Once upon a time there lived a certain man and his wife, who had two cornfields, three cows, two oxen, five sheep and thirteen children. Twelve of the children were called by names common in the country, but the thirteenth child got a strange name of Merrymind.
The thirteen children grew taller and stronger every year, and they did hard work earning their living. But when the youngest was old enough to look after his father’s sheep, there happened the great fair, to which everybody in the neighbourhood went. As the fair happened only once in seven years, the man and his family couldn’t miss it.2 The father opened the bag in which he kept his money and gave everyone of the thirteen a silver penny.
The boys and girls had never before owned so much pocket money and, thinking of what they should buy, they dressed themselves in their holiday clothes and set out with their father and mother to the fair. Before evening the twelve of the children had spent their money on clothes and all sorts of beautiful things, but Merrymind hadn’t bought anything. The reason was that he had set his heart upon a fiddle.3 Unfortunately fiddles cost a lot more than a silver penny. The sun was getting low and red upon the hill, and Merrymind was still looking about. Suddenly he saw a little greyhaired man with just one old dirty fiddle the strings of which were broken.
“Buy the fiddle, my young master,” he said as Merrymind came up to him. “You’ll have it cheap: I ask but a silver penny for it. Mend the strings and you’ll have the best fiddle in the country.”
Merrymind thought this a great bargain. He was a handy boy and could mend the strings while watching his father’s sheep.
Everybody laughed at Merrymind’s bargain except his mother, who was a very kindly woman. The boy began repairing the strings — he spent all his time, both night and day, upon them, but no string would hold on his fiddle. At last Merrymind decided to leave home where everyone except his mother laughed at him and go to seek his fortune. So he set out on a summer morning with the broken-stringed fiddle under his arm.
Merrymind walked through the woods and found himself in the mountains. He was so tired of his journey that he fell asleep in a deserted cottage in the valley. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw that the valley was full of inhabitants, and they were all busy in houses, in fields and in mills. They were wearing fine clothes and looked rich but very unhappy. Even the birds of that valley did not sing — they were too busy building their nests. The cats did not lie by the fire — they were all on the watch for mice. The dogs went out after hares and the cows and sheep grazed4 without stopping.
1 The names in this story are meaningful: Merrymind (merry mind) — Âåñåëü÷àê, Dame Dreary — Ãîñïîæà Òîñêà, Lady Littlecare (little eare) — Ëåäè Áåççàáîòíîñòü
2 couldn’t miss it — íå ìîãëè ïðîïóñòèòü å¸
3 a fiddle (informal) = a violin
4 to graze — ïàñòèñü
In the middleof the valley there stood a beautiful castle. The gates stood open, and Merrymind walked in. The courtyard1 was full of people who were so busy working that they didn’t even look up at the boy. In the highest tower of that busy castle, at a window from which she could see the whole valley, there sat a noble lady. Her dress was rich, her hair was iron-grey; her look was sour and gloomy. She and her twelve maidens were spinning as hard as they could, but all the yarn they made was black.
No one in or out of the castle would greet Merrymind or answer his questions. They said, “We have no time to talk!” The only person who talked to him was a soldier. He told the boy the story of the valley.
“This valley belongs to the lady of the castle, whose name is Dame Dreary. She had another name in her youth — they called her Lady Littlecare; and then the valley was the happiest and the most beautiful place in the whole country. There were May games, harvest festivals and Christmas parties among them.
Shepherds piped on the hillsides, people sang in the fields, and laughter was heard in every house in the evening. All that was changed, nobody knows how. Some say it was because of a magic ring which fell from the lady’s finger, and she became Dame Dreary. Hard work and hard times spread over the valley. They say it will be so till Dame Dreary lays down her distaff and dances.”
The next night Merrymind came to the castle again and took his broken fiddle with him. In one of the rooms he found some golden threads to mend his 'fiddle. As soon as he put them on the old fiddle, it began to shine. This sight made Merrymind so joyful, that he tried to play, although he had never played before. When his bow touched the strings, they began playing a pleasant tune. Merrymind went out and walked along the valley with his fiddle. The music filled the air; the busy people heard it and stopped working. When he came to the castle, Dame Dreary’s distaff stood still in her hand.
Merrymind played through the halls and up the tower stairs. As he came nearer, the lady dropped her distaff and danced with all her might.2 All her maidens did the same; and as they danced, she grew young3 again. They brought her the dress of white and cherry colour she used to wear in her youth, and she was no longer Dame Dreary, but Lady Littlecare, with golden hair and laughing eyes and cheeks like summer roses. The heavy mist disappeared; the sun shone out; a blue sky was seen; a white bird came from the east with a gold ring, and put it on the lady’s finger. Everybody praised Merrymind and his fiddle; and when news of his wonderful playing came to the king’s ears, he made Merrymind his first fiddler, which under that wise monarch was the highest post in his kingdom.
1 courtyard — âíóòðåííèé äâîð
2 with all her might — èçî âñåõ ñèë
3 to grow young = to get young
49. Read the text again and say true, false or not stated.
The man and his wife had thirteen children.
The whole neighbourhood was excited because of the great fair.
Merrymind was the first to spend his money.
He bought a fiddle from an old magician.
The whole family laughed at Merrymind’s bargain.
The inhabitants of the valley looked very unhappy.
The noble lady of the castle was under a spell.
The valley had always been an unhappy place.
Merrymind mended his fiddle with the help of a golden button.
The fiddle began playing a pleasant tune without Merrymind’s help.
The lady grew young again while she was dancing.
Soon after the spell was broken Merrymind left the country and returned home.
50. Put these sentences in the right order.
Merrymind finds some golden threads and mends his fiddle.
Merrymind falls asleep in the deserted cottage.
The soldier tells Merrymind the lady’s story.
The great fair begins in the neighbourhood.
Merrymind walks through the valley and comes to the castle.
Merrymind buys an old dirty fiddle.
Merrymind leaves home and goes to seek his fortune.
Merrymind plays the fiddle.
Merrymind’s music breaks the spell.
51. These are answers to several questions. Make up the questions.
No, it was an unusual name.
Each one got a silver penny.
They bought clothes and some beautiful things.
Because it cost a lot more than a silver penny.
Because he was a handy boy.
He went to seek his fortune.
In the midst of the valley.
Because they had no time to talk.
People had called her Lady Littlecare.
His broken fiddle.
It began to shine.
They stopped working.
She had golden hair, laughing eyes and cheeks like summer roses.