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Title: Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales
Author: Ewing, Juliana Horatia Gatty, 1841-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales" ***

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OLD-FASHIONED FAIRY TALES

by

JULIANA HORATIA EWING.

London:
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,
Northumberland Avenue, W.C.
New York: E. & J.B. Young & Co.
[Published under the direction of the General Literature Committee.]



     DEDICATED TO MY DEAR SISTER, UNDINE MARCIA GATTY.

     J.H.E.



    "Know'st thou not the little path
    That winds about the Ferny brae,
    That is the road to bonnie Elfland,
    Where thou and I this night maun gae."

    _Thomas the Rhymer_.



PREFACE.


As the title of this story-book may possibly suggest that the tales
are old fairy tales told afresh, it seems well to explain that this is
not so.

Except for the use of common "properties" of Fairy Drama, and a
scrupulous endeavour to conform to tradition in local colour and
detail, the stories are all new.

They have appeared at intervals during some years past in "AUNT JUDY'S
MAGAZINE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE," and were written in conformity to certain
theories respecting stories of this kind, with only two of which shall
the kindly reader of prefaces be troubled.

First, that there are ideas and types, occurring in the myths of all
countries, which are common properties, to use which does not lay the
teller of fairy tales open to the charge of plagiarism. Such as the
idea of the weak outwitting the strong; the failure of man to choose
wisely when he may have his wish; or the desire of sprites to exchange
their careless and unfettered existence for the pains and penalties of
humanity, if they may thereby share in the hopes of the human soul.

Secondly, that in these household stories (the models for which were
originally oral tradition) the thing most to be avoided is a
discursive or descriptive style of writing. Brevity and epigram must
ever be soul of their wit, and they should be written as tales that
are told.

The degree in which, if at all, the following tales fulfil these
conditions, nursery critics must decide.

There are older critics before whom fairy tales, as such, need excuse,
even if they do not meet with positive disapprobation.

On this score I can only say that, for myself, I believe them to
be--beyond all need of defence--most valuable literature for the
young. I do not believe that wonder-tales confuse children's ideas of
truth. If there are young intellects so imperfect as to be incapable
of distinguishing between fancy and falsehood, it is surely most
desirable to develop in them the power to do so; but, as a rule, in
childhood we appreciate the distinction with a vivacity which, as
elders, our care-clogged memories fail to recall.

Moreover fairy tales have positive uses in education, which no
cramming of facts, and no merely domestic fiction can serve.

Like Proverbs and Parables, they deal with first principles under the
simplest forms. They convey knowledge of the world, shrewd lessons of
virtue and vice, of common sense and sense of humour, of the seemly
and the absurd, of pleasure and pain, success and failure, in
narratives where the plot moves briskly and dramatically from a
beginning to an end. They treat, not of the corner of a nursery or a
playground, but of the world at large, and life in perspective; of
forces visible and invisible; of Life, Death, and Immortality.

For causes obvious to the student of early myths, they foster sympathy
with nature, and no class of child-literature has done so much to
inculcate the love of animals.

They cultivate the Imagination, that great gift which time and
experience lead one more and more to value--handmaid of Faith, of
Hope, and, perhaps most of all, of Charity!

It is true that some of the old fairy tales do not teach the high and
useful lessons that most of them do; and that they unquestionably deal
now and again with phases of grown-up life, and with crimes and
catastrophes, that seem unsuitable for nursery entertainment.

As to the latter question, it must be remembered that the brevity of
the narrative--whether it be a love story or a robber story--deprives
it of all harm; a point which writers of modern fairy tales do not
always realize for their guidance.

The writer of the following tales has endeavoured to bear this
principle in mind, and it is hoped that the morals--and it is of the
essence of fairy tales to have a moral--of all of them are beyond
reproach.

For the rest they are committed to the indulgence of the gentle
reader.

Hans Anderssen, perhaps the greatest writer of modern fairy tales, was
content to say:

    "FAIRY TALE NEVER DIES."

    J.H.E.



CONTENTS.

     PAGE GOOD LUCK IS BETTER THAN GOLD

     THE HILLMAN AND THE HOUSEWIFE

     THE NECK, A LEGEND OF A LAKE

     THE NIX IN MISCHIEF

     THE COBBLER AND THE GHOSTS

     THE LAIRD AND THE MAN OF PEACE

     THE OGRE COURTING

     THE MAGICIANS' GIFTS

     THE WIDOWS AND THE STRANGERS

     KIND WILLIAM AND THE WATER SPRITE

     MURDOCH'S RATH

     THE LITTLE DARNER

     THE FIDDLER IN THE FAIRY RING

     "I WON'T"

     THE MAGIC JAR

     THE FIRST WIFE'S WEDDING-RING

     THE MAGICIAN TURNED MISCHIEF-MAKER

     KNAVE AND FOOL

     UNDER THE SUN



GOOD LUCK IS BETTER THAN GOLD.


There was once upon a time a child who had Good Luck for his godfather.

"I am not Fortune," said Good Luck to the parents; "I have no gifts to
bestow, but whenever he needs help I will be at hand."

"Nothing could be better," said the old couple. They were delighted.
But what pleases the father often fails to satisfy the son: moreover,
every man thinks that he deserves just a little more than he has got,
and does not reckon it to the purpose if his father had less.

Many a one would be thankful to have as good reasons for contentment
as he who had Good Luck for his godfather.

If he fell, Good Luck popped something soft in the way to break his
fall; if he fought, Good Luck directed his blows, or tripped up his
adversary; if he got into a scrape, Good Luck helped him out of it;
and if ever Misfortune met him, Good Luck contrived to hustle her on
the pathway till his godson got safely by.

In games of hazard the godfather played over his shoulder. In matters
of choice he chose for him. And when the lad began to work on his
father's farm the farmer began to get rich. For no bird or field-mouse
touched a seed that his son had sown, and every plant he planted
throve when Good Luck smiled on it.

The boy was not fond of work, but when he did go into the fields, Good
Luck followed him.

"Your christening-day was a blessed day for us all," said the old
farmer.

"He has never given me so much as a lucky sixpence," muttered Good
Luck's godson.

"I am not Fortune--I make no presents," said the godfather.

When we are discontented it is oftener to please our neighbours than
ourselves. It was because the other boys had said--"Simon, the
shoemaker's son, has an alderman for his godfather. He gave him a
silver spoon with the Apostle Peter for the handle; but thy godfather
is more powerful than any alderman"--that Good Luck's godson
complained, "He has never given me so much as a bent sixpence."

By and by the old farmer died, and his son grew up, and had the
largest farm in the country. The other boys grew up also, and as they
looked over the farmer's boundary-wall, they would say:

"Good-morning, Neighbour. That is certainly a fine farm of yours. Your
cattle thrive without loss. Your crops grow in the rain and are reaped
with the sunshine. Mischance never comes your road. What you have
worked for you enjoy. Such success would turn the heads of poor folk
like us. At the same time one would think a man need hardly work for
his living at all who has Good Luck for his godfather."

"That is very true," thought the farmer. "Many a man is prosperous,
and reaps what he sows, who had no more than the clerk and the sexton
for gossips at his christening."

"What is the matter, Godson?" asked Good Luck, who was with him in the
field.

"I want to be rich," said the farmer.

"You will not have to wait long," replied the godfather. "In every
field you sow, in every flock you rear there is increase without
abatement. Your wealth is already tenfold greater than your father's."

"Aye, aye," replied the farmer. "Good wages for good work. But many a
young man has gold at his command who need never turn a sod, and none
of the Good People came to _his_ christening. Fortunatus's Purse now,
or even a sack or two of gold--"

"Peace!" cried the godfather; "I have said that I give no gifts."

Though he had not Fortunatus's Purse, the farmer had now money and to
spare, and when the harvest was gathered in, he bought a fine suit of
clothes, and took his best horse and went to the royal city to see the
sights.

The pomp and splendour, the festivities and fine clothes dazzled him.

"This is a gay life which these young courtiers lead," said he. "A man
has nothing to do but to enjoy himself."

"If he has plenty of gold in his pocket," said a bystander.

By and by the Princess passed in her carriage. She was the King's only
daughter. She had hair made of sunshine, and her eyes were stars.

"What an exquisite creature!" cried the farmer. "What would not one
give to possess her?"

"She has as many suitors as hairs on her head," replied the bystander.
"She wants to marry the Prince of Moonshine, but he only dresses in
silver, and the King thinks he might find a richer son-in-law. The
Princess will go to the highest bidder."

"And I have Good Luck for my godfather, and am not even at court!"
cried the farmer; and he put spurs to his horse, and rode home.

Good Luck was taking care of the farm.

"Listen, Godfather!" cried the young man. "I am in love with the
King's daughter, and want her to wife."

"It is not an easy matter," replied Good Luck, "but I will do what I
can for you. Say that by good luck you saved the Princess's life, or
perhaps better the King's--for they say he is selfish--"

"Tush!" cried the farmer. "The King is covetous, and wants a rich
son-in-law."

"A wise man may bring wealth to a kingdom with his head, if not with
his hands," said Good Luck, "and I can show you a district where the
earth only wants mining to be flooded with wealth. Besides, there are
a thousand opportunities that can be turned to account and influence.
By wits and work, and with Good Luck to help him, many a poorer man
than you has risen to greatness."

"Wits and work!" cried the indignant godson. "You speak well--truly! A
hillman would have made a better godfather. Give me as much gold as
will fill three meal-bins, and you may keep the rest of your help for
those who want it."

Now at this moment by Good Luck stood Dame Fortune. She likes handsome
young men, and there was some little jealousy between her and the
godfather so she smiled at the quarrel.

"You would rather have had me for your gossip?" said she.

"If you would give me three wishes, I would," replied the farmer
boldly, "and I would trouble you no more."

"Will you make him over to me?" said Dame Fortune to the godfather.

"If he wishes it," replied Good Luck. "But if he accepts your gifts he
has no further claim on me."

"Nor on me either," said the Dame. "Hark ye, young man, you mortals
are apt to make a hobble of your three wishes, and you may end with a
sausage at your nose, like your betters."

"I have thought of it too often," replied the farmer, "and I know what
I want. For my first wish I desire imperishable beauty."

"It is yours," said Dame Fortune, smiling as she looked at him.

"The face of a prince and the manners of a clown are poor partners,"
said the farmer. "My second wish is for suitable learning and courtly
manners, which cannot be gained at the plough-tail."

"You have them in perfection," said the Dame, as the young man thanked
her by a graceful bow.

"Thirdly," said he, "I demand a store of gold that I can never
exhaust."

"I will lead you to it," said Dame Fortune; and the young man was so
eager to follow her that he did not even look back to bid farewell to
his godfather.

He was soon at court. He lived in the utmost pomp. He had a suit of
armour made for himself out of beaten gold. No metal less precious
might come near his person, except for the blade of his sword. This
was obliged to be made of steel, for gold is not always strong enough
to defend one's life or his honour. But the Princess still loved the
Prince of Moonshine.

"Stuff and nonsense!" said the King. "I shall give you to the Prince
of Gold."

"I wish I had the good luck to please her," muttered the young Prince.
But he had not, for all his beauty and his wealth. However, she was to
marry him, and that was something.

The preparations for the wedding were magnificent.

"It is a great expense," sighed the King, "but then I get the Prince
of Gold for a son-in-law."

The Prince and his bride drove round the city in a triumphal
procession. Her hair fell over her like sunshine, but the starlight of
her eyes was cold.

In the train rode the Prince of Moonshine, dressed in silver, and
with no colour in his face.

As the bridal chariot approached one of the city gates, two black
ravens hovered over it, and then flew away, and settled on a tree.

Good Luck was sitting under the tree to see his godson's triumph, and
he heard the birds talking above him.

"Has the Prince of Gold no friend who can tell him that there is a
loose stone above the archway that is tottering to fall?" said they.
And Good Luck covered his face with his mantle as the Prince drove
through.

Just as they were passing out of the gateway the stone fell on to the
Prince's head. He wore a casque of pure gold, but his neck was broken.


    "We can't have all this expense for nothing," said the King:
    so he married his daughter to the Prince of Moonshine. If one
    can't get gold one must be content with silver.


"Will you come to the funeral?" asked Dame Fortune of the godfather.

"Not I," replied Good Luck. "I had no hand in _this_ matter."

The rain came down in torrents. The black feathers on the ravens'
backs looked as if they had been oiled.

"Caw! caw!" said they. "It was an unlucky end."

However, the funeral was a very magnificent one, for there was no
stint of gold.



THE HILLMAN AND THE HOUSEWIFE.


It is well known that the Good People cannot abide meanness. They like
to be liberally dealt with when they beg or borrow of the human race;
and, on the other hand, to those who come to them in need, they are
invariably generous.

Now there once lived a certain Housewife who had a sharp eye to her
own interests in temporal matters, and gave alms of what she had no
use for, for the good of her soul. One day a Hillman knocked at her
door.

"Can you lend us a saucepan, good Mother?" said he. "There's a wedding
in the hill, and all the pots are in use."

"Is he to have one?" asked the servant lass who had opened the door.

"Aye, to be sure," answered the Housewife. "One must be neighbourly."

But when the maid was taking a saucepan from the shelf, she pinched
her arm, and whispered sharply--"Not that, you slut! Get the old one
out of the cupboard. It leaks, and the Hillmen are so neat, and such
nimble workers, that they are sure to mend it before they send it
home. So one obliges the Good People, and saves sixpence in tinkering.
But you'll never learn to be notable whilst your head is on your
shoulders."

Thus reproached, the maid fetched the saucepan, which had been laid by
till the tinker's next visit, and gave it to the dwarf, who thanked
her, and went away.

In due time the saucepan was returned, and, as the Housewife had
foreseen, it was neatly mended and ready for use.

At supper-time the maid filled the pan with milk, and set it on the
fire for the children's supper. But in a few minutes the milk was so
burnt and smoked that no one could touch it, and even the pigs refused
the wash into which it was thrown.

"Ah, good-for-nothing hussy!" cried the Housewife, as she refilled the
pan herself, "you would ruin the richest with your carelessness.
There's a whole quart of good milk wasted at once!"

"_And that's twopence_," cried a voice which seemed to come from the
chimney, in a whining tone, like some nattering, discontented old body
going over her grievances.

The Housewife had not left the saucepan for two minutes, when the
milk boiled over, and it was all burnt and smoked as before.

"The pan must be dirty," muttered the good woman, in great vexation;
"and there are two full quarts of milk as good as thrown to the dogs."

"_And that's fourpence_," added the voice in the chimney.

After a thorough cleaning, the saucepan was once more filled and set
on the fire, but with no better success. The milk was hopelessly
spoilt, and the housewife shed tears of vexation at the waste, crying,
"Never before did such a thing befall me since I kept house! Three
quarts of new milk burnt for one meal!"

"_And that's sixpence_," cried the voice from the chimney. "_You
didn't save the tinkering after all Mother_!"

With which the Hillman himself came tumbling down the chimney, and
went off laughing through the door.

But thenceforward the saucepan was as good as any other.



THE NECK.

A Legend of a Lake.


On a certain lake there once lived a Neck, or Water Sprite, who
desired, above all things, to obtain a human soul. Now when the sun
shone this Neck rose up and sat upon the waves and played upon his
harp. And he played so sweetly that the winds stayed to listen to him,
and the sun lingered in his setting, and the moon rose before her
time. And the strain was in praise of immortality.

Furthermore, out of the lake there rose a great rock, whereon dwelt an
aged hermit, who by reason of his loneliness was afflicted with a
spirit of melancholy; so that when the fit was on him, he was
constantly tempted to throw himself into the water, for his life was
burdensome to him. But one day, when this gloomy madness had driven
him to the edge of the rock to cast himself down, the Neck rose at the
same moment, and sitting upon a wave, began to play. And the strain
was in praise of immortality. And the melody went straight to the
heart of the hermit as a sunbeam goes into a dark cave, and it
dispelled his gloom, and he thought all to be as well with him as
before it had seemed ill. And he called to the Neck and said, "What is
that which thou dost play, my son?"

And the Neck answered, "It is in praise of immortality."

Then said the hermit, "I beg that thou wilt play frequently beneath
this rock; for I am an aged and solitary man, and by reason of my
loneliness, life becomes a burden to me, and I am tempted to throw it
away. But by this gracious strain the evil has been dispelled.
Wherefore I beg thee to come often and to play as long as is
convenient. And yet I cannot offer thee any reward, for I am poor and
without possessions."

Then the Neck replied, "There are treasures below the water as above,
and I desire no earthly riches. But if thou canst tell me how I may
gain a human soul, I will play on till thou shalt bid me cease."

And the hermit said, "I must consider the matter. But I will return
to-morrow at this time and answer thee."

Then the next day he returned as he had said, and the Neck was
waiting impatiently on the lake, and he cried, "What news, my father?"

And the hermit said, "If that at any time some human being will freely
give his life for thee, thou wilt gain a human soul. But thou also
must die the selfsame day."

"The short life for the long one!" cried the Neck; and he played a
melody so full of happiness that the blood danced through the hermit's
veins as if he were a boy again. But the next day when he came as
usual the Neck called to him and said, "My father, I have been
thinking. Thou art aged and feeble, and at the most there are but few
days of life remaining to thee. Moreover, by reason of thy loneliness
even these are a burden. Surely there is none more fit than thou to be
the means of procuring me a human soul. Wherefore I beg of thee, let
us die to-day."

But the hermit cried out angrily, "Wretch! Is this thy gratitude?
Wouldst thou murder me?"

"Nay, old man," replied the Neck, "thou shalt part easily with thy
little fag-end of life. I can play upon my harp a strain of such
surpassing sadness that no human heart that hears it but must break.
And yet the pain of that heartbreak shall be such that thou wilt not
know it from rapture. Moreover, when the sun sets below the water, my
spirit also will depart without suffering. Wherefore I beg of thee,
let us die to-day."

"Truly," said the hermit, "it is because thou art only a Neck, and
nothing better, that thou dost not know the value of human life."

"And art thou a man, possessed already of a soul, and destined for
immortality," cried the Neck, "and dost haggle and grudge to benefit
me by the sacrifice of a few uncertain days, when it is but to
exchange them for the life that knows no end?"

"Our days are always uncertain," replied the hermit; "but existence is
very sweet, even to the most wretched. Moreover, I see not that thou
hast any claim upon mine." Saying which he returned to his cell, but
the Neck, flinging aside his harp, sat upon the water, and wept
bitterly.

Days passed, and the hermit did not show himself, and at last the Neck
resolved to go and visit him. So he took his harp, and taking also the
form of a boy with long fair hair and a crimson cap, he appeared in
the hermit's cell. There he found the old man stretched upon his
pallet, for lie was dying. When he saw the Neck he was glad, and said,
"I have desired to see thee, for I repent myself that I did not
according to thy wishes. Yet is the desire of life stronger in the
human breast than thou canst understand. Nevertheless I am sorry, and
I am sorry also that, as I am sick unto death, my life will no longer
avail thee. But when I am dead, do thou take all that belongs to me,
and dress thyself in my robe, and go out into the world, and do works
of mercy, and perchance some one whom thou hast benefited will be
found willing to die with thee, that thou mayst obtain a soul."

"Now indeed I thank thee!" cried the Neck. "But yet one word
more--what are these works of which thou speakest?"

"The corporal works of mercy are seven," gasped the hermit, raising
himself on his arm. "To feed the hungry and give the thirsty drink, to
visit the sick, to redeem captives, to clothe the naked, to shelter
the stranger and the houseless, to visit the widow and fatherless, and
to bury the dead." Then even as he spoke the last words the hermit
died. And the Neck clothed himself in his robe, and, not to delay in
following the directions given to him, he buried the hermit with pious
care, and planted flowers upon his grave. After which he went forth
into the world.

Now for three hundred years did the Neck go about doing acts of mercy
and charity towards men. And amongst the hungry, and the naked, and
the sick, and the poor, and the captives, there were not a few who
seemed to be weary of this life of many sorrows. But when he had fed
the hungry, and clothed the naked, and relieved the sick, and made
the poor rich, and set the captive free, life was too dear to all of
them to be given up. Therefore he betook himself to the most miserable
amongst men, and offering nothing but an easy death in a good cause,
he hoped to find some aged and want-worn creature who would do him the
kindness he desired. But of those who must look forward to the fewest
days and to the most misery there was not one but, like the fabled
woodcutter, chose to trudge out to the end his miserable span.

So when three hundred years were past, the Neck's heart failed him,
and he said, "All this avails nothing. Wherefore I will return to the
lake, and there abide what shall befall." And this he accordingly did.

Now one evening there came a tempest down from the hills, and there
was a sudden squall on the lake. And a certain young man in a boat
upon the lake was overtaken by the storm. And as he struggled hard,
and it seemed as if every moment must be his last, a young maid who
was his sweetheart came down to the shore, and cried aloud in her
agony, "Alas, that his young life should be cut short thus!"

"Trouble not thyself," said the Neck; "this life is so short and so
uncertain, that if he were rescued to-day he might be taken from thee
to-morrow. Only in eternity is love secure. Wherefore be patient, and
thou shalt soon follow him."

"And who art thou that mockest my sorrow?" cried the maiden.

"One who has watched the passing misfortunes of many generations
before thine," replied the Neck.

And when the maiden looked, and saw one like a little old man wringing
out his beard into the lake, she knew it was a Neck, and cried, "Now
surely thou art a Neck, and they say, 'When Necks play, the winds
wisht;' wherefore I beg of thee to play upon thy harp, and it may be
that the storm will lull, and my beloved will be saved."

But the Neck answered, "It is not worth while."

And when the maiden could not persuade him, she fell upon her face in
bitter grief, and cried, "Oh, my Beloved! Would GOD I could die for
thee!"

"And yet thou wouldst not if thou couldst," said the Neck.

"If it be in thy power to prove me--prove me!" cried the maiden; "for
indeed he is the only stay of aged parents, and he is young and
unprepared for death. Moreover his life is dearer to me than my own."

Then the Neck related his own story, and said, "If thou wilt do this
for me, which none yet has done whom I have benefited, I will play
upon my harp, and if the winds wisht, thou must die this easy death;
but if I fail in my part, I shall not expect thine to be fulfilled.
And we must both abide what shall befall, even as others." And to this
the maiden consented most willingly. Only she said, "Do this for me, I
beg of thee. Let him come so near that I may just see his face before
I die." And it was so agreed.

Then the aged Neck drew forth his harp and began to play. And as he
played the wind stayed, as one who pauses to hearken with cleft lips,
and the lake rose and fell gently, like the bosom of a girl moved by
some plaintive song, and the sun burst forth as if to see who made
such sweet music. And so through this happy change the young man got
safe to land. Then the Neck turned to the maiden and said, "Dost thou
hold to thy promise?" And she bowed her head.

"In the long life be thy recompense!" cried the Neck, fervently, and
taking his harp again, he poured his whole spirit into the strain. And
as he played, it seemed as if the night wind moaned among pine-trees,
but it was more mournful. And it was as the wail of a mother for her
only son, and yet fuller of grief. Or like a Dead March wrung from the
heart of a great musician--loading the air with sorrow--and yet all
these were as nothing to it for sadness. And when the maiden heard it,
it was more than she could bear, and her heart broke, as the Neck had
said. Then the young man sprang to shore, and when she could see his
face clearly, her soul passed, and her body fell like a snapped flower
to the earth.

Now when the young man knew what was befallen, he fell upon the Neck
to kill him, who said, "Thou mayest spare thyself this trouble, for in
a few moments I shall be dead. But do thou take my robe and my harp,
and thou shalt be a famous musician."

Now even as the Neck spoke the sun sank, and he fell upon his face.
And when the young man lifted the robe, behold there was nothing under
it but the harp, across which there swept such a wild and piteous
chord that all the strings burst as if with unutterable grief.

Then the young man lifted the body of his sweetheart in his arms, and
carried her home, and she was buried with many tears.

And in due time he put fresh strings to the harp, which, though it was
not as when it was in the hands of the Neck, yet it made most
exquisite music. And the young man became a famous musician. For out
of suffering comes song.

Furthermore, he occupied himself in good works until that his time
also came.

       *       *       *       *       *

And in Eternity Love was made secure.



THE NIX IN MISCHIEF.


A certain lake in Germany was once the home of a Nix, who became tired
of the monotony of life under water, and wished to go into the upper
world and amuse himself.

His friends and relations all tried to dissuade him. "Be wise," said
they, "and remain where you are safe, seeing that no business summons
you from the lake. Few of our kindred have had dealings with the human
race without suffering from their curiosity or clumsiness; and, do
them what good you may, in the long run you will reap nothing but
ingratitude. From how many waters have they not already banished us?
Wherefore let well alone, and stay where you are."

But this counsel did not please the Nix--(as, indeed, there is no
reason to suppose that advice is more palatable under water than on
dry land)--and he only said, "I shall not expect gratitude, for I have
no intention of conferring benefits; but I wish to amuse myself. The
Dwarfs and Kobolds play what pranks they please on men and women, and
they do not always have the worst of it. When I hear of their
adventures, the soles of my feet tingle. This is a sign of travelling,
and am I to be debarred from fun because I live in a lake instead of a
hill?"

His friends repeated their warnings, but to no purpose. The Nix
remained unconvinced, and spent his time in dreaming of the clever
tricks by which he should outwit the human race, and the fame he would
thereby acquire on his return to the lake.

Mischief seldom lacks opportunity, and shortly after this it happened
that a young girl came down to the lake for water to wash with; and
dipping her pail just above the Nix's head, in a moment he jumped in,
and was brought safe to land. The maid was Bess, the washerwoman's
daughter; and as she had had one good scolding that morning for
oversleeping herself, and another about noon for dawdling with her
work, she took up the pail and set off home without delay.

But though she held it steadily enough, the bucket shook, and the
water spilled hither and thither. Thinking that her right arm might be
tired, she moved the weight to her left, but with no better success,
for the water still spilled at every step. "One would think there were
fishes in the pail," said Bess, as she set it down. But there was
nothing to be seen but a thin red water-worm wriggling at the bottom,
such as you may see any day in a soft-water tub. It was in this shape,
however, that the Nix had disguised himself, and he almost writhed out
of his skin with delight at the success of his first essay in
mischief.

When they once more set forward the Nix leaped and jumped harder than
ever, so that not only was the water spilled, but the maiden's dress
was soaked, and her tears dropped almost as fast as the wet dripped
from her clothes.

"The pail is bewitched!" cried the poor girl. "How my mother will beat
me for this! And my back aches as if I were carrying lead, and yet the
water is nearly all gone."

"This is something like fun!" laughed the Nix. "When I go home and
relate _my_ adventures, no dwarfs pranks will be named again!" But
when Bess looked into the pail, he was the same slimy, stupid-looking
worm as before. She dared not return to the lake for more
water--"for," said she, "I should be as much beaten for being late as
for bringing short measure, and have the labour to boot." So she took
up her burden again, and the Nix began his dance afresh, and by the
time they came to their journey's end, there was not a quart of water
in the pail.

"Was ever a poor woman plagued with such a careless hussy?" cried the
mother when she saw the dripping dress; and, as Bess had expected, she
seasoned her complaints with a hearty slap. "And look what she calls a
pailful of water!" added the mother, with a second blow.

"Late in the morning's unlucky all day," thought poor Bess, and, as
her mother curled her, she screamed till the house rang with the
noise; for she had good lungs, and knew that it is well to cry out
before one gets too much hurt.

Meanwhile the Nix thought she was enduring agonies, and could hardly
contain his mischievous glee; and when the woman bade her "warm some
water quickly for the wash," he was in no way disturbed, for he had
never seen boiling water, and only anticipated fresh sport as he
slipped from the pail into the kettle.

"Now," cried the mother sharply, "see if you can lift _that_ without
slopping your clothes."

"Aye, aye," laughed the Nix, "see if you can, my dear!" and as poor
Bess seized it in her sturdy red hands he began to dance as before.
But the kettle had a lid, which the pail had not. Moreover Bess was a
strong, strapping lass, and, stimulated by the remembrance of her
mother's slaps, with a vigorous effort she set the kettle on the fire.
"I shall be glad when I'm safely in bed," she muttered. "Everything
goes wrong to-day."

"It is warm in here," said the Nix to himself, after a while; "in
fact--stuffy. But one must pay something for a frolic, and it tickles
my ears to hear that old woman rating her daughter for my pranks. Give
me time and opportunity, and I'll set the whole stupid race by the
ears. There she goes again! It is worth enduring a little discomfort,
though it certainly is warm, and I fancy it grows warmer."

By degrees the bottom of the kettle grew quite hot, and burnt the Nix,
so that he had to jump up and down in the water to keep himself cool.
The noise of this made the woman think that the kettle was boiling,
and she began to scold her daughter as before, shouting, "Are you
coming with that tub to-night or not? The water is hot already."

This time the Nix laughed (as they say) on the other side of his
mouth; for the water had now become as hot as the bottom of the
kettle, and he screamed at the top of his shrill tiny voice with pain.

"How the kettle sings to-night!" said Bess, "and how it rains!" she
added. For at that moment a tremendous storm burst around the house,
and the rain poured down in sheets of water, as if it meant to wash
everything into the lake. The kettle now really boiled, and the lid
danced up and down with the frantic leaping and jumping of the
agonized Nix, who puffed and blew till his breath came out of the
spout in clouds of steam.

"If your eyes were as sharp as your ears you'd see that the water is
boiling over," snapped the woman; and giving her daughter a passing
push, she hurried to the fire-place, and lifted the kettle on to the
ground.

But no sooner had she set it down, than the lid flew off, and out
jumped a little man with green teeth and a tall green hat, who ran out
of the door wringing his hands and crying--

"Three hundred and three years have I lived in the water of this lake,
and I never knew it boil before!"

As he crossed the threshold, a clap of thunder broke with what sounded
like a peal of laughter from many voices, and then the storm ceased as
suddenly as it had begun.

The woman now saw how matters stood, and did not fail next morning to
fasten an old horseshoe to the door of her house. And seeing that she
had behaved unjustly to her daughter, she bought her the gayest set
of pink ribbons that were to be found at the next fair.

It is on record that Bess (who cared little for slaps and sharp
speeches) thought this the best bargain she had ever made. But whether
the Nix was equally well satisfied is not known.



THE COBBLER AND THE GHOSTS.


Long ago there lived a cobbler who had very poor wits, but by strict
industry he could earn enough to keep himself and his widowed mother
in comfort.

In this manner he had lived for many years in peace and prosperity,
when a distant relative died who left him a certain sum of money. This
so elated the cobbler that he could think of nothing else, and his
only talk was of the best way of spending the legacy.

His mother advised him to lay it by against a rainy day.

"For," said she, "we have lived long in much comfort as we are, and
have need of nothing; but when you grow old, or if it should please
Heaven that you become disabled, you will then be glad of your
savings."

But to this the cobbler would not listen. "No," said he, "if we save
the money it may be stolen, but if we spend it well, we shall have
the use of what we buy, and may sell it again if we are so minded."

He then proposed one purchase after another, and each was more foolish
than the rest. When this had gone on for some time, one morning he
exclaimed: "I have it at last! We will buy the house. It cannot be
stolen or lost, and when it is ours we shall have no rent to pay, and
I shall not have to work so hard."

"He will never hit on a wiser plan than that," thought the widow; "it
is not to be expected." So she fully consented to this arrangement,
which was duly carried out; and the bargain left the cobbler with a
few shillings, which he tied up in a bag and put in his pocket, having
first changed them into pence, that they might make more noise when he
jingled the bag as he walked down the street.

Presently he said; "It is not fit that a man who lives in his own
house, and has ready money in his pocket too, should spend the whole
day in labouring with his hands. Since by good luck I can read, it
would be well that I should borrow a book from the professor, for
study is an occupation suitable to my present position."

Accordingly, he went to the professor, whom he found seated in his
library, and preferred his request.

"What book do you want?" asked the professor.

The cobbler stood and scratched his head thoughtfully. The professor
thought that he was trying to recall the name of the work; but in
reality he was saying to himself: "How much additional knowledge one
requires if he has risen ever so little in life! Now, if I did but
know where it is proper to begin in a case full of books like this!
Should one take the first on the top shelf, or the bottom shelf, to
the left, or to the right?"

At last he resolved to choose the book nearest to him; so drawing it
out from the rest, he answered--

"This one, if it please you, learned sir." The professor lent it to
him, and he took it home and began to read.

It was, as it happened, a book about ghosts and apparitions; and the
cobbler's mind was soon so full of these marvels that he could talk of
nothing else, and hardly did a stroke of work for reading and
pondering over what he read. He could find none of his neighbours who
had seen a ghost, though most had heard of such things, and many
believed in them.

"Live and learn," thought the cobbler; "here is fame as well as
wealth. If I could but see a ghost there would be no more to desire."
And with this intent he sallied forth late one night to the
churchyard.

Meanwhile a thief (who had heard the jingle of his money-bag)
resolved to profit by the cobbler's whim; so wrapping himself in a
sheet, he laid wait for him in a field that he must cross to reach the
church.

When the cobbler saw the white figure, he made sure, that he had now
seen a ghost, and already felt proud of his own acquaintance, as a
remarkable character. Meanwhile, the thief stood quite still, and the
cobbler walked boldly up to him, expecting that the phantom would
either vanish or prove so impalpable that he could pass through it as
through a mist, of which he had read many notable instances in the
professor's book. He soon found out his mistake, however, for the
supposed ghost grappled him, and without loss of time relieved him of
his money-bag. The cobbler (who was not wanting in courage) fastened
as tightly on to the sheet, which he still held with desperate
firmness when the thief had slipped through his fingers; and after
waiting in vain for further marvels, he carried the sheet home to his
mother, and narrated his encounter with the ghost.

"Alack-a-day! that I should have a son with so little wit!" cried the
old woman; "it was no ghost, but a thief, who is now making merry with
all the money we possessed."

"We have his sheet," replied her son; "and that is due solely to my
determination. How could I have acted better?"

"You should have grasped the man, not the sheet," said the widow,
"and pummelled him till he cried out and dropped the money-bag."

"Live and learn," said the cobbler. The next night he went out as
before, and this time reached the churchyard unmolested. He was just
climbing the stile, when he again saw what seemed to be a white figure
standing near the church. As before, it proved solid, and this time he
pummelled it till his fingers bled, and for very weariness he was
obliged to go home and relate his exploits. The ghost had not cried
out, however, nor even so much as moved, for it was neither more nor
less than a tall tombstone shining white in the moonlight.

"Alack-a-day!" cried the old woman, "that I should have a son with so
little wit as to beat a gravestone till his knuckles are sore! Now if
he had covered it with something black that it might not alarm timid
women or children, that would at least have been an act of charity."

"Live and learn," said the cobbler. The following night he again set
forth, but this time in another direction. As he was crossing a field
behind his house he saw some long pieces of linen which his mother had
put out to bleach in the dew.

"More ghosts!" cried the shoemaker, "and they know who is behind them.
They have fallen flat at the sound of my footsteps. But one must
think of others as well as oneself, and it is not every heart that is
as stout as mine." Saying which he returned to the house for something
black to throw over the prostrate ghosts. Now the kitchen chimney had
been swept that morning, and by the back door stood a sack of soot.

"What is blacker than soot?" said the cobbler; and taking the sack, he
shook it out over the pieces of linen till not a thread of white was
to be seen. After which he went home, and boasted of his good deeds.

The widow now saw that she must be more careful as to what she said;
so, after weighing the matter for some time, she suggested to the
cobbler that the next night he should watch for ghosts at home; "for
they are to be seen," said she, "as well when one is in bed as in the
fields."

"There you are right," said the cobbler, "for I have this day read of
a ghost that appeared to a man in his own house. The candles burnt
blue, and when he had called thrice upon the apparition, he became
senseless."

"That was his mistake," said the old woman. "He should have turned a
deaf ear, and even pretended to slumber; but it is not every one who
has courage for this. If one could really fall asleep in the face of
the apparition, there would be true bravery."

"Leave that to me," said the cobbler. And the widow went off
chuckling, to herself, "If he comes to any mischance by holding his
tongue and going to sleep, ill-luck has got him by the leg, and
counsel is wasted on him."

As soon as his mother was in bed, the cobbler prepared for his watch.
First he got together all the candles in the house, and stuck them
here and there about the kitchen, and sat down to watch till they
should burn blue. After waiting some time, during which the candles
only guttered with the draughts, the cobbler decided to go to rest for
a while. "It is too early yet," he thought; "I shall see nothing till
midnight."

Very soon, however, he fell asleep; but towards morning he awoke, and
in the dim light perceived a figure in white at his bedside. It was a
blacksmith who lived near, and he had run in in his night-shirt
without so much as slippers on his feet.

"The ghost at last!" thought the cobbler, and, remembering his
mother's advice, he turned over and shut his eyes.

"Neighbour! neighbour!" cried the blacksmith, "your house is on fire!"

"An old bird is not to be caught with chaff," chuckled the cobbler to
himself; and he pulled the bed-clothes over his head.

"Neighbour!" roared the blacksmith, snatching at the quilt to drag it
off, "are you mad? The house is burning over your head. Get up for
your life!"

"I have the courage of a general, and more," thought the cobbler; and
holding tightly on to the clothes he pretended to snore.

"If you will burn, bum!" cried the blacksmith angrily, "but I mean to
save my bones"--with which he ran off.

And burnt the cobbler undoubtedly would have been, had not his
mother's cries at last convinced him that the candles had set fire to
his house, which was wrapped in flames. With some difficulty he
escaped with his life, but of all he possessed nothing remained to him
but his tools and a few articles of furniture that the widow had
saved.

As he was now again reduced to poverty, he was obliged to work as
diligently as in former years, and passed the rest of his days in the
same peace and prosperity which he had before enjoyed.



THE LAIRD AND THE MAN OF PEACE.


In the Highlands of Scotland there once lived a Laird of Brockburn,
who would not believe in fairies. Although his sixth cousin on the
mother's side, as he returned one night from a wedding, had seen the
Men of Peace hunting on the sides of Ben Muich Dhui, dressed in green,
and with silver-mounted bridles to their horses which jingled as they
rode; and though Rory the fiddler having gone to play at a christening
did never come home, but crossing a hill near Brockburn in a mist was
seduced into a _Shian_[1] or fairy turret, where, as all decent bodies
well believe, he is playing still--in spite, I say, of the wise saws
and experience of all his neighbours, Brockburn remained obstinately
incredulous.

[Footnote 1: _Shian_, a Gaelic name for fairy towers, which by day are
not to be told from mountain crags.]

Not that he bore any ill-will to the Good People, or spoke uncivilly
of them; indeed he always disavowed any feeling of disrespect towards
them if they existed, saying that he was a man of peace himself, and
anxious to live peaceably with whatever neighbours he had, but that
till he had seen one of the _Daoiné Shi_[2] he could not believe in
them.

[Footnote 2: _Daoiné Shi_ (pronounced _Dheener Shee_) = Men of Peace.]

Now one afternoon, between Hallowmas and Yule, it chanced that the
Laird, being out on the hills looking for some cattle, got parted from
his men and dogs and was overtaken by a mist, in which, familiar as
the country was to him, he lost his way.

In vain he raised his voice high, and listened low, no sound of man or
beast came back to him through the thickening vapour.

Then night fell, and darkness was added to the fog, so that Brockburn
needed to sound every step with his _rung_[3] before he took it.

[Footnote 3: _Rung_ = a thick stick.]

Suddenly light footsteps pattered beside him, then Something rubbed
against him, then It ran between his legs. The delighted Laird made
sure that his favourite collie had found him once more.

"Wow, Jock, man!" he cried; "but ye needna throw me on my face. What's
got ye the night, that _you_ should lose your way in a bit mist?"

To this a voice from the level of his elbow replied, in piping but
patronizing tones;

"Never did I lose my way in a mist since the night that Finn crossed
over to Ireland in the Dawn of History. Eh, Laird! I'm weel acquaint
with every bit path on the hill-side these hundreds of years, and I'll
guide ye safe hame, never fear!"

The hairs on Brockburn's head stood on end till they lifted his broad
bonnet, and a damp chill broke out over him that was not the fog. But,
for all that, he stoutly resisted the evidence of his senses, and only
felt about him for the collie's head to pat, crying:

"Bark! Jock, my mannie, bark! Then I'll recognize your voice, ye ken.
It's no canny to hear ye speak like a Christian, my wee doggie."

"I'm nae your doggie, I'm a Man of Peace," was the reply. "Dinna
miscall your betters, Brockburn: why will ye not credit our existence,
man?"

"Seein's believin'," said the Laird, stubbornly; "but the mist's ower
thick for seein' the night, ye ken."

"Turn roun' to your left, man, and ye'll see," said the Dwarf, and
catching Brockburn by the arm, he twisted him swiftly round three
times, when a sudden blaze of light poured through the mist, and
revealed a crag of the mountain well known to the Laird, and which he
now saw to be a kind of turret, or tower.

Lights shone gaily through the crevices or windows of the _Shian_,
and sounds of revelry came forth, among which fiddling was
conspicuous. The tune played at that moment was "Delvyn-side."

Blinded by the light, and amazed at what he saw, the Laird staggered,
and was silent.

"Keep to your feet, man--keep to your feet!" said the Dwarf, laughing.
"I doubt ye're fou, Brockburn!"

"I'm nae fou," said the Laird, slowly, his rung grasped firmly in his
hand, and his bonnet set back from his face, which was deadly pale.
"But--man-_is yon Rory?_ I'd know his fiddle in a thousand."

"Ask no questions, and ye'll be tellt no lees," said the Dwarf. Then
stepping up to the door of the _Shian_, he stood so that the light
from within fell full upon him, and the astonished Laird saw a tiny
but well-proportioned man, with delicate features, and golden hair
flowing over his shoulders. He wore a cloak of green cloth, lined with
daisies, and had silver shoes. His beautiful face quivered with
amusement, and he cried triumphantly, "D'ye see me?--d'ye see me noo,
Brockburn?"

"Aye, aye," said the Laird; "and seein's believin'."

"Then roun' wi' ye!" shouted the Man of Peace; and once more seizing
the Laird by the arm, he turned him swiftly round--this time, to the
right--and at the third turn the light vanished, and Brockburn and
the Man of Peace were once more alone together in the mist.

"Aweel, Brockburn," said the Man of Peace, "I'll alloo ye're candid,
and have a convincible mind. I'm no ill disposit to ye, and yese get
safe hame, man."

As he spoke he stooped down, and picking up half-a-dozen big stones
from the mountain-side, he gave them to the Laird, saying, "If the
gudewife asks ye about the bit stanes, say ye got them in a
compliment."[4]

[Footnote 4: "In a compliment" = "as a present."]

Brockburn put them into his pocket, briefly saying, "I'm obleeged to
ye;" but as he followed the Man of Peace down the hill-side, he found
the obligation so heavy, that from time to time he threw a stone away,
unobserved, as he hoped, by his companion. When the first stone fell,
the Man of Peace looked sharply round, saying:

"What's yon?"

"It'll be me striking my rung upon the ground," said the Laird.

"You're mad," said the Man of Peace, and Brockburn felt sure that he
knew the truth, and was displeased. But as they went on, the stones
were so heavy, and bumped the Laird's side so hard, that he threw away
a second, dropping it as gently as he could. But the sound of its
fall did not escape the ears of the Man of Peace, who cried as before:

"What's yon?"

"It's jest a nasty hoast[5] that I have," said the Laird.

[Footnote 5: "Hoast" = cough.]

"Man, you're daft," said the Dwarf, contemptuously; "that's what ails
ye."

The Laird now resolved to be prudent, but the inconvenience of his
burden was so great that after a while he resolved to risk the
displeasure of the Man of Peace once more, and gently slipped a third
stone to the ground.

"Third time's lucky," he thought. But the proverb failed him, for the
Dwarf turned as before, shouting: "What's yon?"

"It'll be my new brogues[6] that ye hear bumpin' Upon the muckle
stanes," said the Laird.

[Footnote 6: "Brogues" = shoes.]

"Ye're fou, Brockburn, I tellt ye so. Ye're fou!" growled the Man of
Peace, angrily, and the Laird dared not drop any more of the Dwarfs
gifts. After a while his companion's good-humour seemed to return, and
he became talkative and generous.

"I mind your great-grandfather weel, Brockburn. He was a hamely man, I
found his sheep for him one nicht on this verra hill-side. Mair by
token, ye'll find your beasties at hame, and the men and the dogs
forebye."

The Laird thanked him heartily, and after a while the Dwarf became
more liberal-spirited still.

"Yese no have to say that ye've been with the _Daoiné Shi_ and are no
the better for it," he said. "I'm thinking I'll grant ye three wushes.
But choose wisely, man, and dinna throw _them_ away. I hae my fears
that ye're no without a bee in your bonnet, Brockburn."

Incensed by this insinuation, the Laird defended his own sagacity at
some length, and retorted on his companion with doubts of the power of
the _Daoiné Shi_ to grant wishes.

"The proof of the pudding's in the eating o't," said the Man of Peace.
"Wush away, Brockburn, and mak the nut as hard to crack as ye will."

The Laird at once began to cast about in his mind for three wishes
sufficiently comprehensive to secure his lifelong prosperity; but the
more he beat his brains the less could he satisfy himself.

How many miles he wandered thus, the Dwarf keeping silently beside
him, he never knew, before he sank exhausted on the ground, saying:

"I'm thinking, man, that if ye could bring hame to me, in place of
bringing me hame, I'd misdoubt your powers nae mair. It's a far cry to
Loch Awe,[7] ye ken, and it's a weary long road to Brockburn."

[Footnote 7: "It's a far cry to Loch Awe."--_Scotch Proverb_.]

"Is this your wush?" asked the Man of Peace.

"This is my wush," said the Laird, striking his rung upon the ground.

The words had scarcely passed his lips when the whole homestead of
Brockburn, house and farm buildings, was planted upon the bleak
hill-side.

The astonished Laird now began to bewail the rash wish which had
removed his home from the sheltered and fertile valley where it
originally stood to the barren side of a bleak mountain.

The Man of Peace, however, would not take any hints as to undoing his
work of his own accord. All he said was:

"If ye wush it away, so it'll be. But then ye'll only have one wush
left. Ye've small discretion the nicht, Brockburn, I'm feared."

"To leave the steading in sic a spot is no to be thought on," sighed
the Laird, as he spent his second wish in undoing his first. But he
cannily added the provision:

"And ye may tak me wi' it."

The words were no sooner spoken than the homestead was back in its
place, and Brockburn himself was lying in his own bed, Jock, his
favourite collie, barking and licking his face by turns for joy.

"Whisht, whisht, Jock!" said the Laird. "Ye wouldna bark when I begged
of ye, so ye may hand your peace noo."

And pushing the collie from him, he sat up in bed and looked anxiously
but vainly round the chamber for the Man of Peace.

"Lie doun, lie doun," cried the gudewife from beside him. "Ye're
surely out o' your wuts, Brockburn. Would ye gang stravaging about the
country again the nicht?"

"Where is he?" cried the Laird.

"There's not a soul here but your lawful wife and your ain dear
doggie. Was there ae body that ye expected?" asked his wife.

"The Man o' Peace, woman!" cried Brockburn. "I've ane o' my wushes to
get, and I maun hae't."

"The man's mad!" was the gudewife's comment. "Ye've surely forgotten
yoursel, Brockburn. Ye never believed in the _Daoiné Shi_ before."

"Seein's believin'," said the Laird. "I forgathered with a Man o'
Peace the nicht on the hill, and I wush I just saw him again."

As the Laird spoke the window of the chamber was lit up from without,
and the Man of Peace appeared sitting on the window-ledge in his
daisy-lined cloak, his feet hanging down into the room, the silver
shoes glittering as they dangled.

"I'm here, Brockburn!" he cried. "But eh, man! ye've had your last
wush."

And even as the stupefied Laird gazed, the light slowly died away, and
the Man of Peace vanished also.

On the following morning the Laird was roused from sleep by loud cries
of surprise and admiration.

The good wife had been stirring for some hours, and in emptying the
pockets of her good man's coat she had found three huge cairngorms of
exquisite tint and lustre. Brockburn thus discovered the value of the
gifts, half of which he had thrown away.

But no subsequent visits to the hill-side led to their recovery. Many
a time did the Laird bring home a heavy pocketful of stones, at the
thrifty gudewife's bidding, but they only proved to be the common
stones of the mountain-side. The _Shian_ could never be distinguished
from any other crag, and the _Daoiné Shi_ were visible no more.

Yet it is said that the Laird of Brockburn prospered and throve
thereafter, in acre, stall, and steading, as those seldom prosper who
have not the good word of the People of Peace.



THE OGRE COURTING.


In days when ogres were still the terror of certain districts, there
was one who had long kept a whole neighbourhood in fear without any
one daring to dispute his tyranny.

By thefts and exactions, by heavy ransoms from merchants too old and
tough to be eaten, in one way and another, the Ogre had become very
rich; and although those who knew could tell of huge cellars full of
gold and jewels, and yards and barns groaning with the weight of
stolen goods, the richer he grew the more anxious and covetous he
became. Moreover, day by day, he added to his stores; for though (like
most ogres) he was as stupid as he was strong, no one had ever been
found, by force or fraud, to get the better of him.

What he took from the people was not their heaviest grievance. Even to
be killed and eaten by him was not the chance they thought of most. A
man can die but once; and if he is a sailor, a shark may eat him,
which is not so much better than being devoured by an ogre. No, that
was not the worst. The worst was this--he would keep getting married.
And as he liked little wives, all the short women lived in fear and
dread. And as his wives always died very soon, he was constantly
courting fresh ones.

Some said he ate his wives; some said he tormented, and others, that
he only worked them to death. Everybody knew it was not a desirable
match, and yet there was not a father who dare refuse his daughter if
she were asked for. The Ogre only cared for two things in a woman--he
liked her to be little, and a good housewife.

Now it was when the Ogre had just lost his twenty-fourth wife (within
the memory of man) that these two qualities were eminently united in
the person of the smallest and most notable woman of the district, the
daughter of a certain poor farmer. He was so poor that he could not
afford properly to dower his daughter, who had in consequence remained
single beyond her first youth. Everybody felt sure that Managing Molly
must now be married to the Ogre. The tall girls stretched themselves
till they looked like maypoles, and said, "Poor thing!" The slatterns
gossiped from house to house, the heels of their shoes clacking as
they went, and cried that this was what came of being too thrifty.

And sure enough, in due time, the giant widower came to the farmer as
he was in the field looking over his crops, and proposed for Molly
there and then. The farmer was so much put out that he did not know
what he said in reply, either when he was saying it, or afterwards,
when his friends asked about it. But he remembered that the Ogre had
invited himself to sup at the farm that day week.

Managing Molly did not distress herself at the news.

"Do what I bid you, and say as I say," said she to her father, "and if
the Ogre does not change his mind, at any rate you shall not come
empty-handed out of the business."

By his daughter's desire the farmer now procured a large number of
hares, and a barrel of white wine, which expenses completely emptied
his slender stocking, and on the day of the Ogre's visit, she made a
delicious and savoury stew with the hares in the biggest pickling tub,
and the wine-barrel was set on a bench near the table.

When the Ogre came, Molly served up the stew, and the Ogre sat down to
sup, his head just touching the kitchen rafters. The stew was perfect,
and there was plenty of it. For what Molly and her father ate was
hardly to be counted in the tubful. The Ogre was very much pleased,
and said politely:

"I'm afraid, my dear, that you have been put to great trouble and
expense on my account, I have a large appetite, and like to sup well."

"Don't mention it, sir," said Molly. "The fewer rats the more corn.
How do _you_ cook them?"

"Not one of all the extravagant hussies I have had as wives ever
cooked them at all," said the Ogre; and he thought to himself, "Such a
stew out of rats! What frugality! What a housewife!"

When he broached the wine, he was no less pleased, for it was of the
best.

"This, at any rate, must have cost you a great deal, neighbour," said
he, drinking the farmer's health as Molly left the room.

"I don't know that rotten apples could be better used," said the
farmer; "but I leave all that to Molly. Do you brew at home?"

"We give _our_ rotten apples to the pigs," growled the Ogre. "But
things will be better ordered when she is my wife."

The Ogre was now in great haste to conclude the match, and asked what
dowry the farmer would give his daughter.

"I should never dream of giving a dowry with Molly," said the farmer,
boldly. "Whoever gets her, gets dowry enough. On the contrary, I shall
expect a good round sum from the man who deprives me of her. Our
wealthiest farmer is just widowed, and therefore sure to be in a
hurry for marriage. He has an eye to the main chance, and would not
grudge to pay well for such a wife, I'll warrant."

"I'm no churl myself," said the Ogre, who was anxious to secure his
thrifty bride at any price; and he named a large sum of money,
thinking, "We shall live on rats henceforward, and the beef and mutton
will soon cover the dowry."

"Double that, and we'll see," said the farmer, stoutly.

But the Ogre became angry, and cried; "What are you thinking of, man?
Who is to hinder my carrying your lass off, without 'with your leave'
or 'by your leave,' dowry or none?"

"How little you know her!" said the farmer. "She is so firm that she
would be cut to pieces sooner than give you any benefit of her thrift,
unless you dealt fairly in the matter."

"Well, well," said the Ogre, "let us meet each other." And he named a
sum larger than he at first proposed, and less than the farmer had
asked. This the farmer agreed to, as it was enough to make him
prosperous for life.

"Bring it in a sack to-morrow morning," said he to the Ogre, "and then
you can speak to Molly; she's gone to bed now."

The next morning, accordingly, the Ogre appeared, carrying the dowry
in a sack, and Molly came to meet him.

"There are two things," said she, "I would ask of any lover of mine: a
new farmhouse, built as I should direct, with a view to economy; and a
feather-bed of fresh goose feathers, filled when the old woman plucks
her geese. If I don't sleep well, I cannot work well."

"That is better than asking for finery," thought the Ogre; "and after
all the house will be my own." So, to save the expense of labour, he
built it himself, and worked hard, day after day, under Molly's
orders, till winter came. Then it was finished.

"Now for the feather-bed," said Molly. "I'll sew up the ticking, and
when the old woman plucks her geese, I'll let you know."

When it snows, they say the old woman up yonder is plucking her geese,
and so at the first snowstorm Molly sent for the Ogre.

"Now you see the feathers falling," said she, "so fill the bed."

"How am I to catch them?" cried the Ogre.

"Stupid! don't you see them lying there in a heap?" cried Molly; "get
a shovel, and set to work."

The Ogre accordingly carried in shovelfuls of snow to the bed, but as
it melted as fast as he put it in, his labour never seemed done.
Towards night the room got so cold that the snow would not melt, and
now the bed was soon filled.

Molly hastily covered it with sheets and blankets, and said: "Pray
rest here to-night, and tell me if the bed is not comfort itself.
To-morrow we will be married."

So the tired Ogre lay down on the bed he had filled, but, do what he
would, he could not get warm.

"The sheets must be damp," said he, and in the morning he woke with
such horrible pains in his bones that he could hardly move, and half
the bed had melted away. "It's no use," he groaned, "she's a very
managing woman, but to sleep on such a bed would be the death of me."
And he went off home as quickly as he could, before Managing Molly
could call upon him to be married; for she was so managing that he was
more than half afraid of her already.

When Molly found that he had gone, she sent the farmer after him.

"What does he want?" cried the Ogre, when they told him the farmer was
at the door.

"He says the bride is waiting for you," was the reply.

"Tell him I'm too ill to be married," said the Ogre.

But the messenger soon returned:

"He says she wants to know what you will give her to make up for the
disappointment."

"She's got the dowry, and the farm, and the feather-bed," groaned the
Ogre; "what more does she want?"

But again the messenger returned:

"She says you've pressed the feather-bed flat, and she wants some more
goose feathers."

"There are geese enough in the yard," yelled the Ogre, "Let him drive
them home; and if he has another word to say, put him down to roast."

The farmer, who overheard this order, lost no time in taking his
leave, and as he passed through the yard he drove home as fine a flock
of geese as you will see on a common.

It is said that the Ogre never recovered from the effects of sleeping
on the old woman's goose feathers, and was less powerful than before.

As for Managing Molly, being now well dowered, she had no lack of
offers of marriage, and was soon mated to her mind.



THE MAGICIANS' GIFTS.


There was once a king in whose dominions lived no less than three
magicians.

When the king's eldest son was christened, the king invited the three
magicians to the christening feast, and to make the compliment the
greater, he asked one of them to stand godfather. But the other two,
who were not asked to be godfathers, were so angry at what they held
to be a slight, that they only waited to see how they might best
revenge themselves upon the infant prince.

When the moment came for presenting the christening gifts, the
godfather magician advanced to the cradle and said, "My gift is this:
Whatever he wishes for he shall have. And only I who give shall be
able to recall this gift." For he perceived the jealousy of the other
magicians, and knew that, if possible, they would undo what he did.
But the second magician muttered in his beard, "And yet I will change
it to a curse." And coming up to the cradle, he said, "The wishes
that he has thus obtained he shall not be able to revoke or change."

Then the third magician grumbled beneath his black robe, "If he were
very wise and prudent he might yet be happy. But I will secure his
punishment." So he also drew near to the cradle, and said, "For my
part, I give him a hasty temper."

After which, the two dissatisfied magicians withdrew together, saying,
"Should we permit ourselves to be slighted for nothing?"

But the king and his courtiers were not at all disturbed.

"My son has only to be sure of what he wants," said the king, "and
then, I suppose, he will not desire to recall his wishes."

And the courtiers added, "If a prince may not have a hasty temper, who
may, we should like to know?"

And everybody laughed, except the godfather magician, who went out
sighing and shaking his head, and was seen no more.

Whilst the king's son was yet a child, the gift of the godfather
magician began to take effect. There was nothing so rare and precious
that he could not obtain it, or so difficult that it could not be
accomplished by his mere wish. But, on the other hand, no matter how
inconsiderately he spoke, or how often he changed his mind, what he
had once wished must remain as he had wished it, in spite of himself;
and as he often wished for things that were bad for him, and oftener
still wished for a thing one day and regretted it the next, his power
was the source of quite as much pain as pleasure to him. Then his
temper was so hot, that he was apt hastily to wish ill to those who
offended him, and afterwards bitterly to regret the mischief that he
could not undo. Thus, one after another, the king appointed his
trustiest counsellors to the charge of his son, who, sooner or later,
in the discharge of their duty, were sure to be obliged to thwart him;
on which the impatient prince would cry, "I wish you were at the
bottom of the sea with your rules and regulations;" and the
counsellors disappeared accordingly, and returned no more.

When there was not a wise man left at court, and the king himself
lived in daily dread of being the next victim, he said, "Only one
thing remains to be done: to find the godfather magician, and persuade
him to withdraw his gift."

So the king offered rewards, and sent out messengers in every
direction, but the magician was not to be found. At last, one day he
met a blind beggar, who said to him, "Three nights ago I dreamed that
I went by the narrowest of seven roads to seek what you are looking
for, and was successful."

When the king returned home, he asked his courtiers, "Where are there
seven roads lying near to each other, some broad, and some narrow?"
And one of them replied, "Twenty-one miles to the west of the palace
is a four-cross road, where three field-paths also diverge."

To this place the king made his way, and taking the narrowest of the
field-paths, went on and on till it led him straight into a cave,
where an old woman sat over a fire.

"Does a magician live here?" asked the king.

"No one lives here but myself," said the old woman. "But as I am a
wise woman I may be able to help you if you need it."

The king then told her of his perplexities, and how he was desirous of
finding the magician, to persuade him to recall his gift.

"He could not recall the other gifts," said the wise woman. "Therefore
it is better that the prince should be taught to use his power
prudently and to control his temper. And since all the persons capable
of guiding him have disappeared, I will return with you and take
charge of him myself. Over me he will have no power."

To this the king consented, and they returned together to the palace,
where the wise woman became guardian to the prince, and she fulfilled
her duties so well that he became much more discreet and
self-controlled. Only at times his violent temper got the better of
him, and led him to wish what he afterwards vainly regretted.

Thus all went well till the prince became a man, when, though he had
great affection for her, he felt ashamed of having an old woman for
his counsellor, and he said, "I certainly wish that I had a faithful
and discreet adviser of my own age and sex."

On that very day a young nobleman offered himself as companion to the
prince, and as he was a young man of great ability, he was accepted:
whereupon the old woman took her departure, and was never seen again.

The young nobleman performed his part so well that the prince became
deeply attached to him, and submitted in every way to his counsels.
But at last a day came when, being in a rage, the advice of his friend
irritated him, and he cried hastily, "Will you drive me mad with your
long sermons? I wish you would hold your tongue for ever." On which
the young nobleman became dumb, and so remained. For he was not, as
the wise woman had been, independent of the prince's power.

The prince's grief and remorse knew no bounds. "Am I not under a
curse?" said he. "Truly I ought to be cast out from human society, and
sent to live with wild beasts in a wilderness. I only bring evil upon
those I love best--indeed, there is no hope for me unless I can find
my godfather, and make him recall this fatal gift."

So the prince mounted his horse, and, accompanied by his dumb friend,
who still remained faithful to him, he set forth to find the magician.
They took no followers, except the prince's dog, a noble hound, who
was so quick of hearing that he understood all that was said to him,
and was, next to the young nobleman, the wisest person at court.

"Mark well, my dog," said the prince to him, "we stay nowhere till we
find my godfather, and when we find him we go no further. I rely on
your sagacity to help us."

The dog licked the prince's hand, and then trotted so resolutely down
a certain road that the two friends allowed him to lead them and
followed close behind.

They travelled in this way to the edge of the king's dominions, only
halting for needful rest and refreshment. At last the dog led them
through a wood, and towards evening they found themselves in the
depths of the forest, with no sign of any shelter for the night.
Presently they heard a little bell, such as is rung for prayer, and
the dog ran down a side path and led them straight to a kind of
grotto, at the door of which stood an aged hermit.

"Does a magician live here?" asked the prince.

"No one lives here but myself," said the hermit, "but I am old, and
have meditated much. My advice is at your service if you need it."

The prince then related his history, and how he was now seeking the
magician godfather, to rid himself of his gift.

"And yet that will not cure your temper," said the hermit. "It were
better that you employed yourself in learning to control that, and to
use your power prudently."

"No, no," replied the prince; "I must find the magician."

And when the hermit pressed his advice, he cried, "Provoke me not,
good father, or I may be base enough to wish you ill; and the evil I
do I cannot undo."

And he departed, followed by his friend, and calling his dog. But the
dog seated himself at the hermit's feet, and would not move. Again and
again the prince called him, but he only whined and wagged his tail,
and refused to move. Coaxing and scolding were both in vain, and when
at last the prince tried to drag him off by force, the dog growled.

"Base brute!" cried the prince, flinging him from him in a transport
of rage. "How have I been so deceived in you? I wish you were hanged!"
And even as he spoke the dog vanished, and as the prince turned his
head he saw the poor beast's body dangling from a tree above him. The
sight overwhelmed him, and he began bitterly to lament his cruelty.

"Will no one hang me also," he cried, "and rid the world of such a
monster?"

"It is easier to die repenting than to live amending," said the
hermit; "yet is the latter course the better one. Wherefore abide with
me, my son, and learn in solitude those lessons of self-government
without which no man is fit to rule others."

"It is impossible," said the prince. "These fits of passion are as a
madness that comes upon me, and they are beyond cure. It only remains
to find my godfather, that he may make me less baneful to others by
taking away the power I abuse." And raising the body of the dog
tenderly in his arms, he laid it before him on his horse, and rode
away, the dumb nobleman following him.

They now entered the dominions of another king, and in due time
arrived at the capital. The prince presented himself to the king, and
asked if he had a magician in his kingdom.

"Not to my knowledge," replied the king. "But I have a remarkably wise
daughter, and if you want counsel she may be able to help you."

The princess accordingly was sent for, and she was so beautiful, as
well as witty, that the prince fell in love with her, and begged the
king to give her to him to wife. The king, of course, was unable to
refuse what the prince wished, and the wedding was celebrated without
delay; and by the advice of his wife the prince placed the body of his
faithful dog in a glass coffin, and kept it near him, that he might
constantly be reminded of the evil results of giving way to his anger.

For a time all went well. At first the prince never said a harsh word
to his wife; but by and by familiarity made him less careful, and one
day she said something that offended him, and he fell into a violent
rage. As he went storming up and down, the princess wrung her hands,
and cried, "Ah, my dear husband, I beg of you to be careful what you
say to me. You say you loved your dog, and yet you know where he
lies."

"I know that I wish you were with him, with your prating!" cried the
prince, in a fury; and the words were scarcely out of his mouth when
the princess vanished from his side, and when he ran to the glass
coffin, there she lay, pale and lifeless, with her head upon the body
of the hound.

The prince was now beside himself with remorse and misery, and when
the dumb nobleman made signs that they should pursue their search for
the magician, he only cried, "Too late! too late!"

But after a while he said, "I will return to the hermit, and pass the
rest of my miserable life in solitude and penance. And you, dear
friend, go back to my father."

But the dumb nobleman shook his head, and could not be persuaded to
leave the prince. Then they took the glass coffin on their shoulders,
and on foot, and weeping as they went, they retraced their steps to
the forest.

For some time the prince remained with the hermit, and submitted
himself to his direction. Then the hermit bade him return to his
father, and he obeyed.

Every day the prince stood by the glass coffin, and beat his breast
and cried, "Behold, murderer, the fruits of anger!" And he tried hard
to overcome the violence of his temper. When he lost heart he
remembered a saying of the hermit: "Patience had far to go, but she
was crowned at last." And after a while the prince became as gentle as
he had before been violent. And the king and all the court rejoiced
at the change; but the prince remained sad at heart, thinking of the
princess.

One day he was sitting alone, when a man approached him, dressed in a
long black robe.

"Good-day, godson," said he.

"Who calls me godson?" said the prince.

"The magician you have so long sought," said the godfather. "I have
come to reclaim my gift."

"What cruelty led you to bestow it upon me?" asked the prince.

"The king, your father, would have been dissatisfied with any ordinary
present from me," said the magician, "forgetting that the
responsibilities of common gifts, and very limited power, are more
than enough for most men to deal with. But I have not neglected you. I
was the wise woman who brought you up. Again, I was the hermit, as
your dog was sage enough to discover. I am come now to reclaim what
has caused you such suffering."

"Alas!" cried the prince, "why is your kindness so tardy? If you have
not forgotten me, why have you withheld this benefit till it is too
late for my happiness? My friend is dumb, my wife is dead, my dog is
hanged. When wishes cannot reach these, do you think it matters to me
what I may command?"

"Softly, prince," said the magician; "I had a reason for the delay.
But for these bitter lessons you would still be the slave of the
violent temper which you have conquered, and which, as it was no gift
of mine, I could not remove. Moreover, when the spell which made all
things bend to your wish is taken away, its effects also are undone.
Godson! I recall my gift."

As the magician spoke the glass sides of the coffin melted into the
air, and the princess sprang up, and threw herself into her husband's
arms. The dog also rose, stretched himself, and wagged his tail. The
dumb nobleman ran to tell the good news to the king, and all the
counsellors came back in a long train from the bottom of the sea, and
set about the affairs of state as if nothing had happened.

The old king welcomed his children with open arms, and they all lived
happily to the end of their days.



THE WIDOWS AND THE STRANGERS.


In days of yore, there were once two poor old widows who lived in the
same hamlet and under the same roof. But though the cottages joined
and one roof covered them, they had each a separate dwelling; and
although they were alike in age and circumstances, yet in other
respects they were very different. For one dame was covetous, though
she had little to save, and the other was liberal, though she had
little to give.

Now, on the rising ground opposite to the widows' cottages, stood a
monastery where a few pious and charitable brethren spent their time
in prayer, labour, and good works. And with the alms of these monks,
and the kindness of neighbours, and because their wants were few, the
old women dwelt in comfort, and had daily bread, and lay warm at
night.

One evening, when the covetous old widow was having supper, there came
a knock at her door. Before she opened it she hastily put away the
remains of her meal.

"For," said she, "it is a stormy night, and ten to one some belated
vagabond wants shelter; and when there are victuals on the table every
fool must be asked to sup."

But when she opened the door, a monk came in who had his cowl pulled
over his head to shelter him from the storm. The widow was much
disconcerted at having kept one of the brotherhood waiting, and loudly
apologized, but the monk stopped her, saying, "I fear I cut short your
evening meal, my daughter."

"Now in the name of ill-luck, how came he to guess that?" thought the
widow, as with anxious civility she pressed the monk to take some
supper after his walk; for the good woman always felt hospitably
inclined towards any one who was likely to return her kindness
sevenfold.

The brother, however, refused to sup; and as he seated himself the
widow looked sharply through her spectacles to see if she could gather
from any distention of the folds of his frock whether a loaf, a bottle
of cordial, or a new winter's cloak were most likely to crown the
visit. No undue protuberance being visible about the monk's person,
she turned her eyes to his face, and found that her visitor was one of
the brotherhood whom she had not seen before. And not only was his
face unfamiliar, it was utterly unlike the kindly but rough
countenances of her charitable patrons. None that she had ever seen
boasted the noble beauty, the chiselled and refined features of the
monk before her. And she could not but notice that, although only one
rushlight illumined her room, and though the monk's cowl went far to
shade him even from that, yet his face was lit up as if by light from
within, so that his clear skin seemed almost transparent. In short,
her curiosity must have been greatly stirred, had not greed made her
more anxious to learn what he had brought than who he was.

"It's a terrible night," quoth the monk, at length. "Such tempest
without only gives point to the indoor comforts of the wealthy; but it
chills the very marrow of the poor and destitute."

"Aye, indeed," sniffed the widow, with a shiver. "If it were not for
the charity of good Christians, what would poor folk do for comfort on
such an evening as this?"

"It was that very thought, my daughter," said the monk, with a sudden
earnestness on his shining face, "that brought me forth even now
through the storm to your cottage."

"Heaven reward you!" cried the widow, fervently.

"Heaven does reward the charitable!" replied the monk. "To no truth do
the Scriptures bear such constant and unbroken witness; even as it is
written: 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and
look, what he layeth out it shall be paid him again.'"

"What a blessed thing it must be to be able to do good!" sighed the
widow, piously wishing in her heart that the holy man would not delay
to earn his recompense.

"My daughter," said the monk, "that blessing is not withheld from you.
It is to ask your help for those in greater need than yourself that I
am come to-night." And forthwith the good brother began to tell how
two strangers had sought shelter at the monastery. Their house had
been struck by lightning, and burnt with all it contained; and they
themselves, aged, poor, and friendless, were exposed to the fury of
the storm. "Our house is a poor one," continued the monk. "The
strangers' lodging room was already full, and we are quite without the
means of making these poor souls comfortable. You at least have a
sound roof over your head, and if you can spare one or two things for
the night, they shall be restored to you to-morrow, when some of our
guests depart."

The widow could hardly conceal her vexation and disappointment. "Now,
dear heart, holy father!" cried she, "is there not a rich body in the
place, that you come for charity to a poor old widow like me, that am
in a case rather to borrow myself than to lend to others?"

"Can you spare us a blanket?" said the monk. "These poor strangers
have been out in the storm, remember."

The widow started. "What meddling busybody told him that the Baroness
gave me a new blanket at Michaelmas?" thought she; but at last, very
unwillingly, she went to an inner room to fetch a blanket from her
bed.

"They shan't have the new one, that's flat," muttered the widow; and
she drew out the old one and began to fold it up. But though she had
made much of its thinness and insufficiency to the Baroness, she was
so powerfully affected at parting with it, that all its good qualities
came strongly to her mind.

"It's a very suitable size," she said to herself, "and easy for my
poor old arms to shake or fold. With careful usage, it would last for
years yet; but who knows how two wandering bodies that have been
tramping miles through the storm may kick about in their sleep? And
who knows if they're decent folk at all? likely enough they're two
hedge birds, who have imposed a pitiful tale on the good fathers, and
never slept under anything finer than a shock of straw in their
lives."

The more the good woman thought of this, the more sure she felt that
such was the case, and the less willing she became to lend her blanket
to "a couple of good-for-nothing tramps." A sudden idea decided her.
"Ten to one they bring fever with them!" she cried; "and dear knows I
saw enough good bedding burnt after the black fever, three years ago!
It would be a sin and a shame to burn a good blanket like this." And
repeating "a sin and a shame" with great force, the widow restored the
blanket to its place.

"The coverlet's not worth much," she thought; "but my goodman bought
it the year after we were married, and if anything happened to it I
should never forgive myself. The old shawl is good enough for tramps."
Saying which she took a ragged old shawl from a peg, and began to fold
it up. But even as she brushed and folded, she begrudged the faded
rag.

"It saves my better one on a bad day," she sighed; "but I suppose the
father must have something."

And accordingly she took it to the monk, saying, "It's not so good as
it has been, but there's warmth in it yet, and it cost a pretty penny
when new."

"And is this all that you can spare to the poor houseless strangers?"
asked the monk.

"Aye, indeed, good father," said she, "and that will cost me many a
twinge of rheumatics. Folk at my age can't lie cold at night for
nothing."

"These poor strangers," said the monk, "are as aged as yourself, and
have lost everything."

But as all he said had no effect in moving the widow's compassion, he
departed, and knocked at the door of her neighbour. Here he told the
same tale, which met with a very different hearing. This widow was one
of those liberal souls whose possessions always make them feel uneasy
unless they are being accepted, or used, or borrowed by some one else.
She blessed herself that, thanks to the Baroness, she had a new
blanket fit to lend to the king himself, and only desired to know with
what else she could serve the poor strangers and requite the charities
of the brotherhood.

The monk confessed that all the slender stock of household goods in
the monastery was in use, and one after another he accepted the loan
of almost everything the widow had. As she gave the things he put them
out through the door, saying that he had a messenger outside; and
having promised that all should be duly restored on the morrow, he
departed, leaving the widow with little else than an old chair in
which she was to pass the night.

When the monk had gone, the storm raged with greater fury than before,
and at last one terrible flash of lightning struck the widows' house,
and though it did not hurt the old women, it set fire to the roof,
and both cottages were soon ablaze. Now as the terrified old creatures
hobbled out into the storm, they met the monk, who, crying, "Come to
the monastery!" seized an arm of each, and hurried them up the hill.
To such good purpose did he help them, that they seemed to fly, and
arrived at the convent gate they hardly knew how.

Under a shed by the wall were the goods and chattels of the liberal
widow.

"Take back thine own, daughter," said the monk; "thy charity hath
brought its own reward."

"But the strangers, good father?" said the perplexed widow.

"Ye are the strangers," answered the monk; "and what thy pity thought
meet to be spared for the unfortunate, Heaven in thy misfortune hath
spared to thee."

Then turning to the other widow, he drew the old shawl from beneath
his frock, and gave it to her, saying, "I give you joy, dame, that
this hath escaped the flames. It is not so good as it has been; but
there is warmth in it yet, and it cost a pretty penny when new."

Full of confusion, the illiberal widow took back her shawl, murmuring,
"Lack-a-day! If I had but known it was ourselves the good father
meant!"

The monk gave a shrewd smile.

"Aye, aye, it would have been different, I doubt not," said he; "but
accept the lesson, my daughter, and when next thou art called upon to
help the unfortunate, think that it is thine own needs that would be
served; and it may be thou shalt judge better as to what thou canst
spare."

As he spoke, a flash of lightning lit up the ground where the monk
stood, making a vast aureole about him in the darkness of the night.
In the bright light, his countenance appeared stern and awful in its
beauty, and when the flash was passed, the monk had vanished also.

Furthermore, when the widows sought shelter in the monastery, they
found that the brotherhood knew nothing of their strange visitor.



KIND WILLIAM AND THE WATER SPRITE.


There once lived a poor weaver, whose wife died a few years after
their marriage. He was now alone in the world except for their child,
who was a very quick and industrious little lad, and, moreover, of
such an obliging disposition that he gained the nickname of Kind
William.

On his seventh birthday his father gave him a little net with a long
handle, and with this Kind William betook himself to a shallow part of
the river to fish. After wandering on for some time, he found a quiet
pool dammed in by stones, and here he dipped for the minnows that
darted about in the clear brown water. At the first and second casts
he caught nothing, but with the third he landed no less than
twenty-one little fishes, and such minnows he had never seen, for as
they leaped and struggled in the net they shone with alternate tints
of green and gold.

He was gazing at them with wonder and delight, when a voice behind
him cried, in piteous tones--

"Oh, my little sisters! Oh, my little sisters!"

Kind William turned round, and saw, sitting on a rock that stood out
of the stream, a young girl weeping bitterly. She had a very pretty
face, and abundant yellow hair of marvellous length, and of such
uncommon brightness that even in the shade it shone like gold. She was
dressed in grass green, and from her knees downwards she was hidden by
the clumps of fern and rushes that grew by the stream.

"What ails you, my little lass?" said Kind William.

But the maid only wept more bitterly, and wringing her hands,
repeated, "Oh, my little sisters! Oh, my little sisters!" presently
adding in the same tone, "The little fishes! Oh, the little fishes!"

"Dry your eyes, and I will give you half of them," said the
good-natured child; "and if you have no net you shall fish with me
this afternoon."

But at this proposal the maid's sobs redoubled, and she prayed and
begged with frantic eagerness that he would throw the fish back into
the river. For some time Kind William would not consent to throw away
his prize, but at last he yielded to her excessive grief, and emptied
the net into the pool, where the glittering fishes were soon lost to
sight under the sand and pebbles.

The girl now laughed and clapped her hands.

"This good deed you shall never rue, Kind William," said she, "and
even now it shall repay you threefold. How many fish did you catch?"

"Twenty-one," said Kind William, not without regret in his tone.

The maid at once began to pull hairs out of her head, and did not stop
till she had counted sixty-three, and laid them together in her
fingers. She then began to wind the lock up into a curl, and it took
far longer to wind than the sixty-three hairs had taken to pull. How
long her hair really was Kind William never could tell, for after it
reached her knees he lost sight of it among the fern; but he began to
suspect that she was no true village maid, but a water sprite, and he
heartily wished himself safe at home.

"Now," said she, when the lock was wound, "will you promise me three
things?"

"If I can do so without sin," said Kind William.

"First," she continued, holding out the lock of hair, "will you keep
this carefully, and never give it away? It will be for your own good."

"One never gives away gifts," said Kind William, "I promise that."

"The second thing is to spare what you have spared. Fish up the river
and down the river at your will, but swear never to cast net in this
pool again."

"One should not do kindness by halves," said Kind William. "I promise
that also."

"Thirdly, you must never tell what you have now seen and heard till
thrice seven years have passed. And now come hither, my child, and
give me your little finger, that I may see if you can keep a secret."

But by this time Kind William's hairs were standing on end, and he
gave the last promise more from fear than from any other motive, and
seized his net to go.

"No hurry, no hurry," said the maiden (and the words sounded like the
rippling of a brook over pebbles). Then bending towards him, with a
strange smile, she added, "You are afraid that I shall pinch too hard,
my pretty boy. Well, give me a farewell kiss before you go."

"I kiss none but the miller's lass," said Kind William, sturdily; for
she was his little sweetheart. Besides, he was afraid that the water
witch would enchant him and draw him down. At his answer she laughed
till the echoes rang, but Kind William shuddered to hear that the
echoes seemed to come from the river instead of from the hills; and
they rang in his ears like a distant torrent leaping over rocks.

"Then listen to my song," said the water sprite. With which she drew
some of her golden hairs over her arm, and tuning them as if they had
been the strings of a harp, she began to sing:

    "Warp of woollen and woof of gold:
    When seven and seven and seven are told."

But when Kind William heard that the river was running with the
cadence of the tune, he could bear it no longer, and took to his
heels. When he had run a few yards he heard a splash, as if a salmon
had jumped, and on looking back he found that the yellow-haired maiden
was gone.

Kind William was trustworthy as well as obliging, and he kept his
word. He said nothing of his adventure. He put the yellow lock into an
old china teapot that had stood untouched on the mantelpiece for
years. And fishing up the river and down the river he never again cast
net into the haunted pool. And in course of time the whole affair
passed from his mind.

Fourteen years went by, and Kind William was Kind William still. He
was as obliging as ever, and still loved the miller's daughter, who,
for her part, had not forgotten her old playmate. But the miller's
memory was not so good, for the fourteen years had been prosperous
ones with him, and he was rich, whereas they had only brought bad
trade and poverty to the weaver and his son. So the lovers were not
allowed even to speak to each other.

One evening Kind William wandered by the river-side lamenting his hard
fate. It was his twenty-first birthday, and he might not even receive
the good wishes of the day from his old playmate. It was just growing
dusk, a time when prudent bodies hurry home from the neighbourhood of
fairy rings, sprite-haunted streams, and the like, and Kind William
was beginning to quicken his pace, when a voice from behind him sang:

    "Warp of woollen and woof of gold:
    When seven and seven and seven are told."

Kind William felt sure that he had heard this before, though he could
not recall when or where; but suspecting that it was no mortal voice
that sang, he hurried home without looking behind him. Before he
reached the house he remembered all, and also that on this very day
his promise of secrecy expired.

Meanwhile the old weaver had been sadly preparing the loom to weave a
small stock of yarn, which he had received in payment for some work.
He had set up the warp, and was about to fill the shuttle, when his
son came in and told the story, and repeated the water sprite's song.

"Where is the lock of hair, my son?" asked the old man.

"In the teapot still, if you have not touched it," said Kind William;
"but the dust of fourteen years must have destroyed all gloss and
colour."

On searching the teapot, however, the lock of hair was found to be as
bright as ever, and it lay in the weaver's hand like a coil of gold.

"It is the song that puzzles me," said Kind William. "Seven, and
seven, and seven make twenty-one. Now that is just my age."

"There is your warp of woollen, if that is anything," added the
weaver, gazing at the loom with a melancholy air.

"And this is golden enough," laughed Kind William, pointing to the
curl. "Come, father, let us see how far one hair will go on the
shuttle." And suiting the action to the word, he began to wind. He
wound the shuttle full, and then sat down to the loom and began to
throw.

The result was a fabric of such beauty that the Weavers shouted with
amazement, and one single hair served for the woof of the whole piece.

Before long there was not a town dame or a fine country lady but must
needs have a dress of the new stuff, and before the sixty-three hairs
were used up, the fortunes of the weaver and his son were made.

About this time the miller's memory became clearer, and he was often
heard to speak of an old boy-and-girl love between his dear daughter
and the wealthy manufacturer of the golden cloth. Within a year and a
day Kind William married his sweetheart, and as money sticks to money,
in the end he added the old miller's riches to his own.

Moreover there is every reason to believe that he and his wife lived
happily to the end of their days.

And what became of the water sprite?

That you must ask somebody else, for I do not know.



MURDOCH'S RATH[8].

[Footnote 8: _Rath_ = a kind of moat-surrounded spot much favoured by
Irish fairies. The ditch is generally overgrown with furze-bushes.]


There was not a nicer boy in all Ireland than Pat, and clever at his
trade too, if only he'd had one.

But from his cradle he learned nothing (small blame to him with no one
to teach him!), so when he came to years of discretion, he earned his
living by running messages for his neighbours; and Pat could always be
trusted to make the best of a bad bargain, and bring back all the
change, for he was the soul of honesty and good-nature.

It's no wonder then that he was beloved by every one, and got as much
work as he could do, and if the pay had but fitted the work, he'd have
been mighty comfortable; but as it was, what he got wouldn't have kept
him in shoe-leather, but for making both ends meet by wearing his
shoes in his pocket, except when he was in the town, and obliged to
look genteel for the credit of the place he came from.

Well, all was going on as peaceable as could be, till one market-day,
when business (or it may have been pleasure) detained him till the
heel of the evening, and by nightfall, when he began to make the road
short in good earnest, he was so flustered, rehearsing his messages to
make sure he'd forgotten nothing, that he never bethought him to leave
off his brogues, but tramped on just as if shoe-leather were made to
be knocked to bits on the king's highway.

And this was what he was after saying:

"A dozen hanks of grey yarn for Mistress Murphy."

"Three gross of bright buttons for the tailor."

"Half an ounce of throat drops for Father Andrew, and an ounce of
snuff for his housekeeper," and so on.

For these were what he went to the town to fetch, and he was afraid
lest one of the lot might have slipped his memory.

Now everybody knows there are two ways home from the town; and that's
not meaning the right way and the wrong way, which my grandmother
(rest her soul!) said there was to every place but one that it's not
genteel to name. (There could only be a wrong way _there_, she said.)
The two ways home from the town were the highway, and the way by
Murdoch's Rath.

Murdoch's Rath was a pleasant enough spot in the daytime, but not
many persons cared to go by it when the sun was down. And in all the
years Pat was going backwards and forwards, he never once came home
except by the high-road till this unlucky evening, when, just at the
place where the two roads part, he got, as one may say, into a sort of
confusion.

"Halt!" says he to himself (for his own uncle had been a soldier, and
Pat knew the word of command). "The left-hand turn is the right one,"
says he, and he was going down the high-road as straight as he could
go, when suddenly he bethought himself. "And what am I doing?" he
says. "This was my left hand going to town, and how in the name of
fortune could it be my left going back, considering that I've turned
round? It's well that I looked into it in time." And with that he went
off as fast down the other road as he started down this.

But how far he walked he never could tell, before all of a sudden the
moon shone out as bright as day, and Pat found himself in Murdoch's
Rath.

And this was the smallest part of the wonder; for the Rath was full of
fairies.

When Pat got in they were dancing round and round till his feet
tingled to look at them, being a good dancer himself. And as he sat on
the side of the Rath, and snapped his fingers to mark the time, the
dancing stopped, and a little man comes up, in a black hat and a green
coat, with white stockings, and red shoes on his feet.

"Won't you take a turn with us, Pat?" says he, bowing till he nearly
touched the ground. And, indeed, he had not far to go, for he was
barely two feet high.

"Don't say it twice, sir," says Pat. "It's myself will be proud to
foot the floor wid ye;" and before you could look round, there was Pat
in the circle dancing away for bare life.

At first his feet felt like feathers for lightness, and it seemed as
if he could have gone on for ever. But at last he grew tired, and
would have liked to stop, but the fairies would not, and so they
danced on and on. Pat tried to think of something _good_ to say, that
he might free himself from the spell, but all he could think of was:

"A dozen hanks of grey yarn for Missis Murphy."

"Three gross of bright buttons for the tailor."

"Half an ounce of throat drops for Father Andrew, and an ounce of
snuff for his housekeeper," and so on.

And it seemed to Pat that the moon was on the one side of the Rath
when they began to dance, and on the other side when they left off;
but he could not be sure after all that going round. One thing was
plain enough. He danced every bit of leather off the soles of his
feet, and they were blistered so that he could hardly stand; but all
the little folk did was to stand and hold their sides with laughing at
him.

At last the one who spoke before stepped up to him, and--"Don't break
your heart about it, Pat," says he; "I'll lend you my own shoes till
the morning, for you seem to be a good-natured sort of a boy."

Well, Pat looked at the fairy man's shoes, that were the size of a
baby's, and he looked at his own feet; but not wishing to be uncivil,
"Thank ye kindly, sir," says he. "And if your honour 'll be good
enough to put them on for me, maybe you won't spoil the shape." For he
thought to himself, "Small blame to me if the little gentleman can't
get them to fit."

With that he sat down on the side of the Rath, and the fairy man put
on the shoes for him, and no sooner did they touch Pat's feet, than
they became altogether a convenient size, and fitted him like wax.
And, more than that, when he stood up, he didn't feel his blisters at
all.

"Bring 'em back to the Rath at sunrise, Pat, my boy," says the little
man.

And as Pat was climbing over the ditch, "Look round, Pat," says he.
And when Pat looked round, there were jewels and pearls lying at the
roots of the furze-bushes on the ditch, as thick as peas.

"Will you help yourself, or take what's given ye, Pat?" says the fairy
man.

"Did I ever learn manners?" says Pat. "Would you have me help myself
before company? I'll take what your honour pleases to give me, and be
thankful."

The fairy man picked a lot of yellow furze-blossoms from the bushes,
and filled Pat's pockets.

"Keep 'em for love, Pat, me darlin'," says he.

Pat would have liked some of the jewels, but he put the furze-blossoms
by for love.

"Good-evening to your honour," says he.

"And where are you going, Pat, dear?" says the fairy man.

"I'm going home," says Pat. And if the fairy man didn't know where
that was, small blame to him.

"Just let me dust them shoes for ye, Pat," says the fairy man. And as
Pat lifted up each foot he breathed on it, and dusted it with the tail
of his green coat.

"Home!" says he, and when he let go, Pat was at his own doorstep
before he could look round, and his parcels safe and sound with him.

Next morning he was up with the sun, and carried the fairy man's
shoes back to the Rath. As he came up, the little man looked over the
ditch.

"The top of the morning to, your honour," says Pat; "here's your
shoes."

"You're an honest boy, Pat," says the little gentleman. "It's
inconvenienced I am without them, for. I have but the one pair. Have
you looked at the yellow flowers this morning?" he says.

"I have not, sir," says Pat; "I'd be loth to deceive you. I came off
as soon as I was up."

"Be sure to look when you get back, Pat," says the fairy man, "and
good luck to ye."

With which he disappeared, and Pat went home. He looked for the
furze-blossoms, as the fairy man told him, and there's not a word of
truth in this tale if they weren't all pure gold pieces.

Well, now Pat was so rich, he went to the shoemaker to order another
pair of brogues, and being a kindly, gossiping boy, the shoemaker soon
learned the whole story of the fairy man and the Rath. And this so
stirred up the shoemaker's greed that he resolved to go the very next
night himself, to see if he could not dance with the fairies, and have
like luck.

He found his way to the Rath all correct, and sure enough the fairies
were dancing, and they asked him to join. He danced the soles off his
brogues, as Pat did, and the fairy man lent him his shoes, and sent
him home in a twinkling.

As he was going over the ditch, he looked round, and saw the roots of
the furze-bushes glowing with precious stones as if they had been
glow-worms.

"Will you help yourself, or take what's given ye?" said the fairy man.

"I'll help myself, if you please," said the cobbler, for he
thought--"If I can't get more than Pat brought home, my fingers must
all be thumbs."

So he drove his hand into the bushes, and if he didn't get plenty, it
wasn't for want of grasping.

When he got up in the morning, he went straight to the jewels. But not
a stone of the lot was more precious than roadside pebbles. "I ought
not to look till I come from the Rath," said he. "It's best to do like
Pat all through."

But he made up his mind not to return the fairy man's shoes.

"Who knows the virtue that's in them?" he said. So he made a small
pair of red leather shoes, as like them as could be, and he blacked
the others upon his feet, that the fairies might not know them, and at
sunrise he went to the Rath.

The fairy man was looking over the ditch as before.

"Good-morning to you," said he.

"The top of the morning to you, sir," said the cobbler; "here's your
shoes." And he handed him the pair that he had made, with a face as
grave as a judge.

The fairy man looked at them, but he said nothing, though he did not
put them on.

"Have you looked at the things you got last night?" says he.

"I'll not deceive you, sir," says the cobbler. "I came off as soon as
I was up. Sorra peep I took at them."

"Be sure to look when you get back," says the fairy man. And just as
the cobbler was getting over the ditch to go home, he says:

"If my eyes don't deceive me," says he, "there's the least taste in
life of dirt on your left shoe. Let me dust it with the tail of my
coat."

"That means home in a twinkling," thought the cobbler, and he held up
his foot.

The fairy man dusted it, and muttered something the cobbler did not
hear. Then, "Sure," says he, "it's the dirty pastures that you've come
through, for the other shoe's as bad."

So the cobbler held up his right foot, and the fairy man rubbed that
with the tail of his green coat.

When all was done the cobbler's feet seemed to tingle, and then to
itch, and then to smart, and then to burn. And at last he began to
dance, and he danced all round the Rath (the fairy man laughing and
holding his sides), and then round and round again. And he danced till
he cried out with weariness, and tried to shake the shoes off. But
they stuck fast, and the fairies drove him over, the ditch, and
through the prickly furze-bushes, and he danced away. Where he danced
to, I cannot tell you. Whether he ever got rid of the fairy shoes, I
do not know. The jewels never were more than wayside pebbles, and they
were swept out when his cabin was cleaned, which was not too soon, you
may be sure.

All this happened long ago; but there are those who say that the
covetous cobbler dances still, between sunset and sunrise, round
Murdoch's Rath.



THE LITTLE DARNER.


In days gone by there lived a poor widow who had brought up her only
child so well that the little lass was more helpful and handy than
many a grown-up person.

When other women's children were tearing and dirtying their clothes,
clamouring at their mothers' skirts for this and that, losing and
breaking and spoiling things, and getting into mischief of all kinds,
the widow's little girl, with her tiny thimble on her finger, could
patch quite neatly. She was to be trusted to put anything in its
proper place, and when meals were over she would stand on a little
stool at the table washing up the dishes. Moreover, she could darn
stockings so well that the darn looked like a part of the stocking.
The slatternly mothers, who spoiled and scolded their children by
turns, and had never taught them to be tidy and obedient, used often
to quote the widow's little girl to their troublesome brats, and say,
"Why don't you help your mother as the widow's daughter helps her?"

Thus it came about that the helpless, useless, untidy little girls
hated the very name of the widow's daughter, because they were always
being told of her usefulness and neatness.

Now the widow's child often earned a few pence by herding sheep or
pigs for the farmers, or by darning stockings for their wives, and as
she could be trusted, people were very glad to employ her. One day she
was keeping watch over five little pigs in a field, and, not to waste
time, was darning a pair of stockings as well, when some of the little
girls who had a spite against her resolved to play her a trick.

Near the field where the little maid and the pigs were there was a
wood, into which all children were strictly forbidden to go. For in
the depths of the wood there lived a terrible Ogre and Ogress, who
kidnapped all children who strayed near their dwelling. Every morning
the Ogre threw a big black bag over his shoulder, and stalked through
the forest, making the ground shake as he walked. If he found any
truant children he popped them into his bag, and when he got home his
wife cooked them for supper.

The trick played upon the widow's daughter was this. Five little girls
came up to the field where she was herding the five little pigs, and
each chasing a pig, they drove them into the Ogre's wood. In vain the
little maid called to her flock; the pigs ran in a frightened troop
into the wood, and she ran after them. When the five little girls saw
that she had got them together again, they ran in to chase them away
once more, and so they were all in the wood together, when the ground
shook under them, upsetting the six little girls and the five little
pigs; and as they rolled over the Ogre picked them up, and put them
one after another into his bag.

When they were jolting about with the pigs in the poke as the Ogre
strode homewards, the five spiteful children were as sorry as you
please; and as the pigs were always fighting and struggling to get to
the top, they did not escape without some scratches. And their
screams, and the squealing of the little pigs made such a noise that
the Ogre's wife heard it a mile and a half away in the depths of the
wood; and she lighted a fire under the copper, and filled it with
water, ready to cook whatever her husband brought home.

As for the widow's little daughter she pulled her needle-book from her
pocket, and every now and then she pushed a needle through the sack,
that it might fall on the ground, and serve as a guide if she should
ever have the chance of finding her way home again.

When the Ogre arrived, he emptied the sack, and sent the six little
girls and the five little pigs all sprawling on to the floor, saying:

"These will last us some time. Cook the fattest, and put the rest
into the cellar. And whilst you get dinner ready, I will take another
stroll with the bag. Luck seldom comes singly."

When he had gone, the Ogress looked over the children, and picked out
the widow's daughter, saying:

"You look the most good-humoured. And the best-tempered always make
the best eating."

So she set her down on a stool by the fire till the water should boil,
and locked the others up in the cellar.

"Tears won't put the fire out," thought the little maid. So instead of
crying she pulled out the old stocking, and went on with her darning.
When the Ogress came back from the cellar she went up to her and
looked at her work.

"How you darn!" she cried. "Now that's a sort of thing I hate. And the
Ogre does wear such big holes in his stockings, and his feet are so
large, that, though my hand is not a small one, I cannot fill out the
heel with my fist, and then who's to darn it neatly I should like to
know?"

"If I had a basin big enough to fill out the heel, I think I could do
it," said the little maid.

The Ogress scratched her big ear thoughtfully for a minute, and then
she said:

"To lose a chance is to cheat oneself. Why shouldn't this one darn
while the others boil? Yes, I think you shall try. Six days ought to
serve for mending all the stockings, though the Ogre hasn't a whole
pair left, and angry enough he'll be. And when household matters are
not to his mind he puts that big sack over my head, and ties it round
my neck. And if you had ever done housework with your head in a poke,
you'd know what it is! So you shall darn the stockings, and if you do
them well, I'll cook one of the others first instead of you."

Saying which, the Ogress fetched one of the Ogre's stockings, and the
widow's child put a big basin into the heel to stretch it, and began
to darn. The Ogress watched her till she had put all the threads one
way, and when she began to run the cross threads, interlacing them
with the utmost exactness, the old creature was delighted, and went to
fetch another child to be cooked instead of the widow's.

When the other little girl came up, she cried and screamed so that the
room rang with her lamentations, and the widow's child laid down her
needle and ceased working.

"Why don't you go on darning?" asked the Ogress.

"Alas! dear mother," said she, "the little sister's cries make my
heart beat so that I cannot darn evenly."

"Then she must go back to the cellar for a bit," said the Ogress.
"And meanwhile I'll sharpen the knife."

So after she had taken back the crying child, and had watched the
little girl, who now darned away as skilfully as ever, the Ogress took
down a huge knife from the wall, and began to sharpen it on a
grindstone in a corner of the kitchen. As she sharpened the knife, she
glanced from time to time at the little maid, and soon perceived that
she had once more ceased working.

"Why don't you go on darning?" asked the Ogress.

"Alas! dear mother," said the child, "when I hear you sharpening that
terrible knife my hands tremble so that I cannot thread my needle."

"Well, it will do now," growled the Ogress, feeling the edge of the
blade with her horny finger; and, having seen the darning-needle once
more at work, she went to fetch up one of the children. As she went,
she hummed what cookmaids sing--

    "Dilly, dilly duckling, come and be killed!"

But it sounded like the wheezing and groaning of a heavy old door upon
its rusty hinges.

When she came in, with the child in one hand, and the huge knife in
the other, she went up to the little darner to look at her work. The
heel of the Ogre's stocking was exquisitely mended, all but seven
threads; but the little maid sat idle with her hands before her.

"Why don't you go on darning?" asked the Ogress.

"Alas! dear mother," was the reply, "when I think of my little
playmate about to die, the tears blind my eyes, so that I cannot see
what stitches I take. Wherefore I beg of you, dear mother, to cook one
of the little pigs instead, that I may be able to go on with my work,
and that a pair of stockings may be ready to-morrow morning when the
Ogre will ask for them; so my playmate's life will be spared, and your
head will not be put into a poke."

At first the Ogress would not hear of such a thing, but at last she
consented, and made a stew of one of the little pigs instead of
cooking the little girl.

"But supposing the Ogre goes to count the children," said she; "he
will find one too many."

"Then let her go, dear mother," said the widow's daughter; "she will
find her way home, and you will never be blamed."

"But she must stir the stew with her forefinger first," said the
Ogress, "that it may have a human flavour."

So the little girl had to stir the hot stew with her finger, which
scalded it badly; and then she was set at liberty, and ran home as
hard as she could; and as the little maid's needles sparkled here and
there on the path, she had no difficulty in finding her way.

The Ogre was quite contented with his dinner, and the Ogress got great
praise for the way in which she had darned his stockings. Thus it went
on for four days more. As the widow's little girl wouldn't work if her
companions were killed, the Ogress cooked the pigs one after another,
and the children were all sent away with burnt forefingers.

When the fifth had been dismissed, and all the pigs were eaten, the
Ogress said:

"To-morrow you will have to be stewed, and now I wish I had kept one
of the others that I might have saved you altogether to work for me.
However, there is one comfort, the stockings are finished."

But meanwhile the other children had got safely home, and had told
their tale. And all the men of the place set off at once to attack the
Ogre, and release the widow's child. Guided by the needles, they
arrived just as the Ogress was sharpening the big knife for the last
time.

So they killed the Ogre and his wife, and took the industrious little
maid back to her mother.

The other little girls were now very repentant; and when their
fingers were well, they all learned to darn stockings at once.

And as there was now no danger about going into the wood, it was no
longer forbidden. And this being the case, the children were much less
anxious to play there than formerly.



THE FIDDLER IN THE FAIRY RING.


Generations ago, there once lived a farmer's son, who had no great
harm in him, and no great good either. He always meant well, but he
had a poor spirit, and was too fond of idle company.

One day his father sent him to market with some sheep for sale, and
when business was over for the day, the rest of the country-folk made
ready to go home, and more than one of them offered the lad a lift in
his cart.

"Thank you kindly, all the same," said he, "but I am going back across
the downs with Limping Tim."

Then out spoke a steady old farmer and bade the lad go home with the
rest, and by the main road. For Limping Tim was an idle, graceless
kind of fellow, who fiddled for his livelihood, but what else he did
to earn the money he squandered, no one knew. And as to the sheep path
over the downs, it stands to reason that the highway is better
travelling after sunset, for the other is no such very short cut; and
has a big fairy ring so near it, that a butter-woman might brush it
with the edge of her market cloak, as she turned the brow of the hill.

But the farmer's son would go his own way, and that was with Limping
Tim, and across the downs.

So they started, and the fiddler had his fiddle in his hand, and a
bundle of marketings under his arm, and he sang snatches of strange
songs, the like of which the lad had never heard before. And the moon
drew out their shadows over the short grass till they were as long as
the great stones of Stonehenge.

At last they turned the hill, and the fairy ring looked dark under the
moon, and the farmer's son blessed himself that they were passing it
quietly, when Limping Tim suddenly pulled his cloak from his back, and
handing it to his companion, cried, "Hold this for a moment, will you?
I'm wanted. They're calling for me."

"I hear nothing," said the farmer's son. But before he had got the
words out of his mouth, the fiddler had completely disappeared. He
shouted aloud, but in vain, and had begun to think of proceeding on
his way, when the fiddler's voice cried, "Catch!" and there came,
flying at him from the direction of the fairy ring, the bundle of
marketings which the fiddler had been carrying.

"It's in my way," he then heard the fiddler cry. "Ah, this is dancing!
Come in, my lad, come in!"

But the farmer's son was not totally without prudence, and he took
good care to keep at a safe distance from the fairy ring.

"Come back, Tim! Come back!" he shouted, and, receiving no answer, he
adjured his friend to break the bonds that withheld him, and return to
the right way, as wisely as one man can counsel another.

After talking for some time to no purpose, he again heard his friend's
voice, crying, "Take care of it for me! The money dances out of my
pocket." And therewith the fiddler's purse was hurled to his feet,
where it fell with a heavy chinking of gold within.

He picked it up, and renewed his warnings and entreaties, but in vain;
and, after waiting for a long time, he made the best of his way home
alone, hoping that the fiddler would follow, and come to reclaim his
property.

The fiddler never came. And when at last there was a fuss about his
disappearance, the farmer's son, who had but a poor spirit, began to
be afraid to tell the truth of the matter. "Who knows but they may
accuse me of theft?" said he. So he hid the cloak, and the bundle,
and the money-bag in the garden.

But when three months passed, and still the fiddler did not return, it
was whispered that the farmer's son had been his last companion; and
the place was searched, and they found the cloak, and the bundle, and
the money-bag and the lad was taken to prison.

Now, when it was too late, he plucked up a spirit, and told the truth;
but no one believed him, and it was said that he had murdered the
fiddler for the sake of his money and goods. And he was taken before
the judge, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Fortunately, his old mother was a Wise Woman. And when she heard that
he was condemned, she said, "Only follow my directions, and we may
save you yet; for I guess how it is."

So she went to the judge, and begged for her son three favours before
his death.

"I will grant them," said the judge, "if you do not ask for his life."

"The first," said the old woman, "is, that he may choose the place
where the gallows shall be erected; the second, that he may fix the
hour of his execution; and the third favour is, that you will not fail
to be present."

"I grant all three," said the judge. But when he learned that the
criminal had chosen a certain hill on the downs for the place of
execution, and an hour before midnight for the time, he sent to beg
the sheriff to bear him company on this important occasion.

The sheriff placed himself at the judge's disposal, but he commanded
the attendance of the gaoler as some sort of protection; and the
gaoler, for his part, implored his reverence the chaplain to be of the
party, as the hill was not in good spiritual repute. So, when the time
came, the four started together, and the hangman and the farmer's son
went before them to the foot of the gallows.

Just as the rope was being prepared, the farmer'a son called to the
judge, and said, "If your Honour will walk twenty paces down the hill,
to where you will see a bit of paper, you will learn the fate of the
fiddler."

"That is, no doubt, a copy of the poor man's last confession," thought
the judge.

"Murder will out, Mr. Sheriff," said he; and in the interests of truth
and justice he hastened to pick up the paper.

But the farmer's son had dropped it as he came along, by his mother's
direction, in such a place that the judge could not pick it up without
putting his foot on the edge of the fairy ring. No sooner had he done
so than he perceived an innumerable company of little people dressed
in green cloaks and hoods, who were dancing round in a circle as wide
as the ring itself.

They were all about two feet high, and had aged faces, brown and
withered, like the knots on gnarled trees in hedge bottoms, and they
squinted horribly; but, in spite of their seeming age, they flew round
and round like children.

"Mr. Sheriff! Mr. Sheriff!" cried the judge, "come and see the
dancing. And hear the music, too, which is so lively that it makes the
soles of my feet tickle."

"There is no music, my Lord Judge," said the sheriff, running down the
hill. "It is the wind whistling over the grass that your lordship
hears."

But when the sheriff had put his foot by the judge's foot, he saw and
heard the same, and he cried out, "Quick, Gaoler, and come down! I
should like you to be witness to this matter. And you may take my arm,
Gaoler, for the music makes me feel unsteady."

"There is no music, sir," said the gaoler; "but your worship doubtless
hears the creaking of the gallows."

But no sooner had the gaoler's feet touched the fairy ring, than he
saw and heard like the rest, and he called lustily to the chaplain to
come and stop the unhallowed measure.

"It is a delusion of the Evil One," said the parson; "there is not a
sound in the air but the distant croaking of some frogs." But when he
too touched the ring, he perceived his mistake.

At this moment the moon shone out, and in the middle of the ring they
saw Limping Tim the fiddler, playing till great drops stood out on his
forehead, and dancing as madly as he played.

"Ah, you rascal!" cried the judge. "Is this where you've been all the
time, and a better man than you as good as hanged for you? But you
shall come home now."

Saying which, he ran in, and seized the fiddler by the arm, but
Limping Tim resisted so stoutly that the sheriff had to go to the
judge's assistance, and even then the fairies so pinched and hindered
them that the sheriff was obliged to call upon the gaoler to put his
arms about his waist, who persuaded the chaplain to add his strength
to the string. But as ill luck would have it, just as they were
getting off, one of the fairies picked up Limping Tim's fiddle, which
had fallen in the scuffle, and began to play. And as he began to play,
every one began to dance--the fiddler, and the judge, and the sheriff,
and the gaoler, and even the chaplain.

"Hangman! hangman!" screamed the judge, as he lifted first one leg and
then the other to the tune, "come down, and catch hold of his
reverence the chaplain. The prisoner is pardoned, and he can lay hold
too."

The hangman knew the judge's voice, and ran towards it; but as they
were now quite within the ring he could see nothing, either of him or
his companions.

The farmer's son followed, and warning the hangman not to touch the
ring, he directed him to stretch his hands forwards in hopes of
catching hold of some one. In a few minutes the wind blew the
chaplain's cassock against the hangman's fingers, and he caught the
parson round the waist. The farmer's son then seized him in like
fashion, and each holding firmly by the other, the fiddler, the judge,
the sheriff, the gaoler, the parson, the hangman, and the farmer's son
all got safely out of the charmed circle.

"Oh, you scoundrel!" cried the judge to the fiddler; "I have a very
good mind to hang you up on the gallows without further ado."

But the fiddler only looked like one possessed, and upbraided the
farmer's son for not having the patience to wait three minutes for
him.

"Three minutes!" cried he; "why, you've been here three months and a
day."

This the fiddler would not believe, and as he seemed in every way
beside himself, they led him home, still upbraiding his companion,
and crying continually for his fiddle.

His neighbours watched him closely, but one day he escaped from their
care and wandered away over the hills to seek his fiddle, and came
back no more.

His dead body was found upon the downs, face downwards, with the
fiddle in his arms. Some said he had really found the fiddle where he
had left it, and had been lost in a mist, and died of exposure. But
others held that he had perished differently, and laid his death at
the door of the fairy dancers.

As to the farmer's son, it is said that thenceforward he went home
from market by the high-road, and spoke the truth straight out, and
was more careful of his company.



"I WON'T."


"Don't Care"--so they say--fell into a goose-pond; and "I won't" is
apt to come to no better an end. At least, my grandmother tells me
that was how the Miller had to quit his native town, and leave the tip
of his nose behind him.

It all came of his being allowed to say "I won't" when he was quite a
little boy. His mother thought he looked pretty when he was pouting,
and that wilfulness gave him an air which distinguished him from other
people's children. And when she found out that his lower lip was
becoming so big that it spoilt his beauty, and that his wilfulness
gained his way twice and stood in his way eight times out of ten, it
was too late to alter him.

Then she said, "Dearest Abinadab, do be more obliging!"

And he replied (as she had taught him), "I won't."

He always took what he could get, and would neither give nor give up
to other people. This, he thought, was the way to get more out of life
than one's neighbours.

Amongst other things, he made a point of taking the middle of the
footpath.

"Will you allow me to pass you, sir?--I am in a hurry," said a voice
behind him one day.

"I won't," said Abinadab; on which a poor washerwoman, with her
basket, scrambled down into the road, and Abinadab chuckled.

Next day he was walking as before.

"Will you allow me to pass you, sir?--I am in a hurry," said a voice
behind him.

"I won't," said Abinadab. On which he was knocked into the ditch; and
the Baron walked on, and left him to get out of the mud on whichever
side he liked.

He quarrelled with his friends till he had none left, and he
quarrelled with the tradesmen of the town till there was only one who
would serve him, and this man offended him at last.

"I'll show you who's master!" said the Miller. "I won't pay a penny of
your bill--not a penny."

"Sir," said the tradesman, "my giving you offence now, is no just
reason why you should refuse to pay for what you have had and been
satisfied with. I must beg you to pay me at once."

"I won't," said the Miller, "and what I say I mean. I won't; I tell
you, I won't."

So the tradesman summoned him before the Justice, and the Justice
condemned him to pay the bill and the costs of the suit.

"I won't," said the Miller.

So they put him in prison, and in prison he would have remained if his
mother had not paid the money to obtain his release. By and by she
died, and left him her blessing and some very good advice, which (as
is sometimes the case with bequests) would have been more useful if it
had come earlier.

The Miller's mother had taken a great deal of trouble off his hands
which now fell into them. She took in all the small bags of grist
which the country-folk brought to be ground, and kept account of them,
and spoke civilly to the customers, big and little. But these small
matters irritated the Miller.

"I may be the slave of all the old women in the country-side," said
he; "but I won't--they shall see that I won't."

So he put up a notice to say that he would only receive grist at a
certain hour on certain days. Now, but a third of the old women could
read the notice, and they did not attend to it. People came as before;
but the Miller locked the door of the mill and sat in the
counting-house and chuckled.

"My good friend," said his neighbours, "you can't do business in this
way. If a man lives by trade, he must serve his customers. And a
Miller must take in grist when it comes to the mill."

"Others may if they please," said the Miller; "but I won't. When I
make a rule, I stick to it."

"Take advice, man, or you'll be ruined," said his friends.

"I won't," said the Miller.

In a few weeks all the country-folk turned their donkeys' heads
towards the windmill on the heath. It was a little farther to go, but
the Windmiller took custom when it came to him, gave honest measure,
and added civil words gratis.

The other Miller was ruined.

"All you can do now is to leave the mill while you can pay the rent,
and try another trade," said his friends.

"I won't," said the Miller. "Shall I be turned out of the house where
I was born, because the country-folk are fools?"

However, he could not pay the rent, and the landlord found another
tenant.

"You must quit," said he to the Miller.

"That I won't," said the Miller, "not for fifty new tenants."

So the landlord sent for the constables, and he was carried out,
which is not a dignified way of changing one's residence. But then it
is not easy to be obstinate and dignified at the same time.

His wrath against the landlord knew no bounds.

"Was there ever such a brute?" he cried. "Would any man of spirit hold
his home at the whim of a landlord? I'll never rent another house as
long as I live."

"But you must live somewhere," said his friends.

"I won't," said the Miller.

He was no longer a young man, and the new tenant pitied him.

"The poor old fellow is out of his senses," he said. And he let him
sleep in one of his barns. One of the mill cats found out that there
was a new warm bed in this barn, and she came and lived there too, and
kept away the mice.

One night, however, Mrs. Pussy disturbed the Miller's rest. She was in
and out of the window constantly, and meowed horribly into the
bargain.

"It seems a man can't even sleep in peace," said the Miller. "If this
happens again, you'll go into the mill-race to sing to the fishes."

The next night the cat was still on the alert, and the following
morning the Miller tied a stone round her neck, and threw her into the
water.

"Oh, spare the poor thing, there's a good soul," said a bystander.

"I won't," said the Miller. "I told her what would happen."

When his back was turned, however, the bystander got Pussy out, and
took her home with him.

Now the cat was away, the mice could play; and they played hide-and
seek over the Miller's nightcap.

It came to such a pass that there was no rest to be had.

"I won't go to bed, I declare I won't," said the Miller. So he sat up
all night in an arm-chair, and threw everything he could lay his hands
on at the corners where he heard the mice scuffling, till the place
was topsy-turvy.

Towards morning he lit a candle and dressed himself. He was in a
terrible humour; and when he began to shave, his hand shook and he cut
himself. The draughts made the flame of the candle unsteady too, and
the shadow of the Miller's nose (which was a large one) fell in
uncertain shapes upon his cheeks, and interfered with the progress of
the razor. At first he thought he would wait till daylight. Then his
temper got the better of him.

"I won't," he said, "I won't; why should I?"

So he began again. He held on by his nose to steady his cheeks, and
he gave it such a spiteful pinch that the tears came into his eyes.

"Matters have come to a pretty pass, when a man's own nose is to stand
in his light," said he.

By and by a gust of wind came through the window. Up flared the
candle, and the shadow of the Miller's nose danced half over his face,
and the razor gashed his chin.

Transported with fury, he struck at it before he could think what he
was doing. The razor was very sharp, and the tip of the Miller's nose
came off as clean as his whiskers.

When daylight came, and he saw himself in the glass, he resolved to
leave the place.

"I won't stay here to be a laughing-stock," said he.

As he trudged out on to the highway, with his bundle on his back, the
Baron met him and pitied him. He dismounted from his horse, and
leading it up to the Miller, he said:

"Friend, you are elderly to be going far afoot. I will lend you my
mare to take you to your destination. When you are there, knot the
reins and throw them on her shoulder, saying, 'Home!' She will then
return to me. But mark one thing,--she is not used to whip or spur.
Humour her, and she will carry you well and safely."

The Miller mounted willingly enough, and set forward. At first the
mare was a little restive. The Miller had no spurs on, but, in spite
of the Baron's warning, he kicked her with his heels. On this, she
danced till the Miller's hat and bundle flew right and left, and he
was very near to following them.

"Ah, you vixen!" he cried. "You think I'll humour you as the Baron
does. But I won't--no, you shall see that I won't!" And gripping his
walking-stick firmly in his hand, he belaboured the Baron's mare as if
she had been a donkey.

On which she sent the Miller clean over her head, and cantered back to
the castle; and wherever it was that he went to, he had to walk.

He never returned to his native village, and everybody was glad to be
rid of him. One must bear and forbear with his neighbours, if he hopes
to be regretted when he departs.

But my grandmother says that long after the mill had fallen into ruin,
the story was told as a warning to wilful children of the Miller who
cut off his nose to spite his own face.



THE MAGIC JAR.


There was once a young fellow whom fortune had blessed with a good
mother, a clever head, and a strong body. But beyond this she had not
much favoured him; and though able and willing to work, he had often
little to do, and less to eat. But his mother had taught him to be
contented with his own lot, and to feel for others. Moreover, from her
he inherited a great love for flowers.

One day, when his pockets were emptiest, a fair was held in the
neighbouring town, and he must needs go as well as the rest, though he
had no money to spend. But he stuck a buttercup in his cap, for which
he had nothing to pay, and strode along as merrily as the most.

Towards evening some of the merrymakers became riotous; and a party of
them fell upon an old Jew who was keeping a stall of glass and china,
and would smash his stock. Now as the Jew stood before his booth
beseeching them to spare his property, up came the strong young man,
with the flower still unwithered in his cap, and he took the old Jew's
part and defended him. For from childhood his mother had taught him to
feel for others.

So those who would have ill-treated the old Jew now moved off, and the
young man stayed with him till he had packed up his wares.

Then the Jew turned towards him and said, "My son, he who delivers the
oppressed, and has respect unto the aged, has need of no reward, for
the blessing of Him that blesseth is about him. Nevertheless, that I
may not seem ungrateful, choose, I pray thee, one of these china jars;
and take it to thee for thine own. If thou shalt choose well, it may
be of more use to thee than presently appears."

Thereupon the young man examined the jars, which were highly
ornamented with many figures and devices; but he chose one that was
comparatively plain; only it had a bunch of flowers painted on the
front, round which was a pretty device in spots or circles of gold.

Then said the Jew, "My son, why have you chosen this jar, when there
are others so much finer?"

The young man said, "Because the flowers please me, and I have a love
for flowers."

Then said the Jew, "Happy is he whose tastes are simple! Moreover,
herein is a rare wisdom, and thou hast gained that which is the most
valuable of my possessions. This jar has properties which I will
further explain to thee. It was given to me by a wise woman, subject
to this condition, that I must expose it for sale from sunrise to
sunset at the yearly fair. When I understood this I took counsel with
myself how I should preserve it; and I bought other china jars of more
apparent value, and I marked them all with the same price. For I said
within myself, 'There is no man who does not desire to get as much as
he can for his money, therefore, from its contrast with these others,
my jar is safe.' And it was even so; for truly, many have desired to
buy the jar because of the delicate beauty of the flowers, if I would
have sold it for less than others which seemed more valuable."

"Many times it has been almost gone, but when I have shown the others
at the same price, my customers have reviled me, saying, 'Dog of a
Jew, dost thou ask as much for this as for these others Which are
manifestly worth double?' and they have either departed, cursing me,
and taking nothing; or they have bought one of the more richly
decorated jars at the same price. For verily in most men the spirit of
covetousness is stronger than the love of beauty, and they rather
desire to get much for their money, than to obtain that which is
suitable and convenient."

"But in thee, O young man! I have beheld a rare wisdom. To choose that
which is good in thine eyes, and suitable to thy needs, rather than
that which satisfieth the lust of over-reaching; and lo! what I have
so long kept from thousands, has become thine!"

Then the young man wished to restore to the Jew the jar he valued so
highly, and to choose another.

But the Jew refused, saying, "A gift cannot be recalled. Moreover, I
will now explain to thee its uses. Within the jar lies a toad, whose
spit is poison. But it will never spit at its master. Every evening
thou must feed it with bread and milk, when it will fall asleep; and
at sunrise in the morning it will awake and breathe heavily against
the side of the jar, which will thus become warm. As it warms the
flowers will blossom out, and become real, and full of perfume, and
thou wilt be able to pluck them without diminishing their number.
Moreover, these twelve round spots of gold will drop off, and become
twelve gold pieces, which will be thine. And thus it will be every
day. Only thou must thyself rise with the sun, and gather the flowers
and the gold with thine own hands. Furthermore, when the jar cools,
the flowers and gilding will be as before. Fare thee well."

And even as he spoke the Jew lifted the huge crate of china on to his
back, and disappeared among the crowd.

All came about as the Jew had promised. As he had twelve gold pieces a
day, the young man now wanted for nothing, besides which he had fresh
flowers on his table all the year round.

Now it is well said, "Thy business is my business, and the business of
all beside;" for every man's affairs are his neighbours' property.
Thus it came about that all those who lived near the young man were
perplexed that he had such beautiful flowers in all seasons; and
esteemed it as an injury to themselves that he should have them and
give no explanation as to whence they came.

At last it came to the ears of the king, and he also was disturbed.
For he was curious, and fond of prying into small matters; a taste
which ill becomes those of high position. But the king had no child to
succeed him; and he was always suspecting those about him of plotting
to obtain the crown, and thus he came to be for ever prying into the
affairs of his subjects.

Now when he heard of the young man who had flowers on his table all
the year round, he desired one of his officers to go and question him
as to how he obtained them. But the young man contrived to evade his
questions, and the matter was at rest for a while.

Then the king sent another messenger, with orders to press the young
man more closely; and because the young man disdained to tell a lie,
he said, "I get the flowers from yon china jar."

Then the messenger returned, and said to the king, "The young man says
that he gets the flowers from a certain china jar which stands in his
room."

Then said the king, "Bring the contents of the jar hither to me." And
the messenger returned and brought the toad.

But when the king laid hold upon the toad, it spat in his face; and he
was poisoned and died.

Then the toad sat upon the king's mouth, and would not be enticed
away. And every one feared to touch it because it spat poison. And
they called the wise men of the council; and they performed certain
rites to charm away the toad, and yet it would not go.

But after three days, the master of the toad came to the palace, and
without saying who he was, he desired to be permitted to try and get
the toad from the corpse of the king.

And when he was taken into the king's chamber, he stood and beckoned
to the toad, saying, "The person of the king and the bodies of the
dead are sacred, wherefore come away."

And the toad crawled from the king's face and came to him, and did not
spit at him; and he put it back into the jar.

Then said the wise men, "There is no one so fit to succeed to the
kingdom as this man is; both for wisdom of speech and for the power of
command."

And what they said pleased the people; and the young man was made
king. And in due time he married an amiable and talented princess, and
had children. And he ruled the kingdom well and wisely, and was
beloved till his death.

Now when, after the lapse of many years, he died, there was great
grief among the people, and his body was laid out in his own room, and
the people were permitted to come and look upon his face for the last
time.

And among the crowd there appeared an aged Jew. And he did not weep as
did the others; but he came and stood by the bier, and gazed upon the
face of the dead king in silence. And after a while he exclaimed, and
said:

"Oh, wonderful spectacle! A man, and not covetous. A ruler, and not
oppressive. Contented in poverty, and moderate in wealth. Elect of the
people, and beloved to the end!"

And when he had said this, he again became silent, and stood as one
astonished.

And no one knew when he came in, nor perceived when he departed.

But when they came to search for the china jar, it was gone, and could
never afterwards be found.



THE FIRST WIFE'S WEDDING-RING.


Many years ago, there lived a certain worthy man who was twice
married. By his first wife he had a son, who soon after his mother's
death resolved to become a soldier, and go to foreign lands. "When one
has seen the world, one values home the more," said he; "and if I live
I shall return."

So the father gave him a blessing, and his mother's wedding-ring,
saying, "Keep this ring, and then, however long you stay away, and
however changed you may become, by this token I shall know you to be
my true son and heir."

In a short time the father married again, and by this marriage also he
had one son.

Years passed by, and the elder brother did not return, and at last
every one believed him to be dead. But in reality he was alive, and
after a long time he turned his steps homewards. He was so much
changed by age and travelling that only his mother would have known
him again, but he had the ring tied safe and fast round his neck. One
night, however, he was too far from shelter to get a bed, so he slept
under a hedge, and when he woke in the morning the string was untied
and the ring was gone. He spent a whole day in searching for it, but
in vain; and at last he resolved to proceed and explain the matter to
his father.

The old man was overjoyed to see him, and fully believed his tale, but
with the second wife it was otherwise. She was greatly displeased to
think that her child was not now to be the sole heir of his father's
goods; and she so pestered and worked upon the old man by artful and
malicious speeches, that he consented to send away the new-comer till
he should have found the first wife's wedding-ring.

"Is the homestead I have taken such care of," she cried, "to go to the
first vagrant who comes in with a brown face and a ragged coat,
pretending that he is your son?"

So the soldier was sent about his business; but his father followed
him to the gate, and slipped some money into his hand, saying, "God
speed you back again with the ring!"

It was Sunday morning, and the bells were ringing for service as he
turned sadly away.

"Ding, dong!" rang the bells, "ding, dong! Why do you not come to
church like others? Why are you not dressed in your Sunday clothes,
and wherefore do you heave such doleful sighs, whilst we ring merrily?
Ding, dong! ding, dong!"

"Is there not a cause?" replied the soldier. "This day I am turned out
of home and heritage, though indeed I am the true heir."

"Nevertheless we shall ring for your return," said the bells.

As he went, the sun shone on the green fields, and in the soldier's
eyes, and said, "See how brightly I shine! But you, comrade, why is
your face so cloudy?"

"Is there not good reason?" replied he. "This day I am turned out of
home and heritage, and yet I am the true heir."

"Nevertheless I shall shine on your return," said the sun.

Along the road the hawthorn hedges were white with blossom. "Heyday!"
they cried, "who is this that comes trimp tramp, with a face as long
as a poplar-tree? Cheer up, friend! It is spring! sweet spring! All is
now full of hope and joy, and why should you look so sour?"

"May I not be excused?" said the soldier. "This day I am turned out,
of home and heritage, and yet I am the true heir."

"Nevertheless we shall blossom when you return," said the hedges.

When he had wandered for three days and three nights, all he had was
spent, and there was no shelter to be seen but a dark gloomy forest,
which stretched before him. Just then he saw a small, weazened old
woman, who was trying to lift a bundle of sticks on to her back.

"That is too heavy for you, good mother," said the soldier; and he
raised and adjusted it for her.

"Have you just come here?" muttered the old crone; "then the best
thanks I can give you is to bid you get away as fast as you can."

"I never retreated yet, dame," said the soldier, and on he went.

Presently he met with a giant, who was strolling along by the edge of
the wood, knocking the cones off the tops of the fir-trees with his
finger-nails. He was an ill-favoured-looking monster, but he said,
civilly enough, "You look in want of employment, comrade. Will you
take service with me?"

"I must first know two things," answered the soldier; "my work and my
wages."

"Your work," said the giant, "is to cut a path through this wood to
the other side. But then you shall have a year and a day to do it in.
If you do it within the time, you will find at the other end a
magpie's nest, in which is the ring of which you are in search. The
nest also contains the crown jewels which have been stolen, and if you
take these to the king, you will need no further reward. But, on the
other hand, if the work is not done within the time, you will
thenceforth be my servant without wages."

"It is a hard bargain," said the soldier, "but need knows no law, and
I agree to the conditions."

When he came into the giant's abode, he was greatly astonished to see
the little weazened old woman. She showed no sign of recognizing him,
however, and the soldier observed a like discretion. He soon
discovered that she was the giant's wife, and much in dread of her
husband, who treated her with great cruelty.

"To-morrow you shall begin to work," said the giant.

"If you please," said the soldier, and before he went to bed he
carried in water and wood for the old woman.

"There's a kinship in trouble," said he.

Next morning the giant led him to a certain place on the outskirts of
the forest, and giving him an axe, said, "The sooner you begin, the
better, and you may see that it is not difficult." Saying which, he
took hold of one of the trees by the middle, and snapped it off as one
might pluck a flower.

"Thus to thee, but how to me?" said the soldier; and when the giant
departed he set to work. But although he was so strong, and worked
willingly, the trees seemed almost as hard as stone, and he made
little progress. When he returned at night the giant asked him how he
got on.

"The trees are very hard," said he.

"So they always say," replied the giant; "I have always had idle
servants."

"I will not be called idle a second time," thought the soldier, and
next day he went early and worked his utmost. But the result was very
small. And when he came home, looking weary and disappointed, he could
not fail to perceive that this gave great satisfaction to the giant.

Matters had gone on thus for some time, when one morning, as he went
to work, he found the little old woman gathering sticks as before.

"Listen," said she. "He shall not treat you as he has treated others.
Count seventy to the left from where you are working, and begin again.
But do not let him know that you have made a fresh start. And do a
little at the old place from time to time, as a blind." And before he
could thank her, the old woman was gone. Without more ado, however, he
counted seventy from the old place, and hit the seventieth tree such a
blow with his axe, that it came crashing down then and there. And he
found that, one after another, the trees yielded to his blows as if
they were touch-wood. He did a good day's work, gave a few strokes in
the old spot, and came home, taking care to look as gloomy as before.

Day by day he got deeper and deeper into the wood, the trees falling
before him like dry elder twigs; and now the hardest part of his work
was walking backwards and fowards to the giant's home, for the forest
seemed almost interminable. But on the three hundred and sixty-sixth
day from his first meeting with the giant, the soldier cut fairly
through on to an open plain, and as the light streamed in, a magpie
flew away, and on searching her nest, the soldier found his mother's
wedding-ring. He also found many precious stones of priceless value,
which were evidently the lost crown jewels. And as his term of service
with the giant was now ended, he did not trouble himself to return,
but with the ring and the jewels in his pocket set off to find his way
to the capital.

He soon fell in with a good-humoured, fellow who showed him the way,
and pointed out everything of interest on the road. As they drew near,
one of the royal carriages was driving out of the city gates, in which
sat three beautiful ladies who were the king's daughters.

"The two eldest are engaged to marry two neighbouring princes," said
the companion.

"And whom is the youngest to marry?" asked the soldier, "for she is by
far the most beautiful."

"She will never marry," answered his companion, "for she is pledged to
the man who shall find the crown jewels, and cut a path through the
stone-wood forest that borders the king's domains. And that is much as
if she were promised to the man who should fetch down the moon for her
to play with. For the jewels are lost beyond recall, and the wood is
an enchanted forest."

"Nevertheless she shall be wed with my mother's ring," thought the
soldier. But he kept his own counsel, and only waited till he had
smartened himself up, before he sought an audience of the king.

His claim to the princess was fully proved; the king heaped honours
and riches upon him; and he made himself so acceptable to his
bride-elect, that the wedding was fixed for an early day.

"May I bring my old father, madam?" he asked of the princess.

"That you certainly may," said she. "A good son makes a good husband."

As he entered his native village the hedges were in blossom, the sun
shone; and the bells rang for his return.

His stepmother now welcomed him, and was very anxious to go to court
also. But her husband said, "No. You took such good care of the
homestead, it is but fit you should look to it whilst I am away."

As to the giant, when he found that he had been outwitted, he went
off, and was never more heard of in those parts. But the soldier took
his wife into the city, and cared for her to the day of her death.



THE MAGICIAN TURNED MISCHIEF-MAKER.


There was once a wicked magician who prospered, and did much evil for
many years. But there came a day when Vengeance, disguised as a blind
beggar, overtook him, and outwitted him, and stole his magic wand.
With this he had been accustomed to turn those who offended him into
any shape he pleased; and now that he had lost it he could only
transform himself.

As Vengeance was returning to his place, he passed through a village,
the inhabitants of which had formerly lived in great terror of the
magician, and told them of the downfall of his power. But they only
said, "Blind beggars have long tongues. One must not believe all one
hears," and shrugged their shoulders, and left him.

Then Vengeance waved the wand and said, "As you have doubted me,
distress each other;" and so departed.

By and by he came to another village, and told the news. But here the
villagers were full of delight, and made a feast, and put the blind
beggar in the place of honour; who, when he departed, said, "As you
have done by me, deal with each other always!" and went on to the next
village.

In this place he was received with even warmer welcome; and when the
feast was over, the people brought him to the bridge which led out of
the village, and gave him a guide-dog to help him on his way.

Then the blind beggar waved the wand once more and said;

"Those who are so good to strangers must needs be good to each other.
But that nothing may be wanting to the peace of this place, I grant to
the beasts and birds in it that they may understand the language of
men."

Then he broke the wand in pieces, and threw it into the stream. And
when the people turned their heads back again from watching the bits
as they floated away, the blind beggar was gone.

Meanwhile the magician was wild with rage at the loss of his wand, for
all his pleasure was to do harm and hurt. But when he came to himself
he said: "One can do a good deal of harm with his tongue. I will turn
mischief-maker; and when the place is too hot to hold me, I can escape
in what form I please."

Then he came to the first village, where Vengeance had gone before,
and here he lived for a year and a day in various disguises; and he
made more misery with his tongue than he had ever accomplished in any
other year with his magic wand. For every one distrusted his
neighbour, and was ready to believe ill of him. So parents disowned
their children, and husband and wives parted, and lovers broke faith;
and servants and masters disagreed; and old friends became bitter
enemies, till at last the place was intolerable even to the magician,
and he changed himself into a cockchafer, and flew to the next
village, where, Vengeance had gone before.

Here also he dwelt for a year and a day, and then he left it because
he could do no harm. For those who loved each other trusted each
other, and the magician made mischief in vain. In one of his disguises
he was detected, and only escaped with his life from the enraged
villagers by changing himself into a cockchafer and flying on to the
next place, where Vengeance had gone before.

In this village he made less mischief than in the first, and more than
in the second. And he exercised all his art, and changed his disguises
constantly; but the dogs knew him under all.

One dog--the oldest dog in the place--was keeping watch over the
miller's house, when he saw the magician approaching, in the disguise
of an old woman.

"Do you see that old witch?" said he to the sparrows, who were picking
up stray bits of grain in the yard. "With her evil tongue she is
parting my master's daughter and the finest young fellow in the
country-side. She puts lies and truth together, with more skill than
you patch moss and feathers to build nests. And when she is asked
where she heard this or that, she says, 'A little bird told me so.'"

"We never told her," said the sparrows indignantly, "and if we had
your strength, Master Keeper, she should not malign us long!"

"I believe you are right!" said Master Keeper. "Of what avail is it
that we have learned the language of men, if we do not help them to
the utmost of our powers? She shall torment my young mistress no
more."

Saying which he flew upon the disguised magician as he entered the
gate, and would have torn him limb from limb, but that the
mischief-maker changed himself as before into a cockchafer, and flew
hastily from the village.

And thus he might doubtless have escaped to do yet further harm, had
not three cock-sparrows overtaken him just before he crossed the
bridge.

From three sides they hemmed him in, crying, "Which of us told you?"
"Which of us told you?" "Which of us told you?"--and pecked him to
pieces before he could transform himself again.

After which peace and prosperity befell all the neighbourhood.



KNAVE AND FOOL.


A Fool and a Knave once set up house together; which shows what a fool
the Fool was.

The Knave was delighted with the agreement; and the Fool thought
himself most fortunate to have met with a companion who would supply
his lack of mother-wit.

As neither of them liked work, the Knave proposed that they should
live upon their joint savings as long as these should last; and, to
avoid disputes, that they should use the Fool's share till it came to
an end, and then begin upon the Knave's stocking.

So, for a short time, they lived in great comfort at the Fool's
expense, and were very good company; for easy times make easy tempers.

Just when the store was exhausted, the Knave came running to the Fool
with an empty bag and a wry face, crying, "Dear friend, what shall we
do? This bag, which I had safely buried under a gooseberry-bush, has
been taken up by some thief, and all my money stolen. My savings were
twice as large as yours; but now that they are gone, and I can no
longer perform my share of the bargain, I fear our partnership must be
dissolved."

"Not so, dear friend," said the Fool, who was very good-natured; "we
have shared good luck together, and now we will share poverty. But as
nothing is left, I fear we must seek work."

"You speak very wisely," said the Knave, "And what, for instance, can
you do?"

"Very little," said the Fool; "but that little I do well."

"So do I," said the Knave. "Now can you plough, or sow, or feed
cattle, or plant crops?"

"Farming is not my business," said the Fool.

"Nor mine," said the Knave; "but no doubt you are a handicraftsman.
Are you clever at carpentry, mason's work, tailoring, or shoemaking?"

"I do not doubt that I should have been had I learned the trades,"
said the Fool, "but I never was bound apprentice."

"It is the same with myself," said the Knave; "but you may have finer
talents. Can you paint, or play the fiddle?"

"I never tried," said the Fool; "so I don't know."

"Just my case," said the Knave. "And now, since we can't find work, I
propose that we travel till work finds us."

The two comrades accordingly set forth, and they went on and on, till
they came to the foot of a hill, where a merchantman was standing by
his wagon, which had broken down.

"You seem two strong men," said he, as they advanced; "if you will
carry this chest of valuables up to the top of the hill, and down to
the bottom on the other side, where there is an inn, I will give you
two gold pieces for your trouble."

The Knave and the Fool consented to this, saying, "Work has found us
at last;" and they lifted the box on to their shoulders.

"Turn, and turn about," said the Knave; "but the best turn between
friends is a good turn; so I will lead the way up-hill, which is the
hardest kind of travelling, and you shall go first down-hill, the easy
half of our journey."

The Fool thought this proposal a very generous one, and, not knowing
that the lower end of their burden was the heavy one, he carried it
all the way. When they got to the inn, the merchant gave each of them
a gold piece, and, as the accommodation was good, they remained where
they were till their money was spent. After this, they lived there
awhile on credit; and when that was exhausted, they rose one morning
whilst the landlord was still in bed, and pursued their journey,
leaving old scores behind them.

They had been a long time without work or food, when they came upon a
man who sat by the roadside breaking stones, with a quart of porridge
and a spoon in a tin pot beside him.

"You look hungry, friends," said he, "and I, for my part, want to get
away. If you will break up this heap, you shall have the porridge for
supper. But when you have eaten it, put the pot and spoon under the
hedge, that I may find them when I return."

"If we eat first, we shall have strength for our work," said the
Knave; "and as there is only one spoon, we must eat by turns. But
fairly divide, friendly abide. As you went first the latter part of
our journey, I will begin on this occasion. When I stop, you fall to,
and eat as many spoonfuls as I ate. Then I will follow you in like
fashion, and so on till the pot is empty."

"Nothing could be fairer," said the Fool; and the Knave began to eat,
and went on till he had eaten a third of the porridge. The Fool, who
had counted every spoonful, now took his turn, and ate precisely as
much as his comrade. The Knave then began again, and was exact to a
mouthful; but it emptied the pot. Thus the Knave had twice as much as
the Fool, who could not see where he had been cheated.

They then set to work.

"As there is only one hammer," said the Knave, "we must work, as we
supped, by turns; and as I began last time, you shall begin this.
After you have worked awhile, I will take the hammer from you, and do
as much myself whilst you rest. Then you shall take it up again, and
so on till the heap is finished."

"It is not every one who is as just as you," said the Fool; and taking
up the hammer, he set to work with a will.

The Knave took care to let him go on till he had broken a third of the
stones, and then he did as good a share himself; after which the Fool
began again, and finished the heap.

By this means the Fool did twice as much work as the Knave, and yet he
could not complain.

As they moved on again, the Fool perceived that the Knave was taking
the can and the spoon with him.

"I am sorry to see you do that, friend," said he.

"It's a very small theft," said the Knave. "The can cannot have cost
more than sixpence when new."

"That was not what I meant," said the Fool, "so much as that I fear
the owner will find it out."

"He will only think the things have been stolen by some vagrant,"
said the Knave--"which, indeed, they would be if we left them. But as
you seem to have a tender conscience, I will keep them myself."

After a while they met with a farmer, who offered to give them supper
and a night's lodging, if they would scare the birds from a field of
corn for him till sunset.

"I will go into the outlying fields," said the Knave, "and as I see
the birds coming, I will turn them back. You, dear friend, remain in
the corn, and scare away the few that may escape me."

But whilst the Fool clapped and shouted till he was tired, the Knave
went to the other side of the hedge, and lay down for a nap.

As they sat together at supper, the Fool said, "Dear friend, this is
laborious work. I propose that we ask the farmer to let us tend sheep,
instead. That is a very different affair. One lies on the hillside all
day. The birds do not steal sheep; and all this shouting and clapping
is saved."

The Knave very willingly agreed, and next morning the two friends
drove a flock of sheep on to the downs. The sheep at once began to
nibble, the dog sat with his tongue out, panting, and the Knave and
Fool lay down on their backs, and covered their faces with their hats
to shield them from the sun.

Thus they lay till evening, when, the sun being down, they uncovered
their faces, and found that the sheep had all strayed away, and the
dog after them.

"The only plan for us is to go separate ways in search of the flock,"
said the Knave; "only let us agree to meet here again." They
accordingly started in opposite directions; but when the Fool was
fairly off, the Knave returned to his place, and lay down as before.

By and by the dog brought the sheep back; so that, when the Fool
returned, the Knave got the credit of having found them; for the dog
scorned to explain his part in the matter.

As they sat together at supper, the Fool said, "The work is not so
easy as I thought. Could we not find a better trade yet?"

"Can you beg?" said the Knave. "A beggar's trade is both easy and
profitable. Nothing is required but walking and talking. Then one
walks at his own pace, for there is no hurry, and no master, and the
same tale does for every door. And, that all may be fair and equal,
you shall beg at the front door, whilst I ask an alms at the back."

To this the Fool gladly agreed; and as he was as lean as a hunted cat,
charitable people gave him a penny or two from time to time.
Meanwhile, the Knave went round to the back yard, where he picked up
a fowl, or turkey, or anything that he could lay his hands upon.

When he returned to the Fool, he would say, "See what has been given
to me, whilst you have only got a few pence."

At last this made the Fool discontented, and he said, "I should like
now to exchange with you. I will go to the back doors, and you to the
front."

The Knave consented, and at the next house the Fool went to the back
door; but the mistress of the farm only rated him, and sent him away.
Meanwhile, the Knave, from the front, had watched her leave the
parlour, and slipping in through the window, he took a ham and a
couple of new loaves from the table, and so made off.

When the friends met, the Fool was crestfallen at his ill luck, and
the Knave complained that all the burden of their support fell upon
him. "See," said he, "what they give me, where you get only a mouthful
of abuse!" And he dined heartily on what he had stolen; but the Fool
only had bits of the breadcrust, and the parings of the ham.

At the next place the Fool went to the front door as before, and the
Knave secured a fat goose and some plums in the back yard, which he
popped under his cloak. The Fool came away with empty hands, and the
Knave scolded him, saying, "Do you suppose that I mean to share this
fat goose with a lazy beggar like you? Go on, and find for yourself."
With which he sat down and began to eat the plums, whilst the Fool
walked on alone.

After a while, however, the Knave saw a stir in the direction of the
farm they had left, and he quickly perceived that the loss of the
goose was known, and that the farmer and his men were in pursuit of
the thief. So, hastily picking up the goose, he overtook the Fool, and
pressed it into his arms, saying, "Dear friend, pardon a passing ill
humour, of which I sincerely repent. Are we not partners in good luck
and ill? I was wrong, dear friend; and, in token of my penitence, the
goose shall be yours alone. And here are a few plums with which you
may refresh yourself by the wayside. As for me, I will hasten on to
the next farm, and see if I can beg a bottle of wine to wash down the
dinner, and drink to our good-fellowship." And before the Fool could
thank him, the Knave was off like the wind.

By and by the farmer and his men came up, and found the Fool eating
the plums, with the goose on the grass beside him.

They hurried him off to the justice, where his own story met with no
credit. The woman of the next farm came up also, and recognized him
for the man who had begged at her door the day she lost a ham and two
new loaves. In vain he said that these things also had been given to
his friend. The friend never appeared; and the poor Fool was whipped
and put in the stocks.

Towards evening the Knave hurried up to the village green, where his
friend sat doing penance for the theft.

"My dear friend," said he, "what do I see? Is such cruelty possible?
But I hear that the justice is not above a bribe, and we must at any
cost obtain your release. I am going at once to pawn my own boots and
cloak, and everything about me that I can spare, and if you have
anything to add, this is no time to hesitate."

The poor Fool begged his friend to draw off his boots, and to take his
hat and coat as well, and to make all speed on his charitable errand.

The Knave, took all that he could get, and, leaving his friend sitting
in the stocks in his shirt-sleeves, he disappeared as swiftly as one
could wish a man to carry a reprieve.

For those good folks to whom everything must be explained in full, it
may be added that the Knave did not come back, and that he kept the
clothes.

It was very hard on the Fool; but what can one expect if he keeps
company with a Knave?



UNDER THE SUN.


There once lived a farmer who was so avaricious and miserly, and so
hard and close in all his dealings that, as folks say, he would skin a
flint. A Jew and a Yorkshireman had each tried to bargain with him,
and both had had the worst of it. It is needless to say that he never
either gave or lent.

Now, by thus scraping, and saving, and grinding for many years, he had
become almost wealthy; though, indeed, he was no better fed and
dressed than if he had not a penny to bless himself with. But what
vexed him sorely was that his next neighbour's farm prospered in all
matters better than his own; and this, although the owner was as
open-handed as our farmer was stingy.

When in spring he ploughed his own worn-out land, and reached the top
of the furrow where his field joined one of the richly-fed fields of
his neighbour, he would cast an envious glance over the hedge, and
say, "So far and no farther?" for he would have liked to have had the
whole under his plough. And so in the autumn, when he gathered his own
scanty crop and had to stop his sickle short of the close ranks of his
neighbour's corn, he would cry, "All this, and none of that?" and go
home sorely discontented.

Now on the lands of the liberal farmer (whose name was Merryweather)
there lived a dwarf or hillman, who made a wager that he would both
beg and borrow of the covetous farmer, and out-bargain him to boot. So
he went one day to his house, and asked him if he would kindly give
him half a stone of flour to make hasty pudding with; adding, that if
he would lend him a bag to carry it in to the hill, this should be
returned clean and in good condition.

The farmer saw with half an eye that this was the dwarf from his
neighbour's estate, and as he had always laid the luck of the liberal
farmer to his being favoured by the good people, he resolved to treat
the little man with all civility.

"Look you, wife," said he, "this is no time to be saving half a stone
of flour when we may make our fortunes at one stroke. I have heard my
grandfather tell of a man who lent a sack of oats to one of the
fairies, and got it back filled with gold pieces. And as good measure
as he gave of oats so he got of gold;" saying which, the farmer took a
canvas bag to the flour-bin, and began to fill it. Meanwhile the dwarf
sat in the larder window and cried--"We've a big party for supper
to-night; give us good measure, neighbour, and you shall have anything
under the sun that you like to ask for."

When the farmer heard this he was nearly out of his wits with delight,
and his hands shook so that the flour spilled all about the larder
floor.

"Thank you, dear sir," he said; "it's a bargain, and I agree to it. My
wife hears us, and is witness. Wife! wife!" he cried, running into the
kitchen, "I am to have anything under the sun that I choose to ask
for. I think of asking for neighbour Merryweather's estate, but this
is a chance never likely to happen again, and I should like to make a
wise choice, and that is not easy at a moment's notice."

"You will have a week to think it over in," said the dwarf, who had
come in behind him; "I must be off now, so give me my flour, and come
to the hill behind your house seven days hence at midnight, and you
shall have your share of the bargain."

So the farmer tied up the flour-sack, and helped the dwarf with it on
to his back, and as he did so he began thinking how easily the bargain
had been made, and casting about in his mind whether, he could not get
more where he had so easily got much.

"And half a stone of flour is half a stone of flour," he muttered to
himself, "and whatever it may do with thriftless people, it goes a
long way in our house. And there's the bag--and a terrible lot spilled
on the larder floor--and the string to tie it with, which doubtless
he'll never think of returning--and my time, which must be counted,
and nothing whatever for it all for a week to come." And the outlay so
weighed upon his mind that he cleared his throat and began:

"Not for seven days, did you say, sir? You know, dear sir, or perhaps,
indeed, you do not know, that when amongst each other we men have to
wait for the settlement of an account, we expect something over and
above the exact amount. Interest we call it, my dear sir."

"And you want me to give you something extra for waiting a week?"
asked the dwarf. "Pray, what do you expect?"

"Oh, dear sir, I leave it to you," said the farmer. "Perhaps you may
add some trifle--in the flour-bag, or not, as you think fit--but I
leave it entirely to you."

"I will give you something over and above what you shall choose," said
the dwarf; "but, as you say, I shall decide what it is to be." With
which he shouldered the flour-sack, and went his way.

For the next seven days, the farmer had no peace for thinking, and
planning, and scheming how to get the most out of his one wish. His
wife made many suggestions to which he did not agree, but he was
careful not to quarrel with her; "for," he said, "we will not be like
the foolish couple who wasted three wishes on black-puddings. Neither
will I desire useless grandeur and unreasonable elevation, like the
fisherman's wife. I will have a solid and substantial benefit."

And so, after a week of sleepless nights and anxious days, he came
back to his first thought, and resolved to ask for his neighbour's
estate.

At last the night came. It was full moon, and the farmer looked
anxiously about, fearing the dwarf might not be true to his
appointment. But at midnight he appeared, with the flour-bag neatly
folded in his hand.

"You hold to the agreement," said the farmer, "of course. My wife was
witness. I am to have anything under the sun that I ask for; and I am
to have it now."

"Ask away," said the dwarf.

"I want neighbour Merryweather's estate," said the farmer.

"What, all this land below here, that joins on to your own?"

"Every acre," said the farmer.

"Farmer Merryweather's fields are under the moon at present," said the
dwarf, coolly, "and thus not within the terms of the agreement. You
must choose again."

But as the farmer could choose nothing that was not then under the
moon, he soon saw that he had been outwitted, and his rage knew no
bounds at the trick the dwarf had played him.

"Give me my bag, at any rate," he screamed, "and the string--and your
own extra gift that you promised. For half a loaf is better than no
bread," he muttered, "and I may yet come in for a few gold pieces."

"There's your bag," cried the dwarf, clapping it over the miser's head
like an extinguisher; "it's clean enough for a nightcap. And there's
your string," he added, tying it tightly round the farmer's throat
till he was almost throttled. "And, for my part, I'll give you what
you deserve;" saying which he gave the farmer such a hearty kick that
he kicked him straight down from the top of the hill to his own back
door.

"If that does not satisfy you, I'll give you as much again," shouted
the dwarf; and as the farmer made no reply, he went chuckling back to
his hill.





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