Once in the wide forest east of Pappenheim there was a poor old man called Bald Old Leopold. He had no relations, but lived all by himself in a little brick cottage some distance from any town. He made his living by cutting grass in the woodland and selling it as fodder for horses. By this he earned only a dollar a day. But he was a simple old man, and needed so little out of it that he saved up 30-40 cent daily and spent the rest on such food and clothing as he needed.
He lived like this for many years. Then one night he thought that he would count the money he had hidden away in the great earthen pot under the floor of his hut. He set to work, and with much trouble he pulled the bag out on to the floor, and sat gazing in astonishment at the heap of coins which tumbled out of it. What should he do with them all, he wondered. He never thought of spending the money on himself, because he was content to pass the rest of his days as he had been doing for so long. He really had no desire for any greater comfort or luxury.
At last he threw all the money into an old sack and pushed it under his bed. Then he went to sleep, rolled in his ragged old blanket.
Early next morning he staggered off with his sack of money to the shop of a jeweller he knew in the town, and bargained with him for a beautiful little gold bracelet. He wrapped it up carefully in his cotton waist-band and went to the house of a rich friend. The friend was a travelling businessman. He used to wander about with his horses and merchandise through many countries.
Leopold found him at home. He sat down and after a little talk he asked the businessman who was the most virtuous and beautiful lady he had ever met with. The businessman replied that one unmarried lady on the island of Fyn in Denmark was renowned everywhere as well for her beauty as for her kindness and generosity.
"Then," said Leopold, "the next time you go that way, give her this little bracelet, with the respectful compliments of one who admires virtue more than he desires wealth."
With that he pulled the bracelet from his waistband, and handed it to his friend. The businessman was astonished, but did not object to carrying out the plan of his friend.
Time passed by, and at last the businessman arrived in the course of his travels to Fyn in Denmark. As soon as he had opportunity he presented himself at the castle where the lady lived, and sent in the bracelet. It was neatly packed in a little perfumed box provided by himself, and he did not forget to bring the message entrusted to him by his friend.
The lady on Fyn could not think who could have bestowed this present on her, but she bade her servant to tell the businessman that if he would return after he had finished his business in the city, she would give him a gift back.
A few days after the businessman came back and received a return present from the lady. It was a horse-load of rich silks, besides a present of money for himself. With these he set out on his journey.
Some months later he got home again and handed over to Leopold the wonderful lady's present. A horse-load of silks tumbled at his door! What was he to do with these costly things? After much thought he begged the businessman to consider whether he didn't know of some young gentleman that such treasures might be useful to.
"Of course," cried the businessman, greatly amused; "I know them all; and none seems worthier than the gallant and wealthy young gentleman in Thisted in the north-western Denmark."
"Very well, then, take the silks to him, with the greetings of an old man," said Leopold, much relieved to be rid of them.
So the next time that the businessman journeyed that way he carried the silks with him, and in due course arrived at Thisted. When he was shown into the hall of the gentleman, he handed over the beautiful gift of silks that Leopold had sent and begged the young man to accept them as a humble tribute.
The gentleman at Thisted was touched by the generosity of the giver. As a return present he ordered ten of the finest breed of horses to be given to the businessman, who also got money for his services.
The businessman came home at last. Next day he set out for Leopold' house with the ten horses. When the old man saw them coming in the distance he said to himself:
"A troop of horses coming! They are sure to want much grass, and I shall sell all I have without having to drag it to market."
He rushed off and cut grass as fast he could. When he got back with as much grass as he could carry, he learnt that the horses were all for himself. At first he couldn't think what to do with them. But after a little he got an idea. He gave two to the businessman and begged him to take the rest to the wonderful lady of Fyn. She seemed to him to be the fittest person to own such fine animals.
The businessman went away laughing. But, true to what his old friend had asked him to do, he took the horses with him on his next journey and eventually presented them safely to the lady. This time the lady sent for the businessman, and questioned him about the giver. The businessman didn't quite like to describe Leopold as an old man who earned five halfpence a day and who hardly had clothes to cover him. So he just told her that his friend had heard stories of her beauty and goodness, and had longed to lay the best he had at her feet. The wonderful lady told her father about the wonderful presents, and asked what to do with it.
"Well," said her father, "you can't refuse them; so send this unknown friend a present so magnificent that he is not likely to be able to send you anything better and will be ashamed to send anything at all!"
Then he ordered that twenty-four Iceland ponies laden with silver should be returned by her to make up for the ten horses.
So in a few hours the businessman was in charge of a splendid flock of animals. He had to hire armed men to defend it on the road against the robbers. He was relieved when he got back again in Leopold' hut at last.
"Well, now," cried Leopold and looked at all the wealth laid at his door, "I find you have been put to great expenses. If you'll accept six Iceland ponies and their loads and will take the rest straight to Thisted, I shall thank you heartily."
The businessman felt amply rewarded for his troubles, and started to wonder how the matter would turn out. So he made no difficulty about it; and as soon as he could get things ready, he set out for Thisted with this new and majestic gift.
This time the gentleman, too, was embarrassed, and questioned the businessman closely. The businessman felt that his credit was at stake, and said that Leopold was a likeable man.
The gentleman determined that he would send in return such a prestigious gift that the unknown giver would stop sending him anything more. So he made up a drift of twenty splendid horses in thick bronze-embroidered cloths, with fine leather saddles and silver bridles and stirrups, also twenty horses that could swing along at a trot all day without getting tired; and, twenty white cows with magnificent silver coverings of silk embroidered with pearls.
To take care of these animals the businessman hired a little army of men; and the troop made a great show as they travelled along.
When Leopold from a distance saw the cloud of dust which the large drift of animals made, and the glitter of its appointments, he said to himself:
"Hurrah, here's a grand crowd coming! White cows too! Grass will be selling well today, I should say!"
He hurried off to the woodland and cut grass as fast as he could. As soon as he got back he found the great herd had stopped at his door, and the businessman was waiting, a little anxiously, to tell him the news and to congratulate him on his riches.
"Riches!" cried Leopold, "what has an old man like me with one foot in the grave to do with riches? That pretty young lady, now! She would be fit to enjoy all these fine things! Friend, take for yourself four Iceland ponies and as many horses with all their trappings, and present the rest to her."
The businessman at first pointed out to Leopold that he was beginning to feel things were beginning to get a bit out of hand, and a little awkward. He was getting nervous. But in the end he gave in and agreed to go once more. After a few days' rest the drift started off once more for Fyn.
The moment the lady's father saw the splendid train of men and animals entering his castle courtyard, he was so amazed that he hurried down in person to get news about it. He became dumb when he heard that these also were a present from Leopold and were for his daughter. He went hastily off to her apartment and said to her:
"I tell you, this man wants to marry you; that's the meaning of all these presents! He must be a man of huge wealth, and as he seems to be so fond of you, perhaps you might do worse than marry him! Let's go and have a look at him, shan't we?"
The daughter agreed. Now orders were issued for vast numbers of white cows and splendid horses, and gorgeous tents and flags. There were litters for the ladies and horses for the men, for the giant and his daughter were going to pay a visit to Leopold. The father declared that the businessman was to guide the party.
The poor businessman would have run away if he could; but he was treated with so much hospitality as Leopold' representative that he didn't get a moment alone, so he never had any opportunity of slipping away.
On the seventh day they all started to the sounds of blaring trumpets. Day after day they moved on. Every day the poor businessman felt more ill and miserable. At last they were only one day's march from Leopold' little home made of home-made bricks. Here they struck camp, and the businessman was sent on to tell Leopold that one of the mightiest men on the island of Fyn and his lovely daughter had come and were seeking an interview.
When the businessman arrived he found the poor old man eating his evening meal of onions and dry bread, and when he told him of all that had happened, Leopold was overwhelmed with grief and shame for himself, for his friend, and for the name and honour of the Fyn lady. He wept and plucked at his beard, and groaned piteously. With tears he begged the businessman to detain them for one day by any kind of excuse he could think of.
As soon as the businessman was gone, Leopold made up his mind that there was only one honourable way out of the shame and distress that he had created, and it was not to kill himself in the middle of the night at a place where the river wound along at the base of steep rocky cliffs of great height. He could not think that throwing himself down there and put an end to his life might help anyone enough.
The water roared and boiled round the jagged rocks. An owl laughed "Hoo-hoo!" almost in his face. The old man threw himself back, sweating and shuddering with the graveness of it all, and wept aloud.
At that moment he noticed a gentle radiance before him, and it was not morning yet. He took his hands from his face and saw two brave pixies.
"Why do you weep, oldtimer?" said one.
He confessed all his story.
Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. At once Leopold saw his old cotton rags of clothes were changed to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth; on his hard, bare feet were warm, soft shoes, and on his head a nice-looking cap. Round his neck was a heavy golden chain gleaming in the pale light.
As he stood wondering, the other waved his hand and bade him turn and look. Lo! An avenue of large elm trees let up to the very spot where his hut had stood. Now there was a fine castle there instead. He drew near along grassy slopes and through grassy lawns where fountains were playing and late June blossoms scented the air. Leopold stood there and enjoyed the beauties.
The mirthful pixies said: "Now go to your house and do what you can. You may need some privacy."
With these words they both disappeared.
Soon he retired to rest in a splendid room, and when morning dawned he woke and found that he himself, the castle, and many servants in it were no dreams.
The businessman was ushered in soon after sunrise. He told Leopold that he had not slept all night, and by the first streak of daylight had started to seek out his friend. But in the night a great stretch of wild country had been changed into parks and gardens. If it had not been for some of Leopold' new servants who found him and brought him to the castle, he would have fled away and thought he had gone crazy, and that all he saw was only imagination.
Leopold told his businessman friend what had happened. The businessman advised him to sent an invitation to the Fyn father and his daughter to come and be his guests with all their pomp and servants, down to the very humblest in the camp.
For three nights and days a great feast was held in honour of the guests. On the fourth day the Fyn-man took his host aside, and asked him if he wished to marry his daughter. Leopold, after thanking him very much for the compliment, said that he had never dreamed of so great an honour, and that he was far too old and ugly for so fair a lady. But he begged the old father to stay with him till he could send for the gentleman of Thisted, who was a most excellent, brave, and good man, and would surely be delighted to try to win the hand of the beautiful Fyn lady.
The Fyn man agreed, and Leopold sent the businessman to Assens with a number of attendants, and with such handsome presents that the gentleman came at once, fell in love with the lovely lady at once and married her at Leopold' place.
After the jolly festivities the lady's father went to his own island and the gentleman of Thisted and his lady went to theirs in the north-west of Denmark. Leopold lived to a good old age. He was a friend to all who were in trouble, and also in prosperity he kept the simple-hearted and generous nature that he had when he was only the bald grass cutter Leopold.
An unsuspecting, lovely queen followed a nice-looking old woman out into the castle's garden and listened to the old woman's smooth, flattering words. In the middle of the garden there was a pond of crystal-clear water, and he old woman said to the queen:
"The day is so warm, and the water in the pond looks very cool and inviting. Wouldn't you like to bathe in it?'
The queen slipped off her robes and stepped into the water. But as soon as her feet touched the cool ripples, the old woman pushed her into the deep water and said, "Now be duck!"
The queen was changed into a duck that swam close to the castle, and the old woman changed herself so that she looked like the queen, and clothed herself in her costumes and then sought out the king. And the king didn't know that the woman in his arms was not his own dear wife.
Meanwhile, the white duck swam up and down in the ponds and laid three eggs. One morning two little fluffy ducklings and a little, ugly drake came out of the eggs. The white duck brought up the little creatures. They paddled after her in the pond, caught fish and hopped on the bank and waddled about. Now and then they ruffled their feathers saying "quack, quack" as they strutted about on the green banks of the pond. But their mother used to warn them not to stray too far, telling them that a dangerous, false queen lived in the castle beyond the garden. She added,
"She has ruined me, there is a risk that she will do her best to ruin you."
The young ones didn't listen very well to their mother and strayed close up to the castle windows. The old hag that wanted to be the queen, pretended to be kind and called them to her and joked with them. Then she led them into a lovely room, fed them, and showed them a soft cushion they could sleep on for a little while. She herself went down into the palace kitchen and told the servants to sharpen the knives. The two little ducklings had fallen asleep, but the little drake that lay between them, couldn't sleep. Then, all of a sudden he heard the false queen come to the door late in the night and say:
"Little ones, are you asleep?'
The little drake answered, "No."
"They're not asleep yet," muttered the false queen to herself; and she walked up and down in the passage. Then she came back to the door, saying:
"Little ones, are you asleep?'
Again the little drake answered, "No."
"I think I'll go in and have a little look," muttered the false queen.
She opened the door softly, saw the two little ducklings sound asleep and killed them with a knife.
Next morning the white duck couldn't find any trace of them. At last she flew to the castle to inspect more. There, laid out on the marble floor of the court, dead and stone cold, were her three children. She cried sadly:
The king heard these sad complaints and called to the false queen: "Listen to that white duck."
But the false queen answered,
"What do you mean, husband?"
Then she made the servants chase the duck out of the courtyard. But no matter how much they tried, they couldn't get rid of the duck. And what is more, she often came back to the spot where her children lay, crying out loud:
The king began to suspect that he had been deceived somehow and caught the duck with his bare hands. And as he stroked her wings she was changed into a beautiful woman: his dear wife.
She was happy to tell him that in a hidden bottle in her nest in the garden were some drops from the spring of healing that she had come upon. As a duck it was not in her power to uncork it. Now the bottle was brought to her and the ducklings and little drake were sprinkled with the water.
In a flash of lightning three lovely children got up from the floor. Afterwards they all lived happily together in the lovely castle. But the evil old hag came to no good end.
Once there lived a couple near Glen Meay. The husband was a decent, quiet and hard-working man of the place. He and his wife lived together in a nice little cottage and owned a bit of a croft on which they grazed a cow and a few sheep and grew enough potatoes to do them the winter out.
The man had a yawl and went to the fishing when things were slack on land. But for all that they were not comfortable, for even though the man worked hard at his farming and his fishing, he was kept poor by his untidy, lazy wife.
For she was fonder of lying in bed in the morning than sitting at her milking stool. The neighbours used to say she wore out more blankets than shoes.
Many a day her man would go out early as hungry as a hawk, without a bite or a sup in him. One morning when he came in from work there was no fire - his wife was not up. The poor man had nothing for it but to get his own breakfast ready and go back to his work. When he came in for dinner it happened as it had happened for breakfast.
"Bad luck to her laziness," he thought; "this is foul comfort for a poor man, but I'll play a trick on her for it."
And with that he fetched a bart of straw and bunged the two windows of his house. Then he went back to his work.
The sun had not yet set when he came home in the evening. His wife was lying in bed waiting for day.
"Aw, woman," he shouted, "hurry and get up to see the sun rise in the west."
Up jumped the wife and ran to the door just as the sun was going down, and the sight terrified her. The whole sky looked like fire. But next morning it all happened as it had happened before, and he said to her:
"Kitty, the buggane might grab you one of these days if you don't mend your ways!"
"What buggane?" said she. She got curious.
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," said he. "But the hairy fellow under the Spooyt Vooar waterfall is the one I'm thinking of.
"Oh, hold your tongue, man! You don't scare me at all with your laziness-improvers," shouted the woman.
In the evening the man left the house to go out fishing. As soon as he had gone, the woman wanted to bake, for she had only the heel of the loaf left for breakfast. She set to work to bake some barley bread and flour cake. First she went out to get gorse to put under the griddle, slipping the bolt on the door as she came in, so that none of the neighbours would catch her and cry shame on her for baking after sunset.
She got some meal out of the barrel and put it on the round table, and put salt and water on it, and then she kneaded the meal and clapped a cake out as thin as sixpence with her hands.
But she was only a middling poor baker, one of the sort that has to use a knife to make the cake of a right round. She turned the cake twice and took it off, then she brushed the griddle with a white goose wing. Then she was ready for the next cake.
Just as she was busy cutting round it with her knife, she heard something heavy lumbering up to the door. After a few seconds someone fumbled at the door, then someone knocked high up on the door, and a voice like the thick, gruff voice of a giant said,
"Open, open for me,
She did not answer. Again there was a loud knock and a big hoarse voice cried:
"Woman of the house, open for me,
Then the door burst open and an ugly beast of a buggane rushed in. It was angry to look at. Without as much as a "By your leave," he made one grab at her, and clutched hold of her by her apron and swung her on his shoulder, and away with him.
Before she knew where she was, he rushed her across the fields and down the hill, till he brought her to the top of the Spooyt Vooar, the big waterfall of Glen Meay.
As the buggane tore down the hill, the woman felt the ground tremble under his feet, and the noise of the waterfall filled her ears. And, there in front of her, she saw the stream turn to white spray as it came leaping down the rocks.
As the buggane swung her in the air to throw her into the deep pool, she thought that her last hour had come. Then she remembered the knife that she held in her hand! Quick as thought she cut the string of her apron and down she tumbled to the ground, rolling over and over down the hill.
The buggane on the other hand, pitched forward head first down the rushing waterfall. As he went head over heels and down to the bottom of the pool with a souse you'd have heard half a mile away, she heard him roar:
'Rumbyl, sambyl, I thought I had a lazy dirt,
That was the last that was seen of him.