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The Golden Pears

There was once a poor farmer in Bürs. He had nothing but three sons and a pear-tree that grew in front of his cottage. But these pears were very fine and the king delighted in them. So one day the farmer said to his sons that he would send a basket of them to the king for a present.

So he plaited a nice basket and lined it with fresh leaves, laid the pears on them and sent his eldest son with it to offer them to the king. The boy was not to take any pears himself, and was told to take care and not let anyone rob him of them on the way either.

The boy answered: "I know how to take care of what I have."

He covered the top of the basket with fresh leaves and went to take the pears to the king.

It was autumn and the sun struck hot all through the midday hours. When he at last came to a wayside fountain, he sat down to drink and rest.

A little doubled-up old woman was washing some rags at the same fountain and singing a ditty all out of tune.

"A fair day, my lad!" said the little old wife; "but you have to carry a heavy burden. What are you carrying?"

"A load of sweepings off the road," answered the boy.

"Road-sweepings?" repeated the woman. "Well, if you mean it, no doubt it is so," and she went on washing and singing her ditty that was all out of tune.

The boy went on to the king's castle, and the king welcomed him at once, saying:

"You have brought me some of your father's pears, my boy?" said the king and licked his lips.

"Yes, sir."

The king was delighted to hear this, but under the leaves was nothing but sweepings off the road! They put him in jail for the offence.

The first and second day in jail the boy blamed the old wife, but as he thought more closely, he saw he had brought it on himself by lying to her.

As the boy did not return at any reasonable time, the father said to his other sons a year later: "Your elder brother has perhaps pleased the king so much that he has got a great office near him and has become a rich man."

The second brother said: "May I give the king a baske of pers too? If the king makes me rich, I will send for you and make you rich too."

"Well said, son," answered the father; "for I have worked hard for you all my life and it is fit that in my old age you should share your wealth with me."

As the season for pears had just come round again, the second son plaited another basket, lined it with fresh leaves and laid several golden pears in it.

He carried with him the basket and walked a long way. But the sun was as hot as it had been last year. When he came to the fountain by the wayside on the third day, he was glad to sit down to rest and refresh himself.

The doubled-up old woman was there. She stood washing her rags at the fountain and singing her ditty all out of tune. She stopped to talk with him:

"I see you carry a heavy burden. What are you carrying?"

"A load of sweepings off the road," answered the boy, for he and his elder brother had come up with that answer together last year.

"Road-sweepings?" repeated the woman. "Well, if you mean it, no doubt it is so."

She went on washing and singing her ditty that was all out of tune.

The boy went on to the king's castle. When he brought his basket to the king it was filled with street-sweepings and not his father's pears. The king's guard hurried him off to jail for offending the king like that, and put him in the next cell to his brother.

Another year passed. The father got very uneasy. The third son was thought to be a dull boy and had often been laughed at by the others for it.

"If I dared trust you, I would gladly send you to see what has happened to your brothers," said his father.

The youngest son said he would go and see if he could find his brothers all the same.

"Do you really think you can keep yourself out of harm's way?" said his father. "Well, I will not let you go empty-handed." The pears were just ripe again, so he laid the choicest of the year's stock in another basket and sent him on his way.

The boy walked along. All went smoothly, except that he got rather scorched by the sun. So when he reached the fountain by the wayside, he was glad to sit down to rest and refresh himself.

The old wife was washing her rags in the water and singing a ditty all out of tune as she patted the linen. "Here comes a third boy with a basket of pears - as if I didn't know the scent of ripe golden pears from road-sweepings!"

"Good morning, little mother!" said the boy, in his countryman way, before he sat down.

"He is better mannered than the other two," thought the wife as she stopped singing to return his greeting.

"And what are you carrying, my boy?" she went on. "It ought to be a precious burden to be worth carrying so far as you seem to have come. What is in your basket?"

"I carry golden pears and my father often says there are no finer grown in the whole kingdom. I am taking them to the king because he is very fond of them."

"Only ripe pears and yet so heavy?" wondered the old wife.

The boy assured her they were nothing but pears and went on his journey after the rest.

When the servants saw another peasant boy from Bürs come to the palace with the story that he had pears for the king, they said, "No, no! We have had enough of that! Go back!"

But the boy was so disappointed at the idea of not doing as his father had asked him to, that he sank down on the door-step and sobbed bitterly. There he remained sobbing till the king came out.

The king had his daughter with him. When she saw the boy sobbing, she asked what was the matter, and learnt it was another boy from Bürs who had come to insult the king with a basket of road-sweepings. The guards asked if they should take him off to prison at once.

The boy sobbed: "My father says there are no finer pears in the whole kingdom."

"Yes, yes, that is exactly what the others said!" answered the servants, and would drag him away.

"But won't you look at my pears first, lady? I have brought them all this way for the king. My father will be so sad if I do not give them to him!"

He seemed so earnest that the princess wanted to see what was in his basket. She removed the covering of leaves and discovered that what he had brought were golden pears - each was of solid shining metal!

She decided to show them to her father.

The king was pleased to see his favourite fruit in gold, and said to the boy:

"Whatever you ask shall be given."

"All I want is to find my two brothers, who may hold some great office at court," said the boy.

"Your brothers are in jail if they are the ones I suspect," said the king and commanded that they should be brought. The boys at once ran to embrace each other; and the king made them each recount all their adventures.

"You see how dangerous it is to depart from the truth!" the king said to the two eldest when they had done. "You might have remained in prison to the end of your days but for your straightforward brother that you thought was less than yourselves."

Then he ordered that the tree that brought forth golden, but eatable pears should be transplanted to his palace, and made the father and his three sons places among his gardeners. And so they lived in plenty and were well content.


The Most Delicate One

The parents of a prince wanted him to marry. But he said: "I'll only marry a woman that I can honestly say is the most delicate and refined woman in the world."

His parents answered: "Go and find her!"

He went along and came to one who had bandaged her head and looked very ill.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked.

"Oh," she said, "this morning when the maid was combing my hair, a hair fell out. That's why I'm in such great pain."

But the prince thought to himself: "Maybe she's not the right one. I will keep looking."

He went on his way and found another. She had her whole body wrapped in the finest linen and looked very sad.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked.

"Oh," she said, "Last night there was a little fold in my bed linen. That's why I am ill."

But the prince thought, "Somehow I don't think she's the one either. There may still be a more delicate one for me."

He went further and came to a third. She was sitting in an easy chair, her foot bandaged. She wept bright tears and puckered her beautiful little face in pain. It was a pity to behold.

"What's the matter with you?" asked the prince.

"Oh," she moaned, "Early this morning when I walked in the garden, there came a breeze, and a little jasmine petal fell on my foot."

The prince thought a little and said, "You're the right one! I cannot get a more delicate woman than you!" And he married her.

Had he done well? Unfortunately, the story teller does not know, for she has run out of yarn.

[South Tyrol. From Schneller 1867]


The Mouth-Cure

Many years ago there lived a king who had a very big mouth. This affliction had been sent on him by a witch, because he had not fulfilled a wish of hers. The king was ever in growing vexation about his mouth, and resolved to give his daughter in marriage to the man who would cure him.

In a village not far from the palace there lived a peasant couple who had a son named Sepple. When he was eighteen years old he had to go from home to seek his fortune. Provided with bread and meat he wandered forth next morning and came after a long journey into a great forest. When he got weary, he sat down in the shadow of a great tree and took out his provisions. It was evening, so he offered up a prayer at a chapel standing near the tree, and fell asleep.

Towards midnight he heard a loud crash. Awaking, he saw two white spirits standing by the chapel. One of them said to the other: "It is now a year and a day since I, because of an unfulfilled wish, caused the mouth of the king of the kingdom near here to grow so. But he can be cured. Two hours' distance from here is a small lake. In the lake is a fish with five eyes or more. He who eats that fish raw, is at once free from his misfortunes, whatever they be."

After some more talk like this, the ghosts vanished with a noice of shotguns.

Sepple at once sprang up, and was eager to try his fortune. At the end of the forest he found the lake. In it he saw a fish with five eyes swimming around. Fishing it was not easily done, for Sepple lacked tools and had to make them as best he could. But at last he got the fish, and at once took it to the king with the broad mouth just as the king was eating.

Quickly Sepple went up to him and told he had a cure for the king's malady. He showed the rare fish to the king, and added, "Now I will ask for your daughter to marry, for I think the fish will entirely cure you of your unfortunate mouth if you follow my instructions."

The king gave his word, "It is a deal," he said, "for everything else has been hopeless."

Sepple placed the fish in the king's mouth, and when he had gulped it down, his mouth got its natural size. The king kept his word, and after some days a fine wedding was celebrated.




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