Trading Away One's Fortune

folktales of type 1415
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999


  1. Hans in Luck (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  2. The Story of Mr. Vinegar (England, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps).

  3. Gudbrand on the Hillside (Norway, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe).

  4. What the Old Man Does Is Always Right (Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's index of folklore and mythology electronic texts.

Hans in Luck

Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Hans had served his master for seven years, so he said to him, "Master, my time is up, now I would like to go back home to my mother. Give me my wages."

The master answered, "You have served me faithfully and honestly. As the service was, so shall the reward be." And he gave Hans a piece of gold as big as his head. Hans pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket, wrapped up the lump in it, put it on his shoulder, and set out on the way home. As he went on, always putting one leg before the other, he saw a horseman trotting quickly and merrily by on a lively horse.

"Ah," said Hans quite loud, "what a fine thing it is to ride. There you sit as on a chair, never stumbling over a stone, saving your shoes, and making your way without even knowing it."

The rider, who had heard him, stopped and called out, "Hey there, Hans, then why are you going on foot?"

"I must," answered he, "for I have this lump to carry home. It is true that it is gold, but I cannot hold my head straight for it, and it hurts my shoulder."

"I will tell you what," said the rider. "Let's trade. I will give you my horse, and you can give me your lump."

"With all my heart," said Hans. "But I can tell you, you will be dragging along with it."

The rider got down, took the gold, and helped Hans up, then gave him the bridle tight in his hands and said, "If you want to go fast, you must click your tongue and call out, 'jup, jup.'"

Hans was heartily delighted as he sat upon the horse and rode away so bold and free. After a little while he thought that it ought to go faster, and he began to click with his tongue and call out, "jup, jup." The horse started a fast trot, and before Hans knew where he was, he was thrown off and lying in a ditch which separated the fields from the highway. The horse would have escaped if it had not been stopped by a peasant, who was coming along the road and driving a cow before him.

Hans pulled himself together and stood up on his legs again, but he was vexed, and said to the peasant, "It is a poor joke, this riding, especially when one gets hold of a mare like this, that kicks and throws one off, so that one has a chance of breaking one's neck. Never again will I mount it. Now I like your cow, for one can walk quietly behind her, and moreover have one's milk, butter, and cheese every day without fail. What would I not give to have such a cow?"

"Well," said the peasant, "if it would give you so much pleasure, I do not mind trading the cow for the horse." Hans agreed with the greatest delight, and the peasant jumped upon the horse and rode quickly away.

Hans drove his cow quietly before him, and thought over his lucky bargain. "If only I have a morsel of bread -- and that can hardly fail me -- I can eat butter and cheese with it as often as I like. If I am thirsty, I can milk my cow and drink the milk. My goodness, what more can I want?"

When he came to an inn he stopped, and to celebrate his good fortune, he ate up everything he had with him -- his dinner and supper -- and all he had, and with his last few farthings had half a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow onwards in the direction of his mother's village.

As noon approached, the heat grew more oppressive, and Hans found himself upon a moor which would take at least another hour to cross. He felt very hot, and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth with thirst. "I can find a cure for this," thought Hans. "I will milk the cow now and refresh myself with the milk." He tied her to a withered tree, and as he had no pail, he put his leather cap underneath, but try as he would, not a drop of milk came. And because he was working in a clumsy way, the impatient beast at last gave him such a blow on his head with its hind foot, that he fell to the ground, and for a long time did not know where he was. By good fortune a butcher just then came along the road with a pushcart, in which lay a young pig.

"What sort of a trick is this?" he cried, and helped good Hans up. Hans told him what had happened.

The butcher gave him his flask and said, "Take a drink and refresh yourself. The cow will certainly give no milk. It is an old beast. At the best it is only fit for the plow, or for the butcher."

"Well, well," said Hans, as he stroked his hair down on his head. "Who would have thought it? Certainly it is a fine thing when one can slaughter a beast like that for oneself. What meat one has! But I do not care much for beef, it is not juicy enough for me. But to have a young pig like that! It tastes quite different, and there are sausages as well."

"Listen, Hans," said the butcher. "To do you a favor, I will trade, and will let you have the pig for the cow."

"God reward you for your kindness," said Hans as he gave up the cow. The pig was unbound from the cart, and the cord by which it was tied was put in his hand. Hans went on, thinking to himself how everything was going just as he wished. If anything troublesome happened to him, it was immediately set right.

Presently he was joined by a lad who was carrying a fine white goose under his arm. They greeted one another, and Hans began to tell of his good luck, and how he had always made such good trades. The boy told him that he was taking the goose to a christening feast. "Just heft her," he added, taking hold of her by the wings. "Feel how heavy she is. She has been fattened up for the last eight weeks. Anyone who bites into her after she has been roasted will have to wipe the fat from both sides of his mouth."

"Yes," said Hans, hefting her with one hand, "she weighs a lot, but my pig is not so bad either."

Meanwhile the lad looked suspiciously from one side to the other, and shook his head. "Look here, he said at last. "It may not be all right with your pig. In the village through which I passed, the mayor himself had just had one stolen out of its sty. I fear -- I fear that you have got hold of it there. They have sent out some people and it would be a bad business if they caught you with the pig. At the very least, you would be shut up in the dark hole.

Good Hans was terrified. "For goodness' sake," he said. "help me out of this fix. You know more about this place than I do. Take my pig and leave me your goose."

"I am taking a risk," answered the lad, "but I do not want to be the cause of your getting into trouble." So he took the cord in his hand, and quickly drove the pig down a bypath. Good Hans, free from care, went homewards with the goose under his arm.

"When I think about it properly," he said to himself, "I have even gained by the trade. First there is the good roast meat, then the quantity of fat which will drip from it, and which will give me goose fat for my bread for a quarter of a year, and lastly the beautiful white feathers. I will have my pillow stuffed with them, and then indeed I shall go to sleep without being rocked. How glad my mother will be!"

As he was going through the last village, there stood a scissors grinder with his cart, as his wheel whirred he sang,

I sharpen scissors and quickly grind,
My coat blows out in the wind behind.

Hans stood still and looked at him. At last he spoke to him and said, "All's well with you, as you are so merry with your grinding."

"Yes," answered the scissors grinder, "this trade has a golden foundation. A real grinder is a man who as often as he puts his hand into his pocket finds gold in it. But where did you buy that fine goose?"

"I did not buy it, but traded my pig for it."

"And the pig?"

" I got it for a cow."

"And the cow?"

"I got it for a horse."

"And the horse?"

"For that I gave a lump of gold as big as my head."

"And the gold?"

"Well, that was my wages for seven years' service."

"You have known how to look after yourself each time," said the grinder. "If you can only get on so far as to hear the money jingle in your pocket whenever you stand up, you will have made your fortune."

"How shall I manage that?" said Hans.

"You must become a grinder, as I am. Nothing particular is needed for it but a grindstone. Everything else takes care of itself. I have one here. It is certainly a little worn, but you need not give me anything for it but your goose. Will you do it?"

"How can you ask?" answered Hans. "I shall be the luckiest fellow on earth. If I have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket, why should I ever worry again?" And he handed him the goose and received the grindstone in exchange.

"Now," said the grinder, picking up an ordinary heavy stone that lay nearby, "here is another good stone for you as well, which you can use to hammer on and straighten your old nails. Carry it along with you and take good care of it."

Hans loaded himself with the stones, and went on with a contented heart, his eyes shining with joy. "I must have been born with lucky skin," he cried. "Everything I want happens to me just as if I were a Sunday's child."

Meanwhile, as he had been on his legs since daybreak, he began to feel tired. Hunger also tormented him, for in his joy at the bargain by which he got the cow he had eaten up all his store of food at once. At last he could only go on with great difficulty, and was forced to stop every minute. The stones, too, weighed him down dreadfully, and he could not help thinking how nice it would be if he would not have to carry them just then.

He crept like a snail until he came to a well in a field, where he thought that he would rest and refresh himself with a cool drink of water. In order that he might not damage the stones in sitting down, he laid them carefully by his side on the edge of the well. Then he sat down on it, and was about to bend over and drink, when he slipped, pushed against the stones, and both of them fell into the water. When Hans saw them with his own eyes sinking to the bottom, he jumped for joy, and then knelt down, and with tears in his eyes thanked God for having shown him this favor also, and delivered him in so good a way, and without his having any need to reproach himself, from those heavy stones which had been the only things that troubled him.

"No one under the sun is as fortunate as I am," he cried out. With a light heart and free from every burden he now ran on until he was at home with his mother.

The Story of Mr. Vinegar

England, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps

Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar lived in a vinegar bottle.

Now one day, when Mr. Vinegar was away from home, Mrs. Vinegar, who was a very good housewife, was busily sweeping her house, when an unlucky thump of the broom brought the whole house clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter, about her ears. In a paroxysm of grief she rushed forth to meet her husband. On seeing him she exclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Vinegar, Mr. Vinegar, we are ruined, we are ruined. I have knocked the house down, and it is all to pieces!"

Mr. Vinegar then said, "My dear, let us see what can be done. Here is the door; I will take it on my back, and we will go forth to seek our fortune."

They walked all that day, and at nightfall entered a thick forest. They were both excessively tired, and Mr. Vinegar said, "My love, I will climb up into a tree, drag up the door, and you shall follow." He according did so, and they both stretched their weary limbs on the door, and fell fast asleep. In the middle of the night Mr. Vinegar was disturbed by the sound of voices beneath, and to his inexpressible dismay perceived that a party of thieves were wet to divide their booty.

"Here, Jack," said one, "here's five pounds for you. Here, Bill, here's ten pounds for you. Here, Bob, here's three pounds for you."

Mr. Vinegar could listen no longer. His terror was so intense that he trembled most violently, and shook down the door on their heads. Away scampered the thieves, but Mr. Vinegar dared not quit his retreat till broad daylight. He then scrambled out of the tree, and went to lift up the door. What did he behold but a number of golden guineas!

"Come down, Mrs. Vinegar," he cried. "Come down, I say. Our fortune's made, our fortune's made! Come down, I say."

Mrs. Vinegar got down as fast as she could, and saw the money with equal delight. "Now, my dear," said she, "I'll tell you what you shall do. There is a fair at the neighboring town. You shall take these forty guineas and buy a cow. I can make butter and cheese, which you shall sell at market, and we shall then be able to live very comfortably."

Mr. Vinegar joyfully assents, takes the money, and goes off to the fair. When he arrived, he walked up and down, and at length saw a beautiful red cow. It was an excellent milker, and perfect in every respect. "Oh!" thought Mr. Vinegar, "If I had but that cow I should be the happiest man alive." So he offers the forty guineas for the cow, and the owner declaring that, as he was a friend, he'd oblige him, the bargain was made. Proud of his purchase, he drove the cow backwards and forwards to show it.

By and by he saw a man playing the bagpipes, tweedle-dum, tweedle-dee. The children followed him about, and he appeared to be pocketing money on all sides. "Well," thought Mr. Vinegar, "if I had but that beautiful instrument I should be the happiest man alive. My fortune would be made." So he went up to the man, "Friend," says he, "what a beautiful instrument that is, and what a deal of money you must make."

"Why, yes," said the man, "I make a great deal of money, to be sure, and it is a wonderful instrument."

"Oh!" cried Mr. Vinegar, "how I should like to possess it!"

"Well," said the man, "as you are a friend, I don't much mind parting with it. You shall have it for that red cow."

"Done," said the delighted Mr. Vinegar. So the beautiful red cow was given for the bagpipes. He walked up and down with his purchase, but in vain he attempted to play a tune, and instead of pocketing pence, the boys followed him hooting, laughing, and pelting. Poor Mr. Vinegar, his fingers grew very cold, and, heartily ashamed and mortified, he was leaving the town, when he met a man with a fine thick pair of gloves.

"Oh, my fingers are so very cold," said Mr. Vinegar to himself. "If I had but those beautiful gloves I should be the happiest man alive." He went up to the man, and said to him, "Friend, you seem to have a capital pair of gloves there."

"Yes, truly," cried the man; "and my hands are as warm as possible this cold November day."

"Well," said Mr. Vinegar, "I should like to have them."

"What will you give?" said the man. "As you are a friend, I don't much mind letting you have them for those bagpipes."

"Done," cried Mr. Vinegar. He put on the gloves, and felt perfectly happy as he trudged homewards.

At last he grew very tired, when he saw a man coming towards him with a good stout stick in his hand. "Oh," said Mr. Vinegar, "that I had but that stick! I should then be the happiest man alive."

He accosted the man, "Friend! What a rare good stick you have got."

"Yes," said the man, "I have used it for many a long mile, and a good friend it has been, but if you have a fancy for it, as you are a friend, I don't mind giving it to you for that pair of gloves."

Mr. Vinegar's hands were so warm, and his legs so tired, that he gladly exchanged. As he drew near to the wood where he had left his wife, he heard a parrot on a tree calling out his name, "Mr. Vinegar, you foolish man, you blockhead, you simpleton; you went to the fair and laid out all your money in buying a cow. Not content with that, you changed it for bagpipes on which you could not play, and which were not worth one tenth of the money. You fool, you -- you had no sooner got the bagpipes than you changed them for the gloves, which were not worth one quarter of the money; and when you had got the gloves, you changed them for a poor miserable stick; and now for your forty guineas, cow, bagpipes, and gloves, you have nothing to show but that poor miserable stick, which you might have cut in any hedge."

On this the bird laughed immoderately, and Mr. Vinegar, falling into a violent rage, threw the stick at its head. The stick lodged in the tree, and he returned to his wife without money, cow, bagpipes, gloves, or stick, and she instantly gave him such a sound cudgeling that she almost broke every bone in his skin.

Gudbrand on the Hillside

Norway, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe

Once upon a time there was a man whose name was Gudbrand. He had a farm which lay far, far away upon a hillside, and so they called him Gudbrand on the Hillside.

Now, you must know that this man and his wife lived so happily together, and understood one another so well, that all the husband did the wife thought so well done, that there was nothing like it in the world, and she was always glad whatever he turned his hand to. The farm was their own land, and they had a hundred dollars lying at the bottom of their chest, and two cows tethered up in a stall in their farmyard.

So one day his wife said to Gudbrand, "Do you know, dear, I think we ought to take one of our cows into town and sell it. That's what I think, for then we shall have some money in hand, and such well-to-do people as we ought to have ready money like the rest of the world. As for the hundred dollars at the bottom of the chest over there, we can't make a hole in them, and I'm sure I don't know what we want with more than one cow. Besides, we shall gain a little in another way, for then I shall get off with only looking after one cow, instead of having, as now, to feed and litter and water two."

Well, Gudbrand thought his wife talked right good sense, so he set off at once with the cow on his way to town to sell her. But when he got to the town, there was no one who would buy his cow.

"Well, well! Never mind," said Gudbrand. "At the worst, I can only go back home again with my cow. I've both stable and tether for her, I should think, and the road is no farther out than in," and with that he began to toddle home with his cow.

But when he had gone a bit of the way, a man met him who had a horse to sell, so Gudbrand thought it was better to have a horse than a cow, so he swapped with the man. A little farther on he met a man walking along and driving a fat pig before him, and he thought it better to have a fat pig than a horse, so he swapped with the man. After that he went a little farther, and a man met him with a goat; so he thought it better to have a goat than a pig, and he swapped with the man that owned the goat. Then he went on a good bit till he met a man who had a sheep, and he swapped with him too, for he thought it always better to have a sheep than a goat. After a while he met a man with a goose, and he swapped away the sheep for the goose. And when he had walked a long, long time, he met a man with a rooster, and he swapped with him, for he thought in this wise, "It is surely better to have a rooster than a goose." Then he went on till the day was far spent, and he began to get very hungry, so he sold the rooster for a shilling, and bought food with the money, for, thought Gudbrand on the Hillside, "It is always better to save one's life than to have a rooster."

After that he went on toward home till he reached his nearest neighbor's house, where he turned in.

"Well," said the owner of the house, "how did things go with you in town?"

"Rather so so," said Gudbrand. "I can't praise my luck, nor do I blame it either," and with that he told the whole story from first to last.

"Ah!" said his friend, "you'll get nicely called over the coals, that one can see, when you get home to your wife. Heaven help you. I wouldn't stand in your shoes for anything."

"Well," said Gudbrand on the Hillside, "I think things might have gone much worse with me. But now, whether I have done wrong or not, I have so kind a wife, she never has a word to say against anything that I do."

"Oh!" answered his neighbor, "I hear what you say, but I don't believe it for all that."

"Shall we lay a bet upon it?" asked Gudbrand on the Hillside. "I have a hundred dollars at the bottom of my chest at home. Will you lay as many against them?"

Yes, the friend was ready to bet, so Gudbrand stayed there till evening, when it began to get dark, and then they went together to his house, and the neighbor was to stand outside the door and listen, while the man went in to see his wife.

"Good evening!" said Gudbrand on the Hillside.

"Good evening!" said the wife. "Oh, is that you? Now God be praised."

Yes, it was he. So the wife asked how things had gone with him in town.

"Oh, only so so," answered Gudbrand. "Not much to brag of. When I got to town there was no one who would buy the cow, so you must know I swapped it away for a horse."

"For a horse," said his wife. "Well, that is good of you. Thanks with all my heart. We are so well-to-do that we may drive to church just as well as other people, and if we choose to have a horse, we have a right to get one, I should think. So run out, child, and put up the horse."

"Ah!" said Gudbrand, "but you see, I've not got the horse after all, for when I got a bit farther down the road, I swapped it away for a pig."

"Think of that, now!" said the wife. "You did just as I should have done myself. A thousand thanks! Now I can have a bit of bacon in the house to set before people when they come to see me, that I can. What do we want with a horse? People would only say we had got so proud that we couldn't walk to church. Go out, child, and put up the pig in the sty."

"But I've not got the pig either," said Gudbrand, "for when I got a little farther on I swapped it away for a milk goat."

"Bless us!" cried his wife, "How well you manage everything! Now I think it over, what should I do with a pig? People would only point at us and say, 'Yonder they eat up all they have got.' No! Now I have got a goat, and I shall have milk and cheese, and keep the goat too. Run out, child, and put up the goat."

"No, but I haven't got the goat either," said Gudbrand, "for a little farther on I swapped it away, and got a fine sheep instead."

"You don't say so!" cried his wife. "Why, you do everything to please me, just as if I had been with you. What do we want with a goat? If I had it I should lose half my time in climbing up the hills to bring it in. No! If I have a sheep, I shall have both wool and clothing, and fresh meat in the house. Run out, child, and put up the sheep."

"But I haven't got the sheep any more than the rest," said Gudbrand, "for when I had gone a bit farther I swapped it away for a goose."

"Thank you! Thank you, with all my heart!" cried his wife. "What should I do with a sheep? I have no spinning wheel nor carding comb, nor should I care to worry myself with cutting, and shaping, and sewing clothes. We can buy clothes now, as we have always done; and now I shall have roast goose, which I have longed for so often; and, besides, down to stuff my little pillow with. Run out, child, and put up the goose."

"Ah!" said Gudbrand, "but I haven't the goose either, for when I had gone a bit farther I swapped it away for a rooster."

"Dear me!" cried his wife. "How you think of everything! Just as I should have done myself. A rooster! Think of that! Why it's as good as an eight-day clock, for every morning the rooster crows at four o'clock, and we shall be able to stir ourselves in good time. What should we do with a goose? I don't know how to cook it, and as for my pillow, I can stuff it with grass. Run out, child, and put up the rooster."

"But after all I haven't got the rooster," said Gudbrand, "for when I had gone a bit farther, I got as hungry as a hunter, so I was forced to sell the rooster for a shilling, for fear I should starve."

"Now, God be praised that you did so!" cried his wife. "Whatever you do, you do it always just after my own heart. What should we do with the rooster? We are our own masters, I should think, and can lie in bed in the morning as long as we like. Heaven be thanked that I have got you safely back again, you who do everything so well that I want neither rooster nor goose, neither pigs nor cows."

Then Gudbrand opened the door and said, "Well, what do you say now? Have I won the hundred dollars?"

And his neighbor was forced to admit that he had.

What the Old Man Does Is Always Right

Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen

I will tell you a story that was told me when I was a little boy. Every time I thought of this story, it seemed to me more and more charming; for it is with stories as it is with many people -- they become better as they grow older.

I have no doubt that you have been in the country, and seen a very old farmhouse, with a thatched roof, and moss and small plants growing wild upon it. There is a stork's nest on the ridge of the gable, for we cannot do without the stork. The walls of the house are sloping, and the windows are low, and only one of them is made to open. The baking oven sticks out of the wall like a great knob. An elder tree hangs over the fence; and beneath its branches, at the foot of the fence, is a pool of water with a few ducks. There is a watchdog too, who barks at everyone.

Just such a farmhouse as this stood in a country lane; and in it lived an old couple, a peasant and his wife. Small as their possessions were, they had one article they could not do without, and that was a horse, which contrived to live upon the grass that it found by the side of the highroad. The old peasant rode into the town upon this horse, and his neighbors often borrowed it from him, and paid for the loan of it by rendering some service to the old couple. After a time they thought it would be as well to sell the horse, or exchange it for something which might be more useful to them. But what might this something be?

"You'll know best, old man," said the wife. "It is market day today; so ride into town, and get rid of the horse for money, or make a good exchange; whichever you do will be right to me, so ride to the market."

And she fastened his neckerchief for him; for she could do that better than he could, and she could also tie it very prettily in a double bow. She also smoothed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand, and gave him a kiss. Then he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold or bartered for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about. The sun shone with great heat, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty; for a number of people, all going to market, were driving, riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter anywhere from the hot sunshine. Among the rest a man came trudging along, and driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any cow could be.

"She gives good milk, I am certain," said the peasant to himself. "That would be a very good exchange: the cow for the horse. Hallo there! you with the cow," he said. "I tell you what; I dare say a horse is of more value than a cow; but I don't care for that. A cow will be more useful to me; so, if you like, we'll exchange."

"To be sure I will," said the man.

Accordingly the exchange was made; and as the matter was settled, the peasant might have turned back; for he had done the business he came to do. But, having made up his mind to go to market, he determined to do so, if only to have a look at it; so on he went to the town with his cow. Leading the animal, he strode on sturdily, and, after a short time, overtook a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep, with fine fleece on its back.

"I should like to have that fellow," said the peasant to himself. "There is plenty of grass for him by our fence, and in the winter we could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more profitable to have a sheep than a cow. Shall I exchange?"

The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was quickly made. And then our peasant continued his way on the highroad with his sheep. Soon after this, he overtook another man, who had come onto the road from a field, and was carrying a large goose under his arm.

"What a heavy creature you have there!" said the peasant; "it has plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a string, or paddling in the water at our place. That would be very useful to my old woman. She could make all sorts of profits out of it. How often she has said, 'If now we only had a goose!' Now here is an opportunity, and, if possible, I will get it for her. Shall we exchange? I will give you my sheep for your goose, and thanks into the bargain."

The other had not the least objection, and accordingly the exchange was made, and our peasant became possessor of the goose. By this time he had arrived very near the town. The crowd on the highroad had been gradually increasing, and there was quite a rush of men and cattle. The cattle walked on the path and by the fence, and at the turnpike gate they even walked into the gatekeeper's potato field, where a chicken was strutting about with a string tied to its leg, for fear it should take fright at the crowd, and run away and get lost. The chicken's tail feathers were very short, and it winked with both its eyes, and looked very cunning, as it said "cluck, cluck." What were the thoughts of the chicken as it said this I cannot tell you; but as soon as our good man saw it, he thought, "Why that's the finest chicken I ever saw in my life; it's finer than our parson's brood hen, upon my word. I should like to have that chicken. Chickens can always pick up a few grains that lie about, and almost keep themselves. I think it would be a good exchange if I could get it for my goose. Shall we exchange?" he asked the gatekeeper.

"Exchange," repeated the man; "well, it would not be a bad thing."

And so they made an exchange. The gatekeeper at the turnpike gate kept the goose, and the peasant carried off the chicken. Now he had really done a great deal of business on his way to market, and he was hot and tired. He wanted something to eat, and a glass of ale to refresh himself; so he turned his steps to an inn. He was just about to enter when the innkeeper came out, and they met at the door. The innkeeper was carrying a sack. "What have you in that sack?" asked the peasant.

"Rotten apples," answered the innkeeper; "a whole sackful of them. They will do to feed the pigs with."

"Why that will be terrible waste," he replied; "I should like to take them home to my old woman. Last year the old apple tree by the grass plot only bore one apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till it was quite withered and rotten. It was always property, my old woman said; and here she would see a great deal of property -- a whole sackful; I should like to show them to her."

"What will you give me for the sackful?" asked the innkeeper.

"What will I give? Well, I will give you my chicken in exchange."

So he gave up the chicken, and received the apples, which he carried into the inn parlor. He leaned the sack carefully against the stove, and then went to the table. But the stove was hot, and he had not thought of that. Many guests were present -- horse dealers, cattle drovers, and two Englishmen. The Englishmen were so rich that their pockets quite bulged out and seemed ready to burst; and they could bet too, as you shall hear. "Hiss-s-s, hiss-s-s." What could that be by the stove? The apples were beginning to roast. "What is that?" asked one.

"Why, do you know" -- said our peasant. And then he told them the whole story of the horse, which he had exchanged for a cow, and all the rest of it, down to the apples.

"Well, your old woman will give it you well when you get home," said one of the Englishmen. "Won't there be a noise?"

"What! Give me what?" said the peasant. "Why, she will kiss me, and say, 'what the old man does is always right.'"

"Let us lay a wager on it," said the Englishmen. "We'll wager you a ton of coined gold, a hundred pounds to the hundredweight."

"No; a bushel will be enough," replied the peasant. "I can only set a bushel of apples against it, and I'll throw myself and my old woman into the bargain; that will pile up the measure, I fancy."

"Done! taken!" and so the bet was made.

Then the landlord's coach came to the door, and the two Englishmen and the peasant got in, and away they drove, and soon arrived and stopped at the peasant's hut.

"Good evening, old woman."

"Good evening, old man."

"I've made the exchange."

"Ah, well, you understand what you're about," said the woman. Then she embraced him, and paid no attention to the strangers, nor did she notice the sack.

"I got a cow in exchange for the horse."

"Thank Heaven," said she. "Now we shall have plenty of milk, and butter, and cheese on the table. That was a capital exchange."

"Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep."

"Ah, better still!" cried the wife. "You always think of everything; we have just enough pasture for a sheep. Ewe's milk and cheese, woolen jackets and stockings! The cow could not give all these, and her hair only falls off. How you think of everything!"

"But I changed away the sheep for a goose."

"Then we shall have roast goose to eat this year. You dear old man, you are always thinking of something to please me. This is delightful. We can let the goose walk about with a string tied to her leg, so she will be fatter still before we roast her."

"But I gave away the goose for a chicken."

"A chicken! Well, that was a good exchange," replied the woman. "The chicken will lay eggs and hatch them, and we shall have chicks; we shall soon have a poultry yard. Oh, this is just what I was wishing for."

"Yes, but I exchanged the chicken for a sack of shriveled apples."

"What! I really must give you a kiss for that!" exclaimed the wife. "My dear, good husband, now I'll tell you something. Do you know, almost as soon as you left me this morning, I began to think of what I could give you nice for supper this evening, and then I thought of fried eggs and bacon, with sweet herbs. I had eggs and bacon, but I lacked the herbs, so I went over to the schoolmaster's. I knew they had plenty of herbs, but the schoolmistress is very mean, although she can smile so sweetly. I begged her to lend me a handful of herbs. 'Lend!' she exclaimed, 'I have nothing to lend. Nothing at all grows in our garden, not even a shriveled apple. I could not even lend you a shriveled apple, my dear woman. But now I can lend her ten, or a whole sackful, which I'm very glad of. It makes me laugh to think about it." And then she gave him a hearty kiss.

"Well, I like all this," said both the Englishmen; "always going down the hill, and yet always merry; it's worth the money to see it." So they paid a hundredweight of gold to the peasant, who, whatever he did, was not scolded but kissed.

Yes, it always pays best when the wife sees and maintains that her husband knows best, and whatever he does is right.

That is a story which I heard when I was a child; and now you have heard it too, and know that "what the old man does is always right."

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Revised Summer Solstice 2000.