Merry Tales  by Eleanor L. Skinner

The Stone Lion

Captain W. P. O'Connor

O NCE there were two brothers who lived with their mother in a large house on a farm. Their father was dead. The older brother was clever and selfish, but the younger was kind and gentle. The older brother did not like the younger because he was so honest that he never could get the best of a bargain. One day he said to him: "You must go away. I cannot afford to support you any longer."

So the younger brother packed all his belongings, and went to bid his mother good-by. When she heard what the older brother had done, she said, "I will go with you, my son. I will not live here any longer with so hardhearted a man as your brother."

The next morning the mother and the younger brother started out together. Toward night when they reached the foot of the hill, they came to a hut with nothing in it except an ax which stood behind the door. But they managed to get their supper and stayed in the hut all night.

In the morning they saw that on the side of the hill near the hut was a great forest. The son took the ax, went up on the hillside and chopped enough wood for a load to carry to the town on the other side of the hill. He easily sold it, and with a happy heart brought back food and some clothing to make his mother and himself comfortable.

"Now, mother," he said, "I can earn enough to keep us both, and we shall be happy here together."

One day, in search of timber, the boy went farther up the hill than he had ever gone before. As he climbed up the steep hillside, he suddenly came upon a lion carved from stone.

"Oh," thought the boy, "this must be the guardian spirit of the mountain. I will make him some offering to-morrow morning without fail."

That night he bought two candles and carried them to the lion. He lighted them, put one on each side of the lion, and asked that his own good fortune might continue.

As he stood there, suddenly the lion opened his great stone mouth and said:

"What are you doing here?"

The boy told him how cruel the elder brother had been; how the mother and himself had been obliged to leave home and live in a hut at the foot of the hill. When he had heard all of the story, the lion said:

"If you will bring a bucket here to-morrow and put it under my mouth, I will fill it with gold for you."

The next day the boy brought the bucket.

"You must be very careful to tell me when it is nearly full," said the lion, "for if even one piece of gold should fall to the ground, great trouble would be in store for you."

The boy was very careful to do exactly as the lion told him, and soon he was on his way home to his mother with a bucketful of gold. They were so rich now that they bought a beautiful farm and went there to live.

At last the hard-hearted brother heard of their good fortune. He had married since his mother and brother had gone away, so he took his wife and went, to pay a visit to his younger brother. It was not long before he had heard the whole story of their good fortune, and how the lion had given them all the gold.

"I will try that, too," he said.

He and his wife went to the same but his brother had lived in, and there they passed the night.

The next morning he started out with a bucket to visit the stone lion. When he had told the lion his errand, the lion said:

"I will grant your wish, but you must be very careful to tell me when the bucket is nearly full; for if even one little piece of gold touches the ground, great misery will surely fall upon you."

Now the elder brother was so greedy that he kept shaking the bucket to get the gold pieces closer together. And when the bucket was full he did not tell the lion, as the younger brother had done, for he wanted all he could possibly get.

Suddenly one of the gold pieces fell upon the ground.

"Oh," cried the lion, "a big piece of gold is stuck in my throat. Put your hand in and get it out. It is the largest piece of all."

The greedy man thrust his hand at once into the lion's mouth and the lion snapped his jaws together! And there the man stayed, for the lion would not let him go. And the gold in the bucket turned into earth and stones.

When night came and the husband did not return, the wife became anxious and went out to search for him. At last she found him with his arm held fast in the lion's mouth. He was tired and cold and hungry.

"Alas!" she said, "I wish we had not tried to get the gold. There is no food in the hut for us and we shall have to die."

The lion was listening to all that was said, and he was so pleased at their misfortune that he began to laugh at them, "Ha, ha, ha!" As he laughed, he opened his mouth  and the greedy man quickly  drew out his hand, before the lion had a chance to close his jaws again. They were glad enough to get away, and they went to their brother's house once more. The brother was sorry for them and gave them enough money to buy a home.

The younger brother and his mother lived very happily in their beautiful home, but they always remembered the Stone Lion on the hillside, who gave them their good fortune.