The Orange Fairy Book

The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Book: The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andrew Lang
cow-house was dirty, and the cows ill-fed and beaten, so that
they kicked over the pail, and tried to butt her; and everyone said
they had never seen such thin cows or such poor milk. As for the cats,
she chased them away, and ill-treated them, so that they had not even
the spirit to chase the rats and mice, which nowadays ran about
everywhere. And when the sparrows came to beg for some corn, they
fared no better than the cows and the cats, for the girl threw her
shoes at them, till they flew in a fright to the woods, and took
shelter amongst the trees.
    Months passed in this manner, when, one day, the mistress called the
girl to her.
    'All that I have given you to do you have done ill,' said she, 'yet
will I give you another chance. For though you cannot tend cows, or
divide the grain from the chaff, there may be other things that you can
do better. Therefore take this sieve to the well, and fill it with
water, and see that you bring it back without spilling a drop.'
    The girl took the sieve and carried it to the well as her sister had
done; but no little birds came to help her, and after dipping it in the
well two or three times she brought it back empty.
    'I thought as much,' said the old woman angrily; 'she that is useless
in one thing is useless in another.'
    Perhaps the mistress may have thought that the girl had learnt a
lesson, but, if she did, she was quite mistaken, as the work was no
better done than before. By-and-by she sent for her again, and gave
her maid the black and white yarn to wash in the river; but there was
no one to tell her the secret by which the black would turn white, and
the white black; so she brought them back as they were. This time the
old woman only looked at her grimly but the girl was too well pleased
with herself to care what anyone thought about her.
    After some weeks her third trial came, and the yarn was given her to
spin, as it had been given to her stepsister before her.
    But no procession of cats entered the room to weave a web of fine
cloth, and at sunset she only brought back to her mistress an armful of
dirty, tangled wool.
    'There seems nothing in the world you can do,' said the old woman, and
left her to herself.
    Soon after this the year was up, and the girl went to her mistress to
tell her that she wished to go home.
    'Little desire have I to keep you,' answered the old woman, 'for no one
thing have you done as you ought. Still, I will give you some payment,
therefore go up into the loft, and choose for yourself one of the
caskets that lies there. But see that you do not open it till you
place it where you wish it to stay.'
    This was what the girl had been hoping for, and so rejoiced was she,
that, without even stopping to thank the old woman, she ran as fast as
she could to the loft. There were the caskets, blue and red, green and
yellow, silver and gold; and there in the corner stood a little black
casket just like the one her stepsister had brought home.
    'If there are so many jewels in that little black thing, this big red
one will hold twice the number,' she said to herself; and snatching it
up she set off on her road home without even going to bid farewell to
her mistress.
    'See, mother, see what I have brought!' cried she, as she entered the
cottage holding the casket in both hands.
    'Ah! you have got something very different from that little black box,'
answered the old woman with delight. But the girl was so busy finding
a place for it to stand that she took little notice of her mother.
    'It will look best here—no, here,' she said, setting it first on one
piece of furniture and then on another. 'No, after all it is to fine
to live in a kitchen, let us place it in the guest chamber.'
    So mother and daughter carried it proudly upstairs and put it on a
shelf over the fireplace; then, untying the key from the handle, they
opened the box. As before, a bright light leapt out directly the lid
was raised, but it did not spring from the lustre of jewels, but from
hot flames,

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