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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,

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

Baba Yaga, Russian, Girl with the Kind Heart - Cover

Baba Yaga, Russian, Girl with the Kind Heart – Cover

ISSN: 2397-9607 Issue 85

In Issue 85 of the Baba Indaba Children’s Stories, Baba Indaba narrates the Russian tale of “Baba Yaga and the Girl with a Kind Heart”. A while after the death of his wife,  poor peasant farmer decides to marry again, if only to give his daughter a mother. This he does but when he is out working in the fields and in the forest, all is not well at home.

What was the final outcome? Well, you’ll just have to download and read the story to find out what was really going on.

 

BUY ANY 4 BABA INDABA CHILDREN’S STORIES FOR ONLY $1

33% of the profit from the sale of this book will be donated to charities.

INCLUDES LINKS TO 8 FREE STORIES TO DOWNLOADS

Each issue also has a “WHERE IN THE WORLD – LOOK IT UP” section, where young readers are challenged to look up a place on a map somewhere in the world. The place, town or city is relevant to the story, on map. HINT – use Google maps.

 

Baba Indaba is a fictitious Zulu storyteller who narrates children’s stories from around the world. Baba Indaba translates as “Father of Stories”.

 

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Anon_E_Mouse_BABA_YAGA_AND_THE_LITTLE_GIRL_WITH_TH?id=chQaDAAAQBAJ

THE OPENING STANZAS

1. Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

2. Hail to the giver! | a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit?
Swift shall he be who, | with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make.

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.

4. Water and towels | and welcoming speech
Should he find who comes, to the feast;
If renown he would get, | and again be greeted,
Wisely and well must he act.

5. Wits must he have | who wanders wide,
But all is easy at home;
At the witless man | the wise shall wink
When among such men he sits.

6. A man shall not boast | of his keenness of mind,
But keep it close in his breast;
To the silent and wise | does ill come seldom
When he goes as guest to a house;
(For a faster friend | one never finds
Than wisdom tried and true.)

7. The knowing guest | who goes to the feast,
In silent attention sits;
With his ears he hears, | with his eyes he watches,
Thus wary are wise men all.

8. Happy the one | who wins for himself
Favor and praises fair;
Less safe by far | is the wisdom found
That is hid in another’s heart.

9. Happy the man | who has while he lives
Wisdom and praise as well,
For evil counsel | a man full oft
Has from another’s heart.

10. A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth | on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives.

11. A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
Worse food for the journey | he brings not afield
Than an over-drinking of ale.

12. Less good there lies | than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks | the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold.
——-
CONTENTS
(1) The Havamal proper (stanzas 1-80).
(2) The Loddfafnismol (stanzas 111-138).
(3) The Ljothatal (stanzas 147-165).
(4) The love-story of Odin and Billing’s daughter (stanzas 96-102).
(5) The story of how Odin got the mead of poetry–the draught which gave him the gift of tongues–from the maiden Gunnloth (stanzas 103-110).
(6) A brief passage telling how Odin won the runes (stanzas 139 146).

For more information, table of contents and to buy, go to http://abelapublishing.com/the-havamal–the-sayings-of-the-wise-one_p26538287.htm

Havamal-cover-w-persp

When the Son of the Chan was, as formerly, carrying Ssidi away in the sack, Ssidi inquired of him as before; but the Son of the Chan shook his head without speaking a word, so Ssidi proceeded as follows:—

 

“Many, many years ago there ruled over a certain kingdom a Chan named Guguluktschi. Upon the death of this Chan his son, who was of great reputation and worth, was elected Chan in his place.

 

“One berren (a measure of distance) from the residence of the Chan dwelt a man, who had a daughter of wonderful abilities and extraordinary beauty. The son of the Chan was enamoured of this maiden, and visited her daily; until, at length, he fell sick of a grievous malady, and died, without the maiden being made aware of it.

 

“One night, just as the moon was rising, the maiden heard a knocking at the door, and the face of the maiden was gladdened when she beheld the son of the Chan; and the maiden arose and went to meet him, and she led him in and placed arrack and cakes before him. ‘Wife,’ said the son of the Chan, ‘come with me!’

 

“The maiden followed, and they kept going further and further, until they arrived at the dwelling of the Chan, from which proceeded the sound of cymbals and kettledrums.

 

“‘Chan, what is this?’ she asked. The son of the Chan replied to these inquiries of the maiden, ‘Do you not know that they are now celebrating the feast of my funeral?’ Thus spake he; and the maiden replied, ‘The feast of thy funeral! Has anything then befallen the Chan’s son?’ And the son of the Chan replied, ‘He is departed. Thou wilt, however, bear a son unto him. And when the season is come, go into the stable of the elephant, and let him be born there. In the palace there will arise a contention betwixt my mother and her attendants, because of the wonderful stone of the kingdom. The wonderful stone lies under the table of sacrifice. After it has been discovered, do you and my mother reign over this kingdom until such time as my son comes of age.’

 

“Thus spake he, and vanished into air. But his beloved fell, from very anguish; into a swoon. ‘Chan! Chan!’ exclaimed she sorrowfully, when she came to herself again. And because she felt that the time was come, she betook herself to the stable of the elephants, and there gave birth to a son.

 

“On the following morning, when the keeper of the elephants entered the stable, he exclaimed, ‘What! has a woman given birth to a son in the stable of the elephants? This never happened before. This may be an injury to the elephants.’

 

“At these words the maiden said, ‘Go unto the mother of the Chan, and say unto her, “Arise! something wonderful has taken place.”‘

 

“When these words were told unto the mother of the Chan, then she arose and went unto the stable, and maiden related unto her all that had happened. ‘Wonderful!’ said the mother of the Chan. ‘Otherwise the Chan had left no successors. Let us go together into the house.’

 

“Thus speaking, she took the maiden with her into the house, and nursed her, and tended her carefully. And because her account of the wonderful stone was found correct, all the rest of her story was believed. So the mother of the Chan and his wife ruled over the kingdom.

 

“Henceforth, too, it happened that every month, on the night of the full moon, the deceased Chan appeared to his wife, remained with her until morning dawned, and then vanished into air. And the wife recounted this to his mother, but his mother believed her not, and said, ‘This is a mere invention. If it were true my son would, of a surety, show himself likewise unto me. If I am to believe your words, you must take care that mother and son meet one another.’

 

“When the son of the Chan came on the night of the full moon, his wife said unto him, ‘It is well that thou comest unto me on the night of every full moon, but it were yet better if thou camest every night.’ And as she spake thus, with tears in her eyes, the son of the Chan replied, ‘If thou hadst sufficient spirit to dare its accomplishment, thou mightest do what would bring me every night; but thou art young and cannot do it.’ ‘Then,’ said she, ‘if thou wilt but come every night, I will do all that is required of me, although I should thereby lose both flesh and bone.’

 

“Thereupon the son of the Chan spake as follows: Then betake thyself on the night of the full moon a berren from this place to the iron old man, and give unto him arrack. A little further you will come unto two rams, to them you must offer batschimak cakes. A little further on you will perceive a host of men in coats of mail and other armour, and there you must share out meat and cakes. From thence you must proceed to a large black building, stained with blood; the skin of a man floats over it instead of a flag. Two aerliks (fiends) stand at the entrance. Present unto them both offerings of blood. Within the mansion thou wilt discover nine fearful exorcists, and nine hearts upon a throne. “Take me! take me!” will the eight old hearts exclaim; and the ninth heart will cry out, “Do not take me!” But leave the old hearts and take the fresh one, and run home with it without looking round.’

 

“Much as the maiden was alarmed at the task which she had been enjoined to perform, she set forth on the night of the next full moon, divided the offerings, and entered the house. ‘Take me not!’ exclaimed the fresh heart; but the maiden seized the fresh heart and fled with it. The exorcists fled after her, and cried out to those who were watching, ‘Stop the thief of the heart!’ And the two aerlic (fiends) cried, ‘We have received offerings of blood!’ Then each of the armed men cried out, ‘Stop the thief!’ But the rams said, ‘We have received batschimak cakes.’ Then they called out to the iron old man, ‘Stop the thief with the heart!’ But the old man said, ‘I have received arrack from her, and shall not stop her.’

 

“Thereupon the maiden journeyed on without fear until she reached home; and she found upon entering the house the Chan’s son, attired in festive garments. And the Chan’s son drew nigh, and threw his arms about the neck of the maiden.”

 

“The maiden behaved well indeed!” exclaimed the Son of the Chan.

 

“Ruler of Destiny, thou hast spoken words! Ssarwala missdood jakzang.” Thus spake Ssidi, and burst from the sack through the air.

 

Thus Ssidi’s ninth relation treats of the Stealing of the Heart.

 

 

————————-

From ORIENTAL FOLKLORE AND LEGENDS translated by C. J. Tibbitts

ISBN: 978-1-907256-10-3

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

Click on the URL for more info, a table of contents and to order in USD or GBP.

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to UNICEF.

 

Oriental Folklore and Legends

 

 

Today we take a brief branch away from our usual folkore and fairy tales and have a look at three poems from the book WHEN HEARTS ARE TRUMPS.  The verse in this volume were  selected from works that had appeared in various periodicals, LIFE, TRUTH, TOWN TOPICS, VOGUE, and MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE during the five years 1893-1898 and whose editors kindly gave Tom Hall permission to republish them. So popular was this collection of poetry, that it had at least six editions. Read on and enjoy……….

 

THE OLD-FASHIONED GIRL.

 

There’s an old-fashioned girl in an old fashioned street,

Dressed in old-fashioned clothes from her head to her feet;

And she spends all her time in the old-fashioned way

Of caring for poor people’s children all day.

She never has been to cotillon1 or ball,

And she knows not the styles of the Spring or the Fall;

Two hundred a year will suffice for her needs,

And an old-fashioned Bible is all that she reads.

And she has an old-fashioned heart that is true

To a fellow who died in an old coat of blue,

With its buttons all brass,—who is waiting above

For the woman who loved him with old-fashioned love.

 

1 The Cotillion was a popular 18th and 19th century dance in the French Courts that preceded the Quadrille style of dancing.

 

– – – – – – –

A RHYMING REVERIE.

 

It was a dainty lady’s glove;

A souvenir to rhyme with love.

It was the memory of a kiss,

So called to make it rhyme with bliss.

There was a month at Mt. Desert,

Synonymous and rhymes with flirt.

A pretty girl and lots of style,

Which rhymes with happy for a while.

There came a rival old and bold,

To make him rhyme with gold and sold.

A broken heart there had to be.

Alas, the rhyme just fitted me.

 

– – – – – – –

 

VANITY FAIR.

 

Oh, whence, oh, where

Is Vanity Fair?

I want to be seen with the somebodies there.

I’ve money and beauty and college-bred brains;

Though my ‘scutcheon’s not spotless, who’ll mind a few stains?

To caper I wish in the chorus of style,

And wed an aristocrat after a while

So please tell me truly, and please tell me fair,

Just how many miles it’s from Madison Square.

It’s here, it’s there,

Is Vanity Fair.

It’s not like a labyrinth, not like a lair.

It’s North and it’s South, and it’s East and it’s West;

You can see it, oh, anywhere, quite at its best.

Dame Fashion is queen, Ready Money is king,

You can join it, provided you don’t know a thing.

It’s miles over here, and it’s miles over there;

And it’s not seven inches from Madison Square.

 

– – – – – – –

 

From WHEN HEARTS ARE TRUMPS compiled by Tom Hall

ISBN: 978-1-907256-55-4

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

Click on the URL for more info, a table of contents and to order in USD or GBP.

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to The BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION.

 

When Hearts are Trumps a book of love poems

 

 

 

Once upon a time there lived in the same village two children, one called Sylvain and the other Jocosa, who were both remarkable for beauty and intelligence. It happened that their parents were not on terms of friendship with one another, on account of some old quarrel, which had, however, taken place so long ago, that they had quite forgotten what it was all about, and only kept up the feud from force of habit. Sylvain and Jocosa for their parts were far from sharing this enmity, and indeed were never happy when apart. Day after day they fed their flocks of sheep together, and spent the long sunshiny hours in playing, or resting upon some shady bank. It happened one day that the Fairy of the Meadows passed by and saw them, and was so much attracted by their pretty faces and gentle manners that she took them under her protection, and the older they grew the dearer they became to her. At first she showed her interest by leaving in their favourite haunts many little gifts such as they delighted to offer one to the other, for they loved each other so much that their first thought was always, ‘What will Jocosa like?’ or, ‘What will please Sylvain?’ And the Fairy took a great delight in their innocent enjoyment of the cakes and sweetmeats she gave them nearly every day. When they were grown up she resolved to make herself known to them, and chose a time when they were sheltering from the noonday sun in the deep shade of a flowery hedgerow. They were startled at first by the sudden apparition of a tall and slender lady, dressed all in green, and crowned with a garland of flowers. But when she spoke to them sweetly, and told them how she had always loved them, and that it was she who had given them all the pretty things which it had so surprised them to find, they thanked her gratefully, and took pleasure in answering the questions she put to them. When she presently bade them farewell, she told them never to tell anyone else that they had seen her. ‘You will often see me again,’ added she, ‘and I shall be with you frequently, even when you do not see me.’ So saying she vanished, leaving them in a state of great wonder and excitement. After this she came often, and taught them numbers of things, and showed them many of the marvels of her beautiful kingdom, and at last one day she said to them, ‘You know that I have always been kind to you; now I think it is time you did something for me in your turn. You both remember the fountain I call my favourite? Promise me that every morning before the sun rises you will go to it and clear away every stone that impedes its course, and every dead leaf or broken twig that sullies its clear waters. I shall take it as a proof of your gratitude to me if you neither forget nor delay this duty, and I promise that so long as the sun’s earliest rays find my favourite spring the clearest and sweetest in all my meadows, you two shall not be parted from one another.’

 

Sylvain and Jocosa willingly undertook this service, and indeed felt that it was but a very small thing in return for all that the fairy had given and promised to them. So for a long time the fountain was tended with the most scrupulous care, and was the clearest and prettiest in all the country round. But one morning in the spring, long before the sun rose, they were hastening towards it from opposite directions, when, tempted by the beauty of the myriads of gay flowers which grew thickly on all sides, they paused each to gather some for the other.

 

‘I will make Sylvain a garland,’ said Jocosa, and ‘How pretty Jocosa will look in this crown!’ thought Sylvain.

 

Hither and thither they strayed, led ever farther and farther, for the brightest flowers seemed always just beyond them, until at last they were startled by the first bright rays of the rising sun. With one accord they turned and ran towards the fountain, reaching it at the same moment, though from opposite sides. But what was their horror to see its usually tranquil waters seething and bubbling, and even as they looked down rushed a mighty stream, which entirely engulfed it, and Sylvain and Jocosa found themselves parted by a wide and swiftly-rushing river. All this had happened with such rapidity that they had only time to utter a cry, and each to hold up to the other the flowers they had gathered; but this was explanation enough. Twenty times did Sylvain throw himself into the turbulent waters, hoping to be able to swim to the other side, but each time an irresistible force drove him back upon the bank he had just quitted, while, as for Jocosa, she even essayed to cross the flood upon a tree which came floating down torn up by the roots, but her efforts were equally useless. Then with heavy hearts they set out to follow the course of the stream, which had now grown so wide that it was only with difficulty they could distinguish each other. Night and day, over mountains and through valleys, in cold or in heat, they struggled on, enduring fatigue and hunger and every hardship, and consoled only by the hope of meeting once more—until three years had passed, and at last they stood upon the cliffs where the river flowed into the mighty sea.

 

And now they seemed farther apart than ever, and in despair they tried once more to throw themselves into the foaming waves. But the Fairy of the Meadows, who had really never ceased to watch over them, did not intend that they should be drowned at last, so she hastily waved her wand, and immediately they found themselves standing side by side upon the golden sand. You may imagine their joy and delight when they realised that their weary struggle was ended, and their utter contentment as they clasped each other by the hand. They had so much to say that they hardly knew where to begin, but they agreed in blaming themselves bitterly for the negligence which had caused all their trouble; and when she heard this the Fairy immediately appeared to them. They threw themselves at her feet and implored her forgiveness, which she granted freely, and promised at the same time that now their punishment was ended she would always befriend them. Then she sent for her chariot of green rushes, ornamented with May dewdrops, which she particularly valued and always collected with great care; and ordered her six short-tailed moles to carry them all back to the well-known pastures, which they did in a remarkably short time; and Sylvain and Jocosa were overjoyed to see their dearly-loved home once more after all their toilful wanderings. The Fairy, who had set her mind upon securing their happiness, had in their absence quite made up the quarrel between their parents, and gained their consent to the marriage of the faithful lovers; and now she conducted them to the most charming little cottage that can be imagined, close to the fountain, which had once more resumed its peaceful aspect, and flowed gently down into the little brook which enclosed the garden and orchard and pasture which belonged to the cottage. Indeed, nothing more could have been thought of, either for Sylvain and Jocosa or for their flocks; and their delight satisfied even the Fairy who had planned it all to please them. When they had explored and admired until they were tired they sat down to rest under the rose-covered porch, and the Fairy said that to pass the time until the wedding guests whom she had invited could arrive she would tell them a story. This is it:

THE YELLOW BIRD

 

Once upon a time a Fairy, who had somehow or other got into mischief, was condemned by the High Court of Fairyland to live for several years under the form of some creature, and at the moment of resuming her natural appearance once again to make the fortune of two men. It was left to her to choose what form she would take, and because she loved yellow she transformed herself into a lovely bird with shining golden feathers such as no one had ever seen before. When the time of her punishment was at an end the beautiful yellow bird flew to Bagdad, and let herself be caught by a Fowler at the precise moment when Badi-al-Zaman was walking up and down outside his magnificent summer palace. This Badi-al-Zaman—whose name means ‘Wonder-of-the-World’—was looked upon in Bagdad as the most fortunate creature under the sun, because of his vast wealth. But really, what with anxiety about his riches and being weary of everything, and always desiring something he had not, he never knew a moment’s real happiness. Even now he had come out of his palace, which was large and splendid enough for fifty kings, weary and cross because he could find nothing new to amuse him. The Fowler thought that this would be a favourable opportunity for offering him the marvellous bird, which he felt certain he would buy the instant he saw it. And he was not mistaken, for when Badi-al-Zaman took the lovely prisoner into his own hands, he saw written under its right wing the words, ‘He who eats my head will become a king,’ and under its left wing, ‘He who eats my heart will find a hundred gold pieces under his pillow every morning.’ In spite of all his wealth he at once began to desire the promised gold, and the bargain was soon completed. Then the difficulty arose as to how the bird was to be cooked; for among all his army of servants not one could Badi-al-Zaman trust. At last he asked the Fowler if he were married, and on hearing that he was he bade him take the bird home with him and tell his wife to cook it.

 

‘Perhaps,’ said he, ‘this will give me an appetite, which I have not had for many a long day, and if so your wife shall have a hundred pieces of silver.’

 

The Fowler with great joy ran home to his wife, who speedily made a savoury stew of the Yellow Bird. But when Badi-al-Zaman reached the cottage and began eagerly to search in the dish for its head and its heart he could not find either of them, and turned to the Fowler’s wife in a furious rage. She was so terrified that she fell upon her knees before him and confessed that her two children had come in just before he arrived, and had so teased her for some of the dish she was preparing that she had presently given the head to one and the heart to the other, since these morsels are not generally much esteemed; and Badi-al-Zaman rushed from the cottage vowing vengeance against the whole family. The wrath of a rich man is generally to be feared, so the Fowler and his wife resolved to send their children out of harm’s way; but the wife, to console her husband, confided to him that she had purposely given them the head and heart of the bird because she had been able to read what was written under its wings. So, believing that their children’s fortunes were made, they embraced them and sent them forth, bidding them get as far away as possible, to take different roads, and to send news of their welfare. For themselves, they remained hidden and disguised in the town, which was really rather clever of them; but very soon afterwards Badi-al-Zaman died of vexation and annoyance at the loss of the promised treasure, and then they went back to their cottage to wait for news of their children. The younger, who had eaten the heart of the Yellow Bird, very soon found out what it had done for him, for each morning when he awoke he found a purse containing a hundred gold pieces under his pillow. But, as all poor people may remember for their consolation, nothing in the world causes so much trouble or requires so much care as a great treasure. Consequently, the Fowler’s son, who spent with reckless profusion and was supposed to be possessed of a great hoard of gold, was before very long attacked by robbers, and in trying to defend himself was so badly wounded that he died.

 

The elder brother, who had eaten the Yellow Bird’s head, travelled a long way without meeting with any particular adventure, until at last he reached a large city in Asia, which was all in an uproar over the choosing of a new Emir. All the principal citizens had formed themselves into two parties, and it was not until after a prolonged squabble that they agreed that the person to whom the most singular thing happened should be Emir. Our young traveller entered the town at this juncture, with his agreeable face and jaunty air, and all at once felt something alight upon his head, which proved to be a snow-white pigeon. Thereupon all the people began to stare, and to run after him, so that he presently reached the palace with the pigeon upon his head and all the inhabitants of the city at his heels, and before he knew where he was they made him Emir, to his great astonishment.

 

As there is nothing more agreeable than to command, and nothing to which people get accustomed more quickly, the young Emir soon felt quite at his ease in his new position; but this did not prevent him from making every kind of mistake, and so misgoverning the kingdom that at last the whole city rose in revolt and deprived him at once of his authority and his life—a punishment which he richly deserved, for in the days of his prosperity he disowned the Fowler and his wife, and allowed them to die in poverty.

 

‘I have told you this story, my dear Sylvain and Jocosa,’ added the Fairy, ‘to prove to you that this little cottage and all that belongs to it is a gift more likely to bring you happiness and contentment than many things that would at first seem grander and more desirable. If you will faithfully promise me to till your fields and feed your flocks, and will keep your word better than you did before, I will see that you never lack anything that is really for your good.’

 

Sylvain and Jocosa gave their faithful promise, and as they kept it they always enjoyed peace and prosperity. The Fairy had asked all their friends and neighbours to their wedding, which took place at once with great festivities and rejoicings, and they lived to a good old age, always loving one another with all their hearts.

 

(By the Comte de Caylus)

 

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

ISBN: 978-1-907256-79-0

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

 

The Green Fairy Book