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The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson
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THE TWO BROTHERS AND THE OLD WITCH

[46]

O
NCE upon a time there were two boys who were brothers, and they were very poor. At last the older boy said, "I will go out into the world and try to make my fortune."

So he left his home, and he traveled about the world looking for work a long time. Finally, he reached a house in which an old witch woman lives, and she said she would give him work and pay him well.

"What shall I have to do?" the boy asked.

"You must take care of my garden," said she, "and mow my meadow, and cut my wood, and once a week you must clean my fireplace; but I warn you never to look up the chimney."

The boy agreed to this bargain, and for many months he cared for the old woman's garden, and mowed her meadow, and cut her wood, and cleaned her fireplace. He liked his situation well enough, except that the old woman did not pay him his [47] wages. Whenever he asked her for money she said, "If you had it you would spend it. No, no I am laying up what is due you in a stout leather bag safely stowed away, and when you get to be as old as I am you can have it."

This did not suit the boy, but he kept on with his work until one day, as he was cleaning the fireplace, he heard a noise is the chimney, and he looked up. Immediately something heavy fell [48] whack on his head, bringing with it a lot of soot that half blinded him. As soon as he could get the soot out of his eyes he saw on the hearth a slender leather bag, and when he picked it up he found it was full of money. "This must be my wages," said he, and he walked out of the door, carrying the bag, and started off along the road home.


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By and by he came to a meeting-house, and the meeting-house said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and sweep me! I have not been swept for seven long years."

But the boy said,

"I'm in a hurry and cannot stay;

Perhaps I'll stop some other day."

He hastened on, and by and by he came to a weedy field, and the said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and weed me. I have not been weeded for seven long years."

"I'm in a hurry and cannot stay;

Perhaps I'll stop some other day."

Hastened on, and by and by he came to a cow, and the cow said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and milk me. I have not been milked for seven long years."

[49] But the boy said,

"I'm in a hurry and cannot stay;

Perhaps I'll stop some other day."

He hastened on, and by and by he came to a well, and the well said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and clean me. I have not been cleaned for seven long years."

But the boy said,

"I'm in a hurry and cannot stay;

Perhaps I'll stop some other day."

He hastened on, and by and by he came to an apple-tree so loaded with fruit that its branches were breaking down, and the tree said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and shake me. The apples you see on me have been growing for seven long years, and no one has come to shake them off or pick them."

But the boy said,

"I'm in a hurry and cannot stay;

Perhaps I'll stop some other day."

However, instead of keeping on he sat down under the tree, and began to count his money.

Some time after he left the house where he had been working the old witch woman came in and saw the soot scattered about the fireplace. She looked up the chimney and discovered that he bag of money was gone. "That boy had taken it," she cried, "and I must catch him."

[50] So she started in pursuit, and by and by she came to the meeting-house and said,

"Meeting-house, meeting-house,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

"Yes," replied the meeting-house, "he has gone on down the road."

So the witch went along until she came to a weedy field. Then she said,

"Field of mine, field of mine,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

"Yes," replied the field, "he has gone on down the road.

So the witch went along until she came to a cow. Then she said,

"Cow of mine, cow of mine

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

[51] "Yes," replied the cow, "he has gone on down the road."

So the witch went along until she came to a well. Then she said,

"Well of mine, well of mine,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

"Yes," replied the well, "he has gone on down the road."

So the witch went along until she approached the apple-tree, under which the boy was sitting counting his money. But he saw her coming, and he climbed the tree to hide among the branched. As soon as the witch was near enough she said,

"Tree of mine, tree of mine,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

"Yes," was the tree's response, "he's up here among my branches."

Then the old woman pulled the boy out of the tree and gave him a sound beating, and he went [52] away crying; while she took the bag of money and returned home.

A year or two after the first brother left to seek his fortune the other brother also started out into the world. He traveled about here and there and everywhere, looking for work and finding none. But, finally, he reached the house of the old witch woman, and she said she would give him work and pay him well.

"What shell I have to do?" the boy asked

"You must take care of my garden," said she, "and mow my meadow, and cut my wood, and once a week you must clean my fireplace; but I warn you never to look up the chimney."

The boy agreed to this bargain, and for many months he cared for the old woman's garden, and mowed her meadow, and cut her wood, and cleaned her fireplace. He likes his situation well enough, except that the old woman did not pay him his wages. Whenever he asked her for money she said, "If you had it you would spend it. No, no, I am laying up what is due you in a stout leather bag stowed safely away, and when you get to be as old as I am you can have it."

This did not suit the boy, but he kept on with his work until one day, as he was cleaning the fire- [53] place, he heard a noise in the chimney and he looked up. Immediately something heavy fell whack on his head, bringing with it a lot of soot that half blinded him, As soon as he could get the soot out of his eyes he saw on the hearth a slender leather bag, and when he picked it up he found it was full of money. "This must be my wages," said he, and he walked out of the door, carrying the bag, and started off along the road toward home.

By and by he came to a meeting-house, and the meeting-house said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and sweep me! I have not been swept for seven long years!"

It was a large meeting-house, and he knew the sweeping would be a hard task. However, he stopped and swept the building very thoroughly.

Then he went on, and by and by he came to a weedy field, and the field said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and weed me! I have not been weeded for seven long years."

It was a large field, and he knew the work would be far from easy. However, he stopped and weeded the whole field.

Then he went on, and by and by he came to a cow, and the cow said, "Wait, wait, my lad, [54] and milk me! I have not been milked to seven long years."

The boy was in a hurry, but he stopped and milked the cow.

Then he went on his way, and by and by he came to a well, and the well said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and clean me! I have not been cleaned for seven long years."

The boy was in a hurry, but he stopped and cleaned the well.

Then he went on, and by and by he came to an apple-tree so loaded with fruit that its branches were breaking down, and the tree said, "Wait, wait, my lad, and shake me! The apples you see on me have been growing for seven long years, and no one has come to shake them off or pick them."

The boy was sorry for the tree, and he shook off enough of the apples, so that the branches were no longer in danger of breaking. "Thank you," said the tree; "now I can move my branched and shake off the rest myself when I choose."

The boy then sat down under the tree to count his money.

Some time after he left the house where he had been working the old witch woman came in and [55] saw the soot scattered about the fireplace. She looked up the chimney and discovered that her bag of money was gone. "That boy had taken it," she cried, "and I must catch him."

So she started in pursuit, and by and by she came to a meeting-house and said,

"Meeting-house, meeting-house,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

But the meeting-house would not reply, and it loosened some of its shingles, and let them slid down onto the old woman, and she was glad to get away.

Then she went along until she came to what had been the weedy field, and she said,

"Field of mine, field of mine,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

But the field would not reply, and it raised a great cloud of dust and let it blow around the old witch, so that she was glad to get away.

[56] Then she went along until she came to a cow, and she said,

"Cow of mine, cow of mine,

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

But the cow would not reply, and it shook its horns at the old woman and frightened her, so that she was glad to get away.

Then she went along until she came to a well, and said,

"Well of mine, well of mine

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

But the well would not reply, and it caused its water to rise and overflow, so that the old witch would have been drowned if she had not hastened to get away.

Then she went along until she approached the apple-tree, under which the boy was sitting counting his money. But he saw her coming, and he said,

"Apple-tree, apple-tree, hide me,

So the old witch can't find me!"

[57] "Climb up among my branches and I will hide you," said the tree.

The boy climbed up, and the tree hid him with its leaves. Pretty soon the old woman came and said,

[58]

"Tree of mine, tree of mine

Have you seen a boy

With a willy-willy wag

And a long leather bag,

Who's stolen all the money

That ever I had?"

But the tree would not reply, and it shook its apples down on the old witch till she was glad to get away. She never found the boy, and he went home with the leather bag full of money, and after that he always prospered.


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