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American Fairy Tales


”I don’t b’lieve Uncle Walter’ll ever come back,” she thought. ”Papa
said once that some elephant must have killed him. If I only had a
key–” She stopped and clapped her little hands together gayly as
she remembered a big basket of keys on the shelf in the linen
closet. They were of all sorts and sizes; perhaps one of them would
unlock the mysterious chest!
She ?ew down the stairs, found the basket and returned with it to
the attic. Then she sat down before the brass -studded box and began
trying one key after anot her in the curious old lock. Some were too
large, but most were too small. One would go into the lock but would
not turn; another stuck so fast that she feared for a time that she
would never get it out again. But at last, when the basket was
almost empty, an oddly-shaped, ancient brass key slipped easily into
the lock. With a cry of joy Martha turned the key with both hands;
then she heard a sharp ”click,” and the next moment the heavy lid
?ew up of its own accord!
The little girl leaned over the edge of the chest an instant, and
the sight that met her ey es caused her to start back in amazement.
Slowly and carefully a man unpacked hims elf from the chest, stepped
out upon the ?oor, stretched his limbs and then took o? his hat
and bowed politely to the astonished child.
2
He was tall and thin and his face seemed badly tanned or sunburnt.
Then another man emerged from the chest, yawning and rubbing his
eyes like a sleepy schoolboy. He was of middle size and his skin
seemed as badly tanned as that of the ?rst.
While Martha stared open-mouthed at the remarkable sight a third man
crawled from the chest. He had the same complexion as his fellows,
but was short and fat.
All three were dressed in a curious manner. They wore short jackets
of red velvet braided with gold, and knee breeches of sky -blue satin
with silver buttons. Over their stockings were laced wide ribbons of
red and yellow and blue, while their hats had broad brims with high,
peaked crowns, from which ?uttered yards of bright-colored ribbons.
They had big gold rings in their ears and rows of knives and pistols
in their belts. Their eyes were black and glittering and they wore
long, ?erce mustaches, curling at the ends like a pig’s tail.
”My! but you were heavy,” exclaimed the fat one, when he had pulled
down his velvet jacket and brushed the dust from his sky -blue
breeches. ”And you squeezed me all out of shape.”
”It was unavoidable, Lugui,” responded the thin man, lightly; ”the
lid of the chest pressed me down upon you. Yet I tender you my
regrets.”
”As for me,” said the middle-sized man, carelessly rolling a
cigarette and lighting it, ”you must acknowledge I have been your
nearest friend for years; so do not be disagreeable.”
”You mustn’t smoke in the attic,” said Martha, recovering herself at
sight of the cigarette. ”You might set the house on ?re.”
The middle-sized man, who had not noticed her before, at this speech
turned to the girl and bowed.
”Since a lady requests it,” said he, ”I shall abandon my cigarette,”
and he threw it on the ?oor and extinguished it with his foot.
”Who are you?” asked Martha, who until now had been too astonished
to be frightened.
”Permit us to introduce ourselves,” said the thin man, ?ourishing
his hat gracefully. ”This is Lugui,” the fat man nodded; ”and this
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