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

How wry face played a trick.

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

Start of Story

One day, as Oh-I-Am the Wizard went over Three-Tree Common, his shoe became unstringed, and he bent down to refasten it. Then he saw Wry-Face, the gnome, hiding among the bracken and looking as mischievous as anything. In one hand he held a white fluff-feather. Now these feathers are as light as anything, and will blow in the wind; and whatever they are placed under, whether light or heavy, they are bound to topple over as soon as the wind blows. As Oh-I-Am tied his shoe he saw Wry-Face place his fluff-feather carefully in the roadway; and at the same moment there came along One-Eye, the potato-wife, with her cart full of potatoes. The cart went rumble, crumble, crack, crack, crack, over the leaves and twigs, and One-Eye sang to her donkey: "Steady, steady, We're always ready," in a most cheerful voice. Then the cart came to the fluff-feather, and over it went--crash, bang, splutter; and the potatoes flew everywhere, like rain. Wry-Face, the gnome, laughed to himself so that he ached, and he rolled over the ground with mirth. Then he flew away, laughing as he went. But One-Eye, the potato-wife, was not laughing. Her tears went drip-drip as she started to gather her potatoes together. And as to getting her cart straight again, she did not know how she was to do it. But when she turned round from gathering together the potatoes, she found that the cart was all right again, since Oh-I-Am the Wizard had straightened it for her, and the donkey was standing on his legs, none the worse for his fall. Oh-I-Am looked stern and straight in his brown robe which trailed behind him. He said: "One-Eye, have you got all your potatoes together?"



One-Eye still wept. She said, "No, I have not found all of them, for some have wandered far. And I must not seek farther, for this is market-day, and I must away to the town." And she began to gather up the potatoes, and drop them into the cart, thud, thud, thud. Oh-I-Am stooped then, and he, too, gathered up the potatoes; and he threw them into the cart splish-splash-splutter! "Alas!" said One-Eye, "if you throw them into the cart, splish-splash-splutter, you will bruise and break them. You must throw them in gently, thud, thud, thud." So Oh-I-Am held back his anger, and he threw the potatoes in gently, thud, thud, thud. But when the potato-wife had gone on her way, he flew off to his Brown House by the Brown Bramble; and he began to weave a spell. He put into it a potato, and a grain of earth, and a down from a pillow, and a pearl, and an apple-pip from a pie. And when the spell was ready, he lay down, and fell asleep. Wry-Face had gone round to all the neighbours to tell them the grand joke about One-Eye, the potato-wife. Sometimes he told it through the window, and sometimes he stood at the door. Sometimes he told it to a gnome who was fine and feathery, and sometimes to one who was making bread. But all the time he laughed, laughed, laughed, till he was scarcely fit to stand. Now he did not call at Oh-I-Am's fine house to tell _him_, not he! And it was quite unnecessary, since Oh-I-Am knew the joke already, every bit. Oh-I-Am had hidden the spell in his cupboard. When it was evening-time, he stole out and laid it by Wry-Face's door. Then he went home, and went to bed.



Wry-Face was making a pie for his supper. Suddenly the room became dark as dark. The darkness was not night coming on, for this was summer-time and night never came on as quickly as all that. "Dear me, what can be the matter?" thought Wry-Face; for he could hardly see to finish making his pie. Then he heard a little voice from his window, crying, "Here I am, Wry-Face, here I am!" But he could not go out to see what it was yet awhile. Then the apple-pie was finished, and in the oven; and Wry-Face ran outside as fast as he could. But he did not see the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door. What he did see was a great potato-plant which had sprung up suddenly close to his window, and was springing up farther still, high, high, and higher. "Good gracious me!" cried Wry-Face in a rage, "I never planted a potato-plant there, not in my whole life! Now I should just like to know what you are doing by my window?" The potato-plant took no notice, but went on climbing high, high, and higher; and ever so far above he heard a tiny faint voice crying: "Here I am, Wry-Face, here I am!" "Well, I never did!" cried Wry-Face, and he began to weep; for he saw that the potato-plant would climb up to his roof and round his chimney and he would never be able to get rid of it. And he wept and wept. At last he went in, and took his pie out of the oven, and set it in the pantry, for it was quite done. And he found a spade, and went out, and began to dig and dig at the root of the potato-plant. But his digging did not seem to make any difference; and the evening began to grow darker.



Wry-Face fetched his little lamp, which is named Bright-Beauty, and which always burns without flickering. Then he went on digging, and he dug, and dug, and dug. And when he had dug for hours and hours, so that he was tired to death, the potato-plant began suddenly to dwindle and dwindle. It dwindled as fast as anything, the leaves disappeared, and the stem disappeared and all the horrid stretching arms. They sank down, down, and down, till at last there was nothing left at all but--a big brown potato! "Well, I do declare!" cried Wry-Face. "I should like to know what you have to do with my fine garden!" The potato replied, "I jumped here from the cart of One-Eye, the potato-wife, and it is quite certain that, unless I am taken back to her immediately, I shall start again, growing, and growing, and growing!" "Dear potato, you must not start growing again!" cried Wry-Face, in a great way. "To-night I am so tired I cannot do anything, but if you will but wait till to-morrow I will take you back to One-Eye, the potato-wife--I will, indeed!" At first the potato would not listen to this at all; but after a while it said, "Well, well, I will wait till to-morrow. But remember, if to-morrow you do not carry me home to One-Eye, the potato-wife, I shall grow into a potato-_tree_, without a doubt!" So Wry-Face carried the potato into his house, and stored it in his bin. But he never noticed the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door. "I am so tired, I can hardly yawn," said Wry-Face. "It is quite time I had my supper, and went to bed." So he fetched the apple-pie from the pantry, and set it upon the table; and presently he sat down to his meal. And he forgot for a moment how tired he was, thinking how delightful it was to sit down to a supper of apple-pie.



Then he lifted his knife and fork to cut off a large piece; but alas, the fork stuck fast. As for the knife, it would not move either, not an inch. Wry-Face began to weep. "Alack, what has happened to my apple-pie?" cried he; and his tears fell round as round. Then he got upon his feet, and he caught hold of the knife and fork and pulled, and pulled, and pulled. And with the last pull the top of the apple-pie came off, sticking to the knife and fork, and Wry-Face saw that within the pie there was not one piece of apple, but--a big brown potato! Wry-Face wept again with horror at the sight. "I should like to know," cried he, "what are you doing in my fine apple-pie." But the brown potato replied, as cool as cool, "I am one of the potatoes belonging to One-Eye, the potato-wife, and I turned the apples out, that I might hide here a while. But this I must tell you, my Wry-Face, unless you take me home immediately to the potato-wife, here, in this pie-dish, I intend to remain." "Alas," cried Wry-Face, "to-night I am so tired I could never find One-Eye; but if you will but wait till to-morrow, I will carry you home to the potato-wife--I will indeed!" At first the potato would not agree to this at all, but after a while it said, "Very well, I will wait till to-morrow. But remember, my Wry-Face, if to-morrow you do not carry me home to One-Eye, I will creep into every pie you make; and you will die at last of starvation without a doubt!" So Wry-Face stored the potato in the potato-bin, and he went supperless to bed. And he knew nothing of the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed by his door.



Now he got into bed, and thought he would go to sleep; but, oh, how hard the mattress was! Wry-Face lay this way, then that, but no matter what way he lay, he found a great lump just beneath him which was as hard as hard, and as nobbly as could be. Wry-Face tossed and tossed till it was nearly morning; and his bones were so sore that he could lie no longer. Then he pulled the mattress from the bed and cut a great hole in it, and when he had searched and searched he found in the middle of the mattress--a big brown potato! "This," cried Wry-Face, "is why I have not slept the whole night through!" and he wept like anything. But the potato was as cool as cool. "I belong," it said, "to One-Eye, the potato-wife; and let me tell you, my little gnome, unless you take me to her immediately, I shall climb into your mattress again; and there I shall remain!" "Alas," cried Wry-Face, "I have tossed about for hours and hours, and am too tired to do anything. But if you will wait till to-morrow, dear potato, I will carry you to One-Eye, the potato-wife--I will, indeed!" At first the potato was unwilling to listen to this, but after a while it said: "Very well, then, I will wait till the morning. But this much I know, my Wry-Face, if you do not carry me then to One-Eye, the potato-wife, I shall get into your mattress and roll again every night !" So Wry-Face put the potato in the bin. When he had done that he went back to bed, and slept, and slept. When the sun was shining he awakened, and he remembered that he had to carry the potatoes back to One-Eye, the potato-wife; and he was as cross as anything.



"Well, I suppose I must!" he said. And when he had had his breakfast, he went to his cupboard to get a sack. Then he found that his sack was full of pearls which he had gathered together for Heigh-Heavy the Giant, whose daughter So-Small he wished to marry. So he thought, "First of all I will carry the pearls to Heigh-Heavy, for that is more important." And away he went with the sack upon his back. And he never saw the spell which Oh-I-Am had placed beside his door. When he reached the Most-Enormous-House of Heigh-Heavy the Giant, there the giant was, sitting in his parlour lacing his shoes. So Wry-Face cried out in a gay little voice, "Here I am, Heigh-Heavy, here I am! And here is a bag of pearls which I have brought you in exchange for your beautiful daughter So-Small!" When Heigh-Heavy heard this, he stopped lacing his shoes, and he said, "You must bring me in exchange for my daughter So-Small as many pearls as will cover my palm." Then Wry-Face skipped forward, and he tipped up the sack; and he shook out all that it held into the hand of Heigh-Heavy the Giant, standing high upon his toes. Now all that it held was--one brown potato! Wry-Face the gnome stared, and stared, and stared, his eyes growing rounder and rounder; but he had no time to weep on account of Heigh-Heavy the Giant who had fallen into a rage terrible to see. "Now there is one thing quite certain," said Heigh-Heavy, "and that is that you shall never marry my daughter So-Small; for, my Wry-Face, I will turn you into a brown potato, and a brown potato you shall remain your whole life through!"



When Wry-Face heard this terrible threat, he took to his heels, and ran from the Most-Enormous-House of Heigh-Heavy the Giant. And he ran, and ran, till his coat was torn and his ears were red. And he never rested till he reached his cottage door, and got inside. Heigh-Heavy laughed till he cried to see the little gnome run. "He will play no tricks on me !" said he. And he went in and shut the door. But Wry-Face said to himself as, weeping, he carried the potatoes to the potato-wife: "I will never play a trick on anyone again, not as long as I live!"

       



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