“The Three-Legged Stool” – How an Old Man and His Wife Find Happiness

“The Three-Legged Stool” story featured here is by Isa L. Wright. It’s part of a collection of short stories titled The Kindergarten Children’s Hour, Volume 1: Stories for Little Children.


The Three-Legged Stool

Once there was a little old man who lived in a little old house with his gentle wife. And most important of all, there lived with them a little three-legged stool. Now there are stools and stools, the world over, little and big; but this stool was not like any other stool in the world, as you will see. It might have been made by the Happy Elves, or blessed by the Fairy of Kind Deeds, or grown in the Forest of Loving Thoughts. I cannot tell you as to that. All I am sure of is this: it was the most wonderful stool I have ever heard of and it dwelt for many a year with the little old man and his gentle wife in the little old house on the hill.

Every morning the little old man carried it to the barn, sat down on it and milked the brindled cow. Then he went back to the little old house with the milking-pail in one hand and the little three-legged stool in the other. One morning as he arose to go to the barn as usual, the little stool stirred on its three legs and said, “Why should I let you carry me to the barn every day when I am able to carry myself?”

“What’s that?” said the little old man. But before he could say another word, the little stool danced away on its three legs and sat itself down by the brindled cow.

“Now that is very kind of you,” said the little old man when he reached the barn.

“Not at all! Not at all!” replied the little stool. “I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.” So the little old man sat down and milked the brindled cow.

The next morning the stool said to the milking-pail, as they stood side by side in the kitchen, “Why should you let the little old man carry
you to the barn? Why not carry yourself?”

“A fine idea!” said the milking-pail.

“What’s that?” inquired the little old man. But before he could say another word, off whisked the milking-pail with the little stool, and sat itself down under the brindled cow.

The Stool and the Milking-Pail

“Now that is very kind of you,” said the little old man as he sat down to milk.

“Not at all! Not at all!” laughed the milking-pail. “I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.”

So the little old man milked the brindled cow and carried the milk to the house.

And the next morning the little stool got to thinking again, as she and the milking-pail waited by the brindled cow for the little old man to come. “Oh, cow,” said the little three-legged stool, “why should you make the little old man milk you? He works hard all day long. Why not let down your milk yourself?”

“A fine idea!” smiled the cow as she chewed her cud. “A fine idea!” And when the little old man reached the barn, the pail was full of foamy milk.

“Now that was very kind of you, brindled cow,” said the little old man.

“Not at all! Not at all! answered the cow, switching her tail. “I haven’t had so much fun in a long time.”

And the little old man reached for the milking-pail to carry it into the house.

“Wait a minute!” called the little stool. Why should the milking-pail and I let you carry the milk when between us we can take if to the house and not spill a drop?”

The Stool and the Milking-Pail Cross the Fence

“What’s that?” asked the little old man. But before he could take hold of the milking-pail, it had jumped up on the stool. Tap! tap! went the three little legs, and in a minute they were safe in the house and not a drop spilled.

The little old man hurried in and told his gentle wife all about it.

“We must do something for them in return for their kindness,” said she. “Now do you give the brindled cow of our apples, and I will shine up the milking-pail and cover the little stool with red, red carpet.”

“We have but few apples left for winter,” said the little old man.

“That matters not,” smiled his gentle wife. “We can do without ourselves.”

So the brindled cow ate of the apples and the milking-pail, shining from top to toe, smiled at the little three-legged stool all covered with red, red carpet.

Then the stool leaned over to the pail and said, “Why should the little old man toil day after day and get so little for his labor?”

“Why, indeed?” echoed the milking-pail. “And why should we sit here in the corner all day while the little old man toils so hard? Let us bestir ourselves!”

“A fine idea!” the milking-pail answered.

“What’s that?” asked the little old man.

“We go to seek your fortune!” cried the stool. But before the little old man could speak a word, away they both danced out the door and down the road and on to the village.

By the roadside sat a strong man.

“Why do you sit here?” asked the stool.

“Why, indeed?” echoed the milking-pail. “The little old man toils hard day after day,” the stool continued, “and gets but little for his labor.”

“If that be so,” answered the strong man, rising, “take me to him! I will gladly work hard, too, in exchange for food and comfort.”

“You shall drink your fill of my milk,” promised the pail.

“And rest on me when you are weary,” agreed the stool.

So they all journeyed back to the little old house.

“We bring you part of your fortune!” they told the little old man. “A strong pair of arms to labor for you in exchange for food and comfort.”

“Now that is very kind of you,” said the little old man.

“Not at all! Not at all!” rejoined the stranger. “I haven’t had so much fun in a long time.”

And the little three-legged stool and the milking-pail laughed till they creaked, they were so happy.

“Your face grows shinier every day,” whispered the stool to the milking-pail, a few days later.

“And your carpet face grows brighter and brighter,” returned the pail. Then they laughed again.

“Why should we sit here in idleness,” said the stool after a minute, “when the little old man and the strong man toil hard day after day? They are getting more for their labor, it is true, but yet not half enough. Let us bestir ourselves again.”

“A fine idea!” said the milking-pail.”

“What’s that? questioned the little old man.

“We go again to seek your fortune,” called the little stool, as it ran out the front door and down the road with the milking-pail after it.

On to the village they went, and once more they saw a man sitting by the roadside. A tattered coat covered his thin body and his face was white and pinched.

The Stool and the Pail Find a Man on the Roadside

The shiny milking-pail and the little stool stopped to talk with him. “Why do you sit here by the roadside?”asked the milking-pail.

“I am weary and hungry,” returned the stranger, “and none will give me food.”

“Why don’t you go to the little old man’s house?” suggested the little stool. :He has very little to give, but what he has he will gladly share with you and his gentle wife will care for you until you are well again.”

“It may be,” said the stranger, “that the little old man labors hard and has need of all he earns.”

“Nevertheless, he will be glad to help you,” the little stool assured him.

You can drink your fill of my milk,” said the pail.

“And rest on me when you are weary,” added the stool.

So back again they journeyed to the little old man’s house.

“We bring you no fortune this time,” they called, “but only one who is weary and hungry and needs your help.”

The Stool and the Pail Tell the Old Man Good News

“And indeed I am glad to see you,” smiled the little old man as he came to meet the stranger. And his gentle wife brought forward the easiest chair.

“Now this is very kind of you,” began the stranger.

“Not at all! Not at all!” answered the little old man and his gentle wife together. “We haven’t had so much fun for a long time.”

And with that they brought the best from the cupboard and set it upon the table. And the stranger ate till he was satisfied, and when night came, he was given the softest bed for sleep and rest.

The morning came and the gentle wife pre- pared breakfast and put it on a tray and put the tray on the little stool and tap! tap! tap! went the little stool up the stairs and into the stranger’s room.

And the little old man and his gentle wife followed.

The little stool sat itself down by the bedside. And the little old man and his wife stood by the door. And lo! There upon the bed, they saw, not a weary stranger, but a King with a jeweled crown upon his forehead.

A King Appears in the Old Man's Home

“I was a hungered and you took me in, sheltered and fed me with the best you had,” he said, “and a King does not forget.”

Then the little old man and his gentle wife bowed low before the King.

“Nay,” he said, “bow not to me, but sit you here by my side, and tell me what I can do for you who did so much for me.”

But the little old man, sitting by the King’s side, shook his head. And the gentle wife, sitting on the other side of the King, shook her head.

“We have done nothing,” they said together. “It was the little stool that did it all.”

And the King smiled. “Since you will not wish for yourself,” he told them, “I shall wish for you.” Then he lifted his hands above them.

“I bless you for always,” he said, “with peace and happiness. And whatsoever your hands may touch shall prosper. And now, little stool” — the King turned around — “what can I do for you?”

“For me?’ The little stool was so surprised he nearly tumbled over.

“For you,” said the King, and he smiled again.

“Well, as to that,” began the little stool, “if the strong man and the milking-pail and I can live always with the little old man and his gentle wife, we have nothing to wish for.”

“Nothing at all?” asked the King. “Think!”

“Well,” admitted the little stool with a laugh, “there is one thing we have often talked about, the strong man and the milking-pail and I. We should very much enjoy a little child about the house.”

“For me to work for,” said the strong man.

“To drink of my white milk,” added the shiny pail.

“And to sit upon me,” continued the little stool, creaking his legs with joy at the thought.

“Oh! oh! oh!” cried the little old man and his gentle wife.

For there, right before them was a little child with yellow curls and blue eyes and cheeks like roses in June time. And she gave the little old man a kiss on his little left cheek, and his gentle wife a kiss on the right cheek.

Then she sat down on the little three-legged stool with the red, red carpet on it. “May I have it for mine?” she asked.

And the little old man and his gentle wife nodded their heads and their eyes shone.

“And to think,” said the little old man, “it was the little stool that brought it all to us.”

“Not at all! Not at all!” cried the little stool, creaking with joy. “I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.”

The End

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