THE THREE SILVER CITRONS (A Persian Story), by Katharine Pyle

a prince and a princess, in the persian story of the three silver citrons

There was once a King who had three sons, and he loved them all equally, one no more than the other.

When he had grown old and felt his strength leaving him, he called the three Princes before him.

“My sons,” said he, “I am no longer young, and soon the time will come when I must leave you. I have it in mind to give the kingdom to one or the other of you now and not to leave it for you to quarrel over after I have gone. You have reached a time of life when you should marry. Go forth into the world and seek, each one of you, a bride for himself. He who brings home the most beautiful Princess shall have the kingdom.” Continue reading

THE MAGIC TURBAN, THE MAGIC SWORD AND THE MAGIC CARPET (A Persian Story), by Katharine Pyle

a geenie in the persian story of the magic turban, the magic sword and the magic carpet

There were once two brothers, the sons of a rich merchant, and when he died he left all his estate to be divided between them equally. This was done, and the elder at once set about trading and improving his condition, so that very soon he became twice as rich as he had been.

But the younger son had no luck. Everything he undertook failed. Moreover, he never had the heart to say no to a friend in need. So before long he was left with not a penny in his purse or a roof over his head.

In his distress he went to his elder brother and asked help of him. Continue reading

OH! (a cossack story), by Katharine Pyle

a boy, sleeping with his dog in a green meadow

There was once a man who had one son, and he was so lazy that he would not work at all. The father apprenticed him to a tailor, but the lad went to sleep between the stitches. He apprenticed him to a cobbler and the lad only sat and yawned instead of driving pegs. What to do with him the man did not know.

“Come,” said the father one day, “we will go out into the wide world. It may be that somewhere or other we will find a master who can make you work.” Continue reading

The Frog Princess – A Russian Story, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a Tsar (king) who had three sons, and they were all dear to him, but the youngest, Ivan, was the dearest of them all.

When the Princes grew to manhood the Tsar began to talk and talk to them about getting married, but it so happened not one of the Princes had ever seen the girl he wished to have for a wife. There were many in the kingdom whom they might well have loved, but not one of them meant more to any of the Princes than another.

“Very well, then,” said the Tsar at last, “we will leave it to chance. Take your bows and arrows and come with me into the courtyard. You shall each shoot an arrow, and in whatever places your arrows fall, there shall you take your brides.”

The Princes were not greatly pleased with this plan, but still they dared not say no to their father. They took their bows and went with him into the courtyard.

First the eldest son shot his arrow, and he aimed it toward the east, where the sun rises. The arrow fell upon the balcony of a great nobleman’s house.

Well and good! The nobleman had a daughter, and she was so stately and handsome that the Prince was very glad to take her for a wife.

Then the second Prince shot an arrow and aimed it toward the west, where the sun is in its glory. He was no less lucky than his brother, for his arrow fell into the court of a rich merchant, and he also had a daughter who was a beauty. So the second son took her for a bride, and he was well content.

Last of all Prince Ivan shot his arrow, and he aimed neither toward the east nor the west, but straight up into the sky above him. Then a sudden gust of wind arose and caught the arrow and blew it away so that it fell in a great swamp. In this swamp were no rich nor beautiful ladies, but only a poor, green, croaking frog.

When the young Prince Ivan saw where his arrow had fallen he was in despair. “How can I marry a frog,” said he, “and have her rule with me as my Princess?”

“It is a great pity,” said the Tsar; “nevertheless what I have said I have said, and where your arrow fell there must you take your bride.”

So Prince Ivan was married to the frog, and the Tsar built a castle on the edge of the swamp for them to live in.

Now the Tsar was growing old, and he began to consider in his mind to which of his sons he would leave his kingdom. Gladly would he have left it to his youngest son, who was his favorite, but it did not seem right that a frog should ever rule over the kingdom as Queen.

At last he called the three Princes before him and said, “My sons, to-morrow let your wives bake me some soft white bread. I will eat of it, and in this way I will know which of you has the cleverest wife, and he who has the cleverest wife shall inherit my kingdom.”

After they had heard him the three Princes went away to their own homes, and Prince Ivan was very sad.

“What ails you, my dear husband,” said the frog, “that you hang your head and are so downcast?”

“It is no wonder I am downcast,” answered Prince Ivan. “My father has commanded that you shall make him a loaf of soft white bread to-morrow, and well I know that your webby fingers can never make bread that he would taste or even so much as look at.”

“Do not be too sure of that,” answered the frog. “Sleep in peace, and I promise that to-morrow I will provide a loaf that even the Tsar will be glad to eat of.”

The Prince did not believe this, but grief is heavy, so no sooner was he in bed than he fell into a deep sleep.

Then the frog arose from beside him and went into a far-off room and took off her frog-skin; for she was really a Princess who had been enchanted. She combed her hair and washed herself and then she went out on the balcony of the castle and cried, “Nurses dear, nurses dear, bring me a loaf of bread such as I used to have in the palace of my own dear father, the King.”

After she had called this three times three crows appeared, carrying among them a fine napkin embroidered with gold, and in this napkin was a loaf of bread. They laid the napkin before the Princess and bowed three times, croaking solemnly, and then they flew away again into the night.

The Princess took up the bread and went back into the room and put on her frog-skin again; after that she returned to her chamber and lay down beside her husband.

The next day when the Prince was ready to set out for the Tsar’s palace, the frog brought him the loaf of bread still wrapped in the napkin.

“Take this, dear husband,” said she, “and carry it to your father, the Tsar, but do not open it on the way lest the dust should spoil the fineness of the bread.”

The Prince took the loaf and rode away with it, but he could not forbear from peeping into the napkin to see what was there, and what he saw filled him with admiration and wonder. Quickly he rode on his way, and soon reached the Tsar’s palace.

The two older brothers were there, and each brought a loaf of fine white bread that his wife had made.

When Prince Ivan entered his brothers could not forbear from smiling. “Come!” said they, “show us quickly what kind of bread the Frog Princess has made. Does it smell of reeds and rushes?”

The young Prince made no answer but gave what he carried to his father.

When the Tsar saw the fineness of the napkin and the beautiful embroidery upon it he was very much surprised. But he was still more surprised when he opened the napkin and saw what it contained. Never before had he seen such bread. Not only was it soft and light and fine, but it was molded along the sides in cunning scenes, castles and cities, moats and bridges, and upon the top was the imprint of the royal eagle, perfect even to the claws and feathers.

The Tsar could not admire it enough. Still he was not willing to leave the kingdom to Prince Ivan and so make a queen of a frog.

“This is very beautiful, but a loaf of bread is soon eaten and forgotten,” said he. “I now wish each one of you to bring me a carpet to lay before my throne, and he who brings me the finest carpet, him will I make my heir.”

The Princes returned to their own homes, and the youngest one was very sad and sorrowful.

“What ails you, my dear husband?” asked the frog. “Why are you so downcast, and why do you hang your head. Was not the Tsar pleased with the bread you carried to him?”

“He was well pleased,” answered the Prince; “but now he has commanded each one of us to bring him a carpet, and to him who brings the finest carpet he will leave his kingdom. No wonder I am sad, for where, in this swamp, can I find a carpet such as I require?”

“Do not trouble yourself about that,” answered the frog. “Do you go and lie down and go quietly to sleep. I will supply you such a carpet as you need.”

The Prince did not believe her, but because grief is heavy he lay down and soon fell into a deep sleep.

Again as before the frog stole away to a distant chamber and laid aside her frog-skin. Then she went out on the balcony and cried aloud three times; “Nurses dear, nurses true, bring me a carpet such as lay before my bed in my own home.”

At once the three crows appeared, carrying among them a carpet rolled up and covered with a piece of embroidered velvet. They laid the roll before the Princess, bowed three times, and then flew away again.

The Princess carried the carpet back into the chamber and put on her frog-skin again, and then she went back and lay down quietly beside the Prince.

The next morning when the Prince was ready to set out, the frog brought the roll of carpet to him.

“Here,” said she; “carry this to your father, but do not open it upon the way lest the dust spoil its beauty.”

The Prince took the carpet and rode away. When he reached the Tsar’s palace his two brothers were already there, and each had brought with him a piece of carpet so fine and rich that it was difficult to say which of the two was the more beautiful.

When the older brothers saw Ivan they began to laugh. “Come!” said they. “Let us see what kind of a carpet he has brought from his swamp home. No doubt it is very wonderful.”

The Prince laid the roll of carpet upon the floor and opened it out and when they saw it every one was struck with wonder. The elder Princes had not a word to say. Never before had they seen such a carpet. Not only was it as thick and soft as eiderdown, but it shone with wondrous colors that changed as one looked at them, and it was embroidered with gold in strange designs.

The Tsar was filled with admiration. All the same he still was unwilling to have a frog reign in his kingdom.

“This is all very well,” said he, “and never before have I seen such a beautiful carpet. But now I wish you all to appear before me to-morrow with your wives. Let the Princesses wear their most beautiful dresses and their finest jewels, and whichever of you has the wife best fitted to be Queen, to him will I leave the kingdom.”

When the Prince Ivan heard this he was in despair. How could he ever bring the frog to court and present her to the Tsar as though she were a beautiful Princess?

When he went home the frog at once asked him why he was so sad and woebegone. “Is not the kingdom to be yours?” she asked.

“No,” answered the Prince, “for now my father, the Tsar, has demanded something else of us.” He then told her how the Tsar had bidden him and his brothers bring their wives to court, and had said that whichever of the Princesses was the finest and most beautiful should reign as Queen, and her husband should be the Tsar.

“Do not trouble over that,” said the frog. “Only go to bed and sleep quietly. The kingdom shall still be yours.”

Then the Prince went to bed, but he only closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep, for he had grown very curious as to how the frog had been able to provide him with the wonderful loaf and the carpet.

The frog kept very still until she thought the Prince was asleep. Then she arose quietly from his side and slipped away, but the Prince also arose and followed her without her being aware of it. She went to the far-off chamber, and there she laid aside her frog-skin; and when the prince saw her in her human form he was amazed at her beauty, and his heart melted within him for love of her, for her hair was like spun gold, her eyes as blue as the sky, and her skin as white as milk. Never had he seen such a beauty.

The Princess went out on a balcony as she had before, and cried aloud three times, “Nurses dear, nurses true, bring me fine clothes and jewels to wear, richer than ever were seen before.”

At once the three crows appeared, carrying with them jewels and fine robes all encrusted with gems and embroidery. These they laid at the Princess’s feet and bowed three times, croaking hoarsely, and then they flew away.

The Princess took the robes and jewels back into the chamber to hide them, and while she was doing this Prince Ivan returned to his bed and lay down and closed his eyes as though he were asleep. When the frog came back she looked at him carefully, but he kept so still she never guessed that he had stirred from where he lay.

The next morning the frog bade Ivan ride away alone to the palace of the Tsar. “I will follow you,” she said, “and when you hear a great noise, say, ‘That is my little Froggie, driving up in her basket made of rushes.’”

The Prince promised to do this and then he rode away to the palace of the Tsar.

His brothers were already there, and their two wives were with them, both so handsome and so magnificently dressed that each looked finer than the other.

When Ivan came in they all began to laugh. “Where is thy dear frog?” they asked. “Is she still asleep among her reeds and rushes, or is she too hoarse to come?”

Even as they spoke there was a great noise outside,–a roaring and rumbling like thunder.

The palace shook until it seemed as though it would fall about their ears. Every one was terrified. Only Prince Ivan was calm.

“There is my little Froggie now,” he said; “she is driving up in her little basket of rushes.”

At once the noise ceased, the doors were flung open, and a magnificent Princess swept into the room. Never was such a beauty seen before. Her golden hair fell almost to the floor and was bound about with jewels. Her robes were stiff with embroidery and gems. The other Princesses paled before her as stars pale before the rising moon.

Prince Ivan took her by the hand and led her to the Tsar. “This is my dear Princess,” said he, “and surely it is she and she only who should reign over this land.”

Well, there were no two ways to that. The Tsar could hardly contain himself for joy over the beauty of Prince Ivan’s bride. A great feast was spread, and the Tsar himself led the Princess to the table. She sat at his right hand and drank from his jewelled cup, and all was joy and merriment. Only the older brothers and their wives were sad, for they knew they had missed all chance of gaining the kingdom.

Now while they were still at the table, all eating and drinking, Prince Ivan arose and made some excuse for leaving the room. He went quietly and mounted his horse and rode back to his own castle.

There he made haste to the room where his wife had left her frog-skin. He hunted about until he found it, and then he threw it into the fire, for he did not intend that she should ever hide herself away in it again.

At once a clap of thunder sounded, and the Princess stood before him. Her eyes were streaming with tears, and she wrung her hands in grief.

“Alas and woe is me!” she cried. “Why did you burn my frog-skin? A little longer, and I would have been free. Now I must go away and leave you forever.”

“But where are you going?” cried the Prince in despair. “Wherever it is I will follow and find you.”

“Seek me beyond the seven mountains, beyond the seven seas, in the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless, for it is in his house I will be,” answered the Princess. Then she turned into a great white swan and flew out through the window and far, far away; so far the Prince could no longer see her.

Then Prince Ivan was filled with grief; and he neither stayed nor tarried but set out at once in search of his Princess.

He journeyed on and journeyed on a short way and a long way, and then he met an old man with a grey beard that hung down far below his belt.

“Good day, good youth,” said the old man.

“Good day, grandfather,” answered Ivan.

“Whither do you journey with so sad a face?” asked the stranger.

“I journey over land and over sea in search of the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless,” answered Ivan.

“Then you have a long journey before you,” said the old man. “But why do you seek the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless, that terrible man?”

“I seek it that I may find what is lost.” Then Ivan told the old man his story, all about his frog bride and how she had turned into a Princess,–how he had burned the frog-skin and how she had flown away as a swan, and that now life would be nothing but a burden to him until he could find her again.

The old man shook his head. “Alas! alas! You should never have burned the frog-skin!” he said. He then told Ivan that the name of the Princess was Vasilisa the Fair. “Her mother was the sister of Koshche the Deathless,” said the stranger, “and when she was born it was foretold that before she was eighteen Koshchei should lose his life because of her. It was for this reason that he changed her into a frog and set her in the midst of the lonely swamp. In a month and a day
from now the Princess would have been eighteen, and the danger to Koshchei would have been over. Then he would have allowed her to lay aside her frog-skin and take back her human shape. But now he is angry and has carried her away to his castle, and only by the grace of Heaven will you be able to find her and set her free.”

The old man then gave Prince Ivan a little ball. “Take this,” he said, “and roll it before you as you go. It will show you which way to travel, and with its help you may reach the kingdom of Koshchei.”

Ivan took the ball and thanked the old man and journeyed on. He rolled the ball before him, and in whichever direction it rolled he followed.

He went along and went along, until after a while he came to a forest, and there he saw a bear.

Prince Ivan would have shot it, but the bear cried to him, “Do not shoot me, Prince. Take me with you as a servant, and the time may come when I can help you.”

“Very well,” said the Prince. “Come with me”; so he journeyed on with the bear at his heels.

Presently he saw a wild duck and would have shot it, but the duck called to him, “Do not shoot me, dear Prince. Take me with you, and I will be a faithful servant. The time may come when you will need me.”

“Very well,” answered the Prince. “You also may come with us as a companion.”

So the Prince journeyed along with the bear at his heels and the duck flying overhead.

After a while they came to the edge of a river, and there lay a great fish, gasping out its life in the sunlight.

“Now at last I shall have a good meal,” said the Prince.

But the fish cried to him in a human voice, “Throw me back into the river, Prince, that I may live. The time may come when I can do you a good turn also.”

So the Prince had mercy on the fish and threw it back into the water.

After that he and his companions traveled on a long way. They journeyed over seven mountains and crossed seven seas, and so they came at last to the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless.

There the Prince saw a little hut. It stood on hen’s legs and turned this way and that, whichever way the wind blew. There was no getting at the door. Then the Prince cried, “Little hut, stand the way my mother built you with your back away from me and your door before me.”

At once the hut whirled round and stood with the open door in front of him.

Prince Ivan entered in, and saw a bony-legged Baba Yaga lying on the stove with her grey hair over her face.

“Who are you? And what seek you here in the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless?” she cried.

“Do not ask questions but rise up and give me food and drink,” said the Prince; “for I am both hungry and thirsty.”

The Baba Yaga arose and served him food and drink. He ate and gave part to the bear and the duck. Then he told the Baba Yaga why he had come there–that he was wandering in search of his dear wife, Vasilisa the Fair.

The old witch shook her head. “It will be a hard thing to rescue her,” she said. “Koshchei is very powerful. Only in one way can you overcome him. Not far from here stands a tree. It is as hard as rock, so that no ax can dent it, and so smooth that none can climb it. On the top of it is a nest. In the nest is an egg. A duck sits over the egg to guard it. In that egg is a needle, and only with that needle can you kill Koshchei the Deathless.”

The Baba Yaga then led Prince Ivan to the door and pointed out to him where the tree grew, and Prince Ivan hurried on toward it, with his two faithful servants, the bear and the duck.

But when he reached the tree he looked at it with despair. It was indeed very smooth and high,–as smooth as glass, and when he tried his hunting knife upon it the knife bent and crumpled in his hand.

“Master, now is the time that I can help you,” said the bear. He went to the tree and clasped it and shook it, so that its roots cracked, and it fell with a mighty noise.

At once the duck that was guarding the egg caught it up in its claws and flew away with it. But Ivan’s duck pursued so fiercely that the other was forced to drop the egg in order to defend itself.

Unfortunately they had both flown over a river, and into this river the egg dropped and was lost to sight.

Ivan sat down upon the bank of the river and wept. “Alas, alas!” he cried. “Now truly is my dear wife lost to me, for never can I recover the egg from the river.”

Hardly had he spoken when the fish he had thrown back into the river appeared, bearing the egg in its mouth.

Now Ivan’s grief was turned to rejoicing. He broke the egg and took out the needle. Then, with the little ball to lead him, he soon made his way to Koshchei’s palace.

The Deathless One rushed out to meet him, but Ivan attacked him with the point of the needle. It was in vain Koshchei tried to protect himself. Ivan drove the needle into him deeper and deeper, and presently Koshchei sank down dead before him, no better than a lump of clay.

Prince Ivan strode across him and on into the castle. From room to room he went, and in the deepest dungeon he found the Princess Vasilisa, his own dear wife. She threw herself into his arms, weeping with joy.

Then they went to Koshchei’s treasure room and took from it all the most precious jewels,–all that the faithful bear could carry they loaded upon his back and carried away with them.

After that they journeyed back to their own kingdom, and if any one was glad to see them it was the Tsar himself.

He built for them a castle close to his own, where they could not even see the swamp. There Ivan and his frog princess lived in the greatest love and happiness, and after the old Tsar’s death they themselves ruled over the kingdom as the Tsar and Tsaritsa.

The History of Ali Cogia (From the Arabian Nights), by Katharine Pyle

illustration: 4to40.com

In the city of Bagdad there once lived a merchant named Ali Cogia. This merchant was faithful and honest in all his dealings, but he had never made the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. He often felt troubled over this, for he knew he was neglecting a religious duty, but he was so occupied with his business affairs that it was difficult for him to leave home. Year after year he planned to make the pilgrimage, but always he postponed it, hoping for some more convenient time.

One night the merchant had a dream so vivid that it was more like a vision than a dream. In this dream or vision an old man appeared before him and, regarding him with a severe and reproachful look, said, “Why have you not made the pilgrimage to Mecca?”

When Ali Cogia awoke he felt greatly troubled. He feared this dream had been sent him as a reproach and a warning from heaven. He was still more troubled when the next night he dreamed the same dream; and when upon the third night the old man again appeared before him and asked the same question, he determined to delay no longer, but to set out upon the pilgrimage as soon as possible.

To this end he sold off all his goods except some that he decided to carry with him to Mecca and to dispose of there. He settled all his debts and rented his shop and his house to a friend, and as he had neither wife nor family, he was now free to set out at any time.

The sale of his goods had brought in quite a large sum of money, so that after he had set aside as much as was needed for the journey he found he had still a thousand gold pieces left over.

These he determined to leave in some safe place until his return. He put the money in an olive jar and covered it over with olives and sealed it carefully. He then carried the jar to a friend named Abul Hassan, who was the owner of a large warehouse.

“Abul Hassan,” said he, “I am about to make the journey to Mecca, as you perhaps know. I have here a jar of olives that I would like to leave in your warehouse until my return, if you will allow me to do so.”

Abul Hassan was quite willing that his friend should do this and gave him the keys of the warehouse, bidding him place the jar wherever he wished. “I will gladly keep it until you return,” said he, “and you may rest assured the jar will not be disturbed until such time as you shall come and claim it.”

Ali Cogia thanked his friend and carried the jar into the warehouse, placing it in the farthest and darkest corner where it would not be in the way. Soon after he set out upon his journey to Mecca.

When Ali Cogia left Bagdad he had no thought but that he would return in a year’s time at latest. He made the journey safely, in company with a number of other pilgrims. Arrived in Mecca, he visited the celebrated temples and other objects of interest that were there. He performed all his religious duties faithfully, and after that he went to the bazaar and secured a place where he could display the goods he had brought with him.

One day a stranger came through the bazaar and stopped to admire the beauty of the things Ali had for sale.

“It is a pity,” said the stranger, “that you should not go to Cairo. You could go there at no great expense, and I feel assured that you would receive a far better price for your goods there than here. I know, for I have lived in that city all my life, and I am familiar with the prices that are paid for such fine merchandise as yours.” The stranger talked with Ali for some time and then passed on his way.

After he had gone the merchant meditated upon what had been said, and he finally determined to follow the stranger’s advice and to take such goods as he had left to Cairo, and place them on sale there. This he did and found that, as the stranger had promised, the prices he could get there were much higher than those paid in Mecca.

While Ali Cogia was in Cairo he made the acquaintance of some people who were about to journey down into Egypt by caravan. They urged Ali to join them, and after some persuasion he consented to do so, as he had always wished to see that country. From Egypt Ali Cogia journeyed to Constantinople, and then on to other cities and countries. Time flew by so rapidly that when, finally, Ali stopped to reckon up how long it was since he had left Bagdad, he found that seven years had
elapsed.

He now determined to return without delay to his own city. He found a camel that suited him, and having bought it he packed upon it such goods as he had left, and set out for Bagdad.

Now all the while that Ali Cogia had been travelling from place to place the jar containing the gold pieces had rested undisturbed and forgotten in Abul Hassan’s warehouse. Abul and his wife sometimes talked of Ali and wondered when he would return and how he had fared upon his journey. They were surprised at his long absence and feared some misfortune might have come upon him. At one time there was a rumor that he was dead, but this rumor was afterward denied.

Now the very day that Ali Cogia set out upon his return journey Abul Hassan and his wife were seated at the table at their evening meal, and their talk turned upon the subject of olives.

“It is a long time since we have had any in the house,” said the wife. “Indeed, I do not remember when I last tasted one, and yet it is my favorite fruit. I wish we had some now.”

“Yes, we must get some,” said Abul Hassan. “And by the way, that reminds me of the jar that Ali Cogia left with us. I wonder whether the olives in it are still good. They have been there for some years now.”

“Yes, for seven years,” replied his wife. “No doubt they are all spoiled by this time.”

“That I will see,” said Abul Hassan, rising and taking up a light. “If they are still good we might as well have some, for I do not believe Ali Cogia will ever return to claim the jar.”

His wife was horrified. “What are you thinking of?” cried she. “Ali Cogia entrusted this jar to you, and you gave your word that it would not be disturbed until he came again to claim it. We heard, indeed, that he was dead, but this rumor was afterward denied. What opinion would he have of you if he returned and found you had helped yourself to his olives?”

Abul Hassan, still holding the light in his hand, waited impatiently until his wife had finished speaking. Then he replied, “Ali Cogia will not return; of that I feel assured. And at any rate, if he should, I can easily replace the olives.”

“You can replace the olives, no doubt,” answered his wife, “but they would not be Ali Cogia’s olives. This jar is a sacred trust and should not be disturbed by you under any consideration.” But though she spoke thus strongly she could see by her husband’s face that he had not changed his determination. He now took up the dish and said, “If the olives are good I will bring a dish full from the jar, but if they are spoiled, as I suppose they are, I will replace the cover and no one will be any the wiser.”

His wife would have tried again to dissuade him, but without listening further he went at once to the warehouse. It did not take him long to find the jar. He took off the cover and found that, as he had suspected, the olives were spoiled. Wishing to see whether those beneath were in the same condition he tilted the jar and emptied some of them out into the dish. What was his surprise to see some gold pieces fall out with the olives. Abul Hassan could hardly believe his
eyes. Hastily he plunged his hands down into the jar and soon found that except for the top layer of fruit the whole jar was full of gold pieces.

Abul Hassan’s eyes sparkled with desire. He was naturally a very avaricious man, and the sight of the gold awakened all his greed. It had been there in his warehouse, all unknown to him, for seven years. He felt as though he had been tricked, for, thought he, “All this time I might have been using this money to advantage by trading with it and with no harm to any one, for I could have replaced it at any time I heard Ali Cogia was about to return.”

For a while he stood there lost in thought. Then he returned the gold to the jar, covered it over with olives as before, and replaced the cover, and taking up the empty dish and the light he returned to his wife.

“You were quite right,” said he carelessly. “The olives were spoiled, so I did not bring any.”

“You should not even have opened the jar,” said his wife. “Heaven grant that no evil may come upon us for this.”

To this remark Abul Hassan made no reply, and soon after he and his wife retired to rest. But the merchant could not sleep. All night he tossed and twisted, thinking of the gold and planning how he could make it his own, and it was not until morning that he fell into a troubled sleep.

The next day he arose early and as soon as the bazaar opened he went out and bought a quantity of olives. He brought them home and carried them into the warehouse secretly, and without his wife’s knowing anything about it. Then he again opened Ali Cogia’s jar, and having emptied it of its contents, he filled it with fresh olives and replaced the cover in such a way that no one, looking at it, would have known it had been disturbed. He then threw the spoiled olives
away and hid the gold in a secret place known only to himself.

About a month after this Ali Cogia returned to Bagdad. As his own house was still rented he took a room in a khan and at once hastened to Abul Hassan’s house to get his jar.

Abul Hassan was confounded when he saw Ali Cogia enter his house, for he had managed to convince himself that Ali must be dead. This he had done to try to excuse himself in his own eyes for taking the gold. However he hid his confusion as best he could, and made the returned traveller welcome, and asked him how he had fared in his journeyings.

Ali Cogia answered his inquiries politely, but he was uneasy and restless, and as soon as he could make the opportunity he inquired about the olive jar he had left in the warehouse.

“The jar is there where you put it, I am sure,” answered Abul Hassan, “though I myself have not seen it. I do not even know in what part of the warehouse you left it. But here are the keys, and as I am busy I will ask you to get it for yourself.”

Ali Cogia made haste to seek out the jar and was much relieved to find it exactly where he had left it and apparently untouched. He had trust in Abul Hassan’s honor, but a thousand pieces of gold was such a large sum that he could not but feel some concern until he had it in his own hands again.

After thanking his fellow merchant for keeping the jar, more earnestly than seemed necessary, he carried it back to his room in the khan, and having locked the door he opened it. He removed the two top layers of olives and was somewhat surprised not to see the gold. However, he thought he must have covered the money more carefully than he had supposed. He took out more olives, and then still more, but still there were no signs of the gold.

Filled with misgivings, Ali Cogia tilted the jar and emptied out the rest of the olives so hastily that they rolled all over the floor, but not a single piece of gold was there.

The merchant was dismayed. He could scarcely believe that Abul Hassan would rob him of his money, and yet there seemed no other explanation. He knew that the merchant kept his warehouse locked except when he was there himself, and that no one was allowed to visit it but those with whom he was well acquainted, and then only upon special business.

Deeply troubled he returned to the merchant’s house, determined to demand an explanation and, if necessary, to force him by law to return the gold.

Abul Hassan seemed surprised to see Ali return so soon. “Did you forget something?” he asked. “Or do you wish to speak to me upon some business?”

“Do you not guess what I have come to speak to you about?” asked Ali.

“How should I guess? Unless it is to thank me again for keeping your jar for you.”

“Abul Hassan, when I went away I left a thousand pieces of gold in the jar I placed in your warehouse. The gold is now gone. I suppose you saw some way in which you could use it both for your advantage and my own. If such is the case, please to give me some receipt for the money, and I am willing to wait until you can return it to me, but I think you should have spoken of the matter when I was here before.”

Abul Hassan showed the greatest surprise at this address. “I do not know what you are talking about,” said he. “I know nothing about any gold. If there was any in the jar, which I very much doubt, it must be there still, for the jar has never been disturbed since you yourself placed it in my warehouse.”

“The gold certainly was in the jar when I placed it there, and you must know it, for no one else could have taken it. No one goes into the warehouse without your permission, as you have often told me and then only for some express purpose.”

Ali Cogia would have said more, but his fellow merchant interrupted him. “I repeat I know nothing of any gold,” he cried angrily. “Go away and do not trouble me any further, or you will find yourself in difficulties. Do you not see how your loud talking has gathered a crowd about my house?”

And indeed a number of people had gathered in front of Abul’s house, drawn thither by the sound of the dispute. They listened with curiosity to what the merchants were saying and presently became so interested that they began to discuss the matter among themselves, and to argue and dispute as to which of the merchants was in the right.

At last Ali Cogia, finding that Abul would confess nothing, said, “Very well. I see you are determined to keep the money if possible. But you shall find it is not as easy to rob me as you seem to think.” Then, laying his hand upon Abul’s shoulder, he added, “I summon you to appear with me before the Cadi, that he may decide the matter between us.”

Now this is a summons no true Mussulman can disobey. Abul was compelled to go before the Cadi with Ali, and a great crowd of people followed them, eager to know what decision would be given in the matter by the judge.

The Cadi listened attentively to all the two merchants had to say and after reflecting upon the matter he asked, “Abul Hassan, are you ready to swear that you know nothing of the gold Ali Cogia says he left with you, and that you did not disturb the jar?”

“I am,” answered the merchant. “And indeed I wish to swear to it,” and this he did.

“And you, Ali Cogia; have you any witnesses to prove there was gold in the jar when you left it in Abul Hassan’s warehouse?”

“Alas! no; no one knew of it but myself.”

“Then it is your word against his. Abul Hassan has sworn that he did not touch the jar, and unless you can bring witnesses to your truth, I cannot compel him to pay you a thousand pieces of gold that you may never have lost.”

The case was dismissed. Abul Hassan returned to his home, satisfied and triumphant, but Ali Cogia with hanging head and bitterness of heart.

But though the Cadi had decided against him, Ali was not willing to let the matter rest there. He was determined to have justice done him, even though he were obliged to appeal to the Caliph himself.

At that time Haroun-al-Raschid was Commander of the Faithful. Every morning Haroun-al-Raschid went to the mosque to offer up prayers, accompanied by his Grand Vizier and Mesrour the Chief Eunuch. As he returned to the palace all who had complaints to make or petitions to offer stationed themselves along the way and gave their complaints and petitions in written form to Mesrour. Afterward these papers were presented to the Caliph that he might read them and decide upon their
merits.

The day after the Cadi had dismissed the case of the two merchants, Ali Cogia set out early in the morning and placed himself beside the way where he knew the Caliph would pass.

In his hand he carried his complaint against Abul Hassan, written out in due form. He waited until Haroun-al-Raschid was returning from the mosque and then put the paper in the hand of Mesrour.

Later, when the Caliph was reading the papers, he was particularly interested in the one presented by Ali Cogia: “This is a curious case,” said he to his Vizier, “and one which it will be difficult to decide. Order the two merchants to appear before me to-morrow, and I will hear what they have to say.”

That evening the Caliph and his Vizier disguised themselves, and, attended only by Mesrour, they went out to wander about the streets of the city. It was the custom of the Caliph to do this, as in this way he learned much about his people, their needs and wants and ways of life, which would otherwise have been hidden from him.

For some time after they set out they heard and saw nothing of importance, but as they came near to a court that opened off one of the streets they heard the voices of a number of boys who were at play there in the moonlight.

The Caliph motioned to his Vizier to be silent, and together they stole to the opening of the court and looked in. The moon was so bright that they could see clearly the faces of the boys at play there. They had gathered about the tallest and most intelligent-looking lad, who appeared to be their leader.

“Let us act out some play,” the leader was saying. “I will be the Cadi, and you shall bring some case before me to be tried.”

“Very well,” cried another. “But what case shall we take?”

“Let us take the case of Ali Cogia and Abul Hassan. We all know about that, and if it had come before me I should have decided it differently from the way the Cadi did.”

All the boys agreed to this by clapping their hands.

The leader then appointed one boy to take the part of Ali Cogia and another to be Abul Hassan. Still others were chosen to be guards and merchants and so on.

The Caliph and his Vizier were much amused by this play of the boys, and they sat down upon a bench so conveniently placed that they could see all that went on without themselves being observed.

The pretended Cadi took his seat and commanded that Abul Hassan and Ali Cogia should be brought before him. “And let Ali Cogia bring with him the jar of olives in which he said he hid the gold,” said he.

The lads who were taking the parts of Ali Cogia and Abul Hassan were now led forward by some of the other boys and were told by the pretended Cadi to state their cases. This they did clearly, for the case had been much talked about by their elders, and they were well acquainted with all the circumstances and had discussed them among themselves.

The pretended Cadi listened attentively to what they said, and then addressing the lad who took the part of Abul he asked, “Abul Hassan, are you willing to swear that you have not touched the jar nor opened it?”

The pretended merchant said he was.

The lad then asked, “Has Ali Cogia brought the jar of olives into court with him?”

“It is here,” said the boys who were taking the parts of officers of the court.

The feigned Cadi ordered them to place the jar before him, which they pretended to do. He then went through the motions of lifting the lid and examining the olives and even of tasting one.

“These are very fine olives,” said he. “Ali Cogia, when did you say you placed this jar in the warehouse?”

“It was when I left Bagdad, seven years ago,” answered the pretended merchant.

“Abul Hassan, is that so?”

The boy who acted the part of Abul said that it was.

“Let the olive merchants be brought into court,” commanded the pretended Cadi.

The boys who were taking the parts of olive merchants now came forward.

“Tell me,” said the feigned Cadi, “how long is it possible to keep olives?”

“However great the care that is taken,” they answered, “it is impossible to preserve them for more than three years. After that time they lose both color and flavor and are fit for nothing but to be thrown out.” The boys spoke with assurance, for their fathers were among the most expert olive dealers in the city, and they knew what they were talking about.

The pretended Cadi then bade them examine the olives in the jar and tell him how old they were. “As you see,” said he, “they are of a fine color, large, and of a delicious fresh taste.”

The feigned merchants pretended to examine them carefully and then announced the olives were of that year’s growth.

“But Ali Cogia says he left them with Abul Hassan seven years ago, and to this statement Abul Hassan agrees.”

“It is impossible they should have been kept that long,” answered the feigned merchants. “As we tell you, after three years olives are worth nothing, and at the end of seven years they would be utterly spoiled. These are fresh olives and of this year’s growth.”

The boy who took the part of Abul Hassan would have tried to explain and make excuses, but the pretended Cadi bade him be silent.

“You have sworn falsely,” said he, “and also proved yourself a thief.”

Then to the pretended guards he cried, “Take him away and let him be hung according to the law.”

The feigned guards dragged away the boy who was acting Abul Hassan and then, the play being finished, all the boys clapped their hands and shouted their approval of the way the feigned Cadi had conducted the case.

Seeing that all was over the Caliph withdrew, beckoning to the Vizier and Mesrour to follow him. After they had gone a short distance, Haroun-al-Raschid turned to the Vizier and asked him what he thought of the play they had just witnessed.

“I think,” said the Vizier, “that the pretended Cadi showed a wisdom and a judgment that the real Cadi would do well to imitate. I also think the boy is a lad of remarkable intelligence.”

“It is my own thought,” replied the Caliph. “Moreover I have a further thought. You know this very case between Ali Cogia and Abul Hassan is to appear before me to-morrow, I have it in mind to send you to bring this boy to the palace, and I will then let him conduct this case in reality as he has to-day in play.”

The Vizier applauded this plan, and he and his master returned to the palace, still talking of the boy.

The next day the Vizier went back to the court they had visited the evening before, and after looking about he found the lad who had taken the part of the Cadi sitting in a doorway. The Vizier approached him and spoke to him in a kind and friendly manner.

“My boy,” said he, “I have come here by order of the Commander of the Faithful. Last evening, when you were acting your play, he overheard all that was said, and he wishes to see you at the palace to-day.”

The boy was alarmed when he heard this, grew pale, and showed great uneasiness. “Have I done something wrong?” he asked. “If I have I did it unknowingly, and I hope I am not to be punished for something I did without intention.”

“You have done no wrong,” answered the Vizier, “and it is not to punish you that the Caliph has sent for you. Indeed he is very much pleased with your conduct, and his sending for you in this manner is a great honor.” He then told the lad what it was the Caliph wished him to do.

Instead of being put at ease by this the lad showed even greater discomfort. “This seems a strange thing for me to do,” said he:–”to decide a case between two grown men–I who am only a child. I am afraid I will not be able to please the Caliph, and that he will be angry with me.”

“Conduct the case as wisely as you did last night when you were playing,” answered the Vizier, “and the Caliph will not be displeased with you.”

The boy then asked permission to go and tell his mother where he was going and for what purpose, and to this the Vizier consented.

When the lad’s mother heard that he was to go to the palace to act as judge in a case of such importance she could hardly believe her ears. She was frightened lest the lad should in some way offend the Caliph by saying or doing something ill-judged.

The lad tried to reassure her, though he himself was far from being at ease.

“If the Caliph was pleased with the way I conducted the case last night I do not think he can be so very much displeased with me to-day,” said he; “for I feel sure that only in this way can we discover the truth between the two merchants.”

When the lad returned to the Vizier he looked very grave, and as they went along together on their way to the palace the Vizier tried in every way to put him more at ease and give him confidence.

Immediately upon their arrival at the palace they were shown into the room where the Caliph was sitting. Haroun-al-Raschid greeted the boy with no less kindness than the Vizier had shown and asked him if he understood the purpose for which he had been brought thither.

The lad said he did.

“Then let the two merchants come in,” said the Caliph.

Ali Cogia and Abul Hassan were at once brought in by the officers of the court. Ali Cogia brought with him the jar of olives, for so he had been commanded to do.

The Cadi who had judged between the two merchants had also been ordered to attend, and he entered and took the place assigned to him.

The Caliph then turned to the lad and bade him open the case by bidding the merchants tell their stories, and this, after a moment’s pause, the lad did.

Ali Cogia told his story just as he had before, stating that he had left with Abul Hassan seven years before a thousand pieces of gold packed in a jar and covered over with olives.

“Is this the jar you left with Abul Hassan?” asked the boy, pointing to the jar Ali had brought into court.

Ali stated that it was.

“Abul Hassan, do you also say this is the jar Ali Cogia left with you?” asked the lad.

Abul answered that it was. He also asked to be allowed to take his oath that the jar had not been disturbed after it was left in his warehouse until Ali Cogia had returned and removed it.

“That is not necessary at present,” answered the boy. “First let some expert olive merchants be brought in.”

Several olive dealers, the most expert in the city, had been sent for, and they now came forward.

The lad asked these real merchants the same questions he had asked of the feigned merchants the night before. “How long,” said he, “is it possible to keep olives good?”

And the merchants answered, as had the boys, “Not more than three years, for no matter how carefully they have been packed, after that time they lose both color and flavor.”

“Look in that jar,” said the lad, “and tell us how long you think those olives have been kept there.”

The merchants examined the olives with the greatest care, and then they all agreed that the olives were of that year’s growth and quite fresh.

“And do you not think it possible they may have been kept a year or so?”

“No, it is not possible,” answered the merchants. “We know, of a surety, as we have already said, that these olives are of this year’s growth, and have only recently been packed in the jar.”

When Ali Cogia heard this he gave a cry of surprise, but Abul Hassan was silent; his face grew as pale as ashes, and his legs failed under him, for he knew that the merchants, in saying this, had pronounced sentence against him.

But the lad turned to the Caliph and begged that he might now be allowed to hand over the case to him. “When I pronounced sentence last night, it was but in play,” said he. “But this is not play. A man’s life is at stake, and I dare not pronounce sentence upon him.”

To this request the Caliph agreed. “Abul Hassan, you have condemned yourself,” he said. He then bade the guards take Abul Hassan away and execute him according to the law.

Before the wretched man was hanged, however, he confessed his guilt and told where he had hidden the thousand pieces of gold that belonged to Ali Cogia.

After Abul had been led away the Caliph caressed and praised the lad for conducting the case so wisely and with so much judgment.

“As for you,” said he to the Cadi, “you have not shown the wisdom I demand from my judges. Learn from this child that such cases are not to be dismissed lightly, but to be inquired into with judgment and care. Otherwise it may go ill with you.”

The Cadi retired, full of shame, but the Caliph ordered that a hundred pieces of gold should be given to the boy and that he should be sent home to his mother with honor.

The Talking Eggs – A Story from Louisiana, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a widow who had two daughters, one named Rose and the other Blanche.

Blanche was good and beautiful and gentle, but the mother cared nothing for her and gave her only hard words and harder blows; but she loved Rose as she loved the apple of her eye, because Rose was exactly like herself, coarse-looking, and with a bad temper and a sharp tongue.

Blanche was obliged to work all day, but Rose sat in a chair with folded hands as though she were a fine lady, with nothing in the world to do.

One day the mother sent Blanche to the well for a bucket of water. When she came to the well she saw an old woman sitting there. The woman was so very old that her nose and her chin met, and her cheeks were as wrinkled as a walnut.

“Good day to you, child,” said the old woman.

“Good day, auntie,” answered Blanche.

“Will you give me a drink of water?” asked the old woman.

“Gladly,” said Blanche. She drew the bucket full of water, and tilted it so the old woman could drink, but the crone lifted the bucket in her two hands as though it were a feather and drank and drank till the water was all gone. Blanche had never seen any one drink so much; not a drop was left in the bucket.

“May heaven bless you!” said the old woman, and then she went on her way.

And now Blanche had to fill the bucket again, and it seemed as though her arms would break, she was so tired.

When she went home her mother struck her because she had tarried so long at the well. Her blows made Blanche weep. Rose laughed when she saw her crying.

The very next day the mother became angry over nothing and gave Blanche such a beating that the girl ran away into the woods; she would not stay in the house any longer. She ran on and on, deeper and deeper into the forest, and there, in the deepest part, she met the old woman she had seen beside the well.

“Where are you going, my child? And why are you weeping so bitterly?” asked the crone.

“I am weeping because my mother beat me,” answered Blanche; “and now I have run away from her, and I do not know where to go.”

“Then come with me,” said the old woman. “I will give you a shelter and a bite to eat, and in return there is many a task you can do for me. Only, whatever you may see as we journey along together you must not laugh nor say anything about it.”

Blanche promised she would not, and then she trudged away at the old woman’s side.

After a while they came to a hedge so thick and wide and so set with thorns that Blanche did not see how they could pass it without being torn to pieces, but the old hag waved her staff, and the branches parted before them and left the path clear. Then, as they passed, the hedge closed together behind them.

Blanche wondered but said nothing.

A little further on they saw two axes fighting together with no hand to hold them. That seemed a curious thing, but still Blanche said nothing.

Further on were two arms that strove against each other without a sound. Still Blanche was silent.

Further on again two heads fought, butting each other like goats. Blanche looked and stared but said no word. Then the heads called to her. “You are a good girl, Blanche. Heaven will reward you.”

After that she and her companion came to the hut where the old woman lived. They went in, and the hag bade Blanche gather some sticks of wood and build a fire. Meanwhile she sat down beside the hearth and took off her head. She put it in her lap and began to comb her hair and twist it up.

Blanche was frightened, but she held her peace and built the fire as the old woman had directed. When it was burning the old woman put back her head in place, and told Blanche to look on the shelf behind the door. “There you will find a bone; put it on to boil for our dinners,” said she.

[Illustration: She sat down beside the hearth and took off her head.]

Blanche found the bone and put it on to boil, though it seemed a poor dinner.

The old woman gave her a grain of rice and bade her grind it in the mortar. Blanche put the rice in the mortar and ground it with the pestle, and before she had been grinding two minutes the mortar was full of rice, enough for both of them and to spare.

When it was time for dinner she looked in the pot and it was full of good, fresh meat. She and the old woman had all they could eat.

After dinner was over the old woman lay down on the bed. “Oh, my back! Oh, my poor back! How it does ache,” groaned she. “Come hither and rub it.”

Blanche came over and uncovered the old crone’s back, and she was surprised when she saw it; it was as hard and ridgy as a turtle’s. Still she said nothing but began to rub it. She rubbed and rubbed till the skin was all worn off her hand.

“That is good,” said the old woman. “Now I feel better.” She sat up and drew her clothes about her. Then she blew upon Blanche’s hand, and at once it was as well as ever.

Blanche stayed with the old woman for three days and served her well; she neither asked questions nor spoke of what she saw.

At the end of that time her mistress said to her, “My child, you have now been with me for three days, and I can keep you here no longer. You have served me well, and you shall not lack your reward. Go to the chicken-house and look in the nests. You will find there a number of eggs. Take all that say to you, ‘Take me,’ but those that say, ‘Do not take me,’ you must not touch.”

Blanche went out to the chicken-house and looked in the nests. There were ever so many eggs; some of them were large and beautiful and white and shining and so pretty that she longed to take them, but each time she stretched out her hand toward one it cried, “Do not take me.” Then she did not touch it. There were also some small, brown, muddy-looking eggs, and these called to her, “Take me!” So those were the ones she took.

When she came back to the house the old woman looked to see which ones she had taken. “You have done what was right,” said she, “and you will not regret it.” She then showed Blanche a path by which she could return to her own home without having to pass through the thorn hedge.

“As you go throw the eggs behind you,” she said, “and you will see what you shall see. One thing I can tell you, your mother will be glad enough to have you home again after that.”

Blanche thanked her for the eggs, though she did not think much of them, and started out. After she had gone a little way she threw one of the eggs over her shoulder. It broke on the path, and a whole bucket full of gold poured out from it. Blanche had never seen so much gold in all her life before.

She gathered it up in her apron and went a little farther, and then she threw another egg over her shoulder. When it broke a whole bucket full of diamonds poured out over the path. They fairly dazzled the eyes, they were so bright and sparkling.

Blanche gathered them up, and went on farther, and threw another egg over her shoulder. Out from it came all sorts of fine clothes, embroidered and set all over with gems. Blanche put them on, and then she looked like the most beautiful princess that ever was seen.

She threw the last egg over her shoulder, and there stood a magnificent golden coach drawn by four white horses, and with coachman and footman all complete. Blanche stepped into the coach, and away they rolled to the door of her mother’s house without her ever having to give an order or speak a word.

When her mother and sister heard the coach draw up at the door they ran out to see who was coming. There sat Blanche in the coach, all dressed in fine clothes, and with her lap full of gold and diamonds.

Her mother welcomed her in and then began to question her as to how she had become so rich and fine. It did not take her long to learn the whole story.

Nothing would satisfy her but that Rose should go out into the forest, and find the old woman, and get her to take her home with her as a servant.

Rose grumbled and muttered, for she was a lazy girl and had no wish to work for any one, whatever the reward, and she would rather have sat at home and dozed; but her mother pushed her out of the door, and so she had to go.

She slouched along through the forest, and presently she met the old woman. “Will you take me home with you for a servant?” asked Rose.

“Come with me if you will,” said the old woman, “but whatever you may see do not laugh nor say anything about it.”

“I am a great laugher,” said Rose, and then she walked along with the old woman through the forest.

Presently they came to the thorn hedge, and it opened before them just as it had when Blanche had journeyed there. “That is a good thing,” said Rose. “If it had not done that, not a step farther would I have gone.”

Soon they came to the place where the axes were fighting. Rose looked and stared, and then she began to laugh.

A little later they came to where the arms were striving together, and at that Rose laughed harder still. But when she came to where the heads were butting each other, she laughed hardest of all. Then the heads opened their mouths and spoke to her. “Evil you are, and evil you will be, and no luck will come through your laughter.”

Soon after they arrived at the old woman’s house. She pushed open the door, and they went in. The crone bade Rose gather sticks and build a fire; she herself sat down by the hearth, and took off her head, and began to comb and plait her hair.

Rose stood and looked and laughed. “What a stupid old woman you are,” she said, “to take off your head to comb your hair!” and she laughed and laughed.

The old woman was very angry. Still she did not say anything. She put on her head and made up the fire herself. Rose would not do anything. She would not even put the pot on the fire. She was as lazy at the old woman’s house as she was at home, and the old crone was obliged to do the work herself. At the end of three days she said to Rose. “Now you must go home, for you are of no use to anybody, and I will keep you here no longer.”

“Very well,” said Rose. “I am willing enough to go, but first pay me my wages.”

“Very well,” said the old woman. “I will pay you. Go out to the chicken-house and look for eggs. All the eggs that say, ‘Take me’, you may have, but if they say, ‘Do not take me’, then you must not touch them.”

Rose went out to the chicken-house and hunted about and soon found the eggs. Some were large and beautiful and white, and of these she gathered up an apronful, though they cried to her ever so loudly, “Do not take me.” Some of the eggs were small and ugly and brown. “Take me! Take me!” they cried.

“A pretty thing if I were to take you,” she cried. “You are fit for nothing but to be thrown out on the hillside.”

She did not return to the hut to thank the old woman or bid her good-by but set off for home the way she had come. When she reached the thorn thicket it had closed together again. She had to force her way through, and the thorns scratched her face and hands and almost tore the clothes off her back. Still she comforted herself with the thought of all the riches she would get out of the eggs.

She went a little farther, and then she took the eggs out of her apron. “Now I will have a fine coach to travel in the rest of the way,” said she, “and gay clothes and diamonds and money,” and she threw the eggs down in the path, and they all broke at once. But no clothes, nor jewels, nor fine coach, nor horses came out of them. Instead snakes and toads sprang forth, and all sorts of filth that covered her up to her knees and bespattered her clothing.

Rose shrieked and ran, and the snakes and toads pursued her, spitting venom, and the filth rolled after her like a tide.

She reached her mother’s house, and burst open the door, and ran in, closing it behind her. “Look what Blanche has brought on me,” she sobbed. “This is all her fault.”

The mother looked at her and saw the filth, and she was so angry she would not listen to a word Blanche said. She picked up a stick to beat her, but Blanche ran away out of the house and into the forest. She did not stop for her clothes or her jewels or anything.

She had not gone very far before she heard a noise behind her. She looked over her shoulder, and there was her golden coach rolling after her. Blanche waited until it caught up to her, and then she opened the door and stepped inside, and there were all her diamonds and gold lying in a heap. Her mother and Rose had not been able to keep any of them.

Blanche rode along for a long while, and then she came to a grand castle, and the King and Queen of the country lived there. The coach drew up at the door, and every one came running out to greet her. They thought she must be some great Princess come to visit them, but Blanche told them she was not a Princess, but only the daughter of a poor widow, and that all the fine things she had, had come out of some eggs an old woman had given her.

When the people heard this they were very much surprised. They took her in to see the King and Queen, and the King and Queen made her welcome. She told them her story, and they were so sorry for her they declared she should live there with them always and be as a daughter to them.

So Blanche became a grand lady, and after a while she was married to the Prince, the son of the old King and Queen, and she was beloved by all because she was so good and gentle.

But when Blanche’s mother and sister heard of the good fortune that had come to her, and how she had become the bride of the Prince, they were ready to burst with rage and spite. Moreover they turned quite green with envy, and green they may have remained to the end of their lives, for all that I know to the contrary.

The Widow’s Son – A Scandinavian Tale, by Katharine Pyle

illustration: corbis.com

Once upon a time there was a poor widow who had only one son, and he was so dear to her that no one could have been dearer. All the same she was obliged to send him out into the world to seek his fortune, for they were so very poor that as long as he stayed at home they were like to starve.

The lad kissed her good-by, and she gave him her blessing, and then off he set, always putting one foot before the other.

He journeyed on a short way and a long way, and then he came to a dark and gloomy wood. He had not gone far into it when he met a tall man as dark and gloomy as the wood itself. The man stopped the lad and said to him, “Are you seeking work or shunning work?”

“I am seeking work,” answered the widow’s son.

“Then come with me, and I will give you enough to do but not too much,” said the man, “and the wages will be according.”

That suited the lad. He was quite willing to work for the tall stranger. They set out and traveled along, and after a while they came to a great dark house set all alone in the midst of the wood. The man showed him in and told him what to do. The lad set to work, and everything the man told him to do he did so well and willingly that his master was much pleased with him. After he had done all the tasks set, his master gave him a good bite of supper and a comfortable bed to sleep in.

The next day it was the same thing over. The master told the lad what to do, and the lad did it willingly and well. So it went on for three days. At the end of that time the man said, “Now I am obliged to go away on a journey. Until I return you may do as you please and be your own master. But there is one part of the house you have never seen, and those are the four cellars down below. Into these you must not go under any consideration. If you so much as open one of the doors, you will suffer for it.”

“Why should I want to go into the cellars?” asked the lad. “The house and the yard are good enough for me.”

“That is well,” answered the master, and then he mounted a great black steed and rode away.

The lad stayed at home and cleaned and polished and ate and drank. “I wonder what can be in those cellars that my master does not want me to see!” thought the lad. “Not that I mean to look, but it does no harm to wonder about it.”

Every hour the lad stayed there in the house alone he grew more curious about the cellars. At last he could bear it no longer. “I’ll just take a wee peep into one of them,” he said. “That can surely do no harm to any one.”

So he opened the cellar door and went down a flight of stone steps into the first cellar. He looked all about him, and there was nothing at all there but a switch made of brier lying on a shelf behind the door. “That is not much for the Master to have made such a fuss about,” said the lad. “I could see as much as that any day without coming into a cellar for it;” and he went upstairs again and shut the door behind him.

The next day the master came home, and the first thing he asked was, “Have you looked into any of the cellars?”

“Why should I do that?” asked the lad. “I have plenty to do upstairs without poking my nose in where it is not wanted.”

“I will just see for myself whether or not you have looked,” said the master.

He opened one of the doors and went down into the first cellar. When he came back his face was as black as thunder.

“You have disobeyed me and have gone into one of the cellars,” said he. “Now you shall suffer for it!” He took up a cudgel and beat the lad until he was black and blue. “It’s lucky for you you went only into the first cellar,” said he. “Otherwise you would not have come off so lightly.”

Then he sat down to supper.

As for the lad he sat and nursed his bruises and wished he had never heard tell of such a thing as a cellar.

Not long after the master said he was going on another journey. “I will be gone two weeks,” said he, “and whatever you do, do not dare to look into any of the other cellars, or you will suffer for it.”

“I have learned my lesson,” said the lad. “You’ll not find me doing such a thing again.”

After that the master mounted his horse and rode away.

After he had gone the lad cleaned and polished and ate and drank, and then he began to wonder what was in the second cellar. “There must be something more than a stick to see,” said he, “or my master would not be so particular about it.” In the end he determined to look at what was in the second cellar, whatever it cost him. He opened the door and went down the stone steps that led to it and looked about, but all he saw was a shelf behind the door, and on it a stone and a water bottle.

“They are not much to see, and I wish I had not come,” said the lad to himself. “I hope my master will not know about it;” and then he went upstairs and shut the door behind him.

Not long afterward his master came home. The first thing he asked was, “Have you been down in any of the cellars again?”

“How can you think such a thing!” cried the lad. “I have no wish for another beating.”

“All the same, I will see for myself,” said the master, and he went down into the second cellar. Then the lad was frightened, you may well believe.

When the Master came back his face was as red as fire. “You have disobeyed me again,” cried he. Then he seized a cudgel and beat the lad till he could hardly stand.

“This should teach you to obey,” said he, “but I fear as long as you live you will not learn.”

Not long after the Master was going away on a third journey, and this time he was to be away for three weeks. “And if you look in the third cellar,” said he, “your life shall pay the forfeit.” After that he rode away into the forest and out of sight.

Well, for two weeks the lad would not look into the third cellar, but at last his curiosity got the better of him. He opened the third door and went down into the third cellar. There in the middle of it was a brazen caldron set deep in the floor and full of something that seethed and bubbled. “I wonder what that is in the caldron,” said the lad to himself, and he stuck his finger in. When he drew it out it was covered all over with gold. The lad scrubbed and scrubbed, but he
could not get the gold off. Then he was terribly frightened. He took a rag and wound it about his finger and hoped his master would not notice it. He shut the door into the cellar and tried to forget about it.

The first thing the Master asked when he came home was, “Have you been down in the third cellar?”

“How can you think it?” asked the lad. “Two drubbings are enough for any one.”

“What is the matter with your finger?” asked the Master.

“Oh, I cut it with the bread-knife.”

The Master snatched the rag off, and there the lad’s finger shone as though it were all of solid gold.

“You have been down in the third cellar,” cried the Master, “and now you must die,”–and his face was as pale as death. He took down a sword from the wall, but the lad fell on his knees and begged and pleaded so piteously for his life that at last the man had to spare him. All the same he gave him such a beating that the lad could not rise from the floor. There he lay and groaned. Then the Master took a flask of ointment from the wall and bathed him all over, and after
that the lad was just as well as ever.

Now the Master stayed at home for a long while, but at last he had to go away on still another journey, and now he was to be gone a whole month. “And if you dare to look in the fourth cellar while I am away, then you shall surely die,” said he. “Do not hope that I will spare you again, for I will not.”

After he had gone the lad resisted his curiosity for three whole weeks. He was dying to look in the fourth cellar and see what was there, but he dared not, for dear life’s sake. But at the end of the third week he was so curious that he could resist no longer. He opened the fourth door and went down the steps into the cellar, and there was a magnificent coal-black horse chained to a manger, and the manger was filled with red-hot coals. At the horse’s tail was a basket of hay.

“That is a cruel thing to do to an animal,” cried the lad, and he loosed the horse from the manger and turned him so he could eat.

Then the black steed spoke to him in a human tone. “You have done a Christian act,” said the horse, “and you shall not suffer for it. If the Troll Master finds you here when he returns he will surely take your life, and that must not be. Look over in yonder corner, and you will find a suit of armor and a sword. Put on the armor and take up the sword in your hand.”

The lad went over to the corner, and there lay the armor and the sword, but when he would have taken them up they were too heavy for him. He could scarce stir them. “Well, there is no help for it,” said the horse. “You will have to bathe in the caldron that is in the third cellar. Only so can you take up the armor and wear it.”

This the lad did not want to do, for he was afraid. “If you do not,” said the horse, “we will both of us lose our lives.”

Then the lad went back to the third cellar and shut his eyes and stepped down into the caldron, and though the waters in it bubbled and seethed they were as cold as ice and as bitter as death. He thought he would have died of cold, but presently he grew quite warm again. He stepped out from the caldron, and he had become the handsomest lad in the world; his skin was red and white, and his eyes shone like stars. He went back to where the horse was, and now he lifted the armor with
ease, he had become so strong. He put it on and buckled the sword about him.

“Now we must be off,” cried the horse. “Take the briar whip and the stone and the jug of water and the flask of ointment. Then mount my back and ride. If the Troll Master finds us here when he returns, it will be short shrift for both of us.”

The lad did as the horse bade him; he took the briar whip and the stone, the jug of water and the flask of ointment, and mounted the black steed’s back; and the steed carried him up the steps and out of the house and fast, fast away through the forest and over the plains beyond.

After a while the black horse said, “I hear a noise behind us. Look and see whether any one is coming.”

The lad turned and looked. “Yes, yes; it is the Master,” said he, “and with him is a whole crowd of people.”

“They are his friends he has brought out against us,” said the steed. “If they catch us it will go ill with us. Throw the thorn whip behind us, but be sure you throw it clear and do not let it touch even the tip of my tail.”

The lad threw the whip behind him, and at once a great forest of thorns grew up where it fell. No one could have forced a way through it. The Master and his friends were obliged to go home and get hatchets and axes and cut a path through.

Meanwhile the black horse had gone a long way. Then he said, “Look behind you, for I hear a noise; is any one coming?”

The youth looked over his shoulder. “Yes, it is the Master,” said he, “and with him are a multitude of people–like a church congregation.”

“Still more of his friends have come to help him catch us,” said the horse. “Throw the stone behind us, but be very sure it does not touch me.”

The lad threw the stone behind him, and at once a great stone mountain rose up where it fell. The Master and his friends could by no means cross over it. They were obliged to go home and get something to bore a way through, and this they did.

But by this time the horse had gone a long, long way. Then he said to the lad, “Look back and see whether you see any one, for I hear a noise behind us.”

The lad looked back. “I see the Master coming,” said he, “and a great multitude with him, so that they are like an army for numbers.”

“Yes, yes,” said the horse. “He has all of his friends with him now. Woe betide us if they catch us. Pour the water from the jug behind us, but be careful that none of it touches me.”

The lad stretched back his arm and poured the water out from the jug, but his haste was such that three drops fell upon the horse’s flanks. Immediately a great lake rose about them, and because of the three drops that had fallen on the horse, the lake was not only behind them but about them, too; the steed had to swim for it.

The Trolls came to the edge of the lake, and as there was no way to cross over they threw themselves down on their stomachs and began to drink it up. They drank and they drank and they drank, until at last they all burst.

But the steed came out from the water and up on dry land. Then he went on until he came to a wood, and here he stopped. “Light down now,” said he to the lad, “and take off your armor and my saddle and bridle and hide them in yon hollow oak tree. Over there, a little beyond, is a castle, and you must go and take service there. But first make yourself a wig of hanging gray mosses and put it on.”

The lad did as the horse told him. He took off the saddle and bridle and the armor and hid them in the tree, and made for himself a moss wig; when he put it upon his head all the beauty went out of his face, and he looked so pale and miserable that no one would have wanted him around.

“If you ever need me,” said the horse, “come here to the wood and take out the bridle and shake it, and at once I will be with you.” Then he galloped away into the wood.

The lad in his moss wig went on until he came to the castle. He went to the kitchen door and knocked, and asked if he might take service there.

The kitchen wench looked at him and made a face as though she had a sour taste in her mouth. “Take off that wig and let me see how you look,” said she. “With that on your head you are so ugly that no one would want you around.”

“I cannot take off my wig,” said the lad, “for that I have been told not to do.”

“Then you may seek service elsewhere, for I cannot bear the look of you,” said the kitchen wench, and she shut the door in his face.

Next the lad went to the gardener and asked if he could help him in the gardens, digging and planting.

The gardener looked and stared. “You are not a beauty,” said he, “but out here in the garden no one will be apt to see you, and I need a helper, so you may stay.”

So the lad became the gardener’s helper and dug and hoed in the garden all day.

Now the King and Queen of that country had one fair daughter, and she was as pretty and as fresh as a rose.

One day the gardener set the lad to spading under the Princess’s window. She looked out, and there she saw him. “Br-r-r! But he is an ugly one,” said she. Nevertheless she couldn’t keep her eyes off him.

After a while the lad grew hot with his work. He looked about him, and he saw nobody, so he whipped off his wig to wipe his forehead, and then he was as handsome a lad as ever was seen, so that the Princess’s heart turned right over at the sight of him. Then he put on his wig and became ugly again, and went on spading, but now the Princess knew what he was really like.

The next day there was the lad at work under her window again, but as he had his wig on he was just as ugly as before. Then the Princess said to her maid, “Go down there where the gardener’s lad is working and creep up behind him and twitch his wig off.”

The maid went down to the garden and crept up back of the lad and gave the wig a twitch, but he was too clever for her. He heard her coming, and he held the wig tight down over his ears. All the same the Princess had once seen what he was like without it, and she made up her mind that if she could not have the gardener’s lad for a husband she would never marry any one.

Now after this there was a great war and disturbance in the land. The King’s enemies had risen up against him and had come to take away his land from him. But the King with his courtiers and his armed men rode out to meet them and turn them back. The lad would have liked to ride with them and strike a blow for the King, but the gardener would not hear of it. Nevertheless the day the King and his army were ready to set out the lad stole away to the stables and begged the stablemen to give him a mount.

It seemed to the men that that would be a merry thing to do. He was such a scarecrow they gave him a scarecrow horse. It was old and blind of one eye and limped on three legs, dragging the fourth behind it. The lad mounted and rode forth with all the rest, and when the courtiers saw him they laughed and laughed until their sides ached.

They had not gone far before they had to cross a swamp, and midway through it the nag stuck fast. There sat the lad, beating it and shouting, “Hie! Hie! Now will you go? Hie! Hie! Now will you go?” Every one went riding by, and as they passed him they pointed and laughed and jeered.

After they had all gone the lad slipped from the nag’s back and ran off to the wood. He snatched off his wig and took his armor from the hollow tree and shook the bridle. At once the black steed came galloping up. The lad mounted him and rode off after the others. His armor shone in the sun, and so handsome was he, and so noble his air that any one would have taken him for a prince at least.

When he reached the battle ground he found the King sore pressed, but he rode so fiercely against the enemy that they were obliged to fall back, and the King’s own forces won the day. Then the lad rode away so quickly that no one knew what had become of him. The King was sorry, for he wished to thank the brave hero who had fought for him.

But the lad rode back to the wood and hid his armor in a tree and turned the black steed loose. Then he put on his wig and ran back and mounted the sorry nag that was still stuck in the swamp where he had left it.

When the King and his courtiers came riding back there sat the lad in rags and a gray moss wig, and he was beating his horse and shouting, “Hie! Hie! Now will you go?”

Then the courtiers laughed more than ever, and one of them threw a clod at him.

The next day the King again rode forth to war with all his train. There was the lad still seated on the nag in the swamp. “What a fool he is,” they cried. “He must have been sitting there all night.” Then they rode on and left him.

But the lad ran with haste to the wood and took his armor from the tree and put it on. He shook the bridle, and the black steed came galloping up to him. The lad mounted and rode away to the battle field. The King’s forces were falling back, but the lad attacked the enemy so fiercely that they were put to rout. Every one wondered who the hero could be, but as soon as the battle was won he rode away so swiftly that no one had a chance to question him and no one knew what had become of him. “If I could but find him,” said the King, “I would honor him as I have never honored any one, for such a hero never was seen before.”

But the lad hastened back to the wood; he laid aside his armor and turned the black steed loose. Then he put on his wig again and ran back to the swamp and mounted the sorry nag.

When the King’s forces came riding home, there sat the gardener’s ugly lad, whipping his sorry nag and crying “Hie! Hie! Now will you go?”

The courtiers looked upon him with scorn. “Why does he not go home and get to work?” they cried. “Such a scarecrow is an insult to all who see him.” One of the courtiers, more ill-natured than the rest, shot an arrow at him, and it pierced his leg so the blood flowed. The lad cried out so that it was pitiful to hear him. The King felt sorry for him, ugly though he was, and drew out his own royal handkerchief and threw it to him.

“There, Sirrah! Take that and bind up thy wound!” he cried.

The lad took the handkerchief and bound it about his leg, and so the bleeding was stopped.

The next day, when the courtiers rode by, there sat the lad still upon his broken-down nag, shouting to it as if to urge it forward, and his leg was tied up with the bloody kerchief, and the King’s own initials were on the kerchief in letters of gold.

The courtiers did not dare to jeer at him this time, because the King had been kind to him, but they turned their faces aside so as not to see him.

As soon as they had gone the lad sprang down and ran to the wood and put on his armor and shook the bridle for the black steed, but he was in such haste, that he forgot the kerchief that he had used to bind up his wound, and so, when he rode out upon the battle field, he had it still tied about his leg.

That day the lad fought more fiercely than ever before, and it was well he did, for otherwise the King’s forces would certainly have been defeated. Already they were in retreat when the lad rode forth upon the field. But at sight of him they took heart again, and he led them on and did not stop or stay till he came to where the enemy’s leader was, and with one blow of his sword cut off his head.

Then all the enemy’s forces fled back, and the King’s men pursued after them and cut many of them to pieces, and the rest were glad to get safely back into their own country.

After that the lad would have ridden away as before, but this the King would not allow. He called to him and rode up to where he was, and when he saw the bloody kerchief tied about the stranger’s leg he knew he must be the very one he had left sitting on the old nag in the swamp awhile back.

This the lad could not deny, and when the King questioned him he told him everything.

Then the King said, “Though you are only a gardener’s lad still you are a mighty hero, and the hand of the Princess shall be yours. You shall marry her, and after I die you shall rule over the kingdom in my stead.”

You may guess the lad did not say no to that, for he had seen the Princess sitting at her window, and just from looking at her there he loved her with all his heart.

So the King and the courtiers rode home with the lad in their midst, and when the Princess heard she was to marry him she was filled with joy, for she recognized him at once as the gardener’s boy who had worked beneath her window.

Then all was joy and happiness. A great feast was prepared, and the lad and the Princess were married with the greatest magnificence. But first the lad rubbed his leg with the ointment and then it became quite well again; for it would never have done for him to go limping to his own wedding.

Now as soon as he was married he went out to the stable to tell it to the black steed. He found the horse sad and sorrowful. It stood drooping and would not raise its head or speak when he entered the stall.

The lad was troubled at this. “What ails you, my steed, that you stand there so sorrowful when all around rejoice?” asked he.

“I am sick at heart,” answered the steed, “and you alone can cure me of my sickness.”

“How is that?” asked the lad.

“Promise to do whatsoever I ask of you, and I will tell you.”

“I promise,” replied the lad, “for there is nothing I would not do for you.”

“Then take your sword and cut off my head,” said the steed.

When the lad heard this he was horrified. “What is this you ask of me?” he cried. “All that I have I owe to you, and shall I in return do you such an injury?”

But the black horse reminded him that he had promised. “If you do not do as I ask you,” said he, “then I shall know that you are a coward who dares not keep his word.”

The youth could not refuse after that. He was obliged to do as the horse bade him, but the tears dimmed his eyes so that he could scarcely see. He drew his sword and cut off the horse’s head. At once, instead of a coal-black steed, a handsome young Prince stood before him. The lad could scarce believe his eyes. He stared about him, wondering what had become of the horse.

“There is no need to look for the black steed,” said the princely stranger, “for I am he.” He then told the lad that he was the son of the King of a neighboring country. An enemy had risen up and slain the King and had given the Prince to the black master who had turned him into a horse and taken him away to his castle. “You have rescued me from the enchantment, and now I am free to claim my land again,” said the Prince. He then told the lad that the enemy King whom he had lately slain in battle was the very one who had taken his kingdom from him.

Then the Prince went back with the lad to the palace, and was introduced to the King and the Princess and all the court.

After that the lad and his bride and the Prince rode forth with a great retinue into the Prince’s own country, and his people received him with joy, and he and the lad lived in the greatest love and friendship forever after.

Jean Malin and the Bull-man – A Louisiana Tale, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a little boy who was all alone in the world; he had no father or mother, and no home; and no one to care for him. That made him very sad.

One day he sat by the roadside, and he was so sad that he began to weep. Presently a fine coach came rolling along, and in it sat a beautiful, grand lady. She leaned back against the cushions and looked about, first on this side and then on that, and enjoyed herself.

When she saw the little boy she made the coachman stop.

“Come here, little boy,” she called in a gentle voice.

The child lifted his head, and then he rose and came over to her.

“What is your name?” asked the lady.

“Jean Malin,” the child answered.

“Why are you weeping, Jean? Has some one been unkind to you?”

“No; I am weeping because I have no one to be either unkind or kind to me. I am all alone in the world, and I have no home.”

When the lady heard that she felt very sorry for him. “Come; sit here in the coach beside me,” she said, “and I will take you home with me. My home shall be your home, and I will keep you with me always if you are a good boy and do as I tell you.”

Jean Malin climbed into the coach, and the lady took him home with her. She talked to him and questioned him on the way, and she soon found that he was a clever boy and very polite in his manners.

When they arrived at the lady’s house she gave him a pretty little suit of clothes and bade him wash and dress himself, and then he came in and waited on her at supper.

After that he lived there, and the lady became very fond of him. As for Jean Malin, he soon loved his mistress so dearly that if she had been his own mother he could not have loved her better. Everything she said and did seemed to him exactly right.

The lady had a lover who was a great, handsome man with a fine deep voice. This gentleman often came to the house to take meals with the lady, and he always spoke to Jean Malin very pleasantly; but Jean could not abide him. He used to run and hide whenever this man came to the house. The lady scolded him for it, but he could not help it.

The gentleman’s name was Mr. Bulbul.

“I do not know what is the matter with you,” said the lady to Jean Malin. “Why is it you do not like Mr. Bulbul? He is very kind to you.”

“I do not know, but I wish I might never see him again,” answered Jean.

“That is very wrong of you. Perhaps sometime I may marry Mr. Bulbul. Then he will be your master. What will you do then?”

“Perhaps I will run away.”

That angered the lady. “And perhaps I will send you away if you do not behave better and learn to like him.”

Now not far from the lady’s house there was a pasture, and in this pasture there was a bull,–a fine, handsome animal. Jean Malin often saw it there.

After a while Jean began to notice a curious thing. Whenever Mr. Bulbul came to the house, which was almost every day, the bull disappeared from the pasture, and whenever the bull was in the pasture there was nothing to be seen of the gentleman.

“That is a curious thing,” said Jean to himself. “I will watch and find out what this means. I am sure something is wrong.”

So one day Jean went out and hid himself behind some rocks at the edge of the pasture. The bull was grazing with his head down and did not see him. After a while the bull raised his head and looked all about him to see if there were any one around. He did not see Jean, because the little boy was behind the rocks, so the animal thought itself alone. Then it dropped on its knees and cried, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

At once the bull became a man, and the man was the very Mr. Bulbul who came to visit Jean’s mistress.

The boy was so frightened he shivered all over as though he were cold.

Mr. Bulbul walked away in the direction of the lady’s house, and after he had gone Jean Malin ran home by another way. He crept into the house and heard the lady calling to him, but he would not go to her or show himself. She did not know what had become of him.

The next day Mr. Bulbul came again to the lady’s house. He came very early for he was to have breakfast with her. The lady called Jean Malin to come and wait on them. He did not want to come, but he was obliged to. He was so frightened that he darted about the room, first on one side and then on the other, and did not understand what was said to him. When the lady asked for water he gave her the toast rack, and when she asked for toast he brought her a towel. It really was very provoking.

After Mr. Bulbul had gone the lady called Jean Malin to her. “I am very angry,” said she. “You have acted very stupidly this morning. If you cannot do better and behave in a sensible manner, I will have to send you away.”

When she said this Jean Malin felt very much hurt. He could hardly refrain from weeping.

“Mistress, I will tell you why I acted so. I was afraid, and if you knew what I know, you would be afraid, too, and you would never let that big man come into your house again.”

“What is it that you know and I do not know?” asked the lady.

But Jean Malin would not tell her.

“Very well,” said his mistress; “if you will not tell me willingly I will have you beaten. I will have you beaten until you do tell, so you had better speak now before they begin.”

Jean Malin began to cry. “I did not want to tell you,” said he, “but if I must I must. Dear Mistress, Mr. Bulbul is not a man at all, but that bull that you sometimes see over in the pasture. He uses magic to make himself look like a man so as to come to see you, and then he goes right out and becomes a bull again and eats grass.”

The lady began to laugh. “You are either crazy or dreaming,” said she. “Or, more likely still, you are telling me an untruth so as to excuse yourself and make trouble between him and me.”

But Jean Malin insisted that what he told her was true. “I have seen it, and I know it,” said he. “Moreover I will prove it to you. I do not know how, but I am sure I can prove it.”

“Very well,” said the lady, “if you prove it I will forgive you and treat you as my own son, but if you do not I will have you beaten and sent out of the house as a mischief maker.”

After that Jean went away by himself and thought and thought. He tried to remember the exact words the bull had said when he turned himself into a man, but he could not be sure about them. So the next day he went out and hid himself behind the rocks again, taking care, as before, that the bull should not see him. The bull’s head was down, and it was eating grass.

Soon, however, it raised its head and looked all about it. Seeing no one, the creature dropped on its knees and bellowed, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” At once the bull became a man and walked away in the direction of the lady’s house.

Jean Malin followed, being careful to keep out of sight, and as he went he kept saying over and over to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara, Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” He said it over and over, so that he should not forget any least word of it.

When Jean Malin reached home Mr. Bulbul was in the salon with his mistress; Jean could hear them talking together there; his mistress’s voice very fine and clear and then Mr. Bulbul’s big, deep voice.

Jean Malin took a tray of cakes and wine and carried it into the salon just as though his mistress had ordered him to do so. The lady was surprised to see him coming with the tray, but she said, “That is right, Jean. Offer the cake and wine to Mr. Bulbul.”

Jean Malin went over to Mr. Bulbul, close in front of him, and then he said in a low voice, as though to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

Such a noise you never heard. The fine Mr. Bulbul bellowed aloud and jumped up, smashing his chair and knocking the tray with all the plates and glasses and everything out of Jean Malin’s hands. The lady shrieked and almost fainted. Then, right there before her, Mr. Bulbul’s head grew long and hairy, horns sprouted from his forehead, his arms turned into legs, and his hands and feet into hoofs, and he became a bull and all his clothes fell off him,–his trousers and coat
and vest and eyeglasses and collar and everything. He galloped across the salon in a fright, his hoofs clattering on the floor, and burst out through the glass door so fast that he carried it away on his horns and back into the pasture with him.

Then the lady knew that everything Jean Malin had told her was true, and she could not thank him enough.

“Now you shall indeed be to me as a son,” said she, “and you shall live here always and never leave me.”

Jean Malin was very happy when the lady said that to him. Nevertheless, when he thought of Mr. Bulbul, he could not feel easy in his mind. He was sure the bull would try to revenge itself on him in some way or other. He kept away from the pasture, and wherever he went he was always looking around to see whether the bull were anywhere in sight.

At last he grew so afraid that he determined to go and talk to a black man he knew who dealt in magic. He found the man sitting at the door of his hut, making magic with a horsehair and a snakeskin, and some ground-up glass. Jean Malin, told him everything that had happened, about the bull, and how it had changed itself into a man and had come
to visit the lady, and about the magic words, and how he had forced the man to turn back into a bull again. “And now,” said he, “I am afraid, for I think he means harm to me.”

“You do well to be afraid,” said the black man. “Bulbul will certainly try to do you harm. He knows much magic, but my magic is stronger than his magic, and I will help you. Get me three owl’s eggs and a cup of black goat’s milk and bring them here.”

Jean Malin went away and got the three owl’s eggs and the cup of black goat’s milk, though they were things not easy to find, and then he brought them to the black man.

The black man took them from him and rolled the owl’s eggs in the milk and made magic over them. Then he gave them back to the boy. “Keep these by you all the time,” said he. “Then if the bull comes after you do thus and so, and this and the other, and you will have no more trouble with him.”

Jean Malin thanked the black man and gave him a piece of silver, and went away with the eggs tied up in his handkerchief.

It was a good thing he had them. He had not gone more than halfway home, and was just coming out from a wood, when he heard a big noise, and the bull burst out of a thicket and came charging down on him.

But quick as a flash Jean Malin put the eggs in his mouth and climbed up a tree, and the eggs were not broken.

The bull galloped up and struck the tree with its horns. “You think you are safe, but I will soon have you down,” it cried.

It dropped down on its knees and muttered magic, but Jean could not hear what it said. Then the bull changed into a man with an ax in his hands and began to chop down the tree. Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew and the branches trembled.

Jean tried to remember the words that would turn the man back into a bull again, but he was so frightened he could not think of them. What he did remember, though, were the eggs the black man had given him. He took one out of his mouth and dropped it down on the bull-man’s right shoulder, and at once his right arm fell off, and the ax dropped to the ground. This did not trouble the bull-man, however. He caught up the ax in his left hand and chopped away, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew faster than ever.

Then Jean Malin dropped the second egg down on the man’s left shoulder, and his left arm fell off. Now he had no arms, but he caught up the ax in his mouth and went on chopping, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The whole tree shook and trembled.

Then Jean Malin dropped the third and last egg down on the man’s head, and at once his head fell off.

That ended the man’s magic; he could do nothing more, and had to turn into a bull again. He bellowed like anything, but he could not help it, for the black man’s magic was stronger than his magic. Away he galloped, with his tail in the air, and that was the last Jean Malin ever saw of him. What became of him nobody ever knew, but he must have gone far, far away.

But Jean Malin climbed down from the tree and went on home, and after that he lived very happily in the lady’s house and was like a son to her, just as she had promised him.

The Meester Stoorworm – A Story from Scotland, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a lad, and what his real name was nobody remembered, unless it was the mother who bore him; but what every one called him was Ashipattle. They called him that because he sat among the ashes to warm his toes.

He had six older brothers, and they did not think much of him. All the tasks they scorned to do themselves they put upon Ashipattle. He gathered the sticks for the fire, he swept the floor, he cleaned the byre, he ran the errands, and all he got for his pains were kicks and cuffs and mocking words. Still he was a merry fellow, and as far as words went he gave his brothers as good as they sent.

Ashipattle had one sister, and she was very good and kind to him. In return for her kindness he told her long stories of trolls and giants and heroes and brave deeds, and as long as he would tell she would sit and listen. But his brothers could not stand his stories, and used to throw clods at him to make him be quiet. They were angry because Ashipattle was always the hero of his own stories, and in his tales there was nothing he dared not do.

Now while Ashipattle was still a lad, but a tall, stout one, a great misfortune fell upon the kingdom, for a Stoorworm rose up out of the sea; and of all Stoorworms it was the greatest and the worst. For this reason it was called the Meester Stoorworm. Its length stretched half around the world, its one eye was as red as fire, and its breath was so poisonous that whatever it breathed upon was withered.

There was great fear and lamentation throughout the land because of the worm, for every day it drew nearer to the shore, and every day the danger from it grew greater. When it was first discovered it was so far away that its back was no more than a low, long, black line upon the horizon, but soon it was near enough for them to see the horns upon its back, and its scales, and its one fierce eye, and its nostrils that breathed out and in.

In their fear the people cried upon the King to save them from the monster, but the King had no power to save them more than any other man. His sword, Snickersnapper, was the brightest and sharpest and most wonderful sword in all the world, but it would need a longer sword than Snickersnapper to pierce through that great body to the monster’s heart. The King summoned his councillors,–all the wisest men in the kingdom,–and they consulted and talked together, but none of them could think of any plan to beat or drive the Stoorworm off, so powerful it was.

Now there was in that country a sorcerer, and the King had no love for him. Still, when all the wisemen and councillors could think of no plan for destroying the Stoorworm, the King said, “Let us send for this sorcerer, and have him brought before us, and hear what he has to say; for ‘twould seem there is no help in any of us for this evil that has come upon us.”

So the sorcerer was brought, and he stood up in the council and looked from one to another. Last of all he looked at the King, and there his eyes rested.

“There is one way, and only one,” said he, “by which the land can be saved from destruction. Let the King’s only daughter, the Princess Gemlovely, be given to the Stoorworm as a sacrifice, and he will be satisfied and quit us.”

No sooner had the sorcerer said this than a great tumult arose in the council. The councillors were filled with horror, and cried aloud that the sorcerer should be torn to pieces for speaking such words.

But the King arose and bade them be silent,–and he was as white as death.

“Is this the only way to save my people?” he asked.

“It is the only way I know of,” answered the sorcerer.

The King stood still and white for a time. “Then,” said he, “if it is the only way, so let it be. But first let it be proclaimed, far and wide throughout my kingdom, that there is an heroic deed to be done. Whosoever will do battle with the Stoorworm and slay it, or drive it off, shall have the Princess Gemlovely for a bride, and the half of my kingdom, and my sword Snickersnapper for his own; and after my death he shall rule as king over all the realm.”

Then the King dismissed the Council, and they went away in silence, with dark and heavy looks.

A proclamation was sent out as the King commanded, saying that whoever could kill the Stoorworm or drive it away should have the Princess, and the half of the kingdom as a reward, and the King’s sword, and after the King’s death should reign over the whole realm.

When this news went out many a man wished he might win these three prizes for himself, for what better was there to be desired than a beauteous wife, a kingdom to reign over, and the most famous sword in all the world. But fine as were the prizes, only six-and-thirty bold hearts came to offer themselves for the task, so great was the fear of the Stoorworm. Of this number the first twelve who looked at the Stoorworm fell ill at sight of him and had to be carried home. The next twelve did not stay to be carried, but ran home on their own legs and shut themselves up in strong fortresses; and the last twelve stayed at the King’s palace with their hearts in their stomachs, and their wrists too weak with fear to strike a blow, even to win a kingdom.

So there was nothing left but for the Princess to be offered up to the Stoorworm, for it was better that one should be lost, even though that one were the Princess, than that the whole country should be destroyed.

Then there was great grief and lamenting throughout the land, for the Princess Gemlovely was so kind and gentle that she was beloved by all, both high and low. Only Ashipattle heard it all unmoved. He said nothing, but sat by the fire and thought and thought, and what his thoughts were he told to nobody.

The day was set when the Princess was to be offered up to the Stoorworm, and the night before there was a great feast at the palace, but a sad feast it was. Little was eaten and less was said. The King sat with his back to the light and bit his fingers, and no one dared to speak to him.

In the poorer houses there was a great stir and bustle and laying out of coats and dresses, for many were planning to go to the seashore to see the Princess offered up to the Stoorworm,–though a gruesome sight ‘twould be to see. Ashipattle’s father and brothers were planning to go with the rest, but his mother and sister wept, and said they would
not see it for anything in the world.

Now Ashipattle’s father had a horse named Feetgong, and he was not much to look at. Nevertheless the farmer treasured him, and it was not often he would let any one use him but himself. When the farmer rode Feetgong he could make him go like the wind,–none faster,–and that without beating him, either. Then when the farmer wished him to stop Feetgong would stand as still as though he were frozen to the ground; no one could make him budge. But if any one other than the farmer rode him, then it was quite different. Feetgong would jog along, and not even a beating would drive him faster, and then if one wanted him to stop that was as hard to do as it was to start him. Ashipattle was sure there was some secret about this; that his father had a way to make him go that no one knew about; but what that way was he could not find out.

The day before the beauteous Gemlovely was to be sacrificed Ashipattle said to his mother, “Tell me something; how is it that Feetgong will not go for you or my brothers or any one, but when my father mounts him he goes like the wind,–none faster?”

Then his mother answered, “Indeed, I do not know.”

“It seems a strange thing that my father would not tell you that,” said Ashipattle, “and you his own true wife.”

To this his mother answered nothing.

“A strange thing,” said Ashipattle; “and in all the years you’ve lived together not a thing have you kept back from him, whether he wished it or no. But even a good husband always holds back some secret from his wife.”

Still his mother spoke never a word, but Ashipattle could see that she was thinking.

That night Ashipattle lay awake long after the others were asleep. He heard his father snoring and his brothers, too, but it seemed his mother could not sleep. She turned and twisted and sighed aloud, until at last she awakened her husband.

“What ails you,” he asked, “that you turn and twist in bed and sigh so loud that a body scarce can sleep.”

“It’s no wonder I sigh and cannot sleep,” answered his wife. “I have been thinking and turning things over in my mind, and I can see very plainly that you do not love me as a good husband should love his wife.”

“How can you say that?” asked her husband. “Have I not treated you well in all these years? Have I not shown my love in every way?”

“Yes, but you do not trust me,” said his wife. “You do not tell me what is in your heart.”

“What have I not told you?”

“You have never told me about Feetgong; you have never told me why it is that he goes like the wind whenever you mount him, and when any one else rides him he is so slow there is no getting anywhere with him.” Then she began to sob as if her heart would break. “You do not trust me,” said she.

“Wait, wait!” cried the Goodman. “That is a secret I had never thought to tell any one, but since you have set your heart on knowing–listen! Only you must promise not to tell a living soul what I tell you now.”

His wife promised.

“Then this is it,” said her husband. “When I want Feetgong to go moderately fast I slap him on the right shoulder; when I want him to stop I slap him on the left shoulder, and when I want him to go like the wind I blow upon the dried windpipe of a goose that I always carry in the right-hand pocket of my coat.”

“Now indeed I know that you love me when you tell me this,” said his wife. And then she went to sleep, for she was satisfied.

Ashipattle waited until near morning, and then he arose and dressed himself. He put on the coat of one brother, and the breeches of another, and the shoes of a third, and so on, for his own clothes were nothing but rags. He felt in the right-hand pocket of his father’s coat, and there, sure enough, he found the dried windpipe of a goose. He took that and he took a pot of burning peat, and covered it over so it would keep hot; and he took also a big kitchen knife. Then he went out and led Feetgong from the stable. He sprang upon his back and slapped him on the right shoulder, and away they went.

The noise awoke the goodman and he jumped from bed and ran to the window. There was some one riding away on his dear Feetgong. Then he called out at the top of his voice:

“Hie! Hie! Ho!
Feetgong, whoa!”

When Feetgong heard his master calling he stopped and stood stockstill. But Ashipattle whipped out the dried windpipe of the goose and blew upon it, and away went Feetgong like the wind; none could go faster. No one could overtake them.

After a while, and not so long either, they came to the seashore, and there, a little way out from the shore, lay the King’s own boat with the boatman in it. He was keeping the boat there until day dawned. Then the King and his court would come, bringing the beauteous Gemlovely to offer up to the Stoorworm. They would put her in the boat and set the sails to carry her toward him.

Ashipattle looked out across the water, and he could see the black back of the beast rising out of the sea like a long low mountain.

He lighted down from Feetgong and called across the water to the boatman, “Hello, friend! How fares it with you out there?”

“Bitterly, bitterly!” answered the boatman. “Here I sit and freeze all night, for it is cold on the water, and not a soul except myself but what is safe asleep in a good warm bed.”

“I have a fire here in the pot,” called Ashipattle. “Draw your boat in to shore and come and warm yourself, for I can see even from here that you are almost perished.”

“That I may not do,” answered the man. “The King and his court may come at any time now, and they must find me ready and waiting for them as the commands were.”

Then Ashipattle put his pot down on the shore and stood and thought a bit. Suddenly he dropped on his knees and began to dig in the sand as though he had gone mad. “Gold! Gold!” he shouted.

“What is the matter?” called the boatman. “What have you found?”

“Gold! Gold!” shouted Ashipattle, digging faster than ever.

The boatman thought Ashipattle must certainly have found a treasure in the sand. He made haste to bring the boat to land. He sprang out upon the shore, and pushing Ashipattle aside, he dropped on his knees and began to scoop out the sand. But Ashipattle did not wait to see whether he found anything. He caught up the pot and leaped into the boat, and before the boatman could stop him he pushed off from the shore.

Too late the boatman saw what he was doing. He ran down to the edge of the water and shouted and stormed and cried to Ashipattle to come back, but Ashipattle paid no heed to him. He never even turned his head. He set the sail and steered over toward where the great monster lay, with the waves washing up and breaking into foam against him.

And now the dawn was breaking. It was time for the monster to awake, and down the road from the castle came riding the King and all his court, and the Princess Gemlovely rode among them on a milk-white horse. All the color was gone from her face, and she looked as white as snow.

When the King and all the others reached the shore there stood the boatman, wringing his hands and lamenting, and the boat was gone.

“What is this?” asked the King. “What have you done with my boat, and why are you standing here?”

“Look! Look!” cried the boatman and he pointed out to sea.

The King looked, and then first he saw Ashipattle in the boat, sailing away toward the monster,–for before his eyes had been dim with sorrow, and he had seen naught but what was close before him.

The King looked, and all the court looked with him, and a great cry arose, for they guessed that Ashipattle was sailing out to do battle with the Stoorworm.

As they stood staring the sun shone red and the monster awoke. Slowly, slowly his great jaws opened in a yawn, and as he yawned the water rushed into his mouth like a great flood and on down his throat. Ashipattle’s boat was caught in the swirl and swept forward faster than any sail could carry it. Then slowly the monster closed his mouth and all was still save for the foaming and surging of the waters.

Ashipattle steered his boat close in against the monster’s jaws, and it lay there, rocking in the tide, while he waited for the Stoorworm to yawn again.

Presently slowly, slowly, the great jaws gaped, and the flood rushed in, foaming. Ashipattle’s boat was swept in with the water, and it almost crushed against one of the monster’s teeth, but Ashipattle fended it off, and it was carried on the flood down into the Stoorworm’s throat.

Down and down went the boat with Ashipattle in it and the sound of surging waters filled his ears. It was light there in the monster’s throat, for the roof and the sides of it shone with phosphorescence so that he could see everything.

As he swept on, the roof above him grew lower and lower, and the water grew shallower and shallower; for it drained off into passages that opened off from the throat into the rest of the body.

At last the roof grew so low that the mast of the boat wedged against it. Then Ashipattle stepped over the side of the boat into the water, and it had grown so shallow it was scarce as high as his knees. He took the pot of peat, that was still hot, and the knife, and went a little further until he came to where the beast’s heart was. He could see it beat, beat, beating.

Ashipattle took his knife and dug a hole in the heart, and emptied the hot peat into it. Then he blew and blew on the peat. He blew until his cheeks almost cracked with blowing, and it seemed as though the peat would never burn. But at last it flared up; the oil of the heart trickled down upon it, and the flame burst into a blaze. Higher and higher waxed the fire. All the heart shone red with the light of it.

Then the lad ran back and jumped into the boat and pushed it clear of the roof. And none too soon, for as the fire burned deeper into the heart, the monster felt the burn of it and began to writhe and twist. Then he gave a great cough that sent the waters surging back out of his body and into the sea again in a mighty flood.

Ashipattle’s boat was caught in the rush and swept like a straw up out of the Stoorworm’s throat and into the light of day. The monster spewed him and his boat all the way across the sea and up on the shore, almost at the King’s feet.

The King himself sprang from his steed and ran and helped Ashipattle to his feet. Then every one fled back to a high hill, for the sea was rising in a mighty flood with the beating and tossing of the Stoorworm.

Then began such a sight as never was seen before and perchance will never be seen again. For first the monster flung his tail so high that it seemed as though it would strike the sun from the sky. And next it fell into the sea with such a slap as sent the waves high up the rocks; and now it was his head that flung aloft, and the tongue caught on the point of the crescent moon and hung there, and for a while it looked as though the moon would be pulled from the sky, but it stood firm, and the monster’s tongue tore, so that the head dropped back into the sea with such force that the teeth flew out of its mouth, and these teeth became the Orkney Islands.

Again its head reared high and fell back, and more teeth flew out, and these became the Shetland Islands. The third time his head rose and fell, and teeth flew out; they became the Faroe Islands.

So the monster beat and threshed and struggled, while the King and the Princess and Ashipattle and all the people looked on with fear and wonder at the dreadful sight.

But at last the struggle became weaker, for the heart was almost burned out. Then the Stoorworm curled up and lay still, for it was dead, and its great coils became the place called Iceland.

So was the monster killed, and that was the manner of his death!

But the King turned to Ashipattle and called him son, and took the hand of the Princess Gemlovely and laid it in the lad’s hand, for now she was to be his bride as the King had promised.

Then they all rode back to the palace together, and the King took the sword Snickersnapper and gave it to Ashipattle for him to keep as his own.

A great feast was spread in honor of the slaying of the Stoorworm. All who chose to come were welcome, and all was mirth and rejoicing.

The honest farmer, Ashipattle’s father, and his mother and his sister and his brothers heard of the feast and put on their best clothes and came, but the farmer had no Feetgong to ride. When they entered the great hall and saw Ashipattle sitting there at the King’s right hand in the place of honor, with the Princess Gemlovely beside him, they could hardly believe their eyes, for they had not known he was the hero every one was talking about. But Ashipattle looked at them and nodded, and all was well.

Not long after that Ashipattle and the Princess were married, and a grand wedding it was, I can tell you; and after the old King died Ashipattle became ruler of the whole realm, and he and the Princess lived in mutual love and happiness together the rest of their long lives.