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THE JUNIOR CLASSICS

 

STORY OF LITTLE SIMPLETON

By John T. Naak?ONCE there lived a peasant and his wife who had three daughters. The
two elder girls were cunning and selfish; the youngest was simple and
open-hearted, and on that account came to be called, first by her
sisters and afterward by her father and mother, "Little Simpleton."
Little Simpleton was pushed about, had to fetch everything that was
wanted, and was always kept at work; but she was ever ready to do what
she was told, and never uttered a word of complaint. She would water
the garden, prepare pine splinters, milk the cows, and feed the ducks;
she had to wait upon everybody-in a word, she was the drudge of the
family.

One day, as the peasant was going with the hay to market, he asked his
daughters what they would like him to buy for them.

"Buy me some kumach (Red wool stuff from Bucharest) for a sarafan (A
long dress worn by the Russian peasant women) father," answered the
eldest daughter.

"And me some nankeen," said the second. The youngest daughter alone
did not ask for a present. The peasant was moved with compassion for
the girl; although a simpleton she was still his daughter.

Turning to her he asked "Well, Little Simpleton, what shall I buy for
you?"

Little Simpleton smiled and replied-

"Buy me, dearest father, a little silver plate and a little apple."

"What do you want them for?" asked her sisters.

"I will make the little apple roll round the plate, and will say some
words to it which an old woman taught me because I gave her a cake."

The peasant promised to buy his daughters what they asked of him, and
then started for market. He sold his hay, and bought the presents:
some nankeen for one of his daughters, for another some kumach, and for
Little Simpleton a little silver plate and a little apple. Then he
returned home and gave these things to his daughters.

The girls were delighted; the two elder ones made themselves sarafans,
and laughed at Little Simpleton, wondering what she would do with the
silver plate and the apple.

Little Simpleton did not eat the apple, but sat down in a corner and
cried-

"Roll, roll, little apple on the silver plate, and show me towns and
fields, forests and seas, lofty mountains and beautiful skies."

And the apple began to roll on the plate, and there appeared on it town
after town; ships sailing on the seas, and people in the fields;
mountains and beautiful skies; suns and stars. All these things looked
so beautiful, and were so wonderful, that it would be impossible to
tell of them in a story, or describe them with the pen.

At first the elder sisters looked at the little plate with delight;
soon, however, their hearts were filled with envy, and they began to
try to get it from their younger sister. But the girl would not part
with it on any account. Then the wicked girls said- "Dearest sister,
let us go into the forest to gather blackberries."

Little Simpleton got up, gave the plate and apple to her father, and
went with them into the forest. They walked about and gathered
blackberries. All at once they saw a spade lying upon the ground. The
wicked sisters killed Little Simpleton with it, and buried her under a
birch tree.

They returned home late, and told their father, "The Simpleton is lost;
she ran away from us in the forest; we searched, but could not find her
anywhere. The wolves must have eaten her."

The peasant regretted the loss of his daughter bitterly; for although
so simple she was still his child. The wicked sisters also shed tears.
Her father put the little silver plate and the little apple into a box,
and locked them up.

Next morning a shepherd was tending his sheep near the place, playing
on his pipe, and searching in the forest for one of his flock that was
missing. He observed the little grave under the birch tree; it was
covered by the most lovely flowers, and out of the middle of the grave
there grew a reed. The shepherd cut off the reed, and made a pipe of
it. As soon as the pipe was prepared, oh, wonderful! It began to play
of itself, and say-

"Play, oh pipe, play! and comfort my poor parents and sisters. I was
killed for the sake of my little silver plate and my little apple."

When the people heard of this they ran out of their huts, and all came
round the shepherd and began to ask him who was killed.

"Good people," answered the shepherd, "I don't know who it is. While
searching for one of my sheep in the forest, I came upon a grave
covered with flowers. Above them all stood a reed. I cut off the reed
and made this pipe of it. It plays of itself, and you have heard what
it says."

The father of Little Simpleton happened to be present. He took the
pipe into his own hand, and it began to play:

"Play, oh pipe, play! Comfort my poor father and mother. I was killed
for the sake of my little silver plate and my little apple." The
peasant asked the shepherd to take him to the place where he had cut
the reed. They all went into the forest, saw the grave, and were
astonished at the sight of the lovely flowers which grew there. They
opened the grave, and there discovered the body of a girl, which the
poor man recognized as that of his youngest daughter. There she lay,
murdered-but by whom no one could tell. The people asked one another
who it was that had killed the poor girl. Suddenly the pipe began to
play-

"Oh, my dearest father; my sisters brought me to this forest, and here
killed me for the sake of my little plate and my little apple. You
will not bring me to life until you fetch some of the water from the
czar's well."

Then the wicked sisters confessed it all. They were seized and cast
into a dark prison, to await the pleasure of the czar. The peasant set
out for the capital. As soon as he arrived at the city, he went to the
palace, saw the czar, told his story, and begged permission to take
some water from the well. The czar said, "You may take some water of
life from my well, and as soon as you have restored your daughter to
life, bring her here with her little plate and the little apple; bring
your other two daughters also."

The peasant bowed to the ground, and returned home with a bottle full
of the water of life. He hastened to the grave in the forest, lifted
up the body of his daughter, and as soon as he had sprinkled it with
the water the girl came to life again, and threw herself into his arms.
All who were present were moved to tears.

Then the peasant started again for the capital, and arriving there went
at once to the czar's palace. The czar came out, and saw the peasant
with his three daughters, two of them with their arms bound, the third,
as beautiful as the spring flowers, stood near, the tears like diamonds
falling down her cheeks. The czar was very angry with the two wicked
sisters; then he asked the youngest for her little plate and apple.
The girl took the box from her father's hands, and said-

"Sire, what would you like to see? Your towns or your armies; the
ships at sea, or the beautiful stars in the sky?"

Then she made the little apple roll round the plate, and there appeared
on it many towns, one after the other, with bodies of soldiers near
them, with their standards and artillery. Then the soldiers made ready
for the fight, and the officers stood in their places. The firing
commenced, the smoke arose, and hid it all from view. The little apple
began again to roll on the plate, and there appeared the sea covered
with ships, their flags streaming in the wind. The guns began to fire,
the smoke arose, and again all disappeared from their sight. The apple
again began to roll on the plate, and there appeared on it the
beautiful sky with suns and stars.

The czar was astonished. The girl fell down on her knees before him,
and cried-

"Oh, Sire, take my little plate and my little apple, and forgive my
sisters!"

The czar was moved by her tears and entreaties and forgave the wicked
sisters; the delighted girl sprang up and began to embrace and kiss
them. The czar smiled, took her by the hand and said, "I honor the
goodness of your heart, and admire your beauty. Would you like to
become my wife?"

"Sire," answered the beautiful girl, "I obey your royal command; but
allow me first to ask my parents' permission."

The delighted peasant at once gave his consent; they sent for the
mother, and she, too, gladly bestowed her blessing.

"One favor more," said the beautiful girl to the czar. "Permit my
parents and sisters to remain with me."

On hearing this the sisters fell down on their knees before her, and
cried-

"We are not worthy of so much favor!"

"Dearest sisters," said the beautiful girl, "all is forgotten and
forgiven. They who remember the past with malice deserve to lose their
sight."

She then tried to lift them up from the ground, but they, shedding
bitter tears, would not rise. Then the czar, looking at them with a
frown, bade them get up; he allowed them, however, to stay in the
palace.

A magnificent entertainment then began: the palace was splendidly
lighted up, and looked like the sun among the clouds. The czar and
czarina rode out in an open chariot and showed themselves to the
people, who cried joyfully-

"Long live czar and czarina! May they shine upon us like the glorious
sun for years and years to come!"



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