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Choosing a Servant

A farmer's wife was in need of a maid-servant, so she asked a number of girls to come to her house that she might choose the one that seemed most likely to suit her. Now, when the farmer's man-servant heard what his mistress was going to do, he said to her, "I will show you how to choose a good one."

"Very well," said the farmer's wife.

The man-servant laid a broom across the path that the girls had to come by to the house, and he and his mistress watched them as they came near.

The first girl who came, resolutely kicked the broom aside. Then the farmer's man said, "She seems unwilling to bend her back, but being resolute becomes her. Maybe she is having a bad day -"

The next girl who came, jumped over the broom and the farmer's man said, "She seems springy, all right. That may come in handy for farm work, but the risk is she'll skip her work."

The last girl who came picked up the broom and reared it up in a corner out of the way. Then the farmer's man said, "That's a neat girl for us; she'll be careful, even tidy without having being told, I suppose."

So the third girl was chosen.

[Addy 1895, p 13. Retold from a Derbyshire tale, 'The Choice of a Servant']

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Jack the Buttermilk

Jack was a boy who sold buttermilk. One day as he was going his rounds he met a witch. She asked him to give her some of his buttermilk for free, and said that if he refused to give it, she would put him into a bag that she carried over her shoulders.

Jack would not give the witch any of his buttermilk, so she put him into her bag and walked off home with him. But as she was going on her way she suddenly remembered that she had forgotten a pot of fat that she had bought in the town. Now Jack was too heavy to be carried back to the town, so the witch asked some men who were brushing the hedge by the roadside if they would take care of her bag till she came back.

When the witch had gone, Jack called out to the men and said, "If you will take me out of this bag and fill it full of thorns, I will give you some of my buttermilk."

So the men took Jack out of the bag and filled it with thorns, and then Jack gave them some buttermilk and ran home.

When the witch came back from town she picked up her bag, threw it over her shoulder and walked away. But she had not gone far before the thorns began to prick her back and she said, " Jack, I think you have got some pins about you, lad."

As soon as she had got home, she emptied the bag on a clean white sheet that she had ready. But when she found that there was nothing in the bag but thorns, she was very angry and said, '' "I'll catch you tomorrow, Jack, and I'll boil you."

Next day she met Jack again and asked him for some buttermilk and told him that if he would not give it to her she would put him into the bag again. But Jack said he would give her no buttermilk, so she put him into her bag and again she remembered that she had forgotten something and would have to go back to the town for it.

This time she left the bag with some men who were mending the road.

As soon as the witch had gone, Jack called out to them and said, "If you will take me out and fill this bag full of stones, I will give you some of my buttermilk."

Then the men took Jack out of the bag, and he gave them the buttermilk.

When the witch came back she threw the bag over her shoulder as before, and when she heard the stones grinding and rattling, she chuckled and said, "Indeed, Jack, your bones crack."

When she got home she emptied the bag on the white sheet again. But when she saw the stones, she was very angry and swore that she would boil Jack when she caught him.

Next day she went out as before and met Jack again and asked for some buttermilk. But Jack said, "No," again, so she put him into her bag and went straight home with him and threw him out upon the white sheet.

When she had done this she saw she had to get out for enough wood to boil the lad, so she put Jack back in the bag, desiring to boil him when she came back. But she forgot to tie the bag. So while she was away Jack crept out of it, opened all the cupboards in the house and filled the bag with all the pots that he could find. After he had done this he got away by crawling up the big chimney, and soon he was safely home.

When the witch came back she emptied the bag on the sheet again and broke all the pots that she had. After this she never caught Jack any more.

[Addy 1895, p. 7-9. From Nottinghamshire. Retold
Type: AT 327c 'The Devil Carries the Children Home'.]

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The Sage of Lincoln

At a farm in Lincolnshire there had been a great robbery and nobody could find out who the thief was. At last the farmer's wife said to her husband, "If you will send for the sage of Lincoln, he will tell you."

So the farmer did as his wife had told him and sent for the sage, who came in the form of a blackbird. He flew into the farmyard and so frightened the cattle there that a man who was threshing wheat in the barn could hardly keep them out.

Then the blackbird said to the farmer, "Shall I bring the thieves into your house, or make their shadows appear on the wall?"

The farmer answered, "Do what you think is best."

He had hardly spoken when one of the farmer's men servants, who had only that very moment begun his work in the fields, walked into the room and at once passed out.

When he had gone the blackbird said, "That is one of them." Then he pointed to a shadow on the wall and the farmer saw that it was the shadow of another of his servants.

"That's the other thief," said the blackbird and flew away.

Soon after the two men were arrested and the money they had stolen was found.

[A sage is a wise man, and wise man here means soothsayer and more that that too.]

[Addy 1895, p. 36-37, 'The Wizard of Lincoln' as retold]

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