A cattle-driver once undertook to bring a herd of cattle to town. There the animals were to be sold at the market. The way was long and tiresome, and the roads bad, so one evening he decided to stop at an inn to get a good night's rest. He slept well, and before taking leave ate a hearty breakfast of bread and eggs. But as he was about to draw forth his pocket-book to pay the sum due the landlord for lodging and meals, the thought struck him that if he paid there and then, he might run short of money before arriving in town: that would not be agreeable at all. So he asked the innkeeper to trust him until he returned in a few days. The favour was readily granted, and so the cattle-driver left with his herd.
In town he sold his stock at a good price. On his way home he came to the inn and asked for his bill. To his great surprise the landlord then showed him to a large sheet of paper covered with calculations and numbers. It was the cattle-driver's bill, he said, and the amount due was exactly four thousand pounds.
The cattle-driver at first thought it was a joke, but the landlord assured him in full earnest that it could not be calculated a cent less. "You ate ten eggs," said he, "and if they had been hatched, there would have been ten chickens. They, too, might have laid eggs and hatched them, and, well, in four years it would all have amounted to four thousand pounds. I would say I am reasonable, for I won't carry the calculation beyond the four years."
The poor fellow protested and said that such a sum was more than he owned or could ever earn, but it was all in vain. He was promptly summoned to appear before the chief judge or magistrate on the next day to defend his case if he could.
As he strolled about in the streets of the village late in the afternoon, a man stopped and asked why he looked so crestfallen and dejected.
"Oh," replied the cattle-driver, "it is useless to tell; no one can give me any help."
"Don't be so sure of that," said the stranger; "I am a lawyer, and we men of the law may at times assist others in their troubles."
The cattle-driver, thus persuaded, now told the lawyer how the landlord of the inn had dragged him into the court because he was unwilling and unable to pay for the ten eggs and their offspring.
"Well," said the lawyer at length, "is that all?"
"Yes, that is all; and it is bad enough."
"Then put your mind to rest," the lawyer went on; "I shall come to court and settle the matter for you. You may present yourself at the time set for the case, but the judge will have to wait up to one hour for a lawyer to come; such is the law. Don't expect me before that hour is out."
At the fixed time the driver promptly came to the court and explained that a lawyer was to come and speak for him. So the judge waited and waited. Finally, when the hour was about out, the lawyer hastily entered, panting and wiping his forehead as though he had almost run himself out of breath.
"Are you the lawyer to speak for this man?" asked the judge, and sternly too, for he did not like all the waiting.
"Why did you not come before?" the magistrate asked further. "Do you think we have nothing to do but wait for such persons as you?"
The lawyer humbly asked for pardon; he had been detained in his cornfields.
"Cornfields!" cried the judge; "why, the corn is not half ripe yet."
"No," said the lawyer; "it is not ripe, but I was preparing to sow some more. I boiled two bushels of corn this morning and at noon I expect to sow it so that it may be ripe and ready for the harvest next week."
These words evoked a roar of laughter in the courtroom, and the landlord said that most likely the lawyer was out of his mind if he supposed that boiled corn would grow in the field and become ripe in a week's time.
"It is no more remarkable than that chickens can be hatched from boiled eggs," remarked the lawyer, looking straight at the judge.
Now the judge began to understand. He turned around and asked the cattle-driver whether the eggs he had eaten were boiled.
The result was that the cunning landlord was fined a hundred pounds. Fifty of them were paid to the clever lawyer, and fifty to the man that the landlord had intended to cheat so shamefully.
The cattle-driver merrily returned home, well contented with the result of his journey. He often used to tell his friends of the time when he got five pounds for each boiled egg he had eaten.
Once a nobleman had an only daughter. One day he placed her in a mount that he had built in secret. She was to remain there as long as there was war in the country. He laid in a stock of provisions and wood enough to last for seven years, and she was not to come out till he fetched; but if at the end of seven years he did not come for her, she might conclude that he was dead and might then leave the mount. Her little dog was the only companion she was to have.
The father kissed her when they parted, and comforted her by saying that he had lodged her in a secure place while the dissolute soldiery were spread over the land. He then collected all his retainers, and went to fight for his country.
The young damsel occupied herself in the mount with spinning, weaving, and sewing; and thus one year passed after another. She made a great number of fine clothes, some of which were embroidered with gold, and others with silver; but when she had no longer anything to spin or employ her, the time began to be tedious. Her stock of food was also nearly exhausted, and she was fearful that her father would not return. As the time that she was to remain in the mount had nearly expired, and he had not come to fetch her, she concluded that he was dead. She now began to dig her way out of the mount, but this was a very slow work and no easy task for her.
In the meantime all her provisions were eaten but the mount was full of mice. Her little dog destroyed a great many every day, and these she skinned, roasted, and ate, and gave the bones to her little dog. She also stitched all the skins together and made herself a cloak or garment, which was so large, that she could quite wrap herself up in it. Every day she laboured at the opening, and at length succeeded so far as to be able once more to see the light of day.
When she had made an opening large enough, she went out, accompanied by her faithful, little dog. On finding herself on the outside, she closed up the opening. The mouse skins that remained to be stitched, she hung round the mount on little sticks that she stuck in the ground.
She now left the hill with her little dog, and went through the wood. She had her silver and her gold dresses on, and over them she wore the mouse skin cloak, which quite covered her, so that she had more the appearance of a poor man's child than a young lady of rank. She found that much had changed in the seven years she had lived underground.
At the first house she came to, she asked who lived at the manor. She was told it was the young lord, who had inherited it after the death of the former proprietor.
"How then did he die?" asked she, hardly able to hide her feelings. She was told that he was a brave soldier and drove the enemy out of the country, but in the last battle that was fought he was killed. His only child was a daughter who had been carried off before that time, and no one had heard anything of her since."
The young maiden then asked, if they could tell her where she could be hired, as she wanted work.
"Our young master is soon to be married," said the people; '"his bride, with her father and mother, have arrived at the mansion to make preparations for the wedding. If you only go up there, you may be sure they will find something for you to do."
The young girl in the mouse skin dress then went up to her late father's abode, and her little dog was so happy; for it knew the place again; but its mistress wept with grief, as she humbly knocked at the door. When the people heard that she wished to be hired, they gladly engaged her, and set her to sweep the yard, and the steps, and do other menial kinds of work. But she did everything willingly and well, so that everybody was satisfied with her. Many as they passed her were amused at the sight of her mouse skin dress, but no one could get a glimpse of her face; for she wore a long hood which hung down and completely hid it, and this she never would throw aside.
The day before the wedding the bride sent for her and told her that she had a great favour to ask: "You are of the same height as I am," said she; "you must tomorrow put on my bridal dress and veil, and drive to the church, and be wed to the bridegroom, instead of me."
The young girl could not imagine why the other objected to be wedded to the handsome young lord. The bride then told her that there was another lover that she had previously betrothed herself to; but that her parents wanted to force her to marry this rich young lord. She was afraid of disobeying them, but she had agreed with her first beloved that on the wedding day she would elope with him. This she could not do, if she were wedded at the altar to another. But if she sent someone in her place, everything might end well.
The young maiden promised to do all that the bride asked of her.
The next day the bride was clothed in the most costly dress, and all the people in the house came into her chamber to look at her. At last she said, "Now call that poor young girl that sweeps the yard, and let her also see me."
The girl in the mouse kin dress came up accordingly, and when they were alone together, the bride locked the door, dressed her in the beautiful clothes, with the bridal veil over her head, and then wrapped herself in the young girl's large mouse skin cloak.
The late lord's daughter was then led to a chariot. The bridegroom was in it, waiting. They drove to church together, accompanied by all the bridal guests. On the road they passed the mount where she had lived so long hidden. She sighed beneath her veil, and said:
"Yonder stands yet every pin, With every little mouse's skin, Where seven long years I pined in sadness In the dark mount, and knew no gladness."
"What do you say, dearest of my heart?" asked the bridegroom.
"Oh, I am only talking a little to myself," answered the bride.
When she entered the church, she saw the portraits of her parents hanging on each side of the altar; but it appeared to her as if they turned from her. As she wept beneath her veil while gazing on them; she then said:
"Turn, turn again, ye pictures dear;
and then the pictures turned again.
"What say you, my dear bride?" asked the bridegroom.
"Oh! I am only talking a little to myself," answered she again. They were then wedded in the church, the young lord put a ring on her finger, and they drove home.
As soon as the bride alighted from the carriage she hurried up into the lady's chamber, as they had agreed, where they changed dresses once more, but the wedding-ring which she had on her finger she kept. When standing in her mouse skin dress again among all the servants, little did anyone think that she had just before stood at the altar as a bride.
In the evening there was dancing, and the young lord danced with her who he thought was his bride; but when he took her hand, he said, "Where is the ring I put on your ringer in the church?"
The bride was at first embarrassed, but said quickly: "I took it off and left it in my chamber, but now I will run and fetch it." She then ran out of the room, called the real bride, and demanded the ring.
"No," answered the maiden, "the ring I will not part with, it belongs to the hand that was given away at the altar. But I will go with you to the door, then you can call him, and we will both stand in the passage; when he comes we will extinguish the light that is there, and I will stretch forth my hand in at the door, so that he can see the ring." Thus it was arranged.
The bridegroom was standing near the door, when the bride called him into the passage, and said, "See! here is the ring." At the same moment as the one damsel extinguished the light, the other stretched forth her hand with the ring.
But the bridegroom was not satisfied with merely seeing the ring, he seized the hand, and drew the young girl into the room, and then, to his astonishment, saw it was the damsel in the mouse skin dress. All the guests flocked round them, and were eager to know how it had all happened.
She then threw off her mouse skin dress, and stood clad in her beautiful gold embroidery, and was more lovely to look at than the other bride. Everyone was impatient to hear her story; and she had to tell them how long she had remained hidden in the mount, and that her father had been their former lord. The little dog was fetched from her miserable room, and many of the neighbours knew it again.
On this there was great joy and wonder. Everybody revered her father, who had fought so bravely for his country, and all were unanimous that the estate belonged to her. Her sorrow was now turned into joy, and as she wished everyone to be as happy as herself, she bestowed land and money on the other bride that she might marry the man of her choice, to whom she had secretly given her heart. The parents were contented with this arrangement.
Now the marriage-feast became happy. And the young lord danced with his true bride, the one he had wed in the church and given the ring.
In Vinding, near Veile, lived once a poor cottager, who went out as day labourer. His son was employed by the priest at Skjaerup to run on errands, for which he received his board and lodging. One day the boy was sent with a letter for the priest at Veile. It was in the middle of summer, and the weather was very hot. When he had walked some distance he became tired and drowsy, and lay down to sleep. On awaking he saw a willow; the water had washed away all the earth from its roots, so that the tree was on the point of perishing.
"I am but little, it is true," said John, for such was the boy's name," and can do but little, still I can help you." He then began to throw mould on the bare roots, and ceased not till they were quite covered and protected. When he had finished, he heard from the tree a soft voice that said to him: "You shall not have rendered me this good service for nothing; cut a pipe from my branches, and everything that you blow for shall happen."
Although the boy did not give much credit to this, he nevertheless cut off a twig for a pipe.
"As such a fine promise has been made me," he thought to himself, "I will wish that I could blow myself into a good situation by Michaelmas, that I might be of some use to my poor old father." He blew, but saw nothing, and then, putting his pipe in his pocket, hurried on to make up for the time he had loitered away at the willow-tree.
Not long after he found a pocket book full of money lying in the road. Now John by keeping it, could at once have relieved both his own and his father's necessities, but such a thought never entered his mind. On the contrary, he ran back to the town, inquired of all that he met, whether they had not lost a pocket book. At length there came a horseman galloping along the road, and when John also asked him, the stranger replied that he had that morning dropped his pocket-book on his way from home, at the same time giving a description of it.
John delivered the pocket book to him, and the horseman, who was a proprietor from Ostedgaard near Fredericia, was so gratified that he at once gave the boy a handsome reward, and asked him if he would like to enter his service.
"Yes, I should indeed," answered John, quite pleased at the thought. He then parted from the man with many thanks for his kindness, after having agreed between them that John should come down to Osted at Michaelmas. He then executed his errand for the priest, and felt convinced that it was alone owing to the pipe that he had met with such a lucky adventure; he therefore hid it carefully and let no one know anything of the matter.
Now this man was an adept in the black art, and had only offered to take the lad into his service that he might see how far his honesty would be proof against the temptations into which he purposed to lead him.
At the appointed time John went to Ostedgaard, and was summoned by the master, who inquired of him what he could do.
"I am not fit for much," said John," as I am so little; but I will do my best at all times to perform whatever my good master requires of me."
"That is well, I am contented with that," answered the master; "I have twelve hares, these you must take to the wood every morning, and if you bring back the full number every evening I will give you house and home in remuneration; but if you allow them to run away, you will have a reckoning to settle with me."
"I will do my best," answered John.
The next morning his master came down to the enclosure, and counted the hares. As soon as he opened the door and set the animals free, away they all ran, one to the east, another to the west, and John remained standing alone. He was not, however, so disheartened as might be imagined; for he had his willow pipe in his pocket. As soon, therefore as he came into a lonely part of the wood, he took out his pipe and began to blow, and no sooner had he put it to his mouth, than all the twelve hares came running and assembled round him.
As John now felt he could rely on the virtues of his pipe, he let them all go again, and passed his time in amusing himself. In the evening he took out his pipe again, and as he walked up to the manor continued blowing it. All the hares then came forth and followed him one by one. The master was standing at the gate, to see what would take place. He could not recover from his astonishment, when he saw the little herd-boy blowing his pipe as he approached the house, and all the hares following him as gently and quietly as if it were a flock of sheep he was driving home.
"You are more clever than you appear," said the master; "the number is right, go in and get some food; for today you have done a good piece of work: we shall now see whether you are as fortunate tomorrow."
The next day everything passed in exactly the same manner. As soon as the enclosure was opened, all the hares ran out in different directions, and the boy let them enjoy their liberty, as he now felt certain that he could bring them back whenever he wished. But this time his master had prepared a harder trial for him.
At noon he desired his daughter to disguise herself in a peasant's dress, and to go and ask the boy to give her a hare. The young maiden was so beautiful that he did not think John could refuse her request.
When the daughter had thus disguised herself, she went into the field and began talking to John, asking him what he was doing there.
"I am taking care of hares," answered the boy.
"What has become of your hares?" said the maiden, "I see nothing of them."
"Oh, they are only gone a little way into the wood," said he; "but as soon as I call them they will all come back again."
When the young girl pretended to doubt this, he blew on his pipe, and instantly all the twelve came running towards him. She now begged and prayed him to give her one of them. The boy at first refused, but as she was very importunate, he at length told her that she should have a hare for a kiss.
In short, the maiden got the hare, and carried it up to the manor; but when John thought she must he near home, he blew on his pipe, and at once the hare came bounding back to him, and so he brought all the twelve home that evening.
On the third day, the lord of Osted was determined to try whether he could not trick the boy. He therefore dressed himself like a peasant and went in search of John. When they had talked together some time, he asked him to call his hares together, and when they came, he wished to purchase one of them, but the boy answered that he did not dare to sell what did not belong to him.
As the lord continued to entreat him most urgently, John promised him a hare if he would give him the ring that was on his finger. The lord had forgotten to take off his ring when he put on the peasant's dress, and now found that he was known. He nevertheless gave the boy the ring and got one of the hares.
When he had nearly reached Osted, John blew on his pipe, and, although the master held the hare as firmly as he could, it got away and ran back, just as on the day before.
When the master found he could not get the better of the boy by fair means, he had recourse to the black art, and ascertained that the willow pipe was the cause of the hares always obeying John.
When the boy returned on the fourth evening, his master gave him plenty of food and strong drink. Unaccustomed to such things, John soon fell asleep, so that it was no difficult matter to steal his pipe from him.
The next day the hares were turned out as usual; but this time John could not bring them back. He did not dare to show himself at Osted, but continued wandering about the wood, crying and sobbing. His master had now gained his point. When it began to grow dark, he went to seek for John, and asked him why he remained away so long that evening. John scarcely ventured to confess his misfortune; but as his master continued urging him to tell him, he at length acknowledged that the hares had run away, and that it was not in his power to get them back again.
The lord took pity on him and told him to return home, for the loss was not very great.
" I see you will not get a house and home at present," he said as they walked back, "unless you can fulfil a condition, which I will propose tomorrow." John was glad to hear these words; for what had grieved him the most was the thought of losing his benefactor's favour and being turned out of the house.
Next day there were guests at Ostedgaard, and when they were all gathered, the lord of the manor, calling John, told him he should have what had been promised him, if he could relate a bagful of untruths.
"No,"replied John, "I have never been addicted to untruths; but, if my good master pleases, I can, perhaps, tell him a bagful of truths."
"Well then," said his master," here is a bag, and now begin your story."
John began to recite about his lot as a little boy, how he had passed all his life in poverty and misery. Then he recited about his adventure with the willow-tree, how he had got his pipe, and had afterwards found the pocketbook, which was the cause of his master taking him into his service. Lastly, he told how a maiden had come to him and given him a kiss for a hare.
As he went on his master called out - for he did not wish his own fruitless attempt should be known: "Stop, John, you have kept your word, the bag is full."
He then let the boy go out of the room, and told his guests how faithfully and honourably John had always led himself, adding, that it was not possible to seduce him to deceive or to tell an untruth."
"Still I think it is to be done," said the proprietor of Nebbegaard.
"I will answer for it that he will not be able to withstand if he is seriously tempted."
His host felt offended by this doubting, and at once offered to lay as large a wager as his neighbour pleased, that he could not get John either to deceive him or to tell an untruth. The challenge was accepted, and their estates were pledged for and against the boy.
The proprietor of Nebbegaard wrote a letter to his daughter, in which he explained to her what had taken place, and how important it was for him to win the wager. He desired her therefore to entertain John in the best manner possible, and to appear as affable and friendly towards him as she could, with the view of persuading him to give her the horse on which he rode.
The lad was then sent to Nebbegaard with this letter.
His master lent him a horse, that he might get there faster; but warned him not to ride too fast, or by any means to lose the horse, which was the finest and most valuable animal he had in his stable. John promised to follow his instructions, and rode away. When he had ridden a short way from home, he dismounted and led the horse, in order to comply as much as possible, with his master's wish. In this manner he proceeded but slowly, and it was evening before he reached Nebbegaard.
When the young lady had read her father's letter, she sent for John, and behaved in the kindest and most friendly manner towards him. The maiden was very handsome, and treated the young lad as her equal in condition and rank. She entertained him sumptuously, and said not a word about the horse till he had drunk much more than he could bear. Without knowing what he did, John promised - after she had long entreated him in vain - that he would give her the horse, and the young girl behaved yet more friendly towards him.
Next morning John found he had no longer a horse, so he took the saddle and bridle and wandered back to Ostedgaard. As he walked along it struck him how wrongly he had acted, and he began to repent bitterly of what he had done.
"What shall I now say when I reach home, and my master finds that the horse is gone?" said he to himself, as he hung the saddle and bridle on the hedge.
"'Well, John,' master will say, 'have you executed my errand?' Then I shall answer, ' Yes.' 'But what then is become of my horse, with which I entrusted you?' Then I will say that I met a band of robbers on the way, and they took the horse from me. "No, that will never do," he went on, "never have I told a lie yet, and I will not do it now."
Not long after another thought rose to his mind: "I can say that the horse fell, and that I buried it in a ditch. That won't do either Lord knows what I, poor fellow, had best do."
When he had gone on a little further, he resolved within himself that he would say that the horse had run away, and had shaken off his saddle and bridle.
Long before he reached Ostedgaard, the guests saw him approaching with the saddle on his head and the bridle on his aim.
"Here comes our truthful boy," exclaimed the proprietor of Nebbegaard, "look only how slowly he approaches; who do you now think has won the wager?"
The lord of Osted had already recognised John, and was highly incensed at seeing him return without the horse. As soon as the boy entered the house, he was called up where all the guests were gathered, and his master said, "Well, John, have you executed my errand?"
"Yes, I have, gracious master," answered the boy, trembling with fear.
"What then is become of my good horse, which I ordered you to take such care of?"
John did not dare to meet the look of his master, but cast his eyes on the ground and said, in a whimpering voice:
"Dainty the fare, sweet was the mead,
When he had recited this, his master embraced him in his joy, and exclaimed: "See now! I knew well enough that he would speak the truth. Which of us two has won the wager?"
John did not comprehend the meaning of these words, and was still sad, till his master said to him: "Be of good heart, my boy! as you have always kept to truth and right, I will give you both house and land, and when you are old enough, I will give you my daughter for a wife."
Next day John was allowed to fetch his old father to live with him, and some years after he was married to his master's daughter.