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Best Stories to Tell to Children
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Once there was a great big jungle; and in the jungle there was a great big Lion; and the Lion was king of the jungle. Whenever he wanted anything to eat, all he had to do was to come up out of his cave in the stones and earth, and roar. When he had roared a few times all the little people of the jungle were so frightened that they came out of their holes and hiding-places and ran, this way and that, to get away. Then, of course, the Lion could see where they were. And he pounced on them, killed them, and gobbled them up.
He did this so often that at last there was not a single thing left alive in the jungle besides the Lion, except two little Jackals, -- a little father Jackal and a little mother Jackal.
They had run away so many times that they were quite thin and very tired, and they could not run so fast any more. And one day the Lion was so near that the little mother Jackal grew frightened; she said, --
"Oh, Father Jackal, Father Jackal! I b'lieve our time has come! the Lion will surely catch us this time!"
"Pooh, nonsense, mother! " said the little father Jackal. "Come, we'll run on a bit!"
And they ran, ran, ran very fast, and the Lion did not catch them that time.
But at last a day came when the Lion was nearer still and the little mother Jackal was frightened about to death.
"Oh, Father Jackal, Father Jackal!" she cried; " I'm sure our time has come! The Lion 's going to eat us this time!"
"Now, mother, don't you fret," said the little father Jackal; "you do just as I tell you, and it will be all right."
Then what did those cunning little Jackals do but take hold of hands and run up towards the Lion, as if they had meant to come all the time. When he saw them coming he stood up, and roared in a terrible voice, --
"You miserable little wretches, come here and be eaten, at once! Why didn’t you come before?"
The father Jackal bowed very low.
"Indeed, Father Lion," he said, "we meant to come before; we knew we ought to come before; and we wanted to come before; but every time we started to come, a dreadful great lion came out of the woods and roared at us, and frightened us so that we ran away."
"What do you mean?" roared the Lion. "There 's no other lion in this jungle, and you know it!"
"Indeed, indeed, Father Lion," said the little Jackal, "I know that is what everybody thinks; but indeed and indeed there is another lion! And he is as much bigger than you as you are bigger than I! His face is much more terrible, and his roar far, far more dreadful. Oh, he is far more fearful than you!"
At that the Lion stood up and roared so that the jungle shook.
"Take me to this lion," said he; "I'll eat him up and then I'll eat you up."
The little Jackals danced on ahead, and the Lion stalked behind. They led him to a place where there was a round, deep well of clear water. They went round on one side of it, and the Lion stalked up to the other.
"He lives down there, Father Lion!" said the little Jackal. "He lives down there!"
The Lion came close and looked down into the water -- and a lion's face looked back at him out of the water!
THE LION IN THE WATER SHOOK HIS MANE AND SHOWED HIS TEETH
When he saw that, the Lion roared and shook his mane and showed his teeth. And the lion in the water shook his mane and showed his teeth. The Lion above shook his mane again and growled again, and made a terrible face. But the lion in the water made just as terrible a one, back. The Lion above couldn’t stand that. He leaped down into the well after the other lion.
But, of course, as you know very well, there wasn’t any other lion! It was only the reflection in the water. So the poor old Lion floundered about and floundered about, and as he couldn't get up the steep sides of the well, he was drowned dead. And when he was drowned the little Jackals took hold of hands and danced round the well, and sang, --
"The Lion is dead! The Lion is dead!
"We have killed the great Lion who would have killed us!
"The Lion is dead! The Lion is dead!
"Ao! Ao! Ao!"
Once upon a time there was a wee little boy who slept in a tiny trundle-bed near his mother's great bed. The trundle-bed had castors on it so that it could be rolled about, and there was nothing in the world the little boy liked so much as to have it rolled. When his mother came to bed he would cry, "Roll me around! roll me around!" And his mother would put out her hand from the big bed and push the little bed back and forth till she was tired. The little boy could never get enough; so for this he was called "Little Jack Rollaround."
One night he had made his mother roll him about, till she fell asleep, and even then he kept crying, "Roll me around! roll me around!"' His mother pushed him about in her sleep, until she fell too soundly aslumbering; then she stopped. But Little Jack Rollaround kept on crying, "Roll around! roll around!"
By and by the Moon peeped in at the window. He saw a funny sight: Little Jack Rollaround was lying in his trundle-bed, and he had put up one little fat leg for a mast, and fastened the corner of his wee shirt to it for a sail; and he was blowing at it with all his might, and saying, "Roll around! roll around!"
Slowly, slowly, the little trundle-bed boat began to move; it sailed along the floor and up the wall and across the ceiling and down again!
"More! more!" cried Little Jack Rollaround; and the little boat sailed faster up the wall, across the ceiling, down the wall, and over the floor. The Moon laughed at the sight; but when Little Jack Rollaround saw the Moon, he called out, "Open the door, old Moon! I want to roll through the town, so that the people can see me!"
The Moon could not open the door, but he shone in through the keyhole, in a broad band. And Little Jack Rollaround sailed his trundle-bed boat up the beam, through the keyhole, and into the street. "Make a light, old Moon," he said; "I want the people to see me!"
So the good Moon made a light and went along with him, and the little trundle-bed boat went sailing down the streets into the main street of the village. They rolled past the town hall and the schoolhouse and the church; but nobody saw Little Jack Rollaround, because everybody was in bed, asleep.
"Why don't the people come to see me?" he shouted.
High up on the church steeple, the Weather-vane answered, "It is no time for people to be in the streets; decent folk are in their beds."
"Then I'll go to the woods, so that the animals may see me," said Little Jack. "Come along, old Moon, and make a light!"
The good Moon went along and made a light, and they came to the forest. "Roll! roll!" cried the little boy; and the trundle-bed went trundling among the trees in the great wood, scaring up the chipmunks and startling the little leaves on the trees. The poor old Moon began to have a bad time of it, for the tree-trunks got in his way so that he could not go so fast as the bed, and every time he got behind, the little boy called, "Hurry up, old Moon, I want the beasts to see me!"
But all the animals were asleep, and nobody at all looked at Little Jack Rollaround except an old White Owl; and all she said was, "Who are you?"
ALL SHE SAID WAS, 'WHO ARE YOU?'
The little boy did not like her, so he blew harder, and the trundle-bed boat went sailing through the forest till it came to the end of the world.
"I must go home now; it is late," said the Moon.
"I will go with you; make a path! " said Little Jack Rollaround.
The kind Moon made a path up to the sky, and up sailed the little bed into the midst of the sky. All the little bright Stars were there with their nice little lamps. And when he saw them, that naughty Little Jack Rollaround began to tease.
"Out of the way, there! I am coming! " he shouted, and sailed the trundle-bed boat straight at them. He bumped the little Stars right and left, all over the sky, until every one of them put his little lamp out and left it dark.
" Do not treat the little Stars so," said the good Moon.
But Jack Rollaround only behaved the worse: "Get out of the way, old Moon!" he shouted, "I am coming!"
And he steered the little trundle-bed straight into the old Moon's face, and bumped his nose!
This was too much for the good Moon; he put out his big light, all at once, and left the sky pitch-black. "Make a light, old Moon! Make a light!" shouted the little boy. But the Moon answered never a word, and Jack Rollaround could not see where to steer. He went rolling criss-cross, up and down, all over the sky, knocking into the planets and stumbling into the clouds, till he did not know where he was.
Suddenly he saw a big yellow light at the very edge of the sky. He thought it was the Moon. "Look out, I am coming!" he cried, and steered for the light.
But it was not the kind old Moon at all; it was the great mother Sun, just coming up out of her home in the sea, to begin her day's work.
"Aha, youngster, what are you doing in my sky?" she said. And she picked Little Jack Rollaround up and threw him, trundle-bed boat and all, into the middle of the sea!
And I suppose he is there yet, unless somebody picked him out again.
One day little Brother Rabbit was running along on the sand, lippety, lippety, when he saw the Whale and the Elephant talking together. Little Brother Rabbit crouched down and listened to what they were saying. This was what they were saying: --
"You are the biggest thing on the land, Brother Elephant," said the Whale, "and I am the biggest thing in the sea; if we join together we can rule all the animals in the world, and have our way about everything."
"Very good, very good," trumpeted the Elephant; "that suits me; we will do it."
Little Brother Rabbit snickered to himself. "They won't rule me," he said. He ran away and got a very long, very strong rope, and he got his big drum, and hid the drum a long way off in the bushes. Then he went along the beach till he came to the Whale.
"Oh, please, dear, strong Mr. Whale," he said, "will you have the great kindness to do me a favour? My cow is stuck in the mud, a quarter of a mile from here. And I can't pull her out. But you are so strong and so obliging, that I venture to trust you will help me out."
The Whale was so pleased with the compliment that he said, "Yes," at once.
"Then," said the Rabbit, "I will tie this end of my long rope to you, and I will run away and tie the other end round my cow, and when I am ready I will beat my big drum. When you hear that, pull very, very hard, for the cow is stuck very deep in the mud."
"Huh! " grunted the Whale, "I'll pull her out, if she is stuck to the horns."
Little Brother Rabbit tied the rope-end to the Whale, and ran off, lippety, lippety, till he came to the place where the Elephant was.
"Oh, please, mighty and kindly Elephant," he said, making a very low bow, "will you do me a favor?"
"What is it? " asked the Elephant.
"My cow is stuck in the mud, about a quarter of a mile from here," said little Brother Rabbit, "and I cannot pull her out. Of course you could. If you will be so very obliging as to help me -"
"Certainly," said the Elephant grandly, " certainly."
"Then," said little Brother Rabbit, "I will tie one end of this long rope to your trunk, and the other to my cow, and as soon as I have tied her tightly I will beat my big drum. When you hear that, pull; pull as hard as you can, for my cow is very heavy."
"Never fear," said the Elephant, " I could pull twenty cows."
"I am sure you could," said the Rabbit, politely, "only be sure to begin gently, and pull harder and harder till you get her."
Then he tied the end of the rope tightly round the Elephant's trunk, and ran away into the bushes. There he sat down and beat the big drum.
The Whale began to pull and the Elephant began to pull, and in a jiffy the rope tightened till it was stretched as hard as could be.
"This is a remarkably heavy cow," said the Elephant; "but I'll fetch her!" And he braced his forefeet in the earth, and gave a tremendous pull.
"Dear me!" said the Whale. "That cow must be stuck mighty tight;" and he drove his tail deep in the water, and gave a marvelous pull.
He pulled harder; the Elephant pulled harder. Pretty soon the Whale found himself sliding toward the land. The reason was, of course, that the Elephant had something solid to brace against, and, too, as fast as he pulled the rope in a little, he took a turn with it round his trunk!
But when the Whale found himself sliding toward the land he was so provoked with the cow that he dove head first, down to the bottom of the sea. That was a pull! The Elephant was jerked off his feet, and came slipping and sliding to the beach, and into the surf. He was terribly angry. He braced himself with all his might, and pulled his best. At the jerk, up came the Whale out of the water.
"Who is pulling me?" spouted the Whale.
"Who is pulling me?" trumpeted the Elephant. And then each saw the rope in the other's hold.
"I'll teach you to play cow!" roared the Elephant.
"I'll show you how to fool me!" fumed the Whale. And they began to pull again. But this time the rope broke, the Whale turned a somersault, and the Elephant fell over backwards.
At that, they were both so ashamed that neither would speak to the other. So that broke up the bargain between them.
And little Brother Rabbit sat in the bushes and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
THE ELEPHANT . . . BRACED HIMSELF WITH ALL HIS MIGHT, AND PULLED HIS BEST
There was once upon a time a Spanish Hen, who hatched out some nice little chickens. She was much pleased with their looks as they came from the shell. One, two, three, came out plump and fluffy; but when the fourth shell broke, out came a little half-chick! It had only one leg and one wing and one eye! It was just half a chicken.
The Hen-mother did not know what in the world to do with the queer little Half-Chick. She was afraid something would happen to it, and she tried hard to protect it and keep it from harm. But as soon as it could walk the little Half-Chick showed a most headstrong spirit, worse than any of its brothers. It would not mind, and it would go wherever it wanted to; it walked with a funny little hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, and got along pretty fast.
One day the little Half-Chick said, "Mother, I am off to Madrid, to see the King! Good-by."
The poor Hen-mother did everything she could think of to keep him from doing so foolish a thing, but the little Half-Chick laughed at her naughtily.
' "I'm for seeing the King," he said; "this life is too quiet for me." And away he went, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, over the fields.
When he had gone some distance the little Half-Chick came to a little brook that was caught in the weeds and in much trouble.
"Little Half-Chick," whispered the Water, "I am so choked with these weeds that I cannot move; I am almost lost, for want of room; please push the sticks and weeds away with your bill and help me."
"The idea!" said the little Half-Chick. "I cannot be bothered with you; I am off for Madrid, to see the King!" And in spite of the brook's begging he went away, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick.
A bit farther on, the Half-Chick came to a Fire, which was smothered in damp sticks and in great distress.
"Oh, little Half-Chick," said the Fire, "you are just in time to save me. I am almost dead for want of air. Fan me a little with your wing, I beg."
"The idea!" said the little Half-Chick. "I cannot be bothered with you; I am off to Madrid, to see the King!" And he went laughing off, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick.
When he had hoppity-kicked a good way, and was near Madrid, he came to a clump of bushes, where the Wind was caught fast. The Wind was whimpering, and begging to be set free.
"Little Half-Chick," said the Wind, "you are just in time to help me; if you will brush aside these twigs and leaves, I can get my breath; help me, quickly! "
"Ho! the idea!" said the little Half-Chick. "I have no time to bother with you. I am going to Madrid to see the King." And he went off, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, leaving the Wind to smother.
After a while he came to Madrid and to the palace of the King. Hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, the little Half-Chick skipped past the sentry at the gate, and hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, he crossed the court. But as he was passing the windows of the kitchen the Cook looked out and saw him.
"The very thing for the King's dinner!" she said. "I was needing a chicken!" And she seized the little Half-Chick by his one wing and threw him into a kettle of water on the fire.
The Water came over the little Half-Chick's feathers, over his head, into his eye. It was terribly uncomfortable. The little Half-Chick cried out, --
"Water, don't drown me! Stay down, don't come so high!"
But the Water said, "Little Half-Chick, little Half-Chick, when I was in trouble you would not help me," and came higher than ever.
Now the Water grew warm, hot, hotter, frightfully hot; the little Half-Chick cried out, "Do not burn so hot, Fire! You are burning me to death! Stop! "
But the Fire said, "Little Half-Chick, little Half-Chick, when I was in trouble you would not help me," and burned hotter than ever.
Just as the little Half-Chick thought he must suffocate, the Cook took the cover off, to look at the dinner. "Dear me," she said, "this chicken is no good; it is burned to a cinder." And she picked the little Half-Chick up by one leg and threw him out of the window.
In the air he was caught by a breeze and taken up higher than the trees. Round and round he was twirled till he was so dizzy he thought he must perish. "Don't blow me so, Wind," he cried, "let me down!"
"Little Half-Chick, little Half-Chick," said the Wind, " when I was in trouble you would not help me!" And the Wind blew him straight up to the top of the church steeple, and stuck him there, fast!
There he stands to this day, with his one eye, his
one wing, and his one leg. He cannot hoppity-kick any more, but he turns slowly round when the wind blows, and keeps his head toward it, to hear what it says.
Epaminondas used to go to see his Auntie 'most every day, and she nearly always gave him something to take home to his Mammy.
One day she gave him a big piece of cake; nice, yellow, rich gold-cake.
Epaminondas took it in his fist and held it all scrunched up tight, like this, and came along home. By the time he got home there wasn’t anything left but a fistful of crumbs. His Mammy said, --
"What you got there, Epaminondas?"
"Cake, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
"Cake!" said his Mammy. "Epaminondas, you ain't got the sense you was born with! That's no way to carry cake. The way to carry cake is to wrap it all up nice in some leaves and put it in your hat, and put your hat on your head, and come along home. You hear me, Epaminondas?"
"Yes, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
Next day Epaminondas went to see his Auntie, and she gave him a pound of butter for his Mammy; fine, fresh, sweet, butter.
Epaminondas wrapped it up in leaves and put it in his hat, and put his hat on his head, and came along home. It was a very hot day. Pretty soon the butter began to melt. It melted, and melted, and as it melted it ran down Epaminondas' forehead; then it ran over his face, and in his ears, and down his neck. When he got home, all the butter Epaminondas had was on him. His Mammy looked at him, and then she said, --
"Law's sake! Epaminondas, what you got in your hat?"
"Butter, Mammy," said Epaminondas; "Auntie gave it to me."
'DON'T YOU KNOW THAT'S NO WAY TO CARRY BUTTER?'
"Butter!" said his Mammy. "Epaminondas, you ain't got the sense you was born with! Don't you know that 's no way to carry butter? The way to carry butter is to wrap it up in some leaves and take it down to the brook, and cool it in the water, and cool it in the water, and cool it in the water, and then take it on your hands, careful, and bring it along home."
"Yes, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
By and by, another day, Epaminondas went to see his Auntie again, and this time she gave him a little new puppy-dog to take home.
Epaminondas put it in some leaves and took it down to the brook; and there he cooled it in the water, and cooled it in the water, and cooled it in the water; then he took it in his hands and came along home. When he got home, the puppy-dog was dead. His Mammy looked at it, and she said, --
"Law's sake! Epaminondas, what you got there? "
"A puppy-dog, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
"A puppy-dog!" said his Mammy. "My gracious sakes alive, Epaminondas, you ain't got the sense you was born with! That ain't the way to carry a puppy-dog! The way to carry a puppy-dog is to take a long piece of string and tie one end of it round the puppy-dog's neck, and put the puppy-dog on the ground, and take hold of the other end of the string and come along home, like this."
"All right, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
Next day, Epaminondas went to see his Auntie again, and when he came to go home she gave him a loaf of bread to carry to his Mammy; a brown, fresh, crusty loaf of bread.
So Epaminondas tied a string around the end of the loaf and took hold of the end of the string and came along home, like this. [Imitate dragging something along the ground.] When he got home his Mammy looked at the thing on the end of the string, and she said, -
"My laws a-massy ! Epaminondas, what you got on the end of that string?"
"Bread, Mammy," said Epaminondas; "Auntie gave it to me."
"Bread!!!" said his Mammy. "O Epaminondas, Epaminondas, you ain't got the sense you was born with; you never did have the sense you was born with; you never will have the sense you was born with! Now I ain't gwine tell you any more ways to bring truck home. And don't you go see your Auntie, neither. I'll go see her my own self. But I'll just tell you one thing, Epaminondas! you see these here six mince pies I done make? You see how I done set 'em on the doorstep to cool? Well, now, you hear me, Epaminondas, you be careful how you step on those pies!
"Yes, Mammy," said Epaminondas.
Then Epaminondas' Mammy put on her bonnet and her shawl and took a basket in her hand and went away to see Auntie. The six mince pies sat cooling in a row on the doorstep.
And then, -- and then, -- Epaminondas was careful how he stepped on those pies!
He stepped [imitate] -- right -- in -- the -- middle -- of -- every -- one.
. . . . . . . . . . And, do you know, children, nobody knows what happened next! The person who told me the story didn’t know; nobody knows. But you can guess.