T HERE was once a girl named Blanche, and when she was ten years old her father and mother died, and she went to live with an aunt who had a daughter Rose. This daughter was selfish and disagreeable, and yet her mother did everything she could for her; while she treated Blanche, who was pleasant and obliging, very badly. Rose could sit all day long in a rocking-chair and do nothing if she chose, but Blanche was kept constantly at work, and had to eat in the kitchen. Among other things, she was obliged to go twice a day to bring water from a well more than a mile and a half distant from the house.
One morning, when she approached the well with her bucket, she found an old woman standing beside the well who said, "Pray, my little one, give me a drink, for I am very thirsty."
"That I will do gladly," replied Blanche, and she drew from the well a nice fresh bucketful.
The old woman drank, and then said, "Thank you, my child, you are a good girl, and I shall not forget your kindness."
A few days afterward Blanche was used so roughly by her aunt that she ran away into the woods. She was afraid to return home, and she sat down at the foot of a great tree and cried, and knew not what to do. But pretty soon she saw the old woman who had spoken to her at the well coming toward her.
"Ah, my child," said the old woman, "why are you crying? What has hurt you?"
"My aunt, with whom I live, has beaten me," Blanche answered, "and I am afraid to go home."
"Well, my dear," the old woman said, "come with me, and I will give you some supper and a bed; but you must promise not to laugh at anything you will see."
Blanche promised, and the old woman took her by the hand and they walked on deeper into the woods until they arrived at the old woman's cabin. When they went inside the old woman said, "Now you make a fire, my child, to cook the supper for us."
While Blanche made the fire the old woman sat down in her chair beside the hearth and took off her head, and after adjusting it carefully on her knees she combed her hair. Blanche thought that very strange, and she was a little frightened, but she said nothing.
Presently the old woman set her head back on her shoulders and went to a cupboard and took out a large bone. "Here," said she, handing the bone to Blanche, "put this in the pot that hangs on the crane."
Blanche put the bone in the pot, and lo! In a moment the pot was full of good meat. Then the old woman gave Blanche a grain of rice and said, "You see that wooden mortar in the corner with the pestle in it? Put this grain of rice into the mortar and pound it."
So Blanche put the grain of rice into the mortar and began to pound it, and immediately the mortar was full of rice, and this they cooked, and had it and the meat for their supper.
The next morning, after breakfast, the old woman said to Blanche, "You must now return home, but, as you are a good girl, I want to make you a present of some talking eggs. Go to the chicken-house, and all the eggs which say 'Take me!' you may carry away with you; and all those which say 'Do not take me!' you must leave. When you are on your way home throw the eggs behind your back to break them."
Blanche did just as she was bidden. She went to the chicken-house, and the eggs in the nests began to speak, and some said, "Take me!" and some said, "Do not take me!" Those that said "Take me!" she put in her apron and carried away with her, and when she had walked to the borders of the forest she stopped and threw the eggs one by one behind her back.
Many pretty things came out of those eggs—diamonds, gold, beautiful dresses, and, lastly, a splendid carriage with two fine horses and a driver. She put the dresses and diamonds and gold into the carriage, and then got in herself and was driven home; and you may be sure her aunt was very much surprised to see her when she came with such riches, and wanted to know where she got them.
So Blanche told how she had met the old woman in the woods, and how the old woman took her home and kept her over night, and how in the morning the old woman had given her the talking eggs that were no sooner broken than there came forth from them all the wonderful things she had brought home.
Her aunt was far from pleased that Blanche should have so much and her own daughter so little, and the next day she said, "Rose, you must go to the forest, now, and look for that same old woman, for I want you to have as many nice things as Blanche has."
The plan suited Rose very well, and she went to the woods and wandered about until she met the old woman. It was then late in the afternoon, and Rose said, "Please, ma'am, will you take me home with you? It is a long way to my own home."
"Yes," said the old woman, "you can go with me, for it is almost dark, but you must not laugh at anything you see."
So they walked on deeper into the woods until they arrived at the old woman's cabin. They went inside, and when the old woman sat down and took off her head to comb her hair Rose laughed. Rose laughed, too, at all the other things she saw that were strange, and tried to make funny remarks about them.
"Ah! my child," said the old woman, "you are not a good girl, and I fear you will be punished for your actions."
The next morning the old woman gave Rose her breakfast, and then told her she must return home. Rose started at once, but as soon as she was outside the cabin she went to the old woman's chicken-house, saying to herself, "I must have some of those talking eggs before I go."
She opened the door, and the eggs in the nests immediately began to speak, and some said, "Take me!" and some said, "Do not take me!"
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Rose, "I understand your tricks, and I shan't bother myself with you that say 'Take me!' It's the others I want, and you may say 'Don't take me!' all you please, but you are the very ones I shall carry away with me."
So she took all the eggs that told her not to take them, and went off with them in her apron. At the edge of the forest she threw them behind her back, and out of them came a lot of snakes, toads, and frogs. Rose ran and shrieked, and the snakes and toads and frogs followed after her all the way home. She reached her mother's so tired she could hardly speak, and had just strength left to shut the door behind her and keep out all the dreadful creatures that had chased her.
The snakes and toads and frogs followed her all the way home.
"Oh, mercy!" exclaimed her mother, when Rose told her what had happened; "it is that wretch Blanche who is the cause of all this, and she shall be punished as she deserves."
So she called Blanche, and said to her, "Take your things and get out of the house. You shall not live with us any longer."
There was nothing for Blanche to do but to call for her coach, and put into it the fine dresses and diamonds and gold she had got from the talking eggs, and then drive away. She took a road that passed through the forest, and it happened that the king's son was hunting there, and she met him on his horse. When he saw the beautiful girl weeping in the carriage, he asked her why she cried.
"Alas!" said she, "I have been turned out of the house
that has been my home, and I know not where to go."
The prince tried to console her, and as they talked he became so charmed with her beauty and innocence that he asked her to be his wife. Then they went home together to the king's palace, and there they lived happily ever after.