said the good woman. "Stand still and listen! Go through the meadow, and count a hundred daffodils; then turn to your right, and walk until you find a mullein stalk that is bent. Notice the way it bends, and walk in that direction till you see a willow tree. Behind this willow runs a little stream. Cross the water by the way of the shining pebbles, and when you hear a strange bird singing you will see the fairy palace and the workmen where the Fairy Skill teaches her school. Go to her with my love and she will receive you."
The young giant thanked the good woman, stepped over the meadow fence, and counted the daffodils, "One, two, three," until he had counted a hundred. Then he turned to the right, and walked through the long grass to the bent mullein stalk, which pointed to the right, and after he had found the brook and crossed by way of the shining pebbles, he heard a strange bird singing, and saw among the trees the fairy palace.
He never could tell how it looked; but he thought it was made of sunshine, with the glimmer of green leaves reflected on it, and that it had the blue sky for a roof.
That was the palace; and at one side of it was the workshop, built of strong pines and oaks; and the giant heard the hum of wheels, and the noise of the fairy looms, where the fairies wove carpets of rainbow threads.
When the giant came to the door, the doorway stretched itself for him to pass through. He found Fairy Skill standing in the midst of the workers; and when he had given her the good woman's love, she received him kindly. Then she set him to work, bidding him sort a heap of tangled threads that lay in a corner like a great bunch of bright-colored flowers.
This was hard work for the giant's clumsy fingers, but he was very patient about it. The threads would break, and he got some of them into knots; but when Fairy Skill saw his work, she said:
"Very good for to-day;" and touching the threads with her wand, she changed them into a tangled heap again. The next day the giant tried again, and after that again, until every thread lay unbroken and untangled.
Then Fairy Skill said, "Well done," and led him to a loom and showed him how to weave.
This was harder work than the other had been; but Giant Energy was patient, although many times before his strip of carpet was woven the fairy touched it with her wand, and he had to begin over.
At last it was finished, and the giant thought it was the most beautiful carpet in the world.
Fairy Skill took him next to the potter's wheel, where cups and saucers were made out of clay; and the giant learned to be steady, to shape the cup as the wheel whirled round, and to take heed of his thumb, lest it slip.
The cups and saucers that were broken before he could make beautiful ones would have been enough to set the Queen's tea table!
Fairy Skill then took him to the goldsmith, and there he was taught to make chains and bracelets and necklaces; and after he had learned all these things, the fairy told him that she had three trials for him. Three pieces of work he must do; and if he did them well, he could go again into the world, for he would then be ready to be a helper there.
"The first task is to make a carpet," said Fairy Skill, "a carpet fit for a palace floor."
Giant Energy sprang to his loom, and made his silver shuttle glance under and over, under and over, weaving a most beautiful pattern.
As he wove, he thought of the way by which he had come; and his carpet became as green as the meadow grass, and lovely daffodils grew on it. When it was finished, it was almost as beautiful as a meadow full of flowers!
Then the fairy said that he must turn a cup fine enough for a king to use. And the giant made a cup in the shape of a flower; and when it was finished, he painted birds upon it with wings of gold. When she saw it, the fairy cried out with delight.
"One more trial before you go," she said. "Make me a chain that a queen might be glad to wear."
So Giant Energy worked by day and by night and made a chain of golden links; and in every link was a pearl as white as the shining pebbles in the brook. A queen might well have been proud to wear this chain.
After he had finished, Fairy Skill kissed him and blessed him, and sent him away to be a helper in the world, and she made him take with him the beautiful things which he had made, so that he might give them to the one he loved best.
The young giant crossed the brook, passed the willow, found the mullein stalk, and counted the daffodils.
When he had counted a hundred, he stepped over the meadow fence and came to the good woman's house.
The good woman was at home, so he went in at the door and spread the carpet on the floor, and the floor looked like the floor of a palace.
He set the cup on the table, and the table looked like the table of a king; and he hung the chain around the good woman's neck, and she was more beautiful than a queen.
And this is the way that young Giant Energy learned to be a helper in the world.
THE FARM HOUSE
My name is Louisa Manners. I was seven years old on the first day of May. On the morning of that day, as soon as I awoke, I crept into mamma's bed, and said,
"Open your eyes, mamma, and look at me, for it is my birthday."
Then mamma told me I should ride in a post-chaise, and see my grandmamma. She lived at a farm house in the country, and I had never in all my life been out of London. No; nor had I ever seen a bit of green grass, except in the Drapers' Garden, which is near our house in Broad Street. Nor had I ever ridden in a railway carriage before that happy birthday.
I ran about the house, talking of where I was going, and rejoicing so that it was my birthday, that when I got into the train I was tired, and fell asleep.
When I awoke, I saw green fields on both sides of the train, and the fields were full, quite full, of bright, shining, yellow flowers, and the sheep and young lambs were feeding among them. The trees and hedges seemed to fly swiftly by us, and one field, and the sheep, and the lambs passed away. Then another field came, and that was full of cows. There was no end of these charming sights until we came to grandmamma's house, which stood all alone by itself, no house to be seen at all near it.
Grandmamma was very glad to see me. She first took me to the farmyard, and I peeped into the barn. There I saw a man thrashing, and as he beat the corn with his flail he made a great noise. Then I went to the pond where the ducks were swimming, and I saw the little wooden houses where the hens slept at night. The hens were feeding all over the yard, and the prettiest little chickens were feeding there too. Some little yellow ducklings had a hen for their mother. She was so frightened if they went near the water. Grandmamma says a hen is not esteemed a very wise bird.
We went out of the farmyard into the orchard. Oh, what a sweet place grandmamma's orchard is! There were pear-trees, and apple-trees, and peach-trees all in blossom. These blossoms were the prettiest flowers that ever were seen; and among the grass under the trees there grew buttercups, and cowslips, and daffodils, and blue-bells. I filled my lap with flowers, I filled my hair with flowers, and I carried as many flowers as I could in both my hands. But as I was going into the parlor to show them to mamma, I stumbled, and down I fell with all my treasures!
Next, there was a most wonderful garden to see, long and narrow, a straight gravel path down the middle of it, and at the end of the gravel walk there was a green arbor with a bench around it.
On one side of this garden there were a great many bee hives, and the bees sung as they worked. They had a beautiful flower-bed to gather their honey from, quite close to the hives.
After seeing the garden, I saw the cows milked, and that was the last sight I saw that day, for while I was telling mamma about the cows I fell fast asleep, and I suppose I was then put to bed.
The next morning my parents were gone. I cried sadly, but was comforted at hearing they would return in a month and fetch me home. Grandmamma gave me a little basket to gather my flowers in. I went out to the orchard, and before I had half filled my basket I forgot all my troubles.
The time I passed at my grandmamma's farm is always in my mind. Sometimes I think of the good-natured, pied cow that would let me stroke her while the dairy-maid was milking her. Then I fancy myself running after the dairy-maid into the nice, clean dairy, and see the pans full of milk and cream. Then I remember the wood-house; it had once been a barn, but being grown old, the wood was kept there. I used to peep about among the fagots to find the eggs the hens sometimes left there. A hen, grandmamma said, is a kindly bird, always laying more eggs than she wants on purpose to give them to her mistress for puddings and custards.
Nothing could have been more pleasant than the day the orchard was mowed. The hay smelled so sweet and I might toss it about as much as ever I pleased. It was green at first, and then turned yellow and dry, and was carried away in a cart to feed the horses.
When the currants and gooseberries were quite ripe, grandmamma had a sheep-shearing. All the sheep stood under the trees to be sheared. They were brought out of the field by old Spot, the shepherd dog. I stood at the gate and watched him drive them all in. When the shearers had cropped off all their wool, the sheep looked very clean, and white, and pretty. But, poor things, they ran shivering about with cold, so that it was a pity to see them.
Great preparations were being made all day for the sheep-shearing supper. Grandmamma said a sheep-shearing was not to be compared to a harvest-home, that was so much better. Then the oven was quite full of plum pudding, and the kitchen was very hot indeed with roasting beef; yet I can assure you that there was no want at all of either roast-beef or plum pudding at the sheep-shearing.
I was allowed to sit up until it was almost dark, to see the company at supper. They sat at a long oak table, which was finely carved, and as bright as a looking glass. After the happiest day, bed time will come. I sat up late, but at last grandmamma sent me to bed. Yet, though I went, I heard the company singing. The sound of their voices was very sweet indeed as they sang of the meadows and the sheep.
The common supper that we had every night was just as cheerful. Before the men came in out of the field, a large fagot was flung upon the fire. The wood used to crackle, and blaze, and smell delightfully. And then the crickets, who loved the fire, began to sing. The old shepherd loved the fire almost as well as the crickets did, and he would take his place in the chimney corner at supper time. He had a seat near the fireplace, quite under the chimney, and over his head the bacon hung.
When the shepherd was seated the milk was hung in a skillet over the fire, and then the men used to come and sit down at the long white table.
Sometimes, when I was at my grandmamma's farm house, I thought about London, how the houses stood close to each other, and what a noise the coaches made, and how many people there were in the streets. Then I usually went out into the old wood-house and played at being in London. I set up bits of wood for houses, and in one corner I made a little garden with grass and daisies, and that was the Draper's Garden.
I was sorry to have to go away from my grandmamma's farm before the harvesting but if I am allowed to return for it next year, I will tell you all about it.
THE PLOWMAN WHO FOUND CONTENT
A plowman paused in his work one day to rest. As he sat on the handle of his plow he fell thinking. The world had not been going well with him of late, and he could not help feeling downhearted. Just then he saw an old woman looking at him over the hedge.
"Good morning!" she said. "If you are wise you will take my advice."
"And what is your advice?" the plowman asked.
"Leave your plow and walk straight for two days. At the end of that time you will find yourself in the middle of a forest, and in front of you will be a tree towering high above the others. Cut it down and your fortune will be made."
With these words the old woman hobbled down the road, leaving the plowman wondering. He unharnessed his horses, drove them home, and said good-bye to his wife. Then, taking his axe, he started out.
At the end of two days he came to the tree, and set to work to cut it down. As it crashed to the ground a nest containing two eggs fell from its top-most branches. The shells of the eggs were broken, and out of one came a young eagle, while from the other rolled a small gold ring.
The eagle rapidly became larger, until it was of full size. Then, flapping its wings, it flew up.
"Thank you for my freedom," it called. "In token of my gratitude take this ring. It is a wishing ring. If you wish anything as you turn it around on your finger your wish will come true. But remember this, the ring contains only one wish, so think well before you use it."
The plowman put the ring on his finger and started home. Night was settling down as he entered the town. Almost the first person he saw was a goldsmith standing at the door of his shop. So the plowman went up to him and asked him what the ring was worth.
"It is of no value," said the goldsmith.
The plowman laughed.
"Ah, Mr. Goldsmith," he said, "you have made a mistake. It is a wishing ring and will give me anything I care to wish for."
The goldsmith asked to see the ring again.
"Well, my good man," he said. "Never mind about the ring. I dare say you are far from home, and are in want of some supper and a bed for the night. Come in and spend the night with me."
So the plowman did this. But when he was sound asleep the goldsmith took the ring from his finger and put another, just like it, in its place.
Next morning the plowman set out with the false ring. The goldsmith closed the shutters of his shop and bolted the door. Then, turning the ring on his finger, he said, "I wish for a hundred thousand dollars."
Immediately there fell about him a shower of hard, bright silver. The dollars struck him on the head, the shoulders, the arms. They covered the floor. The floor gave way with their weight and the goldsmith, with his riches, fell into the cellar beneath.
Next morning, when the goldsmith did not open his shop as usual, the neighbors forced their way in and found him buried beneath the pile.
The plowman reached home and told his wife about the ring.
"Our fortune is made," he said, showing it to her. "Of course we must consider the matter well; then, when we have made up our minds as to what we need most, we can wish as I turn the ring on my finger."
"Suppose," said his wife, "we were to wish for a better farm? The land we have now is so small as to be almost useless."
"Yes," said the plowman. "But, if we work hard and spend little for a year or two, we might be able to buy as much as we want. Then we would still have our wish."
So it was agreed. For a year the plowman worked hard and his wife saved. Harvest time came and the crops were splendid. At the end of the year they were able to buy a nice farm, and still had some money left.
"There," said the man, "we have the land, and we still have our wish."
"Well," said his wife, "we could do very well with a horse and a cow."
"They are not worth wishing for," said he. "We can get them as we got the land."
So they went on working steadily and spending wisely for another year. At the end of that time they bought both the horse and the cow. It seemed great good fortune to them.
"We have all we wanted, and our wish left, also," they said.
So the years passed away. Every season saw the boundaries of the farm increase and the granaries grow fuller. All day long the farmer was about in the fields while his wife looked after the house and the dairy. Sometimes, as they sat alone of an evening, the plowman's wife would remind him of the unused ring and would talk of things she would like to have for the house. But he always said there was plenty of time.
The man and his wife grew old and gray. Then came a day when they both died, and the wishing ring had not been used. It was still on the plowman's finger as he had worn it for forty years. One of his sons was going to take it off, but the oldest said,
"Do not disturb it. There is some secret connected with it. Perhaps our mother gave it to him, for I have often seen her look longingly at it."
So the old plowman was buried with the ring which he had supposed to be a wishing ring. It was not, but it had brought more good fortune and happiness than all the wishing in the world could have given.
THE FARMER AND THE TROLL
There was once a man who owned a little farm, as fine and fruitful as you would care to see. He had always tended it himself, too, driving his own plow in the spring, and taking his two-wheeled cart to market in the fall with a load of apples, potatoes, and carrots.
All of a sudden, though, things began to go badly with the farmer. His milk curdled in the dairy and his horse kicked the traces on market day, spilling the load and laming herself into the bargain. The eggs were addled, and weeds choked and overran his garden, faster than he could pull them out.
"A troll is at the bottom of this," said the farmer's wife, and to prove it she led him to the dairy. There, on the white floor, were the prints in mud of tiny, tiny hob-nailed shoes. The same foot prints could be seen in the barn near the horse's stall, and that night the farmer saw a bright little light skipping about in the dusky garden. Of course he knew what that was, the one shining eye of a troll. So that was the cause of all his trouble. A troll had come to live on his farm.
Ordinarily a troll who selects a quiet place like a farm for his home is a peacefully inclined little man. He wants nothing but a bowl of porridge set out for him on the cellar steps once in a while, and a chance to creep in the house and curl up in a chimney corner of a cold evening, winking and blinking at the fire with his one eye. When a troll gets into mischief about a place, it is a sure sign that something has been done to displease him. So the farmer set out to try to find what he had done to vex the little man.
But look as high and as low as he could, he could find nothing, until one fine day in the spring he was plowing a nice little hill to plant a patch of potatoes. Suddenly his horse kicked the plow over, and the farmer heard a grumbling, growling little voice coming up through the earth.
"There you go again," said the voice, "tearing up my roof just as you did a year ago in the spring. Don't you know that this is my hill, and that I live down here under it?" It was the troll that spoke.
Well, the farmer was much put out to know that he had plowed up the roof of the troll's house and he did not know what to do about it, for it was his hill, also, and a fine, sunny slope for raising a crop. At last, though, he thought of a plan and he called down through the hill to the troll.
"Well, now, little master, I am sorry indeed to have disturbed you so and I am ready to make any recompense that I can. What do you say to this? I will plow, sow, and reap the hill each year, doing every bit of the work myself, mind you, and we will have the crops, turn and turn about. One year you shall have everything that grows above the ground and I will take only what grows below the ground; the next year you shall have what lies below, while my share will be what grows above. That is a fair bargain, is it not?"
"Very good," said the troll. "I am perfectly well satisfied. And this year I would like whatever grows above the ground."
The farmer chuckled to himself. That satisfied him, too, for he was planting potatoes. But when they had sprouted and grown, up through the hill came the troll with a little scythe over his shoulder and cut all the potato tops, taking them home with him. A fine harvest he thought he had gathered.
The next season it was the troll's turn to have what grew below ground, so the farmer sowed the hill with corn. When the corn was ripe the troll did not appear at all. He was down under the hill busily cutting the roots of the corn, well content with this share of the harvest. So the farmer was crafty in his planting. The next season it was carrots, and the next, beans. The troll gathered his carrot tops and his bean roots, and laid them away carefully for the winter.
Which goes to show how easily you can satisfy a troll, but what a poor farmer he is.
A PURITAN SCHOOL-DAY
Peregrine fastened his long black cloak, and Patience smoothed her white apron and tied the strings of her close-fitting bonnet beneath her dimpled chin. The brother and sister crossed the threshold of the log house which was their home in old Plymouth, almost three hundred years ago, and started to walk across the corn fields and through a patch of woodland, lying between their house and the next cabin.
They were two little Puritan children, going to school.
They laughed and pointed happily to the full ears of corn as they crossed the fields. There would be a good harvest, they knew, and that meant plenty of hot corn-meal mush filling the big copper kettle that hung over their fireplace, and corn would fill the huge brick oven. But as Peregrine and Patience crept softly between the great pine trees of the wood, they clasped each other's hands more tightly, and started to see a red-winged bird dart out of the branches. "Suppose it had been the bright feather head-dress of an Indian," they whispered. One was very apt to meet Indians on the way to school in those old-time days.
The long distance was travelled in safety, though. Promptly at eight o'clock, the two little Puritans knocked at the door of a second log house and it was opened by their neighbor, Mistress Endicott. There was no school-bell, there were no desks and comfortable chairs and blackboards and picture books. Mistress Endicott had risen from her spinning wheel, that stood by the fireplace, to let in Peregrine and Patience, and a dozen other small boys and girls of Plymouth. There was no real schoolhouse as yet in Plymouth. Mistress Endicott kept house, and tended her garden, and taught all the children of the neighborhood as well.
There were long settles beside the fireplace and here the children seated themselves, Peregrine on one side, and Patience on the other, to study their lessons. They were given queer little books, called the New England Primer, in wooden covers, and having funny, tiny pictures for each letter of the alphabet, and beside each, a jingle. There were verses to be learned from the Bible, too. Patience held her primer up close to her nose and studied very diligently, but Peregrine's eyes wandered out of the window and toward the blue sky. He was thinking of a kite he planned to make when school was over.
"Class stand, and recite," Mistress Endicott said suddenly, stopping the whir of her spinning wheel only a moment to call the children, for industry and learning had to go on at the same time in those old days in the Colonies.
At once the boys and girls rose and stood in front of their teacher, the copper toes of their stout shoes placed exactly on a long crack in the bare floor. Then they read aloud, while Mistress Endicott's wheel whirred on. It sounded as if a hive of bees were humming in the schoolroom, but the good dame could listen and spin at the same time. She knew very well if a child made a mistake.
Across the room there were some long benches made of logs, split in two, and with other logs to support them. When the class had finished reading, they took their places at these benches, the boys to do sums, and the girls to work on their samplers. Each little Puritan girl had brought her sewing bag to school, and was working her name, the date of her birthday, and a verse of some kind on a square of canvas, which made her sampler. Patience was working a very fine sampler indeed. Her mother had given her some bright crewels that she had brought from England, and Patience was using them to embroider a basket of flowers in cross-stitch in one corner of her sampler. Patience bent low over her sewing, until her long flaxen braids almost touched the floor. At last, though, she looked up.
Where was Peregrine, she wondered? He was not on the bench with the other boys. At last Patience saw her brother. Oh, dear, how disgraced she felt! Peregrine had not learned his lesson well, because he had looked out of the window. He had not recited well, so Mistress Endicott had put the dunce's cap on his head and he stood in a corner where all could see him.
But Peregrine's punishment did not last for long. He was soon forgiven and busy bringing in logs of wood to pile on the fire. Already the days had a touch of frost in them, and Peregrine's father had sent the school-mistress a load of wood. This was to pay her for teaching Patience and Peregrine. The other children's parents paid her in corn, and barley, and other good things that they raised on their farms. If the teacher had been a man, the Puritan mothers would have spun and woven some warm cloth to make him a coat, or knitted him a woollen muffler, or a pair of stockings.
Late in the afternoon, after their luncheon of cold hasty pudding and apples and more study and reading, school was over. Peregrine and Patience each made a low bow before Mistress Endicott, went out of the door, and started home. The dusk was already falling, but they ran, and sang as they hurried along to keep up their courage.
There, at last, was the twinkle of the tallow candle which their mother had set in the window to lead them home. She was waiting for them at the door, and the kettle was singing on the hob. The school-day, almost three hundred years ago, was over.
THE LAST CLASS
That morning, Franz was taking his way very slowly to school. He had a great dread of being scolded, particularly as the school-master had said that the lesson for the day would be on participles about which Franz did not know a word. Suddenly an idea came to him. He would go through the fields.
It was so warm, so clear. He heard the blackbirds whistling on the borders of the wood, and in the meadow, behind the saw-mill, the Prussians were drilling. Then, as he passed on by the residence of the mayor, Franz saw them putting a notice on the gate. There, for two years, had been given out all the bad news; lost battles for Alsace, calls to arms, the orders of the command. The blacksmith and his apprentice were putting up the notice, and Franz called,
"What has happened, that they are posting a bulletin again?" But the blacksmith spoke gruffly,
"Why do you loiter, little one? It is not safe. Run along quickly to school."
So Franz made haste at last, although he was sure that the blacksmith was not in earnest, and he arrived all breathless, at his class.
School seemed, somehow, very different to Franz that morning. There was ordinarily a good deal of noise as the children came in from the street, desks were opened, and lessons were repeated out loud and all in unison, and the school-master pounded with his ruler on his table.
Now, however, there was silence.
Although Franz was late, the school-master looked at him without the least anger, and spoke softly as he said, "Go quickly to your place, my little Franz. We have already begun without you."
Franz seated himself at his desk. Only then, his fear gone, he noticed that the master had on his best green frock coat, his finely plaited shirt and the black silk cap that he never wore except on a day when there were prizes given out in school. All the children were extraordinarily quiet. But what surprised Franz the most was to see at the back of the room, seated on the benches which were ordinarily empty, the people of the village. There was an old soldier with his tri-colored flag, the old mayor of the town, the postman, and many others. Everyone seemed sad. And the old soldier had a spelling book, ragged on the edges, that he held open on his knees, as he followed the pages through his great spectacles.
As little Franz watched all this, astonished, the school-master rose from his chair, and in the same grave, soft voice in which he had spoken to the boy, he said,
"My children, this is the last time that I shall teach your class. The order has come from Berlin that no language but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. Your new master arrives to-morrow. To-day, you will have your last lesson in French. I pray that you will be very attentive."
Franz's last lesson in French! And he could not write it without mistakes! He remembered all the time that he had wasted, the lessons he had missed in hunting for birds' nests, or skating on the river. He thought of his books that would remind him always now, of his laziness—his grammar, his history, a present from his friend, the school-master, from whom he must part now with so much pain. In the midst of these thoughts, Franz heard his name called. It was his turn to recite.
He would have given a great deal to be able to recite the famous order of the participles, without a mistake, to give them clearly, and without a fault. But he confused them at the first word, and remained standing beside his desk, his heart trembling, not daring to raise his head. He heard the school-master speaking to him,
"I am not going to rebuke you, little Franz. You are already punished. Every day you have said to yourself, 'Bah, I have plenty of time; to-morrow I will study.'"
"Ah, that has been the great fault in our Alsace, that of always putting off learning until another day. In the meantime, all the world has been quite right in saying of us, 'How is it that you pretend to be French, and yet are not able to read and write your own language!' Of all who are here, my poor little Franz, you are not the only one at fault. We all must reproach ourselves."
Then the school-master told them of his longing to still teach the children the French language. He said that it would always be the most beautiful language of the world. He said that he wanted it treasured in Alsace and never forgotten, because, when a people fall into slavery it is almost like holding the key to their prison if they can speak to each other in the same tongue. Afterward he took a grammar and went over the lesson with the children. All that he read seemed suddenly quite easy to Franz; he had never attended so well, and never before had he understood how patient the school-master was in his explanations.
When the lesson was finished, writing was begun. For this last day, the master had prepared fresh copies.
France, Alsace. France, Alsace.
The copies were like little flags, floating all over the schoolroom from the tops of the desks. Nothing broke the great silence but the scratching of the pens upon the paper. Suddenly some May bugs flew in through the window, but no one noticed them. On the roof of the school some pigeons began to coo, and Franz thought to himself, "Will it be commanded that the birds, too, speak to us in a foreign language?"
From time to time, as Franz lifted his eyes from his paper, he saw the school-master sitting quietly in his chair, and looking all about him, as if he wanted to remember always every child and every bit of furniture in his little schoolroom. Only think, for forty years, he had been there in his place, with the playground facing him, and his class always as full! Only the benches and the desks which had once been polished were worn from usage now; the walnut trees in the yard had grown very large, and the hop vine that he, himself, had planted twined now above the window and as far as the roof. It was breaking the heart of the school-master to leave all these things.
But he had the courage to carry on the class to the very end. After the writing lesson, he began the lesson in history. Afterward, the little ones sang their A. B. C.'s all together and at the end of the room the old soldier took off his spectacles and, holding his spelling book in his two hands, he read off the letters with them.
Suddenly the clock in the tower of the village church sounded the hour of noon. Instantly, the trumpet call of the Prussians, returning from their drilling, burst through the windows. The school-master rose, quite pale, in his place. Never had he seemed so great to the children.
"My friends," he said, "my little friends, I—"
But he could say no more; he was not able to speak the words. He turned to the blackboard and, taking a piece of chalk, he wrote upon it,
"Vive la France!"
Afterward, he remained there, his head resting against the wall, and, without speaking, he made a sign with his hand.
"It is finished. You are dismissed."
The godmother arrived for the christening, dressed in plum-colored satin and carrying a small brown parcel.
"Fortunatus' purse!" whispered one of the guests, nudging his neighbor.
"A mere trifle for the boy," said the fairy godmother, laying the parcel down on the table. "It is a very common gift to come from my hands, but I trust it will prove useful."
She untied the string of the parcel and gave the baby's mother—what do you think?
A small pair of strong leather shoes, copper-tipped and heeled!
"They'll never wear out, my dear," she said. "And, after all, my little gift is not quite so shabby as it looks. These shoes, have another quality besides that of not wearing out. The little feet that are in them cannot very easily go wrong."
"Mrs. Godmother's broomstick is at the door," shouted some one. So the fairy godmother took her departure.
As years went by and her family increased, the mother learned the full value of the fairy shoes. Her nine boys wore them in turn, but they never wore them out. So long as these shoes were on their feet, they were pretty sure to go where they were sent and to come back when they were wanted. So, at last, the fairy shoes descended to the ninth and youngest boy, and became Timothy's.
Now the eighth boy had very small feet and had worn the shoes rather longer than the others, and Timothy got them somewhat later than usual. Even though she was very conscientious, Timothy's mother found it hard not to spoil the youngest in the family. Master Timothy was wilful, and his feet became used to taking their own way before he stepped into the fairy shoes. He played truant from school, and was late for dinner so often that at length his mother decided that something must be done about Timothy. One morning the leather of the fairy shoes was brightly blacked and the copper tips polished, and Timothy wore them for the first time.
"Now, Timothy, dear, I know you will be a good boy," his mother said. "And mind you don't loiter or play truant, for if you do, these shoes will pinch you horribly, and you'll be sure to be found out."
Timothy looked as if he didn't believe it. He was off like an arrow from a bow, and he gave not one more thought to what his mother had said.
The winter had been very cold, the spring had been fitful and stormy, but May had suddenly burst upon the country with one broad, bright smile of sunshine and flowers. If Timothy had loitered on the way to school when the frost nipped his nose, and the ground was muddy, and the March winds crept up his jacket sleeves, it was hard to hurry now when every nook had a flower and every bush a bird.
It was wrong to play truant, but still it was very tempting. Twir-r-r-r, up to the sky flew the larks. Down in the marsh below the king-cups blossomed, as shining as gold.
Once or twice Timothy stopped, but his shoes pinched him and he ran on all the more willingly because a bright butterfly went before him. But where the path ran on above the marsh, and he looked down and saw the king-cups, he dismissed all thoughts of school. The bank was long and steep, but that did not matter to him. King-cups he must have; no other flowers would do. He threw his school bag on the grass, and began to scramble down the bank.
Timothy turned his feet toward the king-cups, but his shoes seemed resolved to go to school. As he persisted in going toward the marsh, he had such twitches and twinges as the fairy shoes pinched him that it seemed as if his feet would be wrenched off. But Timothy was a resolute little fellow, and he managed to drag himself, shoes and all, down to the marsh.
Then he could not find a king-cup within reach. Not one grew on the safe edge, but, like so many Will-o'-the-wisps, they shone out of the depths of the treacherous bogs. Timothy wandered round the marsh; pinch, jerk, every step hurt more than the one before. At last, desperate with pain and disappointment, he fairly jumped into a patch of the flowers that looked fairly near, and was at once ankle deep in water. But, to Timothy's delight, the wet mud soaked the shoes off his feet, and he was able to wade about among the rushes, reeds, and king-cups, happy.
And he was none the worse, although he ought to have been. He moved about very cautiously, feeling his way with a stick from tussock to tussock of reedy grass, wondering why his eight brothers had never thought of taking off the fairy shoes when they grew troublesome.
At last, though, Timothy began to feel tired. He hurt his foot on a sharp stump. A fat green frog jumped up in his face and so startled him that he nearly fell backwards in the water. He had gathered more king-cups than he could hold. So he scrambled out of the marsh, climbed up the bank, cleaned himself as well as he could, and thought he would go on to school.
Now, with all his faults, Timothy was not a coward or a liar. With a quaking heart he made up his mind to tell the teacher that he had played truant. He was trying to make up his mind just exactly what he would say first and had got no farther than, "Please, ma'am—" when he found himself in the schoolroom, and under the teacher's very eye. Timothy did not see her frown; he did not hear the children's titters. His eyes were fixed upon the schoolroom floor, where—beside Timothy's desk—stood the fairy shoes, very muddy, and with a yellow king-cup sticking up out of each.
"You've been in the marsh, Timothy," said his teacher. "Put on your shoes."
So Timothy put them on, and when his lessons were over, he let his shoes take him straight home.
THE THREE APPLES
The old apple tree stood in the orchard with the other trees, and all summer long it had stretched out its branches wide to catch the rain and the sun to make its apples grow round and ripe. Now it was fall, and on the old apple tree were three great apples as yellow as gold and larger than any other apples in the whole orchard. The apple tree stretched and reached as far as it could, until the branch on which the three gold apples grew hung over the orchard wall. There were the three great apples, waiting for some one to pick them, and as the wind blew through the leaves of the apple tree it seemed to sing:
"Here in the orchard are apples three, Who uses one well shall a treasure see."
And one morning Gerald came down the lane that passed by the orchard wall. He looked longingly at the three gold apples, wishing, wishing that he might have one. Just then the wind sang its song again in the leaves of the apple tree and, plump, down to the ground, right at Gerald's feet, fell one of the three gold apples.
He picked it up and turned it round and round in his hands. How sweet it smelled, and how mellow and juicy it was! Gerald could think of nothing so good to do with such a beautiful ripe apple as to eat it. He put it to his mouth and took a great bite of it, then another bite, and another. Soon there was nothing left of the apple but the core, which Gerald threw away. He smacked his lips and went on his way, but the wind in the apple trees sang, sorrowfully, after him:
"Here in the orchard are apples two, But gone is the treasure that fell for you."
And after a while Hilda came down the lane that passed by the orchard wall. She looked up at the two beautiful gold apples that hung on the branch of the old apple tree, and she listened to the wind as it sang in the branches to her:
"Here in the orchard are apples two, A treasure they hold for a child like you."
Then the wind blew harder and, plump, an apple fell in the lane right in front of Hilda.
She picked it up joyfully. She had never seen so large and so golden an apple. She held it carefully in her clasped hands and thought what a pity it would be to eat it, because then it would be gone.
"I will keep this gold apple always," Hilda said, and she wrapped it up in the clean handkerchief that was in her pocket. Then Hilda went home, and there she laid away in a drawer the gold apple that the old apple tree had given her, closing the drawer tightly. The apple lay inside, in the dark, and all wrapped up, for many days, until it spoiled. And when Hilda next went down the lane and past the orchard, the wind in the apple tree sang to her:
"Only one apple where once there were two, Gone is the treasure I gave to you."
Last of all, Rudolph went down the lane one fine fall morning when the sun was shining warm and the wind was out. There, hanging over the orchard wall, he saw just one great gold apple that seemed to him the most beautiful apple that he had ever seen. As he stood looking up at it, the wind in the apple tree sang to him, and it said:
"Round and gold on the apple tree, A wonderful treasure, hanging, see!"
Then the wind blew harder, and down fell the last gold apple of the three into Rudolph's waiting hands.
He held it a long time and looked at it as Gerald and Hilda had, thinking how good it would be to eat, and how pretty it would be to look at if he were to save it. Then he decided not to do either of these things. He took his jack-knife out of his pocket and cut the gold apple in half, straight across, and exactly in the middle between the blossom and the stem.
Oh, the surprise that waited for Rudolph inside the apple! There was a star, and in each point of the star lay a small black seed. Rudolph carefully took out all the seeds and climbed over the orchard wall, holding them in his hand. The earth in the orchard was still soft, for the frost had not yet come. Rudolph made holes in the earth and in each hole he dropped an apple seed. Then he covered up the seeds and climbed back over the wall to eat his apple, and then go on his way.
But as Rudolph walked down the lane, the orchard wind followed him, singing to him from every tree and bush,
"A planted seed is a treasure won. The work of the apple is now well done."
THE HORN OF PLENTY
Deianira was one of the most beautiful of princesses who lived in the long ago times of the Greek gods and goddesses. It seemed as if all the loveliness of the world in this, its story time, was hers. Her hair was bright with the yellow of the first spring sunshine, and her eyes were as blue as the skies of spring. Summer had touched Deianira's cheeks with the pink of rose petals, and the colors of the autumn fruits shone in her jewels, crimson, and purple, and gold. Her robes were as white and sparkling as the snows of winter, and all the music of soft winds, and bird songs, and rippling brooks was in this princess' voice.
Because of her beauty, and her goodness which even surpassed it, princes came from all over the earth to ask Deianira's father, AEneus, if she might go home to their kingdoms and be their queen. But to all these AEneus replied that to none but the strongest would he give the princess.
There were many tests of these strangers' skill and strength in games and wrestling, but one by one they failed. At last there were only two left, Hercules, who could hold the sky on his great shoulders, and Acheloues, the river-god, who could twist and twine through the fields and make them fertile. Each thought himself the greater of the two, and it lay between them which should gain the princess, by his prowess, to be his queen.
Hercules was great of limb, and of powerful strength. Beneath his shaggy eyebrows, his eyes gleamed like coals of fire. His garment was of lion skins, and his staff was a young tree. But Acheloues was able to slip between the huge fingers of Hercules. He was as slim and graceful as a willow tree, and dressed in the green of foliage. He wore a crown of water lilies on his fair hair, and carried a staff made of twined reeds. When Acheloues spoke, his voice was like the rippling of a stream.
"The princess Deianira shall be mine!" said Acheloues. "I will make her the queen of the river lands. The music of the waters shall be always in her ears, and the plenty that follows wherever I flow shall make her rich."
"No," shouted Hercules. "I am the strength of the earth. Deianira is mine. You shall not have her."
Then the river-god grew very angry. His green robe changed to the black of the sea in a storm, and his voice was as loud as a mountain cataract. Acheloues could be almost as powerful as Hercules when he was angered.
"How do you dare claim this royal maiden?" he roared, "you, who have mortal blood in your veins? I am a god, and the king of the waters. Wherever I take my way through the earth, grains and fruits ripen, and flowers bud and bloom. The princess is mine by right."
Hercules frowned as he advanced toward the river-god. "Your strength is only in words," he said scornfully. "My strength is in my arm. If you would win Deianira, it must be by hand-to-hand combat." So the river-god threw off his garments and Hercules his lions' skins, and the two fought for the hand of the princess.
It was a brave and valorous battle. Neither yielded; both stood firm. Acheloues slipped in and out of Hercules' mighty grasp a dozen times, but at last Hercules' greater strength overpowered him. Hercules held the river-god fast by his neck, panting for breath. But Acheloues knew magic arts which he could practise. He suddenly changed himself into a long, slippery serpent. He twisted out of Hercules' grasp, and darted out his forked tongue at him, showing his poisonous fangs.
Hercules was not yet outdone, though. He laughed in scorn at the serpent. While he was still in his cradle, Hercules had strangled two serpents, and he had met a Hydra with a hundred heads that he had cut off. He was not in the least afraid of the river-god in the form of a serpent, but gripped the creature by the back of its neck, ready to strangle it.
Acheloues struggled in vain to escape, and at last tried his magic arts again. In a second the serpent had changed its form to that of a bellowing ferocious bull. With its horns lowered, it charged upon Hercules.
But Hercules was still unvanquished. He seized hold of the bull's horns, bent its head, grasped its brawny neck, and throwing it down buried the horns in the ground. Then he broke off one of the horns with his iron strong hand, and held it up in the air, shouting,
"Victory! The princess is mine!"
Acheloues returned to his own shape, and, crying with pain, ran from the castle grounds where the combat had taken place, and did not stop until he had plunged into a cooling stream.
It had been right that Hercules should triumph, for his was strength of arm, not that of trickery. Deianira stood by his side, and the goddess of plenty came forward to give the conqueror his reward.
She took the great horn which Hercules had torn from Acheloues' head and heaped it high with the year's stores. Ripe grain, grapes, apples, plums, nuts, pomegranates, figs, and all the other fruits of the autumn filled the horn, and overflowed it. The wood-nymphs and the water-nymphs came and twined the horn with vines, and crimson leaves, and the last bright flowers of the year. Then they carried this horn of plenty, high above their heads, and gave it to Hercules, and his beautiful queen, Deianira. It was the richest gift the gods could make, the year's harvest.
And ever since that long-ago story time of the Greeks the horn of plenty has stood for the year's blessing of us; it is full to overflowing with the fruits of the harvest.
THE GOOSE WHO TRIED TO KEEP THE SUMMER
There was once an old Wild Goose who had led the flock of other wild geese every fall for years and years on their way south. He had a thick coat of white feathers, he wore orange-colored boots, and his bill was like a gold trumpet when he opened it to call,
Honk, honk, honk!
That was the signal for the others to rise from the meadows and the marshes. He flew at their head, and the rest followed, one line on one side and one line on the other. He thought himself most important.
Over the woods and the fields and the waters, every one looked for the old Wild Goose in the fall.
Honk, honk, honk!
That was the Wild Goose telling them that it was time to get ready for the winter in the woods, and in the fields, and over the waters. He knew they waited for him, so he had grown to feel very proud of himself. He lived in a marsh that was sheltered on both sides by trees and was comfortable, even if there was a frost now and then. A robin had once stayed in those trees all winter and he sang proudly about it.
"Why do I trouble to go south?" the old Wild Goose thought to himself. "The weather here will not grow cold if I stay. Honk, honk; I shall not trouble myself to migrate this fall and then we shall see what will happen! Very likely I shall keep the summer!"
No one knew what the Goose had decided, and they listened for him.
The dandelion looked up from her home in the field and bobbed her little head as she waited to hear the call of the Wild Goose. Every fall she had sent a flock of winged seeds flying along with him as far as they could go. Then they would drop in other fields and begin making more dandelions for next year. She knew she must not wait too long. She listened, but she did not hear his honk, honk, honk!
Puff, whirr; off she sent her tiny winged seed without the call of the old Wild Goose.
The farmer buttoned his coat tightly and looked up among the gray clouds to see the Goose. Every fall he listened to hear the call of the Wild Goose as he gathered his harvest. He knew, though, that he must not wait too long. He took his grain to the mill and filled his barn with red apples, and orange pumpkins, and yellow corn. He made warmer beds for the cows and horses, and cut logs to burn in his fireplace. He was soon ready for winter without the help of the old Wild Goose.
The brook called and called for the Goose. Every fall she waited for him to fly over and then she built her winter roof, for she knew then that no other wild bird would need to drink from her waters. She must not wait long, though. There were her fish, and the water spider, and the beaver to shelter all winter. So the brook forgot, at last, about the old Wild Goose and built a smooth ice roof to keep her children warm until spring.
Honk, honk, cried all the other wild geese. "It is time to migrate! Come with us!"
Honk, honk, honk, cried the old Wild Goose, from the sheltered marsh where he did not know what was going on. "I am not flying south this year. I am staying north to keep the summer."
Honk, honk, "What a terrible time it will be!" cried all the other geese. They talked among themselves, saying that no good could come of turning the seasons about, and of how he would probably be eaten in the end. Then they selected a wise young goose who had been end man the year before, and they made him their leader. His boots were quite as orange and his bill as golden as those of the old Goose, and he could honk very well indeed. They went south with the new leader.
Soon Winter came. He wore a crown of snowflakes. His cloak was embroidered with frost, and he carried a huge icicle as his sceptre. Every one was ready for him. The dandelion bowed her bare head as Winter passed. The barn doors were closed, and the cattle stood, safe and warm, in their stalls.
But the Wild Goose felt Winter coming. An icy wind blew through his feathers. His throat was so stiff with cold that he could not blow his trumpet. His orange boots froze stiff as the marsh turned to ice.
"It must be the winter coming in spite of me," he thought to himself. "It seems that I have not kept him away after all. I shall die, for he will freeze me. What shall I do?"
Then a sunbeam, that was still strong enough to help a little, heard the faint cries of the old Wild Goose and was sorry for him. She melted the ice so that the Goose could pull out his feet, first one, and then the other. She stood for a moment in Winter's path as the Goose rose and stretched his stiff wings, and then started south.
The chilly air was like a blast on his head. He was obliged to fly slowly, but he managed to call as he went,
"Honk, honk, Here I am. I fly to tell you that Winter is coming."
He looked down at the woods, and the fields, and the waters. How strange! They had known it. They had not waited for the call of the old Wild Goose.
They had got "way through," as Terry said, to the nuts. It had been a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner so far. Grandmother's sweet face beamed down the length of the great table, over all the little curly grand-heads, at Grandfather's face. Everybody felt very thankful.
"I wish all the children this side of the North Pole had some turkey, too, and squash, and cranberry—and things," Silence said quietly. Silence was always thinking of beautiful things like that.
"And some nuts," Terry said, setting his small white teeth into the meat of a big fat walnut. "It wouldn't seem like Thanksgiving without nuts."
"I know somebody who would be thankful with just nuts," smiled Grandfather. "Indeed, I think that he would rather have them for all the courses of his Thanksgiving dinner!"
"Just nuts! No turkey, or pudding, or anything?" The curly grand-heads all bobbed up from their plates and nut pickers in amazement. Just nuts!
"Yes! Guess who he is." Grandfather's laughing eyes twinkled up the long table at Grandmother. "I'll give you three guesses apiece, beginning with Heart's Delight. Guess number one, Heart's Delight."
"Chip." Heart's Delight had guessed it at the very first guess.
"Chip!" laughed all the little grand-boys and girls. "Why, of course! Chip! He would rather have just nuts for his Thanksgiving dinner."
"I wish he had some of mine," cried Silence.
"And mine!" cried Terry, and all the others wished that he had some of theirs. What a Thanksgiving dinner little Chip would have had!
"He's got plenty, thank you." It was the shy little voice of Heart's Delight. A soft pink color had come into her round cheeks. Everybody looked at her in surprise, for how did Heart's Delight know that Chip had plenty of nuts? Then Terry remembered something.
"Oh, that's where her nuts went to!" he cried. "Heart's Delight gave them to Chip! We couldn't think what she had done with them all."
Heart's Delight's cheeks grew pinker—very pink indeed.
"Yes, that's where," said Silence, leaning over to squeeze one of Heart's Delight's little hands. And sure enough, it was. In the beautiful nut month of October, when the children went after their winter's supply of nuts, Heart's Delight had left all her little rounded heap just where bright-eyed, nut-hungry Squirrel Chip would be sure to find them and hurry them away to his hole. And Chip had found them, she was sure, for not one was left when she went back to see the next day.
"Why, maybe, this very minute—right now—Chip is cracking his Thanksgiving dinner," Terry laughed.
"Just as we are! Maybe he's come to the nut course—but they are all nut courses. And maybe he's sitting up at his table with the rest of his folks, thanksgiving to Heart's Delight," Silence said.
Heart's Delight's little shy face nearly hid itself over her plate. This was dreadful! It was necessary to change the conversation at once, and a dear little thought came to her aid.
"But I'm afraid Chip hasn't got any grandfather or grandmother at his Thanksgiving," she said softly. "I should think it would be hard to give thanks without any grandfather and grandmother."
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
All through the first summer and the early part of autumn the Pilgrims were busy and happy. They had planted and cared for their first fields of corn. They had found wild strawberries in the meadows, raspberries on the hillsides, and wild grapes in the woods.
In the forest just back of the village wild turkeys and deer were easily shot. In the shallow waters of the bay there was plenty of fish, clams, and lobsters.
The summer had been warm, with a good deal of rain and much sunshine; and so, when autumn came, there was a fine crop of corn.
"Let us gather the fruits of our first harvest and rejoice together," said Governor Bradford.
"Yes," said Elder Brewster, "let us take a day upon which we may thank God for all our blessings and invite to it our Indian friends who have been so kind to us."
The Pilgrims said that one day was not enough; so they planned to have a celebration for a whole week.
The great Indian chief, Massasoit, came with ninety of his bravest warriors, all gaily dressed in deerskins, feathers, and fox tails, with their faces smeared with red, white, and yellow paint. As a sign of rank, Massasoit wore a string of bones and a bag of tobacco around his neck. In his belt he carried a long knife. His face was painted red, and his hair was daubed with oil.
There were only eleven buildings in the whole of Plymouth village, four log storehouses, and seven little log dwelling-houses, so the Indian guests ate and slept out of doors. This did not matter for it was one of those warm weeks in the season that we call Indian summer.
To supply meat for the occasion four men had already been sent out to hunt wild turkeys. They killed enough in one day to last the company almost a week.
Massasoit helped the feast along by sending some of his best hunters into the woods. They brought back five deer which they gave to their pale face friends, that all might have enough to eat.
Under the trees were built long, rude tables on which were piled baked clams, broiled fish, roasted turkey, and venison. The young Pilgrim women helped serve the food to the hungry redskins. We shall always remember two of the fair young girls who waited on the first Thanksgiving table. One was Mary Chilton, who leaped first from the boat at Plymouth Rock. The other was Mary Allerton. She lived for seventy-eight years after this first Thanksgiving; of those who came over in the Mayflower she was the last to die.
What a merry time everybody had during that week! How the mothers must have laughed as they told about the first Monday morning on Cape Cod, when they all went ashore to wash their clothes! It must have been a big washing, for there had been no chance to do it at sea, so stormy had been the long voyage of sixty-three days. They little thought that Monday would always after be kept as washing day. One proud Pilgrim mother, we may be sure, showed her baby boy, Peregrine White.
And so the fun went on. In the daytime the young men ran races, played games, and had a shooting match. Every night the Indians sang and danced for their friends; and to make the party still more lively they gave every now and then a shrill war whoop that made the woods echo in the still night air.
The third day came. Massasoit had been well treated, and would have liked to stay longer, but he said that he could not be away from his camp for more than three days. So the pipe of peace was silently passed around. Then, taking their gifts of glass beads and trinkets, the Indian King and his warriors said farewell to their English friends and began their long march through the woods to their wigwams on Mount Hope Bay.
On the last day of this Thanksgiving party, Elder Brewster preached the first Thanksgiving sermon and all the Pilgrims united in thanking God for His goodness to them.
The first Thanksgiving was nearly three hundred years ago. Since that time, Thanksgiving has been kept by the people of our nation as the great family festival of the year. At this time children and grandchildren return to the old home, the long table is spread, and brothers and sisters, who had been separated, again seat themselves side by side.
Thanksgiving is our season of sweet and blessed memories.
THE KING'S THANKSGIVING
Every child in the village was very much excited on account of the news that had come down from the castle on the hill.
Because it had been such a rich harvest, the fields yellow with grain and the orchards crimson with fruit, the King was going to keep a thanksgiving day. He was going to ask some child from the village to come up the hill to the castle and eat dinner with the Prince and Princess. It was rumored, too, that this child would be given good gifts by the King. But it must be a very special kind of child indeed. That they all knew.
Then the village children remembered everything that had been told them by their mothers, and their grandmothers, and their great-grandmothers about the castle kitchen. Scores of cooks and scullery boys were kept busy there night and day. The fires always glowed to roast the rich fowls that turned on the spits. The cake bowls and the soup pots were never empty. Spices and herbs from far countries, strawberries when the ground was covered with snow, ices of all the rainbow colors, and cream so thick that a knife could cut it—all these were to be found in the King's kitchen.
There were dishes of gold and silver upon which to serve the fine foods, and a hothouse of rare flowers with which to deck the table, and linen as fine as a cobweb and as beautiful in pattern as snowflakes to cover it. Oh, a thanksgiving day in the castle would be very wonderful indeed, the children thought, and each hoped that he or she would be chosen to go.
The day before this day of thanksgiving the messenger of the King came down from the castle and went from door to door of the homes in the village. He went first to the house of the burgomaster. It was a very pretentious house with tall pillars in front, and it stood on a wide street. It seemed likely that the burgomaster's child might be chosen to go with the messenger to the castle for the thanksgiving. She was dressed in silk, and her hair was curled, and the burgomaster had packed a great hamper with sweets as an offering for the King.
"Are you ready to keep the feast as the King would like you to?" asked the messenger.
"Oh, yes!" said the burgomaster's child. "I have on my best dress, and here are plenty of sweets to eat. Will you take me?"
But the messenger shook his head, for the child was not ready.
Then the King's messenger went on until he came to the house where the captain of the guards lived. The captain's little boy was quite sure that he would be chosen to go with the messenger to the castle for the thanksgiving. He wore a uniform with silver braid and buttons like that which the guards wore. A sword hung at his side, and he wore a soldier's cap. He held the cap in his hand, so that he could put it on quickly.
"Are you ready to keep the thanksgiving day as the King would like you to?" asked the messenger.
"Oh, yes!" said the child of the captain of the guards. "I have my sword here and I can fight any one who crosses our path on the way to the castle. Will you take me?"
But the messenger went on again and he came to the baker's shop. The baker's boy stood at the door, dressed in his best white suit, and holding an empty basket on his arm. He was quite sure that he would be chosen to go to the palace, for his father's bake shop was an important place in the village. They measured their flour carefully, and weighed the loaves so that they might receive the utmost penny for each. They very seldom had any crumbs left for the poor, but they were selling a great deal of bread every day.
"Are you ready to keep the thanksgiving day as the King would like you to?" the messenger asked of the baker's boy.
"Oh, yes!" the boy said. "I have this basket to gather up whatever remains of the King's feast and bring it home with me. The King would not want anything wasted. Will you take me?"
But the messenger shook his head a third time, for the child was not ready.
Then he did not know which way to go, and he began to think that he would not be able to find any guest for the King's feast. As he waited, he saw two children, a girl and a boy, coming toward him. They were poor children, and one was leading the other, for he was lame. The messenger looked at them. The little girl had eyes like stars and her hair, blowing in the November wind, was like a cloud made golden by the sunset. She held her head so high, and smiled so bravely that no one would have noticed her old dress and the holes in her coat. The messenger stood in the road in front of her and spoke to her.