A soldier came marching along the high road – left, right! A left, right! He had his knapsack on his back and a sword by his side, for he had been to the wars and was now returning home.
An old witch met him on the road. She was very ugly to look at: her under-lip hung down to her breast.
"Good evening, soldier!" she said. "What a fine sword and knapsack you have! You ought to have as much money as you would like to carry!"
"Thank you, old witch," said the soldier.
"Do you see that great tree there?" said the witch, pointing to a tree beside them. "It is hollow within. Climb up to the top, and then you will see a hole. You can let yourself down into the tree through it. I will tie a rope round your waist, so that I can to pull you up again when you call."
"What shall I do down there?" asked the soldier.
"Get money!" answered the witch. "Listen! When you reach the bottom of the tree you will find yourself in a large hall; it is light there, for there are more than a hundred lamps burning. Then you will see three doors that you can open – the keys are in the locks. If you go into the first room, you will see a great chest in the middle of the floor with a dog sitting on it; he has eyes as large as saucers, but you needn't trouble about him. I will give you my blue-check apron to spread out on the floor. Fetch the dog and set him on it; open the chest and take as much money as you like. It is copper there.
If you would rather have silver, go into the next room, where there is a dog with eyes as large as mill-wheels. But don't take any notice of him; just set him on my apron, and help yourself to the money.v If you rather would have gold, go into the third room, and take as much as you like to carry. But the dog that guards the chest there has eyes as large as the midnight sun! But you needn't be afraid of him either. Only, put him on my apron and he won't touch you, and you can take out of the chest as much gold as you like!"
"This is not bad!" said the soldier. "But what am I to give you, old witch; for surely you are not going to do this for nothing?"
"Not a single farthing will I take!" replied the witch. "Bring me only an old tinder-box which my grandmother forgot last time she was down there."
"Well, tie the rope round my waist! 'said the soldier.
"Here it is," said the witch, "and here is my blue-check apron."
Then the soldier climbed up the tree, let himself down through the hole, and found himself standing underground in the large hall, where the hundred lamps were burning.
He opened the first door. There sat the dog with eyes as big as saucers glaring at him.
"You are a fine fellow!" said the soldier, and put him on the witch's apron, took as much copper as his pockets could hold; then he shut the chest, put the dog on it again, and went into the second room. There sat the dog with eyes as large as mill-wheels. He set the dog on the apron.
When he saw all the silver in the chest, he threw away the copper he had taken, and filled his pockets and knapsack with nothing but silver. Then he went into the third room. The dog there had two eyes, each as large as the midnight sun spinning round in his head like a wheel.
"Good evening!" said the soldier and saluted, for he had never seen a dog like this before. But he managed to put him down on the floor and opened the chest. What a heap of gold there was! With all that he could buy up the whole town, all the sugar pigs, and all the tin soldiers, whips and rocking-horses in the country.
Now he threw away all the silver that he had filled his pockets and knapsack with to make room for gold instead in all his pockets, his knapsack, cap and boots till he could hardly walk. Now he was rich. He put the dog back on the chest, shut the door, and then called up through the tree:
"Now pull me up again, old witch!"
"Have you got the tinder-box too?" she asked.
"Botheration!" said the soldier, "I had forgotten it!" And then he went back and fetched it.
The witch pulled him up, and there he stood again on the high road, with pockets, knapsack, cap and boots filled with gold.
"What do you want to do with the tinder-box?" asked the soldier.
"That doesn't matter to you," replied the witch. "You have got your money, give me my tinder-box."
"We will see!" said the soldier. "Tell me at once what you want to do with it or I will draw my sword, and cut off your head!"
"No!" screamed the witch.
The soldier at once cut off her head and tied up all his gold in her apron, slung it like a bundle over his shoulder, put the tinder-box in his pocket, and set out towards the town.
It was a splendid town, now that he had so much money that he was taken for a noble lord,. People told him about all the grand doings of the town and the king, and what a beautiful princess his daughter was.
"How can one get to see her?" asked the soldier.
"She cannot be seen, for she lives in a great copper castle, surrounded by many walls and towers! No one except the king may go in or out, for it is prophesied that she will marry a common soldier, and the king cannot accept that."
"I should very much like to see her," thought the soldier; but he could not get permission.
Now he lived gaily for a while and gave the poor a great deal of money. He was rich, wore fine clothes, and everyone around said he was a real nobleman. The soldier liked that. But one day he had nothing left but two shillings. Then he had to leave the beautiful rooms he had been living in and go into a little attic under the roof. None came to visit him any longer. Maybe there were too many stairs to climb.
One dark evening he could not even buy a light. But all at once it flashed across him that there was a little end of tinder in the tinder-box that he had taken from the hollow tree that the witch had helped him down into. He found the box with the tinder in it; but just as he had struck a spark out of the tinder-box, the door burst open, and the dog with eyes as large as saucers stood before him and said: "What does my lord command?"
"What?" exclaimed the soldier. "I want more money!" . Soon the dog came back again with a great purse full of money in his mouth.
The soldier also found out that if he rubbed once, the dog that sat on the chest of copper appeared; if he rubbed twice, there came the dog that watched over the silver chest; and if he rubbed three times, the one that guarded the gold appeared.
Now the soldier got into his former, beautiful rooms and splendid clothes again. Everyone spoke with him again.
One day he thought to himself: "No one can get to see the princess, but still they all say she is very pretty. That seems strange enough. Maybe I can see her? Where is my tinder-box?" he said and struck a spark. The dog with eyes as large as saucers came to him at once.
"It is the middle of the night," said the soldier; "but I should very much like to see the princess for a moment."
The dog rushed out of the door, and before the soldier could look round, in he came with the princess. She was lying asleep on the dog's back, and was so beautiful that he could not refrain from kissing her once or twice. Then the dog ran back with the princess.
When it was morning and the king and queen were drinking tea, the princess said that the night before she had had such a strange dream about a dog and a soldier: she had ridden on the dog's back, and the soldier had kissed her.
"That is certainly a fine story," said the queen. But next night one of the ladies-in-waiting was to watch at the princess's bed, in case something like that actually happened.
The soldier longed to see the princess again, so the dog came in the middle of the night and fetched her, running as fast as he could. But the lady-in-waiting slipped on indiarubber shoes and followed them. When she saw them disappear into a large house, she thought to herself: "Now I know where it is; "and made a great cross on the door with a piece of chalk. Then she went home and lay down, and the dog came back with the princess. But when he saw that a cross had been made on the door of the house where the soldier lived, he took a piece of chalk and made crosses on all the doors in town. How smart it was was seen early next morning, when the king, queen, ladies-in-waiting, and officers came out to see where the princess had been.
"There it is!" said the king, when he saw the first door with a cross on it.
"No, there it is, my dear!" said the queen, when she likewise saw a door with a cross.
"But here is one, and there is another!" they all exclaimed; wherever they looked there was a cross on the door. Then they realised that the sign would not help at all.
But the queen could do a great deal more than give up. Later that day she took her scissors, cut up a piece of silk, and made a little bag that she filled with buckwheat grains. She tied the bag round the princess' neck and cut a little hole in the bag. Now the grains would fall on the road wherever the princess went.
In the night the dog came again, took the princess on his back and ran away with her to the soldier. He had fallen so in love with her by now that he wished he could have her for his wife.
The dog did not notice how the grains were strewn right from the castle to the soldier's window, where he ran up the wall with the princess. Thus, next morning the king and the queen saw plainly where their daughter had been and took the soldier and put him into prison.
There he sat. How dark and dull it was. And they told him: "Tomorrow you will be hanged." Hearing that did not exactly cheer him, and he had left his tinder-box in the inn.
Next morning he could see through the iron grating in front of his little window how the people were hurrying out of town to see his hanging. He heard drums and saw soldiers marching. People were running to and fro. Just below his window was a shoemaker's apprentice with leather apron and shoes; he was skipping along so merrily that one of his shoes flew off and fell against the wall, just where the soldier was sitting peeping through the iron grating.
"Oh, shoemaker's boy, you needn't be in such a hurry!" said the soldier to him. "There's nothing going on till I arrive. But if you will run back to the house where I lived, and fetch me my tinder-box, I will give you four shillings. But you must run as fast as you can."
The shoemaker's boy was eager to earn four shillings. He fetched the tinder-box, gave it to the soldier, and – yes –
Outside the town a great scaffold had been erected, and all round were soldiers arrayed, and thousands of people. The king and queen were sitting on a throne opposite the judges and the whole council.
The soldier was already standing on the top of the ladder; but when they wanted to put the rope round his neck, he said he had a last wish, and expected it to be granted, as was the custom. He would so much like to smoke his last pipe in this world.
The king could not refuse him this, and so the soldier took out his tinder-box, and rubbed it once, twice, three times. And at once all three dogs stood there with their big eyes.
"Help me so that I may not be hanged!" said the soldier to them. The dogs fell on the judges and the whole council and were ferocious to them.
"I won't stand this!" said the king; but the largest dog seized him too, and the queen as well.
This frightened the soldiers, but all the people cried: "Soldier, you may marry the pretty princess!" Then they put the soldier into the king's coach, and the three dogs barked something like "Hurrah!" as the soldier was taken to the copper castle. The princess came out and became his queen, very much so.
The wedding festivities lasted for eight days, and the dogs sat at table and made eyes at everyone.
FAR AWAY in the country lay an old manor house where lived an old squire who had two sons. They thought themselves so clever, that if they had known only half of what they did know, it would have been quite enough. They both wanted to marry the king's daughter, for she had proclaimed that she would have for her husband the man who knew best how to choose his words.
Both prepared for the wooing a whole week, which was the longest time allowed them; but, after all, it was quite long enough, for they both had preparatory knowledge, and everyone knows how useful that is. One knew the whole Latin dictionary and also three years' issue of the daily paper of the town off by heart, so that he could repeat it all backwards or forwards as you pleased. The other had worked at the laws of corporation, and knew by heart what every member of the corporation ought to know, so that he thought he could quite well speak on State matters and give his opinion. He understood, besides this, how to embroider braces with roses and other flowers, and scrolls, for he was very ready with his fingers.
"I shall win the king's daughter!" they both cried.
Their old father gave each of them a fine horse; the one who knew the dictionary and the daily paper by heart had a black horse, while the other who was so clever at corporation law had a milk- white one. Then they oiled the corners of their mouths so that they might be able to speak more fluently. All the servants stood in the courtyard and saw them mount their steeds, and here by chance came the third brother; for the squire had three sons, but nobody counted him with his brothers, for he was not so learned as they were, and he was generally called "Blockhead-Hans."
"Oh, oh!" said Blockhead-Hans. "Where are you off to? You are in your Sunday-best clothes!"
"We are going to court, to woo the princess! Don't you know what is known throughout all the country side?" And they told him all about it.
"Hurrah! I'll go to!" cried Blockhead-Hans; and the brothers laughed at him and rode off.
"Dear father!" cried Blockhead-Hans, "I must have a horse too. What a desire for marriage has seized me! If she will have me, she will have me, and if she won't have me, I will have her."
"Stop that nonsense!" said the old man. "I will not give you a horse. You can't speak; you don't know how to choose your words. Your brothers! Ah! they are very different lads!"
"Well," said Blockhead-Hans, "if I can't have a horse, I will take the goat which is mine; he can carry me!"
And he did so. He sat astride on the goat, struck his heels into its side, and went rattling down the high road like a hurricane.
"Hoppetty hop! what a ride!" Here I come!" shouted Blockhead- Hans, singing so that the echoes were roused far and near. But his brothers were riding slowly in front. They were not speaking, but they were thinking over all the good things they were going to say, for everything had to be thought out.
"Hullo!" bawled Blockhead-Hans, "here I am! Just look what I found on the road!" – and he showed them a dead crow which he had picked up.
"Blockhead!" said his brothers, "what are you going to do with it?"
"With the crow? I shall give it to the princess!"
"Do so, certainly!" they said, laughing loudly and riding on.
"Slap! bang! here I am again! Look what I have just found! You don't find such things every day on the road!" And the brothers turned round to see what in the world he could have found.
"Blockhead!" said they, 'that is an old wooden shoe without the top! Are you going to send that, too, to the princess?"
"Of course I shall!" returned Blockhead-Hans; and the brothers laughed and rode on a good way.
"Slap! bang! here I am!" cried Blockhead-Hans; "better and better – it is really famous!"
"What have you found now?" asked the brothers.
"Oh," said Blockhead-Hans, "it is really too good! How pleased the princess will be!"
"Why!" said the brothers, 'this is pure mud, straight from the ditch."
"Of course it is!" said Blockhead-Hans, "and it is the best kind! Look how it runs through one's fingers!" and, so saying, he filled his pocket with the mud.
But the brothers rode on so fast that dust and sparks flew all around, and they reached the gate of the town a good hour before Blockhead-Hans. Here came the suitors numbered according to their arrival, and they were ranged in rows, six in each row, and they were so tightly packed that they could not move their arms. This was a very good thing, for otherwise they would have torn each other in pieces, merely because the one was in front of the other.
All the country people were standing round the king's throne, and were crowded together in thick masses almost out of the windows to see the princess receive the suitors; and as each one came into the room all his fine phrases went out like a candle!
"It doesn't matter!" said the princess. "Away! out with him!"
At last she came to the row in which the brother who knew the dictionary by heart was, but he did not know it any longer; he had quite forgotten it in the rank and file. And the floor creaked, and the ceiling was all made of glass mirrors, so that he saw himself standing on his head, and by each window were standing three reporters and an editor; and each of them was writing down what was said, to publish it in the paper that came out and was sold at the street corners for a penny. It was fearful, and they had made up the fire so hot that it was grilling.
"It is hot in here, isn't it!" said the suitor.
"Of course it is! My father is roasting young chickens to-day!" said the princess.
"Ahem!" There he stood like an idiot. He was not prepared for such a speech; he did not know what to say, although he wanted to say something witty. "Ahem!"
"It doesn't matter!" said the princess. "Take him out!" and out he had to go.
Now the other brother entered.
"How hot it is!" he said.
"Of course! We are roasting young chickens to-day!" remarked the princess.
"How do you – um!" he said, and the reporters wrote down. "How do you – um."
"It doesn't matter!" said the princess. "Take him out!"
Now Blockhead-Hans came in; he rode his goat right into the hall.
"I say! How roasting hot it is here!" said he.
"Of course! I am roasting young chickens to-day!" said the princess.
"That's good!" replied Blockhead-Hans; 'then can I roast a crow with them?"
"With the greatest of pleasure!" said the princess; "but have you anything you can roast them in? for I have neither pot nor saucepan."
"Oh, rather!" said Blockhead-Hans. "Here is a cooking implement with tin rings," and he drew out the old wooden shoe, and laid the crow in it.
"That is quite a meal!" said the princess; "but where shall we get the soup from?"
"I've got that in my pocket!" said Blockhead-Hans. "I have so much that I can quite well throw some away!" and he poured some mud out of his pocket.
"I like you!" said the princess. "You can answer, and you can speak, and I will marry you; but do you know that every word which we are saying and have said has been taken down and will be in the paper to-morrow? By each window do you see there are standing three reporters and an old editor, and this old editor is the worst, for he doesn't understand anything!" but she only said this to tease Blockhead-Hans. And the reporters giggled, and each dropped a blot of ink on the floor.
"Ah! are those the great people?" said Blockhead-Hans. "Then I will give the editor the best!" So saying, he turned his pockets inside out, and threw the mud right in his face.
"That was neatly done!" said the princess. "I couldn't have done it; but I will soon learn how to!"
Blockhead-Hans became king, got a wife and a crown, and sat on the throne; and this we have still damp from the newspaper of the editor and the reporters – and they are not to be believed for a moment.