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"Listen, then, said Wendy, settling down to her story, with Michael at her feet and seven boys in the bed. "There was once a gentleman -- "
"I had rather he had been a lady," Curly said.
"I wish he had been a white rat," said Nibs.
"Quiet," their mother admonished [cautioned] them. "There was a lady also, and -- "
"Oh, mummy," cried the first twin, "you mean that there is a lady also, don't you? She is not dead, is she?"
Long, long ago there lived in Kyoto a brave soldier named Kintoki. Now he fell in love with a beautiful lady and married her. Not long after this, through the malice of some of his friends, he fell into disgrace at Court and was dismissed. This misfortune so preyed upon his mind that he did not long survive his dismissal--he died, leaving behind him his beautiful young wife to face the world alone. Fearing her husband's enemies, she fled to the Ashigara Mountains as soon as her husband was dead, and there in the lonely forests where no one ever came except woodcutters, a little boy was born to her. She called him Kintaro or the Golden Boy. Now the remarkable thing about this child was his great strength, and as he grew older he grew stronger and stronger, so that by the time he was eight years of age he was able to cut down trees as quickly as the woodcutters. Then his mother gave him a large ax, and he used to go out in the forest and help the woodcutters, who called him "Wonder-child," and his mother the "Old Nurse of the Mountains," for they did not know her high rank. Another favorite pastime of Kintaro's was to smash up rocks and stones. You can imagine how strong he was!
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One important result of the brush [with the pirates] on the lagoon was that it made the redskins their friends. Peter had saved Tiger Lily from a dreadful fate, and now there was nothing she and her braves would not do for him. All night they sat above, keeping watch over the home under the ground and awaiting the big attack by the pirates which obviously could not be much longer delayed. Even by day they hung about, smoking the pipe of peace, and looking almost as if they wanted tit-bits to eat.
They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves [lying down] before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.
"The great white father," he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, "is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates."
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.
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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."