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Sing a song of sixpence.

Start of Story

"My sixpence is gone," he said to himself, "and I have received nothing in exchange but a handful of rye! How can I make my fortune with that?" He did not despair, however, but picked up the sack and continued his way along the dusty road. Soon it became too dark to travel farther, and Gilligren stepped aside into a meadow, where, lying down upon the sweet grass, he rolled the sack into a pillow for his head and prepared to sleep. The rye that was within the sack, however, hurt his head, and he sat up and opened the sack. "Why should I keep a handful of rye?" he thought, "It will be of no value to me at all." So he threw out the rye upon the ground, and rolling up the sack again for a pillow, was soon sound asleep. When he awoke the sun was shining brightly over his head and the twitter and chirping of many birds fell upon his ears. Gilligren opened his eyes and saw a large flock of blackbirds feeding upon the rye he had scattered upon the ground. So intent were they upon their feast they never noticed Gilligren at all.



He carefully unfolded the sack, and spreading wide its opening threw it quickly over the flock of black birds. Some escaped and flew away, but a great many were caught, and Gilligren put his eye to the sack and found he had captured four and twenty. He tied the mouth of the sack with a piece of twine that was in his pocket, and then threw the sack over his shoulder and began again his journey to London. "I have made a good exchange, after all," he thought, "for surely four and twenty blackbirds are worth more than a handful of rye, and perhaps even more than a sixpence, if I can find anyone who wishes to buy them." He now walked rapidly forward, and about noon entered the great city of London. Gilligren wandered about the streets until he came to the King's palace, where there was a great concourse of people and many guards to keep intruders from the gates. Seeing he could not enter from the front, the boy walked around to the rear of the palace and found himself near the royal kitchen, where the cooks and other servants were rushing around to hasten the preparation of the King's dinner.



Gilligren sat down upon a stone where he could watch them, and laying the sack at his feet was soon deeply interested in the strange sight. Presently a servant in the King's livery saw him and came to his side. "What are you doing here?" he asked, roughly. "I am waiting to see the King," replied Gilligren. "The King! The King never comes here," said the servant; "and neither do we allow idlers about the royal kitchen. So depart at once, or I shall be forced to call a guard to arrest you." Gilligren arose obediently and slung his sack over his shoulder. As he did so the birds that were within began to flutter. "What have you in the sack?" asked the servant. "Blackbirds," replied Gilligren. "Blackbirds!" echoed the servant, in surprise, "well, that is very fortunate indeed. Come with me at once!" He seized the boy by the arm and drew him hastily along until they entered the great kitchen of the palace. "Here, Mister Baker!" the man called, excitedly, "I have found your blackbirds!" A big, fat man who was standing in the middle of the kitchen with folded arms and a look of despair upon his round, greasy face, at once came toward them and asked eagerly, "The blackbirds? are you sure you can get them?"



"They are here already; the boy has a bag full of them." "Give them to me," said the cook, who wore a square cap, that was shaped like a box, upon his head. "What do you want with them?" asked Gilligren. "I want them for a pie for the King's dinner," answered Mister Baker; "His Majesty ordered the dish, and I have hunted all over London for the blackbirds, but could not find them. Now that you have brought them, however, you have saved me my position as cook, and perhaps my head as well." "But it would be cruel to put the beautiful birds in a pie," remonstrated Gilligren, "and I shall not give them to you for such a purpose." "Nonsense!" replied the cook, "the King has ordered it; he is very fond of the dish." "Still, you cannot have them," declared the boy stoutly, "the birds are mine, and I will not have them killed." "But what can I do?" asked the cook, in perplexity; "the King has ordered a blackbird pie, and your birds are the only blackbirds in London." Gilligren thought deeply for a moment, and conceived what he thought to be a very good idea. If the sixpence was to make his fortune, then this was his great opportunity.



       



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