|The Wonder Clock|
|by Howard Pyle|
|\"Four and twenty marvellous tales, one for each hour of the day,\" retold in a novel and entertaining manner by a master of the form. While drawing on German, English, and Scandinavian folk literature for many of his characters and plots, Pyle reworks the material in an imaginative way, crafting the tales in his own inimitable style. Equally engaging are the numerous woodcuts that accompany the stories and enliven the narrative. Ages 8-12 |
THE CLEVER STUDENT AND THE MASTER OF BLACK ARTS
 THE wood-chopper’s son was not content to follow in the steps of his father,
and to do nothing better than make fagots all the days of his life. So off
he went to the great school at the capital, and there he studied and studied
until he became the cleverest student in all the world. But of this his father
thought nothing, for he had no care to know more than he could see in front of
"I can speak sixteen languages," said the Clever Student, "I am a master-hand
at geometry and astronomy, and I know quite as much of black art as the Great
"But can you chop wood?" said the wood-chopper, "and can you bind the fagots?"
No; the Clever Student knew nothing of that trade, but there were better eggs
in Luck’s nest than wood-chopping. He knew enough of the black art to be able
to change himself into a fine, dapple-gray nag whenever he chose, and by no
more than the turning of a word or two. That he would do, and the old
wood-chopper should take him to the town and sell him for fifty dollars.
"But there is one thing you must remember," said the Clever Student, "you
must take the bridle from off my head when you sell me, for so long
it is on me I must, willy-nilly, remain a horse. The Great Master of Black
Arts would like nothing better than to catch me in such a trap as that, for
his books tell him that he is to have bad luck through me, and he has been
after me for this many a day."
The wood-chopper promised to remember all that the Clever Student told him,
and then the other went around back of the house and changed himself into a
fine, dapple-gray horse. The wood-chopper slipped a bridle over the nag’s
nose and a leg over his back, and then off he rode towards the town.
On and on they jogged till they came to where two roads crossed, and there
stood one who looked no better than he should. This was the Great Master
of Black Arts himself; but of that the wood-chopper knew nothing at all.
"How do you find yourself, friend?" said the Master of Black Arts to the
wood-chopper; "that is a fine horse that you have there, to be sure. Is
he for sale now?"
"Yes," said the wood-chopper, "the nag is for sale, and fifty dollars will
buy him—only the bridle does not go along with the horse."
Good! The wood-chopper might keep the bridle and welcome; but palm to palm
for a true sale, and here was the money.
So they shook hands, and then the Master of Black Arts counted out the
money, and the wood-chopper pocketed it, and he had never rubbed his
fingers over so much in all of his life before.
Then, as quick as a wink, the Master of Black Arts drew a bridle out of
his pocket. It was thin as a wire and as light as silk, yet I tell you
the truth when I say that if he had ever slipped it over the nose of the
Clever Student it would have been an ill thing for him.
But the Student had his eyes open, and his wits about him. No sooner had
his father taken the bridle off of him than—whisk! pop!—he
into a pigeon and away he flew till the wind whistled behind him.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that, that he did.
Whisk! pop!—and he became a hawk, and way he flew after the pigeon, and
all that the wood-chopper could do was to stand and look after them—But
he had the fifty dollars in his pocket, and that was something and more or less.
On and on flew the two, and if the pigeon flew fast, why, the hawk flew faster.
By and by they came to the shore of a great sea. And that was a good
 thing for the Clever Student, for, just as the hawk was about to grip him, he
dropped to the water and became a little fish, and away he swam.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that. Down to the water
he dropped and became a pike, and after the little fish he swam till the water
boiled behind him.
On and on they swam, and if the little fish swam fast, why, the great pike
swam faster. On and on they swam till they came to a place where a beautiful
princess, as white and as red as milk and rose leaves, was walking along
beside the shore gathering pretty shells into a little basket. And that
was good thing for the Clever Student, for just as the Master of Black
Arts was about to catch him he changed himself into a ruby ring and jumped
out of the sea and into the basket of the princess, and there he was safe
Presently the princess looked down into the basket, and there lay the ring.
"What a pretty ring!" said she. "And how came it here?"
She slipped it upon her finger, and it fitted as though it had been made for
nobody in the world but her. As for the Clever Student, he liked to be there,
I can tell you, for he thought that he had never seen such a pretty lass.
Well, by and by the princess had gathered all the shells that she wanted, and
then she went back home again.
When she had come there and to her own little room, all of a sudden a tall,
good-looking young fellow stood before her. That was the Clever Student,
who had changed himself back into his own true shape again. At first the
princess was ever so frightened, but the Student talked to her so pleasantly
that she began after a while to think that she had never seen such a nice,
clever young fellow. So they passed the time very pleasantly together until
evening drew near, and then the Student had to go.
But the Master of Black Arts was not at the end of his tricks yet.
And the Clever Student knew that as well as he knew anything.
"See, now," said he to the princess, "the Master will be coming after me
before long. When he comes he will ask for the ruby ring, and he must
have it, but I have a trick in my head to meet that."
He cut off a lock of his hair and then pricked his arm till it bled.
With the blood he wet the hair, and by his arts he made of it a ruby
ring so like what he himself had been that even the princess herself
could not have told the one from the other. After that he changed
himself into a necklace of carbuncles, and the princess was just as
fond of it as she had been of the ring.
 Sure enough, it happened just as the Clever Student had foretold.
Before a great while the Master of Black Arts came along and on his
arm he carried a basket. Rap! tap! tap! he knocked at the king’s
house. Down went one and asked him what he wanted.
Oh! he only wanted to see the king; he had something for him here in
the basket. So he was shown up to where the king was, and then he
opened the basket and in it was a little black hen.
"Only a little black hen!" you say? Wait; you should hear all before
The Master of Black Arts stood the little black hen on the table.
"Hickety-pickety!" said he, and before the king knew what to think
of it the little black hen had laid an egg all of pure silver. And
that hen was worth the having.
As for the king, bless me! but he was glad to have such a hen as that.
If the master wanted anything that the king could give him, he had only
to ask for it and it was as good as his.
"So; good!" says the Black Master, "then there is a little ruby ring
that the princess wears and that I have taken a fancy to; if I may have
that it will be all that I ask for."
Oh! if that was all that he wanted he would have it and welcome, that
was what the king said. So the pretty princess was sent for, and the
king asked her if she would give the Master of Black Arts the ruby ring
that she wore.
"Oh, yes!"says the princess, "he shall have that and welcome, for I have
grown tired of it long ago." So she gave it to him, and off he went on
the same path that he had come.
As soon as he had reached home, he put the ring into a mortar and ground
it up until it was as fine as flour in the mill.
"There!: said he to himself, "that is an end of the Clever Student at
After that he went back to his books again and began to read them, and
then he soon found how he had been tricked by the Clever Student.
The princess and the Clever Student were sitting together. "See, now,"
said the Student, "the Master of Black Arts will be coming this way again
in a little while. He will be wanting the necklace of carbuncles, and you
will have to let him have it. But I have a trick for his trick yet, so
that perhaps we will get the better of him in the end."
So the Clever Student did as he had done before; he pricked his arm
 till it bled, and with the blood he wet a lock of his hair. Then by
his arts he changed the lock of hair into just such a necklace of
carbuncles as he himself had been. After that he changed himself
into a pearl ear-drop, and the princess hung him in her ear, and
there he dangled.
Sure enough; by and by came along the Master of Black Arts with another
basket. And you may believe that they did not let him cool his toes by
long standing outside the door. He opened his basket, and in it was a
"Only a white drake!" you say? Yes, yes; but just wait for a little!
The Master of Black Arts stood the drake on the table and said,
"Quack! quack!" said the drake, and every time it said "quack" a gold
piece dropped from its mouth.
Hui! if the king was pleased with the little black hen, you can guess
how glad he was to have such a drake as that! All that the Master of
Black Arts had to do was to ask for what he wanted, and he might have
it if the king had it to give.
"Good!" says the Master of Black Arts; "then the princess has a
necklace of carbuncles that I have taken a fancy to; if I may have
that I will be satisfied."
So the princess was sent for without waiting longer, and would she
let the Master have the necklace of carbuncles that she wore around her neck?
"Yes, indeed!" says the princess, "that I will! I have grown sick and
tired of it long ago." So she took it off of her neck and gave it to
the Master of Black Arts, and off he went with it.
When he came home he put the necklace into the mortar, just as he had
done the ring, and ground it up and ground it up until it was as fine
as the dust on the shelf. There! He thought, that is an end of the
Clever Student at any rate.
Then he went back to his books, and it was not long before he found
that he had been tricked again.
"I can make no more changes," said the Student," for I am nearly at
the end of my arts. The Black Master will be wanting your ear-drop
when he comes, but, instead of giving it to him, throw it against the
wall as hard as you can. After that we shall have to trust to good
It was not long before the Master of Black Arts came with his basket on
 his arm, just as he had done twice before; he opened the basket, and there
was a grey goose.
"Only a grey goose! you say? Wait a moment, and you shall see that it was
not like any grey goose in our town!
The Master of Black Arts stood the grey goose on the table;
"Flickety-whickety!" said he.
"Cackle! cackle!" said the grey goose, and every time it said "cackle" a
bright diamond dropped on the table.
When the king saw that he rubbed his hands and rubbed his hands, and could
not say enough of thanks to the Master of Black Arts. And what would the
Master have now? He had only to ask and it was his.
"Oh!" says the Master of Black Arts, "the princess has a pearl ear-drop
that I have taken a liking to; if I may have that I will be quite satisfied."
So the princess was sent for, and this time she was not so willing to let
the Master have what he wanted. She wept and begged, and begged and wept;
but it was all to no purpose; the Master of Black Arts wanted the pearl
ear-drop, and the Master of Black Arts must have it—that was what the
king said. So at last the princess took the pearl ear-drop out of her
ear, but instead of giving it to the Master, she threw it against the
wall as hard as she was able, just as the Clever Student had told her to do.
And then what do you think happened? Why, the Student turned himself
into a ripe melon, so that when it struck the wall it burst open and
the seeds that were inside were scattered all over the floor.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that. He changed
himself into a great red cock, and began pecking away at the seeds,
gobbling them up as fast as he could. By and by he looked around,
and not another seed could he see, whereupon he hopped up on a chair
and shutting his eyes and flapping his wings, he crowed "cock-a-doodle-do!"
But listen! One melon-seed had rolled into a crack in the floor, and
the cock had not seen it. That was a bad think for him, for while his
eyes were shut and he was crowing "cock-a-doodle-do!" the Clever Student
changed himself from the melon-seed into a great fox. Up he jumped—snip!
snap!—and off flew the cock’s head, and there was an end of it and of the
Master of Black Arts.
After that the Student turned himself into his own true shape again.
Then he and the princess told the king all about the business, and when
the king heard how fond the princess was of the lad, he said that there
was only one thing to be done, and that was to call in the minister.
 So the Student was married to his dear princess, and that is what comes
After the wedding was all over, and the fiddlers had gone home, the
Clever Student set out for his father’s house in a fine coach drawn by
six beautiful horses. There was the old man, making fagots in the forest
back of the house, just as he had always done. At first he would not
believe that the great lord in the coach was his own son. "No, no,"
says he; "and is it becoming in a fine spark from the great town to
come here and make sport of a poor old wood-chopper. I know very well
that my son is nothing but a poor student." But at last he got the
whole matter through his head, and then he was so glad that he kissed
his son on both cheeks, and asked him whether he had not always said
that it was better for his boy to study books than to make fagots.
For this is true: everything happens for the best when Luck strokes
one the right way.
So the fagot-maker went back with his son to the fine house that the
lad lived in, now that he had married a princess.
There everything was made easy for him, and he always had a warm corner
to sit in back of the stove.
And that is the end of this story.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics