| Fifty Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|Includes fifty legendary tales depicting certain romantic episodes in the lives of well-known heroes and famous men, or in the history of a people. Children naturally take a deep interest in such stories. The reading of them will not only give pleasure but will lay the foundation for broader literary studies, as nearly all are the subjects of frequent allusions in poetry and prose. Ages 6-9 |
 HERE is the story of Mignon as I remember having read it in a
famous old book.
A young man named Wilhelm was staying at an inn in the
city. One day as he was going upstairs he met a little girl
coming down. He would have taken her for a boy, if it had
not been for the long curls of black hair wound about her
head. As she ran by, he caught her in his arms and asked
her to whom she belonged. He felt sure that she must be one
of the ropedancers who had just come to the inn. She gave
him a sharp, dark look, slipped out of his arms, and ran
away without speaking.
The next time he saw her, Wilhelm spoke to her again.
"Do not be afraid of me, little one," he said kindly. "What
is your name?"
"They call me Mignon," said the child.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"No one has counted," the child answered.
Wilhelm went on; but he could not help wondering about the
child, and thinking of her dark eyes and strange ways.
One day not long after that, there was a great outcry among
the crowd that was watching the ropedancers. Wilhelm went down to find out
 what was the matter. He saw that the master of the dancers
was beating little Mignon with a stick.
He ran and held the man by the collar.
"Let the child alone!" he cried. "If you touch her
again, one of us shall never leave this spot."
The man tried to get loose; but Wilhelm held him fast. The child
crept away, and hid herself in the crowd.
"Pay me what her clothes cost," cried the ropedancer at last, "and you may take her."
As soon as all was quiet, Wilhelm went to look for Mignon;
for she now belonged to him. But he could not find her, and
it was not until the ropedancers had left the town that
she came to him.
"Where have you been?" asked Wilhelm in his kindest
tones; but the child did not speak.
"You are to live with me now, and you must be
a good child," he said.
"I will try," said Mignon gently.
From that time she tried to do all that she could for
Wilhelm and his friends. She would let no one wait on him
but herself. She was often seen going to a basin of water to
wash from her face the paint with which the ropedancers had
reddened her checks: indeed, she nearly rubbed off the skin
in trying to wash away its fine brown tint, which she
thought was some deep dye.
 Mignon grew more lovely every day. She never walked up and
down the stairs, but jumped. She would spring along by the
railing, and before you knew it, would be sitting quietly
above on the landing.
To each one she would speak in a different way. To Wilhelm
it was with her arms crossed upon her breast. Often for a
whole day she would not say one word, and yet in waiting
upon Wilhelm she never tired.
One night he came home very weary and sad. Mignon was
waiting for him. She carried the light before him
upstairs. She set the light down upon the table, and in
a little while she asked him if she might dance.
"It might ease your heart a little," she said.
Wilhelm, to please her, told her that she might.
Then she brought a little carpet, and spread it upon the
floor. At each corner she placed a candle, and on the carpet
she put a number of eggs. She arranged the eggs in the form
of certain figures. When this was done, she called to a man
who was waiting with a violin. She tied a band about
her eyes, and then the dancing began.
How lightly, quickly, nimbly, wonderfully, she moved! She
skipped so fast among the eggs, she trod so closely beside
them, that you would have
 thought she must crush them all. But not one of them did
she touch. With all kinds of steps she passed among them.
Not one of them was moved from its place.
"And then the dancing began."
Wilhelm forgot all his cares. He watched every motion of
the child. He almost forgot who and where he was.
When the dance was ended, Mignon rolled the eggs together
with her foot into a little heap. Not one was left behind,
not one was harmed. Then she took the band from her eyes,
and made a little bow.
Wilhelm thanked her for showing him a dance that was so
wonderful and pretty. He praised her, petted her, and
hoped that she had not tired herself too much.
When she had gone from the room, the man with the violin
told Wilhelm of the care she had taken to teach him the
music of the dance. He told how she had sung it to him over
and over again. He told how she had even wished to pay him
with her own money for learning to play it for her.
There was yet another way in which Mignon tried to please
Wilhelm, and make him forget his cares. She sang to him.
The song which he liked best was one whose
 words he had never heard before. Its music, too, was strange
to him, and yet it pleased him very much. He asked her to
speak the words over and over again. He wrote them down;
but the sweetness of the tune was more delightful than the
words. The song began in this way:—
"Do you know the land where citrons, lemons, grow,
And oranges under the green leaves glow?"
Once, when she had ended the song, she said again, "Do
you know the land?"
"It must be Italy," said Wilhelm. "Have you ever been
The child did not answer.
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