The Necklace Of Acorns

Once upon a time, a girl named Barbara lived in a little village far away. She was pretty and kind and perfect- tempered-but she lived with her stepmother, who was very mean and bad-tempered. Poor Barbara had to do all the housework and run all the errands.

One day, Barbara was on her way back from the market in a nearby town, carrying a basket with a few eggs and two small pieces of cheese, as ordered by her stepmother.

As she went through a wood, singing happily and swinging the basket in her hand, she came to a large oak tree. Sitting on the tree’s roots was an old lady who looked so tired and hungry that Barbara could not help feeling sorry for her.

“Can I do anything to help you?” asked Barbara.

“If you have anything to eat to offer me, I should be very grateful to you,” replied the old lady.

Barbara knew very well that as soon as she reached home again, her stepmother would want an account of every penny she had spent and what she had bought, but she did not care. Taking an egg and a piece of cheese from the basket, she gave them to the old lady. “It is not very much,” she said, “but please take it.”

“You are very kind and deserve good luck,” said the old lady, taking the food. “I am sorry I cannot pay you how I would like, but I will give you a small gift.” Taking out of her pocket a necklace made from acorns, she offered it to the girl. “Take it and always carry it with you,” she told her.

Barbara thanked her, took the acorns necklace and went happily.

When she got home, her stepmother was waiting. “Why are you late? Where have you been? What have you bought, and where is my change?” asked the stepmother.

Barbara told her all that had happened, and when the stepmother heard that one of her eggs and a little piece of cheese had been given away, she flew into a rage.

Snatching the necklace of acorns, she gave poor Barbara a beating with it. “Stupid girl- if you feel hungry tonight, you can eat this necklace of acorns for your supper,” she shouted. “Then perhaps you will learn not to give good food away for worthless things. Now get off to bed!”

Crying, Barbara went to her chilly room. Before she went to sleep, very upset and hungry, she put the necklace of acorns in an old chest, among other little things that had once belonged to her dear mother.

Five years passed by. One day it was announced that in honour of the Prince’s birthday, all the villagers would be invited to a party in his honour. They all went, even Barbara. All the young girls were dressed in their best and were wearing necklaces and bracelets-and Barbara felt very small because her dress was not very pretty, and all she had to wear with it was the necklace of acorns.

When the other girls saw Barbara so poorly dressed, they were sorry at first and then they began to laugh at the sight of her acorn necklace. “You had better not come with us,” said one. “People will not think much of our village.”

It was not surprising that Barbara burst into tears, but at that moment, a young man on horseback rode by, with his page-boy trotting alongside.

When the rider asked the reason for Barbara’s tears, one of the girls answered. “You see, sir, this girl dressed in such a poor dress and wearing only a necklace of acorns is from our village, and we think she shouldn’t go to the party if she is a disgrace to us.”

While the young horseman stared hard at Barbara, a wonderful thing happened. Her dress changed into a beautiful gown, and the necklace of acorns became a necklace of sparkling diamonds.

Smiling, the young man got down from his horse, and with all the other girls staring in surprise, he took Barbara by the hand and escorted her to the palace.

At the party, Barbara found herself sitting next to the young man in a place of honour, for he was none other than the Prince himself.

Soon afterwards, they were married, and Barbara found great happiness and good fortune, as the old lady under the oak tree had promised in return for her kind deed.

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