|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 |
ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER
 ONCE upon a time there was a lad who was a fisherman, and every morning he shouldered his
net, and went down to the river to catch fish to sell in the town.
One morning as he walked beside the edge of the water, he came upon a great tall
stork caught in a trap that had been set for the water-rats.
It was a tender heart that the young fisherman had under his jacket, so when he
saw Father Longlegs in such a pickle he waded out into the water, among the reeds
and arrowheads to where the other was, and loosened the noose from about his leg.
The storks bring good-luck to folks some people say, and that was what happened to
the young fisherman.
"One good turn deserves another," says Father Longlegs; "cross your heart three
times, cast your net into the water yonder, and see what you catch." So the lad
did as he was told, and when he drew his net to the shore, there was just one
fish in it.
Yes; just one fish, but that was worth the catching, I can tell you, for the
scales were all of pure silver and gold, so that it glistened like the moon on
smooth ice, and it was most wonderful to see.
"There," says the stork; "and now if you have your wits about you, it is your
fortune that you have caught out of the water. Take the fish up to the king's
castle and show it to nobody but the king. When he sees it
 he will want
to have it for his own and will be for buying it, but there is only one price
you must ask for it, and that is to have the princess for your wife." That
was what the stork said, and then he spread his wings and flew away over the
So the lad wrapped the fish up in a clean white napkin and laid it in a
wicker basket, and then off he marched to the king's castle to try his
luck there, as the stork had said.
Rap! tap! tap! He knocked at the door.
Well, and what did he want?
Oh, he had brought a fish that he had caught over at the river yonder, but he
would show it to nobody but the king himself.
No, it did no good for them to ask and to question and to talk; what he had said
he had said. So at last they had to take him up-stairs, and there was the king
sitting upon a golden throne with a golden crown upon his head and a golden
scepter in his hand.
"Well, and why do you wish to see me?" That was what the king said.
It was no word that the lad spoke with his tongue, but he just unfolded the
napkin, and showed the king what he had brought in the wicker basket.
When the king saw the gold-and-silver fish, he thought he had never seen
anything so wonderful in all of his life before. Then it was just as the
stork had said. He must and would have the fish, no matter what it cost;
and what would the lad take for it?
Why, the body over at the river yonder, who had put the lad up to catching
the fish, had told him that there was only one price to be asked for it.
Now, if the king would let him have the princess for his wife, he might
have the fish and welcome; for that was the price, and the long and the
short of it.
Well, the king hemmed and hawed, but he did not speak the little word "no;"
and after a while he said he would send for the princess, and see what she
had to say about it. So the princess came, and she was a beauty I can tell
you, for the very sight of her was enough to make one's heart melt inside of
one, like a lump of butter in the oven. And as for the wits of her, why, she
was just as smart as she was pretty (which is saying much and a little over),
and that is why the king had sent for her, for he wanted to get the gold-and-silver
fish without paying the price for it.
"Yes," says the princess when the king had told her all. "I am ready enough to
marry the lad, only he must promise to do one thing first."
Dear, dear, how the lad's heart jumped inside of him at that. He was
 willing enough to promise whatever was asked, for he would do anything to marry
the princess, now that he had seen how pretty she was.
"Very well, then," said the princess, "just bring me the key of wish-house and I
will marry you."
"There," said the king, "that is a bargain; go and bring the key of wish-house and
you shall marry the princess; and you may just leave the fish here until you come
back again. And don't show your face about here without the key, if you wish to
keep your head upon your shoulders."
So off went the lad from the king's castle, with nothing at all in his pocket and
ill-luck astride his back. Down he went to the river as straight as he could walk,
and there stood Father Stork gazing down into the water and looking as wise as our
minister on Sunday. See now, thus and so and thus and so had happened, and the
stork had gotten him into a pretty scrape over at the castle by putting him up
to asking such a price for his herring; that was what the lad said.
"Prut!" says the stork, "break no bones over that furrow; ill-luck always comes
before good-luck, and rain before the little flowers; what is worth having is
worth working for. Just get upon my back and I will carry you to where the
queen of the birds lives; if anybody can put you in the way of finding the key
of wish-house she will be the one." So the stork bent his red legs and up the
lad got upon his back. Then Father Longlegs spread his wings and away he flew,
and on and on, over field and fallow, over valley and mountain, over forest and
After they had gone so far that the lad thought the end of the world could not
be a great way off, they came to a grand house, all built of red brick, that
stood on a high hill, and that was where the queen of the birds lived. The
stork flew straight to the house, and there was the queen of the birds walking
in the garden.
The stork told everything from first to last, and that now what they wanted to
know was, whether the queen of the birds could tell them where the key of
wish-house was to be found.
No, the queen did not know that herself; but she would call all of the birds
of the heavens and of the earth, and perhaps there would be some one among
them that could tell.
A little silver whistle hung about her neck; she put it to her lips and blew
upon it so shrilly that it made a body's ear ring to listen to it, and the
birds of the heavens and of the earth came flying from far and near until
the air was as full of them as a sunbeam is full of motes on sweeping-day.
 The queen of the birds asked them one and all, from tom-tit to the wild swan,
if they could tell where the key of wish-house was to be found; but not a single
one of them knew.
After all the rest had spoken there came flying an old eagle, so old that he was
as grey as the ashes upon the hearth, and he was six times as big as any of the
rest. He had come from the other end of nowhere, and that is a long way off, as
even simple Jack can tell you; that was what had kept him such a time in coming.
And was it the key of wish-house that they were talking about? Oh, yes; the old
eagle knew where the key of wish-house was as well as he knew his bread-and-butter,
for the old Grey Master that lives on the iron mountain had it hanging back of the
kitchen door, and the eagle had seen it there more than once.
"Very well," says the queen of the birds; "then here is a lad who has come out into
the world hunting for that key, a good-hearted fellow who helped Father Stork out of
a tight place over at the river yonder, where he had been caught in a trap set for
the water-rats. Now can you not help him to find what he wants?"
Well, the old eagle did not say no, for one good turn deserves another; so he took
the lad on his back at the root of his wings and away he flew.
One would have thought that the red-legged stork had flown far, but it was nothing
at all to the journey that the eagle took. On and on he flew for such a long way
that I, for one, could never find words to tell you how far away it was.
All the same, every journey must have an ending. And at last they came to a great
iron mountain the sides of which were as smooth as the face of a looking-glass; so
it was a good thing for the lad that he had a great grey eagle to carry him up to
the top, and that is the truth.
There on the top of the mountain lay a green meadow, so wide that the eye could
not see to the other end of it. And in the middle of the meadow stood a tall
castle; that was where the Grey Master lived who kept the key of wish-house back
of the kitchen door.
"This is all the farther I can carry you just now," says the eagle; "but here
is a feather, when you are ready to come away just throw it up into the air, and
I will not be long in coming."
The lad thanked the eagle for the help he had had, and then he put the feather in
the lining of his hat.
 After that the eagle went one way and the lad went the other, and that was towards
the castle where the Grey Master lived.
Off he stepped right foot foremost, and by and by he came to a little stream of
water that ran along through the meadow. But just in the middle of the brook lay
a great stone, that choked the stream so that it could hardly crawl around it.
"Here is a body in trouble as well as myself," said the lad, and he stooped and
rolled away the great round stone so that the brook might flow smoothly and freely.
"One good turn deserves another," said the brook. "Look in the place where the
great round stone lay and you will find a little red pebble; so long as you keep
that pebble in your mouth you will be as strong as ten common men."
Well, the lad hunted until he found the pebble, and then he thanked the brook and
jogged along the way he was going.
By and by he came to an apple-tree, and it was so loaded down with apples that the
branches were bent to the very ground.
"Here is another body weighed down by the cares of the world," said the lad. So he
shook some of the apples off and cut props to put under the branches, that they might
not be broken by the load.
"One good turn deserves another," said the apple-tree. "Look under my roots and you
will find a golden apple; while you keep that in your bosom neither fire nor water
can harm you, for it is an apple from the tree of life."
Well, the lad found the apple under the roots of the tree, and then he said "thank
you," and went on his way.
By and by he came to a place where he heard a great hubbub over the hedge; he
looked and there he saw that it was a black cock and a red cock fighting for
dear life, and the red cock was having the worst of it, for it was nearly dead
"Here is another who is having the worst of the fight," said the lad, and he
jumped over the hedge, and drove away the black cock with the staff he held
in his hand.
"One good turn deserves another," said the red cock. "I know what you have
come hither to find, and I will give you a bit of advice that will be worth
the having. When the Grey Master asks you what you want, tell him it is to
watch his black cattle for one night. If you do that he must give you whatsoever
you ask for. And listen; this is what
 you must do to watch the cattle. When
you open the stable door there will come out three-and-twenty black cows, and after
them a black bull breathing fire and smoke. Him you must catch by the horns and must
hold him fast until the cock crows in the morning. But you must have the strength of
ten men to do that."
Well, the lad thanked the cock for the advice he had given, and then he went on
his way and up to the castle where the Grey Master lived.
He knocked at the door, and it was the Grey Maser himself who came and opened it.
He was a head and shoulders taller than other men, was the Grey Master, and he had
but one eye, which gleamed and glistened like the dog-star in January. Beside him
flew two black ravens with eyes as red as coals of fire.
"And what is it that you want?" said the Grey Master.
"Oh!" said the lad, "I have come from over in the brown world yonder, and I want to
watch your black cattle for one night, that is all I am after."
When the Grey Master heard what the lad said, he frowned until his one eye shone
like lightning. "Very well," said he, "you shall have a chance and a try at what
you want, but if you fail your head shall be cut off and hung up over the gate
"That is not so pleasant to think of," said the lad; "all the same, I will have
a try and see what I can do." So in he came, and he and the Grey Master sat down
to supper together.
By and by, when the lad had eaten all that he wanted the Grey Master told him it
was time to go about the business he had come for. So off went the lad to the
stable where the four-and- twenty black cattle stood all in a row. He opened
the door, and out they ran helter-skelter and as fast as they could push, and
—whisk! pop!—soon as they came out of the door each cow changed into
a black crow and flew around and around the lad's head as though it would beat
his eyes out. Last of all came the black bull, and the lad was ready and waiting
He clapped the red pebble into his mouth; and then he was as strong as ten common
men. He caught the bull by the horns, and it might puff out fire and smoke, as it
chose, for it could do him no harm because of the apple of life which he carried in
How the bull did pitch and toss, and bellow and roar, to be sure, but it was all
for no use, the lad held on like hunger, until by and by the bull stopped struggling
and stood as quiet as a lamb. But the lad held fast to
 the bull's horns, and
all the time the black crows few about his head, but never once so much as touched
At last a cock crew, and then they all changed again into cows, and the lad
drove them back into the stable once more, and there they were.
By and by came the Grey Master. "Well," said he, "and did you watch the black cattle?"
Oh, yes, the lad had watched them, and it was no such hard task to do; there
they were in the stable yonder, safe and sound.
Then you should have seen what a sour face the Master pulled over the business!
All the same, he had to pay the lad; so what did he want for his wages?
"Oh!" said the lad, "it is little that I want. If you will let me have the key
that hangs back of the kitchen door I will be satisfied." So the Grey Master had
to go and get it for him, though he would rather have given him one of his eye-teeth.
Off marched the lad with what he had come for, and that is more than most of us
get. But the Grey Master was not for letting him off so easy as all that, I can
tell you, for the more he thought over the business the less he liked to give up
the key of wish-house.
So after a while he took down the Sword of Sharpness which hung against the wall,
slipped his feet into the Shoes of Speed that stood in the corner, took a peep into
the Book of Knowledge which lay upon the shelf, to see which way the lad had gone,
and then set off after him hot-foot, to get back what he had given away.
Just as the lad got to where the apple-tree stood he looked over his shoulder, and
there he saw the Grey Master coming over the hills.
"And where shall I go now," says he.
"One good turn deserves another," said the apple-tree; "just come under my branches."
The lad did as he was told, and the apple-tree drooped its branches about him,
until one could see neither hide nor hair of him.
By and by up came the Grey Master puffing and blowing. "Apple-tree," says he,
"did you see the fisher-lad come by this way?"
No, the apple-tree had seen nobody go past that place. So back went the Master
home again to have another look into his Book of Knowledge. There he saw as clear
as day what sort of trick had been played upon him. Off he started again after the
lad at such a rate that the ground smoked under his feet.
 But the lad had lost no time either, so that when he looked over his shoulder
and saw the Grey Master coming across the hills behind him, he had gone as far
as the brook.
"On good turn deserves another," said the brook, and it made itself small and
smaller, so that the lad stepped over without wetting so much as the sole of his
foot. Then it spread itself out again three times as broad as before. Presently
up came the Master, fuming like a pot on the fire.
"Brook," says he, "did you see the fisher-lad go by this way?"
"Yes," said the brook; "there he is just on the other side." And there he was
The Grey Master never stopped to take off his shoes and stockings, but into the
water he splashed as fast as he could go. Just as he reached the middle of the
stream the brook began to swell, and grew large and larger until it carried away
the Grey Master like a cork in the gutter, and there was an end of him.
After that the lad went on without hurrying any more than he chose, until he came
to the side of the mountain. He took the eagle's feather from out his cap and
threw it up in the air, and there was the eagle before he had time to grow tired
He sat him upon the eagle's back, and away they flew, and on and on without
stopping until they came to the house where the queen of the birds lived.
There was Father Longlegs (the stork) waiting for them. He took his turn of
carrying the lad, and when they stopped it was just over beyond the king's castle.
But the lad had been out into the world, and had learned a thing or two.
"See now," says he, "it was hasty cooking that burned the broth;" and so he
would not go up to the castle with his key of wish-house without first trying
what door he could unlock with it himself. He took it out of his pocket and
struck it a rap or two upon the ground.
"I should like," says he, "to have golden clothes upon my back, and to have a
golden horse and a golden greyhound that shall chase a golden hare." That was
what he said, and he did not have to say it twice; for before he could wink there
they were standing beside him just as he wanted. He leaped upon his horse and
away he rode after the greyhound and the golden hare.
How the people in the castle did stare when they saw him riding past! The
princess herself ran to the window to see the fine sight, and as for the
 king, he sent six of his knights posting after the fisher-lad, for he thought
that it was some great lord who had come into those parts.
By and by the lad came to a thicket, and there he jumped off of his horse and
rapped upon the ground with his key.
"I wish to be as I was before," says he, and then he was the poor fisher-lad and
nothing else. As for the golden clothes, the golden horse, the golden greyhound,
and the golden hare, they went back to Nomans-land whither they had come; and when
the king's people came riding up there was nobody but a lad in rags and tatters
whistling into a key.
They hunted up and they hunted down, but they could find neither sign nor trace
of the golden rider and the golden horse. So after a while they had to ride back
to the castle without them.
"You should have brought the lad who blew upon the key," said the princess.
The next day the lad rapped upon the ground with his key again.
"I should like to have," says he, "a golden coach drawn by six milk-white horses,
with coachman and footman and out-riders dressed in clothes of gold and silver."
That was what he said: and there they were just as he wanted. Into the coach he
got, and off he rode down by the king's castle.
Dear, dear, how the folks did stare, to be sure! This time the king sent twelve
knights after the golden coach, for he thought it must be a king or a prince for
certain who rode by in such style.
Pretty soon the lad came to a woods, and there he jumped out of the coach and
rapped upon the ground with his key.
"I want to be just as I was before," says he; and, sure enough, he was.
Up clattered the twelve knights on their horses, and there sat the lad in rags
and tatters whistling upon his key.
The twelve knights hunted high and hunted low, and not another soul could they
find, and so they had to ride back to the castle again.
"See now," said the princess, "did I not say that you should have brought the
lad who blew upon the key?"
The next day the lad went out and rapped upon the ground for the third time.
"I should like," said he, "to have a splendid castle all built of silver and
gold, such as nobody ever saw before."
That was what he said, and before the words had left his tongue just such a
great castle grew up out of nothing like a soap-bubble.
 The king chanced to look out of the window just then, and there was the great
splendid gold-and-silver castle. He took off his spectacles and rubbed them
and rubbed them, but there was the castle just the same as ever.
He bade them saddle the horses, and he and the princess, and all of the court
besides, rode away to find out who it was that had built such a fine castle all
in one night.
But the lad saw them coming, and rapped upon the ground with his key. "I should
like," said he, "for things to be just as they were before;" and puff! away went
the castle like the light of a candle when one blows it out.
Up came the king and the princess and all the court, and not a speck of the grand
castle could they find, but only a lad in rags and tatters who sat upon a great
round stone and whistled upon a key.
But the princess was a lass who could see through a millstone with a hole in it.
So soon as she set eyes upon him she knew the whole business from beginning to
end. Up she marched to him, before them all, and took him by the hand. "Now I
will marry you;" and there she was as wise as ever. For there be many kings and
princes in the world, but I have never yet heard of any one except the fisher-lad
who had the key of wish-house. Have you?
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