THE BIRD-CAGE MAKER
IN a town of the ancient kingdom of Castile there
lived, in former ages, a youth called Bartolo, who
tried to eke out a living by making cages for birds,
and taking them round to sell at the neighboring
villages. But his trade was a poor one, and he judged
himself in luck if he sold one cage in the day, and as
may be supposed, he knew what sorrow and privation
One day as he was proceeding to a village he heard
sounds of revelry, the buzz of many people, and the
strains of a band of music. This merrymaking was a
procession of children dressed in white, carrying in
their midst a beautiful child crowned with roses, in a
chariot covered with white satin, and ornamented with
acacia and myrtle. This procession was in honor of
Maya, the personification of Spring, and took place to
announce the entry of Spring. In front of the little
chariot some children danced, and held in their hands
tin platters for contributions; and as may be
imagined, all, or nearly all, the spectators dropped
their coins into them.
Bartolo moved away in a desponding mood, saying to
himself as he walked on; "Is this the justice of the
world? There they are, flinging their money into these
 because these children come in
procession to announce to them that it is the month of
May, as though they could not know it by looking in an
almanac. They barter and grind me down to the lowest
price for my cages, even when I chance to sell one."
Full of bitter thoughts he walked on sadly, for the
voices of two importunate enemies were making
themselves heard within himthese were hunger and
thirst: the one clamored for food and the other for
drink. Bartolo had nothing in his wallet but his clasp
knife, and had had nought for his breakfast but hopes,
and these made him sharp and active.
He had reached a plantation when he perceived a well-
dressed individual coming toward him. Pressed by
hunger Bartolo, taking his cap off respectfully,
approached and said: "Excuse me, sir, but could you
kindly give me a trifle? I promise I will return it as
soon as I earn some money."
"Don't you think that it is a shameful thing for a man
like you, young and with a good, healthy appearance, to
be demanding charity of people? Does it not strike you
that you have a duty to earn your living by working at
"Yes, sir, certainly, but my trade does not fulfill
its own duty. Most people like to see the birds flying
about free rather than in cages, and, therefore, day
by day I find myself poorer than before."
At first the stranger doubted what he had heard, but
the bird-cage maker gave him so detailed an account of
his work and the small profits he derived, that he
became interested and sympathized with his ill
fortune. Bartolo was a man who always knew how to
excite great interest in himself.
"Come, come," the stranger said, smiling, "I will do
something for you. As I cannot find customers for your
cages, I will afford you a powerful means by which you
shall never more be in want."
He then blew a whistle, and Bartolo saw flying before
 a bird blue as the sky, which came and perched on
one of his cages.
"See here," added the stranger, "what will compensate
for all your past misery. From this day forward you
have only to formulate a wish and say slowly and
distinctly, 'Bluest of blue birds, do your duty!' and
your wish will be granted to you."
"By my faith!" cried the bird-cage maker, "but I will
try it at once. For the last twenty years I have
wished to kill hunger: 'Bluest of blue birds, do your
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth than he saw
suddenly spread before him on the grass a breakfast
fit got a prince, laid on a service of exquisite
silver and glass and the whitest of cloths. Bartolo,
astonished, flung himself on his knees before his
benefactor to thank him, but he raised him up saying:
"I am the good genius of the honest workingmen of
Castile. Sit down and eat without fear. Take advantage
of your lucky star," and then suddenly disappeared.
Bartolo reverently bent down and kissed the spot upon
which he had stood, unable to find adequate expression
of his gratitude. He then sat down and ate his
breakfast. After his meal, Bartolo judged that a man
who had feasted in such an elegant manner ought to
have other, better clothing than his well-worn working
suit; and, lifting his staff, he cried to the bird:
"Bluest of blue birds, do your duty!" In an instant
his old suit became transformed into one of richest
velvet, embroidered in gold and silver, and his rough
staff into a splendid horse fully caparisoned, and
having round its neck a collar of silver bells.
More astonished than ever, Bartolo suspended to the
saddle the cage with the blue bird, leaped on the
horse, and went his way, as proud of his dress as a
donkey of its ears.
Setting spurs to his horse, he soon reached the gates
of a splendid castle. Some feast was taking place
within. The guests were all seated under a shady
bower, deploring that
 they had been disappointed of
the minstrels who were to have played.
Bartolo, on learning this, advanced to the bower, and,
after elegantly saluting the lord and lady of the
castle, in a most refined voice said:
"If it be right for a simple knight to offer his
services to such a distinguished company of rank and
beauty, I think I could promise to provide what you
"Oh, do! at once, please! cried all the ladies, who
were longing to dance.
"Bluest of blue birds, do your duty!" said Bartolo.
Suddenly, in the distance, was heard the noise of many
feet, and a troop of musicians with their instruments
appeared, to the great delight of the company.
The lord of the castle thanked the stranger, and
desired him to open the ball with his eldest daughter,
a maiden fair and lovely, like a snowbird.
When the ball was at its height, the bird-cage maker
ordered an elegant banquet to be served, during which
the bluest of blue birds was commanded to sing some
songs, which were very much admired. Games of chance
followed, and Bartolo, taking advantage of his good
fortune, distributed among the ladies, pearls,
bracelets, and rings of precious stones. All those
present were surprised beyond measure, because the
lord of the castle was known to be extremely niggardly
The lord of the castle, who knew how all this had been
done through the agency of the bird, and being himself
of an inordinately avaricious nature, thought he might
do a fine stroke of business were he to buy the
creature. Hence, calling his unknown guest away to his
study, he proposed to him to purchase the bird for
what price he should quote.
"You would never give me my price," replied Bartolo.
"For it I would give my castle with its nine forests,"
said the lord of the castle.
"It is not enough!"
"Very well, I will add my olive plantations and
 "That is still insufficient!" cried Bartolo.
"I will add the orchards, gardens, and houses."
"I want something else!"
"What, still more? Why, man, you must want paradise
"Not so; I want what you can give me this very moment.
I want your daughter with whom I danced just now! Let
her be my bride."
"What, my daughter!" cried the old miser, in an
ecstasy of joy; "by my faith, we shall soon conclude
the bargain. Why did you not say so before?"
He went to seek the girl, and told her of the
engagement he had entered into. But his daughter, in
utter amazement, cried out:
"But what if he be a wicked elf, and all he does be
"You have an amulet of coral hanging from your neck;
it is an antidote against all witchery."
"And what if he be Satan himself?"
"I will give you a piece of blessed candle, and he
will have no power over you," replied the unrelenting
Taking her hand, he led her to the stranger, who was
already on his horse, and assisted her to mount behind
her future husband. Taking the cage with the bluest of
birds, he watched the retreating forms of the pair as
the horse carried them away swifter than the wind, and
when out of sight, he proceeded to join his guests.
The company were all gathered in knots discussing the
extraordinary powers of the bird and all the events
which had taken place.
"Peace! peace!" cried the lords of the castle, as he
entered; "I will perform more marvelous things than
ever he did. I have given him my daughter to wed in
exchange for the bird, and this blue bird will render
me more wealthy than the King of Aragon. Approach, and
see the wonders I will work with it."
He took the cage, and lifting it up to look at the
bird, was astonished to find that it was not blue at
all, but a
 large gray bird, which turned to stare at
him in an insolent manner, gave a fierce peck at the
door of the cage with its beak, flung it open, and
flew out of the window uttering a terrible screech.
The lord of the castle stood with open mouth, not
knowing what to do or say. His guests broke out in
peals of laughter at his discomfiture and the well-deserved
punishment for his unseemly avarice in
exchanging his beautiful daughter for a worthless
Meanwhile, Bartolo was galloping on with his bride to
the nearest town to be married, and when he arrived at
the first hostelry, he wished to dismount and engage
the most splendid suite of apartments for his intended
wife, but he found himself utterly penniless. He had
not calculated that in parting with the bird he had
parted with his luck, and therefore as soon as he
dismounted the horse disappeared and his elegant dress
became changed for the shabby one he had worn before
he met the kind individual who had wished to befriend
him. When the beautiful daughter of the lord of the
castle beheld the transformation which had taken place
she ran back to her father as fast as she could,
fright lending wings to her feet.
Bartolo had to return to his old life of making cages
and to his miserable existence.