Europa: Johnnie and Grizzle

This story is part of the Europa unit. Story source: Europa's Fairy Book by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John Batten (1916).

Johnnie and Grizzle

There was once a poor farmer who had two children named Johnnie and Grizzle. Now things grew worse and worse for the farmer till he could scarcely earn enough to eat and drink. All his crops went to pay rent and taxes. So one night he said to his wife, "Betty, my dear, I really do not know what to do; there is scarcely anything in the house to eat, and in a few days we shall all be starving. What I think of doing is to take the poor lad and lassie into the forest and leave them there; if somebody finds them they will surely keep them alive, and if nobody finds them they might as well die there as here. I cannot see any other way; it is their lives or ours, and if we die what can become of them?"

"No, no, father," said the farmer's wife; "wait but a few days and perhaps something will turn up."

"We have waited and have waited and things are getting worse every day; if we wait much longer, we shall all be dead. No, I am determined on it; tomorrow the children to the forest."

Now it happened that Johnnie was awake in the next room and heard his father and his mother talking. He said nothing but thought and thought and thought, and early next morning he went out and picked a large number of bright-coloured pebbles and put them in his pocket. After breakfast, which consisted of bread and water, the farmer said to Johnnie and Grizzle, "Come, my dears, I am going to take you for a walk," and with that he went with them into the forest nearby.

Johnnie said nothing but dropped one of his pebbles at every turning, which would show him the way back.

When they got far into the forest the farmer said to the children, "My dears, I have to go and get something. Stay here and don't go away, and I'll soon come back. Give me a kiss, children," and with that he hurried away and went back home by another road.

After a time Grizzle began to cry and said, "Where's father? Where's father? We can't get home. We can't get home."

But Johnnie said, "Never mind, Grizzle, I can take you home; you just follow me."

So Johnnie looked out for the pebbles he had dropped and found them at each turn of the road and, a little after midday, got home and asked their mother for their dinner.

"There's nothing in the house, children, but you can go and get some water from the well and, please God, we'll have bread in the morning."

When the farmer came home, he was astonished to find that the children had found their way home and could not imagine how they had done so. But at night he said to his wife, "Betty, my dear, I do not know how the children came home, but that does not make any difference; I cannot bear to see them starve before my eyes — better that they should starve in the forest. I will take them there again tomorrow."

Johnnie heard all this and crept downstairs and put some more pebbles into his pocket, and though the farmer took them this time further into the forest the same thing occurred as the day before. But this time Grizzle said to her mother and father, "Johnnie did such a funny thing; whenever we turned a new road he dropped pebbles. Wasn't that funny? And when we came back, he looked for the pebbles, and there they were; they had not moved."

Then the farmer knew how he had been done, and as evening came on, he locked all the doors so that Johnnie could not get out to get any pebbles.

In the morning he gave them a hunk of bread as before for their breakfast and told them he was going to take them into the nice forest again. Grizzle ate her bread, but Johnnie put his into his pocket, and when they got inside the forest, at every turning he dropped a few crumbs of his bread. When his father left them, he tried to trace his way back by means of these crumbs. But, alas, and alackaday! The little birds had seen the crumbs and eaten them all up, and when Johnnie went to search for them, they had all disappeared.

So they wandered and they wandered, more and more hungry all the time, till they came to a glade in which there was a funny little house, and what do you think it was made of? The door was made of butterscotch, the windows of sugar candy, the bricks were all chocolate creams, the pillars of lollypops, and the roof of gingerbread.

(800 words)

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