The Kingdom of the Greedy by P. J. Stahl
This fairy tale of a gormandizing people contains no mention of
Thanksgiving Day. Yet its connection with our American festival
is obvious. Every one who likes fairy tales will enjoy reading it.
THE country of the Greedy, well known in history,
was ruled by a king who had much trouble. His
subjects were well behaved, but they had one sad fault:
they were too fond of pies and tarts. It was as disagreeable
to them to swallow a spoonful of soup as if it
were so much sea water, and it would take a policeman
to make them open their mouths for a bit of meat,
either boiled or roasted. This deplorable taste made the
fortunes of the pastry cooks, but also of the apothecaries.
Families ruined themselves in pills and powders;
camomile, rhubarb, and peppermint trebled in price,
as well as other disagreeable remedies, such as castor——which
I will not name.
The King of the Greedy sought long for the means of
correcting this fatal passion for sweets, but even the
faculty were puzzled.
"Your Majesty," said the great court doctor, Olibriers,
at his last audience, "your people look like
putty! They are incurable; their senseless love for
good eating will bring them all to the grave."
This view of things did not suit the King. He was
wise, and saw very plainly that a monarch without subjects
would be but a sorry king.
Happily, after this utter failure of the doctors, there
came into the mind of His Majesty a first-class idea:
he telegraphed for Mother Mitchel, the most celebrated
of all pastry cooks. Mother Mitchel soon arrived, with
her black cat, Fanfreluche, who accompanied her everywhere.
He was an incomparable cat. He had not his
equal as an adviser and a taster of tarts.
Mother Mitchel having respectfully inquired what she
and her cat could do for His Majesty, the King demanded
of the astonished pastry cook a tart as big as the
capitol—bigger even, if possible, but no smaller! When
the King uttered this astounding order, deep emotion
was shown by the chamberlains, the pages, and lackeys.
Nothing but the respect due to his presence prevented
them from crying "Long live Your Majesty!" in his
very ears. But the King had seen enough of the enthusiasm
of the populace, and did not allow such sounds
in the recesses of his palace.
The King gave Mother Mitchel one month to carry
out his gigantic project. "It is enough," she proudly
replied, brandishing her crutch. Then, taking leave
of the King, she and her cat set out for their home.
On the way Mother Mitchel arranged in her head the
plan of the monument which was to immortalize her,
and considered the means of executing it. As to its
form and size, it was to be as exact a copy of the capitol
as possible, since the King had willed it; but its outside
crust should have a beauty all its own. The dome must
be adorned with sugarplums of all colours, and surmounted
by a splendid crown of macaroons, spun sugar,
chocolate, and candied fruits. It was no small affair.
Mother Mitchel did not like to lose her time. Her
plan of battle once formed, she recruited on her way all
the little pastry cooks of the country, as well as all the
tiny six-year-olds who had a sincere love for the noble
callings of scullion and apprentice. There were plenty
of these, as you may suppose, in the country of the
Greedy; Mother Mitchel had her pick of them.
Mother Mitchel, with the help of her crutch and of
Fanfreluche, who miaowed loud enough to be heard
twenty miles off, called upon all the millers of the land,
and commanded them to bring together at a certain
time as many sacks of fine flour as they could grind in a
week. There were only windmills in that country; you
may easily believe how they all began to go. B-r-r-r-r-r!
What a noise they made! The clatter was so great
that all the birds flew away to other climes, and even the
clouds fled from the sky.
At the call of Mother Mitchel all the farmers' wives
were set to work; they rushed to the hencoops to collect
the seven thousand fresh eggs that Mother Mitchel
wanted for her great edifice. Deep was the emotion of
the fowls. The hens were inconsolable, and the unhappy
creatures mourned upon the palings for the loss
of all their hopes.
The milkmaids were busy from morning till night in
milking the cows. Mother Mitchel must have twenty
thousand pails of milk. All the little calves were put on
half rations. This great work was nothing to them,
and they complained pitifully to their mothers. Many
of the cows protested with energy against this unreasonable
tax, which made their young families so uncomfortable.
There were pails upset, and even some
milkmaids went head over heels. But these little accidents
did not chill the enthusiasm of the labourers.
And now Mother Mitchel called for a thousand
pounds of the best butter. All the churns for twenty
miles around began to work in the most lively manner.
Their dashers dashed without ceasing, keeping perfect
time. The butter was tasted, rolled into pats, wrapped
up, and put into baskets. Such energy had never been
Mother Mitchel passed for a sorceress. It was all
because of her cat, Fanfreluche, with whom she had
mysterious doings and pantomimes, and with whom she
talked in her inspired moments, as if he were a real
person. Certainly, since the famous "Puss in Boots,"
there had never been an animal so extraordinary; and
credulous folks suspected him of being a magician.
Some curious people had the courage to ask Fanfreluche
if this were true; but he had replied by bristling, and
showing his teeth and claws so fiercely, that the conversation
had ended there. Sorceress or not, Mother
Mitchel was always obeyed. No one else was ever
served so punctually.
On the appointed day all the millers arrived with
their asses trotting in single file, each laden with a great
sack of flour. Mother Mitchel, after having examined
the quality of the flour, had every sack accurately
weighed. This was head work and hard work, and took
time; but Mother Mitchel was untiring, and her cat, also,
for while the operation lasted he sat on the roof watching.
It is only just to say that the millers of the Greedy
Kingdom brought flour not only faultless but of full
weight. They knew that Mother Mitchel was not
joking when she said that others must be as exact with
her as she was with them. Perhaps also they were a
little afraid of the cat, whose great green eyes were
always shining upon them like two round lamps, and
never lost sight of them for one moment.
All the farmers' wives arrived in turn, with baskets
of eggs upon their heads. They did not load their
donkeys with them, for fear that in jogging along they
would become omelettes on the way. Mother Mitchel
received them with her usual gravity. She had the
patience to look through every egg to see if it were fresh.
She did not wish to run the risk of having young
chickens in a tart that was destined for those who could
not bear the taste of any meat however tender and
delicate. The number of eggs was complete, and again
Mother Mitchel and her cat had nothing to complain of.
This Greedy nation, though carried away by love of
good eating, was strictly honest. It must be said that
where nations are patriotic, desire for the common good
makes them unselfish. Mother Mitchel's tart was to be
the glory of the country, and each one was proud to
contribute to such a great work.
And now the milkmaids with their pots and pails of
milk, and the buttermakers with their baskets filled
with the rich yellow pats of butter, filed in long procession
to the right and left of the cabin of Mother Mitchel.
There was no need for her to examine so carefully the
butter and the milk. She had such a delicate nose
that if there had been a single pat of ancient butter or a
pail of sour milk she would have pounced upon it instantly.
But all was perfectly fresh. In that golden
age they did not understand the art, now so well known,
of making milk out of flour and water. Real milk was
necessary to make cheesecakes and ice cream and other
delicious confections much adored in the Greedy Kingdom.
If any one had made such a despicable discovery,
he would have been chased from the country as a public
Then came the grocers, with their aprons of coffee
bags, and with the jolly, mischievous faces the rogues
always have. Each one clasped to his heart a sugar
loaf nearly as large as himself, whose summit, without
its paper cap, looked like new-fallen snow upon a pyramid.
Mother Mitchel, with her crutch for a baton, saw
them all placed in her storerooms upon shelves put up
for the purpose. She had to be very strict, for some of
the little fellows could hardly part from their merchandise,
and many were indiscreet, with their tongues
behind their great mountains of sugar. If they had
been let alone, they would never have stopped till the
sugar was all gone. But they had not thought of the
implacable eye of old Fanfreluche, who, posted upon a
water spout, took note of all their misdeeds. From
another quarter came a whole army of country people,
rolling wheelbarrows and carrying huge baskets, all
filled with cherries, plums, peaches, apples, and pears.
All these fruits were so fresh, in such perfect condition,
with their fair shining skins, that they looked like wax
or painted marble, but their delicious perfume proved
that they were real. Some little people, hidden in the
corners, took pains to find this out. Between ourselves,
Mother Mitchel made believe not to see them, and took
the precaution of holding Fanfreluche in her arms so
that he could not spring upon them. The fruits were
all put into bins, each kind by itself. And now the
preparations were finished. There was no time to lose
before setting to work.
The spot which Mother Mitchel had chosen for her
great edifice was a pretty hill on which a plateau formed
a splendid site. This hill commanded the capital city,
built upon the slope of another hill close by. After
having beaten down the earth till it was as smooth as a
floor, they spread over it loads of bread crumbs, brought
from the baker's, and levelled it with rake and spade,
as we do gravel in our garden walks. Little birds, as
greedy as themselves, came in flocks to the feast, but
they might eat as they liked, it would never be missed,
so thick was the carpet. It was a great chance for the
bold little things.
All the ingredients for the tart were now ready.
Upon order of Mother Mitchel they began to peel the
apples and pears and to take out the pips. The weather
was so pleasant that the girls sat out of doors, upon the
ground, in long rows. The sun looked down upon them
with a merry face. Each of the little workers had a big
earthen pan, and peeled incessantly the apples which
the boys brought them. When the pans were full, they
were carried away and others were brought. They had
also to carry away the peels, or the girls would have been
buried in them. Never was there such a peeling before.
Not far away, the children were stoning the plums,
cherries, and peaches. This work, being the easiest, was
given to the youngest and most inexperienced hands,
which were all first carefully washed, for Mother Mitchel,
though not very particular about her own toilet, was
very neat in her cooking. The schoolhouse, long unused
(for in the country of the Greedy they had forgotten
everything), was arranged for this second class of
workers, and the cat was their inspector. He walked
round and round, growling if he saw the fruit popping
into any of the little mouths. If they had dared, how
they would have pelted him with plum stones! But no
one risked it. Fanfreluche was not to be trifled with.
In those days powdered sugar had not been invented,
and to grate it all was no small affair. It was the work
that the grocers used to dislike the most; both lungs and
arms were soon tired. But Mother Mitchel was there
to sustain them with her unequalled energy. She chose
the labourers from the most robust of the boys. With
mallet and knife she broke the cones into round pieces,
and they grated them till they were too small to hold.
The bits were put into baskets to be pounded. One
would never have expected to find all the thousand
pounds of sugar again. But a new miracle was wrought
by Mother Mitchel. It was all there!
It was then the turn of the ambitious scullions to
enter the lists and break the seven thousand eggs for
Mother Mitchel. It was not hard to break them—any
fool could do that; but to separate adroitly the
yolks and the whites demands some talent, and, above
all, great care. We dare not say that there were no
accidents here, no eggs too well scrambled, no baskets
upset. But the experience of Mother Mitchel had
counted upon such things, and it may truly be said that
there were never so many eggs broken at once, or ever
could be again. To make an omelette of them would
have taken a saucepan as large as a skating pond, and
the fattest cook that ever lived could not hold the handle
of such a saucepan.
But this was not all. Now that the yolks and whites
were once divided, they must each be beaten separately
in wooden bowls, to give them the necessary lightness.
The egg beaters were marshalled into two brigades, the
yellow and the white. Every one preferred the white,
for it was much more amusing to make those snowy
masses that rose up so high than to beat the yolks,
which knew no better than to mix together like so much
sauce. Mother Mitchel, with her usual wisdom, had
avoided this difficulty by casting lots. Thus, those who
were not on the white side had no reason to complain of
oppression. And truly, when all was done, the whites
and the yellows were equally tired. All had cramps in
Now began the real labour of Mother Mitchel. Till
now she had been the commander-in-chief—the head
only; now she put her own finger in the pie. First, she
had to make sweetmeats and jam out of all the immense
quantity of fruit she had stored. For this, as she could
only do one kind at a time, she had ten kettles, each as
big as a dinner table. During forty-eight hours the
cooking went on; a dozen scullions blew the fire and put
on the fuel. Mother Mitchel, with a spoon that four
modern cooks could hardly lift, never ceased stirring
and trying the boiling fruit. Three expert tasters,
chosen from the most dainty, had orders to report progress
every half hour.
It is unnecessary to state that all the sweetmeats were
perfectly successful, or that they were of exquisite consistency,
colour, and perfume. With Mother Mitchel
there was no such word as fail. When each kind of
sweetmeat was finished, she skimmed it, and put it
away to cool in enormous bowls before potting. She
did not use for this the usual little glass or earthen jars,
but great stone ones, like those in the "Forty Thieves."
Not only did these take less time to fill, but they were
safe from the children. The scum and the scrapings
were something, to be sure. But there was little Toto,
who thought this was not enough. He would have
jumped into one of the bowls if they had not held him.
Mother Mitchel, who thought of everything, had
ordered two hundred great kneading troughs, wishing
that all the utensils of this great work should be perfectly
new. These two hundred troughs, like her other
materials, were all delivered punctually and in good
order. The pastry cooks rolled up their sleeves and
began to knead the dough with cries of "Hi! Hi!"
that could be heard for miles. It was odd to see this
army of bakers in serried ranks, all making the same
gestures at once, like well-disciplined soldiers, stooping
and rising together in time, so that a foreign ambassador
wrote to his court that he wished his people could load
and fire as well as these could knead. Such praise a
people never forgets.
When each troughful of paste was approved it was
moulded with care into the form of bricks, and with the
aid of the engineer-in-chief, a young genius who had
gained the first prize in the school of architecture, the
majestic edifice was begun. Mother Mitchel herself
drew the plan; in following her directions, the young
engineer showed himself modest beyond all praise. He
had the good sense to understand that the architecture
of tarts and pies had rules of its own, and that therefore
the experience of Mother Mitchel was worth all the
scientific theories in the world.
The inside of the monument was divided into as many
compartments as there were kinds of fruits. The walls
were no less than four feet thick. When they were
finished, twenty-four ladders were set up, and twenty-four
experienced cooks ascended them. These first-class
artists were each of them armed with an enormous
cooking spoon. Behind them, on the lower rounds of
the ladders, followed the kitchen boys, carrying on their
heads pots and pans filled to the brim with jam and
sweetmeats, each sort ready to be poured into its destined
compartment. This colossal labour was accomplished
in one day, and with wonderful exactness.
When the sweetmeats were used to the last drop,
when the great spoons had done all their work, the
twenty-four cooks descended to earth again. The intrepid
Mother Mitchel, who had never quitted the spot,
now ascended, followed by the noble Fanfreluche, and
dipped her finger into each of the compartments, to
assure herself that everything was right. This part of
her duty was not disagreeable, and many of the scullions
would have liked to perform it. But they might have
lingered too long over the enchanting task. As for
Mother Mitchel, she had been too well used to sweets to
be excited now. She only wished to do her duty and to
All went on well. Mother Mitchel had given her
approbation. Nothing was needed now but to crown
the sublime and delicious edifice by placing upon it the
crust—that is, the roof, or dome. This delicate operation
was confided to the engineer-in-chief who now
showed his superior genius. The dome, made beforehand
of a single piece, was raised in the air by means of
twelve balloons, whose force of ascension had been carefully
calculated. First it was directed, by ropes,
exactly over the top of the tart; then at the word of command
it gently descended upon the right spot. It was
not a quarter of an inch out of place. This was a great
triumph for Mother Mitchel and her able assistant.
But all was not over. How should this colossal tart
be cooked? That was the question that agitated all the
people of the Greedy country, who came in crowds—lords
and commons—to gaze at the wonderful spectacle.
Some of the envious or ill-tempered declared it would
be impossible to cook the edifice which Mother Mitchel
had built; and the doctors were, no one knows why, the
saddest of all. Mother Mitchel, smiling at the general
bewilderment, mounted the summit of the tart; she
waved her crutch in the air, and while her cat miaowed
in his sweetest voice, suddenly there issued from the
woods a vast number of masons, drawing wagons of
well-baked bricks, which they had prepared in secret.
This sight silenced the ill-wishers and filled the hearts of
the Greedy with hope.
In two days an enormous furnace was built around
and above the colossal tart, which found itself shut up
in an immense earthen pot. Thirty huge mouths,
which were connected with thousands of winding pipes
for conducting heat all over the building, were soon
choked with fuel, by the help of two hundred charcoal
burners, who, obeying a private signal, came forth in
long array from the forest, each carrying his sack of coal.
Behind them stood Mother Mitchel with a box of
matches, ready to fire each oven as it was filled. Of
course the kindlings had not been forgotten, and was all
soon in a blaze.
When the fire was lighted in the thirty ovens, when
they saw the clouds of smoke rolling above the dome,
that announced that the cooking had begun, the joy of
the people was boundless. Poets improvised odes, and
musicians sung verses without end, in honour of the
superb prince who had been inspired to feed his people
in so dainty a manner, when other rulers could not give
them enough even of dry bread. The names of Mother
Mitchel and of the illustrious engineer were not forgotten
in this great glorification. Next to His Majesty,
they were certainly the first of mankind, and their
names were worthy of going down with his to the remotest
All the envious ones were thunderstruck. They
tried to console themselves by saying that the work was
not yet finished, and that an accident might happen at
the last moment. But they did not really believe a
word of this. Notwithstanding all their efforts to look
cheerful, it had to be acknowledged that the cooking was
possible. Their last resource was to declare the tart a
bad one, but that would be biting off their own noses.
As for declining to eat it, envy could never go so far as
that in the country of the Greedy.
After two days, the unerring nose of Mother Mitchel
discovered that the tart was cooked to perfection. The
whole country was perfumed with its delicious aroma.
Nothing more remained but to take down the furnaces.
Mother Mitchel made her official announcement to His
Majesty, who was delighted, and complimented her
upon her punctuality. One day was still wanting to
complete the month. During this time the people
gave their eager help to the engineer in the demolition,
wishing to have a hand in the great national work and
to hasten the blessed moment. In the twinkling of an
eye the thing was done. The bricks were taken down
one by one, counted carefully, and carried into the forest
again, to serve for another occasion.
The TART, unveiled, appeared at last in all its majesty
and splendour. The dome was gilded, and reflected
the rays of the sun in the most dazzling manner. The
wildest excitement and rapture ran through the land of
the Greedy. Each one sniffed with open nostrils the
appetizing perfume. Their mouths watered, their eyes
filled with tears, they embraced, pressed each other's
hands, and indulged in touching pantomimes. Then
the people of town and country, united by one rapturous
feeling, joined hands, and danced in a ring around the
No one dared to touch the tart before the arrival of
His Majesty. Meanwhile, something must be done to
allay the universal impatience, and they resolved to
show Mother Mitchel the gratitude with which all
hearts were filled. She was crowned with the laurel of
conquerors, which is also the laurel of sauce, thus serving
a double purpose. Then they placed her, with her
crutch and her cat, upon a sort of throne, and carried
her all round her vast work. Before her marched all the
musicians of the town, dancing, drumming, fifing, and
tooting upon all instruments, while behind her pressed
an enthusiastic crowd, who rent the air with their
plaudits and filled it with a shower of caps. Her fame
was complete, and a noble pride shone on her countenance.
The royal procession arrived. A grand stairway had
been built, so that the King and his ministers could
mount to the summit of this monumental tart. Thence
the King, amid a deep silence, thus addressed his people:
"My children," said he, "you adore tarts. You despise
all other food. If you could, you would even eat
tarts in your sleep. Very well. Eat as much as you
like. Here is one big enough to satisfy you. But know
this, that while there remains a single crumb of this
august tart, from the height of which I am proud to look
down on you, all other food is forbidden you on pain of
death. While you are here, I have ordered all the pantries
to be emptied and, all the butchers, bakers, pork
milk dealers, and fishmongers to shut up their shops.
Why leave them open? Why indeed? Have you not
here at discretion what you love best, and enough to
last you ever, ever so long? Devote yourselves to it
with all your hearts. I do not wish you to be bored with
the sight of any other food.
"Greedy ones! behold your TART!"
What enthusiastic applause. What frantic hurrahs rent
the air, in answer to this eloquent speech from the
"Long live the King, Mother Mitchel, and her cat!
Long live the tart! Down with soup! Down with
bread! To the bottom of the sea with all beefsteaks,
mutton chops, and roasts!"
Such cries came from every lip. Old men gently
stroked their chops, children patted their little stomachs,
and the crowd licked its thousand lips with eager joy.
Even the babies danced in their nurses' arms, so precocious
was the passion for tarts in this singular country.
Grave professors, skipping like kids, declaimed Latin
verses in honour of His Majesty and Mother Mitchel,
and the shyest young girls opened their mouths like the
beaks of little birds. As for the doctors, they felt a
joy beyond expression. They had reflected. They
understood. But—my friends!——
At last the signal was given. A detachment of the
engineer corps arrived, armed with pick and cutlass,
and marched in good order to the assault. A breach
was soon opened, and the distribution began. The King
smiled at the opening in the tart; though vast, it hardly
showed more than a mouse hole in the monstrous wall.
The King stroked his beard grandly. "All goes well,"
said he, "for him who knows how to wait."
Who can tell how long the feast would have lasted if
the King had not given his command that it should
cease? Once more they expressed their gratitude with
cries so stifled that they resembled grunts, and then
rushed to the river. Never had a nation been so besmeared.
Some were daubed to the eyes, others had
their ears and hair all sticky. As for the little ones,
they were marmalade from head to foot. When they
had finished their toilets, the river ran all red and yellow
and was sweetened for several hours, to the great surprise
of all the fishes.
Before returning home, the people presented themselves
before the King to receive his commands.
"Children!" said he, "the feast will begin again exactly
at six o'clock. Give time to wash the dishes and
change the tablecloths, and you may once more give
yourselves over to pleasure. You shall feast twice a day
as long as the tart lasts. Do not forget. Yes! if there
is not enough in this one, I will even order ANOTHER
from Mother Mitchel; for you know that great woman
is indefatigable. Your happiness is my only aim."
(Marks of universal joy and emotion.) "You understand?
Noon, and six o'clock! There is no need for me
to say be punctual! Go, then, my children—be happy!"
The second feast was as gay as the first, and as long.
A pleasant walk in the suburbs—first exercise—then a
nap, had refreshed their appetites and unlimbered their
jaws. But the King fancied that the breach made in the
tart was a little smaller than that of the morning.
"'Tis well!" said he, "'tis well! Wait till to-morrow, my
friends; yes, till day after to-morrow, and next week!"
The next day the feast still went on gayly; yet at the
evening meal the King noticed some empty seats.
"Why is this?" said he, with pretended indifference,
to the court physician.
"Your Majesty," said the great Olibriers, "a few
weak stomachs; that is all."
On the next day there were larger empty spaces. The
enthusiasm visibly abated. The eighth day the crowd
had diminished one half; the ninth, three quarters; the
tenth day, of the thousand who came at first, only two
hundred remained; on the eleventh day only one hundred;
and on the twelfth—alas! who would have thought
it?—a single one answered to the call. Truly he was big
enough. His body resembled a hogshead, his mouth
an oven, and his lips—we dare not say what. He was
known in the town by the name of Patapouf. They dug
out a fresh lump for him from the middle of the tart.
It quickly vanished in his vast interior, and he retired
with great dignity, proud to maintain the honour of his
name and the glory of the Greedy Kingdom.
But the next day, even he, the very last, appeared no
more. The unfortunate Patapouf had succumbed, and,
like all the other inhabitants of the country, was in a
very bad way. In short, it was soon known that the
whole town had suffered agonies that night from too
much tart. Let us draw a veil over those hours of
torture. Mother Mitchel was in despair. Those ministers
who had not guessed the secret dared not open their
lips. All the city was one vast hospital. No one was
seen in the streets but doctors and apothecaries' boys,
running from house to house in frantic haste. It was
dreadful! Doctor Olibriers was nearly knocked out.
As for the King, he held his tongue and shut himself up
in his palace, but a secret joy shone in his eyes, to the
wonder of every one. He waited three days without
The third day, the King said to his ministers:
"Let us go now and see how my poor people are doing,
and feel their pulse a little."
The good King went to every house, without forgetting
a single one. He visited small and great, rich and
"Oh, oh! Your Majesty," said all, "the tart was
good, but may we never see it again! Plague on that
tart! Better were dry bread. Your Majesty, for mercy's
sake, a little dry bread! Oh, a morsel of dry bread,
how good it would be!"
"No, indeed," replied the King. "There is more of
"What! Your Majesty, must we eat it all?"
"You must!" sternly replied the King; "you MUST!
By the immortal beefsteaks! not one of you shall have a
slice of bread, and not a loaf shall be baked in the kingdom
while there remains a crumb of that excellent tart!"
"What misery!" thought these poor people. "That
The sufferers were in despair. There was only one
cry through all the town: "Ow! ow! ow!" For even the
strongest and most courageous were in horrible agonies.
They twisted, they writhed, they lay down, they got up.
Always the inexorable colic. The dogs were not happier
than their masters; even they had too much tart.
The spiteful tart looked in at all the windows. Built
upon a height, it commanded the town. The mere
sight of it made everybody ill, and its former admirers
had nothing but curses for it now. Unhappily, nothing
they could say or do made it any smaller; still formidable,
it was a frightful joke for those miserable mortals.
Most of them buried their heads in their pillows, drew
their nightcaps over their eyes, and lay in bed all day to
shut out the sight of it. But this would not do; they
knew, they felt it was there. It was a nightmare, a horrible
burden, a torturing anxiety.
In the midst of this terrible consternation the King
remained inexorable during eight days. His heart bled
for his people, but the lesson must sink deep if it were
to bear fruit in future. When their pains were cured,
little by little, through fasting alone, and his subjects
pronounced these trembling words, "We are hungry!"
the King sent them trays laden with—the inevitable tart.
"Ah!" cried they, with anguish, "the tart again!
Always the tart, and nothing but the tart! Better were
A few, who were almost famished, shut their eyes,
and tried to eat a bit of the detested food; but it was
all in vain—they could not swallow a mouthful.
At length came the happy day when the King, thinking
their punishment had been severe enough and could
never be forgotten, believed them at length cured of
their greediness. That day he ordered Mother Mitchel
to make in one of her colossal pots a super-excellent soup
of which a bowl was sent to every family. They received
it with as much rapture as the Hebrews did the
manna in the desert. They would gladly have had
twice as much, but after their long fast it would not
have been prudent. It was a proof that they had learned
something already, that they understood this.
The next day, more soup. This time the King allowed
slices of bread in it. How this good soup comforted
all the town! The next day there was a little
more bread in it and a little soup meat. Then for a
few days the kind Prince gave them roast beef and vegetables.
The cure was complete.
The joy over this new diet was as great as ever had
been felt for the tart. It promised to last longer. They
were sure to sleep soundly, and to wake refreshed. It
was pleasant to see in every house tables surrounded
with happy, rosy faces, and laden with good nourishing
The Greedy people never fell back into their old ways.
Their once puffed-out, sallow faces shone with health;
they became, not fat, but muscular, ruddy, and solid.
The butchers and bakers reopened their shops; the
pastry cooks and confectioners shut theirs. The country
of the Greedy was turned upside down, and if it
kept its name, it was only from habit. As for the tart,
it was forgotten. To-day, in that marvellous country,
there cannot be found a paper of sugarplums or a basket
of cakes. It is charming to see the red lips and the
beautiful teeth of the people. If they have still a king,
he may well be proud to be their ruler.
Does this story teach that tarts and pies should never
be eaten? No; but there is reason in all things.
The doctors alone did not profit by this great revolution.
They could not afford to drink wine any longer
in a land where indigestion had become unknown. The
apothecaries were no less unhappy, spiders spun webs
over their windows, and their horrible remedies were no
longer of use.
Ask no more about Mother Mitchel. She was ridiculed
without measure by those who had adored her.
To complete her misfortune, she lost her cat. Alas for
The King received the reward of his wisdom. His
grateful people called him neither Charles the Bold, nor
Peter the Terrible, nor Louis the Great, but always by
the noble name of Prosper I, the Reasonable.