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The Magician's Show Box and Other Stories   By: (1802-1880)

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The Author of "Rainbows for Children."










There was once a boy, named Gaspar, whose uncle made voyages to China, and brought him home chessmen, queer toys, porcelain vases, embroidered skullcaps, and all kinds of fine things. He gave him such grand descriptions of foreign countries and costumes, that Gaspar was not at all satisfied to live in a small village, where the people dressed in the most commonplace way. At school he was always covering his slate with pictures of Turks wearing turbans as large as small mosques, or Chinese with queues several yards long, and shoes that turned up to their knees. Then he read every story he could find of all possible and impossible adventures, and longed for nothing so much as to go forth, like Napoleon or Alexander, and make mincemeat of the whole world.

One day he could bear it no longer; so, taking with him an oaken dagger which he had carved with great care, off he started on his conquering expedition. He walked along the sunny road, kicking up a great dust, and coming to a milestone, threw a stone at a huge bullfrog croaking at him from a spring, and made it dive under with a loud splash. Pleased with his prowess, he took a good drink at the spring, and filled his flask with the sparkling water. At the second milestone he threw a pebble at a bird, singing in a tree. Off flew the bird, and down fell a great red apple. "Ah, how fine!" he exclaimed, picking it up; "and how the bird flies! I wish I had such wings." On the third milestone sat a quiet looking little man, cracking nuts; so Gaspar stopped to crack nuts, and have a chat with him.

The man was very entertaining, and Gaspar listened and listened to his wonderful stories until he saw the milestone shadow stretching far along the bank. Then he jumped up and was going to walk on, but hop went the little man quite across the road. Gaspar went the other side; hop came the little man back again; and so they dodged about, hither and thither, until Gaspar's patience was quite exhausted.

"He is only a small fellow, after all," he thought; "I can take a good run and jump over him." He took the run and gave the jump, but the little man shot up high into the air, and he might as well have tried to jump over the moon.

"It is a most singular thing!" said Gaspar to himself; "a little gray man, not much larger than I am, and yet he seems to be every where at once, like sheet lightning. There is no getting by him, and all the time he looks at me with those bright eyes and that quiet smile, as if he were really very much amused. Well, he must go to sleep by and by, and then I can step over him and walk off."

So he lay down, pretending to sleep, and the little man lay down also, with his face turned to the sky. When Gaspar thought him fast asleep, he arose very softly, believing he could now surely escape; but at his very first step up came a sly hand, catching him by the foot, so that down he fell at the old man's side, and there saw the bright eyes gazing up at the stars, without a wink of sleep in them. But Gaspar soon forgot his travels, with all his bold intentions, and fell asleep himself, to dream of skewers and cimeters.

In the morning the little man said, "Come now, it is foolish for you to go trudging about over the world. You will never see any thing more than polywogs and sandflies, and those you can find in your native village. Give me a drink from your flask, and a bite of your apple, and I can show you more wonders in a day in my show box here, than you would find wandering about for a lifetime."

Then he drew from the pocket of his gray coat a neat box, carved of ivory, and having taken a bit of the apple and a sip of the water, which Gaspar never thought of refusing, he touched a spring, up flew the lid, and Gaspar peeped in... Continue reading book >>

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