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them a visit in the valley, and everybody exclaimed with delight at the sight of him. He was placed in the best seat beside the fire, and the rest made a circle round him; William took his pipe and sat down opposite.
Then Prudence asked questions about everybody and everything, from the farmer's crops to his wife and poultry-yard. The young wife, Martha, replied carelessly, as if she were thinking of something else—as indeed she was, for the pretty Martha's thoughts often wandered to the large village in which she had been brought up. She regretted the dances under the elm-trees; the long walks through the cornfields with the merry girls who laughed as they gathered the wild-flowers; the long gossips in the court, and by the well. So Martha was to be seen pretty frequently with her hands before her, and her pretty head on one side, while she recalled the past.
It was so this evening—while the other women worked, the farmer's wife sat before her spinning-wheel without spinning, and Goodman Prudence saw it all out of a corner of his eye without saying a word.
The family and the neighbours were all round him, and they began : 'Goodman Prudence tell us a story ! story!
He smiled, and glanced at Martha, still idle. 'I am to pay
for my welcome, am I?' he said.; 'very well, as you will, good friends. The last time I told you of the days when armies of pagans ravaged our hills—that was a tale to please the men. To-day I shall talk to please the women and children. Every one in his turn. Then we talked of Cæsar-now we will talk of Mother Greenwater.'
Every one burst out laughing, then they quickly settled themselves. William relighted his pipe, and Prudence began : This story is not an old nurse's story, for you may read it in the almanac of true histories; it is an adventure that happened to our grandmother Charlotte. William knew her, and what a wonderfully brave woman
Grandmother Charlotte had been young once, though it was not
for any one to believe it who saw her gray locks, and her hook nose almost touching her chin; but people of her own age said no young girl had been better looking in her time, or more merrily disposed.
Unfortunately, Charlotte was left alone with her father to manage a large farm, that had more debts than crops on it, so that one kind of labour succeeded another, and the poor girl, not accustomed to so many cares, often despaired, and because she could not do everything, did nothing at all.
One day as she sat before the door, her two hands under her apron, she began talking to herself in a low voice : “In very truth, my task is not fit for a Christian, and it is a great pity at my age that I alone should be tormented by so many cares. If I were more diligent than the sun, swifter than water, and stronger than fire, I could not do all the work of the house. Ah, why is the good fairy Greenwater no longer in the world? If she could hear me, and would help me, perhaps we might find a way out-I of my cares, and my father of his difficulties.”
“ Be satisfied then, here I am !” interrupted a voice, and Charlotte saw Mother Greenwater in front of her, looking at her, as she leaned on her little stick of boxwood.
“The young girl was frightened for a moment, for the fairy was not dressed according to the fashion of the
country. She had on a frog skin, the head served her for a hood, and she was so ugly, so old and wrinkled, that no one would have married her if she had had a million of money.
However, Charlotte soon recovered, and asked the fairy in a trembling voice, but very politely, what she could do to serve her,
“ It is I who am come to serve you,” replied the old lady. “I heard you complaining, and have brought you help in your difficulties.”
“Ah, do you speak seriously, good mother ?” cried Charlotte, quite at home with her directly. “Are you come to give me a bit of your wand, that I may make all my work
easy with it?” “Better than that,” replied Dame Greenwater; “I have brought you ten little workmen, who will do everything you bid them.”
“ Where are they?" asked the young girl. " You shall see them.”
• The old dame opened her cloak, and from under it came ten dwarfs of different sizes.
• The first two were very short, but stout and strong. “ These are the strongest,” said the fairy; "they will help you at every kind of work, and will make up in strength what they want in dexterity. The two next are taller and more clever; they know how to spin, and to do all household-work. Their brothers, who are taller still, as you may see, are specially clever at needlework, as you may tell by the little brass thimbles I have given them for hats. Here are two others, less skilful, who wear a ring by way of sash, and who can only help at general work, and the same is true of the last two, but they are very willing. All the ten may appear to you but poor little things ;
them at work, and then you will judge."
* The old dame made a signal, and the ten dwarfs rushed forward. Charlotte saw them perform, in turn, the roughest and most delicate kinds of work : they were pliant, skilful, and able to accomplish everything. Astonished, she gave a loud cry of joy, and, stretching her arms out to the fairy : " Ah, Mother Greenwater," she cried, “lend me these ten brave workers, and I will ask nothing more !”
“I will do more than that,” replied the fairy, “I will give them to you; only as you cannot carry them about with
you for fear people should accuse you of witchcraft, I will order them to make themselves small, and hide in your ten fingers."
· When this was done : “Now, you know what a treasure you possess,” said Dame Greenwater; “but all will depend on the use you make of it. If you do not govern your little servants; if you leave them idle, they will be of no profit to you; keep them well in order, lest they go to sleep; never leave your fingers quiet, and the work you are so frightened at will be done as if by magic."
The fairy had spoken the truth, and our grandmother, who followed her advice, succeeded not only in putting the whole farm on a better footing, but in laying by something for herself, which, when she was happily married, helped her to bring up her eight children in comfort and honesty. Since this time there is a tradition that Dame Greenwater's labourers have descended to all the women of our family, and that if they bestir themselves ever so little, the little workmen are put in action to our great profit; and we have a saying among ourselves, that it is to the wife's ten fingers we owe all the prosperity, all the joy, and all the comfort in the house.'
As he said these last words, Goodman Prudence turned towards Martha. The young wife blushed, cast down her eyes, and picked up her distaff.
William and his cousin exchanged a glance.
All the family silently reflected on the story. Each tried to understand its full meaning, and to apply it to himself; but the pretty farmer's wife understood that it was really addressed to her, for her face brightened, her wheel turned fast, and the flax on the distaff
less and less.
THE RED-CROSS KNIGHT.
As far as he could see :
The Red-Cross Knight to meet,
Right loving he did him greet.
For thy fame 's well known to me;
And we'll feast right merrily.
* The sentinel on his watch-tower.