The Wonderful Pump

: American Fairy Tales

Not many years ago there lived on a stony, barren New England farm a

man and his wife. They were sober, honest people, working hard from

early morning until dark to enable them to secure a scanty living

from their poor land.

Their house, a small, one-storied building, stood upon the side of a

steep hill, and the stones lay so thickly about it that scarce

anything green could grow from the ground. At the f
ot of the hill,

a quarter of a mile from the house by the winding path, was a small

brook, and the woman was obliged to go there for water and to carry

it up the hill to the house. This was a tedious task, and with the

other hard work that fell to her share had made her gaunt and bent

and lean.

Yet she never complained, but meekly and faithfully performed her

duties, doing the housework, carrying the water and helping her

husband hoe the scanty crop that grew upon the best part of their


One day, as she walked down the path to the brook, her big shoes

scattering the pebbles right and left, she noticed a large beetle

lying upon its back and struggling hard with its little legs to turn

over, that its feet might again touch the ground. But this it could

not accomplish; so the woman, who had a kind heart, reached down and

gently turned the beetle with her finger. At once it scampered from

the path and she went on to the brook.

The next day, as she came for water, she was surprised to see the

beetle again lying upon its back and struggling helplessly to turn.

Once more the woman stopped and set him upon his feet; and then, as

she stooped over the tiny creature, she heard a small voice say:

"Oh, thank you! Thank you so much for saving me!"

Half frightened at hearing a beetle speak in her own language, the

woman started back and exclaimed:

"La sakes! Surely you can't talk like humans!" Then, recovering from

her alarm, she again bent over the beetle, who answered her:

"Why shouldn't I talk, if I have anything to say?

"'Cause you're a bug," replied the woman.

"That is true; and you saved my life--saved me from my enemies, the

sparrows. And this is the second time you have come to my

assistance, so I owe you a debt of gratitude. Bugs value their lives

as much as human beings, and I am a more important creature than

you, in your ignorance, may suppose. But, tell me, why do you come

each day to the brook?"

"For water," she answered, staring stupidly down at the talking


"Isn't it hard work?" the creature inquired.

"Yes; but there's no water on the hill," said she.

"Then dig a well and put a pump in it," replied the beetle.

She shook her head.

"My man tried it once; but there was no water," she said, sadly.

"Try it again," commanded the beetle; "and in return for your

kindness to me I will make this promise: if you do not get water

from the well you will get that which is more precious to you. I

must go now. Do not forget. Dig a well."

And then, without pausing to say good-by, it ran swiftly away and

was lost among the stones.

The woman returned to the house much perplexed by what the beetle

had said, and when her husband came in from his work she told him

the whole story.

The poor man thought deeply for a time, and then declared:

"Wife, there may be truth in what the bug told you. There must be

magic in the world yet, if a beetle can speak; and if there is such

a thing as magic we may get water from the well. The pump I bought

to use in the well which proved to be dry is now lying in the barn,

and the only expense in following the talking bug's advice will be

the labor of digging the hole. Labor I am used to; so I will dig the


Next day he set about it, and dug so far down in the ground that he

could hardly reach the top to climb out again; but not a drop of

water was found.

"Perhaps you did not dig deep enough," his wife said, when he told

her of his failure.

So the following day he made a long ladder, which he put into the

hole; and then he dug, and dug, and dug, until the top of the ladder

barely reached the top of the hole. But still there was no water.

When the woman next went to the brook with her pail she saw the

beetle sitting upon a stone beside her path. So she stopped and


"My husband has dug the well; but there is no water."

"Did he put the pump in the well?" asked the beetle.

"No," she answered.

"Then do as I commanded; put in the pump, and if you do not get

water I promise you something still more precious."

Saying which, the beetle swiftly slid from the stone and

disappeared. The woman went back to the house and told her husband

what the bug had said.

"Well," replied the simple fellow, "there can be no harm in trying."

So he got the pump from the barn and placed it in the well, and then

he took hold of the handle and began to pump, while his wife stood

by to watch what would happen.

No water came, but after a few moments a gold piece dropped from the

spout of the pump, and then another, and another, until several

handfuls of gold lay in a little heap upon the ground.

The man stopped pumping then and ran to help his wife gather the

gold pieces into her apron; but their hands trembled so greatly

through excitement and joy that they could scarcely pick up the

sparkling coins.

At last she gathered them close to her bosom and together they ran

to the house, where they emptied the precious gold upon the table

and counted the pieces.

All were stamped with the design of the United States mint and were

worth five dollars each. Some were worn and somewhat discolored from

use, while others seemed bright and new, as if they had not been

much handled. When the value of the pieces was added together they

were found to be worth three hundred dollars.

Suddenly the woman spoke.

"Husband, the beetle said truly when he declared we should get

something more precious than water from the well. But run at once

and take away the handle from the pump, lest anyone should pass this

way and discover our secret."

So the man ran to the pump and removed the handle, which he carried

to the house and hid underneath the bed.

They hardly slept a wink that night, lying awake to think of their

good fortune and what they should do with their store of yellow

gold. In all their former lives they had never possessed more than a

few dollars at a time, and now the cracked teapot was nearly full of

gold coins.

The following day was Sunday, and they arose early and ran to see if

their treasure was safe. There it lay, heaped snugly within the

teapot, and they were so willing to feast their eyes upon it that it

was long before the man could leave it to build the fire or the

woman to cook the breakfast.

While they ate their simple meal the woman said:

"We will go to church to-day and return thanks for the riches that

have come to us so suddenly. And I will give the pastor one of the

gold pieces."

"It is well enough to go to church," replied her husband, "and also

to return thanks. But in the night I decided how we will spend all

our money; so there will be none left for the pastor."

"We can pump more," said the woman.

"Perhaps; and perhaps not," he answered, cautiously. "What we have

we can depend upon, but whether or not there be more in the well I

cannot say."

"Then go and find out," she returned, "for I am anxious to give

something to the pastor, who is a poor man and deserving."

So the man got the pump handle from beneath the bed, and, going to

the pump, fitted it in place. Then he set a large wooden bucket

under the spout and began to pump. To their joy the gold pieces soon

began flowing into the pail, and, seeing it about to run over the

brim, the woman brought another pail. But now the stream suddenly

stopped, and the man said, cheerfully:

"That is enough for to-day, good wife! We have added greatly to our

treasure, and the parson shall have his gold piece. Indeed, I think

I shall also put a coin into the contribution box."

Then, because the teapot would hold no more gold, the farmer emptied

the pail into the wood-box, covering the money with dried leaves and

twigs, that no one might suspect what lay underneath.

Afterward they dressed themselves in their best clothing and started

for the church, each taking a bright gold piece from the teapot as a

gift to the pastor.

Over the hill and down into the valley beyond they walked, feeling

so gay and light-hearted that they did not mind the distance at all.

At last they came to the little country church and entered just as

the services began.

Being proud of their wealth and of the gifts they had brought for

the pastor, they could scarcely wait for the moment when the deacon

passed the contribution box. But at last the time came, and the

farmer held his hand high over the box and dropped the gold piece so

that all the congregation could see what he had given. The woman did

likewise, feeling important and happy at being able to give the good

parson so much.

The parson, watching from the pulpit, saw the gold drop into the

box, and could hardly believe that his eyes did not deceive him.

However, when the box was laid upon his desk there were the two gold

pieces, and he was so surprised that he nearly forgot his sermon.

When the people were leaving the church at the close of the services

the good man stopped the farmer and his wife and asked:

"Where did you get so much gold?"

The woman gladly told him how she had rescued the beetle, and how,

in return, they had been rewarded with the wonderful pump. The

pastor listened to it all gravely, and when the story was finished

he said:

"According to tradition strange things happened in this world ages

ago, and now I find that strange things may also happen to-day. For

by your tale you have found a beetle that can speak and also has

power to bestow upon you great wealth." Then he looked carefully at

the gold pieces and continued: "Either this money is fairy gold or

it is genuine metal, stamped at the mint of the United States

government. If it is fairy gold it will disappear within 24 hours,

and will therefore do no one any good. If it is real money, then

your beetle must have robbed some one of the gold and placed it in

your well. For all money belongs to some one, and if you have not

earned it honestly, but have come by it in the mysterious way you

mention, it was surely taken from the persons who owned it, without

their consent. Where else could real money come from?"

The farmer and his wife were confused by this statement and looked

guiltily at each other, for they were honest people and wished to

wrong no one.

"Then you think the beetle stole the money?" asked the woman.

"By his magic powers he probably took it from its rightful owners.

Even bugs which can speak have no consciences and cannot tell the

difference between right and wrong. With a desire to reward you for

your kindness the beetle took from its lawful possessors the money

you pumped from the well."

"Perhaps it really is fairy gold," suggested the man. "If so, we

must go to the town and spend the money before it disappears."

"That would be wrong," answered the pastor; "for then the merchants

would have neither money nor goods. To give them fairy gold would be

to rob them."

"What, then, shall we do?" asked the poor woman, wringing her hands

with grief and disappointment.

"Go home and wait until to-morrow. If the gold is then in your

possession it is real money and not fairy gold. But if it is real

money you must try to restore it to its rightful owners. Take, also,

these pieces which you have given me, for I cannot accept gold that

is not honestly come by."

Sadly the poor people returned to their home, being greatly

disturbed by what they had heard. Another sleepless night was

passed, and on Monday morning they arose at daylight and ran to see

if the gold was still visible.

"It is real money, after all!" cried the man; "for not a single

piece has disappeared."

When the woman went to the brook that day she looked for the beetle,

and, sure enough, there he sat upon the flat stone.

"Are you happy now?" asked the beetle, as the woman paused before


"We are very unhappy," she answered; "for, although you have given

us much gold, our good parson says it surely belongs to some one

else, and was stolen by you to reward us."

"Your parson may be a good man," returned the beetle, with some

indignation, "but he certainly is not overwise. Nevertheless, if you

do not want the gold I can take it from you as easily as I gave it."

"But we do want it!" cried the woman, fearfully. "That is," she

added, "if it is honestly come by."

"It is not stolen," replied the beetle, sulkily, "and now belongs to

no one but yourselves. When you saved my life I thought how I might

reward you; and, knowing you to be poor, I decided gold would make

you happier than anything else.

"You must know," he continued, "that although I appear so small and

insignificant, I am really king of all the insects, and my people

obey my slightest wish. Living, as they do, close to the ground, the

insects often come across gold and other pieces of money which have

been lost by men and have fallen into cracks or crevasses or become

covered with earth or hidden by grass or weeds. Whenever my people

find money in this way they report the fact to me; but I have always

let it lie, because it could be of no possible use to an insect.

"However, when I decided to give you gold I knew just where to

obtain it without robbing any of your fellow creatures. Thousands of

insects were at once sent by me in every direction to bring the

pieces of lost gold to his hill. It cost my people several days of

hard labor, as you may suppose; but by the time your husband had

finished the well the gold began to arrive from all parts of the

country, and during the night my subjects dumped it all into the

well. So you may use it with a clear conscience, knowing that you

wrong no one."

This explanation delighted the woman, and when she returned to the

house and reported to her husband what the beetle had said he also

was overjoyed.

So they at once took a number of the gold pieces and went to the

town to purchase provisions and clothing and many things of which

they had long stood in need; but so proud were they of their newly

acquired wealth that they took no pains to conceal it. They wanted

everyone to know they had money, and so it was no wonder that when

some of the wicked men in the village saw the gold they longed to

possess it themselves.

"If they spend this money so freely," whispered one to another,

"there must be a great store of gold at their home."

"That is true," was the answer. "Let us hasten there before they

return and ransack the house."

So they left the village and hurried away to the farm on the hill,

where they broke down the door and turned everything topsy turvy

until they had discovered the gold in the wood-box and the teapot.

It did not take them long to make this into bundles, which they

slung upon their backs and carried off, and it was probably because

they were in a great hurry that they did not stop to put the house

in order again.

Presently the good woman and her husband came up the hill from the

village with their arms full of bundles and followed by a crowd of

small boys who had been hired to help carry the purchases. Then

followed others, youngsters and country louts, attracted by the

wealth and prodigality of the pair, who, from simple curiosity,

trailed along behind like the tail of a comet and helped swell the

concourse into a triumphal procession. Last of all came Guggins, the

shopkeeper, carrying with much tenderness a new silk dress which was

to be paid for when they reached the house, all the money they had

taken to the village having been lavishly expended.

The farmer, who had formerly been a modest man, was now so swelled

with pride that he tipped the rim of his hat over his left ear and

smoked a big cigar that was fast making him ill. His wife strutted

along beside him like a peacock, enjoying to the full the homage and

respect her wealth had won from those who formerly deigned not to

notice her, and glancing from time to time at the admiring

procession in the rear.

But, alas for their new-born pride! when they reached the farmhouse

they found the door broken in, the furniture strewn in all

directions and their treasure stolen to the very last gold piece.

The crowd grinned and made slighting remarks of a personal nature,

and Guggins, the shopkeeper, demanded in a loud voice the money for

the silk dress he had brought.

Then the woman whispered to her husband to run and pump some more

gold while she kept the crowd quiet, and he obeyed quickly. But

after a few moments he returned with a white face to tell her the

pump was dry, and not a gold piece could now be coaxed from the


The procession marched back to the village laughing and jeering at

the farmer and his wife, who had pretended to be so rich; and some

of the boys were naughty enough to throw stones at the house from

the top of the hill. Mr. Guggins carried away his dress after

severely scolding the woman for deceiving him, and when the couple

at last found themselves alone their pride had turned to humiliation

and their joy to bitter grief.

Just before sundown the woman dried her eyes and, having resumed her

ordinary attire, went to the brook for water. When she came to the

flat stone she saw the King Beetle sitting upon it.

"The well is dry!" she cried out, angrily.

"Yes," answered the beetle, calmly, "you have pumped from it all the

gold my people could find."

"But we are now ruined," said the woman, sitting down in the path

beginning to weep; "for robbers have stolen from us every penny we


"I'm sorry," returned the beetle; "but it is your own fault. Had you

not made so great a show of your wealth no one would have suspected

you possessed a treasure, or thought to rob you. As it is, you have

merely lost the gold which others have lost before you. It will

probably be lost many times more before the world comes to an end."

"But what are we to do now?" she asked.

"What did you do before I gave you the money?"

"We worked from morning 'til night," said she.

"Then work still remains for you," remarked the beetle, composedly;

"no one will ever try to rob you of that, you may be sure!" And he

slid from the stone and disappeared for the last time.

* * * * *

This story should teach us to accept good fortune with humble hearts

and to use it with moderation. For, had the farmer and his wife

resisted the temptation to display their wealth ostentatiously, they

might have retained it to this very day.