The Brown Fairy Book HTML version
Once upon a time there lived a man who had nearly as many children as there were
sparrows in the garden. He had to work very hard all day to get them enough to eat, and
was often tired and cross, and abused everything and everybody, so that people called
him 'Father Grumbler.'
By-and-by he grew weary of always working, and on Sundays he lay a long while in bed,
instead of going to church. Then after a time he found it dull to sit so many hours by
himself, thinking of nothing but how to pay the rent that was owing, and as the tavern
across the road looked bright and cheerful, he walked in one day and sat down with his
friends. 'It was just to chase away Care,' he said; but when he came out, hours and hours
after, Care came out with him.
Father Grumbler entered his house feeling more dismal than when he left it, for he knew
that he had wasted both his time and his money.
'I will go and see the Holy Man in the cave near the well,' he said to himself, 'and perhaps
he can tell me why all the luck is for other people, and only misfortunes happen to me.'
And he set out at once for the cave.
It was a long way off, and the road led over mountains and through valleys; but at last he
reached the cave where the Holy Man dwelt, and knocked at the door.
'Who is there?' asked a voice from within.
'It is I, Holy Man, Father Grumbler, you know, who has as many children as sparrows in
'Well, and what is it that you want?'
'I want to know why other people have all the luck, and only misfortunes happen to me!'
The Holy Man did not answer, but went into an inner cave, from which he came out
bearing something in his hand. 'Do you see this basket?' said he. 'It is a magical basket,
and if you are hungry you have only got to say: "Little basket, little basket, do your duty,"
and you will eat the best dinner you ever had in your life. But when you have had
enough, be sure you don't forget to cry out: "That will do for to-day." Oh!--and one thing
more--you need not show it to everybody and declare that I have give it to you. Do you
Father Grumbler was always accustomed to think of himself as so unlucky that he did not
know whether the Holy Man was not playing a trick upon him; but he took the basket
without being polite enough to say either 'Thank you,' or 'Good-morning,' and went away.