The Talking Eggs
Illustrated By: Jacob Below
THERE was once a woman who had two daughters and their names were Millison and Blanche. Millison was nasty-tempered and cruel, while her younger sister Blanche was sweet and cheerful. The mother's favorite was not sweet Blanche, but the sharp-tongued Millison, probably because the older daughter was the very likeness of her own mean self. The mother made Blanche work hard all day long while she and Millison did nothing but loll about from morning to night, spinning tales of how they were bound to live in the city as grand ladies, surrounded by admirers.
One morning the mother sent Blanche to the well to fetch some water in a bucket. When she arrived at the well, the girl saw an old woman, who said to her, "My little one, I am so terribly thirsty. Do give me some water."
"Yes, auntie, of course," said Blanche. She rinsed her bucket and drew plenty of good fresh water to drink.
"Thank you, child, you are a good girl!" said the old woman.
A few days later, the mother scolded Blanche more horribly than she had ever done before, and beat her badly. In terror, the girl ran away into the woods. She cried, and knew not where to go, because she was afraid to return home. When suddenly, standing in front of her, Blanche recognized the same old woman she had met at the well.
"Ah! child, why are you crying?"
"Auntie, my mamma has beaten me, and I am afraid to return home."
"Well, then, come with me," said the old woman. "I will give you dinner and a place to sleep. But you must promise me one thing: You must not laugh at anything you will see."
She took Blanche's hand and they began to walk into the deep wood. Strangely, thorn bushes opened up by themselves before them and closed behind their backs. A little further on, Blanche saw two axes fighting each another all by themselves. She found such goings-on very odd, but she did not laugh or say anything. They walked further and behold! it was two arms which were fighting; a little further, two legs; at last, she saw two heads fighting by banging their foreheads against each other. All this was strange beyond belief, but Blanche did not laugh or say a word.
At last they arrived at the old woman's cabin.
"Make a fire, child, to cook the supper," said the old woman, and she sat down near the fireplace. Then she reached up to her head and twisted it off, placing it on her knees like a small round watermelon.
Blanche found this the most bizarre thing she had seen yet, but still, she did not utter a sound. Then the old woman began to comb and braid her hair. When she was through, she twisted her head back into place.
"Well!" she said, "that feels better." She gave Blanche a large bone to put on the fire for their supper. Blanche could not imagine how only one bone could make a soup, and a sorry-looking bone at that, but just the same she put the bone in the pot. Lo! in a moment the pot was full of good hearty meat stew.
The old woman gave Blanche a grain of rice to pound with the pestle. Blanche could not see the point of grinding a single grain of rice, but she did so nevertheless.
Quickly the mortar brimmed to overflowing with steaming rice.
When Blanche got up the next morning, the old woman said to her, "You must go home now. As you've been a good girl I want to make you a present of the talking eggs. Go to the chicken-house. All the eggs that say to you, 'Do not take me,' you must not take. Take only the eggs that say, 'Take me.' When you are on the road, throw the eggs behind your back, one by one, to break them, and you will have a surprise."
Blanche went to the chicken-house where, indeed, lay a pile of eggs. Some of them looked as plain as hundreds of chicken eggs Blanche had seen all her life, but others were made of pure gold and were encircled by jewels.
Unfortunately, it was the plain-looking eggs that called out, "Take me, take me!" So Blanche took a few of the plain talking eggs and left the golden ones behind.
Once Blanche was on the road, she threw one of the eggs behind her. In the corner of her eye, she caught a glance of something shining. She turned around and -- imagine her surprise! -- there, amid the broken egg shells, glittered a pile of diamonds! From another broken egg sprang gold jewelry, from another one a beautiful carriage. Yet from another, beautiful dresses beyond belief.
By the time she arrived at her mother's, she had so many fine things that it wasn't easy to fit them all into the house. Her mother was delighted and pretended to be very glad to see her. The next day at dawn, the mother shook her older daughter awake and whispered to her, "You, too, must go to the woods to look for this same old woman. There is no reason you shouldn't have even finer dresses than your sister."
Millison was not at all pleased at having to get up out of bed so early in the morning. Grumbling and muttering, she marched into the woods. Before long she met the same old woman, who invited her to come to her cabin. The old woman warned her, also, not to laugh at anything she saw. But when Millison saw the axes, the arms, the legs, and the heads fighting, she couldn't help but laugh and laugh. And when the old woman took off her head and set it on her lap to comb and braid her hair, the girl shrieked, pointing...
"Well, now, if that isn't the stupidest thing I've ever seen!"
The next day the old woman said to Millison, "Listen to me. What I am about to tell you is exactly what I told your sister. And like her, out in the chicken-house I believe you will find exactly what you deserve. You must take only the talking eggs that say, 'Take me.' The others you must leave behind. When you throw the eggs behind your back, one by one, you will have a surprise."
With glee, Millison rushed into the chicken-house. Like before, the plain-looking ones called, "Take me, take me!" while the dazzling, golden eggs were the ones that called, "Don't take me!"
In an instant, Millison grabbed as many golden eggs as she could carry and hurried away with them.
As she walked, she broke one egg behind her, and then another. But instead of riches out came a quantity of snakes, toads and frogs, which began to run after her. From other eggs sprang swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, which circled around her head. Millison screamed and ran.
She arrived at her mother's so tired that she was not able to speak. Blanche knew that to stay at the cabin would mean being blamed for her big sister's troubles. It was clear she must leave at once, but to help her sister, she left behind a quantity of jewels and riches. Gathering the rest of her treasure, she left in her carriage to the city. There she lived the rest of her days as a grand lady, kind to all, surrounded by friends and admirers.