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The Gooseherds

There was once a farmer who had three sons, Karl, Stefan and Josef. The farmer was very poor, so they often had scarcely enough to eat and grumbled a lot about it. One day he told them that they should go out into the world, one at a time, and see whether they could do better for themselves than he could do for them. The three drew lots which of them should go first, and it fell on the youngest.

Josef was not altogether sorry to see a little of what the world was made of and started on his travel at the break of day next morning. He went begging about the country, but for a long time he could find nothing to make a living by.

At last he came to a splendid mansion on the borders of a large forest. When he asked his usual question, if there was any place for him, the servants took him into the big house; and led him through many rooms, each more beautiful than the other, until they took him into a vast hall. The hall was all panelled with carved wood, with windows of painted glass, and filled with handsome furniture. Reclining in an easy-chair, sat an aged nobleman. He was the owner of the mansion. When Josef asked for work, the nobleman told him he would hire him. He would begin with giving him very easy work, and if he proved faithful in that, he would be promoted.

At first Josef would only have to keep his geese; but there was one condition. The condition was, that if at any time he should hear any music or singing in the forest, he should never listen to it, for if he did, he would lose his job.

Josef said he would not listen to the music. He was then led down to the place where the other servants were gathered for supper. There was a whole crowd of them and plenty of good food and drink, so Josef began to think that he had fallen on to his feet indeed!

After supper, Josef was shown into a tidy little room as big as his father's whole cottage. It the room was a nice little white bed and a suit of clothes ready to put on when he got up.

Though Josef liked good food and a good bed, he was not an idle boy, but rose very early in the morning. After he had got his breakfast from the cook, and a wallet of provisions for the midday meal, he brought out the geese and drove them before him to the meadow skirting the forest.

Josef had never seen so many geese together before and all the morning long he did not tire of looking at them and counting them, observing their ways, and he began to give them all different names.

The morning went by, and it was long past the hour of dinner before Josef found any need to eat. But when he did, he saw he had been given much food.

"I did well to go into the world," he thought as he found a place to rest and eat the good food. "This is easy work, almost a pastime!"

He laughed aloud, but soon the heat, the food, and the easy work made him drowsy, and so he stretched out on the soft grass and fell asleep, snoring.

He did not know how long he had slept when the sound of music woke him up. He raised himself on his elbow and listened. When he had listened a little while, he walked a little way into the forest to hear it better and then a little farther and farther. Finally, he was a long way from flock of geese. Suddenly he got aware of it and remembered that he had promised his master to stay away from the music.

He hasted back to the place where he had left the geese, but he could find only half a dozen of them. He called for the other geese and ran here and there, but it was all in vain.

When it began to get dark, he thought he had better hurry home with the few geese that remained.

When he arrived, a servant was waiting to take him to the master. He seemed to angry that the boy was frightened to come near him.

"You have broken your word and I cannot trust you any more. You have to leave now. p class="i">

The master was rich and generous, and gave Josef a gold pin to remember his good intentions by, and then waved him off.

Josef was allowed to sleep in the mansion that night, but the next morning, he had to leave the place in his old rags. He wanted to go home and show his father and brothers his gold pin and then go in search for work somewhere else.

As he toiled up a steep mountain, a hay-maker came from his pasture-land in the heights and on to the road just in front of Josef. The man was hastening home with a cartload of hay before rain fell. But the oxen could not turn the cart. It was stuck in the edge of the road.

The man called on Josef come to help him lift the wheel, and promised him a bowl of milk in return. Josef set to work with a will and the team was very soon put in motion. He travelled on by the side of the cart and when they reached the man's farm, Josef got a bowl of milk and was refreshed.

As he got near his father's cottage he groped in his pockets to take out the gold pin to have it ready when he got home. But he did not find it. Josef burst into tears, his head low bowed. When he walked into his father's cottage, he came in time for the family meal.

His father could see that Josef did not feel all right, and asked him what had happened to. Josef told all, also how he had lost the gold pin on his way home.

Stefan, the second son said: "Listen, I will go to the same grand house; and will not lose what I get for wages!"

None objected to it, and their father thought it would be well if Stefan had his experience of life too, so he approved the plan.

Stefan set out next morning. By following Josef's directions he soon came to the stately mansion. The noble owner received him as kindly as Josef and sent him out to herd the flock of geese, on the same conditions that Josef. Stefan promised to stay by them and became a geeseherd.

All went well enough at first, as with Josef; but when he head the fairy-like music, he too forgot his promise and followed the sound through the forest. It stopped when the church bells rang the Ave. Running back to the geese, he found only three or four of them.

The master was angry and dismissed him, but would not let him go empty-handed, and gave him a little lamb to take home as a generous fee.

Stefan was pleased enough with his pay, but was somewhat embarrassed when it came to bringing it home. He had told his family that whatever he got he would bring home on his hat. He wanted to be true to his word, so he had to work hard to tie the little lamb so that it lay still around the brim of the hat.

He carried the lamb like that a great part of the way, but when he had to cross a rather rapid stream, a long bough of a tree on the bank lifted his hat from his head. Both hat and lamb fell in and were carried fast away by the torrent.

Stefan came back even more despondent than Josef. When he had told his story, Karl, the eldest brother, said he would try such a job too. He would not stick his prize in his belt or his hat, but carry it by a string. As for the music, he had no fear of being led away by it. He would not be so silly as that, he said.

He started on his way early next morning. The owner of the mansion received him as well as his brothers, offered him the same work and warned him in the same way. Full of confidence, Karl went to his work.

The weather was cool and he had no need to seek the shade of the forest trees. For more than a week he brought all the geese home day after day. But one day it was hotter. In the afternoon, when it was hottest, he sought the shade of the trees and lay down for a while.

He had hardly done so when music sounded.

"The woods must be full of fairies!" he cried, "I must see what kinds of instruments they are using!"

But as he went on, the music always seemed farther off and farther again, till at last the church bells rang the Ave and the music stopped.

Then Karl found he had been led away from his geese and ran all the way back to where he left them. Only two were there. He searched in vain for the lost geese; but had to return to the castle with but two.

He could not escape that the master scolded him would not let him work there any more. Still, the master gave him a fine rich cake to take home as a parting gift.

The cake was round and it was far from easy to secure it by means of a string, but Karl had told his family that he would bring home his reward that way and so it was a point of honour with him to do it. But when he passed by a farm on his way home, a large threatening, watch-dog there scared him. Karl set off to escape the dog, but that only made the dog chase him. It jumped on him and knocked him down, seized his cake and gulped it down before his eyes!

Karl had to go home as empty-handed as his brothers and as full of tears. However, his father comforted him and reminded Karl's brothers that all had failed equally; so they all joined in a good-humoured laugh.

The father then asked them if any of them wished to go out into the world and seek his fortune again; but all the brothers agreed that nothing splendid might be gained that way, and that there is no place like home.

They stopped grumbling all the time, strove better on their farmland, and soon were known as the happiest family in their valley. It sometimes happen.

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When misery comes home it [can be] very difficult to drive it away. (Proverb from Trentino)



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