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LBLS-Startpiece

From
GRIMMS FAIRY TALES (Illustrated edition)
ISBN: 9788828338611

Little brother took his little sister by the hand and said, “Since our mother died, we have had no happiness; our stepmother beats us every day, and if we come near her, she kicks us away with her foot. Our meals are the hard crusts of bread that are left over. The little dog under the table is better off, for she often throws it a nice bit. May Heaven pity us! If our mother only knew! Come, we will go forth together into the wide world.”

They walked the whole day over meadows, fields, and stony places; and when it rained the little sister said, “Heaven and our hearts are weeping together.”

In the evening they came to a large forest, and they were so weary with sorrow and hunger and the long walk, that they lay down in a hollow tree and fell asleep.

The next day when they awoke, the sun was already high and shone down hot into the tree. Then the little brother said, “Little Sister, I am thirsty. If I knew of a little brook I would go and take a drink. I think I hear one running.” The little brother got up and took the little sister by the hand, and they set off to find the brook.

But the wicked stepmother was a Witch, and had seen how the two children had gone away. She had crept after them, as Witches do creep, and had bewitched all the brooks in the forest.

Now, when they found a little brook leaping brightly over the stones, the little brother was going to drink out of it, but the little sister heard how it said as it ran:

Who drinks of me, a Tiger be! Who drinks of me, a Tiger be!

Then the little sister cried, “Pray, dear little Brother, do not drink, or you will become a wild beast, and tear me to pieces.”

The little brother did not drink, although he was so thirsty, but said, “I will wait for the next spring.”

When they came to the next brook, the little sister heard this say:

Who drinks of me, a wild Wolf be! Who drinks of me, a wild Wolf be!

Then the little sister cried out, “Pray, dear little Brother, do not drink, or you will become a Wolf, and devour me.”

The little brother did not drink, and said, “I will wait until we come to the next spring, but then I must drink, say what you like; for my thirst is too great.”

And when they came to the third brook, the little sister heard how it said as it ran:

Who drinks of me, a Roebuck be! Who drinks of me, a Roebuck be!

The little sister said, “Oh, I pray you, dear little Brother, do not drink, or you will become a Roe, and run away from me.”

But the little brother had knelt by the brook, and had bent down and drunk some of the water. And as soon as the first drops touched his lips, he lay there a young Roe.

And now the little sister wept over her poor bewitched little brother, and the little Roe wept also, and sat sorrowfully near to her. But at last the girl said, “Be quiet, dear little Roe, I will never, never leave you.”

Then she untied her golden garter and put it round the Roe’s neck, and she plucked rushes and wove them into a soft cord. With this she tied the little animal and led it on; and she walked deeper and deeper into the forest.

And when they had gone a very long way, they came to a little house. The girl looked in; and as it was empty, she thought, “We can stay here and live.”

Then she sought for leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the Roe. Every morning she went out and gathered roots and berries and nuts for herself, and brought tender grass for the Roe, who ate out of her hand, and was content and played round about her. In the evening, when the little sister was tired, and had said her prayer, she laid her head upon the Roe’s back: that was her pillow, and she slept softly on it. And if only the little brother had had his human form, it would have been a delightful life.

For some time, they were alone like this in the wilderness. But it happened that the King of the country held a great hunt in the forest. Then the blasts of the horns, the barking of dogs, and the merry shouts of the huntsmen rang through the trees, and the Roe heard all, and was only too anxious to be there.

“Oh,” said he to his little sister, “let me be off to the hunt, I cannot bear it any longer;” and he begged so much that at last she agreed.

“But,” said she to him, “come back to me in the evening. I must shut my door for fear of the rough huntsmen, so knock and say, ‘My little Sister, let me in!’ that I may know you. And if you do not say that, I shall not open the door.”

LBLS-01

Then the young Roe sprang away; so happy was he and so merry in the open air.

The King and the huntsmen saw the pretty creature, and started after him. But they could not catch him, and when they thought that they surely had him, away he sprang through the bushes and was gone.

When it was dark he ran to the cottage, knocked, and said, “My little Sister, let me in.” Then the door was opened for him, and he jumped in, and rested himself the whole night through upon his soft bed.

The next day, the hunt went on afresh, and when the Roe again heard the bugle-horn, and the ho! ho! of the huntsmen, he had no peace, but said, “Sister, let me out, I must be off.”

His sister opened the door for him, and said, “But you must be here again in the evening and say your password.”

When the King and his huntsmen again saw the young Roe with the golden collar, they all chased him, but he was too quick and nimble for them. This went on for the whole day, but by evening the huntsmen had surrounded him, and one of them wounded him a little in the foot, so that he limped and ran slowly. Then a hunter crept after him to the cottage and heard how he said, “My little Sister, let me in,” and saw that the door was opened for him, and was shut again at once.

The huntsman took notice of it all, and went to the King and told him what he had seen and heard. Then the King said, “To-morrow we will hunt once more.”

The little sister, however, was dreadfully frightened when she saw that her little Roe was hurt. She washed the blood off him, laid herbs on the wound, and said, “Go to your bed, dear Roe, that you may get well again.”

But the wound was so slight that the Roe, next morning, did not feel it any more. And when he again heard the sport outside, he said, “I cannot bear it, I must be there. They shall not find it so easy to catch me!”

The little sister cried, and said, “This time they will kill you, and here am I alone in the forest, and forsaken by all the world. I will not let you out.”

“Then you will have me die of grief,” answered the Roe. “When I hear the bugle-horns I feel as if I must jump out of my skin.”

Then the little sister could not do otherwise, but opened the door for him with a heavy heart, and the Roe, full of health and joy, bounded away into the forest.

When the King saw him, he said to his huntsman, “Now chase him all day long till nightfall, but take care that no one does him any harm.”

As soon as the sun had set, the King said to the huntsmen, “Now come and show me the cottage in the wood;” and when he was at the door, he knocked and called out, “Dear little Sister, let me in.”

Then the door opened, and the King walked in, and there stood a maiden more lovely than any he had ever seen. The maiden was frightened when she saw, not her little Roe, but a man with a golden crown upon his head. But the King looked kindly at her, stretched out his hand, and said:

“Will you go with me to my palace and be my dear wife?”

LBLS-Main THE KING SAID, “WILL YOU BE MY DEAR WIFE”

THE KING SAID, “WILL YOU BE MY DEAR WIFE?”

“Yes, indeed,” answered the maiden, “but the little Roe must go with me. I cannot leave him.”

The King said, “He shall stay with you as long as you live, and shall want nothing.”

Just then he came running in, and the little sister again tied him with the cord of rushes, took it in her own hand, and went away with the King from the cottage.

The King took the lovely maiden upon his horse and carried her to his palace, where the wedding was held with great pomp. She was now the Queen, and they lived for a long time happily together. The Roe was tended and cherished, and ran about in the palace-garden.

But the wicked Witch, because of whom the children had gone out into the world, thought all the time that the little sister had been torn to pieces by the wild beasts in the wood, and that the little brother had been shot for a Roe by the huntsmen. Now when she heard that they were so happy, and so well off, envy and hatred rose in her heart and left her no peace, and she thought of nothing but how she could bring them again to misfortune.

Her own daughter, who was as ugly as night, and had only one eye, grumbled at her and said, “A Queen! that ought to have been my luck.”

“Only be quiet,” answered the old woman, and comforted her by saying, “when the time comes I shall be ready.”

As time went on, the Queen had a pretty little boy. It happened that the King was out hunting; so the old Witch took the form of the chambermaid, went into the room where the Queen lay, and said to her, “Come, the bath is ready. It will do you good, and give you fresh strength. Make haste before it gets cold.”

The daughter also was close by; so they carried the weak Queen into the bathroom, and put her into the bath. Then they shut the door and ran away. But in the bathroom they had made a fire of such deadly heat, that the beautiful young Queen was soon suffocated.

LBLS-02

When this was done, the old woman took her daughter, put a nightcap on her head, and laid her in bed in place of the Queen. She gave her too the shape and the look of the Queen, only she could not make good the lost eye. But, in order that the King might not see it, she was to lie on the side on which she had no eye.

In the evening, when he came home and heard that he had a son, he was heartily glad, and was going to the bed of his dear wife to see how she was. But the old woman quickly called out, “For your life leave the curtains closed. The Queen ought not to see the light yet, and must have rest.”

The King went away, and did not find out that a false Queen was lying in the bed.

But at midnight, when all slept, the nurse, who was sitting in the nursery by the cradle, and who was the only person awake, saw the door open and the true Queen walk in. She took the child out of the cradle, laid it on her arm and nursed it. Then she shook up its pillow, laid the child down again, and covered it with the little quilt. And she did not forget the Roe, but went into the corner where he lay, and stroked his back. Then she went quite silently out of the door again.

The next morning, the nurse asked the guards whether anyone had come into the palace during the night, but they answered, “No, we have seen no one.”

She came thus many nights and never spoke a word. The nurse always saw her, but she did not dare to tell anyone about it.

When some time had passed in this manner, the Queen began to speak in the night, and said:

How fares my child, how fares my Roe? Twice shall I come, then never moe!

The nurse did not answer, but when the Queen had gone again, went to the King and told him all.

The King said, “Ah, heavens! what is this? To-morrow night I will watch by the child.”

In the evening he went into the nursery, and at midnight the Queen again appeared, and said:

How fares my child, how fares my Roe? Once shall I come, then never moe!

And she nursed the child as she was wont to do before she disappeared. The King dared not speak to her, but on the next night he watched again. Then she said:

How fares my child, How fares my Roe? This time I come, then never moe!

At that the King could not restrain himself. He sprang toward her, and said, “You can be none other than my dear wife.”

She answered, “Yes, I am your dear wife,” and at the same moment she received life again, and by God’s grace became fresh, rosy, and full of health.

Then she told the King the evil deed which the wicked Witch and her daughter had been guilty of toward her. The King ordered both to be led before the judge, and judgment was delivered against them. The daughter was taken into the forest where she was torn to pieces by wild beasts, but the Witch was cast into the fire and miserably burnt.

And as soon as she was burnt the Roe changed his shape, and received his human form again. So the little sister and little brother lived happily together all their lives.

LBLS-03 End Piece

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From GRIMMS FAIRY STORIES

ISBN: 9788828338611

DOWNLOAD LINK: https://bit.ly/2ykGU33

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KEYWORDS/TAGS: Grimms Fairy Stories, fairy tales, folklore, myths, legends, children’s stories, childrens stories, bygone era, fairydom, fairy land, classic stories, children’s bedtime stories, happy place, happiness, Goose, Girl, Little Brother, Little Sister, Hansel, Grethel, Grettel, Shiver, Dummling, Three Feathers, Snow White, Catherine, Frederick, Valiant,  Little Tailor, Little Red Cap, Golden Goose, Bearskin, Cinderella, Faithful John, Water Of Life, Thumbling, Briar Rose, Six Swans, Rapunzel, Mother Holle, Frog Prince, Travels, Tom Thumb, Snow White, Rose Red, Three Little Men, Wood, Rumpelstiltskin, Little One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes

This blog, Folklore and Fairytales, which I have been posting to since 2011, has been selected by Feedspot (https://blog.feedspot.com/kids_blogs/)  as one of the Top 100 Kids Blogs on the web.

From the ebook “Favorite Fairy Tales”

JABS0-HeaderJACK was an idle, lazy boy who would do no work to support his widowed mother; and at last they both came to such poverty that the poor woman had to sell her cow to buy food to keep them from starving. She sent Jack to market with the cow, telling him to be sure and sell it for a good price.

As Jack was going along the road to market he met a butcher. The butcher offered to buy the cow in exchange for a hatful of colored beans. Jack thought the beans looked very pretty, and he was glad to be saved the long hot walk to market; so he struck the bargain on the spot and went back to his mother with the beans, while the butcher went off with the cow.

JABS1-At the top of the beanstalk he found a castle

But the poor widow was very disappointed. She scolded her son for an idle, lazy, good-for-nothing boy, and flung the beans out of the window in a passion.

Now the beans were magic beans, and the next morning, when Jack awoke, he found some of them had taken root in the night and had grown so tall, that they reached right up into the sky.

Jack was full of wonder and curiosity; and, being fond of adventure and excitement, he set out at once to climb the beanstalk, to see what was up at the top of it.

And he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed—until at last he climbed right up to the very tiptop of the beanstalk.

Then he found himself standing in a strange country. In the distance he could see a big castle; and, as he was hot and tired with his long climb, he thought he would go and ask for something to eat and drink.

JABS2-She hid Jack in the Oven

She hid Jack in the Oven

He had not gone very far before he met a fairy, who told him that the castle belonged to a wicked ogre, who had killed and eaten a great number of people.

“It was he who killed your father,” she said. “And it is your duty to do your utmost to destroy the wicked monster. Go now, and see what you can do. If you can carry off any of his treasures you are at liberty to do so—for none of them really belongs to him. He has taken them all by force from the people whom he has robbed and killed.”

Jack was delighted at the idea of this adventure, and set off in high spirits towards the castle.

The castle was farther off than he had thought, and by the time he reached the gates, it was so late that he made up his mind to ask for a night’s lodging. There was a woman standing in the doorway; but when Jack made his request, she was very frightened, and said—

JABS4-the Ogre Counted his Money

The Ogre counted his money

“Indeed, I dare not take you in and give you food and lodging. My husband is an ogre who lives on human flesh. If he were to find you here, he would think nothing of eating you up in three mouthfuls. I advise you to go away at once, before he comes home.”

But when she saw how tired and hungry Jack really was, she took him into the house and gave him plenty to eat and drink. While Jack was eating his food in the kitchen there came a loud knocking at the door. The ogre’s wife, in a great flurry, hid Jack in the oven, and then hurried to let her husband in. Jack peeped through the oven door, and saw a terrible-looking ogre, who came stamping into the kitchen, and said in a voice like thunder—

“Wife, I smell fresh meat!”

“It is only the people you are fattening in the dungeon,” said the wife.

So the ogre sat down and ate his supper. After supper, he commanded his wife to bring him his money-bags. He then began to count his money—thousands and thousands of pieces of gold and silver.

JABS5-He Stole the bags of Money and took them home

Jack stole the bags of money and fled

Jack wished he could take some of this money home to his mother; and, presently, when the ogre fell asleep, he crept out of his hiding-place, and hoisting the bags upon his shoulder, slipped quietly away with them. The ogre was snoring so loudly that it sounded like the wind in the chimney on a stormy night. So he never heard the little noise Jack made, and Jack got safely away and escaped down the beanstalk.

His mother was overjoyed to see him, for she had been very anxious about him when he did not come home the night before; and she was delighted with the bags of money, which were enough to keep them in comfort and luxury for some time.

For many months Jack and his mother lived happily together; but after a while the money came to an end, and Jack made up his mind to climb the beanstalk again, and carry off some more of the ogre’s treasures.

 

JABS6 - Down came the beanstalk and doen came the ogre

Down came the beanstalk, down came the giant.

So one morning he got up early, put on a different suit of clothes, so that the ogre’s wife should not recognize him, and set out to climb the beanstalk.

And he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed—until at last he climbed to the very top and found himself in the ogre’s country again.

When he reached the castle the ogre’s wife was again standing in the doorway. But when Jack asked for a night’s lodging, she said she dared not give him one, for only a few months before she had taken in a poor boy who seemed half dead with fatigue and hunger, and in return for her kindness, he had stolen some of her husband’s money and run away in the night.

But Jack begged so hard that at last she relented. She gave him a good supper and hid him in a closet before her husband came home.

Presently there was a great noise outside and heavy footsteps that shook the castle to its foundations. It was the ogre come home. As soon as he entered the kitchen, he sniffed suspiciously, and said:

“I smell fresh meat!”

“It is only the crows on the housetops,” said his wife. “They have brought home a piece of carrion for their young.”

After supper, the ogre told his wife to fetch his hen. This hen was a very wonderful bird. Whenever the ogre said “Lay” she laid an egg of solid gold. Jack thought that if he could only get this wonderful hen to take home to his mother, they would never want any more. So when the ogre fell asleep—as he did after a little while—he came out of the closet, and, seizing the hen in his arms, made off with her. The hen squawked, but the ogre’s snoring was like the roaring of the sea when the tide is coming in, and Jack got safely down the beanstalk.

The hen laid so many golden eggs that Jack and his mother became quite rich and prosperous; and there was really no need for Jack to go again to the ogre’s country. But he liked the danger and excitement, and he remembered that the fairy had told him to take as many of the ogre’s treasures as he could; and at last, without saying a word to anybody, he started off once more to climb the magic beanstalk.

And he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed—until at last he reached the very tiptop, and stood in the ogre’s country.

This time when he reached the castle he began to be afraid that the ogre’s wife really would not let him in.

“Indeed and indeed, I dare not,” she said. “Twice lately have I given shelter to a wayfaring youth, and each time he stole some of my husband’s treasures, and made off with them. Now my husband has forbidden me, on pain of instant death, to give food or lodging to any traveler.”

JABS 7 - Jack steals the Harp

Jack took the Golden Harp which cried out for help wakening the giant.

But Jack pleaded and pleaded, and at last the good-natured woman, moved to pity by his travel-stained appearance, gave way and let him into the castle.

When the ogre came home, the wife hid Jack in the copper. As usual, the ogre’s first words were:

“Wife, wife, I smell fresh meat!” And, in spite of all his wife could say, he insisted upon searching all round the room. Jack was in a terrible fright whilst he was hunting: but fortunately, he forgot to look in the copper, and after a time he sat down to his supper.

When supper was over, the ogre told his wife to fetch his harp. Jack peeped out of the copper and saw the harp brought in and set down before the ogre. It was marvelously made; and when the ogre said “Play!” it played the finest music without being touched. Jack was enchanted, for he had never before heard such wonderful music, and he felt that he must have the harp for his own.

The ogre was soon lulled to sleep by the sweet sound of the harp; and when he was snoring heavily, Jack crept out of the copper, and taking up the harp was about to make off with it. But the harp was a fairy harp, and it called out loudly: “Master, master, master;” and, although the ogre was snoring so noisily that it was like the sound of a hundred dragons roaring at once, yet to Jack’s dismay and horror he heard the voice of his harp, and, starting to his feet with a bellow of anger, rushed after the daring thief.

Jack ran faster than he had ever run in his life before—still carrying the precious harp—while the ogre ran after him, shouting and roaring and making such a noise that it sounded like a thousand thunder storms all going at once. If he had not drunk so much wine for supper, the ogre must very soon have caught Jack; but as it was, the wine had got into his head, and so he could not run nearly so fast as usual, and Jack reached the beanstalk just in front of him.

It was a very close shave. Jack slid down the beanstalk at his top speed, calling at the top of his voice for his mother to fetch him an axe. The ogre came tumbling down the beanstalk after him; but Jack seized the axe and chopped the beanstalk off close to the root. Down came the beanstalk, down came the ogre, and falling headlong into the garden he was killed on the spot.

After this, Jack quite gave up his lazy, idle ways, and he and his mother, with the magic hen and the wonderful harp, lived in happiness and prosperity the rest of their lives.

JABS 8 - Endpiece

The good fairy watched over Jack and his Mother

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FFT-Cover

ISBN: 9788834188941
URL/Download Link: https://bit.ly/2V5riZv

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TAGS: #Favorite, #favourite, #fairytales, #folklore, #mythsandlegends, #childrensbooks, #childrensstories, #fables, #motherswithchildren, #motherstobe, #parentswithchildren, #childrensgifts, #grandparents, #SnowWhite, #UglyDuckling, #Aladdin, #MagicalLamp, #MagicLantern, #SleepingBeauty, #PussInBoots, #TomThumb, #ThreeBears, #LittleMatchGirl, #BeautyAndTheBeast, #Cinderella, #Jack, #GiantKiller, #jackandtheBeanstalk, #DickWhittington, #Cat, #Bluebeard, #RedRidingHood, #SindbadTheSailor, #HanselAndGretel, #GooseGirl, #magicbeans, #beanstalk, #climb, #ogre, #giant, #goldeneggs, #goldenharp. #moneybags, #wealth, #cutdown, #giantslayer, #deadgiant, #happyeverafter, #wealthy, #magichen,

From Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages translated from the compiled works of Dr. W. Wägner

Tristram Teaches Isolde to Play Guitar
Tristram Teaches Isolde To Play The Guitar.

 

TRUSTY RUAL AND HIS FOSTER-SON

A furious battle was raging before the gates of the castle, for Rivalin, the lord of the place, was fighting against Morgan, his feudal superior, whose oppression had grown too great to be borne. Within the castle, Blancheflur, Rivalin’s wife, was praying fervently for her husband’s safety, as she clasped in her weak arms her little son that had been born while the din of battle filled the air.

All day long it lasted. In the evening, Rual, the marshal, hurried back into the castle bleeding, and called to his wife to save what she could, and make ready for instant flight, for King Rivalin had fallen, and the enemy threatened to blockade the castle. Queen Blancheflur heard what he said, and with a piercing cry fell back dead. Rual, seeing that nothing could be done for her, hurried the other women in their preparations, and, heedless of his own untended wounds, made ready to fly with his master’s child to a place of safety.

But while they hastened to obey the marshal, it was already too late—the castle was surrounded, and no way of escape remained. They carried the dead queen to another room, and the marshal’s wife took the baby for her own. The servants were all faithful, and when Morgan took the castle soon afterwards, he never guessed that Rivalin had left a living child. The victorious king, who honoured Rual for his fidelity to his late master, made him governor of the kingdom he had just subdued, and then went back to his own place.

Time passed on, and the foster-parents were delighted with the good qualities their pupil developed. They had had him christened Tristram, or Tristan (Sorrowful), because of the sad circumstances that had attended his birth. Rual himself taught him all knightly exercises, and got him tutors to instruct him in music, languages, and many other accomplishments.

One day some foreign merchants landed on the coast, and offered their wares for sale. Young Tristram often went down to see them, and questioned them about their country, and about the many strange lands they visited. The boy’s unusual beauty and the great knowledge he possessed aroused their cupidity. They determined to steal him, and sell him in some foreign country where he would bring a good price. So once, when he was on board their ship, they quietly raised the anchor, and set sail. Rual pursued them, but they escaped, owing to the greater swiftness of their vessel. Another danger, however, threatened to overwhelm them. A terrific storm came on, worse than any they had ever encountered before. They thought it a sign of God’s wrath, and were filled with fear and awe. In the perturbation of their souls they swore to set the boy free, and they kept their word. They put him ashore on an unknown coast, feeling assured that with his uncommon gifts he would soon make a livelihood. They were not mistaken. A troup of pilgrims happening to pass that way, Tristram joined them, and accompanied them to the court of King Mark of Cornwall. The king took the boy into his service as page, and grew very fond of him.

Meantime Rual had sought his foster-son everywhere, and was broken-hearted at not being able to find him, or hear any news of him. He wandered from one country to another, begging his way. At last, footsore and weary, he arrived at King Mark’s court. Tristram greeted him with joy, and took him to the king.

When Mark heard who the supposed beggar was, he exclaimed angrily:

“What! Are you the former marshal of the traitor Rivalin, who stole away my sister Blancheflur?”

“Sire,” replied Rual, “love made him do so. The Lady Blancheflur had been secretly married to my master before she went away from here. She and her husband are both dead, and this youth,” laying his hand on Tristram’s shoulder, “whom I have brought up from his infancy, and whom I have sought for years, is their only child.”

The king was astonished to hear this tale, and was pleased to find that his favourite page was in reality his nephew. Rual remained in Cornwall with his foster-son, for, his wife being dead, he did not care to return home, and again endure Morgan’s despotic sway.

Tristram grew up to be a tall and handsome man, a brave warrior, and a noble knight, as much beloved in peace as in war. But although he lived a full and joyous life, he could not forget his native land, and often mourned over the thought that his fellow-countrymen and rightful subjects groaned under the tyranny of a foreign oppressor. He at last explained his feelings on the subject to his uncle, who gave him men and ships, telling him to go and set his people free, but making him promise to return to Cornwall afterwards, as he had appointed him to succeed him on the throne.

The expedition was successful. Morgan was defeated and slain, and Tristram was crowned King of Parmenia. He remained for a year longer in his native land, settling all differences, and arranging matters for the good of his subjects. Having done this, he made Rual governor of the realm, and returned to Cornwall as he had promised.

ISOLDE (YSEULT, ISOUD)

On his arrival there, he found everyone in great distress. King Gurmun of Ireland had, during his absence, invaded Cornwall, and, with the help of his brother-in-law Morolt, a powerful chief and great warrior, had subdued the country, and forced King Mark to pay him tribute; and a shameful tribute it was. By the treaty with Gurmun, the Cornish king was bound to send thirty handsome boys of noble birth to Ireland every year, to be sold as slaves for the benefit of the Irish king. On the very day of Tristram’s return, Mark was about to deliver the thirty boys into the hands of grim Morolt, Gurmun’s messenger, who had come to receive them.

Tristram was very angry when he heard the news, and told the knights they were cowards ever to have consented to such an arrangement. Then going straight to Morolt, he tore up the treaty, saying it was too inhuman to be kept. Morolt’s only answer was to draw his sword and challenge him to single combat. He accepted, and the fight began. After some time, Morolt, having severely wounded Tristram, cried:

“Yield, Sir Tristram: I feel pity for your youth. Yield, and my sister, Queen Isolde, shall cure your wound, for she alone can heal a wound made by my poisoned blade.”

“Death rather,” exclaimed the young knight, and making a mighty effort, he split his adversary’s head open from crown to jaw.

This settled the matter. The Irish returned home sadly, bearing with them the corpse of their hero, while the victor went back to his uncle’s palace. His wound was washed and bound, but it would not heal. It continued to fester, in spite of the use of balm, and other herbs of well-known excellence. An experienced doctor who was called in to see the patient, said that only the Irish queen Isolde, and her daughter of the same name, possessed the art of drawing such poison out of a wound. So Tristram determined to go to Ireland in the guise of a minstrel, and seek healing at the hands of the queen, although he knew that Gurmun had sworn to kill him and every Cornishman who had the misfortune to fall into his hands.

At length he reached the Irish court, and there he played and sang so beautifully that the queen sent for him, and begged him to teach his art to her young daughter Isolde. The minstrel found the princess an attentive pupil; and while teaching her, and listening to her sweet voice as she sang some plaintive ditty, he would even forget for a time the pain of his wound. And she, in learning from him, learnt to love him with all the strength of her innocent young heart.

The days went on, and the pain of his wound grew worse and worse. Then he told the queen of his suffering, and asked her to heal him. This she at once consented to do, and a few weeks later he was cured. He now sang with greater power than before, and the king was so charmed with his music that he would have liked to keep him forever at his court. But, fearful of discovery, Tristram determined to be gone while yet there was time.

On his return to Cornwall, he was joyfully received by all except the great lords, who foresaw that King Mark would make him his heir, and they did not wish to have a foreigner to rule over them. They wished the king to marry, and Tristram, finding what was in their minds, himself advised his uncle to choose a wife, saying that the Princess Isolde of Ireland would be the most suitable person for him to wed. After some deliberation, it was agreed that Tristram should go to King Gurmun as his uncle’s ambassador, to ask for the hand of the princess.

Arrived in Ireland, he set out for the royal residence. On the way he heard heralds proclaiming that the king would give his daughter in marriage to whoever slew a dragon that was devastating the land, provided he who rescued the country were of noble birth.

Tristram sought out the dragon, and, after a long struggle, killed it; then cutting out the tongue of the creature, as a proof that he had really slain it, he turned to go; but the pestiferous breath of the monster so overpowered him, that he sank backward into the morass out of which the dragon had come.

Tristram slays the dragon
Tristram slays the dragon

Struggle as he might, he could not free himself, for he had sunk up to the shoulders. While in this miserable plight, he saw a horseman approach, cut off the head of the dead monster, and then ride away.

The horseman was sewer (head waiter) at the palace. He showed the king the dragon’s head, and boldly demanded the meed of victory. The queen, who knew the man well, and held him to be a coward, did not believe his tale; so she went with her train to the dragon’s hole, and discovered the real hero in the morass. His bloody sword, and the dragons tongue showed that it was he who had done the deed. He was quite insensible when he was taken out of the morass and carried to the palace. The princess at once recognised him to be the minstrel who had before visited Ireland, and hoped that his birth was sufficiently good to enable him to win the prize. The queen gave him a sleeping potion, and told him to keep quiet. Then taking her daughter into the next room, she showed her the horrible tongue of the lind-worm, and the sword with which the creature was slain.

“Look,” she said, “the minstrel is the real hero of this adventure, and not that cowardly sewer.”

She left the room, adding that the truth would soon be known. Isolde took up the sword and examined it. She saw that a bit of the blade was broken off.

“Merciful heaven,” she cried, “surely he cannot be the——” She ceased, and took from a drawer the splinter of steel she had drawn out of the wound on her uncle’s head. She fitted the splinter to the blade, and saw that it was as she had feared.

“Ha,” she went on, trembling with anger, “he is the murderer of my uncle Morolt. He must die, die by my hand, and be slain with his own weapon.”

Seizing the sword in a firmer grip, she went into the room where Tristram was sleeping, and swung the sword over his head; but as she did so, he smiled as in a happy dream, and she could not do the deed. Then it seemed to her that she saw her uncle looking at her reproachfully, and she nerved her heart to strike, but at that moment her hand was seized by her mother, who had entered unnoticed.

“Wretched child,” she cried, “what are you doing? Are you mad?”

Isolde told the queen that this was Tristram, her uncle’s murderer; and the mother answered:

“I loved my brother dearly, but I cannot revenge him, for this man has saved our people from the dragon, and a nation is worth more than a single man, however dear to our hearts.”

Isolde confessed that her mother was right, and let her resentment die.

When Tristram had recovered, he did not show the dragon’s tongue in proof of what he had done, but challenged the sewer to trial by combat. Now the man had often fought before, but when he saw Tristram come forth to meet him in the lists, his heart died within him, and he confessed his guilt. King Gurmun thereupon ordered the recreant knight’s shield to be broken, and sent him forth a banished man.

Tristram then fetched the dragon’s tongue, and was at once proclaimed victor amid the acclamation of the people.

Great was the astonishment of all, when Tristram, instead of claiming the princess’ hand, proceeded to woo her for his uncle King Mark, of Cornwall. Gurmun had such a dislike to King Mark that he would have refused him as a son-in-law point-blank, if Queen Isolde had not taken part in the debate, and shown the wisdom of giving way. So Tristram received a gracious answer from the king, and was content. No one thought of asking the maiden if she were willing to marry the old king of Cornwall. She was a princess, and princesses were never allowed a choice, when reasons of State demanded that they should marry some particular person.

THE LOVE-POTION

The princess went on board Tristram’s vessel, which was about to sail for Cornwall. Her dresses and jewels were there also, and as soon as her old nurse and faithful companion came down to the ship, they were to set sail. Brangäne was closeted with the queen, who wished to say a few last words in private.

“Look, Brangäne,” said the mother, “take this goblet, and keep it carefully. It contains a drink made of the expressed juices of certain plants, and is a love-potion. See that my daughter and her husband both drink it on their marriage day, and all will yet be well.”

The nurse promised to be careful, and took leave of the queen.

Wind and weather were favourable to the voyagers. One day when Tristram had been singing and playing to the princess for a long time, and trying his best to distract her thoughts from dwelling on her dead uncle, her old home, and the unknown future, he became so thirsty that before beginning another song he was fain to ask for something to drink. One of the attendants opened a cupboard, and finding there a goblet with a drink all ready prepared, supposed that the nurse had made it in case it were wanted, and took it to Tristram, who handed the cup first to Isolde that she might pledge him, as was the custom. The princess raised the cup to her lips and drank a little; but finding it very good, she put it to her lips again, and drank half the contents. Then she returned it to Tristram, who finished it at a draught.

Their eyes met, and they knew that they loved each other.

When Brangäne came in a few minutes later, and saw the empty goblet upon the table, she burst into tears, and bemoaned what had occurred, saying that the queen had given her the love-potion to administer to Isolde and King Mark upon their wedding-day. But the princess comforted her by asserting that no harm was done, for human beings had free will, and could struggle against enchantment. And struggle they did; but their love was strong.

The ship reached the harbour, and King Mark came down to meet his nephew and his bride. He was much pleased with the appearance of the princess, whom he welcomed with all ceremony. The marriage took place, and King Mark thought himself a happy man.

All went on quietly for some time, so carefully did the nurse conceal her lady’s love for Sir Tristram; but after a time people began to whisper, and at length the whisper reached the ears of the king. At first he would not believe the truth of what he heard, but afterwards the thing was proved to him so clearly that he could no longer doubt. He determined to bring the lovers to trial. Meanwhile Brangäne had discovered that the king knew all; she therefore warned Tristram, and fled into the forest with him and Isolde. There they hid themselves in a cave for a long time. But winter was coming on, and the nurse feared for her darling’s life if she remained in such a place during the frost and snow.

Tristam Kneeled before Isolde
Tristram kneels before Isolde

One day as they were talking over what were best to be done, King Mark suddenly appeared amongst them. Brangäne stepped forward, and assured him that the stories that he had been told were all gossip; and the king, who loved both Tristram and Isolde, willingly believed her, and took them home with him.

But the effect of the philter had not yet passed off, nor had the young people conquered their love. Whispers again arose about the court, and Tristram could not call any of the whisperers to account, for he knew that he had dishonoured the name of knight, and had ill repaid his uncle’s kindness. Isolde, too, was miserable. They both made up their minds that they must part, and as they said farewell, it was with the fervent hope that the magic potion would have lost its power by the time they met again.

Tristram went away. He wandered through Normandy and Alemannia; he fought many battles, and led a bold, adventurous life, but he could not forget Isolde. At last he came to the kingdom of Arundel, and there he found King Jovelin and his son Kaedin hiding in a thatched cottage in a great forest, from the bands of robbers who had overrun the land. It was late in the evening when he arrived at the solitary house, where he met with a kind reception. The lovely daughter of his host, curiously enough, was also named Isolde, to which was added the appellation of “la blanche mains.” It did him good to be with the maiden and her father. He promised them his aid, and for this purpose went to visit his own kingdom. There he found his presence much wanted, for old Rual was dead, and all was confusion in the land. His first action was to re-establish order and good government, after which he called out his troops, and marched to Arundel to help King Jovelin. He fought the robbers there, chased them out of the land, replaced the king on his throne, and made friends with Kaedin. Weeks passed, and he became engaged to Isolde of the white hand. He vainly hoped that being married to another woman would cure him of his love for the Queen of Cornwall, and he knew that the princess loved him.

His betrothal did not bring him peace. His affection for the Lady Isolde grew no stronger, so in despair he put off his marriage, and, unable to feign a love he did not feel, went out to seek death at the hands of the robber hordes that had again invaded the country. He conquered them, and forced them to fly. On his return from this expedition, his marriage day was fixed; but one evening he was induced to accompany his friend Kaedin on a dangerous adventure, and during the combat to which this led, he received a spear thrust in the breast. He fell senseless to the ground. Kaedin carried him out of the fight, and took him home to the palace, where Isolde succeeded in bringing him to himself again.

Every one hoped that he would soon recover from his wound; but instead of that he grew worse. One day he said that the Queen of Cornwall had a remedy that would cure him, if she could only be induced to bring it. Kaedin at once set off for Cornwall to appeal to her compassion. No sooner had the queen heard his tale than she persuaded King Mark to let her go to Arundel, and cure his nephew. Armed with his permission, she started on her long journey by sea and land, and never rested till she arrived at King Jovelin’s palace. There she was greeted with the sad words, “You have come too late—he is dying.” They led her to his couch, and she knelt down and took his hand. A slight pressure showed that he knew who she was; next moment he opened his eyes, gazed at her with a sad and loving look, and then died. She bent over him and kissed him, and in that kiss her spirit passed away. They were buried three days later under the same grave-mound in the distant land of Arundel.

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EPaRotMA-Cover

Tristram and Isolde – A Free Romance from Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages

Translated from the compiled works of Dr. W. Wägner.

ISBN: 9788834192702

URL/Download Link:  http://bit.ly/2t2usSv

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From the eBook “The Rainbow Cat” by Rose Fyleman

 

THERE was once a prince who was very brave, good and handsome. He was quite young, too, and before he settled down to learning how to rule the kingdom which would one day be his, he was sent by his father out a-travelling into the world.

 

The king gave his son a beautiful white horse and a bagful of big gold pieces, and told him to come back when the money was all spent.

 

His mother made him a blue velvet mantle embroidered with silver, and she also gave him a hat with a blue feather in it.

 

“I want my son to look nice when he goes out riding into the world,” she said.

 

HE RODE AWAY ON HIS WHITE HORSE AND WAVED TO HIS MOTHER AND FATHER
He rode away on his white horse and turned to wave his hand to his mother and father
before he went over the hill-top.

 

“How handsome he looks,” said his mother, wiping away a tear or two.

 

“Well, that’s nothing to cry about,” said his father, and blew his nose. Then they went back into the palace and continued ruling.

 

The prince rode on and on.

 

Wherever he went people were very nice to him, even when he got beyond the borders of his own kingdom where he was no longer known.

 

It is not every day that a handsome prince comes riding along on a white horse, and moreover with a bagful of fine gold pieces to spend.

 

All the girls ran out to look at him as he passed, and when he stayed anywhere, even for a short time, people seemed to get to know about it at once and asked him to their houses and gave grand parties in his honour and made so much of him altogether that he was in some danger of getting thoroughly spoiled.

 

But he had been very well brought up, and he had a naturally amiable disposition.

 

Besides, he had always been told by his mother that if you are a prince you must try hard to behave as a prince should, and be modest, considerate, and very polite to everyone.

 

One morning close on midday, he came to a tiny village which he did not know at all.

 

He was rather hungry after his ride, and as he passed down the narrow little street he became aware of a delicious smell of new bread.

 

It came from the open door of the village baker’s, and as he glanced in he saw a pile of beautiful, crisp new rolls heaped up in a big white basket.

 

He got down off his horse and went in.

 

“I should like to buy one of those nice little rolls,” he said to the baker’s daughter, who stood behind the counter.

 

She was very pretty. She had blue, shining eyes and fair smooth hair, and when she smiled it was like sunshine on a flowery meadow.

 

The prince ate up his roll and then another and yet another, and while he ate he talked to the baker’s daughter. But no one can eat more than three rolls one after another, and at last he felt that the time had come to pay for what he had had and ride on his way.

 

But, as it happened, he had no small change, nothing but a gold piece such as those which he had in his bag.

 

The baker’s daughter hadn’t enough money in the whole shop to change such a big gold piece, her father having set off that very morning with all the money in the till in order to buy a sack of flour from the miller in the next village.

The Prince sampled a cake from the Bakers daughter
The Prince sampled the girls wares

She had never even seen so large a gold coin before. She wanted to give him the rolls for nothing, but of course he wouldn’t hear of that, and when he said it didn’t matter about the change she wouldn’t hear of that either.

 

“Then there’s nothing for it,” said the prince, “but for me to stay in the village until I have eaten as much as my gold piece will pay for.”

 

As a matter of fact he was really quite glad of an excuse to stay, the baker’s daughter was so very pretty, and he was getting a little tired of travelling.

 

He pottered about in the bakehouse all the afternoon and watched her making the dough for her delicious rolls.

 

He even offered to help her.

 

His blue mantle got rather floury, but he didn’t mind that in the least.

 

The baker’s daughter was rather worried that such a fine gentleman should get in such a mess.

 

She didn’t know he was a prince, otherwise she might have been more worried still.

 

In the evening, when the baker returned, the prince asked if he could put him up for a couple of nights.

 

The baker was a kindly and simple old soul. “Gladly, gladly,” he said, rubbing his hands together and smiling, for the village was a small one and they were very poor, and he was glad to make a little extra money.

 

The prince stayed a whole week at the baker’s house. By that time, what with the bread he had eaten—though he was careful not to eat much and always to choose the cheapest—and the price of his lodging, about half of the gold piece was spent, and the baker’s daughter was able to give him the change from the money she had taken in the shop.

 

So he had no excuse for staying any longer, which grieved him because he had grown very fond of the baker’s daughter and did not like leaving her.

 

But he had an idea that his mother and father would not think her a very suitable bride for him, for princes cannot always marry whom they please, and so he rode sadly away.

 

But the farther he went the sadder he became, and at the end of two months he could bear it no longer, and so one fine morning he turned his horse’s head round and rode back again the way he had come.

 

“She is good and clever and beautiful,” he said. “What more can one want in a wife? When my mother and father see her they will love her as much as I do and will be quite willing that I should marry her.” Which really was very optimistic of him.

 

But alas, when he came to the village and sought the baker’s shop, he was met by strange faces.

 

The baker had died a month since, he was told, and his daughter had left the village and gone out into the world to work for her living, for she could not manage the bakehouse by herself and there was none to help her now that her father was gone.

 

The prince was very, very troubled and unhappy. He tried to find out something more about her, but his efforts were fruitless; no one seemed to know what had become of her.

 

“I will search the world over till I find her,” he said, “even if it take me the whole of my life.”

 

He wandered on and on, always making fresh inquiries, always hoping to hear something of his lost love, but always in vain.

 

And at last he got back to his own kingdom.

 

When his mother and father saw him they were horrified to find how pale and thin he had grown.

 

“Travelling doesn’t seem to suit you, my son,” said his father, looking at him rather seriously and stroking his beard.

 

“The poor boy is tired out,” said his mother. “He’ll look better when he’s had a good rest and some proper food. I don’t suppose he’s ever had a really wholesome meal in those foreign parts.”

 

But the prince remained thin and sad and listless, and at last he told his father and mother the cause of his unhappiness. At first they were a little upset at the idea of his wanting to marry so humble a person as the daughter of a village baker—“But that of course,” thought the prince, “is only because they don’t know her.”

 

And after a time, when they saw how unhappy he was and that all the distractions with which they provided him were unavailing, and that his one idea was to go out into the world again and search for the baker’s daughter, they were so troubled that they felt they would be only too glad if he could have the wish of his heart fulfilled.

 

And then one day as the prince was sitting quietly at breakfast with his parents he jumped up suddenly with an expression of the greatest excitement and joy.

 

“What is it, my son?” said his astonished mother.

 

The prince couldn’t speak for a moment. For one thing he was too excited, and for another his mouth was full of bread, and I told you before how well brought up he was.

 

But he pointed to the dish of breakfast rolls and kept on nodding his head and swallowing as hard as he could.

 

The king and queen thought at first that sorrow had affected his brain, but the prince was able to explain very soon. “The rolls, the rolls,” he said. “Her rolls, hers. No one else could make them so good. She must be here.” And he rushed off to the kitchen without further ado.

 

And there, sure enough, he found the baker’s daughter, peeling potatoes over the sink.

 

By the merest chance she had taken a place as kitchen-maid in the king’s palace, though she hadn’t the faintest idea, when she did so, that the king’s son was the same person as the handsome stranger who had once stayed in her father’s house.

 

And though she had been there a month she had never seen him. How should she? King’s palaces are big places, and the kitchen-maids stay in the kitchen premises, so that she and the prince might never have come face to face at all if it had not happened that, owing to the illness of the royal roll-maker, she had undertaken to make the breakfast rolls that morning.

 

When the king and queen saw how sweet and beautiful she was they made no objection to her as a bride for their son, and so he asked her at once to marry him, which she consented to do, for she loved him as much as he loved her.

 

“I don’t know that I should have chosen a baker’s daughter for our son’s wife,” said the queen to her husband when they talked it over that evening. “But she’s certainly a charming girl, and quite nice people go into business nowadays.”

 

“She’ll make him an excellent wife,” said the king. “Those rolls were delicious.”

 

So they got married quite soon after. The wedding was a rather quiet one because the bride was in mourning for her father, whom she had loved dearly. All the same, it was a very nice affair, and everybody was most jolly and gay. The prince and his wife had a beautiful house not very far from the palace, and I think it is extremely likely that they lived happily ever after.

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THE PRINCE AND THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER – A Free Story

From the eBook “The Rainbow Cat” by Rose Fyleman

ISBN: 9788835349068

URL/DownLoad Link: http://bit.ly/2ScrFPj

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TAGS: #Rainbowcat, #adventure, #action, #baker, #banquet, #beautiful, #bottom, #bramble-bush, #castle, #Cat, #Chief, #children, #daughter, #fairies, #fairy, #FairyGiant, #Fairyland, #flowers, #frightened, #gentleman, #giant, #giantess, #gold, #golden, #Golden-bright, #hawthorn, #King, #kingdom, #ladies, #laughter, #magic horse, #magic moon, #mandolin, #Marigold, #marriage, #Mellidora, #palace, #prince, #Princess, #Queen, #Rainbow, #river, #Rondel, #schoolmaster, #silver, #sunshine, #Tree-goblins, #valley, #wicked witch, #wife, #wizard, #rosefyleman

A Free Story from Abela Publishing

From “This Way to Christmas” by Ruth Sawyer

 

Two months had passed since David had come to the Hill Country—two months in which he had thrown himself with all the stoutness of heart he could muster into the new life and the things Johanna had promised. He had spent long, crisp November days with Barney in the woods, watching him fell the trees marked for fire-wood and learning to use his end of a cross-cut saw. When the snow came and the lumber roads were packed hard for sledding he had shared in the driving of the team and the piling of the logs. He had learned to skee and to snow-shoe; already he had dulled his skates on the pond above the beaver dam. Yet in spite of all these things, in spite of Barney’s good-natured comradeship and Johanna’s faithful care and love, the ache in his heart had grown deeper until his loneliness seemed to shut him in like the snow-capped hills about him. And now it was seven days before Christmas—and not a word had been said concerning it.

a-country-christmas

Christmas in the Hill Country

David had begun to wonder if in all that country of bare hilltops and empty valleys, of snow and fir-tree and wild creature, there was anything out of which one could possibly make a Christmas. And slowly the conviction had been borne in upon him that there was not. The very thought of the toy-stores in the city, of the windows with their displays of Christmas knickknacks, of the street booths covered with greens, of what the boys on the block were doing and talking about, of the memories of all the other Christmases that had been, brought unspeakable pangs to his soul. He wondered how he was ever going to stand it—this Christmas that was no Christmas.

And this is how it happened that at dusk-hour, seven days before Christmas, a very low-spirited boy of eight—going-on-nine—sat curled up on the window-seat of the lodge, looking out through the diamond panes and wishing with all his heart that he was somebody else in some other place and that it was some other time of the year.

Barney was always bedding down the horses at this time and Johanna was getting supper; and as there was never anything in particular for David to do it had become a custom with him to watch for the lighting of the lamps in the cabins of the “heathen.” There were four cabins—only one was a cottage; and he could see them all from the lodge by a mere change of position or window. Somehow he liked them, or thought he should like them if he knew them, in spite of all the unalluring things Johanna had said about them. According to her the families who lived in them were outcasts, speaking strange tongues and worshiping strange gods, and quite unfit to cross the door-steps of honest Christian folk. David hardly knew whether Barney shared this opinion or not. Barney teased Johanna a good deal and laughed at her remarks every time she aired her grievance: that there should be no decent neighbors like themselves on all that barren hilltop. In his own heart David clung persistently to the feeling that he should like them all if he ever got near enough to make their acquaintance.

It was always the “lunger’s” lamp that shone out first in the dusk. David could usually tell to the minute when it would be lighted by watching the shadow on the foot-hill. Johanna was uncertain from what country these neighbors had come, but she thought it was Portugal. And Portuguese! Words always failed her when she tried to convey to David the exact place that Portuguese held among the heathen; but he was under the impression that it must be very near the top. One of these neighbors was sick with bad lungs, so his family had come to try the open-air cure of the hills; and they had been here since early spring. David never saw their tiny spark of a light spring out against the dark of the gathering gloom that he did not make a wish that the “lunger” might be a good deal better the next day.

Across the ridge from the foot-hill lay the lumber-camp, and here David always looked for the second light. The camp was temporarily deserted, the company having decided to wait a year or two before cutting down any more timber, and the loggers had been sent to another camp farther north. Only the cook, an old negro, had remained behind to guard the property from fire and poachers, and he it was that lighted in his shack the solitary lamp that sent its twinkling greeting up to David every night.

Straight down the hill shone the third light from the trapper’s cabin, and it was always close to dark before that was lighted. What the trapper’s nationality was Johanna had never happened to specify; but she had often declared that he was one of those bad-looking dark men from the East—Asia, perhaps; and she had not a doubt that he had come to the woods to escape the law. David’s mental picture of him was something quite dreadful; and yet when his light sprang out of the dark and twinkled at him up the white slope he always found himself desperately sorry for the trapper, alone by himself with the creatures he had trapped or shot—and his thoughts.

The fourth light came through another window, shining up from the opposite slope of the hill—the slope that led toward the station and the village beyond. This was the flagman’s light and it hung in the little hut by the junction where the main railroad crossed the circuit line. It was always lighted when David looked for it, and he always sat watching until he should see the colored signal-lights swing out on the track beyond, for then he knew the flagman’s work was over for the day—that is, if all was well on the road. It happened sometimes, however, that there was a snow-slide down the ravine above the crossing, or sometimes a storm uprooted a tree and hurled it across the track, and then the flagman was on guard all night. Now, the flagman was German; and Johanna’s voice always took on a particularly forbidding and contemptuous tone whenever she spoke of him. David had often marveled at this, for in the city his father had friends who were German and they were very good friends. Once David had spoken his mind:

“I don’t see why you call him a heathen, Johanna, just because he was born in the country that’s making the war. It wasn’t his fault—and I don’t see why that’s any reason for treating him as if he had made the trouble himself.”

“Well, how do ye think we’d be treated if we were over there now in that heathen’s country? Sure, ye wouldn’t find them loving us any to speak of.” Johanna’s lips had curled scornfully. “Ye can take my word for it, laddy, if we were there the same as he’s here we would be counting ourselves lucky to be alive at all, and not expecting to be asked in for any tea-drinking parties.”

It troubled David, none the less, this strange unfriendliness of Johanna’s; and this night the weight of it hung particularly heavy upon him. He turned back to his window-nook with a heart made heavier by this condition of alienage. No family, no neighbors, no Christmas—it was a dreary outlook; and he could not picture a single face or a single hearthside behind those four lights that blinked at him in such a friendly fashion.

A dozen yards from the Trappers cabin

They posted the sign a dozen yards from the Trappers cabin

He realized suddenly that he was very tired. Half the day he had spent clearing a space on the beaver pond big enough for skating; and clearing off a day’s fall of snow with a shovel and a broom is hard work. He leaned against the window niche and pillowed his head on his arm. He guessed he would go to bed right after supper. Wouldn’t it be fun now, if he could wish himself into one of those cabins, whichever one he chose, and see what was happening there this minute? If he had found the locked-out fairy Johanna had talked so much about he might have learned wishing magic from him. What had happened to the fairy, anyway? Of course it was half a tale and half a joke; nevertheless the locked-out fairy had continued to seem very real to him through these two months of isolation, and wherever he had gone his eye had been always alert for some sign of him. Unbelievable as it may seem, the failure to find him had brought keen disappointment. David had speculated many times as to where he might be living, where he would find his food, how he would keep himself warm. A fairy’s clothes were very light, according to Johanna. Undoubtedly he had come over in just his green jerkin and knee-breeches, with stockings and slippers to match; and these were not fit covering for winter weather like this.

David smiled through half-shut eyes. The fairy might steal a pelt from the trapper’s supply; that would certainly keep him warm; and if he were anything of a tailor he could make himself a cap and a coat in no time. Or, better yet, he might pick out one that just fitted him and creep into it without having to make it over; a mink’s skin would be about the right size, or a squirrel’s. His smile deepened at his own conceit. Then something in the dusk outside caught his eye. Some small creature was hopping across the snow toward the lodge.

David flattened his nose to the window to see better, and made out very distinctly the pointed ears, curved back, and long, bushy tail of a squirrel—a gray squirrel. At once he thought of some nuts in his jacket pocket, nuts left over from an after-dinner cracking. He dug for them successfully, and opening the window a little he dropped them out. Nearer came the squirrel, fearlessly eager, oblivious of the eyes that were watching him with growing interest. He reached the nuts and was nosing them about for the most appetizing when he sat up suddenly on his hind legs, clutching the nut of his choice between his forepaws, and cocking his head as he did so toward the window.

The effect on David was magical. He gave his eyes one insistent rub and then he opened the window wider.

“Come in,” he called, softly. “Please do come in!”

For he had seen under the alert little ears something quite different from the sharp nose and whiskers of the every-day squirrel. There were a pair of blue eyes that winked outrageously at him, while a round, smooth face wrinkled into smiles and a mouth knowingly grinned at him. It was the locked-out fairy at last!

He bobbed his head at David’s invitation, fastened his little white teeth firmly in the nut, and scrambled up the bush that grew just outside. A minute more and he was through the window and down beside David on the seat.

“Ah—ee, laddy, where have your eyes been this fortnight?” he asked. “I’ve whisked about ye and chattered down at ye from half a score o’ pine-trees—and ye never saw me!”

David colored shamefully.

“Never mind. ’Tis a compliment ye’ve been paying to my art,” and the fairy cocked his head and whisked his tail and hopped about in the most convincing fashion.

David held his sides and rocked back and forth with merriment. “It’s perfect,” he laughed; “simply perfect!”

“Aye, ’tis fair; but I’ve not mastered the knack o’ the tail yet. I can swing it grand, but I can’t curl it up stylish. I can fool the mortals easy enough, but ye should see the looks the squirrels give me sometimes when I’m after trying to show off before them.”

There was nothing but admiration in David’s look of response. “The coat fits you splendidly,” he said.

“Sure—’tis as snug as if it grew on me. But I miss my pockets, and I’m not liking the color as well as if it were green.”

David laughed again. “Why, I believe you are as Irish as Johanna.”

“And why shouldn’t I be? Faith, there are worse faults, I’m thinking. Now tell me, laddy, what’s ailing ye? Ye’ve been more than uncommon downhearted lately.”

“How did you know?”

“Could a wee fairy man be watching ye for a fortnight, coming and going, and not know?”

“Well, it’s lonesomeness; lonesomeness and Christmas.” David owned up to it bravely.

“’Tis easy guessing ye’re lonesome—that’s an ailment that’s growing chronic on this hillside. But what’s the matter with Christmas?”

“There isn’t any. There isn’t going to be any Christmas!” And having at last given utterance to his state of mind, David finished with a sorrowful wail.

“And why isn’t there, then? Tell me that.”

“You can’t make Christmas out of miles of snow and acres of fir-trees. What’s a boy going to do when there aren’t any stores or things to buy, or Christmas fixings, or people, and nobody goes about with secrets or surprises?”

The fairy pushed back the top of his head and the gray ears fell off like a fur hood, showing the fairy’s own tow head beneath. He reached for his thinking-lock and pulled it vigorously.

“I should say,” he said at last, “that a boy could do comfortably without them. Sure, weren’t there Christmases long before there were toy-shops? No, no, laddy. Christmas lies in the hearts and memories of good folk, and ye’ll find it wherever ye can find them!”

David shook his head doubtfully.

“I don’t see how that can be; but even suppose it’s true, there aren’t even good folk here.”

The fairy grinned derisively and wagged his furry paw in the direction of the lights shining on the hillside:

“What’s the meaning of that, and that, and that? Now I should be calling them good folk, the same as ye here.”

“Hush!” David looked furtively toward the door that led into the kitchen. “It wouldn’t do to let Johanna hear you. Why, she thinks—”

The fairy raised a silencing paw to his lips.

“Whist, there, laddy! If ye are after wanting to find Christmas ye’d best begin by passing on naught but kind sayings. Maybe ye are not knowing it, but they are the very cairn that mark the way to Christmas. Now I’ll drive a bargain with ye. If ye’ll start out and look for Christmas I’ll agree to help ye find the road to it.”

“Yes,” agreed David, eagerly.

“But there’s one thing ye must promise me. To put out of your mind for all time these notions that ye are bound to find Christmas hanging with the tinsel balls to the Christmas tree or tied to the end of a stocking. Ye must make up your mind to find it with your heart and not with your fingers and your eyes.”

“But,” objected David, “how can you have Christmas without Christmas things?”

“Ye can’t. But ye’ve got the wrong idea entirely about the things. Ye say now that it’s turkey and plum-cake and the presents ye give and the presents ye get; and I say ’tis thinkings and feelings and sayings and rememberings. I’m not meaning, mind ye, that there is anything the matter with the first lot, and there’s many a fine Christmas that has them in, but they’ll never make a Christmas of themselves, not in a thousand years. And what’s more, ye can do grand without them.”

David rubbed his forehead in abject bewilderment. It was all very hard to understand; and as far as he could see the fairy was pointing out a day that sounded like any ordinary day of the year and not at all like Christmas. But, thanks to Johanna, David had an absolute faith in the infallibility of fairies. If he said so it must be true; at least it was worth trying. So he held out his hand and the fairy laid a furry paw over the ball of his forefinger in solemn compact.

“It’s a bargain,” David said.

“It is that,” agreed the fairy. “And there’s nothing now to hinder my going.”

He pulled the gray ears over his tow head again until there was only a small part of fairy left.

“Don’t ye be forgetting,” he reminded David as he slipped through the window. “I’ll be on the watch out for ye the morrow.”

David watched him scramble down the bush, stopping a moment at the bottom to gather up the remainder of the nuts, which he stuffed away miraculously somewhere between his cheek and the fur. Then he raised a furry paw to his ear in a silent salute.

“Good-by,” said David, softly, “good-by. I’m so glad you came.”

And it seemed to him that he heard from over the snow the fairy’s good-by in Gaelic, just as Barney or Johanna might have said it: “Beanacht leat!

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TWtC_Front_Cover-w-border

THE LOCKED OUT FAIRY from the eBook THIS WAY TO CHRISTMAS by RUTH SAWYER.

ISBN: 9788835362913

URL/Download Link: https://bit.ly/2JTVpg4

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The Story of the Hewn Off Hand Title

From “The Oriental Story Book” by Wilhelm Hauff

 

I WAS born in Constantinople; my father was a Dragoman (Silk Merchant) of the Ottoman Porte, and carried on, besides, a tolerably lucrative trade in essences and silk goods. He gave me a good education, since he partly superintended it himself, and partly had me instructed by one of our priests. At first, he intended that I should one day take charge of his business: but since I displayed greater capacity than he expected, with the advice of his friends, he resolved that I should study medicine; for a physician, if he only knows more than a common quack, can make his fortune in Constantinople.

 

Many Frenchmen were in the habit of coming to our house, and one of them prevailed upon my father to let me go to the city of Paris, in his fatherland, where one could learn the profession gratuitously, and with the best advantages: he himself would take me with him, at his own expense, when he returned. My father, who in his youth had also been a traveller, consented, and the Frenchman told me to hold myself in readiness in three months. I was beside myself with delight to see foreign lands, and could not wait for the moment in which we should embark. At last the stranger had finished his business, and was ready to start.

 

On the evening preceding our voyage, my father conducted me into his sleeping apartment; there I saw fine garments and weapons lying on the table; but what most attracted my eye was a large pile of gold, for I had never before seen so much together. My father embraced me, and said,

 

“See, my son, I have provided thee with garments for thy journey. These weapons are thine; they are those which thy grandfather hung upon me, when I went forth into foreign lands. I know thou canst wield them; but use them not, unless thou art attacked; then, however, lay on with right good-will. My wealth is not great; see! I have divided it into three parts: one is thine; one shall be for my support, and spare money in case of necessity; the third shall be sacred and untouched by me, it may serve thee in the hour of need.” Thus spoke my old father, while tears hung in his eyes, perhaps from a presentiment, for I have never seen him since.

 

Our voyage was favorable; we soon reached the land of the Franks, and six days’ journey brought us to the large city, Paris. Here my French friend hired me a room, and advised me to be prudent in spending my money, which amounted to two thousand thalers. In this city I lived three years, and learned all that a well-educated physician should know. I would be speaking falsely, however, if I said that I was very happy, for the customs of the people pleased me not; moreover, I had but few good friends among them, but these were young men of nobility.

 

The longing after my native land at length became irresistible; during the whole time I had heard nothing from my father, and I therefore seized a favorable opportunity to return home. There was going an embassy from France to the Supreme Porte: I agreed to join the train of the ambassador as surgeon, and soon arrived once more at Stamboul (Istanbul).

 

My father’s dwelling, however, I found closed, and the neighbors, astonished at seeing me, said that my father had been dead for two months. The priest, who had instructed me in youth, brought me the key. Alone and forsaken, I entered the desolate house. I found all as my father had left it; but the gold which he promised to leave to me, was missing. I inquired of the priest respecting it, and he bowed and said:

 

“Your father died like a holy man, for he left his gold to the Church!”

This was incomprehensible to me; nevertheless, what could I do? I had no proofs against the priest, and could only congratulate myself that he had not also looked upon the house, and wares of my father, in the light of a legacy. This was the first misfortune that met me; but after this came one upon another. My reputation as a physician would not extend itself, because I was ashamed to play the quack; above all, I missed the recommendation of my father, who had introduced me to the richest and most respectable families; but now they thought no more of the poor Zaleukos. Moreover, the wares of my father found no sale, for his customers had been scattered at his death, and new ones came only after a long time. One day, as I was reflecting sorrowfully upon my situation, it occurred to me that in France I had often seen countrymen of mine, who travelled through the land, and exposed their goods at the market-places of the cities: I recollected that people gladly purchased of them, because they came from foreign lands; and that by such a trade, one could make a hundred-fold. My resolution was forthwith taken; I sold my paternal dwelling, gave a portion of the money obtained thereby to a tried friend to preserve for me, and with the remainder purchased such articles as were rare in France,—shawls, silken goods, ointments, and oils; for these I hired a place upon a vessel, and thus began my second voyage to France. It appeared as if fortune became favorable to me, the moment I had the Straits of the Dardanelles upon my back. Our voyage was short and prosperous. I travelled through the cities of France, large and small, and found, in all, ready purchasers for my goods. My friend in Stamboul continually sent me fresh supplies, and I became richer from day to day. At last when I had husbanded so well, that I believed myself able to venture on some more extensive undertaking, I went with my wares into Italy. I must, however, mention something that brought me in no little money; I called my profession also to my assistance. As soon as I arrived in a city I announced, by means of bills, that a Grecian physician was there, who had already cured many; and, truly, my balsam, and my medicines, had brought me in many a zechin.

 

Thus at last I reached the city of Florence, in Italy. I proposed to myself to remain longer than usual in this place, partly because it pleased me so well, partly, moreover, that I might recover from the fatigues of my journey. I hired myself a shop in the quarter of the city called St. Croce, and in a tavern not far therefrom, took a couple of fine rooms which led out upon a balcony. Immediately I had my bills carried around, which announced me as a physician and merchant. I had no sooner opened my shop than buyers streamed in upon me, and although I asked a tolerably high price, still I sold more than others, because I was attentive and friendly to my customers.

Well satisfied, I had spent four days in Florence, when one evening, after I had shut my shop, and according to custom was examining my stock of ointment-boxes, I found, in one of the smaller ones, a letter which I did not remember to have put in. I opened it and found therein an invitation to repair that night, punctually at twelve, to the bridge called the Ponte Vecchio. For some time I reflected upon this, as to who it could be that had thus invited me; as, however, I knew not a soul in Florence, I thought, as had often happened already, that one wished to lead me privately to some sick person. Accordingly I resolved to go; nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, I put on the sabre which my father had given me. As it was fast approaching midnight, I set out upon my way, and soon arrived at the Ponte Vecchio; I found the bridge forsaken and desolate, and resolved to wait until it should appear who had addressed me.

It was a cold night; the moon shone clear as I looked down upon the waters of the Arno, which sparkled in her light. On the church of the city the twelfth hour was sounding, when I looked up, and before me stood a tall man, entirely covered with a red cloak, a corner of which he held before his face. At this sudden apparition I was at first somewhat startled, but I soon recovered myself and said—

“If you have summoned me hither, tell me, what is your pleasure?”

The Red-mantle turned, and solemnly ejaculated, “Follow!”

My mind was nevertheless somewhat uneasy at the idea of going alone with this Unknown; I stood still and said, “Not so, dear sir; you will first tell me whither; moreover, you may show me your face a little, that I may see whether you have good intentions towards me.”

The Stranger, however, appeared not to be concerned thereat. “If thou wishest it not, Zaleukos, then remain!” answered he, moving away. At this my anger burned.

 

“Think you,” I cried, “that I will suffer a man to play the fool with me, and wait here this cold night for nothing?” In three bounds I reached him; crying still louder, I seized him by the cloak, laying the other hand upon my sabre; but the mantle remained in my hand, and the Unknown vanished around the nearest corner. My anger gradually cooled; I still had the cloak, and this should furnish the key to this strange adventure. I put it on, and moved towards home. Before I had taken a hundred steps, somebody passed very near, and whispered in the French tongue, “Observe, Count, to-night, we can do nothing.” Before I could look around, this somebody had passed, and I saw only a shadow hovering near the houses. That this exclamation was addressed to the mantle, and not to me, I plainly perceived; nevertheless, this threw no light upon the matter. Next morning I considered what was best to be done. At first I thought of having proclamation made respecting the cloak, that I had found it; but in that case the Unknown could send for it by a third person, and I would have no explanation of the matter. While thus meditating I took a nearer view of the garment. It was of heavy Genoese velvet, of dark red color, bordered with fur from Astrachan, and richly embroidered with gold. The gorgeousness of the cloak suggested to me a plan, which I resolved to put in execution. I carried it to my shop and offered it for sale, taking care, however, to set so high a price upon it, that I would be certain to find no purchaser. My object in this was to fix my eye keenly upon everyone who should come to inquire after it; for the figure of the Unknown, which, after the loss of the mantle, had been exposed to me distinctly though transiently, I could recognise out of thousands. Many merchants came after the cloak, the extraordinary beauty of which drew all eyes upon it; but none bore the slightest resemblance to the Unknown, none would give for it the high price of two hundred zechins. It was surprising to me, that when I asked one and another whether there was a similar mantle in Florence, all answered in the negative, and protested that they had never seen such costly and elegant workmanship.

 

It was just becoming evening, when at last there came a young man who had often been in there, and had also that very day bid high for the mantle; he threw upon the table a bag of zechins, exclaiming—

 

“By Heaven! Zaleukos, I must have your mantle, should I be made a beggar by it.” Immediately he began to count out his gold pieces. I was in a great dilemma; I had exposed the mantle, in order thereby to get a sight of my unknown friend, and now came a young simpleton to give the unheard-of price. Nevertheless, what remained for me? I complied, for on the other hand the reflection consoled me, that my night adventure would be so well rewarded. The young man put on the cloak and departed; he turned, however, upon the threshold, while he loosened a paper which was attached to the collar, and threw it towards me, saying, “Here, Zaleukos, hangs something, that does not properly belong to my purchase.” Indifferently, I received the note; but lo! these were the contents:—

 

“This night, at the hour thou knowest, bring the mantle to the Ponte Vecchio; four hundred zechins await thee!”

 

I stood as one thunder-struck: thus had I trifled with fortune, and entirely missed my aim. Nevertheless, I reflected not long; catching up the two hundred zechins, I bounded to the side of the young man and said, “Take your zechins again, my good friend, and leave me the cloak; I cannot possibly part with it.”

 

At first he treated the thing as a jest, but when he saw it was earnest, he fell in a passion at my presumption, and called me a fool; and thus at last we came to blows. I was fortunate enough to seize the mantle in the scuffle, and was already making off with it, when the young man called the police to his assistance, and had both of us carried before a court of justice. The magistrate was much astonished at the accusation, and adjudged the cloak to my opponent. I however, offered the young man twenty, fifty, eighty, at last a hundred, zechins, in addition to his two hundred, if he would surrender it to me. What my entreaties could not accomplish, my gold did. He took my good zechins, while I went off in triumph with the mantle, obliged to be satisfied with being taken for a madman by everyone in Florence. Nevertheless, the opinion of the people was a matter of indifference to me, for I knew better than they, that I would still gain by the bargain.

 

With impatience I awaited the night; at the same hour as the preceding day, I proceeded to the Ponte Vecchio, the mantle under my arm. With the last stroke of the clock, came the figure out of darkness to my side: beyond a doubt it was the man of the night before.

 

“Hast thou the cloak?” I was asked.

 

“Yes, sir,” I replied, “but it cost me a hundred zechins cash.”

“I know it,” rejoined he; “look, here are four hundred.” He moved with me to the broad railing of the bridge and counted out the gold pieces; brightly they glimmered in the moonshine, their lustre delighted my heart—ah! it did not foresee that this was to be its last joy. I put the money in my pocket, and then wished to get a good view of the generous stranger, but he had a mask before his face, through which two dark eyes frightfully beamed upon me.

 

“I thank you, sir, for your kindness,” said I to him; “what further desire you of me? I told you before, however, that it must be nothing evil.”

 

“Unnecessary trouble,” answered he, throwing the cloak over his shoulders; “I needed your assistance as a physician, nevertheless not for a living, but for a dead person.”

“How can that be?” exclaimed I in amazement.

 

“I came with my sister from a distant land,” rejoined he, at the same time motioning me to follow him, “and took up my abode with a friend of our family. A sudden disease carried off my sister yesterday, and our relations wished to bury her this morning. According to an old usage of our family, however, all are to repose in the sepulchre of our fathers; many who have died in foreign lands, nevertheless sleep there embalmed. To my relations now I grant the body, but to my father must I bring at least the head of his daughter, that he may see it once again.”

 

In this custom of severing the head from near relatives there was to me, indeed, something awful; nevertheless, I ventured to say nothing against it, through fear of offending the Unknown. I told him, therefore, that I was well acquainted with the art of embalming the dead, and asked him to lead me to the body. Notwithstanding, I could not keep myself from inquiring why all this must be done so secretly in the night. He answered me that his relations, who considered his purpose inhuman, would prevent him from accomplishing it by day; but only let the head once be cut off, and they could say little more about it: he could, indeed, have brought the head to me, but a natural feeling prevented him from cutting it off himself.

 

These words brought us to a large splendid house; my companion pointed it out to me as the termination of our nocturnal walk. We passed the principal door, and entering a small gate, which the stranger carefully closed after him, ascended, in the dark, a narrow, winding staircase. This brought us to a dimly-lighted corridor, from which we entered an apartment; a lamp, suspended from the ceiling, shed its brilliant rays around.

 

In this chamber stood a bed, on which lay the corpse; the Unknown turned away his face, as if wishing to conceal his tears. He beckoned me to the bed, and bidding me set about my business speedily yet carefully, went out by the door.

 

I seized my knives, which, as a physician, I constantly carried with me, and approached the bed. Only the head of the corpse was visible, but that was so beautiful that the deepest compassion involuntarily came over me. In long braids the dark hair hung down; the face was pale, the eyes closed. At first, I made an incision in the skin, according to the practice of surgeons when they remove a limb. Then I took my sharpest knife and cut entirely through the throat. But, horror! the dead opened her eyes—shut them again—and in a deep sigh seemed now, for the first time, to breathe forth her life! Straightway a stream of hot blood sprang forth from the wound. I was convinced that I had killed the poor girl; for that she was dead there could be no doubt—from such a wound there was no chance of recovering. I stood some moments in anxious wo, thinking on what had happened. Had the Red-mantle deceived me, or was his sister, perhaps, only apparently dead? The latter appeared to me more probable. Yet I dared not tell the brother of the deceased, that, perhaps, a less rash blow would have aroused, without having killed her; therefore I began to sever the head entirely—but once again the dying one groaned, stretched herself out in a convulsion of pain, and breathed her last. Then terror overpowered me, and I rushed shivering out of the apartment.

 

But outside in the corridor it was dark, for the lamp had died out; no trace of my companion was perceptible, and I was obliged to move along by the wall, at hazard in the dark, in order to reach the winding-stairs. I found them at last, and descended, half falling, half gliding. There was no one below; the door was only latched, and I breathed more freely when I was in the street, out of the uneasy atmosphere of the house. Spurred on by fear, I ran to my dwelling, and buried myself in the pillow of my bed, in order to forget the horrid crime I had committed. But sleep fled my eyelids, and soon morning admonished me again to collect myself. It seemed probable to me, that the man who had led me to this villainous deed, as it now appeared to me, would not denounce me. I immediately resolved to attend to my business in my shop, and to put on as careless an air as possible. But, alas! a new misfortune, which I now for the first time observed, augmented my sorrow. My cap and girdle, as also my knives, were missing; and I knew not whether they had been left in the chamber of the dead, or lost during my flight. Alas! the former seemed more probable, and they could discover in me the murderer.

 

I opened my shop at the usual time; a neighbor stepped in, as was his custom, being a communicative man. “Ah! what say you to the horrid deed,” he cried, “that was committed last night?” I started as if I knew nothing. “How! know you not that with which the whole city is filled? Know you not that last night, the fairest flower in Florence, Bianca, the daughter of the Governor, was murdered? Ah! only yesterday I saw her walking happily through the streets with her bridegroom, for to-day she would have had her nuptial festival!”

 

Every word of my neighbor was a dagger to my heart; and how often returned my torments! for each of my customers told me the story, one more frightfully than another; yet not one could tell it half so horribly as it had seemed to me. About mid-day, an officer of justice unexpectedly walked into my shop, and asked me to clear it of the bystanders.

 

“Signor Zaleukos,” said he, showing me the articles I had lost, “belong these things to you?” I reflected whether I should not entirely disown them; but when I saw through the half-opened door, my landlord and several acquaintances, who could readily testify against me, I determined not to make the matter worse by a falsehood, and acknowledged the articles exhibited as my own. The officer told me to follow him, and conducted me to a spacious building, which I soon recognised as the prison. Then, a little farther on, he showed me into an apartment.

 

My situation was terrible, as I reflected on it in my solitude. The thought of having committed a murder, even against my wish, returned again and again. Moreover, I could not conceal from myself that the glance of the gold had dazzled my senses; otherwise I would not have fallen so blindly into the snare.

 

Two hours after my arrest, I was led from my chamber, and after descending several flights of stairs, entered a spacious saloon. Around a long table hung with black, were seated twelve men, mostly gray with age. Along the side of the room, benches were arranged, on which were seated the first people of Florence. In the gallery, which was built quite high, stood the spectators, closely crowded together. As soon as I reached the black table, a man with a gloomy, sorrowful air arose—it was the Governor. He told the audience that, as a father, he could not judge impartially in this matter, and that he, for this occasion, would surrender his seat to the oldest of the senators. The latter was a gray-headed man, of at least ninety years. He arose, stooping beneath the weight of age; his temples were covered with thin white hair, but his eyes still burned brightly, and his voice was strong and steady. He began by asking me whether I confessed the murder. I entreated his attention, and with dauntless, distinct voice, related what I had done and all that I knew. I observed that the Governor during my recital turned first pale, then red, and when I concluded, became furious. “How, wretch!” he cried out to me, “wishest thou thus to lay upon another, the crime thy avarice has committed?”

 

The Senator rebuked him for his interruption, after having of his own free will resigned his right; moreover, that it was not so clear, that I had done the deed through avarice, for according to his own testimony, nothing had been taken from the corpse. Yes, he went still further; he told the Governor that he must give an account of his daughter’s early life, for in this way only could one conclude whether I had told the truth or not. Immediately he closed the court for that day, for the purpose, as he said, of consulting the papers of the deceased, which the Governor was to give him. I was carried back to my prison, where I passed a sorrowful day, constantly occupied with the ardent hope, that they would in some way discover the connection between the deceased and the Red-mantle.

 

Full of hope, I proceeded the next day to the justice-hall. Several letters lay upon the table; the old Senator asked whether they were of my writing. I looked at them, and found that they were by the same hand as both the letters that I had received. This I disclosed to the Senator; but he seemed to give but little weight to it, answering that I must have written both, for the name subscribed was unquestionably a Z, the initial of my name. The letters, however, contained menaces against the deceased, and warnings against the marriage which she was on the point of consummating. The Governor seemed to have imparted something strange and untrue, with respect to my person; for I was treated this day with more suspicion and severity. For my justification, I appealed to the papers, which would be found in my room, but I was informed that search had been made and nothing found. Thus, at the close of the court, vanished all my hope; and when, on the third day, I was led again to the hall, the judgment was read aloud, that I was convicted of a premeditated murder, and sentenced to death. To such extremity had I come; forsaken by all that was dear to me on earth, far from my native land, innocent and in the bloom of my years, I was to die by the axe!

 

On the evening of this terrible day which had decided my fate, I was seated in my lonely dungeon, my hopes past, my thoughts seriously turned upon death, when the door of my prison opened, and a man entered who regarded me long in silence.

 

“Do I see you again, in this situation, Zaleukos?” he began. By the dim light of my lamp I had not recognised him, but the sound of his voice awoke within me old recollections. It was Valetty, one of the few friends I had made during my studies at Paris. He said that he had casually come to Florence, where his father, a distinguished man, resided; he had heard of my story, and come to see me once more, to inquire with his own lips, how I could have been guilty of such an awful crime. I told him the whole history: he seemed lost in wonder, and conjured me to tell him, my only friend, all the truth, and not to depart with a lie upon my tongue. I swore to him with the most solemn oath, that I had spoken the truth; and that no other guilt could be attached to me, than that, having been blinded by the glance of the gold, I had not seen the improbability of the Stranger’s story. “Then did you not know Bianca?” asked he. I assured him that I had never seen her. Valetty thereupon told me that there was a deep mystery in the matter; that the Governor in great haste had urged my condemnation, and that a report was current among the people, that I had known Bianca for a long time, and had murdered her out of revenge for her intended marriage with another. I informed him that all this was probably true of the Red-mantle, but that I could not prove his participation in the deed. Valetty embraced me, weeping, and promised me to do all that he could; to save my life, if nothing more. I had not much hope; nevertheless, I knew that my friend was a wise man, and well acquainted with the laws, and that he would do all in his power to preserve me.

 

Two long days was I in suspense; at length Valetty appeared. “I bring consolation, though even that is attended with sorrow. You shall live and be free, but with the loss of a hand!”

 

Overjoyed, I thanked my friend for my life. He told me that the Governor had been inexorable, and would not once look into the matter: that at length, however, rather than appear unjust, he had agreed, if a similar case could be found in the annals of Florentine history, that my penalty should be regulated by the punishment that was then inflicted. He and his father had searched, day and night, in the old books, and had at length found a case similar in every respect to mine; the sentence there ran thus:—

 

“He shall have his left hand cut off; his goods shall be confiscated, and he himself banished forever!”

 

Such now was my sentence, also, and I was to prepare for the painful hour that awaited me. I will not bring before your eyes the frightful moment, in which, at the open market-place, I laid my hand upon the block; in which my own blood in thick streams flowed over me!

Valetty took me to his house until I had recovered, and then generously supplied me with money for my journey, for all that I had so laboriously acquired was confiscated to Justice. I went from Florence to Sicily, and thence, by the first ship I could find, to Constantinople. My hopes, which rested on the sum of money I had left with my friend, were not disappointed. I proposed that I should live with him—how astonished was I, when he asked why I occupied not my own house! He told me that a strange man had, in my name, bought a house in the quarter of the Greeks, and told the neighbors that I would soon, myself, return. I immediately proceeded to it with my friend, and was joyfully received by all my old acquaintances. An aged merchant handed me a letter which the man who purchased for me had left. I read:—

 

“Zaleukos! two hands stand ready to work unceasingly, that thou mayest not feel the loss of one. That house which thou seest and all therein are thine, and every year shalt thou receive so much, that thou shalt be among the rich of thy nation. Mayest thou forgive one who is more unhappy than thyself!”

 

I could guess who was the writer, and the merchant told me, in answer to my inquiry that it was a man covered with a red cloak, whom he had taken for a Frenchman. I knew enough to convince me that the Unknown was not entirely devoid of generous feeling. In my new house I found all arranged in the best style; a shop, moreover, full of wares, finer than any I had ever had. Ten years have elapsed since then; more in compliance with ancient custom, than because it is necessary, do I continue to travel in foreign lands for purposes of trade, but the land which was so fatal to me I have never seen since. Every year I receive a thousand pieces of gold; but although it rejoices me to know that this Unfortunate is so noble, still can his money never remove wo from my soul, for there lives forever the heart-rending image of the murdered Bianca!

Zaleukos

Zaleukos

 

Thus ended the story of Zaleukos, the Grecian merchant. With great interest had the others listened; the stranger, in particular, seemed to be wrapt up in it: more than once he had drawn a deep sigh, and Muley looked as if he had had tears in his eyes. No one spoke for some time after the recital.

 

“And hate you not the Unknown, who so basely cost you a noble member of your body, and even put your life in danger?” inquired Selim.

 

“Perhaps there were hours at first,” answered the Greek, “in which my heart accused him before God, of having brought this misfortune upon me, and embittered my life; but I found consolation in the religion of my fathers, which commanded me to love my enemies. Moreover, he probably is more unhappy than myself.”

 

“You are a noble man!” exclaimed Selim, cordially pressing the hand of the Greek.

 

The leader of the escort, however, here interrupted their conversation. He came with a troubled air into the tent, and told them that they could not give themselves up to repose, for this was the place in which Caravans were usually attacked, and his guards imagined they had seen several horsemen in the distance.

 

The merchants were confounded at this intelligence. Selim, the stranger, however, expressed wonder at their alarm, saying they were so well escorted they need not fear a troop of Arabian robbers.

 

“Yes, sir,” rejoined to him the leader of the guard; “were he only a common outlaw, we could compose ourselves to rest without anxiety; but for some time back, the frightful Orbasan has shown himself again, and it is well to be upon our guard.”

 

The stranger inquired who this Orbasan was, and Achmet, the old merchant, answered him:—

 

“Various rumors are current among the people with respect to this wonderful man. Some hold him to be a supernatural being, because, with only five or six men, he has frequently fallen upon a whole encampment; others regard him as a bold Frenchman, whom misfortune has driven into this region: out of all this, however, thus much alone is certain, that he is an abandoned robber and highwayman.”

 

“That can you not prove,” answered Lezah, one of the merchants. “Robber as he is, he is still a noble man, and such has he shown himself to my brother, as I can relate to you. He has formed his whole band of well-disciplined men, and as long as he marches through the desert, no other band ventures to show itself. Moreover, he robs not as others, but only exacts a tribute from the caravans; whoever willingly pays this, proceeds without further danger, for Orbasan is lord of the wilderness!”

 

Thus did the travellers converse together in the tent; the guards, however, who were stationed around the resting-place, began to become uneasy. A tolerably large band of armed horsemen showed themselves at the distance of half a league. They appeared to be riding straight to the encampment; one of the guard came into the tent, to inform them that they would probably be attacked.

The guards were stationed around

Standing Guard

The merchants consulted among themselves as to what they should do, whether to march against them, or await the attack. Achmet and the two elder merchants inclined to the latter course; the fiery Muley, however, and Zaleukos desired the former, and summoned the stranger to their assistance. He, however, quietly drew forth from his girdle a little blue cloth spangled with red stars, bound it upon a lance, and commanded one of the slaves to plant it in front of the tent: he would venture his life upon it, he said, that the horsemen, when they saw this signal, would quietly march back again. Muley trusted not the result; still the slave put out the lance in front of the tent. Meanwhile all in the camp had seized their weapons, and were looking upon the horsemen in eager expectation. The latter, however, appeared to have espied the signal; they suddenly swerved from their direct course towards the encampment, and, in a large circle, moved off to the side.

 

Struck with wonder, the travellers stood some moments, gazing alternately at the horsemen and the stranger. The latter stood in front of the tent quite indifferently, as though nothing had happened, looking upon the plain before him. At last Muley broke the silence.

 

“Who art thou, mighty stranger,” he exclaimed, “that restrainest with a glance the wild hordes of the desert?”

 

“You rate my art higher than it deserves,” answered Selim Baruch. “I observed this signal when I fled from captivity; what it means, I know not—only this much I know, that whoever travels with this sign, is under great protection.”

 

The merchants thanked the stranger, and called him their preserver; indeed, the number of the robbers was so great, that the Caravan could not, probably, for any length of time, have offered an effectual resistance.

 

With lighter hearts they now gave themselves to sleep; and when the sun began to sink, and the evening wind to pass over the sand-plain, they struck their tents, and marched on. The next day they halted safely, only one day’s journey from the entrance of the desert. When the travellers had once more collected in the large tent, Lezah, the merchant, took up the discourse.

 

“I told you, yesterday, that the dreaded Orbasan was a noble man; permit me to prove it to you, to-day, by the relation of my brother’s adventure. My father was Cadi of Acara. He had three children; I was the eldest, my brother and sister being much younger than myself. When I was twenty years old, a brother of my father took me under his protection; he made me heir to his property, on condition that I should remain with him until his death. He however had reached an old age, so that before two years I returned to my native land, having known nothing, before, of the misfortune which had meanwhile fallen upon my family, and how Allah had turned it to advantage.”

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The Story of “The Hewn Off Hand” from “The Oriental Story Book” by Wilhelm Hauff

ISBN: 9788835365310

URL: http://bit.ly/2SjdjwG

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KEYWORDS: oriental story book, books for children, Folklore, Fairy Tales, myths, legends, children’s stories, storyteller, fables, lore, Adventure, Action, Caliph, Captain, Caravan, castle, chamber, city, classic fairy tales, cloak, companion, companions, cottage, dagger, dark, earth, eastern, fairytales, far, Fatima, Florence, forgotten stories, fortune, garment, gold, Grand Vizier, great, happiness, Happy ever after, heart, horses, journey, joy, King, Labakan, Little Brother, Little Muck, lord, orient, oriental, mantle, Märchen, merchants, Mighty, mountains, Muley, Mustapha, old fashioned, Omar, Orbasan, palace, physician, poor beggar, prince, Prophet, Queen, Quin, return, rivers, royal, sea, Selim, ship, ship, slaves, strange, stranger, sultan, sultana, tailor, tales, Thiuli, Zaleukos, classic stories,

 

 

From the ebook – The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter

Frontis

We lived for a whole moon in Babylon, my master Zabulun and I, before the danger that was greater than the danger that is upon me now showed itself to me. Just before the hour of the market we would go through the streets of the city and toward the great market place. Throngs of people would be there, gathered together for buying or selling, or for talk of the happenings of the day before. My master would take me to a shady place, and we would sit there, resting or refreshing ourselves with draughts of the wine of the palm.

And Zabulun would tell me that the King we had spoken with was the most foolish King who had ever ruled over Babylon. “Great and terrible he seems when he sits upon his throne in his palace,” Zabulun would say, “but for all that he is foolish, and he delights more to come into the market and hear the talk of strangers than to sit in his council chamber.”

Again and again Zabulun would speak of the King, and he would say: “Often he comes here, and he sits in the market place and talks with all comers, which is against the customs of the Kings of Babylon. We will see him come here, and we will watch him do what is reported of him.”

Seated in the market in a shady place I would watch the throngs that moved about there. I saw the merchants who had come down the river in such round boats as we had voyaged in. They brought casks of the wine of the palm to the market. And I saw those who had come from Arabia with spices, and my master would tell me how these spices had been gathered. Some had frankincense that grows on trees that are guarded by winged serpents. Only with smoke of burning styrax could they drive the serpents from the trees. And others had cassia that is found in a shallow lake guarded by fierce, bat-like creatures. To gather it men have to cover themselves all over with the hides of cattle, leaving openings for their eyes only. And there are the merchants who have the ladanum that settles on low bushes, and that sticks to the beards of he-goats that go amongst the bushes. Others have the cinnamon that is used by birds to build their nests against high cliffs. Men cannot climb these cliffs to gather the sticks of cinnamon, but they make the birds bring into their nests such weights as break the nests down and so strew on the ground the sticks of cinnamon. They slaughter cattle under the cliffs, and the birds fly into their nests with great pieces of the meat, and the weight of these pieces of meat breaks down the nests. And so men gather cinnamon in Arabia.

And one day my master showed me the King of Babylon as he came into the market place.

He wore a black cloak that had only one stripe of purple in it, and a boy went beside him holding an Indian hound in a leash. Having come into the market the King seated himself in a special place, and he drank wine and ate honey cakes, and talked with the strangers that were brought before him, and let himself be gaped at by throngs of people. And then, from one to another of those who were around him, my master and I heard it said, “The King, surely, has had remarkable dreams.”

In three days my master was sent for by the King, and he came into the palace again bringing me with him, and he was saluted as a Magus. The King’s dreams were told to him. The first dream was of a drinking cup that blazed with fire, and the second dream was of a ram-headed man with golden horns, and the third dream was of a soldier in a black cloak. All those dreams, according to those in the palace who considered dreams, were of a treasure. Zabulun, my master, agreed that assuredly they were of a treasure, knowing that whatever the King dreamed of after he had put the thought of a treasure into the minds of those in the palace would be thought to be of that and of nothing else.

Then speaking as a Magus he told them that the blazing fire of the drinking cup, the golden horns on the ram-headed man, and the blackness of the soldier’s cloak all signified the Tower of Babylon. The King and the ancient dwarf became very silent when my master spoke of the tower.

Chapter 5

It was then that the Enchanter took the staff that was made of two serpents twisting together into his right hand, and declared that in order to make the dream of the tower cease to trouble him, the King should sacrifice a black cock in the lowest place of the tower.

Wine was brought us then, and my master and I drank, and this time no bitterness had been put into the wine. We were given permission to go, and we went from the palace.

As for the King and the ancient dwarf who was with him, they took horses and they rode to the Tower of Babylon, the dwarf bringing with him a black cock for the sacrifice. Harut and Marut, the sleeping guardians of Babylon, they looked on, but they went past them and within the tower. In the lowest place in the tower they made preparations for the sacrifice of the black cock.

Zabulun and I sat in the market place and waited, for my master said to me, “That which happens to the King, no matter how great it may be, he will speak of it in the market. We shall wait here and see if the King will come here on his way back from the tower.”

So in the market place we sat, my master and I. And in the tower the King and the ancient dwarf took the black cock and fastened him by a leg to a ring that was in a very light board in the floor. The cock, fluttering upward, lifted the board. Looking down they saw a chamber beneath. They went down into that chamber, the King and the ancient dwarf, and behold! they found in it a treasure of silver pieces, each piece marked with the mark of a King of the old times in Babylon.

Soon Zabulun, seated in the shade in the market place, showed me the King and the ancient dwarf as they came amongst the throng. The King seated himself in his special place and drank wine and ate cakes of honey. My master, watching him from afar, knew that he talked about the treasure he had found. For the dwarf who went with him opened a leather bag and showed certain pieces that made those around them gape in wonder.

Not long were the King and the ancient dwarf there before the Hour of the Market came to its close. Those in the market left and went to their homes. My master and I likewise departed. But those who had listened to the King brought with them the memory of the wonder they had been told about. A treasure was hidden beneath the tower—that was the thought that now possessed every one. And when dusk had fallen upon the city companies of men made their way toward the tower, carrying with them spades and mattocks. The next day, when the King came with the ancient dwarf, he found that all around the tower, and all around the place where Harut and Marut slept, trenches and holes had been dug.

He himself, with a company of men, went down into the lower chamber where the treasure of silver pieces had been found, and there they began to delve. The King found no treasure that day.

When he came out of the lower chamber he found many around the tower digging and delving. He forbade them to do this, and he set guards around the tower. But in the night those who were set to guard the tower began to delve.

The digging and delving within and around the tower went on in secret as well as openly. My master took me to show me what was being done. “Foolish is the King, and foolish are the people of Babylon,” he said. “What I have told you will befall them. Very soon they will strike at the foundations of the tower, and the tower will stand no more. Then will I take to myself the Magic Mirror, and make myself the master of the Babylonians.”

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From “The King of Babylon” – from The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter

ISBN: 9788835366966

DOWNLOAD LINK: http://bit.ly/2v2DzDP

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KEYWORDS/TAGS: Boy apprenticed to an Enchanter, action, mystery, adventure, intrigue, Eean, Zabulun, Merlin, magician, bird of gold, bramble gatherer, daughter, son, fisherman, King Manus, horses, steal, theft, Tower of Babylon, Genii, defiance, quest, seek, Chiron the Centaur, Hermes Trismegistus, master, helpmeet, magic, Island of the White Tower, defeat, western ocean, final, battle, journey, voyage, expedition, conjuror, mission, hunt, apprentice, novice, story, tale, midsummer,

A FREE STORY
From Abela Publishing

title-page

It was during my holidays in Cornwall that I next met Shin Shira.

 

I had ridden by motor-car from Helston to the Lizard, and after scrambling over rugged cliffs for some time, following the white stones put by the coastguards to mark the way, I found myself at last at the most beautiful little bay imaginable, called Kynance Cove.

 

The tide was low, and from the glittering white sands, tall jagged rocks rose up, covered with coloured seaweed; which, together with the deep blue and green of the sky and sea, made a perfect feast of colour for the eyes.

 

On the shore I met an amiable young guide, who, for sixpence, undertook to show me some caves in the rocks which are not generally discovered by visitors.

 

They were very fine caves, one of them being called The Princess’s Parlour; and while we were exploring this, I suddenly heard a roar as of some mighty animal in terrible pain.

I turned to the guide with, I expect, rather a white face, for an explanation.

 

He smiled at my alarm, however, and told me that it was “only the Bellows,” and suggested a visit to the spot whence the sound proceeded.

 

We scrambled out of the cave and descended to the sands again, and passing behind a tall rock called The Tower, we saw a curious sight.

 

There sitting on another rock just behind me was the little Yellow Dwarf Shin Shira
There sitting on another rock just behind me
was the little Yellow Dwarf Shin Shira

 

From between two enormous boulders came at intervals a great cloud of fine spray, which puffed up into the air for about twenty feet, accompanied by the roaring noise that I had previously noticed. My young guide explained to me that the noise and the spray were caused by the air in the hollow between the two boulders being forcibly expelled through a narrow slit in the rocks as each wave of the incoming tide entered. Having made this quite clear to me, he took his departure, warning me not to remain too long on the sands, as the tide was coming in rather rapidly.

 

I sat for some time alone on the rocks, gazing with fascinated interest at the curious effect produced by the clouds of spray coming from “the Bellows,” and was at last just turning to go when I started in surprise, for there, sitting on another rock just behind me, was the little Yellow Dwarf, Shin Shira, energetically fanning himself with the little yellow fan which I had noticed at our previous meeting.

 

There just beyond the rocks was a terrible dragon
There just beyond the rocks was a terrible dragon

 

“Oh! it’s you, is it?” he remarked, when he caught sight of my face. “I thought I recognised the back view; you see it was the last I saw of you when I paid you that visit in your study.”

“And disappeared so very suddenly,” I answered, going up and offering my hand, for I was very pleased to see the little man again.

 

“I was obliged to. You know of my unfortunate affliction in having to appear or disappear whenever my fairy great-great-great-grandmother wishes. He’s safe enough, isn’t he?” he added, inconsequently nodding his head towards “the Bellows.”

 

“Who is? What do you mean?” I inquired.

 

“The dragon, of course,” said Shin Shira.

 

“The dragon!” I exclaimed.

 

“Certainly—you know that there’s a dragon imprisoned behind those rocks, don’t you?”

I laughed.

 

“No,” I said, “although I must admit that I was at first inclined to think that something of the sort was concealed there. I’ve had it all explained to me, though,” and I proceeded to inform him of what the guide had told me concerning the matter.

 

“Pooh! Rubbish! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Shin Shira contemptuously; “I’ll tell you the real story of those rocks as it occurred, let’s see—about eight or nine hundred years ago. I remember it quite well, for it was one of those occasions when I was most distressed at having to disappear at what was for me the very worst possible moment.”

I settled myself comfortably on the rocks beside Shin Shira and prepared to listen with great interest.

 

“Let’s think for a moment,” said the little Yellow Dwarf, looking about him.

 

“It began—oh, yes! I know now. In that cave over yonder—I was eight or nine hundred years younger then, and a very warm-blooded and impressionable young fellow at that time; and I can remember being struck with the extreme beauty of the charming Princess whom I discovered in tears there when I suddenly appeared.

 

“The cave itself was hung about with the most beautiful silken curtains and tapestries, and on the floor were spread rugs and carpets and cushions of Oriental magnificence. Tiny tables, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, were scattered about, on which were caskets filled with beautiful jewels and rare curios from foreign lands.

 

“The Princess herself was reclining on one of the cushions, sobbing as though her heart would break, and her beautiful hair was lying in dishevelled glory about her shoulders.

“I was afraid of alarming her, so I coughed slightly to attract her attention.

 

“She started up immediately with a look of terror, but was calmed in an instant when she saw who it was.

 

“‘Oh!’ she cried, ‘have you slain him? You must have done in order to have reached here. Oh! have you come to save me?’ and she looked at me with wild, eager eyes.

 

“‘Calm yourself, fair lady!’ said I. ‘What is it that alarms you? Be sure that I will do all in my power to protect you from any evil that threatens you.’

 

“‘The Dragon!’ gasped the Princess. ‘Have you not slain him? How else can you have entered? He lies at the door of the cave.’

 

“She caught me by the hand and led me to the entrance, and then, clasping one hand over her eyes and shuddering with terror, she pointed to where, a short distance beyond, under the shadow of some rocks, lay a terrible Dragon, watching with cruel and expectant eyes for any prey that might come his way.

 

“‘I cannot get away from here except I pass him, and I have been imprisoned here now for two days,’ sobbed the Princess. ‘The King, my father, must indeed be distraught at my absence,’ and she burst into fresh weeping.

 

“I pressed her to tell me how she came there, and she explained to me that one day, while walking on the sands with one of her maidens in attendance, they had together discovered this cave, which was only accessible at low tide; and they had secretly brought the rugs and tapestries and other furniture with which the cave was filled and made a bower of it, to which the Princess was wont to retire whenever she wished to be alone.

 

“And, venturing here two days since without attendance, the Princess had found, when she had wished to depart, the terrible monster lying in her path.

 

“‘And so,’ she cried, ‘I have been a prisoner all this time.’

 

“I cheered her as well as I was able, and turned to my little book to see if by chance it gave me any directions how I might slay a Dragon by means of my fairy powers; and I read there that though one might not slay it (for a Dragon lives for a thousand years), one might rob it of its power by casting at it a jewel of great brilliancy, at the same time wishing that he might become dazed and impotent till one could escape, and it would be so.

 

“I told this to the Princess, and she hastened to unfasten from her bosom a jewel of great value set in gold of curious workmanship, which she gave to me, imploring me at the same time to do immediately as the book directed.

 

“‘Nay,’ said I, ‘the jewel is yours; you must cast it at the Dragon, and I will wish that the fairies may aid us.’

 

“And so we stood at the door of the cave, and the Dragon, seeing us, came forward with wide-opened jaws.

 

“The Princess clung to my arm with one hand, but with the other she cast the jewel, while with all my desire I wished that my fairy powers might not fail me now.

“Whether, however, it was that the fairies willed it so, or perchance because she was a girl, the Princess’s aim was not straight, and she hit, not the Dragon, but a great boulder in the shadow of which he was lurking; and then a truly remarkable thing occurred, for the boulder, immediately it was struck by the jewel, tumbled forward, and falling upon one beside it, imprisoned the Dragon between the two, where he has remained to this day.”

 

And Shin Shira pointed dramatically to the rocks, from which an extra large puff of spray belched forth, with a groan and a cry which almost convinced me that what he told me must be true.

 

“And what became of the Princess after that?” I inquired, being anxious to hear the end of the story.

 

“Why,” resumed Shin Shira, “we picked up the jewel and hurried away from the spot, and presently came at the top of the cliffs to the Castle, the ruins of which may still be seen up yonder—to where the King dwelt.

 

“I cannot tell you with what joy the Princess was received, nor with what honour and favour I was rewarded by the King—and, indeed, by all of the people—as the Princess’s deliverer.

“It is enough to say that the King called a great assembly of people, and before them all said that as a fitting reward he should give me the fairest jewel in all his kingdom, and handed me the very stone which had been cast at the Dragon, and which was valuable beyond price, being one of the most perfect and flawless stones in the world.

 

“I was glad enough to have the gem, but I had fallen madly in love with the Princess’s beauty, so I made bold to remind the King that the fairest jewel in his kingdom was not the gem he had given me, but the Princess, his daughter.

 

“The answer pleased the King and the people, though I remember sometimes sadly, even now, that the Princess’s face fell as she heard the King declare that his word should be kept, and the fairest jewel of all, even the Princess herself, should be mine.

“But now, alas! comes the sorrowful part, for, before the ceremony of our marriage could be

 

completed, I was doomed by the fairies to disappear, and so I lost forever my beautiful bride,” and Shin Shira gave a deep sigh. “The jewel though,” he added, “remained mine, and I have always worn it in the front of my turban in honour and memory of the lovely Princess. You may like to see it,” and Shin Shira reached up to his head for the turban in which I had noticed the jewel sparkling only a moment before.

 

It was gone!

 

“Dear me! I’m disappearing again myself, I’m afraid,” said Shin Shira, looking down at his legs, from which the feet had already vanished.

 

“Good-bye!” he had just time to call out, before he departed in a little yellow flicker.

“Hi! Hi!” I heard voices shouting, and looking up to the cliffs I saw some people waving frantically. “Come up quickly, or you’ll be cut off,” they shouted.

 

And I hurried along the sands, only just in time, for I had been so interested in Shin Shira’s story that I had not noticed how the tide had been creeping up. I shall have a good look at that jewel in Shin Shira’s turban next time I see him—and as for “the Bellows,” I hardly know which explanation to accept, Shin Shira’s or that of the guide.

===============

Mystery No. II – SHIN SHIRA AND THE DRAGON

From the MYSTERIOUS SHIN SHIRA by G.E. FARROW

ISBN: 9788835351115

To download this ebook, CLICK HERE >> http://bit.ly/35reu1J

===============

TAGS/KEYWORDS: Mysterious Shin Shira, Victorian, London, Magician, magical being, appear, disappear, , little one, time, Lionel, great King, friend, yellow, jewel, Princess, Dwarf, Duchess, Queen, Majesty, turban, beautiful, strange, extraordinary, Chief, book, Baghdad, Shah, crystal, fairies, Grand, stone, gentleman, Shin Shira, Magic, diamond, Dick, Mustapha, Oriental, Slave, gracious, Fridge, power, Panjandrum, Magic Carpet, Royal Court, Lady, Lord, disappear, Physician, adventure, action, Marjorie, MYSTERY, Dragon, Roc, Lame Duck, Betty, Appear, Dragon, magic Carpet , Mad Bull, Queen Of Hearts, illusion,

from PUCK of POOK’s HILL

by RUDYARD KIPLING (illustrated)

PUCK’S SONG and ON THE GREAT WALL

POPH-Cover-A5

=======

Puck’s Song

 

See you the dimpled track that runs,

All hollow through the wheat?

O that was where they hauled the guns

That smote King Philip’s fleet.

See you our little mill that clacks,

So busy by the brook?

She has ground her corn and paid her tax

Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,

And the dread ditch beside?

O that was where the Saxons broke,

On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread

About the gates of Rye?

O that was where the Northmen fled,

When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,

Where the red oxen browse?

O there was a City thronged and known,

Ere London boasted a house.

And see you, after rain, the trace

Of mound and ditch and wall?

O that was a Legion’s camping-place,

When Cæsar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,

Like shadows on the Downs?

O they are the lines the Flint Men made,

To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,

Salt Marsh where now is corn;

Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,

And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,

Water or wood or air,

But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,

Where you and I will fare.

================

On the Great Wall

 

When I left Rome for Lalage’s sake

By the Legions’ Road to Rimini,

She vowed her heart was mine to take

With me and my shield to Rimini—

(Till the Eagles flew from Rimini!)

And I’ve tramped Britain and I’ve tramped Gaul

And the Pontic shore where the snow-flakes fall

As white as the neck of Lalage—

As cold as the heart of Lalage!

And I’ve lost Britain and I’ve lost Gaul

(the voice seemed very cheerful about it),

And I’ve lost Rome, and worst of all,

I’ve lost Lalage!

 

They were standing by the gate to Far Wood when they heard this song. Without a word they hurried to their private gap and wriggled through the hedge almost atop of a jay that was feeding from Puck’s hand.

 

‘Gently!’ said Puck. ‘What are you looking for?’

 

‘Parnesius, of course,’ Dan answered. ‘We’ve only just remembered yesterday. It isn’t fair.’

 

Puck chuckled as he rose. ‘I’m sorry, but children who spend the afternoon with me and a Roman Centurion need a little settling dose of Magic before they go to tea with their governess. Ohé, Parnesius!’ he called.

 

‘Here, Faun!’ came the answer from ‘Volaterrae.’ They could see the shimmer of bronze armour in the beech crotch, and the friendly flash of the great shield uplifted.

 

‘I have driven out the Britons.’ Parnesius laughed like a boy. ‘I occupy their high forts. But Rome is merciful! You may come up.’ And up they three all scrambled.

 

‘What was the song you were singing just now?’ said Una, as soon as she had settled herself.

 

‘That? Oh, Rimini. It’s one of the tunes that are always being born somewhere in the Empire. They run like a pestilence for six months or a year, till another one pleases the Legions, and then they march to that.’

 

‘Tell them about the marching, Parnesius. Few people nowadays walk from end to end of this country,’ said Puck.

 

‘The greater their loss. I know nothing better than the Long March when your feet are hardened. You begin after the mists have risen, and you end, perhaps, an hour after sundown.’

 

‘And what do you have to eat?’ Dan asked, promptly.

 

‘Fat bacon, beans, and bread, and whatever wine happens to be in the rest-houses. But soldiers are born grumblers. Their very first day out, my men complained of our water-ground British corn. They said it wasn’t so filling as the rough stuff that is ground in the Roman ox-mills. However, they had to fetch and eat it.’

 

‘Fetch it? Where from?’ said Una.

 

‘From that newly-invented water-mill below the Forge.’

 

‘That’s Forge Mill—our Mill!’ Una looked at Puck.

 

‘Yes; yours,’ Puck put in. ‘How old did you think it was?’

 

‘I don’t know. Didn’t Sir Richard Dalyngridge talk about it?’

 

‘He did, and it was old in his day,’ Puck answered. ‘Hundreds of years old.’

 

‘It was new in mine,’ said Parnesius. ‘My men looked at the flour in their helmets as though it had been a nest of adders. They did it to try my patience. But I—addressed them, and we became friends.

There’s where you meet hunters and trappers‘There’s where you meet hunters, and trappers for the Circuses, prodding along chained bears and muzzled wolves.’

 

To tell the truth, they taught me the Roman Step. You see, I’d only served with quick-marching Auxiliaries. A Legion’s pace is altogether different. It is a long, slow stride, that never varies from sunrise to sunset. “Rome’s Race—Rome’s Pace,” as the proverb says. Twenty-four miles in eight hours, neither more nor less. Head and spear up, shield on your back, cuirass-collar open one hand’s breadth—and that’s how you take the Eagles through Britain.’

 

‘And did you meet any adventures?’ said Dan.

 

‘There are no adventures South the Wall,’ said Parnesius. ‘The worst thing that happened me was having to appear before a magistrate up North, where a wandering philosopher had jeered at the Eagles. I was able to show that the old man had deliberately blocked our road, and the magistrate told him, out of his own Book, I believe, that, whatever his God might be, he should pay proper respect to Cæsar.’

 

‘What did you do?’ said Dan.

 

‘Went on. Why should I care for such things, my business being to reach my station? It took me twenty days.

 

‘Of course, the farther North you go the emptier are the roads. At last you fetch clear of the forests and climb bare hills, where wolves howl in the ruins of our cities that have been. No more pretty girls; no more jolly magistrates who knew your Father when he was young, and invite you to stay with them; no news at the temples and way-stations except bad news of wild beasts. There’s where you meet hunters, and trappers for the Circuses, prodding along chained bears and muzzled wolves. Your pony shies at them, and your men laugh.

 

‘The houses change from gardened villas to shut forts with watch-towers of grey stone, and great stone-walled sheepfolds, guarded by armed Britons of the North Shore. In the naked hills beyond the naked houses, where the shadows of the clouds play like cavalry charging, you see puffs of black smoke from the mines. The hard road goes on and on—and the wind sings through your helmet-plume—past altars to Legions and Generals forgotten, and broken statues of Gods and Heroes, and thousands of graves where the mountain foxes and hares peep at you. Red-hot in summer, freezing in winter, is that big, purple heather country of broken stone.

 

‘Just when you think you are at the world’s end, you see a smoke from East to West as far as the eye can turn, and then, under it, also as far as the eye can stretch, houses and temples, shops and theatres, barracks, and granaries, trickling along like dice behind—always behind—one long, low, rising and falling, and hiding and showing line of towers. And that is the Wall!’

 

That is the Wall
And that is the Wall!

 

‘Ah!’ said the children, taking breath.

 

‘You may well,’ said Parnesius. ‘Old men who have followed the Eagles since boyhood say nothing in the Empire is more wonderful than first sight of the Wall!’

 

‘Is it just a Wall? Like the one round the kitchen-garden?’ said Dan.

 

‘No, no! It is the Wall. Along the top are towers with guard-houses, small towers, between. Even on the narrowest part of it three men with shields can walk abreast from guard-house to guard-house. A little curtain wall, no higher than a man’s neck, runs along the top of the thick wall, so that from a distance you see the helmets of the sentries sliding back and forth like beads. Thirty feet high is the Wall, and on the Picts’ side, the North, is a ditch, strewn with blades of old swords and spear-heads set in wood, and tyres of wheels joined by chains. The Little People come there to steal iron for their arrow-heads.

 

‘But the Wall itself is not more wonderful than the town behind it. Long ago there were great ramparts and ditches on the South side, and no one was allowed to build there. Now the ramparts are partly pulled down and built over, from end to end of the Wall; making a thin town eighty miles long. Think of it! One roaring, rioting, cockfighting, wolf-baiting, horse-racing town, from Ituna on the West to Segedunum on the cold eastern beach! On one side heather, woods and ruins where Picts hide, and on the other, a vast town—long like a snake, and wicked like a snake. Yes, a snake basking beside a warm wall!

 

‘My Cohort, I was told, lay at Hunno, where the Great North Road runs through the Wall into the Province of Valentia.’ Parnesius laughed scornfully. ‘The Province of Valentia! We followed the road, therefore, into Hunno town, and stood astonished. The place was a fair—a fair of peoples from every corner of the Empire. Some were racing horses: some sat in wine-shops: some watched dogs baiting bears, and many gathered in a ditch to see cocks fight. A boy not much older than myself, but I could see he was an Officer, reined up before me and asked what I wanted.

 

‘“My station,” I said, and showed him my shield.’ Parnesius held up his broad shield with its three X’s like letters on a beer-cask.

 

‘“Lucky omen!” said he. “Your Cohort’s the next tower to us, but they’re all at the cock-fight. This is a happy place. Come and wet the Eagles.” He meant to offer me a drink.

 

‘“When I’ve handed over my men,” I said. I felt angry and ashamed.

 

‘“Oh, you’ll soon outgrow that sort of nonsense,” he answered. “But don’t let me interfere with your hopes. Go on to the Statue of Roma Dea. You can’t miss it. The main road into Valentia!” and he laughed and rode off. I could see the Statue not a quarter of a mile away, and there I went. At some time or other the Great North Road ran under it into Valentia; but the far end had been blocked up because of the Picts, and on the plaster a man had scratched, “Finish!” It was like marching into a cave. We grounded spears together, my little thirty, and it echoed in the barrel of the arch, but none came. There was a door at one side painted with our number. We prowled in, and I found a cook asleep, and ordered him to give us food. Then I climbed to the top of the Wall, and looked out over the Pict country, and I—thought,’ said Parnesius. ‘The bricked-up arch with “Finish!” on the plaster was what shook me, for I was not much more than a boy.’

 

‘What a shame!’ said Una. ‘But did you feel happy after you’d had a good——’ Dan stopped her with a nudge.

 

‘Happy?’ said Parnesius. ‘When the men of the Cohort I was to command came back unhelmeted from the cock-fight, their birds under their arms, and asked me who I was? No, I was not happy; but I made my new Cohort unhappy too…. I wrote my Mother I was happy, but, oh, my friends’—he stretched arms over bare knees—‘I would not wish my worst enemy to suffer as I suffered through my first months on the Wall. Remember this: among the officers was scarcely one, except myself (and I thought I had lost the favour of Maximus, my General), scarcely one who had not done something of wrong or folly. Either he had killed a man, or taken money, or insulted the magistrates, or blasphemed the Gods, and so had been sent to the Wall as a hiding-place from shame or fear. And the men were as the officers. Remember, also, that the Wall was manned by every breed and race in the Empire. No two towers spoke the same tongue, or worshipped the same Gods. In one thing only we were all equal. No matter what arms we had used before we came to the Wall, on the Wall we were all archers, like the Scythians. The Pict cannot run away from the arrow, or crawl under it. He is a bowman himself. He knows!’

 

‘I suppose you were fighting Picts all the time,’ said Dan.

 

‘Picts seldom fight. I never saw a fighting Pict for half a year. The tame Picts told us they had all gone North.’

 

‘What is a tame Pict?’ said Dan.

 

‘A Pict—there were many such—who speaks a few words of our tongue, and slips across the Wall to sell ponies and wolf-hounds. Without a horse and a dog, and a friend, man would perish. The Gods gave me all three, and there is no gift like friendship. Remember this’—Parnesius turned to Dan—‘when you become a young man. For your fate will turn on the first true friend you make.’

 

‘He means,’ said Puck, grinning, ‘that if you try to make yourself a decent chap when you’re young, you’ll make rather decent friends when you grow up. If you’re a beast, you’ll have beastly friends. Listen to the Pious Parnesius on Friendship!’

 

‘I am not pious,’ Parnesius answered, ‘but I know what goodness means; and my friend, though he was without hope, was ten thousand times better than I. Stop laughing, Faun!’

 

‘Oh Youth Eternal and All-believing,’ cried Puck, as he rocked on the branch above. ‘Tell them about your Pertinax.’

 

‘He was that friend the Gods sent me—the boy who spoke to me when I first came. Little older than myself, commanding the Augusta Victoria Cohort on the tower next to us and the Numidians. In virtue he was far my superior.’

 

‘Then why was he on the Wall?’ Una asked, quickly. ‘They’d all done something bad. You said so yourself.’

 

‘He was the nephew, his Father had died, of a great rich man in Gaul who was not always kind to his Mother. When Pertinax grew up, he discovered this, and so his uncle shipped him off, by trickery and force, to the Wall. We came to know each other at a ceremony in our Temple—in the dark. It was the Bull Killing,’ Parnesius explained to Puck.

 

I see,’ said Puck, and turned to the children. ‘That’s something you wouldn’t quite understand. Parnesius means he met Pertinax in church.’

 

‘Yes—in the Cave we first met, and we were both raised to the Degree of Gryphons together.’ Parnesius lifted his hand towards his neck for an instant. ‘He had been on the Wall two years, and knew the Picts well. He taught me first how to take Heather.’

 

‘What’s that?’ said Dan.

 

‘Going out hunting in the Pict country with a tame Pict. You are quite safe so long as you are his guest, and wear a sprig of heather where it can be seen. If you went alone you would surely be killed, if you were not smothered first in the bogs. Only the Picts know their way about those black and hidden bogs. Old Allo, the one-eyed, withered little Pict from whom we bought our ponies, was our special friend. At first we went only to escape from the terrible town, and to talk together about our homes. Then he showed us how to hunt wolves and those great red deer with horns like Jewish candlesticks. The Roman-born officers rather looked down on us for doing this, but we preferred the heather to their amusements. Believe me,’ Parnesius turned again to Dan, ‘a boy is safe from all things that really harm when he is astride a pony or after a deer. Do you remember, O Faun,’ he turned to Puck, ‘the little altar I built to the Sylvan Pan by the pine-forest beyond the brook?’

 

‘Which? The stone one with the line from Xenophon?’ said Puck, in quite a new voice.

 

‘No. What do I know of Xenophon? That was Pertinax—after he had shot his first mountain-hare with an arrow—by chance! Mine I made of round pebbles in memory of my first bear. It took me one happy day to build.’ Parnesius faced the children quickly.

 

‘And that was how we lived on the Wall for two years—a little scuffling with the Picts, and a great deal of hunting with old Allo in the Pict country. He called us his children sometimes, and we were fond of him and his barbarians, though we never let them paint us Pict fashion. The marks endure till you die.’

 

‘How’s it done?’ said Dan. ‘Anything like tattooing?’

 

‘They prick the skin till the blood runs, and rub in coloured juices. Allo was painted blue, green, and red from his forehead to his ankles. He said it was part of his religion. He told us about his religion (Pertinax was always interested in such things), and as we came to know him well, he told us what was happening in Britain behind the Wall. Many things took place behind us in those days. And, by the Light of the Sun,’ said Parnesius, earnestly, ‘there was not much that those little people did not know! He told me when Maximus crossed over to Gaul, after he had made himself Emperor of Britain, and what troops and emigrants he had taken with him. We did not get the news on the Wall till fifteen days later. He told me what troops Maximus was taking out of Britain every month to help him to conquer Gaul; and I always found the numbers as he said. Wonderful! And I tell another strange thing!’

 

He jointed his hands across his knees, and leaned his head on the curve of the shield behind him.

 

‘Late in the summer, when the first frosts begin and the Picts kill their bees, we three rode out after wolf with some new hounds. Rutilianus, our General, had given us ten days’ leave, and we had pushed beyond the Second Wall—beyond the Province of Valentia—into the higher hills, where there are not even any of Rome’s old ruins. We killed a she-wolf before noon, and while Allo was skinning her he looked up and said to me, “When you are Captain of the Wall, my child, you won’t be able to do this anymore!”

 

‘I might as well have been made Prefect of Lower Gaul, so I laughed and said, “Wait till I am Captain.” “No, don’t wait,” said Allo. “Take my advice and go home—both of you.” “We have no homes,” said Pertinax. “You know that as well as we do. We’re finished men—thumbs down against both of us. Only men without hope would risk their necks on your ponies.” The old man laughed one of those short Pict laughs—like a fox barking on a frosty night. “I’m fond of you two,” he said. “Besides, I’ve taught you what little you know about hunting. Take my advice and go home.”

 

‘“We can’t,” I said. “I’m out of favour with my General, for one thing; and for another, Pertinax has an uncle.”

 

‘“I don’t know about his uncle,” said Allo, “but the trouble with you, Parnesius, is that your General thinks well of you.”

 

‘“Roma Dea!” said Pertinax, sitting up. “What can you guess what Maximus thinks, you old horse-coper?”

 

‘Just then (you know how near the brutes creep when one is eating?) a great dog-wolf jumped out behind us, and away our rested hounds tore after him, with us at their tails. He ran us far out of any country we’d ever heard of, straight as an arrow till sunset, towards the sunset. We came at last to long capes stretching into winding waters, and on a grey beach below us we saw ships drawn up. Forty-seven we counted—not Roman galleys but the raven-winged ships from the North where Rome does not rule. Men moved in the ships, and the sun flashed on their helmets—winged helmets of the red-haired men from the North where Rome does not rule. We watched, and we counted, and we wondered; for though we had heard rumours concerning these Winged Hats, as the Picts called them, never before had we looked upon them.

 

‘“Come away! Come away!” said Allo. “My Heather won’t protect you here. We shall all be killed!” His legs trembled like his voice. Back we went—back across the heather under the moon, till it was nearly morning, and our poor beasts stumbled on some ruins.

 

‘When we woke, very stiff and cold, Allo was mixing the meal and water. One does not light fires in the Pict country except near a village. The little men are always signalling to each other with smokes, and a strange smoke brings them out buzzing like bees. They can sting, too!

 

‘“What we saw last night was a trading-station,” said Allo. “Nothing but a trading-station.”

 

‘“I do not like lies on an empty stomach,” said Pertinax. “I suppose” (he had eyes like an eagle’s), “I suppose that is a trading-station also?” He pointed to a smoke far off on a hill-top, ascending in what we call the Pict’s Call:—Puff—double-puff: double-puff—puff! They make it by raising and dropping a wet hide on a fire.

 

‘“No,” said Allo, pushing the platter back into the bag. “That is for you and me. Your fate is fixed. Come.”

 

‘We came. When one takes Heather, one must obey one’s Pict—but that wretched smoke was twenty miles distant, well over on the east coast, and the day was as hot as a bath.

 

‘“Whatever happens,” said Allo, while our ponies grunted along, “I want you to remember me.”

 

‘“I shall not forget,” said Pertinax. “You have cheated me out of my breakfast.”

 

‘“What is a handful of crushed oats to a Roman?” he said. Then he laughed his laugh that was not a laugh. “What would you do if you were a handful of oats being crushed between the upper and lower stones of a mill?”

 

‘“I’m Pertinax, not a riddle-guesser,” said Pertinax.

 

‘“You’re a fool,” said Allo. “Your Gods and my Gods are threatened by strange Gods, and all you can do is to laugh.”

 

‘“Threatened men live long,” I said.

 

‘“I pray the Gods that may be true,” he said. “But I ask you again not to forget me.”

 

‘We climbed the last hot hill and looked out on the eastern sea, three or four miles off. There was a small sailing-galley of the North Gaul pattern at anchor, her landing-plank down and her sail half up; and below us, alone in a hollow, holding his pony, sat Maximus, Emperor of Britain! He was dressed like a hunter, and he leaned on his little stick; but I knew that back as far as I could see it, and I told Pertinax.

 

‘“You’re madder than Allo!” he said. “It must be the sun!”

 

‘Maximus never stirred till we stood before him. Then he looked me up and down, and said: “Hungry again? It seems to be my destiny to feed you whenever we meet. I have food here. Allo shall cook it.”

 

‘“No,” said Allo. “A Prince in his own land does not wait on wandering Emperors. I feed my two children without asking your leave.” He began to blow up the ashes.

 

‘“I was wrong,” said Pertinax. “We are all mad. Speak up, O Madman called Emperor!”

 

‘Maximus smiled his terrible tight-lipped smile, but two years on the Wall do not make a man afraid of mere looks. So I was not afraid.

 

‘“I meant you, Parnesius, to live and die an Officer of the Wall,” said Maximus. “But it seems from these,” he fumbled in his breast, “you can think as well as draw.” He pulled out a roll of letters I had written to my people, full of drawings of Picts, and bears, and men I had met on the Wall. Mother and my sister always liked my pictures.

 

‘He handed me one that I had called “Maximus’s Soldiers.” It showed a row of fat wine-skins, and our old Doctor of the Hunno hospital snuffing at them. Each time that Maximus had taken troops out of Britain to help him to conquer Gaul, he used to send the garrisons more wine—to keep them quiet, I suppose. On the Wall, we always called a wine-skin a “Maximus.” Oh, yes; and I had drawn them in Imperial helmets!

 

‘“Not long since,” he went on, “men’s names were sent up to Cæsar for smaller jokes than this.”

 

‘“True, Cæsar,” said Pertinax; “but you forget that was before I, your friend’s friend, became such a good spear-thrower.”

 

‘He did not actually point his hunting spear at Maximus, but balanced it on his palm—so!

 

‘“I was speaking of time past,” said Maximus, never fluttering an eyelid. “Nowadays one is only too pleased to find boys who can think for themselves, and their friends.” He nodded at Pertinax. “Your Father lent me the letters, Parnesius, so you run no risk from me.”

 

‘“None whatever,” said Pertinax, and rubbed the spear-point on his sleeve.

 

‘“I have been forced to reduce the garrisons in Britain, because I need troops in Gaul. Now I come to take troops from the Wall itself,” said he.

 

‘“I wish you joy of us,” said Pertinax. “We’re the last sweepings of the Empire—the men without hope. Myself, I’d sooner trust condemned criminals.”

 

‘“You think so?” he said, quite seriously. “But it will only be till I win Gaul. One must always risk one’s life, or one’s soul, or one’s peace—or some little thing.”

 

‘Allo passed round the fire with the sizzling deer’s meat. He served us two first.

 

‘“Ah!” said Maximus, waiting his turn. “I perceive you are in your own country. Well, you deserve it. They tell me you have quite a following among the Picts, Parnesius.”

 

‘“I have hunted with them,” I said. “Maybe I have a few friends among the Heather.”

 

‘“He is the only armoured man of you all who understands us,” said Allo, and he began a long speech about our virtues, and how we had saved one of his grandchildren from a wolf the year before.’

 

‘Had you?’ said Una.

 

‘Yes; but that was neither here nor there. The little green man orated like a—like Cicero. He made us out to be magnificent fellows. Maximus never took his eyes off our faces.

 

‘“Enough,” he said. “I have heard Allo on you. I wish to hear you on the Picts.”

 

‘I told him as much as I knew, and Pertinax helped me out. There is never harm in a Pict if you but take the trouble to find out what he wants. Their real grievance against us came from our burning their heather. The whole garrison of the Wall moved out twice a year, and solemnly burned the heather for ten miles North. Rutilianus, our General, called it clearing the country. The Picts, of course, scampered away, and all we did was to destroy their bee-bloom in the summer, and ruin their sheep-food in the spring.

 

‘“True, quite true,” said Allo. “How can we make our holy heather-wine, if you burn our bee-pasture?”

 

‘We talked long, Maximus asking keen questions that showed he knew much and had thought more about the Picts. He said presently to me: “If I gave you the old Province of Valentia to govern, could you keep the Picts contented till I won Gaul? Stand away, so that you do not see Allo’s face; and speak your own thoughts.”

 

‘“No,” I said. “You cannot re-make that Province. The Picts have been free too long.”

 

‘“Leave them their village councils, and let them furnish their own soldiers,” he said. “You, I am sure, would hold the reins very lightly.”

 

‘“Even then, no,” I said. “At least not now. They have been too oppressed by us to trust anything with a Roman name for years and years.”

 

‘I heard old Allo behind me mutter: “Good child!”

 

‘“Then what do you recommend,” said Maximus, “to keep the North quiet till I win Gaul?”

 

‘“Leave the Picts alone,” I said. “Stop the heather-burning at once, and—they are improvident little animals—send them a shipload or two of corn now and then.”

 

‘“Their own men must distribute it—not some cheating Greek accountant,” said Pertinax.

 

‘“Yes, and allow them to come to our hospitals when they are sick,” I said.

 

‘“Surely they would die first,” said Maximus.

 

‘“Not if Parnesius brought them in,” said Allo. “I could show you twenty wolf-bitten, bear-clawed Picts within twenty miles of here. But Parnesius must stay with them in Hospital, else they would go mad with fear.”

 

‘“I see,” said Maximus. “Like everything else in the world, it is one man’s work. You, I think, are that one man.”

 

‘“Pertinax and I are one,” I said.

 

‘“As you please, so long as you work. Now, Allo, you know that I mean your people no harm. Leave us to talk together,” said Maximus.

 

‘“No need!” said Allo. “I am the corn between the upper and lower millstones. I must know what the lower millstone means to do. These boys have spoken the truth as far as they know it. I, a Prince, will tell you the rest. I am troubled about the Men of the North.” He squatted like a hare in the heather, and looked over his shoulder.

 

‘“I also,” said Maximus, “or I should not be here.”

 

‘“Listen,” said Allo. “Long and long ago the Winged Hats”—he meant the Northmen—“came to our beaches and said, ‘Rome falls! Push her down!’ We fought you. You sent men. We were beaten. After that we said to the Winged Hats, ‘You are liars! Make our men alive that Rome killed, and we will believe you.’ They went away ashamed. Now they come back bold, and they tell the old tale, which we begin to believe—that Rome falls!”

 

‘“Give me three years’ peace on the Wall,” cried Maximus, “and I will show you and all the ravens how they lie!”

 

‘“Ah, I wish it too! I wish to save what is left of the corn from the millstones. But you shoot us Picts when we come to borrow a little iron from the Iron Ditch; you burn our heather, which is all our crop; you trouble us with your great catapults. Then you hide behind the Wall, and scorch us with Greek fire. How can I keep my young men from listening to the Winged Hats—in winter especially, when we are hungry? My young men will say, ‘Rome can neither fight nor rule. She is taking her men out of Britain. The Winged Hats will help us to push down the Wall. Let us show them the secret roads across the bogs.’ Do I want that? No!” He spat like an adder. “I would keep the secrets of my people though I were burned alive. My two children here have spoken truth. Leave us Picts alone. Comfort us, and cherish us, and feed us from far off—with the hand behind your back. Parnesius understands us. Let him have rule on the Wall, and I will hold my young men quiet for”—he ticked it off on his fingers—“one year easily: the next year not so easily: the third year, perhaps! See, I give you three years. If then you do not show us that Rome is strong in men and terrible in arms, the Winged Hats, I tell you, will sweep down the Wall from either sea till they meet in the middle, and you will go. I shall not grieve over that, but well I know tribe never helps tribe except for one price. We Picts will go too. The Winged Hats will grind us to this!” He tossed a handful of dust in the air.

 

‘“Oh, Roma Dea!” said Maximus, half aloud. “It is always one man’s work—always and everywhere!”

 

‘“And one man’s life,” said Allo. “You are Emperor, but not a God. You may die.”

 

‘“I have thought of that, too,” said he. “Very good. If this wind holds, I shall be at the East end of the Wall by morning. To-morrow, then, I shall see you two when I inspect; and I will make you Captains of the Wall for this work.”

 

‘“One instant, Cæsar,” said Pertinax. “All men have their price. I am not bought yet.”

 

‘“Do you also begin to bargain so early?” said Maximus. “Well?”

 

‘“Give me justice against my uncle Icenus, the Duumvir of Divio in Gaul,” he said.

 

‘“Only a life? I thought it would be money or an office. Certainly you shall have him. Write his name on these tablets—on the red side; the other is for the living!” And Maximus held out his tablets.

 

‘“He is of no use to me dead,” said Pertinax. “My mother is a widow. I am far off. I am not sure he pays her all her dowry.”

 

‘“No matter. My arm is reasonably long. We will look through your uncle’s accounts in due time. Now, farewell till to-morrow, O Captains of the Wall!”

 

‘We saw him grow small across the heather as he walked to the galley. There were Picts, scores, each side of him, hidden behind stones. He never looked left or right. He sailed away Southerly, full spread before the evening breeze, and when we had watched him out to sea, we were silent. We understood Earth bred few men like to this man.

 

‘Presently Allo brought the ponies and held them for us to mount—a thing he had never done before.

 

‘“Wait awhile,” said Pertinax, and he made a little altar of cut turf, and strewed heather-bloom atop, and laid upon it a letter from a girl in Gaul.

 

‘“What do you do, O my friend?” I said.

 

‘“I sacrifice to my dead youth,” he answered, and, when the flames had consumed the letter, he ground them out with his heel. Then we rode back to that Wall of which we were to be Captains.’

 

Parnesius stopped. The children sat still, not even asking if that were all the tale. Puck beckoned, and pointed the way out of the wood. ‘Sorry,’ he whispered, ‘but you must go now.’

 

‘We haven’t made him angry, have we?’ said Una. ‘He looks so far off, and—and—thinky.’

 

‘Bless your heart, no. Wait till to-morrow. It won’t be long. Remember, you’ve been playing “Lays of Ancient Rome.”’

 

And as soon as they had scrambled through their gap, where Oak, Ash and Thorn grow, that was all they remembered.

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POPH-Cover-A5

From: PUCK OF POOK’s HILL by RUDYARD KIPLING (illustrated)

ISBN: 9788835367420

To download this book CLICK HERE>> http://bit.ly/2vUVAnO

 

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