Twilight Land by Howard Pyle
A Piece of Good Luck
There were three students who were learning all that they could. The first was named Joseph, the second was named John, and the third was named Jacob Stuck. They studied seven long years under a wise master, and in that time they learned all that their master had to teach them of the wonderful things he knew. They learned all about geometry, they learned all about algebra, they learned all about astronomy, they learned all about the hidden arts, they learned all about everything, except how to mend their own hose and where to get cabbage to boil in the pot.
And now they were to go out into the world to practice what they knew. The master called the three students to him--the one named Joseph, the second named John, and the third named Jacob Stuck--and said he to them, said he: "You have studied faithfully and have learned all that I have been able to teach you, and now you shall not go out into the world with nothing at all. See; here are three glass balls, and that is one for each of you. Their like is not to be found in the four corners of the world. Carry the balls wherever you go, and when one of them drops to the ground, dig, and there you will certainly find a treasure."
So the three students went out into the wide world.
Well, they travelled on and on for day after day, each carrying his glass ball with him wherever he went. They travelled on and on for I cannot tell how long, until one day the ball that Joseph carried slipped out of his fingers and fell to the ground. "I've found a treasure!" cried Joseph, "I've found a treasure!"
The three students fell to work scratching and digging where the ball had fallen, and by-and-by they found something. It was a chest with an iron ring in the lid. It took all three of them to haul it up out of the ground, and when they did so they found it was full to the brim of silver money.
Were they happy? Well, they were happy! They danced around and around the chest, for they had never seen so much money in all their lives before. "Brothers," said Joseph, in exultation, "here is enough for all hands, and it shall be share and share alike with us, for haven't we studied seven long years together?" And so for a while they were as happy as happy could be.
But by-and-by a flock of second thoughts began to buzz in the heads of John and Jacob Stuck. "Why," said they, "as for that, to be sure, a chest of silver money is a great thing for three students to find who had nothing better than book-learning to help them along; but who knows but that there is something better even than silver money out in the wide world?" So, after all, and in spite of the chest of silver money they had found, the two of them were for going on to try their fortunes a little farther. And as for Joseph, why, after all, when he came to think of it, he was not sorry to have his chest of silver money all to himself.
So the two travelled on and on for a while, here and there and everywhere, until at last it was John's ball that slipped out of his fingers and fell to the ground. They digged where it fell, and this time it was a chest of gold money they found.
Yes, a chest of gold money! A chest of real gold money! They just stood and stared and stared, for if they had not seen it they would not have believed that such a thing could have been in the world. "Well, Jacob Stuck," said John, "it was well to travel a bit farther than poor Joseph did, was it not? What is a chest of silver money to such a treasure as this? Come, brother, here is enough to make us both rich for all the rest of our lives. We need look for nothing better than this."
But no; by-and-by Jacob Stuck began to cool down again, and now that second thoughts were coming to him he would not even be satisfied with a half-share of a chest of gold money. No; maybe there might be something better than even a chest full of gold money to be found in the world. As for John, why, after all, he was just as well satisfied to keep his treasure for himself. So the two shook hands, and then Jacob Stuck jogged away alone, leaving John stuffing his pockets and his hat full of gold money, and I should have liked to have been there, to have had my share.
Well, Jacob Stuck jogged on and on by himself, until after a while he came to a great, wide desert, where there was not a blade or a stick to be seen far or near. He jogged on and on, and he wished he had not come there. He jogged on and on when all of a sudden the glass ball he carried slipped out of his fingers and fell to the ground.
"Aha!" said he to himself, "now maybe I shall find some great treasure compared to which even silver and gold are as nothing at all."
He digged down into the barren earth of the desert; and he digged and he digged, but neither silver nor gold did he find. He digged and digged; and by-and-by, at last, he did find something. And what was it? Why, nothing but something that looked like a piece of blue glass not a big bigger than my thumb. "Is that all?" said Jacob Stuck. "And have I travelled all this weary way and into the blinding desert only for this? Have I passed by silver and gold enough to make me rich for all my life, only to find a little piece of blue glass?"
Jacob Stuck did not know what he had found. I shall tell you what it was. It was a solid piece of good luck without flaw or blemish, and it was almost the only piece I ever heard tell of. Yes; that was what it was--a solid piece of good luck; and as for Jacob Stuck, why, he was not the first in the world by many and one over who has failed to know a piece of good luck when they have found it. Yes; it looked just like a piece of blue glass no bigger than my thumb, and nothing else.
"Is that all?" said Jacob Stuck. "And have I travelled all this weary way and into the blinding desert only for this? Have I passed by silver and gold enough to make me rich for all my life, only to find a little piece of blue glass?"
He looked at the bit of glass, and he turned it over and over in his hand. It was covered with dirt. Jacob Stuck blew his breath upon it, and rubbed it with his thumb.
Crack! dong! bang! smash!
Upon my word, had a bolt of lightning burst at Jacob Stuck's feet he could not have been more struck of a heap. For no sooner had he rubbed the glass with his thumb than with a noise like a clap of thunder there instantly stood before him a great, big man, dressed in clothes as red as a flame, and with eyes that shone sparks of fire. It was the Genie of Good Luck. It nearly knocked Jacob Stuck off his feet to see him there so suddenly.
"What will you have?" said the Genie. "I am the slave of good luck. Whosoever holds that piece of crystal in his hand him must I obey in whatsoever he may command."
"Do you mean that you are my servant and that I am your master?" said Jacob Stuck.
"Yes; command and I obey."
"Why, then," said Jacob Stuck, "I would like you to help me out of this desert place, if you can do so, for it is a poor spot for any Christian soul to be."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie, and, before Jacob Stuck knew what had happened to him, the Genie had seized him and was flying with him through the air swifter than the wind. On and on he flew, and the earth seemed to slide away beneath. On and on flew the flame-colored Genie until at last he set Jacob down in a great meadow where there was a river. Beyond the river were the white walls and grand houses of the king's town.
"Hast thou any further commands?" said the Genie.
"Tell me what you can do for me?" said Jacob Stuck.
"I can do whatsoever thou mayest order me to do," said the Genie.
"Well, then," said Jacob Stuck, "I think first of all I would like to have plenty of money to spend."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie, and, as he spoke, he reached up into the air and picked out a purse from nothing at all. "Here," said he, "is the purse of fortune; take from it all that thou needest and yet it will always be full. As long as thou hast it thou shalt never be lacking riches."
"I am very much obliged to you," said Jacob Stuck. "I've learned geometry and algebra and astronomy and the hidden arts, but I never heard tell of anything like this before."
So Jacob Stuck went into the town with all the money he could spend, and such a one is welcome anywhere. He lacked nothing that money could buy. He bought himself a fine house; he made all the friends he wanted, and more; he lived without a care, and with nothing to do but to enjoy himself. That was what a bit of good luck did for him.
Now the princess, the daughter of the king of that town, was the most beautiful in all the world, but so proud and haughty that her like was not to be found within the bounds of all the seven rivers. So proud was she and so haughty that she would neither look upon a young man nor allow any young man to look upon her. She was so particular that whenever she went out to take a ride a herald was sent through the town with a trumpet ordering that every house should be closed and that everybody should stay within doors, so that the princess should run no risk of seeing a young man, or that no young man by chance should see her.
One day the herald went through the town blowing his trumpet and calling in a great, loud voice: "Close your doors! Close your windows! Her highness, the princess, comes to ride; let no man look upon her on pain of death!"
Thereupon everybody began closing their doors and windows, and, as it was with the others, so it was with Jacob Stuck's house; it had, like all the rest, to be shut up as tight as a jug.
But Jacob Stuck was not satisfied with that; not he. He was for seeing the princess, and he was bound he would do so. So he bored a hole through the door, and when the princess came riding by he peeped out at her.
Jacob Stuck thought he had never seen anyone so beautiful in all his life. It was like the sunlight shining in his eyes, and he almost sneezed. Her cheeks were like milk and rose-leaves, and her hair like fine threads of gold. She sat in a golden coach with a golden crown upon her head, and Jacob Stuck stood looking and looking until his heart melted within him like wax in the oven. Then the princess was gone, and Jacob Stuck stood there sighing and sighing.
"Oh, dear! Dear!" said he, "what shall I do? For, proud as she is, I must see her again or else I will die of it."
All that day he sat sighing and thinking about the beautiful princess, until the evening had come. Then he suddenly thought of his piece of good luck. He pulled his piece of blue glass out of his pocket and breathed upon it and rubbed it with his thumb, and instantly the Genie was there.
This time Jacob Stuck was not frightened at all.
"What are thy commands, O master?" said the Genie.
"O Genie!" said Jacob Stuck, "I have seen the princess to-day, and it seems to me that there is nobody like her in all the world. Tell me, could you bring her here so that I might see her again?"
"Yes," said the Genie, "I could."
"Then do so," said Jacob Stuck, "and I will have you prepare a grand feast, and have musicians to play beautiful music, for I would have the princess sup with me."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie. As he spoke he smote his hands together, and instantly there appeared twenty musicians, dressed in cloth of gold and silver. With them they brought hautboys and fiddles, big and little, and flageolets and drums and horns, and this and that to make music with. Again the Genie smote his hands together, and instantly there appeared fifty servants dressed in silks and satins and spangled with jewels, who began to spread a table with fine linen embroidered with gold, and to set plates of gold and silver upon it. The Genie smote his hands together a third time, and in answer there came six servants. They led Jacob Stuck into another room, where there was a bath of musk and rose-water. They bathed him in the bath and dressed him in clothes like an emperor, and when he came out again his face shone, and he was as handsome as a picture.
Then by-and-by he knew that the princess was coming, for suddenly there was the sound of girls' voices singing and the twanging of stringed instruments. The door flew open, and in came a crowd of beautiful girls, singing and playing music, and after them the princess herself, more beautiful than ever. But the proud princess was frightened! Yes, she was. And well she might be, for the Genie had flown with her through the air from the palace, and that is enough to frighten anybody. Jacob Stuck came to her all glittering and shining with jewels and gold, and took her by the hand. He led her up the hall, and as he did so the musicians struck up and began playing the most beautiful music in the world. Then Jacob Stuck and the princess sat down to supper and began eating and drinking, and Jacob Stuck talked of all the sweetest things he could think of. Thousands of wax candles made the palace bright as day, and as the princess looked about her she thought she had never seen anything so fine in all the world. After they had eaten their supper and ended with a dessert of all kinds of fruits and of sweetmeats, the door opened and there came a beautiful young serving-lad, carrying a silver tray, upon which was something wrapped in a napkin. He kneeled before Jacob Stuck and held the tray, and from the napkin Jacob Stuck took a necklace of diamonds, each stone as big as a pigeon's egg.
"This is to remind you of me," said Jacob Stuck, "when you have gone home again." And as he spoke he hung it around the princess's neck.
Just then the clock struck twelve.
Hardly had the last stroke sounded when every light was snuffed out, and all was instantly dark and still. Then, before she had time to think, the Genie of Good Luck snatched the princess up once more and flew back to the palace more swiftly than the wind. And, before the princess knew what had happened to her, there she was.
It was all so strange that the princess might have thought it was a dream, only for the necklace of diamonds, the like of which was not to be found in all the world.
The next morning there was a great buzzing in the palace, you may be sure. The princess told all about how she had been carried away during the night, and had supped in such a splendid palace, and with such a handsome man dressed like an emperor. She showed her necklace of diamonds, and the king and his prime-minister could not look at it or wonder at it enough. The prime-minister and the king talked and talked the matter over together, and every now and then the proud princess put in a word of her own.
"Anybody," said the prime-minister, "can see with half an eye that it is all magic, or else it is a wonderful piece of good luck. Now, I'll tell you what shall be done," said he: "the princess shall keep a piece of chalk by her; and, if she is carried away again in such a fashion, she shall mark a cross with the piece of chalk on the door of the house to which she is taken. Then we shall find the rogue that is playing such a trick, and that quickly enough."
"Yes," said the king; "that is very good advice."
"I will do it," said the princess.
All that day Jacob Stuck sat thinking and thinking about the beautiful princess. He could not eat a bite, and he could hardly wait for the night to come. As soon as it had fallen, he breathed upon his piece of glass and rubbed his thumb upon it, and there stood the Genie of Good Luck.
"I'd like the princess here again," said he, "as she was last night, with feasting and drinking, such as we had before."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie.
And as it had been the night before, so it was now. The Genie brought the princess, and she and Jacob Stuck feasted together until nearly midnight. Then, again, the door opened, and the beautiful servant-lad came with the tray and something upon it covered with a napkin. Jacob Stuck unfolded the napkin, and this time it was a cup made of a single ruby, and filled to the brim with gold money. And the wonder of the cup was this: that no matter how much money you took out of it, it was always full. "Take this," said Jacob Stuck, "to remind you of me." Then the clock struck twelve, and instantly all was darkness, and the Genie carried the princess home again.
But the princess had brought her piece of chalk with her, as the prime-minister had advised; and in some way or other she contrived, either in coming or going, to mark a cross upon the door of Jacob Stuck's house.
But, clever as she was, the Genie of Good Luck was more clever still. He saw what the princess did; and, as soon as he had carried her home, he went all through the town and marked a cross upon every door, great and small, little and big, just as the princess had done upon the door of Jacob Stuck's house, only upon the prime-minister's door he put two crosses. The next morning everybody was wondering what all the crosses on the house-doors meant, and the king and the prime-minister were no wiser than they had been before.
But the princess had brought the ruby cup with her, and she and the king could not look at it and wonder at it enough.
"Pooh!" said the prime-minister; "I tell you it is nothing else in the world but just a piece of good luck--that is all it is. As for the rogue who is playing all these tricks, let the princess keep a pair of scissors by her, and, if she is carried away again, let her contrive to cut off a lock of his hair from over the young man's right ear. Then to-morrow we will find out who has been trimmed."
Yes, the princess would do that; so, before evening was come, she tied a pair of scissors to her belt.
Well, Jacob Stuck could hardly wait for the night to come to summon the Genie of Good Luck. "I want to sup with the princess again," said he.
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie of Good Luck; and, as soon as he had made everything ready, away he flew to fetch the princess again.
Well, they feasted and drank, and the music played, and the candles were as bright as day, and beautiful girls sang and danced, and Jacob Stuck was as happy as a king. But the princess kept her scissors by her, and, when Jacob Stuck was not looking, she contrived to snip off a lock of his hair from over his right ear, and nobody saw what was done but the Genie of Good Luck.
And it came towards midnight.
Once more the door opened, and the beautiful serving-lad came into the room, carrying the tray of silver with something upon it wrapped in a napkin. This time Jacob Stuck gave the princess an emerald ring for a keepsake, and the wonder of it was that every morning two other rings just like it would drop from it.
Then twelve o'clock sounded, the lights went out, and the Genie took the princess home again.
But the Genie had seen what the princess had done. As soon as he had taken her safe home, he struck his palms together and summoned all his companions. "Go," said he, "throughout the town and trim a lock of hair from over the right ear of every man in the whole place;" and so they did, from the king himself to the beggar-man at the gates. As for the prime-minister, the Genie himself trimmed two locks of hair from him, one from over each of his ears, so that the next morning he looked as shorn as an old sheep. In the morning all the town was in a hubbub, and everybody was wondering how all the men came to have their hair clipped as it was. But the princess had brought the lock of Jacob Stuck's hair away with her wrapped up in a piece of paper, and there it was.
As for the ring Jacob Stuck had given to her, why, the next morning there were three of them, and the king thought he had never heard tell of such a wonderful thing.
"I tell you," said the prime-minister, "there is nothing in it but a piece of good luck, and not a grain of virtue. It's just a piece of good luck--that's all it is."
"No matter," said the king; "I never saw the like of it in all my life before. And now, what are we going to do?"
The prime-minister could think of nothing.
Then the princess spoke up. "Your majesty," she said, "I can find the young man for you. Just let the herald go through the town and proclaim that I will marry the young man to whom this lock of hair belongs, and then we will find him quickly enough."
"What!" cried the prime-minister; "will, then, the princess marry a man who has nothing better than a little bit of good luck to help him along in the world?"
"Yes," said the princess, "I shall if I can find him."
So the herald was sent out around the town proclaiming that the princess would marry the man to whose head belonged the lock of hair that she had.
A lock of hair! Why, every man had lost a lock of hair! Maybe the princess could fit it on again, and then the fortune of him to whom it belonged would be made. All the men in the town crowded up to the king's palace. But all for no use, for never a one of them was fitted with his own hair.
As for Jacob Stuck, he too had heard what the herald had proclaimed. Yes; he too had heard it, and his heart jumped and hopped within him like a young lamb in the spring-time. He knew whose hair it was the princess had. Away he went by himself, and rubbed up his piece of blue glass, and there stood the Genie.
"What are thy commands?" said he.
"I am," said Jacob Stuck, "going up to the king's palace to marry the princess, and I would have a proper escort."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie.
He smote his hands together, and instantly there appeared a score of attendants who took Jacob Stuck, and led him into another room, and began clothing him in a suit so magnificent that it dazzled the eyes to look at it. He smote his hands together again, and out in the court-yard there appeared a troop of horsemen to escort Jacob Stuck to the palace, and they were all clad in gold-and-silver armor. He smote his hands together again, and there appeared twenty-and-one horses--twenty as black as night and one as white as milk, and it twinkled and sparkled all over with gold and jewels, and at the head of each horse of the one-and-twenty horses stood a slave clad in crimson velvet to hold the bridle. Again he smote his hands together, and there appeared in the ante-room twenty handsome young men, each with a marble bowl filled with gold money, and when Jacob Stuck came out dressed in his fine clothes there they all were.
Jacob Stuck mounted upon the horse as white as milk, the young men mounted each upon one of the black horses, the troopers in the gold-and-silver armor wheeled their horses, the trumpets blew, and away they rode--such a sight as was never seen in that town before, when they had come out into the streets. The young men with the basins scattered the gold money to the people, and a great crowd ran scrambling after, and shouted and cheered.
So Jacob Stuck rode up to the king's palace, and the king himself came out to meet him with the princess hanging on his arm.
As for the princess, she knew him the moment she laid eyes on him. She came down the steps, and set the lock of hair against his head, where she had trimmed it off the night before, and it fitted and matched exactly. "This is the young man," said she, "and I will marry him, and none other."
But the prime-minister whispered and whispered in the king's ear: "I tell you this young man is nobody at all," said he, "but just some fellow who has had a little bit of good luck."
"Pooh!" said the king, "stuff and nonsense! Just look at all the gold and jewels and horses and men. What will you do," said he to Jacob Stuck, "if I let you marry the princess?"
"I will," said Jacob Stuck, "build for her the finest palace that ever was seen in all this world."
"Very well," said the king, "yonder are those sand hills over there. You shall remove them and build your palace there. When it is finished you shall marry the princess." For if he does that, thought the king to himself, it is something better than mere good luck.
"It shall," said Jacob Stuck, "be done by tomorrow morning."
Well, all that day Jacob Stuck feasted and made merry at the king's palace, and the king wondered when he was going to begin to build his palace. But Jacob Stuck said nothing at all; he just feasted and drank and made merry. When night had come, however, it was all different. Away he went by himself, and blew his breath upon his piece of blue glass, and rubbed it with his thumb. Instantly there stood the Genie before him. "What wouldst thou have?" said he.
"I would like," said Jacob Stuck, "to have the sand hills over yonder carried away, and a palace built there of white marble and gold and silver, such as the world never saw before. And let there be gardens planted there with flowering plants and trees, and let there be fountains and marble walks. And let there be servants and attendants in the palace of all sorts and kinds--men and women. And let there be a splendid feast spread for to-morrow morning, for then I am going to marry the princess."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie, and instantly he was gone.
All night there was from the sand hills a ceaseless sound as of thunder--a sound of banging and clapping and hammering and sawing and calling and shouting. All that night the sounds continued unceasingly, but at daybreak all was still, and when the sun arose there stood the most splendid palace it ever looked down upon; shining as white as snow, and blazing with gold and silver. All around it were gardens and fountains and orchards. A great highway had been built between it and the king's palace, and all along the highway a carpet of cloth of gold had been spread for the princess to walk upon.
Dear! Dear! How all the town stared with wonder when they saw such a splendid palace standing where the day before had been nothing but naked sand hills! The folk flocked in crowds to see it, and all the country about was alive with people coming and going. As for the king, he could not believe his eyes when he saw it. He stood with the princess and looked and looked. Then came Jacob Stuck. "And now," said he, "am I to marry the princess?"
"Yes," cried the king in admiration, "you are!"
So Jacob Stuck married the princess, and a splendid wedding it was. That was what a little bit of good luck did for him.
After the wedding was over, it was time to go home to the grand new palace. Then there came a great troop of horsemen with shining armor and with music, sent by the Genie to escort Jacob Stuck and the princess and the king and the prime-minister to Jacob Stuck's new palace. They rode along over the carpet of gold, and such a fine sight was never seen in that land before. As they drew near to the palace a great crowd of servants, clad in silks and satins and jewels, came out to meet them, singing and dancing and playing on harps and lutes. The king and the princess thought that they must be dreaming.
"All this is yours," said Jacob Stuck to the princess; and he was that fond of her, he would have given her still more if he could have thought of anything else.
Jacob Stuck and the princess, and the king and the prime-minister, all went into the palace, andthere was a splendid feast spread in plates of pure gold and silver, and they all four sat down together.
But the prime-minister was as sour about it all as a crab-apple. All the time they were feasting he kept whispering and whispering in the king's ear. "It is all stuff and nonsense," said he, "for such a man as Jacob Stuck to do all this by himself. I tell you, it is all a piece of good luck, and not a bit of merit in it."
He whispered and whispered, until at last the king up and spoke. "Tell me, Jacob Stuck," he said, "where do you get all these fine things?"
"It all comes of a piece of good luck," said Jacob Stuck.
"That is what I told you," said the prime-minister.
"A piece of good luck!" said the king. "Where did you come across such a piece of good luck?"
"I found it," said Jacob Stuck.
"Found it!" said the king; "and have you got it with you now?"
"Yes, I have," said Jacob Stuck; "I always carry it about with me;" and he thrust his hand into his pocket and brought out his piece of blue crystal.
"That!" said the king. "Why, that is nothing but a piece of blue glass!"
"That," said Jacob Stuck, "is just what I thought till I found out better. It is no common piece of glass, I can tell you. You just breathe upon it so, and rub your thumb upon it thus, and instantly a Genie dressed in red comes to do all that he is bidden. That is how it is."
"I should like to see it," said the king.
"So you shall," said Jacob Stuck; "here it is," said he; and he reached it across the table to the prime-minister to give it to the king.
Yes, that was what he did; he gave it to the prime-minister to give it to the king. The prime-minister had been listening to all that had been said, and he knew what he was about. He took what Jacob Stuck gave him, and he had never had such a piece of luck come to him before.
And did the prime-minister give it to the king, as Jacob Stuck had intended? Not a bit of it. No sooner had he got it safe in his hand, than he blew his breath upon it and rubbed it with his thumb.
Crack! dong! boom! crash!
There stood the Genie, like a flash and as red as fire. The princess screamed out and nearly fainted at the sight, and the poor king sat trembling like a rabbit.
"Whosoever possesses that piece of blue crystal," said the Genie, in a terrible voice, "him must I obey. What are thy commands?"
"Take this king," cried the prime-minister, "and take Jacob Stuck, and carry them both away into the farthest part of the desert whence the fellow came."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie; and instantly he seized the king in one hand and Jacob Stuck in the other, and flew away with them swifter than the wind. On and on he flew, and the earth seemed to slide away beneath them like a cloud. On and on he flew until he had come to the farthest part of the desert. There he sat them both down, and it was as pretty a pickle as ever the king or Jacob Stuck had been in, in all of their lives. Then the Genie flew back again whence he had come.
There sat the poor princess crying and crying, and there sat the prime-minister trying to comfort her. "Why do you cry?" said he; "why are you afraid of me? I will do you no harm. Listen," said he; "I will use this piece of good luck in a way that Jacob Stuck would never have thought of. I will make myself king. I will conquer the world, and make myself emperor over all the earth. Then I will make you my queen."
But the poor princess cried and cried.
"Hast thou any further commands?" said the Genie.
"Not now," said the prime-minister; "you may go now;" and the Genie vanished like a puff of smoke.
But the princess cried and cried.
The prime-minister sat down beside her. "Why do you cry?" said he.
"Because I am afraid of you," said she.
"And why are you afraid of me?" said he.
"Because of that piece of blue glass. You will rub it again, and then that great red monster will come again to frighten me."
"I will rub it no more," said he.
"Oh, but you will," said she; "I know you will."
"I will not," said he.
"But I can't trust you," said she "as long as you hold it in your hand."
"Then I will lay it aside," said he, and so he did. Yes, he did; and he is not the first man who has thrown aside a piece of good luck for the sake of a pretty face. "Now are you afraid of me?" said he.
"No, I am not," said she; and she reached out her hand as though to give it to him. But, instead of doing so, she snatched up the piece of blue glass as quick as a flash.
"Now," said she, "it is my turn;" and then the prime-minister knew that his end had come.
She blew her breath upon the piece of blue glass and rubbed her thumb upon it. Instantly, as with a clap of thunder, the great red Genie stood before her, and the poor prime-minister sat shaking and trembling.
"Whosoever hath that piece of blue crystal," said the Genie, "that one must I obey. What are your orders, O princess?"
"Take this man," cried the princess, "and carry him away into the desert where you took those other two, and bring my father and Jacob Stuck back again."
"To hear is to obey," said the Genie, and instantly he seized the prime-minister, and, in spite of the poor man's kicks and struggles, snatched him up and flew away with him swifter than the wind. On and on he flew until he had come to the farthest part of the desert, and there sat the king and Jacob Stuck still thinking about things. Down he dropped the prime-minister, up he picked the king and Jacob Stuck, and away he flew swifter than the wind. On and on he flew until he had brought the two back to the palace again; and there sat the princess waiting for them, with the piece of blue crystal in her hand.
"You have saved us!" cried the king.
"You have saved us!" cried Jacob Stuck. "Yes, you have saved us, and you have my piece of good luck into the bargain. Give it to me again."
"I will do nothing of the sort," said the princess. "If the men folk think no more of a piece of good luck than to hand it round like a bit of broken glass, it is better for the women folk to keep it for them."
And there, to my mind, she brewed good common-sense, that needed no skimming to make it fit for Jacob Stuck, or for any other man, for the matter of that.
And now for the end of this story. Jacob Stuck lived with his princess in his fine palace as grand as a king, and when the old king died he became the king after him.
One day there came two men travelling along, and they were footsore and weary. They stopped at Jacob Stuck's palace and asked for something to eat. Jacob Stuck did not know them at first, and then he did. One was Joseph and the other was John.
This is what had happened to them:
Joseph had sat and sat where John and Jacob Stuck had left him on his box of silver money, until a band of thieves had come along and robbed him of it all. John had carried away his pockets and his hat full of gold, and had lived like a prince as long as it had lasted. Then he had gone back for more, but in the meantime some rogue had come along and had stolen it all. Yes; that was what had happened, and now they were as poor as ever.
Jacob Stuck welcomed them and brought them in and made much of them.
Well, the truth is truth, and this is it: It is better to have a little bit of good luck to help one in what one undertakes than to have a chest of silver or a chest of gold.
"And now for your story, holy knight," said Fortunatus to St. George "for twas your turn, only for this fair lady who came in before you."
"Aye, aye," said the saint; "I suppose it was, in sooth, my turn. Ne'th'less, it gives me joy to follow so close so fair and lovely a lady." And as he spoke he winked one eye at Cinderella, beckoned towards her with his cup of ale, and took a deep draught to her health. "I shall tell you," said he, as soon as he had caught his breath again, "a story about an angel and a poor man who travelled with him, and all the wonderful things the poor man saw the angel do."
"That," said the Blacksmith who made Death sit in his pear-tree until the wind whistled through his ribs--"that, methinks, is a better thing to tell for a sermon than a story."
"Whether or no that shall be so," said St. George, "you shall presently hear for yourselves."
He took another deep draught of ale, and then cleared his throat.
"Stop a bit, my friend," said Ali Baba. "What is your story about?"
"It is," said St. George, "about--