Stories for Children
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Printed by HENDERSON & SPALDING, Limited
December, 1891.




CONTENTS

 

  PAGE

THE FLOWER AND THE STAR

5.

WILLIE'S DREAMS

39.

JACK AND THE BEAN-STALKS

71.

ANOTHER JACK AND THE GIANT-KILLER

91.

GRANDMOTHER'S STORY

105.

KITTEN'S GROWLINGS

111.




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ONCE upon a time there were four little children, three boys and a girl, who lived near a beautiful forest.  The eldest was called Dreamyeyes; the second (the little girl) was called Brightface; the third was called Saucymouth; and the little one of all Softcheek.

    One fine spring day their mother sent them all out for a walk in the forest; and told Dreamyeyes, as he was the biggest, that he must take great care of the others.  Away they all ran, as merrily as possible, in great haste to get to the wood; yet for all their hurry they stopped every minute to wish good morning to the flowers that grew on each side of their way.

    Before they could get to the wood they had to climb up a high hill.  It was a famous hill, with a number of fir-trees on the top.  In the autumn time they used to go and pick up the fir-cones that lay strown all under the trees, and pelt each other with them in play, for they were not hard or heavy enough to hurt; and when they were tired of pelting each other, or when the little ones were tired, then they all picked up the cones and carried them home, to light their mother's fire.  But now it was spring, and there were no fir-cones.  But for all that they went almost every morning up to the top of the hill.  And the top was sand, into which their feet used to sink; and little Softcheek could hardly get on at all, he sank so deep, — so the others had to help him up.  And it was prime fun to run down again as fast as they could through the soft sand; and if they fell ever so often they could not hurt themselves.

    This morning, when they got to the top, there was a lark high high up in the sky, a long way above the highest of the trees; and he was singing all the merry things in the world.  And his song came down through the fir boughs, as sweetly as the song of the rain when the clouds touch the tree-tops.  The lark flew higher and higher, till he seemed like a speck in the clear blue sky; and then higher still, until he was quite out of sight and they could only just hear his merry voice; and then away ran the four children down through the sand, on their way to the wood which grew in the valley below and up the side of a hill directly before them.

    It was a most magnificent forest, with clumps of oaks with their old twisted branches, and long avenues of smooth-skinned beeches with their graceful boughs drooping to the ground, and birches with their flickering foliage and white stems like silver in the sunlight; and there were many other trees besides.  And the great boughs arched over like the roof of some grand cathedral; and the wind made music there; and the light played in and out among the leaves, leaping through the green windows, chasing the wind.  When the wind blew through the leaves, in came the light; and the wind shouted out, and the light laughed; and then the birds sang as if they were playmates too; and the children laughed, enjoying the forest pleasures. 

    And the forest was so full of all sweet sounds, — the glad voices of happy creatures!  Sometimes a wood-pigeon would whisper coaxingly from the thickest part of the beech-trees, inviting them to come into the forest depths; and then a great blackbird would bounce past them, singing and shouting out loud, "I'll be there first"; and the bees sang too; and the ants went bustling about their great loose ant-hills, and they sang, too, a low sweet song at their work; and the green grasshoppers jumped and sang, and sang and jumped, as if they were not quite sure how high they could jump, or how high they could sing either; and sometimes the frogs would pop their heads out of the water, or get out of the pools and sit on the bank, and sing too,—and very well they could sing when they pleased; and though the butterflies did not sing they were none the less loved by the children, for they seemed to be like children, so happy and so loving, though they said nothing about it; and there were the moths, quieter than any, — in the dim evenings they glided out of the shadows of the bushes, and looked so beautiful they had no need to sing; and in this wonderful forest, too, or rather round the margin of it, under the hedge-rows and bushes, were the glow-worms who lit their bright green lamps for the fairies to dance by, when the moon was busy lighting other forests.

    And in this wonderful forest, too, were such multitudes of flowers: primroses under the trees, and violets with them, in all sorts of out-of-the-way corners; and wind-flowers living in crowds, like flocks of little sheep, their delicate blossoms waving with the least breath of wind; and then the forest would be full of yellow celandine, lying like gold coin in such great heaps; and then the hyacinths would ring their peals of blue bells under every tree, for joy that the may was beginning to blossom; and the water-ranunculuses lifted their white cups out of the water; and the honeysuckle and the bryony climbed up over the shoulders of the great brambles, and the white wild rose scrambled up after them, and the red campion tried to lift its head as high as theirs; and then the ferns would come, and grow up from little tiny stalks with tops like shepherds' crooks, till their great fan-like leaves were big enough to hide the rabbits.  For there were a great many rabbits, too, in this wonderful forest; and sometimes the children would nearly catch some little one that had strayed too far from its hole, — and then away would scamper the little rabbit and the children after it, and sometimes they were just in time to see its little white tail as it seemed to tumble into its burrow.

    There was one large mound, where a great many rabbits lived, close to some of the largest oaks in the forest.  There were holes all round the mound; which the rabbits had dug, deep down in the earth, under the roots of the oak-trees.  The children used very often to go there, and sit quietly under the oak boughs, waiting for the rabbits to come out.

    They waited a long while this morning, watching two birds that were feeding their young ones in their nest on one of the branches of the biggest oak.  When they were tired of watching the birds, they began to make chains of daisies, — for there were always daisies; and when they were tired of that the three eldest children showered blackthorn blossoms over the head of little Softcheek.  There were heaps of blackthorn blossoms, that have very little scent, and that come out into flower before the leaves come; but they could find only one branch of the may, the sweet-scented white-thorn, that blossoms after the leaves are out.  Brightface was the first to see it; and up they jumped and ran to the bush, and Dreamyeyes reached up and pulled down the branch, that Softcheek might smell how fragrant it was.  There were only two or three flowers full blown, but a great many buds, with little pink lips, as if they wanted to be kissed.  And Softcheek did kiss them; and Saucymouth laughed; and then Dreamyeyes called gently, "Hush! hush!" and they all listened, and heard the Cuckoo.  And Dreamyeyes said, "I was sure I heard him"; and the bird sang again, "Cuckoo, Cuckoo!" and the children all cried "Cuckoo" too; and then the other birds began singing; and the children began to sing one of papa's songs.

    And while they were singing under the may-bush, they saw, peeping from behind the golden oak-buds in the great oak under which they had been sitting, such a, beautiful face, that, instead of being frightened, or even startled at it, though they had never seen it before, they felt quite glad, and their eyes brightened, as if they had seen some one they were very fond of.  And little Softcheek clapped his hands; and Saucymouth called to the lady with the beautiful face, "Come down to us!"  And the lady, who was one of the forest fairies, slid down out of the golden branches, and stood by them, and kissed them all, and stroked the head of Dreamyeyes, and patted the plump cheeks of Brightface, and looked so lovingly on Softcheek, and told Saucymouth to guess what she had brought them.  And Saucymouth looked up and laughed; and they all guessed; and Brightface said "A fountain"; and the fairy laughed, and said, "No"; and Dreamyeyes said, "Some flowers"; and the fairy said, "What flowers?"  And while Dreamyeyes was thinking, Saucymouth stole behind the fairy, and peeped round again, and whispered, "Heart's-ease."

    It was the finest bunch of heart's-ease they had ever seen, — a bunch with three flowers and a little bud.  And the fairy told them it must never be divided, and by and by the little bud would grow as fine a flower as the others; and it was not to belong to any one of them, but to all of them together, and then it would never die.  And then Brightface turned to Dreamyeyes and said: "We'll take it home, and put it in the lovely shell on the mantelpiece, where the flowers die now; and then we shall always have some in the shell."  And then they looked round to thank the kind fairy for her present; but she was gone, and they could not see here anywhere.  And Saucymouth called out, "Come back!" and they all called, "Come back!" but it was of no use.  And so they said they would go home directly, and tell mamma what they had seen and all the fairy had said to them, and ask papa to put the flower in the shell. And Dreamyeyes told Brightface she should carry it: "Because," he said, "I must help little Softcheek over the hill again and all through the sand; and you know, Saucymouth, you must help me to lift him over the big stones.  So Brightface had better carry it." And then they all said they wished the lady would come again to them, for she smiled so kindly, and her voice was so sweet and gentle; and they kept looking for her among the trees as they walked on.



 

    And all at once they heard a rustling in the branches, and Saucymouth cried out, "There is the lady!" and a pretty wood-pigeon flew out of the branches of an oak; and Dreamyeyes said, "Why, Saucymouth, it isn't the fairy, but a wood-pigeon!"  And the pigeon flew over their heads, and right up to the top of the hill where the great waterfall came from.  And then they all ran after it, and through the trees, and scrambled up among the bushes, past the delicate young leaves of the honeysuckle, and Dreamyeyes carried Softcheek pickaback, that they might get on faster, till they reached the top of the hill.  And while they were resting there, Brightface dropped the flower into the tiny stream that made the waterfall; and the stream whirled the flower round and round till it was quite giddy, and then ran away with it, O, so fast, over a lot of little stones, till it came to the edge of the rock, and there it tumbled over, flower and all.  And when Saucymouth saw that, he threw himself down on the ground, and cried, and began to kick, and then Softcheek cried too, till Brightface said, "it would be very silly to make a noise, Saucymouth, for that could not bring the flower back"; and Dreamyeyes said, "Perhaps we shall find it at the bottom of the waterfall, or perhaps, we shall see the fairy again, and then we will ask her to get it for us."  "And if she can't it will be of no use to cry," said Brightface.  So then Saucymouth got up, and he and Softcheek left off crying, and they all set off to try and find the heart's-ease.

    They had some trouble at first to get down by the side of the waterfall, though it was easy enough for the stream that leaped plump off the edge of the rock, shouting and laughing out loud, as if it had had a good joke.  And it did not leave off laughing even when it got to the bottom, but jumped on, from one lump of rock to another, laughing all the while so boisterously, as if it never had had such fun before in all its life.  And even at the bottom of the fall it was very hard work to follow the merry stream, for the rocks were very large and rough, and so awkwardly shaped; and little Softcheek had to be lifted up, and then let down on the other side of every great piece; and even Saucymouth, and once Brightface, had to be helped by Dreamyeyes.  But they went on as fast as they could, looking very carefully, at every turn, into the stream, to see if they could find the lost heart's-ease.



 

    Then they came to a part of the hillside where there were several little streams racing each other through the heath, till the children did not know which was the one into which they had dropped the flower.  So they ran along as fast as the streams to the bottom of the hill, where they found again the main stream into which all the little ones were hurrying.  But they could see no heart's-ease.  And now again there were great heaps of rocks, some rough and some with sharp edges; and while the stream jumped from one to another, laughing and singing, and not seeming to care in the least how fast it ran or how often it tumbled, the children began to grow tired; for they had to clamber over some of the rocks, and to slide down others; and then to walk along narrow ledges, with the water running wildly past them, and almost pushing them off, so that they were continually afraid of falling; and then between little walls of rock where there was hardly room to move; and over flat, broad tables that looked very easy, but where they could scarcely stand, because the green moss and weed that seemed like soft grass was as slippery as ice.  Even Brightface was almost crying; but the stream went on gurgling and laughing as if it were sobbing in fun, and after all, though it pretended to mock them, its voice was so pleasant that they could not be angry with it, — and sometimes it slid very gently over a broad piece of slate, and sometimes ran round a great rock quite out of its way, and then up into a far corner, and leisurely back again, just as though it was playing with them, and all the while sang so deliciously that Dreamyeyes could not help singing too; and then Brightface laughed out gladly again, and Saucymouth stepped out bravely, and they carried little Softcheek among them over the rough rocks, and over the slippery rocks, till at last they jumped down on the smooth grass, and there they all ran on merrily enough, even faster than the stream.

    But now there were all sorts of things that hindered them from making haste to overtake the heart's-ease.  There were some steppingstones across the water, and they could not help stepping over them, though they had no occasion to do so; and stopping to look up the stream, and then down the stream into the larch wood, where all sight of it was lost.  And then they were obliged to track it by its song or by trees that grew on each side of the gorge it ran through.  And then, when the trees were fewer on one side, and the little travellers could walk along the meadows, there were so many things to admire.  There were the butterflies fluttering lightly by, as if they wanted to tempt the children to play with them; and there were the beetles with their shiny green backs and long, slender horns; and perhaps a bird would fly out of the grass almost at their feet, — perching on the ground close by them, and then flying off again.  Sometimes they turned to look at the mountain where the stream was born; sometimes they stopped to admire the feathery look of the firs, with their filmy branches dropping like green icicles; and sometimes they went down the bank to be nearer the sweet breath of the may-bush that was dipping its long hair in the stream, while the little waves rippled gently and kissingly over it, or else foamed up over some stone in their way, till their spray was almost as white as the may-bloom.

    Then they had to watch the honeysuckle just bursting into leaf, and to think of the time when the fairies would gather the honeysuckle's trumpet-like flowers, to blow a grand chorus for the stars.  And the wild rose, too, was about putting out little shoots of new wood; and the folks'glove's young velvety leaves were just beginning to peep out of the rank grass; and along with the folks'glove were some great rocks putting their heads up as if they wanted to ask the children about their old friends, the rocks upon the mountains.  They looked so strangely,— those gray heads pushing out among a lot of straggling, weedy hair in the middle of the fields and some were in the middle of the water; and the waves washed their old foreheads so clean; and all round one of them in a corner the children found a great family of cuckoo-flowers with their delicate pink blossoms growing out of the water, and they were nodding their heads at the old rock and at the waves that ran by them.



 

    And as the children came farther on through the fields, they saw some grand trees standing by the side of the river (for the stream was now broad enough to be a river), and the trees leaned over it as if they were looking at their own shadows in the water; and so, the children stopped to look in the water; and the water was so clear that it reflected all the blue sky and the clouds, and the children saw their own images in it; and Dreamyeyes thought he saw the fairy in the water; and they all leaned over to look, and there was a beautiful face smiling up at them, through the long, smooth, hair-like grass that was trailing along the current, as if the fairy was floating in the river.  But when they looked again they only saw their own faces among the flags on the water; and they thought that perhaps they had not seen the fairy there, — that it was Brightface they had seen instead.  And then a little fish seemed to fly through the clouds under the water; and the children laughed to see the fish; and then the water laughed too, and a little gust of wind came and blew all their reflections away.

    And on went the children again.  On they went through the bright meadows, among the white daisies, and the purpled clover, and the yellow dandelions and buttercups, and then again under long avenues of such high trees, with the blue sky peeping through, among the violets and the blue hyacinths and the yellow strawberry-blossom and the little blue speedwell; and then out again from under the trees, over yellow crow's-foot, and down to the river-side, where the blue forget-me-not looked up at the sky through the golden sunshine, and reminded them of their lost flower.

    And the four children sat down for a while by the side of the blue forget-me-not, in the sunshine, and asked each other where the fairy's flower could be.  Dreamyeyes said he was sure they should see the lady again; and Brightface looked at him and grew brighter; and Saucymouth said, "I will get the flower.  Come on!"  But they would not go directly, because little Softcheek was tired.  So they rested there some time till he asked to go on again; and then Saucymouth said, "Come on!" again, and ran on before them through the grass.  And now they saw some cottages on each side of the river, and little gardens round them, and clumps of elm-trees in between; and the river widened and widened, and flowed more leisurely, as if it were a very little tired with its long journey.  And the children walked slowly by the side of it, looking very steadfastly across it.  But there was no heart's-ease there.  They looked round, and they saw the blue smoke curling up to the sky from the cottage chimneys, and they saw the men at work in the fields, and the waggons going along the road, and the sheep lying on a hillside in the sunlight, and the swallows skimming over the surface of the river; but they could see no heart's-ease.  And they heard the blacksmith at his forge, and the carpenter hammering, and the dogs barking as they drove the cows home, and the thumping of the flail on the threshing-floor, and the church-bells ringing merrily; but they only thought now of the lost heart's-ease.



 

    And the river widened and widened, and they grew puzzled, for they did not know how far it might lead them; and at last they sat down again on the grass, not knowing at all what to do.  At last Dreamyeyes looked up and said, "We will go to the top of the hill beyond the village, and from there we shall be able to see where the river goes to."  They were soon there; and O, so glad they had come, for they saw from the top of the hill the most splendid view they had ever seen.  There were broad masses of trees close under where they sat, and the wide river flowing grandly below them, and farther on more trees, great heaps with their rich spring foliage, and the river beyond them, and then trees again; miles on miles of the glorious river winding in and out among the trees until it reached the sea.  And just as they first caught sight of the sea, one wide sun ray gleamed out from under a violet-coloured cloud, and poured its light all along the river and over the trees, so that they looked as if they were growing out of a gold mine, and the river like melted gold running between them.  And the children sat like four golden statues on the top of the hill, with eyes half dazzled, watching the wonderful scene.



 

    At last, Saucymouth said, "We will come back to-morrow, and go all the way down to the sea, and get the heart's-ease."  And Dreamyeyes smiled, and said, "We should never find it by ourselves, Saucymouth; I wish the lady would come again."  Brightface could only look at the bright river, and said nothing; and Softcheek asked to go home.

    There the four children sat, like gold statues in the sunlight, till it was quite evening; and then the sky grew all bright with the golden light, and they saw the great round sun drop gently down, like a ball of fire, behind the sea.  Just before it was quite gone, Dreamyeyes said, gently, "Look!"  They all looked, and saw, between them and the sun, a long way off, as if it were over the sea, a lady rising in the air.  It was the fairy.  They were too much delighted for any of them, even for Saucymouth, to speak to her.  There they all sat on the golden hill, as still as statues, looking at the lady fairy.  She came nearer to them, nearer and nearer, till she was near enough for them see that she had the bunch of heart's-ease in her hair, over her beautiful forehead; and then she floated away again like one of the sunset clouds, and the sunlight just touched the flower on the top of her beautiful forehead, and made it shine like a star; and they saw her rise higher and higher towards the sky; and, as they looked, the flower became brighter and brighter, till at last it changed to a star; and then the lady faded away, and they saw only the bright star shining on them from the delicate sky,—shining if so tenderly and lovingly, as it were smiling on them, as the beautiful lady smiled when she first gave them the heart's-ease.

    The sun went quite down; and Dreamy-eyes led his sister and his little brothers down the hill, homeward, to their mother and father.  The twilight was very pleasant, and the Star of the Flower went before them, lighting them all the way.

    The night was coming on; the sleepy flowers were nodding their heads; the primroses and daisies, and even the tallest buttercups, closed their drowsy eyes; the birds went home to their nests; the dragonflies rattled past on their way to the pool; the children saw the grey moths gliding in and out of the bushes, and the bats flittering over their heads.  Now and then some little bird chirruped as the sound of their footsteps woke him from some sweet dream in the tree where he loved to roost, and then he turned round, and was asleep again almost before they had passed.  Brightface was tired, but walked on very happily, looking sometimes at the Star, and sometimes at her brothers.  Saucymouth was tired too, but sang a merry song, and so helped on both the others and himself.  Little Softcheek put his arms round the neck of Dreamyeyes and laid his head upon his shoulder, and went fairly off to sleep; but sometimes he woke up, and looked to see if the Star was still there; and then Dreamyeyes smiled on him, and hugged him more closely.  And after a little while, when Saucymouth was too tired to sing, the nightingales came out of the forest and sat in the trees on their way, and sang to them so deliciously such sweet songs, like those their father sang to them.  And so they went bravely on, till they came to the old door, where their mother waited for them.  And they all ran into her arms, and she kissed their dim eyes, and their father sang to them as they fell asleep.

    And that night Dreamyeyes dreamed that the great chestnut-tree was in full bloom, and that every bunch of fragrant blossom stood up, like a rosy flame, pointing to the sky, as if the chestnut-flowers, too, hoped to become stars.

DEAR CHILDREN!
    Let the elders teach the young ones that, though the Heart's-ease be lost, it may be found again.  Seek it cheerfully; never despair; and the Star of the Flower shall light you — even homeward.




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ALL the long summer day Willie had been playing and working in the garden, running about, looking at the butterflies with their differently spotted wings, watching the bees as they plumped headforemost into the companula bells and came back again loaded with honey, noticing what new flowers were in bloom, how many more strawberries and raspberries were ripe.  Some of the ripest strawberries he had gathered and taken on a broad vine-leaf to his grandmamma; he had weeded the carrots too; and taken the beautiful black and yellow caterpillars off the cabbages and carried them far away to the common, where they could do no harm.  He had seen one slender blue dragon-fly, and found the first ripe cherry.  And at last, just as the great blue beetles began to fly about, stumbling against everybody in their way, he went to bed quite tired, and fell asleep in the very middle of one of papa's songs.  When he was fast asleep, the moon rose behind the hills; and, after looking for some time at its reflection in the little stream at the bottom of the orchard, — the stream where the marsh marigolds grew, — it glided through a host of silvery clouds, and came very silently to peep in at the window of the room where the little boy slept.  And Willie, as soon as the moonbeam lighted his face, making it as bright as if mamma had kissed him, began to dream.

    He dreamed that some one had kissed him in his sleep, and that he looked up and saw the moon shining into the chamber, and in the middle of the moonbeams was a very lovely face smiling on him; and he thought the beautiful lips moved, and a very sweet and gentle voice told him to get up and come out into the forest in the moonlight.  And then he dreamed that he got up, and made great haste, and very quietly dressed himself for fear of waking his little brother, who slept in the same room with him; and he thought the lovely face lighted him down stairs, so that he easily found his way out of the house into the garden.  And in the garden it was nearly as bright as day.  All the difference was, that there were very soft shadows under all the trees and shrubs and flowers, and that the colours of the leaves and flowers were much more delicate than in the sunshine.  The flaming cheeks of the nasturtiums were not near so red as he used to see them, but the tints of the lilac were more beautiful than ever.

    And Willie dreamed that he went through the garden, and across the road, and over the common among the daisies (who were all fast asleep with their leaves close shut up), till he came to the forest.  All was so still and quiet!  He could hear nothing except the low sweet breathing of the wind among the wild roses and honeysuckles that hung over his path.  Now and then the wind blew down a tiny rose leaf; and all was so quiet, he could almost hear it fall on the grass.  He thought the roses and honeysuckles had never been so fragrant.

    On he went, through the bright moonlight, till he came to a part of the forest where the foliage was very thick, — so thick that the moonbeams could hardly find their way between the leaves to the little path on which Willie was walking.  Still he went on very happily, quite sure that the lovely, smiling face was taking care of him; and the forest branches became closer and closer, and more crowded with leaves, till it was so dim he could scarcely see where the path was.  And just as he came to the very darkest part of the forest, all at once a nightingale sang to him from one of the branches close by; and the moment the nightingale sang he saw a little green light in the long grass beside him, and he looked down, and found it was a glow-worm whom the nightingale had called to light him on his way.  While he was leaning down to thank the glow-worm, a great many more nightingales began singing; so many that all the dark part of the forest seemed to be as full of music as the bright part was of moonlight; and when he lifted up his head to go on, he saw, on each side of his path, rows of glow-worms, waiting to light him with their green lamps.

    And then Willie dreamed that he went on, thinking whether he should see any of the fairies carrying dew to the flowers; and sometimes he fancied they were close to him, when the dew-drop fell off the honeysuckle leaves as he pulled down a branch to smell the sweet blossoms.

    So he went along through the forest till the light began to come again; and then the nightingales left off singing, and the glow-worms put out their lamps.  And there was a great sound of wings, as if all the nightingales had flown away together; and when they were gone the forest was so still he could almost fancy he heard the sound of his own footsteps on the white grass.  And the dim light grew, even though the moon was now gone behind the farthest trees; and the trees stood out like great gray shadows in the mist; and then the clouds above, where the forest was not so thickly overarched, were tinged with a delicate rose-colour.

    And presently it grew lighter than ever, and he heard a cock crow, and almost directly after found that he was on the edge of the forest, in a large field, and that it was nearly morning.  He could not imagine how he should have wandered so long and so far into the forest; and then he thought he would turn and go home, — but when he looked back to the trees, they were all so dim and dreamy he thought he should not find his way.  So he went across the field; and as he turned round the corner of the hedge he saw a little round, smooth hill, and on the side of the hill, among the yellow cowslips and grass, there were some people sitting.  And Willie dreamed that they all looked very handsome and good-natured; and so he ran up the hill, and asked them what they were doing there.  And they told him they were waiting for him to go with them to see the sun rise, and that they must make haste, or they should be too late.

    And then Willie dreamed that he went with all the people over the hill, and down the other side to the edge of a great river; and there, fastened to a willow that was hanging over the water, he saw two little boats.  And he and some of the people got into one of the boats, and the rest of the people got into the other; and they untied some brambles that had held the boats, and the boats began to float very smoothly down the stream.  And there was a light mist hanging about the river, so that the great trees standing on the banks and all up the hills on each side, though the moon was gone, had still a very moonlighty look in the grey morning; for the sun was not yet up.  But there was one pale star in the east, showing them which way the sun would come.  And the river was all full of white and yellow water-lilies, the largest flowers Willie had ever seen; and their great broad flat leaves he thought were nearly big enough for boats; and a little sky-blue dragon-fly was asleep in one of the white lily-cups.

    While the boats glided down the river, the people in them sat just as they liked, and did nothing but sing; and Willie wondered how it was they knew all papa's songs, for they sang them all to him, and he sang with them.

    After a very little while the two boats stopped against the bank in a bend of the river, under a great tree; and all the people got out, and began to climb a hill on the opposite side of the river to that where Willie had first seen them.  And then Willie again heard a cock crow; and the people took hold of his hands, and they all ran together to the top of the hill, just in time to see the sun rise.  And then the good people sat down on the top of the hill and had some breakfast; and they gave Willie some bread and honey, and some strawberries, and some milk for his breakfast; and when they all had enough, they asked Willie if he would go any farther with them. 

    And so Willie dreamed that they went on together through the fields.  And the fields were all full of very strange flowers, with scarcely any colour in them; and there were long rows of trees and hedges of a very pale green all round the fields; and they walked through a great many fields, and over a great many very high stiles; and the birds kept chattering; and the wind blew; and the people talked very fast in a language that Willie did not understand.  But whenever he felt as if he were going to be frightened, they smiled on him, and spoke so that he could understand them, and then he was very glad to go on again with them.

    At last they came to a village.  They went through a farm-yard, and so into the road, and up a rising ground to the houses.  It was a very beautiful village, — very nice cottages with roses, and jessamine, and clematis, and vines, and fig-trees, growing all over them; and round each cottage a little garden full of cabbages and peas and sweet-scented beans and all sorts of flowers and fruit-trees, and a broad road between them, with, rows of trees on each side; and the bees were singing in the gardens, and such hosts of butterflies sporting everywhere!  And it seemed to be a grand holiday, for everybody was coming out of doors, and they all wore their best clothes, and looked as bright as the sunshine itself.  And some of them had bows and arrows, and some had long thin swords, and some had music, and they were all very busy; and then Willie dreamed that he and the people who were with him went and walked along with all these other people, singing papa's songs, till they came, a very little way from the village, to a large common.  And then he and a great many more of them sat down on some seats that had been made of turf, and the games began.

    First, at one end of the common they set up a target, painted all the colours of the rainbow, and white in the middle; and a great many boys came with bows and arrows, and shot at the target, and several went very near to the white, but only two or three of them could touch it.  And then Willie dreamed that he shot at the target, and after trying a great many times he hit it in the very middle of the white.  And all the people clapped their hands, and said he was a very good boy, — all except one little old man with a very dark face, and he came and said to him very kindly, "You know, Willie, you are dreaming."

    And then they all went and stood on the two sides of the common, and left a clear place in the middle; and at one end they hung up a crown of daisies and then all the boys set off running, and Willie tried very hard to keep first; and for a little while he got on very well; and then some one seemed to be pulling him back, and everybody ran past him, and he could not get on at all.  And then he thought he left off being tired, and ran on so fast that he passed every one, and got the daisy-crown, and then he saw that the daisies were all shut up, and the little man said, "You are dreaming, Willie."

    And then he thought a great many of the boys stood up for a wrestling-match, to try which were the strongest.  And two very beautiful boys, the one who had shot nearest to the middle of the target, and the one who had run fastest next to Willie, stood by to see that they played properly; and then they wrestled together, and tried to throw each other down.  And when all the bigger boys had done, Willie went and wrestled too, and his foot slipped, and he fell flat down on his back; and then, while he was getting up, the little man came to help him, and smiled very kindly on him, and said, "Never mind, Willie! you know it is only a dream."

    And then some of them brought the long thin swords, and the boy who had wrestled best sat down in a chair; and they gave Willie some of the swords to hold; and two of the biggest boys began to play with the swords; and when one touched the other with his sword, the boy in the chair gave the winner a crown of heart's-ease to wear.  And then two other boys came and played with the swords; and every time one touched another with his sword, and the boy in the chair got up to give him his crown, the little old man came up to Willie, and patted him on his head, and kissed him, and pointed to the winner, and said, " It is nothing but a dream, you know, Willie."



 

    When they had done playing, a great many beautiful children came running on to the common with their pinafores full of flowers; and they began to pelt everybody with the flowers, and to throw them about in all directions; and they never seemed to empty their pinafores, but as fast as ever they threw the flowers out more flowers came there, till the whole common was covered with them.  And the children ran before everybody, throwing the flowers all over the road, and all the people set off to go home through the flowers that covered their feet and reached nearly up to their knees.  And then some trees all at once grew up among the flowers; and the trees were all covered with pink and white blossoms; and then a gust of wind blew off all the blossoms, and the trees were all covered with ripe fruit; and just as Willie and the people were going to pick some of the fruit, another gust of wind blew it all off the trees, and the plums and pears and apples and peaches and greengages rolled all about the road, and the little children picked them all up, and ran away laughing with them; and then a great many laughing larks began to sing papa's songs in the branches; and then another gust of wind blew all the leaves off the trees, and the birds flew away, and it began to snow very fast.  And the wind blew very loudly, and the snow flew about in all directions, so that Willie could not see his way; and then the good old man with the dark face took him on his back, and carried him through the snow to a little house thatched with grass; and just as they were going under the door, Willie saw the sun rising behind the house; and when he was about to ask the little old man why the sun was rising again, he heard mamma say, "Why, Willie, boy! will you never get up this morning?"  And then he looked up and found that he was lying snug in bed, and the sun was shining in at the window.




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EVENING came again, with the long shadows.  The great troop of rooks flew over the garden, on their way to the elms in the churchyard, the last one was gone by; the great long-legged heron was just off for his night's fishing; the little white moths glided out from under the vine-leaves that grew round the window where mamma sat, singing the baby to sleep.  Willie came and kissed them both, and ran back to his little bed, and was soon asleep too.  The pale stars came out very slowly, one by one; and the evening primroses opened their yellowish flowers in the cool quiet of the fragrant twilight.

    And Willie dreamed that he had grown up to be a man, and that he was walking in a very large garden; and he thought he carried on his shoulder a long pole, with a great bunch of ripe purple grapes hanging from each end of it.  And he had a pitcher in his hand, into which he wanted to squeeze the grapes, for he was very thirsty; but yet for all he could do he could not help walking on continually, so that he was never able to set down the pitcher to squeeze the grapes into it.  And then he dreamed that he was a boy again, walking through some cornfields with a beautiful little girl.  And he thought he had given her one of the bunches of grapes, and that he had lost the other; but he did not care anything about it, or about the pitcher, for he had no time to do anything except to look at the blue eyes of the little girl who walked beside him, and at the blue cornflowers that grew in among the golden corn.  And he thought they walked for a long while through the field, without ever seeing the end of it; and the little girl talked and laughed with him; and sometimes she stopped to tell him to look at the cloud-shadows which the warm wind every now and then blew across the bright cornfield; and then he thought instead of the blue corn-flowers there were a great many red poppies growing in the corn, and presently there were more poppies than corn.  And then he thought they sat down on a bed of red poppies, and he gathered an armful of their great flowers, and made two crowns of them, for himself and the little blue-eyed girl; and then they fell fast asleep, just as the ripe corn was getting almost as red as the poppies, in the cloudy sunset.

    And then he dreamed that a cold wind woke him, and he found himself alone in a wide place, in the grey of the evening; and he could see no houses anywhere, and only a few stunted trees.  And there were no stars, nor moon, nor sun, but a dim sort of twilight that made the trees and the ground and the clouds all one dull grey.  And the clouds hung so low that sometimes he almost walked through them.  And he was standing by the side of a broad stream that was flowing very slowly.  And he thought he wanted to go across the stream, and so he walked into the water, and went in deeper and deeper, hardly able to stand against the current, which, though slow, was very strong, till he was nearly in the middle; and then the stream lifted him off his legs, and carried him head foremost for miles and miles and miles, past very long rows of willow-pollards, all of one height, that stood on each side of the stream.  And he thought he could not help counting the willows as he floated along the water; but whenever he counted near to a hundred, he forgot the number, and had to begin again.

    And so he went on for a long while; and then the stream began to run faster and faster, till he went so fast that he could not count the willows; and then all at once he went down a waterfall, where he kept falling and falling, till he thought he never should get to the bottom.  At last he did get there, and found himself on a smooth floor, strewn all over with soft gold sand, in the midst of a great many tall white coral pillars, that reached up to the roof.  And the roof was made of water-lily leaves, with blue sky and sunshine peeping in between them.

    And he walked on a great way under the water, looking at the gold and silver fishes playing among the lilies over his head.  And then the sun set, and while it was setting it made all the coral pillars red, and the gold-fishes looked like flashes of lightning, as they leaped in and out among the lily-leaves and the purple evening clouds.  And then the stars came out, and turned all the coral pillars white again; and the stars looked like white lilies among the leaves.  And then the full moon rose, and hung for a moment over the lily-leaves, till they looked like green ice, and their long stalks like icicles, and the green light slid all down the sides of the white coral; then the moon seemed to melt a great hole in the green ice, and all the water rushed in like a waterspout.  And Willie thought that the water knocked him down, and he had to scramble up again, out of a heap of very beautiful shells, of all sorts of strange, shapes, and of all the most delicate colours possible; and some of the shells were playing such delicious music!

    And then he thought he rose up through the water, and the fishes swam all about him; and after a little while his head reached the top, and then a lady took hold of his hand, and helped him out of the water.  And as he stood on the bank, in the moonlight he turned round to look at the lady, and she was floating over the water, as if she were almost water herself; and everywhere, as she moved, an arch like a rainbow moved with her.  He called to her, but she did not answer him, though she seemed to beckon him again into the water; and before he could even think whether or not he should try to reach her, she had faded into the moonlight, and he was alone again.  And when he looked round, he saw that he was on a very little island, in the middle of the sea; and he walked across the island, and found the opposite side was very rocky; and the waves were singing up and clown the shingle as the tide came up, and the creamy foam broke over the rocks a long way above his head.

    But in one little bay the water was so clear that he could see the green and the black and the red and white sea-weeds growing like great forests, out of the rocks, far underneath; and their branches waved when the water moved, just as the boughs of the tall trees wave in the wind.  And the rocks on shore were covered with flowers, — the yellow sea-poppy, and the blue holly, and the purple onion blossom; and, farther up, the little yellow rose and the purple heath, all growing in the sand on the rocks.  And then the sea came up higher and higher, and he had to mount the cliffs till he came to some patches of folks'glove and wild heart's-ease.  And then he found a cavern, hollowed all under the ground, and he went in; and the cavern went down very steeply, and he wandered on a great way quite in the dark; and then it became a little light (just light enough for him to make out very dimly the forms of some trees and hills); and then several rays of light came down through a great cloud, and there seemed to be steps in the rays; and he climbed up them through the mist, for though the steps themselves were only mist they did not give way under his feet, but bore him up, with a pleasant springy feeling, like the softest possible moss or close turf, till he got to the top of the cloud, and there, a long way up in the clear blue sky, he saw a number — many more than he could count — of angels, all clothed in white, with silver harps in their hands.  And he heard them singing; and their song sounded like the song of the shells and of the sea only far more delightful.

    He thought he never could hear enough of that song.  And then he looked back to the clouds, and as the wind every now and then blew them aside, he saw the grey mountain-tops peeping up between them, and then patches of green with the sunshine on them; and then he saw down into the valleys, and was able to make out quite plainly the fields and woods, and rivers, and great lakes, all lying like a silver map in the sunlight.  And on one of the highest of the mountains he saw a lady sitting among thorns and brambles.  There she sat till the sun went down; and then the evening star poured one bright ray down on her head, and a great rosy light like the aurora borealis came up out of the sea, so bright that the lady was obliged to shade her eyes with her hand.  But still she sat there looking so patient and so serious, as if watching for some one who would not come, till the light filled the whole sky, growing brighter and brighter, so that Willie was half blinded and bewildered with its brightness.  And as the cloud upon which he stood melted in the rosy splendour, he found himself close before the beautiful lady on the mountain-top; and it seemed to him that she had the blue eyes of the little girl who used to walk with him in the cornfields, — only she was so much older and grander, and more womanly; and her voice was sweet and gentle as the voice of the blue-eyed girl, as she asked him why he had left the cornfields and the coral palaces to climb among the clouds to the barren mountain-top.  And as she spoke all the sadness went out of her beautiful face, and she smiled on him, and put forth her hand to take his, and leaned her beautiful face forward till her hair hung over his forehead.

    When Willie awoke his cheeks were wet with tears, and he was sad, though he did not know why.  He seemed still to hear the wonderful harmonies of the silver harps and the voice of the blue-eyed lady.  Was it only that the moon was just stooping down behind the forest, and that the birds were singing merrily in the rosy dawn?


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JACK was a good boy, and very fond of his mother; but he did not know how to make bargains.  So what do you think he did when his mother sent him to sell her cow?

    But first I must tell you about Jack and his mother,— who they were, where they came from, where they lived, and what they did for their living.

    Well, Jack's mother was a very poor woman; and you may be sure Jack was of the same family, and no richer.  No one could say where they came from, because Jack's mother had not told anybody; neither had Jack, for Jack did not know.  They lived in the country, in a very neat little house, with a pretty garden and a few trees about it.  It was not far from the roadside; and in front of it was a pond where Jack's mother's ducks used to swim and wash themselves.  Jack's mother kept chickens, too, as well as ducks, and a pig, — sometimes two pigs, — and a red cow, and a tortoiseshell cat.  The ducks and chickens laid eggs; and the red cow gave milk, of the cream of which Jack's mother made butter; and the butter and eggs Jack took to market.  They made bacon of the pigs, and very good bacon it was.  The tortoiseshell cat, too, was good, though not exactly good to eat; but she caught mice, and ate them.  Jack was very fond of the tortoiseshell cat; and puss was fond of him in her cat way, and liked to sit on his knee or his shoulder, or to follow him about the garden when he was at work in it.  There was a little redbreast that also followed him in the garden, and was on good terms with him and the cat.



 

    Jack was a capital gardener.  He grew potatoes, — red champions and ladies' fingers and first and second earlies; and carrots, — fine, long, straight orange carrots; and cabbages, — sometimes purple cabbages for pickling, and broccoli; and spinach; and peas, and beans, — that is broad beans like these.  But there was one sort of beans called scarlet runners, which, he had been told, grew up to a wonderful height, — almost to the sky.  These he had not been able to get; and if there was one thing more than another that Jack longed to see growing in his his garden (for he was very proud of his garden both for its beauty and for its use to his mother and himself) it was some of these giant scarlet runners.  And this reminds me that you are wanting to know what Jack did when his mother sent him to sell her cow.

    But why did his mother want to sell her?  I will tell you.  Last year the potatoes were nearly all spoiled.  So Jack's mother was not able to keep a pig.  So they had no bacon.  So they were obliged to eat their butter and eggs instead of sending them to market.  So they had no money to buy clothes or to pay the rent of their house, for the cottage did not belong to them.  And so they had to sell the cow.

    Then Jack's mother bade good-bye to the cow (for she was very sorry to part from her); and as Jack was setting off his mother said to him, "Now, Jack, dear! do think of what you are about, and do not sell the cow unless you can get a good price for her."

    Away went Jack with the cow to market, but before they could reach there they met the butcher.  "Good morning!" said Jack: "Good morning!" said the butcher.  "Where are you taking the cow?" said he.  "I am taking her to market, to sell her," answered Jack.  "How's that?" said the butcher.  So Jack told him all I have told you,—how they wanted money, and must sell the cow, though they did not like to do so.  "Well!" said the butcher, "how much do you want for her?"  "I don't know," said Jack, "but my mother told me not to sell her unless I had a good price for her."  "Will this be enough?" said the butcher, showing him a handful of money.  Jack saw it was a great deal more than he had ever had before; so he did not stop to count it, but said directly, "I think it would."  "You shall have it," said the butcher, "and you need not go any farther."  "I should like to go to the market, though," said Jack, "because I want to buy some beans, — some very beautiful beans, that grow up nearly to the sky; and I think if my mother saw some of them growing in our garden she would not be so sorry for losing our cow."  "O, you mean scarlet runners," said the butcher; and he pulled a few of them out of his pocket.  "O, how beautiful! said Jack; will you sell me some? have you any more?"  "No! these are all," said the butcher; "but I'll sell you them; only they are very dear!"  "You shall have the cow for them instead of for your money; take the money back, and give me the beans!" said Jack.  So the butcher took back his money, and gave Jack the beans, and wished him good morning again, and walked away whistling and driving the cow before him.  And Jack ran home with the beans.

    When he got home, his mother was gone to a neighbour's; so away he went into the garden, and dug a piece of ground, and sowed the beans.  And as his mother was not coming home till late in the evening, he went to bed, and left telling her about his great bargain till next day.

    In the morning he was up with the sun; and the first thing he did was to run into the garden to look where he had sown his beans.  He did not expect to find them growing, but to his astonishment not only were all above the ground, but some three or four of them had twined round each other and grown up so high that Jack could not see the tops, which indeed were quite hidden in the clouds.  While Jack stood wondering, and looking up at them, he fancied he saw a bunch of scarlet blossoms a long way up.  That was stranger still, for the beans to grow up to the sky and blossom too, all in one night.  So he thought he would climb up the stalks, to get the blossom to show to his mother.  He put his foot on one of the cross stems, and found it quite strong enough to bear him; and up he went.

    When he was nearly as high as the tops of the trees he missed the blossom; but he saw some higher still, and so climbed up farther. Then he lost that bunch, and climbed again toward another, and so up, up, up, right through the clouds, climbing and climbing till he was tired, and, looking down, could not see his mother's house, nor the fields, nor the road, nor the tree-tops, nor even the great mountains.  There was nothing but cloud below him.  And then he looked up; and there was such a splendid bunch of scarlet blossoms that he could not help going on again.

     Just as he reached it (and he had to go into the cloud to come at it), the wind blew away the cloud, and he found that the bean-tops were hanging over a road-side; and in front of him, some way along the road, was a very strange-looking house.  He was not sure, at first, but what it was the head of a giant looking at him; and the windows looked like the giant's two eyes.  Then all at once he recollected how his mother had used to tell him about a giant, and what he had done to her and to Jack's father,—how they had once been very rich, 'till the giant came and took away all they had.  Jack thought to himself, — perhaps that is the giant, or at all events, his house; it's quite big enough for a giant's home. I'll go there and see if I can find anything belonging to my mother, and make her rich again.  So he stepped off the bean-stalks into the road, and walked toward the giant's house.  And then he saw that the sun was very low, and the night coming on; for he had been all the day climbing up the beanstalks without thinking of the time, and now he was hungry.



    At last he reached the house.  There was a little ugly old woman at the door, and she asked him what he wanted.  Jack said he would be very glad of anything to eat.  So the old woman gave him some young bean-pods cut up small and boiled, which he found were very good.  Then she asked him if he wanted anything else.  "Yes!" said Jack, "I want to know if this house belongs to the giant who robbed my mother."

    "I know nothing about your mother," said the old woman; "but this is the giant's house, and the giant is coming home directly; you had better not say such things to him.  There!" she went on, "get away into that cupboard, for if the giant finds you here he will beat us both.  You wait there till he goes to sleep after supper; and then, as soon as the Moon is up, you can run off and get down the bean-stalks again."

    Then she pushed him into the cupboard, and went to make the supper ready.  In came the giant, very tired, and very hungry, and very ill-tempered.  He was such a big fellow that his head almost touched the ceiling.  Down he sat in his chair, — such a bump that Jack thought the floor was breaking in.  And then he bawled out for his supper so loudly that Jack was obliged to put his fingers in his ears.  When he had eaten a very great supper, he shouted out again for the old woman to bring him his two MONEY-BAGS.  The old woman brought them, and put them on the table before him.  And the giant emptied a great heap of bright gold coins out of one, and a heap of silver coins out of the other, and counted them, and laughed, and said very loudly to himself, "Jack's mother shall not have these again!"  And then he put all the coins into the bags again, and tied up the bags and leaned back in his chair, and fell asleep, and snored like thunder.  Jack knew by what the giant said that the money belonged to his mother; so as soon as the moon shone through the window he slipped out of the cupboard, laid hold of the bags, popped one under each arm, and ran out of the house along the road to the beans, and down the bean-stalks as fast as he could till he was at home again.



    His mother was so glad to see him, and gave him his supper, and got him to bed.  It was very late next morning when he awoke.  But as soon as he had finished his breakfast he said, "Mother!  I shall go up the bean-stalks again."  "What for, dear?" said his mother.  "To see what else of yours the giant has," said Jack.  Then his mother was frightened, for she recollected what a terrible big strong fellow the giant was; but Jack said he was not afraid. He would not go to the house till it was nearly dark; and he would hide himself, so that the giant should not see him.  Off he went, but this time he took with him something to eat, so that he got on faster.  Still for all that it was evening when he reached the top of the beans; and when he stepped down into the road he could hear the noise the giant made eating his supper.  So he had to make haste.

    As he came near to the house he heard the giant roar out to the old woman to bring him his HEN THAT LAID THE GOLDEN EGGS.  Jack made more haste.  Luckily, as it was summertime, the giant's door was left open; and in slid Jack, into the great dark hall, and peeped through the hinges of the kitchen door, and saw the giant sitting at table, with a beautiful little grey hen before him, and in his hand a golden egg which the hen had just been laying.  The giant sat looking at the hen; and presently his great eyes began to wink, and then to shut, and his head began to nod.  So Jack knew there was no time to be lost; and he stepped quietly into the room, and the hen flew down on to his hand, and he took her under his arm, and, not caring for the golden egg, ran off as fast as he could through the moonlight.

    His mother was sitting up for him, and very much frightened about him; but she was too glad to have him again, and the hen with him, to scold him for being so long.  But she begged him never to go any more up the bean-stalks.  Jack asked her if the giant had anything else of hers; and, as she could not deny that he had, Jack next morning started again.  The beans were now all full of blossoms, and as Jack went up his wonderful ladder the sun shone so brightly on the scarlet flowers, he could not help stopping sometimes to admire them, so that it was late again when he got to the giant's road.

    The sun was down, and all was hushed and quiet.  As he came near the house, he was surprised to hear some most gentle and delicious music, the sweetest he had ever heard in his life.  He went on slowly, listening, walked through the moonlight into the giant's house, and there, before the giant, stood a delicate-shaped HARP, which had been playing the giant to sleep.  Now the music ceased; and the great giant began to breathe heavily, with a sound like the rush of the tide on the sea-shore.

    Jack recollected the wonderful harp of which his mother had talked to him when he was a very little child, — telling him how it played of itself, and better than any one could play it, and how much more she cared for it than for the money-bags, or even the beautiful hen that laid the golden eggs.  So Jack took up the harp.  But, the moment he touched it, it began to play again, — such a merry tune that the giant opened his great heavy eyes and stared sleepily at Jack.

    Jack did not look twice at him, but ran off with the harp faster than he had ever run before; down the bean-stalks, hardly knowing or caring where he set his foot, as fast as he could scramble down, the harp twanging merrily all the while, and Jack's heart beating as fast as the music, till he was on the ground again.  He did not dare to look back till then.  Then he did; and high up in the clouds he saw one of the giant's feet, like a great black cloud, coming down the bean-ladder.  There was his father's axe lying on the ground; so he set down the harp, snatched up the axe, and began to chop away at the bean-stalks.  They were very thick and tough; and it was dark, for the clouds had come over the moon; but he worked manfully on.  At last he cut them through.  There was a tremendous crash, like a clap of thunder, as if the giant had fallen; and Jack ran into the cottage with the harp.

    All night long there was a terrible storm and uproar.  Sometimes, when the wind blew fiercely, he thought the giant was shaking the house-walls.  But at last he was so tired that he fell asleep.  When he awoke next morning the beans were all blown away.  He never saw or heard anything more of the giant.  But his mother had the money-bags and the hen with the golden eggs; and so they were able to buy clothes and bacon, and another cow, and whatever else they needed to make them comfortable.  And Jack kept the harp (his mother gave it to him), and had music for all the rest of his life.




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"'TWOULD be a grand thing to kill a giant" thought Jack.  It might have been the same Jack who climbed up the bean-stalks,— but I do not know.  "'Twould be a grand thing to kill a giant!"  So, instead of minding his work, he went to look for one.

    Very hungry he was, and tired, before the day was out; but not a giant came in his way.  It was just in the dusk of the evening when he heard a rumbling behind him.  It might have been from a stone quarry on the other side of the hill; it might have been a giant grumbling because Jack went so fast that he could not overtake him, for Jack wore seven-leagued boots, and was a match for any one at running.  The rumbling came again, and then Jack turned to see what it was.  Sure enough there was a giant looking over the top of the hill, — and a terrible fellow too; with a head as big as a mountain-top, and lowering eyebrows for all the world like bushes overhanging great clefts in a rock, so deep and dark you could see no eyeballs in them.  He seemed to be smoking a pipe too (very likely, as it was evening), for a thin cloud was curling up where his mouth should have been.  Ay, what a tremendous fellow the giant was!  Half a mile high he looked, at the very least.  "O," cried Jack, "I wish I had my sword of sharpness."  "O, sword of sharpness," shouted the giant back; not so loud, though, as Jack, but like his echo, "sword of sharpness," as if he were mocking him.  "O," cried Jack again.  And the giant did the same.  Jack's courage was gone; and he ran away home as fast as his seven-leagued boots would carry him, never once looking to see if the giant's arm was stretched forth to reach him.



 

    He minded his work for a day or two but he could not forget the giant.  "I never thought there were giants so big as that," said he to his playmates and school-fellows.  No more did they; and he was only laughed at when he talked of the Giant Half-a-mile high.

    Perhaps the laughing only made him more fixed in his opinion.  It was a giant.  He saw him so plainly that he could not have mistaken him for anything else; and then the smoke from his pipe, and the mocking cries, — how could he be deceived in these?  He did not like being laughed at; so one day he set off again.  And this time he took his sword of sharpness with him, like his namesake in the old story.  He had not an invisible cap; but if he waited for the evening, when he could creep under the shadow of the rocks, that would do as well: the giant would never see him.  But where was he to find the giant?  He could not even be sure of the exact place where he saw him; for at first he was not thinking of anything, and afterwards he was too frightened to take much notice.  However, he had a half-holiday, wandered all the afternoon, saw no giant; and when it grew dark was obliged to wait, for he could not find his way home.  So he plucked up as good a heart as he could, though he was afraid to whistle for fear any giant should hear him, and sat down, leaning against a large rock to watch.  No one came.  Once or twice during the afternoon he had thought he heard the giant growling; but it was a long way off.  Now all was quiet.  After a while he ate his supper, which be had been thoughtful enough to bring with him.  Then he walked about a little to prevent himself from falling asleep; then he sat down to rest himself.

    He had scarcely seated himself when he was sure he did hear the rumbling, and, looking up, he saw — not the giant's head, as before, peeping over the hill, but the end of a foot, almost directly over him, as if the giant was going to step from the crag under which brave Jack was sitting.  What a foot! almost as large as a house.  Jack was too frightened to draw his sword of sharpness; but, instead, crouched close down under his bit of rock.  But if the giant's foot had come upon it, the rock and Jack and all must have been crumbled to powder.  Fortunately the giant did not step directly down, but strode with one wide step right across the valley, setting his foot at once upon the opposite hill; Jack saw him pass over, — two enormous legs; the body was high up in the clouds.



 

    Whether Jack fainted with terror or fell asleep he never knew.  It was morning when he woke up, pale and faint, and his teeth chattering.  Little breakfast he was able to eat when he reached home.  And when he told his story (everybody knew he would not say an untruth) all his companions, except some few who thought he had been dreaming, gave over laughing at him, for a giant as big as that, you know, was no joke at all.  Suppose he came one day and set his foot on the school when they were all in it, or kicked over their fathers' houses.  It was hardly safe to go to sleep now.

    Jack thought so too.  But the first penny ever given to him he had spent in buying the old story of "Jack the Giant-Killer" (which, indeed, had first set him giant-hunting), and now, spite of his fear, he could not help wondering whether the old Cornish giant was as big as this one of his.  If so, even yet he might be killed.  And then he would be Jack the Giant-Killer too, — Giant-Killer the Second!

    So one day he again ventured out.  He was, after all, a brave fellow, and if he could but find the giant!  Once more he had a long day's wandering.  At last he thought he found the very hill over which he had first seen the giant's head.  He climbed boldly up the front, then crept on all-fours to the top and lay down in the fern to look over.  It was evening,— the shapes of the mountains were already growing indistinct; but surely he could not mistake what lay beneath him, some little way down the hill. It was a giant form, — ay! of a man dressed all in green, except that he had a purple sash round his waist and a purple cap drawn down over his face.  He lay on his back, with his knees rather up, and his arms under his head.  It was the giant, — and asleep.

    Jack looked a long time intently on him; he did not move, nor did he seem to have any weapon.  He was certainly asleep then, and unarmed.  Jack drew his sword of sharpness.  He listened: there was no sound but what might have been either the ebb and flow of the distant sea or the giant's heavy breathing.  He crept slowly down through the fern to the giant's side.  Evening was darkening round him, and in a little while he would not see even the giant,—what if he should fall up against him and disturb him; the giant roll upon him, or snatch him up?  He kept his eyes fixed on the purple sash of the giant, that he might guess where the great fellow's heart was.  It would never do to miss his blow.

    At last, stepping noiselessly over the turf, he was at the giant's side, and thrust his sword of sharpness up to the very hilt into him, with such force that he could not draw it back again.  The giant never moved nor groaned.  The one blow was enough.  Brave Jack!

    But now it was quite dark, and Jack did not like the thought of staying there with the dead giant.  So, leaving the sword in him, he returned home.

    Early next morning he summoned his friends to come with him to the scene of triumph, — some few of them to be favoured by first witnessing the monster.  Then Jack would draw out his sword, and they should rouse the whole village to carry the body off.  Would it not be a glorious day?

    They reached the hill-top whence Jack had first espied him.  They all stopped: he pointed down.  Why, Jack! your giant is only a part of the hill, and the cap and sash are great patches of the purple heath!

    Jack never went giant-killing again; he thought it a waste of time.




――――♦――――

 








THE three people were an old woman, a man, and a little girl.

    The old woman had an egg for supper; and when she had broken off the top she found it was not done enough.  How was that to be mended?  The little girl brought a sauce-pan, but the trouble was to put the egg into it.  They made a noose in a piece of string, put it round the egg-cup, and let the egg-cup, egg and all, down into the saucepan, and then set the saucepan on the fire.

    After a little while they took it off, to see if the egg was done.  Not a bit,— and all, no doubt, because they had forgotten to put the egg's end on.  So they set the end on, and the saucepan on the fire, and presently looked again.  But the water had all boiled away, so the little girl had to go for more.  She was a very clever child, and brought hot water and did not the egg wabble about in it, and make them all three quite nervous for fear the egg-cup should be overset and the yolk run out! 

    After half an hour or so they thought it must be done.  But the difficulty was how to get at the egg for eating.  The old woman said she would pick it out; but they told her she would scald her fingers, and perhaps spoil her gown.  The man said, "Set it down outside the door to cool!" but then the dog might run away with it.  The little girl talked of boring a hole in the saucepan, and so draining off the hot water.  She was a very clever child, but they had nothing to bore the hole with.

    At last the man held the saucepan over the hearth-rug, and the old woman and the little girl took each a spoon and lifted the egg safely out of the egg-cup into the old woman's lap.  And the old woman made an excellent supper, for all the egg was rather watery, which she said made it more like a duck's egg; and there was prime egg-broth left in the saucepan for the cat.






――――♦――――
 






"O, HOW nice it would be to be a kitten!  Just think, Maggie!  No lessons, no sewing, no scolding, no chilblains.  Nothing to do but to lie cozily on the hearth-rug before the fire, and be petted, and play with her tail.  Don't I wish I was a kitten!"

    "I wish I was anything else," said the kitten, looking up in the little girl's face.

    "Just listen, Maggie! to the foolish thing!  Why, you naughty, wicked, ungrateful, silly little puss!  Here I've been nursing you in my lap nearly all the day; and if I did let you fall twice, you did not hurt yourself, for you only fell on the carpet.  And I wrapped you up in my best frock.  And you've nice milk and bread.  And your mother is so kind to you.  Why, she brought you a mouse the other day,— nasty thing!  And she lets you do what you like with her, and is never angry with you, or cross as our governess is; and you've no clothes to mend, because you can't tear your clothes; and no spelling; and you're not washed of a morning in cold water; and —"

    "All very well, Miss Nellie! but you're not a kitten, or you'd not like it so much.  I don't care if I do get mice.  I want birds.  I want all the birds I see.  I want to eat your canary."

    "O you wicked, wicked kitten!"

    "And I want to eat it with the feathers on."

    "You silly thing!"

    "And the feathers choke me.  I want all the birds and all the butterflies.  They are such pretty things; and I've never tasted one yet.  When mother brought me a nice young thrush she would not let me eat the feathers.  And they were such pretty feathers, and I wanted to eat them.  And the squirrel's tail choked me.  And I can't get the birds in the trees, nor even the great sleepy moths.  And the little black houseflies, when I can catch them, are nasty; and I don't like them when I eat them.  And then mother scolds me for it, and says they make me thin.  But she eats them herself.  And I heard your papa say she eats black beetles too.  What are black beetles?  Are they nice?  O, I don't care about thrushes and mice; I should like to have black beetles.  I want black beetles.  I am sure there are some up high in the kitchen cupboard, if mother would let me have them.  But she keeps them all for herself."

    "But they do make mother thin, kitten dear! and you ought not to eat them."

    "But I want to.  And then they'll not let me get under the grate, and they knock my nose against the bars if I do.  I like getting under the grate; and I'd like the red coals to fall on me, that I might play with them.  Red coals are prettier than butterflies.  Nasty butterflies! they never come near enough to be caught.  I was turned out of the fender twenty times yesterday.  And I must not run up stairs into the bed-rooms, nor sleep on the beds.  And they whip me off the stairs, and off the chairs in the drawing-room, and won't let me climb up the curtains.  And I must not go on the table, nor put my tongue in the cream-jar, nor lick the bread and butter.  Fresh butter is so nice.  I mustn't do anything.  I get on the newspaper in your papa's easy chair, sometimes; and it crackles; and it's such fun.  And then I'm knocked off.  You hished me off one day, Miss Nellie! for all you sit there when nobody's in the room.

    "What's the good of nibbling your pa's waistcoat-buttons, when I can't even get a taste out of them?  Why can't I eat them?  What are they made of?  Horn!  Why don't they make buttons of butter?  I should like then to climb up your pa's waistcoat.  It's only a little fun now.  And mother's jealous of me.  She wants to sit there instead of me.

    "I do get under the grate sometimes, though, and stay there a good while, when cook's not in the kitchen.  O, don't I run when she comes in!  But then what a trouble I have to clean myself.  And when I don't mother will; and that's worse: she cleans me so hard, and licks me so much, four or five times over.  And she don't play fair with me.  She 's a deal stronger and bigger than me; and when I want to throw her down I can't, and it's not fair.

    "Yes! I like running after your ball.  But I get tired.  And I like running after your sister's ball of worsted; but she takes it away from me, and won't let me play with the darning-needle."

    "Why, you foolish kitten! you'd prick your nose, and perhaps put your dear little eyes out; and you'd get the worsted all in a tangle, and then we couldn't mend papa's stockings, and he'd have such big holes in them, and get chilblains, perhaps, as I do.  You never had any chilblains, and you're a deal better off than I am."

    "I don't care.  I like to get the worsted in a tangle.  I like to prick my nose.  Needles don't prick.  And I don't know what chilblains are, and don't care for them.  Are they like black beetles?  But I don't care."

    "O Maggie! what a stupid kitten!  She thinks chilblains are like black beetles.  No, pussy! they are —"

    "I don't care what they are.  I haven't to learn lessons: that's something."

    "Yes! it is, pussy!"

    "O, but I want to catch my tail.  There, I've run round twenty times, — fifty times, —and it's as far off as ever.  And I run up and down the room and through all the passages, and I never can catch that grey kitten on the wall, that mocks me and makes fun of me."

    "Kitty! — that 's your shadow.  Didn't you see it get on its hind legs, or creep along the ground, or jump away, or do just what you do?"

    "What's a shadow?  You think it very pretty, don't you, miss, to see me on my hind legs?  I want to walk on them like you.  But I can't keep up.  I want to run up all the trees and catch all the birds, and up the sides of the house, and all over the top, and look down the chimney, — all the chimnies.  Wouldn't I like to come down a chimney and plump into the frying-pan on the top of the pancakes, and frighten that old ill-tempered cook.  I can't, do anything I want to do."

    "Upon my word, Miss Puss! you are a pretty kitten to be so unreasonable."

    "I know I am a pretty kitten.  I dare say I shall grow up to be a handsome cat.  Mother purrs over me when she is in a good humour, and says so.  But I want a black bar across my nose, and four white feet, and I want —"

    "You're a foolish, dissatisfied little thing; and if I was a kitten — a tortoise-shell kitten like you — I wouldn't grumble.  Would you, Maggie?"


―――♦―――



THE END.

 



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