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By W. NORMAN BROWN
I. THE BALL OF THREAD
A POOR old woman who was employed to guard a cotton-field plucked, one day, a few bolls and spun the cotton into a fine thread, which she wound into a ball. On her way home that evening she passed a lake, and thought she would like to bathe her feet. So, placing the ball on the bank, she stepped into the water. At this moment another woman passed by. She picked up the ball, saying: “What beautiful thread! Did you spin it?” “Yes,” answered the old woman. “May I look at it closely?” asked the other woman, and without waiting for permission, she started away with it. “Come back!” cried the old woman. “Bring back my thread!” “Your thread?” shouted the other. at all; it is mine.” Thus quarreling, they entered the city where they met a policeman, and he took them to a judge. When the judge had heard the case he said, “You both claim the ball, but neither of you produces any witnesses to support her claim. Hence, since possession is nine points of the law, I order that the woman who has the ball shall keep it.” Just outside the judgment hall, the wise young Raman was playing with some other boys, and he overheard the judge's decision. At once he burst into a loud laugh. “Why do you laugh?” inquired the judge, “Because your decision is so stupid,” answered the boy. “How then should the case be decided?” asked the judge, almost wrathfully. “Let me show you!” replied Raman. He called the two women and first questioned the one who had the thread in her hand. “When did you spin this cotton?” “To-day,” she answered boldly. “Where did you get the cotton?” “In the fields outside the city.” “What did you wind the thread on?” “A cotton-seed,” came the reply after a moment's hesitation. Raman then turned to the other woman. “Did you spin this thread?” he asked. “Yes.” “What did you wind it on?” “A dried bean,” she answered. “Now,” said Raman, to the bailiff, “just
unwind the ball and let us see whether the
core is a cotton-seed or a bean.” And of course it was a bean. The ball was restored to its rightful owner;
and every one praised the boy's wisdom.
II. GIVE WHAT YOU WISH
A RICH man, being at the point of death, handed over all his wealth to a trusted neighbor, asking him to keep it in trust and saying, “When my son comes of age, give him whatever you wish.” This the neighbor agreed to do, and, after the man died, he took the money home. When the boy came of age, he went to his father's friend to claim his fortune. “Very well,” said the trustee, “your father on his death-bed told me to give you whatever part of his fortune I should wish. This I promised to do; so take this!” And he handed the boy a hundred rupees. Now this sum was scarcely a thousandth part of the fortune the rich man had left, and indignantly the son refused it. Instead, he rushed to the court to beg justice. It happened that at this time the court was presided over by the clever boy Raman. To him, therefore, the heir told his tale. Raman had the trustee summoned at once and asked him on what grounds he withheld the fortune from the boy. “Your Honor,” the man replied, “this boy's father on his death-bed handed over all his money to me with these words, “When my son comes of age, give him whatever you wish.’ Hence I now give him what I wish.” “Ah!” said Raman, after a moment's thought, “You are certainly right in wishing to adhere so closely to the dead man's wishes; but I fear you have made a mistake. You have not given the boy what you wish; rather you have given him what you do not wish. What you wish is the part of the fortune which you are withholding for yourself. This it is which the boy's father wanted you to give to the boy, and which you, by your own words, agreed to give. Therefore, you shall keep the hundred rupees only for yourself, but the rest you must deliver at once to the boy.” Thus was the boy made rich; but the trustee, on account of his greed and dishonesty, received only the hundred rupees.
KNOW what I’ll do,” said the Green Goblin, to his friend the Will-o'-the-Wisp. “I’ll give a spelling-match.” “With prizes?” asked the Will-o'-the-Wisp. “Why, of course. One will be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, another will be a wishing-cap, and the third will be—” “Shoes of invisibility,” suggested the Willo'-the-Wisp. “No,” the Green Goblin objected. “If you won those, you ’d disappear, and then where would you be?” “But that would make no difference,” answered the Will-o'-the-Wisp; “for no one can find me when they see me; and so if they can’t see me, they can't find me any better than if they could see me—could they?” “Now you ’re mixing me up,” said the Green Goblin, “and I want to go on with my spelling-match. The third prize will be a wishing-ring. And the fourth prize—I don't think I 'll have more than three prizes.
Maybe we won't have more than three prizewinners. Come on over to the White Owl's tree, and we'll have the Town Crier give out the notices.” So they flitted over to the tree and found the Town Crier, who for a fee of four fourleafed clovers gave out the notice at the trysting-places of Fairyland, telling all the residents that on the first of April there would be a Great Spelling-Match at the Grotto of the Green Goblin, admission free, with prizes for the three best spellers. When the day came, the grotto was filled with an excited throng. There was the King and the Queen, the Princess, and the Lord High Chancellor. There was the old Witch, the Wizard, the Enchanter, and the youngest son of the Woodcutter. There were the Knight, the Squire, the Giant, the Dwarf, the Sultan, the Genie, the Pirate, the Bandit, the Schoolmaster, and the Teacher of Danc1ng. The Will-o'-the-Wisp was not there, because the match was held at ten o'clock A.M., and the Will-o'-the-Wisp is out only at night. But the Green Goblin was so much interested in his other guests that he forgot the Will-o'the-Wisp entirely. When all were gathered, the refreshments were served by some small elves dressed in the Green Goblin's green livery. Everything was most delicious. There were syllabubs, pistachio nuts, greengages, philopoenas, nougatines, nectar and ambrosia, vitamines, doughnuts, and a lot of things with French and Italian names that were most delightful and melted in the mouth before you had time to taste them—together with bonbons and frozen sweets. But since the Giant went early to the refreshment room, there was not much left for the other guests, and all were glad when the Green Goblin declared it was time for the spelling-match. So next they all counted out with “Eena, mena, mona, mi,” until their places in the spelling-line were fixed, and then they were arranged in the following order: First came the Giant, then came the Dwarf and the Enchanter, the King, the Chancellor, the Woodcutter's Son, the Wizard, the Knight, the Princess. After her was the Squire, then the Queen, the Pirate, the Genie, the Schoolmaster, the Teacher of Dancing, the Bandit, and last came the Sultan and the old Witch. Before the line stood the Green Goblin, holding in his paw the list of hard words, ready to give them out as soon as the signal was given. Then an elf blew three blasts on a trumpet-flower, and the match began.
“The first word,” announced the Green Goblin, “is for you, Mr. Giant. So you may spell jackstraws.” The Giant looked puzzled, and blushed so red that a soft pink glow filled the grotto. “I never heard of such a word as that,” he mumbled, “and I’ll sit down. I can spell mastodon, and mammoth, and pyramid, and glacier, and sierra—but jackstraws I never heard of !” And he sat down. “Next,” said the Green Goblin. “Jackstraws is easy,” said the Dwarf, with a chuckle; and he spelled it correctly, turned a somersault, and waited for the next. “Diminutive,” said the Green Goblin. “That,” said the Dwarf, uneasily, “is a word no one ever used in my presence. What does it mean?” “It means very little,” said the Green Goblin. “No matter how little,” the Dwarf replied; “let me know what it means.” Here the Bandit burst out laughing, and the Dwarf lost his temper. “I’m not here to be laughed at,” he cried; and leaving his place in the line, he went out from the grotto without saying good-by.
“Next!” said the Green Goblin. “D-i, di; m-i-n, min; di-min; u-u; diminu; t-i-v-e: diminutive!” said the Enchanter. “Wrong!” cried the King, waving his scepter. “No, it's right,” said the Green Goblin. “How dare you contradict me?” demanded the King. “Are you not my subject?” “Not on this subject,” answered the Green Goblin. “Don’t be foolish, my dear,” broke in the Queen, “or I'll take you home. You promised me you 'd behave if I took you—” “So I did,” the King admitted, and he begged pardon very handsomely, for the Queen was very severe with him on certain subjects. “It 's lucky for you that the Enchanter was right,” said the Green Goblin; “and now I 'll give you an easy one. You can spell commutation.” “There 's no such word,” said the King. “It 's the name of a railway ticket,” said the Green Goblin, very politely. “I know nothing of railway tickets,” the King replied. “I travel by special train. The Chancellor arranges all that for me. No doubt he can spell it. Try him. I think I'll resign,” and he went out of the line and sat down in a corner, taking off his crown to rest his head, for the crown was very heavy in hot weather.
-7 so first word," announced the Green Goblin,
The Chancellor spelled commutation, but said that when he used the word it meant letting a man out of prison earlier than he ought to come out because he had behaved better than was expected when he was put in. “Very well,” said the Green Goblin, “I’ll give you another word. Try this one: ichor. It means—” “You need n't tell me,” said the Chancellor. “I see you are—” “Wrong!” the Green Goblin cried. “Not at all,” the Chancellor insisted. “I only said, ‘I see you are’—” “But it is n’t spelled i-c-u-r,” the Green Goblin insisted, “and so you have missed your turn!” “You don’t understand me,” the Chancellor persisted. “I was only about to remark, “I see you are familiar with mythology.’” “That may be,” spoke up the Woodcutter's Son, “but this is a spelling-match, not a debating club. You said ‘i-c-u-r,’ and the Green Goblin says that is n’t right. The word is ‘ichor.’” “Well, spell it,” the Green Goblin went on, for it was getting late, and he did n’t like to have the match last too long, for he was going to the movies later in the afternoon. “I can't spell it,” the Woodcutter's Son answered cheerfully; “and I don't believe the Green Goblin can spell it either, unless he has it written down before him.”
“Certainly I can,” replied the Green Goblin, and putting the list behind his back he spelled it out: “I-c-h-o-r.” “But you could n’t have spelled it if you had n't seen it,” the Woodcutter's Son persisted. “I will admit cheerfully,” the Green Goblin rejoined with a smile, “that I can’t spell a word that I never heard of. So let 's go on with the match. Who 's next?” “I come next,” remarked the Wizard boldly. “The next word is, misspelled,” the Green Goblin announced. “Then it does n’t count,” the Wizard objected. “You can't expect me to spell a word that is misspelled. If I spell it right, then I'm wrong. If I misspell it, then I'm not right. So it is n’t fair. I think this match is a swindle, and I'm going home!” “Next!” was the only comment made by the Green Goblin, and the very courteous Knight raised the visor of his helm and rightly spelled misspelled, and then observed that he thought Wizards were more familiar with spells than this Wizard had shown himself. It was the Princess's turn next. The Green Goblin greatly admired this beautiful and noble young lady, and so did most of the guests. Consequently, he was sorry to see that the next word was rather hard to spell.
But duty is duty, and the Green Goblin gave the word in its proper order: “Your Royal Highness will now condescend to spell for us the word, psychical.” “Will you kindly repeat the word?” the Princess asked. “Psychical,” the Green Goblin repeated it. “Mother, will you hand me my pocket dictionary?” said the Princess to the Queen. “Certainly,” that Royal Lady replied, and handed over a daintily bound copy with mother-of-pearl covers inlaid with gold filigree. “Thank you,” the Princess responded, and began to run her taper fingers through the vellum pages. “Here, here!” exclaimed the Schoolmaster, “that is n’t allowed!” “What 's the trouble?” asked the Green Goblin. “Why, she 's looking up the word in the dictionary!” “And why not?” inquired the Pirate. “Is n’t that what a dictionary is for? That is what they tell me.” “But it 's against the rules!” objected the Schoolmaster. “What rules?” the Green Goblin remarked. “I am running this spelling-match—not you. And if her Royal Highness prefers to use a dictionary, I say she is heartily welcome to it! Long live the Princess!”