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The Story of the Hewn Off Hand Title

From “The Oriental Story Book” by Wilhelm Hauff

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Hast thou the cloak?” I was asked.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Zaleukos

Zaleukos

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The guards were stationed around

Standing Guard

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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TOSB-Cover-A5

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

ISBN: 9788835365310

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

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

 

 

A FREE STORY
From Abela Publishing

title-page

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“The dragon!” I exclaimed.

 

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

I laughed.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

It was gone!

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Mystery No. II – SHIN SHIRA AND THE DRAGON

From the MYSTERIOUS SHIN SHIRA by G.E. FARROW

ISBN: 9788835351115

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

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

You will bring him back to me

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Very good,” said the Stork approvingly.

 

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

 

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

 

“And I shall never tell,” declared Gil.

 

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

 

“I shall not forget,” said Gil.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Poor Mermaid! What is the matter?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Let Him Prove it

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

ISBN: 9788835379119

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

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

VT_Front_Cover

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

DRaKYC_front_Cover_A5_Centered

ILLUSTRATED BY MILO WINTER

This book is for all little boys and girls who love animals and is the second DOCTOR RABBIT book in the series.

Our story starts with Doctor Rabbit receiving a call for a home visit. He collects his bag, puts on his top hat and just as he steps out his front door he hears a rustle and sees a shape in the bushes. But who could that be?

Ki-Yi Coyote has just moved into the area and his larder is empty. He sees Doctor Rabbit coming out of his house and the game is afoot, for Coyotes do like the taste of Rabbit.

Is Doctor Rabbit able to avoid being caught by Ki-Yi Coyote and attend his patient? Will Doctor Rabbit be able to unite the residents and formulate a plan to drive Ki-Yi out of the woods or are they too scared to act?

To find out what happens to Ki-Yi Coyote and Doctor Rabbit, you will have to download this lovely little ebook.

This volume is sure to keep you and your young ones enchanted for hours, if only because of it’s quality and it will keep young ones engaged for hours. They will have you coming back to it for more time and again.

ISBN: 9788828372141

DOWNLOAD LINK: https://folklore-fairy-tales-myths-legends-and-other-stories.stores.streetlib.com/en/thomas-c-hinkle/doctor-rabbit-and-ki-yi-coyote/

Cover Extract
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KEYWORDS/TAGS: fairy tales, folklore, myths, legends, children’s stories, childrens stories, bygone era, fairydom, fairy kingdom, ethereal, fairy land, classic stories, children’s bedtime stories, happy place, happiness, laughter, Doctor Rabbit, Ki-Yi Coyote, Kiyi, Phone Call, Fear, Holes, Trees, Doctoring, Billy Rabbit, Chase, Scare, Jack Rabbit, Escape, Keep Watch, Chatty Squirrel, Fooling, Scheme, Little Creatures, Woods, Excitement, Talk, Big Dog, Yappy, Old Uncle Owl, Good, Advice, Strange, Hiding Place, Catch, Happy, drive out, Again