Master Tobacco by Unknown
ONCE upon a time there was a poor woman who went
about begging with her son; for at home she had
neither a morsel to eat nor a stick to burn. First she
tried the country, and went from parish to parish; but it was
poor work, and so she came into the town. There she went
about from house to house for a while, and at last she came
to the Lord Mayor. He was both open-hearted and open-handed,
and he was married to the daughter of the richest
merchant in the town, and they had one little daughter. As
they had no more children, you may fancy she was sugar and
spice and all that's nice, and in a word there was nothing too
good for her. This little girl soon came to know the beggar
boy as he went about with his mother; and as the Lord Mayor
was a wise man, as soon as he saw what friends the two were,
he took the boy into his house that he might be his daughter's
playmate. Yes, they played and read and went to school
together, and never had so much as one quarrel.
"AND WHEN HE SET HER DOWN HE GAVE HER A KISS"
One day the Lady Mayoress stood at the window, and
watched the children as they were trudging off to school.
There had been a shower of rain, and the street was flooded,
and she saw how the boy first carried the basket with their
dinner over the stream, and then he went back and lifted the
little girl over, and when he set her down he gave her a kiss.
When the Lady Mayoress saw this, she got very angry.
"To think of such a ragamuffin kissing our daughter—we
who are the best people in the place!" That was what she
said. Her husband did his best to stop her tongue. "No
one knew," he said, "how children would turn out in life,
or what might befall his own. The boy was a clever, handy
lad, and often and often a great tree sprang from a slender
But no! it was all the same, whatever he said and whichever
way he put it. The Lady Mayoress held her own, and
said beggars on horseback always rode their cattle to death,
and that no one had ever heard of a silk purse being made out
of a sow's ear; adding, that a penny would never turn into
a shilling, even though it glittered like a guinea. The end of
it all was that the poor lad was turned out of the house, and
had to pack up his rags and be off.
When the Lord Mayor saw there was no help for it, he
sent him away with a trader who had come thither with a
ship, and he was to be cabin boy on board her. He told his
wife he had sold the boy for a roll of tobacco.
But before he went the Lord Mayor's daughter broke her
ring into two bits and gave the boy one bit, that it might be
a token to know him by if they ever met again; and so the
ship sailed away, and the lad came to a town, far, far off in
the world, and to that town a priest had just come who was so
good a preacher that everyone went to church to hear him,
and the crew of the ship went with the rest the Sunday after
to hear the sermon. As for the lad, he was left behind to
mind the ship and to cook the dinner. So while he was hard
at work he heard some one calling out across the water on
an island. So he took the boat and rowed across, and there
he saw an old hag, who called and roared.
"Aye," she said, "you have come at last! Here have I
stood a hundred years calling and bawling, and thinking how
I should ever get over this water; but no one has ever heard
or heeded but you, and you shall be well paid if you will put
me over to the other side."
So the lad had to row her to her sister's house, who lived
on a hill on the other side close by; and when they got there,
she told him to beg for the old tablecloth which lay on the
dresser. Yes! he would beg for it; and when the old
witch who lived there knew that he had helped her sister
over the water, she said he might have whatever he chose to
"Oh," said the boy, "then I won't have anything else than
that old tablecloth on the dresser yonder."
"Oh," said the old witch, "that you never asked out of your
"Now I must be off," said the lad, "to cook the Sunday
dinner for the church-goers."
"Never mind that," said the first old hag; "it will cook
itself while you are away. Stop with me, and I will pay you
better still. Here have I stood and called and bawled for a
hundred years, but no one has ever heeded me but you."
The end was he had to go with her to another sister, and
when he got there the old hag said he was to be sure and ask
for the old sword, which was such that he could put it into
his pocket and it became a knife, and when he drew it out it
was a long sword again. One edge was black and the other
white, and if he smote with the black edge everything fell dead,
and if with the white everything came to life again. So when
they came over, and the second old witch heard how he had
helped her sister across, she said he might have anything he
chose to ask for her fare.
"Oh," said the lad, "then I will have nothing else but that
old sword which hangs up over the cupboard."
"That you never asked out of your own wits," said the old
witch; but for all that he got the sword.
Then the old hag said again: "Come on with me to my
third sister. Here have I stood and called and bawled for a
hundred years, and no one has heeded me but you. Come on
to my third sister, and you shall have better pay still."
So he went with her, and on the way she told him he was
to ask for the old hymn book; and that was such a book that
when anyone was sick and the nurse sang one of the hymns,
the sickness passed away, and they were well again. Well!
when they got across, and the third old witch heard he had
helped her sister across, she said he was to have whatever he
chose to ask for his fare.
"Oh," said the lad, "then I won't have anything else but
granny's old hymn book."
"That," said the old hag, "you never asked out of your
When he got back to the ship the crew were still at church,
so he tried his tablecloth, and spread just a little bit of it out,
for he wanted to see what good it was before he laid it on
the table. Yes! in a trice it was covered with good food and
strong drink, enough and to spare. So he just took a little
snack, and then he gave the ship's dog as much as it could eat.
When the church-goers came on board, the captain said:
"Wherever did you get all that food for the dog? Why,
he's as round as a sausage, and as lazy as a snail."
"Oh, if you must know," said the lad, "I gave him the
"Good boy," said the captain, "to think of the dog."
So he spread out the cloth, and at once the whole table was
covered all over with such brave meat and drink as they had
never before seen in all their born days.
Now when the boy was again alone with the dog, he wanted
to try the sword, so he smote at the dog with the black edge,
and it fell dead on the deck; but when he turned the blade and
smote with the white edge the dog came to life again and
wagged his tail and fawned on his playmate. But the book—that
he could not get tried just then.
Then they sailed well and far till a storm overtook them
which lasted many days, so they lay to and drove till they
were quite out of their course, and could not tell where they
were. At last the wind fell, and then they came to a country
far, far off that none of them knew; but they could easily see
there was great grief there, as well there might be, for the
King's daughter was a leper. The King came down to the
shore, and asked was there anyone on board who could cure
her and make her well again.
"No, there was not." That was what they all said who
were on deck.
"Is there no one else on board the ship than those I see?"
asked the King.
"Yes; there's a little beggar boy."
"Well," said the King, "let him come on deck."
So when he came and heard what the King wanted, he said
he thought he might cure her; and then the captain got so
wroth and mad with rage that he ran round and round like
a squirrel in a cage, for he thought the boy was only putting
himself forward to do something in which he was sure to fail,
and he told the King not to listen to such childish chatter.
But the King only said that wit came as children grew, and
that there was the making of a man in every bairn. The boy
had said he could do it, and he might as well try. After
all, there were many who had tried and failed before him.
So he took him home to his daughter, and the lad sang a
hymn once. Then the Princess could lift her arm. Once
again he sang it, and she could sit up in bed. And when he
had sung it thrice, the King's daughter was as well as you
and I are.
The King was so glad he wanted to give him half his kingdom
and the princess to wife.
"Yes," said the lad, "land and power are fine things to
have half of," and was very grateful; "but as for the Princess,
he was betrothed to another," he said, "and he could not
take her to wife."
So he stayed there awhile and got half the kingdom; and
when he had not been very long there, war broke out, and
the lad went out to battle with the rest, and you may fancy
he did not spare the black edge of his sword. The enemy's
soldiers fell before him like flies, and the King won the day.
But when they had conquered, he turned the white edge, and
they all rose up alive and became the King's soldiers, who had
granted them their lives. But then there were so many of
them that they were badly off for food, though the King
wished to send them away full, both of meat and drink. So
the lad had to bring out his tablecloth, and then there was not
a man that lacked anything.
Now when he had lived a little longer with the King, he
began to long to see the Lord Mayor's daughter. So he fitted
out four ships of war and set sail; and when he came off the
town where the Lord Mayor lived, he fired off his cannon like
thunder, till half the panes of glass in the town were shivered.
On board those ships everything was as grand as in a
King's palace; and as for himself, he had gold on every seam
of his coat, so fine he was. It was not long before the Lord
Mayor came down to the shore and asked if the foreign lord
would not be so good as to come up and dine with him. "Yes,
he would go," he said; and so he went up to the Mansion
House where the Lord Mayor lived, and there he took his seat
between the Lady Mayoress and her daughter.
So as they sat there in the greatest state, and ate and drank
and were merry, he threw the half of the ring into the daughter's
glass, and no one saw it; but she was not slow to find out
what he meant, and excused herself from the feast and went
out and fitted his half to her half. Her mother saw there was
something in the wind and hurried after her as fast as she
"Do you know who that is in there, mother?" said the
"No!" said the Lady Mayoress.
"He whom papa sold for a roll of tobacco," said the daughter.
At these words the Lady Mayoress fainted and fell down
flat on the floor.
In a little while the Lord Mayor came out to see what was
the matter, and when he heard how things stood he was
almost as uneasy as his wife.
"There is nothing to make a fuss about," said Master Tobacco.
"I have only come to claim the little girl I kissed as
we were going to school."
But to the Lady Mayoress he said:
"You should never despise the children of the poor and
needy, for none can tell how they may turn out; since there is
the making of a man in every child of man, and wit and wisdom
come with growth and strength."