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from PUCK of POOK’s HILL

by RUDYARD KIPLING (illustrated)

PUCK’S SONG and ON THE GREAT WALL

POPH-Cover-A5

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Puck’s Song

 

See you the dimpled track that runs,

All hollow through the wheat?

O that was where they hauled the guns

That smote King Philip’s fleet.

See you our little mill that clacks,

So busy by the brook?

She has ground her corn and paid her tax

Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,

And the dread ditch beside?

O that was where the Saxons broke,

On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread

About the gates of Rye?

O that was where the Northmen fled,

When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,

Where the red oxen browse?

O there was a City thronged and known,

Ere London boasted a house.

And see you, after rain, the trace

Of mound and ditch and wall?

O that was a Legion’s camping-place,

When Cæsar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,

Like shadows on the Downs?

O they are the lines the Flint Men made,

To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,

Salt Marsh where now is corn;

Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,

And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,

Water or wood or air,

But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,

Where you and I will fare.

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On the Great Wall

 

When I left Rome for Lalage’s sake

By the Legions’ Road to Rimini,

She vowed her heart was mine to take

With me and my shield to Rimini—

(Till the Eagles flew from Rimini!)

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

And the Pontic shore where the snow-flakes fall

As white as the neck of Lalage—

As cold as the heart of Lalage!

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

(the voice seemed very cheerful about it),

And I’ve lost Rome, and worst of all,

I’ve lost Lalage!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘Fetch it? Where from?’ said Una.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘What did you do?’ said Dan.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That is the Wall
And that is the Wall!

 

‘Ah!’ said the children, taking breath.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘What is a tame Pict?’ said Dan.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘What’s that?’ said Dan.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘“Threatened men live long,” I said.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘Had you?’ said Una.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘“Pertinax and I are one,” I said.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

ISBN: 9788835367420

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

 

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KEYWORDS/TAGS: Puck of Pook’s hill, fantasy fiction, folklore, myths, legends, magic, children’s stories, fables, children’s fiction, juvenile fiction, young adult fiction, storyteller, Ælueva, Aelueva, Amal, Aquila, Aquila, arrow, Ash, Baron’s, Beacon, Borkum, Britain, brook, Bury, Cæsar, Caesar, Castle, children, Christian, Cohort, coin, crusader, Dallington, Dan, Devil, Duke, Elias, Emperor, Empire, England, Fairy Ring, Faun, Fulke, Gaul, Gilbert, Gods, gold, Great, heart, Hobden, horses, Hugh, Jehan, King, kiss, knight, Manor House, Marsh, Master, Maximus, Mithras, Norman, Normandy, North, novice, palace, parchment, Parnesius, Pater, people of the hills, Pertinax, Pevensey, Pharisees, Pict, ponies, Prince, Princess, Puck, Richard, Roman, Rome, Santlache, Saxon, sea, Sebastian, secrets, serpentine, shield, ship, South, Stavanger, sword, Theodosius, Thorkild, Thorn, tower, Una, velvet, Victrix, violets, Volaterrae, Weland’s sword, whales, white-ash, Whitgift, Winged Hats, Witta, woods, Xenophon, tree song, young men, harp song, dane women, joyous venture, old men, runes, centurion of the thirtieth, 30th, british-roman, great wall, hal o’ the draft, smugglers’ song, bee boy, dymchurch flit, three-part, fifth river, treasure, law, children’s song,

 

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

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Compiled and Retold by Jennie Hall

A GREAT READ FOR YOUNG VIKINGS!

15 Viking stories and tales in an easy-to-read edition for young children PLUS a Geographical outline of Viking lands, explanations to Customs and Norse Mythology, significant Incidents, a Pronouncing Index and a guide to pronunciation for those hard to understand words and names.

I struck my shield against the door He threw back his cloak     Its a bigger boat than I saw before

In ancient Iceland every midsummer there was a great meeting. Men from all over the country came and made laws. During the day there were rest times, when no business was going on. Then a skald, a storyteller,  would take his harp and walk to a large stone or a knoll and stand on it and begin a song of some brave deed of an old Norse hero. At the first sound of the harp and the voice, men would come running from all directions, crying out:

“A skald! A skald! A saga!”

There they would stand for hours listening and shouting applause. When the skald was tired, another would take his place. The best skalds were well travelled and visited many people. Their songs made them welcome everywhere. They were always honoured with good seats at a feast and were given many rich gifts. Even the King of Norway was known to sometimes send across the water to Iceland for a skald to attend his court.

Initially these tales, or sagas, were not written for few men wrote or read in those days. When at last people began to read and write, they first recorded the sagas on sheepskin, or vellum. Many of these old vellum books have been saved for hundreds of years and are now in museums in Norway and Iceland.

Some pages have been lost, some are torn and all are yellow and crumpled. But they are precious. They tell us all that we know about that olden time. There are the very words that the men of Iceland wrote so long ago—stories of kings and of battles and of ship-sailing. Some of the most significant old stories are now told in this book.

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Download this ebook via our StreetLib store at:

https://store.streetlib.com/en/anon-e-mouse/viking-tales-classic-illustrated-viking-stories-for-children/

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10% of the publisher’s profit from the sale of this book will be donated to UNICEF.

KEYWORDS/TAGS: Viking Tales, Viking Folklore, Viking fables, Viking Sagas, Viking Myths and Legends, Norse Sagas, Norse tales and stories, Jennie Hall, men, Thing, battle, beautiful, boat, beserker, died, door, Eric, father, feast, fight, fire, gold, great, Greenland, Gudrid, guests, hall, Harald, head, house, Iceland, Ingolf, king, King Harald, land, Leif Ericson, Leif Ericsson, man, night, Norsemen, Norway, Odin, Olaf, one, One, people, red, sail, sea, ship, shore, shouted, strange, sword, Thor, Thorfinn, thralls, three, together, Valhalla, vow, Vinland, America, USA, Canada, water, white, wife, Wineland, women, woods, Newfoundland, scald, saga

 

HASHTAGS: #VikingTales, #VikingFolklore, #Vikingfables, #VikingSagas, #VikingMythsandLegends, #NorseSagas, #Norsetalesandstories, #JennieHall, #men, #Thing, #battle, #beautiful, #boat, #beserker, #died, #Erictheviking, #father, #feast, #fight, #fire, #gold, #great, #Greenland, #Gudrid, #guests, #hall, #Harald, #head, #house, #Iceland, #Ingolf, #king, #KingHarald, #land, #LeifEricson, #LeifEricsson, #man, #night, #Norsemen, #Norway, #Odin, #Olaf, #one, #One, #people, #red, #sail, #sea, #vikingship, #longboat, #shore, #strange, #sword, #Thor, #Thorfinn, #thralls, #together, #Valhalla, #vow, #Vinland, #America, #USA, #Canada, #water, #Wineland, #women, #woods, #Newfoundland, #scald, #saga

In Issue 24 of the Baba Indaba Children’s Stories, Baba Indaba narrates the Russian tale of SALT and that of Ivan the Ninny. His father gave two great ships to Ivan’s older brothers and a small, worn-out ship with patchwork sails to Ivan and sends them across to trade. But Ivan comes back with his ship laden with treasure and a Princess on his arm, while his brothers don’t have much to show. How did Ivan do it? Well you’ll have to read the story to find out!
 
It is believed that folklore and tales are believed to have originated in India and made their way overland along the Silk and Spice routes and through Central Asia before arriving in Europe.
 
This book 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”.
 
ISSN: 2397-9607 Issue 24 (Digital)
 

Salat – Baba Indaba Children’s Stories

Just loaded for it’s proof run LEGENDS AND STORIES FROM MARTHA’S VINEYARD, NANTUCKET AND BLOCK ISLAND. 21 legends and stories from the Cape Cod area which goes back to at least 1602.

Table of contents is:
MARTHA’S VINEYARD AND NANTUCKET
LOVE AND TREASON
THE HEADLESS SKELETON OF SWAMPTOWN
THE CROW AND CAT OF HOPKINSHILL
THE OLD STONE MILL
THE ORIGIN OF A NAME
MICAH ROOD APPLES
A DINNER AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
THE NEW HAVEN STORM SHIP
THE WINDAM FROGS
THE LAMB OF SACRIFICE
MOODUS NOISES
HADDAM ENCHANTMENTS

BLOCK ISLAND
THE BUCCANEER
ROBERT LOCKWOOD’S FATE
LOVE AND RUM
THE WHOLE HISTORY OF GRANDFATHER’S CHAIR
THE LOYALISTS OF MASSACHUSETTS
PUNISHMENT FOR WEARING LONG HAIR IN NEW ENGLAND
SCHOOL DISCIPLINE IN THE STATE OF MASSACHSETTS
THE SCHOOLMASTER’S SOLILOQUY
THE STORY OF KING PHILIP (of the Wampanoag tribe)

Cover - Legends and Stories from Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island

Cover – Legends and Stories from Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island

An excerpt from TALES OF FOLK AND FAIRIES – 14 children’s tales from around the world – A NEW RELEASE

 

THERE was once a girl who was wiser than the King and all his Councillors; there never was anything like it. Her father was so proud of her that he boasted about her cleverness at home and abroad. He could not keep his tongue still about it. One day he was boasting to one of his neighbors, and he said, The girl is so clever that not even the King himself could ask her a question she couldn’t answer, or read her a riddle she couldn’t unravel.

Now it so chanced the King was sitting at a window nearby, and he overheard what the girls father was saying. The next day he sent for the man to come before him. I hear you have a daughter who is so clever that no one in the kingdom can equal her; and is that so? asked the King.

Yes, it was no more than the truth. Too much could not be said of her wit and cleverness.

That was well, and the King was glad to hear it. He had thirty eggs; they were fresh and good, but it would take a clever person to hatch chickens out of them. He then bade his chancellor get the eggs and give them to the man.

Take these home to your daughter, said the King, and bid her hatch them out for me. If she succeeds she shall have a bag of money for her pains, but if she fails you shall be beaten as a vain boaster.

The man was troubled when he heard this. Still his daughter was so clever he was almost sure she could hatch out the eggs. He carried them home to her and told her exactly what the King had said, and it did not take the girl long to find out that the eggs had been boiled.

When she told her father that, he made a great to-do. That was a pretty trick for the King to have played upon him. Now he would have to take a beating and all the neighbors would hear about it. Would to Heaven he had never had a daughter at all if that was what came of it.

The girl, however, bade him be of good cheer. Go to bed and sleep quietly, said she. I will think of some way out of the trouble. No harm shall come to you, even though I have to go to the palace myself and take the beating in your place.

The next day the girl gave her father a bag of boiled beans and bade him take them out to a certain place where the King rode by every day. Wait until you see him coming, said she, and then begin to sow the beans. At the same time he was to call out this, that, and the other so loudly that the King could not help but hear him.

The man took the bag of beans and went out to the field his daughter had spoken of. He waited until he saw the King coming, and then he began to sow the beans, and at the same time to cry aloud, Come sun, come rain! Heaven grant that these boiled beans may yield me a good crop.

The King was surprised that any one should be so stupid as to think boiled beans would grow and yield a crop. He did not recognize the man, for he had only seen him once, and he stopped his horse to speak to him. My poor man, said he, how can you expect boiled beans to grow? Do you not know that that is impossible?

Whatever the King commands should be possible, answered the man, and if chickens can hatch from boiled eggs why should not boiled beans yield a crop?

When the King heard this he looked at the man more closely, and then he recognized him as the father of the clever daughter.

You have indeed a clever daughter, said he. Take your beans home and bring me back the eggs I gave you.

The man was very glad when he heard that, and made haste to obey. He carried the beans home and then took the eggs and brought them back to the palace of the King.

After the King had received the eggs he gave the man a handful of flax. Take this to your clever daughter, he said, and bid her make for me within the week a full set of sails for a large ship. If she does this she shall receive the half of my kingdom as a reward, but if she fails you shall have a drubbing that you will not soon forget.

The man returned to his home, loudly lamenting his hard lot.

What is the matter? asked his daughter. Has the King set another task that I must do?

Yes, that he had; and her father showed her the flax the King had sent her and gave her the message.

Do not be troubled, said the girl. No harm shall come to you. Go to bed and sleep quietly, and to-morrow I will send the King an answer that will satisfy him.

The man believed what his daughter said. He went to bed and slept quietly.

The next day the girl gave her father a small piece of wood. Carry this to the King, said she. Tell him I am ready to make the sails, but first let him make me of this wood a large ship that I may fit the sails to it.

The father did as the girl bade him, and the King was surprised at the cleverness of the girl in returning him such an answer.

That is all very well, said he, and I will excuse her from this task. But here! Here is a glass mug. Take it home to your clever daughter. Tell her it is my command that she dip out the waters from the ocean bed so that I can ride over the bottom dry shod. If she does this, I will take her for my wife, but if she fails you shall be beaten within an inch of your life.

The man took the mug and hastened home, weeping aloud and bemoaning his fate.

Well, and what is it? asked his daughter. What does the King demand of me now?

The man gave her the glass mug and told her what the King had said.

Do not be troubled, said the girl. Go to bed and sleep in peace. You shall not be beaten, and soon I shall be reigning as Queen over all this land.

The man had trust in her. He went to bed and slept and dreamed he saw her sitting by the King with a crown on her head.

The next day the girl gave her father a bunch of tow. Take this to the King, she said. Tell him you have given me the mug, and I am willing to dip the sea dry, but first let him take this tow and stop up all the rivers that flow into the ocean.

The man did as his daughter bade him. He took the tow to the King and told him exactly what the girl had said.

Then the King saw that the girl was indeed a clever one, and he sent for her to come before him.

She came just as she was, in her homespun dress and her rough shoes and with a cap on her head, but for all her mean clothing she was as pretty and fine as a flower, and the King was not slow to see it. Still he wanted to make sure for himself that she was as clever as her messages had been.

Tell me, said he, what sound can be heard the farthest throughout the world?

The thunder that echoes through heaven and earth, answered the girl, and your own royal commands that go from lip to lip.

This reply pleased the King greatly. And now tell me, said he, exactly what is my royal sceptre worth?

It is worth exactly as much as the power for which it stands, the girl replied.

The King was so well satisfied with the way the girl answered that he no longer hesitated; he determined that she should be his Queen, and that they should be married at once.

The girl had something to say to this, however. I am but a poor girl, said she, and my ways are not your ways. It may well be that you will tire of me, or that you may be angry with me sometime, and send me back to my fathers house to live. Promise that if this should happen you will allow me to carry back with me from the castle the thing that has grown most precious to me.

The King was willing to agree to this, but the girl was not satisfied until he had written down his promise and signed it with his own royal hand. Then she and the King were married with the greatest magnificence, and she came to live in the palace and reign over the land.

Now while the girl was still only a peasant she had been well content to dress in homespun and live as a peasant should, but after she became Queen she would wear nothing but the most magnificent robes and jewels and ornaments, for that seemed to her only right and proper for a Queen. But the King, who was of a very jealous nature, thought his wife did not care at all for him, but only for the fine things he could give her.

One time the King and Queen were to ride abroad together, and the Queen spent so much time in dressing herself that the King was kept waiting, and he became very angry. When she appeared before him, he would not even look at her. You care nothing for me, but only for the jewels and fine clothes you wear, he cried. Take with you those that are the most precious to you, as I promised you, and return to your father’s house. I will no longer have a wife who cares only for my possessions and not at all for me.

Very well; the girl was willing to go. And I will be happier in my father’s house than I was when I first met you, said she. Nevertheless she begged that she might spend one more night in the palace, and that she and the King might sup together once again before she returned home.

To this the King agreed, for he still loved her, even though he was so angry with her.

So he and his wife supped together that evening, and just at the last the Queen took a golden cup and filled it with wine. Then, when the King was not looking, she put a sleeping potion in the wine and gave it to him to drink.

He took it and drank to the very last drop, suspecting nothing, but soon after he sank down among the cushions in a deep sleep. Then the Queen caused him to be carried to her fathers house and laid in the bed there.

When the King awoke the next morning he was very much surprised to find himself in the peasants cottage. He raised himself upon his elbow to look about him, and at once the girl came to the bedside, and she was again dressed in the coarse and common clothes she had worn before she was married.

What means this? asked the King, and how came I here?

My dear husband, said the girl, your promise was that if you ever sent me back to my fathers house I might carry with me the thing that had become most precious to me in the castle. You are that most precious thing, and I care for nothing else except as it makes me pleasing in your sight.

Then the King could no longer feel jealous or angry with her. He clasped her in his arms, and they kissed each other tenderly. That same day they returned to the palace, and from that time on the King and his peasant Queen lived together in the greatest love and happiness.

 

ISBN: 978-1-909302-41-9

URL: http://abelapublishing.com/tales-of-folk-and-fairies–14-childrens-tales_p26544525.htm

Tales of Folk and Fairies -Cover-w-Persp

Some years rolled by and still Bar Shalmon thought of his native land. One day the princess found him weeping quietly.

 

“Why art thou sad, husband mine?” she asked. “Dost thou no longer love me, and am I not beautiful now?”

 

“No, it is not that,” he said, but for a long time he refused to say more. At last he confessed that he had an intense longing to see his home again.

 

“But thou art bound to me by an oath,” said the princess.

 

“I know,” replied Bar Shalmon, “and I shall not break it. Permit me to visit my home for a brief while, and I will return and prove myself more devoted to thee than ever.”

 

On these conditions, the princess agreed that he should take leave for a whole year. A big, black demon flew swiftly with him to his native city.

 

No sooner had Bar Shalmon placed his feet on the ground than he determined not to return to the land of Ergetz.

 

“Tell thy royal mistress,” he said to the demon, “that I shall never return to her.”

 

He tore his clothes to make himself look poor, but his wife was overjoyed to see him. She had mourned him as dead. He did not tell of his adventures, but merely said he had been ship-wrecked and had worked his way back as a poor sailor. He was delighted to be among human beings again, to hear his own language and to see solid buildings that did not appear and disappear just when they pleased, and as the days passed he began to think his adventures in fairyland were but a dream.

 

Meanwhile, the princess waited patiently until the year was ended.

 

Then she sent the big, black demon to bring Bar Shalmon back.

 

Bar Shalmon met the messenger one night when walking alone in his garden.

 

“I have come to take thee back,” said the demon.

 

Bar Shalmon was startled. He had forgotten that the year was up. He felt that he was lost, but as the demon did not seize him by force, he saw that there was a possibility of escape.

 

“Return and tell thy mistress I refuse,” he said.

 

“I will take thee by force,” said the demon. “Thou canst not,” Bar Shalmon said, “for I am the son-in-law of the king.”

 

The demon was helpless and returned to Ergetz alone.

 

King Ashmedai was very angry, but the princess counselled patience.

 

“I will devise means to bring my husband back,” she said. “I will send other messengers.”

 

Thus it was that Bar Shalmon found a troupe of beautiful fairies in the garden the next evening.

 

They tried their utmost to induce him to return with them, but he would not listen. Every day different messengers came–big, ugly demons who threatened, pretty fairies who tried to coax him, and troublesome sprites and goblins who only annoyed him. Bar Shalmon could not move without encountering messengers from the princess in all manner of queer places. Nobody else could see them, and often he was heard talking to invisible people. His friends began to regard him as strange in his behavior.

 

King Ashmedai grew angrier every day, and he threatened to go for Bar Shalmon himself.

 

“Nay, I will go,” said the princess; “it will be impossible for my husband to resist me.”

 

She selected a large number of attendants, and the swift flight of the princess and her retinue through the air caused a violent storm to rage over the lands they crossed. Like a thick black cloud they swooped down on the land where Bar Shalmon dwelt, and their weird cries seemed like the wild shrieking of a mighty hurricane. Down they swept in a tremendous storm such as the city had never known. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm ceased, and the people who had fled into their houses, ventured forth again.

 

The little son of Bar Shalmon went out into the garden, but quickly rushed back into the house.

 

“Father, come forth and see,” he cried. “The garden is full of strange creatures brought by the storm. All manner of creeping, crawling things have invaded the garden–lizards, toads, and myriads of insects. The trees, the shrubs, the paths are covered, and some shine in the twilight like tiny lanterns.”

 

Bar Shalmon went out into the garden, but he did not see toads and lizards. What he beheld was a vast array of demons and goblins and sprites, and in a rose-bush the princess, his wife, shining like a star, surrounded by her attendant fairies. She stretched forth her arms to him.

 

“Husband mine,” she pleaded, “I have come to implore thee to return to the land of Ergetz with me. Sadly have I missed thee; long have I waited for thy coming, and difficult has it been to appease my father’s anger. Come, husband mine, return with me; a great welcome awaits thee.”

 

“I will not return,” said Bar Shalmon.

 

“Kill him, kill him,” shrieked the demons, and they surrounded him, gesticulating fiercely. “Nay, harm him not,” commanded the princess.

 

“Think well, Bar Shalmon, ere you answer again. The sun has set and night is upon us. Think well, until sunrise. Come to me, return, and all shall be well. Refuse, and thou shalt be dealt with as thou hast merited. Think well before the sunrise.”

 

“And what will happen at sunrise, if I refuse?” asked Bar Shalmon.

 

“Thou shalt see,” returned the princess. “Bethink thee well, and remember, I await thee here until the sunrise.”

 

“I have answered; I defy thee,” said Bar Shalmon, and he went indoors.

 

Night passed with strange, mournful music in the garden, and the sun rose in its glory and spread its golden beams over the city. And with the coming of the light, more strange sounds woke the people of the city. A wondrous sight met their gaze in the market place. It was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of the queerest creatures they had ever seen, goblins and brownies, demons and fairies. Dainty little elves ran about the square to the delight of the children, and quaint sprites clambered up the lampposts and squatted on the gables of the council house. On the steps of that building was a glittering array of fairies and attendant genii, and in their midst stood the princess, a dazzling vision, radiant as the dawn.

 

The mayor of the city knew not what to do. He put on his chain of office and made a long speech of welcome to the princess.

 

“Thank you for your cordial welcome,” said the princess, in reply, “and you the mayor,. and ye the good people of this city of mortals, hearken unto me. I am the princess of the Fairyland of Ergetz where my father, Ashmedai, rules as king. There is one among ye who is my husband.”

 

“Who is he?” the crowd asked in astonishment.

 

“Bar Shalmon is his name,” replied the princess, “and to him am I bound by vows that may not be broken.”

 

“’Tis false,” cried Bar Shalmon from the crowd.

 

“’Tis true. Behold our son,” answered the princess, and there stepped forward a dainty elfin boy whose face was the image of Bar Shalmon.

 

“I ask of you mortals of the city,” the princess continued, “but one thing, justice–that same justice which we in the land of Ergetz did give unto Bar Shalmon when, after breaking his oath unto his father, he set sail for a foreign land and was delivered into our hands. We spared his life; we granted his petition for a new trial. I but ask that ye should grant me the same petition. Hear me in your Court of Justice.”

 

“Thy request is but reasonable, princess,” said the mayor. “It shall not be said that strangers here are refused justice. Bar Shalmon, follow me.”

 

He led the way into the Chamber of Justice, and the magistrates of the city heard all that the princess and her witnesses, among whom was the rabbi, and also all that Bar Shalmon, had to say.

 

“’Tis plain,” said the mayor, delivering judgment, “that her royal highness, the princess of the Fairyland of Ergetz, has spoken that which is true. But Bar Shalmon has in this city wife and child to whom he is bound by ties that may not be broken. Bar Shalmon must divorce the princess and return unto her the dowry received by him on their marriage.”

 

“If such be your law, I am content,” said the princess.

 

“What sayest thou, Bar Shalmon?” asked the mayor.

 

“Oh! I’m content,” he answered gruffly. “I agree to anything that will rid me of the demon princess.”

 

The princess flushed crimson with shame and rage at these cruel words.

 

“These words I have not deserved,” she exclaimed, proudly. “I have loved thee, and have been faithful unto thee, Bar Shalmon. I accept the decree of your laws and shall return to the land of Ergetz a widow. I ask not for your pity. I ask but for that which is my right, one last kiss.”

 

“Very well,” said Bar Shalmon, still more gruffly, “anything to have done with thee.”

 

The princess stepped proudly forward to him and kissed him on the lips.

 

Bar Shalmon turned deadly pale and would have fallen had not his friends caught him.

 

“Take thy punishment for all thy sins,” cried the princess, haughtily, “for thy broken vows and thy false promises–thy perjury to thy God, to thy father, to my father and to me.”

 

As she spoke Bar Shalmon fell dead at her feet. At a sign from the princess, her retinue of fairies and demons flew out of the building and up into the air with their royal mistress in their midst and vanished.

 

 

————————-

From: JEWISH FAIRY TALES AND LEGENDS

ISBN: 978-1-907256-14-1

http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_jftl.html

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to the CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE APPEAL.

 

Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends

 

 

Bar Shalmon found himself on the outskirts of the city, and cautiously he crept forward. To his intense relief, he saw that the first building was a synagogue. The door, however, was locked. Weary, sore, and weak with long fasting, Bar Shalmon sank down on the steps and sobbed like a child.

 

Something touched him on the arm. He looked up. By the light of the moon he saw a boy standing before him. Such a queer boy he was, too. He had cloven feet, and his coat, if it was a coat, seemed to be made in the shape of wings.

 

“Ivri Onochi,” said Bar Shalmon, “I am a Hebrew.”

 

“So am I,” said the boy. “Follow me.”

 

He walked in front with a strange hobble, and when they reached a house at the back of the synagogue, he leaped from the ground, spreading his coat wings as he did so, to a window about twenty feet from the ground. The next moment a door opened, and Bar Shalmon, to his surprise, saw that the boy had jumped straight through the window down to the door which he had unfastened from the inside. The boy motioned him to enter a room. He did so. An aged man, who he saw was a rabbi, rose to greet him.

 

“Peace be with you,” said the rabbi, and pointed to a seat. He clapped his hand and immediately a table with food appeared before Bar Shalmon. The latter was far too hungry to ask any questions just then, and the rabbi was silent, too, while he ate. When he had finished, the rabbi clapped his hands and the table vanished.

 

“Now tell me your story,” said the rabbi. Bar Shalmon did so.

 

“Alas! I am an unhappy man,” he concluded. “I have been punished for breaking my vow. Help me to return to my home. I will reward thee well, and will atone for my sin.”

 

“Thy story is indeed sad,” said the rabbi, gravely, “but thou knowest not the full extent of thy unfortunate plight. Art thou aware what land it is into which thou hast been cast?”

 

“No,” said Bar Shalmon, becoming afraid again.

 

“Know then,” said the rabbi, “thou art not in a land of human beings. Thou hast fallen into Ergetz, the land of demons, of djinns, and of fairies.”

 

“But art thou not a Jew?” asked Bar Shalmon, in astonishment.

 

“Truly,” replied the rabbi. “Even in this realm we have all manner of religions just as you mortals have.”

 

“What will happen to me?” asked Bar Shalmon, in a whisper.

 

“I know not,” replied the rabbi. “Few mortals come here, and mostly, I fear they are put to death. The demons love them not.”

 

“Woe, woe is me,” cried Bar Shalmon, “I am undone.”

 

“Weep not,” said the rabbi. “I, as a Jew, love not death by violence and torture, and will endeavor to save thee.”

 

“I thank thee,” cried Bar Shalmon.

 

“Let thy thanks wait,” said the rabbi, kindly. “There is human blood in my veins. My great-grandfather was a mortal who fell into this land and was not put to death. Being of mortal descent, I have been made rabbi. Perhaps thou wilt find favour here and be permitted to live and settle in this land.”

 

“But I desire to return home,” said Bar Shalmon.

 

The rabbi shook his head.

 

“Thou must sleep now,” he said.

 

He passed his hands over Bar Shalmon’s eyes and he fell into a profound slumber. When he awoke it was daylight, and the boy stood by his couch. He made a sign to Bar Shalmon to follow, and through an underground passage he conducted him into the synagogue and placed him near the rabbi.

 

“Thy presence has become known,” whispered the rabbi, and even as he spoke a great noise was heard. It was like the wild chattering of many high-pitched voices. Through all the windows and the doors a strange crowd poured into the synagogue. There were demons of all shapes and sizes. Some had big bodies with tiny heads, others huge heads and quaint little bodies. Some had great staring eyes, others had long wide mouths, and many had only one leg each. They surrounded Bar Shalmon with threatening gestures and noises. The rabbi ascended the pulpit.

 

The Fairy Princess of Ergetz from Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends

A strange crowd of demons of all shapes and sizes poured into the synagogue with threatening gestures.

 

“Silence!” he commanded, and immediately the noise ceased. “Ye who thirst for mortal blood, desecrate not this holy building wherein I am master. What ye have to say must wait until after the morning service.”

 

Silently and patiently they waited, sitting in all manner of queer places. Some of them perched on the backs of the seats, a few clung like great big flies to the pillars, others sat on the window-sills, and several of the tiniest hung from the rafters in the ceiling. As soon as the service was over, the clamor broke out anew.

 

“Give to us the perjurer,” screamed the demons. “He is not fit to live.”

 

With some difficulty, the rabbi stilled the tumult, and said:

 

“Listen unto me, ye demons and sprites of the land of Ergetz. This man has fallen into my hands, and I am responsible for him. Our king, Ashmedai, must know of his arrival. We must not condemn a man unheard. Let us petition the king to grant him a fair trial.”

 

After some demur, the demons agreed to this proposal, and they trooped out of the synagogue in the same peculiar manner in which they came.

 

Each was compelled to leave by the same door or window at which he entered.

 

Bar Shalmon was carried off to the palace of King Ashmedai, preceded and followed by a noisy crowd of demons and fairies. There seemed to be millions of them, all clattering and pointing at him. They hobbled and hopped over the ground, jumped into the air, sprang from housetop to housetop, made sudden appearances from holes in the ground and vanished through solid walls.

 

The palace was a vast building of white marble that seemed as delicate as lace work. It stood in a magnificent square where many beautiful fountains spouted jets of crystal water. King Ashmedai came forth on the balcony, and at his appearance all the demons and fairies became silent and went down on their knees.

 

“What will ye with me?” he cried, in a voice of thunder, and the rabbi approached and bowed before his majesty.

 

“A mortal, a Jew, has fallen into my hands,” he said, “and thy subjects crave for his blood. He is a perjurer, they say. Gracious majesty, I would petition for a trial.”

 

“What manner of mortal is he?” asked Ashmedai.

 

Bar Shalmon stepped forward.

 

“Jump up here so I may see thee,” commanded the king.

 

“Jump, jump,” cried the crowd.

 

“I cannot,” said Bar Shalmon, as he looked up at the balcony thirty feet above the ground. “Try,” said the rabbi.

 

Bar Shalmon did try, and found, the moment he lifted his feet from the ground, that he was standing on the balcony.

 

“Neatly done,” said the king. “I see thou art quick at learning.”

 

“So my teachers always said,” replied Bar Shalmon.

 

“A proper answer,” said the king. “Thou art, then, a scholar.”

 

“In my own land,” returned Bar Shalmon, “men said I was great among the learned.”

 

“So,” said the king. “And canst thou impart the wisdom of man and of the human world to others?”

 

“I can,” said Bar Shalmon.

 

“We shall see,” said the king. “I have a son with a desire for such knowledge. If thou canst make him acquainted with thy store of learning, thy life shall be spared. The petition for a trial is granted.”

 

The king waved his scepter and two slaves seized Bar Shalmon by the arms. He felt himself lifted from the balcony and carried swiftly through the air. Across the vast square the slaves flew with him, and when over the largest of the fountains they loosened their hold. Bar Shalmon thought he would fall into the fountain, but to his amazement he found himself standing on the roof of a building. By his side was the rabbi.

 

“Where are we?” asked Bar Shalmon. “I feel bewildered.”

 

“We are at the Court of Justice, one hundred miles from the palace,” replied the rabbi.

 

A door appeared before them. They stepped through, and found themselves in a beautiful hall. Three judges in red robes and purple wigs were seated on a platform, and an immense crowd filled the galleries in the same queer way as in the synagogue. Bar Shalmon was placed on a small platform in front of the judges. A tiny sprite, only about six inches high, stood on another small platform at his right hand and commenced to read from a scroll that seemed to have no ending. He read the whole account of Bar Shalmon’s life. Not one little event was missing.

 

“The charge against Bar Shalmon, the mortal,” the sprite concluded, “is that he has violated the solemn oath sworn at his father’s death-bed.”

 

Then the rabbi pleaded for him and declared that the oath was not binding because Bar Shalmon’s father had not informed him of his treasures abroad and could not therefore have been in his right senses. Further, he added, Bar Shalmon was a scholar and the king desired him to teach his wisdom to the crown prince.

 

The chief justice rose to pronounce sentence.

 

“Bar Shalmon,” he said, “rightly thou shouldst die for thy broken oath. It is a grievous sin. But there is the doubt that thy father may not have been in his right mind. Therefore, thy life shall be spared.”

 

Bar Shalmon expressed his thanks.

 

“When may I return to my home?” he asked. “Never,” replied the chief justice.

 

Bar Shalmon left the court, feeling very downhearted. He was safe now. The demons dared not molest him, but he longed to return to his home.

 

“How am I to get back to the palace?” he asked the rabbi. “Perhaps after I have imparted my learning to the crown prince, the king will allow me to return to my native land.”

 

“That I cannot say. Come, fly with me,” said the rabbi.

 

“Fly!”

 

“Yes; see thou hast wings.”

 

Bar Shalmon noticed that he was now wearing a garment just like all the demons. When he spread his arms, he found he could fly, and he sailed swiftly through the air to the palace. With these wings, he thought, he would be able to fly home.

 

“Think not that,” said the rabbi, who seemed to be able to read his thoughts, “for thy wings are useless beyond this land.”

 

Bar Shalmon found that it would be best for him to carry out his instructions for the present, and he set himself diligently to teach the crown prince. The prince was an apt pupil, and the two became great friends. King Ashmedai was delighted and made Bar Shalmon one of his favourites.

 

One day the king said to him: “I am about to leave the city for a while to undertake a campaign against a rebellious tribe of demons thousands of miles away. I must take the crown prince with me. I leave thee in charge of the palace.”

 

The king gave him a huge bunch of keys.

 

“These,” he said, “will admit into all but one of the thousand rooms in the palace. For that one there is no key, and thou must not enter it. Beware.”

 

For several days Bar Shalmon amused himself by examining the hundreds of rooms in the vast palace until one day he came to the door for which he had no key. He forgot the king’s warning and his promise to obey.

 

“Open this door for me,” he said to his attendants, but they replied that they could not.

 

“You must,” he said angrily, “burst it open.”

 

“We do not know how to burst open a door,” they said. “We are not mortal. If we were permitted to enter the room we should just walk through the walls.”

 

Bar Shalmon could not do this, so he put his shoulder to the door and it yielded quite easily.

 

A strange sight met his gaze. A beautiful woman, the most beautiful he had ever seen, was seated on a throne of gold, surrounded by fairy attendants who vanished the moment he entered.

 

“Who art thou?” asked Bar Shalmon, in great astonishment.

 

“The daughter of the king,” replied the princess, “and thy future wife.”

 

“Indeed! How know you that?” he asked.

 

“Thou hast broken thy promise to my father, the king, not to enter this room,” she replied. “Therefore, thou must die, unless–”

 

“Tell me quickly,” interrupted Bar Shalmon, turning pale, “how my life can be saved.”

 

“Thou must ask my father for my hand,” replied the princess. “Only by becoming my husband canst thou be saved.”

 

“But I have a wife and child in my native land,” said Bar Shalmon, sorely troubled.

 

“Thou hast now forfeited thy hopes of return,” said the princess, slowly. “Once more hast thou broken a promise. It seems to come easy to thee now.”

 

Bar Shalmon had no wish to die, and he waited, in fear and trembling for the king’s re-turn. Immediately he heard of King Ashmedai’s approach, he hastened to meet him and flung himself on the ground at his majesty’s feet.

 

“O King,” he cried, “I have seen thy daughter, the princess, and I desire to make her my wife.”

 

“I cannot refuse,” returned the king. “Such is our law–that he who first sees the princess must become her husband, or die. But, have a care, Bar Shalmon. Thou must swear to love and be faithful ever.”

 

“I swear,” said Bar Shalmon.

 

The wedding took place with much ceremony. The princess was attended by a thousand fairy bridesmaids, and the whole city was brilliantly decorated and illuminated until Bar Shalmon was almost blinded by the dazzling spectacle.

 

The rabbi performed the marriage ceremony, and Bar Shalmon had to swear an oath by word of mouth and in writing that he loved the princess and would never desert her. He was given a beautiful palace full of jewels as a dowry, and the wedding festivities lasted six months. All the fairies and demons invited them in turn; they had to attend banquets and parties and dances in grottoes and caves and in the depths of the fairy fountains in the square. Never before in Ergetz had there been such elaborate rejoicings.

 

————————-

From: JEWISH FAIRY TALES AND LEGENDS

ISBN: 978-1-907256-14-1

http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_jftl.html

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to the CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE APPEAL.

 

Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends

In a great and beautiful city that stood by the sea, an old man lay dying. Mar Shalmon was his name, and he was the richest man in the land. Propped up with pillows on a richly decorated bed in a luxurious chamber, he gazed, with tears in his eyes, through the open window at the setting sun. Like a ball of fire it sank lower and lower until it almost seemed to rest on the tranquil waters beyond the harbour. Suddenly, Mar Shalmon roused himself.

 

“Where is my son, Bar Shalmon?” he asked in a feeble voice, and his hand crept tremblingly along the silken coverlet of the bed as if in search of something.

 

“I am here, my father,” replied his son who was standing by the side of his bed. His eyes were moist with tears, but his voice was steady.

 

“My son,” said the old man, slowly, and with some difficulty, “I am about to leave this world.

 

My soul will take flight from this frail body when the sun has sunk behind the horizon. I have lived long and have amassed great wealth which will soon be thine. Use it well, as I have taught thee, for thou, my son, art a man of learning, as befits our noble Jewish faith. One thing I must ask thee to promise me.”

 

“I will, my father,” returned Bar Shalmon, sobbing.

 

“Nay, weep not, my son,” said the old man. “My day is ended; my life has not been ill-spent. I would spare thee the pain that was mine in my early days, when, as a merchant, I garnered my fortune. The sea out there that will soon swallow up the sun is calm now. But beware of it, my son, for it is treacherous. Promise me–nay, swear unto me–that never wilt thou cross it to foreign lands.”

 

Bar Shalmon placed his hands on those of his father.

 

“Solemnly I swear,” he said, in a broken voice, “to do thy wish–never to journey on the sea, but to remain here in this, my native land. ’Tis a vow before thee, my father.”

 

“’Tis an oath before heaven,” said the old man. “Guard it, keep it, and heaven will bless thee. Remember! See, the sun is sinking.”

 

Mar Shalmon fell back upon his pillows and spoke no more. Bar Shalmon stood gazing out of the window until the sun had disappeared, and then, silently sobbing, he left the chamber of death.

 

The whole city wept when the sad news was made known, for Mar Shalmon was a man of great charity, and almost all the inhabitants followed the remains to the grave. Then Bar Shalmon, his son, took his father’s place of honour in the city, and in him, too, the poor and needy found a friend whose purse was ever open and whose counsel was ever wisdom.

 

Thus years passed away.

 

One day there arrived in the harbour of the city a strange ship from a distant land. Its captain spoke a tongue unknown, and Bar Shalmon, being a man of profound knowledge, was sent for. He alone in the city could under-stand the language of the captain. To his astonishment, he learned that the cargo of the vessel was for Mar Shalmon, his father.

 

“I am the son of Mar Shalmon,” he said. “My father is dead, and all his possessions he left to me.”

 

“Then, verily, art thou the most fortunate mortal, and the richest, on earth,” answered the captain. “My good ship is filled with a vast store of jewels, precious stones and other treasures. And know you, O most favoured son of Mar Shalmon, this cargo is but a small portion of the wealth that is thine in a land across the sea.”

 

“’Tis strange,” said Bar Shalmon, in surprise; “my father said nought of this to me. I knew that in his younger days he had traded with distant lands, but nothing did he ever say of possessions there. And, moreover, he warned me never to leave this shore.”

 

The captain looked perplexed.

 

“I understand it not,” he said. “I am but performing my father’s bidding. He was thy father’s servant, and long years did he wait for Mar Shalmon’s return to claim his riches. On his death-bed he bade me vow that I would seek his master, or his son, and this have I done.”

 

He produced documents, and there could be no doubt that the vast wealth mentioned in them belonged now to Bar Shalmon.

 

“Thou art now my master,” said the captain, “and must return with me to the land across the sea to claim thine inheritance. In another year it will be too late, for by the laws of the country it will be forfeit.”

 

“I cannot return with thee,” said Bar Shalmon. “I have a vow before heaven never to voyage on the sea.”

 

The captain laughed.

 

“In very truth, I understand thee not, as my father understood not thine,” he replied. “My father was wont to say that Mar Shalmon was strange and peradventure not possessed of all his senses to neglect his store of wealth and treasure.”

 

With an angry gesture Bar Shalmon stopped the captain, but he was sorely troubled. He re-called now that his father had often spoken mysteriously of foreign lands, and he wondered, indeed, whether Mar Shalmon could have been in his proper senses not to have breathed a word of his riches abroad. For days he discussed the matter with the captain, who at last persuaded him to make the journey.

 

“Fear not thy vow,” said the captain. “Thy worthy father must, of a truth, have been bereft of reason in failing to tell thee of his full estate, and an oath to a man of mind unsound is not binding. That is the law in our land.”

 

“So it is here,” returned Bar Shalmon, and with this remark his last scruple vanished.

 

He bade a tender farewell to his wife, his child, and his friends, and set sail on the strange ship to the land beyond the sea.

 

For three days all went well, but on the fourth the ship was becalmed and the sails flapped lazily against the masts. The sailors had nothing to do but lie on deck and wait for a breeze, and Bar Shalmon took advantage of the occasion to treat them to a feast.

 

Suddenly, in the midst of the feasting, they felt the ship begin to move. There was no wind, but the vessel sped along very swiftly. The captain himself rushed to the helm. To his alarm he found the vessel beyond control.

 

“The ship is bewitched,” he exclaimed. “There is no wind, and no current, and yet we are being borne along as if driven before a storm. We shall be lost.”

 

Panic seized the sailors, and Bar Shalmon was unable to pacify them.

 

“Someone on board has brought us ill-luck,” said the boatswain, looking pointedly at Bar Shalmon; “we shall have to heave him over-board.”

 

His comrades assented and rushed toward Bar Shalmon.

 

Just at that moment, however, the look-out in the bow cried excitedly, “Land ahead!”

 

The ship still refused to answer the helm and grounded on a sandbank. She shivered from stem to stern but did not break up. No rocks were visible, only a desolate tract of desert land was to be seen, with here and there a solitary tree.

 

“We seem to have sustained no damage,” said the captain, when he had recovered from his first astonishment, “but how we are going to get afloat again I do not know. This land is quite strange to me.”

He could not find it marked on any of his charts or maps, and the sailors stood looking gloomily at the mysterious shore.

 

“Had we not better explore the land?” said Bar Shalmon.

 

“No, no,” exclaimed the boatswain, excitedly. “See, no breakers strike on the shore. This is not a

human land. This is a domain of demons. We are lost unless we cast overboard the one who has brought on us this ill-luck.”

 

Said Bar Shalmon, “I will land, and I will give fifty silver crowns to all who land with me.”

 

Not one of the sailors moved, however, even when he offered fifty golden crowns, and at last Bar Shalmon said he would land alone, although the captain strongly urged him not to do so.

 

Bar Shalmon sprang lightly to the shore, and as he did so the ship shook violently.

 

“What did I tell you?” shouted the boat-swain. “Bar Shalmon is the one who has brought us this misfortune. Now we shall re-float the ship.”

 

But it still remained firmly fixed on the sand. Bar Shalmon walked towards a tree and climbed it. In a few moments he returned, holding a twig in his hand.

 

“The land stretches away for miles just as you see it here,” he called to the captain. “There is no sign of man or habitation.”

 

He prepared to board the vessel again, but the sailors would not allow him. The boatswain stood in the bow and threatened him with a sword. Bar Shalmon raised the twig to ward off the blow and struck the ship which shivered from stem to stern again.

 

“Is not this proof that the vessel is bewitched?” cried the sailors, and when the captain sternly bade them remember that Bar Shalmon was their master, they threatened him too.

 

Bar Shalmon, amused at the fears of the men, again struck the vessel with the twig. Once more it trembled. A third time he raised the twig.

 

“If the ship is bewitched,” he said, “something will happen after the third blow.”

 

“Swish” sounded the branch through the air, and the third blow fell on the vessel’s bow. Something did happen. The ship almost leaped from the sand, and before Bar Shalmon could realize what had happened it was speeding swiftly away.

 

“Come back, come back,” he screamed, and he could see the captain struggling with the helm. But the vessel refused to answer, and Bar Shalmon saw it grow smaller and smaller and finally disappear. He was alone on an uninhabited desert land.

 

“What a wretched plight for the richest man in the world,” he said to himself, and the next moment he realized that he was in danger indeed.

 

A terrible roar made him look around. To his horror he saw a lion making toward him. As quick as a flash Bar Shalmon ran to the tree and hastily scrambled into the branches. The lion dashed itself furiously against the trunk of the tree, but, for the present, Bar Shalmon was safe. Night, however, was coming on, and the lion squatted at the foot of the tree, evidently intending to wait for him. All night the lion remained, roaring at intervals, and Bar Shalmon clung to one of the upper branches afraid to sleep lest he should fall off and be devoured. When morning broke, a new danger threatened him. A huge eagle flew round the tree and darted at him with its cruel beak. Then the great bird settled on the thickest branch, and Bar Shalmon moved stealthily forward with a knife which he drew from his belt. He crept behind the bird, but as he approached it spread its big wings, and Bar Shalmon, to prevent himself being swept from the tree, dropped the knife and clutched at the bird’s feathers. Immediately, to his dismay, the bird rose from the tree. Bar Shalmon clung to its back with all his might.

 

Higher and higher soared the eagle until the trees below looked like mere dots on the land. Swiftly flew the eagle over miles and miles of desert until Bar Shalmon began to feel giddy. He was faint with hunger and feared that he would not be able to retain his hold. All day the bird flew without resting, across island and sea. No houses, no ships, no human beings could be seen. Toward night, however, Bar Shalmon, to his great joy, beheld the lights of a city surrounded by trees, and as the eagle came near, he made a bold dive to the earth. Headlong he plunged downward. He seemed to be hours in falling. At last he struck a tree. The branches broke beneath the weight and force of his falling body, and he continued to plunge downward. The branches tore his clothes to shreds and bruised his body, but they broke his terrible fall, and when at last he reached the ground he was not much hurt.

 

————————-

From: JEWISH FAIRY TALES AND LEGENDS

ISBN: 978-1-907256-14-1

http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_jftl.html

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to the CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE APPEAL.

 

Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends

This is the fifth and final chapter of Gulliver’s first journey to Lilliput. I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Gulliver’s Travels.

 

Three days after my arrival, walking out of curiosity to the northeast coast of the island, I observed at some distance in the sea something that looked like a boat overturned. I pulled off my shoes and stockings, and wading two or three hundred yards, I plainly saw it to be a real boat, which I supposed might by some tempest have been driven from a ship. I returned immediately to the city for help, and after a huge amount of labor I managed to get my boat to the royal port of Blefuscu, where a great crowd of people appeared, full of wonder at sight of so prodigious a vessel. I told the Emperor that my good fortune had thrown this boat in my way to carry me to some place whence I might return to my native country, and begged his orders for materials to fit it up, and leave to depart—which, after many kindly speeches, he was pleased to grant.

 

Meanwhile the Emperor of Lilliput, uneasy at my long absence (but never imagining that I had the least notice of his designs), sent a person of rank to inform the Emperor of Blefuscu of my disgrace; this messenger had orders to represent the great mercy of his master, who was content to punish me with the loss of my eyes, and who expected that his brother of Blefuscu would have me sent back to Lilliput, bound hand and foot, to be punished as a traitor. The Emperor of Blefuscu answered with many civil excuses. He said that as for sending me bound, his brother knew it was impossible. Moreover, though I had taken away his fleet he was grateful to me for many good offices I had done him in making the peace. But that both their Majesties would soon be made easy; for I had found a prodigious vessel on the shore, able to carry me on the sea, which he had given orders to fit up; and he hoped in a few weeks both empires would be free from me.

 

With this answer the messenger returned to Lilliput; and I (though the monarch of Blefuscu secretly offered me his gracious protection if I would continue in his service) hastened my departure, resolving never more to put confidence in princes.

 

In about a month I was ready to take leave. The Emperor of Blefuscu, with the Empress and the royal family, came out of the palace; and I lay down on my face to kiss their hands, which they graciously gave me. His Majesty presented me with fifty purses of sprugs (their greatest gold coin) and his picture at full length, which I put immediately into one of my gloves, to keep it from being hurt. Many other ceremonies took place at my departure.

 

I stored the boat with meat and drink, and took six cows and two bulls alive, with as many ewes and rams, intending to carry them into my own country; and to feed them on board, I had a good bundle of hay and a bag of corn. I would gladly have taken a dozen of the natives; but this was a thing the Emperor would by no means permit, and besides a diligent search into my pockets, his Majesty pledged my honour not to carry away any of his subjects, though with their own consent and desire.

 

Having thus prepared all things as well as I was able, I set sail. When I had made twenty-four leagues, by my reckoning, from the island of Blefuscu, I saw a sail steering to the northeast. I hailed her, but could get no answer; yet I found I gained upon her, for the wind slackened; and in half an hour she spied me, and discharged a gun. I came up with her between five and six in the evening, Sept. 26, 1701; but my heart leaped within me to see her English colors. I put my cows and sheep into my coat pockets, and got on board with all my little cargo. The captain received me with kindness, and asked me to tell him what place I came from last; but at my answer he thought I was raving. However, I took my black cattle and sheep out of my pocket, which, after great astonishment, clearly convinced him.

 

We arrived in England on the 13th of April, 1702. I stayed two months with my wife and family; but my eager desire to see foreign countries would suffer me to remain no longer. However, while in England I made great profit by showing my cattle to persons of quality and others; and before I began my second voyage I sold them for 600£. I left 1500£. with my wife, and fixed her in a good house; then taking leave of her and my boy and girl, with tears on both sides, I sailed on board the “Adventure.”

 

———————-

From The Blue Fairy Book

ISBN: 9781907256905

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

 

The Blue Fairy Book