The Disobedient Kids and other Czecho-Slovak fairy tales/The House of Candy
The House of Candy.
Once upon a time there was a poor father, who had two children, John and Mary. His daily work was to cut wood in the forest. He was very, very poor. He had no one to take care of the children. They were all alone. As he was away all day, he felt that he should marry again, so that the children should have a mother's care.
But the stepmother proved to be a very cruel, neglectful woman, who did not want to work. Not only did she not love the children, but she wanted to get rid of them, so she gave her husband no peace. She made up all kinds of lies about the wickedness of the children and said that he must get rid of them. She commanded him to take them to the woods and leave them there.
He was afraid of her and at last consented. Therefore one day, he said to the children with a sad heart. "Take your little baskets and come with me to the woods to pick strawberries". They jumped with joy and at once taking their little baskets, they went most happily with their father to the woods.
When they were deep in the forest, the father led them to an open place where there were many berries, in fact the place was red with the luscious fruit.
"Now, dear ones," he said, "Pick all the berries you please, while I am away. As long as you hear me cutting wood, you will know that I am near by."
The children began eagerly to pick berries, and the father went a little ways on, where he bound his mallet on a tree. It swung back and forth in the wind, hitting the tree and making a noise like the cutting of wood. When this had been done, the father returned home, leaving the children in the woods.
When John and Mary had their baskets full of berries, and had eaten their fill, they began to think of looking for their father. They went to the place where they heard the sound of the swinging mallet, but they saw nothing of their lather, only the mallet hitting against the trees. This mallet was a big hammer which he used for driving in the wedges to split the logs.
"Where is father," asked John? "Perhaps he has gone home and forgotten us".
Now Mary had perfect trust in her father. She could not think that he would wilfully desert them. She said to John. "Why do you think that? Surely he is somewhere near and will come for us, no doubt". So they waited for quite a while. They ate from their little baskets, till the berries were all gone. Then they filled them again. And so the time was flying.
Before it grew quite dark, the sound of the mallet ceased and the children began to be frightened. They took their baskets and once more looked for father. The sun had set and evening had come. They called, "Father, where are you"? but no sound came to answer them. Mary who was older and wiser than John, but just as much afraid, would not let him see that tears were so near her eyes. Then she tried to comfort him, by saying. "Wait a minute, I will climb up in a tree from which I can perhaps see a light. Then we will go towards it". Up the tree she scrambled. It was so high that she could see from its top in all directions.
After awhile she saw a light gleaming in the distance. "Oh, John! I see a light! Let's go towards it."
Down she came and they started.
Following the light, they came to a tiny little house. It was such a funny little house; they felt of it with their hands and then they saw that it was made of candy.
John was delighted. Now he felt that he could have all the candy he wanted. At once he scrambled up on the roof to break some off to throw down to Mary, who was still afraid that some harm might come to them. But John was already on the roof and had peeled off some candy, which he had thrown down to her.
They went to its little window and peeked in. There they saw an old man and woman sitting by the fire. At first they thought they would knock and ask for something to eat, but Mary was afraid.
The moment the candy was broken off, the old woman said "What is that? I hear a noise. Surely some one is breaking into our house. See who's there."
The old man went out and saw a little girl under their window. "What are you doing here? Are you trying to break into our house?", he asked her.
"Oh, no, Grandfather. It is the wind", said Mary, her childish voice trembling with fear. With this the old man was satisfied, as he went back into the house.
The children had eaten enough, and they nestled to sleep in each others arms, under the window of the house of candy. In the morning, John climbed up on the roof to get another piece of candy. Again the old woman sent the man out to see what was going on.
Mary thought to get rid ot the old man once more, but this time, he saw two children. Then he went back to tell the old woman.
"Quick, quick, dear John", called Mary, "we must run away at once, or something terrible will happen to us," for she had heard the old woman command the man to catch the children, so that she could roast them for her dinner. John leaped down from the roof, Mary snatched his hand and they ran away as fast as they could.
Suddenly John and Mary came upon a woman in a field of flax. Panting and out of breath, "Tell us please, mother, where we can hide. A bad old man from the house of candy is trying to catch us. He wants to take us home, so that they can roast us for their dinner, because we have taken a piece of candy from their roof."
The woman in the field was a good fairy and loved all little children. She determined to help John and Mary, so she said, "Go this way a little distance into the woods. I will see what I can do with the old man." Then she showed the children the path, along which they ran as fast as their little legs could take them.
After a little while, the old man came along, panting and blowing. Seeing the woman in the field, he called out, "Woman, have you seen two children go by and which way did they go?"
The woman pretended that she was deaf, she answered, "I am in the flax field pulling up the weeds."
"Woman, I ask you, if you have seen two children pass this way."
But she continued, "I shall weed the flax, until it is ripe."
Raising his voice, "Listen to me", woman, have you seen two children go by here?"
"When we shall have gathered the crop, we shall clean the seeds, and then moisten the flax", said the woman.
This time the man fairly shouted, "Stupid, don't you understand me? Have you seen two children pass this way?"
"When we have moistened the flax, we shall spread it out in the sun to dry", she kept on.
"Woman, are you deaf? Have you seen two children pass this way?"
"After the flax is dried, we shall comb and then hackle it."
"Don't you hear? Have you seen two children?"
"Then when the ﬂax is hackled, we shall bind it on the distaff ready for spinning.""I don't care anything about that. Have you seen two children pass by here"? and with each question, he grew more and more angry.
"And after we have spun some fine garters, we will wind the rest of the thread on spools."
"Tell me, woman, have you seen two children pass this way?"
"When we have wound the thread on spools, we shall then weave some beautiful fine linen."
"I don't care any thing about the linen. I ask you again, have you seen two children go by here?”
"When we have woven the linen, we shall bleach it. Then we shall cut it out for little shirts, swaddling clothes, skirts and aprons."
"Are you deaf", he yelled, "Have you seen two children go by?"
"Oh yes, oh yes, what are we going to do with it? Finally we shall make tinder from it. Then the flint, when it strikes will make a tiny spark. The fire of God will not consume it. The fire will become smoke, the smoke wind. That is the end of my story."
"I did not ask you any thing about that", thundered the old man. What I want to know, did you see two children pass this way?"
"Children, children? You should have told me that in the first place. Of course I saw them. They went that way, by the path through the fields, down to the brook where the willows are, but you will never catch them, for they flew like hawks."
At this the woman showed the man the opposite side to which she had directed the children. Then the old man recognized that he had been out-witted. He frothed with rage and turned back home. When he had gone, the woman disappeared from the field and the children reached home in safety. The father was very glad to get them back.