The Blue Fairy Book - online childrens book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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SET OUT TO LEARN WHAT FEAR WAS 89
a man came by who heard the youth speaking to himself, and when they had gone on a bit and were in sight of the gallows the man said to him: ' Look! there is the tree where seven people have been hanged, and are now learning to fly; sit down under it and wait till nightfall, and then you'll pretty soon learn to shudder.' ' If that's all I have to do,' answered the youth,' it's easily done; but if I learn to shudder so quickly, then you shall have my fifty dollars. Just come back to me to-morrow morning early.' Then the youth went to the gallows-tree and sat down underneath it, and waited for the evening; and because he felt cold he lit himself a fire. But at midnight it got so chill that in spite of the fire he couldn't keep warm. And as the wind blew the corpses one against the other, tossing them to and fro, he thought to himself: ' If you are perishing down here by the fire, how those poor things up there must be shaking and shivering!' And because he had a tender heart, he put up a ladder which he climbed, unhooked one body after the other, and took down all the seven. Then he stirred the fire, blew it up, and placed them all round in a circle, that they might warm themselves. But they sat there and did not move, and the fire caught their clothes. Then he spoke: ' Take care, or I'll hang you up again.' But the dead men did not hear, and let their rags go on burning. Then he got angry, and said: ' If you aren't careful yourselves, then I can't help you, and I don't mean to burn with you ;' and he hung them up again in a row. Then he sat down at his fire and fell asleep. On the following morning the man came to him, and, wishing to get his fifty dollars, said : ' Now you know what it is to shudder.' No,' he answered, ' how should I ? Those fellows up there never opened their mouths, and were so stupid that they let those few old tatters they have on their bodies burn.' Then the man saw he wouldn't get his fifty dollars that day, and went off, saying: ' Well, I'm blessed if I ever met such a person in my life before.'
The youth too went on his way, and began to murmur to him­self: ' Oh ! if I could only shudder ! if I could only shudder !' A carrier who was walking behind him heard these words, and asked him : ' Who are you ? ' 'I don't know,' said the youth. ' Where do you hail from ? ' 'I don't know.' ' Who's your father ? ' 'I mayn't say.' ' What are you constantly muttering to yourself? ' ' Oh!' said the youth, ' I would give worlds to shudder, but no one can teach me.' ' Stuff and nonsense !' spoke the carrier; ' come along with me, and I'll soon put that right.' The youth went with the
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