Once a great white seagull was circling above the rolling waves between South England and Wales. He was looking for and hoping that some unwary fish would swim up near the surface of the water within diving reach. Suddenly the gull noticed something on the waves, and swooped down toward it to see if it was something to eat.
But he was disappointed.
"Cree-e-e!" he cried. "'This is no great fish! What is it? Cree-e-e!"
The gull circled and swooped over what was a wicker basket floating on the waves. A tiny pink-and-white baby lay sound asleep on a piece of cloth in it. The baby had one thumb thrust into his round red mouth.
The sea-gull flew a little distance away to call other seagulls of his family and clan to come. Cree-e-e!" Soon they came. "Cree-e-e!" they said, "what is going on?" The seagull answered,
He led the flock to the wicker cradle tossed on the growing waves. By now the baby had awakened. Feeling hungry, cold and wet cold, wet and with the dashing spray, he had opened his pink mouth and cried "E-e-e-e-e!"
"See, it sounds so very much like us - listen! Let us see if we can save it!" said the seagull that had first seen the baby.
All the mother gulls said in chorus. "He talks our language, he must be saved. Let us use our beaks before the waves sink him. Cree-e-e, Cree-e-e!"
At the sounds of the gulls the baby stopped crying and looked up, smiling and laughing at white wings that fanned him.
With their hooked beaks the gulls seized the corners of the cloth the baby lay on and fluttered up and away, bearing the baby over the waves as if he were in a little hammock. The baby was landed on a high shelf. The sea roared on the rocks below it. It was the nicest kind of a gull home. Here they laid the baby down, and sat about wondering what to do next, while the baby cried.
"We must build him a nest," said the white gull that had first seen him. "These rocks are too hard and sharp for such a little gull-thing."
A nest could do for the little stranger, the gulls said. So they pulled downy feathers from their breasts till they had made a very cosy, soft bed with a pillow and laid the baby in it under a seagull quilt there. There he slept, the son of a Welsh prince. His mother had not wanted him, and had put him into the wicker basket - unnoticed by any.
When the gulls had made the baby this lovely nest, they wondered what they should do to get him food. But the gull that had found him at sea had an idea. He flew away over the land and was gone for some time. When at last he returned he had with him a kind forest doe - a mother deer who had agreed to come and feed the stranger baby. So the baby found a new mother who came every morning and every night and fed him with her milk.
The happy baby in his nest grew strong and fat and hearty. His seagull friends watched over him, and the mother deer fed and cared for him. She also washed him clean with her warm tongue.
Now when Keneth had lived in the seagulls' home for some months, one day the flock of guardian gulls left him while they went on a fishing trip. The mother deer had not yet come with his breakfast, but was at home with her own little ones. For the first time the baby was quite alone. He did not know this, but was sleeping peacefully on his quilt when a on his quilt when a shepherd from the nearest village came peering over the edge of the rocks. The man had clambered up to seek gulls' eggs for breakfast. His eyes bulged and he nearly fell over backward into the sea with surprise when he saw a baby lying in a nest of feathers.
"Heaven preserve us!" he cried. "A beautiful little baby! I will take him home to my childless wife. That could make her happy!" He took up the baby boy, wrapped him in the cloth, and started down over the rocks towards home.
The baby woke up at the stranger's touch and began to wail. He had no mind to go with the shepherd. So as they went he screamed at the top of his lungs, hoping some of his friends would come. And the mother deer, who was on her way there, heard his voice. She came running in a fright, but she could do nothing to protect him, since she was a peaceful mother-deer. However, she followed anxiously to see what would happen to her baby. All the way the boy shrieked loudly, "E-e-e-e! "
Now at last a breeze carried the baby voice out over the water of the Bristol Channel where the gulls were fishing. They stopped it to listen. "Gull is in trouble or danger. To the rescue! Cre-e-e-e!"
So the flock of gulls swooped back to the rock where they had left the baby. The nest was empty. They flapped their wings and screamed alarmed, "What shall we do?"
But just then the mother deer came panting up the rocky hill, warm and wet, her tongue lolled out with weariness, for she had run so fast.
"He is down there," she panted. "A shepherd has carried him to his hut and laid him in a nest such as human-folk make. The shepherd's wife loves him, but he cries for us. Bring him back."
"Yes, yes!" screamed the gulls. "Guide us to the place, mother deer." And without another word they rose on their sturdy wings and followed where she led. Back down the hill she took the path over the moor and up the lane to a little white cottage under rosebushes. " Here is the place," said the deer, and paused.
But the flock of gulls swooped in at the little low door with much whirring and rustling and screaming. They came straight up to the cradle where the baby boy lay crying "E-e-e-e!" as if his heart would break.
The shepherd's wife was sitting by the cradle saying, "Hush!" and "Bye-lo!" and other silly things that the baby did not under-stand. But when she heard the rushing of the gulls' wings, she gave a scream and started for the door.
"Cree-e-e! " cried the gulls fiercely. " Give us our little one." And they perched on the edge of the cradle and looked caringly at the baby. Then he stopped crying and began to laugh. These were voices and shapes he knew and loved. In another minute the gulls had fastened their beaks into the cloth he lay on, and once more bore him away as they had done when they saved him from the sea.
Out of the door they flew, right over the shepherd's astonished head, while his wife stared wildly at the empty cradle. And soon the baby was lying in his own nest on the ledge above the roaring billows.
After this no one tried again to bring the gulls' adopted baby back among human folk, as the gulls were kind to him. The baby boy thrived among his feathered friends, growing fat and strong. He was happy and contented in his wild, spray-sprinkled nest above the Atlantic breakers.
Once a weaver who was in want of work, took service with a farmer as a shepherd. The farmer, knowing that the man was dull, gave him most careful instructions as to everything that he was to do. Finally he said:
"If a wolf or any wild animal tries to hurt the flock you should pick up a big stone like this" (suiting the action to the word) "and throw a few such at him. Then he will be afraid and go away."
The weaver said that he understood, and started with the flocks to the hillsides where they grazed all day.
By chance a rather big cat appeared in the afternoon. The weaver at once ran home as fast as he could to get the stones which the farmer had shown him to throw at the creature. When he came back all the flock was scattered. When the farmer heard the tale he cried in anger,
"Were there no stones on the hillside?"
Afraid of the anger of the farmer, the weaver fled. All that day and all the next night he walked. At last he came to a village where a great many weavers lived together.
"You're welcome," they said. "Eat and sleep, for tomorrow six of us start in search of fresh wool to weave. You are welcome to join us."
The next morning the seven weavers set out to go to the village where they could buy what they wanted. On the way they had to cross a ravine which lately had been full of water, but now was quite dry. They swam and waded over to the other side without damaging themselves too much.
As soon as they were over, one of them began to count the party to make sure that all were safe there. He counted all except himself, and then cried out that somebody was missing! This set each of them counting; but each made the same mistake of counting all except himself, so that they became certain that one of their party was missing! They ran up and down the bank of the ravine wringing their hands in great distress and looking for signs of their lost comrade.
There a farmer found them and asked what was the matter.
"Alas!" said one, "seven of us started from the other bank and one must have been drowned on the crossing, for we can only find six remaining!"
The farmer eyed them a minute, and then counted, placing his hand on them, one after the other: "One! two! three!" and so on up to the seven. When the weavers found that there were seven of them they were overcome with gratitude that the farmer somehow could make seven out of six.
A milkmaid was walking along with a pail of milk on her head, and singing merrily as she went. She was thinking of the money which the milk would bring, for she was carrying it to town to sell.
"Let me see," she said to herself. "Here are eight quarts of milk, and with the money which I get for it I can buy fifty eggs. From fifty eggs I can safely say that forty chickens will be hatched. The chickens will be big enough to take to market at Christmas, and they will bring a good price then. They will come to five dollars, at least, and with that I will buy a handsome new dress. I think, I will buy a green one – yes, that's what I'll do. Then I will wear it to church, and all the young fellows will want to walk home with me. But I won't look at any of them – no, not I!"
She tossed her head proudly, and the pail, which she had altogether forgotten, tipped over and fell, and all the milk was spilled on the ground.