Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin.

Tales of laughter : a third fairy book online

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found that the door was bolted and barred, so in his sly man-
ner he began : " Do let me in, dear Blacky. I have brought
you a present of some eggs that I picked up in a farmyard
on my way here."

" No, no, Mr. Fox/' replied Blacky, " I am not going to
open my door to you. I know your cunning ways. You have
carried off poor Browny and Whity, but you are not going
to get me."

At this the fox was so angry that he dashed with all his
force against the wall and tried to knock it down. But it
was too strong and well built ; and though the fox scraped and
tore at the bricks with his paws he only hurt himself, and at
last he had to give it up and limp away with his fore paws all
bleeding and sore.

" Never mind ! " he cried angrily as he went off. " I'll catch
you another day, see if I don't ; and won't I grind your bones
to powder when I have got you in my den ! " And he snarled
fiercely and showed his teeth.

Next day Blacky had to go into the neighboring town to
do some marketing and to buy a big kettle. As he was walk-
ing home with it slung over his shoulder he heard a sound of
steps stealthily creeping after him. For a moment his heart
stood still with fear, and then a happy thought came to him.
He had just reached the top of a hill, and could see his own
little house nestling at the foot of it among the trees. In a
moment he had snatched the lid off the kettle and had jumped
in himself. Coiling himself round he lay quite snug in the
bottom of the kettle, while with his foreleg he managed to
put the lid on, so that he was entirely hidden. With a lit-
tle kick from the inside he started the kettle off, and down

[180]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

the hill it rolled full tilt ; and when the fox came up, all that he
saw was a large black kettle spinning over the ground at a
great pace. Very much disappointed, he was just going to turn
away when he saw the kettle stop close to the little brick
house, and in a moment Blacky jumped out of it and escaped
with it safely inside, when he barred and bolted the door
and put the shutter up over the window.

" Oho ! " exclaimed the fox to himself, " you think you will
escape me that way, do you? We shall soon see about that,
my friend," and very quietly and stealthily he prowled round
the house looking for some way to climb on to the roof.

In the mean time Blacky had filled the kettle with water,
and having put it on the fire, sat down quietly waiting for it
to boil. Just as the kettle was beginning to sing and steam to
come out of the spout he heard a sound like a soft, muffled step,
patter, patter, patter overhead, and the next moment the fox's
head and forepaws were seen coming down the chimney. But
Blacky very wisely had not put the lid on the kettle, and with
a yelp of pain the fox fell into the boiling water, and before
he could escape Blacky had popped the lid on and the fox was
scalded to death.

As soon as he was sure that their wicked enemy was really
dead and could do them no further harm, Blacky started off to
rescue Browny and Whity. As he approached the den he
heard piteous grunts and squeals from his poor little brother
and sister, who lived in constant terror of the fox killing and
eating them, but when they saw Blacky appear at the en-
trance to the den their joy knew no bounds. He quickly
found a sharp stone and cut the cords by which they were
tied to a stake in the ground, and then all three started off
together for Blacky's house, where they lived happily ever
after; and Browny quite gave up rolling in the mud and
Whity ceased to be greedy, for they never forgot how nearly
these faults had brought them to an untimely end.



[181]



How to Tell a True Princess

rHERE was once upon a time a prince who wanted
to marry a princess, but she must be a true princess.
So he traveled through the whole world to find one,
but there was always something against each. There were
plenty of princesses, but he could not find out if they were
true princesses. In every case there was some little defect,
which showed the genuine article was not yet found. So he
came home again in very low spirits, for he had wanted very
much to have a true princess. One night there was a dread-
ful storm; it thundered and lightened and the rain streamed
down in torrents. It was fearful! There was a knocking
heard at the palace gate, and the old king went to open it.

There stood a princess outside the gate; but oh, in what
a sad plight she was from the rain and the storm ! The water
was running down from her hair and her dress into the points
of her shoes and out at the heels again. And yet she said she
was a true princess!

" Well, we shall soon find that ! " thought the old queen.
But she said nothing and went into the sleeping-room, took
off all the bedclothes, and laid a pea on the bottom of the bed.
Then she put twenty mattresses on top of the pea and twenty
eider-down quilts on the top of the mattresses. And this was
the bed in which the princess was to sleep.

The next morning she was asked how she had slept.

" Oh, very badly ! " said the princess. " I scarcely closed
my eyes all night! I am sure I don't know what was in the
bed. I lay on something so hard that my whole body is black
and blue. It is dreadful ! "

Now they perceived that she was a true princess, because
she had felt the pea through the twenty mattresses and the
twenty eider-down quilts.



TALES OF LAUGHTER

No one but a true princess could be so sensitive.

So the prince married her, for now he knew that at last he
had got hold of a true princess. And the pea was put into the
Royal Museum, where it is still to be seen if no one has stolen
it. Now, this is a true story.



The Five Servants



X^VNCE upon a time, in a country far away, there lived and
f I ruled an old queen who had such a wicked heart that
^-^ she was not happy unless she was working evil to
others. She had one daughter who was very beautiful, and
whom she made use of to further her own evil plans ; for,
whenever a suitor came to apply for her hand, the old queen
set him an impossible task, and chopped off his head without
any pity when he could not perform it.

Now, in another country there lived a young prince who
had heard of this lovely girl, and he begged his father to let
him go and try his luck.

" Not a bit of it," said the king. " You would only lose
your head like the rest."

But the prince was very anxious to go, and when he found
his father was firm, he fell ill and took to his bed for seven
years, and not all the doctors in the land could make him
well again or restore his fallen spirits. Then the father knew
that the lad must die, unless he was allowed to have his own
way, so he said :

" Get up, my son, and try your fate."

At these joyful words the boy jumped out of bed, quite re-
covered, and you may be sure it was not long before he was
ready for his journey and on the road.

One day, as he was swinging along over hill and dale, and
fern and brake, he saw a great big thing lying by the road-
side. At first he thought it was a huge animal, but as he
drew nearer he saw that it was really an enormously fat man,
who was as round and jolly as you can imagine. Seeing the
traveler, he rose to his feet, and I do believe the earth trembled
as he did so.



TALES OF LAUGHTER

"If you are in need of a servant, take me, and you will
not repent," he said, pulling off his cap and bowing.

" Why, whatever should I do with such a fat fellow as
you ? " answered the prince.

" If I were three thousand times as fat it would not matter,
so long as I served you well," said the man.

" Hum ! well, that is very true," replied the prince. " You
may come along, and I dare say I shall be able to put you to
some use."

So they journeyed on together, and presently they came
upon a man lying with his ear pressed to the ground.

" What are you doing ? " asked the prince.

" I am listening," answered the man. " I can hear every-
thing that is going on in the world, even the growing of the
grass."

" Ah," said the prince, " then you can tell me what you hear
in the palace of the old queen."

" I hear the cutting off of a suitor's head."

" Come with me, then," said the prince, " for I can see that
you will be useful."

A little farther on they came upon a pair of legs lying
stretched on the grass, but they were so long that the travelers
had to walk an hour before they came to the body, and then
nearly another hour before they reached the head.

" Well, what a long strip of a chap you are ! " said the
prince.

" Why, master, you have only seen me when I am lying
down," replied the man. " Just you wait till I stand up. I am
thrice as tall as the highest mountain you have ever seen on
your travels. Just let me come and be your servant, and I
promise that you will find me useful."

"Willingly," answered the prince.

Then they all went on their way again till they came to
a wood, and here they found a man who, though he was
lying in the full heat of the sun, was shivering and shaking
so that it was a wonder his teeth did not fall out of his
head.

[185]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" Why, my good man," said the prince, " what makes you
shiver so on this hot day ? "

" Alas ! " groaned the man, " the hotter the day the colder
I am ; the sun freezes the very marrow in my bones ; and when
it is what you call cold, I begin to grow hot, so that I nearly
burn to death. I cannot bear cold because it is so hot, nor
heat because it is so cold."

" Well, you are an odd fellow," said the prince. " Suppose
you get up and join my train? " So the man agreed.

The next man they met was standing in a field turning his
head from side to side in a way that made your neck ache to
watch him.

" What are you looking for ? " asked the prince.

" I am looking for nothing," answered the man. " But I
have such keen sight that I can see all over the world, through
woods and forests, and hills and mountains; nothing can es-
cape my eyes."

" Well," said the prince, " if you are willing to take service,
join my train, for I have need of such as you."

Then they all journeyed on together in a very merry fashion,
for the prince was light-hearted at the thought of his beau-
tiful bride that was to be. You see, he had quite made up his
mind to get the better of the wicked queen. Soon they reached
the palace, and the prince presented himself to the queen, and
said:

" I am come to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage.
Set me what task you like, so long as I may marry her when
it is done."

" Three tasks I will set you," said the queen, " and when
they are done you shall be her husband. First, you must find
me the ring that I have dropped in the sea near the palace."

The prince went home to his servants, and said :

" Now is your chance to prove your worth. You must find
me a ring that lies at the bottom of the sea."

" I will see where it lies," said the keen-sighted one ; and
suddenly he shouted : " There it is ; it lies on a rock at the
bottom of the waves ! "

[186]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" I would soon fetch it, if I could see it," said the long
man.

" I can arrange that," chimed in the fat one, and he lay
down beside the sea and began to drink.

And he drank and drank till the sea disappeared, and the
bottom lay stretched out before them as dry as a meadow.
Then the long man took one stride, and picked up the ring
and brought it to the prince.

The old queen was very much surprised to see the ring,
but she concealed her annoyance, and, leading the youth to the
window, said:

" In yonder field a hundred fat oxen are feeding. You must
eat them all before noon, and, in case you are thirsty, you
must drink the contents of the hundred casks of wine that are
in the cellar."

"Certainly," said the youth, cheerfully. "But I should
like to invite a friend to eat with me."

" Oh, by all means," replied the old hag, with a smile.

So the prince went to his friends and told them the news.

" You will help me to-day ? " he said, turning to the fat
man ; " and for once you will have a good meal."

So they went straightway to the field where the oxen were,
and in no time at all the fat man had gobbled up every one,
and still looked hungry. Then the prince took him down
to the cellar, and he quenched his thirst with the hundred
casks of wine.

Again the youth presented himself to the witch, and as-
tonished her with the news that the task was done.

" Oho ! my fine fellow," she grumbled to herself, " I will
catch you yet.

" To-night," she added aloud, " I will bring the princess and
leave her to sit with you ; but beware lest you fall asleep, for
if I come at twelve and find the princess gone, you are a lost
man!"

" That does not sound difficult," thought the prince.
" Surely I can keep awake, if I want to."

So he told his servants what the third task was to be, and



TALES OF LAUGHTER

they all agreed that a watch had better be kept, lest the old
woman should play some trick.

At nightfall the old queen brought her daughter to the
prince's house and returned to the palace. As soon as she
was gone, the long man wound himself around the house ; the
listener lay with his ear to the ground; the fat one stood in
the doorway, completely blocking the entrance, and the keen-
eyed one kept watch. Within sat the princess, silent as a
statue, the moonlight lighting up her beautiful face with a
radiant glory, so that the prince could only gaze at her in awe
and wonder. So far it was well; but at half past eleven a
spell, cast by the old queen, fell on them all, and they slept,
and immediately the princess was spirited away.

At a quarter to twelve the spell lost its power, and they
awoke to discover what a calamity had fallen upon them.

" Oh, woe is me ! woe is me ! " cried the prince. " What
can save us now ? " and the faithful servants wept in unison.

Suddenly the listener said:

" Hark! be still, and I will listen."

They were quiet at once, and he listened for a moment.

" I hear her bewailing her fate ! " he cried.

Then the keen-sighted man turned his head from side to
side and cried joyfully:

" I see her sitting on a rock, three hundred miles away.
Our long friend can reach her in two strides."

" Willingly," cried the man, and he was up and at the foot
of the rock before the others could look round. He took the
princess in his arms, and she was back in the prince's house
just one moment before twelve, and they all sat down to-
gether and rejoiced.

As the clock struck twelve, the old queen came creeping
along, looking very spiteful, as she thought she had really won
this time ; for was not her daughter three hundred miles away ?
She was not, as we know, and when the queen saw this she
felt so angry she would like to have ordered all their heads
to be chopped off.

" There must be some one here who is cleverer than I ! *'

[!88]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

she screamed, and then she fell to crying, but it was of no
use. The prince was firm as a rock, and she had to consent
to the wedding ; but she whispered to her daughter :

" His servants have done everything for him. Aren't you
ashamed to have a husband who can do nothing at all for
himself?"

The daughter had a proud and haughty temper, and her
pride began to rise up angrily. So next day she commanded
three hundred loads of wood to be brought and piled up in
the palace yard and set alight. Then she told the prince that
he had performed the tasks only by the help of his servants,
and before she would marry him some one must sit upon the
woodpile and stay there till it was burned out ; for she thought
no servant would do so much for him, and he surely would
have to do this himself. However, she was wrong, for the
freezing man claimed this as his share of the work, and he
mounted the woodpile without delay.

For three days and three nights it blazed away, till only
ashes were left, and there stood the freezing man shivering
like a jelly.

"If it had burned much longer, I should have been be-
numbed with the cold," he said, with chattering teeth.

Now, the princess saw that she could delay no longer, so
they set off to the church, but the queen made yet another
attempt to prevent the wedding. She called her attendants,
and sent them to waylay the party and kill every one but the
princess. However, the listener had been keeping his ears
open, and he heard this order; so they put on more speed
and reached the church first, and were married. At the
church door the five servants took leave of their master and
went out into the world to try their fortune alone.

The prince and his wife set forth on their homeward jour-
ney, and at the end of the first day they came upon a village
where a swineherd stood feeding his pigs.

" Do you know who I am ? " said the prince to his wife.
" Yonder man is my father, and our duty now is to tend the
pigs with him."

[189]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

They went into the cottage, and during the night the prince
took away her splendid clothes, so that in the morning she
had to put on an old dress and shoes belonging to the swine-
herd's wife.

These were given to her grudgingly, and only for her hus-
band's sake, as the woman told her. So the princess was now
very miserable, and believed that her husband was really a
swineherd; but she determined to make the best of it, and
turn to and do her share of the work, and said to herself :

" It is a punishment for all my pride."

This went on for a week, and then she was so worn out that
she sat down by the wayside and burst into tears. Some
kindly villagers asked her what was the matter, and if she
knew what her husband was?

"He is a swineherd/' she answered, "and has just gone
to market with some of his pigs."

" Come with us, and we will show you where he is," they
said ; and they took her away over the hill to the king's palace,
and there in the hall stood her husband surrounded by cour-
tiers, and so richly dressed that she did not know him, till he
fell upon her neck, saying:

"We have borne much for each other, now let us be
happy."

Then there was great rejoicing, and the marriage-feast was
celebrated, and all I can say is, that I wish we had been there
to share the merrymaking.






The Hare and the Fox

A HARE and a Fox were traveling together. It was

>^f winter time. Not a blade of grass was to be seen,
JL J* not a bird or mouse stirred in the fields.

" It's hungry weather," said the Fox to the Hare. " I feel
as hollow as an egg-shell."

" And so do I," replied the Hare. " I'm hungry enough to
eat my own ears, if only I could reach them."

When they had gone a little way they spied a peasant girl
coming toward them. She carried a basket, and out of the
basket came a very pleasant smell the smell of hot rolls.

" I tell you what," said the Fox. " You lie down and pre-
tend to be dead. The girl will put down her basket to take
you up for the sake of your skin, for out of hare-skins they
make gloves; then I'll snatch the rolls, and we shall have a
splendid meal ! "

The Hare did as the Fox told him, fell down, and pretended
to be dead, while the Fox hid behind a snow-drift. The girl
came along, saw the Hare with his legs stretched out stiff
and stark, put down her basket sure enough, and stooped over
the Hare. The Fox snatched up the basket and scampered
off with it. The Hare in a twinkling came to life, and fol-
lowed his companion. But he ran on ahead, and showed quite
plainly that he meant to keep the rolls all to himself.

But that was not what the Hare had bargained for, you may
guess. So when they came to a little lake, he called out to
the Fox:

" What do you say to catching a dish of fish ? Then we
should have fish and rolls to eat like any lord. Just dangle
your tail down in the water; the fish haven't much to bite
these days, so they're bound to hang on to your tail. You
must make haste, though, before the lake freezes over."



TALES OF LAUGHTER

Well, the Fox thought that a good idea. So he went to the
lake, which was just beginning to freeze, and dangled his
tail in the water. In a very short time the tail was frozen in.

Now, the Hare took the basket and gobbled up the rolls one
after the other as comfortably as you please, right before
the Fox's face.

" Wait till it thaws," he said to the Fox. " Wait till the
spring. Wait till it thaws ! " and then he ran away.

And the Fox was so angry at the way he had been caught
that he barked and barked like a savage dog on a chain.



[192]



The Story of Zirac



X*"\ NCE upon a time a raven, a rat, and a tortoise, having
| i agreed to be friends together, were having a pleasant
*^r chat when they saw a wild goat making its way toward
them with surprising swiftness. They took it for granted
by her speed that she was pursued by some hunter, and they
at once without ceremony separated, every one to take care
of himself. The tortoise slipped into the water, the rat crept
into a hole, which he fortunately found near at hand, and the
raven hid himself among the boughs of a very high tree. In
the mean time the goat stopped quite suddenly, and stood to
rest herself by the side of a fountain, when the raven, who had
looked all round and perceived no one, called to the tortoise,
who immediately peeped above the water, and seeing the
goat afraid to drink, said : " Drink boldly, my friend, for the
water is very clear."

After the goat had done so, the tortoise continued : " Pray
tell me what is the reason you appear in such distress ? "

" Reason enough," said the goat ; " for I have just made
my escape out of the hands of a hunter, who pursued me with
an eager chase."

" Come," said the tortoise, " I am glad you are safe. I have
an offer to make you. If you like our company, stay here and
be one of our friends; you will find our hearts honest and
our company useful to you. The sages say that a number
of friends lessens trouble."

After this short speech the raven and the rat joined in the
invitation, so that the goat at once promised to become one
of them, each promising the other to prove himself a real and
true friend whatever might happen in days to come. After
this agreement these four friends lived in perfect harmony for

[193]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

a very long time, and spent their time pleasantly together.
But one day, as the tortoise, the rat, and the raven were met,
as they used to do, by the side of the fountain, the goat was
missing. This gave great trouble to them, as they knew not
what had happened. They very soon came to a resolution,
however, to seek for and assist the goat, so the raven at once
mounted into the air to see what discoveries he could make ;
and looking round about him, at length, to his great sorrow,
saw at a distance the poor goat entangled in a hunter's net.
He immediately dropped down in order to acquaint the rat
and tortoise with what he had seen; and you may be sure
that these ill tidings caused great grief.

" What shall we do? " said they.

" We have promised firm friendship to one another and
lived very happily together so long," said the tortoise, " that
it would be shameful to break the bond and not act up to all
we said. We cannot leave our innocent and good-natured
companion in this dire distress and great danger. No! we
must find some way to deliver our poor friend goat out of
captivity."

Said the raven to the rat, who was nicknamed Zirac : " Re-
member, O excellent Zirac, there is none but thyself able to
set our friend at liberty; and the business must be quickly
done for fear the huntsman should lay his hands upon her."

" Doubt not," replied Zirac, " but that I will do my best,
so let us go at once that no time may be lost."

On this the raven took up Zirac in his bill, and flew with
him to the place where the poor goat was confined in the net.
No sooner had he arrived than he at once commenced to
gnaw the meshes of the net that held the goat's foot and
had almost set him at liberty when the tortoise arrived.

As soon as the goat saw the tortoise she cried out with a
loud voice : " Oh, why have you ventured to come hither,
friend tortoise ? "

" Because I could no longer bear your absence," replied the
tortoise.

" Dear friend," said the goat, " your coming to this place

[ 194 ] '



TALES OF LAUGHTER

troubles me as much as the loss of my own liberty ; for if the
hunter should happen to come, what would you do to make
your escape? For my part I am almost free, and my being
able to run will prevent me from falling into his hands again ;
our friend the raven can find safety in flight, and Zirac can
run into any hole. Only you, who are so slow of foot, will



Online LibraryKate Douglas Smith WigginTales of laughter : a third fairy book → online text (page 13 of 31)