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Title: Granny's Wonderful Chair - & Its Tales of Fairy Times
Author: Browne, Frances
Language: English
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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.

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          ESSAYS -- ORATORY
            POETRY & DRAMA


        LONDON : J. M. DENT & CO.

               THIS IS
              BOY; AND
               PROVE SO


       CHAIR   &

    by J M DENT & CO



The writer of "Granny's Wonderful Chair" was a poet, and blind. That she
was a poet the story tells on every page, but of her blindness it tells
not a word. From beginning to end it is filled with pictures; each
little tale has its own picturesque setting, its own vividly realised
scenery. Her power of visualisation would be easy to understand had she
become blind in the later years of her life, when the beauties of the
physical world were impressed on her mind; but Frances Browne was blind
from infancy. The pictures she gives us in her stories were created, in
darkness, from material which came to her only through the words of
others. In her work are no blurred lines or uncertainties, her drawing
is done with a firm and vigorous hand. It would seem that the
completeness of her calamity created, within her, that serenity of
spirit which contrives the greatest triumphs in Life and in Art. Her
endeavour was to realise the world independently of her own personal
emotion and needs. She, who, out of her darkness and poverty, might have
touched us so surely with her longing for her birthright of light, for
her share of the world's good things, gives help and encouragement to
the more fortunate.

In reading the very few details of her life we feel the stimulation as
of watching one who, in a desperate fight, wins against great odds.

The odds against Frances Browne were heavy. She was born at Stranorlar,
a mountain village in Donegal, on January 16, 1816. Her
great-grandfather was a man of considerable property, which he
squandered; and the younger generation would seem to have inherited
nothing from its ancestor but his irresponsibility. Frances Browne's
father was the village post-master, and she, the seventh in a family of
twelve children, learning privation and endurance from the cradle. But
no soil is the wrong one for genius. Whether or not hers would have
developed more richly in more generous surroundings, it is difficult to
say. The strong mind that could, in blindness and poverty, secure its
own education, and win its way to the company of the best, the
thoroughly equipped and well tended, gained a victory which genius alone
made possible.

She was one of the elect, had no creative achievement crowned her

She tells us how she herself learned by heart the lessons which her
brothers and sisters said aloud every evening, in readiness for the next
day's school; and how she bribed them to read to her by doing their
share of the household work.

When the usual bribe failed, she invented stories for them, and, in
return for these, books were read to her which, while they seemed dull
and uninteresting enough to the readers, built up for the eager listener
those enchanted steps by which she was to climb into her intellectual

Her habit was to say these lessons aloud at night, when every one else
was asleep, to impress untiringly upon her memory the knowledge for
which she persistently fought through the day.

There were no book-shops at Stranorlar, or within three counties of it,
and had there been one, Frances Browne had no pennies for the luxury of
books. But she had friends, and from those who were richer than herself
in possession, she borrowed her tools. From the village teacher she
learned French, in exchange for those lessons in grammar and geography
which, her brothers and sisters had given away to her, in return for
numberless wipings and scrubbings in the kitchen. Scott's novels marked
an era in her mental life; and of Pope's Iliad--which she heard read
when she was about fifteen--she says, "It was like the discovery of a
new world, and effected a total change in my ideas and thoughts on the
subject of poetry. There was at the time a considerable MS. of my own
production in existence, which of course I regarded with some
partiality; but Homer had awakened me, and in a fit of sovereign
contempt I committed the whole to the flames. After Homer's the work
that produced the greatest impression on my mind was Byron's 'Childe
Harold.' The one had induced me to burn my first MS., the other made me
resolve against verse-making in future."

Her first poem was written at the age of seven, but, after this resolve
of her fifteenth year, she wrote no more for nearly ten years. Then, in
1840, when she was four and twenty, a volume of Irish Songs was read to
her, and her own music reawakened. She wrote a poem called "The Songs of
our Land." It was published in the "Irish Penny Journal," and can be
found still in Duffy's "Ballad Poetry of Ireland." After this her poems
grew apace: she wrote lyrics for the "Athenæum," "Hood's Magazine," and
"Lady Blessington's Keepsake." Her work was much appreciated, and her
poems were reprinted in many of the contemporary journals.

She published a complete volume of poems in 1844, and a second volume in
1848 which she called "Lyrics and Miscellaneous Poems."

The first use to which she put her literary earnings, was the education
of a sister, to be her reader and amanuensis. In Frances Browne's life
each step was in the direction of her goal. From its beginning to its
end the strong mind pressed unhesitatingly forward to its complete
development, seeking the inner light more steadfastly for the absence of
external vision.

Her income was a pension of £20, from the Royal Bounty Fund; and with
this, for all security, she set out, in 1847, with her sister to
Edinburgh, determined to make her own way in the literary world. At
leaving her native land she says:

"I go as one that comes no more, yet go without regret; The summers
other memories store 'twere summer to forget; I go without one parting
word, one grasp of parting hand, As to the wide air goes the bird--yet
fare thee well, my land!"

She quickly made friends in Edinburgh, won by her genius and character,
in the circle which included Christopher North. Her industry was
amazing: she wrote essays, reviews, leaders, lyrics, stories--indeed,
she wrote anything she was asked to write, and under the pressure of her
work her prose strengthened and developed. But all her energy could not
make her rich. "The waters of her lot," she says, "were often troubled,
though not by angels." Her own health interfered with her work, and,
from the beginning, she out of her own poverty tried to relieve that of
her mother.

In 1852 she moved to London, and here, by the gift of £100 from the
Marquis of Lansdowne, she was for the time released from the pressure of
daily necessity. She concentrated on a more important work than she had
yet attempted, and wrote a novel which she called "My Share of the

It is written in the form of an autobiography of one Frederick
Favoursham, a youthful straggler through journalism and tutorship, who
wins nothing better, in the end, than a lonely possession of vast
estates. But one realises fully, in this story, the strength of a mind
whose endeavour is to probe the heart of things, and whose firm incisive
expression translates precisely what the mind discovers.

There are in this work, and it is natural it should be so, one or two
touches of self-revelation; the only ones, I think, which she, in all
her writing, permitted herself. She makes her hero say of his
mother--"Well I remember her old blue gown, her hands hard with rough
work, het still girlish figure and small pale face, from which the bloom
and the prettiness had gone so early; but the hard hand had, in its
kindly pressure, the only genuine love I ever knew; the pale face looks
yet on my sleep with a blessing, and the old gown has turned, in my
dreams, to the radiant robe of an angel."

And the delicate sensitive character of Lucy, the heroine, reads like
the expression of the writer's own personality: into it she has put a
touch of romance. In all her work there is never a word of personal
complaint, but the words she puts into the mouth of her hero, when Lucy
commits suicide, must have been born of her own suffering: "When the
burden outgrows the strength so far that moral as well as physical
energies begin to fail, and there is no door but death's that will
welcome our weariness, what remains but to creep into that quiet
shelter? I think it had come to that with Lucy. Her days were threatened
by a calamity, the most terrible in the list of human ills, which the
wise Manetho, the last of the Egyptians, with his brave Pagan heart and
large philosophy, thought good and sufficient warrant for a man's
resigning his place on the earth."

Among other mental qualities, she had, for the fortification of her
spirit, a sense of humour. In this same book she writes of "a little man
of that peculiar figure which looks as if a not very well filled sack
had somehow got legs;" and commenting on a little difficulty of her
hero's making, she says, "It is rather an awkward business to meet a
family at breakfast whose only son one has kicked overnight."

And how elastic and untarnished must that nature have been which, after
years of continuous struggle for bare subsistence, could put her
money-wise people on to paper and quietly say of them that "To keep a
daily watch over passing pence did not disturb the Fentons--it was a
mental exercise suited to their capacities." The turning of that
sentence was surely an exquisite pleasure to its author. And "My Share
of the World" is full of cleverly-turned sentences--"Hartley cared for
nobody, and I believe the corollary of the miller's song was verified in
his favour."

But we must not linger longer over her novel, its pages are full of
passages which tell of the vigorous quality of her mind.

Frances Browne's poetry is as impersonal as her prose. She belonged to
the first order of artists, if there be distinction in our gratitude.
The material with which she tried to deal was Life--apart from
herself--a perhaps bigger, and, certainly, a harder piece of work than
the subjective expression of a single personality.

The subjects of her poems are in many lands and periods. The most
ambitious--"The Star of Attéghéi"--is a tale of Circassia, another is of
a twelfth-century monk and the philosopher's stone, another of an Arab;
and another is of that Cyprus tree which is said to have been planted at
the birth of Christ, and to spare which Napoleon deviated from his
course when he ordered the making of the road over the Simplon.

    "Why came it not, when o'er my life
      A cloud of darkness hung,
    When years were lost in fruitless strife,
      But still my heart was young?
    How hath the shower forgot the spring,
      And fallen on Autumn's withering?"

These lines are from a poem called "The Unknown Crown." The messenger
who came to tell Tasso the laureate crown had been decreed him, found
him dying in a convent.

Then she has verses on Boston, on Protestant Union in New England, on
the Abolition of Slavery in the United States, on the Parliament grant
for the improvement of the Shannon. Her mind compelled externals to its

A love of nature was in her soul, a perception of the beauty of the
world. She, with her poet's spirit, saw all the green and leafy places
of the earth, all its flowery ways--while they, may be, were trodden
heedlessly by those about her with their gift of sight.

    "Sing on by fane and forest old
      By tombs and cottage eaves,
    And tell the waste of coming flowers
      The woods of coming leaves;--
    The same sweet song that o'er the birth
      Of earliest blossoms rang,
    And caught its music from the hymn
      The stars of morning sang."
                        ("The Birds of Spring.")

    "Ye early minstrels of the earth,
      Whose mighty voices woke
    The echoes of its infant woods,
      Ere yet the tempest spoke;
    How is it that ye waken still
      The young heart's happy dreams,
    And shed your light on darkened days
      O bright and blessed streams?"

    "Words--words of hope!--oh! long believed,
      As oracles of old,
    When stars of promise have deceived.
      And beacon-fires grown cold!
    Though still, upon time's stormy steeps,
      Such sounds are faint and few,
    Yet oft from cold and stranger lips
      Hath fallen that blessed dew,--
    That, like the rock-kept rain, remained
      When many a sweeter fount was drained."

Many and many such verses there are which might be quoted, but her work
for children is waiting.--For them she wrote many stories, and in their
employ her imagination travelled into many lands. The most popular was
"Granny's Wonderful Chair," published in 1856. It was at once a
favourite, and quickly out of print, and, strangely enough, was not
reprinted until 1880. Then new editions were issued in 1881, '82, '83,
'84, '87, and '89. In 1887 Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnet published it,
with a preface, under the title "Stories from the Lost Fairy Book,"
re-told by the child who read them. "The Lost Fairy Book" was "Granny's
Wonderful Chair."

One has not far to read to discover the secret of its popularity with
children. It is full of word-pictures, of picturesque settings. Her
power of visualisation is shown in these fairy-tales more, perhaps, than
in any other of her writings. Truly, she was fortunate in having the
Irish fairies to lead her into their gossamer-strewn ways, to touch her
fancy with their magic, and put upon her the glamour of their land. When
the stories are of them she is, perhaps, at her best; but each story in
the book makes a complete picture, each has enough and no more of colour
and scene. And the little pictures are kept in their places, pinned down
to reality, by delightful touches of humour. Of the wonderful chair Dame
Frostyface says in the beginning of the story, "It was made by a cunning
fairy who lived in the forest when I was young, and she gave it to me
because she knew nobody would keep what they got hold of better."

How did a writer who never saw a coach, or a palace, or the picture of a
coach or a palace, tell of the palace and the people and the multitudes,
of the roasting and boiling, of the spiced ale and the dancing?

Whence came her vision of the old woman who weaved her own hair into
grey cloth at a crazy loom; of the fortified city in the plain, with
cornfields and villages; of floors of ebony and ceilings of silver; of
swallows that built in the eaves while the daisies grew thick at the

Had her descriptions been borrowed, the wonder of them would cease. But
her words are her own, and they are used sparingly, as by one who sees
too vividly what she is describing to add one unnecessary or indistinct
touch. She seems as much at home under the sea, among hills of marble
and rocks of spa, as with the shepherds on the moorland, or when she
tells of the spring and the budding of the topmost boughs.

The enrichment of little Snowflower, by the King's gifts, links these
stories together as artistically as the telling of the princess's
raiment in that beautiful book "A Digit of the Moon;" and right glad we
are when the poorly clad little girl takes her place among the grand
courtiers, and is led away to happiness by the Prince.

Frances Browne's list of contributions to children's literature is a
long one. In reading these books one is surprised by the size of her
imaginative territory; by the diversity of the knowledge she acquired.

One, "The Exile's Trust," is a story of the French Revolution, in which
Charlotte Corday is introduced; and in it are descriptions of the
scenery of Lower Normandy; another, "The First of the African Diamonds,"
is a tale of the Dutch and the banks of the Orange River. Then, in "The
Young Foresters," she conducts her young heroes to Archangel, to see the
fine frost and clear sky, the long winter nights and long summer days,
to adventure with wolves in the forest and with pirates by sea.

In "The Dangerous Guest" she is in the time of the Young Pretender, and
in "The Eriksons," "The Clever Boy," and "Our Uncle the Traveller," she
wanders far and wide.

In reviewing her subjects one realises afresh the richness of the world
she created within her own darkness.

A wonderful law of Exchange keeps safe the precious things of Life, and
it operates by strange and unexpected means. In this instance it was
most beautifully maintained; for Frances Browne, the iron of calamity
was transmuted to gold.

Thus it has been, and thus it shall be; so long as the world shall last,
circumstance shall not conquer a strong and beautiful spirit.

                                                    D. R.
_August_ 1906.


The following are the works of Frances Browne:

The Star of Attéghéi; The Vision of Schwartz, and other Poems, 1844;
Lyrics and Miscellaneous Poems, 1848; The Ericksens; The Clever Boy, or
Consider One Another, 1852; Pictures and Songs of Home, 1856; Granny's
Wonderful Chair, and its Tales of Fairy Times: illustrated by Kenny
Meadows, 1857; illustrated by Mr. Seymour Lucas, 1891, 1900; with an
introduction by F. Hodgson Burnett, entitled The Story of the Lost Fairy
Book, 1904; Our Uncle the Traveller's Stories, 1859; The Young
Foresters; The Orphans of Elfholm (Magnet Stories, 1860, etc., coll.
ed. 1864); My Share of the World: an Autobiography, 3 vols., 1861; The
Castleford Case, 3 vols., 1862; The Hidden Sin, 1866; The Exile's Trust:
a Tale of the French Revolution, and other Stories, 1869; My Nearest
Neighbour, and other Stories, 1875; The Foundling of the Fens: a Story
of a Flood, 1886; The Dangerous Guest: a Story of 1745, 1886; The First
of the African Diamonds, 1887.


      CHAP.                                 PAGE

   I. INTRODUCTORY                             3
  II. THE CHRISTMAS CUCKOO                    17
  IV. THE GREEDY SHEPHERD                     72
   V. THE STORY OF FAIRYFOOT                  84
 VII. SOUR AND CIVIL                         120
VIII. THE STORY OF MERRYMIND                 146
  IX. PRINCE WISEWIT'S RETURN                170

Granny's Wonderful Chair                                         2
The fortified city                                               9
The cuckoo with the gold and green leaves                       25
The cobbler Spare receives a royal messenger                    31
The page Tinseltoes throws the doublet out of the window        39
Woodwender and Loveleaves tend the swine                        53
The gay young hunter comes to Woodwender and Loveleaves         65
Clutch returns with his sack                                    82
The Princess Maybloom                                           95
The old woman begs at the door                                 108
Civil and the three sea maidens                                127
Merrymind at the fair                                          149
Dame Dreary dances and grows strong                            167
Prince Wisewit, disguised as a bird, escapes out of the window 173


Granny's Wonderful Chair



In an old time, long ago, when the fairies were in the world, there
lived a little girl so uncommonly fair and pleasant of look, that they
called her Snowflower. This girl was good as well as pretty. No one had
ever seen her frown or heard her say a cross word, and young and old
were glad when they saw her coming.

Snowflower had no relation in the world but a very old grandmother,
called Dame Frostyface; people did not like her quite so well as her
granddaughter, for she was cross enough at times, but always kind to
Snowflower; and they lived together in a little cottage built of peat,
and thatched with reeds, on the edge of a great forest; tall trees
sheltered its back from the north wind; the mid-day sun made its front
warm and cheerful; swallows built in the eaves; daisies grew thick at
the door; but there were none in all that country poorer than Snowflower
and her grandmother. A cat and two hens were all their live-stock: their
bed was dry grass, and the only good piece of furniture in the cottage
was a great arm-chair with wheels on its feet, a black velvet cushion,
and many curious carvings of flowers and fawns on its dark oaken back.

On that chair Dame Frostyface sat spinning from morning till night to
maintain herself and her granddaughter, while Snowflower gathered sticks
for firing, looked after the hens and the cat, and did whatever else her
grandmother bade her. There was nobody in the shire could spin such fine
yarn as Dame Frostyface, but she spun very slowly. Her wheel was as old
as herself, and far the more worn; indeed, the wonder was that it did
not fall to pieces. So the dame's earnings were small, and their living
meagre. Snowflower, however, felt no want of good dinners or fine
clothes. Every evening, when the fire was heaped with the sticks she had
gathered till it blazed and crackled up the cottage chimney, Dame
Frostyface set aside her wheel, and told her a new story. Often did the
little girl wonder where her grandmother had gathered so many stories,
but she soon learned that. One sunny morning, at the time of the
swallows coming, the dame rose up, put on the grey hood and mantle in
which she carried her yarn to the fairs, and said, "My child, I am going
a long journey to visit an aunt of mine, who lives far in the north
country. I cannot take you with me, because my aunt is the crossest
woman alive, and never liked young people: but the hens will lay eggs
for you; there is barley-meal in the barrel; and, as you have been a
good girl, I'll tell you what to do when you feel lonely. Lay your head
gently down on the cushion of the arm-chair, and say, 'Chair of my
grandmother, tell me a story.' It was made by a cunning fairy, who lived
in the forest when I was young, and she gave it to me because she knew
nobody could keep what they got hold of better. Remember, you must never
ask a story more than once in the day; and if there be any occasion to
travel, you have only to seat yourself in it, and say, 'Chair of my
grandmother, take me such a way.' It will carry you wherever you wish;
but mind to oil the wheels before you set out, for I have sat on it
these forty years in that same corner."

Having said this, Dame Frostyface set forth to see her aunt in the north
country. Snowflower gathered firing and looked after the hens and cat as
usual. She baked herself a cake or two of the barley-meal; but when the
evening fell the cottage looked lonely. Then Snowflower remembered her
grandmother's words, and, laying her head gently down, she said, "Chair
of my grandmother, tell me a story."

Scarce were the words spoken, when a clear voice from under the velvet
cushion began to tell a new and most wonderful tale, which surprised
Snowflower so much that she forgot to be frightened. After that the good
girl was lonely no more. Every morning she baked a barley cake, and
every evening the chair told her a new story; but she could never find
out who owned the voice, though Snowflower showed her gratitude by
polishing up the oaken back, and dusting the velvet cushion, till the
chair looked as good as new. The swallows came and built in the eaves,
the daisies grew thicker than ever at the door; but great misfortunes
fell upon Snowflower. Notwithstanding all her care, she forgot to clip
the hens' wings, and they flew away one morning to visit their friends,
the pheasants, who lived far in the forest; the cat followed them to see
its relations; the barley-meal was eaten up, except a couple of
handfuls; and Snowflower had often strained her eyes in hopes of seeing
the grey mantle, but there was no appearance of Dame Frostyface.

"My grandmother stays long," said Snowflower to herself; "and by and by
there will be nothing to eat. If I could get to her, perhaps she would
advise me what to do; and this is a good occasion for travelling."

Next day, at sunrise, Snowflower oiled the chair's wheels, baked a cake
out of the last of the meal, took it in her lap by way of provision for
the journey, seated herself, and said, "Chair of my grandmother, take me
the way she went."

Presently the chair gave a creak, and began to move out of the cottage,
and into the forest the very way Dame Frostyface had taken, where it
rolled along at the rate of a coach and six. Snowflower was amazed at
this style of travelling, but the chair never stopped nor stayed the
whole summer day, till as the sun was setting they came upon an open
space, where a hundred men were hewing down the tall trees with their
axes, a hundred more were cleaving them for firewood, and twenty
waggoners, with horses and waggons, were carrying the wood away. "Oh!
chair of my grandmother, stop!" said Snowflower, for she was tired, and
also wished to know what this might mean. The chair immediately stood
still, and Snowflower, seeing an old woodcutter, who looked civil,
stepped up to him, and said, "Good father, tell me why you cut all this

"What ignorant country girl are you?" replied the man, "not to have
heard of the great feast which our sovereign, King Winwealth, means to
give on the birthday of his only daughter, the Princess Greedalind. It
will last seven days. Everybody will be feasted, and this wood is to
roast the oxen and the sheep, the geese and the turkeys, amongst whom
there is a great lamentation throughout the land."

When Snowflower heard that she could not help wishing to see, and
perhaps share in, such a noble feast, after living so long on barley
cakes; so, seating herself, she said, "Chair of my grandmother, take me
quickly to the palace of King Winwealth."

The words were hardly spoken, when off the chair started through the
trees and out of the forest, to the great amazement of the woodcutters,
who, never having seen such a sight before, threw down their axes, left
their waggons, and followed Snowflower to the gates of a great and
splendid city, fortified with strong walls and high towers, and standing
in the midst of a wide plain covered with cornfields, orchards, and

[Illustration: The fortified city.]

It was the richest city in all the land; merchants from every quarter
came there to buy and sell, and there was a saying that people had only
to live seven years in it to make their fortunes. Rich as they were,
however, Snowflower thought she had never seen so many discontented,
covetous faces as looked out from the great shops, grand houses, and
fine coaches, when her chair rattled along the streets; indeed, the
citizens did not stand high in repute for either good-nature or honesty;
but it had not been so when King Winwealth was young, and he and his
brother, Prince Wisewit, governed the land together--Wisewit was a
wonderful prince for knowledge and prudence. He knew the whole art of
government, the tempers of men, and the powers of the stars; moreover,
he was a great magician, and it was said of him that he could never die
or grow old. In his time there was neither discontent nor sickness in
the city--strangers were hospitably entertained without price or
questions. Lawsuits there were none, and no one locked his door at
night. The fairies used to come there at May-day and Michaelmas, for
they were Prince Wisewit's friends--all but one, called Fortunetta, a
shortsighted but very cunning fairy, who hated everybody wiser than
herself, and the prince especially, because she could never deceive

There was peace and pleasure for many a year in King Winwealth's city,
till one day at midsummer Prince Wisewit went alone to the forest, in
search of a strange herb for his garden, but he never came back; and
though the king, with all his guards, searched far and near, no news was
ever heard of him. When his brother was gone, King Winwealth grew lonely
in his great palace, so he married a certain princess, called Wantall,
and brought her home to be his queen. This princess was neither handsome
nor agreeable. People thought she must have gained the king's love by
enchantment, for her whole dowry was a desert island, with a huge pit in
it that never could be filled, and her disposition was so covetous, that
the more she got the greedier she grew. In process of time the king and
queen had an only daughter, who was to be the heiress of all their
dominions. Her name was the Princess Greedalind, and the whole city were
making preparations to celebrate her birthday--not that they cared much
for the princess, who was remarkably like her mother both in looks and
temper, but being King Winwealth's only daughter, people came from far
and near to the festival, and among them strangers and fairies who had
not been there since the day of Prince Wisewit.

There was surprising bustle about the palace, a most noble building, so
spacious that it had a room for every day in the year. All the floors
were of ebony, and all the ceilings of silver, and there was such a
supply of golden dishes used by the household, that five hundred armed
men kept guard night and day lest any of them should be stolen. When
these guards saw Snowflower and her chair, they ran one after the other
to tell the king, for the like had never been seen nor heard of in his
dominions, and the whole court crowded out to see the little maiden and
her chair that came of itself.

When Snowflower saw the lords and ladies in their embroidered robes and
splendid jewels, she began to feel ashamed of her own bare feet and
linen gown; but at length taking courage, she answered all their
questions, and told them everything about her wonderful chair. The queen
and the princess cared for nothing that was not gilt. The courtiers had
learned the same fashion, and all turned away in high disdain except the
old king, who, thinking the chair might amuse him sometimes when he got
out of spirits, allowed Snowflower to stay and feast with the scullion
in his worst kitchen. The poor little girl was glad of any quarters,
though nobody made her welcome--even the servants despised her bare feet
and linen gown. They would give her chair no room but in a dusty corner
behind the back door, where Snowflower was told she might sleep at
night, and eat up the scraps the cook threw away.

That very day the feast began; it was fine to see the multitudes of
coaches and people on foot and on horseback who crowded to the palace,
and filled every room according to their rank. Never had Snowflower seen
such roasting and boiling. There was wine for the lords and spiced ale
for the common people, music and dancing of all kinds, and the best of
gay dresses; but with all the good cheer there seemed little merriment,
and a deal of ill-humour in the palace.

Some of the guests thought they should have been feasted in grander
rooms; others were vexed to see many finer than themselves. All the
servants were dissatisfied because they did not get presents. There was
somebody caught every hour stealing the cups, and a multitude of people
were always at the gates clamouring for goods and lands, which Queen
Wantall had taken from them. The guards continually drove them away, but
they came back again, and could be heard plainly in the highest banquet
hall: so it was not wonderful that the old king's spirits got uncommonly
low that evening after supper. His favourite page, who always stood
behind him, perceiving this, reminded his majesty of the little girl and
her chair.

"It is a good thought," said King Winwealth. "I have not heard a story
this many a year. Bring the child and the chair instantly!"

The favourite page sent a messenger to the first kitchen, who told the
master-cook, the master-cook told the kitchen-maid, the kitchen-maid
told the chief-scullion, the chief-scullion told the dust-boy, and he
told Snowflower to wash her face, rub up her chair, and go to the
highest banquet hall, for the great king Winwealth wished to hear a

Nobody offered to help her, but when Snowflower had made herself as
smart as she could with soap and water, and rubbed the chair till it
looked as if dust had never fallen on it, she seated herself, and
said:--"Chair of my grandmother, take me to the highest banquet hall."

Instantly the chair marched in a grave and courtly fashion out of the
kitchen, up the grand staircase, and into the highest hall. The chief
lords and ladies of the land were entertained there, besides many
fairies and notable people from distant countries. There had never been
such company in the palace since the time of Prince Wisewit; nobody wore
less than embroidered satin. King Winwealth sat on his ivory throne in a
robe of purple velvet, stiff with flowers of gold; the queen sat by his
side in a robe of silver cloth, clasped with pearls; but the Princess
Greedalind was finer still, the feast being in her honour. She wore a
robe of cloth of gold clasped with diamonds; two waiting-ladies in white
satin stood, one on either side, to hold her fan and handkerchief; and
two pages, in gold-lace livery, stood behind her chair. With all that
Princess Greedalind looked ugly and spiteful; she and her mother were
angry to see a barefooted girl and an old chair allowed to enter the
banquet hall.

The supper-table was still covered with golden dishes, and the best of
good things, but no one offered Snowflower a morsel: so, having made an
humble courtesy to the king, the queen, the princess, and the good
company, most of whom scarcely noticed her, the poor little girl sat
down upon the carpet, laid her head on the velvet cushion, as she used
to do in the old cottage, and said:--"Chair of my grandmother, tell me a

Everybody was astonished, even to the angry queen and the spiteful
princess, when a clear voice from under the cushion, said:--"Listen to
the story of the Christmas Cuckoo!"



"Once upon a time there stood in the midst of a bleak moor, in the north
country, a certain village; all its inhabitants were poor, for their
fields were barren, and they had little trade, but the poorest of them
all were two brothers called Scrub and Spare, who followed the cobbler's
craft, and had but one stall between them. It was a hut built of clay
and wattles. The door was low and always open, for there was no window.
The roof did not entirely keep out the rain, and the only thing
comfortable about it was a wide hearth, for which the brothers could
never find wood enough to make a sufficient fire. There they worked in
most brotherly friendship, though with little encouragement.

"The people of that village were not extravagant in shoes, and better
cobblers than Scrub and Spare might be found. Spiteful people said there
were no shoes so bad that they would not be worse for their mending.
Nevertheless Scrub and Spare managed to live between their own trade, a
small barley field, and a cottage garden, till one unlucky day when a
new cobbler arrived in the village. He had lived in the capital city of
the kingdom, and, by his own account, cobbled for the queen and the
princesses. His awls were sharp, his lasts were new; he set up his stall
in a neat cottage with two windows. The villagers soon found out that
one patch of his would wear two of the brothers'. In short, all the
mending left Scrub and Spare, and went to the new cobbler. The season
had been wet and cold, their barley did not ripen well, and the cabbages
never half closed in the garden. So the brothers were poor that winter,
and when Christmas came they had nothing to feast on but a barley loaf,
a piece of rusty bacon, and some small beer of their own brewing. Worse
than that, the snow was very deep, and they could get no firewood. Their
hut stood at the end of the village, beyond it spread the bleak moor,
now all white and silent; but that moor had once been a forest, great
roots of old trees were still to be found in it, loosened from the soil
and laid bare by the winds and rains--one of these, a rough, gnarled
log, lay hard by their door, the half of it above the snow, and Spare
said to his brother--

"'Shall we sit here cold on Christmas while the great root lies yonder?
Let us chop it up for firewood, the work will make us warm.'

"'No,' said Scrub; 'it's not right to chop wood on Christmas; besides,
that root is too hard to be broken with any hatchet.'

"'Hard or not we must have a fire,' replied Spare. 'Come, brother, help
me in with it. Poor as we are, there is nobody in the village will have
such a yule log as ours.'

"Scrub liked a little grandeur, and in hopes of having a fine yule log,
both brothers strained and strove with all their might till, between
pulling and pushing, the great old root was safe on the hearth, and
beginning to crackle and blaze with the red embers. In high glee, the
cobblers sat down to their beer and bacon. The door was shut, for there
was nothing but cold moonlight and snow outside; but the hut, strewn
with fir boughs, and ornamented with holly, looked cheerful as the ruddy
blaze flared up and rejoiced their hearts.

"'Long life and good fortune to ourselves, brother!' said Spare. 'I hope
you will drink that toast, and may we never have a worse fire on
Christmas--but what is that?'

"Spare set down the drinking-horn, and the brothers listened astonished,
for out of the blazing root they heard, 'Cuckoo! cuckoo!' as plain as
ever the spring-bird's voice came over the moor on a May morning.

"'It is something bad,' said Scrub, terribly frightened.

"'May be not,' said Spare; and out of the deep hole at the side which
the fire had not reached flew a large grey cuckoo, and lit on the table
before them. Much as the cobblers had been surprised, they were still
more so when it said--

"'Good gentlemen, what season is this?'

"'It's Christmas,' said Spare.

"'Then a merry Christmas to you!' said the cuckoo. 'I went to sleep in
the hollow of that old root one evening last summer, and never woke till
the heat of your fire made me think it was summer again; but now since
you have burned my lodging, let me stay in your hut till the spring
comes round--I only want a hole to sleep in, and when I go on my travels
next summer be assured I will bring you some present for your trouble.'

"'Stay, and welcome,' said Spare, while Scrub sat wondering if it were
something bad or not; 'I'll make you a good warm hole in the thatch. But
you must be hungry after that long sleep?--here is a slice of barley
bread. Come help us to keep Christmas!'

"The cuckoo ate up the slice, drank water from the brown jug, for he
would take no beer, and flew into a snug hole which Spare scooped for
him in the thatch of the hut.

"Scrub said he was afraid it wouldn't be lucky; but as it slept on, and
the days passed he forgot his fears. So the snow melted, the heavy rains
came, the cold grew less, the days lengthened, and one sunny morning the
brothers were awoke by the cuckoo shouting its own cry to let them know
the spring had come.

"'Now I'm going on my travels,' said the bird, 'over the world to tell
men of the spring. There is no country where trees bud or flowers bloom,
that I will not cry in before the year goes round. Give me another slice
of barley bread to keep me on my journey, and tell me what present I
shall bring you at the twelve-month's end.'

"Scrub would have been angry with his brother for cutting so large a
slice, their store of barley-meal being low; but his mind was occupied
with what present would be most prudent to ask: at length a lucky
thought struck him.

"'Good master cuckoo,' said he, 'if a great traveller who sees all the
world like you, could know of any place where diamonds or pearls were to
be found, one of a tolerable size brought in your beak would help such
poor men as my brother and I to provide something better than barley
bread for your next entertainment.'

"'I know nothing of diamonds or pearls,' said the cuckoo; 'they are in
the hearts of rocks and the sands of rivers. My knowledge is only of
that which grows on the earth. But there are two trees hard by the well
that lies at the world's end--one of them is called the golden tree, for
its leaves are all of beaten gold: every winter they fall into the well
with a sound like scattered coin, and I know not what becomes of them.
As for the other, it is always green like a laurel. Some call it the
wise, and some the merry tree. Its leaves never fall, but they that get
one of them keep a blithe heart in spite of all misfortunes, and can
make themselves as merry in a hut as in a palace.'

"'Good master cuckoo, bring me a leaf off that tree!' cried Spare.

"'Now, brother, don't be a fool!' said Scrub! 'think of the leaves of
beaten gold! Dear master cuckoo, bring me one of them!'

"Before another word could be spoken, the cuckoo had flown out of the
open door, and was shouting its spring cry over moor and meadow. The
brothers were poorer than ever that year; nobody would send them a
single shoe to mend. The new cobbler said, in scorn, they should come to
be his apprentices; and Scrub and Spare would have left the village but
for their barley field, their cabbage garden, and a certain maid called
Fairfeather, whom both the cobblers had courted for seven years without
even knowing which she meant to favour.

"Sometimes Fairfeather seemed inclined to Scrub, sometimes she smiled on
Spare; but the brothers never disputed for that. They sowed their
barley, planted their cabbage, and now that their trade was gone,
worked in the rich villagers' fields to make out a scanty living. So the
seasons came and passed: spring, summer, harvest, and winter followed
each other as they have done from the beginning. At the end of the
latter, Scrub and Spare had grown so poor and ragged that Fairfeather
thought them beneath her notice. Old neighbours forgot to invite them to
wedding feasts or merrymaking; and they thought the cuckoo had forgotten
them too, when at daybreak, on the first of April, they heard a hard
beak knocking at their door, and a voice crying--

"'Cuckoo! cuckoo! Let me in with my presents.'

"Spare ran to open the door, and in came the cuckoo, carrying on one
side of his bill a golden leaf larger than that of any tree in the north
country; and in the other, one like that of the common laurel, only it
had a fresher green.

"'Here,' it said, giving the gold to Scrub and the green to Spare, 'it
is a long carriage from the world's end. Give me a slice of barley
bread, for I must tell the north country that the spring has come.'

"Scrub did not grudge the thickness of that slice, though it was cut
from their last loaf. So much gold had never been in the cobbler's hands
before, and he could not help exulting over his brother.

"'See the wisdom of my choice!' he said, holding up the large leaf of
gold. 'As for yours, as good might be plucked from any hedge. I wonder a
sensible bird would carry the like so far.'

[Illustration: The cuckoo with the gold and green leaves.]

"'Good master cobbler,' cried the cuckoo, finishing the slice, 'your
conclusions are more hasty than courteous. If your brother be
disappointed this time, I go on the same journey every year, and for
your hospitable entertainment will think it no trouble to bring each of
you whichever leaf you desire.'

"'Darling cuckoo!' cried Scrub, 'bring me a golden one;' and Spare,
looking up from the green leaf on which he gazed as though it were a
crown-jewel, said--

"'Be sure to bring me one from the merry tree,' and away flew the

"'This is the Feast of All Fools, and it ought to be your birthday,'
said Scrub. 'Did ever man fling away such an opportunity of getting
rich! Much good your merry leaves will do in the midst of rags and
poverty!' So he went on, but Spare laughed at him, and answered with
quaint old proverbs concerning the cares that come with gold, till
Scrub, at length getting angry, vowed his brother was not fit to live
with a respectable man; and taking his lasts, his awls, and his golden
leaf, he left the wattle hut, and went to tell the villagers.

"They were astonished at the folly of Spare and charmed with Scrub's
good sense, particularly when he showed them the golden leaf, and told
that the cuckoo would bring him one every spring. The new cobbler
immediately took him into partnership; the greatest people sent him
their shoes to mend; Fairfeather smiled graciously upon him, and in the
course of that summer they were married, with a grand wedding feast, at
which the whole village danced, except Spare, who was not invited,
because the bride could not bear his low-mindedness, and his brother
thought him a disgrace to the family.

"Indeed, all who heard the story concluded that Spare must be mad, and
nobody would associate with him but a lame tinker, a beggar-boy, and a
poor woman reputed to be a witch because she was old and ugly. As for
Scrub, he established himself with Fairfeather in a cottage close by
that of the new cobbler, and quite as fine. There he mended shoes to
everybody's satisfaction, had a scarlet coat for holidays, and a fat
goose for dinner every wedding-day. Fairfeather, too, had a crimson gown
and fine blue ribands; but neither she nor Scrub were content, for to
buy this grandeur the golden leaf had to be broken and parted with piece
by piece, so the last morsel was gone before the cuckoo came with

"Spare lived on in the old hut, and worked in the cabbage garden. (Scrub
had got the barley field because he was the eldest.) Every day his coat
grew more ragged, and the hut more weatherbeaten; but people remarked
that he never looked sad nor sour; and the wonder was, that from the
time they began to keep his company, the tinker grew kinder to the poor
ass with which he travelled the country, the beggar-boy kept out of
mischief, and the old woman was never cross to her cat or angry with the

"Every first of April the cuckoo came tapping at their doors with the
golden leaf to Scrub and the green to Spare. Fairfeather would have
entertained him nobly with wheaten bread and honey, for she had some
notion of persuading him to bring two gold leaves instead of one; but
the cuckoo flew away to eat barley bread with Spare, saying he was not
fit company for fine people, and liked the old hut where he slept so
snugly from Christmas till Spring.

"Scrub spent the golden leaves, and Spare kept the merry ones; and I
know not how many years passed in this manner, when a certain great
lord, who owned that village came to the neighbourhood. His castle stood
on the moor. It was ancient and strong, with high towers and a deep
moat. All the country, as far as one could see from the highest turret,
belonged to its lord; but he had not been there for twenty years, and
would not have come then, only he was melancholy. The cause of his grief
was that he had been prime-minister at court, and in high favour, till
somebody told the crown-prince that he had spoken disrespectfully
concerning the turning out of his royal highness's toes, and the king
that he did not lay on taxes enough, whereon the north country lord was
turned out of office, and banished to his own estate. There he lived for
some weeks in very bad temper. The servants said nothing would please
him, and the villagers put on their worst clothes lest he should raise
their rents; but one day in the harvest time his lordship chanced to
meet Spare gathering water cresses at a meadow stream, and fell into
talk with the cobbler.

"How it was nobody could tell, but from the hour of that discourse the
great lord cast away his melancholy: he forgot his lost office and his
court enemies, the king's taxes and the crown-prince's toes, and went
about with a noble train hunting, fishing, and making merry in his hall,
where all travellers were entertained and all the poor were welcome.
This strange story spread through the north country, and great company
came to the cobbler's hut--rich men who had lost their money, poor men
who had lost their friends, beauties who had grown old, wits who had
gone out of fashion, all came to talk with Spare, and whatever their
troubles had been, all went home merry. The rich gave him presents, the
poor gave him thanks. Spare's coat ceased to be ragged, he had bacon
with his cabbage, and the villagers began to think there was some sense
in him.

"By this time his fame had reached the capital city, and even the court.
There were a great many discontented people there besides the king, who
had lately fallen into ill-humour because a neighbouring princess, with
seven islands for her dowry, would not marry his eldest son. So a royal
messenger was sent to Spare, with a velvet mantle, a diamond ring, and a
command that he should repair to court immediately.

"'To-morrow is the first of April,' said Spare, 'and I will go with you
two hours after sunrise.'

"The messenger lodged all night at the castle, and the cuckoo came at
sunrise with the merry leaf.

"'Court is a fine place,' he said when the cobbler told him he was
going; 'but I cannot come there, they would lay snares and catch me; so
be careful of the leaves I have brought you, and give me a farewell
slice of barley bread.'

"Spare was sorry to part with the cuckoo, little as he had of his
company; but he gave him a slice which would have broken Scrub's heart
in former times, it was so thick and large; and having sewed up the
leaves in the lining of his leather doublet, he set out with the
messenger on his way to court.

[Illustration: The cobbler Spare receives a royal messenger.]

"His coming caused great surprise there. Everybody wondered what the
king could see in such a common-looking man; but scarce had his majesty
conversed with him half an hour, when the princess and her seven islands
were forgotten, and orders given that a feast for all comers should be
spread in the banquet hall. The princes of the blood, the great lords
and ladies, ministers of state, and judges of the land, after that
discoursed with Spare, and the more they talked the lighter grew their
hearts, so that such changes had never been seen at court. The lords
forgot their spites and the ladies their envies, the princes and
ministers made friends among themselves, and the judges showed no

"As for Spare, he had a chamber assigned him in the palace, and a seat
at the king's table; one sent him rich robes and another costly jewels;
but in the midst of all his grandeur he still wore the leathern doublet,
which the palace servants thought remarkably mean. One day the king's
attention being drawn to it by the chief page, his majesty inquired why
Spare didn't give it to a beggar? But the cobbler answered--

"'High and mighty monarch, this doublet was with me before silk and
velvet came--I find it easier to wear than the court cut; moreover, it
serves to keep me humble, by recalling the days when it was my holiday

"The king thought this a wise speech, and commanded that no one should
find fault with the leathern doublet. So things went, till tidings of
his brother's good fortune reached Scrub in the moorland cottage on
another first of April, when the cuckoo came with two golden leaves,
because he had none to carry for Spare.

"'Think of that!' said Fairfeather. 'Here we are spending our lives in
this humdrum place, and Spare making his fortune at court with two or
three paltry green leaves! What would they say to our golden ones? Let
us pack up and make our way to the king's palace; I'm sure he will make
you a lord and me a lady of honour, not to speak of all the fine clothes
and presents we shall have.'

"Scrub thought this excellent reasoning, and their packing up began: but
it was soon found that the cottage contained few things fit for carrying
to court. Fairfeather could not think of her wooden bowls, spoons, and
trenchers being seen there. Scrub considered his lasts and awls better
left behind, as without them, he concluded, no one would suspect him of
being a cobbler. So putting on their holiday clothes, Fairfeather took
her looking-glass and Scrub his drinking horn, which happened to have a
very thin rim of silver, and each carrying a golden leaf carefully
wrapped up that none might see it till they reached the palace, the pair
set out in great expectation.

"How far Scrub and Fairfeather journeyed I cannot say, but when the sun
was high and warm at noon, they came into a wood both tired and hungry.

"'If I had known it was so far to court,' said Scrub, 'I would have
brought the end of that barley loaf which we left in the cupboard.'

"'Husband,' said Fairfeather, 'you shouldn't have such mean thoughts:
how could one eat barley bread on the way to a palace? Let us rest
ourselves under this tree, and look at our golden leaves to see if they
are safe.' In looking at the leaves, and talking of their fine
prospects, Scrub and Fairfeather did not perceive that a very thin old
woman had slipped from behind the tree, with a long staff in her hand
and a great wallet by her side.

"'Noble lord and lady,' she said, 'for I know ye are such by your
voices, though my eyes are dim and my hearing none of the sharpest,
will ye condescend to tell me where I may find some water to mix a
bottle of mead which I carry in my wallet, because it is too strong for

"As the old woman spoke, she pulled out a large wooden bottle such as
shepherds used in the ancient times, corked with leaves rolled together,
and having a small wooden cup hanging from its handle.

"'Perhaps ye will do me the favour to taste,' she said. 'It is only made
of the best honey. I have also cream cheese, and a wheaten loaf here, if
such honourable persons as you would eat the like.'

"Scrub and Fairfeather became very condescending after this speech. They
were now sure that there must be some appearance of nobility about them;
besides, they were very hungry, and having hastily wrapped up the golden
leaves, they assured the old woman they were not at all proud,
notwithstanding the lands and castles they had left behind them in the
north country, and would willingly help to lighten the wallet. The old
woman could scarcely be persuaded to sit down for pure humility, but at
length she did, and before the wallet was half empty, Scrub and
Fairfeather firmly believed that there must be something remarkably
noble-looking about them. This was not entirely owing to her ingenious
discourse. The old woman was a wood-witch; her name was Buttertongue;
and all her time was spent in making mead, which, being boiled with
curious herbs and spells, had the power of making all who drank it fall
asleep and dream with their eyes open. She had two dwarfs of sons; one
was named Spy, and the other Pounce. Wherever their mother went they
were not far behind; and whoever tasted her mead was sure to be robbed
by the dwarfs.

"Scrub and Fairfeather sat leaning against the old tree. The cobbler had
a lump of cheese in his hand; his wife held fast a hunch of bread. Their
eyes and mouths were both open, but they were dreaming of great grandeur
at court, when the old woman raised her shrill voice--

"'What ho, my sons! come here and carry home the harvest.'

"No sooner had she spoken, than the two little dwarfs darted out of the
neighbouring thicket.

"'Idle boys!' cried the mother, 'what have ye done to-day to help our

"'I have been to the city,' said Spy, 'and could see nothing. These are
hard times for us--everybody minds their business so contentedly since
that cobbler came; but here is a leathern doublet which his page threw
out of the window; it's of no use, but I brought it to let you see I was
not idle.' And he tossed down Spare's doublet, with the merry leaves in
it, which he had carried like a bundle on his little back.

"To explain how Spy came by it, I must tell you that the forest was not
far from the great city where Spare lived in such high esteem. All
things had gone well with the cobbler till the king thought that it was
quite unbecoming to see such a worthy man without a servant. His
majesty, therefore, to let all men understand his royal favour toward
Spare, appointed one of his own pages to wait upon him. The name of
this youth was Tinseltoes, and, though he was the seventh of the king's
pages, nobody in all the court had grander notions. Nothing could please
him that had not gold or silver about it, and his grandmother feared he
would hang himself for being appointed page to a cobbler. As for Spare,
if anything could have troubled him, this token of his majesty's
kindness would have done it.

"The honest man had been so used to serve himself that the page was
always in the way, but his merry leaves came to his assistance; and, to
the great surprise of his grandmother, Tinseltoes took wonderfully to
the new service. Some said it was because Spare gave him nothing to do
but play at bowls all day on the palace-green. Yet one thing grieved the
heart of Tinseltoes, and that was his master's leathern doublet, but for
it he was persuaded people would never remember that Spare had been a
cobbler, and the page took a deal of pains to let him see how
unfashionable it was at court; but Spare answered Tinseltoes as he had
done the king, and at last, finding nothing better would do, the page
got up one fine morning earlier than his master, and tossed the leathern
doublet out of the back window into a certain lane where Spy found it,
and brought it to his mother.

"'That nasty thing!' said the old woman; 'where is the good in it?'

"By this time, Pounce had taken everything of value from Scrub and
Fairfeather--the looking-glass, the silver-rimmed horn, the husband's
scarlet coat, the wife's gay mantle, and, above all, the golden leaves,
which so rejoiced old Buttertongue and her sons, that they threw the
leathern doublet over the sleeping cobbler for a jest, and went off to
their hut in the heart of the forest.

"The sun was going down when Scrub and Fairfeather awoke from dreaming
that they had been made a lord and a lady, and sat clothed in silk and
velvet, feasting with the king in his palace-hall. It was a great
disappointment to find their golden leaves and all their best things
gone. Scrub tore his hair, and vowed to take the old woman's life, while
Fairfeather lamented sore; but Scrub, feeling cold for want of his coat,
put on the leathern doublet without asking or caring whence it came.

[Illustration: The page Tinseltoes throws the doublet out of the

"Scarcely was it buttoned on when a change came over him; he addressed
such merry discourse to Fairfeather, that, instead of lamentations, she
made the wood ring with laughter. Both busied themselves in getting up
a hut of boughs, in which Scrub kindled a fire with a flint and steel,
which, together with his pipe, he had brought unknown to Fairfeather,
who had told him the like was never heard of at court. Then they found a
pheasant's nest at the root of an old oak, made a meal of roasted eggs,
and went to sleep on a heap of long green grass which they had gathered,
with nightingales singing all night long in the old trees about them. So
it happened that Scrub and Fairfeather stayed day after day in the
forest, making their hut larger and more comfortable against the winter,
living on wild birds' eggs and berries, and never thinking of their lost
golden leaves, or their journey to court.

"In the meantime Spare had got up and missed his doublet. Tinseltoes, of
course, said he knew nothing about it. The whole palace was searched,
and every servant questioned, till all the court wondered why such a
fuss was made about an old leathern doublet. That very day things came
back to their old fashion. Quarrels began among the lords, and
jealousies among the ladies. The king said his subjects did not pay him
half enough taxes, the queen wanted more jewels, the servants took to
their old bickerings and got up some new ones. Spare found himself
getting wonderfully dull, and very much out of place: nobles began to
ask what business a cobbler had at the king's table, and his majesty
ordered the palace chronicles to be searched for a precedent. The
cobbler was too wise to tell all he had lost with that doublet, but
being by this time somewhat familiar with court customs, he proclaimed a
reward of fifty gold pieces to any who would bring him news concerning

"Scarcely was this made known in the city, when the gates and outer
courts of the palace were filled by men, women, and children, some
bringing leathern doublets of every cut and colour; some with tales of
what they had heard and seen in their walks about the neighbourhood; and
so much news concerning all sorts of great people came out of these
stories, that lords and ladies ran to the king with complaints of Spare
as a speaker of slander; and his majesty, being now satisfied that there
was no example in all the palace records of such a retainer, issued a
decree banishing the cobbler for ever from court, and confiscating all
his goods in favour of Tinseltoes.

"That royal edict was scarcely published before the page was in full
possession of his rich chamber, his costly garments, and all the
presents the courtiers had given him; while Spare, having no longer the
fifty pieces of gold to give, was glad to make his escape out of the
back window, for fear of the nobles, who vowed to be revenged on him,
and the crowd, who were prepared to stone him for cheating them about
his doublet.

"The window from which Spare let himself down with a strong rope, was
that from which Tinseltoes had tossed the doublet, and as the cobbler
came down late in the twilight, a poor woodman, with a heavy load of
fagots, stopped and stared at him in great astonishment.

"'What's the matter, friend?' said Spare. 'Did you never see a man
coming down from a back window before?'

"'Why,' said the woodman, 'the last morning I passed here a leathern
doublet came out of that very window, and I'll be bound you are the
owner of it.'

"'That I am, friend,' said the cobbler. 'Can you tell me which way that
doublet went?'

"'As I walked on,' said the woodman, 'a dwarf, called Spy, bundled it up
and ran off to his mother in the forest.'

"'Honest friend,' said Spare, taking off the last of his fine clothes (a
grass-green mantle edged with gold), 'I'll give you this if you will
follow the dwarf, and bring me back my doublet.'

"'It would not be good to carry fagots in,' said the woodman. 'But if
you want back your doublet, the road to the forest lies at the end of
this lane,' and he trudged away.

"Determined to find his doublet, and sure that neither crowd nor
courtiers could catch him in the forest, Spare went on his way, and was
soon among the tall trees; but neither hut nor dwarf could he see.
Moreover, the night came on; the wood was dark and tangled, but here and
there the moon shone through its alleys, the great owls flitted about,
and the nightingales sang. So he went on, hoping to find some place of
shelter. At last the red light of a fire, gleaming through a thicket,
led him to the door of a low hut. It stood half open, as if there was
nothing to fear, and within he saw his brother Scrub snoring loudly on a
bed of grass, at the foot of which lay his own leathern doublet; while
Fairfeather, in a kirtle made of plaited rushes, sat roasting pheasants'
eggs by the fire.

"'Good evening, mistress,' said Spare, stepping in.

"The blaze shone on him, but so changed was her brother-in-law with his
court-life, that Fairfeather did not know him, and she answered far more
courteously than was her wont.

"'Good evening, master. Whence come ye so late? but speak low, for my
good man has sorely tired himself cleaving wood, and is taking a sleep,
as you see, before supper.'

"'A good rest to him,' said Spare, perceiving he was not known. 'I come
from the court for a day's hunting, and have lost my way in the forest.'

"'Sit down and have a share of our supper,' said Fairfeather, 'I will
put some more eggs in the ashes; and tell me the news of court--I used
to think of it long ago when I was young and foolish.'

"'Did you never go there?' said the cobbler. 'So fair a dame as you
would make the ladies marvel.'

"'You are pleased to flatter,' said Fairfeather; 'but my husband has a
brother there, and we left our moorland village to try our fortune also.
An old woman enticed us with fair words and strong drink at the entrance
of this forest, where we fell asleep and dreamt of great things; but
when we woke, everything had been robbed from us--my looking-glass, my
scarlet cloak, my husband's Sunday coat; and, in place of all, the
robbers left him that old leathern doublet, which he has worn ever
since, and never was so merry in all his life, though we live in this
poor hut.'

"'It is a shabby doublet, that,' said Spare, taking up the garment, and
seeing that it was his own, for the merry leaves were still sewed in its
lining. 'It would be good for hunting in, however--your husband would be
glad to part with it, I dare say, in exchange for this handsome cloak;'
and he pulled off the green mantle and buttoned on the doublet, much to
Fairfeather's delight, who ran and shook Scrub, crying--

"'Husband! husband! rise and see what a good bargain I have made.'

"Scrub gave one closing snore, and muttered something about the root
being hard; but he rubbed his eyes, gazed up at his brother, and said--

"'Spare, is that really you? How did you like the court, and have you
made your fortune?'

"'That I have, brother,' said Spare, 'in getting back my own good
leathern doublet. Come, let us eat eggs, and rest ourselves here this
night. In the morning we will return to our own old hut, at the end of
the moorland village where the Christmas Cuckoo will come and bring us

"Scrub and Fairfeather agreed. So in the morning they all returned, and
found the old hut little the worse for wear and weather. The neighbours
came about them to ask the news of court, and see if they had made their
fortune. Everybody was astonished to find the three poorer than ever,
but somehow they liked to go back to the hut. Spare brought out the
lasts and awls he had hidden in a corner; Scrub and he began their old
trade, and the whole north country found out that there never were such

"They mended the shoes of lords and ladies as well as the common people;
everybody was satisfied. Their custom increased from day to day, and all
that were disappointed, discontented, or unlucky, came to the hut as in
old times, before Spare went to court.

"The rich brought them presents, the poor did them service. The hut
itself changed, no one knew how. Flowering honeysuckle grew over its
roof; red and white roses grew thick about its door. Moreover, the
Christmas Cuckoo always came on the first of April, bringing three
leaves of the merry tree--for Scrub and Fairfeather would have no more
golden ones. So it was with them when I last heard the news of the north

"What a summer-house that hut would make for me, mamma!" said the
Princess Greedalind.

"We must have it brought here bodily," said Queen Wantall; but the chair
was silent, and a lady and two noble squires, clad in russet-coloured
satin and yellow buskins, the like of which had never been seen at that
court, rose up and said--

"That's our story."

"I have not heard such a tale," said King Winwealth, "since my brother
Wisewit went from me, and was lost in the forest. Redheels, the seventh
of my pages, go and bring this little maid a pair of scarlet shoes with
golden buckles."

The seventh page immediately brought from the royal store a pair of
scarlet satin shoes with buckles of gold. Snowflower never had seen the
like before, and joyfully thanking the king, she dropped a courtesy,
seated herself and said--"Chair of my grandmother, take me to the worst
kitchen." Immediately the chair marched away as it came, to the
admiration of that noble company.

The little girl was allowed to sleep on some straw at the kitchen fire
that night. Next day they gave her ale with the scraps the cook threw
away. The feast went on with great music and splendour, and the people
clamoured without; but in the evening King Winwealth again fell into low
spirits, and the royal command was told to Snowflower by the chief
scullion, that she and her chair should go to the highest banquet hall,
for his majesty wished to hear another story.

When Snowflower had washed her face, and dusted her chair, she went up
seated as before, only that she had on the scarlet shoes. Queen Wantall
and her daughter looked more spiteful than ever, but some of the company
graciously noticed Snowflower's courtesy, and were pleased when she laid
down her head, saying, "Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story."

"Listen," said the clear voice from under the cushion, "to the story of
Lady Greensleeves."



"Once upon a time there lived two noble lords in the east country. Their
lands lay between a broad river and an old oak forest, whose size was so
great that no man knew it. In the midst of his land each lord had a
stately castle; one was built of the white freestone, the other of the
grey granite. So the one was called Lord of the White Castle, and the
other Lord of the Grey.

"There were no lords like them in all the east country for nobleness and
bounty. Their tenants lived in peace and plenty; all strangers were
hospitably entertained at their castles; and every autumn they sent men
with axes into the forest to hew down the great trees, and chop them up
into firewood for the poor. Neither hedge nor ditch divided their lands,
but these lords never disputed. They had been friends from their youth.
Their ladies had died long ago, but the Lord of the Grey Castle had a
little son, and the Lord of the White a little daughter; and when they
feasted in each other's halls it was their custom to say, 'When our
children grow up they will marry, and have our castles and our lands,
and keep our friendship in memory.'

"So the lords and their little children, and tenants, lived happily till
one Michaelmas night, as they were all feasting in the hall of the White
Castle, there came a traveller to the gate, who was welcomed and feasted
as usual. He had seen many strange sights and countries, and, like most
people, he liked to tell his travels. The lords were delighted with his
tales, as they sat round the fire drinking wine after supper, and at
length the Lord of the White Castle, who was very curious, said--

"'Good stranger, what was the greatest wonder you ever saw in all your

"'The most wonderful sight that ever I saw,' replied the traveller, 'was
at the end of yonder forest, where in an ancient wooden house there sits
an old woman weaving her own hair into grey cloth on an old crazy loom.
When she wants more yarn she cuts off her own grey hair, and it grows so
quickly that though I saw it cut in the morning, it was out of the door
before noon. She told me it was her purpose to sell the cloth, but none
of all who came that way had yet bought any, she asked so great a price;
and, only the way is so long and dangerous through that wide forest full
of boars and wolves, some rich lord like you might buy it for a mantle.'

"All who heard this story were astonished; but when the traveller had
gone on his way the Lord of the White Castle could neither eat nor sleep
for wishing to see the old woman that wove her own hair. At length he
made up his mind to explore the forest in search of her ancient house,
and told the Lord of the Grey Castle his intention. Being a prudent man,
this lord replied that traveller's tales were not always to be trusted,
and earnestly advised him against undertaking such a long and dangerous
journey, for few that went far into that forest ever returned. However,
when the curious lord would go in spite of all, he vowed to bear him
company for friendship's sake, and they agreed to set out privately,
lest the other lords of the land might laugh at them. The Lord of the
White Castle had a steward who had served him many years, and his name
was Reckoning Robin. To him he said--

"'I am going on a long journey with my friend. Be careful of my goods,
deal justly with my tenants, and above all things be kind to my little
daughter Loveleaves till my return;' and the steward answered--

"'Be sure, my lord, I will.'

"The Lord of the Grey Castle also had a steward who had served him many
years, and his name was Wary Will. To him he said--

"'I am going on a journey with my friend. Be careful of my goods, deal
justly with my tenants, and above all things be kind to my little son
Woodwender till my return;' and his steward answered him--

"'Be sure, my lord, I will.'

"So these lords kissed their children while they slept, and set out each
with his staff and mantle before sunrise through the old oak forest. The
children missed their fathers, the tenants missed their lords. None but
the stewards could tell what had become of them; but seven months wore
away, and they did not come back. The lords had thought their stewards
faithful, because they served so well under their eyes; but instead of
that, both were proud and crafty, and thinking that some evil had
happened to their masters, they set themselves to be lords in their

"Reckoning Robin had a son called Hardhold, and Wary Will, a daughter
called Drypenny. There was not a sulkier girl or boy in the country, but
their fathers resolved to make a young lord and lady of them; so they
took the silk clothes which Woodwender and Loveleaves used to wear, to
dress them, clothing the lord's children in frieze and canvas. Their
garden flowers and ivory toys were given to Hardhold and Drypenny; and
at last the steward's children sat at the chief tables, and slept in the
best chambers, while Woodwender and Loveleaves were sent to herd the
swine and sleep on straw in the granary.

[Illustration: Woodwender and Loveleaves tend the swine.]

"The poor children had no one to take their part. Every morning at
sunrise they were sent out--each with a barley loaf and a bottle of sour
milk, which was to serve them for breakfast, dinner, and supper--to
watch a great herd of swine on a wide unfenced pasture hard by the
forest. The grass was scanty, and the swine were continually straying
into the wood in search of acorns; the children knew that if they were
lost the wicked stewards would punish them, and between gathering and
keeping their herds in order, they were readier to sleep on the granary
straw at night than ever they had been within their own silken curtains.
Still Woodwender and Loveleaves helped and comforted each other, saying
their fathers would come back, or God would send them some friends: so,
in spite of swine-herding and hard living, they looked blithe and
handsome as ever; while Hardhold and Drypenny grew crosser and uglier
every day, notwithstanding their fine clothes and the best of all

"The crafty stewards did not like this. They thought their children
ought to look genteel, and Woodwender and Loveleaves like young
swineherds; so they sent them to a wilder pasture, still nearer the
forest, and gave them two great black hogs, more unruly than all the
rest, to keep. One of these hogs belonged to Hardhold, and the other to
Drypenny. Every evening when they came home the steward's children used
to come down and feed them, and it was their delight to reckon up what
price they would bring when properly fattened.

"One sultry day, about midsummer, Woodwender and Loveleaves sat down in
the shadow of a mossy rock: the swine grazed about them more quietly
than usual, and they plaited rushes and talked to each other, till, as
the sun was sloping down the sky, Woodwender saw that the two great hogs
were missing. Thinking they must have gone to the forest, the poor
children ran to search for them. They heard the thrush singing and the
wood-doves calling; they saw the squirrels leaping from bough to bough,
and the great deer bounding by; but though they searched for hours, no
trace of the favourite hogs could be seen. Loveleaves and Woodwender
durst not go home without them. Deeper and deeper they ran into the
forest, searching and calling, but all in vain; and when the woods began
to darken with the fall of evening, the children feared they had lost
their way.

"It was known that they never feared the forest, nor all the boars and
wolves that were in it; but being weary, they wished for some place of
shelter, and took a green path through the trees, thinking it might lead
to the dwelling of some hermit or forester. A fairer way Woodwender and
Loveleaves had never walked. The grass was soft and mossy, a hedge of
wild roses and honeysuckle grew on either side, and the red light of
sunset streamed through the tall trees above. On they went, and it led
them straight to a great open dell, covered with the loveliest flowers,
bordered with banks of wild strawberries, and all overshadowed by one
enormous oak, whose like had never been seen in grove or forest. Its
branches were as large as full-grown trees. Its trunk was wider than a
country church, and its height like that of a castle. There were mossy
seats at its great root, and when the tired children had gathered as
many strawberries as they cared for, they sat down on one, hard by a
small spring that bubbled up as clear as crystal. The huge oak was
covered with thick ivy, in which thousands of birds had their nests.
Woodwender and Loveleaves watched them flying home from all parts of the
forest, and at last they saw a lady coming by the same path which led
them to the dell. She wore a gown of russet colour; her yellow hair was
braided and bound with a crimson fillet. In her right hand she carried a
holly branch; but the most remarkable part of her attire was a pair of
long sleeves, as green as the very grass.

"'Who are you?' she said, 'that sit so late beside my well?' and the
children told her their story, how they had first lost the hogs, then
their way, and were afraid to go home to the wicked stewards.

"'Well,' said the lady, 'ye are the fairest swineherds that ever came
this way. Choose whether ye will go home and keep hogs for Hardhold and
Drypenny, or live in the free forest with me.'

"'We will stay with you,' said the children, 'for we like not keeping
swine. Besides, our fathers went through this forest, and we may meet
them some day coming home.'

"While they spoke, the lady slipped her holly branch through the ivy, as
if it had been a key--presently a door opened in the oak, and there was
a fair house. The windows were of rock crystal, but they could not be
seen from without. The walls and floor were covered with thick green
moss, as soft as velvet. There were low seats and a round table, vessels
of carved wood, a hearth inlaid with curious stones, an oven, and a
store chamber for provisions against the winter. When they stepped in,
the lady said--

"'A hundred years have I lived here, and my name is Lady Greensleeves.
No friend or servant have I had except my dwarf Corner, who comes to me
at the end of harvest with his handmill, his pannier, and his axe: with
these he grinds the nuts, and gathers the berries, and cleaves the
firewood, and blithely we live all the winter. But Corner loves the
frost and fears the sun, and when the topmost boughs begin to bud, he
returns to his country far in the north, so I am lonely in the summer

"By this discourse the children saw how welcome they were. Lady
Greensleeves gave them deer's milk and cakes of nut-flour, and soft
green moss to sleep on; and they forgot all their troubles, the wicked
stewards, and the straying swine. Early in the morning a troop of does
came to be milked, fairies brought flowers, and birds brought berries,
to show Lady Greensleeves what had bloomed and ripened. She taught the
children to make cheese of the does' milk, and wine of the wood-berries.
She showed them the stores of honey which wild bees had made, and left
in hollow trees, the rarest plants of the forest, and the herbs that
made all its creatures tame.

"All that summer Woodwender and Loveleaves lived with her in the great
oak-tree, free from toil and care; and the children would have been
happy, but they could hear no tidings of their fathers. At last the
leaves began to fade, and the flowers to fall; Lady Greensleeves said
that Corner was coming; and one moonlight night she heaped sticks on the
fire, and set her door open, when Woodwender and Loveleaves were going
to sleep, saying she expected some old friends to tell her the news of
the forest.

"Loveleaves was not quite so curious as her father, the Lord of the
White Castle: but she kept awake to see what would happen, and terribly
frightened the little girl was when in walked a great brown bear.

"'Good evening, lady,' said the bear.

"'Good evening, bear,' said Lady Greensleeves. 'What is the news in your

"'Not much,' said the bear; 'only the fawns are growing very
cunning--one can't catch above three in a day.'

"'That's bad news,' said Lady Greensleeves; and immediately in walked a
great wild cat.

"'Good evening, lady,' said the cat.

"'Good evening, cat,' said Lady Greensleeves. 'What is the news in your

"'Not much,' said the cat; 'only the birds are growing very
plentiful--it is not worth one's while to catch them.'

"'That's good news,' said Lady Greensleeves; and in flew a great black

"'Good evening, lady,' said the raven.

"'Good evening, raven,' said Lady Greensleeves. 'What is the news in
your neighbourhood?'

"'Not much,' said the raven; 'only in a hundred years or so we shall be
very genteel and private--the trees will be so thick.'

"'How is that?' said Lady Greensleeves.

"'Oh!' said the raven, 'have you not heard how the king of the forest
fairies laid a spell on two noble lords, who were travelling through his
dominions to see the old woman that weaves her own hair? They had
thinned his oaks every year, cutting firewood for the poor: so the king
met them in the likeness of a hunter, and asked them to drink out of his
oaken goblet, because the day was warm; and when the two lords drank,
they forgot their lands and their tenants, their castles and their
children, and minded nothing in all this world but the planting of
acorns, which they do day and night, by the power of the spell, in the
heart of the forest, and will never cease till some one makes them pause
in their work before the sun sets, and then the spell will be broken.'

"'Ah!' said Lady Greensleeves, 'he is a great prince, that king of the
forest fairies; and there is worse work in the world than planting

"Soon after, the bear, the cat, and the raven bade Lady Greensleeves
good night. She closed the door, put out the light, and went to sleep on
the soft moss as usual.

"In the morning Loveleaves told Woodwender what she had heard, and they
went to Lady Greensleeves where she milked the does, and said--

"'We heard what the raven told last night, and we know the two lords are
our fathers: tell us how the spell may be broken!'

"'I fear the king of the forest fairies,' said Lady Greensleeves,
'because I live here alone, and have no friend but my dwarf Corner; but
I will tell you what you may do. At the end of the path which leads from
this dell turn your faces to the north, and you will find a narrow way
sprinkled over with black feathers--keep that path, no matter how it
winds, and it will lead you straight to the ravens' neighbourhood, where
you will find your fathers planting acorns under the forest trees. Watch
till the sun is near setting, and tell them the most wonderful things
you know to make them forget their work; but be sure to tell nothing but
truth, and drink nothing but running water, or you will fall into the
power of the fairy king.'

"The children thanked her for this good counsel. She packed up cakes
and cheese for them in a bag of woven grass, and they soon found the
narrow way sprinkled over with black feathers. It was very long, and
wound through the thick trees in so many circles that the children were
often weary, and sat down to rest. When the night came, they found a
mossy hollow in the trunk of an old tree, where they laid themselves
down, and slept all the summer night--for Woodwender and Loveleaves
never feared the forest. So they went, eating their cakes and cheese
when they were hungry, drinking from the running stream, and sleeping in
the hollow trees, till on the evening of the seventh day they came into
the ravens' neighbourhood. The tall trees were laden with nests and
black with ravens. There was nothing to be heard but continual cawing;
and in a great opening where the oaks grew thinnest, the children saw
their own fathers busy planting acorns. Each lord had on the velvet
mantle in which he left his castle, but it was worn to rags with rough
work in the forest. Their hair and beards had grown long; their hands
were soiled with earth; each had an old wooden spade, and on all sides
lay heaps of acorns. The children called them by their names, and ran to
kiss them, each saying--'Dear father, come back to your castle and your
people!' but the lords replied--

"'We know of no castles and no people. There is nothing in all this
world but oak-trees and acorns.'

"Woodwender and Loveleaves told them of all their former state in
vain--nothing would make them pause for a minute: so the poor children
first sat down and cried, and then slept on the cold grass, for the sun
set, and the lords worked on. When they awoke it was broad day;
Woodwender cheered up his sister, saying--'We are hungry, and there are
still two cakes in the bag, let us share one of them--who knows but
something may happen?'

"So they divided the cake, and ran to the lords, saying--'Dear fathers,
eat with us:' but the lords said--

"'There is no use for meat or drink. Let us plant our acorns.'

"Loveleaves and Woodwender sat down, and ate that cake in great sorrow.
When they had finished, both went to a stream hard by, and began to
drink the clear water with a large acorn shell; and as they drank there
came through the oaks a gay young hunter, his mantle was green as the
grass: about his neck there hung a crystal bugle, and in his hand he
carried a huge oaken goblet, carved with flowers and leaves, and rimmed
with crystal. Up to the brim it was filled with milk, on which the rich
cream floated; and as the hunter came near, he said--'Fair children,
leave that muddy water, and come and drink with me;' but Woodwender and
Loveleaves answered--

"'Thanks, good hunter; but we have promised to drink nothing but running
water.' Still the hunter came nearer with his goblet, saying--

"'The water is foul: it may do for swineherds and woodcutters, but not
for such fair children as you. Tell me, are you not the children of
mighty kings? Were you not reared in palaces?' But the boy and girl
answered him--

"'No: we were reared in castles, and are the children of yonder lords;
tell us how the spell that is upon them may be broken!' and immediately
the hunter turned from them with an angry look, poured out the milk upon
the ground and went away with his empty goblet.

[Illustration: The gay young hunter comes to Woodwender and Loveleaves.]

"Loveleaves and Woodwender were sorry to see the rich cream spilled, but
they remembered Lady Greensleeves' warning, and seeing they could do no
better, each got a withered branch and began to help the lords,
scratching up the ground with the sharp end, and planting acorns; but
their fathers took no notice of them, nor all that they could say; and
when the sun grew warm at noon, they went again to drink at the running
stream. Then there came through the oaks another hunter, older than the
first, and clothed in yellow: about his neck there hung a silver bugle,
and in his hand he carried an oaken goblet, carved with leaves and
fruit, rimmed with silver, and filled with mead to the brim. This hunter
also asked them to drink, told them the stream was full of frogs, and
asked them if they were not a young prince and princess dwelling in the
woods for their pleasure? but when Woodwender and Loveleaves answered as
before--'We have promised to drink only running water, and are the
children of yonder lords: tell us how the spell may be broken!'--he
turned from them with an angry look, poured out the mead, and went his

"All that afternoon the children worked beside their fathers, planting
acorns with the withered branches; but the lords would mind neither them
nor their words. And when the evening drew near they were very hungry;
so the children divided their last cake, and when no persuasion would
make the lords eat with them, they went to the banks of the stream, and
began to eat and drink, though their hearts were heavy.

"The sun was getting low, and the ravens were coming home to their nests
in the high trees; but one, that seemed old and weary, alighted near
them to drink at the stream. As they ate the raven lingered, and picked
up the small crumbs that fell.

"'Brother,' said Loveleaves, 'this raven is surely hungry; let us give
it a little bit, though it is our last cake.'

"Woodwender agreed, and each gave a bit to the raven; but its great
bill finished the morsels in a moment, and hopping nearer, it looked
them in the face by turns.

"'The poor raven is still hungry,' said Woodwender, and he gave it
another bit. When that was gobbled, it came to Loveleaves, who gave it a
bit too, and so on till the raven had eaten the whole of their last

"'Well,' said Woodwender, 'at least, we can have a drink.' But as they
stooped to the water, there came through the oaks another hunter, older
than the last, and clothed in scarlet: about his neck there hung a
golden bugle, and in his hand he carried a huge oaken goblet, carved
with ears of corn and clusters of grapes, rimmed with gold, and filled
to the brim with wine. He also said--

"'Leave this muddy water, and drink with me. It is full of toads, and
not fit for such fair children. Surely ye are from fairyland, and were
reared in its queen's palace!' But the children said--

"'We will drink nothing but this water, and yonder lords are our
fathers: tell us how the spell may be broken!' And the hunter turned
from them with an angry look, poured out the wine on the grass, and
went his way. When he was gone, the old raven looked up into their
faces, and said--

"'I have eaten your last cake, and I will tell you how the spell may be
broken. Yonder is the sun, going down behind yon western trees. Before
it sets, go to the lords, and tell them how their stewards used you, and
made you herd hogs for Hardhold and Drypenny. When you see them
listening, catch up their wooden spades, and keep them if you can till
the sun goes down.'

"Woodwender and Loveleaves thanked the raven, and where it flew they
never stopped to see, but running to the lords began to tell as they
were bidden. At first the lords would not listen, but as the children
related how they had been made to sleep on straw, how they had been sent
to herd hogs in the wild pasture, and what trouble they had with the
unruly swine, the acorn planting grew slower, and at last they dropped
their spades. Then Woodwender, catching up his father's spade, ran to
the stream and threw it in. Loveleaves did the same for the Lord of the
White Castle. That moment the sun disappeared behind the western oaks,
and the lords stood up, looking, like men just awoke, on the forest, on
the sky, and on their children.

"So this strange story has ended, for Woodwender and Loveleaves went
home rejoicing with their fathers. Each lord returned to his castle, and
all their tenants made merry. The fine toys and the silk clothes, the
flower-gardens and the best chambers, were taken from Hardhold and
Drypenny, for the lords' children got them again; and the wicked
stewards, with their cross boy and girl, were sent to herd swine, and
live in huts in the wild pasture, which everybody said became them
better. The Lord of the White Castle never again wished to see the old
woman that wove her own hair, and the Lord of the Grey Castle continued
to be his friend. As for Woodwender and Loveleaves, they met with no
more misfortunes, but grew up, and were married, and inherited the two
castles and the broad lands of their fathers. Nor did they forget the
lonely Lady Greensleeves, for it was known in the east country that she
and her dwarf Corner always came to feast with them in the Christmas
time, and at midsummer they always went to live with her in the great
oak in the forest.'

"Oh! mamma, if we had that oak!" said the Princess Greedalind.

"Where does it grow?" said Queen Wantall: but the chair was silent, and
a noble lord and lady, clad in green velvet, flowered with gold, rose up
and said--

"That's our story."

"Excepting the tale of yesterday," said King Winwealth, "I have not
heard such a story since my brother Wisewit went from me, and was lost
in the forest. Gaygarters, the sixth of my pages, go and bring this
maiden a pair of white silk hose with golden clocks on them."

Queen Wantall and Princess Greedalind at this looked crosser than ever;
but Gaygarters brought the white silk hose, and Snowflower, having
dropped her courtesy, and taken her seat, was carried once more to the
kitchen, where they gave her a mattress that night, and next day she got
the ends of choice dishes.

The feast, the music, and the dancing went on, so did the envies within
and the clamours without the palace. In the evening King Winwealth fell
again into low spirits after supper, and a message coming down from the
banquet hall, the kitchen-maid told Snowflower to prepare herself, and
go up with her grandmother's chair, for his majesty wished to hear
another story. Having washed her face and combed her hair, put on her
scarlet shoes, and her gold-clocked hose, Snowflower went up as before,
seated in her grandmother's chair; and after courtesying as usual to the
king, the queen, the princess, and the noble company, the little girl
laid down her head, saying--"Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story;"
and a clear voice from under the cushion said--

"Listen to the story of the Greedy Shepherd."



"Once upon a time there lived in the south country two brothers, whose
business it was to keep sheep on a great grassy plain, which was bounded
on the one side by a forest, and on the other by a chain of high hills.
No one lived on that plain but shepherds, who dwelt in low cottages
thatched with heath, and watched their sheep so carefully that no lamb
was ever lost, nor had one of the shepherds ever travelled beyond the
foot of the hills and the skirts of the forest.

"There were none among them more careful than these two brothers, one of
whom was called Clutch, and the other Kind. Though brethren born, two
men of distant countries could not be more unlike in disposition. Clutch
thought of nothing in this world but how to catch and keep some profit
for himself, while Kind would have shared his last morsel with a hungry
dog. This covetous mind made Clutch keep all his father's sheep when the
old man was dead and gone, because he was the eldest brother, allowing
Kind nothing but the place of a servant to help him in looking after
them. Kind wouldn't quarrel with his brother for the sake of the sheep,
so he helped him to keep them, and Clutch had all his own way. This
made him agreeable. For some time the brothers lived peaceably in their
father's cottage, which stood low and lonely under the shadow of a great
sycamore-tree, and kept their flock with pipe and crook on the grassy
plain, till new troubles arose through Clutch's covetousness.

"On that plain there was neither town, nor city, nor market-place, where
people might sell or buy, but the shepherds cared little for trade. The
wool of their flocks made them clothes; their milk gave them butter and
cheese. At feast times every family killed a lamb or so; their fields
yielded them wheat for bread. The forest supplied them with firewood for
winter; and every midsummer, which is the sheep-shearing time, traders
from a certain far-off city came through it by an ancient way to
purchase all the wool the shepherds could spare, and give them in
exchange either goods or money.

"One midsummer it so happened that these traders praised the wool of
Clutch's flock above all they found on the plain, and gave him the
highest price of it. That was an unlucky happening for the sheep: from
thenceforth Clutch thought he could never get enough wool off them. At
the shearing time nobody clipped so close, and, in spite of all Kind
could do or say, he left the poor sheep as bare as if they had been
shaven; and as soon as the wool grew long enough to keep them warm, he
was ready with the shears again--no matter how chilly might be the days,
or how near the winter. Kind didn't like these doings, and many a debate
they caused between him and his brother. Clutch always tried to persuade
him that close clipping was good for the sheep, and Kind always strove
to make him think he had got all the wool--so they were never done with
disputes. Still Clutch sold the wool, and stored up his profits, and one
midsummer after another passed. The shepherds began to think him a rich
man, and close clipping might have become the fashion, but for a strange
thing which happened to his flock.

"The wool had grown well that summer. He had taken two crops off them,
and was thinking of a third,--though the misty mornings of autumn were
come, and the cold evenings made the shepherds put on their winter
cloaks,--when first the lambs, and then the ewes, began to stray away;
and search as the brothers would, none of them was ever found again.
Clutch blamed Kind with being careless, and watched with all his might.
Kind knew it was not his fault, but he looked sharper than ever. Still
the straying went on. The flocks grew smaller every day, and all the
brothers could find out was, that the closest clipped were the first to
go; and, count the flock when they might, some were sure to be missed
at the folding.

"Kind grew tired of watching, and Clutch lost his sleep with vexation.
The other shepherds, over whom he had boasted of his wool and his
profits, were not sorry to see pride having a fall. Most of them pitied
Kind, but all of them agreed that they had marvellous ill luck, and kept
as far from them as they could for fear of sharing it. Still the flock
melted away as the months wore on. Storms and cold weather never stopped
them from straying, and when the spring came back nothing remained with
Clutch and Kind but three old ewes, the quietest and lamest of their
whole flock. They were watching these ewes one evening in the primrose
time, when Clutch, who had never kept his eyes off them that day, said--

"'Brother, there is wool to be had on their backs.'

"'It is too little to keep them warm,' said Kind. 'The east wind still
blows sometimes;' but Clutch was off to the cottage for the bag and

"Kind was grieved to see his brother so covetous, and to divert his
mind he looked up at the great hills: it was a sort of comfort to him,
ever since their losses began, to look at them evening and morning. Now
their far-off heights were growing crimson with the setting sun, but as
he looked, three creatures like sheep scoured up a cleft in one of them
as fleet as any deer: and when Kind turned, he saw his brother coming
with the bag and shears, but not a single ewe was to be seen. Clutch's
first question was, what had become of them; and when Kind told him what
he saw, the eldest brother scolded him with might and main for ever
lifting his eyes off them--

"'Much good the hills and the sunset do us,' said he, 'now that we have
not a single sheep. The other shepherds will hardly give us room among
them at shearing time or harvest; but for my part, I'll not stay on this
plain to be despised for poverty. If you like to come with me, and be
guided by my advice, we shall get service somewhere. I have heard my
father say that there were great shepherds living in old times beyond
the hills; let us go and see if they will take us for sheep-boys.'

"Kind would rather have stayed and tilled his father's wheat-field, hard
by the cottage; but since his elder brother would go, he resolved to
bear him company. Accordingly, next morning Clutch took his bag and
shears, Kind took his crook and pipe, and away they went over the plain
and up the hills. All who saw them thought that they had lost their
senses, for no shepherd had gone there for a hundred years, and nothing
was to be seen but wide moorlands, full of rugged rocks, and sloping up,
it seemed, to the very sky. Kind persuaded his brother to take the
direction the sheep had taken, but the ground was so rough and steep
that after two hours' climbing they would gladly have turned back, if it
had not been that their sheep were gone, and the shepherds would laugh
at them.

"By noon they came to the stony cleft, up which the three old ewes had
scoured like deer; but both were tired, and sat down to rest. Their feet
were sore, and their hearts were heavy; but as they sat there, there
came a sound of music down the hills, as if a thousand shepherds had
been playing on their tops. Clutch and Kind had never heard such music
before. As they listened, the soreness passed from their feet, and the
heaviness from their hearts; and getting up, they followed the sound up
the cleft, and over a wide heath, covered with purple bloom; till at
sunset, they came to the hill-top, and saw a broad pasture, where
violets grew thick among the grass, and thousands of snow-white sheep
were feeding, while an old man sat in the midst of them, playing on his
pipe. He wore a long coat, the colour of the holly leaves; his hair hung
to his waist, and his beard to his knees; but both were as white as
snow, and he had the countenance of one who had led a quiet life, and
known no cares nor losses.

"'Good father,' said Kind, for his eldest brother hung back and was
afraid, 'tell us what land is this, and where can we find service; for
my brother and I are shepherds, and can well keep flocks from straying,
though we have lost our own.'

"'These are the hill pastures,' said the old man, 'and I am the ancient
shepherd. My flocks never stray, but I have employment for you. Which of
you can shear best?'

"'Good father,' said Clutch, taking courage, 'I am the closest shearer
in all the plain country: you would not find as much wool as would make
a thread on a sheep when I have done with it.'

"'You are the man for my business,' replied the old shepherd. 'When the
moon rises, I will call the flock you have to shear. Till then sit down
and rest, and take your supper out of my wallet.'

"Clutch and Kind gladly sat down by him among the violets, and opening a
leathern bag which hung by his side, the old man gave them cakes and
cheese, and a horn cup to drink from a stream hard by. The brothers felt
fit for any work after that meal; and Clutch rejoiced in his own mind at
the chance he had got for showing his skill with the shears. 'Kind will
see how useful it is to cut close,' he thought to himself: but they sat
with the old man, telling him the news of the plain, till the sun went
down and the moon rose, and all the snow-white sheep gathered and laid
themselves down behind him. Then he took his pipe and played a merry
tune, when immediately there was heard a great howling, and up the hills
came a troop of shaggy wolves, with hair so long that their eyes could
scarcely be seen. Clutch would have fled for fear, but the wolves
stopped, and the old man said to him--

"'Rise, and shear--this flock of mine have too much wool on them.'

"Clutch had never shorn wolves before, yet he couldn't think of losing
the good service, and went forward with a stout heart; but the first of
the wolves showed its teeth, and all the rest raised such a howl the
moment he came near them, that Clutch was glad to throw down his shears,
and run behind the old man for safety.

"'Good father,' cried he, 'I will shear sheep, but not wolves.'

"'They must be shorn,' said the old man, 'or you go back to the plains,
and them after you; but whichever of you can shear them will get the
whole flock.'

"On hearing this, Clutch began to exclaim on his hard fortune, and his
brother who had brought him there to be hunted and devoured by wolves;
but Kind, thinking that things could be no worse, caught up the shears
he had thrown away in his fright, and went boldly up to the nearest
wolf. To his great surprise the wild creature seemed to know him, and
stood quietly to be shorn, while the rest of the flock gathered round as
if waiting their turn. Kind clipped neatly, but not too close, as he had
wished his brother to do with the sheep, and heaped up the hair on one
side. When he had done with one, another came forward, and Kind went on
shearing by the bright moonlight till the whole flock were shorn. Then
the old man said--

"'Ye have done well, take the wool and the flock for your wages, return
with them to the plain, and if you please, take this little-worth
brother of yours for a boy to keep them.'

"Kind did not much like keeping wolves, but before he could make answer,
they had all changed into the very sheep which had strayed away so
strangely. All of them had grown fatter and thicker of fleece, and the
hair he had cut off lay by his side, a heap of wool so fine and soft
that its like had never been seen on the plain.

[Illustration: Clutch returns with his sack.]

"Clutch gathered it up in his empty bag, and glad was he to go back to
the plain with his brother; for the old man sent them away with their
flock, saying no man must see the dawn of day on that pasture but
himself, for it was the ground of the fairies. So Clutch and Kind went
home with great gladness. All the shepherds came to hear their wonderful
story, and ever after liked to keep near them because they had such good
luck. They keep the sheep together till this day, but Clutch has grown
less greedy, and Kind alone uses the shears."

With these words the voice ceased, and two shepherds, clad in
grass-green and crowned with garlands, rose up, and said--

"That's our story."

"Mamma," said Princess Greedalind, "what a lovely playground that violet
pasture would make for me!"

"What wool could be had off all those snow-white sheep!" said Queen
Wantall: but King Winwealth said--

"Excepting yesterday's tale, and the one that went before it, I have not
heard such a story as that since my brother Wisewit went from me, and
was lost in the forest. Spangledhose, the fifth of my pages, rise, and
bring this maiden a white satin gown."

Snowflower took the white satin gown, thanked the king, courtseyed to
the good company, and went down on her chair to the best kitchen. That
night they gave her a new blanket, and next day she had a cold pie for
dinner. The music, the feast, and the spite continued within the palace:
so did the clamours without; and his majesty, falling into low spirits,
as usual, after supper, one of the under cooks told Snowflower that a
message had come down from the highest banquet hall for her to go up
with her grandmother's chair, and tell another story. Snowflower
accordingly dressed herself in the red shoes, the gold-clocked hose, and
the white satin gown. All the company were glad to see her and her chair
coming, except the queen and the Princess Greedalind; and when the
little girl had made her courtesy and laid down her head saying, "Chair
of my grandmother, tell me a story," the same clear voice said--

"Listen to the story of Fairyfoot."



"Once upon a time there stood far away in the west country a town called
Stumpinghame. It contained seven windmills, a royal palace, a market
place, and a prison, with every other convenience befitting the capital
of a kingdom. A capital city was Stumpinghame, and its inhabitants
thought it the only one in the world. It stood in the midst of a great
plain, which for three leagues round its walls was covered with corn,
flax, and orchards. Beyond that lay a great circle of pasture land,
seven leagues in breadth, and it was bounded on all sides by a forest so
thick and old that no man in Stumpinghame knew its extent; and the
opinion of the learned was, that it reached to the end of the world.

"There were strong reasons for this opinion. First, that forest was
known to be inhabited time out of mind by the fairies, and no hunter
cared to go beyond its borders--so all the west country believed it to
be solidly full of old trees to the heart. Secondly, the people of
Stumpinghame were no travellers--man, woman, and child had feet so large
and heavy that it was by no means convenient to carry them far. Whether
it was the nature of the place or the people, I cannot tell, but great
feet had been the fashion there time immemorial, and the higher the
family the larger were they. It was, therefore, the aim of everybody
above the degree of shepherds, and such-like rustics, to swell out and
enlarge their feet by way of gentility; and so successful were they in
these undertakings that, on a pinch, respectable people's slippers
would have served for panniers.

"Stumpinghame had a king of its own, and his name was Stiffstep; his
family was very ancient and large-footed. His subjects called him Lord
of the World, and he made a speech to them every year concerning the
grandeur of his mighty empire. His queen, Hammerheel, was the greatest
beauty in Stumpinghame. Her majesty's shoe was not much less than a
fishing-boat; their six children promised to be quite as handsome, and
all went well with them till the birth of their seventh son.

"For a long time nobody about the palace could understand what was the
matter--the ladies-in-waiting looked so astonished, and the king so
vexed; but at last it was whispered through the city that the queen's
seventh child had been born with such miserably small feet that they
resembled nothing ever seen or heard of in Stumpinghame, except the feet
of the fairies.

"The chronicles furnished no example of such an affliction ever before
happening in the royal family. The common people thought it portended
some great calamity to the city; the learned men began to write books
about it; and all the relations of the king and queen assembled at the
palace to mourn with them over their singular misfortune. The whole
court and most of the citizens helped in this mourning, but when it had
lasted seven days they all found out it was of no use. So the relations
went to their homes, and the people took to their work. If the learned
men's books were written, nobody ever read them; and to cheer up the
queen's spirits, the young prince was sent privately out to the pasture
lands, to be nursed among the shepherds.

"The chief man there was called Fleecefold, and his wife's name was
Rough Ruddy. They lived in a snug cottage with their son Blackthorn and
their daughter Brownberry, and were thought great people, because they
kept the king's sheep. Moreover, Fleecefold's family were known to be
ancient; and Rough Ruddy boasted that she had the largest feet in all
the pastures. The shepherds held them in high respect, and it grew still
higher when the news spread that the king's seventh son had been sent to
their cottage. People came from all quarters to see the young prince,
and great were the lamentations over his misfortune in having such small

"The king and queen had given him fourteen names, beginning with
Augustus--such being the fashion in that royal family; but the honest
country people could not remember so many; besides, his feet were the
most remarkable thing about the child, so with one accord they called
him Fairyfoot. At first it was feared this might be high-treason, but
when no notice was taken by the king or his ministers, the shepherds
concluded it was no harm, and the boy never had another name throughout
the pastures. At court it was not thought polite to speak of him at all.
They did not keep his birthday, and he was never sent for at Christmas,
because the queen and her ladies could not bear the sight. Once a year
the undermost scullion was sent to see how he did, with a bundle of his
next brother's cast-off clothes; and, as the king grew old and cross, it
was said he had thoughts of disowning him.

"So Fairyfoot grew in Fleecefold's cottage. Perhaps the country air made
him fair and rosy--for all agreed that he would have been a handsome boy
but for his small feet, with which nevertheless he learned to walk, and
in time to run and to jump, thereby amazing everybody, for such doings
were not known among the children of Stumpinghame. The news of court,
however, travelled to the shepherds, and Fairyfoot was despised among
them. The old people thought him unlucky; the children refused to play
with him. Fleecefold was ashamed to have him in his cottage, but he
durst not disobey the king's orders. Moreover, Blackthorn wore most of
the clothes brought by the scullion. At last, Rough Ruddy found out that
the sight of such horrid jumping would make her children vulgar; and, as
soon as he was old enough, she sent Fairyfoot every day to watch some
sickly sheep that grazed on a wild, weedy pasture, hard by the forest.

"Poor Fairyfoot was often lonely and sorrowful; many a time he wished
his feet would grow larger, or that people wouldn't notice them so much;
and all the comfort he had was running and jumping by himself in the
wild pasture, and thinking that none of the shepherds' children could do
the like, for all their pride of their great feet.

"Tired of this sport, he was lying in the shadow of a mossy rock one
warm summer's noon, with the sheep feeding around, when a robin, pursued
by a great hawk, flew into the old velvet cap which lay on the ground
beside him. Fairyfoot covered it up, and the hawk, frightened by his
shout, flew away.

"'Now you may go, poor robin!' he said, opening the cap: but instead of
the bird, out sprang a little man dressed in russet-brown, and looking
as if he were an hundred years old. Fairyfoot could not speak for
astonishment, but the little man said--

"'Thank you for your shelter, and be sure I will do as much for you.
Call on me if you are ever in trouble, my name is Robin Goodfellow;' and
darting off, he was out of sight in an instant. For days the boy
wondered who that little man could be, but he told nobody, for the
little man's feet were as small as his own, and it was clear he would be
no favourite in Stumpinghame. Fairyfoot kept the story to himself, and
at last midsummer came. That evening was a feast among the shepherds.
There were bonfires on the hills, and fun in the villages. But Fairyfoot
sat alone beside his sheepfold, for the children of his village had
refused to let him dance with them about the bonfire, and he had gone
there to bewail the size of his feet, which came between him and so many
good things. Fairyfoot had never felt so lonely in all his life, and
remembering the little man, he plucked up spirit, and cried--

"'Ho! Robin Goodfellow!'

"'Here I am,' said a shrill voice at his elbow; and there stood the
little man himself.

"'I am very lonely, and no one will play with me, because my feet are
not large enough,' said Fairyfoot.

"'Come then and play with us,' said the little man. 'We lead the
merriest lives in the world, and care for nobody's feet; but all
companies have their own manners, and there are two things you must mind
among us: first, do as you see the rest doing; and secondly, never speak
of anything you may hear or see, for we and the people of this country
have had no friendship ever since large feet came in fashion.'

"'I will do that, and anything more you like,' said Fairyfoot; and the
little man taking his hand, led him over the pasture into the forest,
and along a mossy path among old trees wreathed with ivy (he never knew
how far), till they heard the sound of music, and came upon a meadow
where the moon shone as bright as day, and all the flowers of the
year--snowdrops, violets, primroses, and cowslips--bloomed together in
the thick grass. There were a crowd of little men and women, some clad
in russet colour, but far more in green, dancing round a little well as
clear as crystal. And under great rose-trees which grew here and there
in the meadow, companies were sitting round low tables covered with cups
of milk, dishes of honey, and carved wooden flagons filled with clear
red wine. The little man led Fairyfoot up to the nearest table, handed
him one of the flagons, and said--

"'Drink to the good company!'

"Wine was not very common among the shepherds of Stumpinghame, and the
boy had never tasted such drink as that before; for scarcely had it gone
down, when he forgot all his troubles--how Blackthorn and Brownberry
wore his clothes, how Rough Ruddy sent him to keep the sickly sheep, and
the children would not dance with him: in short, he forgot the whole
misfortune of his feet, and it seemed to his mind that he was a king's
son, and all was well with him. All the little people about the well

"'Welcome! welcome!' and every one said--'Come and dance with me!' So
Fairyfoot was as happy as a prince, and drank milk and ate honey till
the moon was low in the sky, and then the little man took him by the
hand, and never stopped nor stayed till he was at his own bed of straw
in the cottage corner.

"Next morning Fairyfoot was not tired for all his dancing. Nobody in the
cottage had missed him, and he went out with the sheep as usual; but
every night all that summer, when the shepherds were safe in bed, the
little man came and took him away to dance in the forest. Now he did not
care to play with the shepherds' children, nor grieve that his father
and mother had forgotten him, but watched the sheep all day singing to
himself or plaiting rushes; and when the sun went down, Fairyfoot's
heart rejoiced at the thought of meeting that merry company.

"The wonder was that he was never tired nor sleepy, as people are apt to
be who dance all night; but before the summer was ended Fairyfoot found
out the reason. One night, when the moon was full, and the last of the
ripe corn rustling in the fields, Robin Goodfellow came for him as
usual, and away they went to the flowery green. The fun there was high,
and Robin was in haste. So he only pointed to the carved cup from which
Fairyfoot every night drank the clear red wine.

"'I am not thirsty, and there is no use losing time,' thought the boy to
himself, and he joined the dance; but never in all his life did
Fairyfoot find such hard work as to keep pace with the company. Their
feet seemed to move like lightning; the swallows did not fly so fast or
turn so quickly. Fairyfoot did his best, for he never gave in easily,
but at length, his breath and strength being spent, the boy was glad to
steal away, and sit down behind a mossy oak, where his eyes closed for
very weariness. When he awoke the dance was nearly over, but two little
ladies clad in green talked close beside him.

"'What a beautiful boy!' said one of them. 'He is worthy to be a king's
son. Only see what handsome feet he has!'

"'Yes,' said the other, with a laugh that sounded spiteful; 'they are
just like the feet Princess Maybloom had before she washed them in the
Growing Well. Her father has sent far and wide throughout the whole
country searching for a doctor to make them small again, but nothing in
this world can do it except the water of the Fair Fountain, and none but
I and the nightingales know where it is.'

"'One would not care to let the like be known,' said the first little
lady: 'there would come such crowds of these great coarse creatures of
mankind, nobody would have peace for leagues round. But you will surely
send word to the sweet princess!--she was so kind to our birds and
butterflies, and danced so like one of ourselves!'

[Illustration: The Princess Maybloom.]

"'Not I, indeed!' said the spiteful fairy. 'Her old skinflint of a
father cut down the cedar which I loved best in the whole forest, and
made a chest of it to hold his money in; besides, I never liked the
princess--everybody praised her so. But come, we shall be too late for
the last dance.'"

"When they were gone, Fairyfoot could sleep no more with astonishment.
He did not wonder at the fairies admiring his feet, because their own
were much the same; but it amazed him that Princess Maybloom's father
should be troubled at hers growing large. Moreover, he wished to see
that same princess and her country, since there were really other places
in the world than Stumpinghame.

"When Robin Goodfellow came to take him home as usual he durst not let
him know that he had overheard anything; but never was the boy so
unwilling to get up as on that morning, and all day he was so weary that
in the afternoon Fairyfoot fell asleep, with his head on a clump of
rushes. It was seldom that any one thought of looking after him and the
sickly sheep; but it so happened that towards evening the old shepherd,
Fleecefold, thought he would see how things went on in the pastures. The
shepherd had a bad temper and a thick staff, and no sooner did he catch
sight of Fairyfoot sleeping, and his flock straying away, than shouting
all the ill names he could remember, in a voice which woke up the boy,
he ran after him as fast as his great feet would allow; while Fairyfoot,
seeing no other shelter from his fury, fled into the forest, and never
stopped nor stayed till he reached the banks of a little stream.

"Thinking it might lead him to the fairies' dancing-ground, he followed
that stream for many an hour, but it wound away into the heart of the
forest, flowing through dells, falling over mossy rocks and at last
leading Fairyfoot, when he was tired and the night had fallen, to a
grove of great rose-trees, with the moon shining on it as bright as day,
and thousands of nightingales singing in the branches. In the midst of
that grove was a clear spring, bordered with banks of lilies, and
Fairyfoot sat down by it to rest himself and listen. The singing was so
sweet he could have listened for ever, but as he sat the nightingales
left off their songs, and began to talk together in the silence of the

"'What boy is that,' said one on a branch above him, 'who sits so lonely
by the Fair Fountain? He cannot have come from Stumpinghame with such
small and handsome feet.'

"'No, I'll warrant you,' said another, 'he has come from the west
country. How in the world did he find the way?'

"'How simple you are!' said a third nightingale. 'What had he to do but
follow the ground-ivy which grows over height and hollow, bank and bush,
from the lowest gate of the king's kitchen garden to the root of this
rose-tree? He looks a wise boy, and I hope he will keep the secret, or
we shall have all the west country here, dabbling in our fountain, and
leaving us no rest to either talk or sing.'

"Fairyfoot sat in great astonishment at this discourse, but by and by,
when the talk ceased and the songs began, he thought it might be as well
for him to follow the ground-ivy, and see the Princess Maybloom, not to
speak of getting rid of Rough Ruddy, the sickly sheep, and the crusty
old shepherd. It was a long journey; but he went on, eating wild berries
by day, sleeping in the hollows of old trees by night, and never losing
sight of the ground-ivy, which led him over height and hollow, bank and
bush, out of the forest, and along a noble high road, with fields and
villages on every side, to a great city, and a low old-fashioned gate of
the king's kitchen-garden, which was thought too mean for the scullions,
and had not been opened for seven years.

"There was no use knocking--the gate was overgrown with tall weeds and
moss; so, being an active boy, he climbed over, and walked through the
garden, till a white fawn came frisking by, and he heard a soft voice
saying sorrowfully--

"'Come back, come back, my fawn! I cannot run and play with you now, my
feet have grown so heavy;' and looking round he saw the loveliest young
princess in the world, dressed in snow-white, and wearing a wreath of
roses on her golden hair; but walking slowly, as the great people did in
Stumpinghame, for her feet were as large as the best of them.

"After her came six young ladies, dressed in white and walking slowly,
for they could not go before the princess; but Fairyfoot was amazed to
see that their feet were as small as his own. At once he guessed that
this must be the Princess Maybloom, and made her an humble bow, saying--

"'Royal princess, I have heard of your trouble because your feet have
grown large: in my country that's all the fashion. For seven years past
I have been wondering what would make mine grow, to no purpose; but I
know of a certain fountain that will make yours smaller and finer than
ever they were, if the king, your father, gives you leave to come with
me, accompanied by two of your maids that are the least given to
talking, and the most prudent officer in all his household; for it would
grievously offend the fairies and the nightingales to make that fountain

"When the princess heard that, she danced for joy in spite of her large
feet, and she and her six maids brought Fairyfoot before the king and
queen, where they sat in their palace hall, with all the courtiers
paying their morning compliments. The lords were very much astonished to
see a ragged, bare-footed boy brought in among them, and the ladies
thought Princess Maybloom must have gone mad; but Fairyfoot, making an
humble reverence, told his message to the king and queen, and offered to
set out with the princess that very day. At first the king would not
believe that there could be any use in his offer, because so many great
physicians had failed to give any relief. The courtiers laughed
Fairyfoot to scorn, the pages wanted to turn him out for an impudent
impostor, and the prime-minister said he ought to be put to death for

"Fairyfoot wished himself safe in the forest again, or even keeping the
sickly sheep; but the queen, being a prudent woman, said--

"'I pray your majesty to notice what fine feet this boy has. There may
be some truth in his story. For the sake of our only daughter, I will
choose two maids who talk the least of all our train, and my
chamberlain, who is the most discreet officer in our household. Let them
go with the princess: who knows but our sorrow may be lessened?'

"After some persuasion the king consented, though all his councillors
advised the contrary. So the two silent maids, the discreet chamberlain,
and her fawn, which would not stay behind, were sent with Princess
Maybloom, and they all set out after dinner. Fairyfoot had hard work
guiding them along the track of the ground-ivy. The maids and the
chamberlain did not like the brambles and rough roots of the
forest--they thought it hard to eat berries and sleep in hollow trees;
but the princess went on with good courage, and at last they reached the
grove of rose-trees, and the spring bordered with lilies.

"The chamberlain washed--and though his hair had been grey, and his face
wrinkled, the young courtiers envied his beauty for years after. The
maids washed--and from that day they were esteemed the fairest in all
the palace. Lastly, the princess washed also--it could make her no
fairer, but the moment her feet touched the water they grew less, and
when she had washed and dried them three times, they were as small and
finely-shaped as Fairyfoot's own. There was great joy among them, but
the boy said sorrowfully--

"'Oh! if there had been a well in the world to make my feet large, my
father and mother would not have cast me off, nor sent me to live among
the shepherds.'

"'Cheer up your heart,' said the Princess Maybloom; 'if you want large
feet, there is a well in this forest that will do it. Last summer time,
I came with my father and his foresters to see a great cedar cut down,
of which he meant to make a money chest. While they were busy with the
cedar, I saw a bramble branch covered with berries. Some were ripe and
some were green, but it was the longest bramble that ever grew; for the
sake of the berries, I went on and on to its root, which grew hard by a
muddy-looking well, with banks of dark green moss, in the deepest part
of the forest. The day was warm and dry, and my feet were sore with the
rough ground, so I took off my scarlet shoes, and washed my feet in the
well; but as I washed they grew larger every minute, and nothing could
ever make them less again. I have seen the bramble this day; it is not
far off, and as you have shown me the Fair Fountain, I will show you the
Growing Well.'

"Up rose Fairyfoot and Princess Maybloom, and went together till they
found the bramble, and came to where its root grew, hard by the
muddy-looking well, with banks of dark green moss in the deepest dell of
the forest. Fairyfoot sat down to wash, but at that minute he heard a
sound of music, and knew it was the fairies going to their dancing

"'If my feet grow large,' said the boy to himself, 'how shall I dance
with them?' So, rising quickly, he took the Princess Maybloom by the
hand. The fawn followed them; the maids and the chamberlain followed it,
and all followed the music through the forest. At last they came to the
flowery green. Robin Goodfellow welcomed the company for Fairyfoot's
sake, and gave every one a drink of the fairies' wine. So they danced
there from sunset till the grey morning, and nobody was tired; but
before the lark sang, Robin Goodfellow took them all safe home, as he
used to take Fairyfoot.

"There was great joy that day in the palace because Princess Maybloom's
feet were made small again. The king gave Fairyfoot all manner of fine
clothes and rich jewels; and when they heard his wonderful story, he and
the queen asked him to live with them and be their son. In process of
time Fairyfoot and Princess Maybloom were married, and still live
happily. When they go to visit at Stumpinghame, they always wash their
feet in the Growing Well, lest the royal family might think them a
disgrace, but when they come back, they make haste to the Fair Fountain;
and the fairies and the nightingales are great friends to them, as well
as the maids and the chamberlain, because they have told nobody about
it, and there is peace and quiet yet in the grove of rose-trees."

Here the voice out of the cushion ceased, and two that wore crowns of
gold, and were clothed in cloth of silver, rose up, and said--

"That's our story."

"Mamma," said Princess Greedalind, "if we could find out that Fair
Fountain, and keep it all to ourselves!"

"Yes, my daughter, and the Growing Well to wash our money in," replied
Queen Wantall: but King Winwealth said--

"Excepting yesterday's tale, and the two that went before it, I have not
heard such a story since my brother Wisewit went from me, and was lost
in the forest. Silverspurs, the fourth of my pages, go and bring this
maiden a pearl necklace."

Snowflower received the necklace accordingly, gave her thanks, made her
courtesy, and went down on her grandmother's chair to the servants'
hall. That night they gave her a down pillow, and next day she dined on
a roast chicken. The feasting within and the clamour without went on as
the days before: King Winwealth fell into his accustomed low spirits
after supper, and sent down a message for Snowflower, which was told her
by the master-cook. So the little girl went up in her grandmother's
chair, with red shoes, the clocked hose, the white satin gown, and the
pearl necklace on. All the company welcomed her with joyful looks, and
no sooner had she made her courtesy, and laid down her head,
saying--"Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story," than the clear voice
from under the cushion said--

"Listen to the story of Childe Charity."



"Once upon a time, there lived in the west country a little girl who had
neither father nor mother; they both died when she was very young, and
left their daughter to the care of her uncle, who was the richest farmer
in all that country. He had houses and lands, flocks and herds, many
servants to work about his house and fields, a wife who had brought him
a great dowry, and two fair daughters. All their neighbours, being poor,
looked up to the family--insomuch that they imagined themselves great
people. The father and mother were as proud as peacocks; the daughters
thought themselves the greatest beauties in the world, and not one of
the family would speak civilly to anybody they thought low.

"Now it happened that though she was their near relation, they had this
opinion of the orphan girl, partly because she had no fortune, and
partly because of her humble, kindly disposition. It was said that the
more needy and despised any creature was, the more ready was she to
befriend it: on which account the people of the west country called her
Childe Charity, and if she had any other name, I never heard it. Childe
Charity was thought very mean in that proud house. Her uncle would not
own her for his niece; her cousins would not keep her company; and her
aunt sent her to work in the dairy, and to sleep in the back garret,
where they kept all sorts of lumber and dry herbs for the winter. All
the servants learned the same tune, and Childe Charity had more work
than rest among them. All the day she scoured pails, scrubbed dishes,
and washed crockeryware; but every night she slept in the back garret as
sound as a princess could in her palace chamber.

"Her uncle's house was large and white, and stood among green meadows by
a river's side. In front it had a porch covered with a vine; behind, it
had a farmyard and high granaries. Within, there were two parlours for
the rich, and two kitchens for the poor, which the neighbours thought
wonderfully grand; and one day in the harvest season, when this rich
farmer's corn had been all cut down and housed, he condescended so far
as to invite them to a harvest supper. The west country people came in
their holiday clothes and best behaviour. Such heaps of cakes and
cheese, such baskets of apples and barrels of ale, had never been at
feast before; and they were making merry in kitchen and parlour, when a
poor old woman came to the backdoor, begging for broken victuals and a
night's lodging. Her clothes were coarse and ragged; her hair was scanty
and grey; her back was bent; her teeth were gone. She had a squinting
eye, a clubbed foot, and crooked fingers. In short, she was the poorest
and ugliest old woman that ever came begging. The first who saw her was
the kitchen-maid, and she ordered her to be gone for an ugly witch. The
next was the herd-boy, and he threw her a bone over his shoulder; but
Childe Charity, hearing the noise, came out from her seat at the foot
of the lowest table, and asked the old woman to take her share of the
supper, and sleep that night in her bed in the back garret. The old
woman sat down without a word of thanks. All the company laughed at
Childe Charity for giving her bed and her supper to a beggar. Her proud
cousins said it was just like her mean spirit, but Childe Charity did
not mind them. She scraped the pots for her supper that night and slept
on a sack among the lumber, while the old woman rested in her warm bed;
and next morning, before the little girl awoke, she was up and gone,
without so much as saying thank you, or good morning.

[Illustration: The old woman begs at the door.]

"That day all the servants were sick after the feast, and mostly cross
too--so you may judge how civil they were; when, at supper time, who
should come to the backdoor but the old woman, again asking for broken
victuals and a night's lodging. No one would listen to her or give her a
morsel, till Childe Charity rose from her seat at the foot of the lowest
table, and kindly asked her to take her supper, and sleep in her bed in
the back garret. Again the old woman sat down without a word. Childe
Charity scraped the pots for her supper, and slept on the sack. In the
morning the old woman was gone; but for six nights after, as sure as
the supper was spread, there was she at the backdoor, and the little
girl regularly asked her in.

"Childe Charity's aunt said she would let her get enough of beggars. Her
cousins made continual game of what they called her genteel visitor.
Sometimes the old woman said, 'Child, why don't you make this bed
softer? and why are your blankets so thin?' but she never gave her a
word of thanks nor a civil good morning. At last, on the ninth night
from her first coming, when Childe Charity was getting used to scrape
the pots and sleep on the sack, her accustomed knock came to the door,
and there she stood with an ugly ashy-coloured dog, so stupid-looking
and clumsy that no herd-boy would keep him.

"'Good evening, my little girl,' she said when Childe Charity opened the
door. 'I will not have your supper and bed to-night--I am going on a
long journey to see a friend; but here is a dog of mine, whom nobody in
all the west country will keep for me. He is a little cross, and not
very handsome; but I leave him to your care till the shortest day in all
the year. Then you and I will count for his keeping.'

"When the old woman had said the last word, she set off with such speed
that Childe Charity lost sight of her in a minute. The ugly dog began to
fawn upon her, but he snarled at everybody else. The servants said he
was a disgrace to the house. The proud cousins wanted him drowned, and
it was with great trouble that Childe Charity got leave to keep him in
an old ruined cow-house. Ugly and cross as the dog was, he fawned on
her, and the old woman had left him to her care. So the little girl gave
him part of all her meals, and when the hard frost came, took him
privately to her own back garret, because the cow-house was damp and
cold in the long nights. The dog lay quietly on some straw in a corner.
Childe Charity slept soundly, but every morning the servants would say
to her--

"'What great light and fine talking was that in your back garret?'

"'There was no light but the moon shining in through the shutterless
window, and no talk that I heard,' said Childe Charity, and she thought
they must have been dreaming; but night after night, when any of them
awoke in the dark and silent hour that comes before the morning, they
saw a light brighter and clearer than the Christmas fire, and heard
voices like those of lords and ladies in the back garret.

"Partly from fear, and partly from laziness, none of the servants would
rise to see what might be there; till at length, when the winter nights
were at the longest, the little parlour-maid, who did least work and got
most favour, because she gathered news for her mistress, crept out of
bed when all the rest were sleeping, and set herself to watch at a
crevice of the door. She saw the dog lying quietly in the corner, Childe
Charity sleeping soundly in her bed, and the moon shining through the
shutterless window; but an hour before daybreak there came a glare of
lights, and a sound of far-off bugles. The window opened, and in marched
a troop of little men clothed in crimson and gold, and bearing every man
a torch, till the room looked bright as day. They marched up with great
reverence to the dog, where he lay on the straw, and the most richly
clothed among them said--

"'Royal prince, we have prepared the banquet hall. What will your
highness please that we do next?'

"'Ye have done well,' said the dog. 'Now prepare the feast, and see that
all things be in our first fashion: for the princess and I mean to bring
a stranger who never feasted in our halls before.'

"'Your highness's commands shall be obeyed,' said the little man,
making another reverence; and he and his company passed out of the
window. By and by there was another glare of lights, and a sound like
far-off flutes. The window opened, and there came in a company of little
ladies clad in rose-coloured velvet, and carrying each a crystal lamp.
They also walked with great reverence up to the dog, and the gayest
among them said--

"'Royal prince, we have prepared the tapestry. What will your highness
please that we do next?'

"'Ye have done well,' said the dog. 'Now prepare the robes, and let all
things be in our first fashion: for the princess and I will bring with
us a stranger who never feasted in our halls before.'

"'Your highness's commands shall be obeyed,' said the little lady,
making a low courtesy; and she and her company passed out through the
window, which closed quietly behind them. The dog stretched himself out
upon the straw, the little girl turned in her sleep, and the moon shone
in on the back garret. The parlour-maid was so much amazed, and so
eager to tell this great story to her mistress, that she could not
close her eyes that night, and was up before cock-crow; but when she
told it, her mistress called her a silly wench to have such foolish
dreams, and scolded her so that the parlour-maid durst not mention what
she had seen to the servants. Nevertheless Childe Charity's aunt thought
there might be something in it worth knowing; so next night, when all
the house were asleep, she crept out of bed, and set herself to watch at
the back garret door. There she saw exactly what the maid told her--the
little men with the torches, and the little ladies with the crystal
lamps, come in making great reverence to the dog, and the same words
pass, only he said to the one, 'Now prepare the presents,' and to the
other, 'Prepare the jewels;' and when they were gone the dog stretched
himself on the straw, Childe Charity turned in her sleep, and the moon
shone in on the back garret.

"The mistress could not close her eyes any more than the maid from
eagerness to tell the story. She woke up Childe Charity's rich uncle
before cock-crow; but when he heard it, he laughed at her for a foolish
woman, and advised her not to repeat the like before the neighbours,
lest they should think she had lost her senses. The mistress could say
no more, and the day passed; but that night the master thought he would
like to see what went on in the back garret: so when all the house were
asleep he slipped out of bed, and set himself to watch at the crevice in
the door. The same thing happened again that the maid and the mistress
saw: the little men in crimson with their torches, and the little ladies
in rose-coloured velvet with their lamps, came in at the window, and
made an humble reverence to the ugly dog, the one saying, 'Royal prince,
we have prepared the presents,' and the other, 'Royal prince, we have
prepared the jewels;' and the dog said to them all, 'Ye have done well.
To-morrow come and meet me and the princess with horses and chariots,
and let all things be in our first fashion: for we will bring a stranger
from this house who has never travelled with us, nor feasted in our
halls before.'

"The little men and the little ladies said, 'Your highness's commands
shall be obeyed.' When they had gone out through the window, the ugly
dog stretched himself out on the straw, Childe Charity turned in her
sleep, and the moon shone in on the back garret.

"The master could not close his eyes any more than the maid or the
mistress, for thinking of this strange sight. He remembered to have
heard his grandfather say, that somewhere near his meadows there lay a
path leading to the fairies' country, and the haymakers used to see it
shining through the grey summer morning as the fairy bands went home.
Nobody had heard or seen the like for many years; but the master
concluded that the doings in his back garret must be a fairy business,
and the ugly dog a person of great account. His chief wonder was,
however, what visitor the fairies intended to take from his house; and
after thinking the matter over he was sure it must be one of his
daughters--they were so handsome, and had such fine clothes.

"Accordingly, Childe Charity's rich uncle made it his first business
that morning to get ready a breakfast of roast mutton for the ugly dog,
and carry it to him in the old cow-house; but not a morsel would the dog
taste. On the contrary, he snarled at the master, and would have bitten
him if he had not run away with his mutton.

"'The fairies have strange ways,' said the master to himself; but he
called his daughters privately, bidding them dress themselves in their
best, for he could not say which of them might be called into great
company before nightfall. Childe Charity's proud cousins, hearing this,
put on the richest of their silks and laces, and strutted like peacocks
from kitchen to parlour all day, waiting for the call their father spoke
of, while the little girl scoured and scrubbed in the dairy. They were
in very bad humour when night fell, and nobody had come; but just as the
family were sitting down to supper the ugly dog began to bark, and the
old woman's knock was heard at the backdoor. Childe Charity opened it,
and was going to offer her bed and supper as usual, when the old woman

"'This is the shortest day in all the year, and I am going home to hold
a feast after my travels. I see you have taken good care of my dog, and
now if you will come with me to my house, he and I will do our best to
entertain you. Here is our company.'

"As the old woman spoke there was a sound of far-off flutes and bugles,
then a glare of lights; and a great company, clad so grandly that they
shone with gold and jewels, came in open chariots, covered with gilding
and drawn by snow-white horses. The first and finest of the chariots was
empty. The old woman led Childe Charity to it by the hand, and the ugly
dog jumped in before her. The proud cousins, in all their finery, had by
this time come to the door, but nobody wanted them; and no sooner was
the old woman and her dog within the chariot than a marvellous change
passed over them, for the ugly old woman turned at once to a beautiful
young princess, with long yellow curls and a robe of green and gold,
while the ugly dog at her side started up a fair young prince, with
nut-brown hair and a robe of purple and silver.

"'We are,' said they, as the chariots drove on, and the little girl sat
astonished, 'a prince and princess of Fairyland, and there was a wager
between us whether or not there were good people still to be found in
these false and greedy times. One said Yes, and the other said No; and I
have lost,' said the prince, 'and must pay the feast and presents.'

"Childe Charity never heard any more of that story. Some of the farmer's
household, who were looking after them through the moonlight night, said
the chariots had gone one way across the meadows, some said they had
gone another, and till this day they cannot agree upon the direction.
But Childe Charity went with that noble company into a country such as
she had never seen--for primroses covered all the ground, and the light
was always like that of a summer evening. They took her to a royal
palace, where there was nothing but feasting and dancing for seven days.
She had robes of pale green velvet to wear, and slept in a chamber
inlaid with ivory. When the feast was done, the prince and princess gave
her such heaps of gold and jewels that she could not carry them, but
they gave her a chariot to go home in, drawn by six white horses; and on
the seventh night, which happened to be Christmas time, when the
farmer's family had settled in their own minds that she would never come
back, and were sitting down to supper, they heard the sound of her
coachman's bugle, and saw her alight with all the jewels and gold at the
very backdoor where she had brought in the ugly old woman. The fairy
chariot drove away, and never came back to that farmhouse after. But
Childe Charity scrubbed and scoured no more, for she grew a great lady,
even in the eyes of her proud cousins."

Here the voice out of the cushion ceased, and one, with a fair face and
a robe of pale green velvet, rose from among the company, and said--

"That's my story."

"Mamma," said Princess Greedalind, "if we had some of those fine

"Yes, my daughter," answered Queen Wantall, "and the gold and jewels
too!" But King Winwealth said--

"Excepting yesterday's story, and the three that went before it, I have
not heard such a tale since my brother Wisewit went from me, and was
lost in the forest. Highjinks, the third of my pages, go and bring this
maiden a crimson velvet hat."

Snowflower took the hat and thanked the king, made her courtesy, and
went down on her grandmother's chair to the housekeeper's parlour. Her
blanket was covered with a patchwork quilt that night; next day she had
roast turkey and meat for dinner. But the feast went on in the palace
hall with the usual spites and envies; the clamour and complaints at the
gate were still heard above all the music; and King Winwealth fell into
his wonted low spirits as soon as the supper was over. As usual, a
message came down from the banquet hall, and the chief-butler told
Snowflower that she and her chair were wanted to tell King Winwealth a
story. So she went up with all the presents on, even to the crimson hat,
made her courtesy to the good company, and had scarcely said, "Chair of
my grandmother, tell me a story," when the voice from under the cushion

"Listen to the story of Sour and Civil."



"Once upon a time there stood upon the sea-coast of the west country a
certain hamlet of low cottages, where no one lived but fishermen. All
round it was a broad beach of snow-white sand, where nothing was to be
seen but gulls and cormorants, and long tangled seaweeds cast up by the
tide that came and went night and day, summer and winter. There was no
harbour nor port on all that shore. Ships passed by at a distance, with
their white sails set, and on the land-side there lay wide grassy downs,
where peasants lived and shepherds fed their flocks. The fishermen
thought themselves as well off as any people in that country. Their
families never wanted for plenty of herrings and mackerel; and what they
had to spare the landsmen bought from them at certain village markets on
the downs, giving them in exchange butter, cheese, and corn.

"The two best fishermen in that village were the sons of two old widows,
who had no other children, and happened to be near neighbours. Their
family names were short, for they called the one Sour, and the other
Civil. There was no relationship between them that ever I heard of; but
they had only one boat, and always fished together, though their names
expressed the difference of their humours--for Civil never used a hard
word where a soft one would do, and when Sour was not snarling at
somebody, he was sure to be grumbling at everything.

"Nevertheless they agreed wonderfully, and were lucky fishers. Both were
strong, active, and of good courage. On winter's night or summer's
morning they would steer out to sea far beyond the boats of their
neighbours, and never came home without some fish to cook and some to
spare. Their mothers were proud of them, each in her own fashion--for
the saying held good, 'Like mother, like son.' Dame Civil thought the
whole world didn't hold a better than her son; and her boy was the only
creature at whom Dame Sour didn't scold and frown. The hamlet was
divided in opinion concerning the young fishermen. Some thought Civil
the best; some said, without Sour he would catch nothing. So things went
on, till one day about the fall of winter, when mists were gathering
darkly on sea and sky, and the air was chill and frosty, all the boatmen
of the hamlet went out to fish, and so did Sour and Civil.

"That day they had not their usual luck. Cast their net where they
would, not a single fish came in. Their neighbours caught boatsful, and
went home, Sour said, laughing at them. But when the sea was growing
crimson with the sunset their nets were empty, and they were tired.
Civil himself did not like to go home without fish--it would damage the
high repute they had gained in the village. Besides, the sea was calm
and the evening fair, and, as a last attempt, they steered still further
out, and cast their nets beside a rock which rose rough and grey above
the water, and was called the Merman's Seat--from an old report that the
fishermen's fathers had seen the mermen, or sea-people, sitting there on
moonlight nights. Nobody believed that rumour now, but the villagers did
not like to fish there. The water was said to be deep beyond measure,
and sudden squalls were apt to trouble it; but Sour and Civil were right
glad to see by the moving of their lines that there was something in
their net, and gladder still when they found it so heavy that all their
strength was required to draw it up. Scarcely had they landed it on the
Merman's Seat, when their joy was changed to disappointment, for besides
a few starved mackerel, the net contained nothing but a monstrous ugly
fish as long as Civil (who was taller than Sour), with a huge snout, a
long beard, and a skin covered with prickles.

"'Such a horrid ugly creature!' said Sour, as they shook it out of the
net on the rough rock, and gathered up the mackerel. 'We needn't fish
here any more. How they will mock us in the village for staying out so
late, and bringing home so little!'

"'Let us try again,' said Civil, as he set his creel of mackerel in the

"'Not another cast will I make to-night;' and what more Sour would have
said, was cut short by the great fish, for, looking round at them, it
spoke out--

"'I suppose you don't think me worth taking home in your dirty boat; but
I can tell you that if you were down in my country, neither of you would
be thought fit to keep me company.'

"Sour and Civil were terribly astonished to hear the fish speak. The
first could not think of a cross word to say, but Civil made answer in
his accustomed manner.

"'Indeed, my lord, we beg your pardon, but our boat is too light to
carry such a fish as you.'

"'You do well to call me lord,' said the fish, 'for so I am, though it
was hard to expect you could have known my quality in this dress.
However, help me off the rock, for I must go home; and for your civility
I will give you my daughter in marriage, if you will come and see me
this day twelvemonth.'

"Civil helped the great fish off the rock as respectfully as his fear
would allow him. Sour was so terrified at the whole transaction, that
he said not a word till they got safe home; but from that day forward,
when he wanted to put Civil down, it was his custom to tell him and his
mother that he would get no wife but the ugly fish's daughter.

"Old Dame Sour heard this story from her son, and told it over the whole
village. Some people wondered, but the most part laughed at it as a good
joke; and Civil and his mother were never known to be angry but on that
occasion. Dame Civil advised her son never to fish with Sour again; and
as the boat happened to be his, Civil got an old skiff which one of the
fishermen was going to break up for firewood, and cobbled it up for

"In that skiff he went to sea alone all the winter, and all the summer;
but though Civil was brave and skilful, he could catch little, because
his boat was bad--and everybody but his mother began to think him of no
value. Sour having the good boat got a new comrade, and had the praise
of being the best fisherman.

"Poor Civil's heart was getting low as the summer wore away. The fish
had grown scarce on that coast, and the fishermen had to steer further
out to sea. One evening when he had toiled all day and caught nothing,
Civil thought he would go further too, and try his fortune beside the
Merman's rock. The sea was calm, and the evening fair; Civil did not
remember that it was the very day on which his troubles began by the
great fish talking to him twelve months before. As he neared the rock
the sun was setting, and much astonished was the fisherman to see upon
it three fair ladies, with sea-green gowns and strings of great pearls
wound round their long fair hair; two of them were waving their hands to
him. They were the tallest and stateliest ladies he had ever seen; but
Civil could perceive as he came nearer that there was no colour in their
cheeks, that their hair had a strange bluish shade, like that of deep
sea-water, and there was a fiery light in their eyes that frightened
him. The third, who was less of stature, did not notice him at all, but
kept her eyes fixed on the setting sun. Though her look was mournful,
Civil could see that there was a faint rosy bloom on her cheek--that her
hair was a golden yellow, and her eyes were mild and clear like those of
his mother.

[Illustration: Civil and the three sea maidens.]

"'Welcome! welcome! noble fisherman!' cried the two ladies. 'Our father
has sent us for you to visit him,' and with one bound they leaped into
his boat, bringing with them the smaller lady, who said--

"'Oh! bright sun and brave sky that I see so seldom!' But Civil heard no
more, for his boat went down miles deep in the sea, and he thought
himself drowning; but one lady had caught him by the right arm, and the
other by the left, and pulled him into the mouth of a rocky cave, where
there was no water. On they went, still down and down, as if on a steep
hill-side. The cave was very long, but it grew wider as they came to the
bottom. Then Civil saw a faint light, and walked out with his fair
company into the country of the sea-people. In that land there grew
neither grass nor flowers, bushes nor trees, but the ground was covered
with bright-coloured shells and pebbles. There were hills of marble, and
rocks of spar; and over all a cold blue sky with no sun, but a light
clear and silvery as that of the harvest moon. The fisherman could see
no smoking chimneys, but there were grottoes in the sparry rocks, and
halls in the marble hills, where lived the sea-people--with whom, as old
stories say, fishermen and mariners used to meet on lonely capes and
headlands in the simple times of the world.

"Forth they came in all directions to see the stranger. Mermen with long
white beards, and mermaids such as walk with the fishermen, all clad in
sea-green, and decorated with strings of pearls; but every one with the
same colourless face, and the same wild light in their eyes. The
mermaids led Civil up one of the marble hills to a great cavern with
halls and chambers like a palace. Their floors were of alabaster, their
walls of porphyry, and their ceilings inlaid with coral. Thousands of
crystal lamps lit the palace. There were seats and tables hewn out of
shining spar, and a great company sat feasting; but what most amazed
Civil was the quantity of cups, flagons, and goblets, made of gold and
silver, of such different shapes and patterns that they seemed to have
been gathered from all the countries in the world. In the chief hall
there sat a merman on a stately chair, with more jewels than all the
rest about him. Before him the mermaids brought Civil, saying--

"'Father, here is our guest.'

"'Welcome, noble fisherman!' cried the merman, in a voice which Civil
remembered with terror, for it was that of the great ugly fish; 'welcome
to our halls! Sit down and feast with us, and then choose which of my
daughters you will have for a bride.'

"Civil had never felt himself so thoroughly frightened in all his life.
How was he to get home to his mother? and what would the old dame think
when the dark night came without bringing him home? There was no use in
talking--Civil had wisdom enough to see that: he therefore tried to take
things quietly; and, having thanked the merman for his invitation, took
the seat assigned him on his right hand. Civil was hungry with the long
day at sea, but there was no want of fare on that table: meats and
wines, such as he had never tasted, were set before him in the richest
of golden dishes: but, hungry as he was, the fisherman perceived that
everything there had the taste and smell of the sea.

"If the fisherman had been the lord of lands and castles he would not
have been treated with more respect. The two mermaids sat by him--one
filled his plate, another filled his goblet; but the third only looked
at him in a stealthy, warning way when nobody perceived her. Civil soon
finished his share of the feast, and then the merman showed him all the
splendours of his cavern. The halls were full of company, some feasting,
some dancing, and some playing all manner of games, and in every hall
was the same abundance of gold and silver vessels; but Civil was most
astonished when the merman brought him to a marble chamber full of heaps
of precious stones. There were diamonds there whose value the fisherman
knew not--pearls larger than ever a diver had gathered--emeralds,
sapphires, and rubies, that would have made the jewellers of the world
wonder; the merman then said--

"'This is my eldest daughter's dowry.'

"'Good luck attend her!' said Civil. 'It is the dowry of a queen.' But
the merman led him on to another chamber: it was filled with heaps of
gold coin, which seemed gathered from all times and nations. The images
and inscriptions of all the kings that ever reigned were there; and the
merman said:

"'This is my second daughter's dowry.'

"'Good luck attend her!' said Civil. 'It is a dowry for a princess.'

"'So you may say,' replied the merman. 'But make up your mind which of
the maidens you will marry, for the third has no portion at all, because
she is not my daughter; but only, as you may see, a poor silly girl
taken into my family for charity.'

"'Truly, my lord,' said Civil, whose mind was already made up, 'both
your daughters are too rich and far too noble for me; therefore I
choose the third. Her poverty will best become my estate of a poor

"'If you choose her,' said the merman, 'you must wait long for a
wedding. I cannot allow an inferior girl to be married before my own
daughters.' And he said a great deal more to persuade him; but Civil
would not change his mind, and they returned to the hall.

"There was no more attention for the fisherman, but everybody watched
him well. Turn where he would, master or guest had their eyes upon him,
though he made them the best speeches he could remember, and praised all
their splendours. One thing, however, was strange--there was no end to
the fun and the feasting; nobody seemed tired, and nobody thought of
sleep. When Civil's very eyes closed with weariness, and he slept on one
of the marble benches--no matter how many hours--there were the company
feasting and dancing away; there were the thousand lamps within, and the
cold moonlight without. Civil wished himself back with his mother, his
net, and his cobbled skiff. Fishing would have been easier than those
everlasting feasts; but there was nothing else among the sea-people--no
night of rest, no working day.

"Civil knew not how time went on, till, waking up from a long sleep, he
saw, for the first time, that the feast was over, and the company gone.
The lamps still burned, and the tables, with all their riches, stood in
the empty halls; but there was no face to be seen, no sound to be heard,
only a low voice singing beside the outer door; and there, sitting all
alone, he found the mild-eyed maiden.

"'Fair lady,' said Civil, 'tell me what means this quietness, and where
are all the merry company?'

"'You are a man of the land,' said the lady, 'and know not the
sea-people. They never sleep but once a year, and that is at Christmas
time. Then they go into the deep caverns, where there is always
darkness, and sleep till the new year comes.'

"'It is a strange fashion,' said Civil; 'but all folks have their way.
Fair lady, as you and I are to be good friends, tell me, whence come all
the wines and meats, and gold and silver vessels, seeing there are
neither cornfields nor flocks here, workmen nor artificers?'

"'The sea-people are heirs of the sea,' replied the maiden; 'to them
come all the stores and riches that are lost in it. I know not the ways
by which they come; but the lord of these halls keeps the keys of seven
gates, where they go out and in; but one of the gates, which has not
been open for thrice seven years, leads to a path under the sea, by
which, I heard the merman say in his cups, one might reach the land.
Good fisherman, if by chance you gain his favour, and ever open that
gate, let me bear you company; for I was born where the sun shines and
the grass grows, though my country and my parents are unknown to me. All
I remember is sailing in a great ship, when a storm arose, and it was
wrecked, and not one soul escaped drowning but me. I was then a little
child, and a brave sailor had bound me to a floating plank before he was
washed away. Here the sea-people came round me like great fishes, and I
went down with them to this rich and weary country. Sometimes, as a
great favour, they take me up with them to see the sun; but that is
seldom, for they never like to part with one who has seen their country;
and, fisherman, if you ever leave them, remember to take nothing with
you that belongs to them, for if it were but a shell or a pebble, that
will give them power over you and yours.'

"'Thanks for your news, fair lady,' said Civil. 'A lord's daughter,
doubtless, you must have been, while I am but a poor fisherman; yet, as
we have fallen into the same misfortune, let us be friends, and it may
be we shall find means to get back to the sunshine together.'

"'You are a man of good manners,' said the lady, 'therefore, I accept
your friendship; but my fear is that we shall never see the sunshine

"'Fair speeches brought me here,' said Civil, 'and fair speeches may
help me back; but be sure I will not go without you.'"

"This promise cheered the lady's heart, and she and Civil spent that
Christmas time seeing the wonders of the sea country. They wandered
through caves like that of the great merman. The unfinished feast was
spread in every hall; the tables were covered with most costly vessels;
and heaps of jewels lay on the floors of unlocked chambers. But for the
lady's warning, Civil would fain have put away some of them for his

"The poor woman was sad of heart by this time, believing her son to be
drowned. On the first night when he did not come home, she had gone down
to the sea and watched till morning. Then the fishermen steered out
again, and Sour having found his skiff floating about, brought it home,
saying, the foolish young man was doubtless lost; but what better could
be expected when he had no discreet person to take care of him?

"This grieved Dame Civil sore. She never expected to see her son again;
but, feeling lonely in her cottage at the evening hour when he used to
come home, the good woman accustomed herself to go down at sunset and
sit beside the sea. That winter happened to be mild on the coast of the
west country, and one evening when the Christmas time was near, and the
rest of the village preparing to make merry, Dame Civil sat, as usual,
on the sands. The tide was ebbing and the sun going down, when from the
eastward came a lady clad in black, mounted on a black palfrey, and
followed by a squire in the same sad clothing; as the lady came near,
she said--

"'Woe is me for my daughter, and for all that have lost by the sea!'

"'You say well, noble lady,' said Dame Civil. 'Woe is me also for my
son, for I have none beside him.'

"When the lady heard that, she alighted from her palfrey, and sat down
by the fisherman's mother, saying--

"'Listen to my story. I was the widow of a great lord in the heart of
the east country. He left me a fair castle, and an only daughter, who
was the joy of my heart. Her name was Faith Feignless; but, while she
was yet a child, a great fortune-teller told me that my daughter would
marry a fisherman. I thought this would be a great disgrace to my noble
family, and, therefore, sent my daughter with her nurse in a good ship,
bound for a certain city where my relations live, intending to follow
myself as soon as I could get my lands and castles sold. But the ship
was wrecked, and my daughter drowned; and I have wandered over the world
with my good Squire Trusty, mourning on every shore with those who have
lost friends by the sea. Some with whom I have mourned grew to forget
their sorrow, and would lament with me no more; others being sour and
selfish, mocked me, saying, my grief was nothing to them: but you have
good manners, and I will remain with you, however humble be your
dwelling. My squire carries gold enough to pay all our charges.' So the
mourning lady and her good Squire Trusty went home with Dame Civil, and
she was no longer lonely in her sorrow, for when the dame said--

"'Oh! if my son were alive, I should never let him go to sea in a
cobbled skiff!' the lady answered--

"'Oh! if my daughter were but living, I should never think it a disgrace
though she married a fisherman!'

"The Christmas passed as it always does in the west country--shepherds
made merry on the downs, and fishermen on the shore; but when the
merrymakings and ringing of bells were over in all the land, the
sea-people woke up to their continual feasts and dances. Like one that
had forgotten all that was past, the merman again showed Civil the
chamber of gold and the chamber of jewels, advising him to choose
between his two daughters; but the fisherman still answered that the
ladies were too noble, and far too rich for him. Yet as he looked at the
glittering heap, Civil could not help recollecting the poverty of the
west country, and the thought slipped out--

"'How happy my old neighbours would be to find themselves here!'

"'Say you so?' said the merman, who always wanted visitors.

"'Yes,' said Civil, 'I have neighbours up yonder in the west country
whom it would be hard to send home again if they got sight of half this
wealth;' and the honest fisherman thought of Dame Sour and her son.

"The merman was greatly delighted with these speeches--he thought there
was a probability of getting many land-people down, and by and by said
to Civil--

"'Suppose you took up a few jewels, and went up to tell your poor
neighbours how welcome we might make them?'

"The prospect of getting back to his country rejoiced Civil's heart, but
he had promised not to go without the lady, and therefore, answered
prudently what was indeed true--

"'Many thanks, my lord, for choosing such a humble man as I am to bear
your message; but the people of the west country never believe anything
without two witnesses at the least; yet if the poor maid whom I have
chosen could be permitted to accompany me, I think they would believe us

"The merman said nothing in reply, but his people, who had heard Civil's
speech, talked it over among themselves till they grew sure that the
whole west country would come down, if they only had news of the riches,
and petitioned their lord to send up Civil and the poor maid by way of
letting them know.

"As it seemed for the public good, the great merman consented; but,
being determined to have them back, he gathered out of his treasure
chamber some of the largest pearls and diamonds that lay convenient, and

"'Take these as a present from me, to let the west country people see
what I can do for my visitors.'

"Civil and the lady took the presents, saying--

"'Oh, my lord, you are too generous. We want nothing but the pleasure of
telling of your marvellous riches up yonder.'

"'Tell everybody to come down, and they will get the like,' said the
merman; 'and follow my eldest daughter, for she carries the key of the
land gate.'

"Civil and the lady followed the mermaid through a winding gallery,
which led from the chief banquet hall far into the marble hill. All was
dark, and they had neither lamp nor torch, but at the end of the
gallery they came to a great stone gate, which creaked like thunder on
its hinges. Beyond that there was a narrow cave, sloping up and up like
a steep hill-side. Civil and the lady thought they would never reach the
top; but at last they saw a gleam of daylight, then a strip of blue sky,
and the mermaid bade them stoop and creep through what seemed a crevice
in the ground, and both stood up on the broad sea-beach as the day was
breaking and the tide ebbing fast away.

"'Good times to you among your west country people,' said the mermaid.
'Tell any of them that would like to come down to visit us, that they
must come here midway between the high and low water-mark, when the tide
is going out at morning or evening. Call thrice on the sea-people, and
we will show them the way.'

"Before they could make answer, she had sunk down from their sight, and
there was no track or passage there, but all was covered by the loose
sand and sea-shells.

"'Now,' said the lady to Civil, 'we have seen the heavens once more, and
we will not go back. Cast in the merman's present quickly before the sun
rises;' and taking the bag of pearls and diamonds, she flung it as far
as she could into the sea.

"Civil never was so unwilling to part with anything as that bag, but he
thought it better to follow a good example, and tossed his into the sea
also. They thought they heard a long moan come up from the waters; but
Civil saw his mother's chimney beginning to smoke, and with the fair
lady in her sea-green gown he hastened to the good dame's cottage.

"The whole village were woke up that morning with cries of 'Welcome
back, my son!' 'Welcome back, my daughter!' for the mournful lady knew
it was her lost daughter, Faith Feignless, whom the fisherman had
brought back, and all the neighbours assembled to hear their story. When
it was told, everybody praised Civil for the prudence he had shown in
his difficulties, except Sour and his mother: they did nothing but rail
upon him for losing such great chances of making himself and the whole
country rich. At last, when they heard over and over again of the
merman's treasures, neither mother nor son would consent to stay any
longer in the west country, and as nobody persuaded them, and they would
not take Civil's direction, Sour got out his boat and steered away with
his mother toward the Merman's Rock. From that voyage they never came
back to the hamlet. Some say they went down and lived among the
sea-people; others say--I know not how they learned it--that Sour and
his mother grumbled and growled so much that even the sea-people grew
weary of them, and turned them and their boat out on the open sea. What
part of the world they chose to land on nobody is certain: by all
accounts they have been seen everywhere, and I should not be surprised
if they were in this good company. As for Civil, he married Faith
Feignless, and became a great lord."

Here the voice ceased, and two that were clad in sea-green silk, with
coronets of pearls, rose up, and said--

"That's our story."

"Oh, mamma, if we could get down to that country!" said Princess

"And bring all the treasures back with us!" answered Queen Wantall.

"Except the tale of yesterday, and the four that went before it, I have
not heard such a story since my brother Wisewit went from me, and was
lost in the forest," said King Winwealth. "Readyrein, the second of my
pages, rise, and bring this maiden a purple velvet mantle."

The mantle was brought, and Snowflower having thanked the king, went
down upon her grandmother's chair; but that night the little girl went
no further than the lowest banquet hall, where she was bidden to stay
and share the feast, and sleep hard by in a wainscot chamber. That she
was well entertained there is no doubt, for King Winwealth had been
heard to say that it was not clear to him how he could have got through
the seven days' feast without her grandmother's chair and its stories;
but next day being the last of the seven, things were gayer than ever in
the palace. The music had never been so merry, the dishes so rich, or
the wines so rare; neither had the clamours at the gate ever been so
loud, nor the disputes and envies so many in the halls.

Perhaps it was these doings that brought the low spirits earlier than
usual on King Winwealth, for after dinner his majesty fell into them so
deeply that a message came down from the highest banquet hall, and the
cupbearer told Snowflower to go up with her chair, for King Winwealth
wished to hear another story.

Now the little girl put on all her finery, from the pink shoes to the
purple mantle, and went up with her chair, looking so like a princess
that the whole company rose to welcome her. But having made her
courtesy, and laid down her head, saying, "Chair of my grandmother, tell
me a story," the clear voice from under the cushion answered--

"Listen to the Story of Merrymind."



"Once upon a time there lived in the north country a certain poor man
and his wife, who had two corn-fields, three cows, five sheep, and
thirteen children. Twelve of these children were called by names common
in the north country--Hardhead, Stiffneck, Tightfingers, and the like;
but when the thirteenth came to be named, either the poor man and his
wife could remember no other name, or something in the child's look made
them think it proper, for they called him Merrymind, which the
neighbours thought a strange name, and very much above their station:
however, as they showed no other signs of pride, the neighbours let that
pass. Their thirteen children grew taller and stronger every year, and
they had hard work to keep them in bread; but when the youngest was old
enough to look after his father's sheep, there happened the great fair,
to which everybody in the north country went, because it came only once
in seven years, and was held on midsummer-day,--not in any town or
village, but on a green plain, lying between a broad river and a high
hill, where it was said the fairies used to dance in old and merry

"Merchants and dealers of all sorts crowded to that fair from far and
near. There was nothing known in the north country that could not be
bought or sold in it, and neither old nor young were willing to go home
without a fairing. The poor man who owned this large family could afford
them little to spend in such ways; but as the fair happened only once
in seven years, he would not show a poor spirit. Therefore, calling them
about him, he opened the leathern bag in which his savings were stored,
and gave every one of the thirteen a silver penny.

"The boys and girls had never before owned so much pocket-money; and,
wondering what they should buy, they dressed themselves in their holiday
clothes, and set out with their father and mother to the fair. When they
came near the ground that midsummer morning, the stalls, heaped up with
all manner of merchandise, from gingerbread upwards, the tents for fun
and feasting, the puppet-shows, the rope-dancers, and the crowd of
neighbours and strangers, all in their best attire, made those simple
people think their north country fair the finest sight in the world. The
day wore away in seeing wonders, and in chatting with old friends. It
was surprising how far silver pennies went in those days; but before
evening twelve of the thirteen had got fairly rid of their money. One
bought a pair of brass buckles, another a crimson riband, a third green
garters; the father bought a tobacco-pipe, the mother a horn
snuffbox--in short, all had provided themselves with fairings except

"The cause of the silver penny remaining in his pocket was that he had
set his heart upon a fiddle; and fiddles enough there were in the
fair--small and large, plain and painted: he looked at and priced the
most of them, but there was not one that came within the compass of a
silver penny. His father and mother warned him to make haste with his
purchase, for they must all go home at sunset, because the way was long.

[Illustration: Merrymind at the fair.]

"The sun was getting low and red upon the hill; the fair was growing
thin, for many dealers had packed up their stalls and departed; but
there was a mossy hollow in the great hill-side, to which the outskirts
of the fair had reached, and Merrymind thought he would see what might
be there. The first thing was a stall of fiddles, kept by a young
merchant from a far country, who had many customers, his goods being
fine and new; but hard by sat a little grey-haired man, at whom
everybody had laughed that day, because he had nothing on his stall but
one old dingy fiddle, and all its strings were broken. Nevertheless, the
little man sat as stately, and cried, 'Fiddles to sell!' as if he had
the best stall in the fair.

"'Buy a fiddle, my young master?' he said, as Merrymind came forward.
'You shall have it cheap: I ask but a silver penny for it; and if the
strings were mended, its like would not be in the north country.'

"Merrymind thought this a great bargain. He was a handy boy, and could
mend the strings while watching his father's sheep. So down went the
silver penny on the little man's stall, and up went the fiddle under
Merrymind's arm.

"'Now, my young master,' said the little man, 'you see that we merchants
have a deal to look after, and if you help me to bundle up my stall, I
will tell you a wonderful piece of news about that fiddle.'

"Merrymind was good-natured and fond of news, so he helped him to tie up
the loose boards and sticks that composed his stall with an old rope,
and when they were hoisted on his back like a fagot, the little man

"'About that fiddle, my young master: it is certain the strings can
never be mended, nor made new, except by threads from the
night-spinners, which, if you get, it will be a good pennyworth;' and up
the hill he ran like a greyhound.

"Merrymind thought that was queer news, but being given to hope the
best, he believed the little man was only jesting, and made haste to
join the rest of the family, who were soon on their way home. When they
got there every one showed his bargain, and Merrymind showed his fiddle;
but his brothers and sisters laughed at him for buying such a thing when
he had never learned to play. His sisters asked him what music he could
bring out of broken strings; and his father said--

"'Thou hast shown little prudence in laying out thy first penny, from
which token I fear thou wilt never have many to lay out.'

"In short, everybody threw scorn on Merrymind's bargain except his
mother. She, good woman, said if he laid out one penny ill, he might lay
out the next better; and who knew but his fiddle would be of use some
day? To make her words good, Merrymind fell to repairing the strings--he
spent all his time, both night and day, upon them; but, true to the
little man's parting words, no mending would stand, and no string would
hold on that fiddle. Merrymind tried everything, and wearied himself to
no purpose. At last he thought of inquiring after people who spun at
night; and this seemed such a good joke to the north country people,
that they wanted no other till the next fair.

"In the meantime Merrymind lost credit at home and abroad. Everybody
believed in his father's prophecy; his brothers and sisters valued him
no more than a herd-boy; the neighbours thought he must turn out a
scapegrace. Still the boy would not part with his fiddle. It was his
silver pennyworth, and he had a strong hope of mending the strings for
all that had come and gone; but since nobody at home cared for him
except his mother, and as she had twelve other children, he resolved to
leave the scorn behind him, and go to seek his fortune.

"The family were not very sorry to hear of that intention, being in a
manner ashamed of him; besides, they could spare one out of thirteen.
His father gave him a barley cake, and his mother her blessing. All his
brothers and sisters wished him well. Most of the neighbours hoped that
no harm would happen to him; and Merrymind set out one summer morning
with the broken-stringed fiddle under his arm.

"There were no highways then in the north country--people took whatever
path pleased them best; so Merrymind went over the fair ground and up
the hill, hoping to meet the little man, and learn something of the
night-spinners. The hill was covered with heather to the top, and he
went up without meeting any one. On the other side it was steep and
rocky, and after a hard scramble down, he came to a narrow glen all
overgrown with wild furze and brambles. Merrymind had never met with
briars so sharp, but he was not the boy to turn back readily, and
pressed on in spite of torn clothes and scratched hands, till he came to
the end of the glen, where two paths met: one of them wound through a
pine-wood, he knew not how far, but it seemed green and pleasant. The
other was a rough, stony way leading to a wide valley surrounded by high
hills, and overhung by a dull, thick mist, though it was yet early in
the summer evening.

"Merrymind was weary with his long journey, and stood thinking of what
path to choose, when, by the way of the valley, there came an old man as
tall and large as any three men of the north country. His white hair and
beard hung like tangled flax about him; his clothes were made of
sackcloth; and on his back he carried a heavy burden of dust heaped high
in a great pannier.

"'Listen to me, you lazy vagabond!' he said, coming near to Merrymind:
'if you take the way through the wood I know not what will happen to
you; but if you choose this path you must help me with my pannier, and I
can tell you it's no trifle.'

"'Well, father,' said Merrymind, 'you seem tired, and I am younger than
you, though not quite so tall; so, if you please, I will choose this
way, and help you along with the pannier.'

"Scarce had he spoken when the huge man caught hold of him, firmly bound
one side of the pannier to his shoulders with the same strong rope that
fastened it on his own back, and never ceased scolding and calling him
names as they marched over the stony ground together. It was a rough way
and a heavy burden, and Merrymind wished himself a thousand times out of
the old man's company, but there was no getting off; and at length, in
hopes of beguiling the way, and putting him in better humour, he began
to sing an old rhyme which his mother had taught him. By this time they
had entered the valley, and the night had fallen very dark and cold. The
old man ceased scolding, and by a feeble glimmer of the moonlight, which
now began to shine, Merrymind saw that they were close by a deserted
cottage, for its door stood open to the night winds. Here the old man
paused, and loosed the rope from his own and Merrymind's shoulders.

"'For seven times seven years,' he said, 'have I carried this pannier,
and no one ever sang while helping me before. Night releases all men, so
I release you. Where will you sleep--by my kitchen fire, or in that cold

"Merrymind thought he had got quite enough of the old man's society,
and therefore answered--

"'The cottage, good father, if you please.'

"'A sound sleep to you, then!' said the old man, and he went off with
his pannier.

"Merrymind stepped into the deserted cottage. The moon was shining
through door and window, for the mist was gone, and the night looked
clear as day; but in all the valley he could hear no sound, nor was
there any trace of inhabitants in the cottage. The hearth looked as if
there had not been a fire there for years. A single article of furniture
was not to be seen; but Merrymind was sore weary, and, laying himself
down in a corner, with his fiddle close by, he fell fast asleep.

"The floor was hard, and his clothes were thin, but all through his
sleep there came a sweet sound of singing voices and spinning-wheels,
and Merrymind thought he must have been dreaming when he opened his eyes
next morning on the bare and solitary house. The beautiful night was
gone, and the heavy mist had come back. There was no blue sky, no bright
sun to be seen. The light was cold and grey, like that of mid-winter;
but Merrymind ate the half of his barley cake, drank from a stream hard
by, and went out to see the valley.

"It was full of inhabitants, and they were all busy in houses, in
fields, in mills, and in forges. The men hammered and delved; the women
scrubbed and scoured; the very children were hard at work: but Merrymind
could hear neither talk nor laughter among them. Every face looked
careworn and cheerless, and every word was something about work or gain.

"Merrymind thought this unreasonable, for everybody there appeared rich.
The women scrubbed in silk, the men delved in scarlet. Crimson curtains,
marble floors, and shelves of silver tankards were to be seen in every
house; but their owners took neither ease nor pleasure in them, and
every one laboured as it were for life.

"The birds of that valley did not sing--they were too busy pecking and
building. The cats did not lie by the fire--they were all on the watch
for mice. The dogs went out after hares on their own account. The cattle
and sheep grazed as if they were never to get another mouthful; and the
herdsmen were all splitting wood or making baskets.

"In the midst of the valley there stood a stately castle, but instead of
park and gardens, brew-houses and washing-greens lay round it. The gates
stood open, and Merrymind ventured in. The courtyard was full of
coopers. They were churning in the banquet hall. They were making cheese
on the dais, and spinning and weaving in all its principal chambers. In
the highest tower of that busy castle, at a window from which she could
see the whole valley, there sat a noble lady. Her dress was rich, but of
a dingy drab colour. Her hair was iron-grey; her look was sour and
gloomy. Round her sat twelve maidens of the same aspect, spinning on
ancient distaffs, and the lady spun as hard as they, but all the yarn
they made was jet black.

"No one in or out of the castle would reply to Merrymind's salutations,
nor answer him any questions. The rich men pulled out their purses,
saying, 'Come and work for wages!' The poor men said, 'We have no time
to talk!' A cripple by the wayside wouldn't answer him, he was so busy
begging; and a child by a cottage-door said it must go to work. All day
Merrymind wandered about With his broken-stringed fiddle, and all day he
saw the great old man marching round and round the valley with his heavy
burden of dust.

"'It is the dreariest valley that ever I beheld!' he said to himself.
'And no place to mend my fiddle in; but one would not like to go away
without knowing what has come over the people, or if they have always
worked so hard and heavily.'

"By this time the night again came on: he knew it by the clearing mist
and the rising moon. The people began to hurry home in all directions.
Silence came over house and field; and near the deserted cottage
Merrymind met the old man.

"'Good father,' he said, 'I pray you tell me what sport or pastime have
the people of this valley?'

"'Sport and pastime!' cried the old man, in great wrath. 'Where did you
hear of the like? We work by day and sleep by night. There is no sport
in Dame Dreary's land!' and, with a hearty scolding for his idleness and
levity, he left Merrymind to sleep once more in the cottage.

"That night the boy did not sleep so sound: though too drowsy to open
his eyes, he was sure there had been singing and spinning near him all
night; and, resolving to find out what this meant before he left the
valley, Merrymind ate the other half of his barley cake, drank again
from the stream, and went out to see the country.

"The same heavy mist shut out sun and sky; the same hard work went
forward wherever he turned his eyes; and the great old man with the
dust-pannier strode on his accustomed round. Merrymind could find no one
to answer a single question; rich and poor wanted him to work still more
earnestly than the day before; and fearing that some of them might press
him into service, he wandered away to the furthest end of the valley.

"There, there was no work, for the land lay bare and lonely, and was
bounded by grey crags, as high and steep as any castle-wall. There was
no passage or outlet, but through a great iron gate secured with a heavy
padlock: close by it stood a white tent, and in the door a tall soldier,
with one arm, stood smoking a long pipe. He was the first idle man
Merrymind had seen in the valley, and his face looked to him like that
of a friend; so coming up with his best bow, the boy said--

"'Honourable master soldier, please to tell me what country is this, and
why do the people work so hard?'

"'Are you a stranger in this place, that you ask such questions?'
answered the soldier.

"'Yes,' said Merrymind; 'I came but the evening before yesterday.'

"'Then I am sorry for you, for here you must remain. My orders are to
let everybody in and nobody out; and the giant with the dust-pannier
guards the other entrance night and day,' said the soldier.

"'That is bad news,' said Merrymind; 'but since I am here, please to
tell me why were such laws made, and what is the story of this valley?'

"'Hold my pipe, and I will tell you,' said the soldier, 'for nobody else
will take the time. This valley belongs to the lady of yonder castle,
whom, for seven times seven years, men have called Dame Dreary. She had
another name in her youth--they called her Lady Littlecare; and then the
valley was the fairest spot in all the north country. The sun shone
brightest there; the summers lingered longest. Fairies danced on the
hill-tops; singing-birds sat on all the trees. Strongarm, the last of
the giants, kept the pine-forest, and hewed yule logs out of it, when he
was not sleeping in the sun. Two fair maidens, clothed in white, with
silver wheels on their shoulders, came by night, and spun golden
threads by the hearth of every cottage. The people wore homespun, and
drank out of horn; but they had merry times. There were May-games,
harvest-homes and Christmas cheer among them. Shepherds piped on the
hill-sides, reapers sang in the fields, and laughter came with the red
firelight out of every house in the evening. All that was changed,
nobody knows how, for the old folks who remembered it are dead. Some say
it was because of a magic ring which fell from the lady's finger; some
because of a spring in the castle-court which went dry. However it was,
the lady turned Dame Dreary. Hard work and hard times overspread the
valley. The mist came down; the fairies departed; the giant Strongarm
grew old, and took up a burden of dust; and the night-spinners were seen
no more in any man's dwelling. They say it will be so till Dame Dreary
lays down her distaff, and dances; but all the fiddlers of the north
country have tried their merriest tunes to no purpose. The king is a
wise prince and a great warrior. He has filled two treasure-houses, and
conquered all his enemies; but he cannot change the order of Dame
Dreary's land. I cannot tell you what great rewards he offered to any
who could do it; but when no good came of his offers, the king feared
that similar fashions might spread among his people, and therefore made
a law that whomsoever entered should not leave it. His majesty took me
captive in war, and placed me here to keep the gate, and save his
subjects trouble. If I had not brought my pipe with me, I should have
been working as hard as any of them by this time, with my one arm. Young
master, if you take my advice you will learn to smoke.'

"'If my fiddle were mended it would be better,' said Merrymind; and he
sat talking with the soldier till the mist began to clear and the moon
to rise, and then went home to sleep in the deserted cottage.

"It was late when he came near it, and the moonlight night looked lovely
beside the misty day. Merrymind thought it was a good time for trying to
get out of the valley. There was no foot abroad, and no appearance of
the giant; but as Merrymind drew near to where the two paths met, there
was he fast asleep beside a fire of pinecones, with his pannier at his
head, and a heap of stones close by him. 'Is that your kitchen-fire?'
thought the boy to himself, and he tried to steal past; but Strongarm
started up, and pursued him with stones, and calling him bad names, half
way back to the cottage.

"Merrymind was glad to run the whole way for fear of him. The door was
still open, and the moon was shining in; but by the fireless hearth
there sat two fair maidens, all in white, spinning on silver wheels, and
singing together a blithe and pleasant tune like the larks on
May-morning. Merrymind could have listened all night, but suddenly he
bethought him that these must be the night-spinners, whose threads would
mend his fiddle; so, stepping with reverence and good courage, he said--

"'Honourable ladies, I pray you give a poor boy a thread to mend his

"'For seven times seven years,' said the fair maidens, 'have we spun by
night in this deserted cottage, and no mortal has seen or spoken to us.
Go and gather sticks through all the valley to make a fire for us on
this cold hearth, and each of us will give you a thread for your pains.'

"Merrymind took his broken fiddle with him, and went through all the
valley gathering sticks by the moonlight; but so careful were the people
of Dame Dreary's land, that scarce a stick could be found, and the moon
was gone, and the misty day had come before he was able to come back
with a small fagot. The cottage-door was still open; the fair maidens
and their silver wheels were gone; but on the floor where they sat lay
two long threads of gold.

"Merrymind first heaped up his fagot on the hearth, to be ready against
their coming at night, and next took up the golden threads to mend his
fiddle. Then he learned the truth of the little man's saying at the
fair, for no sooner were the strings fastened with those golden threads
than they became firm. The old dingy fiddle too began to shine and
glisten, and at length it was golden also. This sight made Merrymind so
joyful, that, unlearned as he was in music, the boy tried to play.
Scarce had his bow touched the strings when they began to play of
themselves the same blithe and pleasant tune which the night-spinners
sang together.

"'Some of the workers will stop for the sake of this tune,' said
Merrymind, and he went out along the valley with his fiddle. The music
filled the air; the busy people heard it; and never was such a day seen
in Dame Dreary's land. The men paused in their delving; the women
stopped their scrubbing; the little children dropped their work; and
every one stood still in their places while Merrymind and his fiddle
passed on. When he came to the castle, the coopers cast down their tools
in the court; the churning and cheesemaking ceased in the banquet hall;
the looms and spinning-wheels stopped in the principal chambers; and
Dame Dreary's distaff stood still in her hand.

"Merrymind played through the halls and up the tower-stairs. As he came
near, the dame cast down her distaff, and danced with all her might. All
her maidens did the like; and as they danced she grew young again--the
sourness passed from her looks, and the greyness from her hair. They
brought her the dress of white and cherry-colour she used to wear in her
youth, and she was no longer Dame Dreary, but the Lady Littlecare, with
golden hair, and laughing eyes, and cheeks like summer roses.

[Illustration: Dame Dreary dances and grows strong.]

"Then a sound of merrymaking came up from the whole valley. The heavy
mist rolled away over the hills; the sun shone out; the blue sky was
seen; a clear spring gushed up in the castle-court; a white falcon came
from the east with a golden ring, and put it on the lady's finger. After
that Strongarm broke the rope, tossed the pannier of dust from his
shoulder, and lay down to sleep in the sun. That night the fairies
danced on the hill-tops; and the night-spinners, with their silver
wheels, were seen by every hearth, and no more in the deserted cottage.
Everybody praised Merrymind and his fiddle; and when news of his
wonderful playing came to the king's ears, he commanded the iron gate
to be taken away; he made the captive soldier a free man; and promoted
Merrymind to be his first fiddler, which under that wise monarch was the
highest post in his kingdom.

"As soon as Merrymind's family and neighbours heard of the high
preferment his fiddle had gained for him, they thought music must be a
good thing, and man, woman, and child took to fiddling. It is said that
none of them ever learned to play a single tune except Merrymind's
mother, on whom her son bestowed great presents."

Here the voice ceased, and one clothed in green and russet-coloured
velvet rose up with a golden fiddle in his hand, and said--

"That's my story."

"Excepting yesterday's tale, and the five that went before it," said
King Winwealth, "I have not heard such a story as that since my brother
Wisewit went from me, and was lost in the forest. Fairfortune, the first
of my pages, go and bring this maiden a golden girdle. And since her
grandmother's chair can tell such stories, she shall go no more into
low company, but feast with us in our chief banquet hall, and sleep in
one of the best chambers of the palace!"



Snowflower was delighted at the promise of feasting with those noble
lords and ladies, whose wonderful stories she had heard from the chair.
Her courtesy was twice as low as usual, and she thanked King Winwealth
from the bottom of her heart. All the company were glad to make room for
her, and when her golden girdle was put on, little Snowflower looked as
fine as the best of them.

"Mamma," whispered the Princess Greedalind, while she looked ready to
cry for spite, "only see that low little girl who came here in a coarse
frock and barefooted, what finery and favour she has gained by her
story-telling chair! All the court are praising her and overlooking me,
though the feast was made in honour of my birthday. Mamma, I must have
that chair from her. What business has a common little girl with
anything so amusing?"

"So you shall, my daughter," said Queen Wantall--for by this time she
saw that King Winwealth had, according to custom, fallen asleep on his
throne. So calling two of her pages, Screw and Hardhands, she ordered
them to bring the chair from the other end of the hall where Snowflower
sat, and directly made it a present to Princess Greedalind.

Nobody in that court ever thought of disputing Queen Wantall's commands,
and poor Snowflower sat down to cry in a corner; while Princess
Greedalind, putting on what she thought a very grand air, laid down her
head on the cushion, saying--

"Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story."

"Where did you get a grandmother?" cried the clear voice from under the
cushion; and up went the chair with such force as to throw Princess
Greedalind off on the floor, where she lay screaming, a good deal more
angry than hurt.

All the courtiers tried in vain to comfort her. But Queen Wantall,
whose temper was still worse, vowed that she would punish the impudent
thing, and sent for Sturdy, her chief woodman, to chop it up with his

At the first stroke the cushion was cut open, and, to the astonishment
of everybody, a bird, whose snow-white feathers were tipped with purple,
darted out and flew away through an open window.

[Illustration: Prince Wisewit, disguised as a bird, escapes out of the

"Catch it! catch it!" cried the queen and the princess; and all but King
Winwealth, who still slept on his throne, rushed out after the bird. It
flew over the palace garden and into a wild common, where houses had
been before Queen Wantall pulled them down to search for a gold mine,
which her majesty never found, though three deep pits were dug to come
at it. To make the place look smart at the feast time these pits had
been covered over with loose boughs and turf. All the rest of the
company remembered this but Queen Wantall and Princess Greedalind. They
were nearest to the bird, and poor Snowflower, by running hard, came
close behind them, but Fairfortune, the king's first page, drew her back
by the purple mantle, when, coming to the covered pit, boughs and turf
gave way, and down went the queen and the princess.

Everybody looked for the bird, but it was nowhere to be seen; but on
the common where they saw it alight, there stood a fair and royal
prince, clad in a robe of purple and a crown of changing colours, for
sometimes it seemed of gold and sometimes of forest leaves.

Most of the courtiers stood not knowing what to think, but all the fairy
people and all the lords and ladies of the chair's stories, knew him,
and cried, "Welcome to Prince Wisewit!"

King Winwealth heard that sound where he slept, and came out glad of
heart to welcome back his brother. When the lord high chamberlain and
her own pages came out with ropes and lanthorns to search for Queen
Wantall and Princess Greedalind, they found them safe and well at the
bottom of the pit, having fallen on a heap of loose sand. The pit was of
great depth, but some daylight shone down, and whatever were the yellow
grains they saw glittering among the sand, the queen and the princess
believed it was full of gold.

They called the miners false knaves, lazy rogues, and a score of bad
names beside, for leaving so much wealth behind them, and utterly
refused to come out of the pit; saying, that since Prince Wisewit was
come, they could find no pleasure in the palace, but would stay there
and dig for gold, and buy the world with it for themselves. King
Winwealth thought the plan was a good one for keeping peace in his
palace. He commanded shovels and picks to be lowered to the queen and
the princess. The two pages, Screw and Hardhands, went down to help
them, in hopes of halving the profits, and there they stayed, digging
for gold. Some of the courtiers said they would find it; others believed
they never could; and the gold was not found when this story was

As for Prince Wisewit, he went home with the rest of the company,
leading Snowflower by the hand, and telling them all how he had been
turned into a bird by the cunning fairy Fortunetta, who found him off
his guard in the forest; how she had shut him up under the cushion of
that curious chair, and given it to old Dame Frostyface; and how all his
comfort had been in little Snowflower, to whom he told so many stories.

King Winwealth was so rejoiced to find his brother again, that he
commanded another feast to be held for seven days. All that time the
gates of the palace stood open; all comers were welcome, all complaints
heard. The houses and lands which Queen Wantall had taken away were
restored to their rightful owners. Everybody got what they most wanted.
There were no more clamours without, nor discontents within the palace;
and on the seventh day of the feast who should arrive but Dame
Frostyface, in her grey hood and mantle.

Snowflower was right glad to see her grandmother--so were the king and
prince, for they had known the Dame in her youth. They kept the feast
for seven days more; and when it was ended everything was right in the
kingdom. King Winwealth and Prince Wisewit reigned once more together;
and because Snowflower was the best girl in all that country, they chose
her to be their heiress, instead of Princess Greedalind. From that day
forward she wore white velvet and satin; she had seven pages, and lived
in the grandest part of the palace. Dame Frostyface, too, was made a
great lady. They put a new velvet cushion on her chair, and she sat in a
gown of grey cloth, edged with gold, spinning on an ivory wheel in a
fine painted parlour. Prince Wisewit built a great summer-house covered
with vines and roses, on the spot where her old cottage stood. He also
made a highway through the forest, that all good people might come and
go there at their leisure; and the cunning fairy Fortunetta, finding
that her reign was over in those parts, set off on a journey round the
world, and did not return in the time of this story. Good boys and
girls, who may chance to read it, that time is long ago. Great wars,
work, and learning, have passed over the world since then, and altered
all its fashions. Kings make no seven-day feasts for all comers now.
Queens and princesses, however greedy, do not mine for gold. Chairs
tell no tales. Wells work no wonders; and there are no such doings on
hills and forests, for the fairies dance no more. Some say it was the
hum of schools--some think it was the din of factories that frightened
them; but nobody has been known to have seen them for many a year,
except, it is said, one Hans Christian Andersen, in Denmark, whose tales
of the fairies are so good that they must have been heard from

It is certain that no living man knows the subsequent history of King
Winwealth's country, nor what became of all the notable characters who
lived and visited at his palace. Yet there are people who believe that
the monarch still falls asleep on his throne, and into low spirits after
supper; that Queen Wantall and Princess Greedalind have found the gold,
and begun to buy; that Dame Frostyface yet spins--they cannot tell
where; that Snowflower may still be seen at the new year's time in her
dress of white velvet, looking out for the early spring; that Prince
Wisewit has somehow fallen under a stronger spell and a thicker cushion,
that he still tells stories to Snowflower and her friends, and when both
cushion and spell are broken by another stroke of Sturdy's
hatchet--which they expect will happen some time--the prince will make
all things right again, and bring back the fairy times to the world.

                               THE END

         _Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._

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