FLORA ANNIE STEEL
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
First published by Macmillan & Co. 1918
ST. GEORGE OF MERRIE ENGLAND
THE STORY OF THE THREE BEARS
THE GOLDEN SNUFF-BOX
THE THREE FEATHERS
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
THE THREE SILLIES
THE GOLDEN BALL
THE TWO SISTERS
THE LAIDLY WORM
TITTY MOUSE AND TATTY MOUSE
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
THE BLACK BULL OF NORROWAY
THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
NIX NAUGHT NOTHING
MR. AND MRS. VINEGAR
THE TRUE HISTORY OF SIR THOMAS THUMB
THE THREE HEADS OF THE WELL
DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
THE OLD WOMAN AND HER PIG
THE WEE BANNOCK
HOW JACK WENT OUT TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE
LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD
THE WISE MEN OF GOTHAM
THE BABES IN THE WOOD
THE RED ETTIN
THE FISH AND THE RING
MASTER OF ALL MASTERS
MOLLY WHUPPIE AND THE DOUBLE-FACED GIANT
THE ASS, THE TABLE, AND THE STICK
THE WELL OF THE WORLD'S END
THE ROSE TREE
Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar at home
"Somebody has been at my porridge, and has eaten it all up!"
Tattercoats dancing while the gooseherd pipes
The giant Cormoran was the terror of all the country-side
Taking the keys of the castle, Jack unlocked all the doors
The giant Galligantua and the wicked old magician transform the duke's daughter into a white hind
"Tree of mine! O Tree of mine! Have you seen my naughty little maid?"
"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman"
She went along, and went along, and went along
And that is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar
They thanked her and said good-bye, and she went on her journey
Many's the beating he had from the broomstick or the ladle
When Puss saw the rats and mice she didn't wait to be told
"Well!" she chuckled, "I am in luck!"
She sat down and plaited herself an overall of rushes and a cap to match
The fisherman and his wife had no children, and they were just longing for a baby
Headpiece—St. George of Merrie England
When she came to St. George she started and laid her hand on her heart
"Somebody has been lying in my bed,—and here she is!"
"What is that you are singing, my good woman?"
A small, little, black Thing with a long tail
Away That flew into the dark, and she never saw it no more
They brought the Castle of the golden pillars
Jack found it hard to hoist the donkey on his shoulders
"Odds splutter hur nails!" cried the giant, not to be outdone. "Hur can do that hurself!"
"Ah! Cousin Jack! Kind cousin Jack! This is heavy news indeed"
Seated on a huge block of timber near the entrance to a dark cave
On his way ... to be revenged
The country folk flying before him like chaff before the wind
Headpiece—The Three Sillies
Headpiece—The Golden Ball
He heard the bogles striving under the bed
Headpiece—The Laidly Worm
Tatty sat down and wept
As he spoke he drew out of his pocket five beans
Jack seized the axe and gave a great chop at the beanstalk
So he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house in
So he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house in
Well! he huffed and he puffed ... but he could not blow the house down
At last he flew into a violent rage and flung his stick at the bird
A spider one day attacked him
"I will go first and you come after, Henny-penny, Cocky-locky, Ducky-daddles, Goosey-poosey, and Turkey-lurkey"
So she escaped
The thorns closed in around her so that she was all scratched and torn
Dick finds that the streets of London are not paved with gold
Dick Whittington hears Bow Bells
The old woman and her pig
Headpiece—How Jack went out to seek his Fortune
They both met together upon Nottingham bridge
"A vengeance on her!" said they. "We did not make our hedge high enough"
He took out the cheeses and rolled them down the hill
And they left the eel to drown
The hare ran on along the country way
A courtier came riding by, and he did ask what they were seeking
A funny-looking old gentleman engaged her and took her home
White-faced simminy has got a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail
ST. GEORGE OF MERRIE ENGLAND
In the darksome depths of a thick forest lived Kalyb the fell enchantress. Terrible were her deeds, and few there were who had the hardihood to sound the brazen trumpet which hung over the iron gate that barred the way to the Abode of Witchcraft. Terrible were the deeds of Kalyb; but above all things she delighted in carrying off innocent new-born babes, and putting them to death.
And this, doubtless, she meant to be the fate of the infant son of the Earl of Coventry, who long long years ago was Lord High Steward of England. Certain it is that the babe's father being absent, and his mother dying at his birth, the wicked Kalyb, with spells and charms, managed to steal the child from his careless nurses.
But the babe was marked from the first for doughty deeds; for on his breast was pictured the living image of a dragon, on his right hand was a blood-red cross, and on his left leg showed the golden garter.
And these signs so affected Kalyb, the fell enchantress, that she stayed her hand; and the child growing daily in beauty and stature, he became to her as the apple of her eye. Now, when twice seven years had passed the boy began to thirst for honourable adventures, though the wicked enchantress wished to keep him as her own.
But he, seeking glory, utterly disdained so wicked a creature; thus she sought to bribe him. And one day, taking him by the hand, she led him to a brazen castle and showed him six brave knights, prisoners therein. Then said she:
"Lo! These be the six champions of Christendom. Thou shalt be the seventh and thy name shall be St. George of Merrie England if thou wilt stay with me."
But he would not.
Then she led him into a magnificent stable where stood seven of the most beautiful steeds ever seen. "Six of these," said she, "belong to the six Champions. The seventh and the best, the swiftest and the most powerful in the world, whose name is Bayard, will I bestow on thee, if thou wilt stay with me."
But he would not.
Then she took him to the armoury, and with her own hand buckled on a corselet of purest steel, and laced on a helmet inlaid with gold. Then, taking a mighty falchion, she gave it into his hand, and said: "This armour which none can pierce, this sword called Ascalon, which will hew in sunder all it touches, are thine; surely now thou wilt stop with me?"
But he would not.
Then she bribed him with her own magic wand, thus giving him power over all things in that enchanted land, saying:
"Surely now wilt thou remain here?"
But he, taking the wand, struck with it a mighty rock that stood by; and lo! it opened, and laid in view a wide cave garnished by the bodies of a vast number of innocent new-born infants whom the wicked enchantress had murdered.
Thus, using her power, he bade the sorceress lead the way into the place of horror, and when she had entered, he raised the magic wand yet again, and smote the rock; and lo! it closed for ever, and the sorceress was left to bellow forth her lamentable complaints to senseless stones.
Thus was St. George freed from the enchanted land, and taking with him the six other champions of Christendom on their steeds, he mounted Bayard and rode to the city of Coventry.
Here for nine months they abode, exercising themselves in all feats of arms. So when spring returned they set forth, as knights errant, to seek for foreign adventure.
And for thirty days and thirty nights they rode on, until, at the beginning of a new month, they came to a great wide plain. Now in the centre of this plain, where seven several ways met, there stood a great brazen pillar, and here, with high heart and courage, they bade each other farewell, and each took a separate road.
Hence, St. George, on his charger Bayard, rode till he reached the seashore where lay a good ship bound for the land of Egypt. Taking passage in her, after long journeying he arrived in that land when the silent wings of night were outspread, and darkness brooded on all things. Here, coming to a poor hermitage, he begged a night's lodging, on which the hermit replied:
"Sir Knight of Merrie England—for I see her arms graven on thy breastplate—thou hast come hither in an ill time, when those alive are scarcely able to bury the dead by reason of the cruel destruction waged by a terrible dragon, who ranges up and down the country by day and by night. If he have not an innocent maiden to devour each day, he sends a mortal plague amongst the people. And this has not ceased for twenty and four years, so that there is left throughout the land but one maiden, the beautiful Sabia, daughter to the King. And to-morrow must she die, unless some brave knight will slay the monster. To such will the King give his daughter in marriage, and the crown of Egypt in due time."
"For crowns I care not," said St. George boldly, "but the beauteous maiden shall not die. I will slay the monster."
So, rising at dawn of day, he buckled on his armour, laced his helmet, and with the falchion Ascalon in his hand, bestrode Bayard, and rode into the Valley of the Dragon. Now on the way he met a procession of old women weeping and wailing, and in their midst the most beauteous damsel he had ever seen. Moved by compassion he dismounted, and bowing low before the lady entreated her to return to her father's palace, since he was about to kill the dreaded dragon. Whereupon the beautiful Sabia, thanking him with smiles and tears, did as he requested, and he, re-mounting, rode on his emprise.
Now, no sooner did the dragon catch sight of the brave Knight than its leathern throat sent out a sound more terrible than thunder, and weltering from its hideous den, it spread its burning wings and prepared to assail its foe.
Its size and appearance might well have made the stoutest heart tremble. From shoulder to tail ran full forty feet, its body was covered with silver scales, its belly was as gold, and through its flaming wings the blood ran thick and red.
So fierce was its onset, that at the very first encounter the Knight was nigh felled to the ground; but recovering himself he gave the dragon such a thrust with his spear that the latter shivered to a thousand pieces; whereupon the furious monster smote him so violently with its tail that both horse and rider were overthrown.
Now, by great good chance, St. George was flung under the shade of a flowering orange tree, whose fragrance hath this virtue in it, that no poisonous beast dare come within the compass of its branches. So there the valiant knight had time to recover his senses, until with eager courage he rose, and rushing to the combat, smote the burning dragon on his burnished belly with his trusty sword Ascalon; and thereinafter spouted out such black venom, as, falling on the armour of the Knight, burst it in twain. And ill might it have fared with St. George of Merrie England but for the orange tree, which once again gave him shelter under its branches, where, seeing the issue of the fight was in the Hands of the Most High, he knelt and prayed that such strength of body should be given him as would enable him to prevail. Then with a bold and courageous heart, he advanced again, and smote the fiery dragon under one of his flaming wings, so that the weapon pierced the heart, and all the grass around turned crimson with the blood that flowed from the dying monster. So St. George of England cut off the dreadful head, and hanging it on a truncheon made of the spear which at the beginning of the combat had shivered against the beast's scaly back, he mounted his steed Bayard, and proceeded to the palace of the King.
Now the King's name was Ptolemy, and when he saw that the dreaded dragon was indeed slain, he gave orders for the city to be decorated. And he sent a golden chariot with wheels of ebony and cushions of silk to bring St. George to the palace, and commanded a hundred nobles dressed in crimson velvet, and mounted on milk-white steeds richly caparisoned, to escort him thither with all honour, while musicians walked before and after, filling the air with sweetest sounds.
Now the beautiful Sabia herself washed and dressed the weary Knight's wounds, and gave him in sign of betrothal a diamond ring of purest water. Then, after he had been invested by the King with the golden spurs of knighthood and had been magnificently feasted, he retired to rest his weariness, while the beautiful Sabia from her balcony lulled him to sleep with her golden lute.
So all seemed happiness; but alas! dark misfortune was at hand.
Almidor, the black King of Morocco, who had long wooed the Princess Sabia in vain, without having the courage to defend her, seeing that the maiden had given her whole heart to her champion, resolved to compass his destruction.
So, going to King Ptolemy, he told him—what was perchance true—namely, that the beauteous Sabia had promised St. George to become Christian, and follow him to England. Now the thought of this so enraged the King that, forgetting his debt of honour, he determined on an act of basest treachery.
Telling St. George that his love and loyalty needed further trial, he entrusted him with a message to the King of Persia, and forbade him either to take with him his horse Bayard or his sword Ascalon; nor would he even allow him to say farewell to his beloved Sabia.
St. George then set forth sorrowfully, and surmounting many dangers, reached the Court of the King of Persia in safety; but what was his anger to find that the secret missive he bore contained nothing but an earnest request to put the bearer of it to death. But he was helpless, and when sentence had been passed upon him, he was thrown into a loathly dungeon, clothed in base and servile weeds, and his arms strongly fettered up to iron bolts, while the roars of the two hungry lions who were to devour him ere long, deafened his ears. Now his rage and fury at this black treachery was such that it gave him strength, and with mighty effort he drew the staples that held his fetters; so being part free he tore his long locks of amber-coloured hair from his head and wound them round his arms instead of gauntlets. So prepared he rushed on the lions when they were let loose upon him, and thrusting his arms down their throats choked them, and thereinafter tearing out their very hearts, held them up in triumph to the gaolers who stood by trembling with fear.
After this the King of Persia gave up the hopes of putting St. George to death, and, doubling the bars of the dungeon, left him to languish therein. And there the unhappy Knight remained for seven long years, his thoughts full of his lost Princess; his only companions rats and mice and creeping worms, his only food and drink bread made of the coarsest bran and dirty water.
At last one day, in a dark corner of his dungeon, he found one of the iron staples he had drawn in his rage and fury. It was half consumed with rust, yet it was sufficient in his hands to open a passage through the walls of his cell into the King's garden. It was the time of night when all things are silent; but St. George, listening, heard the voices of grooms in the stables; which, entering, he found two grooms furnishing forth a horse against some business. Whereupon, taking the staple with which he had redeemed himself from prison, he slew the grooms, and mounting the palfrey rode boldly to the city gates, where he told the watchman at the Bronze Tower that St. George having escaped from the dungeon, he was in hot pursuit of him. Whereupon the gates were thrown open, and St. George, clapping spurs to his horse, found himself safe from pursuit before the first red beams of the sun shot up into the sky.
Now, ere long, being most famished with hunger, he saw a tower set on a high cliff, and riding thitherward determined to ask for food. But as he neared the castle he saw a beauteous damsel in a blue and gold robe seated disconsolate at a window. Whereupon, dismounting, he called aloud to her:
"Lady! If thou hast sorrow of thine own, succour one also in distress, and give me, a Christian Knight, now almost famished, one meal's meat." To which she replied quickly:
"Sir Knight! Fly quickly as thou canst, for my lord is a mighty giant, a follower of Mahomed, who hath sworn to destroy all Christians."
Hearing this St. George laughed loud and long. "Go tell him then, fair dame," he cried, "that a Christian Knight waits at his door, and will either satisfy his wants within his castle or slay the owner thereof."
Now the giant no sooner heard this valiant challenge than he rushed forth to the combat, armed with a hugeous crowbar of iron. He was a monstrous giant, deformed, with a huge head, bristled like any boar's, with hot, glaring eyes and a mouth equalling a tiger's. At first sight of him St. George gave himself up for lost, not so much for fear, but for hunger and faintness of body. Still, commending himself to the Most High, he also rushed to the combat with such poor arms as he had, and with many a regret for the loss of his magic sword Ascalon. So they fought till noon, when, just as the champion's strength was nigh finished, the giant stumbled on the root of a tree, and St. George, taking his chance, ran him through the mid-rib, so that he gasped and died.
After which St. George entered the tower; whereat the beautiful lady, freed from her terrible lord, set before him all manner of delicacies and pure wine with which he sufficed his hunger, rested his weary body, and refreshed his horse.
So, leaving the tower in the hands of the grateful lady, he went on his way, coming ere long to the Enchanted Garden of the necromancer Ormadine, where, embedded in the living rock, he saw a magic sword, the like of which for beauty he had never seen, the belt being beset with jaspers and sapphire stones, while the pommel was a globe of the purest silver chased in gold with these verses:
My magic will remain most firmly bound Till that a knight from the far north be found To pull this sword from out its bed of stone. Lo! when he comes wise Ormadine must fall. Farewell, my magic power, my spell, my all.
Seeing this St. George put his hand to the hilt, thinking to essay pulling it out by strength; but lo! he drew it out with as much ease as though it had hung by a thread of untwisted silk. And immediately every door in the enchanted garden flew open, and the magician Ormadine appeared, his hair standing on end; and he, after kissing the hand of the champion, led him to a cave where a young man wrapped in a sheet of gold lay sleeping, lulled by the songs of four beautiful maidens.
"The Knight whom thou seest here!" said the necromancer in a hollow voice, "is none other than thy brother-in-arms, the Christian Champion St. David of Wales. He also attempted to draw my sword but failed. Him hast thou delivered from my enchantments since they come to an end."
Now, as he spoke, came such a rattling of the skies, such a lumbering of the earth as never was, and in the twinkling of an eye the Enchanted Garden and all in it vanished from view, leaving the Champion of Wales, roused from his seven years' sleep, giving thanks to St. George, who greeted his ancient comrade heartily.
After this St. George of Merrie England travelled far and travelled fast, with many adventures by the way, to Egypt where he had left his beloved Princess Sabia. But, learning to his great grief and horror from the same hermit he had met on first landing, that, despite her denials, her father, King Ptolemy, had consented to Almidor the black King of Morocco carrying her off as one of his many wives, he turned his steps towards Tripoli, the capital of Morocco; for he was determined at all costs to gain a sight of the dear Princess from whom he had been so cruelly rent.
To this end he borrowed an old cloak of the hermit, and, disguised as a beggar, gained admittance to the gate of the Women's Palace, where were gathered together on their knees many others, poor, frail, infirm.
And when he asked them wherefore they knelt, they answered:
"Because good Queen Sabia succours us that we may pray for the safety of St. George of England, to whom she gave her heart."
Now when St. George heard this his own heart was like to break for very joy, and he could scarce keep on his knees when, lovely as ever, but with her face pale and sad and wan from long distress, the Princess Sabia appeared clothed in deep mourning.
In silence she handed an alms to each beggar in turn; but when she came to St. George she started and laid her hand on her heart. Then she said softly:
"Rise up, Sir Beggar! Thou art too like one who rescued me from death, for it to be meet for thee to kneel before me!"
Then St. George rising, and bowing low, said quietly: "Peerless lady! Lo! I am that very knight to whom thou did'st condescend to give this."
And with this he slipped the diamond ring she had given him on her finger. But she looked not at it, but at him, with love in her eyes.
Then he told her of her father's base treachery and Almidor's part in it, so that her anger grew hot and she cried:
"Waste no more time in talk. I remain no longer in this detested place. Ere Almidor returns from hunting we shall have escaped."
So she led St. George to the armoury, where he found his trusty sword Ascalon, and to the stable, where his swift steed Bayard stood ready caparisoned.
Then, when her brave Knight had mounted, and she, putting her foot on his, had leapt like a bird behind him, St. George touched the proud beast lightly with his spurs, and, like an arrow from a bow, Bayard carried them together over city and plain, through woods and forests, across rivers, and mountains, and valleys, until they reached the Land of Greece.
And here they found the whole country in festivity over the marriage of the King. Now amongst other entertainments was a grand tournament, the news of which had spread through the world. And to it had come all the other Six Champions of Christendom; so St. George arriving made the Seventh. And many of the champions had with them the fair lady they had rescued. St. Denys of France brought beautiful Eglantine, St. James of Spain sweet Celestine, while noble Rosalind accompanied St. Anthony of Italy. St. David of Wales, after his seven years' sleep, came full of eager desire for adventure. St. Patrick of Ireland, ever courteous, brought all the six Swan-princesses who, in gratitude, had been seeking their deliverer St. Andrew of Scotland; since he, leaving all worldly things, had chosen to fight for the faith.
So all these brave knights and fair ladies joined in the joyful jousting, and each of the Seven Champions was in turn Chief Challenger for a day.
Now in the midst of all the merriment appeared a hundred heralds from a hundred different parts of the Paynim world, declaring war to the death against all Christians.
Whereupon the Seven Champions agreed that each should return to his native land to place his dearest lady in safety, and gather together an army, and that six months later they should meet, and, joining as one legion, go forth to fight for Christendom.
And this was done. So, having chosen St. George as Chief General, they marched on Tripoli with the cry:
"For Christendom we fight, For Christendom we die."
Here the wicked Almidor fell in single combat with St. George, to the great delight of his subjects, who begged the Champion to be King in his stead. To this he consented, and, after he was crowned, the Christian host went on towards Egypt where King Ptolemy, in despair of vanquishing such stalwart knights, threw himself down from the battlements of the palace and was killed. Whereupon, in recognition of the chivalry and courtesy of the Christian Champions, the nobles offered the Crown to one of their number, and they with acclaim chose St. George of Merrie England.
Thence the Christian host journeyed to Persia, where a fearsome battle raged for seven days, during which two hundred thousand pagans were slain, beside many who were drowned in attempting to escape. Thus they were compelled to yield, the Emperor himself happening into the hands of St. George, and six other viceroys into the hands of the six other Champions.
And these were most mercifully and honourably entreated after they had promised to govern Persia after Christian rules. Now the Emperor, having a heart fraught with despite and tyranny, conspired against them, and engaged a wicked wizard named Osmond to so beguile six of the Champions that they gave up fighting, and lived an easy slothful life. But St. George would not be beguiled; neither would he consent to the enchantment of his brothers; and he so roused them that they never sheathed their swords nor unlocked their armour till the wicked Emperor and his viceroys were thrown into that very dungeon in which St. George had languished for seven long years.
Whereupon St. George took upon himself the government of Persia, and gave the six other Champions the six viceroyalties.
So, attired in a beautiful green robe, richly embroidered, over which was flung a scarlet mantle bordered with white fur and decorated with ornaments of pure gold, he took his seat on the throne which was supported by elephants of translucent alabaster. And the Heralds at arms, amid the shouting of the people, cried:
"Long live St. George of Merrie England, Emperor of Morocco, King of Egypt, and Sultan of Persia!"
Now, after that he had established good and just laws to such effect that innumerable companies of pagans flocked to become Christians, St. George, leaving the Government in the hands of his trusted counsellors, took truce with the world and returned to England, where, at Coventry, he lived for many years with the Egyptian Princess Sabia, who bore him three stalwart sons. So here endeth the tale of St. George of Merrie England, first and greatest of the Seven Champions.
THE STORY OF THE THREE BEARS
Once upon a time there were three Bears, who lived together in a house of their own, in a wood. One of them was a Little Wee Bear, and one was a Middle-sized Bear, and the other was a Great Big Bear. They had each a bowl for their porridge; a little bowl for the Little Wee Bear; and a middle-sized bowl for the Middle-sized Bear; and a great bowl for the Great Big Bear. And they had each a chair to sit in; a little chair for the Little Wee Bear; and a middle-sized chair for the Middle-sized Bear; and a great chair for the Great Big Bear. And they had each a bed to sleep in; a little bed for the Little Wee Bear; and a middle-sized bed for the Middle-sized Bear; and a great bed for the Great Big Bear.
One day, after they had made the porridge for their breakfast, and poured it into their porridge-bowls, they walked out into the wood while the porridge was cooling, that they might not burn their mouths by beginning too soon, for they were polite, well-brought-up Bears. And while they were away a little girl called Goldilocks, who lived at the other side of the wood and had been sent on an errand by her mother, passed by the house, and looked in at the window. And then she peeped in at the keyhole, for she was not at all a well-brought-up little girl. Then seeing nobody in the house she lifted the latch. The door was not fastened, because the Bears were good Bears, who did nobody any harm, and never suspected that anybody would harm them. So Goldilocks opened the door and went in; and well pleased was she when she saw the porridge on the table. If she had been a well-brought-up little girl she would have waited till the Bears came home, and then, perhaps, they would have asked her to breakfast; for they were good Bears—a little rough or so, as the manner of Bears is, but for all that very good-natured and hospitable. But she was an impudent, rude little girl, and so she set about helping herself.
First she tasted the porridge of the Great Big Bear, and that was too hot for her. Next she tasted the porridge of the Middle-sized Bear, but that was too cold for her. And then she went to the porridge of the Little Wee Bear, and tasted it, and that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right, and she liked it so well that she ate it all up, every bit!
Then Goldilocks, who was tired, for she had been catching butterflies instead of running on her errand, sate down in the chair of the Great Big Bear, but that was too hard for her. And then she sate down in the chair of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too soft for her. But when she sat down in the chair of the Little Wee Bear, that was neither too hard nor too soft, but just right. So she seated herself in it, and there she sate till the bottom of the chair came out, and down she came, plump upon the ground; and that made her very cross, for she was a bad-tempered little girl.
Now, being determined to rest, Goldilocks went upstairs into the bedchamber in which the Three Bears slept. And first she lay down upon the bed of the Great Big Bear, but that was too high at the head for her. And next she lay down upon the bed of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too high at the foot for her. And then she lay down upon the bed of the Little Wee Bear, and that was neither too high at the head nor at the foot, but just right. So she covered herself up comfortably, and lay there till she fell fast asleep.
By this time the Three Bears thought their porridge would be cool enough for them to eat it properly; so they came home to breakfast. Now careless Goldilocks had left the spoon of the Great Big Bear standing in his porridge.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE!"
said the Great Big Bear in his great, rough, gruff voice.
Then the Middle-sized Bear looked at his porridge and saw the spoon was standing in it too.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE!"
said the Middle-sized Bear in his middle-sized voice.
Then the Little Wee Bear looked at his, and there was the spoon in the porridge-bowl, but the porridge was all gone!
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE, AND HAS EATEN IT ALL UP!"
said the Little Wee Bear in his little wee voice.
Upon this the Three Bears, seeing that some one had entered their house, and eaten up the Little Wee Bear's breakfast, began to look about them. Now the careless Goldilocks had not put the hard cushion straight when she rose from the chair of the Great Big Bear.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR!"
said the Great Big Bear in his great, rough, gruff voice.
And the careless Goldilocks had squatted down the soft cushion of the Middle-sized Bear.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR!"
said the Middle-sized Bear in his middle-sized voice.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR, AND HAS SATE THE BOTTOM THROUGH!"
said the Little Wee Bear in his little wee voice.
Then the Three Bears thought they had better make further search in case it was a burglar, so they went upstairs into their bedchamber. Now Goldilocks had pulled the pillow of the Great Big Bear out of its place.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED!"
said the Great Big Bear in his great, rough, gruff voice.
And Goldilocks had pulled the bolster of the Middle-sized Bear out of its place.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED!"
said the Middle-sized Bear in his middle-sized voice.
But when the Little Wee Bear came to look at his bed, there was the bolster in its place!
And the pillow was in its place upon the bolster!
And upon the pillow——?
There was Goldilocks's yellow head—which was not in its place, for she had no business there.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED,—AND HERE SHE IS STILL!"
said the Little Wee Bear in his little wee voice.
Now Goldilocks had heard in her sleep the great, rough, gruff voice of the Great Big Bear; but she was so fast asleep that it was no more to her than the roaring of wind, or the rumbling of thunder. And she had heard the middle-sized voice of the Middle-sized Bear, but it was only as if she had heard some one speaking in a dream. But when she heard the little wee voice of the Little Wee Bear, it was so sharp, and so shrill, that it awakened her at once. Up she started, and when she saw the Three Bears on one side of the bed, she tumbled herself out at the other, and ran to the window. Now the window was open, because the Bears, like good, tidy Bears, as they were, always opened their bedchamber window when they got up in the morning. So naughty, frightened little Goldilocks jumped; and whether she broke her neck in the fall, or ran into the wood and was lost there, or found her way out of the wood and got whipped for being a bad girl and playing truant, no one can say. But the Three Bears never saw anything more of her.
Once upon a time there was a woman and she baked five pies. But when they came out of the oven they were over-baked, and the crust was far too hard to eat. So she said to her daughter:
"Daughter," says she, "put them pies on to the shelf and leave 'em there awhile. Surely they'll come again in time."
By that, you know, she meant that they would become softer; but her daughter said to herself, "If Mother says the pies will come again, why shouldn't I eat these now?" So, having good, young teeth, she set to work and ate the lot, first and last.
Now when supper-time came the woman said to her daughter, "Go you and get one of the pies. They are sure to have come again by now."
Then the girl went and looked, but of course there was nothing but the empty dishes.
So back she came and said, "No, Mother, they ain't come again."
"Not one o' them?" asked the mother, taken aback like.
"Not one o' them," says the daughter, quite confident.
"Well," says the mother, "come again, or not come again, I will have one of them pies for my supper."
"But you can't," says the daughter. "How can you if they ain't come? And they ain't, as sure's sure."
"But I can," says the mother, getting angry. "Go you at once, child, and bring me the best on them. My teeth must just tackle it."
"Best or worst is all one," answered the daughter, quite sulky, "for I've ate the lot, so you can't have one till it comes again—so there!"
Well, the mother she bounced up to see; but half an eye told her there was nothing save the empty dishes; so she was dished up herself and done for.
So, having no supper, she sate her down on the doorstep, and, bringing out her distaff, began to spin. And as she span she sang:
"My daughter ha' ate five pies to-day, My daughter ha' ate five pies to-day, My daughter ha' ate five pies to-day,"
for, see you, she was quite flabbergasted and fair astonished.
Now the King of that country happened to be coming down the street, and he heard the song going on and on, but could not quite make out the words. So he stopped his horse, and asked:
"What is that you are singing, my good woman?"
Now the mother, though horrified at her daughter's appetite, did not want other folk, leastwise the King, to know about it, so she sang instead:
"My daughter ha' spun five skeins to-day, My daughter ha' spun five skeins to-day, My daughter ha' spun five skeins to-day."
"Five skeins!" cried the King. "By my garter and my crown, I never heard tell of any one who could do that! Look you here, I have been searching for a maiden to wife, and your daughter who can spin five skeins a day is the very one for me. Only, mind you, though for eleven months of the year she shall be Queen indeed, and have all she likes to eat, all the gowns she likes to get, all the company she likes to keep, and everything her heart desires, in the twelfth month she must set to work and spin five skeins a day, and if she does not she must die. Come! is it a bargain?"
So the mother agreed. She thought what a grand marriage it was for her daughter. And as for the five skeins? Time enough to bother about them when the year came round. There was many a slip between cup and lip, and, likely as not, the King would have forgotten all about it by then.
Anyhow, her daughter would be Queen for eleven months. So they were married, and for eleven months the bride was happy as happy could be. She had everything she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, all the company she cared to keep, and everything her heart desired. And her husband the King was kind as kind could be. But in the tenth month she began to think of those five skeins and wonder if the King remembered. And in the eleventh month she began to dream about them as well. But ne'er a word did the King, her husband, say about them; so she hoped he had forgotten.
But on the very last day of the eleventh month, the King, her husband, led her into a room she had never set eyes on before. It had one window, and there was nothing in it but a stool and a spinning-wheel.
"Now, my dear," he said quite kind like, "you will be shut in here to-morrow morning with some victuals and some flax, and if by evening you have not spun five skeins, your head will come off."
Well she was fair frightened, for she had always been such a gatless thoughtless girl that she had never learnt to spin at all. So what she was to do on the morrow she could not tell; for, see you, she had no one to help her; for, of course, now she was Queen, her mother didn't live nigh her. So she just locked the door of her room, sat down on a stool, and cried and cried and cried until her pretty eyes were all red.
Now as she sate sobbing and crying she heard a queer little noise at the bottom of the door. At first she thought it was a mouse. Then she thought it must be something knocking.
So she upped and opened the door and what did she see? Why! a small, little, black Thing with a long tail that whisked round and round ever so fast.
"What are you crying for?" said that Thing, making a bow, and twirling its tail so fast that she could scarcely see it.
"What's that to you?" said she, shrinking a bit, for that Thing was very queer like.
"Don't look at my tail if you're frightened," says That, smirking. "Look at my toes. Ain't they beautiful?"
And sure enough That had on buckled shoes with high heels and big bows, ever so smart.
So she kind of forgot about the tail, and wasn't so frightened, and when That asked her again why she was crying, she upped and said, "It won't do no good if I do."
"You don't know that," says That, twirling its tail faster and faster, and sticking out its toes. "Come, tell me, there's a good girl."
"Well," says she, "it can't do any harm if it doesn't do good." So she dried her pretty eyes and told That all about the pies, and the skeins, and everything from first to last.
And then that little, black Thing nearly burst with laughing. "If that is all, it's easy mended!" it says. "I'll come to your window every morning, take the flax, and bring it back spun into five skeins at night. Come! shall it be a bargain?"
Now she, for all she was so gatless and thoughtless, said, cautious like:
"But what is your pay?"
Then That twirled its tail so fast you couldn't see it, and stuck out its beautiful toes, and smirked and looked out of the corners of its eyes. "I will give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month is up, why"—and That twirled its tail faster and stuck out its toes further, and smirked and sniggered more than ever—"you shall be mine, my beauty."
Three guesses every night for a whole month! She felt sure she would be able for so much; and there was no other way out of the business, so she just said, "Yes! I agree!"
And lor! how That twirled its tail, and bowed, and smirked, and stuck out its beautiful toes.
Well, the very next day her husband led her to the strange room again, and there was the day's food, and a spinning-wheel and a great bundle of flax.
"There you are, my dear," says he as polite as polite. "And remember! if there are not five whole skeins to-night, I fear your head will come off!"
At that she began to tremble, and after he had gone away and locked the door, she was just thinking of a good cry, when she heard a queer knocking at the window. She upped at once and opened it, and sure enough there was the small, little, black Thing sitting on the window-ledge, dangling its beautiful toes and twirling its tail so that you could scarcely see it.
"Good-morning, my beauty," says That. "Come! hand over the flax, sharp, there's a good girl."
So she gave That the flax and shut the window and, you may be sure, ate her victuals, for, as you know, she had a good appetite, and the King, her husband, had promised to give her everything she liked to eat. So she ate to her heart's content, and when evening came and she heard that queer knocking at the window again, she upped and opened it, and there was the small, little, black Thing with five spun skeins on his arm!
And it twirled its tail faster than ever, and stuck out its beautiful toes, and bowed and smirked and gave her the five skeins.
Then That said, "And now, my beauty, what is That's name?"
And she answered quite easy like:
"That is Bill."
"No, it ain't," says That, and twirled its tail.
"Then That is Ned," says she.
"No, it ain't," says That, and twirled its tail faster.
"Well," says she a bit more thoughtful, "That is Mark."
"No, it ain't," says That, and laughs and laughs and laughs, and twirls its tail so as you couldn't see it, as away it flew.
Well, when the King, her husband, came in, he was fine and pleased to see the five skeins all ready for him, for he was fond of his pretty wife.
"I shall not have to order your head off, my dear," says he. "And I hope all the other days will pass as happily." Then he said good-night and locked the door and left her.
But next morning they brought her fresh flax and even more delicious foods. And the small, little, black Thing came knocking at the window and stuck out its beautiful toes and twirled its tail faster and faster, and took away the bundle of flax and brought it back all spun into five skeins by evening.
Then That made her guess three times what That's name was; but she could not guess right, and That laughed and laughed and laughed as it flew away.
Now every morning and evening the same thing happened, and every evening she had her three guesses; but she never guessed right. And every day the small, little, black Thing laughed louder and louder and smirked more and more, and looked at her quite maliceful out of the corners of its eyes until she began to get frightened, and instead of eating all the fine foods left for her, spent the day in trying to think of names to say. But she never hit upon the right one.
So it came to the last day of the month but one, and when the small, little, black Thing arrived in the evening with the five skeins of flax all ready spun, it could hardly say for smirking:
"Ain't you got That's name yet?"
So says she—for she had been reading her Bible:
"Is That Nicodemus?"
"No, it ain't," says That, and twirled its tail faster than you could see.
"Is That Samuel?" says she all of a flutter.
"No, it ain't, my beauty," chuckles That, looking maliceful.
"Well—is That Methuselah?" says she, inclined to cry.
Then That just fixes her with eyes like a coal a-fire, and says, "No, it ain't that neither, so there is only to-morrow night and then you'll be mine, my beauty."
And away the small, little, black Thing flew, its tail twirling and whisking so fast that you couldn't see it.
Well, she felt so bad she couldn't even cry; but she heard the King, her husband, coming to the door, so she made bold to be cheerful, and tried to smile when he said, "Well done, wife! Five skeins again! I shall not have to order your head off after all, my dear, of that I'm quite sure, so let us enjoy ourselves." Then he bade the servants bring supper, and a stool for him to sit beside his Queen, and down they sat, lover-like, side by side.
But the poor Queen could eat nothing; she could not forget the small, little, black Thing. And the King hadn't eaten but a mouthful or two when he began to laugh, and he laughed so long and so loud that at last the poor Queen, all lackadaisical as she was, said:
"Why do you laugh so?"
"At something I saw to-day, my love," says the King. "I was out a-hunting, and by chance I came to a place I'd never been in before. It was in a wood, and there was an old chalk-pit there, and out of the chalk-pit there came a queer kind of a sort of a humming, humming noise. So I got off my hobby to see what made it, and went quite quiet to the edge of the pit and looked down. And what do you think I saw? The funniest, queerest, smallest, little, black Thing you ever set eyes upon. And it had a little spinning-wheel and it was spinning away for dear life, but the wheel didn't go so fast as its tail, and that span round and round—ho-ho-ha-ha!—you never saw the like. And its little feet had buckled shoes and bows on them, and they went up and down in a desperate hurry. And all the time that small, little, black Thing kept bumming and booming away at these words:
"Name me, name me not, Who'll guess it's Tom-Tit-Tot."
Well, when she heard these words the Queen nearly jumped out of her skin for joy; but she managed to say nothing, but ate her supper quite comfortably.
And she said no word when next morning the small, little, black Thing came for the flax, though it looked so gleeful and maliceful that she could hardly help laughing, knowing she had got the better of it. And when night came and she heard that knocking against the window-panes, she put on a wry face, and opened the window slowly as if she was afraid. But that Thing was as bold as brass and came right inside, grinning from ear to ear. And oh, my goodness! how That's tail was twirling and whisking!
"Well, my beauty," says That, giving her the five skeins all ready spun, "what's my name?"
Then she put down her lip, and says, tearful like, "Is—is—That—Solomon?"
"No, it ain't," laughs That, smirking out of the corner of That's eye. And the small, little, black Thing came further into the room.
So she tried again—and this time she seemed hardly able to speak for fright.
"Well—is That—Zebedee?" she says.
"No, it ain't," cried the impet, full of glee. And it came quite close and stretched out its little black hands to her, and O-oh, ITS TAIL...!!!
"Take time, my beauty," says That, sort of jeering like, and its small, little, black eyes seemed to eat her up. "Take time! Remember! next guess and you're mine!" Well, she backed just a wee bit from it, for it was just horrible to look at; but then she laughed out and pointed her finger at it and said, says she:
"Name me, name me not, Your name is Tom TIT TOT."
And you never heard such a shriek as that small, little, black Thing gave out. Its tail dropped down straight, its feet all crumpled up, and away That flew into the dark, and she never saw it no more.
And she lived happy ever after with her husband, the King.
THE GOLDEN SNUFF-BOX
Once upon a time, and a very good time too, though it was not in my time, nor your time, nor for the matter of that in any one's time, there lived a man and a woman who had one son called Jack, and he was just terribly fond of reading books. He read, and he read, and then, because his parents lived in a lonely house in a lonely forest and he never saw any other folk but his father and his mother, he became quite crazy to go out into the world and see charming princesses and the like.
So one day he told his mother he must be off, and she called him an air-brained addle-pate, but added that, as he was no use at home, he had better go seek his fortune. Then she asked him if he would rather take a small cake with her blessing to eat on his journey, or a large cake with her curse? Now Jack was a very hungry lad, so he just up and said:
"A big cake, if you please, 'm."
So his mother made a great big cake, and when he started she just off to the top of the house and cast malisons on him, till he got out of sight. You see she had to do it, but after that she sate down and cried.
Well, Jack hadn't gone far till he came to a field where his father was ploughing. Now the goodman was dreadfully put out when he found his son was going away, and still more so when he heard he had chosen his mother's malison. So he cast about what to do to put things straight, and at last he drew out of his pocket a little golden snuff-box, and gave it to the lad, saying:
"If ever you are in danger of sudden death you may open the box; but not till then. It has been in our family for years and years; but, as we have lived, father and son, quietly in the forest, none of us have ever been in need of help—perhaps you may."
So Jack pocketed the golden snuff-box and went on his way.
Now, after a time, he grew very tired, and very hungry, for he had eaten his big cake first thing, and night closed in on him so that he could scarce see his way.
But at last he came to a large house and begged board and lodging at the back door. Now Jack was a good-looking young fellow, so the maid-servant at once called him in to the fireside and gave him plenty good meat and bread and beer. And it so happened that while he was eating his supper the master's gay young daughter came into the kitchen and saw him. So she went to her father and said that there was the prettiest young fellow she had ever seen in the back kitchen, and that if her father loved her he would give the young man some employment. Now the gentleman of the house was exceedingly fond of his gay young daughter, and did not want to vex her; so he went into the back kitchen and questioned Jack as to what he could do.
"Anything," said Jack gaily, meaning, of course, that he could do any foolish bit of work about a house.
But the gentleman saw a way of pleasing his gay young daughter and getting rid of the trouble of employing Jack; so he laughs and says, "If you can do anything, my good lad," says he, "you had better do this. By eight o'clock to-morrow morning you must have dug a lake four miles round in front of my mansion, and on it there must be floating a whole fleet of vessels. And they must range up in front of my mansion and fire a salute of guns. And the very last shot must break the leg of the four-post bed on which my daughter sleeps, for she is always late of a morning!"
Well! Jack was terribly flabbergasted, but he faltered out:
"And if I don't do it?"
"Then," said the master of the house quite calmly, "your life will be the forfeit."
So he bade the servants take Jack to a turret-room and lock the door on him.
Well! Jack sate on the side of his bed and tried to think things out, but he felt as if he didn't know b from a battledore, so he decided to think no more, and after saying his prayers he lay down and went to sleep. And he did sleep! When he woke it was close on eight o'clock, and he had only time to fly to the window and look out, when the great clock on the tower began to whirr before it struck the hour. And there was the lawn in front of the house all set with beds of roses and stocks and marigolds! Well! all of a sudden he remembered the little golden snuff-box.
"I'm near enough to death," quoth he to himself, as he drew it out and opened it.
And no sooner had he opened it than out hopped three funny little red men in red night-caps, rubbing their eyes and yawning; for, see you, they had been locked up in the box for years, and years, and years.
"What do you want, Master?" they said between their yawns. But Jack heard that clock a-whirring and knew he hadn't a moment to lose, so he just gabbled off his orders. Then the clock began to strike, and the little men flew out of the window, and suddenly
Bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! bang!
went the guns, and the last one must have broken the leg of the four-post bed, for there at the window was the gay young daughter in her nightcap, gazing with astonishment at the lake four miles round, with the fleet of vessels floating on it!
And so did Jack! He had never seen such a sight in his life, and he was quite sorry when the three little red men disturbed him by flying in at the window and scrambling into the golden snuff-box.
"Give us a little more time when you want us next, Master," they said sulkily. Then they shut down the lid, and Jack could hear them yawning inside as they settled down to sleep.
As you may imagine, the master of the house was fair astonished, while as for the gay young daughter, she declared at once that she would never marry any one else but the young man who could do such wonderful things; the truth being that she and Jack had fallen in love with each other at first sight.
But her father was cautious. "It is true, my dear," says he, "that the young fellow seems a bully boy; but for aught we know it may be chance, not skill, and he may have a broken feather in his wing. So we must try him again."
Then he said to Jack, "My daughter must have a fine house to live in. Therefore by to-morrow morning at eight o'clock there must be a magnificent castle standing on twelve golden pillars in the middle of the lake, and there must be a church beside it. And all things must be ready for the bride, and at eight o'clock precisely a peal of bells from the church must ring out for the wedding. If not you will have to forfeit your life."
This time Jack intended to give the three little red men more time for their task; but what with having enjoyed himself so much all day, and having eaten so much good food, he overslept himself, so that the big clock on the tower was whirring before it struck eight when he woke, leapt out of bed, and rushed to the golden snuff-box. But he had forgotten where he had put it, and so the clock had really begun to strike before he found it under his pillow, opened it, and gabbled out his orders. And then you never saw how the three little red men tumbled over each other and yawned and stretched and made haste all at one time, so that Jack thought his life would surely be forfeit. But just as the clock struck its last chime, out rang a peal of merry bells, and there was the Castle standing on twelve golden pillars and a church beside it in the middle of the lake. And the Castle was all decorated for the wedding, and there were crowds and crowds of servants and retainers, all dressed in their Sunday best.
Never had Jack seen such a sight before; neither had the gay young daughter who, of course, was looking out of the next window in her nightcap. And she looked so pretty and so gay that Jack felt quite cross when he had to step back to let the three little red men fly to their golden snuff-box. But they were far crosser than he was, and mumbled and grumbled at the hustle, so that Jack was quite glad when they shut the box down and began to snore.
Well, of course, Jack and the gay young daughter were married, and were as happy as the day is long; and Jack had fine clothes to wear, fine food to eat, fine servants to wait on him, and as many fine friends as he liked.
So he was in luck; but he had yet to learn that a mother's malison is sure to bring misfortune some time or another.
Thus it happened that one day when he was going a-hunting with all the ladies and gentlemen, Jack forgot to change the golden snuff-box (which he always carried about with him for fear of accidents) from his waistcoat pocket to that of his scarlet hunting-coat; so he left it behind him. And what should happen but that the servant let it fall on the ground when he was folding up the clothes, and the snuff-box flew open and out popped the three little red men yawning and stretching.
Well! when they found out that they hadn't really been summoned, and that there was no fear of death, they were in a towering temper and said they had a great mind to fly away with the Castle, golden pillars and all.
On hearing this the servant pricked up his ears.
"Could you do that?" he asked.
"Could we?" they said, and they laughed loud. "Why, we can do anything."
Then the servant said ever so sharp, "Then move me this Castle and all it contains right away over the sea where the master can't disturb us."
Now the little red men need not really have obeyed the order, but they were so cross with Jack that hardly had the servant said the words before the task was done; so when the hunting-party came back, lo and behold! the Castle, and the church, and the golden pillars had all disappeared!
At first all the rest set upon Jack for being a knave and a cheat; and, in particular, his wife's father threatened to have at him for deceiving the gay young daughter; but at last he agreed to let Jack have twelve months and a day to find the Castle and bring it back.
So off Jack starts on a good horse with some money in his pocket.
And he travelled far and he travelled fast, and he travelled east and west, north and south, over hills, and dales, and valleys, and mountains, and woods, and sheepwalks, but never a sign of the missing castle did he see. Now at last he came to the palace of the King of all the Mice in the Wide World. And there was a little mousie in a fine hauberk and a steel cap doing sentry at the front gate, and he was not for letting Jack in until he had told his errand. And when Jack had told it, he passed him on to the next mouse sentry at the inner gate; so by degrees he reached the King's chamber, where he sate surrounded by mice courtiers.
Now the King of the Mice received Jack very graciously, and said that he himself knew nothing of the missing Castle, but, as he was King of all the Mice in the whole world, it was possible that some of his subjects might know more than he. So he ordered his chamberlain to command a Grand Assembly for the next morning, and in the meantime he entertained Jack right royally.
But the next morning, though there were brown mice, and black mice, and grey mice, and white mice, and piebald mice, from all parts of the world, they all answered with one breath:
"If it please your Majesty, we have not seen the missing Castle."
Then the King said, "You must go and ask my elder brother the King of all the Frogs. He may be able to tell you. Leave your horse here and take one of mine. It knows the way and will carry you safe."
So Jack set off on the King's horse, and as he passed the outer gate he saw the little mouse sentry coming away, for its guard was up. Now Jack was a kind-hearted lad, and he had saved some crumbs from his dinner in order to recompense the little sentry for his kindness. So he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the crumbs.
"Here you are, mousekin," he said. "That's for your trouble!"
Then the mouse thanked him kindly and asked if he would take him along to the King of the Frogs.
"Not I," says Jack. "I should get into trouble with your King."
But the mousekin insisted. "I may be of some use to you," it said. So it ran up the horse's hind leg and up by its tail and hid in Jack's pocket. And the horse set off at a hard gallop, for it didn't half like the mouse running over it.
So at last Jack came to the palace of the King of all the Frogs, and there at the front gate was a frog doing sentry in a fine coat of mail and a brass helmet. And the frog sentry was for not letting Jack in; but the mouse called out that they came from the King of all the Mice and must be let in without delay. So they were taken to the King's chamber, where he sate surrounded by frog courtiers in fine clothes; but alas! he had heard nothing of the Castle on golden pillars, and though he summoned all the frogs of all the world to a Grand Assembly next morning, they all answered his question with:
"Kro kro, Kro kro"
which every one knows stands for "No" in frog language.
So the King said to Jack, "There remains but one thing. You must go and ask my eldest brother, the King of all the Birds. His subjects are always on the wing, so mayhap they have seen something. Leave the horse you are riding here, and take one of mine. It knows the way, and will carry you safe."
So Jack set off, and being a kind-hearted lad he gave the frog sentry, whom he met coming away from his guard, some crumbs he had saved from his dinner. And the frog asked leave to go with him, and when Jack refused to take him he just gave one hop on to the stirrup, and a second hop on to the crupper, and the next hop he was in Jack's other pocket.
Then the horse galloped away like lightning, for it didn't like the slimy frog coming down "plop" on its back.
Well, after a time, Jack came to the palace of the King of all the Birds, and there at the front gate were a sparrow and a crow marching up and down with matchlocks on their shoulders. Now at this Jack laughed fit to split, and the mouse and the frog from his pockets called out:
"We come from the King! Sirrahs! Let us pass."
So that the sentries were right mazed, and let them pass in without more ado.
But when they came to the King's chamber, where he sate surrounded by all manner of birds, tomtits, wrens, cormorants, turtle-doves, and the like, the King said he was sorry, but he had no news of the missing Castle. And though he summoned all the birds of all the world to a Grand Assembly next morning, not one of them had seen or heard tell of it.
So Jack was quite disconsolate till the King said, "But where is the eagle? I don't see my eagle."
Then the Chamberlain—he was a tomtit—stepped forward with a bow and said:
"May it please your Majesty he is late."
"Late?" says the King in a fume. "Summon him at once."
So two larks flew up into the sky till they couldn't be seen and sang ever so loud, till at last the eagle appeared all in a perspiration from having flown so fast.
Then the King said, "Sirrah! Have you seen a missing Castle that stands upon twelve pillars of gold?"
And the eagle blinked its eyes and said, "May it please your Majesty that is where I've been."
Then everybody rejoiced exceedingly, and when the eagle had eaten a whole calf so as to be strong enough for the journey, he spread his wide wings, on which Jack stood, with the mouse in one pocket and the frog in the other, and started to obey the King's order to take the owner back to his missing Castle as quickly as possible.
And they flew over land and they flew over sea, until at last in the far distance they saw the Castle standing on its twelve golden pillars. But all the doors and windows were fast shut and barred, for, see you, the servant-master who had run away with it had gone out for the day a-hunting, and he always bolted doors and windows while he was absent lest some one else should run away with it.
Then Jack was puzzled to think how he should get hold of the golden snuff-box, until the little mouse said:
"Let me fetch it. There is always a mouse-hole in every castle, so I am sure I shall be able to get in."
So it went off, and Jack waited on the eagle's wings in a fume; till at last mousekin appeared.
"Have you got it?" shouted Jack, and the little mousie cried:
So every one rejoiced exceedingly, and they set off back to the palace of the King of all the Birds, where Jack had left his horse; for now that he had the golden snuff-box safe he knew he could get the Castle back whenever he chose to send the three little red men to fetch it. But on the way over the sea, while Jack, who was dead tired with standing so long, lay down between the eagle's wings and fell asleep, the mouse and the eagle fell to quarrelling as to which of them had helped Jack the most, and they quarrelled so much that at last they laid the case before the frog. Then the frog, who made a very wise judge, said he must see the whole affair from the very beginning; so the mouse brought out the golden snuff-box from Jack's pocket, and began to relate where it had been found and all about it. Now, at that very moment Jack awoke, kicked out his leg, and plump went the golden snuff-box down to the very bottom of the sea!
"I thought my turn would come," said the frog, and went plump in after it.
Well, they waited, and waited, and waited for three whole days and three whole nights; but froggie never came up again, and they had just given him up in despair when his nose showed above the water.
"Have you got it?" they shouted.
"No!" says he, with a great gasp.
"Then what do you want?" they cried in a rage.
"My breath," says froggie, and with that he sinks down again.
Well, they waited two days and two nights more, and at last up comes the little frog with the golden snuff-box in its mouth.
Then they all rejoiced exceedingly, and the eagle flew ever so fast to the palace of the King of the Birds.
But alas and alack-a-day! Jack's troubles were not ended; his mother's malison was still bringing him ill-luck, for the King of the Birds flew into a fearsome rage because Jack had not brought the Castle of the golden pillars back with him. And he said that unless he saw it by eight o'clock next morning Jack's head should come off as a cheat and a liar.
Then Jack being close to death opened the golden snuff-box, and out tumbled the three little red men in their three little red caps. They had recovered their tempers and were quite glad to be back with a master who knew that they would only, as a rule, work under fear of death; for, see you, the servant-master had been for ever disturbing their sleep with opening the box to no purpose.
So before the clock struck eight next morning, there was the Castle on its twelve golden pillars, and the King of the Birds was fine and pleased, and let Jack take his horse and ride to the palace of the King of the Frogs. But there exactly the same thing happened, and poor Jack had to open the snuff-box again and order the Castle to come to the palace of the King of the Frogs. At this the little red men were a wee bit cross; but they said they supposed it could not be helped; so, though they yawned, they brought the Castle all right, and Jack was allowed to take his horse and go to the palace of the King of all the Mice in the World. But here the same thing happened, and the little red men tumbled out of the golden snuff-box in a real rage, and said fellows might as well have no sleep at all! However, they did as they were bidden; they brought the Castle of the golden pillars from the palace of the King of the Frogs to the palace of the King of the Birds, and Jack was allowed to take his own horse and ride home.
But the year and a day which he had been allowed was almost gone, and even his gay young wife, after almost weeping her eyes out after her handsome young husband, had given up Jack for lost; so every one was astounded to see him, and not over-pleased either to see him come without his Castle. Indeed his father-in-law swore with many oaths that if it were not in its proper place by eight o'clock next morning Jack's life should be forfeit.
Now this, of course, was exactly what Jack had wanted and intended from the beginning; because when death was nigh he could open the golden snuff-box and order about the little red men. But he had opened it so often of late and they had become so cross that he was in a stew what to do; whether to give them time to show their temper, or to hustle them out of it. At last he decided to do half and half. So just as the hands of the clock were at five minutes to eight he opened the box, and stopped his ears!
Well! you never heard such a yawning, and scolding, and threatening, and blustering. What did he mean by it? Why should he take four bites at one cherry? If he was always in fear of death why didn't he die and have done with it?
In the midst of all this the tower clock began to whirr—
"Gentlemen!" says Jack—he was really quaking with fear—"do as you are told."
"For the last time," they shrieked. "We won't stay and serve a master who thinks he is going to die every day."
And with that they flew out of the window.
AND THEY NEVER CAME BACK.
The golden snuff-box remained empty for evermore.
But when Jack looked out of window there was the Castle in the middle of the lake on its twelve golden pillars, and there was his young wife ever so pretty and gay in her nightcap looking out of the window too.
So they lived happily ever after.
In a great Palace by the sea there once dwelt a very rich old lord, who had neither wife nor children living, only one little granddaughter, whose face he had never seen in all her life. He hated her bitterly, because at her birth his favourite daughter died; and when the old nurse brought him the baby he swore that it might live or die as it liked, but he would never look on its face as long as it lived.
So he turned his back, and sat by his window looking out over the sea, and weeping great tears for his lost daughter, till his white hair and beard grew down over his shoulders and twined round his chair and crept into the chinks of the floor, and his tears, dropping on to the window-ledge, wore a channel through the stone, and ran away in a little river to the great sea. Meanwhile, his granddaughter grew up with no one to care for her, or clothe her; only the old nurse, when no one was by, would sometimes give her a dish of scraps from the kitchen, or a torn petticoat from the rag-bag; while the other servants of the palace would drive her from the house with blows and mocking words, calling her "Tattercoats," and pointing to her bare feet and shoulders, till she ran away, crying, to hide among the bushes.
So she grew up, with little to eat or to wear, spending her days out of doors, her only companion a crippled gooseherd, who fed his flock of geese on the common. And this gooseherd was a queer, merry little chap, and when she was hungry, or cold, or tired, he would play to her so gaily on his little pipe, that she forgot all her troubles, and would fall to dancing with his flock of noisy geese for partners.
Now one day people told each other that the King was travelling through the land, and was to give a great ball to all the lords and ladies of the country in the town near by, and that the Prince, his only son, was to choose a wife from amongst the maidens in the company. In due time one of the royal invitations to the ball was brought to the Palace by the sea, and the servants carried it up to the old lord, who still sat by his window, wrapped in his long white hair and weeping into the little river that was fed by his tears.
But when he heard the King's command, he dried his eyes and bade them bring shears to cut him loose, for his hair had bound him a fast prisoner, and he could not move. And then he sent them for rich clothes, and jewels, which he put on; and he ordered them to saddle the white horse, with gold and silk, that he might ride to meet the King; but he quite forgot he had a granddaughter to take to the ball.
Meanwhile Tattercoats sat by the kitchen-door weeping, because she could not go to see the grand doings. And when the old nurse heard her crying she went to the Lord of the Palace, and begged him to take his granddaughter with him to the King's ball.
But he only frowned and told her to be silent; while the servants laughed and said, "Tattercoats is happy in her rags, playing with the gooseherd! Let her be—it is all she is fit for."
A second, and then a third time, the old nurse begged him to let the girl go with him, but she was answered only by black looks and fierce words, till she was driven from the room by the jeering servants, with blows and mocking words.
Weeping over her ill-success, the old nurse went to look for Tattercoats; but the girl had been turned from the door by the cook, and had run away to tell her friend the gooseherd how unhappy she was because she could not go to the King's ball.
Now when the gooseherd had listened to her story, he bade her cheer up, and proposed that they should go together into the town to see the King, and all the fine things; and when she looked sorrowfully down at her rags and bare feet he played a note or two upon his pipe, so gay and merry, that she forgot all about her tears and her troubles, and before she well knew, the gooseherd had taken her by the hand, and she and he, and the geese before them, were dancing down the road towards the town.
"Even cripples can dance when they choose," said the gooseherd.
Before they had gone very far a handsome young man, splendidly dressed, riding up, stopped to ask the way to the castle where the King was staying, and when he found that they too were going thither, he got off his horse and walked beside them along the road.
"You seem merry folk," he said, "and will be good company."
"Good company, indeed," said the gooseherd, and played a new tune that was not a dance.
It was a curious tune, and it made the strange young man stare and stare and stare at Tattercoats till he couldn't see her rags—till he couldn't, to tell the truth, see anything but her beautiful face.
Then he said, "You are the most beautiful maiden in the world. Will you marry me?"
Then the gooseherd smiled to himself, and played sweeter than ever.
But Tattercoats laughed. "Not I," said she; "you would be finely put to shame, and so would I be, if you took a goose-girl for your wife! Go and ask one of the great ladies you will see to-night at the King's ball, and do not flout poor Tattercoats."
But the more she refused him the sweeter the pipe played, and the deeper the young man fell in love; till at last he begged her to come that night at twelve to the King's ball, just as she was, with the gooseherd and his geese, in her torn petticoat and bare feet, and see if he wouldn't dance with her before the King and the lords and ladies, and present her to them all, as his dear and honoured bride.
Now at first Tattercoats said she would not; but the gooseherd said, "Take fortune when it comes, little one."
So when night came, and the hall in the castle was full of light and music, and the lords and ladies were dancing before the King, just as the clock struck twelve, Tattercoats and the gooseherd, followed by his flock of noisy geese, hissing and swaying their heads, entered at the great doors, and walked straight up the ball-room, while on either side the ladies whispered, the lords laughed, and the King seated at the far end stared in amazement.
But as they came in front of the throne Tattercoats' lover rose from beside the King, and came to meet her. Taking her by the hand, he kissed her thrice before them all, and turned to the King.
"Father!" he said—for it was the Prince himself—"I have made my choice, and here is my bride, the loveliest girl in all the land, and the sweetest as well!"
Before he had finished speaking, the gooseherd had put his pipe to his lips and played a few notes that sounded like a bird singing far off in the woods; and as he played Tattercoats' rags were changed to shining robes sewn with glittering jewels, a golden crown lay upon her golden hair, and the flock of geese behind her became a crowd of dainty pages, bearing her long train.
And as the King rose to greet her as his daughter the trumpets sounded loudly in honour of the new Princess, and the people outside in the street said to each other:
"Ah! now the Prince has chosen for his wife the loveliest girl in all the land!"
But the gooseherd was never seen again, and no one knew what became of him; while the old lord went home once more to his Palace by the sea, for he could not stay at Court, when he had sworn never to look on his granddaughter's face.
So there he still sits by his window,—if you could only see him, as you may some day—weeping more bitterly than ever. And his white hair has bound him to the stones, and the river of his tears runs away to the great sea.
THE THREE FEATHERS
Once upon a time there lived a girl who was wooed and married by a man she never saw; for he came a-courting her after nightfall, and when they were married he never came home till it was dark, and always left before dawn.
Still he was good and kind to her, giving her everything her heart could desire, so she was well content for a while. But, after a bit, some of her friends, doubtless full of envy for her good luck, began to whisper that the unseen husband must have something dreadful the matter with him which made him averse to being seen.
Now from the very beginning the girl had wondered why her lover did not come a-courting her as other girls' lovers came, openly and by day, and though, at first, she paid no heed to her neighbours' nods and winks, she began at last to think there might be something in what they said. So she determined to see for herself, and one night when she heard her husband come into her room, she lit her candle suddenly and saw him.
And, lo and behold! he was handsome as handsome; beautiful enough to make every woman in the world fall in love with him on the spot. But even as she got her glimpse of him, he changed into a big brown bird which looked at her with eyes full of anger and blame.
"Because you have done this faithless thing," it said, "you will see me no more, unless for seven long years and a day you serve for me faithfully."
And she cried with tears and sobs, "I will serve seven times seven years and a day if you will only come back. Tell me what I am to do."
Then the bird-husband said, "I will place you in service, and there you must remain and do good work for seven years and a day, and you must listen to no man who may seek to beguile you to leave that service. If you do I will never return."
To this the girl agreed, and the bird, spreading its broad brown wings, carried her to a big mansion.
"Here they need a laundry-maid," said the bird-husband. "Go in, ask to see the mistress, and say you will do the work; but remember you must do it for seven years and a day."
"But I cannot do it for seven days," answered the girl. "I cannot wash or iron."
"That matters nothing," replied the bird. "All you have to do is to pluck three feathers from under my wing close to my heart, and these feathers will do your bidding whatever it may be. You will only have to put them on your hand, and say, 'By virtue of these three feathers from over my true love's heart may this be done,' and it will be done."
So the girl plucked three feathers from under the bird's wing, and after that the bird flew away.
Then the girl did as she was bidden, and the lady of the house engaged her for the place. And never was such a quick laundress; for, see you, she had only to go into the wash-house, bolt the door and close the shutters, so that no one should see what she was at; then she would out with the three feathers and say, "By virtue of these three feathers from over my true love's heart may the copper be lit, the clothes sorted, washed, boiled, dried, folded, mangled, ironed," and lo! there they came tumbling on to the table, clean and white, quite ready to be put away. So her mistress set great store by her and said there never was such a good laundry-maid. Thus four years passed and there was no talk of her leaving. But the other servants grew jealous of her, all the more so, because, being a very pretty girl, all the men-servants fell in love with her and wanted to marry her.
But she would have none of them, because she was always waiting and longing for the day when her bird-husband would come back to her in man's form.
Now one of the men who wanted her was the stout butler, and one day as he was coming back from the cider-house he chanced to stop by the laundry, and he heard a voice say, "By virtue of these three feathers from over my true love's heart may the copper be lit, the clothes sorted, boiled, dried, folded, mangled, and ironed."
He thought this very queer, so he peeped through the keyhole. And there was the girl sitting at her ease in a chair, while all the clothes came flying to the table ready and fit to put away.
Well, that night he went to the girl and said that if she turned up her nose at him and his proposal any longer, he would up and tell the mistress that her fine laundress was nothing but a witch; and then, even if she were not burnt alive, she would lose her place.
Now the girl was in great distress what to do, since if she were not faithful to her bird-husband, or if she failed to serve her seven years and a day in one service, he would alike fail to return; so she made an excuse by saying she could think of no one who did not give her enough money to satisfy her.
At this the stout butler laughed. "Money?" said he. "I have seventy pounds laid by with master. Won't that satisfy thee?"
"Happen it would," she replied.
So the very next night the butler came to her with the seventy pounds in golden sovereigns, and she held out her apron and took them, saying she was content; for she had thought of a plan. Now as they were going upstairs together she stopped and said:
"Mr. Butler, excuse me for a minute. I have left the shutters of the wash-house open, and I must shut them, or they will be banging all night and disturb master and missus!"
Now though the butler was stout and beginning to grow old, he was anxious to seem young and gallant; so he said at once:
"Excuse me, my beauty, you shall not go. I will go and shut them. I shan't be a moment!"
So off he set, and no sooner had he gone than she out with her three feathers, and putting them on her hand, said in a hurry:
"By virtue of the three feathers from over my true love's heart may the shutters never cease banging till morning, and may Mr. Butler's hands be busy trying to shut them."
And so it happened.
Mr. Butler shut the shutters, but—bru-u-u! there they were hanging open again. Then he shut them once more, and this time they hit him on the face as they flew open. Yet he couldn't stop; he had to go on. So there he was the whole livelong night. Such a cursing, and banging, and swearing, and shutting, never was, until dawn came, and, too tired to be really angry, he crept back to his bed, resolving that come what might he would not tell what had happened to him and thus get the laugh on him. So he kept his own counsel, and the girl kept the seventy pounds, and laughed in her sleeve at her would-be lover.
Now after a time the coachman, a spruce middle-aged man, who had long wanted to marry the clever, pretty laundry-maid, going to the pump to get water for his horses overheard her giving orders to the three feathers, and peeping through the keyhole as the butler had done, saw her sitting at her ease in a chair while the clothes, all washed and ironed and mangled, came flying to the table.
So, just as the butler had done, he went to the girl and said, "I have you now, my pretty. Don't dare to turn up your nose at me, for if you do I'll tell mistress you are a witch."
Then the girl said quite calmly, "I look on none who has no money."
"If that is all," replied the coachman, "I have forty pounds laid by with master. That I'll bring and ask for payment to-morrow night."
So when the night came the girl held out her apron for the money, and as she was going up the stairs she stopped suddenly and said, "Goody me! I've left my clothes on the line. Stop a bit till I fetch them in."
Now the coachman was really a very polite fellow, so he said at once:
"Let me go. It is a cold, windy night and you'll be catching your death."
So off he went, and the girl out with her feathers and said:
"By virtue of the three feathers from over my true love's heart may the clothes slash and blow about till dawn, and may Mr. Coachman not be able to gather them up or take his hand from the job."
And when she had said this she went quietly to bed, for she knew what would happen. And sure enough it did. Never was such a night as Mr. Coachman spent with the wet clothes flittering and fluttering about his ears, and the sheets wrapping him into a bundle, and tripping him up, while the towels slashed at his legs. But though he smarted all over he had to go on till dawn came, and then a very weary, woebegone coachman couldn't even creep away to his bed, for he had to feed and water his horses! And he, also, kept his own counsel for fear of the laugh going against him; so the clever laundry-maid put the forty pounds with the seventy in her box, and went on with her work gaily. But after a time the footman, who was quite an honest lad and truly in love, going by the laundry peeped through the keyhole to get a glimpse of his dearest dear, and what should he see but her sitting at her ease in a chair, and the clothes coming all ready folded and ironed on to the table.
Now when he saw this he was greatly troubled. So he went to his master and drew out all his savings; and then he went to the girl and told her that he would have to tell the mistress what he had seen, unless she consented to marry him.
"You see," he said, "I have been with master this while back, and have saved up this bit, and you have been here this long while back and must have saved as well. So let us put the two together and make a home, or else stay on at service as pleases you."
Well, she tried to put him off; but he insisted so much that at last she said:
"James! there's a dear, run down to the cellar and fetch me a drop of brandy. You've made me feel so queer!" And when he had gone she out with her three feathers, and said, "By virtue of the three feathers from over my true love's heart may James not be able to pour the brandy straight, except down his throat."
Well! so it happened. Try as he would, James could not get the brandy into the glass. It splashed a few drops into it, then it trickled over his hand, and fell on the floor. And so it went on and on till he grew so tired that he thought he needed a dram himself. So he tossed off the few drops and began again; but he fared no better. So he took another little drain, and went on, and on, and on, till he got quite fuddled. And who should come down into the cellar but his master to know what the smell of brandy meant!
Now James the footman was truthful as well as honest, so he told the master how he had come down to get the sick laundry-maid a drop of brandy, but that his hand had shaken so that he could not pour it out, and it had fallen on the ground, and that the smell of it had got to his head.
"A likely tale," said the master, and beat James soundly.
Then the master went to the mistress, his wife, and said: "Send away that laundry-maid of yours. Something has come over my men. They have all drawn out their savings as if they were going to be married, yet they don't leave, and I believe that girl is at the bottom of it."
But his wife would not hear of the laundry-maid being blamed; she was the best servant in the house, and worth all the rest of them put together; it was his men who were at fault. So they quarrelled over it; but in the end the master gave in, and after this there was peace, since the mistress bade the girl keep herself to herself, and none of the men would say ought of what had happened for fear of the laughter of the other servants.
So it went on until one day when the master was going a-driving, the coach was at the door, and the footman was standing to hold the coach open, and the butler on the steps all ready, when who should pass through the yard, so saucy and bright with a great basket of clean clothes, but the laundry-maid. And the sight of her was too much for James, the footman, who began to blub.
"She is a wicked girl," he said. "She got all my savings, and got me a good thrashing besides."
Then the coachman grew bold. "Did she?" he said. "That was nothing to what she served me." So he up and told all about the wet clothes and the awful job he had had the livelong night. Now the butler on the steps swelled with rage until he nearly burst, and at last he out with his night of banging shutters.
"And one," he said, "hit me on the nose."
This settled the three men, and they agreed to tell their master the moment he came out, and get the girl sent about her business. Now the laundry-maid had sharp ears and had paused behind a door to listen; so when she heard this she knew she must do something to stop it. So she out with her three feathers and said, "By virtue of the three feathers from over my true love's heart may there be striving as to who suffered most between the men so that they get into the pond for a ducking."
Well! no sooner had she said the words than the three men began disputing as to which of them had been served the worst; then James up and hit the stout butler, giving him a black eye, and the fat butler fell upon James and pommelled him hard, while the coachman scrambled from his box and belaboured them both, and the laundry-maid stood by laughing.
So out comes the master, but none of them would listen, and each wanted to be heard, and fought, and shoved, and pommelled away until they shoved each other into the pond, and all got a fine ducking.
Then the master asked the girl what it was all about, and she said:
"They all wanted to tell a story against me because I won't marry them, and one said his was the best, and the next said his was the best, so they fell a-quarrelling as to which was the likeliest story to get me into trouble. But they are well punished, so there is no need to do more."