Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin.

Tales of laughter : a third fairy book online

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and see how his turnips were getting on.

The turnips grew near his house, and he and his family ate
as many of them as ever they wanted, and so he looked upon
them quite naturally as his property.

Well, the Hedgehog slammed his door and started for the
turnip-field. He hadn't got very far, and was just sauntering
round the brier-bush that stood outside the field, when he
met the Hare, who was out on the same errand namely,
to look at his cabbages.

When the Hedgehog caught sight of the Hare, he gave
him a pleasant " Good morning."

But the Hare, who was a very aristocratic person in his
own way, and very high and mighty in his manner, didn't
answer the Hedgehog's greeting, but said, with a nasty sneer :

" What are you running about the fields for so early in the



morning?



[340]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" I'm out walking," said the Hedgehog.

" Walking ? " grinned the Hare. " I should have thought
you could use your legs for something better ! "

This remark annoyed the Hedgehog, for, though he was a
good-natured fellow enough, he was touchy on the subject of
his legs, which were, by nature, bandy.

" I suppose/' he said tartly, " you think your legs are better
than mine ? "

" That I do," said the Hare.

" It remains to be seen," said the Hedgehog. " I bet you
that if we two were to run a race I should outstrip you."

" Absurd ! " cried the Hare. " You with your crooked legs !
But if you're so anxious to try, I've no objection. What do
you wager ? "

" A golden guinea," said the Hedgehog.

" Done ! " said the Hare. " We'll start right away ! "

" Oh, don't be in such a hurry," said the Hedgehog. " I
haven't had my breakfast yet, and I feel a bit faint. I'll come
back here in an hour."

So away he trotted, for the Hare made no objection.

Then he thought to himself:

" The Hare thinks a lot of his long legs, but I'll get the
better of him all the same. For all his haughty ways, he's
not so very clever, and I'll make him pay; see if I don't."

As soon as he got home, he said to his wife :

" Quick ! go and get dressed. You must come out with
me."

" What's the matter? " said his wife.

" I've wagered the Hare a golden guinea. I'm to run a
race with him, and I want you to be there."

" Good gracious me ! " cried the Hedgehog's wife. " Have
you lost your senses? How can you think of racing the
Hare?"

" Don't be so quick with your words, woman," said the
Hedgehog. " That's my affair ; you mustn't meddle with what
you don't understand. Look sharp; put on your things, and
come along."

[341]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

What was the wife to do? She had to obey, whether she
wanted to or not.

On the way to the field, the Hedgehog said:

" Now, listen to what I'm going to tell you. In that plowed
field over there we're to run our race. The Hare will run in
one furrow, and I in the other. We begin at the top. Now,
all you've got to do is to stand at the other end of my furrow,
and directly the Hare arrives, you call out to him :

" ' Here I am already ! ' :

With that they reached the field. The Hedgehog told his
wife where to stand, and went on to the other end.

The Hare was there waiting for him.

"Shall we start?" asked the Hare.

" Right," said the Hedgehog.

" Now then ! "

Each took up his place.

The Hare counted:

" One, two, three ! "

And away he went like the wind.

But the Hedgehog took about three paces, then he went
back, ducked down in his furrow, and stood there as com-
fortably as you please, and laughing as if he would split his
sides.

Now, the moment the Hare came rushing up to the other
end, the Hedgehog's wife called out to him:

" Here I am already ! "

The Hare was quite taken aback, for he made sure it was
the Hedgehog himself who was sitting there calling to him,
since, as every one knows, a hedgehog's wife looks exactly
like her husband.

" There's something not quite right here," said the Hare.
" We must run again back to the starting-point."

And away he flew like the wind. But the Hedgehog's wife
never moved.

When the Hare got to the other end, the Hedgehog called
out:

" Here I am already ! "

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TALES OF LAUGHTER

But the Hare, quite beside himself with jealousy, shouted:

" We must run again ! "

" Right ! " said the Hedgehog. " As often as you like."

And so the Hare went on, running backward and forward
seventy-three times, and every time the Hedgehog got the
better of him. Every time the Hare arrived at one end or
the other, the Hedgehog or his wife called out:

"Here I am already!"

But the seventy-fourth time the Hare dropped down dead
tired before he got half-way. So the Hedgehog took his golden
guinea, and he and his wife went home very well pleased
with themselves. And so my tale is finished.



[343]



Bruno's Story

[From " Sylvie and Bruno/']

there were a mouse and a crocodile and a man and
a goat and a lion," said Bruno.

" And the mouse found a shoe, and it thought it were a
mouse-trap. So it got right in, and it stayed in ever so long."

"Why did it stay in?"

" 'Cause it thought it couldn't get out again," Bruno ex-
plained. " It were a clever mouse. It knew it couldn't get
out of traps."

" But why did it go in, then ? "

" No matter why ! " said Bruno decisively ; " and it jamp,
and it jamp, and at last it got right out again. And it looked
at the mark in the shoe. And the man's name were in it. So
it knew it wasn't its own shoe.

" So the mouse gave the man his shoe. And the man were
welly glad, 'cause he hadn't got but one shoe, and he were
hopping to get the other.

" And the man took the goat out of the sack. . . . No, I
know oo hasn't heard of the sack before, and oo won't again.
. . . And he said to the goat : ' Oo will walk about here till
I comes back/ And he went and he tumbled into a deep hole.
And the goat walked round and round. And it walked under
the tree. And it wug its tail. And it looked up in the tree.
And it sang a sad little song. Oo never heard such a sad lit-
tle song!

" It singed it right froo. I sawed it singing with its long
beard.

" And when it had singed all the song, it ran away for
to get along to look for the man, oo know. And the croco-
dile got along after it for to bite it, oo know. And the mouse
got along after the crocodile."

"Wasn't the crocodile running?"

[344]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" He wasn't running," said Bruno, " and he wasn't crawl-
ing. He went struggling along like a portmanteau. And he
held his chin ever so high in the air "

"What did he do that for?"

" 'Cause he hadn't got a toofache ! " said Bruno. " Can't
oo make out nuffin wizout I 'splain it? Why, if he'd had a
toofache, a course he'd have held his head down like this
and he'd have put a lot of warm blankets round it ! "

"Did he have any blankets?"

" Course he had blankets," said Bruno. " Does oo think
crocodiles goes walks wisout blankets ? And he frowned with his
eyebrows. And the goat was welly flightened at his eyebrows."

" I'd never be afraid of eyebrows."

" I should think oo would, though, if they'd got a croco-
dile fastened to them, like these had ! "

And so the man jamp, and he jamp, and at last he got
right out of the hole.

" And he runned away for to look for the goat, oo know.
And he heard the lion grunting.

" And its mouth were like a large cupboard. And it had
plenty of room in its mouth. And the lion runned after the
man for to eat him, oo know. And the mouse runned after
the lion.

" And first he caught the crocodile, and then he didn't catch
the lion. And when he'd caught the crocodile, what does oo
think he did 'cause he'd got pincers in his pocket? Why,
he wrenched out that crocodile's toof ! "

"Which tooth?"

" The toof he were going to bite the goat with, a course ! "

" And what became of the man ? "

" Well, the lion springed at him. But it came so slow,
it were three weeks in the air "

" Did the man wait for it all that time? "

" Course he didn't He sold his house, and he packed up
his things, while the lion were coming. And he went and he
lived in another town. So the lion ate the wrong man."

LEWIS CARROLL.
[345]



The Bluebottle Who Went Courting

A GAY young Bluebottle went out courting.

>nf And first he flew into the king's palace to woo the
-4L JL king's daughter.

Now, she was the most beautiful princess in all the world,
and had a thousand suitors at her feet.

So the Bluebottle came and settled on her hand, and sang:

"Zum, zum, zoo,
I want to marry you!"

But the princess didn't understand the song. She only saw
a great bluebottle fly, and she tried to flick it off her hand.
But the Bluebottle sat fast. Then the princess cried out:

" Here's a great horrid fly on my hand, and it won't move !
Quick ! some one take it away ! "

At that, you may be sure, all the suitors came running up,
and made grabs at the Bluebottle ; and the cleverest of them
caught him between his finger and thumb and nearly crushed
the life out of him. But he managed to wriggle free, and in
his flight he flew at the king himself and settled right on the
tip of the royal nose.

Then the king gave a terrific snort and hit the Bluebottle
such a blow that if it hadn't just missed him he would cer-
tainly have been killed.

By this time, I can tell you, the Bluebottle was in such a
state that he didn't know whether he was on his head or his
heels. So he buzzed round and round the room, and was
chased from one courtier to the other, and dashed his wings
against the window-panes, and at last the king threw his

[346]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

scepter at him, and the scepter hit the fattest duchess in the
room, and bounded off and struck the Bluebottle on the head.

You may fancy how that confused the poor thing! And
so he flew into the fireplace, and got his left wing scorched,
and he only just managed to crawl up the chimney by the
skin of his teeth.

But a maiden bluebottle, who was distantly related to his
family, nursed his wing for him, and so pretty soon he was
as gay as ever. Then he said:

" Very well, if I can't have the princess, I'll have the next
best thing."

And so he flew into the king's stable and sat himself down
right on the back of the princess's favorite mare.

"Zum, zum, zoo,

I want to many you!"
he hummed.

But the mare took not the least notice of his song. She only
shifted her feet irritably, for the Bluebottle tickled her.

"Zum, zum, zoo,
I want to many you!"

repeated the Bluebottle, quite boldly.

At that the mare gave a flick of her tail and hit the Blue-
bottle slap ! bang ! right in the middle of his bright azure waist-
coat, so that he was sent spinning in among the straw that
littered the floor.

So there he lay, buzzing mournfully, till the maiden blue-
bottle came along and rubbed him all over, and put him on
his feet again.

And pretty soon he was gayer than ever, and thought how
he would go courting once more.

" Better stick to your own station," said his lady friend.

But he only tossed his head and sniffed scornfully.

And then he put on a brand-new waistcoat and flew into
the king's kitchen, where the princess's favorite cat lay purring
on the hearth.

[347]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

And the Bluebottle lost no time at all, but crept straight into
the cat's right ear and sang his song:

"Zum, zum, zoo,
I want to marry you!"

Now, the cat had just been dreaming the most delicious
dream about the fattest mouse you can think of, and the buzz-
ing in her ear just woke her up in the most exciting part.

And so, you may guess, she wasn't in the best of tempers.

Whether she heard the Bluebottle's proposal of marriage
or not, I really can't say. If she did, you may be sure it
didn't please her, for she just made a snatch with her paw
and grabbed him by the !^g.

Now, it would have been all up with him if the maiden rela-
tive hadn't flown up in the very nick of time and tickled the
cat's nose.

Very well, that made the cat sneeze so violently that she let
go of the Bluebottle's leg, and so he flew away. But his leg was
broken; and the doctor came every day for a week, and then
he sent in his bill. And the maiden friend brought all her
savings rolled up in an old stocking of her mother's. And so
the Bluebottle paid the doctor, and there was an end of that.

Now, would you believe it, the Bluebottle was so young
and giddy that his leg was scarcely well before he began to
wonder where he should go courting next.

" When there are so many old maids in the world," said he,
" it's a bachelor's duty to look round for a wife. I do it out
of charity."

" Charity begins at home," said his lady friend, and blushed
in a modest way.

But the Bluebottle was not the kind of person to take a
hint. So he just put on another new waistcoat, and away he
flew into the woods.

And there a fine young lady woodpecker was hopping about
digging for worms in a ladylike manner.

" Now, here is a person after my own heart," said the Blue-

[348]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

bottle. " She doesn't wait for us men to bring her food ; she
just helps herself. I might do worse than marry her."

And without a minute's hesitation he began to buzz round
and round the woodpecker, singing his old song:

"Zum, zum, zoo,
I want to marry you!"

When the woodpecker caught sight of him, she cocked her
tail in a knowing way.

" Change of food is as good as change of air," said she,
and gave a peck that nearly finished the Bluebottle there and
then, and tore his right wing from end to end.

So there he was, sprawling on his back with his legs curled
up in agony, for a torn wing is no trifle. And now the wood-
pecker would certainly have gobbled him up; but just then
the faithful maiden friend, who had followed the Bluebottle
because he was bound to get into mischief, hurried up. When
she saw the state of things, she didn't stop twice to think,
but took a dead leaf and dropped it right over the Blue-
bottle.

Now, when the woodpecker saw the maiden Bluebottle, she
took her for the bachelor, and gave another peck. But the
maiden flew away and hid behind a fern, and so the wood-
pecker went back to her worms.

" Oh ! Oh ! I'm dead ! I'm dead ! " groaned the Bluebottle
under the leaf.

" Nonsense ! " said his lady friend. " Rubbish doesn't die
so easily ! "

You see, she was severe because her pride had been hurt.

" Oh, dear, kind friend, don't fly away and leave me ! "
begged the Bluebottle meekly.

" You've flown away and left me often enough," said the
lady friend.

" I'll never do it again as long as I live ! " cried he.

" You couldn't if you wanted to," said she, and stroked the
broken wing.

[349]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

"Oh, why wasn't I content with a bluebottle bride?"
groaned he.

" No lady bluebottle will look at you now," said she, " for
you'll always fly lame as long as you live."

" Oh, won't you take pity on me ? " asked the poor Blue-
bottle, who felt thoroughly humble by this time.

Then his lady friend put her own strong wing under his
broken one.

" I'll marry you out of charity," she said, and flew away
with him.



[350]



How Two Beetles Took Lodgings



upon a time there was a worthy set of ants, who
lived together as happily as possible in their little town
at the foot of a fine old oak-tree.

They were honest, peaceable folk, and always did as the
three queen ants who ruled over them told them to do.

The young men stayed quietly at home until it was time
for them to get married, and the young ladies, who had
nothing else to do, did the same.

As for the working people But here's a curious state of
things ! You'll never find a working " man " in an ant city
as long as you live, for all the workers are females, even the
soldiers, you may take my word for that!

Well, as for these, they were at it morning, noon, and night,
digging and building and fetching food for the whole town,
looking after the eggs of which there were so many you
could never have counted them and seeing that all the baby
ants were quite happy and comfortable.

Now, things would have gone on very well indeed if other
people had only left these worthy ants alone. But they
did not and this is where my story really begins.

One fine day a set of ants belonging to quite another tribe
came to the forest, and built themselves a town not far from
the first.

And these ants it grieves me to write it were far from
peaceful and honest like their neighbors. To tell the truth,
they were nothing more nor less than robbers.

They had not been very long in the place before their sol-
diers all womenfolk, too! made a raid on the town of the
mild and harmless ants, and carried off all the girl babies they
could lay hands on. And the moment the children were old

[351]






TALES OF LAUGHTER

enough to work, they were made into slaves, and had to do
all the roughest and hardest work.

Well, you may guess there was sorrow in the town of the
peaceful ants. They were too weak to fight their foes, and
so they just had to sit down and bear it as best they could.

Now, what happened once, happened again, and yet again,
till at last the harmless ants made up their minds to move
and build themselves a new city in another part of the
forest.

And so they did. But it was all of no use, for the robbers
followed them, and then the same thing happened all over
again. So soon as there was a fine, fat, promising bunch of
girl babies in the town, the robbers came and carried them
into slavery.

One misfortune followed fast upon another. Not long after
the ants had moved into their new town, a beetle and his wife
came stalking in, and demanded lodgings in the queen's palace.

They were smartly dressed in blue and green coats of the
latest cut, but they carried no baggage except a tooth-brush,
that stuck out of the Beetle's wife's pocket. This was sus-
picious, and they looked so hungry and thirsty, into the bar-
gain, that it was not to be wondered at that the poor queen
ant pulled a long face.

" We're traveling for pleasure," said the Beetle's wife, " and
we shall have much pleasure in staying here as long as we
like."

With that she walked straight up to the best bedroom, said
she hoped the sheets were aired, and went to bed, while her
husband talked pleasantly with the three queens, and ate three
dozen new-laid ants' eggs for his supper.

The unhappy queens soon saw what kind of visitors they
had got. The Beetles made themselves at home everywhere
in the palace and out of it and called for whatever they
wanted. The working ants had to wait on them hand and
foot. There was the Beetle's shaving water to be got first
thing in the morning, and the Beetle's wife's cup of milk fresh
from the cow. For ants, you must know, keep their cows,

[352]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

just as human beings do, though the milk of the ant cow is
more like sugar water than anything else we have.

Then there never was any one who could do with so
many meals in the course of a single day as that Beetle and
his wife. They just ate and drank from morning to night,
and it was all the ants could do to keep the palace larder
stocked.

All the choicest morsels, the finest seeds and salads the
workers could bring fell to the Beetles' share, while the queens
got what was left.

There was no peace and quiet in the town. The Beetles
pried into every hole and corner, spread themselves in every-
body's parlor, and paraded the streets singing and whistling
when quiet folks wanted to rest.

But, what was worst of all, they showed never a sign of
moving on.

" I thought you said you were traveling," the bravest of the
queens ventured to remark at last.

" Why, so we were ! " said the Beetles. " But one must
settle down some time or other, and your air really suits us
very well."

"Did you hear that?" whispered one young working ant
to another.

The two had come to the palace with a pitcher of milk
just in time to listen to the conversation.

" They'll never leave us," said the second ant.

" Not unless some one takes steps," returned the first ant.

" And, pray, whose steps, and why ? " asked the second.

" You always were stupid," said the first one, and gave her
waist a twitch which is a way ants have when they are put
out. " Now, if some one were to take my advice," she went
on, " but there's nobody in all the town with two pennyworth
of spirit. Nobody would take my advice."

" I suppose you couldn't take it yourself ? " asked the sec-
ond ant, who really was not quite as stupid as people thought.

" It never occurred to me," said the first ant ; " but now you
mention it, perhaps I might."

[353]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

And then the first ant thought and thought, and the end of
it was that she slipped out of the town so soon as her day's
work was finished and strolled away toward the town where
the robber ants lived.

And presently a fierce old soldier-ant came marching out
at the gate.

Then the little worker's heart beat very fast, and she turned
as pale as an ant can turn.

" ' Nothing venture, nothing win/ " she said to herself, and
walked straight up to the soldier.

"Hallo! Who are you?" said the soldier.

" Oh, I'm a neighbor of yours, from Beechtown," said the
little ant. " I'm just taking a stroll before supper."

" A stroll before supper ! " cried the soldier, staring very
hard. " You don't seem to have much work to do over there."

" Why, no, I can't say I have," said the little ant.

" But I can see by your dress you're a servant," said the
soldier-woman.

" So I am," said the little ant. " But we servants of Beecrr-
town have an easy place. A bit of dusting now and then, and
a little light needlework; that's all."

" I heard a very different story only the other day," said
the soldier.

" Ah, but everything's changed since the Beetles came,"
said the little worker. " They do all the dirty work ; and,
my goodness ! they can work, you may take my word for that !
It's worth something, I can tell you, to have two fine Beetles
like that in the town ! "

" Aha ! " thought the soldier-woman to herself, " here's
something for us ! "

And she was so taken up with thinking that she forgot
to bid the little ant good night, and there and then she marched
straight back to her town to tell the general what she had
heard.

But the little ant went home well pleased with herself. And,
sure enough, what she expected would happen did happen.

The robber-ants, as soon as they heard the soldier's story,

[354]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

were as eager as possible to carry off the two Beetles who
could work so well.

And to prevent any fuss and bother, this is what they did :

They took a great pitcher of ant-cow's milk and mixed with
it a few drops of the poison, which, as every one knows, an
ant always carries about with her in her poison-bag. Then
twelve soldiers took the pitcher to Beechtown and waited out-
side the gate for the Beetles to come out. And directly they
saw them coming they put down the pitcher and hid behind a
mountain of dead leaves.

But the Beetles drank up the sweet stuff till there was not a
drop left at the bottom of the pail, and immediately the poison
began to work, and both the Beetle and his wife fell back in
a heap on to the grass, and there they lay, and could stir
neither hand nor foot.

The robbers, you may fancy, lost no time, bundled the pair
on to a stout rhubarb leaf, and dragged them away to their
own city as fast as they could go.

Now, scarcely had they got them there when the poison be-
gan to wear off for ants' poison is not very strong, you see
and pretty soon the Beetle's wife sat up and pinched her
husband. It was not long before he sat up, too ; and by and
by those two were as clear in their heads and as firm on their
legs as any two beetles ever were.

And now there was an unpleasant surprise in store for the
robber-ants. When the Beetle's wife had looked round a bit,
she said to her husband :

" Why, it seems comfortable enough here. I don't think
we'll trouble to go back to Beechtown. I think this will suit
us very well."

" Well, well, we'll just see what the cooking's like," said
he, and went straight to the palace where the six queen-ants
who ruled over the robbers lived. He just said : " How-d'ye-
do ? " to the queens in an off-hand way, and then he sat down
and helped himself to all the dishes he could find in the larder.

His wife, she did the same, and between them they finished
all the food there was.

[355]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

And so they went on, just as they were used to doing in
Beechtown, and it did not take the robbers long to find out
the mistake they had made.

The Beetles had never done a day's work in their lives, and



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