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قراءة كتاب A Winter Nosegay: Being Tales for Children at Christmastide

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‏اللغة: English
A Winter Nosegay: Being Tales for Children at Christmastide

A Winter Nosegay: Being Tales for Children at Christmastide

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1

man in clouds



Being Tales for Children at Christmastide.





mound of grass

Riding a rooster

The Man in the Moon.


ONCE upon a time, long before people were able to learn what they wanted to know from printed books, long before children had pretty pictures to tell them tales, there lived an old student with his pupil. Together they spent all the day in poring over musty old books and papers, trying to find out why the sun was hot; and in the night-time they might always be seen gazing at the sky, counting how many stars there were there. They were very curious folk, and wanted to know the reasons for all sorts of out-of-the-way things that everybody else was content to know the mere facts of, such as why birds have two wings and not three, why crocodiles have no fins, seeing that they can swim in the water, and many other matters that would not interest sensible beings. They always had at their side a young owl, and a serpent, toothless and blind with age; for they thought that youthful observation and aged craftiness were most suitable companions for them in their labours. If at any time old Fusticus, for so the old student was named, got dispirited in his work, or felt inclined to give it up as a hopeless task, he had but to turn round in his chair, and there behind him sat his owl, who seemed to say, as he cocked his head on one side, "Never despair, success only comes after long perseverance!" Or if he stuck fast at any point, and could make no progress, one glance at the old serpent made him think, "Snakes wait whole days and nights on watch for their prey; why should I give in?" And, strange to say, with a little more attention and care, he always did get over his smaller difficulties.

But at last old Fusticus got weary of his long studies, as he seemed never to find an answer to any one of the questions he had set himself; and he was about to give them up altogether, when he came across a curious passage in the old tome in which he was reading. For a long time he could not make it out at all, but after deep thought and consultation with his pupil, he discovered that it was a spell, by which he could call up the Spirit of Darkness, whom he could compel to grant him any three wishes that he might demand. The only condition was that he should give to the Spirit of Darkness whatever he should ask of him.

Old Fusticus thought and thought a long time over this discovery, and at last decided to make use of it. So one day he repeated the charm he had learnt from the book, and when he had finished the last word, to his amazement, for he did not quite believe it was all true, there stood before him the Spirit of Darkness! He was not at all like what he had imagined he would have been; for he had not a hideous face, nor a tail, but was dressed in the costume of a court gentleman, with a sword at his side and a cocked hat in his hand. He had, too, a pigtail, ruffles and all complete!

"Sire," he said to Fusticus, "what is your will? You have summoned me to you by a power not your own—you know the condition on which you use that power. What is your wish?"

"My wish you shall soon learn, or rather my three wishes. But what is it that you demand in return?"

"All that I ask is now—nothing! All that I want is your first-born babe!"

"I have no child—I am an old man without a wife. If I had a child, you should have him." Fusticus did not think what he was saying, you see; but he felt quite safe in offering a thing that did not exist.

"'Tis a bargain!" cried the wicked Spirit at once and with glee. "Here is a written compact! Sign!" and Fusticus with a laugh put his name to the paper, for he thought: "Ah, my fine fellow! you have over-reached yourself this time! In trying to get too much, you have got nothing at all!" and he laughed again.

"Your wishes?" asked the Spirit of Darkness, putting the signed document into his coat-tail pocket.

"Well!" said Fusticus, "first of all I will have—— dear me! what shall I have? Now I come to think of it, I don't know that I want anything at all! Let me see, I have clothes, a house, my owl and my old serpent, I have a pupil, my books, my—oh! I know! I have not got a horse to ride upon! But to wish for only a horse! Spirit, let me have a Cock large enough for me to ride upon!"

And forthwith there appeared a monstrous cock, so large that Fusticus could easily sit upon its back. And this he at once did. "Shan't I look grand now!" thought Fusticus, "as I ride through the village. All eyes will be upon me!" Just at that moment the cock gave a loud crow, and began to strut onwards, and away they went to the village. And as the last sound of the cock's crow died away, the Spirit of Darkness vanished.

The cock made his way straight to the village, and through the chief street. Everybody turned to look at Fusticus and his remarkable mode of travelling, but his friends did not, as he had expected, seem very much struck with its grandeur. "Poor old Fusticus has gone quite mad," they said to each other; "that comes of too much reading!" and they would not return the polite bows that Fusticus showered upon them. And so silly old