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Title: Beasts & Men - folk tales collected in Flanders and illustrated by Jean de Bosschère
Author: Boschère, Jean de
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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Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



  _Uniform with this Volume_

  CHRISTMAS TALES OF FLANDERS

  With Plates in Colour and many Black and White Illustrations by
  JEAN DE BOSSCHÈRE

  "This handsome and well-illustrated book is one of the most
  attractive we have seen this season. It gives us renderings of the
  popular fables and legends current in Flanders and Brabant which
  have a colour and quaintness of their own, yet combines adventures
  with an unobtrusive and so more effective moral."--_Saturday Review._

  "There are delightful stories; even more attractive than the
  letterpress are M. de Bosschère's illustrations. Conceived with
  inexhaustible fancy, full of quaint detail, and set down with
  a fascinating naïveté they embody the characters and scenes
  of the tales with a fullness of particularism that should
  provide endless entertainment to youthful readers. They are the
  artist."--_Connoisseur._

  "The illustrations by Jean de Bosschère are of a droll fancy. The
  artist has a notable power of the grotesque, and both in colour and
  black and white he uses it."--_Daily Telegraph._


  LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN



  FOLK TALES OF
  BEASTS AND MEN

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration: "HE TORE A RIB FROM HIS SIDE AND CUT OFF MY EAR"
                                                  [_See page 21_]]



  BEASTS & MEN

  FOLK TALES COLLECTED
  IN FLANDERS AND
  ILLUSTRATED BY
  JEAN DE BOSSCHÈRE

  [Illustration]

  LONDON · WILLIAM HEINEMANN
  NEW YORK · DODD, MEAD & COMPANY



_London: William Heinemann, 1918_



[Illustration]

CONTENTS


                                           PAGE
  UPS AND DOWNS                               1
  THE THREE MONKEYS                           5
  HOW THE GOLDFINCH GOT HIS COLOURS          10
  THE COCK AND THE FOX                       14
  THE MOST CUNNING ANIMAL                    19
  SPONSKEN AND THE GIANT                     22
  WHY CATS ALWAYS WASH AFTER EATING          40
  THE CHORISTERS OF ST. GUDULE               41
  THE TRIAL OF REYNARD THE FOX               50
  THE MAGIC CAP                              83
  SUGAR-CANDY HOUSE                          91
  POOR PETER                                 95
  THE PEASANT AND HIS ASS                   103
  THE KING OF THE BIRDS                     109
  A DRUM FULL OF BEES                       116
  THE DRUNKEN ROOKS                         131
  THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS AND BEASTS        133
  THE END OF THE WORLD                      139
  THE REWARD OF THE WORLD                   147
  ONE BAD TURN BEGETS ANOTHER               153
  THE PEASANT AND THE SATYRS                159
  THE TWO FRIENDS AND THE BARREL OF GREASE  163
  WHY THE BEAR HAS A STUMPY TAIL            168
  THE WITCH'S CAT                           173



[Illustration]

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


IN COLOUR

                                                            _Facing
                                                               page_
  "HE TORE A RIB FROM HIS SIDE AND CUT OFF MY EAR" _Frontispiece_
  "I HOPE YOU WILL ENJOY YOUR DRINK. GOOD-BYE!"                   2
  ALL THE BIRDS WERE VERY PROUD OF THEIR APPEARANCE              12
  "WHAT ELSE CAN I DO!" ASKED CHANTICLEER                        44
  THE TRIAL OF REYNARD THE FOX                                   68
  "YOU HAVE MERITED DEATH A HUNDRED TIMES"                       80
  JAN AND JANNETTE                                               90
  BIRDS GOING TO THE RACE                                       112
  THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS AND BEASTS                            132
  AN IMMENSE DRAGON LYING BY THE WATER-SIDE                     148
  THE SATYRS' VILLAGE                                           160
  "ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TO SIT ON THE ICE"                     170


IN BLACK AND WHITE

                                                             PAGE
  THERE HE MET MISTRESS GOAT                                    1
  THE FARMER PUT HER IN THE FOLD                                3
  UP AND DOWN                                                   4
  THREE FRIENDS                                                 5
  LITTLE JAMES GOT PUSHED OVER THE SIDE                         7
  "PULL, BROTHER, PULL, AND WE'LL SOON HAVE HIM OUT"            8
  HE HAPPENED TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR                             9
  BIRDS                                                        10
  THE ANGEL WHOSE MISSION IT WAS TO COLOUR THE BIRDS           11
  HE TOOK A PLACE AMONG THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF THEM ALL         12
  SONG OF GRATITUDE                                            13
  THE FOX WAS NOT A LITTLE FRIGHTENED                          14
  "DON'T GO AWAY, MY DEAR FRIEND," SAID THE FOX                17
  "THAT IS TRUE," SAID THE COCK TO HIMSELF                     18
  THE SOLDIER, THE FOX, AND THE BEAR                           19
  THERE WAS A FLASH, A LOUD REPORT....                         21
  THE TWO HEROES OF THE STORY                                  22
  SPONSKEN, THE GIANT, AND THE PRINCESS                        25
  HE TOSSED THE BIRD INTO THE AIR                              27
  "THE THREE ANIMALS ARE A BEAR, A UNICORN, AND A WILD BOAR"   28
  THE BEAR FOLLOWED HIM INTO THE HOLLOW TRUNK                  29
  WITH A MIGHTY CRASH HE RAN FULL TILT INTO THE TREE           31
  SPONSKEN, THE PRINCESS, THE GIANT                            33
  ALL THE ATTENDANTS FLED AT ONCE                              37
  MARRIED A GIRL                                               39
  THE CAT AND THE SPARROW                                      40
  "I'VE JUST BEEN TURNED OUT OF HOUSE"                         41
  "THEY LAUGH AT ME"                                           43
  "HUSH!" SAID CHANTICLEER                                     45
  BREAKING THE GLASS TO SMITHEREENS                            47
  THE ROBBERS LOST NO TIME IN DECAMPING                        49
  THE KING                                                     50
  AT THE HEAD OF THE PROCESSION MARCHED CHANTICLEER            53
  THE FOX'S CHÂTEAU                                            55
  THE POOR BEAST ROARED WITH PAIN                              57
  HE IMMEDIATELY CALLED A COUNCIL OF HIS MINISTERS             59
  "TAKE ME TO THIS HOUSE"                                      61
  "TYBERT AND BRUIN ARE BADLY KNOCKED ABOUT"                   63
  "AND CAUSED HIM TO JUMP AT LEAST TWENTY FEET INTO THE AIR"   64
  "I WAS MISCHIEVOUS AND UNRULY"                               67
  "AND PEARLS TOO?" SHE WHISPERED                              69
  "I SAW HIM STOP AT THE FOOT OF A GREAT TREE"                 71
  THE CONSPIRACY GAINED ADHERENTS EVERY DAY                    73
  THE SUIT OF GOLDEN ARMOUR EMRIK WORE                         75
  THEY WALKED IN SILENCE                                       77
  REYNARD SPRANG AT HIS THROAT                                 79
  THE KING OF THAT LAND CAUGHT HIM                             82
  CALF AND GOAT                                                83
  "YOU WERE BEING MADE A FOOL OF"                              85
  JAN AND THE THREE STUDENTS                                   87
  TWIRLED THE CAP ROUND THREE TIMES ON HIS FINGER              89
  AND DIPPED THEM INTO THE HORSE-TROUGH                        90
  WERE CARRIED SAFELY OVER TO THE OTHER BANK                   91
  "GR-R-R, I'LL EAT THEM UP!"                                  93
  WOLF'S HEAD                                                  94
  JACO PETER AND HIS FRIEND                                    95
  "SMEAR YOURSELF FROM HEAD TO FOOT"                           97
  REYNARD SEIZED THE OPPORTUNITY TO WARN HIS FRIEND            99
  AN EXCLAMATION OF ASTONISHMENT                              100
  AWAY WENT THE COACHES                                       102
  "OH DEAR ME, THAT'S TWICE!"                                 103
  "HALLO, MY MAN," CRIED THE LORD                             105
  "I CAN'T GET UP, BECAUSE I'M DEAD!"                         107
  SENT HIM SPRAWLING FROM TOP TO BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS         108
  THE EAGLE AND THE KINGLET                                   109
  "IS OUR KING THEN ONLY TO BE LOOKED AT?"                    111
  THERE WAS THE SOUND AS OF A RUSHING MIGHTY WIND             113
  HE IS KNOWN AS THE KINGLET                                  115
  DONATUS                                                     116
  THERE WAS A KNOT-HOLE IN THE WOODEN FLOOR                   119
  "I DID NOT HEAR YOU KNOCK"                                  121
  THE SWARM OF BEES WITHIN BEGAN TO BUZZ ABOUT IN GREAT
      COMMOTION                                               123
  BEATING ANOTHER TATTOO UPON THE DRUM                        124
  THE BEADLE, TOO, STUMBLED AND FELL                          125
  HE HAD FAITHFULLY CARRIED OUT ALL HIS INSTRUCTIONS          127
  IT WAS THE LABOURER DRESSED IN THE DRUMMER'S CLOTHES        128
  RODE STRAIGHT INTO A MARSH                                  130
  WHEN THE FIFTY ROOKS BEGAN TO FLY HE COULD NOT GET FREE     131
  THE ROOKS                                                   132
  FIGHTING                                                    133
  THE KINGLET WARNED HIM TO BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BUZZ       135
  THE GREAT OFFENSIVE BEGAN                                   137
  THE FOX                                                     138
  THE CAT RUSHED OUT OF THE ROOM                              139
  THE CAT, THE DOG, THE COCK, THE RABBIT, AND THE GOOSE       141
  "SEE IF YOU CAN ESPY A HOUSE"                               142
  "JUMP ON TO MY BEAUTIFUL CURLY TAIL"                        143
  THE OTHER FOUR GOT ON TO THE DOG'S BACK                     145
  SENT ME FLYING THROUGH THE AIR                              146
  THE DRAGON                                                  147
  "MY SIGHT IS SO WEAK AND MY POWERS SO FEEBLE"               149
  "DOES THE DRAGON MIND GETTING UNDER THE STONE AGAIN?"       151
  TWO FOXES                                                   152
  NOTHING WAS LEFT OF THE FISHES                              153
  THE BIGGEST AND FATTEST FISH                                155
  STRETCHED HIMSELF OUT AT FULL LENGTH                        156
  "I WILLINGLY GIVE YOU YOURS!"                               158
  "WHY ARE YOU BLOWING YOUR SOUP?"                            159
  "THERE IS NO PLACE IN MY HOUSE FOR A MAN WHO CAN BLOW HOT
      AND COLD"                                               161
  SATYR                                                       162
  THE TWO FRIENDS                                             163
  "WHERE HAS ALL OUR GREASE GONE?"                            165
  BEGUN, HALF-DONE, ALL-DONE                                  167
  MRS. BRUIN AND REYNARD                                      168
  "AFTER A TIME THE FISH WILL COME TO BITE AT IT"             169
  "ONE, TWO, THREE...!"                                       171
  BORN WITH A LITTLE STUMPY TAIL                              172
  MARGOT AND THE CAT                                          173
  SHE MEANT TO KEEP HER THERE UNTIL SHE HAD GROWN BIGGER AND
      FATTER                                                  175
  PADDLING WITH HER BROOM                                     177
  HE WAS REALLY A PRINCE                                      179



[Illustration: THERE HE MET MISTRESS GOAT]

UPS AND DOWNS


The summer had been very hot. Not a drop of rain had fallen for many
weeks, and there was drought in the valley where the animals lived. The
streams had dried up and the springs had ceased to flow. Master Fox
took up his pipe and went out to take a walk under the lime-trees to
think things over. There he met Mistress Goat, all dressed up in her
Sunday clothes.

"Good morrow, cousin," said he. "You are very fine to-day."

"Yes," she answered, "I put on my best dress because it helps me to
think. What we are to do for water I do not know. We have finished
all that we had in the barrel, and unless we can find some more very
quickly I and my children will die of thirst."

"To tell you the truth," said the Fox, "I was thinking the same thing.
I am so dry that my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth, and
I cannot even smoke my pipe with pleasure. What do you say to going
together in search of water? Four eyes are better than two, any day in
the week."

"Agreed," said the Goat; and away they started together. For a long
time they looked everywhere, but not a trace of water could they find.
All of a sudden the Goat gave a cry of joy, and running up to her the
Fox saw that she had discovered a well, on the brink of which she was
standing gazing at the cool water far below.

"Hurrah!" cried the Fox. "We are saved!"

"Yes," answered the Goat, "but see how far down the water is! How are
we to get at it!"

"You just leave that to me," said the Fox. "I know all about
wells--I've seen them before. All one has to do is to get into the
bucket which is hanging by the rope and descend as smoothly and as
safely as you please. I'll go first, just to show you the way."

So the Fox got into the bucket, and the weight of him caused it to
descend, while the empty bucket at the other end of the rope rose to
the top of the well. A minute afterwards he was at the bottom, leaning
over the side of the pail and greedily lapping up the water. Nothing
had ever tasted so delicious. He drank and drank until he could hold no
more.

"Is it good?" cried Mrs. Goat from above, dancing with impatience.

"It is like the purest nectar!" answered the Fox. "Get into the bucket
quickly and come down and join me."

So the goat stepped into the bucket, which immediately began to descend
with her weight, while at the same time the bucket with Master Fox in
it began to rise to the surface. The two met half-way.

"How is this?" asked Mrs. Goat in surprise. "I thought you were going
to wait for me!"

[Illustration: "I HOPE YOU WILL ENJOY YOUR DRINK. GOOD-BYE!"]

"Ah, my dear friend," answered Reynard with a wicked grin, "it is the
way of the world. Some go up and some go down. I hope you will
enjoy your drink. Good-bye!"

[Illustration: THE FARMER PUT HER IN THE FOLD]

And as soon as he got to the top he jumped out of the bucket and ran
off at top speed.

So poor Mrs. Goat had to stay there at the bottom of the well until the
farmer came and found her, half dead with cold. When at last she was
rescued she found that she had only exchanged one prison for another,
for the farmer put her into the fold with his own sheep and goats, and
so she lost her liberty for ever.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THREE FRIENDS]

THE THREE MONKEYS


There were once three monkeys who were going for a voyage in a balloon.
(This was in Monkey-land, far, far away and ever so long ago.) The
three were so much alike that it was impossible to tell one from the
other, and to make matters worse each of them answered to the name of
James. Such a thing would never do in the crew of a balloon, so the old
monkey who was in command decided that each of the three should have a
different name. The first was to be called James, the second Jemmy, and
the third Little James.

So far so good. The three monkeys climbed into the balloon, the ground
ropes were untied, and the voyage was begun. When they had reached a
height of some hundreds of feet, the captain wished to give an order,
so he called to the first monkey: "James!"

"Aye aye, sir," said all the three, running up to him.

"I called James," said the captain, looking from one to the other.

"Well, I am James," answered the first monkey.

"No, no. James is my name," said the second.

"And mine too," said the third.

"How can you be James if I am he?" cried the first angrily.

"I tell you James is my name!" cried the second.

"No, mine!"

And so the three monkeys began to quarrel and dispute. Words led to
blows, and soon they were tumbling about all over the car of the
balloon, biting, scratching, and pummelling while the captain sat in
his chair and bawled to them to stop. Every minute it seemed as though
the car would overturn, and the end of it was that Little James got
pushed over the side. He turned a beautiful somersault, and fell down,
down, down through the air, landing in a soft bed of mud, into which
he sank so that only his face and the top of his yellow cranium were
visible.

"Help! help!" bawled Little James at the top of his voice.

Up ran a pair of monkeys belonging to the neighbourhood and stood
looking at him.

"He's in the mud, brother," said one.

"Up to his neck," said the other. "How silly!" And they both began to
grin.

"Help!" cried Little James again, more faintly, for he was sinking
deeper, and the mud was nearly at the level of his mouth. "Pull me out!
Pull me out!"

"Ah, but how?" asked the first monkey, looking at him gravely.

"Wait a minute," cried the second, "I have an idea!" and he pulled out
of his pocket one of those leather suckers on a string which boys use
to lift stones. Moistening the disc, he clapped it on to Little James's
head, and began to tug on the cord with all his might.

"Hey!" cried the other monkey, running to help. "Pull, brother, pull,
and we'll soon have him out!"

[Illustration: LITTLE JAMES GOT PUSHED OVER THE SIDE]

_Crack!_ The cord snapped suddenly, and the two monkeys tumbled head
over heels. Never mind; they got another cord to repair the damage, and
this time they succeeded in pulling Little James clear of the mud.

Did I say Little James? Alas! it was only half of him! His rescuers had
pulled so hard that he had broken off short in the middle, and his two
legs were left embedded in the mud.

[Illustration: "PULL, BROTHER, PULL, AND WE'LL SOON HAVE HIM OUT"]

"Dear me!" said the first monkey, scratching his head. "This is very
sad. The poor fellow has lost his legs. What shall we do?"

"Let us make him some wooden ones!" said the other.

So said, so done. They made him a beautiful pair of wooden legs, and
Little James hobbled painfully home. By the time he reached his house
he felt so ill that he went straight to bed. "I believe I am going to
die," he said to himself. "I must make my will and set down the cause
of my death."

So he sent for pen and paper and began to write. Before very long,
however, he stopped and began to scratch his head in perplexity. "If
I am going to die," he thought, "I must be going to die of something!
Now, what am I going to die of? This must be carefully considered, for
above all one must write the truth in one's last testament!"

So he pondered and pondered, but he could not make up his mind as
to the cause of his death. Was he going to die of the fall from the
balloon, or of his broken legs, or what? Just then he happened to look
in the mirror by the bedside, and saw that there was a lump on his
forehead, which he had got while fighting with James and Jemmy in the
balloon.

"Why, of course," cried he, "I am going to die of that big bruise on my
forehead!" So he wrote it down in his will, and then, happy at having
solved the difficulty, turned over on his side and died.

And, as I said before, this all took place in Monkey-land, ever so long
ago.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: BIRDS]

HOW THE GOLDFINCH GOT HIS COLOURS


When the Angel whose mission it was to colour the birds had finished
his work, he began to scrape his palette and to make ready for
departure. He had done his task well, for the plumage of the feathered
creatures all around him glowed with a thousand glorious colours. There
was the lordly eagle, arrayed in a robe of golden brown. The peacock
had a tail of shimmering blue and green that looked as if it were
studded with precious stones. The crow's black coat shone in the sun
with a kind of steely radiance, very wonderful to behold. The canary
was as yellow as a buttercup; the jay had a spot of blue sky on either
wing; even the humble sparrow wore a handsome black neck-tie; while
Chanticleer, the cock, was resplendent in yellow, black, and red. All
the birds were very proud of their appearance, and they strutted about
here and there, gazing at their reflections in the water and calling
upon their neighbours to come and admire their beauties.

[Illustration: THE ANGEL WHOSE MISSION IT WAS TO COLOUR THE BIRDS]

Alone among the birds the little goldfinch took no part in the
rejoicing. Somehow or other the Angel had overlooked him, so that he
remained uncoloured, a drab little creature, in his sober grey dress,
among the gaily clothed throng. More than once he had tried to draw
the Angel's attention to himself, and now, seeing him cleaning his
palette in readiness to depart, he stepped forward and said: "Have
pity on me, good Angel, and paint my plumage as you have painted that
of the others, so that I may walk among them unashamed. I have nothing
to commend me--no beautiful song like the nightingale or the throstle,
no grace of form such as the swallows have. If I am to go unadorned,
nothing remains for me but to hide myself among the leaves."

[Illustration: HE TOOK A PLACE AMONG THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF THEM ALL]

Then the Angel took pity on the little creature, and would gladly have
painted him with glowing colours, but alas, he had scraped his palette
clean. Therefore he took up a brush, and going from bird to bird took
from each a spot of colour, which he laid upon the goldfinch, blending
a score of brilliant hues with marvellous skill. When he had finished,
the tiny bird was transformed, and from being the saddest in that
brilliant company he took a place among the most beautiful of them all.

[Illustration: ALL THE BIRDS WERE VERY PROUD OF THEIR APPEARANCE]

It is not possible, by means of words, to describe the beauty of the
colouring which the Angel gave to the goldfinch, but you may see him
any day you like, sitting on a thistle, and chirping his song of
gratitude and praise.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE FOX WAS NOT A LITTLE FRIGHTENED]

THE COCK AND THE FOX


This is the story that the old woman who was called Tante Sannie told
to the little boy who would always be talking:

A long time ago (she said) there lived in a farmyard a Cock who was
very proud of himself, and with reason, too, for he was, indeed,
a plump and handsome bird. Nothing could have been finer than his
appearance when he strutted through the yard, lifting his feet high as
he walked, and nodding his head at each step. He had a magnificent comb
of coral-red, and blue-black plumage streaked with gold, which shone so
brilliantly when the sun flashed on it that it was a joy to see him. No
wonder that his twenty wives gazed at him admiringly and followed him
wherever he went, and were quite content to let him hustle them about
and gobble up all the fattest worms and the finest grains of corn.

If this Cock was proud of his appearance, there was one thing of which
he was even prouder, and that was his voice. He was a famous songster;
he could crow you high and he could crow you low; he could utter tones
as deep as the pealing of the organ in church or as shrill as the blast
of a trumpet. Every morning, when the first streak of dawn appeared in
the sky, he would get down off his perch, raise himself on his toes,
stretch out his neck, close his eyes and crow so loudly that he roused
people who were sleeping in the next parish. And this he loved to do,
because it was his nature.

Now in the forest close to the farmyard there lived a Fox who had often
gazed with longing eyes upon the plump and handsome bird. His mouth
watered every time he thought of him, and many were the artful tricks
he played to try and catch him for his dinner. One day he hid himself
among the bushes in the garden by the farmyard and waited patiently
until the Cock happened to stray his way. After a time the bird came
along, pecking here and pecking there, wandered through the gate into
the garden, and made straight for the bush under which Master Fox was
hidden. He was just going to run into the bush after a butterfly which
was fluttering about, when he caught sight of Reynard's black snout and
cunning, watchful eyes, and with a squeak of alarm he jumped aside,
just in time, and hopped on to the wall.

At this the Fox rose to his feet. "Don't go away, my dear friend," said
he in honeyed tones. "I would not for the world do you any harm. I
know that it is my bad fortune to be disliked by your family--I can't
for the life of me think why, and it is a pity, because I have to hide
myself for the pleasure of hearing you sing. There is no cock in all
these parts has such a magnificent voice as yours, and I simply do not
believe the stories they tell about you."

"Eh, what is that?" said the Cock, stopping at a safe distance and
looking at the Fox with his head on one side. "What do they say?"

"Why," Reynard went on, edging a little nearer, "they tell me that
you can only crow with your eyes open. They say that if you were to
shut your eyes, that clarion call of yours would become only a feeble
piping, like the clucking of a new-born chick. But of course I don't
believe them. Any one can see they are merely jealous."

"I should think so," cried the Cock, bristling with anger. "Crow
with my eyes shut, indeed! Why, I never crow in any other way. Just
look here--I'll prove it to you!" And he raised himself on his toes,
stretched out his neck, closed his eyes, and was just going to crow,
when, _Snap!_ the Fox sprang upon him and caught him in his teeth!

Then began a great to-do! The poor cock flapped his wings and struggled
as the Fox ran off with him. The hens ran about the yard clucking and
squawking, and the noise they made alarmed the farmer's wife, who was
cooking in the kitchen. Out she came running, with the rolling-pin in
her hand, and, seeing the fox with the cock in his mouth, gave chase,
shrieking as she ran. The farm-hands tumbled out of barn and byre armed
with pitch-forks, spades, and sticks. All the beasts began to raise a
clatter, and what with the shouting of the men, the squealing of the
pigs, the neighing of the horses, and the lowing of the cows, to say
nothing of the clucking of the hens and the old woman's screaming, one
would have thought the end of the world was at hand.

The Fox was not a little frightened by all this clatter, but he was not
so frightened as the Cock, who saw that only cunning would save his
life.

"They will catch us in a minute," he said to the Fox, "and, as likely
as not, we shall both be killed by a single blow. Why don't you call
out and tell them I came with you of my own accord?"

"A good idea," thought the Fox, and he opened his mouth to call out to
his pursuers, thereby loosening his grip on the Cock's neck. Then, with
a squirm and a twist and a flutter of his wings, the wily bird wrenched
himself free and flew up to the branches of a tree near by.

[Illustration: "DON'T GO AWAY, MY DEAR FRIEND," SAID THE FOX]

The Fox cast a look at him and saw that he was out of reach; then he
glanced over his shoulder at his pursuers, who were getting perilously
near. "It seems to me," he said, grinning with rage, "I should have
done better to hold my tongue."

"That is true," said the Cock to himself as he smoothed his ruffled
feathers. "And I would have been better advised to keep my weather-eye
open."

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE SOLDIER, THE FOX, AND THE BEAR]

THE MOST CUNNING ANIMAL


One day the Fox and the Bear began to argue as to which was the most
cunning animal. The Bear said that he thought foxes and bears took
first place.

"You are wrong, my friend," said Reynard. "We are clever, you and I,
but there is one animal that is as far above us as we are above the
rest of creation."

"Oh, indeed," sneered the Bear, "and what is the name of this
marvellous creature?"

"He is called the man-animal," answered Reynard, "and he goes on two
legs instead of four, which is a wonderful thing in itself. Here are
some of the cunning things he can do; first, he can swim in the water
without getting wet; when he is cold he makes yellow flowers grow out
of sticks to warm himself; and he can strike at an enemy a hundred
yards away!"

"I do not believe you," answered the Bear. "This is a fairy-tale you
are telling me. If such a creature as the man-animal really exists, it
is very strange that I have never seen him!"

"Strange, indeed!" grinned the Fox, "but soon remedied. Would you like
to see the man-animal?"

"It would be a sight for sore eyes," said the Bear.

"Very well," said the Fox, "come along with me." And he led the Bear
through the forest until they came to a road leading to a village.
"Now, then," said he, "let us lie down in the ditch and watch the road,
and we shall see what we shall see."

Presently a child from the village came along.

"Look! Look!" whispered the Bear. "An animal walking on two legs! Is
this the creature we seek?"

"No," answered the Fox, "but one of these days it will become a
man-animal."

Shortly afterwards there came along an old woman, all bent and wrinkled.

"Is that one?" asked the Bear.

"No," said the Fox again, "but once upon a time that was the mother of
one!"

At last there came the sound of brisk footsteps on the road, and
peeping out between the bushes the Bear saw a tall soldier in a red
coat marching towards them. He had a sword by his side and a musket
over his shoulder.

"This must surely be the man-animal," said the Bear. "Ugh! what an ugly
creature! I don't believe he is cunning in the least!" But the Fox made
no answer, for at the first sight of the soldier he had fled into the
forest.

"Well, well," muttered the Bear, "I don't see anything to be afraid
of here. Let us have a talk with this wonder!" And hoisting himself
clumsily out of the ditch he lumbered along the road to meet the
soldier.

"Now then, my fine fellow," he growled, "I have heard some wonderful
stories about you. Tell me...."

But before he could get another word out of his mouth the soldier drew
his sword and struck him such a shrewd blow that he cut off his ear.

"Wow!" cried the Bear, "what's that for? Tell me...." But then, seeing
the gleaming steel flash once again, he turned tail and ran off as fast
as he could go. Just as he reached the edge of the wood, he looked
backward and saw the soldier raise his gun to his shoulder. There was
a flash, a loud report, and the Bear felt a terrific blow against his
side. Down he went like a ninepin, but fortunately for him the bullet
had merely glanced off his hide, and he was not seriously hurt. Picking
himself up, he lost no time in gaining the shelter of the trees, and
presently came limping painfully to the place where the Fox was waiting
for him.

"Well, my friend," said Reynard, "did you see the man-animal? And what
did you think of him?"

"You were right," answered poor Bruin sadly. "He is certainly the most
cunning creature in the world. I went up to speak to him and he tore
a rib from his side and cut off my ear. Then I ran away, but before
I could reach the trees he picked up a stick and pointed it at me.
Then there came thunder and lightning, and a piece of the earth heaved
itself up and knocked me spinning! Beyond all doubt the man-animal
takes the palm for cunning, but I never want to see him again, for I
shall carry the marks of our first meeting to my dying day."

And Reynard grinned, and said: "I told you so!"

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

SPONSKEN AND THE GIANT


There was once a lad whose face was so badly pitted by the smallpox
that everybody called him Sponsken, which means little sponge. From
the very day of his birth Sponsken had been a great cause of anxiety
to his parents, and as he grew older he became more trouble still, for
he was so full of whims and mischief that one never knew where one had
him. He would not learn his lessons, nor work at any serious task for
ten minutes on end. All he seemed to think of was cutting capers and
playing practical jokes on people. At last, in despair, his parents
told their trouble to the village sexton, who was a great friend of the
family, and often came to smoke his pipe with Sponsken's father in the
chimney corner.

"Don't worry, my friends," said the sexton. "I've seen young men like
your son before, and they are quite easy to manage if one only goes
about it the right way. Just leave him to me. What he wants is a good
fright, and I'll make it my business to see that he gets it."

So far so good. Sponsken's parents were only too glad to fall in with
any plan which seemed likely to reform their unruly son, so the sexton
went off to make his arrangements. That night he whitened his face with
flour, covered himself in a white sheet, and hid behind a tree on a
road along which he knew Sponsken would have to pass.

It was the dark of the moon, and the place the sexton had chosen was
very lonely. For a long time he waited; then, hearing Sponsken coming
along whistling a merry tune, he sprang out suddenly from behind his
tree and waved his arms in a terrifying manner.

"Hallo!" said Sponsken. "Who are you?"

The sexton uttered a hollow groan.

"What's the matter?" said the boy. "Are you ill? If you can't speak,
get out of my way, for I am in a hurry."

The sexton groaned again, louder than before, and waved his arms wildly.

"Come, come," cried Sponsken, "I can't stay here all night. Tell me
what you want at once and let me pass." Then, as the ghostly figure
made no answer, he struck it a blow with the stout ash-stick which he
carried, and the poor sexton fell, stunned, to the ground. Sponsken
stayed long enough to take a glimpse of the ghost's face and to
recognize the features of the sexton beneath the flour; then he went on
his way homeward, whistling as merrily as before.

When he reached home his parents gazed at him uneasily. They were very
anxious about the success of their friend's plan, but Sponsken did not
look at all like a lad who had been frightened--quite the contrary in
fact, for he drew his chair up to the table and set to work upon his
supper with an excellent appetite.

"A funny thing happened to me to-night," he said carelessly between
two bites of an onion. "As I was walking along the lonely road by the
cemetery a white figure jumped out at me."

"A wh-white figure!" stammered his father. "How terrifying! And what
did you do, my son?"

"Do?" said Sponsken cheerfully. "Why, I fetched him a crack on the
skull with my staff. He went down like a ninepin, and I warrant he
won't try to frighten travellers again!"

"Base, ungrateful boy!" cried his father, rising to his feet. "It was
my dear friend Jan the sexton you struck. All I hope is that you have
not killed him."

"Well, if I have, it is his own fault," answered Sponsken. "He should
not play tricks on me." But his father continued to rage and grumble so
long that Sponsken got tired of hearing him at last, and flung off to
bed in a sulk.

"I'll stand no more of this," he said to himself. "Since my own people
do not appreciate me, I'll go out and seek my own fortune in the world,
and they may go on as best they can."

The next morning, therefore, having packed a loaf of bread and a piece
of cheese in a bag, Sponsken set off on his travels, telling nobody
where he was going, and taking nothing else with him except a sparrow
which he had tamed and kept since it was a fledgling. After walking for
a long time he came to a forest, and feeling rather tired he sat down
on the trunk of a fallen tree to rest.

Now in this forest lived a giant who was the most hideous creature
one could possibly imagine. From his forehead jutted a pair of horns;
his features were more like those of a beast than a man, and his
finger-nails grew long and curved like the claws of a wild animal. The
giant considered himself lord of the whole wood, and was very jealous
lest anybody should enter his domain. When, therefore, he saw Sponsken
he was very angry, and having pulled up a young tree by the roots to
serve him as a club, he approached the young man, who was sitting with
his eyes closed, and struck him a heavy blow on the shoulder.

[Illustration: SPONSKEN, THE GIANT, AND THE PRINCESS]

In spite of appearances, Sponsken was not asleep; he was far too wary
a person to be caught napping under such conditions. As a matter of
fact, he had seen the giant before the giant saw him, and he knew that
his only chance of escape was to remain unperturbed and calm. When,
therefore, the giant struck him on the shoulder, he opened his eyes
sleepily, rubbed the place, and said with a yawn: "A pest on these
flies! They bite so hard that a fellow can't sleep for them."

"You shall sleep soundly enough in a minute!" muttered the giant, who
was enraged at Sponsken's nonchalance. "See how you like this!" And he
gave the lad a blow on the other shoulder, harder than before.

"There they are again!" cried Sponsken, rubbing the place. "My word!
They bite even harder on this side than on the other. It is time I was
going!" And he rose from his seat, starting back with surprise as he
affected to see the giant for the first time.

"So it's you, is it?" he cried. "What do you mean by tickling me when I
am trying to sleep? If I were not so kind-hearted I'd break your neck
for you!"

"Have a care what you say," cried the giant. "Do you know that I have
the strength of twenty men and could crush you between my hands like a
kitten?"

"Pooh!" said Sponsken. "Words are windy things. I have no doubt you
could kill a whole regiment with your breath. But words won't go with
me, my man; you must give me some proof of your prowess."

"Proof!" roared the giant. "See here! I can throw a stone so high into
the air that it will not come down for a quarter of an hour." And he
was as good as his word, for, picking up a large stone, he flung it
with all his strength, and it was more than a quarter of an hour before
it fell again at their feet.

"Can you match that?" asked the giant with a grin.

"Easily," said Sponsken. "I will throw a stone so high that it will
not come down at all!" Bending to the ground he picked up a pebble and
showed it to the giant, but very cleverly he managed at the last moment
to exchange it for the sparrow which he carried in his pocket, and
this he was able to do because the giant was rather short-sighted, and,
if truth be told, slow-witted as well.

[Illustration: HE TOSSED THE BIRD INTO THE AIR]

"One, two, three!" cried Sponsken, and he tossed the bird into the air,
and of course it flew up and up and never came down at all.

"Well, well," said the giant, "I never saw such a thing as that in my
life before. You are certainly a wonderful stone-thrower, little man.
But can you do this?" And picking up another stone, he squeezed it so
hard between his immense fists that he crushed it into a fine powder.

"Yes, that is hard to do," said Sponsken, "but I think I can go one
better. Any oaf, if he be strong enough, can crush a stone to powder,
but it requires skill as well as strength to wring the juice out of
one. Watch me!" So saying, Sponsken adroitly slipped out his piece of
cheese, and squeezed it until the whey dripped from between his fingers.

[Illustration: "THE THREE ANIMALS ARE A BEAR, A UNICORN, AND A WILD
BOAR"]

"Marvellous!" said the giant. "I confess myself beaten. Let us go into
partnership, for there cannot be two others like us in the whole world."

"Willingly," answered Sponsken, "but what are we to do?"

"Why, as for that," said the giant, "the King of this country has
promised his daughter's hand in marriage, and a great treasure besides,
to anybody who can destroy three ferocious beasts which are devastating
his realm. It seems to me that this is a task we can quite well do
together. You, with your quickness and skill, can trap the beasts, and
I can kill them with my club. That done, we will divide the spoils."

So it was agreed, and without wasting a moment the two took the wood
together. Before very long they reached the King's palace, and sent up
a message by one of the lords in waiting that they would like to see
His Majesty.

"And do you mean to tell me," asked the King, when he had heard the
giant's tale, "that you can overcome the three fierce animals by the
help of this ugly little pock-marked fellow."

"Hush! Not so loud, for the love of heaven!" whispered the giant. "My
friend is very touchy about his appearance, and if he hears you making
such slighting remarks it is very likely he will bring the whole of
your palace down about your head!"

[Illustration: THE BEAR FOLLOWED HIM INTO THE HOLLOW TRUNK]

"You don't say so!" whispered the King in reply, glancing fearfully
at the terrible little man. "Well, you are at liberty to try your
luck. The three animals are a bear, a unicorn, and a wild boar, and at
present they are hidden in the wood close by. There you will find them,
but take care of yourselves, for they have already killed scores of my
men."

"Don't be afraid," answered the giant, "for us this is as easy as
playing a game."

After having partaken of a good meal the two made their way towards the
wood in which the animals were hidden.

"We must make a plan," said Sponsken. "Listen to what I propose. You go
into the middle of the wood while I remain here on the outskirts; then
when you drive the beasts out I will see that they do not escape."

So it was arranged. The giant went forward into the wood, while
Sponsken remained outside, waiting to see what would happen. He had
not to wait long, for presently there was a crashing and a tearing of
undergrowth and a great bear came lumbering towards him. Sponsken did
not like the look of the creature at all, and decided to put as much
space between them as possible. Looking here and there for a refuge,
he spied a big oak-tree, and quickly climbed its trunk and ensconced
himself among the branches. Unfortunately the bear had already seen
him, and, raising himself on his hind legs with a dreadful roar, he
rushed to the tree and began to climb. In another moment Sponsken would
have been lost, but by good chance the tree happened to be hollow, so
without hesitation the lad let himself down into the trunk, and finding
at the bottom a small hole which led to the open air, he was just able
to wriggle through it and escape. The bear followed him into the hollow
trunk, but the hole at the bottom was too small for him to get out
by, and as there was hardly room to move inside the trunk, the angry
creature had to stay where he was, waking all the echoes in the forest
with his growling.

The next minute the giant came running out of the forest. "Have you
seen the bear?" he cried. "I drove him towards you!"

"Don't worry," answered Sponsken coolly; "I've shut him up in the tree
there to keep him safe."

The giant rushed to the tree and dispatched the bear with one blow
of his great club. Then, pulling out the carcass, he shouldered it,
and the two went back to the palace, congratulating each other on the
excellent beginning of their enterprise.

There remained now the unicorn and the wild boar. Next day Sponsken and
the giant went to the forest again, and since their first plan had been
so successful, it was arranged that they should follow exactly the same
course. The giant went into the depths of the wood to find the unicorn
and drive him out, while Sponsken remained on the borders to capture
the animal when he came.

This time the period of waiting was longer, and Sponsken, leaning
against the oak-tree, had almost fallen asleep when a clattering of
hoofs awakened him, and he sprang aside just in time to escape the
unicorn, who, breathing fire from his nostrils, charged down upon
him. So great was the impetus of the beast's charge that he could not
stop himself, and with a mighty crash he ran full tilt into the tree,
driving his horn so far into the trunk that, although he pulled and
struggled, he could not wrench himself free.

[Illustration: WITH A MIGHTY CRASH HE RAN FULL TILT INTO THE TREE]

When the giant came up, Sponsken showed him the animal, which was
quickly killed with a single blow of the club.

"Didn't I manage that affair well?" asked Sponsken as they went back to
the palace.

"You are a wonder!" answered the giant, and he really believed what he
said.

Now only the wild boar remained, and on the following day the two
went to the forest to capture him also. Once again the same plan was
followed, but this time Sponsken kept his eyes wide open, and when the
ferocious beast broke cover he ran as fast as he could in the direction
of the royal chapel. The wild boar followed him, and a fearsome
creature he looked, I assure you, with his wicked little eyes and his
great curved tusks and the hair on his back bristling like the quills
of a porcupine.

Through the open door of the chapel Sponsken ran, and the boar,
snorting with fury, followed him. Then began a fine chase, round and
round the aisles, over the pews, and in and out of the vestries. At
last Sponsken seized a chair, and dashing it against a window broke
several panes, and so made good his escape. While the boar was still
standing stupidly staring at the hole through which he had gone out,
Sponsken ran round to the door, which he closed and locked. Then,
having broken one or two more panes of glass, he sat down quietly by
the chapel wall and began to pare his nails.

A short time afterwards the giant came rushing up.

"Where is the boar? Have you let him get away?" he cried.

"Don't get so excited," answered Sponsken. "The boar is safe enough.
He's in the chapel there. I had no other place to put him, so I flung
him through the window!"

"What a wonderful little man you are!" said the giant gleefully, and
he ran off to kill the boar with one blow of his club. This done,
he hoisted the carcass on to his shoulders and took the road to the
palace. Half-way there the weight of the boar began to tell, for it
was a massive beast, and the giant was forced to stay and rest.

"It is all very well," said he, mopping his streaming brow, "but I
think you ought to take a turn with me in carrying this carcass."

"Not I," answered Sponsken. "We made an agreement that my work was done
when I captured the beast, and I intend to keep to it."

  [Illustration: SPONSKEN   THE PRINCESS   THE GIANT]

So the giant had to struggle on as best he could for the rest of the
way, grumbling at every step, while Sponsken followed, laughing up his
sleeve, and exceedingly thankful that he had escaped the task.

When they reached the palace the two presented themselves before the
King and claimed the promised reward. But now a difficulty arose. It
was quite easy to divide the treasure, but which of them was to have
the Princess?

"I think it should be I," said the giant, "for I killed the three
animals."

"Not at all," said Sponsken. "The Princess should be given to me, for I
captured the beasts."

"A lot of good your capturing them would have been if I had not killed
them!" said the giant.

"How could you have killed them if I had not caught them first?"
answered Sponsken. And so the two began to quarrel, and neither would
give way, and high words passed between them. Truth to tell, the King
was not at all sorry that the dispute had arisen, for he did not very
much relish the idea of his daughter marrying either the bestial giant
or the pock-marked, ugly little fellow who was his companion.

"There is only one way out of the difficulty," said the King at last.
"We must let fate decide. Listen to the plan I propose. You shall both
of you sleep in the Princess's chamber to-night--the giant in a bed on
one side of her couch, and Sponsken on the other. I also will remain in
her chamber and watch her carefully. If she spends most of the night
with her face turned towards Sponsken, it shall be a sign that she is
to marry him; if, on the other hand, she favours the giant, he shall be
her husband; but if she sleeps all night with her face towards neither
of you, then you must both give her up, and be satisfied with the
treasure."

So it was agreed, and that night the trial took place. Sponsken,
however, did not by any means intend that blind chance should settle so
important a matter, and he spent the intervening time in making certain
preparations. First of all he went to the palace gardens, from which
he gathered certain herbs having an aromatic and beautiful perfume;
these he placed in a bag and hid under his clothes. Then from the
woods he gathered all the herbs he could find which had a disagreeable
smell, such as garlic and stinkwort and poisonous fungus; these also
he placed in a bag, and seized an early opportunity, when they came to
the Princess's chamber, of hiding the bag under the pillow on which the
giant's head was to rest.

The Princess well knew the fateful issue which was to be decided in the
night, and as she had firmly made up her mind not to marry either the
one or the other of her suitors, she determined to remain awake all
night and to take care to keep her face turned towards the ceiling. For
a time she managed to do so, but before long drowsiness overcame her,
and she slept. Presently she turned over on her left side and lay with
her face turned towards the giant, who began to chuckle to himself.

"Wait a minute," thought Sponsken. "I don't think the Princess will
keep that position long!" And sure enough, the horrible stench of the
herbs in the bag beneath the giant's pillow penetrated even to her
dreams, and the Princess turned over hurriedly on the other side. What
a change was there! Instead of a disgusting smell which made her dream
of gloomy caverns and noisome things, she found now a delicious perfume
that brought pictures of sunlit gardens all glowing with flowers and
bright-winged butterflies flitting over them. The Princess gave a
little sigh of content, and for the rest of the night she remained with
her face turned towards Sponsken, so that the King had no choice but to
declare the little man the winner.

The Princess, however, refused to abide by the judgment. "I will _not_
marry that vulgar fellow," she cried. "I will die first! Oh, father, if
you love me, think of a means of escape!"

"Do not be afraid, my child," answered the King. "I will arrange
something." And the next day he took the giant aside and proposed to
him that he should rid him of Sponsken, promising a rich reward for the
service. The giant's greed was aroused, and being very jealous of his
companion's success, he was the more ready to fall in with the King's
suggestion.

Fortunately for himself, Sponsken's quick wits made him suspicious. He
guessed that some treachery was afoot, and in order to be prepared for
emergencies he took a heavy hammer with him when he retired to bed at
night. His suspicions were justified, for towards midnight the door of
his room opened and the giant entered on tiptoe, carrying a heavy axe
with which he intended to dispatch our friend. No sooner was his foot
inside the door, however, than Sponsken jumped out of bed and sprang
at him, looking so fierce that the giant, who was a coward at heart,
and had besides a healthy respect for his companion's powers, turned
and fled in dismay. Then Sponsken lifted his heavy hammer and struck
three resounding blows upon the floor. The noise awoke everybody in
the palace, and servants, guards, and lords in waiting came flocking
to the room to discover the cause. The King came last of all, a little
anxious about the success of his fine plot, and when he found Sponsken
sitting up in bed, quite unharmed, his face fell.

"What is the matter?" he stammered.

"Matter?" answered Sponsken. "Nothing very much! Some person wandered
into my room, so I just gave three taps with my fingers on the wall. It
is lucky for you all that I did not strike the blows with my fist, for
had I done so I am afraid there would have been nothing left of your
palace but a heap of dust!"

At these words everybody turned pale, and the King made haste to
protest his undying friendship for his terrible guest.

As for the giant, he was in such fear of encountering Sponsken's
resentment that he fled, and nobody ever saw him again.

Now the poor King did not know what to do, for his daughter still
persisted in her refusal to marry Sponsken, and he was torn two ways by
love and fear. Just at that time, however, a neighbouring monarch, who
was an old enemy of the King's, declared war upon him, and this offered
another opportunity for delay. Calling Sponsken before him, the King
proposed that he should prove his valour by challenging the enemy king
to mortal combat. Sponsken agreed; but his fame had already been noised
abroad, and the challenge was refused.

"Very well," said the King, who was at the end of his resources. "As my
prospective son-in-law you ought to lead my armies into battle. I will
place my own charger at your disposal, and I look to you to save my
country from defeat."

Here was a pretty kettle of fish! Sponsken had never ridden a horse in
his life, and he had not the slightest knowledge of warfare. To make
matters worse, the steed in question was a notoriously vicious brute
who would allow nobody but his own master to mount him. Already he had
accounted for several grooms and stablemen, whom he had kicked to death.

[Illustration: ALL THE ATTENDANTS FLED AT ONCE]

Sponsken commanded that the steed should be led to the borders of the
forest and tied by the bridle to a tree. He had not the slightest
intention of trying to mount the brute, and his plan was to wait until
the attendants had gone away and then to slip off unobserved. Fate,
however, was too much for him, for hardly was the horse safely tied up
than couriers came spurring along the road to say that the enemy king
was advancing at the head of his army, and was at that very moment less
than half a mile away.

All the attendants fled at once, and Sponsken himself was so overcome
by terror that, without thinking what he was doing, he jumped upon
the back of the steed, and, forgetting that it was tied to the tree,
dug his sharp spurs into its side. The horse plunged and reared,
champing at the bit and doing its best to dislodge Sponsken from the
saddle, but the lad clung on for dear life. At last, finding all its
efforts unavailing, the horse dragged the tree up by the roots and
charged forward in a straight line towards the advancing enemy. Almost
dislodged from his seat by the sudden jerk, Sponsken stretched out his
hand and grasped the branches of the tree, which swung in a terrifying
manner at his side, promising every moment to hurl him from the saddle,
and the result was that to the enemy army it appeared as though he
were charging down upon them at full speed, bearing a tree as a club.
Filled with dismay at the terrifying sight, the soldiers of the enemy
king fled in all directions and hid themselves in the woods and in the
crevices of the rocks. Sponsken rode on for the simple reason that he
could do nothing else, right into the enemy's camp, where the steed
came to a standstill and our hero was able to jump down from its back.
Entering the king's tent, he helped himself to all the documents and
articles of value he could find; then, having cut the tree from the
bridle, he remounted the horse, which was now quite tame and docile,
and rode back to the palace.

When the King heard that the enemy was routed he was overjoyed, and
he recognized that a man who could perform such a feat single-handed
was not to be treated lightly. His daughter, however, was still firm
in her refusal to marry Sponsken, and so the King made him an offer of
half his kingdom if he would release him from his promise and allow the
Princess to go free. Sponsken accepted his terms and married a girl
who, although she was not a princess, was nevertheless very pretty.
Their wedding was celebrated with great pomp and they lived together
very happily for the rest of their lives.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE CAT AND THE SPARROW]

WHY CATS ALWAYS WASH AFTER EATING


A long time ago a cat caught a sparrow, and licked his lips in
anticipation of the delight he would feel in devouring it. After
playing with it for a time, as cats will, he was going to eat it, when
the sparrow spoke to him.

"The Emperor's cat," said the sparrow, "and all his family, never begin
a meal without washing themselves first. Everybody knows that such is
the custom in polite society."

"Really," answered the cat, "well, I will do as the Emperor's cat
does!" And he let go the sparrow and began to wash his face. Feeling
itself free, the sparrow flew away, and alighted safely on the branch
of a tree well out of reach.

"It serves me right," muttered the cat, "for being so easily taken in."

And ever since that time cats have always washed themselves after their
meals.



[Illustration: "I'VE JUST BEEN TURNED OUT OF HOUSE"]

THE CHORISTERS OF ST. GUDULE


The miller of Sandhills had a donkey which had served him well in its
time, but was now too old to work. The miller was a careful man, who
did not believe in feeding useless mouths, so he decided that he would
sell the donkey for the price of its skin. "I do not suppose I shall
get very much for the wretched beast," he said, regarding poor Greyskin
as he stood with hanging head in his stall, "but I shall save the cost
of his corn anyhow, and that is always something."

Left alone, Greyskin reflected sadly upon the fate in store for him.
"Such is the way of the world," he thought. "When I was young and
hearty nothing was too good for me; now I'm old and useless I am to be
cast out. But am I so useless after all? True, I can no longer pull a
cart to market, but I have a magnificent voice still. There must be
a place somewhere for one who can sing as beautifully as I. I'll go
to the Cathedral of St. Gudule, in Brussels, and offer myself as a
chorister."

Greyskin lost no time in acting upon his resolve, but left his
stable immediately and set out on the road to Brussels. Passing the
Burgomaster's house he saw an old hound sitting disconsolately on the
doorstep.

"Hallo, friend!" said he. "What is the matter with you? You seem very
sad this morning."

"The matter is that I am tired of life," answered the dog. "I'm getting
old and stiff and I can no longer hunt hares for my master as I used to
do. The result is that I am reckoned good for nothing and they grudge
me every morsel of food I put into my mouth."

"Come, come, cheer up, my friend," said Greyskin. "Never say die! I
am in a similar case to yourself and have just left my master for
precisely the same reason. My plan is to go to the Cathedral of St.
Gudule and offer my services to the master of the choir. If I may say
so without conceit, I have a lovely voice--one must make the most of
one's gifts, you know--and I ought to be able to command good pay."

"Well, if it comes to that," said the dog, "I can sing too. I sang a
lovely song to the moon last night, and if you'll believe me, all the
people in our street opened their windows to listen. I sang for quite
an hour, and I'd have gone on longer if some malicious person, who was
no doubt jealous, had not thrown an old boot at my head."

"Excellent," said Greyskin. "Come along with me. You shall sing tenor
and I'll sing bass. We'll make a famous pair."

So the dog joined company with Greyskin, and they went on together
towards Brussels. A little farther down the road they saw a cat sitting
on the rubbish-heap outside a miserable hovel. The creature was half
blind with age, and had a face as long as a fiddle.

"Why, what is the matter with you?" asked Greyskin, who had a tender
heart.

"Matter enough," said the cat. "I've just been turned out of house and
home, and all because I took a little piece of bacon from the larder.
Upon my honour, it was no bigger than a baby's fist, but they made
as much fuss as though it had been a whole gammon. I was beaten, and
kicked out to starve. If I could catch mice as I used to do, it would
not matter so much, but the mice are too quick for me nowadays. They
laugh at me. Nothing remains for me but to die, and I hope it may be
soon."

[Illustration: "THEY LAUGH AT ME"]

"Nonsense," said Greyskin. "You shall live to laugh at all your
troubles. Come along with us and sing in the choir at St. Gudule. Your
voice is a little too thin for my own taste, but you'll make a very
good soprano in a trio. What do you say?"

"You give me new hopes," answered the cat. "Of course I'll join you,"
and so the three went on together.

Towards nightfall they arrived at a farmyard, on the gate of which a
cock was crowing lustily.

"Hallo!" said Greyskin. "What's all this about?"

"I am singing my last song on earth," said the cock. "An hour ago
I sang a song, although it is not my usual custom to crow in the
afternoon, and as I ended I heard the farmer's wife say: 'Hearken to
Chanticleer. He's crowing for fine weather to-morrow. I wonder if he'd
crow so loudly if he knew that we had guests coming, and that he was
going into the pot to make their soup!' She has a horrid laugh, that
woman. I have always hated her!"

"And do you mean to tell me," said Greyskin, "that you are going to
stay here quite contentedly till they come to wring your neck?"

"What else can I do?" asked Chanticleer.

"Join us, and turn your talents to account. We are all beautiful
singers and we are going to Brussels to offer ourselves as choristers
at St. Gudule. We were a trio before. With you we shall be a quartet,
and that's one better!"

Chanticleer was only too glad to find a means of escape, so he
willingly joined the party, and they once more took the road. A little
while afterwards they came to a thick wood, which was the haunt of a
notorious band of robbers. There they decided to rest for the night,
so Greyskin and the dog lay down beneath the shelter of a large
beech-tree, while the cat climbed on to one of the branches, and
Chanticleer perched himself at the very top. From this lofty post he
could see over the whole wood, and it was not long before he espied a
light twinkling among the trees not far away.

[Illustration: "WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?" ASKED CHANTICLEER]

[Illustration: "HUSH!" SAID CHANTICLEER]

"There must be a house of some sort over there," he said to his
companions. "Shall we go and see? We may find something to eat."

"Or some straw to lie upon, at any rate," said Greyskin. "This damp
ground gives me rheumatics in my old bones."

"I was just thinking the same thing," said the dog. "Let us go."

So the four choristers, led by the cock, walked in the direction from
which the light came, and before long they found themselves in front of
a little house, the windows of which were brilliantly lighted. In order
to reach to the windows the animals made a tower of their bodies, with
Greyskin at the bottom and Chanticleer at the top.

Now this house was the abode of a band of robbers, who, at that very
moment, were seated before a table laden with all kinds of food. There
they sat and feasted, and poor Chanticleer's mouth watered as he
watched them.

"Is there anybody inside?" asked the dog, who was impatient.

"Hush!" said Chanticleer. "Men! They're eating their dinner!"

"I wish I was," said the dog. "What are they eating?"

"All sorts of things--sausage, and fish...."

"Sausage!" said the dog.

"Fish!" said the cat.

"And ever so many other delicacies," Chanticleer went on. "Look here,
friends. Wouldn't it be a fine thing if we could get a share of their
meal? I confess that my stomach aches with hunger."

"And mine too," said the dog. "I've never been so hungry in my life.
But how are we to get the food?"

"Let us serenade them, and perhaps they'll throw us something as a
reward," said Greyskin. "Music, you know, has charms to soothe the
savage breast."

This seemed such a good idea that the choristers lost no time in
putting it into execution. All four began to sing. The donkey
hee-hawed, the dog howled, the cat miaued, and the cock crowed. From
the noise they made one would have thought that the heavens were
falling.

[Illustration: BREAKING THE GLASS TO SMITHEREENS]

The effect of this marvellous quartet upon the robbers was
instantaneous. Leaping from their seats, they ran from place to place
in mortal terror, tumbling over one another, oversetting chairs and
adding to the racket by their shrieks and cries. At that moment the
cock fell against the window, breaking the glass to smithereens; the
donkey gave the frame a push, and all the four precipitated themselves
into the room. This was the last straw; the robbers could stand no
more; half mad with fear they rushed to the door and fled into the
forest.

Then our four choristers drew up to the table and set to work upon the
food with which it was laden. Their long walk had given them a good
appetite, so that there was little left by the time they had finished.
Feeling drowsy after their meal, they then settled themselves to sleep.
The donkey made himself a bed on a heap of straw in the yard; the dog
stretched himself out upon the mat by the house door; the cat lay
among the warm cinders on the hearth; and the cock perched upon the
roof-top. A few minutes more and they were all fast asleep.

Meanwhile the robbers, who had retreated some distance into the forest,
waited anxiously for something dreadful to happen. An hour passed by
and there was neither sight nor sound to alarm them, so they began to
feel a little ashamed of their cowardice. Creeping stealthily nearer to
the cottage, they saw that everything was still, and that no light was
showing from the windows.

At last the robber chief sent his lieutenant to spy out the land, and
this man, returning to the cottage without mishap, found his way into
the kitchen and proceeded to light a candle. He had no matches, but
he saw two sparks of fire among the cinders on the hearth, so he went
forward to get a light from them.

Now this light came from the cat's eyes, and as soon as puss felt the
robber touch her, she sprang up, snarling and spitting, and scratched
his face. With a scream of terror, he dropped his candle and rushed for
the door, and as he passed the dog bit him in the leg. By this time the
noise had awakened Greyskin, who got upon his feet just as the man ran
by, and helped him forward with a mighty kick, which sent him flying
out into the roadway. Seeing this, the cock on the housetop spread his
wings and crowed in triumph, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

I wish you could have seen the way that robber ran! He covered the
ground so quickly that he seemed like a flying shadow, and I am
perfectly certain that not even a hare could have overtaken him. At
last, panting for breath, he rejoined his comrades in the forest, who
were eagerly awaiting his return.

"Well," cried the chief, "is the way clear? Can we go back?"

"Not on any account," cried the robber. "There's a horrible witch in
the kitchen. Directly I entered she sprang at me and tore my face with
her long claws, calling out at the same time to her creatures to come
and devour me. As I ran through the door one of them buried his fangs
in my leg, and a little farther on, in the yard, a great black monster
struck at me with an enormous club, giving me a blow that nearly broke
my back-bone. On the roof a little demon with wings and eyes that shone
like coals of fire cried, 'Stop him! Eat him! Stop him! Eat him!' You
may guess that I did not wait for more. It is a miracle that I have
escaped with my life!"

When they heard this terrible story the robbers lost no time in
decamping, and such was their terror that they deserted the forest
altogether and went away to another part of the country. The result
was that our four friends were left to dwell in the cottage, where
they lived happily for the rest of their lives, and as they had now
everything they wanted, they quite gave up their idea of going to St.
Gudule.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE KING]

THE TRIAL OF REYNARD THE FOX


I. HOW CHANTICLEER THE COCK MADE COMPLAINT AGAINST REYNARD

There was rejoicing among the animals, for it was said that Reynard the
Fox--sly, spiteful Reynard--had at last repented him of his misdeeds
and resolved to lead a new life. Such a thing was, indeed, very hard to
believe, but nevertheless everybody said that it was true. Certainly he
was seen no more in his usual haunts, or about the Court of King Lion.
The news went round that he had put on the robe of piety and had become
a hermit, endeavouring to atone, by fasting and prayer, for all the
sins of which he had been guilty.

At the Court of King Nobel, Reynard's change of heart was the one
topic of conversation. A few of the animals frankly expressed their
doubts of the sincerity of such a tardy repentance, but the majority
were quite willing to accept it, for, as a rule, one believes what one
wishes to believe.

While the subject was still being eagerly discussed by the animals
around the Lion's throne, the sound of wailing was heard, and a strange
procession was seen making its way towards the King's throne. At the
head of the procession marched Chanticleer the Cock, dressed in the
deepest mourning and sobbing miserably, with bowed head. Behind him,
borne by two hens, was a bier on which was stretched the headless body
of a beautiful fowl, one of his daughters, and all the other hens
of his family followed the bier, raising their voices to heaven in
grievous lamentation. At this sad sight the whole Court stood in amaze,
and many of the animals wept in sympathy with the bereaved father, who
advanced towards the King's throne, crying for justice.

"Whom do you accuse?" asked the Lion.

"Whom should I accuse but that accursed Reynard, the source of untold
misery to me and mine? You know, O King, none better, how we have
suffered from his cruelty in the past. The tale I now have to tell is
a tale of wrong that would bring tears to the eyes of a stone image--a
tale of treachery such as would abash the Evil One himself, a tale so
base that I can hardly bring myself to utter it!"

"Say on," said the King, "and rest content, for if what you say be
true, the Fox shall receive his due reward--I swear it by my crown!"

"Lord," continued Chanticleer, "I had six sons and fourteen daughters.
We all dwelt together in the farmyard, a peaceable and happy family.
The rigours of the winter were spent; spring had come again with its
flowers and perfumes. The sun shone brightly, and insects abounded
in the farmyard. We dwelt in the midst of abundance; we were happy,
and as we thought, safe, for the farmer's six faithful dogs guarded
us from danger. Alas, for our beautiful hopes! A few days ago Reynard
appeared--cruel, black-hearted Reynard--and at one fell blow changed
our happiness into misery.

"This is how it all happened, Sire. Reynard came to the farmyard one
fine morning and brought me a letter bearing your Majesty's own seal.
I opened it, and read that your Majesty had commanded that all the
animals should hence-forward live together in peace. A noble ordinance,
Sire, such as would make the world a beautiful place--were it not for
villains. I gave the document back to Reynard, expressing my joy at the
news it contained, whereupon he said: 'My heart is full, Cock, when I
think of the cruelty with which I have treated you and your family in
the past, but you need have no further fear, I have seen the error of
my ways. Henceforth my life shall be given up to repentance and prayer.
I have renounced all worldly pleasures. Even now I am on my way to a
remote hermitage where, in fasting and solitude, I shall endeavour to
atone for my sins.'

"Then the hypocritical wretch stretched his paw over my head and gave
me his blessing and departed, reading his Book of Hours.

"Thinking no evil, and full of joy at the news, I called my children
around me and cried: 'Rejoice, my dear ones. No more will you live in
daily terror of your lives. Our noble King has given us his protection
and has commanded the Fox to leave us alone. Reynard himself has just
brought me the news, so I know it is true, and he himself has gone away
to become a holy hermit!'

"My children danced with glee when they heard my words, and I danced
with them, O King! We danced in the farmyard and in the garden, and in
the kitchen garden, for it was as though a black cloud had vanished
from over us.

[Illustration: AT THE HEAD OF THE PROCESSION MARCHED CHANTICLEER]

"This was the very moment Reynard had been waiting for. He had not
gone far away--no farther in fact than the shelter of the wall by the
kitchen garden, and as soon as we reached there, he rushed out, fell
upon the finest of my daughters and slew her before my eyes. It all
happened in a flash! We ran hither and thither, trying to escape, but
all in vain. Before we had gone a dozen steps the Fox was among us
again, and killed fifteen of my children. Last night he returned, and
slew her whose body now lies upon the bier. I have brought her here to
show you, O King, that the sight of her corpse may strike pity into
your heart, for I claim justice upon her murderer!"

So saying, the Cock bowed his head again and wept bitterly into his
handkerchief, and pitiful sobs echoed from among the beasts around.
Even the King could hardly restrain his emotion.

"A terrible tale, indeed," said he. "Our hearts are heavy for you,
Cock, and it will go hard with this Reynard when he falls into our
hands!" Then, addressing his courtiers, he asked for volunteers to go
to the Fox's retreat and bring the murderer to justice. For a time
there was no response, for few of the animals relished the task, but at
last the Bear, who had an old grudge against Reynard, offered to go.
"Leave this to me," said he. "If the Fox won't come quietly, I'll drag
him here by his tail. He shall not escape!"

So the Bear set off to find Reynard, who had retreated to one of
his châteaux--a veritable fortress--situated many miles away in the
mountains at the very end of the kingdom. To reach it the Bear had to
travel over lonely paths, and through dark woods, where he lost his way
a hundred times, but at length he arrived at Reynard's house, only to
find the massive door locked, and the walls so high that he could not
climb them.


II. HOW BRUIN THE BEAR WAS SENT TO BRING REYNARD TO COURT

"Open, in the name of the King!" cried Bruin, hammering at the door.
"Come out, Reynard! I have been sent to bring you up for trial. You
have come to the end of your rope at last! Open the door, I say, or
I'll batter it down!"

From his safe retreat in the very heart of the fortress Reynard heard
Bruin's clamour. He stretched himself lazily and yawned. "Now who is
this pestilent fellow making such a din?" said he to his wife. "Well,
I suppose I'd better go and see." So he made his way through the
labyrinth of passages which led from his burrow to the open air, and
peeped through the crack of the door. There was Bruin, hammering away
at the massive oak, and roaring: "Come out, Reynard. Come out and be
hanged!"

[Illustration: THE FOX'S CHÂTEAU]

"What! is that you, Uncle Bruin?" said Reynard, opening the wicket.
"You are in a noisy mood this morning. What is the matter?"

"The matter is that the King has sent me to bring you to Court,"
growled the Bear. "And you had best come quietly, for I represent the
law."

"By all means," answered Reynard, opening the door. "My word, but I'm
glad to see you, uncle! And an ambassador, too--such an honour! How are
you, and what sort of a journey have you had? Very trying, I'm afraid.
Really it was a shame to impose upon your good nature and send you all
this way!"

So saying the Fox led the way into his castle, keeping up a continual
patter of talk, so that Bruin could not get a word in edgeways.

"I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting at the gate," Reynard went on.
"The fact is, I was dozing and did not hear you at first. I rarely
sleep in the afternoon, but to-day I had such a heavy dinner that I
felt extremely drowsy!"

"What did you have?" asked the Bear with interest.

"Oh, a simple meal enough. I am not rich, you know, and I have to eat
what I can find. To-day it was a big comb of honey--not very much to my
taste, but I was hungry and I ate it!"

Bruin pricked up his ears. "Eh?" said he. "Did you say honey?"

"Strange food for a fox, isn't it?" said Reynard. "I wish I hadn't
touched the stuff now, for, to tell you the truth, it's lying on my
chest like a load of lead. I swear never to eat it again, although I
know a place, not far from here, where there are immense quantities of
it!"

By this time Bruin was all agog with excitement.

"Nephew," said he, laying his paw on Reynard's shoulder, "show me the
place where that honey is. My mouth is watering at the very thought of
it. I love honey better than anything else in the world, and I'd give
all I possess for a taste of it!"

"You are joking, no doubt," said Reynard laughingly. "How can any one
like such stuff?"

"Joking, am I?" growled Bruin. "Just lead me to the honey and I'll show
you whether I'm joking. I tell you I'd give my eyes and ears for a
taste!"

"Well, if that's the case," said Reynard, "you shall be satisfied.
There's a carpenter not far from here who keeps bees, and from time
immemorial his family have been noted for the excellence of their
honey. I'll take you there, and I'm very glad to be able to render you
this little service. In return, all I ask of you is that you will
speak up for me when I come before the King."

[Illustration: THE POOR BEAST ROARED WITH PAIN]

"Of course I will," answered Bruin. "Let us go at once. I can hardly
contain myself for impatience."

Reynard called upon Bruin to follow him and led the way to the
carpenter's yard. The afternoon was very hot, and the carpenter was
taking a nap after dinner. His yard was empty and in the middle of it
was the trunk of a great oak-tree which he had laid out ready to be cut
up into planks. The trunk was split down the middle, and kept open by
two wedges of wood.

"Here you are!" said Reynard, going up to the tree-trunk. "This is the
place where the carpenter keeps his honey. Put your muzzle in and root
it out from the bottom. Don't eat too much!"

"Never fear," answered Bruin. "I'll be moderate." And he plunged his
head and his two front paws into the crack. The next moment Reynard
knocked out the wedges which kept the two halves of the trunk apart.
They sprang together with the force of a steel spring, catching Bruin
firmly by the nose and paws.

The poor beast roared with pain, making a din that echoed back like
thunder from the mountains. The carpenter woke up from his slumber, and
seizing an axe, ran out into the yard. His wife came tumbling out of
the scullery with a broom in her hand, and people from the neighbouring
village came running to see what all the noise was about. When they saw
that the Bear was a prisoner they fell upon him and began to belabour
him with mighty blows, while the unhappy creature gave himself up for
lost. Maddened with pain, he redoubled his efforts to tear himself
free, and at last succeeded in getting away, although he left most of
the skin of his nose and paws behind. With the blood flowing from his
muzzle, and his eyes shining red with rage, he made such a terrible
picture that the people fled hither and thither, leaving him a free
passage, and he limped off into the shelter of the woods, moaning and
breathing out threats against his betrayer.

From a safe distance Reynard watched him go, with a malicious grin.
"Farewell, Uncle Bear," said he. "I hope you found the honey good!"


III. TYBERT'S MISSION AND HOW HE FARED

King Lion was furious when he saw the miserable state in which his
ambassador returned. He immediately called a council of his ministers,
to whom Bruin related all that had happened.

[Illustration: HE IMMEDIATELY CALLED A COUNCIL OF HIS MINISTERS]

"This recreant must be punished," said the King when the tale was
ended. "It is a disgrace to our kingdom that he remains at large.
Somebody else must go to bring him here. Who shall it be?"

After a good deal of discussion it was decided that Tybert the Cat
should undertake the task, for he was reputed to be as cunning and
artful as Reynard himself. "Do not be deceived by his wiles," said
the King. "No doubt he will try to flatter you, or to play upon your
weaknesses, but pay no attention to his words. You must take this
mission very seriously and not allow yourself to be led aside by
anything. On your head be it!"

The Cat promised to be very circumspect, and set off at once. He
travelled quickly, and soon arrived at the door of Reynard's castle,
where he found the Fox playing with his cubs on the grass, tumbling
them over and over, and having fine fun. It was a touching spectacle of
domestic bliss. Reynard jumped to his feet when he saw Tybert.

"Why, cousin," said he, "this is a pleasant surprise! What makes you
desert the gaieties of the Court for my poor home?"

"I come in the King's name," answered the Cat sternly. "He has sent
me to bring you to Court, where you are to answer for your revolting
crimes. The Bear returned yesterday, and the tale he told has stiffened
the King's anger against you. I am to say that if you refuse to
accompany me, your house shall be destroyed and your family wiped off
the face of the earth!"

"Refuse," said Reynard, "whoever thought of refusing? I am sure the
King has no more obedient subject than I. As for that Bruin, he is a
bad subject, and I expect he has been telling a pack of lies about me.
Do I look as if I could do anybody any harm? As a matter of fact I
spend all my time here in meditation and prayer. But come in, come in!
You must have a meal, for you have had a long journey. To-morrow we
will set out together."

"It seems to me," said the Cat, "that it would be better if we started
at once."

"Nonsense, my dear fellow," said Reynard. "It is bad to make a journey
on an empty stomach. What difference will an hour or two make? We shall
travel all the faster if we start in good condition."

"Well, there's something in that," said Tybert, who, to tell the
truth, was not sorry of an excuse to break a fast of many hours. "What
have you got for dinner?"

"What would you like?" asked Reynard. "Shall we say a comb of honey?"

"Bah!" cried the Cat. "Honey indeed! I loathe the stuff. Now if you had
a nice fat mouse...!"

"Happy thought," said Reynard. "As it happens, I know a house close by
where there are hundreds of mice, the fattest and sleekest creatures
you ever saw in your life, and so tame that one can literally scoop
them up by the score. I often catch a few myself when I am hungry and
other game is scarce."

[Illustration: "TAKE ME TO THIS HOUSE"]

"Take me to this house," said Tybert. "Tame or not, I'll catch the mice
if they are there. I love the creatures." And he licked his lips and
stretched out his paws.

Now Reynard had spoken the truth when he said that he knew a house
where mice abounded, and it was true also that he often went there--not
in search of mice, but of chickens. The last time he had paid a visit
he had found that the farmer had put a string noose over the hole by
which he was used to enter, but fortunately for himself Reynard had
discovered it in time.

Towards this house he now led the unsuspecting Tybert, and having shown
him the hole, bade him enter and take his fill of the mice. Tybert
obeyed, but no sooner had he got his head through the hole than the
trap was sprung, and there he was, caught. He gave a scream of pain and
fear, and from behind Reynard answered mockingly: "Sing away, cousin. I
love to hear your voice. But mind you don't frighten the mice!" Then he
took to his heels and ran back to his castle.

A minute or two later the farmer, having heard the Cat's miaulings,
arrived armed with a heavy stick. "Ah, you thief," he cried, "I've got
you at last, have I?" And he began to lay the stick on the Cat's back
with all his might. Tybert kicked and struggled, and managed at last to
get free, but he was more dead than alive when he went limping back to
the King's Court.


IV. HOW BLAIREAU THE BADGER BROUGHT REYNARD TO TRIAL

"This is monstrous," said King Nobel when he had heard Tybert's piteous
tale. "It is no use paltering any longer. We must burn this caitiff's
castle about his ears."

"One moment, Sire," said Blaireau the Badger, who was a great friend of
Reynard's. "Our ancient laws demand that any person accused of crime
shall be called three times before extreme measures are taken against
him. Now Reynard has only been called twice. I propose, therefore, that
he be given one more chance to render himself peacefully before your
Majesty, and to defend himself. There are two sides to every story, and
so far we have only heard one."

"That is all very well," said the King, "but who will be the messenger?
It seems to me that the experiences of the other two will be little
encouragement for a third."

"If no one else will go," answered Blaireau, "I will go myself. Reynard
has been a very good friend of mine in the past, and I may be able to
appeal to his better self."

"I doubt it," said the King; "but go by all means, and bring him back
if you can. Should you fail, I will batter down his castle stone by
stone."

So Blaireau went off on his mission, and arriving at the château, found
Reynard in the midst of his family.

"Look here, uncle," said he, "there must be an end to all nonsense. The
King is at the end of his patience, and unless you obey his commands he
is determined to stick at nothing with you. Tybert and Bruin are both
badly knocked about, and the sympathy of all the animals is with them.
But for my pleadings the King would have sent an army to burn your
castle about your ears. Be sensible now, and come back quietly with me.
You have wits enough to defend yourself against all accusations and
need not fear the issue. I tell you frankly, delay will be dangerous."

[Illustration: "TYBERT AND BRUIN ARE BADLY KNOCKED ABOUT"]

"Ah," said Reynard, "if those others had only spoken to me as you
have spoken, my dear nephew, things would have been very different.
They were insolent and they paid the price, but nobody shall say that
Reynard the Fox was impervious to good counsel. Of course I will go
with you--the sooner the better. I have no fear of being able to
silence my calumniators. The King can't live without me--he knows it
very well, and that fact alone will provide him with a good motive for
giving me a free pardon."

Then Reynard took a tender farewell of Hermeline, his wife, and
Reynkin, his eldest son, and all the other children, and set off with
Blaireau towards the King's Court.

On the way Reynard said: "My dear Blaireau, this is a very solemn
moment of my life! I cannot help feeling that I have not, perhaps,
always lived as righteously as I might have done. It will relieve my
mind somewhat if I might make confession of some of the most heinous of
my crimes. Will you hear me?"

[Illustration: "AND CAUSED HIM TO JUMP AT LEAST TWENTY FEET INTO THE
AIR"]

"Certainly," answered Blaireau. "I am glad to hear you have a contrite
heart, uncle. Speak on by all means. Confession is the first step
towards repentance."

"I have been a sad sinner," Reynard went on. "My heart fails me when I
think of all the misery I have caused! I weep for the poor Bear, whose
nose and paws are skinless because of me, and for the Cat, who suffered
a terrible beating at the hands of the farmer. Then there was the
Wolf--did I ever tell you about the Wolf?"

"No," said Blaireau, "you did not."

"Well," continued Reynard, "the Wolf and I were one day walking along
the road when we came to a monastery. It was the time of evensong, and
the sound of the bells made such a sweet music in the air that I felt
my soul grow full of enthusiasm. 'Ah,' said I, 'if I were only one of
the monks in that monastery, with what joy would I sound the bells!'
Isengrim thought the idea a splendid one, and wished to carry it into
practice, so, as he was not a monk, I took it upon myself to introduce
him into the monastery at dead of night. There I tied him to the
bell-rope and bade him pull, for the good of his soul. He pulled--ah,
nephew, how enthusiastically he pulled! The bells rang as they had
never rung before, and all the monks in the monastery came running to
see what was the matter. Isengrim would have run away if he could, but
alas, I had tied him so firmly to the rope that he could not escape,
and he got a sound beating for his pains.

"Another time, still under the influence of his monastic ideas,
Isengrim proposed to me that I should shave his head. I agreed, and
when I had him in the chair, to my eternal shame be it said, I planted
a burning firebrand on his pate, and caused him to jump at least twenty
feet into the air. Ah, I am a miserable sinner." And Reynard broke into
sobs and lamentations.

"Never mind," said Blaireau consolingly, "since you are truly
repentant, all will be forgiven you. See, there are the towers of the
King's palace. We shall soon be there. Get ready to make your speech of
defence, for you will need all your eloquence this day."


V. HOW REYNARD TOLD THE KING OF A HIDDEN TREASURE

When Reynard arrived at the court he found all the animals assembled to
witness his trial. King Nobel sat on his throne, with the Queen by his
side, and very cold and stern was the glance which the monarch cast
upon Master Fox as he stepped up and made his obeisance. "Reynard,"
said the King, "you have been accused of crimes so many and so grievous
that if only the half of all the accusations are true, you have merited
death a hundred times. What have you to say?"

Reynard put a paw up to his face and brushed away a tear; then, with
his voice broken with emotion, he answered: "My lord the King, I have
been a miserable sinner, and there is nothing left for me to do but to
cast myself upon your royal mercy. Where King Nobel sits, there justice
and mercy sit also. I am sure of the one; therefore I make bold to
plead earnestly for the other. Perhaps, O King, I am not so bad as I
have been painted. The tongues of enemies have uttered slanders before
to-day, and brought upright men to ruin. All I ask, O King, is that you
will let me state my case, and, when I shall have finished my tale,
judge me according to my deserts. I will keep nothing back, for in this
serious hour I wish to speak nothing but the naked truth. Listen to me,
O King, and let these others listen also. Perchance the sad story of my
wrongdoings, and of my gradual fall from righteousness, may be a lesson
to many here, and by serving as an example help to keep them upon the
strait and narrow path."

"You have a glib tongue, Reynard," said the King. "It has saved you
before to-day, but this time the count is too serious to be hidden by
a mist of words. Yet speak on. The accused has a right to make his
own defence, and that right I should be the last to deny, even to one
forsworn and treacherous, as you have proved yourself to be."

Reynard sobbed aloud. "Hard words, O King," said he, "and harder still
because of the truth that is in them. I do not complain. Meekly I bow
the head and make confession of my sins."

At this all the animals settled themselves comfortably to listen. The
idea of Reynard the Fox confessing anything was so new that not one of
them would willingly have missed a word. Those of the animals who knew
Reynard well regarded him a little uneasily, but nobody broke silence.
Reynard remained for a time sobbing quietly with head bowed upon his
paws, then, in a broken voice, he began to speak:

[Illustration: "I WAS MISCHIEVOUS AND UNRULY"]

"From my very earliest years, O King," said he, "I was mischievous
and unruly. Had there been anybody to give me counsel and guidance
I might perhaps have outgrown the errors of my youth and become a
worthy subject. Unfortunately I fell into bad company, and, under the
influence of evil companions went rapidly from bad to worse. Isengrim
the Wolf was my friend in those early days. He it was who taught me
to steal and to prey upon the defenceless creatures of the woods and
fields. My first victim, I well remember, was a young lamb which had
strayed from the fold. Isengrim led me to her and persuaded me to kill
her, and afterwards, in the same way, a goat and two young deer fell
victims to my raging thirst for blood. Soon not a hen-house, not a
fold was safe from my depredations. I killed for the sake of killing,
and that part of the meat which I could not devour I gave to the Wolf,
who was only too willing to take it, or hid it in certain holes and
crannies in the wood."

All the time that Reynard had been speaking Isengrim had been making
frantic efforts to speak, but a glance from the King had kept him
silent. Now he could contain himself no longer. Trembling with fury, he
rose to his feet and cried: "Lies! All lies, O King! Will your Majesty
believe anything it pleases this slanderous dog to say?"

"Silence!" cried the King. "Your turn will come later. For the present
let the accused speak without interruption!"

"Thanks, O King," said Reynard. "I can well understand the Wolf's wrath
when his connexion with so vile a creature as I is thus brought to
light. Yet I have sworn to tell the truth, and the truth I will tell
without regard to persons. Sorry as I am to say it, the Wolf was not
the only one to lead me into bad ways. Among my companions of those
early days were also the Bear and the Cat. They made me hunt for them
when I was young, and such was their voracity that there was little
left for myself, and I should have died of hunger were it not for the
fact that I was fortunate enough to discover a hidden treasure!"

"Eh, what's that?" said the King. "Did you say a treasure?"

"Aye," answered Reynard, "a treasure of gold, my lord; so great a
treasure that it would take your servants many days even to count it
all. And not gold alone, but precious gems--diamonds of the purest
water, rubies red as blood, and emeralds green as the sea when the sun
shines upon it!"

The Queen leaned forward upon her throne and fixed Reynard with burning
eyes. "And pearls too?" she whispered.

"Pearls too, O Queen. Ropes of pearls that well would adorn your
Majesty's fair neck. And jewelled crowns worthy of a royal brow!
Hidden deep in the earth they lie, all those riches, and now they will
lie there for ever, for nobody knows of them but myself. Perhaps it
is as well. The lust of gold is the motive of many crimes, and this
treasure has already been the cause of a serious attempt against
the throne and the life of the King! But all this has nothing to do
with my confession. With your Majesty's leave I will go on with what I
was about to say."

[Illustration: THE TRIAL OF REYNARD THE FOX]

"One moment," said the Queen. "Those crowns you spoke of--describe them
more fully. What stones had they, and how set?"

"Time enough for that," cried the King. "You shall try the crowns upon
your head before all is done. Let the Fox tell us where this treasure
is hidden; that is the important thing!"

"I had thought to carry the secret with me to the grave," said Reynard,
"but in this solemn hour I can hide nothing. If it is your Majesty's
will, I will tell all."

[Illustration: "AND PEARLS TOO?" SHE WHISPERED]

"Beware, O King!" cried the Bear. "He will deceive you now as he has
deceived others. Believe not his lying words!"

"Silence!" cried the King. "This matter concerns me, and me alone. Let
Reynard speak!"

Reynard cast a look of triumph at Bruin and Isengrim, and, smiling
faintly, went on with his tale.

"The treasure was discovered first of all by my father. He came upon it
one day when he was hunting in the forest, among the ruins of a palace
that once belonged to an ancient king. There, in a deep hole, under a
big stone, he found the gold and gems, and for ever afterwards he was
a changed creature. No longer blithe and care-free, he slunk about as
though overburdened with responsibility. He knew himself rich beyond
compare--richer than any king in all the world, and gradually into his
heart there crept the desire to win, by means of his riches, a place of
power.

"At that time, O King, my father was bitter against your Majesty
because of your disapproval of his manner of life, and I am sorry to
say that he determined to wrest you from the throne and to set up
another in your place. Full of this project, he took Tybert the Cat
into his confidence. The two met together secretly in the forest of the
Ardennes, and after much discussion they decided to offer the throne to
Bruin the Bear!"

"Ah!" ejaculated the King, turning his gaze upon Bruin, who was too
furious to speak. "So now we know why you wished to still Reynard's
tongue."

"The Bear was delighted with the prospect," Reynard went on, "and
strutted about the forest as though he were already crowned. He was
always talking of the fine laws he would make and the splendid time
he would have, but he was too stupid to be of much use as a plotter.
Indeed, it was for reason of his stupidity that my father and Tybert
chose him as king, for they thought they could make of him a useful
tool. They had, however, to lay their plans without him, and the better
to carry them out, they called Isengrim the Wolf, and Grimbard the
Ape, into conference. The five met together at a certain place between
Heyst and Gand, and it was there, O King, that your death was decided
upon. Each of the conspirators took a solemn oath not to divulge the
proceedings to a living soul, and having settled the very hour and day
of your Majesty's assassination, they departed to their homes.

[Illustration: "I SAW HIM STOP AT THE FOOT OF A GREAT TREE"]

"Now, like all apes, Grimbard was a chatterer, and no sooner was
he within his house than he told his wife all that had happened,
explaining to her that it was a great secret and she was not to tell
a soul. Of course she promised faithfully to keep a still tongue in
her head, and as a matter of fact I believe she did manage to keep
the secret for a whole day. Then she happened to meet my wife in the
woods, and having sworn _her_ to secrecy, told her the whole thing. My
wife, out of a feeling of love and regard to your Majesty, thought it
her duty to inform me, which she did, immediately she returned home,
without keeping back a single detail.

"I could not believe my ears at first. 'What! Bruin, king!' I cried.
'That great fat lump of hairy stupidity, king of the animals! Is the
world going mad? Would they dethrone our loved and gracious lord in
favour of so base a beast?' There and then, O King, I raised my hand
above my head and swore to defend your Majesty's life to the last.
'While Reynard lives,' I said, 'the King's throne shall be secure, cost
what it may!'

"From that moment I thought of nothing else but how best to thwart my
father's base plans. It seemed to me that if I could only discover the
treasure I might stop the whole thing, for the conspirators relied
upon the gold to pay the armies they intended to raise. For days,
therefore, I lurked about the woods, following my father wherever he
went, in the hope that, sooner or later, he would betray the treasure's
whereabouts. But he was far too wary to go near it, and had it not been
for the stupidity of the Ape I might have remained none the wiser. One
day I noticed Grimbard wheeling a barrow through the forest with an
air of great secrecy, and following him unseen, at a safe distance, I
saw him stop in the midst of the ruins of that ancient palace in the
forest. There, at the foot of a great tree, he lifted a heavy stone,
discovering a deep hole, from which he took several vases filled to the
brim with golden coins. These he placed upon his barrow, and having
carefully covered up the hole again, trundled off into the forest.

"No sooner had he disappeared amid the shade of the trees than I ran
forward and lifted the stone. What a sight met my eyes! There lay
the treasure--chest upon chest of shining gold, and heaps of jewels
flashing with rays of many-coloured light. My eyes were nearly blinded
by the splendour.

[Illustration: THE CONSPIRACY GAINED ADHERENTS EVERY DAY]

"Even as I stood gazing in a sort of dazed trance, I realized what I
must do. If I could get this treasure away from the place where it was
hidden, and, unknown to the conspirators, transport it somewhere else,
their plot would be strangled at its birth. Unfortunately the treasure
was heavy and I had no means of conveyance--not even a barrow, but I
took counsel of Hermeline, my wife, and she, noble soul as she is,
strengthened me in my resolve. 'Though we wear our paws to the bone,'
said she, 'we must take the treasure away and save the life of our
noble and our beloved King.' That very night we began our task, and
little by little we moved the treasure, hiding it in a safe place known
only to ourselves. For the best part of a month we laboured, working
only at night, and fearful every moment that we should be discovered.
At last everything was finished, and the whole of the treasure removed.

"In the meantime, the conspiracy gained adherents every day. My father
was the life and soul of the plot. He sent messengers far and near,
into every corner of the land, to win the animals over to his side.
'Those who enrol under my banner,' said he, 'shall receive a large
sum of money paid in advance. I do not ask them to trust my word, but
to come to me and let me pour the money into their hands.' In such
circumstance what wonder that his supporters grew every hour. Before
long he had gathered together an immense army, which was increased by
troops raised by the Bear, the Wolf, and the Cat. Bruin, in particular,
was very proud of his success in raising soldiers. He already fancied
himself king, and walked about giving orders to everybody who crossed
his path.

"Now the time for payment had come, so my father, accompanied by
Grimbard and the Cat, made his way to the hiding-place of the treasure
to bring out the gold. I watched them from afar, and saw them uncover
the hole, and never to my dying day shall I forget the scream my father
uttered when he saw that the treasure was no longer there. Frantically
the two of them dug up the soil around the place in the hope that they
were mistaken, but not a single gold piece could they find. At last
Grimbard, chattering with fear, turned and slunk away, while my father
crept home and hanged himself with a cord to a nail just outside the
back door. A terrible end, O King, but though he was my father, I
cannot help feeling he deserved the misery he had brought upon himself.
As for Bruin, he found himself faced with the necessity of explaining
to the soldiers that no money was forthcoming, and being a coward at
heart, he shirked the task. He, too, fled secretly, and Tybert the Cat
soon followed. To-day, sire, these three stand among the foremost of my
accusers. If I have sinned, have they not sinned too, and in greater
measure?"

[Illustration: THE SUIT OF GOLDEN ARMOUR EMRIK WORE]

The King waved his paw impatiently. "We will deal with them presently,"
said he. "For the present, keep to your tale. Where is the treasure
hidden? Speak, and lie not, on your life!"

"Why should I lie, O King?" asked Reynard in an aggrieved tone. "Have
I not sworn to tell the truth? In Western Flanders there is a little
wood called Husterloo. In the midst of that wood lies a pool, which is
known by the name of Krekelput.[1] It is a dreary place, O King, and
solitary, for it lies among marshes where no man can pass. No sound
is heard in that place save only the call of the carrion-crow by day,
and the dismal hooting of the owl by night. There, close to that pool,
I hid the treasure, in a hole in the earth which I covered with soil,
marking the place with three great stones. Remove those stones, and
dig up the soil, and you will discover three enormous golden vases,
beautifully carved and modelled. In the first is the royal crown of the
ancient King Emrik, which Bruin thought to wear. In the second is the
crown of Emrik's queen--a thing of wonder, flashing with splendid gems;
and in the third is the suit of golden armour Emrik wore. Beneath these
three vases lies the rest of the treasure--chest after chest of golden
coins, ropes of pearls, necklaces of diamonds and rubies, so many gems
that I cannot describe them all. If your Majesty will send trusty
messengers to Krekelput, they can easily prove the truth of what I say!"

      [1] Snail's well.

During this recital the King had raised himself from his throne in
his excitement, and now he turned to the assembled animals and cried:
"Which of you knows Krekelput? Who will go and fetch the treasure?"

Nobody answered, for, as a matter of fact, not a soul present had ever
heard of Krekelput before Reynard mentioned the name.

"Come, come," cried the King. "One of you must know the wood of
Husterloo and the pool of which Reynard speaks!"

"Be patient with them, Sire," said Reynard. "They are afraid to speak.
The Hare knows the place very well. Do you not remember, friend," said
he, fixing the Hare with a menacing glance, "you took refuge in the
wood of Husterloo one day when the hounds were after you!"

[Illustration: THEY WALKED IN SILENCE]

"I cannot remember very well," stammered the Hare, who was nearly out
of his senses with fright. "Perhaps I did!"

"Of course you did," said Reynard, "and you could find the place again,
no doubt?"

"I am not sure," said the poor Hare, who indeed had never heard of
Husterloo.

"A truce to all this!" cried the King impatiently. "If you cannot
remember, Reynard shall go with you to refresh your memory, and Bellyn
the Ram shall accompany the two of you to see that you do not run away.
Be off with you at once, and bring back the treasure as quickly as you
can, for my eyes are aching for a sight of Emrik's crown and the suit
of golden armour Emrik wore."

"And forget not the ropes of pearls and the jewelled coronet!" cried
the Queen. "Bring those first!"

"I will bring everything in good time," said Reynard; "trust me for
that. But before I set out on this journey I must go to Rome to ask
absolution of the Pope for all the sins I have committed. Suffer me
first of all to go on this pilgrimage, O King, and, if you will, send
Bellyn and the Hare with me to see that I do not escape. Nothing is
further from my thoughts, but after what has happened I cannot expect
your Majesty to trust my word, and I am content to go in ward."

"Be it so!" said the King. "Set off at once and return as soon as may
be. And now there is another little affair to settle! Where is Bruin,
our would-be king. Stand forth, Bruin, with your precious conspirators,
the Wolf, the Cat, and the Ape." But nobody answered, for seeing how
affairs were going all the four had quietly slipped away, fearing to
stay and face the vengeance of the King.

Reynard smiled maliciously as he put on a pilgrim's cloak and marched
away with Bellyn and the Hare along the road that led from the Court.

For several miles they walked in silence. Then Reynard sighed and said:
"Ah, friends, how I long to see my dear wife and children just once
more before I go on this long journey that lies before us. Let us take
the road that leads past my castle of Malpertuis. It is not much out of
our way, and we can enter there and refresh ourselves."

The Hare was too frightened to dispute the matter, and Bellyn on his
part good-humouredly agreed, so the three of them took the road to
Malpertuis, and before long came to the gate of Reynard's castle.

[Illustration: REYNARD SPRANG AT HIS THROAT]

"Here we are at last, Cousin Bellyn," said Reynard. "Did you ever see
such fine pastures! You must be famished after our long tramp. Take a
rest a while and eat some of this sweet grass, while I and the Hare
go into the house and console my wife for the long separation that is
before her. We shall not stay more than a few minutes."

"Well, hurry up," said Bellyn, who had already begun to graze. "I will
wait for you, but don't stay talking all day!"

So Reynard and the Hare went into the house, where they were met by
Hermeline, Reynard's devoted spouse.

"What, husband," said she, "are you back already? How did things go at
Court?"

"Just as I said they would," answered Reynard. "When the King heard my
tale he acquitted me of the charges that had been brought against me,
and allowed me to return here in honour. The Wolf, the Bear, and the
Cat, who were my most powerful enemies, have fled the Court, so that,
for the time being, they have escaped my vengeance; but I have brought
with me this fellow whom you see at my side, for he was among the
foremost of my accusers!"

When he heard these words the poor Hare trembled with fright, and
turned to flee, but in a moment Reynard sprang at his throat. One
loud cry he gave for help, but Bellyn, peacefully cropping the grass
outside, did not hear, and the next moment the Hare was dead. Then
Reynard and Hermeline and all the little foxes had a splendid feast,
and in less than half an hour nothing was left of the Hare's carcass
but the head.

While they were still feasting there came a loud knocking at the door.
It was Bellyn, who, having eaten his fill, was now impatient with
waiting.

Snatching up the head of the Hare Reynard put it into a bag, which he
carefully sealed. Then, running to the door, he threw it open.

"You have been a long time!" grumbled Bellyn. "Where is the Hare?"

"Oh, he is just inside, playing with my little ones," said Reynard.
"He's a merry fellow, that one, and so fond of children that it is
beautiful to watch him. Leave him alone for a time. He'll be out
presently. While you are waiting, you might run back to the King with
this bag, which he asked me to send him. It contains papers referring
to the conspiracy--papers which involve a great many people at Court,
in fact nearly all of the animals except yourself. Hurry off with it,
and give it into the King's own hands, and, as you value your
life, do not open the bag upon the road, or the King will suspect that
you also are involved and have erased your name on the way."

[Illustration: "YOU HAVE MERITED DEATH A HUNDRED TIMES"]

"Did the King say I was to take back the papers?" asked Bellyn.

"Of course he did!" answered Reynard. "'Send them back by my trusty
Bellyn'--those were his very words, and he whispered in my ear that you
were the only one among the whole court that he could trust. I should
not be surprised if he gave you a handsome reward, and perhaps made you
a peer of the realm!"

"Give me the bag!" cried Bellyn. "I'll take it to the King. I shall not
be long. Wait until I come back, and tell the Hare that he is on no
account to set out without me."

"Never fear," said Reynard. "He'll not stir a step out of my
castle--I'll answer for that. Farewell, good Bellyn. I will be waiting
here when you return!"

Full of pride at his important mission, Bellyn trotted off down the
road, bearing the bag very carefully with him, and Reynard, with a
spiteful smile, stood and watched him till he was out of sight.

In good time Bellyn returned to the Court and handed to the astonished
King the bag which Reynard had sent. The King broke the seal, and
gazed inside, while the Queen pressed close to him, peering over his
shoulder. The next moment he gave a cry of horror, as he drew forth the
head of the poor Hare. The Queen fell to the ground in a dead faint,
and for a time the King remained holding the head in his hands, gazing
at it vacantly. Then he cast it from him, and without a word turned his
steps towards his palace, where he immediately took to his bed, for the
shock of the thing had made him ill. Not for several weeks afterwards,
when he had somewhat recovered, was he able to turn his thoughts to
vengeance. Then he gave orders for a large army to march to Reynard's
castle of Malpertuis to raze it to the ground, and bring back the Fox
in chains.

The army set out, but when they arrived at Malpertuis they found the
birds had flown. Reynard and Hermeline and all the little foxes had
left the country, and were never seen again.

Some people say that they took up their abode in a distant land, where
Reynard soon began once more to play his old tricks, until the King of
that land caught him one day red-handed, and hanged him on the nearest
tree without giving him a chance to say a word. I do not know whether
this story is true, although I hope it is. All that I can say for
certain is that Reynard and his family were never seen in King Nobel's
dominions from that day on.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: CALF AND GOAT]

THE MAGIC CAP


There was once a poor countryman, of whom his neighbours said that he
had no more wits than he was born with, and that was not many. He was,
indeed a simple-minded fellow, and anybody could get the better of him.
One day the countryman's wife said to him: "Jan, put on your best smock
and your soundest clogs, and go to the market to try and sell our calf.
She is a good calf and you ought to get at least a hundred francs for
her."

Away went Jan, along the road to the market town, with the calf
behind him. He felt quite glad to be out on this fine spring day, and
he hummed a merry tune as he plodded along. Three students who were
lounging at the door of an inn saw him pass, and, marking his air of
simplicity, thought it would be good fun to play a joke upon him, so
one of them went up to him and said:

"Good-morning, friend! How much are you asking for your goat?"

"Goat?" answered the peasant in surprise. "This is not a goat, but a
calf!"

"Indeed!" said the student politely. "And who told you that?"

"It was my wife," answered the peasant. "'Jan,' she said, 'go to the
market and try to sell our calf.' I am sure she said calf. I could not
make a mistake about such a thing!"

"Your wife was playing a joke on you," said the student. "Anybody can
see that is a goat. If you don't believe me, ask the next person you
meet on the road." And he went off, laughing.

Jan continued his walk, a little troubled in his mind, and before very
long he saw the second of the students coming towards him. "Stay a
minute, sir," he cried. "Do you mind looking at this animal of mine and
telling me what sort of a creature it is?"

"Why, a goat, of course," answered the student.

"You're wrong," said the peasant. "It's a calf. My wife says so, and
she could not be mistaken!"

"Have it your own way!" replied the student, "but if you'll take my
advice you won't pretend that animal is a calf when you get to the
market, unless you want to be hooted out of the town!"

"Ah!" said Jan, and he went on his way, muttering to himself, and
casting many a troubled glance at the innocent calf who ambled along
peacefully behind him. "If it is a goat it ought to have horns," he
said to himself. "And it hasn't got any horns. But if it is a calf it
will have horns when it grows to be a cow. Perhaps it is a goat-calf.
I wonder whether goat-calves have horns!" And he continued to puzzle
his poor brains about the matter until he was suddenly interrupted by a
shout from the side of the road. The shout came from the third student,
who had been waiting for him.

"Hallo, you there!" cried the student. "How much do you want for your
goat?"

"Goat? Goat?" murmured the peasant in dismay. "Here, take the thing. If
it's a goat, I don't want it, for I was sent to market to sell a calf.
You may have it for nothing--I'll make you a present of it!" And so
saying, he pushed the cord into the student's hand. Then turning his
back without another word, he retraced his steps towards his home.

[Illustration: "YOU WERE BEING MADE A FOOL OF"]

When his wife heard what had happened she was furious. "You stupid
lout!" she cried, "could you not see that you were being made a fool
of?" And she called him all the names she could lay her tongue to,
until the poor fellow blushed and hung his head for shame. Her anger
did not last long, however, for she was a good woman and she knew
that her husband's simplicity was not his fault, but his misfortune.
Fortunately, she had quite enough wits for them both, and instead of
wasting more time in reproaches, she set to work to think how she might
pay back the practical jokers in their own coin. It did not take her
long to think of a plan, and as the first step towards carrying it
out, she put on her bonnet and went off to the town, where she called
at three inns, paying at each of them for a dinner for four persons,
the dinner to be eaten on the next market day. Returning home, she
explained the plan to her husband and gave him very exact instructions
as to the part he was to play.

When the next market day came round Jan set off for the town, and by
the door of the very first inn on the road he met the three students.
They exchanged a sly smile when they saw him, and one of them said:
"Good morning, good fellow. And how do you find yourself to-day? I
notice that you have no goat with you this time."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Jan, "that was a good joke you played on me, but
I bear you no ill-will for it. Come in and drink a glass of wine. I'm
in funds this morning and I'll willingly stand treat."

The students accepted Jan's offer with enthusiasm, for they belonged
to that class of men who are always thirsty. Accordingly the four went
into the tavern; and Jan called for wine. When the time came to pay for
it, he called the serving-maid, and taking off his cap, spun it round
three times on his finger. "Madam," said he, "everything is paid for,
isn't it?"

"Yes, sir, and thank you very much," answered the serving-maid.

The three students watched this procedure with a good deal of surprise,
but Jan carried off the whole affair as if it were the most natural
thing in the world. "Now, my friends," said he, "the doctors say it is
bad to drink on an empty stomach. What do you say to a good meal?"

"Excellent," cried the students.

"Very well then, come along with me to the next inn, and you shall have
one."

Laughing in their sleeves at the peasant's simplicity, the students
followed. Arrived at the inn, Jan ordered dinner for four, and a heap
of good things were put upon the table. After the repast, he called the
serving-maid to him, took off his cap as before, and twirled it round
three times on his finger. "Now then," said he, "everything is paid
for, isn't that so?"

"Certainly, sir," answered the serving-maid, "and I am very much
obliged to you."

[Illustration: JAN AND THE THREE STUDENTS]

At this the three students opened their eyes even wider than before,
but Jan took not the slightest notice of their astonishment.

"What do you say, friends," he asked, "shall we go on to the town
together and wash the dinner down with a glass of ale apiece?"

"As many as you please," answered the students joyfully, and so they
followed Jan to the town, where he entered a third tavern and ordered
drinks all round. Then, taking off his cap once again, he twirled it
round three times on his finger, and said to the innkeeper: "Everything
is paid for, isn't it, my good man?"

"Certainly, sir," said the innkeeper, bowing.

But this was more than the curiosity of the students could stand.

"Look here, gossip," said one of them, "how is it that you are able to
get food and drink for nothing everywhere you go, simply by twirling
your cap in people's faces?"

"Oh, that's easily explained," answered Jan, "This cap of mine is a
magic cap, which was left to me by my great-great-grandmother, who
was a witch, so I have heard say. If I twirl it on my finger, and
say, 'Everything is paid for,'--well, everything _is_ paid for! You
understand me?"

"Perfectly," said the student. "My faith, but that is a wonderful
cap--the very thing to have when one goes a journey! Will you sell it
to me?"

"How much will you give me for it?" asked Jan.

"Two hundred francs!"

"Nonsense! Do you think I am going to brave my wife's anger for a
paltry two hundred francs?"

"Well then, three hundred."

"Not enough! My wife says it is worth a fortune."

"Four hundred."

Jan shook his head doubtfully, and, seeing his hesitation, the student
cried:

"Come now, we'll give you five hundred, and not a penny more. You'd
better accept, or you'll lose your chance."

"Well then, hand over the money. I don't know what my wife will say,
but...."

"She'll give you a kiss for making such a splendid bargain," cried the
student, pushing a bag of coins into Jan's hand and snatching the magic
cap. "Hurry off home as fast as you can to tell her the good news!"
Then the three went away, laughing, slapping each other on the back in
their joy at having got the better of the simple peasant.

That afternoon the students, eager to take advantage of the qualities
of the magic cap, invited about fifty of their friends to a splendid
feast at the largest inn in the town. Everybody who was invited came,
as you may imagine, and the resources of the innkeeper were taxed to
the utmost to supply the hungry and thirsty crowd with all that they
wanted. When the feast was ended, the student who had Jan's cap called
the host, and twirling it three times round his finger, said: "Now,
sir, everything is paid for, isn't it?"

"Paid for?" cried the innkeeper. "What do you mean? I've not seen the
colour of your money yet."

[Illustration: TWIRLED THE CAP ROUND THREE TIMES ON HIS FINGER]

At this reply the student's face fell, but one of his companions
snatched the cap from his hands. "Idiot," said he, "you twirled the cap
the wrong way! I was watching the peasant carefully, and he twisted it
like this." So saying, he gave the cap a twirl and said: "Now then, my
good sir, I think you will agree that everything is paid for."

"I don't know whether you are trying to play a joke on me?" answered
the innkeeper grimly, "but your idea of humour is not mine. You had
better pay up at once, before I call the police!"

"Here, let me try," cried the third; and in his turn he twirled the
cap, and, fixing the host with his eye, repeated that everything was
paid for.

At this the innkeeper flew into a passion, and made such a fuss that
the room was in an uproar. It was only by promising to pay him at once
that the innkeeper could be quietened down, and prevented from putting
his threat of calling the police into execution. The banquet cost a
good round sum, and as the three students had no money left, their
invited guests were obliged to subscribe the money between them, which
they did with much grumbling. Afterwards they took their three hosts
outside and dipped them into the horse-trough to punish them for their
bad taste in playing practical jokes on their friends.

And a few miles away, in their little cottage, Jan and his wife sat
counting the five hundred francs he had got for his greasy old cap,
which indeed had not been left him by his great-great-grandmother, but
which was as old and ragged as though it had!

[Illustration]

[Illustration: JAN AND JANNETTE]



[Illustration: WERE CARRIED SAFELY OVER TO THE OTHER BANK]

SUGAR-CANDY HOUSE


Jan and Jannette were brother and sister. They lived near a big wood,
and every day they used to go to play there, fishing for sticklebacks
in the streams, and making necklaces of red berries. One day they
wandered farther from their home than usual, and all of a sudden they
came to a brook crossed by a pretty red bridge. On the other side of
the bridge, half hidden among the trees, they espied the roofs of a
little pink cottage, which, when they came closer, they found to be
built entirely of sugar-candy! Here was a delightful find for a little
boy and girl who loved sweetstuff! They lost no time in breaking off
pieces of the roof and popping them into their mouths.

Now in that house there lived an old wolf whose name was Garon. He was
paralysed in one leg, and could not run very fast, but in all other
respects he was as fierce and strong as he had been in his youth. When
he heard Jan and Jannette breaking off bits of his roof he growled out,
"Who is touching my Sugar-Candy House?" Then he came limping out to see
who it was, but by that time the children were safely hidden in the
woods.

"Who dares to touch my Sugar-Candy House?" roared the wolf again.

Then Jan replied:

    "_It's the wind so mild,
    It's the wind so mild,
    That lovable child!_"

This satisfied the old wolf, and back he went to his house, grumbling.

The next day Jan and Jannette once again crossed over the little red
bridge, and broke some more candy from the wolf's house. Out came Garon
again, bristling all over.

"Who is touching my Sugar-Candy House?" he roared.

And Jan and Jannette replied:

    "_It's the wind so mild,
    It's the wind so mild,
    That lovable child!_"

"Very well," said the wolf, and he went back again, but this time there
was a gleam of suspicion in his eye.

The next day was stormy, and hardly had Jan and Jannette reached the
Sugar-Candy House than the wolf came out, and surprised them in the
very act of breaking a piece off his window-sill.

"Oho!" said he. "It was the wind so mild, was it? That lovable child,
eh? Precious lovable children, I must say! Gr-r-r, I'll eat them up!"
And he sprang at Jan and Jannette, who took to their heels and ran off
as fast as their legs could carry them. Garon pursued them at a good
speed in spite of his stiff paw, and although he never gained upon
them, yet he kept them in sight, and refused to give up the chase. The
children looked back once or twice, and saw that the wolf was still
following them, but they were not very much afraid, because they were
confident of their ability to outrun him.

[Illustration:'GR-R-R, I'LL EAT THEM UP!']

All of a sudden they found their way barred by a river. There was no
bridge across it, and the water was very deep. What were they to do?
Nearer and nearer came the wolf!

In the middle of the river some ducks were swimming, and Jan called out
to them: "Little ducks! Little ducks! Carry us over the river on your
backs, for if you do not the wolf will get us!"

So the ducks came swimming up, and Jan and Jannette climbed each on to
the back of one, and were carried safely over to the other bank.

Presently the wolf, in his turn, came to the river. He had seen how
the children had managed to cross, and he roared out at the ducks in a
terrible voice, "Come and carry me over, or I'll eat you all up!"

"Very well," answered the ducks, and they swam to the bank, and Garon
balanced himself on four of them, one paw on the back of each. But they
had no intention of carrying the wicked old wolf to the other side, for
they did not love him or any of his tribe, and, moreover, they objected
to his impolite way of asking a favour. So, at a given signal from the
leader, all the ducks dived in midstream, and left old Garon struggling
in the water. Three times he went down and three times he came up, but
the fourth time he sank never to rise any more.

That was the end of old Garon, and a good job, too, say I. I don't know
what became of his Sugar-Candy House, but I dare say, if you could find
the wood, and the sun had not melted the candy, or the rain washed it
away, you might break a bit of it off for yourselves.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: JACO PETER AND HIS FRIEND]

POOR PETER


There was once a man named Jaco Peter who was so poor that he had
not two sous to rub together. His clothes were rags, his boots were
shocking, and as for his house, it was nothing but a miserable hovel
hardly fit for a dog. The only friend poor Peter had in the world was
a big fox who was called Reynard the Red because of the colour of his
hide.

One day as Poor Peter was walking along the road looking out for stray
scraps of food which he could pick up for his dinner, whom should he
meet but Reynard, who was going off to spy round a farmhouse where, he
had been told, there were some fine fat chickens.

"How now, Peter," said Reynard, "you look very miserable to-day! What
is the matter?"

"I have fallen on bad luck," answered Peter gloomily. "I have found
nothing to-day but two cabbage-stalks and a half-gnawed bone, and to
make matters worse, the bone has no marrow in it."

"Why do you eat such stuff?" asked Reynard disgustedly. "Look at me--I
am just as poor as you, yet I live on the fat of the land! And how do I
do it, Peter? Why, by using my wits! Cheer up, my friend, you shall be
a man of fortune yet, for I'll take your case in hand myself!"

Reynard was as good as his word. The same day he called at the King's
palace and asked if he might borrow a bushel measure. Such an unusual
request from a fox caused some amazement and the matter was brought to
the notice of the King himself, who sent for Reynard and asked him what
he wanted with such a thing.

"The fact is," answered Reynard, "that a friend of mine, a certain Lord
Jaco Peter, has come by a good deal of money, and he wishes to measure
it."

"Very well," said the King, "you may take the measure, but I would like
to have it back when you have done with it, if you do not mind."

Off went Reynard with the bushel basket, and the same night, having
stuck a couple of sous to the bottom of it with a bit of grease, he
sent it back with a message to say that it was not large enough, and
might he have another? In reply, the King sent a two-bushel measure,
and after a time Reynard sent this back also, with a request for a
larger one still. "If I have to measure the money with a thing like
this," said he, "I shall be a month over the task."

"That friend of yours must be an enormously wealthy man," said the
King. "Let me see--what did you say his name was? Lord Jaco Peter? I do
not seem to remember a lord of that name in my dominions!"

"He is a foreign noble," said Reynard glibly, "who has only lately
arrived in this country. He will shortly be coming to pay his respects
to your Majesty, for it is his intention to ask for the hand of the
Princess, your daughter, in marriage."

"That is a thing one must consider," replied the King, "but in the
meantime I will gladly give your noble friend an audience."

Away went Reynard in high feather and recounted to Poor Peter all that
had happened. "The affair is as good as finished," said he, "you shall
marry the Princess and sit at the King's right hand!"

[Illustration: "SMEAR YOURSELF FROM HEAD TO FOOT"]

Peter looked down at his clothes, which indeed, were too well
ventilated to be quite seemly, and made a grimace. "A fine lord I
shall look!" said he, "with my toes sticking out of my boots and holes
in my breeches."

"Never mind about that," Reynard answered. "Just leave everything to
me, and all be well."

The next day, when the time came for the pair to set out for the
palace, Reynard said to his friend: "Now pay great attention to what
I have to say. Close by the King's palace there is a big muddy puddle
in the middle of the road. When you come to that puddle I want you to
trip over yourself and fall plump into it. Don't let there be any half
measures! Get right into the mud--wallow in it, and smear yourself from
head to foot!"

"But why...?" asked Peter.

"Never mind about why. Do as I tell you!"

Poor Peter carried out his directions to the letter. When they reached
the puddle he pretended to slip, and fell souse into it, covering
himself with a thick layer of mud. At sight of the disaster Reynard
began to cry out in dismay, and the guards at the King's palace, who
had seen the accident, came running up to offer their aid.

"Did you fall down?" asked one of them politely. Peter was wiping the
mud out of his mouth and could not answer, but the fox cried: "Of
course he has fallen down, oaf! Do you think he sat in the puddle for
amusement. Don't stand gaping there, but run to the palace quickly, and
borrow a change of clothes, for this is Lord Jaco Peter who is on his
way to visit the King. And look you," he added, as the guards ran off,
"see that you bring some robes worthy of my lord's great estate, or it
will be the worse for you!"

Away went the guards, and told the King's Chamberlain about the
catastrophe. A few minutes later they returned bearing with them a
magnificent robe of cloth-of-gold, beautifully embroidered and sewn
with precious stones. Then they led Peter to a chamber, where he bathed
himself and donned his new finery. Unfortunately the Chamberlain had
forgotten to send any shoes, so there was Peter with his toes sticking
out of his boots under his magnificent gown.

[Illustration: REYNARD SEIZED THE OPPORTUNITY TO WARN HIS FRIEND]

"Never mind," said Reynard, "you must keep your feet out of sight," and
he led him before the King, who was immensely taken with his appearance.

"Tell me," he said to Reynard, after greetings had been exchanged, "why
does your friend keep staring at his clothes. One would think he was
not used to them!"

Reynard smiled. "As a matter of fact, your Majesty," he answered, "he
is not. This dress of his came out of your Majesty's wardrobe, for he
had the ill-fortune to spoil his own on the way here, by falling into a
puddle. The gown is good enough, as it goes, of course; but my friend
is used to something far finer. I would wager a thousand crowns he is
thinking this very moment that he has never been so poorly clad before
in his life! Is it not so, my lord?" he added, turning to Peter.

[Illustration: AN EXCLAMATION OF ASTONISHMENT]

Peter gave a grin and a nod of the head, and the affair passed without
further comment, but on their way in to dinner Reynard seized the
opportunity to warn his friend against further faults of deportment.
But, as the saying goes, it is no use trying to make a silk purse out
of a sow's ear, and no sooner were they seated at table, and Peter saw
the magnificent golden dishes, the delicate cut glass, and the fine
candlesticks, than he opened his eyes wide, and gave an exclamation of
astonishment.

"What is the matter now?" asked the King, staring at him.

"I crave your Majesty's pardon," said Reynard. "My friend is a little
overwhelmed, for your customs are new to him. In his own palace, you
see, he is used to a certain degree of luxury--such a service of plate,
for instance, as this on the table, would there only be found in the
servant's quarters. Come, come, my lord," he added, clapping Peter on
the shoulder, "it will do you good to live the simple life. Spartan
fare, my lord, Spartan fare!"

Peter rolled his eyes and grinned again, before falling to, with a
fairly good appetite, upon the rich food spread before him.

"This lord must certainly be of enormous wealth," thought the King.
"True, he has certain curious tricks of manner, such as supping his
gravy with a table-knife, but what does a little thing like that
matter! In other countries, other ways! That is a very good proverb."

After dinner was over Reynard broached the matter of Peter's marriage
with the King's daughter, and the King gave his consent. He begged
Reynard and his friend to remain at the palace as his guests until
the ceremony should take place, and apportioned to them a magnificent
suite of rooms. A week later Peter and the Princess were married. The
poor man could hardly believe his good luck as he stood before the
altar dressed out in gorgeous robes. All he could do was to stare like
one who is dazed, and Reynard had to nudge him from behind to get him
to make the responses. After the wedding a splendid feast was held,
to which all the greatest and wealthiest lords in the kingdom were
invited, and then the King's carriages arrived to conduct the happy
pair to Peter's castle.

Now what was to be done? Peter's castle was a broken-down hovel at
the edge of the forest. He shivered with fear when he thought of what
the Princess would say when she saw it, with its mud floor, and its
furniture consisting of one chair with no back, one battered table,
and a heap of brushwood covered with a ragged pallet which served as a
bed. Could Reynard overcome this difficulty as he had overcome all the
others?

Of course he could, and he did! Away went the coaches, with Reynard
sitting proudly on the box of the foremost, and presently the whole
cortège halted before the gates of an enchanted castle, which Reynard
had borrowed from the fairies of the forest. There Lord Jaco Peter and
his bride lived for many happy years. They had six children, three boys
and three girls, and Reynard was the friend of them all.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: "OH DEAR ME, THAT'S TWICE!"]

THE PEASANT AND HIS ASS


There once lived a poor peasant. I do not know his name, but he earned
a living by gathering dead wood in the forest, and he had a donkey who
was no bigger ass than himself. Perhaps by this you will be able to
recognize him.

One day the peasant hitched his donkey into the shafts of his little
cart and went off as usual to the wood for his day's toil. Arrived
there, he tied the donkey to a tree and then, by way of the cart,
climbed the trunk in order to break off some dead branches which he had
noticed above. As he sat there, legs astraddle on the branch, busily
breaking away the dead wood, along through the forest came a lord
dressed in fine clothes, with his manservant behind him.

"Hallo! my man," cried the lord, "if you don't come down from that
tree pretty soon you'll get a tumble. The branch you are sitting on is
cracked."

"Cracked, is it?" answered the peasant. "Well, so much the worse for
me." And he went on calmly with his work.

The lord went away shrugging his shoulders at the peasant's stupidity;
and, sure enough, before he had gone very far, _crack! crack!_ the
branch broke, and down fell the peasant to the foot of the tree, giving
himself a fine blow on the nose, which immediately swelled almost to
the size of a turnip.

"My word," muttered the peasant, tenderly feeling the sore place, "that
man must have been a sorcerer! He can foretell the future! He said I'd
fall and I certainly have fallen! I must run after him and ask him to
tell me something else. This is a chance not to be missed!"

So off he ran as fast as his bruised limbs would allow, in pursuit of
the lord, and presently came up with him. "Hi, sir, wait a minute!" he
cried. "You told me the truth about the tree. The branch broke right
enough and I fell on my nose. Won't you tell me something else?"

"Willingly," answered the lord, "and I hope this time that you will pay
heed to what I say. Take care not to load your ass too heavily, for if
you do so he will bray, and if he brays three times running I predict
that you will suddenly die."

"Oh dear me!" sighed the peasant. "I am the most unfortunate of
men. Each prediction about my future seems to be an unhappy one.
Nevertheless, I am very much obliged to you, sir. Good day." And he
took off his cap to the lord and bowed, and lurched off back to his
tree.

For a long time he worked busily, and found so much wood that his
little cart soon became full. Then he remembered what the lord had told
him about loading his ass too heavily, but he was so avaricious that
he could not make up his mind to stop. "One more branch won't make any
difference," he kept on saying as he piled more and more wood into the
cart. At last the poor donkey could stand no more and, lifting his
head, he uttered a loud "Hee-haw!"

[Illustration: "HALLO MY MAN," CRIED THE LORD]

At this the peasant turned pale with fright. "Stop, stop, what are you
doing?" he cried. "Oh, my dear little ass, I beg you not to bray again.
I will not put another branch into the cart. We will go home straight
away and you shall have carrots for supper!"

So saying, he climbed to his seat and shook the reins as a signal for
departure. The donkey pulled and pulled, but not an inch would the cart
budge, although he strained his muscles to the utmost. Finding all his
efforts vain, he turned his head and once again gave utterance to a
loud bray of protest.

"Oh, dear me, that's twice!" cried the peasant, jumping down from his
perch. "If he brays once more I'm a dead man. Do you hear that, little
ass? For goodness' sake, remain dumb until we reach home, and I'll help
you pull the cart!" Freed of the peasant's weight, the load for a time
was easier to pull, but at the end of another ten minutes the weight
began to tell again. The ass stopped and brayed loudly for the third
time.

"That's finished it!" cried the peasant. "I am dead!" And he fell flat
to the ground.

Left to himself, the ass wandered slowly on, dragging the load behind
him. Soon he came to the gates of the town, and the guard took him and
put him into the pound. After a time, as nobody claimed him, he was
sold.

Meanwhile the peasant lay where he had fallen. Presently a carriage
drove up, and the coachman was forced to pull in his horses because of
the body that lay stretched across the road.

"Come," he cried, thinking that the peasant was drunk, "rouse yourself,
swill-tub! Get up, unless you want to be run over!"

"I can't get up!" moaned the peasant.

"Why not?"

"Because I'm dead!"

"Dead, are you?" cried the coachman, jumping from his seat in anger.
"Well I've something here that will bring you to life again!" And he
took his whip and laid on to the peasant with such a will that in
less than ten seconds the fellow was capering about all over the road.
Having thus effectively brought the dead man to life, he remounted his
box and drove off grumbling.

In the roadway the peasant continued to dance about until the pain of
his beating had somewhat subsided. Then he looked around, and for the
first time missed his donkey.

[Illustration: "I CAN'T GET UP, BECAUSE I'M DEAD!"]

"Dear, dear, dear!" he cried, "one trouble after another! When I was
dead I wished I was alive; now I'm alive I wish I was dead again, for
I'm sore all over, and I've lost my donkey. Whatever shall I do?" And,
groaning and grumbling, he set off along the road in search of his
beast.

After a time he came to the gates of the town, where a sentry was
standing with his pike on his shoulder. "Good morning, good man," said
the peasant. "Have you seen my little ass?"

"Your ass!" answered the sentry, smiling. "The only ass that has passed
through these gates to-day is already become burgomaster!"

"What! Burgomaster!" cried the peasant. "My ass Burgomaster! Tell me
quickly, where does he live? I must go to him at once!"

Hardly able to control his amusement, the sentry pointed out the way
to the Burgomaster's house, and thither went the peasant in all haste.
Arrived at the door, he sounded the great bell--_Darlindindin!_--and a
maidservant appeared.

"Is the Burgomaster at home?" asked the peasant. Yes, he was at home,
and the maidservant led the peasant to the room where he sat behind a
big table loaded with documents.

"Good morning, Ass!" said the peasant, with a grin of delight that
twisted his swollen and discoloured features.

"Eh! what, what!" stammered the Burgomaster, turning purple with anger.

"I beg your pardon," said the peasant, "I should have said, 'Good
morning, Mr. Ass, Esquire,' for you have become a great man now, while
I am still a poor woodcutter. I don't envy you your good fortune, I am
sure, although your promotion has left me without a donkey. Since you
have become such a great lord, won't you give me back the ten florins
you cost me, so that I may buy another?"

At this the Burgomaster's rage exploded. Leaping over the table with
one bound, he seized the hapless peasant by the collar of his coat,
threw open the door, and, with one mighty kick, sent him sprawling from
top to bottom of the stairs.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE EAGLE AND THE KINGLET]

THE KING OF THE BIRDS


At one time the birds, like the four-footed animals, were ruled over
by the lion, who is the King of the Beasts, but they grew discontented
with his dominion and decided to have a king of their own. It was the
eagle's idea: he thought of it one day when he was standing on the
lofty crag by his nest, gazing out upon the plain below, and he saw the
lion, no bigger than a mouse in appearance, slinking beside a dried-up
stream. "Earth-bound creature!" thought the eagle scornfully. "Who are
you to reign over us, who cleave the air with wings and fly in the
face of the sun! He who is lordliest among the birds should rule the
feathered creatures, and surely I am he!"

So thinking, the eagle spread his wings and soared high into the
air, and then swooped suddenly down upon the lion, casting sand into
his eyes with a harsh scream of defiance. Having thus relieved his
feelings, he sent messengers near and far to assemble all the birds
that he might unfold his plan to them.

Such a scurry of wings as there was when the birds came to answer the
summons! The sky was black with them, so that the animals on the earth
below, fearing a dreadful storm, took shelter in their caves and holes.
From north, south, east, and west they came; over mountain, valley, and
plain; birds of all sorts and sizes, from the little humming-bird to
the condor and the vulture. The ostrich left the burning plains where
he loves to roam, and flapping his ridiculous wing, for he could not
fly, raced to the meeting-place. All those birds that dwell in the
tropical forests, and flash from tree to tree like living jewels in the
green twilight; the penguins and skua-gulls from the icy north; the
cormorants and shags, and all the hosts of the birds of the sea--if
I were to go on naming them I should fill every page of this book
and never even begin my story. And as they flew each uttered his own
cry, so that what with the calling and the screaming, the whistling,
warbling, chirping, and chattering, the air was filled with a mighty
sound that echoed to the very ends of the world.

When all the birds were duly assembled the eagle addressed them thus:
"Listen, brothers," said he, "I have called you together in order
that we may choose a king, for it is not fitting that the lion, that
earth-bound creature, should continue to reign over the free company of
the birds. We are distinguished from the beasts by our power of flight,
and it therefore seems to me that the crown of sovereignty should be
given to the one amongst us who possesses that power in the fullest
degree. What do you say? Shall we test this matter, and let him who can
fly nearest to the sun be king?"

A confused chorus of cries answered his question, one bird speaking
against another.

"What is flight compared to song?" asked the nightingale. "Let the
sweetest singer among us reign."

The canary and the throstle and the blackcap all agreed with the
nightingale, but they were shouted down.

"Beauty, beauty!" cried the peacock. "That is the test! A king should
be resplendent in gay robes!" And he spread his gorgeous tail.

"Aye, there speaks wisdom," gobbled the turkey, turning red in the
face, and strutting up and down. "What do you say, brother," he asked
the cock. "Shall we arrange it so?"

[Illustration: "IS OUR KING THEN ONLY TO BE LOOKED AT?"]

"A fig for gay feathers!" cackled the ostrich. "Is our king then only
to be looked at, or is he to do nothing all day but chirp and twitter
foolish songs? As for flying, I found my wings of so little use that
I gave up using them long ago. My idea is that we should settle this
matter by a running race!"

And so the birds went on quarrelling and disputing until at last the
eagle called for silence, and, addressing the company again, insisted
upon the adoption of his own plan. He spoke sternly and menacingly, and
as all the birds went in fear of his curved beak and sharp talons, no
further objections were raised.

It was agreed that the trial should take place at once, and the cock
was chosen to give the signal for the start. Very proud of the honour,
he stationed himself on a little grassy knoll, and having ascertained
that everybody was ready, gave a loud and clarion call. There was the
sound as of a rushing mighty wind as all the birds sprang into the air.
Only the eagle remained in his place, looking after the others a little
contemptuously. So confident did he feel in his ability to outfly them
all, that he allowed them at least five minutes start. Then, very
leisurely, he spread his wings and soared. Up, up, up he went; he
overtook the stragglers on the fringe of the crowd, passed through the
thickest press, outdistanced the foremost flyer of them all. Still up
and up he soared, exalting in his strength and power, until the birds
flying far below were hidden by the clouds. Then he hung for a moment,
motionless on extended wings, for he was a little wearied by his
efforts.

All of a sudden he heard, above his head, a tiny _twit, twit, twit_,
and looking up, saw, to his surprise, the golden-crested wren, one of
the smallest of the birds, flying merrily above him.

"I have outdistanced you. I am king! I am king!" cried the wren in his
joy.

"We will see," said the eagle grimly; and once again he beat his mighty
wings and soared.

At the end of a further five minutes, he stopped again, only to hear,
as before, the wren's cheerful twitter above him. Again and again the
same thing happened. Try as he might, the eagle could not outdistance
the tiny bird, and at last, worn out with his exertions, he was obliged
to give up the contest, and to descend, crestfallen, to the earth again.

[Illustration: BIRDS GOING TO THE RACE]

And how did the little wren, which is certainly not famed for its
powers of flight, come to be able to defeat the mighty eagle? By a very
simple trick! When the eagle started on its flight the wren was safely
perched upon his back. There he clung until the eagle stopped flying,
when it was an easy matter to rise from his place and fly a yard or
two higher. When the eagle began to fly again, the wren again took its
place on his back, and this continued time after time until the great
bird was exhausted.

[Illustration: THERE WAS THE SOUND AS OF A RUSHING MIGHTY WIND]

Although nobody suspected the trick which the wren had played, the
other birds were very indignant when they heard the wren declare that
he had won the contest. "You, king!" they cried. "An insignificant
thing like you! It would be a disgrace to us if we were to suffer it.
We would rather be ruled by the lion! At any rate, he had majesty of
deportment and dignity. You have neither grace nor wisdom, strength nor
beauty. Away with you before we tear you to pieces!"

The wren was as perky as you please, and for only answer he flew to the
boughs of a tree, whence he looked down on them all with his head on
one side, chirping, "I am king! I am king. Bow down and make obeisance!"

A great cry of anger arose. "Kill him! Kill him!" screamed the hawk.
"Tear him to pieces!"

"You will have to catch him first!" twittered the wren, and as the hawk
made a rush at him, he popped into a hole in the trunk of a tree--a
hole so small that nobody could get at him. From the shelter of that
safe retreat he continued to gibe at the birds, issuing commands, and
asserting that he was their king.

What was to be done? Nobody could get at the wren, and yet all the
birds felt that he should be punished for his impudence. A consultation
was held, and it was finally decided to set the owl as a guard at the
mouth of his hole. "Sooner or later," said the eagle, "he will have to
come out in order to get food, and then we will have him. If, however,
he elects to stay where he is, let him; either way our purpose will be
served."

So the owl mounted guard by the hole in the trunk of the tree, and
having given him the most careful instructions not on any account to
let the wren escape, the other birds flew away. All that day the owl
remained vigilant at his post, and though the wren put his head out of
the hole a hundred times, he always found his guard keeping careful
watch. Night fell, and a great silence fell upon the woods, but still
the owl kept awake for hour after hour, watching with unwinking eyes.
At last, towards morning, his vigilance relaxed a little. His head
sank forward on his breast; and he fell fast asleep. Hardly had his
eyes closed than, _rip!_ the wren darted out of his hole, and the next
moment he had vanished among the trees.

When the birds returned the next morning they were furious to find that
their prisoner had escaped. "Unfaithful servant," they cried, "you have
betrayed your trust!" And they fell upon the owl to put him to death.
With some difficulty he managed to escape, but ever since that time the
birds chase the owl wherever they see him, for they are still angry
with him. To keep out of their way he has to hide during the day and
venture out only at night, when all the other birds are fast asleep.

As for the golden-crested wren, he is known as the Kinglet, or little
king, to this day.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: DONATUS]

A DRUM FULL OF BEES


A certain regiment had for its drummer an old man named Donatus. He was
a good-for-nothing rascal, who spent most of his time in the tavern
drinking and playing cards, but he was an excellent drummer for all
that, and it was a fine sight to see him on parade days, marching
along with the band, and playing on his drum with a flourish that was
the envy of all the boys in the town. None of his companions in the
regiment liked Donatus, because of his fondness for playing practical
jokes. There was hardly one of them whom at some time or another he
had not hoaxed, and as most of his jokes were spiteful ones, nobody
pretended to be sorry when one day the drummer was found cheating at
cards, and being brought before the Captain, was dismissed from the
regiment. It was in vain that he pleaded for mercy, with the tears
running down his face. The Captain had forgiven him many times, and was
determined not to do so again.

"Well," said Donatus at last, "if I must go, I beg you, Captain, to let
me keep my drum. I have played on it since I was a lad of fourteen, and
I know no other trade. If you take it away from me, I don't know how I
am going to live, but with it I may perhaps manage to turn an honest
penny or two."

"Very well, you old scoundrel," answered the Captain. "Keep your drum
and take yourself off; only be quick about it, or you shall be soundly
thrashed."

So away went Donatus with his drum on his back, and not having any
particular place to go to, he just took the first road that came, and
marched along it all day until he was forced to rest because his legs
were so tired. Setting his drum down in the middle of the road he sat
upon it and began to wonder what he should do for food and a bed for
the night. First of all he turned out his pockets to see what he could
find, but there was nothing there except two sous and a pack of very
greasy playing cards. Donatus put them back again, with a sigh, and
fell again to wondering how he was going to fare.

Now the road along which he had been walking was bordered by a dense
forest, and suddenly Donatus thought that if he were to get among
the trees he could at least find shelter. So he shouldered his drum
again and entered the wood. Hardly had he done so than he heard a loud
humming noise, and proceeding in the direction from which it came, he
saw a swarm of bees hanging to the branch of a big tree.

"Here's fine fruit!" said he to himself, laughing. "I'll pluck them.
They may come in useful one of these days!" So he took off the top skin
of his drum, and having skilfully caused the swarm to drop inside the
instrument, replaced the skin and went on his way.

Presently he came to a little house in the wood, and knocked at the
door to ask for shelter for the night. The door was opened by a peasant
woman of comely appearance, but with a very disagreeable expression of
face. She looked the drummer up and down very sourly. "Be off with
you!" she said, "we want no soldiers here. We have seen your kind
before, my man, and do not like them." And so saying, she very rudely
shut the door in his face.

"Now what am I to do?" thought Donatus ruefully. "Night has fallen, and
I am too weary to wander any farther. A plague take that hard-hearted
vixen, who will not take pity on my misfortunes!"

Thus reflecting, he cast his eye about to look for a corner in which
he might rest, and suddenly spied a heap of faggots piled up against
the cottage wall. Climbing to the top of the heap, he found that it
was possible to reach the window of the attic, which fortunately stood
open, so he lost no time in crawling inside, where he stretched himself
out upon the planks to sleep.

Now the attic happened to be directly above the kitchen, and as there
was a knot-hole in the wooden floor, the drummer could see everything
that was going on in the room below. There was the peasant-woman busily
preparing the supper, and the fragrant fumes which rose from the viands
tickled the drummer's nose, and made the water run out of the corners
of his mouth.

After a time there was a loud knock at the house door, and the woman
hurried to open it, admitting a man dressed in a long cloak. He was the
village beadle, and a nephew of the woman's husband, but that good man
had such a hatred of beadles that he could not bear to look at one, and
his nephew never dared to come to the house while the husband was at
home. His visits therefore were few and far between, but when he did
come his aunt always feasted him right royally. This time she bade him
welcome with great tenderness, helped him off with his cloak and sat
him down at the table, upon which she placed a fine roast fowl, with a
gammon of bacon and a bottle of wine.

"Ha, ha!" cried the beadle, rubbing his hands. "You are a famous
hostess, aunt! My walk has given me an appetite, and I am just in a
condition to do justice to your good victuals. Here's health!" And he
filled a glass with wine and drained it to the dregs.

[Illustration: THERE WAS A KNOT-HOLE IN THE WOODEN FLOOR]

"Gr-r, you greedy fellow!" muttered the drummer, who was lying full
length in the attic above with his eye to the knot-hole. "I hope it may
choke you!" And he watched eagerly while the beadle began to fall to
upon the roast fowl.

Suddenly the feast was interrupted by another loud knock at the door.

"My husband!" cried the woman in great agitation. "He has come back
unexpectedly. If he finds you here, something terrible will happen, for
he cannot bear the sight of a beadle. Quick! jump into this chest and
pull down the lid, while I clear away all signs of the supper!"

The beadle, who was just as frightened as his hostess, lost no time in
doing as she bade him. He hopped into the chest and pulled down the
lid, while she hurried to clear the table. All this time the husband
was thundering at the door, very impatient at being kept waiting. When
at last his wife let him in, he flew into a temper and began to scold
her.

"I am very sorry, good man," she answered, "but I did not hear you
knock, I was hard at work in the scullery."

"Bring me something to eat!" growled the man.

"Just as you like," answered his wife. "But if I were you I would not
sup so late--you know how it always gives you indigestion. Wouldn't it
be better to go straight to bed?"

"Hold your peace, woman," said her spouse. "I am not sleepy!" And he
sat himself down at the table.

Hardly had he done so than there came a loud knocking on the floor of
the attic above his head.

"What is that?" he cried, jumping up. "Is there somebody in the attic?"

"Not that I know of," answered his wife. "Nobody has been here all day
except a soldier with a most villainous face, who came begging. I sent
him away with a flea in his ear, I assure you."

"Did you so?" said her husband. "Well, I believe he has managed to get
into the attic. I remember now that I forgot to fasten the window." Off
he went upstairs to see, and sure enough, there was the drummer, who
was not slow in explaining his presence.

"Well, come along downstairs and warm yourself," said the peasant. "My
wife is just about to get my supper, and I expect there will be enough
for two."

Nothing loath, the drummer accompanied his host to the kitchen, and
sat down at the table, paying no heed to the venomous glances which
the woman of the house cast at him as she slammed down a loaf of black
bread and a bowl of milk.

"Ho, ho," said the drummer to himself. "There is fowl for the beadle
and dry bread for the good man and his guest. Well, we shall see!" And
he gave a kick with his foot to the drum which was under the table.

[Illustration: "I DID NOT HEAR YOU KNOCK"]

"What have you there?" asked the peasant, starting up at the sound.

"Oh, that is my oracle," answered the drummer coolly.

"Your oracle! Does he, then, speak to you?"

"Certainly," answered the drummer. "He speaks to me three times a day."

"Faith," said the peasant, "I should very much like to hear him."

So the drummer picked up his drumsticks and beat a lively tattoo upon
the drum, and, aroused by the noise and vibration, the swarm of bees
within began to buzz about in great commotion.

"Wonderful! Wonderful!" cried the peasant delightedly, as he listened
to the humming. "And do you really understand that language? What does
the oracle say?"

"He says," answered the peasant, "that there is no need for us to drink
sour milk, because there is a bottle of wine standing by the wall, just
behind the big chest."

"Ha, ha, ha! that is a good joke!" roared the peasant. "Wine in my
house, indeed! I only wish it were true!"

"Tell your wife to look behind the chest, and I'll warrant you she will
find it."

Very unwillingly the dame went to the place indicated, and came back
with the bottle of wine. She tried to look as surprised as her husband,
but only succeeded in pulling a very wry mouth.

"Bring glasses, wife!" cried the peasant in great good humour. "We must
drink the health of this famous oracle. Do you think you can make him
speak again, friend?"

"Certainly," said the drummer, beating another tattoo upon the drum.
Once again the bees began to hum loudly, and he leant down, pretending
to listen to what they had to say.

"Well? Well?" cried the peasant impatiently.

"He says that if your wife will look in the cupboard, she will find a
roast fowl and a gammon of bacon, which we can eat instead of this dry
bread."

"Upon my word, that is a wonderful oracle!" cried the peasant. "Make
haste, wife, and look in the cupboard."

[Illustration: THE SWARM OF BEES WITHIN BEGAN TO BUZZ ABOUT IN GREAT
COMMOTION]

The dame could not refuse to obey, so she brought the good things and
set them on the table, but if looks could have killed anybody the
drummer would have been a dead man that day. Little heed he paid to
her evil glances, however, but applied himself to the food with a good
appetite. Before very long, between the two of them, there was nothing
left of the chicken but the bones, and of the gammon but the scrag-end.

[Illustration: BEATING ANOTHER TATTOO UPON THE DRUM]

"Faith," said the peasant, unbuttoning his waistcoat, "that was a
better meal than I expected to get this night. Has your oracle any more
agreeable surprises for us, good sir. I pray you, make him speak again."

"With all the will in the world," answered the drummer, "but this will
be the last occasion, for he only speaks three times a day." Taking up
his sticks, he played the war-march of Napoleon on the drum, and the
bees accompanied him as before with their loud humming. The peasant
leaned forward eagerly to listen, while his wife stood by trembling
with fear.

"Ah," said the drummer at last, looking at them both with a grave face.
"This time my oracle tells me of a very serious matter. He says that in
the big chest over there a big black demon is hidden!"

"What! What!" cried the peasant, jumping up from his chair as though
he had been stung. "A demon, did you say?"

"Precisely," answered the drummer. "But don't be alarmed. I will get
rid of him for you. Open the door and the windows and then place
yourself here, by my side."

[Illustration: THE BEADLE, TOO, STUMBLED AND FELL]

The peasant made haste to do what he was told, and marching boldly
up to the chest, the drummer seized the heavy lid and threw it open.
Immediately the beadle, who had heard everything and was not a little
afraid of his own skin, jumped up, his figure entirely covered with
the folds of his black mantle, and ran for the door. So sudden was his
appearance, and so hasty his flight, that he ran with full force into
the peasant, who had no time to get out of his way, and knocked that
worthy man flying head over heels. The beadle, too, stumbled and fell,
but quickly recovering himself, made blindly for the door, fell over
the folds of his cloak, and tumbled head foremost into the ditch by the
side of the road. There was a sudden splashing sound, a muffled murmur,
and then silence.

"Poof!" said the peasant, when he had picked himself up and rubbed his
limbs. "That was a narrow escape! I saw the demon quite plainly--he was
all black, with fiery eyes, and a forked tail! Thank heaven that your
oracle warned us, good sir, or he would have devoured us as we slept!"

The next morning, as the drummer and the peasant sat at breakfast, the
latter said:

"Will you sell me that oracle of yours, drummer?"

"That depends," answered his guest. "You know it is worth a great deal
of money."

"I will give you a hundred crowns," said the peasant, "and that is all
I have in the world."

"Very well," said the drummer. "It is little enough for such a
wonderful oracle as this is, but I have taken a fancy to you, and
I cannot refuse. Give me the money." So the bargain was concluded.
Donatus received the hundred crowns, and in return handed over the
drum. Then he bade farewell to his host and was just going out of the
door when the latter called after him: "Stay a moment--I have just
thought of something. How am I to understand the language which the
oracle speaks?"

"Oh, that is easy enough," answered Donatus. "Listen while I tell you
what to do. At ten o'clock, precisely, not a minute before or a minute
afterwards, go and plant your wife in the ground up to her armpits,
then smear her face and shoulders with honey. That done, take the
oracle with you into the attic where you found me, and having first
bandaged your eyes, remove the top skin of the drum. Wait for a quarter
of an hour; then replace the skin, and take the drum with you to the
place where you left your wife. In that very moment the meaning of the
oracle's language will be revealed to you, and you will know as much as
I know myself!"

"Many thanks!" cried the peasant delightedly. "Good day to you,
soldier, and good luck!"

"And to you!" answered the drummer, and he went away laughing up his
sleeve at the fellow's simplicity.

About a mile farther along the road he saw a man working in the fields,
and went up to him.

"If you like, gossip," said he, "I'll do a bit of that digging for you."

"With all my heart," answered the labourer, giving up his spade.

[Illustration: HE HAD FAITHFULLY CARRIED OUT ALL HIS INSTRUCTIONS]

"Very well, but let us change clothes, for I do not wish to soil my
uniform. Here is a crown for you. Go to the inn and buy yourself a
glass of wine. When you return you will be surprised to see how much I
have done."

The exchange was made and the labourer departed. Less than half an hour
afterwards the sound of hoofs was heard on the road, and looking up,
the drummer saw his late host, mounted on horseback, spurring furiously
towards him. The man's face was purple with fury and he was muttering
threats as to what he would do to the drummer when he caught him. He
had faithfully carried out all his instructions, and had truly enough
learnt the meaning of the humming noise within the drum. So had his
wife; for when he went to her in the garden, he found her with her face
and shoulders black with bees!

Abreast of the place where the drummer was working the peasant reined
in his horse, and cried out, "Hallo, you there. Have you seen a soldier
pass by this way?"

"A man, master?" mumbled the drummer.

"I said a soldier, you stupid oaf! A man in a red coat with a most
villainous face. Have you seen him, I say?"

"Why, yes," the drummer answered. "He went past here about a quarter of
an hour ago and made his way into the wood yonder. You'll never find
him, master!" he added, with a grin.

[Illustration: IT WAS THE LABOURER DRESSED IN THE DRUMMER'S CLOTHES]

"And why won't I?"

"Because he's gone by a secret way. I saw the road he took, and I know
how he means to go, but even if I were to show you the way, you would
never overtake him, for you would lose yourself in the wood."

"I'll give you a crown if you'll help me to find the rascal," cried the
peasant.

"A crown! Come now, that's high pay. You must want him very badly!"

"I do indeed, and I'll break every bone in his body when I catch him."

"Here, lend me your horse, master," said the drummer. "I'll catch him
for you, and not for a crown neither, but for nothing. I'd like to see
him get a good thrashing, for he called me names as he passed by."

"But can you ride?" asked the peasant.

"Can a duck swim?" answered the drummer scornfully. "Dismount quickly
or the scoundrel will get away. Wait here for me," he added, as he
rode off, "I'll be back in less than half an hour." Off he went at a
gallop, smiling to himself. "First of all a hundred crowns, and now a
fine steed," thought he. "Come Donatus, your luck is standing you in
good stead. It's odds but you'll win through yet!" He reached the wood,
entered it, and the peasant waiting by the roadside, heard the sound of
his horse's hoofs grow fainter and fainter until at last they died away.

A quarter of an hour passed, half an hour, an hour, but the labourer
did not return. The peasant, fuming with impatience, strode up and down
the road, slashing at the grass and bushes with his stick. Suddenly
he heard footsteps, and saw a man in a red coat approaching. It was
the labourer dressed in the drummer's clothes, who had drunk, not one,
but several glasses of wine, and was now returning very pleased with
himself and all the world. As he came he trilled out a merry song.

"You knave! You villain!" cried the peasant, throwing himself upon him.
"Where are my hundred crowns? What! you would teach me the language of
the bees, would you?--and my poor wife is stung all over, and cannot
see out of her eyes. Rascal! Scoundrel! Oh, you scum! Take that, and
that, and that!" And with each word, he lifted his heavy stick and
brought it down heavily upon the shoulders of the unfortunate labourer.

"Here, hold hard, master!" cried the man, twisting and turning to get
away. "What's the meaning of this? I'll have the law on you if you
don't leave me alone! _Ouch_, give over I tell you! What do I know
about your hundred crowns or your wife?"

"What!" cried the peasant, laying on harder than before. "Do you add
lying to your other crimes? You will tell me next you have never seen a
drum!" And with one last mighty cut he stretched the unfortunate fellow
at his feet. Then, for the first time, he had a full view of his face,
and saw that he was not the man he took him for.

"Was there ever such an unlucky man in all the world as I?" he moaned,
as he turned wearily homeward, pursued by the curses and threats of the
man he had beaten. "First I lose a hundred crowns, and then the love
of my wife, who will never forgive me her injuries; and now, into the
bargain, I have lost my horse! God forgive that drummer, and protect
him if ever he falls into my hands!"

I wish I could tell you that the unlucky peasant's desire was
fulfilled, and that the drummer met with his deserts. Unhappily my
story ends here, and I do not know for certain what happened to him,
but people do say that he never came out of the wood, but rode straight
into a marsh and was drowned. If this is true, I am sure that nobody
will be sorry!

[Illustration]



[Illustration: WHEN THE FIFTY ROOKS BEGAN TO FLY HE COULD NOT GET FREE]

THE DRUNKEN ROOKS


It was the middle of winter and the ground was covered with snow. Along
the high road came Mynheer Van Ash, the well-known merchant of Alost,
driving to the town with two immense casks of the liquor known as
Hollands, in which he traded. All unknown to the merchant, one of the
casks had a hole in it, and as he drove along the liquor leaked out,
and sank into the snow.

In a field close by the roadside were a flock of fifty rooks, who
were eagerly turning up the snow and pecking at the ground beneath in
search of food. Attracted by the strong and heady smell of the spilt
liquor, they flew across to investigate, and having tasted some of the
gin-sodden snow, liked it so well that they followed in the train of
the cart, eating more and more of it, until at last they were so drunk
that they could hardly stand on their feet. Away they went to the
fields again, and very soon afterwards the whole flock of them was fast
asleep.

Presently, Little Pol, a peasant who worked in the neighbourhood,
happened to cross the field on his way homeward, and saw the crows
lying stiff and silent on the snow.

"Ah!" said he to himself. "Here is a funny sight! Fifty crows frozen
to death with the cold. I'll take them home with me and pluck them.
Rook-pie is excellent eating, and such a find is welcome these hard
times!" So, taking a cord from his pocket, he set to work to gather
up all the rooks, and tie them together by the legs. This done, he
proceeded on his way, dragging the rooks behind him.

The roughness of the motion and the friction of the snow very soon
aroused the rooks from their slumber. They all woke up, and finding
their legs tied, began to flap their wings together with admirable
precision. Unfortunately for Little Pol, he had taken the precaution
of fastening the cord to the belt round his middle, so when the fifty
rooks began to fly he could not get free, and found himself being
lifted into the air.

Up went the fifty rooks cawing and crying, and up too went Little Pol,
calling in vain for help. They reached the clouds; they penetrated the
clouds; they disappeared from sight.

And since that day not a sign has ever been seen either of the fifty
rooks or of Little Pol.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS AND BEASTS]



[Illustration: FIGHTING]

THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS AND BEASTS


One day as Bruin the Bear and Isengrim the Wolf were taking a walk in
the woods they came to a big elm-tree with a hollow trunk. Peering
within in the hope of finding something to eat they espied a little
nest supported by two notches in the bark. It was the tiniest and
neatest little house one could wish to see, made of fresh green moss,
with a small opening in the middle for a door, and was, in fact, the
home of a little bird called the Golden-crested Wren. Now among the
country people the golden-crested wren is often known by the name of
the Kinglet, and being aware of this, Isengrim saw a chance of playing
a joke upon his companion. "Look at this nest, Bruin," said he. "What
would you say if I told you it was a King's palace?"

"That a King's palace!" laughed Bruin scornfully. "A handful of moss
in a hole! Why, with one tap of my paw I could smash it to fragments!"

"I should not advise you to do any such thing," said Isengrim. "The
King who lives in that palace is much more powerful than you think, and
unless you are looking for trouble it would be best to leave his home
alone."

"What!" cried Bruin, in a rage. "Am I to be defied by a miserable
little fowl in my own forest? That for your King!" And with one sweep
of his paw, he reduced the nest to a shapeless heap of moss. "Now
let him revenge himself if he can," he roared. "I hereby declare war
upon him and upon all his tribe. Fur against feather! The four-legged
animals against those that go on wings. We will put this matter to the
test!"

When the Kinglet came home and found his nest destroyed he danced and
chattered with anger. Isengrim lost no time in letting him know who was
responsible for the mischief, and took a spiteful joy in telling him of
the Bear's challenge.

"Very well," said the little wren. "Kinglet is my name, and King shall
be my nature. I will call all the winged creatures together and we will
settle the matter by the test of arms."

During the next two or three weeks there was a great coming and going
in the forest as the two armies assembled. The air was full of the
whirl and rustle of wings. From the nests under sunny banks came the
wasps in thousands, each with his shining cuirass of black and yellow,
and his deadly sting. The gadfly came too, and the tiny gnat, and the
mosquito from the stagnant pools, with insects of every other sort
and kind--more than one could count in a day. From his eyrie on the
mountain crags the lordly eagle came swooping to take his place beside
the nightingale and the sparrow. In that hour of need all rivalries
were forgotten; the falcon and the hawk took their place in the ranks
with the thrush and the robin.

[Illustration: THE KINGLET WARNED HIM TO BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BUZZ]

The Bear, on his side, was not idle. Swift-footed messengers were
sent to every part of the land to summon the four-legged animals to
arms. Slinking through the undergrowth came Isengrim's kin, the grey
wolves, with lean flanks and fierce eyes shining. Reynard brought his
troop of foxes. Crashing through the trees came the mighty elephants,
waving their trunks and trumpeting defiance to the foe. Out of the mud
of river-beds, from the grassy plains, and the densest thickets of
the forest, the animals came flocking--lions, tigers, camels, bulls,
horses--if I were to name them all I should fill this book with their
names. Never had so many animals been brought together since the days
of Noah's Ark.

When everything was ready, the Kinglet, who was a prudent leader, sent
out a spy to try to gain information about the enemy's plans. For this
purpose he chose the mosquito, who, as you may imagine, was neither
easily seen nor easily caught, particularly as the Kinglet warned him
to be very careful not to buzz. Under cover of the darkness he flew to
the Bear's camp, and succeeded in discovering the headquarters of the
general staff, where the leaders of the animal army were conferring.
Just as the mosquito arrived, the Bear and the Fox were speaking
together.

"So it is settled," the Bear was saying. "Our great offensive will
begin to-morrow. Each of you knows what to do, I think? We have
discussed everything, and nothing remains to do, but to press forward
to a glorious victory."

"You are right, my lord," said Reynard, "but there is just one thing
you have forgotten. How are we to know when the victory is won? We must
have a standard-bearer."

"Of course," answered the Bear, "we must have a standard-bearer. I was
just going to say so. Who shall it be?"

"With all respect, my lord," answered Reynard, "I propose that it
should be I. My beautiful bushy tail will serve as a battle-flag. I
will walk at the head of the army and hold my tail straight up in the
air, as stiff as a poker. So long as I keep it like that, you will know
that all is well; but if anything disastrous should happen, I will let
it droop to the ground, so that our troops may have ample warning to
take refuge in flight."

"Excellent," said Bruin. "You have heard what Reynard proposes. Take
notice that I hereby appoint him standard-bearer to our armies."

[Illustration: THE GREAT OFFENSIVE BEGAN]

So it was agreed, and having learnt all that he wished to know, the
mosquito flew back to the Kinglet with his news. The Kinglet said
nothing, but sent for the wasp, and gave him certain orders.

At dawn the next morning the great offensive began, and from the
very beginning things went rather badly for the armies of the winged
animals. At two points of the line the Bear and the Tiger led dashing
attacks against divisions commanded by the eagle and the hawk, and
after long and fierce fighting, forced them to retire. High upon a
knoll commanding the battlefield, in full view of the troops, stood the
Fox, with his bushy tail held proudly in the air. As he watched the
struggle his lips curled in a grin of triumph.

Suddenly there was a piercing yell that rang out clear above the noise
of battle. It came from the Fox, who drooped his tail to the ground,
and ran, howling with pain, to the rear.

"We are lost! We are lost!" cried the animals, seeing the standard
lowered. "Traitors are amongst us! Fly for your lives!" From point to
point of the swaying battle-line the panic spread, throwing the army
into hopeless confusion. Before long the whole of the Bear's troops
were in retreat, and the victorious army of the winged-creatures swept
on and over them.

Late that night Bruin the Bear and Isengrim the Wolf, both of them very
bedraggled and wearied with much running, sat together gloomily in a
distant part of the wood. Presently they saw Reynard the Fox limping
towards them, and immediately they rose and began to heap reproaches
upon him.

"Traitor!" said Bruin. "Why did you lower the standard? In another hour
we should have won."

The Fox looked at them sulkily. "Why did I lower the standard?" said
he. "Because a wasp came and stung me right at the root of my tail!"

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE CAT RUSHED OUT OF THE ROOM]

THE END OF THE WORLD


Once upon a time an old woman sat spinning in a room at the top of a
high tower. Beneath her chair Chaton, her cat, lay peacefully sleeping.
All of a sudden the spinning-wheel jarred and made a loud creaking
sound. Startled out of his sleep, Chaton the Cat rushed out of the room
and bolted down the stairs as though a thousand demons were at his
heels.

In the yard he passed the house-dog who was sitting in front of his
kennel. "Hallo, Chaton!" cried the dog. "Where are you going to in such
a hurry?"

"I am fleeing the country," answered Chaton. "I have just heard the
sounding of the last trump! The end of the world is at hand!"

"If that is so," said the dog, "I would like to run away too. May I
come with you?"

"Certainly," answered Chaton. "Seat yourself on my beautiful curly
tail." So the dog perched himself on the cat's tail, and off they went
together.

A little farther on they came to the farm-gate, and there, perched on
the topmost rail, was the cock.

"Whither away, Chaton?" asked the cock. "You seem to be in haste."

"Yes," said Chaton. "I have heard the last trump, which proves that the
world is coming to an end, and I want to get safely away before that
happens."

"Take me with you, Chaton dear," said the cock.

"By all means," answered the cat. "Jump on to my beautiful curly tail
beside the dog." So the cock perched himself on Chaton's tail, and now
there were two passengers.

Away went the cat even faster than before, so as to make up for lost
time, and presently they passed a rabbit who was nibbling the grass in
a field.

"Chaton, Chaton," cried the rabbit, "why are you running so quickly?"

"Don't stop me!" answered the cat. "I've heard the last trump! The end
of the world is coming!"

"Oh, dear me!" cried the rabbit. "What an unfortunate thing! Don't
leave me here, Chaton, for I am afraid to face the end of the world."

"Very well," said Chaton. "Jump on to my beautiful curly tail with
the dog and the cock, and I'll take you with me." So the rabbit also
perched himself on the cat's tail, and now there were three of them
riding there.

Off went the cat again, but not so quickly this time, because of the
weight on his tail, and before very long he came to a pond by the side
of which a goose was standing.

"Now then, now then, what's the hurry?" asked the goose. "If you run so
fast you'll overheat your blood and die of a fever."

"It's all very well to scoff," answered the cat, "but you must know
that the end of the world is coming. I have heard the last trump
sound!"

[Illustration: THE CAT, THE DOG, THE COCK, THE RABBIT, AND THE GOOSE]

"My goodness!" said the goose. "This is dreadful! Take me with you,
Chaton, and I'll be grateful for ever."

"Very well," said the cat. "Jump on to my beautiful curly tail with the
dog and the fox and the rabbit." So the goose also perched herself on
the cat's tail, so now there were four passengers, and that made five
altogether who were running away to escape the end of the world.

[Illustration: "SEE IF YOU CAN ESPY A HOUSE"]

All that day the cat kept on running, and towards dusk they came to a
forest.

"This seems a good place to rest," said Chaton. "Now then, master cock,
fly to the top of a tree and see if you can espy a house in which we
can take shelter."

The cock flew to the top of a high tree and from there he saw a number
of lights twinkling in the distance. The five fugitives thereupon set
off in the direction from which the lights shone, and before long they
came to a little village. All the people of the village had left their
houses and were gathered together in the square, round a man dressed
all in red, with a big red feather in his cap, who was addressing them.

Chaton and his companions pressed close to the edge of the crowd and
were just in time to hear these words: "Whoever finds the ring," said
the man with the red feather, "and places it on the table in my palace
to-morrow before dawn, shall have the five bags of gold which hang on
my saddle bow." Having said this, the man in red mounted his horse and
rode away.

[Illustration: "JUMP ON TO MY BEAUTIFUL CURLY TAIL"]

Chaton went up to a little peasant who was standing in the crowd. "Tell
me, gossip," said he, "who is the man with the red feather, and what's
all this about a ring and five bags of gold?"

"Why," said the peasant, "the man in red is the King of this country.
He had a valuable ring which was kept in a tiny wooden case on the
table by his bed. This afternoon a magpie flew in through the window,
snatched up the case, and bore it away to its nest in the topmost
boughs of the walnut tree on the village green. The King wants his ring
back again, and will give the five bags of gold to anybody who will
recover it for him."

"I see," said Chaton; "and why don't _you_ climb the walnut-tree and
get the ring?"

"Because I have too much respect for my neck," answered the peasant,
"and so has everybody else here. The boughs at the top of the tree
where the nest is are so thin and slender that they would not bear the
weight of a child, let alone a grown man. Gold is good, but whole limbs
are better, that's what I say!"

"And I!" "And I!" echoed other villagers who had been listening to this
conversation.

"In my belief you are quite right," said Chaton seriously. "Let the
King risk his own life if he is so anxious to recover his ring." But
afterwards, when he had withdrawn with his companions to the shelter of
the wood, he sang a different tune.

"My friends," said he, "our fortunes are made! As soon as all is quiet
I will climb the tree and get the ring; then you shall sit on my tail
again and we'll all go off together to the King's palace and get the
bags of gold!" He danced for joy, and the dog and the cock and the
goose and the rabbit danced with him.

An hour afterwards the cat climbed the tree and came down safely with
the little wooden box. The rabbit gnawed it open with his teeth, and
sure enough there was the ring inside it.

"Now," said Chaton, "we will all go to the King's palace, but I am very
tired with running all day. I propose that the dog takes a turn at
carrying us." This was agreed. The other four got on to the dog's back
and clung there while he ambled off as fast as he could along the road
towards the palace.

[Illustration: THE OTHER FOUR GOT ON TO THE DOG'S BACK]

Just before dawn they came to a wide river. Now it was the turn of the
goose to work for the common good. She was quite used to the water,
and one by one she took the other animals across on her back. Shortly
afterwards they arrived at the King's palace, and the cock flew up
through the open window of the King's room with the ring in his beak,
and placed it on the table by the bed. Then he awoke the King with a
loud crow and claimed the reward, which was willingly given.

In great glee at their good fortune the animals went on their way, each
with his bag of gold, and every one of them had by this time quite
forgotten his fear about the coming of the end of the world. They went
on and on until they came to a place where five ways met. Then Chaton
said: "Here we are at the parting of the ways. Let us each choose a
road, and part good friends."

At this moment there came along a pig with a knife and fork stuck
in his back. In his right ear was salt; in his left ear pepper, and
mustard was on his tail, so that everybody who was hungry had only to
cut themselves a slice of meat and sit down to feast.

Our friends gladly availed themselves of this good chance, and I who
tell you this story would willingly have done the same, but as soon
as I went up to the pig, he ran at me with his head down and sent me
flying through the air, and through the window of my house, where I
fell into the chair in which I am now sitting, finishing this story of
the wonderful adventures of Chaton, the Dog, the Cock, the Rabbit, and
the Goose.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE DRAGON]

THE REWARD OF THE WORLD


In days of old, when there were dragons in the land, a youthful knight
was riding along the high road. It was a beautiful summer day, and the
sun shone so warmly that the rider presently began to feel thirsty, so
coming to a clear stream of water, he swung himself from the saddle
and went to drink. As he parted the bushes to get to the water he
heard a strange rumbling and roaring sound, and looking quickly in the
direction from which it came he saw to his horror an immense dragon
lying by the water-side pinned down by a huge mass of rock which had
rolled down upon the creature as it came to drink.

The knight's first impulse was to flee, for it is better not to meddle
with dragons, even when accident has rendered them helpless, but before
he could regain his horse the creature saw him, and cried, "Good
knight, come and help me, I pray you, to escape from my miserable
position. This rock upon my back is slowly crushing me to death."

The knight hesitated, and was in two minds what to do between his fear
of the dragon and his pity for its unfortunate plight. Seeing this, the
creature called out again, saying, "If you will only set me free I will
repay you richly, for I will give you _The Reward of the World_."

"_The Reward of the World_," thought the knight, "that will indeed be
worth having!" for he had often heard that dragons were the guardians
of immense treasures. So, overcoming his fright, he went up to the
creature, and at the cost of great exertion managed to roll away the
stone that was pressing on its back.

"Poof! That's better," said the dragon, blowing a cloud of smoke out of
its nostrils. "I had begun to think I was doomed to stay in that place
for ever!" He rubbed his sore back reflectively with one scaly paw, and
looked at the knight, who stood waiting.

"Well?" said he.

"You promised me _The Reward of the World_!" said the knight.

"Did I so?" asked the dragon, still tenderly stroking his back. "Well,
you shall have it!" And suddenly he launched himself upon the knight,
winding his horrible coils around his body, and almost crushing him to
death. The unfortunate young man struggled feebly, but he was powerless
in the grip of the monster.

"Your promise!" he gasped. "Is this my reward for having saved your
life?"

"Certainly," replied the dragon. "This is _The Reward of the World_. I
am keeping my word!"

"I don't believe you," said the knight. "It is a trick to excuse your
treachery. What a fool I was to trust a dragon's word!"

[Illustration: AN IMMENSE DRAGON LYING BY THE WATER-SIDE]

"It is just as I say," the dragon replied. "But I confess I owe
you something, and I should hate to eat you feeling that you had a
grievance. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll submit this question
to the first three people we meet along the road, and if they decide in
my favour you must accept the verdict. Is it agreed?"

"Agreed," said the knight, who was glad of any chance to escape from
the dragon's coils, so the creature released him, and the two set off
together down the road.

They had not gone far before they met the dog.

"Stay a moment, master dog," said the knight. "What do you understand
by _The Reward of the World_?"

The dog replied, "When I was young I was a splendid watch-dog, and
guarded my master's house against all comers. In those days everybody
made a fuss of me. I had plenty of good food to eat, and my own
particular place before the fire. Now, alas! I am old. My sight is so
weak and my powers so feeble that I can no longer work for my living,
and in consequence everybody kicks me out of their way. I eat what
I can get, which is not much. Even the children throw stones at me,
knowing that my teeth are not sharp enough to bite, and wherever I go
people say, 'There is that beastly hound again! Chase him away with a
stick!' That is _The Reward of the World_."

[Illustration: "MY SIGHT IS SO WEAK AND MY POWERS SO FEEBLE"]

There was little comfort for the knight in this, nevertheless he
did not give up hope, but accosted the next creature they met, which
happened to be a horse.

"What is _The Reward of the World_?" the knight asked him.

"Listen," said the horse bitterly, "and I will tell you. All my life I
have laboured diligently for one master. Day in and day out I dragged
his cart to market, working myself to skin and bone in his service.
Now I am grown old and my strength begins to fail, so that I can no
longer earn my keep. To-day I heard him say that he was going to send
me to the knackers' yard and sell my poor old carcass for a couple of
crowns. That is _The Reward of the World_, young master, and may heaven
preserve you from it!"

"You see!" said the dragon, as the two went on, "my words are already
justified. Come, be sensible and let me eat you without further ado!"

"No," said the knight, "we have still one person to ask. Here comes a
fox. Let us see what he has to say about the matter. Reynard, what do
you understand by _The Reward of the World_?"

"How do you mean?" asked the fox. "What is the case in point?"

"Well, you see," explained the knight, "I found this dragon in a
position of uncommon peril, and he promised, if I would rescue him, to
give me _The Reward of the World_. The question now arises as to what
_The Reward of the World_ is."

"I see," said Reynard thoughtfully. "His life was in danger, you say?
How was that?"

"A huge stone had fallen on to his back, pinning him down so that he
could not move. I rolled the stone away, and set him free."

The fox scratched his head and pondered. "If you don't mind," said he,
"I'd rather like to have this matter made a little clearer. Where did
all this happen?"

"A little farther back along the road, by the side of the stream."

[Illustration: "DOES THE DRAGON MIND GETTING UNDER THE STONE AGAIN?"]

"I'll come and look at the place!"

So the knight led Reynard to the banks of the stream, where he stood
gazing for a time at the big stone.

"I want to be quite sure I understand all the circumstances," said he
at last. "Does the dragon mind getting under the stone again for a
moment, so that I can see exactly how he lay?"

"Not at all," said the dragon politely, and he lay down on the bank,
while the knight and the fox together rolled the stone on top of him.

"Splendid!" said Reynard, when the dragon was safely pinned down. "Now
everything is as it was before!" Then turning to the knight, he added,
"If you, knowing what you know now, care to release him again, you are
at liberty to do so, but...." And he winked slyly. There was no need to
say more.

"I am really very much obliged to you," said the knight, as he walked
off down the road with Reynard, leaving the dragon still under the
stone. "That was a capital idea of yours, and it certainly saved my
life. I would like to show my gratitude in some way, and I shall be
honoured if you will accept my hospitality for a few days."

Reynard needed no pressing, but went home with the young man there and
then, and thoroughly enjoyed the good fare with which he was provided.
Since, however, a fox is always a fox, no matter what company he is
in, Master Reynard could not forbear from stealing, and every night
he crept into the hen-house and killed one or two chickens. When the
knight discovered this he was very angry, and picking up a big stick he
gave the fox a good thrashing and drove him forth.

"That is _The Reward of the World_," he said to himself, as he watched
Reynard disappearing into the distance. But whether he was referring to
the way the fox had treated him, or to his own treatment of the fox, I
cannot say.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: NOTHING WAS LEFT OF THE FISHES]

ONE BAD TURN BEGETS ANOTHER


Tybert the Cat and Courtoys the Dog were very great friends--that is
to say they were as friendly as their natures would let them be. Both
of them were exceedingly greedy and selfish. The Cat was spiteful and
the Dog was sullen. Master Tyb was always willing to give up to the dog
what he did not need himself, and on his part, Courtoys never stole the
cat's food while the cat was looking. Neither was loath to play a mean
trick upon the other if he could do so without injury to himself, but
except for these little matters they were quite in accord, and very
friendly, as I said before, and on the whole they got on very well
together.

There came a time when, in spite of Tybert's shyness and Courtoys'
strength, they could by no means find anything to eat. For two days
not a morsel of food had passed the lips of either; and this made them
very bad tempered.

"I wish I'd never seen you," said Courtoys to Tyb. "A fine partner you
are, upon my word, when you can't find food for us. Where are those
wonderful wits of yours, of which you are always boasting."

"In my head," answered Tyb spitefully. "And such as they are, they have
to do duty for two. If you'd talk less, and think more, and use your
eyes, we would be better off. Here is a cart coming along the road;
perhaps we shall find our dinner inside it!"

Sure enough, a heavy wagon was rumbling along the road towards them,
driven by a peasant with a round and rather stupid face. As it came
nearer, Tyb and Courtoys sniffed the air, and the water ran out of the
corners of their mouths.

"Fish," said Tybert ravenously.

"Fish!" echoed Courtoys. "Here's a chance to exercise those wits of
yours. How can we get it?"

"I have a plan," answered the Cat. "Come quickly and hide yourself with
me in the ditch until the wagon has passed, and I will tell you all
about it!"

So it was done. The wagon rumbled by, the scent of the fish with which
it was laden filling the air, and the driver went on calmly smoking his
pipe, little dreaming that four hungry eyes were gazing at him through
the bushes that bordered the side of the road.

"Now then," cried Tybert, "our time has come. Follow the wagon and
don't let it out of your sight for a moment, but take care that the
driver does not see you. I shall go on in front and stretch myself out
on the road, pretending to be dead. It's odds but what the driver,
seeing me lying there, will covet my skin, and will pick me up and
throw me into the cart. Once there, I'll throw the fish out to you, and
you will know what to do with it."

"Oh, yes, I'll know what to do with it," said Courtoys to himself, with
a grin, and, keeping well out of sight of the driver, he followed the
wagon.

[Illustration: THE BIGGEST AND FATTEST FISH]

Tybert's plan worked to perfection. He ran on for about a quarter of
a mile, keeping to the fields bordering the road, and then stretched
himself out at full length, with his mouth open as though he were dead.

"Oho!" said the peasant, as he drove up. "What's this? A dead cat! I'll
take him with me, and sell his skin for a few sous. This time next
week some fine lady will be wearing him round her neck, thinking he's
sable." And with that he dismounted, picked up the cat and slung him
carelessly into the wagon on top of the heap of fish.

[Illustration: STRETCHED HIMSELF OUT AT FULL LENGTH]

Hardly was he back in his place, than Tybert arose and began to pick
out the biggest and fattest fish and throw them into the road. He had
to be very careful in doing this, because now and again the peasant
turned his head. Once when a very big fish was tumbled out, the noise
of its fall aroused the peasant, who swung round sharply, and Tybert
was only just in time to avert discovery by laying himself out and
pretending to be dead as before.

When he had thrown out what he considered was a sufficient quantity,
Tybert rested awhile, so that the dog could collect the spoils, and
then jumped from the wagon to go and claim his share. When he came up
to Courtoys, however, he found to his dismay that nothing was left of
the fish but a heap of bones.

"That was a splendid plan of yours, brother," said Courtoys, licking
his lips. "The fish were delicious, and I hardly feel hungry at
all now! Do make haste and take your share!" And he waved his paw
invitingly towards the heap of bones. Tybert gave him one look, and
then grinned as though in enjoyment of an excellent joke. Not by word
or action did he give any sign of the anger which was consuming him,
but he determined to have his revenge.

A day or two later his chance came. Lurking in his usual stealthy way
in a farmyard, he saw the farmer go into the house with a fine big ham,
which he hung by a cord on a nail in the kitchen wall. Away he ran to
Courtoys and told him what he had seen.

"Well," said Courtoys surlily, "and what about it?"

"Why," answered Tybert. "There is no reason why we should not feast on
that ham, you and I. It will be the easiest thing in the world to steal
it. The latch of the kitchen window is broken, and it cannot be locked.
All you have to do is to go there to-night, creep through the window,
pull down the ham, and throw it out to me."

"Why can't you get it yourself?" asked Courtoys suspiciously.

"Ah," said the cat, "I am not strong enough to pull it down."

"And what about the farmer's dogs? I seem to remember hearing they are
savage brutes!"

"Well, of course, if you're _afraid_ ..." answered the cat disdainfully.

"Afraid yourself!" cried Courtoys. "You leave this to me."

So that very night, when the moon had set, the two crept into the
farmyard, and the dog managed to get through the window into the
kitchen unobserved. The next moment he had pulled down the ham and had
thrown it out of the window to Tybert, who was waiting below. Tybert
seized it in his mouth and ran off, but as soon as he reached the gate
he gave a series of such blood-curdling miaows, that he roused every
dog on the farm. Out they came, hair bristling, and teeth flashing,
just in time to catch our friend Courtoys as he jumped down from the
window.

Then occurred a ferocious fight. With his back to the wall Courtoys
put up a sturdy resistance, but he was very badly mangled indeed
before he managed to escape. With one ear torn off and one eye closed,
bleeding from many wounds and panting with his exertions, he limped
painfully up to where the cat awaited him.

"My poor friend," cried Tybert. "Are you badly hurt? Never mind, the
ham was worth it--it simply melted in the mouth. I have already eaten
my share, and I willingly give you yours!" So saying, he pointed to the
greasy string by which the ham had been suspended, and which was now
all that remained. Courtoys gazed at it blankly.

"You see," explained Tybert calmly, as he prepared to take his
departure, "a cord is worth a good many fishbones!"

[Illustration]



[Illustration: "WHY ARE YOU BLOWING YOUR SOUP?"]

THE PEASANT AND THE SATYRS


One cold winter's day a peasant set out on a journey which led him
through the depths of a forest into which he had not hitherto been. The
result was that he lost his way, and after wandering about for many
hours in the hope of finding it again, he found himself, just as dusk
was coming on, in a little clearing where he was overjoyed to see a
small house with a cheerful light in the window. "Here is a chance of
supper and a bed," thought the peasant, and he made haste to go up to
the cottage door.

Now this house in the clearing was not inhabited by men, but by some
strange forest folk who were called satyrs. If you want to know what
they were like, you must look at the pictures. Certainly the peasant
had never seen anything like them before, although he had often heard
of them, and when he nearly tumbled over the little satyr children
who were playing in the snow outside the house door, he was the most
surprised man in all those parts. It was too late to draw back however,
so he went boldly up to the door and gave a loud knock.

"Come in!" cried a gruff voice, and the peasant accordingly went in and
found himself facing the Father of all the Satyrs, who had a long beard
and a pair of horns jutting from his forehead. The poor fellow's knees
trembled underneath him for fright, especially when he saw all the
other satyrs, the mother and the uncles and the aunts, glowering at him.

"Please forgive me for my intrusion," said he, "but I have lost my way
in the woods, and I am half dead with hunger and cold. It would be an
act of great kindness if you would give me some food and allow me to
take shelter for the night." So saying, to give point to his remarks,
he set to work to blow upon his chilled fingers, which indeed were blue
with the cold.

"Why are you blowing your fingers?" asked the Father of all the Satyrs
curiously.

"Why, to warm them," answered the peasant, and he blew harder than
before.

"Well, sit down," said the Satyr. "As it happens we are just about to
have supper, and you are welcome to share it with us."

So the peasant sat down to supper, and all the Satyr family sat down
too, and watched him with big unblinking eyes, so that he felt very
uncomfortable. A big basin of soup was set before him, and finding it
very hot, he began to blow upon it.

At this all the Satyr family cried out in surprise, and the Father
Satyr said, "Why are you blowing your soup?"

"To cool it," answered the peasant. "It is too hot, and I am afraid it
may scald my mouth."

[Illustration: THE SATYRS' VILLAGE]

[Illustration: "THERE IS NO PLACE IN MY HOUSE FOR A MAN WHO CAN BLOW
HOT AND COLD"]

Another and a louder cry of surprise came from all the Satyrs, but the
Father cried out loudest of all, and seemed very indignant. "Come," he
said, advancing to the peasant and taking him by the collar. "Out you
go! There is no place in my house for a man who can blow hot and cold
with the same breath. That smells too much of sorcery or magic. Out you
go, I say, and practise your spells in the forest."

So the poor peasant had to go supperless and spend the night in the
woods, with no shelter but the trees, and the snow for coverlet.

And, if you wish to know when all this happened, all I can tell you is
that it was a very long time ago, in the days when fishes flew, and
cats had wings.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: THE TWO FRIENDS]

THE TWO FRIENDS AND THE BARREL OF GREASE


A dog and a wolf who were very great friends set up house together,
and agreed to share equally any food they might obtain. One day they
managed to steal a barrel of grease from the house of a countryman
who lived close by, and having no immediate need of it, they decided
to put it away until the winter, when they might be glad of anything
they could get to appease their hunger. So the barrel of grease was
carefully hidden away in the cellar.

All went well for some time, and then the wolf began to think longingly
of the hidden store. Every time he thought of the grease he imagined
himself licking it up, and at last he could withstand the temptation
no longer, so he went to the dog and said: "I shall be out all day
to-morrow. A cousin of mine has just had a little son, and he has sent
for me to go and be godfather at the christening."

"Very well, my friend," answered the dog. "Go by all means. They have
paid you a great honour by asking you, and of course you cannot refuse."

The wolf departed, but he went no farther than the cellar, where he
spent the whole of the day by the barrel of grease, eating and eating
until he could hold no more. Late at night he returned, licking his
chops, and the dog said: "Well, my friend, did everything go off well?"

"Splendidly, thank you!" answered the wolf.

"Good! And what name did they give the child?"

"Oh," said the wolf, thinking of the barrel of grease, "they called him
_Begun_."

"What a strange name!" cried the dog, "I never heard the like of it in
my life. However, every one to his taste!"

A day or two later the wolf once again began to think of the delicious
food in the cellar, so he told the dog that he had just received
another summons from a different cousin, who also had a baby to which
she wished him to stand godfather. "I wish to goodness they would leave
me alone!" he said, pretending to be very much annoyed. "Anybody would
think that I had nothing else to do but to stand godfather to other
people's brats!"

"You shouldn't be so good-natured," laughed the dog. "It is clear that
you make a very good godfather, or you would not be so much in demand."

Away went the wolf and spent a second satisfying day with the barrel of
grease. When he returned the dog asked him the name of the child.

"_Half-Done_," said the wolf.

"Bah!" cried the dog, "that is an even sillier name than the other.
I can't think what parents are coming to--in my time plain Jean or
Jacques was good enough for anybody."

The wolf made no reply, being in fact fast asleep, for he had dined
very well, and was drowsy. A day or two afterwards however, he played
the same trick again, and devoured the last of the fat in the barrel.
This time, when asked the name of the child to whom he had stood
godfather, he answered: "_All-done_."

[Illustration: "WHERE HAS ALL OUR GREASE GONE?"]

The dog had no suspicion of the way he had been deceived, and all went
well until the winter came and food became difficult to procure. Then
one day the dog said: "It seems to me that the time has come to tap our
barrel of grease. What do you say, friend? Weren't we wise to put it
away for a time like this!"

"I believe you," answered the wolf.

"Come then, let us go to the cellar and enjoy the fruits of our
prudence."

So off they went to the cellar, where they found the barrel in the very
place they had left it, but with nothing inside it. The dog looked
at the wolf, and the wolf looked at the dog, and of the two the wolf
seemed the more surprised.

"What's this?" cried the dog. "Where has our grease gone?" Then,
looking at the wolf suspiciously: "This is some of your work, my
friend!"

"Oh, indeed!" said the wolf, "and since when has it been proved that
dogs do not like grease?"

"You mean to accuse me of stealing it?" cried the dog angrily.

"One of the two of us must have taken it, for nobody else knew it was
here!"

"It was certainly not I."

"Well," said the wolf, "it is no use squabbling over the matter.
Fortunately there is a way of discovering which of us is the culprit.
Obviously the one who has eaten all that grease must be absolutely full
of fat. Let us both go to sleep in the sunshine. At the end of an hour
or two the heat will melt the grease which will soak through and show
on the body of the one who is the thief."

Feeling quite secure in his innocence, the dog willingly agreed to this
plan, and the two went out and lay down in a sheltered place, where the
heat of the sun was strong. After a time the dog began to yawn, and
in less than half an hour he was sound asleep, but the wolf had a good
reason for not following his example, and although he closed his eyes
to deceive his friend, he remained wide awake.

Presently, having made sure that the dog was slumbering peacefully, he
arose and tiptoed softly down to the cellar. There he collected with
his long tongue, every bit of the grease that still remained sticking
to the sides and bottom of the barrel, and returning to the sleeper,
carefully smeared the grease over his jaws, back, and thighs. Several
times he did this, until the dog was covered with a thin greasy film.
Then he lay down again and once more pretended to sleep.

A little while afterwards the dog woke up, and found the grease all
over his body. He could not make out how it got there, and while he was
still regarding himself with a look of blank surprise, the wolf cried:
"Ah, now we know who was the thief! The grease has betrayed you, my
friend!"

The poor dog looked very sheepish, and had not a word to say for
himself. He puzzled over the matter until his head ached, and at last
he came to the conclusion that he must have been sleep-walking and have
stolen the grease without knowing it--a conclusion with which the wolf
entirely agreed.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: MRS. BRUIN AND REYNARD]

WHY THE BEAR HAS A STUMPY TAIL


One very cold winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the
ponds and rivers were frozen hard, Reynard the Fox and all the other
animals went out to enjoy themselves by sliding and skating on the
ice. After a time Reynard began to feel hungry, so he wandered off by
himself in search of something to eat. He nosed about here, and he
nosed about there; he lay in wait behind bushes in the hope of being
able to catch a bird; he lurked by the walls of farmhouses ready to
spring out upon any unsuspecting chicken that might show itself, but
all in vain. The birds were wary, and the fowls were all safe in the
hen-houses.

[Illustration: "AFTER A TIME THE FISH WILL COME TO BITE AT IT"]

Disappointed with his lack of success Reynard betook himself to the
river, now covered with a glistening sheet of ice, and there, under
the shelter of a bank, he found a hole in the ice which had not been
frozen over. He sat down to watch the hole, and presently a little
fish popped up its head for a breath of air. Reynard's paw darted, and
the next moment the unfortunate creature lay gasping on the ice. Fish
after fish the fox caught in this way, and when he had quite satisfied
his hunger he strung the remainder on a stick and took his departure,
not forgetting first of all to offer up a prayer for the repose of his
victims.

He had not gone far before he met Mrs. Bruin, who had also come out in
search of something to eat. When she saw Reynard with his fine catch of
fish, she opened her eyes, I can tell you, and said: "Wherever did you
get all those fine fishes from, cousin? They make my mouth water! I am
so hungry that I could bite the head off an iron nail!"

"Ah," said Reynard slyly, "wouldn't you just like to know!"

"It is what I'm asking you," said Mrs. Bruin. "You would surely not be
so mean as to keep the good news to yourself!"

"I don't know so much about that," answered Reynard, "but I have a
certain fondness for you, cousin, so come along with me and I will show
you the place where I caught the fish."

Nothing loath, the bear followed, and presently they came to the hole
in the ice.

"Do you see that hole, cousin?" said Reynard. "That is where the fish
come up to breathe. All you have to do is to sit on the ice and let
your tail hang down into the water. After a time the fish will come to
bite at it, but don't you move. Sit quite still until the evening; then
you will find a score of fishes on your tail and you can pull them out
all together."

Mrs. Bruin was delighted with the plan and immediately sat down and
dipped her tail into the water.

[Illustration: "ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TO SIT ON THE ICE"]

"That's the way," said Reynard. "Now I'll just be walking home to
see to my dinner, but I'll be back presently. Be careful to keep quite
still, or you'll spoil everything!"

So for the next three hours Mrs. Bruin sat on the ice with her tail
in the water, and very cold it was, but she consoled herself with the
thought of the delicious meal she would have when the fish were landed.

Late in the afternoon Reynard returned. "Well, cousin," said he, "how
do you feel?"

"Very cold," said Mrs. Bruin, with her teeth chattering. "My tail is so
numb that I hardly know I've got one!"

"Does it feel heavy?" asked Reynard anxiously.

"Very heavy," said Mrs. Bruin.

"There must be _hundreds_ of fish on it!" said Reynard. He left the
bank and walked round the bear, observing that the water in the hole
had frozen over, and that Mrs. Bruin's tail was held firmly in the ice.

"I think you may safely pull up now," he went on, "but you must be
careful to land all the fish together. There is only one way to do
that: you must give a strong, sharp, sudden pull and take them by
surprise. Now then, are you ready? One, two, three...!"

[Illustration: "ONE, TWO, THREE...!"]

At the word three Mrs. Bruin rose on her hind legs and gave a mighty
jerk, but her tail was so firmly embedded in the ice that it would not
come out.

"My word," cried Reynard, "you have caught the whole river-full.
Persevere, cousin--now then, a long pull and a strong pull!"

"Ouf!" grunted Mrs. Bruin, "ouf, ouf ... ah!" And then she suddenly
tumbled head over heels on the ice, as with one mighty jerk, she
snapped her beautiful bushy tail clean off close to the roots.

When she had gathered her scattered wits together well enough to
understand what had happened, she went to look for Reynard, but he had
suddenly remembered an important engagement elsewhere, and was not to
be found. And from that time down to this every bear has been born with
a little stumpy tail.

[Illustration]



[Illustration: MARGOT AND THE CAT]

THE WITCH'S CAT


Once upon a time there was a wicked old witch who lived all alone in
the topmost chamber of a tall and gloomy tower. There she sat day after
day with her ugly head resting on her hands, peering out through a slit
in the wall upon the countryside. Her only companion was a big black
tom-cat, who sat by her side in the darkened chamber, his eyes shining
like green fire in the gloom.

One day as the witch sat there, she saw a little girl gathering berries
in the wood. The sight made her show her toothless gums in a malicious
grin and she muttered to herself: "Wait there, wait there, my ducky, my
darling, till I come to you, for your flesh will be very sweet." Then
she put on a long cloak and took a walking-staff in her hand and went
down the stairs.

Now the little girl, whose name was Margot, had strayed very far from
home in her eagerness to gather the ripe berries, and she was in a
part of the country which was quite strange to her. Had she happened
to meet anybody on her way they would have warned her not to go near
the witch's tower, but she had not met a soul all day, and so she had
no idea of the dreadful danger that was threatening her. She went on
gathering her berries, light-heartedly humming a tune, until her basket
was nearly full, and then she sat down at the foot of a tree to rest.

Presently she saw an old woman coming towards her. It was the witch,
who had muffled herself up in her cloak, so that her face could not
easily be seen.

"Good-day, my dear," said the witch. "Will you give me a few of those
ripe berries?"

"Of course I will," answered Margot. "Take as many as you like, I can
easily gather some more." So the witch took a handful of berries,
and sat down by Margot's side to eat them. And all the time she was
eating she was gazing greedily at the little girl's white neck and rosy
cheeks, but Margot could not see the hateful look in the witch's eyes
because the cloak hid her face.

"Where do you live, little girl?" asked the witch after a while.

Margot told her, and the witch said: "You must be very tired with
walking all that way. If you will come to my house I will give you a
bowl of milk and a slice of currant cake, and you shall see all the
wonderful things that I keep in my cupboards."

So Margot went with the witch into the gloomy tower, not so much
because she wanted the milk or the cake, but to see the pretty things
in the cupboards, and no sooner was she within than the witch fell upon
her, and bound her fast with a cord, and carried her up to the topmost
room, where the cat was sitting blinking its green eyes. Then the
old witch opened the door of a dark cupboard, and pushed poor Margot
inside, for she meant to keep her there until she had grown bigger and
fatter, so that she would make a more satisfying meal. To this end the
witch brought her plenty of rich food every day, and from time to time
she would feel Margot's arm to see whether she was plump enough to go
into the pot. Poor child, how frightened she was, and how miserable at
being kept in that dark cupboard all alone. She cried nearly all day
long, but there was nobody to hear her except the witch's big black
cat, and he was a silent animal who did not show his feelings. Margot
was almost as sorry for him as she was for herself, for the witch often
beat him unmercifully, and the girl tried to comfort him by giving him
pieces from her dinner, which she pushed out through the crack under
the door.

[Illustration: SHE MEANT TO KEEP HER THERE UNTIL SHE HAD GROWN BIGGER
AND FATTER]

One day when the old witch had gone out as usual, leaving Margot a
prisoner, the girl was surprised to hear a voice speaking to her from
the room beyond. "Margot, Margot," said the voice, "don't cry any more,
but listen to me."

"Who are you?" asked the little girl.

"I am the witch's cat," the voice went on. "I am going to push the key
of the cupboard underneath the door. Take it and let yourself out, but
make haste, for you have no time to waste!"

"Thank you, thank you," said Margot, when she found herself free. "But
how is it that you are able to talk? I did not know that cats could
speak."

"They can't, as a rule," said the witch's cat, "but never mind that
now. The witch may return at any moment, and we must get you safely out
of her reach."

"Yes, yes," said Margot, "I must go at once. I will run like the wind!"

"That is no use," said the cat. "Before you had got half-way home the
witch would overtake you."

"Then what must I do? Is there anywhere I can hide?"

"When she returns and finds you gone she will ransack every corner of
the tower. Not even a mouse could escape her keen eyes."

"Oh dear! oh dear!" said Margot, beginning to cry again. "Do help me to
escape, kind cat, and I will be grateful to you all my life."

"Of course I will help you," answered the cat, "that is why I let you
out of the cupboard. Take this piece of carpet, and when the witch has
almost overtaken you, throw it on to the ground and it will turn into a
wide river. That will delay her for some time, because she cannot swim,
but if she manages to get across, and overtakes you again, throw down
this comb, which will immediately change into a dense forest. You may
plunge into it without fear, for a way will open before you between
the trees, but the witch will have to cut a way through, foot by foot,
with her knife; and long before she has done that you will be safely
home."

[Illustration: PADDLING WITH HER BROOM]

Margot thanked the cat, and having taken the carpet and the comb, she
fled swiftly down the stairs.

A short time afterwards the witch came home, and when she discovered
that her prisoner had escaped she howled with rage. Mounting to the
very roof of the tower, she gazed out upon the countryside, and soon
descried the figure of the little girl, running as fast as she could
in the direction of her home.

"I'll have you yet," muttered the witch, and away she went after her.

Margot saw her coming, and redoubled her speed, but all to no avail,
for the witch gained upon her rapidly. Soon she heard her hissing
breath, and looking fearfully over her shoulder, saw the baleful look
of triumph in her eyes.

Quickly then, Margot took out the strip of carpet and laid it upon
the ground. Immediately it turned into a wide and swiftly flowing
river. The witch gave a cry of rage, and tried to wade after her,
but the flood mounted swiftly, first to her knees, and then to her
waist. Another moment and she would have been swept away, but taking a
nutshell from her pocket she set it afloat upon the waters, muttering a
charm as she did so. Then the nutshell turned into a little boat, into
which the old crone pulled herself, and, paddling with her broom, made
shift to cross the river.

The delay had given Margot a good start, but the witch wore enchanted
boots which enabled her to cover the ground at a wonderful rate. Ten
minutes more and she was once again at Margot's heels.

Then the little girl drew out the comb and flung it behind her.
Immediately a dense forest sprang up, and Margot fled into it, through
an alley that opened itself before her. Spluttering with anger, the
witch drew her knife to hack her way through the wood, but long before
she had cut a dozen yards Margot was safely home and in her mother's
arms.

The old witch made her way back to the tower, and the things she said
were so terrible that the very air was poisoned, and the grass by the
roadside withered and turned black. No sooner had she set foot within
her doorway, however, than she crumbled to dust, and a wind arose and
blew the dust to all quarters of the heavens.

So that was the end of the old witch, for her power ceased as soon as
one of her victims managed to escape. As for the black cat, nobody ever
saw him again, but it was whispered that he was really a Prince whom
the wicked old crone had captured years before, and given the shape
of a cat by enchantment. By helping Margot to escape he had released
himself from the spell that bound him, and was enabled to return to his
father's kingdom.

[Illustration]



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Transcriber's note


Words in italics were surrounded with _underscores_
and small capitals replaced with all capitals.

A few errors in punctuation were corrected. Otherwise the original
was preserved.

Additional: "Krekelput" on page 76 was translated in the footnote with
"Snail's Well", a better translation would be "Cricket's Well". Also,
the chapter headers were left aligned in the original, this has not
been changed.





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