A Celebration of Women Writers

"Peasie and Beansie." by Flora Annie Steel (1847-1929)
From: Tales of the Punjab (1894) by Flora Annie Steel. London & New York: Macmillan and Co., 1894.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

PEASIE AND BEANSIE

O NCE upon a time there were two sisters, who lived together; but while the elder, Beansie by name, was a hard quarrelsome creature, apt to disagree with everybody, Peasie, the younger, was soft and most agreeable.

Now, one day, Peasie, who was for ever trying to please somebody, said to her sister, 'Beansie, my dear! don't you think we ought to pay a visit to our poor old father? He must be dull now–it is harvest time, and he is left alone in the house.'

'I don't care if he is!' replied Beansie. 'Go yourself! I'm not going to walk about in the heat to please any old man!'

So kind Peasie set off alone, and on the way she met a plum-tree. 'Oh, Peasie!' cried the tree, 'stop a bit, there's a good soul, and tidy up my thorns a little; they are scattered about so that I feel quite uncomfortable!'

'So they are, I declare!' returned Peasie, and forthwith set to work with such a will that ere long the tree was as neat as a new pin.

A little farther on she met a fire, and the fire cried out, 'Oh, sweet Peasie! tidy up my hearth a bit, for I am half choked in the ashes!'

'So you are, I declare!' returned good-natured Peasie, setting herself to clear them away, until the fire crackled and flamed with pleasure.

Farther on she met a pîpal tree, and the pîpal called out, 'Oh, kind Peasie! bind up this broken branch for me, or it will die, and I shall lose it!'

'Poor thing! poor thing!' cried soft-hearted Peasie; and tearing a bandage from her veil, she bound up the wounded limb carefully.

After a while she met a stream, and the stream cried out, 'Pretty Peasie! clear away the sand and dead leaves from my mouth, for I cannot run when I am stifled!'

'No more you can!' quoth obliging Peasie; and in a trice she made the channel so clear and clean that the water flowed on swiftly.

A last she arrived, rather tired, at her old father's house, but his delight at seeing her was so great that he would scarcely let her away in the evening, and insisted on giving her a spinning-wheel, a buffalo, some brass pots, a bed, and all sorts of things, just as if she had been a bride going to her husband. These she put on the buffalo's back, and set off homewards.

Now, as she passed the stream, she saw a web of fine cloth floating down.

'Take it, Peasie, take it!' tinkled the stream; 'I have carried it far, as a reward for your kindness.'

So she gathered up the cloth, laid it on the buffalo, and went on her way.

By and by she passed the pîpal tree, and lo! on the branch she had tied up hung a string of pearls.

'Take it, Peasie, take it!' rustled the pîpal; 'I caught it from a Prince's turban as a reward for your kindness.'

Then she took the pearls, fastened them round her pretty slender throat, and went on her way rejoicing.

Farther on she came to the fire, burning brightly, and on it was a girdle with a nice hot sweet-cake.

'Take it, Peasie, take it!' crackled the fire; 'I have cooked it to a turn, in reward for your kindness.'

So lucky Peasie took the nice hot cake, and, dividing it into two pieces, put one aside for her sister, and ate the other while she went on her way.

Now when she reached the plum-tree, the topmost branches were bending down, covered with ripe yellow fruit.

'Take some, Peasie, take some!' groaned the laden tree; 'I have ripened these as a reward for your kindness.'

So she gathered her veil full, and eating some, set the rest aside for her sister; but when she arrived at home, instead of being pleased at her little sister's good fortune and thoughtfulness, disagreeable Beansie nearly cried with spite and envy, and was so cross, that poor little sweet Peasie became quite remorseful over her own luck, and suggested that her sister might be equally fortunate if she also went to visit her father.

So, next morning, greedy Beansie set off to see what she could get from the old man. But when she came to the plum-tree, and it cried out, 'Oh, Beansie! stop a bit and tidy up my thorns a little, there's a good soul!' the disobliging Beansie tossed her head, and replied, 'A likely story! Why, I could travel three miles in the time it would take me to settle up your stupid old thorns! Do it yourself!'

And when she met the pîpal tree, and it asked her to tie up its broken branch, she only laughed, saying, 'It doesn't hurt me, and I should have walked three miles in the time it would take to set it right; so ask somebody else!'

Then when the fire said to her, 'Oh, sweet Beansie! tidy up my hearth a bit, for I am half choked by my ashes,' the unkind girl replied, 'The more fool you for having ashes! You don't suppose I am going to dawdle about helping people who won't help themselves? Not a bit of it!'

So when she met the stream, and it asked her to clear away the sand and the dead leaves which choked it, she replied, 'Do you imagine I'm going to stop my walk that you may run? No, no!–every one for himself!'

At last she reached her father's house, full of determination not to go away without a heavy load for at least two buffaloes, when, just as she was entering the courtyard, her brother and his wife fell upon her, and whacked her most unmercifully, crying, 'So this is your plan, is it? Yesterday comes Peasie, while we were hard at work, and wheedles her doting old father out of his best buffalo, and goodness knows that else besides, and to-day you come to rob us! Out of the house, you baggage!'

With that they hounded her away, hot, tired, bruised, and hungry.

'Never mind!' said she, to console herself, 'I shall get the web of cloth yet!'

Sure enough, when she crossed the stream, there was a web, three times as fine as Peasie's, floating close to the shore, and greedy Beansie went straight to get it; but, alas! the water was so deep that she was very nearly drowned, while the beautiful cloth floated past her very fingers. Thus all she got for her pains was a ducking.

'Never mind!' thought she, 'I'll have the string of pearls!'

Yes, there it hung on the broken branch; but when Beansie jumped to catch it, branch and all fell right on her head, so that she was stunned. When she came to herself, some one else had walked off with the pearls, and she had only a bump on her head as big as an egg.

All these misfortunes had quite wearied her out; she was starving with hunger, and hurried on to the fire, hoping for a nice hot sweet girdle-cake.

Yes, there it was, smelling most deliciously, and Beansie snatched at it so hastily that she burnt her fingers horribly and the cake rolled away. Before she had done blowing at her fingers and hopping about in pain, a crow had carried off the cake, and she was left lamenting.

'At any rate, I'll have the plums!' cried miserable Beansie, setting off at a run, her mouth watering at the sight of the luscious yellow fruit on the top-most branches. First she held on to a lower branch with her left hand, and reached for the fruit with the right; then, when that was all scratched and torn by the thorns, she held on with her right, and tried to get the fruit with the left, but all to no avail; and when face and hands were all bleeding and full of prickles, she gave up the useless quest, and went home, bruised, beaten, wet, sore, hungry, and scratched all over, where I have no doubt her kind sister Peasie put her to bed, and gave her gruel and posset.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteers
Ann and Neil Piche and Emily Wescott.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom