a boy dressed in tuxedo and wearing a hat, standing on the street

A very rich Seigneur lived once in a large town. He had three beautiful daughters and one son. The son was but a baby. The Seigneur wasted his money in wicked living. He spent much of his time in feasting and drinking and gambling. His wife and daughters were much troubled. Soon his money was all gone. But he decided that he would have to get more somewhere, for he wished to continue in his evil ways of living. One day he met a man in the fields. The man said, “I have heard of your beautiful daughters. Will you give me the eldest for my wife?” The Seigneur said, “You may have one if you pay me a great sum of money.” So the man paid the money and took the eldest girl away. Then the Seigneur went back to his old ways. He spent his money on worthless friends, and he was idle for a long time. Soon his money was all gone. One day in the fields he met another man. The man said, “I have heard of your beautiful daughters. Will you give me the oldest one at home for my wife?” The Seigneur said, “You may take her if you will give me a great sum of money for her.” The man paid him the money and took the second girl away. Then the Seigneur spent this money as he had spent all the rest. Soon it was all gone, and he looked for more. Again he met a man in the fields, and he sold him his youngest daughter for a great sum of money. So the three girls were sold to strangers. No one knew where they had gone or what had become of them. Their mother often wept over them. Only her little baby boy was left with her. The Seigneur soon died because of his wicked life, but he had not used up all the money he had received for the third girl, and he left some of it behind. When the little boy grew up he went to school. His mother had told him nothing of his three lost sisters. But his playmates in school told him, for they had heard their parents speak of them. They told him that his father had sold them, and that no one knew where they were. When he asked his mother about it she would not tell him at first; but at last she told him all, and she wept because she did not know where her daughters had gone.

The boy decided to go in search of his sisters. His mother said good-bye to him and wished him good luck. He passed through a lonely forest. As he went along, he came upon three robbers sitting on a grass plot under the trees. They were quarrelling about something. The boy stood and watched them. He heard one of the robbers say, “The boy will decide for us.” And the others agreed. They called the boy to them, and one of them said, “We have here a coat, a sword, and a pair of shoes which we have stolen. All these things have magical power. The coat can make its wearer invisible; the shoes can make the wearer run faster than the winds; and the sword can overcome all enemies. We cannot agree on how to divide the booty. We want you to be umpire in our dispute and decide for us.” The boy said he would decide the question, but first he must think about it. Then the robbers set about preparing their evening meal. One gathered wood for a fire; another went to a stream for water; and the third looked after the food. When their backs were all turned to the boy, he put on the strange coat and shoes and took the sword. At once he was invisible. The robbers soon prepared their meal, and looked for the boy. He was nowhere to be seen, and the magical coat and shoes and sword had gone with him. Then they knew that he had outwitted them, and they were very angry.

The boy waved his sword and wished himself at the home of his eldest sister. Away he went at once, running like the wind, and in an instant he stood before a very large house. He went in and asked to see the mistress of the place. When she came to him he called her “sister.” But she greeted him coldly, and said, “I have no brother big enough to travel.” But he told her of her old home, and soon convinced her that he was indeed her brother. She was very glad to see him. She told him that her husband was a very wonderful man who could do wonderful deeds. Soon her husband came home. He was pleased to see his brother-in-law, and they all had a very happy time together for several days.

Then the boy decided to go on and find his second sister. When he was leaving, his brother-in-law gave him a scale from a fish’s back, and said, “This has very wonderful power. If you ever get into trouble, speak to it and it will bring you help from the sea.” Then the boy waved his sword and wished himself at the home of his second sister. At once he stood before a great house. The mistress received him coldly, just as her elder sister had done, until he convinced her that he was indeed her brother. She told him that her husband was a very wonderful man who had great power. Soon her husband came home and greeted him kindly, and they had a happy time together for many days.

Then the boy decided to go on and find his youngest sister. Before he left, his second brother-in-law gave him a small lock of soft wool, and said, “This has great power. If you ever get into trouble, speak to it and it will bring you help from the fields.” Then the boy waved his sword and wished himself at the home of his youngest sister. She received him as the others had done; but he soon convinced her that he was her brother, and he found that her husband was a man of great power.

The boy stayed with them a long time. Then he decided to set out to find a wife. His sister told him that in a town far away lived a very rich Seigneur who had two beautiful daughters. He said, “I will go and win the younger.” Before he left, his third brother-in-law gave him a small feather, and said, “This has wonderful power. If you ever get into trouble, speak to it and it will bring you help from the air.” Then the boy waved his sword and wished himself at the house of the rich Seigneur. And at once he reached the village, going faster than the winds. Before going to the Seigneur’s house he went into a house on the border of the village. Two old women were there. They received him kindly. He told them he had come far to seek the Seigneur’s younger daughter. They said, “The Seigneur’s elder daughter is to be married to-morrow, but she will not be long with her husband.” “Why?” said the boy. They wondered at the boy’s ignorance. They said, “Have you not heard of the Giant of the Sea-cave?” He said he had not. Then they took him to the window, and pointed to a high cliff far across the bay. The waves were breaking at its base and the spray dashed high on its side. But he could see a hole like a door in the face of the cliff. One of the old women said, “In that cave lives the Giant of the Sea. As soon as a girl is married in this land, he carries her off to the cave and she is never heard of again. His cave is full of brides. He cannot be killed, for he keeps the secret of his life hidden where no one can find it. He is the terror of all the country.” The boy said nothing, but he decided to kill the giant.

The boy then went on to the Seigneur’s home to see the wedding of the Seigneur’s elder daughter. There was a great gathering, and there was much rejoicing, for the people did not think that the giant would carry off the Seigneur’s daughter. But during the wedding feast the bride disappeared and was seen no more. The people knew that the giant had taken her, and there was great sadness.

Then the boy went to the Seigneur and told him that he wanted to marry his younger daughter. The Seigneur said, “Little good it will do you to marry her, for she will be carried off at once by the Giant of the Sea.” “But I can kill the giant,” said the boy. “No man can do that,” said the Seigneur. Then the boy convinced him of his power, and the Seigneur consented to the marriage. The next day the wedding feast was held. There was but little gladness, for the people knew that the Seigneur’s only remaining child would soon be stolen away by the Giant of the Sea. Sure enough, at the feast, the bride disappeared; she was taken to the giant’s cave. There was much sadness among the people, but the boy said, “To-morrow I will go and bring her back.”

The next day the boy put on his magical coat and shoes and took his sword and went to the giant’s cave. The hole in the cliff was closed up and he could not enter, but he cut a hole in the rock with his sword and went in. He found himself in a very large room. Many women sat around in a circle, all sad and weeping, but all very beautiful. In the circle sat his own wife. At the back of the cave sat the terrible Giant of the Sea. They could not see the boy because of his magical coat. Soon the giant said quickly, “There is a wedding in the town,” and disappeared. Then the boy made his presence known to his wife. He told her to ask the giant when he came back where the secret of his life was hidden. He told her not to fear, for he would rescue her. He had time to say but few words when the giant came back, bringing a bride with him. Then the boy’s wife said to the giant, “Where do you keep the secret of your life?” He said, “No one has ever asked me that before, and since you are the first to ask me, I will tell you. I keep it in a box far out in the sea. It is in an iron box. There are seven boxes, one inside the other. It is in the inside box.” Then he told her the exact spot where the box was hidden. Then she said, “Where do you keep the keys?” He said, “They are hidden beside the box.”

When the boy heard this, he went away from the cave and sat on the shore. He took out his fish-scale and told it what he wished, and at once help came to him from the sea, as his brother-in-law had promised. A large whale swam to him and said, “What do you want?” The boy said, “Bring me the iron box and the keys that lie at the bottom of the ocean.” He told him where to find them. At once the whale went off, and soon returned with the box and the keys. But the keys were rusty and the boy could not open the lock. Then he took out his lock of wool and told it what he wished, and at once help came to him from the fields. A large sheep came running to him and said, “What do you want?” The boy said, “Break open this box and each box you find inside.” Then the sheep butted with his horns the outer box until he broke it, and butted each one until he broke them all. When he broke the last one the boy was not on his guard, and the giant’s secret of life flew out and escaped into the air. Then the boy took out his feather, and told it what he wished. At once a great bird like a goose came flying through the air, and said, “What do you want?” The boy said, “Bring me the giant’s secret of life; it has just escaped from the box and is flying in the air.” The bird flew away and soon came back with his prisoner—the giant’s secret of life—and the boy killed it with his magical sword. Then he went to the cave. He was still invisible. The giant had lost his power, for the secret of his life had been found and killed. So the boy easily killed him with his sword. Then the boy removed his magical coat and showed himself to the brides who sat in the cave. He brought them all back to the Seigneur’s home and their husbands came and claimed them. The Seigneur gave the boy a large house near to his own, and there the boy and his wife lived happily. And the boy sent for his mother, and brought her to live with him and his wife. Soon the Seigneur died. He left all his money and his possessions to the boy, and the boy became Seigneur in his stead, and was lord of all the land. He lived to be very old, and he did many wonderful deeds with the sword and the shoes and the coat which he had taken from the robbers in the forest.

LITTLE PITCHER-MAN by Abbie Phillips Walker


On a pantry shelf there once lived a funny squatty-looking pitcher-man. His cap was brown and that was the top of the pitcher. His coat was yellow and his vest green.

He was round and fat, as well as squatty, and his legs were short. He wore brown trousers (what there was of them) and white stockings and black shoes.

But the face under the cap was what everyone noticed most; it was always laughing. Oh, I forgot to say that his hands held on to his sides as if he feared he would burst with laughing so hard.

One day there came to the pantry to live a new dish, and when it saw the Pitcher-man it asked another dish standing by why the Pitcher-man was always laughing.

“I do not know,” replied the other dish, “but he never does anything but laugh. I have never thought to ask why.”

So the new dish waited until it was all quiet in the pantry at night, and then it asked the Pitcher-man why he laughed all the time.

“Oh dear! I have to laugh every time I think of it,” answered the Pitcher-man. “No one has ever asked me why I laughed before, and I do not know that I can stop long enough to tell you why.”

But all the other dishes gathered about him and begged him to tell his story, and at last he managed to stop laughing and talk.

“It happened ever and ever so long ago,” he said, “one moonlight night when the house was very still.

“Mistress Puss came in through the door and looked about; then she sniffed, for you see on a platter on the shelf was a nice fish for the next day’s dinner.

“Puss walked along to the window, and just before she jumped up on the sill so she could jump on the shelf I saw a mouse run along the shelf where the fish was and jump into a pie that was cut.

“He ran under the crust and began to nibble and, of course, did not see Puss; but when she reached the fish she gave it a pull and the tail hit the pie.

“Oh dear! when I think of it I just have to laugh,” and Pitcher-man again held his sides while he almost burst with laughing.

“Oh, do tell us what happened!” asked the dishes, so interested they could hardly wait to hear the end of the story.

The Pitcher-man wiped his eyes and then went on: “As I said, the tail of the fish hit the pie where the mouse was eating. That, of course, scared him and he jumped out.

“He landed right on Puss’s head and that scared her so she tumbled off the shelf, the fish on top of her.

“Puss never knew what happened. She thought the fish was alive and ran for her life, and the mouse hustled about helter-skelter trying to find the hole in the wall, for his wits were just scared out of his head.

“Oh dear! it was so funny, and the next day when the cook gave the fish-head to Puss she ran out of doors and cook thought she had a fit because no cat was ever known to refuse fish before.

“But I knew what was the matter, and every time I think about it all I just have to laugh. Ha! ha! ha!”

And that is the reason little Pitcher-man is always laughing. He cannot stop, for he always is thinking about what he saw many years ago one moonlight night in the pantry.

THE MAGIC FIDDLE by Joseph Jacobs

beautiful woman playing the violin

Once upon a time there lived seven brothers and a sister. The brothers were married, but their wives did not do the cooking for the family. It was done by their sister, who stopped at home to cook. The wives for this reason bore their sister-in-law much ill-will, and at length they combined together to oust her from the office of cook and general provider, so that one of themselves might obtain it. They said, “She does not go out to the fields to work, but remains quietly at home, and yet she has not the meals ready at the proper time.” They then called upon their Bonga, and vowing vows unto him they secured his good-will and assistance; then they said to the Bonga, “At midday, when our sister-in-law goes to bring water, cause it thus to happen, that on seeing her pitcher, the water shall vanish, and again slowly re-appear. In this way she will be delayed. Let the water not flow into her pitcher, and you may keep the maiden as your own.”

At noon when she went to bring water, it suddenly dried up before her, and she began to weep. Then after a while the water began slowly to rise. When it reached her ankles she tried to fill her pitcher, but it would not go under the water. Being frightened she began to wail and cry to her brother:

“Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my ankles,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.”

The water continued to rise until it reached her knee, when she began to wail again:

“Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my knee,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.”

The water continued to rise, and when it reached her waist, she cried again:

“Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my waist,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.”

The water still rose, and when it reached her neck she kept on crying:

“Oh! my brother, the water reaches to my neck,
Still, Oh! my brother, the pitcher will not dip.”

At length the water became so deep that she felt herself drowning, then she cried aloud:

“Oh! my brother, the water measures a man’s height,
Oh! my brother, the pitcher begins to fill.”

The pitcher filled with water, and along with it she sank and was drowned. The Bonga then transformed her into a Bonga like himself, and carried her off.

After a time she re-appeared as a bamboo growing on the embankment of the tank in which she had been drowned. When the bamboo had grown to an immense size, a Jogi, who was in the habit of passing that way, seeing it, said to himself, “This will make a splendid fiddle.” So one day he brought an axe to cut it down; but when he was about to begin, the bamboo called out, “Do not cut at the root, cut higher up.” When he lifted his axe to cut high up the stem, the bamboo cried out, “Do not cut near the top, cut at the root.” When the Jogi again prepared himself to cut at the root as requested, the bamboo said, “Do not cut at the root, cut higher up;” and when he was about to cut higher up, it again called out to him, “Do not cut high up, cut at the root.” The Jogi by this time felt sure that a Bonga was trying to frighten him, so becoming angry he cut down the bamboo at the root, and taking it away made a fiddle out of it. The instrument had a superior tone and delighted all who heard it. The Jogi carried it with him when he went a-begging, and through the influence of its sweet music he returned home every evening with a full wallet.

He now and then visited, when on his rounds, the house of the Bonga girl’s brothers, and the strains of the fiddle affected them greatly. Some of them were moved even to tears, for the fiddle seemed to wail as one in bitter anguish. The elder brother wished to purchase it, and offered to support the Jogi for a whole year if he would consent to part with his wonderful instrument. The Jogi, however, knew its value, and refused to sell it.

It so happened that the Jogi some time after went to the house of a village chief, and after playing a tune or two on his fiddle asked for something to eat. They offered to buy his fiddle and promised a high price for it, but he refused to sell it, as his fiddle brought to him his means of livelihood. When they saw that he was not to be prevailed upon, they gave him food and a plentiful supply of liquor. Of the latter he drank so freely that he presently became intoxicated. While
he was in this condition, they took away his fiddle, and substituted their own old one for it. When the Jogi recovered, he missed his instrument, and suspecting that it had been stolen asked them to return it to him. They denied having taken it, so he had to depart, leaving his fiddle behind him. The chief’s son, being a musician, used to play on the Jogi’s fiddle, and in his hands the music it gave forth delighted the ears of all who heard it.

When all the household were absent at their labours in the fields, the Bonga girl used to come out of the bamboo fiddle, and prepared the family meal. Having eaten her own share, she placed that of the chief’s son under his bed, and covering it up to keep off the dust, re-entered the fiddle. This happening every day, the other members of the household thought that some girl friend of theirs was in this manner showing her interest in the young man, so they did not trouble
themselves to find out how it came about. The young chief, however, was determined to watch, and see which of his girl friends was so attentive to his comfort. He said in his own mind, “I will catch her to-day, and give her a sound beating; she is causing me to be ashamed before the others.” So saying, he hid himself in a corner in a pile of firewood. In a short time the girl came out of the bamboo fiddle, and began to dress her hair. Having completed her toilet, she cooked the meal of rice as usual, and having eaten some herself, she placed the young man’s portion under his bed, as before, and was about to enter the fiddle again, when he, running out from his hiding-place, caught her in his arms. The Bonga girl exclaimed, “Fie! Fie! you may be a Dom, or you may be a Hadi of some other caste with whom I cannot marry.” He said, “No. But from to-day, you and I are one.” So they began lovingly to hold converse with each other. When the others returned home in the evening, they saw that she was both a human being and a Bonga, and they rejoiced exceedingly.

Now in course of time the Bonga girl’s family became very poor, and her brothers on one occasion came to the chief’s house on a visit.

The Bonga girl recognised them at once, but they did not know who she was. She brought them water on their arrival, and afterwards set cooked rice before them. Then sitting down near them, she began in wailing tones to upbraid them on account of the treatment she had been subjected to by their wives. She related all that had befallen her, and wound up by saying, “You must have known it all, and yet you did not interfere to save me.” And that was all the revenge she took.