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Once upon a time! not your time, nor my time, but one time.


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                      The Discontented Stonecutter

Once upon a time there was a man who worked from early morning till late at night cutting building stones out of the solid rock. His pay was small and hardly enough to keep his wife and children from starving. So the poor stonecutter grew discontented and sighed and moaned bitterly over his hard lot.

One day when his work seemed harder than usual and his troubles more than he could bear he cried out in despair:

"Oh, I wish I could be rich and lie at ease on a soft couch with a curtain of red silk!"

Just then a beautiful fairy floated down from heaven, and softly said, "Thy wish is granted thee." So the poor stonecutter found himself rich and powerful and resting easily on his silken couch with its red curtain. As he gazed out, however, he saw the king of the country ride by with many horsemen before and behind him, and with a great golden sunshade held over his head. It irritated the rich man to have no parasol over his head and to see another more powerful than himself, and in his discontentment he exclaimed, "Would that I were a king such as that one."

Once again his good fairy appeared, waved his wand, and said, "It shall be as thou desirest." Immediately the man was king, and before him and behind him rode his men-at-arms, and over his head was a golden sunshade. But elsewhere the sun shone fiercely down and dried up the vegetation with its terrible heat. It was reflected into the face of the king so that even the golden sunshade did not keep him from suffering. Once more he sighed discontentedly, "If I could only be the sun!"

Almost before he spoke he found himself to be the sun, and he began joyously to send his fiery rays above, below and everywhere roundabout him. He scorched the grass of the earth, and burned the faces of its rulers and felt his power unlimited until a little cloud placed itself between him and the earth and threw back his scorching rays. It still angered him to find something more powerful than himself, and he wished aloud that he might be the cloud.

Again his wish was granted, and he found himself floating where he wished through the sky. He ran between the sun and the earth and sheltered the latter so that the grass grew green, the trees leaved out again, and everything rejoiced in a new growth. Then he sent great floods of rain upon the earth, filled the rivers till they overflowed, swept homes and herds into the sea, and destroyed the works of man in every direction. But try as he would he could not move one great rock that stood right across his way. Though he sent waters that roared around its base and pushed hard against it, yet it remained immovable. Such a failure angered the man-cloud, and again he cried out, "Would that I were a rock, so strong and immovable is it."

This time, also, his guardian angel interfered, and he found himself a rock that withstood the sun, the wind and the waters. But then, one day, there came along a rude stonecutter, who with chisel and heavy hammer began to cut the great rock into small, regular building stones. "What does this mean?" cried the rock. "Has this man power to cut me in pieces? Surely I am weaker than he! Would I were a stonecutter!"

"As thou wishest, so shall it be," said his guardian angel, and immediately he was again a stonecutter, working hard as before and for small wages, but happy and contented with his lot.