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You will bring him back to me

In the rocks on the seashore, left bare by the tide, one often finds tiny pools of water fringed with seaweed and padded with curious moss. These are the cradles which the Mermaids have trimmed prettily for the sea-babies, and where they leave the little ones when they have to go away on other business, as Mermaids do. But one never spies the sea-children in their cradles, for they are taught to tumble out and slip away into the sea if a human step should approach. You see, the fishes have told the Mer-folk cruel tales of the Land-people with their nets and hooks and lines.

 

In the softest, prettiest little cradle of all a Sea-child lay one afternoon crying to himself. He cried because he was lonesome. His mother did not love him as a baby’s mother should; for she was the silliest and the vainest of all the Mermaids. Her best friend was her looking-glass of polished pearl, and her only care was to remain young and girlish. Indeed, she bore her thousand-odd years well, even for a Mermaid. She liked the Sea-baby well enough, but she was ashamed to have him follow her about as he loved to do, because she imagined it made her seem old to be called “Mer-mother” by his lisping lips. She never had time to caress or play with him; and finally she forbade him ever to speak to her unless she spoke first. Sometimes she seemed to forget him altogether, as she left him to take care of himself, while she sat on the rocks combing her long green hair, or playing with the giddy Mermen in the caves below the sea.

 

So while the other sea-people sported or slept and were happy, her poor little Sea-child lay and cried in the green pool where the sea-anemones tickled his cheek with their soft fingers, seeking to make him laugh, and the sea-fringe curled about the scaly little tail which, like a fish, he had in place of legs. On this particular afternoon he was particularly lonesome.

 

“Ahoo!” he sobbed. “I am so unhappy! Ahoo! I want someone to love me very much!”

 

Now a kind old Stork was sitting on a rock above the baby’s head, preening his feathers in a looking-glass pool. He heard the Sea-child’s words, and he spoke in his kind, gruff voice.

 

“What is the matter, little one?” he asked.

 

At first the Sea-child was surprised to be addressed by a land bird. But he soon saw that this creature was friendly, and told him all his trouble, as babies do. “Tut tut!” said the Stork, frowning. “Your Mer-mother needs a lesson sadly.”

 

“What is a lesson?” lisped the Sea-child.

 

But the Stork was busy thinking and did not reply at once. “How would you like a change?” he asked after a time.

 

“What is a change?” asked the baby, for he was very young and ignorant.

 

“You shall see,” answered the Stork, “if you will take my advice; for I am your friend. Now listen. When next you hear a step upon the rocks do not stir from your cradle, but wait and see what will happen.” Without another word the Stork flapped away, leaving the baby to stare up at the blue sky with the tears still wet upon his cheeks, wondering what the Stork could have meant.

 

“I will not stir,” he said to himself. “Whatever happens I will wait and see.”

 

It was the Stork’s business to bring babies to the homes where babies were needed; and sometimes it was very hard to find babies enough. Even now he knew of a house upon the hill where a boy was longing for a little brother to play with. Every night Gil mentioned the matter in his prayers; every night he begged the Stork to bring him a playmate. But though the Stork had hunted far and wide through all the land he could not find a human baby to spare for the cottage on the hill. Now he had a happy idea.

 

With his long legs dangling he flew swiftly up towards the hill; and halfway there he met the boy wandering about sulkily all alone. The Stork had never before spoken to this boy, because he well knew what Gil wanted, and he hated to be teased for what he could not give. So, though he had listened sadly to the boy’s prayers, by day he had kept carefully out of sight. But now he came close overhead, and settling down stood upon one leg directly in Gil’s path.

 

“Good-afternoon,” he said. “I think I have heard you say that you wanted a little brother.”

 

Gil was surprised to have a Stork address him like this, but he was still more pleased at the happy word. “I do! Oh, I do indeed!” he cried.

 

“Would you make a good brother to him?” asked the Stork.

 

“Oh yes!” answered the boy eagerly. “A very good brother I should be.”

 

“H’m,” said the Stork. “One never can tell about these boys. I think you are selfish and jealous. But a little brother may be a good thing for you. In any case, there is little for him to lose. Will you be so good as to come with me?”

 

Without another word the Stork flew up and away toward the beach, leaving Gil staring. This certainly was a most extraordinary bird! But Gil soon decided to follow him and see what would happen, for who could tell what the Stork’s mysterious words might mean?

 

Presently, lying in his little cradle, the Sea-child heard the sound of feet scrambling up the rocks,—the sound he had been taught to fear more than anything in the world. It was his first thought to flop out of the cradle, over into the sea below; and he half turned to do so. But in a moment he remembered the Stork’s last words, and although he was trembling with fear he remained where he was.

 

Soon over the top of the rock peered the face of the boy, Gil of the hill cottage, looking straight down into the pool where the Sea-baby lay snugly on the seaweed.

 

“Oh!” cried the boy, with round black eyes fixed upon the baby’s round blue ones. “Oh!” cried the Sea-child. And it would be hard to say which of the two was more astonished. For to a Sea-child the sight of a clothed, two-legged land-boy is quite as strange as a naked little fish-tailed infant is to a human. But after the first look neither felt afraid, in spite of the terrible tales which each had heard of the other’s kind. They stared wistfully at each other, not knowing what to do next, until the Stork came forward and spoke wise words.

 

“You, land-boy Gil,” he said, “you want a little brother, do you not?” Gil nodded. “And you, Sea-child, want someone to love you? I think I can manage to please you both. But first you must kiss each other.”

 

Gil hesitated. He was a big boy of five or six, too old for kissing. Moreover the Sea-child looked cold and wet and somewhat fishy. But already the red lips of the little fellow were pouted into a round O, and the sad blue eyes were looking up at him so pleadingly that Gil bent low over the watery cradle. Then two little soft arms went about his neck, and Gil felt the heart of the Sea-child thump happily against his own.

 

“Very good,” said the Stork approvingly.

 

The Sea-child could not stand, on account of having no feet, but he lay in his pool holding Gil’s hand.

 

“Now the change is coming,” went on the Stork, and as he spoke the baby began to fall asleep. “In twelve hours,” he said to Gil, “he will become a tiny human child, and I shall carry him to the house on the hill, where he will find a loving family awaiting him. Look! Already he is losing the uniform of the sea,” and he pointed at the Sea-child’s fishy tail. Sure enough, the scales were falling away one by one, and already the shape of two little chubby legs could be seen under the skin, which was shrinking as a tadpole’s does before he becomes a frog. “When this tail is wholly gone,” declared the Stork, “he will forget what we have said to-night. He will forget his sea-home and the caves of the Mer-people. He will forget that he was once a Sea-child; and no one will ever remind him. For only you, Gil, and I shall know the secret.”

 

“And I shall never tell,” declared Gil.

 

“No, surely you will never tell,” answered the Stork gravely, “for if you tell that will be the end of all. You will lose the little brother, and you will be sorry all the rest of your life. Do not forget, Gil. Do not forget.”

 

“I shall not forget,” said Gil.

 

Again they looked at the Sea-child, and he had fallen sound asleep, still holding Gil’s hand. Now there was scarcely anything of the fish left about his little pink body; he was growing younger and younger, smaller and smaller.

 

“You must go home now, Gil,” said the Stork. “Go home and go to bed. And to-morrow when you wake there will be a little brother in the house, and you ought to be a very good boy because you have your wish.”

 

Gil gently loosened the Sea-child’s hand and ran home as the Stork bade him, but said no word of all this to anyone.

 

Now early in the morning the Stork came to the house on the hill, bringing a rosy little new baby which he laid on the bed beside Gil’s mother, and then flew away. What a hullabaloo there was then, to be sure! What a welcome for the little stranger! Gil was not the only one who had longed for a new baby in the house, and this was the prettiest little fellow ever seen. Loudest of all cheered Gil when he saw the present which the Stork had brought. “Hurrah for my little new brother!” he cried. “Now I shall have someone to play with.” That was Gil’s chief thought: now he would have someone to play with.

 

They called the baby’s name Jan. And from the first little Jan was very happy in his new home. He was happy all day in his mother’s arms; happy when his foster-father came home at night and tossed him high to the ceiling; happiest of all when Gil held him close and begged him to hurry and grow up, so that they could play together.

 

Little Jan did hurry to grow up, as fast as health and strength and happiness could make a baby grow. He grew bigger and bigger, handsomer and handsomer, the finest baby in the village, and his family loved him dearly. Every day he became more of a playmate for Gil, whom he admired more than anyone in the world. Gil petted and teased the little fellow, who, as soon as he could walk, began to follow him about like a faithful dog. Grand times the brothers had together then. They dug in the sand on the seashore, and scrambled about the cliffs. They rowed out in the harbor boats with hooks and lines, and played at being fishermen like their father, who sailed away early and came home late. They grew bigger and sturdier and handsomer, and their parents were very proud of them both, the finest lads in all the country round.

 

The years went by, and during all this time Jan never dreamed the truth which only Gil and the Stork knew about the bargain made at the sea-pool cradle. To Jan, indeed, the sea was full of strange thoughts which were not memories but were like them. He loved to look and listen alone upon the water, or in the water, or by the water. Gil often caught him staring down into the blue waves, and when he raised his head there would be a puzzled look in the little fellow’s blue eyes, as though he were trying to solve a riddle. Then Gil would laugh; whereat the wrinkle would smooth itself from Jan’s forehead, and a smile would come about his mouth. He would throw his arm about his brother’s shoulder, saying,—

 

“What strange thing is it, brother, that the old sea does to me? I think sometimes that I am bewitched.” But Gil would only laugh again, thinking his own thoughts. It gave him a pleasant important feeling to know that he was the keeper of Jan’s secret.

 

Meantime what had become of the Sea-baby’s forgotten mother? What was the pretty Mermaid doing in her home under the waves? She was learning the lesson which the Stork had meant to teach.

 

At first she had not greatly missed the Sea-baby, having other things to interest her in the lovely world where she lived. But as the sea-days went by she began to find the grotto which had been their pretty home a very lonely place indeed. She missed the little fellow playing with the shells and starfish on the floor of shining sand. She longed to see him teasing the crabs in the crevices of the rocks, or tickling the sea-anemones to make them draw in their waving fingers. She missed the round blue eyes which used to look at her so admiringly, and the little hands which had once wearied her with their caresses. She even missed the mischievous tricks which the baby sometimes used to play upon his mother, and she would have been glad once more to see him running away with her pearly mirror, or with the golden comb with which she combed her long green hair.

 

As she watched the other sea-children playing merrily with the fishes the lonely Mermaid grew very sad, for she knew that her own baby had been the prettiest of them all, and she wondered how she could ever have been ashamed of him. The other mothers were proud of their darlings, and now they scorned her because she had no little one to hold her mirror when she made her toilet, or to run her errands when she was busy at play. But the poor Mermaid was too sad to play nowadays. She no longer took any pleasure in the gay life which the Mer-folk lived beneath the waves. She wandered instead here and there, up and down the sea, calling, calling for her lost baby. The sound of her sobbing came from the sea at morning, noon, and night.

 

She did not know her child’s fate, but she feared that he had been captured by the dreadful Men-folk, who, so her people said, were ever seeking to snare the sea-creatures in their wicked nets. Day after day the unhappy Mermaid swam along the shore trying to see the places where the Men-folk dwelt, hoping that she might catch a glimpse of her lost darling. But that good hap never befell her. Indeed, even if she had seen Jan, she would not have known her baby in the sturdy boy dressed all in blue, like the other fisher-lads. Nor would Jan have known his mother in this beautiful creature of the sea. For he had quite forgotten the Mermaid who had neglected him, and if he thought of the Mer-folk at all it was as humans do, with wonder and with longing, and yet with fear.

 

Now the good old Stork who had first meddled in these matters kept one eye upon the doings in that neighborhood, and he had seen the sorrowful Mermaid wandering lonely up and down the shore. He knew it must be the Sea-child’s mother, sorry at last for her long carelessness. As the years passed he began to pity the poor creature; but when he found himself growing too soft-hearted he would shake his head firmly and say to himself,—

 

“It will not do. She is not yet punished enough, for she was very cruel. If now she could have her baby again she would soon be as thoughtless as ever. Besides, there is my promise to Gil. So long as he keeps the secret so must I.”

 

But one day, several years later, when the Stork was flying over the harbor, he spied the Mermaid lying upon a rock over which the waves dashed merrily, and she was weeping bitterly, tearing her lovely green hair. She looked so pretty and so forlorn that the bird’s kind heart was touched, and he could not help stopping to comfort her a bit. Flying close to her head he said gently,—

 

“Poor Mermaid! What is the matter?”

 

“Oh, oh!” wailed the Mermaid. “Long, long ago I lost my pretty little Sea-child, and he is not to be found anywhere, anywhere in the whole sea, for I have looked. I have been from ocean to ocean, from pole to pole. Oh, what shall I do? He is on the land, I know he is, and the wicked humans are ill-treating him.”

 

The Stork spoke slowly and gravely. “Was he so happy, then, in his sea-home? Did you love him and care for him very dearly?”

 

“No, no!” sobbed the Mermaid. “I did not love him enough. I did not make him happy. I neglected him and found him in the way, till one day he disappeared, and I shall never see him again. Oh, my baby, my little Sea-child!”

 

The Stork wiped a tear from his eye. “It is very sad,” he said. “But perhaps it will comfort you to know that he is not far away.”

 

“Oh!” cried the Mermaid, clasping her hands. “You know where he is? You will bring him back to me? Dear, dear Stork! I will give you a necklace of pearls and a necklace of coral if you will bring my baby to me again.”

 

The Stork smiled grimly, looking down at his long neck. “A necklace of pearls and a necklace of coral!” he repeated. “How becoming they would be!” Then he grew grave once more and said: “I cannot return your child to you, but I can tell you something of him. He is indeed among the humans, but he is very happy there. They love him and he loves them, and all is well—so far.”

 

“Oh, show him to me that I may take him away!” cried the Mermaid.

 

But the Stork shook his head. “No, no, for you deserted him,” he said solemnly; “now he has another mother in yonder village who loves him better than you did. He has a brother, also, whom he loves best of all. You cannot claim him so long as he is happy there.”

 

“Then shall I never see him again, wise Bird?” asked the Mermaid sadly.

 

“Perhaps,” answered the Stork. “If he should become unhappy, or if the secret should be betrayed.”

 

“Ah, then I must be again a cruel mother and hope that he may become unhappy,” sobbed the Mermaid. “I shall look for him every day in the harbor near the village, and when his face is sad I shall claim him for my own.”

 

“You will not know him,” cried the Stork, rising on his wings and flapping away. “He wears a disguise. He is like a human,—like any other fisher-boy; and he bears a human name.”

 

“Oh, tell me that name!” begged the Mermaid.

 

But the Stork only cried, “I must not tell. I have told too much already,” and he was gone.

 

“Oh, then I will love all fisher-boys for his sake,” sobbed the Mermaid as she dived down into the sea. “And some day, some day I shall find him out; for my baby is sure to be the finest of them all.”

 

Now the years went by, and the parents of Gil and Jan were dead. The two brothers were tall and sturdy and stout, the finest lads in the whole country. But as their shadows grew taller and broader when they walked together across the sand, so another shadow which had begun to fall between them grew and grew. It was the shadow of Gil’s selfishness and jealousy. So long as Jan was smaller and weaker than he, Gil was quite content, and never ceased to be grateful for the little brother who had come to be his playmate. But suddenly, as it seemed, he found that Jan was almost as big as himself; for the boy had thriven wondrously, though there were still several years which Jan could never make up. Gil was still the leader, but Jan was not far behind; and Jan himself led all the other boys when his brother was not by. Everyone loved Jan, for he was kind and merry, while Gil was often gloomy and disagreeable. Gil wanted to be first in everything, but there began to be some things that Jan could do better than he. It made Gil angry to hear his brother praised; it made him sulky and malicious, and sometimes he spoke unkindly to Jan, which caused the blue eyes to fill with tears. For, big fellow though he was, Jan was five years younger, and he was a sensitive lad, loving Gil more than anything else in the world. Gil’s unkindness hurt Jan deeply, but could not make him love his brother less.

 

Both boys were famous swimmers. Gil was still the stronger of the two, and he could outswim any lad in town. As for Jan, the fishermen declared that he took to the water like a fish. No one in all the village could turn and twist, dive and glide and play such graceful pranks, flashing whitely through the waves, as did Jan. This was a great trouble to Gil, who wished to be foremost in this as in everything else. He was a selfish fellow; he had wanted a playmate to follow and admire him. He had not bargained for a comrade who might become a rival. And he seemed to love his brother less and less as the days went by.

 

One beautiful summer day Gil and Jan called together the other boys, the best swimmers in the village, and they all went down to the bay to swim. They played all sorts of water-games, in which the two brothers were leaders. They dived and floated and chased one another like fishes through the water. Jan, especially, won shouts of applause for his wonderful diving, for the other boys liked him, and were proud of him, glad to see him win. This again made Gil jealous and angry. Jan dived once more and remained under water so long that the boys began to fear that he would never come up; and in his wicked heart Gil half hoped that it was to be so. For it had come about that Gil began to wish he had no brother at all. So different was he from the boy who made the eager bargain with the good old Stork.

 

At last Jan’s head came out of the water, bubbling and blowing, and the boys set up a cheer. Never before had any one in the village performed such a feat as that. But Jan did not answer their cheers with his usual merry laugh. Something was troubling him which made him look strange to the others. As soon as he reached the shore he ran up to Gil and whispered in his brother’s ear a curious story.

 

“Oh, Gil!” he cried. “Such a strange feeling I have had! Down below there as I was swimming along I seemed to hear a strange sound like a cry, and then, surely, I felt something cling close to me, like soft arms. Gil, Gil, what could it have been? I have heard tell of the Mermaidens who are said to live in these waters. Some even say that they have seen them afar off on the rocks where the spray dashed highest. Gil, could it have been a Mermaid who touched me and seemed to pull me down as if to keep me under the water forever? I could hardly draw away, Gil. Tell me what you think it means?”

 

Gil was too angry at Jan’s success to answer kindly. He sneered, remembering the secret which only he and the Stork knew.

 

“There are slimy folk, half fish and half human, people say. The less one has to do with them the better. I think you are half fish yourself, Jan. It is no credit to you that you are able to swim!” So spoke Gil, breaking the promise which he had once given.

 

On the minute came a hoarse cry overhead, and a great Stork flapped down the sky, fixing his sharp eyes upon Gil, as if in warning.

 

“Why, how strangely the Stork acts!” cried Jan.

 

Gil bit his lip and said no more, but from that moment he hated his brother wickedly, knowing that the Stork was still watching over the child whom he had taken from the sea.

 

But Jan had no time to ask Gil what he meant by the strange words which he had just spoken, for at that moment several of the boys came running up to them. “Ho, Gil! Ho, Jan!” they cried. “Let us have a race! Come, let us swim out to the Round Rock and back. And the winner of this race shall be champion of the village. Come, boys, make ready for the race!”

 

Gil’s face brightened, for he had ever been the strongest swimmer on the bay, and now he could afford to be kind to poor Jan, whose blue eyes were clouded and unhappy, because of Gil’s former harsh words and manner.

 

“Ho! The race, the race!” cried Gil. “Come, Jan, you can dive like a fish. Now let us see how you can swim. One, two, three! We are off!”

 

The boys sprang, laughing, into the water. Jan needed but a kind word from his brother to make him happy again. Off they started for the Round Rock, where the spray was dashing high.

 

The black heads bobbed up and down in the waves, drawing nearer and nearer to the rock. Gradually they separated, and some fell behind. The lads could not all keep up the gay strokes with which they had begun the race. Four held the lead; Boise and Cadoc, the lighthouse-keeper’s sons, Gil, and Jan.

 

Almost abreast they rounded the rock, and began the long stretch back to the beach. Soon Boise began to fall behind. In a little while Cadoc’s strength failed also. They shouted, laughingly, that they were fairly beaten, and those who were on shore began to cry encouragement to the two brothers, who alone were left in the race.

 

“Gil! Jan! Oh, Gil! Oh, Jan! Hasten, lads, for one of you is the champion. Hurrah! Hurrah!”

 

Gil was in high spirits, for he was still in the lead. “Hurry, little brother,” he cried, “or I shall beat you badly. Oho! You can dive, but that is scarcely swimming, my fine lad. You had better hurry, or I win.”

 

And Jan did hurry. He put forth all his strength as he had never done before. Soon the black heads bobbed side by side in the water, and Gil ceased to laugh and jest, for it was now a struggle in good earnest. He shut his teeth angrily, straining forward with all his might. But push as he would, Jan kept close beside. At last, when within a few yards of the beach, Jan gave a little laughing shout and shot through the water like a flash. He had been saving his strength for this,—and he had won!

 

The other boys dragged him up the beach with shouts and cheers of welcome to the new champion, while Gil, who had borne that title for so long, crawled ashore unaided.

 

“Hurrah for Jan!” they cried, tossing their caps and dancing happily, for Jan was a great favorite. “Hurrah for the little brother! Now Gil must take the second place. You are the big brother now!” And they laughed and jeered at Gil,—not maliciously, but because they were pleased with Jan.

 

Jan ran to Gil and held out his hand for his brother’s congratulations, but Gil thrust it aside. “It was not a fair race!” he sputtered. “Unfair, unfair, I vow!”

 

The others gathered around, surprised to see Gil so angry and with such wild eyes.

 

“Gil, oh, Gil! What do you mean?” cried Jan, turning very pale. “Why was it not a fair race, brother?”

 

“Brother! You are no brother of mine!” shouted Gil, beside himself with rage. “You are a changeling,—half fish, half sea-monster. You were helped in this race by the sea-people; you cannot deny it. I saw one push you to the shore. You could not have beaten me else. Everyone knows that I am the better swimmer, though I am no fish.”

 

“Nonsense!” cried Boise, clapping Gil on the shoulder with a laugh. “You talk foolishness, Gil. There are no sea-folk in these waters; those are old women’s tales. It was a fair race, I say, and Jan is our champion.”

 

But Jan heeded only the cruel words which his brother had spoken. “Gil, what do you mean?” he asked again, trembling with a new fear. “I was not helped by anyone.”

 

“Ha!” cried Gil, pointing at him fiercely, “see him tremble, see his guilty looks! He knows that I speak true. The Mermaid helped him. He is half fish. He came out of the sea and was no real brother of mine, but a Merbaby. A Mermaid was his mother!”

 

At these words a whirring sound was heard in the air overhead, and a second time the Stork appeared, flapping across the scene out to sea, where he alighted upon the Round Rock. But Gil was too angry even to notice him.

 

“Gil, Gil, tell me how this can be?” begged Jan, going up to his brother and laying a pleading hand upon his arm.

 

But Gil shook him off, crying, “It is true! He is half fish and the sea-folk helped him. It was not a fair race. Let us try it again.”

 

“Nonsense!” cried the other boys indignantly. “It was a fair race. Jan need not try again, for he is our champion. We will have it so.”

 

But Jan was looking at Gil strangely, and the light was gone out of his eyes. His face was very white. “I did not know that you cared so much to win,” he said to Gil in a low voice. Then he turned to the others. “If my brother thinks it was not a fair race let us two try again. Let us swim once more to the Round Rock and back; and the winner shall be declared the village champion.” For Jan meant this time to let his brother beat. What did he care about anything now, since Gil hated him so much that he could tell that story?

 

“Well, let them try the race again, since Jan will have it so,” cried the boys, grumbling and casting scornful looks at Gil, who had never been so unpopular with them as at this moment.

 

Once more the two sprang into the waves and started for the Round Rock, where the spray was dashing merrily over the plumage of the Stork as he stood there upon one leg, trying not to mind the wetness which he hated. For he was talking earnestly with a pretty Mermaid who sat on the rock in the surf, wringing her hands.

 

“It is he! It is he!” she cried. “I know him now. It is the lad whom they call Jan, the finest swimmer of them all. Oh, he dives like a fish! He swims like a true Sea-child. He is my own baby, my little one! I followed, I watched him. I could hardly keep my hands from him. Tell me, dear Stork, is he not indeed my own?”

 

The Stork looked at her gravely. “It is no longer a secret,” he said, “for Jan has been betrayed. He who is now Jan the unhappy mortal boy was once your unhappy Sea-baby.”

 

“Unhappy! Oh, is he unhappy?” cried the Mermaid. “Then at last I may claim him as you promised. I may take him home once more to our fair sea-home, to cherish him and make him happier than he ever was in all his little life. But tell me, dear Stork, will he not be my own little Sea-child again? I would not have him in his strange, ugly human guise, but as my own little fish-tailed baby.”

 

“When you kiss him,” said the Stork, “when you throw your arms about his neck and speak to him in the sea-language, he will become a Sea-child once more, as he was when I found him in his cradle on the rocks. But look! Yonder he comes. A second race has begun, and they swim this way. Wait until they have turned the rock, and then it will be your turn. Ah, Gil! You have ill kept your promise to me!”

 

Yes, the race between the brothers was two thirds over. Side by side as before the two black heads pushed through the waves. Both faces were white and drawn, and there was no joy in either. Gil’s was pale with anger, Jan’s only with sadness. He loved his brother still, but he knew that Gil loved him no more.

 

They were nearing the shore where the boys waited breathlessly for the end of this strange contest. Suddenly Jan turned his face towards Gil and gave him one look. “You will win, brother,” he breathed brokenly, “my strength is failing. You are the better swimmer, after all. Tell the lads that I confess it. Go on and come in as the champion.”

 

He thought that Gil might turn to see whether he needed aid. But Gil made no sign save to quicken his strokes, which had begun to lag, for in truth he was very weary. He pushed on with only a desire to win the shore and to triumph over his younger brother. With a sigh Jan saw him shoot ahead, then turning over on his back he began to float carelessly. He would not make another effort. It was then that he saw the Stork circling close over his head; and it did not seem so very strange when the Stork said to him,—

 

“Swim, Jan! You are the better swimmer; you can beat him yet.”

 

“I know; but I do not wish to beat,” said Jan wearily. “He would only hate me the more.”

 

“There is one who loves you more than ever he did,” said the Stork gently. “Will you go home to your sea-mother, the beautiful Mermaid?”

 

“The Mermaid!” cried Jan; “then it is true. My real home is not upon the shore?”

 

“Your real home is here, in the waves. Beneath them your mother waits.”

 

“Then I need not go back to that other home,” said Jan, “that home where I am hated?”

 

“Ah, you will be loved in this sea-home,” said the Stork. “You will be very happy there. Come, come, Mermaid! Kiss your child and take him home.”

 

Then Jan felt two soft arms come around his neck and two soft lips pressed upon his own. “Dear child!” whispered a soft voice, “come with me to your beautiful sea-home and be happy always.” A strange, drowsy feeling came over him, and he forgot how to be sad. He felt himself growing younger and younger. The world beyond the waves looked unreal and odd. He forgot why he was there; he forgot the race, the boys, Gil, and all his trouble. But instead he began to remember things of a wonderful dream. He closed his eyes; the sea rocked him gently, as in a cradle, and slowly, slowly, with the soft arms of the Mermaid about him, and her green hair twining through his fingers, he sank down through the water. As he sank the likeness of a human boy faded from him, and he became once more a fresh, fair little Sea-child, with a scaly tail and plump, merry face. The Mer-folk came to greet him. The fishes darted about him playfully. The sea-anemones beckoned him with enticing fingers. The Sea-child was at home again, and the sea was kind.

 

So Gil became the champion; but that was little pleasure to him, as you can fancy. For he remembered, he remembered, and he could not forget. He thought, like all the village, that Jan had been drowned through his brother’s selfishness and jealousy. He forgave himself less even than the whole village could forgive him for the loss of their favorite; for he knew better than they how much more he was to blame, because he had broken the promise which kept Jan by him. If he had known how happy the Sea-child now was in the home from which he had come to be Gil’s brother, perhaps Gil would not have lived thereafter so sad a life. The Stork might have told him the truth. But the wise old Stork would not. That was to be Gil’s punishment,—to remember and regret and to reproach himself always for the selfishness and jealousy which had cost him a loving brother.

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

Let Him Prove it

Oh, give me for a little space
To see with childlike eyes
This curious world, our dwelling-place
Of wonder and surprise. . . .

 

The long, long road from Day to Night
Winds on through constant change,
Whereon one hazards with delight
Adventures new and strange;

 

The wonders of the earth and sky!
The magic of the sea!
The mysteries of beast and fly,
Of bird and flower and tree!

 

One feels the breath of holy things
Unseen along the road,
The whispering of angel wings,
The neighboring of Good.

 

And Beauty must be good and true,
One battles for her sake;
But Wickedness is foul to view,
So one cannot mistake. . . .

 

Ah, give me with the childlike sight
The simple tongue and clear
Wherewith to read the vision right
Unto a childish ear.

 

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

From: THE FLOWER PRINCESS – Four Short Fantasy Stories for Children

ISBN: 9788835379119

DOWNLOAD LINK: https://bit.ly/2WQ6c2C

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KEYWORDS/TAGS: The Flower Princess, Little Friend, Mermaid’s Child, Ten Blowers, Folklore, fairy tale, myth, legend, fable, childrens story, storyteller, baby, beauty, blonde, Child, Christmas, dove, fair, family, Fleurette, flower, Fortemain, garden, Gil, heart, hill, Jan, Joyeuse, King, lost love, Mermaid, merry, morning mother, music, palace, Pierre, Prince, Princess, race, Sea-child, secret, snow, Stork, strange, throne, time, village, voice, words, Let Him Prove It, Princess Fleurette, Clap Her Hands, Joy, Help Comes, Blow For Our King,

One nice, warm sunny day, when it was too hot to stay inside the den among the rocks, the nice bears were all out in front, lying in the shade of the woods.

“Oh, my! How hot it is!” cried Dido, and he opened his mouth wide, and let his red tongue hang out, for animals, such as dogs and bears, cool themselves off that way. You must have seen your dog, when he had run fast, after a cat, perhaps, open his mouth and breathe fast, with his tongue hanging out.

“Let’s go swimming in the lake again!” cried Dido to his brothers.

“All right,” agreed Gruffo.

“We’ll all go,” said Mr. Bear. “Come along.”

So off through the woods walked the family of bears toward the cool, blue lake, high up in the mountains. Dido could hardly wait to get there, and as soon as he saw, through the trees, the sparkle of the water he began to run. He ran so fast that he stumbled over a stone, and fell down.

“Oh, Dido!” called his mother. “You must be more careful. You must not go so fast. Something will happen to you some day if you do not look where you are going.”

“I didn’t hurt myself that time, anyhow,” answered Dido, as he got up, and jumped into the lake. There he swam about, as did the father and mother bear, and the other two cubs. Dido splashed his brothers every time he came near them, but they did not mind, for he was such a cute little fellow and he meant no harm. Besides, it was so warm that the more water they had on them the better Gruffo and Muffo liked it.

“It makes me hungry to go in swimming,” said Mrs. Bear. “I am going off in the woods to look for some berries.”

“I’m coming, too,” said Dido. “For I am hungry myself.”

Soon Mrs. Bear found a bush on which were growing some big red berries. These she pulled off with her forepaws, which were, to her, almost like our hands are to us, and the mother bear filled her mouth with the fruit. Dido did the same, and soon he was not as hungry as he had been. Then along came Mr. Bear, with Gruffo and Muffo, and they, too, ate the red berries off the bushes.

All at once Mr. Bear stopped eating, and, lifting his nose up in the air, sniffed very hard two or three times.

“What is the matter?” asked Mrs. Bear quickly.

“I think I smell a man,” answered the papa bear. “See if you can smell anything.”

Mrs. Bear lifted her nose up in the air and she, also, sniffed. Bears, you know, as do most wild animals, use their noses as much as they do their eyes to tell when there is danger. And to wild animals a man, nearly always, means danger. If you were out in the woods, and could not see any one, you could not tell, just by smelling the air, whether some person was near you or not—that is, unless they had a lot of perfume on them, and then, if the wind was blowing toward you, why you might smell that.

But bears have much better noses for smelling than have we, and they can smell a man in the woods even if he has no cologne on him.

“Sniff! Sniff!” went Mr. Bear.

“Sniff! Sniff!” went Mrs. Bear.

“Yes, I can surely smell a man,” the papa bear said in a low voice. “It is the first time I have known them to come around here.”

“And so can I smell a man,” added Mrs. Bear. “We had better get away from here.”

Then the bears ran off through the woods to their den. For though big bears are very strong and can fight well, they would much rather run away from a man than fight him, unless they find they cannot get away. For when a man goes into the woods where there are bears he nearly always has a gun with him, and while bears know they are stronger than a man they also know that a gun is stronger than a dozen bears.

When Dido, with his brothers and father and mother, got back to the den in the rocks, the little bear cub saw that his father was worried about something. Mr. Bear walked up and down in front of the pile of rocks, sniffing the air, and looking on all sides.

“What is the matter, Papa?” asked Dido, in bear talk, of course.

“It’s that man I smelled in the woods,” said Mr. Bear. “I fear he may find our den.”

“Well, what if he does?” asked Dido.

“Then it would not be safe for us to stay here,” answered Mrs. Bear. “If men are coming into our woods it is time for us to go away.”

“What! go away from our nice den?” asked Gruffo. For though the den was only a hole in the rocks, with a pile of leaves in one corner for a bed, still, to the bears, it was as much a home as your house is to you.

“Yes, it would not be safe to stay while men are around,” said Mr. Bear. “That is the first time I have ever smelled them in our woods. Though a friend of mine, Mr. Lion, who lives farther down the mountain, said he has often seen men near his cave. Once some men on elephants chased him, but he got away.”

“Have you ever seen a man?” asked Dido of his father.

“Oh, yes, often, but always afar off. And the men did not see me.”

“What does a man look like?” asked Dido, for he had never seen any, though he had heard of them.

“A man is a queer creature,” said Mr. Bear. “He walks up on his hind feet, as we do sometimes, but when he walks on his four feet he can only go slowly, like a baby. Even you could run away from a man on his four feet, Dido.”

“How queer!” said the little bear.

“But don’t try it,” said Mrs. Bear quickly. “Keep away from men, Dido, for they might shoot you with one of their guns.”

“What else is a man like?” the little bear asked.

“Well, he has a skin that he can take off and put on again,” said Mr. Bear.

“Oh, how very funny!” cried Dido. “Take off his skin? I should think it would hurt!”

“It doesn’t seem to,” said the papa bear. “I don’t understand how they do it, but they do.”

Of course what Mr. Bear thought was skin was a man’s clothes, which he takes off and puts on again. But though bears are very wise and smart in their own way, they don’t know much about men, except to be afraid of them.

“I do not like it that men are coming up in our woods,” said Mr. Bear. “It means danger. So be careful, Dido, and you, too, Gruffo and Muffo, that you do not go too far away. Perhaps the man has come up here to set a trap to catch us.”

“What is a trap?” asked Dido.

“It is something dangerous, to catch bears,” his mother told him. “Some traps are made of iron, and they have sharp teeth in them that catch bears by the leg and hurt very much. Other traps are like a big box, made of logs. If you go in one of these box traps the door will shut and you can not get out.”

“What happens then?” asked Dido.

“Then the man comes and gets you.”

“And what does he do with you?” the little bear cub wanted to know.

“That I cannot say,” answered Mrs. Bear. “Perhaps your father knows.”

Mr. Bear shook his head.

“All I know,” he answered, “is that the man takes you away if he finds you in his trap. But where he takes you I do not know, for I was never caught, and I hope I never will be.”

“I hope so, too,” said Dido, and he sniffed the air to see if he could smell the man, but he could not.

For a number of days after that the bears did not go far from their den in the rocks. They were afraid the man might shoot them.

But, after a while, all the berries and sweet roots close by had been eaten, and the bears had to go farther off. Besides, they wanted some fish, and they must go to the lake or river to catch them. So after Mr. Bear had carefully sniffed the air, and had not smelled the man-smell, the bears started off through the woods again to get something to eat.

Dido ran here and there, sometimes on ahead and again he would stay behind, slipping up back of his brothers to tickle them. Oh, but Dido was a jolly little bear, always looking for fun.

The bears found some more red berries, and a few blue ones, and some sweet roots, and they also caught some fish, which made a good dinner for them. Then they went swimming in the lake again before going back to their den.

In the afternoon, when Gruffo was asleep in the shade, Dido went softly up to him, and poured a paw full of water in his brother’s ear.

“Wuff! Ouch! What’s that? Is it raining?” cried Gruffo, suddenly waking up. Then he saw that Dido had played the trick on him, and he ran after the little bear. But Dido climbed up a tree to get away, and he did it in such a funny way, his little short tail going around like a Fourth of July pinwheel, that Gruffo had to sit down and laugh.

“Oh, you are such a funny cut-up bear!” he said, laughing harder than ever, and when a bear laughs he can’t very well climb a tree.

“Come on down, I won’t do anything to you,” said Gruffo, after a while, so Dido came down. Then he turned somersaults on a pile of soft leaves. Next he stood on his hind legs, and began striking at a swinging branch of a tree with his front paws, as you have seen a kitten play with a cord of a window curtain.

Dido climed a tree to escape
But Dido climbed up a tree to get away.

 “Dido is getting to be a real cute little cub,” said Mrs. Bear.

Then, all of a sudden, Dido struck at the tree branch, but he did not hit it and he fell over backward.

“Look out!” cried Mr. Bear. “You’ll hurt yourself, Dido.”

“I didn’t hurt myself that time,” said the little bear, “for I fell on some soft, green moss.”

“Well, there will not always be moss for you to fall on,” his mother said. “So look out.”

One day, when Mr. Bear came back from a long trip in the woods, he brought some wild honey in his paws. And oh! how good it tasted to Dido and Gruffo and Muffo!

“Show me where the bee-tree is, Papa,” begged Dido. “I want to get some more honey.”

“It is too far away,” answered the papa bear. “Besides, I saw a man in the woods as I was getting the honey out of a hollow tree. It would not be safe for you to go near it when men are around.”

But the honey tasted so good to Dido that the little bear cub made up his mind that he simply must have more.

“I know what I’ll do,” he said to himself. “When none of the others are watching me I am going off by myself in the woods and look for a bee-tree to get some honey. I don’t believe there’s any danger.”

So about a week after this, one day, Dido saw his two brothers asleep outside the den. Mr. Bear had gone off to the lake, perhaps to catch some fish, and Mrs. Bear was in the den, stirring up the leaves that made the bed, so it would be softer to lie on.

“Now’s my chance,” thought Dido, in the way bears have of thinking. “I’ll just slip off in the woods by myself, and find a honey-tree. I’ll bring some honey home, too,” said Dido, for he was not a selfish little bear.

Walking softly, so as not to awaken his brothers, and so his mother, making the leaf-bed in the den, would not know what he was doing, away slipped Dido to the woods.

He shuffled along, now and then finding some red berries to eat, or a bit of sweet root, and every little while he would lift his nose up in the air, as he had seen his father do, and sniff to see if he could smell a man-smell.

“But I don’t smell any,” said Dido. “I guess it’s all right.”

Then, all at once, he felt a little wind blowing toward him, and on the breeze came the nicest smell.

“Oh, it’s honey!” cried Dido. “It’s honey! I have found the honey-tree! Oh, how glad I am!”

He hurried on through the woods, coming nearer and nearer to the honey smell all the while, until, after a bit, he saw in among the trees something square, like a box, made of little logs piled together. And inside the thing like a box was a pile of honey. Dido could see it and smell it. But he did not rush up in a great hurry.

“That doesn’t look like the honey-tree father told about,” the little bear cub thought. “He said he had to climb a tree. This honey is low down. Still it is honey, so this must be a honey-tree, and if it is low down so much the better for me. I will not have to climb.”

Dido sniffed the air again. He wanted to see if there was a man-smell about. But all he could smell was the honey.

“Oh, I guess it’s all right,” said the bear cub. “I’m so hungry for that honey I can’t wait! Here I go!”

Dido fairly ran into the box and began to eat the honey on the floor of it. But, no sooner had he taken a bite, than suddenly a queer thing happened.

Bang! went something behind Dido, and when he looked around he saw that the box was shut tight. A sliding door had fallen down and poor Dido was a prisoner……

DTDB-Cover

From: “Dido the Dancing Bear”

ISBN: 9788835390220

DOWNLOAD LINK: https://bit.ly/2xmFe8a

TITCH_Front_Cover-A5-Centered

TOLD IN THE COFFEE HOUSE

29 Turkish and Islamic Folk Tales

Herein are 29 of the most notable Turkish and Islamic stories recorded and translated by Adler in partnership with Allan Ramsay.

Herein you will find stories like:
HOW THE HODJA SAVED ALLAH
THE HANOUM AND THE UNJUST CADI
HOW COBBLER AHMET BECAME THE CHIEF ASTROLOGER
THE WISE SON OF ALI PASHA
THE MERCIFUL KHAN
KING KARA-KUSH OF BITHYNIA
WE KNOW NOT WHAT THE DAWN MAY BRING FORTH
THE EFFECTS OF RAKI
and many, many more.

You are invited to download these 29 stories in ebook form for only US$1.99

Link: https://store.streetlib.com/en/anon-e-mouse/told-in-the-coffee-house-29-turkish-and-islamic-folk-tales/

 

It must be noted that while Turkish folklore is entertaining and is guaranteed to give rise to a smile, a chuckle or even laughter, the stories do have a gravity of their own and will impart a wisdom only found in Eastern lands.

During the course of a number of visits to Istanbul, Cyrus Adler* became interested in the tales that were being told in the coffee houses of the city, and many they were.

Turkish Coffee Houses have an intimacy which encourages the sharing of stories. They usually consist of a little more than rooms, with walls made of small panes of glass. The furniture consists of a tripod with a contrivance for holding the kettle, and a fire to keep the coffee boiling. A carpeted bench traverses the entire length of the room. This is occupied by turbaned Turks, their legs folded under them, smoking hookahs or chibouks, and sipping coffee. A few will be engaged in a game of backgammon, but the majority enter into conversation, at first only in syllables, which gradually gives rise to a general discussion. Finally, some sage of the neighborhood comes in, and the company appeals to him to settle the point at issue. This he usually does by telling a story to illustrate his opinion. Some of the stories told on these occasions are adaptations of those already known in Arabic and Persian literature, but the Turkish mind gives them a new setting and a peculiar philosophy. They are characteristic of the habits, customs, and methods of thought of the people, and for this reason seem worthy of preservation.

Most of the stories have been collected by Mr. Allan Ramsay, who, by a long residence in Constantinople, has had special, and many, opportunities for learning to know the modern Turk.
Cyrus Adler (1863 – 1940) was an American educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar.
==============
KEYWORDS/TAGS: fairy tales, folklore, myths, legends, children’s stories, children’s stories, bygone era, fairydom, fairy land, classic stories, children’s bedtime stories, fables, Adventures, Turkey, Turkish, coffee house, one, man, Ahmet, Pasha, Jew, wife, Hodja, money, Hadji, Dervish, piasters, father, Cadi, gold, Halid, Allah, Sultan, Ben, Hussein, woman, house, devil, Moïse, horse, Vizier, Grand, Imam, Armenian, thousand, Hanoum, husband, Effendi, Chief, Majesty, olives, judges, slave, Turk, Patriarch, Palace, children, friend, goose, Stamboul, Brother, Alas, God, spokesman, Paradise, priest, monkey, smith, Ali, box, people, twelve, Jesus, Khan, astrologer, Janissary, Governor, begger, Hassan, beadle, faith, death, stranger, necklace, blessing, judgment, desire, master, thief, peace, hands, birds, sword, Forty, heart, dream, true, arm, 25, twenty-five, Astrologer, Detective, statement, pleasure, justice, village, farrier, funeral, punish, tailor, spirit, Egypt, baker, alone, Osman, Porte, child, third, blood, short, Avram, youth, possessions, Mohammed, history, journey, despair, Chepdji, window, evil, rose, Wise, wisdom, conversation, disappear, apprentice, protest, Mustapha, steward Scutari, towers, prison, garden, Bekri, Abdul, raki, Janissaries, thirty-nine, horseshoes, Inshallah, Dervish, gunsmith, Chacham, turban, Konak, Agha, thunderstruck, flute-player, gentlemen, medjidies, Chapkin, baker

A Dakota had married an Arikara woman, and by her had one child. By and by he took another wife. The first wife was jealous and pouted. When time came for the village to break camp she refused to move from her place on the tent floor. The tent was taken down but she sat on the ground with her babe on her back The rest of the camp with her husband went on.

At noon her husband halted the line. “Go back to your sister-in-law,” he said to his two brothers. “Tell her to come on and we will await you here. But hasten, for I fear she may grow desperate and kill herself.”

The two rode off and arrived at their former camping place in the evening. The woman still sat on the ground. The elder spoke:

“Sister-in-law, get up. We have come for you. The camp awaits you.”

She did not answer, and he put out his hand and touched her head. She had turned to stone!

The two brothers lashed their ponies and came back to camp. They told their story, but were not believed. “The woman has killed herself and my brothers will not tell me,” said the husband. However, the whole village broke camp and came back to the place where they had left the woman. Sure enough, she sat there still, a block of stone.

The Indians were greatly excited. They chose out a handsome pony, made a new travois and placed the stone in the carrying net. Pony and travois were both beautifully painted and decorated with streamers and colors. The stone was thought “wakan” (holy), and was given a place of honor in the center of the camp. Whenever the camp moved the stone and travois were taken along. Thus the stone woman was carried for years, and finally brought to Standing Rock Agency, and now rests upon a brick pedestal in front of the Agency office. From this stone Standing Rock Agency derives its name.

http://abelapublishing.com/myths-and-legends-of-the-sioux–38-sioux-myths-and-legends_p26531095.htm

 

Myths-and-legends-of-the Sioux-cover-w-persp

There once lived a merchant whose name was Mark, and whom people called ‘Mark the Rich.’ He was a very hard-hearted man, for he could not bear poor people, and if he caught sight of a beggar anywhere near his house, he would order the servants to drive him away, or would set the dogs at him.

 

One day three very poor old men came begging to the door, and just as he was going to let the fierce dogs loose on them, his little daughter, Anastasia, crept close up to him and said:

 

‘Dear daddy, let the poor old men sleep here to-night, do—to please me.’

 

Her father could not bear to refuse her, and the three beggars were allowed to sleep in a loft, and at night, when everyone in the house was fast asleep, little Anastasia got up, climbed up to the loft, and peeped in.

 

The three old men stood in the middle of the loft, leaning on their sticks, with their long grey beards flowing down over their hands, and were talking together in low voices.

 

‘What news is there?’ asked the eldest.

 

‘In the next village the peasant Ivan has just had his seventh son. What shall we name him, and what fortune shall we give him?’ said the second.

 

The third whispered, ‘Call him Vassili, and give him all the property of the hard-hearted man in whose loft we stand, and who wanted to drive us from his door.’

 

After a little more talk the three made themselves ready and crept softly away.

 

Anastasia, who had heard every word, ran straight to her father, and told him all.

 

Mark was very much surprised; he thought, and thought, and in the morning he drove to the next village to try and find out if such a child really had been born. He went first to the priest, and asked him about the children in his parish.

 

‘Yesterday,’ said the priest, ‘a boy was born in the poorest house in the village. I named the unlucky little thing “Vassili.” He is the seventh son, and the eldest is only seven years old, and they hardly have a mouthful amongst them all. Who can be got to stand godfather to such a little beggar boy?’

 

The merchant’s heart beat fast, and his mind was full of bad thoughts about that poor little baby. He would be godfather himself, he said, and he ordered a fine christening feast; so the child was brought and christened, and Mark was very friendly to its father. After the ceremony was over he took Ivan aside and said:

 

‘Look here, my friend, you are a poor man. How can you afford to bring up the boy? Give him to me and I’ll make something of him, and I’ll give you a present of a thousand crowns. Is that a bargain?’

 

Ivan scratched his head, and thought, and thought, and then he agreed. Mark counted out the money, wrapped the baby up in a fox skin, laid it in the sledge beside him, and drove back towards home. When he had driven some miles he drew up, carried the child to the edge of a steep precipice and threw it over, muttering, ‘There, now try to take my property!’

 

Very soon after this some foreign merchants travelled along that same road on the way to see Mark and to pay the twelve thousand crowns which they owed him.

 

As they were passing near the precipice they heard a sound of crying, and on looking over they saw a little green meadow wedged in between two great heaps of snow, and on the meadow lay a baby amongst the flowers.

 

The merchants picked up the child, wrapped it up carefully, and drove on. When they saw Mark they told him what a strange thing they had found. Mark guessed at once that the child must be his godson, asked to see him, and said:

 

‘That’s a nice little fellow; I should like to keep him. If you will make him over to me, I will let you off your debt.’

 

The merchants were very pleased to make so good a bargain, left the child with Mark, and drove off.

 

At night Mark took the child, put it in a barrel, fastened the lid tight down, and threw it into the sea. The barrel floated away to a great distance, and at last it floated close up to a monastery. The monks were just spreading out their nets to dry on the shore, when they heard the sound of crying. It seemed to come from the barrel which was bobbing about near the water’s edge. They drew it to land and opened it, and there was a little child! When the abbot heard the news, he decided to bring up the boy, and named him ‘Vassili.’

 

The boy lived on with the monks, and grew up to be a clever, gentle, and handsome young man. No one could read, write, or sing better than he, and he did everything so well that the abbot made him wardrobe keeper.

 

Now, it happened about this time that the merchant, Mark, came to the monastery in the course of a journey. The monks were very polite to him and showed him their house and church and all they had. When he went into the church the choir was singing, and one voice was so clear and beautiful, that he asked who it belonged to. Then the abbot told him of the wonderful way in which Vassili had come to them, and Mark saw clearly that this must be his godson whom he had twice tried to kill.

 

He said to the abbot: ‘I can’t tell you how much I enjoy that young man’s singing. If he could only come to me I would make him overseer of all my business. As you say, he is so good and clever. Do spare him to me. I will make his fortune, and will present your monastery with twenty thousand crowns.’

 

The abbot hesitated a good deal, but he consulted all the other monks, and at last they decided that they ought not to stand in the way of Vassili’s good fortune.

 

Then Mark wrote a letter to his wife and gave it to Vassili to take to her, and this was what was in the letter: ‘When the bearer of this arrives, take him into the soap factory, and when you pass near the great boiler, push him in. If you don’t obey my orders I shall be very angry, for this young man is a bad fellow who is sure to ruin us all if he lives.’

 

Vassili had a good voyage, and on landing set off on foot for Mark’s home. On the way he met three beggars, who asked him: ‘Where are you going, Vassili?’

 

‘I am going to the house of Mark the Merchant, and have a letter for his wife,’ replied Vassili.

 

‘Show us the letter.’

 

Vassili handed them the letter. They blew on it and gave it back to him, saying: ‘Now go and give the letter to Mark’s wife. You will not be forsaken.’

 

Vassili reached the house and gave the letter. When the mistress read it she could hardly believe her eyes and called for her daughter. In the letter was written, quite plainly: ‘When you receive this letter, get ready for a wedding, and let the bearer be married next day to my daughter, Anastasia. If you don’t obey my orders I shall be very angry.’

 

Anastasia saw the bearer of the letter and he pleased her very much. They dressed Vassili in fine clothes and next day he was married to Anastasia.

 

In due time, Mark returned from his travels. His wife, daughter, and son-in-law all went out to meet him. When Mark saw Vassili he flew into a terrible rage with his wife. ‘How dared you marry my daughter without my consent?’ he asked.

 

‘I only carried out your orders,’ said she. ‘Here is your letter.’

 

Mark read it. It certainly was his handwriting, but by no means his wishes.

 

‘Well,’ thought he, ‘you’ve escaped me three times, but I think I shall get the better of you now.’ And he waited a month and was very kind and pleasant to his daughter and her husband.

 

At the end of that time he said to Vassili one day, ‘I want you to go for me to my friend the Serpent King, in his beautiful country at the world’s end. Twelve years ago he built a castle on some land of mine. I want you to ask for the rent for those twelve years and also to find out from him what has become of my twelve ships which sailed for his country three years ago.’

 

Vassili dared not disobey. He said good-bye to his young wife, who cried bitterly at parting, hung a bag of biscuits over his shoulders, and set out.

 

I really cannot tell you whether the journey was long or short. As he tramped along he suddenly heard a voice saying: ‘Vassili! where are you going?’

 

Vassili looked about him, and, seeing no one, called out: ‘Who spoke to me?’

 

‘I did; this old wide-spreading oak. Tell me where you are going.’

 

‘I am going to the Serpent King to receive twelve years’ rent from him.’

 

‘When the time comes, remember me and ask the king: “Rotten to the roots, half dead but still green, stands the old oak. Is it to stand much longer on the earth?” ‘

 

Vassili went on further. He came to a river and got into the ferryboat. The old ferryman asked: ‘Are you going far, my friend?’

 

‘I am going to the Serpent King.’

 

‘Then think of me and say to the king: “For thirty years the ferryman has rowed to and fro. Will the tired old man have to row much longer?” ‘

 

‘Very well,’ said Vassili; ‘I’ll ask him.’

 

And he walked on. In time he came to a narrow strait of the sea and across it lay a great whale over whose back people walked and drove as if it had been a bridge or a road. As he stepped on it the whale said, ‘Do tell me where you are going.’

 

‘I am going to the Serpent King.’

 

And the whale begged: ‘Think of me and say to the king: “The poor whale has been lying three years across the strait, and men and horses have nearly trampled his back into his ribs. Is he to lie there much longer?” ‘

 

‘I will remember,’ said Vassili, and he went on.

 

He walked, and walked, and walked, till he came to a great green meadow. In the meadow stood a large and splendid castle. Its white marble walls sparkled in the light, the roof was covered with mother o’ pearl, which shone like a rainbow, and the sun glowed like fire on the crystal windows. Vassili walked in, and went from one room to another astonished at all the splendour he saw.

 

When he reached the last room of all, he found a beautiful girl sitting on a bed.

 

As soon as she saw him she said: ‘Oh, Vassili, what brings you to this accursed place?’

 

Vassili told her why he had come, and all he had seen and heard on the way.

 

The girl said: ‘You have not been sent here to collect rents, but for your own destruction, and that the serpent may devour you.’

 

She had not time to say more, when the whole castle shook, and a rustling, hissing, groaning sound was heard. The girl quickly pushed Vassili into a chest under the bed, locked it and whispered: ‘Listen to what the serpent and I talk about.’

 

Then she rose up to receive the Serpent King.

 

The monster rushed into the room, and threw itself panting on the bed, crying: ‘I’ve flown half over the world. I’m tired, VERY tired, and want to sleep—scratch my head.’

 

The beautiful girl sat down near him, stroking his hideous head, and said in a sweet coaxing voice: ‘You know everything in the world. After you left, I had such a wonderful dream. Will you tell me what it means?’

 

‘Out with it then, quick! What was it?’

 

‘I dreamt I was walking on a wide road, and an oak tree said to me: “Ask the king this: Rotten at the roots, half dead, and yet green stands the old oak. Is it to stand much longer on the earth?” ‘

 

‘It must stand till someone comes and pushes it down with his foot. Then it will fall, and under its roots will be found more gold and silver than even Mark the Rich has got.’

 

‘Then I dreamt I came to a river, and the old ferryman said to me: “For thirty year’s the ferryman has rowed to and fro. Will the tired old man have to row much longer?” ‘

 

‘That depends on himself. If someone gets into the boat to be ferried across, the old man has only to push the boat off, and go his way without looking back. The man in the boat will then have to take his place.’

 

‘And at last I dreamt that I was walking over a bridge made of a whale’s back, and the living bridge spoke to me and said: “Here have I been stretched out these three years, and men and horses have trampled my back down into my ribs. Must I lie here much longer?” ‘

 

‘He will have to lie there till he has thrown up the twelve ships of Mark the Rich which he swallowed. Then he may plunge back into the sea and heal his back.’

 

And the Serpent King closed his eyes, turned round on his other side, and began to snore so loud that the windows rattled.

 

In all haste the lovely girl helped Vassili out of the chest, and showed him part of his way back. He thanked her very politely, and hurried off.

 

When he reached the strait the whale asked: ‘Have you thought of me?’

 

‘Yes, as soon as I am on the other side I will tell you what you want to know.’

 

When he was on the other side Vassili said to the whale: ‘Throw up those twelve ships of Mark’s which you swallowed three years ago.’

 

The great fish heaved itself up and threw up all the twelve ships and their crews. Then he shook himself for joy, and plunged into the sea.

 

Vassili went on further till he reached the ferry, where the old man asked: ‘Did you think of me?’

 

‘Yes, and as soon as you have ferried me across I will tell you what you want to know.’

 

When they had crossed over, Vassili said: ‘Let the next man who comes stay in the boat, but do you step on shore, push the boat off, and you will be free, and the other man must take your place.

 

Then Vassili went on further still, and soon came to the old oak tree, pushed it with his foot, and it fell over. There, at the roots, was more gold and silver than even Mark the Rich had.

 

And now the twelve ships which the whale had thrown up came sailing along and anchored close by. On the deck of the first ship stood the three beggars whom Vassili had met formerly, and they said: ‘Heaven has blessed you, Vassili.’ Then they vanished away and he never saw them again.

 

The sailors carried all the gold and silver into the ship, and then they set sail for home with Vassili on board.

 

Mark was more furious than ever. He had his horses harnessed and drove off himself to see the Serpent King and to complain of the way in which he had been betrayed. When he reached the river he sprang into the ferryboat. The ferryman, however, did not get in but pushed the boat off………

 

Vassili led a good and happy life with his dear wife, and his kind mother-in-law lived with them. He helped the poor and fed and clothed the hungry and naked and all Mark’s riches became his.

 

For many years Mark has been ferrying people across the river. His face is wrinkled, his hair and beard are snow white, and his eyes are dim; but still he rows on.

 

 

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From THE VIOLET FAIRY BOOK – compiled and edited by Andrew Lang

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_violet.html

 

The Violet Fairy Book

 

 

(Recorded from Ann MacGilvray, Islay.–April 1859)

 

THERE was ere now a farmer, and he had three daughters. They were waulking(1) clothes at a river. A hoodie came round and he said to the eldest one, ’M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?” “I won’t wed thee, thou ugly brute. An ugly brute is the hoodie,” said she. He came to the second one on the morrow, and he said to her, “M-POS-U-MI, wilt thou wed me?” “Not I, indeed,” said she; “an ugly brute is the hoodie.” The third day he said to the youngest, M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?,” “I will wed thee,” said she; “a pretty creature is the hoodie,” and on the morrow they married.

 

The hoodie said to her, “Whether wouldst thou rather that I should be a hoodie by day, and a man at night; or be a hoodie at night, and a man by day?” “I would rather that thou wert a man by day, and a hoodie at night,” says she. After this he was a splendid fellow by day, and a hoodie at night. A few days after they married he took her with him to his own house.

At the end of three quarters they had a son. In the night there came the very finest music that ever was heard about the house. Every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning, and he asked how were all there. He was very sorrowful that the child should be taken away, for fear that he should be blamed for it himself.

 

At the end of three quarters again they had another son. A watch was set on the house. The finest of music came, as it came before, about the house; every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning. He asked if everything was safe; but the child was taken away, and he did not know what to do for sorrow.

 

Again, at the end of three quarters they had another son. A watch was set on the house as usual. Music came about the house as it came before; every one slept, and the child was taken away. When they rose on the morrow they went to another place of rest that they had, himself and his wife, and his sister-in-law. He said to them by the way, “See that you have not forgotten anything.” The wife said, “I FORGOT MY COARSE COMB.” The coach in which they were fell a withered faggot, and he went away as a hoodie.

Her two sisters returned home, and she followed after him. When he would be on a hill top, she would follow to try and catch him; and when she would reach the top of a hill, he would be in the hollow on the other side. When night came, and she was tired, she had no place of rest or dwelling; she saw a little house of light far from her, and though far from her she was not long in reaching it.

 

When she reached the house she stood deserted at the door. She saw a little laddie about the house, and she yearned to him exceedingly. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel. She laid down, and no sooner did the day come than she rose. She went out, and when she was out, she was going from hill to hill to try if she could see a hoodie. She saw a hoodie on a hill, and when she would get on the hill the hoodie would be in the hollow, when she would go to the hollow, the hoodie would be on another hill. When the night came she had no place of rest or dwelling. She saw a little house of light far from her, and if far from her she, was not long reaching it. She went to the door. She saw a laddie on the floor to whom she yearned right much. The, housewife laid her to rest. No earlier came the day than she took out as she used. She passed this day as the other days. When the night came she reached a house. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel, that her man had but left the house a little while, that she should be clever, that this was the last night she would see him, and not to sleep, but to strive to seize him. She slept, he came where she was, and he let fall a ring on her right hand. Now when she awoke she tried to catch hold of him, and she caught a feather of his wing. He left the feather with her, and he went away. When she rose in the morning she did not know what she should do. The housewife said that he had gone over a hill of poison over which she could not go without horseshoes on her hands and feet. She gave her man’s clothes, and she told her to go to learn smithying till she should be able to make horse shoes for herself.

 

She learned smithying so well that she made horseshoes for her hands and feet. She went over the hill of poison. That same day after she had gone over the hill of poison, her man was to be married to the daughter of a great gentleman that was in the town.

There was a race in the town that day, and everyone was to be at the race but the stranger that had come over to poison hill. The cook came to her, and he said to her, Would she go in his place to make the wedding meal, and that he might get to the race.

 

She said she would go. She was always watching where the bridegroom would be sitting.

She let fall the ring and the feather in the broth that was before him. With the first spoon he took up the ring, with the next he took up the feather. When the minister came to the fore to make the marriage, he would not marry till he should find out who had made ready the meal. They brought up the cook of the gentleman, and he said that this was not the cook who made ready the meal.

 

They brought up now the one who had made ready the meal. He said, “That now was his married wife.” The spells went off him. They turned back over the hill of poison, she throwing the horse shoes behind her to him, as she went a little bit forward, and he following her. When they came, back over the hill, they went to the three houses in which she had been. These were the houses of his sisters, and they took with them the three sons, and they came home to their own house, and they were happy.

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1 – Washing clothes – also known as waulking: in addition to washing by hand the women would also lay the clothes on rocks and walk on the cloth during washing (usually at a river)

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Written down by Hector Maclean, schoolmaster at Ballygrant, in Islay, from the recitation of “Ann MacGilvray, a Cowal woman, married to a farmer at Kilmeny, one Angus Macgeachy from Campbelltown.” Sent April 14, 1859.

 

The Gaelic of this tale is the plain everyday Gaelic of Islay and the West Highlands. Several words are variously spelt, but they are variously pronounced–falbh, folbh, tigh, taighe, taighean. There is one word, Tapaidh, which has no English equivalent; it is like “Tapper” in Swedish.

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From “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” collated and edited by John Campbell – better known as “John of Islay”

ISBN: 978-1-907256-02-8

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_ptotwh1.html