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Ludwig and Marleen

LUDWIG AND MARLEEN

“Help me out! Help me out, little Ludwig!” cried a great red fox,
caught fast in a trap in the woods. “Help me out, and it shall be well
with you!” Now Ludwig loved the wild creatures of the forest; he was
their friend and playmate, their sorrows were his own; so, stepping to
the trap, he pressed the spring, and the fox was free. When, however,
the poor beast tried to limp away, so great was the pain in his foot
that he was forced to lie down instead. Seeing this, Ludwig ran to a
spring near by and, dipping his handkerchief into the clear cool water,
tenderly bound up the bruised and swollen foot.

“You have been very kind, my little friend,” said the fox. “You have
saved my life. If you have a wish, tell me what it is and it shall be
granted.”

“Oh, as to that,” said Ludwig, “I wish my little pail here were full of
berries, for my sister and I are very hungry.” Hardly had he spoken
when his pail, which before had been quite empty, became full to the
very brim with great delicious strawberries. Ludwig ran swiftly home
to the little brown hut where he and his sister lived quite alone on
the edge of the forest.

“See, sister dear,” he called, “what a fine breakfast I have brought.”

“I am glad, brother,” said Marleen, “for I am very hungry; but where
did you find so many berries in so short a time, and such delicious
ones, too?”

Then Ludwig told his sister all about the fox, and how he had wished
for the berries.

“Was I not wise, dear sister, to get such a good breakfast for us with
so little trouble?”

But Marleen was not satisfied, and cried:

“Foolish boy! It was no ordinary fox whose foot you pulled out of the
trap. If he could fill your pail with berries, just for the asking, he
could do far greater things. You should have wished for something
better. Go back into the forest, find the fox, and tell him that our
cupboard must be always full of food whenever we are hungry.”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are. When we are again hungry I will go and find food in the forest as
I have always done before.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen. “You must do as I
tell you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into
the forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox, when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the pail of berries,” said
Ludwig.

“What would she, little brother?”

“That our cupboard should be always full whenever we are hungry.”

“Go, little brother, it shall be as she wishes,” said the fox.

Now, after this, whenever brother or sister were hungry, they found
plenty of food just to their liking in the cupboard; and, as Ludwig had
no longer to seek for nuts and berries in the forest, he could play all
day long with his sister, and they were very happy because they were
never separated. But after a time Marleen refused to play, and sat
moping on the doorstone. “Why are you so troubled, sister? Come, let
us play in the sunshine,” said the boy.

“Why should I be happy?” said Marleen. “Why should I play? We have no
toys, only ugly sticks and stones for playthings. If you will go to
the fox and get a beautiful doll, then I will play.”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen. “You must do as I
tell you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into
the forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox, when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the food always in the cupboard.”

“What would she, little brother?”

“She would have a beautiful doll all dressed in shining silk.”

“Go, little brother, it shall be as she wishes,” said the fox.

Now Marleen was quite happy for a few days; but soon she grew tired of
the doll and again refused to play. “I, too, must have a fine silk
dress to wear,” said she. “Go to the fox, brother, and get it for me.”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are. Your dress is warm and fine enough.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen. “You must do as I
tell you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into
the forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox, when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the doll.”

“What would she, little brother?”

“She would have for herself a dress of shining silk.”

“Go, little brother, it shall be as she wishes,” said the fox.

But only for a time was Marleen content with the beautiful dress. “I
will stay no longer in this smoky old hut,” said she. “Go, brother,
and ask the fox for a fine house to live in. He can give us one if he
will.”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen, “You must do as I tell
you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into the
forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox, when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the dress,” said Ludwig.

“What would she, little brother?”

“A fine house in place of our poor old hut.”

“Go, little brother, it shall be as she wishes,” said the fox.

Soon Marleen wearied also of the stately house in which they now lived.
“I am tired to death of this old doll and this empty house and this
poor dress,” she said. “I must have something to amuse me. Go,
brother, to the fox and tell him that I must have one of every kind of
toy in the whole world, and quickly, too.”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen. “You must do as I
tell you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into
the forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the house.”

“What would she, little brother?”

“One of every kind of toy in the whole world.”

“Go, little brother, it shall be as she wishes,” said the fox.

Now there were so many of the toys that they filled the whole house,
and it took days and days just to look at them. At last, however,
Marleen had seen and touched every one, and she cried:

“These things are dull and stupid. I must have something to amuse me.
Go, brother, and tell the fox that these toys are all ugly and useless;
but that there is one thing that I would like above all else, one thing
that would make me quite happy. Tell him I must have the great silvery
ball that hangs at night above us in the sky,”

“Be satisfied, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we
are.”

“No, no, I will not be satisfied!” said Marleen. “You must do as I
tell you;” and she gave her brother no peace until he went again into
the forest.

“How now, little brother!” said the fox, when he saw Ludwig coming
toward him through the trees; “is it not well with you?”

“Alas, my sister is not satisfied with the toys.”

“What would she, little brother?”

“That the great silvery moon that hangs high in the heavens at night
should be her plaything.”

Very slowly the fox answered:–

“Go, little brother, it shall NOT be as she wishes.”

Now when Ludwig reached home once more, in place of the stately house,
there stood their little old hut again. Marleen sat weeping in the
doorway, her fine silk dress was gone, her beautiful doll was nowhere
to be seen, all the lovely toys had vanished.

“Do not cry, dear sister,” said Ludwig. “We are quite happy as we are.
Come, let us have supper, for I am very hungry.” But alas, when they
went to the cupboard it was quite empty; and ever afterwards, when they
were hungry, Ludwig and Marleen were forced to seek for nuts and
berries in the forest. The great silvery moon still looked down upon
their little hut at night; but though Ludwig sought through the whole
forest, far and wide, he never saw his friend the fox again.