Stone Soup

Read by Lisa DiSimone

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"Stone Soup"

There was once a hungry beggar who was traveling from town to town, looking for a warm meal. In his travels, he happened to stumble upon a small cottage at the edge of a forest. He knocked on the door and it opened a crack, just enough for him to make out the figure of an old woman.

"Yeah, what do you want?" she asked impatiently.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am, but I was wondering if you could find it in your heart to give a hungry beggar a warm meal." he asked.

"No, beat it! I don't have a morsel of food to spare. I'm starving to death myself!" she shouted. "Besides, didn't your mother ever tell you there's no such thing as a free meal? This isn't a soup kitchen, after all!"

As she was shouting at him, he managed to get a good look at the house behind her. There were elegant rugs and paintings and leather couches. The beggar knew at once that she was lying: she wasn't poor, she was just cheap.

"Please hear me out," he began again, "I don't need anything from you except a fire and a pot of water. In return, I'll cook you the best meal you've ever had using my soup stone."

"Your what stone?"

"My soup stone."

"Your what what?"

"My soup stone." he replied, his voice staying perfectly calm and soothing. He pulled a smooth rock about the size of a baseball out of his pocket. The old woman was intrigued and was curious how someone could make soup with a rock, so she opened the door and led him to the kitchen. There, she filled a pot with water and placed it over a small fire. Once the water began to boil, the beggar dropped his stone in the pot and stirred it a few times. Then, he took a sip using the big wooden spoon he had been using to stir.

"Hmm," said the beggar, "the soup's a little thin because I've had to use this same soup stone so many times. But I know just the thing to thicken it up a bit."

The old woman stared wide-eyed, astonished by what she was seeing. "What do you need?" she asked.

"If we had a little meat to add to the soup, it'd fix it right up. But since you don't have anything to spare, I guess we'll have to make do without it." he explained.

"I think I have some leftover scraps of beef lying around" the old woman said, trying to hide her excitement. She ran and fetched them. The beggar noticed that they were fresh, juicy cuts of the finest beef, and he added them to the soup. He sipped the soup again.

"It's definitely better, but I still think it's missing something. Usually, a soup this fine has vegetables in it. But since you don't have anything to spare, I guess we'll have to make do without them." said the beggar.

"I think I might have a few tiny ones that rolled behind the cupboard" the old woman said, and once again scurried off to get them. She returned with a bushel of potatoes, carrots, and onions, all fresh from the garden and bigger than any the beggar had seen before. He added them to the soup and sipped it again.

"Hmm." said the beggar.

"How is it? Did it come out alright?" the old woman asked eagerly.

"Oh, the soups fine. Better than fine, actually. It's just that when people eat fancy soup like this, it's usually served with bread. But since you don't have anything to spare, I guess we'll have to make do without it." he replied.

"Now that you mention it, I think I have and old bread crust that is going stale." said the old woman, and again she brought it to the beggar. It was a loaf of soft and fluffy bread, still warm from the oven. He cut it in half and placed each piece in a bowl of soup.

Together, they finished the whole pot and, just as the beggar told her, it was the best meal the old woman had ever had. The beggar fished the stone out of the now empty pot and took off on the road again. The old woman never forgot the kind beggar who cooked her stone soup, and how all it cost her was a pot of water. She knew a good deal when she saw it.

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