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Old-Fashioned Fairy Book, The

THE OGRESS AND THE COOK.

ONE summer afternoon, a young girl sat upon the door-stone of her cottage home, awaiting the return of her father from the mill. Her day's work was neatly done, and the tiny house, both within and without, was as tidy as hands could make it; hollyhocks and sweet-peas grew beneath the windows; the plates on the cupboard shelf glittered; and a little fire sparkled upon the hearth, where a pot of savory broth was bubbling cheerfully. On the table was set a brown loaf, light as a feather and sweet as a nut, with a bunch of grapes from the trellis above the door, and a pewter mug ready to be filled with frothing ale at the moment when the good man should sit down. Dimple, whose fingers rarely rested, plied her knitting-needles as she watched the bridge upon the road where the first glimpse of her father might be[245] caught. By-and-by, up came an old crone, dusty and way-worn.

"Pray, my kind little maiden, give me a bit of food, and a sup of drink, for sweet charity's sake," begged the wayfarer, who looked as if she were ready to drop from fatigue.

"Willingly, dame," said pretty little Dimple; and bidding the crone be seated, she ladled out for her a generous portion of the fragrant broth.

The crone's eyes sparkled; and, seizing a great horn spoon, she despatched the broth in two or three mouthfuls, then asked for more. Dimple supplied her; and in a little while, all the broth in the iron pot had disappeared.

"Never mind," sighed Dimple to herself. "The good father will have to put up with a rasher of bacon and some eggs, to-night."

As if reading her thoughts, the crone, displaying a pair of jaws opening as wide as a cavern and garnished with ferocious teeth, said:

"I am just beginning to feel a little refreshed. If there were only such a thing as a couple of fat slices of home-cured bacon, and a brace of new-laid eggs to help a poor old creature on her way."[246]

Dimple ran to fetch the eggs, over the laying of which her fowls had scarcely ceased to cackle in the barn. Quickly and cheerfully, she prepared a delicious dish, which the crone despatched as before. The loaf of bread followed the bacon, and a gallon of ale followed the bread. All of the grapes, plucked and arranged in a basket for market next morning, were consumed; and, when Dimple had just begun to tremble with apprehension lest her voracious visitor should devour her in conclusion, the crone pushed back her chair, jumped up with surprising agility and, running to the door, blew a shrill whistle.

Instantly, there came flying through the air a pair of huge vampires harnessed to a blood-red chariot. They halted at the cottage gate; and, before Dimple had time to cry out in her terror, the crone whisked her into the chariot, held her in place with a grasp of iron, and ordered the foul creatures to be off. Dimple fainted away and, when she came to herself, found that they were high above the earth, travelling with frightful speed through a thunder cloud. In vain she cried for mercy, and entreated to be restored to her father's house.

"Be silent, brat," said the furious crone, who was,[247] in reality, an ogress. "Know that I have for a long time been in search of just such a trig little cook-maid as you are. Ever since my husband ate up the two last, I have had the greatest trouble to induce my servants to stay with me. Besides, we are particular about our table, and rather hard to suit. I dare say, now, you understand cooking a nice plump baby's thigh to perfection, and how to prepare a dish of rosy cheeks smothered in cream, hey? But it isn't every day we are in such luck as to get fare like that. Many's the time I've had to palm off lamb chops for baby cutlets, and to swear that the pig's tails I served up were boy's fingers. Now, stop that ridiculous shuddering and crying, and listen to reason. If you promise to serve me faithfully for seven years, I'll engage to keep you out of his way, and to send you home with a fortune in your pocket."

Dimple's fright and horror had by this time completely taken away her power of speech. She sank upon the floor of the chariot in silent despair; and when they reached the ogre's castle, situated on a frowning peak of rocks, where not the most daring human foot could climb, she allowed herself without resistance to be lifted out, and thrust into a dark cavernous[248] kitchen. There she was ordered to prepare a large pie, made of rats and bats, for the ogre's supper. While poor Dimple was thus engaged, a monstrous giant came home, and angrily asked for food. The ogress greeted him affectionately, and nine young ogresses ran to meet him and would have jumped upon his knees, but that he pushed them away and fell to scolding everybody, every syllable of his speech sounding like the loudest thunder-peal. Dimple finished her hateful task, and such was her skill in cooking that the pastry on coming out of the oven looked and smelt delicious. The giant ceased to frown as he devoured it, and smiled when he laid down his knife and fork.

Dimple makes rat pie.

"Come here, lasses, and I'll kiss you all," he said,[249] with rare amiability—actually bestowing on his wife's shoulder a pat of approval that would have felled Jumbo to the earth.

The young ogresses were tall and spindling creatures, as slim as young giraffes. They had pasty complexions, pink eyes, and long glistening white teeth. Dimple's business was, after she had set her kitchen in order, to go up into the nursery and put these frights to bed, each requiring to be rocked to sleep in a cradle nine feet long, and all howling like an army of pinched cats until slumber overtook them. Late at night, when all was quiet, poor Dimple would creep up to bed in a little turret room, where the wind moaned around the windows and owls hooted in the ivy so that sleep was impossible. She lay on her wretched bed and cried all night; and when day broke, she would scramble into her clothes again, and steal down stairs to her work in trembling, for she never knew at what moment the ogre might be prowling around in his stocking feet, and pounce upon her for a tid-bit. Months passed on, and one day the ogre came home in high good humor, carrying upon his back a living human being, whose feet and hands were tied and his eyes securely bandaged, while a gag in his mouth prevented[250] the unfortunate victim from making a sound of remonstrance.

"Take this fellow to the kitchen," thundered the ogre, throwing his victim down upon the stone floor of the entrance hall with a violent bang; "see that he is in good condition for my table, and then serve him with plenty of onions in the sauce. Just as I was beginning to hanker after a young and tender morsel of human flesh, I came across this boy, following the plough. I'll warrant, I stopped his whistle quickly, when I grabbed him up! Now mind, wife, supper at sharp twelve, and don't forget the onions!"

The ogress lifted the prisoner as unconcernedly as one would handle a dead turkey and, carrying him below, threw him down upon the kitchen table, repeating her lord's directions to the cook. When Dimple recognized in the fainting prisoner an old schoolmate and neighbor of her own, Jim Hardy by name, she could scarcely refrain from a scream of rapture. But, pretending to be indifferent, she merely felt the poor youth's arms, as a cook examines the condition of her fowls for the table.

"Dear me, madam," she said, "surely you don't mean to cook this tough creature to-night? Why, I[251] wouldn't dare to send up such a dish to my master. He would be in a fearful rage, and small blame to him. At least, allow me to fatten the bumpkin a bit."

"But what shall we serve my husband?" said the alarmed ogress. "He has set his heart on a dish of boy with onion sauce, and I dare not disappoint him."

"Leave that to me," said clever Dimple.

So she killed a lamb, and smothered it with onions, and the ogre knew no difference. The poor youth was set free, and great was his joy to find a friend in his proposed executioner. Dimple told him her story, and heard from him how long and sorrowfully her father had mourned her disappearance. Jim vowed to deliver her from the ogre; but both saw it was necessary to act with caution, at first. She was obliged to shut him up in an iron coop in the courtyard near the kitchen; and every time the old crone came into the kitchen, she went to the coop and felt[252] and pinched the poor lad's legs and breast unmercifully.

"Surely he is tender enough to serve to-night, cook," she would say, impatiently. "Your master has an attack of the gout, and I am at my wit's end to keep him in good humor. Nothing would please him so much as a slice or two of the breast, grilled with pepper and mustard."

"Leave that to me," Dimple would answer; and she forthwith killed a pig, and served a dish so deliciously seasoned that the ogre forgot to growl, for at least an hour after eating it.

Once, while the supper was going on, Dimple and Jim crept up to listen at the dining-room door. After the ogre had drank a gallon or two of wine, he began to talk freely to his wife.

"Such a dainty dish as this you have served me deserves a reward, my dear," he said in a greasy voice, while the ogress meekly dipped some bread in the gravy as her share of the feast. "Open the closet in the corner yonder, and get me out my birdling."

What should the birdling prove to be but a tiny nightingale shining like gold! When its mouth opened at the ogre's command, "Sing, birdling, sing!"[253] out poured a rain of sapphires, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and amethysts, that lay in a glittering stream upon the table-cloth.

"Take these for a bracelet," said the ogre, gathering them up in his hand, and tossing them to his wife; "and then put away my birdling, that no covetous eye may look upon this wonder of the world."

Dimple and Jim exchanged glances of astonishment, but dared not speak, as they crept silently down the flight of stairs.

Next day, the ogress came again into the kitchen to see about the supper dish for the evening, and in her zeal to prove that Jim was really ready for cooking, she bit his ear so that he could not help uttering a little squeal.

"See what you have done!" cried Dimple. "Now that the blood flows, he will not be fit for eating for another day or two. Certainly, I won't engage to make a savory dish of him."

"Oh, don't be vexed, cook," said the ogress, who by this time had grown to depend absolutely upon Dimple's word in such matters. "I have a salve here that will heal all wounds, and will even cause a limb that has been cut off to grow again to the body."[254]

So saying, she whipped out of her pocket a little box of ointment, and rubbed some of it on the wounded place, which at once ceased to bleed, becoming whole as before.

"What did I tell you?" asked the crone, triumphantly. "This salve is one of the wonders of the world, and the recipe is handed down only in our family." So saying, she carefully put away the box again in her pocket.

Day after day passed, Dimple continuing to make excuses for failing to serve the coveted dainty, and exerting all her skill to cook such dishes as might make the ogress forget her disappointment. Meantime, Jim occupied his time in the coop by weaving a rope long enough and strong enough to support his weight and Dimple's while making their proposed escape down the rocky precipice on which the castle stood. Once on the sea-shore beneath, they hoped to hide in some fisherman's hut until a ship might be found sailing to their own country.

"One thing is certain, Dimple," said Jim, who was a bold and fearless fellow; "we shall not leave this place without carrying off that wonderful bird of his. Why, just to remember the dazzling stream that poured from its mouth, makes my eyes wink."[255]

"Oh! Jim," answered Dimple, trembling. "Please, please, don't attempt such a thing. It will make our punishment ten times worse if we are caught. Besides, what hope have you of getting inside the iron closet? It is madness to talk about it. For my part, what I would like to take, is a little of that marvellous salve. Then, if we are bruised or our bones are broken on the rocks, we can make all right again——"

"Why should you forever be talking to yourself, cook?" exclaimed the ogress, at that moment bursting in, carrying a bunch of keys that clanked like fetters. "See here! No more nonsense! I'd just like to know when you propose to give us that chap in yonder, who must have eaten more than his weight in good food since he came here?"

"Very soon, very soon, madam," said Dimple, with a palpitating heart; "in a very few days he should be fit for my master's table. You know that kind of a creature takes uncommonly long to fatten."

"Hold your tongue!" cried the ogress, exploding in sudden fury, like a mine of fire-crackers, and hurling at Dimple's unfortunate head a few convenient saucepans, skewers, flat-irons, and dish-covers. Happily the thrower was of the feminine gender, and so the projectiles[256] missed their aim; but, as Dimple dodged around in a dark corner of the kitchen, the ogress continued to scold her angrily.

"I know this," she exclaimed, "that for only one single day longer will I consent to be put off by your palavering promises and excuses. The lad is fit to kill now, if he is ever going to be; and as day after to-morrow is my lord's two thousand and tenth birthday, you must prepare a dish that shall be better than all that have gone before it. Everything is arranged for a night of celebration. Exactly at midnight to-morrow, we proceed in the vampire chariot to visit our neighbor, the King of the Ghouls, and, returning, shall expect to find the feast served punctually at cock-crow; the dear children may sit up for it, and my brother, the Ogre of the Seven Mountains, is invited to partake."

During this speech Dimple's blood ran cold, but, summoning up all her resolution, she answered calmly, "All shall be ready, madam;" and when the appeased ogress took her leave, Dimple flew to the iron coop, and asked Jim if he had heard the conversation.

"Indeed, did I, my lass," said Jim, trying to put a bold face on the matter. Then, they fell to consulting,[257] and it was decided that the escape should be attempted that very night, as soon as the household was at rest. Midnight came, and not a sound save the thunderous snoring of the ogre family was heard within the castle. Dimple waited upon the landing, while Jim glided up to the cupboard where the nightingale was kept. As no one dared so much as lay a finger upon the giant's treasure without his leave, the door had been left unlocked. There sat the lovely birdling upon a jewelled spray, glittering so brilliantly that it shone like a lamp in the darkness. As Jim laid his hand upon it, the bird sent forth a note of silver sweetness, warning her captor to fly with all speed, if he would escape with his life from the vengeance of the ogre.

"I humbly beg your pardon," said Jim, respectfully; "I had no idea that you are a talking creature."

"Oh! I am glad of anything for a change! You must know that I am a fairy, unfortunate enough to have been imprisoned in a shape assumed for a frolic," the bird continued, greatly to Jim's astonishment. "And tired enough I am, of being a plaything for that horrid old monster, who captured me when I had just dressed for a masquerade party, in the plumage[258] that you see. Unluckily, it is my doom to remain a slave to whosoever shall make a prisoner of me whilst I am thus attired and, also, to have to pour forth jewels at his command. You will be a different sort of a master, I am sure."

Jim hurriedly promised the fairy-bird to treat her with kindness, and hastened to place her in Dimple's keeping. They stole past the giant's chamber-door, but the creaking of a board aroused the tyrant, who sprang out of bed, roaring, "Who is there? Answer, or I will grind you to dust beneath my heel!"

Jim made no reply, and lifting in both hands a heavy iron bar with which he had provided himself, hid in an angle of the stairs.

Out rushed the giant, sputtering ferociously, fire shooting from his eyes and nostrils. Jim, under cover of the darkness, dealt him a tremendous blow upon the skull. The monster tottered, and fell crashing down the long flight of stairs, carrying Jim with him to the bottom. Dimple heard a terrible groan, and then all was silent. Feeling her way to the spot, she whispered imploringly, "Jim, dear Jim, speak to me!"

"I'm here, Dimple," said a stifled voice, in reply;[259] "but this old wretch (who is as dead as a door-nail, by-the-way), has fallen atop of me, and I believe he has broken both of my legs. Ha! there, I have freed myself, but it's no use. I can't walk a step. Don't waste time on a cripple like me, lass; but make haste to slip down the rope and escape, before the ogress finds out what has happened."

"Never, dear Jim," cried Dimple, fervently. Just then a sleepy voice was heard above in the chamber of the ogress, inquiring of her husband what was going on below. Quick as thought, Dimple ran up to her.

"Oh, madam!" she said, "such an accident! His lordship has slipped upon the stairs, and sprained his ankle. You are on no account to disturb yourself to come down; but I beg that you will send him the box of magic salve without delay."

In her sleepy state, it did not occur to the ogress to wonder how Dimple, whose presence in the castle had so long been hidden from the giant, should have been chosen as his messenger. She was so anxious to enjoy her nap in peace, that, grunting out an order to Dimple to take the box from the pocket of a gown hanging upon the bed, she turned upon her pillow and was soon snoring as before.[260]

Seizing the magic salve with joyful fingers, Dimple flew back to Jim, and applied it freely to his broken legs. Instantly, Jim sprang to his feet, stronger than before, and the friends prepared for flight. Unfortunately, in the darkness, Dimple had also anointed the dead giant's head, and to their dismay it now began to roar most frightfully.

"Wife, wife, wife, come down and seize these vagabonds!"

The ogress, turning in her sleep, exclaimed,

"Goodness! I know what that means. My husband has got into the pantry, in one of his hungry fits, and can't find enough to satisfy him. Dear me! Suppose he should devour the cook. That would be inconvenient. Coming, my dear, coming!" And springing nervously out of bed, she began to look for her dressing gown and slippers.

"Oh, madam," said Dimple, bursting again into the room. "His lordship is in haste to butcher the nice fat prisoner he has found below, and I beg that you will send him his hunting-knife, which lies upon the table."

"Is that all?" said the ogress, sinking back upon her pillow, greatly relieved. "Take the knife, child; you will find it at my elbow."[261]

Armed with this formidable weapon, a blade so keen that it could split a hair with ease, Dimple returned to Jim, who forthwith pierced his howling enemy through the tongue, nailing him securely to the floor. This was the end of the most wicked monster who had for many grievous years afflicted mankind. All was still, at last, within the castle, when Dimple and Jim, holding fast their well-earned trophies, climbed out of the narrow window and began their perilous descent. The rope hung over the jagged rocks of a precipice rising abruptly from the sea. The sky was dark, and the sound of the hungry waves beneath was far from comforting to the fugitives. When half-way down, they were discovered by one of the vampires keeping watch upon the rampart. Uttering a discordant shriek, the vampire flew straight to the window of his mistress, and gave the alarm.

As soon as the ogress found out the escape of her treacherous cook, her anger knew no bounds. Tearing madly down toward the kitchen, she stumbled over the dead body of her lord, who lay pinned by his own hunting-knife to the floor. Her shrill cries now rent the air, and were echoed by those of the nine young ogresses, who ran out in their night-gowns, looking[262] truly hideous, and cast themselves upon the body of their father.

"My salve, my magic salve, quick!" cried the ogress to her oldest daughter. Then, remembering to whom she had consigned the treasure, she rushed wildly off and, leaning out of the window, seized the rope with a ferocious jerk.

"Fly, my good vampires!" yelled the horrid creature, "and tear me those wretches to shreds before my eyes!"

Now, indeed, the fate of the fugitives seemed sealed. Dimple, clinging to Jim, uttered a cry of terror. But suddenly, a silvery voice came from the bird-fairy hidden in her dress.

"Have no fear, maiden. Set me free, and I promise to save you both from this awful fate."

Dimple gladly complied with the fairy's request. What was their surprise to see this tiny creature, no larger than a veritable nightingale, transform herself into a mighty eagle upon whose outstretched wings the fugitives, seating themselves securely, were at once carried with astonishing speed over sea and land, never slackening until they came in sight of their own beloved country! Rapid as was the flight of the vam[263]pires in pursuit, that of the enchanted eagle was far more rapid. The cruel foes were completely distanced, and it may be a satisfaction to you to learn that, flying homeward, in their blind rage and spite, to tell the ogress of the failure of their chase, the vampires ran headlong into a passing thunderbolt, and were instantly killed, their bodies falling upon the castle wall under the very eye of their despairing mistress. As it was impossible to get away from her eyrie except in the vampire chariot, the ogress and her nine daughters lived there for a year and a day, gnashing their teeth over their changed lot; and then they slowly starved to death. Her last moments in life were haunted by memories of Dimple, and the scent of imagined sauces compounded by her clever cook arose tantalizingly to[264] her nostrils. At the very end, a fit of unwonted weakness took possession of the dying ogress, and she was heard to murmur, as if dreaming, "She was the best I ever had. Dear girl! I feel now that I could forgive her everything—my husband's death—her treachery—my children's untimely fate—my own approaching end—could I but taste her batter-pudding ere I die!"

THE NINE YOUNG OGRESSES

Happily for Dimple, who was a tender and sympathetic soul, she knew nothing of the pangs that rent the spirit of her ancient foe. Our hero and heroine had been set down by the obliging fairy-bird at some little distance from their native village. There, after giving her their thanks, they at once offered to set their captive free without conditions. The fairy-bird, overjoyed at her good fortune, insisted upon singing for them a whole day, and a pile of precious gems then lay heaped at Dimple's feet, far surpassing in value those in the king's own treasury. Dimple and Jim were now rolling in wealth and, being also in possession of the magic salve which cures all maladies, felt reasonably secure of a prosperous future. Bidding the fairy good-by, they proceeded on foot toward the neighboring town, carrying their treasures in some old potato sacks begged from a roadside hut.[265]

Jim sold a few of the stones, and with the proceeds purchased magnificent garments for Dimple and himself; then, hiring a train of servants to attend them, the two travellers returned to their own village, seated upon cushions of pale blue velvet in a crystal chariot drawn by six milk-white horses, with gold and silver harness.

At the approach of this splendid procession, all the people of the neighborhood came flocking from their houses to see the grand prince and princess, who had done them so much honor. To their astonishment,[266] the chariot stopped directly in front of the miller's cottage, and out sprang the beautiful princess, trailing her silks and satins along the garden path, and, with a scream of delight, throwing her fair arms around the poor old dusty miller, who sat mournfully upon his deserted door-stone, rapt in thought. In a voice that all recognized, Dimple cried:

"Father, don't you know me? I am your loving child."

Next to be astonished was Jim's mother, a lone widow, who sat at her spinning-wheel as usual, thinking of the boy she had lost so many months before. When Jim appeared before her in all his bravery, the poor old thing nearly went into hysterics of delight—she had not hesitated for one moment in recognizing the face that had never left her thoughts.

Directly afterward, all the villagers were requested to proceed in a body to the church, where a splendid wedding was held. Everyone agreed that Dimple made the prettiest bride that had ever stepped from the old church porch, and no one could dispute the fact that Jim was the proudest of bridegrooms.

The newly married pair built a superb palace in a park near their native village, and also two smaller[267] palaces for Jim's mother and Dimple's father. A large share of their wealth was spent in beautifying the homes of their friends; and, in time, the hamlet came to be known as the "Happy Valley," so prosperous and fertile had it grown. No sickness came near these fortunate villagers; and none of them ever died—thanks to the free use made by Dimple of her inexhaustible ointment.

At last reports, neither Jim nor Dimple had confided to anyone the true story of their life in the giant's castle. When people expressed curiosity as to the source of such wonderful wealth, Jim always roguishly said that Dimple had made it all by good cooking. This report, getting abroad, had the effect of inducing the girls of that country, far and wide, to go into their kitchens and learn all they could of the most useful of arts; which, perhaps, had as much as Dimple's magic salve to do with the health and contentment of the inhabitants of Happy Valley!


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