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The Red Slipper

from Jewish Fairy Tales And Legends





Rosy-red was a sweet little girl, with beautiful blue eyes, soft pink
cheeks and glorious ruddy-gold hair of the tinge that artists love to
paint. Her mother died the day she was born, but her grandmother
looked after her with such tender care that Rosy-red regarded her as
her mother. She was very happy, was Rosy-red. All day long she sang,
as she tripped gaily about the house or the woods that surrounded it,
and so melodious was her voice that the birds gathered on the trees to
listen to her and to encourage her to continue, by daintily chirruping
whenever she ceased.

Merrily Rosy-red performed all the little duties her grandmother
called upon her to do, and on festivals she was allowed to wear a
delightful pair of red leather slippers, her father's gift to her on
her first birthday. Now, although neither she nor her father knew it,
they were magic slippers which grew larger as her feet grew. Rosy-red
was only a child and so did not know that slippers don't usually grow.
Her grandmother knew the secret of the slippers, but she did not tell,
and her father had become too moody and too deeply absorbed in his own
thoughts and affairs to notice anything.

One day--Rosy-red remembered it only too sadly--she returned from the
woods to find her grandmother gone and three strange women in the
house. She stopped suddenly in the midst of her singing and her cheeks
turned pale, for she did not like the appearance of the strangers.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"I am your new mother," answered the eldest of the three, "and these
are my daughters, your two new sisters."

Rosy-red trembled with fear. They were all three so ugly, and she
began to cry.

Her new sisters scolded her for that and would have beaten her had not
her father appeared. He spoke kindly, telling her he had married
again, because he was lonely and that her step-mother and step-sisters
would be good to her. But Rosy-red knew different. She hastened away
to her own little room and hid her slippers of which she was very
proud.

"They have turned my dear granny out of doors; they will take from me
my beautiful slippers," she sobbed.

After that, Rosy-red sang no more. She became a somber girl and a
drudge. The birds could not understand. They followed her through the
woods, but she was silent, as if she had been stricken dumb, and her
eyes always seemed eager to be shedding tears. Also, she was too busy
to notice her feathered friends.

She had to collect firewood for the home, to draw water from the well
and struggle along with the heavy bucket whose weight made her arms
and her back ache with pain. Sometimes, too, her white arms were
scarred with bruises, for her cruel and selfish step-sisters did not
hesitate to beat her. Often they went out to parties, or to dances,
and on these occasions she had to act as their maid and help them to
dress. Rosy-red did not mind; she was only happy when they were out of
the house. Then only did she sing softly to herself, and the birds
came to listen.

And thus many unhappy years passed away.

Once, when her father was away from home, her step-sisters went off to
a wedding dance. They told her not to forget to draw water from the
well, and warned her that if she forgot, as she did the last time,
they would beat her without mercy when they returned.

So Rosy-red, tired though she was, went out in the darkness to draw
water. She lowered the bucket, but the cord broke and the pail fell to
the bottom of the well. She ran back home for a long stick with a hook
at the end of it to recover the bucket, and as she put it into the
water she sang:

Swing and sweep till all does cling
And to the surface safely bring.

Now it so happened that a sleeping jinn dwelt at the bottom of the
well. He could only be awakened by a spell, and although Rosy-red did
not know it, the words she uttered, which she had once heard her
granny use, were the spell.

The jinn awoke, and he was so delighted with the sweet voice that he
promptly decided to help the girl whom he saw peering down into the
water. He fastened the bucket to the stick and, taking some jewels
from a treasure of which he was the guardian, he put them inside.

"Oh, how beautiful," cried Rosy-red when she saw the glittering gems.
"They are ever so much nicer than those my sisters put on to go to
the ball."

Then she sat thinking for a while and a bright idea came into her
head.

"I will give these jewels to my sisters," she said. "Perhaps they will
be kinder to me."

She waited impatiently until the sisters returned from the dance and
immediately told them. For a moment they were too dazed to speak when
they saw the sparkling precious stones. Then they looked meaningly at
one another and asked how she came by them. Rosy told them of the
words she had sung.

"Ah, we thought so," said the sisters, to her horror. "The jewels are
ours. We hid them in the well for safety. You have stolen them."

In vain Rosy-red protested. Her sisters would not listen. They beat
her severely, told her to hurry off to bed, and then, snatching the
bucket, they hurried off to the well. They lowered the bucket and sang
the words that Rosy-red had sung. At least they thought they sang; but
their voices were harsh. The sleeping jinn awoke again, but he did not
like the croaking sound the sisters made.

"Ha, ha!" he laughed. "I will teach you to disturb my sleep with
hideous noises and shall punish such pranks played on me. Here are
some more croakers," and he filled the bucket with slimy toads and
frogs.

The sisters were so enraged that they ran back home and dragged poor
Rosy-red from her bed.

"You cat, you thief," screamed one.

"You cheat," exclaimed the other. "Off you go. Not another day can you
remain in this house."

Rosy-red was too much taken by surprise to say anything. It was an
outrage to turn her out of her father's house while he was away on a
journey, but the thought came to her that she could hardly be less
happy living alone in the woods.

She had only time to snatch her pretty red slippers, and as soon as
she was out of sight of the house she put them on. It made her feel
less miserable. The sun was now rising and when its rays shone on her
she began to sing. With her old friends, the birds, twittering all
about her, she felt quite happy.

On and on she walked, much farther into the woods than ever before.
When she grew tired there was always a pleasant shady nook where she
could rest; when she became hungry, there were fruit trees in
abundance; and when she was thirsty she always came to a spring of
clear, fresh water. The magic slippers guided her. All day long she
wandered, and when toward evening she noticed her slippers were muddy
she took them off to clean. And then darkness fell. It began to rain
and she grew frightened. She crouched under a tree until she noticed a
light some short distance away. She got up and walked toward it.

When quite close, she saw that the light came from a cave dwelling. An
old woman came out to meet her. It was her grandmother, but so many
years had passed that Rosy-red did not recognize her. Granny, however,
at once knew her. "Come in, my child, and take shelter from the rain,"
she said kindly, and Rosy-red was only too glad to accept the
invitation.

The inside of the cave was quite cosy, and Rosy-red, who was almost
completely exhausted, quickly fell fast asleep. She awoke with a
start.

"My pretty red slippers," she cried. "Where are they?"

She put her hand in the pocket of her tattered dress, but could only
find one.

"I must have lost the other," she sobbed. "I must go out and look for
it."

"No, no," said granny. "You cannot do that. A storm is raging."

Rosy-red peered out through the door of the cave and drew back in fear
as she saw the lightning flash and heard the thunder rolling. She
sobbed herself to sleep again, and this time was awakened by voices.
She feared it might be her sisters who had discovered her hiding place
and had come to drag her forcibly back home again. So she crept into a
corner of the cave and listened intently.

A man was speaking.

"Know you to whom this red slipper belongs?" he was asking. "I found
it in the woods."

Rosy-red was on the point of rushing out to regain her lost slipper
when her granny's voice--very loud on purpose that she should
hear--restrained her.

"No, no, I know not," she repeated again and again, and at length the
man departed.

Granny came back into the cave and said, "I am sorry, Rosy-red, but
for aught I knew, he might be a messenger from your cruel sisters;
and, of course, I cannot let anyone take you back to them."

Next day, the man called again, this time with several attendants.
Again, Rosy-red concealed herself.

"I am a chieftain's son, and wealthy," said the man. "I must find the
wearer of this shoe. Only a graceful and beautiful girl can wear such
a dainty slipper."

Rosy-red did not know whether to be more frightened or pleased, when
her granny told her the man was very handsome and of noble bearing.

Day after day he came, each time with more retainers, and, finally, he
arrived mounted on a richly caparisoned camel with a hundred and one
followers, all mounted as he was.

"The girl I seek is here," he said. "Deny it no longer. My servants
have scoured the woods and the whole neighborhood. One is prepared to
swear he heard a young girl singing yesterday."

Rosy-red saw that concealment was no longer possible. She liked the
man's voice, and she stepped out bravely, wearing her one slipper.

The stranger, bowing low before her, held out the other, and Rosy-red
took it and put it on. It fitted perfectly.

"Many girls have tried to put on that shoe," said the young man, "but
all have failed. And I have sworn to make the wearer my bride. I am a
chieftain's son, and thou shalt be a princess."

So Rosy-red left the cave with her granny, and mounting a camel was
led through the woods to her new home where she knew naught but
happiness and the days of her sufferings were quite forgotten. And
always she wore her magic red slippers.





Next: The Star-child

Previous: The Higgledy-piggledy Palace



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