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Now things grew worse and worse for the farmer till he could
scarcely earn enough to eat and drink. All his crops went to pay rent
and taxes. So one night he said to his wife,

"Betty, my dear, I really do not know what to do; there is scarcely
anything in the house to eat, and in a few days we shall all be
starving. What I think of doing is to take the poor lad and lassie
into the forest and leave them there; if somebody finds them they will
surely keep them alive, and if nobody finds them they might as well
die there as here; I cannot see any other way; it is their lives or
ours; and if we die what can become of them?"

"No, no, father," said the farmer's wife; "wait but a few days and
perhaps something will turn up."

"We have waited and have waited and things are getting worse every
day; if we wait much longer we shall all be dead. No, I am determined
on it; to-morrow the children to the forest."

Now it happened that Johnnie was awake in the next room and heard his
father and his mother talking. He said nothing but thought and thought
and thought; and early next morning he went out and picked a large
number of bright-coloured pebbles and put them in his pocket. After
breakfast, which consisted of bread and water, the farmer said to
Johnnie and Grizzle,

"Come, my dears, I am going to take you for a walk," and with that he
went with them into the forest near-by.

Johnnie said nothing, but dropped one of his pebbles at every turning,
which would show him the way back. When they got far into the forest
the farmer said to the children,

"My dears, I have to go and get something. Stay here and don't go
away, and I'll soon come back. Give me a kiss, children," and with
that he hurried away and went back home by another road.

After a time Grizzle began to cry and said,

"Where's father? Where's father? We can't get home. We can't get
home."

But Johnnie said, "Never mind, Grizzle, I can take you home; you just
follow me."

So Johnnie looked out for the pebbles he had dropped, and found them
at each turn of the road, and a little after midday got home and asked
their mother for their dinner.

"There's nothing in the house, children, but you can go and get some
water from the well and, please God, we'll have bread in the morning."

When the farmer came home he was astonished to find that the children
had found their way home, and could not imagine how they had done so.
But at night he said to his wife,

"Betty, my dear, I do not know how the children came home; but that
does not make any difference; I cannot bear to see them starve before
my eyes, better that they should starve in the forest. I will take
them there again to-morrow."

Johnnie heard all this and crept downstairs and put some more pebbles
into his pocket; and though the farmer took them this time further
into the forest the same thing occurred as the day before. But this
time Grizzle said to her mother and father,

"Johnnie did such a funny thing; whenever we turned a new road he
dropped pebbles. Wasn't that funny? And when we came back he looked
for the pebbles, and there they were; they had not moved."

Then the farmer knew how he had been done, and as evening came on he
locked all the doors so that Johnnie could not get out to get any
pebbles. In the morning he gave them a hunk of bread as before for
their breakfast and told them he was going to take them into the nice
forest again. Grizzle ate her bread, but Johnnie put his into his
pocket, and when they got inside the forest at every turning he
dropped a few crumbs of his bread. When his father left them he tried
to trace his way back by means of these crumbs. But, alas, and
alackaday! The little birds had seen the crumbs and eaten them all up,
and when Johnnie went to search for them they had all disappeared.

So they wandered and they wandered, more and more hungry all the time,
till they came to a glade in which there was a funny little house; and
what do you think it was made of? The door was made of butter-scotch,
the windows of sugar candy, the bricks were all chocolate creams, the
pillars of lollypops, and the roof of gingerbread.

No sooner had the children seen this funny little house than they
rushed up to it and commenced to pick pieces off the door, and take
out some of the bricks, while Johnnie climbed on Grizzle's back, and
tore off some of the roof (what was that made of?). Just as they were
eating all this the door opened and a little old woman, with red eyes,
came out and said,

"Naughty, naughty children to break up my house like that. Why didn't
you knock at the door and ask to have something, and I would gladly
give it to you?"

"Please ma'am," said Johnnie, "I will ask for something; I am so, so
hungry, or else I wouldn't have hurt your pretty roof."

"Come inside my house," said the old woman, and let them come into her
parlour. And that was made all of candies, the chairs and table of
maple-sugar, and the couch of cocoanut. But as soon as the old woman
got them inside her door she seized hold of Johnnie and took him
through the kitchen and put him in a dark cubby-hole, and left him
there with the door locked.

Now this old woman was a witch, who looked out for little children,
whom she fattened up and ate. So she went back to Grizzle, and said,

"You shall be my little servant and do my work for me, and, as for
that brother of yours, he'll make a fine meal when he's fattened up."

So this witch kept Johnnie and Grizzle with her, making Grizzle do all
the housework, and every morning she went to the cubby-hole in which
she kept Johnnie and gave him a good breakfast, and later in the day a
good dinner, and at night a good supper; but after she gave him his
supper she would say to him,

"Put out your forefinger," and when he put it out the old witch, who
was nearly blind, felt it and muttered,

"Not fat enough yet!"

After a while Johnnie felt he was getting real fat and was afraid the
witch would eat him up. So he searched about till he found a stick
about the size of his finger, and when the old witch asked him to put
out his finger he put out the stick, and she said,

"Goodness gracious me, the boy is as thin as a lath! I must feed him
up more."

So she gave him more and more food, and every day he put out the stick
till at last one day he got careless, and when she took the stick it
fell out of his hand, and she felt what it was. So she flew into a
terrible rage and called out,

"Grizzle, Grizzle, make the oven hot. This lad is fat enough for
Christmas."

Poor Grizzle did not know what to do, but she had to obey the witch.
So she piled the wood on under the oven and set it alight. And after a
while the old witch said to her,

"Grizzle, Grizzle, is the oven hot?"

And Grizzle said, "I don't know, mum."

And when the witch asked her again whether it was hot enough, Grizzle
said,

"I do not know how hot an oven ought to be."

"Get away, get away," said the old witch; "I know, let me see." And
she poked her old head into the oven. Then Grizzle pushed her right
into the oven and closed the door and rushed out into the back yard
and let Johnnie out of the cubby-hole.

Then Johnnie and Grizzle ran away towards the setting sun where they
knew their own house was, till at last they came to a broad stream too
deep for them to wade. But just at that moment they looked back, and
what do you think they saw? The old witch, by some means or other, had
got out of the oven and was rushing after them. What were they to do?
What were they to do?

Suddenly Grizzle saw a fine big duck swimming towards them, and she
called out:

"Duck, duck, come to me,
Johnnie and Grizzle depend upon thee;
Take Johnnie and Grizzle on thy back,
Or else they'll be eaten--"

And the duck said,

"Quack! Quack!"

Then the duck came up to the bank, and Johnnie and Grizzle went into
the water and, by resting their hands on the duck's back, swam across
the stream just as the old witch came up.

At first she tried to make the duck come over and carry her, but the
duck said, "Quack! Quack!" and shook its head.

Then she lay down and commenced swallowing up the stream, so that it
should run dry and she could get across. She drank, and she drank, and
she drank, and she drank, till she drank so much that she burst!

So Johnnie and Grizzle ran back home, and when they got there they
found that their father the farmer had earned a lot of money and had
been searching and searching for them over the forest, and was mighty
glad to get back Johnnie and Grizzle again.

[Illustration: The Duck]




THE CLEVER LASS


Now there was once a farmer who had but one daughter of whom he was
very proud because she was so clever. So whenever he was in any
difficulty he would go to her and ask her what he should do. It
happened that he had a dispute with one of his neighbours, and the
matter came before the King, and he, after hearing from both of them,
did not know how to decide and said:

"You both seem to be right and you both seem to be wrong, and I do not
know how to decide; so I will leave it to yourselves in this way:
whichever of you can answer best the three questions I am about to ask
shall win this trial. What is the most beautiful thing? What is the
strongest thing? and, What is the richest thing? Now go home and think
over your answers and bring them to me to-morrow morning."

So the farmer went home and told his daughter what had happened, and
she told him what to answer next day.

So when the matter came up for trial before the King he asked first
the farmer's neighbour,

"What is the most beautiful thing?"

And he answered, "My wife."

Then he asked him, "What is the strongest thing?"

"My ox."

"And what is the richest?"

And he answered, "Myself."

Then he turned to the farmer and asked him,

"What is the most beautiful thing?"

And the farmer answered, "Spring."

Then he asked him, "What is the strongest?"

"The earth."

Then he asked, "What is the richest thing?"

He answered, "The harvest."

Then the King decided that the farmer had answered best, and gave
judgment in his favour.



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