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Did you meet there my poor dear husband, Lord rest his
soul?"

"What was his name?" asked the man.

"Why, John Goody, of course," said the woman. "Did you know him in
Paradise?"

"What, John Goody!" said the man. "Him and me was as thick as
thieves."

"Does he want for anything?" said the woman. "I suppose up in Paradise
you get all you want."

"All we want! Why, look at me," said the man pointing to his rags and
tatters. "They treat some of us right shabby up there."

"Dear me, that's bad. Are you likely to go back?"

"Go back to Paradise, marm; I should say! We have to be in every night
at ten."

"Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind taking back some things for my poor
old John," said the woman.

"In course, marm, delighted to help my old chum John."

So the woman went indoors and got a big pile of clothes and a long
pipe and three bottles of beer, and a beer jug, and gave them to the
man.

"But," he said, "please marm, I can't carry all these by my own self.
Ain't you got a horse or a donkey that I can take along with me to
carry them? I'll bring them back to-morrow."

Then the woman said, "There's our old Dobbin in the stable; I can't
lend you mare Juniper cos my husband's ploughing with her just now."

"Ah, well, Dobbin'll do as its only till to-morrow."

So the woman got out Dobbin and saddled him, and the man took the
clothes and the beer and the pipe and rode off with them.

Shortly afterwards her husband came home and said,

"What's become of Dobbin? He's not in the stable."

So his wife told him all that had happened. And he said,

"I don't like that. How do we know that he is going to Paradise? And
how do we know that he'll bring Dobbin back to-morrow? I'll saddle
Juniper and get the things back. Which way did he go?"

So he saddled Juniper and rode after the man, who saw him coming afar
off and guessed what had happened. So he got off from Dobbin and drove
him into a clump of trees near the roadside, and then went and laid
down on his back and looked up to the sky.

When the farmer came up to him he got down from Juniper and said,
"What are you doing there?"

"Oh, such a funny thing," said the man; "a fellow came along here on a
horse with some clothes and things, and when he got to the top of the
hill here he simply gave a shout and the horse went right up into the
sky; and I was watching him when you came up."

"Oh, it's all right then," said the farmer. "He's gone to Paradise,
sure enough," and went back to his wife.

Next day they waited, and they waited for the man to bring back
Dobbin; but he didn't come that day nor the next day, nor the next. So
the farmer said to his wife,

"My dear, we've been done. But I'll find that man if I have to trudge
through the whole kingdom. And you must come with me, as you know
him."

"But what shall we do with the house?" said the wife. "You know there
have been robbers around here, and while we are away they'll come and
take my best chiny."

"Oh, that's all right," said the farmer. "He who minds the door minds
the house. So we'll take the door with us and then they can't get in."

So he took the door off its hinges and put it on his back and they
went along to find the man from Paradise. So they went along, and they
went along, and they went along till night came, and they didn't know
what to do for shelter. So the man said,

"That's a comfortable tree there; let us roost in the branches like
the birds." So they took the door up with them and laid down to sleep
on it as comfortable, as comfortable can be.

[Illustration: Up the Tree]

Now it happened that a band of robbers had just broken into a castle
near by and taken out a great lot of plunder; and they came under the
very tree to divide it. And when they began to settle how much each
should have they began to quarrel and woke up the farmer and his wife.
They were so frightened when they heard the robbers underneath them
that they tried to get up farther into the tree, and in doing so let
the door fall down right on the robbers' heads.

"The heavens are falling," cried the robbers, who were so frightened
that they all rushed away. And the farmer and his wife came down from
the tree and collected all the booty and went home and lived happy
ever afterwards.

It was and it was not.




[Illustration: The Snake]

INSIDE AGAIN


A man was walking through the forest one day when he saw a funny black
thing like a whip wriggling about under a big stone. He was curious to
know what it all meant. So he lifted up the stone and found there a
huge black snake.

"That's well," said the snake. "I have been trying to get out for two
days, and, Oh, how hungry I am. I must have something to eat, and
there is nobody around, so I must eat you."

"But that wouldn't be fair," said the man with a trembling voice. "But
for me you would never have come out from under the stone."

"I do not care for that," said the snake. "Self-preservation is the
first law of life; you ask anybody if that isn't so."

"Any one will tell you," said the man, "that gratitude is a person's
first duty, and surely you owe me thanks for saving your life."

"But you haven't saved my life, if I am to die of hunger," said the
snake.

"Oh yes, I have," said the man; "all you have to do is to wait till
you find something to eat."

"Meanwhile I shall die, and what's the use of being saved!"

So they disputed and they disputed whether the case was to be decided
by the claims of gratitude or the rights of self-preservation, till
they did not know what to do.

"I tell you what I'll do," said the snake, "I'll let the first
passer-by decide which is right."

"But I can't let my life depend upon the word of the first comer."

"Well, we'll ask the first two that pass by."

"Perhaps they won't agree," said the man; "what are we to do then? We
shall be as badly off as we are now."

"Ah, well," said the snake, "let it be the first three. In all law
courts it takes three judges to make a session. We'll follow the
majority of votes."

So they waited till at last there came along an old, old horse. And
they put the case to him, whether gratitude should ward off death.

"I don't see why it should," said the horse. "Here have I been slaving
for my master for the last fifteen years, till I am thoroughly worn
out, and only this morning I heard him say, 'Roger'--that's my
name--'is no use to me any longer; I shall have to send him to the
knacker's and get a few pence for his hide and his hoofs.' There's
gratitude for you."

So the horse's vote was in favour of the snake. And they waited till
at last an old hound passed by limping on three legs, half blind with
scarcely any teeth. So they put the case to him.

"Look at me," said he; "I have slaved for my master for ten years, and
this very day he has kicked me out of his house because I am no use to
him any longer, and he grudged me a few bones to eat. So far as I can
see nobody acts from gratitude."

"Well," said the snake, "there's two votes for me. What's the use of
waiting for the third? he's sure to decide in my favour, and if he
doesn't it's two to one. Come here and I'll eat you!"

"No, no," said the man, "a bargain's a bargain; perhaps the third
judge will be able to convince the other two and my life will be
saved."

So they waited and they waited, till at last a fox came trotting
along; and they stopped him and explained to him both sides of the
case. He sat up and scratched his left ear with his hind paw, and
after a while he beckons the man to come near him. And when he did so
the fox whispered,

"What will you give me if I get you out of this?"

The man whispered back, "A pair of fat chickens."

"Well," said the fox, "if I am to decide this case I must clearly
understand the situation. Let me see! If I comprehend aright, the man
was lying under the stone and the snake----"

"No, no," cried out the horse and the hound and the snake. "It was the
other way."

"Ah, ha, I see! The stone was rolling down and the man sat on it, and
then----"

"Oh, how stupid you are," they all cried; "it wasn't that way at all."

"Dear me, you are quite right. I am very stupid, but, really, you
haven't explained the case quite clearly to me."

"I'll show you," said the snake, impatient from his long hunger; and
he twisted himself again under the stone and wriggled his tail till at
last the stone settled down upon him and he couldn't move out. "That's
the way it was."

"And that's the way it will be," said the fox, and, taking the man's
arm, he walked off, followed by the horse and the hound. "And now for
my chickens."

"I'll go and get them for you," said the man, and went up to his
house, which was near, and told his wife all about it.

"But," she said, "why waste a pair of chickens on a foxy old fox! I
know what I'll do."

So she went into the back yard and unloosed the dog and put it into a
meal-bag and gave it to the man, who took it down and gave it to the
fox, who trotted off with it to his den.

But when he opened the bag out sprung the dog and gobbled him all up.

There's gratitude for you.




[Illustration: The Three Ravens]

JOHN THE TRUE


There was once a king who had long been unmarried. Now one day, going
through his palace, he came to a room that he had never opened before.
So he sent for the key and entered it, and opposite the door was the
picture of a most beautiful princess with skin white as snow and
cheeks red as blood and hair black as ebony. No sooner had he seen
this picture than he fell in love with it and asked who she was.

His chamberlain said, "That is the Princess of the Golden Horde, with
which your Majesty's kingdom has been at war these last twenty years.
Only three years ago, when your Majesty's father was alive, there was
some talk of peace and of betrothing you to her, and that was when her
portrait was sent here. But now the two kingdoms are at war and it
does not seem that peace will ever come."

But though there was no hope of marrying her the King could not help
but think of the Princess of the Golden Horde, and thought and thought
till he became quite pale and sick with love for her.



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