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How To Tell Stories To Children And Some Stories To Tell by Sara Cone Bryant

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you. How he wished he were in a soft,
warm bed, with his aching bones
comfortable in blankets! The very thought of
it made him remember the castle of fortune,
for he knew there must be fine beds
there. To get to those beds he was even
willing to bestir his bruised limbs, so he
sat up and felt about him for the donkey.

No donkey was to be found.

The lazy man crept round and round
the spot where he had fallen, scratched his
hands on the stumps, tore his face in the
briers, and bumped his knees on the stones.
But no donkey was there. He would have
lain down to sleep again, but he could
hear now the howls of hungry wolves in
the woods; that did not sound pleasant.
Finally, his hand struck against
something that felt like a saddle. He grasped
it, thankfully, and started to mount his

The beast he took hold of seemed very
small, and, as he mounted, he felt that
its sides were moist and slimy. It gave
him a shudder, and he hesitated; but at
that moment he heard a distant clock strike.
It was striking eleven! There was still
time to reach the castle of fortune, but no
more than enough; so he mounted his new
steed and rode on once more. The animal
was easier to sit on than the donkey, and
the saddle seemed remarkably high behind;
it was good to lean against. But
even the donkey was not so slow as this;
the new steed was slower than he. After
a while, however, he pushed his way out of
the woods into the open, and there stood
the castle, only a little way ahead! All its
windows were ablaze with lights. A ray
from them fell on the lazy man's beast,
and he saw what he was riding: it was a
gigantic snail! a snail as large as a calf!

A cold shudder ran over the lazy man's
body, and he would have got off his horrid
animal then and there, but just then the
clock struck once more. It was the first
of the long, slow strokes that mark mid-
night! The man grew frantic when he
heard it. He drove his heels into the snail's
sides, to make him hurry. Instantly, the
snail drew in his head, curled up in his
shell, and left the lazy man sitting in a heap
on the ground!

The clock struck twice. If the man had
run for it, he could still have reached the
castle, but, instead, he sat still and shouted
for a horse.

"A beast, a beast!" he wailed, "any kind
of a beast that will take me to the castle!"

The clock struck three times. And as it
struck the third note, something came
rustling and rattling out of the darkness,
something that sounded like a horse with
harness. The lazy man jumped on its back,
a very queer, low back. As he mounted, he
saw the doors of the castle open, and saw
his friend standing on the threshold,
waving his cap and beckoning to him.

The clock struck four times, and the
new steed began to stir; as it struck five,
he moved a pace forward; as it struck
six, he stopped; as it struck seven, he
turned himself about; as it struck eight,
he began to move backward, away from
the castle!

The lazy man shouted, and beat him,
but the beast went slowly backward. And
the clock struck nine. The man tried to
slide off, then, but from all sides of his
strange animal great arms came reaching
up and held him fast. And in the next ray
of moonlight that broke the dark clouds, he
saw that he was mounted on a monster crab!

One by one, the lights went out, in the
castle windows. The clock struck ten.
Backward went the crab. Eleven! Still
the crab went backward. The clock struck
twelve! Then the great doors shut with a
clang, and the castle of fortune was closed
forever to the lazy man.

What became of him and his crab no
one knows to this day, and no one cares.
But the industrious man was received by
the Fairy of Fortune, and made happy in
the castle as long as he wanted to stay.
And ever afterward she was his friend,
helping him not only to happiness for
himself, but also showing him how to help
others, wherever he went.


[1] From the text of the King James version of the Old
Testament, with introduction and slight interpolations, changes
of order, and omissions.

A long time ago, there was a boy named
David, who lived in a country far east of
this. He was good to look upon, for he
had fair hair and a ruddy skin; and he
was very strong and brave and modest.
He was shepherd-boy for his father, and
all day--often all night--he was out in
the fields, far from home, watching over
the sheep. He had to guard them from
wild animals, and lead them to the right
pastures, and care for them.

By and by, war broke out between the
people of David's country and a people
that lived near at hand; these men were
called Philistines, and the people of David's
country were named Israel. All the strong
men of Israel went up to the battle, to
fight for their king. David's three older
brothers went, but he was only a boy, so
he was left behind to care for the sheep.

After the brothers had been gone some
time, David's father longed very much to
hear from them, and to know if they were
safe; so he sent for David, from the fields,
and said to him, "Take now for thy brothers
an ephah of this parched corn, and
these ten loaves, and run to the camp,
where thy brothers are; and carry these
ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand,
and see how thy brothers fare, and bring
me word again." (An ephah is about three

David rose early in the morning, and
left the sheep with a keeper, and took the
corn and the loaves and the cheeses, as his
father had commanded him, and went to
the camp of Israel.

The camp was on a mountain; Israel
stood on a mountain on the one side, and
the Philistines stood on a mountain on the
other side; and there was a valley between
them. David came to the place where the
Israelites were, just as the host was going
forth to the fight, shouting for the battle.
So he left his gifts in the hands of the keeper
of the baggage, and ran into the army,
amongst the soldiers, to find his brothers.
When he found them, he saluted them and
began to talk with them.

But while he was asking them the
questions his father had commanded, there
arose a great shouting and tumult among
the Israelites, and men came running back
from the front line of battle; everything
became confusion. David looked to see
what the trouble was, and he saw a strange
sight: on the hillside of the Philistines, a
warrior was striding forward, calling out
something in a taunting voice; he was a
gigantic man, the largest David had ever
seen, and he was all dressed in armor,
that shone in the sun: he had a helmet of
brass upon his head, and he was armed
with a coat of mail, and he had greaves of
brass upon his legs, and a target of brass
between his shoulders; his spear was so
tremendous that the staff of it was like a
weaver's beam, and his shield so great that
a man went before him, to carry it.

"Who is that?" asked David.

"It is Goliath, of Gath, champion of
the Philistines," said the soldiers about.
"Every day, for forty days, he has come
forth, so, and challenged us to send a man
against him, in single combat; and since
no one dares to go out against him alone,
the armies cannot fight." (That was one
of the laws of warfare in those times.)

"What!" said David, "does none dare
go out against him?"

As he spoke, the giant stood still, on
the hillside opposite the Israelitish host,
and shouted his challenge, scornfully. He
said, "Why are ye come out to set your
battle in array? Am I not a Philistine,
and ye servants of Saul? Choose you a
man for you, and let him come down
to me. If he be able to fight with me,
and to kill me, then will we be your
servants; but if I prevail against him, and
kill him, then shall ye be our servants,
and serve us. I defy the armies of Israel
this day; give me a man, that we may
fight together!"

When King Saul heard these words, he
was dismayed, and all the men of Israel,
when they saw the man, fled from him
and were sore afraid. David heard them
talking among themselves, whispering and
murmuring. They were saying, "Have ye
seen this man that is come up? Surely
if any one killeth him that man will the
king make rich; perhaps he will give him
his daughter in marriage, and make his
family free in Israel!"

David heard this, and he asked the men
if it were so. It was surely so, they said.

"But," said David, "who is this Philistine,
that he should defy the armies of
the living God?" And he was stirred with

Very soon, some of the officers told the
king about the youth who was asking so
many questions, and who said that a mere
Philistine should not be let defy the armies
of the living God. Immediately Saul sent
for him. When David came before Saul,
he said to the king, "Let no man's heart
fail because of him; thy servant will go and
fight with this Philistine."

But Saul looked at David, and said,
"Thou art not able to go against this
Philistine, to fight with him, for thou art but a
youth, and he has been a man of war from
his youth."

Then David said to Saul, "Once I was
keeping my father's sheep, and there came
a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of
the flock; and I went out after the lion,
and struck him, and delivered the lamb
out of his mouth, and when he arose against
me, I caught him by the beard, and struck
him, and slew him! Thy servant slew both
the lion and the bear; and this Philistine
shall be as one of them, for he hath defied
the armies of the living God. The Lord,
who delivered me out of the paw of the
lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will
deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine."

"Go," said Saul, "and the Lord be with

And he armed David with his own armor,
--he put a helmet of brass upon his head,
and armed him with a coat of mail. But
when David girded his sword upon his
armor, and tried to walk, he said to Saul,
"I cannot go with these, for I am not
used to them." And he put them off.

Then he took his staff in his hand and
went and chose five smooth stones out of
the brook, and put them in a shepherd's
bag which he had; and his sling was in his
hand; and he went out and drew near to
the Philistine.

And the Philistine came on and drew
near to David; and the man that bore his
shield went before him. And when the
Philistine looked about and saw David, he
disdained him, for David was but a boy,
and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And
he said to David, "Am I a dog, that thou
comest to me with a cudgel?" And with
curses he cried out again, "Come to me,
and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of
the air, and to the beasts of the field."

But David looked at him, and answered,
"Thou comest to me with a sword, and
with a spear, and with a shield; but I come
to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel, whom
thou hast defied. This day will the Lord
deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite
thee, and take thy head from thee, and I
will give the carcasses of the host of the
Philistines this day unto the fowls of the
air, and to the wild beasts of the earth,
that all the earth may know that there is a
God in Israel! And all this assembly shall
know that the Lord saveth not with sword
and spear; for the battle is the Lord's,
and he will give you into our hands."

And then, when the Philistine arose,
and came, and drew nigh to meet David,
David hasted, and ran toward the army
to meet the Philistine. And when he was
a little way from him, he put his hand in
his bag, and took thence a stone, and put
it in his sling, and slung it, and smote the
Philistine in the forehead, so that the stone
sank into his forehead; and he fell on his
face to the earth.

And David ran, and stood upon the
Philistine, and took his sword, and drew
it out of its sheath, and slew him with it.

Then, when the Philistines saw that their
champion was dead, they fled. But the
army of Israel pursued them, and victory
was with the men of Israel.

And after the battle, David was taken
to the king's tent, and made a captain over
many men; and he went no more to his
father's house, to herd the sheep, but became
a man, in the king's service.


David had many fierce battles to fight
for King Saul against the enemies of Israel,
and he won them all. Then, later, he had
to fight against the king's own soldiers, to
save himself, for King Saul grew wickedly
jealous of David's fame as a soldier, and
tried to kill him. Twice, when David had
a chance to kill the king, he let him go
safe; but even then, Saul kept on trying to
take his life, and David was kept away
from his home and land as if he were an

But when King Saul died, the people
chose David for their king, because there
was no one so brave, so wise, or so faithful
to God. King David lived a long time,
and made his people famous for victory
and happiness; he had many troubles
and many wars, but he always trusted
that God would help him, and he never
deserted his own people in any hard

After a battle, or when it was a holiday,
or when he was very thankful for
something, King David used to make songs,
and sing them before the people. Some
of these songs were so beautiful that they
have never been forgotten. After all these
hundreds and hundreds of years, we sing
them still; we call them Psalms.

Often, after David had made a song, his
chief musician would sing with him, as the
people gathered to worship God. Sometimes
the singers were divided into two
great choruses, and went to the service in
two processions; then one chorus would
sing a verse of David's song, and the
other procession would answer with the
next, and then both would sing together;
it was very beautiful to hear. Even now,
we sometimes do that with the songs of
David in our churches.

One of the Psalms that everybody loves
is a song that David made when he remembered
the days before he came to Saul's
camp. He remembered the days and nights
he used to spend in the fields with the
sheep, when he was just a shepherd boy;
and he thought to himself that God had
taken care of him just as carefully as he
used to care for the little lambs. It is a
beautiful song; I wish we knew the music
that David made for it, but we only
know his words. I will tell it to you now,
and then you may learn it, to say for

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not

He maketh me to lie down in green
pastures; he leadeth me beside the still

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me
in the paths of righteousness for his
name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of mine enemies: thou anointest
my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
me all the days of my life; and I will
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


[1] Adapted, with quotations, from the poem in The Hidden
Servants, by Francesca Alexander (Little, Brown & Co.).

This is a legend about a hermit who lived
long ago. He lived high up on the mountain-
side in a tiny cave; his food was roots
and acorns, a bit of bread given by a
peasant, or a cheese brought by a woman
who wanted his prayers; his work was
praying, and thinking about God. For
forty years he lived so, preaching to the
people, praying for them, comforting them
in trouble, and, most of all, worshiping
in his heart. There was just one thing he
cared about: it was to make his soul so
pure and perfect that it could be one of the
stones in God's great Temple of Heaven.

One day, after the forty years, he had a
great longing to know how far along he
had got with his work,--how it looked to
the Heavenly Father. And he prayed that
he might be shown a man--

"Whose soul in the heavenly grace had grown
To the selfsame measure as his own;
Whose treasure on the celestial shore
Could neither be less than his nor more."

As he looked up from his prayer, a
white-robed angel stood in the path before
him. The hermit bowed before the
messenger with great gladness, for he knew
that his wish was answered. "Go to the
nearest town," the angel said, "and there,
in the public square, you will find a
mountebank (a clown) making the people laugh
for money. He is the man you seek, his
soul has grown to the selfsame stature as
your own; his treasure on the celestial
shore is neither less than yours nor more."

When the angel had faded from sight,
the hermit bowed his head again, but this
time with great sorrow and fear. Had his
forty years of prayer been a terrible
mistake, and was his soul indeed like a clown,
fooling in the market-place? He knew not
what to think. Almost he hoped he should
not find the man, and could believe that he
had dreamed the angel vision. But when
he came, after a long, toilful walk, to the
village, and the square, alas! there was the
clown, doing his silly tricks for the crowd.

The hermit stood and looked at him
with terror and sadness, for he felt that he
was looking at his own soul. The face he
saw was thin and tired, and though it kept
a smile or a grin for the people, it seemed
very sad to the hermit. Soon the man felt
the hermit's eyes; he could not go on with
his tricks. And when he had stopped and
the crowd had left, the hermit went and
drew the man aside to a place where they
could rest; for he wanted more than
anything else on earth to know what the man's
soul was like, because what it was, his was.

So, after a little, he asked the clown, very
gently, what his life was, what it had been.
And the clown answered, very sadly, that
it was just as it looked,--a life of foolish
tricks, for that was the only way of earning
his bread that he knew.

"But have you never been anything
different?" asked the hermit, painfully.

The clown's head sank in his hands.
"Yes, holy father," he said, "I have been
something else. I was a thief! I once
belonged to the wickedest band of mountain
robbers that ever tormented the land, and
I was as wicked as the worst."

Alas! The hermit felt that his heart was
breaking. Was this how he looked to the
Heavenly Father,--like a thief, a cruel
mountain robber? He could hardly speak,
and the tears streamed from his old eyes,
but he gathered strength to ask one more
question. "I beg you," he said, "if you
have ever done a single good deed in
your life, remember it now, and tell it
to me;" for he thought that even one
good deed would save him from utter

"Yes, one," the clown said, "but it was
so small, it is not worth telling; my life
has been worthless."

"Tell me that one!" pleaded the hermit.

"Once," said the man, "our band broke
into a convent garden and stole away one
of the nuns, to sell as a slave or to keep for
a ransom. We dragged her with us over
the rough, long way to our mountain camp,
and set a guard over her for the night. The
poor thing prayed to us so piteously to
let her go! And as she begged, she looked
from one hard face to another with trusting,
imploring eyes, as if she could not
believe men could be really bad. Father,
when her eyes met mine something pierced
my heart! Pity and shame leaped up, for
the first time, within me. But I made my
face as hard and cruel as the rest, and she
turned away, hopeless.

"When all was dark and still, I stole like
a cat to where she lay bound. I put my
hand on her wrist and whispered, `Trust
me, and I will take you safely home.'
I cut her bonds with my knife, and she
looked at me to show that she trusted.
Father, by terrible ways that I knew,
hidden from the others, I took her safe
to the convent gate. She knocked; they
opened; and she slipped inside. And, as
she left me, she turned and said, `God will

"That was all. I could not go back to
the old bad life, and I had never learned
an honest way to earn my bread. So I
became a clown, and must be a clown until
I die."

"No! no! my son," cried the hermit,
and now his tears were tears of joy. "God
has remembered; your soul is in his sight
even as mine, who have prayed and
preached for forty years. Your treasure
waits for you on the heavenly shore just
as mine does."

"As YOURS? Father, you mock me!"
said the clown.

But when the hermit told him the story
of his prayer and the angel's answer, the
poor clown was transfigured with joy,
for he knew that his sins were forgiven.
And when the hermit went home to his
mountain, the clown went with him. He,
too, became a hermit, and spent his time
in praise and prayer.

Together they lived, and worked, and
helped the poor. And when, after two
years, the man who had been a clown
died, the hermit felt that he had lost a
brother holier than himself.

For ten years more the hermit lived in
his mountain hut, thinking always of God,
fasting and praying, and doing no least
thing that was wrong. Then, one day, the
wish once more came, to know how his
work was growing, and once more he
prayed that he might see a being--

"Whose soul in the heavenly grace had grown
To the selfsame measure as his own;
Whose treasure on the celestial shore
Could neither be less than his nor more."

Once more his prayer was answered.
The angel came to him, and told him to
go to a certain village on the other side
of the mountain, and to a small farm
in it, where two women lived. In them
he should find two souls like his own, in
God's sight.

When the hermit came to the door of the
little farm, the two women who lived there
were overjoyed to see him, for every one
loved and honored his name. They put
a chair for him on the cool porch, and
brought food and drink. But the hermit
was too eager to wait. He longed greatly
to know what the souls of the two women
were like, and from their looks he could
see only that they were gentle and honest.
One was old, and the other of middle age.

Presently he asked them about their
lives. They told him the little there was to
tell: they had worked hard always, in the
fields with their husbands, or in the house;
they had many children; they had seen
hard times,--sickness, sorrow; but they
had never despaired.

"But what of your good deeds," the
hermit asked,--"what have you done for

"Very little," they said, sadly, for they
were too poor to give much. To be sure,
twice every year, when they killed a sheep
for food, they gave half to their poorer

"That is very good, very faithful," the
hermit said. "And is there any other good
deed you have done?"

"Nothing," said the older woman,
"unless, unless--it might be called a good
deed--" She looked at the younger
woman, who smiled back at her.

"What?" said the hermit.

Still the woman hesitated; but at last
she said, timidly, "It is not much to tell,
father, only this, that it is twenty years
since my sister-in-law and I came to live
together in the house; we have brought
up our families here; and in all the
twenty years there has never been a cross
word between us, or a look that was
less than kind."

The hermit bent his head before the
two women, and gave thanks in his heart.
"If my soul is as these," he said, "I am
blessed indeed."

And suddenly a great light came into
the hermit's mind, and he saw how many
ways there are of serving God. Some
serve him in churches and in hermit's cells,
by praise and prayer; some poor souls who
have been very wicked turn from their
wickedness with sorrow, and serve him
with repentance; some live faithfully and
gently in humble homes, working, bringing
up children, keeping kind and cheerful;
some bear pain patiently, for his sake.
Endless, endless ways there are, that only
the Heavenly Father sees.

And so, as the hermit climbed the mountain
again, he thought,--

"As he saw the star-like glow
Of light, in the cottage windows far,
How many God's hidden servants are!"

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