old man and girl

Princess Finola and the Dwarf (Folk Tales from Ireland)


A long, long time ago there lived in a little hut in the midst of a bare, brown, lonely moor an old woman and a young girl. The old woman was withered, sour-tempered, and dumb. The young girl was as sweet and as fresh as an opening rosebud, and her voice was as musical as the whisper of a stream in the woods in the hot days of summer. The little hut, made of branches woven closely together, was shaped like a beehive. In the centre of the hut a fire burned night and day from year’s end to year’s end, though it was never touched or tended by human hand. In the cold days and nights of winter it gave out light and heat that made the hut cosy and warm, but in the summer nights and days it gave out light only. With their heads to the wall of the hut and their feet towards the fire were two sleeping-couches––one of plain woodwork, in which slept the old woman; the other was Finola’s. It was of bog-oak, polished as a looking-glass, and on it were carved flowers and birds of all kinds, that gleamed and shone in the light of the fire. This couch was fit for a princess, and a princess Finola was, though she did not know it herself.

Outside the hut the bare, brown, lonely moor stretched for miles on every side, but towards the east it was bounded by a range of mountains that looked to Finola blue in the daytime, but which put on a hundred changing colours as the sun went down. Nowhere was a house to be seen, nor a tree, nor a flower, nor sign of any living thing. From morning till night, nor hum of bee, nor song of bird, nor voice of man, nor any sound fell on Finola’s ear. When the storm was in the air the great waves thundered on the shore beyond the mountains, and the wind shouted in the glens; but when it sped across the moor it lost its voice, and passed as silently as the dead. At first the silence frightened Finola, but she got used to it after a time, and often broke it by talking to herself and singing.

The only other person beside the old woman Finola ever saw was a dumb dwarf who, mounted on a broken-down horse, came once a month to the hut, bringing with him a sack of corn for the old woman and Finola. Although he couldn’t speak to her, Finola was always glad to see the dwarf and his old horse, and she used to give them cake made with her own white hands. As for the dwarf he would have died for the little princess, he was so much in love with her, and often and often his heart was heavy and sad as he thought of her pining away in the lonely moor.

It chanced that he came one day, and she did not, as usual, come out to greet him. He made signs to the old woman, but she took up a stick and struck him, and beat his horse and drove him away; but as he was leaving he caught a glimpse of Finola at the door of the hut, and saw that she was crying. This sight made him so very miserable that he could think of nothing else but her sad face that he had always seen so bright, and he allowed the old horse to go on without minding where he was going. Suddenly he heard a voice saying: “It is time for you to come.”

The dwarf looked, and right before him, at the foot of a green hill, was a little man not half as big as himself, dressed in a green jacket with brass buttons, and a red cap and tassel.

“It is time for you to come,” he said the second time; “but you are welcome, anyhow. Get off your horse and come in with me, that I may touch your lips with the wand of speech, that we may have a talk together.”

The dwarf got off his horse and followed the little man through a hole in the side of a green hill. The hole was so small that he had to go on his hands and knees to pass through it, and when he was able to stand he was only the same height as the little fairyman. After walking three or four steps they were in a splendid room, as bright as day. Diamonds sparkled in the roof as stars sparkle in the sky when the night is without a cloud. The roof rested on golden pillars, and between the pillars were silver lamps, but their light was dimmed by that of the diamonds. In the middle of the room was a table, on which were two golden plates and two silver knives and forks, and a brass bell as big as a hazelnut, and beside the table were two little chairs covered with blue silk and satin.

“Take a chair,” said the fairy, “and I will ring for the wand of speech.”

The dwarf sat down, and the fairyman rang the little brass bell, and in came a little weeny dwarf no bigger than your hand.

“Bring me the wand of speech,” said the fairy, and the weeny dwarf bowed three times and walked out backwards, and in a minute he returned, carrying a little black wand with a red berry at the top of it, and, giving it to the fairy, he bowed three times and walked out backwards as he had done before.

The little man waved the rod three times over the dwarf, and struck him once on the right shoulder and once on the left shoulder, and then touched his lips with the red berry, and said: “Speak!”

The dwarf spoke, and he was so rejoiced at hearing the sound of his own voice that he danced about the room.

“Who are you at all, at all?” said he to the fairy.

“Who is yourself?” said the fairy. “But come, before we have any talk let us have something to eat, for I am sure you are hungry.”

Then they sat down to table, and the fairy rang the little brass bell twice, and the weeny dwarf brought in two boiled snails in their shells, and when they had eaten the snails he brought in a dormouse, and when they had eaten the dormouse he brought in two wrens, and when they had eaten the wrens he brought in two nuts full of wine, and they became very merry, and the fairyman sang “Cooleen dhas,” and the dwarf sang “The little blackbird of the glen.”

“Did you ever hear the ‘Foggy Dew?’” said the fairy.

“No,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, I’ll give it to you; but we must have some more wine.”

And the wine was brought, and he sang the “Foggy Dew,” and the dwarf said it was the sweetest song he had ever heard, and that the fairyman’s voice would coax the birds off the bushes.

“You asked me who I am?” said the fairy.

“I did,” said the dwarf.

“And I asked you who is yourself?”

“You did,” said the dwarf.

“And who are you, then?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I don’t know,” said the dwarf, and he blushed like a rose.

“Well, tell me what you know about yourself.”

“I remember nothing at all,” said the dwarf, “before the day I found myself going along with a crowd of all sorts of people to the great fair of the Liffey. We had to pass by the king’s palace on our way, and as we were passing the king sent for a band of jugglers to come and show their tricks before him. I followed the jugglers to look on, and when the play was over the king called me to him, and asked me who I was and where I came from. I was dumb then, and couldn’t answer; but even if I could speak I could not tell him what he wanted to know, for I remember nothing of myself before that day. Then the king asked the jugglers, but they knew nothing about me, and no one knew anything, and then the king said he would take me into his service; and the only work I have to do is to go once a month with a bag of corn to the hut in the lonely moor.”

“And there you fell in love with the little princess,” said the fairy, winking at the dwarf.

The poor dwarf blushed twice as much as he had done before.

“You need not blush,” said the fairy; “it is a good man’s case. And now tell me, truly, do you love the princess, and what would you give to free her from the spell of enchantment that is over her?”

“I would give my life,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, listen to me,” said the fairy. “The Princess Finola was banished to the lonely moor by the king, your master. He killed her father, who was the rightful king, and would have killed Finola, only he was told by an old sorceress that if he killed her he would die himself on the same day, and she advised him to banish her to the lonely moor, and she said she would fling a spell of enchantment over it, and that until the spell was broken Finola could not leave the moor. And the sorceress also promised that she would send an old woman to watch over the princess by night and by day, so that no harm should come to her; but she told the king that he himself should select a messenger to take food to the hut, and that he should look out for some one who had never seen or heard of the princess, and whom he could trust never to tell anyone anything about her; and that is the reason he selected you.”

“Since you know so much,” said the dwarf, “can you tell me who I am, and where I came from?”

“You will know that time enough,” said the fairy. “I have given you back your speech. It will depend solely on yourself whether you will get back your memory of who and what you were before the day you entered the king’s service. But are you really willing to try and break the spell of enchantment and free the princess?”

“I am,” said the dwarf.

“Whatever it will cost you?”

“Yes, if it cost me my life,” said the dwarf; “but tell me, how can the spell be broken?”

“Oh, it is easy enough to break the spell if you have the weapons,” said the fairy.

“And what are they, and where are they?” said the dwarf.

“The spear of the shining haft and the dark blue blade and the silver shield,” said the fairy. “They are on the farther bank of the Mystic Lake in the Island of the Western Seas. They are there for the man who is bold enough to seek them. If you are the man who will bring them back to the lonely moor you will only have to strike the shield three times with the haft, and three times with the blade of the spear, and the silence of the moor will be broken for ever, the spell of enchantment will be removed, and the princess will be free.”

“I will set out at once,” said the dwarf, jumping from his chair.

“And whatever it cost you,” said the fairy, “will you pay the price?”

“I will,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, mount your horse, give him his head, and he will take you to the shore opposite the Island of the Mystic Lake. You must cross to the island on his back, and make your way through the water-steeds that swim around the island night and day to guard it; but woe betide you if you attempt to cross without paying the price, for if you do the angry water-steeds will rend you and your horse to pieces. And when you come to the Mystic Lake you must wait until the waters are as red as wine, and then swim your horse across it, and on the farther side you will find the spear and shield; but woe betide you if you attempt to cross the lake before you pay the price, for if you do, the black Cormorants of the Western Seas will pick the flesh from your bones.”

“What is the price?” said the dwarf.

“You will know that time enough,” said the fairy; “but now go, and good luck go with you.”

The dwarf thanked the fairy, and said good-bye! He then threw the reins on his horse’s neck, and started up the hill, that seemed to grow bigger and bigger as he ascended, and the dwarf soon found that what he took for a hill was a great mountain. After travelling all the day, toiling up by steep crags and heathery passes, he reached the top as the sun was setting in the ocean, and he saw far below him out in the waters the island of the Mystic Lake.

He began his descent to the shore, but long before he reached it the sun had set, and darkness, unpierced by a single star, dropped upon the sea. The old horse, worn out by his long and painful journey, sank beneath him, and the dwarf was so tired that he rolled off his back and fell asleep by his side.

He awoke at the breaking of the morning, and saw that he was almost at the water’s edge. He looked out to sea, and saw the island, but nowhere could he see the water-steeds, and he began to fear he must have taken a wrong course in the night, and that the island before him was not the one he was in search of. But even while he was so thinking he heard fierce and angry snortings, and, coming swiftly from the island to the shore, he saw the swimming and prancing steeds. Sometimes their heads and manes only were visible, and sometimes, rearing, they rose half out of the water, and, striking it with their hoofs, churned it into foam, and tossed the white spray to the skies. As they approached nearer and nearer their snortings became more terrible, and their nostrils shot forth clouds of vapour. The dwarf trembled at the sight and sound, and his old horse, quivering in every limb, moaned piteously, as if in pain. On came the steeds, until they almost touched the shore, then rearing, they seemed about to spring on to it. The frightened dwarf turned his head to fly, and as he did so he heard the twang of a golden harp, and right before him who should he see but the little man of the hills, holding a harp in one hand and striking the strings with the other.

“Are you ready to pay the price?” said he, nodding gaily to the dwarf.

As he asked the question, the listening water-steeds snorted more furiously than ever.

“Are you ready to pay the price?” said the little man a second time.

A shower of spray, tossed on shore by the angry steeds, drenched the dwarf to the skin, and sent a cold shiver to his bones, and he was so terrified that he could not answer.

“For the third and last time, are you ready to pay the price?” asked the fairy, as he flung the harp behind him and turned to depart.

When the dwarf saw him going he thought of the little princess in the lonely moor, and his courage came back, and he answered bravely:

“Yes, I am ready.”

The water-steeds, hearing his answer, and snorting with rage, struck the shore with their pounding hoofs.

“Back to your waves!” cried the little harper; and as he ran his fingers across his lyre, the frightened steeds drew back into the waters.

“What is the price?” asked the dwarf.

“Your right eye,” said the fairy; and before the dwarf could say a word, the fairy scooped out the eye with his finger, and put it into his pocket.

The dwarf suffered most terrible agony; but he resolved to bear it for the sake of the little princess. Then the fairy sat down on a rock at the edge of the sea, and, after striking a few notes, he began to play the “Strains of Slumber.”

The sound crept along the waters, and the steeds, so ferocious a moment before, became perfectly still. They had no longer any motion of their own, and they floated on the top of the tide like foam before a breeze.

“Now,” said the fairy, as he led the dwarf’s horse to the edge of the tide.

The dwarf urged the horse into the water, and once out of his depth, the old horse struck out boldly for the island. The sleeping water-steeds drifted helplessly against him, and in a short time he reached the island safely, and he neighed joyously as his hoofs touched solid ground.

The dwarf rode on and on, until he came to a bridle-path, and following this, it led him up through winding lanes, bordered with golden furze that filled the air with fragrance, and brought him to the summit of the green hills that girdled and looked down on the Mystic Lake. Here the horse stopped of his own accord, and the dwarf’s heart beat quickly as his eye rested on the lake, that, clipped round by the ring of hills, seemed in the breezeless and sunlit air––

“As still as death,
And as bright as life can be.”

After gazing at it for a long time, he dismounted, and lay at his ease in the pleasant grass. Hour after hour passed, but no change came over the face of the waters, and when the night fell sleep closed the eyelids of the dwarf.

The song of the lark awoke him in the early morning, and, starting up, he looked at the lake, but its waters were as bright as they had been the day before.

Towards midday he beheld what he thought was a black cloud sailing across the sky from east to west. It seemed to grow larger as it came nearer and nearer, and when it was high above the lake he saw it was a huge bird, the shadow of whose outstretched wings darkened the waters of the lake; and the dwarf knew it was one of the Cormorants of the Western Seas. As it descended slowly, he saw that it held in one of its claws a branch of a tree larger than a full-grown oak, and laden with clusters of ripe red berries. It alighted at some distance from the dwarf, and, after resting for a time, it began to eat the berries and to throw the stones into the lake, and wherever a stone fell a bright red stain appeared in the water. As he looked more closely at the bird the dwarf saw that it had all the signs of old age, and he could not help wondering how it was able to carry such a heavy tree.

Later in the day, two other birds, as large as the first, but younger, came up from the west and settled down beside him. They also ate the berries, and throwing the stones into the lake it was soon as red as wine.

When they had eaten all the berries, the young birds began to pick the decayed feathers off the old bird and to smooth his plumage. As soon as they had completed their task, he rose slowly from the hill and sailed out over the lake, and dropping down on the waters, dived beneath them. In a moment he came to the surface, and shot up into the air with a joyous cry, and flew off to the west in all the vigour of renewed youth, followed by the other birds.

When they had gone so far that they were like specks in the sky, the dwarf mounted his horse and descended towards the lake.

He was almost at the margin, and in another minute would have plunged in, when he heard a fierce screaming in the air, and before he had time to look up, the three birds were hovering over the lake.

The dwarf drew back frightened.

The birds wheeled over his head, and then, swooping down, they flew close to the water, covering it with their wings, and uttering harsh cries.

Then, rising to a great height, they folded their wings and dropped headlong, like three rocks, on the lake, crashing its surface, and scattering a wine-red shower upon the hills.

Then the dwarf remembered what the fairy told him, that if he attempted to swim the lake, without paying the price, the three Cormorants of the Western Seas would pick the flesh off his bones. He knew not what to do, and was about to turn away, when he heard once more the twang of the golden harp, and the little fairy of the hills stood before him.

“Faint heart never won fair lady,” said the little harper. “Are you ready to pay the price? The spear and shield are on the opposite bank, and the Princess Finola is crying this moment in the lonely moor.”

At the mention of Finola’s name the dwarf’s heart grew strong.

“Yes,” he said; “I am ready––win or die. What is the price?”

“Your left eye,” said the fairy. And as soon as said he scooped out the eye, and put it in his pocket.

The poor blind dwarf almost fainted with pain.

“It’s your last trial,” said the fairy, “and now do what I tell you. Twist your horse’s mane round your right hand, and I will lead him to the water. Plunge in, and fear not. I gave you back your speech. When you reach the opposite bank you will get back your memory, and you will know who and what you are.”

Then the fairy led the horse to the margin of the lake.

“In with you now, and good luck go with you,” said the fairy.

The dwarf urged the horse. He plunged into the lake, and went down and down until his feet struck the bottom. Then he began to ascend, and as he came near the surface of the water the dwarf thought he saw a glimmering light, and when he rose above the water he saw the bright sun shining and the green hills before him, and he shouted with joy at finding his sight restored.

But he saw more. Instead of the old horse he had ridden into the lake he was bestride a noble steed, and as the steed swam to the bank the dwarf felt a change coming over himself, and an unknown vigour in his limbs.

When the steed touched the shore he galloped up the hillside, and on the top of the hill was a silver shield, bright as the sun, resting against a spear standing upright in the ground.

The dwarf jumped off, and, running towards the shield, he saw himself as in a looking-glass.

He was no longer a dwarf, but a gallant knight. At that moment his memory came back to him, and he knew he was Conal, one of the Knights of the Red Branch, and he remembered now that the spell of dumbness and deformity had been cast upon him by the Witch of the Palace of the Quicken Trees.

Slinging his shield upon his left arm, he plucked the spear from the ground and leaped on to his horse. With a light heart he swam back over the lake, and nowhere could he see the black Cormorants of the Western Seas, but three white swans floating abreast followed him to the bank. When he reached the bank he galloped down to the sea, and crossed to the shore.

Then he flung the reins upon his horse’s neck, and swifter than the wind the gallant horse swept on and on, and it was not long until he was bounding over the enchanted moor. Wherever his hoofs struck the ground, grass and flowers sprang up, and great trees with leafy branches rose on every side.

At last the knight reached the little hut. Three times he struck the shield with the haft and three times with the blade of his spear. At the last blow the hut disappeared, and standing before him was the little princess.

The knight took her in his arms and kissed her; then he lifted her on to the horse, and, leaping up before her, he turned towards the north, to the palace of the Red Branch Knights, and as they rode on beneath the leafy trees from every tree the birds sang out, for the spell of silence over the lonely moor was broken for ever.

Author: Edmond Leamy (1906)

Buddha and men

Don’t Leave on Saturday (Zen)


Seven years ago, I visited the place called Dharansala, home of the Dalai Lama. The hillside town is seven thousand feet up the Himalayan Mountains. This town attracts many seekers. “The Traveler’s Hotline” assured us that the person to see was this legendary 24-hour lama. A Buddhist monk who had gone without sleep for several years, he had achieved this remarkable feat by the simple technique of meditating instead of taking his “beauty sleep.”
“He must be a wise person,” I thought as I set off for a 5-hour trek to a remote monastery where their 24-hour man resided. I figured that since he had so much time on his hands, maybe he would grant me an audience. Six hours later, I was ushered into a Spartan cell, where sat the man who had not dreamt in years. I was astounded by the Buddha-like tranquility he seemed to emanate. I felt humbled in the presence of this sublime being.

The friendly English-speaking monk, who had found him for me, whispered, “Make your offering, maybe Lama give your blessing.”

I decided I’d make a dash for wisdom and ask a question, instead of a blessing. The monk whispered into Mr. Tylenol Nightmare’s ear, “What question would you like to ask?”

“How do I best progress spiritually?”

More whisperings in a dark, exotic language…My translator friend announced, “Lama say, don’t leave on Saturday.” The 24-hour lama nodded in my direction and then carried on beaming.

I was furious! A 5-hour trek, a rucksack full of goodies to take as offerings – and now a 5-hour walk back down a treacherous Himalayan trail. I was in a reflective mood: maybe I’d expected too much. What did I want from him? Instant enlightenment? Some wisdom would’ve been nice, but “Don’t leave on Saturday”?! Maybe this was some kind of Zen Buddhist paradox within this mundane phase that contained some great gem of wisdom, but dammit! He was a Tibetan Buddhist!!

On Sunday morning, waiting at the coach station for the bus that would take an arduous, 10-hour journey down the vast mountain, my traveling companion stormed up to me and furiously exclaimed, “Bloody great! A 3-hour delay! I just chatted with that policeman over there…he reckons Saturday’s coach had crashed with 14 people dead…The road’s blocked with rescue vehicles…Good thing we didn’t leave yesterday, like we wanted.”

I was in a state of shock. My mind raced back to the beaming Buddha. I was filled with wonderment and joy. He had given me the perfect answer to my question. Had I left Saturday, there would have been no more spiritual progression. The mundane answer to my oh-so-important question was stunning in its magnificence.

Author Unknown

frog princess

Frog Princess (Humor)


One day, a boy was walking down a road when a frog called to him, “Boy, if you kiss me, I will turn into a beautiful princess.”

The boy picked up the frog, smiled at it, then placed the frog into his pocket.

A few minutes later, the frog said, “Boy, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, and I will stay with you for a week.”

The boy took the frog from his pocket, smiled at it, then put it back into his pocket.

A few minutes later, the frog said, “Boy, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will do ANYTHING you want!”

The boy took the frog from his pocket, smiled, and put it back.

Finally, the frog cried, “Boy, what is the matter, I have told you that I am a beautiful princess, and if you kiss me, I will stay with you and do ANYTHING you want!”

The boy took the frog from his pocket and said, “Look, I am an engineering student, I have no time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool!”

ghost car

Speeding Ticket (Humor)


A man was driving home late one afternoon, and he was driving above the speed limit. He notices a police car with its red lights on in his rear view mirror.

He thinks “I can outrun this guy,” so he floors it and the race is on. The cars are racing down the highway — 60, 70, 80, 90 miles an hour.

Finally, as his speedometer passes 100, the guy figures he can’t outrun the cop and gives up. He pulls over to the curb.

The police officer gets out of his cruiser and approaches the car. He leans down and says “Listen mister, I’ve had a really lousy day, and I just want to go home. Give me a good excuse and I’ll let you go.”

The man thought for a moment and said,

“Three weeks ago, my wife ran off with a police officer. When I saw your cruiser in my rear view mirror, I thought you were that officer and you were trying to give her back to me!

dog bride

Mrs Fox’s Wedding (Grimm’s Fairy Tales – 38)


Once upon a time there was an old fox with nine tails. He did not believe that his wife was faithful to him and wanted to put her to the test. He stretched himself out beneath the bench, did not move a limb, and pretended to be stone dead.

Mrs. Fox locked herself in her room, and her maid, Miss Cat, sat on the hearth and cooked.

As soon as it became known that the old fox had died, suitors began to appear. The maid heard someone knocking at the front door. She opened it, and there stood a young fox, who said:

What are you doing, Miss Cat?
Are you asleep, or are you awake?

She answered:

I’m not asleep; I am awake.
Do you want to know what I am doing?
I am cooking warm beer with butter in it.
Would you like to be my guest?

“No thank you, Miss,” said the fox. “What is Mrs. Fox doing?”

The maid answered:

She is sitting in her room
Mourning and grieving.
She has cried her eyes red,
Because old Mr. Fox is dead.

“Miss, tell her that a young fox is here who would like to court her.”

“I’ll do that, young man.”

The cat went upstairs and knocked on the door.

“Mrs. Fox, are you there?”

“Yes, my dear, yes.”

“A suitor is outside.”

“What does he look like? Does he have nine bushy tails like the late Mr. Fox?”

“No,” answered the cat. “He has but one.”

“Then I’ll not have him.”

Miss Cat went downstairs and sent the suitor away.

Soon afterward there was another knock at the door. Another fox was there who wanted to court Mrs. Fox. He had two tails, but he did not fare any better than the first one. Then others came, each with one additional tail, but all were turned away until finally one came who had nine tails, just like old Mr. Fox. When the widow heard that, she spoke joyfully to the cat:

Open up the door
And throw old Mr. Fox out.

They were just about to celebrate the wedding when beneath the bench old Mr. Fox began to stir. He attacked the entire party with blows and drove them all out of the house, including Mrs. Fox.

shrekdonkey

Profit (Humor)


A city boy, Kenny, moved to the country and bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

The next day the farmer drove up and said, “Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.”

Kenny replied, “Well then, just give me my money back.”

The farmer said, “Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.”

Kenny said, “OK then, just unload he donkey.”

The farmer asked, “What ya gonna do with him?”

Kenny said, “I’m going to raffle him off.”

Farmer, “You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!”

Kenny, “Sure I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he is dead.”

A month later the farmer met up with Kenny and asked, “What happened with that dead donkey?”

Kenny, “I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998.00.”

Farmer, “Didn’t anyone complain?”

Kenny, ” Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.”

3 fishes

Scuba trap (Humor)


The day after a man lost his wife in a scuba diving accident, he was greeted by two grim-faced policemen at his door.

“We’re sorry to call on you at this hour, Mr. Wilkens, but we have some information about your wife.”

“Well, tell me!” the man said.

The policeman said, “We have some bad news, some good news and some really great news. Which do you want to hear first?”

Fearing the worse, Mr. Wilkens said, “Give me the bad news first.”

So the policeman said, “I’m sorry to tell you sir, but this morning we found your wife’s body in San Francisco Bay.”

“Oh my god!,” said Mr. Wilkens, overcome by emotion. Then, remembering what the policeman had said, he asked, “What’s the good news?”

“Well,” said the policeman, “When we pulled her up she had two five-pound lobsters and a dozen good size Dungeoness crabs on her.”

“If that’s the good news than what’s the great news?!”, Mr. Wilkens demanded.

The policeman said, “We’re going to pull her up again tomorrow morning.”

monkeys paw

The Monkey’s Paw (Horror)


I

Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

“Hark at the wind,” said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it.

“I’m listening,” said the latter, grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. “Check.”

“I should hardly think that he’d come to-night,” said his father, with his hand poised over the board.

“Mate,” replied the son.

“That’s the worst of living so far out,” bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlooked-for violence; “of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway’s a bog, and the road’s a torrent. I don’t know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses in the road are let, they think it doesn’t matter.”

“Never mind, dear,” said his wife, soothingly; “perhaps you’ll win the next one.”

Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to intercept a knowing glance between mother and son. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty grin in his thin grey beard.

“There he is,” said Herbert White, as the gate banged to loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door.

The old man rose with hospitable haste, and opening the door, was heard condoling with the new arrival. The new arrival also condoled with himself, so that Mrs. White said, “Tut, tut!” and coughed gently as her husband entered the room, followed by a tall, burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage.

“Sergeant-Major Morris,” he said, introducing him.

The sergeant-major shook hands, and taking the proffered seat by the fire, watched contentedly while his host got out whiskey and tumblers and stood a small copper kettle on the fire.

At the third glass his eyes got brighter, and he began to talk, the little family circle regarding with eager interest this visitor from distant parts, as he squared his broad shoulders in the chair and spoke of wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.

“Twenty-one years of it,” said Mr. White, nodding at his wife and son. “When he went away he was a slip of a youth in the warehouse. Now look at him.”

“He don’t look to have taken much harm,” said Mrs. White, politely.

“I’d like to go to India myself,” said the old man, “just to look round a bit, you know.”

“Better where you are,” said the sergeant-major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass, and sighing softly, shook it again.

“I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers,” said the old man. “What was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey’s paw or something, Morris?”

“Nothing,” said the soldier, hastily. “Leastways nothing worth hearing.”

“Monkey’s paw?” said Mrs. White, curiously.

“Well, it’s just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps,” said the sergeant-major, offhandedly.

His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absent-mindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him.

“To look at,” said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, “it’s just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy.”

He took something out of his pocket and proffered it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.

“And what is there special about it?” inquired Mr. White as he took it from his son, and having examined it, placed it upon the table.

“It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

His manner was so impressive that his hearers were conscious that their light laughter jarred somewhat.

“Well, why don’t you have three, sir?” said Herbert White, cleverly.

The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. “I have,” he said, quietly, and his blotchy face whitened.

“And did you really have the three wishes granted?” asked Mrs. White.

“I did,” said the sergeant-major, and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.

“And has anybody else wished?” persisted the old lady.

“The first man had his three wishes. Yes,” was the reply; “I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw.”

His tones were so grave that a hush fell upon the group.

“If you’ve had your three wishes, it’s no good to you now, then, Morris,” said the old man at last. “What do you keep it for?”

The soldier shook his head. “Fancy, I suppose,” he said, slowly. “I did have some idea of selling it, but I don’t think I will. It has caused enough mischief already. Besides, people won’t buy. They think it’s a fairy tale; some of them, and those who do think anything of it want to try it first and pay me afterward.”

“If you could have another three wishes,” said the old man, eyeing him keenly, “would you have them?”

“I don’t know,” said the other. “I don’t know.”

He took the paw, and dangling it between his forefinger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. White, with a slight cry, stooped down and snatched it off.

“Better let it burn,” said the soldier, solemnly.

“If you don’t want it, Morris,” said the other, “give it to me.”

“I won’t,” said his friend, doggedly. “I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again like a sensible man.”

The other shook his head and examined his new possession closely. “How do you do it?” he inquired.

“Hold it up in your right hand and wish aloud,” said the sergeant-major, “but I warn you of the consequences.”

“Sounds like the Arabian Nights,” said Mrs. White, as she rose and began to set the supper. “Don’t you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?”

Her husband drew the talisman from pocket, and then all three burst into laughter as the sergeant-major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.

“If you must wish,” he said, gruffly, “wish for something sensible.”

Mr. White dropped it back in his pocket, and placing chairs, motioned his friend to the table. In the business of supper the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat listening in an enthralled fashion to a second instalment of the soldier’s adventures in India.

“If the tale about the monkey’s paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us,” said Herbert, as the door closed behind their guest, just in time for him to catch the last train, “we sha’nt make much out of it.”

“Did you give him anything for it, father?” inquired Mrs. White, regarding her husband closely.

“A trifle,” said he, colouring slightly. “He didn’t want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away.”

“Likely,” said Herbert, with pretended horror. “Why, we’re going to be rich, and famous and happy. Wish to be an emperor, father, to begin with; then you can’t be henpecked.”

He darted round the table, pursued by the maligned Mrs. White armed with an antimacassar.

Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it dubiously. “I don’t know what to wish for, and that’s a fact,” he said, slowly. “It seems to me I’ve got all I want.”

“If you only cleared the house, you’d be quite happy, wouldn’t you?” said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. “Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that ‘ll just do it.”

His father, smiling shamefacedly at his own credulity, held up the talisman, as his son, with a solemn face, somewhat marred by a wink at his mother, sat down at the piano and struck a few impressive chords.

“I wish for two hundred pounds,” said the old man distinctly.

A fine crash from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man. His wife and son ran toward him.

“It moved,” he cried, with a glance of disgust at the object as it lay on the floor.

“As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake.”

“Well, I don’t see the money,” said his son as he picked it up and placed it on the table, “and I bet I never shall.”

“It must have been your fancy, father,” said his wife, regarding him anxiously.

He shook his head. “Never mind, though; there’s no harm done, but it gave me a shock all the same.”

They sat down by the fire again while the two men finished their pipes. Outside, the wind was higher than ever, and the old man started nervously at the sound of a door banging upstairs. A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three, which lasted until the old couple rose to retire for the night.

“I expect you’ll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed,” said Herbert, as he bade them good-night, “and something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains.”

He sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in it. The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement.’ It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it. His hand grasped the monkey’s paw, and with a little shiver he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed.

II

In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table he laughed at his fears. There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked on the previous night, and the dirty, shrivelled little paw was pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues.

“I suppose all old soldiers are the same,” said Mrs. White. “The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?”

“Might drop on his head from the sky,” said the frivolous Herbert.

“Morris said the things happened so naturally,” said’ his father, “that you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence.”

“Well, don’t break into the money before I come back,” said Herbert as he rose from the table. “I’m afraid it’ll turn you into a mean, avaricious man, and we shall have to disown you.”

His mother laughed, and following him to the door, watched him down the road; and returning to the breakfast table, was very happy at the expense of her husband’s credulity. All of which did not prevent her from scurrying to the door at the postman’s knock, nor prevent her from referring somewhat shortly to retired sergeant-majors of bibulous habits when she found that the post brought a tailor’s bill.

“Herbert will have some more of his funny remarks, I expect, when he comes home,” she said, as they sat at dinner.

“I dare say,” said Mr. White, pouring himself out some beer; “but for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I’ll swear to.”

“You thought it did,” said the old lady soothingly.

“I say it did,” replied the other. “There was no thought about it; I had just?- What’s the matter?”

His wife made no reply. She was watching the mysterious movements of a man outside, who, peering in an undecided fashion at the house, appeared to be trying to make up his mind to enter. In mental connection with the two hundred pounds, she noticed that the stranger was well dressed, and wore a silk hat of glossy newness. Three times he paused at the gate, and then walked on again. The fourth time he stood with his hand upon it, and then with sudden resolution flung it open and walked up the path. Mrs. White at the same moment placed her hands behind her, and hurriedly unfastening the strings of her apron, put that useful article of apparel beneath the cushion of her chair.

She brought the stranger, who seemed ill at ease, into the room. He gazed at her furtively, and listened in a preoccupied fashion as the old lady apologized for the appearance of the room, and her husband’s coat, a garment which he usually reserved for the garden. She then waited as patiently as her sex would permit, for him to broach his business, but he was at first strangely silent.

“I?was asked to call,” he said at last, and stooped and picked a piece of cotton from his trousers. “I come from ‘Maw and Meggins.’”

The old lady started. “Is anything the matter?” she asked, breathlessly. “Has anything happened to Herbert? What is it? What is it?”

Her husband interposed. “There, there, mother,” he said, hastily. “Sit down, and don’t jump to conclusions. You’ve not brought bad news, I’m sure, sir;” and he eyed the other wistfully.

“I’m sorry?” began the visitor.

“Is he hurt?” demanded the mother, wildly.

The visitor bowed in assent. “Badly hurt,” he said, quietly, “but he is not in any pain.”

“Oh, thank God!” said the old woman, clasping her hands. “Thank God for that! Thank?”

She broke off suddenly as the sinister meaning of the assurance dawned upon her and she saw the awful confirmation of her fears in the other’s perverted face. She caught her breath, and turning to her slower-witted husband, laid her trembling old hand upon his. There was a long silence.

“He was caught in the machinery,” said the visitor at length in a low voice.

“Caught in the machinery,” repeated Mr. White, in a dazed fashion, “yes.”

He sat staring blankly out at the window, and taking his wife’s hand between his own, pressed it as he had been wont to do in their old courting-days nearly forty years before.

“He was the only one left to us,” he said, turning gently to the visitor. “It is hard.”

The other coughed, and rising, walked slowly to the window. “The firm wished me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss,” he said, without looking round. “I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.”

There was no reply; the old woman’s face was white, her eyes staring, and her breath inaudible; on the husband’s face was a look such as his friend the sergeant might have carried into his first action.

“I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility,” continued the other. “They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.”

Mr. White dropped his wife’s hand, and rising to his feet, gazed with a look of horror at his visitor. His dry lips shaped the words, “How much?”

“Two hundred pounds,” was the answer.

Unconscious of his wife’s shriek, the old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor.

III

In the huge new cemetery, some two miles distant, the old people buried their dead, and came back to a house steeped in shadow and silence. It was all over so quickly that at first they could hardly realize it, and remained in a state of expectation as though of something else to happen ?something else which was to lighten this load, too heavy for old hearts to bear.

But the days passed, and expectation gave place to resignation?the hopeless resignation of the old, sometimes miscalled, apathy. Sometimes they hardly exchanged a word, for now they had nothing to talk about, and their days were long to weariness.

It was about a week after that the old man, waking suddenly in the night, stretched out his hand and found himself alone. The room was in darkness, and the sound of subdued weeping came from the window. He raised himself in bed and listened.

“Come back,” he said, tenderly. “You will be cold.”

“It is colder for my son,” said the old woman, and wept afresh.

The sound of her sobs died away on his ears. The bed was warm, and his eyes heavy with sleep. He dozed fitfully, and then slept until a sudden wild cry from his wife awoke him with a start.

“The paw!” she cried wildly. “The monkey’s paw!”

He started up in alarm. “Where? Where is it? What’s the matter?”

She came stumbling across the room toward him. “I want it,” she said, quietly. “You’ve not destroyed it?”

“It’s in the parlour, on the bracket,” he replied, marvelling. “Why?”

She cried and laughed together, and bending over, kissed his cheek.

“I only just thought of it,” she said, hysterically. “Why didn’t I think of it before? Why didn’t you think of it?”

“Think of what?” he questioned.

“The other two wishes,” she replied, rapidly.

“We’ve only had one.”

“Was not that enough?” he demanded, fiercely.

“No,” she cried, triumphantly; “we’ll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again.”

The man sat up in bed and flung the bedclothes from his quaking limbs. “Good God, you are mad!” he cried, aghast.

“Get it,” she panted; “get it quickly, and wish?Oh, my boy, my boy!”

Her husband struck a match and lit the candle. “Get back to bed,” he said, unsteadily. “You don’t know what you are saying.”

“We had the first wish granted,” said the old woman, feverishly; “why not the second?”

“A coincidence,” stammered the old man.

“Go and get it and wish,” cried his wife, quivering with excitement.

The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. “He has been dead ten days, and besides he?I would not tell you else, but?I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?”

“Bring him back,” cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. “Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?”

He went down in the darkness, and felt his way to the parlour, and then to the mantelpiece. The talisman was in its place, and a horrible fear that the unspoken wish might bring his mutilated son before him ere he could escape from the room seized upon him, and he caught his breath as he found that he had lost the direction of the door. His brow cold with sweat, he felt his way round the table, and groped along the wall until he found himself in the small passage with the unwholesome thing in his hand.

Even his wife’s face seemed changed as he entered the room. It was white and expectant, and to his fears seemed to have an unnatural look upon it. He was afraid of her.

“Wish!” she cried, in a strong voice.

“It is foolish and wicked,” he faltered.

“Wish!” repeated his wife.

He raised his hand. “I wish my son alive again.”

The talisman fell to the floor, and he regarded it fearfully. Then he sank trembling into a chair as the old woman, with burning eyes, walked to the window and raised the blind.

He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window. The candle-end, which had burned below the rim of the china candlestick, was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceiling and walls, until, with a flicker larger than the rest, it expired. The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed, and a minute or two afterward the old woman came silently and apathetically beside him.

Neither spoke, but lay silently listening to the ticking of the clock. A stair creaked, and a squeaky mouse scurried noisily through the wall. The darkness was oppressive, and after lying for some time screwing up his courage, he took the box of matches, and striking one, went downstairs for a candle.

At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another; and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door.

The matches fell from his hand and spilled in the passage. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated. Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room, and closed the door behind him. A third knock sounded through the house.

“What’s that?” cried the old woman, starting up.

“A rat,” said the old man in shaking tones?”a rat. It passed me on the stairs.”

His wife sat up in bed listening. A loud knock resounded through the house.

“It’s Herbert!” she screamed. “It’s Herbert!”

She ran to the door, but her husband was before her, and catching her by the arm, held her tightly.

“What are you going to do?” he whispered hoarsely.

“It’s my boy; it’s Herbert!” she cried, struggling mechanically. “I forgot it was two miles away. What are you holding me for? Let go. I must open the door.

“For God’s sake don’t let it in,” cried the old man, trembling.

“You’re afraid of your own son,” she cried, struggling. “Let me go. I’m coming, Herbert; I’m coming.”

There was another knock, and another. The old woman with a sudden wrench broke free and ran from the room. Her husband followed to the landing, and called after her appealingly as she hurried downstairs. He heard the chain rattle back and the bottom bolt drawn slowly and stiffly from the socket. Then the old woman’s voice, strained and panting.

“The bolt,” she cried, loudly. “Come down. I can’t reach it.”

But her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house, and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish.

The knocking ceased suddenly, although the echoes of it were still in the house. He heard the chair drawn back, and the door opened. A cold wind rushed up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

Author: W.W.Jacobs (1902)

sailing ship

Sindbad’s First Voyage (Arabian Nights – Part – 15)


I had inherited considerable wealth from my parents, and being young and foolish I at first squandered it recklessly upon every kind of pleasure, but presently, finding that riches speedily take to themselves wings if managed as badly as I was managing mine, and remembering also that to be old and poor is misery indeed, I began to bethink me of how I could make the best of what still remained to me. I sold all my household goods by public auction, and joined a company of merchants who traded by sea, embarking with them at Balsora in a ship which we had fitted out between us.

We set sail and took our course towards the East Indies by the Persian Gulf, having the coast of Persia upon our left hand and upon our right the shores of Arabia Felix. I was at first much troubled by the uneasy motion of the vessel, but speedily recovered my health, and since that hour have been no more plagued by sea-sickness.

From time to time we landed at various islands, where we sold or exchanged our merchandise, and one day, when the wind dropped suddenly, we found ourselves becalmed close to a small island like a green meadow, which only rose slightly above the surface of the water. Our sails were furled, and the captain gave permission to all who wished to land for a while and amuse themselves. I was among the number, but when after strolling about for some time we lighted a fire and sat down to enjoy the repast which we had brought with us, we were startled by a sudden and violent trembling of the island, while at the same moment those left upon the ship set up an outcry bidding us come on board for our lives, since what we had taken for an island was nothing but the back of a sleeping whale. Those who were nearest to the boat threw themselves into it, others sprang into the sea, but before I could save myself the whale plunged suddenly into the depths of the ocean, leaving me clinging to a piece of the wood which we had brought to make our fire. Meanwhile a breeze had sprung up, and in the confusion that ensued on board our vessel in hoisting the sails and taking up those who were in the boat and clinging to its sides, no one missed me and I was left at the mercy of the waves. All that day I floated up and down, now beaten this way, now that, and when night fell I despaired for my life; but, weary and spent as I was, I clung to my frail support, and great was my joy when the morning light showed me that I had drifted against an island.

The cliffs were high and steep, but luckily for me some tree-roots protruded in places, and by their aid I climbed up at last, and stretched myself upon the turf at the top, where I lay, more dead than alive, till the sun was high in the heavens. By that time I was very hungry, but after some searching I came upon some eatable herbs, and a spring of clear water, and much refreshed I set out to explore the island. Presently I reached a great plain where a grazing horse was tethered, and as I stood looking at it I heard voices talking apparently underground, and in a moment a man appeared who asked me how I came upon the island. I told him my adventures, and heard in return that he was one of the grooms of Mihrage, the king of the island, and that each year they came to feed their master’s horses in this plain. He took me to a cave where his companions were assembled, and when I had eaten of the food they set before me, they bade me think myself fortunate to have come upon them when I did, since they were going back to their master on the morrow, and without their aid I could certainly never have found my way to the inhabited part of the island.

Early the next morning we accordingly set out, and when we reached the capital I was graciously received by the king, to whom I related my adventures, upon which he ordered that I should be well cared for and provided with such things as I needed. Being a merchant I sought out men of my own profession, and particularly those who came from foreign countries, as I hoped in this way to hear news from Bagdad, and find out some means of returning thither, for the capital was situated upon the sea-shore, and visited by vessels from all parts of the world. In the meantime I heard many curious things, and answered many questions concerning my own country, for I talked willingly with all who came to me. Also to while away the time of waiting I explored a little island named Cassel, which belonged to King Mihrage, and which was supposed to be inhabited by a spirit named Deggial. Indeed, the sailors assured me that often at night the playing of timbals could be heard upon it. However, I saw nothing strange upon my voyage, saving some fish that were full two hundred cubits long, but were fortunately more in dread of us than even we were of them, and fled from us if we did but strike upon a board to frighten them. Other fishes there were only a cubit long which had heads like owls.

One day after my return, as I went down to the quay, I saw a ship which had just cast anchor, and was discharging her cargo, while the merchants to whom it belonged were busily directing the removal of it to their warehouses. Drawing nearer I presently noticed that my own name was marked upon some of the packages, and after having carefully examined them, I felt sure that they were indeed those which I had put on board our ship at Balsora. I then recognised the captain of the vessel, but as I was certain that he believed me to be dead, I went up to him and asked who owned the packages that I was looking at.

“There was on board my ship,” he replied, “a merchant of Bagdad named Sindbad. One day he and several of my other passengers landed upon what we supposed to be an island, but which was really an enormous whale floating asleep upon the waves. No sooner did it feel upon its back the heat of the fire which had been kindled, than it plunged into the depths of the sea. Several of the people who were upon it perished in the waters, and among others this unlucky Sindbad. This merchandise is his, but I have resolved to dispose of it for the benefit of his family if I should ever chance to meet with them.”

“Captain,” said I, “I am that Sindbad whom you believe to be dead, and these are my possessions!”

When the captain heard these words he cried out in amazement, “Lackaday! and what is the world coming to? In these days there is not an honest man to be met with. Did I not with my own eyes see Sindbad drown, and now you have the audacity to tell me that you are he! I should have taken you to be a just man, and yet for the sake of obtaining that which does not belong to you, you are ready to invent this horrible falsehood.”

“Have patience, and do me the favour to hear my story,” said I.

“Speak then,” replied the captain, “I’m all attention.”

So I told him of my escape and of my fortunate meeting with the king’s grooms, and how kindly I had been received at the palace. Very soon I began to see that I had made some impression upon him, and after the arrival of some of the other merchants, who showed great joy at once more seeing me alive, he declared that he also recognised me.

Throwing himself upon my neck he exclaimed, “Heaven be praised that you have escaped from so great a danger. As to your goods, I pray you take them, and dispose of them as you please.” I thanked him, and praised his honesty, begging him to accept several bales of merchandise in token of my gratitude, but he would take nothing. Of the choicest of my goods I prepared a present for King Mihrage, who was at first amazed, having known that I had lost my all. However, when I had explained to him how my bales had been miraculously restored to me, he graciously accepted my gifts, and in return gave me many valuable things. I then took leave of him, and exchanging my merchandise for sandal and aloes wood, camphor, nutmegs, cloves, pepper, and ginger, I embarked upon the same vessel and traded so successfully upon our homeward voyage that I arrived in Balsora with about one hundred thousand sequins. My family received me with as much joy as I felt upon seeing them once more. I bought land and slaves, and built a great house in which I resolved to live happily, and in the enjoyment of all the pleasures of life to forget my past sufferings.

Here Sindbad paused, and commanded the musicians to play again, while the feasting continued until evening. When the time came for the porter to depart, Sindbad gave him a purse containing one hundred sequins, saying, “Take this, Hindbad, and go home, but to-morrow come again and you shall hear more of my adventures.”

The porter retired quite overcome by so much generosity, and you may imagine that he was well received at home, where his wife and children thanked their lucky stars that he had found such a benefactor.

The next day Hindbad, dressed in his best, returned to the voyager’s house, and was received with open arms. As soon as all the guests had arrived the banquet began as before, and when they had feasted long and merrily, Sindbad addressed them thus:

“My friends, I beg that you will give me your attention while I relate the adventures of my second voyage, which you will find even more astonishing than the first.”

(To Be Continued….)

Translated by Andrew Lang

2 roads

The Road Not Taken (Poem)


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Author: Robert Frost

tiger

The Old Tiger and the Greedy Traveler (Folk Tales from India – 5)


Once upon a time, there lived a Tiger in a forest. With the passing years, he became too old to hunt. One day, the Tiger was walking by the side of a lake and suddenly, a gold bangle came across his sight. Quickly he picked up the bangle and thought that he could use it as an allure to catch someone. As he was under the thought process, a traveler happened to pass through the opposite side of the lake.

The Tiger instantly thought to himself, “What a delicious meal he would make?” He planned a scheme to attract the traveler. He held the bangle in his paw making it visible to the traveler and said, “Would you like to take this gold bangle. I don’t require it”. At once, the traveler wanted to take the bangle, but he hesitated to go near the Tiger. He knew that it was risky, yet he sought the Gold Bangle. He planned to be cautious, so he asked the Tiger, “How can I believe you? I know you are a beast and would kill me”.

The Clever Tiger innocently said, “Listen Traveler, in my youth, I was wicked unquestionably, but now I have changed myself. With the advice of a Sanyasi, I have left all evil. Now I am all alone in this world and have engaged myself in kind deeds. Moreover, I have grown old. I have no teeth and my claws are blunt. So, there is no need to fear from me”. The traveler’s was taken in by this smart talk and his love for gold soon overcame his fear of the Tiger. He jumped into the lake to wade across the Tiger.

But as per the plan of the Tiger, he got trapped in the marsh. On seeing this, the Tiger consoled him and said, “Oh! You need not worry. I’ll help you”. Gradually he came towards the traveler and seized him. As the traveler was being dragged out, onto the bank, he thought to himself, “Oh! This beast’s talk of saintliness took me in totally. A beast is always a beast. If only I had not let my greed overcome my reason, I could be alive”. However, it was too late; the Tiger killed the traveler and ate him up. Like this, the traveler became victim of greed and Tiger was successful in his evil plan.

Moral: Greed never goes unpunished.

Source: Stories from Hitopadesha

Torah

The Melody of Torah (Jewish)


The ta’am (melody) that the Torah is chanted in is a very old and special melody. It has been handed down from generation to generation. Its’ roots are very deep. They are found in the mystical teachings of our religion. Some times people want to be innovative, to create a new melody. The following story is just that.

Once there was a secularist who was very good friends with the Rav of the city. Even though this secularist differed in opinion from his traditionally observant friends, he still visited his old friend, the city Rav, on a regular weekly basis. On one visit, the secularist, began to complain to the Rav about the unchanging ways of the Traditional Jewry.

“…And why can’t they update the tune to which the Torah is chanted?” the secularist objected. “how many years can you continue with the same old tune? Especially today when so many new and beautiful musical tunes and melodies are being brought into the world by inventive and creative composers. Answer me that!” he demanded of the Rav.

“I’ll have to think about it. Maybe you have a point. Perhaps next week I’ll be able to answer you, but for now could you do me a big favor? I’m short of money and if you could loan me 50 rubles, I’ll pay you back next week.”

“Of course,” the secularist said, honored that the Rav would ask him for a loan. He reached into his purse, “here, take this!” He handed over the money that the Rav requested.

Thanking him warmly, the Rav escorted him to the door and bid him farewell.

The next week the secularist came at his customary tea time and sat with the Rav, chatting amicably in the parlor. As the time pressed on, the secularist felt uncomfortable because the Rav had not offered to return him the money that he had lent to him so willingly and with out a note. Finally as the secularist began to leave, he turned to the Rav and said: “Pardon me for bringing this up, but did the Rav not promise to return today the 50 rubles that he borrowed from me last week?

“I borrowed 50 rubles from you?” was the Rav’s surprised reply.

“Yes, don’t you remember? Last week when I was here. Before I left!” the secularist exclaimed.

“I borrowed 50 Rubles from YOU?” the Rav responded with indignation.

“But, but the Rav promised to return the money to me today, and now you are denying that you even borrowed the money!” the secularist cried out in pain at the Rav’s breach of faith and denial of the loan.

“I BORROWED 50 Rubles from YOU?” the Rav raised his voice is dismay.

“Yes! How can you deny the good deed I did, loaning you the money. Don’t you remember we were chatting about the same old tune that has been used for the Torah reading for so many years? You said perhaps you would give me an answer this week and then you asked to borrow 50 rubles. And now you deny it!

“Who me? The Rav asked as he broke into a gentle grin, “I’m not denying anything, I said “I borrowed 50 Rubles from you” I just changed the tune of my statement!

“Don’t let anyone fool you, it’s the tune which gives the meaning to the words!”

Author: Eliezer Cohen. Source

rose

A Rose from Homer’s Grave (Hans Christian Andersen)


All the songs of the east speak of the love of the nightingale for the rose in the silent starlight night. The winged songster serenades the fragrant flowers.

Not far from Smyrna, where the merchant drives his loaded camels, proudly arching their long necks as they journey beneath the lofty pines over holy ground, I saw a hedge of roses. The turtle-dove flew among the branches of the tall trees, and as the sunbeams fell upon her wings, they glistened as if they were mother-of-pearl. On the rose-bush grew a flower, more beautiful than them all, and to her the nightingale sung of his woes; but the rose remained silent, not even a dewdrop lay like a tear of sympathy on her leaves. At last she bowed her head over a heap of stones, and said, “Here rests the greatest singer in the world; over his tomb will I spread my fragrance, and on it I will let my leaves fall when the storm scatters them. He who sung of Troy became earth, and from that earth I have sprung. I, a rose from the grave of Homer, am too lofty to bloom for a nightingale.” Then the nightingale sung himself to death. A camel-driver came by, with his loaded camels and his black slaves; his little son found the dead bird, and buried the lovely songster in the grave of the great Homer, while the rose trembled in the wind.

The evening came, and the rose wrapped her leaves more closely round her, and dreamed: and this was her dream.

It was a fair sunshiny day; a crowd of strangers drew near who had undertaken a pilgrimage to the grave of Homer. Among the strangers was a minstrel from the north, the home of the clouds and the brilliant lights of the aurora borealis. He plucked the rose and placed it in a book, and carried it away into a distant part of the world, his fatherland. The rose faded with grief, and lay between the leaves of the book, which he opened in his own home, saying, “Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.”

Then the flower awoke from her dream, and trembled in the wind. A drop of dew fell from the leaves upon the singer’s grave. The sun rose, and the flower bloomed more beautiful than ever. The day was hot, and she was still in her own warm Asia. Then footsteps approached, strangers, such as the rose had seen in her dream, came by, and among them was a poet from the north; he plucked the rose, pressed a kiss upon her fresh mouth, and carried her away to the home of the clouds and the northern lights. Like a mummy, the flower now rests in his “Iliad,” and, as in her dream, she hears him say, as he opens the book, “Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.”

USA penny

In God We Trust (Christian)


A woman of modest means and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband’s employer’s home. The boss was very wealthy, with an estate home and several cars costing more than the average house.

The woman delighted to experience first hand the life of the extremely wealthy. The boss indulged his guests both at home on his estate as well as out as exclusive dining establishments.

On one occasion as they were about to enter an exclusive restaurant, the boss was walking slightly ahead of them. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.

An awkward silence folllowed. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, a few cigarette butts and assorted litter. Quietly, the rich man reached down and picked up the penny.

He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have of a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the penny bothered her. Finally, she causally mentioned that her son once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been rare.

A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.

“Look at it.” He said. “Read what it says.” She read the words “United States of America.”

“No, not that; read further.”

“One cent?” “No, keep reading.”

“In God we Trust?” “Yes!” “And?”

“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it!

God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by?

When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!”

war

History through the students’ eyes (Humor)


The inhabitants of ancient Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. On of their children, Cain, once asked, “Am I my brother’s son?” God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother’s birth mark. Jacob was a patriarch who brought up his twelve sons to be patriarchs, but they did not take it. One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, gave refuse to the Israelites.

Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw. Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in the Biblical times. Soloman, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.

Without the Greeks we wouldn’t have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns – Corinthian, Doric, and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intollerable. Achilles appears in The Iliad, by Homer. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.

In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, the threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath. The government of Athens was democratic because people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high that they couldn’t climb over to see what their neighbors were doing. When they fought with the Persians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.

Eventually, the Ramons conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlic in their hair. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Nero was a cruel tyranny who would turture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them.

Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames. King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings, Joan of Arc was canonized by Bernard Shaw, and victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally, Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offense.

In medevil time most of the people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and versus and also wrote literature. Another tale tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son’s head.

The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull. It was the painter Donatello’s interes in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.

The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry-VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee. Queen Elizabeth was the “Virgin Queen.” As a queen she was a success. When Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted, “hurrah.” Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo.

The greatest write of the Renaissance was William Shakespear. Shakespear never made much money and is only famous because of his plays. He lived at Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors. In one of Shakespear’s famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy. In another, Lady Macbeth tried to convince Macbeth to kill the Kind by attack his manhood. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Writing at the same time as Shakespear was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.

During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe. Later, the Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and this was known as Pilgrims Progress. When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they were greeted by the Indians, who came down the hill rolling their war hoops before them. The Indian squabs carried porpoises on their back. Many of the Indian heroes were killed, along with their cabooses, which proved very fatal for them. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.

ogre

The Sufi and the Ogre (Sufi)


A Sufi master traveling alone through a desolate mountain region was suddenly faced by an ogre–a giant ghoul, who told him that he was going to destroy him. The master said, “Very well, try if you like, but I can overcome you, for I am immensely powerful in more ways than you think.”

“Nonsense,” said the ghoul “You are a Sufi master, interested in spiritual things. You cannot overcome me, because I rely upon brute force, and I am thirty times larger than you.”

“If you want a trial of strength,” said the Sufi, “take this stone and squeeze liquid out of it.” He picked up a small piece of rock and handed it to the apparition. Try as he might, the ghoul could not. “It is impossible; there is no water in this stone. You show me if there is.”

In the half-darkness, the master took the stone, took an egg out of his pocket, and squeezed the two together, holding his hand over that of the ghoul. The ghoul was impressed; for people are often impressed by things that they do not understand, and value such things highly, more highly than they should in their own interests.

“I must think this over,” he said. “Come to my cave, and I shall give you hospitality for the night.” The Sufi accompanied him to an immense cave, strewn with the belongings of thousands of murdered travelers, a veritable Aladdin’s cavern. “Lie here beside me and sleep,” said the ghoul, “and we will try conclusions in the morning.” He lay down and immediately fell asleep.

The master, instinctively warned of treachery, suddenly felt a prompting to get up and conceal himself at some distance from the ghoul. This he did, after arranging the bed to give the impression that he was still in it.

No sooner was he sat a safe distance than the ghoul awoke. He picked up a tree-trunk with one hand, and dealt the dummy in the bed seven mighty blows. Then he lay down again and went to sleep. The master returned to his bed, lay down, and called to the ghoul:

“O ghoul! This cavern of yours is comfortable, but I have been bitten seven times by a mosquito. You really should do something about it.”

This shocked the ghoul so much that he dared not attempt a further attack. After all, if a man had been hit seven times by a ghoul wielding a tree trunk with all the force he had… ?

In the morning the ghoul threw the Sufi a whole ox-skin and said: “Bring some water for breakfast, so that we can make tea.” Instead of picking up the skin (which he could hardly have lifted in any case) the master walked to the near-by stream and started to dig a small channel towards the cave.

The ghoul was getting thirsty: “Why don’t you bring the water?” “Patience, my friend. I am making a permanent channel to bring the spring-water right to the mouth of the cavern, so that you will never have to carry a water-skin.”

But the ghoul was too thirsty to wait. PIcking up the skin, he strode to the river and filled it himself. When the tea was made he drank several gallons, and his reasoning faculties began to work a little better. “If you are so strong — and you have given me proof of it — why can’t you dig that channel faster, instead of inch by inch?”

“Because,” said the master, “nothing which is truly worth doing can be properly done without the expenditure of a minimum amount of effort. Everything has its own quantity of effort; and I am applying the minimum effort necessary to the digging of the canal.

Besides, I knew that you are such a creature of habit that you will always use the ox-skin.”

Source

gold donkey grimm

Table-Be-Set, Gold-Donkey, and Cudgel-out-of-the-Sack (Grimm’s Fairy Tales – 37)


There was once upon a time a tailor who had three sons, and only one goat. But as the goat supported all of them with her milk, she was obliged to have good food, and to be taken every day to pasture. The sons did this, in turn.

Once the eldest took her to the churchyard, where the finest herbs were to be found, and let her eat and run about there. At night when it was time to go home he asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch;
Meh, meh!

“Come home, then,” said the youth, and took hold of the cord around her neck, led her into the stable, and tied her up securely.

“Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had as much food as she ought?”

“Oh,” answered the son, “she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

But the father wished to satisfy himself, and went down to the stable, stroked the dear animal, and asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

The goat answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

“What do I hear?” cried the tailor, and ran upstairs and said to the youth, “Hey, you liar, you said the goat had had enough, and have let her hunger.” And in his anger he took the yardstick from the wall, and drove him out with blows.

Next day it was the turn of the second son, who sought a place next to the garden hedge where nothing but good herbs grew, and the goat gobbled them all up. At night when he wanted to go home, he asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch;
Meh, meh!
“Come home then,” said the youth, and led her home, and tied her up in the stable.

“Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had as much food as she ought?”

“Oh,” answered the son, “she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

The tailor would not rely on this, but went down to the stable and said, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

“The godless wretch!” cried the tailor, to let such a good animal hunger, and he ran up and drove the youth out of doors with the yardstick.

Now came the turn of the third son, who wanted to do his duty well, and sought out some bushes with the finest leaves, and let the goat devour them. In the evening when he wanted to go home, he asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch;
Meh, meh!

“Come home then,” said the youth, and led her into the stable, and tied her up.

“Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had her full share of food?”

“She has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

The tailor was distrustful, went down, and asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The wicked beast answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

“Oh, the brood of liars!” cried the tailor, “Each as wicked and forgetful of his duty as the other. You shall no longer make a fool of me!” And quite beside himself with anger, he ran upstairs and tanned the poor young fellow’s back so vigorously with the yardstick that he leaped out of the house.

The old tailor was now alone with his goat. Next morning he went down into the stable, stroked the goat and said, “Come, my dear little animal, I myself will take you to feed.” He took her by the rope and led her to green hedges, and amongst yarrow and whatever else goats like to eat. “Here you may for once eat to your heart’s content,” he said to her, and let her browse till evening. Then he asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

She answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch;
Meh, meh!

“Come home then,” said the tailor, and led her into the stable, and tied her fast. When he was going away, he turned around again and said, “Well, are you satisfied for once?”

But the goat behaved no better for him, and cried,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

When the tailor heard that, he was shocked, and saw clearly that he had driven away his three sons without cause. “Wait, you ungrateful creature,” he cried, “it is not enough to drive you away, I will brand you so that you will no more dare to show yourself amongst honest tailors.” He quickly ran upstairs, fetched his razor, lathered the goat’s head, and shaved her as clean as the palm of his hand. And as the yardstick would have been too honorable for her, he grabbed a whip, and gave her such blows with it that she bounded away with tremendous leaps.

When the tailor was thus left quite alone in his house he fell into great grief, and would gladly have had his sons back again, but no one knew where they were gone.

The eldest had apprenticed himself to a joiner, and learned industriously and tirelessly, and when the time came for him to be on his way, his master presented him with a little table which was not particularly beautiful, and was made of common wood, but which had one good property. If anyone set it out, and said, “table be set,” the good little table was at once covered with a clean little cloth, and a plate was there, and a knife and fork beside it, and dishes with boiled meats and roasted meats, as many as there was room for, and a great glass of red wine shone, so that it made the heart glad.

The young journeyman thought, “With this you have enough for your whole life,” and went joyously about the world and never troubled himself at all whether an inn was good or bad, or if anything was to be found in it or not. When it suited him, he did not enter an inn at all, but either on the plain, in a wood, a meadow, or wherever he fancied, he took his little table off his back, set it down before him, and said, “table be set,” and then everything appeared that his heart desired.

At length he took it into his head to go back to his father, whose anger would now be appeased, and who would now willingly receive him with his magic table. It came to pass that on his way home, he came one evening to an inn which was filled with guests. They bade him welcome, and invited him to sit and eat with them, for otherwise he would have difficulty in getting anything.

“No,” answered the joiner, “I will not take the few morsels out of your mouths. Rather than that, you shall be my guests.”

They laughed, and thought he was jesting with them. He but placed his wooden table in the middle of the room, and said, “Table be set.” Instantly it was covered with food, so good that the host could never have procured it, and the smell of it ascended pleasantly to the nostrils of the guests.

“Fall to, dear friends,” said the joiner, and the guests when they saw that he meant it, did not need to be asked twice, but drew near, pulled out their knives and attacked it valiantly. And what surprised them the most was that when a dish became empty, a full one instantly took its place of its own accord.

The innkeeper stood in one corner and watched the affair. He did not at all know what to say, but thought, “You could easily find a use for such a cook as that in your household.”

The joiner and his comrades made merry until late into the night. At length they lay down to sleep, and the young journeyman also went to bed, and set his magic table against the wall. The host’s thoughts, however, let him have no rest. It occurred to him that there was a little old table in his backroom which looked just like the journeyman’s and he brought it out, and carefully exchanged it for the wishing table. Next morning the joiner paid for his bed, took up his table, never thinking that he had got a false one, and went his way.

At midday he reached his father, who received him with great joy. “Well, my dear son, what have you learned?” he said to him.

“Father, I have become a joiner.”

“A good trade,” replied the old man. “But what have you brought back with you from your apprenticeship?”

“Father, the best thing which I have brought back with me is this little table.”

The tailor inspected it on all sides and said, “You did not make a masterpiece when you made this. It is a bad old table.”

“But it is a table-be-set,” replied the son. “When I set it out, and tell it to set itself, the most beautiful dishes immediately appear on it, and wine also, which gladdens the heart. Just invite all our relatives and friends. They shall refresh and enjoy themselves for once, for the table will fill them all.”

When the company was assembled, he put his table in the middle of the room and said, “Table be set,” but the little table did not move, and remained just as bare as any other table which does not understand language. Then the poor journeyman became aware that his table had been changed, and was ashamed at having to stand there like a liar. The relatives, however, mocked him, and were forced to go home without having eaten or drunk.

The father brought out his scraps again, and went on tailoring, but the son found work with a master joiner.

The second son had gone to a miller and had apprenticed himself to him. When his years were over, the master said, “As you have conducted yourself so well, I give you a donkey of a peculiar kind, which neither draws a cart nor carries a sack.”

“What good is he then?” asked the young journeyman.

“He spews forth gold,” answered the miller. “If you set him on a cloth and say ‘Bricklebrit,’ the good animal will spew forth gold pieces for you from back and front.”

“That is a fine thing,” said the journeyman, and thanked the master, and went out into the world. When he had need of gold, he had only to say “Bricklebrit” to his donkey, and it rained gold pieces, and he had nothing to do but pick them off the ground. Wherever he went, the best of everything was good enough for him, and the more expensive the better, for he had always a full purse. When he had looked about the world for some time, he thought, “You must seek out your father. If you go to him with the gold-donkey he will forget his anger, and receive you well.”

It came to pass that he came to the same inn in which his brother’s table had been exchanged. He led his donkey by the bridle, and the host was about to take the animal from him and tie him up, but the young journeyman said, “Don’t trouble yourself, I will take my nag into the stable, and tie him up myself too, for I must know where he is.”

This struck the host as odd, and he thought that a man who was forced to look after his donkey himself, could not have much to spend. But when the stranger put his hand in his pocket and brought out two gold pieces, and said he was to provide something good for him, the host opened his eyes wide, and ran and sought out the best he could muster. After dinner the guest asked what he owed. The innkeeper did not see why he should not double the bill, and said the journeyman must give two more gold pieces. He felt in his pocket, but his gold was just at an end.

“Wait an instant, sir,” said he, “I will go and fetch some money.” But he took the tablecloth with him. The innkeeper could not imagine what this meant, and being curious, stole after him, and as the guest bolted the stable door, he peeped through a hole left by a knot in the wood.

The stranger spread out the cloth under the animal and cried, “Bricklebrit,” and immediately the beast began to let gold pieces fall from back and front, so that it fairly rained down money onto the ground.

“Eh, my word,” said the innkeeper. “Ducats are quickly coined there. A purse like that is not bad.” The guest paid his bill and went to bed, but in the night the innkeeper stole down into the stable, led away the master of the mint, and tied up another donkey in his place.

Early next morning the journeyman traveled away with his donkey, and thought that he had his gold-donkey. At midday he reached his father, who rejoiced to see him again, and gladly took him in.

“What have you made of yourself, my son?” asked the old man.

“A miller, dear father,” he answered.

“What have you brought back with you from your travels.”

“Nothing else but a donkey.”

“There are donkeys enough here,” said the father, “I would rather have had a good goat.”

“Yes,” replied the son, “but it is no common donkey, but a gold-donkey. When I say ‘Bricklebrit’ the good beast spews forth a whole sheetful of gold pieces. Just summon all our relatives here, and I will make them rich folks.”

“That suits me well,” said the tailor, “for then I shall have no need to torment myself any longer with the needle,” and he himself ran out and called the relatives together. As soon as they were assembled, the miller bade them make way, spread out his cloth, and brought the donkey into the room.

“Now watch,” said he, and cried, “Bricklebrit,” but what fell were not gold pieces, and it was clear that the animal knew nothing of the art, for not every donkey attains such perfection. Then the poor miller made a long face, saw that he had been betrayed, and begged pardon of the relatives, who went home as poor as they came. There was no help for it, the old man had to take up his needle once more, and the youth hired himself to a miller.

The third brother had apprenticed himself to a turner, and as that is skilled labor, he was the longest in learning. His brothers, however, told him in a letter how badly things had gone with them, and how the innkeeper had cheated them of their beautiful wishing gifts on the last evening before they reached home. When the turner had served his time, and was about to set forth, as he had conducted himself so well, his master presented him with a sack saying, “There is a cudgel in it.”

“I can take the sack with me,” said he, “and it may serve me well, but why should the cudgel be in it. It only makes it heavy.”

“I will tell you why,” replied the master. “If anyone has done anything to injure you, do but say, ‘Cudgel out of the sack,’ and the cudgel will leap forth among the people, and play such a dance on their backs that they will not be able to stir or move for a week. And it will not quit until you say, ‘Cudgel into the sack.'”

The journeyman thanked him, and put the sack on his back, and when anyone came too near him and wished to attack him, he said, “Cudgel out of the sack,” and instantly the cudgel sprang out and beat the dust out of their coats and jackets, right on their backs, not waiting until they had taken them off, and it was done so quickly, that before anyone was aware, it was already his own turn.

In the evening the young turner reached the inn where his brothers had been cheated. He laid his sack on the table before him, and began to talk of all the wonderful things which he had seen in the world. “Yes,” said he, “table-be-sets, gold-donkeys, and things of that kind — extremely good things which I by no means despise — but these are nothing in comparison with the treasure which I have obtained and am carrying about with me here in my sack.”

The innkeeper pricked up his ears. “What in the world can that be?” he thought. “The sack must be filled with nothing but jewels. I ought to get them cheap too, for all good things come in threes.”

When it was time for sleep, the guest stretched himself out on the bench, laying his sack beneath him for a pillow. When the innkeeper thought his guest was lying in a sound sleep, he went to him and pushed and pulled quite gently and carefully at the sack to see if he could possibly take it away and lay another in its place.

The turner, however, had been waiting for this for a long time, and now just as the innkeeper was about to give a hearty tug, he cried, “Cudgel out of the sack!”

Instantly the little cudgel came forth, and falling on the innkeeper gave him a sound thrashing. The innkeeper cried for mercy, but the louder he cried, the harder the cudgel beat the time on his back, until at length he fell to the ground exhausted.

Then the turner said, “If you do not give back the table-be-set and the gold-donkey, the dance shall start again from the beginning.”

“Oh, no!” cried the innkeeper, quite humbly, “I will gladly give everything back, only make the accursed kobold creep back into the sack.”

Then the journeyman said, “I will let mercy take the place of justice, but beware of getting into mischief again” Then he cried, “Cudgel into the sack,” and let him rest.

Next morning the turner went home to his father with the table-be-set, and the gold-donkey. The tailor rejoiced when he saw him once more, and asked him likewise what he had learned in foreign parts. “Dear father,” said he, “I have become a turner.”

“A skilled trade,” said the father. “What have you brought back with you from your travels?”

“A precious thing, dear father,” replied the son, “a cudgel in the sack.”

“What!” cried the father, “A cudgel! That’s worth your trouble! From every tree you can cut yourself one.”

“But not one like this, dear father. If I say, ‘Cudgel out of the sack,’ the cudgel springs out and leads anyone ill-disposed toward me a weary dance, and never stops until he lies on the ground and prays for fair weather. Look you, with this cudgel have I rescued the table-be-set and the gold-donkey which the thievish innkeeper took away from my brothers. Now let them both be sent for, and invite all our relatives. I will give them to eat and to drink, and will fill their pockets with gold as well.”

The old tailor had not much confidence. Nevertheless he summoned the relatives together. Then the turner spread a cloth in the room and led in the gold-donkey, and said to his brother, “Now, dear brother, speak to him.”

The miller said, “Bricklebrit,” and instantly the gold pieces rained down on the cloth like a cloudburst, and the donkey did not stop until every one of them had so much that he could carry no more. (I can see by your face that you would have liked to be there as well.)

Then the turner brought out the little table and said, “Now, dear brother, speak to it.” And scarcely had the joiner said, “Table be set,” than it was spread and amply covered with the most exquisite dishes. Then such a meal took place as the good tailor had never yet known in his house, and the whole party of relatives stayed together until after nightfall, and were all merry and glad. The tailor locked his needle and thread and yardstick and pressing iron into a chest, and lived with his three sons in joy and splendor.

What, however, happened to the goat who was to blame for the tailor driving out his three sons? That I will tell you.

She was ashamed that she had a bald head, and ran to a fox’s hole and crept into it. When the fox came home, he was met by two great eyes shining out of the darkness, and was terrified and ran away. A bear met him, and as the fox looked quite disturbed, he said, “What is the matter with you, Brother Fox, why do you look like that?”

“Ah,” answered Redskin, “a fierce beast is in my cave and stared at me with its fiery eyes.”

“We will soon drive him out,” said the bear, and went with him to the cave and looked in, but when he saw the fiery eyes, fear seized on him likewise. He would have nothing to do with the furious beast, and took to his heels.

The bee met him, and as she saw that he was ill at ease, she said, “Bear, you are really pulling a very pitiful face. What has become of all your cheerfulness?”

“It is all very well for you to talk,” replied the bear. “A furious beast with staring eyes is in Redskin’s house, and we can’t drive him out.”

The bee said, “Bear, I pity you. I am a poor weak creature whom you would not turn aside to look at, but still, I believe I can help you.” She flew into the fox’s cave, lit on the goat’s smoothly shorn head, and stung her so violently, that she sprang up, crying “meh, meh,” and ran forth into the world as if mad, and to this hour no one knows where she has gone.

golden swan

The Golden Swan (Jataka Tales – 31)


Once, the Buddha was born as a virtuous house-holder in Varanasi. He worked hard to maintain his small family of a wife and three daughters. After his death he was reborn as a golden swan with the consciousness of his former existence.

One day, being overwhelmed with the memory of the family of his previous birth, he visited them in his old house in Varanasi. There, he introduced himself and informed them of his previous life’s relationship. Later, before saying good-bye, he offered them one golden feather and advised them to sell it in the market to overcome their poverty.

Since then he was a regular visitor to his old family; and upon every visit he offered them one golden feather. With the proceeds of the feathers, soon the family overcame its poverty.

The mother of the daughters was, however, greedy and cruel. She wanted to be much richer in much less time. So, one day, she advised her daughters to pluck out all the feathers of the bird upon his next visit and become rich in no time. The daughters strongly opposed her malicious intention and warned her to refrain from any cruel act, which could pain their benefactor.

Next time, when the bird visited the family, the wife coaxed him to come near her. When he hopped on her lap, she seized him violently and plucked out his feathers. But to her surprise and disappointment what she could pluck was just the ordinary feathers. This was because the bird’s feathers were to change into ordinary ones when plucked against his wish.

The poor bird in his great agony tried hard to fly but could not. The woman then threw him away into an abandoned barrel. When his daughters saw him groaning in severe pain they gave him necessary first aid and took care of him until his fresh wings once again grew. He then flew again. But this time when he flew he never came back again.

Suvanna hamsa jataka

meditation

Zen and Fear of Death (Zen)


A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.

“I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.”

“That’s fine,” said Kusuda. “I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?”

“Go to the master Nan-in,” the friend told him.

So Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die.

When Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: “Hello, friend. How are you? We haven’t seen each other for a long time!”

This perplexed Kusuda, who replied: “We have never met before.”

“That’s right,” answered Nan-in. “I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here.”

With such a beginning, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so reluctantly he asked if he might receive Zen instruction.

Nan-in said: “Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat you patients with kindness. That is Zen.”

Kusuda visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. “A physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of you patients.”

It was not yet clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on his fourth visit he complained: “My friend told me when one learns Zen one loses the fear of death. Each time I come here all you tell me is to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you any more.”

Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor. “I have been too strict with you. Let me give you a koan.” He presented Kusuda with Joshu’s Mu to work over, which is the first mind enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: “You are not in yet.”

Kusuda continued in concentration for another year and a half. His mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern over life and death.

Then when he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.