The Dreamer
Category: Children
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This is the story of Peter and Kate, a poor couple living in a wretched hut near a river and a gnarled old apple tree. One night, Peter dreamed of an old man who promised to help him become rich if he waited on a bridge in a nearby town for three days. But Peter's wife dismissed the dream as foolishness, and he didn't leave to search for the bridge. The old man appeared twice more, growing more stern each time, but Peter still didn't go. Will he ever listen to the old man's advice or will he continue to live in poverty?

The Dreamer

An English Story

Katharine Pyle

The Dreamer

There once lived a man and his wife, named Peter and Kate, and they were so poor that they had scarcely enough bread to put in their mouths. They lived in a wretched, miserable hut, and in front of the hut was a river, and back of it a patch of ground and a gnarled old apple tree.

One night when Peter was sleeping he dreamed a dream, and in this dream a tall old man dressed in gray, and with a long gray beard came to him and said, “Peter, I know that you have had a hard life, and have neither grumbled nor complained, and now I have a mind to help you. Follow down the river until you come to a bridge. On the other side of the river you will see a town. Take up your stand on the bridge and wait there patiently. It may be that nothing will happen the first day, and it may be that nothing will happen the second day either, but if you do not lose courage, but still wait patiently, some time during the third day some one will come to you, and tell you something that will make your fortune for you.”

In the morning, when Peter awoke, he told his dream to Kate, his wife. “It would be a curious thing if I should do as the old man told me and really become rich,” said he.

“Nonsense!” answered his wife. “Dreams are nothing but foolishness. Do you go over to Neighbor Goodkin and see whether he has not some wood to be cut, so you can earn a few pence to buy meal for to-morrow.”

So Peter did as his wife told him, and went over to his neighbor’s and worked there all day, and by evening he had almost forgotten his dream.

But that night, as soon as he fell asleep, the old man appeared before him again. “Why have you not done as I told you, Peter?” said he. “Remember, good luck will not wait forever. To-morrow do you set out for the bridge and town I told you of, and believe, for it is the truth; if you wait there for three days and make the best of what will then be told you you will become a rich man.”

When Peter awoke the next morning, his first thought was to set out in search of the bridge and town of which the old man had told him, but still his wife dissuaded him.

“Do not be so foolish,” said she. “Sit down and eat your breakfast and be thankful that you have it. You earned a few pence yesterday, and who knows but what you may be lucky enough to earn even more to-day.”

So Peter did not set out on his journey in search of fortune that day either.

But the next night for the third time the old man appeared before him, and now his look was stern and forbidding. “Thou fool!” said he. “Three times have I come to thee, and now I will come no more. Go to the bridge of which I have spoken and listen well to what is there said to thee. Otherwise want and poverty will still be thy portion, even as they have been heretofore.”

With this the old man disappeared, and Peter awoke. And now it was of no use for his wife to scold and argue. As the old man had commanded so Peter would do. He only stopped to put some food in his stomach and more in his pockets, and off he set, one foot before another.

For a long time Peter journeyed on down the river till he was both footsore and weary, and then he came to a bridge that crossed the stream, and on the other side was a town, and Peter felt almost sure this was the place to which the old man of his dreams had told him to come.

So he took his stand on the bridge and stayed there all day. The passers-by stared at him, and some of them spoke to him, but none of them said to him anything that might, by any chance, lead him on to fortune. All that day he waited on the bridge, and all of the day after, and by the time the third day came, he had eaten all the food he had brought with him except one hard, dry crust of bread. Then he began to wonder whether he were not a simpleton to be loitering there day after day, all because of a dream, when he might, perhaps, be earning a few pennies at home in one way or another.

Now just beyond this bridge there was a tailor’s shop, and the tailor who lived there was a very curious man. Ever since Peter had taken his stand on the bridge the tailor had been peeping out at him, and wondering why he was standing there, and what his business might be; and the longer Peter stayed the more curious the tailor became. He fussed and he fidgeted, and along toward the afternoon of the third day he could bear it no longer, and he put aside his work and went out to the bridge to find out what he could about Peter and what he was doing there.

When he came where Peter was he bade him good-day.

“Good-day,” answered Peter.

“Are you waiting here on the bridge for some one?” asked the tailor.

“I am and I am not,” replied Peter.

“Now what may be the meaning of that?” asked the tailor. “How can you be waiting and still not be waiting all at one and the same time?”

“I am waiting for some one — that is true”; said Peter, “but I know not who he is nor whence he will come, nor, for the matter of that, whether any one will come at all.” And then he related to the tailor his dream, and how he had been told that if he waited on the bridge for three days some one would come along and tell him something that would make him rich for life.

“Why, what a silly fellow you are,” said the tailor. “I, too, have dreamed dreams, but I have too much sense to pay any attention to them. Only last week I dreamed three times that an old man came to me and told me to follow up along the bank of the river until I came to a hut where a man and his wife lived, — the man’s name was Peter, and his wife’s name was Kate. I was to go and dig among the roots of an apple tree back of this house, and there, buried among the roots of the tree, I would find a chest of golden money. That was what I dreamed. But did I go wandering off in search of such a place? No, indeed, I am not such a simpleton. I stick to my work, and I can manage to keep a warm roof over my head, and have plenty of food to eat, and when I am dressed in my best there is not one of the neighbors that looks half as fine as I do. No, no; go back to where you belong and set to work, my man, and maybe you can earn something better than those miserable rags you are wearing now.”

So said the tailor, and then he went back to his tailor’s bench and his sewing.

But Peter stood and scratched his head. “A man named Peter, and his wife named Kate! And an apple tree behind the house!” said he. “Now it’s a strange thing if a fortune’s been lying there under the roots of the apple tree all this while, and I had to come to this town and this bridge to hear about it!”

So said Peter as he stood there on the bridge. But then, after he had scratched his head and thought a bit longer, he pulled his hat down over his ears and off he set for home. The farther he went, the more of a hurry he was in, and at last, when he came within sight of his house again, he was all out of breath with the haste he had made.

He did not wait to go inside, but he bawled to his wife to fetch him a pick and shovel, and ran around the house to where the apple tree stood.

His wife did not know what had happened to him. She thought he must have lost his wits, but she brought him the pick and shovel, and he began digging around about the roots of the apple tree.

He had not dug for so very long when his pick struck something hard. He flung the pick aside and seized his spade, and presently he uncovered a great chest made of stout oak wood and bound about with iron.

The chest was so heavy that he could not lift it out of the hole himself, and his wife had to help him. The chest was locked, but that mattered little to Peter. He took his pick, and with a few blows he broke the hinges and fastenings, and lifted the lid from its place. At once he gave a loud cry, and fell on his knees beside the chest. He and his wife could scarce believe in their good fortune. It was brimming over with golden money, enough to make them rich for life.

They carried the chest into the house, and barred the door, and set about counting the money, and there was so much of it, they were all evening and part of the night counting it.

That was the way good fortune came to Peter, and all by way of a dream.

Now he and his wife built themselves a great house, and had fine food, and coaches, and horses, and handsome clothes, and they feasted the neighbors, and never a poor man came to the door but what they gave him as much food as he could eat and a piece of silver to put in his pocket.

One day Peter put on his finest clothes and made his wife dress herself in her best, and then they stepped into one of their coaches, and Peter bade the coachman drive to the town where he had stood on the bridge and listened to the tailor tell his dream of the chest of money buried under the apple tree.

Peter made the coachman drive up in front of the tailor’s shop, and when the tailor saw the coach stopping at his door, and the fine people sitting in it, he thought it was some great nobleman and his wife, come perhaps to order a suit of clothes of him.

He came out, bowing and smiling and smirking, and Peter said to him, “Do you remember me?”

“No, your lordship,” answered the tailor, still bowing and smiling, “I have not that honor, your lordship.”

Then Peter told him he was the ragged fellow who had stood out there on the bridge waiting for good luck to come to him; and sure enough it had, for if it had not been for the dream the tailor told him, he would have known nothing about the gold buried under the apple tree and would never have become the rich man he was now.

When the tailor heard this tale, he was ready to tear his hair out, for if he had believed his dream he might have found the gold himself and have kept a share of it.

However, Peter gave him a hundred gold pieces to comfort him and ordered a fine suit. He also promised that after that he would buy all his clothes from the tailor and pay him a good price for them, so the tailor, too, got some good from all the dreaming.

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