Gateway to the Classics: Firelight Stories by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Firelight Stories by  Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Little Old Woman Who Went to the North Wind

O NCE upon a time there was a little old woman who wished to make for herself a loaf of wheat bread. So she hastened to the miller and bought a pan of white flour. As she opened her gate, and came into her garden, HUFF, PUFF, along came the North Wind, and he blew her flour far and wide to the four corners of the world.

So the little old woman hastened again to the miller, and she bought a second pan of flour. But no sooner had she reached her garden again, than, HUFF, PUFF, along came the North Wind, and he blew the second pan of flour to the four corners of the world.

Then the little old woman went a third time to the miller and bought flour, but a third time did the North Wind blow away the flour.

"I will go to the North Wind," said the little old woman, "and ask him to give me back my three panfuls of flour."

So the little old woman went a long, long way until she came to the North Wind sitting astride a huge mountain top.

"How do you do?" asked the little old woman, politely.

"Thanks to yourself," said the North Wind in a thick voice, "and what would you like to-day?"

"Three pans of flour which you took from me," said the little old woman.

"Now, those three pans of flour I could never give you," said the North Wind, "for I blew them far and wide to the four corners of the world; but I will give you my magic tablecloth. Whenever you say to it, 'Cloth, spread yourself,' it will be at once covered with fine eating and drinking."

So the little old woman thanked the North Wind, and took the magic tablecloth, and started home. But the way was so long that she stopped at an inn for the night. Before she went to bed, she thought she would like something to eat, so she spread the magic tablecloth upon the floor, and she said to it:—

"Cloth, spread yourself."

In a second the cloth was covered with such fine eating and drinking as the little old woman had never seen before. There were puddings, and jam, and tarts, and cakes, and ice cream, and lemonade. The little old woman sat down and ate her fill, but as she was eating, the innkeeper, who had smelled the feast, peeped through the keyhole.

"A very fine tablecloth for me," thought the innkeeper.

So, when the little old woman was sleeping, the innkeeper took the North Wind's magic tablecloth, and hid it in his cupboard.

When the little old woman awoke in the morning, she looked, and looked, and looked for her tablecloth, but she could not find it. Then she hurried back to the North Wind and told him what had happened.

"Well," said the North Wind, "I must give you my magic staff. Say to it, 'Staff, dance,' and the person whose toes it dances upon, that person has the magic tablecloth."

So the little old woman thanked the North Wind, and she hurried back to the inn with the magic staff.

There sat the innkeeper and all his guests with the magic tablecloth spread between them. They were eating and drinking good things.

"Staff, dance," said the little old woman, loudly.

Then the magic staff began to dance right merrily, up and down, to and fro, right and left. But wherever the innkeeper went, the staff followed, treading upon his toes, until he called out:—

"Enough, enough, here is your magic tablecloth."

Then the magic staff danced away to the North Wind again, and the little old woman took her tablecloth home.

And she never had want of anything after that, for the magic tablecloth was always ready to spread itself for her with fine eating and drinking.

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