Below Freezing

The Living, the Dead, and the Path Between  — subtitle

Linora Kingsley is a nine-year-old child; she has light brown hair that reaches down to her waist, hazel eyes, and fair skin; she is curious, dreamy, adventurous, but was born weak, and had to visit the hospital many times when she was younger. Her parents dote on her, and care for her, but all she wants is to be healthy, so she can explore the world. She can rarely go to school during the winter, and she gets extremely ill in the middle of October, so she has to miss a lot of school. She feels left out, and she isn’t as ‘smart’ as people her own age, but she manages to get by, since she learns at home. But, her parents work and they can’t have so much time for her, so she is almost always left with her aunt, who almost doesn’t care of her Niece’s existence. Continue reading “Below Freezing”

Horror Inn

Four travellers arrived by night at an inn, but could obtain no other accommodation than a room in which was lying the corpse of the landlord’s daughter-in-law.

Three of the four were soon snoring; the fourth, however, remained awake, and very soon heard a creaking of the trestles on which was the dead body dressed out in paper robes, ready for burial. To his horror he saw the girl get up, and go and breathe on his companions; so by the time she came to him he had his head tucked well under the bedclothes.

After a little while he kicked one of the others; but finding that his friend did not move, he suddenly grabbed his own trousers and made a bolt for the door. In a moment the corpse was up and after him, following him down the street, and gaining gradually on him, no one coming to the rescue in spite of his loud shrieks as he ran. So he slipped behind a tree, and dodged right and left, the infuriated corpse also dodging right and left, and making violent efforts to get him. At length, the girl made a rush forward with one arm on each side, in the hope of thus grabbing her victim. The traveller, however, fell backwards and escaped her clutch, while she remained rigidly embracing the tree.

By and by he was found senseless on the ground; and the corpse was removed from the tree, but with great difficulty, as the fingers were buried in the bark so deep that the nails were not even visible. The other three travellers were found dead in their beds.

The Spirit of a Superintendent of the Yellow River

The Governor of Shangtung (山东) submitted a memorial to the Emperor regarding the Spirit of a Superintendent of the Yellow River, who helped to avert the disaster: —

During the recent floods on the Yellow River near Yün Ch’eng-hsien, the water had broken out, and the officials and people to the number of thousands were assembled endeavouring to stop the disaster in vain. In despair they knelt on their knees in the mud and prayed, and suddenly the spirit of the departed Li was seen to rise out of the river and, after hovering about for a little, vanished in a westerly direction. As it hovered, the waves and whirlpools became still, the water seemed to retire along with it, and the wind and rain ceased. The people took advantage of the lull, and after working with energy for two days and two nights succeeded in damming up the breach.

The memorialist has made careful inquiry into the facts, and finds there is no doubt about them. It was entirely to this timely intervention of the spirit that the disasters were averted. The spirit was that of Li Yu-mei, a Superintendent of the Yellow River in the time of Ta Kuang, who was greatly distinguished in his time and whose spirit has ever since been a benefactor to the people. As a reward, H. M. is now asked to canonize him in due form.

— Rescript : Let the Board of Ceremonies consider and report.

A Chinese Jonah

A man named Sun Pi-chen (孙必振) was crossing the Yang-tze when a great thunder-squall broke upon the boat and caused her to toss about fearfully, to the great terror of all the passengers. Just then, an angel in golden armour appeared standing upon the clouds above them, holding in his hand a scroll inscribed with certain words, also written in gold, which the people on the boat easily made out to be three in number, namely Sun Pi-chen. So, turning at once to their fellow-traveller, they said to him, ” You have evidently incurred the displeasure of God; get into a boat by yourself and do not involve us in your punishment.” And without giving him time to reply whether he would do so or not, they hurried him over the side into a small boat and set him adrift; but when Sun Pi-chen looked back, lo! the vessel itself had disappeared.

THE PAINTED SKIN

A CERTAIN Mr. Wang was out walking one day, when he saw a young lady who was carrying a bundle and trying to make as much haste as she could along the road. She couldn’t really walk very fast, because her feet were all cramped, and bound up ; and at she didn’t seem to know her way about, Mr. Wang asked her if he could be of any use. For she was a very pretty girl of about sixteen, so he was surprised to see her out by herself. “I’m very much afraid you can’t help me,” she answered, and went on to tell him that she had run away from her master and mistress, and had no home to go to, nor any friend to take her in. “Mv parents,” she said, “sold me when I was quite young, and would certainly give me back to my cruel master and mistress.” Mr. Wang felt so sorry for her, that he invited her to come and. hide in his own house, and as he was afraid lest the servants and his wife would let out where she was, he hid her in his library, which was quite separate from the rest of the house, and into which nobody went but himself.

After a few days, when he thought matters were quite safe, Mr. Wang told his wife about the girl. Mrs. Wang didn’t like the idea of keeping her at all, “because,” she said, “this girl probably belongs to a very rich and great family ; shan’t we get into trouble if they find out she is here? ” But her husband laughed at her, and said, they had better keep her a little longer. A short time afterwards, however, as Mr. Wang was walking about in the town, he met a priest, who looked at him very hard indeed. “What have you met? ” asked the priest. ” Nothing in particular,” answered Mr. Wang. ” What do you mean ? ” ” Why,” the priest replied, ” you are in the power of a witch ; fancy telling me you have met nothing ! ” And away he walked, not listening to Mr. Wang, but only saying, ” What a fool ! what a fool ! He doesn’t know how close he is to dying.” Mr. Wang felt frightened when he heard this, and then he remembered the strange girl at his home; but again it seemed to him absurd to think she could be a witch and want to harm him. By this time he had got to his house, and thought he would go to his library, and sit and think it over. But when he tried to open the outside door, he found it bolted ; so he had to climb over the wall to get to the inside door, which he also found shut. However, the window was close by, and he crept very softly up to it, and looked through. And there, in full sight, was a hideous witch, with a green face and teeth as jagged as a saw! The witch had spread a girl’s skin upon the couch, and she was painting it with a paint-brush. Next moment she threw the paint-brush into a corner, took up the skin and gave it a good shake, threw it over her shoulders, and Mr. Wang saw that it was the girl again !

Off ran Mr. Wang as fast as his shaking legs would allow him, and searched the town from end to end, until he found the priest. He threw himself upon his knees, and cried out “Save me! save me ! ” telling him what he had seen. The priest shook his head, and told Mr. Wang he was afraid he couldn’t help him much. “At any rate,” he added, ” I will give you this fly-brush. Hang it at your bedroom door, and meet me by and by at the temple over there.” So Mr. Wang went home with the fly-brush. He didn’t dare to go into the library, but he hung up the brush at his bedroom door, and calling his wife, went into the room and told her the story. He had scarcely finished, when they heard footsteps outside. ” Peep out,” Mr. Wang whispered to his wife. She did so, and there stood the girl, looking at the fly-brush as though she was afraid of it, and grinding her teeth in a great rage. To Mrs. Wang’s relief, she then went away ; but almost directly back she came, stamping and crying out, ” Don’t think I’m frightened, you priest. Mr. Wang belongs to me, and I won’t give him up ! ” Mrs. Wang had quickly bolted the door, but they heard the girl tearing the brush to pieces, and in a moment smash went the door, and in she walked. She marched straight up to the bed, on which Mr. Wang was lying, ripped open his body and tore out his heart, and went off with it, taking no notice of Mrs. Wang, who was screaming at the top of her voice. The servants, hearing the noise, ran in to see what was the matter, and found Mr. Wang lying dead with a most horrible gash in his body, and Mrs. Wang trembling all over with fright. ” Fetch your master’s brother,” she said, for luckily Mr. Wang’s brother lived in the same house, though he and his wife had their own servants and rooms.

Mrs. Wang sent him off directly to see the priest and tell him what had happened. The story put the priest into a great rage, for the witch had got the better of him, so off he came to the house to punish her; but when he got there the girl had disappeared, no one knew where. However the priest, when he had taken a good look round, said, ” She’s quite close; she’s in this house, in those rooms over there,” pointing to Wang’s brother’s rooms. “No, no, surely not,” said Wang’s brother in a terrible fright; but when he went and asked his wife, she told him that while he had been away fetching the priest, a poor old woman had come to her, and offered to be their maid-of-all-work, and she had engaged her on the spot. “That old woman is the witch,” said the priest, and out he went into the courtyard, where he stood with a wooden sword in his hand, and cried out, “O evil witch, give me back my fly-brush! ” When she heard the priest’s voice, the old woman shook all over with fear, and tried to run away past the priest ; but he hit her with his sword and down she fell in a heap. The painted skin dropped off her, and they saw a hideous witch, grunting like a pig. Then the priest chopped off her head, and she turned into a thick column of smoke which seemed to curl up from the ground. Into the middle of the smoke the priest threw an uncorked gourd, and then they heard a curious noise, and saw the column of smoke being sucked into the gourd, the priest quickly corking it up. After this he rolled up the painted skin, and was quietly walking away, when Mr. Wang’s wife rushed forward, and threw herself on the ground at his feet, crying ” Pray, pray, help me ! Bring my husband back to life! ” The priest looked at her and said, “I can’t help you, I’m sorry to say. I can’t make a dead man live again, but I know someone who can. Only he must be asked properly.” Mrs. Wang, seeping all the time, said she was ready to do anything. So the priest said, “Down in the worst part of the town, there lives a madman. He spends all his time rolling about in the mud. You must go to him, and kneel before him, and ask him to help you. Don’t mind how rude he is, don’t mind what he tells you to do; above all things, don’t lose your temper.” With these words, he went out of the gate, and was soon out of sight.

Mrs. Wang hurried off as fast as she could, and easily found the madman. He was a great deal more filthy and disgusting-looking than she had imagined, but she knelt down before him as she had been told to do, and begged him to help her. But instead of listening kindly, he treated her shamefully, saying all manner of rude and wicked things, until his loud shouting brought a crowd of people to see what was happening. They found the madman beating Mrs. Wang as hard as he could with his stick, while she stood still and didn’t say a word. When he was tired of trying to make her angry, he gave her a perfectly loathsome pill, which she had very hard work to swallow, and then up he got, with a nasty last word, walked into a temple close by, and left her alone with the crowd. Nor could any of them find him again.

Now when Mrs. Wang saw that all her good temper and endurance had been useless, she ran home, feeling so ashamed of what her neighbours had seen that she wished she too were dead. This made her remember that Mr. Wang must be sot ready for his funeral, and as the servants were too frightened to go into the bedroom, she went in, and began to try to close up the terrible gash in his body. But she couldn’t help sobbing all the time, sobs that shook her whole body, and seemed to bring a lump right up into her throat. Not only into her throat, but into her mouth ; then out of her mouth, pop ! something fell right into Mr. Wang’s wound. It was his heart! As she stooped down over it, she saw it begin to throb, as though it were coming to life. Trembling with joy and fear, she quickly closed the flesh over the heart, and then bound the wound up, heaping the bed-clothes over her husband, and rubbing his hands and feet to get him warm. By and by she heard a gentle breathing from his nose, and before long Mr. Wang opened his eyes, alive again and well, except for a slight pain in his heart, and a tiny scar where the frightful wound had been. In a few days even the scar disappeared.

By H. A. Giles

LIVING FOR EVER

Hundreds of years ago, there were a great many learned men in China, who were always trying to find out something which would make them live for ever. They mixed up all kinds of things together, and boiled them for a long time over the fire, and then drank the juice. Some of them were soon poisoned, while all the rest made themselves very ill, and did not live any longer than other people. One man sent a bottle of his mixture to the king, only it never reached his Majesty, because it was stolen and drunk up by the door-keeper of the palace. At this the king was very angry, and sent for the door-keeper and ordered his head to be cut off on the spot. But the door-keeper said, ” Please, your Majesty, if you kill me, it shows that the medicine I drank cannot make people live for ever; so that it would have been of no use to your Majesty.” The king laughed at this, and let him off.

However, there was another man, who had spent about fifty years in trying to make this wonderful medicine. He had mixed up every kind of drug and plant it was possible to get hold of, and he had tried his mixture on a great number of old people ; but all of them had died, some perhaps sooner than they would otherwise have done. Well, one day as he was sitting at a table in his garden, working away at his mixtures, he was so pleased with a new kind he had made that he felt positive he had found the secret at last. So he determined, before giving it to anybody else, to make sure of some for himself, and there and then he drank off nearly a cupful. Immediately, he felt himself rising slowly from the ground, and soon he began going faster and faster, until he was quite high up in the air. This seemed to frighten him, for he dropped the cup with a lot of the mixture in it. The cup fell in his backyard, and the cocks and hens ran at once to get a sip of the mixture, thinking it was probably something good to eat. His dog too ran to take a lick, and even the cat had a taste. Very soon they were all sailing after their master up into the sky, and gradually passed out of sight, and were never heard of again.

淮南王刘安得道,鸡犬升天的故事。汉王充《论衡·道虚》:“淮南王学道,招会天下有道之人,倾一国之尊,下道术之士,是以道术之士并会淮南,奇方异术,莫不争出。王遂得道,举家升天,畜产皆仙,犬吠于天上,鸡鸣于云中。”

Retold by H. A. Giles

THEFT OF A DUCK

In a country village, there lived an honest old farmer, named Chang, who had a large flock of fine fat ducks. One day, a good-for-nothing fellow named Lin who lived nearby, stole one of these ducks and carried it off to his home and ate it for supper. In the middle of the night he began to itch violently all over; and when morning came, he found to his horror that he was entirely covered with feathers which were growing out of his skin and now began to smart terribly. He was in great pain all day but at night he managed to get off to sleep, and then he dreamt that a man appeared to him and said, ” You are being punished for stealing that duck; and you will never get well until you go to Mr. Chang and make him say, ” You dirty thief! ‘” Lin was very much troubled at this, but he soon thought of a plan by which he hoped to escape. He went to see Mr. Chang and said to him, ” Sir, I have something to tell you privately. Your duck was stolen by old Wang who lives down the road ; he doesn’t like being called bad names, and if you go and say to him ‘You dirty thief!’ he will be sure to pay you for the duck and will take care never to steal any more.” At this, Mr. Chang laughed loudly, and said, “I haven’t got time to go about calling people bad names, all for the loss of a duck ; I won’t do anything of the kind.” Just then Lin’s skin began to smart so dreadfully that he had nothing left but to fall on his knees and own that he himself had stolen the duck, and implore Mr. Chang to say ” You dirty thief ! ” to him. To this Mr. Chang replied, that he had never been in the habit of using bad language and that he certainly was not going to begin doing so. However, when Lin opened his shirt and showed Mr. Chang the feathers which had grown all over his body, and told him with tears in his eyes what pain he was suffering, Mr. Chang at last consented, and said to him, “You dirty thief! ” From that moment the ieathers disappeared from his body, and he took care never to steal ducks again.

Learning Magic or The Taoist Priest of Lao-Shan

Many years ago, there was a man named Sung, who was not very fond of work but longed to be a magician and do all kinds of wonderful tricks. So one day off he went to a temple on a mountain, and there he found an old priest, with long hair flowing down his back, and sitting on a rush mat. Making a low bow. Sung asked the priest if he would be kind enough to teach him magic. “Ah,” replied the priest, ” I am afraid you are not strong enough for that.” Sung begged the priest to let him try; and so he was allowed to stay in the temple and join in with the other pupils. Very early next morning the priest sent for him, and giving him a hatchet told him to go out and cut firewood. This he went on doing every day for a month, until his hands and feet were so sore that he secretly began to wish himself home again.

One evening, when he came back, he found two strangers drinking wine with the priest. It was already dark, and as no candles had been brought in, the old priest took a pair of scissors, and cut out a round piece of paper which he stuck upon the wall. Immediately it became bright as the moon, and lighted up the whole room. Then, one of the strangers took a kettle of wine, and told the pupils to help themselves. Sung wondered how they would all get enough to drink out of such a small kettle, but to his astonishment there was plenty for everybody, and more still left in the kettle. Then the other stranger said, “Why not get the Lady of the Moon to come and join us?” So he seized a chopstick. and threw it into the moon, and at once a lovely young girl stepped out. At first she was only a foot high; but on reaching the ground, she became as tall as an ordinary woman. She sang a pretty song, with a voice like a flute, and when she had finished she danced round and round, and at last jumped up on the table, where to the astonishment of everybody she became a chopstick again. ” Very good,” said one of the strangers, ” now we must bid you good night, as we are going to drink a glass of wine in the palace of the moon.” The strangers then picked up the table and walked into the moon, where they could be seen quite plainly talking and drinking together. By and by the moon suddenly went out ; and when the pupils brought lighted candles they found the priest sitting in the dark alone, with the piece of paper on the wall. The priest then sent them to bed, so that they should not be late with their wood- cutting in the morning.

But after a time, Sung could not stand this any longer ; and as the priest taught him no magical tricks, he went to him and said, ” I have been here three months, doing nothing but chop firewood, work to which I was never accustomed before. I now wish to go home.” “Well,” said the priest, “I told you that you were not strong enough. You can go home tomorrow.” ” Sir,” said Sung, ” I have worked for you a long time ; please teach me some little trick that I may not have come all this long way for nothing.” ” What trick would you like to learn?” asked the priest. “Well,” answered Sung, “I have noticed that whenever you walk about anywhere, you are not stopped by walls ; you walk, through them. Teach me this, and I shall be satisfied.” The priest laughed and told him to say, Hobbery jibbery snobbery snoo, at the same time walking through the wall. Sung walked up to the wall, but couldn’t get through it ; so the priest said, “Don’t go so slowly; put your head down and run at it.” Sung did as he was told, and the next moment found himself outside the temple. Delighted at this, he went in to thank the priest, who told him to be very careful and not show off too much.

When Sung got home he went about bragging of what he could do; but as people disbelieved his story, he determined to prove to them that he was telling the truth. In order to do this, he put his head down and rushed at a wall, but he only hit the bricks very hard and was knocked down flat on the ground. When he was picked up he had a bump on his forehead as big as an egg, at which everybody roared with laughter.

By P’u Sung-ling, retold by H. A. Giles.

THE COUNTRY OF GENTLEMEN

More than a thousand years ago there lived an Empress of China, who was a very bold and obstinate woman. She thought she was powerful enough to do anything. One day, she even gave orders that every kind of flower throughout the country was to be out in full bloom on a certain day. Being a woman herself, she thought that women would govern the empire much better than men ; so she actually had examinations for women and gave them all the important posts. This made a great many men extremely angry ; especially a young man named Tang, who was very clever and had taken many prizes. He said he couldn’t live in such a country any more ; and sailed away with an uncle of his and another friend, on a long voyage to distant parts of the world.

They visited many extraordinary nations ; in one of which, the people all had heads of dogs ; in another, they flew about like birds ; in another, they had enormously long arms with which they reached down into the water to catch fish. Then there was the country of tall men, where everybody was about twenty feet in height ; the country of dwarfs where the people were only one foot in height, and their funny little children were not more than four inches. In another place, the people all had large holes in the middle of their bodies ; and rich persons were carried about by servants who pushed long sticks through the holes.

After a time, they came to a land which they were told was the Country of Gentlemen. They went ashore, and walked up to the capital. There they found the people buying and selling, and strange to say they were all talking the Chinese language. They also noticed that everybody was very polite, and the foot-passengers in the streets were very careful to step aside and make room for one another. In the market-place they saw a man who was buying things at a shop. Holding the things in his hand, the man was saying to the shopkeeper, ” My dear sir, I really cannot take these excellent goods at the absurdly low price you are asking. If you will oblige me by doubling the amount, I shall do myself the honour ot buying them; otherwise I shall know for certain that you do not wish to do business with me to-day.” The shopkeeper replied, ” Excuse me, sir, I am already very much ashamed at having asked you so much for these goods; they really are not worth more than half. If you insist upon paying such a high price, I must really beg you, with all possible respect, to go and buy in some other shop.” At this, the man who wanted to buy got rather angry, and said that trade could not be carried on at all if all the profit was on one side and all the loss on the other, adding that the shopkeeper was not going to catch him in a trap like that. After a lot more talk, he put down the full price on the counter, but only took half the things. Of course the shopkeeper would not agree to this, and they would have gone on arguing for ever had not two old gentlemen who happened to be passing stepped aside and arranged the matter for them by deciding that the purchaser was to pay the full price but only to receive three- quarters of the goods. Tang heard this sort of thing going on at every shop he passed. It was always the buyer who wanted to give as much as possible, and the seller to take as little. In one case a shopkeeper called after a customer who was hurrying away with the goods he had bought and said, ” Sir, sir, you have paid me too much, you have paid me too much.” “Pray don’t mention it,” replied the customer, ” but oblige me by keeping the money for another day when I come again to buy some more of your excellent goods.” ” No, no,” answered the shopkeeper; “you don’t catch old birds with chaff, that trick was played upon me last year by a gentleman who left some money with me, and to this day I have never set eyes upon him again though I have tried all I can to find out where he lives.”

But soon they had to say good-bye to this wonderful country and started once more upon their voyage. They next came to a very strange land where the people did not walk, but moved about upon small clouds of different colours, about half a foot from the ground. Meeting with an old priest, who seemed rather a queer man, Tang asked him to be kind enough to explain the meaning of the little clouds upon which the people rode. “Ah sir,” said the priest, ” these clouds show what sort of a heart is inside the persons who are riding on them. People can’t choose their own colours ; clouds striped like a rainbow are the best ; yellow are the second best, and black are the worst of all.” Thanking the old man, they passed on and among those who were riding on clouds of green, red, blue and other colours, they saw a dirty beggar riding on a striped cloud. They were much astonished at this because the old priest had told them that the striped cloud was the best. ” I see why that was,” said Tang, ” the old rascal had a striped cloud himself.” Just then the people in the street began to fall back, leaving a passage in the middle ; and by and by they saw a very grand officer pass along in great state with a long procession of servants carrying red umbrellas, gongs, and other things. They tried to see what colour his cloud was, but to their disappointment it was covered up with a curtain of red silk. “Oho!” said Tang, ” this gentleman has evidently got such a bad colour for his cloud that he is ashamed to let it be seen. I wish we had clouds like these in our country so that we could tell good people from bad by just looking at them. I don’t think there would be so many wicked men about then.”

Soon after this, news reached them that the Empress who had been so troublesome in their own country had been obliged to give up the throne. So they went no further on their travels but turned their ship round towards home, where their families were very glad to see them again.

THE WONDERFUL PEAR-TREE

Once upon a time a countryman came into the town on market-day, and brought a load of very special pears with him to sell. He set up his barrow in a good corner, and soon had a great crowd round him ; for everyone knew he always sold extra fine pears, though he did also ask an extra high price. Now, while he was crying up his fruit, a poor, old, ragged, hungry-looking priest stopped just in front of the barrow, and very humbly begged him to give him one of the pears. But the countryman, who was very mean and very nasty-tempered, wouldn’t hear of giving him any, and as the priest didn’t seem inclined to move on, he began calling him all the bad names he could think of. ” Good sir,” said the priest, ” you have got hundreds of pears on your barrow. I only ask you for one. You would never even know you had lost one. Really, you needn’t get angry.”

“Give him a pear that is going bad ; that will make him happy,” said one of the crowd. “The old man is quite right ; you’d never miss it.”

“I’ve said I won’t, and I won’t!” cried the countryman ; and all the people close by began shouting, first one thing, and then another, until the constable of the market, hearing the hubbub, hurried up ; and when he had made out what was the matter, pulled some cash out of his purse, bought a pear, and gave it to the priest. For he was afraid that the noise would come to the ears of the mandarin who was just being carried down the street.

The old priest took the pear with a low bow, and held it up in front of the crowd, saying, ” You all know that I have no home, no parents, no children, no clothes of my own, no food, because I gave everything up when I became a priest. So it puzzles me how anyone can be so selfish and so stingy as to refuse to give me one single pear. Now I am quite a different sort of man from this countryman. I have got here some perfectly exquisite pears, and I shall feel most deeply honoured if you will accept them from me.” ” Why on earth didn’t you eat them yourself, instead of begging for one?” asked a man in the crowd. “Ah,” answered the priest, ” I must grow them first.” So he ate up the pear, only leaving a single pip. Then he took a pick which was fastened across his back, dug a deep hole in the ground at his feet, and planted the pip, which he covered all over with earth. ” Will some one fetch me some hot water to water this ? ” he asked. The people, who were crowding round, thought he was only joking, but one of them ran and fetched a kettle of boiling water and gave it to the priest, who very carefully poured it over the place where he had sowed the pip. Then, almost while he was pouring, they saw, first a tiny green sprout, and then another, come pushing their heads above the ground; then one leaf uncurled, and then another, while the shoots kept growing taller and taller ; then there stood before them a young tree with a few branches with a few leaves ; then more leaves ; then flowers ; and last of all clusters of huge, ripe, sweet-smelling pears weighing the branches down to the ground ! Now the priest’s face shone with pleasure, and the crowd roared with delight when he picked the pears one by one until they were all gone, handing them round with a bow to each man present. Then the old man took the pick again, hacked at the tree until it fell with a crash, when he shouldered it, leaves and all, and with a final bow, walked away.

All the time this had been going on, the countryman, quite forgetting his barrow and pears, had been in the midst of the crowd, standing on the tips of his toes, and straining his eyes to try to make out what was happening. But when the old priest had gone, and the crowd was getting thin, he turned round to his barrow, and saw with horror that it was quite empty. Every single pear had gone ! In a moment he understood what had happened. The pears the old priest had been so generous in giving away were not his own ; they were the countryman’s ! What was more, one of the handles of his barrow was missing, and there was no doubt that he had started from home with two ! He was in a towering rage, and rushed as hard as he could after the priest ; but just as he turned the corner he saw, lying close to the wall, the barrow-handle itself, which without any doubt was the very pear-tree which the priest had cut down. All the people in the market were simply splitting their sides with laughter; but as for the priest, no one saw him any more. Huit Just A Kiss Magic Air Bra (Google Affiliate Ad)

THE WONDERFUL PEAR-TREE