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The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean

In a certain village there dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered a dish of beans, which she wished to cook. So she made a fire upon the hearth, and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful of straw. And, as she shook the beans up in the saucepan, one fell out unperceived, and came down upon the ground, near a straw; soon after a glowing coal burst out of the fire, and fell just by these two. Then the Straw began to say, "My dear friend, whence do you come?" The Coal replied, "By good luck I have sprung out of the fire, and if I had not jumped away by force, my death had been certain, and I should have been reduced to ashes." The Bean continued, "I also have got away with a whole skin, but, had the old woman put me in the pot with the others, I should have been boiled to pieces, as my comrades are." "Would a better fate have fallen to my share?" said the Straw; "for the old woman has suffocated in fire and smoke all my brothers; sixty has she put on at once, and deprived of life; happily, I slipped between her fingers."

"But what shall we do now?" asked the Coal.

"I think," answered the Bean; "since we have so luckily escaped death, we will join in partnership, and keep together like good companions: lest a new misfortune overtake us, let us wander forth, and travel into a strange country."

This proposition pleased the two others, and they set out together on their travels. Presently they came to a little stream, over which there was no bridge or path, and they did not know how they should get over. The Straw gave good advice, and said, "I will lay myself across, so that you may cross over upon me, as upon a bridge." So the Straw stretched itself from one bank to the other, and the Coal, which was of a fiery nature, tripped lightly upon the newly-built bridge. But when it came to the middle of it, and heard the water running along beneath, it was frightened, and stood still, not daring to go further. The Straw, however, beginning to burn, broke in two and fell into the stream, and the Coal, slipping after, hissed as it reached the water, and gave up the ghost. The Bean, which had prudently remained upon the shore, was forced to laugh at this accident, and the joke being so good, it laughed so immoderately that it burst itself.

Now, they would all have been done for alike, if a tailor, who was out on his wanderings, had not just then, by great good luck, sat himself down near the stream. Having a commiserating heart, he took out needle and thread, and sewed the Bean together. The Bean thanked him exceedingly; but, as the tailor used black thread, it has happened since that time that every Bean has a black seam.


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