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The King of the Cats

by Ernest Rhys Fairy-Gold

Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived in a lonely house in a very lonely part of Scotland. An old woman used to do the cooking, and there was no one else, unless we count her cat and their own dogs, within miles of them.

One autumn afternoon the elder of the two, whom we will call Elshender, said he would not go out - so the younger one, Fergus, went alone to follow the path where they had been shooting the day before, far across the mountains.

He meant to return home before the early sunset - however, he did not do so, and Elshender became very uneasy as he watched and waited in vain till long after their usual suppertime. At last Fergus returned, wet and exhausted, nor did he explain why he was so late.

But after supper when the two brothers were seated before the fire, on which the peat crackled cheerfully, the dogs lying at their feet, and the old woman's black cat sitting gravely with half-shut eyes on the hearth between them, Fergus recovered himself and began to tell his adventures.

"You must be wondering," said he, "what made me so late. I have had a very, very strange adventure to-day. I hardly know what to say about it. I went, as I told you I should, along our yesterday's track. A mountain fog came on just as I was about to turn homewards, and I completely lost my way. I wandered about for a long time not knowing where I was, till at last I saw a light, and made for it, hoping to get help.

"As I came near it, it disappeared, and I found myself close to an old oak tree. I climbed into the branches the better to look for the light, and, behold! there it was right beneath me, inside the hollow trunk of the tree. I seemed to be looking down into a church, where a funeral was taking place. I heard singing, and saw a coffin surrounded by torches, all carried by--But I know you won't believe me, Elshender, if I tell you!"

His brother eagerly begged him to go on, and threw a dry peat on the fire to encourage him. The dogs were sleeping quietly, but the cat was sitting up, and seemed to be listening just as carefully and cannily as Elshender himself. Both brothers, indeed, turned their eyes on the cat as Fergus took up his story.

"Yes," he continued, "it is as true as I sit here. The coffin and the torches were both carried by CATS, and upon the coffin were marked a crown and a scepter!"

He got no farther, for the black cat started up, shrieking:--

"My stars! old Peter's dead, and I'm the King o' the Cats!"--Then rushed up the chimney, and was seen no more.

‚ÄčThe Phantom Knight of the Vandal Camp

by Gesta Romanorum

There was once in Great Britain, a knight named Albert, strong in arms and adorned with every virtue. One day as he was seeking for adventure, he chanced to wander into a castle where he was hospitably entertained.

At night, after supper, as was usual in great families during the winter, the household gathered about the hearth and occupied the time in relating divers tales.

At last they told how in the near-by plain of Wandlesbury there was a haunted mound. There in old days the Vandals, who laid waste the land and slaughtered Christians, had pitched their camp and built about it a great rampart. And it was further related that in the hush of the night, if any one crossed the plain, ascended the mound, and called out in a loud voice, "Let my adversary appear!" there immediately started up from the ruined ramparts a huge, ghostly figure, armed and mounted for battle. This phantom then attacked the knight who had cried out and speedily overcame him.

Now, when Albert heard this marvelous tale, he greatly doubted its truth, and was determined to put the matter to a test. As the moon was shining brightly, and the night was quiet, he armed, mounted, and immediately hastened to the plain of Wandlesbury, accompanied by a squire of noble blood.

He ascended the mound, dismissed his attendant, and shouted:

"Let my adversary appear!"

Instantly there sprang from the ruins a huge, ghostly knight completely armed and mounted on an enormous steed.

This phantom rushed upon Albert, who spurred his horse, extended his shield, and drove at his antagonist with his lance. Both knights were shaken by the encounter. Albert, however, so resolutely and with so strong an arm pressed his adversary that the latter was thrown violently to the ground. Seeing this Albert hastily seized the steed of the fallen knight, and started to leave the mound.

But the phantom, rising to his feet, and seeing his horse led away, flung his lance and cruelly wounded Albert in the thigh. This done he vanished as suddenly as he had appeared.

Our knight, overjoyed at his victory, returned in triumph to the castle, where the household crowded around him and praised his bravery. But when he put off his armor he found the cuish from his right thigh filled with clots of blood from an angry wound in his side. The family, alarmed, hastened to apply healing herbs and bandages.

The captured horse was then brought forward. He was prodigiously large, and black as jet. His eyes were fierce and flashing, his neck proudly arched, and he wore a glittering war-saddle upon his back.

As the first streaks of dawn began to appear, the animal reared wildly, snorted as if with pain and anger, and struck the ground so furiously with his hoofs that the sparks flew. The black cock of the castle crew and the horse, uttering a terrible cry, instantly disappeared.

And every year, on the selfsame night, at the selfsame hour, the wounds of the knight Albert broke out afresh, and tormented him with agony. Thus till his dying day he bore in his body a yearly reminder of his encounter with the Phantom Knight of the Vandal Camp.
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The Strange Visitor

by Joseph Jacobs

A woman was sitting at her reel one night; and still she sat, and still she
reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of broad, broad soles, and sat down at the fireside!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of small, small legs, and sat down on the broad, broad soles!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of thick, thick knees, and sat down on the small, small legs!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of thin, thin thighs, and sat down on the thick, thick knees!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of huge, huge hips, and sat down on the thin, thin thighs!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a wee, wee waist, and sat down on the huge, huge hips!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of broad, broad shoulders, and sat down on the wee, wee waist!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of small, small arms, and sat down on the broad, broad shoulders!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a pair of huge, huge hands, and sat down on the small, small arms!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a small, small neck, and sat down on the broad, broad shoulders!
And still she sat, and still she reeled, and still she wished for company.
In came a huge, huge head, and sat down on the small, small neck!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"How did you get such broad, broad feet?" quote the Woman. "Much tramping, much tramping!" (GRUFFLY.)
"How did you get such small, small legs?" "AIH-H-H!--late--and WEE-E-E-moul!" (WHININGLY.)
"How did you get such thick, thick knees?" "Much praying, much praying!" (PIOUSLY.)
"How did you get such thin, thin thighs?" "Aih-h-h!--late--and wee-e-e-moul!" (WHININGLY.)
"How did you get such big, big hips?" "Much sitting, much sitting!" (GRUFFLY.)
"How did you get such a wee, wee waist?" "Aih-h-h!--late--and wee-e-e-moul!" (WHININGLY.)
"How did you get such broad, broad shoulders?" "With carrying broom, with carrying broom!" (GRUFFLY.)
"How did you get such small arms?" "Aih-h-h!--late--and wee-e-e-moul!" (WHININGLY.)
"How did you get such huge, huge hands?" "Threshing with an iron flail! Threshing with an iron flail!" (GRUFFLY.)
"How did you get such a small, small neck?" "Aih-h-h!--late--and wee-e-e-moul!" (PITIFULLY.)
"How did you get such a huge, huge head?" "Much knowledge, much knowledge!" (KEENLY.)
"What do you come for?"  "FOR YOU! ! !"


(AT THE TOP OF THE VOICE, WITH A WAVE OF THE ARMS AND A STAMP OF THE FEET.)