Illustrating the advantage of being able to formulate a judicious reply to an embarrassing question, especially when material plenitude may ensue.
The countries washed by the great rivers Tigris and Euphrates were once ruled by a certain King who was passionately fond of fish.
He was seated one day with Sherem, his wife, in the royal gardens that stretch down to the banks of the Tigris, at the point where it is spanned by the wonderful bridge of boats; and looking up spied a boat gliding by, in which was seated a fisherman having a large fish.
A long time ago a little town made up of a collection of low huts stood in a tiny green valley at the foot of a cliff.
Of course the people had taken great care to build their houses out of reach of the highest tide which might be driven on shore by a west wind, but on the very edge of the town there had sprung up a tree so large that half its boughs hung over the huts and the other half over the deep sea right under the cliff, where sharks loved to come and splash in the clear water. The branches of the tree itself were laden with fruit, and every day at sunrise a big grey monkey might have been seen sitting in the topmost branches having his breakfast, and chattering to himself with delight.
All chapters here.
The last sound Peter heard before he was quite alone were the mermaids retiring one by one to their bedchambers under the sea. He was too far away to hear their doors shut; but every door in the coral caves where they live rings a tiny bell when it opens or closes (as in all the nicest houses on the mainland), and he heard the bells.
Steadily the waters rose till they were nibbling at his feet; and to pass the time until they made their final gulp, he watched the only thing on the lagoon. He thought it was a piece of floating paper, perhaps part of the kite, and wondered idly how long it would take to drift ashore.
Once upon a time there lived a King who had seven Queens, but no children. This was a great grief to him, especially when he remembered that on his death there would be no heir to inherit the kingdom.
Now it happened one day that a poor old fakir came to the King, and said, "Your prayers are heard, your desire shall be accomplished, and one of your seven Queens shall bear a son."
The King's delight at this promise knew no bounds, and he gave orders for appropriate festivities to be prepared against the coming event throughout the length and breadth of the land.
Meanwhile the seven Queens lived luxuriously in a splendid palace, attended by hundreds of female slaves, and fed to their hearts' content on sweetmeats and confectionery.
Now the King was very fond of hunting, and one day, before he started, the seven Queens sent him a message saying, "May it please our dearest lord not to hunt towards the north to-day, for we have dreamt bad dreams, and fear lest evil should befall you."
All chapters here.
If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you ever get to it on the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing.
The children often spent long summer days on this lagoon, swimming or floating most of the time, playing the mermaid games in the water, and so forth. You must not think from this that the mermaids were on friendly terms with them: on the contrary, it was among Wendy's lasting regrets that all the time she was on the island she never had a civil word from one of them. When she stole softly to the edge of the lagoon she might see them by the score, especially on Marooners' Rock, where they loved to bask, combing out their hair in a lazy way that quite irritated her; or she might even swim, on tiptoe as it were, to within a yard of them, but then they saw her and dived, probably splashing her with their tails, not by accident, but intentionally.
Cleverly proving that a princess with a necklace can frustrate the intentions of a Ghool, and that every king should have near his person the owner of a crystal cup.
There once dwelt a poor but worthy man named Abdullah in Meshed, the Holy City, the place of pilgrimage, whose beautiful mosque with the golden dome is the glory of the kingdom of Persia. He barely managed to get a living by the sale of soap.
All day long, from sunrise to sunset, he tramped the city, crying out: "O brothers, buy my pure soap. There is none better in the city, as every one knows. Even the little babes would say so if they could but speak."
Still, if you looked closely at it, you would never guess it to be soap; it was black and coarse, and more like wood than anything else. If any unlucky pilgrim used it on his face or hands, it would make his skin burn like fire. But this did not often happen, for the people in Persia do not use much soap on themselves, or their clothes, and sand does very well for cleaning cooking pots and pans. So it was that there were many days when poor Abdullah did not sell enough to buy sufficient bread for himself and his little boy Ahmed.
Long years ago in old Japan there lived in the Province of Echigo, a very remote part of Japan even in these days, a man and his wife. When this story begins they had been married for some years and were blessed with one little daughter. She was the joy and pride of both their lives, and in her they stored an endless source of happiness for their old age.
What golden letter days in their memory were these that had marked her growing up from babyhood; the visit to the temple when she was just thirty days old, her proud mother carrying her, robed in ceremonial kimono, to be put under the patronage of the family's household god; then her first dolls festival, when her parents gave her a set of dolls' and their miniature belongings, to be added to as year succeeded year; and perhaps the most important occasion of all, on her third birthday, when her first OBI (broad brocade sash) of scarlet and gold was tied round her small waist, a sign that she had crossed the threshold of girlhood and left infancy behind. Now that she was seven years of age, and had learned to talk and to wait upon her parents in those several little ways so dear to the hearts of fond parents, their cup of happiness seemed full. There could not be found in the whole of the Island Empire a happier little family.
There was once a king who had three sons, all remarkably handsome in their persons, and in their tempers brave and noble. Some wicked courtiers made the king believe that the princes were impatient to wear the crown, and that they were contriving a plot to deprive him of his sceptre and his kingdom.
The king felt he was growing old; but as he found himself as capable of governing as he had ever been, he had no inclination to resign his power; and therefore, that he might pass the rest of his days peaceably, he determined to employ the princes in such a manner, as at once to give each of them the hope of succeeding to the crown, and fill up the time they might otherwise spend in so undutiful a manner.
The King's son was going to be married, so there were general rejoicings. He had waited a whole year for his bride, and at last she had arrived. She was a Russian Princess, and had driven all the way from Finland in a sledge drawn by six reindeer. The sledge was shaped like a great golden swan, and between the swan's wings lay the little Princess herself. Her long ermine-cloak reached right down to her feet, on her head was a tiny cap of silver tissue, and she was as pale as the Snow Palace in which she had always lived. So pale was she that as she drove through the streets all the people wondered. "She is like a white rose!" they cried, and they threw down flowers on her from the balconies.
At the gate of the Castle the Prince was waiting to receive her. He had dreamy violet eyes, and his hair was like fine gold. When he saw her he sank upon one knee, and kissed her hand.