The Grey Fairy Book
The Street Musicians
A man once possessed a donkey which had served him faithfully for many years, but at
last the poor beast grew old and feeble, and every day his work became more of a burden.
As he was no longer of any use, his master made up his mind to shoot him; but when the
donkey learnt the fate that was in store for him, he determined not to die, but to run away
to the nearest town and there to become a street musician.
When he had trotted along for some distance he came upon a greyhound lying on the
road, and panting for dear life. ‘Well, brother,' said the donkey, ‘what's the matter with
you? You look rather tired.'
‘So I am,' replied the dog, ‘but because I am getting old and am growing weaker every
day, and cannot go out hunting any longer, my master wanted to poison me; and, as life is
still sweet, I have taken leave of him. But how I am to earn my own livelihood I haven't a
‘Well,' said the donkey, ‘I am on my way to the nearest big town, where I mean to
become a street musician. Why don't you take up music as a profession and come along
with me? I'll play the flute and you can play the kettle-drum.'
The greyhound was quite pleased at the idea, and the two set off together. When they had
gone a short distance they met a cat with a face as long as three rainy days. ‘Now, what
has happened to upset your happiness, friend puss?' inquired the donkey.
‘It's impossible to look cheerful when one feels depressed,' answered the cat. ‘I am well
up in years now, and have lost most of my teeth; consequently I prefer sitting in front of
the fire to catching mice, and so my old mistress wanted to drown me. I have no wish to
die yet, so I ran away from her; but good advice is expensive, and I don't know where I
am to go to, or what I am to do.'
‘Come to the nearest big town with us,' said the donkey, ‘and try your fortune as a street
musician. I know what sweet music you make at night, so you are sure to be a success.'
The cat was delighted with the donkey's proposal, and they all continued their journey
together. In a short time they came to the courtyard of an inn, where they found a cock
crowing lustily. ‘What in the world is the matter with you?' asked the donkey. ‘The noise
you are making is enough to break the drums of our ears.'
‘I am only prophesying good weather,' said the cock; ‘for to-morrow is a feast day, and
just because it is a holiday and a number of people are expected at the inn, the landlady
has given orders for my neck to be wrung to-night, so that I may be made into soup for