In the days of King Arthur, Merlin, the most learned enchanter of his time, was on a journey; and, being very weary, stopped one day at the cottage of an honest ploughman to ask for refreshment.
The ploughman's wife, with great civility, immediately brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, and some brown bread on a wooden platter.
Merlin could not help observing, that, although everything within the cottage was particularly neat and clean, and in good order, the ploughman and his wife had the most sorrowful air imaginable. So he questioned them on the cause of their melancholy, and learned that they were very miserable because they had no children.
The poor woman declared, with tears in her eyes, that she should be the happiest creature in the world if she had a son, although he were no bigger than his father's thumb. Merlin was much amused with the thoughts of a boy no bigger than a man's thumb, and, as soon as he returned home, he sent for the queen of the fairies (with whom he was very intimate), and related to her the desire of the ploughman and his wife to have a son the size of his father's thumb.
A gray hare was living in the winter near the village.
When night came, he pricked one ear and listened; then he pricked his second ear, moved his whiskers, sniffed, and sat down on his hind legs. Then he took a leap or two over the deep snow, and again sat down on his hind legs, and looked around him. Nothing could be seen but snow. The snow lay in waves and glistened like sugar.
Over the hare's head hovered a frost vapour, and through this vapour could be seen the large, bright stars.
The hare had to cross the highway, in order to come to a threshing-floor he knew of. On the highway the runners could be heard squeaking, and the horses snorting, and seats creaking in the sleighs.
The hare again stopped near the road. Peasants were walking beside the sleighs, and the collars of their caftans were raised. Their faces were scarcely visible.
Their beards, moustaches, and eyelashes were white.
Once there were three children, three brothers, who played together in the sunshine about their father's door. Now the youngest of them all was not as large and strong as his brothers; and for that reason they often teased him, saying : "You are not as tall as we. You cannot run as fast. See! we can jump farther and swing higher than you." If ever they wrestled together, the youngest was the first to be thrown to the ground ; and no matter what he tried to do, the others always laughed, and called out: "Oh! you are so stupid. That is not the way. Let me show you how, you dunny!" So after a while they called him nothing but Dunny.
One day a traveler, with a wonderful pony, stopped at the door of the cottage. His little animal not only could perform all manner of curious tricks, but he was the most gentle little beast in the whole world and, withal, as sleek and pretty a creature as one could wish to see.
A story from Louisiana
There was once a widow who had two daughters, one named Rose and the other Blanche.
Blanche was good and beautiful and gentle, but the mother cared nothing for her and gave her only hard words and harder blows; but she loved Rose as she loved the apple of her eye, because Rose was exactly like herself, coarse-looking, and with a bad temper and a sharp tongue.
Blanche was obliged to work all day, but Rose sat in a chair with folded hands as though she were a fine lady, with nothing in the world to do.
One day the mother sent Blanche to the well for a bucket of water. When she came to the well she saw an old woman sitting there. The woman was so very old that her nose and her chin met, and her cheeks were as wrinkled as a walnut.
"Good day to you, child," said the old woman.
"Good day, auntie," answered Blanche.
"Will you give me a drink of water?" asked the old woman.
The nine-year-old Becky lived happily with her family in a cosy small cottage near a green wood in the English country. Her mother, Alison, took care of the house and the orchard and her father, Bob, was a woodsman. Their life was peaceful and serene.
Becky was a tall, slim and aerial girl with blue dreaming eyes and golden hair. She was very kindhearted and loved her parents so much, she would do anything for them.
She was a very special girl, she had a gift: she could understand plants and they talked to her.
She liked to go into the wood, sit down under a tree and talk with branches, flowers and leaves.
She used to have long conversations with them and spend there whole mornings and afternoons. Trees were her dear friends and wise teachers. Thanks to them she had learnt the four seasons and how they affected all the world around, the beauty of the country in Spring, the full splendor of colours in Summer, their marvellous changing in Autumn and the whiteness of Winter when nature sleeps waiting for Spring.
There was once a Rajah who was both young and handsome, and yet he had never married. One time this Rajah, whose name was Chundun, found himself obliged to make a long journey. He took with him attendants and horsemen, and also his Wuzeer. This Wuzeer was a very wise man,--so wise that nothing was hid from him.
In a certain far-off part of the kingdom the Rajah saw a fine garden, and so beautiful was it that he stopped to admire it. He was surprised to see growing in the midst of it a small bingal tree that bore a number of fine bingals, but not a single leaf.
"This is a very curious thing, and I do not understand it," said Chundun Rajah to his Wuzeer. "Why does this tree bear such fine and perfect fruit, and yet it has not a single leaf?"
"I could tell you the meaning," said the Wuzeer, "but I fear that if I did you would not believe me and would have me punished for telling a lie."
"That could never be," answered the Rajah; "I know you to be a very truthful man and wise above all others. Whatever you tell me I shall believe."
There was once a King who had three sons, and he loved them all equally, one no more than the other.
When he had grown old and felt his strength leaving him, he called the three Princes before him.
"My sons," said he, "I am no longer young, and soon the time will come when I must leave you. I have it in mind to give the kingdom to one or the other of you now and not to leave it for you to quarrel over after I have gone. You have reached a time of life when you should marry. Go forth into the world and seek, each one of you, a bride for himself. He who brings home the most beautiful Princess shall have the kingdom."
The three Princes were well content with what their father said. At once the two elder ones made ready to set out; but the youngest one said he would wait a bit. "It is not right," said he, "that our father should be left alone in his old age. I will wait until my brothers return, and then I too will start out to try my fortune in the world."
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