The Six Companions
Category: Children
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The Six Companions is a story about a soldier meeting five unique people with unusual talents, who join him on the way to make fortune.

The Six Companions

Katharine Pyle

The Six Companions

A certain man named John had been a faithful soldier, and had served the King all through the war, and had been wounded, too; but when the war came to an end and he was discharged he only received three pieces of silver as payment.

“That is a mean way to treat a fellow,” said John. “But never mind! If I can only get the right sort of friends to help me we will get all the King’s treasure from him before we are done.”

So he shouldered his knapsack and off he set into the world to find the right sort of friends to help him do this.

He walked along and walked along till he came to a wood, and there was a man pulling up trees by the roots as though they were no more than grasses.

“You are the very man for me,” said John. “Come along with me and we will make our fortunes.”

The man was willing. “But wait,” said he, “until I tie these fagots together and take them home to my mother.”

He laid six of the trees together and twisted the seventh around them to hold them. Then he walked off with them on his shoulder as easily as though they were nothing.

When he came back he and the soldier started out in search of their fortunes.

They had not gone far when they came to a hunter who had raised his gun to his shoulder and was taking careful aim. The soldier looked about over the meadows, but could see nothing to shoot.

“What are you aiming at?” asked he.

“Two miles away there is a forest,” said the man. “In the forest is an oak tree. On the top-most leaf of that oak tree there is a fly. I am going to shoot out the left eye of that fly.”

“Come along with me,” said the soldier, “we three will certainly make our fortunes together.”

Very well; the hunter was willing. So he shouldered the gun and off he tramped alongside of the other.

Presently they came to seven mill-wheels, and the sails were turning merrily, and yet there was not a breath of wind stirring. “That is a curious thing!” said the soldier. “Now what is turning those sails I should like to know.”

Two miles farther on they came to a man sitting on top of a hill. He held a finger on one side of his nose and blew through the other.

“What are you doing?” asked the soldier.

“I am blowing to turn the wheels of seven windmills two miles away, so that the miller can grind his corn,” answered the man.

“Come with us,” said the soldier. “We are going out into the world to make our fortunes.”

Very well, the man was willing; the wind was springing up, anyway, so the miller would not need him. So now there were four of them journeying along together.

After awhile they came to a heap of rocks, and there in the shade of it sat a man. He had unfastened one of his legs, and taken it off, and he sat with the other stretched out before him.

“That is a good way to rest,” said the soldier.

“I am not doing this to rest,” said the man. “I am a runner. If I were to put on this other leg and start off I would be out of sight in a twinkling. I have arranged to take off one leg so that I can go more slowly; though ordinary people find it hard to keep up with me even so.”

“Take up your leg and come with us,” said the soldier. “We are going to make our fortunes, and it shall be share and share alike with us if you will come along.”

To this the runner agreed. He took up his one leg and hopped along on the other, and they found it hard work to keep up with him, he went so fast.

They had gone but a mile or so when they met a man who wore a little hat cocked down over one ear.

“Hello!” called the soldier. “Why do you wear your hat in that fashion instead of straight on your head like other people?”

“Oh, every time I set it straight there comes such a heavy frost that the flowers are blighted, and even the birds freeze in the trees.”

“That is a wonderful gift,” said the soldier. “Come along with us, and we will make our fortunes together. And now there are six of us, and that is enough. We will have no more in our company.”

So the six stout comrades journeyed on until they came to the town where the King lived. This King had one daughter, and she could run so fast that it was like a bird skimming along, and the King had said that no one should marry her unless he could run faster than she could; if such a one came along he should have her for a wife. But so far no one had been able to outrun her.

The soldier with his five comrades marched up to the palace and knocked at the door as bold as bold, and asked to see the King.

At first the gatekeeper did not wish to let the six in, for they were worn and dusty, but the soldier looked at him so fiercely that he did not dare to refuse.

The six comrades were brought into the great hall where the King sat with his daughter beside him and all his nobles about him.

Well, and what did the soldier and his fellows want with the King.

Oh, the soldier wanted to try a race with the princess; but he was not much of a runner himself, so he would let his servant run for him.

The King was willing for that, but he warned the soldier that if he failed in the race he and his servant, too, would lose their lives.

The soldier was not afraid to risk that, so the race course was laid out, and the Princess and the runner made ready. They were to run to a fountain miles and miles and miles away, and each was to fill a pitcher with water and bring it back to the palace. Whichever first returned with the water would win the race.

The runner stooped down and buckled on his second leg, and then he was ready, and he and the Princess set out. The Princess flew like a bird, but the runner ran like the wind. He was out of sight in a twinkling, and had filled his pitcher and started home again before the Princess was half-way to the fountain.

The runner sat down to rest a bit. He was very sleepy and he thought he would just take a little nap before going the rest of the way. In order not to be too comfortable and sleep too long he picked up a horse’s skull that lay in a field near by and put it under his head for a pillow.

But the runner slept more soundly than he meant to do.

The Princess also reached the fountain and filled her pitcher and started home again, and then, half-way home, she came across the runner fast asleep with his pitcher of water beside him.

This was the chance for the Princess. Very quietly she poured the water from the runner’s pitcher, and set it down beside him empty. Then she hurried on toward the palace, leaving the runner still asleep.

And now all would have been lost except for the hunter. He had been watching from the palace window and had seen everything that happened. He made haste to load his gun, and took aim and shot the skull from under the sleeper’s head. This awakened the runner. He sat up and looked about him.

There was the Princess almost back at the palace, and his pitcher lay empty beside him.

However, this was nothing to him. He picked up his pitcher and away he went, swifter than the wind. He ran back to the fountain and filled the pitcher, and got back with it to the castle door before the Princess had come in at the outer gate.

And now by rights the Princess belonged to the soldier, but the King could not make up his mind to have her married to a common man like that. As for the Princess she was ready to cry her eyes out at the thought of it. She and the King talked and talked together, and at last they made up a plan between them.

The King had a room made that was all of iron and could be heated until it was hotter than any oven. Then he called the comrades to him and said, “Now you have fairly won the race, and I have ordered food and drink to be set out for you, so that you may make merry over it.”

He then showed the companions into the iron room, and there a grand feast had been made ready. The six sat down at table and began to eat and drink, but the king went on out and locked the doors behind him. Then he ordered a fire to be built under the room, and to be kept up until the room was red hot.

The six companions sat around the table eating and drinking merrily enough, until they began to feel too warm. Then they got up to leave the room, but they found the door was locked and they were fastened in. At once they guessed the trick that had been played upon them, but they were not troubled over that in the least.

“This is something for you to see to,” said the soldier to the man with the hat over one ear.

The man set his hat straight and at once a frost fell upon the room. It grew so cold that the comrades had to turn up their coat collars and walk about to keep warm.

The King waited until he thought the six would certainly be suffocated by the heat, and then he ordered the door to be opened. What was his surprise when all the men walked out just as well and hearty as ever, except that they looked somewhat pinched with the cold.

But the King was as unwilling as ever to give his daughter to the soldier. He called the soldier to him and said, “Listen, if you will give up marrying the Princess I will make you rich for life.”

“Yes, but how much will you give me?” asked the soldier.

“I will give you all the gold you can carry.”

Well, the soldier hardly knew what to say to that. Ever since he had been in the war his back had been weak; but if the King would give him as much as his servant could carry he would give up the Princess and welcome.

The King did not care who carried off the gold. He was quite willing to give as much as the servant could carry.

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