Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin.

Tales of laughter : a third fairy book online

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had I known you were so close/'

This enraged the Alligator extremely; it made him quite
cross to think of being so often deceived by a little Jackal, and
he said to himself : " I will be taken in no more. Next time
I will be very cunning." So for a long time he waited and
waited for the Jackal to return to the riverside ; but the Jackal
did not come, for he had thought to himself : " If matters go on
in this way, I shall some day be caught and eaten by the wicked
old Alligator. I had better content myself with living on
wild figs," and he went no more near the river, but stayed
in the jungles and ate wild figs, and roots which he dug up
with his paws.

When the Alligator found this out, he determined to try
and catch the Jackal on land ; so, going under the largest of the
wild fig-trees, where the ground was covered with the fallen
fruit, he collected a quantity of it together, and, burying him-
self under the great heap, waited for the Jackal to appear.
But no sooner did the cunning little animal see this great
heap of wild figs all collected together than he thought:
" That looks very like my friend the Alligator." And to dis-
cover if it were so or not, he called out : " The juicy little
wild figs I love to eat always tumble down from the tree, and
roll here and there as the wind drives them; but this great
heap of figs is quite still; these cannot be good figs; I will
not eat any of them." " Ho, ho ! " thought the Alligator, " is
that all ? How suspicious this Jackal is ! I will make the figs
roll about a little, then, and when he sees that, he will doubt-
less come and eat them."

So the great beast shook himself, and all the heap of little
figs went roll, roll, roll some a mile this way, some a mile
that, farther than they had ever rolled before or than the most
blustering wind could have driven them.

Seeing this, the Jackal scampered away, saying : " I am
so much obliged to you, Alligator, for letting me know you
are there, for indeed I should hardly have guessed it. You
were so buried under that heap of figs." The Alligator, hear-

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TALES OF LAUGHTER

ing this, was so angry that he ran after the Jackal, but the lat-
ter ran very, very fast away, too quickly to be caught.

Then the Alligator said to himself : " I will not allow that
little wretch to make fun of me another time and then run
away out of reach ; I will show him that I can be more cun-
ning than he fancies." And early the next morning he
crawled as fast as he could to the Jackal's den (which was a
hole in the side of a hill) and crept into it, and hid himself,
waiting for the Jackal, who was out, to return home. But
when the Jackal got near the place, he looked about him and
thought : " Dear me ! the ground looks as if some heavy crea-
ture had been walking over it, and here are great clods of
earth knocked down from each side of the door of my den,
as if a very big animal had been trying to squeeze himself
through it. I certainly will not go inside until I know that
all is safe there." So he called out: "Little house, pretty
house, my sweet little house, why do you not give an answer
when I call? If I come, and all is safe and right, you always
call out to me. Is anything wrong, that you do not speak? "

Then the Alligator, who was inside, thought: "If that is
the case I had better call out, that he may fancy all is right
in his house." And in as gentle a voice as he could, he said :
" Sweet little Jackal."

At hearing these words the Jackal felt quite frightened, and
thought to himself : " So the dreadful old Alligator is there.
I must try to kill him if I can, for if I do not he will certainly
catch and kill me some day." He therefore answered:
" Thank you, my dear little house. I like to hear your pretty
voice. I am coming in in a minute, but first I must collect
firewood to cook my dinner." And he ran as fast as he could,
and dragged all the dry branches and bits of stick he could
find close up to the mouth of the den. Meantime, the Alliga-
tor inside kept as quiet as a mouse, but he could not help
laughing a little to himself as he thought : " So I have de-
ceived this tiresome little Jackal at last. In a few minutes he
will run in here, and then won't I snap him up ! "

When the Jackal had gathered together all the sticks he



TALES OF LAUGHTER

could find and put them round the mouth of his den, he set
them on fire and pushed them as far into it as possible. There
was such a quantity of them that they soon blazed up into a
great fire, and the smoke and flames filled the den and smoth-
ered the wicked old Alligator and burned him to death, while
the little Jackal ran up and down outside dancing for joy and
singing:

"How do you like my house, my friend? Is it nice and
warm? Ding-dong! ding-dong! The Alligator is dying!
ding-dong, ding-dong! He will trouble me no more. I have
defeated my enemy! Ring-a-ting! ding-a-ting! ding-ding-
dong!"



[262]




If^hy the Fish Laughed

a certain fisherwoman passed by a palace crying her
fish, the queen appeared at one of the windows and
beckoned her to come near and show what she had.
At that moment a very big fish jumped about in the bottom of
the basket.

" Is it a he or a she ? " inquired the queen. " I wish to
purchase a she-fish."

On hearing this the fish laughed aloud.

" It's a he," replied the fisherwoman, and proceeded on her
rounds.

The queen returned to her room in a great rage; and on
coming to see her in the evening, the king noticed that some-
thing had disturbed her.

" Are you indisposed ? " he said.

" No ; but I am very much annoyed at the strange be-
havior of a fish. A woman brought me one to-day, and on
my inquiring whether it was a male or female, the fish laughed
most rudely."

" A fish laugh ! Impossible ! You must be dreaming."

" I am not a fool. I speak of what I have seen with my
own eyes and have heard with my own ears."

" Passing strange ! Be it so. I will inquire concerning it."

On the morrow the king repeated to his vizier what his wife
had told him, and bade him investigate the matter, and be
ready with a satisfactory answer within six months, on pain
of death. The vizier promised to do his best, though he felt
almost certain of failure. For five months he labored inde-
fatigably to find a reason for the laughter of the fish. He
sought everywhere and from every one. The wise and learned,
and they who were skilled in magic and in all manner of

[263]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

trickery, were consulted. Nobody, however, could explain the
matter ; and so he returned broken-hearted to his house, and
began to arrange his affairs in prospect of certain death, for
he had had sufficient experience of the king to know that his
majesty would not go back from his threat. Among other
things, he advised his son to travel for a time, until the king's
anger should have somewhat cooled.

The young fellow, who was both clever and handsome,
started off whithersoever Kismet might lead him. He had
been gone some days, when he fell in with an old farmer,
who also was on a journey to a certain village. Finding the
old man very pleasant, he asked him if he might accompany
him, professing to be on a visit to the same place. The old
farmer agreed, and they walked along together. The day
was hot, and the way was long and weary.

" Don't you think it would be pleasanter if you and I some-
times gave each other a lift ? " said the youth.

" What a fool the man is ! " thought the old farmer.

Presently they passed through a field of corn ready for the
sickle, and looking like a sea of gold as it waved to and fro
in the breeze.

" Is this eaten or not ? " said the young man.

Not understanding his meaning, the old man replied : " I
don't know."

After a little while the two travelers arrived at a big village,
where the young man gave his companion a clasp-knife, and
said : " Take this, friend, and get two horses with it ; but mind
and bring it back, for it is very precious."

The old man, looking half amused and half angry, pushed
back the knife, muttering something to the effect that his friend
was either a fool himself, or else trying to play the fool with
him. The young man pretended not to notice his reply, and
remained almost silent till they reached the city, a short dis-
tance outside which was the old farmer's house. They walked
about the bazaar and went to the mosque, but nobody saluted
them or invited them to come in and rest.

" What a large cemetery ! " exclaimed the young man.

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TALES OF LAUGHTER

" What does the man mean/' thought the old farmer, " call-
ing this largely populated city a cemetery ? "

On leaving the city their way led through a graveyard where
a few people were praying beside a tomb and distributing
chapatis and kulchas to passers-by, in the name of their be-
loved dead. They beckoned to the two travelers and gave
them as much as they would.

" What a splendid city this is ! " said the young man.

" Now, the man must surely be demented ! " thought the old
farmer. " I wonder what he will do next ? He will be calling
the land water, and the water land ; and be speaking of light
where there is darkness, and of darkness when it is light."
However, he kept his thoughts to himself.

Presently they had to wade through a stream that ran along
the edge of the cemetery. The water was rather deep, so the
old farmer took off his shoes and pajamas and crossed over ;
but the young man waded through it with his shoes and pa-
jamas on.

" Well ! I never did see such a perfect fool, both in word
and in deed," said the old man to himself.

However, he liked the fellow; and thinking that he would
amuse his wife and daughter, he invited him to come and
stay at his house as long as he had occasion to remain in the
village.

" Thank you very much," the young man replied ; " but let
me first inquire, if you please, whether the beam of your house
is strong."

The old farmer left him in despair, and entered his house
laughing.

" There is a man in yonder field," he said, after returning
their greetings. " He has come the greater part of the way
with me, and I wanted him to put up here as long as he had
to stay in this village. But the fellow is such a fool that I
cannot make anything out of him. He wants to know if the
beam of this house is all right. The man must be mad ! " and
saying this, he burst into a fit of laughter.

" Father," said the farmer's daughter, who was a very sharp

.[265]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

and wise girl, " this man, whosoever he is, is no fool, as you
deem him. He only wishes to know if you can afford to en-
tertain him."

" Oh, of course," replied the farmer. " I see. Well, perhaps
you can help me to solve some of his other mysteries. While
we were walking together he asked whether he should carry
me or I should carry him, as he thought that would be a
pleasanter mode of proceeding."

" Most assuredly," said the girl ; " he meant that one of
you should tell a story to beguile the time."

" Oh, yes. Well, we were passing through a corn-field,
when he asked me whether it was eaten or not."

"And didn't you know the meaning of this, father? He
simply wished to know if the man was in debt or not ; because,
if the owner of the field was in debt, then the produce of the
field was as good as eaten to him; that is, it would have to
go to his creditors."

" Yes, yes, yes, of course ! Then, on entering a certain vil-
lage, he bade me take his clasp-knife and get two horses with
it, and bring back the knife again to him."

" Are not two stout sticks as good as two horses for helping
one along on the road ? He only asked you to cut a couple of
sticks and be careful not to lose his knife."

" I see," said the farmer. " While we were walking over
the city we did not see anybody that we knew, and not a soul
gave us a scrap of anything to eat, till we were passing the
cemetery ; but there some people called to us and put into our
hands some chapatis and kulchas ; so my companion called the
city a cemetery, and the cemetery a city."

" This also is to be understood, father, if one thinks of the
city as the place where everything is to be obtained, and of
inhospitable people as worse than the dead. The city, though
crowded with people, was as if dead, as far as you were con-
cerned; while, in the cemetery, which is crowded with the
dead, you were saluted by kind friends and provided with
bread."

"True, true!" said the astonished farmer. "Then, just

[266]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

now, when we were crossing the stream, he waded through it
without taking off his shoes and pajamas."

" I admire his wisdom," replied the girl. " I have often
thought how stupid people were to venture into that swiftly
flowing stream and over those sharp stones with bare feet.
The slightest stumble and they would fall, and be wetted from
head to foot. This friend of yours is a most wise man. I
should like to see him and speak to him."

" Very well," said the farmer ; " I will go and find him, and
bring him in."

" Tell him, father, that our beams are strong enough, and
then he will come in. I'll send on ahead a present to the man,
to show him that we can afford to have him for our guest."

Accordingly she called a servant and sent him to the young
man with a present of a basin of ghee, twelve chapatis, and a
jar of milk, and the following message : " O friend, the moon
is full ; twelve months make a year, and the sea is overflowing
with water."

Half-way the bearer of this present and message met his
little son, who, seeing what was in the basket, begged his
father to give him some of the food. His father foolishly
complied. Presently he saw the young man, and gave him the
rest of the present and the message.

" Give your mistress my salaam," he replied, " and tell her
that the moon is new, and that I can find only eleven months
in the year, and the sea is by no means full."

Not understanding the meaning of these words, the servant
repeated them word for word, as he had heard them, to his
mistress; and thus his theft was discovered, and he was
severely punished. After a little while the young man ap-
peared with the old farmer. Great attention was shown to
him, and he was treated in every way as if he were the son
of a great man, although his humble host knew nothing of his
origin. At length he told them everything about the laugh-
ing of the fish, his father's threatened execution, and his own
banishment and asked their advice as to what he should do.

" The laughing of the fish," said the girl, " which seems

[267]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

to have been the cause of all this trouble, indicates that there
is a man in the palace who is plotting against the king's life."

" J ov > Jy " exclaimed the vizier's son. " There is yet time
for me to return and save my father from an ignominious and
unjust death, and the king from danger."

The following day he hastened back to his own country,
taking with him the farmer's daughter. Immediately on ar-
rival he ran to the palace and informed his father of what he
had heard. The poor vizier, now almost dead from the ex-
pectation of death, was at once carried to the king, to whom
he repeated the news that his son had just brought.

" Never ! " said the king.

" But it must be so, your majesty," replied the vizier ; " and
in order to prove the truth of what I have heard, I pray you
to call together all the maids in your palace and order them
to jump over a pit, which must be dug. We'll soon find out
whether there is any man there."

The king had the pit dug, and commanded all the maids
belonging to the palace to try to jump it. All of them tried,
but only one succeeded. That one was found to be a man !

Thus was the queen satisfied, and the faithful old vizier
saved.

Afterward, as soon as could be, the vizier's son married the
old farmer's daughter; and a most happy marriage it was.



268]




The Selfish Sparrow and the Houseless

Crows

SPARROW once built a nice little house for herself,
and lined it well with wool and protected it with
sticks, so that it resisted equally the summer sun and
the winter rains. A Crow who lived close by had also built
a house, but it was not such a good one, being only made of
a few sticks laid one above another on the top of a prickly-
pear hedge. The consequence was that one day, when there
was an unusually heavy shower, the Crow's nest was washed
away, while the Sparrow's was not at all injured.

In this extremity the Crow and her mate went to the Spar-
row, and said : " Sparrow, Sparrow, have pity on us and give
us shelter, for the wind blows and the rain beats, and the
prickly-pear hedge-thorns stick into our eyes." But the Spar-
row answered : " I'm cooking the dinner ; I cannot let you in
now; come again presently."

In a little while the Crows returned and said : " Sparrow,
Sparrow, have pity on us and give us shelter, for the wind
blows and the rain beats, and the prickly-pear hedge-thorns
stick into our eyes." The Sparrow answered : " I'm eating
my dinner ; I cannot let you in now ; come again presently."

The Crows flew away, but in a little while returned, and
cried once more : " Sparrow, Sparrow, have pity on us and
give us shelter, for the wind blows and the rain beats, and the
prickly-pear hedge-thorns stick into our eyes." The Sparrow
replied : " I'm washing the dishes ; I cannot let you in now ;
come again presently."

The Crows waited a while and then called out : " Sparrow,
Sparrow, have pity on us and give us shelter, for the wind

[269]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

blows and the rain beats, and the prickly-pear hedge-thorns
stick into our eyes." But the Sparrow would not let them in ;
she only answered : " I'm sweeping the floor ; I cannot let you
in now ; come again presently."

Next time the Crows came and cried : " Sparrow, Sparrow,
have pity on us and give us shelter, for the wind blows and
the rain beats, and the prickly-pear hedge-thorns stick into our
eyes." She answered : " I'm making the beds ; I cannot let
you in now; come again presently."

So, on one pretense or another she refused to help the poor
birds. At last, when she and her children had had their dinner,
and she had prepared and put away the dinner for next day,
and had put all the children to bed and gone to bed herself,
she cried to the Crows : " You may come in now and take
shelter for the night." The Crows came in, but they were
much vexed at having been kept out so long in the wind and
the rain, and when the Sparrow and all her family were
asleep, the one said to the other : " This selfish Sparrow had
no pity on us ; she gave us no dinner, and would not let us in
till she and all her children were comfortably in bed ; let us
punish her." So the two Crows took all the nice dinner the
Sparrow had prepared for herself and her children to eat the
next day, and flew away with it.



[270]



The Lambikin

upon a time there was a wee, wee Lambikin, who
frolicked about on his little tottery legs, and enjoyed
himself amazingly.
Now one day he set off to visit his granny, and was jump-
ing with joy to think of all the good things he should get
from her, when whom should he meet but a jackal, who looked
at the tender young morsel and said : " Lambikin ! Lambikin !
I'll EAT YOU!"

But Lambikin only gave a little frisk, and said:

"To granny's house I go,
Where I shall fatter grow,
Then you can eat me so."

The jackal thought this reasonable, and let Lambikin pass.

By and by he met a vulture, and the vulture, looking
hungrily at the tender morsel before him, said : " Lambikin !
Lambikin! I'll EAT YOU!"

But Lambikin only gave a little frisk, and said :

"To granny's house I go,
Where I shall fatter grow,
Then you can eat me so."

The vulture thought this reasonable, and let Lambikin pass.

And by and by he met a tiger, and then a wolf, and a dog,
and an eagle; and all these, when they saw the tender little
morsel, said: " Lambikin! Lambikin! I'll EAT YOU! "

But to all of them Lambikin replied, with a little frisk:

"To granny's house I go,
Where I shall fatter grow,
Then you can eat me so."



TALES OF LAUGHTER

At last he reached his granny's house, and said, all in a
hurry : " Granny dear, I've promised to get very fat ; so, as
people ought to keep their promises, please put me into the
corn-bin at once."

So his granny said he was a good boy, and put him into
the corn-bin, and there the greedy little Lambikin stayed for
seven days, and ate, and ate, and ate, until he could scarcely
waddle, and his granny said he was fat enough for anything,
and must go home. But cunning little Lambikin said that
would never do, for some animal would be sure to eat him
on the way back, he was so plump and tender.

" I'll tell you what you must do," said Master Lambikin ;
" you must make a little drumikin out of the skin of my little
brother who died, and then I can sit inside and trundle along
nicely, for I'm as tight as a drum myself."

So his granny made a nice little drumikin out of his
brother's skin, with the wool inside, and Lambikin curled him-
self up snug and warm in the middle, and trundled away
gaily. Soon he met the eagle, who called out :

' ' Drumikin ! Drumikin !
Have you seen Lambikin?"

And Mr. Lambikin, curled up in his soft warm nest, replied :

"Fallen into the fire, and so will you
On, little Drumikin. Turn-pa, turn-too!"

"How very annoying!" sighed the eagle, thinking regret-
fully of the tender morsel he had let slip.

Meanwhile Lambikin trundled along, laughing to himself,
and singing:

"Tum-pa, turn-too;
Tum-pa, turn- too!"

Every animal and bird he met asked him the same question :

"Drumikin! Drumikin!
Have you seen Lambikin?".
[272]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

And to each of them the little slyboots replied :

"Fallen into the fire, and so will you
On, little Drumikin. Turn-pa, turn-too;
Tum-pa, turn- too; tum-pa, turn-too!"

Then they all sighed to think of the tender little morsel they
had let slip.

At last the jackal came limping along, for all his sorry
looks as sharp as a needle, and he too called out :

"Drumikin! Drumikin!
Have you seen Lambikin?"

And Lambikin, curled up in his snug little nest, replied
gaily:

"Fallen into the fire, and so will you
On, little Drumikin. Tum-pa "

But he never got any farther, for the jackal recognized his
voice at once, and cried : " Hullo ! you've turned yourself in-
side out, have you ? Just you come out of that ! "

Whereupon he tore open drumikin and gobbled up Lambi-
kin.



[273]



The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

NCE upon a time a Town Mouse met a Country Mouse
on the outskirts of a wood. The Country Mouse was
sitting under a hazel thicket plucking nuts.

" Busy harvesting, I see," said the Town Mouse. " Who
would think of our meeting in this out-of-the-way part of the
world ?"

" Just so," said the Country Mouse.

" You are gathering nuts for your winter store ? " said the
Town Mouse.

" I am obliged to do so if we intend having anything to
live upon during the winter/' said the Country Mouse.

" The husk is big and the nut full this year, enough to
satisfy any hungry body," said the Town Mouse.

" Yes, you are right there," said the Country Mouse ; and
then she related how well she lived and how comfortable she
was at home.

The Town Mouse maintained that she was the better off,
but the Country Mouse said that nowhere could one be so
well off as in the woods and hills. The Town Mouse, how-
ever, declared she was best off; and as they could not agree
on this point they promised to visit each other at Christmas ;
then they could see for themselves which was really the more
comfortable.

The first visit was to be paid by the Town Mouse.

Now, although the Country Mouse had moved down from
the mountains for the winter, the road to her house was long
and tiring, and one had to travel up hill and down dale; the
snow lay thick and deep, so the Town Mouse found it hard

[274]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

work to get on, and she became both tired and hungry before
she reached the end of her journey.

" How nice it will be to get some food," she thought.

The Country Mouse had scraped together the best she had.
There were nut kernels, polypody, and other sorts of roots,
and many other good things which grow in woods and fields.
She kept it all in a hole far under ground, so the frost could
not reach it, and close by was a running spring, open all the
winter, so she could drink as much water as she liked. There
was an abundance of all she had, and they ate both well and
heartily; but the Town Mouse thought it was very poor fare



Online LibraryKate Douglas Smith WigginTales of laughter : a third fairy book → online text (page 18 of 31)