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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Silver Shilling

THERE was once a shilling, which came forth from the mint
springing and shouting, 'Hurrah! now I am going out into the
wide world.' And truly it did go out into the wide world. The
children held it with warm hands, the miser with a cold and
convulsive grasp, and the old people turned it about, goodness
knows how many times, while the young people soon allowed it
to roll away from them. The shilling was made of silver, it
contained very little copper, and considered itself quite out
in the world when it had been circulated for a year in the
country in which it had been coined. One day, it really did go
out into the world, for it belonged to a gentleman who was
about to travel in foreign lands. This gentleman was not aware
that the shilling lay at the bottom of his purse when he
started, till he one day found it between his fingers. 'Why,'
cried he, 'here is a shilling from home; well, it must go on
its travels with me now!' and the shilling jumped and rattled
for joy, when it was put back again into the purse.

Here it lay among a number of foreign companions, who were
always coming and going, one taking the place of another, but
the shilling from home was always put back, and had to remain
in the purse, which was certainly a mark of distinction. Many
weeks passed, during which the shilling had travelled a long
distance in the purse, without in the least knowing where he
was. He had found out that the other coins were French and
Italian; and one coin said they were in this town, and another
said they were in that, but the shilling was unable to make
out or imagine what they meant. A man certainly cannot see
much of the world if he is tied up in a bag, and this was
really the shilling's fate. But one day, as he was lying in
the purse, he noticed that it was not quite closed, and so he
slipped near to the opening to have a little peep into
society. He certainly had not the least idea of what would
follow, but he was curious, and curiosity often brings its own
punishment. In his eagerness, he came so near the edge of the
purse that he slipped out into the pocket of the trousers; and
when, in the evening, the purse was taken out, the shilling
was left behind in the corner to which it had fallen. As the
clothes were being carried into the hall, the shilling fell
out on the floor, unheard and unnoticed by any one. The next
morning the clothes were taken back to the room, the gentleman
put them on, and started on his journey again; but the
shilling remained behind on the floor. After a time it was
found, and being considered a good coin, was placed with three
other coins. 'Ah,' thought the shilling, 'this is pleasant; I
shall now see the world, become acquainted with other people,
and learn other customs.'

'Do you call that a shilling?' said some one the next
moment. 'That is not a genuine coin of the country,- it is
false; it is good for nothing.'

Now begins the story as it was afterwards related by the
shilling himself.

''False! good for nothing!' said he. That remark went
through and through me like a dagger. I knew that I had a true
ring, and that mine was a genuine stamp. These people must at
all events be wrong, or they could not mean me. But yes, I was
the one they called 'false, and good for nothing.'

''Then I must pay it away in the dark,' said the man who
had received me. So I was to be got rid of in the darkness,
and be again insulted in broad daylight.

''False! good for nothing!' Oh, I must contrive to get
lost, thought I. And I trembled between the fingers of the
people every time they tried to pass me off slyly as a coin of
the country. Ah! unhappy shilling that I was! Of what use were
my silver, my stamp, and my real value here, where all these
qualities were worthless. In the eyes of the world, a man is
valued just according to the opinion formed of him. It must be
a shocking thing to have a guilty conscience, and to be
sneaking about on account of wicked deeds. As for me, innocent
as I was, I could not help shuddering before their eyes
whenever they brought me out, for I knew I should be thrown
back again up the table as a false pretender. At length I was
paid away to a poor old woman, who received me as wages for a
hard day's work. But she could not again get rid of me; no one
would take me. I was to the woman a most unlucky shilling. 'I
am positively obliged to pass this shilling to somebody,' said
she; 'I cannot, with the best intentions, lay by a bad
shilling. The rich baker shall have it,- he can bear the loss
better than I can. But, after all, it is not a right thing to
do.'

''Ah!' sighed I to myself, 'am I also to be a burden on
the conscience of this poor woman? Am I then in my old days so
completely changed?' The woman offered me to the rich baker,
but he knew the current money too well, and as soon as he
received me he threw me almost in the woman's face. She could
get no bread for me, and I felt quite grieved to the heart
that I should be cause of so much trouble to another, and be
treated as a cast-off coin. I who, in my young days, felt so
joyful in the certainty of my own value, and knew so well that
I bore a genuine stamp. I was as sorrowful now as a poor
shilling can be when nobody will have him. The woman took me
home again with her, and looking at me very earnestly, she
said, 'No, I will not try to deceive any one with thee again.
I will bore a hole through thee, that everyone may know that
thou art a false and worthless thing; and yet, why should I do
that? Very likely thou art a lucky shilling. A thought has
just struck me that it is so, and I believe it. Yes, I will
make a hole in the shilling,' said she, 'and run a string
through it, and then give it to my neighbor's little one to
hang round her neck, as a lucky shilling.' So she drilled a
hole through me.

'It is really not at all pleasant to have a hole bored
through one, but we can submit to a great deal when it is done
with a good intention. A string was drawn through the hole,
and I became a kind of medal. They hung me round the neck of a
little child, and the child laughed at me and kissed me, and I
rested for one whole night on the warm, innocent breast of a
child.

'In the morning the child's mother took me between her
fingers, and had certain thoughts about me, which I very soon
found out. First, she looked for a pair of scissors, and cut
the string.

''Lucky shilling!' said she, 'certainly this is what I
mean to try.' Then she laid me in vinegar till I became quite
green, and after that she filled up the hole with cement,
rubbed me a little to brighten me up, and went out in the
twilight hour to the lottery collector, to buy herself a
ticket, with a shilling that should bring luck. How everything
seemed to cause me trouble. The lottery collector pressed me
so hard that I thought I should crack. I had been called
false, I had been thrown away,- that I knew; and there were
many shillings and coins with inscriptions and stamps of all
kinds lying about. I well knew how proud they were, so I
avoided them from very shame. With the collector were several
men who seemed to have a great deal to do, so I fell unnoticed
into a chest, among several other coins.

'Whether the lottery ticket gained a prize, I know not;
but this I know, that in a very few days after, I was
recognized as a bad shilling, and laid aside. Everything that
happened seemed always to add to my sorrow. Even if a man has
a good character, it is of no use for him to deny what is said
of him, for he is not considered an impartial judge of
himself.

'A year passed, and in this way I had been changed from
hand to hand; always abused, always looked at with
displeasure, and trusted by no one; but I trusted in myself,
and had no confidence in the world. Yes, that was a very dark
time.

'At length one day I was passed to a traveller, a
foreigner, the very same who had brought me away from home;
and he was simple and true-hearted enough to take me for
current coin. But would he also attempt to pass me? and should
I again hear the outcry, 'False! good-for-nothing!' The
traveller examined me attentively, 'I took thee for good
coin,' said he; then suddenly a smile spread all over his
face. I have never seen such a smile on any other face as on
his. 'Now this is singular,' said he, 'it is a coin from my
own country; a good, true, shilling from home. Some one has
bored a hole through it, and people have no doubt called it
false. How curious that it should come into my hands. I will
take it home with me to my own house.'

'Joy thrilled through me when I heard this. I had been
once more called a good, honest shilling, and I was to go back
to my own home, where each and all would recognize me, and
know that I was made of good silver, and bore a true, genuine
stamp. I should have been glad in my joy to throw out sparks
of fire, but it has never at any time been my nature to
sparkle. Steel can do so, but not silver. I was wrapped up in
fine, white paper, that I might not mix with the other coins
and be lost; and on special occasions, when people from my own
country happened to be present, I was brought forward and
spoken of very kindly. They said I was very interesting, and
it was really quite worth while to notice that those who are
interesting have often not a single word to say for
themselves.

'At length I reached home. All my cares were at an end.
Joy again overwhelmed me; for was I not good silver, and had I
not a genuine stamp? I had no more insults or disappointments
to endure; although, indeed, there was a hole through me, as
if I were false; but suspicions are nothing when a man is
really true, and every one should persevere in acting
honestly, for an will be made right in time. That is my firm
belief,' said the shilling.



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