Stories To Read Or Tell From Fairy Tales And Folklore - novelonlinefull.com
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"It's all the same to me, she may have the old Toy-goose, for all I care,"
said the Flea. "I jumped the highest; but, in this world a fine appearance is what people look at nowadays."
The Flea then went into a foreign land and enlisted, where it is said, he was killed.
The Gra.s.shopper sat on a green bank, and thought on worldly things; and he said, "Yes, a fine appearance is everything--a fine appearance is what people care about." And then he began chirping his melancholy song from which we have taken this story; and which may or may not be true, although it is printed.
Once upon a time, when fairies were as plentiful as dandelions in the meadow, there dwelt in Ireland a mighty king and his good queen. The names of these great rulers have long since been forgotten by writers of history, for they lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
They ruled over Erin, and lived in a great stone castle built high upon a cliff overlooking the sea. Erin was the most beautiful part of Ireland, for its forests and great stretches of land were as green as the emerald, and its skies and waters were as blue as the turquoise.
This king and queen had but one child, who was known as the Prince of Erin.
He was a bright, handsome boy, but he cared only to have a good time. His father had often told him how wrong it was for him to make bets, but the lad gave no heed to his advice.
One day the prince went out in the wood to hunt for deer. He tramped about all day long, carrying his bow and arrows, but no deer could he find. At last he sat down to rest.
He was almost asleep when he heard a shrill whistle behind him and the tramping of heavy feet upon the fallen timbers.
"Who are you?" cried a loud, gruff voice.
The prince turned quickly and saw a giant striding towards him down the hill. He was almost as tall as the tallest tree, and his face was frightful to see. His eyes were like b.a.l.l.s of fire and his nostrils belched forth black smoke.
"Woe is me; it is the Giant of Loch Lein!" cried the prince. He wanted to run away as fast as he could, but his feet would not move. He stood trembling in every limb, for he knew that the Giant of Loch Lein hunted in the wood for boys just as the boys hunted for game. Many a lad had been seized by the terrible creature, taken to his castle in the heart of the forest, and had never returned to his parents.
"Who are you?" again roared the giant.
"I am the son of the King of Erin," replied the boy, trying to be brave.
"I have been waiting for you a long time," said the giant with a laugh that sounded like a thunder clap. "I have never eaten a real prince, although I have heard that their meat is very tender."
The prince turned away, weak with fright; but the giant seized him and said:
"Do not be frightened. As you are a son of the Ruler of Erin, I will give you a chance to escape. I understand that you can play fine games, and that you are fond of betting. Let us play a game on this hillside. If I win, I will take you to my castle, never to return to your home again."
The prince was so fond of playing games that, even in his fright, he agreed to do as the giant wished.
"I have two fine estates, each containing a castle," said the giant. "They are yours if you beat me at the game."
"And I also have two estates which shall be yours, if you beat me," replied the prince. "No man in Erin has ever beaten me at any game."
So they played until dusk, the prince quite forgetting his fear of the giant. Although the Giant of Loch Lein was a skillful player, the Prince of Erin beat him badly.
"You may go," grumbled the giant when the game was at an end. "You are surely a wonderful player--the best in all the land."
Most of the old historians agree that the Prince of Erin did not tell his parents anything about his narrow escape from the giant. As soon as he reached home, he climbed to the top of the tallest tower where he could gaze at the forest in the distance, in which stood the castle of the giant.
"I will go again to-morrow and beat the giant, for it will be huge sport,"
he said to himself. "Even if I be beaten, the giant dare not destroy the son of the King of Erin, for my father's army will search for me and tear down the castle of the giant when I am found. Besides, I understand that he has three beautiful daughters, the fairest girls in all the land. I should like to see them."
On the next morning, while the prince was preparing to go hunting, the wisest old man in the court, whose name was Glic, went to the king and said:
"The prince is about to go hunting. I beg you not to let him go, for I fear that some great danger will befall him."
The king commanded his son to stay inside the palace all day; but when no one was looking, the prince stole away to the hillside near the forest.
Again he heard a shrill whistle that shook the boughs of the trees like a gale, and in a few moments he saw the giant striding towards him.
"Ho, ho, my young prince!" cried the giant. "I knew that you would come back to-day. Let us have another game. What will you wager that you can beat me playing?"
"I will wager my herd of cattle," said the prince, not so much frightened as before.
"And I will wager five hundred bullocks with gold horns and silver hoofs,"
said the giant. "I am quite sure you cannot beat me again."
"Agreed," said the prince, and at once they began to play.
In a short time the prince won the game, and the giant set up a howl of rage. Turning towards the forest he whistled loudly three times, and five hundred bullocks with gold horns and silver hoofs came forth.
"They are yours," said the giant. "Follow them to your palace gate and come again to-morrow."
The prince, filled with the delight of triumph, followed the cattle to the palace gate where the king's herder took charge of them. Then he hastened to his father and mother and bade them go to see the costly wager he had won from the Giant of Loch Lein.
The king and queen and all the court were delighted with the cattle, whose gold horns and silver hoofs shone in the sunlight.
On the third morning the Prince of Erin again put on his hunting clothes and started to the forest; but Glic, the fortune teller, again stopped him.
"No good can come from this gaming, for the giant will beat you at last, and you will never return to us again," said Glic.
"I am not afraid," laughed the prince, "for if he take me prisoner, I will have his head."
So he set forth again, singing a merry tune. Hardly had he seated himself upon the hillside when he heard the giant's whistle. The prince was not at all frightened, although the giant scowled with anger because he had been obliged to give up his herd of cattle.
"What will you wager to-day?" roared the giant.
"I will wager my head against yours," said the prince boldly.
"Ha, ha! you have grown quite brave," laughed the giant mockingly. "I will wager my head that I can beat you to-day. If you lose the game, I will have your head before the sun rises to-morrow."
They played on the hillside till dusk. The game was a close one, full of breathless interest and excitement; but the prince was beaten. With a shout of triumph the giant danced about, trampling down small trees and bushes.
The prince was indeed sorry that he had wagered such a useful piece of property as his head, but he did not complain.
"You are an honest lad, even though you are rash," he said presently. "I will let you live one year and one day longer. Go home to the palace, but do not tell anyone that I am to have your head. When the time has pa.s.sed by, come back again to the hillside to pay your wager."