There was once a poor peasant, named Taland. He lived in a poor cottage in the Walserthal in Vorarlberg. He got on better in the long run than many a wiser man; by plodding along steadily and living frugally, Taland in time laid by enough money to buy a cow, even though he did not have any glassland where it could feed. The cow was quick to discover the good pastures of Taland's neighbours, though. Where the grass was fresh and sweet, there she wandered. By that token Taland could easily find her at milking time.
But the neighbours did not like that Taland's cow fed on their pastures. They complained to him in vain, and therefore decided to kill the cow. So that that none might have to bear the blame of killing her more than the others, everyone of them stuck his knife into her. In this way Taland lost his cow, and even the cow's hide was marred with holes and rendered useless by it.
Nevertheless, Taland skinned his cow and plodded away with the hide to the nearest tanner. The tanner was not at home, but his wife was able to decide without him, and sent Taland away with a laugh, telling him remember she dealt in hides and not in sieves.
Taland, however, had come a long way and had no money to buy food, so he begged for a little to eat. The good wife could not refuse and spread a table before him with good cheer, and then went on about her business.
Taland sat down to his meal. When he ate he saw the tanner's little son playfully hide himself in an old corn-bin that stood near the door when his mother's back was turned. Taland went on eating and drinking and watching the corn-bin. As he did not come out, Taland supposed he had fallen asleep there.
After he had finished his meal and headed for the door, he mentioned in passint to the tanner's wife, "If you have no use for the old corn-bin there - if you give it to me, you will not have sent me away empty-handed."
"You want that old corn-bin?" cried the tanner's wife and laughed heartily again.
The peasant nodded without speaking.
"Then take it!"
Taland thanked her and loaded the chest on his shoulder, but carefully. And carefully he went on to walk along with it till the tan-yard was left far out of sight. Then he stopped short, and, setting the corn-bin down with a little thump, he called out:
"Maybe I should fling the old corn-bin down the precipice!"
"Stop, stop! I'm inside!" cried the child.
But Taland repeated:
"Maybe I should fling the old corn-bin down the precipice!"
"Stop! stop! I tell you; I'm inside it!" repeated the boy in a louder tone.
"Whoever speaks, I should perhaps fling the old corn-bin down the precipice," repeated Taland.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, stop!" screamed the frighted child. "Spare me! Let me out and mother will give you gold!"
"It's a long way,'" answered the peasant. "but I might as well I take you home."
Taland took the boy home and the mother, overjoyed at getting her son back, gave Taland five hundred thalers in gold and sent him away.
Taland went. In his home village he sat himself down to rest at a large, round table in a reatreat in front of the local inn. He spread his heap of gold before him and then counted it slowly, very slowly. The sight very soon attracted all farmers at the inn. They had just gathered for a round of gossip on their way home from work.
"Where did you get such a heap of gold from?" asked a dozen excited voices at once.
"I went to sell my cow-hide," answered Taland almost indifferently.
"What! the cow-hide that was all riddled with holes?"
"That's the one," said Taland, gathered up his gold and walked home.
The farmers he had talked with got the same idea. So next morning when Taland dressed himself in his feast-day clothes to play at dominoes in the inn's garden, he saw how his neighbours slaughtered their cows, skinned them and made many holes in their hides. The inn-keeper saw how he giggled, but thought that it was the gain of five hundred thalers made him do so. Soon the farmers went off to the tan-yard with their riddled cow-hides while Taland sat at the inn's garden, drinking beer and laughing.
When they came back, Taland thought the wisest he could do was to keep out of their sight, for they were angry. He found a corner to hide in, and from there he happened to overhear how that wanted to punish him for misleading them so badly by what they had thought he said:
"Take him when he's asleep; that is the way!" they agreed.
"The sooner the better."
"Tonight, before we go to bed!"
"Another hour without revenge is bad enough; another day could be unbearable!"
"But we must keep quiet till he's well asleep."
"We will meet again at midnight, then."
"All right; we shall all be there!"
"Goodbye, then, till midnight!"
They all went to their homes with resolute steps.
Taland listened to them with beating heart. When they had left he stole stealthily homewards and put a long sack of meal in the window-sill of his sleeping chamber.
At midnight the villagers came and climbed the outside staircase, opened the shutter of his opened, combined window and door there, and exclaimed, "Here's the old idiot across the window-sill!"
"So here goes!" cried all together; and showered their blows on the sack, but they were in the dark.
Towards morning Taland got out of bed, took another meal-sack instead of the perforated one, put some clothes on it and a hat on top, tied it in a chair and bore it along - together with his late wife's old spinning-wheel - a good distance down the high road. There he left it, while he sat behind a bush to see what would happen.
Soon a nobleman came along the road in a fine chariot.
"Hello, good man! Get out of the way!" shouted the nobleman. He he thought the man was silly, spinning in the roadway. But clothed sack did not move for all his shouting.
He called again, thinking the one at the spinning-wheel was perhaps deaf. But still the clothed sack did not move,
The nobleman did not think that the woman would not move in time, so he had not reined in his fiery horses – and now it was too late! The horses and the chariot smashed the spinning-wheel, while the dressed-up sack was shovelled away from the road.
"What have I done?" despaired the nobleman and got down from his chariot as soon as he could stop.
"You have run over and destroy my spinning-wheel and more!" said Taland, coming out from his hiding-place. "The judge might want a word with you."
"I meant no harm," pleaded the nobleman; "I called the one by the spinning-wheel to get out of the way. But what do you say to get my chariot full of gold and the horses and all, to drive home with?"
"If you say you could not help it, I suppose you could not," answered Taland. "I am willing to accept your chariot full of gold and the horses to drive it home."
So the nobleman took him home to his castle and filled up the chariot with gold and put the reins in Taland's hands and sent him home richer and merrier than if the neighbours had never tried to kill him.
When his neighbours saw him riding in a chariot laden with gold, they cried, "It must be his ghost!"
But as he drove nearer, they found it was himself in flesh and blood!
"Where do you come from? Where did you get all that heap of money from?" they asked.
Taland told them a lot of what had happened, and then drove home.
The farmers all went home and put their spinning-wheels with someone sitting beside them, all along the road. It did not work, but Taland was by now rich enough to marry.
The neighbours wanted revenge again. They decided to seize him by night as before; but this time keep him bound till daylight and then bind him in a sack and throw him over the precipice of the HochGerach (1987 m).
Taland did not overhear and provide against the arrangement, so it was carried out to the letter this time. Tied in a sack he was carried along in triumph towards the Hochgerach (1987 m). They had already passed the village of St. Gerold and the fatal gorge made by rushing torrents was nearly reached. Taland was by now too weary to move much in his sack.
The farmers still had to carry him past a cluster of houses. It was near midday and the toil of climbing so far had been great. Not one of the party objected to take a snatch of rest and a sip of beer before the final climb.
While they sat drinking in the shade of the cottage that served as a country inn, Taland was left lying on a grassy bank in the sun. About the same time a goatherd came by. He was driving his flock into Bludenz to be milked. When he saw the strangely shaped sack with something moving inside, he stopped to examine it. Taland called out from inside it:
"I cannot talk a lot while I am stifled in here. Let me out."
The curious goatherd released him from the sack, and Taland said:
"I thought I might try my luck, but I cannot stand more of this!" He looked up anxiously.
"To be carried along doesn't seem so hard to bear," said the goatherd, after some moments before he walked on. Talant hurried and filled the sack with stones and straw and more. He was scarcely done when the men came out and lifted up the sack again, carried it up the Hochgerach and threw it without any words of goodbye. They did not see how the sack dashed from rock to rock, but heard it.
Then had hardly trooped home before they saw Taland seated before his door.
They asked him to explain it, and he said:
"Where shall I begin?" he said. "I found a way that led me home again. Here am I."
"But are you not hurt at all?"
They did and set off, for they had been misled once again by what they thought he had said, and slap! bang! plump! they all went over the side of the Hochgerach (1987 m), going for riches.
"If you see a Swiss banker jump out the window, follow him. There is certain money to be made," is a saying by Voltaire. However, it would not apply well to these villagers, and for many reasons, such as: They were not Swiss, not bankiers, not jumping out of any window, and as for money they might have made, think for yourself.