Lewis Carroll’s “Brother and Sister”

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“Sister, sister, go to bed!
Go and rest your weary head.”
Thus the prudent brother said.

“Do you want a battered hide,
Or scratches to your face applied?”
Thus his sister calm replied.

“Sister, do not raise my wrath.
I’d make you into mutton broth
As easily as kill a moth”

The sister raised her beaming eye
And looked on him indignantly
And sternly answered, “Only try!”

Off to the cook he quickly ran.
“Dear Cook, please lend a frying-pan
To me as quickly as you can.”

And wherefore should I lend it you?”
“The reason, Cook, is plain to view.
I wish to make an Irish stew.”

“What meat is in that stew to go?”
“My sister’ll be the contents!”
“Oh”
“You’ll lend the pan to me, Cook?”
“No!”

MORAL: Never stew your sister.

 

That’s a very good moral–I’ll have to remember that. For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “Lukannon”

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This is the great deep-sea song that all the St. Paul seals sing when they are heading back to their beaches in the summer. It is a sort of very sad seal National Anthem.

I met my mates in the morning (and, oh, but I am old!)
Where roaring on the ledges the summer ground-swell rolled;
I heard them lift the chorus that drowned the breakers’ song–
The Beaches of Lukannon–two million voices strong.

 
The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons,
The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes,
The song of midnight dances that churned the sea to flame–
The Beaches of Lukannon–before the sealers came!

 
I met my mates in the morning (I’ll never meet them more!);
They came and went in legions that darkened all the shore.
And o’er the foam-flecked offing as far as voice could reach
We hailed the landing-parties and we sang them up the beach.

 
The Beaches of Lukannon–the winter wheat so tall–
The dripping, crinkled lichens, and the sea-fog drenching all!
The platforms of our playground, all shining smooth and worn!
The Beaches of Lukannon–the home where we were born!

 
I met my mates in the morning, a broken, scattered band.
Men shoot us in the water and club us on the land;
Men drive us to the Salt House like silly sheep and tame,
And still we sing Lukannon–before the sealers came.

 
Wheel down, wheel down to southward; oh, Gooverooska, go!
And tell the Deep-Sea Viceroys the story of our woe;
Ere, empty as the shark’s egg the tempest flings ashore,
The Beaches of Lukannon shall know their sons no more!

 

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Robber Bridegroom”

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There was once a miller who had one beautiful daughter, and as she was grown up, he was anxious that she should be well married and provided for. He said to himself, ’I will give her to the first suitable man who comes and asks for her hand.’ Not long after a suitor appeared, and as he appeared to be very rich and the miller could see nothing in him with which to find fault, he betrothed his daughter to him. But the girl did not care for the man as a girl ought to care for her betrothed husband. She did not feel that she could trust him, and she could not look at him nor think of him without an inward shudder. One day he said to her, ’You have not yet paid me a visit, although we have been betrothed for some time.’ ’I do not know where your house is,’ she answered. ’My house is out there in the dark forest,’ he said. She tried to excuse herself by saying that she would not be able to find the way thither. Her betrothed only replied, ’You must come and see me next Sunday; I have already invited guests for that day, and that you may not mistake the way, I will strew ashes along the path.’

When Sunday came, and it was time for the girl to start, a feeling of dread came over her which she could not explain, and that she might be able to find her path again, she filled her pockets with peas and lentils to sprinkle on the ground as she went along. On reaching the entrance to the forest she found the path strewed with ashes, and these she followed, throwing down some peas on either side of her at every step she took. She walked the whole day until she came to the deepest, darkest part of the forest. There she saw a lonely house, looking so grim and mysterious, that it did not please her at all. She stepped inside, but not a soul was to be seen, and a great silence reigned throughout. Suddenly a voice cried:

 ’Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
  Linger not in this murderers’ lair.’

The girl looked up and saw that the voice came from a bird hanging in a cage on the wall. Again it cried:

 ’Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
  Linger not in this murderers’ lair.’

The girl passed on, going from room to room of the house, but they were all empty, and still she saw no one. At last she came to the cellar, and there sat a very, very old woman, who could not keep her head from shaking. ’Can you tell me,’ asked the girl, ’if my betrothed husband lives here?’

’Ah, you poor child,’ answered the old woman, ’what a place for you to come to! This is a murderers’ den. You think yourself a promised bride, and that your marriage will soon take place, but it is with death that you will keep your marriage feast. Look, do you see that large cauldron of water which I am obliged to keep on the fire! As soon as they have you in their power they will kill you without mercy, and cook and eat you, for they are eaters of men. If I did not take pity on you and save you, you would be lost.’

Thereupon the old woman led her behind a large cask, which quite hid her from view. ’Keep as still as a mouse,’ she said; ’do not move or speak, or it will be all over with you. Tonight, when the robbers are all asleep, we will flee together. I have long been waiting for an opportunity to escape.’

The words were hardly out of her mouth when the godless crew returned, dragging another young girl along with them. They were all drunk, and paid no heed to her cries and lamentations. They gave her wine to drink, three glasses full, one of white wine, one of red, and one of yellow, and with that her heart gave way and she died. Then they tore of her dainty clothing, laid her on a table, and cut her beautiful body into pieces, and sprinkled salt upon it.

The poor betrothed girl crouched trembling and shuddering behind the cask, for she saw what a terrible fate had been intended for her by the robbers. One of them now noticed a gold ring still remaining on the little finger of the murdered girl, and as he could not draw it off easily, he took a hatchet and cut off the finger; but the finger sprang into the air, and fell behind the cask into the lap of the girl who was hiding there. The robber took a light and began looking for it, but he could not find it. ’Have you looked behind the large cask?’ said one of the others. But the old woman called out, ’Come and eat your suppers, and let the thing be till tomorrow; the finger won’t run away.’

’The old woman is right,’ said the robbers, and they ceased looking for the finger and sat down.

The old woman then mixed a sleeping draught with their wine, and before long they were all lying on the floor of the cellar, fast asleep and snoring. As soon as the girl was assured of this, she came from behind the cask. She was obliged to step over the bodies of the sleepers, who were lying close together, and every moment she was filled with renewed dread lest she should awaken them. But God helped her, so that she passed safely over them, and then she and the old woman went upstairs, opened the door, and hastened as fast as they could from the murderers’ den. They found the ashes scattered by the wind, but the peas and lentils had sprouted, and grown sufficiently above the ground, to guide them in the moonlight along the path. All night long they walked, and it was morning before they reached the mill. Then the girl told her father all that had happened.

The day came that had been fixed for the marriage. The bridegroom arrived and also a large company of guests, for the miller had taken care to invite all his friends and relations. As they sat at the feast, each guest in turn was asked to tell a tale; the bride sat still and did not say a word.

’And you, my love,’ said the bridegroom, turning to her, ’is there no tale you know? Tell us something.’

’I will tell you a dream, then,’ said the bride. ’I went alone through a forest and came at last to a house; not a soul could I find within, but a bird that was hanging in a cage on the wall cried:

 ’Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
  Linger not in this murderers’ lair.’

and again a second time it said these words.’

’My darling, this is only a dream.’

’I went on through the house from room to room, but they were all empty, and everything was so grim and mysterious. At last I went down to the cellar, and there sat a very, very old woman, who could not keep her head still. I asked her if my betrothed lived here, and she answered, “Ah, you poor child, you are come to a murderers’ den; your betrothed does indeed live here, but he will kill you without mercy and afterwards cook and eat you.”’

’My darling, this is only a dream.’

’The old woman hid me behind a large cask, and scarcely had she done this when the robbers returned home, dragging a young girl along with them. They gave her three kinds of wine to drink, white, red, and yellow, and with that she died.’

’My darling, this is only a dream.’

’Then they tore off her dainty clothing, and cut her beautiful body into pieces and sprinkled salt upon it.’

’My darling, this is only a dream.’

’And one of the robbers saw that there was a gold ring still left on her finger, and as it was difficult to draw off, he took a hatchet and cut off her finger; but the finger sprang into the air and fell behind the great cask into my lap. And here is the finger with the ring.’ and with these words the bride drew forth the finger and shewed it to the assembled guests.

The bridegroom, who during this recital had grown deadly pale, up and tried to escape, but the guests seized him and held him fast. They delivered him up to justice, and he and all his murderous band were condemned to death for their wicked deeds.

 

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Power Outage Blues

So, we just recently had a power outage which lasted for 11 hours–which is the longest outage I’ve ever experienced. That, coupled with the fact that I start the new semester tomorrow, has put me a little off my game this week.

The sixth and final installment in The Prince of Prophecy series is coming along splendidly (I’ve actually been working on it a lot more lately). All the action and fighting scenes are really kicking my butt, but I know it’s all going to be worth it in the end. I’m making sure this final novel goes out with a bang!

I just ordered the proof copies for the second novel in the series, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed. As I said in my last update, I’m going to start working with my editor and illustrator in September to get things rolling with the newest installment in the series. If you liked Destined you’re going to love Cursed–and that, my friends, is a promise!

Anyway, sorry for the delay (again), and I hope you enjoy this week’s fairy tale!

 

For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

“The Prince of Prophecy” Series: UPDATE

So, I know it’s been a few weeks since the launch party, but it went down without a hitch. There was good food, I sold a few books, and attendees received goodie bags with TPoP stuff, so all in all it was an awesome party for everyone.

If you’re interested in purchasing The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, here are the links where you can buy it (eBook, paperback, and hardcover):

Amazon

Createspace

Nautilus Press

And now for the REAL update. I’m going to start working on publishing my second novel The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed in September! It will be launching in December (probably around the middle of the month), and I hope to have the eBook out by late November. As before, the eBook will not contain the illustrations that the hard copies will have (I’m going to have SIX in-book illustrations this go around, which I’m really excited about).

I’ve got a very talented team for this second book, and we’re all really excited to begin working on this second installment! I’m going to have the same editor this time around, the awesome Samantha Cook (for anyone else who’s interested in having their novels professionally edited, Samantha is definitely your girl–links below). I’m also very happy to welcome Enrica Eren Angiolini to the team as my new illustrator (I will post her link below as well)!

I can’t wait to begin working on The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, and I hope you all are looking forward to reading it!

Samantha Cook’s Links: Website  Blogspot  Twitter

Enrica Eren Angiolini’s Links: Facebook  Deviantart  Tumblr

 

For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Galoshes of Fortune”

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I. A BEGINNING

 

It was in Copenhagen, in one of the houses on East Street, not far from King’s Newmarket, that someone was giving a large party. For one must give a party once in a while, if one expects to be invited in return. Half of the guests were already at the card tables, and the rest were waiting to see what would come of their hostess’s query:

“What can we think up now?”

Up to this point, their conversation had gotten along as best it might. Among other things, they had spoken of the Middle Ages. Some held that it was a time far better than our own. Indeed Councilor of Justice Knap defended this opinion with such spirit that his hostess sided with him at once, and both of them loudly took exception to Oersted’s article in the Almanac, which contrasted old times and new, and which favored our own period. The Councilor of Justice, however, held that the time of King Hans, about 1500 A.D., was the noblest and happiest age.

While the conversation ran pro and con, interrupted only for a moment by the arrival of a newspaper, in which there was nothing worth reading, let us adjourn to the cloak room, where all the wraps, canes, umbrellas, and galoshes were collected together. Here sat two maids, a young one and an old one. You might have thought they had come in attendance upon some spinster or widow, and were waiting to see their mistress home. However, a closer inspection would reveal that these were no ordinary serving women. Their hands were too well kept for that, their bearing and movements too graceful, and their clothes had a certain daring cut.

They were two fairies. The younger one, though not Dame Fortune herself, was an assistant to one of her ladies in waiting, and was used to deliver the more trifling gifts of Fortune. The older one looked quite grave. She was Dame Care, who always goes in her own sublime person to see to her errands herself, for then she knows that they are well done.

They were telling each other about where they had been that day. The assistant of Fortune had only attended to a few minor affairs, she said, such as saving a new bonnet from the rain, getting a civil greeting for an honest man from an exalted nincompoop, and such like matters. But her remaining errand was an extraordinary one.

“I must also tell you,” she said, “that today is my birthday, and in honor of this I have been entrusted to bring a pair of galoshes to mankind. These galoshes have this peculiarity, that whoever puts them on will immediately find himself in whatever time, place, and condition of life that he prefers. His every wish in regard to time and place will instantly be granted, so for once a man can find perfect happiness here below.”

“Take my word for it.” said Dame Care, “he will be most unhappy, and will bless the moment when he can rid himself of those galoshes.”

” How can you say such a thing?” the other woman exclaimed. “I shall leave them here beside the door, where someone will put them on by mistake and immediately be the happy one.”

That ended their conversation.

 

II. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COUNCILOR OF JUSTICE

It was getting late when Councilor Knap decided to go home. Lost in thought about the good old days of King Hans, as fate would have it, he put on the galoshes of Fortune instead of his own, and wore them out into East Street. But the power that lay in the galoshes took him back into the reign of King Hans, and as the streets were not paved in those days his feet sank deep into the mud and the mire.

“Why, how deplorable!” the Councilor of Justice said. “The whole sidewalk is gone and all the street lights are out.”

As the moon had no yet risen high enough, and the air was somewhat foggy, everything around him was dark and blurred. At the next corner a lantern hung before an image of the Madonna, but for all the light it afforded him it might as well not have been there. Only when he stood directly under it did he make out that painting of the mother and child.

“It’s probably an art museum,” he thought, “and they have forgotten to take in the sign.”

Two people in medieval costumes passed by.

“How strange they looked!” he said. “They must have been to a masquerade.”

Just then the sound of drums and fifes came his way, and bright torches flared. The Councilor of Justice stopped and was startled to see an odd procession go past, led by a whole band of drummers who were dexterously drubbing away. These were followed by soldiers armed with long bows and crossbows. The chief personage of the procession was a churchman of rank. The astounded Councilor asked what all this meant, and who the man might be.

“That is the Bishop of Seeland,” he was told.

“What in the name of heaven can have come over the Bishop?” the Councilor of Justice wondered. He sighed and shook his head. “The Bishop? Impossible.”

Still pondering about it, without glancing to right or to left, he kept on down East Street and across Highbridge Square. The bridge that led from there to Palace Square was not to be found at all; at last on the bank of the shallow stream he saw a boat with two men in it.

“Would the gentleman want to be ferried over to the Holm”? they asked him.

“To the Holm?” blurted the Councilor, who had not the faintest notion that he was living in another age. “I want to go to Christian’s Harbour on Little Market Street.”

The men gaped at him.

“Kindly tell me where the bridge is,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that all the street lamps are out, and besides, it’s as muddy to walk here as in a swamp.” But the more he talked with the boatmen, the less they understood each other. “I can’t understand your jabbering Bornholm accent,” he finally said, and angrily turned his back on them. But no bridge could he find. Even the fence was gone.

“What a scandalous state of affairs! What a way for things to look!” he said. Never had he been so disgruntled with his own age as he was this evening. “I think I’d better take a cab.” But where were the cabs? There were none in sight. “I’ll have to go back to King’s Newmarket, where there is a cab stand, or I shall never reach Christian’s Harbour.”

So back he trudged to East Street, and had nearly walked the length of it when the moon rose.

“Good Heavens, what have they been building here?” he cried as he beheld the East Gate, which in the old days stood at the end of East Street. In time, however, he found a gate through which he passed into what is now Newmarket. But all he saw there was a large meadow. A few bushes rose here and there and the meadow was divided by a wide canal or stream. The few wretched wooden huts on the far shore belonged to Dutch sailors, so at that time the place was called Dutch Meadow.

“Either I’m seeing what is called Fata Morgana, or I’m drunk,” the Councilor of Justice moaned. “What sort of place is this? Where am I?” He turned back, convinced that he must be a very ill man. As he walked through the street again he paid more attention to the houses. Most of them were of wood, and many were thatched with straw.

“No, I don’t feel myself at all,” he complained. “I only took one glass of punch, but it doesn’t agree with me. The idea of serving punch with hot salmon! I’ll speak about it severely to our hostess-that agent’s wife. Should I march straight back and tell her how I feel? No, that would be in bad taste, and besides I doubt whether her household is still awake.” He searched for the house, but wasn’t able to find it.

“This is terrible!” he cried. “I don’t even recognize East Street. There’s not a shop to be seen; wretched old ramshackle huts are all I see, as if I were in Roskilde or Ringstedt. Oh, but I’m ill! There’s no point in standing on ceremony, but where on earth is the agent’s house? This hut doesn’t look remotely like it, but I can hear that the people inside are still awake. Ah, I’m indeed a very sick man.”

He reached a half-open door, where light flickered through the crack. It was a tavern of that period-a sort of alehouse. The room had the look of a farmer’s clay-floored kitchen in Holstein, and the people who sat there were sailors, citizens of Copenhagen, and a couple of scholars. Deep in conversation over their mugs, they paid little attention to the newcomer.

“Pardon me,” the Councilor of Justice said to the landlady who came toward him, “but I am far from well. Would you send someone for a cab to take me to Christian’s Harbour?”

The woman stared at him, shook her head, and addressed him in German. As the Councilor of Justice supposed that she could not speak Danish, he repeated his remarks in German. This, and the cut of his clothes, convinced the woman that he was a foreigner. She soon understood that he felt unwell, and fetched him a mug of water, decidedly brackish, for she drew it directly from the sea-level well outside. The Councilor put his head in his hands, took a deep breath, and thought over all of the queer things that surrounded him.

“Is that tonight’s number of The Day?” he remarked from force of habit, as he saw the woman putting away a large folded sheet.

Without quite understanding him, she handed him the paper. It was a woodcut, representing a meteor seen in the skies over Cologne.

“This is very old,” said the Councilor, who became quite enthusiastic about his discovery. “Where did you get this rare old print? It’s most interesting, although of course the whole matter is a myth. In this day and age, such meteors are explained away as a manifestation of the Northern Lights, probably caused by electricity.”

Those who sat near him heard the remark and looked at him in astonishment. One of them rose, respectfully doffed his hat, and said with the utmost gravity:

“Sir, you must be a great scholar.”

“Not at all,” replied the Councilor. “I merely have a word or two to say about things that everyone should know.”

Modestia is an admirable virtue,” the man declared. “In regard to your statement, I must say, mihi secus videtur, though I shall be happy to suspend myjudicium.”

“May I ask whom I have the pleasure of addressing?” the Councilor of Justice inquired.

“I am a Bachelor of Theology,” the man told him in Latin.

This answer satisfied the Councilor of Justice, for the degree was in harmony with the fellow’s way of dressing. “Obviously,” he thought, “this is some old village schoolmaster, an odd character such as one still comes across now and then, up in Jut land.”

“This is scarcely a locus docendi,” the man continued, “but I entreat you to favor us with your conversation. You, of course, are well read in the classics?”

“Oh, more or less,” the Councilor agreed. “I like to read the standard old books, and the new ones too, except for those ‘Every Day Stories’ of which we have enough in reality.”

“Every Day Stories?” our bachelor asked.

“Yes, I mean these modern novels.”

“Oh,” the man said with a smile. “Still they are very clever, and are popular with the court. King Hans is particularly fond of the ‘Romance of Iwain and Jawain,’ which deals with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The king has been known to jest with his lords about it.”

“Well,” said the Councilor, “one can’t keep up with all the new books. I suppose it has just been published by Heiberg.”

“No,” the man said, “not by Heiberg, but by Gotfred von Ghemen.”

“Indeed! What a fine old name for a literary man. Why Gotfred von Ghemen was the first printer in Denmark.”

“Yes,” the man agreed, “he is our first and foremost printer.”

Thus far, their conversation had flowed quite smoothly. Now one of the townsmen began to talk about the pestilence which had raged some years back, meaning the plague of 1484. The Councilor understood him to mean the last epidemic of cholera, so they agreed well enough.

The freebooter’s War of 1490 was so recent that it could not be passed over. The English raiders had taken ships from our harbor, they said, and the Councilor of Justice, who was well posted on the affair of 1801, manfully helped them to abuse the English.

After that, however, the talk floundered from one contradiction to another. The worthy bachelor was so completely unenlightened that the Councilor’s most commonplace remarks struck him as being too daring and too fantastic. They stared at each other, and when they reached an impasse the bachelor broke into Latin, in the hope that he would be better understood, but that didn’t help.

The landlady plucked at the Councilor’s sleeve and asked him, “How do you feel now?” This forcibly recalled to him all of those things which he had happily forgotten in the heat of his conversation.

“Merciful heaven, where am I?” he wondered, and the thought made him dizzy.

“We will drink claret wine, and mead, and Bremen beer,” one of the guests cried out, “and you shall drink with us.”

Two girls came in, and one of them wore a cap of two colors. They filled the glasses and made curtsies. The Councilor felt cold shivers up and down his spine. “What is all this? What is all this?” he groaned, but drink with them he must. They overwhelmed him with their kind intentions until he despaired, and when one man pronounced him drunk he didn’t doubt it in the least. All he asked was that they get him a droschke.” Then they thought he was speaking in Russian.

Never before had he been in such low and vulgar company! “One would think that the country had lapsed back into barbarism,” he told himself. “This is the most dreadful moment of my life.”

Then it occurred to him to slip down under the table, crawl to the door, and try to sneak out, but just as he neared the threshold his companions discovered him and tried to pull him out by his feet. However, by great good luck they pulled off his galoshes, and-with them-the whole enchantment.

The Councilor of Justice now distinctly saw a street lamp burning in front of a large building. He knew the building and the other buildings near-by. It was East Street as we all know it today. He lay on the pavement with his legs against a gate, and across the way a night watchman sat fast asleep.

“Merciful heavens! Have I been lying here in the street dreaming?” the Councilor of Justice said. “To be sure, this is East Street. How blessedly bright and how colorful it looks. But what dreadful effect that one glass of punch must have had on me.”

Two minutes later he was seated in a cab, and well on his way to Christian’s Harbour. As he recalled all the past terror and distress to which he had been subjected, he wholeheartedly approved of the present, our own happy age. With all its shortcomings it was far preferable to that age into which he had recently stumbled. And that, thought the Councilor of Justice, was good common sense.

 

III. THE WATCHMAN’S ADVENTURE

“Why, I declare! There’s a pair of galoshes,” said the watchman. They must belong to the lieutenant who lives up there on the top floor, for they are lying in front of the door.” A light still burned upstairs, and the honest fellow was perfectly willing to ring the bell and return the overshoes. But he didn’t want to disturb the other tenants in the house, so he didn’t do it.

“It must be quite comfortable to wear a pair of such things,” he said. “How soft the leather feels.” They fitted his feet perfectly. “What a strange world we live in. The lieutenant might be resting easy in his soft bed, yet there he goes, pacing to and fro past his window. There’s a happy man for you! He has no wife, and he has no child, and every night he goes to a party. Oh, if I were only in his place, what a happy man I would be.”

Just as he expressed his wish, the galoshes transformed him into the lieutenant, body and soul, and there he stood in the room upstairs. Between his fingers he held a sheet of pink paper on which the lieutenant had just written a poem. Who is there that has not at some time in his life felt poetic? If he writes down his thoughts while this mood is on him, poetry is apt to come of it. On the paper was written:

IF ONLY I WERE RICH

If only I were rich; I often said in prayer
When I was but a tiny lad without much care
If only I were rich, a soldier I would be
With uniform and sword, most handsomely;
At last an officer I was, my wish I got
But to be rich was not my lot;
But You, oh Lord, would always help.

I sat one eve, so happy, young and proud;
A darling child of seven kissed my mouth
For I was rich with fairy tales, you see
With money I was poor as poor can be,
But she was fond of tales I told
That made me rich, but – alas – not with gold;
But You, oh Lord, You know!

If only I were rich, is still my heavenly prayer.
My little girl of seven is now a lady fair;
She is so sweet, so clever and so good;
My heart’s fair tale she never understood.
If only, as of yore, she still for me would care,
But I am poor and silent; I confess I do not dare.
It is Your will, oh Lord!

If only I were rich, in peace and comfort rest,
I would my sorrow to this paper never trust.
You, whom I love, if still you understand
then read this poem from my youth’s far land,
Though best it be you never know my pain.
I am still poor, my future dark and vain,
But may, O Lord, You bless her!

Yes, a man in love writes many a poem that a man in his right mind does not print. A lieutenant, his love and his lack of money – there’s an eternal triangle for you, a broken life that can never be squared. The lieutenant knew this all too well. He leaned his head against the window, and sighed, and said:

“The poor watchman down there in the street is a far happier man than I. He does not know what I call want. He has a home. He has a wife and children who weep with him in his sorrows and share in his joy. Ah, I would be happier if I could trade places with him, for he is much more fortunate than I am.”

Instantly, the watchman was himself again. The galoshes had transformed him into the lieutenant, as we have seen. He was far less contended up there, and preferred to be just what he had been. So the watchman turned back into a watchman.

“I had a bad dream,” he said. “Strangely enough, I fancied I was the lieutenant, and I didn’t like it a bit. I missed my wife and our youngsters, who almost smother me with their kisses.”

He sat down and fell to nodding again, unable to get the dream out of his head. The galoshes were still on his feet when he watched a star fall in the sky.

“There goes one,” he muttered. “But there are so many it will never be missed. I’d like to have a look at those trinkets at close range. I’d especially like to see the moon, which is not the sort of thing to get lost in one’s hands. The student for whom my wife washes, says that when we die we fly about from star to star. There’s not a word of truth in it. But it would be nice, just the same, if I could take a little jaunt through the skies. My body could stay here on the steps for all that I’d care.”

Now there are certain things in the world that we ought to think about before we put them into words, and if we are wearing the galoshes of Fortune it behooves us to think twice. Just listen to what happened to that watchman.

All of us know how fast steam can take us. We’ve either rushed along in a train or sped by steamship across the ocean. But all this is like the gait of a sloth, or the pace of a snail, in comparison with the speed of light, which travels nineteen million times faster than the fastest race horse. Yet electricity moves even faster. Death is an electric shock to the heart, and the soul set free travels on electric wings. The sunlight takes eight minutes and some odd seconds to travel nearly one hundred million miles. On the wings of electricity, the soul can make the same journey in a few moments, and to a soul set free the heavenly bodies are as close together as the houses of friends who live in the same town with us, or even in the same neighborhood. However, this electric shock strips us of our bodies forever, unless, like the watchman, we happen to be wearing the galoshes of Fortune.

In a few seconds the watchman took in his stride the two hundred and sixty thousand miles to the moon. As we know, this satellite is made of much lighter material than the earth, and is as soft as freshly fallen snow. The watchman landed in one of the numerous mountain rings which we all know from Doctor Maedler’s large map of the moon. Within the ring was a great bowl, fully four miles deep. At the bottom of this bowl lay a town. We may get some idea of what it looked like by pouring the white of an egg into a glass of water. The town was made of stuff as soft as the egg albumen, and its form was similar, with translucent towers, cupolas, and terraces, all floating in thin air.

Over the watchman’s head hung our earth, like a huge dull red ball. Around him he noticed crowds of beings who doubtless corresponded to men and women of the earth, but their appearance was quite different from ours. They also had their own way of speaking, but no one could expect that the soul of a watchman would understand them. Nevertheless he did understand the language of the people in the moon very well. They were disputing about our earth, and doubting whether it could be inhabited. The air on the earth, they contended, must be too thick for any intelligent moon-man to live there. Only the moon was inhabited, they agreed, for it was the original sphere on which the people of the Old World lived.

Now let us go back down to East Street, to see how the watchman’s body was making out. Lifeless it lay, there on the steps. His morning star, that spiked club which watchmen carry, had fallen from his hands, and his eyes were turned toward the moon that his honest soul was exploring.

“What’s the hour, watchman?” asked a passer-by. But never an answer did he get. He gave the watchman a very slight tweak of the nose, and over he toppled. There lay the body at full length, stretched on the pavement. The man was dead. It gave the one who had tweaked him a terrible fright, for the watchman was dead, and dead he remained. His death was reported, and investigated. As day broke, his body was taken to the hospital.

It would be a pretty pass if the soul should come back and in all probability look for its body in East Street, and fail to find it. Perhaps it would rush to the police station first, next to the Directory Office where it could advertise for lost articles, and last of all to the hospital. But we needn’t worry. The soul by itself is clever enough. It’s the body that makes it stupid.

As we said before, the watchman’s body was taken to the hospital. They put it in a room to be washed, and naturally the galoshes were pulled off first of all. That brought the soul dashing back posthaste, and in a flash the watchman came back to life. He swore it had been the most terrible night he had ever experienced, and he would never go through it again, no, not for two pennies. But it was over and done with. He was allowed to leave that same day, but the galoshes were left at the hospital.

 

IV. A GREAT MOMENT, AND A MOST EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY

Everyone in Copenhagen knows what the entrance to Frederic’s Hospital looks like, but as some of the people who read this story may not have been to Copenhagen, we must describe the building-briefly.

The hospital is fenced off from the street by a rather high railing of heavy iron bars, which are spaced far enough apart-at least so the story goes-for very thin internes to squeeze between them and pay little visits to the world outside. The part of the body they had most difficulty in squeezing through was the head. In this, as often happens in the world, small heads were the most successful. So much for our description.

One of the young internes, of whom it could be said that he had a great head only in a physical sense, had the night watch that evening. Outside the rain poured down. But in spite of these difficulties he was bent upon getting out for a quarter of an hour. There was no need for the doorman to know about it, he thought, if he could just manage to slip through the fence. There lay the galoshes that the watchman had forgotten, and while the interne had no idea that they were the galoshes of Fortune, he did know that they would stand him in good stead out in the rain. So he pulled them on. Now the question was whether he could squeeze between the bars, a trick that he had never tried before. There he stood, facing the fence.

“I wish to goodness I had my head through,” he said, and though his head was much too large and thick for the space, it immediately slipped through quickly and with the greatest of ease. The galoshes saw to that. All he had to do now was to squeeze his body through after his head, but it wouldn’t go. “Uff!” he panted, “I’m too fat. I thought my head would be the worst difficulty. No, I shall never get through.”

He quickly attempted to pull his head back again, but it couldn’t be done. He could move his neck easily, but that was all. First his anger flared up. Then his spirits dropped down to zero. The galoshes of Fortune had gotten him in a terrible fix, and unluckily it did not occur to him to wish his way out of it. No, instead of wishing he struggled and strove, but he could not budge from the spot. The rain poured down; not a soul could be seen in the street; and he could not reach the bell by the gate. How could he ever get free? He was certain he would have to stay there till morning, and that they would have to send for a blacksmith to file through the iron bars. It would take time. All the boys in the school across the way would be up and shout, and the entire population of “Nyboder,” where all the sailors lived, would turn out for the fun of seeing the man in a pillory. Why, he would draw a bigger crowd than the one that went to see the championship wrestling matches last year.

“Huff!” he panted, “the blood’s rushing to my head. I’m going mad! Yes, I’m going mad! Oh, if I were only free again, and out of this fix, then I would be all right again.”

This was what he ought to have said in the first place. No sooner had he said it than his head came free, and he dashed indoors, still bewildered by the fright that the galoshes of Fortune had given him. But don’t think that this was the end of it. No! The worst was yet to come.

The night went by, and the next day passed, but nobody came for the galoshes. That evening there was to be a performance at the little theatre in Kannike Street. The house was packed and in the audience was our friend, the interne, apparently none the worse for his adventure of the night before. He had again put on the galoshes. After all, no one had claimed them, and the streets were so muddy that he thought they would stand him in good stead.

At the theatre a new sketch was presented. It was called “My Grandmother’s Spectacles and had to do with a pair of eyeglasses which enabled anyone who wore them to read the future from people’s faces, just as a fortune teller reads it from cards.

The idea occupied his mind very much. He would like to own such a pair of spectacles. Properly used, they might enable one to see into people’s hearts. This, he thought, would be far more interesting than foresee what would happen next year. Future events would be known in due time, but no one would ever know the secrets that lie in people’s hearts.

“Look at those ladies and gentlemen in the front row,” he said to himself. “If I could see straight into their hearts what stores of things-what great shops full of goods would I behold. And how my eyes would rove about those shops. In every feminine heart, no doubt I should find a complete millinery establishment. There sits one whose shop is empty, but a good cleaning would do it no harm. And of course some of the shops would be well stocked. Ah me,” he sighed, “I know of one where all the goods are of the very best quality, and it would just suit me, but-alas and alack-there’s a shopkeeper there already, and he’s the only bad article in the whole shop. Many a one would say, “Won’t you walk in?” and I wish I could. I would pass like a nice little thought through their hearts.”

The galoshes took him at his word. The interne shrank to almost nothing, and set out on a most extraordinary journey through the hearts of all the spectators in the first row. The first heart he entered was that of a lady, but at first he mistook it for a room in the Orthopaedic Institute, or Hospital, where the plaster casts of deformed limbs are hung upon the walls. The only difference was that at the hospital those casts were made when the patients came in, while these casts that were kept in the heart were made as the good people departed. For every physical or mental fault of the friends she had lost had been carefully stored away.

He quickly passed on to another woman’s heart, which seemed like a great holy cathedral. Over the high altar fluttered the white dove of innocence, and the interne would have gone down on his knees except that he had to hurry on to the next heart. However, he still heard the organ roll. And he felt that it had made a new and better man of him-a man not too unworthy to enter the next sanctuary. This was a poor garret where a mother lay ill, but through the windows the sun shone, warm and bright. Lovely roses bloomed in the little wooden flower box on the roof, and two bluebirds sang of happy childhood, while the sick woman prayed for a blessing on her daughter.

Next the interne crawled on his hands and knees through an overcrowded butcher shop. There was meat, more meat, and meat alone, wherever he looked in this heart of a wealthy, respectable man, whose name you can find in the directory.

Next he entered the heart of this man’s wife, and an old tumble-down dove-cot he found it. Her husband’s portrait served as a mere weathervane, which was connected with the doors in such a way that they opened and closed as her husband turned round.

Then he found his way into a cabinet of mirrors such as is to be seen at Rosenborg Castle, though in this heart the mirrors had the power of magnifying objects enormously. Like the Grand Lama of Tibet, the owner’s insignificant ego sat in the middle of the floor, in admiring contemplation of his own greatness.

After this he seemed to be crammed into a narrow case full of sharp needles. “This,” he thought, “must certainly be an old maid’s heart,” but it was nothing of the sort. It was the heart of a very young officer who had been awarded several medals, and of whom everyone said, “Now there’s a man of both intellect and heart.”

Quite befuddled was the poor interne when he popped out of the heart of the last person in the front row. He could not get his thoughts in order, and he supposed that his strong imagination must have run away with him.

“Merciful heavens,” he groaned, “I must be well on the road to the madhouse. And it’s so outrageously hot in here that the blood is rushing to my head.” Suddenly he recalled what had happened the night before, when he had jammed his head between the bars of the hospital fence. “That must be what caused it,” he decided. “I must do something before it is too late. A Russian bath might be the very thing. I wish I were on the top shelf right now.”

No sooner said, than there he lay on the top shelf of the steam bath. But he was fully dressed, down to his shoes and galoshes. He felt the hot drops of condensed steam fall upon him from the ceiling.

” Hey!” he cried, and jumped down to take a shower. The attendant cried out too when he caught sight of a fully dressed man in the steam room. However, the interne had enough sense to pull himself together and whisper, “I’m just doing this because of a bet.”

But the first thing he did when he got back to his room was to put hot plasters on his neck and his back, to draw out the madness.

Next morning he had a blistered back and that was all he got out of the galoshes of Fortune.

 

V. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COPYING CLERK

The watchman-you remember him-happened to remember those galoshes he had found, and that he must have been wearing them when they took his body to the hospital. He came by for them, and as neither the lieutenant nor anyone else in East Street laid claim to them, he turned them in at the police station.

“They look exactly like my own galoshes,” one of the copying clerks at the police station said, as he set the ownerless galoshes down beside his own. “Not even a shoemaker could tell one pair from the other.”

“Mr. Copying Clerk!” said a policeman, who brought him some papers.

The clerk turned around to talk with the policeman, and when he came back to the galoshes he was uncertain whether the pair on the right or the pair on the left belonged to him.

“The wet ones must be mine,” he thought, but he was mistaken, for they were the galoshes of Fortune. The police make their little mistakes too.

So he pulled them on, pocketed some papers, and tucked some manuscripts under his arm to read and abstract when he got home. But as this happened to be Sunday morning, and the weather was fine, he thought, “A walk to Frederiksberg will be good for me.” And off he went.

A quieter, more dependable fellow than this young man you seldom see. Let him take his little walk, by all means. It will do him a world of good after so much sitting. At first he strode along without a wish in his head, so there was no occasion for the galoshes to show their magic power. On the avenue he met an acquaintance of his, a young poet, who said he was setting out tomorrow on a summer excursion.

“What, off again so soon?” said the clerk. “What a free and happy fellow you are! You can fly away wherever you like, while the rest of us are chained by the leg.”

“Chained only to a breadfruit tree,” the poet reminded him. “You don’t have to worry along from day to day, and when you get old they will give you a pension.”

“You are better off, just the same,” the clerk said. “How agreeable it must be to sit and write poetry. Everyone pays you compliments, and you are your own master. Ah, you should see what it’s like to devote your life to the trivial details of the courts.”

The poet shook his head, and the clerk shook his too. Each held to his own conviction, and they parted company.

“They are a queer race, these poets.” thought the clerk. “I should like to try my hand at their trade-to turn poet myself. I’m sure I would never write such melancholy stuff as most of them do. What a splendid spring day this is, a day fit for a poet. The air is so unusually clear, the clouds so lovely, and the green grass so fragrant. For many a year I have not felt as I feel just now.”

Already, you could tell that he had turned poet. Not that there was anything you could put your finger on, for it is foolish to suppose that a poet differs greatly from other people, some of whom are far more poetic by nature than many a great and accepted poet. The chief difference is that a poet has a better memory for things of the spirit. He can hold fast to an emotion and an idea until they are firmly and clearly embodied in words, which is something that others cannot do. But for a matter-of-fact person to think in terms of poetry is noticeable enough, and it is this transformation that we can see in the clerk.

“What a glorious fragrance there is in the air!” he said. “It reminds me of Aunt Lone’s violets. Ah me, I haven’t thought of them since I was a little boy. The dear old girl! She used to live over there, behind the Exchange. She always had a spray or a few green shoots in water, no matter how severe the winter was. I’d smell those violets even when I was putting hot pennies against the frozen window pane to make peep holes. What a view that was-ships frozen tight in the canal, deserted by their crew, and a shrieking crow the only living creature aboard them. But when the springtime breezes blew the scene turned lively again. There were shouts and laughter as the ice was sawed away. Freshly tarred and rigged, the ships sailed off for distant lands. I stayed here, and I must forever stay here, sitting in the police office where others come for their passports to foreign countries. Yes, that’s my lot! Oh, yes!” he said, and heaved a sigh. Then he stopped abruptly. “Great heavens! What’s come over me. I never thought or felt like this before. It must be the spring air! It is as frightening as it is pleasant.” He fumbled among the papers in his pockets.

“These will give me something else to think about,” he said, as he glanced at the first page. “Lady Sigbrith, An Original Tragedy in Five Acts,” he read. “Why, what’s this? It’s in my own handwriting too. Have I written a tragedy? The Intrigue on the Ramparts, or The Great Fast Day – a Vaudeville. Where did that come from? Someone must have slipped it in my pocket. And here’s a letter.” It was from the board of directors of the theatre, who rejected his plays, and the letter was anything but politely phrased.

“Hem, hem!” said the copying clerk as he sat down on a bench. His thoughts were lively and his heart sensitive. He plucked a flower at random, an ordinary little daisy. What the professor of botany requires several lectures to explain to us, this flower told in a moment. It told of the mystery birth, and of the power of the sunlight which opened those delicate leaves and gave them their fragrance. This made him think of the battle of life, which arouses emotions within us in similar fashion. Air and light are the flowers’ lovers, but light is her favorite. Toward it the flower is ever turning, and only when the light is gone does she fold her petals and sleep in the air’s embrace.

“It is the light that makes me lovely,” the flower said.

“But,” the poet’s voice whispered, “the air enables you to breathe.”

Not far away, a boy was splashing in a muddy ditch with his stick. As the water flew up among the green branches, the clerk thought of the innumerable microscopic creatures in the splashing drops. For them to be splashed so high, was as if we were to be tossed up into the clouds. As the clerk thought of these things, and of the great change that had come over him, he smiled and said:

“I must be asleep and dreaming. It’s marvelous to be able to dream so naturally, and yet to know all along that this is a dream. I hope I can recall every bit of it tomorrow, when I wake up. I seem to feel unusually exhilarated. How clearly I understand things, and how wide awake I feel! But I know that if I recall my dream it will only be a lot of nonsense, as has happened to me so often before. All those brilliant and clever remarks one makes and one hears in his dreams, are like the gold pieces that goblins store underground. When one gets them they are rich and shining, but seen in the daylight they are nothing but rocks and dry leaves. Ah me,” he sighed, as he sadly watched the singing birds flit merrily from branch to branch. “They are so much better off than I. Flying is a noble art, and lucky is he who is born with wings. Yes, if I could change into anything I liked, I would turn into a little lark.”

In a trice his coat-tails and sleeves grew together as wings, his clothes turned into feathers, and his galoshes became claws. He noticed the change clearly, and laughed to himself.

“Now,” he said, “I know I am dreaming, but I never had a dream as silly as this one.”

Up he flew, and sang among the branches, but there was no poetry in his song, for he was no longer a poet. Like anyone who does a thoroughgoing job of it, the galoshes could only do one thing at a time. When he wishes to be a poet, a poet he became. Then he wanted to be a little bird, and in becoming one he lost his previous character.

“This is most amusing,” he said. “In the daytime I sit in the police office, surrounded by the most matter-of-fact legal papers, but by night I can dream that I’m a lark flying about in the Frederiksberg Garden. What fine material this would make for a popular comedy.”

He flew down on the grass, twisting and turning his head, and pecking at the waving grass blades. In proportion to his own size, they seemed as large as the palm branches in North Africa. But this lasted only a moment. Then everything turned black, and it seemed as if some huge object had dropped over him. This was a big cap that a boy from Nyboder had thrown over the bird. A hand was thrust in. It laid hold of the copying clerk by his back and wing so tightly that it made him shriek. In his terror he called out, “You impudent scoundrel! I am the copying clerk at the police office!” But this sounded like “Peep! peep!” to the boy, who thumped the bird on its beak and walked off with it.

On the avenue this boy met with two other schoolboys. Socially, they were of the upper classes, though, properly ranked according to their merit, they were in the lowest class at school. They bought the bird for eight pennies, and in their hands the clerk came back to Copenhagen, to a family who lived in Gothers Street.

“It’s a good thing I’m only dreaming this,” said the clerk, “or I’d be furious. First I was a poet, and now I’m a lark. It must have been my poetic temperament which turned me into this little creature. It is a very sad state of affairs, especially when one falls into the hands of a couple of boys. But I wonder how it will all turn out.”

The boys carried him into a luxuriously appointed room, where a stout, affable lady received them. She was not at all pleased with their common little field bird, as she called the lark, but she said that, for one day only, they could keep it in the empty cage near the window.

“Perhaps Polly will like it,” she said, and smiled at the large parrot that swung proudly to and fro on the ring in his ornate brass cage. “It’s Polly’s birthday,” she said, like a simpleton. “The little field bird wants to congratulate him.”

Polly did not say a word, as proudly he swung back and forth. But a pretty canary bird who had been brought here last summer from his warm, sweet-scented homeland, began to sing at the top of his voice.

“Bawler!” the lady said, and threw a white handkerchief over his cage.

“Peep, peep. What a terrible snowstorm,” the canary sighed, and with that sigh he kept quiet.

The clerk, or as the lady called him, the field bird, was put in a cage next to the canary’s and not far from the parrot’s. The only human words that the parrot could say, and which at times sounded quite comical, were “Come now, let us be men.” All the rest of his chatter made as little sense as the twittering of the canary. However, the clerk, who was now a bird himself, understood his companions perfectly.

“I used to fly beneath green palms and flowering almond trees,” the canary bird sang. “With my brothers and sisters, I flew above beautiful flowers, and over the smooth sea where the plants that grow under water waved up at us. We used to meet many brilliant parrots, who told us the funniest stories-long ones and so many.”

“Those were wild parrots!” said Polly. “Birds without any education. Come now, let us be men. Why don’t you laugh? If the lady and all her guests laugh at my remark, so should you. To lack a sense of humor is a very bad thing. Come now, let us be men.”

“Do you remember the pretty girls who danced in the tents spread beneath those flowering trees?” the canary sang. “Do you remember those delicious sweet fruits, and the cool juice of the wild plants?”

“Why yes,” said the parrot, “but I am much better off here, where I get the best of food and intimate treatment. I know that I am a clever bird, and that’s enough for me. Come now, let us be men. You have the soul of a poet, as they call it, and I have sound knowledge and wit. You have genius, but no discretion. You burst into that shrill, spontaneous song of yours. That’s why people cover you up. They don’t ever treat me like that. No, I have cost them a lot and, what is more imposing, my beak and my wits are sharp. Come now, let us be men.”

“Oh, my warm flowery homeland!” said the canary. “I shall sing of your deep green trees and your quiet inlets, where the down-hanging branches kiss the clear mirror of the waters. I shall sing of my resplendent brothers and sisters, who rejoice as they hover over the cups of water in the cactus plants that thrive in the desert.”

“Kindly stop your whimpering tunes,” the parrot said. “Sing something to make us laugh. Laughter is a sign of the loftiest intellectual development. Can a dog or a horse laugh? No! They can cry, but as for laughter-that is given to mankind alone. Ho, ho, ho!” the parrot chuckled, and added his, “Come now, let us be men.”

“You little grey bird of Denmark,” the canary said to the lark, “have they made you a prisoner too? Although it must be very cold in your woods, you have your freedom there. Fly away! They have forgotten to close your cage. The door of the top is open. Fly! fly!”

Without pausing to think, the clerk did as he was told. In a jiffy he was out of the cage. But just as he escaped from his prison, the half-open door leading into the next room began to creak. Stealthily, with green shining eyes, the house cat pounced in and gave chase to him. The canary fluttered in his cage. The parrot flapped his wings and called out, “Come now, let us be men.” The dreadfully frightened clerk flew out of the window and away over the streets and houses, until at last he had to stop to rest.

That house across the street looked familiar. He flew in through one of its open windows. As he perched on the table he found that he was in his own room.

“Come now, let us be men,” he blurted out, in spontaneous mockery of the parrot. Instantly he resumed the body of the copying clerk, who sat there, perched on the table.

“How in the name of heaven,” he said, “do I happen to be sleeping here? And what a disturbing dream I’ve had-all nonsense from beginning to end.”

 

VI. THE BEST THAT THE GALOSHES BROUGHT

Early the next morning, before the clerk was out of bed, someone tapped on his door. In walked his neighbor, a young theological student who lived on the same floor.

“Lend me your galoshes,” he requested. “It is very wet in the garden, but the sun is shining so gloriously that I’d like to smoke a pipeful down there.”

He pulled on the galoshes and went out into the garden, where there was one plum tree and a pear tree. But even a little garden like this one is a precious thing in Copenhagen.

It was only six o’clock. As the student walked up and down the path, he heard the horn of a stagecoach in the street.

“Oh, to travel, to travel!” he exclaimed, “that’s the most pleasant thing in the world. It’s the great goal of all my dreams. If only I could travel, I’m sure that this restlessness within me would be stilled. But it must be far, far away. How I should like to see beautiful Switzerland, to tour Italy, and-”

Fortunately the galoshes began to function at once, or he might have traveled entirely too much to suit him or to please us. Travel he did. He was high up in Switzerland, tightly packed in a diligence with eight other travelers. He had a pain in his head, his neck felt tired, and the blood had ceased to circulate in his legs. His feet were swollen and his heavy boots hurt him. He was half awake and half asleep. In his right-hand pocket he had his letter of credit, in his left-hand pocket he had his passport, and sewn into a little bag inside his breast pocket he had a few gold pieces. Every time he dozed off he dreamed that he had lost one or another of these things. Starting feverishly awake, his first movement would be to trace with his hand a triangle from right to left, and up to his breast, to feel whether his treasures were still there.

Umbrellas, hats, and walking sticks swung in the net above him and almost spoiled the magnificent view. As he glanced out the window his heart sang, as at least one poet has sung in Switzerland, these as yet unpublished words:

“This view is as fine as a view can be.
Mount Blanc is sublime beyond a doubt,
And the traveler’s life is the life for me-
But only as long as my money holds out.”

Vast, severe, and somber was the whole landscape around him. The pine woods looked like patches of heather on the high cliffs, whose summits were lost in fog and cloud. Snow began to fall, and the cold wind blew.

“Ah,” he sighed, “if only we were on the other side of the Alps, then it would be summer weather and I could get some money on my letter of credit. Worrying about my finances spoils all my enjoyment of Switzerland. Oh, if only I were on the other side.”

And there he was on the other side, in the middle of Italy, between Florence and Rome. Before him lay Lake Thrasymene. In the evening light it looked like a sheet of flaming gold among the dark blue hills. Here, where Hannibal beat Flaminius, the grape vines clung peacefully to each other with their green tendrils. Pretty little half-clothed children tended a herd of coal-black pigs under a fragrant clump of laurels by the roadside, and if we could paint the scene in its true colors all would exclaim, “Glorious Italy!” But neither the student nor his companions in the stagecoach made any such exclamation.

Poisonous flies and gnats swarmed into the coach by the thousands. In vain the travelers tried to beat them off with myrtle branches. The flies stung just the same. There was not a passenger whose face was not puffed and spotted with bites. The poor horses looked like carcasses. The flies made life miserable for them, and it only brought them a momentary relief when the coachman got down and scraped off swarms of the insects that settled upon them.

Once the sun went down, an icy chill fell upon everything. It wasn’t at all pleasant. However, the hills and clouds took on that wonderful green tint, so clear and so shining. Yes, go and see for yourself. That is far better than to read about it. It was a lovely sight, and the travelers thought so too, but their stomachs were empty, their bodies exhausted, and every thought in their heads was directed toward a lodging for the night. But where would they lodge? They watched the road ahead far more attentively than they did the splendid view.

Their road ran through an olive grove, and the student could fancy that he was at home, passing through a wood of gnarled willow trees. And there stood a lonely inn. A band of crippled beggars were camping outside and the liveliest among them looked like the eldest son of Famine who had just come of age. The rest either were blind, or so lame that they crawled about on their hands, or had withered arms and hands without any fingers. Here really was misery in rags.

“Eccelenza, miserabili!” they groaned, and stretched forth their crippled limbs. The hostess herself went barefoot. With uncombed hair and an unwashed blouse, she received her guests. The doors were hinged with string; half of the bricks of the floors had been put to other use; bats flew about the ceiling; and the smell-

“It were better to have supper in the stable,” one traveler maintained. “There one at least knows what he is breathing.”

The windows were opened to let a little fresh air come inside, but swifter than the air came those withered arms and that perpetual whine, “Miserabili, eccellenza.” On the walls were many inscriptions, and half of them had little good to say for la bella Italia.

Supper was served. Supper was a watery soup flavored with pepper and rancid oil. This same oil was the better part of the salad. Dubious eggs and roasted cockscombs were the best dishes, and even the wine was distasteful. It was a frightful collation.

That night the trunks were piled against the door, and one of the travelers mounted guard while the others slept. The student stood the first guard mount. How close it was in there! The heat was overpowering, the gnats droned and stabbed, and outside, the miserabiliwhined in their dreams.

“Traveling,” said the student, “would be all very well if one had no body. Oh, if only the body could rest while the spirit flies on without it. Wherever I go, there is some lack that I feel in my heart. There is always something better than the present that I desire. Yes, something better-the best of all, but what is it, and where shall I find it? Down deep in my heart, I know what I want. I want to reach a happy goal, the happiest goal of all.”

As soon as the words were said, he found himself back in his home. Long white curtains draped the windows, and in the middle of the floor a black coffin stood. In this he lay, sleeping the quiet sleep of death. His wish was fulfilled-his body was at rest, and his spirit was free to travel. “Call no man happy until he rests in his grave,” said Solon, and here his words proved true again.

Every corpse is a sphinx of immortality. The sphinx in this black casket that confronts us could say no more than the living man had written two days before:

“Stern Death, your silence has aroused my fears.
Shall not my soul up Jacob’s ladder pass,
Or shall your stone weight me throughout the years,
And I rise only in the graveyard grass?

“Our deepest grief escapes the world’s sad eye!
You who are lonely to the very last,
A heavier burden on your heart must lie
Than all the earth upon your coffin cast!”

Two figures moved about the room. We know them both. Those two who bent over the dead man were Dame Care and Fortune’s minion.

“Now,” said Care, “you can see what happiness your galoshes have brought mankind.”

“They have at least brought everlasting rest to him who here lies sleeping,” said Fortune’s minion.

“Oh, no!” said Care. “He went of his own free will. He was not called away. His spiritual power was not strong enough to undertake the glorious tasks for which he is destined. I shall do him a favor.”

She took the galoshes from his feet. Then the sleep of death was ended, and the student awakened to life again. Care vanished, and she took the galoshes along with her, for she probably regarded them as her own property.

 

I hope you enjoyed The Galoshes of Fortune–it’s a long one, but it’s really good! For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Lewis Carroll’s “Melodies”

melody

I
THERE was an old farmer of Readall,

Who made holes in his face with a needle,

Then went far deeper in

Than to pierce through the skin,

And yet strange to say he was made beadle.

II
There was an eccentric old draper,

Who wore a hat made of brown paper,

It went up to a point,

Yet it looked out of joint,

The cause of which he said was “vapour”.

III
There was once a young man of Oporta,

Who daily got shorter and shorter,

The reason he said

Was the hod on his head,

Which was filled with the heaviest mortar.
His sister, named Lucy O’Finner,

Grew constantly thinner and thinner;

The reason was plain,

She slept out in the rain,

And was never allowed any dinner.

 

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Seal”


image19
Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
        And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
      The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
        At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
      Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
        Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
      The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
        Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!
                                 Seal Lullaby

All these things happened several years ago at a place called Novastoshnah, or North East Point, on the Island of St. Paul, away and away in the Bering Sea. Limmershin, the Winter Wren, told me the tale when he was blown on to the rigging of a steamer going to Japan, and I took him down into my cabin and warmed and fed him for a couple of days till he was fit to fly back to St. Paul’s again. Limmershin is a very quaint little bird, but he knows how to tell the truth.

Nobody comes to Novastoshnah except on business, and the only people who have regular business there are the seals. They come in the summer months by hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of the cold gray sea. For Novastoshnah Beach has the finest accommodation for seals of any place in all the world.

Sea Catch knew that, and every spring would swim from whatever place he happened to be in–would swim like a torpedo-boat straight for Novastoshnah and spend a month fighting with his companions for a good place on the rocks, as close to the sea as possible. Sea Catch was fifteen years old, a huge gray fur seal with almost a mane on his shoulders, and long, wicked dog teeth. When he heaved himself up on his front flippers he stood more than four feet clear of the ground, and his weight, if anyone had been bold enough to weigh him, was nearly seven hundred pounds. He was scarred all over with the marks of savage fights, but he was always ready for just one fight more. He would put his head on one side, as though he were afraid to look his enemy in the face; then he would shoot it out like lightning, and when the big teeth were firmly fixed on the other seal’s neck, the other seal might get away if he could, but Sea Catch would not help him.

Yet Sea Catch never chased a beaten seal, for that was against the Rules of the Beach. He only wanted room by the sea for his nursery. But as there were forty or fifty thousand other seals hunting for the same thing each spring, the whistling, bellowing, roaring, and blowing on the beach was something frightful.

From a little hill called Hutchinson’s Hill, you could look over three and a half miles of ground covered with fighting seals; and the surf was dotted all over with the heads of seals hurrying to land and begin their share of the fighting. They fought in the breakers, they fought in the sand, and they fought on the smooth-worn basalt rocks of the nurseries, for they were just as stupid and unaccommodating as men. Their wives never came to the island until late in May or early in June, for they did not care to be torn to pieces; and the young two-, three-, and four-year-old seals who had not begun housekeeping went inland about half a mile through the ranks of the fighters and played about on the sand dunes in droves and legions, and rubbed off every single green thing that grew. They were called the holluschickie–the bachelors–and there were perhaps two or three hundred thousand of them at Novastoshnah alone.

Sea Catch had just finished his forty-fifth fight one spring when Matkah, his soft, sleek, gentle-eyed wife, came up out of the sea, and he caught her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her down on his reservation, saying gruffly: “Late as usual. Where have you been?”

It was not the fashion for Sea Catch to eat anything during the four months he stayed on the beaches, and so his temper was generally bad. Matkah knew better than to answer back. She looked round and cooed: “How thoughtful of you. You’ve taken the old place again.”

“I should think I had,” said Sea Catch. “Look at me!”

He was scratched and bleeding in twenty places; one eye was almost out, and his sides were torn to ribbons.

“Oh, you men, you men!” Matkah said, fanning herself with her hind flipper. “Why can’t you be sensible and settle your places quietly? You look as though you had been fighting with the Killer Whale.”

“I haven’t been doing anything but fight since the middle of May. The beach is disgracefully crowded this season. I’ve met at least a hundred seals from Lukannon Beach, house hunting. Why can’t people stay where they belong?”

“I’ve often thought we should be much happier if we hauled out at Otter Island instead of this crowded place,” said Matkah.

“Bah! Only the holluschickie go to Otter Island. If we went there they would say we were afraid. We must preserve appearances, my dear.”

Sea Catch sunk his head proudly between his fat shoulders and pretended to go to sleep for a few minutes, but all the time he was keeping a sharp lookout for a fight. Now that all the seals and their wives were on the land, you could hear their clamor miles out to sea above the loudest gales. At the lowest counting there were over a million seals on the beach–old seals, mother seals, tiny babies, and holluschickie, fighting, scuffling, bleating, crawling, and playing together–going down to the sea and coming up from it in gangs and regiments, lying over every foot of ground as far as the eye could reach, and skirmishing about in brigades through the fog. It is nearly always foggy at Novastoshnah, except when the sun comes out and makes everything look all pearly and rainbow-colored for a little while.

Kotick, Matkah’s baby, was born in the middle of that confusion, and he was all head and shoulders, with pale, watery blue eyes, as tiny seals must be, but there was something about his coat that made his mother look at him very closely.

“Sea Catch,” she said, at last, “our baby’s going to be white!”

“Empty clam-shells and dry seaweed!” snorted Sea Catch. “There never has been such a thing in the world as a white seal.”

“I can’t help that,” said Matkah; “there’s going to be now.” And she sang the low, crooning seal song that all the mother seals sing to their babies:

            You mustn’t swim till you’re six weeks old,
              Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
            And summer gales and Killer Whales
              Are bad for baby seals.
            Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
              As bad as bad can be;
            But splash and grow strong,
            And you can’t be wrong.
              Child of the Open Sea!

Of course the little fellow did not understand the words at first. He paddled and scrambled about by his mother’s side, and learned to scuffle out of the way when his father was fighting with another seal, and the two rolled and roared up and down the slippery rocks. Matkah used to go to sea to get things to eat, and the baby was fed only once in two days, but then he ate all he could and throve upon it.

The first thing he did was to crawl inland, and there he met tens of thousands of babies of his own age, and they played together like puppies, went to sleep on the clean sand, and played again. The old people in the nurseries took no notice of them, and the holluschickie kept to their own grounds, and the babies had a beautiful playtime.

When Matkah came back from her deep-sea fishing she would go straight to their playground and call as a sheep calls for a lamb, and wait until she heard Kotick bleat. Then she would take the straightest of straight lines in his direction, striking out with her fore flippers and knocking the youngsters head over heels right and left. There were always a few hundred mothers hunting for their children through the playgrounds, and the babies were kept lively. But, as Matkah told Kotick, “So long as you don’t lie in muddy water and get mange, or rub the hard sand into a cut or scratch, and so long as you never go swimming when there is a heavy sea, nothing will hurt you here.”

Little seals can no more swim than little children, but they are unhappy till they learn. The first time that Kotick went down to the sea a wave carried him out beyond his depth, and his big head sank and his little hind flippers flew up exactly as his mother had told him in the song, and if the next wave had not thrown him back again he would have drowned.

After that, he learned to lie in a beach pool and let the wash of the waves just cover him and lift him up while he paddled, but he always kept his eye open for big waves that might hurt. He was two weeks learning to use his flippers; and all that while he floundered in and out of the water, and coughed and grunted and crawled up the beach and took catnaps on the sand, and went back again, until at last he found that he truly belonged to the water.

Then you can imagine the times that he had with his companions, ducking under the rollers; or coming in on top of a comber and landing with a swash and a splutter as the big wave went whirling far up the beach; or standing up on his tail and scratching his head as the old people did; or playing “I’m the King of the Castle” on slippery, weedy rocks that just stuck out of the wash. Now and then he would see a thin fin, like a big shark’s fin, drifting along close to shore, and he knew that that was the Killer Whale, the Grampus, who eats young seals when he can get them; and Kotick would head for the beach like an arrow, and the fin would jig off slowly, as if it were looking for nothing at all.

Late in October the seals began to leave St. Paul’s for the deep sea, by families and tribes, and there was no more fighting over the nurseries, and the holluschickie played anywhere they liked. “Next year,” said Matkah to Kotick, “you will be a holluschickie; but this year you must learn how to catch fish.”

They set out together across the Pacific, and Matkah showed Kotick how to sleep on his back with his flippers tucked down by his side and his little nose just out of the water. No cradle is so comfortable as the long, rocking swell of the Pacific. When Kotick felt his skin tingle all over, Matkah told him he was learning the “feel of the water,” and that tingly, prickly feelings meant bad weather coming, and he must swim hard and get away.

“In a little time,” she said, “you’ll know where to swim to, but just now we’ll follow Sea Pig, the Porpoise, for he is very wise.” A school of porpoises were ducking and tearing through the water, and little Kotick followed them as fast as he could. “How do you know where to go to?” he panted. The leader of the school rolled his white eye and ducked under. “My tail tingles, youngster,” he said. “That means there’s a gale behind me. Come along! When you’re south of the Sticky Water [he meant the Equator] and your tail tingles, that means there’s a gale in front of you and you must head north. Come along! The water feels bad here.”

This was one of very many things that Kotick learned, and he was always learning. Matkah taught him to follow the cod and the halibut along the under-sea banks and wrench the rockling out of his hole among the weeds; how to skirt the wrecks lying a hundred fathoms below water and dart like a rifle bullet in at one porthole and out at another as the fishes ran; how to dance on the top of the waves when the lightning was racing all over the sky, and wave his flipper politely to the stumpy-tailed Albatross and the Man-of-war Hawk as they went down the wind; how to jump three or four feet clear of the water like a dolphin, flippers close to the side and tail curved; to leave the flying fish alone because they are all bony; to take the shoulder-piece out of a cod at full speed ten fathoms deep, and never to stop and look at a boat or a ship, but particularly a row-boat. At the end of six months what Kotick did not know about deep-sea fishing was not worth the knowing. And all that time he never set flipper on dry ground.

One day, however, as he was lying half asleep in the warm water somewhere off the Island of Juan Fernandez, he felt faint and lazy all over, just as human people do when the spring is in their legs, and he remembered the good firm beaches of Novastoshnah seven thousand miles away, the games his companions played, the smell of the seaweed, the seal roar, and the fighting. That very minute he turned north, swimming steadily, and as he went on he met scores of his mates, all bound for the same place, and they said: “Greeting, Kotick! This year we are all holluschickie, and we can dance the Fire-dance in the breakers off Lukannon and play on the new grass. But where did you get that coat?”

Kotick’s fur was almost pure white now, and though he felt very proud of it, he only said, “Swim quickly! My bones are aching for the land.” And so they all came to the beaches where they had been born, and heard the old seals, their fathers, fighting in the rolling mist.

That night Kotick danced the Fire-dance with the yearling seals. The sea is full of fire on summer nights all the way down from Novastoshnah to Lukannon, and each seal leaves a wake like burning oil behind him and a flaming flash when he jumps, and the waves break in great phosphorescent streaks and swirls. Then they went inland to the holluschickie grounds and rolled up and down in the new wild wheat and told stories of what they had done while they had been at sea. They talked about the Pacific as boys would talk about a wood that they had been nutting in, and if anyone had understood them he could have gone away and made such a chart of that ocean as never was. The three- and four-year-old holluschickie romped down from Hutchinson’s Hill crying: “Out of the way, youngsters! The sea is deep and you don’t know all that’s in it yet. Wait till you’ve rounded the Horn. Hi, you yearling, where did you get that white coat?”

“I didn’t get it,” said Kotick. “It grew.” And just as he was going to roll the speaker over, a couple of black-haired men with flat red faces came from behind a sand dune, and Kotick, who had never seen a man before, coughed and lowered his head. The holluschickie just bundled off a few yards and sat staring stupidly. The men were no less than Kerick Booterin, the chief of the seal-hunters on the island, and Patalamon, his son. They came from the little village not half a mile from the sea nurseries, and they were deciding what seals they would drive up to the killing pens–for the seals were driven just like sheep–to be turned into seal-skin jackets later on.

“Ho!” said Patalamon. “Look! There’s a white seal!”

Kerick Booterin turned nearly white under his oil and smoke, for he was an Aleut, and Aleuts are not clean people. Then he began to mutter a prayer. “Don’t touch him, Patalamon. There has never been a white seal since–since I was born. Perhaps it is old Zaharrof’s ghost. He was lost last year in the big gale.”

“I’m not going near him,” said Patalamon. “He’s unlucky. Do you really think he is old Zaharrof come back? I owe him for some gulls’ eggs.”

“Don’t look at him,” said Kerick. “Head off that drove of four-year-olds. The men ought to skin two hundred to-day, but it’s the beginning of the season and they are new to the work. A hundred will do. Quick!”

Patalamon rattled a pair of seal’s shoulder bones in front of a herd of holluschickie and they stopped dead, puffing and blowing. Then he stepped near and the seals began to move, and Kerick headed them inland, and they never tried to get back to their companions. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of seals watched them being driven, but they went on playing just the same. Kotick was the only one who asked questions, and none of his companions could tell him anything, except that the men always drove seals in that way for six weeks or two months of every year.

“I am going to follow,” he said, and his eyes nearly popped out of his head as he shuffled along in the wake of the herd.

“The white seal is coming after us,” cried Patalamon. “That’s the first time a seal has ever come to the killing-grounds alone.”

“Hsh! Don’t look behind you,” said Kerick. “It is Zaharrof’s ghost! I must speak to the priest about this.”

The distance to the killing-grounds was only half a mile, but it took an hour to cover, because if the seals went too fast Kerick knew that they would get heated and then their fur would come off in patches when they were skinned. So they went on very slowly, past Sea Lion’s Neck, past Webster House, till they came to the Salt House just beyond the sight of the seals on the beach. Kotick followed, panting and wondering. He thought that he was at the world’s end, but the roar of the seal nurseries behind him sounded as loud as the roar of a train in a tunnel. Then Kerick sat down on the moss and pulled out a heavy pewter watch and let the drove cool off for thirty minutes, and Kotick could hear the fog-dew dripping off the brim of his cap. Then ten or twelve men, each with an iron-bound club three or four feet long, came up, and Kerick pointed out one or two of the drove that were bitten by their companions or too hot, and the men kicked those aside with their heavy boots made of the skin of a walrus’s throat, and then Kerick said, “Let go!” and then the men clubbed the seals on the head as fast as they could.

Ten minutes later little Kotick did not recognize his friends any more, for their skins were ripped off from the nose to the hind flippers, whipped off and thrown down on the ground in a pile. That was enough for Kotick. He turned and galloped (a seal can gallop very swiftly for a short time) back to the sea; his little new mustache bristling with horror. At Sea Lion’s Neck, where the great sea lions sit on the edge of the surf, he flung himself flipper-overhead into the cool water and rocked there, gasping miserably. “What’s here?” said a sea lion gruffly, for as a rule the sea lions keep themselves to themselves.

“Scoochnie! Ochen scoochnie!” (“I’m lonesome, very lonesome!”) said Kotick. “They’re killing all the holluschickie on all the beaches!”

The Sea Lion turned his head inshore. “Nonsense!” he said. “Your friends are making as much noise as ever. You must have seen old Kerick polishing off a drove. He’s done that for thirty years.”

“It’s horrible,” said Kotick, backing water as a wave went over him, and steadying himself with a screw stroke of his flippers that brought him all standing within three inches of a jagged edge of rock.

“Well done for a yearling!” said the Sea Lion, who could appreciate good swimming. “I suppose it is rather awful from your way of looking at it, but if you seals will come here year after year, of course the men get to know of it, and unless you can find an island where no men ever come you will always be driven.”

“Isn’t there any such island?” began Kotick.

“I’ve followed the poltoos [the halibut] for twenty years, and I can’t say I’ve found it yet. But look here–you seem to have a fondness for talking to your betters–suppose you go to Walrus Islet and talk to Sea Vitch. He may know something. Don’t flounce off like that. It’s a six-mile swim, and if I were you I should haul out and take a nap first, little one.”

Kotick thought that that was good advice, so he swam round to his own beach, hauled out, and slept for half an hour, twitching all over, as seals will. Then he headed straight for Walrus Islet, a little low sheet of rocky island almost due northeast from Novastoshnah, all ledges and rock and gulls’ nests, where the walrus herded by themselves.

He landed close to old Sea Vitch–the big, ugly, bloated, pimpled, fat-necked, long-tusked walrus of the North Pacific, who has no manners except when he is asleep–as he was then, with his hind flippers half in and half out of the surf.

“Wake up!” barked Kotick, for the gulls were making a great noise.

“Hah! Ho! Hmph! What’s that?” said Sea Vitch, and he struck the next walrus a blow with his tusks and waked him up, and the next struck the next, and so on till they were all awake and staring in every direction but the right one.

“Hi! It’s me,” said Kotick, bobbing in the surf and looking like a little white slug.

“Well! May I be–skinned!” said Sea Vitch, and they all looked at Kotick as you can fancy a club full of drowsy old gentlemen would look at a little boy. Kotick did not care to hear any more about skinning just then; he had seen enough of it. So he called out: “Isn’t there any place for seals to go where men don’t ever come?”

“Go and find out,” said Sea Vitch, shutting his eyes. “Run away. We’re busy here.”

Kotick made his dolphin-jump in the air and shouted as loud as he could: “Clam-eater! Clam-eater!” He knew that Sea Vitch never caught a fish in his life but always rooted for clams and seaweed; though he pretended to be a very terrible person. Naturally the Chickies and the Gooverooskies and the Epatkas–the Burgomaster Gulls and the Kittiwakes and the Puffins, who are always looking for a chance to be rude, took up the cry, and–so Limmershin told me–for nearly five minutes you could not have heard a gun fired on Walrus Islet. All the population was yelling and screaming “Clam-eater! Stareek [old man]!” while Sea Vitch rolled from side to side grunting and coughing.

“Now will you tell?” said Kotick, all out of breath.

“Go and ask Sea Cow,” said Sea Vitch. “If he is living still, he’ll be able to tell you.”

“How shall I know Sea Cow when I meet him?” said Kotick, sheering off.

“He’s the only thing in the sea uglier than Sea Vitch,” screamed a Burgomaster gull, wheeling under Sea Vitch’s nose. “Uglier, and with worse manners! Stareek!”

Kotick swam back to Novastoshnah, leaving the gulls to scream. There he found that no one sympathized with him in his little attempt to discover a quiet place for the seals. They told him that men had always driven the holluschickie–it was part of the day’s work–and that if he did not like to see ugly things he should not have gone to the killing grounds. But none of the other seals had seen the killing, and that made the difference between him and his friends. Besides, Kotick was a white seal.

“What you must do,” said old Sea Catch, after he had heard his son’s adventures, “is to grow up and be a big seal like your father, and have a nursery on the beach, and then they will leave you alone. In another five years you ought to be able to fight for yourself.” Even gentle Matkah, his mother, said: “You will never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea, Kotick.” And Kotick went off and danced the Fire-dance with a very heavy little heart.

That autumn he left the beach as soon as he could, and set off alone because of a notion in his bullet-head. He was going to find Sea Cow, if there was such a person in the sea, and he was going to find a quiet island with good firm beaches for seals to live on, where men could not get at them. So he explored and explored by himself from the North to the South Pacific, swimming as much as three hundred miles in a day and a night. He met with more adventures than can be told, and narrowly escaped being caught by the Basking Shark, and the Spotted Shark, and the Hammerhead, and he met all the untrustworthy ruffians that loaf up and down the seas, and the heavy polite fish, and the scarlet spotted scallops that are moored in one place for hundreds of years, and grow very proud of it; but he never met Sea Cow, and he never found an island that he could fancy.

If the beach was good and hard, with a slope behind it for seals to play on, there was always the smoke of a whaler on the horizon, boiling down blubber, and Kotick knew what that meant. Or else he could see that seals had once visited the island and been killed off, and Kotick knew that where men had come once they would come again.

He picked up with an old stumpy-tailed albatross, who told him that Kerguelen Island was the very place for peace and quiet, and when Kotick went down there he was all but smashed to pieces against some wicked black cliffs in a heavy sleet-storm with lightning and thunder. Yet as he pulled out against the gale he could see that even there had once been a seal nursery. And it was so in all the other islands that he visited.

Limmershin gave a long list of them, for he said that Kotick spent five seasons exploring, with a four months’ rest each year at Novastoshnah, when the holluschickie used to make fun of him and his imaginary islands. He went to the Gallapagos, a horrid dry place on the Equator, where he was nearly baked to death; he went to the Georgia Islands, the Orkneys, Emerald Island, Little Nightingale Island, Gough’s Island, Bouvet’s Island, the Crossets, and even to a little speck of an island south of the Cape of Good Hope. But everywhere the People of the Sea told him the same things. Seals had come to those islands once upon a time, but men had killed them all off. Even when he swam thousands of miles out of the Pacific and got to a place called Cape Corrientes (that was when he was coming back from Gough’s Island), he found a few hundred mangy seals on a rock and they told him that men came there too.

That nearly broke his heart, and he headed round the Horn back to his own beaches; and on his way north he hauled out on an island full of green trees, where he found an old, old seal who was dying, and Kotick caught fish for him and told him all his sorrows. “Now,” said Kotick, “I am going back to Novastoshnah, and if I am driven to the killing-pens with the holluschickie I shall not care.”

The old seal said, “Try once more. I am the last of the Lost Rookery of Masafuera, and in the days when men killed us by the hundred thousand there was a story on the beaches that some day a white seal would come out of the North and lead the seal people to a quiet place. I am old, and I shall never live to see that day, but others will. Try once more.”

And Kotick curled up his mustache (it was a beauty) and said, “I am the only white seal that has ever been born on the beaches, and I am the only seal, black or white, who ever thought of looking for new islands.”

This cheered him immensely; and when he came back to Novastoshnah that summer, Matkah, his mother, begged him to marry and settle down, for he was no longer a holluschick but a full-grown sea-catch, with a curly white mane on his shoulders, as heavy, as big, and as fierce as his father. “Give me another season,” he said. “Remember, Mother, it is always the seventh wave that goes farthest up the beach.”

Curiously enough, there was another seal who thought that she would put off marrying till the next year, and Kotick danced the Fire-dance with her all down Lukannon Beach the night before he set off on his last exploration. This time he went westward, because he had fallen on the trail of a great shoal of halibut, and he needed at least one hundred pounds of fish a day to keep him in good condition. He chased them till he was tired, and then he curled himself up and went to sleep on the hollows of the ground swell that sets in to Copper Island. He knew the coast perfectly well, so about midnight, when he felt himself gently bumped on a weed-bed, he said, “Hm, tide’s running strong tonight,” and turning over under water opened his eyes slowly and stretched. Then he jumped like a cat, for he saw huge things nosing about in the shoal water and browsing on the heavy fringes of the weeds.

“By the Great Combers of Magellan!” he said, beneath his mustache. “Who in the Deep Sea are these people?”

They were like no walrus, sea lion, seal, bear, whale, shark, fish, squid, or scallop that Kotick had ever seen before. They were between twenty and thirty feet long, and they had no hind flippers, but a shovel-like tail that looked as if it had been whittled out of wet leather. Their heads were the most foolish-looking things you ever saw, and they balanced on the ends of their tails in deep water when they weren’t grazing, bowing solemnly to each other and waving their front flippers as a fat man waves his arm.

“Ahem!” said Kotick. “Good sport, gentlemen?” The big things answered by bowing and waving their flippers like the Frog Footman. When they began feeding again Kotick saw that their upper lip was split into two pieces that they could twitch apart about a foot and bring together again with a whole bushel of seaweed between the splits. They tucked the stuff into their mouths and chumped solemnly.

“Messy style of feeding, that,” said Kotick. They bowed again, and Kotick began to lose his temper. “Very good,” he said. “If you do happen to have an extra joint in your front flipper you needn’t show off so. I see you bow gracefully, but I should like to know your names.” The split lips moved and twitched; and the glassy green eyes stared, but they did not speak.

“Well!” said Kotick. “You’re the only people I’ve ever met uglier than Sea Vitch–and with worse manners.”

Then he remembered in a flash what the Burgomaster gull had screamed to him when he was a little yearling at Walrus Islet, and he tumbled backward in the water, for he knew that he had found Sea Cow at last.

The sea cows went on schlooping and grazing and chumping in the weed, and Kotick asked them questions in every language that he had picked up in his travels; and the Sea People talk nearly as many languages as human beings. But the sea cows did not answer because Sea Cow cannot talk. He has only six bones in his neck where he ought to have seven, and they say under the sea that that prevents him from speaking even to his companions. But, as you know, he has an extra joint in his foreflipper, and by waving it up and down and about he makes what answers to a sort of clumsy telegraphic code.

By daylight Kotick’s mane was standing on end and his temper was gone where the dead crabs go. Then the Sea Cow began to travel northward very slowly, stopping to hold absurd bowing councils from time to time, and Kotick followed them, saying to himself, “People who are such idiots as these are would have been killed long ago if they hadn’t found out some safe island. And what is good enough for the Sea Cow is good enough for the Sea Catch. All the same, I wish they’d hurry.”

It was weary work for Kotick. The herd never went more than forty or fifty miles a day, and stopped to feed at night, and kept close to the shore all the time; while Kotick swam round them, and over them, and under them, but he could not hurry them up one-half mile. As they went farther north they held a bowing council every few hours, and Kotick nearly bit off his mustache with impatience till he saw that they were following up a warm current of water, and then he respected them more.

One night they sank through the shiny water–sank like stones–and for the first time since he had known them began to swim quickly. Kotick followed, and the pace astonished him, for he never dreamed that Sea Cow was anything of a swimmer. They headed for a cliff by the shore–a cliff that ran down into deep water, and plunged into a dark hole at the foot of it, twenty fathoms under the sea. It was a long, long swim, and Kotick badly wanted fresh air before he was out of the dark tunnel they led him through.

“My wig!” he said, when he rose, gasping and puffing, into open water at the farther end. “It was a long dive, but it was worth it.”

The sea cows had separated and were browsing lazily along the edges of the finest beaches that Kotick had ever seen. There were long stretches of smooth-worn rock running for miles, exactly fitted to make seal-nurseries, and there were play-grounds of hard sand sloping inland behind them, and there were rollers for seals to dance in, and long grass to roll in, and sand dunes to climb up and down, and, best of all, Kotick knew by the feel of the water, which never deceives a true sea catch, that no men had ever come there.

The first thing he did was to assure himself that the fishing was good, and then he swam along the beaches and counted up the delightful low sandy islands half hidden in the beautiful rolling fog. Away to the northward, out to sea, ran a line of bars and shoals and rocks that would never let a ship come within six miles of the beach, and between the islands and the mainland was a stretch of deep water that ran up to the perpendicular cliffs, and somewhere below the cliffs was the mouth of the tunnel.

“It’s Novastoshnah over again, but ten times better,” said Kotick. “Sea Cow must be wiser than I thought. Men can’t come down the cliffs, even if there were any men; and the shoals to seaward would knock a ship to splinters. If any place in the sea is safe, this is it.”

He began to think of the seal he had left behind him, but though he was in a hurry to go back to Novastoshnah, he thoroughly explored the new country, so that he would be able to answer all questions.

Then he dived and made sure of the mouth of the tunnel, and raced through to the southward. No one but a sea cow or a seal would have dreamed of there being such a place, and when he looked back at the cliffs even Kotick could hardly believe that he had been under them.

He was six days going home, though he was not swimming slowly; and when he hauled out just above Sea Lion’s Neck the first person he met was the seal who had been waiting for him, and she saw by the look in his eyes that he had found his island at last.

But the holluschickie and Sea Catch, his father, and all the other seals laughed at him when he told them what he had discovered, and a young seal about his own age said, “This is all very well, Kotick, but you can’t come from no one knows where and order us off like this. Remember we’ve been fighting for our nurseries, and that’s a thing you never did. You preferred prowling about in the sea.”

The other seals laughed at this, and the young seal began twisting his head from side to side. He had just married that year, and was making a great fuss about it.

“I’ve no nursery to fight for,” said Kotick. “I only want to show you all a place where you will be safe. What’s the use of fighting?”

“Oh, if you’re trying to back out, of course I’ve no more to say,” said the young seal with an ugly chuckle.

“Will you come with me if I win?” said Kotick. And a green light came into his eye, for he was very angry at having to fight at all.

“Very good,” said the young seal carelessly. “If you win, I’ll come.”

He had no time to change his mind, for Kotick’s head was out and his teeth sunk in the blubber of the young seal’s neck. Then he threw himself back on his haunches and hauled his enemy down the beach, shook him, and knocked him over. Then Kotick roared to the seals: “I’ve done my best for you these five seasons past. I’ve found you the island where you’ll be safe, but unless your heads are dragged off your silly necks you won’t believe. I’m going to teach you now. Look out for yourselves!”

Limmershin told me that never in his life–and Limmershin sees ten thousand big seals fighting every year–never in all his little life did he see anything like Kotick’s charge into the nurseries. He flung himself at the biggest sea catch he could find, caught him by the throat, choked him and bumped him and banged him till he grunted for mercy, and then threw him aside and attacked the next. You see, Kotick had never fasted for four months as the big seals did every year, and his deep-sea swimming trips kept him in perfect condition, and, best of all, he had never fought before. His curly white mane stood up with rage, and his eyes flamed, and his big dog teeth glistened, and he was splendid to look at. Old Sea Catch, his father, saw him tearing past, hauling the grizzled old seals about as though they had been halibut, and upsetting the young bachelors in all directions; and Sea Catch gave a roar and shouted: “He may be a fool, but he is the best fighter on the beaches! Don’t tackle your father, my son! He’s with you!”

Kotick roared in answer, and old Sea Catch waddled in with his mustache on end, blowing like a locomotive, while Matkah and the seal that was going to marry Kotick cowered down and admired their men-folk. It was a gorgeous fight, for the two fought as long as there was a seal that dared lift up his head, and when there were none they paraded grandly up and down the beach side by side, bellowing.

At night, just as the Northern Lights were winking and flashing through the fog, Kotick climbed a bare rock and looked down on the scattered nurseries and the torn and bleeding seals. “Now,” he said, “I’ve taught you your lesson.”

“My wig!” said old Sea Catch, boosting himself up stiffly, for he was fearfully mauled. “The Killer Whale himself could not have cut them up worse. Son, I’m proud of you, and what’s more, I’ll come with you to your island–if there is such a place.”

“Hear you, fat pigs of the sea. Who comes with me to the Sea Cow’s tunnel? Answer, or I shall teach you again,” roared Kotick.

There was a murmur like the ripple of the tide all up and down the beaches. “We will come,” said thousands of tired voices. “We will follow Kotick, the White Seal.”

Then Kotick dropped his head between his shoulders and shut his eyes proudly. He was not a white seal any more, but red from head to tail. All the same he would have scorned to look at or touch one of his wounds.

A week later he and his army (nearly ten thousand holluschickie and old seals) went away north to the Sea Cow’s tunnel, Kotick leading them, and the seals that stayed at Novastoshnah called them idiots. But next spring, when they all met off the fishing banks of the Pacific, Kotick’s seals told such tales of the new beaches beyond Sea Cow’s tunnel that more and more seals left Novastoshnah. Of course it was not all done at once, for the seals are not very clever, and they need a long time to turn things over in their minds, but year after year more seals went away from Novastoshnah, and Lukannon, and the other nurseries, to the quiet, sheltered beaches where Kotick sits all the summer through, getting bigger and fatter and stronger each year, while the holluschickie play around him, in that sea where no man comes.

 

This was supposed to go up on Wednesday, but I went to Disneyland that day and I accidentally set the publish date to next Wednesday, so that was my bad. But, anyway, here it is! I hope you enjoyed “The White Seal” from The Jungle Book. For more fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Fitcher’s Bird”

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There was once a wizard who used to take the form of a poor man, and went to houses and begged, and caught pretty girls. No one knew whither he carried them, for they were never seen more. One day he appeared before the door of a man who had three pretty daughters; he looked like a poor weak beggar, and carried a basket on his back, as if he meant to collect charitable gifts in it. He begged for a little food, and when the eldest daughter came out and was just reaching him a piece of bread, he did but touch her, and she was forced to jump into his basket. Thereupon he hurried away with long strides, and carried her away into a dark forest to his house, which stood in the midst of it. Everything in the house was magnificent; he gave her whatsoever she could possibly desire, and said, “My darling, thou wilt certainly be happy with me, for thou hast everything thy heart can wish for.” This lasted a few days, and then he said, “I must journey forth, and leave thee alone for a short time; there are the keys of the house; thou mayst go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key here opens, and there I forbid thee to go on pain of death.” He likewise gave her an egg and said, “Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with thee, for a great misfortune would arise from the loss of it.”

She took the keys and the egg, and promised to obey him in everything. When he was gone, she went all round the house from the bottom to the top, and examined everything. The rooms shone with silver and gold, and she thought she had never seen such great splendour. At length she came to the forbidden door; she wished to pass it by, but curiosity let her have no rest. She examined the key, it looked just like any other; she put it in the keyhole and turned it a little, and the door sprang open. But what did she see when she went in? A great bloody basin stood in the middle of the room, and therein lay human beings, dead and hewn to pieces, and hard by was a block of wood, and a gleaming axe lay upon it. She was so terribly alarmed that the egg which she held in her hand fell into the basin. She got it out and washed the blood off, but in vain, it appeared again in a moment. She washed and scrubbed, but she could not get it out.

It was not long before the man came back from his journey, and the first things which he asked for were the key and the egg. She gave them to him, but she trembled as she did so, and he saw at once by the red spots that she had been in the bloody chamber. “Since thou hast gone into the room against my will,” said he, “thou shalt go back into it against thine own. Thy life is ended.” He threw her down, dragged her thither by her hair, cut her head off on the block, and hewed her in pieces so that her blood ran on the ground. Then he threw her into the basin with the rest.

“Now I will fetch myself the second,” said the wizard, and again he went to the house in the shape of a poor man, and begged. Then the second daughter brought him a piece of bread; he caught her like the first, by simply touching her, and carried her away. She did not fare better than her sister. She allowed herself to be led away by her curiosity, opened the door of the bloody chamber, looked in, and had to atone for it with her life on the wizard’s return. Then he went and brought the third sister, but she was clever and crafty. When he had given her the keys and the egg, and had left her, she first put the egg away with great care, and then she examined the house, and at last went into the forbidden room. Alas, what did she behold! Both her sisters lay there in the basin, cruelly murdered, and cut in pieces. But she began to gather their limbs together and put them in order, head, body, arms and legs. And when nothing further was wanting the limbs began to move and unite themselves together, and both the maidens opened their eyes and were once more alive. Then they rejoiced and kissed and caressed each other.

On his arrival, the man at once demanded the keys and the egg, and as he could perceive no trace of any blood on it, he said, “Thou hast stood the test, thou shalt be my bride.” He now had no longer any power over her, and was forced to do whatsoever she desired. “Oh, very well,” said she, “thou shalt first take a basketful of gold to my father and mother, and carry it thyself on thy back; in the meantime I will prepare for the wedding.” Then she ran to her sisters, whom she had hidden in a little chamber, and said, “The moment has come when I can save you. The wretch shall himself carry you home again, but as soon as you are at home send help to me.” She put both of them in a basket and covered them quite over with gold, so that nothing of them was to be seen, then she called in the wizard and said to him, “Now carry the basket away, but I shall look through my little window and watch to see if thou stoppest on the way to stand or to rest.”

The wizard raised the basket on his back and went away with it, but it weighed him down so heavily that the perspiration streamed from his face. Then he sat down and wanted to rest awhile, but immediately one of the girls in the basket cried, “I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on at once?” He thought it was his bride who was calling that to him; and got up on his legs again. Once more he was going to sit down, but instantly she cried, “I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on directly?” And whenever he stood still, she cried this, and then he was forced to go onwards, until at last, groaning and out of breath, he took the basket with the gold and the two maidens into their parents’ house. At home, however, the bride prepared the marriage-feast, and sent invitations to the friends of the wizard. Then she took a skull with grinning teeth, put some ornaments on it and a wreath of flowers, carried it upstairs to the garret-window, and let it look out from thence. When all was ready, she got into a barrel of honey, and then cut the feather-bed open and rolled herself in it, until she looked like a wondrous bird, and no one could recognize her. Then she went out of the house, and on her way she met some of the wedding-guests, who asked,

“O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?”
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”

At last she met the bridegroom, who was coming slowly back. He, like the others, asked,

“O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”

The bridegroom looked up, saw the decked-out skull, thought it was his bride, and nodded to her, greeting her kindly. But when he and his guests had all gone into the house, the brothers and kinsmen of the bride, who had been sent to rescue her, arrived. They locked all the doors of the house, that no one might escape, set fire to it, and the wizard and all his crew had to burn.

 

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