Sweep And Little Sweep
: The Green Forest Fairy Book,
Once upon a time, in days long ago, there lived a Chimney Sweep and a
little Crossing Sweeper. This Chimney Sweep was called "Sweep." He had a
very black face, from the soot he swept down tall chimneys, but he had a
kind heart and dearly loved this little Crossing Sweeper, whose name was
Little Sweep. Little Sweep had a grimy, gray face from the ashes she
threw on her muddy crossings, and as for her hea
t,--I suppose it was
kind. Sweep thought it kind, and Little Sweep vowed she loved Sweep
Now Sweep was his own master and owned a smart little donkey cart, all
filled with brooms and brushes; but Little Sweep had a dreadful master,
who beat her often and gave her scarcely enough to eat. Sweep lived in
a snug little garret, and Little Sweep lived in a cold bare attic just
across the way. The street was so narrow that the two could chat quite
easily with one another. On holidays, when Sweep, so black and sooty,
and Little Sweep, so gray and grimy, rode forth in the smart little
donkey cart, the people all stared and vowed it was seldom one could see
a couple so well matched.
Every morning Little Sweep was out with her broom, before the sun was
up. Her master would beat her if she dared lie late abed. Now Sweep had
no need to rise so early. His trade of sweeping down tall chimneys did
not begin until later in the day. Nevertheless this amiable fellow
bought himself a clock with a loud ringing bell, and when this clock
rang out at five each morning, he would throw bread and buns to Little
Sweep just over the way. Little Sweep would eat the bread and buns most
eagerly, for she was always very hungry. Sweep bought her red mittens to
warm her poor hands, and wept when he learned that her cruel master had
taken them from her and sold them.
"Ah, Little Sweep," he would say, "when my golden dollars fill the
stocking, we shall be married, and you will sweep crossings no longer.
Instead, you will sit at home in a neat little cottage and brew me soups
and make strong soaps to wash my black face. Then on holidays we shall
both ride forth, all clean and shining."
"Oh, please hurry then, and sweep ever so many chimneys, that the
stocking may very soon fill with golden dollars!" Little Sweep would
reply. "My master grows crosser every day, and I cannot bear my life."
"But you forget me," answered Sweep. "Is not my garret window just
across from yours, and do I not throw you bread and buns each day?"
"Indeed, if it were not for your bread and buns, I know that I would
die," declared Little Sweep. "My master does not give me food enough to
feed a robin."
"And I would buy you more bread and buns," sighed Sweep, "except that
bread and buns cost pennies, and if I spend too many pennies, the
stocking will never fill with golden dollars."
Now in those olden days, as no doubt you know, kings and queens and
noble folk stored all their gold in great carved chests of oak and
walnut; but humble folk like Sweep hid their savings in a stocking.
One day when Sweep swept down the chimneys of a rich baker, the rich
baker gave him seven tarts and a plum cake, for a present. You may be
sure that Little Sweep enjoyed a feast that night. Her cruel master had
gone off for the day and had locked her in her room with only bread and
water. When Sweep learned that, his kindly heart was touched; he gave
Little Sweep the whole plum cake and kept but one tart for himself. That
was the manner of man Sweep was. Everything for Little Sweep and nothing
for himself. When he swept tall chimneys in the shops of merchants,
Sweep would buy some bits of linen or some ends of lace for Little
Sweep. These Little Sweep would fashion into curtains and tidies for the
little cottage of their dreams.
Now it is a curious thing to tell, but nevertheless quite true, that
though Sweep's stocking filled at last, and there were even two golden
dollars more than it could hold, still Little Sweep lived in her cold
bare attic. And still her master beat her. The reason of it all was
this. Sweep and Little Sweep could not agree upon a cottage. Sweep
wished a cottage with many chimneys, in order that he might work at his
trade. Little Sweep, on the other hand, who hated ashes and everything
to do with chimneys, wished for a house with all glass doors and windows
and no chimneys at all! Plainly the cottage to suit these two could not
be found. Then Sweep decided on a sage plan.
"Now do you be content with a house of fewer glass doors and windows,
Little Sweep," said he, "and likewise I shall content myself with fewer
chimneys." So again they set out, and this time soon found a cottage to
please them. Little Sweep swept the crossings before it; Sweep swept
down the chimneys. Then at the doors and windows Little Sweep hung up
the curtains she had made, and pinned the tidies to the backs of the
chairs. Sweep bought a ham and a bacon, and likewise a loaf of white
bread, and behold, they were ready to be married!
"My brother is after me."--Page 175.]
Sweep was very happy because his darling would sweep no crossings, and
neither would her cruel master beat her any more. Little Sweep rejoiced
because she did not like her trade; she was sure that she would never
again be hungry, for Sweep would buy her all the bread and buns she
could desire. Sweep took the two extra golden dollars and spent them
both on finery for Little Sweep. He bought her a little gray wedding
frock (to match her grimy, gray face, you know), some blue cotton
stockings, and a red ribbon for her hair. For himself he bought only a
gay green feather to wear in his hat and a bottle of oil to polish his
holiday shoes. Always, you will notice, he gave everything to Little
Then the day before their wedding day, some very strange things came to
pass. Little Sweep was standing at her crossing when a tiny little man,
dressed out in green and wearing a bright red cap, flew through the air
and perched upon her broomstick.
"Hide me, Little Sweep," cried Red Cap. "My brother is after me."
"Hide in my pocket," replied Little Sweep, and no sooner had the first
Red Cap crawled into her pocket than a second little creature, larger
than the first, flew through the air and perched upon her broomstick.
"Tell me, Little Sweep," cried the second little creature angrily, "have
you seen my brother flying north or east or south or west?"
Now as Little Sweep had heard that Red Caps often did great things for
those who befriended them, she stood silent.
"Stupid!" cried the second little creature, when she did not speak. Then
off he flew as suddenly as he had appeared, and out from Little Sweep's
pocket crawled the first Red Cap.
"Ugh!" exclaimed Red Cap, brushing his tiny beard and dusting his green
satin suit. "How comes it that your pocket is so very dusty?"
"I must keep ashes in it for my trade of sweeping crossings," replied
Little Sweep. "I hate it."
"Then perhaps I might find you a better trade," said Red Cap, gazing
thoughtfully at Little Sweep's gray grimy face and raggedy garments. "We
Red Caps, although we be very little folk, be very powerful folk, you
"Yes, I have heard that you grant wishes to poor folk sometimes,"
replied Little Sweep; "is that true?"
"It is," said Red Cap, nodding gravely. "Make three wishes now, and I
will grant them for you."
Now fairy lore is filled with tales of folk who had three wishes given
them, and, as you have perhaps remarked, these folk have often wished
too hastily and consequently wished unwisely. The old woman who wished
for black puddings is one, and the man who wished his mill to always
grind salt is another. And there are scores and scores of these unwise
folk that I could name. But Little Sweep was not like one of these. She
leaned upon her broom and paused some time in deepest thought. At last
"First," said she, "I wish to be a beautiful princess, dressed in robes
of satin sewn with gold, my face all clean and shining, and on my head a
coronet of pearls."
"Second, I wish to dwell within a splendid castle by the sea and have a
hundred rooms all filled full of gold and treasures, and a thousand
slaves to do my bidding.
"Third, I wish my old master to sweep crossings in my place. That is
"It is enough!" cried Red Cap in amazement. "To look at you, who would
ever think you would even know enough to wish such powerful wishes! My
store of magic power will be quite gone when all you wish is done; but
even so, I have promised, and we Red Caps always keep our promises. Go
home and wait quietly."
So Little Sweep flung down her broom, although it was but two o'clock in
the afternoon and she had yet to work until sundown, unless she wished a
beating. Her old master was seated in the kitchen, stirring up a bowl of
porridge, when she entered.
"Lazy one! Idle one!" he cried out in anger as she entered. "Is it thus
you leave your work at midday? But I have something to make you lively."
He seized the rope. But for once in her life Little Sweep was not
"You had better not," said she boldly. The old master heeded her not,
however, and raised the rope to strike. Before it fell, he screamed in
amazement! Little Sweep's rags fell from her suddenly, and she stood
before him, a beautiful princess robed in satin, and on her haughty
brow a coronet of pearls.
"Oh! Oh!" cried the old master in dismay. "Had I known you were a
beautiful princess in disguise, never, never would I have beaten you;
neither would I have starved you, you may be sure."
"That makes no difference now," replied the haughty princess with
spirit; "why did you beat me at all?" As she spoke, the old master
screamed again, this time in wildest terror. His garments changed
suddenly to sweeper's rags, and into his hands flew the very broom that
Little Sweep had just flung down! In this poor guise the old master fell
upon his knees and humbly begged a penny of the haughty princess. But
again she would not heed him.
"Out of my way, simpleton!" she exclaimed. "Now go and sweep crossings
in my place, and may your new master beat you even as you beat me!"
With that the new master entered the kitchen, and finding there the old
master dressed in sweeper's rags, sent him off with a cuff to go about
his work. A coach of pearl with silver trimmings drew up before the
door, and away went the haughty princess to her castle by the sea.
There, as she had wished, she found a hundred rooms filled full of gold
and treasures, and likewise found a thousand slaves to do her bidding.
But in the midst of all her glory and magnificence, the beautiful
princess was greatly worried. Can you think what troubled her? It was
exactly this. She had not a name suitable for her fine situation.
"Little Sweep" would never do for a beautiful princess, dwelling in a
splendid castle by the sea; also she was vexed lest her thousand slaves
should perchance learn that she had once swept crossings, and so despise
her. While she sat thinking thus, and greatly troubled, she heard soft
chimes sounding through the castle halls. Presently a servant dressed in
crimson plush and golden lace entered and bowed low before her.
"Will the Princess Cendre be pleased to dine?" asked the servant humbly,
and so it was that the haughty princess learned her new name. From that
time forth she quite forgot that she had ever been called "Little
"Lead the way, slave," she commanded haughtily, "and the Princess Cendre
Then down to a great dining hall she went. Upon the walls were many
mirrors, and the table was laid with dishes of beaten gold. The Princess
Cendre (for we may never again call her Little Sweep, unless we wish to
make her very angry) gazed with delight at her image reflected in the
mirrors and ate with greatest satisfaction from the golden dishes. When
at last the meal was done, musicians played sweet airs for her pleasure.
Princess Cendre enjoyed the music, but oh, much more did she enjoy
gazing about the splendid hall wherein she sat! A thousand tapers made
all as bright as day; the walls were hung with silken tapestries, and
curtains made of lace as fine as cobwebs covered all the windows. It was
while she sat gazing thus that Princess Cendre suddenly bethought her of
the little cottage Sweep had furnished for her. Then it came also to her
mind that to-morrow was her wedding day.
"Well, to be sure," thought she, "if all these wondrous things had
never happened, I would have married Sweep. But now that would never do.
Sweep could not expect it. His black face would ill become my splendid
castle by the sea."
The musicians then sang good-night songs, and Princess Cendre sought her
room once more. There on a table she found several books with her title,
"Princess Cendre," stamped in golden letters on the covers. She was more
than pleased to see how it was written; she had been wondering how she
would even manage to spell this fine new name of hers. Before she slept
that night, she took pen and paper and practiced writing "Princess
Cendre" a hundred times, that she might do it gracefully forever after.
(While she had been a wretched little Crossing Sweeper, she had not
learned much in books, you know. So it was that she did not know that
"Princess Cendre" meant naught but "Princess Sweep" in a foreign
Now we must leave this selfish Princess Cendre sweetly sleeping in her
castle by the sea and make our way back to Sweep's snug little garret
once again. On the night of this eventful day Sweep returned home from
his labors very late. There was no light in the attic just across the
way, but he was quite content. He thought, of course, his Little Sweep
was safely tucked up there. Before he ate his bread and cheese, he
tossed three sugar cookies in at her window, and then set about
polishing his shoes and making himself extra smart for the morrow.
Sweep's candle burned very late; but even so, when he lay down to sleep
at last, he dreamed such dreadful dreams that he was glad when morning
came. He dreamed that he had lost his Little Sweep, and that he married
in her stead her broomstick dressed up in the little gray wedding frock.
The clock with the loud ringing bell wakened him at last, and Sweep
dressed himself in all his holiday attire. Then he called softly to the
attic just across the way.
"Wake up, my Little Sweep," said he; "this is your wedding day." He
tossed in a bright red apple, and presently a head was thrust forth from
the attic window opposite. Not Little Sweep's, as of course he had
expected, but the shocking, tousled head of the old master.
"Ah, kind Sweep!" exclaimed the old master, "I do most greatly thank
thee for the sugar cookies and the red apple."
"But those sugar cookies and red apple were not for you, old villain!"
cried Sweep. "They were for my darling Little Sweep. Give them to her at
once, I say."
"Oh, pray, good Sweep! I cannot give the sugar cookies or the red apple
to Little Sweep, because I have already eaten them myself; besides, she
is no longer here, you know," replied the old master, and then began to
tell the tale of wonders he had seen the day before.
Sweep listened in amazement. "Now if I find you have not told me true,"
cried he, "I will surely do you a mischief!" Then down the stairs he
sped, and over across the way. There, as the old master had declared,
Sweep found the new master in the kitchen. The new master was a pleasant
youth, and of amiable manners. He invited Sweep to stay and eat
breakfast with him, but Sweep, as you may suppose, was of no mind to
eat. Instead, he begged for news of Little Sweep.
"Indeed, I have seen no such person here," replied Master Jasper, "but
this I did see, which did most greatly astonish me. Yesterday, as I came
into this kitchen, a beautiful princess robed in shining satin swept
past me, and stepping into a coach of pearl was whirled from sight. That
old villain yonder began to mumble that this lovely princess had once
been his slave. Of course, I heeded him not, but fetched him a sharp
cuff on the ear and bade him go about his work."
Sweep now begged leave to look up in the attic, if the new master would
permit. Master Jasper gave him leave and led the way himself. Sweep
followed him with lagging tread. He now began to fear that this strange
tale might be true after all. Sadly he gazed about the cold, bare little
room. There in one corner he saw the bright-colored pasteboard box that
he had made for Little Sweep's poor treasures, and close by, on a peg,
hung the little gray wedding frock and the red ribbon he had bought
"Alas!" mourned Sweep, "it is all my fault! If my heart had not been
thus so stubbornly set upon a cottage with many chimneys, Little Sweep
and I would have been married long since, and then, of course, all this
magic would never have happened." The honest fellow wept bitter tears
that left great tracks all down his sooty face and made him look the
very picture of woe. Young Master Jasper felt sorry for him. He too had
lost his love, it seemed, and so he sought to comfort Sweep as best he
"Come, Sweep!" cried Master Jasper when he had heard. "All is not yet
lost. If Little Sweep loved you as dearly as you say, then she will only
love you ten times more, now that she is a princess! The thing for you
to do is this. Go seek until you find the castle or the palace wherein
she dwells. Who knows--why, even at this very moment she may be crying
her eyes out, because it is her wedding day, and yet Sweep has not
These words cheered Sweep. His spirits rose, and so he dried his tears
at once and then set out to seek the castle where his Little Sweep in
the guise of some fair princess might be dwelling. But though he sought
the whole day through, he sought in vain. When it was growing late, he
left the crowded city streets and ways and found himself among the open
fields and lanes. Then by and by, at twilight time, Sweep walked beside
the borders of the sea. There he sat down to rest, for he was very
weary. He tossed aside his cap and sighed to think how happy he had been
but last night, when he thrust the gay green feather in it. Then he
became aware of a voice speaking to him.
"I know where Little Sweep is dwelling," said the voice, and peering
down, Sweep saw a tiny Red Cap perched upon his knee. (It was the very
Red Cap that had hidden in Little Sweep's pocket the day before.) "If
you wish, I can take you there," continued Red Cap in a friendly
"Ah, Red Cap, if you only would!" cried Sweep. "My heart is broken
because I cannot find my darling."
"Then close your eyes and do not open them until I say," commanded Red
Sweep closed his eyes and felt himself a-sailing through the air. He
sailed so fast that he had scarcely time to draw a breath before he felt
himself set down upon the earth once more.
"Now look about you," commanded Red Cap.
Sweep obeyed. He found himself within a stately hall of marble; the
walls were carved with gold and coral, all in intricate designs, and
there, upon a throne of ivory set with gleaming sapphires, was seated
Princess Cendre. Her flowing robes of shimmering white seemed made of
moonbeams sewn together, so soft and luminous were they. Her hair, black
as a raven's wing, was bound with ropes of pearls and diamonds. The
Princess Cendre sat so still that Sweep at first believed she was some
lovely carven image he beheld. There was little to make one think of
Little Sweep, save that when the Princess Cendre spoke, her voice was
"What brings you hither, Sweep?" cried Princess Cendre angrily, when she
became aware of him.
Sweep was astonished, but answered mildly, even so.
"Ah, Little Sweep," said he, "now who would think that fine new raiment
and a face all clean and shining would make this wondrous change in you?
But perchance, if you had ever worn the new gray frock I bought you for
our wedding, I would have known about your beauty."
"My name is Little Sweep no longer, but Princess Cendre, I would have
you know," she answered coldly. "And what have I to do with gray wedding
frocks, I should like to know?"
"Why, Little Sweep," began Sweep in great surprise, but she interrupted
"Princess Cendre, if you please!" cried she.
"Well, Princess Cendre, then," said Sweep. "Have you forgot that this is
our wedding day? I thought perhaps you would be grieved as I that we
were parted, and so I came hither to marry thee."
"To marry me!" exclaimed the Princess Cendre in astonishment. "With your
black face, do you suppose that I would marry you? I am the Princess
Cendre, you must not forget. And Sweep, if this be your wedding day, as
you say it is, my advice to you is this: Marry the Crossing Sweeper of
your choice, and if you cannot find her, choose another. The city is
full of such poor wretches; there are two or three at every corner."
Sweep could scarcely believe that he had heard aright. He had not
dreamed his Little Sweep would treat him thus. He was surprised and
pained to hear her use so many harsh words all at once. He had not
thought she knew any. In the old days when she had swept crossings for a
penny she had always been a gentle little creature.
"Surely you are joking, just to try me," cried poor Sweep. "If you had
loved truly, as you did often say, then though you did become empress of
all the world, you would love me still. My face is no blacker to-day
than it was yesterday or the day before that. Do not treat me thus
coldly, Little Sweep, or you will break my heart."
"And if you call me by that name again, I will have my servants cast you
from my topmost turret and break your head," replied the Princess Cendre
in a towering rage.
"When I was naught but a Crossing Sweeper, beaten always and half
starved, you gave me bread and buns and bade me love you. To be sure, I
ate the bread and buns because I was hungry. But now that I am become a
princess and no longer need your gifts, my heart bids me to marry none
but a prince. Moreover, the prince whom I shall wed must be handsome and
charming, and his lands and wealth must be greater than my lands and
wealth, which are very great indeed. So get you gone, now, Sweep. You
see how foolish was your errand."
Poor Sweep stood gazing silently at the haughty princess, so fair to see
and yet so hard of heart. Presently Red Cap bade him close his eyes
again. Sweep closed his eyes and found himself a-sailing through the
air, and once again he found himself upon the borders of the sea.
"Ah, Sweep, I am the cause of all thy misfortune," said Red Cap sadly.
"How so, my little friend?" asked Sweep.
"It is this way," said Red Cap. "If I had not vexed my brother
yesterday, he would not have chased me so fiercely, and I would never
have sought shelter in Little Sweep's pocket. Now, if I had not sought
shelter in Little Sweep's pocket, I would never have given her three
wishes, and she would never have become the Princess Cendre, but would
have married you upon her wedding day."
"But even so, Red Cap," sighed Sweep sadly, "you are not at fault. Had
Little Sweep desired, she might have wished me to be something high
along with her. But though she has been ungrateful and selfish, too, I
love her dearly and cannot bear to say a harsh word of her."
Red Cap was surprised at Sweep's gentle speech. He had expected him to
abuse Little Sweep and say unkind things of the haughty Princess Cendre.
In all his dealings with mortals (and he had many, for Red Cap was
nearly, if not quite, a thousand years of age), he had noticed that
mortals were prone to speak ill of those who had injured them. "Without
doubt this black-faced Sweep is of noble heart," thought Red Cap, "but I
shall try him even further."
Aloud he spoke: "Now, Sweep," said Red Cap, "I have no more magic of the
sort that can raise folk to wealth or high rank and noble station; but
I have still great power to destroy. Say but a word, and in an instant I
will destroy the castle by the sea. The Princess Cendre in a flash will
turn to Little Sweep; the old master will be back in the kitchen, and
young Master Jasper will be in his uncle's house once more. What do you
say to this plan?"
"To that I must say no," said Sweep. "I think it most unworthy."
"Then, Sweep, since you will have none of my plan, I must be off," said
Red Cap. "But hark you; although I have not magic power in great store,
if you desire aid at any time, make but a simple wish, and I will
instantly appear to help you. Now farewell!" he cried, and darted off.
Poor Sweep! Now that his Little Sweep had treated him so cruelly, he
became the saddest man that one could ever know. For days and days he
did nothing, but would sit with his head in his hands, staring at the
wall, thinking only of his Little Sweep. Nothing could arouse him, until
at last Master Jasper stepped across the way and scolded him roundly.
"Now, Sweep, this will not do!" cried Master Jasper. "The bread and
cakes and pies will burn in the ovens all over the land, if the chimneys
be not neatly swept down. Then how the housewives will scold, to be
sure! Likewise will the merchants say that Sweep is become a lazy
fellow, who sits idling all day long." Master Jasper, it will be seen,
was a sensible youth, as well as amiable and agreeable.
So once again Sweep set out with his smart little donkey cart all filled
with brooms and brushes. He found many a housewife angry because he had
delayed her spring house-cleaning; but when these angry housewives
looked at Sweep's black face, so sad and sorrowful, they had not the
heart to upbraid him. Now, strange to say, though Sweep was thus so dull
and disconsolate, his trade of sweeping down tall chimneys thrived as it
never had thrived before. He swept tall chimneys in the north of the
kingdom, and in the south also. Likewise he could often be seen driving
his smart little donkey cart to the east or to the west to sweep tall
chimneys there. The fame of Sweep's skill began to grow; he swept the
chimneys in the halls of dukes and earls. Indeed, the king and queen
commanded Sweep to bring his brooms and brushes and set to work about
the palace. Their majesties, it seemed, had been greatly troubled
because the royal kitchen chimney sent the smoke down instead of up and
made the royal cooks and maidens sneeze and sputter all day long. So
skillfully did Sweep deal with this stubborn chimney that ever afterward
it sent the smoke sky-high, as proper chimneys should. The royal cooks
and maidens sneezed and sputtered no more, and their royal majesties
were grateful as could be. The king with his own hands pinned a royal
decoration on Sweep's sooty sleeve. (But if I am to tell the truth, I
must tell too that from much soot and grime and dust this royal
decoration soon became as black as Sweep's own sooty sleeve and could
not be seen unless one looked quite closely.)
Now that his trade was thriving thus excellently and he had no longer
need to buy bread and buns for Little Sweep, Sweep's pennies grew to
golden dollars very rapidly. The golden dollars in their turn soon
filled the second stocking full, and even filled a third before Sweep
was well aware of it. But even so, he took no pleasure in his wealth;
he sighed instead because he had no longer Little Sweep to share it with
him. Then, lest he become a miser hoarding gold and spending it not,
Sweep at last bethought him of a kindly plan. Throughout the kingdom
there were thousands and thousands of other little Crossing Sweepers,
two or three at every corner waiting for a penny. These wretches, Sweep
knew well, were just as poor and miserable as his own Little Sweep had
been in days gone by. According to his kindly plan, Sweep now began to
change his store of golden dollars back to pennies once again. Then when
he met a little Crossing Sweeper standing broom in hand, Sweep would
fling a handful of pennies to the little creature. Sometimes he filled
his donkey cart with bread and buns and bright red apples to feed these
little Crossing Sweepers, in memory of his own lost Little Sweep. Until
at last from these good practices Sweep became known as the friend of
all Crossing Sweepers, and was greatly loved throughout the land.
So seven years passed by. Meanwhile Sweep and Master Jasper continued
friends. Sometimes Sweep stayed to supper in Master Jasper's comfortable
kitchen; other times Sweep would bid Master Jasper step across and smoke
a pipe or two with him. Then, one evening just at dusk, Sweep returned
from his labors and found young Master Jasper packed and ready for a
"Where are you off?" asked Sweep, and pointed to a musket flung beside a
"Have you not heard the news?" cried Master Jasper eagerly. "A whole
year since, a savage tribe invaded Yelvaland and carried off as prisoner
the young and lovely Empress Yelva. Now as this lovely empress has
neither father nor husband nor brothers to protect her, and her people
cry for aid, all youths who long for noble adventure are urged to fight
beneath her banners. Come join me, Sweep."
But Sweep shook his head. "It is not suitable that I should fight for
Empress Yelva," he replied. "My black face fits me for naught but my
trade of sweeping down tall chimneys."
"But you are wrong, Sweep," argued Master Jasper; "a black face in
battle is no great matter. Stout hearts and strong arms are sorely
needed. Come, and we shall march and fight together as brothers."
Again Sweep shook his head. "Indeed, good Master Jasper," answered he,
"I wish with all my heart that I might fight with thee against this
savage tribe and aid the lovely Empress Yelva; but alas! Who, save thee,
would care to march and fight beside a black-faced sweep?"
"A thousand would! Two thousand would--Nay! ten thousand would be glad
to march with thee, Sweep!" exclaimed a shrill small voice beside them.
On peering down, Sweep beheld a tiny Red Cap perched upon the poker; it
was the same that had befriended him so long ago.
"Ah, Sweep!" continued Red Cap briskly, "I took a fancy to you when we
first met, seven years ago, and had a notion then that I would like to
know you better. However, since in all these years you have not wished a
wish of me, I could not have the joy of your acquaintance. We Red Caps,"
he explained, "although we be such powerful folk, cannot appear to
mortals without they wish for us, you know."
"I had not known that," answered Sweep politely, "or I would have wished
some simple thing just for the pleasure of a chat with thee. But tell
me, how is it that you thus appear before me now?"
"Have you so soon forgot your wish?" asked Red Cap. "Did I not hear you
wish a moment since to fight beneath the banners of the Empress Yelva?
It is to grant that wish that I now come. And mark, since in seven years
you have wished no wish of me, my magic now has grown to power
tremendous. Behold thine army!"
Sweep heard the measured tramp of many feet, and looking through the
gathering gloom, beheld a line of forms that marched by, four and four,
and all were singing gayly as they went. At first Sweep could not tell
what manner of soldiers these might be, but presently his eyes became
accustomed to the dusk, and he perceived that this vast army was
composed of Crossing Sweepers armed with brooms instead of muskets.
Perched atop of every broomstick he could see a tiny creature similar in
looks and dress to the Red Cap perched upon the poker.
"My brothers and my cousins and likewise all my friends and uncles have
come to help thee too, Sweep," said Red Cap. "And thou, good Master
Jasper, throw aside thy musket, for in Sweep's army, muskets and such
like will be useless things."
Good Master Jasper quickly did as Red Cap had commanded and followed
after Sweep. Sweep shouldered his long brush and marched proudly at the
head of his strange army. And thus began the journey into Yelvaland.
Now of that journey there is not much to tell. To be sure, whenever it
was time for breakfast, dinner, or supper, the Red Caps clapped their
hands and there appeared a thousand tables spread with all good fare.
When night fell, or when storms arose, the Red Caps likewise caused a
city of ten thousand tents to spring up on the plains. The Crossing
Sweepers enjoyed the whole march as a holiday. In all their wretched
lives before they had not had such good things to eat. Their hollow
cheeks grew plump and rosy with the winds and sun, and Sweep's heart
rejoiced to see the happy changes that came upon his friends. At night
when they sat grouped about their campfires, the Crossing Sweepers sang
songs loud in praise of Sweep, whom they declared had always been their
friend and who now was the cause of their pleasant holiday.
Now while Sweep and his strange army were marching thus toward
Yelvaland, the people there were plunged in deep despair. The savage
troops had given their soldiers so many drubbings and such bitter
punishments in battle that they had quite lost heart. Judge then of
their great joy when they beheld a friendly force marching to their aid.
But as this horde drew near, and they perceived what manner of army it
really was, their hearts sank again.
"Alas!" sighed these discouraged folk of Yelvaland, "of what avail
against the savage troops will be this ragged rabble that approaches?"
But when Sweep's army entered into Yelvaland and began to lay about them
with their broomsticks, that was another story. Aided by the magic power
of the Red Caps, each broomstick fell with the force of fifty giant
fists and resounded loud as thunder on the mountain tops. The savage
troops stood their ground but a short time and then fled in terror
before these strange and powerful weapons which they had never seen
before. (Savages do not sweep their houses, you know, and so they knew
nothing of the useful broomstick.) Sweep, gallantly leading his vast
army, pursued the flying savages and gave them battle all the while. So
dextrously and well did the little Crossing Sweepers wield their brooms
that on the third night, when both armies had agreed to rest, these
savage troops rose up and stole off. Over the hills and far away they
fled and never again were heard or seen from that day to this. The
glorious part of Sweep's great victory was that he had not lost a single
follower in battle!
"And now to free the young and lovely Empress Yelva," said Sweep to Red
Cap, "and then our work is done."
"In all good time that too will be accomplished," answered Red Cap. "The
Empress Yelva lies hidden deep down in a well of her own tears. This
well lies close beside the gates of Yelvaland, and so you had best face
your army right about and march there."
Then once again the Crossing Sweepers shouldered their brooms and
marched gayly off to Yelvaland. They reached the gates of the kingdom
just as the moon was sinking slowly in the sky, and Sweep gave orders
that they wait until the dawn to enter.
"Come with me, Sweep," whispered Red Cap; "the time has come to seek the
Empress Yelva," and led him to a well within a grove of trees.
"Now, Sweep, attend me closely," warned Red Cap, "for if you do not as I
say, all will be lost. When the moon's last ray will light the waters of
this well, plunge down into its depths and bring the Empress Yelva up
with you. Lose not a second's time, for if the moonbeam leave the well
before you, the lovely Empress Yelva must forever remain prisoner and
yourself likewise. Do you think that you are nimble enough to try?"
"I know not of my nimbleness, but I will try," said Sweep, and plunged
down headlong, as a pale moonbeam shone down and silvered the dark
waters. Before the winking of an eye, it seemed, he rose again, clasping
the Empress Yelva by the hand. The moonbeam tarried long enough for
Sweep to see the lovely maiden he had rescued. Her eyes like two blue
violets shone with kindliness, her golden hair fell rippling like a
cloak about her, and when she spoke her voice was like the chime of
"Ah, sir!" exclaimed the lovely Empress Yelva. "Although from your poor
dress I know that you are naught but a humble Sweep, I honor you for
your brave deed, and I shall wed you."
At this poor Sweep was covered with confusion. He had not dreamed the
lovely Empress Yelva would so much as deign to thank him; had not the
haughty Princess Cendre scorned him? But even so his heart still longed
for his first love, and knowing nothing better to do, the honest fellow
told his sad tale to the empress, as they stood beside the well. She
listened closely all the while.
"You have a noble heart, good Sweep," said she when he had done, "and
though you do not choose to wed me, I bear you no malice, but instead
shall help you win your Little Sweep, who has become the Princess
"Alas, your worship!" said Sweep sadly, "that can never be. The
Princess Cendre would scorn my black face, no matter what my fame or
"Why as to that, Sweep," cried Red Cap, "have no more concern. The
Empress Yelva's tears, it would seem, are magic, for since you have
plunged down the well, your face is become clean and white as though
'twere scrubbed a dozen times. You are now a handsome fellow."
"And when I have rewarded you suitably, the Princess Cendre will be more
than glad to wed you, rest assured, good Sweep," said Empress Yelva.
"But now the dawn is here, so let us hasten that I may see my people and
my own dear Yelvaland once more."
You may imagine that there was wild rejoicing when Sweep and his vast
strange army knocked upon the gates of the kingdom and demanded that
they open wide for Empress Yelva. A holiday that lasted seven days was
set, and there were games and sports and pleasures. The people sang and
danced upon the highways, and oxen were roasted whole upon great
bonfires. Sweep and all the Crossing Sweepers were praised and honored
throughout the length and breadth of Yelvaland, and all was merry as
When this great holiday was passed, as holidays all do, the business of
the court began again. The Empress Yelva ordered that a cottage and a
piece of ground, as well as two bags filled with gold, be given to each
Crossing Sweeper in reward for their brave deeds. The Crossing Sweepers
were so delighted with their gifts that they never again returned to
their own land but dwelled in Yelvaland for all their days. The Red Caps
likewise were so pleased with lovely Empress Yelva and so admired her
kind heart and sense of gratitude that they decided from that day to
make their home among the forests of her realm.
"And now, Sweep," said the Empress Yelva, when all this was done, "I
have not forgot the promise that I made thee." Accordingly she made him
prince. His title was Prince Sweepmore and his domain of Sweepmost was
twice as great and twice as rich as was the domain of haughty Princess
Cendre. Sweep now was dressed in crimson velvet. The Empress Yelva from
her treasure store gave him a golden sword all set with rubies that
flashed forth flame and fire in the sun. A hundred horses laden all with
bags of gold and pearls were also given him, as well as a like number of
servants to attend him. Then once again Sweep set forth to marry
"I grieve to see thee go, good Sweep," sighed Empress Yelva as they
parted, "but even so I do admire thy faithful heart that bids thee go."
"And I likewise do grieve to go; and I thank thee for thy gifts," Sweep
answered. He bade young Master Jasper farewell too. Young Master Jasper
had fallen deep in love with a noble maiden of the Empress Yelva's court
and was about to marry her.
A royal messenger had been sent before to tell these tidings to the
Princess Cendre. Now, strange to say, though the haughty Princess was
thus beautiful and wealthy, she was still unwed. To be sure, many
princes of small fortunes had sought her hand, but of these the haughty
creature would have none. However, her selfish ways had not pleased
princes whom she had desired to please, and so it was she sat alone
within her splendid castle by the sea. You may be sure that she
rejoiced when she learned that Sweep was now a prince with land and
riches in good store.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, "his face is clean and shining too, I hear, which
is excellent. I could not tolerate him otherwise; but as it is, I shall
delight to wed him." And so the haughty princess sent for milliners and
jewelers and for bootmakers and dressmakers too. She bought such silken
hose and high-heeled shoes as must have cost a fortune, and had her
wedding dress sewn thick with diamonds. When word was brought that the
new prince was come, she donned this sparkling robe and received him
with great courtesy.
"Ah, Sweep!" cried she, "although I know full well that Empress Yelva
hath given thee a fine new title, I love to call thee by the dear old
name I used to know. Tell me of thy life since last we parted. I have
heard the Empress Yelva desired to marry thee herself. The forward
creature! I blush for her that she should be so bold. She must be very
plain of face indeed if she must go a-seeking for a husband."
To these sharp words Sweep made reply: "Indeed, the Empress Yelva is so
fair of face that neither tongue nor pen can well describe her beauty.
Moreover, she is so kind of heart and gentle of manner that though she
were as plain as plain, I still would think her lovely!"
"Indeed!" returned the haughty Princess Cendre and gazed with
satisfaction in her mirror. "However, it is not to chat about this
forward creature that you have come hither; it is to wed me. Come, my
bishops are in readiness; my guests are waiting."
Now, when Sweep at last beheld this haughty Princess after seven years
of longing, he found a curious change had come upon him. He became aware
that he no longer loved her, and that her haughty manner and her
spiteful speech distressed him. At last he saw her as she really was, an
ungrateful, cold-hearted creature who thought of no one but herself.
(Although Sweep knew it not, the waters of the well had wrought this
change in him. You may be sure that Red Cap was aware of it!) So though
his heart was grieved to give another pain, Sweep determined to speak
his mind quite plainly.
"Ah, Princess Cendre," said he, "I fear me you must tell your guests
that you have changed your mind and bid your bishops go. For since my
black face has been changed as though by magic, it would seem my heart
and mind by magic were changed too. I know now that thou art too cold
and proud to be my princess; a princess should delight to make folk
happy, and that I fear me you would never do."
The Princess Cendre was enraged at this talk. We well know that she had
a dreadful temper when it was aroused, and she chose to rouse it now.
She stormed and she scolded; she threatened Sweep and she denounced him;
but she could not move his resolution.
"You have come hither to wed me. This is my wedding day, and you shall
not ride away!" cried she.
"Nay, but I will," returned Sweep. "Once before I came hither to wed
thee on thy wedding day, and once before I rode away. And so farewell!"
Away rode Sweep with all his train, and stopped nor stayed until he
reached the gates of Yelvaland. A herald told the news of his approach,
and Empress Yelva with her noble lords and ladies went forth to welcome
him. Sweep fell upon his knee and humbly begged the lovely maiden's hand
in marriage, and Empress Yelva smilingly consented.
"Indeed, dear Sweep!" declared the Empress Yelva, "I had a notion all
the while that you would soon return, and had our wedding feast
prepared!" (Now could it have been that the Red Caps whispered of the
magic change the well of her own tears had caused?)
Then straightway Sweep and Empress Yelva were married. Young Master
Jasper and the noble maiden were married too; it was a double wedding.
Another feast was held, so bounteous and so magnificent that all
previous feasts seemed poor and mean by comparison. Sports and games
were set, and prizes of great value were awarded. Each nobleman received
a bag of diamonds as a gift, each noble lady a rope of pearls. The
common people, one and all, were given each a bag of golden coins that
they too might make merry. The lords and dukes danced on the highways
with the dairymaids; the Empress Yelva and her ladies trod minuets with
shepherd lads and farmer boys, and all was merry as a marriage feast
Sweep now was Emperor. He wore a robe of purple bordered deep with
ermine, and held a sceptre clustered thick with diamonds when he sat at
court. With Empress Yelva by his side, he now rode forth in a splendid
chariot of gold and royal enamels. But though he was thus raised to high
rank and great wealth, Sweep was as amiable and as kind of heart as he
had been when he swept down tall chimneys for his living and drove his
donkey cart all filled with brooms and brushes. To tell the truth,
however, Sweep had little opportunity to do kind deeds. There were no
poor folk to be found in Yelvaland. The Empress Yelva governed her realm
too well and wisely for that. Now it happened on one winter's day, when
all the ground was white, Sweep noticed that the frost hung thick and
glistened on the branches of the firs and cedars.
"It seems to me, my dear," said Sweep to Empress Yelva, "that it would
be most suitable if we should build some houses for our little friends,
the Red Caps, who are dwelling in our forest. I fear me that they
suffer greatly from the cold."
The Empress Yelva thought this plan most excellent, and soon the royal
carpenters and joiners were set to making tiny little houses. When these
were made, the royal painters colored them bright green with bright red
roofs, which was quite like the costume of the Red Caps, if you will
remark. The Empress Yelva and her noble lords and ladies then hung these
tiny houses in the branches of the firs and cedars, and they looked like
so many brightly colored bird-houses. When the Red Caps flew home that
night, they were delighted; they guessed at once for whom these tiny
houses were meant. They praised Sweep and complimented him on his kind
heart and his thoughtful ways.
"We Red Caps do many kind things for mortals," they remarked most sagely
to each other, "but it is seldom mortals ever think to do kind things
for us. It is quite fitting that Sweep should be Emperor; he hath a
noble heart, as sovereigns all should have."
It happened then upon another day, while still the snow lay thick upon
the ground, that Princess Cendre and her servants went a-riding through
this forest. The haughty princess marked the tiny brightly colored
houses, and asked what they might be. A forester near by made answer
"Now if your royal highness please," said he, "Sweep, our good Emperor,
hath caused these to be made for our little friends, the Red Caps. They
suffered greatly with the cold, he thought."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the Princess Cendre. "Then your little friends, the
Red Caps, must suffer from the cold again, I fear. I have taken a great
fancy to these pretty toys and mean to hang them in my own forests, that
my goldfinches and nightingales may dwell therein in winter, instead of
flying to the southland." She then desired her servants to cut down the
tiny, brightly colored houses and rode off, little thinking of the
mischief she had done.
That night, when the Red Caps flew home, they were agitated and buzzed
about like so many angry little bees. They missed their tiny comfortable
houses and shivered with the cold. They knew, of course, who had done
this. They knew all things--these Red Caps of the olden days.
"Now this haughty Princess Cendre is impossible!" they declared most
wrathfully. "She cares not though we freeze to death; although we have
done noble things for her, she has quite forgot them. She has been
princess long enough!" they cried. "Let her be Little Sweep again," and
they clapped their hands in anger.
Then in that instant vanished the splendid castle by the sea, and
Princess Cendre's robes of satin fell from her. She found herself
dressed out in sweeper's rags, and once more, broom in hand, standing on
her corner. The old master, back within his comfortable kitchen again,
was disposed to treat her no better than he had before; and so, for all
her days, Little Sweep was forced to dwell within her cold, bare attic.
But there was no kind Sweep to toss her bread and buns each day nor buy
her bright red apples or plum cake.
Sweep, on the other hand, lived long and happily as Emperor. He and the
lovely Empress Yelva, it is said, were blessed with twenty children, all
of whom inherited Sweep's noble nature and his kindly heart.