ONCE ON a time there lived a man who had a lot of children to feed and had to work very hard all day to get them enough to eat. Because he had to work too much he was often tired and cross and grumbled tactlessly, so people started to call him "Odd."
By-and-by he grew weary of always working, and on Sundays he lay a long while in bed instead of going to church. Then, as the tavern across the road looked bright and cheerful, he walked in one day and sat down with his friends.
"It was just to chase away Care," he said; but when he came out, hours later, Care had not left him at all: Odd entered his house feeling more dismal than when he left it, for he knew that he had wasted both his time and his money.
"I'll go and see the holy man in the cave near the well." he said to himself. "Maybe he can tell me why odds seem to be against me and I'm not as happy as could be."
He set out at once for the cave. It was a long way off, and the road led over mountains and through valleys; but at last he reached the cave where the holy man dwelt, and knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" asked a voice from within.
"It's I, I'm called Odd, you know, the one who has many children."
"Well, and what do you want?"
"I want to know why other people have all the luck, and only misfortunes happen to me!"
The holy man didn't answer, but went into an inner cave, from which he came out bearing something in his hand.
"Do you see this basket?" said he. "It's a magical basket, and if you're hungry you have only got to say: "Little basket, little basket, do your duty," and you'll eat the best dinner you ever had in your life. But when you have had enough, be sure you don't forget to cry out: "That will do for today." Oh!and one thing moreyou need not show it to everybody and declare that I have given it to you. Okay?"
Odd was always used to think of himself as so unlucky that he didn't know whether the holy man was not playing a trick on him; but he took the basket without being polite enough to say either "Thank you," or "Good-morning," and went away. However, he only waited till he was out of sight of the cave before he stooped down and whispered:
"Little basket, little basket, do your duty."
Now the basket had a lid, so that he could not see what was inside, but he heard quite clearly strange noises, as if a sort of scuffling was going on. Then the lid burst open, and a quantity of delicious little white rolls came tumbling out one after the other, followed by a stream of small fishes all ready cooked. What a quantity there were to be sure! The whole road was covered with them, and the banks on each side were beginning to disappear. Odd felt quite frightened at the torrent, but at last he remembered what the holy man had told him, and cried at the top of his voice:
"Enough! enough! That will do for today!"
And the lid of the basket closed with a snap.
Odd sighed with relief and happiness as he looked around him, and sitting down on a heap of stones, he ate till he could eat no more. Trout, salmon, turbot, soles, and a hundred other fishes whose names he didn't know, lay boiled, fried, and grilled within reach of his hands. As the holy man had said, he had never eaten such a dinner; still, when he had done, he shook his head, and grumbled;
"Yes, there is plenty to eat, of course, but it only makes me thirsty, and there is not a drop to drink anywhere."
Yet, somehow, he could never tell why, he looked up and saw the tavern in front of him, which he thought was miles, and miles, and miles away.
"Bring the best wine you have got, and two glasses, good mother," he said as he entered, "and if you're fond of fish there is enough here to feed the house. Only there is no need to chatter about it all over the place. You understand? Eh?"
And without waiting for an answer he whispered to the basket:
"Little basket, little basket, do your duty."
The innkeeper and his wife thought that their customer had gone suddenly mad and watched him closely, ready to spring on him if he became violent; but both instinctively jumped backwards, nearly into the fire, as rolls and fishes of every kind came tumbling out of the basket, covering the tables and chairs and the floor, and even overflowing into the street.
"Be quick, be quick, and pick them up," cried the man. "And if these are not enough, there are plenty more to be had for the asking."
The innkeeper and his wife didn't need to be told twice. They went down on their knees and gathered up everything they could lay hands on. But busy though they seemed, they found time to whisper to each other:
"If we can only get hold of that basket it will make our fortune!"
So they began by inviting Odd to sit down to the table, and brought out the best wine in the cellar, hoping it might loosen his tongue. But Odd was wiser than they gave him credit for, and though they tried in all kind of ways to find out who had given him the basket, he put them off, and kept his secret to himself. Unluckily, though he didn't speak, he did drink, and it was not long before he fell fast asleep. Then the woman fetched from her kitchen a basket, so like the magic one that no one, without looking very closely, could tell the difference, and placed it in Odd's hand, while she hid the other carefully away.
It was dinner time when the man awoke, and, jumping up hastily, he set out for home, where he found all the children gathered round a basin of thin soup, and pushing their wooden bowls forward, hoping to have the first spoonful. Their father burst into the midst of them, bearing his basket, and crying:
"Don't spoil your appetites, children, with that stuff. Do you see this basket? Well, I have only got to say, "Little basket, little basket, do your duty," and you'll see what will happen. Now you shall say it instead of me, for a treat."
The children, wondering and delighted, repeated the words, but nothing happened. Again and again they tried, but the basket was only a basket, with a few scales of fish sticking to the bottom, for the innkeeper's wife had taken it to market the day before.
"What's the matter with the thing?" cried the father at last, snatching the basket from them, and turning it all over, grumbling and swearing while he did so, under the eyes of his astonished wife and children, who didn't know whether to cry or to laugh.
"It certainly smells of fish," he said, and then he stopped, for a sudden thought had come to him.
"Suppose it is not mine at all; supposing Ah, the scoundrels!"
And without listening to his wife and children, who were frightened at his strange conduct and begged him to stay at home, he ran across to the tavern and burst open the door.
"Can I do anything for you, Odd?" asked the innkeeper's wife in her softest voice.
"I have taken the wrong basketby mistake, I figure," said he. "Here is yours, will you give me back my own?"
"What are you talking about?" answered she. "You can see for yourself that there is no basket here."
And though Odd did look, it was quite true that none was to be seen.
"Come, take a glass to warm you this cold day," said the woman, who was anxious to keep him in a good temper, and as this was an invitation Odd never refused, he tossed it off and left the house.
He took the road that led to the holy man's cave, and made such haste that it was not long before he reached it.
"Who is there?" said a voice in answer to his knock.
"It's me, it's me, holy man. You know quite well. Odd, who has many children."
"But it was only yesterday that I gave you a handsome present."
"Yes, and here it is. But something has happened, I don't know what, and it won't work any more."
"Well, put it down. I'll go and see if I can find anything for you."
In a few minutes the holy man returned with a cock under his arm.
"Listen to me," he said, "whenever you want money, you only have to say: "Show me what you can do, cock," and you'll see some wonderful things. But, remember, it's not necessary to let all the world into the secret."
"Oh no, I'm not so foolish as that."
"Nor to tell everybody that I gave it to you," went on the holy man. "I haven't got these treasures by the dozen." And without waiting for an answer he shut the door.
As before, the distance seemed to have wonderfully shortened, and in a moment the tavern rose up in front of Odd. Without stopping to think, he went straight in, and found the innkeeper's wife in the kitchen making a cake.
"Where have you come from, with that fine red cock in your basket," asked she, for the bird was so big that the lid would not shut down properly.
"Oh, I come from a place where they don't keep these things by the dozen," he replied, sitting down in front of the table.
The woman said no more, but set before him a bottle of his favourite wine, and soon he began to wish to display his prize.
"Show me what you can do, cock," cried he. And the cock stood up and flapped his wings three times, crowing "coquerico" with a voice like a trumpet, and at each crow there fell from his beak golden drops, and diamonds as large as peas.
This time Odd didn't invite the innkeeper's wife to pick up his treasures, but put his own hat under the cock's beak, so as to catch everything he let fall; and he didn't see the husband and wife exchanging glances with each other which said, "That would be a splendid cock to put with our basket."
"Have another glass of wine?" suggested the innkeeper, when they had finished admiring the beauty of the cock, for they pretended not to have seen the gold or the diamonds. And Odd, nothing loth, drank one glass after another, till his head fell forward on the table, and once more he was sound asleep. Then the woman gently coaxed the cock from the basket and carried it off to her own poultry yard, from which she brought one exactly like it, and popped it in its place.
Night was falling when the man awoke, and throwing proudly some grains of gold on the table to pay for the wine he had drunk, he tucked the cock comfortably into his basket and set out for home.
His wife and all the children were waiting for him at the door, and as soon as she caught sight of him she broke out:
"You're a nice man to go wasting your time and your money drinking in that tavern, and leaving us to starve! Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
"You don't know what you're talking of," he answered. "Money? Why, I have gold and diamonds now, as much as I want. Do you see that cock? Well, you have only to say to him, "Show me what you can do, cock," and something splendid will happen."
Neither wife nor children put much faith in him after their last experience; but they thought it was worth trying, and did as he told them. The cock flew round the room like a mad thing and crowed till their heads nearly split with the noise; but no gold or diamonds dropped on the brick floor not the tiniest grain of either.
Odd stared in silence for an instant, and then he began to swear so loudly that even his family, accustomed as they were to his language, wondered at him. At last he grew a little quieter, but remained as puzzled as ever.
"Can I have forgotten the words? But I know that was what he said! And I saw the diamonds with my own eyes!" He seized the cock, shut it into the basket, and rushed out of the house.
His heavy wooden shoes clattered as he ran along the road, and he made such haste that the stars were only just beginning to come out when he reached the cave of the holy man.
"Who is that knocking?" asked a voice from within.
"It's me! It's me! You know!"
"But you really should give someone else a chance. This is the third time alreadyand at such an hour!"
"Oh, yes, I know it's very late, but you'll forgive me! It's your cock there is something wrong with. It's in the basket. Look!"
"That my cock? That my basket? Somebody has played you a trick, my man!"
"A trick?" repeated Odd, who began to understand what had happened. "Then it must have been someone at the inn."
"I warned you not to show the treasures to anybody," said the holy man. "But no matter what you deserve, I'll give you one more chance."
And, turning, he unhooked something from the wall.
"When you wish to dust your own jacket or those of your friends," he said, "you have only got to say, "Flack, flick, switch, be quick," and you'll see what happens. That's all I have to tell you."
Smiling to himself, the holy man pushed Odd out of the cave.
"Ah, I understand now," muttered the good man, as he took the road home; "but I think I've got you two rascals!" and he hurried on to the tavern with his basket under his arm, and the cock and the switch both inside.
"Good evening, friends!" he said, as he entered the inn. "I'm very hungry, and should be glad if you would roast this cock for me as soon as possible. This cock and no othermind what I say," he went on. "Oh, and another thing! You can light the fire with this basket. When you have done that I'll show you something I have in my bag."
These directions made the innkeeper's wife uneasy. But she said nothing and began to roast the cock while her husband did his best to make the man sleepy with wine, but all in vain.
After dinner, which he didn't eat without grumbling, for the cock was very tough, the man struck his hand on the table, and said:
"Now listen to me. Go and fetch my cock and my basket, at once. Do you hear?And, if you're too deaf and too stupid to understand what that means, I've got something which may help to teach you." And opening the bag, he cried:
"Flack, flick, switch, be quick."
And like lightening a white switch sprang out of the bag, and gave such hearty blows to the innkeeper and his wife and to Odd into the bargain that they all jumped as high as feathers when a mattress is shaken.
"Stop! stop! make it stop," cried the man and his wife. And Odd, who had no wish to go on, called out between his hops:
"Stop then, can't you? That's enough for today!"
But the switch paid no attention, and dealt out its blows as before. But the holy man heard their cries and came to the rescue. "Into the bag, quick!" said he, and the switch obeyed.
"Now go and fetch me the cock and the basket," and the woman went without a word, and placed them on the table.
"You have all got what you deserved," continued the holy man. "Some day I may find someone who knows how to make the best of what is given them. Good day to you all."
WHAT a life that poor man led with his wife, to be sure! Not a day passed without her scolding him and calling him names, and indeed sometimes she would take the broom from behind the stove and beat him with it. He had no peace or comfort at all, and really hardly knew how to bear it.
One day, when his wife had been particularly unkind and had beaten him black and blue, he strolled slowly into the fields, and as he couldn't endure to be idle he spread out his nets.
What kind of bird do you think he caught in his net? He caught a crane, and the crane said, "Let me go free, and I'll show myself grateful."
The man answered, 'No, my dear fellow. I shall take you home, and then perhaps my wife won't scold me so much."
Said the crane: "You had better come with me to my house," and so they went to the crane's house.
When they got there, what do you think the crane took from the wall? He took down a sack, and he said:
"Two out of a sack!"
Instantly two pretty lads sprang out of the sack. They brought in oak tables, which they spread with silken covers, and placed all sorts of delicious dishes and refreshing drinks on them. The man had never seen anything so beautiful in his life, and he was delighted. Then the crane said to him, "Now take this sack to your wife."
The man thanked him warmly, took the sack, and set out.
His home was a good long way off, and as it was growing dark, and he was feeling tired, he stopped to rest at his cousin's house by the way.
The cousin had three daughters, who laid out a tempting supper, but the man would eat nothing, and said to his cousin, "Your supper is bad."
"Oh, make the best of it," said she, but the man only said: "Clear away!" and taking out his sack he cried, as the crane had taught him:
"Two out of the sack!"
And out came the two pretty boys, who quickly brought in the oak tables, spread the silken covers, and laid out all sorts of delicious dishes and refreshing drinks.
Never in their lives had the cousin and her daughters seen such a supper, and they were delighted and astonished at it. But the cousin quietly made up her mind to steal the sack, so she called to her daughters: "Go quickly and heat the bathroom: I'm sure our dear guest would like to have a bath before he goes to bed."
When the man was safe in the bathroom she told her daughters to make a sack exactly like his, as quickly as possible. Then she changed the two sacks, and hid the man's sack away.
The man enjoyed his bath, slept soundly, and set off early next morning, taking what he believed to be the sack the crane had given him.
All the way home he felt in such good spirits that he sang and whistled as he walked through the wood, and never noticed how the birds were twittering and laughing at him.
As soon as he saw his house he began to shout from a distance, "Hallo! old woman! Come out and meet me!"
His wife screamed back: "You come here, and I'll give you a good thrashing with the poker!"
The man walked into the house, hung his sack on a nail, and said, as the crane had taught him:
"Two out of the sack!"
But not a soul came out of the sack.
Then he said again, exactly as the crane had taught him:
"Two out of the sack!"
His wife, hearing him chattering goodness knows what, took up her wet broom and swept the ground all about him.
The man took flight and rushed oft into the field, and there he found the crane marching proudly about, and to him he told his tale.
"Come back to my house," said the crane, and so they went to the crane's house, and as soon as they got there, what did the crane take down from the wall? Why, he took down a sack, and he said:
"Two out of the sack!"
And instantly two pretty lads sprang out of the sack, brought in oak tables, on which they laid silken covers, and spread all sorts of delicious dishes and refreshing drinks on them.
"Take this sack," said the crane.
The man thanked him heartily, took the sack, and went. He had a long way to walk, and as he presently got hungry, he said to the sack, as the crane had taught him:
"Two out of the sack!"
And instantly two rough men with thick sticks crept out of the bag and began to beat him well, crying as they did so:
"Don't boast to your cousins of what you have got,
And they beat on till the man panted out:
"Two into the sack."
The words were hardly out of his mouth, when the two crept back into the sack.
Then the man shouldered the sack, and went off straight to his cousin's house. He hung the sack up on a nail, and said: "Please have the bathroom heated, cousin."
The cousin heated the bathroom, and the man went into it, but he neither washed nor rubbed himself, he just sat there and waited.
Meantime his cousin felt hungry, so she called her daughters, and all four sat down to table. Then the mother said:
"Two out of the sack."
Instantly two rough men crept out of the sack, and began to beat the cousin as they cried:
"Greedy pack! Thievish pack! OnetwoGive the peasant back his sack! Onetwo"
And they went on beating till the woman called to her eldest daughter: "Go and fetch your cousin from the bathroom. Tell him these two ruffians are beating me black and blue."
"I haven't finished rubbing myself yet," said the peasant.
And the two ruffians kept on beating as they sang:
"Greedy pack! Thievish pack!
Then the woman sent her second daughter and said: "Quick, quick, get him to come to me."
"I'm just washing my head," said the man.
Then she sent the youngest girl, and he said: "I haven't done drying myself."
At last the woman could hold out no longer, and sent him the sack she had stolen.
Now he had quite finished his bath, and as he left the bathroom he cried:
"Two into the sack."
And the two crept back at once into the sack.
Then the man took both sacks, the good and the bad one, and went away home.
When he was near the house he shouted: "Hallo, old woman, come and meet me!"
His wife only screamed out:
"You broomstick, come here! Your back shall pay for this."
The man went into the cottage, hung his sack on a nail, and said, as the crane had taught him:
"Two out of the sack."
Instantly two pretty lads sprang out of the sack, brought in oak tables, laid silken covers on them, and spread them with all sorts of delicious dishes and refreshing drinks.
The woman ate and drank, and praised her husband.
"Well, now, old man, I won't beat you any more," said she.
When they had done eating, the man carried off the good sack, and put it away in his store-room, but hung the bad sack up on the nail. Then he lounged up and down in the yard.
Meantime his wife became thirsty. She looked with longing eyes at the sack, and at last she said, as her husband had done:
"Two out of the sack."
And at once the two rogues with their big sticks crept out of the sack, and began to belabour her as they sang:
"Would you beat your husband true?
The woman screamed out: "Old man, old man! Come here, quick! Here are two ruffians pommelling me fit to break my bones."
Her husband only strolled up and down and laughed, as he said: "Yes, they'll beat you well, old lady."
And the two thumped away and sang again:
"Blows will hurt, remember, crone,
At last her husband took pity on her, and cried:
"Two into the sack."
He had hardly said the words before they were back in the sack again.
From this time the man and his wife lived so happily together that it was a pleasure to see them, and so the story has an end.
[Russian - #4.2]
Don't depend on great help from fairies if you slacken -
ONCE THERE lived in France a man named Jalmar Riou. No one was happier or more contented, for he had a large farm, plenty of money, and a daughter who was the best-dressed girl in the whole country side. Her clothes were finer than anyone else's, and she had more admirers than any other girl, and she loved to dance.
Among all the young men who wanted to marry her was her father's head man, Gustave. He was very ugly, and his manners were rough, so she would have nothing to do with him. What was worse, she often made fun of him with the rest.
Gustave heard of this, and it made him very unhappy. Still he would not leave the farm and look for work in other places, for then he would never see the farmer's daughter at all, and was life worth much without that?
One evening he was bringing back his horses from the fields, and stopped at a little lake on the way home to let them drink. He was tired with a long day's work, and stood with his hand on the mane of one of the animals, waiting till they had done, and thinking all the while of the girl, Yvonne. Then a voice came out of the gorse close by.
"What is the matter? You mustn't despair yet."
The young man glanced up, and asked who was there.
"It is I, the brownie of the lake," replied the voice. "Look close, and you will see me among the reeds in the form of a little green frog."
"Now, show yourself to me in the shape your family generally appears in," replied Gustave.
"If you wish," and the frog changed into a little dwarf in green clothes.
"Should you take any interest in me?" asked the peasant suspiciously.
"You did me a great service last winter. I have never forgotten," answered the little fellow. "You know the spiteful fairies who dwell in the White Corn country once drove us to take refuge in distant lands, and to hide ourselves at first under different bodily shapes. Since that time we have continued to transform ourselves, and that was how I got to know you."
"And how?" exclaimed Gustave.
"When you were digging in the field near the river, three months ago, you found a robin redbreast caught in a net. You opened the net and let him go. I was that robin redbreast. I have vowed to be your friend.
As you want to marry Yvonne, I will help you to do so."
"Ah!" said the peasant Gustave.
"Then, in a very few months you shall be master of the farm and of the pretty girl Yvonne. You just go on as earlier, eat and sleep and don't worry yourself."
Gustave took off his hat and thanked the dwarf heartily, and then led his horses back to the farm.
"Why, Gustave must have done this in the hope that I would be giving him a dance," she thought to herself, and when she met him outside the door she stopped and thanked him for his help. Gustave replied that he didn't know what she was talking about, but this answer made her feel all the more sure that it was he and nobody else.
The same thing happened every day, and never had the cow-house been so clean or the cows so fat. Morning and evening Yvonne found her earthen pots full of milk and a pound of butter freshly churned, ornamented with leaves. At the end of a few weeks she grew so used to this state of affairs that she only got up just in time to prepare breakfast.
Soon even this grew to be unnecessary, for a day arrived when, coming downstairs, she discovered that the house was swept, the furniture polished, the fire lit, and the food ready, so that she had nothing to do except to ring the great bell which called the labourers from the fields to come and eat it. This, also, she thought was the work of Gustave, and she could not help feeling that a husband of this sort would be very useful to a girl who liked to lie in bed and to amuse herself.
Yvonne had only to express a wish to get it satisfied. If she found the rye bread too hard to bake, or the oven taking too long to heat, she just murmured, "I should like to see my six loaves on the shelf above the bread box," and two hours after there they were.
If she was too lazy to walk all the way to market along a dirty road, she would say out loud the night before, "Why, am I already back from Morlaix with my milk pot empty, my butter bowl inside it, a pound of wild cherries on my wooden plate, and the money I have gained in my apron pocket?" - And in the morning when she got up, at the foot of her bed she found the empty milk pot with the butter bowl inside, the black cherries on the wooden plate, and six new pieces of silver in the pocket of her apron. She believed that all this was due to Gustave, and she could no longer do without him, even in her thoughts.
When things had come so far the brownie told the young man that he had better ask Yvonne to marry him, and this time the girl did not turn rudely away, but listened patiently to the end. He would certainly make a most useful husband, and she could sleep every morning till breakfast time, and she would wear the beautiful dresses that came when she wished for them, and she would be able to dance as much as she wished. Gustave would always be there to work for her and save for her.
So Yvonne answered that her father had to say yes to it, knowing that old Riou had often said that after he was dead there was no one so capable of carrying on the farm as Gustave.
The couple married next month, and a few days later the old man suddenly died. Now Gustave took care of everything, and somehow it did not seem so easy as when the farmer was alive. But once more the brownie stepped in, and was better than ten labourers. He ploughed and sowed and reaped, and when it occasionally was needful to get some work done quickly, he called in some of his friends to help in the work all unnoticed.
All the payment the brownie ever asked for was a bowl of broth.
Yvonne was furious. Each morning she had to get up before dawn to milk the cows and go to market. Each evening she had to sit up till midnight in order to churn the butter. Her heart was filled with rage against the brownie who had caused her to expect a life of ease and pleasure. And when she looked at Gustave and beheld his red face, squinting eyes and untidy hair, she got twice as angry.
"If it had not been for you, miserable dwarf!" she would say between her teeth, "if it had not been for you I should never have married that man. Now I can receive no presents except from my husband. I can never dance, except with my husband. Oh, I will never forgive you!"
In spite of her fierce scorn, no one knew better than Yvonne how to put her pride in her pocket when it suited her. After receiving an invitation to a wedding, she begged the brownie to get her a horse to ride there. To her great joy he agreed, bidding her set out for the city of the dwarfs and to tell them exactly what she wanted. Yvonne started on her journey. It was not long, and when she reached the town she went straight to the dwarfs who were gathered in a wide green place, and said to them,
"Listen, my friends! I have come to beg you to lend me a black horse with eyes, a mouth, ears, bridle and saddle."
At once the horse appeared. Mounting on his back she started for the village where the wedding was to be held.
She was so glad for having a day off that she didn't notice anything particular about her horse till people she passed along the road laughed and looked at her horse, saying, "Why, the farmer's wife has sold her horse's tail!" Her horse had no tail! She had forgotten to ask for one. Her horse also refused to gallop, so she was forced to hear all the jokes that were made on her.
In the evening she returned to the farm more angry than ever and quite determined to revenge herself on the brownie when she had the chance. It happened to be very soon.
It was the spring, and just the time of year when the dwarfs held their feast, so one day the brownie asked Gustave if he might bring his friends to have supper in the great barn, and whether he would allow them to dance there. Gustave was pleased to be able to do anything for the brownie, and he ordered Yvonne to spread her best table-cloths in the barn, and to make many tiny loaves and pancakes, and, besides, to keep all the milk given by the cows that morning. He expected she would refuse, for he knew she hated the dwarfs, but she said nothing, and prepared the supper as her husband told her..
When all was ready, the dwarfs came bustling in in new green suits. They were happy and merry, and took their seats at the table. But in a moment they all sprang up with a cry, and ran away screaming, for Yvonne had placed pans of hot coals under their feet. All their little toes were burnt.
"You won't forget that in a hurry," she said, smiling grimly to herself, but in a moment they were back again with large pots of water, which they poured on the fire. Then they joined hands and danced round it, singing:
Wicked traitress, Barne Riou,
That evening they left the country for ever, and now that Gustave was without their help, he grew poorer and poorer. At last he died of misery, while Yvonne was glad to find work in the market of Morlaix.