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- The Brown Fairy Book - 30/54 -


end the wood-cutter lost heart, and said to himself:

'What is the good of working like this if I never am a penny the richer at the end? I shall go to the forest no more! And perhaps, if I take to my bed, and do not run after Fortune, one day she may come to me.'

So the next morning he did not get up, and when six o'clock struck, his wife, who had been cleaning the house, went to see what was the matter.

'Are you ill?' she asked wonderingly, surprised at not finding him dressed. 'The cock has crowed ever so often. It is high time for you to get up.'

'Why should I get up?' asked the man, without moving.

'Why? to go to the forest, of course.'

'Yes; and when I have toiled all day I hardly earn enough to give us one meal.'

'But what can we do, my poor husband?' said she. 'It is just a trick of Fortune's, who would never smile upon us.'

'Well, I have had my fill of Fortune's tricks,' cried he. 'If she wants me she can find me here. But I have done with the wood for ever.'

'My dear husband, grief has driven you mad! Do you think Fortune will come to anybody who does not go after her? Dress yourself, and saddle the mules, and begin your work. Do you know that there is not a morsel of bread in the house?'

'I don't care if there isn't, and I am not going to the forest. It is no use your talking; nothing will make me change my mind.'

The distracted wife begged and implored in vain; her husband persisted in staying in bed, and at last, in despair, she left him and went back to her work.

An hour or two later a man from the nearest village knocked at her door, and when she opened it, he said to her: 'Good-morning, mother. I have got a job to do, and I want to know if your husband will lend me your mules, as I see he is not using them, and can lend me a hand himself?'

'He is upstairs; you had better ask him,' answered the woman. And the man went up, and repeated his request.

'I am sorry, neighbour, but I have sworn not to leave my bed, and nothing will make me break my vow.'

'Well, then, will you lend me your two mules? I will pay you something for them.'

'Certainly, neighbour. Take them and welcome.'

So the man left the house, and leading the mules from the stable, placed two sacks on their back, and drove them to a field where he had found a hidden treasure. He filled the sacks with the money, though he knew perfectly well that it belonged to the sultan, and was driving them quietly home again, when he saw two soldiers coming along the road. Now the man was aware that if he was caught he would be condemned to death, so he fled back into the forest. The mules, left to themselves, took the path that led to their master's stable.

The wood-cutter's wife was looking out of the window when the mules drew up before the door, so heavily laden that they almost sank under their burdens. She lost no time in calling her husband, who was still lying in bed.

'Quick! quick! get up as fast as you can. Our two mules have returned with sacks on their backs, so heavily laden with something or other that the poor beasts can hardly stand up.'

'Wife, I have told you a dozen times already that I am not going to get up. Why can't you leave me in peace?'

As she found she could get no help from her husband the woman took a large knife and cut the cords which bound the sacks on to the animals' backs. They fell at once to the ground, and out poured a rain of gold pieces, till the little court-yard shone like the sun.

'A treasure!' gasped the woman, as soon as she could speak from surprise. 'A treasure!' And she ran off to tell her husband.

'Get up! get up!' she cried. 'You were quite right not to go to the forest, and to await Fortune in your bed; she has come at last! Our mules have returned home laden with all the gold in the world, and it is now lying in the court. No one in the whole country can be as rich as we are!'

In an instant the wood-cutter was on his feet, and running to the court, where he paused dazzled by the glitter of the coins which lay around him.

'You see, my dear wife, that I was right,' he said at last. 'Fortune is so capricious, you can never count on her. Run after her, and she is sure to fly from you; stay still, and she is sure to come.'

[Traditions Populaires de l'Asie Mineure.]

The Enchanted Head

Once upon a time an old woman lived in a small cottage near the sea with her two daughters. They were very poor, and the girls seldom left the house, as they worked all day long making veils for the ladies to wear over their faces, and every morning, when the veils were finished, the other took them over the bridge and sold them in the city. Then she bought the food that they needed for the day, and returned home to do her share of veil-making.

One morning the old woman rose even earlier than usual, and set off for the city with her wares. She was just crossing the bridge when, suddenly, she knocked up against a human head, which she had never seen there before. The woman started back in horror; but what was her surprise when the head spoke, exactly as if it had a body joined on to it.

'Take me with you, good mother!' it said imploringly; 'take me with you back to your house.'

At the sound of these words the poor woman nearly went mad with terror. Have that horrible thing always at home? Never! never! And she turned and ran back as fast as she could, not knowing that the head was jumping, dancing, and rolling after her. But when she reached her own door it bounded in before her, and stopped in front of the fire, begging and praying to be allowed to stay.

All that day there was no food in the house, for the veils had not been sold, and they had no money to buy anything with. So they all sat silent at their work, inwardly cursing the head which was the cause of their misfortunes.

When evening came, and there was no sign of supper, the head spoke, for the first time that day:

'Good mother, does no one ever eat here? During all the hours I have spent in your house not a creature has touched anything.'

'No,' answered the old woman, 'we are not eating anything.'

'And why not, good mother?'

'Because we have no money to buy any food.'

'Is it your custom never to eat?'

'No, for every morning I go into the city to sell my veils, and with the few shillings I get for them I buy all we want. To-day I did not cross the bridge, so of course I had nothing for food.'

'Then I am the cause of your having gone hungry all day?' asked the head.

'Yes, you are,' answered the old woman.

'Well, then, I will give you money and plenty of it, if you will only do as I tell you. In an hour, as the clock strikes twelve, you must be on the bridge at the place where you met me. When you get there call out "Ahmed," three times, as loud as you can. Then a negro will appear, and you must say to him: "The head, your master, desires you to open the trunk, and to give me the green purse which you will find in it."'

'Very well, my lord,' said the old woman, 'I will set off at once for the bridge.' And wrapping her veil round her she went out.

Midnight was striking as she reached the spot where she had met the head so many hours before.

'Ahmed! Ahmed! Ahmed!' cried she, and immediately a huge negro, as tall as a giant, stood on the bridge before her.

'What do you want?' asked he.

'The head, your master, desires you to open the trunk, and to give me the green purse which you will find in it.'

'I will be back in a moment, good mother,' said he. And three minutes later he placed a purse full of sequins in the old woman's hand.

No one can imagine the joy of the whole family at the sight of all this wealth. The tiny, tumble-down cottage was rebuilt, the girls had new dresses, and their mother ceased selling veils. It was such a new thing to them to have money to spend, that they were not as careful as they might have been, and by-and-by there was not a single coin left in the purse. When this happened their hearts sank within them, and their faces fell.


The Brown Fairy Book - 30/54

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