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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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,"
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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.