Once on a time there was a poor couple, and they had nothing in the world but three sons. What the names the two elder had I can't say, but the youngest he was called Peter. So when their father and mother died, the sons were to share what was left, but there was nothing but a porridge-pot, a griddle, and a cat.
The eldest, who was to have first choice, he took the pot; "for," said he, "whenever I lend the pot to any one to boil porridge, I can always get leave to scrape it."
The second took the griddle; "for," said he, "whenever I lend it to any one, I'll always get a morsel of dough to make a bannock."
But the youngest, he had no choice left him; if he was to choose anything it must be the cat.
"Well," said he, "if I lend the cat to any one I shan't get much by that; for if pussy gets a drop of milk, she'll want it all herself. Still, I'd best take her along with me; I shouldn't like her to go about here and starve."
So the brothers went out into the world to try their luck, and each took his own way; but when the youngest had gone a while, the cat said:
"Now you shall have a good turn, because you wouldn't let me stay behind in the old cottage and starve. Now, I'm off to the wood to lay hold of a fine fat head of game, and then you must go up to the king's palace that you see yonder, and say you are come with a little present for the king; and when he asks who sends it, you must say, 'Why, who should it be from but Lord Peter?'"
Well, Peter hadn't waited long before back came the cat with a reindeer from the wood; she had jumped up on the reindeer's head, between his horns, and said, "If you don't go straight to the king's palace I'll claw your eyes out."
So the reindeer had to go whether he liked it or no.
And when Peter got to the palace he went into the kitchen with the deer, and said, "Here I'm come with a little present for the king, if he won't despise it."
Then the king went out into the kitchen, and when he saw the fine plump reindeer, he was very glad.
"But, my dear friend," he said, "who in the world is it that sends me such a fine gift?"
"Oh!" said Peter, "who should send it but Lord Peter?"
"Lord Peter! Lord Peter!" said the king. "Pray tell me where he lives;" for he thought it a shame not to know so great a man. But that was just what the lad wouldn't tell him; he daren't do it, he said, because his master had forbidden him.
So the king gave him a good bit of money to drink his health, and bade him be sure and say all kind of pretty things, and many thanks for the present to his master when he got home.
Next day the cat went again into the wood, and jumped up on a red deer's head, and sat between his horns, and forced him to go to the palace. Then Peter went again into the kitchen, and said he was come with a little present for the king, if he would be pleased to take it. And the king was still more glad to get the red deer than he had been to get the reindeer, and asked again who it was that sent so fine a present.
"Why, it's Lord Peter, of course," said the lad; but when the king wanted to know where Lord Peter lived, he got the same answer as the day before; and this day, too, he gave Peter a good lump of money to drink his health with.
The third day the cat came with an elk. And so when Peter got into the palace-kitchen, and said he had a little present for the king, if he'd be pleased to take it, the king came out at once into the kitchen; and when he saw the grand big elk, he was so glad he scarce knew which leg to stand on; and this day, too, he gave Peter many many more dollars – at least a hundred. He wished now, once for all, to know where this Lord Peter lived, and asked and asked about this thing and that, but the lad said he daren't say, for his master's sake, who had strictly forbidden him to tell.
"Well, then," said the king, "beg Lord Peter to come and see me."
Yes, the lad would take that message; but when Peter got out into the yard again, and met the cat, he said:
"A pretty scrape you've got me into now, for here's the king, who wants me to come and see him, and you know I've nothing to go in but these rags I stand and walk in."
"Oh, don't be afraid about that," said the cat; "in three days you shall have coach and horses, and fine clothes, so fine that the gold falls from them, and then you may go and see the king very well. But mind, whatever you see in the king's palace, you must say you have far finer and grander things of your own. Don't forget that."
No, no, Peter would bear that in mind, never fear.
So when three days were over, the cat came with a coach and horses, and clothes, and all that Peter wanted, and altogether it was as grand as anything you ever set eyes on; so off he set, and the cat ran alongside the coach. The king met him well and graciously; but whatever the king offered him, and whatever he showed him, Peter said, it was all very well, but he had far finer and better things in his own house. The king seemed not quite to believe this, but Peter stuck to what he said, and at last the king got so angry, he couldn't bear it any longer.
"Now I'll go home with you," he said, "and see if it be true what you've been telling me, that you have far finer and better things of your own. But if you've been telling a pack of lies, Heaven help you, that's all I say."
"Now, you've got me into a fine scrape," said Peter to the cat, "for here's the king coming home with me; but my home, that's not so easy to find, I think."
"Oh, never mind," said the cat; "only do you drive after me as I run before."
So off they set; first Peter, who drove after his cat, and then the king and all his court.
But when they had driven a good bit, they came to a great flock of fine sheep that had wool so long it almost touched the ground.
"If you'll only say," said the cat to the shepherd, "this flock of sheep belongs to Lord Peter, when the king asks you, I'll give you this silver spoon," which she had taken with her from the king's palace.
Yes, he was willing enough to do that. So when the king came up, he said to the lad who watched the sheep:
"Well, I never saw so large and fine a flock of sheep in my life! Whose is it, my little lad?"
"Why," said the lad, "whose should it be but Lord Peter's?"
A little while after they came to a great, great herd of fine brindled kine that were all so sleek the sun shone from them.
"If you'll only say," said the cat to the neat-herd, "this herd is Lord Peter's, when the king asks you, I'll give you this silver ladle;" and the ladle too she had taken from the king's palace.
"Yes, with all my heart," said the neat-herd.
So when the king came up, he was quite amazed at the fine fat herd, for such a herd he had never seen before, and so he asked the neat-herd who owned those brindled kine.
"Why, who should own them but Lord Peter?" said the neat-herd.
So they went on a little farther, and came to a great, great drove of horses, the finest you ever saw, six of each colour, bay, and black, and brown, and chestnut.
"If you'll only say this drove of horses is Lord Peter's when the king asks you," said the cat, "I'll give you this silver stoop;" and the stoop too she had taken from the palace.
Yes, the lad was willing enough; and so when the king came up, he was quite amazed at the grand drove of horses, for the matches of such horses he had never yet set eyes on, he said.
So he asked the lad who watched them, whose all these blacks, and bays, and browns, and chestnuts were.
"Whose should they be," said the lad, "but Lord Peter's?"
So when they had gone a good bit farther, they came to a castle; first there was a gate of tin, and next a gate of silver, and next a gate of gold. The castle itself was of silver, and so dazzling white, that it quite hurt one's eyes to look at in the sunbeams that fell on it just as they reached it.
So they went into it, and the cat told Peter to say this was his house. As for the castle inside, it was far finer than it looked outside, for everything was pure gold – chairs, and tables, and benches, and all. And when the king had gone all over it, and seen everything high and low, he got quite shameful and downcast.
"Yes," he said at last; "Lord Peter has everything far finer than I have, there's no gainsaying that," and so he wanted to be off home again.
But Peter begged him to stay to supper, and the king stayed, but he was sour and surly the whole time.
So as they sat at supper, back came the troll who owned the castle, and gave such a great knock at the door.
"WHO'S THIS EATING MY MEAT AND DRINKING MY MEAD LIKE SWINE IN HERE?" roared out the troll.
As soon as the cat heard that, she ran down to the gate.
"Stop a bit," she said, "and I'll tell you how the farmer sets to work to get in his winter rye."
And so she told him such a long story about the winter rye.
"First of all, you see, he ploughs his field, and then he dungs it, and then he ploughs it again, and then he harrows it;" and so she went on till the sun rose.
"Oh, do look behind you, and there you'll see such a lovely lady," said the cat to the troll.
So the troll turned round, and, of course, as soon as he saw the sun he burst.
"Now all this is mine," said the cat to Lord Peter. "And what is mine is yours - you can have it. Now, you must cut off my head; that's all I ask for what I have done for you."
"Nay, nay," said Lord Peter, "I'll never do any such thing, that's flat."
"If you don't," said the cat, "see if I don't claw your eyes out."
Well, so Lord Peter had to do it, though it was sore against his will. He cut off the cat's head, but there and then she became the loveliest princess you ever set eyes on, and Lord Peter fell in love with her at once.
"Yes, all this greatness was mine first," said the princess, but a troll bewitched me to be a cat in your father's and mother's cottage. Now you may do as you please, whether you take me as your queen or not, for you are now king over all this realm."
Well, well, there was little doubt Lord Peter would be willing enough to have her as his queen, and so there was a wedding that lasted eight whole days, and a feast besides, and after it was over I stayed no longer with Lord Peter and his lovely queen, and so I can't say anything more about them.
Once on a time there was a widower, who had a house keeper named Grizzel, who set her mutch at him, and teazed him early and late to marry her. At last the man got so weary of her he was at his wit's end to know how to get rid of her.
So it fell on a day, between hay time and harvest, the two went out to pull hemp. Grizzel's head was full of her good looks and her handiness, and she worked away at the hemp till she grew giddy from the strong smell of the ripe seed, and at last down she fell flat, fast asleep among the hemp. While she slept, her master got a pair of scissors and cut her skirts short all round, and then he rubbed her all over, face and all, first with tallow and then with soot, till she looked worse than the Devil himself. So, when Grizzel woke and saw how ugly she was, she didn't know herself.
"Can this be me, now?" said Grizzel, "Nay, nay! It can never be me. So ugly have I never been; it's surely the Devil himself?"
Well, that she might really know the truth, she went off and knocked at her master's door, and asked:
"Is your Girzie at home the day, father?"
"Ay, ay, our Girzie is at home safe enough," said the man, who wanted to be rid of her.
"Well, well!" she said to herself, "then I can't be his Grizzel," and stole away; and right glad the man was, I can tell you.
So, when she had walked a bit she came to a great wood, where she met two thieves. "The very men for my money," thought Grizzel, "since I am the Devil, thieves are just fit fellows for me."
But the thieves were not of the same mind, not they. As soon as they set eyes on her they took to their heels as fast as they could, for they thought the Devil was come to catch them. But it was no good, for Grizzel was long-legged and swift-footed, and she came up with them before they knew where they were.
"If you're going out to steal, I'll go with you and help," said Grizzel, "for I know the whole country round." So, when the thieves heard that, they thought they had found a good mate, and were no longer afraid.
Then they said they were off to steal a sheep, only they didn't know where to lay hold of one.
"Oh!" said Grizzel, "that's a small matter, for I was maid with a farmer ever so long out in the wood yonder, and I could find the sheepfold though the night were dark as pitch."
The thieves thought that grand; and when they came to the place, Grizzel was to go into the fold and turn out the sheep, and they were to lay hold on it. Now, the sheepfold lay close to the wall of the room where the farmer slept, so Grizzel crept quite softly and carefully into the fold; but as soon as she got in she began to scream out to the thieves.
"Will you have a wether or a ewe? Here are lots to choose from."
"Hush, hush!" said the thieves, "only take one that is fine and fat."
"Yes, yes! But will you have a wether or a ewe? Will you have a wether or a ewe? For here are lots to choose from," screeched Grizzel.
"Hush, hush!" said the thieves again, "only take one that's fine and fat; it's all the same to us whether it's a wether or a ewe."
"Yes!" screeched Grizzel, who stuck to her own; "but will you have a wether or a ewe – a wether or a ewe? Here are lots to choose from."
"Hold your jaw!" said the thieves, "and take a fine fat one, wether or ewe, it's all one to us."
But just then out came the farmer in his shirt, who had been waked by all this clatter, and wanted to see what was going on. So the thieves took to their heels, and Grizzel after them, upsetting the farmer in her flight.
"Stop, boys! Stop, boys!" she screamed; but the farmer, who had only seen the black monster, grew so afraid that he could scarce stand, for he thought it was the Devil himself that had been in his sheepfold. The only help he knew was to go indoors and wake up the whole house; and they all sat down to read and pray, for he had heard that was the way to send the Devil about his business.
Now the next night the thieves said they must go and steal a fat goose, and Grizzel was to show them the way. So when they came to the goosepen, Grizzel was to go in and turn one out, for she knew the ways of the place, and the thieves were to stand outside and catch it. But as soon as ever she got in she began to scream:
"Will you have goose or gander? You may pick and choose here."
"Hush, hush! Choose only a fine fat one," said the thieves.
"Yes, yes! But will you have goose or gander – goose or gander? You may pick and choose," screamed Grizzel.
"Hush, hush! Only choose one that's fine and fat, and it's all one to us whether it's goose or gander; but do hold your jaw," said they.
But while Grizzel and the thieves were settling this, one of the geese began to cackle, and then another cackled, and then the whole flock cackled and hissed, and out came the farmer to see what all the noise could mean, and away went the thieves, and Grizzel after them at full speed, and the farmer thought again it was the black Deil flying away; for long-legged she was, and she had no skirts to hamper her.
"Stop a bit, boys!" she kept on screaming, "You might as well have said whether you would have goose or gander."
But they had no time to stop, they thought; and, as for the farmer, he began to read and pray with his entire house, small and great, for they thought it was the Devil, and no mistake.
Now, the third day, when night came, the thieves and Grizzel were so hungry they did not know what to do; so they made up their minds to go to the larder of a rich farmer who lived by the wood's side, and steal some food. Well, off they went, but the thieves did not dare to venture themselves, so Grizzel was to go up the steps which led to the larder, and hand the food out, and the others were to stand below and take it from her. So when Grizzel got inside she saw the larder was full of all sorts of things, fresh meat and salt, and sausages and oatcake. The thieves begged her to be still, and just throw out something to eat, and to bear in mind how badly they had fared for two nights. But Grizzel stuck to her own, that she did.
"Will you have fresh meat or salt, or sausages, or oatcake? Just look, what lovely oat-cake," she bawled out enough to split your head. "You may have what you please, for here's plenty to choose from."
But the farmer woke with all this noise, and ran out to see what it all meant. As for the thieves, off they ran as fast as they could; but while the farmer was looking after them down came Grizzel so black and ugly.
"Stop a bit! Stop a bit, boys!" she bellowed; "you may have what you please, for there's plenty to choose from."
And when the farmer saw that ugly monster he too thought the Devil was loose, for he had heard what had happened to his neighbours the evenings before; so he began both to read and pray, and every one in the whole parish began to read and pray, for they knew that you could read the Devil away.
The next evening was Saturday evening, and the thieves wanted to steal a fat ram for their Sunday dinner; and well they might, for they had fasted many days, but they wouldn't have Grizzel with them at any price. She brought bad luck with her jaw, they said; so while Grizzel was walking about waiting for them on Sunday morning, she got so awfully hungry – for she had fasted for three days – that she went into a turnip field and pulled up some turnips to eat. But when the farmer who owned the turnips rose, he felt uneasy in his mind, and thought he would just go and take a look at his turnips on the Sunday morning. So he pulled on his trousers and went across the moss that lay under the hill, where the turnip-field lay. But when he got to the bottom of the field he saw something black walking about in the field and pulling up his turnips, and he soon made up his mind that it was the Devil. So away he ran home as fast as he could, and said the Devil was among the turnips. This frightened the whole house out of their wits, and they agreed they'd best send for the priest, and get him to bind the Devil.
"That won't do," said the goodwife; "this is Sunday morning, you'll never get the priest to come; for either he'll be in bed, or, if he's up, he'll be learning his sermon by heart."
"Oh," said the goodman, "never fear; I'll promise him a fat loin of veal, and then he'll come fast enough."
So off he went to the priest's house; but when he got there sure enough the priest was still in bed. The maid begged the farmer to walk into the parlour while she ran up to the priest, and said:
"Farmer So-and-So is downstairs, and wishes to have a word with you."
Well, when the priest heard that such a worthy man was downstairs, he got up at once, and came down just as he was, in his slippers and night-cap.
So the goodman told his errand; how the Devil was loose in his turnip-field; and if the priest would only come and bind him, he would send him a fat loin of veal. Yes; the priest was willing enough, and called out to his groom to saddle his horse, while he dressed himself.
"Nay, nay, father!" said the man; "The Devil won't wait for us long, and no one knows where we shall find him again if we miss him now. Your reverence must come, at once, just as you are."
So the priest followed him just as he was, with the clothes he stood in, and went off in his nightcap and slippers. But when they got to the moss it was so moist, the priest couldn't cross it in his slippers. So the goodman took him on his back to carry him over. On they went, the goodman picking his way from one clump to the other, till they got to the middle; then Grizzel caught sight of them, and thought it was the thieves bringing the ram.
"Is he fat?" she screamed; "Is he fat?" and made such a noise that the wood rang again.
"The Devil knows if he's fat or lean; I'm sure I don't," said the goodman, when he heard that; "but, if you want to know, you had better come yourself and see."
And then he got so afraid he threw the priest head over heels into the soft wet moss, and took to his legs; and if the priest hasn't got out, why I daresay he's lying there still.