Her reproaches continued for so long that though he scarcely believed what the fish had said, the poor old man thought that at least it would do no harm to put him to the test. He therefore hastened back to the shore, and stood at the very edge of the waves.
"Golden Fish, Golden Fish!" he called. "Come to me, I pray, with your tail in the water, and your head lifted up toward me!"
As the last word was uttered the Gold Fish popped up his head.
"You see I have kept my promise," he said. "What can I do for you, my good friend?"
"There is not a scrap of bread in the house," quavered the old man, "and my wife is very angry with me for letting you go.
"Don't trouble about that!" said the Gold Fish in an off-hand manner; "you will find bread, and to spare, when you go home." And the old man hurried away to see if his little friend had spoken truly.
Surely enough, he found that the pan was full of fine white loaves.
"I did not do so badly for you after all, good wife!" he said, as they ate their supper; but his wife was anything but satisfied. The more she had, the more she wanted, and she lay awake planning what they should demand from the Gold Fish next.
"Wake up, you lazy man!" she cried to her husband, early next morning.
"Go down to the sea and tell your fish that I must have a new washtub."
The old man did as his wife bade him, and the moment he called the Gold Fish reappeared. He seemed quite willing to grant the new request, and on his return home the old man found a beautiful new washtub in the small yard at the back of their cabin.
"Why didn't you ask for a new cabin too?" his wife said angrily. "If you had had a grain of sense you would have done this without being told. Go back at once, and say that we must have one.
The old man was rather ashamed to trouble his friend again so soon; but the Gold Fish was as obliging as ever.
"Very well," he said, "a new cabin you shall have." And the old mart found one so spick-and-span that he hardly dare cross the floor for fear of soiling it. It would have pleased him greatly had his wife been contented, but she, good woman, did nothing but grumble still.
"Tell your Gold Fish," she said next day, "that I want to be a duchess, with many servants at my beck and call, and a splendid carriage to drive in.
Once more her wish was granted, but now her husband's plight was hard indeed. She would not let him share her palace, but ordered him off to the stables, where he was forced to keep company with her grooms. In a few days, however, he grew reconciled to his lot, for here he could live in peace, while he learned that she was leading those around her a terrible life, it was not long before she sent for him again.
"Summon the Gold Fish," she commanded haughtily, "and tell him I wish to be Queen of the Waters, and to rule over all the fish."
The poor old man felt sorry for the fish if they had to be under her rule, for prosperity had quite spoiled her. However, he dared not disobey, and once more summoned his powerful friend.
"Make your wife the Queen of the Waters?" exclaimed the Gold Fish.
"That is the last thing I should do. She is unfit to reign, for she cannot rule herself or her desires. I shall make her once more a poor old woman. Adieu! You will see me no more."
The old man returned sorrowfully with this unpleasant message, to find the palace transformed into a humble cabin, and his wife in a skirt of threadbare stuff in place of the rich brocade which she had worn of late. She was sad and humble, and much more easy to live with than she had been before. Her husband therefore had occasion many times to think gratefully of the Gold Fish, and sometimes when drawing up his net the glint of the sun upon the scales of his captives would give him a moment's hope-which, alas! was as often disappointed-that once again he was to see his benefactor.
THE WONDERFUL HAIR
By W. S. Karajich
THERE once lived a man who was very poor, and who had many children; so many that he was unable to support them. As he could not endure the idea of their perishing of hunger, he was often tempted to destroy them; his wife alone prevented him. One night, as he lay asleep, there appeared to him a lovely child in a vision. The child said-
"Oh, man! I see your soul is in danger, in the thought of killing your helpless children. But I know you are poor, and am come here to help you. You will find under your pillow in the morning a looking-glass, a red handkerchief, and an embroidered scarf. Take these three things, but show them to no one, and go to the forest. In that forest you will find a rivulet. Walk by the side of this rivulet until you come to its source; there you will see a girl, as bright as the sun, with long hair streaming down her shoulders. Take care that she does you no harm.
Say not a word to her; for if you utter a single syllable, she will change you into a fish or some other creature, and eat you. Should she ask you to comb her hair, obey her. As you comb it, you will find one hair as red as blood; pull it out, and run away with it. Be swift, for she will follow you. Then throw on the ground, first the embroidered scarf, then the red handkerchief, and last of all the looking-glass; they will delay her pursuit of you. Sell the hair to some rich man; but see that you do not allow yourself to be cheated, for it is of boundless worth. Its produce will make you rich and thus you will be able to feed your children."
Next morning, when the poor man awoke, he found under his pillow exactly the things the child mad told him of in his dream. He went immediately into the forest, and when he had discovered the rivulet he walked by the side of it, on and on, until he reached its source.
There he saw a girl sitting on the bank, threading a needle with the rays of the sun. She was embroidering a net made of the hair of heroes, spread on a frame before her. He approached and bowed to her.
The girl got up and demanded-
"Where did you come from, strange knight?"
The man remained silent. Again she asked him-
"Who are you, and why do you come here?" And many other questions.
But he remained silent as a stone, indicating with his hands only that he was dumb and in need of help. She told him to sit at her feet, and when he had gladly done so, she inclined her head toward him, that he might comb her hair. He began to arrange her hair as if to comb it, but as soon as he had found the red one, he separated it from the rest, plucked it out, leaped up, and ran from her with his utmost speed.
The girl sprang after him, and was soon at his heels. The man, turning round as he ran, and seeing that his pursuer would soon overtake him, threw the embroidered scarf on the ground, as he had been told. When the girl saw it, she stopped and began to examine it; turning it over on both sides, and admiring the embroidery. Meanwhile the man gained a considerable distance in advance. The girl tied the scarf round her bosom and recommenced the pursuit. When the man saw that she was again about to overtake him, he threw down the red handkerchief. At the sight of it, the girl again stopped, examined, and wondered at it; the peasant, in the meantime, was again enabled to increase the distance between them. When the girl perceived this, she became furious, and throwing away both scarf and handkerchief began to run with increased speed after him. She was just upon the point of catching the poor peasant, when he threw the looking-glass at her feet. At the sight of the looking-glass, the like of which she had never seen before, the girl checked herself, picked it up, and looked in it. Seeing her own face, she fancied there was another girl looking at her. While she was thus occupied the man ran so far that she could not possibly overtake him. When the girl saw that further pursuit was useless, she turned back, and the peasant, joyful and unhurt, reached his home. Once within doors he showed the hair to his wife and children, and told them all that had happened to him; but his wife only laughed at the Story.
The peasant, however, took no heed of her ridicule, but went to a neighboring town to sell the hair. He was soon surrounded by a crowd of people, and some merchants began to bid for his prize. One merchant offered him one gold piece, another two, for the single hair, and so on, until the price rose to a hundred gold pieces. Meanwhile the king, hearing of the wonderful red hair, ordered the peasant to be called in, and offered him a thousand gold pieces for it. The man joyfully sold it for that sum.
What wonderful kind of hair was this after all? The king split it carefully open from end to end, and in it was found the story of many marvelous secrets of nature, and of things that had happened since the creation of the world.
Thus the peasant became rich, and henceforth lived happily with his wife and children. The child he had seen in his dream, was an angel sent down from heaven to succor him, and to reveal to mankind the knowledge of many wonderful things which had hitherto remained unexplained.
THE LANGUAGE OF ANIMALS
By W. S. Karajich
A CERTAIN man had a shepherd who had served him faithfully and honestly for many years. One day, as the Shepherd was tending his sheep, he heard a hissing noise in the forest, and wondered what it could he. He went, therefore, into the wood in the direction of the sound, to learn what it was. There he saw that the dry grass and leaves had caught fire, and in the middle of a burning circle a Snake was hissing. The Shepherd stopped to see what the Snake would do, for the fire was burning all around it, and the flames approached it nearer and nearer every moment. Then the Snake cried from amid the fire-
"Oh, Shepherd! for heaven's sake save me from this fire!"
The Shepherd stretched out his crook over the flames to the Snake, and the Snake passed along it on to his hand, and from his hand it crawled to his neck, where it twisted itself round.
When the Shepherd perceived this, he was greatly alarmed, and said to the Snake-
"What have I done in an evil hour? Have I saved you to my own destruction?"
The Snake answered him, "Fear not, but carry me to my father's house.
My father is the King of the snakes."
The Shepherd, however, began to beg the Snake to excuse him, saying that he could not leave the sheep; but the Snake answered-
"Be not troubled about the sheep; no harm shall happen to them; only go as fast as you can."
The Shepherd then walked through the forest with the Snake until he came to a gate which was entirely made of snakes knotted together.
There the Snake on the Shepherd's neck gave a whistle, and all the other snakes untwisted themselves. Then the Snake said to the Shepherd-
"When we come to my father's palace he will give you whatever you ask for: silver, gold, and precious stones. Do you, however, take nothing of these, but beg to know the language of the brutes and other creatures. He will refuse you this for a long time, but at last he will grant your request."
Meanwhile they came to the palace, to the father, who, shedding many tears, cried-
"For heaven's sake! my dearest daughter, where have you been?"
And she told him in due order how she had been surrounded by the forest fire, and how the Shepherd had rescued her. Then the King of the snakes turned to the Shepherd and said to him-