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The rulers of this Christian land,
The King and the Locusts.
CERTAIN Eastern king, a good Mussulman, had a great love of stories, and the more he heard the more he would hear. His craze at last reached such a height that he issued a proclamation that to any man who would tell him a story that would never end he would give his daughter in marriage ; but
that if he failed in his task, his head would be chopped off, and his body cast to the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air.
Several candidates appeared, but their stories came to an end, and they were executed by order of the king.
At last a man came forward, very composed in manner and slow and deliberate in speech. He first bargained for certain hours for meals and sleep, which were granted ; and he then began :
“O king, there was once a mighty emperor, who was a great tyrant. Wishing to increase his riches, he seized upon all the corn that belonged to his subjects, and stored it away in an immense granary, as big as a mountain, which he had built for the purpose.
“ In the course of time he filled this granary to the very top. He then got some bricklayers, who blocked up all the doors and windows, and left, as they supposed, not a single crevice by which any living creature could get in. But a swarm of locusts passing that way, found out a small chink which the workmen had overlooked, and which could only allow one at a time to wriggle in and wriggle out. At first one locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out; and then another locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out ; and then another locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out; and then—"
; Morning, noon, and night, for a whole month, except when he was eating, drinking, or sleeping, had the story-teller gone on in this fashion, when the king, whose patience was getting worn out, interrupted him : “Well, suppose the locusts had walked off with all the corn they wanted, what happened afterwards ?"
“ May it please your majesty, I can't tell you what happened afterwards till I have told you what happened first.”
Still on went the sing-song : “And then another locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out; and then another locust crept in and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out ; and then another locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out."
“Stop, stop, with your wriggling !" cried the king, when a constant stream of talk like this had been going on for six months longer : "I am sick to death of your locusts. When do you think they will have done ?”
« The wisest of mortals cannot tell, O king ; for up to the time to which my story has come, the locusts have only cleared a small space, about a cubit each way in the store of corn next to the chink in the wall, and the sun is still darkened by the clouds of locusts outside the granary, waiting for their turn to creep in ; but we shall come to the end of them in time.”
“ Go on, then, in the prophet's name," said the king.
“And then another locust crept in, and carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out ; and then another locust crept in, and
carried off a grain of corn, and wriggled out ;” and so on for a year longer.
“ By the seven stars in Allah's girdle," cried the angry king, “I can stand this no longer. Take my daughter! take my kingdom ! take anything-everything, but don't, pray don't let us hear anything more of these detestable locusts."
And thus the story-teller became the king's son-in-law, and afterwards succeeded him to the throne.
HERE was once a poor woodman sitting by the fire
in his cottage, and his wife sat by his side spinning. “How lonely it is,” said he, “ for you and me to sit here by ourselves without any children to play about or amuse us, while other people seem so happy and merry with their children !
“ What you say is very true," said the wife, sighing and turning round her wheel : "how happy should I be if I had but one child, and if it were ever so small ; nay, if it were no bigger than my thumb, I should be very happy and love it dearly.” Now it came to pass that this good woman's wish was fulfilled just as she desired; for, some time afterwards she had a little boy who was quite healthy and strong, but not much bigger than my thumb. So they said, “Well, we cannot say we have not got what we wished for, and, little as he is, we will love him dearly ;" and they called him Tom Thumb.
They gave him plenty of food, yet he never grew any bigger, but remained just the same size as when he was born ; still his eyes were sharp and sparkling, and he soon showed himself to be a clever little fellow, who always knew well what he was about. On day, as the woodman was getting ready to go into the wood to cut fuel, he said, “I wish I had some one to bring the cart after me, for I want to make haste.” “O father !” cried Tom,
“I will take care of that ; the cart shall be in the wood by the time you want it.” Then the woodman laughed and said, “How can that be ? you cannot reach up to the horse's bridle." “Never mind that, father,” said Tom, “ if my mother will only harness the horse, I will get into his ear, and tell him which way to go.” “Well,” said the father, “ we will try for once."
When the time came, the mother harnessed the horse to the cart, and put Tom into his ear; and, as he sat there, the little man told the beast how to go, crying out, “Go on,” and “Stop,” as he wanted ; so the horse went on just as if the woodman had driven it himself into the wood. It happened that, as the horse was going a little too fast, and Tom was calling out, “ Gently, gently !” two strangers came up. “ What an odd thing that is !” said one: “there is a cart going along, and I hear a carter talking to the horse, but can see no one." “That is strange," said the other ; “let us follow the cart, and see where it goes.” So they went on into the wood, until at last they came to the place where the woodman was. Then Tom Thumb, seeing his father, cried out, “See, father, here I am, with the cart all right and safe ; now take me down." So his father took hold of the horse with one hand, and with the other took his son out of the ear ; then he put him upon a straw, where he sat as merry as you please.
The two strangers were all this time looking on, and did not know what to say for wonder. At last one took the other aside and said, “That little urchin will make our fortune if we can get him, and carry him about from town to town as a show : we must buy him.” So they went to the woodman, and asked him what he would take for the little man.' “ He will be better off," said they, “ with us than with you.” “ I won't sell him at all,” said the father ; “my own flesh and blood is dearer to me than all the silver and gold in the world.” But at last, as he was a poor man, and Tom was willing to go, he sold Tom to the strangers for a large piece of gold.
“Where would you like to sit ?” said one of them to Tom. “Oh! put me on the rim of your hat~that will be a nice gallery for me ; I can walk about there, and see the country as we go along." So they did as he wished ; and when Tom had taken leave of his father, they took him away with them. They
journeyed on until it began to be dusky, and then the little man said, “Let me get down ; I'm tired.” So the man took off his hat, and set him down on a clod of earth in a ploughed field by the side of the road. But Tom ran about amongst the furrows, and at last slipped into an old mouse-hole.
“ Good night, masters,” said he, “I'm off ! mind and look sharp after me the next time.” They ran directly to the place, and poked the ends of their sticks into the mouse-hole, but all in vain : Tom only crawled further and further in, and at last it became quite dark, so that they were obliged to go their way without their prize, as sulky as you please.
(Concluded in our next.)
The Royal Missionary.
EORGE III. used occasionally to take the exercise
of hunting. Being out one day for this purpose, the chase lay through the skirts of Windsor Forest: the stag had been hard run; and to escape the dogs, had crossed the river in a deep part. The dogs, however, could not be brought to follow ; it
became necessary, to come up with it, to make a circuitous route, along the banks of the river through some thick and troublesome underwood. The roughness of the ground, the long grass, and frequent thickets, gave opportunity to the sportsmen to separate from each other, and endeavour to make the best and speediest route they could.
Before they had reached the end of the forest, the king's horse showed signs of fatigue and weariness, and his majesty resolved to forego the pleasures of the chase out of compassion to his horse. With this view, he determined to ride gently on to the oaks, and there wait for some of his attendants. He had proceeded only a few yards when, instead of the cry of the hounds, he fancied he heard the cry of human distress. As he rode forward, he heard it more distinctly : “O my mother! my mother! May God pity and bless my poor mother !” The kindness of the king led him to the spot.