THE GOLDEN PURSE AND THE SEEING EYES *
THERE was once upon a time a poor wood-cutter who had two sons. When he died he left them only a small hut on the edge of the forest. They had little enough to live upon, but, nevertheless, every night the younger son took his blue porridge bowl, in which he had purposely left half his supper, and placed it on the door-stone for the elves.
The other, however, scraped his dish to the last drop. "This is what thrifty folk do," said he. "Some day I shall be rich."
Now the younger son went alone into the forest, one morning, to cut wood. He carried an apple and a bit of bread, in his pocket. When he had done his work, he sat down to eat them.
While he was eating his bread he remembered that there was a fairy ring not far away. "Ah," laughed he to himself, "I have it! I will not eat my apple, but I will take it to the fairy ring and drop it there. It will make a fine feast for the Little People when they come to dance to-night." Then, because he had reached the fairy ring, he dropped the apple as he had planned.
Scarcely had he done this when a little wee man popped out of the fern. His coat was made of a cardinal flower and his eyes twinkled through ragged white locks, as the stars peep between silver clouds on a windy night. "Friend," he said, "the Little People thank you for your many gifts. One does not give a recompense for love, but the fairies themselves love you and they have sent you the best gift that they have. It is called the Seeing Eyes. It is an invisible gift, but it is worth more than wealth."
So the younger son thanked the little wee man and he hurried home through the forest to tell his brother all that had happened to him. All the way upon the path homeward he saw new wonders in the trees and flowers. It seemed, too, that he understood the song of the birds and the chant of the little brooks that he passed.
When he reached home he told his brother all that had happened. "What nonsense," declared the elder son. "Your eyes look to me just as they ever did! Why did you not make the opportunity to ask for a gift of value one that could be seen? I would have taken nothing less than a purse of gold! Why did you not make the chance to ask for it?"
That night, when his brother set his bowl upon the doorstep, the elder brother put his out, also, for he decided to win the favor of the Little People, so that he, too, might have a gift.
Six nights he placed his blue porridge bowl on the door-stone and on the morning of the seventh day, he went out into the woods toward the fairy ring, with an apple in his pocket.
"If the little wee man speaks to me," he determined, "I will take nothing that cannot be seen. I will ask him outright for the Purse of Gold." And then, because he had reached the fairy ring, he dropped the apple as he had planned.
Scarcely had he dropped it than it happened to him as it had to his brother. The little wee man popped out of the fern. His coat was made of a cardinal flower and his bright eyes twinkled through his ragged white locks, as the stars peep between the silver clouds on a windy night. "Why did you drop the apple in our fairy ring?" he asked.
"It is my seventh gift to the Little People," replied the elder son. "In return for all that I have done, I ask for the Purse of Gold."
" So!" replied the little wee man, thoughtfully. "Well, I will give it you. It is really of little worth in the eyes of the fairies. Content and happiness do not go with it unless you know its secret. There are many things that gold cannot buy."
So he gave the elder brother the purse and, scarcely giving thanks, the elder brother grasped it and turned toward the city that lies beyond the wood. He could not wait to see what he could buy, and if I should tell you the half of his possessions after he had reached the city, you might envy him.
Nevertheless, it did not take him long to find out that there are many things money cannot buy. He had no love, for that may not be bought. He had no content, for he was always thinking of his possessions and seeking new ones. He had no happiness, because he had no content and he had nothing but the things that money can buy. He was very unhappy. He thought of nobody but himself from morning till evening and he did no good with what he possessed.
As for the younger son, he lived on in the little hut on the edge of the forest. Though he had no money to give away, all poor people loved him. "Wherever he went, he carried the magic of the Seeing Eyes. All the fields, the woods, the streams, and the brooks were more truly his than his brother's, for he loved the grasses, and the flowers, and the trees, and the birds, and understood them all. Surely, you need not ask if he was happy, for it is not everyone to whom is given the wealth of the Seeing Eyes.