The Mallet





There were once two farmer men who were brothers. Both of them worked

hard in seed-time and in harvest-time. They stood knee-deep in water to

plant out the young rice, bending their backs a thousand times an hour;

they wielded the sickle when the hot sun shone; when the rain poured

down in torrents, there they were still at their digging or such like,

huddled up in their rice-straw rain coats, for in the sweat of their

brows did they eat their bread.



The elder of the two brothers was called Cho. For all he laboured so

hard he was passing rich. From a boy he had had a saving way with him,

and had put by a mint of money. He had a big farm, too, and not a year

but that he did well, what with his rice, and his silk-worms, and his

granaries and storehouses. But there was nothing to show for all this,

if it will be believed. He was a mean, sour man with not so much as a

"good day" and a cup of tea for a wayfarer, or a cake of cold rice for a

beggar man. His children whimpered when he came near them, and his wife

was much to be pitied.



The younger of the two brothers was called Kane. For all he laboured so

hard he was as poor as a church mouse. Bad was his luck, his silk-worms

died, and his rice would not flourish. In spite of this he was a merry

fellow, a bachelor who loved a song and an honest cup of sake. His

roof, his pipe, his meagre supper, all these he would share, very

gladly, with the first-comer. He had the nimblest tongue for a comical

joke, and the kindest heart in the world. But it is a true thing, though

it is a pity all the same, that a man cannot live on love and laughter,

and presently Kane was in a bad way.



"There's nothing for it," he says, "but to pocket my pride" (for he had

some) "and go and see what my brother Cho will do for me, and I'm

greatly mistaken if it will be much."



So he borrows some clothes from a friend for the visit, and sets off in

very neat hakama, looking quite the gentleman, and singing a song to

keep his heart up.



He sees his brother standing outside his house, and the first minute he

thinks he is seeing a boggart, Cho is in such ragged gear. But presently

he sings out, "You're early, Cho."



"You're early, Kane," says Cho.



"May I come in and talk a bit?" asks Kane.



"Yes," says Cho, "you can; but you won't find anything to eat at this

time of day, nor yet to drink, so let disappointments be avoided."



"Very well," says Kane; "as it happens, it's not food I've come for."



When they were inside the house and sitting on the mats, Cho says,

"That's a fine suit of clothes you've got on you, Kane. You must be

doing well. It's not me that can afford to go about the muddy roads

dressed up like a prince. Times are bad, very bad."



In spite of this not being a good beginning, Kane plucks up his courage

and laughs. And presently he says:



"Look here, brother. These are borrowed clothes, my own will hardly hold

together. My rice crop was ruined, and my silk-worms are dead. I have

not a rin to buy rice seed or new worms. I am at my wits' end, and I

have come to you begging, so now you have it. For the sake of the mother

that bore us both, give me a handful of seed and a few silk-worms'

eggs."



At this Cho made as if he would faint with astonishment and dismay.



"Alack! Alack!" he says. "I am a poor man, a very poor man. Must I rob

my wife and my miserable children?" And thus he bewailed himself and

talked for half an hour.



But to make a long story short, Cho says that out of filial piety, and

because of the blessed mother of them both, he must make shift to give

Kane the silk-worms' eggs and the rice. So he gets a handful of dead

eggs and a handful of musty and mouldy rice. "These are no good to man

or beast," says the old fox to himself, and he laughs. But to his own

blood-brother he says, "Here, Kane. It's the best silk-worms' eggs I am

giving you, and the best rice of all my poor store, and I cannot afford

it at all; and may the gods forgive me for robbing my poor wife and my

children."



Kane thanks his brother with all his heart for his great generosity, and

bows his head to the mats three times. Then off he goes, with the

silk-worms' eggs and the rice in his sleeve, skipping and jumping with

joy, for he thought that his luck had turned at last. But in the muddy

parts of the road he was careful to hold up his hakama, for they were

borrowed.



When he reached home he gathered great store of green mulberry leaves.

This was for the silk-worms that were going to be hatched out of the

dead eggs. And he sat down and waited for the silk-worms to come. And

come they did, too, and that was very strange, because the eggs were

dead eggs for sure. The silk-worms were a lively lot; they ate the

mulberry leaves in a twinkling, and lost no time at all, but began to

wind themselves into cocoons that minute. Then Kane was the happy man.

He went out and told his good fortune to all the neighbours. This was

where he made his mistake. And he found a peddlar man who did his rounds

in those parts, and gave him a message to take to his brother Cho, with

his compliments and respectful thanks, that the silk-worms were doing

uncommonly well. This was where he made a bigger mistake. It was a pity

he could not let well alone.



When Cho heard of his brother's luck he was not pleased. Pretty soon he

tied on his straw sandals and was off to Kane's farm. Kane was out when

he got there, but Cho did not care for that. He went to have a look at

the silk-worms. And when he saw how they were beginning to spin

themselves into cocoons, as neat as you please, he took a sharp knife

and cut every one of them in two. Then he went away home, the bad man!

When Kane came to look after his silk-worms he could not help thinking

they looked a bit queer. He scratches his head and he says, "It almost

appears as though each of them has been cut in half. They seem dead," he

says. Then out he goes and gathers a great lot of mulberry leaves. And

all those half silk-worms set to and ate up the mulberry leaves, and

after that there were just twice as many silk-worms spinning away as

there were before. And that was very strange, because the silk-worms

were dead for sure.



When Cho heard of this he goes and chops his own silk-worms in two with

a sharp knife; but he gained nothing by that, for the silk-worms never

moved again, but stayed as dead as dead, and his wife had to throw them

away next morning.



After this Kane sowed the rice seed that he had from his brother, and

when the young rice came up as green as you please he planted it out

with care, and it flourished wonderfully, and soon the rice was formed

in the ear.



One day an immense flight of swallows came and settled on Kane's

rice-field.



"Arah! Arah!" Kane shouted. He clapped his hands and beat about with a

bamboo stick. So the swallows flew away. In two minutes back they came.



"Arah! Arah!" Kane shouted, and he clapped his hands and beat about with

his bamboo stick. So the swallows flew away. In two minutes back they

came.



"Arah! Arah!" Kane shouted. He clapped his hands and beat about with his

bamboo stick. So the swallows flew away. In two minutes back they came.



When he had scared them away for the ninth time, Kane takes his

tenegui and wipes his face. "This grows into a habit," he says. But in

two minutes back came the swallows for the tenth time. "Arah! Arah!"

Kane shouted, and he chased them over hill and dale, hedge and ditch,

rice-field and mulberry-field, till at last they flew away from his

sight, and he found himself in a mossy dell shaded by spreading pine

trees. Being very tired with running he lies down his full length upon

the moss, and presently falls fast asleep and snoring.



The next thing was that he dreamed. He thought he saw a troop of

children come to the mossy glade, for in his dream he remembered very

well where he was. The children fluttered here and there among the

pine-trees' trunks. They were as pretty as flowers or butterflies. One

and all of them had dancing bare feet; their hair hung down, long, loose

and black; their skins were white like the plum blossom.



"For good or for evil," says Kane to himself, "I have seen the fairies'

children."



The children made an end of their dancing, and sat them upon the ground

in a ring. "Leader! Leader!" they cried. "Fetch us the mallet." Then

there rose up a beautiful boy, about fourteen or fifteen years old, the

eldest and the tallest there. He lifted a mossy stone quite close to

Kane's head. Underneath was a plain little mallet of white wood. The boy

took it up and went and stood within the circle of children. He laughed

and cried, "Now what will you have?"



"A kite, a kite," calls out one of the children.



The boy shakes the mallet, and lo and behold he shakes a kite out of

it!--a great kite with a tail to it, and a good ball of twine as well.



"Now what else?" asks the boy.



"Battledore and shuttlecock for me," says a little girl.



And sure enough there they are, a battledore of the best, and twenty

shuttlecocks, meetly feathered and gilded.



"Now what else?" says the boy.



"A lot of sweets."



"Greedy!" says the boy, but he shakes the mallet, and there are the

sweets.



"A red crepe frock and a brocade obi."



"Miss Vanity!" says the boy, but he shakes all this gravely out of the

mallet.



"Books, story books."



"That's better," says the boy, and out come the books by the dozen and

score, all open to show the lovely pictures.



Now, when the children had their hearts' desires, the leader put away

the mallet beneath its mossy stone, and after they had played for some

time they became tired; their bright attires melted away into the gloom

of the wood, and their pretty voices grew distant and then were heard no

more. It was very still.



Kane awoke, good man, and found the sun set and darkness beginning to

fall. There was the mossy stone right under his hand. He lifted it, and

there was the mallet.



"Now," said Kane, taking it up, "begging the pardon of the fairies'

children, I'll make bold to borrow that mallet." So he took it home in

his sleeve and spent a pleasant evening shaking gold pieces out of it,

and sake, and new clothes, and farmers' tools, and musical

instruments, and who knows what all!



It is not hard to believe that pretty soon he became the richest and

jolliest farmer in all that country-side. Sleek and fat he grew, and his

heart was bigger and kinder than ever.



But what like was Cho's heart when he got wind of all this? Ay, there's

the question. Cho turned green with envy, as green as grass. "I'll have

a fairy mallet, too," he says, "and be rich for nothing. Why should that

idiot spendthrift Kane have all the good fortune?" So he goes and begs

rice from his brother, which his brother gives him very willingly, a

good sackful. And he waits for it to ripen, quite wild with impatience.

It ripens sure enough, and sure enough a flight of swallows comes and

settles upon the good grain in the ear.



"Arah! Arah!" shouted Cho, clapping his hands and laughing aloud for

joy. The swallows flew away, and Cho was after them. He chased them over

hill and dale, hedge and ditch, rice-field and mulberry-field, till at

last they flew away from his sight, and he found himself in a mossy dell

shaded by spreading pine-trees. Cho looks about him.



"This should be the place," says he. So he lies down and waits with one

wily eye shut and one wily eye open.



Presently who should trip into the dell but the fairies' children! Very

fresh they were as they moved among the pine-tree trunks.



"Leader! Leader! Fetch us the mallet," they cried. Up stepped the leader

and lifted away the mossy stone. And behold there was no mallet there!



Now the fairies' children became very angry. They stamped their little

feet, and cried and rushed wildly to and fro, and were beside themselves

altogether because the mallet was gone.



"See," cried the leader at last, "see this ugly old farmer man; he must

have taken our mallet. Let us pull his nose for him."



With a shrill scream the fairies' children set upon Cho. They pinched

him, and pulled him, and buffeted him, and set their sharp teeth in his

flesh till he yelled in agony. Worst of all, they laid hold of his nose

and pulled it. Long it grew, and longer. It reached his waist. It

reached his feet.



Lord, how they laughed, the fairies' children! Then they scampered away

like fallen leaves before the wind.



Cho sighed, and he groaned, and he cursed, and he swore, but for all

that his nose was not an inch shorter. So, sad and sorry, he gathered it

up in his two hands and went to Kane's house.



"Kane, I am very sick," says he.



"Indeed, so I see," says Kane, "a terrible sickness; and how did you

catch it?" he says. And so kind he was that he never laughed at Cho's

nose, nor yet he never smiled, but there were tears in his eyes at his

brother's misfortunes. Then Cho's heart melted and he told his brother

all the tale, and he never kept back how mean he had been about the dead

silk-worms' eggs, and about the other things that have been told of. And

he asked Kane to forgive him and to help him.



"Wait you still a minute," says Kane.



He goes to his chest, and he brings out the mallet. And he rubs it very

gently up and down Cho's long nose, and sure enough it shortened up very

quickly. In two minutes it was a natural size. Cho danced for joy.



Kane looks at him and says, "If I were you, I'd just go home and try to

be different."



When Cho had gone, Kane sat still and thought for a long time. When the

moon rose that night he went out and took the mallet with him. He came

to the mossy dell that was shaded with spreading pine trees, and he laid

the mallet in its old place under the stone.



"I'm the last man in the world," he said, "to be unfriendly to the

fairies' children."





The Mail-coach Passengers The Man and His Two Sweethearts facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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