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- Story Hour Readers Book Three - 20/20 -

"Is it possible that this little man can kill TEN BEARS at one blow?" thought the bear, "I will be careful not to offend him."

So the bear stood still and said, "Where are you going, my friend?"

"Around the world to seek my fortune," proudly replied the cobbler.

"Stay here for a time and dine with me. I know where there is some choice honey," said the bear, and he led the way to a hollow tree where the bees had stored their honey.

But a hunter had set a trap in the tree, and as the bear reached for the honey--snap! His paw was caught fast in the trap. And that was the end of Mr. Bear!

The cobbler quickly stripped off the skin of the animal, saying, "This will make a fine, warm blanket."

Then he walked away, carrying the skin over his arm and whistling a merry tune.

At last the cobbler reached the edge of the forest and began to climb a hill. Sitting on a rock overlooking the valley below was a giant.

The cobbler's heart beat fast with fear.

He walked bravely up to the giant, with his girdle in plain sight.

"Good-day, friend," said the cobbler.

"Here you sit at your ease. Do you not wish to travel with me to see the world?" the cobbler added.

When the giant saw the little stranger walking up to him so boldly, he was greatly surprised.

"How dare you enter the land of the giants!" he was about to exclaim.

At that moment, he saw the girdle and read the words:

Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Ten at one blow.

"Is it possible that this little man can kill TEN GIANTS at one blow?" thought the giant. "I will be careful not to offend him."

So the giant said, "Good-day, my friend. I see that though you are a little man, you have great strength. Let us prove which of us is the stronger."

Then the giant led the cobbler to a great oak tree that had fallen to the ground.

"Help me carry this tree to yonder cave," he said.

"Certainly," said the cobbler. "You take the trunk on your shoulder, and I will carry the top and branches of the tree, which, of course, are the heaviest part."

The giant laid the trunk of the tree on his shoulder, but the cobbler sat at his ease among the branches, enjoying the ride.

So the giant, who could not see what was going on behind him, had to carry the whole tree, and the little man in the bargain. There the cobbler sat, in the best of spirits, whistling a merry tune as though carrying a tree was mere sport.

At last the giant could bear the weight no longer, and he shouted, "Hi, hi! I must let the tree fall."

Then the cobbler sprang nimbly down, seized the tree with both hands, as if he had carried it all the way, and called to the giant, "Think of a big fellow like you not being able to carry a tree!"

"Well," said the giant, "I will admit that you are the stronger. Come and spend the night in my cave."

The cobbler followed the giant into the cave. There, sitting around a fire, were a number of giants. They were laughing and talking in a noisy manner, and they scarcely noticed the little man.

The cobbler spread the bear's skin upon the floor near the fire. Then he lay down and pretended to sleep, but all the time he was watching to find a way of escape.

At about midnight, the giants went to bed, and they were soon sleeping soundly.

The cobbler seized a club which belonged to one of the giants, placed the bear's skin over his arm, and tiptoed out of the cave. He was soon far away from the giants.

After many days, the cobbler reached the courtyard of the king's palace. He was very tired, so he spread the bear's skin upon the grass and lay down upon it. He placed the giant's club by his side.

Soon he was fast asleep.

Presently one of the king's soldiers came near. He was surprised to find the little man sleeping there, with a giant's club by his side. Then he spied the girdle and read the words:

Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Ten at one blow.

"Indeed!" thought the soldier. "This little man must have killed TEN BEARS at one blow, and TEN GIANTS besides."

Then the soldier hurried away and told every one he met about the queer little man. The news spread until it reached the king.

"Bring this mighty man to me," the king commanded.

When the king read the words upon the girdle, he said, "You are the very one I wish to have fight for me in time of war."

"I am ready to fight for you, O King!" said the cobbler.

The king at once appointed the cobbler commander of his army.

Not long after this, a war broke out. The king promised the hand of his daughter to the man who should conquer the enemy.

The little cobbler, riding upon a white horse, commanded the king's army.

What a queer leader he was! About his shoulders was thrown the bear's skin, held firmly by the wonderful girdle, and in one hand he carried the giant's club.

When the enemy advanced, and the leader saw the queer commander of the king's army, he smiled and said, "We have little to fear from such a commander."

Then he saw the curious girdle and read the words:

Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Ten at one blow.

"Is it possible that this little man can kill TEN COMMANDERS at one blow?" thought the leader.

He turned his horse quickly and gave orders for the army to retreat.

The cobbler followed the enemy and soon overtook the leader, whom he made prisoner.

When the king saw the cobbler returning with the leader, he was delighted. But all at once he remembered the reward that he had promised to the victor.

The princess refused to become the bride of one so small and so ugly as the cobbler.

"What shall I do?" asked the king. "A king should never break his promise."

Then the princess whispered to the king, "Try to take the little man's girdle from him. He will then lose his power."

So the king said to the cobbler, "You may have the hand of the princess if you will give your girdle to me."

This made the cobbler very unhappy, for he knew what good fortune the girdle had brought to him.

But he smiled and answered in a cheerful voice.

"I shall be honored, if your majesty will accept my girdle."

He handed the precious girdle to the king.

At that moment, something wonderful happened.

Instead of an ugly little man, there stood a tall, handsome youth.

The princess was very willing to become the bride of so handsome a youth. The king now gladly gave his consent to the marriage.

Next day a great wedding feast was spread in honor of the marriage.

After the king's death, the princess and her husband ruled the country.

The magic girdle was placed over the throne.

Ever afterwards, when the new king and queen appeared, the people would shout with great pride,

"Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Ten at one blow."

Story Hour Readers Book Three - 20/20

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