Part 4 out of 5
That was cheap enough, so the woman paid him his price and off
she went with the loaf of bread under her arm, and never stopped
until she had come to her home.
Now it happened that the day before this very woman had borrowed
just such a loaf of bread from the rich man's wife; and so, as
there was plenty in the house without it, she wrapped this loaf
up in a napkin, and sent her husband back with it to where it had
started from first of all.
"Well," said the rich man to his wife, "the way of Heaven is not
to be changed." And so he laid the money on the shelf until he
who had given it to him should come again, and thought no more of
giving it to the beggar.
At the end of seven days the king called upon the rich man again,
and this time he came in his own guise as a real king. "Well,"
said he, "is the poor man the richer for his money?"
"No," said the rich man, "he is not"; and then he told the whole
story from beginning to end just as I have told it.
"Your father was right," said the king; "and what he said was
very true-- Much shall have more and little shall have less.'
Keep the bag of money for yourself, for there Heaven means it to
And maybe there is as much truth as poetry in this story.
And now it was the turn of the Blacksmith who had made Death sit
in his pear-tree until the cold wind whistled through the ribs of
man's enemy. He was a big, burly man, with a bullet head, and a
great thick neck, and a voice like a bull's.
"Do you mind," said he, "about how I clapped a man in the fire
and cooked him to a crisp that day that St. Peter came travelling
There was a little space of silence, and then the Soldier who had
cheated the Devil spoke up. "Why yes, friend," said he, "I know
your story very well."
"I am not so fortunate," said old Bidpai. "I do not know your
story. Tell me, friend, did you really bake a man to a crisp? And
how was it then?"
"Why," said the Blacksmith, "I was trying to do what a better man
than I did, and where he hit the mark I missed it by an ell.
Twas a pretty scrape I was in that day."
"But how did it happen?" said Bidpai.
"It happened," said the Blacksmith, "just as it is going to
happen in the story I am about to tell."
"And what is your story about?" said Fortunatus.
"It is," said the Blacksmith, "about--
Wisdom's Wages and Folly's Pay
Once upon a time there was a wise man of wise men, and a great
magician to boot, and his name was Doctor Simon Agricola.
Once upon a time there was a simpleton of simpletons, and a great
booby to boot, and his name was Babo.
Simon Agricola had read all the books written by man, and could
do more magic than any conjurer that ever lived. But,
nevertheless, he was none too well off in the world; his clothes
were patched, and his shoes gaped, and that is the way with many
another wise man of whom I have heard tell.
Babo gathered rushes for a chair-maker, and he also had too few
of the good things to make life easy. But it is nothing out of
the way for a simpleton to be in that case.
The two of them lived neighbor to neighbor, the one in the next
house to the other, and so far as the world could see there was
not a pin to choose between them--only that one was called a wise
man and the other a simpleton.
One day the weather was cold, and when Babo came home from
gathering rushes he found no fire in the house. So off he went to
his neighbor the wise man. "Will you give me a live coal to start
my fire?" said he.
"Yes, I will do that," said Simon Agricola; "But how will you
carry the coal home?"
"Oh!" said Babo, "I will just take it in my hand."
"In your hand?"
"In my hand."
"Can you carry a live coal in your hand?"
"Oh yes!" said Babo; "I can do that easily enough."
"Well, I should like to see you do it," said Simon Agricola.
"Then I will show you," said Babo. He spread a bed of cold, dead
ashes upon his palm. "Now," said he, "I will take the ember upon
Agricola rolled up his eyes like a duck in a thunder-storm.
"Well," said he, "I have lived more than seventy years, and have
read all the books in the world; I have practised magic and
necromancy, and know all about algebra and geometry, and yet,
wise as I am, I never thought of this little thing."
That is the way with your wise man.
"Pooh!" said Babo; "that is nothing. I know how to do many more
tricks than that."
"Do you?" said Simon Agricola; "then listen: to-morrow I am going
out into the world to make my fortune, for little or nothing is
to be had in this town. If you will go along with me I will make
your fortune also."
"Very well," said Babo, and the bargain was struck. So the next
morning bright and early off they started upon their journey,
cheek by jowl, the wise man and the simpleton, to make their
fortunes in the wide world, and the two of them made a pair. On
they jogged and on they jogged, and the way was none too smooth.
By-and-by they came to a great field covered all over with round
"Let us each take one of these," said Simon Agricola; "they will
be of use by-and-by"; and, as he spoke, he picked up a great
stone as big as his two fists, and dropped it into the pouch that
dangled at his side.
"Not I," said Babo; "I will carry no stone with me. It is as much
as my two legs can do to carry my body, let along lugging a great
stone into the bargain."
"Very well," said Agricola; " born a fool, live a fool, die a
fool.'" And on he tramped, with Babo at his heels.
At last they came to a great wide plain, where, far or near,
nothing was to be seen but bare sand, without so much as a pebble
or a single blade of grass, and there night caught up with them.
"Dear, dear, but I am hungry!" said Babo.
"So am I," said Simon Agricola. "Let's sit down here and eat."
So down they sat, and Simon Agricola opened his pouch and drew
forth the stone.
The stone? It was a stone no longer, but a fine loaf of white
bread as big as your two fists. You should have seen Babo goggle
and stare! "Give me a piece of your bread, master," said he.
"Not I," said Agricola. "You might have had a dozen of the same
kind, had you chosen to do as I bade you and to fetch them along
with you. Born a fool, live a fool, die a fool,'" said he; and
that was all that Babo got for his supper. As for the wise man,
he finished his loaf of bread to the last crumb, and then went to
sleep with a full stomach and a contented mind.
The next morning off they started again bright and early, and
before long they came to just such another field of stones as
they left behind them the day before.
"Come, master," said Babo, "let us each take a stone with us. We
may need something more to eat before the day is over."
"No," said Simon Agricola; "we will need no stones to-day."
But Babo had no notion to go hungry the second time, so he hunted
around till he found a stone as big as his head. All day he
carried it, first under one arm, and then under the other. The
wise man stepped along briskly enough, but the sweat ran down
Babo's face like drops on the window in an April shower. At last
they came to a great wide plain, where neither stock nor stone
was to be seen, but only a gallows-tree, upon which one poor
wight hung dancing upon nothing at all, and there night caught
"Aha!" said Babo to himself. "This time I shall have bread and my
But listen to what happened. Up stepped the wise man to the
gallows, and gave it a sharp rap with his staff. Then, lo and
behold! The gallows was gone, and in its place stood a fine inn,
with lights in the windows, and a landlord bowing and smiling in
the doorway, and a fire roaring in the kitchen, and the smell of
good things cooking filling the air all around, so that only to
sniff did one's heart good.
Poor Babo let fall the stone he had carried all day. A stone it
was, and a stone he let fall.
" Born a fool, live a fool, die a fool,'" said Agricola. "But
come in, Babo, come in; here is room enough for two." So that
night Babo had a good supper and a sound sleep, and that is a
cure for most of a body's troubles in this world.
The third day of their travelling they came to farms and
villages, and there Simon Agricola began to think of showing some
of those tricks of magic that were to make his fortune and Babo's
into the bargain.
At last they came to a blacksmith's shop, and there was the smith
hard at work, dinging and donging, and making sweet music with
hammer and anvil. In walked Simon Agricola and gave him good-day.
He put his fingers into his purse, and brought out all the money
he had in the world; it was one golden angel. "Look, friend,"
said he to the blacksmith; "if you will let me have your forge
for one hour, I will give you this money for the use of it."
The blacksmith liked the tune of that song very well. "You may
have it," said he; and he took off his leathern apron without
another word, and Simon Agricola put it on in his stead.
Presently, who should come riding up to the blacksmith's shop but
a rich old nobleman and three servants. The servants were hale,
stout fellows, but the nobleman was as withered as a winter leaf.
"Can you shoe my horse?" said he to Simon Agricola, for he took
him to be the smith because of his leathern apron.
"No," says Simon Agricola; "that is not my trade: I only know how
to make old people young."
"Old people young!" said the old nobleman; "can you make me young
"Yes," said Simon Agricola, "I can, but I must have a thousand
golden angels for doing it."
"Very well," said the old nobleman; "make me young, and you shall
have them and welcome."
So Simon Agricola gave the word, and Babo blew the bellows until
the fire blazed and roared. Then the doctor caught the old
nobleman, and laid him upon the forge. He heaped the coals over
him, and turned him this way and that, until he grew red-hot,
like a piece of iron. Then he drew him forth from the fire and
dipped him in the water-tank. Phizz! The water hissed, and the
steam rose up in a cloud; and when Simon Agricola took the old
nobleman out, lo and behold! He was as fresh and blooming and
lusty as a lad of twenty.
But you should have seen how all the people stared and goggled!--Babo and the blacksmith and the
nobleman's servants. The
nobleman strutted up and down for a while, admiring himself, and
then he got upon his horse again. "But wait," said Simon
Agricola; "you forgot to pay me my thousand golden angels."
"Pooh!" said the nobleman, and off he clattered, with his
servants at his heels; and that was all the good that Simon
Agricola had of this trick. But ill-luck was not done with him
yet, for when the smith saw how matters had turned out, he laid
hold of the doctor and would not let him go until he had paid him
the golden angel he had promised for the use of the forge. The
doctor pulled a sour face, but all the same he had to pay the
angel. Then the smith let him go, and off he marched in a huff.
Outside of the forge was the smith's mother--a poor old creature,
withered and twisted and bent as a winter twig. Babo had kept his
eyes open, and had not travelled with Simon Agricola for nothing.
He plucked the smith by the sleeve: "Look'ee, friend," said he,
"how would you like me to make your mother, over yonder, young
"I should like nothing better," said the smith.
"Very well," said Babo; "give me the golden angel that the master
gave you, and I'll do the job for you."
Well, the smith paid the money, and Babo bade him blow the
bellows. When the fire roared up good and hot, he caught up the
old mother, and, in spite of her scratching and squalling, he
laid her upon the embers. By-and-by, when he thought the right
time had come, he took her out and dipped her in the tank of
water; but instead of turning young, there she lay, as dumb as a
fish and as black as coal.
When the blacksmith saw what Babo had done to his mother, he
caught him by the collar, and fell to giving him such a dressing
down as never man had before.
"Help!" bawled Babo. "Help! Murder!"
Such a hubbub had not been heard in that town for many a day.
Back came Simon Agricola running, and there he saw, and took it
all in in one look.
"Stop, friend," said he to the smith, "let the simpleton go; this
is not past mending yet."
"Very well," said the smith; "but he must give me back my golden
angel, and you must cure my mother, or else I'll have you both up
before the judge."
"It shall be done," said Simon Agricola; so Babo paid back the
money, and the doctor dipped the woman in the water. When he
brought her out she was as well and strong as ever--but just as
old as she had been before.
"Now be off for a pair of scamps, both of you," said the
blacksmith; "and if you ever come this way again, I'll set all
the dogs in the town upon you."
Simon Agricola said nothing until they had come out upon the
highway again, and left the town well behind them; then--" Born a
fool, live a fool, die a fool!'" says he.
Babo said nothing, but he rubbed the places where the smith had
dusted his coat.
The fourth day of their journey they came to a town, and here
Simon Agricola was for trying his tricks of magic again. He and
Babo took up their stand in the corner of the market-place, and
began bawling, "Doctor Knowall! Doctor Knowall! Who has come from
the other end of Nowhere! He can cure any sickness or pain! He
can bring you back from the gates of death! Here is Doctor
Knowall! Here is Doctor Knowall!"
Now there was a very, very rich man in that town, whose daughter
lay sick to death; and when the news of this great doctor was
brought to his ears, he was for having him try his hand at curing
"Very well," said Simon Agricola, "I will do that, but you must
pay me two thousand golden angels."
"Two thousand golden angels!" said the rich man; "that is a great
deal of money, but you shall have it if only you will cure my
Simon Agricola drew a little vial from his bosom. From it he
poured just six drops of yellow liquor upon the girl's tongue.
Then--lo and behold!--up she sat in bed as well and strong as
ever, and asked for a boiled chicken and a dumpling, by way of
something to eat.
"Bless you! Bless you!" said the rich man.
"Yes, yes; blessings are very good, but I would like to have my
two thousand golden angels," said Simon Agricola.
"Two thousand golden angels! I said nothing about two thousand
golden angels," said the rich man; "two thousand fiddlesticks!"
said he. "Pooh! Pooh! You must have been dreaming! See, here are
two hundred silver pennies, and that is enough and more than
enough for six drops of medicine."
"I want my two thousand golden angels," said Simon Agricola.
"You will get nothing but two hundred pennies," said the rich
"I won't touch one of them," said Simon Agricola, and off he
marched in a huff.
But Babo had kept his eyes open. Simon Agricola had laid down the
vial upon the table, and while they were saying this and that
back and forth, thinking of nothing else, Babo quietly slipped it
into his own pocket, without any one but himself being the wiser.
Down the stairs stumped the doctor with Babo at his heels. There
stood the cook waiting for them.
"Look," said he, "my wife is sick in there; won't you cure her,
"Pooh!" said Simon Agricola; and out he went, banging the door
"Look, friend," said Babo to the cook, "here I have some of the
same medicine. Give me the two hundred pennies that the master
would not take, and I'll cure her for you as sound as a bottle."
"Very well," said the cook, and he counted out the two hundred
pennies, and Babo slipped them into his pocket. He bade the woman
open her mouth, and when she had done so he poured all the stuff
down her throat at once.
"Ugh!" said she, and therewith rolled up her eyes, and lay as
stiff and dumb as a herring in a box.
When the cook saw what Babo had done, he snatched up the rolling-pin and made at him to pound his
head to a jelly. But Babo did
not wait for his coming; he jumped out of the window, and away he
scampered with the cook at his heels.
Well, the upshot of the business was that Simon Agricola had to
go back and bring life to the woman again, or the cook would
thump him and Babo both with the rolling-pin. And, what was more,
Babo had to pay back the two hundred pennies that the cook had
given him for curing his wife.
The wise man made a cross upon the woman's forehead, and up she
sat, as well--but no better--as before.
"And now be off," said the cook, "or I will call the servants and
give you both a drubbing for a pair of scamps."
Simon Agricola said never a word until they had gotten out of the
town. There his anger boiled over, like water into the fire.
"Look," said he to Babo: " Born a fool, live a fool, die a fool.'
I want no more of you. Here are two roads; you take one, and I
will take the other."
"What!" said Babo, "am I to travel the rest of the way alone? And
then, besides, how about the fortune you promised me?"
"Never mind that," said Simon Agricola; "I have not made my own
"Well, at least pay me something for my wages," said Babo.
"How shall I pay you?" said Simon Agricola. "I have not a single
groat in the world."
"What!" said Babo, "have you nothing to give me?"
"I can give you a piece of advice."
"Well," said Babo, "that is better than nothing, so let me have
"Here it is," said Simon Agricola: " Think well! Think well!--before you do what you are about to
do, think well!'"
"Thank you!" said Babo; and then the one went one way, and the
other the other.
(You may go with the wise man if you choose, but I shall jog
along with the simpleton.)
After Babo had travelled for a while, he knew not whither, night
caught him, and he lay down under a hedge to sleep. There he lay,
and snored away like a saw-mill, for he was wearied with his long
Now it chanced that that same night two thieves had broken into a
miser's house, and had stolen an iron pot full of gold money. Day
broke before they reached home, so down they sat to consider the
matter; and the place where they seated themselves was on the
other side of the hedge where Babo lay. The older thief was for
carrying the money home under his coat; the younger was for
burying it until night had come again. They squabbled and
bickered and argued till the noise they made wakened Babo, and he
sat up. The first thing he thought of was the advice that the
doctor had given him the evening before.
" Think well!'" he bawled out; " think well! before you do what
you are about to do, think well!'"
When the two thieves heard Babo's piece of advice, they thought
that the judge's officers were after them for sure and certain.
Down they dropped the pot of money, and away they scampered as
fast as their legs could carry them.
Babo heard them running, and poked his head through the hedge,
and there lay the pot of gold. "Look now," said he: "this has
come from the advice that was given me; no one ever gave me
advice that was worth so much before." So he picked up the pot of
gold, and off he marched with it.
He had not gone far before he met two of the king's officers, and
you may guess how they opened their eyes when they saw him
travelling along the highway with a pot full of gold money.
"Where are you going with that money?" said they.
"I don't know," said Babo.
"How did you get it?" said they.
"I got it for a piece of advice," said Babo.
For a piece of advice! No, no--the king's officers knew butter
from lard, and truth from t'other thing. It was just the same in
that country as it is in our town--there was nothing in the world
so cheap as advice. Whoever heard of anybody giving a pot of gold
and silver money for it? Without another word they marched Babo
and his pot of money off to the king.
"Come," said the king, "tell me truly; where did you get the pot
Poor Babo began to whimper. "I got it for a piece of advice,"
"Really and truly?" said the king.
"Yes," said Babo; "really and truly."
"Humph!" said the king. "I should like to have advice that is
worth as much as that. Now, how much will you sell your advice to
"How much will you give?" said Babo.
"Well," said the king, "let me have it for a day on trial, and at
the end of that time I will pay you what it is worth."
"Very well," said Babo, "that is a bargain"; and so he lent the
king his piece of advice for one day on trial.
Now the chief councillor and some others had laid a plot against
the king's life, and that morning it had been settled that when
the barber shaved him he was to cut his throat with a razor. So
after the barber had lathered his face he began to whet the
razor, and to whet the razor.
Just at that moment the king remembered Babo's piece of advice.
" Think well!' said he; " think well! Before you do what you are
about to do, think well!'"
When the barber heard the words that the king said, he thought
that all had been discovered. Down he fell upon his knees, and
That is how Babo's advice saved the king's life--you can guess
whether the king thought it was worth much or little. When Babo
came the next morning the king gave him ten chests full of money,
and that made the simpleton richer than anybody in all that land.
He built himself a fine house, and by-and-by married the daughter
of the new councillor that came after the other one's head had
been chopped off for conspiring against the king's life. Besides
that, he came and went about the king's castle as he pleased, and
the king made much of him. Everybody bowed to him, and all were
glad to stop and chat awhile with him when they met him in the
One morning Babo looked out of the window, and who should he see
come travelling along the road but Simon Agricola himself, and he
was just as poor and dusty and travel-stained as ever.
"Come in, come in!" said Babo; and you can guess how the wise man
stared when he saw the simpleton living in such a fine way. But
he opened his eyes wider than ever when he heard that all these
good things came from the piece of advice he had given Babo that
day they had parted at the cross roads.
"Aye, aye!" said he, "the luck is with you for sure and certain.
But if you will pay me a thousand golden angels, I will give you
something better than a piece of advice. I will teach you all the
magic that is to be learned from the books."
"No," said Babo, "I am satisfied with the advice."
"Very well," said Simon Agricola, " Born a fool, live a fool, die
a fool'"; and off he went in a huff.
That is all of this tale except the tip end of it, and that I
will give you now.
I have heard tell that one day the king dropped in the street the
piece of advice that he had bought from Babo, and that before he
found it again it had been trampled into the mud and dirt. I
cannot say for certain that this is the truth, but it must have
been spoiled in some way or other, for I have never heard of
anybody in these days who would give even so much as a bad penny
for it; and yet it is worth just as much now as it was when Babo
sold it to the king.
I had sat listening to these jolly folk for all this time, and I
had not heard old Sindbad say a word, and yet I knew very well he
was full of a story, for every now and then I could see his lips
move, and he would smile, and anon he would stroke his long white
beard and smile again.
Everybody clapped their hands and rattled their canicans after
the Blacksmith had ended his story, and methought they liked it
better than almost anything that had been told. Then there was a
pause, and everybody was still, and as nobody else spoke I myself
ventured to break the silence. "I would like," said I (and my
voice sounded thin in my own ears, as one's voice always does
sound in Twilight Land), "I would like to hear our friend Sindbad
the Sailor tell a story. Methinks one is fermenting in his mind."
Old Sindbad smiled until his cheeks crinkled into wrinkles.
"Aye," said every one, "will you not tell a story?"
"To be sure I will," said Sindbad. "I will tell you a good
story," said he, "and it is about--
The Enchanted Island.
But it is not always the lucky one that carries away the plums;
sometimes he only shakes the tree, and the wise man pockets the
Once upon a long, long time ago, and in a country far, far away,
there lived two men in the same town and both were named Selim;
one was Selim the Baker and one was Selim the Fisherman.
Selim the Baker was well off in the world, but Selim the
Fisherman was only so-so. Selim the Baker always had plenty to
eat and a warm corner in cold weather, but many and many a time
Selim the Fisherman's stomach went empty and his teeth went
Once it happened that for time after time Selim the Fisherman
caught nothing but bad luck in his nets, and not so much as a
single sprat, and he was very hungry. "Come," said he to himself,
"those who have some should surely give to those who have none,"
and so he went to Selim the Baker. "Let me have a loaf of bread,"
said he, "and I will pay you for it tomorrow."
"Very well," said Selim the Baker; "I will let you have a loaf of
bread, if you will give me all that you catch in your nets to-morrow."
"So be it," said Selim the Fisherman, for need drives one to hard
bargains sometimes; and therewith he got his loaf of bread.
So the next day Selim the Fisherman fished and fished and fished
and fished, and still he caught no more than the day before;
until just at sunset he cast his net for the last time for the
day, and, lo and behold! There was something heavy in it. So he
dragged it ashore, and what should it be but a leaden box, sealed
as tight as wax, and covered with all manner of strange letters
and figures. "Here," said he, "is something to pay for my bread
of yesterday, at any rate"; and as he was an honest man, off he
marched with it to Selim the Baker.
They opened the box in the baker's shop, and within they found
two rolls of yellow linen. In each of the rolls of linen was
another little leaden box: in one was a finger-ring of gold set
with a red stone, in the other was a finger-ring of iron set with
nothing at all.
That was all the box held; nevertheless, that was the greatest
catch that ever any fisherman made in the world; for, though
Selim the one or Selim the other knew no more of the matter than
the cat under the stove, the gold ring was the Ring of Luck and
the iron ring was the Ring of Wisdom.
Inside of the gold ring were carved these letters: "Whosoever
wears me, shall have that which all men seek--for so it is with
good-luck in this world."
Inside of the iron ring were written these words: "Whosoever
wears me, shall have that which few men care for--and that is the
way it is with wisdom in our town."
"Well," said Selim the Baker, and he slipped the gold ring of
good-luck on his finger, "I have driven a good bargain, and you
have paid for your loaf of bread."
"But what will you do with the other ring?" said Selim the
"Oh, you may have that," said Selim the Baker.
Well, that evening, as Selim the Baker sat in front of his shop
in the twilight smoking a pipe of tobacco, the ring he wore began
to work. Up came a little old man with a white beard, and he was
dressed all in gray from top to toe, and he wore a black velvet
cap, and he carried a long staff in his hand. He stopped in front
of Selim the Baker, and stood looking at him a long, long time.
At last--"Is your name Selim?" said he.
"Yes," said Selim the Baker, "it is."
"And do you wear a gold ring with a red stone on your finger?"
"Yes," said Selim, "I do."
"Then come with me," said the little old man, "and I will show
you the wonder of the world."
"Well," said Selim the Baker, "that will be worth the seeing, at
any rate." So he emptied out his pipe of tobacco, and put on his
hat and followed the way the old man led.
Up one street they went, and down another, and here and there
through alleys and byways where Selim had never been before. At
last they came to where a high wall ran along the narrow street,
with a garden behind it, and by-and-by to an iron gate. The old
man rapped upon the gate three times with his knuckles, and cried
in a loud voice, "Open to Selim, who wears the Ring of Luck!"
Then instantly the gate swung open, and Selim the Baker followed
the old man into the garden.
Bang! shut the gate behind him, and there he was.
There he was! And such a place he had never seen before. Such
fruit! Such flowers! Such fountains! Such summer-houses!
"This is nothing, " said the old man; "this is only the beginning
of wonder. Come with me."
He led the way down a long pathway between the trees, and Selim
followed. By-and-by, far away, they saw the light of torches; and
when they came to what they saw, lo and behold! there was the
sea-shore, and a boat with four-and-twenty oarsmen, each dressed
in cloth of gold and silver more splendidly than a prince. And
there were four-and-twenty black slaves, carrying each a torch of
spice-wood, so that all the air was filled with sweet smells. The
old man led the way, and Selim, following, entered the boat; and
there was a seat for him made soft with satin cushions
embroidered with gold and precious stones and stuffed with down,
and Selim wondered whether he was not dreaming.
The oarsmen pushed off from the shore and away they rowed.
On they rowed and on they rowed for all that livelong night.
At last morning broke, and then as the sun rose Selim saw such a
sight as never mortal eyes beheld before or since. It was the
wonder of wonders--a great city built on an island. The island
was all one mountain; and on it, one above another and another
above that again, stood palaces that glistened like snow, and
orchards of fruit, and gardens of flowers and green trees.
And as the boat came nearer and nearer to the city, Selim could
see that all around on the house-tops and down to the water's
edge were crowds and crowds of people. All were looking out
towards the sea, and when they saw the boat and Selim in it, a
great shout went up like the roaring of rushing waters.
"It is the King!" they cried--"it is the King!" It is Selim the
Then the boat landed, and there stood dozens of scores of great
princes and nobles to welcome Selim when he came ashore. And
there was a white horse waiting for him to ride, and its saddle
and bridle were studded with diamonds and rubies and emeralds
that sparkled and glistened like the stars in heaven, and Selim
thought for sure he must be dreaming with his eyes open.
But he was not dreaming, for it was all as true as that eggs are
eggs. So up the hill he rode, and to the grandest and the most
splendid of all the splendid palaces, the princes and noblemen
riding with him, and the crowd shouting as though to split their
And what a palace it was!--as white as snow and painted all
inside with gold and blue. All around it were gardens blooming
with fruit and flowers, and the like of it mortal man never saw
in the world before.
There they made a king of Selim, and put a golden crown on his
head; and that is what the Ring of Good Luck can do for a baker.
But wait a bit! There was something queer about it all, and that
is now to be told.
All that day was feasting and drinking and merry-making, and the
twinging and twanging of music, and dancing of beautiful dancing-girls, and such things as Selim had
never heard tell of in all
his life before. And when night came they lit thousands and
thousands of candles of perfumed wax; so that it was a hard
matter to say when night began and day ended, only that the one
smelled sweeter than the other.
But at last it came midnight, and then suddenly, in an instant,
all the lights went out and everything was as dark as pitch--not
a spark, not a glimmer anywhere. And, just as suddenly, all the
sound of music and dancing and merrymaking ceased, and everybody
began to wail and cry until it was enough to wring one's heart to
hear. Then, in the midst of all the wailing and crying, a door
was flung open, and in came six tall and terrible black men,
dressed all in black from top to toe, carrying each a flaming
torch; and by the light of the torches King Selim saw that all--the princes, the noblemen, the
dancing-girls--all lay on their
faces on the floor.
The six men took King Selim--who shuddered and shook with fear--by the arms, and marched him through
dark, gloomy entries and
passage-ways, until they came at last to the very heart of the
There was a great high-vaulted room all of black marble, and in
the middle of it was a pedestal with seven steps, all of black
marble; and on the pedestal stood a stone statue of a woman
looking as natural as life, only that her eyes were shut. The
statue was dressed like a queen: she wore a golden crown on her
head, and upon her body hung golden robes, set with diamonds and
emeralds and rubies and sapphires and pearls and all sorts of
As for the face of the statue, white paper and black ink could
not tell you how beautiful it was. When Selim looked at it, it
made his heart stand still in his breast, it was so beautiful.
The six men brought Selim up in front of the statue, and then a
voice came as though from the vaulted roof: "Selim! Selim!
Selim!" it said, "what are thou doing? To-day is feasting and
drinking and merry-making, but beware of tomorrow!"
As soon as these words were ended the six black men marched King
Selim back whence they had brought him; there they left him and
passed out one by one as they had first come in, and the door
shut to behind them.
Then in an instant the lights flashed out again, the music began
to play and the people began to talk and laugh, and King Selim
thought that maybe all that had just passed was only a bit of an
ugly dream after all.
So that is the way King Selim the Baker began to reign, and that
is the way he continued to reign. All day was feasting and
drinking and making merry and music and laughing and talking. But
every night at midnight the same thing happened: the lights went
out, all the people began wailing and crying, and the six tall,
terrible black men came with flashing torches and marched King
Selim away to the beautiful statue. And every night the same
voice said--"Selim! Selim! Selim! What art thou doing! To-day is
feasting and drinking and merry-making; but beware of tomorrow!"
So things went on for a twelvemonth, and at last came the end of
the year. That day and night the merry-making was merrier and
wilder and madder than it had ever been before, but the great
clock in the tower went on--tick, tock! tick, tock!--and by and
by it came midnight. Then, as it always happened before, the
lights went out, and all was as black as ink. But this time there
was no wailing and crying out, but everything was silent as
death; the door opened slowly, and in came, not six black men as
before, but nine men as silent as death, dressed all in flaming
red, and the torches they carried burned as red as blood. They
took King Selim by the arms, just as the six men had done, and
marched him through the same entries and passageways, and so came
at last to the same vaulted room. There stood the statue, but now
it was turned to flesh and blood, and the eyes were open and
looking straight at Selim the Baker.
"Art thou Selim?" said she; and she pointed her finger straight
"Yes, I am Selim," said he.
"And dost thou wear the gold ring with the red stone?" said she.
"Yes," said he; "I have it on my finger."
"And dost thou wear the iron ring?"
"No," said he; "I gave that to Selim the Fisherman."
The words had hardly left his lips when the statue gave a great
cry and clapped her hands together. In an instant an echoing cry
sounded all over the town--a shriek fit to split the ears.
The next moment there came another sound--a sound like thunder--above and below and everywhere. The
earth began to shake and to
rock, and the houses began to topple and fall, and the people
began to scream and to yell and to shout, and the waters of the
sea began to lash and to roar, and the wind began to bellow and
howl. Then it was a good thing for King Selim that he wore Luck's
Ring; for, though all the beautiful snow-white palace about him
and above him began to crumble to pieces like slaked lime, the
sticks and the stones and the beams to fall this side of him and
that, he crawled out from under it without a scratch or a bruise,
like a rat out of a cellar.
That is what Luck's Ring did for him.
But his troubles were not over yet; for, just as he came out from
under all the ruin, the island began to sink down into the water,
carrying everything along with it--that is, everything but him
and one thing else. That one other thing was an empty boat, and
King Selim climbed into it, and nothing else saved him from
drowning. It was Luck's Ring that did that for him also.
The boat floated on and on until it came to another island that
was just like the island he had left, only that there was neither
tree nor blade of grass nor hide nor hair nor living thing of any
kind. Nevertheless, it was an island just like the other: a high
mountain and nothing else. There Selim the Baker went ashore, and
there he would have starved to death only for Luck's Ring; for
one day a boat came sailing by, and when poor Selim shouted,
those aboard heard him and came and took him off. How they all
stared to see his golden crown--for he still wore it--and his
robes of silk and satin and the gold and jewels!
Before they would consent to carry him away, they made him give
up all the fine things he had. Then they took him home again to
the town whence he had first come, just as poor as when he had
started. Back he went to his bake-shop and his ovens, and the
first thing he did was to take off his gold ring and put it on
"If that is the ring of good luck," said he, "I do not want to
wear the like of it."
That is the way with mortal man: for one has to have the Ring of
Wisdom as well, to turn the Ring of Luck to good account.
And now for Selim the Fisherman.
Well, thus it happened to him. For a while he carried the iron
ring around in his pocket--just as so many of us do--without
thinking to put it on. But one day he slipped it on his finger--and that is what we do not all of us
do. After that he never took
it off again, and the world went smoothly with him. He was not
rich, but then he was not poor; he was not merry, neither was he
sad. He always had enough and was thankful for it, for I never
yet knew wisdom to go begging or crying.,
So he went his way and he fished his fish, and twelve months and
a week or more passed by. Then one day he went past the baker
shop and there sat Selim the Baker smoking his pipe of tobacco.
"So, friend," said Selim the Fisherman, "you are back again in
the old place, I see."
"Yes," said the other Selim; "awhile ago I was a king, and now I
am nothing but a baker again. As for that gold ring with the red
stone--they may say it is Luck's Ring if they choose, but when
next I wear it may I be hanged."
Thereupon he told Selim the Fisherman the story of what had
happened to him with all its ins and outs, just as I have told it
"Well!" said Selim the Fisherman, "I should like to have a sight
of that island myself. If you want the ring no longer, just let
me have it; for maybe if I wear it something of the kind will
happen to me."
"You may have it," said Selim the Baker. "Yonder it is, and you
are welcome to it."
So Selim the Fisherman put on the ring, and then went his way
about his own business.
That night, as he came home carrying his nets over his shoulder,
whom should he meet but the little old man in gray, with the
white beard and the black cap on his head and the long staff in
"Is your name Selim?" said the little man, just as he had done to
Selim the Baker.
"Yes," said Selim; "it is."
"And do you wear a gold ring with a red stone?" said the little
old man, just as he had said before.
"Yes," said Selim; "I do."
"Then come with me," said the little old man, "and I will show
you the wonder of the world."
Selim the Fisherman remembered all that Selim the Baker had told
him, and he took no two thoughts as to what to do. Down he
tumbled his nets, and away he went after the other as fast as his
legs could carry him. Here they went and there they went, up
crooked streets and lanes and down by-ways and alley-ways, until
at last they came to the same garden to which Selim the Baker had
been brought. Then the old man knocked at the gate three times
and cried out in a loud voice, "Open! Open! Open to Selim who
wears the Ring of Luck!"
Then the gate opened, and in they went. Fine as it all was, Selim
the Fisherman cared to look neither to the right nor to the left,
but straight after the old man he went, until at last they came
to the seaside and the boat and the four-and-twenty oarsmen
dressed like princes and the black slaves with the perfumed
Here the old man entered the boat and Selim after him, and away
To make a long story short, everything happened to Selim the
Fisherman just as it had happened to Selim the Baker. At dawn of
day they came to the island and the city built on the mountain.
And the palaces were just as white and beautiful, and the gardens
and orchards just as fresh and blooming as though they had not
all tumbled down and sunk under the water a week before, almost
carrying poor Selim the Baker with them. There were the people
dressed in silks and satins and jewels, just as Selim the Baker
had found them, and they shouted and hurrahed for Selim the
Fisherman just as they had shouted and hurrahed for the other.
There were the princes and the nobles and the white horse, and
Selim the Fisherman got on his back and rode up to a dazzling
snow-white palace, and they put a crown on his head and made a
king of him, just as they had made a king of Selim the Baker.
That night, at midnight, it happened just as it had happened
before. Suddenly, as the hour struck, the lights all went out,
and there was a moaning and a crying enough to make the heart
curdle. Then the door flew open, and in came the six terrible
black men with torches. They led Selim the Fisherman through damp
and dismal entries and passage-ways until they came to the
vaulted room of black marble, and there stood the beautiful
statue on its black pedestal. Then came the voice from above--"Selim! Selim! Selim!" it cried, "what
art thou doing? To-day is
feasting and drinking and merry-making, but beware of to-morrow!"
But Selim the Fisherman did not stand still and listen, as Selim
the Baker had done. He called out, "I hear the words! I am
listening! I will beware to-day for the sake of to-morrow!"
I do not know what I should have done had I been king of that
island and had I known that in a twelve-month it would all come
tumbling down about my ears and sink into the sea, maybe carry me
along with it. This is what Selim the Fisherman did [but then he
wore the iron Ring of Wisdom on his finger, and I never had that
First of all, he called the wisest men of the island to him, and
found from them just where the other desert island lay upon which
the boat with Selim the Baker in it had drifted.
Then, when he had learned where it was to be found, he sent
armies and armies of men and built on that island palaces and
houses, and planted there orchards and gardens, just like the
palaces and the orchards and the gardens about him--only a great
deal finer. Then he sent fleets and fleets of ships, and carried
everything away from the island where he lived to that other
island--all the men and the women and the children; all the
flocks and herds and every living thing; all the fowls and the
birds and everything that wore feathers; all the gold and the
silver and the jewels and the silks and the satins, and whatever
was of any good or of any use; and when all these things were
done, there were still two days left till the end of the year.
Upon the first of these two days he sent over the beautiful
statue and had it set up in the very midst of the splendid new
palace he had built.
Upon the second day he went over himself, leaving behind him
nothing but the dead mountain and the rocks and the empty houses.
So came the end of the twelve months.
So came midnight.
Out went all the lights in the new palace, and everything was as
silent as death and as black as ink. The door opened, and in came
the nine men in red, with torches burning as red as blood. They
took Selim the Fisherman by the arms and led him to the beautiful
statue, and there she was with her eyes open.
"Are you Selim?" said she.
"Yes, I am Selim," said he.
"And do you wear the iron Ring of Wisdom?" said she.
"Yes, I do," said he; and so he did.
There was no roaring and thundering, there was no shaking and
quaking, there was no toppling and tumbling, there was no
splashing and dashing: for this island was solid rock, and was
not all enchantment and hollow inside and underneath like the
other which he had left behind.
The beautiful statue smiled until the place lit up as though the
sun shone. Down she came from the pedestal where she stood and
kissed Selim the Fisherman on the lips.
Then instantly the lights blazed everywhere, and the people
shouted and cheered, and the music played. But neither Selim the
Fisherman nor the beautiful statue saw or heard anything.
"I have done all this for you!" said Selim the Fisherman.
"And I have been waiting for you a thousand years!" said the
beautiful statue--only she was not a statue any longer.
After that they were married, and Selim the Fisherman and the
enchanted statue became king and queen in real earnest.
I think Selim the Fisherman sent for Selim the Baker and made him
rich and happy--I hope he did--I am sure he did.
So, after all, it is not always the lucky one who gathers the
plums when wisdom is by to pick up what the other shakes down.
I could say more; for, O little children! little children! there
is more than meat in many an egg-shell; and many a fool tells a
story that joggles a wise man's wits, and many a man dances and
junkets in his fool's paradise till it comes tumbling down about
his ears some day; and there are few men who are like Selim the
Fisherman, who wear the Ring of Wisdom on their finger, and,
alack-a-day! I am not one of them, and that is the end of this
Old Bidpai nodded his head. "Aye, aye," said he, "there is a very
good moral in that story, my friend. It is, as a certain
philosopher said, very true, that there is more in an egg than
the meat. And truly, methinks, there is more in thy story than
the story of itself." He nodded his head again and stroked his
beard slowly, puffing out as he did so as a great reflective
cloud of smoke, through which his eyes shone and twinkled mistily
like stars through a cloud.
"And whose turn is it now?" said Doctor Faustus.
"Methinks tis mine," said Boots--he who in fairy-tale always sat
in the ashes at home and yet married a princess after he had gone
out into the world awhile. "My story," said he, "hath no moral,
but, all the same, it is as true as that eggs hatch chickens."
Then, without waiting for any one to say another word, he began
it in these words. "I am going to tell you," said he, how--
All Things are as Fate wills.
Once upon a time, in the old, old days, there lived a king who
had a head upon his shoulders wiser than other folk, and this was
why: though he was richer and wiser and greater than most kings,
and had all that he wanted and more into the bargain, he was so
afraid of becoming proud of his own prosperity that he had these
words written in letters of gold upon the walls of each and every
room in his palace:
All Things are as Fate wills.
Now, by-and-by and after a while the king died; for when his time
comes, even the rich and the wise man must die, as well as the
poor and the simple man. So the king's son came, in turn, to be
king of that land; and, though he was not so bad as the world of
men goes, he was not the man that his father was, as this story
will show you.
One day, as he sat with his chief councillor, his eyes fell upon
the words written in letters of gold upon the wall--the words
that his father had written there in time gone by:
All Things are as Fate wills;
and the young king did not like the taste of them, for he was
very proud of his own greatness. "That is not so," said he,
pointing to the words on the wall. "Let them be painted out, and
these words written in their place:
All Things are as Man does."
Now, the chief councillor was a grave old man, and had been
councillor to the young king's father. "Do not be too hasty, my
lord king," said he. "Try first the truth of your own words
before you wipe out those that your father has written."
"Very well," said the young king, "so be it. I will approve the
truth of my words. Bring me hither some beggar from the town whom
Fate has made poor, and I will make him rich. So I will show you
that his life shall be as I will, and not as Fate wills."
Now, in that town there was a poor beggar-man who used to sit
every day beside the town gate, begging for something for
charity's sake. Sometimes people gave him a penny or two, but it
was little or nothing that he got, for Fate was against him.
The same day that the king and the chief councillor had had their
talk together, as the beggar sat holding up his wooden bowl and
asking charity of those who passed by, there suddenly came three
men who, without saying a word, clapped hold of him and marched
It was in vain that the beggar talked and questioned--in vain
that he begged and besought them to let him go. Not a word did
they say to him, either of good or bad. At last they came to a
gate that led through a high wall and into a garden, and there
the three stopped, and one of them knocked upon the gate. In
answer to his knocking it flew open. He thrust the beggar into
the garden neck and crop, and then the gate was banged to again.
But what a sight it was the beggar saw before his eyes!--flowers,
and fruit-trees, and marble walks, and a great fountain that shot
up a jet of water as white as snow. But he had not long to stand
gaping and staring around him, for in the garden were a great
number of people, who came hurrying to him, and who, without
speaking a word to him or answering a single question, or as much
as giving him time to think, led him to a marble bath of tepid
water. There he was stripped of his tattered clothes and washed
as clean as snow. Then, as some of the attendants dried him with
fine linen towels, others came carrying clothes fit for a prince
to wear, and clad the beggar in them from head to foot. After
that, still without saying a word, they let him out from the bath
again, and there he found still other attendants waiting for him--two of them holding a milk-white
horse, saddled and bridled, and
fit for an emperor to ride. These helped him to mount, and then,
leaping into their own saddles, rode away with the beggar in
They rode of the garden and into the streets, and on and on they
went until they came to the king's palace, and there they
stopped. Courtiers and noblemen and great lords were waiting for
their coming, some of whom helped him to dismount from the horse,
for by this time the beggar was so overcome with wonder that he
stared like one moon-struck, and as though his wits were addled.
Then, leading the way up the palace steps, they conducted him
from room to room, until at last they came to one more grand and
splendid than all the rest, and there sat the king himself
waiting for the beggar's coming.
The beggar would have flung himself at the king's feet, but the
king would not let him; for he came down from the throne where he
sat, and, taking the beggar by the hand, led him up and sat him
alongside of him. Then the king gave orders to the attendants who
stood about, and a feast was served in plates of solid gold upon
a table-cloth of silver--a feast such as the beggar had never
dreamed of, and the poor man ate as he had never eaten in his
All the while that the king and the beggar were eating, musicians
played sweet music and dancers danced and singers sang.
Then when the feast was over there came ten young men, bringing
flasks and flagons of all kinds, full of the best wine in the
world; and the beggar drank as he had never drank in his life
before, and until his head spun like a top.
So the king and the beggar feasted and made merry, until at last
the clock struck twelve and the king arose from his seat. "My
friend," said he to the beggar, "all these things have been done
to show you that Luck and Fate, which have been against you for
all these years, are now for you. Hereafter, instead of being
poor you shall be the richest of the rich, for I will give you
the greatest thing that I have in my treasury," Then he called
the chief treasurer, who came forward with a golden tray in his
hand. Upon the tray was a purse of silk. "See," said the king,
"here is a purse, and in the purse are one hundred pieces of gold
money. But though that much may seem great to you, it is but
little of the true value of the purse. Its virtue lies in this:
that however much you may take from it, there will always be one
hundred pieces of gold money left in it. Now go; and while you
are enjoying the riches which I give you, I have only to ask you
to remember these are not the gifts of Fate, but of a mortal
But all the while he was talking the beggar's head was spinning
and spinning, and buzzing and buzzing, so that he hardly heard a
word of what the king said.
Then when the king had ended his speech, the lords and gentlemen
who had brought the beggar in led him forth again. Out they went
through room after room--out through the courtyard, out through
Bang!--it was shut to behind him, and he found himself standing
in the darkness of midnight, with the splendid clothes upon his
back, and the magic purse with its hundred pieces of gold money
in his pocket.
He stood looking about himself for a while, and then off he
started homeward, staggering and stumbling and shuffling, for the
wine that he had drank made him so light-headed that all the
world spun topsy-turvy around him.
His way led along by the river, and on he went stumbling and
staggering. All of a sudden--plump! splash!--he was in the water
over head and ears. Up he came, spitting out the water and
shouting for help, splashing and sputtering, and kicking and
swimming, knowing no more where he was than the man in the moon.
Sometimes his head was under water and sometimes it was up again.
At last, just as his strength was failing him, his feet struck
the bottom, and he crawled up on the shore more dead than alive.
Then, through fear and cold and wet, he swooned away, and lay for
a long time for all the world as though he were dead.
Now, it chanced that two fisherman were out with their nets that
night, and Luck or Fate led them by the way where the beggar lay
on the shore. "Halloa!" said one of the fishermen, "here is a
poor body drowned!" They turned him over, and then they saw what
rich clothes he wore, and felt that he had a purse in his pocket.
"Come," said the second fisherman, "he is dead, whoever he is.
His fine clothes and his purse of money can do him no good now,
and we might as well have them as anybody else." So between them
both they stripped the beggar of all that the king had given him,
and left him lying on the beach.
At daybreak the beggar awoke from the swoon, and there he found
himself lying without a stitch to his back, and half dead with
the cold and the water he had swallowed. Then, fearing lest
somebody might see him, he crawled away into the rushes that grew
beside the river, there to hide himself until night should come
But as he went, crawling upon hands and knees, he suddenly came
upon a bundle that had been washed up by the water, and when he
laid eyes upon it his heart leaped within him, for what should
that bundle be but the patches and tatters which he had worn the
day before, and which the attendants had thrown over the garden
wall and into the river when they had dressed him in the fine
clothes the king gave him.
He spread his clothes out in the sun until they were dry, and
then he put them on and went back into the town again.
"Well," said the king, that morning, to his chief councillor,
"what do you think now? Am I not greater than Fate? Did I not
make the beggar rich? And shall I not paint my father's words out
from the wall, and put my own there instead?"
"I do not know," said the councillor, shaking his head. "Let us
first see what has become of the beggar."
"So be it," said the king; and he and the councillor set off to
see whether the beggar had done as he ought to do with the good
things that the king had given him. So they came to the towngate,
and there, lo and behold! the first thing that they saw was the
beggar with his wooden bowl in his hand asking those who passed
by for a stray penny or two.
When the king saw him he turned without a word, and rode back
home again. "Very well," said he to the chief councillor, "I have
tried to make the beggar rich and have failed; nevertheless, if I
cannot make him I can ruin him in spite of Fate, and that I will
So all that while the beggar sat at the towngate and begged until
came noontide, when who should he see coming but the same three
men who had come for him the day before. "Ah, ha!" said he to
himself, "now the king is going to give me some more good
things." And so when the three reached him he was willing enough
to go with them, rough as they were.
Off they marched; but this time they did not come to any garden
with fruits and flowers and fountains and marble baths. Off they
marched, and when they stopped it was in front of the king's
palace. This time no nobles and great lords and courtiers were
waiting for his coming; but instead of that the town hangman--a
great ugly fellow, clad in black from head to foot. Up he came to
the beggar, and, catching him by the scruff of his neck, dragged
him up the palace steps and from room to room until at last he
flung him down at the king's feet.
When the poor beggar gathered wits enough to look about him he
saw there a great chest standing wide open, and with holes in the
lid. He wondered what it was for, but the king gave him no chance
to ask; for, beckoning with his hand, the hangman and the others
caught the beggar by arms and legs, thrust him into the chest,
and banged down the lid upon him.
The king locked it and double-locked it, and set his seal upon
it; and there was the beggar as tight as a fly in a bottle.
They carried the chest out and thrust it into a cart and hauled
it away, until at last they came to the sea-shore. There they
flung chest and all into the water, and it floated away like a
cork. And that is how the king set about to ruin the poor beggar-man.
Well, the chest floated on and on for three days, and then at
last it came to the shore of a country far away. There the waves
caught it up, and flung it so hard upon the rocks of the sea-beach that the chest was burst open by
the blow, and the beggar
crawled out with eyes as big as saucers and face as white as
dough. After he had sat for a while, and when his wits came back
to him and he had gathered strength enough, he stood up and
looked around to see where Fate had cast him; and far away on the
hill-sides he saw the walls and the roofs and the towers of the
great town, shining in the sunlight as white as snow.
"Well," said he, "here is something to be thankful for, at
least," and so saying and shaking the stiffness out of his knees
and elbows, he started off for the white walls and the red roofs
in the distance.
At last he reached the great gate, and through it he could see
the stony streets and multitudes of people coming and going.
But it was not for him to enter that gate. Out popped two
soldiers with great battle-axes in their hands and looking as
fierce as dragons. "Are you a stranger in this town?" said one in
a great, gruff voice.
"Yes," said the beggar, "I am."
"And where are you going?"
"I am going into the town."
"No, you are not."
"Because no stranger enters here. Yonder is the pathway. You must
take that if you would enter the town."
"Very well," said the beggar, "I would just as lief go into the
town that way as another."
So off he marched without another word. On and on he went along
the narrow pathway until at last he came to a little gate of
polished brass. Over the gate were written these words, in great
letters as red as blood:
"Who Enters here Shall Surely Die."
Many and many a man besides the beggar had travelled that path
and looked up at those letters, and when he had read them had
turned and gone away again. But the beggar neither turned nor
went away; because why, he could neither read nor write a word,
and so the blood-red letters had no fear for him. Up he marched
to the brazen gate, as boldly as though it had been a kitchen
door, and rap! tap! tap! he knocked upon it. He waited awhile,
but nobody came. Rap! tap! tap! he knocked again; and then, after
a little while, for the third time--Rap! tap! tap! Then instantly
the gate swung open and he entered. So soon as he had crossed the
threshold it was banged to behind him again, just as the garden
gate had been when the king had first sent for him. He found
himself in a long, dark entry, and at the end of it another door,
and over it the same words, written in blood-red letters:
"Beware! Beware! Who Enters here Shall Surely Die!"
"Well," said the beggar, "this is the hardest town for a body to
come into that I ever saw." And then he opened the second door
and passed through.
It was fit to deafen a body! Such a shout the beggar's ears had
never heard before; such a sight the beggar's eyes had never
beheld, for there, before him, was a great splendid hall of
marble as white as snow. All along the hall stood scores of lords
and ladies in silks and satins, and with jewels on their necks
and arms fit to dazzle a body's eyes. Right up the middle of the
hall stretched a carpet of blue velvet, and at the farther end,
on a throne of gold, sat a lady as beautiful as the sun and moon
and all the stars.
"Welcome! welcome!" they all shouted, until the beggar was nearly
deafened by the noise they all made, and the lady herself stood
up and smiled upon him.
Then there came three young men, and led the beggar up the carpet
of velvet to the throne of gold.
"Welcome, my hero!" said the beautiful lady; "and have you, then,
come at last?"
"Yes," said the beggar, "I have."
"Long have I waited for you," said the lady; "long have I waited
for the hero who would dare without fear to come through the two
gates of death to marry me and to rule as king over this country,
and now at last you are here."
"Yes," said the beggar, "I am."
Meanwhile, while all these things were happening, the king of
that other country had painted out the words his father had
written on the walls, and had had these words painted in in their
"All Things are as Man does."
For a while he was very well satisfied with them, until, a week
after, he was bidden to the wedding of the Queen of the Golden
Mountains; for when he came there who should the bridegroom be
but the beggar whom he had set adrift in the wooden box a week or
The bridegroom winked at him, but said never a word, good or ill,
for he was willing to let all that had happened be past and gone.
But the king saw how matters stood as clear as daylight, and when
he got back home again he had the new words that stood on the
walls of the room painted out, and had the old ones painted in in
bigger letters than ever:
"All Things are as Fate wills."
All the good people who were gathered around the table of the
Sign of Mother Goose sat thinking for a while over the story. As
for Boots, he buried his face in the quart pot and took a long,
long pull at the ale.
"Methinks," said the Soldier who cheated the Devil, presently
breaking silence--"methinks there be very few of the women folk
who do their share of this story-telling. So far we have had but
one, and that is Lady Cinderella. I see another one present, and
I drink to her health."
He winked his eye at Patient Grizzle, beckoning towards her with
his quart pot, and took a long and hearty pull. Then he banged
his mug down upon the table. "Fetch me another glass, lass," said
he to little Brown Betty. "Meantime, fair lady"--this he said to
Patient Grizzle--"will you not entertain us with some story of
"I know not," said Patient Grizzle, "that I can tell you any
story worth your hearing."
"Aye, aye, but you can," said the Soldier who cheated the Devil;
"and, moreover, anything coming from betwixt such red lips and
such white teeth will be worth the listening to."
Patient Grizzle smiled, and the brave little Tailor, and the Lad
who fiddled for the Jew, and Hans and Bidpai and Boots nodded
"Aye," said Ali Baba, "it is true enough that there have been but
few of the women folk who have had their say, and methinks that
it is very strange and unaccountable, for nearly always they have
plenty to speak in their own behalf."
All who sat there in Twilight Land laughed, and even Patient
"Very well," said Patient Grizzle, "if you will have it, I will
tell you a story. It is about a fisherman who was married and had
a wife of his own, and who made her carry all the load of
everything that happened to him. For he, like most men I wot of,
had found out--
Where to Lay the Blame.
Many and many a man has come to trouble--so he will say--by
following his wife's advice. This is how it was with a man of
whom I shall tell you.
There was once upon a time a fisherman who had fished all day
long and had caught not so much as a sprat. So at night there he
sat by the fire, rubbing his knees and warming his shins, and
waiting for supper that his wife was cooking for him, and his
hunger was as sharp as vinegar, and his temper hot enough to fry
While he sat there grumbling and growling and trying to make
himself comfortable and warm, there suddenly came a knock at the
door. The good woman opened it, and there stood an old man, clad
all in red from head to foot, and with a snowy beard at his chin
as white as winter snow.
The fisherman's wife stood gaping and staring at the strange
figure, but the old man in red walked straight into the hut.
"Bring your nets, fisherman," said he, "and come with me. There
is something that I want you to catch for me, and if I have luck
I will pay you for your fishing as never fisherman was paid
"Not I," said the fisherman, "I go out no more this night. I have
been fishing all day long until my back is nearly broken, and
have caught nothing, and now I am not such a fool as to go out
and leave a warm fire and a good supper at your bidding."
But the fisherman's wife had listened to what the old man had
said about paying for the job, and she was of a different mind
from her husband. "Come," said she, "the old man promises to pay
you well. This is not a chance to be lost, I can tell you, and my
advice to you is that you go."
The fisherman shook his head. No, he would not go; he had said he
would not, and he would not. But the wife only smiled and said
again, "My advice to you is that you go."
The fisherman grumbled and grumbled, and swore that he would not
go. The wife said nothing but one thing. She did not argue; she
did not lose her temper; she only said to everything that he
said, "My advice to you is that you go."
At last the fisherman's anger boiled over. "Very well," said he,
spitting his words at her; "if you will drive me out into the
night, I suppose I will have to go." And then he spoke the words
that so many men say: "Many a man has come to trouble by
following his wife's advice."
Then down he took his fur cap and up he took his nets, and off he
and the old man marched through the moonlight, their shadows
bobbing along like black spiders behind them.
Well, on they went, out from the town and across the fields and
through the woods, until at last they came to a dreary, lonesome
desert, where nothing was to be seen but gray rocks and weeds and
"Well," said the fisherman, "I have fished, man and boy, for
forty-seven years, but never did I see as unlikely a place to
catch anything as this."
But the old man said never a word. First of all he drew a great
circle with strange figures, marking it with his finger upon the
ground. Then out from under his red gown he brought a tinder-box
and steel, and a little silver casket covered all over with
strange figures of serpents and dragons and what not. He brought
some sticks of spice-wood from his pouch, and then he struck a
light and made a fire. Out of the box he took a gray powder,
which he flung upon the little blaze.
Puff! flash! A vivid flame went up into the moonlight, and then a
dense smoke as black as ink, which spread out wider and wider,
far and near, till all below was darker than the darkest
midnight. Then the old man began to utter strange spells and
words. Presently there began a rumbling that sounded louder and
louder and nearer and nearer, until it roared and bellowed like
thunder. The earth rocked and swayed, and the poor fisherman
shook and trembled with fear till his teeth clattered in his
Then suddenly the roaring and bellowing ceased, and all was as
still as death, though the darkness was as thick and black as
"Now," said the old magician--for such he was--"now we are about
to take a journey such as no one ever travelled before. Heed well
what I tell you. Speak not a single word, for if you do,
misfortune will be sure to happen."
"Ain't I to say anything?" said the fisherman.
"Not even boo' to a goose?"
"Well, that is pretty hard upon a man who likes to say his say,"
said the fisherman.
"And moreover," said the old man, "I must blindfold you as well."
Thereupon he took from his pocket a handkerchief, and made ready
to tie it about the fisherman's eyes.
"And ain't I to see anything at all?" said the fisherman.
"Not even so much as a single feather?"
"Well, then," said the fisherman, "I wish I'd not come."
But the old man tied the handkerchief tightly around his eyes,
and then he was as blind as a bat.
"Now," said the old man, "throw your leg over what you feel and
The fisherman reached down his hand, and there felt the back of
something rough and hairy. He flung his leg over it, and whisk!
whizz! off he shot through the air like a sky-rocket. Nothing was
left for him to do but grip tightly with hands and feet and to
hold fast. On they went, and on they went, until, after a great
while, whatever it was that was carrying him lit upon the ground,
and there the fisherman found himself standing, for that which
had brought him had gone.
The old man whipped the handkerchief off his eyes, and there the
fisherman found himself on the shores of the sea, where there was
nothing to be seen but water upon one side and rocks and naked
sand upon the other.
"This is the place for you to cast your nets," said the old
magician; "for if we catch nothing here we catch nothing at all."
The fisherman unrolled his nets and cast them and dragged them,
and then cast them and dragged them again, but neither time
caught so much as a herring. But the third time that he cast he
found that he had caught something that weighed as heavy as lead.
He pulled and pulled, until by-and-by he dragged the load ashore,
and what should it be but a great chest of wood, blackened by the
sea-water, and covered with shells and green moss.
That was the very thing that the magician had come to fish for.
>From his pouch the old man took a little golden key, which he
fitted into a key-hole in the side of the chest. He threw back
the lid; the fisherman looked within, and there was the prettiest
little palace that man's eye ever beheld, all made of mother-of-pearl and silver-frosted as white as
snow. The old magician
lifted the little palace out of the box and set it upon the
Then, lo and behold! a marvellous thing happened; for the palace
instantly began to grow for all the world like a soap-bubble,
until it stood in the moonlight gleaming and glistening like
snow, the windows bright with the lights of a thousand wax
tapers, and the sound of music and voices and laughter coming
Hardly could the fisherman catch his breath from one strange
thing when another happened. The old magician took off his
clothes and his face--yes, his face--for all the world as though
it had been a mask, and there stood as handsome and noble a young
man as ever the light looked on. Then, beckoning to the
fisherman, dumb with wonder, he led the way up the great flight
of marble steps to the palace door. As he came the door swung
open with a blaze of light, and there stood hundreds of noblemen,
all clad in silks and satins and velvets, who, when they saw the
magician, bowed low before him, as though he had been a king.
Leading the way, they brought the two through halls and chambers
and room after room, each more magnificent than the other, until
they came to one that surpassed a hundredfold any of the others.
At the farther end was a golden throne, and upon it sat a lady
more lovely and beautiful than a dream, her eyes as bright as
diamonds, her cheeks like rose leaves, and her hair like spun
gold. She came half-way down the steps of the throne to welcome
the magician, and when the two met they kissed one another before
all those who were looking on. Then she brought him to the throne
and seated him beside her, and there they talked for a long time
Nobody said a word to the fisherman, who stood staring about him
like an owl. "I wonder," said he to himself at last, "if they
will give a body a bite to eat by-and-by?" for, to tell the
truth, the good supper that he had come away from at home had
left a sharp hunger gnawing at his insides, and he longed for
something good and warm to fill the empty place. But time passed,
and not so much as a crust of bread was brought to stay his
By-and-by the clock struck twelve, and then the two who sat upon
the throne arose. The beautiful lady took the magician by the
hand, and, turning to those who stood around, said, in a loud
voice, "Behold him who alone is worthy to possess the jewel of
jewels! Unto him do I give it, and with it all power of powers!"
Thereon she opened a golden casket that stood beside her, and
brought thence a little crystal ball, about as big as a pigeon's
egg, in which was something that glistened like a spark of fire.
The magician took the crystal ball and thrust it into his bosom;
but what it was the fisherman could not guess, and if you do not
know I shall not tell you.
Then for the first time the beautiful lady seemed to notice the
fisherman. She beckoned him, and when he stood beside her two men
came carrying a chest. The chief treasurer opened it, and it was
full of bags of gold money. "How will you have it?" said the
"Have what?" said the fisherman.
"Have the pay for your labor?" said the beautiful lady.
"I will," said the fisherman, promptly, "take it in my hat."
"So be it," said the beautiful lady. She waved her hand, and the
chief treasurer took a bag from the chest, untied it, and emptied
a cataract of gold into the fur cap. The fisherman had never seen
so much wealth in all his life before, and he stood like a man
turned to stone.
"Is this all mine?" said the fisherman.
"It is," said the beautiful lady.
"Then God bless your pretty eyes," said the fisherman.
Then the magician kissed the beautiful lady, and, beckoning to
the fisherman, left the throne-room the same way that they had
come. The noblemen, in silks and satins and velvets, marched
ahead, and back they went through the other apartments, until at
last they came to the door.
Out they stepped, and then what do you suppose happened?
If the wonderful palace had grown like a bubble, like a bubble it
vanished. There the two stood on the sea-shore, with nothing to
be seen but rocks and sand and water, and the starry sky
The fisherman shook his cap of gold, and it jingled and tinkled,
and was as heavy as lead. If it was not all a dream, he was rich
for life. "But anyhow," said he, "they might have given a body a
bite to eat."
The magician put on his red clothes and his face again, making
himself as hoary and as old as before. He took out his flint and
steel, and his sticks of spice-wood and his gray powder, and made
a great fire and smoke just as he had done before. Then again he
tied his handkerchief over the fisherman's eyes. "Remember," said
he, "what I told you when we started upon our journey. Keep your
mouth tight shut, for if you utter so much as a single word you
are a lost man. Now throw your leg over what you feel and hold
The fisherman had his net over one arm and his cap of gold in the
other hand; nevertheless, there he felt the same hairy thing he
had felt before. He flung his leg over it, and away he was gone
through the air like a sky-rocket.
Now, he had grown somewhat used to strange things by this time,
so he began to think that he would like to see what sort of a
creature it was upon which he was riding thus through the sky. So
he contrived, in spite of his net and cap, to push up the
handkerchief from over one eye. Out he peeped, and then he saw as
clear as day what the strange steed was.
He was riding upon a he-goat as black as night, and in front of
him was the magician riding upon just such another, his great red
robe fluttering out behind him in the moonlight like huge red
"Great herring and little fishes!" roared the fisherman; "it is a
Instantly goats, old man, and all were gone like a flash. Down
fell the fisherman through the empty sky, whirling over and over
and around and around like a frog. He held tightly to his net,
but away flew his fur cap, the golden money falling in a shower
like sparks of yellow light. Down he fell and down he fell, until
his head spun like a top.
By good-luck his house was just below, with its thatch of soft
rushes. Into the very middle of it he tumbled, and right through
the thatch--bump!--into the room below.
The good wife was in bed, snoring away for dear life; but such a
noise as the fisherman made coming into the house was enough to
wake the dead. Up she jumped, and there she sat, staring and
winking with sleep, and with her brains as addled as a duck's egg
in a thunder-storm.
"There!" said the fisherman, as he gathered himself up and rubbed
his shoulder, "that is what comes of following a woman's advice!"
All the good folk clapped their hands, not so much because of the
story itself, but because it was a woman who told it.
"Aye, aye," said the brave little Tailor, "there is truth in what
you tell, fair lady, and I like very well the way in which you
have told it."
"Whose turn is it next?" said Doctor Faustus, lighting a fresh
pipe of tobacco.
" Tis the turn of yonder old gentleman," said the Soldier who
cheated the Devil, and he pointed with the stem of his pipe to
the Fisherman who unbottled the Genie that King Solomon had
corked up and thrown into the sea. "Every one else hath told a
story, and now it is his turn."
"I will not deny, my friend, that what you say is true, and that
it is my turn," said the Fisherman. "Nor will I deny that I have
already a story in my mind. It is," said he, "about a certain
prince, and of how he went through many and one adventures, and
at last discovered that which is--
The Salt of Life.
Once upon a time there was a king who had three sons, and by the
time that the youngest prince had down upon his chin the king had
grown so old that the cares of the kingdom began to rest over-heavily upon his shoulders. So he
called his chief councillor and
told him that he was of a mind to let the princes reign in his
stead. To the son who loved him the best he would give the
largest part of his kingdom, to the son who loved him the next
best the next part, and to the son who loved him the least the
least part. The old councillor was very wise and shook his head,
but the king's mind had long been settled as to what he was about
to do. So he called the princes to him one by one and asked each
as to how much he loved him.
"I love you as a mountain of gold," said the oldest prince, and
the king was very pleased that his son should give him such love.
"I love you as a mountain of silver," said the second prince, and
the king was pleased with that also.
But when the youngest prince was called, he did not answer at
first, but thought and thought. At last he looked up. "I love
you," said he, "as I love salt."
When the king heard what his youngest son said he was filled with
anger. "What!" he cried, "do you love me no better than salt -- a
stuff that is the most bitter of all things to the taste, and the
cheapest and the commonest of all things in the world? Away with
you, and never let me see your face again! Henceforth you are no
son of mine."
The prince would have spoken, but the king would not allow him,
and bade his guards thrust the young man forth from the room.
Now the queen loved the youngest prince the best of all her sons,
and when she heard how the king was about to drive him forth into
the wide world to shift for himself, she wept and wept. "Ah, my
son!" said she to him, "it is little or nothing that I have to
give you. Nevertheless, I have one precious thing. Here is a
ring; take it and wear it always, for so long as you have it upon
your finger no magic can have power over you."
Thus it was that the youngest prince set forth into the wide
world with little or nothing but a ring upon his finger.
For seven days he travelled on, and knew not where he was going
or whither his footsteps led. At the end of that time he came to
the gates of a town. The prince entered the gates, and found
himself in a city the like of which he had never seen in his life
before for grandeur and magnificence--beautiful palaces and
gardens, stores and bazaars crowded with rich stuffs of satin and
silk and wrought silver and gold of cunningest workmanship; for
the land to which he had come was the richest in all of the
world. All that day he wandered up and down, and thought nothing
of weariness and hunger for wonder of all that he saw. But at
last evening drew down, and he began to bethink himself of
somewhere to lodge during the night.
Just then he came to a bridge, over the wall of which leaned an
old man with a long white beard, looking down into the water. He
was dressed richly but soberly, and every now and then he sighed
and groaned, and as the prince drew near he saw the tears
falling--drip, drip--from the old man's eyes.
The prince had a kind heart, and could not bear to see one in
distress; so he spoke to the old man, and asked him his trouble.
"Ah, me!" said the other, "only yesterday I had a son, tall and
handsome like yourself. But the queen took him to sup with her,
and I am left all alone in my old age, like a tree stripped of
leaves and fruit."
"But surely," said the prince, "it can be no such sad matter to
sup with a queen. That is an honor that most men covet."
"Ah!" said the old man, "you are a stranger in this place, or
else you would know that no youth so chosen to sup with the queen
ever returns to his home again."
"Yes," said the prince, "I am a stranger and have only come
hither this day, and so do not understand these things. Even when
I found you I was about to ask the way to some inn where folk of
good condition lodge."
"Then come home with me to-night," said the old man. "I live all
alone, and I will tell you the trouble that lies upon this
country." Thereupon, taking the prince by the arm, he led him
across the bridge and to another quarter of the town where he
dwelt. He bade the servants prepare a fine supper, and he and the
prince sat down to the table together. After they had made an end
of eating and drinking, the old man told the prince all
concerning those things of which he had spoken, and thus it was:
"When the king of this land died he left behind him three
daughters--the most beautiful princesses in all of the world.
"Folk hardly dared speak of the eldest of them, but whisperings
said that she was a sorceress, and that strange and gruesome
things were done by her. The second princess was also a witch,
though it was not said that she was evil, like the other. As for
the youngest of the three, she was as beautiful as the morning
and as gentle as a dove. When she was born a golden thread was
about her neck, and it was foretold of her that she was to be the
queen of that land.
"But not long after the old king died the youngest princess
vanished--no one could tell whither, and no one dared to ask--and
the eldest princess had herself crowned as queen, and no one
dared gainsay her. For a while everything went well enough, but
by-and-by evil days came upon the land. Once every seven days the
queen would bid some youth, young and strong, to sup with her,
and from that time no one ever heard of him again, and no one
dared ask what had become of him. At first it was the great folk
at the queen's palace--officers and courtiers--who suffered; but
by-and-by the sons of the merchants and the chief men of the city
began to be taken. One time," said the old man," I myself had
three sons -- as noble young men as could be found in the wide
world. One day the chief of the queen's officers came to my house
and asked me concerning how many sons I had. I was forced to tell
him, and in a little while they were taken one by one to the
queen's palace, and I never saw them again.
"But misfortune, like death, comes upon the young as well as the
old. You yourself have had trouble, or else I am mistaken. Tell
me what lies upon your heart, my son, for the talking of it makes
the burthen lighter."
The prince did as the old man bade him, and told all of his
story; and so they sat talking and talking until far into the
night, and the old man grew fonder and fonder of the prince the
more he saw of him. So the end of the matter was that he asked
the prince to live with him as his son, seeing that the young man
had now no father and he no children, and the prince consented
So the two lived together like father and son, and the good old
man began to take some joy in life once more.
But one day who should come riding up to the door but the chief
of the queen's officers.
"How is this?" said he to the old man, when he saw the prince.
"Did you not tell me that you had but three sons, and is this not
It was of no use for the old man to tell the officer that the
youth was not his son, but was a prince who had come to visit
that country. The officer drew forth his tablets and wrote
something upon them, and then went his way, leaving the old man
sighing and groaning. "Ah, me!" said he, "my heart sadly
Sure enough, before three days had passed a bidding came to the
prince to make ready to sup with the queen that night.
When evening drew near a troop of horsemen came, bringing a white