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Sing a song of sixpence.

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"You can have the blackbirds on two conditions," he said. "What are they?" asked the cook. "One is that you will not kill the birds. The other condition is that you secure me a position in the King's household." "How can I put live birds in a pie?" enquired the cook. "Very easily, if you make the pie big enough to hold them. You can serve the pie after the King has satisfied his hunger with other dishes, and it will amuse the company to find live birds in the pie when they expected cooked ones." "It is a risky experiment," exclaimed the cook, "for I do not know the new King's temper. But the idea may please His Majesty, and since you will not allow me to kill the birds, it is the best thing I can do. As for your other condition, you seem to be a very bright boy, and so I will have the butler take you as his page, and you shall stand back of the King's chair and keep the flies away while he eats." The butler being called, and his consent secured, the cook fell to making the crusts for his novel pie, while Gilligren was taken to the servants' hall and dressed in a gorgeous suit of the King's livery.



When the dinner was served, the King kept looking for the blackbird pie, but he said nothing, and at last the pie was placed before him, its crusts looking light and brown, and sprigs of myrtle being stuck in the four corners to make it look more inviting. Although the King had already eaten heartily, he smacked his lips when he saw this tempting dish, and picking up the carving-fork he pushed it quickly into the pie. At once the crust fell in, and all the four and twenty blackbirds put up their heads and began to look about them. And coming from the blackness of the pie into the brilliantly lighted room they thought they were in the sunshine, and began to sing merrily, while some of the boldest hopped out upon the table or began flying around the room. At first the good King was greatly surprised; but soon, appreciating the jest, he lay back in his chair and laughed long and merrily. And his courtiers and the fine ladies present heartily joined in the laughter, for they also were greatly amused. Then the King called for the cook, and when Mister Baker appeared, uncertain of his reception, and filled with many misgivings, His Majesty cried,



"Sirrah! how came you to think of putting live birds in the pie?" The cook, fearing that the King was angry, answered, "May it please your Majesty, it was not my thought, but the idea of the boy who stands behind your chair." The King turned his head, and seeing Gilligren, who looked very well in his new livery, he said, "You are a clever youth, and deserve a better position than that of a butler's lad. Hereafter you shall be one of my own pages, and if you serve me faithfully I will advance your fortunes with your deserts." And Gilligren did serve the King faithfully, and as he grew older acquired much honor and great wealth. "After all," he used to say, "that sixpence made my fortune. And it all came about through such a small thing as a handful of rye!"

       



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