"WHAT are you doing here, boy?" asked a venerable friar of Rupert, who was sitting near his accordion in the neighbourhood of a wood as if he were preparing himself to give a solemn performance to the oaks.
"I was resting after a long walk," answered the boy, "and as they say that sleep is food, I wished to forget in slumber that not a mouthful has passed my lips for many hours."
"Poor little boy," exclaimed the father; "if you want a sumptuous meal go near the third cork-tree on the right-hand side; go round the tree three times, playing the accordion, and a door will open. Pass through it and you shall eat splendidly."
Rupert went to the spot indicated and, playing a "Habanera" dance, made the three turns prescribed; a piece of bark came away and disclosed a little iron door, artistically ornamented. He pushed it gently; it opened noiselessly, and there was Rupert inside a beautiful palace, whose magnificent rooms were illuminated with hidden fires, which, while giving light, sent out sweet fragrance. "These smells are not bad," said Rupert, "but I would rather they came from a nicely cooked chop."
At that moment a hundred succulent chops which were saying "Eat me!" began to balance themselves in space. Being neither stupid nor lazy, Rupert tried to get hold of the nearest, but they all began a frantic career round the room. In the centre of the latter appeared a table covered with appetising eatables, but as soon as Rupert went near they once more took to flight as if on invisible wings. A magnificent stuffed turkey hit him on the nose; the breast of a chicken nearly knocked him over; all this while the boy was running, like a mad thing, after those exquisite dainties, hungrier than a bear after a fortnight’s fast.
"This is only an invitation to see!" exclaimed the lad. "It is enough to make one’s teeth grow longer!"
He had hardly uttered these words than his teeth began to grow in such a disordered fashion, and so quickly, that the shortest was not less than three yards long. The viands were caught on them as if on lances, a further difficulty for Rupert, who could not succeed in seizing the coveted prey which was fixed on his own teeth.
On this a monkey appeared, and climbing on to the boy’s teeth, began very impudently to eat those exquisite viands, making signs of satisfaction which threw Rupert into a rage.
"You great thief!" he cried. "What do you mean by laughing at me?"
And catching up his accordion he threw it at the animal with such accuracy that, hitting him on the head, it knocked him senseless. A great noise was heard, the monkey disappeared, Rupert’s teeth grew shorter, and while the accordion played, of its own accord, the celebrated air "No me matas," a woman appeared in the middle of the room who, for size, looked like a whale, and who would have been beautiful if she had not had a turned-up nose and fixed eyes, one weeping oil and the other vinegar, and who would certainly have had a fine head of hair if she had not been bald, and a fine set of teeth if a single tooth had remained in her head.
"Who are you?" asked Rupert, a trifle startled.
"I am the witch Trompetilla, the daughter of the celebrated Trompeton and grand-daughter of Trompetazo, and am looking for my son Trompetin everywhere, without being able to find him."
"Why do you speak to me about Trompetilla and Trompetin when I never played a trumpet in my life?"
"Ah, unhappy me!" sobbed the witch. "In vain I have offered a pennyworth of toasted chick peas and a measure of tiger nuts to the mortal who discovers the whereabouts of my son. I have wept so much oil and vinegar that I have spoilt all the furniture in my house."
"What a fine salad you could make if you bought some lettuces!"
"You will get a salad made of blows if you don’t help me to look for my Trompetin, and if we find him I will invite you to supper, and moreover will give you a penny so that you need never do any more work in your life."
Roused by such a magnificent promise, Rupert offered to look for Trompetin, even if he were under a cruet.
"What is he like?" he asked.
"The size of a pea, a head like that of a pin, and legs like needles."
"Well, then, he must be sticking in a pin cushion or in a needle-case."
"A needle-case would not hold him, for he has a beard two yards long."
"It must trail on the ground!" said Rupert, full of astonishment.
"Well, now," said the witch, "while I go and mend some clothes, begin to look for my pet."
This said, she disappeared.
The boy was confused by so many comings and goings, appearances and disappearances; but as hunger afflicted him, he proposed to find Trompetin, and taking a turn round the room, began to shout:
"Trompetin, where are you?"
"Here!" groaned a tiny voice.
"Where? I can’t see you."
"In this crack," replied the voice.
Rupert searched, and at last found the witch’s son in a crack between two bricks. The enormous beard was a hair two yards long, which grew out of his nose.
Rupert took him up carefully, and placing him on his hand, asked him:
"Are you Trompetin, the son of Trompetilla?"
"Why have you been lost so long?"
"Because my mother is deaf and cannot see well, so that, although I shouted a lot, she did not hear me."
"Well, now, tell me who the monkey is that climbed up on to my teeth?"
"It is a wizard, nastier than medicine, who is angry with us because his grandfather died from a trumpet-blast that my great-great-grandfather sounded in his ear. It was he who made your teeth grow, and didn’t allow you to eat. Knock on this wall and he will reappear, then pull out my hair and thrash him with it."
"A fine thrashing to be given with a hair!"
"Try, and you will see!"
Rupert struck the wall, and at once the monkey appeared, sparks flying from his eyes. He was about to throw himself on Rupert, but the boy pulled out Trompetin’s hair, which turned itself into a fine cudgel, with which he dealt the monkey a vigorous hiding. The animal leapt high into the air several times, but that was useless, as the stick lengthened as if it were elastic and reached him wherever he was. When the monkey could resist no longer, he took human shape, and going on his knees begged Rupert not to grind his ribs, and in return he offered to give him as much wealth as he might desire.
"Call Trompetilla," exclaimed the lad, "and let us have a talk."
The witch appeared, this time crying with joy at seeing her son, and after kissing him, stuck him in her dress so that he should not be lost again. The wizard gave Rupert a lot of money and the witch gave him a splendid supper of stew and hemp-seed.
When supper was over they affectionately took leave of one another, and the wizard took Rupert out into the fresh air, carrying him carefully to the same spot in which he was when he met the priest. There he left the boy sleeping soundly, dreaming of a sweet awakening—the dream of the person who sees his future assured by reason of not having done anything wrong.