Dame Grumble And Her Curious Apple Tree

: The Green Forest Fairy Book,


Long, long ago, in a country quite close to the top of the earth, where

the North Wind blew fiercely each spring, there lived a woman called

Dame Grumble. Now Dame Grumble had an Apple Tree which she loved

exceedingly, although it vexed her beyond all compare. It was a very

fine large tree, and well shaped for shade, just the sort of tree that

should have yielded a bushel or two of fruit each autumn; bu
it did

not. Each year when the cuckoo flew over the earth, calling the trees

and flowers to waken because spring was come again, the Apple Tree would

be covered with clouds upon clouds of fragrant, pinky-white blossoms.

Then Dame Grumble's heart would rejoice. But no sooner was the Apple

Tree thus bedecked than the North Wind would blow furiously, tearing

off the blossoms and carrying them off in clouds. The curious part of it

all was this: When a few of the blossoms chanced to fall to the ground,

they made a chinking sound like that of small coins in children's banks.

Then when these blossoms had withered, Dame Grumble would find nice, new

shining pennies where they had lain. From this she supposed the Apple

Tree would one day bear apples of gold.

Now Dame Grumble, it must be confessed, was not very amiable. Indeed, it

was from her nature that she drew her name. Some said Dame Grumble

complained from the time she rose in the morning until she sought her

bed at night. Even then she complained of her hard pillow or thin

coverlets until she fell asleep. Her poor son, Freyo, thought his mother

must surely grumble all night in her dreams, for on waking each day she

began directly where she had left off the night before. Many a time this

poor lad wished that he were not lame, but could go out in the world to

seek his way for himself. Dame Grumble led him a dreadful life.

If the day were hot, Dame Grumble thought longingly of the days when the

snow lay on the ground and she sat in comfort before the blazing logs.

But when the winter came again, she complained bitterly because she had

to break the ice on the well each morning. She declared it was a shame,

since she had but one son, that he should be lame, and thus be a burden

instead of a staff. Her ceaseless scolding and carping often made poor

Freyo so miserable that he would put aside his wood carving, for he had

no heart to work. If the East Wind blew ever so lightly, Dame Grumble

complained that it gave her strange pains in her face, and would wish

instead for the West Wind, which she thought mild and gentle. But when

the West Wind blew over the forest and fields and dried the linen she

spread on the hedges, Dame Grumble cried out that he was a thieving

creature. She would hasten to gather her dried linens, vowing all the

while that the West Wind would steal them if he dared. Oh, there was no

pleasing Dame Grumble! Freyo, her son, was well aware of that.

Now seeing that Dame Grumble was of a disposition to grumble and

complain when there was no cause at all, you may have some idea of her

bitter feeling when the North Wind robbed her of her apple blossoms each


when he began to shake the Apple Tree.--Page 9.]

"Oh, you wicked creature!" Dame Grumble would exclaim when he began to

shake the Apple Tree. "Just wait, and some day I will catch you and shut

you up in some dark place where you shall remain forever. No one would

miss you. The North Wind is the most hated wind that blows!"

"Indeed, Dame Grumble!" the North Wind would reply. "How would the boys

and girls ever skate if I did not blow in winter time? How would the

forest and orchards ever have time to make their new green leaves and

flowers for the springtime, if I did not lock the earth tight each

winter? You make a mistake, Madam. The North Wind would be keenly

mourned and missed. But beware! Some day I will catch you and carry you

off to a certain desert island in the middle of the sea, and there you

may complain for all your days."

Then the North Wind would roar and blow his hardest, and Dame Grumble's

petticoats would spread out like sails, until she feared she might be

blown away, and would seek refuge in the cottage. There in anger she

would watch the clouds of blossoms blown from her favorite tree. When

the North Wind had gone off again, she would rush out and scold the

Apple Tree severely.

"Oh! Such a tree!" Dame Grumble would exclaim in vexation. "If you would

but cling more firmly to your blossoms, at least a few would remain on

your branches, and then I should have a golden harvest. From the pennies

I find where your blossoms have withered, I am quite sure that you would

bear apples of gold, if you bore apples at all. Then I could sell these

golden apples and make a fortune for myself."

"But, Dame Grumble," the Apple Tree would protest, "you cannot withstand

the North Wind, either. Your petticoats spread out like sails, and you

can scarcely keep your feet on the ground."

"And what of that?" Dame Grumble would answer crossly. "I have but two

feet, while you have roots as numerous as your branches. Moreover, they

reach far down beneath the earth, and there spread far and wide as your

topmost boughs. You are stronger than I. You should fight the North

Wind, who is naught but a wicked robber in disguise. I am sure that he

has stored up a fortune in pennies from my blossoms that he has stolen

this many a long year." Then Dame Grumble would shake the Apple Tree

until Freyo would beg her to stop.

It must not be supposed that Dame Grumble did not contrive various ways

to save her blossoms from her enemy. Indeed, she spent many hours every

day thinking of plans to defeat the North Wind, but she had never

succeeded. All one winter she worked in the cold and snow, chopping tall

thorn branches to make a barrier about the Apple Tree. "Thorn branches

are very strong, and will protect the Apple Tree," thought she. Freyo

told his mother this was useless work, but she would pay no heed to what

he said.

"Then, Mother," pleaded the poor lad, "since you will not stay indoors

this bitter weather, please bring me a branch of walnut from the

forest. I would like to carve a clock-case in a certain design I have in

mind. If I had but proper tools for wood carving and a store of oak and

walnut, I might one day make a fortune for you. Then you would have no

longer need to quarrel with the North Wind about the blossoms."

"Oh, hold your silly tongue!" cried Dame Grumble. "A great simpleton I

would be to sit here quietly and wait for you to make a fortune with

your bits of woods! Each year the North Wind steals a fortune in pennies

from me, and I mean to try to stop him if I can. Should I find a bit of

walnut that will fit into my pocket, you may have it; otherwise you must

do without."

Poor Freyo had but few tools, and those few were very poor;

nevertheless, he had skillful fingers and could carve lovely pictures in

wood. Dame Grumble always laughed scornfully when the lad spoke of the

fortune he hoped one day to make. To her mind, wood carving and clumsy

chests and clock-cases were naught but folly. She rarely remembered to

bring Freyo a branch of wood from the forest. Dame Grumble was always

thinking of her blossoms and her enemy, the North Wind, and had no time

to think of Freyo. So the poor lad had to content himself with bits of

wood he found in the chimney corner, and he carved frames and treasure

boxes from these.

Now, as we have told, all one winter Dame Grumble worked diligently

dragging thorn branches from the forest, until she had a great heap.

When the snow began to melt, she planted these branches of thorn about

her favorite tree. Then when the Apple Tree was decked once more in

clouds upon clouds of fragrant, pinky-white blossoms, the North Wind

came roaring over the fields and lanes. He laughed loudly when he saw

the barrier of thorn branches.

"And so, Dame Grumble," cried the North Wind, "you do not know my

strength better than this!" Seizing a branch of the thorn, he tore it

from the ground as though it had been a twig and hurled it in the air.

Then he did likewise to the rest, and in half an hour he had torn up

every vestige of Dame Grumble's barrier.

"Many times I have left you a few blossoms, Dame Grumble," he cried, as

he blew on his way, "but you have never thanked me for the pennies, so

this time you shall have none."

Naturally Dame Grumble was more vexed than ever before. She shook the

Apple Tree with fury and left off only when she was too weary to shake

it longer. All evening she scolded so bitterly that Freyo wished himself

far away. Life with this scolding dame was far from pleasant for the

poor lame lad. Still he never complained. "Mother complains enough for

both," thought he.

When Dame Grumble arose next morning, she had another plan in mind. "My

son," said she, "I am going on a journey to seek in all places for the

fortune in pennies which my wicked enemy, the North Wind, has stolen

from me. When I have found it, I shall return, and all things will be

well. I shall buy you a fine coach and build a noble house where we

shall live like kings and queens, and there we shall be very happy, I


"But, Mother!" cried Freyo in dismay, "the North Wind travels all over

the earth, and that you cannot do. When winter comes what will you do

for shelter? Besides, I do not long for a coach, but for a crutch

instead; and as for happiness--it is to be found in kind hearts rather

than in noble houses. In our little cottage we could be as happy as

kings and queens, if you would but leave off scolding and be content."

"That shows how little you know!" replied Dame Grumble. "I cannot be

content without a fortune, and a fortune I mean to have. If I have not

found the hollow that I seek before winter comes again, I shall return.

But I have a feeling that my search will not be all in vain." Then,

bidding Freyo take good care of the cottage, Dame Grumble tied on her

bonnet and shawl and set out on her journey.

When Dame Grumble had gone, Freyo was greatly puzzled. He was not sure

that he was really lonely. He missed his mother's presence about the

cottage because she was a famous housewife, always busy with some savory

broth, or baking great loaves of brown bread. However, he was relieved

that he did not hear her sharp tongue scolding all day long. He

carefully tidied the kitchen until it looked spotless and shining, as

though Dame Grumble herself had done it. Then he sat down before his

bench. While he was working, Freyo paused; he thought he heard his name

called softly.

"Freyo, Freyo!" spoke a gentle voice. "Only come to the door, and you

can see me. I have something to tell you that will make you happy.

Please do come!" Freyo set down his work and hobbled to the door.

"It is I, the Apple Tree," spoke the voice again; "come nearer that I

may talk to you. You have always been kind to me, when Dame Grumble has

abused me, Freyo, and now I shall reward you."

Freyo made his way to the Apple Tree, and she continued: "Do you see my

two stoutest branches quite close to the ground? These I mean to give

you for crutches."

"Oh, Apple Tree!" cried Freyo. "I would not cut off your branches! I

would not give you such pain."

"But cutting off these two branches of mine will cause me no great

pain," the Apple Tree insisted. "They are over-heavy, and next spring

when the North Wind blows, I fear that he will snap them off. What the

North Wind cannot bend he will break, as well you know. When you have

made your crutches, you may go to the forest and gather more wood for

your work of wood carving, until you have the store that you desire."

At last Freyo was persuaded. The branches were cut, and all day long he

sat beneath the Apple Tree, while he fashioned a pair of crutches. By

evening they were finished, and when he slept that night, Freyo dreamed

of wandering in the greenwood; he had never yet been so far from the

cottage door.

"How well you have done!" exclaimed the Apple Tree next morning, when

Freyo stepped out briskly on his crutches.

"And you too have done well," replied the lad. "I see two tufts of green

leaves already at work to cover the places where I cut your branches."

He waved farewell to the Apple Tree and set upon his way. Freyo was gone

the whole day long. When the sun set that evening, he had not returned,

and even when the moon rose slowly, still he did not come. The Apple

Tree began to worry and to fret lest her branches had not proved strong

enough for crutches. Then presently she saw Freyo with a heavy pannier

strapped upon his back; but not one bit of oak or walnut wood had he.

"Ah, Apple Tree!" cried he, "never in my life have I been happy as I was

to-day. Only to wander beneath the trees and see the blue forget-me-nots

that make a lovely carpet underfoot, or to hear the birds sing sweetly

was like paradise. I wished the whole world were one great forest, and

that the time were always spring. I could not bear to come away!"

"But Freyo," said the Apple Tree, "you have brought nothing for your

work! How will you make chests and clock-cases?"

"I could not find it in my heart to cut the smallest twig," confessed

the lad. "The trees looked all so beautiful and stately that it seemed

to me a shame. Instead I gathered brown bells and forget-me-nots to

plant about your roots. I am sure you must be lonely in this bare

wind-swept spot, and they will serve for company."

"Now that was kind," replied the Apple Tree, "but you must now give heed

to what I say. In the forest there are many trees that will gladly give

you a fine branch or two. When next you go there, tell them that you are

the friend of the Apple Tree whose blossoms fall to earth with a

chinking sound, like small coins in children's banks. Then they will

know you and will be generous as I have been. Besides, I warn you that

at the first approach of winter, Dame Grumble will return. She will be

crosser than ever, for she will never find the fortune in pennies that

she seeks. Now be advised, Freyo, and gather a goodly store of oak and

walnut while you may."

When Freyo went again to the forest, he told the message of the Apple

Tree to the tall pines and low bending oaks, and to shady maples too.

These trees all gave him such a bounteous supply of boughs and branches

that Freyo soon had store to last him for his carving a whole year or


'T was well he had. One day as he sat working beneath the Apple Tree, he

noticed that the leaves fell fast and that the wind blew chill. Another

morning, when the maples on the hillsides flamed like fire, Freyo heard

a shrill familiar voice borne on the air, and presently Dame Grumble

herself appeared before the cottage door.

Now, as the Apple Tree had foretold, Dame Grumble was crosser than ever.

She had not found the fortune in pennies she had sought, and she was out

of humor with her journey. She vowed she had not had one pleasant moment

from the time she had set out; she said that she had longed unceasingly

for her little cottage. Dame Grumble solemnly declared that she had done

with journeys forevermore and looked forward to great happiness, now

that she was home at last. She praised Freyo's housekeeping and said the

cottage looked as tidy as a pin. When she had laid aside her bonnet and

shawl, she began to make a fine supper for him.

"How nice that you have crutches, my son, and can get about so well!"

she cried with pleasure.

"Are they not a blessing, Mother?" asked Freyo. "They are not bad for a

poor lad who never before had seen a crutch, but made them just as best

he knew."

Dame Grumble continued to praise the crutches and to admire them until

she learned that they were made from branches of the Apple Tree. Then

she was furious; her anger knew no bounds. She rushed out to the Apple

Tree and shook it with all her might. Then she ran in to throw the

crutches in the fire, but this Freyo would not permit.

"The Apple Tree herself gave me her branches, Mother," said he, "and the

crutches are mine."

"Give them to me at once, I say!" stormed Dame Grumble. "The Apple Tree

is mine, and consequently her branches are mine also. I must punish you

for this disobedience. Do you not know that I prize the Apple Tree above

all else on earth? Do I not expect a harvest of golden apples from it

some day? Now when that day is come, I shall not have nearly so many,

because of your wickedness. Why did you cut as much as a twig from the

Apple Tree?"

"Mother," answered Freyo, "if there be any harm done, it is done. To

burn the crutches will not make the branches grow upon the Apple Tree

again." Dame Grumble first commanded and then entreated that her son

give her the crutches to burn, but Freyo was firm. At last she burst

into tears.

"Oh! Oh!" she sobbed. "It is not enough that I have had many troubles

and cares in the past; each year my wicked enemy, the North Wind, steals

a fortune in pennies from me! And now added to this I must suffer

disobedience from my own ungrateful son." She sobbed and wailed until

Freyo was nearly distracted.

"Oh, Mother!" he begged. "If you would only cease your weeping and look

at these wonderful things I have made in your absence. Here is a

clock-case with the four seasons carved upon it. The hours are told by

twelve lovely nymphs dancing through the forest; it is a treasure worthy

of a king. Some day a duke may come a-riding by and fancy it--then, who

knows--my fortune may be made, and I would give it all to you, Mother."

In spite of all his pleadings, however, Dame Grumble would not look at

his treasures. She was so deep in her woes that she could think of

nothing else. She would not touch a crumb of supper but said mournfully

that she had no heart for either food or drink.

Freyo sat before the fire, sad and desolate. With the scolding dame's

return, the quiet and contentment of the little cottage had fled. "Ah,"

sighed the poor lad, "I have no doubt that Mother is right; perhaps I am

wicked and ungrateful after all."


During the winter that followed, Dame Grumble led her son a dreadful

life. He could no longer talk to his good friend, the Apple Tree, for

she was sleeping her deep winter's sleep and would not waken until the

spring. So while the snow whirled high without and piled itself in

drifts at door and chimney, Freyo sat patiently carving his great oaken

chests and settles. When he carved fields of wheat with wild fowl flying

over, the poor lad fancied himself afield once more; when he carved

forest scenes, he lived again the memories of his happy summer. If Dame

Grumble spoke to her son, it was but to call him wicked and ungrateful.

She often vowed she would forgive him if he would but give her the

crutches to burn. But Freyo had a plan in mind. With the first sign of

spring, he meant to be off and seek his own way in the world, and this

he could never do without his precious crutches. The poor lad had no

desire to spend another winter with this cross, fault-finding dame.

Now, as was her usual fashion, Dame Grumble spent much time in planning

means to spare the blossoms of the Apple Tree. It happened that on her

journey she had found a book which told of orchard trees and how to care

for them. So in this book Dame Grumble now began to study diligently.

She found a picture of an apple tree encased with strong, coarse

netting. This strong, coarse netting, so the book said, would protect

the fruit and blossoms from all harm. Accordingly, Dame Grumble sat her

down before her wheel and spun endless miles of heavy thread. From this

she next wove yards upon yards of strong, coarse netting. Often and

often Freyo begged his mother to cease this useless labor. The North

Wind would soon tear the whole thing into shreds, said he. You may be

sure Dame Grumble always had a sharp retort for him.

"Had I a son who was a comfort and a blessing, I have no doubt that he

would long ago have found a way to save my precious blossoms from the

North Wind," she would say. "I daresay, too, that I would have had a

harvest of golden apples long since. Even now I might be dwelling in

some noble mansion with slaves to do my bidding and a different carriage

for every day in the week!"

So the winter dragged on wearily. At last the snow began to melt, and

the sunbeams to make bright spots on the kitchen floor. The hedges here

and there showed patches of green leaves; the birds returned from the

southland whither they had gone for the winter. Forget-me-nots and brown

bells blossomed about the Apple Tree, and the green grass for miles

about was thick with yellow buttercups. It was then the Apple Tree awoke

from her winter's sleep and decked herself in clouds of fragrant,

pinky-white blossoms. Then it was that Dame Grumble went forth from her

cottage with yards upon yards of strong, coarse netting with which she

covered her favorite tree. Seeing the bare places that marked the two

missing branches, she cried out afresh that she was a sad, sorrowful

woman and had too many cares.

While Dame Grumble was thus occupied, Freyo unlocked the cupboard where

he had hidden his precious crutches. But, alas! The wood of the Apple

Tree was not suitable for such use, and the crutches fell to pieces when

he touched them. Freyo tried to mend them here and join them there, but

it was in vain. They broke again in other places. Now when Dame Grumble

learned this, she vowed it was a just punishment for Freyo's

disobedience. However, with her usual perverseness, she took no more

interest in the crutches. She did not trouble to burn them, and there

they lay in the cupboard for many a long day.

"You will obey your mother when she commands, another time, I daresay,"

she would often remark, and point to the useless, broken things.

Now that spring was come, it was not long before Dame Grumble's old

enemy, the North Wind, came also. Shouting and hallooing he blew over

the fields and forests one sunshiny day, and when he reached the Apple

Tree, he stopped still in amazement.

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" laughed the North Wind, "who has thus cleverly covered the

Apple Tree?"

"I have!" shouted Dame Grumble from within her cottage, where she had

run to hide. "Now you had best be off, for you can never undo this

strong, coarse netting I have woven; it is tied in a thousand tight


"Ah! is it indeed, Dame Grumble?" inquired the North Wind with mock

politeness. "Will you kindly have patience for a little until I try my

skill?" With that he blew a blast that unloosed all the yards upon yards

of strong, coarse netting and bore them off like puffs of thistledown.

Dame Grumble's heart sank; but, strange to say, the North Wind did not

blow away the blossoms of the Apple Tree. Instead, he lingered about the

cottage until night fell and played all manner of tricks to bring Dame

Grumble running out. He blew soot down the chimney and blackened the

clean-scrubbed kitchen floor; he put out her candle when she had lighted

it for evening; and whisked her linen from the hedges into the fields

and far away. Not one word of anger or reproach would Dame Grumble

utter, even so. If the North Wind would but spare the blossoms of the

Apple Tree, nothing else mattered. At last the North Wind grew weary of

his teasing and departed.

"Just you wait, Dame Grumble!" he called in farewell. "Some day I shall

catch you unaware, and I will carry you off to that desert island that

waits to welcome you as Queen of Grumblers!" Then he blew on his way.

Dame Grumble waited, fearful lest perhaps he would return, but the North

Wind returned no more that spring. The blossoms on the Apple Tree began

to wither, and presently tiny fruit began to form on its branches. It

seemed at last as though Dame Grumble would gather the harvest of golden

apples for which she had so longed; but even so, this cross,

fault-finding dame was not content.

"Alack!" she often mourned, "if I had had this strong, coarse netting

years ago, I would have had many a golden harvest long ere this. Without

doubt this covering hath a charm above the power of the North Wind. Had

I a son to assist me, I daresay he would have thought about it long


"But, Mother, I cannot help it that I am lame and do not assist you,"

sighed Freyo.

"But you can help it when you are wicked and disobedient; and wicked and

disobedient you were when you cut the two stout branches of the Apple

Tree. For now, though I shall gather golden apples, there will not be

nearly so many because of your rash act."

So the springtime passed and the summertime came. Day by day the fruit

on the Apple Tree grew larger, and day by day Dame Grumble took pencil

and paper to count the number of apples that hung upon each branch. She

tried each day to reckon just how many more she would have had but for

the branches Freyo had cut off, and every day she grew vexed afresh.

Dame Grumble would not permit Freyo to go near the Apple Tree. She vowed

he might take a notion to cut down the whole tree, for all she knew.

The summer grew older; the meadows turned brown, and the fields grew

bare. Dame Grumble watched eagerly for a sign which would show that the

apples were turning to gold; but no sign she saw. The apples turned

bright red instead. The summer began to wane, and a sharp chill in the

air warned Dame Grumble that winter was not far away. The maples on the

hillsides flamed crimson and scarlet once again, and yellow leaves fell

from the poplar trees like rain.

"Now can it be that you are going to disappoint me!" exclaimed Dame

Grumble to the Apple Tree. "Why, pray, do not your apples turn to gold?"

"How you talk, Dame Grumble!" replied the Apple Tree. "You will be

disappointed no matter what happens! Though I gave you a thousand golden

apples, you would never cease to mourn that you might have had a hundred

more had not Freyo cut off my two branches. Then you would make the poor

lad's life more miserable than ever. I sometimes wonder that you are not

ashamed to plague and torment him as you do. You do not deserve golden

apples, and I will not give you golden apples. So you had best make

haste and gather these red apples of mine before the frost will nip


But this Dame Grumble would not do. She was assured that the red apples

would turn to gold, in spite of the Apple Tree. For if young and tender

blossoms yielded bright new shining pennies, did it not follow that the

ripened fruit would be of purest gold? Dame Grumble so believed. "The

Apple Tree does not love me and never did," she thought within herself;

"it is but a plan to make me angry."

By and by the leaves fell from the Apple Tree itself, until its branches

were quite bare and brown. The apples shone tantalizingly red, and then

Dame Grumble realized at last that they would never change to golden, as

she hoped. Now this new disappointment, you may be sure, did not tend to

sweeten her disposition. All day she sat gazing mournfully at her

favorite tree and wept bitter tears at her new loss.

"Oh, Mother, pray do not weep so!" begged Freyo. "You will make yourself

ill. My store of wood is gone; but if you would bring me two stout

branches from the forest, I would fashion another pair of crutches for

myself. Then I would set off to make a fortune to take the place of this

fortune you fancy you have lost."

"Fancy I have lost!" repeated Dame Grumble scornfully. "The fortune I

fancy I have lost! I do not fancy I have lost a fortune; I know full

well I have lost a fortune. Besides, who would give a copper farthing

for your clumsy chests and boxes!"

So all day long Dame Grumble dwelt on her woes. At night she sat sighing

in the chimney corner until the little cottage quite close to the top of

the earth was as dull and gloomy as though a thousand crows had settled

suddenly upon it.


Now it happened at this time, when all Dame Grumble's troubles seemed

too many to be borne, that the good dame and her son enjoyed a visitor.

Visitors in that country quite close to the top of the earth were very

rare, you may be sure. This visitor was not an ordinary sort of person;

far from that was he, indeed. Because he journeyed ceaselessly about the

earth and was well known to folk of many lands, he was called the

Traveler. But though he roamed thus everywhere, the Traveler seemed

never bound for any certain land or country but went his ways just as

the winds of heaven went theirs. The Traveler never remained long in

any city or village, nevertheless he stayed long enough to do a kindness

for some sad one, or to help some poor one on his way. Few people ever

could agree about his age; the old thought him young, and the young

thought him old. However, young and old alike agreed that the Traveler

seemed possessed of magic powers to banish cares and troubles. Wherever

he found quarrels and spites, he left love and kindliness; where he

found envy, he left content; where he went once, the Traveler always

found a warm welcome awaiting him on his return.

What was the secret source of the Traveler's noble qualities was a

mystery to all folk. Some said the Traveler kept his cheerful spirit

because of a certain great cloak that he always wore. This cloak, they

said, was made of wool woven from the fleece of fairy sheep and had

great powers of happiness. Others said that in a far-off country the

Traveler had drunk deeply of a certain magic well, the waters of which

were said to bless one with a kindly heart forevermore. Still others

thought the Traveler's power over cares and sorrow lay in the plain

wood staff he always carried. But though the secret of his soothing

charm was thus uncertain, certain it was that the Traveler paid a visit

to Dame Grumble and her son one chill autumn evening, and the story of

it all is this:

It happened one day, as the Traveler was walking along the road that led

up to the country quite close to the top of the earth, he chanced to

meet the North Wind. Now the North Wind loved to tease and play his

tricks on every one, and so he seized the Traveler's hat and blew it

five fields off; he swept stinging dust into his eyes and wrapped his

cloak so tightly around him that but for his staff the Traveler would

have stumbled. Though he was so bothered and annoyed, the Traveler did

not complain. He loosed his cloak and wiped his eyes of the dust, then

once again he set upon his way.

"Ah," said the Traveler, "it is a strong wind that blows here; but how

clean the road is swept in consequence! It is also a good wind."

The North Wind had expected blame instead of praise and was abashed. So

straightway he brought back the hat, and then he blew gently in the

direction which would best suit the Traveler's footsteps. So it was that

this visitor knocked at Dame Grumble's cottage one evening just at

candlelight. The Traveler begged her hospitality, and Dame Grumble bade

him enter. She placed a chair before the hearth and began to prepare a

supper for him. All the while she complained most bitterly that she

should thus receive a guest in her kitchen. When she set forth the

supper, Dame Grumble sighed because the bread was brown instead of


"Never sigh, Dame Grumble!" urged the Traveler with his kindly smile.

"Seldom have I seen a pleasanter kitchen, and never have I eaten better

fare. Your brown bread is fit for a king, and your broth would give

courage to a weary army!"

"That is all very well for you to say, good sir," replied Dame Grumble

sulkily, "but you do not know all my troubles." She did not often find

one to give ear to her tale of sorrow, and if the Traveler would, Dame

Grumble meant that he should hear her. Above all else in the world,

Dame Grumble loved to talk about her woes.

"Then perhaps after supper, when you sit before the fire, you will tell

me of your troubles, good dame," said the Traveler. You may be sure Dame

Grumble agreed. Indeed, so eager was she to begin that she hummed a

lively tune to hasten her work. At the unusual sound of his mother's

singing, Freyo left his bench to learn the cause of it. When he saw the

Traveler, he greeted him with warmth.

"We do not often have a visitor, good sir," said he, "so I shall leave

my work and join you by the fireside."

"But first," exclaimed the Traveler, "you must let me see this work of

yours; you must dearly love it, thus to be about it after darkness has

fallen and all men sit to take their ease."

"Good sir," replied Freyo, "my work is wood carving, and I do love it

better than the whole world!"

The Traveler regarded the great chests and clock-cases with deep

admiration and begged Freyo to tell him of his work; of whom he had

learned his skill; and whence his designs had come. To these questions

Freyo replied that he did not know, he supposed he had taught himself.

"Good sir," said he, "some folk make pictures on a canvas with bright

colored oils and brilliant paints, and other folk make pictures with

fair words, as they tell wonder tales. I have not skill like those, but

I have dreamed bright dreams and have loved to sit and carve my dreams

upon my chests of oak and walnut wood. Think you that my skill is fair

or that my pictures would please aught beside myself, who carved them?"

"I have no words to tell you how high I hold your skill," declared the

Traveler, "and as for the pictures you have carved in wood, they would

delight a queen or please a king as well. They are truly lovely."

"Then, good sir," replied Freyo, "to the Apple Tree that stands before

our door you must give all this praise. The summer before the summer

that has just passed, this good tree of her own accord did give me her

two stoutest branches, from which I made a pair of crutches. Then I

could wander in the woods from dawn till dark, and hear the birds sing

songs the whole day long. 'T was then I learned to dream my finest

dreams; it was like heaven, sir!" The poor lad sighed in memory of the

happy time, and before he could say more, Dame Grumble interrupted. The

good dame could no longer restrain her tongue or her impatience, it


"Now, good sir!" cried she, "you have heard my son; you must hear me.

The Apple Tree was not an ordinary tree, as my son knew very well! He

did wrong to cut the smallest twig whilst I was gone.

"Each year, when the cuckoo came calling in the spring, there was no

finer sight in all the world than the Apple Tree. So thick was it with

blossoms that scarce a branch or twig could be seen. Its fragrance

floated on the breeze, drawing every bee and butterfly for leagues and

leagues about. Surely with such a tree I might look for a bounteous

harvest, one would think. But, alas! No sooner was the Apple Tree thus

decked like a bride than my wicked enemy, the North Wind, would come and

blow these blossoms far away. But mark you now the wonder of my tale: a

few blossoms would sometimes fall beneath the tree, and when they fell

they made a chinking sound like that of small coins in children's banks.

When they had withered, I always found bright, new shining pennies where

they had lain.

"Now from this curious fact I have believed that when the Apple Tree

would bear fruit, the apples would be of gold. If young and tender

blossoms yield bright, new shining pennies, does it not follow that the

ripened fruit should be of purest gold?"

"It would seem so, good dame," agreed the Traveler. "What then were the

apples--silver, perhaps?"

"Indeed sir, no!" replied Dame Grumble with deep feeling. "For all I

know, in cutting off the branches of my favorite tree, my wicked son

bewitched it. For though the Apple Tree bore fruit this year, it bore

naught but red apples of a common sort; I scorn to gather them!

"Oh, Oh!" wept Dame Grumble, bursting into tears once again at the

memory of her loss. "Thus to have my own son so wicked and disobedient,

whilst I, footsore and weary, was seeking for the fortune in pennies

which the North Wind had stolen from me these many years! It is too

much! I am sure, good sir, you will agree that I have many troubles, and

that it is not right to call me Dame Grumble because I sometimes speak

of them."

"I had rather agree that you have also many blessings, good dame,"

returned the Traveler, with his kindly smile. "Come, let us draw our

chairs before the hearth, and perhaps you may learn to see them too.

There is nothing that does so help us see our blessings as the bright

flames dancing up the chimney when all the world without is dark and


But ere she sat down, Dame Grumble recollected yet another grievance.

"And added to my other troubles," she complained, "I have a son who is

lame and must be always a burden instead of a staff."

The Traveler nodded gravely. "That is a sorrow, I agree," said he, "and

I have no doubt, good dame, that your motherly heart must often ache

with the pity of it all."

To this Dame Grumble made no reply; she began to think instead. For

years her mind had been so busy with the plans for her blossoms and her

golden harvest that it had quite forgotten how to think of aught else.

As for her heart, it ached only when she thought of the fortune in

pennies that the North Wind had stolen from her, and that she had not


"Then too, Dame Grumble," continued the Traveler, "I must tell you that

I think the North Wind no more than a rough playful fellow, and not

wicked as you say. Only this afternoon he stole my hat and ran away with

it, but before I had gone twenty yards, the amiable fellow had brought

it back to me again. And since he blew me to your cottage door, I will

henceforth claim the North Wind for my friend."

"Then since it was the North Wind that brought you to our door, I will

no longer call him my enemy, but instead will call him my friend also,"

declared Dame Grumble with a smile. In the firelight her face suddenly

looked so sweet and gentle that Freyo sighed deeply. Dame Grumble heard

the sigh, and asked her son the cause of it.

"I sighed because I wished you would smile often, Mother," replied the

lad. "You looked so sweet and pleasant."

"And now," began the Traveler, "since we are all so happy, let us begin

to think about the good dame's difficulties,--the fortune in pennies

which she sought and could not find, the precious blossoms which the

North Wind blows away each spring, and the Apple Tree which should have

borne apples of gold, but which bore red apples instead. For these three

evils we must find a remedy without delay."

Now all the while she had been sitting with the Traveler by the

fireside, because of his magic power, Dame Grumble had been thinking

busily. Not of fortunes or of golden apples, or yet of red apples

either; instead, quite to her own surprise, she was thinking of how

wearied she had grown of all these things. She wished suddenly that she

would never hear of them again. Judge then of her son's astonishment

when she answered the Traveler in the following fashion:

"Good sir, although I sat me down to talk about my troubles, now that I

have told them, they seem light and trifling; I am indeed amazed that I

have heeded them at all! Though for years and years I have quarreled

with the North Wind because he robbed me of a fortune, I seem suddenly

to care no longer for fortunes or gold or riches, or any such.

"For as I peer into the flames, it comes to my mind that there are many

in this world not so blessed as I. Many a one is hungry and has naught

to eat, while my larder is filled; some are cold whilst I sit in comfort

before a fire of pine knots that sputter and glow. I see now that I have

many blessings." Dame Grumble did not know she had these thoughts

because of the Traveler.

"Ah!" cried the Traveler, "did I not say the blazing logs helped one to

see one's blessings, and was I not right?"

"I have often fancied that was so, good sir," agreed Freyo, "and now,

since my mother no longer wishes to talk about her troubles, perhaps you

will tell us tales of your journeys; you are a traveler and have seen

far distant lands."

"Pray do, good sir!" begged Dame Grumble too. "It is long since my son

and I have heard tales of any sort. Also from your great wisdom I have

a notion that we shall be highly entertained."

So the Traveler told them tales of other lands. He told of strange birds

with bright-hued feathers of such great length that they swept upon the

ground like queens' trains. He told of burning mountains and of fiery

lakes, of lovely flowers blooming in the snow, and gardens that grew

underneath the sea. The wind without howled dismally; within, the flames

leaped high and made queer elfin shadows to dance on the walls; the

clock ticked off the minutes into hours, but still Dame Grumble and her

son sat listening, wrapt in wonder. At last the candles snuffed out, and

naught but the back log smoldered and glowed in the darkness.

"Now good sir," cried Dame Grumble, "I am sure you must be weary." She

bade him take the best room, but the Traveler refused. The comfortable

chair in which he sat was all he needed, he declared, and he bade the

good dame and her son good night.

When they awakened next morning, he had gone; but on the chair they

found his staff. Fastened to the staff there was a note which bade Freyo

use it in place of the crutches, and said when he had no longer need for

it to give it to some other one that had.

"Mother," said Freyo, when he had read the note over and over again,

"would this not seem to say that I might one day walk without the aid of

either crutch or staff? What think you of it?"

"It would seem so, my son," replied the dame, "and then how happy I

would be!"

A knock at the door startled them both. Dame Grumble, thinking it was

the Traveler returned, hastened to open; but it was not he. It was a

king's herald dressed in scarlet satin and silver laces.

"I am the herald of King Silversword," said he. He bowed low to Dame

Grumble as though she were a duchess.

"And I am Dame Grumble, at His Majesty's service," answered Dame

Grumble, with a bow equally fine.

"Then hearken to my message," began the herald. He unrolled a scroll of

parchment, set thick with king's seals and written all in silver

letters, and read the following proclamation:

"Know ye that the apple crop of the whole world has failed. From north

to south, from east to west, there is not one apple to be found, nay not

for a king's ransom. Now that of itself could be borne, none the less,

for apples be great luxuries. However, the little Princess Silverstar,

the only daughter of King Silversword and Queen Silverland, has fallen

ill and craves constantly for red apples. The doctors and the medical

men hold no hope for her recovery unless she has to eat the fruit she

craves. Wherefore, if good Dame Grumble will sell a dozen or more red

apples to His Majesty, King Silversword, she may name any sum of gold or

portions of rich jewels in payment; nay, whether she demand both gold

and jewels, or even His Majesty's entire fortune, it shall be hers in

exchange for her red apples."

"Come now, good dame, what do you say?" asked the herald, as he rolled

up the scroll once more.

"I say, good Master Herald, that my red apples are not for sale," the

dame replied, "but if they have a power to restore the little Princess

Silverstar, she may have them all. They shall be a gift from me and my

son Freyo."

Now the herald was amazed at this. From the humble surroundings, he knew

the good dame and her son were naught but worthy peasants, and he

reasoned wisely that riches would not be amiss. Accordingly, he tried to

persuade Dame Grumble to accept some gift, a tract of fertile land, a

noble mansion, or at least a bag or two of gold; but Dame Grumble was

firm in her intention and would not be persuaded.

"If my red apples have a power to heal," she declared, "they will have

thrice that power if given with a good heart instead of in barter or

exchange." So the herald besought her no more. He called the servants

and bade them strip the tree, and then, with many thanks, he hastened on

his way.

"Oh, Mother!" cried Freyo, as they watched the royal coach depart. "How

fine of you to refuse such riches! All your life you have so longed for

a fortune, too!"

"Indeed, my son," replied the good dame earnestly, "the only fortune I

desire now is the fortune that you will one day make for me. However, I

must confess that all the while I spoke with the king's herald, it

seemed that the Traveler was close beside to tell me what to say, and

that the words were not my own. Now, was that not a strange thing--and

he gone these many hours?"

As she went about her daily tasks, the good dame seemed to have

forgotten her old woes and troubles and Freyo whistled like a thrush as

he sat working at his bench. The little cottage had never known such a

happy day. Freyo's tools seemed to fly as though by magic, and the gloom

that had been slowly settling down upon the little cottage quite close

to the top of the earth now seemed to take wings and fly off. It was

just at sunset when they heard the blowing of horns and trumpets, and

again the coach of King Silversword drew up before their door.

Freyo, wishing to hear news of the Princess Silverstar, seized the

Traveler's staff and hobbled toward the door. But wonder of wonders! No

sooner had he leaned his weight upon it than he grew tall and straight

as a young poplar tree. Like an arrow he sped from the cottage door, and

Dame Grumble rubbed her eyes lest she should wake and find herself


"Now look you, good Master Herald!" she cried in amazement. "You saw my

son only this morning, and he was lame as lame could be; and now,

behold, he walks as well as you or I! Truly, say I, it is a day of


"Thou sayest right, good dame!" declared the herald. "It is to tell you

of another miracle that I have come hither. Only this morn the little

Princess Silverstar did eat but one of the red apples, and to the

delight and wonder of the court, she began to grow stronger. When she

had eaten three or four, the doctors and medical men pronounced her

cured; they believed that the red apples coming as a gift, rather than

for barter or exchange, had worked an important part in this miraculous

recovery. To-night there is great feasting and rejoicing in the land of

King Silversword, and the praises of Dame Grumble and her son are sung

by rich and poor and high and low alike." The herald then unrolled

another scroll and read the following proclamation:

"Wherefore His Majesty, King Silversword, to show his gratitude, doth

now create Freyo the First Wood Carver of his kingdom and master of all

other wood carvers in the land."

Freyo could scarcely believe his good fortune and begged the herald to

read the scroll once more. Then he began to shout with joy. "And only to

think, Mother!" he cried, "I am no longer lame, but can walk about like

all the youths whom I shall meet at court."

"I am rejoiced!" declared Dame Grumble, "but if there be feasting in all

the lands of King Silversword, there should likewise be feasting in our

little cottage. You are whole and strong, and the Princess Silverstar is

restored to health through our gift. Let us be merry too!

"And you, good Master Herald," continued the good Dame, "though our food

be plain, if happy hearts alone be needed, there will be no merrier

household in all the world than ours to-night. Will you not sup with

us?" The herald vowed he would be honored, and so Dame Grumble popped

another pudding in the steaming pot, and they all sat down. While the

three ate and drank, the good dame and her son recalled the wonder of

their visitor the evening before.

"One could scarce believe the change the Traveler wrought upon my mind

and heart," said the good dame. "Before he came, I was scolding and

complaining always from morning until night. Yet since he entered into

my door, I have had scarce a vexatious thought."

"It would seem, good dame, that the Traveler was some gentle spirit come

from afar," agreed the herald. "I do not doubt that he and his magic

arts are the secret cause of these miracles we have seen to-day."

When he departed with the herald the next day, Freyo left behind the

Traveler's staff; the good dame fancied it would be a guard against the

return of her low spirits. She leaned on it as she stood by the cottage

door and waved her son a farewell and thought with pride how handsome he

was now that he was tall and straight. Thus we must leave Dame Grumble

in the country quite close to the top of the earth, and journey off

with Freyo on the way to seek his fortune.


At the court of King Silversword, Freyo was welcomed with much honor and

ceremony. Dame Grumble's gift to the little princess had made a thousand

good friends for him, it seemed. King Silversword looked at him with

eyes of gratitude; Queen Silverland could not praise him enough. The

Little Princess Silverstar took much pleasure in the tales that Freyo

told her of the North Wind and the Apple Tree. Before many days had

passed, Freyo had become the child's favorite courtier, and was a

favorite of the whole Court likewise. The noble lords vowed that Freyo

had wisdom beyond his years and vied with one another to do him

kindnesses. The noble ladies declared that Freyo had a kindly heart as

well as handsome features. They said his gentle manners were worthy of a

duke's son. King Silversword gave orders that a fine workroom be built

at the top of the royal palace and fitted with every sort of tool that a

wood carver might fancy. He also sent great ships a-sailing off to

distant lands to bring rare woods for Freyo's work.

When all things were in order, Freyo began his first task for the great

King Silversword: it was to carve seven great chests which would be used

as dower chests for the little princess by and by. So fine was the

design upon each chest, and so delicate and intricate the carving and

the traceries, that seven long years passed before the seven chests were

finished. In all that time, although the princess grew to be a lovely

maiden, tall and stately, she still took pleasure in the tales that

Freyo told her of the Apple Tree that grew up in the country quite close

to the top of the earth. Now when these seven chests were shown at

court, it was the opinion of wise men and artists from far and near that

their equal could not be found in all the world. King Silversword was

greatly pleased, and in reward he commanded that Freyo be made Duke of

Freyoland. Ten thousand leagues of land in the country quite close to

the top of the earth were given him for his domain, and a noble castle

was likewise built there for him.

The seven dower chests were next filled full of gold and jewels, and

orders for a splendid ball were given. Princes and dukes as well as

lords and marquises from every court on earth were bidden to attend, and

from this assemblage of noble youths, the Princess Silverstar would

choose her husband. Some gossips at the court declared it was assured

that Princess Silverstar would choose Prince Goldenmines, the richest

prince in all the world. Others thought that she would surely favor

Prince Palmire, because he was so handsome. Judge then of the surprise

of all when Princess Silverstar chose Freyo for her prince and begged

her royal parents to consent.

"Is it not to Freyo's noble gift, so long ago, that we do owe our

daughter's life!" exclaimed these grateful monarchs. "How then shall we

deny him for our daughter's husband? Announce the betrothal, heralds!"

Then straightway the wedding day was set. Dame Grumble journeyed down

from the country quite close to the top of the earth and was made

welcome by Queen Silverland and her noble ladies. (To be quite formal,

we should now call the good dame Duchess Freyoland, for as mother of a

duke, she had likewise become ennobled. However, as the good dame liked

her old name best, perhaps we had best call her just Dame Grumble after


In order that all folk might rejoice in goodly earnest at her wedding

feast, the Princess Silverstar besought her father two favors. First,

that he would forgive all debts and moneys that his people owed the

crown, and second, that he would take no taxes for a whole year and a

day. She then commanded that every subject be given fine new holiday

attire and a well-filled purse, according to his rank and station. In

all the history of the kingdom there was not known a finer feast than

this. The noble lords and ladies rode and drove or danced at splendid

balls. The common people sang or played games on the highways and

feasted on the village greens. Then when the seven days of fun and

feasting passed at last, and Freyo with his lovely bride drove off to

their castle, Dame Grumble sat beside them in the royal chariot. But not

for long could the good dame content herself in their splendid castle.

Her heart began to yearn, and she began to pine most sadly for her

home. Though Freyo and his lovely bride begged her to stay and dwell

with them forever, the good dame would not hear of it.

"Ah, no, my children!" cried Dame Grumble. "Long, long ago, 'tis true, I

wished for a noble house and fancied I would be happy as a queen if I

might live in one. Since the visit of the Traveler, I have grown much

wiser. I know that I can be happy as a queen if I am but content. So in

my little cottage with the North Wind and the Apple Tree for friends, I

shall dwell all my days."

So saying, Dame Grumble bade Freyo and his lovely bride farewell, and

leaning on the Traveler's staff she set off for home. She reached her

little cottage on a bright spring day, just when the Apple Tree was

decked in clouds of fragrant, pinky-white blossoms, and looked as lovely

as a fairy tree. Dame Grumble gazed with satisfaction on her favorite

tree, and as she gazed it came to her mind that in all the noble sights

she saw at court, she had seen nothing half so lovely as the Apple Tree

in spring.

It was not long now before the North Wind came roaring over field and

forest in his usual fashion, but when he saw Dame Grumble he ceased

suddenly. He asked most civilly how the good dame did and whether she

had liked the life at court. To all his questions Dame Grumble made most

amiable reply and hoped the North Wind's health was fair. For, if you

will believe me, these two old enemies were now good friends. They had

not had a cross word or a quarrel since the evening of the Traveler's

visit long ago.

"And now, Dame Grumble," said the North Wind, "for seven long years you

have ceased your scolding and grumbling, and if you will it so, the

spell that bound the Apple Tree may now be broken. Only command me to

cease my mischief, and I will touch your blossoms nevermore. Likewise

command the Apple Tree to bear you golden apples, and you shall have


"But North Wind!" cried the Apple Tree. "First tell my mistress what you

have done with all the pennies from my blossoms. My mistress has a heart

of gold and needs not golden apples."

Dame Grumble smiled with pleasure that the Apple Tree should speak thus

kindly of her. Well she remembered the olden days when she had often

been most harsh with her favorite tree, and she hoped the tree had now

forgiven her. "The Apple Tree praises my heart too highly," said Dame

Grumble modestly. "Still, North Wind, I must own that I have been most

curious about the pennies from the blossoms you have blown away."

"The pennies were not stored in some hollow of the earth, as you

supposed, long, long ago, when you set out to find them," said the North

Wind. "Each springtime, when I blew the blossoms of the Apple Tree

around the world, I dropped the pennies at the feet of poor children who

had none but me to love them. These poor children then ran pell-mell to

the nearest sweet shop to spend their pennies and were happy as larks in


"The Apple Tree is right!" declared Dame Grumble. "For all the golden

apples in the world, I would not rob a single poor child of its penny.

So blow your fiercest, North Wind; and Apple Tree, see to it that there

be a penny for every orphan child on earth." The North Wind obeyed, and

Dame Grumble smiled to see the lovely blossoms flying through the air

like April snow.

And so the good dame settled down to dwell in peace and happiness.

Kings' palaces and dukes' castles were all very well, said she, but

after all, there was no place like home. As for climate and a clear blue

sky in summer, there was no place to equal the country quite close to

the top of the earth, Dame Grumble thought. Often and often, just at

candlelight, Dame Grumble peered into the dusk and gloom in hopes of

seeing the Traveler coming toward her door; but he came not. Sometimes

she asked the North Wind for news of him, but he could tell her little.

"I think," said the North Wind, "that the Traveler still journeys round

the earth, but always in advance of me. Sometimes I travel over cities

where all folk are content, and where there are no strifes nor quarrels.

I hear folk speaking of a noble traveler who has lingered with them, and

I have often thought it is the Traveler whom we seek. If I should ever

meet him, I shall tell him that Dame Grumble waits each evening to

welcome him."

"But my mistress, and you too, North Wind," said the Apple Tree, "have

you not heard it said the Traveler visits only those who are sad and

sorrowful, or who are afflicted with cold, selfish hearts? If that be

true, he will return to our little cottage no more; there is no need for


Now it would seem that the Apple Tree was right, for the Traveler

returned no more. And in all the world there was not such another place

for comfort and good cheer as Dame Grumble's little cottage quite close

to the top of the earth where the North Wind blew fiercely each spring.