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Compiled and Illustrated by
Originally Published By
W. Swan, Sonnenschein & Allen, London
Abela Publishing, London
Tales for Children at Christmastide
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2018
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Frontis: The Man in the Moon
THE MAN IN THE MOON, AND HOW HE GOT THERE
CAT AND DOG STORIES
A FORTUNE IN AN EMPTY WALLET
ONCE upon a time, long before people were able to learn what they wanted to know from printed books, long before children had pretty pictures to tell them tales, there lived an old student with his pupil. Together they spent all the day in poring over musty old books and papers, trying to find out why the sun was hot; and in the night-time they might always be seen gazing at the sky, counting how many stars there were there. They were very curious folk, and wanted to know the reasons for all sorts of out-of-the-way things that everybody else was content to know the mere facts of, such as why birds have two wings and not three, why crocodiles have no fins, seeing that they can swim in the water, and many other matters that would not interest sensible beings. They always had at their side a young owl, and a serpent, toothless and blind with age; for they thought that youthful observation and aged craftiness were most suitable companions for them in their labours. If at any time old Fusticus, for so the old student was named, got dispirited in his work, or felt inclined to give it up as a hopeless task, he had but to turn round in his chair, and there behind him sat his owl, who seemed to say, as he cocked his head on one side, "Never despair, success only comes after long perseverance!"
The Man in the Moon
Or if he stuck fast at any point, and could make no progress, one glance at the old serpent made him think, "Snakes wait whole days and nights on watch for their prey; why should I give in?" And, strange to say, with a little more attention and care, he always did get over his smaller difficulties.
But at last old Fusticus got weary of his long studies, as he seemed never to find an answer to any one of the questions he had set himself; and he was about to give them up altogether, when he came across a curious passage in the old tome in which he was reading. For a long time he could not make it out at all, but after deep thought and consultation with his pupil, he discovered that it was a spell, by which he could call up the Spirit of Darkness, whom he could compel to grant him any three wishes that he might demand. The only condition was that he should give to the Spirit of Darkness whatever he should ask of him.
Old Fusticus thought and thought a long time over this discovery, and at last decided to make use of it. So one day he repeated the charm he had learnt from the book, and when he had finished the last word, to his amazement, for he did not quite believe it was all true, there stood before him the Spirit of Darkness! He was not at all like what he had imagined he would have been; for he had not a hideous face, nor a tail, but was dressed in the costume of a court gentleman, with a sword at his side and a cocked hat in his hand. He had, too, a pigtail, ruffles and all complete!
"Sire," he said to Fusticus, "what is your will? You have summoned me to you by a power not your own—you know the condition on which you use that power. What is your wish?"
"My wish you shall soon learn, or rather my three wishes. But what is it that you demand in return?"
"All that I ask is now—nothing! All that I want is your first-born babe!"
"I have no child—I am an old man without a wife. If I had a child, you should have him." Fusticus did not think what he was saying, you see; but he felt quite safe in offering a thing that did not exist.
"'Tis a bargain!" cried the wicked Spirit at once and with glee. "Here is a written compact! Sign!" and Fusticus with a laugh put his name to the paper, for he thought: "Ah, my fine fellow! you have over-reached yourself this time! In trying to get too much, you have got nothing at all!" and he laughed again.
"Your wishes?" asked the Spirit of Darkness, putting the signed document into his coat-tail pocket.