Clever Peter And The Two Bottles by Howard Pyle

Story type: Literature

“Yes, Peter is clever.” So said his mother; but then every goose thinks her own gosling a swan.

The minister and all of the people of the village said Peter was but a dull block. Maybe Peter was a fool; but, as the old saying goes, never a fool tumbles out of the tree but he lights on his toes. So now you shall hear how that Peter sold his two baskets of eggs for more than you or I could do, wise as we be.

“Peter,” said his mother.

“Yes,” said Peter, for he was well brought up, and always answered when he was spoken to.

“My dear little child, thou art wise, though so young now; how shall we get money to pay our rent?”

“Sell the eggs that the speckled hen has laid,” said Peter.

“But when we have spent the money for them, what then?”

“Sell more eggs,” said Peter, for he had an answer for everything.

“But when the speckled hen lays no more eggs, what shall we do then?”

“We shall see,” said Peter.

“Now indeed art thou wise,” said his mother, “and I take thy meaning; it is this, when we have spent all, we must do as the little birds do, and trust in the good Heaven.” Peter meant nothing of the kind, but then folks will think that such wise fellows as Peter and I mean more than we say, whence comes our wisdom.

So the next day Peter started off to the town, with the basket full of nice white eggs. The day was bright and warm and fair; the wind blew softly, and the wheatfields lay like green velvet in the sun. The flowers were sprinkled all over the grass, and the bees kicked up their yellow legs as they tilted into them. The garlic stuck up stout spikes into the air, and the young radishes were green and lusty. The brown bird in the tree sang, “Cuckoo! cuckoo!” and Peter trudged contentedly along, kicking up little clouds of dust at every footstep, whistling merrily and staring up into the bright sky, where the white clouds hung like little sheep, feeding on the wide blue field. “If those clouds were sheep, and the sheep were mine, then I would be a great man and very proud,” said Peter. But the clouds were clouds, and he was not a great man; nevertheless, he whistled more merrily than ever, for it was very nice to think of these things.

So he trudged along with great comfort until high noontide, against which time he had come nigh to the town, for he could see the red roofs and the tall spires peeping over the crest of the next green hill. By this time his stomach was crying, “Give! give!” for it longed for bread and cheese. Now, a great gray stone stood near by at the forking of the road, and just as Peter came to it he heard a noise. “Click! clack!” he turned his head, and, lo and behold! the side of the stone opened like a door, and out came a little old man dressed all in fine black velvet. “Good-day, Peter,” said he. “Good-day, sir,” said Peter, and he took off his hat as he spoke, for he could see with half an eye that this little old gentleman was none of your cheese-paring fine folks.

“Will you strike a bargain with me for your eggs?” said the little old man. Yes, Peter would strike a bargain; what would the little gentleman give him for his eggs? “I will give you this,” said the little old man, and he drew a black bottle out of his pocket.

Peter took the bottle and turned it over and over in his hands. “It is,” said he, “a pretty little, good little, sweet little bottle, but it is not worth as much as my basket of eggs.”

“Prut!” said the little gentleman, “now you are not talking like the wise Peter. You should never judge by the outside of things. What would you like to have?”

“I should like,” said Peter, “to have a good dinner.”

“Nothing easier!” said the little gentleman, and he drew the cork. Pop! pop! and what should come out of the bottle but two tall men, dressed all in blue with gold trimmings. “What will you have, sir?” said the first of these to the little gentleman.

“A good dinner for two,” said the little man.

No sooner said than done; for, before you could say Frederic Strutzenwillenbachen, there stood a table, with a sweet, clean, white cloth spread over it, and on this was the nicest dinner that you ever saw, for there were beer and chitterlings, and cheese and good white bread, fit for the king. Then Peter and the little man fell to with might and main, and ate till they could eat no more. After they were done, the two tall men took table and dishes and all back into the bottle again, and the little gentleman corked it up.

The next day he started off to the palace once more. Rap! rap! rap! he knocked at the door. Was the King at home? Yes, the King was at home; would he come and sit in the parlor?

Presently the King came in, in dressing-gown and slippers. “What! are you back again?” said he.

“Yes; I am back again,” said Peter.

“What do you want?” said the King.

“I want to marry the Princess,” said Peter.

“What have you brought this time?” said the King.

“I have brought another bottle,” said Peter.

Then the King rubbed his hands and was very polite indeed, and asked Peter in to breakfast, and Peter went. So they all three sat down together, the King, the Princess, and Peter.

“My dear,” said the King, to the Princess, “the Lord Peter has brought another bottle with him.” Thereat the Princess was very polite also. Would Lord Peter let them see the bottle? Oh yes! Peter would do that: so he drew it out of his pocket and sat it upon the table.

Perhaps they would like to have it opened. Yes, that they would. So Peter opened the bottle.

Hui! what a hubbub there was! The King hopped about till his slippers flew off, his dressing-gown fluttered like great wings, and his crown rolled off from his head and across the floor, like a quoit at the fair. As for the Princess, she never danced in all of her life as she danced that morning. They made such a noise that the soldiers of the Royal Guard came running in; but the two tall black men spared them no more than the King and the Princess. Then came all of the Lords of the Council, and they likewise danced to the same music as the rest.

“Oh, Peter! dear Lord Peter! cork up your men again!” they all cried.

“Will you give me back my bottle?” said Peter.

“Yes! yes!” cried the King.

“Will you marry me?” said Peter.

“Yes! yes!” cried the Princess.

Then Peter said “brikket-ligg!” and the two tall men popped back into the bottle again. So the King gave him back his other bottle, and the minister was called in and married him to the Princess.

After that he lived happily, and when the old King died he became King over all of the land. As for the Princess, she was as good a wife as you ever saw, but Peter always kept the bottle near to him–maybe that was the reason.

Ah me! if I could only take my eggs to such a
market and get two such bottles for them!
What would I do with them? It would
take too long to tell you.