Andrew Lang.

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in the palace, as she had never ceased to do since her son had rode
away. She almost died of joy at seeing him again, but after a little she
remembered his sick friend, and ordered a bed to be made ready and the
best doctors in all the country to be sent for. When they heard of the
queen's summons they flocked from all parts, but none could cure him.
After everyone had tried and failed a servant entered and informed the
queen that a strange old man had just knocked at the palace gate and
declared that he was able to heal the dying youth. Now this was a holy
man, who had heard of the trouble the king's son was in, and had come to
help.

It happened that at this very time a little daughter was born to the
king's son, but in his distress for his friend he had hardly a thought
to spare for the baby. He could not be prevailed on to leave the sick
bed, and he was bending over it when the holy man entered the room. 'Do
you wish your friend to be cured?' asked the new comer of the king's
son. 'And what price would you pay?'

'What price?' answered the king's son; 'only tell me what I can do to
heal him.'

'Listen to me, then,' said the old man. 'This evening you must take your
child, and open her veins, and smear the wounds of your friend with her
blood. And you will see, he will get well in an instant.'

At these words the king's son shrieked with horror, for he loved the
baby dearly, but he answered, 'I have sworn that I would treat my friend
as if he were my brother, and if there is no other way my child must be
sacrificed.'

As by this time evening had already fallen he took the child and opened
its veins, and smeared the blood over the wounds of the sick man, and
the look of death departed from him, and he grew strong and rosy once
more. But the little child lay as white and still as if she had been
dead. They laid her in the cradle and wept bitterly, for they thought
that by the next morning she would be lost to them.

At sunrise the old man returned and asked after the sick man.

'He is as well as ever,' answered the king's son.

'And where is your baby?'

'In the cradle yonder, and I think she is dead,' replied the father
sadly.

'Look at her once more,' said the holy man, and as they drew near the
cradle there lay the baby smiling up at them.

'I am St. James of Lizia,' said the old man, 'and I have come to help
you, for I have seen that you are a true friend. From henceforward live
happily, all of you, together, and if troubles should draw near you send
for me, and I will aid you to get through them.'

With these words he lifted his hand in blessing and vanished.

And they obeyed him, and were happy and content, and tried to make the
people of the land happy and contented too.

[From Sicilianische Mahrehen Gonzenbach.]




Clever Maria

There was once a merchant who lived close to the royal palace, and had
three daughters. They were all pretty, but Maria, the youngest, was the
prettiest of the three. One day the king sent for the merchant, who was
a widower, to give him directions about a journey he wished the good
man to take. The merchant would rather not have gone, as he did not
like leaving his daughters at home, but he could not refuse to obey the
king's commands, and with a heavy heart he returned home to say farewell
to them. Before he left, he took three pots of basil, and gave one to
each girl, saying, 'I am going a journey, but I leave these pots. You
must let nobody into the house. When I come back, they will tell me what
has happened.' 'Nothing will have happened,' said the girls.

The father went away, and the following day the king, accompanied by two
friends, paid a visit to the three girls, who were sitting at supper.
When they saw who was there, Maria said, 'Let us go and get a bottle of
wine from the cellar. I will carry the key, my eldest sister can take
the light, while the other brings the bottle.' But the king replied,
'Oh, do not trouble; we are not thirsty.' 'Very well, we will not
go,' answered the two elder girls; but Maria merely said, 'I shall go,
anyhow.' She left the room, and went to the hall where she put out the
light, and putting down the key and the bottle, ran to the house of a
neighbour, and knocked at the door. 'Who is there so late?' asked the
old woman, thrusting her head out of the window.

'Oh, let me in,' answered Maria. 'I have quarrelled with my eldest
sister, and as I do not want to fight any more, I have come to beg you
to allow me to sleep with you.'

So the old woman opened the door and Maria slept in her house. The king
was very angry at her for playing truant, but when she returned home
the next day, she found the plants of her sisters withered away, because
they had disobeyed their father. Now the window in the room of the
eldest overlooked the gardens of the king, and when she saw how fine and
ripe the medlars were on the trees, she longed to eat some, and begged
Maria to scramble down by a rope and pick her a few, and she would draw
her up again. Maria, who was good-natured, swung herself into the garden
by the rope, and got the medlars, and was just making the rope fast
under her arms so as to be hauled up, when her sister cried: 'Oh, there
are such delicious lemons a little farther on. You might bring me one or
two.' Maria turned round to pluck them, and found herself face to face
with the gardener, who caught hold of her, exclaiming, 'What are you
doing here, you little thief?' 'Don't call me names,' she said, 'or you
will get the worst of it,' giving him as she spoke such a violent push
that he fell panting into the lemon bushes. Then she seized the cord and
clambered up to the window.

The next day the second sister had a fancy for bananas and begged so
hard, that, though Maria had declared she would never do such a thing
again, at last she consented, and went down the rope into the king's
garden. This time she met the king, who said to her, 'Ah, here you are
again, cunning one! Now you shall pay for your misdeeds.'

And he began to cross-question her about what she had done. Maria denied
nothing, and when she had finished, the king said again, 'Follow me to
the house, and there you shall pay the penalty.' As he spoke, he started
for the house, looking back from time to time to make sure that Maria
had not run away. All of a sudden, when he glanced round, he found she
had vanished completely, without leaving a trace of where she had gone.
Search was made all through the town, and there was not a hole or corner
which was not ransacked, but there was no sign of her anywhere. This so
enraged the king that he became quite ill, and for many months his life
was despaired of.

Meanwhile the two elder sisters had married the two friends of the
king, and were the mothers of little daughters. Now one day Maria stole
secretly to the house where her elder sister lived, and snatching up the
children put them into a beautiful basket she had with her, covered
with flowers inside and out, so that no one would ever guess it held two
babies. Then she dressed herself as a boy, and placing the basket on her
head, she walked slowly past the palace, crying as she went:

'Who will carry these flowers to the king, who lies sick of love?'

And the king in his bed heard what she said, and ordered one of his
attendants to go out and buy the basket. It was brought to his bedside,
and as he raised the lid cries were heard, and peeping in he saw two
little children. He was furious at this new trick which he felt had been
played on him by Maria, and was still looking at them, wondering how he
should pay her out, when he was told that the merchant, Maria's father,
had finished the business on which he had been sent and returned home.
Then the king remembered how Maria had refused to receive his visit, and
how she had stolen his fruit, and he determined to be revenged on her.
So he sent a message by one of his pages that the merchant was to come
to see him the next day, and bring with him a coat made of stone, or
else he would be punished. Now the poor man had been very sad since he
got home the evening before, for though his daughters had promised that
nothing should happen while he was away, he had found the two elder
ones married without asking his leave. And now there was this fresh
misfortune, for how was he to make a coat of stone? He wrung his hands
and declared that the king would be the ruin of him, when Maria suddenly
entered. 'Do not grieve about the coat of stone, dear father; but take
this bit of chalk, and go to the palace and say you have come to measure
the king.' The old man did not see the use of this, but Maria had so
often helped him before that he had confidence in her, so he put the
chalk in his pocket and went to the palace.

'That is no good,' said the king, when the merchant had told him what he
had come for.

'Well, I can't make the coat you want,' replied he.

'Then if you would save your head, hand over to me your daughter Maria.'

The merchant did not reply, but went sorrowfully back to his house,
where Maria sat waiting for him.

'Oh, my dear child, why was I born? The king says that, instead of the
coat, I must deliver you up to him.'

'Do not be unhappy, dear father, but get a doll made, exactly like
me, with a string attached to its head, which I can pull for "Yes" and
"No."'

So the old man went out at once to see about it.

The king remained patiently in his palace, feeling sure that this time
Maria could not escape him; and he said to his pages, 'If a gentleman
should come here with his daughter and ask to be allowed to speak with
me, put the young lady in my room and see she does not leave it.'

When the door was shut on Maria, who had concealed the doll under her
cloak, she hid herself under the couch, keeping fast hold of the string
which was fastened to its head.

'Senhora Maria, I hope you are well,' said the king when he entered the
room. The doll nodded. 'Now we will reckon up accounts,' continued he,
and he began at the beginning, and ended up with the flower-basket, and
at each fresh misdeed Maria pulled the string, so that the doll's head
nodded assent. 'Who-so mocks at me merits death,' declared the king when
he had ended, and drawing his sword, cut off the doll's head. It fell
towards him, and as he felt the touch of a kiss, he exclaimed, 'Ah,
Maria, Maria, so sweet in death, so hard to me in life! The man who
could kill you deserves to die!' And he was about to turn his sword on
himself, when the true Maria sprung out from under the bed, and flung
herself into his arms. And the next day they were married and lived
happily for many years.

[From the Portuguese.]




The Magic Kettle

Right in the middle of Japan, high up among the mountains, an old man
lived in his little house. He was very proud of it, and never tired of
admiring the whiteness of his straw mats, and the pretty papered walls,
which in warm weather always slid back, so that the smell of the trees
and flowers might come in.

One day he was standing looking at the mountain opposite, when he heard
a kind of rumbling noise in the room behind him. He turned round, and in
the corner he beheld a rusty old iron kettle, which could not have seen
the light of day for many years. How the kettle got there the old man
did not know, but he took it up and looked it over carefully, and when
he found that it was quite whole he cleaned the dust off it and carried
it into his kitchen.

'That was a piece of luck,' he said, smiling to himself; 'a good kettle
costs money, and it is as well to have a second one at hand in case of
need; mine is getting worn out, and the water is already beginning to
come through its bottom.'

Then he took the other kettle off the fire, filled the new one with
water, and put it in its place.

No sooner was the water in the kettle getting warm than a strange thing
happened, and the man, who was standing by, thought he must be dreaming.
First the handle of the kettle gradually changed its shape and became a
head, and the spout grew into a tail, while out of the body sprang four
paws, and in a few minutes the man found himself watching, not a kettle,
but a tanuki! The creature jumped off the fire, and bounded about the
room like a kitten, running up the walls and over the ceiling, till the
old man was in an agony lest his pretty room should be spoilt. He cried
to a neighbour for help, and between them they managed to catch the
tanuki, and shut him up safely in a wooden chest. Then, quite exhausted,
they sat down on the mats, and consulted together what they should do
with this troublesome beast. At length they decided to sell him, and
bade a child who was passing send them a certain tradesman called Jimmu.

When Jimmu arrived, the old man told him that he had something which he
wished to get rid of, and lifted the lid of the wooden chest, where
he had shut up the tanuki. But, to his surprise, no tanuki was there,
nothing but the kettle he had found in the corner. It was certainly very
odd, but the man remembered what had taken place on the fire, and did
not want to keep the kettle any more, so after a little bargaining about
the price, Jimmu went away carrying the kettle with him.

Now Jimmu had not gone very far before he felt that the kettle was
getting heavier and heavier, and by the time he reached home he was so
tired that he was thankful to put it down in the corner of his room, and
then forgot all about it. In the middle of the night, however, he was
awakened by a loud noise in the corner where the kettle stood, and
raised himself up in bed to see what it was. But nothing was there
except the kettle, which seemed quiet enough. He thought that he must
have been dreaming, and fell asleep again, only to be roused a second
time by the same disturbance. He jumped up and went to the corner, and
by the light of the lamp that he always kept burning he saw that the
kettle had become a tanuki, which was running round after his tail.
After he grew weary of that, he ran on the balcony, where he turned
several somersaults, from pure gladness of heart. The tradesman was
much troubled as to what to do with the animal, and it was only towards
morning that he managed to get any sleep; but when he opened his eyes
again there was no tanuki, only the old kettle he had left there the
night before.

As soon as he had tidied his house, Jimmu set off to tell his story to
a friend next door. The man listened quietly, and did not appear so
surprised as Jimmu expected, for he recollected having heard, in his
youth, something about a wonder-working kettle. 'Go and travel with
it, and show it off,' said he, 'and you will become a rich man; but be
careful first to ask the tanuki's leave, and also to perform some magic
ceremonies to prevent him from running away at the sight of the people.'

Jimmu thanked his friend for his counsel, which he followed exactly. The
tanuki's consent was obtained, a booth was built, and a notice was hung
up outside it inviting the people to come and witness the most wonderful
transformation that ever was seen.

They came in crowds, and the kettle was passed from hand to hand, and
they were allowed to examine it all over, and even to look inside. Then
Jimmu took it back, and setting it on the platform, commanded it to
become a tanuki. In an instant the handle began to change into a head,
and the spout into a tail, while the four paws appeared at the sides.
'Dance,' said Jimmu, and the tanuki did his steps, and moved first on
one side and then on the other, till the people could not stand still
any longer, and began to dance too. Gracefully he led the fan dance, and
glided without a pause into the shadow dance and the umbrella dance, and
it seemed as if he might go on dancing for ever. And so very likely
he would, if Jimmu had not declared he had danced enough, and that the
booth must now be closed.

Day after day the booth was so full it was hardly possible to enter it,
and what the neighbour foretold had come to pass, and Jimmu was a rich
man. Yet he did not feel happy. He was an honest man, and he thought
that he owed some of his wealth to the man from whom he had bought
the kettle. So, one morning, he put a hundred gold pieces into it, and
hanging the kettle once more on his arm, he returned to the seller of
it. 'I have no right to keep it any longer,' he added when he had ended
his tale, 'so I have brought it back to you, and inside you will find a
hundred gold pieces as the price of its hire.'

The man thanked Jimmu, and said that few people would have been as
honest as he. And the kettle brought them both luck, and everything went
well with them till they died, which they did when they were very old,
respected by everyone.

[Adapted from Japanische Mahrchen]








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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 21 of 21)