Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin.

Tales of laughter : a third fairy book online

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[463]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

woman grumbled and complained as much as she could, he
was just as persistent as ever, and went on begging and pray-
ing like a starved dog, until at last she gave in, and he got
permission to lie on the floor for the night.

That was very kind, he thought, and he thanked her for it.

" Better on the floor without sleep, than suffer cold in the
forest deep," he said ; for he was a merry fellow, this tramp,
and was always ready with a rhyme.

When he came into the room he could see that the woman
was not so badly off as she had pretended ; but she was a
greedy and stingy woman of the worst sort, and was always
complaining and grumbling.

He now made himself very agreeable, of course, and asked
her in his most insinuating manner for something to eat.

" Where am I to get it from ? " said the woman. " I
haven't tasted a morsel myself the whole day."

But the tramp was a cunning fellow, he was.

" Poor old granny, you must be starving," he said. " Well,
well, I suppose I shall have to ask you to have something
with me, then ? "

" Have something with you ! " said the woman. " You don't
look as if you could ask any one to have anything! What
have you got to offer one, I should like to know ? "

" He who far and wide does roam sees many things not
known at home; and he who many things has seen has wits
about him and senses keen," said the tramp. " Better dead
than lose one's head ! Lend me a pot, granny ! "

The old woman now became very inquisitive, as you may
guess, and so she let him have a pot.

He filled it with water and put it on the fire, and then he
blew with all his might till the fire was burning fiercely all
round it. Then he took a four-inch nail from his pocket,
turned it three times in his hand, and put it into the pot.

The woman stared with all her might.

" What's this going to be? " she asked.

" Nail broth," said the tramp, and began to stir the water
with the porridge-stick.

[464]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" Nail broth ? " asked the woman.

"Yes, nail broth/' said the tramp.

The old woman had seen and heard a good deal in her time,
but that anybody could have made broth with a nail, well,
she had never heard the like before.

" That's something for poor people to know," she said,
" and I should like to learn how to make it."

" That which is not worth having will always go a-beg-
ging," said the tramp, but if she wanted to learn how to make
it she had only to watch him, he said, and went on stirring
the broth.

The old woman squatted on the ground, her hands clasping
her knees, and her eyes following his hand as he stirred the
broth.

" This generally makes good broth," he said ; " but this time
it will very likely be rather thin, for I have been making
broth the whole week with the same nail. If one only had
a handful of sifted oatmeal to put in, that would make
it all right," he said. " But what one has to go without,
it's no use thinking more about," and so he stirred the broth
again.

" Well, I think I have a scrap of flour somewhere," said
the old woman, and went out to fetch some, and it was both
good and fine.

The tramp began putting the flour into the broth, and went
on stirring, while the woman sat staring now at him and then
at the pot until her eyes nearly burst their sockets.

" This broth would be good enough for company," he said,
putting in one handful of flour after another. " If I had only
a bit of salted beef and a few potatoes to put in, it would be
fit for gentlefolks, however particular they might be," he said.
" But what one has to go without, it's no use thinking more
about."

When the old woman really began to think it over, she
thought she had some potatoes, and perhaps a bit of beef as
well; and these she gave the tramp, who went on stirring,
while she sat and stared as hard as ever.

[465]



TALES OF LAUGHTER

" This will be grand enough for the best in the land," he
said.

" Well, I never ! " said the woman ; " and just fancy all
with a nail ! "

He was really a wonderful man, that tramp! He could do
more than drink a sup and turn the tankard up, he could.

"If one had only a little barley and a drop of milk, we
could ask the king himself to have some of it," he said ; " for
this is what he has every blessed evening that I know, for I
have been in service under the king's cook," he said.

" Dear me ! Ask the king to have some ! Well, I never ! "
exclaimed the woman, slapping her knees. She was quite awe-
struck at the tramp and his grand connections.

" But what one has to go without, it's no use thinking more
about," said the tramp.

And then she remembered she had a little barley; and as
for milk, well, she wasn't quite out of that, she said, for her
best cow had just calved. And then she went to fetch both
the one and the other.

The tramp went on stirring, and the woman sat staring,
one moment at him and the next at the pot.

Then all at once the tramp took out the nail.

" Now it's ready, and now we'll have a real good feast," he
said. " But to this kind of soup the king and the queen al-
ways take a dram or two, and one sandwich at least. And
then they always have a cloth on the table when they eat," he
said. " But what one has to go without, it's no use thinking
more about."

But by this time the old woman herself had begun to feel
quite grand and fine, I can tell you ; and if that was all that was
wanted to make it just as the king had it, she thought it would
be nice to have it exactly the same way for once, and play
at being king and queen with the tramp. She went straight
to a cupboard and brought out the brandy bottle, dram glasses,
butter and cheese, smoked beef and veal, until at last the table
looked as if it were decked out for company.

Never in her life had the old woman had such a grand



TALES OF LAUGHTER

feast, and never had she tasted such broth, and just fancy,
made only with a nail !

She was in such a good and merry humor at having learned
such an economical way of making broth that she did not
know how to make enough of the tramp who had taught her
such a useful thing.

So they ate and drank, and drank and ate, until they be-
came both tired and sleepy.

The tramp was now going to lie down on the floor. But
that would never do, thought the old woman; no, that was
impossible. " Such a grand person must have a bed to lie in,"
she said.

He did not need much pressing. " It's just like the sweet
Christmas time," he said, " and a nicer woman I never came
across. Ah, well! Happy are they who meet with such
good people," said he ; and he lay down on the bed and went
asleep.

And next morning, when he woke, the first thing he got
was coffee and a dram.

When he was going, the old woman gave him a bright dol-
lar piece.

" And thanks, many thanks, for what you have taught me,"
she said. " Now I shall live in comfort, since I have learned
how to make broth with a nail."

" Well, it isn't very difficult if one only has something good
to add to it," said the tramp as he went his way.

The woman stood at the door staring after him.

" Such people don't grow on every bush," she said.



THE END



[467]



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