The Book of Stories for the Storyteller
by Fanny E. Coe
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Thanking the Hare, he rushed through it, and ran toward his own house, arriving in time to take from his wife's hand the taper with which she was about to light the red and yellow lanterns which swung over the door.

"What has kept you so long, father? Where have you been?" asked Han Chung, while little Ho-Seen-Ko wondered why he kissed and embraced them all so eagerly.

But Wang Chih did not tell them his adventures just then; only when darkness fell, and the Feast of Lanterns began, he took part in it with a merry heart.

Prince Harweda and the Magic Prison



Little Harweda was born a prince. His father was king over all the land, and his mother was the most beautiful queen the world had ever seen, and Prince Harweda was their only child. From the day of his birth, everything that love or money could do for him had been done. The pillow on which his head rested was made out of the down from humming-birds' breasts. The water in which his hands and face were washed was always steeped in rose leaves before being brought to the nursery. Everything that could be done was done, and nothing which could add to his ease or comfort was left undone.

But his parents, although they were king and queen, were not very wise, for they never thought of making the young prince think of anyone but himself. Never in all his life had he given up one of his comforts that someone else might have a pleasure. So, of course, he grew to be selfish and peevish, and by the time he was five years old he was so disagreeable that nobody loved him. "Dear! dear! what shall we do?" said the poor queen, and the king only sighed and answered, "Ah, what indeed!" They were both very much grieved, for they well knew that little Harweda would never grow up to be really a great king unless he could make his people love him.

At last they determined to send for his fairy godmother to see if she could cure Prince Harweda of always thinking about himself. "Well, well, well!" exclaimed his godmother when they laid the case before her, "this is a pretty state of affairs! And I his godmother, too! Why wasn't I called in sooner?" She told them she would have to think a day and a night and a day again before she could offer them any help. "But," added she, "if I take the child in charge, you must let me have my way for a whole year." The king and queen gladly promised that they would not even speak to or see their son for the year if the fairy godmother would only cure him of his selfishness. "We'll see about that," said the godmother. "Humph, expecting to be a king some day and not caring for anybody but himself—a fine king he'll make!" With that she flew off, and the king and queen saw nothing more of her for a day and a night and another day. Then back she came in a great hurry.

"Give me the prince," said she, "I have a house all ready for him. One month from to-day I'll bring him back to you. Perhaps he'll be cured and perhaps he won't. If he is not cured then, we shall try two months next time. We'll see, we'll see." Without any more ado she picked up the astonished young prince and flew away with him as lightly as if he were nothing but a feather or a straw. In vain the poor queen wept and begged for a last kiss. Before she had wiped her eyes, the fairy godmother and Prince Harweda were out of sight.

They flew a long distance, until they reached a great forest. When they had come to the middle of it, down flew the fairy, and in a minute more the young prince was standing on the green grass beside a beautiful pink marble palace that looked something like a good-sized summer-house.

"This is your home," said the godmother. "In it you will find everything you need, and you can do just as you choose with your time." Little Harweda was delighted at this, for there was nothing in the world he liked better than to do as he pleased. He tossed his cap up into the air and ran into the lovely little house without so much as saying "Thank you" to his godmother. "Humph," said she, as he disappeared, "you'll have enough of it before you have finished, my fine prince." With that, off she flew. Prince Harweda had no sooner set his foot inside the small rose-coloured palace than the iron door shut with a bang and locked itself. This was because it was an enchanted house, as of course all houses are that are built by fairies.

Prince Harweda did not mind being locked in, as he cared very little for the great beautiful outside world. The new home was very fine, and he was eager to examine it. Then, too, he thought that when he was tired of it, all he would have to do would be to kick on the door and a servant from somewhere would come and open it—he had always had a servant to obey his slightest command.

His fairy godmother had told him that it was his house, therefore he was interested in looking at everything in it.

The floor was made of a beautiful red copper that shone in the sunlight like burnished gold and seemed almost a dark red in the shadow. He had never seen anything half so fine before. The ceiling was of mother-of-pearl, with tints of red and blue and yellow and green, all blending into gleaming white, as only mother-of-pearl can. From the middle of this handsome ceiling hung a large gilded bird-cage containing a beautiful bird, which just at this moment was singing a glad song of welcome to the prince. Harweda, however, cared very little about birds, so he took no notice of the singer.

Around on every side were couches with richly embroidered coverings and soft down pillows. "Ah," thought the prince, "here I can lounge at my ease with no one to call me to stupid lessons!" Wonderfully carved jars and vases of gold and silver stood about on the floor, and each was filled with a different perfume. "This is delicious," said Prince Harweda. "Now I can have all the sweet odours I want without the trouble of going into the garden for roses or lilies."

In the centre of the room was a fountain of sparkling water which leaped up and fell back into its marble basin with a faint, dreamy music very pleasant to hear.

On a table near at hand were various baskets of the most tempting pears and grapes and peaches, and near them were dishes of sweetmeats. "Good," said the greedy young prince, "that is what I like best of all." Thereupon he fell to eating the fruit and sweetmeats as fast as he could cram them into his mouth. He ate so much that he had a pain in his stomach, but strange to say, the table was just as full as when he began, for no sooner did he reach his hand out and take a soft, mellow pear or a rich, juicy peach than another pear or peach took its place in the basket. The same thing happened when he helped himself to chocolate drops or marsh-mallows, for of course, as the little palace was enchanted, everything in it was enchanted also.

When Prince Harweda had eaten until he could eat no more, he threw himself down upon one of the couches and fell asleep. When he awoke, he noticed, for the first time, the walls which, by the way, were really the strangest part of his new home. They had in them twelve long, chequered windows which reached from the ceiling to the floor. The spaces between the windows were filled with mirrors exactly the same size as the windows, so that the whole room was walled in with windows and looking-glasses. Through the three windows that looked to the north could be seen far distant mountains, towering high above the surrounding country. From the three windows that faced the south could be seen the great ocean, tossing and moving and gleaming with white and silver. The eastern windows gave each morning a glorious view of the sunrise. The windows on the west looked out upon a great forest of tall fir-trees, and at the time of sunset most splendid colours could be seen between the dark, green branches.

But little Harweda cared for none of these beautiful views. In fact he scarcely glanced out of the windows at all, he was so taken up with the broad handsome mirrors. In each of them he could see himself reflected, and he was very fond of looking at himself in a looking-glass. He was much pleased when he noticed that the mirrors were so arranged that each one not only reflected his whole body, head, arms, feet, and all, but that it also reflected his image as seen in several of the other mirrors. He could thus see his front, and back, and each side, all at the same time. As he was a handsome boy, he enjoyed these many views of himself immensely, and would stand and sit and lie down just for the fun of seeing the many images of himself do the same thing.

He spent so much time looking at and admiring himself in the wonderful looking-glasses that he had very little time for the books and games in the palace. Hours were spent each day first before one mirror and then another, and he did not notice that the windows were growing narrower and narrower and the mirrors wider, until the former had become so small that they hardly admitted light enough for him to see himself in the looking-glass. Still, this did not alarm him very much, as he cared nothing for the outside world. It only made him spend more time at the mirror, as it was now getting quite difficult for him to see himself at all. The windows at last became mere slits in the wall, and the mirrors grew so large that they not only reflected little Harweda but all of the room besides in a dim kind of way.

Finally, however, Prince Harweda awoke one morning and found himself in total darkness. Not a ray of light came from the outside world, and, of course, not an object in the room could be seen. He rubbed his eyes and sat up to make sure that he was not dreaming. Then he called loudly for someone to come and open a window for him, but no one came. He got up and groped his way to the iron door and tried to open it, but it was—as you know—locked. He kicked it, and beat upon it, but he only bruised his fists and hurt his toes. He grew quite angry now. How dare any one shut him, a prince, up in a dark prison like this! He abused the fairy godmother, calling her all sorts of names. In fact, he blamed everybody and everything but himself for his trouble, but it was of no use. The sound of his own voice was his only answer. The whole of the outside world seemed to have forgotten him.

As he felt his way back to his couch, he knocked over one of the golden jars which had held the liquid perfume, but the perfume was all gone now and only an empty jar rolled over the floor. He laid himself down on the couch, but its soft pillows had been removed and a hard iron framework received him. He was dismayed, and lay for a long time thinking of what he had best do with himself. All before him was blank darkness, as black as the darkest night you ever saw. He reached out his hand to get some fruit to eat, but only one or two withered apples remained on the table. Was he to starve to death? Suddenly he noticed that the tinkling music of the fountain had ceased. He hastily groped his way to it, and he found in the place of the dancing, running stream a silent pool of water. A hush had fallen upon everything about him; a dead silence was in the room. He threw himself down upon the floor and wished that he were dead also. He lay there for a long, long time.

At last he heard, or thought he heard, a faint sound. He listened eagerly. It seemed to be some tiny creature not far away, trying to move about. For the first time for nearly a month, he remembered the bird in the gilded cage. "Poor little thing," he cried as he sprang up, "you too are shut within this terrible prison. This thick darkness must be as hard for you to bear as it is for me." He went toward the cage, and, as he drew near, the bird gave a glad little chirp.

"That's better than nothing," said the boy. "You must need some water to drink. Poor thing," continued he, as he filled the drinking-cup, "this is all I have to give you."

Just then he heard a harsh, grating sound as of rusty bolts sliding with difficulty out of their sockets, and then faint rays of light, not wider than a hair, began to shine between the heavy plate mirrors. Prince Harweda was filled with joy. "Perhaps, perhaps," said he softly, "I may yet see the light again. Ah, how beautiful the outside world would look to me now!"

The next day he was so hungry that he began to bite one of the old withered apples, and as he bit it, he thought of the bird, his fellow-prisoner. "You must be hungry too, poor little thing," said he, as he put part of the apple into the bird's cage. Again came the harsh, grating sound, and the boy noticed that the cracks of light were growing larger. Still they were only cracks, as nothing of the outside world could be seen. However, it was a comfort not to have to grope about in total darkness. Prince Harweda felt quite sure that the cracks of light were wider, and on going up to one and putting his eye close to it, as he would to a pinhole in a paper, he was glad to find that he could tell the greenness of the grass from the blue of the sky.

"Ah, my pretty bird, my pretty bird!" he cried joyfully, "I have had a glimpse of the great beautiful outside world, and you shall have it too."

With these words, he climbed up into a chair and, loosening the cage from the golden chain by which it hung, he carried it carefully to the nearest crack of light and placed it close to the narrow opening. Again was heard the harsh, grating sound, and the walls moved a bit, and the windows were now at least an inch wide. At this, the poor prince clasped his hands with delight. He sat down near the bird-cage and gazed out of the narrow opening. Never before had the trees looked so tall and stately, or the white clouds floating through the sky so lovely.

The next day, as he was carefully cleaning the bird's cage so that his little friend might be more comfortable, the walls again creaked and groaned and the mirrors grew narrower by just so many inches as the windows widened. But Prince Harweda saw only the flood of sunshine that poured in, and the beauty of the large landscape. He cared nothing now for the stupid mirrors which could only reflect what was placed before them. Each day he found something new and beautiful in the view from the narrow windows. Now it was a squirrel frisking about and running up some tall tree trunk so rapidly that Prince Harweda could not follow it with his eyes; again it was a mother bird feeding her young. By this time, the windows were a foot wide or more.

One day, as two white doves suddenly soared aloft in the blue sky, the poor little bird, who had become the tenderly cared for comrade of the young prince, gave a pitiful little trill. "Dear little fellow," cried Harweda, "do you also long for your freedom? You shall at least be as free as I am." So saying, he opened the cage door and the bird flew out.

The prince laughed as he watched it flutter about from chair to table and back to chair again. He was so occupied with the bird that he did not notice that the walls had again shaken and that the windows were now their full size, until the added light caused him to look around. He turned and saw the room looking almost exactly as it had done on the day he had entered it with so much pride because it was all his own. Now it seemed close and stuffy, and he would gladly have given it all for the humblest home in his father's kingdom where he could meet people and hear them talk, and see them smile at each other, even if they should take no notice of him.

One day soon after this, the little bird fluttered up against the window-pane and beat his wings against it in a vain effort to get out. A new idea seized the young prince, and taking up one of the golden jars he went to the window and struck on one of its chequered panes of glass with all his force. "You shall be free, even if I cannot," said he to the bird. Two or three strong blows shivered the small pane and the bird swept out into the free open air beyond. "Ah, my pretty one, how glad I am that you are free at last," cried the prince, as he stood watching the flight of his fellow-prisoner. His face was bright with glad, unselfish joy over the bird's liberty.

The small, pink marble palace shook from top to bottom, the iron door flew open, and the fresh wind from the sea rushed in and seemed to catch the boy in its invisible arms. Prince Harweda could hardly believe his eyes as he sprang to the door. There stood his fairy godmother, smiling, and with her hand reached out toward him. "Come, my god-child," said she gently, "we shall now go back to your father and mother, the king and the queen, and they will rejoice with us that you have been cured of your terrible selfishness."

Great indeed was the rejoicing in the palace when Prince Harweda was returned to them a sweet, loving boy, kind and thoughtful to all about him. Many a struggle he had with the old habit of selfishness, but as time passed by he grew to be a great, wise king, loving and tenderly caring for all his people and loved by them in return.

The Hop-about Man[11]


Wee-Wun was a little gnome who lived in the Bye-bye Meadow, in a fine new house which he loved. To live in the Bye-bye Meadow was sometimes a dangerous thing, for all the big people lived there. Wee-Wun might have lived on the other common with the other gnomes and fairies if he had liked; but he did not. He liked better to be among the big people on the Bye-bye Meadow. And perhaps if he had not been such a careless fellow he might not have got into so much trouble there; but he was as careless as he could be.

[Footnote 11: From Little Folks' Magazine. By permission of Messrs Cassell & Co., Ltd.]

One day Wee-Wun was flying across the Bye-bye Meadow, with his cap at the back of his head, and his pockets full of blue blow-away seeds, when he saw lying upon the ground two little shoes of blue and silver, with upturned toes.

"Here is a find!" cried he, and he bent down over the little shoes with round eyes.

There they were, and they said nothing about how they had come there, but lay sadly on their sides, as silent as could be.

"I shall certainly take them home to my fine house," said Wee-Wun the gnome, "for they must be lonely lying here. They shall stand upon my mantel shelf, and every morning I shall say, 'Good-morning, little blue shoes,' and every night I shall say, 'Good-night,' and we shall all be as happy as can be."

So he went to put the little shoes into his pockets, but he found they were already full of blue blow-away seeds.

Then Wee-Wun took the blue blow-away seeds, and cast them over the wall into the Stir-about Wife's garden. And he put the little shoes into his pocket, and flew away.

The garden of the Stir-about Wife is full of golden dandelions. That is because the Stir-about Wife likes best to brew golden spells that will make folk happy, and of course dandelions are the flowers you use for golden spells.

But the very next day after Wee-Wun had passed, when she came into her garden to gather every twentieth dandelion she could hardly see a dandelion because of the blow-aways that were growing everywhere, and casting their fluff into the dandelions' eyes.

When the Stir-about Wife saw this mournful sight she wept, because her beautiful spell, which she was about to finish, was quite spoiled. And after a little while she went into her house and made another spell instead.

On the morrow Wee-Wun the gnome came flying over the Bye-bye Meadow, just as careless as ever. He stopped for a moment by the Stir-about Wife's garden to look at the spot where he had found the little blue shoes, to see if there were another pair there. And after he had seen that no one had dropped another pair of little blue shoes, he hung over the Stir-about Wife's wall and looked at her garden, and when he saw the blue blow-aways he laughed so that he fell upon the ground.

"That is a new kind of dandelion," said he, and he picked himself up, laughing still. Then he saw that upon the ground where he had fallen there lay a large seed that shone in the sun. It was as blue as the little blue shoes, and Wee-Wun had never seen any seed like it before. He took it in his hand, and how it twinkled and shone!

"I shall plant this in my garden," said Wee-Wun, "and I shall have a plant which will have sunbeams for flowers."

So he dropped it into his pocket and flew away home. That evening he made a little hole, and when he had dropped the blue seed into it he patted the earth down.

"Grow quickly, little seed," said he. Then he thought of the Stir-about Wife's garden, and he began to laugh, and he laughed now and again the whole night through.

But when he awakened in the morning, alack! he laughed no more, for his fine home was so dark that he could see not a pace in front of him.

"This is very odd, very odd, indeed!" said Wee-Wun the gnome, and he rubbed his eyes very hard. But this was no dream, and no matter how hard he rubbed, he could not rub it away. Then he heard upon the floor a clatter and a rustle, and then a stepping noise—one, two; one, two—and that was the little blue shoes that were marching round and round over the floor very steadily.

And as they marched they sang this song:

"Ring-a-ding-dill, ring-a-ding-dill, The Hop-about Man comes over the hill. Why is he coming, and what will he see? Rickety, rackety—one, two, three."

And they sang it over and over again.

"Well, this is a fine time to sing, when it is as dark as can be!" cried Wee-Wun. But the little shoes took no notice at all.

So Wee-Wun went outside to his garden, and then he saw that the whole world was not dark, as he had supposed, but only his little home. For in the spot where he had sown the blue seed had sprung up a huge plant which covered over the window of Wee-Wun's fine house, and reached far above its roof.

Wee-Wun began to weep, for he did not see why this thing had come to him. And after he had wept awhile he went close to the fearful plant and walked round it, and looked up and down.

And then he said, "Why, it is a blue blow-away!" And so it was, but far, far larger than any Wee-Wun had ever seen in his life before. And it had grown so high and as big as that in just one night.

"What will it be like to-morrow?" thought Wee-Wun, and he began to weep again. But the blue blow-away took no notice of his tears, and the little shoes inside the house went on singing; so Wee-Wun had to stir his wits, and consider what was to be done. And when he had considered awhile, he set off for the house of the Green Ogre, shaking in his shoes.

The Green Ogre was planting peas, one by one. When he saw Wee-Wun come along, with tears still on his cheeks and shaking in his shoes, he said:

"My little gnome, you had better keep away, lest I plant you in mistake for a pea."

But Wee-Wun said:

"Oh, dear Green Ogre, wouldn't you like a nice blue blow-away for your garden? I have one which is quite big enough for you; it is taller than my little house. You have never seen a blow-away so fine."

"And are you weeping, my Wee-Wun, because you have such a fine blue blow-away?" asked the Green Ogre, and he began to laugh.

But Wee-Wun said:

"I am weeping to see such a fine garden as yours without a blue blow-away in it. That is a sad sight."

"There is something in that," said the Green Ogre, and he set down his peas, and thought. Then he said: "Very well, I will come and look at your blue blow-away." And he set off at once.

Now when the Green Ogre saw the blue blow-away in Wee-Wun's garden he thought it was certainly the best he had ever seen, and much too fine for a little gnome like Wee-Wun. So he dug it up in a great hurry and carried it away.

"There, that was managed very easily," said Wee-Wun the gnome joyously to himself, and he looked at the hole where the blue blow-away had been, and laughed. Then he went into his fine home, but that was no longer empty, for in the seat by the fireside sat a little man in a blue smock and feather cap. And he looked quite happy and at home. And above his head on the mantel shelf were the little blue shoes, as quiet as could be.

"This is a nice thing," said Wee-Wun, opening his eyes wide. "Who are you that you have come into my little house where I like to sit all alone?"

And the little man replied at once:

"I am the Hop-about Man, and since you have let the Green Ogre carry away the blue blow-away in which I lived, I have come to live with you."

"But my fine house is not big enough to hold two people," cried Wee-Wun, and he was in a way.

"It is big enough to hold twelve tigers," said the Hop-about Man, "so it can easily hold two little gnomes. As for me, here I am, and here I mean to stay."

And not another word would he say. At this Wee-Wun was in a terrible way, as you may think. But there was the Hop-about Man, and he did not seem to care, not one bit.

So Wee-Wun went on his way, and when he had made a platter of porridge for his breakfast, the Hop-about Man said:

"Ah, that is my breakfast, I see," and he ate it up in a twink. So Wee-Wun had to make another platterful, and alack, he was careless, and let that porridge burn, and he could not eat it, though he tried hard. Afterwards he went out to fetch wood for his fire, and when he had fetched it, he threw it into a corner, and he left the door wide open, so that a draught fell upon the Hop-about Man. But the Hop-about Man said nothing.

Then Wee-Wun went out to dig in his garden, and he dug there the whole day long, and when he came in in the evening, there was the Hop-about Man sitting in his chair. When Wee-Wun looked at his blue smock and his feather cap he saw that the Hop-about Man looked just like a blue blow-away growing in the chair at Wee-Wun's fireside. But when Wee-Wun the gnome came in the Hop-about Man flew out of his chair, and he flew all around the room, singing this song:

"Ring-a-ding-dill, ring-a-ding-dill, Let all careless things hop about if they will."

Alack! he had no sooner sung this song than the door which Wee-Wun had left open jumped off its hinges and ran about the floor, and the wood which he had thrown into the corner flew out and rushed about too. The Hop-about Man's platter, which Wee-Wun had forgotten to wash, flew up to the ceiling, and the wooden spoon spun round like a top on the floor, and all the chairs and tables Wee-Wun had left awry began to dance.

"Certainly my fine house will come down about my ears," cried poor Wee-Wun.

Then he felt a tug at his hair, and that was his cap, which he had put on inside out, and which was anxious to be off and join in the fun. And his spade, which he had left lying on the ground outside, came running in at the place where the door had been, stirring everything as it came. That was a muddle, and Wee-Wun began to weep.

"Oh, dear Hop-about Man," he cried, "do tell everything to be quiet again, please, for I can hear the walls of my fine house shaking!"

But the Hop-about Man, who was again sitting in his chair, replied:

"Things will be quiet again when you have put all careless things straight."

So Wee-Wun set to work, and he wept ever so fast. You see it is difficult to put careless things straight when they are running about all the time, and you have to catch them first. But at last Wee-Wun set the door on its hinges, and put the wood in the wood cellar, and washed the Hop-about Man's platter and spoon, and set straight all the chairs and tables, and put the spade in the place where it ought to be, and he was so tired that he could hardly move another step. But the Hop-about Man did not notice him at all, and when Wee-Wun cried out to the little blue shoes:

"See how hard I am working," they were quite silent. And you do not know how silent blue shoes can be.

The Hop-about Man was falling asleep in his chair when all was finished, and Wee-Wun again shed tears.

"Oh, Hop-about Man," he cried, "are you never going away?"

And the Hop-about Man replied:

"Certainly I am very comfortable here, with half of this fine house for my own, and I can only walk away if I have a pair of little blue shoes to walk in, and I can only go when you have set all careless things straight."

Poor Wee-Wun! He took the little blue shoes in a hurry, and his tears were dropping all the time.

"Good-bye, little blue shoes," he said, but the Hop-about Man did not seem to notice. And when Wee-Wun gave them to him he put them upon his feet, but he did not stir, not an inch.

Then Wee-Wun sighed a long sigh, and he flew over the Bye-bye Meadow till he reached the garden of the Stir-about Wife, which is bound about by a wall. And there all night he weeded, pulling up blue blow-aways by the score. But when in the morning he went back to his fine house, the Hop-about Man was gone.

The Street Musicians


A donkey who had carried sacks to the mill for his master a great many years became so weak that he could not work for a living any longer. His master thought that he would get rid of his old servant, that he might save the cost of his food. The donkey heard of this, and made up his mind to run away. So he took the road to a great city where he had often heard the street band play. "For," thought he, "I can make music as well as they."

He had gone but a little way when he came to a dog stretched out in the middle of the road and panting for breath, as if tired from running.

"Why are you panting so, friend?" asked the donkey.

"Oh, dear!" he replied. "Now that I am old and growing weaker and weaker, and am not able to hunt any more, my master has ordered that I should be killed. So I have run away, but how I am to earn a living I am sure I do not know."

"Will you come with me?" said the donkey. "You see, I am going to try my luck as a street musician in the city. I think we might easily earn a living by music. You can play the bass drum and I can play the flute."

"I will go," said the dog, and they both walked on together.

Not long after they saw a cat sitting in the road, with a face as dismal as three days of rainy weather.

"Now what has happened to you, old Whiskers?" said the donkey.

"How can I be happy when I am in fear for my life?" said the cat. "I am getting old, and my teeth are only stumps. I cannot catch mice any longer, and I like to lie behind the stove and purr. But when I found that they were going to drown me, away I ran as fast as my four legs could carry me. But now that I have come away, what am I to do?"

"Go with us to the city," said the donkey. "You often give night concerts, I know, so you can easily become a street musician."

"With all my heart," said the cat, so she walked on with them.

After travelling quite a long distance the three "runaways" came to a farmyard, and on the gate stood a rooster, crowing with all his might.

"Why are you standing there and making such a fuss?" said the donkey.

"I will tell you," replied the rooster. "I heard the cook say that there is company coming on Wednesday and she will want me to put into the soup. That evening my head will be cut off, so I shall crow at the top of my voice as long as I can."

"Listen, Red Comb," said the donkey. "Would you like to run away with us? We are going to the city, and you will find something better there than to be made into soup. You have a fine voice, and we are all musicians."

The rooster was glad to go, and all four went on together.

They could not reach the city in one day, and evening came on just as they reached a wood, so they agreed to stay there all night.

The donkey and the dog lay down under a large tree, the cat stretched herself out on one of the branches, and the rooster flew to the top, where he felt quite safe.

Before they slept the rooster, who from his high roost could see every way, spied far off a tiny light, and calling to his comrades told them he thought they were near a house in which a light was shining.

"Then," said the donkey, "we must rouse up and go on to this light, for no doubt we shall find a good stopping-place there."

The dog said he would be glad of a little piece of meat, or a couple of bones if he could get nothing more.

Very soon they were on their way to the place where the light shone. It grew larger and brighter as they came nearer to it, till they saw that it came from the window of a small hut. The donkey, who was the tallest, went near and looked in.

"What is to be seen, old Grey Horse?" said the rooster.

"What do I see?" answered the donkey. "Why, a table spread with plenty to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it and having a good time."

"That ought to be our supper," said the rooster.

"Yes, yes," the donkey answered; "how I wish we were inside."

Then they talked together about how they should drive the robbers away. At last they made a plan that they thought would work. The donkey was to stand on his hind legs and place his forefeet on the window-sill. The dog was to stand on his back. The cat was to stand on the dog's shoulders, and the rooster promised to light upon the cat's head.

As soon as they were all ready they began to play their music together. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed, the rooster crowed. They made such a noise that the window rattled.

The robbers, hearing the dreadful din, were terribly frightened, and ran as fast as they could to the woods. The four comrades, rushing in, hurried to the table and ate as if they had had nothing for a month. When they had finished their meal they put out the light, and each one chose a good bed for the night. The donkey lay down at full length in the yard, the dog crouched behind the door, the cat curled herself up on the hearth in front of the fire, while the rooster flew to the roof of the hut. They were all so tired after their long journey that they were soon fast asleep.

About midnight one of the robbers, seeing that the light was out and all quiet, said to his chief: "I do not think that we had any reason to be afraid, after all."

Then he called one of his robbers and sent him to the house to see if it was all right.

The robber, finding everything quiet, went into the kitchen to light a match. Seeing the glaring, fiery eyes of the cat, he thought they were live coals, and held a match toward them that he might light it. But Puss was frightened; she spat at him and scratched his face. This frightened the robber so terribly that he rushed to the door, but the dog, who lay there, sprang out at him and bit him on the leg as he went by.

In the yard he ran against the donkey, who gave him a savage kick, while the rooster on the roof cried out as loud as he could, "Cock-a-doodle-doo."

Then the robber ran back to his chief.

"Oh! oh!" he cried, "in that house is a horrible woman, who flew at me and scratched me down the face with her long fingers. Then by the door stood a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg, and out in the yard lay a monster who struck me a hard blow with a huge club; and up on the roof sat the judge, who cried, 'Bring me the scoundrel here.' You may be sure I ran away as fast as I could go."

The robbers never went back to the house, but got away from that place as quickly as they could. The four musicians liked their new home so well that they thought no more of going on to the city. The last we heard of them, they were still there and having happy times together.

The Straw Ox[12]


There was once upon a time an old man and an old woman. The old man worked in the fields as a pitch-burner, while the old woman sat at home and spun flax. They were so poor that they could save nothing at all; all their earnings went in bare food, and when that was gone there was nothing left. At last the old woman had a good idea:

"Look now, husband," cried she, "make me a straw ox, and smear it all over with tar."

[Footnote 12: From Cossack Fairy Tales (London: George G. Harrap & Company).]

"Why, you foolish woman!" said he, "what's the good of an ox of that sort?"

"Never mind," said she, "you just make it. I know what I am about."

What was the poor man to do? He set to work and made the ox of straw, and smeared it all over with tar.

The night passed away, and at early dawn the old woman took her distaff, and drove the straw ox out into the steppe to graze, and she herself sat down behind a hillock, and began spinning her flax, and cried:

"Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax. Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!" And while she spun, her head drooped down and she began to doze, and while she was dozing, from behind the dark wood and from the back of the huge pines a bear came rushing out upon the ox and said:

"Who are you? Speak, and tell me!"

And the ox said:

"A three-year-old heifer am I, made of straw and smeared with tar."

"Oh!" said the bear, "stuffed with straw and trimmed with tar, are you? Then give me of your straw and tar, that I may patch up my ragged fur again!"

"Take some," said the ox, and the bear fell upon him and began to tear away at the tar.

He tore and tore, and buried his teeth in it till he found he couldn't let go again. He tugged and he tugged, but it was no good, and the ox dragged him gradually off, goodness knows where.

Then the old woman awoke, and there was no ox to be seen. "Alas! old fool that I am!" cried she, "perchance it has gone home." Then she quickly caught up her distaff and spinning board, threw them over her shoulders, and hastened off home, and she saw that the ox had dragged the bear up to the fence, and in she went to her old man.

"Dad, dad," she cried, "look, look! The ox has brought us a bear. Come out and kill it!" Then the old man jumped up, tore off the bear, tied him up, and threw him in the cellar.

Next morning, between dark and dawn, the old woman took her distaff and drove the ox into the steppe to graze. She herself sat down by a mound, began spinning, and said:

"Graze, graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax! Graze, graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!" And while she spun, her head dropped down and she dozed. And, lo! from behind the dark wood, from the back of the huge pines, a grey wolf came rushing out upon the ox and said:

"Who are you? Come, tell me!"

"I am a three-year-old heifer, stuffed with straw and trimmed with tar," said the ox.

"Oh! trimmed with tar, are you? Then give me of your tar to tar my sides, that the dogs and the sons of dogs tear me not!"

"Take some," said the ox. And with that the wolf fell upon him and tried to tear the tar off. He tugged and tugged, and tore with his teeth, but could get none off. Then he tried to let go, and couldn't; tug and worry as he might, it was no good. When the old woman woke, there was no heifer in sight. "Maybe my heifer has gone home!" she cried. "I'll go home and see." When she got there she was astonished, for by the palings stood the ox with the wolf still tugging at it. She ran and told her old man, and her old man came and threw the wolf into the cellar also.

On the third day the old woman again drove her ox into the pastures to graze, and sat down by a mound and dozed off. Then a fox came running up. "Who are you?" it asked the ox.

"I'm a three-year-old heifer, stuffed with straw and daubed with tar."

"Then give me some of your tar to smear my sides with, when those dogs and sons of dogs tear my hide!"

"Take some," said the ox. Then the fox fastened her teeth in him and couldn't draw them out again. The old woman told her old man, and he took and cast the fox into the cellar in the same way. And after that they caught Pussy Swift-foot[13] likewise.

[Footnote 13: The hare.]

So when he had got them all safely the old man sat down on a bench before the cellar and began sharpening a knife. And the bear said to him:

"Tell me, daddy, what are you sharpening your knife for?"

"To flay your skin off, that I may make a leather jacket for myself and a pelisse for my old woman."

"Oh! don't flay me, daddy dear! Rather let me go, and I'll bring you a lot of honey."

"Very well, see you do it," and he unbound and let the bear go. Then he sat down on the bench and again began sharpening his knife. And the wolf asked him:

"Daddy, what are you sharpening your knife for?"

"To flay off your skin, that I may make me a warm cap against the winter."

"Oh! Don't flay me, daddy dear, and I'll bring you a whole herd of little sheep."

"Well, see that you do it," and he let the wolf go.

Then he sat down, and began sharpening his knife again. The fox put out her little snout, and asked him:

"Be so kind, dear daddy, as to tell me why you are sharpening your knife!"

"Little foxes," said the old man, "have nice skins that do capitally for collars and trimmings, and I want to skin you!"

"Oh! Don't take my skin away, daddy dear, and I will bring you hens and geese."

"Very well, see that you do it!" and he let the fox go.

The hare now alone remained, and the old man began sharpening his knife on the hare's account.

"Why do you do that?" asked Puss, and he replied:

"Little hares have nice little, soft, warm skins, which will make me nice gloves and mittens against the winter!"

"Oh! daddy dear! Don't flay me, and I'll bring you kale and good cauliflower if only you let me go!"

Then he let the hare go also.

Then they went to bed: but very early in the morning, when it was neither dusk nor dawn, there was a noise in the doorway like Durrrrrr!

"Daddy!" cried the old woman, "there's someone scratching at the door: go and see who it is!"

The old man went out, and there was the bear carrying a whole hive full of honey. The old man took the honey from the bear; but no sooner did he lie down again than there was another Durrrrr! at the door. The old man looked out and saw the wolf driving a whole flock of sheep into the courtyard. Close on his heels came the fox, driving before him geese and hens, and all manner of fowls; and last of all came the hare, bringing cabbage and kale, and all manner of good food.

And the old man was glad, and the old woman was glad. And the old man sold the sheep and oxen, and got so rich that he needed nothing more.

As for the straw-stuffed ox, it stood in the sun till it fell to pieces.

The Necklace of Truth


Once there was a little girl named Coralie. She had but one fault. She told falsehoods. Her parents tried to cure her in many ways, but in vain. Finally they decided to take her to the enchanter Merlin.

The enchanter Merlin lived in a glass palace. He loved truth. He knew liars by their odour a league off. When Coralie came toward the castle, Merlin was forced to burn vinegar to keep himself from being ill.

Coralie's mother began to explain the reason for their coming. But Merlin stopped her.

"I know all about your daughter, my good lady," he said. "She is one of the greatest liars in the world. She often makes me ill."

Merlin's face looked so stern that Coralie hid her face under her mother's cloak. Her father stood before her to keep her from harm.

"Do not fear," said Merlin. "I am not going to hurt your little girl. I only wish to make her a present."

He opened a drawer and took from it a magnificent amethyst necklace. It was fastened with a shining clasp of diamonds.

Merlin put the necklace on Coralie's neck and said, "Go in peace, my friends. Your little daughter carries with her a sure guardian of the truth."

Then he looked sternly at Coralie and said, "In a year I shall come for my necklace. Do not dare to take it off for a single moment. If you do, harm will come to you!"

"Oh, I shall always love to wear it! It is so beautiful!" cried Coralie. And this is the way she came by the wonderful Necklace of Truth.

The day after Coralie returned home she was sent to school. As she had long been absent, the little girls crowded round her. There was a cry of admiration at sight of the necklace.

"Where did it come from? Where did you get it?" they asked.

"I was ill for a long time," replied Coralie. "When I got well, mamma and papa gave me the necklace."

A loud cry rose from all. The diamonds of the clasp had grown dim. They now looked like coarse glass.

"Yes, indeed, I have been ill! What are you making such a fuss about?"

At this second falsehood the amethysts, in turn, changed to ugly yellow stones. A new cry arose. Coralie was frightened at the strange behaviour of the necklace.

"I have been to the enchanter Merlin," she said very humbly.

Immediately the necklace looked as beautiful as ever. But the children teased her.

"You need not laugh," said Coralie, "for Merlin was very glad to see us. He sent his carriage to the next town to meet us. Such a splendid carriage, with six white horses, pink satin cushions, and a negro coachman with powdered hair. Merlin's palace is all of jasper and gold. He met us at the door and led us to the dining-room. There stood a long table covered with delicious things to eat. First of all we ate——"

Coralie stopped, for the children were laughing till the tears rolled down their cheeks. She glanced at the necklace and shuddered. With each new falsehood, the necklace had become longer and longer, till it already dragged on the ground.

"Coralie, you are stretching the truth," cried the girls.

"Well, I confess it. We walked, and we stayed there only five minutes."

The necklace shrank at once to its proper size.

"The necklace—the necklace—where did it come from?"

"He gave it to me without saying a word. I think——"

She had not time to finish. The fatal necklace grew shorter and shorter till it choked her. She gasped for breath.

"You are keeping back part of the truth," cried her schoolmates.

"He said—that I was—one of the greatest—liars in the world." The necklace loosened about her neck, but Coralie still cried with pain.

"That was why Merlin gave me the necklace. He said that it would make me truthful. What a silly I have been to be proud of it!"

Her playmates were sorry for her. "If I were in your place," said one of them, "I should send back the necklace. Why do you not take it off?"

Poor Coralie did not wish to speak. The stones, however, began to dance up and down and to make a terrible clatter.

"There is something you have not told us," laughed the little girls.

"I like to wear it."

Oh, how the diamonds and amethysts danced! It was worse than ever.

"Tell us the true reason."

"Well, I see I can hide nothing. Merlin forbade me to take it off. He said great harm would come if I disobeyed."

Thanks to the enchanted necklace, Coralie became a truthful child. Long before the year had passed, Merlin came for his necklace. He needed it for another child who told falsehoods.

No one can tell to-day what has become of the wonderful Necklace of Truth. But if I were a little child in the habit of telling falsehoods, I should not feel quite sure that it might not be found again some fine day.

Anders' New Cap[14]


Once upon a time there was a little boy, called Anders, who had a new cap. And a prettier cap you never could see, for mother herself had knitted it, and nobody could make anything quite as nice as mother could. And it was altogether red, except a small part in the middle which was green, for the red yarn had given out; and the tassel was blue.

[Footnote 14: A Swedish Fairy Tale.]

His brothers and sisters walked about squinting at him, and their faces grew long with envy. But Anders cared nothing about that. He put his hands in his trousers pockets and went out for a walk, for he did not begrudge anybody's seeing how fine he was.

The first person he met was a farm labourer walking alongside a load of peat and smacking at his horse. He made a bow so deep that his back came near breaking, and he was dumbfounded, I can tell you, when he saw it was nobody but Anders.

"Dear me," he said, "if I did not think it was the gracious little count himself." And then he invited Anders to ride on the peat load.

But when one has a fine red cap with a blue tassel, one is too fine to ride on peat loads, and Anders trotted proudly by.

At the turn of the road he ran up against the tanner's boy, Lars. He was such a big boy that he wore high boots and carried a jack-knife. He gazed and gazed at the cap, and could not keep from fingering the blue tassel.

"Let's swap caps," he said, "and I will give you my jack-knife to boot."

Now this knife was a splendid one, though half the blade was gone, and the handle was a little cracked; and Anders knew that one is almost a man as soon as one has a jack-knife. But still it did not come up to the new cap which mother had made.

"Oh no, I am not as stupid as all that!"

And then he said good-bye to Lars with a nod; but Lars only made faces at him, for he was very much put out because he could not cheat Anders out of his cap which his mother had made.

Soon after this, Anders met a very old, old woman who curtsied till her skirts looked like a balloon. She called him a little gentleman and said that he was so fine that he might go to the royal court ball.

"Yes, why not?" thought Anders. "Seeing that I am so fine, I may as well go and visit the King."

And so he did. In the palace yard stood two soldiers with shining helmets, and with muskets over their shoulders; and when Anders came, both the muskets were levelled at him.

"Where may you be going?" asked one of the soldiers.

"I am going to the court ball," answered Anders.

"Indeed you are not," said the other soldier, and put his foot forward. "Nobody is allowed there without a uniform."

But just at this instant the Princess came tripping across the yard. She was dressed in white silk with bows of ribbon. When she became aware of Anders and the soldiers, she walked over to them.

"Oh," she said, "he has such an extraordinarily fine cap on his head, that that will do just as well as a uniform."

And she took Anders' hand and walked with him up the broad marble stairs, where soldiers were posted at every third step, and through the magnificent halls where courtiers in silk and velvet stood bowing wherever he went. For, like as not, they must have thought him a prince when they saw his fine cap.

At the farther end of the largest hall a table was set with golden cups and golden plates in long rows. On huge silver platters were pyramids of tarts and cakes, and red wine sparkled in glittering decanters. The Princess sat down under a blue canopy with bouquets of roses; and she let Anders sit in a golden chair by her side.

"But you must not eat with your cap on your head," she said, and was going to take it off.

"Oh yes, I can eat just as well," said Anders, and held on to his cap, for if they should take it away from him, nobody would any longer believe that he was a prince, and, besides, he did not feel sure that he would get it back again.

"Well, well, give it to me," said the Princess, "and I will give you a kiss."

The Princess certainly was beautiful, and he would have dearly liked to be kissed by her, but the cap which his mother had made he would not give up on any condition. He only shook his head.

"Well, but now?" said the Princess; and she filled his pockets with cakes, and put her own heavy gold chain around his neck, and bent down and kissed him.

But he only moved farther back in his chair, and did not take his hands away from his head.

Then the doors were thrown open, and the King entered with a large suite of gentlemen in glittering uniforms and plumed hats. And the King himself wore an ermine-bordered purple mantle which trailed behind him, and he had a large gold crown on his white curly hair.

He smiled when he saw Anders in the gilt chair.

"That is a very fine cap you have," he said.

"So it is," said Anders. "And it is made of mother's best yarn, and she knitted it herself, and everybody wants to get it away from me."

"But surely you would like to change caps with me," said the King, and raised his large, heavy gold crown from his head.

Anders did not answer. He sat as before, and held on to his red cap which everybody was so anxious to get. But when the King came nearer to him, with his gold crown between his hands, then he grew frightened as never before, for a King can do what he likes, and he would be likely to cheat him out of his cap, if he did not take good care.

With one jump Anders got out of his chair. He darted like an arrow through all the halls, down all the stairs, and across the yard. He twisted himself like an eel between the outstretched arms of the courtiers, and over the soldiers' muskets he jumped like a little rabbit. He ran so fast that the Princess's necklace fell off his neck, and all the cakes jumped out of his pockets. But he had his cap. He still held on to it with both hands as he rushed into his mother's cottage.

And his mother took him up in her lap, and he told her all his adventures, and how everybody wanted his cap. And all his brothers and sisters stood round and listened with their mouths open.

But when his big brother heard that he had refused to give his cap for a King's golden crown, he said that Anders was a stupid. Just think what splendid things one might get in exchange for the crown; and Anders could have had a still finer cap.

Anders' face grew red. That he had not thought of. He cuddled up to his mother and asked:

"Mother, was I stupid?"

But his mother hugged him close.

"No, my little son," she said. "If you dressed in silk and gold from top to toe, you could not look any nicer than in your little red cap."

Then Anders felt brave again. He knew well enough that mother's cap was the best cap in all the world.

Dust under the Rug


There was once a mother, who had two little daughters; and, as her husband was dead and she was very poor, she worked diligently all the time that they might be well fed and clothed. She was a skilled worker, and found work to do away from home, but her two little girls were so good and so helpful that they kept her house as neat and as bright as a new pin.

One of the little girls was lame, and could not run about the house; so she sat still in her chair, and sewed, while Minnie, the sister, washed the dishes, swept the floor, and made the home beautiful.

Their home was on the edge of a great forest; and after their tasks were finished the little girls would sit at the window and watch the tall trees as they bent in the wind, until it would seem as though the trees were real persons, nodding and bending and bowing to each other.

In the spring there were birds, in the summer the wild flowers, in autumn the bright leaves, and in winter the great drifts of white snow; so that the whole year was a round of delight to the two happy children. But one day the dear mother came home ill; and then they were very sad. It was winter, and there were many things to buy. Minnie and her little sister sat by the fireside and talked it over, and at last Minnie said:

"Dear sister, I must go out to find work, before the food comes to an end." So she kissed her mother, and, wrapping herself up, started from home. There was a narrow path leading through the forest, and she determined to follow it until she reached some place where she might find the work she wanted.

As she hurried on, the shadows grew deeper. The night was coming fast when she saw before her a very small house, which was a welcome sight. She made haste to reach it, and to knock at the door.

Nobody came in answer to her knock. When she had tried again and again, she thought that nobody lived there; and she opened the door and walked in, meaning to stay all night.

As soon as she stepped into the house, she started back in surprise; for there before her she saw twelve little beds with the bedclothes all tumbled, twelve little dirty plates on a very dusty table, and the floor of the room so dusty that I am sure you could have drawn a picture on it.

"Dear me!" said the little girl, "this will never do!" And as soon as she had warmed her hands, she set to work to make the room tidy.

She washed the plates, she made up the beds, she swept the floor, she straightened the great rug in front of the fireplace, and set the twelve little chairs in a half-circle around the fire; and, just as she finished, the door opened and in walked twelve of the queerest little people she had ever seen. They were just about as tall as a carpenter's rule, and all wore yellow clothes; and when Minnie saw this, she knew that they must be the dwarfs who kept the gold in the heart of the mountain.

"Well!" said the dwarfs, all together, for they always spoke together and in rhyme,

"Now isn't this a sweet surprise? We really can't believe our eyes!"

Then they spied Minnie, and cried in great astonishment:

"Who can this be, so fair and mild? Our helper is a stranger child."

Now when Minnie saw the dwarfs, she came to meet them. "If you please," she said, "I'm little Minnie Grey; and I'm looking for work because my dear mother is sick. I came in here when the night drew near, and——"

Here all the dwarfs laughed, and called out merrily:

"You found our room a sorry sight, But you have made it clean and bright."

They were such dear funny little dwarfs! After they had thanked Minnie for her trouble, they took white bread and honey from the closet and asked her to sup with them.

While they sat at supper, they told her that their fairy housekeeper had taken a holiday, and their house was not well kept, because she was away.

They sighed when they said this; and after supper, when Minnie washed the dishes and set them carefully away, they looked at her often and talked among themselves. When the last plate was in its place they called Minnie to them and said:

"Dear mortal maiden, will you stay All through our fairy's holiday? And if you faithful prove, and good, We will reward you as we should."

Now Minnie was much pleased, for she liked the kind dwarfs, and wanted to help them, so she thanked them, and went to bed to dream happy dreams.

Next morning she was awake with the chickens, and cooked a nice breakfast; and after the dwarfs left, she cleaned up the rooms and mended the dwarfs' clothes. In the evening when the dwarfs came home, they found a bright fire and a warm supper waiting for them; and every day Minnie worked faithfully until the last day of the fairy house-keeper's holiday.

That morning, as Minnie looked out of the window to watch the dwarfs go to their work, she saw on one of the window-panes the most beautiful picture she had ever seen.

A picture of fairy palaces with towers of silver and frosted pinnacles, so wonderful and beautiful that as she looked at it she forgot that there was work to be done, until the cuckoo clock on the mantel struck twelve.

Then she ran in haste to make up the beds, and wash the dishes; but because she was in a hurry she could not work quickly, and when she took the broom to sweep the floor it was almost time for the dwarfs to come home.

"I believe," said Minnie aloud, "that I will not sweep under the rug to-day. After all, it is nothing for dust to be where it can't be seen." So she hurried to her supper and left the rug unturned.

Before long the dwarfs came home. As the rooms looked just as usual, nothing was said; and Minnie thought no more of the dust until she went to bed and the stars peeped through the window.

Then she thought of it, for it seemed to her that she could hear the stars saying:

"There is the little girl who is so faithful and good"; and Minnie turned her face to the wall, for a little voice, right in her own heart, said:

"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!"

"There is the little girl," cried the stars, "who keeps home as bright as star-shine."

"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart.

"We see her! we see her!" called all the stars joyfully.

"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart, and she could bear it no longer. So she sprang out of bed, and, taking her broom in her hand, she swept the dust away; and lo! under the rug lay twelve shining gold-pieces, as round and as bright as the moon.

"Oh! oh! oh!" cried Minnie, in great surprise; and all the little dwarfs came running to see what was the matter.

Minnie told them all about it; and when she had ended her story, the dwarfs gathered lovingly round her and said:

"Dear child, the gold is all for you, For faithful you have proved and true; But had you left the rug unturned, A groat was all you would have earned. Our love goes with the gold we give, And oh! forget not while you live, That in the smallest duty done Lies wealth of joy for everyone."

Minnie thanked the dwarfs for their kindness to her; and early next morning she hastened home with her golden treasure, which bought many things for the dear mother and little sister.

She never saw the dwarfs again; but she never forgot their lesson, to do her work faithfully; and she always swept under the rug.

A Night with Santa Claus


Not very long ago, and not far from here, lived a little boy named Robby Morgan. Now I must tell at once how Robby looked, else how will you know him if you meet him in the street? Blue-eyed was Rob, and fair-haired, and pug-nosed,—just the sweetest trifle, his mother said.

Well, the day before Christmas, Rob thought it would be a fine thing to run down the High Street and see what was going on. After dinner his mother put on his fur cap and bright scarf, and filled his pockets with biscuits. She told him to be very polite to Santa Claus if he should happen to meet him.

Off he trotted, merry as a cricket, with now a skip, and now a slide. At every corner he held his breath, half expecting to run into Santa himself. Nothing of the sort happened, however, and he soon found himself before the gay windows of a toyshop.

There he saw a spring hobbyhorse, as large as a Shetland pony, all saddled and bridled, too—lacking nothing but a rider. Rob pressed his nose against the glass, and tried to imagine the feelings of a boy in that saddle. He might have stood there all day, had not a ragged little fellow pulled his coat. "Wouldn't you like that popgun?" he piped.

"Catch me looking at popguns!" said Rob shortly. But when he saw how tattered the boy's jacket was, he said more softly, "P'r'aps you'd like a biscuit?"

"Only try me!" said the shrill little voice.

There was a queer lump in Rob's throat as he emptied one pocket of its biscuits and thrust them into the dirty, eager hands. Then he marched down the street without so much as glancing at that glorious steed again.

Brighter and brighter grew the windows, more and more full of toys. At last our boy stood, with open eyes and mouth, before a great shop lighted from top to bottom, for it was growing dark. Rob came near taking off his cap and saying, "How do you do, sir?"

To whom? you ask. Why, to an image of Santa Claus, the size of life, holding a Christmas tree hung with wonderful fruit.

Soon a happy thought struck Rob. "Surely this must be Santa Claus's own store, where he comes to fill his basket with toys! What if I were to hide there and wait for him?"

As I said, he was a brave little chap, and he walked straight into the shop with the stream of big people. Everybody was busy. No one had time to look at our mite of a Rob. He tried in vain to find a quiet corner, till he caught sight of some winding stairs that led up to the next storey. He crept up, scarcely daring to breathe.

What a fairyland! Toys everywhere! Oceans of toys! Nothing but toys! Excepting one happy little boy! Think of fifty great rocking-horses in a pile; of whole flocks of woolly sheep and curly dogs, with the real bark in them; stacks of drums; regiments of soldiers armed to the teeth; companies of firemen drawing their hose-carts; no end of wheel-barrows and bicycles!

Rob screwed his knuckles into his eyes, as a gentle hint, that they had better not play him any tricks, and then stared with might and main.

Suddenly Rob thought he heard a footstep on the stairs. Fearing to be caught, he hid behind a go-cart. No one came, however, and as he felt rather hungry, he took out the remaining biscuits and had a fine supper.

Why didn't Santa Claus come?

Rob was really getting sleepy. He stretched out his tired legs, and, turning one of the woolly sheep on its side, pillowed his curly head upon it. It was so nice to lie there, looking up at the ceiling hung with toys, and with the faint hum of voices in his ears. The blue eyes grew more and more heavy. Rob was fast asleep.

Midnight! The bells rang loud and clear, as if they had great news to tell the world. What noise is that besides the bells? And look, oh, look! who is that striding up the room with a great basket on his back? He has stolen his coat from a polar bear, and his cap, too, I declare! His boots are of red leather and reach to his knees. His coat and cap are trimmed with wreaths of holly, bright with scarlet berries.

Good sir, let us see your face—why! that is the best part of him—so round and so ruddy, such twinkling eyes, and such a merry look about those dimples! But see his long white beard—can he be old?

Oh, very, very old! Over nineteen hundred years! Is that not a long life, little ones? But he has a young heart—this dear old man,—and a kind one. Can you guess his name? "Hurrah for Santa Claus!" Right!—the very one.

He put his basket down near Robby, and with his back turned to him shook the snow from his fur coat. Some of the flakes fell on Rob's face and roused him from his sleep. Opening his eyes, he saw the white figure, but did not stir nor cry out, lest the vision should vanish.

But bless his big heart! he had no idea of vanishing till his night's work was done. He took a large book from his pocket, opened at the first page, and looked at it very closely.

"Tommy Turner" was written at the top, and just below was a little map,—yes, there was Tommy's heart mapped out like a country. Part of the land was marked good, part of it bad. Here and there were little flags to point out places where battles had been fought during the year. Some of them were black and some white; wherever a good feeling had won the fight, there was a white one.

"Tommy Turner," said Santa Claus aloud,—"six white flags, three black ones. That leaves only three presents for Tommy: but we must see what can be done for him."

So he bustled among the toys, and soon had a ball, a horse, and a Noah's ark tied up in a parcel, which he tossed into the basket.

Name after name was read off, some of them belonging to Rob's playmates, and you may be sure that the little boy listened with his heart in his mouth.

"Robby Morgan!" said Santa Claus.

In his excitement that small lad nearly upset the cart, but Santa did not notice it.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven"—Rob's breath came very short—"whites!"

He almost clapped his hands.

"One, two, three, blacks! Now I wonder what that little chap would like—here's a drum, a box of tools, a knife, a menagerie. If he hadn't played truant from school that day, and then told a fib about it, I'd give him a rocking-horse."

Rob groaned in anguish of spirit.

"But, bless him! he's a fine little fellow, and perhaps he will do better next year if I give him the horse."

That was too much for our boy. With a "hurrah" he jumped up and turned a somersault right at Santa Claus's feet.

"Good gracious!" cried Santa, "what's this?"

"Come along, I'll show you the one," cried Rob.

Santa Claus allowed himself to be led off to the pile of horses. You may believe that Rob's sharp eyes soon picked out the one with the longest tail and thickest mane.

"Well, he beats all the boys that I ever saw! What shall I do with the little spy?"

"O dear Santa Claus!" cried Robby, hugging the red boots, "do just take me along with you; I'll stick tight when you slide down the chimney."

"Yes, no doubt you will stick tight—in the chimney, my little man."

"I mean to your back," said Rob, with a quiver in his voice.

Santa Claus can't bear to see little folks in trouble, so he took the boy into his arms, and asked him where he wanted to go.

"To Tommy Turner's, and oh, you know that boy in the awful old jacket that likes popguns," was the breathless reply.

Of course he knew him, for he knows every boy and girl in Christendom; so a popgun was added to the medley of toys. Santa Claus then strapped Rob and the basket on his back. He next crept through an open window to a ladder he had placed there, down which he ran as nimbly as a squirrel. The reindeer before the sledge were in a hurry to be off, and tinkled their silver bells right merrily. An instant more, and they were snugly tucked up in the white robes—an instant more, and they were flying like the wind over the snow.

Ah! Tommy's home. Santa Claus sprang out, placed the light ladder against the house, and before Rob could wink—a good fair wink—they were on the roof making for the chimney. Whether it swallowed him, or he swallowed it, is still a puzzle to Robby.

Tommy lay sleeping in his little bed and dreaming of a merry Christmas. His rosy mouth was puckered into something between a whistle and a smile. Rob longed to give him a friendly punch, but Santa Claus shook his head. They filled his stocking and hurried away, for empty little stockings the world over were waiting for that generous hand.

On they sped again, never stopping until they came to a wretched little hovel. A black pipe instead of a chimney was sticking through the roof.

Rob thought, "Now I guess he'll have to give it up." But no, he softly pushed the door open and stepped in.

On a ragged cot lay the urchin to whom Robby had given the biscuits. One of them, half-eaten, was still clutched in his hand. Santa Claus gently opened the other little fist and put the popgun into it.

"Give him my drum," whispered Rob, and Santa Claus, without a word, placed it near the rumpled head.

How swiftly they flew under the bright stars! How sweetly rang the bells!

When Santa Claus reined up at Robby's door, he found his little comrade fast asleep. He laid him tenderly in his crib, and drew off a stocking, which he filled with the smaller toys. The rocking-horse he placed close to the crib, that Rob might mount him on Christmas morning.

A kiss, and he was gone.

P.S. Rob's mother says it was all a dream, but he declares that "it's true as true can be!" I prefer to take his word for it.

The Story of Li'l' Hannibal


Once on a time, 'way down South, there lived a little boy named Hannibal, Li'l' Hannibal. He lived along with his gran'mammy and his gran'daddy in a li'l' one-storey log cabin that was set right down in a cotton field. Well, from morning until night, Li'l' Hannibal's gran'mammy kept him doin' things. As soon as she woke up in the morning it was:

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, fetch a pine knot and light the kitchen fire."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, fetch the tea-kettle to the well and get some water for the tea."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, mix a li'l' hoecake for your gran'daddy's brea'fus'."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, take the bunch of turkeys' feathers and dust the hearth."

And from morning until night Li'l' Hannibal's gran'daddy kept him doin' things too.

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal," his gran'daddy would say, "fetch the corn and feed the turkeys."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, take your li'l' axe and chop some wood for your gran'mammy's fire."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, run 'round to the store and buy a bag of flour."

"Oh, Li'l' Hannibal, fetch your basket and pick a li'l' cotton off the edge of the field."

So they kept poor Li'l' Hannibal at work 'most all day long, and he had only four or five hours to play.

Well, one morning Li'l' Hannibal woke up and he made up his mind to something. Before they could ask him to light the kitchen fire, or fill the tea-kettle, or mix the hoecake, or dust the hearth, or feed the turkeys, or chop any wood, or go to the store, or pick any cotton, he had made up his mind that he was not going to work for his gran'mammy and his gran'daddy any longer. He was going to run away!

So Li'l' Hannibal got out of bed very quietly. He put on his li'l' trousers, and his li'l' shirt and his li'l' suspenders and his li'l' shoes—he never wore stockings. He pulled his li'l' straw hat down tight over his ears and then Li'l' Hannibal ran away!

He went down the road past all the cabins. He went under the fence and across the cotton fields. He went through the pine grove past the schoolhouse, stooping down low so the schoolmistress wouldn't see him, and then he went 'way, 'way off into the country.

When he was a long way from town, Li'l' Hannibal met a Possum loping along by the edge of the road, and the Possum stopped and looked at Li'l' Hannibal.

"How do? Where you goin', Li'l' Hannibal?" asked the Possum.

Li'l' Hannibal sat down by the side of the road and he took off his straw hat to fan himself, for he felt quite warm, and he said:

"I done run away, Br'er Possum. My gran'mammy and my gran'daddy kep' me totin', totin' for them all the time. I doesn't like to work, Br'er Possum."

"Po' Li'l' Hannibal!" said the Possum, sitting up and scratching himself. "Any special place you boun' for?"

"I don't reckon so," said Li'l' Hannibal, for he was getting tired and he had come away without any breakfast.

"You come along of me, Li'l' Hannibal," said the Possum; "I reckon I kin take you somewhere."

So the Possum and Li'l' Hannibal went along together, the Possum loping along by the side of the road and Li'l' Hannibal going very slowly in the middle of the road, for his shoes were full of sand and it hurt his toes. They went on and on until they came, all at once, to a sort of open space in the woods and then they stopped. There was a big company there—Br'er Rabbit, and Br'er Partridge, and Br'er Robin, and Ol' Miss Guinea Hen.

"Here's Po' Li'l' Hannibal come to see you," said the Possum. "Li'l' Hannibal done run away from his gran'mammy and gran'daddy."

Li'l' Hannibal hung his head as if he was ashamed, but nobody noticed him. They were all as busy as they could be, so he just sat down on a pine stump and watched them.

Each one had his own special work and he was keeping at it. Br'er Robin was gathering all the holly berries from the south side of the holly-tree and singing as he worked:

"Cheer up, cheer-u-up!"

Br'er Partridge was building a new house down low in the bushes. As he hurried to and fro with twigs, he would stop and drum a little, he felt so happy to be busy.

Ol' Miss Guinea Hen was almost the busiest of the whole company, for she was laying eggs. As soon as ever she had had one she would get up on a low branch and screech, "Catch it! Catch it! Catch it!" like to deafen everybody.

But Li'l' Hannibal was most interested to see what Br'er Rabbit was doing. Br'er Rabbit had on a li'l' apron, and he kept bringing things in his market-basket. Then he cooked the things over a fire in the bushes, and when it got to be late in the afternoon, he spread a tablecloth on a big stump and then he pounded on his stew-pan with his soup-ladle. "Supper's ready," said Br'er Rabbit.

Then Br'er Robin and Br'er Partridge and Br'er Possum and Ol' Miss Guinea Hen all scrambled to their places at the table and Li'l' Hannibal tried to find a place to sit at, but there wasn't any for him.

"Po' Li'l' Hannibal!" said Br'er Rabbit as he poured the soup. "Doesn't like work! Cyant have no supper!"

"Catch him! Catch him!" said Ol' Miss Guinea Hen, but no one did it. They were all too busy eating.

They had a grand supper. There was roast turkey and fried chicken, and mutton and rice and potatoes and peas and beans and baked apples and cabbage and hot biscuits and muffins and butter-cakes and golden syrup.

When they had finished eating, it was quite dark, and they all went home, even Br'er Possum, and they left Li'l' Hannibal sitting there all by himself.

Well, after a while it began to get darker. Br'er Mocking Bird came out, and he looked at Li'l' Hannibal and then he began to scream, just like Ol' Miss Guinea Hen:

"Catch him! Catch him! Catch him!"

Br'er Screech Owl looked down from a tree and he said very hoarsely:

"Who! Who! Who-oo!"

Then all the frogs began to say, loud and shrill:

"Li'l' Hannibal! Li'l' Hannibal!"

So Li'l' Hannibal got up from his pine stump and he said, "I reckon I better go home to my gran'mammy."

Well, Li'l' Hannibal started for home slowly, because his feet hurt and he was hungry. When he came to the pine grove by the schoolhouse the shadows came out from behind the trees and followed him, and that was much worse than seeing the schoolmistress. But Li'l' Hannibal got away from them all right. He crawled under the fence and ran across the cotton field and there in the door of the cabin was his gran'daddy with a lantern. His gran'daddy had been out looking for Li'l' Hannibal.

"Why, Li'l' Hannibal, where you been all day?" asked his gran'daddy.

"Oh, Li'l' Han," said his gran'mammy, "here's your porridge, I kep' it warm on the hearth, but afore you eat your supper, Li'l' Han, jus' take your li'l' basket and run 'round to the chicken house for a couple of eggs."

So Li'l' Hannibal took his li'l' basket and he started for those eggs, singing all the way. You see, he reckoned he was mighty glad to be at home, and working again.

How Wry-Face played a Trick on One-Eye the Potato-Wife[15]


The Overturned Cart

One day, as Oh-I-Am the Wizard went over Three-Tree Common, his shoe became unstringed, and he bent down to refasten it. Then he saw Wry-Face, the gnome, hiding among the bracken and looking as mischievous as anything. In one hand he held a white fluff-feather. Now these feathers are as light as anything, and will blow in the wind; and whatever they are placed under, whether light or heavy, they are bound to topple over as soon as the wind blows.

[Footnote 15: From Cap o' Yellow.]

As Oh-I-Am tied his shoe he saw Wry-Face place his fluff-feather carefully in the roadway; and at the same moment there came along One-Eye, the potato-wife, with her cart full of potatoes. The cart went rumble, crumble, crack, crack, crack, over the leaves and twigs, and One-Eye sang to her donkey:

"Steady, steady, We're always ready,"

in a most cheerful voice.

Then the cart came to the fluff-feather, and over it went—crash, bang, splutter; and the potatoes flew everywhere, like rain.

Wry-Face, the gnome, laughed to himself so that he ached, and he rolled over the ground with mirth. Then he flew away, laughing as he went.

But One-Eye, the potato-wife, was not laughing. Her tears went drip-drip as she started to gather her potatoes together. And as to getting her cart straight again, she did not know how she was to do it.

But when she turned round from gathering together the potatoes, she found that the cart was all right again, since Oh-I-Am the Wizard had straightened it for her, and the donkey was standing on his legs, none the worse for his fall.

Oh-I-Am looked stern and straight in his brown robe which trailed behind him. He said:

"One-Eye, have you got all your potatoes together?"

One-Eye still wept. She said, "No, I have not found all of them, for some have wandered far. And I must not seek farther, for this is market-day, and I must away to the town."

And she began to gather up the potatoes, and drop them into the cart, thud, thud, thud.

Oh-I-Am stooped then, and he, too, gathered up the potatoes; and he threw them into the cart splish-splash-splutter!

"Alas!" said One-Eye, "if you throw them into the cart, splish-splash-splutter, you will bruise and break them. You must throw them in gently, thud, thud, thud."

So Oh-I-Am held back his anger, and he threw the potatoes in gently, thud, thud, thud. But when the potato-wife had gone on her way, he flew off to his Brown House by the Brown Bramble; and he began to weave a spell.

He put into it a potato, and a grain of earth, and a down from a pillow, and a pearl, and an apple-pip from a pie. And when the spell was ready, he lay down, and fell asleep.

Wry-Face had gone round to all the neighbours to tell them the grand joke about One-Eye, the potato-wife. Sometimes he told it through the window, and sometimes he stood at the door. Sometimes he told it to a gnome who was fine and feathery, and sometimes to one who was making bread. But all the time he laughed, laughed, laughed, till he was scarcely fit to stand.

Now he did not call at Oh-I-Am's fine house to tell him, not he! And it was quite unnecessary, since Oh-I-Am knew the joke already, every bit.

Oh-I-Am had hidden the spell in his cupboard. When it was evening-time, he stole out and laid it by Wry-Face's door. Then he went home, and went to bed.

The Magic Potato Plant

Wry-Face was making a pie for his supper. Suddenly the room became dark as dark. The darkness was not night coming on, for this was summer-time and night never came on as quickly as all that.

"Dear me, what can be the matter?" thought Wry-Face; for he could hardly see to finish making his pie.

Then he heard a little voice from his window, crying, "Here I am, Wry-Face, here I am!" But he could not go out to see what it was yet awhile.

Then the apple-pie was finished, and in the oven; and Wry-Face ran outside as fast as he could. But he did not see the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door.

What he did see was a great potato-plant which had sprung up suddenly close to his window, and was springing up farther still, high, high, and higher.

"Good gracious me!" cried Wry-Face in a rage, "I never planted a potato-plant there, not in my whole life! Now I should just like to know what you are doing by my window?"

The potato-plant took no notice, but went on climbing high, high, and higher; and ever so far above he heard a tiny faint voice crying:

"Here I am, Wry-Face, here I am!"

"Well, I never did!" cried Wry-Face, and he began to weep; for he saw that the potato-plant would climb up to his roof and round his chimney and he would never be able to get rid of it.

And he wept and wept.

At last he went in, and took his pie out of the oven, and set it in the pantry, for it was quite done. And he found a spade, and went out, and began to dig and dig at the root of the potato-plant. But his digging did not seem to make any difference; and the evening began to grow darker.

Wry-Face fetched his little lamp, which is named Bright-Beauty, and which always burns without flickering. Then he went on digging, and he dug, and dug, and dug.

And when he had dug for hours and hours, so that he was tired to death, the potato-plant began suddenly to dwindle and dwindle. It dwindled as fast as anything, the leaves disappeared, and the stem disappeared and all the horrid stretching arms. They sank down, down, and down, till at last there was nothing left at all but—a big brown potato!

"Well, I do declare!" cried Wry-Face. "I should like to know what you have to do with my fine garden!"

The potato replied, "I jumped here from the cart of One-Eye, the potato-wife, and it is quite certain that, unless I am taken back to her immediately, I shall start again, growing, and growing, and growing!"

"Dear potato, you must not start growing again!" cried Wry-Face, in a great way. "To-night I am so tired I cannot do anything, but if you will but wait till to-morrow I will take you back to One-Eye, the potato-wife—I will, indeed!"

At first the potato would not listen to this at all; but after a while it said, "Well, well, I will wait till to-morrow. But remember, if to-morrow you do not carry me home to One-Eye, the potato-wife, I shall grow into a potato-tree, without a doubt!"

So Wry-Face carried the potato into his house, and stored it in his bin. But he never noticed the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door.

The Strange Apple Pie

"I am so tired, I can hardly yawn," said Wry-Face. "It is quite time I had my supper, and went to bed."

So he fetched the apple-pie from the pantry, and set it upon the table; and presently he sat down to his meal.

And he forgot for a moment how tired he was, thinking how delightful it was to sit down to a supper of apple-pie.

Then he lifted his knife and fork to cut off a large piece; but alas, the fork stuck fast. As for the knife, it would not move either, not an inch. Wry-Face began to weep.

"Alack, what has happened to my apple-pie?" cried he; and his tears fell round as round.

Then he got upon his feet, and he caught hold of the knife and fork and pulled, and pulled, and pulled. And with the last pull the top of the apple-pie came off, sticking to the knife and fork, and Wry-Face saw that within the pie there was not one piece of apple, but—a big brown potato!

Wry-Face wept again with horror at the sight.

"I should like to know," cried he, "what are you doing in my fine apple-pie."

But the brown potato replied, as cool as cool, "I am one of the potatoes belonging to One-Eye, the potato-wife, and I turned the apples out, that I might hide here a while. But this I must tell you, my Wry-Face, unless you take me home immediately to the potato-wife, here, in this pie-dish, I intend to remain."

"Alas," cried Wry-Face, "to-night I am so tired I could never find One-Eye; but if you will but wait till to-morrow, I will carry you home to the potato-wife—I will indeed!"

At first the potato would not agree to this at all, but after a while it said, "Very well, I will wait till to-morrow. But remember, my Wry-Face, if to-morrow you do not carry me home to One-Eye, I will creep into every pie you make; and you will die at last of starvation without a doubt!"

So Wry-Face stored the potato in the potato-bin, and he went supperless to bed. And he knew nothing of the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door.

The Lumpy Mattress

Now he got into bed, and thought he would go to sleep; but, oh, how hard the mattress was! Wry-Face lay this way, then that, but no matter what way he lay, he found a great lump just beneath him which was as hard as hard, and as nobbly as could be.

Wry-Face tossed and tossed till it was nearly morning; and his bones were so sore that he could lie no longer.

Then he pulled the mattress from the bed and cut a great hole in it, and when he had searched and searched he found in the middle of the mattress—a big brown potato!

"This," cried Wry-Face, "is why I have not slept the whole night through!" and he wept like anything.

But the potato was as cool as cool.

"I belong," it said, "to One-Eye, the potato-wife; and let me tell you, my little gnome, unless you take me to her immediately, I shall climb into your mattress again; and there I shall remain!"

"Alas," cried Wry-Face, "I have tossed about for hours and hours, and am too tired to do anything. But if you will wait till to-morrow, dear potato, I will carry you to One-Eye, the potato-wife—I will, indeed!"

At first the potato was unwilling to listen to this, but after a while it said: "Very well, then, I will wait till the morning. But this much I know, my Wry-Face, if you do not carry me then to One-Eye, the potato-wife, I shall get into your mattress and roll again every night!"

So Wry-Face put the potato in the bin. When he had done that he went back to bed, and slept, and slept.

When the sun was shining he awakened, and he remembered that he had to carry the potatoes back to One-Eye, the potato-wife; and he was as cross as anything.

The Fairy Sack of Pearls

"Well, I suppose I must!" he said. And when he had had his breakfast, he went to his cupboard to get a sack.

Then he found that his sack was full of pearls which he had gathered together for Heigh-Heavy the Giant, whose daughter So-Small he wished to marry.

So he thought, "First of all I will carry the pearls to Heigh-Heavy, for that is more important." And away he went with the sack upon his back. And he never saw the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed beside his door.

When he reached the Most-Enormous-House of Heigh-Heavy the Giant, there the giant was, sitting in his parlour lacing his shoes.

So Wry-Face cried out in a gay little voice, "Here I am, Heigh-Heavy, here I am! And here is a bag of pearls which I have brought you in exchange for your beautiful daughter So-Small!"

When Heigh-Heavy heard this, he stopped lacing his shoes, and he said, "You must bring me in exchange for my daughter So-Small as many pearls as will cover my palm."

Then Wry-Face skipped forward, and he tipped up the sack; and he shook out all that it held into the hand of Heigh-Heavy the Giant, standing high upon his toes.

Now all that it held was—one brown potato!

Wry-Face the gnome stared, and stared, and stared, his eyes growing rounder and rounder; but he had no time to weep on account of Heigh-Heavy the Giant who had fallen into a rage terrible to see.

"Now there is one thing quite certain," said Heigh-Heavy, "and that is that you shall never marry my daughter So-Small; for, my Wry-Face, I will turn you into a brown potato, and a brown potato you shall remain your whole life through!"

When Wry-Face heard this terrible threat, he took to his heels, and ran from the Most-Enormous-House of Heigh-Heavy the Giant. And he ran, and ran, till his coat was torn and his ears were red. And he never rested till he reached his cottage door, and got inside.

Heigh-Heavy laughed till he cried to see the little gnome run. "He will play no tricks on me!" said he. And he went in and shut the door.

But Wry-Face said to himself as, weeping, he carried the potatoes to the potato-wife:

"I will never play a trick on anyone again, not as long as I live!"

The Pot of Gold


Chrif begins the Search

Once upon a time there stood by the roadside an old red house. In this house lived three people. They were an old grandmother; her grandchild, Rhoda; and a boy named Christopher. Christopher was no relation to Rhoda and her grandmother. He was called Chrif for short.

The grandmother earned her living by picking berries. Every day in fair weather she went to the pastures. But she did not take the children with her. They played at home.

Rhoda had a flower garden in an old boat. The boat was filled with earth. There grew larkspur and sweet-william. Rhoda loved her flowers and tended them faithfully.

Chrif did not care much for flowers. He preferred to sail boats. He would cut them out of wood with his jack-knife, and load them with stones and grass. Then he would send the boats down the little stream that flowed past the old red house.

"This ship is going to India," he would say to Rhoda. "She carries gold and will bring back pearls and rice."

"How much you know, Chrif," said Rhoda.

"I mean to go to India some day," said Chrif. "People ride on elephants there."

Rhoda would sail little twigs in the stream. Her boats were small, but they sometimes went farther than Chrif's. His were loaded so heavily that they often overturned.

One day the children were sailing boats when a thunder-storm arose. How fast the rain fell! And how fast they ran to the house!

"Poor grandmother will be all wet!" said Rhoda. She and Chrif were watching the falling rain from the window.

Suddenly the sun came out. A little rain was still falling, but the children ran into the yard.

"Look, there's a rainbow!" cried Chrif. "What pretty colours! and how ugly our old red house looks! I wish I were where the rainbow is."

"I see just the colour of my larkspur in the rainbow," said Rhoda.

"O pooh!" said Chrif, "only a flower! That's not much. Now if I were only rich, I wouldn't stay here. I'd go off into the world. How grand it must be over there beyond the rainbow."

"One end is quite near us," said Rhoda.

"Are ye looking for a pot of gold, children?" said a voice behind them. It was the old broom-woman. She had a little house in the woods and sold brooms for a living.

"A pot of gold!" cried Chrif. "Where is it?"

"It's at the foot of the rainbow," said the broom-woman. "If ye get to the foot of the rainbow and then dig and dig, ye'll come to a pot of gold."

"Rhoda! let's go quick!" said Chrif.

"No," said Rhoda, "I ought to weed my flowers."

"Ye must hurry," laughed the old broom-woman. "The rainbow won't stay for lazy folks."

"I'm off!" cried Chrif; and away he went in search of the pot of gold. Rhoda watched him out of sight. Then she turned to weed the boat-garden.

When her grandmother came from the berry pasture, Rhoda told her where Chrif had gone. "We shall all be rich when he comes back with his pot of gold," said the little girl.

"He will not find it," said the grandmother. Rhoda, however, was not so sure.

Chrif in the New Land

Chrif ran straight across the fields toward the glowing rainbow. One end of the lovely arch seemed to touch the top of a distant hill. Chrif climbed the hill, but the rainbow was no longer there. It rested on the far side of a valley. He hurried down the hill and into the valley. When he reached the spot where the end of the rainbow had rested, the rainbow was gone. Chrif could see it nowhere.

The lad stopped and looked around him. Not far away a flock of sheep were feeding. A shepherd-boy lay on the ground near them. He was reading a book.

Chrif crept to the shepherd-boy's side and read over his shoulder. This is what he read: "Beyond the setting of the sun lies the New Land. Here are mountains, forests, and mighty rivers. The sands of the streams are golden; the trees grow wonderful fruit; the mountains hide strange monsters. Upon a high pillar near the coast is the famous pot of gold."

"Oh, where is this country?" cried Chrif.

"Will you go?" asked Gavin, the shepherd-boy.

"Go! That I will," said Chrif. "The pot of gold is there, and that is what I have set out to find."

"Yes," said Gavin, "the pot of gold is there and many other things. I long to see them all. Let us hurry on our way."

The two boys first went through a forest. Then they came out upon the ocean side. The sun was setting in the sea. A path of gold lay across the water.

A gay ship was about to set sail. Her white canvas was spread; her oars were in place. Her deck was crowded with lads. They were all starting for the wonderful New Land across the sea.

Chrif and Gavin climbed on board and the ship bounded from the land.

On and on they went, straight into the sunset. The rowers sang as they worked. Gavin tried to read his book, but Chrif looked eagerly ahead. How he longed to see the new country to which they were going!

And very soon the New Land came in sight. Then a party landed; Chrif, Gavin, and a boy named Andy were among them.

They walked some distance and then night darkened down around them. The mountains looked cruel; the fields barren. "Let us return to the ship," said many.

But Chrif would not turn back. "I must find the pot of gold," he said, "it cannot now be far away." And Gavin and Andy went with him.

"I should like to dip my fingers into your pot of gold," said Andy.

"You shall have your share," said Chrif. "It is on the top of a pillar not far from the coast. If you'll stand below, I'll get on your shoulders, and then perhaps I can reach it."

"Only don't let it drop on my head," said Andy, with a laugh.

They walked along the shore in silence. After a time Chrif cried out with joy, "Here is a path leading into the woods. And I do believe I see the pillar!"

"Hurrah!" cried Andy, "let's push on!"

And now the three stood at the foot of the pillar and looked up to the top. By the faint light of the moon they saw the pot of gold.

"Climb on Andy's shoulders, Gavin, and then I will stand on yours," said Chrif.

"I don't want the pot of gold," said Gavin. "I have seen it; that is enough. I will go to see the Magic Fountain," and Gavin turned into the forest.

The other two friends stood by the pillar. "I must have that pot of gold. I want it for Rhoda and the old grandmother."

As Chrif spoke, he looked at the pillar. Lo! a picture was on its side. He saw the old red house, the grandmother at the window, and Rhoda in the garden. Rhoda was watering the flowers in the dear old boat. Now and then she would turn her head and look up the road. She seemed hoping that Chrif would come.

The pillar and the pot of gold faded away; then the picture of home went too. Chrif was left in darkness.

Then Andy spoke. "Hark!" he whispered, "I hear something."

Chrif at the Palace

Chrif listened and he too heard distant music. Its notes were very sweet.

"Come, let us go where the music is!" said Andy.

Chrif and Andy made their way through the woods and entered a shining city. Every street was blazing with lights; the fronts of the houses were hung with lanterns; fireworks were being set off in the public squares. All the people wore their finest clothes.

"How gay they all are! I wonder why?" said Andy.

"Hush!" cried Chrif.

A man on a prancing horse had just come in sight. He reined in his horse and blew a horn. Then he cried with a loud voice these words: "This night there is a ball in the palace. All are welcome. The Pot of Gold will be given to the one with whom the Princess shall dance."

"Hurrah!" cried the people. "Hurrah! hurrah!" cried Chrif, louder than them all.

When Chrif and Andy entered the palace, they saw the Princess upon her throne. Dancing was going on, but the Princess did not dance. She was waiting for the handsomest dancer. All who thought themselves good-looking stood in a row not far from the Princess. Each lad was trying to look handsomer than the others in the line.

Over the throne was a pearl clock. It was that kind of clock called a cuckoo clock. When the hours struck, a golden cuckoo would come out of a little door. He would cuckoo as many times as there were hours and then go back, shutting the door after him.

When Chrif and Andy entered the hall, the Princess saw them at once. "Those two are the handsomest of all," she thought, "and one of them is handsomer than the other."

She looked at Chrif again. Then she stepped down from the throne.

"Dance with me," she said, "and you shall have the pot of gold," and she held out her hand to Chrif.

"What was I to do with it?" asked Chrif. "Oh, I know. I was to take it home to Rhoda."

That moment the little bird burst open the pearl door. "Cuckoo! cuckoo! cuckoo!" he cried.

But to Chrif he seemed to say: "Rhoda sits by the window watching for Chrif. The flowers are dead in the boat-garden. 'Chrif will never come back,' says grandmother, 'he cares nothing for us.'"

Again Chrif saw the beautiful hall and the Princess standing before him. Then, suddenly, the music grew harsh; the palace walls fell; the dancers were gone. Chrif was all alone.

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