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Anthony R. (Anthony Reubens) Montalba.

Fairy tales from all nations online

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sucked the deadly juice of that coarse berry, I still should feed on
the perfumed air, and never have known vile human fare."

Then the glow-worm, greatly excited, whispered to him: -

"Know, child beloved, I am thy mother: - the elfin queen, entranced
with joy at finding thee, dear human boy! Alas! that thou shouldst so
gigantic be and I so very small, that we cannot rush into each other's
arms to seal the charms of meeting by a kiss! Thou bearest the light
upon thy brow that dull-eyed mortals cannot see; but we have found
thee, child, and now from the magic thrall both we and those shall
soon be free.

"List, and hear me, while I tell how thou may'st unbind the spell.
First, thou must the white cross find; which, when withdrawn from us
by Heaven, was to a holy hermit given. Wandering in the north, he bore
it, - toiling in the south, he wore it, - whilst many a wonder by its
power he wrought: and when his pious mission the holy man had ended,
he took it to a church where as a relic 'tis suspended. The church
full often hast thou seen when wandering in the forest green; and
thither must thou go this night, nor sound nor sight must thy heart
affright, and nought must make thee in thy purpose falter, - but boldly
take the cross from the high altar. Nought of evil shall come to
thee - 'tis only fear that can undo thee; for the Butterfly King will
strive, from fright, to make thee turn again, and all thy hopes our
race to right, by magic to render vain. The cross hangs to a rosary,
and a lamp burns before it unceasingly. Now, off to thy work without
delay, and to the chapel gate on thy steps we will wait, to light thee
on thy way."

Then up sprang Julius joyously. "How light feels my bosom, my heart
how strong! - 'tis as if I had known this all along. Hurrah! I'm the
Elfin King. Little care I for the false butterfly. The white cross
from the church I'll quickly bring. Come, light me, light me on the
track! - triumphant soon you will see me back!"

Then his mother, attended by all the other glow-worms, lighted him on
his way, and he followed with bounding steps. They drew up outside the
church-door whilst he entered alone; cold blasts blowing down upon him
from the lofty, pale, glimmering dome. Onward he went without fear. A
great hideous bat fluttered round his head twittering: "Return; go not
to the altar high, for if to spurn my threat thou dare, I will stick
my claws into thy hair, and tear thy locks out one by one, until with
pain thou shalt cry and moan, and thy curly head shall be bald as a
stone."

"For this coarse straw I little care, soon I shall have much finer
hair," said Julius; - and on he went cheerfully.

Next came a great black owl, with very sharp beak and claws, and
sparkling eyes. He also fluttered round Julius, till the tips of his
frightful wings scratched the boy's forehead, whilst he screeched
aloud: "Return, return, go quickly back, else thy blue eyes I will
claw and hack till thou shalt cry in agony, and blinded thou shalt
be."

"My eyes are not so very fine; I shall soon have some that will softer
shine," answered Julius, as he approached the altar before which stood
the undying lamp.

Then suddenly up rose a pale rattling skeleton, round whose scraggy
neck hung the rosary with the white cross; and as the spectre glared
at him from its eyeless sockets, it said with a hollow voice:
"Forbear, forbear, audacious boy! Ere that cross thy prize can be,
thou must conquer it from me. I am Death, the strong, the mighty; no
mortal yet has vanquished me."

Julius shrank, and for a moment hesitated; but he heard his mother
whisper from the church-door: "Away with fear, 'tis all delusion,
magic art and vain illusion. Fearlessly upon him look - thy gaze the
phantom cannot brook; by thy mild look and gentle eye, thou shalt win
the victory. Seize the cross and banish fear, the spectre so shall
disappear."

Julius then regained courage; he rushed up to the skeleton and grasped
the cross! Instantly the phantom vanished, and all was still around
him. He returned thoughtfully and without running. The elves were
waiting for him at the door, and lighted him back to the place whence
they had come. He then set up the cross on a little mossy hillock; and
all the glow-worms formed themselves into a circle round it, and
prayed and sang songs of gratitude, - which, however, were inaudible to
Julius.

His mother then seated herself on the tip of his ear, and whispered:
"Ere our deliverance full can be, thou must once more become as we.
The charmed drink already in thy veins is working. Four elements it
contains: the sound of my voice, the forest's cool air, the fragrance
of the flowers by night, and the brightly-coloured light which thou
didst so eagerly inhale whilst we were dancing round thee. If that
thou dost desire once more thy coarse fat body to restore to its once
delicate form, then know, thou must henceforth to eat forego, save of
the rays from the bright stars beaming, save of the sweets from the
young flowers streaming. Now, sleep in peace, and by to-morrow's light
thy limbs will be more delicate and slight."

Julius stretched himself on the moss, and slept. The next morning he
did not waken until it was late; and then he felt himself so
wonderfully light that he fancied he must be able to jump as high as
the heavens. In order to try his strength, he made a spring, intending
to clear a little ant-heap which he mistook for a hill; but he fell in
the midst of it, and had great difficulty in extricating himself, so
small had he already become. He ate nothing all that day; and at
night, was lighted to bed by the glow-worms who danced round him
whilst he slept.

On the second day he had already become so diminutive that he was
obliged to stand on tip-toe to smell a yellow primrose. When he awoke
on the third morning, he saw high in the heavens the sun with its
golden disk surrounded by silver-white rays. But it did not dazzle him
in the least, let him look at it as steadfastly as he would; and, to
his great surprise, he observed an entirely green rainbow which
stretched down from it to the earth. He went close to it; and then
discovered that the rainbow was only a thick stem, which he grasped
with both hands, and by a great effort shook, - when behold! the sun
moved a little out of its place. He could not help laughing at
himself; for he now perceived that what he had taken for the yellow
sun with the white rays and the green rainbow, was only a large daisy
on its stalk.

He had now diminished to the proper dimensions of an elf. When evening
came, therefore, all the glow-worms assembled round him on the moss to
swear fealty to him. The peers of the realm brought with them a crown
of pure star-light ore, very delicately and tastefully wrought, with
which they solemnly crowned Julius, and no sooner was the crown placed
on his head, than in a moment, as if by magic touch, they were all
changed into little graceful elves, and on the brow of each was a
star. They then took the oath of fidelity, and Julius swore to
maintain the constitution. This done, the rejoicings began, and they
shouted and huzzaed until the noise was as great as that which the
grass makes when it is growing in the sweet spring time.

Julius and his mother embraced and kissed each other. She could not
repeat too often how pretty and slight he was, and how very much he
resembled his father: - and then she shed oceans of tears for her
murdered husband.

The elves rejoiced the whole night through; but when the morning
dawned, they said to each other with some uneasiness: "How are we to
get back to India, to our beautiful native land?" Then a light breeze
murmured amongst the branches, and shook down a hundred-leaved rose,
so that all its delicate curved petals were scattered to the
ground - and a voice was heard, saying:

"There your carriages, light as air, you to the spicy east shall
bear, - and the cross you shall find in your own bright land, already
borne there by an unseen hand."

All the elves now seated themselves in the rose leaves, - Julius and
his mother and the court occupying the finest. Then a gentle zephyr
sprang up; which raised all the rose leaves into the air, and wafted
them softly in the morning dawn home to the east, - the elves
singing: -

To India, to India, the land of our birth!
Where the zephyrs blow lightly,
And the flowers glow brightly,
And the atmosphere scent-laden floats o'er the earth;
Where under the wide-spreading leaves we find shelter,
Nor care how winds whistle, nor how the storms pelter.
Over our heads
Their green roof spreads -

And safe within their vernal bowers
We elfin spirits dance and play,
While some soft and holy lay
Is sung by the tall and fragrant flowers
On their green stems bending,
And heavenward sending
Angel hymns of joyous blending.
In solemn pomp again we'll tread,
By our tapers' light,
In the still dark night,
To bring to their resting-place the dead!
- Away then, away! carried swift by the wind,
At the dawning of day to our native Ind!




THE TWO MISERS.

[Hebrew.]


A miser living in Kufa had heard that in Bassora also there dwelt a
Miser - more miserly than himself, to whom he might go to school, and
from whom he might learn much. He forthwith journeyed thither; and
presented himself to the great master as a humble commencer in the Art
of Avarice, anxious to learn, and under him to become a student.
"Welcome!" said the Miser of Bassora; "we will straight go into the
market to make some purchase." They went to the baker.

"Hast thou good bread?"

"Good, indeed, my masters, - and fresh and soft as butter." "Mark this,
friend," said the man of Bassora to the one of Kufa, " - butter is
compared with bread as being the better of the two: as we can only
consume a small quantity of that, it will also be the cheaper, - and
we shall therefore act more wisely, and more savingly too, in being
satisfied with butter."

They then went to the butter-merchant, and asked if he had good
butter.

"Good, indeed, - and flavoury and fresh as the finest olive oil," was
the answer.

"Mark this also," - said the host to his guest; "oil is compared with
the very best butter, and, therefore, by much ought to be preferred to
the latter."

They next went to the oil vendor: -

"Have you good oil?"

"The very best quality, - white and transparent as water," was the
reply.

"Mark that too," said the Miser of Bassora to the one of Kufa; "by
this rule water is the very best. Now, at home I have a pail-full, and
most hospitably therewith will I entertain you." And indeed on their
return nothing but water did he place before his guest, - because they
had learnt that water was better than oil, oil better than butter,
butter better than bread.

"God be praised!" said the Miser of Kufa, - "I have not journeyed this
long distance in vain!"




PRINCE CHAFFINCH.

[French.]


There was once a king and queen who ruled with the greatest kindness
and simplicity imaginable; and their subjects were just such good
folks as themselves, so that both parties agreed very well. As,
however, there is no condition in the world which has not its cares
and sorrows, so also this king and queen were not free from them; in
fact, the peace of their lives was considerably disturbed by a fairy,
who had patronised them from their earliest years. Fairy
Grumble-do - that was her name - was incessantly finding fault, would
repeat the same words a hundred times a day, and grumbled at every
thing that was doing, and at all that had been done. Setting aside
this little failing, she was in all other respects the best soul in
the world, and it gave her the greatest satisfaction when she could
oblige or serve anybody.

The union of the royal pair had hitherto proved childless, but
whenever they besought Fairy Grumble-do to give them children, she
invariably replied: - "Children! what do you want children for? To hear
them squalling from morning till night, till you, as well as I, will
be ready to jump out of our skins with the noise? What's the use of
children? Nobody knows what to do with them; they only bring care and
trouble!"

Some such remarks were all the king and queen got for their
entreaties; and the fairy's ill-humour, and the snuffling tone in
which she uttered these speeches made them quite unbearable. The good
king and queen, however, never lost their patience, so that at last
the fairy lost hers, and, in a pet, she all of a sudden gratified them
with seven princes at a birth.

The queen remarked in her usual mild and quiet manner, that she had
now a great many children, to which Fairy Grumble-do answered,
snarlingly: - "Well, you wished for children, Madam queen, and now you
have got them according to your wish, and in order that you may have
enough of them, I shall just double the number."

No sooner said than done, and the queen brought into the world seven
more princes at a birth. The royal pair were now quite in trouble;
fourteen princes of the blood are, in fact, no joke; for however rich
one may be, fourteen princes to nurse, educate, and establish
handsomely, costs a good bit of money. Fairy Grumble-do was quite
right there; fourteen princes do require a good deal of waiting on,
and so she found plenty to do all day, with finding fault, and
scolding first this attendant, then that nursemaid, then this servant,
or that preceptor; and when she once got into the children's
apartment, no one could hear himself speak, for the noise she made.
Still at bottom she meant very kindly, and she promised the anxious
queen that she would take good care of the princes, and one day
provide for them all. Those old times were very good ones, and things
were managed in royal residences with great simplicity. The young
princes played all day with the children of the towns-people, because
they went to the same school with them, and no one had a word to say
against it, which would hardly be the case now-a-days, for kings and
everybody else are grown much grander than they were then.

Quite close to the palace dwelt an honest charcoal-burner, who lived
in his little cottage contentedly on what he earned by the sale of his
charcoal. All his neighbours esteemed him as the worthiest man in the
world, and the king himself had great confidence in his capacity, and
would often ask his counsel in matters of government. He was called
the coal-man throughout all the country, and no one within ten miles
round would have any coals but from him, so that he had to serve every
household, even those of the nobility and the fairies. Wherever he
carried his coals, he was a favourite, and even little children were
not afraid of him, and no one ever said to them, "Behave prettily,
else the charcoal-burner will take you away." After working all day at
his business, he went to his little cottage at night to rest, and to
enjoy his freedom, for he was sole master in the house. His wife had
been long dead, and had left him only one little daughter, called
Gracious; for she was the prettiest creature in the world.

[Illustration: PRINCE CHAFFINCH. P. 76.]

He loved this child beyond all measure; and, indeed, not without
reason, for a prettier little maiden could not be found on earth; in
spite of the coal-smoke that enveloped her, and her poor clothing, she
always appeared charming and agreeable, and no one could help
loving her on account of her wonderful amiability. The king's youngest
son, little Prince Chaffinch, who was as sprightly as he was pretty,
was extremely attached to Gracious, preferred her to all the other
children of his acquaintance, and would play with no one but her, so
that they were always seen together, and indeed, they could not live
without one another. Meanwhile the worthy coal-man, who felt old age
approaching, grew very anxious about the fate of Gracious, after he
should have ceased to live; for the partiality of the king for him did
not seem to him sufficient to put him at ease about her. "The king,"
he would say to himself, as he pondered on the subject, "has a large
family of his own, and is obliged to ask so much of the fairy for his
own necessities, that he surely will not have courage to put in a good
word for my child. Even if he were to promise to do so, I should not
depend on him. For" - thus he ever concluded his self-conferences, "the
poor king, is in fact, worse off than I am; he has fourteen to provide
for; I only one. His are princes; mine is only a poor burgher maid.
Mine therefore will be easier to provide for. A poor girl like her can
manage to get along in the world; she stands alone; but a poor prince
never; hundreds hang about him, draining him, and consuming all his
substance." Now, after thinking it over and over, he grew quite
unhappy at heart, and he knew not what to do. So he went one day, head
and heart full of care, to a very beneficent fairy, who had always
behaved very kindly to him. She was called Fairy Bonbon; she it was,
who, in order to please epicures, both small and great, invented those
sweets which now bear her name. When the good fairy saw the coal-man
in such trouble, she asked him what ailed him; and after he had given
her a highly sensible reply, she promised him in good earnest, that
she would take Gracious under her own care, and desired him to bring
the child to her the following Sunday.

The coal-man obeyed punctually, and when the time came he made little
Gracious put on her best clothes, and the new coloured little shoes he
had bought for her the day before, and set off with his dear little
daughter. Gracious skipped before him, then ran back to him, and took
hold of his hand, saying: - "We are going to the castle, we are going
to the castle!" for her father had not told her anything further about
it.

When they arrived, Fairy Bonbon received them very kindly, but
notwithstanding all was so fine in the castle, and that she had so
many bonbons and other nice things, Gracious could not be happy when
her father went away and left her behind. For the first time in her
life she began to cry, and could scarcely leave off again. This
touched the fairy extremely, so that she grew quite fond of Gracious,
and all who were present said: - "My daughter would not cry so if she
were obliged to part from me." But in time little Gracious became
reconciled to her new residence, and was so obedient and docile that
the good fairy Bonbon never had occasion to reprove her, nor even to
tell her twice of the same thing, so that she took great delight in
her.

When her father came to visit her, the pretty child always ran to meet
him, and threw herself into his arms without fearing to soil the fine
clothes which the fairy had given her. After kissing and caressing her
dear papa to her heart's content, she always inquired after her
friend, Prince Chaffinch, and sent him her best bonbons and toys. The
coal-man always carried them very conscientiously to the prince, who
never failed to send his thanks and a message to say how earnestly he
longed to see her once again.

Thus Gracious lived till she was twelve years old, and then Fairy
Bonbon, who was extraordinarily fond of her, took her father one day
into her boudoir, and desired him to be seated, as she did not like to
see the old man standing up in her presence. The coal-man excused
himself at first, but the fairy insisted, so that at last he was
obliged to obey, although it seemed to him a very strange thing to sit
down in his clothes all covered with coal-dust on a white taffeta
arm-chair, and he could not think how he should manage to prevent his
jacket from leaving marks on it.

At last, however, the fairy constrained him to be seated; and she then
said to him, "Old friend, I love your daughter."

"Honoured madam," replied he, "you are very kind; but indeed you are
much in the right, for she is a very dear child."

"I wish now to consult with you what I shall do," said the fairy; "for
you must know I shall be obliged shortly to travel for a considerable
time in another country."

"Ah, madam, then do have the goodness to take her along with you,"
rejoined the coal-man.

"That is not in my power," answered she. "I can, however, provide very
well for her. Only tell me what would be most agreeable to you that I
should do for her."

"Then I would most humbly beg," replied the coal-man, "that you would
have the kindness to make her queen of a little kingdom, just such a
one as may please your ladyship."

Though gratified by this request, the fairy represented to him, that
the higher the station, the more cares and sorrows it has; but the
coal-man assured her in return, that cares and sorrows are to be found
everywhere, and that those of royalty are the easiest to bear.

"I do not ask of you, most gracious madam fairy," continued he, "to
make me a king. I prefer remaining a charcoal-burner; that is my
trade, which I understand, and as for the trade of royalty, I do not
think that I understand that at all. But Gracious is still young, and
she can learn it, I'll be bound for it; it cannot, after all, be so
very difficult, for I see every day that people manage it one way or
another."

"Well," answered Fairy Bonbon, as she dismissed him, "I will see what
I can do. I must tell you beforehand, however, that Gracious will have
much to suffer, and she will find it very bitter."

"Very possible, gracious Madam Bonbon," replied he. "I also have gone
through many bitter things, and have not gained very much after all,
so have the kindness still to make a queen of her; I ask nothing."

With these words he took leave.

Meanwhile Fairy Grumble-do had provided for almost all the fourteen
princes. She had sent some of them out into the wide world to seek
their fortunes, whereby they had at last succeeded in obtaining
kingdoms, and the rest she had wedded to rich princesses, so that at
least they were safe from want. For little Prince Chaffinch, as yet,
however, she had done nothing; so she came one day to court in her
usual agreeable humour, and found papa and mamma caressing and
fondling their child.

"Ha," said she, "that is a properly spoiled young gentleman, who will
never be good for anything all his days. I lay any wager he does not
know A from B. Repeat me your yesterday's lesson, sir, at once, and if
you miss a single word, you shall have a proper whipping."

Chaffinch immediately repeated his lesson, which, as usual, he had
learnt perfectly, and went through his examination in a style which
was quite wonderful for his age. The king and queen did not dare to
let their gratification at this appear, for fear thereby of
redoubling Madam Grumble-do's ill-humour, for she now maintained that
the instruction given to the prince was not worth a farthing; that it
was far too difficult and too learned for him.

She then turned to the king and queen: "Pray, what is the reason of
your never having asked me to do anything for him yet? It is just your
way. I have been worried into providing for all your other
simpletons - they are the most stupid kings reigning; but that one, of
whom something might perhaps be made, is to be spoilt by you, just
because he is your nest-quackel. But I will not allow it any longer.
He shall go out, and directly too. He is a fine youth, and it would be
a shame to leave him any longer with you. I will not have to reproach
myself with that; folks know that I am your friend, and they shall not
have to say that I encourage you in your follies. Now, let us have no
words about it; let us consider together what is best to be done, for
I am not at all obstinate; I am always willing to listen to good
advice."

The king and queen said very politely that she must decide on that,
for she knew very well that her will was theirs.

"Well then," replied Fairy Grumble-do, "he must travel; travelling
gives a young man a proper finish."

"Very true," said both king and queen with one voice. "But," continued
the queen, "consider that the outfit of the other princes very much
exhausted our coffers, and that just at present we have not the means
wherewith to send out Chaffinch in a style befitting his rank. It
would be very unpleasant for folks to say, 'That is the son of a king,
and he travels like a poor student.'"

"So, that's your vanity, is it?" growled the fairy; "truly vanity is
vastly becoming to people who have fourteen children. You say the
other youths have cost you so much; then, I did nothing for them, I


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Online LibraryAnthony R. (Anthony Reubens) MontalbaFairy tales from all nations → online text (page 4 of 19)