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» » Five fairytales
Five fairytales Library (библиотека) 

Rapunzel
By the Brothers Grimm


Note: Rapunzel is an old nickname for a herb with leaves like lettuce and roots like a radish - it is also called rampion.

There once lived a man and a woman who always wished for a child, but could not have one. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen. The garden was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an witch, who had great power and was feared by all the world.

One day the woman was standing by the window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most tasty rapunzel. It looked so fresh and green that she longed for it and had the greatest desire to eat some. This desire increased every day. The woman knew that she could not get any of it and grew more pale and miserable each day.

Her husband was worried about her and asked "What is wrong my dear?"

"Ah," she replied, "if I can't eat some of the rapunzel from the garden behind our house I think I shall die."

The man, who loved her, thought, "Sooner than let my lovely wife die, I will bring her some of the rapunzel myself, no matter what the cost."

In the twilight of the evening, he climbed over the wall into the garden of the witch, hastily grabbed a handful of rapunzel and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad and ate it happily. She, however, liked it so much - so very much, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening, therefore, he set out again; but when he had climbed over the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the witch standing before him.

"How dare you," she said with angry look, "sneak into my garden and steal my rapunzel like a thief? You shall suffer for this!"
"Ah," the frightened husband answered, "please have mercy; I had to have the rapunzel. My wife saw it from the window and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat."

Then the witch allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him, "If this is true, I will allow you to take as much as you like, only I make one condition. You must give me the baby daughter your wife will bring into the world; she shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother." The man in his fear consented and when the baby was born the witch appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel and took the baby away with her.

Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child beneath the sun. When she was twelve years old, the witch shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest. The tower had no stairs or doors, but only a little window at the very top. When the witch wanted to go in, she stood beneath the window and cried,

Five fairytales"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair."

Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the witch she wound her braids round one of the hooks of the window, and then the hair fell down the side of the tower and the witch climbed up by it.

After a year or two, it came to pass that the Prince rode through the forest and went by the tower. He heard a song which was so lovely that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel who in her loneliness passed her time singing. The Prince wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it.

Once when he was standing behind a tree listening to Rapunzel's song, he saw the witch come and heard how she cried,

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair."

Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the witch climbed up to her.
"If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I will for once try my fortune," thought the Prince and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried,

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair."

Immediately the hair fell down and the Prince climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man such as her eyes had never seen, came to her; but the Prince began to talk to her quite like a friend and told her that his heart had been so stirred by her singing that it had let him have no rest. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband - and she saw that he was kind and handsome, she said yes, and laid her hand in his.
She said, "I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring a bit of silk with you every time you come and I will weave a ladder with it. When that is ready I will climb down and we shall escape together." They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day.

The witch knew nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said in her distraction, "Oh my, you are so much heavier when you climb than the young Prince."
"Ah! You wicked child," cried the witch "What do I hear thee say! I thought I had separated you from all the world but you have deceived me."

In her anger she clutched Rapunzel's beautiful hair, seized a pair of scissors - and snip, snap - cut it all off. Rapunzel's lovely braids lay on the ground but the witch was not through. She was so angry that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.

The witch rushed back to the tower and fastened the braids of hair which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the Prince came and cried,

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair,"

She let the hair down. The Prince climbed to the window, but he did not find his dearest Rapunzel above, but the witch, who gazed at him with a wicked and venomous look.

"Aha!" she cried mockingly, "You've come for Rapunzel but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest; the cat has got it and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is banished and you will never see her again!"

The Prince was beside himself and in his despair he fell down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries and did nothing but weep over the loss of his dearest Rapunzel.

In this way, the Prince roamed in misery for some months and at length came to the desert where the witch had banished Rapunzel. He heard a voice singing and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it. When he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell into his arms and wept.

Two of her tears fell on his eyes and the Prince could see again. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.


The Steadfast Tin Soldier
By Hans Christian Andersen


There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers; they were all brothers, for they had been born of an old tin spoon. They shouldered their arms, they faced straight ahead, and their uniforms - red and blue - were ever so lovely. The very first thing they heard in this world, when the lid was taken off the box in which they were lying, were the words: "Tin soldiers!" It was shouted by a little boy, and he clapped his hands. They had been given to him for his birthday, and now he was lining them up on the table. Each soldier looked exactly like the other. Only one was slightly different: he had but one leg, for he was the last one to be cast and there hadn't been enough tin. And yet he stood just as firmly on his one leg as the others did on their two, and is the very one who turns out to be unique.

On the table where they had been lined up there were many other playthings, but the one that stood out most was a lovely paper castle. Through the tiny windows you could look right into the halls. Outside were tiny trees standing around a little mirror that was supposed to look like a lake. Wax swans were swimming on it and being reflected there. It was all lovely, and yet the loveliest of all was a little maiden who was standing on in the open door of the castle. She too had been cut out of paper, but she was wearing a skirt of the sheerest lawn and a narrow ribbon over her shoulder just like a drapery; in the very centre of it was a shining spangle as big as her whole face. The little maiden was stretching out both her arms, for she was a dancer, and then she had raised one leg so high in the air that the tin soldier couldn't find it at all, and he thought she had but one leg, just like himself.

"That's the wife for me!" he thought. "But she's very highborn. She lives in a castle and I have only a box, and then it must do for five-and-twenty of us - that's no place for her. Still, I must see about making her acquaintance!" And then he stretched out at full length behind a snuffbox that stood on the table. From here he could look right at the little highborn lady, who continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance.

Later in the evening all the other tin soldiers went back in their box, and the people of the house went to bed. Now the toys began to play - waging war and holding balls.

The tin soldiers rattled in their box because they wanted to join in, but they couldn't get the lid off. The nutcracker turned somersaults, and the slate pencil did monkeyshines on the slate, there was such a racket that the canary bird woke up and joined in the talk - and in verse, at that! The only two who didn't budge an inch were the tin soldier and the little dancer. She held herself erect on the tip of her toe and with both arms outstretched, he was just as steadfast on his one leg and his eyes never left her for a moment.

Now the clock struck 12, and crash! The lid of the snuffbox flew off, but there wasn't any snuff in there - no, but a little black troll, and that was quite a trick.

"Tin soldier!" said the troll. "Will you keep your eyes to yourself!"

But the tin soldier pretended not to hear.

"Well, wait until tomorrow!" said the troll.

Now, when it was morning and the children got up, the tin soldier was placed over in the window, and whether it was caused by the troll or the draft, the window suddenly flew open and the tin soldier went headlong out from the third floor with a terrible speed. He turned his leg up in the air and landed on his cap, with his bayonet stuck between the paving stones.

The maid and the little boy went right down to look for him, but despite the fact that they nearly stepped on him, they couldn't see him. If the tin soldier had shouted "Here I am!" they wouldn't have found him, all right. But he didn't think it proper to shout when he was in uniform.

Now it started to rain; the drops fell thick and fast. It turned into a regular downpour. When it was over, two street urchins came along.

"Look!" said the first. "There's a tin soldier. He's going out sailing!"

And so they made a boat out of a newspaper and put the tin soldier in the middle of it, and now he sailed down the gutter. Both the boys ran alongside and clapped their hands. Heaven help us! What waves there were in that gutter and what a current! But, then, the rain had poured down. The paper boat bobbed up and down, and now and then it turned around, sending a shudder through the tin soldier. But he was just as steadfast, didn't bat an eyelash, looked straight ahead, and shouldered his gun.

All at once the boat drifted in under a long gutter plank; it was just as dark as if he were in his box.

I wonder where I'm going now, he thought. Well, well, it's all the fault of the troll. Alas, if only the little maiden were sitting here in the boat, then it could be twice as dark for all I'd care!

At the same moment a big water rat came along, who lived under the gutter plank.

"Do you have a passport?" asked the rat. "Hand over your passport!"

But the tin soldier remained silent and held the gun even tighter. The boat flew away with the rat right behind it. Whew! How it gnashed its teeth and shouted to sticks and straws: "Stop him! Stop him! He hasn't paid the toll! He hasn't shown his passport!"

But the current grew stronger and stronger; the tin soldier could already see daylight ahead where the gutter plank ended, but he could also hear a roaring sound that was enough to frighten a brave man. Just think, where the gutter plank ended, the gutter poured right out into a big canal! It was just as dangerous for him as it would be for us to sail down a great waterfall.

Now he was already so close to it that he couldn't stop. The boat shot out; the poor tin soldier held himself as stiffly as he could. No one was going to say that he had blinked his eyes. The boat whirled around three or four times and filled with water right up to the edge. It had to sink. The tin soldier stood in water up to his neck. The boat sank deeper and deeper; the paper grew soggier and soggier. Now the water went over the tin soldier's head. Then he thought of the lovely little dancer, whom he would never see again, and in the ears of the tin soldier rang the song:

Fare forth! Fare forth, warrior!
You will suffer death!

Now the paper was tom to pieces and the tin solider plunged through - but at the same moment he was gobbled up by a big fish.

My, how dark it was in there! It was even worse than under the gutter plank, and then too it was so cramped! But the tin soldier was steadfast and lay at full length, shouldering his gun.

The fish darted about; it made the most terrible movements. At last it was quite still. It was as if a flash of lightning had streaked through it. The light was shining brightly and someone shouted: "A tin soldier!"

The fish had been caught, taken to market, and sold, and had ended up in the kitchen, where the maid had cut it open with a big knife. With two fingers she picked the tin soldier up by the middle and carried him into the parlor, where they all wanted to see this remarkable man who had journeyed about in the stomach of the fish. But the tin soldier wasn't proud at all. They stood him up on the table, and there - my, what strange things can happen in this world! The tin soldier was in the very same room he had been in before! He saw the very same children and the playthings standing on the table, and the lovely castle with the beautiful little dancer. She was still standing on one leg and holding the other high in the air - she was steadfast too. The tin soldier was so moved that he could have cried tears of tin, but it wasn't proper! He looked at her and she looked at him, but they didn't say anything.

At the same moment one of the little boys took the tin soldier and threw him right into the tiled stove without giving any reason for doing so. It was decidedly the troll in the box who was to blame. The tin soldier stood all aglow and felt the terrible heat - but whether it was from the real fire or from love, he didn't know. His colours were all gone, but whether that had happened on the journey or from sorrow, no one could tell. He looked at the little maiden, she looked at him, and he felt he was melting. But still he stood steadfast and shouldered his gun. Then a door opened, the wind took the dancer, and she flew right into. The tiled stove to the tin soldier, blazed up, and was gone. Then the tin soldier melted to a clump, and when the maid took out the ashes the next day, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. Of the dancer, on the other hand, only the spangle was left, and that was burned as black as coal.


Cinderella
By Charles Perrault


There once lived a man who married twice, and his second wife was the haughtiest and most stuck-up woman in the world. She already had two daughters of her own and her children took after her in every way. Her new husband's first wife had given him a daughter of his own before she died, but she was a lovely and sweet-natured girl, very like her own natural mother, who had been a kind and gentle woman.

The second wedding was hardly over before the stepmother showed her true colours. Her new daughter was so lovable that she made her own children seem even more unpleasant, by contrast; so she found the girl insufferable. She gave her all the rough work about the house to do, washing the pots and pans, cleaning out Madame's bedroom and those of her stepsisters, too. She slept at the top of the house, in a garret, on a thin, lumpy mattress, while her stepsisters had rooms with fitted carpets, soft beds and mirrors in which they could see themselves from head to foot. The poor girl bore everything patiently and dared not complain to her father because he would have lost his temper with her. His new wife ruled him with a rod of iron.

When the housework was all done, she would tuck herself away in the chimney corner to sit quietly among the cinders, the only place of privacy she could find, and so the family nicknamed her Cinderbritches. But the younger sister, who was less spiteful than the older one, changed her nickname to Cinderella. Yet even in her dirty clothes, Cinderella could not help but be a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters, however magnificently they dressed themselves up.

The king's son decided to hold a ball to which he invited all the aristocracy. Our two young ladies received their invitations, for they were well connected. Busy and happy, they set about choosing the dresses and hairstyles that would suit them best, and that made more work for Cinderella, who had to iron her sisters' petticoats and starch their ruffles. They could talk about nothing except what they were going to wear.

"I shall wear my red velvet with the lace trimming," said the eldest.

"Well, I shall wear just a simple skirt but put my coat with the golden flowers over it and, of course, there's always my diamond necklace, which is really rather special," said the youngest.

They sent for a good hairdresser to cut and curl their hair and they bought the best cosmetics. They called Cinderella to ask for her advice, because she had excellent taste. Cinderella helped them to look as pretty as they could and they were very glad of her assistance, although they did not show it.

As she was combing their hair, they said to her:
"Cinderella, dear, wouldn't you like to go to the ball yourself?"

"Oh, don't make fun of me, my ladies, how could I possibly go to the ball!"

"Quite right, too; everyone would laugh themselves silly to see Cinderbritches at a ball."

Any other girl but Cinderella would have made horrid tangles of their hair after that out of spite: but she was kind, and resisted the temptation. The stepsisters could not eat for two days, they were so excited. They broke more than a dozen corset laces because they pulled them in so tightly in order to make themselves look slender, and they were always primping in front of the mirror.

At last the great day arrived. When they went off, Cinderella watched them until they were out of sight and then began to cry. Her godmother saw how she was crying and asked her what the matter was.

"I want." I want to ..."

But Cinderella was crying so hard she could not get the words out.

Her godmother was a fairy. She said: "I think you're crying because you want to go to the ball." "Yes," said Cinderella, sighing.

"If you are a good girl, I'll send you there," said her godmother. She took her into her own room and said:

"Go into the garden and pick me a pumpkin."

Cinderella went out to the garden and picked the finest pumpkin she could find. She took it to her godmother, although she could not imagine how a pumpkin was going to help her get to the ball. Her godmother hollowed out the pumpkin until there was nothing left but the shell, struck it with her ring - and instantly the pumpkin changed into a beautiful golden coach.

Then the godmother went to look in the mousetrap, and found six live mice there. She told Cinderella to lift up the lid of the trap enough to let the mice come out one by one and, as each mouse crept out, she struck it lightly with her ring. At the touch of the ring, each mouse changed into a carriage horse. Soon the coach had six dappled greys to draw it.

Then she asked herself what would do for a coachman. "I'll go and see if there is a rat in the rat-trap," said Cinderella. "A rat would make a splendid coachman."

"Yes, indeed," said her godmother. "Go and see." There were three fat rats in the rat-trap that Cinderella brought to her. One had particularly fine whiskers, so the godmother chose that one; when she struck him with her ring, he changed into a plump coachman who had the most imposing moustache you could wish to see.

"If you look behind the watering can in the garden, you'll find six lizards," the godmother told Cinderella. "Bring them to me."

No sooner had Cinderella brought them to her godmother than the lizards were all changed into footmen, who stepped up behind the carriage in their laced uniforms and hung on as if they had done nothing else all their lives.

The fairy said to Cinderella:

"There you are! Now you can go to the ball. Aren't you pleased?"
"Yes, of course. But how can I possibly go to the ball in these wretched rags?"

The godmother had only to touch her with her ring and Cinderella's workaday overalls and apron changed into a dress of cloth of gold and silver, embroidered with precious stones. Then she gave her the prettiest pair of glass slippers. Now Cinderella was ready, she climbed into the coach; but her godmother told her she must be horne by midnight because if she stayed at the ball one moment more, her coach would turn back into a pumpkin, her horses to mice, her footmen to lizards and her clothes back into overalls again.

She promised her godmother that she would be sure to return from the ball before midnight. Then she drove off.

The king's son had been told that a great princess, hitherto unknown to anyone present, was about to arrive at the ball and ran to receive her. He himself helped her down from her carriage with his royal hand and led her into the ballroom where all the guests were assembled. As soon as they saw her, an enormous silence descended. The dancing ceased, the fiddlers forgot to ply their bows as the entire company gazed at this unknown lady. The only sound in the entire ballroom was a confused murmur:

"Oh, isn't she beautiful!"

Even the king himself, although he was an old man, could not help gazing at her and remarked to the queen that he had not seen such a lovely young lady for a long time. All the women studied her hair and her ball gown attentively so that they would be able to copy them the next day, provided they could find such a capable hairdresser, such a skilful dressmaker, such magnificent silk.

The king's son seated her in the most honoured place and then led her on to the dance floor; she danced so gracefully, she was still more admired. Then there was a fine supper but the prince could not eat at all, he was too preoccupied with the young lady. She herself went and sat beside her sisters and devoted herself to entertaining them. She shared the oranges and lemons the prince had given her with them and that surprised them very much, for they did not recognise her.

While they were talking, Cinderella heard the chimes of the clock striking a quarter to 12. She made a deep curtsy and then ran off as quickly as she could. As soon as she got home, she went to find her godmother and thanked her and told her how much she wanted to go to the ball that was to be given the following day, because the king's son had begged her to. While she was telling her godmother everything that had happened, her stepsisters knocked at the door. Cinderella hurried to let them in.

"What a long time you've been!" she said to them yawning, rubbing her eyes and stretching as if she could scarcely keep awake, although she had not wanted to sleep for a single moment since they had left the house.

"If you had come to the ball, you wouldn't have been sleepy!" said one of the sisters. "The most beautiful princess you ever saw arrived unexpectedly and she was so kind to us, she gave us oranges and lemons."

Cinderella asked the name of the princess but they told her nobody knew it, and the king's son was in great distress and would give anything to find out more about her. Cinderella smiled and said:

"Was she really so very beautiful? Goodness me, how lucky you are. And can I never see her for myself? What a shame! Miss Javotte, lend me that old yellow dress you wear around the house so that I can go to the ball tomorrow and see her for myself."

"What?" exclaimed Javotte. "Lend my dress to such a grubby little Cinderbritches as it is - it must think I've lost my reason!"

Cinderella had expected a refusal; and she would have been exceedingly embarrassed if her sister had relented and agreed to lend her a dress and taken her to the ball in it.

Next day, the sisters went off to the ball again.

Cinderella went, too, but this time she was even more beautifully dressed than the first time. The king's son did not leave her side and never stopped paying her compliments so that the young girl was utterly absorbed in him and time passed so quickly that she thought it must still be only 11 o'clock when she heard the chimes of midnight. She sprang to her feet and darted off as lightly as a doe. The prince sprang after her but could not catch her; in her flight, however, she let fall one of her glass slippers, and the prince tenderly picked it up. Cinderella arrived home out of breath, without her carriage, without her footmen, in her dirty old clothes again; nothing remained of all her splendour but one of her little slippers. The prince asked the guards at the palace gate it they had seen a princess go out; they replied they had seen nobody leave the castle last night at midnight but a ragged young girl who looked more like a kitchen maid than a fine lady.

When her sisters came home from the ball, Cinderella asked them if they had enjoyed themselves again; and had the beautiful princess been there? They said, "Yes"; but she had fled at the very stroke of midnight, and so promptly that she had dropped one of her little glass slippers. The king's son had found it and never took his eyes off it for the rest of the evening, so plainly he was very much in love with the beautiful young lady to whom it belonged.

They spoke the truth. A few days later, the king's son publicly announced that he would marry whoever possessed the foot for which the glass slipper had been made. They made a start by trying the slipper on the feet of all the princesses; then moved on to the duchesses, then to the rest of the court, but all in vain. At last they brought the slipper to the two sisters, who did all they could to squeeze their feet into the slipper but could not manage it, no matter how hard they tried. Cinderella watched them; she recognised her own slipper at once.

She laughed, and said:
"I'd like to try and see if it might not fit me!"

Her sisters giggled and made fun of her but the gentleman who was in charge of the slipper trial looked at Cinderella carefully and saw how beautiful she was. Yes, he said; of course she could try on the slipper. He had received orders to try the slipper on the feet of every girl in the kingdom. He sat Cinderella down and, as soon as he saw her foot, he knew it would fit the slipper perfectly. The two sisters were very much astonished but not half so astonished as they were when Cinderella took her own glass slipper from her pocket. At that the godmother appeared; she struck Cinderella's overalls with her ring and at once the old clothes were transformed to garments more magnificent than all her ball dresses.

Then her sisters knew she had been the beautiful lady they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to beg her to forgive them for all the bad treatment she had received from them. Cinderella raised them up and kissed them and said she forgave them with all her heart and wanted them only always to love her. Then, dressed in splendour, she was taken to the prince. He thought she was more beautiful than ever and married her a few days later. Cinderella, who was as good as she was beautiful, took her sisters to live in the palace and arranged for both of them to be married, on the same day, to great lords.


The Tinderbox
By Hans Christian Andersen


A soldier came marching along the highway: One, two! One, two! He had his knapsack on his back and a sword at his side, for he had been to war and now he was on his way home. Then he met an old witch on the highway. She was hideous, and her lower lip hung right down to her chest.

She said: "Good evening, soldier! My, what a pretty sword and a big knapsack you have! You're a real soldier! Now you shall have as much money as you'd like to have!"

"Thanks, old witch!" said the soldier.

"Do you see that big tree?" said the witch, and pointed to a tree beside them. "It's quite hollow inside. You're to climb up to the top. Then you'll see a hole you can slide through, and you'll come down way inside the tree! I'll tie a rope around your waist so I can pull you up again when you call me."

"What'll I do down in the tree, then?" asked the soldier. "Fetch money!" said the witch. "Now I'll tell you: when you're down at the bottom of the tree, you'll find yourself in a great hall. It's quite light, for over a hundred lamps are burning there. Then you'll see three doors. You can open them: the keys are in them. If you go into the first chamber, you'll see a big chest in the middle of the floor. On top of it sits a dog with a pair of eyes as big as teacups.

But you needn't pay any attention to that. I'll give you my blue-checked apron, which you can spread out on the floor. Then go over quickly and get the dog, put him on my apron, open the chest, and take as many shillings as you like! They're all of copper. But if you'd rather have silver, then go into the next room. There sits a dog with a pair of eyes as big as mill wheels! But you needn't pay any attention to that. Put him on my apron and take the money. On the other hand, if you'd rather have gold, you can also have that, and as much as you can carry, if you just go into the third chamber. But the dog sitting on the money chest here has a pair of eyes each one as big as the Round Tower! That's a real dog, I'll have you know! But you needn't pay any attention to that. Just put him on my apron, so he won't do you any harm, and take as much gold as you like from the chest."

"There's nothing wrong with that!" said the soldier.

"But what'll I get for you, old witch? For I daresay you want something too!"

"No," said the witch, "not a single shilling will I have! You can just bring me an old tinderbox, which my grandmother forgot the last time she was down there."

"Well, put the rope around my waist," said the soldier. "Here it is," said the witch, "and here's my blue-checked apron."

Then the soldier climbed up into the tree, let himself drop down through the hole, and stood now, as the old witch had said, down in the great hall where the many hundreds of lamps were burning.

Now he unlocked the first door. Ugh! There sat the dog with eyes as big as teacups, and it glowered at him.

"You're a pretty fellow!" said the soldier; he put the dog on the witch's apron and then took as many copper shillings as he could get in his pocket. Then he closed the chest, put the dog on it again, and went into the second chamber. Yeow! There sat the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels.

"You shouldn't look at me so hard," said the soldier, "It might strain your eyes!" Then he put the dog on the witch's apron, but when he saw all the silver coins in the chest, he got rid of all the copper money he had and filled his pocket and his knapsack with silver only. Now he went into the third chamber! My, how hideous it was! The dog in there really did have two eyes each as big as the Round Tower, and they rolled around in his head like wheels!

"Good evening," said the soldier, and touched his cap, for he had never seen a dog like that before. But after he had looked at it for a while, he thought, now that's enough, and lifted it down to the floor and opened the chest. Well, heaven be praised! What a lot of gold there was! He could buy all of Copenhagen with it, and the sugar pigs of the cake wives, and all the tin soldiers and whips and rocking horses in the world! Yes, that was really a lot of money! Now the soldier threw away all the silver shillings in his pocket and knapsack and took gold instead. Yes, he filled his pockets and his knapsack, and his cap and boots were so full that he could hardly walk! Now he had money! He put the dog on the chest, shut the door, and then shouted up through the tree: "Pull me up now, old witch."

"Do you have the tinderbox with you?" asked the witch. "That's right," said the soldier, "I'd clean forgotten it." And then he went and got it. The witch pulled him up, and now he was standing on the highway again with his pockets, boots, knapsack and cap full of money.

"What do you want that tinderbox for?" asked the soldier. "That's none of your business!" said the witch. "Why, you've got the money now. Just give me the tinderbox!"

"Fiddlesticks!" said the soldier. "Tell me at once what you want it for, or I'll draw my sword and chop off your head!" "No!" said the witch.

Then the soldier chopped off her head. There she lay! But he tied all his money in her apron, carried it like a pack on his back, put the tinderbox in his pocket, and went straight to the town.

It was a lovely town, and he put up at the finest inn and demanded the very best rooms and all the food he liked, for he was rich, now that he had so much money.

The servant who was to polish his boots thought, of course, that they were queer old boots for such a rich gentleman to have, for he hadn't bought any new ones yet. The next day he got boots to walk in and pretty clothes. Now the soldier had become a fine gentleman, and they told him about all the things to do in their town, and about their king, and what a lovely princess his daughter was.

"Where can she be seen?" asked the soldier.

"She can't be seen at all," they said. "She lives in a big copper castle with many walls and towers around it. No one but the king is allowed to go in and out, for it has been prophesied that she will be married to a common soldier, and the king can't stand that one bit!"

I'd like to see her, all right, thought the soldier, but this he wasn't allowed to do at all.

Now he lived merrily and well, went to the theatre, drove in the royal park, and gave lots of money away to the poor; and that was well done! He remembered very well from the old days how bad it was to be penniless! Now he was rich and had fine clothes and many friends who all said what a nice fellow he was, a real cavalier; and the soldier certainly didn't mind hearing that. But as he spent money every day and didn't get any back at all, it happened that at last he had no more than two shillings left and had to move from the nice rooms where he had lived to a tiny little room way up under the roof; and he had to brush his boots himself and mend them with a needle; and none of his friends came to see him, for there were so many stairs to climb.

One evening it was quite dark and he couldn't buy even a candle, but then he remembered there was a little stub in the tinderbox he had taken out of the hollow tree where the witch had helped him. He took out the tinderbox and the candle stub, but just as he struck a light and the sparks flew from the flint, the door flew open and the dog with eyes as big as teacups, which he had seen down under the tree, stood before him and said: "What does my master command?"

"What's that?" said the soldier. "Why, this is a funny tinderbox if I can get whatever I like! Get me some money," he said to the dog. And whoops! It was gone! Whoops! It was back again, holding a bag full of coins in its mouth. Now the soldier understood what a marvellous tinderbox it was. If he struck it once, the dog that sat on the chest full of copper money came; if he struck it twice, the one with the silver money came; and if he struck it three times, the one with the gold came. Now the soldier moved back down to the lovely rooms again, put on the fine clothing, and then all his friends knew him again right away, and they were so fond of him.

Then one day he thought, now, it's really quite odd that no one is allowed to see the princess. Everyone says she's supposed to be lovely. But what's the good of it when she always has to sit inside that big copper castle with all the towers? Can't I even get to see her at all? Now, where's my tinderbox? And then he struck a light, and whoops! There stood the dog with eyes as big as teacups.

"I know it's the middle of the night," said the soldier, "but I'd so like to see the princess, just for a tiny moment."

The dog was out of the door at once, and before the soldier had given it a thought, it was back again with the princess. She sat on the dog's back and was asleep, and she was so lovely that anyone could see that she was a real princess. The soldier couldn't resist; he had to kiss her, for he was a real soldier.

Then the dog ran back again with the princess. But in the morning, when the king and queen were having their tea, the princess said that she had dreamed such a remarkable dream last night about a dog and a soldier. She had ridden on the dog, and the soldier had kissed her.

"That was a pretty story, indeed!" said the queen. Now, one of the old ladies-in-waiting was to keep watch by the princess's bed the next night to see if it really were a dream or what it could be.

The soldier wanted very much to see the lovely princess again, and so the dog came during the night, took her, and ran as fast as it could, but the old lady-in-waiting pulled on a pair of rubber boots and ran after it just as fast. When she saw that they disappeared inside a big house, she drew a big cross on the door with a piece of chalk.

Then she went home and went to bed, and the dog came back with the princess. But when it saw that a cross had been made on the door, it also took a piece of chalk and made a cross on all the doors in the city, and that was wise, for now, of course, the lady-in-waiting couldn't find the right door when there was a cross on every single one.

Early the next morning, the king and the queen, the old lady-in-waiting, and all the officers came to see where the princess had been.

"There it is!" said the king when he saw the first door with a cross on it.

"No, there it is, my dear husband," said the queen, who saw the second door with a cross on it.

"But there's one and there's one!" they all said.

No matter where they looked, there was a cross on the door. So then they could see that there was no use searching one bit.

But the queen was a very wise woman, who knew about more than just riding in the royal coach. She took her big golden scissors, cut up a large piece of silk, and sewed a lovely little bag. This she filled with small, fine grains of buckwheat, tied it to the princess's back, and when that was done, clipped a tiny hole in the bag so the grain could dribble out all along the way, wherever the princess went.

That night, the dog came again, took the princess on his back, and carried her straight to the soldier, who had fallen in love with her and gladly would have been a prince so he could make her his wife.

The dog didn't notice at all how the grains dribbled out all the way from the castle to the soldier's window, where it ran up the wall with the princess. In the morning the king and queen saw where their daughter had been, all right, and so they took the soldier and put him in jail. There he sat! Ugh! How dark and dreary it was! And then they said to him: "Tomorrow you're to be hanged!" That wasn't a nice thing to hear, and he had forgotten his tinderbox back at the inn. In the morning, through the bars in the tiny window, he could see the people hurrying out of the city to see him hanged.

He heard drums and saw the soldiers marching.

Everybody was rushing out, including a shoemaker's apprentice in his leather apron and slippers, who was in such a hurry that one of his slippers flew off and landed nearby the wall where the soldier sat peering out through the iron bars.

"Hey there, shoemaker's boy, you needn't be in such a hurry," said the soldier. "Nothing will happen until I get there. But if you'll run to my lodgings and fetch my tinderbox, you'll get four shillings. But then you must really run." The shoemaker's boy was only too glad to have four shillings, and he scurried away after the tinderbox and gave it to the soldier, and - yes, now we shall hear.

Outside the city a big gallows had been built; around it stood the soldiers and many hundreds of thousands of people. The king and queen sat on a lovely throne right above the judge and the whole court. The soldier was already on the ladder, but as they were going to put the noose around his neck he said: "Oh, yes, a sinner is always granted one little innocent wish before he receives his punishment - he would so like to smoke a pipeful of tobacco. After all, it would be the last pipe he'd have in this world."

The king couldn't really say no to that, and so the soldier took out his tinderbox and struck a light: One! Two! Three! And there stood all the dogs: the first with eyes as big as teacups, the second with eyes as big as mill wheels, and the third with eyes each as big as the Round Tower.

"Help me now, so 1 won't be hanged!" said the soldier. And then the dogs flew right at the judge and the whole court, took one by the legs and one by the nose, and tossed them many miles up in the air so they fell down and broke into pieces.

"I won't!" said the king, but the biggest dog took both him and the queen and threw them after all the others. Then the soldiers were frightened, and all the people shouted: "Little soldier, you shall be our king and have the lovely princess!"

Then they put the soldier in the king's coach, and all three dogs danced in front and shouted, "Hurrah!" And all the boys whistled through their fingers, and the soldiers presented arms. The princess came out of the copper castle, and was made queen, and that she liked very well. The wedding party lasted eight days, and the dogs sat at the table and made eyes at everybody.


Mossycoat
English folk tale


There once was a widow who lived in a cottage, and she had a daughter. The girl was lovely, though she didn't know it, and nor did she know what her mother was making, for that was a secret she hadn't been told yet. It was a waistcoat kind of thing, made of the greenest moss, all sewn with gold thread that was finer than gossamer; and as for the stitches that held it together, no mortal ever stitched finer ones. A garment like that is a long time in making, you can be sure; the widow was young when she started, and many years older by the time it was nearly finished.

For it wasn't done, quite, when the story begins.

One day a hawker came to the door. He was a nuisance, this old man. He wasn't content to sell his ribbons and laces and needles and pins, but he had to make familiar remarks and wink and pinch the cheeks of girls too gentle to say no. He hadn't been seen for a while; some said he'd been locked up for his wickedness; at any rate, he was out and about again, and when he knocked at the door, it was the daughter who opened it.

"Well, hello!" he said. "You're a pretty one, ain't you?"

She didn't know how to answer that. He wasn't pretty by any means: he was snaggle-toothed and red-nosed, with lank hair combed over his greasy bald pate, and he strutted like a cocky little dog.

"Here," he said, fumbling for her hand to pat it, "you're the prettiest thing I seen since ... ooh, ever. You're prettier than them roses round the door, dang me if you ain't. Here, look at this ..."

He plucked off a rose petal and held it against her cheek, and he ran his knobbly old fingers over them both.

"I can't tell the difference!" he said. "You're as soft and smooth as -"

But she shook her head like a wild thing, as shy as a fawn. "Ooh, I like you," he said. "You got a spark in you. You got some fizz and crackle. Now I don't believe in beating about the bush: I'm looking for a wife, and I believe you'd make a good 'un. How about it? Eh? Eh?"

He was nudging and winking and licking his lips, and his rheumy old eyes were glistening. The girl said: "Wait there."

She shut the door and ran in to her mother.

"Mum!" she said. "Mum! There's a horrible old hawker man at the door." "Oh, he's back, is he? What does he want?"

"He wants to marry me!" "Well, do you want to marry him?" "No, I don't!" "All right," said her mother, "now you listen to me. You go and tell him that you'll marry him next week, as long as he brings you a dress. You understand? A white satin dress with gold sprigs on it, and it's got to fit you perfect."

"And will I have to marry him then?"

"Go and do as you're told."

So the girl went to the door and she said: "Well I don't know. But if I do marry you, I need a proper wedding dress. You come back next week with a white satin dress all covered in gold sprigs this big, no this big, and we'll see. Oh, and it's got to fit me perfect." "Hoo-hoo," chortled the hawker. "I'll be back! I'll be back! Let me have a look at you, so I can judge your size." He held out his thumb and squinted one eye and measured her up and down and off he went rubbing his hands.

Next week, there was a knock at the door, and the girl looked out of the window and ducked her heat back quickly.

"Mum!" she said. "It's that blooming old hawker man and he's got a parcel! What am I going to do?" "Go and answer the door, girl."

So she opened the door slowly. "Oooh," said the hawker, "what a little peach! Yum-yum-yum! Here's you dress, girl, just like you wanted. Now when are you going to -"

"Hold on," said the girl. "I said it had to fit me perfect. I got to try it on first." "Go on, then," said the hawker, and he gave her the parcel. "I'll wait here."

She took the parcel in to her mother. "Mum, he has brought me the dress!" she said. "What am I going to do now?" "Well, don't you want to try it on?"

They unwrapped the tissue paper and held up the dress. It was made of satin as white as snow, and the gold sprigs were all this big. And when she slipped it over her head and her mother fastened it up at the back, she found it fitted her like her own skin.

"Girl, you look beautiful," said her mother.

"But I can't marry him, he's horrible!"

"Well, tell him you need another dress. Ask for a silk one this time, the colour of all the birds of the air."

So she went back to the door. The hawker was twitching and sniffing with impatience. "Well?" he said. "Does it fit, then?" "It's a bit tight under the arms," she said, "but I suppose it'll do to get married in. I can't go away for the honeymoon in a wedding dress, though, I need another dress for that. Make it silk, the colour of all the birds of the air."

"H'mm," he said. "And then … Mmm? Mmm? Eh?"

She just gave him a level kind of look, and he made a whinnying sound and hurried away.

Next week, another knock. "Mum, he's back again!"

"Open the door, then." The hawker thrust the parcel into her hands, and tried to snatch a kiss while he was about it. She moved her face out of the way and shut the door.

"He's getting impatient, Mum! I can't put him off for ever!" "Never mind that. Try the dress on, girl"

The silk dress fitted even better than the satin one had, and when she looked at herself in the mirror the girl felt dizzy to see the beautiful thing she was changing into. She wasn't sure if she liked it, but she knew she didn't like the hawker. "What can I say to him?" she said in despair. "Tell him you need some dancing shoes."

So she said to the hawker: "Well, I suppose the dresses are all right. But I expect there's to be dancing at the celebrations, and unless you want to dance with a bride in hobnail boots, you better get me some of them gold patent-leather slippers with little heels and diamond buckles. And if they don't fit me perfect -" "Right you are!" he said. "And that's it, is it? Nothing else you want?" "No," she said, because she couldn't think of anything else. "Let me have a look at your feet then." He made a mark on a scrap of paper to get the size.

"Next week, then!" "All right. "Bye."

Glumly she waited, and sure enough, next week there came his knock at the door.

"I got them! Diamond buckles and all! Now you got to marry me, girl, you can't keep me waiting any longer!" "I got to try them on first," she said. "You probably made them too big. I got very little feet."

"Ooh, I guarantee they'll fit," he said, winking and rubbing his hands. She tried them on, and she didn't need a shoe-horn: they were neat and soft and light, neither too small nor too big, and they twinkled like fireflies. "Oh, Mum, what am I going to do now?" she wailed. "Well now, girl," said her mother, "your mossy coat is all but ready. I should think another night's work'll see it done. So you go and tell the hawker to come back in the morning, about 10 o'clock."

"What mossy coat?" said the girl. "What are you talking about?" "Shoo! Go and tell him, go on!"

So the girl opened the door once more. The hawker was licking his lips and rubbing his hands and panting and shifting from foot to foot.

"Well? Well? Well? Well? Well?" he said.

"The slippers are all right," she said. "The left one's a bit loose round the heel, but I suppose they'll do. You come back at 10 in the morning, and I'll marry you."

"Ten in the morning? Why not now?"

"Because I got to wash my hair, of course," she said.

"Ten o'clock, and don't be late." She shut the door before he could say another word. She could hear him snuffling and mumbling outside, but soon he gave up and left.

"Ten o'clock!" he called as he shut the garden gate.

"Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" "Mum -" the girl began, but her mother shook her head.

"Don't you say a word, because I'm going to be busy all night. Fetch that old suitcase off the top of the wardrobe and pack them dresses in it, and the slippers too, wrap them all in tissue paper, go on. Then bring me a cup of tea."

All night long the woman sewed. She worked till three whole candles had burned down and the daylight had come again, and just as the cock was crowing she snapped off the last gold thread with her aching fingers.

She stretched and yawned and woke the girl.

"Now you better get up," she said, "because if you lie there snoring and steaming all morning you're going to find yourself a-married to that old hawker whether you want to be or not. Get out of bed and wash yourself and then come down to the parlour. And bring the suitcase."

A few minutes later the girl, clean and wide awake and fearful, lugged the suitcase downstairs.

"What's that?" she said. "Is that the mossy coat?"

Her mother held it up against her. It was as green as a spring morning, as fresh and soft as a breeze out of the west. All the mosses her mother had gathered from pond and meadow and millstream over 18 years were bright and living yet: she'd plaited and woven them so cunningly that all the tiny moss-leaves were still alive. And under and over and in between them all lay a shimmer of gold from those gossamer threads stitched with stitches too small to see. The mossy coat was so light and fine you could fold it all into a thimble, and yet so strong you couldn't tear it with your teeth.

And the best part was, it was magic. The daughter was to wear it under her other clothes when she wanted to make a wish, and whatever she wished for would come true.

"Oh, mother," the girl breathed, slipping her arms into it and hugging it close to her breast.

"Yes," said her mother, "this is for you, my dear. From now on, you're going to be called Mossycoat. That's your name in the future. I been a-stitching and a-gathering since you were born, and now you're ready for it, and it's time for you to leave and find your way in the world, my dear. You must go and seek your fortune, and a fine fortune it'll be. Take up the suitcase, and close your eyes, and wish you were a hundred miles away."

"But what about him?"

"You leave him to me," said her mother. "Go on! Go!" So Mossycoat took the suitcase in her right hand, and clenched her left hand firmly around the front of the mossy coat, and closed her eyes and wished. And as soon as the wish was formed in her mind, whoosh! Up she swept into the air, like a leaf in a storm, but she clung to the suitcase as tight as a limpet, and she clutched the mossy coat firm around her front.

Where she flew she couldn't tell, for she kept her eyes well shut; but presently all the whooshing died away, and then the soles of her feet touched ground and all her weight came back to her, and she tottered a step or two and opened her eyes.

And there she was, in a different part of the country altogether. To her left was a river with green meadows beyond it, and to her right there were orchards and farmyards all neat and prosperous, and ahead of her was a hill, and on the top of the hill was a fine brick house with rose beds in front and tulips standing to attention like soldiers along the gravel drive.

"Well," said Mossycoat to herself, "I can't stand here gaping all day."

So first she took off her mossy coat and folded it away safe in the suitcase, and then she climbed the hill in the warm sunshine with the birds singing and the breeze lifting the scent out of the apple blossom, and she knocked on the door of the big house.

"Excuse me for knocking," she said to the lady of the house, "but I've just arrived in this land, and I need a job."

The lady was a kind sort of a person, and shrewd, and she liked the look of this young girl with her suitcase; so she said: "And what can you do, my dear? Can you sew, or polish, or what?"

"I can cook a bit," said Mossycoat. "There's some says I'm quite a good cook, or 1 will be with practise."

"Well," said the lady, "if we needed a cook we'd try you out; but 1 tell you what," she said: "I'll give you a job in the kitchen and see how you get on."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Mossycoat, and she followed the lady into the house.

And such a house it was: a grand hall with a staircase all hung with paintings, and a drawing room with gilded furniture and Chinese carpets, and a dining room with a mahogany table so shiny that the silver candelabra seemed to be floating on dark water. The lady took Mossycoat up to a little bedroom in the attic and showed her where she could sleep and put her suitcase, and then took her down to the kitchen.

On the way through the hall there was a commotion, as a young man came in dressed for hunting, with half a dozen big floppy dogs all leaping up and licking him. Mossycoat took one glance at him, and then she kept her eyes modestly downwards and stood as meek as a nun.

"Who's this, mother?" said the young man.

"She's our new kitchen maid," said the lady.

"Come this way, my dear, and I'll show you where you'll be working."

Mossycoat followed her into the kitchen. All the cooks and the undercooks and the bottle washers and the pantry maids and the scullery maids stopped what they were doing and looked at Mossycoat, and she just kept quiet and looked down. The lady explained what Mossycoat's duties would be, and then she left the kitchen.

As soon as she'd gone, the servants started. "Look at her! Lady Muck!"

"Who does she think she is?"

"Too grand for the likes of us - little snob!"

"Sucking up to madam! There's no sucking up in the kitchen - no airs and graces in here!"

The head cook said: "What's your name, then?" "Mossycoat," she said.

"Mossycoat? Bossyboots, more like. You're one of the workers now. None of your high-and-mighty ways down here - we'll knock that out of you quick enough, see if we don't."

They were a very low kind of people in that kitchen.

They had just enough sense to know what was better than they were, and just enough energy to hate it.

So Mossycoat set to work, and they gave her the dirtiest jobs: cleaning the sooty grease off the spits, scrubbing the scullery floor, scraping the mud off the potatoes. And they never stopped calling her names and mocking her, although she just kept herself quiet and modest and gave them no reason to. And every so often, when her back was turned, some oaf would take the skimmer, all greasy from the soup, and knock her on the head with it; and she never once complained or tried to hit back. What with all the work and the harsh treatment, her clothes were soon covered in grease and dirt, and her face and hair and fingernails were sadly grubby.

Now a little while later, it was announced that there was going to be three days of merry-making in a great house nearby. There was to be music, and dancing, and feasting, and fireworks, and invitations were sent out to all the houses in the district. Of course the master and mistress were invited, and the young master too, and it was the talk of the kitchen.

"I wish I could go - I'm as good as they are any day of the week!"

"All them lovely dresses ..."

"All them handsome young men! Eh?"

Mossycoat said nothing. But all this time, the mistress of the house had been watching her, and she noticed what the servants didn't: she saw how clever and modest little Mossycoat was, and how pretty she was too, under the grime.

So she sent for her and said: "Now, Mossycoat, how would you like a treat? How would you like to come to the ball with us, as our guest?"

"Well, ma'am," said Mossycoat, "that's very kind of you, but I think I'd better not, on account of being so grubby. I'd make your carriage all greasy if I sat in it. And I wouldn't know how to behave at a grand affair like that, and I'd let you down. Thank you kindly, but you'd be better off not taking me."

"Well, are you sure?" said the lady, but Mossycoat wouldn't be budged.

When she went back to the kitchen, the servants were all agog to know why she'd been sent for.

"Did she give you notice?" "Are they getting rid of you?" "What did she say?"

Mossycoat said: "The mistress asked me to the ball, and I said no."

"You blooming liar!" "Did you hear that?"

"She says they asked her to the ball! Ruddy nerve!" And out came the skimmer, and poor Mossycoat's head rang.

The first night of the festivities were such a success that the lady of the house sent for Mossycoat again.

"Mossycoat, my dear, are you sure you wouldn't like to come? I know you'd enjoy it! And the master would like you to join us, and the young master too. There's going to be fireworks tonight!"

"Thank you kindly, ma'am, but I think I'd better not," said Mossycoat.

But that evening, when the servants were all sitting round idly in the kitchen smoking or playing cards or gossiping, Mossycoat went to her room. First she washed herself from head to foot, and cleaned all the soot and grime and dirt off her skin and out of her hair. Then she slipped the mossy coat on and went down to the kitchen. She went round from one servant to the next, touching each of them and wishing, and as she touched them they fell asleep, their great greasy heads lolling down on the table or back open-mouthed in their chairs.

When they were all fast asleep and snoring, she went up and put on her white satin dress with the gold sprigs, and the golden slippers, and she wished herself at the festivities.

Up she flew, through the warm night air, and down she was set outside the ballroom. The band was playing a waltz, and the chandeliers were glowing, and the movement of the ladies and gentlemen on the dance floor was like swans on a lake.

Well, no sooner had Mossycoat arrived than the young master saw her. He didn't recognise her, but he said to his mother: "Look at that girl in the white dress, mother! Isn't she beautiful? Where does she come from, I wonder?"

"If you go and ask her to dance, you might find out," his mother said.

So he came up to her and asked for the next dance. She looked him full in the eyes and said: "Thank you, sir, but I'd rather not dance just yet,"

And she wouldn't dance with him, nor with anyone else, and he had to be content with that. Nor would she tell him her name, nor where she came from, and for all he begged to know, she just laughed and teased and said: "That's my secret."

The only comfort he had was that she wouldn't talk to anyone else either, though she was gracious and polite and so lovely to look at that all the young men in the place clustered round to flirt.

Finally the young master went to his mother and said: "Mother, if I don't find out who she is I'll go mad with despair, but she won't tell me. Can you ask her for me?"

The lady sat down with Mossycoat on the terrace, and they sipped their wine and chatted. But the lady got no more out of her than her son; all the strange girl would tell her was that she came from a place where they hit her on the head with a skimmer.

"What sort of a place is that?" said the lady in surprise. "Oh, I shouldn't think I'll be there long," was all Mossycoat said in reply.

Then came the last dance, and the young master tried once more. "Please dance with me!" he said. "I'm longing to dance, and there's no one else I want to dance with but you."

"Well," said Mossycoat, "just this once, then."

And she held out her hand, and he led her to the dance floor. She was as light in his arms as a bird of the air, he'd never found dancing so easy and joyful; but it didn't last, for no sooner had they danced down to the end of the ballroom than she slipped out of his grasp and away through the door.

"No! Wait! Come back!" he cried, and he ran out after her, but there was nothing there in the dark, nothing at all, only the warm breeze and the stars and his beating heart.

Mossycoat wished herself back at the house, and first she changed out of her satin dress and put on her dirty old clothes again, and then she went down to the kitchen and woke up all the servants.

"Have we been asleep all this time?" said the pastry cook.

"Oh! You won't tell, will you, Mossycoat?" said the scullery maid.

"If you keep us out of trouble, I'll let you have my old dress," said the housekeeper.

"I won't say a word," said Mossycoat, and nor did she. Next day the talk was all of the beautiful girl who'd come out of nowhere and appeared at the ball. No one knew who she was, though all kinds of rumours sprang up: she was a princess from Russia; she was the daughter of a millionaire; she wasn't a mortal at all, she was a fairy. And everyone was buzzing to see whether she'd turn up for the last night of the festivities.

As for the young master, he was desperate.

"Father," he said, "if 1 don't find out who that girl is and where she goes to, I'll explode. 1 want you to have my best horse ready and waiting outside the door of the ballroom, so if she runs out again 1 can go after her."

"All right, son," said his father, "I won't let you down." That evening Mossycoat put the servants to sleep again, and this time she put on her silk dress the colour of all the birds of the air. And when she arrived at the ball this time, there was the young master at once, at the head of all the other young men desperate to dance with her; for word had got around, and there wasn't anyone within 50 miles who hadn't heard of this mysterious girl who appeared out of nowhere and disappeared again.

Mossycoat answered no questions except with a smile, and she wouldn't dance with anyone - except, once again, with the young master.

He was as proud and happy as a king; down the ballroom they danced, and up again to the orchestra, and never had such a handsome couple been seen in anyone's memory. Then with a twirl in the music, the two of them turned and danced to the door.

And the young master must have loosened his grip in the heat of the moment, for she was out of his arms and away. And straight he ran after her into the dark, and there was his horse with the groom at the reins.

"Oh, where did she go? Which way? Did you see her?" No sign! Not a glimpse! She was vanished and gone.

The horse shook his head and jingled his bridle, and stamped a hoof on the stones of the terrace; and the young master ran this way and that, gazing into the dark, calling, imploring the girl with no name to come back, for he loved her ...

Nothing. Silence. Darkness.

The heartless music played on in the ballroom, and he heard none of it. Then as he turned in despair, he saw something catching the light, something down on the gravel below the windows, a little golden twinkle.

Her slipper! She'd dropped a slipper as she vanished!

He clutched it to his heart. It was all that was left of that beautiful stranger, all that he had to take home from the ball.

Well, next day you never heard such a to-do.

It was the talk of every house in the county – the girl who'd won everyone's heart with her grace and her beauty, the young man she chose from all of the others to be her dancing partner; and how she was nowhere to be found, and how he was lying ill in bed with a mysterious fever.

Mossycoat heard the rumours in the kitchen, with all the other servants.

"He's ill? The young master?"

"Groaning and sickening something terrible ..."

"What's wrong with him?"

"They're in fear for his life!"

The doctor was sent for. He arrived in his carriage as soon as he could, and went straight up to the wild-eyed young patient. He tested his temperature and timed his pulse; he took his stethoscope out of his top hat and listened to the thumping of the young man's heart; he tapped his chest and peered into his eyes, and then he heard a broken whisper. The great physician stooped to listen closer, and then he saw what the young man clutched so tight in his hand.

He stood up straight and made his diagnosis.

"This is no fever," he said solemnly. "Nor is it an infection, nor a case of poisoning, nor a plague or a pox or a murrain. This is an affliction of the heart."

"Oh no!" said the lady of the house, and she stroked the damp hair off her son's pallid brow.

"The patient is in love," the doctor explained. "That's the long and the short of it, and if he doesn't find the object of his affection, his heart will give way altogether. You must find the girl who fits this slipper," - and he held up the young man's trembling hand, still clutching the golden slipper - "or else, send for the sexton to dig the patient's grave. My fee is 10 guineas. Good morning."

So that was the state of things. Word went out at once all over the countryside, and girls by the hundred came flocking to try the slipper, for it was announced that the young man was heir to a splendid fortune as well as being ardent and handsome. A line of girls led up the stairs, out through the hall, along the drive, and halfway down the hill, and still more of them came from every direction.

And you never saw such feet: long knobbly ones, short fat ones, graceful ones but just too big, ones covered in corns and bunions, flat ones, warty ones, pretty ones and tender ones; but not a single one that fitted the slipper.

Eventually, when the last girl tugged her stocking up with a sigh and trudged off down the hill, the lady of the house said: "We've tried everything else, my dear; we shall have to ask the servants."

You can imagine the glee at that. Every female servant in the house crowded and jostled to shove her foot in the golden slipper, but of course none of them could do it, not even by holding their breath and squeezing.

The lady said: "Is that everyone? I didn't see Mossycoat." "Oh, her," said someone, but they had to fetch her. She came up the stairs all quiet and modest. Her hair was dusty, there was a smudge of soot on her cheek, and anything less like the girl of the night before would be hard to find; but the lady saw through her, and she left a lift in her heart as Mossycoat slipped off her grimy shoe and took up the slipper. And it fitted.

The young master gave a cry of joy, but Mossycoat held up her hand.

"No," she said, "wait. I'm not ready yet."

She ran up to her bedroom and washed and put on the white satin dress, and the other slipper, and then came down to the young master's room, where all the family was waiting to welcome her. The young master ran to her and opened his arms, but again she said: "Wait. I've changed my mind. I'm going to put my other dress on."

So she went up and changed, and then she came down once more, and this time she didn't say, "Wait."

Well, he nearly ate her.

And so they were married. There were celebrations and feasting and fireworks and fancy dress, and at the very height of the festivities, the lady said: "Now tell me, Mossycoat dear, when we talked at the ball you told me you came from a place where they hit you on the head with a skimmer. Was that true?"

"Perfectly true," said Mossycoat. "And where was that place?"

"Well, it was in your kitchen," said Mossycoat. "And I said I didn't think I'd be there for long."

"That was true enough," said the lady, and kissed her. And she sent for the servants and dismissed them all, the lazy cruel slubberdegullions, and set about hiring a better lot of servants altogether.

As for Mossycoat and her husband, they had a basket of children, and they're living there now in the house on the hill, as far as I know.

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