An entertaining little puzzle with cards is to take the nine cards of a suit, from ace to nine inclusive, and arrange them in the form of the letter "T," as shown in the illustration, so that the pips in the horizontal line shall count the same as th... Read more of THE "T" CARD PUZZLE. at Math Puzzle.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Magic Mirror

from The Orange Fairy Book





From the Senna



A long, long while ago, before ever the White Men were seen in Senna,
there lived a man called Gopani-Kufa.

One day, as he was out hunting, he came upon a strange sight. An
enormous python had caught an antelope and coiled itself around it; the
antelope, striking out in despair with its horns, had pinned the
python's neck to a tree, and so deeply had its horns sunk in the soft
wood that neither creature could get away.

'Help!' cried the antelope, 'for I was doing no harm, yet I have been
caught, and would have been eaten, had I not defended myself.'

'Help me,' said the python, 'for I am Insato, King of all the Reptiles,
and will reward you well!'

Gopani-Kufa considered for a moment, then stabbing the antelope with
his assegai, he set the python free.

'I thank you,' said the python; 'come back here with the new moon, when
I shall have eaten the antelope, and I will reward you as I promised.'

'Yes,' said the dying antelope, 'he will reward you, and lo! your
reward shall be your own undoing!'

Gopani-Kufa went back to his kraal, and with the new moon he returned
again to the spot where he had saved the python.

Insato was lying upon the ground, still sleepy from the effects of his
huge meal, and when he saw the man he thanked him again, and said:
'Come with me now to Pita, which is my own country, and I will give you
what you will of all my possessions.'

Gopani-Kufa at first was afraid, thinking of what the antelope had
said, but finally he consented and followed Insato into the forest.

For several days they travelled, and at last they came to a hole
leading deep into the earth. It was not very wide, but large enough to
admit a man. 'Hold on to my tail,' said Insato, 'and I will go down
first, drawing you after me.' The man did so, and Insato entered.

Down, down, down they went for days, all the while getting deeper and
deeper into the earth, until at last the darkness ended and they
dropped into a beautiful country; around them grew short green grass,
on which browsed herds of cattle and sheep and goats. In the distance
Gopani-Kufa saw a great collection of houses all square, built of stone
and very tall, and their roofs were shining with gold and burnished
iron.

Gopani-Kufa turned to Insato, but found, in the place of the python, a
man, strong and handsome, with the great snake's skin wrapped round him
for covering; and on his arms and neck were rings of pure gold.

The man smiled. 'I am Insato,' said he, 'but in my own country I take
man's shape--even as you see me--for this is Pita, the land over which
I am king.' He then took Gopani-Kufa by the hand and led him towards
the town.

On the way they passed rivers in which men and women were bathing and
fishing and boating; and farther on they came to gardens covered with
heavy crops of rice and maize, and many other grains which Gopani-Kufa
did not even know the name of. And as they passed, the people who were
singing at their work in the fields, abandoned their labours and
saluted Insato with delight, bringing also palm wine and green
cocoanuts for refreshment, as to one returned from a long journey.

'These are my children!' said Insato, waving his hand towards the
people. Gopani-Kufa was much astonished at all that he saw, but he
said nothing. Presently they came to the town; everything here, too,
was beautiful, and everything that a man might desire he could obtain.
Even the grains of dust in the streets were of gold and silver.

Insato conducted Gopani-Kufa to the palace, and showing him his rooms,
and the maidens who would wait upon him, told him that they would have
a great feast that night, and on the morrow he might name his choice of
the riches of Pita and it should be given him. Then he was away.

Now Gopani-Kufa had a wasp called Zengi-mizi. Zengi-mizi was not an
ordinary wasp, for the spirit of the father of Gopani-Kufa had entered
it, so that it was exceedingly wise. In times of doubt Gopani-Kufa
always consulted the wasp as to what had better be done, so on this
occasion he took it out of the little rush basket in which he carried
it, saying: 'Zengi-mizi, what gift shall I ask of Insato to-morrow when
he would know the reward he shall bestow on me for saving his life?'

'Biz-z-z,' hummed Zengi-mizi, 'ask him for Sipao the Mirror.' And it
flew back into its basket.

Gopani-Kufa was astonished at this answer; but knowing that the words
of Zengi-mizi were true words, he determined to make the request. So
that night they feasted, and on the morrow Insato came to Gopani-Kufa
and, giving him greeting joyfully, he said:

'Now, O my friend, name your choice amongst my possessions and you
shall have it!'

'O king!' answered Gopani-Kufa, 'out of all your possessions I will
have the Mirror, Sipao.'

The king started. 'O friend, Gopani-Kufa,' he said, 'ask anything but
that! I did not think that you would request that which is most
precious to me.'

'Let me think over it again then, O king,' said Gopani-Kufa, 'and
to-morrow I will let you know if I change my mind.'

But the king was still much troubled, fearing the loss of Sipao, for
the mirror had magic powers, so that he who owned it had but to ask and
his wish would be fulfilled; to it Insato owed all that he possessed.

As soon as the king left him, Gopani-Kufa again took Zengi-mizi, out of
his basket. 'Zengi-mizi,' he said, 'the king seems loth to grant my
request for the Mirror--is there not some other thing of equal value
for which I might ask?'

And the wasp answered: 'There is nothing in the world, O Gopani-Kufa,
which is of such value as this Mirror, for it is a Wishing Mirror, and
accomplishes the desires of him who owns it. If the king hesitates, go
to him the next day, and the day after, and in the end he will bestow
the Mirror upon you, for you saved his life.'

And it was even so. For three days Gopani- Kufa returned the same
answer to the king, and, at last, with tears in his eyes, Insato gave
him the Mirror, which was of polished iron, saying: 'Take Sipao, then,
O Gopani- Kufa, and may thy wishes come true. Go back now to thine own
country; Sipao will show you the way.'

Gopani-Kufa was greatly rejoiced, and, taking farewell of the king,
said to the Mirror:

'Sipao, Sipao, I wish to be back upon the Earth again!'

Instantly he found himself standing upon the upper earth; but, not
knowing the spot, he said again to the Mirror:

'Sipao, Sipao, I want the path to my own kraal!'

And behold! right before him lay the path!

When he arrived home he found his wife and daughter mourning for him,
for they thought that he had been eaten by lions; but he comforted
them, saying that while following a wounded antelope he had missed his
way and had wandered for a long time before he had found the path again.

That night he asked Zengi-mizi, in whom sat the spirit of his father,
what he had better ask Sipao for next?

'Biz-z-z,' said the wasp, 'would you not like to be as great a chief as
Insato?'

And Gopani-Kufa smiled, and took the Mirror and said to it:

'Sipao, Sipao, I want a town as great as that of Insato, the King of
Pita; and I wish to be chief over it!'

Then all along the banks of the Zambesi river, which flowed near by,
sprang up streets of stone buildings, and their roofs shone with gold
and burnished iron like those in Pita; and in the streets men and women
were walking, and young boys were driving out the sheep and cattle to
pasture; and from the river came shouts and laughter from the young men
and maidens who had launched their canoes and were fishing. And when
the people of the new town beheld Gopani-Kufa they rejoiced greatly and
hailed him as chief.

Gopani-Kufa was now as powerful as Insato the King of the Reptiles had
been, and he and his family moved into the palace that stood high above
the other buildings right in the middle of the town. His wife was too
astonished at all these wonders to ask any questions, but his daughter
Shasasa kept begging him to tell her how he had suddenly become so
great; so at last he revealed the whole secret, and even entrusted
Sipao the Mirror to her care, saying:

'It will be safer with you, my daughter, for you dwell apart; whereas
men come to consult me on affairs of state, and the Mirror might be
stolen.'

Then Shasasa took the Magic Mirror and hid it beneath her pillow, and
after that for many years Gopani-Kufa ruled his people both well and
wisely, so that all men loved him, and never once did he need to ask
Sipao to grant him a wish.

Now it happened that, after many years, when the hair of Gopani-Kufa
was turning grey with age, there came white men to that country. Up
the Zambesi they came, and they fought long and fiercely with
Gopani-Kufa; but, because of the power of the Magic Mirror, he beat
them, and they fled to the sea-coast. Chief among them was one Rei, a
man of much cunning, who sought to discover whence sprang Gopani-Kufa's
power. So one day he called to him a trusty servant named Butou, and
said: 'Go you to the town and find out for me what is the secret of its
greatness.'

And Butou, dressing himself in rags, set out, and when he came to
Gopani-Kufa's town he asked for the chief; and the people took him into
the presence of Gopani-Kufa. When the white man saw him he humbled
himself, and said: 'O Chief! take pity on me, for I have no home! When
Rei marched against you I alone stood apart, for I knew that all the
strength of the Zambesi lay in your hands, and because I would not
fight against you he turned me forth into the forest to starve!'

And Gopani-Kufa believed the white man's story, and he took him in and
feasted him, and gave him a house.

In this way the end came. For the heart of Shasasa, the daughter of
Gopani-Kufa, went forth to Butou the traitor, and from her he learnt
the secret of the Magic Mirror. One night, when all the town slept, he
felt beneath her pillow and, finding the Mirror, he stole it and fled
back with it to Rei, the chief of the white men.

So it befell that, one day, as Gopani-Kufa was gazing up at the river
from a window of the palace he again saw the war-canoes of the white
men; and at the sight his spirit misgave him.

'Shasasa! my daughter!' he cried wildly, 'go fetch me the mirror, for
the white men are at hand.'

'Woe is me, my father!' she sobbed. 'The Mirror is gone! For I loved
Butou the traitor, and he has stolen Sipao from me!'

Then Gopani-Kufa calmed himself, and drew out Zengi-mizi from its rush
basket.

'O spirit of my father!' he said, 'what now shall I do?'

'O Gopani-Kufa!' hummed the wasp, 'there is nothing now that can be
done, for the words of the antelope which you slew are being fulfilled.'

'Alas! I am an old man--I had forgotten!' cried the chief. 'The words
of the antelope were true words--my reward shall be my undoing--they
are being fulfilled!'

Then the white men fell upon the people of Gopani-Kufa and slew them
together with the chief and his daughter Shasasa; and since then all
the power of the Earth has rested in the hands of the white men, for
they have in their possession Sipao, the Magic Mirror.



Story of the King Who Would See Paradise



Once upon a time there was king who, one day out hunting, came upon a
fakeer in a lonely place in the mountains. The fakeer was seated on a
little old bedstead reading the Koran, with his patched cloak thrown
over his shoulders.

The king asked him what he was reading; and he said he was reading
about Paradise, and praying that he might be worthy to enter there.
Then they began to talk, and, by-and- bye, the king asked the fakeer if
he could show him a glimpse of Paradise, for he found it very difficult
to believe in what he could not see. The fakeer replied that he was
asking a very difficult, and perhaps a very dangerous, thing; but that
he would pray for him, and perhaps he might be able to do it; only he
warned the king both against the dangers of his unbelief, and against
the curiosity which prompted him to ask this thing. However, the king
was not to be turned from his purpose, and he promised the fakeer
always to provided him with food, if he, in return, would pray for him.
To this the fakeer agreed, and so they parted.

Time went on, and the king always sent the old fakeer his food
according to his promise; but, whenever he sent to ask him when he was
going to show him Paradise, the fakeer always replied: 'Not yet, not
yet!'

After a year or two had passed by, the king heard one day that the
fakeer was very ill-- indeed, he was believed to be dying. Instantly
he hurried off himself, and found that it was really true, and that the
fakeer was even then breathing his last. There and then the king
besought him to remember his promise, and to show him a glimpse of
Paradise. The dying fakeer replied that if the king would come to his
funeral, and, when the grave was filled in, and everyone else was gone
away, he would come and lay his hand upon the grave, he would keep his
word, and show him a glimpse of Paradise. At the same time he implored
the king not to do this thing, but to be content to see Paradise when
God called him there. Still the king's curiosity was so aroused that
he would not give way.

Accordingly, after the fakeer was dead, and had been buried, he stayed
behind when all the rest went away; and then, when he was quite alone,
he stepped forward, and laid his hand upon the grave! Instantly the
ground opened, and the astonished king, peeping in, saw a flight of
rough steps, and, at the bottom of them, the fakeer sitting, just as he
used to sit, on his rickety bedstead, reading the Koran!

At first the king was so surprised and frightened that he could only
stare; but the fakeer beckoned to him to come down, so, mustering up
his courage, he boldly stepped down into the grave.

The fakeer rose, and, making a sign to the king to follow, walked a few
paces along a dark passage. Then he stopped, turned solemnly to his
companion, and, with a movement of his hand, drew aside as it were a
heavy curtain, and revealed--what? No one knows what was there shown
to the king, nor did he ever tell anyone; but, when the fakeer at
length dropped the curtain, and the king turned to leave the place, he
had had his glimpse of Paradise! Trembling in every limb, he staggered
back along the passage, and stumbled up the steps out of the tomb into
the fresh air again.

The dawn was breaking. It seemed odd to the king that he had been so
long in the grave. It appeared but a few minutes ago that he had
descended, passed along a few steps to the place where he had peeped
beyond the veil, and returned again after perhaps five minutes of that
wonderful view! And what WAS it he had seen? He racked his brains to
remember, but he could not call to mind a single thing! How curious
everything looked too! Why, his own city, which by now he was
entering, seemed changed and strange to him! The sun was already up
when he turned into the palace gate and entered the public durbar hall.
It was full; and there upon the throne sat another king! The poor
king, all bewildered, sat down and stared about him. Presently a
chamberlain came across and asked him why he sat unbidden in the king's
presence. 'But I am the king!' he cried.

'What king?' said the chamberlain.

'The true king of this country,' said he indignantly.

Then the chamberlain went away, and spoke to the king who sat on the
throne, and the old king heard words like 'mad,' 'age,' 'compassion.'
Then the king on the throne called him to come forward, and, as he
went, he caught sight of himself reflected in the polished steel shield
of the bodyguard, and started back in horror! He was old, decrepit,
dirty, and ragged! His long white beard and locks were unkempt, and
straggled all over his chest and shoulders. Only one sign of royalty
remained to him, and that was the signet ring upon his right hand. He
dragged it off with shaking fingers and held it up to the king.

'Tell me who I am,' he cried; 'there is my signet, who once sat where
you sit--even yesterday!'

The king looked at him compassionately, and examined the signet with
curiosity. Then he commanded, and they brought out dusty records and
archives of the kingdom, and old coins of previous reigns, and compared
them faithfully. At last the king turned to the old man, and said:
'Old man, such a king as this whose signet thou hast, reigned seven
hundred years ago; but he is said to have disappeared, none know
whither; where got you the ring?'

Then the old man smote his breast, and cried out with a loud
lamentation; for he understood that he, who was not content to wait
patiently to see the Paradise of the faithful, had been judged already.
And he turned and left the hall without a word, and went into the
jungle, where he lived for twenty-five years a life of prayer and
meditations, until at last the Angel of Death came to him, and
mercifully released him, purged and purified through his punishment.

[A Pathan story told to Major Campbell.]



How Isuro the Rabbit Tricked Gudu



Far away in a hot country, where the forests are very thick and dark,
and the rivers very swift and strong, there once lived a strange pair
of friends. Now one of the friends was a big white rabbit named Isuro,
and the other was a tall baboon called Gudu, and so fond were they of
each other that they were seldom seen apart.

One day, when the sun was hotter even than usual, the rabbit awoke from
his midday sleep, and saw Gudu the baboon standing beside him.

'Get up,' said Gudu; 'I am going courting, and you must come with me.
So put some food in a bag, and sling it round your neck, for we may not
be able to find anything to eat for a long while.'

Then the rabbit rubbed his eyes, and gathered a store of fresh green
things from under the bushes, and told Gudu that he was ready for the
journey.

They went on quite happily for some distance, and at last they came to
a river with rocks scattered here and there across the stream.

'We can never jump those wide spaces if we are burdened with food,'
said Gudu, 'we must throw it into the river, unless we wish to fall in
ourselves.' And stooping down, unseen by Isuro, who was in front of
him, Gudu picked up a big stone, and threw it into the water with a
loud splash.

'It is your turn now,' he cried to Isuro. And with a heavy sigh, the
rabbit unfastened his bag of food, which fell into the river.

The road on the other side led down an avenue of trees, and before they
had gone very far Gudu opened the bag that lay hidden in the thick hair
about his neck, and began to eat some delicious-looking fruit.

'Where did you get that from?' asked Isuro enviously.

'Oh, I found after all that I could get across the rocks quite easily,
so it seemed a pity not to keep my bag,' answered Gudu.

'Well, as you tricked me into throwing away mine, you ought to let me
share with you,' said Isuro. But Gudu pretended not to hear him, and
strode along the path.

By-and-bye they entered a wood, and right in front of them was a tree
so laden with fruit that its branches swept the ground. And some of
the fruit was still green, and some yellow. The rabbit hopped forward
with joy, for he was very hungry; but Gudu said to him: 'Pluck the
green fruit, you will find it much the best. I will leave it all for
you, as you have had no dinner, and take the yellow for myself.' So
the rabbit took one of the green oranges and began to bite it, but its
skin was so hard that he could hardly get his teeth through the rind.

'It does not taste at all nice,' he cried, screwing up his face; 'I
would rather have one of the yellow ones.'

'No! no! I really could not allow that,' answered Gudu. 'They would
only make you ill. Be content with the green fruit.' And as they were
all he could get, Isuro was forced to put up with them.

After this had happened two or three times, Isuro at last had his eyes
opened, and made up his mind that, whatever Gudu told him, he would do
exactly the opposite. However, by this time they had reached the
village where dwelt Gudu's future wife, and as they entered Gudu
pointed to a clump of bushes, and said to Isuro: 'Whenever I am eating,
and you hear me call out that my food has burnt me, run as fast as you
can and gather some of those leaves that they may heal my mouth.'

The rabbit would have liked to ask him why he ate food that he knew
would burn him, only he was afraid, and just nodded in reply; but when
they had gone on a little further, he said to Gudu:

'I have dropped my needle; wait here a moment while I go and fetch it.'

'Be quick then,' answered Gudu, climbing into a tree. And the rabbit
hastened back to the bushes, and gathered a quantity of the leaves,
which he hid among his fur, 'For,' thought he, 'if I get them now I
shall save myself the trouble of a walk by-and-by.'

When he had plucked as many as he wanted he returned to Gudu, and they
went on together.

The sun was almost setting by the time they reached their journey's
end and being very tired they gladly sat down by a well. Then Gudu's
betrothed, who had been watching for him, brought out a pitcher of
water--which she poured over them to wash off the dust of the road--and
two portions of food. But once again the rabbit's hopes were dashed to
the ground, for Gudu said hastily:

'The custom of the village forbids you to eat till I have finished.'
And Isuro did not know that Gudu was lying, and that he only wanted
more food. So he saw hungrily looking on, waiting till his friend had
had enough.

In a little while Gudu screamed loudly: 'I am burnt! I am burnt!'
though he was not burnt at all. Now, though Isuro had the leaves about
him, he did not dare to produce them at the last moment lest the baboon
should guess why he had stayed behind. So he just went round a corner
for a short time, and then came hopping back in a great hurry. But,
quick though he was, Gudu had been quicker still, and nothing remained
but some drops of water.

'How unlucky you are,' said Gudu, snatching the leaves; 'no sooner had
you gone than ever so many people arrived, and washed their hands, as
you see, and ate your portion.' But, though Isuro knew better than to
believe him, he said nothing, and went to bed hungrier than he had ever
been in his life.

Early next morning they started for another village, and passed on the
way a large garden where people were very busy gathering monkey- nuts.

'You can have a good breakfast at last,' said Gudu, pointing to a heap
of empty shells; never doubting but that Isuro would meekly take the
portion shown him, and leave the real nuts for himself. But what was
his surprise when Isuro answered:

'Thank you; I think I should prefer these.' And, turning to the
kernels, never stopped as long as there was one left. And the worst of
it was that, with so many people about, Gudu could not take the nuts
from him.

It was night when they reached the village where dwelt the mother of
Gudu's betrothed, who laid meat and millet porridge before them.

'I think you told me you were fond of porridge,' said Gudu; but Isuro
answered: 'You are mistaking me for somebody else, as I always eat meat
when I can get it.' And again Gudu was forced to be content with the
porridge, which he hated.

While he was eating it, however a sudden thought darted into his mind,
and he managed to knock over a great pot of water which was hanging in
front of the fire, and put it quite out.

'Now,' said the cunning creature to himself, 'I shall be able in the
dark to steal his meat!' But the rabbit had grown as cunning as he,
and standing in a corner hid the meat behind him, so that the baboon
could not find it.

'O Gudu!' he cried, laughing aloud, 'it is you who have taught me to be
clever.' And calling to the people of the house, he bade them kindle
the fire, for Gudu would sleep by it, but that he would pass the night
with some friends in another hut.

It was still quite dark when Isuro heard his name called very softly,
and, on opening his eyes, beheld Gudu standing by him. Laying his
finger on his nose, in token of silence, he signed to Isuro to get up
and follow him, and it was not until they were some distance from the
hut that Gudu spoke.

'I am hungry and want something to eat better than that nasty porridge
that I had for supper. So I am going to kill one of those goats, and
as you are a good cook you must boil the flesh for me.' The rabbit
nodded, and Gudu disappeared behind a rock, but soon returned dragging
the dead goat with him. The two then set about skinning it, after
which they stuffed the skin with dried leaves, so that no one would
have guessed it was not alive, and set it up in the middle of a lump of
bushes, which kept it firm on its feet. While he was doing this, Isuro
collected sticks for a fire, and when it was kindled, Gudu hastened to
another hut to steal a pot which he filled with water from the river,
and, planting two branches in the ground, they hung the pot with the
meat in it over the fire.

'It will not be fit to eat for two hours at least,' said Gudu, 'so we
can both have a nap.' And he stretched himself out on the ground, and
pretended to fall fast asleep, but, in reality, he was only waiting
till it was safe to take all the meat for himself. 'Surely I hear him
snore,' he thought; and he stole to the place where Isuro was lying on
a pile of wood, but the rabbit's eyes were wide open.

'How tiresome,' muttered Gudu, as he went back to his place; and after
waiting a little longer he got up, and peeped again, but still the
rabbit's pink eyes stared widely. If Gudu had only known, Isuro was
asleep all the time; but this he never guessed, and by-and- bye he grew
so tired with watching that he went to sleep himself. Soon after,
Isuro woke up, and he too felt hungry, so he crept softly to the pot
and ate all the meat, while he tied the bones together and hung them in
Gudu's fur. After that he went back to the wood-pile and slept again.

In the morning the mother of Gudu's betrothed came out to milk her
goats, and on going to the bushes where the largest one seemed
entangled, she found out the trick. She made such lament that the
people of the village came running, and Gudu and Isuro jumped up also,
and pretended to be as surprised and interested as the rest. But they
must have looked guilty after all, for suddenly an old man pointed to
them, and cried:

'Those are thieves.' And at the sound of his voice the big Gudu
trembled all over.

'How dare you say such things? I defy you to prove it,' answered Isuro
boldly. And he danced forward, and turned head over heels, and shook
himself before them all.

'I spoke hastily; you are innocent,' said the old man; 'but now let the
baboon do likewise.' And when Gudu began to jump the goat's bones
rattled and the people cried: 'It is Gudu who is the goat-slayer!' But
Gudu answered:

'Nay, I did not kill your goat; it was Isuro, and he ate the meat, and
hung the bones round my neck. So it is he who should die!' And the
people looked at each other, for they knew not what to believe. At
length one man said:

'Let them both die, but they may choose their own deaths.'

Then Isuro answered:

'If we must die, put us in the place where the wood is cut, and heap it
up all round us, so that we cannot escape, and set fire to the wood;
and if one is burned and the other is not, then he that is burned is
the goat- slayer.'

And the people did as Isuro had said. But Isuro knew of a hole under
the wood-pile, and when the fire was kindled he ran into the hole, but
Gudu died there.

When the fire had burned itself out and only ashes were left where the
wood had been, Isuro came out of his hole, and said to the people:

'Lo! did I not speak well? He who killed your goat is among those
ashes.'

[Mashona Story.]



Ian, the Soldier's Son



There dwelt a knight in Grianaig of the land of the West, who had three
daughters, and for goodness and beauty they had not their like in all
the isles. All the people loved them, and loud was the weeping when
one day, as the three maidens sat on the rocks on the edge of the sea,
dipping their feet in the water, there arose a great beast from under
the waves and swept them away beneath the ocean. And none knew whither
they had gone, or how to seek them.

Now there lived in a town a few miles off a soldier who had three sons,
fine youths and strong, and the best players at shinny in that country.
At Christmastide that year, when families met together and great
feasts were held, Ian, the youngest of the three brothers, said:

'Let us have a match at shinny on the lawn of the knight of Grianaig,
for his lawn is wider and the grass smoother than ours.'

But the others answered:

'Nay, for he is in sorrow, and he will think of the games that we have
played there when his daughters looked on.'

'Let him be pleased or angry as he will,' said Ian; 'we will drive our
ball on his lawn to-day.'

And so it was done, and Ian won three games from his brothers. But the
knight looked out of his window, and was wroth; and bade his men bring
the youths before him. When he stood in his hall and beheld them, his
heart was softened somewhat; but his face was angry as he asked:

'Why did you choose to play shinny in front of my castle when you knew
full well that the remembrance of my daughters would come back to me?
The pain which you have made me suffer you shall suffer also.'

'Since we have done you wrong,' answered Ian, the youngest, 'build us a
ship, and we will go and seek your daughters. Let them be to windward,
or to leeward, or under the four brown boundaries of the sea, we will
find them before a year and a day goes by, and will carry them back to
Grianaig.'

In seven days the ship was built, and great store of food and wine
placed in her. And the three brothers put her head to the sea and
sailed away, and in seven days the ship ran herself on to a beach of
white sand, and they all went ashore. They had none of them ever seen
that land before, and looked about them. Then they saw that, a short
way from them, a number of men were working on a rock, with one man
standing over them.

'What place is this?' asked the eldest brother. And the man who was
standing by made answer:

'This is the place where dwell the three daughters of the knight of
Grianaig, who are to be wedded to-morrow to three giants.'

'How can we find them?' asked the young man again. And the overlooker
answered:

'To reach the daughters of the knight of Grianaig you must get into
this basket, and be drawn by a rope up the face of this rock.'

'Oh, that is easily done,' said the eldest brother, jumping into the
basket, which at once began to move--up, and up, and up--till he had
gone about half-way, when a fat black raven flew at him and pecked him
till he was nearly blind, so that he was forced to go back the way he
had come.

After that the second brother got into the creel; but he fared no
better, for the raven flew upon him, and he returned as his brother had
done.

'Now it is my turn,' said Ian. But when he was halfway up the raven
set upon him also.

'Quick! quick!' cried Ian to the men who held the rope. 'Quick! quick!
or I shall be blinded!' And the men pulled with all their might, and in
another moment Ian was on top, and the raven behind him.

'Will you give me a piece of tobacco?' asked the raven, who was now
quite quiet.

'You rascal! Am I to give you tobacco for trying to peck my eyes out?'
answered Ian.

'That was part of my duty,' replied the raven; 'but give it to me, and
I will prove a good friend to you.' So Ian broke off a piece of
tobacco and gave it to him. The raven hid it under his wing, and then
went on; 'Now I will take you to the house of the big giant, where the
knight's daughter sits sewing, sewing, till even her thimble is wet
with tears.' And the raven hopped before him till they reached a large
house, the door of which stood open. They entered and passed through
one hall after the other, until they found the knight's daughter, as
the bird had said.

'What brought you here?' asked she. And Ian made answer:

'Why may I not go where you can go?'

'I was brought hither by a giant,' replied she.

'I know that,' said Ian; 'but tell me where the giant is, that I may
find him.'

'He is on the hunting hill,' answered she; 'and nought will bring him
home save a shake of the iron chain which hangs outside the gate. But,
there, neither to leeward, nor to windward, nor in the four brown
boundaries of the sea, is there any man that can hold battle against
him, save only Ian, the soldier's son, and he is now but sixteen years
old, and how shall he stand against the giant?'

'In the land whence I have come there are many men with the strength of
Ian,' answered he. And he went outside and pulled at the chain, but he
could not move it, and fell on to his knees. At that he rose swiftly,
and gathering up his strength, he seized the chain, and this time he
shook it so that the link broke. And the giant heard it on the hunting
hill, and lifted his head, thinking--

'It sounds like the noise of Ian, the soldier's son,' said he; 'but as
yet he is only sixteen years old. Still, I had better look to it.'
And home he came.

'Are you Ian, the soldier's son?' he asked, as he entered the castle.

'No, of a surety,' answered the youth, who had no wish that they should
know him.

'Then who are you in the leeward, or in the windward, or in the four
brown boundaries of the sea, who are able to move my battle- chain?'

'That will be plain to you after wrestling with me as I wrestle with my
mother. And one time she got the better of me, and two times she did
not.'

So they wrestled, and twisted and strove with each other till the giant
forced Ian to his knee.

'You are the stronger,' said Ian; and the giant answered:

'All men know that!' And they took hold of each other once more, and at
last Ian threw the giant, and wished that the raven were there to help
him. No sooner had he wished his wish than the raven came.

'Put your hand under my right wing and you will find a knife sharp
enough to take off his head,' said the raven. And the knife was so
sharp that it cut off the giant's head with a blow.

'Now go and tell the daughter of the king of Grianaig; but take heed
lest you listen to her words, and promise to go no further, for she
will seek to help you. Instead, seek the middle daughter, and when you
have found her, you shall give me a piece of tobacco for reward.'

'Well have you earned the half of all I have,' answered Ian. But the
raven shook his head.

'You know only what has passed, and nothing of what lies before. If
you would not fail, wash yourself in clean water, and take balsam from
a vessel on top of the door, and rub it over your body, and to-morrow
you will be as strong as many men, and I will lead you to the dwelling
of the middle one.'

Ian did as the raven bade him, and in spite of the eldest daughter's
entreaties, he set out to seek her next sister. He found her where she
was seated sewing, her very thimble wet from the tears which she had
shed.

'What brought you here?' asked the second sister.

'Why may I not go where you can go?' answered he; 'and why are you
weeping?'

'Because in one day I shall be married to the giant who is on the
hunting hill.'

'How can I get him home?' asked Ian.

'Nought will bring him but a shake of that iron chain which hangs
outside the gate. But there is neither to leeward, nor to westward,
nor in the four brown boundaries of the sea, any man that can hold
battle with him, save Ian, the soldier's son, and he is now but sixteen
years of age.'

'In the land whence I have come there are many men with the strength of
Ian,' said he. And he went outside and pulled at the chain, but he
could not move it, and fell on his knees. At that he rose to his feet,
and gathering up his strength mightily, he seized the chain, and this
time he shook it so that three links broke. And the second giant heard
it on the hunting hill, and lifted his head, thinking--

'It sounds like the noise of Ian, the soldier's son,' said he; 'but as
yet he is only sixteen years old. Still, I had better look to it.'
And home he came.

'Are you Ian, the soldier's son?' he asked, as he entered the castle.

'No, of a surety,' answered the youth, who had no wish that this giant
should know him either; 'but I will wrestle with you as if I were he.'

Then they seized each other by the shoulder, and the giant threw him on
his two knees. 'You are the stronger,' cried Ian; 'but I am not beaten
yet.' And rising to his feet, he threw his arms round the giant.

Backwards and forwards they swayed, and first one was uppermost and
then the other; but at length Ian worked his leg round the giant's and
threw him to the ground. Then he called to the raven, and the raven
came flapping towards him, and said: 'Put your hand under my right
wing, and you will find there a knife sharp enough to take off his
head.' And sharp indeed it was, for with a single blow, the giant's
head rolled from his body.

'Now wash yourself with warm water, and rub yourself over with oil of
balsam, and to- morrow you will be as strong as many men. But beware
of the words of the knight's daughter, for she is cunning, and will try
to keep you at her side. So farewell; but first give me a piece of
tobacco.'

'That I will gladly,' answered Ian breaking off a large bit.

He washed and rubbed himself that night, as the raven had told him, and
the next morning he entered the chamber where the knight's daughter was
sitting.

'Abide here with me,' she said, 'and be my husband. There is silver
and gold in plenty in the castle.' But he took no heed, and went on
his way till he reached the castle where the knight's youngest daughter
was sewing in the hall. And tears dropped from her eyes on to her
thimble.

'What brought you here?' asked she. And Ian made answer:

'Why may I not go where you can go?'

'I was brought hither by a giant.'

'I know full well,' said he.

'Are you Ian, the soldier's son?' asked she again. And again he
answered:

'Yes, I am; but tell me, why are you weeping?'

'To-morrow the giant will return from the hunting hill, and I must
marry him,' she sobbed. And Ian took no heed, and only said: 'How can
I bring him home?'

'Shake the iron chain that hangs outside the gate.'

And Ian went out, and gave such a pull to the chain that he fell down
at full length from the force of the shake. But in a moment he was on
his feet again, and seized the chain with so much strength that four
links came off in his hand. And the giant heard him in the hunting
hill, as he was putting the game he had killed into a bag.

'In the leeward, or the windward, or in the four brown boundaries of
the sea, there is none who could give my chain a shake save only Ian,
the soldier's son. And if he has reached me, then he has left my two
brothers dead behind him.' With that he strode back to the castle, the
earth trembling under him as he went.

'Are you Ian, the soldier's son?' asked he. And the youth answered:

'No, of a surety.'

'Then who are you in the leeward, or the windward, or in the four brown
boundaries of the sea, who are able to shake my battle chain? There is
only Ian, the soldier's son, who can do this, and he is but now sixteen
years old.

'I will show you who I am when you have wrestled with me,' said Ian.
And they threw their arms round each other, and the giant forced Ian on
to his knees; but in a moment he was up again, and crooking his leg
round the shoulders of the giant, he threw him heavily to the ground.
'Stumpy black raven, come quick!' cried he; and the raven came, and
beat the giant about the head with his wings, so that he could not get
up. Then he bade Ian take out a sharp knife from under his feathers,
which he carried with him for cutting berries, and Ian smote off the
giant's head with it. And so sharp was that knife that, with one blow,
the giant's head rolled on the ground.

'Rest now this night also,' said the raven, 'and to-morrow you shall
take the knight's three daughters to the edge of the rock that leads to
the lower world. But take heed to go down first yourself, and let them
follow after you. And before I go you shall give me a piece of
tobacco.'

'Take it all,' answered Ian, 'for well have you earned it.'

'No; give me but a piece. You know what is behind you, but you have no
knowledge of what is before you.' And picking up the tobacco in his
beak, the raven flew away.

So the next morning the knight's youngest daughter loaded asses with
all the silver and gold to be found in the castle, and she set out with
Ian the soldier's son for the house where her second sister was waiting
to see what would befall. She also had asses laden with precious
things to carry away, and so had the eldest sister, when they reached
the castle where she had been kept a prisoner. Together they all rode
to the edge of the rock, and then Ian lay down and shouted, and the
basket was drawn up, and in it they got one by one, and were let down
to the bottom. When the last one was gone, Ian should have gone also,
and left the three sisters to come after him; but he had forgotten the
raven's warning, and bade them go first, lest some accident should
happen. Only, he begged the youngest sister to let him keep the little
gold cap which, like the others, she wore on her head; and then he
helped them, each in her turn, into the basket.

Long he waited, but wait as he might, the basket never came back, for
in their joy at being free the knight's daughters had forgotten all
about Ian, and had set sail in the ship that had brought him and his
brothers to the land of Grianaig.

At last he began to understand what had happened to him, and while he
was taking counsel with himself what had best be done, the raven came
to him.

'You did not heed my words,' he said gravely.

'No, I did not, and therefore am I here,' answered Ian, bowing his head.

'The past cannot be undone,' went on the raven. 'He that will not take
counsel will take combat. This night, you will sleep in the giant's
castle. And now you shall give me a piece of tobacco.'

'I will. But, I pray you, stay in the castle with me.'

'That I may not do, but on the morrow I will come.'

And on the morrow he did, and he bade Ian go to the giant's stable
where stood a horse to whom it mattered nothing if she journeyed over
land or sea.

'But be careful,' he added, 'how you enter the stable, for the door
swings without ceasing to and fro, and if it touches you, it will cause
you to cry out. I will go first and show you the way.'

'Go,' said Ian. And the raven gave a bob and a hop, and thought he was
quite safe, but the door slammed on a feather of his tail, and he
screamed loudly.

Then Ian took a run backwards, and a run forwards, and made a spring;
but the door caught one of his feet, and he fell fainting on the stable
floor. Quickly the raven pounced on him, and picked him up in his beak
and claws, and carried him back to the castle, where he laid ointments
on his foot till it was as well as ever it was.

'Now come out to walk,' said the raven, 'but take heed that you wonder
not at aught you may behold; neither shall you touch anything. And,
first, give me a piece of tobacco.'

Many strange things did Ian behold in that island, more than he had
thought for. In a glen lay three heroes stretched on their backs, done
to death by three spears that still stuck in their breasts. But he
kept his counsel and spake nothing, only he pulled out the spears, and
the men sat up and said:

'You are Ian the soldier's son, and a spell is laid upon you to travel
in our company, to the cave of the black fisherman.'

So together they went till they reached the cave, and one of the men
entered, to see what should be found there. And he beheld a hag,
horrible to look upon, seated on a rock, and before he could speak, she
struck him with her club, and changed him into a stone; and in like
manner she dealt with the other three. At the last Ian entered.

'These men are under spells,' said the witch, 'and alive they can never
be till you have anointed them with the water which you must fetch from
the island of Big Women. See that you do not tarry.' And Ian turned
away with a sinking heart, for he would fain have followed the youngest
daughter of the knight of Grianaig.

'You did not obey my counsel,' said the raven, hopping towards him,
'and so trouble has come upon you. But sleep now, and to- morrow you
shall mount the horse which is in the giant's stable, that can gallop
over sea and land. When you reach the island of Big Women, sixteen
boys will come to meet you, and will offer the horse food, and wish to
take her saddle and bridle from her. But see that they touch her not,
and give her food yourself, and yourself lead her into the stable, and
shut the door. And be sure that for every turn of the lock given by
the sixteen stable lads you give one. And now you shall break me off a
piece of tobacco.'

The next morning Ian arose, and led the horse from the stable, without
the door hurting him, and he rode across the sea to the island of the
Big Women, where the sixteen stable lads met him, and each one offered
to take his horse, and to feed her, and to put her into the stable.
But Ian only answered:

'I myself will put her in and will see to her.' And thus he did. And
while he was rubbing her sides the horse said to him:

'Every kind of drink will they offer you, but see you take none, save
whey and water only.' And so it fell out; and when the sixteen
stable-boys saw that he would drink nothing, they drank it all
themselves, and one by one lay stretched around the board.

Then Ian felt pleased in his heart that he had withstood their fair
words, and he forgot the counsel that the horse had likewise given him
saying:

'Beware lest you fall asleep, and let slip the chance of getting home
again'; for while the lads were sleeping sweet music reached his ears,
and he slept also.

When this came to pass the steed broke through the stable door, and
kicked him and woke him roughly.

'You did not heed my counsel,' said she; 'and who knows if it is not
too late to win over the sea? But first take that sword which hangs on
the wall, and cut off the heads of the sixteen grooms.'

Filled with shame at being once more proved heedless, Ian arose and did
as the horse bade him. Then he ran to the well and poured some of the
water into a leather bottle, and jumping on the horse's back rode over
the sea to the island where the raven was waiting for him.

'Lead the horse into the stable,' said the raven, 'and lie down
yourself to sleep, for to-morrow you must make the heroes to live
again, and must slay the hag. And have a care not to be so foolish
to-morrow as you were to-day.'

'Stay with me for company,' begged Ian; but the raven shook his head,
and flew away.

In the morning Ian awoke, and hastened to the cave where the old hag
was sitting, and he struck her dead as she was, before she could cast
spells on him. Next he sprinkled the water over the heroes, who came
to life again, and together they all journeyed to the other side of the
island, and there the raven met them.

'At last you have followed the counsel that was given you,' said the
raven; 'and now, having learned wisdom, you may go home again to
Grianaig. There you will find that the knight's two eldest daughters
are to be wedded this day to your two brothers, and the youngest to the
chief of the men at the rock. But her gold cap you shall give to me
and, if you want it, you have only to think of me and I will bring it
to you. And one more warning I give you. If anyone asks you whence
you came, answer that you have come from behind you; and if anyone asks
you whither you are going, say that you are going before you.'

So Ian mounted the horse and set her face to the sea and her back to
the shore, and she was off, away and away till she reached the church
of Grianaig, and there, in a field of grass, beside a well of water, he
leaped down from his saddle.

'Now,' the horse said to him, 'draw your sword and cut off my head.'
But Ian answered:

'Poor thanks would that be for all the help I have had from you.'

'It is the only way that I can free myself from the spells that were
laid by the giants on me and the raven; for I was a girl and he was a
youth wooing me! So have no fears, but do as I have said.'

Then Ian drew his sword as she bade him, and cut off her head, and went
on his way without looking backwards. As he walked he saw a woman
standing at her house door. She asked him whence he had come, and he
answered as the raven had told him, that he came from behind. Next she
inquired whither he was going, and this time he made reply that he was
going on before him, but that he was thirsty and would like a drink.

'You are an impudent fellow,' said the woman; 'but you shall have a
drink.' And she gave him some milk, which was all she had till her
husband came home.

'Where is your husband?' asked Ian, and the woman answered him:

'He is at the knight's castle trying to fashion gold and silver into a
cap for the youngest daughter, like unto the caps that her sisters
wear, such as are not to be found in all this land. But, see, he is
returning; and now we shall hear how he has sped.'

At that the man entered the gate, and beholding a strange youth, he
said to him: 'What is your trade, boy?'

'I am a smith,' replied Ian. And the man answered:

'Good luck has befallen me, then, for you can help me to make a cap for
the knight's daughter.'

'You cannot make that cap, and you know it,' said Ian.

'Well, I must try,' replied the man, 'or I shall be hanged on a tree;
so it were a good deed to help me.'

'I will help you if I can,' said Ian; 'but keep the gold and silver for
yourself, and lock me into the smithy to-night, and I will work my
spells.' So the man, wondering to himself, locked him in.

As soon as the key was turned in the lock Ian wished for the raven, and
the raven came to him, carrying the cap in his mouth.

'Now take my head off,' said the raven. But Ian answered:

'Poor thanks were that for all the help you have given me.'

'It is the only thanks you can give me,' said the raven, 'for I was a
youth like yourself before spells were laid on me.'

Then Ian drew his sword and cut off the head of the raven, and shut his
eyes so that he might see nothing. After that he lay down and slept
till morning dawned, and the man came and unlocked the door and shook
the sleeper.

'Here is the cap,' said Ian drowsily, drawing it from under his pillow.
And he fell asleep again directly.

The sun was high in the heavens when he woke again, and this time he
beheld a tall, brown- haired youth standing by him.

'I am the raven,' said the youth, 'and the spells are broken. But now
get up and come with me.'

Then they two went together to the place where Ian had left the dead
horse; but no horse was there now, only a beautiful maiden.

'I am the horse,' she said, 'and the spells are broken'; and she and
the youth went away together.

In the meantime the smith had carried the cap to the castle, and bade a
servant belonging to the knight's youngest daughter bear it to her
mistress. But when the girl's eyes fell on it, she cried out:

'He speaks false; and if he does not bring me the man who really made
the cap I will hang him on the tree beside my window.'

The servant was filled with fear at her words, and hastened and told
the smith, who ran as fast as he could to seek for Ian. And when he
found him and brought him into the castle, the girl was first struck
dumb with joy; then she declared that she would marry nobody else. At
this some one fetched to her the knight of Grianaig, and when Ian had
told his tale, he vowed that the maiden was right, and that his elder
daughters should never wed with men who had not only taken glory to
themselves which did not belong to them, but had left the real doer of
the deeds to his fate.

And the wedding guests said that the knight had spoken well; and the
two elder brothers were fain to leave the country, for no one would
converse with them.

[From Tales of the West Highlands.]



The Fox and the Wolf



At the foot of some high mountains there was, once upon a time, a small
village, and a little way off two roads met, one of them going to the
east and the other to the west. The villagers were quiet, hard-working
folk, who toiled in the fields all day, and in the evening set out for
home when the bell began to ring in the little church. In the summer
mornings they led out their flocks to pasture, and were happy and
contented from sunrise to sunset.

One summer night, when a round full moon shone down upon the white
road, a great wolf came trotting round the corner.

'I positively must get a good meal before I go back to my den,' he said
to himself; 'it is nearly a week since I have tasted anything but
scraps, though perhaps no one would think it to look at my figure! Of
course there are plenty of rabbits and hares in the mountains; but
indeed one needs to be a greyhound to catch them, and I am not so young
as I was! If I could only dine off that fox I saw a fortnight ago,
curled up into a delicious hairy ball, I should ask nothing better; I
would have eaten her then, but unluckily her husband was lying beside
her, and one knows that foxes, great and small, run like the wind.
Really it seems as if there was not a living creature left for me to
prey upon but a wolf, and, as the proverb says: "One wolf does not bite
another." However, let us see what this village can produce. I am as
hungry as a schoolmaster.'

Now, while these thoughts were running through the mind of the wolf,
the very fox he had been thinking of was galloping along the other road.

'The whole of this day I have listened to those village hens clucking
till I could bear it no longer,' murmured she as she bounded along,
hardly seeming to touch the ground. 'When you are fond of fowls and
eggs it is the sweetest of all music. As sure as there is a sun in
heaven I will have some of them this night, for I have grown so thin
that my very bones rattle, and my poor babies are crying for food.'
And as she spoke she reached a little plot of grass, where the two
roads joined, and flung herself under a tree to take a little rest, and
to settle her plans. At this moment the wolf came up.

At the sight of the fox lying within his grasp his mouth began to
water, but his joy was somewhat checked when he noticed how thin she
was. The fox's quick ears heard the sound of his paws, though they
were soft as velvet, and turning her head she said politely:

'Is that you, neighbour? What a strange place to meet in! I hope you
are quite well?'

'Quite well as regards my health,' answered the wolf, whose eye
glistened greedily, 'at least, as well as one can be when one is very
hungry. But what is the matter with you? A fortnight ago you were as
plump as heart could wish!'

'I have been ill--very ill,' replied the fox, 'and what you say is
quite true. A worm is fat in comparison with me.'

'He is. Still, you are good enough for me; for "to the hungry no bread
is hard."'

'Oh, you are always joking! I'm sure you are not half as hungry as I!'

'That we shall soon see,' cried the wolf, opening his huge mouth and
crouching for a spring.

'What are you doing?' exclaimed the fox, stepping backwards.

'What am I doing? What I am going to do is to make my supper off you,
in less time than a cock takes to crow.'

'Well, I suppose you must have your joke,' answered the fox lightly,
but never removing her eye from the wolf, who replied with a snarl
which showed all his teeth:

'I don't want to joke, but to eat!'

'But surely a person of your talents must perceive that you might eat
me to the very last morsel and never know that you had swallowed
anything at all!'

'In this world the cleverest people are always the hungriest,' replied
the wolf.

'Ah! how true that is; but--'

'I can't stop to listen to your "buts" and "yets,"' broke in the wolf
rudely; 'let us get to the point, and the point is that I want to eat
you and not talk to you.'

'Have you no pity for a poor mother?' asked the fox, putting her tail
to her eyes, but peeping slily out of them all the same.

'I am dying of hunger,' answered the wolf, doggedly; 'and you know,' he
added with a grin, 'that charity begins at home.'

'Quite so,' replied the fox; 'it would be unreasonable of me to object
to your satisfying your appetite at my expense. But if the fox resigns
herself to the sacrifice, the mother offers you one last request.'

'Then be quick and don't waste my time, for I can't wait much longer.
What is it you want?'

'You must know,' said the fox, 'that in this village there is a rich
man who makes in the summer enough cheeses to last him for the whole
year, and keeps them in an old well, now dry, in his courtyard. By the
well hang two buckets on a pole that were used, in former days, to draw
up water. For many nights I have crept down to the palace, and have
lowered myself in the bucket, bringing home with me enough cheese to
feed the children. All I beg of you is to come with me, and, instead
of hunting chickens and such things, I will make a good meal off cheese
before I die.'

'But the cheeses may be all finished by now?'

'If you were only to see the quantities of them!' laughed the fox.
'And even if they were finished, there would always be ME to eat.'

'Well, I will come. Lead the way, but I warn you that if you try to
escape or play any tricks you are reckoning without your host-- that is
to say, without my legs, which are as long as yours!'

All was silent in the village, and not a light was to be seen but that
of the moon, which shone bright and clear in the sky. The wolf and the
fox crept softly along, when suddenly they stopped and looked at each
other; a savoury smell of frying bacon reached their noses, and reached
the noses of the sleeping dogs, who began to bark greedily.

'Is it safe to go on, think you?' asked the wolf in a whisper. And the
fox shook her head.

'Not while the dogs are barking,' said she; 'someone might come out to
see if anything was the matter.' And she signed to the wolf to curl
himself up in the shadow beside her.

In about half an hour the dogs grew tired of barking, or perhaps the
bacon was eaten up and there was no smell to excite them. Then the
wolf and the fox jumped up, and hastened to the foot of the wall.

'I am lighter than he is,' thought the fox to herself, 'and perhaps if
I make haste I can get a start, and jump over the wall on the other
side before he manages to spring over this one.' And she quickened her
pace. But if the wolf could not run he could jump, and with one bound
he was beside his companion.

'What were you going to do, comrade?'

'Oh, nothing,' replied the fox, much vexed at the failure of her plan.

'I think if I were to take a bit out of your haunch you would jump
better,' said the wolf, giving a snap at her as he spoke. The fox drew
back uneasily.

'Be careful, or I shall scream,' she snarled. And the wolf,
understanding all that might happen if the fox carried out her threat,
gave a signal to his companion to leap on the wall, where he
immediately followed her.

Once on the top they crouched down and looked about them. Not a
creature was to be seen in the courtyard, and in the furthest corner
from the house stood the well, with its two buckets suspended from a
pole, just as the fox had described it. The two thieves dragged
themselves noiselessly along the wall till they were opposite the well,
and by stretching out her neck as far as it would go the fox was able
to make out that there was only very little water in the bottom, but
just enough to reflect the moon, big, and round and yellow.

'How lucky!' cried she to the wolf. 'There is a huge cheese about the
size of a mill wheel. Look! look! did you ever see anything so
beautiful!'

'Never!' answered the wolf, peering over in his turn, his eyes
glistening greedily, for he imagined that the moon's reflection in the
water was really a cheese.

'And now, unbeliever, what have you to say?' and the fox laughed gently.

'That you are a woman--I mean a fox--of your word,' replied the wolf.

'Well, then, go down in that bucket and eat your fill,' said the fox.

'Oh, is that your game?' asked the wolf, with a grin. 'No! no! The
person who goes down in the bucket will be you! And if you don't go
down your head will go without you!'

'Of course I will go down, with the greatest pleasure,' answered the
fox, who had expected the wolf's reply.

'And be sure you don't eat all the cheese, or it will be the worse for
you,' continued the wolf. But the fox looked up at him with tears in
her eyes.

'Farewell, suspicious one!' she said sadly. And climbed into the
bucket.

In an instant she had reached the bottom of the well, and found that
the water was not deep enough to cover her legs.

'Why, it is larger and richer than I thought,' cried she, turning
towards the wolf, who was leaning over the wall of the well.

'Then be quick and bring it up,' commanded the wolf.

'How can I, when it weighs more than I do?' asked the fox.

'If it is so heavy bring it in two bits, of course,' said he.

'But I have no knife,' answered the fox. 'You will have to come down
yourself, and we will carry it up between us.'

'And how am I to come down?' inquired the wolf.

'Oh, you are really very stupid! Get into the other bucket that is
nearly over your head.'

The wolf looked up, and saw the bucket hanging there, and with some
difficulty he climbed into it. As he weighed at least four times as
much as the fox the bucket went down with a jerk, and the other bucket,
in which the fox was seated, came to the surface.

As soon as he understood what was happening, the wolf began to speak
like an angry wolf, but was a little comforted when he remembered that
the cheese still remained to him.

'But where is the cheese?' he asked of the fox, who in her turn was
leaning over the parapet watching his proceedings with a smile.

'The cheese?' answered the fox; 'why I am taking it home to my babies,
who are too young to get food for themselves.'

'Ah, traitor!' cried the wolf, howling with rage. But the fox was not
there to hear this insult, for she had gone off to a neighbouring
fowl-house, where she had noticed some fat young chickens the day
before.

'Perhaps I did treat him rather badly,' she said to herself. 'But it
seems getting cloudy, and if there should be heavy rain the other
bucket will fill and sink to the bottom, and his will go up--at least
it may!'

[From Cuentos Populares, por Antonio de Trueba.]



How Ian Direach Got the Blue Falcon



Long ago a king and queen ruled over the islands of the west, and they
had one son, whom they loved dearly. The boy grew up to be tall and
strong and handsome, and he could run and shoot, and swim and dive
better than any lad of his own age in the country. Besides, he knew
how to sail about, and sing songs to the harp, and during the winter
evenings, when everyone was gathered round the huge hall fire shaping
bows or weaving cloth, Ian Direa





Next: The Goldsmith's Fortune

Previous: The Story Of The Hero Makoma



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