Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One morning, Little Red Riding Hood asked her mother if she could go to visit her grandmother as it had been awhile since they'd seen each other.
"That's a good idea," her mother said. So they packed a nice basket for Little Red Riding Hood to take to her grandmother.
When the basket was ready, the little girl put on her red cloak and kissed her mother goodbye.
"Remember, go straight to Grandma's house," her mother cautioned. "Don't dawdle along the way and please don't talk to strangers! The woods are dangerous."
"Don't worry, mommy," said Little Red Riding Hood, "I'll be careful."
But when Little Red Riding Hood noticed some lovely flowers in the woods, she forgot her promise to her mother. She picked a few, watched the butterflies flit about for awhile, listened to the frogs croaking and then picked a few more.
Little Red Riding Hood was enjoying the warm summer day so much, that she didn't notice a dark shadow approaching out of the forest behind her...
Suddenly, the wolf appeared beside her.
"What are you doing out here, little girl?" the wolf asked in a voice as friendly as he could muster.
"I'm on my way to see my Grandma who lives through the forest, near the brook," Little Red Riding Hood replied.
Then she realized how late she was and quickly excused herself, rushing down the path to her Grandma's house.
The wolf, in the meantime, took a shortcut...
The wolf, a little out of breath from running, arrived at Grandma's and knocked lightly at the door.
"Oh thank goodness dear! Come in, come in! I was worried sick that something had happened to you in the forest," said Grandma thinking that the knock was her granddaughter.
The wolf let himself in. Poor Granny did not have time to say another word, before the wolf gobbled her up!
The wolf let out a satisfied burp, and then poked through Granny's wardrobe to find a nightgown that he liked. He added a frilly sleeping cap, and for good measure, dabbed some of Granny's perfume behind his pointy ears.
A few minutes later, Red Riding Hood knocked on the door. The wolf jumped into bed and pulled the covers over his nose. "Who is it?" he called in a cackly voice.
"It's me, Little Red Riding Hood."
"Oh how lovely! Do come in, my dear," croaked the wolf.
When Little Red Riding Hood entered the little cottage, she could scarcely recognize her Grandmother.
"Grandmother! Your voice sounds so odd. Is something the matter?" she asked.
"Oh, I just have touch of a cold," squeaked the wolf adding a cough at the end to prove the point.
"But Grandmother! What big ears you have," said Little Red Riding Hood as she edged closer to the bed.
"The better to hear you with, my dear," replied the wolf.
"But Grandmother! What big eyes you have," said Little Red Riding Hood.
"The better to see you with, my dear," replied the wolf.
"But Grandmother! What big teeth you have," said Little Red Riding Hood her voice quivering slightly.
"The better to eat you with, my dear," roared the wolf and he leapt out of the bed and began to chase the little girl.
Almost too late, Little Red Riding Hood realized that the person in the bed was not her Grandmother, but a hungry wolf.
She ran across the room and through the door, shouting, "Help! Wolf!" as loudly as she could.
A woodsman who was chopping logs nearby heard her cry and ran towards the cottage as fast as he could.
He grabbed the wolf and made him spit out the poor Grandmother who was a bit frazzled by the whole experience, but still in one piece."Oh Grandma, I was so scared!" sobbed Little Red Riding Hood, "I'll never speak to strangers or dawdle in the forest again."
"There, there, child. You've learned an important lesson. Thank goodness you shouted loud enough for this kind woodsman to hear you!"
The woodsman knocked out the wolf and carried him deep into the forest where he wouldn't bother people any longer.
Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother had a nice lunch and a long chat.
Hans Christian Andersen
There is a legend that, once upon a time, a beautiful fairy, the Snow Queen, lived on the highest, most solitary peaks of the Alps. The mountain folk and shepherds climbed to the summits to admire her, and everyone fell head over heels in love with her.
Every man would have given anything, including his life, to marry her. Indeed, their lives are just what they did give, for Fate had decided that no mortal would every marry the Snow Queen. But in spite of that, many brave souls did their best to approach her, hoping always to persuade her.
Each suitor was allowed to enter the great ice palace with the crystal roof, where the Queen's throne stood. But the second he declared his love and asked for her hand, thousands of goblins appeared to grasp him and push him over the rocks, down into bottomless abysses.
Without the slightest emotion, the Queen would watch the scene, her heart of ice unable to feel anything at all. The legend of the crystal palace and the beautiful heartless Queen spread as far as the most distant alpine valley, the home of a fearless chamois hunter. Fascinated by the tale, he decided to set out and try his luck. Leaving his valley, he journeyed for days on end, climbing the snowclad mountain faces, scaling icebound peaks and defying the bitterly cold wind that swept through the alpine gullies.
More than once he felt all was lost, but the thought of the lovely Snow Queen gave him new strength and kept him moving onwards. At last, after many days climbing, he saw glinting in the sunshine before him, the tall transparent spires of the ice palace.
Summoning all his courage, the young man entered the Throne Room. But he was so struck by the Snow Queen's beauty that he could not utter a word. Shy and timid, he did not dare speak. So he knelt in admiration before the Queen for hours on end, without opening his mouth. The Queen looked at him silently, thinking all the while that, provided he did not ask her hand in marriage, there was no need to call the goblins.
Then, to her great surprise, she discovered that his behaviour touched her heart. She realised she was becoming quite fond of this hunter, much younger and more handsome than her other suitors. Time passed and the Snow Queen dared not admit, not even to herself, that she would actually like to marry the young man.
In the meantime, the goblins kept watch over their mistress; first they were astonished, then they became more and more upset. For they rightly feared that their Queen might be on the point of breaking the Law and bringing down on the heads of all the Mountain People the fury of Fate.
Seeing that the Queen was slow to give the order to get rid of her suitor, the goblins decided to take matters into their own hands. One night, as dusk fell, they slipped out of the cracks in the rock and clustered round the young chamois hunter. Then they hurled him into the abyss. The Snow Queen watched the whole scene from the window, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. However, her icy heart melted, and the beautiful cruel fairy suddenly became a woman.
A tear dropped from her eye, the first she had ever shed. And the Snow Queen's tear fell on to a stone where it turned into a little silvery star.
This was the first edelweiss ... the flower that grows only on the highest, most inaccessible peaks in the Alps, on the edge of the abyss and precipice . . .
The Sick King
One upon a time, there was a king who was sick. All the doctors in his kingdom and outside could not provide a remedy for his disease and he continued to suffer until he fell very ill. The best of the medicine men saw no hope for him and predicted that there was about a month or so for him to live.
The king did not want to die, for he was not very old. He called the royal astrologer who told him,
"I see you with an woman, not the queen, who will either save your life or bring you back from the dead."
The king saw a glimmer of hope and asked,
"But who is that woman?"
"I cannot say that. Her face is not very clear, but she is certainly not the queen. But I see you living with this woman in a healthy state."
Though he was already married to a beautiful and charming woman, the king proclaimed through his land that he was ready to marry any woman who could save his life or revive him after death.
But none could keep him alive. The king took her last breath one day and opened his eyes no more.
Shortly after his death, an woman came to the palace and told the king's mother that she could make him live again. She asked for permission to be admitted into the room where the king's corpse had been kept. This was readily granted and while Maria, the queen, was busy superintending the preparations for burial and getting ready the collation for the mourners, this woman put her hand on the king's head and uttered some magic words. Soon the king arose, but he had lost his memory. He embraced the woman tightly and spoke many sweet words to her.
News soon spread across the land that the king had fallen in love with a woman and could not recognize his own wife Maria. Meanwhile, the woman forced the queen to obey her and work as a slave in the kitchen, while she wore the queen's robes and lay on the queen's couch. Maria, being a gentle woman by nature and due to her gratitude to the woman for reviving her husband, obeyed her orders without any protest and suffered silently.
But the royal astrologer could not bear this. One day, as the woman forced the queen to mop the floors, he went to the king and told him about all that happened after his death. The king was at first disbelieving, but then he slowly began to remember it all. When Maria was brought to him, he could finally recognize her as the real queen. Infuriated beyond words, he called for the woman who was his life-giver and said to her,
"I thank you for the fact that you gave me a new life. But because you maltreated Maria, I will make you pay dearly."
He did not marry the woman but gave her a lot of gold and other valuables. Then he had her caned for a hundred times and banished from his kingdom.
Together, the King and the Queen lived happily for ever after.
A famous story cum ballad from Russia. The music for the ballad has been composed by Tchaikovsky,a world famous composer
It was Christmas eve. Marie and her brother Fritz peeked into the living room.
"Oh, I can't wait for the party to start!" said Marie.
At last the living room doors were opened, and the children rushed in.
The Christmas tree was dazzling! Sparkling decorations and candies hung from all the branches. Under the tree were so many presents!
Soon the guests arrived. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends came carrying even more presents. Marie ran to greet her godfather. He was an odd- looking man. He was tall and thin. He wore a black patch over one eye and a frizzy white wig on his head. He looked magical and spooky. But he was a wonderful godfather. He always came with amazing toys that he had invented himself.
This Christmas eve he came with a big red box and a bigger green box. He opened the red box and out stepped a very big toy soldier.
Godfather turned the key on his back- CRANK! CRANK! CRANK!
The soldier marched around the room! Left, right, left. right. As the key turned, he marched slower and slower. Then he jerked to a stop.
Next Godfather opened the green box and wound up two toy clowns. They danced together!
Everyone clapped in delight.
The Godfather looked under the tree. He picked up his present for Marie and gave it to her. It was a nutcracker shaped like a little man. Marie knew at once that the nutcracker was special. His legs were too short. His head was too big. He wore a fine purple suit with brass buttons. On his head was a funny little hat. His eyes were kind and gentle. He had a white beard and a wonderful smile.
Godfather watched Marie with a twinkle in his eye.
“It is a small gift,” he said to her. Marie hugged the nutcracker and said, “It is a present I love best of all”
Then Fritz grabbed the nutcracker from Marie. “What an ugly fellow!” he said. He ran across the room. Marie ran after him.
After the party was over and everybody was in bed, Marie could not sleep. She tiptoed downstairs into the dark living room. It was so, so quiet…… and then….
BONG! BONG! The grandfather clock began striking midnight.
Marie was surprised by the noise. She looked up at the tall clock, and suddenly she saw something strange at the top. Something was moving.
Godfather was sitting on top of the clock! He peered down at Marie like an owl.
“Godfather, you scared me!” cried Marie. But before she could say another word, the most amazing thing happened. The Christmas tree began to grow. It grew bigger and bigger- and bigger.
As the Christmas tree grew, the windows and toys and everything in the room grew with it. Soon the toys were the same size as Marie!
Marie watched in amazement. Suddenly she heard :”SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK!” Then she heard the pitter patter of many feet.
Dozens of tiny eyes glittered and darted all around her. Marie was surrounded by an army of huge mice!
Out jumped the King of Mice. He had seven horrible heads, each with a golden crown. He took out his sword and glared at Marie.
“Where is Nutcracker?” he hissed.
Marie would not tell him. The King of Mice squeaked his command to his army.
The door of the toy chest flew open. Out popped toy soldiers, puppets and dolls. They were led by Nutcracker. Now he was the same size as Marie.
Drums beat! Trumpets blared! The battle began.
He was leading the army of toys!
Swords clashed! Cannons boomed! Nutcrackers army chased the mice.
But more and more mice came. Nutcrackers army of toys was being beaten. Mice surrounded Nutcracker. The King of Mice grabbed Nutcracker’s sword.
“Now I have you!” he squeaked.
Marie watched in horror.
“Oh, my poor nutcracker!” she cried
What could she do?
She kicked her right shoe as hard as she could at the King of Mice.
POOF! Like magic, the mice were gone. Every single one.
Marie turned to look at the nutcracker she loved. And before her eyes the funny-looking wooden nutcracker became a handsome prince.
He looked at Marie with his kind eyes and his wonderful smile.
“You saved my life. Now let me take you to my kingdom-the Land of Sweets!”
The prince led Marie out the window and into the Christmas wood. The snowflakes tasted like sugar, and little snow fairies danced all around them.
Soon they came to the prince’s palace. A beautiful lady greeted them.
“She is the Sugar Plum Fairy,” the prince told Marie.
“‘And now-to the party!”
Marie and the prince went into the palace. They sat together on a golden throne in a crystal room. All the people in the land of sweets appeared. One by one they performed their special dances for the prince and Marie.
From Spain came the dance of hot chocolate. An Arabian lady did the dance of coffee.
Chinese dancers jumped out of a giant teapot and did a lively dance. From Russia came the dancing candy canes. From France came Mother Ginger and her little puppets. They ran out from under her skirt and did a playful dance.
Then the flowers of the kingdom danced the Waltz of the Flowers.
“I wish we could stay here forever!” Marie said.
“Yes,” said the prince. “But now it is time to go to other wonderful places!”
Marie and her nutcracker prince stepped into the royal sled and waved goodbye.
The sled rose slowly into the sky. Marie and the prince she had loved from the start vanished from sight.
Once upon a time, there lived a wood cutter and his wife who had three sons. The eldest two were strong and tall, and their mother and father were always telling them how handsome and clever they were. But the youngest son was just a bit simple in the head. He wasn’t very tall, and he wasn’t very strong, and his family thought he was good for nothing. They hardly ever called him by his real name, but instead they gave him a cruel nickname. They called him Dummy, because they said he was stupid.
One day the eldest son wanted to go to the forest to cut wood. The mother praised him for being such a useful boy and before he set out, she gave him some of her best fruit cake for his lunch, and a bottle lemonade to wash it down. While the boy was walking through the forest, he met a little grey old man who said to him:
“Do give me a little piece of your cake and a swig of yourlemonade. I’m so terribly hungry and thirsty.”
And the eldest son replied;
“Be off with you, you filthy old beggar. “
And the little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. He put a curse on the boy, so that when he started to cut a tree down, his axe slipped and went into his leg. The boy limped home to his mother who washed his wound and bandaged him.
The next day, the second eldest son went out to the forest to cut wood. Before he set out, his mother praised him for being such a useful boy, but especially asked him to be careful with the axe, so as not to have a nasty accident like his brother. The boy promised not to be careless, and his mother gave him some of her best sponge cake for his lunch, and a bottle of lemonade to wash it down.
It happened that as the boy was walking through the woods, he came across the same little gray old man. The man said to him, “Do please share your sponge cake and your lemonade with me, for I am so terribly weak with hunger and thirst.” And the boy said;
“Be off with you, you lazy old scoundrel. If you want to eat, you’d better work.”
And the little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. Not long after, when the boy was cutting down a tree, his axe flew out of his hand and hit him on the head. He crawled home to his mother who bandaged up his wound and asked him why he had not kept his promise to be more careful.
For the rest of the week, the two eldest sons were both lying in bed recovering from their wounds. The father said to the third and youngest son:
“Get on your feet, you lazy Dummy, why are you sitting around doing nothing, when both brothers are hurt and unable to work? Get out to the forest and cut some wood – if you’re not too stupid to do that.”
The mother laughed at him and said, “It’s more than likely that Dummy will cut his own head off – but it won’t be much of loss to anyone.” And before he left she gave him some cake that she had burnt almost to a crust in the oven, and a bottle of sour lemonade to wash it down.
As the youngest boy was going through the woods, he met the same little gray old man who had crossed the path of his brothers. The man said to him:
“Do please share some of your cake and lemonade with me. I am so terribly hungry and thirsty, and I fear that if I don’t have something to eat and drink soon, I will surely die”
The young boy replied:
“Old man, I will gladly share with you what I have. But the cake is burned and the lemonade is sour.”
“Never mind that,” said the man. “I am grateful for what you can give me.”
And the boy and the little gray old man sat down and shared the cake and the lemonade. After they had finished their lunch, the man said:
“Since you have a good heart, and have shared what you have with me, I will give you a reward. You see that old tree over there. Cut it down with your axe and you will find something of value inside its hollow trunk.”
And so when the little gray old man had left, the young boy took his axe and cut down the hollow tree just as he had been told. Inside he found a goose – but this was no ordinary bird – for its feathers were made of gold.
The boy realised that he was in luck, and thought to himself: “Why should I go home now and suffer the insults of my parents and brothers? They will take this valuable bird from me, and I shall have nothing.”
And so the boy decided to run away from home. He put the golden goose under his arm and set out for the town. Then he went to the inn, intending to stay there. He stood at the bar and asked the innkeeper if he would accept a golden feather as payment for his board and lodgings. When the innkeeper, saw the golden goose, he readily agreed. But after the boy had gone to bed he said to his three daughters:
“That young boy whose parents call him Dummy is staying up in our guest room. But he can’t be as simple in the head as they say – for he’s got a valuable bird with him – a goose with feathers made of gold.”
The eldest daughter thought to herself, “ Well fancy that. Feathers made of gold. I’ll pluck one or maybe more of those for myself.”
After the clock struck midnight, she sneaked into the boy’s room, and saw that he was asleep with his arm around the golden goose. She crept up and tried to pluck a feather. But the feather wouldn’t budge, and when she tried to take her hand away, she found that she was stuck to it. She couldn’t move, and she couldn’t cry out for fear of waking the boy. She had to stay where she was, on her knees by the bed, with her hand on the feather.
After the clock struck one in the morning, the second sister came in the room, planning to take one feather or more for herself. In the dark she didn’t see her sister, but as soon as she touched her back, she found that her hand was stuck fast to her, and she had to stay where she was, not moving and not making a sound.
After the clock struck two in the morning, the third sister came in. The other two shouted: “Stay back !” but it was too late, – she reached out hoping to steal a feather and found that her hand was stuck to the middle sister.
The boy and the goose slept soundly through all of this. In the morning the boy got up, paid his bill with a golden feather, and left with inn with the goose under his arm. The sisters had no choice but to follow on behind him. A pretty procession they made.
Along the way they met the Bishop:
“What a sight!” he exclaimed. “It’s hardly right for three young women to follow a boy around like that !”
And as the girls went past he tapped the youngest on the shoulder. In doing so he found that he was stuck to her and had to follow.
Further up the road they met a Police Sergeant. The Bishop called out to him “Sergeant: Help me get free from this young woman’s shoulder. I’m stuck to her and people are bound to start all kinds of gossip about it!”
The Police Sergeant tried to pull the Bishop free, but in doing so he found that both his hands stuck to his waist, and he had to follow along with the procession.
At the top of the road they met the Mayor.
‘What’s this town coming to?” cried the Mayor. “The Bishop and the police sergeant following three young girls who are following a young boy, all holding on to each other in a most unseemly fashion. Have they gone mad?”
And as he spoke, he tried to pull the Police Sergeant and the Bishop away – but in doing so he found that he was stuck to both of them, and had to follow on.
The boy led the little line of townspeople along up the road, and at the top of the hill they passed the King’s Palace. Now the King’s daughter was very beautiful, but she had the saddest face in the whole wide world. She had never laughed and not once even smiled. The king was so troubled by the young Princess’s unhappiness, that he had made a special law. Whosoever could make her laugh and smile would win her hand in marriage.
But the truth was that nothing very funny ever happened inside the Royal Palace. All the King’s servants and advisers were far too high and mighty to understand what would make a young girl laugh – or indeed to allow anything amusing to happen at all.
As the boy known as Dummy went past the palace, he still held the golden goose under his arm, and he was followed by the innkeeper’s three daughters, the Bishop, the Police Sergeant, and the Mayor. The Princess looked out at saw the important people in their uniforms being tugged along behind three girls and a boy with a goose, and she thought that it was the first thing she had seen in her life that was truly funny. She burst out laughing and ran, still giggling, to her father to tell him all about what she had seen. When the King looked out of his window and saw the procession, he couldn’t help laughing himself. He sent for his guards and told them to bring the boy and his followers directly to him. When the boy entered the King’s chamber, with the followers behind him, the Mayor, the Bishop and the Policeman all called out angrily that he should pay for his crime with his head. The King, still laughing, said that on the contrary – he would be rewarded with the hand in marriage of his daughter the Princess.
For an entire week after that , the innkeeper’s three daughters, the Bishop, the policeman, and the Mayor were all stuck to the gold goose and to one another. And while they were stuck , all the townspeople and the whole court laughed and laughed at them.
And the boy whose family called him Dummy married the Princess and inherited the kingdom. He lived with his beautiful wife and they had six happy smiling children, and the palace was often filled with laughter.
A great king of a land far away in the East had a daughter who was very beautiful, but so proud and haughty and conceited, that none of the princes who came to ask for her hand in marriage was good enough for her. All she ever did was make fun of them.
Once upon a time the king held a great feast and invited all her suitors. They all sat in a row, ranged according to their rank -- kings and princes and dukes and earls and counts and barons and knights. When the princess came in, as she passed by them, she had something spiteful to say to each one.
The first was too fat: 'He's as round as a tub,' she said.
The next was too tall: 'What a maypole!' she said.
The next was too short: 'What a dumpling!' she said.
The fourth was too pale, and she called him 'Wallface.'
The fifth was too red, so she called him 'Coxcomb.'
The sixth was not straight enough; so she said he was like a green stick that had been laid to dry over a baker's oven. She had some joke to crack about every one. But she laughed most of all at a good king who was there.
'Look at him,' she said; 'his beard is like an old mop; he shall be called Grisly-beard.' So the king got the nickname of Grisly-beard.
But the old king was very angry when he saw how his daughter behaved and how badly she treated all his guests. He vowed that, willing or unwilling, she would marry the first man that came to the door.
Two days later a travelling fiddler came by the castle. He began to play under the window and begged for money and when the king heard him, he said, 'Let him come in.'
So, they brought the dirty-looking fellow in and, when he had sung before the king and the princess, he begged for a gift.
There were once a man and a woman who had long, in vain, wished for a child. At length it appeared that God was about to grant their desire.
These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world.
One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion, and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it. She quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable.
Her husband was alarmed, and asked: 'What ails you, dear wife?'
'Ah,' she replied, 'if I can't eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.'
The man, who loved her, thought: 'Sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion yourself, let it cost what it will.'
At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her - so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before.
If he was to have any rest, her husband knew he must once more descend into the garden. Therefore, in the gloom of evening, he let himself down again; but when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him.
'How can you dare,' said she with angry look, 'descend into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for it!'
'Ah,' answered he, 'let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.'
The enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him: 'If the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world; it shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.'
The man in his terror consented to everything.
When the woman was brought to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel, and took it away with her.
Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower in the middle of a forest. The tower had neither stairs nor door, but near the top was a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath it and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the enchantress, she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it.
After a year or two, it came to pass that the king's son rode through the forest and passed by the tower. Then he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. It was Rapunzel, who in her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The king's son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it.
Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress climbed up to her.
'If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too will try my fortune,' said he, and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Immediately the hair fell down and the king's son climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her; but the king's son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought: 'He will love me more than old Dame Gothel does'; and she said yes, and laid her hand in his.
She said: 'I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring with you a skein of silk every time that you come, and I will weave a ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and you will take me on your horse.'
They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day. The enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said to her: 'Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king's son - he is with me in a moment.'
Ah! you wicked child,' cried the enchantress. 'What do I hear you say! I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you have deceived me!'
In her anger she clutched Rapunzel's beautiful tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.
On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, however, the enchantress fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the king's son came and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
she let the hair down. The king's son ascended, but instead of finding his dearest Rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with wicked and venomous looks.
'Aha!' she cried mockingly, 'you would fetch your dearest, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest; the cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is lost to you; you will never see her again.'
The king's son was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes.
He wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented
There was a king who had twelve beautiful daughters. They slept in twelve beds all in one room and when they went to bed, the doors were shut and locked up. However, every morning their shoes were found to be quite worn through as if they had been danced in all night. Nobody could find out how it happened, or where the princesses had been.
So the king made it known to all the land that if any person could discover the secret and find out where it was that the princesses danced in the night, he would have the one he liked best to take as his wife, and would be king after his death. But whoever tried and did not succeed, after three days and nights, they would be put to death.
A king's son soon came. He was well entertained, and in the evening was taken to the chamber next to the one where the princesses lay in their twelve beds. There he was to sit and watch where they went to dance; and, in order that nothing could happen without him hearing it, the door of his chamber was left open. But the king's son soon fell asleep; and when he awoke in the morning he found that the princesses had all been dancing, for the soles of their shoes were full of holes.
The same thing happened the second and third night and so the king ordered his head to be cut off.
After him came several others; but they all had the same luck, and all lost their lives in the same way.
Now it happened that an old soldier, who had been wounded in battle and could fight no longer, passed through the country where this king reigned, and as he was travelling through a wood, he met an old woman, who asked him where he was going.
'I hardly know where I am going, or what I had better do,' said the soldier; 'but I think I would like to find out where it is that the princesses dance, and then in time I might be a king.'
'Well,' said the old woman, 'that is not a very hard task: only take care not to drink any of the wine which one of the princesses will bring to you in the evening; and as soon as she leaves you pretend to be fast asleep.'
Then she gave him a cloak, and said, 'As soon as you put that on you will become invisible, and you will then be able to follow the princesses wherever they go.' When the soldier heard all this good advice, he was determined to try his luck, so he went to the king, and said he was willing to undertake the task.
He was as well received as the others had been, and the king ordered fine royal robes to be given him; and when the evening came he was led to the outer chamber.
Just as he was going to lie down, the eldest of the princesses brought him a cup of wine; but the soldier threw it all away secretly, taking care not to drink a drop. Then he laid himself down on his bed, and in a little while began to snore very loudly as if he was fast asleep.
When the twelve princesses heard this they laughed heartily; and the eldest said, 'This fellow too might have done a wiser thing than lose his life in this way!' Then they rose and opened their drawers and boxes, and took out all their fine clothes, and dressed themselves at the mirror, and skipped about as if they were eager to begin dancing.
But the youngest said, 'I don't know why it is, but while you are so happy I feel very uneasy; I am sure some mischance will befall us.'
'You simpleton,' said the eldest, 'you are always afraid; have you forgotten how many kings' sons have already watched in vain? And as for this soldier, even if I had not given him his sleeping draught, he would have slept soundly enough.'
When they were all ready, they went and looked at the soldier; but he snored on, and did not stir hand or foot: so they thought they were quite safe.
Then the eldest went up to her own bed and clapped her hands, and the bed sank into the floor and a trap-door flew open. The soldier saw them going down through the trap-door one after another, the eldest leading the way; and thinking he had no time to lose, he jumped up, put on the cloak which the old woman had given him, and followed them.
However, in the middle of the stairs he trod on the gown of the youngest princess, and she cried out to her sisters, 'All is not right; someone took hold of my gown.'
'You silly creature!' said the eldest, 'it is nothing but a nail in the wall.'
Down they all went, and at the bottom they found themselves in a most delightful grove of trees; and the leaves were all of silver, and glittered and sparkled beautifully. The soldier wished to take away some token of the place; so he broke off a little branch, and there came a loud noise from the tree. Then the youngest daughter said again, 'I am sure all is not right -- did not you hear that noise? That never happened before.'
But the eldest said, 'It is only our princes, who are shouting for joy at our approach.'
They came to another grove of trees, where all the leaves were of gold; and afterwards to a third, where the leaves were all glittering diamonds. And the soldier broke a branch from each; and every time there was a loud noise, which made the youngest sister tremble with fear. But the eldest still said it was only the princes, who were crying for joy.
They went on till they came to a great lake; and at the side of the lake there lay twelve little boats with twelve handsome princes in them, who seemed to be waiting there for the princesses.
The Story of the Phoenix
A Famous Story From China
Ta-Khai, Prince of Tartary, dreamed one night that he saw in a place where he had never been before an enchantingly beautiful young maiden who could only be a princess. He fell desperately in love with her, but before he could either move or speak, she had vanished. When he awoke he called for his ink and brushes, and drew her image on a piece of precious silk, and in one corner he wrote these lines:
The flowers of the pæony
Will they ever bloom?
A day without her
Is like a hundred years.
He then summoned his ministers, and, showing them the portrait, asked if any one could tell him the name of the beautiful maiden; but they all shook their heads and stroked their beards. They did not know who she was.
So displeased was the prince that he sent them away in disgrace to the most remote provinces of his kingdom. All the courtiers, the generals, the officers, and every man and woman, high and low, who lived in the palace came in turn to look at the picture. But they all had to confess their ignorance.
Ta-Khai then called upon the magicians of the kingdom to find out in magic ways the name of the princess of his dreams, but their answers were so widely different that the prince condemned them all to have their noses cut off. The portrait was shown in the outer court of the palace from sunrise till sunset, and travellers from all over the world came in every day, gazed upon the beautiful face, and came out again. No-one could tell who she was.
Meanwhile the days were weighing heavily upon the shoulders of Ta-Khai, and he became very unhappy; he forgot to eat, he forgot to drink, and he even forgot which was day and which was night, what was in and what was out, what was left and what was right. He spent his time roaming over the mountains and through the woods crying aloud to the gods to end his life and his sorrow.
It was in this way, one day, that he came to the edge of a cliff. The valley below was scattered with rocks, and the thought came to his mind that he had been led to this place to put and to his misery. He was about to throw himself into the depths below when suddenly a Phoenix flew across the valley and appeared before him, saying:
“Why are you, a mighty Prince, standing here, looking so sad?”
Ta-Khai replied: “Nothing matters to me now but finding the beautiful girl for whom my heart is thirsting, but how can I find her?”
And he told the bird his story.
The Phoenix replied:
“Without the help of Supreme Heaven it is not easy to acquire wisdom, but it is a sign that Heaven has sent me to help you. I can make myself large enough to carry the largest town upon my back, or small enough to pass through the smallest keyhole, and I know all the princesses in all the palaces of the earth. They all know my song, and I am their friend. Therefore show me the picture, Ta-Khai, and I will tell you the name of the princess you saw in your dream.”
They went to the palace, and, when the portrait was shown, the bird became as large as an elephant, and exclaimed, “Sit on my back, Ta-Khai, and I will carry you to the place of your dream. There you will find Sai-Jen, the daughter of the King of China, the princess of your dream.”
At nightfall they were flying over the palace of the king just above a magnificent garden. And in the garden sat Sai-Jen, singing and playing upon the lute. The Phoenix deposited the prince outside the wall near a place where bamboos were growing and showed him how to cut twelve bamboos between the knots to make a flute with a sound sweeter than the evening breeze on the forest stream.
And as he blew gently across the pipes, they echoed the sound of the princess's voice so harmoniously that she cried:
“I hear the distant notes of the song that I sing myself, although I can see nothing but the flowers and the trees. It is a beautiful song, and it sounds very sad, and full of longing.”
At that moment the wonderful bird, like a fire of many colours come down from heaven, landed in front of the princess, dropping at her feet the portrait. She opened her eyes in utter astonishment at the sight of her own image. And when she had read the lines inscribed in the corner, she asked, trembling:
“Tell me, Phoenix, who is he, so near, but whom I cannot see, that knows the sound of my voice and has never heard me, and can remember my face and has never seen me?”
Then the bird spoke and told her the story of Ta-Khai's dream, adding:
“I come from him with this message; I brought him here on my wings. For many days he has longed for this hour, let him now meet the princess of his dream and heal the wound in his heart.”
Sai-Jen fell silent when Ta-Khai stood before her, so great was her love for him. The Phoenix lit up the garden sumptuously, and a breath of love was stirring the flowers under the stars.
It was in the palace of the King of China that were celebrated in the most ancient and magnificent style the nuptials of Sai-Jen and Ta-Khai, Prince of Tartary
The moral of the story is you must love and care for your parents. This brings great joy and the blessings of God-- Anil Chandra
Once upon a time, there was a church in a distant land. The church had a priest who helped other prople carry out their religious duties and he lived alone, with only a little boy whom he had adopted as his son.
One day, the priest needed the boy to bring him something from the market. He looked everywhere but could not find him. At last, he peeped through one of the church windows to take a look inside and found the boy playing with someone.
He opened the door quietly to find that the boy's playmate was none other than the statue of the child Jesus. The white alabaster sculplture had somehow come alive. It had left its shrine and was down on the floor talking and playing with the boy.
The astonished padre remembered the saying that God appeared only before innocent people. Who was purer of mind than the little boy, still untouched by the filth of the world?
The priest softly slipped away and ordered a very fine dinner for his little boy. When the child returned to the convent, the padre asked him where he had been.
"In the church, sire. I was playing with a friend." smilingly replied the kid.
"Very well, there is your dinner. You may share it with your friend if you like" said the priest.
"That will be so nice, sire." said the boy. But as he was about to go away, the priest stopped him and said to the boy,
"My child, I want you to do something. When you meet your friend again, will you ask him if I shall go to glory in heaven when I am dead?"
"Sure father" replied the boy. He took his dinner to the church to share it with the child Jesus, leaving the padre waiting anxiously for him to return.
When the boy came back after some time, the priest eagerly asked him if he had met his friend again.
"Yes, I met him sire. I asked my friend if my master will go to glory in heaven? But he said that you will not, because you have neglected your father and mother."
The priest was very sad to hear this. He thought a little and told the boy again,
"If you ever meet your friend again, ask him if I will be forgiven for my wrongs to my parents if I did good to other old people.
The boy did as he was told to. When he met his heavenly companion again the next day, he asked him "Tell me, friend, will my master the priest, go to glory in heaven if he served other old people ?"
"No," said the child Jesus, "it must be his own father and mother who shall receive their dues. He shall be able to enter heaven alive only if he serves his own parents well."
When the padre heard this, he went back to his poor old father and mother whom he had neglected till then. He brought them to where he lived and treated them with utmost kindness, love and respect. He lavished on them every care and did not let anyone else do even the least bit for them.
When he saw the joy that his parents recieved because of his kindness towards them, his own happiness stopped having any meaning for him. Slowly, he began to have a change of heart and he stopped thinking about any heavenly reward. All day and night, he thought of ways to make his parents happier than they were. It was not the thought of heaven, but the thought of his parents' happiness that led him to do more and more for them.
Then one day, his old father and mother died. They were very happy with their son and they lived and died peacefully, content with the knowledge that their boy loved them so much.
The priest was very sad. He could not get over his grief at the loss of his parents for days. But one night, he was awakened from his sleep by his son, who had grown a little older by then. The boy told him to listen. There was a soft and lovely music that seemed to be playing all over the convent.
"Oh," said the padre with joy, "it is perhaps the angels who have come to carry us alive to heaven."
And he was right. The angels carried the boy and the priest, his master, to the glorious heaven.
This tale from China is very akin to our own fables of Akbar and Birbal. This just shows how similar are the thoughts of people in Asia
On one occasion, the Emperor of China presented the kings of Annam some uncommonly large peaches called longevity peaches.
The gift was brought in during a royal audience. The courtiers vied with each other in their admiration of the marvelous fruits. Trang Quynh was there, as he was an official too. He went up to the peaches, picked up one, carried it to his mouth and bit into it with relish.
“Arrest that wretch and cut off his head!” ordered the monarch, pale with anger.
The officers of the court seized Trang Quynh, who began to shed bucket of tears.
“You have had the audacity to taste these delicacies destined for your sovereign, a crime for which you must pay with your life. Are you afraid of dying, cowardly scoundrel?”
cried the king.
“No, sire” replied Trang Quynh, sobbing even more bitterly.’ If I am crying, it is because I fear for your august person, for you are going to die soon.”
“What nonsense you are talking, you mad fool? Who told you I’m soon to stop living?”
“Well, sire, seeing these peaches called longevity. I wanted to eat one, because I wanted to live as long as possible. But I hadn’t even eaten a quarter, when already death, without a word of warning, came and grasped me by the neck. This leads me to conclude that if Your Majesty commits the fatal mistake of eating all the remaining peaches, you can imagine what will happen.”
“Release that cheeky rascal!” ordered the king, amused by Trang Quynh’s wit.
The Butterfly Lovers
A Traditional Love Story From China.
Once upon a time in China, long ago, there lived a young girl who dreamed of learning. Unfortunately she lived at a time when girls were expected to stay at home, marry the man that their father chose for them, and be obedient and quiet.
This young girl was called Zhu Ying Tai, and she yearned to be different. She was so desperate to be educated that she dressed herself up as a young man, and travelled to the city of Hangzhou to go to school.
While she was there, she met a handsome young man named Liang Shan Bo. They became best friends and spent most of their time together, sharing a love of learning and enjoying each other's company. Liang never guessed that Zhu was actually a girl.
Time passed, and soon the young people had finished their studies and were ready to go home. Zhu realised that she had grown to love her best friend, but of course she could not tell him. Instead, she came up with a clever plan. She told Liang that she had a pretty younger sister of 16 years who was sure to please him and make him happy. She suggested that Liang visit the family to meet, and possibly marry, the younger sister. He agreed eagerly. Zhu travelled home, happy that soon she would be seeing her friend again.
A long year passed. Zhu almost gave up hope, but one happy day Liang arrived to meet the family. As soon as Liang saw Zhu he realised who she was, and he was overjoyed to find that she loved him. For a brief time, the couple were happy in each other's love and looked forward to a future together.
Their happiness was short-lived. Zhu's father announced that he had arranged for her to marry a rich man. Zhu pleaded with her father to change his mind, but he would not relent. Liang must leave immediately. Poor Liang left, heart-broken and alone. Soon, in his despair, he grew ill, and died.
Zhu heard of his death and she, too, was heart-broken. But she could do nothing to stop the arrangements for her marriage to the rich man. When the time for the wedding came, she travelled along the road on which Liang had died. Soon, her wedding procession came to Liang's grave.
The skies grew stormy and the winds howled around the wedding procession as Zhu sobbed, wishing that she could join her true love rather than marry the rich man. Suddenly, it seemed that her prayers had been answered. A huge bolt of lightning struck the grave and it split open. In a flash, Zhu threw herself into the grave, so that she could be with Liang forever.
As suddenly as the lightning had struck, the storm disappeared and the skies cleared. Two beautiful butterflies were seen rising out of the grave and dancing together in the sunshine. Liang and Zhu were together, and would never be separated again.
An Arabian Fairy Tale
The story takes place in Baghdad during the Abbasid era. Ali Baba and his elder brother Cassim are the sons of a merchant. After the death of their father, the greedy Cassim marries a wealthy woman and becomes well-to-do, building on their father's business - but Ali Baba marries a poor woman and settles into the trade of a woodcutter.
One day Ali Baba is at work collecting and cutting firewood in the forest, and he happens to overhear a group of forty thieves visiting their treasure store. The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "Open, Simsim", and seals itself on the words "Close, Simsim". When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself, and takes some of the treasure home.
Ali Baba borrows his sister-in-law's scales to weigh this new wealth of gold coins. Unbeknownst to Ali, she puts a blob of wax in the scales to find out what Ali is using them for, as she is curious to know what kind of grain her impoverished brother-in-law needs to measure. To her shock, she finds a gold coin sticking to the scales and tells her husband, Ali Baba's rich and greedy brother, Cassim. Under pressure from his brother, Ali Baba is forced to reveal the secret of the cave. Cassim goes to the cave and enters with the magic words, but in his greed and excitement over the treasures forgets the magic words to get back out again. The thieves find him there, and kill him. When his brother does not come back, Ali Baba goes to the cave to look for him, and finds the body, quartered and with each piece displayed just inside the entrance of the cave to discourage any similar attempts in the future.
Ali Baba brings the body home, where he entrusts Morgiana, a clever slave-girl in Cassim's household, with the task of making others believe that Cassim has died a natural death. First, Morgiana purchases medicines from an apothecary, telling him that Cassim is gravely ill. Then, she finds an old tailor known as Baba Mustafa whom she pays, blindfolds, and leads to Cassim's house. There, overnight, the tailor stitches the pieces of Cassims' body back together, so that no one will be suspicious. Ali and his family are able to give Cassim a proper burial without anyone asking awkward questions.
The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that yet another person must know their secret, and set out to track him down. One of the thieves goes down to the town and comes across Baba Mustafa, who mentions that he has just sewn a dead man's body back together. Realizing that the dead man must have been the thieves' victim, the thief asks Baba Mustafa to lead the way to the house where the deed was performed. The tailor is blindfolded again, and in this state he is able to retrace his steps and find the house. The thief marks the door with a symbol. The plan is for the other thieves to come back that night and kill everyone in the house. However, the thief has been seen by Morgiana and she, loyal to her master, foils his plan by marking all the houses in the neighborhood with a similar marking. When the 40 thieves return that night, they cannot identify the correct house and the head thief kills the lesser thief. The next day, another thief revisits Baba Mustafa and tries again, only this time, a chunk is chipped out of the stone step at Ali Baba's front door. Again Morgiana foils the plan by making similar chips in all the other doorsteps. The second thief is killed for his stupidity as well. At last, the head thief goes and looks for himself. This time, he memorizes every detail he can of the exterior of Ali Baba's house.
The chief of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba's hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with thirty-eight oil jars, one filled with oil, the other thirty-seven hiding the other remaining thieves. Once Ali Baba is asleep, the thieves plan to kill him. Again, Morgiana discovers and foils the plan, killing the thirty-seven thieves in their oil jars by pouring boiling oil on them. When their leader comes to rouse his men, he discovers that they are dead, and escapes.
To exact revenge, after some time the thief establishes himself as a merchant, befriends Ali Baba's son (who is now in charge of the late Cassim's business), and is invited to dinner at Ali Baba's house. The thief is recognized by Morgiana, who performs a dance with a dagger for the diners and plunges it into the heart of the thief when he is off his guard. Ali Baba is at first angry with Morgiana, but when he finds out the thief tried to kill him, he gives Morgiana her freedom and marries her to his son. Ali Baba is then left as the only one knowing the secret of the treasure in the cave and how to access it. Thus, the story ends happily for everyone except the forty thieves and Cassim.
One of the most popular stories of Hans Christian Anderson
Hans Christian Anderson
Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, "he is sitting in council," it was always said of him, "The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe."
Time passed merrily in the large town which was his capital; strangers arrived every day at the court. One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.
"These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!" thought the Emperor. "Had I such a suit, I might at once find out what men in my realms are unfit for their office, and also be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately." And he caused large sums of money to be given to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work directly.
So the two pretended weavers set up two looms, and affected to work very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread; put both into their own knapsacks; and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night.
"I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth," said the Emperor to himself, after some little time had elapsed; he was, however, rather embarrassed, when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for his office, would be unable to see the manufacture. To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person; but yet, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers, and their work, before he troubled himself in the affair. All the people throughout the city had heard of the wonderful property the cloth was to possess; and all were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be.
"I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers," said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, "he will be best able to see how the cloth looks; for he is a man of sense, and no one can be more suitable for his office than be is."
So the faithful old minister went into the hall, where the knaves were working with all their might, at their empty looms. "What can be the meaning of this?" thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. "I cannot discover the least bit of thread on the looms." However, he did not express his thoughts aloud.
The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms; and then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colors were not very beautiful; at the same time pointing to the empty frames. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason, viz: there was nothing there. "What!" thought he again. "Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff."
"Well, Sir Minister!" said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. "You do not say whether the stuff pleases you."
"Oh, it is excellent!" replied the old minister, looking at the loom through his spectacles. "This pattern, and the colors, yes, I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful I think them."
"We shall be much obliged to you," said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words, in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor; and then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun. However, they put all that was given them into their knapsacks; and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms.
The Emperor now sent another officer of his court to see how the men were getting on, and to ascertain whether the cloth would soon be ready. It was just the same with this gentleman as with the minister; he surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.
"Does not the stuff appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?" asked the impostors of the Emperor's second ambassador; at the same time making the same gestures as before, and talking of the design and colors which were not there.
"I certainly am not stupid!" thought the messenger. "It must be, that I am not fit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd; however, no one shall know anything about it." And accordingly he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. "Indeed, please your Imperial Majesty," said he to his sovereign when he returned, "the cloth which the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent."
The whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own expense.
And now the Emperor himself wished to see the costly manufacture, while it was still in the loom. Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two honest men who had already admired the cloth, he went to the crafty impostors, who, as soon as they were aware of the Emperor's approach, went on working more diligently than ever; although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms.
"Is not the work absolutely magnificent?" said the two officers of the crown, already mentioned. "If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!" and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames; for they imagined that everyone else could see this exquisite piece of workmanship.
"How is this?" said the Emperor to himself. "I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen--Oh! the cloth is charming," said he, aloud. "It has my complete approbation." And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the others; nevertheless, they all exclaimed, "Oh, how beautiful!" and advised his majesty to have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching procession. "Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!" resounded on all sides; and everyone was uncommonly gay. The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction; and presented the impostors with the riband of an order of knighthood, to be worn in their button-holes, and the title of "Gentlemen Weavers."
The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the day on which the procession was to take place, and had sixteen lights burning, so that everyone might see how anxious they were to finish the Emperor's new suit. They pretended to roll the cloth off the looms; cut the air with their scissors; and sewed with needles without any thread in them. "See!" cried they, at last. "The Emperor's new clothes are ready!"
And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers; and the rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, "Here are your Majesty's trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb; one might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it; that, however, is the great virtue of this delicate cloth."
"Yes indeed!" said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture.
"If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes, we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass."
The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit; the Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass.
"How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!" everyone cried out. "What a design! What colors! These are indeed royal robes!"
"The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty, in the procession, is waiting," announced the chief master of the ceremonies.
"I am quite ready," answered the Emperor. "Do my new clothes fit well?" asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit.
The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty's train felt about on the ground, as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle; and pretended to be carrying something; for they would by no means betray anything like simplicity, or unfitness for their office.
So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, "Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!" in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor's various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.
"But the Emperor has nothing at all on!" said a little child.
"Listen to the voice of innocence!" exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.
"But he has nothing at all on!" at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.
When I was quite young and living in Jhansi, it must have been 1944 or 1945, we had one of the few telephones in the town. I remember well the polished wooden case, made of teak, fastened on the wall in our living room. The black receiver hung on the side of the box. I even remember the number-26. I was too little, but used to listen with fascination when my father talked in it. He just lifted the receive and after a wait began talking in it. Once he lifted me up to speak to his fellow officer. Magic!
Then I discovered that somewhere inside that wonderful device lived an amazing person-her name was ‘ Number Please’ and there was nothing she did not know. If my father had to catch a train and wanted to know ‘is it coming at right time ?’ Number Please supplied the correct information.
My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-receiver came one day while my mother was out shopping. While playing, a table toppled and it’s leg fell with a loud thump on my finger.. The pain was terrible but crying was not helping as there was no one in the house. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger when a thought struck me. The telephone! Quickly I pulled a footstool and unhooked the receiver.
“ Number Please,”said the female voice
“ I hurt my fingerrr,” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough, now that I had an audience.
“ Where is your mother?” came the question.
“ Nobody’s home except me,” I blubbered.
“ Are you bleeding?”
“ No,” I replied. “ The leg of a table has crushed my finger and it is hurting.”
“ Do you have cold water in your ghara ?” she asked. ( Those days there were no refrigerators and the ghara - an earthen vessel- kept the water cool))
“ Yes”, I said.
“ Then take a towel. Wet it with the ghara’s cold water and hold it tight on your finger. That will stop the pain. And stop crying,” she admonished. “ It will be all right soon.”
After that I used Number Please many times. She helped me with my geography and my arithmetic.
And there was the time when Gana, our pet Blackbird, died. I called Number Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown up say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled:. ‘ Why did a bird who sang so beautifully and bring joy to our lives, have to die?’
She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Remember beta (son), there are other worlds to sing in.”
Once my baby younger sister was unconsolable in her crying., I lifted her to the receiver. I do not what Number Please said, but she stopped crying.
Number Please even knew my name. Whenever I called the Number Please for something, pat would come the answer,“ Anil…..”
Then, when I was a few years older, we moved out of Jhansi to Lucknow and I missed my mentor acutely. Number Please belonged to an era that was no more.
In 1967, I was posted to Datia, a town 20 kms from Jhansi, as Collector. On a weekend, I visited Jhansi to relive my childhood. On a impulse I dialed the telephone exchange. Miraculously, I again heard the soft ,clear voice I knew so well.
“ Number Please?”
I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself say, “ What do I do if I hurt my finger?
There was a long pause. Then came the softly spoken answer. “ I guess,” said Number Please, “ that your finger must have healed by now.”
I laughed. “ So it is still you. I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during all that time.”
“ I wonder,” she replied “ if you know how much you meant to me? You were the same age as my son and your voice sounded similar. Whenever you called, I felt I was speaking to my son. I used to look forward to your calls. Silly, wasn’t it?”
It didn’t seem silly but I didn’t say so. Instead I told her I was now Collector, Datia, and living close to Jhansi. Could I call her when I next came to Jhansi?
“ Of course” she replied. “ I am so proud that you are now Collector, Datia.” Then in a slow, sad voice she said, “ Whenever you come next, just ask for Uma. And if they can’t find me just tell them your name. Then they will do something to locate me.” She wanted to say something more but there was a long silence.
“Good bye, Uma.” It sounded strange for Number Please to have a name. “ If ever I hurt my finger again, I will know what to do,” I said.
“ Yes, of course, “ she laughed
A few weeks later, I again went to Jhansi. A different voice answered Number Please, and I asked for Uma.
“ Are you a friend?”
“Yes”, I said. “ An old friend.”
“ Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Uma was working part time in the last few years because she was ill. She died last week. But before I could hang up she said, “ Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Anil?”
“ Are you the Collector of Datia?”
“ Yes,” I said.
“ Well, Uma left a message for you. She wrote it down.”
“ What was it? I asked
“ Here it is, I’ll read it-‘ Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.’ ”
I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Uma meant
Hans Christian Andersen
HERE were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and blue. The first thing in the world they ever heard were the words, “Tin soldiers!” uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands with delight when the lid of the box, in which they lay, was taken off. They were given him for a birthday present, and he stood at the table to set them up. The soldiers were all exactly alike, excepting one, who had only one leg; he had been left to the last, and then there was not enough of the melted tin to finish him, so they made him to stand firmly on one leg, and this caused him to be very remarkable.
The table on which the tin soldiers stood, was covered with other playthings, but the most attractive to the eye was a pretty little paper castle. Through the small windows the rooms could be seen. In front of the castle a number of little trees surrounded a piece of looking-glass, which was intended to represent a transparent lake. Swans, made of wax, swam on the lake, and were reflected in it. All this was very pretty, but the prettiest of all was a tiny little lady, who stood at the open door of the castle; she, also, was made of paper, and she wore a dress of clear muslin, with a narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders just like a scarf. In front of these was fixed a glittering tinsel rose, as large as her whole face. The little lady was a dancer, and she stretched out both her arms, and raised one of her legs so high, that the tin soldier could not see it at all, and he thought that she, like himself, had only one leg. “That is the wife for me,” he thought; “but she is too grand, and lives in a castle, while I have only a box to live in, five-and-twenty of us altogether, that is no place for her. Still I must try and make her acquaintance.” Then he laid himself at full length on the table behind a snuff-box that stood upon it, so that he could peep at the little delicate lady, who continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance. When evening came, the other tin soldiers were all placed in the box, and the people of the house went to bed. Then the playthings began to have their own games together, to pay visits, to have sham fights, and to give balls. The tin soldiers rattled in their box; they wanted to get out and join the amusements, but they could not open the lid. The nut-crackers played at leap-frog, and the pencil jumped about the table. There was such a noise that the canary woke up and began to talk, and in poetry too. Only the tin soldier and the dancer remained in their places. She stood on tiptoe, with her legs stretched out, as firmly as he did on his one leg. He never took his eyes from her for even a moment. The clock struck twelve, and, with a bounce, up sprang the lid of the snuff-box; but, instead of snuff, there jumped up a little black goblin; for the snuff-box was a toy puzzle.
“Tin soldier,” said the goblin, “don’t wish for what does not belong to you.”
But the tin soldier pretended not to hear.
“Very well; wait till to-morrow, then,” said the goblin.
When the children came in the next morning, they placed the tin soldier in the window. Now, whether it was the goblin who did it, or the draught, is not known, but the window flew open, and out fell the tin soldier, heels over head, from the third story, into the street beneath. It was a terrible fall; for he came head downwards, his helmet and his bayonet stuck in between the flagstones, and his one leg up in the air. The servant maid and the little boy went down stairs directly to look for him; but he was nowhere to be seen, although once they nearly trod upon him. If he had called out, “Here I am,” it would have been all right, but he was too proud to cry out for help while he wore a uniform.
Presently it began to rain, and the drops fell faster and faster, till there was a heavy shower. When it was over, two boys happened to pass by, and one of them said, “Look, there is a tin soldier. He ought to have a boat to sail in.”
So they made a boat out of a newspaper, and placed the tin soldier in it, and sent him sailing down the gutter, while the two boys ran by the side of it, and clapped their hands. Good gracious, what large waves arose in that gutter! and how fast the stream rolled on! for the rain had been very heavy. The paper boat rocked up and down, and turned itself round sometimes so quickly that the tin soldier trembled; yet he remained firm; his countenance did not change; he looked straight before him, and shouldered his musket. Suddenly the boat shot under a bridge which formed a part of a drain, and then it was as dark as the tin soldier’s box.
“Where am I going now?” thought he. “This is the black goblin’s fault, I am sure. Ah, well, if the little lady were only here with me in the boat, I should not care for any darkness.”
Suddenly there appeared a great water-rat, who lived in the drain.
“Have you a passport?“ asked the rat, “give it to me at once.” But the tin soldier remained silent and held his musket tighter than ever. The boat sailed on and the rat followed it. How he did gnash his teeth and cry out to the bits of wood and straw, “Stop him, stop him; he has not paid toll, and has not shown his pass.“ But the stream rushed on stronger and stronger. The tin soldier could already see daylight shining where the arch ended. Then he heard a roaring sound quite terrible enough to frighten the bravest man. At the end of the tunnel the drain fell into a large canal over a steep place, which made it as dangerous for him as a waterfall would be to us. He was too close to it to stop, so the boat rushed on, and the poor tin soldier could only hold himself as stiffly as possible, without moving an eyelid, to show that he was not afraid. The boat whirled round three or four times, and then filled with water to the very edge; nothing could save it from sinking. He now stood up to his neck in water, while deeper and deeper sank the boat, and the paper became soft and loose with the wet, till at last the water closed over the soldier’s head. He thought of the elegant little dancer whom he should never see again, and the words of the song sounded in his ears—
“Farewell, warrior! ever brave,
Drifting onward to thy grave.”
Then the paper boat fell to pieces, and the soldier sank into the water and immediately afterwards was swallowed up by a great fish. Oh how dark it was inside the fish! A great deal darker than in the tunnel, and narrower too, but the tin soldier continued firm, and lay at full length shouldering his musket. The fish swam to and fro, making the most wonderful movements, but at last he became quite still. After a while, a flash of lightning seemed to pass through him, and then the daylight approached, and a voice cried out, “I declare here is the tin soldier.” The fish had been caught, taken to the market and sold to the cook, who took him into the kitchen and cut him open with a large knife. She picked up the soldier and held him by the waist between her finger and thumb, and carried him into the room. They were all anxious to see this wonderful soldier who had travelled about inside a fish; but he was not at all proud. They placed him on the table, and—how many curious things do happen in the world!—there he was in the very same room from the window of which he had fallen, there were the same children, the same playthings, standing on the table, and the pretty castle with the elegant little dancer at the door; she still balanced herself on one leg, and held up the other, so she was as firm as himself. It touched the tin soldier so much to see her that he almost wept tin tears, but he kept them back. He only looked at her and they both remained silent. Presently one of the little boys took up the tin soldier, and threw him into the stove. He had no reason for doing so, therefore it must have been the fault of the black goblin who lived in the snuff-box. The flames lighted up the tin soldier, as he stood, the heat was very terrible, but whether it proceeded from the real fire or from the fire of love he could not tell. Then he could see that the bright colors were faded from his uniform, but whether they had been washed off during his journey or from the effects of his sorrow, no one could say. He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him. He felt himself melting away, but he still remained firm with his gun on his shoulder. Suddenly the door of the room flew open and the draught of air caught up the little dancer, she fluttered like a sylph right into the stove by the side of the tin soldier, and was instantly in flames and was gone. The tin soldier melted down into a lump, and the next morning, when the maid servant took the ashes out of the stove, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the little dancer nothing remained but the tinsel rose, which was burnt black as a cinder.
Hans Christian Andersen
HERE was once a woman who wished very much to have a little child, but she could not obtain her wish. At last she went to a fairy, and said, “I should so very much like to have a little child; can you tell me where I can find one?”
“Oh, that can be easily managed,” said the fairy. “Here is a barleycorn of a different kind to those which grow in the farmer’s fields, and which the chickens eat; put it into a flower-pot, and see what will happen.”
“Thank you,” said the woman, and she gave the fairy twelve shillings, which was the price of the barleycorn. Then she went home and planted it, and immediately there grew up a large handsome flower, something like a tulip in appearance, but with its leaves tightly closed as if it were still a bud. “It is a beautiful flower,” said the woman, and she kissed the red and golden-colored leaves, and while she did so the flower opened, and she could see that it was a real tulip. Within the flower, upon the green velvet stamens, sat a very delicate and graceful little maiden. She was scarcely half as long as a thumb, and they gave her the name of “Thumbelina,” or Tiny, because she was so small. A walnut-shell, elegantly polished, served her for a cradle; her bed was formed of blue violet-leaves, with a rose-leaf for a counterpane. Here she slept at night, but during the day she amused herself on a table, where the woman had placed a plateful of water. Round this plate were wreaths of flowers with their stems in the water, and upon it floated a large tulip-leaf, which served Tiny for a boat. Here the little maiden sat and rowed herself from side to side, with two oars made of white horse-hair. It really was a very pretty sight. Tiny could, also, sing so softly and sweetly that nothing like her singing had ever before been heard. One night, while she lay in her pretty bed, a large, ugly, wet toad crept through a broken pane of glass in the window, and leaped right upon the table where Tiny lay sleeping under her rose-leaf quilt. “What a pretty little wife this would make for my son,” said the toad, and she took up the walnut-shell in which little Tiny lay asleep, and jumped through the window with it into the garden.
In the swampy margin of a broad stream in the garden lived the toad, with her son. He was uglier even than his mother, and when he saw the pretty little maiden in her elegant bed, he could only cry, “Croak, croak, croak.”
“Don’t speak so loud, or she will wake,” said the toad, “and then she might run away, for she is as light as swan’s down. We will place her on one of the water-lily leaves out in the stream; it will be like an island to her, she is so light and small, and then she cannot escape; and, while she is away, we will make haste and prepare the state-room under the marsh, in which you are to live when you are married.”
Far out in the stream grew a number of water-lilies, with broad green leaves, which seemed to float on the top of the water. The largest of these leaves appeared farther off than the rest, and the old toad swam out to it with the walnut-shell, in which little Tiny lay still asleep. The tiny little creature woke very early in the morning, and began to cry bitterly when she found where she was, for she could see nothing but water on every side of the large green leaf, and no way of reaching the land. Meanwhile the old toad was very busy under the marsh, decking her room with rushes and wild yellow flowers, to make it look pretty for her new daughter-in-law. Then she swam out with her ugly son to the leaf on which she had placed poor little Tiny. She wanted to fetch the pretty bed, that she might put it in the bridal chamber to be ready for her. The old toad bowed low to her in the water, and said, “Here is my son, he will be your husband, and you will live happily in the marsh by the stream.”
“Croak, croak, croak,” was all her son could say for himself; so the toad took up the elegant little bed, and swam away with it, leaving Tiny all alone on the green leaf, where she sat and wept. She could not bear to think of living with the old toad, and having her ugly son for a husband. The little fishes, who swam about in the water beneath, had seen the toad, and heard what she said, so they lifted their heads above the water to look at the little maiden. As soon as they caught sight of her, they saw she was very pretty, and it made them very sorry to think that she must go and live with the ugly toads. “No, it must never be!” so they assembled together in the water, round the green stalk which held the leaf on which the little maiden stood, and gnawed it away at the root with their teeth. Then the leaf floated down the stream, carrying Tiny far away out of reach of land.
Tiny sailed past many towns, and the little birds in the bushes saw her, and sang, “What a lovely little creature;” so the leaf swam away with her farther and farther, till it brought her to other lands. A graceful little white butterfly constantly fluttered round her, and at last alighted on the leaf. Tiny pleased him, and she was glad of it, for now the toad could not possibly reach her, and the country through which she sailed was beautiful, and the sun shone upon the water, till it glittered like liquid gold. She took off her girdle and tied one end of it round the butterfly, and the other end of the ribbon she fastened to the leaf, which now glided on much faster than ever, taking little Tiny with it as she stood. Presently a large cockchafer flew by; the moment he caught sight of her, he seized her round her delicate waist with his claws, and flew with her into a tree. The green leaf floated away on the brook, and the butterfly flew with it, for he was fastened to it, and could not get away.
Oh, how frightened little Tiny felt when the cockchafer flew with her to the tree! But especially was she sorry for the beautiful white butterfly which she had fastened to the leaf, for if he could not free himself he would die of hunger. But the cockchafer did not trouble himself at all about the matter. He seated himself by her side on a large green leaf, gave her some honey from the flowers to eat, and told her she was very pretty, though not in the least like a cockchafer. After a time, all the cockchafers turned up their feelers, and said, “She has only two legs! how ugly that looks.” “She has no feelers,” said another. “Her waist is quite slim. Pooh! she is like a human being.”
“Oh! she is ugly,” said all the lady cockchafers, although Tiny was very pretty. Then the cockchafer who had run away with her, believed all the others when they said she was ugly, and would have nothing more to say to her, and told her she might go where she liked. Then he flew down with her from the tree, and placed her on a daisy, and she wept at the thought that she was so ugly that even the cockchafers would have nothing to say to her. And all the while she was really the loveliest creature that one could imagine, and as tender and delicate as a beautiful rose-leaf. During the whole summer poor little Tiny lived quite alone in the wide forest. She wove herself a bed with blades of grass, and hung it up under a broad leaf, to protect herself from the rain. She sucked the honey from the flowers for food, and drank the dew from their leaves every morning. So passed away the summer and the autumn, and then came the winter,— the long, cold winter. All the birds who had sung to her so sweetly were flown away, and the trees and the flowers had withered. The large clover leaf under the shelter of which she had lived, was now rolled together and shrivelled up, nothing remained but a yellow withered stalk. She felt dreadfully cold, for her clothes were torn, and she was herself so frail and delicate, that poor little Tiny was nearly frozen to death. It began to snow too; and the snow-flakes, as they fell upon her, were like a whole shovelful falling upon one of us, for we are tall, but she was only an inch high. Then she wrapped herself up in a dry leaf, but it cracked in the middle and could not keep her warm, and she shivered with cold. Near the wood in which she had been living lay a corn-field, but the corn had been cut a long time; nothing remained but the bare dry stubble standing up out of the frozen ground. It was to her like struggling through a large wood. Oh! how she shivered with the cold. She came at last to the door of a field-mouse, who had a little den under the corn-stubble. There dwelt the field-mouse in warmth and comfort, with a whole roomful of corn, a kitchen, and a beautiful dining room. Poor little Tiny stood before the door just like a little beggar-girl, and begged for a small piece of barley-corn, for she had been without a morsel to eat for two days.
“You poor little creature,” said the field-mouse, who was really a good old field-mouse, “come into my warm room and dine with me.” She was very pleased with Tiny, so she said, “You are quite welcome to stay with me all the winter, if you like; but you must keep my rooms clean and neat, and tell me stories, for I shall like to hear them very much.” And Tiny did all the field-mouse asked her, and found herself very comfortable.
“We shall have a visitor soon,” said the field-mouse one day; “my neighbor pays me a visit once a week. He is better off than I am; he has large rooms, and wears a beautiful black velvet coat. If you could only have him for a husband, you would be well provided for indeed. But he is blind, so you must tell him some of your prettiest stories.”
But Tiny did not feel at all interested about this neighbor, for he was a mole. However, he came and paid his visit dressed in his black velvet coat.
“He is very rich and learned, and his house is twenty times larger than mine,” said the field-mouse.
He was rich and learned, no doubt, but he always spoke slightingly of the sun and the pretty flowers, because he had never seen them. Tiny was obliged to sing to him, “Lady-bird, lady-bird, fly away home,” and many other pretty songs. And the mole fell in love with her because she had such a sweet voice; but he said nothing yet, for he was very cautious. A short time before, the mole had dug a long passage under the earth, which led from the dwelling of the field-mouse to his own, and here she had permission to walk with Tiny whenever she liked. But he warned them not to be alarmed at the sight of a dead bird which lay in the passage. It was a perfect bird, with a beak and feathers, and could not have been dead long, and was lying just where the mole had made his passage. The mole took a piece of phosphorescent wood in his mouth, and it glittered like fire in the dark; then he went before them to light them through the long, dark passage. When they came to the spot where lay the dead bird, the mole pushed his broad nose through the ceiling, the earth gave way, so that there was a large hole, and the daylight shone into the passage. In the middle of the floor lay a dead swallow, his beautiful wings pulled close to his sides, his feet and his head drawn up under his feathers; the poor bird had evidently died of the cold. It made little Tiny very sad to see it, she did so love the little birds; all the summer they had sung and twittered for her so beautifully. But the mole pushed it aside with his crooked legs, and said, “He will sing no more now. How miserable it must be to be born a little bird! I am thankful that none of my children will ever be birds, for they can do nothing but cry, ‘Tweet, tweet,’ and always die of hunger in the winter.”
“Yes, you may well say that, as a clever man!” exclaimed the field-mouse, “What is the use of his twittering, for when winter comes he must either starve or be frozen to death. Still birds are very high bred.”
Tiny said nothing; but when the two others had turned their backs on the bird, she stooped down and stroked aside the soft feathers which covered the head, and kissed the closed eyelids. “Perhaps this was the one who sang to me so sweetly in the summer,” she said; “and how much pleasure it gave me, you dear, pretty bird.”
The mole now stopped up the hole through which the daylight shone, and then accompanied the lady home. But during the night Tiny could not sleep; so she got out of bed and wove a large, beautiful carpet of hay; then she carried it to the dead bird, and spread it over him; with some down from the flowers which she had found in the field-mouse’s room. It was as soft as wool, and she spread some of it on each side of the bird, so that he might lie warmly in the cold earth. “Farewell, you pretty little bird,” said she, “farewell; thank you for your delightful singing during the summer, when all the trees were green, and the warm sun shone upon us.” Then she laid her head on the bird’s breast, but she was alarmed immediately, for it seemed as if something inside the bird went “thump, thump.” It was the bird’s heart; he was not really dead, only benumbed with the cold, and the warmth had restored him to life. In autumn, all the swallows fly away into warm countries, but if one happens to linger, the cold seizes it, it becomes frozen, and falls down as if dead; it remains where it fell, and the cold snow covers it. Tiny trembled very much; she was quite frightened, for the bird was large, a great deal larger than herself,—she was only an inch high. But she took courage, laid the wool more thickly over the poor swallow, and then took a leaf which she had used for her own counterpane, and laid it over the head of the poor bird. The next morning she again stole out to see him. He was alive but very weak; he could only open his eyes for a moment to look at Tiny, who stood by holding a piece of decayed wood in her hand, for she had no other lantern. “Thank you, pretty little maiden,” said the sick swallow; “I have been so nicely warmed, that I shall soon regain my strength, and be able to fly about again in the warm sunshine.”
“Oh,” said she, “it is cold out of doors now; it snows and freezes. Stay in your warm bed; I will take care of you.”
Then she brought the swallow some water in a flower-leaf, and after he had drank, he told her that he had wounded one of his wings in a thorn-bush, and could not fly as fast as the others, who were soon far away on their journey to warm countries. Then at last he had fallen to the earth, and could remember no more, nor how he came to be where she had found him. The whole winter the swallow remained underground, and Tiny nursed him with care and love. Neither the mole nor the field-mouse knew anything about it, for they did not like swallows. Very soon the spring time came, and the sun warmed the earth. Then the swallow bade farewell to Tiny, and she opened the hole in the ceiling which the mole had made. The sun shone in upon them so beautifully, that the swallow asked her if she would go with him; she could sit on his back, he said, and he would fly away with her into the green woods. But Tiny knew it would make the field-mouse very grieved if she left her in that manner, so she said, “No, I cannot.”
“Farewell, then, farewell, you good, pretty little maiden,” said the swallow; and he flew out into the sunshine.
Tiny looked after him, and the tears rose in her eyes. She was very fond of the poor swallow.
“Tweet, tweet,” sang the bird, as he flew out into the green woods, and Tiny felt very sad. She was not allowed to go out into the warm sunshine. The corn which had been sown in the field over the house of the field-mouse had grown up high into the air, and formed a thick wood to Tiny, who was only an inch in height.
“You are going to be married, Tiny,” said the field-mouse. “My neighbor has asked for you. What good fortune for a poor child like you. Now we will prepare your wedding clothes. They must be both woollen and linen. Nothing must be wanting when you are the mole’s wife.”
Tiny had to turn the spindle, and the field-mouse hired four spiders, who were to weave day and night. Every evening the mole visited her, and was continually speaking of the time when the summer would be over. Then he would keep his wedding-day with Tiny; but now the heat of the sun was so great that it burned the earth, and made it quite hard, like a stone. As soon, as the summer was over, the wedding should take place. But Tiny was not at all pleased; for she did not like the tiresome mole. Every morning when the sun rose, and every evening when it went down, she would creep out at the door, and as the wind blew aside the ears of corn, so that she could see the blue sky, she thought how beautiful and bright it seemed out there, and wished so much to see her dear swallow again. But he never returned; for by this time he had flown far away into the lovely green forest.
When autumn arrived, Tiny had her outfit quite ready; and the field-mouse said to her, “In four weeks the wedding must take place.”
Then Tiny wept, and said she would not marry the disagreeable mole.
“Nonsense,” replied the field-mouse. “Now don’t be obstinate, or I shall bite you with my white teeth. He is a very handsome mole; the queen herself does not wear more beautiful velvets and furs. His kitchen and cellars are quite full. You ought to be very thankful for such good fortune.”
So the wedding-day was fixed, on which the mole was to fetch Tiny away to live with him, deep under the earth, and never again to see the warm sun, because he did not like it. The poor child was very unhappy at the thought of saying farewell to the beautiful sun, and as the field-mouse had given her permission to stand at the door, she went to look at it once more.
“Farewell bright sun,” she cried, stretching out her arm towards it; and then she walked a short distance from the house; for the corn had been cut, and only the dry stubble remained in the fields. “Farewell, farewell,” she repeated, twining her arm round a little red flower that grew just by her side. “Greet the little swallow from me, if you should see him again.”
“Tweet, tweet,” sounded over her head suddenly. She looked up, and there was the swallow himself flying close by. As soon as he spied Tiny, he was delighted; and then she told him how unwilling she felt to marry the ugly mole, and to live always beneath the earth, and never to see the bright sun any more. And as she told him she wept.
“Cold winter is coming,” said the swallow, “and I am going to fly away into warmer countries. Will you go with me? You can sit on my back, and fasten yourself on with your sash. Then we can fly away from the ugly mole and his gloomy rooms,—far away, over the mountains, into warmer countries, where the sun shines more brightly—than here; where it is always summer, and the flowers bloom in greater beauty. Fly now with me, dear little Tiny; you saved my life when I lay frozen in that dark passage.”
“Yes, I will go with you,” said Tiny; and she seated herself on the bird’s back, with her feet on his outstretched wings, and tied her girdle to one of his strongest feathers.
Then the swallow rose in the air, and flew over forest and over sea, high above the highest mountains, covered with eternal snow. Tiny would have been frozen in the cold air, but she crept under the bird’s warm feathers, keeping her little head uncovered, so that she might admire the beautiful lands over which they passed. At length they reached the warm countries, where the sun shines brightly, and the sky seems so much higher above the earth. Here, on the hedges, and by the wayside, grew purple, green, and white grapes; lemons and oranges hung from trees in the woods; and the air was fragrant with myrtles and orange blossoms. Beautiful children ran along the country lanes, playing with large gay butterflies; and as the swallow flew farther and farther, every place appeared still more lovely.
At last they came to a blue lake, and by the side of it, shaded by trees of the deepest green, stood a palace of dazzling white marble, built in the olden times. Vines clustered round its lofty pillars, and at the top were many swallows’ nests, and one of these was the home of the swallow who carried Tiny.
“This is my house,” said the swallow; “but it would not do for you to live there—you would not be comfortable. You must choose for yourself one of those lovely flowers, and I will put you down upon it, and then you shall have everything that you can wish to make you happy.”
“That will be delightful,” she said, and clapped her little hands for joy.
A large marble pillar lay on the ground, which, in falling, had been broken into three pieces. Between these pieces grew the most beautiful large white flowers; so the swallow flew down with Tiny, and placed her on one of the broad leaves. But how surprised she was to see in the middle of the flower, a tiny little man, as white and transparent as if he had been made of crystal! He had a gold crown on his head, and delicate wings at his shoulders, and was not much larger than Tiny herself. He was the angel of the flower; for a tiny man and a tiny woman dwell in every flower; and this was the king of them all.
“Oh, how beautiful he is!” whispered Tiny to the swallow.
The little prince was at first quite frightened at the bird, who was like a giant, compared to such a delicate little creature as himself; but when he saw Tiny, he was delighted, and thought her the prettiest little maiden he had ever seen. He took the gold crown from his head, and placed it on hers, and asked her name, and if she would be his wife, and queen over all the flowers.
This certainly was a very different sort of husband to the son of a toad, or the mole, with my black velvet and fur; so she said, “Yes,” to the handsome prince. Then all the flowers opened, and out of each came a little lady or a tiny lord, all so pretty it was quite a pleasure to look at them. Each of them brought Tiny a present; but the best gift was a pair of beautiful wings, which had belonged to a large white fly and they fastened them to Tiny’s shoulders, so that she might fly from flower to flower. Then there was much rejoicing, and the little swallow who sat above them, in his nest, was asked to sing a wedding song, which he did as well as he could; but in his heart he felt sad for he was very fond of Tiny, and would have liked never to part from her again.
“You must not be called Tiny any more,” said the spirit of the flowers to her. “It is an ugly name, and you are so very pretty. We will call you Maia.”
“Farewell, farewell,” said the swallow, with a heavy heart as he left the warm countries to fly back into Denmark. There he had a nest over the window of a house in which dwelt the writer of fairy tales. The swallow sang, “Tweet, tweet,” and from his song came the whole story.
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"
Suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her. There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to himself: "Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I shall be too late!" But when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of his waistcoat pocket, Alice started to her feet, for she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat pocket or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after him, just in time to see him pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after him.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so that Alice found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well. Down, down, down. Then suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
The White Rabbit was still in sight, and away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear him say, as he turned a corner, "Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it is getting!" She turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen. She found herself in a long narrow hall, which was lit up by lamps hanging from the roof.
In the hall she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass. There was nothing on it but a tiny golden key. Behind a low curtain, she came upon a little door about fifteen inches high. She tried the little golden key in the lock, and, to her great delight, it fitted.
Alice opened the door, and knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. But she could not even get her head through the doorway.
So she went back to the table, half hoping she might find a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes. This time she found a little bottle on it ("which certainly was not here before," said Alice), and tied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words DRINK ME in large letters. Alice tasted it, and very soon finished it off.
"What a curious feeling!" said Alice. "I must be shutting up like a telescope."
And so it was, indeed; she was now only ten inches high, and soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table. She opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words EAT ME were beautifully marked in currants.
She very soon finished off the cake.
"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice. "Now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was. Good-by feet!"
Just at this moment her head struck against the roof of the hall; in fact, she was now more than nine feet high, and she at once took up the little golden key, and hurried off to the garden door.
Poor Alice! To get through was more hopeless than ever. She sat down and began to cry, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her.
After a time she heard a little pattering of feet in the distance, and she hastily dried her eyes to see what was coming. It was the White Rabbit returning, splendidly dressed, with a pair of white kid gloves in one hand and a large fan in the other. He came trotting along in a great hurry, muttering to himself as he came, "Oh, the Duchess! the Duchess!"
Alice felt so desperate that she was ready to ask help of anyone; so, when the Rabbit came near her, she began, in a timid voice: "If you please, sir -"
The Rabbit started violently, dropped the gloves and the fan, and scurried away into the darkness.
Alice took up the fan and gloves, and, as the hall was very hot, she kept fanning herself all the time she went on talking.
"Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! How puzzling it all is!" But presently on looking down at her hands, she was surprised to see that she had put on one of the rabbit's little white kid gloves while she was talking.
"How can I have done that?" she thought. "I must be growing small again."
She soon found out that the cause of this was the fan she was holding, and she dropped it hastily, just in time to save herself from shrinking away altogether. Now she hastened to the little door, but alas, it was shut again. "I declare it's too bad, that it is!" she said aloud, and just as she spoke her foot slipped, and in another moment, splash! she was up to her chin in salt water. It was the pool of tears she had wept when she was nine feet high!
1. The Pool of Tears
Just then she heard something splashing about in the pool a little way off, and she swam nearer to make out what it was. She soon made out that it was only a mouse that had slipped in like herself.
She began, "O Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool?" The Mouse said nothing.
"Perhaps it doesn't understand English," thought Alice; "I daresay it's a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror." So she began again, "ou est ma chatte?" which was the first sentence in her French lesson book. The Mouse seemed to quiver all over with fright. "Oh, I beg your pardon!" cried Alice, "I quite forgot you don't like cats."
The pool, by now, was getting quite crowded with the birds and animals that had fallen into it; there were a duck and a dodo, a lory and an eaglet, and other curious creatures. Alice led the way, and the whole party swam to the shore.
A very queer-looking party of dripping birds and animals now gathered on the bank of the Pool of Tears. The Mouse, tried to dry them by telling them frightfully dry stories from history. Then the Dodo proposed a Caucus race. They all started off when they liked, and stopped when they liked. The Dodo said everybody had won, and Alice had to give the prizes. Luckily she had some sweets, which were not wet, and there was just one for each of them. The party were anxious she, too, should have a prize, and as she happened to have a thimble, the Dodo commanded her to hand it to him, and then, with great ceremony, the Dodo presented it to her, saying, "We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble," and they all cheered.
The Mouse began to tell Alice why it hated C- and D-, but when Alice mentioned Dinah, her cat, the birds got uneasy, and one by one the whole party gradually went off and left her all alone. Just when she was beginning to cry, she heard a pattering of little feet.
It was the White Rabbit, trotting slowly back again, and looking anxiously about as he went, as if he had lost something and she heard him muttering to himself, "The Duchess! The Duchess!"
Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice, and called out to her in an angry tone, "Why, Mary Ann, what are you doing out here? Run home this moment, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan. Quick, now!"
Alice ran off as hard as she could, and soon found herself safe in a thick wood.
2. Advice from a Caterpillar
Peeping over a mushroom, she beheld a large blue caterpillar sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else. At length, in a sleepy sort of way, it began talking to her, and she told it what she wanted so much - to grow to her right size again.
"Three inches" she said, "is such a wretched height to be."
"It is a very good height indeed," said the Caterpillar angrily, (it was exactly three inches high).
"You'll get used to it in time," said the Caterpillar; and it put the hookah into its mouth and began smoking again.
Then it got down off the mushroom, and crawled away into the grass, merely remarking as it went, "One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter."
"The other side of what?" thought Alice to herself.
"Of the mushroom," said the Caterpillar, just as if she had asked it aloud and in another moment it was out of sight.
Alice broke off a bit of the edge with each hand, and nibbled a little of the right-hand bit to try the effect. The next moment she felt a violent blow underneath her chin; it had struck her foot!
She managed to swallow a morsel of the left-hand bit. The next minute she had grown so tall that her neck rose like a stalk out of a sea of green leaves, and these green leaves were the trees of the wood. But, by nibbling bits of mushroom, she at last succeeded in bringing herself down to her usual height. But, oh dear, in order to get into the first house she saw, she had to eat some more of the mushroom from her right hand and bring herself down to nine inches. Outside the house she saw a Fish-footmen and a Frog-footmen with invitations from the Queen to the Duchess, asking her to play croquet. The Duchess lived in the house, and a terrible noise was going on inside, and when the door was opened a plate came crashing out. But Alice got in at last, and found the Duchess and her cook quarrelling because there was too much pepper in the soup.
The Duchess had the baby in her lap, and tossed it about ridiculously, finally throwing it in the most heartless way to Alice. She took it out of doors, and behold, it turned into a little pig, jumped out of her arms, and ran away into the wood.
"If it had grown up," she said, "it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think."
She was a little startled now by seeing a Cheshire-Cat sitting on a bough of a tree. The Cat grinned when it saw Alice. She felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
"Cheshire Puss," she said, "what sort of people live about here?"
"In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter; and in that direction" - waving the other paw - "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like; they're both mad."
3. A Mad Tea Party
There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it; a Dormouse was sitting between them fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head.
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner.
"No room! No room!" they cried out when they saw Alice coming.
"There's plenty of room!" said Alice indignantly. And she sat down in a large armchair at one end of the table.
"What day of the month is it?" asked the Hatter, turning to Alice.
He had taken his watch out of his pocket and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.
Alice considered a little, and said, "The fourth."
"Two days wrong," sighed the Hatter. "I told you butter wouldn't suit the works," he added, looking angrily at the March Hare.
"It was the best butter," the March Hare meekly replied.
"It's always tea-time with us here," explained the Hatter, "and we've no time to wash the things between whiles."
"Then you keep moving round, I suppose?" said Alice.
"Exactly so," said the Hatter; "as the things get used up."
"But when you come to the beginning again?" Alice ventured to ask.
The March Hare interrupted, yawning. "I vote the young lady tells us a story."
"I'm afraid I don't know one," said Alice, rather alarmed at the proposal.
"Then the Dormouse shall!" they both cried. "Wake up the Dormouse!" And they pinched it on both sides.
The Dormouse slowly opened its eyes. "I wasn't asleep," it said, in a hoarse, feeble voice.
"Tell us a story," said the March Hare.
"Yes, please do!" pleaded Alice.
"Once upon a time there were three little sisters," the Dormouse began, "and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie and they lived at the bottom of a well - "
"What did they live on?" said Alice.
"They lived on treacle," said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.
Alice gently remarked, "They'd have been ill."
"So they were very ill."
"I want a clean cup," interrupted the Hatter. "Let's all move one place on."
"They were learning to draw," the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, "and they drew all manner of things - everything that begins with an M. such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness - you know you say things are 'much of a muchness' - did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?"
"Really," said Alice, confused, "I don't think- "
"Then you shouldn't talk," said the Hatter.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear; she got up in disgust, and walked off. The Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.
BY LEO N. TOLSTOY
Tolstoy's stories were very much rooted in the fairness of God. " No matter how much one suffers," he believed, " God will ultimately do justice.". This story typifies this thinking.-- Anil Chandra
N the town of Vladimir lived a young merchant named Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov. He had two shops and a house of his own.
Aksionov was a handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much, but after he married he gave up drinking, except now and then.
One summer Aksionov was going to the Nizhny Fair, and as he bade good-bye to his family, his wife said to him, "Ivan Dmitritch, do not start to-day; I have had a bad dream about you."
Aksionov laughed, and said, "You are afraid that when I get to the fair I shall go on a spree."
His wife replied: "I do not know what I am afraid of; all I know is that I had a bad dream. I dreamt you returned from the town, and when you took off your cap I saw that your hair was quite grey."
Aksionov laughed. "That's a lucky sign," said he. "See if I don't sell out all my goods, and bring you some presents from the fair."
So he said good-bye to his family, and drove away.
When he had travelled half-way, he met a merchant whom he knew, and they put up at the same inn for the night. They had some tea together, and then went to bed in adjoining rooms.
It was not Aksionov's habit to sleep late, and, wishing to travel while it was still cool, he aroused his driver before dawn, and told him to put in the horses.
Then he made his way across to the landlord of the inn (who lived in a cottage at the back), paid his bill, and continued his journey.
When he had gone about twenty-five miles, he stopped for the horses to be fed. Aksionov rested awhile in the passage of the inn, then he stepped out into the porch, and, ordering a samovar to be heated, got out his guitar and began to play.
Suddenly a troika drove up with tinkling bells and an official alighted, followed by two soldiers. He came to Aksionov and began to question him, asking him who he was and whence he came. Aksionov answered him fully, and said, "Won't you have some tea with me?" But the official went on cross-questioning him and asking him, "Where did you spend last night? Were you alone, or with a fellow-merchant? Did you see the other merchant this morning? Why did you leave the inn before dawn?"
Aksionov wondered why he was asked all these questions, but he described all that had happened, and then added, "Why do you cross-question me as if I were a thief or a robber? I am travelling on business of my own, and there is no need to question me."
Then the official, calling the soldiers, said, "I am the police-officer of this district, and I question you because the merchant with whom you spent last night has been found with his throat cut. We must search your things."
They entered the house. The soldiers and the police-officer unstrapped Aksionov's luggage and searched it. Suddenly the officer drew a knife out of a bag, crying, "Whose knife is this?"
Aksionov looked, and seeing a blood-stained knife taken from his bag, he was frightened.
"How is it there is blood on this knife?"
Aksionov tried to answer, but could hardly utter a word, and only stammered: "I—don't know—not mine."
Then the police-officer said: "This morning the merchant was found in bed with his throat cut. You are the only person who could have done it. The house was locked from inside, and no one else was there. Here is this blood-stained knife in your bag, and your face and manner betray you! Tell me how you killed him, and how much money you stole?"
Aksionov swore he had not done it; that he had not seen the merchant after they had had tea together; that he had no money except eight thousand rubles of his own, and that the knife was not his. But his voice was broken, his face pale, and he trembled with fear as though he were guilty.
The police-officer ordered the soldiers to bind Aksionov and to put him in the cart. As they tied his feet together and flung him into the cart, Aksionov crossed himself and wept. His money and goods were taken from him, and he was sent to the nearest town and imprisoned there. Enquiries as to his character were made in Vladimir. The merchants and other inhabitants of that town said that in former days he used to drink and waste his time, but that he was a good man. Then the trial came on: he was charged with murdering a merchant from Ryazan, and robbing him of twenty thousand rubles.
His wife was in despair, and did not know what to believe. Her children were all quite small; one was a baby at her breast. Taking them all with her, she went to the town where her husband was in jail. At first she was not allowed to see him; but after much begging, she obtained permission from the officials, and was taken to him. When she saw her husband in prison-dress and in chains, shut up with thieves and criminals, she fell down, and did not come to her senses for a long time. Then she drew her children to her, and sat down near him. She told him of things at home, and asked about what had happened to him. He told her all, and she asked, "What can we do now?"
"We must petition the Czar not to let an innocent man perish."
His wife told him that she had sent a petition to the Czar, but it had not been accepted.
Aksionov did not reply, but only looked downcast.
Then his wife said, "It was not for nothing I dreamt your hair had turned grey. You remember? You should not have started that day." And passing her fingers through his hair, she said: "Vanya dearest, tell your wife the truth; was it not you who did it?"
"So you, too, suspect me!" said Aksionov, and, hiding his face in his hands, he began to weep. Then a soldier came to say that the wife and children must go away; and Aksionov said good-bye to his family for the last time.
When they were gone, Aksionov recalled what had been said, and when he remembered that his wife also had suspected him, he said to himself, "It seems that only God can know the truth; it is to Him alone we must appeal, and from Him alone expect mercy."
And Aksionov wrote no more petitions; gave up all hope, and only prayed to God.
Aksionov was condemned to be flogged and sent to the mines. So he was flogged with a knot, and when the wounds made by the knot were healed, he was driven to Siberia with other convicts.
For twenty-six years Aksionov lived as a convict in Siberia. His hair turned white as snow, and his beard grew long, thin, and grey. All his mirth went; he stooped; he walked slowly, spoke little, and never laughed, but he often prayed.
In prison Aksionov learnt to make boots, and earned a little money, with which he bought The Lives of the Saints. He read this book when there was light enough in the prison; and on Sundays in the prison-church he read the lessons and sang in the choir; for his voice was still good.
The prison authorities liked Aksionov for his meekness, and his fellow-prisoners respected him: they called him "Grandfather," and "The Saint." When they wanted to petition the prison authorities about anything, they always made Aksionov their spokesman, and when there were quarrels among the prisoners they came to him to put things right, and to judge the matter.
No news reached Aksionov from his home, and he did not even know if his wife and children were still alive.
One day a fresh gang of convicts came to the prison. In the evening the old prisoners collected round the new ones and asked them what towns or villages they came from, and what they were sentenced for. Among the rest Aksionov sat down near the newcomers, and listened with downcast air to what was said.
One of the new convicts, a tall, strong man of sixty, with a closely-cropped grey beard, was telling the others what he had been arrested for.
"Well, friends," he said, "I only took a horse that was tied to a sledge, and I was arrested and accused of stealing. I said I had only taken it to get home quicker, and had then let it go; besides, the driver was a personal friend of mine. So I said, 'It's all right.' 'No,' said they, 'you stole it.' But how or where I stole it they could not say. I once really did something wrong, and ought by rights to have come here long ago, but that time I was not found out. Now I have been sent here for nothing at all. . . . Eh, but it's lies I'm telling you; I've been to Siberia before, but I did not stay long."
"Where are you from?" asked some one.
"From Vladimir. My family are of that town. My name is Makar, and they also call me Semyonich."
Aksionov raised his head and said: "Tell me, Semyonich, do you know anything of the merchants Aksionov of Vladimir? Are they still alive?"
"Know them? Of course I do. The Aksionovs are rich, though their father is in Siberia: a sinner like ourselves, it seems! As for you, Gran'dad, how did you come here?"
Aksionov did not like to speak of his misfortune. He only sighed, and said, "For my sins I have been in prison these twenty-six years."
"What sins?" asked Makar Semyonich.
But Aksionov only said, "Well, well—I must have deserved it!" He would have said no more, but his companions told the newcomers how Aksionov came to be in Siberia; how some one had killed a merchant, and had put the knife among Aksionov's things, and Aksionov had been unjustly condemned.
When Makar Semyonich heard this, he looked at Aksionov, slapped his own knee, and exclaimed, "Well, this is wonderful! Really wonderful! But how old you've grown, Gran'dad!"
The others asked him why he was so surprised, and where he had seen Aksionov before; but Makar Semyonich did not reply. He only said: "It's wonderful that we should meet here, lads!"
These words made Aksionov wonder whether this man knew who had killed the merchant; so he said, "Perhaps, Semyonich, you have heard of that affair, or maybe you've seen me before?"
"How could I help hearing? The world's full of rumours. But it's a long time ago, and I've forgotten what I heard."
"Perhaps you heard who killed the merchant?" asked Aksionov.
Makar Semyonich laughed, and replied: "It must have been him in whose bag the knife was found! If some one else hid the knife there, 'He's not a thief till he's caught,' as the saying is. How could any one put a knife into your bag while it was under your head? It would surely have woke you up."
When Aksionov heard these words, he felt sure this was the man who had killed the merchant. He rose and went away. All that night Aksionov lay awake. He felt terribly unhappy, and all sorts of images rose in his mind. There was the image of his wife as she was when he parted from her to go to the fair. He saw her as if she were present; her face and her eyes rose before him; he heard her speak and laugh. Then he saw his children, quite little, as they were at that time: one with a little cloak on, another at his mother's breast. And then he remembered himself as he used to be—young and merry. He remembered how he sat playing the guitar in the porch of the inn where he was arrested, and how free from care he had been. He saw, in his mind, the place where he was flogged, the executioner, and the people standing around; the chains, the convicts, all the twenty-six years of his prison life, and his premature old age. The thought of it all made him so wretched that he was ready to kill himself.
"And it's all that villain's doing!" thought Aksionov. And his anger was so great against Makar Semyonich that he longed for vengeance, even if he himself should perish for it. He kept repeating prayers all night, but could get no peace. During the day he did not go near Makar Semyonich, nor even look at him.
A fortnight passed in this way. Aksionov could not sleep at night, and was so miserable that he did not know what to do.
One night as he was walking about the prison he noticed some earth that came rolling out from under one of the shelves on which the prisoners slept. He stopped to see what it was. Suddenly Makar Semyonich crept out from under the shelf, and looked up at Aksionov with frightened face. Aksionov tried to pass without looking at him, but Makar seized his hand and told him that he had dug a hole under the wall, getting rid of the earth by putting it into his high-boots, and emptying it out every day on the road when the prisoners were driven to their work.
"Just you keep quiet, old man, and you shall get out too. If you blab, they'll flog the life out of me, but I will kill you first."
Aksionov trembled with anger as he looked at his enemy. He drew his hand away, saying, "I have no wish to escape, and you have no need to kill me; you killed me long ago! As to telling of you—I may do so or not, as God shall direct."
Next day, when the convicts were led out to work, the convoy soldiers noticed that one or other of the prisoners emptied some earth out of his boots. The prison was searched and the tunnel found. The Governor came and questioned all the prisoners to find out who had dug the hole. They all denied any knowledge of it. Those who knew would not betray Makar Semyonich, knowing he would be flogged almost to death. At last the Governor turned to Aksionov whom he knew to be a just man and said:
"You are a truthful old man; tell me, before God, who dug the hole?"
Makar Semyonich stood as if he were quite unconcerned, looking at the Governor and not so much as glancing at Aksionov. Aksionov's lips and hands trembled, and for a long time he could not utter a word. He thought, "Why should I screen him who ruined my life? Let him pay for what I have suffered. But if I tell, they will probably flog the life out of him and maybe I suspect him wrongly. And, after all, what good would it be to me?"
"Well, old man," repeated the Governor, "tell me the truth: who has been digging under the wall?"
Aksionov glanced at Makar Semyonich, and said, "I cannot say, your honour. It is not God's will that I should tell! Do what you like with me; I am in your hands."
However much the Governor tried, Aksionov would say no more, and so the matter had to be left.
That night, when Aksionov was lying on his bed and just beginning to doze, some one came quietly and sat down on his bed. He peered through the darkness and recognized Makar.
"What more do you want of me?" asked Aksionov. "Why have you come here?"
Makar Semyonich was silent. So Aksionov sat up and said, "What do you want? Go away, or I will call the guard!"
Makar Semyonich bent close over Aksionov, and whispered, "Ivan Dmitritch, forgive me!"
"What for?" asked Aksionov.
"It was I who killed the merchant and hid the knife among your things. I meant to kill you too, but I heard a noise outside, so I hid the knife in your bag and escaped out of the window."
Aksionov was silent, and did not know what to say. Makar Semyonich slid off the bed-shelf and knelt upon the ground. "Ivan Dmitritch," said he, "forgive me! For the love of God, forgive me! I will confess that it was I who killed the merchant, and you will be released and can go to your home."
"It is easy for you to talk," said Aksionov, "but I have suffered for you these twenty-six years. Where could I go to now? . . . My wife is dead, and my children have forgotten me. I have nowhere to go. . . ."
Makar Semyonich did not rise, but beat his head on the floor. "Ivan Dmitritch, forgive me!" he cried. "When they flogged me with the knot it was not so hard to bear as it is to see you now . . . yet you had pity on me, and did not tell. For Christ's sake forgive me, wretch that I am!" And he began to sob.
When Aksionov heard him sobbing he, too, began to weep.
"God will forgive you!" said he. "Maybe I am a hundred times worse than you." And at these words his heart grew light, and the longing for home left him. He no longer had any desire to leave the prison, but only hoped for his last hour to come.
In spite of what Aksionov had said, Makar Semyonich confessed his guilt. But when the order for his release came, Aksionov was already dead.
by James Baldwin
In the rude days of King Richard and King John there were many great woods in England. The most famous of these was Sherwood forest, where the king often went to hunt deer. In this forest there lived a band of daring men called out-laws.
They had done something that was against the laws of the land, and had been forced to hide themselves in the woods to save their lives. There they spent their time in roaming about among the trees, in hunting the king's deer, and in robbing rich travelers that came that way.
There were nearly a hundred of these outlaws, and their leader was a bold fellow called Robin Hood. They were dressed in suits of green, and armed with bows and arrows; and sometimes they carried long wooden lances and broad-swords, which they knew how to handle well. When-ever they had taken anything, it was brought and laid at the feet of Robin Hood, whom they called their king. He then divided it fairly among them, giving to each man his just share.
Robin never allowed his men to harm anybody but the rich men who lived in great houses and did no work. He was always kind to the poor, and he often sent help to them; and for that reason the common people looked upon him as their friend.
Long after he was dead, men liked to talk about his deeds. Some praised him, and some blamed him. He was, indeed, a rude, lawless fellow; but at that time, people did not think of right and wrong as they do now.
A great many songs were made up about Robin Hood, and these songs were sung in the cottages and huts all over the land for hundreds of years after-ward.
Here is a little story that is told in one of those songs:--
Robin Hood was standing one day under a green tree by the road-side. While he was listening to the birds among the leaves, he saw a young man passing by. This young man was dressed in a fine suit of bright red cloth; and, as he tripped gayly along the road, he seemed to be as happy as the day.
"I will not trouble him," said Robin Hood, "for I think he is on his way to his wedding."
The next day Robin stood in the same place. He had not been there long when he saw the same young man coming down the road. But he did not seem to be so happy this time. He had left his scarlet coat at home, and at every step he sighed and groaned.
"Ah the sad day! the sad day!" he kept saying to himself.
Then Robin Hood stepped out from under the tree, and said,--
"I say, young man! Have you any money to spare for my merry men and me?"
"I have nothing at all," said the young man, "but five shillings and a ring."
"A gold ring?" asked Robin.
"Yes?" said the young man, "it is a gold ring. Here it is."
"Ah, I see!" said Robin: "it is a wedding ring."
"I have kept it these seven years," said the young man; "I have kept it to give to my bride on our wedding day. We were going to be married yesterday. But her father has promised her to a rich old man whom she never saw. And now my heart is broken."
"What is your name?" asked Robin.
"My name is Allin-a-Dale," said the young man.
"What will you give me, in gold or fee," said Robin, "if I will help you win your bride again in spite of the rich old man to whom she has been promised?"
"I have no money," said Allin, "but I will promise to be your servant."
"How many miles is it to the place where the maiden lives?" asked Robin.
"It is not far," said Allin. "But she is to be married this very day, and the church is five miles away."
Then Robin made haste to dress himself as a harper; and in the after-noon he stood in the door of the church.
"Who are you?" said the bishop, "and what are you doing here?"
"I am a bold harper," said Robin, "the best in the north country."
"I am glad you have come," said the bishop kindly. "There is no music that I like so well as that of the harp. Come in, and play for us."
"I will go in," said Robin Hood; "but I will not give you any music until I see the bride and bridegroom."
Just then an old man came in. He was dressed in rich clothing, but was bent with age, and was feeble and gray. By his side walked a fair young girl. Her cheeks were very pale, and her eyes were full of tears.
"This is no match," said Robin. "Let the bride choose for herself."
Then he put his horn to his lips, and blew three times. The very next minute, four and twenty men, all dressed in green, and carrying long bows in their hands, came running across the fields. And as they marched into the church, all in a row, the fore-most among them was Allin-a-Dale.
"Now whom do you choose?" said Robin to the maiden.
"I choose Allin-a-Dale," she said, blushing.
"And Allin-a-Dale you shall have," said Robin; "and he that takes you from Allin-a-Dale shall find that he has Robin Hood to deal with."
And so the fair maiden and Allin-a-Dale were married then and there, and the rich old man went home in a great rage