His sister toiled and moiled all she could, but it helped little; so at last she told him how silly it was to do naught for the house.
"What shall we have to live on when you have wasted everything?" she said.
"Oh, I'll go out and befool somebody," said Peik.
"Yes, Peik, I'll be bound you'll do that soon enough," said the sister.
"Well, I'll try," said Peik.
At last they had indeed nothing more. There was an end of everything; and Peik started off, and walked and walked till he came to the King's palace.
Now, I must tell you, this King and his queen and eldest daughter were little better than trolls,—mean and hateful and very foolish,—so there was no love lost between them and the people.
When Peik came to the King's palace, there stood the King in the porch, and as soon as he set eyes on the lad he said,
"Whither away, to-day, Peik?"
"Oh, I was going out to see if I could befool anybody," said Peik.
"Can't you befool me now?" said the King.
"No, I'm sure I can't," said Peik, "for I've forgotten my fooling rods."
"Can't you go home and fetch them?" said the King, "I should be very glad to see if you are such a trickster as folks say."
"I've no strength to walk," said Peik.
"I'll lend you a horse and saddle," said the King
"But I can't ride either," said Peik.
"We'll lift you up," said the King, "then you'll be able to stick on."
Well, Peik stood and scratched his head as though he would pull the hair off, and he let them lift him up into the saddle. There he sat, swinging this side and that, so long as the King could see him, and the King laughed till the tears came into his eyes, for such a tailor on horseback he had never seen. But when Peik was come well into the wood behind the hill, so that he was out of the King's sight, he sat as though he were tied to the horse, and off he rode as fast as the horse could carry him. But when he got to the town he sold both horse and saddle.
All the while the King walked up and down, and loitered, and waited for Peik to come tottering back again with his fooling rods. And every now and then he laughed when he called to mind how wretched the lad looked as he sat swinging about on the horse like a sack of corn, not knowing on which side to fall off. This lasted for seven lengths and seven breaths, but no Peik came, and so at last the King saw that he was fooled and cheated out of his horse and saddle, even though Peik had not had his fooling rods with him. Then there was another story, for the King got wroth, and was all for setting off to kill Peik.
But Peik had found out the day he was coming, and told his sister she must put on the big boiling-pot with a little water in it. Just as the King came in, Peik dragged the pot off the fire and ran off with it to the chopping-block, and so boiled the porridge on the block.
The King wondered at that, and wondered on and on, so much that he quite forgot what brought him there.
"What do you want for that pot?" said he.
"I can't spare it," said Peik.
"Why not?" said the King; "I'll pay what you ask."
"No, no!" said Peik. "It saves me time and money, wood hire and chopping hire, carting and carrying."
"Never mind," said the King, "I'll give you a hundred dollars. It's true you've fooled me out of a horse and saddle, and bridle besides, but all that shall go for nothing if I can only get the pot."
"Well, if you must have it, you must," said Peik.
When the King got home he asked guests and made a feast, but the meat was to be boiled in the new pot, and so he took it up and set it in the middle of the floor. The guests thought the King had lost his wits, and went about elbowing one another, and laughing at him. But he walked round and round the pot and cackled and chattered, saying all in a breath—
"Well, well! bide a bit, bide a bit! 'Twill boil in a minute."
But there was no boiling. So he saw that Peik had been out with his fooling rods and had cheated him again, and now he would set off at once and slay him.
When the King came, Peik stood out by the barn door. "Wouldn't it boil?" he asked.
"No, it would not, and you shall smart for it," said the King, about to unsheath his knife.
"I can well believe that," said Peik, "for you did not take the block, too."
"I wish I thought," said the King, "you weren't telling me a pack of lies."
"I tell you it's because of the block it stands on; it won't boil without it," said Peik.
"Well, what do you want for it?"
It was well worth three hundred dollars; but for the King's sake it should go for two. So the King got the block and traveled home with it. He bade guests again, made a feast, and set the pot on the chopping-block in the middle of the room. The guests thought he was both daft and mad, and they went about making game of him, while he cackled and chattered around the pot, calling out, "Bide a bit! Now it boils, now it boils in a trice."
But it wouldn't boil a bit more on the block than on the bare floor. So he saw that Peik had been out with his fooling rods this time, too. Then he fell a-tearing his hair, and said he would set off at once and slay the lad. He wouldn't spare him this time, whether or no.
But Peik was ready for him. He had filled a leather bag with blood and stuffed it into his sister's bosom, and told her what to say and do.
"Where's Peik?" screamed out the King. He was in such a rage that he stuttered and stammered.
"He is so poorly that he can't stir hand or foot," she said, "and now he's trying to get a nap."
"Wake him up!" said the King.
"Nay, I daren't, he will be so angry," said the sister.
"Well, I am angrier still," said the King, "and if you don't wake him, I will," and with that he tapped his side where his knife hung.
"Well, she would go and wake him," but Peik turned hastily in his bed, drew out a knife and ripped open the leather bag in her bosom, so that the blood gushed out, and down she fell on the floor as though she were dead.
"What an awful fellow you are, Peik," said the King; "you have killed your sister right before my eyes!"
"Oh, there's no trouble with her so long as there's breath in my nostrils," said Peik, and with that he pulled out a ram's horn and began to toot on it.
"Toot-e-too-too," he blew, with one end of the horn to her body, and up she rose as though there was nothing the matter with her.
"Dear me, Peik! Can you kill folk and blow life into them again? Can you do that?" said the King.
"Why!" said Peik, "how could I get on at all if I couldn't? I am always killing every one I come near; don't you know I have a terrible temper?"
"I am hot-tempered, too," said the King, "and that horn I must have. I'll give you a hundred dollars for it, and besides I'll forgive you for cheating me out of my horse and for fooling me about the pot and the block, and all else."
Peik was loth to part with it, but for his sake he would let him have it. And so the King went off home with it, and he hardly got back before he must try it.
So he fell a-wrangling and quarreling with the queen and his eldest daughter, and they paid him back in the same coin; but before they knew what was happening he had whipped out his knife and cut their throats. They fell down stone dead and the other two daughters ran from the house, they were so afraid.
The King walked about the floor for a while and kept chattering that there was no harm done so long as there was breath in him, and then he pulled out the horn and began to blow "Toot-e-too-too! Toot-e-too-too!" but, though he blew and tooted as hard as he could all that day and the next, too, he could not blow life into them again. Dead they were, and dead they stayed. But the people in the kingdom were only glad to get rid of such troll-folk, and were wishing some one might make an end of the King, too, so that they might have a good King in his place.
But the King was now angrier than ever, and must go right off to kill Peik.
But Peik knew that he was coming and then he said to his sister—
"Now, you must change clothes with me and set off. If you will do that, you may have all we own."
So, she changed clothes with him, packed up and started off as fast as she could; but Peik sat all alone in his sister's clothes.
"Where is that Peik?" roared the King, as as he came, in a towering rage, through the door.
"He has run away," said Peik. "He knew that your Majesty was coming, so he left me all alone without a morsel of bread or a penny in my purse," and he made himself as gentle and sweet as a young lady.
"Come along, then, to the King's palace, and you shall have enough to live on. There's no good sitting here and starving in this cabin by yourself," said the King.
So Peik went home with the King, and there he was treated as the King's own daughter, for Miss Peik sewed and stitched and sang and played with the others, and was with them early and late.
But one day a man came to the King and told him that Peik's sister was at a farm in the neighborhood, and that it was Peik he had brought up in his own house. Now, Peik had heard all that the man told the King, so he ran away from the King's palace, out into the wide world.
The King got into a terrible rage then, and called for Peik, but he was nowhere to be found. Then he mounted his horse to go out to look for Peik.
He had not gone far before he came to a ploughed field and there sat Peik on a stone, playing on a mouth organ.
"What! Are you sitting there, Peik?" said the King.
"Here I sit, sure enough," said Peik; "where else should I sit?"
"You have cheated me foully time after time," said the King, "but now you must come along home with me, and I'll kill you."
"Well, well," said Peik, "if it can't be helped, it can't; I suppose I must go along with you."
When they got home to the King's palace they got ready a barrel which Peik was to be put in, and when it was ready they carted it up a high mountain. There he was to lie three days, thinking on all the evil he had done, then they were to roll him down the mountain into the sea.
The third day a rich man passed by and when he heard Peik's story he was ready to help him out of his trouble.
They made a stuffed man and put him with some stones into the barrel—but the rich man gave Peik horses and cows, sheep and swine, and money beside.
Now, the King came to roll Peik down the mountain. "A happy journey!" said the King, "and now it is all over with you and your fooling rods."
Before the barrel was halfway down the mountain there was not a whole stave of it left, nor would there have been a whole limb on Peik, had he been there. But when the King came back to the palace, Peik was there before him, and sat in the court-yard playing on his mouth organ.
"What! You sitting here, you, Peik?"
"Yes! Here I sit, sure enough. Where else should I sit?" said Peik. "Maybe I can get room here for all my horses and sheep and money."
"But whither was it that I rolled you that you got all this wealth?" asked the King.
"Oh, you rolled me into the sea," said Peik, "and when I got to the bottom there was more than enough and to spare, both of horses and sheep, and of gold and silver. The cattle went about in great flocks, and the gold and silver lay in large heaps as big as houses."
"What will you take to roll me down the same way?" asked the King.
"Oh," said Peik, "it costs little or nothing to do it. Besides, you took nothing from me, and so I'll take nothing from you either."
So he stuffed the King into a barrel and rolled him over, and when he had given him a ride down to the sea for nothing, he went home to the King's palace.
Then he began to hold his bridal feast with the youngest princess, and afterwards he ruled the land both well and long. But he kept his fooling rods to himself, and kept them so well that nothing was ever heard of Peik and his tricks, but only of "Ourself the King."
THE PRINCESS WHO COULD NOT BE SILENCED
There was once a King, and he had a daughter who was so cross and crooked in her words that no one could silence her, and so he gave it out that he who could do it should marry the princess and have half the kingdom, too. There were plenty of those who wanted to try it, I can tell you, for it is not every day that you can get a princess and half a kingdom. The gate to the King's palace did not stand still a minute. They came in great crowds from the East and the West, both riding and walking. But there was not one of them who could silence the princess.
At last the king had it given out that those who tried, and failed, should have both ears marked with the big redhot iron with which he marked his sheep. He was not going to have all that flurry and worry for nothing.
Well, there were three brothers, who had heard about the princess, and, as they did not fare very well at home, they thought they had better set out to try their luck and see if they could not win the princess and half the kingdom. They were friends and good fellows, all three of them, and they set off together.
When they had walked a bit of the way, Boots picked up something.
"I've found—I've found something!" he cried.
"What did you find!" asked the brothers.
"I found a dead crow," said he.
"Ugh! Throw it away! What would you do with that?" said the brothers, who always thought they knew a great deal.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry this," said Boots.
So when they had walked on a bit, Boots again picked up something.
"I've found—I've found something!" he cried.
"What have you found now?" said the brothers.
"I found a willow twig," said he.
"Dear, what do you want with that? Throw it away!" said they.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry that," said Boots.
So when they had walked a bit, Boots picked up something again. "Oh, lads, I've found—I've found something!" he cried.
"Well, well, what did you find this time?" asked the brothers.
"A piece of a broken saucer," said he.
"Oh, what is the use of that? Throw it away!" said they.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry that," said Boots.
And when they had walked a bit further, Boots stooped down again and picked up something else.
"I've found—I've found something, lads!" he cried.
"And what is it now?" said they.
"Two goat horns," said Boots.
"Oh! Throw them away. What could you do with them?" said they.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry them," said Boots.
In a little while he found something again.
"Oh, lads, see, I've found—I've found something," he cried.
"Dear, dear, what wonderful things you do find! What is it now?" said the brothers.
"I've found a wedge," said he.
"Oh, throw it away. What do you want with that?" said they.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry that," said Boots.
And now, as they walked over the fields close up to the King's palace, Boots bent down again and held something in his fingers.
"Oh, lads, lads, see what I've found!" he cried.
"If you only found a little common sense, it would be good for you," said they. "Well, let's see what it is now."
"A worn-out shoe sole," said he.
"Pshaw! Well, that was something to pick up! Throw it away! What do you want with that?" said the brothers.
"Oh, I haven't much to carry, I might as well carry that, if I am to win the princess and half the kingdom," said Boots.
"Yes, you are likely to do that—you," said they.
And now they came to the King's palace. The eldest one went in first.
"Good-day," said he.
"Good-day to you," said the princess, and she twisted and turned.
"It's awfully hot here," said he.
"It is hotter over there in the hearth," said the princess. There lay the red-hot iron ready awaiting. When he saw that he forgot every word he was going to say, and so it was all over with him.
And now came the next oldest one.
"Good-day," said he.
"Good-day to you," said she, and she turned and twisted herself.
"It's awfully hot here," said he.
"It's hotter over there in the hearth," said she. And when he looked at the red-hot iron he, too, couldn't get a word out, and so they marked his ears and sent him home again.
Then it was Boots' turn.
"Good-day," said he.
"Good-day to you," said she, and she twisted and turned again.
"It's nice and warm in here," said Boots.
"It's hotter in the hearth," said she, and she was no sweeter, now the third one had come.
"That's good, I may bake my crow there, then?" asked he.
"I'm afraid she'll burst," said the princess.
"There's no danger; I'll wind this willow twig around," said the lad.
"It's too loose," said she.
"I'll stick this wedge in," said the lad, and took out the wedge.
"The fat will drop off," said the princess.
"I'll hold this under," said the lad, and pulled out the broken bit of the saucer.
"You are crooked in your words, that you are," said the princess.
"No, I'm not crooked, but this is crooked," said the lad, and he showed her the goat's horn.
"Well, I never saw the equal to that!" cried the princess.
"Oh, here is the equal to it," said he, and pulled out the other.
"Now, you think you'll wear out my soul, don't you?" said she.
"No, I won't wear out your soul, for I have a sole that's worn out already," said the lad, and pulled out the shoe sole.
Then the princess hadn't a word to say.
"Now, you're mine," said Boots.
And so she was.
THE TWELVE WILD DUCKS
Once on a time there was a Queen who had twelve sons but no daughter.
One day she was out driving in the woods and met the prettiest little lassie one ever did see, and so the Queen stopped her horses, lifted the child up in her arms, kissed her on both cheeks, all the while thinking:
"I wish I had a little girl of my own, oh, how long I've waited and wished for one."
Just then an old witch of the trolls came up to her, but you wouldn't have known it was a witch at all, she looked so kind and good.
"A daughter you shall have," she said, "and she shall be the prettiest child in twelve kingdoms, if you will give to me what ever comes to meet you at the bridge."
Now the Queen had a little snow white dog of which she was very fond, and it always ran to meet her when she had been away. She thought, of course, it was the dog the old dame wanted, so the Queen said, "Yes, you may have what comes to meet me on the bridge." With that she hurried home as fast as she could.
But, who should come to meet her on the bridge but her twelve sons; and before the mother could cry out to them the wicked witch threw her spell upon them and turned them into twelve ducks which flapped their wings and flew away. Away they went and away they stayed.
But the Queen had a daughter, and she was the loveliest child one ever set eyes upon. The Princess grew up, and she was both tall and fair, but she was often quiet and sorrowful, and no one could understand what it was that ailed her. The Queen, too, was often sorrowful, as you may believe, for she had many strange fears when she thought of her sons. And one day she said to her daughter, "Why are you so sorrowful, lassie mine? Is there anything you want? If so, only say the word, and you shall have it."
"Oh, it seems so dull and lonely here," said the daughter, "every one else has brothers and sisters, but I am all alone; I have none. That's why I'm so sorrowful."
"But you had brothers, my daughter," said the Queen; "I had twelve sons, stout, brave lads, but I lost them all when you came;" and so she told her the whole story.
When the Princess heard that she had no rest; for she thought it was all her fault, and in spite of all the Queen could say or do, though she wept and prayed, the lassie would set off to seek her brothers. On and on she walked into the wide world, so far you would never have thought her small feet could have had strength to carry her so far.
Finally, one day, when she was walking through a great, great wood, she felt tired, and sat down on a mossy tuft and fell asleep. Then she dreamt that she went deeper and deeper into the wood, till she came to a little wooden hut, and there she found her brothers. Just then she awoke, and straight before her she saw a worn path in the green moss. This path went deeper into the wood, so she followed it, and after a long time she came to just such a little wooden house as that she had seen in her dream.
Now, when she went into the room there was no one at home, but there were twelve beds, and twelve chairs, and twelve spoons,—in short, a dozen of everything. When she saw that she was very glad; she had not been so glad for many a long year, for she could guess at once that her brothers lived there, and that they owned the beds and chairs and spoons. So she began to make up the fire, and sweep the room and make the beds and cook the dinner, and to make the house as tidy as she could.
And when she had done all the work and the dinner was on the table she suddenly heard something flapping and whirling in the air, and she slipped behind the door. Then all the twelve ducks came sweeping in; but as soon as ever they crossed the threshold they became Princes.
"Oh, how nice and warm it is here," they said, "Heaven bless him who made up the fire and cooked such a nice dinner for us."
"But who can it be?" said the youngest Prince, and they all hunted both high and low until they found the lassie behind the door. And she threw her arms around their necks and said, "I'm your sister; I've gone about seeking you these three years, and if I could set you free, I'd willingly give my life."
Then all the brothers looked sorrowfully, one at the other, and they shook their heads.
"No, it's too hard," said the eldest Prince, looking at the pretty young Princess, "it's too hard," and again they sighed and shook their heads.
"Oh, tell me, only tell me," said the Princess, "how can it be done, and I'll do it, whatever it be." And as she begged and pleaded for them to tell her, the youngest brother said at last, "You must pick thistledown, and you must card it, and spin it, and weave it. After you have done that, you must cut out and make twelve shirts, one for each of us, and while you do that, you must neither talk, nor laugh, nor weep. If you can do that we are free."
"But where shall I ever get thistledown enough for so many shirts?" asked the sister.
"Well, that is the hardest thing of all," said the eldest brother. "You must go to the witches' moor at midnight and gather it there," and big tears stood in his eyes, "and you must go alone, all alone."
But the sister smiled and nodded her head, and when midnight came, and the moon was high in the sky she said good-bye to her brothers, and went to the great, wide moor, where the witches lived. There stood a great crop of thistles, all nodding and nodding in the breeze, while the down floated and glistened like gossamer through the air in the moonbeams. The Princess began to pluck and gather it as fast as she could, but she saw long skinny arms outstretched toward her, and, among the thistles, she saw a host of wicked faces all looking at her. Her heart stood still then and she grew icy cold, but never a sound did she utter, only plucked and gathered until her bag was full; and when she got home at break of day she set to work carding and spinning yarn from the down.
So she went on a long, long time picking down on the witches' moor, carding and spinning, and all the while keeping the house of the Princes, cooking, and making their beds. But she never talked, nor laughed, nor wept.
At evening home the brothers came, flapping and whirring like wild ducks, and all night they were Princes, but in the morning off they flew again, and were wild ducks the whole day.
But, it happened one night when she was out on the moor picking thistledown, that the young King who ruled that land was out hunting, and had lost his way. He had become separated from his companions, and now, as he came riding across the moor, he saw her. He stopped and wondered who the lovely lady could be that walked alone on the moor picking thistledown in the dead of the night; and he asked her name. Getting no answer, he was still more astonished, but he liked her so much, that at last nothing would do but he must take her home to his castle and marry her. So he took her and put her upon his horse. The Princess wrung her hands, and made signs to him, and pointed to the bags in which her work was, and when the King saw she wished to have them with her he took the bags and placed them behind them.
When that was done the Princess, little by little, came to herself, for the King was both a wise man and a handsome man, and he was as gentle and kind to her as a mother. But when they reached the palace an old woman met them. She was the King's guardian, and when she set eyes on the Princess she became so cross and jealous of her, because she was so lovely, that she said to the King:
"Can't you see now, that this thing whom you have picked up, and whom you are going to marry, is a witch? Why, she can neither talk nor laugh nor weep!"
But the King did not care a straw for what she said. He held to the wedding and married the Princess, and they lived in great joy and glory. But the Princess didn't forget to go on working on her shirts, and she neither talked nor laughed nor wept. However, when she had spun and woven and cut, she found that she still had not enough cloth for the twelve shirts, and she needs must go to the witches' moor again.
So that night while all the palace slept she quietly slipped out and walked off to pick her thistledown, but the old woman who was the King's guardian saw her, and she knew well where the young Queen was going, for I must tell you she was the same wicked witch who had changed the twelve Princes into wild ducks. She hurried to the King's chamber, woke him and said, "Now, come with me and I'll prove to you that your lovely Queen is a witch, who joins the wicked company on the moor at midnight." The King would not listen to her at first, but when he saw that the Queen's bed was empty, he got up and went with the old woman.
And there upon the edge of the moor they stopped, but in the clear moonlight they could see the Queen among the horrid hags and trolls. The King turned away sadly and said not a word, for he loved his quiet Queen very much.
But the wicked old woman began to whisper and tell abroad about the Queen's nightly visit to the moor, and at last the King's best men came to him and said, "We will not have a Queen who is a witch; the people demand of you that she be burnt alive."
Then the King was so sad that there was no end to his sadness, for now he saw that he could not save her. He was obliged to order her to be burnt alive on a pile of wood. When the pile was all ablaze, and they were about to put her on it, she made signs to them to take twelve boards and lay them around the pile.
On these she laid the shirts for her brothers all completed but that for the youngest, which lacked its left sleeve; she had not had time to finish it. And as soon as ever she had done that, they heard a flapping and whirring in the air, and down came twelve wild ducks from over the forest, and each snapped up his shirt in his bill and flew off with it.
"See now!" said the old woman to the King, "wasn't I right when I told you she was a witch! Make haste and burn her before the pile burns low."
"Oh!" said the King, "we've wood enough and to spare, and so I'll wait a bit, for I have a mind to see what the end of this will be."
As he spoke up came the twelve Princes riding along, as handsome well-grown lads as you'd wish to see; but the youngest Prince had a wild duck's wing instead of his left arm. "What's all this about?" asked the Princes.
"My Queen is to be burnt," said the King, "because she is a witch, so the people say, and I can't save her."
"Speak now, sister," said the Princes, "you have set us free and saved us, now save yourself."
Then the young Queen spoke and told the whole story, and the King and all the people listened with wonder and joy. Only the wicked old woman stood trembling with fear. And when the Queen had finished her story, the people took the old witch and bound her and burned her on the pile.
But the King took his wife and the twelve Princes and went home with them to their father and mother, and told all that had befallen them. Then there was joy and gladness over the whole kingdom, because the wicked witch was dead and the Princes saved and set free, and because the lovely Princess had set free her twelve brothers.
Once upon a time there was a man whose name was Gudbrand. He had a farm which lay far, far away upon a hillside, and so they called him Gudbrand-on-the-Hillside.
Now, you must know this man and his good wife lived so happily together, and understood one another so well, that all the husband did the wife thought so well done there was nothing like it in the world, and she was always pleased at whatever he turned his hand to. The farm was their own land, and they had a hundred dollars lying at the bottom of their chest and two cows tethered up in a stall in their farmyard.
So one day his wife said to Gudbrand, "Do you know, dear, I think we ought to take one of our cows into town and sell it; that's what I think; for then we shall have some money in hand, and such well-to-do people as we ought to have ready money as other folks have. As for the hundred dollars in the chest yonder, we can't make a hole in our savings, and I'm sure I don't know what we want with more than one cow.
"Besides, we shall gain a little in another way, for then I shall get off with only looking after one cow, instead of having, as now, to feed and litter and water two."
Well, Gudbrand thought his wife talked right good sense, so he set off at once with the cow on the way to town to sell her; but when he got to the town, there was no one who would buy his cow.
"Well, well, never mind," said Gudbrand, "at the worst, I can only go back home with my cow. I've both stable and tether for her, and the road is no farther out than in." And with that he began to toddle home with his cow.
But when he had gone a bit of the way, a man met him who had a horse to sell. Gudbrand thought 'twas better to have a horse than a cow, so he traded with the man. A little farther on he met a man walking along and driving a fat pig before him, and he thought it better to have a fat pig than a horse, so he traded with the man. After that he went a little farther, and a man met him with a goat, so he thought it better to have a goat than a pig, and he traded with the man who owned the goat. Then he went on a good bit till he met a man who had a sheep, and he traded with him too, for he thought it always better to have a sheep than a goat. After a while he met a man with a goose, and he traded away the sheep for the goose; and when he had walked a long, long time, he met a man with a cock, and he traded with him, for he thought in this wise, "Tis surely better to have a cock than a goose."
Then he went on till the day was far spent, and he began to get very hungry, so he sold the cock for a shilling, and bought food with the money, for, thought Gudbrand-on-the-Hillside, "Tis always better to save one's life than to have a cock."
After that he went on homeward till he reached his nearest neighbor's house, where he turned in.
"Well," said the owner of the house, "how did things go with you in town?"
"Rather so-so," said Gudbrand, "I can't praise my luck, nor do I blame it either," and with that he told the whole story from first to last.
"Ah!" said his friend, "you'll get nicely hauled over the coals, when you go home to your wife. Heaven help you, I wouldn't stand in your shoes for anything."
"Well," said Gudbrand-on-the-Hillside, "I think things might have gone much worse with me; but now, whether I have done wrong or not, I have so kind a good wife she never has a word to say against anything that I do."
"Oh!" answered his neighbor, "I hear what you say, but I don't believe it for all that."
"And so you doubt it?" asked Gudbrand-on-the-Hillside.
"Yes," said the friend, "I have a hundred crowns, at the bottom of my chest at home, I will give you if you can prove what you say."
So Gudbrand stayed there till evening, when it began to get dark, and then they went together to his house, and the neighbor was to stand outside the door and listen, while the man went in to his wife.
"Good evening!" said Gudbrand-on-the Hillside.
"Good evening!" said the good wife. "Oh! is that you? Now, I am happy."
Then the wife asked how things had gone with him in town.
"Oh, only so-so," answered Gudbrand; "not much to brag of. When I got to town there was no one who would buy the cow, so you must know I traded it away for a horse."
"For a horse," said his wife; "well that is good of you; thanks with all my heart. We are so well to do that we may drive to church, just as well as other people, and if we choose to keep a horse we have a right to get one, I should think." So, turning to her child she said, "Run out, deary, and put up the horse."
"Ah!" said Gudbrand, "but you see I have not the horse after all, for when I got a bit farther on the road, I traded it for a pig."
"Think of that, now!" said the wife. "You did just as I should have done myself; a thousand thanks! Now I can have a bit of bacon in the house to set before people when they come to see me, that I can. What do we want with a horse? People would only say we had got so proud that we couldn't walk to church. Go out, child, and put up the pig in the sty."
"But I have not the pig either," said Gudbrand, "for when I got a little farther on, I traded it for a goat."
"Dear me!" cried the wife, "how well you manage everything! Now I think it over, what should I do with a pig? People would only point at us and say 'Yonder they eat up all they have.' No, now I have a goat, and I shall have milk and cheese, and keep the goat too. Run out, child, and put up the goat."
"Nay, but I haven't the goat either," said Gudbrand, "for a little farther on I traded it away and got a fine sheep instead!"
"You don't say so!" cried his wife, "why, you do everything to please me, just as if I had been with you. What do we want with a goat? If I had it I should lose half my time in climbing up the hills to get it down. No, if I have a sheep, I shall have both wool and clothing, and fresh meat in the house. Run out, child, and put up the sheep."
"But I haven't the sheep any more than the rest," said Gudbrand, "for when I got a bit farther, I traded it away for a goose."
"Thank you, thank you, with all my heart," cried his wife, "what should I do with a sheep? I have no spinning wheel or carding comb, nor should I care to worry myself with cutting, and shaping, and sewing clothes. We can buy clothes now as we have always done; and now I shall have roast goose, which I have longed for so often; and, besides, down with which to stuff my little pillow. Run out, child, and put up the goose.
"Well!" said Gudbrand, "I haven't the goose either; for when I had gone a bit farther I traded it for a cock."
"Dear me!" cried his wife, "how you think of everything! just as I should have done myself. A cock! think of that! Why it's as good as an eight day clock, for every day the cock crows at four o'clock, and we shall be able to stir our stiff legs in good time. What should we do with a goose? I don't know how to cook it; and as for my pillow, I can stuff it with cotton grass. Run out, child, and put up the cock."
"But after all, I haven't the cock either," said Gudbrand, "for when I had gone a bit farther, I became as hungry as a hunter, so I was forced to sell the cock for a shilling, for fear I should starve."
"Now, God be praised that you did so!" cried his wife, "whatever you do, you do it always just after my own heart. What should we do with the cock? We are our own masters, I should think, and can lie abed in the morning as long as we like. Heaven be thanked that I have you safe back again; you who do everything so well, that I want neither cock nor goose; neither pigs nor kine."
Then Gudbrand opened the door and said,—
"Well, what do you say now? Have I won the hundred crowns?" and his neighbor was forced to admit that he had.
THE PRINCESS ON THE GLASS HILL
Once on a time, there was a man who had a meadow, which lay high upon the hillside, and in the meadow was a barn, which he had built to keep his hay in. Now, I must tell you there hadn't been much in the barn for the last year or two, for every St. John's night, when the grass stood greenest and deepest, the meadow was eaten down to the very ground the next morning, just as if a whole drove of sheep had been there feeding on it over night. This happened once, and it happened twice; so at last the man grew weary of losing his crop of hay, and said to his sons—for he had three of them, and the youngest was nicknamed Boots, of course—that now one of them must just go and sleep in the barn in the outlying field when St. John's night came, for it was no joke that his grass should be eaten, root and blade, this year, as it had been the last two years. So whichever of them went must keep a sharp look-out; that was what their father said.
Well, the eldest son was ready to go and watch the meadow; trust him for looking after the grass. So, when evening came, he set off to the barn, and lay down to sleep. But a little on in the night came such a clatter, and such an earthquake, that walls and roof shook, and groaned, and creaked. Then up jumped the lad, and took to his heels as fast as ever he could; nor dared he once look around until he reached home; and as for the hay, why it was eaten up this year just as it had been twice before.
The next St. John's night, the man said again it would never do to lose all the grass in the outlying field year after year in this way, so one of his sons must just trudge off to watch it, and watch it well too. Well, the next oldest son was ready to try his luck, so he set off and sat down to watch in the barn as his brother had done before him. But as the night wore on, there came on a rumbling and quaking of the earth, worse even than on the last St. John's night, and when the lad heard it, he got frightened, and took to his heels as though he were running a race.
Next year the turn came to Boots; but when he made ready to go the other two began to laugh and to make game of him, saying,—
"You're just the man to watch the hay, that you are; you, who have done nothing all your life but sit in the ashes and toast yourself by the fire."
But Boots did not care a pin for their chattering, and as evening drew on, he walked up the hillside to the outlying field. There he went inside the barn and sat down; but in about an hour's time the barn began to groan and creak, so that it was dreadful to hear.
"Well," said Boots to himself, "if it isn't worse than this, I can stand it well enough."
A little while after came another creak and an earthquake, so that the litter in the barn flew about the lad's ears.
"Oh!" said Boots to himself, "if it isn't worse than this, I daresay I can stand it out."
But just then came a third rumbling and a third earthquake, so that the lad thought walls and roof were coming down on his head; but it passed off, and all was still as death about him.
"It'll come again, I'll be bound," thought Boots; but no, it didn't come again; still it was, and still it stayed. But after he had sat a little while, he heard a noise as if a horse were standing just outside the barn door, and feeding on the grass. He stole to the door, and peeped through a chink, and there stood a horse feeding away. So big, and fat, and grand a horse, Boots had never set eyes on. By his side on the grass lay a saddle and bridle, and a full set of armor for a knight, all of brass, so bright that the light gleamed from it.
"Ho, ho!" thought the lad; "it's you, is it, that eats up our hay?"
So he lost no time, but took the steel out of his tinder box and threw it over the horse; then it had no power to stir from the spot, and became so tame that the lad could do what he liked with it. Then he got on its back, and rode off with it to a place which no one knew of, and there he put up the horse. When he got home, his brothers laughed, and asked how he had fared.
"You didn't sit long in the barn, even if you had the heart to go as far as the field."
"Well," said Boots, "all I can say is, I sat in the barn till the sun rose."
"A pretty story," said his brothers; "but we'll soon see how you have watched the meadow;" so they set off; but when they reached it, there stood the grass as deep and thick as it had been over night.
Well, the next St. John's eve it was the same story over again; neither of the elder brothers dared to go out to the outlying field to watch the crop; but Boots, he had the heart to go, and everything happened just as it had the year before. First a clatter and an earthquake, then a greater clatter and another earthquake, and so on a third time; only this year the earthquakes were far worse than the year before. Then all at once everything was still as death, and the lad heard how something was cropping the grass outside the barn door, so he stole to the door, and peeped through a chink; and what do you think he saw? Why, another horse standing right up against the wall, and chewing and champing with might and main. It was far larger and finer than that which came the year before, and it had a saddle on its back, and a bridle on its head, and a full suit of mail for a knight lay by its side, all of silver, and as splendid as you would wish to see.
"Ho, ho!" said Boots to himself; "it's you that gobbles up our hay, is it?" And with that he took the steel out of his tinder box, and threw it over the horse's crest; then it stood as still as a lamb. Well, the lad rode this horse, too, to the hiding place where he kept the other one, and after that, he went home.
"I suppose you'll tell us," said one of his brothers, "there's a fine crop this year too, up in the hay field."
"Well, so there is," said Boots; and off ran the others to see, and there stood the grass thick and deep, as it was the year before; but they didn't give Boots softer words for all that.
Now, when the third St. John's eve came, the two elder still hadn't the heart to sit out in the barn and watch the grass, for they had got so scared at heart the night they sat there before, that they couldn't get over the fright. But Boots dared to go; and the very same thing happened this time that had happened twice before. Three earthquakes came, one after the other, each worse than the one which went before, and when the last came, the lad danced about with the shock from one barn wall to the other; and after that, all at once, it was still as death. Now, when he had sat a little while, he heard something cropping away at the grass outside the barn, so he stole again to the door chink, and peeped out, and there stood a horse outside—far, far bigger and more beautiful than the two he had taken before. It had a saddle on its back, a bridle on its head, and a full suit of mail for a knight lay by its side—all of gold, all more splendid than anything you ever saw.
"Ho, ho!" said the lad to himself, "it's you, is it, that comes here eating up our hay? I'll soon stop that." So he caught up his steel, and threw it over the horse's neck, and in a trice it stood as if it were nailed to the ground, and Boots could do as he pleased with it. Then he rode off with it to the hiding place, where he kept the other two, and then went home. When he got home, his two brothers made game of him as they had done before, saying, they could see he had watched the grass well, for he looked for all the world as if he were walking in his sleep, and many other spiteful things they said, but Boots gave no heed to them, only asking them to go and see for themselves; and when they went, there stood the grass as fine and deep this time as it had been twice before.
* * * * *
Now you must know that the king of the country where Boots lived had a daughter, whom he would only give to the man who could ride up over the hill of glass, for there was a high, high hill, all of glass, as smooth and slippery as ice, close by the king's palace. Upon the tip top of the hill the king's daughter was to sit, with three golden apples in her lap, and the man who could ride up and carry off the three golden apples was to have half the kingdom, and the Princess to wife. This offer the king had posted on all the church doors in his realm; and had given it out in many other kingdoms besides. Now, this Princess was so lovely, that all who set eyes on her loved her. So I needn't tell you how all the princes and knights who heard of her were eager to win her to wife, and half the kingdom besides; and how they came riding from all parts of the world on high prancing horses, and clad in the grandest clothes, for there wasn't one of them who hadn't made up his mind that he, and he alone, was to win the Princess.
So when the day of trial came, which the king had fixed, there was such a crowd of princes and knights under the glass hill, that it made one's head whirl to look at them; and every one in the country who could even crawl along was off to the hill, for they all were eager to see the man who was to win the Princess. Thus the two elder brothers set off with the rest; but as for Boots, they said outright he shouldn't go with them, for if they were seen with such a dirty fellow, all begrimed with smut from cleaning their shoes, and sifting cinders in the dust-hole, they said folk would make game of them.
"Very well," said Boots; "it's all one to me. I can go alone."
Now, when the two brothers came to the hill of glass, the knights and princes were all hard at it, riding their horses till they were all in a foam; but it was no good; for as soon as ever the horses set foot on the hill, down they slipped, and there wasn't one who could get a yard or two up; and no wonder, for the hill was as smooth as a sheet of glass, and as steep as a house-wall. But all were eager to have the Princess and half the kingdom. So they rode and slipped, and slipped and rode, and still it was the same story over again. At last all their horses were so weary that they could scarce lift a leg, and so the knights had to give up trying any more.
The king was just thinking that he would proclaim a new trial for the next day, to see if they would have better luck, when all at once a knight came riding up on so brave a steed, that no one had ever seen the like of it in his born days, and the knight had a mail of brass, and the horse a brass bit in his mouth, so bright that the sunbeams shone from it. Then all the others called out to him that he might just as well spare himself the trouble of riding at the hill, for it would lead to no good; but he gave no heed to them, and put his horse at the hill, and went up it for a good way, about a third of the height; and when he had got so far, he turned his horse round and rode down again. So lovely a knight the Princess thought she had never yet seen; and while he was riding, she sat and thought to herself,—
"Ah, how I wish that he might come up and go down the other side."
And when she saw him turning back, she threw down one of the golden apples after him, and it rolled down into his shoe. But when he got to the bottom of the hill he rode off so fast that no one could tell what had become of him. That evening all the knights and princes were to go before the king, that he who had ridden so far up the hill might show the apple which the Princess had thrown, but there was no one who had anything to show. One after the other they all came, but not a man of them could show the apple.
The next day, all the princes and knights began to ride again, and you may fancy they had taken care to shoe their horses well; but it was no use,—they rode and slipped, and slipped and rode, just as they had done the day before; and there was not one who could get so far as a yard up the hill. And when they had worn out their horses, so that they could not stir a leg, they were all forced to give it up. So the king thought he might as well proclaim that the riding should take place the day after for the last time, just to give them one chance more; but all at once it came across his mind that he might as well wait a little longer, to see if the knight in brass mail would come this day too. Well! they saw nothing of him; but all at once came one riding on a steed, far, far braver and finer than that on which the knight in brass had ridden, and he had silver mail, and a silver saddle and bridle, all so bright that the sunbeams gleamed and glanced from them far away. Then the others shouted out to him again, saying he might as well stop, and not try to ride up the hill, for all his trouble would be thrown away. But the knight paid no heed to them, and rode straight at the hill, and right up it, till he had gone two-thirds of the way, and then he wheeled his horse around and rode down again. To tell the truth, the Princess liked him still better than the knight in brass, and she sat and wished he might be able to come right up to the top, and down the other side; but when she saw him turning back, she threw the second apple after him, and it rolled down and fell into his shoe. But as soon as ever he had come down the hill of glass, he rode off so fast that no one could see what became of him.
At even, all were to go in before the king and the Princess, that he who had the golden apple might show it. In they went, one after the other, but there was no one who had any apple to show.
The third day everything happened as it had happened the two days before. There was no one who could get so much as a yard up the hill; and now all waited for the knight in silver mail, but they neither saw nor heard of him. At last came one riding on a steed, so brave that no one had ever seen his match; and the knight had a suit of golden mail, and a golden saddle and bridle, so wondrous bright that the sunbeams gleamed from them a mile off. The other knights and princes could not find time to call out to him not to try his luck, for they were amazed to see how grand he was. So he rode at the hill, and tore up it like nothing, so that the Princess hadn't even time to wish that he might get up the whole way. As soon as ever he reached the top, he took the third golden apple from the Princess's lap, and then turned his horse and rode down again. As soon as he got down he rode off at full speed, and was out of sight in no time.
Now, when the two brothers got home at even, you may fancy what long stories they told, how the riding had gone off that day; and amongst other things, they had a deal to say about the knight in golden mail.
"He just was a chap to ride," they said; "so grand a knight isn't to be found in this wide world."
Next day all the knights and princes were to pass before the king and the Princess—that he who had the gold apple might bring it forth; but one came after another, first the princes, then the knights, and still no one could show the gold apple.
"Well," said the king, "some one must have it, for it was something that we all saw with our own eyes, how a man came and rode up and bore it off."
So he commanded that everyone who was in the kingdom should come up to the palace and see if he could show the apple. Well, they all came one after another, but no one had the golden apple, and after a long time the two brothers of Boots came. They were the last of all, so the king asked them if there was no one else in the kingdom who hadn't come.
"Oh, yes," said they; "we have a brother, but he never carried off the golden apple. He hasn't stirred out of the dust-hole on any of the three days."
"Never mind that," said the king; "he may as well come up to the palace like the rest." So he came.
"How, now," said the king; "have you the golden apple? Speak out."
"Yes, I have," said Boots; "here is the first, and here is the second, and here is the third, too;" and with that he pulled all three golden apples out of his pocket, and at the same time threw off his sooty rags, and stood before them in his gleaming golden mail.
"Yes," said the king; "you shall have my daughter, and half my kingdom, for you well deserve both her and it."
So they got ready for the wedding, and Boots got the Princess to wife, and there was great merry-making at the bridal-feast, you may fancy, for they could all be merry though they couldn't ride up the hill of glass; and all I can say is, if they haven't left off their merry-making yet, why, they're still at it.
THE HUSBAND WHO WAS TO MIND THE HOUSE
Once on a time there was a man so mean and cross that he never thought his wife did anything right in the house. So one evening in hay-making time he came home scolding and tearing, and showing his teeth and making a fuss.
"Dear love, don't be so angry; there's a good man," said his goody; "to-morrow let's change our work. I'll go out with the mowers and mow, and you shall mind the house at home."
The husband thought that would do very well. He was quite willing, he said.
So, early next morning his goody took a scythe on her shoulders, and went out into the hayfield with the mowers, and began to mow; but the man was to mind the house and do the work at home.
First of all he wanted to churn the butter; but when he had churned a while, he grew thirsty and went down to the cellar to tap a barrel of ale. So, just when he was putting the tap into the cask, he heard overhead the pig come into the kitchen. Then off he ran up the cellar steps, with the tap in his hand, as fast as he could to look after the pig, lest it should upset the churn. But when he got up, and saw the pig had already knocked the churn over and stood there grunting and rooting in the cream which was running all over the floor, he became so wild with rage, that he quite forgot the ale barrel, and ran at the pig as hard as he could.
He caught it, too, just as it ran out of doors, and gave it such a kick that piggy died on the spot. Then all at once he remembered he had the tap in his hand; but when he got down to the cellar, every drop of ale had run out of the cask.
Then he went into the dairy and found enough cream left to fill the churn again, and so he began to churn, for butter they must have at dinner. When he had churned a bit, he remembered that their milking cow was still shut up in its stall, and had not had a mouthful to eat or a drop to drink all the morning, though the sun was high. Then he thought it was too far to take her down to the meadow, so he'd just get her up on the house top, for the house, you must know, was thatched with sods, and a fine crop of grass was growing there. Now their house lay close up against a steep rock, and he thought if he laid a plank across to the roof at the back, he'd easily get the cow up.
But still he could not leave the churn, for there was their little babe crawling about the floor, and, "If I leave it," he thought, "the child is sure to upset it."
So he took the churn on his back and went out with it. Then he thought he'd better water the cow before he turned her out on the thatch, and he took up a bucket to draw water out of the well. But, as he stooped down at the brink of the well, all the cream ran out of the churn over his shoulders, about his neck, and down into the well.
Now it was near dinner time, and he had not even got butter yet. So he thought he'd best boil the porridge, and he filled the pot with water, and hung it over the fire. When he had done that, he thought the cow might perhaps fall off the thatch and break her legs or her neck. So he got up on the house to tie her up. One end of the rope he made fast to the cow's neck, and the other he slipped down the chimney and tied round his own waist. He had to make haste, for the water now began to boil in the pot, and he had still to grind the oatmeal.
So he began to grind away; but while he was hard at it, down fell the cow off the housetop after all, and as she fell she dragged the man up the chimney by the rope. There he stuck fast. And as for the cow, she hung halfway down the wall, swinging between heaven and earth, for she could neither get down nor up.
And now the goody had waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her husband to come and call them home to dinner, but never a call they had. At last she thought she'd waited long enough and went home.
When she got there and saw the cow hanging in such an ugly place, she ran up and cut the rope in two with her scythe. But as she did this, down came her husband out of the chimney, and so when his old dame came inside the kitchen, there she found him standing on his head in the porridge pot.
LITTLE FREDDY WITH HIS FIDDLE
Once there was a farmer who had an only son. The lad had had very poor health so he could not go out to work in the field.
His name was Freddy, but, since he remained such a wee bit of a fellow, they called him Little Freddy. At home there was but little to eat and nothing at all to burn, so his father went about the country trying to get the boy a place as cowherd or errand boy; but there was no one who would take the weakly little lad till they came to the sheriff. He was ready to take him, for he had just sent off his errand boy, and there was no one who would fill his place, for everybody knew the sheriff was a great miser.
But the farmer thought it was better there than nowhere; he would get his food, for all the pay he was to get was his board—there was nothing said about wages or clothes. When the lad had served three years he wanted to leave, and the sheriff gave him all his wages at one time. He was to have a penny a year. "It couldn't well be less," said the sheriff. And so he got three pence in all.
As for Little Freddy, he thought it was a great sum, for he had never owned so much; but, for all that, he asked if he wasn't to have anything for clothes, for those he had on were worn to rags. He had not had any new ones since he came to the sheriff's three years ago.
"You have what we agreed on," said the sheriff, "and three whole pennies besides. I have nothing more to do with you. Be off!"
So Little Freddy went into the kitchen and got a little food in his knapsack, and after that he set off on the road to buy himself more clothes. He was both merry and glad, for he had never seen a penny before, and every now and then he felt in his pockets as he went along to see if he had them all three. So, when he had gone far and farther than far, he got up on top of the mountains. He was not strong on his legs, and had to rest every now and then, and then he counted and counted how many pennies he had. And now he came to a great plain overgrown with moss. There he sat down and began to see if his money was all right. Suddenly a beggarman appeared before him, so tall and big that when he got a good look at him and saw his height and length, the lad began to scream and screech.
"Don't you be afraid," said the beggarman, "I'll do you no harm, I came only to beg you for a penny."
"Dear me!" said the lad, "I have only three pennies, and with them I was going to town to buy clothes."
"It is worse for me than for you," said the beggarman, "I have not one penny, and I am still more ragged than you."
"Well, that is so; you shall have it," said the lad.
When he had walked on a while, he grew weary again, and sat down to rest. Suddenly another beggarman stood before him, and this one was still taller and uglier than the first. When the lad saw how very tall and ugly and long he was, he began to scream again.
"Now, don't you be afraid of me," said the beggar, "I'll do you no harm. I came only to beg for a penny."
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said the lad. "I have only two pennies, and with them I was going to the town to buy clothes. If I had only met you sooner, then—"
"It's worse for me than for you," said the beggarman. "I have no penny, and a bigger body and less clothing."
"Well, you may have it," said the lad. So he went away farther, till he got weary, and then he sat down to rest; but he had scarcely sat down when a third beggarman came to him. This one was so tall and ugly and long that the lad had to look up and up, right up to the sky. And when he took him all in with his eyes, and saw how very, very tall and ugly and ragged he was, he fell a-screeching and screaming again.
"Now, don't you be afraid of me, my lad," said the beggarman, "I'll do you no harm, for I am only a beggarman, who begs you for a penny."
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said the lad. "I have only one penny left, and with it I was going to the town to buy clothes. If I had only met you sooner, then—"
"As for that," said the beggarman, "I have no penny at all, that I haven't, and a bigger body and less clothes, so it is worse for me than for you."
"Yes," said Little Freddy, "he must have the penny then—there was no help for it; for so each beggarman would have one penny, and he would have nothing."
"Well," said the beggarman, "since you have such a good heart that you gave away all that you had in the world, I will give you a wish for each penny." For you must know it was the same beggarman who had got them all three; he had only changed his shape each time, that the lad might not know him again.
"I have always had such a longing to hear a fiddle go, and see folk so merry and glad that they couldn't help dancing," said the lad; "and so if I may wish what I choose, I will wish myself such a fiddle, that everything that has life must dance to its tune."
"That you may have," said the beggarman, "but it is a sorry wish. You must wish something better for the other two pennies."
"I have always had such a love for hunting and shooting," said Little Freddy; "so if I may wish what I choose, I will wish myself such a gun that I shall hit everything I aim at, were it ever so far off."
"That you may have," said the beggarman, "but it is a sorry wish too. You must wish better for the last penny."
"I have always had a longing to be in company with folks who were kind and good," said Little Freddy; "and so, if I could get what I wish, I would wish it to be so that no one can say 'Nay' to the first thing I ask."
"That wish is not so sorry," said the beggarman; and off he strode between the hills, and Freddy saw him no more.
So the lad lay down to sleep, and the next day he came down from the mountain with his fiddle and his gun. First he went to the storekeeper and asked for clothes. Next at a farm he asked for a horse, and at a second for a sleigh; and at another place he asked for a fur coat. No one said him "Nay"—even the stingiest folk were all forced to give him what he asked for. At last he went through the country as a fine gentleman, and had his horse and his sleigh. When he had gone a bit he met the sheriff whose servant he had been.
"Good day, master," said Little Freddy, as he pulled up and took off his hat.
"Good day," said the sheriff, "but when was I ever your master?"
"Oh yes," said Little Freddy, "don't you remember how I served you three years for three pence?"
"My goodness, now!" said the sheriff, "you have grown rich in a hurry, and pray, how was it that you got to be such a fine gentleman?"
"Oh, that is a long story," said Little Freddy.
"And are you so full of fun that you carry a fiddle about with you?" asked the sheriff.
"Yes, yes," said Freddy. "I have always had such a longing to get folk to dance. But the funniest thing of all is this gun, for it brings down almost anything that I aim at, however far it may be off. Do you see that magpie yonder, sitting in the spruce fir? What will you give me if I hit it as we stand here?"
"Well," said the sheriff, and he laughed when he said it, "I'll give you all the money I have in my pocket, and I'll go and fetch it when it falls," for he never thought it possible for any gun to carry so far.
But as the gun went off down fell the magpie, and into a great bramble thicket; and away went the sheriff up into the bramble after it, and he picked it up and held it up high for the lad to see. But just then Little Freddy began to play his fiddle, and the sheriff began to dance, and the thorns to tear him; but still the lad played on, and the sheriff danced, and cried, and begged, till his clothes flew to tatters, and he scarce had a thread to his back.
"Yes," said Little Freddy, "now I think you're about as ragged as I was when I left your service; so now you may get off with what you have."
But first the sheriff had to pay him all the money that he had in his pocket.
So when the lad came to town he turned into an inn, and there he began to play, and all who came danced and laughed and were merry, and so the lad lived without any care, for all the folks liked him and no one would say "Nay" to anything he asked.
But one evening just as they were all in the midst of their fun, up came the watchmen to drag the lad off to the town hall; for the sheriff had laid a charge against him, and said he had waylaid him and robbed him and nearly taken his life. And now he was to be hanged. The people would hear of nothing else. But Little Freddy had a cure for all trouble, and that was his fiddle. He began to play on it, and the watchmen fell a-dancing and they danced and they laughed till they gasped for breath.
So soldiers and the guard were sent to take him, but it was no better with them than with the watchmen. When Little Freddy played his fiddle, they were all bound to dance; and dance as long as he could lift a finger to play a tune; but they were half dead long before he was tired.
At last they stole a march on him, and took him while he lay asleep by night. Now that they had caught him they could condemn him to be hanged on the spot, and away they hurried him to the gallows tree.
There a great crowd of people flocked together to see this wonder, and the sheriff too was there. He was glad to get even at last for the money and the clothes he had lost, and to see the lad hanged with his own eyes.
And here came Little Freddy, carrying his fiddle and his gun. Slowly he mounted the steps of the gallows,—and when he got to the top he sat down, and asked if they could deny him a wish, and if he might have leave to do one thing? He had such a longing, he said, to scrape a tune and play a bar on his fiddle before they hanged him.
"No, no," they said; "it were sin and shame to deny him that." For you know, no one could say "Nay" to what he asked.
But the sheriff begged them not to let him have leave to touch a string, else it would be all over with them altogether. If the lad leave, he begged them to bind him to the birch that stood there.
Little Freddy was not slow in getting his fiddle to speak, and all that were there fell a-dancing at once, those who went on two legs, and those who went on four. Both the dean and the parson, the lawyer and the sheriff, masters and men, dogs and pigs—they all danced and laughed and barked and squealed at one another. Some danced till they lay down and gasped, some danced till they fell in a swoon. It went badly with all of them, but worst of all with the sheriff; for there he stood bound to the birch, and he danced till he scraped the clothes off his back. I dare say it was a sorry looking sight and a sore back.
But there was not one of them who thought of doing anything to Little Freddy, and away he went with his fiddle and his gun, whither he chose, and he lived merrily and happily all his days, for there was no one who could say "Nay" to the first thing he asked for.