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The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson
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THE FAIRY COW

[210]

T
HERE was once an old woman whose home was a poor little cottage in a country village. She got a living by doing odd jobs for the farmers' wives round about. It was not much she could earn, yet, with a silver piece here and a few pennies there, and sometimes the gift of a bit of meat, or a little tea, she contrived to get along without serious discomfort, and she was as cheerful as if she had not a want in the world.

One summer evening as she was going home she came on a stout, black pot lying at the side of the road. "Now who could have left that pot here?" said she, looking about to see if any one was in sight to whom it might belong. "It would be just the very thing for me," she continued, "if I had something to put in it. But stop! maybe it has been thrown away and has a hole in the bottom. Ah, yes! that is the trouble, I'll be bound. Still, the hole would not prevent the pot doing fine to put some flowers in for the window, and I'm thinking I'll take it home any way."

[211] So she bent her stiff old back and lifted the lid to look inside. But what she saw so surprised her that she jumped back to the middle of the road, exclaiming, "Mercy me! the pot is full to the brim of gold pieces. Who would have thought it!"

For a while she could do nothing but walk round and round her treasure, admiring the yellow gold and wondering at her good fortune and saying over and over, "Well, I do be feeling rich and grand."

Presently, however, she picked up the pot and started again toward home. "No one will see what I'm taking along with me," said she; "for the sun is gone and it is growing dark, and I'll have all the night to myself to think what I'll do with this mass of golden money. I could buy a fine house with it and live like the queen herself and not do a stroke of work, but just sit comfortable by the fire all day with a cup of tea; or maybe I'll go to the minister and ask him to keep the money for me, and then I 'd get a little of it from him every week as I was wanting; or perhaps I'll bury it in a hole in the garden and only save out one or two pieces to put on the mantel between my china teapot and the candles for ornament, you know. Ah! I feel so grand I don't know myself rightly!"

By this time she had become rather tired with [212] carrying such a heavy weight and she stopped to rest. She set the pot down and then thought she would have another look at her wealth. But when she took the cover off she saw that instead of gold the pot was full of shining silver. She stared and rubbed her eyes and stared again.

"I would have sworn it was gold," she said; "but I reckon I must have been dreaming. Well, whatever it was I'm better off with silver than gold. It'll be far less trouble to look after, and not so likely to be stolen. Those gold pieces would have made a sight of bother to keep 'em safe. Yes, yes, I'm well quit of them, and with the pot full of silver I'm as rich as any one need be."

Then she set off homeward again cheerfully planning all the things she was going to do with her money. But by and by she grew tired once more and paused to rest for a minute or two; and of course she had to have another look into the pot. As soon as she took off the cover she cried out in amazement, for there was nothing inside but a lump of iron. "Well, well!" she cried, "that does beat all! and yet how nice it is to have such a fine heavy piece of iron. I can sell it easy, and the pennies it brings will come very handy. Ah, yes, it is far better to have this iron than a lot of gold or [213] silver that would have kept me from sleeping nights thinking bad men would be prowling around to rob me. Oh, I am doing very well indeed!"

On she went, now, pot in hand, chuckling to herself over her good fortune until her arm was tired of the burden, and for the third time she set the pot down that she might rest and have another glance at its contents. She took off the cover and peeped in and was astonished to find nought except a stone. "Deary me!" she said, "a stone is it this time! Yes, yes, and glad I am to have it. I've been wanting a stone like that to hold my door open with. It will be the very thing! Ah, did any one ever hear of such fine luck as mine!"

She was in haste to see how the stone would look in the corner by her door, and she hurried on until she came to her cottage gate. In order to unfasten the gate she put the pot down, and when she stooped to pick it up she heard something inside and took the cover off. Instantly out leaped an animal that grew in a moment into a big cow, and the pot disappeared. The cow shook its legs and nourished its tail and bellowed and laughed and ran off kicking its feet into the air.


[Illustration]

The old woman gazed after it in speechless bewilderment till it was fairly out of sight. "Well," [214] she said at last, "I surely am the luckiest body hereabouts. Fancy my seeing a fairy cow all to myself, and making so free with it too! I never in all my life felt so grand!"

Then she went into her cottage and sat down by the fire to think over her good luck.


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