The Blue Fairy Book - online childrens book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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88                   THE TALE OF A YOUTH WHO
might think it was a ghost. The youth called out the second time: ' What do you want here ? Speak if you are an honest fellow, or I'll knock you down the stairs.' The sexton thought: 'He can't mean that in earnest,' so gave forth no sound, and stood as though he were made of stone. Then the youth shouted out to him the third time, and as that too had no effect he made a dash at the spectre and knocked it down the stairs, so that it fell about ten steps and re­mained lying in a corner. Thereupon he tolled the bell, went home to bed without saying a word, and fell asleep. The sexton's wife waited a long time for her husband, but he never appeared. At last she became anxious, and woke the youth, and asked: ' Don't you know where my husband is ? He went up to the tower in front of you.' ' No,' answered the youth; ' but someone stood on the stairs up there just opposite the trap-door in the belfry, and because he wouldn't answer me, or go away, I took him for a rogue and knocked him down. You'd better go and see if it was he ; I should be much distressed if it were.' The wife ran and found her hus­band, who was lying groaning in a corner, with his leg broken.
She carried him down, and then hurried with loud protestations to the youth's father. ' Your son has been the cause of a pretty misfortune,' she cried ; ' he threw my husband downstairs so that he broke his leg. Take the good-for-nothing wretch out of our house.' The father was horrified, hurried to the youth, and gave him a scolding.
' What unholy pranks are these ? The evil one must have put them into your head.' ' Father,' he replied, ' only listen to me; I am quite guiltless. He stood there in the night, like one who meant harm. I didn't know who it was, and warned him three times to speak or to begone.' ' Oh !' groaned the father, ' you'll bring me nothing but misfortune; get out of my sight, I won't have anything more to do with you.' ' Yes, father, willingly; only wait till daylight, then I'll set out and learn to shudder, and in that way I shall be master of an art which will gain me a living.' 'Learn what you will,' said the father, ' it's all one to me. Here are fifty dollars for you, set forth into the wide world with them ; but see and tell no one where you come from or who your father is, for I am ashamed of you.' ' Yes, father, whatever you wish; and if that's all you ask, I can easily keep it in mind.'
When day broke the youth put the fifty dollars into his pocket, set out on the hard high road, and kept muttering to himself: ' If I could only shudder ! if I could only shudder !' Just at this moment
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