The Table, the Sifter and the Pinchers
Once upon a time there was a man who was very poor. He had so many children it was difficult to earn money enough to provide for them all. Accordingly, he left home and hired out to the king of a distant land.
At the end of a year's time he went to the king and said: "I have served you faithfully for a whole year. Now I wish to return to my wife and children. Pay me, I pray you, what you owe me for my work."
The king said: "I will not reward you in money. I will give you something better than money. Here is a table. When you are hungry all you have to do is to say, 'Table, set yourself.' Then the table will immediately be spread with food."
"Thank you, good king," replied the man. "With this table it will be easy enough to provide food even for all my large family."
When the man had started home with his table he soon grew hungry. He put it down by the roadside under a leafy tree and said, "Table, set yourself." Immediately it was full of the most delicious food. The man ate all he could and gave the rest away to some beggars who passed that way.
"It is a lucky day for us," said the beggars as they thanked him.
That night the man stopped at an inn. He was so delighted with the magic powers of his table that he foolishly told the innkeeper about it.
"That would be a most excellent table for me to possess," thought the innkeeper. "With this in my possession I would soon be a rich man. I could charge my guests a price in proportion to the rich food I would serve them, and I'd never have to spend a cent of my money to buy supplies."
That night the innkeeper stole the table and substituted another for it which looked exactly like it. Early in the morning the man loaded the table on his back and hurried home to his wife and children.
"We'll never be hungry again!" he cried as he embraced his wife. "Never again shall our children call for food when we have nothing to give them!"
"How much did the king pay you?" asked his wife in surprise. The good woman well knew how much it cost to buy food enough to keep all their children from going hungry.