|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 |
HOW THE GOOD GIFTS WERE USED BY TWO
HIS is the way that this story begins:
Once upon a time there was a rich brother and a poor
brother, and the one lived across the street from the
The rich brother had all of the world's gear that was
good for him and more besides; as for the poor brother,
why, he had hardly enough to keep soul and body
together, yet he was contented with his lot, and
contentment did not sit back of the stove in the rich
brother's house; wherefore in this the rich brother had
less than the poor brother.
Now these things happened in the good old times when
the saints used to be going hither and thither in the
world upon this business and upon that. So one day, who
should come travelling to the town where the rich
brother and the poor brother lived, but Saint Nicholas
Just beside the town gate stood the great house of the
rich brother; thither went the saint and knocked at the
door, and it was the rich brother himself who came and
opened it to him.
Now, Saint Nicholas had had a long walk of it that day,
so that he was
 quite covered with dust, and looked no better than he
should. Therefore he seemed to be only a common beggar;
and when the rich brother heard him ask for a night's
lodging at his fine, great house, he gaped like a toad
in a rain-storm. What! Did the traveller think that he
kept a free lodging house for beggars? If he did he was
bringing his grist to the wrong mill; there was no
place for the likes of him in the house, and that was
the truth. But yonder was a poor man's house across the
street, if he went over there perhaps he could get a
night's lodging and a crust of bread. That was what the
rich brother said, and after he had said it he banged
to the door, and left Saint Nicholas standing on the
outside under the blessed sky.
So now there was nothing for good Saint Nicholas to do
but to go across the street to the poor brother's
house, as the other had told him to do. Rap! tap! tap!
he knocked at the door, and it was the poor brother who
came and opened it for him.
"Come in, come in!" says he, "come in and welcome!"
So in came Saint Nicholas, and sat himself down behind
the stove where it was good and warm, while the poor
man's wife spread before him all that they had in the
house—a loaf of brown bread and a crock of cold
water from the town fountain.
"And is that all that you have to eat?" said Saint
Yes; that was all that they had.
"Then, maybe, I can help you to better," said Saint
Nicholas. "So bring me hither a bowl and a crock."
You may guess that the poor man's wife was not long in
fetching what he wanted. When they were brought the
saint blessed the one and passed his hand over the
Then he said, "Bowl be filled!" and straightway the
bowl began to boil up with a good rich meat pottage
until it was full to the brim. Then the saint said,
"Bowl be stilled!" and it stopped making the broth, and
there stood as good a feast as man could wish for.
Then Saint Nicholas said, "Crock be filled!" and the
crock began to bubble up with the best of beer. Then he
said, "Crock be stilled!" and there stood as good drink
as man ever poured down his throat.
Down they all sat, the saint and the poor man and the
poor man's wife, and ate and drank till they could eat
and drink no more, and whenever the bowl and the crock
grew empty, the one and the other became filled at the
The next morning the saint trudged off the way he was
going, but he
 left behind him the bowl and the crock, so that there
was no danger of hunger and thirst coming to that
Well, the world jogged along for a while, maybe a month
or two, and life was as easy for the poor man and his
wife as an old shoe. One day the rich brother said to
his wife. "See now, Luck seems to be stroking our
brother over yonder the right way; I'll just go and see
what it all means."
So over the street he went, and found the poor man at
home. Down he sat back of the stove and began to
chatter and talk and talk and chatter, and the upshot
of the matter was that, bit by bit, he dragged out the
whole story from the poor man. Then nothing would do
but he must see the bowl and the crock at work. So the
bowl and the crock were brought and set to work and --
Hui!—how the rich brother opened his eyes when he
saw them making good broth and beer of themselves.
And now he must and would have that bowl and crock. At
first the poor brother said "No," but the other
bargained and bargained until, at last, the poor man
consented to let him have the two for a hundred
dollars. So the rich brother paid down his hundred
dollars, and off he marched with what he wanted.
When the next day had come, the rich brother said to
his wife, "Never you mind about the dinner to-day. Go
you into the harvest-field, and I will see to the
dinner." So off went the wife with the harvesters, and
the husband stayed at home and smoked his pipe all the
morning, for he knew that dinner would be ready at the
bidding. So when noontide had come he took out the bowl
and the crock, and, placing them on the table, said,
"Bowl be filled! crock be filled!" and straightway they
began making broth and beer as fast as they could.
In a little while the bowl and the crock were filled,
and then they could hold no more, so that the broth and
beer ran down all over the table and the floor. Then
the rich brother was in a pretty pickle, for he did not
know how to bid the bowl and the crock to stop from
making what they were making. Out he ran and across the
street to the poor man's house, and meanwhile the broth
and beer filled the whole room until it could hold no
more, and then ran out into the gutters so that all the
pigs and dogs in the town had a feast that day.
"Oh, dear brother!" cried the rich man to the poor man,
"do tell me what to do or the whole town will soon be
smothered in broth and beer."
But, no; the poor brother was not to be stirred in such
haste; they would have to strike a bit of a bargain
first. So the upshot of the matter
 was that the rich brother had to pay the poor brother
another hundred dollars to take the crock and the bowl
See, now, what comes of being covetous!
As for the poor man, he was well off in the world, for
he had all that he could eat and drink, and a
stockingful of money back of the stove besides.
Well, time went along as time does, and now it was
Saint Christopher who was thinking about taking a
little journey below. "See, brother," says Saint
Nicholas to him, "if you chance to be jogging by yonder
town, stop at the poor man's house, for there you will
have a warm welcome and plenty to eat."
But when Saint Christopher came to the town, the rich
man's house seemed so much larger and finer than the
poor man's house, that he thought that he would ask for
But it fared the same with him that it had with Saint
Nicholas. Prut! Did he think that the rich man kept
free lodgings for beggars? And—bang!—the door was
slammed in his face, and off packed the saint with a
flea in his ear.
Over he went to the poor man's house, and there was a
warm welcome for him, and good broth and beer from the
bowl and the crock that Saint Nicholas had blessed.
After he had supped he went to bed, where he slept as
snug and warm as a mouse in the nest.
Then the good wife said to the husband, "See, now, the
poor fellow's shirt is none too good for him to be
wearing. I'll just make him another while he is
sleeping, so that he'll have a decent bit of linen to
wear in the morning."
So she brought her best roll of linen out of the
closet, and set to work stitching and sewing, and never
stopped till she had made the new shirt to the last
button. The next morning, when the saint awoke, there
lay the nice, new, clean shirt, and he put it on and
gave thanks for it.
Before he left the house the poor man took him aside,
and emptied the stockingful of silver money on the
table, and bade the saint take what he wanted, "for,"
says he, "a penny or two is never amiss in the great
After that it was time for the traveller to be jogging;
but before he went he said, "See, now, because you have
been so kind and so good to a poor wayfarer, I will
give you a blessing; whatever you begin doing this
morning, you shall continue doing till sunset." So
saying, he took up his staff and went his way.
 After Saint Christopher had gone the poor man and his
wife began talking together as to what would be best
for them to be doing all of the day, and one said one
thing and the other said the other, but every plug was
too small for the hole, as we say in our town, for
nothing seemed to fit the case.
"Come, come," said the good woman, "here we are losing
time that can never be handled again. While we are
talking the matter over I will be folding the linen
that is left from making the shirt."
"And I," said the good man, "will be putting the money
away that the holy man left behind him."
So the wife began folding the linen into a bundle
again, and the man began putting away the money that he
had offered in charity. Thus they began doing, and thus
they kept on doing; so that by the time that the
evening had come the whole house was full of fine
linen, and every tub and bucket and mug and jug about
the place was brimming with silver money. As for the
good couple, their fortune was made, and that is the
heart of the whole matter in four words.
That night who should come over from across the street
but the rich brother, with his pipe in his mouth and
his hands in his pockets. But when he saw how very rich
the poor man had become all of a sudden, and what a
store of fine linen and silver money he had, he was so
wonder-struck that he did not know whither to look and
what to think.
Dear heart's sake alive! Where did all these fine
things come from? That was what he should like to know.
Oh! there was nothing to hide in the matter, and the
poor man told all about what had happened.
As for the rich brother, when he found how he had shut
his door in the face of good-fortune, he rapped his
head with his knuckles because he was so angry at his
own foolishness. However, crying never mended a torn
jacket, so he made the poor brother promise that if
either of the saints came that way again, they should
be sent over to his house for a night's lodging, for it
was only fair and just that he should have a share of
the same cake his brother had eaten.
So the poor brother promised to do what the other
wanted, and after that the rich brother went back home
Well, a year and a day passed, and then, sure enough,
who should come along that way but both the saints
together, arm in arm. Rap! tap! tap! they knocked at
the poor man's door, for they thought that where they
 had good lodging before they could get it again. And so
they could and welcome, only the poor brother told them
that his rich brother across the street had asked that
they should come and lodge at the fine house when they
came that way again.
The saints were willing enough to go to the rich
brother's house, though they would rather have stayed
with the other. So over they went, and when the rich
brother saw them coming he ran out to meet them, and
shook each of them by the hand, and bade them to come
in and sit down back of the stove where it was warm.
But you should have seen the feast that was set for the
two saints at the rich brother's house! I can only say
that I never saw the like, and I only wish that I had
been there with my legs under the table. After supper
they were shown to a grand room, where each saint had a
bed all to
 his very own self, and before they were fairly asleep
the rich man's wife came and took away their old
shirts, and laid a shirt of fine cambric linen in the
place of each. When the next morning came and the
saints were about to take their leave, the rich brother
brought out a great bag of golden money, and bade them
to stuff what they would of it into their pockets.
Well, all this was as it should be, and before the two
went on their way they said that they would give the
same blessing to him and his wife that they had given
to the other couple—that whatsoever they should
begin doing that morning, that they should continue
doing until sunset.
After that they put on their hats and took up their
staffs, and off they plodded.
Now the rich brother was a very envious man, and was
not contented to do only as well as his brother had
done, no indeed! He would do something that would make
him even richer than counting out money for himself all
day. So down he sat back of the stove and began turning
the matter over in his mind, and rubbing up his wits to
make them the brighter.
In the meantime the wife said to herself, "See, now, I
shall be folding fine cambric linen all day, and the
pigs will have to go with nothing to eat. I have no
time to waste in feeding them, but I'll just run out
and fill their troughs with water at any rate."
So out she went with a bucketful of water which she
began pouring into the troughs for the pigs. That was
the first thing she did, and after that there was no
leaving off, but pour water she must until sunset.
All this while the man sat back of the stove, warming
his wits and saying to himself, "Shall I do this? shall
I do that?" and answering "No" to himself every time.
At last he began wondering what his wife was doing, so
out he went to find her. Find her he did, for there she
was pouring out water to the pigs. Then if anybody was
angry it was the rich man. "What!" cried he, "and is
this the way that you waste the gifts of the blessed
So saying, he looked around, and there lay a bit of a
switch on the ground near by. He picked up the bit of a
switch and struck the woman across the shoulders with
it, and that was the first thing that he began doing.
After that he had to keep on doing the same.
So the woman poured water and poured water, and the man
stood by and beat her with the little switch until
there was nothing left of it, and that was what they
did all day.
And what is more, they made such a hubbub that the
 to see what was going forward. They looked and laughed
and went away again, and others came, and there stood
the two—the woman pouring water and the man beating
her with the bit of a switch.
When the evening came, and they left off their work,
they were so weary that they could hardly stand; and
nothing was to show for it but a broken switch and a
wet sty, for even the blessed saints cannot give wisdom
to those who will have none of it, and that is the
And such is the end of this story, with only this to
tell: Tommy Pfouce tells me that there are folks, even
in these wise times, who, if they did all day what they
began in the morning, would find themselves at sunset
doing no better work than pouring pure water to pigs.
That is the small kernel to this great nut.
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