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This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.

Hop about man.

By AGNES GROZIER HERBERTSON
From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.

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Wee-Wun was a little gnome who lived in the Bye-bye Meadow, in a fine new house which he loved. To live in the Bye-bye Meadow was sometimes a dangerous thing, for all the big people lived there. Wee-Wun might have lived on the other common with the other gnomes and fairies if he had liked; but he did not. He liked better to be among the big people on the Bye-bye Meadow. And perhaps if he had not been such a careless fellow he might not have got into so much trouble there; but he was as careless as he could be. One day Wee-Wun was flying across the Bye-bye Meadow, with his cap at the back of his head, and his pockets full of blue blow-away seeds, when he saw lying upon the ground two little shoes of blue and silver, with upturned toes. "Here is a find!" cried he, and he bent down over the little shoes with round eyes. There they were, and they said nothing about how they had come there, but lay sadly on their sides, as silent as could be. "I shall certainly take them home to my fine house," said Wee-Wun the gnome, "for they must be lonely lying here. They shall stand upon my mantel shelf, and every morning I shall say, 'Good-morning, little blue shoes,' and every night I shall say, 'Good-night,' and we shall all be as happy as can be."



So he went to put the little shoes into his pockets, but he found they were already full of blue blow-away seeds. Then Wee-Wun took the blue blow-away seeds, and cast them over the wall into the Stir-about Wife's garden. And he put the little shoes into his pocket, and flew away. The garden of the Stir-about Wife is full of golden dandelions. That is because the Stir-about Wife likes best to brew golden spells that will make folk happy, and of course dandelions are the flowers you use for golden spells. But the very next day after Wee-Wun had passed, when she came into her garden to gather every twentieth dandelion she could hardly see a dandelion because of the blow-aways that were growing everywhere, and casting their fluff into the dandelions' eyes. When the Stir-about Wife saw this mournful sight she wept, because her beautiful spell, which she was about to finish, was quite spoiled. And after a little while she went into her house and made another spell instead. On the morrow Wee-Wun the gnome came flying over the Bye-bye Meadow, just as careless as ever. He stopped for a moment by the Stir-about Wife's garden to look at the spot where he had found the little blue shoes, to see if there were another pair there. And after he had seen that no one had dropped another pair of little blue shoes, he hung over the Stir-about Wife's wall and looked at her garden, and when he saw the blue blow-aways he laughed so that he fell upon the ground.



"That is a new kind of dandelion," said he, and he picked himself up, laughing still. Then he saw that upon the ground where he had fallen there lay a large seed that shone in the sun. It was as blue as the little blue shoes, and Wee-Wun had never seen any seed like it before. He took it in his hand, and how it twinkled and shone! "I shall plant this in my garden," said Wee-Wun, "and I shall have a plant which will have sunbeams for flowers." So he dropped it into his pocket and flew away home. That evening he made a little hole, and when he had dropped the blue seed into it he patted the earth down. "Grow quickly, little seed," said he. Then he thought of the Stir-about Wife's garden, and he began to laugh, and he laughed now and again the whole night through. But when he awakened in the morning, alack! he laughed no more, for his fine home was so dark that he could see not a pace in front of him. "This is very odd, very odd, indeed!" said Wee-Wun the gnome, and he rubbed his eyes very hard. But this was no dream, and no matter how hard he rubbed, he could not rub it away. Then he heard upon the floor a clatter and a rustle, and then a stepping noise--one, two; one, two--and that was the little blue shoes that were marching round and round over the floor very steadily.



And as they marched they sang this song:

"Ring-a-ding-dill, ring-a-ding-dill, The Hop-about Man comes over the hill. Why is he coming, and what will he see? Rickety, rackety--one, two, three."

And they sang it over and over again. "Well, this is a fine time to sing, when it is as dark as can be!" cried Wee-Wun. But the little shoes took no notice at all. So Wee-Wun went outside to his garden, and then he saw that the whole world was not dark, as he had supposed, but only his little home. For in the spot where he had sown the blue seed had sprung up a huge plant which covered over the window of Wee-Wun's fine house, and reached far above its roof. Wee-Wun began to weep, for he did not see why this thing had come to him. And after he had wept awhile he went close to the fearful plant and walked round it, and looked up and down. And then he said, "Why, it is a blue blow-away!" And so it was, but far, far larger than any Wee-Wun had ever seen in his life before. And it had grown so high and as big as that in just one night.



"What will it be like to-morrow?" thought Wee-Wun, and he began to weep again. But the blue blow-away took no notice of his tears, and the little shoes inside the house went on singing; so Wee-Wun had to stir his wits, and consider what was to be done. And when he had considered awhile, he set off for the house of the Green Ogre, shaking in his shoes. The Green Ogre was planting peas, one by one. When he saw Wee-Wun come along, with tears still on his cheeks and shaking in his shoes, he said: "My little gnome, you had better keep away, lest I plant you in mistake for a pea." But Wee-Wun said: "Oh, dear Green Ogre, wouldn't you like a nice blue blow-away for your garden? I have one which is quite big enough for you; it is taller than my little house. You have never seen a blow-away so fine." "And are you weeping, my Wee-Wun, because you have such a fine blue blow-away?" asked the Green Ogre, and he began to laugh. But Wee-Wun said: "I am weeping to see such a fine garden as yours without a blue blow-away in it. That is a sad sight."



"There is something in that," said the Green Ogre, and he set down his peas, and thought. Then he said: "Very well, I will come and look at your blue blow-away." And he set off at once. Now when the Green Ogre saw the blue blow-away in Wee-Wun's garden he thought it was certainly the best he had ever seen, and much too fine for a little gnome like Wee-Wun. So he dug it up in a great hurry and carried it away. "There, that was managed very easily," said Wee-Wun the gnome joyously to himself, and he looked at the hole where the blue blow-away had been, and laughed. Then he went into his fine home, but that was no longer empty, for in the seat by the fireside sat a little man in a blue smock and feather cap. And he looked quite happy and at home. And above his head on the mantel shelf were the little blue shoes, as quiet as could be. "This is a nice thing," said Wee-Wun, opening his eyes wide. "Who are you that you have come into my little house where I like to sit all alone?" And the little man replied at once: "I am the Hop-about Man, and since you have let the Green Ogre carry away the blue blow-away in which I lived, I have come to live with you." "But my fine house is not big enough to hold two people," cried Wee-Wun, and he was in a way. "It is big enough to hold twelve tigers," said the Hop-about Man, "so it can easily hold two little gnomes. As for me, here I am, and here I mean to stay."



And not another word would he say. At this Wee-Wun was in a terrible way, as you may think. But there was the Hop-about Man, and he did not seem to care, not one bit. So Wee-Wun went on his way, and when he had made a platter of porridge for his breakfast, the Hop-about Man said: "Ah, that is my breakfast, I see," and he ate it up in a twink. So Wee-Wun had to make another platterful, and alack, he was careless, and let that porridge burn, and he could not eat it, though he tried hard. Afterwards he went out to fetch wood for his fire, and when he had fetched it, he threw it into a corner, and he left the door wide open, so that a draught fell upon the Hop-about Man. But the Hop-about Man said nothing. Then Wee-Wun went out to dig in his garden, and he dug there the whole day long, and when he came in in the evening, there was the Hop-about Man sitting in his chair. When Wee-Wun looked at his blue smock and his feather cap he saw that the Hop-about Man looked just like a blue blow-away growing in the chair at Wee-Wun's fireside. But when Wee-Wun the gnome came in the Hop-about Man flew out of his chair, and he flew all around the room, singing this song: "Ring-a-ding-dill, ring-a-ding-dill, Let all careless things hop about if they will."



Alack! he had no sooner sung this song than the door which Wee-Wun had left open jumped off its hinges and ran about the floor, and the wood which he had thrown into the corner flew out and rushed about too. The Hop-about Man's platter, which Wee-Wun had forgotten to wash, flew up to the ceiling, and the wooden spoon spun round like a top on the floor, and all the chairs and tables Wee-Wun had left awry began to dance. "Certainly my fine house will come down about my ears," cried poor Wee-Wun. Then he felt a tug at his hair, and that was his cap, which he had put on inside out, and which was anxious to be off and join in the fun. And his spade, which he had left lying on the ground outside, came running in at the place where the door had been, stirring everything as it came. That was a muddle, and Wee-Wun began to weep. "Oh, dear Hop-about Man," he cried, "do tell everything to be quiet again, please, for I can hear the walls of my fine house shaking!" But the Hop-about Man, who was again sitting in his chair, replied: "Things will be quiet again when you have put all careless things straight."



So Wee-Wun set to work, and he wept ever so fast. You see it is difficult to put careless things straight when they are running about all the time, and you have to catch them first. But at last Wee-Wun set the door on its hinges, and put the wood in the wood cellar, and washed the Hop-about Man's platter and spoon, and set straight all the chairs and tables, and put the spade in the place where it ought to be, and he was so tired that he could hardly move another step. But the Hop-about Man did not notice him at all, and when Wee-Wun cried out to the little blue shoes: "See how hard I am working," they were quite silent. And you do not know how silent blue shoes can be. The Hop-about Man was falling asleep in his chair when all was finished, and Wee-Wun again shed tears. "Oh, Hop-about Man," he cried, "are you never going away?" And the Hop-about Man replied: "Certainly I am very comfortable here, with half of this fine house for my own, and I can only walk away if I have a pair of little blue shoes to walk in, and I can only go when you have set all careless things straight." Poor Wee-Wun! He took the little blue shoes in a hurry, and his tears were dropping all the time. "Good-bye, little blue shoes," he said, but the Hop-about Man did not seem to notice. And when Wee-Wun gave them to him he put them upon his feet, but he did not stir, not an inch. Then Wee-Wun sighed a long sigh, and he flew over the Bye-bye Meadow till he reached the garden of the Stir-about Wife, which is bound about by a wall. And there all night he weeded, pulling up blue blow-aways by the score. But when in the morning he went back to his fine house, the Hop-about Man was gone.

       



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